• Colin Burnett

Funny Money

This picture was kindly provided by my friend and artisit Rab Harling. Who can be found on twitter @RabHarling

Such occasions as this wid normally be held at some run doon miners club in the ootskirts ae the Toon. An expense spared, social gatherin, where watered doon pints and a buffet straight fae the shelfs ae Iceland wur the only guarantees. But this grand buildin widnae ken a watered doon pint if you threw it straight in its owner’s puss. And as soon as ah saw the name oan ma invite, ah kent summit wis up. Fur Dalhousie Castle is almost certainly yin ae the plushest venues in the hale ae Scotland’s central belt.

So, yae kin imagine ma surprise when ma beautifully decorated invite droapped through the letterboax. Especially when yae consider this particular delivery wis sent fae someboady who lives oan sixty quid a week dole money. And who hus a questionable knack ae snortin snow. A familiar fact which drove me tae rush through tae the kitchen and make sure it wisnae April the fuckin first. But yince ah goat it confirmed that it wisnae, in fact, a cheap laugh at ma expense. Ah instantly felt obliged tae share the excitin news wae wee Brucie. Who wis busy enjoyin his mornin munch.

‘’Brucie, son’’ ah said ‘’Yur uncle Craigy is huvin an enagement pairty’’ – of course he didnae seem too enthused wae the news. But his tune soon changed when ah telt him ‘’It’s at Dalhousie Castle’’ – and it wis this bit ae info which caused him tae suddenly start choking oan his pedigree chum. And tae tell yae the truth. Ah actually thoat ah wis gonnae huv dae perform the Heimlich maneuver oan the poor might. A clear indication he wis surprised as anyboady aboot the pairty’s posh location.

The wee man’s steyin wae auld Mrs Henderson fae acroass the wey. Ah couldnae ask Christina tae look efter him since we hud finished oan such unpleasant terms. She hates ma guts. But ah’ll no bore yae wae the details. Lits jist say there wis a clash ae principles. Besides Bruce will be jist fine wae the auld yin. Ah’ve broat him up tae respect his elders and she’ll be glad ae the company fur the night, nae doot.`

Ah arrived here in a taxi wae, Dougie. A decision that made perfect sense considering neither ae us wanted tae travel oor in a crammed bus departin fae the Web. Tellin yae, likes, yuv goat tae hand it tae, Craigy. Efteraw, bookin a place like this deserves nuttin but praise and admiration. He’s pulled oot aw the stoaps fur his missus and that, ah guess, is love. Still, you’ve goatae wonder how he’s managed tae dae it, eh? The cunts supposed tae be maire skint than almost everyboady ah ken. Still he’s determined tae keep us guessin. Cos anytime me and Dougie question him oan it aw he does is clamp up before quickly changin the topic ae conversation. Naeboady kin deny, it’s been a gid night oot, so far.

Plus, even though ah’m no exactly what you wid caw, the sentimental type. The evening hus offered me some welcomed blasts fae the pasts. It jist goes tae show yae, eh? that whisperins ae a free bar oan offer seems tae circulate roond toon and help find maire folk than a million cardboard milk cartons. Only doonside, of course, is the fact there’s a distinctive lack ae talent walkin up and doon the room. In fact, tae be honest wae yae. Ah’ve no seen this many dugs assembled in yin place since ah watched a hunner and yin dalmatians in the 90’s. A reality which is as depressin as it is demoralising. Cos ah came along here wae much enthusiasm and high hopes ae pullin. And that’s exactly why ah pit oan ma best Ben Sherman shirt. No tae mention ah generous splash ae Hugo Boss aftershave. Still, hings could be worse, eh? Ah could be wearin Dougies pink shirt which is decorated in yelly flowers. Course, typical ae him, he blames, Justine fur his questionable fashion choice. But ah’m no buyin it. Ah hink he gits oaff oan standin oot in a crowd.

Ah kin see that Craig is busy playing hostess. Manouverin between tables, shakin the hands ae his guests. There’s definitely maire and maire folk pilin oan the dance flair, tae. Especially since the DJ cranked up the deafenin tunes ae Calvin Harris. Some folk huv broat their bairns along, n aw. While maist ae they’m are runnin aboot kickin balloons between their dancin parents. And it’s no long before ah cloack the unlucky bride standin there, as well. She’s the lassie wae the animal print ootfit. Looking every bit as if she’s a blond beehive awey fae winnin a Lily Savage lookalike comp.

