First an Asian business owner falls to his death from his sixth-story apartment. Next an Indian woman, a kindergarten teacher, is shot dead. Meanwhile, Detective Perlman grieves quietly for his brother, killed in a hail of gunfire, and wrestles with his attraction to his sister-in-law, Miriam. There is no rational motive for the killings—none except pure racially driven hatred.
With the emergence of a group called White Rage, fear ripples through the city and Perlman has to get answers fast. As he looks beneath the bright surface of the city where he was born, he finds longtime enemies, dangerous businessmen, and ancient connections that will disturb and threaten the wrong people when their secrets are finally revealed.
White Rage is the 3rd book in the Glasgow Novels, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Born in Glasgow and educated at the University of Sussex, Armstrong worked as a book editor in London and taught creative writing at universities in the United States.
Read an Excerpt
A Glasgow Novel
By Campbell Armstrong
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2001 Campbell Armstrong
All rights reserved.
She hadn't planned on letting things go this far. She'd been ambushed by a variety of influences, the effect of wine and grass, the slow-burning jazz. His persistence was also a factor, probably the major one.
He wanted her with a passion that was an anger.
Fine. It suited her to have him off-balance. She lay beneath him on the rug and looked at the ceiling and listened to him whimper. He uttered words that made no sense, long vowels, sawn-off consonants punctuated by tiny grunts and plosives. The weird language of a man about to explode. Brutespeak.
He groaned, then roared, and she thought of a zoo creature filling the night with anguished noise. She saw his mouth open, and the shadow at the back of his throat. His roar died suddenly. He let his face drop into her shoulder and whimpered. Then he sighed as if he'd run a marathon and was approaching meltdown, a coroner's slab.
She made a tiny sound that was intended to be one of appreciation or gratitude, designed to reaffirm his 'manhood', or whatever he called that quality he needed to prove. He was of slight build, thin-shouldered. He slid out of her and rolled away, reached for his cigarettes, lay on his back and flicked his lighter. It was a smoothly cinematic motion. She saw it as if she were a camera. She often looked at the world like this, tight shots, close-ups: it gave her a sense of control over her perceptions.
'Are you satisfied?' she asked.
'Spent,' he said. He laid a hand on the back of her neck. 'I hope I didn't hurt you. I get carried away –'
'If there was any pain, it was sweet,' she said. Mr Bigcock, she thought. Major Dick. And I'm just cunt, poontang, beaver. I'm just something to poke on the floor of his flash flat among the empty wine bottles. A pick-up in a club, a shag. The things you have to do.
'You want a drink?' he asked.
'I'd prefer some air,' she said.
'You mean you want to go out somewhere?'
'Just the balcony,' she said.
She got up, found her panties, pulled them on. She stepped into her jeans. She put on her white silk blouse.
He reached for her ankle and held it. 'Don't leave me,' he said. 'You'll break my heart.'
'Then join me.'
'In a minute. I'm a bit stoned.'
'Bring some wine. We'll drink it outside.'
'Anything for you.'
She slipped her feet into her shoes. Jeans, blouse, shoes: what else had she brought with her? An overcoat. A bag. That was all. She didn't want to leave anything behind.
Come and go, no trace.
She slid the balcony door open. The night was dense with the aroma of wet trees and rain on stone. Sparse traffic moved along Great Western Road towards Anniesland Cross. Up here, on the sixth floor of Kelvin Court, she had a good view of the northern reaches of the city: the high-rises of Drumchapel, the dense tenements and streetlamps of Maryhill. Further north, Glasgow gave way to the mysterious dark of the Campsie Fells. She'd camped up there once as a little kid in the days before her father had walked out and she remembered the smells of canvas and Calor gas and baked beans burning in a saucepan. The memory caused her a flicker of sadness. Baggage she didn't need.
He came out onto the balcony in a thick black robe. Looking pleased with himself, she thought. Freshly laid. Ashes newly hauled. He carried two glasses of red wine. He swayed, almost slipped.
