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The sky was the color of fish blood. Regis stuck his head out the café door like a badger emerging from its set. Mills watched him approach the snot-green rental Honda with that bopping walk like his left leg had been ripped to shit by a bear. Regis threw himself into the driver’s seat and sniffed. ‘This one got a smell.’

‘It was fine till you got in,’ Mills said. ‘But let's assume it's coincidental.’

Regis turned on the radio, which burbled like a coffeemaker on the fritz.

‘It’s an Internet thing. I forgot the password.’

‘Jesus.’ Regis commenced adjusting the crotch of his jeans.

‘If you don’t mind me inquiring, what is stuffed down your trousers?’


‘I assume it is either a gun or you have acquired a permanent hard on. And I’m honest to god not sure which I find most disturbing.’

Regis sheepishly laid the gun on the armrest. A Bersa Thunder 380. Mills picked it up, despite knowing where it had been. ‘We don’t need a gun for this gig. You retarded?’

‘Don't use the R word, Charlie. That's offensive. I know a whole lot of retards would be very offended by that.’

‘Your average retard is too retarded to get offended by anything you say to him. This is how come your standard retard is a jovial fucker. Nothing bothers him.’

Regis nodded at the gun. ‘It’s not that deep, man. Better safe than sorry.’

‘In your case, it’d be sorry. You’re liable to blow your own balls off.’

‘Man don't do dem tings,’ Regis declaimed, studying the grey pavement. Big treacle drops splattered. ‘Fucking hell,’ he sneered. ‘Rain.’

The car roof rattled and pinged.

‘No, hailstones.’

‘Fucking hell.’

There were only two seasons in Glasgow: June and winter. White hail was frying on the grass verge now, an apocalyptic scene.

‘I was watching this documentary about how ships are put together,’ Mills announced. ‘Totally riveting.’

The street a forbidding grey. Everything mud-grey. The sky. The pavement grey, and grey the granite buildings.

‘Still seeing the one with the legs?’

‘Nah, we consciously uncoupled. She gone back to Brum.’

‘With another bloke?’

‘No, the fucking circus.’

Mills was about to say she was used to hooking up with clowns, but decided against it.

‘Her parents didn’t appreciate me.’

Mills struggled with his composure. ‘You don't say?’

‘Her old man says how he wanted me to hurry up and murder her so the family could get to grieve properly.’

‘That's harsh. That's toxic masculinity that is. I read about that. I liked looking at that girl some though. She had the longest legs in the world.’

Regis stared. ‘Yeah, some days they went all the way to the ground.’ He didn't speak for a while. ‘She's doing bits up there, but seeing this clapped individual.’

Mills shook his head. ‘Last serious relationship I had, I was treated like a piece of meat.’

Regis regarded Mills expectantly.

‘The bird was a vegan and refused to touch me.’ Mills wiped clean a pair of spectacles. Regis watched him huff on the lenses.

‘I didn't know you wore specs.’

‘I don't.’

Regis slapped the steering wheel. ‘Christ, you’re fucking trying.’

There followed silence.

‘What's he like then?’

‘Twisted little homunculus. I’ve scraped meaner off the bottom of my shoe.’

The occupants of the tenement came and went. Some pedestrians looked like their clothes had woken up that morning and swallowed them.

Mills unrolled a Daily Record. His wire-rims gave him a scholarly appearance.

‘Seen Cal Dury recently?’

Mills sighed. ‘No. Why?’

‘Drowned himself in the Thames.’

Mills lowered the newspaper. ‘There's one good reason I haven't seen him then.’

‘They dragged him out bloated and wormy.’

‘I wasn't looking for him anyway.’ Mills yawned and returned to his tabloid.

‘Just as well, since you wouldn't find him,’ Regis offered. ‘With him being dead. Did you know Cal was half Romany?’

‘I did not.’ Mills peered over the top of his spectacles. ‘Did he live in a caravan then?’

‘I went to that death celebration thing at his house before the funeral.’

‘You mean a wake.’ Mills closed his eyes in exasperation.

‘So, the gypsies leave the windows of the bedroom open so his soul could get out, and put this big sheet over the mirror so it wasn’t confused.’

‘Why would the mirror get confused?’ Mills pressed his lips into a dry smirk.

‘Not the mirror. The soul. The soul it is what gets confused by the mirror.’


‘Because it sees itself and gets a fright,’ Regis speculated, wildly.

‘Like what happens when you look in the mirror?’ Mills ceased laughing, pointed at the rearview. ‘We got us action.’

A woman carrying a beige leather shoulder bag came out. Her lipstick so dark it seemed black against the paleness of her face. She wore strapless heels and her jeans hung low on her hips and there was a reckless tattoo at the base of her spine that drifted up her arse as she swayed by their car. A scarlet scarab. Plum nail polish on the end of long be-ringed fingers.

‘That’s the secretary,’ Regis observed. ‘Got a cheapo tramp stamp. Classy not.’

‘He’s sent the help out so he can do business. Let’s go help by disrupting his business. Every business needs a good disrupting.’