“What have we got Sarge?” asked Captain McTaggart, smearing another coffee stain across his white shirt “…damn, the missus’ll ‘ave me for that”.
“An old case to be re-opened…” explained McDonald, to McTaggart’s puzzlement.
“…young local lass in possession of a special length of tartan”
“What !, you made me spill my coffee for a piece of cloth?” spat the Captain.
“Only it’s more than that Captain…” continued the anxious Sargeant “…a young lass from up Edinburgh way is still in possession of the Pride of Scotland”
“Keep your bloody voice down McDonald…” scolded the Captain.
“This is one of the greatest humiliations in the history of Scotland – a government just losing a national treasure. Nobody talks about this if they want to keep their job, or their passport…” continued McTaggart, all the while scanning the surroundings.
“You better have a damn good reason to re-open this case, or I’ll be facing World War Three”
“From the Inspector?” asked McDonald furtively.
“No, from the missus” retorted McTaggart, making a final futile dab at the coffee stain.
“So, why are we re-opening the case Sarge?”
“The girl, Captain, she’s reappeared”
The now increasingly nervous McDonald threw a copy of The Borneo Bulletin across the table.
“Borneo what?, are we chasing orangutans or something?”
“No Sir, look”
The Captain scoured the paper and the photo while McDonald explained.
“Years ago this Frau Braun walked into a local shop in Edinburgh, looking frantic and asking for tartan”
“Do we know why?” asked the normally scunnered Captain, who was now displaying small signs of curiosity.
“Well, according to the interview by the local lads with the shop keeper, this Frau Braun was on the phone as she walked in and said something like…”
McDonald flicked back threw the notes.
“…I completely forgot about dress up today, what am I going to do?” and then said something like
“…well I’ll just grab a bit of tartan and throw it on”.
“Apparently our Frau Braun was in such a hurry that the shop keeper got flustered and sold her the Pride of Scotland, which was only supposed to be on display as a family heirloom. She must have distracted her with her haggling”.
“Yes Captain, she didn’t want to pay five pounds, she ended up getting it for two”
For a moment, the Captain could do nothing more than bury his head in his hands, before chuckling;
“Two pounds, that’s cheeky. But McDonald, explain to me how we get from this to a chase spanning three continents”
“After she took possession of the tartan, she fled to the US and later Germany, where she went under the alias Frau Braun” added Mcdonald
“Well, did we call our friends from the CIA and Interpol?”
“Sir, they’ve been looking but no one could find her. I tell you, this girl is smart”.
“So she’s reappeared you say Sarge?”
“Ai Sir, look at the caption, Lorna Brown, of TBS Brunei, winning a computer in some bank competition. It has to be her sir, same name, right age…”
“Right lads…”, he yelled to his officers through the door of his office, …”we’re off to the stinkin jungle”.
“We’re chasing Frau Braun”.
Frau Braun walked out the door, completing her mental checklist “…helmet, keys, shoes… lock door, remove keys…” as she wiped the sleep from her eyes.
She carried the bike to the road, reminding herself to one day clean the mud from the stairs – one day.
As she rolled off on her way to school, she caught something from the corner of her eye.
“It’s nothing”, she reassured herself, blaming the vision on her semi woken state.
The breeze against her face quickly woke her as she swerved her way through the jungle, popping over small jumps and remembering to wave to the military guards, for whom the highlight of the day was catching a glimpse of the beauty on a bike.
Frau Braun and her students were soon well into their international dress up day, Frau Braun sporting her customary tartan sash which had saved her on so many previous dress-up days.
Her students dove into their play-do activity, creating something from their home country.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.
“That’s strange….” thought Frau Braun, “…I didn’t know we were having visitors today”.
“Miss Brown, a word please” said one of the men filling the door frame.
“Sorry, but who are you? Can’t you see I’m in the middle of something”.
“This won’t take long ma’am” said the other man, directing her out of the room with an air of practiced authority.
“Who are these men?” asked an inquisitive student.
“It’s OK, go back to your play-do” reassured Frau Braun
“I think they’re bad men” said the student before returning to her masterpiece.
