On a three hour train journey, with drink involved and money on the table, fights broke out with the frequency of barroom brawls in The High Chaparral, Bonanza, or the Glasgow version of the high-handed—fuck-whit-the-fuck-are-you-looking-at—but Eddie hadn’t expected to find himself locked up in Glasgow. The police meeting them as them came off the train at Central, corralling them off from other passengers and taken them to Pitt Street.
Drink sloughed off quick style in the long subterranean corridors. Behind closed cell doors the fetid smell was strongest. They’d taken Eddie’s belt and shoelaces, but it clung to his shirt and trousers, worked its way into his skin, aging him. The vast rumbling of the building above them rose up like a muttered prayer in which each man was buried within reach of a spyhole. Eddie settled down on the lip of the thin mattress, the scratchy blanket over his shoulder and ducked down to hide his sobbing. In the exhausted silence, his wife would be waiting for him and cursing him for being on the drink, maybe even suspecting him of having an affair, but he was out of luck, they’d taken Fatty Patty away as evidence.
She’d be a curious addition to the evidence storeroom, sitting pretty with counterfeit notes, stashes of cocaine and heroin, knives and guns. It cheered him up thinking how the Exhibit Officer would describe Fatty Patty on the high shelves? And for what purpose, shop-soiled in the legalese of police terminology?
Turnkeys waged war against silence. Stomping boots, keys rattling in locks, shouting, when a quiet word would do. After a night and day, a snuffled laugh rose in the cell next to him and died just as quickly. He recognised it as Badger’s, and he wondered if he knew something he didn’t. Eddie was glad to see an unpretty face, any face, even one with a walrus moustache. He was glad to be up and moving, prison time buries inmates a bit at a time, following into line beside him, he tried to shake it off by making conversation.
‘I don’t even know whit, I’m in for,’ he said.
They turned left, first on the right, the corridor continued on into the strip lighting, but he turned a handle, held open the door. They were on the threshold of a room which was like the continuation of the corridor with no windows. The turnkey pushed him inside and shut the door.
A fug of fag smoke hung in the air and an old scarred wooden table filled the room and left enough space for the two officers to squeeze into their seats. Two overflowing Tennent’s ashtrays and a collection of glazed mugs peppered the table.
The female uniformed officer stared at her notebook as if deciphering her handwriting. A lamp behind her casting a circle of light on the blue-inked pages. Mid-twenties, with brown hair, she wasn’t as fat as Fatty Patty, but plump as a pigeon with stubby arms. Eddie was pushed into a chair in front of her. She’d nice dark eyes, under which her eyebrows met. He remembered the good old days when cops came down from the Highlands, big lads that spoke with a Gaelic twang that couldn’t be outrun or outfought. She didn’t look as if she could catch the cold, if he turned and ran. But it was a maze. He smiled at her, ‘You think I could cadge a fag, aff you, I’m chokin’?’
She looked straight through him and then buried herself back in her notebook.
The plain-clothes officer shirt collar was grubby and yellowing, he wore a thin black tie. He was lankier but not taller, than his colleague. He dangled on his seat, seized by a fit of coughing, managed to spit out they wouldn’t be long and he could have a fag when they were finished.
‘Finished with whit?’ Eddie said. ‘I’ve no’ done anything. I keep tellin’ everybody that, but naebody’s listenin’ tae me.’
They exchanged sideway glances in that cop way. Eddie chewed his lip and slumped into silence, a buzzing in his ear—he’d not slept—and sweat ran down his back.
‘Two witnesses,’ the detective inspector said. He tried to bamboozle him with fingers, holding up his index and middle finger as evidence of twofullness as truthfulness, but had to give up and slap them over his mouth as he coughed.
‘Two women,’ she laid the emphasis on women, as if that made it worse. ‘Both saw you. And we’ve got statements from both of them.’
Eddie fidgeted in his chair and squinted with furrowed brows. ‘Saw me daeing, whit?’
‘You know,’ the detective clicked his fingers. ‘You’ll be on the Sex Offender’s Register quicker than that.’ His chair creaked as he pushed backwards into it. ‘Then your life will be fucked.’ He grimaced an imitation smile, broken by another coughing fit. He sucked on his Embassy Regal as a cure-all. ‘Lose yer job, yer house, yer wife.’
‘I’ve still no’ got a clue whit you’re talkin’ about.’ Eddie shook his head. ‘I mean, let’s get doon to good cop, bad cop routine. You can even beat me up a bit. That frosty-face cow can even have a laugh, but I’ve got rights, you know, even though I don’t know whit they are. I think I want to see a lawyer.’
‘Lawyer, is it?’ The older cop nodded in is direction. He’s one of them…’
‘No doubt he began at an early age,’ she stared at her notebook, cheeks flushing. ‘Torturing dogs and mutilating small animals. That’s where he’d get his serious sexual perversions. Probably slept with his sister.’
The buzzing in Eddie’s ear got louder. ‘Look, can we get serious, noo. I’ve no’ got a sister. The only known relative I’ve slept wae is your mum. Whit exactly are you charging me wae?’
‘Don’t you know, pal?’ the detective said.
‘No, that’s why I’m askin,’.’
‘We’ve checked your record,’ she said. ‘Nothing more than breach of the peace, but you hid it well. Your perversions. Your sex-doll perversions.’
The detective took up the cry, ‘You were seen by a carriage-full of people, some of them of the female persuasion, inserting your penis into an inflatable doll and masturbating, simulating sexual intercourse.’ He flicked his cigarette packet across, and held out his disposable lighter. ‘That’s time, pal. Serious time. Indecent exposure for starters and since there was a child in the carriage, lewd and libidinous conduct.’
Eddie’s hand shook as he picked up the lighter. He needed time to think. The flame wavered in front of his eyes as he sucked in cigarette smoke. ‘It wisnae me,’ he finally spluttered.
‘You’re pathetic,’ she said. ‘You probably a serial sex offender. But now you’ve been caught, we’ll be keeping our beady eye on you.’
He opened his mouth to explain, but let it fall shut. That would mean grassing.