The Greatest Lie Ever Told
by Morton Cubberd
Huggins the butler returned to the parlour with a dust pan and brush to clean up the shattered glass from Sir Wilkins Bramblebay’s monocle. Bramblebay was sat on an antique Louis XV bergeres chair, worth tens of thousands of pounds, and straightening out his crumpled top hat which had been damaged in the vicious and sadistic beating with a fire poker dealt out to him by his brother Erwin, the new head of the Bristow Chapter. After cleaning up the glass and pouring Wilkins and Erwin a cognac, Huggins lifted a huge log and threw it into the gigantic granite fireplace.
“It all gets sorted tonight,” Erwin said, “we work out who the spy is, we find Zemlinsky, and then we carry on as usual. Our man in the south has planted a couple of sparrows down in Hampshire, that will keep the bastard twitchers muttering about various vagrant-related inanities for a while. But now we need to get new birds in for Spring. All that we need to do is keep calm. Everything will be fine.”
“But what about the police,” Wilkins whimpered, ” they’re onto us now, what what.”
“Fuck da po-lice, coming straight from the underground!” Erwin yelled, quoting NWA’s classic gangsta rap track, which was a pretty weird thing to say. “The police can be bought. We’ve been paying the police off for years. Everybody has a price, Wilkins. Whoever these detectives are, we’ll just send a little note to their superiors, a little note with a few thousand pounds of cash. It’s amazing how these investigations suddenly stop dead when a high ranking police officer gets a nice envelope full of cash through the post.”
“I’m scared, Erwin. You didn’t meet that Rogue detective. There’s something about him. Just something so iconoclastically rebellious about him. I can’t put my finger on it, but he strikes me as someone who would tear up the rule book and pay scant heed to protocol and regulation, and so on and so forth. What what.”
“He’ll be dealt with, Wilkins. This Rogue swine-pig will either follow a direct order from his bribed superiors, or else Zemlinksy – if she’s even alive – will have to ‘take him off the case’. So to speak. And if Zemlinsky’s dead? Well, I guess we’ll have to find another psychotic assassin.”
The heavily armed bodyguard, who looked like a super-fucking-cool CIA agent, came into the parlour and whispered into Erwin’s ear. Huggins, having finished his duties, was walking away towards the door.
“Stay where you are, Huggins,” Erwin ordered.
“Is there a problem, sir?” Huggins asked, facing away and quickly trying to remove the revolver from under his jacket.
“Don’t even try,” the bodyguard said, as he jabbed the barrel of his Glock 23 into the back of Huggins’ head, “put your fucking hands up.”
“What the Hell’s going on here?” Wilkins stammered, “how dare you point a gun at my butler. This is outrageous, what what.”
“You bloody fool, Wilkins,” Erwin said, getting to his feet and picking up the fire poker, “the rat amongst us is your own fucking butler! My heavily armed bodyguard, who the author can’t be bothered to think up a name for, has just been to Huggins’ quarters. His room’s full of Helm monographs, Samsung NV3 cameras, Kaufmann’s Advanced Birding, Flood+Fisher DVD guides to petrels… He’s a fucking sad bastard birder! He’s one of the fucking truth-seekers!”
“Huggins, is this true?” Wilkins asked, tears of disappointment welling in his eyes. “Tell me it’s not true, old bean, what what. Not you, wise old faithful Huggins?”
“I’m afraid so, m’Lud,” Huggins admitted, his voice sounding just like Rigsby in Rising Damp. He closed his eyes in anticipation of the Glock 23 blasting open the back of his head and hurling his liquified brain through the front of his exploded skull and all over a priceless Vermeer hanging on the wall. He thought about all the things he’d never found time to do in his life, how he’d never been married and had children, and how he’d never stroked a pony with a toothbrush. Regrets from his unfulfilled life swirled through his mind. Why did he never visit Southport Lawnmower Museum? If only he could reclaim that precious time, time he had wasted watching fucking birds with a load of other equally pathetic cretins. “So sorry, m’Lud.”
“Something doesn’t feel right,” Detective Inspector Liz McAubrey said, her profoundly gifted instincts telling her that something didn’t feel right.
She was stood with her colleagues Paddy Rogue and Timmy Keen at the entrance gates to Bramblebay Castle. With the two Icelandic bird traffickers having committed suicide in Whitby police station, the case seemed to be at a standstill. Liz wasn’t even supposed to be on the case, her boss Tommy Colon having taken her off for fear that her judgment would be clouded because of her intense hatred of birders brought about by a childhood wrecked by her selfish absent twitcher father. The three detectives were at a loss how to proceed, and decided to seek further assistance from Sir Wilkins Bramblebay, who they still believed was the world’s leading expert in ornithological fraud.
