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Nate Colgan would be the first to admit that his violent reputation makes him very good at his job — and bad at everything else. After eighteen years spent working on the sidelines of Glasgow’s criminal underworld, there’s no question he’ll accept the central position that Peter Jamieson’s organization offers him, despite his better judgment.
The organization isn’t as strong as it once was: its most powerful members are either dead or behind bars, including Jamieson himself, and the time is ripe for change. Chang begins with an execution — a message for Jamieson’s supporters — which promptly sets the various factions within the organization against one another.
Colgan’s position as “security consultant” means his duty is clear: identify the killer and find out who’s willing to seize power, even if it means igniting a war. Meanwhile, on the other side of the law, DI Michael Fisher conduscts his own investigation into the murder.
Both men can’t help but wonder: Why do these events coincide with the return of Zara Cope, the mother of Colgan’s child, a disreputable woman with an uncanny ability to attract trouble and troublemakers? A dark and thrilling crime drama, Every Night I Dream of Hell takes us deep into a world of violence, fear and double-crosses.
“Don’t pick up a Mackay book unless you’ve got spare time. They’re habit-forming.” — New York Times
Gary Aldridge—A tough piece of work, willing to throw his considerable muscle around, providing Adrian Barrett keeps on paying him for it.
Adrian "Dyne" Barrett—The little drug ring he tried to build in Birmingham tanked, sent him into a spiral. He was pulled out of it by a beautiful woman with a lucrative plan.
Taylor "Original" Carlisle—Oh, he thinks he's right on the cutting edge of criminality, running boiler-room scams. Fake tan and fake accent, only a small percentage of him real.
Ben Carmichael—Works as Kevin Currie's second in command. The quiet and reliable type, just looking to get through the industry with money in his pocket and a functioning pulse.
Lee Christie—A mid-level drug dealer, podgy and in love with the party life. He may be married, but if pretty girls think he's a rich and well-connected man, you can bet he'll take advantage of that.
Nate Colgan—A relentlessly tough man, maybe the strongest reputation in all of Glasgow, and there's nothing that can bring him down. Everyone believes that, because nobody really knows him.
Rebecca Colgan—Perhaps the only person who knows him that doesn't have a shred of fear for Nate Colgan, her harmless, goofy father who cares about her so much.
Russell Conrad—Steadily built a reputation as a freelance gunman, and with so many organization men falling by the wayside, it was inevitable someone would make him an offer.
Zara Cope—When she and Nate were together, when they had their daughter, she thought that might be her life. The thought of domesticity appalled her, so she ran.
Stuart Crockley—Used to be that John Young would handle the process of ensuring all dirty money was cleansed of its sins, a role now filled by Stuart.
Kevin Currie—With his boss Jamieson in jail, Kevin's taken on a lot more responsibility. Smart enough to handle it, but there's a lot to get a grip on.
DC Ian Davies—Still clinging on to his career, praying for that pension to hurry up and arrive. If he could spend the rest of his working life in the office, he cheerfully would.
Jake "Lonny" Donezak—One of Lafferty's right-hand men. Young and smart, trusted despite his lack of experience because if you're good enough, you're old enough.
DI Michael Fisher—Occasional big victories and constant small defeats. He got Jamieson sent away, but his organization continues to function. And that nagging little obsession, Zara Cope.
Jess Flowers—All she had wanted was a bit of glamour, a bit of fun while she tried to find her way in the world. She never realized people could be so evil.
Neil Fraser—A big, dumb lump of muscle, slowly working his way down towards the gutter. Someone stabbed him once; many regretted that he got back up.
Mark Garvey—One of the higher-profile gun dealers in the city, of whom there are few to choose from. Garvey is well connected, always looking for a good deal.
Melanie Garvey—Marriage to the older man had seemed convenient. Money and stability in her life, but, my God, it became boring fast.
Paul Greig—He used to be a cop; now an information gatherer for anyone who can pay. Couldn't be any more bent now than he was when he wore the uniform.
Conn Griffiths—Been a long time since the ability to punch someone really hard was enough to make you good muscle. Conn epitomizes the new breed of smart hard men.
Keith Henson—A hard man, he thinks, who's come up from England with Barrett and his crew. He's there for the money, not the camaraderie.
Peter Jamieson—He ran the fastest-growing organization in the city, and one talkative gunman took it all away from him. He might be in jail, but that's temporary, and he's only ever a phone call away.
