Have I ever spoken to you of the murder of Shady Slim MacAuley and his adenoidal lover, Barabel? I thought not. Few know of it and perhaps it’s best that way. I only tell it now, not because of the interesting savagery and graphically rumpty-tumpty sex-scenes that litter its sordid story, but because it is a tale we would all do well to heed, heedless of the ironing or neighbor’s ass-coveting or personal-grooming or whatever it is you people do on a Sunday. It’s a tale as old as time itself, the theme is universal and all hearts know it. It is a tale of love. In this case unrequited. Although some requiting did happen behind the chip-shop. A tale then of quite unrequited love. But not wholly. Somewhat. It depends on what you mean by the word “is.”
Actually changed my mind. Not going to tell you that. I know you lot and your hearts couldn’t take the brutality, the violence, the sheer pornographic sex. I’m telling you instead what happened the week before and just around the corner.
FOREWORD: The takes place in the sleepy little hiccup of a town known as Stornoway, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
A woman was dead. Dead as a doornail in the street. That’s all Inspector “Big Ollack” Jamieson knew. The only witnesses to the crime were a staggering seagull with a Monster Munch packet stuck over its head, and the woman in front of him in the interview room now. She was one Mrs. Effie MacLeod of Francis Street, Stornoway, the well-nourished cleaning-lady for the Free Presbyterian manse, known knitter and secret devourer of moor mushrooms and Mills & Boon paperbacks. The Inspector massaged the outer ring of his massive belly with tender affection and leaned back in his dangerously creaking chair. He fixed the woman with a gentle camel-like eye.
“So let’s go over this one more time, Effie.”
Effie adjusted her bosom importantly and told her tale with delighted horror as the Inspector’s mind wandered, trying to picture everything as it had happened…
Effie had been the only passenger in from Tolsta on the bus that grey morning at 5.30. The bus-driver, an habitual drunk, had seen nothing, but Effie though plump was a bird-like, alert woman with nerves more highly-tweaked than a crack-addicted rabbit with a history of near-stew experiences, and she had been peering keenly out of the window as the old bus wheezed through the town. Standing and craning her neck to get a look at the latest mainland biannac fashions in the large windows of Murdo Maclean’s Haberdashery and Sundries, she saw instead something she would never forget til her dying day.
What Effie had seen was a woman, blonde, beautiful and clearly in the full flower of youth, and who was staring right at her like an astonished child as two black-gloved hands from somewhere behind enclosed her slender neck and squeezed the life from her, purpley. Effie screamed but the bus driver didn’t hear her over the radio. Thus it was that the dying woman’s last view on this earth was of a mauve-hatted woman, her eyes perfect rounds of alarm, her mouth a quivering amoeba of horror, cross-hatched with a portcullis of stringy saliva, clinging with her gloves to the bus window like some demented, mute Garfield.
Effie watched her fall, she saw life leave her, and as she fell she saw a face behind, a face she knew very, very well, a face distorted with pale, sweat hate and a face looking right back at her…
How had the dead woman got from the window display to the street? Did it have anything to do with the giant hole in the window and all the glass shattered on the pavement surrounding the body? The inspector mused on these matters, steepling his fat fingers into a sausage-roofed cathedral. Effie twittered on. Then she said a name. The Inspector sat up.
“Yes!” squeaked Effie. “I saw her! It was Dollag-Mary MacLean.”
It wasn’t long before the murdered woman was identified as Bonnie MacNorks, the beautiful, wasp-waisted apprentice haberdasher in Murdo MacLeans. Dollac-Mary was Bonnie’s co-apprentice haberdasher, grand-daughter of Murdo MacLEan himself, certified lunatic and sworn enemy of Bonnie.
Dollac-Mary was not beautiful. Seldom were the words “ a fuschia pear” more aptly descriptive of a nose than of hers, and about her the unmistakable odour of carrots and germolene clung like the mists of the River Styx. A grouser and grimacer, she was close to being fired by her own mother for insolence, insubordination and the documented attempted eye-poisoning of Bonnie by means of doctored mascara. Dollac-Mary had spent a short time on the mainland “resting” after that, but all agreed she was much better now.
But Dollac-Mary was not much better now. In fact, she was feeling a good deal worse. She had heard, as the whole town had, the whispers that Bonnie, and not she, was to be made head haberdasher and that she, poor warty Dollac was to be moved quietly to Sundries at the back of the shop, to be forgotten about. Everybody knew the real power was in haberdashery and if there’s one thing Dollag wanted it was power. If she couldn’t have beauty , she would have power. But now there was even talk of the air-head Bonnie being groomed for management! She couldn’t say anything in case she was sent back to “rest” on the mainland, a despicable place full of strange people and pleasant weather.
Instead, Dollag’s days were spent in silent, carrot-scented seething at sweet-tempered, cooing Bonnie, whose rose-kissed cheeks all of Stornoway loved and petted and whose sweet temper everybody urged her to emulate. Who was this Bonnie to take her rightful place, anyway? It was all wrong! Tourists coming to the island expected the shops all to be kept by hunched rustics preferably with club feet or startling underbites, but at the very least warts. Dollac, stroked the hair on her chin ones with pride. This was what brought money in. Tourists to the Hebrides spent more money out of pity and embarrassment in the face of such quaint genetic misfortune. It was traditional. It was expected.
