Chapter 1 - The Four Paw Problem by A.J. Hall
“Mrs Hudson”, was John’s first thought on finding a large black cat curled up in his armchair on his return home from the clinic.
It was not that he suspected his landlady of being a secret Animaga, even though his definitions of ‘normal’ ‘peculiar’ and ‘downright bizarre’ had become a great deal more flexible since moving into 221B Baker Street. She had, though, recently been making pointed remarks to the effect that Sherlock’s habits “encouraged mice.” John, frankly, thought that was setting the bar rather low; in his own estimation Sherlock’s attitude to health and safety as applied to living accommodation seemed more calculated to provoke rat infestations of Hamelinesque proportions, bubonic plague and the zombie apocalypse.
Still, if neither he nor Mrs Hudson had had any success tackling the cause, it made sense for her to have taken steps to remove the symptoms.
He wished she’d asked him first, though. Fond as he was of cats, he couldn’t help feeling the niche in the Baker Street ecosystem for a predatory, self-absorbed, semi-nocturnal creature who classified every living being in its vicinity as ‘prey’, ‘minion’ or ‘total irrelevance’ had already been filled.
Also, if the RSPCA saw the flat, they might have words.
He wandered through into the kitchen, made himself a cup of tea, and wandered back into the living room. QI was just starting (there had been a particularly nasty batch of new NHS paperwork to complete after ordinary clinic hours, and then he and Sarah had decided to nip to the pub for a swift one, to wash the taste of it out of their mouths). With Sherlock out of the way, it was a golden opportunity to watch without the otherwise inevitable running commentary.
“Sorry, puss, but you’ll have to shift,” he said, scooping the cat up into his arms, preparatory to dumping it on the sofa.
“Being a bit familiar, aren’t you? Especially since we haven’t been introduced,” it said.
It is extremely difficult to drop a cat which has no intention of being dropped. Nevertheless, in his instinctive recoil, John almost managed it. It wriggled, digging its claws into his jumper like crampons, and then sprang out of his arms and onto the floor, where it sat down on the hearthrug and began to wash itself. Its pointed manner suggested it was bent on removing any taint of John which might linger on its fur. John, who knew more than he wanted to about the hearth-rug’s recent history, felt the creature didn’t have its priorities straight.
Sherlock’s maxim – when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth – was, as John had remarked before, functionally useless where you had several possible solutions, all of equal improbability, or where you were confronted with an arrant impossibility – viz. a talking cat – which impertinently refused to be eliminated.
Ventriloquism or concealed microphones were right out. He’d been holding the animal when it spoke. Its lips had moved, its chest vibrated. Anyway, he could tell simply from looking at it that the only reason it had not said anything further was that it’d already dismissed him as a conversationalist.
“So,” he began awkwardly, “you’re, ah, a cat –“
The door opened. Sherlock, his hair damp, wearing his usual navy-blue silk pyjamas and a new ivory satin dressing gown with a peacock-feather pattern, entered the living room, exuding an aroma of sandalwood bath-oil. The cat stalked over to him and began rubbing itself against his silk-clad legs.
“You were quite right,” it said. “He does have a remarkable talent for stating the blindingly obvious.”
John’s jaw dropped. “Sherlock! You’ve been slagging me off behind my back. To a cat.”
Sherlock sounded faintly defensive. “Tobermory’s no ordinary cat.”
“No shit,” John muttered. Then – “Tobermory? They named it after a womble?”
“A womble?” Sherlock looked puzzled. John mentally chalked up another entry in his on-going “Popular culture, he has missed it” list.
The cat arched its back, eyes narrowed. “They did not. The Barony of Tobermory is, as it happens, one of Lord Eversley’s minor titles.”
“And? What’s the Foreign Secretary got to do with the price of fish?”
Sherlock cleared his throat. “Until the circumstances which brought him to our door as a client, Tobermory was Lord Eversley’s –”
“Careful,” the cat said.
“Constant companion,” Sherlock concluded.
John made a mental note. Don’t mention the ‘P’ word.
He thought for a moment. “Client.” As the more business-oriented member of the partnership, it occurred to him he ought to ask how Tobermory proposed to pay for their services. Though he supposed anything of a cash-flow nature could be solved by suggesting the animal went on the talk-show circuit and then pocketing a share of the fees.
