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Blood Brothers

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The woman’s voice boomed across Royston Hill making all the pigeons take to the air in alarm.

“Haaawwww Thomaaas”, it boomed out again.

“That’s your Mammy callin you” said William Bailey as he deftly finished rolling a cigarette using tobacco he and Thomas had mixed together made out of all the dimps they’d picked up in Milburn Street, just outside the bookies shop.

“Don’t be so fuckin stupid Wullie,” Thomas replied, “of course it’s my Mammy, who else in Glasgow has a voice like that. You know, you could go tae the fuckin moon and still hear it. She must want me to go to the chippy for ma da’s tea.”

Both boys were eleven years of age and were already just about the most cunning humans of the Glasgow jungle area they lived in.  They had to be, for Royston Hill was, as they would put it “definitely not for sissies.” Gangs were rife in this area of Glasgow and if you were not a member of any of them, then you were fair game for a good kick’n any time you were caught out and about on your own. William and Thomas were proud members of the Hill Stars and anyone who waged war on them would suffer the wrath of the whole gang. The Hill Stars was the largest gang in the district and was led by Robert King who lived with his five brothers and four sisters in the flat above Thomas’s.

This was January 1945 and the horrific 2nd world war was nearing its end, in fact it ended during that particular year on the 7th of May, but to these eleven year old Glasgow boys it meant nothing. For them, the war that had raged around them as they grew up was just a part of everyday life. The occasional bombings that happened around them were just a bit of excitement, and unlike their parents; they were fearless of any consequences. They were more afraid of the gangs that surrounded Royston Hill, the Hill Star’s stamping ground.

Thomas smiled, showing off a large gap between his two front teeth, he was a handsome roguish looking boy with cropped stand up blonde hair and ever alert bright blue eyes that seemed to be continuously searching for the next mischievous adventure.

“Gimme wan of the fags you’ve rolled Wullie and ah’ll have it later,” said Thomas holding out his hand expectantly. “If ah smoke it now she’ll smell it on ma breath and chase me roon the table wi her carpet-beater.”

“Does it hurt?” asked William, screwing his face up in imaginable pain.

“Does what hurt?” Asked Thomas.

“The carpet beater,” replied William”

“Naw!” Thomas replied laughingly. “She just chases me roon the big table swinging the carpet beater at me but she can never catch me. She always gives up in the end and tells me what she’ll do tae me if ah do whatever ah have done wrong again.”

Both boys got up from the floor and wiped the loose tobacco and burnt second-hand cigarette papers from their short trousers. They were true ragamuffins. Totally oblivious to the fact that they were both dressed in rags. Both boys had holes in the elbows of their jumpers and patches in the seat of their pants. Thomas had holes in the soles of both of his shoes; he would occasionally cut out pieces of card-board and use them as insoles and would wear his socks half on turned over and tucked under at the toes so as no one could see the holes in the heels. He had worn the same pair of socks for about two weeks now and when he took them off at night by morning they would have become hard with old sweat, he would snap off the hard bits before putting them on again and think nothing of it, for that was the norm; as he knew it.

Thomas ran out of William Bailey’s flat, down two flights of stairs, out of the close and onto Royston Hill. The next close up the hill was his and his mother was hanging out of a downstairs window getting ready to perforate a few more eardrums.

“Where wur you?” She asked. Standing up and lifting up her large bosom with her forearms. “Wur you in William Bailey’s hoose smokin again?”

“Naw ah wisnae mammy,” Thomas replied, “ah wus jist in the next close talk’n tae Wullie.”

“Yur a wee liar,” shouted Susanna, “come in and let me smell yur breath. Susanna closed the window and went to the front door of the flat. As Thomas came in she grabbed him by his left ear and pulled his mouth close to her nose. “Breath out,” she said whilst breathing in through her nose, which was now about one inch from his mouth.  “I’ll get yae next time ya wee bugger cos ah know you smoke fags.”

Thomas’s mother, Susanna, was starting to put a little weight on. She was only 5 feet two inches tall and with her big bosom looked fatter than she actually was. She couldn’t afford the luxury, or the time, to visit a hairdresser and so regularly applied hydrogen peroxide to her dark hair roots to turn them blond again. Her hair hadn’t seen a pair of scissors for years. Her finger nails were black and her hands scratched and cut all over from working in the local steel works and she was tough; she had to be for life for her was a bleak affair, it was all she had ever known throughout her thirty years. Her mother and father, both staunch Catholics, had come to Glasgow from Ireland in search of work and a better life. They had settled down in Milburn Street, just two streets away, in a tiny three roomed flat that only had one sink and no bath and where they had to share a toilet with four other families who lived on the same landing of the tenement building. She remembered her father saying that that was the main reason why they were all good singers, for so long as they sung whilst sat on the toilet no one from any of the other families would come and rattle the toilet door. The toilet paper was always yesterday’s newspaper and you had to give it a good rumpling up before use to get rid of the rough corners otherwise you’d end up with scratches as well as newsprint all over your arse.  Posh people would cut it into squares and stick them onto a large nail hammered into the door.

Her mother died just after giving birth to her youngest of four brothers which meant that being the only daughter from an Irish family she was by default given the job of looking after the house and cooking and washing after five men so as they could go out and work. She thought herself lucky when she met and fell for Tom Stuart but the downside was he was a Protestant, because of which none of her family attended her wedding at the local registry office and disowned her for marrying outside of their religion. She

reckoned the real reason was that any excuse would do not to have to buy her a wedding present.

“Right now” said Susanna, taking in a big breath and swelling her large chest out even more, “ah want you tae go up tae uncle Loui’s wae your da’s suit and get two pounds.  You better ask fur two pound ten shillings and let the miserable git knock you down ten bob. You know he likes to knock the prices down in case he has to sell tae get his money back.”

Thomas let out a groan. “Och Mammy, ah canny take that suit tae Loui’s again, it’s fallin apart and anyway it’s got a wee hole on the sleeve where he burnt it when he was drunk last week at ma uncle Jim’s.”

“That’s been mended now so none of yur lip,” Susanna snapped back. “Jist do wit yur told. Get some brown paper, wrap it up and get up there. If yeh canny get two pounds aff him then you had better go round the other pawn shops.  Go tae Turner Street on Royston Road or Bright Street down Parliamentary Road.”

“Can ah have sixpence fur goin,” begged Thomas.

“You’ll get the back of ma hand if you don’t get on yur way.” Susanna replied as she headed towards the kitchen to start getting the tea ready. “Take thruppence and no more, right.” She shouted over her shoulder. “On yur way and hurry up, and come straight back wi the money.”

Thomas searched the house and found some brown paper. He wrapped the suit as best he could and was out the door before his mother could catch another breath. He ran out of the close and straight across the road; turned left ran for about 20 yards and took a right into the first close he came to. He ran through this close and out into the back yard where he turned left and ran into the rear of a close that was in fact the first tenement building on Rosemount Street; up two flights of stairs and there it was, “Uncle Loui’s Pawn Shop.

Of course Louis, the owner was definitely not his uncle, the fact was that Thomas’s family used Loui’s pawnshop so much they called him uncle.  Just about everything of any value his family owned was kept in “Uncle Loui’s”. It came out when they needed it and went back in after use. Amongst other trivial bits and pieces, all his dad’s clothes went in on Mondays and Tuesdays and always came out on Friday early evening, just as soon as he got home with his wages.

All his dad’s clothes consisted of one suit, one pair of decent shoes and a couple of white shirts; then there was is his jewellery, an imitation gold watch, a Masonic ring that he would wave under the noses of the women he was forever chatting up in the various dance halls he frequented at weekends, pretending he was a mysterious man of substance. It was Monday and so the suit was going in.

“Is that your da’s auld brown suit go’in in again Thomas?” The voice shouted out from the queue that snaked down the stairs from the open front of the pawnshop. It was a strange place to have a pawnshop, the entire first floor of a tenement block of flats. The entrance to the pawnshop consisted of five doors to cubicles which were supposed to give the person pawning their belongings some privacy.  They stretched across the full length of the landing, each door just wide enough for an average person to pass though. When through one of the doors and into the small cubicle in front was a communal counter that stretched the length of all the cubicles. This was the counter on to which the visitors would place the merchandise they wanted to pawn, and then they would have to barter and try and agree a price with Loui. Most locals thought of the cubicles as a big joke since, whilst waiting in the queue, everyone got to know what everyone else was pawning, so what was the point of the cubicles.

“Shut it Cullen.” Thomas shouted back to Danny Cullen, who lived in the next close to where he lived on Roystonhill. Then he decided to retaliate. “Is that yur ma’s knickers yur pawnin Cullin? I hear there more often aff than on anyway so she wont miss them.”

Danny Cullen came running out of the queue and stopped when his nose was about one inch from Thomas’s. Thomas was immediately alert, this was the perfect distance for “sticking the nut in.” The winner usually was the one who made the first move. There was however the perfect deterrent as Danny Cullen found out when Thomas’s knee crashed into his bollocks. Danny Cullen let out a shriek as he doubled over in agony and fell to the floor crying.

“You’re a fuckin trouble maker Thomas Stuart,” Someone shouted out from the queue.

“It’s no ma fault,” Thomas shouted back, “he started it and he was jist aboot tae nut me.”

Just then the queue started moving forward which seemed to have the effect of diffusing the tension. All heads turned in the direction of the entrance to the pawn shop and they began shuffling and climbing up the stairs. Thomas had to step over Danny Cullen and as he did stepped on his outstretched hand. Danny Cullen let out another yell.

“Sorry, am very sorry, Thomas shouted, “ah didnae see yur hand doon there,” he lied. But Danny Cullen had had enough now and got up and very quietly walked back to his place in the queue which once again was moving forward.

Thomas’s turn to be served soon came around and he entered one of the cubicles and placed his parcel on the counter that faced him. He could see all of the main servicing area of the pawnshop and Loui, the owner, who was leaning against a large table that occupied the centre of the room. He was wheezing and coughing whilst trying to catch his breath. This was nothing unusual since it was common knowledge he suffered badly with asthma. He was only about 5 feet 4 inches and as they say in Glasgow as skinny as a rake.

Loui looked across at Thomas and shouted. “Aw Naw! You huvnay brought your Da’s brown suit in again Thomas. Huv you?” Loui had an exaggerated look of terror on his face.

“Ah mean; it’s older than you and a very much doubt if it’s ever been tae the cleaners.

Another thing, does your Da know about shakin his willie before putting it back intae his trousers after he’s had a pee? Ah tell you Thomas, wan o these days am gonni catch something serious wurkin in this place.  So how much dae you want this time?”

“Two Pounds ten shillings please uncle Loui, Thomas shouted back smiling as nicely as he could.

“You must be jokin Thomas … and don’t call me uncle,” said Loui, whilst breaking into another fit of coughing which forced him to lean on the table again. “The local rag and bone man wouldnae even gae you a balloon fur it.”

“Awe come on Loui,” said Thomas, screwing his face up pleadingly; “ma Da’s gettin a new suit in three weeks time so this is about the last time this suit will be commin in.”

Loui straightened himself up from the table and said the magic words Thomas was waiting to hear. “Two pounds and that’s ma limit Thomas. Ah should be put intae an asylum fur givin you that.”

“Your all heart Loui,” said Thomas smilingly whilst thinking and hoping that Loui wasn’t going to drop down dead before handing over his money, “I’ll take it Loui. A bet when you die you’ll go straight tae heaven.”

“None o your cheek now Thomas,” said Loui as he turned towards the till and counted out the money. His assistant handed him the pawn ticket he had written out and he turned and handed both of these to Thomas. Straight home now and don’t forget wit ah told you tae tell yur Da about shakin it.”

Thomas left the cubicle and stopped to count the money. One pound seventeen shillings and eleven pence. He new the difference had been kept by Loui as part of his profit and further that when he went back to get the suit back he would have to pay more profit to Loui than the two pounds the suit had been pawned for. Loui was onto a good thing he thought. Wan of these days I might jist have ma ain pawn shop he told himself.

Clutching the money tightly he bounded down the stairs taking them three at a time. He ran to the edge of the close and very carefully looked out, he knew that kids coming from the pawnshop were always fair game for bigger lads in need of money. All clear so he turned left ran to the corner of the local pub, the Benburb, left again and ran diagonally across the road, right into his close and left into his flat.

“What took you so long?” Shouted his mother from the kitchen, where she was putting margarine on the bread for the evening’s tea.

“There was a queue.” replied Thomas, “it’s Monday; there’s always a queue on a Monday and there’s always a queue on a Friday. Monday tae take the stuff in and Friday tae get it back oot again. You should try goin there yourself wan o these days.”

“Don’t gae me any o yur lip ya cheeky wee monkey or you can kiss yur thruppence goodbyou,” his mammy replied waving the knife she was using to spread the margarine. She held her hand out, “right, gimme the money.“ Thomas handed her the money and the pawn ticket.

“Can a have ma thruppence now?”

“Am goin tae the chippy tae get the tea” said his mammy, “I’ll gae you yur thruppence when ah get back wi some change. Dae you want a pie-supper ‘n peas fur yur tea?” (A pie-supper consisted of a mutton pie with chips.)

“Aye okay that’s great, Thomas replied”

“Then light the fire. I’ll be back in aboot 10 minutes.”

Thomas left the kitchen and walked up the lobby that was lit by a naked bulb on the end of a twelve inch piece of flex. The lobby floor was covered in linoleum that once had a pattern displayed on it; now all that was visible was faint bits of the pattern along the edges. The majority of the floor was black where the pattern had been walked off over the years.

Upon entering the living room the floor was much the same except that having the dinner table in the middle of the room the pattern that once covered the floor was plainly visible underneath the table. Just through the door to the left there was a radiogram that stood about three feet off the floor. Thomas’s father got it for nothing from the next-door neighbours when they were throwing it out because the gramophone part of it needed repair.  On the left far away corner was a double bed and on the corner to the right of that was a built in cupboard built across the corner. The fireplace and was to the right of the entrance door and on each side of the fire were two arm chairs that had cushions on each so as the springs that were protruding from the base of each of them would not cause too much discomfort. In fact all that was in the room could have been bought in the second-hand junk furniture shop on Royston Road for a couple of quid. If that!

Chapter 2

Big Tom

Thomas squatted down in front of the fire, picked up the eighteen inch steel poker that his dad had made at work and started to rake the remnants of yesterday’s fire through the grilled base into the ash-pan underneath. This was one of his everyday jobs and he was a dab hand at it. Having raked all the ash out he took out all the half-burnt charcoal and placed it to the side; he found a couple of newspapers and taking each page he folded them into twelve inch strips, twisted them as tightly as he could; folded them over and placed them onto the grill. He then put the half-burnt charcoal on top and lit the paper. Whilst the flames were beginning to get going he ran into the kitchen and filled the shovel with charcoal, then ran back and put that on top. He put the ashes into another two pieces of newspaper, wrapped them up and took them into the kitchen for throwing out. The whole operation took him about four minutes.

The door into the flat opened and Thomas’s dad entered having finished a day’s work on the shipbuilding dockyards of Glasgow.

“Where’s yur mammy?” he asked Thomas.

“She’s gone tae the chippy tae get the tea, Thomas replied.”

Thomas Stuart had the same name as his son; he was one of a family of eight. His mother and father had died quite young and the family had been brought up by the oldest of three sisters. Their upbringing had been with much hunger and poverty but with great mutual accord and love. Theirs was truly a “one for all and all for one” relationship and they all grew up tough, fighting the nosey parker authorities that threatened to split them, fighting each others battles, if one couldn’t win through alone, fighting each other when they were bored. Fighting the world became the norm for all of them least of all Tom. His tired blackened face belied his 30 years and bore the marks of a hard day’s work in the Glasgow docks where he and many other thousands of men and women built ships for the Royal Navy. He hung his jacket up on a hook in the lobby, unbuttoned his overalls, pulled them from off his shoulders down past his knees and stepped out of them. He draped them over his jacket ready for the next day’s graft. Many of the locals called him “Big Tom” yet he was no more than 5 feet 10 inches in his bare feet. Fact was however that the men of Glasgow were on average not very tall, brought about because of two world wars and subsequent shortage of good nutritional food in the shops. A good number of Glasgow men suffered from rickets and were bow-legged to bear evidence to this sad fact of life.

It was obvious that there wasn’t an ounce of fat on his body and when he rolled up his sleeves he showed powerful forearms with big shovel sized hands at their ends. Every day of work for him was like a day in a gymnasium for an average man doing weight training, for he spent it’s entirety wielding big heavy hammers to drive home the rivets that held the ships together that they were building on the Clyde. He had by pure accident developed himself into a formidable fighting machine and he was always quick to take advantage of any opportunity to prove it. He had a reputation “on the Hill” and everyone who knew him always treated him with respect. “Big Tom” was not a man to be meddled with if you valued your life. The downside of him was his good looks, his wicked bright blue eyes and his bright red curly hair; downside because all the women fancied him and he always responded enthusiastically. He was a real “ladies man.”

There was a banging on the door and Thomas went and opened it.

“Is your daddy home yet”, his mammy said as she bustled through the door and straight into the kitchen.

“I am hen,” Tom shouted, walking into the kitchen “and ah hope you got me two fish wae ma chips fur am starvin. Did Thomas take ma suit up tae Loui’s?”

“Aye, av got yur money fur the pub th’night” Susanna replied unwrapping the yesterdays newspapers that were used to keep the fish and chips warm.

“Is the water hot for a bath?” Tom asked leaning over Susanna and taking a few chips.

“There’s nae chance,” said Susanna. ”Thomas has jist lit the fire and you know how long it wull take tae warm the water in that rubbish council backsy boiler we have.”

“Well yae had better get some big pans o water on the gas fur ah need a good wash then am out o here in wan oor.”

He took the bag that had his fish and chips, picked up a packet of salt and sprinkled it abundantly over the contents, and then soaked everything in vinegar. Using just his fingers Tom began eating his fish and chips from the paper as he walked from the kitchen into the living room where he sat down next to the fire that was burning nice and brightly now.

“Where’s the tea hen he shouted, rolling up the paper that have held his fish n chips and throwing it onto the fire?”  It had taken him five minutes to down the lot.

“Where’s the tea?” He shouted again licking his fingers.

He lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply and stretched his legs out putting his crossed feet up on the edge of mantle-piece. He felt good for he was truly the lord and master of his own home. He thought he would start his evening off with a couple of whiskies and beers down at Sherry’s pub in Castle Street and then walk down towards the Glasgow Cross doing whatever took his fancy on the way down. The massive Glasgow Royal Infirmary was situated at about the halfway mark and proved to be very handy for the local pubs, particularly on Saturday nights when the bottle fights would start or the razors would come out. Glasgow had an infamous reputation for gang warfare. There was a fighting rage in a lot of the men, probably fuelled on by the standard of life they had to endure and to a great extent by the emotional depression of living throughout the Second World War. The Glasgow pubs were by law compelled to close at 9pm which meant their clients had to drink fast and hard. This was accomplished by tossing a measure of whisky down ones throat followed with a beer, or as it was know in Glasgow, a wee whisky and a chaser; the end result being that in a good many pubs most of the drinkers were well smashed by nine o’clock. The tricky bit for the landlords was getting their well intoxicated customers out of their pubs as soon as they could after nine o’clock before the fights started. Many of the men would have what they called a “carry oot” which was a good number of bottles of beer and if the money stretched to it, a half or quarter bottle of whisky to take home or to wherever. Being so early they had nothing to do but either stand around the street corners drinking out of bottles, or go home and have a fight with their family or just have a fight in the streets amongst themselves. The later was usually the first choice with alas the second usually followed later on, unless of course it was to be their misfortune to have to visit the Infirmary that night.

“Right then! I’m aff,” shouted Tom, as he opened the door to the close. Five yards straight across from his door was the flat occupied by the Russell’s family who shared the other half of the same ground-floor close. He had to take one and a half steps forwards from the alcove where his door was and turn right in order to head out of the close the exit being about six yards away. He paused when he got there, searched his pockets and took out his cigarettes. He put a Capstan Full Strength in his mouth, lit it and filled his lungs. He felt good as he thought of the whisky and pint that awaited him at the bottom of the hill. He took another puff on his cigarette and stepped out onto Royston Hill, turning right he started heading towards his favourite pub, Sherry’s in Castle Street.

“How’re yae doin Tom?” Someone shouted from a window.

“Great Bob jist great thanks,” Tom shouted back and waved as he carried on.

“Nice evening Tom,” someone shouted from another window.

“Aye … it is that.” Tom shouted back waving again and now striding out filled with anticipation of that first whisky.

Everybody knew everybody else on Royston Hill. It wasn’t really friendship but more a sense of closeness. With the war raging on and the bombings the people seemed to lean on each other just a bit more than normal and because of the poverty they had to endure they had to live in each others pockets, and each other flats, borrowing cups of sugar or half a loaf or whatever, always bringing back or taking something away, and if the next door neighbour couldn’t give them what they needed then they’d go around everyone until they got it.

Tom carried on past the convent on the left, next the church, waving and returning greetings with just about every thirty strides; the people of Royston Hill had little else to do other than sit at the windows of their flats and watch life pass them by, talking from window to window and shouting greetings to people passing by. Near the bottom of the hill he crossed the bridge over the stagnant Monkland Canal that had once been used for taking coal and iron from the north of Lanarkshire to the Forth and Clyde. It ceased to be used when the coal ran out in 1935 and was now used by many of the locals for drowning their unwanted pet’s offspring dogs and cats, cold-heartedly killing them by putting them into weighted sacks, tying the tops and throwing them to their deaths. It was also used by their children in the summer to swim in during their school holidays.

“Hello Tom, what’ll it be?” greeted the smiling barman as though he needed to ask!

“Whisky and a pint of heavy John,” Tom replied, licking his lips whilst searching in his pocket for the money Susanna had given him.

The barman brought his drinks over and took his money. Tom took the glass of whisky into his hand and held it up in front of his eyes as though saluting someone or something, he paused for a second and then threw the lot straight down his throat, he turned the glass upside down over his pint and shook the dregs into it vigorously not wanting to lose a drop of the “sacred” liquid. He took a gulp of his beer, lit cigarette and leaned back against the bar angling himself so as to be able to take in all the other drinkers.

“Another whiskey John,” Tom shouted across the bar.

“Make it two and you can be my friend,” a voice shouted from behind him.

Tom turned to the direction of the voice and walking into the room from the gent’s toilet was a tall coloured man.

“My name is Paul Romeo, maybe you’ve heard of me or my family, we live in Black Hill.”

“Never heard of any Romeos”, Tom lied as he felt his heart step up a few beats and his mouth go dry, “so I’ll just carry on drinking on ma own if that’s ok wi you.”

Tom turned back towards the bar. There was a voice screaming inside his head telling him that this guy was one of the Romeo brothers, of course he knew them; everybody knew what evil bastards they are. There were six brothers and their gang was simply known as the Romeos. They terrorised the Black Hill area where they lived making it a no go area even for the police, he would do well to stay away from any trouble with this man.

“Naw it’s no ok wi me,” Paul Romeo replied, “and I’ll tell you wit else you can do, you can lend me a quid and I’ll gae you it back next time we meet, and if you don’t make a fuss I’ll buy you a drink as well, that is when we next meet”

Tom was desperately wondering how he could diffuse the situation and save face as well,

he was not accustomed to backing down from antagonists.

“Ah huvnae even got enough money tae buy you a drink.” he lied

Och that’s all right pal, Romeo sneered. I’ll jist huv the wan you’ve ordered. You must have enough for that. Eh!”

Tom slowly turned round and faced his new enemy, in a millisecond he’d weighed him up; six feet, reasonable build, in the prime of his life, bursting with confidence and obviously used to getting his own way.

