Schloss Neuhaus

Schloss Neuhaus
Seat of the Margrave

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble

"Flick! - Flick"

"Your Highness?"

"Flick, a messenger to Doktor Rachmann - he is to attend Her Highness immediately. I don't care where he is or what he's doing - I want him here directly! - Well, what are you waiting for - go! General von Willich: How in the Name of Christ did this happen? This is my own capital! Am I not to be safe in the streets any longer?"

"Your Highness, we are all of us very much shaken by what has happened. None of us had any reason to suspect that anything untoward was in train. I... I don't really know what else to say, Your Highness, except to thank God that you at least have taken no hurt."

"Ouch! Very subtle, Herr General; very well then; What of casualties? How many?"

"Your footman, Karl-Heinz, has died of his injuries, Your Highness; in addition two members of Reiter Regiment Nummer One were killed, and four wounded. Three horses have had to be destroyed. Of the dead, regrettably, one was Oberleutnant von Hasselblut, the other was Reiter Saubermann, both of the first squadron. Of the wounded, two should, with the Lord's help return to duty, one may not survive, and the fourth may never walk again."

"So, an immediate letter of condolence to the families of the dead. Arrange for me to visit the injured - today! What of investigations? What was it? some form of infernal device?"

"As to the nature of the item, it appeared, before it disintegrated, to be a Granado, a weapon used in siege warfare. Unfortunately an immediate search of the locality, failed to discover anyone or any evidence that could be linked to this cowardly attack. The letters will be seen to immediately. Regarding Your Highness' wish to visit the injured, do you think it is wise, given today's events to further expose yourself to attack?"

"Herr General, it is not to be supposed that this... incident, has made me afraid of shadows. Indeed, I am concerned for her Highness' welfare - where is that damned Doktor? - but I will not, I will not, allow the instigators of this action to feel that they have caused a well-spring of fear to sprout in my breast! Is that clear? Good. Then make arrangements for my visit to the injured. Now, while I will not let this event affect my movements, it is only common sense to take further precautions. I will maintain the current strength of my personal guard whenever I am outwith the Schloss, but henceforth they are to carry loaded weapons. In addition, pray issue orders to the effect that every soldier is to be issued with twenty rounds of ball ammunition for his personal firelock."

"Immediately, Your Highness!"

"Ah, Flick, the Doktor?"

"He is on his way here, at his best speed, Your Highness."

"Good, when he arrives, he is to be brought immediately to my private apartments to attend upon Her Highness."

"Your Highness, I have anticipated your wishes on this occasion, and I have left orders at the Gate House to that end."

"Good. Now... let us all take a seat and discuss this rationally, some wine... Herr General, Flick? Aah, I was forgetting, you do not indulge. Very well. Gentlemen, we need to discover, and discover quickly, whose hand was behind today's attack. I flatter myself that I am, as best as I may be, an enlightened ruler. I do not oppress my people with harsh laws or penal taxes, so is it likely that one of my own citizens should thusly wish to terminate my existence?"

"Your Highness, you speak, as one would expect, rationally. And Your Highness, is aware that I too pride myself on being a rational being. However, we cannot assume that all men are as equally rational. Indeed, is not to cater for those whose rationality is disturbed, that the hospice of St Martin, was built? Today's attack may well have been the work of a disaffected mind, who perceives you as the root cause of whatever troubles him."

"Him, Herr Flick?"

"I speak in the most general terms, Your Highness. Indeed, it may well have been a female hand that propelled the weapon."

"Hand? Do you speak literally or figuratively?"

"At this point, Your Highness, I am not sure."

"Herr General, this weapon, of its effect we seen ample evidence, but what of its mode of employment?"

"Your Highness, it is indeed normally hand-thrown, but it may be use in conjunction with a springald, or even a catapult, as was used by the Greeks and Romans of antiquity. However, in either of the the latter cases, it would have been impossible to dismantle or conceal the weapon and make an escape, given the zeal and speed with which the troops cordoned off and searched the area where the attack took place. Also, Your Highness, unless the hand behind such a machine was a practised hand, then I am certain the accuracy of the device would suffer. If such a machine had been used, it would have been found. I am of the opinion that Herr Flick has the right of it; the weapon was hand-hurled."

"And if hand thrown, what of its range?"

