The Kidnapping of Chris McQueer
The livingroom is basic — a two-seater and two chairs, one small table, and a wall unit from a charity shop with an old black stereo sitting on it; the kind of furniture the council gives you when you’re not working, when your mental health forbids it. The carpet is so thin there is no bounce under-foot, and perhaps there never had been, even when it had been brand new. But at least it’s blue; he likes that. Pictures adorn the walls, almost jig-sawing together so that the wallpaper underneath is almost completely covered. A massive Rangers F.C flag covers the ceiling; the football team he’s supported since childhood. He doesn’t have a television. He spends most of the day reading. And sometimes he writes stories while playing his CDs. Alan’s head is buried deep in his favorite novel; his eyes peer over the top of it and focus on his mobile phone. He puts the book down, his thoughts consumed by the little black iPhone.
Play is hit on the music box to distract himself. An Eminem track comes on:
‘’My tea’s gone cold I’m wondering why I got out of bed at all. The morning rain clouds up my window and I can’t see at all. And even if it could all be grey, put your picture on my wall, it reminds me, that it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad…’’
Shut up, Stan, he thinks.
He hits stop and grabs at the phone and presses the Gmail icon, letting out a breath of disappointment when he notes that there are no new emails.
’Fuck’s sake, remember when I met you at Glasgow Cross? You gave me your email and said if I write you, you’d write back. Maybe there’s a problem with Google or something…’
He scrolls through his three contacts: his Mum, his sister, and his best friend — Mockey. He hits dial but the phone doesn’t even have a chance to ring.
‘WHAT’S HAPPENING, BRUVVA?’ Cries Mockey, delighted by the call.
‘Aw, I was just reading Hings, by Chris McQuee…’
‘ — Again? Fuck’s sake, you’ve read th…’
‘ — What? How? Do you think I should change back to HWFG? Maybe he’ll email me later.’
‘Mate, you’ve read both those books cover to cover, watched his little films, too. Don’t you think it’s about time you concentrated on writing your own stories?’
‘DO I FUCK! You know I can’t write anymore until he reads at least something of mine. He said he would. It’s only fair. I’ve read all of his and watched his little films, too.’
‘Shoosh, Alan, shoosh… there, there, there. We can fix this. Give me a minute and I’ll be round.’
Alan takes a deep breath and picks up Chris’ other book: HWFG.
‘Okay,’ he says.
Chap, chap — Alan hears the door.
‘IT’S MOCKEY, MATE. LET ME IN!’ He shouts through the letter box.
Alan opens it and looks at Mockey standing there dressed almost identically to him: trackie top, jeans, and trainers. Mockey looks a lot worse for wear, like he’s been on the gear for a couple of weeks. He has mischief sparkling in his eyes. Alan turns around and walks back into the living room and Mockey follows him, quoting a line from one of Alan’s short stories:
‘Don’t get too cocky, sunshine; you’ve still much to learn.’
‘Eh? What’s that?’ says Alan.
‘It’s a line from A Fist Full of Fur. Don’t you remember it?’
‘Eh… aye. I think so…’
‘What do you mean, you think so? You should know. And Chris should know it, too. Everycunt should know. Does he no know who you are? Do you no know who you are?’
Mockey grabs the phone from off the table and dials 999.
‘Hello, emergency services. Which service do you require? Police, ambulance, or fire-brigade?’
‘QUICK. QUICK. We’ve got a cunt here that doesn’t know who he is. Do you know who he is?’
There’s something wittered on the phone, but Alan can’t hear what she’s saying.
‘Aye?’ Says Mockey, ‘HAHAHAHA.’
‘Give me that here, ya fuckin bam,’ says Alan, snatching it off him and hanging up. ‘You’ll have the polis all over us, fuck’s sake,’ He says, slapping the buttons and switching it off.
Alan and Mockey square up forehead to forehead. Alan pushes him back.
‘Sorry, sorry,’ insists Mockey.
Alan sits down with his head in his hands. Mockey stands directly behind him.
‘I’m sorry, Alan. I was only kidding. I was just having a laugh. I’ll make it all better, you’ll see. Look, I’ve an idea.’