He took a deep breath. “So – what appears to be the problem?”
“People keep trying to kill me,” the cat said.
“The Puzzle of the Paranoid Pet,” John thought, automatically, breaking his good resolution of thirty seconds ago. Though Sherlock would never allow him to blog about this. Claims to represent talking animals with high-level Cabinet connections would give Lestrade a copper-bottomed excuse to drug-bust the flat for the next decade. At least.
“Ah. Who are your principal suspects?” he enquired, trying to sound efficient.
Sherlock flopped down onto the sofa. Tobermory sprang onto his chest, where he curled up, looking, John thought, unjustifiably smug for an assassination target.
“Don’t ask Tobermory to go over ground we’ve already covered,” Sherlock drawled. “The short answer is the CIA, possibly MI5 – though I’m working on that – and Lord Eversley’s cook.”
“It was only a small jar of caviar,” Tobermory muttered resentfully. “I told her she was making a quite ridiculous fuss. He was only a television presenter and his palate was far too coarse for him actually to tell the difference between Oscietra and Beluga in the first place. She could have given him lumpfish roe and he’d have been none the wiser. After all, he lives in an atmosphere of exhaust fumes and exploding caravans. What’s that going to do to his sense of smell?”
Sherlock stretched out a languid hand to tickle Tobermory’s ears. “Leaving aside the cook, we still have the problem of the naval treaty.”
“I told you. I didn’t hear a word. It was all excruciatingly dull. I was bored out of my senses. When am I going to find someone who’s got the smallest concept of how impossibly dreary I found the entire evening?”
“Somehow, I rather think you’ve come to the right address,” John murmured.
‘Lord Eversley’s seat, Usk Castle, lies, as you will be aware, a relatively short drive from Hay-on-Wye.” Sherlock switched into full-on lecture mode. “Lady Eversley is a well-known patron of the arts, and forms an annual house-party from distinguished individuals who are presenting at the Hay Festival. On this particular occasion a certain former US President -“
“Ah. Pointless circumlocution. You get that habit from Mycroft. ‘A certain former US President’ limits the possible candidates to four individuals out of the six billion inhabitants of this planet.” John had no intention of forgoing his ‘Cat, slagging me off to’ grievance, even if Sherlock chose to ignore it.
“And his wife, the US Secretary of State –”
“Which eliminates the other three at a stroke –”
“Were guests at the Castle.”
“I liked him,” Tobermory observed. “He used to sneak bits of kedgeree to me under the table. You’re very peculiar, humans, you know. If cats had the vote, he’d still be in the White House.”
John and Sherlock looked at him. Tobermory looked back. On balance, John thought, the cat won that round. To a cat, after all, two chunks of smoked haddock and half a hard-boiled curried egg presumably were much more important than the niceties of the US Constitution.
“It was not entirely a social event. I understand there is a vote due to come up in the UN Security Council regarding transit of naval survey vessels from third countries through the North-West Passage. It seems there was a meeting in Lord Eversley’s study between him, the Secretary of State, the Canadian High Commissioner and the Chief of the Defence Staff, the two latter having arrived by helicopter from London after dinner to – iron out certain pre-agreements with respect to that vote.”
He eyed Tobermory narrowly.
“Might have been. I was asleep. The one reliable thing about these high-level, hush-hush meetings with US politicians is that even that tight bastard Lord Eversley can’t avoid putting the heating on in his study. Normally, that family’s motto is Semper Frigidus. Especially Lady Eversley’s.”
The cat stretched, extending his front legs and then his back ones, claws fully out.
“So, I was asleep – at least until some idiot trod on my tail. I still maintain, ‘Kindly keep your Jimmy Choos to yourself’ was a perfectly reasonable, restrained, Parliamentary response. In the circumstances. I didn’t expect the Chief of the Defence Staff to throw a poker at me.”
“I wouldn’t have expected him to be wearing Jimmy Choos, either,” John observed.
Tobermory licked one paw and cleaned his left ear with microscopic attention to detail. “I’ve always thought humans had remarkably limited expectations. And observational skills.”
John thought about that for a moment. “I’m surprised it’s just the CIA and MI5 who are after you.” He got to his feet. “Well, it seems you’re in excellent company. I doubt I can really contribute anything to the discussion. I’m off to read in bed.”
Neither of them paid him any attention as he left the room.
