The News continues the serialisation of Long Way Down by Tony Black, the city crime writer hailed by Irvine Welsh as ‘Britain’s best’.
I sent Weasel on his way once I was assured he was a third wheel in the overall scheme of things and then I sat listening to Barry’s sorry sob story about how the Irish took him under their wing in Saughton.
They’d heard all about Barry keeping schtum on the counter jump and taking a twelve-stretch. They had this thing about informers over there, liked a man who could hold his tongue. The way he told it, they really rated him, but I wasn’t so sure. The Irish were all over this city now, but it wasn’t their city. It was Barry’s, however, and that had its uses, especially where the local faces were concerned.
“Barry, you must have known Shakey would ark up,” I said.
“Of course, I’m not thick.”
I resisted the obvious reply. “Well why get involved in a job in his own backyard?”
He took a last draw on his cig, stubbed it. “I told you, I had plans, I was going to take the money and run.”
He looked away. “Yeah, with Kat.”
“Well that’s not going to happen now, so why am I babysitting you?”
He stood up, “Look, they’re a serious outfit ... you don’t just walk off on them.”
I knew what he was saying and it made sense to me. But he was deluding himself if he thought that the Irish lads would offer him any cover when Shakey got hold of him. It struck me as fairly obvious that Barry had carved out a life for himself that he was wholly unsuited to. There were reasons for that, wrong turns and so on, but he didn’t have any chances left, save the slim hope I offered him now.
I reached into my pocket and removed the envelope from inside the Racing Post, chucked it towards him. “Take that.”
He caught the package, looked inside. “Gus, what’s this?”
“Just a few quid ... for you to get yourself set up in a new town.”
A car’s horn sounded from beyond the cooncil curtains and Barry stuck an eye to the gap in the wood. “It’s a wee white van ... a burly fella’s getting out.”
“That’ll be Mac,” I said.
‘“Mac the Knife?”
I nodded, as I stood up to face him I could sense Barry’s apprehension. He was lost, confused and ready to place himself in the hands of his maker. For want of that option, I stepped in, “Look, take the money and get far away.”
I flagged him down. “No buts, Barry. You’re getting in that car with Mac.”
Three loud thuds clattered on the door. Barry’s eyes widened.
The door’s hinges sung out, “Hello ...”. It was Mac. His footsteps sounded on the stairs.
“Gus, I don’t know ...”
“Don’t even think about it, Barry. Just do it.”
The living room door opened and Mac stepped in. He stood with his feet splayed and shoulders back, his broad chest seemed to be filling the room with threatening rays. Barry looked at him, then back to me. If there was a doubt in his mind that Mac was a man to be messed with it evaporated on first sight.
“Alright, Gus,” said Mac. “This him?” He tipped his head in Barry’s direction, Mac managed to make him look like something he’d just stepped in.
“Take him south, no stops, and don’t let him out your sight,” I said handing over the shooter.
“And ditch that on your way home.”
Mac trousered the pump-action. “How far south?”
“Far enough that he can’t get back in a hurry.”
Mac nodded. “I’ll take him to Brighton.”
Barry rolled his gaze towards the ceiling. “Oh, Jesus.”
“Well, he’s not going to help you,” said Mac stretching a hand out towards Barry’s shirtfront.