“You touch ma drink when it arrives and the next thing you’ll be be touchin will be an operatin table doon at the infirmary.” The words had seemed to come out just before he thought of them, too late to keep them in and now there was no turning back without losing honour. Tom knew he could never back down and live with himself and he knew now he was about to get a hiding or he would have to dish one out. He looked quickly around the bar and knew he was on his own, nobody in their right mind would step in to stop what was obviously about to be a punch-up with one of the most notorious local gang members but then nothing

was different to any of the other times when he’d gotten himself into a fight, he always had to do it on his own.

He saw Romeo’s right hand streak across his chest and into his jacket and new instantly he was going for the Glasgow gangland’s favourite weapon; a cut throat razor, but before he could clear his jacket Tom’s fist landed a crunching blow to Romeo’s left temple that sent him reeling across the pub smashing into chairs and landing backwards over a table, as he came up Tom was already beside him punching him three times to the head, a right cross; then a left cross followed by a straight right to the chin. Romeo fell to the floor and seemed to hesitate for a few seconds. He then placed both hands underneath to pull himself up, he looked up to see where Tom was just in time to see the boot that came smashing into his face breaking his nose and fracturing his cheek bone.

Tom walked across to where Romeo was lying; he looked around the pub and reached down and put his hand inside the left side of Romeo’s jacket; he pulled out the razor that he knew would be there, opened it up and placed the blade under his foot, he pulled the handle up and snapped the razor in two.

“Is there anybody else that would like tae insist that ah buy them a drink,” he shouted challengingly in a loud voice. No one said anything. He picked up his whisky, gulped it down in one, then his beer. He drunk most of the beer and then walked over to where Romeo was lying and poured the remainder over his face.

“Tell him when he wakes up that ah gave him a drink and if he wants another he’s only got tae find me and ask and I’ll give him some of the same again.” He threw the glass down on the floor and walked out of the pub.

Chapter 3

Beginnings of A Business Life

Thomas decided to go around his pals and do a bit of comic swapping. All his pals swapped their comics as the means of getting comics they could read without having to spend money and buy them, but for Thomas it was a more complicated issue, he was primarily interested in building up a large collection of comics he could take to one of the local shops and get money for them, but they had to be in good condition. He went into his bedroom and pulled out all his comics from under his bed. He put then onto two piles, one pile had all his new comics and they were all in good condition and the other pile were in a shoddy state, some even without the outside covers. He put all the shoddy comics under his arm and headed for the front door.

“Am goin oot tae swap some comics Mammy,” he shouted.

“Don’t go far and be back in half an oor,” Susanna shouted back.

He went out to the front of the close and into the pitch-black night, a necessary inconvenience, compliments of the German Luftwaffe. It was so black you had to know exactly where you were going and he did. He entered the next close that was down the hill to his, ran up two flights of stairs and banged on William Bailey’s door.

The door was opened by William, “hullo Thomas come on in.”

Thomas walked into the lobby of the flat and sat down cross-legged on the bare floorboards and placed his comics in front of him.

“Dae you want tae swap comics Wullie?”

“Aye, I’ll go an get them,” William said as he headed towards his bedroom. He was back in a few minutes with all his comics and handed them to Thomas. He picked up Thomas’s comics and started looking for those that he hadn’t previously read. Thomas started looking through William’s.

“Seen it.”

“Seen it.”

“Seen it.”

“Huvnae seen it.”

“Seen it.”

“Haven’t seen it,” went on Thomas as he deftly split William’s comics up into two piles. The ones he said he’d “seen” were all a bit on the shabby side and the ones he “hadn’t seen” were all the new looking, good conditioned ones. William selected two of Thomas’s tatty comics.

“Ah haven’t seen these two,” said William, holding up two of Thomas’s comics.

“Okay then I’ll take these two,” said Thomas picking the two newest looking comics in William’s pile.

“Hang on a minute Thomas,” said William, “your comics huv no backers of them and they look a bit shitty. Ah only bought those two that you want and they’re brand new.”

“Och don’t be so daft Wullie, it’s no the backers you read it’s wits inside and ah can tell you Wullie, those two you’ve picked are great stories.” Thomas tried to muster as much enthusiasm into his voice as possible as he lied to his best friend.

“Tell you wit Wullie, wan o these days in the future when we’re changing comics, ah bet you’ll have two auld wans ah huvnae seen and you’ll huv seen all my comics except my new wans, a’ll swap you then and we’ll be equal, right!”

William pondered for a moment and Thomas waved the comics he wanted to read in front of his nose.

“Oh come on Wullie,” said Thomas trying to keep the exasperation out of his voice, “ah huv tae get hame.”

“Oh okay” said William, “but don’t forget wit you said.”

Thomas collected all his comics, with the two new ones and charged out of William’s flat, he went jumping down the stairs three and four at a time and out into the night. He ran up the hill passed his own close and the one after that and entered the next one. He ran up four flights of stars and knocked on the first flat he came to that was on his left.

“Hullo Mrs Cullin, is Charlie in?” Thomas asked.

“Come on in Thomas.” Replied Mrs Cullen gesturing for him to enter.

Thomas entered the flat and Mrs Cullen closed the door behind him.

“Charlie,” she shouted, “Thomas is here tae see you.”

“Come on in tae ma bedroom Thomas” Charlie shouted.

Thomas walked down the lobby, opened the first door on the right and walked into the room. Charlie was sat on top of his bed using a pair of scissors cutting pictures of cars out of various papers he had covering his bed with.

“So wit are you after Thomas? Charlie asked , briefly looking at Thomas and then back to the paper he was cutting.

“Ah thought I’d come and see if you wanted tae swap comics Charlie?” Thomas replied.

“Aye, will you get them oot o the top drawer over there Thomas,” said Charlie pointing in the direction of a chest of drawers.

Thomas gave his comics to Charlie and walked over to the drawers Charlie had indicated calling over his shoulder, “Have look at them Charlie and pick the wans you huvnae seen,” Thomas pulled open the top drawer and took out all the comics he could find.

“Seen it.”

“Seen it.”

Haven’t seen it.”

Haven’t seen it.”

Thomas went through the same process as last time and having graded the comics waited to see which ones Charlie wanted. He saw that Charlie had picked the two new ones and so picked up four of Charlie’ tatty comics.

“Ah haven’t seen these two Thomas,” said Charlie holding up the two new comics.

“Ah only bought them the day,” lied Thomas, “and the only comics you have that ah huvnae seen are these four auld tatty things.  Tell you wit Charlie I’ll take these fur ma two new wans.”

Charlie didn’t put up as much of an argument as William had.  “Go on then, am only doin it cos av got nothing tae read.”

“Business” done Thomas was back out in the black of the night again walking smilingly down to his close, he paused and punched his fist into the air.

“What a business man am gonnae make when ah grow up.  Your ganna have tae move over Loui.”

Chapter 4

The Romeos

“How many slices dae yae want mammy.” Thomas shouted, holding a slice of bread on the end of a fork in front of the fire.

“Two fur me and wit ever you want yourself,” his mammy shouted back, “and don’t burn it.”

The tea-pot started to boil and Susanna put three teaspoons of tea into it and left it to simmer to add to the strength, the Stuarts liked their tea black and very strong.

“As soon as you’ve had your tea Thomas you can get aff tae bed.” Susanna shouted again from the kitchen.

“Och Mammy ah hate getting intae that bed,” Thomas complained, “all the fleas are waitin fur me. They’ve all got their knives and forks in their hands waitin fur their dinner, an am the dinner; you should see ma legs in the mornin covered wi wee red marks, can you no do something aboot them?”

“Aye! ah suppose ah better had before they eat ye all up,”  his mammy replied, having a good laugh, “before you go tae bed we’ll pull the sheets back and catch the buggers all napping, see how many we can catch. Come on”.

Susanna went into the kitchen and got a basin and half filled it with water, then nodding to Thomas to follow, she headed for his bedroom, opened the door and switched the light on. There was a black sheet covering the window to stop the light from shining outside and give the German Luftwaffe a target. Thomas’s bed was against a wall to the left of the door and on the right was a chest of drawers that had a brick under one of the corners where a leg had been amputated. She placed the basin on the floor by the side of the bed and whipped the blankets back. “Wan,” she shouted as her hand streaked out and she caught a flea between her thumb and forefinger. She put the hand that held the flea into the water and released it; fleas can hop tremendous heights but not from water; when it floated to the surface she reached down and more leisurely caught the flea between her thumb and middle finger nails, there was a barely audible cracking noise when she broke it’s back. “Wan doon and a hundred tae go,” she shouted laughing at Thomas as she washed the dead flea off her hand. “Two!” she shouted and repeated the previous performance.

BANG! BANG! BANG!

“Jesus Mary and Joseph someone’s trying tae kick the door in.” Susanna shouted.

BANG! BANG! BANG!  It sounded as though the door was being kicked.

“Thomas you stay here.”

“Who is that and wit tae you want” Susanna shouted at the door.

“If you don’t open this fuckin door am gonnay kick it in. You’ve got ‘till ah count tae five. Wan, two, three.”

Susanna opened the door and four tall black men barged their way into the flat.

“Where is he?” One of them shouted as they spread out taking a room each.

“Who?” Susanna asked.

“Mickey Fuckin Mouse.” “Who the fuck dae you think?” Where’s Tom Stuart?” The biggest of the four was towering over Susanna and shouting into her face. Susanna was crying a bit now and Thomas ran out of the bedroom and was stood protectively beside his mother.

“If my da wis in you widnae have tae search the hoose, because he wid huv welcomed you in person. Dae you think fur a minute he’d be hiding in a wardrobe or under the bed wi you in his hoose shoutin yur fuckin heed aff at ma mammy?”

“Mind your tongue Thomas.” Susanna shouted afraid that they might decide to have a go at him despite his size and age. She was lucky, they ignored him.

“Wit time will he be hame?” One of the four men asked.

“Ah don’t know,” Susanna said, “Ah never know wit time he’s coming hame; never.”

“It disnae matter anyway because we’re no leavin,” said another of he Romeos.

Susanna wiped the tears from her eyes then shouted angrily. “Wit dae you want him fur anyway, wit’s he done tae you that four of you huv tae come threatening tae kick his door in?”

“He’s done nuthin tae us but earlier on doon in Sherrys pub he gave wan of our brothers a tankin and nobody does that tae any of oor family and lives tae talk aboot it. So when he get’s hame we’re shippin him doon tae the infirmary.” Three of the men walked out of the flat and into the close. What little light there had been was suddenly pitched into total blackness; one of them had removed the bulb from it’s socket.

The Romoe member who had stayed behind began to shout at Susanna. “Right, we’re gonnae wait in the close. If you don’t want tae get hurt, keep yur self and yur brat in the flat and keep the door shut.”  With that he left the flat.

Susanna shut the door after him and stayed for a few minutes leaning against it with her forehead, crying softly. She turned and put her arm over Thomas’s shoulders and walked him into the lounge.

“Wit can we dae Thomas?” She said not really expecting a reply, more just talking out loud.

“Ah can jump oot the back winday Mammy and run doon the hill a bit and stop ma Daddy comin hame.” Thomas replied enthusiastically.

“But he might come hame the other way.” Susanna said, “sometimes he gets the bus tae Royston Road and walks up the back way. Oh my god, wit am ah tae dae. Those bastards are gonnae kill him for sure.” Susanna sat down and started crying again. Thomas put his arms around her neck in an effort to comfort her.

Suddenly the door was being banged again only this time it was the doorknocker that was being used. Susanna’s mouth dropped open and her eyes open wide with fear.

“Wit in the name o Jesus is goin on now,” she moaned, “ah suppose ah better open the door in case it’s somebody else that wants tae kick it in.” She got up and walked to the door and opened it and in walked Jim Stuart, Tom’s older brother.

At thirty-five Jim was the oldest of the men in the family. He and Nellie, his wife, lived with their six off springs in Ballornock, an area in Glasgow not much unlike Royston Hill. He wasn’t a big man, about five feet ten with nothing to brag about in the muscle department and it was reputed he was at his happiest in a bar with a cigarette in his mouth and a beer in his hand whilst wheeling and dealing in bent gear, the main reason why he’d spent a lot of his years in Barlinnie, the local, reputedly tough prison, just on the outskirts of Glasgow. He spoke with a low gravel type voice that would seriously damage your throat and vocal chords if you tried to copy it.

“Wits the matter hen, why ur you crying?” He asked Susanna.

“When you came in did you see four big black fellas standing in the close?”

“Aye a did, they were all standin at the front of the close when a came in.  They shined a torch in ma face and ah was wondern wit the fuck ws goin on. But they jist parted and let me through.”

“I know what they were doing,” said Susanna, “they let you through without questioning you because they looked at the colour of your hair because they’re waiting for Tom and they know he’s got red hair.”

“Huv they hurt you Anna?” said Jim.

“Naw, but their gonnae kill Tom when he gets hame,” said Susanna. “It’s tae dae wi a fight that happened the night doon at Sherrys pub where Tom is supposed tae huv beat up wan o their brothers. Am so scared Jim, cos ah canny see how Tom can come oot o this alive.”

Jim put his arms around Susanna and she sobbed fitfully into his chest.

Thomas stood watching not knowing what to do but fully aware of the drama that was being played out before him.

“Uncle Jim dae you want me tae go and get ma gang?” Thomas said earnestly thinking he could help.

“Ah don’t think your gang would help against these people Thomas,” said Jim.

“Dae yae want me tae go and get the polis then or get ma uncle Davy and ma uncle Jacky?” said Thomas.

There’s no enough time Thomas,” Jim replied,  “you wouldnae be able tae get them here before your da get’s hame, so ah suppose a’ll huvtae sort it oot maself.”

Jim took Susanna by her shoulders and pushed her lightly away. “Susanna, ah want you tae sit doon and stay in the chair, don’t get up and you wont get hurt, am goin tae take care o this now, before Tom gets hame. At least ah know they’re there, he disnae and he widnae huv a chance walkin in tae the close wi them waitin.”

Jim gently pushed Susanna into an armchair and held his  forefinger against his mouth signalling quiet, he pushed his finger forward and wagged it front of Susanna eyes as though saying, be calm, I’m here and I’m in control.

Thomas watched his uncle Jim go into the kitchen, which was just left of the door to the outside. He watched him search about and then reach up to a shelf and take down two bottles that had contained lemonade and were now filled with varnish. He continued his search and lifted the lid of the coalbunker that was just by the kitchen door and took out the hatchet that Thomas used to cut wood for the fire. This he placed on a low shelf to the left of the outside door. He then put the two bottles of varnish into his left hand which he put behind his back.

Thomas stood in the lobby watching the stage being set, his body and mind tingling with excitement and apprehension, he felt a tremendous overflow of admiration for the bravery of his uncle Jim about to take on four big men to save his daddy. He watched his uncle Jim stand in front of the door to the outside, still with the two bottles in his left-hand behind his back, rolling his shoulders, clenching and unclenching his right hand whilst psyching himself up for the fight he had taken upon himself to save his brother.

With his right hand Jim threw the door wide open and stepped forward with his left foot to lock it there.  At the top of his voice he shouted.

“All Romeo bastards from Blackhill ur fuckin scabs on society.”

There was a roar from outside.

Thomas saw his uncle Jim’s right hand come behind his back and take one of the bottles from his left hand. As the first of the Romeos reach the door entrance Jim hit him a mighty blow smashing the bottle on his head, the bottle burst and the varnish splattered everywhere, Jim then pulled the jagged edges down the mans face who then fell to the floor screaming, “Ah canny see, ah canny see ………. you bastard; you fuckin bastard,” he yelled.

Jim took the other bottle of varnish into his right hand just as the next of the Romeos came round the corner, once again he brought the bottle down with tremendous force onto the mans head bursting the bottle, this time he pulled his hand back and whilst shouting at the top of his voice, “Come and get it you bastards,” pushed the broken bottle straight into the mans face. He let go of the bottle and it remained stuck fast in the face. His left hand then reached out for the hatchet and quickly transferred it to his right, he hit the man who had the bottle sticking out of his face across the temple who then sunk to the ground on top oh his brother. Another of the Romoes was fighting to get over his two brothers who were blocking the door, he reached down with his hand trying to remove one of them when the axe came down on his wrist cutting in so deep Thomas could see the hand flapping about, held on with about half an inch of flesh with blood spurting everywhere, he was screaming in agony, but Jim wasn’t finished with him yet, as his other hand came across to hold his almost severed hand the hatchet came down again on his other wrist. The shouting and the noise was deafening, Thomas could hear his uncle Jim shouting at the remaining Romeo brother.

“It’s your turn now bastard, so come on, you came for a fight and am givin it tae you, come on, come on you fuckin bastard.” But the remaining brother wasn’t now ready to fight this “madman,” he turned and started heading out the close. Jim jumped on top of the bodies lying by the door and leaped out into the close, he put the hatchet behind his head threw it at the disappearing silhouette. The axe twisted and turned in the air then bounced of the mans head with a sickening thud. Jim was on top of him in an instance; Thomas came out of the close just in time to see the boot going in, the thudding noise each time it made contact with the mans head. He thought nothing of it. Just excitement. It had been a fair fight he thought, because it had been four to one. The law of the Glasgow jungle decreed that if you got set upon by more than one, you had the right to fight back with everything and anything at your disposal.

Jim was absolutely covered with varnish and blood. He went into the close and dragged out one of the Romeos and unceremoniously dumped him on the pavement beside the one who had suffered the kicking. He went back in and dragged another out onto the pavement. Once more he went back inside the close and went to the fourth Romeo who was sat on the stone floor with his back against the wall crying and moaning and cradling his hands in his lap.

Jim shouted at him. “Get up and get oot of here and join your brothers on the pavement. Remember this, it was me, and don’t forget it, me, that gave it tae you four bastards and yet ma brothers a better fighter than me. And another thing, remember this, there’s five o us brothers, so if ah wiz you ah would stay away frae here other wise we’ll be comin round tae your hoose, if we huv tae dae that, then you wullnae have a hoose tae go home tae by the time we finished. The Romeo brother got up and staggered out of the close to where his brother were and sat down on the pavement beside them.

Thomas could see all the neighbours were hanging out of their windows and there were people standing about, but with no street lighting he couldn’t see their faces. Jim walked out onto the street, stooped down and picked up the hatchet.

“Somebody phone an ambulance tae take these bastards away before they start tae smell the place.” He shouted and walked back into the close and into the flat.

Susanna was in the kitchen boiling a kettle of water when Jim came back in. He lifted the lid of the coalbunker and threw the hatchet in.

“You’d better go tae the bathroom Jim and have a wash,” said Susanna, “you’re covered wi blood and varnish. There’s a pair of Tom’s overalls in there, you’d better put them on over your clothes tae hide the blood and varnish or you’ll get picked up by the polis on your way hame.”

Jim let out a laugh and said, “well Susanna, am glad am cover wi their blood and no mine;” he took the kettle and headed for the bathroom.

Thomas was sat on the steps that led into his close when he heard the sirens. It was an ambulance and three police cars. They pulled up at his close. The policemen and the ambulance driver and his assistant started talking to the conscious Romeo. Five minutes later they were all loaded in the ambulance and with siren going once again headed down the hill in the direction of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Word had it that the Romeos had been walking over Royston Hill and had been set upon by a rival gang. Another law of the Glasgow jungle, if you can’t fix it yourself you don’t involve the police.

Chapter 5

School Time

The noise in the kitchen woke Thomas up. It was about six a.m. and Susanna was getting herself and Tom ready for work. She was putting margarine on the morning rolls and getting Tom’s banana sandwiches ready for his lunch-time break, in Glasgow they call such sandwiches a “piece”. He’d arrived home about eleven o’clock last night and when told about what had happened had complained about how unfair it was that Jim had all the fun.

“Mammy can ah have a cuppa tea and a roll?” Thomas shouted from his bedroom. It was a special treat for Thomas to wake up in the “middle of the night” … as he thought because of the darkness  … to have a cup of tea with a roll in bed.

Susanna came into his bedroom with a cup of tea in one hand and a roll in the other; she kissed him on the cheek and said, “make sure you get up for school at eight and wash yur face and yur neck before you go. We’re havin totties fur tea the night, so when you get hame from school make sure you peel them and put them on the gas at half past four so as they’ll be ready in time. If we huvnae got enough totties then go tae Maggie Carriker’s and buy a stone on tick.”

Eight o’clock soon came round and Thomas climbed out of bed. Sure enough, the fleas had been well fed; his thighs were covered in red marks with barely perceptible tiny black marks in their middles. He put his shirt on and buttoned it up, then his shorts, pulled his braces over his shoulders and did his fly up.

”Widnae want the lassies tae see ma willie,” he said out loud to himself laughingly. He had never worn underwear in his life; his mammy had told him that underpants were for sissies. Next on was the jumper with big holes in the elbows, followed by the crispy socks that had to be put on after he had broken off the bits that had solidified with sweat during the night; in fact they had to be put half on and turned under at the toes then rammed into the boots, that way no one could see the big holes in the heels … Thomas’s mother believed that to get the longest wear out of a pair of boots they should be taken to a cobblers when brand new and have the soles fully studded…

All very well when new … but these boots were now so well worn that most of the studs had been completely ground away and the bits that remained were sticking through inside the boots, causing so much discomfort that Thomas had to place pieces of cardboard inside each boot to help keep the sharp studs away from his feet and also keep them as dry and comfortable as possible.

Thomas didn’t give it a single though that he had just dressed himself up like a tramp. It would never have entered his head; it was the only way of life he knew: what he had never had he would never miss. He was happy and though, he didn’t know at the time, that was all that really mattered.

He went into the bathroom, and turned on a water tap; any tap would do since there was never any hot water in the mornings. He splashed his face and dried it, leaving a large black mark on the towel. The black ring around his neck was a good indication as to the cleanliness of the rest of his anatomy.

In the kitchen he picked up a bottle of milk and drunk about half a pint from it; he spread some margarine on a roll, sprinkled it with sugar and stuck it into his mouth, grabbed what books he was supposed to take to school and left the flat slamming the door behind him. He checked the door; it was firmly shut; feeling satisfied about the security, he set off up Royston Hill heading for school.

His mother being a staunch catholic wanted him to follow in her religion, but his father, a fanatical protestant, wouldn’t ever consider it, In fact he felt so strongly about it he would have fought anyone to the death over the matter.

The silly thing about Thomas’s dad’s staunch religious beliefs was that he had never ever read a bible; he would not set foot inside a church, not even when he got married. BUT! All his family were Protestants and all his ancestors had been the same and if it was good enough for them, then it would do for “his” family. If all the Catholics and all the Protestants of Glasgow had lined up to do battle against each other, Tom would have been there, laying down his life for his religion which he new very little about, but would expostulate to all and asunder that he did … until … and unless caught out!

He was always enthusiastic to extend his eternal thanks for the efforts of William of Orange who fought at the Battle of the Boyne. Susanna on the other hand was a devout Catholic, but only because it had been drummed into her from when she was born.

And so one day, not long after Thomas was born, when Big Tom was at work, Susanna nipped down to the Catholic Chapel and had Thomas baptised a Catholic. Inevitably there was always someone ready to spill the beans, so when Tom found out he swore that Thomas would never attend a Catholic school. Some years later, here was Thomas, heading along Royston Hill to his school, St Rollox the only Protestant school in the district.

Thomas walked up Royston Hill past the large eerie house on the left that had big double wooden doors and an extra high wall that he and his mates were forever accidentally kicking their footballs over. Usually it was the one who kicked the ball over who would have to retrieve it by climbing up two of his mates leaning against the wall; one standing on the other’s shoulders; then drop down on the other side into the creepy, almost supernatural grounds, dotted with large scary religious statues. Each time Thomas had to go over the wall he felt that someone’s eyes were on him and any second a mighty voice would boom out, “what are you doing in my garden”and then commit him to hell, or something just as evil.