He was awakened out of a dream which was in the process of taking a distinctly pleasurable turn by a solid, furry bundle landing four-footedly on his abdomen.
“Oof,” he protested.
“Sorry,” a remarkably uncontrite voice said out of the darkness, “but I’m fleeing things no rational creature should be expected to face. Tell me, have you seen the state of his bed?”
“No, of course not. Why should I? We’re not – oh, what the hell.” Muzzily, John sat up and switched on the bedside light. Tobermory regarded him from a distance of some nine inches, whiskers and tail-tip twitching, fur fluffed out to twice its normal volume.
His state aroused John’s morbid curiosity. “So - random body parts? Arcane instruments of torture?”
The cat shuddered from nose to tail. “Pray you never find out.” He gave his new surroundings a thorough once-over. “Now, this is much better. Typical Army officer’s private quarters. Anyone can tell at a glance you’re the methodical, virtuous sort.”
“I’m not virtuous,” John said indignantly. The fugitive memory of his interrupted dream prompted him to add, “Not by choice, anyway.”
“Huh! You and me both, mate.” Tobermory burrowed down into the duvet, somewhere in the region of John’s chest. His next words were muffled; John thought he could make out, “…meet that vet, him and me are going to have words.”
Which generated such a comprehensive So not going to go there field that the only thing to do was to switch off the light, pull the duvet over his head, and pretend this whole business wasn’t happening.
He fell asleep to the rhythmic sounds of feline snores. The dream, unfortunately, remained elusive.
Sunlight streamed into the room when he awoke. Sherlock, fully dressed and looking remarkably rested for someone who apparently slept on a couch filled with nameless horrors, leant against the doorjamb.
“Mycroft’s here,” he said brightly.
Tobermory stirred amid the duvet folds. “Mycroft Holmes? I know him. Used to come to Usk Castle quite a bit. Keeps chocolate Hob-Nobs in his socks. His spare socks, you understand, in his bedroom drawer, not the ones on his feet. Do humans do that often?”
Sherlock threw back his head and gave a full-throated laugh of sheer delight.
“Only the ones cheating on a diet supervised by an eagle-eyed PA with dominatrix tendencies, I should think,” John said. “If I were you, I really wouldn’t mention the socks and the Hob-Nobs to Mycroft at this precise moment in time. And, for the avoidance of doubt, that was a plural ‘you’.”
Sherlock looked disappointed; John was less adept at reading feline expressions but he suspected Tobermory shared his emotion. He sat up.
“Well, there’s absolutely no way I’m going to face your brother without a shower and a shave. You’ll have to keep him on the premises till I’m dressed. Offer him a cup of coffee. Normal person coffee. No eyeballs. Tobermory, you stay here with me. There’s every chance that Mycroft Holmes is currently all that is standing between you and a plausible MI5-arranged accident and I’d hate you to put a paw wrong on that front. Or, should I say, jaw?”
In a speaking silence, Sherlock stalked out. Tobermory curled up on the duvet and began to wash, elaborately. John made tracks for the bathroom.
When he entered the living room some time later, Tobermory in his arms, his experience indicated matters between the brothers Holmes were in their usual state of armed truce.
“Do you realise that’s Government property you’re holding?” Mycroft enquired silkily.
John dropped into his armchair, still clutching the cat. “Not anyone’s property. Article Four, European Convention on Human Rights.”
“Ah yes. Quite so. Human rights.”
“I’m sure the relevant authorities can carry out whatever rebranding strikes them as appropriate, once Tobermory’s had a word with them.”
Mycroft looked pained. “You can hardly expect Her Majesty’s Government to take that suggestion lying down.”
“I don’t give a monkey’s whether Her Majesty’s Government chooses to take it lying down, doggy fashion or up against the wall in a back alley. What I’m saying is that if you attempt to claim ownership over Tobermory, you’ll land yourself in a legal nightmare the like of which the world has not yet seen. To say nothing of having every little old lady in the country out for your blood. We’ll make an immediate counter-claim to have Tobermory’s person-hood declared by court order, coupled with an application to fast-track the issue to the European Court in Strasbourg. Which I expect we’ll get, since no UK court will want to touch it with a barge-pole.”
“The Government will fight you every step of the way. And just who do you expect to fund that level of legal representation for a cat?”
John put his head on one side, considering. “Disney, probably.”