Ah’m startin tae question whether ah should git up oaff ma erse and go in search ae the elusive, Dougie. He’s takin the complete piss, likes. And ah’m left tae ponder oan ma lonesome. As the very real prospect ae soberin up enters ma mind. A thoat which is never a gid yin when yur oot huvin a session, lookin tae pull. The wey ah look at it, eh? the maire drink poured doon ma neck the maire chance there is yin ae these skanks suddenly appearin desirable. So, ah soon decide that another pint cannae come quickly enough. And before ah ken it ah’m downin the fucker. And it tastes gid, likes. In fact it’s probably the maist euphoric consumption ae lager ah’ve ever experienced. The sense ae joy in short lasting, though. Cos ootae naewhere ah feel someboady’s grubby paws touch me oan the shoulder. An unwanted physical approach which startles me tae ma core.

‘’Awrite, Aldo’’ whispers a monstrous, ugly voice, direct in ma ear.

And as ah turn tae reveal the soonds identity ah see that it’s a vile lookin boay who’s wearin an equally mignin burgundy cap. He’s also sportin a jaundice coloured zippy which jist aboot pits him oan a par wae Dougie fur the maist overstated fashion sense at this bash. Fae the cunts fresh pussed complection, n aw. Ah cannae imagine he kin be much aulder than eighteen. Remindin me ae yin ae they wee bams me yae often encounter whilst oan a stroll through the park wae Brucie, ken? yin ae they’m who spend their weekends freezin their baws oaff. Bein loud, wide, and attemptin tae intimidate folk. A shining example ae Scotland’s loast youth and the type ae cunt ah despise.

Ah pause fur a second, eh? jist tae see whether ah kin place him, or no. Nah, dinnae ken him. And he’s no yin ae ma customers. Still, he seems tae hink wur long loast best pals.

‘’Dae ah fuckin ken you?’’ ah ask

‘’Nah’’ he sais. ‘’But…’’

Ah stoap him midsentence ‘’Well, ah dinnae hink that needs tae change’’ ah say. Before ah wave him awey like the bad smell he is.

Ma mind swiftly returns tae the mysterious whereaboots ae Dougie and the nixt roond. Still though, ah cannae spoat sight ae him amongst aw these feel gid party goers. A failure that hus left me somewhat puzzled. Especially when yae consider what he’s wearin. That radiant pink shirt which is probably visible fae the International Space Station.

This is some line up, eh? Mean, talk aboot the usual suspects. This pairty really is a who’s who ae Edinburgh’s maist prolific petty criminals. A vast variety ae shoaplifters, drug dealers, and the clinically insane. Maist ae thum nae doot yaisin this hert warmin occasion tae case the place fur a personal best score. In fact, it widnae surprise me in the slightest if they’ve awready each goat a detailed mental blue print ae aw its priceless paintings and their locations.

Ah stand up fae ma seat as ma patience wae the cunt is finally exhausted. But just as ah’m aboot tae steam through the crowd and find him. He suddenly emerges. And even though ah’m still mad wae him the fact he’s carryin a tray full ae drinks helps tae calm me doon.

‘’Where the fuck did you git tae?’’ ah ask him. ‘’Ah’ve been sittin here choking oan a fuckin drink’’

He shakes his heid ‘Dinnae ask, man. Ah goat stoapped wae Craig’s Aunty, Sharon. Ken? her who’s obsessed wae the Royals.’’

Douglas rests the tray oan the purple and white decorated table. Before he lifts his pint and takes his seat opposite me.

‘’That’s why ah like the circus, Dougie’’ ah remind him.

‘’What dae yae mean?’ he asks

‘’Well’’ ah sais, casually takin a sip ae ma Barcardi and Coke. ‘’At least there’s bars between you and the freaks’’

Dougie responds wae a playful smile.

‘’So’’ he sais, leanin forward. ‘’Ah wis meanin tae ask. What happened between you and Christina? Ah thoat yae might go the distance?.’’

‘’That’s personal stuff, mate’’ ah tell him ‘’Widnae be right discussin it wae yae at a piss up. It wis true love, me and her’’

An awkward silence develops between us. Neither ae us quite sure what tae say nixt. Ah ken he’s sittin there regrettin brining up mines and hers untimely brekup. And yince maire ah’m left tae reflect oan what might huv been between me and her.