Just past the row of flats where he lived he took a right down the steep incline that was Tharsis Stree, twenty yards down then the street forked, Tharsis Street continued to the right and Rhymer Street, just as steep, went down to the left for about five hundred yards to St Rollox School at the bottom of the hill on the right.

Thomas sat at the rear of the class which he was pleased about since he could see all that was going on, particularly when the teacher’s back was turned. Also he was less likely to get hit on the back of his head by mysterious flying objects.

He was a bright boy, an easy learner, which was just as well for he was for ever playing truant, or being kept off school my his mother whenever there was an important errand to run, like the pawn shop.

“Right” shouted his teacher Miss McCaskill, “today we are going to talk about the Kings of Scotland. Do any of you know of any Scottish kings?”

Thomas’s hand went up.

“Yes Thomas”, said Miss McCaskill.

Thomas stood up face beaming with enthusiasm and replied, “Robert, Charlie, Francie and Mr and Mrs King, Miss, and I bet there are lot more kings too. They all live up the stairs from where I live, right over ma flat Miss.”

The class started to giggle.

“They are hardly the type of Scottish Kings I am referring to Thomas.”

“But Miss … they’re definitely Scottish.” Thomas shouted out.

Miss McCaskill jestured for Thamas to put his hand down.

“Thomas . . . . just keep quiet please!”

“Aye … okay Miss”, Thomas responded … “Dae yeh no want tae know aboot the Kings that live doon Rosemount Street then?”

Another giggle from the class.

“That’s it Thomas, you have just gone too far … no playtime for you. When the class goes out at playtime you will stay in this classroom. Under no circumstanced are you to leave this room. Do I make myself quite clear?”

“That’s fine Miss.” Thomas responded, folding his arms in front of his chest in a gesture of exasperation.

It wasn’t long before the bell rang, announcing playtime, and everyone got up and queued behind each other shuffling towards the door … eventually leaving Thomas on his own.

He sat at his desk quite still when suddenly he got the urge for a pee.  He got up and walked to the door to find a toilet and then remembered what Miss McCaskill had said. “Under no circumstances are you to leave this room.” But now that the though of peeing had entered his head he was fast becoming desperate. He walked to the door and looked out …  No one in sight … They’ll all be in the staff room having their tee and crumpets, he thought to himself … but he had had his orders.

He stood by Miss McCaskill’s desk with his legs crossed his willy tightly clamped between his thighs, hoping and praying that the need for a pee would go away, shaking himself all over, making humming noises and drumming his fingers on Miss McCaskill’s desk,

Now he was truly frantic. He felt the urine coming and knew in his mind he was just about to wet his trousers unless he did something … anything … to stop it. He knew his class mates would never let him live it down if he wet his trousers. He pulled the side of his shorts right up his thigh, pulled out his willy and peed all down the front of the teachers desk. The urine ran down the desk and dropped off the bottom onto the floor; it meandered on for a bit before forming a yellow pool three feet in front of his teacher’s desk.

Feeling much better and so much relieved, he walked back to his desk and sat down preparing himself for the outcome.

There wasn’t long to wait; the door burst open and the class came running in. The first ones stopped dead in their tracks by the pool of urine not believing what they were seeing … those at the rear were bumping into those in front almost forced them into the pool of urine, which was now a considerable size; they had formed a circle round it and were laughing and pointing at Thomas when Miss McCaskill walked into the room.

“What’s the meaning of this congregation” She shouted, having as yet not seen the puddle of urine.

“Take your seats please,” she shouted.

As the children gradually dispersed Miss McCaskill’s eyes nearly popped out of her head. She looked at the pool of urine then turned her head away, then again looked at it as though expecting it to have been a hallucination … it was still there!

Her mouth was moving and she looked as though she was trying to say … or shout … something, but only a gurgling noise was coming out. She tried again and again choking but then managed to shout. “THOMAS STUART. THOMAS STUART she shouted again, pointing at the puddle of urine, “do you know anything about this?”

“Yes Miss, I did it.”

“Come out here; come out here this instance.”

Thomas walked out to the front of the class when upon Miss McCaskill grabbed him by the collar of his jumper.

“We are going to see the headmaster about this disgusting behaviour.”

“Fay MacPherson,” … Miss McCaskill shouted, “look after the class ‘till I get back. Get the class to take their reading books and read from where we finished yesterday.”

“Right Thomas, let’s go.”

Miss McCaskill, holding Thomas by his jumper collar, marched him to the classroom door; yanked the door open and almost frog marched him out of the classroom, along the corridor, down one flight of stairs until they came to a green door bearing the sign “Headmaster” and underneath appeared the name Mr Sheepshanks.She rattled on the door with her knuckles until a voice from within shouted, “enter”.

Miss McCaskill hustled Thomas right up to the front of the headmaster’s desk where she released him in a pushing gesture of disgust. “Headmaster I have to report to you that this boy, Thomas Stuart, has urinated in the classroom right in front of my desk. I though, due to the seriousness of the incident, that it should be brought to your attention.”

“Are you saying he urinated in front of you Miss McCaskill?” said the headmaster taking his glasses off and placing them on his desk.

“No headmaster, he did it during playtime when he was in the classroom on his own,” relied Miss McCaskill, her voice a few octaves higher with excitement.

“Why was he in the classroom when he should have been outside playing Miss McCaskill? asked the headmaster, looking Thomas up and down taking in all his appearance.

“He was mischievous Mr Sheepshanks and disrespectful to me during a lesson and so, as a punishment, I made him stay in.

The headmaster turned to Thomas. “Thomas Stuart, you and I have met on several occasions, what do you have to say for yourself about this accusation?”

“Thomas replied … “Miss McCaskill told me that under nae circumstances wiz ah tae leave the classroom. Sir, ah wiz burstin fur a pee, there wiz naebody tae ask permission, ah hud tae dae it or wet ma pants. Ah didnae mean tae dae wrang. It’s jist as well ah didnae want a number two sir!”

The headmaster coughed and arose from his chair, a tall skinny bespectacled man with grey hair around the side of his head and a shinny bald bit on top. He walked over to

His office door, and opened it. “Thomas, please wait outside whilst I have a talk with Miss McCaskill.”

There was a bench to the side of the door and Thomas sat down wondering what sort of punishment the headmaster would conjure up for him.

He didn’t have long to wait when the door opened and out came a very much-subdued Miss McCaskill. She looked as though she was ready to burst into tears and was biting her bottom lip.

“Thomas”, Miss McCaskill just managed to blurt out, “the headmaster and, ahem, I, have decided that since you did not have a break at play time with the rest of the children you should be allowed to go home now and that we will see you after lunch. So run along now, take whatever you need and I’ll see you later.”

“Aye right, nice one Miss McCaskill” Thomas replied thinking to himself how crazy the situation was … Ah pee up the teacher’s desk and they gae me time aff school. Sometimes when ah do wrong and it’s right … and sometimes when ah it do right’s wrong. He realised just then he had a lot more to learn than teachers could ever teach him at school.

Chapter 6

The Suit

Friday soon came around and Thomas was waiting for his father to come home. Every Friday was the same; the pawnshop closed at 5.30pm and his father got home with his wages usually about 5.20pm, so Thomas knew to be ready for the run up to Loui’s. Then it would be another run down Milburn Street to Pisotti’s for fish ‘n chips for his mother and father and for him it was always a mutton pie, cooked in the hot fat, chips and peas soaked in vinegar. No one had the time to cook on Friday night because it was payday and Friday evening was the happiest of the week, a good time was there to be had and just about everyone seemed hell bent on having it. Everywhere he went they were playing Scottish music, someone told him it was played by a man called Jimmy Shand. It was a night to put on the glad rags, have a few drinks and get to the jiggin.

Tom came rushing into the flat. “Right Thomas here’s three pounds, go and get ma suit.”

Thomas grabbed the money and was off out the door before you could say have you got the pawn ticket. He was halfway there when he remembered; he did a swift u-turn and stepped up the pace a bit. He came charging through

the door. “Mammy where’s the pawn ticket fur ma da’s suit?” he shouted.

“Why don’t you put leaflets through all the doors in the building and tell all the neighbours yur da’s suit is in the pawnshop. You wouldnae huff tae shout so loud aboot it then.”

“Jist aboot the whole of Royston Hill knows ma daddy’s suit goes intae uncle Loui’s on a Monday an come oot on a Friday; anyway ah see all of them over there every week … doing the same as me”.

“Here,” Susanna handed Thomas the ticket, “you’d better hurray now.”

It turned out that Thomas had no need to rush because when he got to Loui’s there were six people waiting on the stairs for a cubicle.  Nobody had a bundle under their arm; tonight everything was all coming out.

“Hullo Thomas wit can a dae fur you?” Said Loui, trying to work up a smile whilst rubbing his hands together, probably in anticipation of all the money he would have to count later on, for this was his busiest day of the week.

Loui took the ticket that Thomas held out to him and disappeared into the area of his pawnshop where he stored all the pawned merchandise. He reappeared a few  minutes later with a pained look on his face. “Thomas av got some bad news fur you tae take tae yur da. Wull you tell him ma pawnshop got broken intae two nights ago and his suit wis wan o the items that was stolen. The suit must huv been the right size fur the burglar cos a cannay think o anyone who wid huv wanted tae steal “that” suit. Like a said tae you last time you came in, it’s fallin apart and it’s got a hole, even though it’s darned, in the sleeve. Still am very sorry Thomas please tell yur da.”

Thomas walked home wondering how his father was going to react to the news about his suit. He walked into the house and up to his father who was in his underpants and vest with his shoes on. He had one shoe up on a chair whilst he was brushing it to get a good shine. That was something Thomas noticed about his father; he always had a very high shine in his shoes.

“Where’s the change”, Tom said holding out his hand to Thomas. Thomas placed all of his money in his hand.

Realizing what Thomas had handed him he shouted “Oh fur fuck sake, don’t tell me it was closed n ah huvnae got a suit tae wear the night?”

“It wuz open daddy.” Thomas replied moving out of his father arm range.

“Well! Where’s ma suit then?” Tom shouted back.

Thomas moved a bit further back, “Loui told me tae tell you his pawnshop was broken intae two nights ago and your suit was wan o the things that was taken.”

“Fuckin bastards; the fuckin bastards.” Tom’s face was getting redder and redder. He threw the shoe brush he’d been using against the wall and when it landed on the floor, kicked it with all his might. This time the brush flew at the wall at an angle; it ricocheted off the wall and smashed a pain of glass as it disappeared out through the kitchen window.

Tom stood looking at the window; both his fists were tightly clenched looking around the room for something else to vent his rage on. Thomas wisely decided it was time to get out of the way and very quietly eased out of the kitchen door.

But nothing was going to keep Tom indoors tonight … it was FRIDAY … even if the Luftwaffe was dropping bombs on Royston Hill, Tom would have dodged them all on his way  down to Sherrys pub. Nothing … but nothing … was going to prevent him from going out and having a good time. Even if he had had to go in his underpants and vest he would go out tonight.

Tom had a violent temper that took a second to send him onto a rage and seemingly forever to come back down. He’d been to Sherrys pub and went on down Parliamentary Road stopping at different pubs as he headed into the centre of the town. Now he was in the Cock ‘O the North leaning on the bar looking into his beer when he heard a man’s voice on his right ordering a pint. The barman went away and returned with the order and placed it on the bar; there was a chinking sound as money passed hands and then he saw the arm that came down to claim the beer. The arm was inside a suit, a brown suit … that had a small darn on the left sleeve. His head gradually turned and his eyes slowly moved up the sleeve. He couldn’t believe his luck. “Fucking incredible” he said to himself “fucking incredible,” he repeated.

He sidled up to where his brown suit was standing, looked at the man that was inside it. Obviously one of the reasons this man was wearing his suite was that he was of a similar physique; he was in his middle thirties, balding a bit and had a sergeant major bushy type moustache. Tom hated moustaches and always said that anyone who had one, or a beard, had mental problems and probably didn’t know it. Just like Hitler.

The man’s glass was full to the brim with a half-inch of froth topping it; he started to bend his head forward as he brought his beer up to his mouth to take the first sip but before he could get his mouth round his glass Tom’s hand shot out and caught hold of both ends of his moustache in his left hand. He twisted the moustache clockwise and as he

did the man’s head came round and he dropped his pint pot on the bar.

“What the fuck do you think yur doin wearing ma fuckin suit?” Tom roared at the man whose face was becoming very red.

”Ah don’t know wit ye mean?” the man stuttered.

“What ah mean is, ma local pawn shop got broken intae two nights ago; ma suit got stolen and you’re fuckin wearin it. NOW WHAT HUV YE GOT TAE SAY OBOOT THAT?” Tom’s face was red with rage as he roared his reply into the man face he was holding just inches away from his own.

Tom pulled the mans face to within punching distance of his right fist and shouted, “when you waken up, you bastard you’ll be in yur shirt tail and underpants, so before a put yur fuckin lights out huv you got anything tae say?”

“Aye a dae,” the frantic man shouted “The suit’s only worth a few quid.”

“So wit?” Tom bellowed back.

“Leave me and the suit and I’ll gae you a tenner; now, this very minute.

Tom allowed the man to stand upright but kept a tight hold of the moustache. “Let me see yur money.”

The man put his hand in his pocket; pulled out some notes and detached two fivers; he held them up to Tom who snatched them out of his hand then looked at them closely, and put them into his pocket.

“You’re a very lucky man that you had that money on you because a wiz looking forward tae a good punch up th’night and you wid huv done nicely.”

Tom, held the man’s moustache tightly, pulled it in such a way as to force him to stoop; the man was desperately trying to ease the pain as Tom marched him towards the exit. “Next time ah see you, now that you huv bought ma suit, ah hope you’ll huv no more of ma belongings tae sell me then ah wull be able tae give you the hammering yea deserve, but now you hud better get oot o ma sight now before a gae you a free sample.” With that Tom pushed the man through the door, released him and watched him disappear into the night.

Now feeling pleased with himself, Tom went back into the bar and up to where all the activity had taken place. He picked up the beer the man had left and had a long drink of it. Leaning on the bar with one elbow he turned and shouted out to the people who had been sitting watching the apparent cabaret. … “It’s a crazy fuckin world isn’t it … that man came intae this pub wear’n ma suit that wis stolen oot o the pawnshop on Rosemount Street where it wis pawned for jist two pounds. Destiny; aye that is wit ah call destiny”. With that he got up and started walking out of the pub waving the two five pound notes in the air and smiling all over his face.

Chapter 7

More Business

Saturday morning and Thomas was up bright and early, dressed, and banging on William Bailey’s door.

“Hello Thomas,” said Mrs Bailey opening the door, “are you here for William?”

“Aye Mrs Bailey is he up yet?” Asked Thomas.

“He is, come on in,” answered Mrs Bailey stepping to the side of the doorway to allow Thomas access.

“Hi Thomas,” shouted William walking out of his bedroom, “so where did you say we’re goin t’day?”

“Ah have this idea,” said Thomas,” of how we can make some money and because you’re comin tae help me am gonnae give you wan quarter of all we make; so am gonnae gae you money jist tae be with me. You might have tae do the odd thing but nothing much. Is that okay?”

“Wit is it we’re doin?” William asked.

“Ah cannae tell you Wullie,” explained Thomas, “because am no sure maself, it’s jist that ah have an idea.”

“Thomas why am ah only getting wan quarter if am gonnae dae half the work?” William asked.

Thomas shrugged his shoulders and taking a deep breath of obvious exasperation explained. “Because Wullie, it’s ma idea; or it will be ma idea when it comes intae ma head. If it wiz your idea ah would only expect wan quarter from you. I’ll tell you wit Wullie, when you get a good idea tae make money I’ll help you and you can gae me wan quarter – right? Then we’ll be equal.”

“Okay Thomas,” said William, “but that’s two promises noo, this and ma comics, ah think am gonnae have tae keep ma eyes on you!”

“Are you ready noo Wullie?” Thomas asked “because if we’re late this idea that ah think ah have commin intae ma head wull no work.”

“Aye Okay … onward and upwards Thomas” … William laughed, making a rude noise and throwing his right fist up in the air whilst hitting his right bicep with his left hand  … “let’s go.”

Both boys ran down the stairs and out to the close entrance. Parked there was Thomas’s go-kart and lying inside William saw the hatchet Thomas’s uncle Jim was now infamous for using.

“Fuckin hell Thomas am no robbin anybody.” Shouted William, poining to the hatchet.

“Don’t be daft Wullie,” laughed Thomas, Ah would never get ye inta anything that’s no legal, you’ll see wit it’s for later. Dae you want tae sit in the barra and a’ll pull you?”

They set off along Royston Hill, the same route that Thomas’s father took to go to Sherrys pub, down the hill and over the Monkland Canal to the traffic lights where they turned left. Then they travelled along Caste Street, down past The Glasgow Royal Infirmary on their left and then on the same side of the road past the magnificent Glasgow Cathedral that was built in 1136 and directly facing on the other side of the road stood the oldest house in Glasgow, Provan’s Lordship, built in 1471. It was said that Mary Queen of Scots had stopped there at one time or another. Thomas remembered when he and his mates had visited the house, being open to the public, when he had taken a running jump landing in the bed Mary Queen of Scots was supposed to have slept in. Later he would brag about having shared a bed with royalty.

They then reached the traffic lights at Duke Street, from where they could see a lot of activity.  Across the lights and all the way down the road people were selling every kind of fruit imaginable, in fact this was the beginning of the Glasgow Fruit Market where many local shopkeepers came to buy fruit to resell from their shops.

“We’re here Wullie!” Shouted Thomas pointing to the market.

“Where Thomas?” said William turning around in a circle with his right shading his eyes pretending to be looking into the distance, “Ah cannae see anything.”

“Where we’re gonnae do oor business,” said Thomas, “but leave the talking tae me Wullie.”

They didn’t have very far to walk when they came upon an area where there was a pile of empty wooden orange and apple boxes. Thomas walked up to the person in attendance.

“Can a speak tae the boss please?” Said Thomas.

“Am the boss, wit dae you want son?” The man replied, “am very busy so can ye make it quick?”

“Dae you see that mess all those empty boxes are causing,  Said Thomas pointing out all the empty boxes, “they’re blockin the pavement and they’re in the way of yur customers?”

“So wit?” Replied the man.

“Fur a tanner we’ll break them nice and neat and take them all away.

“You have a deal son; get busy and all pay ye when yur done.”

Thomas’s face beamed with pleasure, his first real business deal he thought.

“Right Wullie,” shouted Thomas, “get the hatchet and start breaking up those wooden boxes. Don’t smash them, jist take them apart and pile them intae the barra.  We’ll throw the wire away later.”

Thomas walked around a few other traders and managed to do three more deals; by then the wood was piled very high in the go-kart and had to be tied down with some string they’d managed to cadge. They then set out on the return trip home.

They unloaded all the wood outside Thomas’s close and carted it through the close and into the back yard. There Thomas took the hatchet and started breaking it up into lengths of six inches and William was assigned the task of tying them into bunches, enough as Thomas thought to light two coal fires. Job done they loaded the kart up with what had now become firewood and off they went around the houses banging on every door selling their firewood for three pence a bunch. They sold every bunch of firewood they had taking in eight shillings and when Thomas added the two shillings they had received for removing the boxes they had ten bob.

“Here’s yur wages Wullie,” said Thomas holding out his hand to William. ”Half-a-crown Wullie; no bad eh?”

William took the half crown piece from Thomas and using his thumb and forefinger spun it three feet up into the air; “Thomas your a fuckin genius … it’s money from heaven” … he laughed catching it when it came down and putting it into his pocket.

Chapter 8

The Hill Stars

It was early evening when William and Thomas wandered down Milburn Street and into John’s Store; a narrow but long shop situated right next to Thomas’s granddad’s close. John sold various groceries, sweets, soft drinks and cigarettes and was known to stay open when all the others closed, his shop also had various gaming machines which made it an attractive hang out for the local boys. Because all gambling was illegal, if you wanted to play the machines you had to buy tokens; four for one penny, and if you won you had to take your winnings in goods.

Thomas and William would often play these machines taking their very occasional winnings in cigarettes, under sworn secrecy to John not to tell their parents. John knew Thomas would keep that promise because it was to him that Thomas sold all his second hand comics.

Thomas bought five Woodbines and sixpence worth of tokens. He gave William a cigarette, they lit up and swanked down into the rear of the shop where five of their gang members where in conversation.

“Hullo Thomas. Hullo Wullie,” shouted Charlie Gourley, “can a have yur dimp when you’ve finished wi it Thomas?”

“Aye, okay Charlie, wits goin on then?”

“Och it’s no much, it’s jist that John”; he pointed to John Barry who lived three closes up the hill from Thomas; “was doon in Royston Road this mornin where he was stopped by three fellas from Springburn. They told him they wur gonnae beat him up unless he gave them wit money he had on him. He had a bob on him and they took it and then wan o them kicked him on the legs anyway. We’ve found oot where wan o them lives and we want ta go roon and equal things up a bit. Dae ye want tae come?”

“Sure a dae,” Thomas replied enthusiastically.

“Wit aboot you Wullie?” asked Thomas turning round to William?”

“Try an fuckin keep me away if you lots ur goin,” shouted William enthusiastically.

“So when are ye all planning on go in?” Thomas asked.

“The night,” replied Charlie Gourley, “when yur ready the seven o us’ll go and give them the message that they don’t mess aboot wi any of The Hill Stars ever again – right!”

Thomas smoked his cigarette down to half an inch from the bottom and handed it to Charlie Gourley.

“Thanks Thomas,” said the grateful Charlie.

“Kin a have the coos arse Charlie” chipped John Tervit.

“Aye okay.” (The “coos arse” was the very last tip of cigarette left before throwing it away.)

They left John’s shop and made their way down through a wasted park that separated Royston Hill from Royston Road, picking up as many stones as would fit into their pockets as they went along. They turned left at the bottom and walked passed Thomas’s school on the left eventually coming  to the very end of Royston Road where they turned right into Springburn Road. Having just left their own territory they were all immediately on guard. The one who had said he knew where the rival gang member lived took up the lead.  It took them ten minutes to reach the close they were looking for.

Charlie Cullin, pointing to the flat. “It’s that flat on the bottom right and his name is Jamie,” he said.

“So then wit’s the plan Charlie or dae we no have wan?” Thomas ask.

“A think we should hide outside the close and John should go and knock on his door and ask him tae come oot. He’ll remember John and he’ll think he’s come for a wan tae wan fight. If he fancies his chances he might come oot if he thinks John’s on his ain, then we’ll return the kickin.”

“Right,” said John, “but don’t hide too far away; right!” He entered the close and knocked on the door. A woman opened it, John presumed her be Jamie’s mother.

“ Is Jamie in?”

“JAMIE,” she shouted back into the flat, “there’s somebody here tae see ye.” She walked away and left the door ajar; John was wondering whether to stay or run, he was now engulfed with fear, “what if there’s two of them in the flat and they pull him in,” but he knew he would have to be strong or he’d get worse of his own gang, in any case it was too late the door was opening.

“So it’s you again, you daft bastard, did ye no get enough that you’ve come back fur more?”

“Ootside bastard;” shouted John, “you, withoot yur gang, jist you and me.”

Jamie looked at John giving him a mocking smile. “You must think am fuckin daft. Dae you think for a minute that am gonnae step oot intae that street and gae your gang a chance tae jump me? Nae fuckin chance so you and yur gang might as well fuck aff.” He slammed the door and John walked out and stood on the pavement and after a few seconds was joined by the rest.

“He smelt a rat,” said John, “or maybe he saw us frae his windy.”

“Right then,” said Thomas “we’ve come all this way and we’ve all got loads of stones in oor pockets. Wullie, John and Charlie dive through the close tae the back yard, soon as you hear us smashin the windys at the front you smash every wan of their fuckin windys at the back, right? Dinnae leave a single windy, make sure you smash every fuckin wan in the flat, then we’ll run fur it in case the polis come. We’ll meet up at John’s shop in Milburn Street. Jamie’s fuckin ma and da wull need more than a bob tae carry oot these repairs. Right aff ye go.”

