Jaz tries to erase the memory of the snivelling shadowy self he’d been earlier by tearing into the booze. But Del isn’t hanging about either. They match each other drink for drink and when the bottle is empty Del goes to the kitchen brings back another and cracks it open. The room hangs heavy with cigarette smoke and the ashtray on the table in front of them filled with douts and Del begins to talk a bit more.
‘She’s some girl that Lizzie, you know,’ he says. ‘She hates those Fenian bastards more than anyone I know. If you gave her a gun she’d take over Dublin.’ He knocks over his mug reaching for the bottle, brushed what is little in his mug from the table to soak into the flowery petals of the carpet on the floor, leaving a damp spot and stench of booze. ‘The thing about her,’ he says, leaning shoulder to shoulder in a drunken haze with Jaz, ‘she was my wee sister’s pal and used to knock about our house. You know how it is when you’re young and you’re trying to impress the girls.’
‘Aye,’ Jaz says, nodding his head in solemn agreement.
‘Well, she was always there, egging you on. The 12th July you’d have The Walk. Try and see who’d the biggest fuckin’ bonfire. And you’d scavenge stuff from everywhere and even the boys up the road would need to watch out fray yeh, because you’d steal their stuff in a jiffy, or set it on fire, to fuck them up. That was all that growin’ up stuff. But you know Lizzie would be out helping yeh. I mean, she was a scraggy wee thing. Not up tae much, but the next thing you’d look round and she’d be looking at yeh with they eyes, setting a car on fire, for a laugh. Fuckin’ plum crazy. And if you set a bonfire off, she’d be fuckin’ sittin’ on top of it like fuckin’ Guy Fawkes, daring yeh to—’. He shakes his head, and slaps Jaz hard on the shoulder. ‘I suppose yer lucky. Yeh’ve got a nice bit of stuff.’
‘Whit’s she daeing over here then?’ Jaz takes a mouthful of wine, ignoring the reference to Karen.
‘Fuck knows. I’m just a number.’ Del’s red cheeks swell and he blows out his exasperation in a long breathe. ‘The cunts never tell me fuck all.’
When Dougie and Lizzie breench through into the living room, they look up at them as if in guilty surprise, as if they’d been holding hands.
‘I telt you to keep an eye on him,’ Dougie says. ‘No’ treat him to a party.’
‘Hi,’ Del replies. ‘I’m not a dog at your beck and call.’
Dougie is still as a cap of gelignite.
‘Godsake, boys, don’t start fighting over nothing,’ Lizzie says, disfiguring her face with the ugly twist of her mouth. ‘Let’s all jist be friends.’ She turns to Dougie and takes the heat out of his eyes.
‘I suppose,’ Dougie says.
Del relaxes, and takes another belt of wine. ‘I didnay know, rightly, when yed come back. So I just thought I’d have a wee drink.’ He includes Jaz in the nod of his head. ‘We’d have a wee drink.’
‘Well, I suppose I’ll need to do the driving then,’ Dougie says.
‘I’m alright to drive,’ Del burps and Lizzie smiles. ‘I’ve just had a couple.’
Dougie holds out the palm of his hand for the car keys and Del shuffles into his pocket and hands them over like a recalcitrant schoolboy, not meeting his eyes. Jaz keeps his head down and follows Dougie out and into the car and sits in the passenger seat looking straight ahead. He feels for the outline of his razor and that reassures him he might have a fighting chance if something else happens.
Dougie is a more cautious driver than Del. They’re on the hill by the public baths, windscreen wipers batting away the rain, fag sitting burning in the pulled out ashtray, before Dougie speaks. ‘Yer lucky the guns were all there and you’d the common sense, and the common decency, to put the money from the job in the bag or you wouldn’t be sitting here now, but it wasn’t up to me. It was up to the boys back home. They said y’ed showed initiative.’ He lets that sink in, flicking the indicator on. ‘I thought you were a sensible lad. What were yeh thinkin’ of?’
‘I just say a chance and I took it.’
‘Aye.’ Jaz doesn’t mention his wee brother’s role.
They overtake a dark coloured Vauxhall Viva and Dougie shakes his head, whether at the slow speed of the woman driver or Jaz himself, he’s not sure.
‘Stupid,’ is Dougie’s verdict. ‘What if you’d got caught? All our good work down the swanny. Not to mention all the guns and ammos we have in Glasgow.’
‘But I didnae.’ Jaz quickly changes the subject and puts a note of merriment in his voice. ‘I think Del’s got a wee thing for your wife, Lizzie.’
The car swerves at the roundabout and the way Dougie grips the wheel Jaz knows he’s said the wrong thing, which might turn out to be the right thing.
‘How, whit’d he say, exactly?’ Dougie bites into bottom lip, head tilted, chin razor sharp, keeping his anger in check. He looks in the rear view mirror and squints at him sideways, one cheek muscle pulling a wobbly.
‘Och, nothin’ much.’ Jaz keeps it casual, stubbing his fag out. ‘He just said they’d grown up together and they went back a long way.’
Dougie does an uncharacteristic U-turn manoeuvre cutting off a van, something that Del would have done without thinking about it, and parks in front of the Kippen dairy and turns the engine off. Jaz reached for the door handle and Dougie reaches across and grabs his wrist. ‘Whit else?’ His blue eyes burn with the intensity of a blow torch.
‘Nothin'.’ Jaz shakes his head. ‘He just said she was very pretty. You know what he’s like.’
‘Aye, I know whit he’s like.’
Jaz steps out of the car and onto the wet pavement. He’s money in his pocket and he needs a drink. The Triumph stutters into the line of traffic and he laughs, thinking Dougie looks like he might need a good hard drink too