1. Credibility

Friday 22nd April 2005



The Saracen’s Head might sound like a rough bar, if judging by the name, but, unlike the other two pubs of the same name in the city, this one was not a ‘spittoon and straw’ establishment. From the renovated front and tinted windows, through to the toilets and games room, it had been refurbished to create an air of comfort and respectability. The oblong shape of the unit lent itself well to a line of booths along the wall opposite the bar, and a few tables were randomly placed towards the rear.

‘Big Stevie’ Bains, the bar manager was an imposing figure. However smartly he dressed, his bald head, tattooed arms and heavy build were at odds with the establishment, but he worked hard to sound civil. He was wiping the already immaculate bar surface and replacing the fleece bar mats when the front doors flew open.

A handsome woman in her twenties had made a hurried entrance. Her shoulder-length brown hair was tousled, and she wasn’t wearing makeup. She wore a denim jacket and skirt, a white blouse, and black shoes with a moderate heel.

“Brandy and coke … please,” she panted.

“Certainly, love, and while I’m pouring it, you can catch your breath.”

“Thanks.” She turned to see that almost all of the early evening clientele were looking at her. Men and women of various ages and appearance sat in the booths, and along the bar stood four men. A couple at a table towards the back were also both gazing towards the new arrival.

When the drink was placed in front of her, the woman handed over a large denomination note, and gulped some of her drink before she’d received her change. She was sliding a manilla envelope under a large, colourful bar mat when the barman turned back to her.

Stevie handed over her change, and glanced at the bar mat. “Is everything okay?”

She nodded. “Where’s the ladies?”

He nodded to his left. “Far end, and the door is labelled.”

The woman nodded her thanks, adjusted the large bag on her shoulder, and strode to the toilets, nodding and smiling at those who continued to look at her.

Five minutes later, a handsome, smartly-dressed woman, and a woman in police uniform walked in. They paused to look around, and approached the bar. The woman in the suit smiled at Stevie, but her companion remained deadpan.

Stevie had narrowed his eyes when they’d entered, but acted cordially. “What can I get for you?”

The blonde, thirty-something in the suit, held up a small black wallet showing her identity card. “DCI Amy Hughes. We’re looking for a young lady who might have dropped by.”

“Lot’s of young ladies drop by here. You’d have to be more specific.”

DCI Hughes said, “She would have arrived in the past fifteen minutes.” She lifted the glass from the bar, and sniffed. “Brandy and coke … and who might this belong to?”

“I don’t recall—”

The detective leaned forward and whispered, “If you don’t fuck me about, I won’t have to fuck you about.”

“If I could help you—”

The door of the ladies’ toilets closed with a dull thud as the mysterious brunette reappeared. Her hair was brushed, she wore makeup, large earrings, a light jacket, and a dark skirt. She paused, and after a deep breath, strode along the bar to where her drink waited. Her act of confident indifference might have worked if the other customers hadn’t gone quiet, and watched expectantly when she reappeared. Most of them returned to their conversations, but the damage was done.

DCI Hughes waited until the brunette lifted her drink. “Hello, Susan.”

“I think you’ve got the wrong person.” She sipped her drink, and arched an eyebrow.

The uniformed officer walked around to Susan’s other side and stood silently.

DCI Hughes said, “We can either handle this with some decorum by going to the station, or, we can humiliate you by emptying your bag and pockets over the floor.”

“Okay, keep your fucking wig on, and I’ll come quietly.” Susan lifted her brandy and coke, finished it in one swallow, and placed the empty glass on the large colourful bar mat. She nodded surreptitiously at the barman. “Thank you.”

“I’ll help you with your bag.” The detective reached out, and took Susan’s large shoulder bag, as the uniformed officer led the way outside to their car.

At the bar, behind Stevie, a door opened. It was labelled Private.

George Reid, gang leader, and bar owner, paused. “Envelope, please.”

Big Stevie smiled and reached under the bar for the manilla envelope he’d removed as the two police officers had walked in. “That girl’s got balls, boss.”

“I agree, and she looked good on camera, after her transformation.”


Monday 25th April



Stevie finished pouring a pint for one of the regulars and turned when the door opened. “Hello again. You’re not in such a hurry today.”

“No, I’m not,” the brunette said and met his gaze. “Brandy and coke, please.” She turned to look around the bar. “A Monday lunchtime is a lot quieter than a Friday evening.”

“Yeah, usually.” He set the glass on the bar, and waved away the payment. “This one is on the house.”

“Thank you.” The woman sipped the drink. “Thanks for having my back when the cops turned up, and for not giving up my package.”

“No problem, and if you’re wondering about your mysterious envelope, it’s in the boss’s safe.”

She outstretched a slender hand. “Cathy.”

“Stevie,” the big man said, enclosing her hand in his massive tattooed paw. “When that copper called you Susan I wondered if it would be your real name.”

A low buzz sounded from under the bar.

Stevie looked around, and lifted the phone handset. “Yes, boss?” He listened. “Will do.” He replaced the handset and looked at his customer. “The boss would like a word, and you can take your drink.” He indicated for her to go along to the end of the bar, and he followed to lift the hatch.

Cathy went through the door labelled Private, to be greeted by a big man in a suit, armed with a security wand.

She smiled. “Is my flight in the next few minutes?”

“Smart appearance, and a smart mouth.” The big man grinned. “Arms up, please.” When the visitor raised her arms, he moved the broad paddle up and down her body, before nodding. “Upstairs, and turn left.”

