Read How a Gunman Says Goodbye Online

Authors: Malcolm Mackay

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction

How a Gunman Says Goodbye

To my parents


Calum MacLean
– A young gunman, a big talent. He killed Lewis Winter and he killed Glen Davidson. Did a good job. All it got him was deeper into an organization that he wants no part of.

Peter Jamieson
– A growing empire, but is under attack. Shug Francis thinks he can take what Jamieson’s built. So long as there are no distractions, Jamieson will strike back hard.

John Young
– Organizing, scheming and doing all in his power as second in command to keep the Jamieson organization growing.

Frank MacLeod
– He was the best gunman in the city. Now he’s back, with his new hip ready to see action. Been a while since he worked, but you never forget.

Emma Munro
– A student, her life ahead of her. Her new boyfriend, Calum, is a good guy, she thinks, if he would only open up a little.

DI Michael Fisher
– Moves are being made in his city. He can nail those behind it all, but he needs the right contacts. Information is king.

Hugh ‘Shug’ Francis
– His first move against Jamieson was a failure. Winter dead; Davidson following him to the grave. Restock, plan and get it right.

Tommy Scott
– Starting from the absolute bottom, but he’s going to make it to the top. Dealing drugs for Shug is just the start.

Andy ‘Clueless’ McClure
– Where Tommy goes, Clueless goes; everyone knows that. He will help his mate to the top, if that’s where he’s going.

Kenny McBride
– Peter Jamieson’s driver. Near the bottom of the food chain, but even those at the bottom have plenty to worry about if things look like turning sour.

Shaun Hutton
– He’s Shug’s new gunman, replacing Davidson. Hutton’s smart, he knows you need to be on the winning team.

George Daly
– Muscle for Jamieson, a friend for Calum. Always fighting to avoid better things. Be happy with what you have.

Nate Colgan
– A scary, powerful, smart man. Employed to be all of those things, principally by Jamieson.

William MacLean
– Always worrying about his little brother. Always willing to do what it takes to help protect Calum.

PC Joseph Higgins
– He works so hard, he does his best, but it’s tough. Sometimes you just don’t know who the good guys are any more.

David ‘Fizzy’ Waters
– Shug’s right-hand man, always has been. Proud of his friend, happy to be the buffer between Shug and those lower down.

PC Paul Greig
– So he talks to criminals: is that not a part of policing? He can justify what he does to himself, just not to others.

DC Ian Davies
– If you learn one thing working closely with Fisher, it’s that keeping your mouth shut and staying out of his way lead to a lot less work.

Lewis Winter
– He had twenty-five years of one failure after another. Then Calum MacLean killed him. Well, he was a drug dealer, so there aren’t many mourning.

Martin ‘Marty’ Jones
– If he didn’t make so much damn money, Jamieson would never let him hang around the club.

Adam Jones
– Manager of the optimistically named Heavenly nightclub and, like his brother Marty, a great lover of profit.

Glen Davidson
– He was a freelance gunman. Then he tried to kill Calum with a knife. He slashed Calum, injured him, but it was Davidson dead on the floor in the end.

Mark Garvey
– Selling guns is dangerous, dirty. You need all the protection you can get, and informing to a strong DI is one safety net.

Kirk Webster
– He’s well placed, working for a phone company. That’s his one redeeming feature.

Bobby Peterson
– Has a nice little printing business. Jamieson owns a little share of it. Making money from legitimate businesses is important.

Ian Allen
– Works with his cousin, Charlie, running a strong drug network just outside the city. They need new suppliers, though – someone reliable.

Charlie Allen
– He’s Ian’s cousin, not his brother. People often make that mistake. Not that it bothers them; their lives are about money, not identity.

John ‘Reader’ Benson
– It was such a long time ago that Reader gave Frank his first job in the business as muscle. Forty-four years. Things have changed.

Barney McGovern
– Another piece of Frank’s past. Barney employed Frank in the Eighties, went to meet his maker in the Nineties.

