Search This Blog

Monday, 19 August 2019

KISSES IN SATURN'S (Several draft chapters of uncompleted novel)

                    



                                                            


                                                   
Here are the first few chapters of a novel I was writing, set in the LGBT bar scene at the top of Leith Walk, Edinburgh. Unfortunately, my plot edged a touch too close to reality during early 2019 when I ran foul of a professional  gang which I suspected of involvement in a variety of dubious exercises. I therefore stopped writing the novel and fled from the scene. All people and bars in the draft manuscript are of course entirely fictitious, and most of the people I met in Planet were very congenial indeed. 


                                                               


                                                                                        






                                                                     KISSES IN SATURN'S


                                                             by Thomas Hoskyns Leonard


                                                      CHAPTER 1: RETURN TO THE SCENE


After the bizarre accident outside the mosque that crippled his leg, and bereft of the blood relatives who'd left him in the hospital without e'er a phone call, the retired electrical engineer Dr. Ben Hopkins needed to take regular walks to stop his arthritic knee from creating ever more anguish. But he never did like walking the streets and his impudent, perfectly straight flatmate from Ratho couldn't be arsked to take him anywhere.

During a particularly sultry evening in August 2018, Ben was preparing to leave his spacious ground floor flat on Edinburgh's Huntingdon Place with his bright blue N.H.S. walker Audacious, when the brawny twenty-eight-year-old emerged from the tiny back bedroom (the one without the hyperactive four thousand quid bed from Healthy Sleep and the large, haunted wardrobe with glass mirrors for doors) and sprayed the hallway with air freshener.

“I need to take a shower 'cos my girlfriend's arriving in ten minutes,” explained the flat-mate, with a sideways sniff. “We'll probably be eating in the Brass Monkeythough she may feel too wornout to wanna go anywhere.”

“Good timing,” replied Ben, while deciding to lie through his slightly stained incisors. “I'm off to the Windsor to down a dram or two with my pals from Stockbridge, and we may end up slumming it in the Cask and Barrel.

“The cesspit under Destination Hell, more likely, you old troll!”

Ben suddenly recalled the evocative view of the Fowey from his childhood home in Lostwithiel in faraway Cornwall and groaned incoherently, an aggravating habit.

“You're losing it again,” yelped his flat-mate, a touch abrasively.

What are those wires dangling around Hamish's waist? wondered Ben. It could be some sort offetish, I suppose, but who knows?

“Sorry,” grunted the sloppy seventy-year-old. “I must have been lost in a fog, what with my diabetes, chronic lymphodema, and whatever.”

The sturdy young man leapt into the power shower, like a hairy bear fit to puke.

“You're almost as bad as my grumpy supervisor at McCrawley's,” he complained, as a fountain ofwater hit his chest. “That crazy hen's completely full of shit.”

Why is Hamish is always flush with funds even though he only works part-time on minimum wage? deliberated Ben, as he stumbled out of his front door. Maybe he makes his money gambling in the Casino on George St. I should double his rent! And the noises from the video games he plays in the living room are getting really irritating. His 'Saltire Cell Hits Back' game issounding so authentic that it's turning my mind.

Ben cut a gaunt, thin figure as he stumbled across Annandale St., manhandling his shining metal walker Audacious at arm's length in front of him, his straggly white hair contrasting with his swarthy, angular face, the hereditary handsomeness of his youth (he was descended from the Hopkins-LeFevres of Helmsley, no less) fast fading into the oblivion of mediocrity.
When he reached Leith Walk, Ben turned right towards John Lewis, and the intrusive backdrop of builders' cranes hovering behind the pagan-esque Catholic Cathedral (the compendium of which seemed to Ben to be ever ready to improve the lot of Edinburgh's rich, without giving a jot about the long-marginalized poor).
As Ben passed Gayfield Square, two women officers rode out on their horses from the vicinity of the police station. The surly officer seemed to recognize Ben from the past, and gave him a terse nod. When one of the horses neighed, Ben almost tripped over a crooked paving stone, but he squeezed Audacious's handles tightly and recovered his balance.
When Ben reached Khushi's Indian Restaurant, he contemplated the courteous though reticent trio of hunky waiters inside, and wondered whether to return for a late-evening prawn biryani with the pickle tray and two chapati. He invariably gave them a 20% tip, and didn't understand why they opened the loo door for him.
But before Ben could develop that fantasy further, the well-groomed, gushing waiter with the baggy trousers bounced out of the Turkish Restaurant next door, flaunting his talents.
“Would you care for a sumptuous bowl of Lentil Corba tonight followed by your usual Fatma's seafood delight?” inquired the impetuous fellow, with a luscious grin.
He's doubtlessly straight and acting up, deliberated Ben. For some eccentric reason, Ben then recalled Laurence Olivier's oblique discussion of oysters and snails in Spartacus, when the famously gay actor played the imperious Crassus opposite Tony Curtis's squirming Antoninus.
“No thanks,” replied Ben, with a sardonic glance at the gay bars opposite. “I far prefer thesquashed snails in L'Escargot Bleu, though they're even more tasty over there on Greenside Place.
The waiter flushed deep beetroot. “Can I join you for a drink?”
“No chance, Antoninus!”

Ben waited cautiously at the temporary crossing over Leith Walk since he was confused by the complicated roadworks. When the light finally turned green, he signalled an over-eager cyclist to stop, and advanced warily to the central reservation while negotiating the pock marks in the road surface. As he did so, a sullen-faced, though colourfully dressed, youth came hurtling out of the notoriously seedy Chumps bar way to the right, banged Audacious's front wheel with his foot, and sped off in disarray towards the relative safety of the high chairs in The Street on Picardy Place.
Undeterred, Ben hurried to the pavement opposite as the light turned red, even though a No.25 bus was fast approaching.
And there on Greenside Place, and wedged between the Theatre Royal bar and C.C. Blooms, appeared the mauve façade and well-varnished quarter-pane windows of Saturn's bar, the macabre portrait of that dissolute Roman God still adorning the sign that swung above the double-arched entranceway.
Davie Pickles, a brash, manipulative gentlemen, was, in nominal terms, the proprietor of Saturn's, one of the several gay bars in Edinburgh’s Pink Triangle, but he paid his dues to a notorious Aberdonian oil and cocaine baron who owned the property. Davie took frequent instructions by voice-mail from Aberdeen, which sometimes even overruled the, strongly feminist, resident DJ's choice of music. This made Davie feel a touch paranoid, all the more so because of his chequered past and his propensity for money laundering while working as a high-profile youth for Save the Poor and Vulnerable.
Now in his late twenties, Davie was still enormously popular as a 'top' around the saunas, particularly among the pasty-faced Freemason crowd who'd roamed the basement of the New Town Bar on Dublin St. before its sadly predictable demise. When on duty in Saturn's, Davie wore red pointed shoes and a sleek white suit, and his hair was combed straight and dyed Persil-white to conceal its natural colour. However, he was easily recognisable by his rambling gait, his thick jaw-bones, and the dirty blonde fur on his hands and wrists.
Ben and his walker struggled with his walker up the medieval stone ramp into Saturn's Rings, only to find the place completely empty. But moments later, Davie Pickles emerged from behind the silver elevator shaft which rose imposingly from the centre of the ground floor, having descended from the nether regions way above cheek by jowl with a spotty-faced barman with legs like a grasshopper's.
“Speak of the Devil!” exclaimed Davie, flashing his Celtic Raven copper bracelet. “It's Benjamin Disraeli! I haven't seen you in a gay bar for over ten years now, you old miser. What's brought you back to the land of the living dead?”
“I need to exercise my injured leg,” stuttered Ben. “I used to go to the New Town though, sometimes after relaxing in Caesars.”
“Yes,” purred Davie, “and I certainly remember the first time you bumped into me in Caesars.
“Me too,” replied Ben, with a chuckle, “and you've risen to such great heights since!”
“Suppose,” responded Davie, somewhat nostalgically. “But why did you vanish from the rest of scene all those years ago?”
“That was early in 2007,” replied Ben, reticently, “a few months after they buried the lovely trans-person. It had something to do, I suppose, with the way they 'disappeared' a much too sanctimonious Czech law student for complaining so vehemently about all the 'bad bad' things they were doing.”
“That was the ubiquitous Kvido, presumably. He danced like Michael Jackson.”
“Sure. He was from Ostrava.”
“And 'they' were up to bad bad things, eh? I understand entirely. But who were 'they'?”
“I d-dunno,” stammered Ben, “but their response to my inquiry wasn't exactly gentlemanly.”
“It sounds like a scene out of a spy-thriller. Hey pretty pretty! Pour Ben a large one. The first is on the house.”
Ben gave the down-trodden barman a slinky look. “Merci beaucoup. I'll take a single house gin and slim-line in a snifter, please.”
The barman pouted, and poured Ben a double Gordon's and soda in a wine glass.
“And here's our esteemed Lib Dem Socio-Economic advisor, no less!” declared Davie, as awafer-thin, bald-headed man with a Grecian nose and wispy blond beard strode like an antelopeinto the bar. “Hi there, Eric! I hope you're still giving the weak-kneed whipper snappers a hearty neo-fascist makeover.”
Eric McVey twisted the right strand of his long, untrimmed moustache around his left ear, as was one of his more amusing compulsive habits, and spoke in a delightful Doric dialect. “My experience in the Orange Order and SDL is serving me much too well, folk. By next week ourpompous twits will be edging to the right of Labour. Then SNP, here we come!”
“Alas,” exclaimed Ben, in amusement. “Maybe Brocky Badger's days as MP for Edinburgh North and Leith are finally numbered.”
“In the meantime, our income from our merry tribe of vigilantes is keeping us well fed,” announced a bird-like woman with a slightly twisted neck, giving McVey's beard an affectionate stroke. “Last week, St. Leonard's Police sent us on a very delicate mission, and we captured six Hearts supporters while they were attempting to dissect a God-fearing Hibs Casual. The victim survived relatively unscathed.”
Davie licked the tough lady's right ear and gave her a sumptuous kiss. “Good on you! They don't call you Winnie the Mince for nothing.”
Winnie took a peck at Davie's right cheek. “Eric and I can't heat and eat on our PIP, darling. This way we keep all of our chums well-supplied too.”
Davie gave the barman a saucy Clackmannan kiss, and raised his eyebrows. “You certainly do, Winnie. You and your sassy mates down at least fifty pints a night, not to forget the White Russians.”
“We are the Knights and Dames of the Sacred Orb of St. Aidan,” pronounced Eric McVey, flourishing his hairless hands, “and we are only answerable to Gott in Himmel, his very self.”
“What does your organization do?” inquired Ben, timidly.
McVey wobbled his dark green eyes. “You're not a member of the club,” he retorted.“Yet.”

“Snap!” exclaimed a homely twenty-five year old with crooked teeth, hobbling on his two injured legs towards the bar. “I'm Ken, Ken Reivers, and my lovely new green walker is identical to yours. Aren't they divine?”
While imagining that Ken was colour blind, Ken felt a strange fascination for the bristly, dark-haired fellow with bulging troosers. “Maybe they should dance the Phoebe ring together, gorgeous. Would you care for a drink?”
“I'd like a vodka and lemonade, s'il vous plait, but I pay my own way. I'm not a pharmaceutical trainee for nothing!”
“Good for you. I was a director of Ferranti before I retired. I was into micro-radar and nuke stuff, but I've changed my political attitudes since.”
Ken collected his drink from the now very busy barman, and took a gulp. “You must have a Ph.D. or something intellectual, darling.”
“From Imperial College London, in 1976. More recently, I've developed a liking for the mad-cap philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.”
“Not that pervo! He was a sadist when he was young, before he escaped from Austria.”
“So was his contemporary Freud. He was cruel to women.”
“You shouldn't believe everything you see on social media! But why don't we descend to Purgatory together, and chill out?”
Ben and Ken brooded together in the Meditation Room in Purgatory, before taking their walkers for a spin around the dazzling Rings of Saturn to the strains of Flashdance. When they grew weary, they cuddled together in the Fluffy Toy Room, and hugged a couple of exceedingly polite Bears (big hairy men out for a laugh) from Dalkeith. But when they ascended the silver elevator back to the ground floor bar, they were greeted by two undefinable individuals collecting for Oxfam, one dressed as a chicken, and the mad-faced, aggressive one wrapped in the Stars and Stripes and looking remarkably like a poor man’s Mike Pence.
“I remember you both from eleven years ago,” howled Ben, “and you're still on the brew.”
“But we gotta eat,” moaned the chicken.
“It's mine, all mine!” shrieked the mad-faced one, clutching his collection bag. “You can't take it away from me.”
Ben seized both bags of money and hurled them over the bar without further ado, whereupon the proprietor Davie Pickles picked them up and grinned like a train robber.