"Difficult, Your Highness, but I would guess no more than sixty feet or so, with any accuracy."

"Yes, and it was damn-nigh too accurate!"

"Just so, Your Highness. And that argues for the assailant to have been close at hand."

"Herr General, Your Highness, if you will permit? I understand that the route taken by Your Highness was well attended by the citizens of the town?"

"Indeed, Flick, this is so."

"And they were ranked, some six to eight persons deep along both sides of the street?"

"Just so."

"Well, Your Highness, then I most respectfully submit, that any person throwing the... the Granado...? - yes, I have it right - must inevitably have been seen by his, or her, neighbours, or at the very least by those opposite."

"Go on, Flick."

"Shall we then suppose, Your Highness, Herr General, that the assailant was somehow concealed from the view of the masses? And if so, what concealment was afforded to him... or her?"

"There was no other traffic on the street, Herr Flick. My troops had definite orders that His Highness' route was to be entirely unobstructed."

"Just so, Herr General. So what other concealment lay near by?"

"There was no other concealment, Herr Flick, the street is quite broad, and both sides are lined by the facade of various houses and business prop..Aah. But... but the houses stand too far back from the street for accurate hurling of missiles."

"Exactly, Herr General! Buildings. With windows in their walls. Now if our assailant was on a floor above street level, would that not extend the range at which a missile could be thrown?"

"Yes, yes, of course...by about twenty feet for each floor above street level, up to a maximum of say... one hundred feet?"

"Yes... I thought that might be the case. Your Highness, may I suggest that I and my team of investigators carry out enquiries of the proprietors of those buildings within a hundred feet of the attack's situation, to ascertain whether any of them had any visitors during this morning?"

"Yes, Flick, do so."

"Very well, Your Highness, if I may have Your Highness' leave?"

"Certainly, Flick... Yes? What is it?"

"Your pardon, Your Highness, but the Herr Doktor is without, and wishes to have speech with you."

"Well, don't stand there like some gapeseed... send him in."

Sunday, 27 July 2008

There are currants for cakes and raisins for many things

"Good afternoon, Fraulein Helga".

"Good afternoon, Herr von Smallhausen... this is an unaccustomed pleasure. What brings you to the linen room, this fine day?"

"Merely a sudden desire for the pleasure of your company, Fraulein."

"I am, of course, highly flattered, Herr von Smallhausen, but why is it that I am not entirely convinced of the truth of your reply?"

"I have no idea as to why you should disbelieve me. Do I not have the appearance of one who is totally, well almost totally, honest?"

"You do indeed have such an appearance, but... appearances may deceive, may they not? And... I am fully aware of the nature of your duties... so, you must forgive my skepticism."

"In this case, Fraulein Helga, no forgiveness is required. I do, indeed, have an ulterior motive in seeking your company on this occasion."

"And this would be...?"

"I convey a message from Herr Flick, who desires your attendance upon him in his study."

"Herr von Smallhausen, I fully realise that your duties involve the implementing of Herr Flick's wishes, but I was unaware that you were required to act as his procurer!"

"As to that, Fraulein Helga, I believe that in this instance, you do myself and my most respected superior an injustice."

"Most respected!? Herr von Smallhausen, despite your words, do I not detect somewhat of a degree of disrespect towards Herr Flick?"

"Not at all, Fraulein Helga. What I feel towards Herr Flick is the greatest degree of respect and loyalty."

"Quatsch!"

"Perhaps so, but loyal rubbish, I assure you. In fact, so loyal am I towards Herr Flick, that only today I gave him access to my notebook... suitably amended of course".

"You... you gave him your notebook? But... Herr von Smallhausen, there is much in that book that could cause untold damage in Herr Fl..., I mean the wrong hands."

"There would indeed be a grave risk in releasing such information to the... er, wrong hands, as you so succinctly phrase it, but please remark that I did say that the book was suitably amended."

"Herr von Smallhausen, you play a very dangerous game."

"Yes, but it is a game that promises high rewards, not least in the discomfiture of Herr Flick."

"Y..e..s, but tell me Herr von Smallhausen, you know of the relationship between Herr Flick and myself, why do you take such a risk as to take me into your confidence? How do you know that I shall not immediately repair to Herr Flick and regale him with the subject of this conversation?"