“I know,” Rogue said, smoking a roll up, “I’m getting that same goddam feeling as well. Last time me and Keen came here, the goddam butler Huggins answered the goddam intercom. But nobody’s answering today. Something definitely doesn’t feel right.”
Rogue tried the intercom again, but still no answer.
“I’ll have a look through my super fabulous night vision binoculars, with like a gun-sight crosshair and a range finder in the corner of the image. You know, like James Bond uses,” Keen said. He looked through his super fabulous night vision binoculars to the top of the long driveway, and saw the Rolls Royce with the chauffeur sat on the bonnet smoking. “There’s a Rolls Royce and a driver. Something doesn’t feel right to me, either. Isn’t it quite incredible how all three of us think that something doesn’t feel right?”
“Goddamit, something’s definitely not right.” Rogue opened the boot of his battered Ford Capri and took out his climbing rope and grapple iron. He filled his pockets with ammo cartridges and slung his Heckler and Koch UMP.45 sub-machine gun over his shoulder. He put his titanium blade commando knife into his shin holster and then loaded two Walther PPK handguns and passed them to McAubrey and Keen. “Use these with extreme prejudice.”
“What does that mean?” Keen asked, looking baffled at his handgun.
“No idea, but I remember someone saying it in a film once, and it sounded really cool.”
Rogue threw the grapple iron onto the top of the high wall and climbed over, quickly followed by McAubrey and Keen.
“Bastard!” Erwin yelled, and smashed the cognac bottle in Huggins’ face.
“Gaaaaarrrrggghhhhh!” Huggins screamed, blood and expensive cognac soaking his stereotypical butler’s attire.
Huggins had hoped for a quick and painless death, but instead he had been tied up and was being mercilessly beaten and tortured by mentalist Erwin and his armed bodyguard, who the author still can’t be bothered to give a name to.
“You fucking traitor pig-swine bastard treacherous wank-bladder!” Erwin shouted, waving his hands and spinning around like a wing-nut. He picked up one of Wilkins’ sculptures by Giacometti and smashed it over Huggins’ head, a huge gash appearing in the butler’s skull and blood spraying out of a severed vein.
“Oh not the Giacometti, Erwin,” Wilkins pleaded, as he watched his room filled with priceless art and antiques being smashed over Huggins the butler’s head.
“Please just kill me,” Huggins begged.
“Don’t worry, you traitorous swine-hound shit-vessel,” Erwin said, picking up a Faberge egg, “we will kill you. But not before we’ve tortured you with sadistic pleasure and warped glee. Ha Ha!” Erwin threw the Faberge egg into Huggins’ face, shattering his cheek bones and practically taking his nose clean off his face.
“Oh please, not the bloody Faberge eggs, what what!”
Paddy Rogue was crawling SAS-style across the lawn and up to edge of the gravel driveway before the courtyard, where the chauffeur was still sat on the car bonnet reading an old copy of Health and Efficiency. Rogue was being watched in the distance by Liz and Timmy, who were both hiding under a rhododendron.
“What’s Rogue doing now?” Liz whispered.
“Not sure,” Keen said, watching through his super fabulous night vision binoculars, “looks like he’s chucking gravel.”
Rogue was hidden behind an enormous terracotta plant pot. He picked up a small piece of gravel and threw it at the Rolls Royce. The chauffeur jumped when he heard the stone hit the car and turned around to look, but there was nothing there. Rogue threw another piece, this time hitting the chauffeur’s hat. Now the chauffeur walked over to investigate.
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
The chauffeur paced about slowly in front of the car and towards the plant pot. Rogue miaowed.
“Oh, it’s just a bloody cat,” the chauffeur said to himself, albeit a cat which can throw pieces of gravel. He walked up to the plant pot and peered behind. Rogue yanked the commando knife out of his shin holster and thrust it upwards into the chauffeur’s throat. Rogue threw the twitching body in its death throes onto the grass, then gave an ambiguous hand signal to Liz and Timmy that they didn’t quite understand. Rogue continued gesturing with his thumb and fingers, but Liz and Timmy really had no idea what he was doing. Eventually Rogue took his mobile out and phoned Liz.
“What the fuck are you two doing?” Rogue whispered. “Don’t you know how to read tactical assault hand-gesture-code semaphore stuff? It’s basic action film bullshit. Now hurry up and crawl across the grass.”
“Can’t we just walk across the grass?” Liz asked.
“Look, McAubrey, everyone knows that crawling across grass is what you have to do in these situations. So you two get crawling now. And that’s an order!”
