As he told his story Connor held a crisp golden fritter between his thumb and forefinger, applied the brown condiment, and took a dainty bite. For my part, I seemed to have lost my appetite and was more thirsty than hungry. My mouth was very dry. I took a big gulp from my tumbler. “Did you get away?” I asked.
“Nae tother a’ ba’,” he said, employing a smart Glaswegian variant of ‘No bother at all.’ He spoke with his mouth full. “McCulloch went oot,”he said. “Ah glanced behind me for a brief second and Ah seen him takin’ aff the Balaclava as he marched smartly smartly towards the Ford. Ah waved the shotgun back and forth slowly, coverin’ the room. Ah waited half a minute or so. Naebody moved. Ah backed oot the room, slammed the door shut. Ah waited. Eventually, Ah stepped back fae the door. Ah stuck the pistol grip o’ the shotgun intae ma belt oan the left side. The barrel fitted in against ma body. As I moved quickly down the driveway to the car, Ah took aff the Balaclava and stuffed it intae ma back pocket as Ah went. McCulloch hid already started the engine. Ah goat intae the passenger seat and the Ford leaped oot the driveway, takin’ the curve on tae the main road wi’ the tyres screamin’.
“Phew!” I exclaimed. “What did you do next?”
“Went hame,” Connor said, “tae Centre Street and divvied up the dough. ‘Cully’ took back the shotgun tae some gangster in the Gorbals he’d rented the weapon fae. Then he done a strange thing. He gi’ed me the Luger and five rounds. And Ah still hiv it yit.”
Francesca had returned and was standing at the end of our table composing a bill.
I raised a finger and pointed it at the girl. Then I placed it against my lips.
“Sonny, hey,” Connor said, reaching out with his left hand to place it my right forearm. “You tryin’ tae warn me? Ah don’t care if the lassie hears me talkin’ aboot guns.”
“No, no,” I said, “wasn’t that. I was just trying to draw your attention to the waitress.”
“Well, all right, then,” Connor said, pulling open the stuffed wallet. He picked out an orange coloured ten-shilling note, fixing his gaze on the girl. “Tenga il resto,” he said, which from my Latin studies I took to mean ‘Keep the change.’ “I want everybody,” he continued, “between Paisley Road Toll and Lorne School tae know that Jackie Connor can get his hauns oan a Luger pistol any time he feels like it.”
“You mean you keep it on you?” I said.
Connor shook his head quickly and narrowed his eyes. “Naw,” he said. “Let’s jist say Ah’m the custodian o’ the weapon.”
I moistened my lips.
“But look,” Connor said, ‘it’s getting’ late and Ah hiv tae be somewhere. So look, a’ right? Gi’e us a walk o’er tae Burtons at the gushet and Ah’ll tell ye whit Ah learned fae the ‘scrappy’ deal.”
We scrambled out from the bench seats and made our way to the exit. As we passed Francesca who was standing behind the cash register she said: “Buona fortuna, Signor Connor. Jackie did not acknowledge the good wishes of our waitress. I took the opportunity to air the one Italian phrase with I was familiar. “Arrivederci, Francesca,” I said. I don’t think she heard me.