Authors: Tony Black
An original Gus Dury story by Tony Black
Copyright © Tony Black 2012
Tony Black has asserted his right to be
identified as the author of this work under the Copyright, Designs and Patents
This book is sold subject to the condition that
it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be hired, resold, lent out, or in
any way circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of
binding, cover or electronic format other than that in which it is published
and without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on any
First published in Scotland in 2012 by Pusher
All similarities to actual characters — living or
dead — is purely coincidental.
Cover image & design: Jim Divine
LONG WAY DOWN
Gus Dury is down on his luck and looking for
distraction when Danny Murray asks him to find his old school friend, Barry
Fulton. Fresh from jail, and attracting the attention of a new breed of Irish
gangster, Barry is treading a fine line between his past and the activities of
present-day Edinburgh crimelord, Boaby 'Shakey' Stevens.
Dury knows Barry has put a time-bomb round his neck and
if he can't defuse the situation the consequences for his old friend don't bear
thinking about. As the clock ticks Dury finds himself sliding the Long Way Down
a winding spiral of tension and despair as he tries to save Barry from his own
impending destruction at the hands of those who know brutality as a way of
Long Way Down is a 14,000-word novella from the author
of the Random House UK Gus Dury series: Paying for It, Gutted, Loss, and Long
Praise for the Gus Dury series by Tony Black:
'Tony Black is the latest of the seemingly unending stream
of good Scottish crime writers who have in common the ability to portray
vividly the underbelly of Scottish inner-city criminality ... The dialogue
fizzes and the whole is suffused with black humour'
-Marcel Berlins, The Times
'Tony Black's first novel hits the ground running,
combining a sympathetic ear for the surreal dialogue of the dispossessed with a
portrait of the belly of a city painted in the blackest of humour'
'If you're a fan of the Ian Rankins, Denise Minas and
Irvine Welshes of this world, this is most certainly one for you'
'If you've yet to discover the hardcore brilliance of Gus
Dury, pour yourself a large one and start here'
'Ripping, gutsy prose and a witty wreck of a protaganist
makes this another exceptionally compelling, bright and even original thriller'
'Tony Black is my favourite British crime writer and Gus
Dury the genre's most interesting protagonist. Like his previous books, Loss
has the power, style and street swagger that makes most of his contemporaries a
little bland by comparison'
-Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting
'Tony Black has written two of the finest crime novels to
come out of the UK in the past twenty years and I'm willing to bet that in
twenty years, Paying for It and Gutted will be in the top ten of any crime list.
But now comes Loss ... Phew-oh ... It's like having yer ass kicked and yer
heart shrived simultaneously. What a privilege to watch a master writer achieve
everything you'd hoped for and then some'
-Ken Bruen, author of London Boulevard
'Powerful, focused, and intense ... and then it gets
better. Get your money down early on this young man — he's dead serious and
-Andrew Vachss, author of Hard Candy
LONG WAY DOWN
(a Gus Dury story)
I was sitting in the laundrette on London Road,
just watching the wheels go round as Lennon said. Nowt much was occurring, hadn't
been for a while. You get in that frame of mind, things like Generation Wuss
telly and boy-band music start filling the gaps. My wet brain was already
looking like something Sponge Bob would take off his Square Pants for, so
another aperture was likely to set me dribbling at the mouth.
I turned over a stray copy of The Hun — had The Times
tucked below, was thinking that's some heavyweight reading for the east-end of
Edinburgh but I let it go, turned it aside because I couldn't face the news,
for the first time in my life I didn't have the concentration for it. I couldn't
face the anti-independence stance on every page of the paper either — wondered
who in this whole country was falling for the 'Scottish edition' bullshit they'd
plastered on the front. There was a new vibe in town; Scots dreaming of having
a nation of their own will do that.
