The Greatest Lie Ever Told
by Morton Cubberd
“Liz? What’s going on?” The effects of the tranquiliser dart were wearing off, and Paddy Rogue opened his eyes to see the bloodbath in the parlour of Bramblebay Castle.
“Are you okay, Rogue?” Liz asked.
“What’s going on?” he slurred.
“You were shot with a tranquiliser dart. You’ve been out cold for nearly an hour.”
“Jesus H. Corbett! What happened here?” Rogue looked at the bodies on the floor. “Oh God. No. Keen!”
“Sorry, Rogue, he’s stone cold dead. He’s deader than McKinney’s chances of ever blogging again after this ridiculous novel.”
“And where’s Huggins the butler?”
“Rogue, just take it easy. You’re still drowsy.”
Rogue got to his feet and stumbled towards the body of Erwin McAubrey. “How did he die, Liz?”
“I shot him in the back,” she lied, “he’s my total twat of an absent father.”
Rogue tugged at his greasy stubbly chin in confusion. “You shot him? He’s your father? Are you not telling me something? I wasn’t born on a Christmas tree yesterday, Liz, or whatever the goddam expression is. That gaping rectangular hole in his back isn’t from a bullet,” Rogue got to his knees to inspect the corpse, “it looks like a cricket bat wound. What the fuck happened here, McAubrey?”
“I’ll tell you what flipping happened here,” Sir Wilkins Bramblebay said, sitting on his French rococo chaise lounge with an expression of aristocratic despair, “ruddy rum business! That’s what happened here. And all of my priceless work of art spanning centuries have been destroyed. Flipping destroyed, what what!”
Liz walked over to Wilkins and cracked him hard in the jaw with her forehead, knocking the Wodehousian buffoon off his chaise lounge and spark out onto the floor. “I think we’ve heard enough of you.” She turned back to Rogue. “Listen, Rogue, this is what happened. The giant turned up, Zemlinksy. She killed my father to save me, apparently she’s been feeling pretty guilty about cracking my skull open all the way back in Chapter 3. She saved my life tonight, and I guess that made us even. So I told her to go, to just get out of the country and never come back. She agreed. And she took Huggins with her. But that’s not the story we’re telling my DCI Tommy Colon. Listen to me very carefully, Rogue, we’re going to tell Colon that my father was going to kill me. I overpowered him and killed him. Huggins escaped. Zemlinksy was never here. That’s exactly what happened. Do you understand?”
Rogue took a seat on a Louis XV bergeres chair covered in blood and shit and bits of flesh. “I don’t pretend to understand what you’ve done here, McAubrey, but I goddam trust you. And I’ll back you up all the goddam way, goddamit. I’ve been in the force long enough to know a goddam profoundly gifted detective when I see one, and you’re about the goddam most extraordinarily talented detective I’ve ever come across.”
“Look, Rogue, I’ll write the report, I’ll take the rap, just back me up. That’s all I ask.”
Rogue rolled a cigarette and took a swig of Lagavulin from his hip flask. “I’ll back you all the goddam way, McAubrey.”
Three days later…
“Hurry up, Rogue,” Liz McAubrey shouted through to the kitchen, “we’ll be on any second now.”
Still sore from the tranquiliser dart, Rogue limped into the living room with Liz’s dinner, a traditional Scottish supper of deep fried batons of lard with chips wrapped in bacon, and served with melted butter gravy and two kilos of salt.
“You not eating, Rogue?” Liz asked.
Rogue sat down on the sofa next to her, opened up a bottle of toilet bleach and took a long swig. “Nah, I’ve got all the goddam nourishment I need here.”
The two detectives tucked into their respective suppers, awaiting their appearance on the BBC news from the press conference they had given earlier that day.
“… police sources have told me that the Bristow Chapter may be responsible for up to forty thousand murders,” a BBC reporter said, standing outside the entrance gates to Bramblebay Castle.
“Forty thousand,” Liz mumbled, stuffing a fork of grease into her gob. “Good god. What in the name of that lying Tory bastard Jeffrey Archer did we uncover?”
Torrential rain poured on the reporter who was cowering under a large umbrella. “… and joining me now, one of the people directly affected, the spokesperson for the Premier League Birding Association, Garry Bagnell. Mr Bagnell, just how serious is this news?”
“It’s heartbreaking,” Garry answered, “I estimate that I’ve spent somewhere between £15,432.33 and £15,433.34 in the last ten years trying to amass a Premiership bird list. And to find out that the whole rare bird scene is a total sham … well … I just don’t know what to say.” Garry put his hand to his mouth and tried to stop himself from crying.
“Poor guy,” Liz said, sucking on a lard baton, “it’s innocent people like him you have to feel sorry for. His whole life is ruined. Destroyed by egomaniacal ornithological fraudsters. You’ve been doing this job for decades, Rogue, do you ever really wonder why there’s so much evil in the world? Is it all really worth it?”