Frau Braun was starting to feel the same way, before the two men revealed their identity.
“Detective McWilliams and Detective McGregor from Scotland Yard, this way please ma’am”
“Why?” asked the increasingly agitated teacher.
“For being in possession of one of your country’s national treasures” stated McWilliams, without even a hint of sarcasm.
Both men directed their gaze at the tartan.
Just as Frau Braun was about to accede, one of her students chimed;
“Are you taking Miss Brown?”
“No, don’t take Miss Brown!” yelled another student, “…we love Miss Brown”
And with that, collective realization swept across the students and within seconds a barrage of Play-do rained down on McWilliams and McGregor.
Under the cover of Play-do, other students rushed at the officers and zeroed in on the shins, kicking them until blood seeped through their standard issue detective trousers. Yet more students arrived, wielding paintbrushes and sharpened pencils, which were plunged into the flesh of the officers who, now pleading for mercy, fled the classroom in agony.
As the students returned to their artwork, the officers retreated to safety and deconstructed the battle.
“Did we just get beaten up by five year olds” gasped McWilliams in disbelief.
“She trained them well I tell ya…” replied McGregor “…whatever you do, don’t tell the Captain. I’m calling for backup”.
McWilliams and McGregor relayed a slightly distorted version of events to McAndrews, McAdams and McAllan, who then decided to follow Frau Brown on her way home through the jungle.
Frau Braun set off on the ride home with a genuine sense of trepidation after the morning’s excitement, but instead of cowering and seeking a lift home, she pointed the wheels of her trusty mountain bike towards the jungle. After only a few moments, though, she could sense something behind her and she had reason to be afraid; McAndrews, McAdams and McAllan were bearing down on her.
She dropped gears and sped off, determined to outrun the law and remain free.
The three men were getting closer every second.
“Give up Lorna…” screamed McAndrews “…you’ve nowhere to run lassie”.
At that moment, Frau Braun spotted a fork in the path and took the track down to the right. One hundred metres later, she was charging towards a small lump of dirt which sent her flying through the air.
“Woooooo” she yelled with glee.
“Aaaaargh” came the cry behind her as McAdams crashed in a mangle of dirt, metal and pain.
“One down” she thought, but the joy was short lived. McAndrews was getting closer. Up ahead, Frau Braun spotted a sharp bend. Crowding the hair pin from the view of her pursuer, she flicked her rear wheel out in a big skid, and in doing so flung the cop off the track head first into a tree.
That was the end of his chase.
If Frau Braun had looked around, however, she’d have noticed that McAllan was much fitter than his colleagues and was hardly sweating. He was patiently gaining on the kindergarten teacher with every stroke of the pedal.
Now Frau Braun was panicking. She thought she was gone. She’d be charged with international espionage, all for a piece of cloth.
“Give it up, it’s all over” yelled McAllan with satisfaction, dreaming of promotion.
But at that very moment Frau Braun spotted the guard post and even at full speed managed a nod of the head. This time she also gave a wink and a flick of her head towards McAllan.
The guard understood instantly and bot a second later a shot rang through the air, and a sharp piercing sound preceded a pop and a hiss, then another with the same result. The besotted guard had punctured both of McAllan’s tyres and sent him sprawling into the jungle.
Another lucky escape for Frau Braun, who thanked her trusty mountain bike as she carried it upstairs to her flat, adding to the trail of dirt on the staircase.
“One day” she said.
“What!!!” bellowed Captain McTaggart down the phone, “I dunnae understand how highly trained officers can be beaten off by a primary school teacher. First McWilliams and McGregor, and now McAndrews, McAdams and McAllan…”
“I told you girl, this girl is something special” cowered McDonald, grateful for the distance that separated him from the Captain.
“Well, who are you going to send after her this time?” demanded McTaggart.
“McNaulghty and McVake sir”
“McVake, but he’s still a rookie isn’t he?” replied the exasperated Captain.
