Tuesday, 2nd July 1996
Phil started his day with some exercise and a gentle run around Glasgow Green. Following a leisurely breakfast, he went into Flat 4 and began to convert the living room into an Operations Room. He had to assume that at some stage he might have unwelcome visitors, or the police. Flat 3 would be maintained as living accommodation.
He had already checked the window and reassured himself that there was no possibility that the room could be overlooked from outside. He also preferred to have natural lighting. It took less than 20 minutes to set up the basic requirements. Phil had managed to locate most of his needs during his walk around the Barrowland market.
By moving the sofa against the main wall, Phil created plenty of space. He then removed the landscape painting from the main wall and replaced it with the Scotland map and the Glasgow Street map. The dining table pushed against the wall under the maps created a desk space for notepaper and the large pad he would use for brainstorming sessions. On the wall near the window, he mounted a large cork notice board.
Phil knew he would never be regarded as a carpenter, but with a handful of tools and some wood, he set about a minor conversion. It took an hour to create a secret compartment behind and in the base of the built-in wardrobe of one of the bedrooms. Only a person with an eye for detail would realise that the wardrobe was 10 centimetres narrower on the inside than it should be.
While he was cleaning up he received a phone call.
“Hi,” Phil said, then listened, his lips curling into a smile. “Thanks for calling. Yes, today at 13:30. You know the cafe in the People’s Palace. Good. Ciao.” He didn’t usually end a call with ‘ciao’ and then it struck him that he had imitated the caller.
Phil started plotting the positions of the Divisional police stations across the Glasgow map. It seemed right to use blue pins. Setting up the remainder of his ops room could wait. He had other things to do.
To the casual observer, the two players with their caddies on the 3rd green were simply a couple of men enjoying a game of golf. Even the caddies were good at their real job, using furtive glances when other players appeared within 100 metres. Both had practised the skill of detaching the Uzi machine gun from behind their bosses’ golf trolleys. All four men were content, strolling in the mid-morning sunshine on the Loch View Golf Course.
William Hartley putted and watched with a self-satisfied grin as his ball rolled six metres across the immaculate green to rest briefly at the lip, before rolling into the hole. He looked to his opponent and bowed his head when he received sarcastic applause.
“Thank you Mickey,” Hartley said, as he strolled forward to retrieve his ball. He went down on one knee, reached the small dimpled sphere from the pot, wiped a blade of grass from it, and stood up to inspect it before handing it to his caddy.
“Well played boss,” the caddy said as he accepted the ball and putter.
“Thank you Joey. It was, wasn’t it,” he said, followed by a short laugh.
Hartley at 38-years-old was one of the youngest men ever to reach the status of ‘Godfather’ in Glasgow’s criminal underworld, but he was astute enough to know that at any time he could be replaced. He still had a full head of dark brown hair and kept himself physically fit. He used the multi-gym in his luxury home every day.
Hartley was wearing a bright yellow sweater and dark tartan golfing trousers. He looked every inch, ‘to the manor born’, except for his half-closed left eye. A membrane had been torn in a fight at school when he was only 12-years-old. The memory never bothered him, because he blinded the other boy in one eye. Even at an early age, William rarely lost.
“Fuck it,” Mickey McGinley said as his putt sent the ball skimming past the flag.
“Calm down Mickey,” Hartley said, “it’s only a game.”
As they walked to the next tee, both men took in the beautiful Highland scenery around them and felt a certain pride in being Scottish. The expressions on their faces made them look almost normal. ‘Almost’ was as close as Mickey would ever get.
Unlike his opponent, ‘Mental’ Mickey McGinley was not at his most comfortable with a golf club in his hands, unless of course he was using it to beat somebody to death. He’d used golf clubs as weapons for some years, before he ever attempted to use them for their intended purpose.
Mickey, or ‘Mental’ as most of his associates addressed him, was the archetypal psychopath. He had a short fuse in an argument and he preferred to bludgeon someone to death rather than stab, or shoot them. ‘Blades or bullets are too quick,’ he was heard to say on more than one occasion.