Anna Milton
– Emma Munro’s best friend. She takes a little getting used to, sure, but she’s not a bad person.

Colin Thomson
– It hasn’t been an easy life for him. Living in a grotty flat, his health in decline. Then there’s shooting in the flat above.

DCI Anthony Reid
– Give your detectives the freedom to do their work. He gives Fisher a long leash, despite the Winter investigation going nowhere.

Jamie Stamford
– Muscle for Alex MacArthur. Everyone has a vice, and Jamie’s is gambling. You should never have a vice that gets in the way of work.

Neil Fraser
– Muscle for Peter Jamieson. A short temper and a small brain get a man into trouble, no matter who his boss is.

Alex MacArthur
– One of the leading men in the criminal world for decades now. Controls just about the biggest organization in the city.

Elaine Francis
– She’s been married to Shug long enough to know what he does for a living. To know when to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye.

Dennis Dunbar
– Dennis has been dead a long time now, but he sent plenty to the grave before him. He taught Frank the important lessons of life as a gunman.

Donnie Maskell
– More than thirty years since he was a leading gangster and employed Frank. Stay in the business as long as Frank, and you rack up all sorts of employers.

DI Douglas Chalmers
– Retired now, but he spent years chasing Frank MacLeod. The Fisher of his day, perhaps.

DCI Richard Whyte
– Retired twenty years ago, died five years ago. Always had a bee in his bonnet about catching Frank. Never caught the bee.

Derek Conner
– Used to run a mediocre drug network in the city. Then had the dubious honour of being the first person Peter Jamieson killed.

Donall ‘Spikey’ Tokely
– Used to run in a gang with Tommy and Clueless. He’s grown up now, so he sells guns instead.


Careful on these stairs. That would be some return, falling flat on his face the first day back. Not the first time he’s been to the club since he had his hip replaced. He’s been haunting the place for the last two weeks. Letting everyone see he’s back. New hip, same old Frank. Someone got the message. Frank had a phone call this morning from John Young. Young’s the second in command, Peter Jamieson’s right-hand man. When Young calls you up and invites you to the club, it’s usually because Jamieson wants to see you. For some people, that could be very bad news. For Frank, it’s good. The recovery, the holiday – that was all fine. Enjoyable, for a while. It’s nice to put your feet up and not even think about work. It got boring, though. When your work is your life, a long holiday is a bad thing. He’s been itching to return to work. To be back in the loop. It’s taken a couple of weeks to convince people, but it seems to have worked.

In through the double doors at the top of the stairs. Into what’s known these days as the snooker room. The club and dance floor are downstairs, but they’re for customers. People in the business, people who know what the club’s really about, tend to stay upstairs. There’s a bar to your right as you come in the door. The main floor is taken up with snooker tables. They became Jamieson’s passion a couple of years ago. He has plenty of little hobbies. Harmless things to pass the time and relieve the pressure. He’ll get bored of snooker eventually and drift along to something else. Golf, probably. Right now, it’s snooker and horse racing. Not too many people in the snooker room at this time of day. A couple of hardy alcoholics at the bar. A few recognizable faces at the tables, killing time. One of them’s a loan shark that Frank’s seen at the club in the last couple of weeks. Seems to be hanging around a lot. Kenny McBride, Jamieson’s driver, is there too. Nobody that could be mistaken for important.

At the far end of the room is a short corridor. Rooms on both sides, offices, but only one that matters. Bottom of the corridor on your left-hand side, Peter Jamieson’s office. The room in which he runs his organization. He has a number of legit businesses, like the club, but they exist only to serve their illegitimate counterparts. Money is cleaned through the club; people like Frank are given fake jobs here to explain their income. He’s the security consultant for the club, apparently. The security consultant is walking along the corridor, making sure he hides the last trace of his limp. He’s fit enough to work, but he has to prove that to everyone. If they see the slight limp that remains, they’ll think he’s still an old cripple. He’s sixty-two now, which is old enough. But he’s no cripple. He’s quite determined about that.