Adam Jones—Twin brother of the increasingly influential Marty and still bathed in his shadow, a fact he's increasingly coming to resent.
Marty Jones—If you knew Marty a few years ago you'd be amazed by the transformation, from a rotten little pimp to a key leader of the organization in Jamieson's enforced absence.
Angus Lafferty—Jamieson's biggest drug importer, and possibly the biggest in Scotland. Has enough legit business to live off, but can't seem to pull himself away from the criminal life.
Aaron MacLennan—Experienced, but that counts for nothing when you remain incompetent. Working with Adam Jones, which doesn't say much for Adam.
Ronnie Malone—He was working at the St. John Hotel when he met Nate Colgan. Nate spotted talent and pulled him in under his wing, a place nobody had been before.
Esther Mayberry—Lives with Ronnie, and will build a future with him, but she can't pretend she likes the way his life is going. The new work, it just seems wrong.
Jawad "Nasty" Nasif—He's been tight with Barrett for years, been through it all with him. Nasty does the dirtiest work, even if he's no fan of their new surroundings.
Kelly Newbury—She knows the business, and she's seen its bleak consequences at close range, but that doesn't stop her seeing something in Nate that she wants to have near.
Don Park—More than just a senior man in Alex MacArthur's organization, he's the ambitious shark with big teeth circling his ageing boss.
Elliott Parker—Barrett's right-hand man and the one who considers himself the brains of the operation, with a heartbeat that neither rises nor falls, no matter the circumstance.
Billy Patterson—Always ruthless. Always. Saw the need to refocus that ruthlessness when Alan was killed, the need to form the smartest alliances.
Charles Simpson—Every smart criminal has an even smarter lawyer, and Simpson is Jamieson's. Kept the sentence down, and is now helping to make sure Jamieson's messages get to the right people.
Mikey Summers—Hired by Billy Patterson to work alongside Conn Griffiths as a second pair of brutal hands. Now that Billy's joined up with Marty, Mikey's taking orders from various sources.
Brendan Thorne—Controls the Jamieson housing stock, useful properties that any criminal organization needs. An old man who's seen it all before and is impressed by none of it.
Owen Turner—Been a good mate to Ronnie since schooldays, and they still look to help each other out. Sometimes the best help a friend can give is to do nothing.
Trisha "Tish" Turner—The driving force behind the gadget shop she and her husband Owen run, trying to prop it up with the financial help that Ronnie organized for them.
Kirk Webster—He changed phone records for Jamieson at the call center he works at, and he admitted it to the police. Helped put Jamieson away. Been living in fear ever since.
Lewis Winter—Zara had almost persuaded herself she could build a life with Lewis, and then ambition pushed Lewis to make an enemy of Jamieson. He didn't live long after that.
John Young—Jamieson's right-hand man, his trusted lieutenant. Stood beside him on the rise and was beside him on the fall. Now in a different wing of the same prison.
"People are terrified of you. You've given them good reason. We know how valuable that is."
I sat listening and didn't say anything. This was the preamble to the subject that mattered: business. I already knew what was coming next. We were sitting in Kevin Currie's office, and I was listening to him speaking someone else's words.
"I don't need to tell you that there's a lot of stuff going on, a lot of stuff that needs to be sorted out," Kevin went on.
I liked Kevin, but he was wasting my time. I knew there was a lot that needed sorting. He knew it. If he'd stuck his head out the window to alert a passer-by, there was a good chance they would already have known. Peter Jamieson ran the criminal organization Currie was a major part of, but Peter Jamieson was in jail. That meant people were trying to pick scraps from the organization, profit from temporary vulnerability while it still existed.
"There's a lot of little stuff," Kevin went on, "but even that's become more complicated. A man with your reputation, you can simplify all that. That'll be the first thing we want from you."
There were shelves on the wall behind Kevin, and most of them were filled with what looked like folders. Supposed to make him look like the legitimate businessman nobody was dumb enough to believe he was. Maybe once he could fool people, but not since Jamieson went away. That change had made Kevin a bigger player than ever, one of the group of men running the organization day to day. So the neat little office of a legit businessman probably wasn't cutting it anymore.
But it wasn't the folders I was watching. There was a little gold trophy at the end of one of the shelves, tucked in behind a leaning folder. Looked like the sort of thing you would give a mediocre amateur sportsman. I couldn't stop myself wondering what that was for. Kevin wasn't a sportsman; he was a guy in his late forties getting slowly fat and jowly.