“Ai sir, but we’re running out of manpower, and McNaulghty is one of our best”
“Fine, but don’t stuff up this time or I’ll come over personally and finish the lot o yez meself”
McNaulghty and McVake turned off the highway to the Empire Hotel and Country Club. Their intel had told them that Frau Braun would be at the driving range at dusk practicing her golf swing. McNaulghty assured the anxious young rookie that the bushes on either side of the driving range would afford them ample cover from which to carry out surveillance.
The officers took up a position in the bushes about 20 metres along the driving range. Soon, the target arrived and set about arranging her practice session.
‘Thwack, thwack, thwack’ three shots flew straight and high and landed 100 metres from the tee, eliciting a grin of satisfaction from Frau Braun.
The next few shots were not so successful however. One didn’t make it off the mat, another was seen to actually travel backwards and the third dribbled tiredly onto the grass less than a metre from the tee.
At that moment, McNaulghty peeked above the bushes to get a closer look and prepare for the ambush, but just as his head emerged from cover, a wayward ball left Frau Braun’s driver and slammed straight into the detective’s temple, knocking him cold in an instant.
McVake panicked. The rookie was alone. He didn’t know what to do. He only knew that with Frau Braun wielding a club, his safety was not assured. Thus, no sooner had Frau Braun reached the apex of her next backswing than McVake went scampering through the bushes, tripping, cursing and stumbling until he reached the safety of the car.
He was still in trouble though. Dare he approach Frau Braun alone? Sure, he had been trained, but had he been prepared for a club wielding kindergarten teacher? And what about McNaulghty, he could feel the feel the wrath of his superiors if he returned without one of their prized agents, all while Frau Braun was still on the loose.
He took cover behind his car, angling the mirror to get a fuller view of the car park. Soon enough, he caught Frau Braun emerging from the driving range. She popped the clubs into the back of her car, checked her phone, then took off.
McVake waited until darkness before he returned to the vantage point. There he found McNaulghty, battered, bruised and dehydrated, but still lucid enough to walk.
They sped off back to base and were not the first officers to relay a slightly distorted view of events to their colleagues.
The chase for Frau Braun continued.
“Listen very carefully. The Captain is scunnered, more than scunnered, he’s crabbit and if we dunnae catch this lass, we’ll all be looking for new careers very soon” shouted the normally reserved McDonald, channeling some of the pure anger to which he had been subjected by the Captain.
“But Sarge, can’t you see, there’s something about this girl. Everybody loves her – her students, her colleagues, even some random guard in the middle of the jungle…” protested McAllan.
“Oh aye Sarge…”, chimed in McVake, “…she’s smart, and fast, and fit. We’re running out of options”.
“Not entirely. We can get her tonight at the Hash House Harriers”, replied McDonald, reverting to his role as calm, calculated strategist.
“The what?” piped up McVake and a number of colleagues.
“I’ve heard about this Sarge” said McEwan, who had been flown in with a crack team of detectives for this very assignment.
“It’s basically a bunch of people running around the jungle looking for pieces of paper and screaming ‘On On!’ all the time”.
“Sounds mental” said McAdams
“Sounds like they’re all half crazy” offered McWilliams, with more than a hint of fear in his voice.
“Agreed” responded McDonald, attempting to bring the conversation back to strategy.
“That’s why we need to be extra careful. We’ve already seen what this girl can do to us in the jungle…” as three of his officers lowered their heads “…and it won’t be any easier with a group of lunatics surrounding her”.
“I bet they all love her too” groaned McInnes, to general consensus.
Frau Braun had planned to go the hash that night. Sure, the strain of the chase was telling on her, but she was made in Scotland, and she knew that the hash would help her relax.
‘It’s got everything I like’ she reminded herself, ‘exercise, good food, good people, socializing…’
Meanwhile, McDonald summoned his troops for a pep talk.
“Don not, whatever, you do, do not stuff this up” he demanded
“Now, McWilliams, McGregor, McAndrews, McAdams and McAllan will man radios” he stated, indicating the bandaged and bedraggled officers to his left.
“What about McNaulghty” asked McWilliams.