‘’Ah thoat she wis the yin, Dougie’’ ah sigh. ‘’But ah could never forgive fur that. Tae hink ah shared a bed wae her. It jist sickens me.’’

Dougie takes a deep breath. Seemingly overwhelmed wae ma bombshell ‘’Did she shag someboady behind yur back, or suttin, mate?’’

Ma emotions git the better ae me and the pain losin ma yin true love sets oaff the waterworks. Ah bang ma fist oan the table ‘’Ah cannae even say it’’

‘’What did she dae, mate?’’ squeals Dougie.

‘’She wis a fuckin Tory’’ ah tell him, whist greetin hard intae the table cloth.

‘’A Tory?’’ he says ‘’Ah dinnae fuckin believe you sometimes, Aldo’’

‘’Ah kept seein that Theressa May cunts puss, when we shagged. Sometimes ah couldnae even git it up’’

‘’Jesus’’ he says ‘’That’s fucked up, Aldo’’

‘’Well, it’s the fuckin truth’’ ah tell him.

We sit there endurin maire uncomfortable silence together efter that unfortunate revelation. But no fur too long as ah decide tae git in another roond. He seems relieved when ah ask him what he wants. And ah stand up again tae heid oaff tae the bar. As ah attempt tae navigate ma wey through aw these guests oan the dance flair. Ah’m greeted wae loadsae unfamiliar pusses and aboot an equal number ae some ah ken. Ma quest tae reach the bar isnae an easy yin, likes. This place is jumpin, it’s absolutely fuckin mobbed. And it seems that every step forward is bein interrupted by yit another chalk white drunk who’s ready tae boke their load. Then there’s aw these nippy bairns who are rushin aboot under ma feet. Eventually ah catch a glimpse ae Craigy. He and his missus still at work playing the immaculate, grateul hosts. Baith ae them Laughing and joking wae an aulder couple (Ah assume, her mum and dad) who resemble the Twits fae that book ah read in Primary School. Efter a gid five minutes ae weaving in between the hustle and bustle. Ah finally arrive at ma destination, the bar.

Luckily, the queue at the bar hus awready fizzled oot. And as ah approach the coonter ah notice jist hw smartly dressed the boay pullin pints is. This is a plush establishment, right enough.

‘’Sir’’ he says ‘’ what can I get you?’’

‘’Two boattles ae Bud’’ ah reply.

‘’Not a problem, Sir. My pleasure’’

Before he turns awey tae grab two ice cauld yins fae the fridge.

Everyhing aboot this place is up market. It reeks ae toff success and prosperity. The bar itsel is made ae proper solid oak. And fur the life ae me ah’ve been unable tae verify any blade marks or dried up blood splatterd acroass it.

He returns wae ma two boattles ae Bud and pops the lids oaff them before handin thum oor

‘’Cheers, mate’’ ah tell him. Tae which he dually responds wae a smile.

By this time the lyrics ae Gerry Cinnamon are influencing the atmosphere in the room. Wae maist folk ur either dancing, or joyfully signing along wae his captivatin words. Ah even sing along tae as ah begin ma journey back acroass tae Dougie. When ah finally make it their ah kin see he’s sittin back soackin up his surroundins and the positive atmosphere. Clearly, he’s enjoying the music tae wae the wey he’s noddin his heid and smiling.

Ah stretch oor and pass him his boattle

‘’Thanks, man’’ he sais. Whilst still observin the pairty.

Fur a brief moment we sit back in oor comfy seats. Enjoyin the company as what we are. Two auld generational mates. Nae naggin burds tae contaminate the unspoken bond we share, either. Although he does enjoy the company ae his missus, eh? far maire than he wid ever care tae admit. No fur me though. Ah’m glad tae be a free man in this moment in time.

‘’Looks who’s headin oor wey’’ Dougie mutters. Pointin desperately behind me.

But before ah even git the chance tae turn aroond. The unmistakeable voice that could sink a thousand ships kin be heard yellin

‘’Dougie, Aldo, what are you two dain here?’’ it’s Sally, eh? a plump lassie wae a surprising fizzy personality. Her dress code resembles suttin yae wid find doon Leith docks.

‘’Take an educated guess?’’ ah smugly tell her.

‘’Easy’’ she sais. ‘’Ah’m only makin fuckin conversation’’. Then she flings her huge erse intae the seat nixt tae mines.

‘’This place is a bit fancy, eh?’’ she sais, lookin aroond the hall

‘’Aye, fur the likesae you it is’’ ah tell her.