Thomas and the three others lined up outside the front of the flat. They faced three windows; one double that was the main bedroom window, subdivided into sixteen panes of glass, and two singles; the bathroom and a smaller bedroom with a top and bottom part to each window with eight square panes of glass in each. The back had a double for the living room and a single for the kitchen. Thomas took all the stones out of his pockets and laid them on the ground by his feet. The other lads followed his example. He then picked up four of the biggest stones, he held three in his left hand and one in his right.

“Are ye all ready,” he shouted, feeling the excitement building up inside.

“Aye, was the unanimous reply.”

“Here’s a message for Jamie,” Thomas shouted and he threw the first stone. They all threw their stones as fast and as hard as they could amid a crescendo of smashing glass, they knew they would attract neighbours and ultimately the police but they didn’t move until every window in the house

was well and truly smashed. They ran off heading for John’s shop laughing and shouting to each other on the way. Their heads full of magic … this was the life, as they thought not knowing any different.

After meeting back at John’s and having a celebratory drink of Bars Iron Brew and a couple of cigarettes Thomas decided it was time to call it a day and so headed for home. He let himself into the empty flat and switched the lights on. He wasn’t surprised to find there was no one at home because he knew it was Saturday night and so it was party night for his mother and father, just as Sunday morning was always hangover morning, and Monday morning would be skint morning. The Kings in the flat above were carrying out their usual drunken Saturday night partying. The routine was the same every Saturday.

All the Kings who were old enough to drink alcohol would go across the road to the pub and get drunk. They would then return to the flat with bottles of beer and whisky … if the money was up to it … put their music on at full blast, so loud in fact that the light on Thomas’s ceiling would dance about in rhythm. The Kings would dance, then they would have a sing-song and usually then they would have a fight amongst themselves, breaking up the furniture they broke last Saturday and repaired on Sunday and if it was a really good fight the glasses and bottles would get smashed as well. Thomas liked to hear the loudness of their music, it made him feel he was not alone and loved it when they all started fighting. It was, he thought great fun, particularly when the fight would spill over out into the street and he could then sit at the window and have a ringside seat.

He was just finished making himself a sauce sandwich when somebody rattled the doorknocker.

“Who is it?” he shouted through the door.

“It’s the polis.”

“Oh fuck” he thought to himself “how did they find out he was one of the lads who smashed the windys. His daddy would kill him when he found out. Too late now, he thought, I’ll have tae open the fuckin door.”

He opened the door and there was two policemen stood there, they looked like they were about seven feet tall.

“Is yur daddy in?” Sad one of the policemen.

“Naw.”

“Is yur mammy in then?” said the other.

“Naw, wit dae ye want,” ask Thomas feeling very small and defenceless against these two giants and expecting to see one of them pull a set of handcuffs out any second.

“Did ye know ye huvnae closed your blinds and German bombers flying over your hoose will think it’s their birthday when they see the lights cumin from yur windies. Why don’t you tell your daddy tae paint a big bullseye on your roof. You’re a bit young tae be left on your own at this time of night ur ye no?”

“Am nine,” Thomas lied and in anycase a can look after maself.”

“Aye, am sure you can, you huftae when you have nae alternative son. Right we huftae go noo so when you shut this door make sure you pull the blinds. Right?”

“Aye, right occifer, Thomas joked, feeling the relief sweep over him. He shut the door and went dancing round the house in time to the King’s music coming from upstairs, whilst closing the blinds. Life was good and it had been a great day.

Chapter 9

Blood Brothers

It was dark and the alarm clock was clattering away on the plate where Thomas had put it the night before to make it sound louder. He awoke and threw off the overcoats that he had to use as substitutes for extra blankets, then the two threadbare blankets that were supposed to keep him warm throughout the night. He sprang out of bed straight into the freezing cold, so cold in fact that he could feel the goose pimples springing up all over his naked body making him move all the faster to get into his clothes. He hurriedly threw on the same clothes he’s dropped on the floor the night before and proceeded to go through his every day routine of getting ready for school. He walked into the bathroom, had a pee; splashed his face and wiped all the dirt onto the towel; then into the kitchen; filled the teapot with water, lit the gas ring and placed the tea pot on top to boil, he then went to the table to find a morning roll that his mother always left for him and found it on top of a couple of notes written in his mother’s unmistakable scrawl.

“Thomas, you will have to stay off school the day as the gas-man is coming to empty the meter. I need the rebate. Also I want you to go to Davy Tyrrell’s and get some groceries. I have written a note for him. If you scrub the lobby and the living room floor I’ll give you sixpence.”

 Every house on Royston Hill had gas meters that had to be emptied by a member of Scottish Gas once every month. The amount payable to the gas authority was always much less than that which was put into the penny meters and so there was usually a tidy rebate to be given back to the grateful customers.

 

Thomas put down that note and picked up the other one; it read.

“Dear Davy, please give Thomas one pound of sugar, one packet of margarine, a loaf, a packet of dates and 2 cans of beans.” It was simply signed, “Susanna.

Thomas picked up the pencil his mother had used and leaning over the note she had written continued writing from where she had finished in such a way as it was totally impossible to distinguish his writing from hers . . . “ and 10 Kensitas fags, 2 Penguin biscuits and 2 packets of potato crisps.”  He put the note into his trouser pocket.

When the water in the teapot began to boil, he removed the lid and tipped two teaspoons of tea into the pot, put the lid back on and lowered the gas to allow the tea to simmer and gather strength. By the time he’d cut open his morning roll and spread on some treacle the tea was ready, black and strong, just the way he liked it.

Dressed, “washed” and fed he decided it was time to go and tell William Bailie he would have to stay off school today.

Thomas rattled the knocker on William’s door, “RIGHT! RIGHT! No need tae knock the fuckin door doon,” shouted William as he opened it.

“Hi Wullie”, said Thomas as he walked into William’s flat, “the gas-man is coming t’day and if you stay aff school we should be able tae get enough each oot of the rebate for fags an the pictures. Dae ye fancy that Wullie?”

“Sure a dae”, replied William, “anything’s better than school Thomas … right?”

“Right! then get yur coat Wullie and come wae me tae Davy Tyrrells, I’ve got tae get some things for ma mammy.”

William disappeared into another room and a few minutes later came out throwing on a dark blue coat. They left the flat and banged the door shut and giving it a good shake to make sure is was locked tight. Then they ran down the stairs jumping about four at a time and out of the close turning left and crossed the road to Rosemount Street where halfway down the cobbled street on the left was Davy Tyrrell’s grocery store.

They entered the shop and Davy Tyrrell was behind the counter using his right arm to turn a large wheel on a bacon slicing machine whilst pushing the bacon into the cutting wheel with his left hand watching the slices of bacon fall onto a piece of wrapping paper. He was as always

wearing a raffia hat and had a stripped apron around a largish stomach. Thomas reckoned he was the best fed man in the neighbourhood which was not surprising considering he owned a grocery store.  Everybody had to use ration books for just about all foods, such as bacon, eggs, tea, sugar, butter and so on, so it was not surprising that there was few fat people about like Davy; rumour had it that Davy was doing a bit on what they called the black-market where you could buy anything without ration books so long as you had the money with which to pay over the usual prices and the means for moving what you bought along for a bit of profit.

Davy looked up from the bacon slicing machine. “Why are you boys no at school th’day? he asked, I hope you’re no play’n truant.”

“David how could you make such an accusation.” Thomas mocked. “We’ve been kept aff on a special mission because the gas-man’s cummin and we huv tae let him intae our hooses so as our mothers can get their hands on their rebates. A bet ye jist aboot every kid on Royston Hill’s been kept aff school th’day for the same reason and in any case everybody knows how I love school … don’t ah Wullie?” Thomas turned and winked at William and when their eyes met they both bust into laughter.

“Okay gentlemen,” Davy joked back, “How could I have thought such of you two refined young men. Now Thomas, what dae ye want?”

Thomas searched in his trouser pockets, pulled the note and handed it to Davy.

“Who are the fags for Thomas?” Davy asked looking from the note to Thomas’s face.

“A didnae know there was any on the note Davy. Ah didnae even look at it.” Thomas lied. “They must be for ma da Davy.”

“Are they no for you Thomas?” Davy asked peering even more into Thomas’s face.

“Davy;” Thomas laughed, “wid ma mammy write fags for me on her note tae you? I don’t think so somehow!”

“Tell Davy the truth now Thomas,” laughed William. “Davy you might as well know that Thomas smokes sixty fags a day, he’s a secret whiskey drinker and he tells lies all the time.”

William and Thomas bust into laughter and Davy couldn’t help but laugh with them. But it seemed to break the suspicions that Davy had and so he set about getting the order together.

All the groceries that Susanna bought every week were purchased from Davy’s shop and they were always bought on tick. The silly thing about it all was that Susanna never demanded an itemised list of purchases and Thomas knew that; he was also aware that his mammy couldn’t add up to save her life. …. But he could …. and how!

Everything that had been on Susanna’s note was now lying on the counter and Davvy started writing the cost of each item on a piece of paper as he placed them into the carrier bag Thomas had brought.

“Right Thomas,” said Davvy Handing the carrier bag to Thomas. “Give my regards tae your mother … and be good.”

“Thank you very much Davvy,” said Thomas smilingly, “I always try very hard tae be good Davvy, I promise you.”

Davvy gave Thomas a look as though pondering as to what Thomas was referring to but decided not to reply and returned to his bacon slicing machine.

Back at Thomas’s house Thomas gave William a packet of crisps and a chocolate Penguin biscuit and put the teapot filled with fresh water on the gas ring again to make some fresh tea.

“Thomas, you’re the best friend in the world ah could ever have asked for,” said William biting into his Penguin biscuit with relish, if a had a brother a wid want him tae be like you so wit dae you think if we dae wit the Indians dae and become blood brothers that way we wid be sort of brothers for life?”

“Aye, that a great idea Wullie,” Thomas replied, “none of us has a real brother so we’ll have each other, in any case if we were real brothers we’d probably be fightin each other all the time. Okay Wullie we’ll dae it and we’ll swear always tae look efter wan ‘n other for all our lives … right?”

“Right,” replied William with a very determined look in his face.

Thomas went into his mother’s bedroom and came out with a darning needle. He held out his left hand and stuck the needle into his thumb producing a blister of blood. “Right Wullie, hod oot your thumb.” William proffered his right hand palm up and before he could blink Thomas had stabbed the needle into his thump making him jump. They both looking into each other’s eyes and then to their bloodied thumbs and with great ritual put their thumbs together. Thomas shouted “BROTHERS!” Then they both shouted “BROTHERS!” and hugged each other. Little did they know at that moment in their young lives how much of a bond this brotherhood was to become.

There was a rattling on the door. “This’ll be the gas-man Wullie,” said Thomas, jumping up from the chair he had been sat on. “Yahoo Wullie, let’s get this show on the road.”

Thomas went to the door and opened it and there … sure enough stood the gas-man. Everyone on Royston Hill knew that if they saw a man walking down the road leaning to one side under the strain of carrying a large brown leather bag that that was the gas-man with his bag full of copper. Sure enough when Thomas opened the door there stood a short balding man with a large brown bag he’d placed by hi feet.

“Gas” he said as though he really had to announce himself. “Aye right” said Thomas, “come on in.”

The gas-man followed Thomas into the kitchen and Thomas pointed to where the gas meter was,. which was just above the coal bunker. The “gasman” heaved his large brown bag on to the bunker.

Thomas and William watched as the gasman pulled out of his pocket a large bunch of keys. The third key successfully opened the padlock which was used to secure the box that contained all the pennies that had been inserted to secure a flow of gas for the past month. He pulled the metal box out and tipped hundreds of pennies onto the bunker top. Thomas remembered his mother telling him always to keep a watch on the gasman when empting the meter box because no one would know how many pennies was in it to start with.

Between William and Thomas this gasman was not going to get away with a single penny.

“Seven hundred and fifty pennies” the gasman said after he had piled them into thirties all over the coalbunker top. “Now then,” he said with a canny expression on his face, “can any of you two boys tell me how much that is in pounds?”

“Three pound two shillings and sixpence exactly mister.” said Thomas.

The gasman’s eyebrows lifted in surprise, “Well, jist let me make sure.” He counted the piles “Aye that was a good guess son.”

“It wisnae a guess mister,” said Thomas, “each pile of those pennies is thirty and that’s half a crown; there’s eight half crowns in a pound and eight times three is twenty four; you’ve got twenty five piles there. Dead easy really, jist a bit of practice for when am grown up and huv my ain business.”

“ Erm! Right son, very good. I was only testing tae see if you wur awake Ha! Ha! Ha!.”

He got out a receipt book and entered some figures and then commenced putting pennies into paper bags and then in turn into his large leather bag.

“Right! That leaves seventeen shillings and four pence.” He tore the top copy out of his invoice book and put it with the money he had left on the bunker.

“Will you come up tae ma friends hoose noo, it’s only the next close. We have tae go tae school in the next half hour,” lied Thomas.

“Aye okay,” replied the gasman, that suits me fine being as a kin get intae the hoose.

After the gasman left William’s house, leaning very much over to the leather bag he had in his right hand, Thomas picked up the receipt he had left and studied it for a few minutes. It had three cash lines on it. One for the amount found to be in the meter. A second underneath for the amount due to the Gas Board and a third showing how much was rebated.

“Have you got a bit of bread Wullie?”

“Aye, jist a minute,” said William as he went over to the bread bin and brought back the loaf that was in it. “Will this dae?” he asked, holding out the loaf.

“Ah jist want a wee bit,” Thomas replied, pulling a very small bit off the corner. He handed the rest back to William, then compressing the bread very tightly between his thumb and forefinger he proceeded to rub out the figures showing the amount due to the Gas Board then wrote them back in having added three shillings to it, he then rubbed out and adjusted the amount of the rebate, less the three shillings and counted thirty-six pennies into William’s hand. “That’s for being a good boy and for stopping aff school tae let the gasman in,” he laughed and William joined in, they laughed until tears came to their eyes.

“Right Wullie” said Thomas heading for the door out of Williams flat, “I have tae go home and sort my ain gas meter money oot, but then I have tae scrub two floors. My ma left me a note and she promised me a tanner tae dae them. I’ll meet ye over at John’s in three quarters of an oor. Okay?”

Just as Thomas was disappearing though the door he popped his head back in and shouted. “I’ll tell ye what Wullie, ah bet you thought that bread was jist for eatin; eh!”

William could hear him laughing all the way down the stairs.

Chapter 10

The Boys are Coming Home.

Most of the Hill Stars gang members were out in Royston Hill kicking an old tennis ball about as best they could, considering they didn’t have a pair of decent shoes or boots between them. They had split up into two teams; no need for stripes or team colours, you just had to recognise the face of the person who had been nominated as the opposition. They placed their jumpers and jackets in the street to indicate where the goal posts where supposed to be and if the ball passed between them no higher than the goalkeeper could jump up and reach, then it would be declared a goal; Thomas’s team were losing five to four. Thomas and William, though not very good players had played football so many times together they had a few tricks they usually got up to in an effort to win goals; this was such an event when a trick or two was needed. William was running up the wing with the ball when John Hendry jumped into his path to stop him, William slipped the ball to the side of John Hendry to Thomas and accelerated around the other side of him; Thomas’s lobbed the ball back up the field in front of William and then ran into the goal mouth; William crossed the ball and Thomas headed in into the goal area.

“Goal” shouted William.

“Naw it’s no goal,” shouted John Hendry, “it was too high; it would have gone over the post.”

“It was a good goal and that’s us equal,” shouted Thomas picking up the ball and thowing it towards the centre of play.

“Am no gonnae tell you again Thomas, it’s no goal.” John Hendry was getting angry now and shouting at the top of his voice so hard that his eyes were popping out of is face which was becoming very red now.

“Who the fuck do you think you are Hendry,” Thomas shouted back …… “and what dae you mean …… you’re no gonnae tell me again …”

John Hendry walked up to Thomas and stood with his nose three inches from Thomas’s. “What part of the English am I speakin that you don’t understand ……  ah said it’s no goal and that’s that.”

“Then there’s only wan way tae sort this oot Hendry,” Thomas retorted moving back and putting his fists up, “put up or shut up.”

John Hendry struck the appropriate pose and they started circling each other, staring into each other’s eyes, waiting for an opening to deliver the first blow.

The rest of the gang formed a circle around them; no one was to be allowed to interfere until this matter had been settled.

Thomas was a very graceful mover, never still and always using his left jap to keep John Hendry back on his heels; John Hendry on the other hand was a bit bigger and stronger but sluggish in his movements, he threw a right for Thomas’s jaw but Thomas seeing it coming side-stepped outside the punch and hid Hendry with a crunching blow to the right temple as he came tumbling bye. Hendry stumbled past Thomas then fell banging his face on the concrete when he went down. Hendry was just getting to his feet when Thomas stepped forward to deliver another blow, as he punched forward with his right to Hendry’s face he saw a glint of steel; too late; he was committed. He hit Hendry full on the face as planned but when he stepped back to compose himself for another attack he realised his right arm was covered in blood. John Hendry had been holding a cutthroat razor and as Thomas had swung his arm forward to deliver the last punch he had inadvertently dragged the inside of his forearm along the razor. The cut was gushing blood and looked bad, hanging open and stretching from just below his elbow to two inches from his wrist. He hadn’t even known it had happened until he saw it. John Hendry was on the ground again leaning on his right elbow with the razor still in his hand when William Bailey jumped forward, he stamped on John Hendry’s right wrist with his left boot and with his right kicked him full in the face.

“You dirty bastard,” he shouted, “You dirty bastard.”

He was about to kick him again when two of the gang members grabbed him from behind and dragged him back.

“No more Wullie; no more,” shouted Robert King, the accepted gang leader, “he’s oot the gang now, and anyway we had better get Thomas tae the infirmary.”

They got Thomas’s jumper and wrapped it as tight as they could around his arm and the entire gang marched and half ran him down to the bottom of Royston Hill then along Caste Street and into the emergency department of The Glasgow Royal Infirmary. As all nineteen of them rushed in people sat in the waiting area jumped out of their seats thinking a gang fight was happening or about to happen.

Robert King dragged Thomas forward to the reception.“Somebody attacked ma pal and pulled a razor all the way doon his arm and then ran aff.” He lied.

The nurse looked at the blood soaked jumper Thomas was holding his arm in. “You had better come with me young man,” she said, pointing towards a swing door that led into the treatment room, “and the rest of you wait outside please otherwise I will be compelled to get the police and have you removed.”

She followed Thomas through the swing door. “You had better stretch out on your back on that table over there young man, and leave the jumper on the floor. Who did this to you?”

“It’s like ma pal said missus, we were all playing football minding our ain business when this feller jist ran up tae me and pulled a razor doon ma arm. We tried tae catch him but I was losing so much blood we though in the end we had better jist come here.”

“You realise that I will have to report this matter to the police and that they will come and see your parents at your house!”

“Aye, that’s fine missus,” said Thomas.

“Right then, I’ll get the doctor in and we had better get your arm well again. I think you’re going to need a few stitches.”

Half an hour later, with a forearm heavily swathed in bandage Thomas emerged from the treatment room.

“Hooray!” They all shouted.

“Wit are ye all shoutin aboot? Thomas shouted back, my mammy’s gonnae put me back in here when she sees the state ma jumper’s in.”

“We’re jist happy for you Thomas; you’re a good wee soldier,” Robert King shouted, throwing his arms around

Thomas and hugging him, “and it’s like I said, John Hendry’s oot the gang noo, Dae ye all agree?”

“Right!” they all shouted in unison as they exited the infirmary and begun walking up Castle Street with Thomas and his best pal and saviour William at the front, everyone was talking about how they had enjoyed a good fight.

They had just started walking up Royston Hill when quite suddenly church bells started ringing. Not just the church bells on Royston Hill but it seemed that every church in the whole of Glasgow was ringing their bells; what a noise; the gang members had to shout at each other to be heard. People started pulling open their windows and waving Union Jacks and Rampant Lion flags.

“Fuckin hell Thomas,” Robert King shouted above the cacophony of the celebrations, “ah didnae think for a minute the whole of Royston Hill got tae know aboot your fight.” He walked over to the centre of the road and in front of his gang started strutting up the middle of the road, chest out with pride and all the gang like wise marching in army fashion behind him. It was an extremely moving scene for them, just about every window on Royston Hill had someone in it waving a flag and shouting and Robert was waving and shouting back at them, but by now they couldn’t hear a word. They marched all the way up to the close where Thomas and the Kings lived and the noise, if anything got louder. Robert put his hand up into the air and brought his gang to a halt and they all walked over to the close where Robert’s mother stood with some other people.

“What aboot that then Ma?” Robert shouted to his mother. “Thomas had a fight wi John Hendry who slashed him with a razor, we took him doon tae the infirmary tae get his arm stitched and the whole of Royston Hill must have got tae hear aboot the fight and they’re all cheering like mad for us. Is that no great?”

“You silly bugger … they’re cheering because it’s the end of the war; it’s been on the radio; we’ve beaten the German.”

“Oh! Is that all” said Robert.

Chapter 11

Big John

They looked so graceful and oozed confidence as they glided expertly across the floor of the Palais de Dance in Denniston; their synchronization and ease with which they danced the few fancy show off steps that they put into their routine showed that they had put in a great deal of practice together. William Bailey’s mother, Greta, looked a lot younger than her 32 years. Her pouting lips were, in her opinion, just a little too big, but when one looked at her face, her high cheekbones, large green eyes and cropped blonde hair, all her facial attributes blended superbly together to give her the appearance of a Slavonic beauty, though the reality was that all her ancestors came from Ireland.  The blue sequinned ballroom gown she was wearing showed off a slim athletic and well coordinated figure; probably the result of all the ballroom dancing she put in every week.

John Bailie, her husband, had been away at war with the Black Watch Regiment six months when, out of boredom she had decided to take up ballroom dancing lessons and so started going to a local dance school. It was at one of the lessons that she met Ian Richardson who was to become her regular dance partner and eventually her lover.

Ian Richardson managed to avoid being conscripted into the army, because, as he had put it, he was a conscientious objector. In the spring of 1941 he was compelled to attend Court and explain himself. He said it was against his moral principals to take the life of any human being. It wasn’t a religious matter he had emphasized; just that he was incapable of killing another human being. He was sentenced to a five pounds fine or be imprisoned for 28 days in Barlinnie Prison. When the court bailiffs came to his house for the five pound he didn’t have it and so was quietly led away to commence his prison experience which he later described as being kept like a pig only ten times worse and the pigs had better food. There were other objectors doing time with him and the prison guards made their lives were hellish, calling them cowardly bastards at every opportunity.

Every one knew there where some genuine conscientious objectors but there were more fakes than real ones and Ian Richardson was one of the later.

Tall, skinny, shifty and as sly as a fox Ian Richardson was always on the lookout for anything he could peddle on the black-market where he made most of his living, the rewards of which enabled him to drive his flash Armstrong Siddeley Convertible Coupe, one of his chattels that contributed towards his endearment to women. Had it been during the First World War; professing to be a conscientious objector he would have been locked away in prison for the war’s duration but opinions had changed over the years, between the two wars, and there was nothing anyone could do. No one knew precisely what type of person a self-professed genuine conscientious objector was but the majority of people in those days simply took the easy way to understanding them and categorised them as cowards.

He was six feet one inch, which was the perfect height for a ballroom dancer and with all the time he had to practice he was good … and he knew it!

“So what are you gonnae do when he comes hame?” Asked Ian Richardson. “I mean he’ll be hame now inside the next four weeks or so.”

