Larry Kwesi halted halfway across the bridge and uncovered his mouth to speak.

This George Forth, is he sole owner this bridge? He squinted through the haar at the castle and its rock. And who is owning all that?

Walt now realised that any commonsense answer he could give to these questions would be met with a snort and a shake of the head. There was obviously more to this tourist guiding business than he had imagined.

Larry had shown little interest in the composition of the Mound  or the Scott Monument or Princes’ Street Gardens. He had wanted more information about James Third but Walt knew nothing about the period beyond the dam built in 1460, probably immediately under where they were presently standing, to form a kind of moat for the castle. A moat and a cesspool, drained in 1759, exposing the remains of three hundred years of dumping, both household and digestive.

Walt had been particularly stung by Larry’s unenthusiastic response to a highly dramatic rendering of a favourite scene of his from Scottish history, being lost in the cheers of the rabble on the northern bank as a frumpish Edinburgh witch went down for the third and final time under the shitwater, when Larry asked that totally incomprehensible question about the origins of evil.


Dear Fingal Walton,

My eteemed friend and partner. How are you? I am hoping fine. It is so nice and wonderful to hear from you by email today.

You must be taking no concern about this business. All is gone around like the clockwork. The Two Million Eight Hundred Thousand United States Dollars (US$2,800,000.00) funds of which I am now in grip of will shortly be transferring out of Sundry Escrow into your bank account. This is bank to bank transfer totally without hitch, and will be taking only 48 hours to transfer this money. Your information has now been entered as sole beneficiary to the fund but in order to conclude the necessary legal rigmarole for set up of our new Company at Nigeria Companies House we are requiring two copies of your Birth Certificate and Passport and Social Security number as well as a Bearer Check with your signature for Five Hundred and Twenty Two United States Dollars and Twenty five Cents (US$522.25) But maybe you would choose to come out to Abuja for doing this in person. Abuja is at its very best in this season and as I have some days leave I can show you all about.

I have no reservations and am trusting you absolutely as my foreign partner to transfer this money to your bank but you must realise my position here is somewhat difficult because of the auditor visit in the next week and things will have to be done most rapidly and on the hop. If you decide to come over to my country I will be there for greeting you at the international airport and guide you personally through the customs.

Yours truly,

Larry Kwesi Frimpong


Nothing like a swift stroll along Portobello Prom to clear the head. Particularly bracing in the winter months. Tide well out. No sign of this rising sea level business so far. Walt looked back at the Mondeo parked opposite the church halfway up Bellfield Street and just behind a rusty skip. No problem remembering this location. Swimming baths, church, rusty skip. Perfect piece of piss. He pulled at the zip of his jacket for a few moments then set off in the direction of the Dog and Cat Home.

What’s this unbelievably hideous white confection where Grannie’s Attic used to be? And that pub on the other corner, what was that called? Something nautical? Certainly not the e-Spy. Transformed into some sort of ludicrous internet cafe now, is it? Walls lined with live CCTV piped in from neighbouring shops and street corners? Crystal clear images of vulnerable old people queuing in the Post Office for their pension or outside the bank waiting their turn for furtive interaction with a hole in the wall?


“Your real name,” and here she had leaned forward, managing for a moment to meet his eyes, her gin-sweet breath almost undoing him, “is undoubtedly Schrumpfenschwindel.”

Walt realised that the game, for this evening at least, was over.

A curious, unforeseen resentment towards the young, beautiful rah-girls who had taken to boisterous invasion of his and Rambo’s space in The Cumberland crystallised on the short walk back to the flat, where he checked his emails and chewed on the dried carcass of that morning’s steak bake.

“Rumpelstilzchen,” he reflected, would have been infinitely preferable. Infinitely. Whatever she might be getting at with her Schrumpfenschwindel, the abandoned dominions now known as Shrivel and Swindle were not places he particularly wished to visit at ten o’clock on a wet December night.


Little Rattlestilt certainly possessed dwarfish magic but had very probably been rattling around the miller’s beautiful adolescent daughter for some time before her incarceration in that roomful of straw.

Walt re-assured himself that he had absolutely no interest in rattling anywhere near adolescent females. The beautiful, presumptuous, unattainable rah-girls now, that was a very different matter. He brooded for a moment on the archetypes which emerge from the under-dark to possess us. The beautiful rah-girl overwhelmed by the miller’s daughter archetype and locked in a strawfilled room in the king’s palace. What is she hoping for in the Cumberland on a wet winter’s night? Someone to work a little magic for her? Take a roomful of straw and spin it into gold?

Walt could spin the golden hour. But not necessarily always one appreciated by his female companions. And how did she see him? A hunched unshaven goatlike entity hopping restlessly from foot to foot, his hooded eyes aglint? What is it worth for me to spin a golden hour and save your life?

There was only one anima figure in the Rumpelstilzchen story. The animus figures: the boastful fantasist miller father, the grasping king-husband, Rumpelstilzchen himself and the evesdropper who ingratiates himself with the queen; Walt knew that he was all of these. But he failed to recognise the beautiful girl trapped in a father’s lie and sobbing among the straw.


Walt stood in the hall outside the second understairs cupboard while the energy-saving lightbulb struggled gamely with primordial dark. First to emerge was that notice about the brandy balloons by Dartington. There were no Dartington brandy balloons. Walt had absolutely no recollection of ever having seen the brandy balloons so indicated. His parents had not in his experience been drinkers of brandy. Strange, the flotsam and jetsam that found its way under these stairs. Now what was it he was looking for? Walt scrutinised the shelves and floor for something remotely linkable to the events of the morning. A small, mustard coloured tin caught his eye. Tiny brass screws. Was it a tiny screw he was after? That rang a distant bell somewhere. But not from the most recent past. Yes, these bulbs were certainly excellent for the energy-saving: by the time they illuminated a cupboard you would inevitably have forgotten whatever it was you were looking for. Walt took down one of the carvings his father had collected in their time in South Africa and felt its weight. Sinister looking chap. These rusty nails hammered into his head and chest did nothing to diminish his malign potential. Might be worth a few quid, though. His father had brought back some quite bizarre things. Walt recalled that collection of grey knobbly objects in a little leather bag they had found in the office safe after his mother’s death and which his sister had insisted they bury without delay in the back garden at Dick Place.