Pawns (Part Two)
* * *
Two Weeks Earlier
The street’s quiet when we arrive ootside ma bit, just a delivery driver drappin aff rolls ootside the coarner shoap further alang the road. The digital cloack oan the dash reads 05:21. The sun’s startin tae come up an the many windaes ay the tenements reflect the early mornin orangey hue back doon at us, gien the illusion ay warmth in the cauld ay the dawn.
We get it intae the flat, placin the bulky metal case doon in the coarner by the sideboard in the front room afore gettin the drills, which ah assume ah’m noo the fuckin custodian ay until Scanlon gets them shifted.
‘Here, dae ye think he clocked the reggie ay the motor, the security cunt?’ he sais, makin me consider fur a moment afore ah remember.
‘It’ll no matter if he did, that motor’s a ringer. Ye kin tell wae the wee plate under the bunnet wae the VIN Number oan it. It’s been grinded aff an another wan put oer it. Ah noticed when ah wis puttin watter in the skooshers the other day.
‘Ah fuckin knew ah should’ve goat mare stuff.’
‘We fuckin goat whit we needed – whit ah needed, an we goat away by the skin ay wur teeth, just be thankful fur that. This’ll be oer soon, an ah’ll see ye right mate, don’t worry aboot that.’
‘Aye, if ye don’t end up deid! Ah hope ye know whit yer dain Stevie.’ he sais, aw serious, like ah don’t grasp the gravity ay it masel.
‘Ye skinnin up?’ ah sais, walkin oer tae the stereo an puttin oan Pink Floyd - Animals, ‘. . . we’ve only goat wan chance at this.’
People huv been bulkin up drugs fur as long as there’s been drugs. There’s a variety ay reasons fur it but principally an overwhelmingly, it’s doon tae wan fundamental thing:
People’s want fur narcotics ur infinite, right? The availability ay drugs however, especially drugs imported at a high risk an cost tae the supplier, ur finite. There’s only so much ay it comin in tae satisfy demand so inevitably, this dictates the price.
Ye’ll paiy mare fur a key ay ching in Glesga that’s hud tae work its waiy through any number ay cunts in the supply chain — no tae mention accumulatin some nautical miles — afore it reaches here, than ye will in say, New York, cos the gear’s hud further tae travel.
Market forces, man.
By the time it makes its waiy tae street level dealin, ye kin bet yer life it’s been danced oer. Probably numerable times.
The cuttin agents used kin vary, but among the maist common ur: creatine, glucose, paracetamol, caffeine, baby laxative (ever wondered how yer compelled tae run tae the nearest carsie an ‘make a deposit’ efter that first patsy of an evenin?), boric acid an mannitol.
The problem wae maist ay these is that they look the part, in that they closely resemble the drug, crucially though, they dilute the potency, an the illusion ay potency, cos they don’t produce any similar effects recognisable tae the user as a cocaine high.
The sensation then, is diminished. Noo, that’s awright fur yer average daftie in the street buyin a gram tae impress his mates doon the pub but yer ching connoisseur, he’s gonnae be wide tae it, an if there’s wan thing the inveterate charlie aficionado that’s paiyin top dollar fur his gear disnae want, it’s a sub-standard, impure product.
If, as is invariably the case, the buyer intends tae move some ay the product oan himsel, he wants tae be the guy makin the calls oan the bulkin up process, efter he’s set aside a portion ay the (ostensibly) uncut product fur himsel, of course.
How dae ye circumvent this then, ye may ask? Ye cannae kid a kidder, as they say. It’s a question coke dealers huv been askin since a certain Señor Escobar goat a grip ay its potential in the eighties an startit distributin it roon the world tae whoever hud the requisite amount ay poppy tae take receipt ay it – how tae get mare bang fur yer buck, or at least how dae ye convince punters that’s whit they’re gettin?
Benzocaine. Also known in the trade as ‘magic’, ah kin only assume because ay its ability tae dupe even the maist seasoned veterans ay the marchin powder gemme intae believin the gear in question is bonafide.
It’s a dental anaesthetic that numbs the gums, an lips, an tongue, an anywhere else in yer gub or otherwise ye care tae rub it, makin it ideal fur the auld dipped finger test. Ye know the wan, eh? We’ve aw seen Columbo.
The thing that sets it apart is that naeboady’s wide tae it yet. No up here anywaiy. It’s literally an unknown quantity.
