“What makes you particularly grateful to Mister Connor?” I ask.
“See this vehicle you’re sittin’ in the noo?” the driver says.
“What about it?”
“Ah wiz able tae buy this from daein’ wee jobs furr Jackie,” the big man declares proudly.
“What kind of wee jobs did you do for him?” I ask.
“Nane o’ your business,” the driver snaps abruptly.
I realize that I’ve committed some kind of no-no, and I decide to lighten the conversation. “So Connor’s the gift that keeps on giving?” I say, faking a giggle.
“Definitely,” the big man assures me in a deadly serious tone. “The rest o’ oor crew will agree – we a’ get weighed in real good when we pull a stroke furr him.”
“You did okay getting this van,” I say in an attempt to flatter him.
“Good enough,” he agrees.
I bring up a subject I have been increasingly interested in. “What about lasses?” I ask.
“Whit aboot them?”
“The van should be good for picking up girls,” I suggest.
“Nah!” he snarls.
“Not good enough for picking up lasses?” I squeak incredulously.
“No good at a’ furr that,” the driver says firmly. “You go up tae Halfway there where Lourdes Convent is, ye hing aboot lang enough, ye might get an old nun jumpin’ in beside ye.” He snorts in amusement at his own fantasy. “But young, good-lookin’ burrdz?” he says sorrowfully. “Forget it – ye’ve nae chance.”
He turns the van right just past The Chevalier Bar at the junction of the Govan Road and MacLean Street. The van coasts to a halt in front of a closemouth boarded up with a ramshackle sheet of corrugated iron.
“That’s us here,” the big man announces. “Oot ye get.”
I climb down from the van and stand on the pavement looking at the scabrous facades of the soot blackened tenements around me.
The big man bustles round the front of the Albion, brushes past me, and stops in front of the corrugated iron doorway. “Follow me, kid,” he commands. He seizes the edge of the barricade with both massive hands and pulls mightily. The corrugated iron cover peels back affording an entrance to the close about twenty inches wide. The big man squeezes in sideways and beckons me to do likewise. “Building’s condemned,” he offers by way of explanation. “Only a few lobby dossers here at night. “Come on,” he shouts as he enters what used to be the hallway of a traditional ‘room and kitchen’ flat whose front door has been removed. It is very dark and holds an unpleasant smell I cannot identify. This is where the homeless, raggedy men in two coats who do not have the price of a bed in the ‘deedle’, the deedle-doddle or Model Lodging House, round the corner on the Govan Road, lay their weary heads. My guide turns to his right and stands before a scarred wooden door equipped with a paper nameplate, a letterbox and a Yale lock. He flicks a cigarette lighter into life and turns his death-head features towards me. “Listen, son,” he intones in gravelly tones. “Ca’ canny wi’ the questions in here. If ye annoy yer man, Ah’ll hiv tae punish ye, undersaun?”
“I’m not going to intrude in his personal life,” I announce prissily. “
I am lying, but it sounds all right.
Andy shrugs: whatever.


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