As we fanned out in a semi-circle on the pavement before the entrance to the Chevalier public house that afternoon in late August you could feel palpable tension, on the edge of violence, emanating from our posse.
Jim Bannan, wearing a thigh-length donkey jacket over bib and brace overalls, emerged from the swing doors of the pub. He had his right foot on the pavement and was turning right when he noticed the reception committee. “Evening, ladies,” he said,”How can Ah be of assistance tae yous?”
“By shutting up,” Connor said quietly. “And listenin’ tae whit Ah hiv tae say.” With that he made a chopping motion with his right hand and shouted, “Inside!”
Immediately, in what seemed a smooth, choreographed move, Connor’s men moved into rapid action. Two of the young men seized Bannan’s wrists and pulled in opposite directions until the victim’s arms were extended in the crucifixion position. Simultaneously, from right and left, the teenager and another man tackled his legs like rugby players. They wrapped their arms round the man’s thighs. Big Dan seized Bannan by the lapels and pushed him backwards through the doors. The scrum skittered across the sawdust strewn floor of the pub with Bannan backed up against the bar counter.
Big Dan and the other gang members detached themselves from Bannan, leaving him breathing heavily and staring at everyone in the pub. He decided to adopt a pose of insouciance. Brushing his shoulders and arms with the back of stiffened fingers he said, “Whit dae yous want? Whit’s the score here.”
Jackie said: “Seven . . . wan . . .tae us. We want money.”
“Ah hivnae any money oan me,” Bannan said. “Nae money or anythin’.”
“Hard cheese,” Connor said. “Money ye borrowed. We want it.”
Bannan drew himself up to his full height and smiled down on Jackie. He said: “Look, Ah didnae borrow money fae yous. Ah mean it. Ah didnae . . .”
“True,” Connor said reasonably. “But ye did borrow money.”
“Maybe,” Bannan said with a hint of defiance in his voice. “No’ fae yous – fae Big Ramsey o’er at West Scotland Street.
“Bingo!” Jackie Connor exclaimed triumphantly.
“Whit’s it goat tae dae wi’ you, wee man?” Bannan said aggressively.
“Aye,” Connor said, “ye’re a big lump o’ a boy a’ right. Wonder if ye’d be good tae eat?”
Everybody in the pub burst out laughing. Bannan stared at them all and stood with his feet apart and his fists balled. “Naw, he said, “there’s naebody in here that wid make me pay money Ah goat fae “Beef’ Ramsey.”
“The very man,” Connor said. “H asked me tae talk tae ye. Ye know, ya bam, talk? The debt’s no’ his any mair. We’ve ta’en it o’er. Ye owe us the poppy noo. Gi’e me eighteen notes and ye’ve nothin’ tae worry aboot, right?”
“Whit if Ah tell ye tae take it oot o’ here?” Bannan said, tapping the tip of his nose with his clenched left hand.
Connor thought for a couple of moments. Then he said thoughtfully, “Maybe Ah’ll jist hiv tae dae that thing. We’ll see.”
“Ah’d like yous tae try,” Bannan said.
“Really,” Connor said.
“Aye,” Bannan said. “It shouldnae surprise ye tae learn that Ah’m able tae take care o’ masel –“
Bannan was still talking as Connor made his move. He turned on his heel. Facing the door he performed a strange jiggling motion with the right sleeve of his linen jacket. Dangling from a lanyard looped round his right wrist was a ten inch lead pipe. He threw the cosh over his left shoulder. After taking three skipping steps forward he made such an incredible leap it was as if he was attacking Bannan from three feet above. At the zenith of his arc he whipped the lead pipe in a backhand swipe away from his left shoulder. The vicious blow caught the base of Bannan’s right eye and his upper jaw smashing bones, and breaking upper molars in his mouth. Bannan at once began to choke and he made a wet, roaring, strangling sound of pain and rage.