But MacLeans was losing money from Bonnie. Dollac had seen the books and she knew where the losses were coming from. It wasn’t the recession, like her fool grandpa said. It wasn’t that people were buying more from catalogs now. It was Bonnie. All she ever did was look like Eden’s first flower and dazzle people stupid. Especially the tourist husbands whose less charmed tourist wives then got them out of there quicker than ketchup-covered toes out of a piranha pool, often having not spent a brass farthing in the shop. Deep, deep in the deranged labyrinth of Dollag-Mary’s brain, a plot was forming. A plot with no rhyme nor reason, an insane plot with just one goal. Gentle, beloved Bonnie must die.
Dollag had texted her to come in early that morning for pin-sorting duties. Poor, dumb, beautiful Bonnie had gone, even at the unGodly hour of 5am. A gentle, cow-brained girl, she felt sorry for Dollag and puzzled by the fact that she had tried to poison her through the eyes. Dollag Mary, slipping on a pair of black gentleman’s strolling gloves beneath the counter, had told Bonnie to check the window display for errant pins. Bonnie obligingly floated off. Then, coldly and piggily Dollag came up behind this innocent dream of Nature and murdered her awkwardly. She was a lot smaller than Bonnie and although vicious by nature, she was not a natural assassin. The strangling had already being going on some 20 minutes by the time Effie’s bus came along, Dollac madly pushing and pulling Bonnie’s neck backward and forward like they were two stalks of wheat in a stiff breeze. Or an orchid and a dandelion anyway. It went on a further 7 whole minutes after the bus had passed, but Effie was too busy having the incoherent vapors and reeling round the bus-park in bug-eyed shock to alert the police til nearly a quarter to seven, at which point Bonnie’s beautiful carcass had already been tripped over by Blind Sandy MacKenzie and peed on by Plectrum, his labrador. And then discovered.
Dollag came quietly when the Inspector took her into the station for questioning. She was pale, so they said. Nobody could have predicted what she did next. Nobody could have predicted how she scanned, then lunged into the gathering crowd with a howl of rage and clamped her underbite around poor Effie’s throat. And nobody, nobody could have guessed that over the way, just behind The Gassy Troll – a low sort of hostelry – were two lovers making hot, rumpy-pumpy love. Lovers by the name of Shady Slim MacAuley and Barabel. Oh yes, boys and girls, oh yes. Barabel, the F.P. minister’s daughter who, left motherless by a freak accident when an Chinese missile blew off course right onto where her mother was picking begonias in the manse garden, had been practically brought up by the same woman now being savaged by Dollag-Mary in the street! Barabel who now heard the screams of her surrogate mother, and, with a sudden jerk that left Shady screaming and hopping about clutching himself in an agony he had heretofore never imagined, instinctively ran toward the noise, yanking up her jeggings as she went.
Red-flecked spittle was flying, as she reached the frenzied scene. The crowd was standing back shocked, some on their knees praying to God to let it stop, some taking harmless bets as to the outcome, and the police were both consulting their handbooks to see what the procedure was when a suspect attempted to bite the head off a civilian. Barabel, a quick thinker, ran into MacLeans and grabbed from Sundries the first weapon she could see, a serrated grapefruit spoon on sale.
Displays of buttons and ribbons flew as she barrelled out of the shop and grabbed the hair of the woman who was murdering her dearest Effie. It took a long time for the grapefruit spoon to saw through to Dollag-Mary’s windpipe. The roar of the crowd’s ardent praying was now so great that nobody heard her last gurgles as her windpipe filled with blood and all life for her ceased, as if the water of existence were running down a particularly noisy drain.
Suddenly, springing into action, Inspector “Big Ollack” slammed shut his handbook, stood up straight and prepared himself for the charge. What happened next is still a vexing question of law today. As he stood up to his full enormity, two brass buttons, could not take the strain any longer and pinged from his uniform jacket with two little plinks. Plink. Plink. The crowd later reported it as if it had happened in slow motion as, indeed, it seemed to them it did. One button sailed out high over the crowd and fell smack bang between of the now blood-drenched Barabel’s eyes. Death was instant. The second button turned once in the air and gleamed before flying into the open mouth of a pantless Shady Slim, alarmed by the crowd’s roar and now running to his sweetheart’s rescue. It lodged there in his throat and could not be made to budge until the post-mortem.
The crowd were silent now, staring at the Inspector who gaped and gaped and never again spoke another word in his life. He was arrested a day later by police from the mainland. The charge: police brutality. He died a broken man in the same place on the mainland that Dollag-Mary had been sent to rest. He never could form the words to tell anyone that the woman who had sold him his fateful buttons just the day before was Dollag-Mary MacLean…
Sorry there was no torrid sex or much violence apart from the murders. That’s all coming later, set against the seedy underworld of the thrash-bagpipe music scene on Stornoway’s mean street.