For Those Who Know the Ending


By Malcolm Mackay

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Martin Sivok is in trouble. Tied to a chair, plastic strips biting his wrists, inside a deserted warehouse . . . There are only so many ways this scenario can end, most of them badly. For now his best hope is figuring out who put him here — and staying conscious long enough to confront them.

To stay awake he reviews the past year of his life: evading the law in the Czech Republic by running to Glasgow, settling into a borderline respectable relationship with his landlady, and getting back into the life at the very bottom of the criminal ladder, alongside Usman Kassar, a cocky, goofy kid anxious to prove himself.

The job should be simple: Smash heads, grab cash, run. The trouble with being two outsiders is, you don’t always know whose heads are too dangerous to crack, or whose cash is too hot to handle…

In sharp, precise prose, Malcolm Mackay — an “elegant stylist” unmatched in contemporary noir (Chicago Tribune) — captures the character of Glasgow and its underworld denizens.



Charlie Allen—Charlie and his cousin Ian keep their street-dealing business mostly outside of Glasgow. Tried to work the city before and got their fingers burned, and they'll only go in again for the right deal.

Ian Allen—A chubby little fellow who runs a successful street-dealing business with Charlie. Everyone thinks they're brothers, and it's too much work to correct them all.

Chris Argyle—There aren't many who have a better importing business than Argyle. What he needs are dealers to distribute, and then he can seal a deal with a major organization.

Brian "BB" Bradley—Bright young muscle, throwing his weight around for a living. If he makes no mistakes he might survive long enough to get as disillusioned as the veterans who give him his orders.

Nate Colgan—You wouldn't tell him he wasn't the toughest man in Glasgow to his face. Security consultant for the Jamieson organization, and it's a job with increasing complications.

Rebecca Colgan—If there's anyone in Glasgow who truly believes in the goodness of Nate Colgan it's his daughter Rebecca. If there's one person he truly loves back, it's her.

Aiden Comrie—He's worked the street for years, hoping his big break will come. Setting up a drug deal between Argyle and the Allens would be huge. This is his moment.

Liam Duffy—He might be young, but don't underestimate his ability. He wouldn't be a senior man for Chris Argyle if he didn't know exactly what he was doing.

Dale Duggan—To look at him you would think he was nothing, and that's the point. If you don't look at him twice you'll never see the guns he delivers to buyers.

Lisa Fitzgerald—She knew what Gully did for a living when she married him, but all these years later she thought he was out of that world. She hoped he was, anyway.

Sally Fitzgerald—Lisa and Gully had wanted a child for so long, and they only had Sally for eight years. It broke them both, and they're still trying to put the pieces back together.

Stephen "Gully" Fitzgerald—Back in the day, if you worked in Glasgow's underworld, Gully was the man you feared punishment from most. He's older now, but being scary is like riding a bike to him.

Alison Glenn—Usman's great, and she does like spending time with him, but she worries about her job, about her long-term prospects. She's feeling the pressure.

Peter Jamieson—He built one of the biggest criminal organizations in the city, and just because he's in prison doesn't mean that he isn't still in charge.

Marty Jones—Started out as the sort of pimp and moneylender that everyone despised. Has grown into the sort of pimp and moneylender that people in the business have no choice but to respect.

Akram Kassar—It's not serious criminality, moving counterfeit goods around and trying to make a bit of slightly dishonest cash. He tries to put some work his little brother Usman's way when he can.

Usman Kassar—Don't be fooled by the youthfully goofy appearance, he's a smart kid. The kind who can plan big things, and keep those plans to himself until it's time to do the job.

James Kealing—An industry veteran, running a bunch of warehouses he and his terrifying father started and keeping his profile low and profits high.

Przemek Krawczyk—The criminals he works for in Glasgow take their orders from Eastern Europe, so when they told him to look after Martin Sivok, he did. But he can only babysit so long.

Alex MacArthur—The oldest of the old organization bosses, a man clinging on to power while the young wolves eye up control of what he built.

Ronnie Malone—Nate had never had a protégé before, a young man he could teach the ways of the business. He took Ronnie under his wing, and it turned out to be a mistake.

Joanne Mathie—She wasn't looking for a relationship, but Martin makes her happy and she wants to make the best of that, even if the circumstances are…complicated.

Skye Mathie—Her mother has a boyfriend and that's pretty disgusting to begin with. Her mother seemingly preferring that boyfriend over her, well that just isn't fair.

Sarah McFall—She's the senior woman that the Allens use for all their important negotiations. Smart, but that's never enough, you have to be tough as hell too, and she is.

