Part Sixteen: An Adventure Among the Scots!

A Twitter adventure told in portions of 140 characters or less
Part Sixteen: An Adventure Among the Scots!

Taking a slightly circuitous route in my pursuit of the dastardly Reverend Moon, I reached Teviot Row House via a stop in Nicholson Square.

I knew a bar there, you see. Well, I say ‘bar’; perhaps I mean ‘dive’. Or possibly ‘flophouse’, ‘stew’ or ‘sump’. Saltbrine’s, its name was.

I knew the whisky to be good and the landlord, said Saltbrine, to be amenable, adaptable and, crucially, affable towards old Leinigen.

On my last visit to Edinburgh – the Canasta Affair, remember – I’d hidden out in his broom cupboard while a wound in my arm set and healed.

High-stakes canasta can get rather nasty. I’d exposed a particularly Japanese bit of practice and taken a shiv in the elbow for my pains.

The prince never did thank me. Typical. But Saltbrine, well, he’d done me proud. Sewed me up, boozed me up and then spirited me out of town.

Stout fellow, Saltbrine. A fixer, a doer – always on the fringes of things, ready to produce the goods. Met him in the Indian Army, in ’19.

On the trail of an evil reverend, his C of E goons and a captive adventuress and archbishop, I knew such an old mucker would come in handy.

Entering his bar,  I kicked a few loungers out of the way. The fellow practically kept a coterie of unsavoury types. Students and the like.

Saltbrine spat into a pint glass. ‘Leinigen, old pal,’ he growled. His voice had seen a few failed campaigns and the odd colonial atrocity.

I greeted him, slapped a coin on the bar and took a glass in return. Rich, peaty amber fluid leached warmth into the depths of my loins.

I told Saltbrine most of why I was in Edinburgh, leaving out, naturally, the bits about magic books and fine-art monsters run rampant.

At mention of the Reverend Francis Gibbous Moon, Saltbrine’s rather lowering brow lowered further. Beetle-browed, he growled an obscenity.

‘I’ve heard of the wee divot,’ he said, when I pressed him futher. ‘Church of England reborn in Scotland, all that.’ I nodded, carefully.

‘Moon’s caused a wee stink up here,’ Saltbrine said. ‘Chucking about braw words like ‘moral rearmament’ and ‘re-establishment’ and that.’

I nodded again. Saltbrine seemed to think – at least, his eyebrows knitted yet closer together. ‘But mostly he’s just a big English shite.’

Knowing the profane to be somewhat sacred to the average Scot, I did not complain, however my chaste English soul bucked at such language.

I do not employ swearwords. Even with wedding tackle in the mangle – literally, once, in a dungeon in Smolensk – I do not choose obscenity.

Still, Saltbrine did, years in the ranks not light on his rounded, hairy and tatooed shoulders. I forgave him when he gave me another drink.

There wasn’t much more to be had from him. He told me a little about Moon’s doings up here, about what the YMCE got up to at his command.

Punch-ups with Presbyterians. Potatoes studded with razor blades. Sharpened missals, hurled at the peelers when they attempted to intervene.

By the time I’d finished my drink I’d had enough. So I asked Saltbrine for directions to Teviot Row House, then pushed back my stool to go.

Saltbrine stopped me. ‘I’d hate you to go in underhanded,’ he said. I paused. Was he going to lend me a hanger-on? One of his flying squad?

He was not. Saltbrine’s posse of hangdog students, dropouts, panhandlers and actors stayed slumped as he handed a package over the bar. 

The offering was wrapped in heavy khaki sacking, which added to its ugly, dead weight. Folding back the hessian, I raised an eyebrow.

Good old Saltbrine. In folds of rough sisal sat a good old service revolver. It wasn’t mine – Simon of the YMCE had that – but it would do.

I pocketed the piece and the ammunition that lay alongside it, and thanked my host. He spat at another glass, missed, and explained himself.

‘You’ll need that where you’re ganging,’ he said, picaresquely. ‘Teviot Row isnae for the timorous.’ I said I knew that, and turned to go.

Saltbrine’s words followed me. ‘If you get past Moon’s goons you’ll still have to be careful,’ he said. ‘Why?’ I asked, at the door.

‘Och,’ said Saltbrine. ‘The Reverend Moon’s got a guest speaker. A heavy up from London, like yourself.’ I told him I fancied my chances.

‘Aye, well, so do I,’ said my old army mucker. ‘But mind the moniker. Holman-Hunt. Double-barrelled by name, double-barrelled by nature.’

I minded it. So Moon had conjured up a Pre-Raphaelite now, had he? Milksops, the lot of ’em. Hardly the act of a deadly villain. I laughed.

Saltbrine frowned, but I set out for Bristo Square. I did not expect many problems to come. I could not, of course, have been more wrong...

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