The washer stopped, clicked off after a final
gut-bursting spin. I took out the pile of wet denim and captured the inevitable
stray sock before tipping the lot in the drier. I was fiddling with the
Elastoplast which held my crumbling iPod together, contemplating a track from
The Stagger Rats, when the temperature in the small enclosure of the laundrette
ramped up. I loosened a tab from my soft-pack of Camels and headed out for a
smoke. I was stood in the street, sparking up as a horn blared at me from a
'The fuck is that?' I mouthed, mid-gasp of the first
A silver-grey Merc, big one — none of your shitty
A-Class — flicked on the blinkers and turned into Abbey Mount. The car was
parked up in the bus-stop as the driver's door flipped open and a squat,
open-shirted Cockney Wanker-lookalike got out. He was flagging and waving to
me, the wide-open shirt front wafting a breeze over the forest of chest hair as
he called out, 'Gus, lad ...'
'Jesus Christ ...' It was Danny Murray. I hadn't seen
him in years but this was already too soon. The sight of him soured the taste
of my fag so I dowped it in the gutter.
He was jogging, stuffing a Racing Post under his arm as
he approached. The search-light smile was the real sickner though. We've a
phrase in Scotland, what you after? ... seemed to fit the bill.
'Alright, Gus my old son ...' he said. I could swear I'd
picked up an Eastenders inflection in there; the man was like a bad soap-opera
reject from the 80s. All Pete Beale with his tankard-behind-the-bar-bonhomie.
Worst of it was, the cunt was as Leith as me.
'Danny Murray, you're coming up in the world.' I nodded
to the flash motor, that's when I clocked the private plate: D Man 109. Wanted
to laugh, but felt like crying when I weighed this joker's luck against my own.
'Can't complain, Gus ... doing alright.'
He was too. But not off his own graft, I'd heard he was
running for Boaby Stevens and say what you will about Shakey, he looks after
'You were always into everything bar a shit sandwich,
He tipped back his head, laughed. I could see the
goose-bumps forming on his exposed arms as he shivered in the street. 'Fancy a
Now I thinned eyes. 'What?'
'Jesus, it's brass-balls out here, Gus, come on ...' he
looked about, squinted down the street and over to the Artisan pub. 'I'll shout
you a bevvy.'
I was averse, call me old-fashioned, but I tend to avoid
the company of cock-heads as a rule. I showed an open hand to the road, 'Lead
the way ...' I mean, there's principles and then there's choking for a drink
and being on the skint bones of your arse.
Danny walked into the road, palms up to halt the
traffic, he got a hail of horns sent in his direction but it didn't stop him
beckoning me like the captain of an army advance. I let him weave his way
through the stalled cars and clouds of tyre-smoke and pressed the button on the
The Artisan was an old-school Edinburgh drinker. Set me
in mind of days past, of Col's Holy Wall. I winced at the memory of my wasted
effort on running the place after his death; but you put a sopping-wet alkie in
charge of a public house and you can expect no less. It was a miracle the place
was still standing.
The pub was dominated by a circular bar, utilitarian
tables and PVC chairs dotted around the outskirts. A poker-machine — what would
once have been called a simple puggie — sparked and whirred to the left of us.
I nodded to the taps, 'Guinness ... and a wee birdie to chase it.'
Danny produced a wad thicker than the phone book and
smiled a gold-toothed grin at the barmaid, she was as dour as a stroll out by
the sewage overflows at Porty, shot him a glower and clunked the glasses on the
bar. 'Bag of nuts as well, my girl ...' said Danny.
Her look said he was lucky to keep the nuts he already
I took a table at the back of the pub, in the darkness
of a shameless bulb that was clearly on the blink. Danny followed with a tray.
The creamy Guinness tasted like courage, spiked my veins
and sent my heart ramping. Another gulp and I'd be flicking the switch in my
head that said keep going, don't stop. It was a hair-trigger and always at its
lightest when I had little or nothing going on in the wider world to distract
'So, spill the beans, Danny ...'