It’s just like any other recipe, know whit ah mean? It’s aw aboot the measurements. Take wan kilo block ay ching, break it back doon intae powder, add four hunner odd gram ay glucose, another six hunner gram ay benzocaine an mix it aw the gither. This part cannae be rushed. It’s a delicate operation. Yer lookin fur consistency; nae clumps or lumps. Thoroughly mixed the gither intae a fine, white powder.
We use a couple ay trowels tae chop it, turn it oer, slice it up, mix it back again, scoop it up, flip it oer, chop it up again, an repeat assiduously till we’re satisfied it cannae be mixed any further.
‘Right, noo whit?’ Scanlon sais, surveyin the kitchen worktap, which only needs a couple ay decorative penguins tae gie it the full snowglobe effect.
‘Gie it the auld Pepsi challenge.’ ah sais, rollin up a score note an haunin it tae him. The album’s playin through again, huvin awready hud a full play. The second track, Dogs comes oan the stereo in the other room wae its jagged, spiky guitar chords fadin in an that mad synthesiser noise crashin in an passin through yer heid like an alien spacecraft abductin yer consciousness afore Roger Waters comes in wae the first verse, his soarin vocals ay strikin oot at yer adversaries elicitin a vigour in me ah’ve missed ay late.
Fuckin too right, Rog, ah think, as ah take a sniff masel an wait the split second it takes fur it tae kick in, ‘Well, whit’s the verdict?’
‘Magic man. Ah cannae tell the difference.’ Scanlon sais, rubbin some aroon his gums.
‘Telt ye, eh? Fuckin magic right enough, man.’ ah sais, haudin the tub ay Benzo aloft like the Scottish Cup, ‘gies a haun scrapin it intae this . . . ’ ah sais, trowellin the gear intae an empty biscuit tin, ‘ . . . we’re no finished yet.’
Ah’d managed tae get wee Benny Anderson — an auld mate fae the shipyerds, an a welder — tae make us a wee jig; a wee metal boax, five mull thick, the same dimensions as a key ay gear, only double the height, wae a steel lid, cut just slightly, fractionally smaller than the inner perimeter. Ye could just aboot fit a baw hair in the gap.
Ah leave Scanlon tae weigh a kilogram ay the gear oan the kitchen scales an pour it intae the boax while ah go intae the other room an open up the hydraulic press. It’s pretty self-explanatory, how it goes the gither, an in a couple ay minutes ah’ve goat it assembled. ‘Bring the boax in, mate an fur fuck sake watch whit yer dain. Don’t drap it.’ ah sais.
Tae be fair tae him, he listens an shuffles slowly intae the livin room as though the hairs ay his arse cheeks ur tied the gither.
Ah place the steel boax oan tae the heavy steel subframe, linin it up under the piston an place the lid intae the rectangular hole, the displacement ay air providin a cushion against the mass ay the heavy plate as it draps slowly intae place. Wae ma right haun ah slowly pump the lever, the piston drappin doon, gradually in wee increments till it’s inside the boax an touches the steel plate.
Ah crank the lever another good few times, the resistance stronger wae each pull, until ah cannae anymare, ‘Get that shrink-wrap Benny gied us.’ ah sais (the type ay which they use tae encapsulate areas ay the ships these days when they’re paintin or blastin them), ‘ . . . cut a wee square aff it so’s ah kin wrap this.’
He gies us it oer an ah turn the boax upside doon oan tae it. The steel lid comes doon first an efter movin it away, ah tap the boax lightly oan the boattom an sides, like buildin a sauncastle, an the block ay freshly compacted gear faws oot, landin oan the Polyethylene wrappin.
Ah wrap it an gently heat the plastic wae the heat gun Benny gied us, makin sure no tae haud it too close, like he telt me, an it shrinks, wrappin the gear tightly inside.
We repeat the process an by the back ay eight in the mornin, we’ve goat two shrink-wrapped keys ay ching, pristine – just aff the boat. ‘Well, that’s the hard part done.’ ah sais, stretchin ma airms oot an crackin ma knuckles.
‘Aye, ye think?’ Scanlon sais, afore repeatin, ‘ . . . ah just hope ye know whit yer dain.’
* * *
The door his misses disappeared through wae the weans bursts open an a wee boay comes runnin intae the room; just a wee tote, he is, ‘Daddy, mammy sais we can’t come in here but I want tae watch the Teletubbies. It’s not fair.’ he sais, pointin tae his jammy tap, emblazoned wae the logo, his boattom lip quiverin. Say whit ye want aboot the pikeys but they aw talk proper an that, no like we dae. Ah don’t know, mibbe it’s cos they’re marginalised or whitever but they’re always well spoken, annunciatin their words well an that.