Apart from using the sporting equipment to play the game, McGinley was also uncomfortable in the accepted outfits worn for playing golf. He did it because he knew it helped him to look the part, but it only took a glance at his Neanderthal stance, scarred face and tattooed hands to know that he was not in his element.
His head was shaved and his skin looked like leather, mainly thanks to his many visits to his villa in Spain. His brow had more furrows than a ploughed field. If he had one good point, it was that he was easy to read.
By the time the two hardened criminals reached the fairway of the 5th, McGinley wanted to get down to business. He hesitated over his ball and lifted his ‘5 iron’ to rest it on his shoulder.
“Let’s cut to the chase Billy,” McGinley said, being the only person ever to address Hartley as ‘Billy’. “What’s on your mind?”
Hartley stood with his hands resting on the handle of his club which was standing to his front, slightly forward of his feet. He glanced at the caddies to see that they were out of earshot.
“We’ve got two pieces of business to discuss.”
“Go on,” McGinley said.
“You’ll be aware that Bullets Barnes and Frankie McSherry were set free on Friday.”
“Aye,” McGinley said. “That lawyer of yours is a fucking magician,” he grinned, “but it didn’t do Frankie McSherry much fucking good.”
“I’ve got a feeling that Barnes killed McSherry, but I’ll deal with that issue later.”
McGinley said: “I don’t give a fuck about either of them.” He lowered his club to stand like Hartley. There weren’t too many things McGinley did give a fuck about.
“I know the pair of them were out of line,” Hartley said. “They wasted the copper, but went about it all wrong. Killing a child wasn’t sanctioned by me.”
“I don’t give a fuck about the copper - he was undercover and he got found out,” McGinley said, his rage simmering under the surface. “There are fucking rules Billy, and they were broken. One of those two shot the fucking bloke in front of two toddlers and shot the teenage daughter, probably in panic.”
“They didn’t panic Mickey-,” Hartley wondered if Mickey cursed as much at home.
“Well that makes them even fucking worse,” McGinley interrupted, trying to control his rage. “That wee lass was a ‘civilian’ and a child. She would only have been able to report two masked men shooting her fucking father. I wouldn’t even shoot a kid of that age - and I know I’m a fucking Class One nutter.”
Hartley stepped forward to close the distance between them before he spoke.
“I want you to leave it with me Mickey. If it was Barnes, I’ll have him punished. I want to keep it in-house.” Hartley did what few men could afford to do, and reached out a hand to McGinley’s shoulder. “While I’m controlling north of the Clyde and you’re controlling the other side of the river, we have to respect each other’s activities.”
“I want him to fucking regret killing the girl and what he put those kids through.” Like many gangsters, McGinley imagined his own children in such a situation. It wasn’t the thought that the undercover cop had been killed in front of his children. It was the thought of shooting an innocent child and leaving two toddlers traumatised. Mickey loved children.
“He’ll be punished Mickey,” Hartley said and squeezed McGinley’s muscular shoulder. Hartley had no offspring, at least to his knowledge, but he tried to understand McGinley’s rage. He gave the impression of also being angry to pacify the psychopathic Godfather of the south side. It had taken many bloody years to establish the status quo across the city.
The two caddies exchanged a glance when they saw their bosses shake hands out in the middle of the fairway. To most people a handshake was a normal, even pleasant thing to see, but when the handshake was between two underworld Godfathers in Glasgow, it could only mean bloodshed.
Halfway around the course, Hartley brought up his second point.
He said: “Do you remember a while back, we discussed spreading a wee bit of a disease in the police force?”
“Aye,” McGinley laughed. “You were on about giving their computer system a wee virus. How are we getting on with that?”
“I played a round of golf with my good friend Bobby Davenport on Sunday,” Hartley said. “I gave him the memory stick and told him what had to be done.”
“When will it work?”
“Our Bobby will be attending a one-day seminar at Tullieallan today,” Hartley stopped to watch a squirrel run across the fairway. He raised his club into his shoulder like a rifle as if he was aiming for the tiny animal. “As long as he’s done what I’ve told him, the program will kick in while he’s away from Glasgow.”
