The Greatest Lie Ever Told
by Morton Cubberd
Tiny Lizzie McAubrey was running back from the shops. It was a Saturday morning and her mother had allowed her to spend her meagre three pence of pocket money in Skanky Stan’s sweet shop at the end of the road. By the time she got home she had already eaten two of her cola bottles, but, as profoundly generous and giftedly thoughtful as ever, she had saved one cola bottle for her mother. She hopped over the back fence in that profoundly athletic manner of hers, and ran into the kitchen holding out her hand with the cola bottle for her mother. The house was silent.
“Mummy?” she shouted, but there was no answer.
Lizzie walked into the front room and saw a pair of Zeiss 7x 42 BGA binoculars on the sofa. Her heart began to pound, her pulse banging hard in the sides of her neck.
She walked to the window and looked out onto the street – a Vauxhall Nova was parked outside. Even at eight years of age, Lizzie was already profoundly astute, and she knew something was wrong.
Little Lizzie opened the door at the bottom of the stairs, the cola bottle sticking to her tiny clammy hand.
A filthy jacket was hanging up on the coat hooks, covered in shit and looking like someone had just lifted it out of a skip. With extraordinarily profound bravery she put her hand into a pocket and took out a Red+Black notebook. She opened the notebook and saw that it was filled with childish scribbles of birds and lists of birds with five-bar gate tally counting things next to them. She read through some of the grammatically abysmal writing and noticed a profusion of lame-ass words like “stonking”, “obliging”, “mega” and “stunner.” Lizzie dropped the book and tried to stop herself from being sick – what kind of depraved, vile deviant would want to carry around something like that?
Lizzie stood at the bottom of the stairs and listened, trembling with fear. She could hear quiet moans from her mother from upstairs, and also a deeper male voice.
“Please, don’t do this to me,” Lizzie heard her mother whimper.
“Yeah, oh yeah, ugh, oh yeah,” the male voice said.
“Please, let me go. I can’t take it any more,” her mother pleaded.
Lizzie’s profound instincts took over. She fetched a massive fuck-off bread knife from the kitchen and ran upstairs to save her mother.
“Oh God, Lizzie, please, no!” her mother squealed as she barged into the bedroom.
“Mummy, what’s happening?”
“Please, Lizzie, don’t come in, please! Oh God, you’re too young and innocent to have to see this. Please Lizzie, please just go downstairs.”
“Mummy, who’s this man?” Lizzie asked, holding up the bread knife and preparing to attack.
“Hello, Lizzie,” the man said, “you’ve certainly grown since I last saw you. Do you not remember me? I’m your daddy. I’ve just got back from a six month trip through India. I was just showing your mummy some of my photos from the trip. Here, Lizzie, come and have a look at this picture of an Ibisbill.”
“Oh God!” Lizzie’s mother moaned, “please don’t look Lizzie, please. Please just go back downstairs. He’ll bore you to death with his far-fetched birding stories that nobody is interested in.”
“There’s nothing wrong with showing her pictures of birds, Jean,” Lizzie’s father told her mother.
“Oh God!” her mother said, “but it’s just so boring. I’ve been sat here just looking at these photos and I’m just so, so bored. At least let Lizzie go.”
Lizzie began to squeal as her father showed her explicit pornographic close up shots of Indian Coursers, Tickell’s Leaf Warblers and Forest Wagtails. Her mother was weeping, bored out of her mind and terrified that her daughter would soon be as bored as her.
“For fuck’s sake wake up, Liz.”
A strong hand shook Liz McAubrey awake.
“You’re having a nightmare, Liz,” Paddy Rogue told her. “Come on, it’s okay. Just a bad dream. Get this down you.” Rogue passed McAubrey a coffee, the outside of the chipped mug filthy with sticky coffee dribbles.
“Do you have to do that by me?” Liz asked, as Rogue lit his third roll up cigarette of the day. Liz was shaking, cold and disturbed from the nightmare of her childhood.
“My goddam flat, my goddam rules,” Rogue growled, “if you don’t like it you can find someone else’s sofa to doss down on.”