“You know something, Liz,” Rogue said solemnly, taking another swig of toilet bleach and lighting a roll up, “Ernest Hemingway once wrote: the world’s a fine place and worth fighting for. Well I agree with the second part.”
“Excellent, a quote from Morgan Freeman in Seven,” Liz said, pouring more salt onto her plate. “Such a pity about Timmy Keen, what with him dying and everything.”
“Ah, fuck him,” Rogue growled, “he was a pussy anyway.”
“Rogue! You can’t say that. That’s an absolutely horrid thing to say about the man who saved your life.”
“Yeah well, toilet bleach does that to you. It’s really bad for the red rage. I’ll probably go out and assault some goddam students later tonight.”
” … one man is currently in custody, the eccentric billionaire Sir Wilkins Bramblebay,” the reporter continued, “but police are still looking for a seven foot tall female Russian assassin in a black leather Gestapo trenchcoat.” The report cut to grainy CCTV footage of Zemlinsky walking into a Swiss bank in Zurich. “It’s believed that yesterday she withdrew fifteen million-billion-thousand-billion dollars from the Bristow Chapter’s foreign accounts before Interpol were able to freeze their assets…”
Rogue and McAubrey couldn’t help but laugh.
“I wonder where she went?” McAubrey wondered. “And I wonder what she’s planning to do with all of that money, I wonder?” McAubrey continued to wonder.
Four weeks later…
Twenty-five miles north of Odessa on the outskirts of the tiny Ukrainian village of Phlegmk, a huge shadow on the ground drew closer to Huggins the butler who was sitting under a tree outside a simple peasant farmhouse. He looked at the enormous giant approaching him and smiled. Kathinka Zemlinksy bent over and kissed him. After the massacre in Bramblebay Castle, Zemlinksy had taken pity on battered Huggins and carried him away out of the castle and brought him to her new home, a place where coleslaw trees and Nando’s special peri peri sauce plants filled the fields up to the endless horizon, a place where she was free from cruel glares and where she could eat Nando’s all day long.
“I’ve brought ze fresh bandages, Mr Huggins,” she said. Huggins had only just recovered from his harrowing torture at the despicably evil hands of Erwin, Sir Wilkins and the CIA-esque bodyguard who I still can’t be bothered to think up a pathetic name for. Huggins’ left knee had been completely shot away, but Zemlinksy had fashioned him a new knee cap out of a coconut shell and stuck it into place with Pritt Stick and string.
“I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me,” Huggins said, as Zemlinsky sat on the floor next to him and removed the bandage from his knee.
“Don’t thank me, Mr Huggins. Thank ze Liz McAubrey detective voman. She voz kind enough to let me go. Even zo I have tried to do a kill on her viz ze cricket bat.”
“Liz McAubrey. Wow! What an incredibly profound human being, what with her allowing you to get away and start a new life with me, a life where you don’t have to ‘orribly murder people for a living and where you can eat Nando’s all day long.”
“Oh Huggins! I’m so happy! Do again ze impression of ze Mr Riggersby,” Kathinka Zemlinsky asked.
“Do I have to? Oh go on then. Oooooohhhhhhh, Miss Joooooooones!”
The two embraced, filled with joy and happiness and contentedness and so on. Zemlinsky helped Huggins to his feet and took him inside for a feast of Nando’s quarter chicken in hot peri peri sauce, with regular sides of coleslaw and corn on the cob.
The sole remaining volunteer for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust walked out into the marshes at Cley NWT. He took out his tools and began to dismantle the last standing hide on the reserve, a place which had once been filled with excited birders getting really confused about which one of the waders was the Western Sandpiper, and a place where a displaying Great Snipe had once been battered by irresponsible use of tape luring (ooh, controversial!). Now that vagrancy had been exposed as The Greatest Lie Ever Told, birding in Britain and throughout the world had effectively come to an abrupt end, and Cley was no longer needed as a bird reserve. The locals had agreed to drain the marshes and sell the land to Tesco for a massive fucking superstore. Nobody knew as of yet whether George Bristow’s apocalyptic prophecies would come true (probably best to read Chapter 4 to find out what that crap is all about), but already there had been mass suicides of distraught twitchers and rare bird finders, including a suicide pact on Shetland, where the residents who had moved their solely for the rarities could no longer face a life of five out of twelve months of the year in pitch black darkness.
The car parks at Cley had at one time been filled with cars belonging to birders, but today the East Bank car park was filled with the armed response SWAT team from Hunstanton police station. Paddy Rogue took his Hushpower Mossberg pump-action shotgun from the boot of his Ford Capri, and Liz McAubrey loaded her Walther PPK.
“Me and McAubrey are going in alone,” Rogue instructed the Hunstanton SWAT team, “get yourselves into goddam position but keep back.”
Rogue and McAubrey hurried along the East Bank towards the shit brown North Sea. It had taken them weeks to finally track down the old man, including three days of torturing Sir Wilkins Bramblebay by playing him Adele’s latest massively overrated album on loop.
