SCRAPPIES’ CONVENTION

“Let me tell you what happened,” Connor said. He swallowed a forkful of peas, gulped a mouthful of Kola and belched silently. “We nicked an auld humphy-backed Ford Popular that wiz parked beside the Co-operative Headquarters in Carnoustie Street. We stowed the big Luger handgun and the sawed-aff shotgun in the foot well in front of me, and ‘Cully’ drove to the scrap yard in Cambuslang where the ‘scrappies’ were hau’din’ their meetin’. He reversed the wee Ford up a steep driveway that led tae a big, metal shed. ‘Cully’ reached intae the back seat and came up wi’ two woolen Balaclavas helmets, each wi’ two eye holes cut oot. We pulled them o’er oor heids. ‘Bring oot the guns,’ McCulloch commanded. Ah took the double-barreled shotgun The barrel hid been sawn aff jist afore the front end o’ the stock. The stock wiz cut aff jist behin’ the pistol grip. ‘This’ll clear oot a room in nae time,’ McCulloch said. ‘You take it, Jackie. Ah’ll take the Luger.’ We goat oot o’ the motor and walked slowly up the driveway. Ah held the pistol grip in ma right haun’ and whit wiz left o’ the barrel in ma left. ‘Cully’ gripped his pistol in his right fist and clamped his left haun’ oantae his wrist furr support. Baith his airms wurr stretched oot in front o’ him.”

Francesca had returned to our table bearing a bowl of freshly fried potato fritters and a flask of brown liquid. “ Ecco,” she said. “Pattatine fritte.”

Connor did not miss a beat. “Grazie,” he muttered and resumed his narration. “McCulloch kicked the door of the shed open and went quickly intae the room. Ah came in fast behind him. See, we’d rehearsed whit we wurr gonnae dae furr aboot a week beforehand.

“There wurr two round wooden tables wi’ eight men in the gaff. The men sat motionless wi’ tumblers on the tables in front o’ them.”

“They were ambushed?” I gasped.

“Wan fat guy in a maroon polo neck sweater who wiz sittin’ at the front table took his Capstan cigarette oot his mooth and put it in the ashtray. He said: ‘Oh oh.’ McCulloch stuck the barrel o’ the thirty-eight in the fat guy’s face. The guy looked up slowly, clasping his haun’s between his legs. Ah goat a nod fae ‘Cully’ and Ah stepped furrit tae the table farthest away fae the door. Ah held the shotgun close tae an auld yin’s eyes.”

“McCulloch shouted: ‘Whit yous hiv goat in yer pockets, place it a’ oan the table.’ He abruptly hit the fat guy wi’ the barrel o’ the Luger, usin’ a choppin’ backhand motion that caught the fat man at the base of his neck at the collar. The fat man groaned but managed tae keep himsel’ upright in his chair.

“Ah stepped furrit and held the shotgun close tae the left ear o’ the auld man at ma table. He leaned furrit in the chair. He took oot his wallet fae the back pocket o’ his gungaree troosers. He removed a stack o’ banknotes and slowly and deliberately placed them oan the table.

“While the auld fella wiz busy stackin’ up notes, Ah swung the shotgun roon tae point at the next man. He wore a checked flannel shirt wi’ braces. He reached furr his wallet.

“McCulloch made his well-rehearsed speech: ‘Whit we want, we want everythin’ yous’ve goat in yer wallets. Gi’e it a’ up and keep quiet. That way ma young frien’ here disnae get nervous and blow somebody’s face aff. How’s that, eh?’

“The rest o’ the men,” Connor said, “goat oot their wallets and put money oan the tables. Ah went back tae the doorway. McCulloch moved fae wan table tae the other , collectin’ the money and stuffin’ it intae the pockets o’ his long trenchcoat. Ah stepped furrit two paces. Mcculloch passed behin’ me and stood near the door, waved his pistol fae side tae side. Then he made his farewell speech. ‘Yous’ve been very good,’ he said. ‘Stay good. Naebody’s hurt. Don’t try tae follow us.’

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