"Do I not recall, Fraulein Helga, that in the not too distant past, Herr Flick required you to carry out a task that you found most distasteful? And, if I mistake not, do I not also detect that his attentions towards you have become markedly reduced since those events?... Yes, I thought so.
And, do I further mistake if I were to suppose that your somewhat inexplicable former feelings towards the gentleman in question have undergone somewhat of a revulsion, and that you would be quite content to see him come to some, let us say slight, misfortune? Furthermore, I very much fear that Herr Flick's present summons to yourself merely indicates that he wishes you to once more carry out a task that you will find distasteful"

"Yes, I suppose so, but how...?"

"Fraulein Helga, you are a woman of some sense; please allow me the courtesy of your conceding the same quality to myself. All is safely in hand, and provided that we can maintain a sensible degree of confidentiality, I am certain that my, no, henceforth our, plans will come to fruition."

"Well...if you say so, Herr von Smallhausen."

"I do say so, Fraulein Helga, and believe me when I say that I feel for you. But now, you had best hurry to Herr Flick's study and, mark you, do not fail to betray surprise and even dismay at the role he has in mind for you."

Saturday, 26 July 2008

What do, eh, what to do?

"Well, von Smallhausen, that was a most satisfactory interview with Artrecht; he was most forthcoming... well, with a little reminder by way of persuasion. And, it may be that he will prove to be the source of further information. We really must cultivate his participation in our little games - much as I despise him as an individual, his means of gathering the desired tidings amongst the lower orders must be greatly admired."

"Yes, Herr Flick, but all he has been able to provide is the raw ingredients, we must still... how shall I put it... mix and, er, bake the cake ourselves."

"This is, of course, entirely true, von Smallhausen. But I flatter myself that I am not without some small degree of attainment in the kitchen - if I may continue your metaphor - and you, yourself, are not without some talent, I have observed, in the combining of ingredients."

"Thank you, Herr Flick."

"Yes, well, don't let it go to your head!"

"No, Herr Flick".

"Now, let us consider the informations that Artrecht has so cheerfully provided: Item: Herr Schroedinger. What do we know of him?"

"Very little, Herr Flick. A moment or two, please, to consult my notebook... Aah, yes, Schroedinger, Hans Otto. A jewel merchant, taxes paid up to date, well thought of by his colleagues in the Jewellers' Guild, married, two children - both daughters, wife a pattern-book of solid middle-class virtues."

"Gross Gott! What the... what is that enormous volume, von Smallhausen?"

"It is just a collection of notes that I have garnered, Herr Flick."

"Notes? von Smallhausen, that tome is large enough to contain the complete biographies of all our citizens!"

"Oh, no, Herr Flick, only those who might be of some use to us, or whose activities have brought them to my attention."

"And you did not think fit to tell me about this book?"

"Er... no, Herr Flick. It is just the larva of a grub that might, one day, transform into a butterfly."

"Grub? Butterfly? What are you talking about, man?"

"I am sorry, Herr Flick. I did not mean to confuse yo.., er confuse the issue. It is just an idea I had, just the start of a register of individuals, who might be of some..."

"Yes, yes, you have already so stated. Let me have a look at this thing."

"Yes, Herr Flick."

"H'mm... who is 'Albrecht'?"

"Ah, Albrecht, is of course, not his real name. It is a name I gave him so that I could better identify him in my own mind."

"Yes, yes, of course, but who is he? And what are these numbers against his name?"

"He is a rough, uncouth sort of fellow, Herr Flick. He scrapes a living by... er, relieving careless, wealthy citizens of handkerchiefs, snuff boxes, watches, that sort of thing."

"And the numbers?"

"Oh, those are the dates on which I had conversation with him."

"Really? No, no, let it pass. And who is Berndt?"

"Berndt is a footman in the service of Herr General Himmelstoss. He is the individual who told me, er us, of the visit of Frau Himmelstoss' cousin."

"Yes, I see. Now, I see the name of Frau Zimmerman - why should she be listed?"

"Frau Zimmerman, Herr Flick, is a notorious procuress. She has the entree into many of the wealthier homes of the more dissolute members of our citizens. Such persons have always proved to be of assistance in the gathering and passing of information."

"So, if she is so notorious, why is it that I have not, prior to this occasion, been aware of her activities?"

