“Mhairi? It’s DS Anderson …”
“Ah dinney ken ony DS Anderson. Fuck aff!”
Jas lowered his voice. “DS Anderson – London Road. Remember?” They’d been close, he and Mhairi … Jas smiled: the nearest thing he’d had to a friend in the days before Leigh.
“Fuck aff, polis!” A harsh laugh. “Ah’ve had enougha yous tae last me a lifetime.”
“Come on, Mhairi …” He kicked the bottom of the door. It didn’t give an inch. “… open up. It’s Jas – ah’ve bin talkin’ tae Ali.”
Silence. Then: “Ali? Ali who?”
Jas laughed. “Ali-fuckin’ Baba! Ali Rehmandi – remember? Ali’s worried aboot ye, Mhairi. Ah wis worried aboot ye tae.”
Scrapings, bolts unbolted, chains unchained. Slowly, the door opened a crack. A jaundiced eye peered at him. “Jas? Big Jas?”
“Aye, Mhairi … can ah come in?”
The door burst open and a thin arm grabbed his. “Get inside, ya stupit fuck … whit ye dain’ roon here?” He was pulled into the flat.
In the unlit hall, Mhairi carefully re-did dead-bolts and the three-foot metal security bar which ran the breadth of the door.
Jas waited. She turned, pressing fingers into his chest.
“Go on through, man.”
Jas made his way through to the lounge. Mhairi followed. The walls were a lurid orange, the carpet new, a static-inducing brown nylon. There was no furniture to speak of. A couple of blankets lay in a corner, along with a blue sleeping-bag. Three large holdalls slouched in a corner, spilling what looked like black PVC. A small TV sat perkily on a cardboard box. The room was tidy and clean. Jas walked to the curtainless window, before turning. “It’s bin a while, Mhairi.”
Long, dark hair hung across her face. She wore red sweat-pants and a baggy white top. Large, black trainers housed small feet. She looked impossibly young. Smack … the fountain of youth. At 5′ 4″ Mhairi was smaller, thinner than Jas remembered …
She pushed back the hair.
… but the eyes were the same, just a little yellower. Blue pupils stared out of a Dresden face which was pale as the china, hard as the bombing-raids. The mouth was set in a red curl, mocked by the long crescent scar which linked right eye to a birthmark above top lip. Drawn by a crazed dot-to-dot fanatic whose hand had slipped, the wound glared defiantly at Jas.
She laughed. The scar twitched.
“Hid a good look, hiv ye?” Mhairi walked to the TV and lifted a packet of cigarettes.
Jas had heard about the attack, but not seen the result. Like Dali’s ‘St. John’, Mhairi had survived wanton vandalism, but apparently rejected any restoration attempts. She wore her damage like a badge, flaunting it.
She jiggled a cigarette in his direction.
He shook his head and moved closer. Gently, he traced the length of the scar-tissue with the back of a finger. It was knobbly, rough beneath his touch.
Remaining stationary, Mhairi grabbed his wrist. “Didney think you were intae wimmin … but that’ll be ten quid, onyway.” She grinned. The scar twitched again. “Ah’ll dae you a special rate. The punters pay fifteen tae touch it, twenty tae lick it.”
Jas laughed, enjoying the rapport. “Easy money, eh Mhairi?”
She let go his wrist and lit a cigarette. “Maybe the Johnstones did me a favour.” She exhaled noisily, blowing a smoke-ring. “Huvney opened ma legs in months. Nae need.” She fingered her means of production. “Maest’re happy jist lookin’, then ah toss them aff. A few are intae the rough stuff …” She pointed to the holdalls. “… but that’s nae hassle, eether.” She smiled. “Gies me a chance tae dress up!” Mhairi shook her head, disbelieving. “Corrective Services …” She pronounced the words awkwardly. “Never knew there wur so many weirdos …” She corrected herself. “… gentlemen of exotic tastes, in Glasgow …” She sat down.
Jas joined her on the floor. “Take aw’ sorts, Mhairi.”
An ironic smile. “You’d be the expert, man!” Sigh. “If ah’d kent that earlier, ah couldda retired by noo. As it is …” She looked down at her hands.
“Still oan the junk, ah hear.”
She nodded. “Aye …” She puffed on the cigarette. “… but at least ah’m aff the streets.” Pause. “’ Member Chrissy?”
Jas remembered. “Ah wis sorry tae hear aboot …”
“Jist a kid.” The voice was low, tinged with sadness. “Couldney get by on the social, no wi’ Tony’s habit an’ aw …”
At eighteen, Christine McGhee’s semi-cremated body had been discovered, naked, three months ago on waste ground. Stabbed twenty-five times. Her common-law husband was currently in custody, awaiting trial.
