When the professor left, Charlie checked out of the hotel, leaving his overnight bag at the reception desk to be collected later. He decided to celebrate with a pint and a snack in one of the local bars before heading back to his place in Fitou. As you would expect in a resort town like Alicante, he was spoilt for choice, but he settled on a back-street bar that looked like it might be popular with British tourists. He didn’t feel up to being too experimental with Spanish food.
He bought and paid for a glass of San Miguel and some anglicised version of tapas at the counter, and sat down at a table near the entrance. There were a few magazines and newsletters spread around for the use of customers. He helped himself to a copy of ‘El Pais’. If he had to work with Spanish academics, he was going to need to improve his Spanish. A bit of reading it over lunch wouldn’t go amiss.
He buried his head in the newspaper, but his concentration was spasmodic. The professor’s proposal that he might want to sign up for a doctoral programme kept coming back to him. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. Doctor Charles Best M.A. Ph.D., author and historian, sounded a lot better than Inspector Charlie Best of the Glasgow police: the cops who never got their man.
Suddenly, his thoughts were disrupted by a familiar Scottish twang he would never have expected to hear. He turned his head to see where it was coming from. Jesus! What the hell were they doing here? His mouth dried up and he gagged. What if they saw him? What if…? He slithered further down into the chair and lowered his head back into ‘El Pais’. If they noticed him at all, would they see a local out for a coffee and a morning read? For his sake, he hoped so.
He knew them. and they knew him. Big Tam Thomson, Mac the Knife and Billy the Kid. And the fourth man. My God, MacKenzie! Detective Chief Superintendent Duncan MacKenzie of Glasgow Police. He was silently mouthing the name. Was MacKenzie in with them? Was he mixed up in their dirty trade? Had to be. Jesus! This was dynamite.
They went past him laughing and joking. Charlie shivered but didn’t dare look up. He just had to hope they weren’t taking much notice of their surroundings. They’d all had a few, their loud banter filling the room. Smutty remarks about women mixed in with chit-chat about football. They were going up to Valencia later to catch the game with Barca. Big Tam was a Real Madrid man, but the policeman was praising the skills of Messi. It was all good natured banter. Nothing was being said to indicate they had clocked him when they came in.
He listened to it all with his eyes still in the newspaper, fear fighting against fury. MacKenzie was one of them! That was the real reason Big Tam could run riot, spreading misery and making Glasgow the most violent city in the civilised world. He thought back on all his cases. There were times when they could have collared Tam and his hoods. It would only have needed a court order or a search warrant to get the evidence. In every case he could remember, MacKenzie had either blocked or screwed up the application. Knowing what he knew now, he could see that. Charlie Best had never liked the man. MacKenzie had the blood of hundreds on his hands, including young Detective Wagtree. Somehow, Charlie would make him pay.
But that would have to wait for later. There was a more immediate threat. MacKenzie and Thomson couldn’t afford news of their chumminess to get back to Glasgow. And they knew only one way to solve these kind of inconveniences, as Wee Wullie Wagtree had found out. Charlie didn’t fancy being discovered in some remote Spanish rubbish tip with his throat cut. The survival instinct kicked in. He had to get out of there before they saw him. His life depended on it.
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