“Tullieallan,” McGinley said, his eyes squinting. “Is that the Police College?”
“Yes, it’s perfect timing to have him away somewhere official for the day.”
“That will cover Davenport’s arse.”
“It actually covers us as well. As long as Davenport isn’t there, when the virus hits, he’ll be less likely to panic when questions are asked - simply because he wasn’t there.”
For the next two holes, McGinley’s game improved. It wasn’t good, but for him, it had improved. He was feeling relaxed and that brought to mind something he found funny. They were walking alongside each other on the 8th when he posed his question.
“Wasn’t that your man O’Connor the police found last night?”
“I was wondering when you’d bring that up,” Hartley said and nodded.
“It sounds to me,” McGinley said, “like he bit off a bit more pizza than he could chew.” He fell into fits of laughter at his own sick humour.
Hartley wanted to laugh, but he maintained his composure.
“Who did you send across to do that job?”
“What do you mean?” McGinley said and stopped to face his opponent. “That had fuck-all to do with me. I thought it was one of your own with a score to settle.”
Hartley stepped close to McGinley.
“Whoever it was left a calling card.” He searched McGinley’s face for recognition. “It gave the name Hawk.” If McGinley knew who Hawk was it didn’t show.
“It was fuck-all to do with me mate,” McGinley said.
“According to O’Connor, this guy Hawk said he’d kill O’Connor and his boss.”
“It sounds to me like you have a freelancer on your patch Billy.” McGinley met Hartley’s gaze and raised a scarred brow.
“Well, I don’t like freelancers Mickey. You and I have that much in common.”
By the time they reached the end of the round McGinley had stopped calculating his score - it was too embarrassing, even for him.
Hartley read his final figures and nodded slowly. His first opponent was always himself, no matter who he played. He was a lowlife in many respects, but he liked to believe he had attained certain standards. He also liked to believe he was good at golf.
“So,” Hartley said, “you’ll leave Barnes to me.”
“Aye,” McGinley said. “Just make sure he learns a fucking lesson.”
Force of habit meant that the two men never used the word ‘goodbye’. They stepped back from each other like two martial arts opponents and nodded before parting company.
Although Callander was in picturesque Scottish countryside to the east of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, it may as well have been on another planet.
Two very different men in Glasgow knew nothing of the agreement that had been made, but they were about to discuss the ‘hit’ carried out by Barnes and McSherry. One of those men was Benny ‘Bullets’ Barnes himself, who was at home in Anniesland. He was on his own in his house enjoying a beer and a cigarette when the doorbell rang.
Standing outside the detached four-bedroom property with his left forefinger on the doorbell was the other man, Phil McKenzie. He would have used his right forefinger, but it was curled around the trigger of his 9mm automatic, which in turn was under a brown paper parcel. The newspaper over the handgun was okay in the movies, but Phil preferred the facade of the deadly courier.
The door opened and Barnes stood there with cigarette in hand, wearing a T-shirt, Bermuda shorts, and leather sandals. He glowered at the man in the brown courier outfit.
“Aye, what do-,” he glanced from Phil’s deadpan expression to the black cylindrical end of the suppressor under the parcel. He tried to close the door, but a leather boot was already pressing against it. “Fuck you-,” Barnes started and reached for a baseball bat just inside the doorway. He didn’t reach it.
From under the edge of the parcel came a dull ‘phutt’, and a hole appeared in the upper part of Barnes’s right thigh. He let out a grunt, keeled over and grimaced as he lay on the polished wooden flooring clutching his fresh wound. He could only watch as the uniformed stranger stepped inside and closed the door.
“Who sent you?” Barnes said. “I bet it was fucking McGinley.” He gripped his injured leg with both hands. The bullet had torn muscle and it hurt like a bastard.
The man in the dark brown overalls and baseball cap ignored the question. He motioned with the gun. Barnes was to move further into the house.
“Fuck off,” Barnes said.
Phil used his left hand to remove the packaging from over the gun and aimed directly at the injured man’s groin. The Browning and the long black suppressor on the barrel were in full view. The result was instantaneous.