The Lib Dem Socio-Economic advisor Eric McVey and his partner Winnie the Mince were drinking pints of lager top and making risqué jokes around a circular table, with a bunch of assorted characters who Ben took to be their vigilante gang. Wishing to avoid the two large friendly dogs, Ben and Ken ensconced themselves on tall stools at the end of the bar, while holding on to their walkers to keep themselves steady.
After a few minutes, a fluffy-haired, somewhat unprepossessing man in his early twenties staggered up. He was accompanied by a slightly older woman with cropped hair and a green-spotted cotton tunic, in a somewhat lesser state of inebriation. Ben licked his lips. He thought she looked like a Victorian-esque tomboy.
“H-hiya folk,” stammered the incongruous-looking gentleman, slurping his beer. “I saw the black looks you were giving that m-motley crew from the far right, and I th-thought you'd like to know that we're not all T-Trumpists in this bar. Indeed some of us are gr-grass roots activists.”
“How refreshing!” declared Ben, with a dubious sniff. “Does that mean you're to the left or right of centre?”
“W-way to the left,” came the drunken reply. “We're Sl-Slotskyists!”
“What the Daffy Duck are they?” inquired Ken, making an almost imperceptible move in a barely legal manner that caught the eye of the roving bouncer.
“Ouch! We even fight the fascists on the streets. Wow!”
The bouncer smiled, and wandered off.
“Perhaps I should explain further,” enjoined the young woman, pulling herself together. “My great grandfather Evgeny Slotsky and his followers left Russia in 1919 when they were disowned by the Trotskyites for behaving too compassionately. They moved to Colombia where they were active in political terms for several decades. Then in 1995, several of their descendants emigrated to Dunfermline where they created the Peaceful Socialist Party of Scotland. All of our PSP members are nowadays referred to as Slotskyists, though we're no longer that peaceful.”
“The Trotskyists here are in SWAMP,” added her fellow, scatty Slotskyist. “That’s the Scottish Workers and Marxist Party. They’re a pain in the neck.”
“We get on much better with the Anarchists and pro-trans feminists in that centre on Brunswick Street,” said the woman, with an effervescent smile, “the one that’s splattered with all those bizarre paintings.”
An entertaining discussion ensued, after which Ben and Ken invited the stimulating couple to accompany them down three gradually descending escalators to the Hex Mirror Room, where a lively and very comical time was enjoyed by one and all. When the goofy male Slotskyist did a handstand in his ragged underwear in front of the Mirror of Medusa, everybody else collapsed in merry laughter.
Later on they all did a skinny shimmy into the Fausta Steam Room, but found it too hot to handle. When they finally left the enormous building, it was through the back door to Greenside Row, which runs along a largely-hidden valley at the foot of the much-fabled Calton Hill.

The following morning, Ben awoke, with a start, in his luxurious double bed when a heavy human weight plonked itself onto his chest. When he looked up, he saw a sweaty, male life-form swaying to and fro, and a somewhat familiar, grinning, rather plain face.
“Who're you?” asked Ben, reaching for his Lynx.
“I'm Malky, Malky McLachlan,” came the reply. “I'm one of the Slotskyists you met last night.”
“I sort of remember your crass reflection in a mirror. What happened to my buddy Ken?”
“He scarpered. Would you fancy a visit to the Thirsty Pallet for breakfast?”
But Ben was hearing familiar creaking sounds coming through the wall. Not Hamish again! he fumed. He and his girlfriend never know when to stop.
“Let's take a shower,” blurted Ben. “There are some clean towels on that rack.”
However, when the incongruous pair emerged into the hallway, Ben's flatmate Hamish was standing there droopy-kneed. His longer-than-average arm was entwined not around his usual girlfriend, but around Malky's tomboy companion of the night before.
“My name, should you be interested, is Dr. Eugenia Slotsky-Pereira,” said the cool-lookingtomboy. “You've been laying my daft student, no doubt.”
“Eugenia is my new..er.. girlfriend,” announced Hamish. “She's so wonderfully different.”
Eugenia smirked and rolled her eyes. “Maybe that's because I'm of the third gender. I prefer, on occasions, to be called Eugen.”
Malky nodded his slightly oversize head. “Over 1% of humankind are intersex. They’ve been with us since the beginning of time.”
“You must be a statistician,” joked Hamish, “and we all know what Twain and Disraeli said about that damned twaddle.”
“I certainly am. I'm studying for my Ph.D. in Statistics at Edinburgh Uni.”










CHAPTER 2: DEATH IN THE GREENSIDE VALLEY

Early the following morning, a half-blind fregan wandering along Greenside Row at the foot of Calton Hill discovered a very frazzled torso in the hedgerow with a still glowing Celtic Ravencopper bracelet congealed into its right wrist.
It didn't take Detective Chief Inspector Daisy McCracken and her colleagues long to identify the body. The victim was David Pickles, the proprietor of the nearby Saturn's bar; his white suit and bright red underwear were discovered neatly stacked outside the Fausta Steam Room just inside his the back of the vast, descending premises, and within fifty yards of where his seriously mutilated body had been left to rot.
The brilliant young Scottish-Colombian statistician Dr. Eugenia Slotsky-Pereira arrived in her neat and tidy office in the School of Mathematics in the King's Buildings late that morning, wearing her favourite, tight-fitting light blue trouser suit, only to receive a phone-call from her kindly co-author, the highly regarded Regius Professor of Forensic Science, who asked her to deputise for him in the Pickles murder case. The ever dynamic professor excused himself by saying that he was due to give important testimony during a big criminal case in the Edinburgh Crown Court.
Half an hour later, Eugenia duly arrived at Saturn's in a cab with her desktop computer, which was connected by remote femto-fi to the mainframes in the School of Mathematics and the Department of Forensic Science and hence to masses of continuously updated information and statistical data pertinent to the ongoing murder case.
As a statistician who'd acquired considerable related expertise in forensics, medicine, and psychology, Eugenia was disturbed, though not particularly surprised, by the apparently amazing coincidence. Events of small probability happen quite naturally all the time, as she would repeatedly emphasise to her students. However, here she was helping to investigate a murder in the establishment where she had so thoroughly misbehaved the night immediately before! Little did she know that the leader of the Saltire Cell of MI6 had persuaded her colleague in Forensic Science to ask her to substitute for him, for reasons best known to MI6, so that it was in actual fact no coincidence.
After talking with the white-coated forensic technicians in the basement, Detective Chief Inspector McCracken ascended three floors in the silver elevator to meet with thirty or so colleagues from Gayfield Police, in the exquisitely furnished Phoebe's bar on the edge of the Rings of Saturndance floor. Eugenia was present, and her desktop was fully connected and operational. She wished that she could switch to her androgenous male persona and call herself Eugen, but realised that she was not suitably dressed.
“Cause of death, Dr. Pereira?” inquired the chief inspector, after brief introductions.
Eugenia consulted the output from the University computers that appeared on her desktop screen. “At approximately 3pm last night, the furnace in the basement went into overdrive, causing the temperature in the Fausta Steam Room to rise to over 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The victim died, with approximately 95% statistical confidence, between 3.05 am and 3.12 am, presumably from the excess heat in the Steam Room, since that's where his clothes were discovered. The humidity dial and thermostat on the furnace had been smashed with an axe, and it is therefore very likely that the victim was murdered. A carving knife and various residual remains of rope were discovered in the Steam Room, suggesting that the victim may have been tied up and left to die. His genitals were seriously mutilated with a chisel after death, apparently close to the spot where the body was discovered. A full autopsy is currently under-way in the mortuary.”
The prim and proper chief inspector pursed her lips. “Thank you, dear. Any further clues, guys?”
“I discovered a used condom in the Sling Room, Ma'am,” ventured Police Cadet Paulo Enrique, scratching his fluffy moustache, “and we've sent specimens to the Forensic Lab to be tested against the victim's DNA. Maybe the murderer's DNA is traceable to the very same condom.”
“What a valuable insight, Paulo!” exclaimed the chief inspector, with a chuckle. “It will be interesting to see what turns up.”
The detective sergeant on duty, a vole-like man, smiled condescendingly at the sturdy new recruit. “And the carving knife is of an unusual, Swedish brand sold in Knut's Ironmongery on Leith Walk. Knut recalls selling two such knives last Thursday to an emaciated lady wearing a veil and a shawl, who was accompanied by a docile enough black and mahogany Rottweiler. She took the knives away in her shopping trolley and disappeared into Boda's. I did wonder a bit about Knut's sense of imagination, but I do believe his curious account to be completely reliable.”
“The chisel was purchased last Friday in Handy Andy's on Commercial St., together with a spanner, a large metal mallet, and a pair of pliers,” announced a fiery-eyed constable, dusting down her slightly crumpled uniform. “They were sold to an individual with a shrill voice, who was totally disguised as a chicken.”
The detective sergeant gave the woman constable a derisory look. “A chicken?” he expostulated. “Randy Andy must have been taking the piss, stupid.”
“That's enough of that, Sergeant!” interjected Daisy McCracken, with a severe frown. “My thanks to all three of you for your prompt and timely investigations. Now then! Prime suspects, anyone?”
“A string of ex-boyfriends,” began an austere detective constable, with her hair in a bun, “some more reputable than others. They include a Tory Town Councillor, an unrepentant police murderer out of Addiewell, a senior credit scorer with the Royal Bank of Scotland, a defrocked C of S minister from Penicuik who was later refrocked in St. Andrews East, and three assorted smart Alecs from the high rises in Wester Hailes.”
“There were eight members of staff on the premises after midnight, together with over a hundred customers,” added the detective sergeant, noisily clearing his nostrils. “The Sling, Steam, and Hex Mirror rooms in the basement were reportedly all moderately busy, but it will take numerous eye witness accounts to ascertain precisely who was there. I understand that there was an eight-way in the Sling Room at approximately 1.30 am, and two more guys climbing the poles. Clucky the Chicken was half-asleep in the corner, and says that it was too dark to recognise the participants' facial features. He, or she as the case may be, nevertheless came up with several valuable suggestions.”
“Clucky lives with her totally insane bedfellow in one of the eight flats between here and the basement.” explained a uniformed inspector with two vertical scars on his cheeks. “The flats are accessible via the stairwells and also through an outer door in the side of the building, just by the back of the Theatre Royal. Much of it is sheltered housing, and we'll be questioning the residents this afternoon.”
Police Cadet Paulo Enrique wiped his fuzzy beard and flicked his sun-scorched eyelashes. “The victim's business associates include the cocaine baron in Aberdeen who not only owns the building but every lock, stock, and barrel in it, the CEO of Macduff's Breweries, who runs a protection racket along Leith Walk, and a couple of adventurous bikers on Annandale Street who're into sophisticated forms of money laundering with fake companies in Kazakhstan.”
The vole-faced detective sergeant rubbed Paulo's remarkably square shoulders, not that endearingly. What a tosser! thought the rugged lad from Balerno, though he kept that perception entirely to himself.
“But the main suspects would appear to be a gang of vigilantes who frequent the main bar upstairs every day with two large labradors,” added the detective sergeant. “They sometimes refer to themselves as the Knights and Dames of the Sacred Orb of St. Aidan. Sacred orb, my left testicle! Most of these jokers survive on benefits and they seem to be willing to do anything for the next round of drinks. Their leader is a half torn bizzom known as Winnie the Mince and...”
“Perhaps MI6 Agent Hamish McLeod would like to tell us more about them,” interrupted Inspector McCracken, as discourteously as she could get away with. “This investigation is being conducted jointly with MI6's Edinburgh-based Saltire Cell, since very important personages could be involved.”
Eugenia Slotsky-Pereira observed a suave gentlemen wearing a neatly pressed green jacket, a colourfully chequered kilt, a white shirt and a University of Edinburgh tie stealthily entering Phoebe's bar and ensconcing himself on a leather stool near her desk. To her shock and surprise, she realised that he was none other than the scruffy Hamish she'd seduced big-time the night before, while visiting Ben Hopkins' flat on Huntingdon Place. And that had been a novel merry-go-round!
Not another coincidence! agonised Eugenia. And it was a coincidence me being here in the first place. The probabilities are now getting infinitesimally small. But wait! They're becoming so small that there must be some hidden explanation for this bizarre sequence of events. I can't for the life of me think what this explanation could be, but maybe the reality of the situation will become more evident as the criminal case progresses.
Hamish opened a bright maroon folder embossed with the words SALTIRE GEMS in shining, golden letters, and studied its contents with extreme care.
“Thank you, Chief Inspector,” he replied, with due courtesy, “and congratulations on your recent thoroughly deserved O.B.E. You'll be interested to hear that Winnie's vigilantes are much more active than one might imagine. Compared with them, Hunters Anonymous and Noddy Swatters are chickenfeed. Winnie's gang of inebriates are concerned with all the corruption and illegal goings-on within and surrounding Edinburgh's notorious Magic Circle of judges, sheriffs, lawyers, and politicians. Some of these wise guys are even into whips and chains with 'barely legal' lads who've been enticed into prostitution by the local pimps, and the mysterious Walter Mittys with secret agendas, most notably the Roller from Shotts.”
“Indeed so,” responded the chief inspector, tilting her oval head. “This sort of crap has, in my mind, most certainly persisted among the 'Writers of the Signet', a highly élite group of lawyers if ever there was one, ever since the appalling Fettesgate scandal of the 1990s, and that's largely because of the dismissive attitudes expressed by Lothian and Borders Police during that corrupt period. Even much-loved politicians as renowned as Matthew Shiftwind and Tammy O' Flagerty were under suspicion. And as for that pair of police superintendents who fell off the back of a truck! They didn't know their backsides from their udders.”
Hamish took time out to flick a ladybird off his green and blue sporran.
“That's all so very true,” he sympathised.
The chief inspector stamped on the ladybird and squashed it into the carpet. “Do continue, laddie!”
“Let's see...Yup!...While Winnie's vigilantes receive thousands a year from an anonymous Swiss bank account for their endeavours, they are, according to our totally reliable sources in the Scottish Executive, required to play a duplicitous role. Top dogs in the Magic Circle who are regarded as important enough are ruthlessly protected, but less prominent members of the circle, or hangers on, whose misbehaviours are likely to unduly embarrass the Establishment are regarded as either undesirable or expendable. They are sometimes locked or suicided in their flats or sent for a swim in the Union Canal or the Water of Leith.”
“How important is important enough?” asked a round-faced woman sergeant, pricking her Duchess Camilla Ears.
“We all know about the rumours on Social Media about Sir Alistair Smythe-Dalrymple,” replied Hamish, with a sigh, “though he never did go on that murderous yacht trip to the Channel Islands. But minor, unelected politicians who organize 'hunts for heavenly delights' in the Highlands for the high and mighty are usually also protected, often by toxic reaction and frequently in collaboration with higher authority.”
Daisy McCracken smiled sweetly, though she far preferred smiling at butch women. “Thank you for your valuable summary, Agent McLeod. Let's see now...On another tack, Dr. Pereira, I wonder if you could confirm that the Department of Forensic Science will be able to provide us with all the statistics we need to evaluate the potential guilt of our suspects?”
“Yes indeed,” replied Eugenia, calmly. “I will be helping the forensic scientists to calculate a measure of the evidence against each suspect. Such measures are known as 'Bayes factors' and they can be updated in numerical terms whenever an extra piece of evidence comes to light.”
“What the Rabbie Burns is a Bayes factor, darling?” inquired Hamish, with a smirk.
“The Reverend Thomas Bayes matriculated in Divinity at Edinburgh in 1723, and he's received huge amounts of credit for zilch ever since,” replied Eugenia, with a yawn. “Neither he nor his posthumous co-author even knew about the since much fêted Bayes' Theorem for conditional probability, which was actually discovered by the French. Then one of Alan Turing's colleagues mischievously named Bayes factors after him while they weren't actually using them to solve the Nazi Codes at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.”
“Wowee!”
“Anyway, our very own Emeritus Professor T.G.G.G.G. McAllister, who suffers from highly obsessive compulsive disorder, has recently published his sixth immense volume on the implications of Bayes factors in forensics. That was after he awarded himself two extra Christian names, Gottlieb and Grimwald for good measure. While the more recent of his volumes are either superfluous or repetitive, McAllister and Good (1946) is an absolute classic.”
“I'd simply love to help you calculate your Bayes factors, Eugenia,” exclaimed Hamish, with a smirk. “and maybe we could go for dinner tonight in Taste of Italy? The tortellini carbonara is as succulent as they come.”
That got Eugenia's dander up.
“Sure, dearest,” she replied, rising to her feet in her tightly fitting trouser suit. “But please call me Eugen.”
All the officers grinned at that, and the uniformed sergeant tried to tease Officer Paulo Enrique by poking him between his shoulder blades. By sheer happenstance, Paulo stepped backwards and trod on the scar-faced sergeant's big toe. I'd like to nobble that chancer, decided the sturdy fly-half for the Edinburgh Reivers.