“John has been away now for three years now,” Greta replied, “and ah fear a have forgotten how it was tae be with him. It would be like climbing intae bed wi a stranger and I’m afraid I just cannae do that … so I’m going tae have tae tell him about us the first day he comes hame and hope tae god that he feels the same as I dae. I mean … I suppose it’s possible. What do you think?”

“Aye, I agree … it’s the only thing tae do. Will you want me to be with you when you tell him?”

“Naw, I think it will be better if am on my ain. I don’t think I have anything tae fear, John has always been a reasonable person and certainly never a violent man … Naw! It’ll be alright … you’ll see!”

Before the war had broken out John Bailie, at 29 years of age was six feet two inches of solid muscle and very much liked man; he was for ever and a day happy and showed it everywhere he went; always having the time of day for a chat, seemingly about anything anyone wanted to chat about. He did not have even the most infinitesimal bit of aggression in his body but was always seen as a gentle being, never getting into any fights, more probably by default than anything else, in that no one ever took it upon themselves to put him to the test. Because of his height and strong psychic most of his pals knew just how far to argue a point with him and when to just shut up and give in, whether in the right or in the wrong!

He was a family man and spent all his spare time with them; taking William to the football every Saturday to watch his favourite team, Glasgow Celtic, or taking his two daughters Sadie and Agnes to ballet lessons or acting school.

When John Bailey was conscripted into the army he was, because of his size, sent to join one of Scotland’s crack infantry regiments, The Black Watch.

Three years fighting with the Black Watch had brought about some dramatic changes in Big John Bailie. No longer did his blue eyes shine with open friendliness, they had become instead the steely eyes of one of the hardest and most feared fighting men in the regiment. Three times decorated, mentioned twice in dispatches and promoted to the rank of sergeant major. Big John had had to fight for his life too many times to remain the nice outgoing friendly guy he was when he joined up, he was now a killing machine; he had to be; because he now knew that his very existence was fight or die and he discovered, much to his surprise that he was a born fighter.

There was a rumour that in one of John Bailey’s many hand to hand skirmishes with the enemy he had gone to the aid of a Ghurkha soldier who was surrounded by the enemy. They had both fought valiantly back to back and had killed many of the enemy when the Ghurkha soldier was fatally wounded. John had just extinguished the life of a German soldier when he turned around just in time to see an enemy soldier stabbing the Ghurkha in the chest with a bayonet attached to the end of a rifle. The rumour has it that the Ghurkha had dropped to his knees and his Kukri; that is the fighting knife that all Ghurkha soldiers carry, had fallen from his hand and had stuck in the ground in front of him; one of the other Black Watch soldiers fighting there told the story of how he had seen John Bailey reach down and grasp the kukri in his right hand and with a blood curdling scream had cut the enemy soldier’s head clean off. Before the Ghurkha soldier died Big John had offered him back his kukri and that the Ghurkha out of gratitude and respect requested that John kept it to kill as many of the enemy as was possible … the rumour also had it that Big John was now up to eight and still counting.

It was about ten minutes before dawn and John Bailie was standing with one of the battalion’s pipers at the end of a trench that stretched for about three hundred yards. He could just make out the anxious faces of the troops nearest to him and the occasional glint of bayonets fixed to the end of rifles. The men were nervous, as they always were when about to attack an enemy position that would require hand to hand combat.

“Archie, it’s nearly time”, said John to the piper, “as soon as the first glint of light appears through those trees I want ye tae play me a blood curdling tune on those pipes of yours that will put the fear of god in tae those kraut bastards over there and make my men as fearless as lions; don’t stop playing until we have killed every one of the bastards or we’ve been killed ourselves. You hear me Archie; don’t stop playing. I want you tae play your pipes loud and strong, for if the skirl of the pipes does tae ma men wit it does tae me, then my men will have no fear; aye no fear, they will go in there and fight tae the last man … so don’t stop playing Archie.”

“Are ye ready lassies?” John shouted along the trench, raising a few laughs.

“Aye” was the chorus. “Never better” … “Nae fear.” Someone shouted back.

The sun had just peeped through the trees when suddenly the wail of the pipes broke the morning’s deathly silence, sounding like an Irish banshee, as the piper pumped his bagpipes full of air. Then came the tune … Scotland the Brave … filling the Black Watch troops with bravado and pride.

“Then let’s get at it,” shouted Big John drawing his now famous Kukri from it’s scabbard and brandishing it in the air.

“Aaaaaayyyyeeeee,” they yelled in unison as over the top they went, yelling, screaming shouting and swearing … whatever it took to keep their minds from thinking about anything other than kill the enemy or be killed … and the pipes played on; loud and strong as John had requested … administering an anaesthetic against fear whilst filling their souls with a feeling of magical indomitable strength and immortality.

Big John was covered in blood from head to toe, his arms hanging down by his sides. In his right hand was his kukri with blood was still running off the point of it. The combat had lasted two hours and John had killed five of the enemy. The Germans, it seemed, on this skirmish could not match the ferocity of the Black Watch soldiers … and the pipes still played on. Later that day a message was received … Germany had surrendered. Big John was going home ….

Chapter 12

Sexual Education

The end of the war celebration was in full swing on Royston Hill. The front of Thomas’s close was on street level and access to the back garden was through the close and down a flight of about twenty stairs. Thomas and Emily Baxter, a girl from the next close, were sat on the last step talking about various members of the gang and the way their parents were behaving with all the drinks they had consumed since the party started.

Thomas got up and walked a few steps into the back garden and with his back to Emily began to urinate against the wall.

“Let’s have a look at yur willy then Thomas.” Emily shouted.

“You can have a look at ma willy any time you like Emily so long as I can have a look at your fanny” Thomas replied laughingly over his shoulder.

“Now Thomas, ah couldn’t let ye see “that” here could ah, with all the people up there?” She nodded her forehead towards the upstairs.

“Well then let’s go up tae ma hoose,” said Thomas buttoning up his trousers, my mammy and da are at the front with the party, getting drunker by the minute.”

“Come on then.” Said Emily, taking hold of Thomas’s hand and pulling him up the stairs and into Thomas’s house.

Thomas closed the door behind him and locked it.

“Come on Thomas … let me see it then,” laughed Emily nervously. Thomas unbuttoned the front of his trousers and pulled out his penis. Emily stooped over to get a closer look and looked up at him.

“How big does it get if ye play with it?” asked Emily looking up into Thomas’s face.

“Why don’t ye try and see wit happens.” Thomas replied.

“Emily reached out and took his penis in her hand and with her other hand she reached inside his trousers and placed it under his newly developed balls, squeezing gently.

“How does that feel Thomas?” She asked.

“Absolutely fucking wonderful Emily.” Replied Thomas, undoing the rest of his buttons and dropping his trousers to the floor.

“Now what aboot takin your knickers aff Emily and let me have a look at yours.”

“Just put your hand up ma skirt and feel it Thomas. That’s all I’ll let you do.”

Emily leaned back against the wall with both her hands exploring Thomas’s penis, pulling and pushing the foreskin and feeling it getting firmer in her hand.  She felt his hands sliding up her thighs, round her waist and back down inside her knickers feeling her buttocks then she felt his hands slipping down and taking her knickers with them. She meant to say something but was carried away with a rush of excitement. She felt his fingers exploring the lips of her vagina and her legs started to shake with the emotional ecstasy that came over her.

“Dae ye want tae give it a try Emily,” said Thomas trying so very hard to keep the tremor out of his voice, “you know what ah mean … put oor bits together?”

“Thomas there’s nae chance, Emily managed to gasp, feeling her heart beat faster than ever before in her life, she felt that if she was not leaning against the wall she would fall down, “ah could never dae that Thomas. I mean I’ve never done that.”

“But neither have I Emily. Ah mean, we’re both lovin it so far, so why don’t we go jist another wee bit further. I mean Emily, it must be fuckin great just tae have them touch … come on Emily I’ll even give ye six of ma best comics. Come on Emily! … Ach come on fur fuck sake … wit dae ye say?”

Emily Baxter had her buttocks on the edge of the armchair and was laid on her back, back across most of the seat with just her head sticking up on the backrest of the chair. Her arms were stretched out in front of her and she was reading a Superman comic. As she turned a page over she moved the comic to one side and looked at Thomas. “Ur you no finished yet?”

“Don’t be so fuckin daft Emily, I’ve only started and in any case a cannae get it in. How the fuck dae ye get it in?”

“How should ah know Thomas it’s ma first time as well … or have ye forgotten?”

Thomas was on his knees on the floor between Emily’s legs, one hand holding his penis pressed up against Emily’s vagina whilst his hips were vigorously moving back and forward, thrusting forward with all his might but to no avail. This was his very first attempt at sex and whereas he had a basic knowledge of how it was supposed to happen he really had no idea of what he was doing. Then he remembered reading in one of his father’s .. not so very well hidden .. dirty books about a similar situation … lubrication! In particular about how it had been applied. He put his head between Emily’s thighs and

started licking the lips of her vagina whilst trying to create as much saliva as possible.

“Oh Thomas! … Oh Thomas! … You can dae that tae me all day if ye want, she cried out, but ye cannae have yur comics back; that is fucking gorgeous,” she moaned, just keep on doin it.”

“Thomas where did ye learn tae dae that?”

“From wan o ma da’s durty books.”

“Well Thomas all a kin say is .. keep on reading them and if ye ever want somebody tae practice on ye kin gae me a shout .. anytime.”

Thomas did as he was told and licked all the faster whilst at the same time pulling more vigorously on his penis. Suddenly he felt the excitement building up deep within his groin and then his penis exploded with semen spurting everywhere. He pointed his penis over Emily’s belly and watched it spurting out and landing around her belly button. Emily ran her forefinger through the semen on her belly and held it up in front of her eyes; she rubbed her thumb and finger together testing how thick and oily it felt, opening and closing her fingers testing its viscosity. She ran her fingers up and down her belly catching as much semen as possible and started rubbing it inside her vagina as far up as she could put it.

“Maybe your supposed tae put this on ma fanny first Thomas and then put yur willy in. I mean it feels really slippy now.  Dae ye want tae have another try?”

“Emily, ma mammy and ma da will be comin home any time noo so I think we should wait ‘till tomorrow and have another go then. Is that okay?”

“Aye, all right Thomas, but don’t forget tae read some more of yur Da’s durty books.”

Emily got up from the chair and picked up her knickers that were lying beside the chair and climbed into them. After hitching them up a few times she gave Thomas a kiss.

“Now you won’t forget .. wull ye .. tomorrow then … right?” Suddenly she was gone and Thomas was very pleased to see that in her excitement she had forgotten her comics.

Chapter 13

Big John’s Homecoming

Thomas and William Bailey were sat on the pavement outside John’s shop in Milburn Street with their backs against the wall smoking their rollups.

“Your Da will soon be hame Wullie. Are you looking forward tae seeing him?” said Thomas.

William gave a great sigh. “Ah cannae wait Thomas. He’s been fightin the Germans for three years now and am so glad he’s coming hame. Jackie Gourley’s da is no coming hame. He got blown up in wan of those trenches. That’s a rotten shame for the family, ah mean, there’s three brothers and two sisters and they’re really gonnae miss their Da. Ah think they buried his body over there … wherever it happened. Ah would have wanted my da’s body back here; would you no want that Thomas?”

“But then maybe they couldnae find all the body,” replied Thomas, “or maybe they just found bits of it and that’s why it’s better they did it the way they did.”

“Aye, ah suppose your right Thomas!” said William. The fact is ma da will soon be hame and I cannae wait tae see him. Why did your da no go tae the war Thomas?”

“Because he builds and repairs ships and they needed him here. Two of my uncles went tae war and ah think they’re alright and coming hame. What a party that’s gonnae be Wullie, eh! your family and mine. We’ll be whooping it up for weeks on end. Ye! … ah cannae wait!”

Big John Bailie was standing in Castle Street looking up   Royston Hill; the warrior soldier felt strangely out of place and a sense of foreboding had come over him. He’d written and told his family he was coming home and sure enough the day had finally arrived. “Fuck it!” he said out loud and turned around and walked across the road and entered Sherry’s pub. He was in need of a drink to steady his nerves. It was five thirty in the evening.

“Fucking hell … if it’s no John Bailie!”

John turned towards the voice and marching towards him with outstretched hand was William Baxter who lived three closes up from him on Royston Hill. William Baxter grabbed hold of John’s hand and shook it vigorously whilst enthusiastically slapping him on the back. “A fucking hero you are John, we’ve all heard aboot your escapades from other lads that came hame before ye. Let me buy ye a whisky.”

“Barman … barman …. Gae’s a whisky and a pint of heavy fur oor very own hero from Royston Hill … as a matter of fact make it two and I’ll join him.”

The barman placed two whiskies on the bar and William Baxter picked them both up and handed one to John.

“Attention everyone,” he shouted; …. “attention! …. I want ye all tae raise yur glasses tae Big John Bailie here, who has just come hame from the war. He fought wi the Black Watch and personally killed thirteen of the fucking Nazi bastards himself … raise yur glasses tae big John Bailie.” … Everyone enthusiastically stood up and raised their glasses to Big John, some came over to the bar and shook hands with him. They didn’t need much excuse for a party and so the pub very quickly … and once again, broke into party mood with justifiable good reason … their very own hero back from the war.

After several drinks and feeling a lot better John excused himself from one of his many admirers and went to the toilet. He entered one of the cubicles, leaving the door open and was peeing into the pot when …

“Don’t turn round John; but don’t worry, there’s nae trouble, I just want tae tell ye something that ah believe you should know but I don’t want tae be identified as the person that told ye … so please don’t turn round and believe me am telling ye out of respect and nothing else. You wife has been going oot wi a guy called Ian Richarson and it’s been goin on now for about two years. They’re ballroom dancing partners but everybody knows they’ve taken their relationship beyond the dancing. They go tae the Denniston Pallais three times a week. That’s it John … as a said please don’t turn round ‘till I’m gone.” With that he was gone and John was alone again.

John didn’t turn round, he just continued to stand there … frozen to the spot for about five minutes and then slumped onto his shoulder and leaned against the side of the cubicle, just staring at the wall in front. The happiness that had been creeping over him with the aid of the whisky quickly drained away. He just carried on leaning against the wall waiting for the throbbing in his brain to stop and the haze to clear, wondering what to do next. Finally he spun around and upon leaving the cubicle pulled door so hard he could hear it clattering onto the floor as he went

back out to the bar. “Whisky!” He shouted … “make it a double.”

John just threw the whisky down his throat emptying the glass in one gulp. He was thinking how he could and would fight any man in the world; win or loss and take his lickings and bear it; but he knew how difficult it would be to bear the emotional trauma of looking at his wife’s face whilst she told him she was seeing another man and had been doing so whilst he had been fighting for the past three years to keep her and his kids safe; his mind thought back to the times he had spent in dirty freezing trenches waiting to go into yet another battle whilst conjuring up visions in his mind’s eye of his wife and children and drawing comfort from the thought that what he was doing, he was doing for them … he knew he would want to hurt her as much as he was hurting inside, but he also knew that he wouldn’t have the heart to do it to her. He loved her too much; she was the mother of his children. But wait a minute … he thought … what about fucking Twinkle-Toes Richardson; that bastard had been shagging his wife instead of being out there with the rest of the lads in the trenches. His mind was running wild now … ah bet the lads would want tae know about this bastard, he thought; ah mean; how many of their wives did he shag … we’ll never know! Now then, he though, ah could hurt that bastard and ah could feel good doing it … and ah bet the lads would feel good too … really good …

“Who knows a guy called Ian Richardson.” John shouted out to the drinkers in the pub. “Ian Richardson! Who knows him?”

Everybody stopped talking and drinking and looked at each other and then to John but no one spoke. Not a word, for no one wanted to get involved and just about everyone knew who Ian Richardson was.

“It disnae matter,” shouted John. “for ah know where I can find him, when am ready … Barman gae everybody a drink on me and make mine a double.”

There was bunting and flags everywhere and the people of Royston Hill had brought out their tables and chairs and cordoned off the entire street for the party. For it was a very rare event to have a hero … a real live hero … came back alive from the war and Big John had become a legend.

His entire family and a good number of others from all over Glasgow had come to welcome him home. Someone was playing an accordion and those that weren’t sat down drinking, were dancing to the Gay Gordons.

Near the bottom of the hill, just before the Monkland Canal is Earleston Avenue and there waiting for the appearance of the big man himself was the local pipe band. This would turn out to be as much a surprise for John as for the local people.

A few whiskies and pints of heavy later big John shouted signalling his departure.

“Right lads I’m off. Ah havtae get up the hill and see my family. You’re all a great crowd and I’ve really enjoyed maself.”

John finished his drink and buttoned up his tunic in readiness for the road; he didn’t notice that everyone in the pub was doing the same thing. If the reason for the party was leaving just to go up the hill for another party, then they were taking their party with him. Even the landlord of the pub threw his apron on the bar and took his keys off the hook on the wall ready to lock up. John was surprised but very pleased when he saw what was happening and proceeded up Royston Hill with his entourage following behind with bottles and glasses still in their hands and pockets bulging with additional booze.

“HE’S COMING! HE’S COMING!” Someone shouted down Earleston Avenue and the members of the pipe band who had been hanging about for hours suddenly sprang into action, picking up their instruments and running into rank and file order … then they waited, in absolute silence, in anticipation of the appearance of their hero.

Walking over the bridge at Monkland Canal a few empty bottles where thrown over the railings and into the canal; someone stuck a bottle of beer into John’s hand and he took a swig of its contents. They came to Earleston Avenue and as soon a John reached the corner, great cheers went up and the pipe band started to play. John smiled and waved in appreciation and carried on walking up the hill and the band came marching and playing behind.

Up on the crest of Royston Hill everyone stopped dancing and the accordionist stopped playing, for they could hear the skirl of the pipes and the drumming of the drums coming up the hill and knew the big man himself was now coming home. The band was playing a Scottish song that most knew the words to and they all started to sing …

“He went striding intae action, he was the centre of attraction, he was the pride of Bonnie Scotland, so they say …. Yaaaahhhooooo!……” 249 Royston Hill, where he had lived, was on the other side of the hill that Big John was walking up and everyone could now just see his head and shoulders as he was walking to the crest of the hill, with the band getting louder and louder. What a site it was to behold, for John was now walking down the centre of the road, with the pipe band playing and swaggering behind; he had by now got into the mood of what was happening and was now swinging his kilt to the rhythm of the pipe band that was marching and playing behind him. He knew what a great honour it was that was being bestowed on him and was bursting with pride.

His mother and father were hugging each other and tears of joy was streaming down their cheeks … their “boy” … their hero … had been spared in the terrible war and what a coming home it was. As he and the band marched past the closes, they emptied themselves of people, who marched behind the band. The whole of Royston Hill was without doubt doing their hero proud and as Thomas had said to William … ” What a party that’s gonnae be Wullie, eh!”

William Bailie could not hold himself back any longer. He had been marching along the pavement, keeping pace with his father and revelling with pride in every minute of it.

“Da” He shouted. “Da” He tried again. Big John turned his head in William’s direction and a big smile swept across his face. He waved for William to come to him, which he did, running straight at his father he jumped and ended up with both legs round his father’s waist and his arms around his neck, hugging him tightly.

“How are ye son,” his dad asked kissing him on the cheek, “it’s really good tae se ye again William for ah honestly thought ah would never see ye again son … and here we are.” He kissed William on the cheek again and continued marching ‘till he came to where his mother and father stood. He stopped and put William down and turned to his mother who hugged and kissed him wetting his cheek with her tears.

“Oh John darling John … its so good that you’ve come hame … am such a lucky woman tae have ma son back from the wars when so many mothers are just left with memories.” He turned to his father who gave him a bear hug slapping him on the back and kissing him on the cheek; choking whilst trying unsuccessfully to stop the tears from coming into his eyes and running down his cheeks.  “Ma wee boy’s come hame a hero. You’ve made me a very proud man John. We’ve heard so many amazing stories. Have ye brought hame the kukri that we’ve heard you’re now an expert with?”

John reached down to his waste and pulled it from its scabbard.

“Da … ah hope ye know am supposed tae draw blood if ah take it from its sheath. It’s a Ghurkha tradition; so I’ll have tae cut wan of your fingers aff.”

His father was looking into Johns very serious eyes wondering what to say next not wanting to have to pay with a finger to see the mighty knife. John started to laugh and relief swept over his father as he too burst out laughing, punching John on the shoulder for having had him on. John showed his father that the tradition was real by nicking his own left hand to draw a little blood. He held the knife just above his head so that everyone could see it, his eyes travelling around the crowd and then locked onto his wife’s eyes who had just joined the party. As she stood there, she looked at him holding the glittering kukri above his head and she felt a dread overcoming her likes of which she had never felt in her life before.

Chapter 14

Revenge

John Bailie moved back in with his parents who lived in Springburn, just 5 miles from Royston Hill. Two months had passed since the homecoming party during which time he and Greta had met up in a pub a long way from where anyone would know them and had sorted out their differences. Having had time to compose himself for the inevitable outcome of the meeting, John was very calm and allowed Greta to do most of the talking, telling him of her plan to move in with Ian Richardson and her intention to take their two girls with her. She told him that she had spoken with William about what was to happen and that William had refused to go with her, he wanted to go with his father instead. That was the only moment that John showed any emotion, his eyes filling with tears at the sudden and certain knowledge that his son loved him so much. Having been away in the war for so long, he had thought that all the love his son had had for him before he left would have diminished over the years; he had expected to walk away from his family with nothing. His son’s announcement of his love for him seemed to make the breaking up so much more bearable. They finished their conversation and embraced for the last time and parted. William joined his father the next day and Greta left Royston Hill with her two daughters and joined Ian Richardson.

It was Halloween night and in Scotland it was traditional for the children to get dressed up in all sorts of disguises and to go out knocking on doors asking if they could have anything for Halloween.  Usually they were given fruit or if they were lucky sweets with maybe the odd penny or two; in return they would be expected to sing a song or recite a poem, indeed so long as they did something entertaining anything was acceptable in return.  This is known in Scotland as guising. Thomas had decided to go to Springburn to William’s house where he and William would get dressed up and go out on the town to see what they could get for Halloween. The difference was that Thomas had a plan …

“So what dae ye think Wullie; have ah got enough black on ma face; what aboot the white bit roon ma mouth? Thomas put on a great big smile and put both his hands up level with his face spreading his fingers as widely apart as possible in a pair of white gloves whilst inclining his head from side to side and singing a bit of one of Al Jolson’s famous songs … “Swanee how ah love you how I love you my dear old Swanee … great eh!” Thomas shouted with excitement.

“When ah told Sadie King we were getting dressed up for Halloween as a pair of Al Jolsons she gave me this white stage makeup for roon our mouths, the white gloves and that imitation banjo and the cane, she wants them back after Halloween so we’d better no lose them, right?”

“Right,” replied William staring into a mirror and finishing the white bit around his mouth.

Thomas handed William a pair of gloves. “Which one dae you want Wullie,” asked Thomas holding up the banjo and the cane.

William opted for the banjo.

“Where’s your Da the night Wullie?” Asked Thomas whilst

twirling the cane in his right hand getting in a bit of practice.

“He’s gone tae a big reunion of his army mates at the Highland Light Infantry barracks in Maryhill, replied William, “so he won’t be hame until the wee small hours ah reckon.”

“How dae you like living here wae your Grannie and Granda?” Asked Thomas”

“Och it’s great Thomas … but is only great because ma Da’s here. Ah would live anywhere Thomas, as long as ma Da’s with me. He’s ma Da and he’s ma best pal … ah mean ma best pal after you Thomas.” William added hastily.

“That’s alright Wullie because I’m no your pal … am your brother … did you forget?” Thomas laughed and punched William jokingly on the chest.

“Never Thomas; How could I ever forget we’re brothers … brothers for life Thomas!”