Alan shakes his head, ‘What is it?’ he asks.
‘We should kidnap him. Get him to read your work. It’s the only way. You know it. I know it. We both know it.’
Alan looks at Mockey in disbelief. Mockey smiles and winks at him. Play is hit on the stereo. A remix of Eminem and 2pac comes on:
‘’Soon I shall be drinking ale from curved horns, I shall not enter Odin’s Hall with fear! HAHAHAHAHAHA. Go to sleep, bitch, die mother-fucker die. Times up, bitch, why are you still alive?’’
Alan and Mockey’s heads bop about to the sound of the beat.
‘’No turning back now. Who among you will follow me? For the love of fame, for the love of Odin, our father!’’
Their shoulders move up and down as their heads go from side to side in unison with the music.
‘’A demon unleashed in me that you’ve never seen and you’re gonna see this gangster pee on himself. I see you D12, and thanks, but me need no help, me do this one all by my lonely. I don’t need fifthteen of my homie.’’
Alan stares right through Mockey. He hits stop. Mockey stares back.
‘You’re right, Mockey. It’s the only way. How do we do this?’
‘Where will he be at 4pm?’Asks Mockey, looking at the clock.
‘How the fuck am I menty know that?’
Mockey looks at Alan’s books that are sat on the little brown table. He looks around the livingroom, slowly, taking in every single picture. He looks back at him.
‘You know,’ he says.
Alan sighs and replies, ‘he’s got a book signing, talk type thing at the Mitchel Library. It’s at bang on four o’clock and will last for around an hour. A bunch of students will be asking him questions. Although it may go on a bit longer. I don’t know everything.’
‘You know enough,’ Mockey smirks. ‘I fuckin hate students, with their ugly jumpers and their cheap trainers, always wanting to learn Hings. Aye fuck that. Fuck them. Fuck it all. We’ll grab him on the way in.’
‘Are we getting the bus, Mockey? My muppet badge has a companion on it.’
‘Bus? Bus! You fuckin soppy bus wanker. There are tools for stealing motors in the cupboard, along with a shotgun. I put them in there last week when you were having one of your turns.’
‘One of my turns?’
‘Yes, one of your turns. You kept talking to yourself in the mirror.’
‘Oh. Right. One of them…’
Alan goes to the cupboard, opens it, and picks up his black Fila bag. It’s open and the butt of a shotgun is hanging out. He pushes it down and zips it up. He looks in the front pocket. There are four black fobs.
‘They’re skeleton keys for motors, mate,’ says Mockey, looking over at him, grinning. ‘Welcome to the future of car theft.’
‘And the gun?’
‘It was in one of the old gang’s attics. It’s been there since the mid-90s. It’s completely untraceable.’
‘I’m not really wanting to shoot my favorite author; that just seems a wee bit fucked up even for me.’
‘Don’t worry. We’re just gonna get him to read one of your stories. It won’t come to gun-shots, trust me.’
Mockey smiles, showing off his tarnished teeth. Alan smiles right back. He pulls on a three-quarter length Barber-jacket and dons his favorite black skip-hat.
Alan flips the Fila bag over one shoulder and leaves the house and heads down the close and out onto the dull grey street, the sky threatening to rain. Mockey follows closely behind, always at his back. They walk off Earl Street and onto Harland Street. They see a silver Audi parked neatly between two cars.
‘That one,’ says Mockey pointing to it. ‘Keys are in the front pocket.’
Alan unzips the pouch and pulls out one of the black fobs, closer inspection reveals four little linked circles on it.
He smiles and tries to hand it to Mockey, ‘Are you driving, mate?’
‘How the fuck can I drive? Ya fuckin acid casualty!’
‘It’s always me,’ Alan says.
‘There’s a reason for that. I’m with you every step of the way. Always have been, always will be. Press the fob; see if it works.’
Alan points it at the intended vehicle and presses the button, the lights flash yellow, and the locks go click. The doors unlock.
‘Here We Fuckin Go,’ Mockey laughs, as he walks to the passenger’s side. Alan heads directly for the driver’s door.
‘Papa,’ says, Mockey getting in.