That evening, the main floor of Saturn's was open for business as usual, and the brassy bar manager, a slender, wiry lady with a strong grip and years of expertise as the Madame in the Daffodil Sauna on Primrose St., was in firm control. The place was soon thriving with customers, all keen to hear the latest piece of gossip.
Ben Hopkins hobbled over from Huntingdon Place with his dominoes set safely secured in Audacious's leather pouch. This wasn't a common or garden dominoes set, but a superior one with large white pieces specially designed for the local leagues. Ben had bought it in Borlands for £12.50, at the suggestion of an early retired roofer from Craigentinny who travelled to the bar in a stylish motorised wheelchair.
After playing several closely contested games with the highly skilled gentleman, Ben had been invited to spend his Tuesday evenings playing for the Limelite team in various pubs around Leith and North Edinburgh. He'd gladly accepted the invitation, in preference to playing for the snobby Bank of Scotland chess team, if only so that he could spend time with different people in alternative environments.
Ben was studiously removing the 28 dominoes pieces from their wooden box at a corner table, in preparation for the arrival of his kindly acquaintance from Craigentinny, when none other than Malky McLachlan, Ben's apparent 'trick' of the night before emerged, stumbling like a half-wit, through the chit-chattering masses.
“What a diabolical murder!” shrieked the clumsy, bumbling postgraduate in Statistics, for all and sundry to hear. “It must have happened soon after we all left the Hex Mirror room and exited through the back door. But your chum Ken hobbled back inside to search for his lost mobile. I wonder what happened to him?”
“Maybe he got tied up in the Sling Room,” replied Ben, with a chuckle.
“This is no joking matter, Sir,” interrupted Police Cadet Paulo Enrique, who was languishing in a black shirt and skinny jeans by the end of the bar. “The unfortunate victim may well have met the murderer in flagranti on the sling before he was scorched to death by the vile creature in the Steam Room.”
A huge, frothy-lipped woman with a prominent jaw tottered, gurgled, and took a gulp from her pint of Belhaven Best. “Serves the bleeder right!” she howled, waving her wrinkled fist. “Davie Pickles did no good for anyone. Dung-heaps of bad there were, and during the wee small hours he could be evil itself.”
Paulo frowned, and pulled his official Gayfield Police ID from his back pocket.
“When were you last in the Hex Mirror Room, Sir?” he inquired, steely-eyed,
“Between about eleven-thirty and one-thirty last night, on and off,” Ben respectfully replied. “I was with Malky here, and Malky's companion Eugenia. Not to forget bristly, banged-up Ken who has a very similar walker to mine, and who I met for the first time earlier in the evening.
Paulo stood transfixed. He'd met a Eugenia several hours previously, a very important Eugenia.
“Eugenia? That's an extremely unusual name. I find it hard to believe you, Sir. You're pulling my leg.”
“I don't understand. Dr. Eugenia Slotsky-Pereira is Malky's Ph.D. supervisor at the university.”
Paulo blinked in consternation. This could be getting me into deep shit, he thought.
“In that case, Sir,” he replied. “I would be grateful if you would come downstairs to make a detailed statement to my sergeant. Malky too... Try not to trip over your feet, stupid!”

When Ben and Malky re-emerged from the silver elevator, Ben's dominoes buddy was waiting for a game or two over a pint of ale. Ben sat down with him in a booth while Malky wandered down the bar planning to flirt with a group of trans people who were exchanging insults with a bunch of hard-nosed and totally uncompromising TERFs.
During the first 'chalk', Ben decided to delay playing the double six until he'd disposed of the remaining three of his sixes, a dubious ploy. He was continuously distracted by snippets from off left of an intense conversation between Winnie the Mince and her spouse, the split-brained, neo-fascist Lib Dem Socio-Economic advisor Eric McVey, who Ben had last seen the previous day. Ben could never get over McVey's appearance. His straggly blonde hair and skeletal body made him look like a down and out Viking God. To cap that, McVey's face was now twitching incessantly towards his right ear.
The snippets included 'the vigilantes will forever be blamed…', 'the Empress Fausta was a traitor too and she got what was coming', 'the mutilation may have been symbolic', 'the creep was always letting off steam', and 'there were funny goings-on near the deep freeze'.
Ben only wished that he was close enough to assimilate the whole conversation, but he engrained the bit concerning the deep freeze deep in his memory banks.
Ben's opponent 'chapped' with two plays remaining, and Ben was also unable to play and chapped too. He was left with the double six and double zero. However, his opponent was left with an even higher points count of 14. Ben breathed a sigh of relief; he'd won the first chalk despite his highly eclectic strategy.
The retired electrical engineer was playing the ninth and deciding chalk of his dominoes game against his much more experienced opponent when Dr. Eugenia Slotsky-Pereira stalked up in an unprecedented rage.
“You told the police I was in the Hex Mirror room with you and my student Malky last night.” she fumed, “and that's completely and utterly compromised me in professional terms.”
“Why?” Ben curtly inquired, playing the double zero much too early.
“Really! Among other things, I'm the official Forensic Science expert in this very murder case.”
“What a coincidence! How the Dickens did that happen?”
“I dunno,” replied Eugenia, getting totally flustered. “...Yes!...It may have something to do with your God-dammed flatmate!”
“You're making me as confused as you so obviously are yourself. Hamish seemed to have a special agenda, though, the way he hit on you in my flat last night.”
“Damn him and damn his agendas! I'm meeting him shortly for supper. I'll poison his tortellini, that I will.”
“Good on you! And I still don't understand why all those wires were dangling from his waist when I saw him running to the shower.”
“That's because Hamish is an MI6 agent, you moron!” howled Eugenia, completely losing it. “He wires himself to his surveillance equipment.”
“Absolute poppycock!”
“Chap!” mumbled Ben's dominoes opponent, looking smug.
“I'm chapping too,” replied Ben, in relief, “and I only have the double one left.”
“Good,” came the response. “I win!”
“You must have pulled that dom out of your feckin ear!” shrieked Ben, in dismay.

Ben was wondering whether to leave when Malky McLachlan wobbled up, no doubt feeling the effects of the proverbial 'four and a half pints of lager'.
“Can I come home with you tonight, darling?” inquired Malky, with an intense, piercing look.
“But I'm still recovering from last night, ducky,” replied Ben, as gently as possible.
“But this time I want to be well and truly porkied,” protested Malky, “just like a pig!”
Ben was still formulating his reply when a plump woman police officer strutted by, heading for the elevator. Perhaps I'd prefer her to this awkward misfit, he deliberated, slurping his beer.
“Excuse me, Missus Plod,” called Ben, himself the worse for drink, “but you might wish to check the deep freeze when you're downstairs. There could be a dead chicken, or something, in it.”
“Could be a frozen pig,” snorted Malky.
The officer turned, glared, and continued, pink with anger, on her way.