“Did it tae feed the kids, only the wance. Some psycho … no’ Tony.” Anger. “Doesney seem fair. At least ah kent whit ah wis dain’ …” She looked at Jas.
“The risks …” She pulled off a black trainer and rubbed a foot. Between toes red puncture marks dotted the white skin. “… we aw’ take risks, eh man? The risk ye take tae block-oot another risk can turn oan ye.”
Jas frowned. Life was full of risks … of one sort or another. Risks helped fill the emptiness. Mhairi laughed again. “Aw’ this, an’ ah’m still alive an’ clean as a whistle … ’part fae the hepatitis …”
“Lucka the draw, Mhairi. Ye must have a guardian angel up there, somewhere …” They sat silently together on the floor. Through the wall, from the next flat, an agonised moan.
Mhairi finished her cigarette, killed it in the ashtray. “So, Big Man – tae whit dae ah owe the pleasure?” She stood up almost jauntily.
“Ah had a word wi’ Jimmy Mygo.”
Nod. “So ah heard. Wish ah’d seen it. Whit that bastard did tae that wee boay …” Anger, then pity. “The polis chuck ye oot?”
“Suspended, but that’s the leasta ma worries. Ali says the brothers Grimm ur efter me. Ah need tae git tae them first, Mhairi. Ye heard anythin’ else?”
Mhairi walked to the far side of the room, paused. “They’ll no’ be well pleased,” she murmured, “that’s fur sure. But ah’ve a feelin’ they’ll no’ dae much aboot it. Jimmy wiz an … embarrassment tae them.”
“They still nickin’ cors?”
Headshake, then laugh. “Naw … almost legit, noo, the Johnstones. Big garage – ‘valeting’ they call it. Flash motors …”
Jas remembered the spinning wheels and screaming brakes of a white BMW.
“Still runnin’ the girls, on the side, though,” she continued. “Coupla boys too, nooadays, fae whit ah’ve bin telt … young boys.”
Jas frowned. “Diversification – the mark of the real entrepreneur!”
Mhairi looked puzzled. “Onyway,” she went on, “ah’d stay well oota their way, Jas.” Pause. “Hey … ye don’t want me tae start snoutin’ fur ye again, or anything?” She crouched down.
“Naw … you did yer bit.”
“’ Cos ah’ve goat a new guy …”
Jas rubbed the broken skin on his knuckles.
“Toap man.” Mhairi smiled. “Pays better than you ever did!”
“That’s between you an’ him, Mhairi … dae ah ken the guy?”
She shook her head. “Stewart Street … canny tell ye onything else.”
Jas understood. He got up. “Know where the Johnstones’re livin’ these days?”
“Movin’ aboot, fae whit ah hear. Nowhere near here, though – thank fuck!” Her voice leaked concern. “Don’t go lookin’ fur trouble, Jas … let it lie.”
A tough gay thriller set in the criminal underworld of Glasgow, Scotland.Set in the derelict inner-city of Glasgow’s Dennistoun, FreeForm introduces a tough new gay cop, Detective-Sergeant Jas Anderson. A violent anti-hero, suspended from duty for assault when the story opens, Jas is the natural suspect when Leigh, his lover and partner in a heavy S/M relationship, is found brutally murdered. Now on the run and struggling to clear his name, Jas uncovers Leigh’s involvement in a blackmail ring, and even his lover’s identity becomes confused. Film-noir in inspiration, vividly characterised, and authentically exposing the raw nerves of Thatcherite Britain, FreeForm is set to appeal to a wide readership.
This edition is accompanied by an exclusive 2019 foreword by Clive King.
More About Author Jack Dickson
Jack Dickson – former bass player with Gomorrah and the Sodomites, fashionisto and classically trained pianist (Grade VIII, distinction!) – works and lives in the east end of Glasgow with his partner and his Jack Russell, Dixie. A novelist, screenwriter and currently playwright, Jack continues to obsess over the damaged, charismatic mavericks who fill his novels. Shamelessly mining the world around him and beyond, he writes about junkies and babies, old ladies and ash trees, soldiers and Afghani dancing boys: ordinary people just trying to plough a furrow for themselves through difficult landscapes. When he’s not doing this, Jack himself enjoys a charmed life teaching T’ai Chi, baking his own bread and wandering the Easterhouse marshlands looking (these days!) for buzzards and water voles. He’s the world’s most productive layabout, who was always urged to get a proper job. And still hasn’t. Jack is super chuffed that ReQueered Tales are republishing the “Jas Anderson Investigates” series.
US link: https://www.amazon.com/FreeForm-Jas-Anderson-Book-1-ebook/dp/B07T2F8B96/
UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/FreeForm-Jas-Anderson-Book-1-ebook/dp/B07T2F8B96/
Canadian link: https://www.amazon.ca/FreeForm-Jas-Anderson-Book-1-ebook/dp/B07T2F8B96/
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