Liz had been sleeping on Paddy Rogue’s sofa for the last three nights, having decided to join forces to find the giant female assassin and to bring down the bastard Bristow Chapter.
“Hurry up and get your shit together,” Rogue said, “Timmy Keen’s coming to pick us up.”
“Where are we going?” Liz asked.
“Keen’s got some information that might interest you. He’s found out that three nights ago there was a shootout in Whitby harbour. Police arrested two Icelandic men with their trousers around their ankles and poking each other in the hip with a pencil – apparently it’s a traditional Icelandic custom or something.”
“Icelandic men?” Liz asked, “but what’s that got to do with me?”
“Well it turns out they’re bird traffickers. Bringing in things like Gyrfalcons, Pacific Eiders… all that kind of thing.”
“So you think they might be smuggling for the Bristow Chapter?” Liz asked. Rogue was endlessly stunned by just how profoundly intelligent she was, how she was able to assimilate these obscure facts with such extraordinarily gifted speed.
“Oh it’s more than that, Liz,” Rogue said, lighting another roll up, “the two Icelandic men were caught on CCTV shooting at a woman. And not just any woman. A seven foot tall woman in a black leather Gestapo trenchcoat.”
“Now come on, Liz, Keen will be here in five minutes.”
“… yep, those were the days. You goddam privileged kids today don’t even know you’re born …”
Paddy Rogue, driving his ravaged Ford Capri to Whitby, was smoking heavily and ‘entertaining’ his two young colleagues with tales from the old days, the golden years up in Asstermowth CID where Rogue was a policing legend before he blew it all by getting too goddam involved and losing his goddam mind and ripping up the rule book too often in that iconoclastic, rebellious way of his. They’d been in the car for nearly five hours. McAubrey was starting to chew her arms off with numbed boredom from being subjected to the prolonged verbal assault about Rogue’s past. Timmy Keen was repeatedly punching himself in the bollocks in an effort to alleviate the tedium.
“Back then you’d be out on the booze all night with your DCI until you passed out,” Rogue continued, lighting another roll up, “and next morning you’d have a bobby sent round to your flat to drag you out of bed, chuck you in a cold bath and drive you down to the station. After drinking fifteen litres of black coffee you’d hit the pub for a few lunch time sharpeners, then back to the office to fall asleep at your desk. Mid afternoon you’d falsify a bit of evidence to implicate a young Asian man in a crime he didn’t commit, get back down the pub to pick up your envelope full of cash from a News of the World reporter – in exchange for confidential details of current investigations that might even jeopardise them getting to court – before meeting up with your DCI again and heading out on the town looking for a few tramps to set the dogs on. That’s how we did it back in the good old days. Not like now with all the paper work and not being able to allow scum racist thugs to get away with sickening hate crimes. Nowadays it’s all about goddam solving crimes, and we’re not even allowed to victimise gay men and intimidate ethnic minority communities. World’s going to fucking Hell in a fucking handcart. If it wasn’t for us coppers still being allowed to pepper spray lazy students and those grubby G20 protestors, this goddam job wouldn’t be worth doing.”
“Please someone help me get out of this car!” Keen wailed, seriously contemplating opening the passenger door and throwing himself onto the road.
“Here we are. Whitby,” Rogue said with excitement as they drove into the outskirts of the seaside town, “you know this is where they made that film Dracula. The one about the vampires and stuff.”
“Not quite true that, boss,” Keen interrupted, overjoyed that they were finally talking about something else, “the film was based on a book, and the book starts here in Whitby.”
“Bollocks is it!” Rogue barked, “it’s got Christopher Lee in the film. I’ve seen it loads of times. Book my arse! What goddam nonsense do they teach you down in those posh pussy privileged universities nowadays? Back when I started on the force nobody went to university and…”
Inside Whitby police station they were greeted by Detective Inspector Bruce Klunt, the man in charge of the ‘Whitby Harbour Bloodbath Icelandic Men Missing Russian Woman Massacre’, as the press had catchily called it.