Ben was heading for the door, clutching Malky, when Officer Paulo Enrique rushed up, with two stroppy colleagues, and quite incongruously grabbed him by the throat.
“We're taking you to Cold Storage, jackanapes,” snarled the officer with a curved beak for a nose.
When they reached the Cold Storage room in the basement, Paulo slid the frosty glass lid off a freezer to the left. Ben was expecting to see a joint of roast beef, or maybe a turkey or even a few chicken. But instead a frozen, bristly, gnome-like face loomed into view.
“Who's that jerk?” inquired the officer with jagged teeth, hitting Ben in his ribs.
“K-Ken,” spluttered Ben. “Ken Reivers, I guess.”












CHAPTER 3: DR. YES AND AND THE BLUE PREYING MANTIS

THE BLUE PREYING MANTIS
by Tom Leonard
It appeared during my dear Hypatia’s wedding
Man-size by the pulpit,
Prancing in prayer-like posture,
Its dark green pseudo-pupils bulging
Out wide
From its bulbous compound eyes,
Its spiky forelegs grasping
The sacred Book of Kells,
Flashing its leathery outer wings
And revealing
The four meaner things behind.
‘I’m Bishop Galloway,’ it cried,
Even though His Grace had gone away to hide.
Not the blue preying mantis!’ I shrieked.
The worthy canon was confounded,
The kilted best man turned around,
The youthful ushers ran up with a bound,
And I was bundled into the Lady Chapel
Where they gave me a rough grapple
And throttled my Adam’s Apple.
It appeared in Chumps
Just as the schemy Aussie
From Sydney with a single kidney
Was trying to get off like a toff
With a bent Dorothy from Tranent
Who wasn’t exactly heaven sent.
It tried to pull tricks without feeling,
Its sensors scraping the ceiling,
Its reptilian jaws munching the treats
With a surfeit of crunching.
‘Not the blue preying mantis!’ I shrieked,
And two hefty bouncers from Saturn’s
Ran in, with jagged scars on their faces,
And threw me headlong onto the street.

After forty minutes or so of intensive questioning following the discovery of Ken Reivers' much bloodied corpse in the deep freeze, the police officers dragged Ben, his walker, and Malky out ofSaturn's and onto the crowded pavement on Greenside Place.
Clucky the Chicken was smoking a fag outside the doorway with the jolly Irish bouncer and a previously ejected, dope-ridden rent boy.
“I hope the police shrinks psychoanalyse you two crazy despots stupid,” howled the indignant bouncer, waving his clenched fist, “and that they leave you to rot in the Orchard Clinic.”
“But the chicken did it!” wailed Malky, struggling desperately to break free.
Clucky grabbed the rent boy's leather handbag.
“Oh no I didn't!” shrieked the shrill chicken, pounding Malky's head with the handbag, and the theatre goers on the sidewalk wildly applauded.
The police officers hauled Ben and Malky across Leith Walk and towards the nearby Gayfield Square. They were within five yards of the square when the Clucky took off across the busy traffic and almost caught up with them, claws at the ready, before tripping over the kerb, and falling head over heels into the side of a trash bin.
At that, Malky went absolutely potty and started to rave apparent nonsense. “Not the blue preying mantis!” he raged. “Prancing in prayer-like posture, its dark green pseudo-pupils bulging out wide from its bulbous compound eyes, its spiky forelegs grasping...”
You're off to see Wizard of Oz for a Carstairsian lobotomy,” howled the sergeant with the curved nose. “It will take half your frigging head off.”
“If ever there wiz there was,” raved Malky. “Look! It's sensors are scraping the ceiling, its reptilian jaws are munching the treats with a surfeit of crunching. No!!! It's no chicken. It's the blue preying mantisthat it is!”

When they reached the much-celebrated Gayfield Square Police Station, Ben and Malky were taken straight past reception into the dark and dingy regions, where some poor soul howled. “Not them! Let me spill the beans! Not there!”, and then hurriedly down an elevator into the brightly lit lower basement.
“We're taking you to the Sir William Crichton Interrogation Chambers!” announced Officer Paulo Enrique, giving Malky a couple of playful pokes“They're in the medieval dungeons under Gayfield House.”
“Sheriff Crichton sent the most evil prisoners in the Edinburgh Tollbooth by St. Giles there during the fifteenth century,” added the detective sergeant, with a grin. “Maybe we should puncture your gas-ridden lungs in the Iron Maiden, Malky, to get rid of some of your hype.
It's a bit like the intensive mental health unit that's attached to A and E down in Little France,” added Paulo. “It's difficult to distinguish the headshrinkers from the rozzers.”
Paulo flicked a switch, and a moving titanium walkway came into view, lit by a twirlingkaleidoscope of flashing colours that put Malky's mind into turmoil The walkway took the officers and the two suspects speedily down an ageless tunnel, to the tiresome tune of 'Flower of Scotland'The tunnel stretched under several nearby residences, under St. Mary's Primary School, and under East London Street, as far as an iron gateway which opened into the candle-lit reception area of the Crichton dungeons. These were totally inaccessible from Gayfield House fully fifty feet above.
“Please take the McLachlan jerk to meet Dr. Yes in the Guelders Gelding Chamber, Officer Enrique,” requested the detective sergeant, “and you can kick off the questioning after Dr. Yes has completed his psychiatric evaluation. You won't need to stick to the rules in this God-forsakenplace. But first, please prepare the suspect for his jagging!”
No!!” shrieked Malky, in terror. “Please don't let them inject meNot like they do in the Royal Ed!”
“This could be the start of a beautiful friendship,” responded Paulo Enrique, seizing poor Malky by the scruff of his neck.
Daisy McCracken arrived in time to question Ben Hopkins in the Archibald Douglas MemorialAlcovebut Malky was, to his horror, stripped by two smirking, middle age police women, down tohis favourite, moth-ridden, yellow vest and a cheesy pair of torn y-fronts which he hadn't changed for a couple of dayswhereupon he was incongruously dragged into the Guelders GeldingChamber without a 'please' or a 'thank you'.
wiry man in a white coat was waiting by the Procrustes bed fiddling with his perfectly useless, diamond-studded stethoscopeHe was in his early sixties, and sported a wispy, fading ginger beard, a number one cut, and a sarcastic expression which seemed permanently fixed to his scheming face. Dr. Yes, whose favourite hobby was hunting with his colleagues for wild prey while on safari, was really the eminent psychiatrist Sir Turnbull McCrae J.P., F.R.S.E, F.R.C.P., the President of the World Consortium of Brain Therapists. His God-like status was revered across Scotland and as far south as Newcastle.
What am I to you, little man?” inquired Dr. Yes, smacking his lips.
The blue preying mantis!” shrieked Malky, ad nausaeum.
most illuminating reply,” observed Dr. Yes, looking down his Romanesque snout. “Let me ask you two questions while I makeyou grovel like the slug-worm you are. Firstly, please tell me when you last saw a dog in your kitchen.”
Only last week,” blurted Malky. “I thought I heard a mouse in the trash. But when I went in to throw it onto Mrs. Dickety's lawn, I imagined the outline of a huge alsatian poking its nose through the door.”
I understand. And when did you last see Jesus Christ in heavenly manifestation?”
Last Sunday in the Cathedral, of course,”answered Malky. “I visualised him landing by the Altar during Holy Communion.”
He's referring to transubstantiation, Doctor,” interjected a transgender orderly called Barbara. “The Catholics believe that Jesus appears in the flesh.”
Dr. Yes puffed his chest, and sneered. Stuff and nonsense! The criminal is clearly psychotic and probably schizophrenic. He should be treated with a course of depixol, by twice daily injections in his left buttock, a centimetre or so below his pelvic bone. If he experiences serious paralysis in his legs, then a pair of crutches should be found for him, and he should be confined to abarred isolation cell for fourteen days if he smiles or giggles too much.”
Barbara nervously raised her very large hand. “Have you considered the possibility of a depixol-haloperidol cocktail to quieten him down, Doctor?” she inquired, hesitantly.
Dr. Yes blinked, and rubbed his nose. “Now that's an intriguing suggestion, Barbara. One further question, Mr. McLollypop. When did you first encounter your blue preying mantis?”
It was in a p-poem,” stammered Malky, “a p-poem composed by my friend, the retired Bayesian Statistician Tom Leonard who'sat some indeterminate point on some sort of spectrum. The poem starts, 'It appeared during my dear Hypatia's wedding, man-size by the altar, prancing in prayer-like posture….”
I really can't take any more of this unfounded spectrum nonsense,” shrieked Dr. Yes, grinding his teeth. “However, paranoid schizophrenia is a totally different issue, and we can't be too careful. Parallel courses of depixol and haloperidol seem to be the order of the day. Administer the haloperidol by twice daily injections in the moron's right buttock, orderlies! Go get him, Barbara!
Barbara promptly picked Malky up, threw him onto the Procrustes bed, pulled down the back of his y-fronts, and smiled.
A pair of highly experienced, lean and mean orderlies from the publicly acclaimed Herdmanflat Hospital in Haddington rushed upto administer Malky's very first intramuscular injections, with two thick, lengthy needles of a brand specially manufactured inBangladesh, which had been subjected to a very thorough clinical trial involving n=434 indigenous slaves.
When the orderlies twisted needle against bone, Malky shrieked in absolute agony and collapsed in a heap.
Please let me cosh the mother lover with a dose of clopixol, Doctor,” begged the leaner of the orderlies. “I'm on a commission from Big Pharma.”
Dr. Yes chuckled. “Now, now Rex! The imbecile's not elderly or demented enough to justify coshing him with that deadly stuff,and the depixol is already earning me a packet from Kundbacher of Geneva.
Please!” whined the greedy orderly.
You'd be welcome to top the lout up with quetiapine a bit laterNo more that five millilitres though, or his breasts may start to swell beyond the permissible limits.
Wow! Thanks!
Do tell me if your legs begin to feel a bit rubbery,” said Police Cadet Paulo Enrique, pouring Malky a glass of fizzy lemonade.
Barbara sighed, and frowned. This is a Procrustes bed! We need to stretch the clown's limbs with the movable pulleys to make sure that he fits it properly. Thank goodness his neck isn't as long as a giraffe's.
No it isn't!” howled Malky, in absolute terror.
Now this is beginning to make more sense,” remarked Paulo Enrique, seizing Malky by his ankles.

Let's recapitulate, Dr. Hopkins,” said Detective Chief Inspector Daisy McCracken, flicking her throat lozenge sideways with herdainty tongue. “You and your three companions were in the Hex Mirror Room for various periods between about 11.30 am and 1.30 pm last night. You all entered the Steam Room at about 12.45, completely devoid of clothing would you believe? Both Ken Reivers and Malcolm McLachlan left the Mirror Room more frequently than you and Dr. Eugenia Pereira, presumably either to visithe Sling Room or to return to the Steam Room, or to languish with dark intent around the dimly lit corridors. But please describe to us, one more time, the grounds for your suggestion (which you expressed to one of my highly efficient constables earlier this evening) that it might be a good idea to check the contents of the freezers in the Cold Storage Room.”
That was simply because I overheard a snippet of conversation in the main bar earlier this evening, Chief Inspector, to the effect that there'd been some funny goings on in the vicinity of the freezers. Winnie the Mince said something like that to her straggly-haired spouse.”
Not that bizzom again! Are you saying that you had no knowledge last night of anything that may or may not have happened in the Cold Storage Room?”
No chance! I didn't even know it was there. They only feed their customers with crisps and nuts in that establishment.”
And to your knowledge, did either Mr. Reivers or Mr. McLachlan take the opportunity to throw their legs in the air for some light relief on the sling?”
Not definitely, but Ken Reivers did say 'He made me feel like a fluffy bunny wunny' when he returned to the Mirror Room at about 12.30, and Malky muttered 'He was such a sly foxy-loxy' a bit later while he was performing a highly incongruous forwards roll across the artificial turf.”
What invaluable information! Now, Dr. Hopkins, you still seem to be insisting that you left the premises through the back door atabout 1.30. Were you accompanied by all three of your companions?”
Only Malky and Eugenia, I think. I don't remember anything about Ken.”
I see. And what happened next?”
I can't rightly remember. I was in such a drunken stupor, you see. The next thing I recall is waking up in my flat, with Malky squatting on my chest. The sweat was pouring from his thighs.
This is all highly suspicious, Dr. Hopkins. We will be detaining you in this facility, for the time-being at least. Please make yourself at home in the St. Grunwald Self-Flagellation Cell.”