Liz and Timmy began to crawl across the wet grass, both of them cursing Rogue and wondering whether the mad old pisshead was wired up right. When they reached Rogue, the three of them crept along the side of the walled courtyard and over to a window.
“Jesus, what the fucking Hell is going on in there?” Keen asked in shock, as they saw Huggins the butler tied to a chair, his gashed and bloodied face almost battered beyond recognition.
“Please kill me,” Gubbins begged, his words barely intelligible behind a gob full of blood, puke and shattered teeth.
“No, Huggins, not quite yet,” the three detectives heard the voice of Erwin say, but they couldn’t see him through the narrow slit in the curtains and from the angle they were looking at.
McAubrey, as profoundly brave as ever, took out her Walther PPK. “We need to go in, Rogue. They’re killing him. We can’t just stand by and watch.”
“Not yet, McAubrey. We don’t know how many are in there.” But Rogue knew that the assault on Bramblebay Castle was about to begin. He checked his Heckler and Koch sub-machine gun one last time, then lit a roll up and took a long swig from his hip flask.
“Gaaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh!” Huggins gargled, as a bullet exploded into his left knee, the invisible shrill laughter of Erwin, Wilkins and the nameless bodyguard cutting the air like crippled cherubim.
“Go, go go!” Rogue shouted.
The three detectives smashed through the window, Rogue firing bursts from his Heckler and Koch to allow Liz and Timmy to get into cover.
“Fuck you, you bastards!” Rogue screamed, firing indiscriminately at paintings by Velazquez, Rubens, Titian and Tony Hart.
“No! Not my precious Tony Harts, what what!” Sir Wilkins Bramblebay yelled.
“Rogue, look out!” Timmy Keen screamed, as the nameless heavily armed bodyguard pulled out his Glock 23 and took aim at Rogue.
Suddenly everything went into slow motion.
“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo,” Keen shouted, then flung his body through the air as the nameless bodyguard shot at Rogue.
Keen’s body hit the floor, a distended wound in his stomach pissing out litres of blood and intestines.
Rogue dropped to his knees by Keen’s side. “Keen? Keen?”
“Rogue, I never got the chance to tell you… ” Keen said weakly, blood dribbling out of his mouth.
“Stay with me, goddamit! For fuck’s sake stay with me!” Rogue pleaded with the dying pussy Keen, who had saved Rogue’s life.
“Rogue, I never told you how much I admired your rule-breaking iconoclastic rebellious attitude to crime solving.”
“Keen, listen to me. Don’t you dare die on me, Keen!”
“I was wrong about you, Rogue, you’re not just a sour old misogynistic drunken bastard. You’re like the father I never had. Tell my mother that I died instantly. Don’t mention all the shit and blood and stuff pouring out of my stomach. Just tell her that I died peacefully and that I looked happy, like Stalin’s embalmed body. Yes, tell her that I looked like dead Stalin.”
“You’re not going to die, Keen. Come on, you fucking pussy! Stay alive, you bastard!”
“Rogue, try … and … find … some …” Keen’s voice was fading, “happiness … in … your … your … your … life.”
Keen’s eyes closed.
“You motherfucking bastard!” Rogue leapt to his feet and fired over six thousand rounds into the nameless bodyguard. “Motherfucker!” But as soon as he ran out of ammo he felt a sharp pain in his side. Rogue hadn’t noticed that whilst he was massacring the nameless bodyguard, Erwin had fired a single tranquiliser dart into him. He turned to look at Erwin, his vision blurred and watery, but Rogue’s balance went and he hit the floor.
“Rogue!” McAubrey screeched, and jumped out of her hiding place.
“Don’t even think about it, little lady,” Erwin said, raising his gun.
Liz stopped, but her profoundly extraordinary instincts told her that something really wasn’t right. The voice. Oh God. She knew the voice.
“Get down on your knees,” Erwin ordered her.
Instead of dropping to her knees, Liz turned and saw exactly who she had suspected.
“Lizzie?” Erwin asked in total disbelief. He lowered his gun.
“Oh my God.” Liz crossed herself. “Sweet baby Jesus and Mary Mother of Santa. It is you.” Her face whitened and nausea overwhelmed her.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Erwin asked, scratching his head and pulling at his cheeks in confusion. Why was Liz McAubrey here in Bramblebay Castle? Just what the fuck was going on?
Liz looked at the despicable man before her, a vile scab of a man. A man she had once hoped that she would never have to see again. She held her head high in an incredibly profound manner, and then spoke in a gifted way that was quite extraordinary. “What am I doing here? I suppose I should ask you the same thing, Daddy.”
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