Mycroft went silent. Sherlock, on his far side, propped his chin on his hand, looking as if he was working out very complicated maths in his head, very fast. Very complicated irresistibly funny maths. John hoped his sense of humour would be robust enough to cope with what was coming.
“I mean, they’d be looking at the feelgood hit of all time, wouldn’t they?” he persisted. “You can hear the trailer now. ‘In a world – where everyone has to watch their tongues, where nobody dares say what they really think – one cat chooses to stand on its own four paws, alone against the full might of the British Government. Coming soon to a cinema near you – The Doolittle Project. Based on a true story.’”
Mycroft almost choked.
“The Doolittle Project?” Sherlock’s face was all brittle, malicious, amused interest. “Mycroft, elucidate. What is the Doolittle Project?”
“I am,” Tobermory said coldly. “At least, I am now.”
Without warning, he sprang. Mycroft cowered back, hands protecting his eyes. Tobermory ignored him, bounded past, and leapt onto Sherlock’s lap, into which he snuggled with the air of someone it would take a small explosion to shift.
His departure revealed the other thing John had been holding, ever since he entered the room.
“Are you threatening me?” Mycroft demanded, eying John with a commendable attempt at calm.
“I’m pointing a loaded handgun with the safety-catch off from a distance of somewhat under ten feet at what many years of clinical practice and a few courses in theoretical anatomy tells me ought to be your heart,” John said with resolute cheerfulness. “How you choose to interpret that, of course, is entirely a matter for you.”
Mycroft slid his eyes sideways at his brother. “Sherlock, I’m holding you entirely responsible for this. You put him up to it.”
“Mycroft! You flatter me. It’s extremely generous of you to suggest – especially when you have in the past tried and so conspicuously failed to put John up to anything – that my powers of persuasion are so much superior to yours. But, regrettably, no. The cat, perhaps?”
Tobermory rubbed his head affectionately against Sherlock’s chest. A deep, vibrant purr resonated within him. “Certainly not. Entirely his own idea. Once he heard about the Doolittle Project, that is. Then he was up and running. I’ll admit, I encouraged him. Colluded. Egged on to the max. Made valuable suggestions as to matters of detail. Conspired with. All of the above. But put up? Never.”
“Rather dangerous admissions, those, aren’t they?” Mycroft didn’t sound happy.
Tobermory’s purr got deeper. “Not really. After all, to hold me to account for them, you’ll have to hold me capable of criminal responsibility. After which, I’m afraid, your last state would be worse than your first. Because if I’m a person, so were all the others. The ones your Government chose to have slaughtered. Nine of them. Nine lives on your Government’s conscience. And some of them were only kittens.”
Mycroft gulped. He raised his hands. “John, put down the gun. Tobermory, trust me, I never knew about the Doolittle Project until it was over. And if I had –”
“What?” The cat’s tone could have frozen magma.
“I’d have stopped it. And with no deaths, either. Seriously, Tobermory, you can say a lot of things about the Holmes family, with considerable justice in most cases, but stupid emphatically isn’t one of them. If I’d been running a top-secret Government project to enhance animals’ intelligence and teach them to talk, I’d have started with – oh, I don’t know. Elephants, perhaps. Orang-utans. Anything but cats. Cats go everywhere and see everything. That’s probably what gave those drongo-brains in MI6 the idea in the first place. But no-one ever set out to control a cat and succeeded.”
The cat contemplated him, then hopped off Sherlock’s lap, stretched, briefly, and leapt onto Mycroft. He turned to stare coolly back down the barrel of John’s gun.
“I think we can do business with this one.”
John flicked the safety catch on, spun the chambers and dropped the bullets into his palm. His limbs felt extraordinarily heavy. He only hoped Sherlock would forgive him.
On both counts. For having drawn on Mycroft in the first place. And for not pulling the trigger when he had the chance.
“Thank you,” Mycroft said, without discernable irony. “Now, it seems to me that the problem has two parts. I can handle the official end. There is – I can disclose – already considerable inter-departmental friction concerning the – ah – controversial circumstances in which the Doolittle Project came to an end.”
“You mean MI5 are panting for the opportunity to expose MI6 as a bunch of kitten-murdering bastards?” John translated. “And MI6 are telling them that, if they do, they’ll reveal who really shot Rinka, and take MI5 down with them?”
