The News continues the serialisation of Long Way Down by Tony Black, the city crime writer hailed by Irvine Welsh as ‘Britain’s best’
My flat was on Easter Road, a stone’s throw from the Hibs stadium. There was no more monolithic reminder of my father’s standing in the city. The sound of the match day roar, of police horses herding hooligans in the street, all played their part in keeping me tied to a past I’d sooner forget. My father’s playing days coincided with the apogee of his own egotistical form of self-destruction. We had that much in common, I was prepared to admit, only all my arrows were trained on myself. None of his were, they were trained on his family, and none of them missed.
I was slotting the key in the door when I heard the sound of a fancy car alarm clicking on. I turned to catch the blinkers flashing on and off and then I heard Danny Murray’s loafers slapping off the wet flags.
‘Hello, Gus ...’
‘What’s this, Danny?’
I looked over his shoulder, back down the street.
He flagged me down. ‘A friendly visit, between colleagues.’
We were pretty far from that level. And friendly was the last word I’d use to describe Dan the Man.
I shook my head and rested my laundry bag on my hip. ‘What are you after, Danny?’
He eyed the open door behind me. ‘Maybe we should go inside, Gus ...’
He had me on the back foot. I turned and let him follow me up the stairwell. The hinges on the door to my flat wheezed as I directed him inside. Danny made his way to the living room and stationed himself in the centre of the sofa.
I was sparking up a Marlboro from the pack on the coffee table when he started to speak.
‘Well?’ he said.
‘Well, what?’ I eased out a blue trail of smoke, it swirled towards the dim bulb in the centre of the room.
Danny put out his palms. ‘What have you got for me?’
I started to remove my Crombie, dropped it on to the crook of my arm, laid it over the back of the easy-chair. I was looking directly at Danny as I took another gasp on my cig. ‘Are you trying to be funny?’
He shrugged. ‘Funny ... No, not me. I’m not known for my jokes, Gus ...’
He had that right. ‘You just saw me this morning ... Do you think I’ve managed to take care of business in that time?’
‘To be honest, yes.’
I reached round the back of the chair and removed the Racing Post and envelope with his cash from the inside pocket of my jacket. I had the package raised and ready to chuck it back at him as he rose from the sofa and started to fan hands in my direction.
‘Whoa ... Whoa ... Gus, I’m just checking on my investment.’
I flicked some ash on the tray, shook my head. ‘Investment? Do I look like the Man from the Pru?’
He stopped flat. Dropped his brows. ‘Gus ...’
My tone wasn’t doing it. I pointed my fag like a dart as I spoke again. ‘Now look, Danny, I understand you want Barry found and I understand that time is a factor to you ... what I don’t understand is why you’re so bloody jumpy.’ I dipped my head, brought it closer to his own. ‘Now what are you not telling me about why you need Barry in such a hurry?’
He stepped back, tried to laugh me off but the move towards slipping on his back-tracking shoes was clear. He didn’t want to reveal to me that Shakey wanted Barry for the inside-track on the Irish mob’s job. Once he got hold of Barry and his information the boy was likely to become as expendable as pig feed.
‘Gus, you get me all wrong ... I’m just anxious to find Barry, that’s all. We go back and it’s not easy readjusting to the street after a stretch in the pound.’
It was all very altruistic of him. And about as believable as the plot to Iron Sky. But I let him think I was as dumb as him. ‘Okay, Danny ... I hear you. I want to look out for our Barry as well ...’
He smiled, reached a hand on to my shoulder. ‘Good. Good ... So you’ll definitely have him soon?’
‘Yes, Danny ... soon.’
He put out his other hand, caught me in a pincer movement. ‘How soon?’
‘How soon would you like him?’
He gripped my shoulders tightly. ‘Tomorrow.’
‘Too soon. I have some leads but this is a big city and if he doesn’t want to be found ... No, tomorrow’s too soon, Danny.’
He bit his lip, dropped arms and turned away from me. ‘Look, you don’t understand how much ...’ He stopped himself, realised his halo was slipping. Danny touched the corners of his mouth with thumb and forefinger, spoke again. ‘Okay, when?’
‘Give me a week.’
He bit, flared up. ‘No way! ... That’s far too long.’
‘Okay then, you need to give me a deadline. I work well to deadlines, I used to be a hack ...’
Danny was gripping fists as he spoke. ‘The day after tomorrow ... but let’s just say, if you turn Barry over to me any later than midday, well, I can’t guarantee to be any help to him.’
LONG Way Down is a novella by acclaimed author Tony Black. Born in Australia and based in Edinburgh, his work has drawn praise from the likes of Irvine Welsh, who branded Tony his “favourite British crime writer”.
He has three novels due out in the coming months, crime fiction duo The Inglorious Dead and Artefacts of the Dead, as well as The Last Tiger, set in Tasmania.
So far in Long Way Down, journalist turned reluctant private investigator Gus Dury is trying to find an old friend wanted by a notorious gangster.