“He still doesn’t know where he is”
“…group two will be McLeod, McBride and McEwan from Special Forces, you guys will run the hash and remember, you’re undercover so you have to look like hashers”.
“Got it Sarge”, they replied in unison.
“McGrady, McNally and McInnes, you hide out in the jungle in position 1. At points 2 and 3 we’ll have McDaniel, McLean, McFadden then McAuley, McIntyre and McCaw”
“Without McKee?” asked McCaw.
“McKee is with McLaughlin, McDowell and McCullogh…” replied McDonald “… providing back-up and coms to McLeod, McBride and McEwan”.
“Where’s McInnes?” asked McVake
“With McGrady and McNally, McVake” explained McDonald.
“But McBride always works with McLaughlin and McLelland”, said McLeod “…not with McEwan”
“I need McBride with McEwan and McLeod and McInnes with McGrady and McNally, not with McLaughlin and McLelland. That means McCracken, Mclelland and McCray are sweepers, to liaise with McLeod, McGrady, McDaniel, McAuley and McDowell.”
A selection of Scotland’s finest detectives took up their positions; charged with fear and patriotism, and awaited the arrival of their target.
She stepped out of the car and was immediately surrounded by friends, smiles and greetings.
“Told you she was popular” said McLeod.
McLeod, McBride and McEwan did their best to negate their novice status despite the sparkling new coolmax shirts and trainers.
Soon enough, a horn blasted and the group set off into the jungle. Frau Braun managed to relax with each deep breath as the course took her up a steep hill. She was soon sweating and smelling like the rest of the hashers, including the detectives whose brand new strides had lost most of their sparkle.
Frau Braun soon passed McGrady, McNally and McInnes. McGrady stepped out onto the trail but before he could apprehend her, she and her companions darted off in every direction direction, to the cries of
“checking” and “paper”!
He’d lost her.
McNally eventually spotted her and signaled to McInnes, who set off in pursuit. McInnes crept through the jungle as McNally relayed instructions through the ear piece. In their sights was Frau Braun, whose apprehension would send them straight to the upper echelons of Scotland Yard. What’s more, the Pride of Scotland would return to its rightful place and they would return to a hero’s welcome.
McNally and McInnes inched closer, they were but a few feet away and were closing in – one step, two steps, three steps…
“Got you las…”
But before McNally could finish his sentence his ears rand from the blast of a horn and he and his colleague stumbled into the creek below clutching at their ears.
“On, On!!!” yelled the same lunatic with the horn.
Frau Braun had escaped yet again.
“McWillams, McGregor, McAndrews!, situation report” demanded McDonald.
Frau Braun was feeling better with each step and was still oblivious of the efforts to capture her, concentrating instead on putting one foot in front of the other and keeping the sweat out of her eyes. Tired, bloodied and muddy, she began to feel a second wind.
Meanwhile, McDaniel, McLean and McFadden had gleaned from the sound of groaning and splashing coming through the ear piece that the plucky kindergarten teacher was still at large. They deduced that the hashers would exit the jungle the same way they had entered and that this was the best place to apprehend her.
They nestled in among the mud, spiky grass and insects within view of the exit.
The trap was set. Frau Braun had surely lost. The game was over.
From their prime vantage point, they watched the fastest of the hashers filing through. First, there were few, than groups of three or more.
“Look at the yellow head band on that guy…” gapsed McCaw “…that’s horrid”.
“Focus McCaw, we’ve got her this time”.
But they hadn’t.
Every runner had passed, even the lunatic with the horn.
But no Frau Braun.
Confused, tired, sweaty, angry, frustrated and covered in mosquito bites, the detectives stared at each other upon reuniting.
“But how?” they intimated simultaneously, until a minute later, McLean said
“…she couldn’t have” continued McFadden.
“No…not another lap, she’s not superwoman” But as soon as the words left McFadden’s lips, every detective knew it was true.
She was superwoman and she had gone for another lap. With that, they trudged off into the jungle – yet again.
McLeod, McBride and McEwan shuffled sheepily back to headquarters.