'Just set it down for me,' she said.
He put the glass on the balcony ledge. 'You're a skinny little thing,' he said.
'With tiny tits,' she said.
'I'm not a breast man, personally.'
'I eat like a horse, and I can't gain a pound.'
'You work out, I bet,' he said. 'You're hard. Muscular.'
'I do some press-ups. I jog.'
'You dance nice,' he said.
'I'm flattered.' They'd met in the Corinthian, once a bank, now a club and bar refurbished like a vast flamboyant wedding cake. After some desultory conversation, they'd danced. She remembered the music, the thunder of the bass, the staccato drumming.
'You really move. Eye-catching.' He smiled, opened his mouth as if he meant to say something, but a drugged synapse must have collapsed. He drank his wine in silence. She didn't touch hers. She felt a pain between her legs. She was tender inside. She despised him for the hurtful way he'd used her body. She hated his skin and the idea of allowing him to fuck her.
He said, 'Christ, it's chilly. You had enough air now?'
'I like night. I like the air.'
'I just realized I don't know your name.'
'I thought it was uncool to exchange names on one-nighters.'
'Who said it was a one-nighter?' He touched her shoulder. 'I'd like to see you again.'
'You never know,' she said.
'Tell me your name. Come on.'
'Pass me my wine and I might.'
He laughed. He was giddy, but full of himself and his prowess. He'd fucked her into ecstasy. She'd come back for more. Bound to. He stooped with mock courtesy. 'At your service,' he said.
He reached for her wine.
She pushed hard against his back, forcing all her considerable strength into her hands and arms. His glass went spinning from his fingertips and out into space and he said, 'Hey, what's this game?' And she pushed again even before he had time to turn his face round, bringing her hands up from a lower angle than before, shoving him just under the hips and causing him to tilt forward.
It was easy. He was wasted. He wasn't expecting it. He weighed as much as a shadow. He went over the edge and fell into the same downward path as the wine glass. She heard him shout. He struck the ground, the hard crack of his body smacking stone. Then immediate silence.
She didn't wait. She didn't look down to see how he'd landed. She emptied her wine glass, hurried inside the flat, put on her coat and stuck the glass into a pocket. She picked up her bag from the coffee table. She looked round a couple of times, then she let herself out.
She walked quickly from Fifth Avenue to Great Western Road, where she found a black taxi trawling for custom. She climbed inside and told the driver to drop her at an address in Govan, south side of the city.
'Nippy for the time of year,' the driver said.
She hated idle talk. She settled back and watched the city go past in a series of streetlamps and shuttered shopfronts, gaunt tenements and closed pubs.
A dead city, heart of night.CHAPTER 2
Lou Perlman struggled with his broken umbrella as he walked westward along Bath Street. The mid-morning wind blew rain under the black canopy, which had begun to collapse around a crown of bent metal spokes. Buy cheap, he thought, you get what you pay for. He tried to readjust the bloody thing. Rain smeared his glasses.
He gave up on the brolly, dumped it in a litter bin. He wasn't far from Force HQ in Pitt Street – so what was a little rain, a trifle of discomfort, when you were about to sit down in the same room as the man who'd killed your brother?
He was uneasy. He needed a dispassionate distance between himself and Leo Kilroy, the killer. Sorry: alleged killer. Kilroy's lawyer, Nat Blum, believed all his clients were innocent. On Planet Blum, where the air was so thin only lawyers could breathe it, Leo Kilroy was innocent of any crime.
Perlman started to cross the street. Ahead, he saw the unappealing red-brick edifice of HQ. He paused to adjust his collar against the rain. He didn't notice the big Dalmatian on the pavement slip its leash and bound with mighty steps and spring at him like a ball of iron shot from a cannon. He was blasted flat on his back, winded. The dog, whose breath smelled of rancid corned beef, licked his face with a hot tongue.
'Get this beast away from me,' Perlman said, and pushed at the dog with no result.
