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«Snapshot», Craig Robertson

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Craig Robertson



Sunday 11 September

It was raining. Of course it was raining, it was Glasgow. It didn’t get to be the dear, green place without more than its fair share of rain.

The hundreds of hunched, angry shapes who were lined up in a disorderly queue outside Blochairn Market were getting pissed on and pissed off.

Pitches were allocated on a first-come, first-served basis and so people made sure they got there early. Some of them had been queuing since four in the morning. It was now just after seven – although to Tony Winter it still felt like the middle of the night – and these people had probably been crabbit even before they were told they had to leave their stall and get back outside the gates because some inconsiderate fucker had got himself stabbed.

Winter lifted his camera and took a quick shot of the entrance to the market. Scene setting. Not strictly procedure but it was always his way. It was the way Metinides did it and if it was good enough for the man then it worked for him.

They were all facing the entrance, some back in their cars and others pacing about on foot like mental bears in a zoo. It meant he was able to take a shot of them from behind without risking getting his head kicked in. Rows of cars and vans that had been stacked full to the gunwales with everything under the sun. Views out of rear windows still blocked with boxes and piles of clothes, impatient people crammed between paste tables and plastic sheeting. Bottled-up humanity, simmering in the rain and not giving a damn for the poor bastard that was dead, just desperate to get back inside and flog second-hand shoes and remnants of makeup.

The Sunday car boot at Blochairn, minutes north of the city centre, is the biggest in Scotland and one of the biggest in Europe. You can buy everything from nearly complete jigsaws to designer coats, second-hand books to antique jewellery and everything in between. You wouldn’t believe what people will buy.

He’d been before and saw two women fighting over threadbare dishtowels selling for ten pence each. There was probably a decade of grease and dirt on them but it was that or nothing. This was real poverty. Okay, maybe it could be eased by buying a few less packets of fags or less booze but that was the way it was and who was he to judge?

Cars would roll up to the market entrance from the early hours and they’d sit in the dark and wait for opening time, steaming up windscreens with half-hearted expectancy. They’d be there no time at all before torches would be shone at them and there would be a knock at the window. Sharp faces and searching eyes would reach in from the dark. What you selling? You shifting mobile phones? You selling gold? How much you looking for it?

The idea is to sell everything they bring as fast as they can and get out again. Not this day though. This day, one of those miserable September mornings doing a passable impression of a nasty December afternoon, was different. Two cops stood in front of the newly relocked gates at Blochairn, others were at work inside and Winter was about to join them.

He nodded at Sandy Murray and Jim Boyle, the two PCs on the gate, as he passed them and headed into the market.

‘Awrite, Winter? Another day, another dead body.’ Boyle made the same crack every time he saw him.

‘Word of warning, Tony. That cunt Addison is in a bad mood. As usual.’ Murray and Addison had never seen eye to eye and the DI had booted the constable’s arse on a couple of occasions. Chances were Addison wasn’t as grumpy as they were making out. It was just the same old, same old.

The body was waiting for Winter at the back. The early morning wake-up call had already told him much of what he needed to know. A lifeless heap in a dark puddle of blood, a knife wound to the heart. Found by a woman who had gone in search of carrier bags to keep the rain off teapots. The dead man was a number, a statistic. He might as well have had ‘cliche’ scrawled in blood on his forehead. Getting yourself stabbed to death in Glasgow showed a spectacular lack of originality.

They already knew his name. As the chip wrappers would put it, he was known to the police.

Sammy Ross, two-bit drug dealer, professional low-life. Now a no-life.

It was only September but this was already fatal stabbing number forty-six in Glasgow. There had been too many non-fatal ones to count.

Winter had personally photographed fourteen of the previous forty-five and it was becoming very dull. Number fifteen was likely to be no more interesting than the rest.

It wasn’t his job to do so but off the top of his head he could think of a dozen reasons why someone might have killed Sammy Ross. You didn’t work with cops all day without learning something.

Someone might have wanted to pay less. Someone might have wanted to pay nothing. Maybe Sammy was cutting his heroin with too much sugar or powdered milk. Maybe Sammy had been selling worming pills as ecstasy tabs again. Maybe he had made promises he couldn’t keep. He could have been shagging someone he shouldn’t have. He might not have been shagging someone he should. He could have owed money, he might have been defending a pal, he could have been done for the cash in his pocket. Maybe he just looked at someone the wrong way. Maybe he supported the wrong football team. In Glasgow there was no end of ways to get yourself stabbed.

It didn’t matter. Sammy Ross was Winter’s mess to photograph that morning. Happy days. There he was, lying empty, having leaked his life at the foot of Derek Addison. The DI had his hands thrust into the pockets of his raincoat, studying Ross with all the interest of someone finding shit under his shoe. Only September but it had already been a long year. Winter focused the camera on the two men, one live, one dead, and fired off a couple of shots. Scene two. The rapid clack-clack-clack of the motor made Addison whirl round angrily.

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