‘Nicole,’ says Alan, as they reference that famous Renault Clio advert from the 90s.
He flips out the key from the side of the fob. It kind of reminds him of a Swiss Army knife, only without all the other stuff: tin openers, bottle openers, letter openers, and the like. He puts the key in the ignition and turns it. The engine bursts into life and Alan drives the motor away from the curb and turns right onto Dumbarton Road. He ambles along slowly, in traffic, not wishing to attract attention to himself.
‘Ouff. Driving Miss Daisey, are we? Mockey asks.
The Audi makes its way along Dumbarton Road, through Whiteinch. Alan turns left at the round-about, under the express way. He enters Partick.
‘You were in a bus crash on that, eh?’ Mockey asks with a nod up to the bridge. ‘That was one hell of a bang on the head you got.’
‘Aye,’ snaps Alan; in a trauma response.
They pass Partick police station and onwards, along to Partick Cross, finally passing the Art Galleries in Yorkhill, and then into Finnieston. Alan turns up a side street and around another one, before parking up at the back of the Mitchel library.
Alan and Mockey keep a watchful eye on people as they come and go from the back entrance of the iconic building.
Alan panics a little, his colour fades rapid, ‘what if he goes in the front door?’
‘You took a picture of him coming out of here last month and another one two months previous, remember?’
‘Oh, aye,’ replies Alan, settling down as the colour returns to his face. ‘Let’s hope he’s a creature of habit.’
Alan nods, ‘I think so, Mockey. I do believe they are.’
Mockey is looking through a little pair of binoculars, the type you see rich people with at the theatre or the horse racing. All that’s missing from him is a wide brimmed hat. A car passes them, slowly, and pulls into the parking space in front of them. It’s a worse-for-wear red Fiat Punto. The engine turns off, but no one gets out.
‘That’s him,’ says Alan. ‘That’s his motor.’
‘Ah canny see fuck all,’ replies Mockey. ‘Fuck knows what he’s doing. He’s maybe having a smoke.’
Just then a cigarette end is pinged from the window, the smoking doup lands on the street.
‘Cunt’s a fucking ned. And a mad Celtic supporter, too,’ says Mockey, shaking his head.
‘Aye well,’ says Alan. ‘Nobody’s perfect.’
It’s him. Chris McQueer. He’s a tall man with long jet-black hair. He gets out of the car. He has thick dark eyebrows that both frame his face and yet seem like wholly separate entities. He’s wearing a blue denim jacket with a fluffy white collar, skinny jeans, and dark trainers. He takes a deep breath, and heads for the rear entrance of the Mitchel library.
‘It’s now or never,’ Mockey says rubbing his hands with glee.
Alan looks at him, ‘you get in the back seat.’
Mockey rolls his eyes, then says, ‘FINE!’
He shuffles over the gears and through the gap.
Alan unzips the Fila bag and takes the gun out. He conceals it deep inside the lower pocket of his Barber-jacket, a coat made for purpose, the hardware easily reachable. There’s no one else around, so he gets out the car and follows McQueer at pace.
‘Excuse me, excuse me,’ cries Alan after him, as his half jog slows down to a fast walk.
‘Eh, yes?’ Chris replies as he turns around, smiling, forcing Alan to stop dead in his tracks.
‘Oh, wow! It’s you. It’s really you. Are you alright, my man?’
‘Aye, mate, I’m good. Are you, alright?’ Asks Chris, cringing a little.
‘Eh… aye, eh… I’m good, too. I like your books.’
‘Aw, thanks. That’s very kind of you. Anyway, it was great to meet you, but I really must get going,’ he says, with an awkward smile and a nod towards the back door. He turns around and walks on.
‘WAIT!’ Alan shouts. ‘Please wait!’
Chris stops and there’s an almost unnoticeable shake of the head, but he manages to muster a big friendly smile, as he turns back around, only for it to drop instantly. He’s stood there gauping down the double-barrel of a sawn-off shotgun. Alan is smiling.
‘Fuck!’ exclaims Chris.
‘Aye, fuck!’ replies Alan. ‘That’s what I was thinking. I’m so glad we’re on the same page — excuse the pun.’
