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Authors: Bill Daly

Tags: #Dective/Crime

Black Mail (2012)

BOOK: Black Mail (2012)
5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Black Mail (2012)
Daly, Bill

Murder and drug-dealing are all in a day's work for DCI Charlie Anderson, but everything's on a different scale now that psychopath Billy McAteer is back on the streets of Glasgow. Simon Ramsay, a successful and seemingly respectable businessman, receives an email with a photograph attached. If he doesn't come up with £50k, the sender will release it to the press, and Ramsay's career will be over. In a state of panic he contacts his mistress, Laura. He tells her a blackmailer has managed to get his hands on a compromising photo of them in bed together. Terrified of what her violent husband will do if he finds out about her affair, Laura enlists the services of McAteer to deal with the blackmailer. It is a moment of madness, with disastrous consequences. And it falls to DCI Anderson and his sidekick to unravel the trail of death and destruction.




‘Terrific pace, with new revelations and twists at every juncture… The staple crime diet of drugs, deceit, sex, blackmail, violence and murder is handled with panache and a humour typical of the Glasgow he evokes with total authenticity.’



‘Daly does a terrific job of evoking Glasgow in all its many layers. The villain of the piece is truly chilling and the policemen who pursue him hugely likeable. An impressive debut and a vivid new voice in tartan noir.’




For Jane

September 1980

Billy McAteer, a private in the British army, was on his first tour of active duty in Northern Ireland when the bomb exploded in the crowded pub. Off-duty, perched on a high stool and chatting to his mates when the blast erupted from behind the bar’s floor-to-ceiling plate glass mirror, his sixteen stones plucked from the stool and flung like a rag doll across the room, pursued by a million shards of mirror.

His body slammed into the far wall, the fragments of lancing glass ripping away his ear, exploding his left eyeball, slicing the flesh from his cheekbone and ripping his nostrils to shreds.

It took several hours on the operating table to rebuild his features, followed by months of plastic surgery to graft skin from his buttocks to his face.

Wednesday 15 December

A stiff northerly, whipping off the Clyde, was swirling the sleet past the shimmering floodlights and driving it down on Ibrox stadium. A mid-week, early evening kick-off to suit the television schedules, but still the ground was heaving.

The biting wind all but drowned out the lone drunken voice emanating from the back of the North Stand, but Billy McAteer mouthed the words along with him, a wry smile on his lips as he recalled the old days when the Copland Road end would lift the roof off the stadium throughout every match as they went through their anti-Papist repertoire.

Pausing for breath, the singer launched himself into:

It’s old but it is beautiful.

And its colours they are fine

McAteer grinned. ‘The Sash’ was his favourite. When he heard reproachful muttering breaking out behind him he scrambled to his feet and spun round. ‘Gaun yersel, pal,’ he shouted in the general direction of the unknown singer. ‘Gie it fuckin’ laldy!’ He glared along the row of disapproving faces, all of them avoiding
eye contact. ‘Anybody got a problem wi’ the man singin’?’ he demanded. The muttering quickly died away.

It was worn at Derry, Aughrim,

Eniskillen and the Boyne.

McAteer joined in, shouting out the words, the left side of his face glowing pink with the blood pulsing through his veins, just beneath the surface of the blotched tissue.

My father wore it as a youth,

In bygone days of yore.

Turning back to the game McAteer raised his face to the black heavens, allowing the stinging sleet whipping under the overhang of the stand roof to pour down his scarred forehead and seep into his vacant eye socket.

And on the Twelfth I love to wear

The sash my father wore.

McAteer stamped his feet in time as a long, shrill blast on the referee’s whistle signalled the end of the match, the cue for all the Rangers supporters in the packed stadium to rise to their feet, red white and blue scarves stretched taut above their heads, bodies swaying. McAteer mimed playing the flute as he sneered in the general direction of the despondent Celtic fans trudging towards the exits.

Draping his scarf around his shoulders McAteer stiffened his spine and stood tall, his right arm aloft, the Red Hand of Ulster
tattoo on the back of his clenched fist proclaiming its challenge to the world.


‘Ten days to go – and would you look at them?’ Charlie Anderson rubbed at the grubby storeroom window with the back of his glove, serving only to smear grime around the cracked pane.

‘Sir?’ Detective Sergeant Tony O’Sullivan glanced up from rummaging in his sports bag.

‘I said, would you look at them, Tony? There’s nothing in this world worse than frozen toes squelching inside soggy socks.’ Twisting his back, Charlie massaged the base of his spine with both hands as he peered down from the fourth-floor window, through a carpet of multi-coloured fairy lights, on the sea of heads bobbing along Argyle Street’s pedestrian precinct. ‘And these are the lucky ones. I’ve still got it all to face.’

O’Sullivan stared down on the sodden, weary procession trudging through the early evening gloom; countless numb fingers welded to the stretched handles of over-laden carrier bags. ‘It’s late-night opening tomorrow,’ he offered as he tugged a pair of powerful binoculars from their carrying case and untangled the leather strap.