“Alright, alright,” Barnes said and half stumbled, half crawled into the house. He was leaving a trail of sticky blood across his shining wooden floor. He reached the well-appointed living room and stopped.
“Armchair,” Phil said and indicated with the weapon.
Barnes obeyed and glared at his assailant. He was determined as all hard men are, to maintain a defiant, fearless expression. His thigh was burning and he was sweating profusely, but he tried to marshal his thoughts.
“My missus will be back in 10 minutes, so you had better say your bit and fuck off.”
“What sort of transport has she got?” Phil asked, and raised an eyebrow.
“What do you mean, what sort of fucking transport-,”
“I mean,” Phil interrupted, “that she’ll have to get a move-on.” He bluffed. “When I spoke to her on the phone about 20 minutes ago she was still in your villa in Marbella, which is in Spain.”
Barnes couldn’t stop his eyes opening wider.
“You’re fucking bluffing,” he said, his eyes screwed up tight. “Are you the bastard that shot McSherry?”
Again, Phil didn’t reply to the question, but lifted a mobile phone that had been left on the coffee table. He held it out.
“Any last-minute messages for your wife?”
“You’re gonna’ fucking die,” Barnes said.
“We’re all going to die,” Phil said in measured tones, “but some of us have priority.”
“If you’re gonna’ shoot me - fuckin’ go ahead.” Barnes’s breathing was coming in gasps. “You haven’t got the balls.” He tried to laugh, but it stopped as a surge of pain went through his injured leg.
“Why did you kill the girl?” Phil said.
“Ah, so that’s what this is about. Did Hartley send you to punish us?”
Phil was intrigued. He now had the names McGinley and Hartley to go on, whoever they were. He aimed the gun at the hit-man’s groin.
“Why the girl?”
“I needed information and the copper wouldn’t talk.”
“So you shot a teenage girl to get information?”
“McSherry was gonna’ shoot her, but his fuckin’ gun jammed.”
“Why would you shoot a child you fucking worm?”
“She would have been a fuckin’ witness anyway-,”
“You shot her in the stomach you heartless bastard. She would have died in agony, bleeding to death.” Phil fought to control his anger. “She would have had nothing to do with it.”
“Well, if it’s any consolation,” Barnes said, “her father wouldn’t talk - even when I threatened to kill the toddlers.”
“They were in the room when you did the hit?”
“Yeah, they screamed at first, and then just stood there staring, sort of transfixed.” Barnes tried to suppress a laugh, but only because it hurt. “Unfortunate, but that’s how it goes.”
Phil walked across the room to the ornate telephone. It was a refurbished model of the type seen in old gangster movies with the earpiece hanging on a cradle beside the mouthpiece on a stand. He shook his head, reached down, and jerked the cable from the wall socket.
He turned and walked across to the beautifully polished mahogany coffee table where he had replaced Barnes’s mobile phone. A single blow with the butt of the pistol smashed the mobile phone beyond repair and seriously damaged the glossy mahogany surface.
Barnes was writhing in pain as his leg spurted blood. He gripped the thigh tighter with both hands. Perspiration was oozing out of his body. His face was saturated and his clothing was damp and sticking. Barnes couldn’t stop himself groaning. The thigh wound was severe and bleeding heavily. It wasn’t like the movies. It actually fucking hurt.
Phil stepped forward and pulled a roll of metallic duct tape from his overall pocket. He wound it around the injured man’s mouth, being careful to avoid the nose. He wanted him to be able to breathe, albeit with difficulty, but he wouldn’t be making any noise.
The wide, staring eyes of the crook were following Phil as he moved, and then there was the sound of the tape being unrolled behind the leather armchair. Phil walked around the chair twice, unrolling tape to bind the man’s arms in position against his sides.
Barnes could no longer apply pressure to hold back the flow of blood in his leg. He struggled and groaned as he watched Phil walk to the front door, carefully avoiding the trail of blood.
To his horror, Barnes watched as the man in the overalls stopped and came back to the living room door, where he paused and looked around the room.