‘’Ha fuckin ha’’ she sais ‘’But ask yursel this yin. How did the wee fanny Craig afford this?’’

‘’Fuck knows’’ concedes Dougie.

Ah dae ma best tae drone these two oot. As they start bletherin awey tae each other. Before Sal starts spoutin maire pish aboot how her man, Tony. Who, as everycunt kens, is a degerent fuckin drunk. Walked oot oan her and her creepy fuckin son, Peter. Ma only question is how did it take him that long tae see sense. But ah decide tae keep ma criticial opinions oan the matter tae masel.

‘’That useless motherfucker’’ she announces tae us. ‘’He left us wae no a pot tae piss in. Ah hud the choice ae pittin Peter in care or lookin efter him. Easiest fuckin decision in ma life’’

‘’So, what happened?’’ ah ask fakin fur the sake ae fake interest. ‘’Wur the social full?’’

Dougie glances acroass tae me ‘’She means keepin him wis the easy choice’’

‘’Really?’’ ah sais. Starin at her aw shocked, n that.

‘’Of course, that’s what ah meant. Cheeky bastard’’ she snaps.

Then oot ae naewhere ah catch sight ae this pretty tidy lassie glancing acroass at me. She’s huddled in a wee group ae women who ah assume tae be her mates. Ah dinnae ken her fae Adam, likes. So, ah nudge, Sal

‘’Who’s that, Lassie?’’

‘’Who?’’ she asks, turning aroond.

‘’The blonde yin wae the shoart black mini skirt?’’

‘’That’s, Leanne’’ She says ‘’Marco’s sister. She’s goat nae self respect that lassie. Shags anyhing’’

Instantly ah rise fae ma seat again. Speed walkin ma wey oor tae her and her group ae mates.

Ma heid’s still bangin fae Craigy’s and Caroline’s pairty. Ah’ve hud tae take a worrying amount ae paracetamol these past couple ae days. Anymaire and it’s surely a trip tae The Royal fur me. But any concern aboot that is quickly diluted by the fact that so far they’ve barely touched the edges. Even the wey Bruce rolls his eyes anytime ah droap yin ah, isnae stoappin me. Accordin tae ma phone ah’ve hud a dozen missed calls fae Craig. Aw in quick succession, n aw. Not that ah wis deliberately blankin him. Ah hud the hing oan airplane mode whilst it’s been chargin. No that ah’da been in a hurry tae pick up. Efteraw, the last hing ma heid needs now is tae hear that cunt tellin me that he’s invested in a Chicken which is busy shittin oot golden eggs.

Turns oot Bruce wis oan his best behaviour fur Mrs Henderson. As a reward ah’d promised him a long overdue lads night in. Nuttin too fancy, likes. Jist the pair ae us and another season ae Breaking Bad. He seems tae huv a connection wae that character Tuco. Ken, the big cunt wae a shoart fuse. Fuck knows why he seems tae like him sae much. But he seems tae huv been starin at the firestick remote fur the past hour now. Obviously eggin me oan tae heid straight tae Netflix and hit play. Jist as ah’m aboot tae dae exactly that though. Aw ae a sudden ma phone starts ringing again but surprisingly, this time, it’s Dougie. Ah hesitate tae answer at first but wae Dougie’s unusual persistence ah decide ah better hear him oot and answer

‘’What’s up?’’ ah ask.

‘’Listen, shut the fuck up’’ he sais, in a rather concernin panicked state.

‘’You’re the yin who’s phoned me, remember?’’ ah remind him. As ah almost choke oan a Dorito.

‘’It’s Craig, Aldo’’ he says ‘’Git yur erse doon tae the Royal. Ward ten, it’s bad. Ah’ll explain maire when yae git here.’’ Almost soundin as if he’s hoadin back the tears.

‘’What’s happened, likes?’’ then the line goes deid.

Ah phone a taxi, immediately. Before flingin oan some claithes and ma Doc Martens. Bruce is naturally disappointed ah’ve hud tae cut shoart oor night in. But yince ah sit him doon and explain tae him how his uncle Craig is in hospital. He sticks his paw oot fur me tae shake when and ah promise him a wee holiday soon fur his understandin. The taxi then soon arrives and oan ma wey oot ah chap Mrs Henderson’s door. And she seems only too happy tae take Bruce again.