In the meantime, the bear-like, retired Bayesian Statistician Tom Leonard, nicknamed 'Sasquatch' by the more caring of his gayacquaintances, left the recently hipsterised Planet bar close to the corner of Leith Walk and London Road (following a token kiss and cuddle with an intelligent Japanese lad visiting from Kyoto who'd fled there from Saturn's), and returned to his drab first floor flat next to the Café Renroc on Montgomery St.
When he turned on his Toshiba laptop, Tom discovered a comment on his Facebook page by the one and only Dr. Yes. It was appended to a post from Thomas Hoskyns Leonard Blog, entitled 'The Blue Preying Mantis', which had been 'liked' by thirteenFacebook friends, and 'loved' by Richard Mantis Strangelove of Los Angeles, Inky Winky, Banana Anna Banana and Malky McLachlan. The comment read:
You doubtlessly feel reassured of the ultimate sanity of your initially warped perceptions, following your much-belated A.D.D. re-diagnosis by Dr. R. E. Canter. However, this horribly irrational poem has distorted the mind of your similarly inane sidekick Malky, who may well have perpetrated foul crimes because of it. Your entire blog is away with the fairies. It should be destroyedforthwith and your laptop incinerated.
Whoops! thought Tom, attempting to re-align his neurotransmitters. I'd better delete this post, quick, from my Facebook page at least.

Malky McLachlan had been left lying spread-eagled on his back on the Procrustes Bed in the Guelders Gelding Chamber, his not so muscular limbs stretched excruciatingly taut by the pulley system constraining him.
At some point in time, the two middle aged woman police officers came in with a jug of iced water and a large jar of Schmuckers Sweet Orange marmalade.
Look at him!” exclaimed the officer from Musselburgh. “Could be the medication, I suppose.”
Let's pull the Motherwell laundry-women's stunt on him,” suggested the officer from New Lanark.
Let's!” giggled her saucy colleague, opening the marmalade.
Despite the lingering effects of the injections, Malky was feeling a bit chirpier half an hour later when Detective Chief Inspector McCracken came in to question him, accompanied by Police Cadet Enrique who was gripping a rubber truncheon in his right hand and a taser gun in the other.
Thank you for sorting out the Roller from Shotts, Paulo,” said Daisy McCracken. “He seems to have a full alibi in the Queen's Head Hotel in Kelso for the times in question, though. He returned on the bus this afternoon after stopping off in St. Boswell's for a couple of expensive gins in the Buccleuch Arms.
But it was fun giving the inebriate the once over,” replied Paulo Enrique, swinging his truncheon gaily around his head. “He admitted to rolling two highly indiscreet clerics from Melrose for a hundred quid each. I'll grill him a bit more later in the SinclairTrepanning Room, to see what he knows about the other Walter Mittys and their secret agendas.
Daisy McLachlan grimaced, and slapped Malky's perfectly flat chest. Now then, Mr. McLachlan, if you value your goolies, I'd like to know exactly who laid you last night in the sling in the basement of the Saturn's bar complex on Greenside Place.”
That sleazy jerk Eric McVey,” shrieked Malky. “The pretend Lib Dem freak. The God-damned neo-fascist treated me like an obsequious poodlethat he didI felt like Tony Chenevix-Fettes performing a stunt in a rose bush for George W. Bush.
How appropriate. Who else took you in the God-damned sling?”
Dunno.”
What!” exclaimed the chief inspector, reaching for the marmalade.
My buddy Davie,” purred Malky. “He was so utterly divine.”
Davie who?”
Davie Pickles, the proprietor, of course.”
I see. And at what time did you leave the premises?”
Back of two, I think.”
Back of two, or back of three?”
Dunno.”
Who did you leave with?”
My lovely Ph.D. supervisor Eugenia. She's a fellow grass roots Socialist, you know.”
What happened to happened to Ben Hopkins?”
Oh! Slinky Ben caught up with us while we climbing up Greenside Lane. He took us to his place, but I was no longer in the mood for anything more than a relaxing twenty minutes of pecking and petting, apart from my pre-breakfast treat of course.”
Really? But why did you participate in the foul murder of your love-buddy Davie in the Steam Room before you left Saturn's?”
“Didn't! The chicken did it.”
“System Lucky Seven on the pulleys please, ladies,” retorted the Detective Chief Inspector. “I'll be back later to take a formal statement.”

Daisy McCracken returned to the Reception Chamber, only to find MI6 Agent Hamish McLeod standing there panting heavily.
“What's up, Hamish?” inquired Daisy, straightening her dark blue cravat.
“Everything's up!” responded Hamish. “With Eugenia Slotsky-Pereira's help we've collated aswathe of fresh evidence, including more accurate assessments of the precise times when Messrs McLachlan and Hopkins left the basement of the Saturn's bar complex last night. Perhaps you should consider modifying your list of prime suspects in the light of our new discoveries.”
But maybe our dear Eugenia's evidence is suspect too, deliberated the crafty chief inspector. Maybe she's deep in the shit. And maybe this chancer is in even deeper than she is.
I'll certainly consider all of this extremely carefully indeed,” replied Daisy cautiously. “Is there anything else?”
Hamish gave Daisy McCracken a stern look. “Yes indeed. Winnie the Mince's skull was crushed to smithereens in Chumps a couple of hours ago after she fell head over heels down the infernally steep staircase on her way to the loo. A suspect disguised as an orange puma was seen fleeing from the scene.”
Daisy looked flummoxed, but quickly recovered her composure. Was the resident Walter Mitty, 'Judge Antony' in the bar?” she abruptly inquired.
“Too true. He was wearing his white Cistercian abbot's cloak and cosying up to the Humpty Dumpty barman.”



















CHAPTER 4: OUT OF AFRICA, OR WHEREVER

Winnie the Mince's full name was Winifred Hyacinth McVey, and she'd been adopted by the kindly, though impoverished, Hyacinth family in Craigmillar, after being discovered as a baby wrapped in newspaper in a phone kiosk. According to eye-witness reports, she perished in the labyrinthine front basement of the Edinburgh Players Theatre after an individual disguised as an orange puma ran up the formidably steep staircase to Chumps while Winnie was en route to the toilets, seized her by her hair, and threw her, shrieking her head off, straight down the stairs behind him. It should be explained that Chumps was situated, beyond the Box Office, on the right hand corner of the ground floor of the Players Theatre, with the highly respectable Café Habana to the left
Customers present in the bar on that sultry evening included the regular, heavy-drinking 'Stone Age crowd', a dozen or so assorted teenagers from Currie sharing out their drugs in a corner, and several bland-faced executive members of the local Lib Dems with two wide-awake hangers-on.
Two ghost-like members of the Vestry of Old St. Paul's were there to introduce Kiki, a barely legal member of their congregation newly arrived from Mumbai, to the LGBT scene, and the snoot-ridden 'Judge Antony' sipped Jura from a snifter while eyeing up the mysterious delights of the West and East and talking down to all and sundry.
Gayfield Police interviewed over twenty of the customers the following morning in a fragrant, luxuriously furnished reception room on the first floor of the theatre. The contrast with the grime inChumps immediately below could not have been greater.
Kiki said that he'd seen the back of a man entering a stall in the Gents with a large flowery shopping bag about fifteen minutes before the murder, and thought that he looked like a tall RBS financier who'd chatted with him and the Old St. Paul's Vestry members earlier. One of Kiki's highly devout companions said that the guy wasn't actually an RBS financier, but rather an international trader who'd recently arrived back via a boat to North Shields following an air flight to Amsterdam. The other Vestry member, an austere, po-faced fellow, said that the man, who wouldn't hurt a fly, sometimes deputised as the organist at St. Cuthbert's, where his identity could doubtlessly be traced.
Upon further questioning, Kiki admitted that he'd hung around the stalls in the basement for fully twenty minutes during which time he'd attended to the whims of a couple of strapping hunks whose descriptions he could barely remember.
The giraffe-necked bar manager of Chumps said that there were two partitions in the basement corridor through which people could creep from the remainder of the theatre complex, and that his own office down in that scarifying abyss had been firmly locked during the times in question. He said that all of her staff, and applicants for the various positions in the bar, were treated well and according to the letter of the law. He dismissed as slag the rumours of indiscretions in times long past in the very same office and emphasised the importance of being straight-laced and straight-faced.
A red-haired girl from Currie said that she'd chased after the 'orange puma' as he exited the bar, only to see him turn right, down Greenside Lane and towards the valley below and Calton Hill above. Her curly-blonde sister said that she'd previously seen a strange ceremony, in the dusk and on the top of Calton Hill, where a couple of muscular acrobats and a dozen or so people disguised as various breeds of wildcat were roasting piglets on a spit. When asked what happened later, she blushed a deep shade of purple.
None of the local Lib Dem executives saw a thing, though one of their wide-wake admirers heard Winnie say, 'At that, I need a flipping piss,” as she headed for the stairwell. Those were her very last coherently expressed words.
The deputy organist at St. Cuthbert's was brought in from his plush office on by St. Giles by two burly woman officers. The tall, tight-limbed fellow, by trade a lawyer and Writer of the Signet, confirmed that he'd taken his large flowery shopping bag to Chumps the previous evening, but insisted that it contained fifty or so tiny copies of the New Testament, and not an orange puma suit. He also said that the individual in the puma suit blurted, “To Hell with the wicked witch of the west,” as he was leaving the bar. The high-flying defence lawyer thought that the murderer sounded like his most recent trick, though he couldn't remember many pertinent details about the trick in question. The interviewing officers didn't know what to make of the slippery organist, and left him on their prime suspect list.
An old and wrinkled member of the 'Stone Age gang' said that he'd met a person in the bar several weeks previously who was disguised in a purple puma suit. However, when he'd taken the squeaky-voiced individual home, he'd turned out to be the homely, pixie-like Wee Free minister of St. Clarence's-on-the-Edge. So he'd thrown the hypocritical pest out.
A sinister-looking, but highly intellectual sounding, customer from North Ronaldsay with very broad, heavily tattooed forearms, who answered to the name of 'Insect', was on extended vacation from the Congo. He said that he'd met the 'orange puma' in the loo an hour prior to the murder, and smoked a joint with him in the downstairs corridor. The puma had explained to Insect that he was there to save mankind from a vigilante movement, and claimed to be part of an élite organization that met in the Thistle Chapel of St. Giles Cathedral every Friday morning to work together for the betterment of Imperial Scotland. Their motto was 'When it matters, let the blood flow'.
When the vole-like detective sergeant inquired after Insect's manner of employment, the crustacean-like Orcadian said that he worked for the King Baudouin Diamond Mining Company in Katanga, and boasted that he used his limited medical expertise to detect the presence of contraband in the stomachs of any disloyal miners who tried to leave with their spoils, and to devise efficient enough ways of extracting the stolen diamonds from the miscreants' interiors.
I don't like the smell of this character, deliberated the detective inspector, glancing at the complex, spidery tattoos on the fellow's huge, pincer-like forearms and the hornet on his neck.We should keep him under strict surveillance.
When his disguise was forcibly removed, the Clucky the Chicken turned out to be a none-too-bright, bouncer who worked at the Opium pick-up bar on the Cowgate, and occasionally outside C.C. Blooms on Greenside Place. His shrill voice could be put down to a horribly violent incident in his youth that left him devoid of his testicles. Clucky also quickly admitted to being a now ageing rent boy who advertised his services while clucking away outside the gay bars on Greenside Place.
Clucky remembered, under stern questioning, that he'd been down in the Saturn's Steam Room around 11p.m. of the night of the first two murders, but didn't see much as he was on his knees for most of the time pleasing a ginormous Japanese wrestler with massive thighs. He also thought that he may have seen the same wrestler in the murky Sling Room a couple of hours later.
Clucky had returned to his sheltered accommodation in the same building at back of two where he discovered his crazy flatmate in their double bed with the very same wrestler, whereupon he jumped in between them and slept soundly until morning. By then he felt like a slice of meat in a club sandwich.
Clucky was present in Chumps at the time of the murder of Winnie the Mince, and thought that the 'orange puma' could have been a disgraced former British Foreign Secretary, or the Bishop of Cawdor and Dunblane, or somebody of similarly high social standing.