Phil looked into the killer’s eyes and thought about the newspaper story. The young girl had been left in agony for two hours before she died, with no company but two traumatised toddlers. Phil took aim and put a single bullet in Barnes’s stomach. The hit-man’s eyes screwed up and his nostrils flared, as he tried to control his breathing to bear the pain.
Phil closed the living room door on the way out and stopped at the front door. He lifted the parcel he’d brought with him and left one of his simple business cards on the table in the hallway. He returned to his apartment via a newsagent where he picked up the Daily Record. He liked the voice of the crime reporter’s articles.
It was to be a pleasant afternoon with blue skies and a light breeze, so Phil walked into the city centre. There was a place that he wanted to visit, but had so far avoided. He sat in George Square on one of the wooden benches, looking around and casting his mind back many years.
The ability to show affection had been taken from him when he was a teenager, and he knew that the only way he would learn to deal with it would be to face his demons. There were dozens of people crossing the square in a myriad of directions.
Phil set off to Buchanan Street and walked south towards Argyle Street. He sauntered along the wide pedestrian precinct, thumbs hooked in the pockets of his jeans. The contrasting smells of confectionery and cigarette smoke drifted in the air and the paving echoed the footfalls of the holiday shoppers.
Women were wearing as little as possible to feel comfortable in the heat. Phil noted teenage girls wearing just enough to cover their modesty, and some teenage lads were bare-chested, but most without good reason. Bright colours were worn by men and women alike. It caused him to cast his mind back to the Glasgow of his childhood. Did men ever wear pink back then?
Music of every kind issued from shop doorways. Some children cried, because they had not been granted their latest desire, whilst others yelled with glee because they had. A cross section of Glasgow’s population sat on the shining black granite benches provided along the precinct.
There were multitudes in the city; groups of lecherous teenage boys, discussing and fantasising about passing females, young single mothers with innocent offspring, and inebriated men and women of all ages resting before the next assault on their livers.
For the second time in 10 minutes, Phil heard the distinctive sound of bagpipes, but this time he saw the piper. It was a man in his mid-20’s of about Phil’s height. He stood in an area between two shop fronts, dressed in the ceremonial uniform of a Scottish Highland regiment, complete with kilt.
Phil didn’t recognise the dark tartan of the kilt, but did recognise a man who’d fallen in battle, and on hard times since. The young ex-Serviceman still had his right leg, whilst a metal structure with a gleaming black shoe replaced the left leg. Attached to a small wooden box on the ground was a card that read, ‘I GAVE MY BEST WITH THE BEST – HIGHLAND LIGHT INFANTRY’.
The container held a variety of coins, mainly large denomination. Phil stopped for a few seconds and pulled out his wallet. He removed a £10 note, but then recalled his mate Dave had originally been HLI and often spoke of the bravery of the soldiers. The £10 was joined by a £20. Phil folded the notes together, before reaching forward to slip them into one of the buttoned pockets of the young man’s jacket.
Phil stood back and listened for a few more seconds then winked at the soldier. The piper continued to play and acknowledged his benefactor with a raised eyebrow. Phil nodded before walking on, and he wondered if it was his imagination, or were the pipes being played with a little more gusto.
As he continued on his way, Phil looked ahead once more along Buchanan Street. A few hundred metres away, across Argyle Street was the modernised St. Enoch Square, now complete with shopping centre. Phil had known it as a bus terminus and railway station.
He arrived at his destination - the Buchanan Street entrance to the Argyll Arcade. Phil stopped two metres away from the entrance with its ornate canopy. In his mind, he could still see the entrance cordoned off with blue and white police tape. He could still see the circular chalk marks where empty bullet cases were found, and where the blood of three dead people stained the ground. Phil stood for a moment staring at the clean paving, paying silent homage.
When the arcade was built in 1827, it had been formed in an ‘L’ shape, constructed through existing tenement buildings forming a link between Buchanan Street on the west side and Argyle Street on the south. It contained 30 retail outlets and had since construction, always been the greatest concentration of the jewellery retail trade in Scotland. The majority of customers within the arcade and its stores were still couples, although Phil noticed many now comprised of two men or two women.