The driver droaps me oaff right ootside the hospital entrance. Ah pey the boay his fare and chuck in a couple quid tip fur his troubles. Ah gesture he seems tae appreciate. Tight cunts in Edinburgh probably the reason fur his overt gratitude. As soon as ah set fit ootside the taxi the heavens begin tae open up. The rain splatters oaff ma jaicket and the cauld wind cuts right through me. There’s aw soartsae people walkin in and oot ae the buildin’s automated front doors. Doacturs, nurses, and visitors, alike. Young, auld, and ancient. In ma rush tae reach shelter fae this shitty weather ah barge past thum which results in a few ae them mutterin negativity under their breath.

During ma shoart trip tae the hospital fae Leith ah hud a loatae hings rushin through ma heid. Different scenarios n that, ken? Aboot what might huv landed Craig in The Royal. But then ah remembered how him and Dougie love the drama. Like a fuckin pair ae young lassies who cannae wait tae start gossipin aboot suttin - anyhing. Ah then decide that Craigy’s maist likely broken a tae or summit. And ah bet when ah walk in he’s lying in bed munchin oan a bunch ae expensive grapes. As ah wander aboot ootside the WH Smith in the hospital ah kin see aw ae these signs plastered aboot wae aw these different wards. Yins splattered in big bold capital letters, as if evercunt in there must be blind. Still, ah’m looking fur ward ten and tae ma sheer frustration ah cannae seem tae see it. Luckily though ah soon cloack a boay in his fast approaching doon the corridor in ma direction. Wae him huvin a white coat oan and a pair ae stethoscopes aroond his neck. Ah naturally assume that he must be a doactur.

Ah go up tae him ‘’Excuse me, mate’’ ah say ‘’You couldnae tell me where ah kin find ward ten, could yae?’’

‘’Of course, Sir’’ he sais, in his posh well spoken voice. ‘’That’s the ICU ward’’

Ah freeze.

‘’Sir?’’ he sais, wavin his hands in front ae ma face.

‘’ Sorry’’ tell him. Immediately snappin back intae realiy. ‘’That’s the Intensive Care unit, right?’’

‘’That’s correct’’

‘’ But ma mates only broke his tae though?’’

‘’Well, sir, The ICU isward ten’’. He points tae the nearby elevator ‘’Jump in and head for the third floor. You can’t miss it.’’

‘’Okay, thanks’’ ah tell him. Still feelin a bit light heided wae and confused by his revelation.

Walkin inside the elevator ah decide tae pit the doacturs mistake doon tae sleep deprivation. These doacturs are worked intae an early coma wae the hours they git through in a week. Still, ah decide tae go along wae him and press the button tae take me tae the third flair. The door opens and as ah walk oot ah’m fuckin stunned. Cos, above the door starin back at me is a big number ten and an even bigger kick in the baws awaits. When ah see that it does in fact say, ICU.

Ah quickly splash a bit ae hand sanitizer oor ma hands and lovingly massage it in. Before a deep breath as ah enter the ward. A nurse is sittin behind a desk at a computer oan reception. She cloacks me walkin in and gees me a warm, understandin smile

‘’How can I help, sir?’’ she asks, in her sweet, angelic voice.

‘’Eh, ah’m here tae see ma mate, Craig Robertson’’ ah tell her ‘’He wis broat in earlier’’

‘’Yes, of course, he was admitted at four ‘o clock. Head straight down to the bottom of the corridor and it’s your first left. There’s a gentleman already with him.’’

‘’Thanks’’ ah tell her. Feelin even maire deflated than ah wis before ah entered that lift.

It’s only a shoart trip tae the room. But in aw honesty it feels as if ah’m walkin the five hunner miles the twins wur sae eager tae sing aboot. Ah kin feel the cauld breath ae impendin death oan ma neck as ah walk doon this corridor. Finally, ah arrive at the room. And ma first vision doesnae inspire confidence. Dougie looks like a helplessly defeated man. He sits slumped intae a rid widen airmchair wae his hands in his puss. Fae the corner ae ma eye ah catch a glimpse ae a figure wired up tae these machines. Withoot inspectin any further ah ken it must be Craigy. Temptation gits the better ae me though. And as ah turn, ah dinnae recognise him in the slightest. His puss is aw swollen and pulped oot. And it’s colour is pure beetroot rid. Even his fuckin eyes are jist lifeless slits. He’s clearly in a bad wey.

‘’What the fuck happened!?’’ ah roar.

