Karen answers the door tugging the belt of her flowery nightgown tighter, smiling, and giving a little wiggle as Dougie towers over her and ogles the top of her breasts.
‘Your man in?’ he asks.
‘You want to come in?’ She loves his accent.
‘Nah,’ Dougie winks at her. ‘Would love to, but you know.’ His clean-shaved jaw leans in close enough for her to whiff musty Old Spice and ingrained cigarette smoke on his jacket and he grins back at her. ‘Just ask him to come down and see us.’ He nods towards the dimly lit landing and stairs. ‘We’ve a car, waiting.’
Angela stands by the window, hand cool against the pane, looking out into the rain. She turns when her mother comes into the living room. Two mugs of tea lie cold and congealed beside the bed. Angela has taken to put salt instead of sugar in Jaz’s tea because she’d listened hard and heard women gossip it was meant to be really bad for you, causes an epileptic fit and kills you. She doesn’t know what an epileptic fit is. But her mum’s boyfriend calls himself her dad now. He stinks the place up with his booze and farting, never drinks what is poured for him in the morning, but moans when it isn’t. Her mum gently shakes Jaz’s bare shoulder to waken him up.
‘Whit?’ Jaz snarls, his eyes opening.
‘That Irish boy is at the door for yeh,’ she says.
He whips the bedclothes back and jumps out of bed naked. Angela turns away, rests her head against the window, humming a tune that she’s made up.
‘You never told him I wiz in, did yeh?’ panic threads his voice. Scanning the burst couch, he searches the floor for his trousers, spotting them half-on and half-off the bed. He is such a hurry to pull them on he doesn’t worry about Y-fronts or the zip catching on his stub of a penis.
‘Aye,’ Karen takes a step backward. ‘I thought he was your pal.’
‘Stupid cow!’ Denim shirt and brown brogues lie pooled at the foot of the bed. ‘Whit exactly did he say?’ He dresses quickly, and sits on the couch to pull on his shoes and calms down enough to light a fag before going out to face them.
Del sits in the passenger seat of the Triumph, parked beside the grocery shop, with the window slightly open, waiting for Jaz. Dougie turn the ignition key and the engine stutters into life. Jaz slicks back his hair and ambles towards the car the red Adidas bag in his right hand. He flings the holdall into the back seat and gets into the car.
‘Alright boys,’ Jaz says. ‘Enjoy your wee holiday?’
‘Aye, you could say that,’ answers Dougie, po-faced.
Del checks the rear-view mirror. A 64 bus holds back the traffic on Dunbarton Road. Less than ten-minutes later the car passes Drumchapel Baths. Foreign and gangland territory for Jaz. His only visit to the pool with his wee brothers, when he was about ten-years old, had ended with them getting mugged by bigger boys and handing over what little money they had. A sharp left into Kinfauns Drive the main artery of the scheme. Broken pavements, sloshing through puddles and grey streets, spiralling off, the scheme’s nervous system, full of dangers to the right and left. New municipal slums traded for old, the people shabbier and more dangerous than those in Clydebank. The car comes to a halt. They’d passed a Merryton Avenue which didn’t look very merry. Jaz isn’t sure where he is.
All the drab blocks of houses look the same, he reaches across and picks up the holdall, hugging it to his chest. Dougie and Del get out of the car, stand on the pavement, sharing a cigarette, waiting for him to join them. Across the road a woman in a blue headscarf held an infant’s hand and guided him, one step forward and two sideways, towards a distant bus stop.
Jaz knows it’s too late to run, but inside the bag is a loaded gun. But he’s not stupid. He keeps his movements slow and tries to keep the tremor in his hand from showing, when he lights a Woodbine.
‘I done a wee job when you were away,’ Jaz says, going to stand beside them.
‘Aye, we know all about it,’ Dougie says. He scrunches his lit fag into the pavement and there is a glow in his eyes that makes Jaz look away.
‘Aw the money’s here.’ Jaz holds the Adidas bag out like a parcel.
Dougie nods towards the rows of dull windows, the shine coming from his eyes. ‘We’ll talk about it inside.’ He leads the way, up the stairs to the top landing. Fuck the Pope is sprayed on the walls. Up the UDA in red paint. Del cutting off Jaz’s retreat.
The front door is unlocked, which surprises Jaz. The lobby is full of shadow ready to make him jump. From the living room comes a muttering noise, uncertain sounds and the smell of cigarette smoke. When Dougie pushes open the door a single wall light glows, but the room is bright and airy. The sound of the transistor radio on the windowsill, spilling out Tony Blackburn’s moronic drivel between playing T-Rex and chart music. But their presence, in the silence, seems like an act of violence.
A girl stands chaste in white bra and skirt in front of the fire, an iron in her hand, brown paper over a copious profusion of red hair, downy and lustrous. ‘I’ll no’ be a minute.’ Her Irish accent as natural as her diaphanous white skin, animated around the cheeks by a light rosy hue, a glimpse of her forehead and the skin around her eyes, with a faint aquamarine cast squinting up at them, as she irons and sizzles herself.
‘For God sake Lizzie put some clothes on,’ jokes Del. ‘You’ll be givin’ us all palpitations.’
‘Aye, hen that would be an idea. ’ Dougie speaks in a soft burr, reaching down behind the Radio Rental telly and pulling the plug for the iron out of the double socket. ‘Then you can nip across the road and see yer Auntie Ina. We’ve a few wee things we need to get sorted here.’ He reaches over and takes the Adidas holdall out of Jaz’s hand and gives it to Del, who takes it through to the kitchen. ‘Don’t come back until I come over and get yeh,’ he tells Lizzie,
‘You’re always trying to get rid of me,’ Lizzie flushes and snaps. ‘You said we were goin’ to the pictures,’ but she’s already flouncing out of the room.
Jaz slides into the nearest seat on a faux-leather couch as Dougie turns his attention from her to him and his eyes narrow.