The flow of customers, the fine Victorian architecture, and abundance of glittering gold and diamonds meant nothing to Phil, because it was here in 1977 that his life was changed forever. The west entrance to this arcade was the only place in the world that produced sadness in a man who could kill without consideration or remorse. This place was a shrine, because it was where both his parents had died at the hands of an armed robber.
Buchanan Street was a busy road back then, and not a pedestrian precinct. Many people across the UK had been at home watching the Swede, Bjorn Borg battling against the American Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon in the Men’s Final.
A very different battle had been taking place outside the Argyll Arcade as a gang of teenage robbers were making their escape. They had a large haul of stolen jewellery. One of the robbers gunned down three witnesses to prevent any interference.
One of the casualties was Harry McKenzie who tried to stop the getaway. He was shot dead, as was his wife Janet and the Deputy Manager of a retail store.
Phil had been at college with friends working during their holidays to restore a vintage car. He felt a sense of guilt because he should have been with his parents, and perhaps they would have been somewhere else at the time of the robbery.
Phil was awakened from his reverie by the sound of his phone. He pulled it from his pocket, checked the display and answered. “Hi. I’ll be there in about 15 to 20 minutes. Okay, bye.” He closed his phone and walked slowly through the arcade to the Argyle Street side
Only 15 minutes later, Phil found himself in the expanse of Glasgow Green. In the areas between the paved footpaths, flowerbeds and trees, were groups of people enjoying a relaxing summer afternoon. Here and there, were jugglers and amateur gymnasts, whilst youngsters threw Frisbees or kicked a football.
The practise of having picnics was still enjoyed by large and small groups alike, just as it had been for over 300 years. Phil could see his destination in the distance. The Winter Garden of the People’s Palace Museum stood out. It looked like a huge greenhouse attached to a red brick building amidst the large public park.
Even with his extensive training and observational ability, Phil was unable to tell if he was being followed with so many people around. He bought an ice-cream at a vendor in the centre of the park, not so much for the enjoyment, but so that he had a natural stop to look around. It occurred to him that he could still bluff any possible followers that he was onto them. He walked on, past the imposing Nelson’s Column.
Phil finished his ice-cream as he approached the 100-year-old People’s Palace. On his way up the steps he hardly glanced at the impressive Doulton Fountain in front of the museum.
He made his way through the revolving doors, left, past the central staircase and on into the cafe in the glass building which contained the Winter Garden. A wide variety of tropical trees and shrubs of various sizes took up most of the large space. In and around the greenery a pathway wound. There were several benches provided along the path to allow visitors to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
In the Encore Cafe, a handful of the tables were occupied, because most people were appreciating the opportunity to sit at the tables outside in the sun. Phil bought a coffee and chose a table where he could observe the doorway. Old habits die hard, he thought. He glanced at his watch. It was 13:20 so he was 10 minutes early.
A movement caught Phil’s eye. He turned to the right towards the masses of foliage, and saw a handsome woman of about 30 strolling towards his table from the pathway. Phil noted the dark eyes and pretty face framed by shoulder length, auburn hair.
Her full figure and confident stride were accentuated by her upright stance and stiletto heels, whilst a bright floral dress highlighted her tan. A small white bag hung from her left shoulder and she carried a jacket over her right arm.
“Hi,” Annabel said, as she approached the table.
“Hi,” Phil said as he stood and extended his right hand. It was his natural reaction. Annabel took his hand in a gentle grip, but still leaned forward and kissed him on both cheeks. Phil inhaled the fragrance of her subtle perfume. She hesitated intentionally.
“Would you like a drink, or bite to eat?” he asked.
“I could murder a cheese sandwich and a latte,” she said.
“I bet you could,” he said, remembering her line of work. They both laughed and it eased the slight tension.
It was a moment witnessed by a dark-haired man sitting on one of the benches amongst the greenery of the Winter Garden. He slipped the phone from his pocket, made a call, and then went back to pretending to read his newspaper.
Tuesday 6th June 2017
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