by Mark Edwards
Half 4 and Stewart wis supposed to finish at 5. The loun had disappeared into the bogs, left him to get the drinks.
Being seen tae?
That had to be her standard question. Course he wisna being seen tae. He and she were the only folk in the bar.
Pinta Guinness and eh, a coke.
Draught or can?
A can’ll dae fine.
Need a glass.
They fairly made it easy on ye. He felt around in his overall pockets, realised he’d left his baccy in the van. He found the phone Flett gave him a while back. As soon as it wis on the bar it started to ring and vibrate. Hullo.
Far are ye.
The young lad winted ti come in.
I’ll be there in 5 minutes.
He pressed the button, pit the phone doon. He could mind this place fae the bad auld days. They used to drop change in the Gents’ urinal. There wis a sign above the urinal telling customers all this coin wis being collected fir auld age pensioners. Anybody caught stealing it wid be barred fir life. He checked his pockets. The baccy still wisna there.
Christ, ye gona throw in a massage and haircut while ye’re at it.
That will be right. New owners pit the prices up.
It’s ay bin steep in here.
I couldna tell ye. I’ve only worked here a month.
He fished out a fiver, handed it across, glanced roun at the ciggy machine. 5 coins fir 17 unless ye chose Royals who gave ye 19 but were that rough ye’d be as well smoking tar off the road. He wid jist need to put his bad habits on strike fir half an hour. Or at least ‘til Glen extracted himsel fae the lavvy, coughed up one of his rarely dispensed Lamberts.
Ye fine Stewart?
In this type ae situation ye heard Flett afore ye saw him. If ye were onsite somewhere though it wis a different story. Flett wid switch to stealth mode, park the estate a few streets fae the huises ye were working on, creep in slowly, hoping to catch ye haen 40 winks or a quick read ae the paper. Far’s the young lad?
Stewart nodded towards the Gents. The door opened. Glen appeared.
Fit ye bin daen in there, knitting?
I wis haen a shite.
Shouldna huv daen that, said Flett. That’s the best ae ye gone.
The barmaid held out a few coins. Stewart waved her away. Treat yersel.
Glen turned ti the bar, reached fir his pint. Nay think it looks like a priest?
A pint ae Guinness. See the long dark cloak, the white bit at the top fir the collar.
Stewart shook his head. Gie’s a smoke will ye, ma baccy’s in the van.
I’ll nip oot fir it. He made fir the door.
Tight as a duck.
Nay flies on him. Flett reached inside his jacket. Handed o’er a front door key, address written on the fob. Ony chance ye could dae a spot ae overtime. They’re expecting it ready fir Monday morning.
Christ, they’ve some hope. I take it the water and power’s on.
Far as I kain.
I’ll see fit we can dae.
Flett gave the barmaid a wave afore turning fir the door. On his way out, he near bumped inti Glen. Mind it’s jist wun pint if ye’re driving.
Nay bother boss. Glen walked over, handed Stewart the baccy.
Ony plans fir thenight?
Nane so far, how.
Spot ae overtime if ye fancy it.
Double time like.
Time and a half.
Aww Stewart, could ye nay have haggled him fir time and 3 quarters?
Stewart looked away, caught the barmaid smirking. He picked his phone up, went outside.
Lissin, I’m working thenight, so I could jist get summin out the chippy.
Ony idea fit time ye’ll finish?
If I’m nay back by eh, well, dinna wait up.
Ye are working?
Aye, I’m working.
Glen wis leaning on the bar, chatting up the barmaid.
C’mon then Romeo, sooner we start, sooner we’ll finish.
Nay fir a wee drammy?
I wis jist joking.
The hale flat wis decorated in the same pink wallpaper. Stewart thought it must’ve been a young lass that lived there ‘til Glen said it wis probably a coupla gay boys. Fitivir. It wisna the worst job. The surface layer tore away in long strips. The backing jist needed a quick blast wi the steamer, a bittie persuasion wi the scraper. When it came to the timesheets though they would add a couple hours, tell Flett it had been a pure bastard. His stomach wis churning. He wis starting to feel light-headed. He checked his watch, pictured Glen chatting up whichever lassie wis working in the chippy.
There wis a knock at the door. Likely Glen up tae his antics. He sighed, got down off the steps, went to the door, pulled it open. A big lanky guy wis stood there. A wee blone next tae him, out of breath, red roun the een.
Can I use yer phone? I need ti phone the police.
He patted his overall pockets, realised he’d left his phone in the van. I’m only working here. There’s nay phone in this flat.
I need ti phone the police, she sobbed. He’s been hitting me.
Tt. We’ve jist been arguing.
Stewart glanced at the guy, found him staring back. A big nose that had been broken at least once. Stewart didna fancy his chances.
The lassie started greeting. I’m nay letting ye off wi it. She turned, headed down the staircase. The guy shrugged then followed. Stewart stood a minute, heard her chap a door on the floor below. He stept back into the lobby, leaving the door on the jamb. The emptiness of the flat surrounding him. A second or 2 afore he realised he wis still holding the scraper. Somebody wis coming through the door. He stept back, threw his arm up, scraper held like a knife.
Thought ye were somebody else.
How much I owe ye?
Forget it. Glen wis still outside the door. Ye got me that pint earlier so we’ll call it evens.
Cheers. That’s nice ae ye.
Glen reached inside the bag, handed Stewart a fish supper.
Didna pass ombdy on the stair did ye.
Nivir saw naybdy, how.
They went through to the living room, sat on the floor. Stewart wis staring inti space, supper in his lap. He minded the pub earlier, Glen’s offer ae a dram. Jist the one kain. He’d managed though.
He forced down a few chips. They tasted awful.
Here, said Glen. Fit say we knock off aboot 10. You auld boys need yer rest eh.
When he got hame Elaine wis in her dressing gown. She stood up as he came towards her. He kissed her cheek.
Ye look knackered.
He near started telling her about the young lass coming to the door of the flat. She would want to know why he hadn’t done anything. I’ll stick the kettle on.
I’m off ti bed.
Be up in a while.
Mind and wash.
When the tea wis made he went back to the sofa. It wis still warm where Elaine had been. He could smell the lavender stuff she used in the bath. He closed his eyes, breathed deep. He opened them, saw the date at the top ae the day’s paper. It wis his 26th birthday. He should go tell her. He reached fir his baccy.↑