"She is very, very discreet, Herr Flick. She confines her activities to those who can best afford them, yet who cannot afford to have their little amusements become public knowledge."

"Blackmail, von Smallhausen?"

"Possibly, Herr Flick, but I doubt it. Among her clients are more than one individual who is capable of taking drastic steps, if she should become importunate."

"Drastic steps?"

"Yes, Herr Flick. They would have her disposed of."

"I see. D'you know, von Smallhausen, a complete list of her clients might be highly beneficial."

"Er, yes, Herr Flick."

"Von Smallhausen! Am I to infer from your somewhat guilt-stricken countenance that you have such a list? Is it perhaps contained within these very covers?"

"There is a list of some score of names here, Herr Flick, but I would not wish to pretend that it is a comprehensive list. The woman in question is under discreet surveillance, and I receive occasional news of a new... er... customer."

"I see. D'you know, von Smallhausen, I begin to believe that I have seriously underestimated you."

"Thank you, Herr Flick."

"No, no, von Smallhausen. Thanks are entirely unwarranted. Now, let us see..., Herr General Himmelstoss... no, he is not here. Von Smallhausen, it seems my approbation was premature. Why is there no entry for the good General?"

"There are no entries for any of the military, Herr Flick."

"Pray, why not?"

"In the nature of their employment, Herr Flick, it is unlikely that any of these gentlemen would be of any use to us."

"True, true, very true. But you did say that some of the names contained herein owed their appearance due to the fact that their activities had brought them to your attention. You did not, perhaps, consider that Herr General Himmelstoss' recent indiscretion made him worthy of inclusion?"

"No, Herr Flick. I had not, of course, forgotten the late incident, but I am of the opinion that it were better, in such cases involving the Margraf's servants, not to commit anything to paper."

"Yes, it may well be so, von Smallhausen, well thought out."

"Yes, Herr Flick."

"Now, this Englander, this elderly gentlemen of reduced circumstances, is there anything here? And, von Smallhausen, there had better be! I can tolerate you not recording matters pertaining to the military, but a notable foreigner had damn' well better been of interest to you!"

"Indeed, Herr Flick. If you turn to the back of the book, and invert it... there: Major General Sir Angus Fraser, late of the service of King James II of Britannia. Incidentally, Herr Flick, he is not an Englander, but is a Schottlander; I understand the distinction is very important to him. Resident in Knechtestrasse. Reclusive, seldom appears in public. Has a staff of four men, all from Britannia and two local women who cook and clean for him. Has an unknown source of income. Possibly from land-holdings in Britannia".

"H'mm, unlikely, von Smallhausen. If he was in the service of James of Britannia, his lands will, I assume, have been sequestrated by Dutch Wilhelm. An interesting character. James reverted to the Church of Rome, and it must be assumed that his adherents did likewise. So... why would one of his senior officers, possibly, nay, probably of the Romish persuasion choose to go into exile in a Protestant state? This needs further investigation, von Smallhausen."

"I do not believe he is of the Romish Church, Herr Flick. He attends the weekly service at the Church of St Hildegaard, and while this is not sufficient to banish the possibility of Catholicism, he is known to regularly take communion at that Church. No Catholic, I am certain, would do so."

"No, I agree, 'tis most unlikely. Still, let us investigate this gentleman more closely, I am still puzzled by his presence here. Did not most of James' adherents take refuge in Catholic lands?"

"I believe so, Herr Flick."

"Yes, so... We have four individuals who own carriages of the type for which we search. Herr Schroedinger seems entirely respectable. Frau Zimmerman entirely disreputable. General Himmelstoss, and his wife, are a pair of fools. This Sir Fraser, arouses my suspicions greatly, von Smallhausen. I believe I will take steps to have him more closely investigated."

"Yes, Herr Flick."

"Now, I believe he has four men-servants?"

"Yes, Herr Flick."

"And would I be entirely in error if I were to assume, given Sir Fraser's military background, that his servants share that background?"

"No, Herr Flick."

"And soldiers are not particularly renowned for their linguistic skills, are they von Smallhausen?"

"No, Herr Flick."

"Just so. Now, without the ability to speak the local language, their opportunities for genteel conversation, especially with the opposite gender, are likely to be severely curtailed, are they not?"

"Indeed, Herr Flick."

"You also report, if I am correct, that Sir Fraser only has two female employees."