Mycroft inclined his head, slightly. “A crude but essentially accurate statement of the position. Complicated, in this instance, by a communiqué received overnight from the State Department. Which, in addition to a non-specific but profound expression of regret for any collateral damage which may have been suffered to any of Tobermory’s appendages, contains the Secretary of State’s absolute, personal assurance of her confidence in Tobermory’s integrity and discretion.” He scratched the cat thoughtfully under his chin. “I cannot imagine how you got that out of her.”
“Bonded with her husband over kedgeree,” Sherlock said, “No – too simple. Bribed by her husband with kedgeree?”
Tobermory drew himself up, fur bristling. “Certainly not.” He paused. “Bribed by her husband with a box of fancy mice. He just wanted to get rid of the kedgeree.”
“Ah. And as an honest cat, then, she expects you to stay bought,” Sherlock observed.
“My word is my bond.”
“Well, then,” Mycroft said. “Provided I can take back to Whitehall your assurance that you propose to retire quietly into private life – and not try any inconvenient legalistic challenges, though I may try to do what I can behind the scenes to get a committee set up to consider the purely theoretical issue of the rights of non-human sentient beings – I believe I can guarantee your safety. Against official action, that is. Rogue operatives are another question. I suggest your life from now is kept very private. And very well defended.”
“And?” Tobermory looked up into his face, his whiskers twitching. “What’s the second part?”
“You can’t possibly stay here.”
Tobermory licked one of his paws. “It’s kind of you to be so concerned. I thought that myself at first, but now I think provided I stick to John’s bed, like I did last night, I should be fine.”
Mycroft eyed John narrowly. “I don’t know what it is you’ve got, but, personally, I suspect it ought to be listed under the Wassenaar Arrangement.” He turned his attention back to Tobermory. “I didn’t mean this flat’s general squalor.”
“Oy,” John said, feeling this definitely came under the heading of, “Perfectly valid observations that only me (and, at a pinch, Mrs Hudson) are allowed to make.”
Sherlock shook his head. “Much as I hate to admit it, he’s right. Sorry, but I really don’t think it would be ethical for you to live here – where clients consult me about delicate and confidential problems – if they were not aware of your talents. Which would, you have to admit, mean we couldn’t fulfil the ‘very private’ requirement.”
“Also,” John added, in the interests of full disclosure, “people keep trying to kill us all the time for completely unrelated reasons, I’m not sure whether we could manage to put in a cat-flap and do you seriously think he’d remember to buy Whiskas if I were kept late at the clinic?”
Tobermory’s furry brow furrowed. “I admit, it had crossed my mind to wonder how a cat gets fed around here.”
“Erratically, with a high chance of eyeballs,” Mycroft said tartly, looking down into the depths of his empty coffee cup with an indescribable expression. “Anyway, I’d better be getting back. Don’t bother thanking me. Again.”
He was gone.
Tobermory curled up on the rug once more. “Well. That went better than I’d expected.”
Sherlock smiled. “John’s far better at handling Mycroft than I am. He generates a combination of total integrity and lethal force, with which Mycroft simply cannot cope. Mind you, to be fair, Mycroft doesn’t get a lot of practice in combating integrity. Makes sense, I suppose. In his job, it’s usually about as relevant as practising how to defend oneself against surprise attack by unicorns.”
John, shifted, awkwardly under the too-perceptive appreciation in Sherlock’s gaze, feeling his cheeks heat. “I’d better be getting down to the corner shop. Tobermory: what sort of cat food do you prefer? And, I’d better make one thing clear here, this household isn’t in the Oscietra/Beluga bracket. Or even kedgeree. We’re talking a choice between wet/dry, fish, chicken or rabbit here, understood?”
Before Tobermory could answer, the front door-bell rang. Sherlock glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece.
“The new taxi-rank arrangements at Paddington really are a significant improvement over the previous mess.”
Tobermory and John exchanged baffled glances, but before they could say anything they heard the sounds of the street door opening – Mrs Hudson’s terminal nosiness getting the better of her, “I’m not your housekeeper” posturing, John diagnosed – and high heels tapping briskly on the seventeen stairs up to the flat.
An oddly familiar-looking woman, her age anything from a disastrous fifty-five to a very well-preserved seventy, burst into the room.
She made straight for the cat and scooped it up. “Toby! You sneaky little bastard.”