Dougie instantly springs up fae his seat. Lookin absolutely shattered and teary eyed ‘’It wis the great white’’

Ah pause fur a second ‘’A great white did this?’’ pointin tae Craigy’s unrecognisable puss. ‘’Wis he at Portabelly beach, or suttin?’’.

Dougie explodes ‘’Are you stoned, or what?!’’ he screams ‘’No an actual fuckin shark’’ he says, almost at a whisper ‘’It wis Mikey Hood’’

‘’The loan shark?’’ ah ask.

‘’Fur fuck sake, Aldo. Aye’’ his teeth grindin taegether as his temper escalates.

‘’How dae yae ken that?’’ ah say.

Dougie then starts pacin up and doon the room. Like a nervous boaxer seconds away fae his call. ‘’Caroline filled me in oan how Craig came intae aw money fur the pairty’’

‘’Right, and?’’ ah snap.

‘’He’s been passin funny money aboot. And the daft cunt wis pumpin five grand worth ae notes through Mikey’s clubs. So, he sent roond some heavies tae the hoose. He still wants his money tae. You’ve goat history wae that cunt, eh?’’

‘’ Aye. Hibs and Herts. Where’s Caroline?’’

‘’Ah sent her haime’’ Dougie sais, whilst collapsin back doon intae his seat. ‘’The state she wis in. Ah telt her ah wid phone yince ah hud any news.’’

Ma eyes cannae be drawn awey fae Craig’s smashed up puss. They’ve done a right number oan him. The picture starin back at me sends ice water rushin through ma veins. ‘’Ah’m gonnae be seein that bastard, Mikey. Real soon’’

‘’Yae cannae’’ Dougie sais, aw frantically.

‘’How the fuck no?’’ ah ask him.

‘’He said if you goat involved, or the polis. Then this wid seem like a friendly warning.’’

‘’Aye’’ ah sais. ‘’What else did he say?’’

Dougie looks increasingly maire anxious. And ah kin almost sense he might droap doon deid ae hert attack at any minute. So, ma nixt move is tae pit his mind at ease

‘’Listen, ah’ll square him up wae what Craigy’s due. If that pits this shit tae bed. And Craigy will pull through, eh? stronger than ever’’

Ah kin feel the relief in his voice ‘’You’re a gid mate, Aldo’’ he tells me.

Ah nod in agreement. ‘’Craigy kin dae some chores fur me. Yince he’s back up oan his feet. What’s the docaturs saying?’’

‘’They should be roond soon. It’s too early tae tell’’

Ah slump in the seat nixt tae him. Still reelin fae what’s happened. This explains aw they missed calls fae Craigy. He wis obviously phoning me cos Mikey’s heavies wur oan his tail. There’s nae two weys aboot it, eh? Ah’m riddled wae guilt. Hence ma offer tae pey the five bags tae clear the debt. Still, better tae keep his SOS call quiet fae Dougie. Fur the now, at least. Emotions are clearly awready gone in aw sortsae directions at the minute. Nae need tae start pointing unwanted fingers ae blame at any yin person. Neither ae us are able tae muster the strength tae communicate tae yin another. Baith ae us ae too mentally and physically drained tae speak. Under the pretence ae nippin oot fur a quick smoke ah make a few calls tae git a location oan, Mikey. And ah’ve goat it oan gid authority that he’s in a boozer oot Granton wey cawed ‘The Highlander’. No jist himself though. He’s goat his muscle wae him tae. There should be nae maire violence though. Oan accoont ae no wantin tae make hings worse fur Craig ah’m gonnae pey the cunt oaff and jist leave it at that. By the time ah make ma wey back in the room. Suttin’s evidently ratteld Dougie’s cage yince maire.

‘’What’s the matter?’’ ah ask while. Dreadin the answer but a valid question none the same.

‘’It’s fifty fifty, the doac sais. Suttin tae dae wae the swellin oan his brain. Nixt twinty four hours ur gonnae be crucial ’’

‘’Ah’ll be back soon’’ ah reassure him. As ah turn awey and walk oot aw and oan ma wey back doon the corridor

‘’Wait. Where the fuck are you gone?’’ ah kin hear him say.