They left the house slamming the door hard behind them to make sure it locked properly.

“Right then Wullie; we’ll knock the doors on the way down tae Springburn Road, then we’ll decide where tae go from there … okay?”

It took them half an hour to reach Springburn Road by which time they’d knocked ten doors; had to sing six songs, and had been rewarded with six apples; three oranges and every kind of nut imaginable. They were now stood by a bus stop for busses that went to Glasgow Centre.

“So then Wullie, how many fags, dae you think we’ll be able tae buy with these fuckin apples oranges and nuts we’ve collected?” Thomas and William both burst out laughing.

“So have ye got any ideas Thomas because at this rate we’ll need a fuckin horse and cart tae carry the stuff hame.”

“Gimme all the stuff you’ve got Wullie.”

William handed all he had to Thomas who then walked over to two small girls who were likewise dressed up and knocking the doors.

“Here ye are girls … take all this hame tae your mammies …”

The girls were delighted and enthusiastically accepted the fruit. Thomas and William stood by the bus stop when a double-decker bus arrived, dropped some people off and took off again.

“Right Wullie,” Thomas shouted, making William jump; “I’ve got a great idea. How many bus stops is it tae the Glasgow centre bus terminus?”

“About ten … or maybe eleven.” William replied.

“Right then! When the next bus arrives that’s going intae town we’ll jump on it … I’ll go right up tae the front of the bus, turn around and start singing an Al Jonson song and you go round the people that’s sat there and ask for something for oor Halloween.”

“We’ll get thrown aff the bus Thomas,” said William.

“Naw we won’t … they’ll just think it’s funny. Anyway we’ve got nothing tae lose … have we?”

A bus arrived and they boarded. Thomas went right down to the front of the bus until he could go no further; he turned around to face the people who were now all sat facing him and burst into song …

Swanee … Oh how ah love you

How ah love you … ma dear old Swanee.

I’d give the world to be … among the folks in

D .. I ..X ..I .. E

Even though ma Mammy’s … waitin for me …..

 They loved the cheek and the novelty of it all and with no high notes to reach Thomas sung the song well, putting as much enthusiasm and energy into the rendition as would have the great man himself … Al Jonson. William walked to each seat holding out cupped hands.

“Will you make a gift tae us for Halloween please?”

Thomas was right into the mood of it all now. He had singled out an old woman and was down on one knee singing his big finale and one of the Al Jolson most famous …

I’d walk a million miles … for one of your smiles

my Maaaaammyyyyy.”

 Everyone was laughing and clapping whilst William and Thomas charged up stairs and went straight into the same routine. They’d just finished when the bus pulled into the terminus.

“Listen Wullie,” said Thomas, “we’ll get a bus going out and then one coming back and we’ll keep going out and back as many times as we can before the end of the night and see how much we can milk it for … right?”

“Too fuckin true Thomas … this is one of your best money making ideas yet and I love it.”

The Scottish music; the pipes and the hoochin of the dancers could be heard for miles around Maryhill. The cacophony was emanating from the barracks of The Highland Light Infantry; Glasgow’s own finest Scottish Regiment helped along by their special guests, members of the Black Watch. It was a party simply to be thankful for being alive, to remember their fallen comrades and to see again those who had fought shoulder to shoulder with them during what was the most terrifying experience of their lives.

John Bailey was sat at a large round table with eight of his own regiment. They were going round the table in a clock-wise fashion; each person in turn raising his glass of whisky and toasting a fallen friend. After a few passes around the table only two men were still toasting fallen comrades; Danny Cullen and Big John. The next turn went to Danny Cullen and he shook his head … he was finished … all eyes went back to John.

He raised a fresh glass of whisky and shouted. “James Gourley … a fine fighting man; the bastard that brought him down will never know the pain and suffering he brought upon a loving family … but then ah cannae blame the kraut for it was kill or be killed.”

He tipped his head back and threw the whisky down. No one sipped whisky in Glasgow … except the women!

That’s my last wan”. Shouted John …

“And thank fuck for that!” Shouted the rest of the men at the table.

John picked up the bottle of whisky that was lying on the table; filled his glass and passed the bottle on to an outstretched hand.

“Has any wan o ye seen Archie MacPherson, ah thought I’d be seeing him here the night,” shouted John.

“I have!”

All eyes turned to Danny Cullen.

“He’s been having a lot of family trouble since he got hame. It all started wi the fact that when he got hame he found he had another mouth tae feed. The problem was he’d been away for two years and the kid was only six months old.”

“An immaculate conception,” someone shouted.

“Aye that’s what she tried to have Archie believe, ‘till one night he went out on a bender tae forget his problem, but instead of forgetting it, it got bigger and bigger in his mind ‘till he couldnae take it any more so he went hame and gave his wife a right belting until she told him the name of the father. But before she told him the name she made him swear he would never approach the man and that he would never touch him, because it had only been … as she put it … a bit of sex without love … just sex … a mad moment of passion after a party. She said she still loved Archie. Anyway it seems that Archie’s alright wi it now; he’s accepted the kid intae the family but he’s now scared tae leave his wife on her ain and that’s the reason why he widnae come here th’night. He asked me tae tell ye all he loves ye all like brothers.”

“And who is this bastard that shagged Archie’s wife while he was away wi us fighting for our country?” Shouted Big John.

“Ah think he said his name is Ian Richardson,” replied Danny.

John started to choke on the whisky he had just taken into his mouth; his face turned a bright red as he banged his glass back down onto the table. He turned away coughing the whisky out onto the floor. Everybody was looking at him knowing something was wrong …!

John picked up his whisky glass and held it in front of his eyes; whilst looking at the glass his hand tightened around it until there was a popping noise and the glass crumbled; the blood started seeping through his fingers running down his arm and began dropping onto the table.

“That’s the name of the bastard that broke up my marriage … THAT STOLE MY WIFE.” John shouted. “That bastard is now living with her and my two daughters. I was prepared tae just walk away … but now, things have changed … what dae ye say lads … if Archie cannae touch this man who appears tae have had no respect for us soldiers; then what dae you say we teach him a lesson; that we show him we don’t take this kind of shit from fucking Conscientious Objectors that stay at hame shagging our women, whilst our mates are dying in dirty fucking trenches tae keep him safe.”

“ARE YOU WITH ME?” roared John.

Aye we are” was the unanimous replay.

“Then let’s drink tae it” shouted John.

Everyone around the table raised their glasses until they all chinked in the middle.

“For Archie and for all the other lads we don’t know about,” shouted John.

“We’re coming for you Mr Fucking Richardson!”

Chapter 15

Justice; or was it revenge.

It was 6.45pm and the theme music for Dick Barton a story about a special agent was playing on the radio. Ian Richardson had his slipper clad feet crossed and resting on a pouffe in front and was lounged back in a large armchair puffing away contentedly on his pipe. Greta was busy in the kitchen making dinner and the girls were both at ballet lessons. He could smell the onions Greta was cooking to compliment the liver and potatoes that was on the menu for the evening dinner and he licked his lips and felt the gastric juices in his stomach gurgle at the thought of the meal to come.  Liver and onions, his favourite, Greta was spoiling him tonight. This was the life, he thought; sex when he wanted it and a cook and bottle washer. The only fly in the ointment he had to take on were the two girls, but, he thought, he would tolerate them in the meanwhile in sufferance for the good things. At least for as long as he was comfortable with the arrangement, after all she was a good dance partner as well.

The telephone rang and he could hear Greta speaking in the background. She came into the lounge.

“Maureen has sprained her ankle at the dance lesson and I have tae go and pick her up. You don’t mind if I take the car … do you? I’m told she can barely walk. I’ll be back before Dick Barton is finished and I’ll have your dinner on the table in no time.”

“Aye, that’s fine … nae problem.”

Greta threw her coat over her shoulders, picked up the car keys from the dining table and was gone.

Ian Richardson lounged back into his chair, shut his eyes and puffed away contentedly on his pipe whilst visualising in his minds eye the excitement that was being played out on the radio.

There was a loud crash and Ian opened his eyes wondering if he’d heard it on the radio or if it was in the house. He was still working it out in his brain when four men wearing balaclavas appeared, two on each side of him. He didn’t even have time to let the pipe-smoke he’d inhaled out of his lungs before a piece of tape was stuck over his mouth, then another over his eyes. In about five seconds he was trussed up like a fly in a spider’s web and lifted horizontally out of his chair by four lots of very strong hands.

He felt himself being propelled into a colder ambience and suddenly all the hands holding him let go at once. He felt the pain shoot through his body as he crashed onto a wooden surface. Something that felt like canvass was placed over him and two lots of hands took hold of him again forcing him to stay lying down on his side. An engine started and he felt the vibrations as the vehicle he was in took off over the bumpy cobbles that were outside his house. He felt his warm urine run around one of his legs and he tried to cry out only to feel someone slap him across the face with a very rough large hand.

“Shut your mouth and stay still Mr Fucking Twinkletoes” a gruff voice whispered in his ear, “you might yet come oot of this alive. But don’t count on it cos ah tell lies!”

Ian Richardson had been bouncing about on the floor for about half an hour when the vehicle he was in stopped.

“Why don’t we just dump the bastard in the fucking Clyde with a pair of concrete wellies on,” a voice complained.

“For fuck sake … how many times dae ah have tae tell ye; it’s been agreed tae gae him one more chance … after he’s had his kickin that is!” Another voice intervened. “Jist shut it you two and bring him in.”

Ian Richarson was picked up again with such ease that he knew what a waste of time it would be to struggle; in any case he didn’t want to antagonise his captors and probably create more harsh treatment for himself. He was thrown down into what he guessed to be a chair and could feel himself being untied then retied with his arms behind the chair then each of his legs being tied against the front legs of the chair. Suddenly he felt the chair tip back and his slippers and socks coming off.

The tape was ripped off his eyes with such force as to take most of his eyebrows with it … and then the one on his mouth.

“Here we are then Mr Fucking Twinkletoes or de ye prefer Mr Conscientious Objector?” One of the masked men shouted at him. “You have been found guilty of making up lies as tae why you couldnae come wi us when we had tae go and fight for king and country; so as you could stay behind and shag the wives of the lads who had tae go; some of whom didnae come back so as they could sort ye out in person. Dae you have anything to say?”

“Ah huvnae shagged any soldiers wives and my reason for no going tae war wi the lads was genuine.” Richardson blurted out. “Anyway who the fuck are you tae judge me? Are you trying tae say that if you had been left behind instead of me every time you got the chance for good fuck you would have had turned it down because of your conscience. No fuckin way man … you would probably have been worse than me …”

Ah thought you just said you didnae shag any soldiers wives?”

“Ah didnae.” Replied Richardson.

“You tell lies Mr Fucking Twinketoes.”

“What’s all this fucking Mr Twinkletoes you’re goin on about?” Shouted Richardson.

“Because that’s one of your lies Mr Twinkletoes … you were shagging John Baillie’s wife long before he came hame … and we believe you’re a daddie tae at least two kids that we know aboot. Now dae ye remember … Mr Twinkletoes?

“ Your only fucking jealous you lot because ye had tae wank in fucking trenches for three years.” Ian Richardson spat back at him.”

“Gae’s the hammer!”

Someone produces a lump hammer and handed it to the man who had been doing the interrogating, who was now kneeling in front of Richardson.

Two lots of very strong hands gripped hold of his right leg and held his foot firmly on the floor. WHAM! The hammer came down with tremendous force smashing Richardson’s right big toe.

Richardson screamed and the man with the hammer shouted out.

“This little piggy went tae the market.”

WHAM! Again Richardson screamed as his next toe was smashed beyond repair.

“This little piggy stayed at home.”

WHAM! This little piggy had bread and butter.”

Richardson by now was continuously screaming and crying for his torturer to stop.

WHAM! “And this little piggy had none.”

WHAM! “and this little piggy said … wee wee how the fuck am I gonnae walk home.”

Richardson was sobbing uncontrollably as the man with the hammer looked up at his face.  “That, Mr Twinkletoes was for what you did tae wan of our best. You put his wife in the club and then left her tae suffer the consequences on her ain while you went oot and did the same fucking thing again … and maybe even again.

WHAM! The hammer came down again and smashed his left big toe.

“That, is for all the others that we know about.”

Richardson was now screaming and sobbing hysterically.

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! The hammer pounded mercilessly down on the rest of his toes in quick succession.

“And that, was for the ones that only you know about you dirty rotten bastard … and this is from me …” WHAM! There was a loud cracking noise. This time the hammer came down on Richardson’s right knee smashing it in several places and causing a splinter of bone to come out through his trousers.

“Nooooo!” Richardson screamed, “you fucking bastards” he shouted … aaarrrrgh!” He screamed again, before escaping from his torturers into a state of analgesic unconsciousness.

The man with the hammer stood up and took off his balaclava; the other three followed suit. John Baillie was the first to speak.

“We’ll have tae drop the bastard off at the Infirmary because he’ll never be found here and he cannae well walk there. Gaes a hand wi him lads.”

Ian Richardson was later found outside the main entrance to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. He was still unconscious and had a sign on his chest held there with a piece of thick string tied around his neck. On it was the words

 Because he didnae “toe” the line.

Tap! Tap!

Tap! Tap!

Thomas stirred in his bed and turned over.

Tap! Tap!

He opened his eyes wondering if he’d heard anything.

Tap! Tap!

He jumped out of bed and ran to the window. William Baillie was stood outside beckoning for Thomas to open the window. Parked by the pavement was a large black car with what appeared to be three people in it. Thomas lifted the window.

“What the fuck dae you want at this time in the morning Wullie,” Thomas asked.

“Av come tae say goodbye Thomas.” William replied.

“Your kiddin me on Wullie, tell me your kiddin me so as a kin go back tae ma bed.”

“Naw Thomas is real; my Da’s leavin for America this very minute and am goin wi him. There’s a bit of trouble that might come his way from the law and so he’s decided since he’s now got nothing here that we should leave and anywhere ma Da goes I go.

“Fuckin hell Wullie … fuckin hell Wullie,” Thomas was confused and upset having just wakened up from a deep sleep.

“Wait here and I’ll be right out.”

Thomas quickly put some clothes on and tip-toed out of the house and out of the close.

“Wullie, why dae you no stay here wi me in my hoose and let your Da go on his own … your ma best pal Wullie … I mean … you’re … you’re my brother … remember!” Thomas pleaded.

“Thomas … that’s the reason why I made my Da drive here tae see you at three o’clock in the morning. You too are my best pal … ever … and you’ll always be my brother … ‘till my dying day Thomas, so put it there Thomas.”

William held out his hand and Thomas took it into his. They pulled each other into an embrace and both realised that each was silently crying. They pulled away looking into each others tearful eyes. Thomas wipes William’s tears and then with the same hand wiped his own.

“Your tears Wullie are my tears and your blood is mine as well. We’ll meet again some day no matter where ye go in the world … right?”

“Right,” said William in a choking voice as he turned away and walked to the car; the door opened and William got in. The engine sputtered into life and the car slowly drove away with a tearful William and Thomas waving goodbye to each other.

Chapter 16

It was 5.30pm and Susanna was in the kitchen preparing the evening meal. The door opened and Thomas came in, returning from the engineering company that now gave him fulltime employment.

“Look at the state of you,” Susanna shouted from the kitchen, where she was preparing the evening meal, “you might as well have jumped straight in tae a pool of oil and grease.”

Thomas was an apprentice agricultural engineer which was posh words for dogsbody. Every dirty job there was, he got it, which was the way things had been for apprentices since the engineering company first opened and probably always would be ‘till the day it closed.

Since turning fifteen he had left school and had ridden a bike around the district delivering groceries for Davy Tyrell, waiting for a chance to get a proper job, a proper job being construed as serving an apprenticeship of any type so long as at the end he would be a fully qualified tradesman. Two years had past before the first chance of an apprentice job came along which was to work as an agricultural engineer (making farming equipment) and having been doing this work for twelve months now Thomas hated it.  In fact he hated the idea of ever following in his father’s footsteps, working for a wage all his life. He knew he wanted to be his own man; to work for himself and to employ other people. There were only a few small obstacles in his way … being self-employed at what … how do your get started,  and where will the money come from because there was no doubt in his head that no matter what he would eventually get involved in, he would need working capital.

Thomas removed his jacket and hung it up on a peg in the hall and started peeling his overalls off down to his boots and stepping out of them and hung them up on the same peg. “Mammy ah think am gonnae have tae give this job up, you’re right, no matter how ah scrub maself ah cannae get the grease aff and it’s right through ma overalls. Am disgusted wae maself and ah just feel dirty all the time. I’ll take the day aff tomorrow and go down Glasgow Cross and see if ah can get a job in any of the big stores, right?”

His mother looked up from mashing the potatoes, “Ah suppose if you’re no happy at yur wurk you should change it. I mean it’s a big chunk of yur life, so aye go ahead son, take the day aff tomorrow. By the way there’s a letter for yeh from William; it’s in yur room on yur bed.”

Thomas and William wrote to each other usually once every month.  They had been writing to each other ever since William had left Glasgow with his father seven years ago for fear that Williams’s father would get arrested for what had happened regarding the punishment he had meted out to Ian Richardson for messing about with the wives of soldiers whilst they were away at war, not least of all his own wife Greta.   William had written in his previous letters of how he and his father had been given work on a merchant ship that had sailed from the River Clyde right in the centre of Glasgow on the last night they had seen each other and how they had sailed all over the world for six and a bit years before settling down in New Jersey, USA

William’s letter was as usual witty, happy and bursting with enthusiasm for his life on the high seas. He wrote about his father, and how much closer they had become, the very best of pals and how they went every where together whenever they landed in a new country. They would search out the book shops and raid them for educational books so as William’s education would not suffer too much, they would always buy two books and when on board the ship whilst sailing to their next port they could work through the books together, thus in reality, educate each other, making it a bit of fun instead of a mind-numbing necessity in life. The good bit, he wrote, was when they found at the back of many of the books there were tests you could do. They would both take the tests together and then have bets on who would get the best result; to achieve this they had to check each others papers hoping not to have to give too many points and they always had a bet on the side. William wrote that he had a suspicion that his father quite often would let him win, so sometimes he would let his father win, as he put it “to maintain an educational equilibrium.” Thomas thought to himself how impressed he was of Williams’s choice of posh words. “A bit different from the old Royston Hill days.”  William ended his letter promising to write after he reached his next destination – South Africa – and  as usual he always wrote “your brother always”, William.

Ten Shops later and without having had a glimmer of luck Thomas had given up and was walking up from Glasgow Cross, he crossed over the Duke Street into High Street and suddenly realised that although he was well out of the main shopping area he was walking past a furniture store. He stopped and looked up at the name over the Shop window; Conway’s; What the hell, he thought, I’ve nothing tae lose..  A bell rang above the door and made him jump as he walked into the store making sure to close the door behind him.

“Can I help you?” the man said coming out of a small office that seemed to have been built as an after thought in the middle of the store.

“I’m here tae see if yae have any vacancies,” replied Thomas.

“Working as what?” the man replied.

“As a junior salesman; my name is Thomas Stuart and I live only twenty minutes walk from here.  I’d like tae train as a salesman and in the meanwhile I’d be prepared tae muck in and help whenever anything else needs doing in the store.”

The man looked Thomas up and down. “My name is Mister Kay and I’m the manager here. This could be your lucky day my lad, because it was only this morning that Mr Rochman, the owner, suggested that we employ someone about your age in the very capacity you are talking about. I presume you can read and write?”

“Mister if ye know yur schools around here ah went tae White Hill just 15 minutes walk from here, it’s in Denniston and it’s wan of the best schools in the district and they’re very choosy who they let in.”

“Hah!” Exclaimed Mr Kay excitedly “It get’s better by the minute, it so happens I know the school very well; My daughter goes there.  Who was your geography teacher?”

“Mr Carmichael, but ah don’t know if he is still there,” replied Thomas.

“He is and it looks like you have a job, if we can agree the hours and the wages. Come on through to the office and I’ll make us a cup of tea and we can ask each other some more questions.  Generally make sure we both like what we’re getting.”

It was about 5pm when Thomas got home and his mother was in the kitchen preparing the evenings tea.

“Well?” she asked as soon as he walked through the door.

Thomas put on a miserable face and looked at his mother. “Ah went everywhere and got absolutely nothing … not a thing. So it’s back tae the grease in the morning.”

“Don’t let it get ye down son,” his mother replied, something will turn up when ye least expect it.”

“You are so right mammy, ah was walking home, having given up, when ah saw a furniture store in High Street, so as a last resort ah went in aaannnnnddd ah got a job as a junior salesman … ah start in the morning.”  Thomas grabbed his mother and started dancing her around the kitchen,

“Behave yourself,” shouted his mother pushing him away, “is the wages as good?”

“As Good! … ah get ten bob more and ah don’t start work ‘till 9 o’clock in the morning. An extra hour in bed, but the worst bit is that ah huv tae work on Saturdays. No sweat Mammy, cos this is the beginning of ma destiny.”

At fifteen minutes to nine o’clock Thomas was stood outside Conway’s furniture store feeling very excited and ready to start his new lifestyle.  He hadn’t felt so happy since the day he walked out of school for the last time.

A few minutes later Mr Kay arrived.

“Good morning Thomas, bright and early, that’s what I like to see.”  He took a big bunch of keys from his coat pocket, held one up to his eyes to check it before inserting it into the padlock that held the roller-shutter in place. Once inside Mr Kay disappeared into the office and returned with a large dusting cloth in his hand.

“The first task all furniture salesmen learn to do Thomas is always have the furniture ready to show to a potential customer and that means no dust; so off you go, start down stairs in the cellar, then up here and finish off upstairs; when you have dusted every piece of furniture in the store report back to me.”

“Aye Aye Sir,” Thomas gave a mock salute and off he went.

He didn’t mind dusting the furniture; it was a lot more comfortable than getting covered in grease and oil as had happened to him in his old job.  As he dusted his way through the cellar he was deep into his imagination thinking about his future and how famous and important he wanted to become in his lifetime. He had read somewhere about positive thinking, if you really wanted something and you continuously thought about it, then it would happen. Something about sending

thought waves out into the universe.  How he was going to achieve this success he had no idea, nor did he know how it would happen, or what he would have to do to make it happen, so he told himself that of all the tasks that would be put before him by any boss he might have he would carry out them out to perfection, at least his concept of perfection, and if possible do a little more.

It was about two hours before he emerged from the cellar to start dusting the furniture in the main store area.

Mr Kay came walking towards him. “You took a long time down in the cellar Thomas,  do you think you have done a good job?

“Mr Kay from the moment I started tae dust the furniture in the cellar I didnae stop. Perfection usually takes a little longer and I am so confident that the job was done right that I will challenge you tae find even a speck of dust on any piece of furniture down stairs. If you dae I’ll work a whole day for nothing.”

Mr Kay disappeared downstairs and Thomas started dusting the furniture in the main showroom on the street level. It took Mr Kay about fifteen minutes before he reappeared.

“Thomas, will you come over here a minute please?”

Thomas walked over to Mr Kay who by now had a very serious look on his face.

“What was it you said about working a day free of charge?” asked Mr Kay.

“I said that if you find even a speck of dust on any piece of furniture I would work this day for nothing,” replied Thomas.

“Well I’m sorry I have to tell you this Thomas … “

Thomas was by now becoming a bit panicky, but then Mr Kay burst out laughing.

“ …. Well done Thomas, you were right, I couldn’t find even one speck of dust. I like your attitude Thomas and I think we are going to work very well together … Well done.”

