Compton looked over the fence at the mud filled field and sighed. The Dovecot stood at the top of a small rise silhouetted against a bank of dark clouds threatening to break and wash away all the evidence. The body lay at an angle halfway down the grassy slope where it had slid sometime during the night. The rain had filled the spaces between the fibres of wool and cheap cotton on the boys clothes and tumbled him slowly from the step where he had been placed. People dump bodies, thought Compton, but this one had been intended to say something. Whatever message it was trying to convey was eluding him. At the bottom of the hill there were tyre tracks. Faint at the gate where Compton was standing but goudged up in a violent curl where a vehicle had made an abrupt turn. There were footprints all around the tracks. Fresh ones. More than one set. Compton followed the tracks and felt the mud pulling at his shoes. One hour ago he had been tucked up nicely in his bed , the rain drumming against his bedroom window. Such is the life of a detective in a city where the locals could wax poetic on the many different kinds of rain. This rain could only be described as steady. It poured down in all directions with the same monotony as the flatline on a heart monitor.
“See if you can get a cast of one of these footprints…You might also get a partial from that fence, despite the rain”.
The forensic officer looked up from the churned track. “Already on it boss”.
Compton couldn’t remember his name.
“The names Angus McAgnus. I’m new to the squad. Transferred down from Dundee.”
“Jesus..” Said Compton…”commiserations…I take it there’s a reason for having a name more ridiculous than mine?”
“Angus son of Angus…Its a family thing…”
“How did that go over in the city of jute, jam and jacked up casuals?”
Angus smiled. “Let’s just say, sir, that I learned how to run very fast”.
“Well Angus son of Angus what’s the score with the lad on the hill?” He gestured towards the body.
“He’s been stabbed. Something long and very sharp went straight through his heart. At a guess,I’d say it was a sword. No cuts on his hands suggests he didn’t see it coming and it must have killed him outright. The heart simply stopped beating, brain death within seconds”.
“Any ID on him?”
“I’ve not checked him. That’s a job for the detectives.”
“Yes”, said Compton, sighing.”Yes , I guess it is….”
He looked away from the dovecot at Glasgow spread out before him. He could see smoke pouring out of a distant chimney, tower blocks that looked like rotten teeth and somewhere lost in the grey horizon the faint outline of wind turbines cutting the air. Immediately below him was Milltown.
Angus said “…he wasn’t killed here. That much is obvious. No blood. Whoever it was killed him elsewhere and dumped him here.”
Compton didn’t say anything. He turned his back on the city and began to walk slowly towards the small hill where the dead boys remains lay at an angle. The rain ran down and over the dead eyes. It had filled his half open mouth and was spilling out over his neck and onto his shirt but,whoever he was,he was past caring.
We wait here as long as it takes. Got it. Fucks sake. Don’t make me regret recommending you. I stuck my neck out there and I don’t want you to ever forget it. How you behave reflects on me right? Your job is to sit with the car and keep the engine running. Why?…Why what? Why can’t we just go back to Bills? Let me give you a clue. If we go back without the wee fucker then Bill will ask questions of his own. I’d be happy to let you take the lead there. You can explain to him while he has his foot on your neck. No? Then we wait.
Every month. There’s one every month now. I blame the fucking internet. Its turned every wannabe into a dealer but it gives me a fucking headache thinking about it. Its all about supply and demand. If these wee fuckers flood the market in Milltown with gear from all over then we get competition. Everyone drops their prices to compete with each other and thats bad for you and me. Thats why we have to introduce a third element into the system. A traditional element that has help carve out the men from the boys since time immemorial. Fear. Fear and intimidation. Thats why you and I are sat here in this car outside the house of the latest stupid fucker trying to muscle in on our market. Every quarter he sells is money out of Bills pocket and out of yours and mine…. Its alway the same…first they get a bit and the next their friends are whistling up at their window at 2 in the morning. Most of them don’t have the stamina for it but, for the ones that do, there’s two choices. Join the club or get fucked.
Get the bundle out of the back will you…no don’t do that face. At least don’t do that face in front of Bill. He’ll see that and kick seven shades out of you. You do what you’re asked and then you’ll get the rewards. This one is special. Bills’ asked me to make an example of this one to send a message. A message to the others. We don’t give this one any choices. Fair? Sit there are shut the fuck up. Keep the engine running here he comes now…
“Get up”. A foot pushed him through the duvet. His feet felt cold sticking out from the end of the duvet. Christ, why was it always freezing in this house.