Knocking on the door and waiting for a response. Someone’s calling for him to come in. He’s opening the door, seeing the familiar scene in front of him. Jamieson’s sitting behind his desk on the far side of the large room, facing the door. There are a couple of televisions behind him, usually showing horse racing. Not today. Today they’re both switched off. John Young is sitting on the old leather couch to Jamieson’s left. He’s always there. It’s a little trick they pull. Means that when someone sits opposite Jamieson, they can’t see Young, but he can see them. They’re a sharp pair, these two.

‘Frank,’ Jamieson’s saying, and standing up. ‘Good to see you, pal.’ This is more of a greeting than he expected. He was in the club a couple of days ago, saw Jamieson then. This is different, though, and they both know it. This is the official return.

He’s shaken hands with both Jamieson and Young, very uncharacteristic, and is now sitting in front of the desk.

‘It is good to have you back, Frank,’ Jamieson’s saying. ‘A relief, to be honest with you.’

Frank’s nodding politely. Better not to look too pleased with yourself. Better to remember what’s happened in your absence. Things change, even in the space of three months. They hired Calum MacLean, for a start. That was Frank’s recommendation. Calum has talent, and he’s smart. He’s young, too; Frank can’t remember if he’s even turned thirty yet. Jamieson would never say it, but Calum is Frank’s long-term replacement. Right now, he’s his backup, but he can’t even play that role. Injured on a job, both hands badly cut up. Frank hasn’t seen Calum for a while. Not since before the trip to Spain. It’s probably past time to pay a visit. Keep up to date. Things change, and you have to know about it to stay fresh.

‘You’ll take a glass of whiskey,’ Jamieson’s telling him. ‘You driving? Och, you can still have one.’

He’s filling two celebratory glasses. Celebrating the return of Frank MacLeod.

‘Oh, you know, I think your tan is fading,’ Jamieson’s saying with a smile. He sent Frank away for a couple of weeks, to stay in his little Spanish villa. Frank’s first foreign holiday in twenty years. A lovely relaxing break, if you like that sort of thing.

‘Good,’ Frank’s saying. ‘Hard to blend into a crowd round here, looking like a fucking Oompa-Loompa.’

Jokes out of the way, down to business. ‘Good to have you back, because we’re in need of your talents,’ Jamieson’s saying. ‘We need to send out a little message, and you’re the man for the job. I might have used Calum, but he’s out of action. That’s meant things running longer than they should have. Made us look a little weak.’

‘How is Calum?’ Frank’s asking. Making it sound like genuine concern for the boy. More concerned about the state of play within the organization. He respects Calum, but this is a cut-throat business. A boy with Calum’s talent doesn’t stay as backup for long.

Jamieson’s taking longer than expected to answer the question. Puffing out his cheeks, glancing at Young. Frank’s watching carefully. He knows Jamieson’s not convinced of Calum’s loyalty. That’s why Frank went to see Calum before flying to Spain. Tried to persuade him that organization-work is the way to go. The old head, winning round the young freelancer. Didn’t quite work.

‘Honestly? I think the boy’s still swinging the lead. Only one of his cuts was serious. It’s been patched up long enough for him to come to me and tell me he’s ready to work. I sent our doc round to have a look at him a couple of days ago. I don’t want to push him too much, but he reckons the boy’s good to work.’

Frank’s nodding. It all makes sense. Calum was a freelancer. Never worked for an organization before. He was brought in for the Lewis Winter job. Kill Winter, a dealer for Shug Francis. He did the job well, by all accounts. Shug worked out it was Calum who killed his man. Stupidly decided to strike back. Sent big Glen Davidson to kill Calum. It didn’t go well. Davidson’s knife may have slashed Calum’s hands, but it ended up ripping a hole in Davidson’s side. Another one of Shug’s men dead.

‘Best not to push him,’ Frank’s saying. ‘He’s not used to being in an organization. Freelancers get to run wild. Give him time.’