An elderly man in a green rainproof jacket appeared. 'Clem, Clem, come on now, get back, get back,' and he clipped the end of a leash into a hook on the dog's collar. 'I'm awfy sorry, he's hyper, but he usually doesn't run away from me like this. Let me help you up –'
'Just get the dog out my face,' Perlman said.
'Clem's a good boy. Aren't you, Clem? He wouldn't do any harm. It's just –'
'Boisterous good fun, eh?' Perlman got to his feet.
The owner's face was red from the effort of curbing his panting animal. 'Are you injured?' he asked.
'I wanted to audition Clem for that film, you know.'
The elderly often made comments out of the blue. Perlman wondered if the same fate awaited him when he retired; days spent practising conversations in the hope that you might be lucky enough to engage a total stranger in one of them. Here's a non sequitur I prepared earlier.
Perlman asked, 'What film was that?'
'One Hundred and One Dalmatians. But it meant travel.'
'I get the impression he wouldn't make a good traveller.'
'Aye. But he's got star quality.' The dog was all rippling muscle and power, trying to burst free of his restraint.
Star quality. Perlman brushed his damp coat with sweeping gestures, and felt a rush of sympathy for the elderly man. Lonely, a widower, say, probably lived in a little flat overlooking the fumes of the nearby motorway, loved his dog, dreamed his dreams, dragged out old photographs and studied them. People who harboured outrageous ambitions for their pets were a little odd, but usually harmless.
He entered Force HQ. The air smelled of damp coats and wet shoes. A tiny ache played in the small of his back from the encounter with the dog. Just what he needed, something noodged out of alignment. He headed to the stairs, nodding at the uniformed constable behind the reception desk.
'Wet one,' the constable said. His name was Jackie Wren and he had a walrus moustache. 'Where's spring, eh?'
'Round the corner, I hear,' Lou Perlman said. He glanced at his watch. The encounter with the dog had made him late.
'Whatever happened to all your global warming stuff, eh?'
'I look like a meteorologist?' Perlman, surprised by the snap in his reply to Wren's light-hearted question, climbed the stairs.
Tense is all. It was the prospect of seeing Leo Kilroy.
Come to think of it, where the fuck was spring anyway? Christ, how he longed for it, the earth warm, winter no more than a memory. He thought of his brother Colin gunned down last December on a cold black street. The recollection was hard as crystal. Icicles hanging from eaves and sills, the big blue car slowing almost to a halt, the gunman's hand in the window, the gaseous white flash as a shot was fired.
Lou had held his dying brother in his arms. He still saw Colin's face in his dreams. Eyelids fluttering, mouth slack, neck bent to one side. He thrust the images away. They angered and saddened him. If he was going to maintain his cool in Kilroy's presence, he didn't need rollercoaster rides of the heart. Calm down.
He reached the landing, paused. Sometimes he tried to absolve his brother from his sins, but absolution wasn't his to bestow. He wasn't God. Even if he could grant forgiveness, would he? Colin had committed various crimes, the least of which was his embezzlement of a large amount of money from a group of idealistic Israelis and Palestinians working to structure an improbable peace in the Middle East. And if Colin had left it there, okay, that would have been bad enough, but still tolerable up to a point. After all, what was embezzlement except robbery wrapped in layers of paper?
But no, no, Colin had gone far beyond fiscal chicanery. He'd crossed the border where paper malfeasance became bloody, and greed led to murder. He'd killed to cover his crimes. Three men had died.
Shovel that one aside too, Perlman thought. My bruder, the murderer. It was a tough one to budge. The tide of publicity that had roiled in the wake of Colin's death brought Lou into the public eye in a way he'd never sought. Glasgow Cop's Brother A Killer – Colin's world was aired in black type, scams exposed, the convoluted web of violence unravelled. Hacks wanted to interview Lou: tell us, did you ever think your brother capable of these things?
