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I shrug. "Not telling you; read the article."

"Big wean." He looks around. "Where's your man with the Instamatic and the dodgy model-release forms?"

I nod towards a small speedboat waiting near the entrance to the narrows. "Getting a fish-eye view. What about yours?"

"Two," Iain says. "One here somewhere, the other one sharing a chopper with the Beeb."

We both look into the sky. I count four Navy Sea Kings. Iain and I look at each other.

"Cutting it a bit fine with the helicopter, aren't they?" I ask.

He shrugs. "Probably arguing about who tips the pilot."

We both stare out at the sub again. The protesters" boats are constantly charging in towards the Vanguard, only to be headed off each time by the MOD boats, bulging rubber hulls bumping off each other and then bouncing over the chopping waves. Preceded by the tug, the Trident sub's bulbous nose moves smoothly towards the narrows. Ratings wearing yellow life-jackets stand at ease on the deck of the huge ship, some in front of the tall conning tower, some behind. The people on the spit of land across from us are shouting and jeering. A few might be cheering.

"Give us a shot of your binocs," Iain says.

I hand him the glasses and he squints through them as the Navy tug leading the sub moves slowly through the narrows. Roisterer, says its nameplate.

"How's things at the Caley these days, anyway?" Iain asks.

"Oh, same as usual."

"Wow!" he says, taking his eyes away from the glasses and looking shocked. "Steady now; sure you want to say that? We're still on the record, you know."

"You'll be on the fucking Record, you hack."

"You east-coast boys are just jealous of our computer system because ours works."

"Oh, sure."

We watch the long, grossly phallic shape slide into the narrows, its tall hull obscuring the crowd of people on the spit of land across from us. Little capped heads sticking out of the top of the conning tower look over and down at us. I wave. One of them waves back. I feel a strange, guilty happiness. The helicopters are noisy overhead; the swirling pattern of CND and MOD boats is compressed by the narrows; the inflatables dance and bob around each other, bumping together. It looks a bit like spastics trying to dance an Eightsome Reel, but that isn't an image I'd use in the article.

"Some demo down in London yesterday, eh?" Iain says, handing me back the binoculars.

I nod. Last night I watched television pictures of the drenched crowds as they wound slowly through the London streets, protesting against the mine closures.

"Yeah," I say. I grind the cigarette out on the container's rusting roof. "Six years too late to do any good, people realise Scargill was right."

"Aye, he's still a bumptious cunt, though but."

"Doesn't matter; he was right."

"That's what I said; a right bumptious cunt." Garnet grins at me.

I shake my head and nod at the fisheries boat tailing the small fleet squeezing its way through the narrows. "What do you think; would you say that boat's bringing up the rear, or bringing up the stern? I mean, we are talking nautical here."

Iain squints at the ship as the huge bulk of the submarine continues to slide past us. I can see him trying to think of a remark, thinking there must be something on the lines of, No, it's bringing up its dinner, or something equally strained about a nautical remark, but they're both poor-quality leads and he obviously realises this because he just shrugs and takes out his notebook and says, "Search me, pal."

He starts scribbling squiggles. Garnet must be one of the last of the shorthanders; few people of our generation trust in Pitman any more, preferring to rely on Olympus Pearlcorders.

"You still off-diary this weather then, Cameron?"

"Yeah, a roving news-hound without portfolio, that's me."

"Uh-huh. Hear you've got a tame blemish on the face of the body public feeding you morsels these days, that right, Cameron?" Garnet says quietly, not looking up from his shorthand notation.

I look at him. "What?"

"A massive harbour breakwater," he says, grinning toothily at me.

I stare at him.

"A facial blemish," he says. "A breakwater; a small insectivorous subterranean furry animal. No get it?" He shakes his head at the grossness of my ignorance. "A mole," he says patiently.

"Oh?" I say, hoping I appear suitably mystified.

He looks hurt. "So, is it true?"


That you've got some mole in the security services or something equally hush-hush feeding you tasty stuff about some big story in the offing."

I shake my head. "No," I tell him.

He looks disappointed. "Who told you this, anyway?" I ask him. "Was it Frank?"

His brows go up, his mouth makes an O and he draws in a breath. "Sorry, Cameron; can't reveal my sources."

I give him a pained look, then we both turn to watch the submarine.

There is a faint, distant cheer as one of the CND inflatables finally manages to break through the encircling military boats, evades the police launches and speeds in to bump into the sloping black stern of the Trident submarine, sliding briefly up onto its rump like a gnat trying to mount an elephant, before being chased away again. A TV crew capture the moment. I grin, feeling vicariously pleased for the protesters. After a while the tall grey shape of the patrol boat Orkney hums past, following the huge submarine.

"Orkney," Garnet says thoughtfully. "Orkney…"

I can almost hear his brain working, trying to make a connection with tomorrow's big Home News event, when the report into the Orkney child-abuse fiasco will be published. Knowing Garnet, a comment involving seamen is far from out of the question.

I keep quiet, trying not to encourage him.

He throws his cigarette butt away. Perhaps misinterpreting the gesture, somebody at the stern of the Orkney waves at us. Iain waves cheerily back. "Aye, get yer cox'n, lads!" he calls, not loud enough for anyone on the boat to hear. He sounds pleased with himself.

"How amusing, Iain," I say, stepping to the edge of the container. "Fancy a pint later?" I jump down via the oil-drum.

"Going already, are you?" Iain says. Then, "Na. Got to interview the Faslane Commander and get back to the office."

"Yeah, I'm heading for the base too," I tell him. "See you there." I turn and walk across the waste ground towards the car.

"Don't give us a hand down then, ya snobby Edinburgh bastart!" he calls.

I hold up one hand as I walk away. "Okay!"

I pass the submarine a minute later as I drive out of the village and towards the head of the loch and the naval base on the far side. The submarine looks oddly, menacingly beautiful in the bright sunshine, a blackly gleaming hole in the scape of land and water. I shake my head. Twelve billion quid to take out some probably already empty silos and incinerate a few tens of millions of Russian men, women and children… except they aren't our enemies any more, so what was always obscene — and definitively, deliberately useless — becomes pointless; even more of a waste.

I park the car for a while on an elevated stretch of the road past Garelochhead, looking down the loch and watching the submarine approach the dock. There are a few other cars parked and groups of people watching; come to try and get some of their tax-money's worth.

I light a cigarette, winding the window down so I can blow all that unhealthy smoke away. My eyes are smarting with tiredness; I was up most of last night, working on a story and playing Despot on the computer. I look around to make sure nobody's watching, feel inside my North Cape jacket and take out the little bag of speed. I dip a moistened finger in the white powder in one corner and then suck the finger, smiling and sighing as the tip of my tongue goes numb. I put the bag away again and continue smoking.