"Exactly so, Herr Flick".

"Now, if I remember my schooling, four on two yields two, is this not so?"

"Yes, Herr Flick."

"So... even if the two female employees are of a compliant nature, that would leave two of Sir Fraser's men-servants bereft of female companionship, yes?"

"Yes, Herr Flick."

"H'mmm... I see an opportunity to gain further insight into this Sir Fraser's establishment... you may leave, von Smallhausen... no, leave your notebook if you please, I stand in some need of a bed-time read. Oh, and if on your way back to your office, you should encounter Fraulein Helga, please convey to her my compliments, and request that she attend me here in my office."

"Ah, I see, Herr Flick".

"Yes, yes, your perception improves under my tutelage, however the speed of your reactions still leaves something to be desired. Now, go."

"Yes, Herr Flick".

Friday, 25 July 2008

Extract from The Schloss-Neuhaus Allgemeine Zeitung

15 Marz 1701

It is comforting in these troubled times to observe that His Highness’ Army is, at now Ready to March!

We understand from sources close to the Schloss, that the Army will take to the field by this time next week. But before our Gallant Heroes hazard themselves on the Fields of Mars, His Highness will review his Army in its Entirety on the Heeresfeld Next Tuesday, the 18th Marz in this Year of Grace 1701.

We believe that Our Bold Adventurers are to form part of the Forces currently under the command of the Most Noble English Herzog von Marlbrouk, and that they will be joined in their Endeavours by His Highness, Prinz Eugen von Sawoie, in order that they may be better Employed against the Usurping Bourbon Fiend, who calls himself Louis XV!

For this employment, the brave Men of Our Army will march in diverse columns, and while we are aware of their destination and the likely routes that they will follow, it behooves US in the name of common discretion to keep, for the moment, such information a closely guarded secret.

However, we can disclose that the Infantry of Our Army shall march in two brigades under the command of Generalleutnant von Willich, with General der Brigade von Teschow and General der Brigade Sommerfeld commanding the two brigades of his command. The Reiter and Dragoner are to march under the Command of Generalmajor von Friederichsof.

In view of the perils and dangers that Our Gallant Heroes are to face in the forthcoming months, we most strongly urge Our Honest Burghers to open their hearts to Our Soldiers. remember, they too, are someone’s son, brother, husband or father! We call upon all Our fellow Countrymen to show their gratitude to Our Band of Heroes!

To this latter end, we, at Der Allgemeine Zeitung are to host a bierfest on the Heeresfeld This Saturday evening, commencing at Seven of the Clock! We shall be offering Free Refreshments to Any of Our Intrepid Warriors who care to attend in the full Glory of their Military Appurtenances! Those Citizens, unfortunate enough not to wear His Highness’ Coat are also most cordially invited to grace our Poor Gathering with their Presence, but we regret that we will not be able to offer Free Refreshment to those not enrolled in the Army!

It is Not Yet Too Late to partake in the Glories that the Good God will most assuredly allot to Our Heroes! We are assured that a limited number of Vacancies in Both Horse and Foot remain, and that if any Husband have too much Wife or any Apprentice have too much Master, then let them repair to the Noble Sergeant Hansel at the Sign of Die Goldene Nixe* on Lange Strasse, where they will be assured of a most Generous Bounty, a Genteel Welcome and afforded the Opportunity not only to alleviate their Present Distress, but also to partake in the Glorious Deeds that await Our Army in the coming campaign!

Such Volunteers are assured of regular pay and rations at the full Sixteen Ounces on the Pound, the kindest of treatment from the most forgiving of Captains and the prospect of Prize Money in quantity sufficient for them to set up their Own Carriage!

Those of you of High Courage should not let slip this opportunity to improve Your Station in Life! So hurry and take up arms in the defence of Your Homes and Your Loved Ones!

God Save the Margraf!



(*The Golden Mermaid)

Fee Fi Fo Fum...

"Bring him in, please, Unteroffizier Schmidt."

"Good morning Herr Artrecht... well, it has been so far, and as far as I am concerned it will, I am persuaded, continue to be so, unfortunately, I cannot say the same for you, it may well be that your day is about to take an abrupt turn for the worse. That of course is entirely dependent on whether what you have to tell me pleases me. You do, I trust, have something to tell me?"

