Usin the heed

“Hemin, yer nae fae here, are yi? Far div yi cum fae?”

The voice came from the shadows at the corner of the washhouse next to the lane. But McLaren couldn’t see anybody. He stopped and waited, trying to work out exactly where the voice had come from.

He’s richt though, plowterin aboot in the laneys an back gerdins o Torry at three o’clock in the mornin’s nae ma usual stompin grun, bit thon wee nyaff McGill’s still here sumplace – chased him a the wye fae the ither side o the river ana – probably hidin up a closey sumplace, laughin his cock aff.

There was a slight movement in the shadows and a figure stepped into the light … the lamppost on the road at the end of the lane casting long shadows. The figure swaggered across the cobbles, shoulders squared, head up and stopped in front of McLaren …
a big loon.

“R’yi deef? Ah sed far yi fae?” he demanded.

McLaren pulled back …
his breath’s hoachin
but there was a wall behind him and he couldn’t get any further back. Big Loon leant over at the waist, his face and stinky breath getting even closer. McLaren tried to sidestep but Big Loon put his hand on the wall beside his shoulder. He tried to move the other way but Big Loon did the same at the other side …
Jeese his breath’s bowfin Ah hinna seen sae mony plookes on one coupon afore
… and he shoved his face even closer.

“Yer fae up i toon, arn’t yi? Ah kin tell?” he grinned.

“At’ll mak you the Brain o Britain then, eh?” said McLaren

Big Loon grabbed his lapels pulling him even closer. McLaren breathed through his mouth and narrowed his eyes as waves of stinking breath wafted into his face …
there’s only ae thing fur it
a quick hard nod and he smashed his forehead hard onto the bridge of Big Loon’s nose. Big Loon staggered back a couple of steps, clapped his hands over his bleeding nose and said in a winging, girning voice that now had a distinct nasal twang, “Fit did yi dee at for.”

McLaren stepped forward and Big Loon took off up the lane heading for the main road …
like a rippit saithe.
and Maclaren turned and ran, down on to Menzies Road, past Aiken’s Bakery, round the corner and on to Vicky Brig making for the toon. A bitter wind, keen and biting, blew off of the river. He turned his collar up as he ran but it was no more than a symbolic gesture against the icy blasts.

There wasn’t much chance of Big Loon running to the police so once he was on Market Street he slowed down …
noo Ah hiv ta ging back tae get thon fousty wee gadgee McGill
he thought with disgust and turned into Poynernook Road, heading toward the railway arches.

Little gangs of folk dressed in blue coveralls, big yellow wellies and hairnets – hunched against the early morning cold – stood smoking in the doorways of fish-houses. A forklift with a huge plastic fish box full of bones and cod heads was getting bombarded by squadrons of seagulls …
at racket wid fear the deed
as thick, bloody fish bree ran along gutters and into drains already starting to back up.

He crossed the road and, hunching forward, kept a steady pace over the uneven granite cassies and water filled potholes.

“Yer fae up i toon,” the Big Loon with the Plooky Coupon had said …aye weel … if yea can cry a basement flat at the biddim o Crown Street ‘up i toon,’ Ah suppose Ah am
but not originally …
bit Ah’m a Northfield loon born an bredthough a lot’s happen since Ah got oot o the estate.

He turned under the railway bridge and headed up Millburn Street. The temperature had dropped even further and all he wanted was to get in, have a dram, a shower, another dram and get his head down. After chasing McGill he was knackered …
he wis swack for a Torry gadgee, must ging tae a gym … an Stoochie can wait or the mornin.


He grabbed his watch off of the bedside table and held it up to his eyes. In the dull light filtering through the beige curtains he could just make out the luminous hands …
faack … it’s only six o’clock.

The booming sound reverberated around the tiny flat …
if that’s that wee radge Stoochie Ah’ll
… as he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and winced as his feet touched the cold linoleum. The banging on the door sounded hollow.

“Keep i heed, Ah’m cumin,” he shouted as he struggled to pull on his jeans while half shuffling, half hopping across the cold linoleum.

He reached for the latch and, as an after thought, slipped the security chain in place before opening the door.

As the door started to open it was shoved hard against the chain and hand holding a blue warrant card was thrust through the gap.

“C’mon then McLaren, open the door or Ah’ll bust it open.” A face came close to the gap and smiled, “D’ye hear me. Open this door.”

“Ah will, if ye get yer erm oot o the wye,” then with a sarcastic edge to his voice he added, “Mr Cameron.” The hand was withdrawn and just before McLaren closed the door to remove the safety chain he caught sight of a shock of blond hair, partially hidden by the tall policeman’s broad shoulder. He closed the door completely and, his hand still resting on the security chain, bumped his forehead gently against the door frame.

