Authors: Craig Russell
First published in Great Britain in 2016 by
Quercus Editions Ltd
50 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DZ
An Hachette UK company
Copyright © 2016 Craig Russell
The moral right of Craig Russell to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Ebook ISBN 978 1 78429 239 3
Print ISBN 978 1 78087 488 3
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
You can find this and many other great books at:
THE LENNOX THRILLERS
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AS CHRISTOPHER GALT
The Third Testament
‘I have a story to tell you,’ I said, after a while. ‘I’m afraid it’s not a pretty story and you won’t thank me for the telling of it. It’s also a story that a lot of people would kill – and have killed – to stop being told. Once I tell it to you, there are things that I will expect from each of you. But, I warn you, once you hear my story, you won’t be able to unhear it.’
They said nothing.
So I told them it.
I told them Quiet Tommy Quaid’s story.
I liked Quiet Tommy Quaid.
Everyone liked him: every thief, thug, racketeer and ne’er-do-well in Glasgow liked Quiet Tommy Quaid; every street-corner kid, every shopkeeper and publican had a good word to say about him; women in particular had a fondness for Quaid’s quiet but potent charms. Even the police liked him. In fact, I had heard it had been the police who had christened him ‘Quiet Tommy’ in the certain knowledge that whenever they caught him – not that they caught him often these days – Tommy would invariably put his hands up and ‘come quiet’. And, of course, in all the many crimes he had committed over the years, Quiet Tommy Quaid had never once used violence.
In fact, violence seemed to be a language Quaid neither spoke nor understood, which was somewhat at odds with his wartime service as a commando – a highly decorated commando, I’d been told. I dare say that Adolf’s
notwithstanding, if they had captured him, the Germans would probably have liked Quiet Tommy Quaid too.
And everyone seemed to like him
: without that hidden ire we tend secretly to reserve for the naturally amiable. Yep . . . Quiet Tommy Quaid was a thoroughly likeable cove. He had practically no vices – except for equally excessive womanizing and drinking, which in nineteen fifty-eight Glasgow were pretty much looked on as virtues, not vices. And in that respect I myself was to be considered virtuous to the point of sainthood. But unlike me, Thomas Quaid was the most equanimous person you could encounter: a calm, easy-going, friendly sort who accepted the occasional misfortune – especially the misfortune of arrest – with calm resignation.
The strange thing was Quiet Tommy Quaid also happened to be one of the wisest men I’d ever known, with a calm, deep-flowing intelligence that he shared seldom and only with those he chose to trust. I felt honoured to be amongst the few allowed the odd rare glimpse into the deep waters beneath the still surface.
But Quiet Tommy did have one flaw – a mental deficiency, I suppose you’d call it. Everybody has something they find difficult to understand: I personally struggled to wrap my mind around the musings of Niels Bohr or Albert Einstein; the City of Glasgow Police failed to understand the lexical difference between the nouns ‘Catholic’ and ‘suspect’; but for Quiet Tommy Quaid, the one concept that eluded comprehension was that of private ownership. That isn’t to say he was one of Glasgow’s many red-flag-waving, Lenin-quoting, class-warrior idealists – it was simply that Tommy couldn’t seem to understand that if something belonged to someone else, he couldn’t just up and take it.
I’m not saying that Tommy was some kind of common thief: Quaid was most definitely a thief, and every bit as definitely anything but common. He had intelligence, he had flair, he had style. He had inches on other Glaswegians. When it came to the population’s height, Glasgow was the kind of place where Snow White would have felt right at home – generations of bad diet, hard labour and equally hard drinking, coupled with appalling living conditions, had stunted the city’s population – but Tommy Quaid was unusually tall for Glasgow; he was always immaculately groomed, his expensively barbered, copper-coloured hair sleeked but not oily and combed back from a broad-browed, handsome and vaguely aristocratic face, a neat moustache lining his top lip. Speaking for myself as someone who was known for his appreciation of good tailoring, I can tell you that the perpetually well-turned-out Tommy Quaid’s suits were always top-notch. I had once been tempted to ask him who his tailor was, but thought better of it, realizing that he probably gave new depth to the concept of
prêt à porter
prêt à porter
through the skylight window of a tailor’s storeroom, usually.
But the thing I liked most about Quiet Tommy Quaid, and I guessed that everyone else liked most, was that you knew exactly where you were with him, exactly who it was you were dealing with. Here, everybody realized, was someone who was precisely, simply and totally who and what he seemed to be.
We had no idea how wrong we were.
I would have good cause to remember that day; most people would remember it, but for a different reason.
Friday the eleventh of July, nineteen fifty-eight was an auspicious day all right. An auspicious day for Glasgow – for all of Scotland, for that matter. The reason that day would live in so many memories was because a lever was pulled and an insignificant-looking, five-foot-four-inch monster – known in the press as ‘The Beast of Birkenshaw’ – took the shortest of journeys through a Barlinnie Prison trap door and into the afterlife. And as multiple murderer Peter Manuel breathed his last, the rest of the country breathed a sigh of relief.
Manuel had been on my mind a lot that day. I’d come across him once, in the Horsehead Bar: a short-arsed loudmouth with a cod American accent, he had been the object of ridicule. But what I remembered most were his eyes: Manuel had had the palest complexion under an oily mop of jet-black hair, the frame for small, dark eyes that glittered black like Airdrie anthracite and seemed to bore into you. Or maybe it was just hindsight that made me wax lyrical, having read about his monstrous crimes in the papers. As we had learned from Herr Hitler, monsters rarely look like monsters and guise themselves as insignificant, even comical-looking.
At the time I was not aware that Manuel’s hanging would not be the event that would mark out the day for me. What would, in the fullness of time, make Friday the eleventh of July nineteen fifty-eight an auspicious day was something else completely.
It was the day I met Mr McNaught.
The post-war landscape of my life could generally have been described as less than easy-going, but the years fifty-seven and fifty-eight had been especially rocky – both personally and professionally. The women in my life had always had a tendency towards dramatic exits and for the second time a woman for whom I had had something like genuine above-the-waist feelings had died. After I had found out that cancer had taken Fiona White, I had become lost for a while.
A year before, I’d hired Archie McClelland, an ex-City of Glasgow policeman, to help in the business. After Fiona’s death, I hadn’t exactly left Archie to carry the business on his own, but he had shouldered more than his share while I had not so much gone off the rails as taken a branch line for a while. I had drunk too much even by my standards and had buried myself in the soft folds of female comfort a little more than Errol Flynn would have found seemly; but I had, by and large, managed to keep myself together. Or at least functioning.
Lugubrious, chain-smoking Archie, who had the tall, stooping posture of an undertaker and the doleful eyes of Alastair Sim, had done much to keep me on the straight and narrow, but I’d still managed to get into a few dodgy areas, both morally and legally – which, of course, weren’t always the same thing.
Archie had never complained, never asked for anything as reward; but because of everything he’d done, the sign on the door now said
Lennox and McClelland Enquiry Agents
. At least I kidded myself that my partnership offer was simply about rewarding Archie. My gratitude really was a big part of it, of course, but the truth was also that having straight-as-a-die, ex-City of Glasgow Police beat-man Archie as a partner took off my shoulders a lot of the aspects of the work I couldn’t be bothered with. Most importantly, it helped me legitimize the business that little bit more.