What did he have to say about Colin that the hounds hadn't already sniffed out? Old girlfriends popped up like goggle-eyed glove puppets to testify to Colin's sexual appetites. He was a tireless lover for his age, a woman in Edinburgh told the Sunday Mail. He definitely liked younger girls: this allegation came from a female blackjack dealer in London.
Perlman wondered how these public revelations had affected Colin's widow, Miriam. He didn't want to think about her right now. When his head was less cluttered, when he had time to ponder how she was handling her life, maybe then –
The babble of HQ assaulted him suddenly. Phones ringing, a toilet flushing, a young man speaking from behind a half-shut door: 'I'm telling you. Celtic have too many diddies in the squad. Exact same thing with Rangers.' The cantankerous fluctuations of weather and football: Glasgow preoccupations.
He disliked the confines of this building. One reason he was happier in the streets: Force HQ was a cig-free zone. Death by clean air.
'I was about to give up on you, Lou.' Detective-Inspector Sandy Scullion stood at the end of a hallway, tapping the face of his wristwatch.
'You don't enjoy a cliffhanger?' Perlman asked.
'No head for heights.' In dark suit and red tie, thin ginger hair combed back, Scullion had one of those sympathetic faces that lighten bleak days. He was an optimist by nature; he had a tendency to look for anything that glinted in the malodorous shite of the world.
'Ready to face the demons?' Scullion asked.
Perlman said, 'Call me fearless.'
'Kilroy's lawyer is building up a head of steam strong enough to foam milk for a cappuccino.'
'Fuck him. What have I got to lose?'
'I hope nothing,' Scullion said.
Perlman didn't hear a ring of confidence in the Inspector's voice. Sandy's doubts were usually grounded in caution. He liked ideas to mature slowly. 'If you prefer to postpone, Sandy –'
'It's your call,' Scullion said.
'You're not happy with it.'
Scullion shrugged. 'I didn't say that.'
'You're about as subtle as a tabloid, Sandy. You could always pull rank.'
'Aye, right, I could. Except I'm taking the easy way out. I'm leaving this one entirely to you.' Scullion was Perlman's superior officer, but always treated him as an equal. Certain Very Big Shots who occupied the upper slopes of Force HQ, the men who sent out reams of brain-numbing bumf weighted with stats and regs to the foot soldiers, thought Scullion gave Perlman a wee bit too much freedom. Lou, twenty years older than Scullion, reckoned that his long experience in the Force compensated for the difference in rank.
He'd never aspired to a level beyond Detective-Sergeant; the higher you rose, the more tangled the thickets of politics, the more demanding the bureaucracy. You had to play too many daft games. He'd seen good men bleached of vitality by promotion. He'd seen them vanish for ever inside the wormholes of the system or mutate from humans into rubber stamps. Not for him, thanks.
'I'd like to make Kilroy sweat, Sandy.'
'And Blum? What about Blum?'
'I doubt if he has the glands for it. Maybe it'll give him something to think about.'
'Like what? His conscience?'
'A lawyer with a conscience? That must be a rare beast.'
Both men paused outside the door of Scullion's office, and Perlman sighed and looked suddenly serious. 'Sometimes I wish I'd led a life of the mind. A cloistered wee world among the spires of Glasgow University. Harris tweed jacket, leather elbow patches. Prof Perlman, surrounded by nubile undergrads. I'd sit on committees and eat decrusted sandwiches. I'd have no seedy villains and their sordid lawyers to deal with.'
'Bullshit, Lou. You love your work.'
'One of love's flaws is the fact it grows cold,' Perlman said. 'Faulty heat-retention system.'
'You signed on for life,' Scullion said. 'Divorce isn't an option.'
'Feh,' Perlman said. He suddenly remembered the dead gull he'd found in his driveway yesterday morning. It had dropped mysteriously from the sky. No evidence of a wound, no broken wing or leg. It occurred to him that the bird had fallen about twenty yards from the place where Colin had died. Practically on my own doorstep, he thought.
Excerpted from White Rage by Campbell Armstrong. Copyright © 2001 Campbell Armstrong. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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