Chapter 1 - An Ending
I didn’t think that I was in harm’s way when I walked out to meet Bobby Petrie.
I didn’t think it was strange that he was on his own when he parked his Porsche by the banks of the Clyde, half-draped in the shadow of the trees by the Ballater Street bridge, still speckled by street-light glimmer.
I didn’t think anything of the way he lit his cigarette as he unkinked himself from the driver’s seat, nor how left his jacket hanging open when he slid the Marlboros back into his inside pocket.
I began to wonder, simply, why he wasn’t saying anything to me.
But I still didn’t think he was going to shoot me dead, there, on the spot.
You’d think by that point that I’d have seen it coming, right? If not the homicidal detail, then at least some kind of…danger.
But no, right up until his first and last word to me, there was no more threat in the air than on any given night.
That word, muttered over the barrel of the gun he drew from that inside pocket, was “cheerio”.
That’s when he killed me.
My name is Stevie McCabe…
Well….my name was Stevie McCabe, and this is the last you’ll be hearing from me.
Chapter 2 - Next of Kin
The day was crawling unwillingly towards midnight and even a half dozen Tunnock’s teacakes had failed to make wrestling with forty pages of appellant declarations seem like a rewarding way to spend this sharp-whittled night – or morning, soon. I glared at the empty yellow box as if I had been somehow let down by the chocolate-coated marshmallows with their tasty biscuit base, the feckless bastards.
Sitting in a feeble pool of mood lighting and laptop glow, mind drifting from declarations to more urgent matters that jostled for attention, I was startled to hear the buzzing ring of the doorbell, this late, this dark. Stevie had his own keys, and anyway, he was far away, so…
Through the frosted glass of the front door, I could see the silhouettes of two dark figures wearing…hats. Hats? I clicked the outside light into life.
The blurred headgear remained monochrome in the bulb’s illumination and there was no mistaking the black and white checks of the Sillitoe Tartan on the police hat bands. At the moment I moved to open the door, the land line began to ring – glancing, I could see the readout telling me it was my brother on the line; well, he could wait until I found out why two coppers - two coppers besides him, that was - were at my door at this hour.
The female half of the duo tipped her brim as she asked me my name and I confirmed I was who she thought. She had some very bad news, she said.
“I’m awful sorry, Mrs Feeney, it’s about a Stephen McCabe…”
“It’s not Mrs Feeney, it’s…What? Aw no…what’s happened to Stevie? What is it? Tell me! How bad is this news? Tell me now! ”
“Well, I am awful sorry….but a man was found at Glasgow Green tonight, critically injured.”
“Not him, he’s not in Glasgow at all – he’s out of town, so…”
“The man was taken to the Royal, but…like I say, it’s awful bad news. He was dead when he got there. Sorry. Sorry to bring you this, as I said, uh…unfortunate information.”
“Whoa, hang on now, let me understand you right. Are you telling me Stevie McCabe’s dead? Seriously? Dead…tonight? That can’t be right. No. No way, no how. Listen to me – he’s not even in the city, so he cant’ve been at Glasgow Green tonight. It must be somebody else and you’ve made a mistake. This isn’t true. You follow me? Check your facts.”
“I’m afraid it’s true. He was found at the Ballater Street bridge. Like I say, awful sorry to have to -”
“Listen to me, you stupid woman! I don’t give a shit how sorry you are cuz it’s not true – why are you saying it is?”
“He’s been identified. Superintendent Walker knows Mr McCabe and he confirmed the identification. It’ll be done formally later, but there’s no doubt. All his personal documents back that up. I know this must be an awful shock for you. Do you want to call somebody? Or get us to call somebody for you?”
“Oh…uh. What? Well. I don’t know. Somebody…somebody else should’ve called me and…the phone was going off there just now, when you were just coming to the door? So, uh…right? It was ringing? Was it? Is that right?”
“Uh-huh. We heard it go.”
“I could see it was my brother – he’s a superintendent at Calder Street. He must have been phoning to….he must have heard what happened just when you were walking up the path there…and he called me so he could…so it would be him and not you that told me. Not…strangers.”
“Can we come in and sit with you for a bit? Until you can call somebody?”
“Well, I need to, uh, think about this and…you’re sure? Definitely? I mean, now I must sound crazy to you, but…I can’t believe this.”
“Everybody reacts to it differently. We can spend some time with you…”
“No….no thank you. I need to…I want to go and see Stevie, see if this thing is real. Can you take me to the Royal, could you do that? I don’t want to drive myself just now, I don’t think.”
“Superintendent Walker’s in charge of the case – he did say he didn’t want anybody coming to the hospital tonight.”
“Case? Why is this a case?”
“Mr McCabe had gunshot wounds – we’re treating it as murder.”
“Jesus…this couldn’t’ve happened, we made sure it couldn’t. This is the biggest mistake…listen, I know Cammy Walker – let me talk to him. I just want to -”
“I’m sorry, Mrs Feeney - Superintendent Walker was very definite. He mentioned you by name, said you shouldn’t be up there tonight. Mr McCabe’s brother and sister have been contacted, or people are trying to contact them now. To make arrangements, you know?”
“But I’m his next of kin.”
“No, you’re not. Superintendent Walker knew who Mr McCabe was and made arrangements for you to be contacted, but his brother and sister are on record.”
“Record? What bloody record? How do you know who his ‘next of kin’ would be? His so-called family? Well, one of them’s on the run in America and I’ve never even met his sister, she’s a stranger to him. I think Stevie might be in need of something a bit more human than that tonight, whatever’s happened…thanks for your offer to help, but that’s okay, I can make some calls myself. And I can get to the Royal myself, too, since it seems I have to.”
I shut the door on them, the gangly male half having never actually opened his mouth. I hit “delete” on the telephone to erase my brother’s message. I could talk to him later, but right at the minute I didn’t need another police officer telling me Stevie was dead.
Just me, in my hallway, spinning and staggering.
Shaking, quivering, stumbling.
Stunned, numb, blank.
Roaring, howling, shrieking.
Stevie McCabe was dead. My Stevie.
Jesus fucking Christ, Stevie. What have you done now?