Kelly Newbury—She seems to want to become the woman in Nate Colgan's life, and she's quickly becoming a key employee for the Jamieson organization.

Don Park—Of all the people lining up to replace Alex MacArthur, none has a better chance than Park. If he could set up his own drug network with Argyle and the Allens, he'd be halfway to power.

Martin Sivok—He came to Scotland from the Czech Republic through necessity, not choice. Now that he's here he wants to build a life, and working in the criminal industry is the only way he knows how.

John Young—He was Peter Jamieson's right-hand man, and the same police investigations that swept Jamieson to prison caught Young too.

12:46 a.m.

It's been almost two hours. His legs are cramping. The plastic strips have dug into his wrists where he's pulled at them. Martin's become accustomed to the dark now. He can see the small door they came in. He can see the loading-bay shutters beside it they should have left by. There's little in the warehouse itself, metal shelves pushed back against three walls and a large empty floor space. Not quite empty. There's a man dressed in black, tied to a chair by thin plastic strips. Martin.

The cut on the top of his shaved head seems like it's stopped bleeding. Either that or it's become numb. The balaclava he was wearing is gone. He didn't take it off, and he can't see it anywhere. The blood had run down the side of his neck, trickling down inside his clothes. He had wriggled to try and scratch the itch, but that was no use. Now the blood has dried and his clothes are sticking to it. When he shakes his head slightly, he doesn't feel any more liquid movement up there, just the dizziness of effort. That's a positive. Cling on to that.

He's leaning forward, now that it seems his head will let him. Tried this a few minutes ago and the pain that shot behind his eyes demanded he lean back again. Spent the next few minutes fearing that crack to the head had done him permanent damage. Bloody hell, that hit was harder than it needed to be. He's looking down at the straps round his ankles. These aren't as noticeably tight as the ones round his wrists. Tight enough. A second strap looped through the first and into a small metal hoop in the floor. All to guarantee that he's not going anywhere.

Not that he could anyway. His hands tied behind him, his shoulders starting to burn. He doesn't have the strength for struggle. Two hours. Shouldn't take half this long, not if they knew what they were doing. The waiting is making it worse. Forcing him to sit still, knowing they're out there. Knowing they're on their way to kill him.

Martin Sivok has been in the country for a little over a year. Born in Czechoslovakia, raised in the Czech Republic. Worked minor jobs in Brno based around dealing. Then the minor jobs got major. Working for a gang that had connections all across Europe. It paid well, and he was willing to take the risks that well-paid work requires. But risks run fast. They catch up with you; so he left in a hurry. Had some help getting out from his former employers. That same gang had connections in Western Europe, told him they had some work for him in Scotland. Sure, Scotland, why not? Glasgow seemed all right, mostly because there was nobody here trying to arrest or kill him. Wasn't where he had been planning to spend a few years, but so what? Hadn't been planning anything at all. Life was a wide open field and he was young enough to wander into any corner of it.

He's moving again. Trying to wriggle in the seat to take some pressure off his shoulders, see if he can dim the pain. Trying to loosen the straps a little, but that's only making things worse. The plastic is digging into the flesh and he can feel it cut his wrist. Now a dribble of blood, running down into the palm of his hand. Feels the blood on his numbing fingers. He's sighing, for all the good it'll do.

Weird how dry his mouth is. He's licking his lips but his tongue isn't moist enough to help. He hasn't shouted, and he won't. No point when there's nobody to hear him. There's something, a slow drip it sounds like, coming from behind him. Must be raining again, the water running through a hole in the roof of the warehouse. Big bloody surprise that it's raining in this city. It's a cold night, but he still has his jacket on. Another small mercy. So that's his coat keeping him warm and he's not bleeding from the head any more. Two positives to focus on.

Plenty of negatives to ignore. Being tied to a chair in a warehouse in Clydebank in the middle of the night isn't a cheerful way to pass the time. Knowing that someone's about to turn up with the intention of killing you and the ability to make it happen. All of it a set-up, carefully constructed by others. And Joanne, sitting back at home, waiting for him to return, aware that this might be the night when he doesn't.

Martin's closing his eyes. He's been trying to stop himself from doing that for the last hour. Close your eyes and you don't know when you'll open them again. Maybe you never will. And if you do, your mind might be too addled to react properly to what's happening. Stay awake and stay alert. He can't he's too sore and too tired and too drained. Too aware of what's to come this night to want to think about it.


