Thursday, 29 September 2016

Say An Ave There For Me, part 3

Not Quite A Dairy Queen In Nebraska
Who to tell? People needed to know. It would be in the papers, yes, but not tomorrow…call that today, now. So, the first inkling would creep out online, somewhere. Nobody should find out that way…then again, is a bereavement delivered on Twitter any worse than the shock of a headline in the Daily Record?
I eased the laptop open and Chrome came to life with the BBC website. I clicked on the Scotland tab, then Glasgow and West. According to the BBC, nobody had been shot dead by the Ballater Street bridge tonight. Other things had happened - five tennis balls packed with poison had been found in McGillivray Park...a passer-by put them in a bin but somebody else had taken them all back out again. Why? Poisoning foxes? Greenock man admits shaking his girlfriend’s baby until it sustained brain damage…sentence deferred until next month, pending background reports, since he was a first offender. 

Overturned car discovered empty in Castlemilk, but not reported stolen. Bad move there, driver. You flip your motor and run away, first thing you have to do is call it in stolen, even if it's 3am and you're calling on your mobile from a location the police will determine a day or two later is in very close proximity to where the car will have been "found". Or, maybe somebody really had tanned the motor and the owner just hasn't noticed a T-reg Cavalier missing from their extensive collection?
McGillivray Park…which one is that? Is it down by the Clyde, where the George V Dock used to be, a Garden Festival legacy? Or is it one of those tiny corner triangles poked between tenements on the Gallowgate, that the squads of job-creation youth used to “build”?
Christ, Bernie – listen to yourself, you’re babbling. Focus!
You’ve got the rest of your life for displacement activity. Now – soon – people need to know, people need to be told. People like Dee – she would be out of a job, too. How about that, Stevie? You’re adding to the unemployment statistics, on top of everything else, you bastard.
*** *** ***
“Good to see you in early, Dee. I’m guessin’ it’s to catch up with the huge backlog of voicemails from last night?”
“Hi, Stevie. Don’t be backing those guesses with pound notes any time soon. Although, the good news is that there areny any less voicemails than yesterday.”
“Fewer – fewer, not less.”
“Put whatever frock on it you like, it all counts up the same - zero is still zero.”
“Aye, it always was. And am I hearing there’s actual bad news, too?”
“Couldny call it anything else. Guy was waiting outside the office when I got here, handed me this.”
“Ah. That looks like the Sheriff Court logo and address on there. Not necessarily the end of the world, that…this is the kinna business that we do.”
“Very philosophical, Plato. Let me know when your next slim volume is due, would you? The hand delivery was a G1A form, with all the other stuff in there, too. You’re bein’ sued.”
“Sued, for what? By who?”
Whom,  not who.”
“Touché. Live by the sword, I guess…”
“And it’s that Mrs Scanlan, her that runs the private nursery? You thought she could actually be good business when she walked through the door, although she turned out to be an arsehole, if I remember correctly.”
“What, her? I remember Mrs Scanlan. Thought her manager had banjoed the accounts. She sat there and nodded at me, wasted my time – and aye, she was an arsehole. I think she got altitude sickness, bein’ so low as to be sittin’ in here. But she never paid us a penny, so she’s a stranger, legally. She canny sue us for that conversation.”
“Actually, Stevie…she did pay somethin’. Coupla days later, BACS transfer straight into the account, hundred quid. I checked – the transaction note says ‘retainer’. Never noticed it at the time.”
“Aw, hang on now….what does she say she’s suing for?”
“Money, you mean? Fifteen grand. For cause, you gave her bad advice – that’s where she nodded at what you said – and made her spend money that she didny need to, that also led to financial losses in her business, plus interest, plus costs, plus punitive damages, blah blah blah. Her manager ripped her off, she says, and you helped that to happen cuz of what you said she should do.”
“Aw, this is well wrong. Somethin’ is hooky here. Is there a lawyer’s name on the papers?”
“Course there is.”
“Campbell Western?”
“Course it is.”
“Aye, course it is. This claim is bullshit, it’ll get punted, rapid. I never gave her ‘advice’ and if she did anythin’ based on that conversation, that’s on her own head. But she knows that, anyway. This is nothin’ but hassle for its own sake.”
“The retainer, even. We never invoiced her for it, it’s a donation, more like -”
“- aye, but most of the lawyers in town, including Campbell Western, know how to pay us, whether we ask them or not. We’ll return the money, that’s the paperwork clean, and there’s no legal issue anyway. And if there was, if I had given her any bad ‘advice’ that she actually paid for, we’re insured for that kinna claim. She must know that as well – no need for pistols at dawn.”