Chris just stares, his eyes flicker briefly towards the back door, but it’s too far away to make a dash for.
‘Aw, man. I’m terrible at this sort of thing,’ Alan says with an embarrassed shrug of the shoulders.
‘What’s this about, do you want money?’ He asks while reaching for his back pocket.
‘Aw, no. no. I’m not a thief. Well, not anymore. Not since I got clean. That’s me over three years now,’ says Alan with his chest puffed out — expecting a pat on the back.
‘Well done, mate,’ says Chris, unsure what else to say.
‘Aw, cheers; that means a lot. Look, buddy, you’re gonna have to come with me. We’re in that Audi over there, the silver one,’ says Alan, turning around quickly and using the gun to point at the car.
He turns back just as quick.
Chris flinches with panic. Mockey is waving happily from the back seat. Alan hands Chris the chunky black fob. Chris looks at the Audi emblem on it with a hint of distaste and somber resignation.
‘You want me to drive?’ He asks.
‘Aye. If you don’t mind. I’ve not got a license.’
Chris walks, eyes forward, and goes around the car and heads for the driver’s side. Alan walks behind him, making sure he keeps a close distance. Chris gets in the car. Alan gets in the car and winks at Mockey in the rear-view mirror, who’s giving him the thumbs up.
‘Told you it would work,’ says Mockey, nodding smugly.
‘Aye,’ laughs Alan, ‘you did.’
Chris looks at the mirror then looks at Alan with confusion. He doesn’t want to look around and just concentrates on the steering wheel.
‘Where are we going?’
‘Earl Street in Scotstoun. Do you know it?’
‘I know Scotstoun. Right along Dumbarton Road?’
‘That’s right. I’ll tell you where to turn once we get there.’
He turns the key in the ignition and the engine starts. They drive further away from the little red Fiat Punto — and put some distance between them and the rear entrance of the Mitchel Library. Chris drives carefully towards Alan’s house in Earl Street. Mockey sits with a mad look on his face in the back seat. Alan keeps the sawn-off trained on Chris.
‘Look, Chris, you don’t mind if I call you Chris, do you?’
‘No. No, mate. Not at all,’ he replies, his eyes flicker towards the shooter and back to the road.
‘That’s fuckin brilliant! You can call me Alan.’
‘Cool… eh… Alan.’
‘Look, mate. I’m sorry it had to be like this. I’m your number one fan.’
Chris flashes him an awkward smile, before concentrating back on the road.
‘I’ve read all your stuff. Hings and HWFG. I’ve read them cover to cover. I’ve even watched all your little films. That one on the bus with the flat earther was top class. Flat earthers are crackpots, eh?’
‘Did you tell him you’re a crackpot?’ laughs Mockey.
Alan gives Mockey a stern look in the rearview mirror and carries on talking to Chris.
‘And the story about the snails,’ Alan continues. ‘I’d never seen none of those fuckers about either. Fuck’s sake, man. We have so much in common. What if that Extreme Polls offered out thirty grand to kill someone’s Granny? That would be mental, eh?’
‘Eh… aye, mate. I mean Alan. Eh… pure mental.’
‘What about that moth flying into somecunt’s ear? Fuck’s sake, you could make someone do anything. That is a scary thought.’
‘Aye, that would be terrifying,’ Chris replies, but with a hint of sarcasm mixed in with the fear.
‘He’s taking the piss out of you,’ says Mockey.
‘SHUT THE FUCK UP!’ Alan shouts at the mirror, the gun vibrates in his hand.
Chris flinches and remains silent for the rest of the journey. Mockey sits back in his seat with his arms folded in a huff.
The silver Audi makes its way through Scotstoun.
‘Next left,’ says Alan with a friendly nod, ‘just by that vape shop.’
Chris turns left into Harland Street.
‘Park there between the two cars.’
‘Brilliant! Laughs Mockey, hopefully no one even noticed it was missing.’
‘Aye. Hopefully,’ Alan agrees and looks around at him.
Chris looks edgily over his shoulder. He parks up. Alan gets out and opens the back door for Mockey while keeping the gun trained on Chris. Mockey gets out. Chris gets out.