Klunt took them through to his office and showed them footage from the harbour’s closed circuit television which had captured all of the ‘Whitby Harbour Bloodbath Icelandic Men Missing Russian Woman Massacre’.
“Jesus H. Corbett!” Liz exclaimed, shocked as she watched video of Kathinka Zemlinsky batting away thousands of bullets with her cricket bat. “That’s the woman who tried to kill me. Where is she now?”
“Keep watching,” Klunt said.
Liz, Rogue and Keen were paralysed with shock as they saw Kathinka take a bullet in the throat, only to then roll her vast frame off the side of the quay into the water and escape before the police arrived and arrested Olaf Brynjolfsonsonsonson and Dr. Heijning Mork Karlson, the two Icelandic bird traffickers who were being held in the station for questioning.
“I can’t believe anyone could survive a goddam bullet to the throat,” Rogue said, putting out his roll up and lighting another, then taking a swig from his hip flask and lighting another roll up. “You mark my words, her goddam body will be washed up on a beach soon.”
“Do you know who she is yet?” Liz asked.
“We got this from Interpol.” Klunt passed Liz a file. “She’s Kathinka Zemlinsky. Born 1979. Russian. Wanted for ‘orrible murder by the German, Swiss, Lichtenstein, French and Italian police. FBI reckon she was part of some secret late Soviet eugenic experiment. Her mother was a top international decathlete and her father was a geophysicist with an IQ of 7,643. She’s a lethal killing machine. The Soviets started using her when she was just five years old to fight the Afghans. Legend has it she took out thirty-six Mujahideen with just a cricket bat.” Liz ran her finger along the lines of sellotape holding her skull together, remembering the cricket bat attack. “KGB say she defected to the west after the Berlin Wall came down, and started doing freelance killing for whoever would pay her the biggest fee.”
Liz stared at the photo of Zemlinksy in the file. The stone-cold, emotionless eyes terrified her. Zemlinsky was a monster, though Liz couldn’t forget how the giant assassin had given her the chance to get away. Perhaps there was humanity behind the beast? (humanity behind the beast? Fuck me that’s a shit phrase)
“I think we’d better talk to the two Icelandic men,” Timmy Keen said, taking a brief pause from making notes in his special detective’s notebook.
“You go for it, but best of luck to you,” Klunt said, as he lead them towards the holding cells, “they’ve not said a single word to us. Not even their names. All they do is keep lowering their trousers. Apparently it’s a traditional Icelandic custom.”
As they walked down the corridor alarms suddenly sounded and lights on the walls began to flash.
“Get an ambulance!” an invisible voice screamed further down the corridor.
Rogue, McAubrey, Keen and Klunt ran down the corridor to an open cell. They looked inside and saw the two Icelandic men hanging from the window bars, their trousers around their ankles and a pair of white sports socks laid out beneath them on the floor, as is the traditional Icelandic custom when committing suicide.
“Goddamit!” Rogue shouted.
The immense wrought iron gates to the heavily fortified Bramblebay Castle opened slowly, and a black armoured Rolls Royce steadily drove up the lengthy gravel driveway towards the enormous eighteenth century home of the eccentric billionaire Sir Wilkins Bramblebay, the world’s leading expert in ornithological fraud. Huggins the butler tracked the car’s movement through the vast network of CCTV cameras on the property, though there was no need for him to carry out his usual thorough security checks. Huggins knew the car and its occupant very well, and the sight of it filled him with dread. He opened up the gun cabinet and took out his revolver, concealing it in a chest holster under his jacket. One day soon he feared that he would have to use it.
The majestic stately car came to a majestic stately standstill in the majestic stately entrance courtyard to the majestic stately castle. An armed bodyguard – dressed in a black suit with Ray-Ban sunglasses and a black earpiece thing stuck to the side of his head that made him look all cool and like a CIA agent and stuff – stepped out along with the chauffeur, who then opened the door to allow the distinguished visitor to emerge into the icy cold Cotswoldshire night. Huggins the butler hurried outside to greet the visitor and his entourage.