After interrogating the Roller from Shotts in the playfully named 'Skelping Room' in Gayfield Square Police Station and learning a great deal in the process about the mentality of Walter Mittys and how they operate, Police Cadet Paulo Enrique was keen to participate in the questioning of 'Judge Antony' in the Players Theatre across Leith Walk.
“We would much appreciate your guidance, Sir,” began Detective Chief Inspector Daisy McCracken, after the formal introductions, “regarding the three recent murders on our LGBT scene. Two nights ago, the proprietor Davie Pickles and a customer Ken Reivers were very cruelly killed in the recreation area in the lower basement under Saturn's bar, and last night poor Winifred McVey was sent tumbling down the stairs while drinking in Chumps with her dear husband. What on earth could be afoot?”
While sometimes mistaken for him, the elderly 'judge' bore absolutely no resemblance to the sadly deceased Lord Dervaird, who resigned from the Court of Session during the Fettesgate sex scandal of the 1990s, and moved on to occupy a prestigious Chair of Law at the University. Indeed, Judge Antony boasted a jug-like face, rabbit-like ears, and a white, Hercule Poirot moustache.
“I guess that Pickles could have upset the twerp of an Aberdonian cocaine baron who controlled him from afar,” opined the stuck up old fellow. “Perhaps the fool cut him short on the profits. Ken Reivers was, no doubt, a stupid bystander who saw too much, and Winnie McVey could have been killed in retaliation by one of Pickles' cronies for the involvement of her vigilantes in the first two deaths. They should have minced that witch in a meat grinder and mixed her with ketchup!”
“Which crony?” asked the detective chief inspector, eagle-eyed.
“I thought that the orange puma walked like a woman. It could've been the hen of a bar manager in Saturn's, the one who used to dance in the Laughing Duck.
After several follow up questions, Officer Paulo Enrique joined the conversation.
“Please forgive me if this seems a bit undiplomatic, Sir,” he stammered, “but you do not appear to have served as a judge in Scotland, or any parts of the UK, or indeed anywhere in the British Commonwealth.”
“How dare you, you cocky whipper snapper!”
That fired Paulo up. “Because our background checks are invariably highly reliable, Sir. In spite of this lack of qualification, you seem to be highly-respected as a judge in the LGBT community and this gives you scope for all sorts of underhand activities. I think that you could be accused of being a puffed up Walter Mitty, and most Mittys have, in my mind, some potentially harmful, secret agenda.”
“How outrageously prepostorous!” spluttered the 'judge'. “I've never harmed a fly in my entire life!”
Paulo clenched his teeth, and held his ground.“So how exactly did you employ yourself before your prosperous retirement? I think that you bluster while you blether.”
“Crawl back under the stone you popped out of, you cheeky nincompoop!”
Daisy McCracken gave the 'judge' a severe look. “Please answer the question, Sir!”
The 'judge' sighed, and grimaced. “Well, I did ease up during the latter part of my career, and I contented myself with providing expert legal advice from my tiny office on Upper Bow. I still give occasional help in deserving cases.”
“But where did you study?” rasped the chief inspector. “Where did you obtain your Law degree? You have to have a degree to practise, you cantankerous old fool, or you could still end up behind bars.”
“My degree wasn't actually in law,” blustered the twisted old fellow. “I studied Dentistry at Dundee, but I... er...flunked out.”
“But have you ever attempted to judge a case in a court?” asked Paulo Enrique, most perceptively. “Like a kangaroo court?”
“Too true I did,” replied the ageless man, unexpectedly enthusiastically, “I served as a British mercenary in Angola during the 1970s, when we helped the FNLA to fight the government forces and all the other Commie bastards. They paid me over £2000 a week! The natives would bring in the enemy bodies by the score to burn by the river. We tried any Ruskies or Cubans we captured in front of my very own tribunal and shot them alongside the government Commie fascists. That was where I earned my credentials as a judge.”
“And you've felt entitled to call yourself a judge ever since?” inquired Daisy McCracken, indignantly.
“Of course I have! I served Queen and Country! Both Maggie Thatcher and James Callaghan sent me letters of congratulation upon my release. If the buggars hadn't shot our leaders to bits after the show trial in Luanda, we would've all been regarded as national heroes.”
“National traitorous renegades more like,” raged Paulo, waving his fist.
“You don't know a thing, puppy dog,” retorted the 'judge', cocking a snoot.
“Just as an aside,” intervened Daisy. “We've already interviewed another red hot customer from Chumps, known as 'Insect'. He also served Queen and Country, in a diamond mine in the Congo. Do you get together with him for a chin wag?”
“I know Insect well! In fact, I worked with him for King Baudouin Diamonds for a couple of years during the 1990s, mainly as the company's lawyer though my limited expertise at extracting wisdom teeth was also put to advantageous effect.”
“This all has highly pertinent ramifications,” concluded Paulo Enrique, rubbing his chin.
Daisy McCracken smiled, condescendingly. “One Walter Mitty in Chumps, who we sectioned to the Royal Ed a few years back, thought that he was a lecturer in Biology with a research interest in tomatoes, though his special interest was defrauding gullible undergraduates. He took rental deposits off them, but the student flats only existed in his head. Now what sort of skulduggery are you really about, Judge Antony?”
“What confounded cheek! I'm no nutter! I demand to see my lawyer!”
“The crazy gay shrinks on the scene sometimes call Chumps the 'Waiting Room,” said Paulo, with a sly smirk. “I wonder why?”
Judge Antony flapped his arms like the wings of an albatross. “They must be off their flipping rockers!”

When the Lib Dem politician Eric McVey was brought in, he scowled like a fishmongeress and flopped himself down into a comfy seat. Following brief commisserations regarding the sad death of his poor wife Winnie, Daisy McCracken inquired, “Did you participate in the heap sex in the Sling Room around 1.30 pm during the night of the first two murders, Mr. McVey? Approximately eight people were involved.”
Both of McVey's eyeballs twitched, simultaneously. “Nope. But I observed the proceedings from above. I was climbing one of the poles in my rubber shorts. A chump in a batman's suit was climbing the other.”
“And did you recognise any of the participants?” inquired Paulo Enrique, with as much respect as he could endeavour to muster.
“How could I, you moronic idiot?” snarled McVey. “All of their faces were hidden from view.”
“I understand,” seethed Paulo. “So what happened when the eight-way was over?”
“I laid the clumsy one with the chubby body,” purred McVey. “I didn't see his face either.”
“Was he called Malky?” asked Chief Inspector McCracken.
“Smalky, Mulky. Sommat like that. He was too sweaty to be true.”
“And what did you do next?” inquired Paulo, gritting his teeth.
“I went straight upstairs and fell fast asleep in Phoebe's Bar until morning.”
“A likely story,” responded the chief inspector. “And what are your political affiliations?”
“I describe myself as an enlightened Lib Dem, though coming from the right.”
“The Scottish Defence League, perhaps?”
“Maybe.”
“And what sort of activities did you and your dear wife get up to in your vigilante group?”
“Buggar off!”
As soon as MI6 Agent Hamish McLeod had achieved the, very tentative releases, of Ben Hopkins and Malky McLachlan from the Crichton dungeons, he marched them back to Ben's flat on Huntingdon Place to parley with Dr. Eugenia Slotsky-Pereira, who was wearing her favourite spotted cotton dress.
“Well now, guys,” began Hamish, after sitting Ben and Malky down together on the cosy pink sofa. “Eugenia estimates that you both left the scene of the murders in the basement of Saturn'sby 2.25 a.m. I think that I might have convinced the chief inspector that you therefore can't have been involved in the crimes in any tangible way. For instance, Ken Reivers seems to have been delayed in the sling one more time, and probably wasn't murdered until after 3 a.m. However, the forensic evidence from the crime scenes is still all a bit tenuous. So you can't count your chickens yet.”
“But my bum's still sore, and my arms and legs are aching like shit,” wailed Malky, getting hysterical. “Please don't let them take me back to be tortured again in the Crichton Dungeons. I'm no preying mantis! The fiery dragons would roast my hide and eat me up! Then my brain would rot in the Styx just like Maggie Thatcher's, that it would!”
“It seems to me, Ben,” continued Hamish, totally ignoring Malky's protestations, “that the sooner MI6 clears all this up, the better. In fact the Saltire Cell would like to appoint you to the position of MI6 special informer, so that you can help us to investigate the vigilantes in Saturn's and indeed every Tom, Dick, or Harry on the Top of the Walk LGBT scene. Are you game?”
Ben poked Malky in the ribs for squirming around too much.
“I'm certainly game for this game,” replied Ben.
“I was going to let Malky off his postgraduate studies for a couple of weeks, so that he can fully recover from his very painful misadventures,” ventured Eugenia with a sly grin. “However, it seems to me that he would make a great spy for MI6. He's such absolute clown, that nobody would suspect what he was up to at all.”
“What a wonderful idea!” replied Hamish, to much surprise. “I'll talk to my super-duper about it straightaway.”
“Shan't!” howled Malky. “I positively shan't!”

Despite Malky's aggravating aches and pains, he and Eugenia lived up to their left wing, grass roots credentials the following evening by appearing in red and black costumes outside the Edinburgh Players Theatre at the top of Leith Walk, where they attached themselves to a small but vocal demonstration organised by Sisters Entwined. Inside the sprawling theatre, a right wing, reactionary comedian from Dallas was doing his stuff to plenty of chuckles from the packed, right wing, reactionary audience. Malky's placard bore the slogan 'Oink off Trump-pigs!' and he was flanked by two transgender women with daisies in their hair.
After splattering rotten fruit against the theatre door, Malky retreated with Eugenia and the trans women into Saturn's, and purchased a round of vodka and coke from the formidable female bar manager.
This is where the eavesdropping and spying begins, deliberated Malky, now an official MI6 special informer. Thank goodness that Hamish has wired me up with all the state of the artdevices. I'll be transmitting feelings as well as pictures and sound.















CHAPTER 5: MI6 INVESTIGATES

When Malky went to sit down with his three women friends in Saturn’s, he saw the wafer-thin pate-head Eric McVey stretching his limbs around an oval, mahogany table with several of his shifty buddies. Malky therefore encouraged his companions to settle themselves at a square, white table to the right of the imitation medieval stone fireplace, pointed the silver arrowhead in his elongated belly button in the direction of the people he wished to put under surveillance, and took a tug at the tiny titanium ZOOM lever that was craftily embedded into the pit of his chest.
“The fireplace is as fake as the atmosphere,” said the trans woman with the elegant set of silver teeth.
“It’s as fake as the smart Alecs and plastic gnomes who dance into the shadows of the night,” agreed her equally delightful companion, adjusting her beautifully encrusted dress.
Malky femto-fi devices enabled him to hear any nearby conversations or mutterings which might be of interest, with extreme precision, in his own left ear. He presumed there must be some scientific reason for this. Maybe it’s something to do with my new emerald earring, he deliberated, and the vicious hole Hamish punched in my earlobe is still hurting!
“Winnie was so versatile, such an important part of my life, like a husband and wife entwined all together,” twittered Eric McVey, with a deft twist of his long, untrimmed moustache. “She, or they, to be politically correct, helped me to devise my neo-liberal strategies for the weak-kneed Lib Dems, and what a far cry from the Orange Order they were! She lined up our reprobates in the graveyard on Calton Hill, and they've helped us to hit on the expendable while protecting the czars from the hoi polloi. Now, that talkative church secretary at St Manion's on the Mound, we laid him out cold with a broom-handle up his Nebuchadnezzar!”
“And they reported that the pervo died from a massive stroke!” whispered a pock-faced fellow with one arm and two artificial legs. “It reminds me of the time that silly trans nursery minder wasstarved to death in her gang's safehouse somewhere behind Rose St. The crown agent recorded it as a gigantic adverse reaction to the bitch's insulin injections.”
“That was in October 2007, as I remember,” murmured McVey, with a gentle smile, “and the location was known as Fred's House.”
“I once worked there, as a gimp in a cage,” mumbled a proud, middle aged man known as theSpirit of Eromenus.
“That's where they should have kept you,” retorted McVey, with a rude scowl.
“Maybe it's time for the Knights and Dames of the Sacred Orb to cultivate a better public image for itself,” muttered a sprightly lady from Silverknowes. “A bit like the Wolf Pack or the Prime Resisters maybe. They recently received favourable attention from the Evening News.”
“No chance,” growled McVey, grimacing like a Rottweiler. “St. Aidan would turn in his slimy grave.”
“I don't approve of you, one single iota,” protested the Spirit, heading for the door.
“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” burbled McVey, preening himself.
Dr. Ben Hopkins heard none of that conversation when he arrived pushing his redoubtable walker Audacious. But when he sat down with Malky, Eugenia and their trans friends at the white table, McVey stood up, rudely scratched his protruding self, and glared.
At that, Malky did something extremely silly. He leapt onto his seat, waved his arms like the wings of an eagle, and yelled “Down Schlosshund Meister!” while knowing full well that he was calling McVey a 'master of lapdogs'.
The neo-fascist, socio-economic advisor for the local Lib Dems scowled angrily and stalked over like an orang-utan on heat. And it was Ben who he eye-balled full in the face.
“I'm surprised you've finally returned to the scene after all these years, Hoppy-creep,” raged McVey. “I remember a scar-faced skinhead bartender called Fergus kicking you out of Chumpson your scrawny posterior after you bawled out Judge Antony during one of your all too frequentpsychopathic psychoses. You even imagined that they'd disappeared that nosey Czech law student, the one who thought he was Michael Jackson. You actually accused them of drowning him in the Union Canal. What a laugh! While you were ranting away like an imbecilic moron, the supposed victim was getting himself royally laid in Gran Canaria! The shrink-heads should have sent you back to the Professorial Ward, where you truly belong.”
McVey must be that weird pixie who hid in the corner of Chumps all those years ago. deliberated Ben. Only the fag hags liked him.
“If you are referring to handsome Kvido from Ostrava,” Ben calmly replied, “he disappeared after bravely confronting Fergus and Judge Antony about all the 'bad bad things' they were doing, and I haven't set eyes on the poor little blighter since. Judge Antony death-threated me when I questioned him on the issue and, while Fergus O'Flagerty admitted that they'd disappeared Kvido, he became quite unruly when I tried to press the issue. I wasn't surprised when Fergus's much battered body was discovered on a level crossing a couple of years later.”
“Balderdash!” howled McVey. “If you don't put in a disappearance act yourself, I'll send my vigilantes after you. That I will!”
“Hey guys!” retorted Eugenia Slotsky-Pereira, rising to her feet. “Let's get the Hell out of this flipping dive.”
And so they did.