“Cmon, you’ve got school in 20 minutes. You better get a move on.” It was his dad. “I don’t want to go. What’s the point?”.
He felt a pull on the duvet and slid off the bed onto the floor. He could see the morning light seeping in from under the cover, his fathers boots were paint spattered. There was a small nail embedded in the thick rubber sole on one side.
“Fuck off dad”.
The cover was whipped off him and he spun around , yanked by the force. A hand pulled his hair. Hard.
“Don’t talk back to me you wee shite, I’m not nearly as soft as your daft mother.”
Brad looked into his fathers face. Some unnamed emotion crossed behind his eyes and was gone.Then his father let go and looked away out the window rubbing his hand along the back of his head.
“Here, I washed your shirt”.
Brad took it and sat on the bed. He lifted the shirt to his face and could smell last nights dinner. The kitchen had a drier. ‘The Pulley’ his mum had called it. Clothes would hang on the pulley to dry while outside the rain poured down on the blue slate roofs of the people of Milltown. The rain seeped into every crack and crevice, filling the air with the tart dampness that constituted a Scottish winter. Inside, their clothes would hang and dry slowly. Absorbing the chipfat and frozen pizza smell that permeated the house downstairs, his staple diet since his mother passed away. Outside, a dirty white van pulled up. He could see the top half slide into view along the top of the hedge. A horn beeped.
“If I come home and find you’ve bunked off again I’ll tan your hide”.
He half flinched expecting the slap that usually followed this threat but his dad just turned and walked away. His big boots ringing out on the bare floor of the hall.
What a fucking pain in the arse it was to get up every day and go to that shitty school. He hated it and everyone there apart from his mates. Brad sat down on bed again and clutched his head. He could feel the blood pumping through his brain with every heart beat and every beat was painful. Jesus , why did I drink that stuff? Lorenzos brother had bought it and pocketed the change. Brad had been trying to work up some liquid courage. Trying to to get off with Sally McFarland at the swings but she’d been with her mates and he just made a fool of himself as usual. Showing off, as they had walked along the road back to the estate. He’d keyed a few cars and smashed some guys window. The guy had come running out and was almost crying as he shouted at them. Something about a baby. Fuck him and his stupid baby. That’s what Brad had shouted back and they had all laughed. He didn’t remember much about getting home apart from that.
He got up slowly from the bed and dressed in yesterdays clothes. The clean shirt had fallen onto the floorboards and had a dusty stripe across the back. Brad didn’t care. Since his mum died he’d gotten used to wearing dirty clothes. He had a piss and looked in the mirror. There were dark rings around his eyes and his skin looked sallow. Spots had broken out in his chin but he was more interested in the fluff around his upper lip. There was the beginnings of a moustache there. Brad felt strangely thrilled at this sign of impending adulthood. He couldn’t wait to part of that world and , especially, leaving school behind him. Closing the front door he walked down the path. The sky was a grey blanket that stretched in all directions above him. Somewhere above him the sun was a ghostly white disk that made his eyes water when he tried to look at it. As he stepped out of the gate his foot kicked something. It rolled under the hedge and he caught a glimpse of cellophane. He reached under and picked it up. It was about the size of his fist. Brad stared. He couldn’t quite believe it. He looked around but the street was empty. Somewhere unseen a dog began to bark. Stuffing the package into his bag he ran along the pavement in the direction of the school.
The morning dragged along like a month of sundays. Brad moved slowly from class to class in the slow crush of the school corridors. Finally when the bell rang for break time he ran out of the class and down to the woods near the main gate. Spud and Lorenzo were already there lounging with their backs against the big oak.
“Check this out” he said and produced the package from his bag and hid it under his jacket. The two leaned in.
“What is it”.
“Its the biggest chunk of blow I have ever seen”.
The smell hit them as soon as he unwrapped the cellophane.
“Whoa…what the fuck….” Spud shouted.
“Shhh…”said Brad waving his hands down. “Try not to attract to much attention dummy. ”
They all leaned in. The smell of hash drifted up and over them. It was so strong Brad could almost taste it at the back of his throat. The ball was black and had a slight sheen over the surface.
“That’s the oil in it”. Said Lorenzo. “That smells and looks like primo gear. Where the fuck did you get it”?
