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Of all the people gathered around the cenotaph that day none were more shabbily clothed than our President. Not given to democratic convictions, he had ordered us to show up at the monument in Easington for no other reason than for his inklings there would be a “foreign wench” he had once “known” (the nature of his “knowledge” was unbeknownst to us, potentially a cause of heck of a lot of trouble. We all thought, frankly, that he had seen her on a piece of computer screen, not as a properly painted portrait). It was not only freezing cold, but Johnnie Musgrave, the local trumpeter, had once again confused the Last Post with the Palace of Lust, the theme tune of his favourite porn-film. We watched in disgust as spit started drooling from his horn.

Out of “sympathy” The Celio threw a fistful of tweed he had taken from his brother’s wardrobe onto the pitiful heap of bones our great President now seemed to be reduced to. Moreau started snowing like there was no tomorrow. I for one could not believe we had all turned up, especially since the Secretary had left us destitute (the bastard had not only robbed us of our penny collection, he had also “conversed” with the police. Not that he was in on any of our real secrets (we had none & I am a liar), but the sheer impetuosity and impertinence on his part!). The Treasurer, consequently robbed of his livelihood (he put a lot of time in investing our copperware, it must be said. We commend him for it, although his shouts in the night were getting slightly cruder), had taken to counting empty milk bottles instead (one reason for his shouts was that he knew I would throw bottles at him from my bedroom window, a useless custom in the land I hail from, but infinitely pleasing to his disturbed mind). The Intern, always jocular in his remarks, had given up opening his eyes altogether, although I could swear I had seen him seize up my collection of ale bottles. Perhaps he had finally squared his love for the “game” (he was wont to shooting furry creatures whenever he felt like imitating The Professor) with his thirst for nothingness (a mere hobby of him, he said, but I always recognized that ring of nihilism in his otherwise soothing voice. Maybe he was merely deceiving us with his staunch views on the loose bylaws considering public urination).

The “racaille” that the rest of our great Society consists of was huddling together around a matron of great circumference, who was feeding them minced pies. Moreau openly disapproved of her methods, as he knew as well as we did, that this would invariably lead to our digging their shallow graves. For all we knew, the ground around these quarters could be frozen solid. Never do these underlings give us the light of day; they insist on being numskulls even when being drugged by an old wench. If their death was going to be pointless (as it bloody well ought to be), at least it drew our attention to her shabby outfit. All noticed a strange resemblance to our President’s clothes. Perhaps he had been talking shop after all! Not that he had to prove he had methods of his own devising (we had had the pleasure to see some of his more brutal ideas come to fruition. Our bottoms were still sore after foolishly accepting to rest in his bed a fortnight ago! If we had known he had casually dropped a few nails and some used razorblades in his bed, we would not have had to make amendments to our constitution on this point).

It seemed a positive identification would only be possible when the Celio would have the guts to remove the Presidential tweed and check for scars on his bottom lip (Moreau had suggested as much). The cenotaph loomed. If positive, a match could well end the Society’s benevolent rule. We decided to leave the area at high speed.