The two trans women scarpered, and Eugenia very craftily decided to take Ben and Malky to Chumps, only a few yards up Leith Walk. She also texted Hamish inviting him to join them, and he replied that he'd come by back of eight.
Chumps was confined to a long, rectangular room, the mahogany long faded, the high, decorative plaster ceiling given to streaks of mildew. The Victorian-esque bar ran the entire length of the wall to the left, and five nubile barmen, and a butch, ill-mannered barmaid who was also the resident DJ, stood there, like fallen angels, in tightly-fitting, black Hellbat suits, wagging their white bobtails, as ever eager to serve. The pot-bellied, giraffe-necked bar manager was patrolling them with his usual saucy diligence, while reserving his sternest finger waggings for zero-hour contract employees pouring more than the standard measures for extra tips. “So what if you can't pay your rent?” he would yell. “The world doesn't owe you a living. You can always haul yourselfdown to my office.”
I'd love to stretch his neck, thought Malky, while he was carrying three gin and tonics, without the benefit of a tray, to an oak table by the crystal glass window, with its daunting view from below of the £300 a night Glasshouse hotel next door.
“I never could ascertain the precise nature of the 'bad bad things' that Judge Antony and Fergus O'Flaherty were said to be doing in 2008,” Ben was saying, when a ghost-like personage stirred in the far corner, and rose to his feet.
“Hi there, Malky,” said the once distinctively handsome gentleman, wandering up. “I saw you a few minutes ago in Saturn's, and you made my heart soar like an albatross.”
Malky frowned and stuck out his tongue. “How do you know my name?”
“You must have put your hi tech devices into reverse. I am the Spirit of Eromenus, and I've heardyour entire gabfest for over ten wearying minutes. May I sit down?”
Ben beckoned politely, towards the comfy seat. “Do tell us the story of your life, kind Sir. I'm sure that it will be all revealing.”
The Spirit took a sip of his sparkling mineral water, sat down like a mechanical robot, and rolled his fading green eyes. “I am now fifty years old, my friends and stricken with the death virus. I came out in Edinburgh at the age of nine, and during the mid 80s I was a gimp in a cage in Fred's House on Rose Street South Lane. I recall locking myself in my cage wearing nought but a pair of rubber shorts with two holes in it. The going rate in those days was ten quid a time and I typically made a hundred smackers in a single night even after I'd paid Fred his 20%. The élite of Edinburgh would come to my cage: clergy, lawyers, politicians, the whole ball of was. But I never was able to distinguish an iota of tendresse from a single one of them.”
“That must have damaged your entire life,” murmured Eugenia. “How on earth did you manage to escape to reality?”
The Spirit sighed heavily. “I didn't, largely because of the cocaine, though nowadays I endeavour to survive on my benefits.”
“But how did you manage to circulate the key to your cage?”asked Ben, realising that the gimp would have kept the key following each visit.
The Spirit grinned merrily. “I often handed it out myself in Fire Island on Princes Street, before retreating along the ancient slave passage from Cicero's Cellar Bar to Fred's zany basement.”
Fire Island was one of the leading gay clubs in Europe, mused Ben, until it went bottoms up and Waterstone's moved in. It dazzled with colourful lights, and resounded with the musiof the day and the morrowI once drank with Freddie Mercury there. He was such a sweetie.
Ben coughed politely. “Were the pimps of any assistance?”
“Spot on, Daffy Duck!” replied the Spirit. “Sometimes the man we call Judge Antony sold my key for me. That bastard was the biggest phoney I have ever met. He would insist on turning mehimself each evening, for free. I am saying this simply to give you an indication of the sorts of 'bad bad things' which he and Fergus might have been doing in 2008, though I don't know this for a fact.”
Eugenia nodded in appreciation. “And what happened to Fred's House after you stopped working there?”
The Spirit of Eromenus flicked his eyebrows, nervously. “It is said that it became a 'nursery' where young children were groomed for their later work in the sex trade,” he stuttered. “Some had been sold by their parents, others kidnapped from deprived areas, and others imported from the East. Some say that the nursery was run by the trans woman who was to die there so mysteriously late in 2007. From natural or unnatural causes, who knows?”
As a highly perceptive MI6 agent, clumsy Malky recalled the recent conversation between Eric McVey and his buddies in Saturn's, in particular the discussion by the pock-faced man with three artificial limbs concerning the mode of death of a similarly described, trans nursery minder and McVey's assertion that this was in October 2007.
“Whoopee!” blurted Malky. “I do believe that McVey's vigilantes murdered the poor trannie.”

When the MI6 Saltire Cell agent Hamish McLeod came into Chumps, he was accompanied by the ageing rent boy Clucky the Chicken (who'd agreed to observe the confidentiality of any top secret discussions that might ensue). While Clucky was wearing most of his chicken costume, his face revealed him for what he was, an ugly, well-seasoned slob in his late forties.
Eugenia decided that the conversation previously underway was well worth continuing. “We were debating the nature of the 'bad bad things' that Judge Antony and Fergus O'Flagerty might have been doing in 2008,” she explained, as Hamish and Clucky sat down. “Did they 'disappear' the Czech law student Kvido because of his piercing criticisms? Was Ben correct in challenging the the villains, or was his behaviour when howling at Judge Antony utterly crazy and completely out of line?”
Hamish burped, before tilting his head, as if to exude wisdom. “We shouldn't be too quick to draw conclusions regarding these very grave matters,” he whispered, as if in complete confidence. “The 'bad bad things' could've referred to the trading of 'barely legals' to the élite Magic Circle, or they could've related to the still ongoing bullying and child abuse in our institutional churches. However, my top brass are currently considering a totally different scenario. Judge Antony says that he was employed by the King Baudouin Diamond Mining Company in the Congo during the 1990s during which time he worked a bit extracting teeth for his nasty buddy Insect, who was responsible for removing diamonds from the stomachs of miners who tried to leave with their spoils. We suspect that the pair of them were getting up to something similarly sadistic as late as 2008, in cahoots with Fergus O'Flagerty maybe.”
Clucky the Chicken flapped his wings in excitement. “That rings a bell! I was once involved in a fascinating perversion in the Garden of Eden Club at the bottom of Leith Walk, where male prostitutes were encouraged to swallow fake rubies and emeralds. The paying customers were provided with all sorts of fearsome enemas and strange pieces of medical equipment, and invited to discover ways of best extracting the jewels from the ugly rent boys' interiors without putting them under anaesthetic.”
“Thank you, Clucky, but no cigar for you this time I'm afraid,” Hamish grimly replied. “We already know all about the Garden of Eden. The proprietors were a pair of auburn-haired twin sisters from Dumbarton and they were sent to Cornton Vale in 2006 to serve lengthy sentences for their heinous crimes, and which time the wretched club was closed down for good.”
“This does raise some intriguing possibilities though,” remarked Ben. “Maybe I shouldn't have accused Judge Antony of anything in particular. Indeed, I don't rightly remember what I yelled at him. Something to do with what the psychotic clarinet player from Tranent had told me about voyeurism and human sacrifices in a Highland castle north of Inverness, perhaps or maybe only maybe. I was so wired on the modafinil I was taking for my sleep apnoea that I completely lost the plot as soon as the Judge death-threated me for being too nosey about Kvido's strange disappearance.”
“We in fact suspect,” explained Hamish, giving Ben a quizzical look, “that Insect and Judge Antony sold the internal organs they removed from Filipino and Romanian slaves and the like, to the owners of the Meusdenhead Hall Private Hospital down by Soutra Hill. We are furthermore investigating the possibility that they are currently luring gullible people from our LGBT scene to a luxurious hotel in a sleepy hollow near Humbie, with the sole intent of surgically removing their kidneys, and preserving their brains for medical research at the Western General, before disposing of their carcases in the Whalplaw burn.”
“Great jumping jabberwockies!” exclaimed Ben, in a tizz. “It seems that I was totally off the mark in 2008.”
Eugenia gave Ben a strange look. “The question of the hour is whether your dire experiences of 2008 can be related to our current triple murder scenario. Are Insect and the Judge prime suspects? What, if any, were the roles of McVey's vigilantes? Or are you, dearest one, a key suspect yourself?”
“Poppycock! That's prepostorous!”
“But it's an extremely unlikely coincidence that all of this would have happened immediately uponyour long awaited return to this part of the LGBT scene. Maybe you silenced Davie Pickles and Winnie the Mince because of secrets they were threatening to reveal about your very own past.”
“How dare you!” raved Ben Hopkins, frothing at the mouth. “I'm not crazy. They never sectioned me to the Royal Ed, and I'm no paranoid schizophrenic!”
“I will discover everything!” raged Malky, rising to his feet. “Just let me wave my cute self at the spiteful inebriates for a week and all will be revealed.”
The conversation had degenerated even further before the retired Bayesian Statistician, Tom 'Sasquatch' Leonard tottered into Chumps. The bear-like septuagenarian had walked extremely unsteadily ever since 1994, when a wild stag pierced him in the groin with a broken antler during a deer hunt for the elite in North Wisconsin, causing outrageously painful injuries which had plagued him ever since. Following his acrobatic fall during November 2017 outside the Mosque on Annandale Street, he now heavily favoured his right leg.
Sasquatch made a tediously wobbly bee-line towards the folk arguing by the crystal glass window. “Why hi there, my dear friends!” he exclaimed, with a myopic grin. “I am currently writing a novel set in Edinburgh's all-too-plastic gay scene. The title is Kisses in Saturn's. Would any of you kind souls like to contribute your own reminiscences?”
“Take a hike, you blethering old troll!” snarled Ben Hopkins, the saliva streaming all over his chops.