“What happened to you lot?” asked McDonald, staring in disbelief at his three star officers. McLeod’s shirt was ripped, McBride’s left cheek was bright red. McEwan was hiding behind his comrades.
“We found the Scottish woman like you said Sarge, but when we asked he about the Pride of Scotland, she yelled something like ‘I don’t know nothing about no Pride of Scotland you idiot!’ and slapped me across the face” explained McBride.
“And what happened to you?” McDonald asked McEwan, who simply turned the other cheek.
“Bloody Hell. What’s your excuse McLeod?”.
“The Scoittish woman, she started to take my shirt off, then just ripped it”.
“Wait…” called McDonald “…is this the woman, indicating the photo from the Borneo Bulletin.
“Oh no, she was much older than that” replied McEwan.
“You’ve got the wrong bloody Scot. This is a right disaster. Go and get yourself cleaned up lads, and while you’re there, try to think of some way to stop failing”.
The three officers trudged off, heads down.
“And why are your shorts all wet?” asked McDonald.
“They made us sit on ice Sarge. Said something about not signing our names in. Then they called us Mc’s on Ice and guys in crazy shirts started doing pantomime around us…”
“Go, just get out of here” sighed McDonald.
“How do we know which flat is hers?” asked McVake.
“Just follow the trail of mud” assured McDonald.
Frau Braun ignored the tiredness and dragged herself out of bed, feeling slightly older than 18 this morning. Last night’s hash and the excitement of the previous week had caught up with her. She ignored the constant beep of her phone and the invitations for a run, a coffee, brunch… stopping only to tap out a distinct declaration of her current state of being;
“feel pants…”, neglecting even to accompany the message with a little green martian.
She shuffled into the kitchen and stumbled around for a coffee pot and a glass of water. As she raised the glass she glimpsed a shape out of the corner of her eye, but ignored it immediately, preventing her imagination from getting the better of her and blaming the apparition on last night’s exertions.
The aroma of freshly brewing coffee announced Frau Braun’s presence to the two detectives, and reminded the Sargeant of how little he’d slept since McTaggart packed him off to the jungle with the promise of an easy case.
“Arrive, solve, take a holiday, play some golf, go diving… heck- do nothing if you want…” McTaggart had said, attempting to ply compliance from the officer who’d served him so well from Bannockburn to Belfast.
“It will all be over soon” he promised himself as much as McVake
The pair climbed the stairs cautiously, wary of a woman had foiled their best officers again and again, seemingly without effort. Once they reached the flat, they allowed each other a smile and thanked their luck; Frau Braun had left the keys in the door. Finally the indefatigable Frau Braun had cracked.
McDonald led the rookie into the apartment as their target dragged herself out of the kitchen, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. When she opened them, she saw the two exhausted detectives in her living room.
‘Do I run? But where? Are they going to shoot me, arrest me???….
“Where is the tartan Lorna?”
Without coffee, she couldn’t tell if this came from McDonald or her own muddled thoughts.
“Where is the Pride of Scotland?” he insisted, leaving Frau Braun sure of its origin this time.
From the look on Frau Braun’s face and the general state of disorder in the apartment, McDonald believed her claim of ignorance. He also knew now that this woman was not a criminal mastermind, just a girl with a knack, an impressive knack, for survival. In an almost apologetic tone, he informed the bemused teacher that McVake would conduct the interview while he searched for the tartan.
The rookie reached into the pocket of his cargo pants which had replaced the detective suit and revealed a sorry collection of mosquito bites and scratches. He withdrew his pen and notebook with the fluidity and ease of the heroic cowboys he’d grown up idolising during his childhood.
Now he would be the hero. The rookie would triumph and apprehend the subject who had eluded the clutches of detectives with years of service, medals of honour, interrogation methods bearing their names at the academy, where he had been taught to extract the necessary information; Start simple, earn trust, command the conversation, extract information.. he reminded himself before directing his gaze towards Frau Braun, who had slumped with resignation into the couch. She still hadn’t even had a coffee.
“Miss Brown” opened McVake, whose authority was surprisingly convincing.