Brad thought for a moment.” I’ve got some contacts..I got it on credit”.
“Credit” said Spud. “What d’ye mean?”.
“To sell dummy…” Said Lozenzo. “He’s going to deal it…Nice one Brad.”
“Yeah , well I thought I’d do bit of selling. Do my mates a good turn and bring in a bit of cash.”.
His friends looked at him with awe and admiration. It felt good.
He said “I’ll sell you a quarter after school”.
The boys were silent for a moment then Lorenzo said “Can I get a bit now?”. There was a hint of desperation in his voice. “I’m trying to get in my Dads good books.”
“Your Dad likes a smoke” Said Brad , “Fuck off , he must be 60, and he’s bald.”
“Yeah, well he’s actually my step-dad. I fucking hate him. He drives one of those Porches..you know… the ones that look like a Bulldog about to take a crap. Mum married him last year and we’ve been living at his since. He’s got plenty of money but the place is still a dump.”
“What’s he do?”
“Not sure, I think he’s a bit dodgy, he’s always knocking about with that Bill Rodgers. Two of them..dodgy as fuck. Coming and going at all hours of the night but Mum seems to be happy.. most of the time. He’s always skinning up in front of me. Doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal. If I can get him a bit of this good stuff he might chill out a bit more…he’s started knocking lumps out of me when mums not around”.
Brad looked at Spud, then said “Yeah ..what the fuck…you’re good for it I suppose. If it gets your old man off you’re back then you can have some”.
He pinched a bit off. It tore off easily.
“Wow, look how soft it is.” Said Spud, “This isn’t like the stuff we normally get. Y’know the usual crap …the sheep droppings that smell like a Turkish shithouse.”
Brad laughed and tore a strip of cellophane off and wrapped it around and around the nub of hash. He passed it over to Lorenzo. “15 squid, okay?”.
“Sure , I’ll get it to you tomorrow no probs”. In the distance the bell rang in three short blasts.
“You better plank that somewhere” said Spud. “If they catch you with a chunk that size you’ll be in the shit big time.
“OK, you guys go ahead…I’ll see you in the line in 2 minutes”.
“Not trust us or something?” said Lorenzo.
“No I fucking don’t. ” said Brad smiling , “If either of you got a hold of a piece this size you wouldn’t do the smart thing and sell the bastard, you’d smoke it until your eyes fell out and your brains dribbled out your ears. ” He laughed and put the hash in his bag. “I’m gonnae take the risk just to save you two dobbers from yourselves.” He pushed the branches of the bush to the side and stepped out of the den they had burrowed out beside the school gates. “Cmon then lets get back before Mrs Price spots us sneeking in at the back of the line”.
They made it just as the last of the line were feeding in through the glass front of the school. Mr Gladstone, was waiting at the door of the class tapping his ruler impatiently on his black teachers gown. “Come on now laddies, the wonders of music await within and you are all late and you, he said to Brad grabbing his hood , are the latest of the lot”. Brad stopped dead in the door.
“Mr McGlaughin , I have a special seat for latecomers just here ..” he said, pointing to a stool beside his desk….
Brad cursed under his breath. “What was that Mr McGlaughin… did I hear you say something?”
“But I wasn’t the only one who was late”.
Gladstone looked over the class , his hand still clutching the back of Brads hoodie. He was a tall Highlander with a head like a fat radish. What little hair he had left was a wispy tuft that flopped one way and then the other much like a sail swings back and forth following the wind. “I see a class of children whose minds are eager to learn. So eager ,Mr McGlaughlin, that they are in class, in their seats on time each week. And each week , Mr McGlaughlin, you drag youself in just at the very point when I am about to send out a search party for you. Some would say that this is a talent but it is not one that you are likely to be able to use in the years following your time at this school. Some would say, Mr McGlaughlin, that you do not like my class and that is why you are consistently late to arrive. Mmm..is that it? Do you think that you already know everything there is and all that matters about music?”
Brad was smart enough to say nothing. He tried to step back so that the hood of his top wasn’t pulling tight around his neck but everytime he moved, Gladstone would adjust the angle of his grip. “Sit , Mr McGlaughlin, sit beside me and grace me with your presence. Each week, from now on, if you are last to arrive you can sit in this stool where I will direct questions to you and you alone. You can share your enclyclopedic knowledge of musical theory with your classmates…” He let go of Brads hood and Brad stumbled forward. He sat on the stool which was a foot smaller that the rest of the school desks and looked up into the faces of the front row. Brad usually sat at the back of the class. He barely recognised the front row who all wore blazers, even the girls. They all looked impossibly tall and healthy. His eyeline was level with the desks and had a uninterrupted view of the girls legs. Brad wasn’t quite sure how he felt about this. In turn the fresh-faced pupils in the front row eyed him with amusement and fear. Like watching a dancing bear.