‘Sorry Coln, I tried to stop him.’ his wife sais, comin intae the room.
He picks the wean up, gien him back to his mother, ‘don’t you worry wee man, we’re nearly done here, then you’ll have yer Telebuddies.’ he sais.
She takes the greetin wean away back oot ay the room, shuttin the door, his muffled cries fadin away tae nothin.
‘You better start comin up wae some answers, Steven, an they better be good. Yer upsettin the children now.’
Ah look again at Zander but he’s blankin us, starin doon at the flair.
‘Look, it came like that. It’s no me ye should be talkin tae. Ah just did this as a favour. Fur this prick, here.’ ah nod tae Zander. He’s fuckin lookin noo, awright, ‘ . . . as far as ah know, it’s just the same as anythin else ah’ve ever selt ye. Ah goat it aff Harry McNulty, that’s who ah punt it fur –’
‘Aye. Fuck sake, look, that cunt’s goat a haud oer me. Ah ran up a debt wae him an he made me go tae work fur him –’
‘But, the Templetons – Zander? You said this was comin from them.’
‘It wis, it is. Look, sorry Coln, ah wis just tryin tae make the connection fur ye. They supply McNulty. They’re no the type ay people ye just chap their door an ask fur that kind ay weight but, know? Ye’ve goat tae go through the supply chain – ah thought ah wis helpin ye.’
‘By goin to that bastard! Sure, have I not told ye before he’s not to be trusted, Alexander? Eh? Ye stupid fuckin cunt, ye!’
‘That’s the fucker that swindled us for them cases of fags, Coln! Remember sure, a few years back?’ Paddy chips in, the penny suddenly drappin. Finn’s pacin up an doon the room, seethin. He comes oer tae where Zander’s sittin, grabbin his heid in his hauns, ‘Ye fuckin bastard, ye. I told ye this fucker was no good, Coln. Give me one fuckin reason not to string you up!’ he sais, liftin him up tae his feet, hauns still firmly clamped roon his heid. Zander tries tae talk; tae plead his case, but it’s just a garbled croak that comes oot.
‘That’s enough now, Finn. Put him down.’ Coln sais an his brother releases him, Zander drappin like a sack ay totties back intae his seat.
‘You!’ he sais tae me, ‘ . . . can you take us to him? If I find out you’re lyin –’
‘Aye, man. Whitever ye need big man. Ah’m no lyin, man! Talk tae yer partner here, he wis the wan that sais ah wis tae keep McNulty’s name oot ay it. Whit the fuck dae ah staun tae gain oot ay bumpin you, man? Think aboot it.’
He looks perplexed at this, they aw dae. He gestures tae his brothers tae foallie him oer tae the other side ay the open-plan room, next tae the U-shaped, cellophane covered settees that wrap roon the perimeter ay the lounge area. They’re deep in conversation, gien it aw the fuckin flailin airms an accusatory glances in oor direction.
‘Whit huv you goat me intae, ya fuckin prick?’ Zander whispers tae me.
‘Whit huv ah goat you intae? This is aw your dain ya slimy wee cunt. When this is by wae, you better huv eyes in the back ay yer heid, ah’m fuckin tellin ye.’ ah snap back at him. Ah’ve goat enough fuckin heat fae fuckin headcases in ma life the noo, this fuckin skid-mark isnae wan ay them. Ah’ve seen enough screwballs in ma time tae know a cardboard gangster when ah see wan. His dejected look only confirms it.
‘Right! We’re goin. UP! NOW!’ Coln suddenly exclaims, ‘FUCKIN MOVE!’
Paddy, who’s fucked off momentarily, comes back wae a couple ay metal basebaw bats in wan haun, an the leather holdall ah’d gied them the key in, in the other. Finn ushers us oer taewards the door.
‘Coln – come oan tae fuck, brother! Me an you, man! There’s nae need tae treat me like this!’ Zander pleads, ‘We’re in the same camp, ye know that?
Turnin roon, ah see Coln loadin two shells intae the twin barrels ay a sawn-aff shotgun. He sticks another few in his jayket poakit an clicks it shut.
‘That, brother, remains to be seen,’ he sais, thumpin his haun intae Zander’s back, propellin him effortlessly oot the door.