“Shit,” he said quietly.

“C’mon McLaren, open up or Ah’ll begin tae think yer tryin tae hide something,”

He slid the security chain out of the slot and opened the door fully, stepping back as he did so. Detective Inspector George Cameron was tall, six foot one inch, although he always claimed he was six two. He moved quickly forward and put his hand on the open door, as if expecting someone behind it to push it closed in his face. Stepping inside he looked right toward the bedroom, “On your own?” he asked nodding toward the open door.

McLaren grunted an “Aye,” and moved to see past the policeman before quickly turning to walk into the living room grabbing his shirt from the back of the settee and slipping it on in one easy movement as he went.

George Cameron followed and behind him DS Patricia Simpson closed the door.

“Right, McLaren. Where were you at … ” he looked at his watch, “three o’clock this morning … three hours ago. Think carefully before ye answer.”

McLaren glanced sideways at the pair standing just inside the living room door. “Foo?” he asked splashing some soda water into an empty glass sitting next to an almost full bottle of Lagavulin on the low coffee table.

“McLaren, Ah’m the wan askin the questions.” Cameron’s west coast twang more pronounced as his voice got louder.

He downed the soda water and slowly placed the glass back on the table. “Ah wis in Torry.” he said frowning, “lookin for a freen o mine.” He glanced past Cameron at DS Simpson and nodded almost imperceptibly. Trish Simpson hesitated a fraction too long, Cameron turned saw her nodding in return.

“Ah’m I missing somethin here?” he said quietly. Simpson looked away then turned back to face him, “Andrew and I were in school together,” she said. “Same year.”

Andrew? Thought McLaren, she’s pissed aff wi me … na, that wis years ago.

“School?” said Cameron.

“Aye,” said McLaren, “Northfield Academy.”

“Aww, childhood sweethearts,” said Cameron with a sneering smirk on his face.

The reaction was swift, Simpson and McLaren talking at he same time. “Na, nithin like at,” said McLaren.

Cameron smiled as if he were enjoying their discomfort, then, “Right, wee man, wha was this “freen” you were lookin for?”

McLaren smiled, and nodded, “Kenny McGill,” …
they hiv CCTV o me chasin the wee bugger
why?” he asked, his broad Aberdeen accent slipping slightly.

“Find him, did ye?”

“No, he must hiv bin busy, couldnae find him onyplace.”

“Not even in his garage?”

aye, he’s got a garage, he does repairs … tax free

Aloud he said, “Ah dinna ken far his lock up is.”

“Why were you lookin for him?”

“A mutual freen winted me tae pass sumthin on.”

“You didn’t catch him then?”

kent it, they’ve seen me on CCTV, bit fit div they want wi me for chasin a wee nyaff like McGill. That shoudnae bother the CID

“CCTV?” McLaren asked and Cameron nodded. “Well ye wid have seen Ah never caught im. He dissapeared.”

“Naw, we saw you chasin him up the lane his lock up’s on, then we lost ye.”

“And?” McLaren was getting a bit more confident.

“And,” said Cameron, “McGill was found in his lock up with his hands pinned to his workbench wi a screwdriver.”

Despite himself, McLaren managed to hide his smile. “Ooya,” he said, a mocking tone in his voice, “Ah bet at wis sare.”

“Naw, no really,” said Cameron.

“Must hae bin,” said McLaren.

Naw, said Cameron, “Ye see … his throat was cut.”


Andrew McLaren laid down his coffee and took a bite of the bacon roll; the young waitress who had just served him smiled from behind the counter. He smiled back and raised the roll in a, ‘at’s an afa fine roll’ gesture, her smile broadened and she scuttled into the kitchen.

On the table in front of him the Press & Journal front page screamed the headline


Local entrepreneur Kenny McGill has been found dead in his garage just off Walker Road. Both his hands were pinned together in front of him by a screwdriver driven into the workbench.

Police say they were working on a tipoff phoned in to their Queen Street Headquarters at around two fortyfive this morning.

quarter tae three, jist afore me an Plooky Coupon came heed tae heed

He opened the newspaper and began reading the two page spread about how local entrepreneur Kenny McGill had been found dead in his garage just off Walker Road.

Both his hands had been pinned together in front of him with a screwdriver driven into his workbench. His throat had been cut but that part of the story had not been mentioned in the newspaper … Cameron took great delight in tellin mi aa aboot it though …
in detail

After the early morning visit from Cameron and …
… Detective Sergent Simpson, he had gone voluntarily to the police station to help with their enquiries …
they obviously didnae hae onythng on me or they wid have held ontae me
… and had been held there most of the day.