Jaz’s handler is waiting for him underneath the clock and the monument of remembrance. A gold-leaf list of the Clydebank dead from the First and Second World War runs down the wall and a life-sized statue are collected in a corner of the bell tower out of the rain, and harm’s way, in Hall Street.
‘You’re late,’ Jaz’s handler says, eventually. His words emerge like an egg from the back of his throat in stammer and stutter, with facial contortions and glottal gasps and a pukka, upper-class accent, when he introduces himself as Adrian.
‘Fuck sake,’ Jaz says. ‘Five minutes. Geez a break.’
Adrian is about the same age as Jaz, but seems to him both younger and older. Square with muscle and blasted out features and a knobby forehead. A jutting top prehensile lip that does all the work of talking. A bower of brown hair neatly parted in the middle. High- waisted baggy denims, highly polished oxblood Doc Marten boots, a check shirt and a Barbour jacket, is a poor fitting ensemble, as if somebody dressed him in the morning and lent him a note telling him how to blend into Clydebank.
They walk towards the library and stand on the bottom stairs, lean their bums against the wall, facing each other. ‘You want a fag?’ Jaz says. He sticks one in his mouth, lights it with nicotined fingers and squints through the smoke at Adrian. Flicks open the top of his cigarette carton. ‘You want wan?’
Adrian shakes his head. ‘Don’t smoke.’
‘That figures,’ Jaz says, and sniggers. ‘Why don’t we go for a pint out of the rain and stop fuckin’ about here, as if we’re Andy and Pandy.’
‘Listen,’ Adrian’s face becomes a danse macabre. He throws his body into a Heimlich manoeuvre and spits out, ‘I’m not you pal, or drinking buddy, you stupid fucker. Let’s get that straight from the off. I can have you arrested and put away for a very long time, or I can have you killed, either by myself, or feeding information to some interested group that will do the work for us. You got that clear?’
‘Aye, aye,’ Jaz says. He’s impressed, despite himself, hands hidden in the pockets of his long Crombie coat and cigarette set at a jaunty angle, blowing smoke out of the side of his mouth. ‘But can we no’ go inside out of this pissin’ rain. I’m liable to get arrested, or worse, if anybody sees me hangin’ about outside a library.’
‘No, somebody might hear us.’
An old woman with a cerise box hat and fur springing an ambush on her coat collars trundles down the stairs on short legs. She looks left and right, eying each of them through thick spectacles as potential muggers, before passing Jaz and walking towards the police station with little tottering steps.
Adrian sighs. ‘Let’s walk,’ he says, ‘and you can tell me all about Ireland.’ He takes the lead and traipses towards Dalmuir his hands in his pockets, head down and blunted against the wind and rain, the noise of the shipyard behind him as Jaz falls into step beside him.
‘Listen mate,’ says Jaz. ‘I’d love to come clean and tell you all kinds of good shit, but the truth is I spent most of the time in pubs getting drunk, meeting old guys and who sung stupid songs about Britain, even though they were in Ireland and dribbled into their beer afterwards.’ He flung a few names at Adrian he’s remembered, including Bri and Craigie.
‘They’re in the command structure of the UDA,’ Adrian says. He seems to find it easier to speak when walking and when nobody is watching his face and mouth. ‘Did they say anything about explosives?’
‘Nah,’ Jaz says, ‘they’re all alcoholics over there.’ He scratches his chin, tries to remember something, anything, he can use as leverage. But memory is an amorphous mass of fried breakfasts and whisky. He’d been that drunk on the trip he didn’t even remember being on the boat home and had to be roused by a crew member from one of the toilet cubicles when they docked in Stranraer.
Jaz glances sideways at the Boilermaker’s Club, he fingers the top button of his coat, and licks his lips at the mid-morning smell of beer. A lorry is parked in the side street, a man on top of the wagon rolling off barrels to his mate standing with gloves on the pavement to receive them.
‘What about contraband?’ Adrian says. ‘Did they mention that, guns or drugs?’
‘Aye, eh, no. They talked a lot about killing Catholics and from whit I was hearing it wasnae just shite they were talkin’.’
‘You’d be right there,’ Adrian says. ‘Bri, in particular, has a number of back shops and lockups they use to torture Catholics.’
‘Fuck,’ says Jaz. ‘I didnae know that.’
‘There’s a lot you don’t know.’ Adrian looks at him sideways. ‘When is Dougie and Del planning to come back?’
‘Sometime in the next fortnight, I think. They don’t really tell me much.’ He shakes his head. ‘They just turn up.’
Jaz feels something brushing against his hand. He glances down and realises it’s money, a twenty quid note, which he snatches and sticks in his pocket.
‘That’s for your expenses,’ Adrian says. ‘There’s a phone number. I want you to memorise it and phone me in an hour to show that you have.’ He makes a joke about not having to eat it, but neither of them laughs.
Jaz stands beside the fence at the plots and watches Adrian’s back and the shift in his helmet hair as he strides confidently back towards Clydebank. He blows out his cheeks. ‘Fuck this fer a game of shoulders,’ he says.
In less than five minutes he’s sitting in Maggie Scotts, an amber glass of whisky in front of him and half of a pint of lager. ‘Is that phone in the corner working? he shouts across the room at Drew the barman.
‘Aye,’ Drew says. ‘As far as I know. You want me to check?’
Jaz looks at the phone number in his hand. ‘Nah, don’t bother,’ he says to Drew. ‘I think I’ve got a couple of two pences, I’ll check myself in a minute.’