The days fairly flew by and by and 4 months later Thomas was well into his routine; he would dust the furniture downstairs, then the other two levels and then stand around in the main showroom waiting for any potential customers to come through the door, upon whom, if Mr Kay was not about, he could try his sales skills. Whilst trying his sales technique he noticed that quite often the customer didn’t speak

with the same broad Glasgow accent as himself and also that much of the colloquialism he used they didn’t even understand.  He had realised that if he was to aspire into anything like a real salesman, or a real business man then he would have to lose his broad Glaswegian accent, particularly the slang. He made a mental note that from here on he was determined to speak slower and never to revert to the broad Glasgow vernacular ever again … easier said than done.

Thomas was walking out of a large office block and was heading towards a shiny black Jaguar car. There was a man stood next to the back door who was dressed up in a chauffeur uniform and as Thomas approached he opened the door, Thomas stooped and entered the car speaking to chauffer as he did so.

“Good morning James, please take me to the Town Hall, I have an appointment with the Lord Mayor.”

“Right sir,” replied the chauffer, closing the door. He walked around to the driver’s door and got into the car and pressed the starter button bringing the engine to life.

 Suddenly there was a very loud banging noise and a lot of shouting. Thomas stopped his dusting returning to reality, he ran to the bottom of the stairs stopped and listened.

“Open the fucking safe and gae us the money or ma mate’s gonnae rearrange your wife’s face.”

“I don’t have the keys to the safe, Mr Kay, my manager has them and he won’t be here for another half an hour,” replied a somewhat panicky sounding voice,

That must be Mr Rochman, the owner of the business, thought Thomas; why else would he be referring to Mr Kay as “his” manager.

“Don’t think I’m stupid mister; who owns this business?”

“I do,” replied the quivering voice, “but I honestly do not have the keys.”

There was a slapping sound and a woman’s scream and Thomas realised that someone must have hit Mr Rochman’s wife.

He looked around the basement and saw some standard lamps that were due to be assembled; the poles were about five feet long and a good thickness. “This’ll do,” he thought to himself as he hefted the pole in both hands and headed towards the stairs. Fortunately the cellar stairs were at the very back of the shop and couldn’t be seen clearly from the office because of furniture that was piled in the way. He crept up to the top of the stairs and very carefully moved his head out of the doorway entrance until one eye could see what was going on.

“You own the business but you huvnae got the keys tae the safe! You lying wee bastard. THUD!  He punched Mr Rochman in the face sending him reeling against the office wall sending some office equipment crashing to the floor.

“I’ll ask ye again … Open the fucking safe.”

There were two of them. One was in the office with Mr and Mrs Rochman and the other was stood outside the office door facing away from Thomas, keeping a watch on the entrance to the shop.

That will do nicely.”  Thomas said to himself and with that started quietly towards the man who was facing away from himself. He managed to get within six feet of his prey with both hands on the five feet shaft which was by now over his right shoulder when; it must have been his sixth sense that made the man swivel around to face Thomas. There was a look of surprise and shock on his face as the shaft battered against his left temple and he collapsed to the floor, out cold. His mate came running out of the office, he looked at his companion lying spread-eagled on the floor and turned to face Thomas, brandishing a large knife which he flicked from one hand to another weighing Thomas up and down deciding whether to attack or run.

“You have aboot one minute tae get yourself oot of here. I telephoned the police from downstairs when I heard the racket you were making. Oh it’s too late,” shouted Thomas pointing to the door.

The would be robber’s head swung around to check the door and … WHACK! Down came the shaft Thomas was wielding breaking the man’s wrist and sending the knife clattering to the floor. The man shrieked with pain holding his wrist in his left hand down by is groin when WHACK! Once again the shaft came at him only this time with much more force connecting with him straight into his solar plexus. His face came up, looking at Thomas in agony and disbelief, as he sunk on to his knees Thomas delivered another blow, this time straight down onto the man’s skull sending blood spurting everywhere and the man crashing to the floor unconscious.

“Ah tell lies,” shouted Thomas, “there’s no police coming …jist me … and when ye come from Royston Hill yur taught never tae take prisoners.”

Thomas entered the small office. Mr Rochman was just putting the telephone down.

“The police will be here in a few moments,” he said.

“You must be Thomas Stuart the one that Mr Kay employed?”

“I am sir,” replied Thomas. Are you alright sir, and how are you Mrs Rochman?” Thomas asked turning towards her.

Mrs Rochman got up from her chair, she walked towards Thomas and put her arms around him giving him a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you Thomas .. thank you so much .. I don’t know how we can ever repay you but I do know that one day we will. You were very brave and maybe you saved our lives; We’ll never know.”

Just then the police came charging into the store; two of them grabbing Thomas.

“Oh no!” Mrs Rochman shouted; “this young man saved us, he took on these two robbers and I’ll bet they’ll never forget the lesson they had today.

“Neither will I” said Thomas,  “Neither will I.”

Chapter 17

“Two boats off the starboard skipper,” shouted William, holding a pair of powerful binoculars to his eyes. “I think I can see what appear to be bodies; one hanging over the side of the nearest boat another slumped by the tiller.” He raised his binoculars slightly and focussed on the other boat. “Same again with the other boat skipper, I can see men lying about on that one too and I don’t think for a minute they’re sunbathing.”

William and his father had been sailing the oceans for six years now and the tough sea life had turned William into a strong young man; tanned and showing lots of sun bleached blond hair.  They were sailing south not far off the coast of Namibia, heading for The Cape of Good Hope to unload their cargo in South Africa.

Captain Jim Anderson came hurrying over to where William was stood pointing out to two small boats that were drifting about 20 feet apart. They were the type of boats quite often used by local pirates of which there was many in these waters.

. “It might be a trap,” shouted the captain, “they might be lying hiding inside their boats waiting for us to pull along side.”

“John,” shouted the captain.

“Aye skipper,” answered John Bailey.

“John, get yourself aft and uncover that 20 millimetre gun that I kept from the war; I knew it would come in handy. Fire a few shots around the boats and let’s see in any heads pop up.

The stern gun that Jim, the skipper, had salvaged from the war was equivalent to what a submarine would have carried and the reason why it was mounted at the stern of the ship was in case, during the war, they had come under attack. The plan would be then to get as far away from the enemy as quickly as possible firing as you left the battle scene.

John Bailey cocked the gun and fired all around the boats provoking no response whatsoever. He fired again still getting no reaction.

“Ah don’t think there’s anyone alive on those boats skipper, maybe you should keep a man on this gun and stay out of reach whist we lower two boats and go over there and have a look.”

“Aye, right John,” shouted the captain, “instead of sending two boats why don’t you and Bill take the motor boat and go and check them both.”

“Aye okay skipper,” replied John pointing to the gun at the stern of the ship,” but jist keep that gun pointing at them jist in case. “

“Come on William,” said John putting his arm around Williams shoulders, “let’s go and see wit its all aboot.”

They lowered the motor boat into a slightly choppy sea and headed towards the nearest of the two boats. As they got nearer they could see that hanging over the side was the body of a man. He was very obviously dead with several holes in his back. They circled the boat waiting for someone to jump up and when it didn’t happen pulled in alongside. John lashed the two boats together and William cut the engine.

“You stay here William – just in case – and let me go and try and figure out wit this is all about.”

Aye, Right Da,” replied William.

John climbed over into the other boat and came back three minutes later. Climbing back in beside William he said, “It looks tae me that these two boats were shooting at each other and as luck would have if the last two survivors shot each other simultaneously and died. There’s three men in this boat and I have nae idea what they were fightin aboot. Let’s go over tae the other boat William and have a look there.”

William pressed the ignition and their boat sputtered into life. He had to wait a few minute whilst John untied the two boats then cautiously he pointed their boat towards the second mysterious boat.

“Wait here in the boat again William ‘till I make sure everything is okay.”

William nodded an acknowledgement and cut the engine as they came along side the second boat. Again John quickly lashed the two boats together and leaned over looking into the other boat.

“There’s three bodies lying down here William and there’s nae doubt their dead; I’ve seen enough of death already in my life. I can see a leg sticking oot frae the cabin; like ah said William let me go and make sure it’s OK, there’s nae point in both of us taking chances.”

John climbed over into the other boat and cautiously made his way to the cabin. His eyes were focussed on the leg that was sticking through the doorway, half expecting it to move. With his pistol at the ready he very carefully eased the door open to expose the owner of the leg who was lying face down with his hands under his chest.  John placed his boot under the side of the man and gave him a bit of a kick to turn him over. As he rolled over suddenly he came “alive” pointing a gun at John, but before he could pull the trigger John put two bullets into his head.

William came charging into the cabin ready to fight anyone who had harmed his father.

“Da; are you alright,” shouted William, “What happened?”

John explained how the man had been pretending to be dead and how when he had turned him over he had tried to shoot him.

John looked down at the now dead man and noticed he had been lying on two black cloth bags. Both were about six inches by four with tie tops.  He reached down, picked one up, untied the top and looked inside.

“Fucking hells bells William; now ah know what they were fightin aboot. Just have a look at this.” John put his hand into the bag and pulled his fist out. He very slowly unclenched his fist. This time it was William who let out a gasp of amazement.

“Diamonds. Two fuckin bags full of diamonds. Now we know why these poor bastards died

shooting each other. How much do you think their worth Da?

“Millions” replied John, “but just how many millions ah don’t know.”

“William, put your head oot the cabin and shout tae the skipper that we’re alright while ah have a quick look around tae see if there’s any more bags of diamonds.”

“Right Da” William replied, heading out of the cabin.

John made a thorough search, knocking all the wooden panels listening for a hollow sound, which didn’t happen. He could hear William shouting to the skipper that they were okay and was just about to leave the cabin, stepping over the body of the man he had killed when he realised that he had not searched the man’s clothes.  All he had on him was a letter from a firm of jewellers in South Africa confirming a meeting that would never now happen for him; it was due to take place in five days time. He put the letter into his pocket.

William came back into the cabin, “Ah told the skipper that it seems as though there has been a bit of gang warfare – nothing else.”

“Well done William,” replied John, “now put these diamonds in tae your pockets and keep your mouth shut. Put a little in each pocket.” John handed William one of the bags of diamonds and started transferring the contents of the other bag a little at a time into every pocket he had so as not to show any bulges.  “This my lad is our future so keep your mouth shut and don’t say a word tae anyone; right?”

“Right Da, nae problem.” Replied William.

William and his father went out onto the deck by which time their ship had come almost alongside.

“It’s been a gang fight skipper,” shouted John. “Ah kin see no reason for it; maybe it was just bad blood. Dae you want us tae set fire tae the boats?”

The captain thought for a moment and then shouted back.

“Aye ah think that will be the best all round. Are you sure there’s nothing tae salvage John?”

“Nothing skipper … absolutely nothing.”

“Do it then John and get yourselves back on board. We’ve wasted enough time here.

“William, said John.”

“Yes Da”

“Jump in tae our boat and tow this one tae the other and let’s take a closer look at what’s inside. Maybe there’s more diamonds.”

“Right,” replied William, buttoning up his jacket pockets  as he moved across the cabin and out into the sunlight. He jumped into the motor boat whilst shouting to the captain. “ I’m taking this boat over tae the other one skipper and I’ll lash them together and then set fire tae them.”

“Aye okay Bill” the captain shouted back.

William tied the boat his father was in to the stern of the motor boat, pressed the start button and commenced to tow the boat over to the other. He drew alongside and moved just a bit beyond to bring both of the other boats together.

“Right Da, you had better come out now and tie these two boats together.”

John emerged from the cabin with a piece of rope and lashed both boats together. He then jumped over into the other boat and entered the cabin. The dead men were exactly were they had been when he last saw them. This time he made a thorough search of the cabin but found nothing. He was leaving the cabin when he realised he hadn’t checked the pockets of the dead men. Two of them were not wearing very much, just shorts, but he searched them anyway and found nothing. The third one had a kind of all in one suit on and John popped the button in one of the breast pockets. A big smile crossed his face when he realised he had hit the jackpot again  … three small packets of diamonds.  There was now no doubt whatsoever as to what the men in the two boats had been fighting over.

He looked around and saw a can of petrol in one of the corners in the cabin. Removing the top he began to splash it around the cabin and then went outside and climbed over into the other boat and splashed the remainder of the petrol in the cabin and on the deck.

“Right William, come alongside so as I can get on board and away from the fire when I start it”, shouted John, and William obliged.

It took just one match that John struck and threw onto the deck.  He quickly jumped onto the motor boat William was sailing and with a roar of the engine they were off leaving behind them one boat already engulfed with the flames licking over onto the other. William sailed alongside their ship waiting for the davit hook to be lowered to lift their boat out of the water, he was turning towards his father and was about to say something when he saw a flash of light in the distance. “Da I think we are being looked at by someone using binoculars.”

“Where?” Asked John.

William pointed to where he had seen the flash and sure enough it happened again.

“Well William, they’re a long way away and no one will ever know if anything was found on those boats or who boarded them, they wont be able tae see our faces from that distance  and in any case when we reach South Africa we’ll jet out of there first chance we get. How dae you fancy America William? The skipper said that with my army record and his reference they’ll let us in.”

“Aye Da, that would suit me just fine.” Replied William, hooking the motor boat onto the davit hook.  “Take it up,” he shouted and as their motor boat went up out of the water he could see from the froth churning at the stern of the ship and knew that they were immediately at full speed ahead. He felt a sense of relief pass over him.

 William went straight down to his cabin and John joined the captain on deck.

“Hell John, that surely was a strange encounter, wasn’t it? Two boat having a shooting battle out here five miles off the coast of Namibia.  I heard two gun shots John.  What was that all about?”

“Aye skipper, there was one man alive when we got tae the first boat but he was lying on his belly, I thought he was dead like the others and so I kicked him in his side tae turn him over, as he turned I realised he was pointing a pistol at me. I have no idea what he was thinking about and so I had tae obey ma instincts; ma instincts were tae shoot first and so ah put two bullets intae him.”

“That’s no bother John, I would have done the same thing myself and so would anyone else in their right mind. I think we should forget it ever happened, what do you say John; because if I report it I’ll have a ton of paper work to wade through and for what – nothing.”

“Aye skipper, Ah think that would be for the best. It’s a mystery and we’ll never know what they were fightin aboot,” said John, as he and the skipper watched the burning boats fade into the distance.

John was already thinking and wondering how much of a millionaire he had just become.

Chapter 18

“How are we going tae get these diamonds through the customs Da? I know that as a rule they don’t bother with us poor sailors but we cannae take any chances with so much tae lose. I mean if we get caught, we lose our chance tae a fabulous lifestyle and we’ll probably get locked up as well; but then we will most likely never in oor lifetimes have another chance like this again.”

“Ave been racking ma brain William and I’m fucked if ah can think of any special way tae take them through. I mean if the Customs people decided tae give you a going over and you had a pet flee on ye, they’d find it. Ah think we will have tae take oor chances; act like normal and just breeze through the “nothing to declare” section like we usually do. If we could swallow them and walk through I would say let’s do it but there’s too many diamonds, so we will have tae trust in the good fortune that brought the diamonds tae in the first place … we just walk through; at least I will, there’s nae point is us both being done for smuggling when it’s not necessary.”

“But da!”

“Nothing tae be said William … that’s it; I’ll carry them.”

“Excuse me sirs … you have just walked through the Nothing to Declare  area; would you both step over here please.”

John and William looked at each other and then to the burly customs officer who looked like he had been a boxer in his day and didn’t managed to keep his nose very well protected. He pointed to a table behind which stood another two customs people.

“Will you come over here sir,” said one of the other two beckoning William to come around their table.

“Do either of the two of you have anything to declare?” the one with the flat nose asked.

“We walked through the Nothing to Declare, didn’t we,” John replied, “So we have nothing to declare.”

“That’s fine,” replied the customs officer,” but we would still like to check your baggage, so if you will go over to that officer, he indicated to William and pointed to one of the other two officers, “then I will check yours sir;” he turned back to John. “ Please place your rucksack on this table and remove the contents.”

John put his kitbag on the table indicated by the customs officer and proceeded to remove the contents.

“Why have we been stopped,” John asked. “We’re only sailors and have never been put though this before.”

“I’m only doing my job sir and there’s a first time for everything, you could sail around the world another ten times and never get stopped … but this time you have and you’ll have to put up with it.”

John looked over to William and saw that all his belongings were now spread across a table, same as his … there eyes met momentarily and John quickly looked away not wanting William to say or do anything rash. His heart was pounding so fast now he could actually hear it swishing through his eardrums and he was afraid they could hear too, but the officer in charge didn’t let on.

“Calm yur self down he said inside his head – think some nice thoughts.”

 The customs officer picked up the empty kitbag and looked inside it. “That seems to be in order sir, would you mind if one of my officers gives you a quick body search?”

“Fucking hell; you’ll be sticking your fingers up my arshole next,” John complained.

“I don’t think that will be necessary sir,” replied the customs officer; “will you remove your jacket please.”

“This is it,” John thought – it’s now or never,” and his heart beat got even faster.

John took his jacket off and held it out to the customs offices who instead of taking it from him riffled through the outside pockets, and then the inside pockets and then scrunched it up as he checked the lining.

“Put it on that chair,” said the officer pointing to a chair just one stride away from John.

“Now spread you legs and hold your arms out please.” He was thorough with his search even to the point of feeling right into John’s crotch which made him laugh.

“How was that for you?” John scowled at the searching officer, “did that turn you on, ah mean if you want I’ll drop my pants and you can inspect up my fuckin foreskin.”

“I don’t think we’ll take you up on that sir; everything seems to be in order, so if you would care to pack your stuff into your bag you can be on your way. I’m sorry for the inconvenience but it’s like I said earlier sir, we’re only doing our job same as you do on your ship.”

John looked over at William who was busy repacking his kitbag.

“Have they found that million quid you had in your bag William?” John shouted across the room, feeling just a bit light heated with a great sense of relief sweeping over him.

“I should be so lucky Da,” William replied.”  The most I’ve ever seen in ma lifetime was one hundred quid and that wisnae even mine.”

“ Right then William, let’s be on our way, John said, picking up his jacket and putting it on.  “Sorry we couldn’t make your day gentlemen” said John sarcastically.

“Makes no difference to us sir,” replied the flat nosed customs officer, “ whether we find you with a pocket full of diamonds or nothing at all, this is all in a days work. Have a pleasant stay in South Africa sir.” With that the customs officers walked off into an adjoining office and William and John started towards the exit.

Outside; John hailed a taxi which they both climbed into, throwing their kitbags on the floor.

“The Roxburgh Hotel,” John told the driver and sat back into his seat.

“Fuckin hell Da; did ye leave them on the ship?  Ah was shittin maself back there wondering what kind of cell ah was going to be sharing and if we would be split up. Am still shakin and ah still cannae believe we’ve done it. Tell me Da;have we or have we not done it?”

“All will be revealed in due course William,” said John smiled and winking at William, … “all will be revealed in due course.” He put his finger up to his lips indicating silence.

John started laughing and William joined in. Their sense of relief was ecstatic.

Three quarters of an hour later they pulled up outside The Roxburgh Hotel, paid the taxi driver and checked into a double room on the third of the hotels ten floors.

“Well?”  Exclaimed William , “tell me Da, have you or have ye not got the diamonds? I mean I was watchin those customs guys search you and you might as well have taken all your clothes aff because they gave you a real good goin over.”

“What dae you think William.” Replied John smilingly.

“Well by the look of your face ah would say you have them but I’m damned if I can see where because the only place left was inside your body and there was far too many diamonds for that.”

“Okay, Ill tell you. Dae you remember before they did the body search they asked me tae take aff my jacket, I held it oot tae the customs officer and he search through every pocket, including the lining and then he told me tae put it on a chair.”

“Aye … so?”

“Well, as soon as they asked me tae put ma jacket on the chair ah knew we’d won.”

William walked over to his father and started checking the jacked. He went into every pocket and then felt all the lining of the jacket and the sleeves … Nothing!

“ Maybe we were just lucky William … but then, you didn’t find the diamonds either, maybe that’s because I had removed the padding that’s usually in the shoulders and replaced it with the diamonds … the shoulder padding is in fact the diamonds.”

“Da, you are a genius tae have thought of that, an absolute fucking genius.” William laughed.

“Now I’m about tae be a very rich genius.”

They placed their hand on each others shoulders and started dancing a jig round the room, hoochin and shouting like they were at a Scottish Ceilidh; life was good.

“Now,” shouted John, “ all we have tae do William is … find a buyer who will give us a fair price and not ask too many questions, but first thing tomorrow we’ll have tae go and find out as much as we possible can about the value of diamonds,  I mean, we would have tae be pretty stupid tae try and negotiate a deal with all the diamonds we have when all we know about them is that they make nice jewellery and that people are prepared tae die just tae posses them.”

Next morning after breakfast, as he and William were heading out of the hotel John asked the hotel concierge where they should go to if they wanted to purchase a nice diamond ring.  He told him that William was thinking about getting engaged and so wanted to know how much a diamond ring would cost.

“Follow me sir,” said the concierge heading out of the hotel. “You’re very lucky because the best street in Cape Town for diamonds is just half a mile down this road.” He pointed out the way. “When you get to the third cross road – your there, that is, all the diamond selling shops are all around you. Be on your guard though sir, if you have any cash on you keep it well out of sight; we hear of all sort of happening from that region and there’s never a happy one.”

A nice brisk walk was all they both needed and they were soon there; just like the concierge had said … surrounded by shops vying to beat each other on the prices of their diamond merchandise with glittering displays in their shop windows. Only problem was how would a customer know quality if it was presented to them.

They decided to enter the largest store, the front door of which was being protected by two burly looking doormen, both wearing some sort of official uniform that presumably gave them both licence to be wielding a shotgun each.  As William and John approached the door they both moved aside to allow a passage way between them.

“Good morning sirs,” one of them said “welcome to our store, please go straight through and a sales person will come to your assistance.”

“Can I be of assistance to you gentlemen?” A lady had appeared from behind a pillar that occupied the middle of the store; she smiled and beckoned them over to a glass counter she was now standing behind.

“My son is thinking about getting engaged to his girlfriend when we get back home and we thought you could give us advice as to what size and quality of diamond ring he ought to buy; we have absolutely no knowledge about diamonds.”

“Thank you sirs for giving me the opportunity to advise you on that subject; please come over to this counter and I will show you a few examples and tell you how we price the various diamonds.”

John and William walked over to the glass counter the lady was behind whilst she opened up the back of the counter, lifted out a tray of diamond rings and placed them on top. “How much are you thinking of spending sir,” the lady asked.

“There is no limit,” replied John.

“That’s fine sir. I hope you have plenty of time if I am to explain everything to you.”

“Take all the time you want,” Replied John

“Right sir,” the lady replied. “When purchasing a diamond it is important to understand the diamond grading criteria. This is usually referred to as the four Cs; these are, cut, clarity, color, and carat weight.  Cut is probably the most challenging, of the four Cs to understand. The brilliance of a diamond depends heavily on its cut.

She picked out two rings from the pad in front of her and held them out to John. He could see immediately that one was sparkling much more than the other. “Can you see the difference sir?” the lady asked.

“Yes indeed,” John replied, “I can plainly see why the cut is so important.”

“Have a look at these William,” said John handing the diamonds over to William who took them and held them up in front of his eyes.

“If these are each the same carat, how much difference would they be in price?” asked William.

“Good question,” the lady replied. Before you can put a price on the diamond there are other qualities that you have to consider, for example most diamonds contain some inner flaws, sometimes referred to as inclusions … “

The lady assistant paused and looked first at John and then William. “I hope I’m not going too fast for you to take all this in. Do you understand what I have explained so far?”

“Absolutely fascinating,” said John, both of our lives will be so much more enriched for this information you are imparting to us. Isn’t that so William?” John was looking at William and nodding excitedly.

William nodded back enthusiastically knowing precisely what his father was inferring.

The lady looked from John to William and back to John and seeing how genuinely interested her two clients were eagerly carried on … “Basically there are two types of flaws, inclusions and blemishes. Diamonds with fewer inclusions and blemishes are more highly valued than those with less because they are rarer … Are you still with me gentlemen?” The lady asked looking smilingly from William to John. “There’s not much more to explain.”

