A couple of days pass, then a week, in which Jaz does little more than alternate between pubs and empty glasses follow him. Maggie Scott’s for Mackintoshes' and back again, lurching up the road with clinking cans of Pale Ale and chicken curry. The Irish boys are away back across the water and he feels like he’s on holiday, befuddled, his brain a bystander. He listens to the chatter, but not part of it, doesn’t really listen to the Eagles on the jukebox.
Drew, the barman, gimps along, picking up glasses at the table near Jaz’s, a cloth in his hand dabbing at the dregs, spilt drink. Jaz squints up at him through fag smoke with bleary eyes and a half-moon of a purple and red rash on his unwashed neck.
‘Whit?’ Truculence in his voice, his thoughts, spoken.
He hasn’t noticed the newspaper Drew wedges under his arm. He leaves the empties on the circular table near his. The few regulars have left half the pub to Jaz to sit in as his rightful domain. A Daily Record is splashed down between beer and whisky glasses, the page flapping over the ashtray, unfolded for his perusal. Jaz glances at the headline. Old news about the brutal murder of Thomas Daly, a grandfather and family man. It’s drifted from front page headlines to page five. The story done to death. But there is a newspaper tag and two pictures. One of them he immediately recognizes as the nice-looking bint with the kohl eyes that had looked across the street at him. She’d given an artist’s description and it was reproduced in a charcoal and white drawing by numbers. The police, if the headlines are to be believed, urge the man to come forward and eradicate himself from their investigation.
‘That looks a bit like you!’ Drew says in a deferential way, a friendly warning.
‘Fuck off. That cunt looks like Rod Stewart.’ Jaz gives a full throated laugh. ‘The cops are better goin’ and liftin’ him. They’ll get him at the Barrowland this weekend.’
The paper is whisked away from him and Drew bumps backwards and shrugs, a half-smile of apology on his lips.
Jaz runs his fingers through his hair. ‘Aye, that’s my uncle. Da and the Tash went to the funeral, said it was a good turnout. A good doo afterwards in the Atlantis. Sausage rolls and pies. A bit cheap if you ask me. Nae steak-pie. I would have went, but I didnae really know him.’
‘Aye,’ Drew, a paid diplomat, nods in agreement. The paper, a crumpled ball in his hand, empty glasses clink as he picks them up and limps back towards the bar.
‘Hi,’ Jaz shouts.
Drew turns his body and looks back at him.
‘Get me another goldy. One of these.’ Jaz holds up his whisky glass in salute. ‘And get one for yerself.’
Jaz picks up his fags and pockets them. He goes up to the bar and downs the whisky in a oner. Going out into the sunshine, head down, he’s still got a thirst about him, but his plans to go to his da’s house, in search of the Tash, ends in disarray. He swerves it, ends up in Macintoshes' with the same familiar ba' faces looking at him through the gloom. In the corner he spots Rab legs tucked underneath his seat with his old man Sammy in a wooden chair across from him, neither of them talking, nursing near empty lagers. He buys a round of drinks, doubles, danders across. That puts a smile on their faces. Rab moves along the wall-seat to make space for him to join them.
Sammy reaches across and shakes his hand, tapping underneath his wrist in the Masonic handshake. ‘No seen you fer a while, son,’ he says.
‘Oh, I’ve been busy, you know, with the Irish boys and the cause.’
‘Say no more,’ Sammy winks, holds his hands up in mock defeat and picks up his whisky, looking through it and smiles. ‘Wish to god this wan had been daeing something useful.’ He takes a glug and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. ‘You know this wan’s been on the drugs.’ He looks at his son sideways. ‘You know that stuff.’ A pull of lager puts him in the frame to get it right. ‘The waccy-baccy.’ I think that’s what you call it.’ He rolls his eyes and reaches across, lifts his tin and teases tobacco, tapping it, and lifting it to his mouth. ‘His mum was goin’ aff her heid. I had to call in a couple of contacts, keep him in.’
‘Hi, take one of these.’ Jaz enjoys his mate’s awkwardness. Rab’s shrunk in to himself, shaky, thinner than a loop of twine. He digs into his pocket for his packet of Silk Cut, taking one out and lighting it, passing it to Sammy, lighting another for himself. The unlit fag is put back into the tin, spitting stray bits of tobacco onto the floor.
‘Hi, whit about me?’ Rab says. ‘Am I fuckin’ invisible or something?’ There’s something of the old defiance there.
‘Aye,’ says Jaz. ‘You ur,’ but he hands him his packet of Silk Cut and nudges him with his elbow.
Jaz goes up and down to the bar a few times and the patter and fag smoke enfolds them. Sammy grumbles on Jaz’s shoulder and Rab lightens up a bit and relaxes. Sammy spots one of his mates. Jaz slips him a fiver under the table and tells him to go up to the bar and get them both a few drinks on him.
‘You sure son,’ Sammy says, tugging at the note, his eyes sparkled, but dancing. ‘You’ve always been a good boy.’
‘You still on the waccy-baccy?’ Jaz says, turning to Rab and laughing in his face.
‘Fuck off,’ Rab replies, taking a mouthful of whisky. ‘That’s kids’ stuff.’
‘But there’s a lot of money in it?’
‘Aye, suppose.’ Rab averts his eyes from Jaz’s gaze, looks across the smoky room to where his da is standing, laughing. He speaks out of the side of his mouth, ‘but the real money is in smack’.
‘Where dae you get that fae?’
Rab sniggers through his nose. ‘Whit is this, the fuckin’ Inquisition?’
‘Don’t fuck me about?’ Jaz’s tone is low, a warning.
‘And where dae they get it frae?’
‘Manchester. Somewhere in Manchester.’
‘Find out for me.’
‘Just like that?’ Rab studies his mate.
‘Aye, just like that.’ Jaz gets up to go as the last bell sounds. He slaps Rab on the back. ‘Don’t forget.’
Rab works the odds. ‘I’ll need money.’
‘You’ll get money when you get me whit I need to know,’ but he peels off a tenner from his bundle and lets it flutter down onto his lap.
‘That’s brilliant.’ Rab’s grin reaches his eyes.
When Jaz takes the razor out of his pocket and taps it on the table in front of him it is overshadowed and disappears into fear.
‘Remember,’ he says, sticking the razor back in his jacket pocket.