"None of that sounds like a problem," I said. I wasn't looking to sound nonchalant, but he was reading from a not particularly interesting script.
It was obvious what had happened, I probably don't even have to tell you. Peter Jamieson knew that I, Nate Colgan, was already doing work for the organization, and doing it well. He knew that he needed someone with a reputation to start throwing some weight around on his behalf, scare away the vultures. The serious attacks needed more defending than I could provide alone, but getting rid of the opportunists would remove the sense of weakness. So he made a call to Kevin, told him to hire me permanently and told him what to say.
"I didn't figure it would be," Currie said, nodding his head and letting his relief show. "We need good people around us right now, Nate, we really do. Feels like we're taking shots from every side and I don't know where the next one will come from."
He looked left and right, like someone might have snuck into that cramped little office. "There is something. I mean, Jesus, you know what people are like, always complaining about something or other, but this seems different. We've had a couple of guys complaining about being pushed off their patch. Couple of other guys seem to have crossed over."
"Don't know. That's the problem. Well, we sort of know. Outsiders. Can you believe it? Like there aren't enough local sharks in the water. Some English guy seems to be trying to pick off business in the city."
"You have an ID?" I asked. Knowing who the threats were was a big part of my job, and this was the first I had heard of this one. For the first time since I arrived in the office, Kevin had my interest.
"Just a name, Adrian Barrett. You heard of him?"
I shook my head, which I didn't like doing.
"English guy, like I said. We're trying to work out where he was before, who he might be working for, if anyone. Seems like he's putting the word around that he's in charge, but that could be a screen. The guy in charge doesn't turn up to do the donkey work, does he?"
Asking me, because he didn't know for himself. Kevin ran a counterfeit operation, a good and profitable one. The man knew how to run a business, let's make that clear right now. But he hadn't been involved in the dirtiest corners of the business until Jamieson's arrest pushed him there. Now he was up to his armpits in the filth and didn't know where to swim for safety.
"Not usually," I said. "Depends how big he is to start with, I suppose."
"Aye, well, he's becoming an issue. Everything's becoming a fucking issue." He was shaking his head and looking tired. The small things were mounting up, because the organization wasn't a well-oiled machine anymore. It was causing the sort of frustration that coaxed a rare sweary word out of Kevin's usually pristine mouth. "We have so many things we need to clean up," he went on. "There's stuff that still hasn't been done from months ago, stuff we should have gotten out of the way but we were too busy keeping our heads down. There's new stuff coming along all the time. You'll have to get on top of a lot of that."
"Sure. What's my title?"
"You'll be security consultant, the job Frank MacLeod was doing before he disappeared," he said. "You remember old Frank?"
I smiled a little and nodded. If you've been in the business in Glasgow at any point in the last forty years, you know of Frank MacLeod. I'd been in it for nineteen years, since I was eighteen. Disappeared was business speak for killed off and buried without the body ever being found. We knew he had been murdered on Jamieson's orders by a hitman called Calum MacLean, who then told his interesting little story to the police. But they couldn't peg the killing on Jamieson in any way, so that was another crime for which he wasn't convicted, despite the few for which he was.
"You'll be providing security advice for the club, some pubs, some bookies, some of the legit stuff that Jamieson has. You don't have to do anything though; the security mostly takes care of itself. We have people for that. Just put in the occasional appearance; I think that was all Frank used to do. Make sure the legit employees know your official job title in case the police ask them."
That all made sense, but I'll admit I was a little uncomfortable having to step into Frank's shoes. I wasn't going to be doing his job, not his real job. He was a hitman, and that was a line I'd never crossed. But people would see me doing the "security consultant" job he did and they would make the comparison. They would think I was now as important as Frank had been, and that would make me a target.
"Listen," Kevin went on, "there's a job I want you to start with, and I don't want you to laugh."
I raised my eyebrows. When you're a freelancer, you can be choosy if you really want to be. Won't do much for your reputation, and your reputation is what's going to get you work, but it's up to you what jobs you do. If you can afford to say no and you want to say no, then go ahead and say no. Not when you're an organization man. When you're on the payroll, you have to do the jobs you're given.
"I want you to go round and kick seven bells out of Kirk Webster. I know that's a pathetic place to start, but it still hasn't been done and it needs to be."