“It all ends here, McAubrey,” Rogue said, “are you sure you’re going to be okay with this? After all, he is your goddam grandfather.”
“I need to do this, Rogue. It’s about closure and all that cliched shite.”
“So I suppose you’ll be going back up to Asstermowth after today, Liz?”
“I think so, Rogue. I can’t really face another night sleeping in your flat. I mean, it’s fucking filthy. I’m afraid I’m going to catch hepatitis.”
“You know something, Liz, I thought that you and me … well, I thought that there might be something between us. Something special.”
Liz burst out laughing. “Something between you and me? Ha! You’re fucking kidding. I wouldn’t sleep with you if you plied me with Absinthe and drugged me with rohypnol. But you know, there was something I wanted to ask you. You remember in Chapter 1 when you went to see Professor Maurice Wagon’s body? Well what was that thing about the sticks of celery?”
“Ah. Well I was hoping you wouldn’t bring that up. You see, apparently the bastard writing this shit couldn’t think up how to fit the celery into the story, so he just left it out.”
“Oh. And there was something else. Remember when you thought that Sir Wilkins Bramblebay was the world’s leading expert in ornithological fraud, but he wasn’t and was actually part of the Bristow Chapter. Well how come he told you all the secrets about the Bristow Chapter and effectively brought about the demise of his entire family?”
“Best not to analyse the plot too much, Liz. There’s some massive gaping potholes and loose ends that just don’t make any sense. Anyway, it’s not like people have had to pay to read this piece of crap. So you can’t exactly complain that it’s not quite War and Peace, for fuck’s sake.”
The two detectives reached the sluice gate at Arnold’s Marsh and took out their weapons. They crept slowly forward to the crest of the shingle ridge and peered over to look to the shoreline.
“That’s him,” Rogue said. He took out his radio to pass instructions back to Hunstanton SWAT team. “We have a positive ID. Repeat, we have a positive ID.”
The tiny frail old man was sat on the wet shingle, his knees pulled up to his chest. Liz took a profoundly deep breath in a truly gifted manner. She had never met her grandfather before, and now she was about to arrest him for murder and ornithological fraud and gangsterism.
“Bristow,” Rogue shouted, “this is the police. You’re under arrest for all the stuff that’s happened in the previous nine chapters.”
The old man sat silently and refused to acknowledge them. Rogue and McAubrey moved in, their weapons trained on the old man’s head.
“It’s over Bristow,” Rogue shouted again, “the goddam game’s up.”
Still no answer. McAubrey, filled with profound bravery, rushed in to make the arrest herself. She leaned over and placed her hand on her grandfather’s shoulder, but his body fell back onto the shingle.
“Holy shit. He’s dead.” The old man had taken his final walk along the East Bank that morning, and had died looking out to sea.
Rogue ran over to McAubrey’s side. “Oh that’s a shame. I was really looking forward to shooting the old cunt.”
“Rogue!” Liz reprimanded her colleague.
“Oh yeah, sorry about that. I forgot he was your goddam grandfather and stuff.” Rogue took out his radio, “Stand down. Repeat, all units stand down.” He put his radio away. “You know, I was thinking of retiring, McAubrey. But all this shooting and using radios and SWAT teams is just too goddam exciting. Guess I’ll always be stuck working in the goddam force. That’s my lot in life. I’m an iconoclastic rule-breaking detective, and I always will be. Can’t change who you are, McAubrey.”
“Yeah whatever. Look, Rogue, what shall we do with my grandfather’s body?”
“I dunno. Leave it to the wolves?”
“Wolves? Are you serious, Rogue? You don’t get wolves at Cley.”
“Well foxes then. I don’t fucking know.”
“God this is a terrible ending. Mind you, I suppose it typifies the rest of the story.”
“Sure does. Right, it’s nearly lunchtime. I’m off to The George for a few pints. You coming, McAubrey?”
“I’ll see you in there. Just leave me here for a moment. I want to have a bit of time on my own.”
Detective Inspector Paddy Rogue walked away down the East Bank, leaving Liz McAubrey to sit down next to her dead grandfather. Liz began to laugh. How could these thick as shit twitchers have actually believed that birds were crossing whole continents and oceans to end up in Britain? “I’ve got to give it to you,” McAubrey said to her dead grandfather, “you certainly had them all fooled.” She gazed out to sea and focused on a tiny speck struggling to fly low over the water, a tiny blue and white bird.
The Siberian Blue Robin flew straight past her and crash landed on the other side of the shingle ridge. The Robin had arrived in Europe the previous autumn and decided to spend three months just outside Amsterdam. The unseasonally warm weather was ideal for the wintering Robin, but something deep within him had forced him to head out over the North Sea to Britain. The Siberian Blue Robin, an adult male, panted and shivered at the base of the ridge, completely exposed in the open, but there were no birders anywhere to find him.
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