‘You have got to be joking!’ Charlie pursed his lips and blew hard into his gloved fists. ‘I’m leaving it all till Rainday.’ O’Sullivan’s pale blue eyes squinted enquiringly in Charlie’s direction. ‘Family joke, Tony. Last week my grandson’s teacher asked his class to come up with words that were more descriptive than those in current use. Jamie suggested changing “Sunday” to “Rainday”.’

O’Sullivan’s freckled features creased in a smile. ‘I like it. Sunday – Rainday! Monday – Sleetday! Tuesday – Snowday! There’s a ring to it. It could well catch on.’

Detective Chief Inspector Charlie Anderson pulled a handkerchief from his trouser pocket and used it to wipe the melting sleet from his head. Completely bald, apart from a few white wisps of hair at his temples and some desultory tufts clinging to the nape of his thick neck, he was well over six feet tall, heavily built and round faced – ‘ba’-faced’ in Glasgow parlance. As he pushed his handkerchief back into his pocket, his prominent stomach strained against his buttoned-up overcoat. ‘Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?’ Charlie asked.

‘No one to buy for, sir.’

Charlie winced. ‘Sorry! I forgot that you and Anne had –’

‘No problem,’ O’Sullivan said. ‘I do need to stock up on the booze, though. I was hoping I might get off in time to get to Oddbins tonight,’ he added, his raised eyebrows indicating a distinct lack of optimism on that score.

Draping the binoculars around his neck O’Sullivan gripped both handles of the sash window and tugged hard, but it refused to budge. He examined the painted-in frame, then took a
screwdriver from his sports bag and used it to prise the window open, sending a cloud of faded-green paint flakes and splintered wood fluttering down towards the floor. A blast of freezing air invaded the cramped storeroom, along with Noddy Holder’s strident voice proclaiming:

So here it is

Merry Christmas

Everybody’s having fun

Charlie looked across at the two Salvation Army guitarists on the opposite pavement. A few minutes earlier they had been
attempting to tune up but had given up the unequal struggle and they now stood shivering, flexing their fingers and stamping their feet, waiting impatiently for Slade to run their course. As soon as the closing bars started to fade away they strummed a quick intro and launched themselves into a dirge-like rendition of ‘Silent Night’.

O’Sullivan dropped down on one knee and balanced the binoculars on the window ledge to trawl the far pavement. Beyond the musicians, a drenched, kilted piper had given up all hope of keeping his instrument dry and was squatting on the kerb, puffing on a hand-rolled cigarette and swigging from a can of lager. A
Big Issue
seller with a weary, fixed smile was trying to drum up business in the middle of the precinct and, behind him, several small children had their noses pressed hard against Marks & Spencer’s brightly lit windows. O’Sullivan continued panning left, stopping abruptly when a familiar profile, huddled in Marks & Spencer’s doorway, came into view. ‘Looks like the tip-off was kosher, sir,’ he said, recognising Gerry Fraser’s unshaven features. ‘Our ageing hippie is propping up the wall.’

Fraser’s blue trench coat was belted tightly round his waist, his long, grey hair pulled back into a ponytail and held in position by an elastic band. Through the powerful lenses O’Sullivan could see the folds of flesh hanging loose from Fraser’s scrawny neck and he sharpened his focus on the spiky hairs protruding from the mole at the base of his nostrils.

Charlie stepped back from the window and whacked both arms around his shoulders in an attempt to get his circulation moving. ‘What’s he up to?’ he demanded, his breath puffing out in a series of frosty clouds.

O’Sullivan tinkered constantly with the focus ring as he ran the binoculars up and down Fraser’s body. ‘He has a collection box of some kind.’ He zoomed in close. ‘Looks like Save the Children.’ Easing down the sash window he took the binoculars from around his neck and wedged them between the window frame and the sill. Having checked the binoculars were still trained on Fraser he rammed his hands deep into the pockets of his leather jacket while continuing to stare through the sleet-splattered lenses.

‘You wouldn’t think it beyond their capabilities to come up with a heated stakeout,’ Charlie grumbled.

‘It could’ve been worse. Renton drew the short straw. He’s out on the roof of W.H. Smith’s.’

Charlie craned his neck to squint in the direction of the figure huddled behind the low parapet on the flat rooftop, two floors lower down and thirty yards further along the precinct. DC Colin Renton was easy to make out; his tartan flat cap never left his bald head in winter. He was crouched on one knee, scanning Argyle Street with his binoculars, but Charlie could see that the angle of Marks & Spencer’s doorway was wrong for him. He wouldn’t be able to see Fraser from where he was.

‘The joys of a Glasgow winter!’ Charlie sighed. ‘Have you ever noticed how Glaswegians behave in this kind of weather?’

‘I believe you might have mentioned it, sir.’ O’Sullivan hid his grin behind the binoculars.

‘You’d think umbrellas had never been invented.’

‘Perhaps the Sally Bash have cornered the market?’ O’Sullivan suggested.

