The torso of the hanged man hovered about his bunk, a dark cloth hood over his head, his lower limbs appearing and disappearing into a grey misty haze. Barlinnie Prison’s thick walls rung with a dull vibration of door banging, screaming and shouting that stretched the nerves, but the silence terrified Doyle more. Sweat bled from his face and body and stained an imprint of his body on the thin mattress, seeping into the stale salt and skin fragments of skin from other prisoners that had used it before him. A stink of decay and human fears gathered over the years. He tried to cry out for help, squirm away from it but he was pinned like a moth to the blank page. Panicked, couldn’t breathe, his tongue growing too big for his mouth. His eyes felt the swelling, bulging pressure, as if they would jump out of his head. To escape the knifing pain in his head he’d have welcome it. His ears filled with a rumbling noise as if a Glasgow Central tram had run through his head. The ricochet of something solid falling came from above Doyle and felt his body falling into empty space. The spectre of the hanged man made choking sounds. Then that laugh, Doyle would have recognised that laugh anywhere.
Charlie Tirrell had made him an offer and he could see that he didn’t like anybody to say no to him. Doyle was respectful, as he always was with older men. He was tall with fair hair and a t-shirt that showed off his muscles and cold blue eyes that showed he wasn’t easily intimidated. ‘It’s a good offer, Mr Tirrell, I’d just like some time to think it o’er, if you don’t mind. But I cannae tell you now what my answer will be.’
They sat in Tirrell’s office, a corner table of The Rendezvous pub, a place on Dumbarton Road where phoning an ambulance was like phoning a taxi. A select few guests were invited to the corner table. No fire-exit. No exit at all without Tirrell’s say so. He used silence as a weapon.
There was something of the Italian in him and a gift for savagery. Shock of grey-black hair, squinting dark and short-sighed eyes, a Roman nose that conquered most of his face and the thin lips of a poet. Twenty packet on the table, haloed picture of a young sailor embossed on the cover, beside a glass of Bushmill and an ashtray. A John Player’s cigarette in his mouth, smoke rising above his head like a magician. He could make people disappear, sawing a man or woman in half afterwards would be bad form, but business was business.
‘I’ll gie you a day or two to reconsider, cause I heard good ‘hings about you’, his voice commanding, rolling around the room.
Some of the old guys dressed well-worn pinstripe suits at other tables looked over. The younger guys with mops of long hair, swaggering about the poor table in Adidas tops and high-waster flared trousers paused between shots and held onto the butt of the cue a little tighter and laughed a little more shrilly.
Everybody that was anybody knew Tirrell was the man to stamp your passport in the Glasgow underworld. He no longer needed to do it, personally, but liked to keep his hand in. His sidekick Hugh Brown wasn’t much of a drinker, he sat beside his boss sipping at a half pint of warm lager. He was balding with big lugs and a way of folding around two-hundred and fifty pounds of flesh and muscle into himself so for such a big man in white shirt sleeves, black creased dress trousers and shiny black shoes he’d be hard to pick out in an identity parade. His piercing dark eyes never stopped moving.
Doyle smiled across the table at him. ‘Mind if I take one of your cigarettes, Brownie, I’m all out?’
‘Aye, go ahead.’ Brown had a two packet of Silk Cut in front of him, stacked neatly on top of the other. He pushed both across with a flick of his fingers.
The cellophane in the top packet was broken Doyle filched a fag out of that packet and lit it. He exchanged a nod and offered a thin-lipped smile of appreciation.
Tirrell was holding court and they both shifted their attention back to him.
Tirrell said, ‘I’ve an unflappable rule, when I get to hear things I don’t like, I go and find out the truth. I fuckin’ hate liars. Gettit?’
‘Aye,’ said Brown out the side of his mouth.
‘When I no longer feel I’m getting my dues,’ Tirrell took a swift up and down of Bushmill, ‘whit am I meant to dae, roll over and die?’
‘You cannae dae that Charlie,’ Brown held a finger up like a school teacher, emphasising his point. ‘Everybody knows you’re a fair man, but you’ve got your reputation to ‘hing about.’
Doyle knew the legend of how Tirrell had taken Brown under his wing. He’d heard how Brown as a young boy had kicked his old man to death when he found him fucking his wee sister.
He’d kept shtoom in court, pleading guilty, his silence protecting the honour of his sister.
Tirrell liked the boy’s stance. Even though Tirrell knew the girl personally and would give anybody their hole for the price of a packet of cigarettes—a five-packet.
Tirrell sent a car to pick him up when he came out of the Young Offenders, to bring him to his office, in much the same way, he’d brought Doyle in.
‘This wee job, won’t cost you a ‘hing. I’ll gie you the tools, the backup, the whole shooting match.’ Tirrell glanced at Brown for confirmation, before he continued lecturing Doyle. ‘I’ll gie you the same terms I gied to him. Fifty percent of the profits. Easy, fuckin’ money. And you don’t need to pay me back immediately. Pay me back out of future profits.’
Brown nodded agreement and sipped his lager.
‘Whit dae you say?’
‘I said I’d need time to ‘hing about it, Mr Tirrell.’
‘Listen to him,’ Tirrell turned to Brown, a hard edge to his voice. ‘He fuckin’ need time to ‘hing about it. Whit is he, a fuckin’ lawyer? ‘hink he’s Beltrami?’
‘I’ve thought about it,’ Doyle said, quietly. He pulled a luger from the back of his denims and shot Tirrell in the head. ‘I got a better offer.’