‘It’s close number 33,’ says Mockey.
It’s close number 33,’ says Alan, ‘just head for that one.’
Chris nods to Alan and walks directly for close number 33 Earl Street, followed closely by his captor.
Alan pushes his front door open. They all go in. He locks it at their backs. He puts his keys in his pocket and nudges the small of Chris’ back with the barrel prompting him into the kitchen. It’s a decent size and well kitted out, even if a little modest. It has a dining table and four chairs. There are screeds of paper scattered all over it. Story after story. A closer look would tell you that the grammar was atrocious. They could only ever be read by Alan; or indeed Mockey. Chris looks at them, no doubt trying to make sense of what he’s seeing.
‘What you wanting me to do?’ He asks.
‘More will be revealed,’ says Mockey.
‘It’s cool, Chris, we’ll get to that. You want a tea or a coffee?’
‘Show him around like a proper host,’ says Mockey.
‘Aw, ofcourse. Where’s my manners?’
Alan still aiming the gun at Chris and edges his way around him. He nods him towards the livingroom. Chris walks towards it and pushes the door open, slightly at first, then all the way. He steps in. What he sees takes his breath away.
The four walls are covered with pictures of Chris; some are prints of downloads taken from the internet. But even more harrowing: most have been shot out on the street. There are pictures of Chris going to his local shop. Pictures of him coming and going from the Mitchel Library. Pictures of him coming and going from other libraries. A picture of him wearing a Celtic scarf. There’s a picture of him taking his dog for a walk. There’s even one of him out for a meal in a fancy restaurant with his beautiful girlfriend. And another one of them on a day trip to Balloch. Chris surveys them all, his face white with shock — well, even whiter, at least.
‘Do you like them?’ Alan asks, ‘I’m your number one fan. You’re my hero.’
Chris just looks at him.
‘HE THINKS YOU’RE A WEIRDO! Mockey shouts from the kitchen.
‘Do you think I’m weird?’
‘I’ve got to level with you, Alan. I’m more than a little bit scared.’
‘HE’S GONNA TRY AND ESCAPE.’
‘You’re not gonna try and escape, are you? Because I was hoping we could be friends.’
‘I’m not going to try and escape,’ Chris replies with his eyes on the gun.
‘TIE HIM UP!’
‘Just go back in the kitchen,’ says Alan, feeling a strong sense of rejection creep up through his chest.
Alan grabs a couple of Rangers Football Club scarfs from his large collection from down behind the two-seater. He prompts Chris back through and grabs one of the chairs out.
‘Sit down, you cunt,’ sneers Mockey into Chris’ ear.
Chris just stands there.
‘Look. Will you at least do it if I ask you nicely?’ Alan asks. ‘Can you sit down, please?’
Chris sits down with his arms on the little elbow rests. Alan ties a Rangers scarf around each, pulling them as tight as he can.
‘That looks about as secure as a johnny-bag on a midge’s cock,’ warns Mockey
‘Be quiet,’ snaps Alan.
Chris looks confused and just shrugs his shoulders. He looks at the scarfs and sighs.
Oh, to be held hostage and tied up with Rangers’ memorabilia, surely it canny get much worse, he thinks, shaking his head. This beats the time I was sent to a back to work scheme with all the other no hopers from my scheme.
‘Okay, Alan. What is it you want me to do?’
‘Read this,’ says Alan, as he tries to hand him a sheet of paper with loads of scribbles on it.
‘My hands are tied,’ he replies, trying to flex his arms under the red, white, and blue scarfs.
Alan shakes his head and holds the paper in front of him.
Chris looks at it with puzzlement over his face, ‘My throats a bit sore, Alan. I’m gonna have a bit of trouble reading out loud.’
Mockey shakes his head.
Alan tries to hide his disappointment but concedes, ‘That’s okay, Chris. How about you just read it into yourself, and we can discuss the finer points later?’
Chris nods, then starts bobbing his head up and down as he reads, his eyes dragging slowly over the page. He stops for a moment.
‘Can you put the gun down and hold the page with both hands? It’s making me really nervous and I can’t see some of the writing.’
