There’s nothing else for it. Jaz decides to go and see Rab. There’s been talk – Rab’s old man wittering, he might be able to do something for them. Money is short, Karen’s got nothing left in her purse, and if the worst comes to the worst, he figures a change of scenery and maybe a few bevvies isn’t too high a price to pay for listing too shite about the Brotherhood of the Masons again. He knows where to find them for a cosy family reunion.
Rab sits wearing a remodelled black interview suit, without the tie, or interview, in Maggie Scott’s bar. His Da’s finger drums on the wooden table. Jaz hasn’t bothered getting formally dressed. They have their back to the wall, near the swing of the door. Sammy jumps up when he comes in. ‘Whit you wantin’ son, he asks Jaz. He adds, ‘we’ve only got time for a quick one, before we go’.
‘Lager mate,’ Jaz calls, sliding into a seat beside Rab.
At the next table, three men and a woman look over, all collar and neck and faces picked randomly from God’s potato sack, surprised that somebody has spoken. Half way to drinking themselves sober, they seem incapable of sustained grunts, fags stick to their mouths and they and have taken to using the scratched wooden surface of the table as an overflow of spilled drink and extension of the ashtray.
A younger man sat at the bar quaffing pints, listening to the tinny radio playing top-ten hits. Behind him Drew is absentmindedly polishing a glass with a blue -chequered dirty rag.
‘Whit’s all this pish about?’ Jaz whispers, out the side of his mouth to Rab.
‘Och, nothing. You’re just joining the Masons.’ Rab takes a drink of the pint on the table in front of him and laughs, ‘but you’re no’ to tell any cunt, or you get excommunicated or some shite.’
‘Geez a fag,’ Jaz says.
‘I’ve no’ got that many. I’m pink lint.’ But Rab picks up his pack of ten Regal from the table and holds it out for his mate.
They settle to a pleasant haze of smoke tendrils. Sammy gathers the drinks at the bar into a triangle of pints in his big hand.
‘I meant,’ says Jaz, ‘whit have I got to dae here?’
‘Nothin’, and agree to everything.’ Rab bites his tongue as his dad brings the drinks over and plonks them down on the table in front of them.
‘Cheers,’ says Jaz, picking up one of the pints of lager. He waits until Sammy picks up his pint and has quaffed a drink before he repeats his question. ‘I wiz just askin’ whit I need to dae when I join the Masons.’
Sammy checks that nobody is in earshot. ‘You’re very privileged to be asked. Just remember that. And it’s me that’s sticking my neck out and sponsoring you.’ He looks from one to the other.
Rab is first to respond. ‘Aye, right Da.’
Jaz shrugs, takes a drink of his pint and grunts assent.
‘You’ll be tested separately. Child’s play. Just bear it out.’ Sammy takes a mouthful of heavy beer and sniffs. ‘And when you’re asked if you want to join the Brotherhood, nae prevarication like the now. There’ll be a lot of folk watching yeh. Your answer is aye. Always aye. Nae backin down. And then, after that, there’s nae turning back.’
‘Right,’ says Jaz, pursing his lips and putting on his serious face.
‘Sorry to hear about your bit of bother,’ Sammy says, in a lighter tone.
Jaz chokes on his drink. But Rabs give him the wink. ‘Aye, it wiz four or five of those Papish bastards, came at us with pickaxe handles from all angles. We didnae stand a chance.’
Sammy leans across, black gorilla hair sprouting out of the grubby, open-necked, white shirt. ‘Did you get a good look at them.’
‘No, no, it wiz dark. And it happened that quick.’ He makes a joke out it, so everyone can relax. ‘And you know whit they say all Catholics look the same.’
Sammy winks, but slow reflexes make it seem he has shut his eye and can no longer work out where it is to drag it open again. ‘That other thing yeh were talkin about…I’ve got a few folk lookin’ into that matter, right now.’
It take Jaz a second to work out he’s referring to Godge. ‘Aye, that’s great.’
The 543 Masonic is a couple of hundred yards from the pub. It squats like a two-storey toad of a municipal hall beside the canal. Hidden behind a block of tenements on Dunbarton Road. It’s familiar to the three of them, but in different ways. Jaz and Rab had come as youngsters for kid’s parties and to hit the balls about the snooker table when nobody was looking. Rab leads them away from the main entrance to a side door, dark, near the canal and off the beaten track. He knocks on the door three times. And it opens into a well-lit room. They pass into another darker room. There coats are taking from them and placed in a cupboard with ceremonial robes. Jaz and Rab are separated.
Sammy takes a handkerchief from the cupboard and stands behind Jaz and ties it in a knot so tight that it catches some hairs, but he keeps his mouth shut and doesn’t squeal. He’s blind, but tries to see out of the side of the bandage, but cannot. He stumbles forward, lets himself be led by the hand, a sickly smile on his face. Having going about ten feet he comes to an abrupt stop.
‘Whatever happens to you,’ he knows its Sammy from his voice,’ you must bear it all like a man. Are you firmly resolved to join our Brotherhood?’
‘Eh, Aye,’ says Jaz.
‘When you hear a knock at the door, uncover your eyes. I wish you success and courage.’ Sammy gave him an encouraging slap on the wrist. The tread of feet disappears and he waits, holding his breath for the knock. After about five minutes his fears mount that he’s been watched, bubbles over to a tingling feeling in his fingers and his legs almost give way. He hesitates, peeling back one edge of the kerchief, before he hears loud knocks on the door, as if the edge of a rod is being used, but the room remains in darkness, which he’s glad of because he jerks backward in fright. When his eyes adjust he sees an old-fashioned lamp burning inside something white. As he gets closer he sees it is a human skull. And it stands centrepiece on a black table, on which lies open the pages of the Gospel, and he reads what has been set out for him to see, ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was made God.’