‘I’d be a gun for hire.’
‘No guns, Brodie. Not this time.’
‘A mercenary then.’
‘What’s the difference between a policeman’s wages and a private income? You’d be doing the same thing.’
‘No warrant card. No authority. No back-up.’ I ticked off the list on my fingers.
She countered: ‘No hierarchy. No boss to fight.’
I studied Samantha Campbell. She knew me too well. It was a disturbing talent of hers. Of women. She was nursing a cup of tea in her downstairs kitchen, her first since getting home from the courts. Her cap of blond hair was still flattened by a day sporting the scratchy wig. The bridge of her nose carried the dents of her specs. I’d barely got in before her and was nursing my own temperance brew, both of us putting off as long as appeared seemly the first proper drink of the evening. Neither of us wanting to be the first to break.
‘How much?’ I asked as idly as it’s possible for a man who’s overdrawn at his bank.
‘They’re offering twenty pounds a week until you solve the crimes. Bonus of twenty if you clean it up by Christmas.’
‘I’ve got a day job.’
‘Paying peanuts. Besides, I thought you were fed up with it?’
She was right. It was no secret between us. I’d barely put in four months as a reporter on the Glasgow Gazette but already it was palling. It was the compromises I found hardest. I didn’t mind having my elegant prose flattened and eviscerated. Much. But I struggled to pander to the whims of the newspaper bosses who in turn were pandering to their scandal-fixated readership. With hindsight my naivety shocked me. I’d confused writing with reporting. I wanted to be Hemingway not Fleet Street Frankie.
‘They gave me a rise of two quid a week.’
‘The least they could do. You’re doing two men’s jobs.’
She meant I was currently the sole reporter on the crime desk at the Gazette. My erstwhile boss, Wullie McAllister, was still nursing a split skull in the Erskine convalescent home.
‘Which means I don’t have time for a third.’
‘This would be spare time. Twenty quid a week for a few hours’ detective work? A man of your experience and talent?’
‘“Ne’er was flattery lost on poet’s ear.” Why are you so keen for me to do this? Am I behind with the rent? Not paying my whisky bills?’