Crossing Kilbowie Road Jaz negotiates the tooting horns of cars and buses with the absent-mindedness of a three-year-old toddler and seems startled that he’s standing outside the Atlantis alone. In his head he is umpiring what could go wrong and how he could fix it. He lights a fag while he waits. Rab remains stranded on the pavement on the Second Avenue side of the road. He is unwilling to commit his body to holding up the traffic at the crossroads between Kilbowie Road and Montrose Street. The two-storey pub is a white lighthouse added on to the run of tenements, the owner reputedly turning down an offer of £100 000 for it from a well-known gangster. The sight of it brings drinkers from Singer’s factory in such numbers that the bar staff start pulling pints at tea breaks and lunch-breaks and before clocking-off time and have to put glasses one on top of the other, with a beer mat scaffolding separating the two, waiting for the bodies to flood in and empty their pockets. Jaz is tooled up. As well as his razor he’s an axe deep inside his coat pocket, but he’s not sure he could pull it out in time. Rab has a butcher’s boning knife, a thing of beauty, but Jaz is scared he’ll drop it on his toes. But he doesn’t want confrontation, not yet, and he’s not filled him in about their plan.
Rab crosses the road as carefully as a man without a guide dog, and smiles at him. ‘I’m chockin’ for a pint,’ he says. ‘After aw that walkin’,’ his tone wavers and he reaches inside his coat.
A half-drunk man steps out the door of the downstairs bar, beside the off sales, open-necked shirt, Oxfam suit somewhat rumpled, but shoes still black and shiny. He holds the door open for a second, a courtesy, when he spots them outside waiting, the noise of the bar like a shadow, goes dim, as he lets go and the door shuts over sealing the stink of stale fag smoke and beer inside. ‘I think I know you son,’ he says, pointing at Jaz.
‘Don’t think so pal,’ Jaz shrugs him off.
‘Aye, I dae.’ The half-drunk man tilts his head to get a better look. ‘You’re Danny McCann’s son, aren’t yeh?’
Rab’s mouth opens to say something, but before he can Jaz nudges past him a beamer of a smile on his face. ‘Aye, that’s right enough,’ Jaz says. ‘How you gettin’ on, anyway?’
‘Aye, no’ bad son.’ The half-drunk man pulls at his bulbous nose and sniffs, clears his throat and coughs, turning away to grog green on the pavement. ‘You tell him I was askin’ for him, eh.’
‘Will do,’ Jaz pats him on the shoulder. ‘Just wonderin’ if one of my mates was in there. Cannae really miss him, about my height, but with blonde hair and a couple of scars on his face.’
The half-drunk man wheezes. ‘Aye, he’s no’ there. I would have noticed.’
‘Ah, well, that’s that,’ says Rab.
‘Hing on,’ the half-drunk man screws his face up to help him think. ‘Blonde hair, did yeh say, like a poof?’
‘Aye,’ says Jaz.
The half-drunk man shakes his head. ‘Aye, stupid bastard, never away from that one-armed bandit, probably put about a fiver in it! Some people have mair money than sense.’ He coughs, holds his hand up in salute, before staggering away. ‘Mind tell yer da, I was askin’ for him.’
Jaz watches him totter down the hill. Rab is first to speak. ‘Whit dae yeh want to dae now. The place is loupin’ with folk?’
‘Mon then,’ says Jaz, ‘we’ll go upstairs and have a pint while we think about it.’
Rab sighs and he spins around as somebody else comes out the door of the bar, but it’s nobody they know. ‘I just want to get it over and done wae,’ he says.
‘I’ll dae it myself then,’ says Jaz. ‘If you’re shiting yourself.’
‘No it’s no’ that.’ Rab’s voice rises up. ‘It’s just the place is mobbed and whit happens if somebody knows us?’
‘Well, if they know us then they’ll know no’ to say anything then, won’t they?’ Jaz waits until his pal’s gaze flickers away before he makes his move towards the other door.