‘Silent night, holy night,

All is calm, all is bright

Charlie looked in the direction of the music. There were six uniformed figures on the far side of the precinct, the two guitarists having been joined by a trumpet player and three tambourine-waving vocalists, one male, two female, each with a hand-held microphone – their voices trilling from beneath a Heath Robinson structure of interlocked golf umbrellas. Charlie turned and stared in the direction of the Trongate. He shook his head; no one hurrying, no one even trying to huddle close to the buildings for shelter. Confirmation of the resignation bred into the Glaswegian psyche. The Almighty has ordained that they’re on this earth to be pissed on, so that’s how it has to be, even tilting their heads forward as if offering up their necks to some unseen celestial guillotine.

Sleep in heav–enly pe–ace,

Sle–ep in heavenly peace.

Charlie turned away from the window and strode up and down the cramped storeroom, his black brogues stomping on the cracked linoleum, his arms flailing like a beached walrus in distress. ‘What’s happening?’ he demanded, stopping in his tracks and staring at the back of O’Sullivan’s head.

‘Not a lot. I’ve never seen a less enthusiastic flag seller in all my puff. Several people have gone up to him and they’ve virtually had to force their money into his can. The stingy wee bugger isn’t even handing out stickers.’

Charlie took the walkie-talkie from O’Sullivan’s sports bag and switched it on. ‘Anderson to all units,’ he barked. ‘Gerry Fraser’s been sighted in Marks & Spencer’s doorway. Hold position and await further instructions.’ Dropping the walkie-talkie back
into the bag, Charlie resumed his pacing to the opening bars of ‘Good King Wenceslas’. ‘Still nothing?’

‘No, sir.’ Charlie repeated the question every couple of minutes, getting the same answer each time. After the third time of asking O’Sullivan gave up responding.

‘Still noth –’

‘Hold on a minute!’

‘What is it?’ Charlie froze in mid-flap, arms fully extended.

‘I think it’s … Yes! It’s Tosh McCulloch.’

‘Bingo!’ Charlie slapped his back hard, flinching as an arthritic spasm shot the length of his spine.

O’Sullivan pulled his hands from his pockets and his frozen fingers gripped the binoculars. As McCulloch approached the flag seller O’Sullivan zoomed in hard on Fraser’s face and saw his cracked lips move. He panned out to a full body shot as the two men came together and he watched as McCulloch reached into his inside jacket pocket and produced a wad of banknotes which he started to thumb through under Fraser’s nose. Counting off several notes, McCulloch’s fist hovered over the extended collection box and then words were exchanged as he stuffed the money into the slot. Fraser peeled several Save the Children stickers from his pad and stuck them onto the collar of McCulloch’s faded blue anorak before McCulloch scuttled off.

‘What the hell’s going on?’ Charlie demanded.

O’Sullivan wrenched up the window frame to release the binoculars and scrambled to his feet.

‘McCulloch stuffed a wad of notes into the collection box, but there was no handover.’

‘Are you sure?’


‘Shit!’ Charlie slammed his fist into the palm of his hand. ‘What happened then?’

‘McCulloch buggered off.’

‘In what direction?’

‘Towards St Enoch’s.’

‘Give me those,’ Charlie said, snatching the binoculars from O’Sullivan’s grasp and lowering himself stiffly into position to train the glasses on Fraser.

‘Should we nick them, sir?’ O’Sullivan asked.

‘On what charge?’ Charlie growled. ‘Excessive generosity to Save the Children? I doubt if that stingy wee bastard McCulloch has ever donated a penny to a charitable cause in his life. Now, all of a sudden, he’s Santa fucking Claus!’

When Charlie stared through the binoculars he saw Fraser raise both arms high above his head. Swivelling the glasses in the direction Fraser was facing he came to a juddering halt when the familiar, liver-spotted features of Johnny Devlin filled the lenses. ‘Well, what do you know? If it isn’t his drinking pal.’ Charlie switched quickly back to Fraser. ‘They’re using the old tick-tack. Who said spending my youth at Ayr races was a waste of time?’ Charlie studied Fraser’s flailing arms. ‘Four hundred quid on number two, whatever the hell that might mean. He’s repeating the same message.’ Charlie swung the binoculars back to Devlin who was now tapping on the keypad of his mobile phone.

When a poor man came in sight,

Gathering winter fu–el

‘It’s a three-way routine.’ Charlie had to shout to make himself heard above the screech of the tenor who was attempting the
descant to the detriment of the sopranos who could no longer hold the tune. ‘A pound to a pinch of shit a handover’s being authorised,’ Charlie roared as he watched Devlin gabble into the mouthpiece. ‘Tell the team to move in now, Tony! I want all three of them – as well as whoever’s on the other end of that phone call.’

O’Sullivan grabbed the walkie-talkie from his sports bag and flicked it on as he raced towards the store room door. Taking the steep stairs two at a time, he barked out instructions.

BOOK: Black Mail (2012)
5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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