“Sure, but in the meantime, there’s the hassle factor. You have to answer the case, costs you time and money to do that. And mibbe the word goes round – more woe at Stevie McCabe’s. This is just another ‘hing we don’t need. Stevie…I don’t understand why this is happenin’, any of it. Why business is shite, why the phone never rings the way it used to...well, sometimes used to, anyway.”
“Told you – it’s the blowback from all the Doune family mess, mostly. You get tangled in that kinna sickness, it’s hard to get the stink off you.”
“But you were the…you sorted it. You’re the good guy…stupid expression, sorry, but that’s how it was.”
“Aye, you know that, but if somebody’s only half listenin’, they don’t get the story, just the headline. The Dounes? Christ above, what a squad of rockets, man, d’ye see what they were all into? Whole buncha them’s sick as fuck. Every man jack – the women an’ all, in fact, they were worse’n the men… It’s just background noise, but it’s out there in the ether and cuz I’m in the mix, somewhere, never mind if I’m on a white horse, nobody wants to hear about what’s real and what’s not, it all just gets remembered as part of that giant Doune mess. That’s the truth.”
“That makes no sense – people only had to read as far as the second line to see what it was really about.”
“…well, you say that – but it happens every day…you know the Springsteen song, Born in the USA?”
“Know it? Obviously, everybody knows it. Punchin’ the sky and wearing a flag, Uncle Sam to the rescue, gawd bless Murica. Yew-ess-ay, yew-ess-ay, yew-ess-ay.”
“Well, there’s my point, in one. Everybody knows that song and – like you just did – they call it arse-backwards. The song’s actually about the opposite of what you said, more or less, but people see the hundred-point headlines and never get to the second verse. And if you can make that mistake, so can anybody else. The Dounes? It’s like that. I’m in there somewhere and everything  about it is rank rotten. So nobody wants to come in through that door there - no good deed goes unpunished.”
“And this Campbell Western stuff? Got to be the Agnews, right?”
“Them or JP Docherty. One of that mob. Campbell Western are lawyers for every last one of them.”
“Is this still about Florida? Seems like an awful lot of pigeons comin’ home to roost all at once. And, anyway, from what you said, old man Agnew bein’ in jail quite suits Bobby Petrie.”
“Canny see it being that. I don’t think Petrie holds grudges – at least, not that way. And if he’s got some kinna point to make, I don’t think this is how he does it. Kiddy-on lawsuits? Naw. He’s much more direct – less ambiguous. This is much more Docherty’s style, far as I know.”
“Mibbe Petrie’s just thought up a different way to do it – like Al Capone? The FBI couldny do him for actual crime, so they got him on the tax evasion. This could be the Agnew crew goin’ all collar-and-tie on you – instead of coming heavy, they knacker your business with a paper chase.”
“Aye, mibbe it’s them that got the council on my case, cuz I don’t have planning permission for this to be an office. Ye ‘hink?”
“Jeez, Stevie, don’t admit that – the council’s paperwork is shite, they’ll never nail that down. Could be worse, this whole ‘hing, though - at least nobody’s sendin’ pizza we never ordered.”
“Dunno – you could eat that, save a few quid…”
“But this is a lot of hassle for them, too - why would they even bother…with any of it?”
“I wish I knew.”
“One day, we’ll find out – did I tell you I was goin’ out for lunch today? Seein’ somebody at a Brazilian steakhouse.”
“Hope it’s somebody that can give you a job, the way this conversation’s gone.”
“Mibbe, dunno. We’ll see.”
“Ask them for me while you’re at it, eh?”
“That bit, no can do. They probly only want people with talent.”
*** *** ***
“I could tell you I don’t know how bad it is, Bernie, but I do. It’s me knows a lot better than Stevie what goes in and out of the books there. Biggest problem he’s got, as far as the costs go, that’s me. I’m still gettin’ paid regular. That and the office, but at least that gets him a roof over his head as well. Did he tell you we’re gettin’ grief from the city about using half the place as an office? No planning permission for that, is the story. Although I don’t ‘hink they can prove that, personally.”
“Who complained? The same woman that’s faking the lawsuit? Or somebody wearing the same jersey, at least?”
“The water always flows the same direction, right? It’s nobody that wants us to stay above water, whoever’s doin’ it. Listen, this…what is it?...picanha, right? It’s great. Don’t think I’ve had Brazilian food before. Here’s me, thinkin’ mibbe I’d try the vegetarian thing, y’know? Better for your body, better for the planet, all that guff. Really meant it. But all this meat? Canny whack it. Think I’ll go for the alcatra next – more steak, I know, but like I say… meat. Or mibbe the garlic version.”
“There’s the caramelised pineapple, if you fancy giving your colon a break tomorrow. Still barbecue roasted, all the same.”