Her long, curly, grey-blonde hair almost enveloped him. She held him up to her laughter-lined face, her hands clasped round his chest, the rest of his body dangling, so they were nose-tip to nose-tip.
“Now, don’t give me that innocent, trout-in-the-milk expression. Toby, you know perfectly well how often I’ve come to Usk Castle and been patronised to Hell and back by fractious Booker-prize wannabes who think that if you write books people want to read you’re doing it wrong. You’ve sat in on all those worthy, pretentious Hay Festival literary get-togethers of Lady Eversley’s. Yet when I’ve been drooping at the dinner-table, absolutely panting for some decent gossip, you never even dropped a hint you could talk. Toby, I call shennaigans.”
“Sorry,” Tobermory said obediently, scrambling out of her grip.
She dropped a large insulated bag to the floor. “Breakfast’s going to be a bit scratch, I’m afraid, but I had to grab what I could from the fridge before the cab arrived to take me to Cheltenham station. The Serrano ham’s jolly nice and, luckily, there’s lots and lots of the smoked salmon. I snaffled the last bit of the cream cheese to go with it but there isn’t much; you’ll have to go easy on it. I’m afraid the bagels aren’t in their first youth but I’m sure toasting will take care of that. The gulls’ eggs were a present from someone and they’re utterly divine, best let me deal with those – Luigi contributed the bresaola – and at least we’ve got these.”
She produced two chilled bottles of Krug from the bag’s recesses.
“Glasses?” she enquired, smiling at John with the air of a woman who expected men (and cats) to fall at her feet. John could see the point. Tobermory was already curled up on the rug muttering, “Smoked salmon! Gulls’ eggs!” ecstatically to himself,
“Glasses,” he agreed. “From the kitchen. Which will be brought by me. And washed, first. No chance of eyeballs whatsoever.”
She winked at him. “Brilliant.”
“So,” he said, somewhat hazily, some time later, “you brought us breakfast. And you’re planning to give Tobermory a home. With you.”
“Well, of course. What else could I do? Poor little thing. I can’t stand people being cruel to animals”
“Yes, but how did you know?”
She gestured, extravagantly, with her champagne flute. “Sherlock rang Clara last night, expecting her to have my number – her firm catered my last three launch parties – which, of course, she did So then Clara rang me and asked me to ring Sherlock, so we had a nice confab and then I caught the first train out of Cheltenham this morning. Sorry I got held up. Points, I’m afraid. Near Didcot.”
“Clara,” John said, clinging onto the one bit in the account he knew something about.
“Yes. Look; don’t get too worried about Clara. I’m sure Birgitte isn’t anything more than Clara’s mid-life crisis, and, even if she isn’t, Harry’s going to settle down with someone wonderful in the end. You can see it from her bones.”
“That’s – um -– good to know. Look, Sherlock did warn you there’s a price on Tobermory’s head, didn’t he? I mean, we seem to have managed to negotiate a truce with the official security services, but Mycroft did say he couldn’t eliminate the chance of MI6 rogue operatives.”
“Fuck the kitten-murdering bastards,” she said energetically. “Good job everyone round our way shoots. I’ll pass the word – there’s a dear old retired colonel in the village who’s got to the stage of writing five page letters in green ink to the Telegraph about secret security service coups. He topped the rankings at Bisley three years running back in the fifties. If I tell him MI6 are after my cat, he’ll make sure no-one gets past him. And it’ll give him a harmless outlet. Right, sorry to dash, but I’ve got to swing by Fortnums for some supplies. Come on, Toby.”
She scooped up the cat, gave them a final, dazzling smile, and vanished.
John looked at Sherlock over the remains of the gulls’ eggs.
“Was that wise?”
“Wise? It was brilliant. Can you imagine the amount of trouble she could cause if any Government assassin did manage to kill Tobermory? Her readers could keep the party that did it out of office for decades.”
“But he’s sitting on every bit of gossip that’s ever passed through Usk Castle in the last five years. And he’s going to tell her all of them. And she’s going to put them in her books.”
“Precisely. And everyone in the know will know it’s all true, and everyone who isn’t will think it’s so far-fetched it has to be made-up. It’ll be Yes, Minister, all over again. Anyway, we can’t waste the day over gulls’ eggs and champagne. The mortuary awaits!”