"Is that all that needs to be done?"
"Well"—Kevin shrugged—"for now it is."
I stood up and I shook his hand, like a new employee delighted to get through the job interview. There was something about that little office that made me want to play at being legit. That feeling had passed by the time I was out on the street, getting into Ronnie's car.
He had his little Astra parked in the single line of parking spaces in front of Currie's place. The car was too clean, I thought, maybe too new as well. It was a work car that nobody should ever spot. We were in Hillington, not far south of the river in an industrial area full of engineering firms and warehouses. Currie's was a single-story white building, brick front and corrugated roof, the office at the back of a large warehouse, surrounded by respectability on a street lined with trees. Nothing to suggest that the warehouse was crammed with tremendously illegal goods.
"So?" Ronnie asked me.
"I'm on the payroll."
"My first job will be to hire you in a security role. Congratulations."
He started the car and we pulled away, me telling him about Kirk as we went. I'll tell you about Kirk in a minute, but first I want to tell you about Ronnie Malone. I'd met him a good time ago, when he was working in a grubby little hotel near Central Station. He was there for Currie, helping his men get rooms for whatever little business they wanted to hide from others. He was wasted there.
Ronnie was smart, and smart shouldn't be left booking rooms in a half-empty hotel for barely important counterfeiters and suppliers. I persuaded Currie to move him into my employ, let me work him into something more usable.
"You come and work with me, and we'll make good money together," I had told him. "You'll have cash, you'll have interesting work, you'll have the chance to move up fast."
He'd looked at me like he was trying to find the world's politest way to say no. I wasn't there to hear no, however polite, so I leaned a little more heavily.
"All you're getting now is beer money, but you still go down if someone points the finger at you. You've helped dangerous people do terrible things. The dough you're making isn't worth that. Let me help you make more, help make the risk worthwhile."
He still looked reluctant, but he was a good boy, smart enough to realize that yes was the correct answer. So he came to work for me, and he was doing a decent job of it. Had a few little missteps, but every kid does when they're starting out. Kid: Ronnie had just turned twenty-six a few weeks before Currie put us on the payroll.
He drove me back to my house. "You go look up Kirk Webster, find out what rock he's living under. Come pick me up when you've found him. I'll handle him. It won't be a two-man job."
We were still at the point where Ronnie was doing the set-up and I was doing the dirty work. The process of educating him on how to get bloody was a slow one. He had to learn, because that was his job, but you don't rush a kid into it if you don't have to. I was taking my time, teaching him, because I enjoyed it that way.
I had a small terraced house in Balornock, on a long curving road in an area that wasn't quite as rough as it looked at a glance. Used to have the Birnie Court flats looming at the end of the road, looking ready for a fight. They had picked one with a demolition team and were gone by the time this happened. My house was the sort of place you would accept a man on a low income lives in. I wasn't on a low income, but I was happy for the world to make its usual assumptions and move quietly along. I needed just enough space for me and my few possessions and I wasn't fussy about location, location, location.
Don't get me wrong, I would have liked to share my home with someone else. More than one, actually, but there was no way I was going to let that happen. I was bursting with faults, some of which I may find time to tell you about, but that kind of selfishness wasn't one of them. I would have loved to have my daughter living with me, but I knew she was better off living with her mother's parents. I wasn't the man to bring up a young girl. And I would have liked to have a woman in my life, but that wasn't happening either. I was short-tempered, generally surly and lugging around a reputation that made me good at my job and bad at everything else. People were scared of me, and that cut bad as well as good.
There was someone sniffing around, a girl I liked, a girl I admired. Her name was Kelly Newbury, and because I liked her I was making a conscious effort to stay away from her. She wanted the security a relationship with me could give her. Have me be scary on her behalf. It was an invitation to trouble and other good things that I couldn't afford to get tangled in. Not with all this going on.
I took a sly look up and down the street as I made my way up to the front door because the habit of caution is a priceless gift. There was nothing out of place that I could spot, even if my eyesight isn't as good as it once was. It'll have to stay below its best because a guy like me doesn't turn up to his work bespectacled.
I pushed open the front door and stepped inside, already seeing something I didn't like. There was a folded piece of notepaper lying on the mat just inside the door that someone had put through my letter box when I was away getting gainfully employed. In the few seconds it took me to pick up the piece of paper I wracked my brains trying to think of any good news I had received in this way. None, ever.