They weren't as big and impressive as they had claimed. Not in Scotland, anyway. He knew how well connected they were in Eastern Europe because he'd seen it firsthand. Worked those long-established and deep-running networks and made good money from them. But here he was, Martin Sivok, thirty-one, short, stocky and standing in a foreign country. He needed their connections to help him now if he was going to survive the upheaval working for them had brought about. They got him some work. Some. Like, a little. Crappy jobs for crappy money.

Back in Brno they had been the biggest gang in town and had enough strength to make sure they stayed that way. A healthy percentage of the high-value drugs coming into the city and the region passed through them. Money flowed in with it, and Martin got his cut because Martin did some very dirty jobs for them. They liked him, they valued him. That's why they helped him get west and get safe when he was running from the police.

They tried to find him work, but it wasn't the same when they stepped outside of their own territory. There were other people in Glasgow, people who had been here a long time. Outsiders were growing rapidly in influence, but there was an old guard fighting to protect what had always been theirs. The gang that brought him across, they weren't looking for trouble with the old guard. Working with them in supply, rather than against them in distribution. Making less money but avoiding any real conflict, for now at least. It was a different tactic from the norm, and one that meant Martin and his skills had nowhere to play in Glasgow.

So he was bounced back to the bottom of the heap. Nobody wants to be down there in the gutter of the criminal industry, not for long. Even kids starting out, their motivation is to get upwardly mobile. Get into the clouds where the money and influence are hidden. Well Martin had been up there already; he had just lost altitude. Meant learning the ropes in the new place; going back to school.

Learn who's who, that's important. Work out who you can do jobs for and who you can't. Who you can trust and who'll throw you overboard as soon as they've used you. Who has a long-term future in the city and who's one step away from their ending. Work out who's fighting wars against who so that you can try and benefit from the inevitable work conflict provides. Oh, and work out what the fuck these people are saying. His English was pretty good before he got here, been speaking it in bits since high school. Watched a lot of American TV and listened to a lot of music sung in what he thought was the right language. First day off the plane in Glasgow and he realized he'd learned the wrong English.

Took a while to get used to everything, but he did. He completed the often menial jobs they provided for him and made very little money along the way. He was practically living off his savings the first time he met Usman Kassar. He had mentioned his situation, a couple of times, to an absurdly hairy Polish guy with good English that seemed to be running things for the old gang hereabouts.

"There must be other things you could get me. I have done much more than this, back home. I can do it again." Hinting at the high-value work he had made a living from.

"I know what you did," the hairy man said, shrugging. His name was full of Z's and Y's, but Martin could never remember in what order. "There's nothing here. People here, they have their own men like you. Men they trust. Men they've known for years. They don't trust you."

"I could do that work for you."

"We aren't doing that here, and we won't be. I'm not teasing you here, kid. We have a good thing going that we won't screw up. London, sure, other cities maybe. But we have a deal in Glasgow. A good one. There are others though. As long as you aren't working against us, you don't have to only work for us."

That was disheartening. He'd been working for one gang for more than ten years, worked their toughest jobs back home. Now he was out of sight and out of mind. Hey, you want to go work for someone else you go knock yourself out. He felt dismissed. They'd brought him here as a courtesy, a thank-you for all the profitable work he'd done for them in the past, but they probably assumed he'd find work with someone else right away. He had clung on to them for too long.


Joanne Mathie knew what she'd be coming home to. She'd spent the previous evening stocktaking at the bookshop and spent the night at her sister's. Had warned her daughter Skye she'd be back at ten o'clock the following morning, and any piles of partygoers better be cleared by then. Joanne would have been surprised if Skye had kept her word, so there was no shock when she opened the front door and found a sickly teenage girl blocking the corridor. Skye had thrown a party, and thrown the house around with it.

Joanne stepped over the girl in the corridor and went looking for her daughter. There were people in the living room and the kitchen, half of them asleep and the other half wishing they still were, nursing all kinds of headaches. Strangers asleep in various rooms and various positions. There was beer on the carpet and what looked like a bloodstain on the kitchen table that she didn't want to think about. Couldn't find Skye. Went upstairs looking for her. Found her in her bedroom, still under the quilt with a gormless-looking soul lying next to her.

"You get up," Joanne shouted at her, before turning to the boy, "and you get out."

The boy did as he was told, not so much as a good-bye as he pulled on some clothes and sprinted for freedom. Joanne stood over the bed while Skye made no effort at all to move.

"What?" Skye shouted.

"I tell you you can have a party but I'll be back by ten so get the place cleaned up. That was all I asked of you. Have you taken a wee peek at a clock?"

