Bonnie of Evidence - By Maddy Hunter


THROUGHOUT HISTORY, WHEN PEOPLE realized that the sulfur-spewing crater down the street was an active volcano, they invented both sober and creative ways to deal with the predicament.

The once mighty Incas flung virgins into theirs.

Ancient Pompeians built a resort around theirs.

Battle-hardened Scotsmen plunked a fortress on top of theirs.

Thankfully for the Scots, the volcano had stopped spewing sulfur when they undertook the project.

Tilly Hovick waggled her walking stick at the impenetrable hillfort turned castle, looking like a native in her beret and tartan plaid skirt. “The ancients called it Din Eidyn, meaning, ‘the stronghold of Eidyn.’”

“Who was Eidyn?” I asked.

She shrugged. “No one knows. But when the Angles invaded the country thirteen hundred years ago, they dubbed the rock Edinburgh, and it’s gone by that name ever since.”

To say that Edinburgh Castle dominated the cityscape was an understatement. It was so imposing, it looked like the medieval version of an alien mothership perched atop a mountain of stone, and oddly equipped with round towers, cannon embrasures, and an impossibly steep curtain wall. Its turbulent history had been explained to us by the local guide who’d provided our group with a personalized tour of the buildings and battlements, but his accent had been so thick, I’d only caught half of what he’d said.

My grandmother peered up at Tilly in awe. “Was that somethin’ you knew on account of you was a professor, or somethin’ you seen on the History Channel?”

“I believe it was the first historical fact out of our guide’s mouth this morning,” acknowledged Tilly.

“No kiddin’?” Nana gave a little suck on her uppers. “George said the fella was speakin’ English, but I didn’t believe him.”

“His burr was quite pronounced,” Tilly admitted. “I’m not surprised you couldn’t understand him, Marion. If I hadn’t cut my anthropological teeth mastering non-labial consonants on Faraulep Island, I wouldn’t have been able to understand him either.”

We were killing time on the Royal Mile, an inordinately wide, brick-paved street that stretched like a landing strip from Edinburgh Castle all the way to Holyrood Palace, where the Scottish Queen Mary had resided for a handful of years in the sixteenth century. Since our visit coincided with the city’s famous festival and military tattoo, we were sharing the street with musicians, jugglers, acrobats, actors, bagpipers, and craftsmen hawking everything from Celtic crosses to tam o’ shanters. Normally, I’d be concerned about losing guests in the chaos, especially since my tour group consists entirely of seniors who might be easily disoriented. But thanks to modern technology, my worries have all but been eliminated.

“Time’s up,” shouted Dick Stolee as the stopwatch on his cell phone beeped. He was carrying the most advanced mobile phone known to man, boasting science-fiction technology in a unit the size of an index card. Not only could he make face-to-face calls using the video feature, he could download the entire Library of Congress onto the e-reader, uplink to the international space station, and with his new and improved user-friendly global positioning system, knew he could visit anywhere in the world and never get lost again, even if he wanted to. The entire Windsor City contingent had purchased their phones at Pills Etcetera at a huge volume discount—knockoff Smartphones with high def, mega-pixel cameras. The only glitch was, when cell service went down, so did the cameras.

“You s’pose Team Number Five found the container?” asked Nana.

“Show of hands,” said Osmond Chelsvig, who’d popularized opinion polls long before Gallup or Zogby had ever hit the scene. “How many folks think that having Bernice on Team Five is gonna doom it to failure?”

“Point of order.” Tilly raised her walking stick in objection. “In the spirit of fairness, wouldn’t it be better to phrase the question in a way that doesn’t emphasize such obvious negative bias? We’re Iowans. We pride ourselves on being fiercely democratic. We demand impartial results.”

Osmond nodded. “Absolutely.” He paused thoughtfully and began again. “How many folks know that having Bernice on their team is gonna screw up their chances of winning Emily’s grand prize?”

Tilly’s hand flew into the air. Four others followed.


“We don’t got no one left to oppose,” observed Nana. “Everyone else hightailed it into the Fudge Kitchen.”

“The ‘ayes’ have it,” announced Osmond. “Team Five is toast.”

Yup. That was unbiased.

Dick Teig pumped his fist with glee. “More opportunity for the rest of us to make it into the final drawing, right Emily?” Dick had to be cautious about broad gestures with his fist because his head was so big, one wrong move, and he