"I don't know what you mean, Herr Flick."

"Aah, Herr Artrecht, Herr Artrecht, please do not, I repeat, do not take me for as big a fool as yourself! Furthermore, I am compelled to inform you that your dilatoriness in this matter threatens to cause me some slight inconvenience. I am quite persuaded that you recall my dislike of being subjected to any degree of inconvenience?"

"Yes, Herr Flick, I believe you have mentioned your distaste on a previous occasion."

"Quite so, being caused inconvenience has the regrettable effect of creating a state of inner vexation. You do, I am sure, recall the fate of your erstwhile colleague, who, alas, succeeded in vexing me? Yes, quite so. Now, Herr Artrecht, stop your silly little games and tell me what I want to hear!"

"Herr Flick, I have done as you required, and set afoot certain enquiries amongst various gangs of street urchins, some enterprising gentlemen of my acquaintance and also amongst various members of the class associated with horses."

"And...?"

"I have discovered, Herr Flick, that there are no less than four of the vehicles matching your description within the bounds of the city. However, I must point out that all my sources of information have not yet been exhausted, and further conveyances of the type which you seek may yet be found."

"Very good, Herr Artrecht, but, pray tell me, why did I find it necessary to despatch the good Unteroffizier Schmidt and his companions to request that you attend me here? Why did you not, as I had previously requested, think to bear this news to me of your own volition?"

"As I have said, Herr Flick, it is because I was waiting to see if more information would be forthcoming."

"And is it?"

"I don't know, Herr Flick. How can anyone foresee the future?"

"Oh, I can, Herr Artrecht. I am famed for my foresight; I can tell you, for example, that unless you cease playing the buffoon, that the next half hour of your life is about to become exquisitely painful."

"Herr Flick, there is no need for unpleasantness. What information I have, is safe here in my head, and is entirely at your disposal."

"Very well, Herr Artrecht, let me hear what you have to say."

"Yes, Herr Flick. The first large black carriage which I have discovered belongs to a Herr Schroedinger, a merchant who lives on K├Âningratzerstrasse. He deals in precious stones, and when abroad he is habitually accompanied by four bodyguards; two of these are mounted, the other two ride on the box of the coach. They are usually heavily armed with donnerb├╝schen and pistols. Due to the nature of his business, his movements are unpredictable and likely to be at abnormal hours. The second such coach belongs to a wealthy widow - well she claims to be such at any rate - a Frau Zimmermann, of An der Heide, who leads a busy social life; she is frequently invited out to the private houses of wealthy people. She is normally accompanied by one or two of a remarkable number of, er, nieces I believe she terms them. She too, is frequently accompanied by armed escorts. The third carriage is the property of Herr General Himmelstoss, who keeps it for use by his lady wife. Again, usually with an armed escort, until recently members of the first Regiment of Infantry, although I understand this situation has of late undergone some changes. The fourth carriage belongs to an elderly gentleman, a foreigner. I understand he supported the wrong claimant to the English throne a few years ago and is now required to absent himself from his native land. He leads a quiet, almost secluded life, and nowadays rarely ventures outside his house on Knechtestrasse. He is I think, in somewhat reduced circumstances and has only ever been seen to have a pair put to the coach, rather than a team. His coachman is a rather distinctive individual; also somewhat elderly, but with quite striking red hair, and standing a good head and a half taller than most men. This Englander does not have mounted outriders."

"There! You see, Herr Artrecht, that was not so very difficult was it? So... four different coaches, four different owners and a variable number of escorts. Very good. Unteroffizer Schmidt, you may escort our guest off the premises; make sure he leaves safely, if you please."

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Action and Reaction

"Murray, ye're a demmed idiot!"

"Sir!"

"Ye send wan of ma men - ma men! - intae a strange toon tae follow a native of the toon, and then ye act surprised when he turns up deid! What the de'il am I tae tell His Majesty? That one o' his Colonels is a demmed fule?!"

"Sir! We had no reason to suspect this man was a danger, we had no idea..."

"No, ye didnae, and that Murray, is only wan o' the reasons that ye're a demmed fule!"

"Sir! If I may, I protest! The man came to us with a warning that we were under suspicion from the Margrave's, er... secret police. And that he was warning us because he disliked the coercion employed by that agency."