“Sir, what an unexpected pleasure this is,” Huggins grovelled, patting his chest to ensure that the gun was still in place and close to hand. “His Lordship will be most delighted to see you.”
“Cut the bullshit, Huggins,” the distinguished visitor said. “You know Wilkins and me can’t stand each other. I’ll not be here long. And can you please stop talking just like Rigsby from Rising Damp,” he added, which is extremely lucky as it will hopefully have reminded you about how Huggins was the voice behind the mysterious phone number that Jock MacDogkennel was to call only in an emergency. (Yeah that’s right, this is some spooky stuff.)
Inside the castle Sir Wilkins Bramblebay was adjusting his top hat, brushing the shoulders of his tails jacket and straightening his monocle in true Wodehousian buffoon fashion. His hands were shaking so he slugged back a large measure of brandy to calm his nerves, unsuccessfully. He knew that he was in for a right royal rollocking from the distinguished visitor.
“Ah, so wonderful to see you, what what,” Sir Wilkins stammered as he turned to see the visitor marching into the parlour.
“Sit down and shut up, Wilkins,” the visitor barked, “just look at you, you bloody idiot. Father would ashamed to see the state of you.”
“And how is our father?” Wilkins timidly asked the visitor, who you should have by now guessed is his brother.
“I don’t think he has long left. He’s frail, weak. He just sits on the beach at Cley and looks out to sea, like some kind of cataleptic goat. You do know that I’m in charge of things now?”
“You are?” Wilkins’ heart plummeted into his stomach. He’d always hoped that one day he would become the head of the Bristow Chapter. (That’s right, readers, Sir Wilkins Bramblebay is really one of those Bristow Chapter motherfuckers, and not the world’s leading expert in ornithological fraud. And his father is the old man at Cley. Bet you never saw that plot twist coming. Yeah – so fuck you all!)
“You look disappointed, brother?” the visitor said mockingly. “Surely you can’t have expected father to have made you head of the Chapter? Ha! You did? You pathetic worm.” The visitor ran forward and slapped Wilkins in the chops, screaming like an unhinged maniac. “It’s because of you that everything’s going wrong. The police are onto us, and it’s because you left the knife in that bastard Jock MacDogkennel’s chest. What were you thinking?”
“I forgot to take it out, what what,” Sir Wilkins sniffled, “I’m sorry! But father always insists on using that Russian giant to kill the truth-seekers. I just wanted to show him that I could murder someone and pass it off as an accidental drowning, what what.” (Oh yeah, and there’s another revelation – Sir Wilkins Bramblebay murdered Jock MacDogkennel. Suck my balls!)
The visitor slapped Wilkins hard in the chops again and continued to scream. “You’re an idiot! You always have been! A disgrace to the family and the Chapter. Over a century of hard work to keep The Greatest Lie Ever Told quiet, to prevent lame birders and sad bastard twitchers bringing about the Apocalypse, and you have to ruin everything! God only knows how we’re going to deal with the mess up in Whitby. And Zemlinksy has completely vanished. How the fucking Hell can a seven foot tall woman in a black leather Gestapo trenchcoat leaking blood out of her throat just vanish? It’s all fucking unravelling around us!”
The visitor picked up the poker from the fireplace and began to mercilessly beat his brother. Eventually Huggins and the armed bodyguard had to pull the psychopath away before he slaughtered Sir Wilkins.
“If you weren’t my brother I’d have had Zemlinksy take you out a long time ago,” he told the debased and sobbing Wilkins, who was now folded up in foetal position on the floor. “But for now we have a bigger problem to deal with. Much bigger than what’s going on in Whitby. We have a spy amongst us. Father has suspected it for a long time, someone feeding information to the truth-seekers. How else could Maurice Wagon, Jock MacDogkennel and all the other truth-seekers whose names I’ve forgotten, have known so much? No, before we go any further, we have to burn out the rat, or whatever the expression is. And whoever it is is probably a lot closer than we think.”
The visitor, wild of eye and maniacal of countenance (what the fuck does that even mean?), resumed the vicious thrashing of his idiot brother with the fire poker.
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