Frank might not want to be replaced, but it’ll happen eventually. When it does, it should be Calum who takes over. For Jamieson’s sake, it needs to be someone like Calum. Someone who lives the job, respects and understands it. There are far too many silly little buggers running around thinking they’re gunmen. They’re not. They’re just men with guns. He was thinking about this a lot in Spain. Thinking that he might just be the last of his generation. Frank, Pat and Bob are being replaced by Kyle, Conner and Jordan. Kids doing grown-up work. A talent like Calum is rare. Always was, but more so now. You have to handle him with care, make sure you don’t lose him to someone else.

‘I’ll speak to him again, if you want,’ Frank’s saying. Hoping Jamieson will be smart enough to say no.

He’s grimacing. ‘Nah. You can only pass off that conversation as friendly once. Any more and he knows it’s me putting the squeeze on him.’ Jamieson’s sharp all right. ‘Never mind the boy,’ he’s saying, ‘it’s you I want to talk about. How’s the hip?’

‘Hip’s good,’ Frank’s saying with a smile. ‘Much better than before I went off.’

Jamieson’s nodding. This is what he wants to hear. ‘Good. I have a job for you.’ Lowering his voice now, getting more serious. He’s about to order a man’s death – it seems right that it should be solemn. ‘Shug’s been hard at work trying to get networks set up. He has more than one supplier. I think he’s getting his supply from down south. Can’t find any locals he’s using. We’ve managed to put a stop to a few of the networks, but one of them’s become a problem.’

This is what Frank expected to hear. It tallies with the rumours. Shug getting a little desperate. Word is Jamieson’s hired Nate Colgan to make sure no network gets off the ground. Intimidation and beatings. Stops anyone becoming enough of a problem that they have to be removed. Obviously one got through.

‘There’s a kid called Tommy Scott,’ Jamieson’s saying. ‘Wee bastard of a thing. We didn’t think much of him. He used to be a peddler. Street stuff. Ran with a gang, sold to them – shit like that. Used to do deliveries on a bicycle. A fucking bike! I guess I underestimated the bastard. I’ve been getting complaints. The kid cutting into our market, up Springburn way. I tried sending a warning, but the little bastard’s tough. Determined, too. Got one of his gangs providing security for his peddlers. Only has three or four guys delivering for him now, but a couple of months ago he had none. He’s growing fast, and stepping on toes. I’m fed up of hearing people complain. I need my people to know I’ll protect their patch. I need Shug-bloody-Francis to know his men aren’t safe.’

No great surprises here. Shug tries his luck with a bunch of ambitious young men in the business. One proves to be better than the rest. Now Frank has to deal with him. It’s bad luck for the kid.

Before he leaves the office, Young is showing him a photo of Scott. Telling him the address. A tower block, second floor from the top. Well, that’s just bloody brilliant. Very few places worse than that. Having to make an exit from a tower block is never ideal. You’re always a long way from your getaway. But location apart, it’s a soft job. They’re breaking him back in gently. Jamieson will be preparing a big move against Shug Francis. He must be. Should’ve done it by now. Shug’s been targeting Jamieson, so Jamieson must squash him or be considered feeble. This may be the first strike in that squashing. Scott looks like a typical council-estate kid. Greasy hair, tracksuit, probably a bunch of silly tattoos up his arm. It should be easy. He has one little mate who hangs around with him a lot, according to Young’s info. Andy McClure. Known as Clueless.

Frank’s walking out of the club now. A few little butterflies beginning to stir. Three months away. His last job had been a couple of months before that. It’s a long time idle, especially at his age. He’s nodding a polite goodbye to a few of the familiar faces on his way out. He’s dropping into the driver’s seat of his car. Those who know his business will understand that he’s back. A visit to Jamieson without stopping at the bar means work. Jamieson said it was a relief for him. He has no idea. When you live the job, you realize how empty life can be without it. Those three months began to drag. Spain was nice, but it’s not Frank’s style. Sunshine retirement is for other people. He wants the rain of Glasgow. The tension of the job. The thrill of it. That’s his life. Oh, it’s so good to be back.

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