“Aye, but there’s gammon, lamb and chili chicken. So…”
“What would you do, Dee? If Stevie -”
“- if McCabe Investigations went tits up? I thought about it, and I dunno. Good answer, eh? I just thought, well, we’ll see. Don’t think I’ll be back on reception at Centrus Office Solutions, somehow, callin’ myself Joanna and smiling at all the roasters in the city…‘I like your new suit, Mister Devaney – is it Paul Smith?’ All that shite, don’t see it.”
“Centrus? God, I forgot that’s where Stevie…”
“…discovered me? Aye. Not quite a Dairy Queen in Nebraska, but then I’m not Lauren Bacall or whoever. That was in the days when Stevie couldny afford his old office, and now he most likely canny even afford Centrus.”
“And now there’s the council and the lawsuit as well. Jeez. Dee, can I ask you…do you like your job? I mean, the day to day, what you do for Stevie, d’you like it enough to be doing it in the long term?”
“Would I do it for a living, for somebody else, or even on my own, you mean? Like a…a career? Naw. It’s just for the moment, or until it gets dull. So, if Stevie heads off to America…”
“Does he talk about that? Might be he could go looking for talent in a real Dairy Queen?”
“He says it’s a…a thing. He disny say it’s his ambition, nor his nightmare. It’s just there, like a hill or a river. But if he did, y’know, go? I said to him I dunno what I’d do…but that’s a lie cuz I do know, really. It’s borin’, but. I don’t like to look that in the eye, cuz it’s too sensible. I’d become a student, law if I could manage to get in somewhere, that’s what I’d do. My age, it’s easier, right? And, if it comes to jobs, I’d rather be you than Stevie, truth be told, but I don’t have the spark to make that decision myself, that’s why the wait-and-see, see?”
“Hang on…you don’t like that picture of yourself, being boring? Boring, like me?”
“Aw, no offence – don’t laugh, I can see you’re windin’ me up! But no, that’s right. It’s not how I see me. I try to know myself, cuz I ‘hink a lotta people don’t and they end up making mistakes because of it. That’s how come lives get buggered up from the inside. Doin’ law, it’s something that Joanna would do, not Dee.”
“It’s not a spark you’re missing, Dee. You’ve got plenty of that. Too much, maybe. You just don’t want to grow up – half the time, I wish I’d never done it, either. Cuz once you do, all your mistakes start to matter, then you’ve got commitments and you can’t always just move on to the next show in the next town.”
“Like you movin’ to Florida? That seems like mibbe you can just walk away.”
“Well, Georgia, or Tennessee, maybe. Nobody’s said Florida so far, but aye, why not? Stevie’s got form there.”
“Sounds to me like ‘anywhere that’s far enough from here’. I know that feeling, but I don’t know what the answer is.”
“These conversations usually all go the same way. You end up with the question gift wrapped, but you’re right, what’s the answer? So, sometimes, you just have to pull the trigger whatever way you’re pointing.”
“It’s definite, then? You’re really doin’ it, gonny be a for-real Yankee?”
“Well, this thing’s not got a decide-by date on it. Ah, shit…why can’t I say it out loud? Yes. Yes, I have to do this. Now, or soon.”
“No use me askin’ you for a reference, then? For my application, I mean. And then – might as well ask – a placement, or whatever you’d call it, job experience in Hutchison Barclay Skivington? Me wantin’ to be Perry Mason, that is.”
“Oh? Ah. Well, that’s different. Dee, that’d be a pleasure. Truly. Just get something to me in time, CV or whatever, and I’ll get whatever you need arranged personally, for whenever you need it. Absolutely. Sounds like you were never really in much doubt about what to do next, even the details.”
“Mibbe. There’s been a lot of thinkin’ time lately, with the business bein’ so slack. I know it’ll be hard work and all, takin’ on a whole new thing I’ve never done before, but I’m a fan of my Volkswagen – I’d like to keep it.”
“Oh? You don’t want to defend the innocent and fight for justice?”
“Huh – don’t mind that, but I’d like to move out of my mum’s house at some point. There’s a low ambition for you. I’ve stopped using her car, so that’s a start, eh?”
*** *** ***
Sweet Dee. Sweet, sour Dee. She never asked me what happened to the hundred and thirty thousand pounds fee Stevie made from resolving ‘that Doune family mess’ and why, despite that money,  McCabe Investigations was sliding towards financial collapse so easily, so irresistibly.
But, then, the real Dee was already gone, already somewhere else, long set out on another journey. Maybe, when she arrived, she’d be Joanna again. And she would still have that Volkswagen.
I’d tell her about what had happened to Stevie first, before I told any of his “family”. That was what she deserved, much more than his last-of-kin.

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