"No, Murray, ye may not protest! I've a mind tae send ye back tae Paris, and explain ye're failings to His Majesty in person. Aye, and see if I can find anither who is not a complete lune tae finish the job!"

"Sir, I was merely trying to ascertain who and what this fellow was. He refused to give his name, and suggested that I called him 'Freund', that is the local dialect for..."

"Aye, aye, I ken verra weel what 'Freund' signifies. Howsomever, he's no' been sae verra friendly with my man Murdoch, has he - has he? Eh!"

"Sir, the thought had occurred to me that perhaps it was not this man, or his associates that were responsible for the attack on Murdoch. It may just as well have been minions of the Margrave's, er... Sekretariat".

"Ye daft loon! For why would the secret polis attack wan of my men? If they had grounds for that, then in the bowels o' Christ they would hae had weel enow grounds for arresting ye all!"

"If that is so, sir, then I most respectfully submit that whoever carried out this attack has made a serious mistake."

"Aye... how so?"

"Sir, if it had been a random attack, then Murdoch's remains would have been left in the street, and although he might have borne some marks of a struggle, he would not have shown the evidence of a savage and prolonged beating."

"And ye would ken this how?"

"Sir, the physical evidence was such, that it was clear to the meanest intellect that Murdoch had been subjected to a ferocious beating, prior to having his throat cut."

"The meanest intellect, eh? Meaning yours, I take it?"

"Sir, once again I protest, that remark was uncalled for."

"D'ye think so, Murray, d'ye really think so?"

"Yes sir, I do! I may have made a mistake in sending Murdoch out alone, but I respectfully submit that his attackers have made a greater one."

"Go on, laddie, go on."

"Yes, sir, if, as I have said, it was a random attack, then Murdoch would have been left in the street. But, by delivering his body to our door, his killers have let us know that he was the target of a specific attack. All they have done is tip their hand. We now know that whoever was responsible has something that they do not wish us to discover. Even if we are ultimately unable to discover what they conceal, the very fact that they conceal something is useful."

"Aye, Jamie, aye. Sit ye down. Ye're mebbe no' such a muckle fule after a'. Ring that bell to your hand there.. I misdoubt a wee drappit'll no' come amiss the noo... Sae, what do ye propose tae dae aboot a' this...?"

"Well, sir...""

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Return of the Prodigal

"Beggin' yer pardin, me lord."

"Yes? What is it, Sergeant?"

"It's Murdoch, me lord, 'e 'as returned... or what's left of 'im 'as, me lord."

"What? Speak plainly, man!"

"Well, me lord, it's like this, see? Abaht ten minnits ago, a coach pulls up at the mews stables, the door opens, and Murdoch sort of flops out onto the road , me lord."

"Flops? What the devil d'ye mean, man? Flops?"

"Yes, me lord, flops. 'E's 'ad 'is froat cut, me lord, an' what's more, some bugger give 'im a 'ell of kickin', as well me lord?"

"Christ! I wish the hell you'd speak English, man! What the devil d'ye mean? Report properly Sergeant!"

"Sir! I wishes to report that the man Murdoch 'as been beaten an' killed, me lord!"

"Beaten? Killed?"

"Yes, me lord. A right rare ol' beatin' it was an' all. I misdoubt me that 'e needed his froat cut , me lord. 'Tis agin all reason that anyone could be beat that bad, me lord. Well, beat that bad an' still live, me lord."

"I see. Very well. Get rid of the body, Sergeant. I don't want a great noise made over this just yet... I must consider."

"Yes, me lord. Er... what should I do with 'is mortal, me lord?"

"Christ, Sergeant! How in the Devil's name should I know? Think of something! That's what you're paid for!"

"Er... yes, me lord. What if I were to toss 'im in the river?"

"Fine, Sergeant, fine."

"But, mebbe the rest o' the lads won't quite like it, me lord?"

"D'ye think I worry about that? In the name of God, Sergeant. You do as I tell you, and they do as you tell them! D'ye understand that much? If this is too difficult, Sergeant, then perhaps I have promoted the wrong man! If this is the case, then I can soon amend matters! D'ye understand that?"

"Ho yes, me lord. I understands. They'll do as they're told, me lord, don't you worry none, me lord."

"Good! Now, wait until dark then slide Murdoch into the river!"

"Yes, me lord."