“That was lovely, thanks.” She winked, and walked up the fully carpeted stairs, noting the expensive, embossed wallpaper. The stylish exterior of The Saracen’s Head and the well-decorated bar were not the only areas where money had been spent. After the stairs, Cathy arrived onto a carpeted upper corridor. It would be wrong to call it a landing; there were several doors.

 “Along here, my dear,” a man said. He was dark-haired, six feet tall, and of average build. Although he wore a smart suit, he appeared more rugged than handsome.

Cathy approached, and moved her drink to her left hand. “Hello … Mr—”

“George Reid,” he said, extending a hand to take hers briefly. “And you are?”

“Cathy … Cathy Graves.”

“You’re Cathy Graves at the moment.” He smiled. “Thank you for accepting my invitation.” He pushed a door open and indicated for her to enter first. “Take a seat, Cathy.”

She looked around before sitting on the leather sofa that faced a large desk. To the left was a panoramic window, but thanks to a venetian blind, offered an obscured view of a tenement block.  Cathy noted the large map of Scotland, decorated with small coloured pins on the wall behind the man’s desk. She continued to look around as her host made himself comfortable in his executive chair. A trophy cabinet boasted a few cups and other items related to golf. To her front was a low coffee table, and to one side a large bookcase with a television fitted into one section.

Reid settled into his chair. “I’d like to clear something up.” He sipped from a crystal glass containing an amber liquid. “If you’re here today introducing yourself as Cathy, it begs the question why the detective addressed you as Susan.”

“According to your barman, you have an envelope belonging to me, Mr Reid.” She sipped her drink, and smiled. “It would be naive of me to think that you hadn’t opened it, and if you did, you’d have solved the riddle.”

Reid grinned, and lifted the manilla envelope from his desk. “As it happens, it did land on my desk, and I opened it, accidentally, of course.” He emptied the contents; two passports. “Here we have … Susan Mayall, whose description fits you.” He closed the document and lifted the other. “And here we have … Catharine Graves, and damn, her description and photo fit you too.”

“A modern girl likes to change more than her makeup and underwear.” She sipped her drink. “You haven’t handed them to the police, so I chose the right premises during my evasion.”

“During your evasion?”

“I was searching my aunt’s house here in Bishopbriggs, when the police turned up. I didn’t have much time, so I grabbed that envelope, a handful of clothes, and leapt out of a window.”

“It must have alarmed your aunt, police arriving at the door, and you jumping from a window.”

“It would have been alarming, except that she was buried a couple of days ago.”

“Now I’m confused.” He sipped his whisky. “You’ve already gathered that I’m not about to hand you and these two passports over to the police, so an explanation would be appreciated.”

“When I was at uni, my parents died in a car accident. I felt lost, and dropped out of my design course, but I’d learned enough to know how to make money. I started with small documents, until I could afford specialised materials and moved on to more lucrative counterfeits.” She sipped her brandy and coke. “I lived in different places, but I would occasionally use my aunt as a go-between for sending my work on to clients.”

His brow furrowed. “Why did you use that particular aunt?”

“I wanted someone I could trust. Auntie Bridget was my only living relative, and had a track record in petty crime. I was making a lot of money, and I paid her well not to ask questions. Until recently, I was living in York, but the police were closing in on me. I posted those two passports to my aunt, and when things got uncomfortable, I returned to Scotland. Unknown to me, Auntie Bridget had died while I’d been thinking about moving on.”

Reid nodded. “If she was dead and buried, how did you get access to these two passports?”

“A neighbour saw me and explained why nobody was answering the door. She said that there would be someone coming to clear my aunt’s house, and hand over personal effects to the authorities. I pretended to leave, but returned and broke into the house. I was only interested in finding any documents I’d forwarded for clients.”

“How did the police get involved with your aunt’s address?”

“The only thing I found was the envelope containing those two passports, so I have to assume that Auntie Bridget fucked up. When I leapt out of the window, I left my suitcase behind, but nothing that would give away my identity. I had nowhere to go, and couldn’t call a cab, so I ran”

Reid raised an eyebrow. “When the police found you here, why did they call you Susan?”

“I called myself Susan Mayall when I was in York.”

“How many places have you lived?”

“Since leaving Edinburgh a few years ago, probably six or seven towns or cities. I didn’t really want to come here, but as I said, those two passports would have put me in jail.”

He grinned. “You might not have been given a custodial sentence if you offered up client names.”

“I don’t give up easily, and I don’t fucking grass, Mr Reid.”

“Commendable traits.” He grinned again, and savoured more whisky. “You’re obviously good at deception, so why should I believe your story?”

“I’m counting on you being a good judge of character.” She smiled. “Producing documents like those passports are the reason I’ve moved around a lot. While you have them, I can hardly set off on new adventures.”

Reid looked her up and down. “What would you do if I didn’t hand them back to you?”

“I’d have to throw myself at your mercy, up to a point, and try to find a job.” She finished her drink and placed the glass on the coffee table in front of her.

“Have you ever worked in a bar … Cathy?” His smile now was almost natural.

“Yes, regularly, because it’s the easiest employment to get into.”

“I know that you still might disappear, but would you like to work for me downstairs … at least until I see what else I could offer you?”

“Deception may be middle name, but I’m loyal to my paymaster.” She grinned. “And you’re a clever man. Using blackmail, disguised as mutual trust.”

He grinned, and lifted the two passports. “I might be able to use your talents, Cathy. Before I give these back, I’d like to trial you as a regular employee.”

“I have some cash, but I’d expect to be paid enough for accommodation and food.” She crossed the room, and shook Reid’s hand when he stood.

“Welcome to the team, Cathy.” He appraised her again, and smiled.


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