'This isn't a social call.'
He struggled to open the bag of nuts, started to get
agitated. He shuffled in his seat then put the bag in his teeth and ripped open
the pack. A shower of nuts descended on the table-top. 'Aw, shit ...'
'Danny ... your nuts have dropped, now man up, what the
fuck is this about?'
He looked suddenly weary, a cold line of sweat pustules
erupted on his brow. 'Truth be told, Gus, I've been looking for you.'
I didn't like the sound of this. 'If you've been looking
for me, it's not because you want to find me ...'
'Has Shakey sent you?'
He turned in his seat, his arse-cheeks squeaked on the
PVC. 'No. God no.'
I could tell he was lying, put the bead on him. 'Danny,
don't bullshit a bullshitter.'
He dropped his gaze and fingered the rim of the table. 'Well,
not exactly.' He looked up, looked away. His voice flattened a little. He was a
man on edge, at the end of his rope, I could see that now ... I knew the
territory. 'What I mean is, well, y'know I work for Shakey and so I suppose in
a way everything comes back to him but this is something I thought out all for
I liked the sound of that even less.
I fired down the Grouse. 'I'm not with you. Spit it out,
'I have a job for you.'
I was skint. Bored as a bastard and verging seriously
close to a skite. But a long way from taking work from gangsters or their shady
acolytes. 'Forget it.'
'No ... wait, hear me out.'
I'd fallen foul of Shakey once before, he had me driven
out to the wilds of Midlothian and strung up. 'I'd need my head tested to get
involved with that fucking lunatic. No way.'
I picked up my pint, started to gulp the Guinness and
rise at the same time. I had no words to say to him, but if there were any
queuing in my mind they were simply: 'Get fucked.'
Danny seemed to intuit my next move was the door. He got
up and stepped in front of me, his tight Farah trousers looked close to splitting
as he bent down for his Racing Post. Inside the paper was a grey-to-white
envelope, it was held together by an elastic band, a necessity since the
contents were spilling out as he flashed them under my nose.
'What's this?' I said, lowering my pint.
'Three grand,' he dipped his head and leaned forward, 'It's
all in used twenties.'
I don't know who Danny thought he was dealing with but I
set him straight. 'Well that's handy, wouldn't want to be accused of money
laundering transferring it to Switzerland.' I shook my head and walked past
him. I was at elbows with the poker-machine when he grabbed my shoulder and
spun me round.
'Gus, please ...'
He grabbed my sleeve, tugged tight. 'You don't
'I understand fine. And it's still a no.' I put my hand
on his and tried to unclasp his fingers but he clung for grim life — it was the
strongest sense yet I'd caught of his sheer desperation.
'It's Barry ...' he said. His voice so low it seemed
whispered into my ear like a secret.
'Barry Fulton?' He was the only common ground we shared
of any significance and he knew this.
Danny nodded. His grip still held firm. I lowered my
hand and stared into his concerned eyes.
He wet his thin grey lips, 'Not anymore.'
'What? When did he get out?'
Danny unclenched his fist and let his hand fall to his
side. 'Two days ago.' He raised the envelope stuffed with cash again and
pressed it into my chest, 'I knew you'd be interested, Gus.'
* * * *
You live the life I do, you meet people. Most
you wouldn't want to run into on a dark night but some of them you're glad to
know. Mac the Knife was wearing his hardy Glasgow chib-merchant stare when I
clocked him at the Foot of the Walk. It would be too crass to use the old
phrase you can take the man out of Glasgow etc but if it was possible to bottle
the No Mean City vibe then Mac was on the intravenous version. I watched a
jakey, torn Costa cup in hand, try to tap him for a few pence and felt my
insides wince for the poor soul. As I sidled up I could hear the jakey getting
into his 'Just 30p for bus fare to visit my mam in hospital' speech.
Mac's reply was delivered deadpan. 'You want to join
her? I can put you in an ambulance there for nothing.'