“Hi” she exhaled, forcing herself to smile – he’s only doing his job after all.
“Miss Frown…, um, err, Lebanese, first down…” First down, he didn’t even like American Football. He pulled himself together and tried again.
“Lowenbrau… Belize, fan um, aaaah, ahem, ahem, lwn, brawn, loose sand, brains and brawn…” One word from Frau Braun and the rookie detective was no longer in an apartment in Brunei. He was back at St Andrew’s middle school, standing opposite Catriona McIntosh, stammering and stuttering in a feeble attempt to ask her to the end of year dance. The speech he’d rehearsed so many times replaced by a stream of gibberish gushing from a dry mouth, in time with the rhythm of his pounding heart, his red cheeks glowing under the fluorescent lights in the school corridor. The cruch on Catriona was now but a crushed dream.
Now, he was 15 years old again, without the braces and acne but with the same outcome. Eventually his weak knees somehow carried him from the scene – another object of beauty had reduced him to rubble.
“What was that???” gasped the dumbfounded Miss Brown, who sprang from the couch in defiance of her lethargy, and sought the solace of coffee.
“Two cups, definitely, or more…” as she emptied the coffee into the mug.
McDonald returned to the lounge room to see a slightly more coherent Frau Braun, who was grateful for the first few hits of caffeine, which had ignited a sufficient number of synapses to register the fact that McDonald was clutching a length of tartan.
Soon, their eyes met. Simultaneously, they exclaimed;
“Dunnae fuss yeself” and they smiled a smile of relief.
“You can have the tartan” offered Frau Braun.
“And you can have your freedom” accepted McDonald.
A relieved Frau Braun was awakening with every passing moment, and noticed the dark rings under the eyes of the Sargeant and decided he was in need of a good feed. A few minutes later she emerged from the kitchen with a meal.
“Looks interesting, what do you call it?” asked McDonald, whose hunger over-rid his caution on this occasion.
“Apology on a plate..” she muttered to herself, before placating McDonald with “…what was in the fridge”.
Neither cared and conversation stalled as two tired, hungry people tucked into the meal. Halfway through the meal, McDonald’s senses awoke sufficiently to detect a strange taste and an odd texture to the as yet indecipherable ingredients lumped on his plate. His British politeness suppressed his detective’s inquisitiveness and he refrained from pressing his host on the exact composition of his breakfast, instead he led with;
“Do you like cooking?”
“Not really” confirmed his host.
McDonald reclined in his chair and promised himself he would follow McTaggart’s advice and head down to the Empire Hotel for a nice meal.
He thanked Lorna for breakfast, congratulated her for being a formidable opponent and excused himself, promising to ensure she wasn’t bothered by the law in the future. It was, after all, an honest mistake and the chase had always been about the Pride of Scotland, which he now held firmly in his grasp.
As he stood up to leave, he remembered his British upbringing and carried his mug and plate to the sink, where he began rinsing them and searching for the scouring pad.
“No, don’t worry, I can do that…” Lorna interjected, but McDonald had already sent the remnants of the meal gurgling down the sink.
Instead, Lorna decided to make another attempt on the frying pan which was firmly glued to the stove with errant egg white and yoke. Summoning up whatever energy she could find, she pulled at the stubborn pan. It still wouldn’t budge so he tried twisting. At that moment, McDonald stepped towards her in a display of chivalry- but just as he moved within a step of Lorna…
The pan came free and flew straight into the forehead of the unsuspecting detective.
“Oh, I’m so sorry” insisted Lorna.
But McDonald did not heed the apology or the offers of help or an ambulance or an ice pack, he simply grabbed a tea towel, pressed it against the wound and staggered from the flat. Lorna saw him stumble down the stairs groaning and muttering and cursing his luck before a red faced and bewildered McVake appeared from somewhere and carried his Sargeant away.
Lorna reached the bottom of the stairs only to see a SUV speed out of the complex.
She turned to go back to her flat when out of the corner of her eye, she saw something fly from the back of the SUV and flutter onto the road.
A length of red tartan.
“Good, I’ll need that!”