Only a fool would attempt to cross the city on a howling, blustery, bastard, rainy night unprepared. I clutched my bag of goodies in tight and entered the dark mouth of Fleshmarket Close. Ready for anything.
‘Lookin fur business.?’ a hoor enquired, she was leaning on the wall outside the Halfway Hoose. I ignored her.
HEY BIG MAN ARE YE WANTIN YER HOLE
The song of the Siren. I checked her out – long blond hair, short, sporting; a scarlet plastic mac, high heels and shades…aye, shades, at that time of night.
‘Let’s see what ye’ve got?’ I demanded and the request did not need to be repeated. She whipped the mac open like a vamp spreading her wings and there she was, in all her glory, black push up bra showing off the best of a bad job of tits, suspender belt round a swelly belly, black stockings displaying the chubbiest thighs in Scotland…THIS WAS NO HOOR THIS WAS LOUISE WELSH IN A WIG. I hurried on my way, rumour had it once you were ensconced between those thighs of thunder there was no escape for any mortal man.
It was a close thing but my acute antennae had not forsaken me I was on high alert and just as well – my exit from the close was blocked by a lone mysterious figure. But when he opened his mouth, the mystery was no more; a mealy- mouthed mumble flagged up his identity like a beacon. The Welshes were out in force
‘I am Murder,’ he mumbled, fingering a blood-stained hammer.
‘Well yer books certainly are, but let’s no be too hasty Irvine I have something for ye,’ I told him rummaging in my goody bag and pulling out a 2 kilo plastic bag of bisto. His eyes lit up like stars. I tossed the bag up a recess, he dropped his hammer and leapt on the goods like a scavenging degenerate. Once a brown head, always a brown head.
So a perilous part of my journey had been successfully negotiated and I emerged unscathed from the bottom of the close that had claimed oh so many others.
The entrance to the Scotsman steps was under guard –two dodgy characters lurked in the shadows. At first I was at a loss to identify them then I spotted the bandwagon disappearing along Market Street – Alan Guthrie and Tony Black. Then two black panthers approached, these crimester’s egos had expanded to such a degree they could no longer be contained within the confines of a human mind and had manifested as daemons. The black cats curled their lips back to show a menacing display of…gums – they were toothless. I pulled a pint of milk and a saucer from my bag and poured out a generous slosh, this they lapped up with purring contentment. I confronted the guards but they folded like cardboard with the slightest of slaps. They were nothing without their egos.
There was something odd about the steps they seemed to have some other-worldly quality that had previously been hidden from me. Then I remembered some artist had made them a work of art; each step had been replaced by a differing type of marble. Too good an opportunity to miss, it’s not every day you can piss so easily on an installation with impunity. But not quite, I felt a weak grasp on my collar, no need to hurry, I took my time with my piss, turned round and there’s some guy.
‘Havin a piss,’ I said, ‘what’s it to you?’
‘Don’t you know who I am? I’m Quintin Jardine, creater of the Bob Skinner polis stories.’
‘Never heard o ye,’ I told him and walked up the rest of the stairs unhindered. Pieceapiss.
Not so when I reached the North Bridge because there like a sentinel stood none other than …IAN RANKIN. I swore under my breath I’d hoped he would have been at home writing about an assassin who enters an unknown city to unleash mayhem but here he was with a fuck off heavy looking holdall. I just knew it contained every murder weapon ever thought of. I dug into my own bag and throw him a copy of James Joyces’ Ulysses. He picked it up, scoffed and tossed it off the bridge.
I knew it, I knew I should have packed Finnigan’s Wake. Fuck it, I’d come too far, braved too many dangers, I couldn’t turn back now, he was only one man after all.
‘Right Rankin square go!’ I bellowed and marched onto the bridge to face him, he bent down as if to select a weapon from his holdall but changed his mind.
‘Ay dinnae need nae tools tae sort the likes ay you oot, ken.’ he said like a true Fifer. And he was right, when I got into a grapple with him I knew I was doomed. He was a strong man and next thing he had me hanging over the bridge.
Fuck, I thought, he’s going to throw me off, I’m going through all the glass panels below, onto the power lines of Waverly station and then what’s left of me will be cut up by an on-coming train, my corpse will be a sight that’ll make even Rebus puke, that’s what I get for messing with a crime writing heavyweight. Then a whip thin phantom arm locked itself round Rankin’s throat and forced him back, his iron grip relaxed and I struggled free. It was the ghost of Robert Louis Stevenson come to my rescue, it gestured me to run, to get away and indeed I was good to go but I couldn’t, not until I uttered my grievances
IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT ROBERT LOUIS IT WAS THAT DAMN JEKYLL AND HYDE THAT STARTED ALL THIS
The ghost looked perplexed, it obviously found speech difficult in this material world but I could just make out the single word he was at pains to whisper…London.
Could this be true, is Jekyll and Hyde set in the fog shrouded streets of old London town? I’ll need to read it one of these days.