The paraffin lamp was on the back foot as I arrived, his
sudden sobriety seemed to have been dispensed from Mac's thinned stare. It was
a look that said impending violence was a cert. He was still retreating,
backwards, yawing on wobbly legs as I put a palm on Mac's shoulder.
'Alright, mate ...'
Mac lit. 'Gus, lad.'
Greetings over we made our way up the Walk towards
Robbie's Bar. This neck of Leith is like a kaleidoscope, sights continually
shifting. We'd had the gutting of the new tram tracks close down a stack of old
and familiar businesses. In their place were new pound stores and Polish
grocers running a sideline in protein-shakes by the bucket. I grimaced at the
over-tanned, over-muscled meat-head whose cardboard cut-out sat in a shop
Robbie's was reassuringly familiar. A drinker's bar. A
Leith legend. It felt like home. Mac got the pints in and I nodded him towards
a table by the door.
'What's wrong with the bar?' he said.
'Not today.' He got the message, even painted a look of
caution on his coupon that tugged at his half-Chelsea smile.
I blew the head off my Guinness and sat down. Mac was
already on the sniff for information.
'So what's the score?' he said.
'Christ, I haven't seen you for weeks. Have you no
small-chat for me?'
He creased his brow. Dropped one corner of his mouth,
where he seemed to be speaking from in a trippy drawl, 'Do me a fucking favour,
Gus, do I look like I've been picking tittle-tattle off the allotment?'
The thought of Mac in wellies made me smile. 'If you
were doing any digging it would be because there was a body to dispose of!'
He liked that, seemed to be running the visual image. 'Cemented
into a new motorway flyover is more my style.'
I grinned at him; knew he was only half joking. 'Right,
Mac, I need you to test a few of those contacts of yours.'
The tone turned to the serious notch. 'Oh, aye?'
I hadn't known Mac as long as I'd known Barry Fulton.
There was a time in my life when I knew hardly anyone like Mac. Since my
marriage went tits up, and my career followed suit, I'd met quite a few people
like Mac. It was safe to say I wasn't exactly mixing with the professional-set
on the squash court.
'I have this ... old friend.'
Mac shook his head, 'One of them?'
'No. Barry's a square-peg ... he just made a few wrong
turns and found himself in Saughton on a twelve stretch.'
I sipped my pint, then: 'A counter jump.'
Mac winced. 'Must have been tooled up for a twelve.'
'He was ... shall we say, inexperienced.'
'He must've been fucking dippit, Gus ... doesn't have
Born to Lose tattooed on his head does he?'
I liked the line better the way De Niro delivered it,
but I let it slide because I needed his help. 'Barry would be the first to
admit his mistakes, but he got fucked-over by a woman and . . .'
Mac cut in. 'This isn't misplaced sympathy, Gus?'
I knew what he was trying to say but anything Debs and I
once had was now long gone. It might have taken a while to accept it and a
power of drink to wash it down but there it was.
'Barry got hitched to a coke-head who became a
crack-head before the ink was dry on the marriage licence. He was trying to
keep house and home together when he got desperate.'
It was the kind of sob story that was meat and drink to
Mac. 'My heart bleeds.'
'Yeah, well, I thought it would.' I reached into my
jacket pocket and produced a thin roll of twenties. 'But there's a drink in it
for you if you can help me out.'
His eyes widened then he took the roll and pushed it in
his own pocket. 'Where do I fit in, Gus?'
'Simple. Barry isn't a bad lad but he's been mixing with
some bad people . . .'
Mac's hand shot up. 'Whoa, wait a minute, who exactly
are we talking about?'
I took another sip of Guinness, it did nothing for my
nerves as I dropped my voice to the down-low. 'Boaby Stevens.'
Mac leaned back, took the roll of cash from his pocket
and made a show of thrusting it back in my hands. 'You can get yourself fucked,