The lesson began and Brad , hunched down in his seat, watched the shaft of winter sun cut across the class from the narrow windows that ran along the classrooms length above him. Chalk dust drifted slowly in the warm air thrown up from the cast iron radiators that ticked constantly as they warmed and cooled with the vagaries of the school boiler. He was beginning to feel sleepy. His headache had abaited and now he just felt impossibly tired. There was a knock at the door and Mrs Price walked in. “Mr Gladstone, do you have a Brad McGlaughin in this class? “. Mrs Price was a woman of indeterminate age to Brad. She looked young but wore horn-rimmed glasses. He equated these to the black and white movies his mother had once watched with him. Rock and roll. Teddy boys and teachers with lips set in straight, disapproving lines. He shifted his bag from it position, in plain sight of Gladstone and Price , to his side.
“Why, yes Mrs Price . As you can see he is sitting with me and considering the consequences of tardiness….Brad,stand up.”
There was no way, no fucking way that anyone knew about the rock of hash in his bag. Doubt began to creep around the corner of his self-belief. He knew that as soon as they looked in his bag he was fucked. He looked over at Spud who was staring, wide-eyed at Brad. He shook his head almost imperceptibly to say ‘No wisny me’. Brad stood and try to kick his bag under the desk but he misjudged it. Brads school bag, much like his compatriots, was not full of the parapanelia of school. A single scraggly jotter kept company with an eraser dotted with pencil stabs. The hash had introduced a new counterweight to its sad and lonely contents. His kick sent the ball rolling along the roomy avenue at the bottom of the bag and the momentum of it rolling up against the side of the bag made it slide under the desk and beyond. It bumped politely against Mrs Prices’ shoes like a lost child looking for attention.
She stared down at the bag and said, “Yes, I do, Mr Gladstone, there has been a very serious allegation made and I need to speak to Brad to clear this up. She stooped and picked up the bag.
“This morning we received an anonymous tip-off that someone was dealing drugs in this school.”
She reached into the unzipped mouth of the bag. There was complete silence. Somewhere in the distance another pupil was practising the violin. The music moved up and down the scale hesitantly, stopping now and then to scrape on the same note over and over. Brad could see her hand move around and close on something. She pulled out the black ball of Hash. The sellophane had split at the sides and flakes of pencil sharpenings and sweet wrappers stuck out at all angles. It looked innocent enough but it gave off an unmistakable aroma of dead flowers that registered so high in the olafactory scale it had transformed into a tone, like a dog whistle that they could all suddenly hear.
Brad sat down on the comically low stool and looked longingly at the open door. Mr Gladstone was the first to break the silence. “It seems Mr McGlaughlin,that we have gotten to the reason for your lateness.”
The glass. It was the glass in his cradle. There was even glass on his face. Thank Christ he wasn’t cut. He was okay but I couldn’t get past it. I could hear him screaming in fright. It was freezing outside and the cold crept in over the windowsill and around his cot. The double glazing had exploded when the seal broke and there was glass everywhere. I tried to calm down afterwards but you know what I’m like, once I get riled…I hate getting angry.
I went out at 4 in the morning. Didn’t say anything to Julie. I went back for one last time and picked up the stuff. It was almost too long. I’d been away for too long and they almost turned me away at the door till I showed him the cash. Almost didn’t get away. I had to stay for hours talking about the good old days. I will never go back. They think I’m on the South side. Didn’t mention Milltown at all.
I sat outside his house for another two. Waited for the curtains to move and the dad to leave. I recognised him you see. From the youth club. Brad McGlaughlin. And I knew his Da from the fives we played every week. I waited and he picked it up just as I had planned. I would have liked to have done worse that grass him up. I would have liked to have rubbed his face in that glass and made him pay but I’m too canny for that. I was the canny one Dad said. Always knew I’d do better for myself. Made the call and waited for the cops to arrive at the school. Then I went home.
I went home to my wife and my baby.
Copyright ©Brian Rutherford