Just needed a glance at the handwriting to know that this was more than bad news. This was a disaster waiting to happen. This was Zara Cope's handwriting. Messy but confident, her name scrawled across the bottom of the paper, the Z much bigger than the rest of it, like a dyslexic Zorro.
I sighed my disapproval loudly to the empty corridor and wandered through to the living room. Putting music on always made it less likely that I would lose my temper, so I sat with a guitar being gently strummed in the background and read the note.
I was at your door but I guess you're not home.
I don't have your number so I'm leaving this note instead.
We need to meet. There are things we have to discuss,
like the delivery I made for you some time ago.
Remember that? There are other things to talk about as well.
There were little digs in there that were designed to annoy me. Let's start with the "I guess you're not home" comment, as though I was hiding behind the fucking couch to avoid her. Even mentioning the delivery was uncharacteristically stupid. What if someone else had found the note before I got to it? And saying there were other things to talk about was just a cheap tease. There was a lot more to the letter than the words.
She was desperate, was the first obvious thing. Mentioning what she had delivered to me before she was arrested was her charmless little shot at reminding me I owed her money. I didn't need to be reminded; the money was sitting in an account waiting for her to adopt it. The sooner she got it out of that account and into one of her own the happier I would be. I didn't want it anywhere near me. The money had started out its life attached to Lewis Winter, a walking catastrophe who had strolled to his early death when Zara was with him.
I should maybe give you a little history lesson at this point. Zara was the mother of my nine-year-old daughter, Rebecca. Zara hung around the business, using her looks and her smarts to make herself a fine little living. Or a living, anyway. She was a cut above the usual hangers-on, sharp as anything that's ever cut me. I fell for her hard; we moved in together; she had Becky. Didn't last though, and it was mostly my fault. Zara was twenty-one, looking for a fast life, and I was an angry and dangerous twenty-eight-year-old who wouldn't accept the world not constantly bending to my will. We were too young. She ran, and I let her. Becky went to live with Zara's parents, and it's been that way since.
Zara shacked up with Lewis Winter, a mid-level dealer, and when he was knocked off she came to me with some of his dirty cash and the last of his supply. The drugs needed selling and the money needed hiding until the dear Scottish police service kindly stopped looking for it. I did what I could to help her, because that seemed like the right thing to do for the mother of my child, and because I still didn't know how to say no to Zara Cope.
She was a special woman, one who had a power over me no other person has ever had. That didn't help her a damn when she got a three-month sentence for perverting the course of justice. Slap-on-the-wrist stuff for someone inside the industry, but she was no more than a hanger-on, and the sentence would have hit her hard. She got out and went off the radar for a while, didn't even come looking for her money. I knew she'd been away from the city for a lot of that time because I kept an eye out for her. Now, evidently, she was back. And yes, I did recognize her handwriting after all those years. There was almost nothing of her I had forgotten.
- "Don't pick up a Mackay book unless you've got spare time. They're habit-forming."—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
- "The [Glasgow] trilogy was a bravura performance, and one had every reason to expect that Mackay would do more with such rich material. That expectation has now been met, and rousingly so."—Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post
- "A piece of writing that lives up to its gritty title . . . We can't get enough of this morally complex antihero. . . . It is a joy to wallow in the muck with Mackay, who writes in a bold style that reflects confidence rather than bravado, occasionally breaking up the tension with a wry joke."—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
- "Contemporary noir doesn't boast a more elegant stylist than Mackay. Even in evoking a world of scuzziness, he makes the lure of redemption sing."—Lloyd Sachs, Chicago Tribune
- "A dark read, complex but satisfying, and all the more real for it. . . . I frankly cannot imagine a situation where anyone picking up the novel would not want to immediately dive into Mackay's past work, which is its own fully realized dark criminal universe."—Joe Hartlaub, BookReporter
- "Mackay continues to ascend the ranks of hard-boiled British crime fiction authors. His latest novel [is] streaked with black humor and a fast-paced plot that never sacrifices the truly fleshed-out characters."—Library Journal (starred review)
- "Morally complex . . . Filled with bloody intrigue, Scottish slang, and enough twists and turns to keep even the most astute reader guessing, this is hard-boiled fiction at its finest."—Publishers Weekly
- On Sale
- Apr 11, 2017
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Mulholland Books