CHAPTER 6: SANCTUM

For the next few days, Malky and Eugenia mixed their research and teaching duties in academic Statistics with further investigations on behalf of the MI6 Saltire Cell and the Forensic Scientists.
Malky was sitting in his office in the James Clerk Maxwell building studying the mathematical intricacies of the 'skewed normal distribution' when he received a text message from his fellow MI6 agent Hamish McLeod. This read 'Proceed to Sanctum sauna in Broughton Market. Several suspicious characters hanging out there. I will arrive at four. Hamcut 777.”
Realising that Sanctum was one of the three unlicensed male gay saunas in Edinburgh (though No.18 on Leith Walk was up for auction, and the Steamworks was getting drastically 're-civilised' by its new, handsome French owner), Malky ran in trepidation into his Ph.D. supervisor Dr. Eugenia Slotsky-Pereira's office. On hearing the news, Eugenia threw Tom Leonard's Cambridge University Text advanced graduate text Bayesian Methods: An Interdisciplinary Analysis back onto her heap of extraneous teaching materials, and said, “I'll come along to protect you. I'll switch my persona to Eugen, and change into my skinny maroon trouser suit. Thank goodness that I'm flat-chested.”

The Sanctum had recently been purchased for a rhinestone tiara, together with reimbursement of several grand of the Randy McClellan drug money, by a plump ' koala bear' from Crete whose big bear daddy owned a shipping line. The previous, unusually surly, Croatian owners, who were out of the shady back-streets of Zagreb, had made a pig's ear of the place. The Steam room was kaput, the showers alternated piping hot and freezing cold, the chemicals in the jacuzzi gave long-term customers rampant cellulitis, the 'Amazing Maze' was caked in mould, and the sandwiches smelt of mildew. But now, the hairy and very cheeky 'Argonaut', as the new owner liked to call himself, had restored and improved everything, and Sanctum rivalled even the Brighton sauna (on the historic Grand Parade just opposite the Royal Pavilion) for its quality and taste. For instance, the 'Golden Fleece' penthouse on the fourth floor took wealthy customers into summertime on the planet Daedalus.
Malky and Eugen could have been mistaken for a married gay couple as the descended past the Daylight Robbers, the spectre on Dublin Street that was once the New Town bar. When they took a right turn along the ancient cobbles of Dublin Street Lane, two workman carrying a scorched, dismembered statue of the 'Flayed Librarian of Alexandria' emerged to their right from the Museum Collections Centre. But to the left, on the edge of Broughton Market, there stood a large, four-storey, redbrick building, a converted factory that dated from the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth century.
Malky saw a rainbow flag fluttering over the pink-painted doorway, and pressed a buzzer.
“Enter, says me!” cried a shrill voice, as the door swung slowly open, and Malky scampered in, followed nervously by Eugen.
One of the Argonaut's assorted 'otters' (obedient whelps who lap up to 'bears' and are quite furry themselves) was waiting behind the desk, his hair all awry.
“It's £15 for a locker, with a pound for extra towels, and none of the perfectly free cabins on the ground floor are locked,” declared the brazen redhead. “The Steam room is still overheating, but there's free Internet in the restaurant upstairs, which now serves only serves chocolate, crisps, and free, help-your-self tea and coffee. The frisky Romanians who forgot to take their plastic gloves off after cleaning the Amazing Maze have been sent packing to Constanţa. You can ask the highly knowledgeable, new attendant for a free guided tour of the Maze, and free sweet-smelling condoms are available at the counter for a small donation to Crisis.”
“Goodie!” exclaimed Malky. “I love the ones which taste of elderberry liqueur.”
“I'll give you a free whiff of our favour of the month, if you like. It's peppermint and strawberry. But would you care to purchase one of our beautifully designed, concessionary 'Frequent Guest' passes? Only £70 for five visits, though we'll eject you without a refund if we think you're under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
“Two lockers and an extra towel please,” replied Eugen, but just as he was parting with his £31 a suave Japanese gentlemen entered the establishment carrying a sleek suitcase and a colourful overnight bag.
The otter jerked his head. “One moment, please…Welcome Sir! We've all been eagerly expecting your impending arrival from the airport. Your luxury VIP suite is ready and waiting on the third floor. Our molly maids will carry your bags up the elevator and attend to your special needs, and there's a free crystal glass bottle of Jura in the fridge.”
The Japanese gentleman grinned, condescendingly. “I do hope that's the suite with the private spiral water-slide that descends directly into the Maze, my bonnie lad.”
The otter flaunted his lithe, tender hips. “Straight into the rainbow-coloured spheroid next to the Dark Room, Sir. We call it the 'Goldfish bowl'. Just ring the chime bell by the oval trapdoor in your exotically decorated bathroom before you begin your descent. I will be swimming in the spheroid in all my glorious finery to greet you, my furry, ginger-haired self.”
“Jolly good show, old bean! You sound like a bundle of fun.”
The otter giggled like an immature mermaid. “Too true, dear chap! It'll be fun watching you hurtling through the 'wormhole'. You're likely to cause a big splash.”
“Woweeee! And I hope you will show me how to use the sling with optimal TQI efficiency. I'm an international expert in Total Quality Improvement you see.”
“We use the Deming-Taguchi method, Sir. My big boss is into TQI too.”
“I'm impressed!”
“You certainly will be, pussy cat. Be careful not to take the elevator down to the hidden double basement, though. The previous owners used it for disgustingly foul purposes as part of their overseas trading enterprises, and we haven't had time to clean it up yet. It's worse than that dive in Glasgow, the one on Sauchiehall Street!”
Eugen twitched his nose like an Irish setter. “I've heard that the rear door at the bottom of your lower basement opens onto a platform by an underground railway track that extends all the way from Leith Docks.”
“Our international trading activities are supposed to be top secret!” yelped the otter, in dismay.

Moments later, Malky and Eugen proceeded with their keys, labelled Omega 7 and Omega 8, to the remarkably cramped locker room, and undressed shyly together. Eugen flushed deep pink, and decided, out of modesty, to pull his back-to-front, dark blue y-fronts back up, but Malky acceded to accepted practice by simply winding his bright white towel around his paunchy waist. When Eugen saw a big man from Madagascar giving him a toothless grin from behind the Sunscreen booth, the Scottish-Colombian androgyne speedily wrapped his squeaky clean towel around his waist too.
When the ubiquitous pair entered the Wet Area to the left of the cabins, a wiry man dressed only in orange knickers came hurtling by from the 'Deep Fry' hot sauna room.
Moses wept! deliberated Eugen. He has the gait of a puma. Maybe he's the 'orange puma' who murdered poor Winnie the Mince at the back of Chumps. I ought to keep an eye on him.
When the friendly duo sat down, hand-in-hand, in the 'Sensuous Jacuzzi', an elf-like fellow from Drem nestled up, and, quite presumptuously, stroked Eugen's inner thigh. Meanwhile, a goofy guy sitting on the other side of the tub stretched out his foot and tickled Malky's tootsies.
“What's afoot?” inquired Eugen, only for the goofy guy to gulp in surprise when the elf-like gentleman stuck out his leg a mite too forcefully.
“Standard foreplay,” explained a non-stipendary curate from St. Manion's on the Mound, with a huge belly, a face like a rhinoceros, and with visibility, in the outside world, as an activist for Peace and Information. “Would you care to come to the spider box in the Relaxation Area? I'd love to put you in a spot of sixty-nine before the underwater sports get under way.”
“Not over your fat belly!” shrieked Eugen, all of a fluster.
“We're not here for that sort of thing,” intervened Malky. “In fact, I'll have you know that I'm an officer of the law.”
“Not that silly stunt again!” retorted the curate. “There was a barely legal trainee 'police cadet' with gargantuan thighs in here only last week. He threatened to arrest me for wearing my dog collar.”
Malky flicked his left earlobe, and a voice from afar squeaked, “You vill answer our questions, you confounded priest, or you vill be summarily defrocked. A picture of you in that dreadful jacuzzi has already been transmitted to our public files for further circulation.”
“Aaaaaaaaaaarg!” shrieked the curate, in utter dismay.
“We would particularly like to know whether you were a customer in either Saturn's or Chumpsaround the time of the three recent murders,” added Eugen, firmly wagging his forefinger.
“No I wasn't!” wailed the curate, turning to jelly, “and the murders have absolutely nothing to do with the vice ring in St. Manion's which a couple of camp slaggers in the choir seem to have invented in their very own tiny minds.”
“What sort of vice ring?” growled Malky, giving the curate a not so gentlemanly squeeze.
“Don't!” spluttered the curate, as the goofy and elf-like guys scarpered in horror. “Yow!...All right! You win! The ruffians are even saying that our worthy pastor entices sex criminals into the St. Manion's congregation in order to increase Church revenue, by effective blackmail, and then sits back while they create rings, and rings within rings. But it's lies, all God-damned lies!”
“How about the angelic chorister who went on to study biochemistry at Cambridge?” asked Eugen, icily. “He's one of my closest academic friends and he has all sorts of lurid stories to tell.”
“That joker was left completely unscathed and the horny, early retired Q.C.'s in our congregation didn't even get to touch him, not even when the totally confused soprano was taken into the rear bar in Habana following his Vestry's annual dinner in Guiliano's. All he ever got was a few pinches, and a friendly jab of flupentixol from our holy shrink.”
Malky recalled a previous conversation in Saturn's when Eric McVey referred to the suspicious death of the church secretary at St. Manion's.
“I heard that your church secretary died with a broom-handle up his jumper,” fumed the bumbling MI6 agent. “Did that have anything to do with the pervos who invade the sanctity of your holy place?”
“He died of an almighty stroke!” protested the curate. “And all of God's creatures are open to forgiveness if they repent their sins. Even the composer of Amazing Grace was forgiven, despite the appalling deaths of all those unfortunate souls on his slave ships.”
“How sweet the sound,” responded Eugen, caustically, “but what if they only pretend to repent?”
“Then our good Lord will send them to eternal Hell-fire come Judgement Day.”
“Holy codswallop!” raged Malky. “I will arrange for Gayfield Police to interrogate you further on these issues.”
“Aaaaaaaaarg!” shrieked the curate. “Not them again! Last time they put my leg in a vice.”

For the next hour or so, Malky and Eugen circulated round Sanctum sticking their noses into this and that. But Eugen was utterly gobsmacked when the wiry man dressed in orange knickers who he'd noticed earlier leapt out of an unlocked cabin, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, dragged him inside, and hurled him headlong onto the shining, dark green leather couch.
“Are you the orange puma?” howled Eugen, in unadulterated fright.
“Sure I'm a puma,” growled the wiry man, with a gormless smile. “Watch how I leap!”
“Did you murder Winnie the Mince?” howled Eugen, as the man reached for his J-spot.
“Only wish I had,” replied the man, with a slick twitch, “but that was Crustacius, that was. That twerp was the orange puma. He was paid to do it.”
Eugen decided that it would be best to lap up, all in the line of duty of course. “You're so sweet tasting,” he purred. “But who is Crustacius? And please tell me who paid him.”
“And my neck, dearie!... Crustacius is my nickname for a totally psychotic trombone player from Wallyford. Let's see if I can dream up something cryptic to say about who hired him.”
“Your face is so pretty. What next?”
“Derr…Here goes! You have your sphere of academic, political, and social influence, Dr. Eugenia Slutsky, Slotsky, or whoever. The wicked paymaster is part of that hypersphere.”
He's sharper than I thought, realised Eugen, and he knows all about meHe knows that I'mintersex. But he still may be kidding me about Winnie's murderHe could be a psycho himself.
“Thank you so much,” replied the highly capable statistician, with a deft wriggle.
“And I will appear again when you least expect me,” concluded the wiry man, retrieving his crumpled, orange knickers.
Malky was emerging from the loo just outside the Wet Area, when a dark blue door labelled 'Staff Only' suddenly opened in the dingy corner to his left. A molly maid with her hair in rollers emerged hand-in-hand with a hungry-looking Filipino girl wearing a skimpy cotton dress.
“I'll take the wretched female wench straight up to Planet bluddy Daedalus, Flo,” she howled, down the eerie, echoing stairwell, “but the Thais should be sent to the Burke and Hare Room on the third floor, apart from the deid uns of course.”
“We've got the whole troupe of them off the train and put them in leg irons, Ginny,” yelled Flo, from way below, “though the wicked ladybirds from Phuket tried to hide among the goats in the guard's van.”
“Take those awkward keelies to reception then. It will be straight back down the dumb waiter to the Frazzling Room for them!”
Michty me! agonized Malky. I wonder what else is happening in the floors below? My mind is so brain-bogglyingly goggling.

Meanwhile, back in Planet, Ben Hopkins was buttonholed by a swarthy middle-aged man in a kilt,

hamish arrives in Sanctum