Rab follows on behind. He expects his pal to cut inside and pull open the door to the bar. Instead, Jaz treks upstairs to the lounge. The lounge is fancy in the way the bar isn’t, with McGregor tartan on the floor, plush seats of ersatz leather, small tables with clean ashtrays and a few padded stools in case the boy-girl, girl-boy arrangement of booths becomes overloaded with unmarried couples. At the weekend they have groovy music, waitress service and a DJ that wears an orange wig, but since it’s a Tuesday night Jaz and Rab take their pints from the bar and trail across a half empty room to find a booth . From their eyrie they survey through the window the comings and goings of the streets nearby.
Rab sparks a fag and nudges his cigarette packet towards Jaz, ‘they’ll probably think we’re a pair of benders sitting her together.’ Rab takes a mouthful of lager and nods towards the squat barmaid who’s talking to a guy perched on the stool at the bar, who looks like her twin, only uglier.
‘Speak for yerself.’ Jaz sniggers and helps himself to a fag. He claws at his head as if he can’t find the itch and seems unsatisfied with the resultant dandruff storm. ‘Here’s whit I want you to dae.’ He points past an older couple sitting close together at the door. ‘I want you to go out and kid on you’re going to the toilet—’
Rab cuts in, ‘I dae need a pish.’ He honks with laughter.
‘Alright,’ Jaz rides the interruption and carries on speaking. ‘When you come out, go to the phone in the hall and kid on your speaking, and leave it hanging, as if someone’s on the other end.’ Jaz points the finger. ‘You got that.’
‘Aye, but whit am I daeing that for?’
‘Listen up.’ Jaz’s tone is sharp. ‘After that I want you to come in here and go to the bar.’ He leans across so that despite the Dean Martin slushy love songs playing in the background nobody can hear them. ‘See that wee Munchkin,’ he nods at the barmaid. ‘I want you to tell her somebody’s phoned for somebody called Godge, and they’re pretty sure he’s in this pub. And they need to get in touch with him because his ma has had a very bad accident. Very bad. I want you to emphasise that. You can say it’s a heart attack.’
Rab takes a drink of his pint. ‘Has she had an accident?’
‘No, ya fuckin’ idiot. But the barmaid doesnae know that. She’ll shout out for him. And when she doesnae get any answer she’ll phone the bar downstairs…And Godge will come upstairs to answer the phone.’
‘Then we do him?’ Rab splutters his pint.
Jaz shakes his head. ‘No, then we don’t do him. After you’ve been to the bar and told Munchkin heid about somebody being on the phone, I want you to go outside and wait for me outside the snooker club. If I chase Godge out and he runs towards you, I want you to chase him back up towards me. Got it.’
‘Aye,’ Rab picks up his pint. ‘Can I finish my pint first?’ He necks it in three gulps and rifts loudly, a protest at being made to hurry, before wandering towards the toilet.
Jaz looks out the window, watches in the reflection of the glass Rab going up to the bar, then leaving. He takes a deep breath and turns to check that the Munchkin is on the phone. He takes a sip of his pint, pulls the collar of his coat up. His feet slow as he comes to the double doors and he looks through the glass shell of the lounge to the stairs and glances over at the receiver bobbing up and down on its cord, off the hook. Godge springs up the steps two at a time. He grabs for the phone and Jaz can see the panic in his face, his Adam’s apple bobbling in his purple, open-necked shirt, as he mouths ‘hallo, hallo,’ into the receiver. When he sees Jaz it’s a different kind of panic, a more primitive kind of terror. Godge turns and jumps, feet rattle the steps like a machine gun and Jaz can’t keep up with him.
But instead of running down the hill towards Rab, Godge flies across the road and runs up Second Avenue. He turns his neck. Jaz is 100 yards behind him, Rab even further back. He slows as he runs parallel with the waste ground sloping towards Singer’s train station, where a beige Morris Marina is parked with the boot open. A big man with a gold earring steps out from behind it and punches him a short jab in the throat. Struggling for breath, Godge is lifted and flung into the boot of the car and it closes with a clunk on his head.