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Chapter 30

Devil’s Staircase

The phone box lay quite a distance behind them when they reached a tourist information. It was closed but a poster saying ‘West Highland Way’ drew Lord McShredder’s attention.

“McClown, don’t dawdle, we have to go this way!”

The butler cursed because the wheels of the wheelchair were twisted and it was hard to push. The ride with the lorry bin had not agreed with it.

“Sir, this silly vehicle can’t be moved any longer!”
“Nonsense, McClown, just make a little effort, then it rolls again.”

Swearing, the butler tried to push on the mulish wheelchair along a narrow road, when His Lordship suddenly paused and pointed ahead.

“McClown, may I present the famous West Highland Way to you?”
Panting, Frido McClown stopped and looked at the broad rocky hiking trail.
“Famous?” the butler puffed. “This beaten track?”
“History, McClown, this path is history. It’s an old trading road. Was of course also used for military transports.” “The usual brawls between the clans, I guess, Sir?”
“McClown, you’re talking to your meagre knowledge! This path has a length of 152 kilometres and leads from Fort William to Glasgow. The film ‘Braveheart’ has also been shot here. Every year in June they hold the West-Highland-Race. The whole distance has to be done in a given time.”
“And what is the record, Sir?” McClowan languidly asked.
“16 and a half hours. Did you know, McClown, that torch, compass, map, whistle, and raincoat have to taken along? Only who is such equipped, is allowed to participate. It is, of course, recommendable to take along toilet paper.”

“Certainly, Sir, and something to eat and to drink?”
“Yes, McClown, but a good sportsman does not stuff his belly on the road. However, the rules say that the distance has to be done within 35 hours, no matter whether you run or walk or hop along. You even might crawl.”
“Great”, the butler grinned. “That would be something for you!”

His Lordship turned aside, deeply offended, and looked at the majestic Glencoe.

“Sir, I can’t move the wheelchair on this bumpy path any longer. I’m afraid we have to leave it behind.”

As milord still was offended and did not answer, Frido McClown pushed the wheelchair close to the West Highland Way and imagined the faces of the people who would discover it. A wheelchair user who had walked over such a distance! Grinning, he followed His Lordship into the setting sun, while the hamsters in the suitcase he carried now were soundly asleep. They walked through a wonderful landscape, perhaps the most beautiful part of their journey. Almost for two hours they walked until the sun slowly set behind the high mountains. Suddenly the road became steep. The two of them climbed while the mountains looked rather sinister in the breaking night.

“This, McClown”, Lord McShredder panted, “is ‘Devil’s Staircase’. Perhaps you notice that no birds are singing her. It’s a spooky place and nobody stays here for long.”
“Now, now”, the butler laughed, “I can see some birds flying about. Perhaps they have only forgotten their tune.”
“McClown, that are not birds, that are bats.”
“Sir, the hamsters don’t like bats.”

“Well, then there will be a curfew for the animals, McClown. We, however, should look for a safe place to sleep.”

The butler looked about him. Naked rock everywhere. The mountains looked spooky and even the sky appeared threatening. Wind had sprung up which was unusual. Even the hamsters were very quiet, no scratching at the lid of the trunk and no impatient squeaking. Lord McShredder seemed to be worried and constantly looked left and right as if he expected something to come down on them from the rock face. There! Some noise, directly in front of them! Lord and butler were standing close together.

“C-calm down, McClown, only a s-stone rolling down in the rock face.”
“C-certainly, Sir, it’s all r-right.”
“D-don’t p-panic, McClown.”

At the same instant something big, black whizzed over their heads.

“Aaaaargh, McClown, the devil comes to fetch us. Run!” milord shrieked and started running with a speed which the butler had not thought him capable of.
“Wait, Sir”, McClown yelled, “don’t leave me alone with this monster!”

Shrieking, the two men ran up to the mountain’s peak, raced down on the other side and only stopped exhaustedly when they reached a parking lot. In a few metres distance was a broad road, the A82.

“Sir”, the butler panted, “what if that was no monster at all?”
“A bat”, McShredder panted, “a damned bat, that’s what it was, McClown!”