‘Fuck’s sake,’ says Mockey rolling his eyes. ‘The way you two are carrying on anyone would think the fuckin thing’s loaded.’
‘What?’ asks Alan, shocked.
‘I’m wondering if you can put the gun down,’ says Chris.
‘It’s no loaded,’ says Mockey. ‘It’s one thing getting a gun that’s untraceable. It’s a whole different ball game getting the cartridges as well.’
Alan stares at Mockey in disbelief and then stares at Chris who’s staring a little sheepishly at Alan.
‘Don’t worry, he can’t hear me,’ laughs Mockey.
‘Can you hear him, Chris?’
Chris looks in the direction of Mockey. His eyes just focus on the corner of the kitchen. All he can see is the washing machine, the kitchen sink, some cupboards, the microwave, kettle, and an old stereo, which are sitting on the kitchen worktops. Chris’ mind runs a ten to the dozen as his mind searches for the correct answer as to what he thinks Alan wants to hear.
Bree, bree, the phone rings from the livingroom.
All three look towards the sound.
‘Jesus Christ, for fuck’s sake,’ says Alan. ‘I’d better answer that, it might be my Mum. Keep an eye on him will you, Mockey?’
‘But…’ Mockey says with his arms outstretched.
Alan puts the gun on the floor, leaning it precariously against the wall. He walks through to the livingroom.
He picks it up off the table, ‘Hallo?’
‘Hi,’ says a voice. Is that you, Annie?’
‘Sorry, I don’t know who you mean.’
‘I’m looking for an Annie Wilkes.’
‘You must have the wrong number.’
‘Sorry about that,’ says the voice as the line goes dead.
Alan puts the phone back on the table and looks up. Chris is standing there, his dark eyebrows furled over a pair of angry looking eyes. He has the shotgun leveled at Alan.
‘KEYS!’ he demands. ‘NOW!’
‘But… you said we were friends.’
‘KEYS! Or I swear to God. I will blow you away.’
‘It’s not loaded.’
Mockey is standing behind Chris buckled with laughter.
Chris stares at Alan and then looks at the gun. His tall frame takes two steps while flipping the shooter around. He is holding the nozzle in his right hand, the but is steadied with his left. He draws it back. And thrusts it forward.
His head is swirling as blood pours down over his tracksuit top and jeans. Mockey swipes right and left hooks at the back of Chris’s head, but his fists just flail through him like something out of The Matrix. Chris puts the gun on the table and just stands there.
Alan goes into his jeans pocket, takes them out, and hands them to him. Chris grabs him by the ear. He twists it.
‘Ah ayah ah…’
‘Get up you maniac.’
Chris stands Alan up by the ear and marches him out of the livingroom to the cupboard in the hall across from the front door. He opens it.
Alan goes into the cupboard. Mockey is shouting into Chris’s face as he closes the door behind him. He goes to the kitchen and grabs at the chair. He drags it. One of the red, white, and blue scarfs are dragged along with it. He wedges the dining room seat under the handle of the door, securing it steadfast. Alan is standing in the darkness of the cupboard. Mockey is standing next to him shaking his head. Chris starts talking.
‘Listen, mate. I don’t want to phone the police. But you have to get help — some serious help. I’m not some dafty. My parents aren’t lawyers or doctors. I wasn’t brought up in Newton Mairns. I’m fae Shettleston and I’m no a fuckin grass! But I don’t want to leave you stuck in that cupboard either. Is there someone I can phone to come and get you?’
‘Aye, my phone’s in the livingroom.’
Chris goes to get it off the table and comes back, ‘what’s the code?’ he asks.
Alan remains silent.
‘What’s the code,’ he snaps.
‘It’s 1690, Chris. When the Protestants beat the Catholics at the Battle of the Boyne.’
‘FUCK YOU! Chris shouts while just sliding the phone under the gap at the bottom of the door. ‘I’m out of here.’
‘CHRIS! CHRIS! JUST ONE MORE THING.’
‘Could you sign my book?’
‘Fuck off, ya mad clown! And do you know what?’
‘Rangers are deid!’
The door closes behind him.
Mockey turns to Alan, ‘I knew we should’ve gone with Irvine Welsh.’