“No hurry,” said John, “honestly we’re loving this education, aren’t we William?”

William nodded eagerly.

“Okay gentlemen the last important quality of a diamond is of course size. Because large diamonds are found less commonly than small diamonds, the price of a diamond rises exponentially to its size. Incidentally the word “carat” is taken from the carob seeds that people once used in ancient times to balance scales. So uniform in shape and weight are these little seeds that even today’s sophisticated instruments cannot detect more than three one-thousandths of a difference between them.”

The lady put the tray of rings back into the class counter and slid the door shut. She straitened up smiled and asked. “Now that you have a better idea of how to buy a diamond ring, how can I serve you gentlemen?”

John and William looked at each other knowing that they had just been given all they had come for. The lady looked from one to the other expectantly and was reworded with a request from John.

“Can you show us two one carat diamond rings, one the purest you have with no flaws and another with the most inclusions and give us the price of each ring? We can then I’m sure make our minds up as to which one to purchase and what to look for between both qualities?”

“Good idea sir, the lady replied, excuse me a moment please whilst I enquire as to where we have our whitest one carat ring.”

The lady went off into the store and William whispered to John. “Can we no sneak out now Da, while she’s away?”

“Leave it tae me William, in any case ah really need tae know the difference in price between the two rings she’s gonnae show us. With that information ah can get a good idea as tae the value of what we have.”

The lady came back carrying a black pad on which she had placed two rings.

“Now gentlemen, can one of you can point to the purest and thus most expensive diamond?”

John held his hand up as though he was back in a classroom. “Can I have the first go please?”

He took the pad from the lady and held it in such a way as to get as much light as possible on the rings. It was so obvious; one ring was ablaze with lights flashing out of it with every turn of the pad whereas the other just sparkled in comparison.

“How much are these please?” John asked almost catching his breath in anticipation.

“Both are one carat,” said the lady pointing to one of the rings, “the whitest which I can confirm is perfect with no inclusions is $2000 whereas the other, which has inclusions, is $400. So you see there is quite a difference in price, the dearer being five times the price of the other, although they are both the same size. Another aspect is that although a two carat is twice the size of a one carat, it is not necessarily twice the price, this is because the bigger the diamond the rarer and so you might find that a diamond twice the size of another might not be just double the price but four times more expensive.”

“Right then,” said John turning round to William, “what do you think William?” We have a lot tae think aboot and discuss, haven’t we?” I think we should go back tae oor hotel and talk about what we’ve just been taught and you can then decide what tae buy and how much tae spend.”

John turned back to the saleslady, “I am very grateful for all you have explained tae us and I hope you appreciate that with all this new knowledge we now have, we want tae decide wisely on what tae purchase.”

“That’s quite alright erm … Mr … I’m sorry sir but what’s your name?

“Bailey”, said John. “John Bailey and this is my son William.”

John put his hand out and the lady shook it. “So Miss you can expect tae see us tomorrow, and thank you again.”

John and William headed towards the door, which was opened by one of the two guards, both now standing inside. “Thank you sir – call again,” said the other.

Once outside William could hardly contain himself from shouting at the top of his voice, the knowledge of the reality of what they had, how much it was worth, thrilled him with excitement.

“Da do you realize how much those diamonds are worth that are stitched intae your jacked? That lady said that a one carat white diamond was worth $2,000 and a two carat can be worth four times more. From what I can remember the smallest of the diamonds we have is about two carat and there are even some bigger that that. You are carrying in your shoulder pads probably over a million pounds worth of diamonds … maybe even two.”

“I know that William, but what you have tae remember is – we have nothing until we sell them and I reckon the best place tae do that is as near tae oor homeland as we kin go … Amsterdam … if we tried tae sell them here we’d get oor throats cut. What we have tae decide is how we travel tae Amsterdam.

Chapter 19

“Ah – there you are Thomas.”

Thomas had just entered the shop ready for another day’s work;

“Mr Rochman asked me to tell you to take that curtain material,” Mr Kay pointed to a brightly patterned material lying on a settee,” down to an address at Glasgow Cross and have them turn it into two pair of curtains, I’ll just have to phone him for the address.” Mr Kay went off into the office to make his phone call and Thomas picked up the material and waited.

Mr Kay came out of the office and handed Thomas a piece of paper.

“That’s the address Thomas, when you get there give them this envelope, he handed Thomas an envelope, inside are the measurements for the curtains, tell them that if they are unsure of anything to phone us … Okay?”

With the material, the address and envelope, Thomas left the shop and headed for Glasgow Cross as directed. When he got there he looked at the paper bearing the address and asked a woman who was passing by if she knew where the street was. He was lucky and was soon standing outside what appeared to be a small factory with locked doors on which was a large sign “PLEASE RING”. This he did and soon he could hear the chinking of keys, a lock turning and then the door opened.

Thomas couldn’t believe his eyes because stood there was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, she was speaking to him and he was so mesmerized he couldn’t hear a word she was saying. She must have asked him three times before her voice gradually begun to seep into his ear drums and send the honeyed voice to his brain.

“Can I help you?”

“Aye, … ahem … aye,” He stuttered; “I’ve been sent doon from Conway’s furnishing tae give you this curtain material and this letter with the measurements for you tae make two pair of curtains for us.”

The young lady reached out and took the material and envelope from Thomas then turned and commenced to head back into the building.

“Come on through tae the office,” she said over her shoulder,” and I’ll give you a receipt.” Thomas was delighted to walk behind her as he weighed up what he perceived to be the most dazzling of all female bums in the whole world placed on top of an astounding pair of legs, then there was the tiny waist, the beautiful flowing jet black hair. “Am in love,” he thought to himself

The noise from the sewing machines grew louder as they walked along a corridor and emerged into the main factory where Thomas thought there must be about fifty machinists hard at work. They reached another door which the young lady opened and beckoned him inside.

“Take a seat,” said the young woman pointing to a chair which was next to a desk that she walked around, with Thomas’s eyes glued firmly to her bottom. She sat in a chair across the desk from Thomas whilst in the meanwhile his eyes were feasting on her well developed breasts

“Just give me a minute to read what we are to do,” she said.

I know what I’d like to do,” Thomas though smiling at her.

“Take your time”, said Thomas enjoying the chance to continue goggling at her.

“What’s your name,” Thomas asked

“Famie,” she replied.

You are the very first Famie I have ever met in my life, replied Thomas, “nice name.”

“Thank you,” Famie replied, her cheeks colouring just enough for Thomas to notice and to feel the strange excitement surging through his body.

Famie pulled a writing pad from one of the drawers in the desk and quickly wrote a receipt which she handed to Thomas.

“Thank you,” said Thomas, “Ahem … Famie … ah know I’ve just met you and ah hope you don’t think I’m being cheeky but … ahem … but … ahem … but” and then in one quick burst  he managed to get the words out  … “Is there any chance I can see you one evening and take you tae the pictures … or something?”

“Ah don’t even know your name so how do you expect me tae go out with you,” said Famie.

“Thomas … it’s Thomas … Thomas Stuart and I work at Conways furniture and I live on Royston hill.”

Famie looked at Thomas and struck a pose of thinking with an index finger in her mouth, “OK Thomas Stuart you have a date if you can take me out nest Saturday night.”

“Famie … my diary is usually quite full on Saturday evenings but for you I’ll move everything tae one side.”

Famie looked with a puzzled look on her face.

“Only joking .. only joking Famie. Saturday night is great for me. Shall we meet at Glasgow Cross. What time would suit ye?

“What about 7pm Thomas,” Famie replied

“That’s great,” said Thomas and started walking backwards towards the way out not taking his eyes off Famie, “that’s great Famie” he repeated and almost fell as his heel caught something on the floor, “I’ll see you at 7 o’clock then …. Saturday”

He managed to unlock the door and find his way outside and couldn’t stop himself from running down the street, jumping up and punching the air. “All right,” he shouted with delight.

On his way back to the shop Thomas called into The Cummings Hotel that was about one hundred yards away from where he worked. He walked up to the reception “Can I see the manager please?” he asked.

“Hello Thomas”, the young woman replied, “you don’t know me but I know you; you work in Conway’s furniture store just up the road, don’t you?”

“Aye that’s right,”  Thomas replied.

“Everybody around here knows all about you Thomas and how you tackled the two men who tried tae rob Mr and Mrs Rochman. You were very brave.”

Thomas started to feel a bit embarrassed “I only did what anybody would have done in similar circumstances,” Thomas mumbled.

“Ah but Thomas, I’ve heard that you were doon the stairs when it was happening upstairs, you could have stayed there ‘till it was all over but you didn’t. I know that a lot of people would have stayed doon the stairs out of the way. So there you are Thomas, you didnae even know that around here you’re a hero, well done tae you from me for one … I’m really proud now tae have met you.”

“So can I now see the manager; mmm what’s your name?”

“You certainly can Thomas and my name is Sadie.” She put her hand out and Thomas took it and she shook hands vigorously.

“I’ll be back in a minute Thomas.” With that she disappeared through a door that was behind her.

Two minutes later Sadie returned with the manager of the hotel.

“Mr Cummings this here is Thomas Stuart,” said Sadie pointing to Thomas. “You were talking about him a few days ago … do you remember?”

“Of course Sadie, of course I remember,” said Mr Cummings offering Thomas his hand which Thomas shook.

“How can I be of assistance to you Thomas, it’s a privilege tae meet you?”

“I’m looking for some part-time work Mr Cummings. I start across the road at 9 o’clock in the morning and I need something tae keep me busy for a couple of hours before that; do you have anything?”

“Thomas I’m afraid the only thing I have from 7am ‘till 9am is peeling the tatties we will have tae use for that day and maybe helping with some cleaning and washing dishes from the night before. I’m sure that’s not what you’re looking for.”

“As long as the hourly rate is reasonable Mr Cummings – I’ll take it.”

“Oh … right,” Mr Cumming looked surprised. “Okay Thomas if you report here tomorrow morning I’ll arrange someone tae be here tae show you where everything is and what tae do.”  He put his hand out and Thomas shook it. “Tomorrow it is the Mr Cummings, thank you very much.”

With that Thomas left the hotel feeling very pleased with himself. That was him employed every morning from 7am until 9am and then from 9am until 5pm.  All he needed now was something in the evenings from 6pm until 8pm and he should then be rolling in money … and he thought he knew where to get that. He had been approached by some guy on Roystonhill just two nights ago asking him if he would like to sell football gaming tickets in his own time for a commission; he decided he would start doing that from next week.

Saturday couldn’t come around soon enough, it seemed as though the days were being stretched to twice their normal time. Thomas had several days before gone out and bought himself a new pair of light grey flannel trousers and a new shirt and tie. He felt good.

It was now twenty minutes to 7 pm and he had never felt so nervous; he was pacing up and down in front of the big clock that dominates Glasgow Cross.  Up and down and round and round he went barely able to take his eyes off the clock willing the big hand to move faster. Eventually the big hand dragged itself to twelve and Famie had not appeared. Thomas’s heart sank and he began to tell himself she wasn’t coming. Now at five minutes passed seven he was convinced that this was truly the case when someone poked him in the back.

“Hello Thomas, sorry I’m a little late.” His heart nearly jumped out of his mouth and he swung round to behold Famie looking as beautiful as he remembered her.

Och it’s okay Famie, A’ve been told it’s a woman’s prerogative tae arrive a bit late on a first date”, he lied. Shall we go tae the pictures?

Famie responded with a big smile and said, “There’s a new film starting tonight in the Odeon on Renfield Street and it’s only a six minute walk, would you like tae go there?”

“Right Famie, That’ll do me.” With that Thomas took hold of Famie’s elbow and started walking in the general direction of Renfield Street.

Thomas bought two of the best seats and guided Famie to the back row. When they sat down and the show started he guided his arm over Famie’s shoulders with his fingertips just touching her breast.  He could feel the excitement rising within when Famie took his hand and lifted it over her head and placed it on his lap.

“No Thomas, I’ve come here to watch the show, not to suffer a mauling in the back row, sorry to disappoint you.”

Thomas could do nothing but say he was sorry and settled down to watch the picture.

When the cinema finished Thomas walked Famie home. She lived in a tenement building and Thomas noticed it was a bit dark walking into the close. Half way in there was another corridor that must have led to the back yard and Thomas seized his chance and guided Famie in there where it was even darker. He turned Famie towards him and pushed her gently against the wall.

They kissed and then to Thomas’s surprise Famie opened her coat.

“Come inside here Thomas and let me feel you close to me.”

He put his arms around her waist and she wrapped her coat around them both.

“Thomas you can feel my breasts if you like but that is as far as I’ll go.”

Thomas pressed himself against her with his hands running up and down her back. He felt the bottom of her blouse and sneaked his hands underneath it. He slid his hand up until he felt her brassier clasp and deftly undid it. Now the excitement within him was reaching heights he had never experienced before. He slid his hands under her arms and took  a breast in each hand caressing them gently. He was now aware that his penis was rising within his trousers and not being one to wear underpants there was nothing to keep it down; it was rock solid now pressed between him and Famie and he suddenly realised that he was about to have a orgasm and there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop it. It came in a rush semen spouting out uncontrollably, he could feel it running down his leg.

“Famie, ahem, Famie I have tae tell you something and I fell very embarrassed.”

“You don’t need tae Thomas, I know what’s just happened. I could feel it throbbing against my leg and I don’t mind telling you it was very exciting for me too.”

Thomas stepped back and was aghast to see what appeared to be a large dark stain all the way down the left side of his trousers.

“How the hell can I get home looking like this. I can’t get the bus; I’ll just have tae walk it and make sure nobody can see me.”  I hope you don’t think badly of me Famie.”

“Don’t be daft Thomas.”

They kissed and Thomas said “Can I see you again Famie?”

“I’d love you too Thomas; what about next Saturday again, same time same place.”

“Right then,” Thomas turned round so as Famie couldn’t see the stain and legged it out of the close.

“What a night … what a night,” he said to himself as her started his long walk home. “I hope there’s no one up when I get home … and I think I had better invest in some underpants.”

Chapter 20

Paris was easy. When William and John got off the plane they didn’t need to wait to collect any luggage since both of them had all their spare clothing in duffle type bags so they simply walked though the “NOTHING TO DECLARE” exit and no one bothered to contest them.

“So what’s next Da? William asked. “How do we get tae Amsterdam from here, do we get another flight or travel by train?”

“Amsterdam is about 300 miles north and a wee bit east of here and only a short flight by plane, so I suggest we take another flight and when we get there have a rest and then the next day go out and find someone tae buy our diamonds.  What dae you think William?”

“Suits me, Da,” replied William

They wandered around until they found a ticket kiosk and purchased two tickets for Amsterdam, leaving in two hours time.

“So what dae yeh think we should do Da after we sell the diamonds. I mean where we should live. Should we go back tae Glasgow or go somewhere else?” Ask William.

They were sat in a cafe enjoying some sandwiches and tea.

John looked over his cup of steaming tea at William and answered his question. “I’ve already given that a lot of thought William and I don’t think it would be a good idea tae return tae Glasgow. There’s nothing but trouble there for us son. However I don’t want you tae be unhappy with a choice that I make and so have decided that if you agree … but only if you agree … then we should go tae America and take up residence in Florida. I hear the sun shines there just about every day. So; what dae you say William, where would you like tae live?”

William looked straight into his father’s eyes. “Da I would be prepared and be happy tae live with you in any shit hole in the world because your ma best friend and as a luck would have it ma father.  William stuck his hand out and John stood up and took it into his hand and pulled William into a bear hug kissing him on the cheek.  “Ah love yea dearly William and it makes me happy tae hear yea say that. America it is then.”

Four hours later they were in Amsterdam hailing a taxi outside Schiphol Airport.

“Dae you speak English?” John asked the taxi driver.

“Just about everyone in Amsterdam Speaks English,” replied the taxi driver.

“Oh great,” replied John. “Will yeh take us tae a good hotel near the diamond trading district of Amtserdam?”

The taxi took them to The Rokin Hotel which turned out to be in the centre of Amsterdam with diamond manufacturing companies all around.  They were given a double room on the 3rd floor, went up and threw their duffle bags into the room and went out to explore the city.

They walked down to the Central Station and then on to an area that was just bursting with activity. William walked over to a stall packed with adult literature and crazy sex toys and asked the stall owner where they were to be told they were in Dam Square, one of the most popular areas of Amsterdam that had been around since the 13thcentury. There was food stalls, bars and restaurants galore and so many people that they were falling over each other and jostling for seats to sit on at the various venues;  as luck would have it they found that they were also in the most popular diamond area. They managed to get two seats at one of the bars and ordered a couple of drinks whilst watching the melee.

“It would take at least a couple of days tae check this place over. What dae you think William?”

“Well I’m glad we came here Da because we know where tae go in the morning tae find a buyer for the diamonds.

They finished their beers and headed back to their hotel not being in the holidaying mood of most of the people thronging into the square.

Next morning they had breakfast and went back up to their room to pack there bits and pieces.

“What dae yeh think William, how do we know which is the best diamond making firm to approach?” Asked John.

“I don’t know Da, I suppose the best thing tae do is approach a few of them and generally get tae know them as we go around and in the end do our business with the one we trust the most, who is the highest bidder and who pays us in a manner that we know is totally safe,” William replied.

“Right then I’ll take all the diamonds out of my jacket and put them into sizes and count them, then we can start with the first diamond manufacturer and take it from there.”

The first one they walked into was the very first one they came to in Dam Square. They entered the reception area and a young woman came out and asked what they wanted.

“We’re here tae see if we can sell you some uncut diamonds.” John said and the woman looked a bit puzzled.

“We usually import our uncut diamonds from various dealers in an assortment of countries and never have anyone calling in person to sell to us. Where are the diamonds?” she asked.

“In here,” John replied holding up a small briefcase he had purchased the day before.

”Right sir; I’ll have to go and find our chief buyer and have him assess what you have. Do you mind if I ask how you came by the diamonds.” She asked.

“Not at all,” said John, “we were working on a ship and decided tae stop a while in Namibia; we did some mining in the Greet Karas Mountains, these are the results of our hard work,” said John smiling and holding up the briefcase

“Right – I’ll go and fetch our buyer. Excuse me I’ll be right back.”

Sure enough she was back in one minute. “Would you follow me please gentlemen.”

She took them down a very narrow corridor and into an office at the bottom.

“Hello gents my name is Jacob Troeger and I am the chief buyer here in this company. I believe you have some uncut stones to sell.  I must say this is most unusual to have someone come into our office to offer us uncut diamonds, but as they say, there’s always a first time for everything.”

He stood up and walk from behind his desk and shook hands with John and then with William.

“ I believe you did some mining in Namibia, did you have any trouble with the authorities there?”

“None at all,” replied John “I suppose it was because of the remoteness of the place we mined which was miles from any civilisation.”

“Let’s have a look at what you have then,” said Mr Troeger.

John opened his brief case and turned it round to the buyer.

“Goodness, you have got a lot said the buyer. Would you mind if I have a close look at them and make some notes, then I can put some numbers together and give you my estimated value of what you have here.  It will take some time?”.

“Not at all,” said John, “so long as it is carried out in our presence. I hope you don’t mind because I don’t mean to be disrespectful”

“Mr Bailey I fully understand. Please take a seat, both of you, I shall carry out my estimation here at my desk.”

The estimator produced an eyeglass from his pocket and a pen and paper from his desk  drawer picked up the first diamond bringing it close to his eye and commenced the inspection.

William and John had not anticipated that it would take such a long time to assess the value of the diamonds. Two hours later after checking the last stone the assessor picked up his note pad.

“I’m going to leave you for a few minutes whilst I carry out some calculations from my notes and have a quick word with my boss.  Shouldn’t be more than five minutes.”

He left the office and John got up and checked that the diamonds were packed the same as they were when he brought them in. He closed the briefcase and sat down again next to William.

It got to five minutes and John was thinking to himself how it was the longest five minutes of his life when the door opened and the assessor walk into the room with another man.

“This is the owner of the company,” said the assessor, “Mr Gavin Van Berkum; may I introduce you to Mr John Bailey and Mr William Bailey sir.”

The owner shook both their hands and sat down on a spare seat.

“We have never had a person walk into our premises and offer to sell us so many uncut diamonds and so if we do any business there will have to be certain conditions. I’m sure you will appreciate the necessity for it. I will have to have sight of your passports and verification of who you are and where you live.”

“That’s no problem Mr Van Berkum so long as you take into consider our exceptional circumstances.  For example we cannot give you our present address because we left our home a number of years ago and took up working on ships and travelling the world. We decided to leave our last ship in Namibia where we commenced diamond prospecting. We can give you our last home address, which incidentally is where William was born, I’m sure that can be verified when you check out our passports.  With regards to a future address we are going to live in America. But subject to your offer I am prepared to do a deal with you that will make you feel very comfortable to do business with us.  If I accept your offer I will take only half of the buying price in the form of an irrefutable bankers draft and allow you to pay the balance to us in three months time into our bank account which will then be opened up in America.  Surely you appreciate that no one would make such an offer if they were dishonest – they would hold out for at least an immediate payment of three quarters of the value of the diamonds.”

“I’m quite pleased with that proposition Mr Bailey. Given the circumstances I was going to make you an offer of a much lesser value than your uncut diamonds are worth, and I must say that I think their quality is excellent, but in light of your proposal to prove your honesty and your sincerity I am prepared to offer you their true value of two million pounds – one now in a bankers draft cashable at any bank in America and the other one million transferred to you in three months time.

John looked at William and then back to Mr Van Berkum and stuck his hand out  … “You have a deal sir,” he said. “Please have the bankers Draft made out to John Bailey and give me a letter on your Company headed paper describing the deal we have negotiated and mentioning the one million to follow  us to America in three months time.”

“If you’ll excuse me Mr Bailey I’ll go and attend to that immediately,” said Mr  Van Berkum as he got up and left the room.

“Would you like some coffee gentlemen asked Mr Troeger or would you prefer something stronger whilst you wait?”

“Coffee will do nicely replied John.”

Mr Troeger picked up the telephone that was on his desk and spoke a few minutes in Danish which resulted five minutes later in a woman pushing a trolley into the office bearing coffee, biscuits and a selection of very nice looking cakes.

Fifteen minutes had passed when Mr Van Berkum came through the door again.

“Sorry about the time it took me Mr Bailey,” he said addressing himself to John whilst holding out two envelopes to him. “You’ll understand that I had to nip out to my bank to have the Bankers Draft prepared, something I couldn’t write out myself. Here’s the Draft Mr Bailey and the letter you requested; if you would be so kind as to check them.”

John opened both envelopes and checked the contents before returning them to the envelopes and placed both of them into his pocket. He held his hand out to Mr Van Berkum and they shook hands.

“A pleasure doing business with you Mr Van Berkum, I’ll be in touch with you in three months time.”

After they left the premises, both with big smiles on their faces they jumped into a taxi and asked to be taken to the airport.

I hope you didnae mind William that I took that deal without asking ye and without going tae another diamond maker tae compare the price.  It was just too good tae refuse and in any case if we lost a few thousand what the hell … We’re millionaires now.”  He laughed and threw his arms around William who joined in the laughter.

“Florida here we come,” shouted William.

Chapter 21

Monday morning soon came round and Thomas arrived at Conways at 9 o’clock right on the dot. He had just walked up from Cumming’s hotel and started the daily ritual of dusting the furniture when Mr Rochman came rushing through the front door.

“Ah Thomas,” Shouted Mr Rochman, “Just the person I want to see. Will you come into my office please.

Thomas left his duster on top of the sideboard he had been working on and went into the office.

“Take a seat Thomas,” said Mr Rochman, pushing a chair in his direction. “I have for some time now Thomas been thinking

To Be continued