But he kens exactly where the fuck it is ah’m gone. Ah’m gontae see that Mikey cunt. As ah emerge fae the hoaspital doors ah see that ah’ve goat the pick ae the awaitin taxis. Ah jump in the yin parked nearest tae me and heid straight tae ma flat tae pick up the cash fae ma safe. Ah quickly stuff the wad ae notes in a white envelope and dart back ootside tae the taxi. The Highlander is a notorious boozer in Edinburgh and it’s a name that rings oot far and wide. It doesnae take us long tae arrive there. Largely oan accoont ae the traffic no bein that bad. Ah git the driver tae park aroond the corner fae the pub and as soon as ah jump oot the rains starts hammerin doon. This pub kindae takes me back tae Saughton, likes. Wae it’s run doon appearance and steel bars acroass it’s windaes.

Strollin inside it’s clearly a boozer that time hus long since furgoatten. The interior resembles a 1970’s time capsule, if truth be telt. It seems pretty busy though. Wae boays scattered acroass the room. Some locals, and wannabe gangsters. Aw enjoyin cheap booze while they watch the ponies oan a large plasma telly attached tae the waw. The place fast becomes quieter than a library when ah’m cloacked by thum. They watch me as ah scan the room in search ae Mikey. Then ah hear the cunts unmistakable husky voice. He’s laughing and joking wae his heavies at the back ae the bar. His muscle lappin up the attempts ae pishy humour by this two bit gangster.

Headin straight taewards thum wae tunnel vision his boays soon turn stone face yince they see me approaching. Each yin ae thum ken ah could brek thum in half while rollin a ciggie. Mikey finally turns aroond tae. Ah kin see he’s still smoking his cheap cigars. Yin clumsily dangling fae his mooth. He sports a somber navy blue suit tae. Always tryin tae gee the impression he’s Edinburgh’s very ain Tony Soprano. It’s pathetic, likes. He’s a gid few year aulder than me but he’s still a wannabe, like the rest.

‘’Aldo’’ he sais. Aw bright eyed and wae whiskey drippin doon his weasel like puss. ‘’ It’s been a longtime, eh?’’

Ah gee the him the death stare ‘’Yae ken why ah’m here. Ah heard yae bumped intae a mate ae mines, eh?…Craig?’’

He glares aroond tae his lads. Smilin like he’s the cat that jist bagged the cream ‘’They telt yae aboot that, did they? Listen, ah ken what your hinkin, Aldo.’’

‘’Really?’’ ah sais, actin surprised. ‘’Well, ah’m sorry yae hud tae hear that, Mikey’’

His muscle sniggers. But they’re quickly shut doon when Mikey gees thum a death stare tae ‘’That’s cute, Aldo. Ah’ll lit that yin go, eh? oan account ae what’s happened. But you remember where the fuck you are, ken?’’

Ah hud up ma hands, apologetically ‘’Ah’m no here lookin fur trouble’’ ah tell him. Then ah slyly pull oot the envelope wae the cash in it fae ma jaicket poacket.

Ah slam it doon oan the bar ‘’What’s this?’’ Mikey asks aw smugly.

‘’That’s five grand’’ ah tell him ‘’That’s Craigy square wae yae, right?’’

‘’Okay’’ he says, quietly.

‘’So, we’re gid?’’ ah ask him.

Tae which he smiles and taps oan the envelope ‘’The debt’s been paid, aye. We’re gid’’

‘’Sound’’ ah tell him ‘’That’s good’’

As ah turn awey and heid tae the entrance door. He predictably wants the last word ‘’ You tell yur wee darling, Craig. We kin talk aboot the interest peyments when he’s back oan his feet. Fur aw the inconvenience he’s caused me’’.

A chorus ae laughter erupts fae him and his entourage. And they’re too much in love wae themselves tae even notice what ah dae nixt. Ah walk up tae the front door and begin boltin the place up.

As ah walk up back taewards they’m Mikey’s still grinning awey tae himel. And he jist cannae fuckin wait tae bait me some maire ‘’Look aroond yae’’ he sais. Gesturing tae his five goons. ‘’You might be a crazy fuck, Aldo. But you’re oot gunned here, ah’m afraid’’

‘’Lads!’’ ah shout. Ma eyes dinnae flinch fae their direction. The hale place seems tae stand up in unison. Instantly sending the bar staff cowering fur cover. And yince the miserable bastard sees ah’m no a long ranger. Aw his smugness and confidence evaporates intae thin air. A changing emotion which dually leads tae his cigar droappin tae the flair.

‘’Dinnae mind they’m’’ ah tell him, noddin behind me. ‘’They’re only here tae make sure you cunts suffer’’

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