‘Are you all right, Agnes?’ said Samantha Campbell. ‘It’s over now. We can get on.’
Agnes Brodie sniffed and wiped her nose and eyes with her hankie.
‘Ah never thought Ah’d see the day. It’s not right for a son to go before his mother.’
Sam patted her hand and turned to the men sitting facing them.
‘You’re drookit, the pair of you. I hope you haven’t overdone it, Wullie. Can you get that cape off him, Stewart? Dry out a bit?’
She reached to help him pull it over his head and drop it on the floor. The smell of wet rubber tanged the air. His face was blanched and he took in two shuddering breaths to settle himself.
‘That’s better. Thanks, hen.’
‘I said you shouldn’t have come. You’re barely out of hospital.’
‘I’m fine, lassie.’ To prove his fitness, Wullie McAllister, sometime doyen of crime reporting at the Glasgow Gazette, reached into his jacket, pulled out his pack of Craven A, lit up and drew luxuriously on his cigarette. Stewart, his companion, slid a window open an inch.
‘Ah should have brought a half-bottle,’ Wullie said wistfully. ‘Will you be having a wee bit of a wake? Raise a glass to him? Even though we’re so few.’
Sam and Agnes exchanged glances.
‘Surely we should get you straight home? Get you into dry clothes?’ asked Sam.
‘Inner warmth. That’s what Ah need.’
Sam smiled at Agnes and lifted an eyebrow. ‘Of course, Wullie. A dram it is. And I’ve got some soup on the go as well.’
They were quiet for a bit, then Agnes spoke.
‘Such a poor turnout, as well.’
‘You can hardly blame them, Agnes. We asked for privacy in the Gazette and the Kilmarnock Standard.’
‘Ah suppose so, Samantha. A’ the same.’
Wullie flourished his fag at the thought. ‘He wouldnae have wanted a fuss. You know what Brodie’s like.’
Stewart joined in. ‘They all wanted to come from the Gazette. Wullie talked them out of it. Said he’d represent them.’
Sam nodded. ‘And I was approached by half the synagogue at Garnethill. You know what Douglas did for them. I said it just wasn’t right. It would have felt wrong somehow.’
Agnes persisted. ‘Not even his old regiment. There should have been a piper.’
Wullie blew out smoke. ‘Mrs Brodie, funerals are dreich enough affairs without “The Flowers of the Forest” making our ears bleed.’
Again, silence left them with their thoughts all the way across the sodden Fenwick Moors and back on to the rain-lashed streets of Glasgow. It was only as they began the climb up to Park Terrace and Sam’s home that Wullie spoke.
‘Ah’ll fair miss him, so Ah will.’ He unfurled a huge white hankie and gave his nose a good blow.
Sam pursed her lips. She reached out and touched his hand.
‘Wullie, I have a confession—’
‘Wheesht, hen, Ah know you blame yourself.’
She hesitated as the car drew to a halt by the kerb. She nodded.
‘You’re right. It would never have happened if he’d got through to me that night.’
Agnes shook her head. ‘You cannae blame yourself, Samantha. Douglas wouldn’t have listened to you anyway. He was as stubborn as his faither.’
‘I might have persuaded him. It could have turned out differently . . .’

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Gallowglass BOOKS