"Just get out of my room," Skye said petulantly, pulling the quilt over her head.

"This is the last time," Joanne shouted, slamming the door behind her as she walked out of the room.

Went into her own bedroom and paused. A stocky, shaven-headed young man lying on the floor at the bottom of the bed, all on his own. Looked like he'd managed to have a happy enough time, aided only by a bottle and three cans lying beside him. Joanne kicked him good and hard on the ankle. A man lying on the floor of her bedroom uninvited, a kick was the least he deserved. He sat bolt upright, growling something in a language that may have been foreign or may have been drunken Glaswegian.

"Out," Joanne said harshly, pointing at the door.

He got up and made to leave, pausing when he saw her begin to tidy up the mess he'd made. Walked back across and insisted on picking up everything he'd left on the floor, apologizing in broken English. Went downstairs with her, picking up more rubbish as he went. Refused to leave until he had helped her move furniture back into place, including tipping two sleeping people off the sofa and barking at them to leave when they dared complain. He had the place cleaned and cleared in a little over forty minutes. She felt obliged to offer him a cup of coffee.

Said his name was Martin, from the Czech Republic, and emphasized the fact he was single. Joanne was thirty-nine, tidy dark hair, a pretty face, and short, which suited Martin. Truth was he had no idea where he was and had no money for a taxi so leaving wasn't a tempting option. They chatted for almost an hour, Joanne enjoying this straightforward little man. He was smart and self-effacing, but there was an unmistakable edge to the quiet confidence that radiated from him. An ordinary face with eyes that routinely hinted at far more than was spoken.

He visited the house the following day, and things moved fast. Joanne was old enough to know her mind and not debate it. She liked Martin and Martin liked her so they spent a lot of time together. Three months after meeting and he had practically moved in.


Usman Kassar. Jesus, the first time Martin met him he was convinced the boy was a halfwit. Had a big puffy jacket, oversized red headphones draped round his neck and some goofy cap or hat on. He was dressed for attention. They were exchanging a large sum of money for a significant quantity of pills and his outfit could scarcely have been less suitable. Doing a drug deal in an outfit you'd have to be high to wear. Could have carried round a neon sign and he wouldn't have been any more conspicuous.

It was in the back office of a hairdressers in Hillhead that the deal was done. A group of Pakistanis with Scottish accents and Eastern Europeans with Eastern European accents. Everything had long since been agreed, this was just the twitchy handover. You do the negotiation first, separately. Don't negotiate with the gear on the table, that has a habit of clouding stupid people's judgment, which is typically not clear to begin with. Martin didn't know who any of them were, not even the guys he was there with. One was Polish, the other might have been Ukrainian, maybe Russian, didn't speak enough to clarify either way. Didn't matter, Martin was just there to make up the numbers.

There were polite handshakes to begin with. The gear was handed over, the cash moved the other way. The possible Ukrainian pocketed the packet of money, the man Usman was with took the bags of pills. That fellow seemed jolly, he and Usman happy with the deal. The sellers though seemed to be trying to play up to some inscrutable Eastern European stereotype, all scowls and shrugs that would disappear when there were no strangers around, so Martin played along. Give the people what they expect.

The possible Ukrainian and the other guy on Martin's side left together. Left him, nothing more than hired muscle they didn't need any more, to make his own way home. He was starting to stroll down the street, hoping to bump into a bus stop, get himself closer to Joanne's house in Mount Florida, which was neither a mountain nor in Florida. They were good with names round here though, he would give them that. He heard footsteps scuffing along the pavement behind him.


Usman Kassar made up an excuse with his brother, told Akram he was going to meet a mate so couldn't take the pills back with him. Story accepted, and Usman went scuffing off down the street to catch up with the foreigner. A lazy person running, not getting their feet off the ground properly and not caring about the noise they made. Struggling to catch up with that little guy.

Wouldn't make a good first impression and he knew it, the little skinhead frowning over his shoulder at the approaching Usman. You're unarmed and alone and some guy you've just done a drug deal with is running toward you. Usman was on his own too, sure, but that didn't mean anything. He would be on his own if he was looking to attack. Akram would then drive up alongside so that he could jump straight into the car for a getaway. Sort of thing the foreigner had probably done before, back in the day, before he graduated to more complicated things.

Usman assumed he looked as impressive as he felt, young and tough and bristling with masculine energy. He was busy hanging on to his oversized headphones, and his attempt at running had neither the pace nor the urgency of a man in a real hurry. Also, he sure as shit wasn't afraid of being seen.

"Here, mate, wait up," he said, wheezing out the last couple of words. He had run fifty feet, at most. "Slow down, slow down, man."

Martin wasn't walking quickly. He stopped and looked at this young man. Martin was thirty-one, but he looked older; Usman was twenty-five, but he looked younger. Thin as a rail, smooth cheeked and full of grins. He stopped beside Martin with one of those trademark grins all over his face, leaning forward with his hands nearly at his knees, panting.

"You are not fit," Martin said quietly. Going for the deadpan approach, because that was what they had played in the hairdressers.

"Aye, no, I'm not. Smoking too much good stuff. I know it, man, I know it. Listen, pal, you're Martin, right, Martin Sivok?"

Martin frowned at that. First time anyone here had known his name before he'd told them and that made him suspicious. Someone had mentioned him to this kid and this kid had some way of profiting from it. Something else Martin had seen before. You hear a name and hear a few things that that name has done. You put pressure on that person, try and work an angle that puts money in your pocket. Blackmail, mainly. You give me money or I tell local police about you. Simple stuff if you can persuade the other person you have the balls to follow it through.

"Why do you want to know?" Martin said. Low tone, taking a single step forward to make the distance between him and this guy uncomfortably close. Let him see how quickly this could turn very nasty.

"Here, Jesus, calm yourself, man. It's nothing bad. Fuck's sake. Man, he said you'd be cool."

"Who said?"

"Przemek. That how you say it? Przemek Krawczyk?" Neither pronunciation anywhere close to correct. "I don't know how to pronounce his name. We just call him PK. Everyone round here does, or we'd be falling over our fucking tongues. The Polish guy. Big hair, big beard. You know him, right?"

Martin nodded. The name, a mangled spit of vowels, sounded at least in the ball park of the hairy Pole's. He knew him, just didn't know why he'd be talking to this guy about him.


Usman looked at him and puffed out his cheeks. "Man, you're hard work. He said you'd be cool about this. I don't know, maybe he was wrong. Look, he told me you were a serious guy, you know, a guy who did big jobs. Said you were bored of the shitty stuff they have you doing for them. Said you might be looking for something a wee bit better."

Martin said nothing for a few seconds. They were out on the bloody street and this wasn't a conversation that sat comfortably in public, Usman knew. Two people had walked past them already and there were others coming into range. You don't approach a serious guy in the middle of the fucking street where people can see you. But, maybe Martin wasn't that serious any more. The Pole had said it was a while since he had pulled a big job, and reputations got swallowed fast.

"I'm interested in good work," Martin said eventually. "If it's serious. If it's properly organized. If it's with people I know and I trust. I don't know you," he said, and turned away.

That reaction wasn't a surprise, the tough guy thinking he was swinging on the top branches of the tree. Always took men like him a while to realize that their celebrity only burned bright in their own neck of the woods, and now that they had left their home city some younger spark would be filling that vacuum.

Martin started to walk away, made it a few steps and found Usman bolting in front of him. He stood blocking the path, a big grin still on his face.


  • "A hypnotic, addictive, one-sit read that you will tear through even as you fear what will happen next...You don't need to have read Mackay's other books to fully appreciate his latest one, but you certainly will want to do so after experiencing this fine, beautifully dark tale.... If you like your thrillers dark, messy and violent, look no further than Scottish noir in general and Malcolm Mackay in particular."—BookReporter
  • "For Those Who Know the Ending has its predecessors' bone-dry humor, squirm-making suspense, utter lack of mercy and unexpectedly fleshy characterizations."—Shelf Awareness
  • "The violence is shot through with dark humor, and even the lowest criminals have their fair share of humanity. Tartan noir fans will find plenty to like."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Mackay's fiction [is] gripping, dark, so immersed in the underworld that there's rarely a cop in sight . . . It stands comparisons with such genre giants as George V. Higgins."—Craig Robinson, The Scotsman
  • "A fast-paced, page-turning journey through a nightmarish world of ruthless men... [Mackay]'s real skill lies in making monsters not only human, but characters that deserve a little sympathy for their brutal lives."—Shirley Whiteside, Sunday Herald (UK)

    "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, Washington Post
  • "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."—Chicago Tribune

On Sale
May 8, 2018
Page Count
272 pages
Mulholland Books

Malcolm Mackay

About the Author

Malcolm Mackay’s novels have been nominated for the Edgar Awards’ Best Paperback Original, the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger, and the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. How a Gunman Says Goodbye won the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award. Mackay was born in Stornoway on Scotland’s Isle of Lewis, where he still lives.

Learn more about this author