Author:Tony Black

    About the Book

    When the gangland owner of a pit bull terrier that killed a toddler is found gutted on Corstorphine Hill, washed-up hack Gus Dury is asked to investigate, and soon finds himself a pawn in the warring underworld of a divided city.

    Amidst illegal dog fights, a missing fifty grand and a police force and judiciary desperate to cover their links to a brutal killing, Gus must work fast to discover the truth and escape not only those who would like to bury him, but the demons of his own past.

    About the Author

    Tony Black is an award-winning journalist who has written for most of the national newspapers. He is the author of Paying For It and Loss. He lives in Edinburgh. For more information please visit

    Chapter 1

    ON THE HILLS at night, you hear screams, you start running. I don’t care what your name is – you do it. Instinct, adrenaline, whatever, it kicks in and you tank it. Sensible people run the opposite way. Mentallers like me chase the screams.

    My heart was pounding as my legs stretched out beneath me through the gorse, it was Corstorphine Hill, for Chrissake . . . not exactly fairway territory. In my current condition, wedded to a bottle of scoosh and smoking forty, scrub that, sixty a day, I had five more minutes of this before a massive coronary kicked in.

    I slipped, landed on my arse. Was wet below, was Scotland, c’mon . . . it’s in the contract. ‘Fuck me!’ I yelled, my palms scratching on the hard, gnarled roots of a tree. Stung like a bastard. As I tried to get up I took another flyer, cracking my head soundly on the tree’s bole.

    ‘Oh, Jesus hellfire . . .’ I touched my temple. Found blood on my fingers, couldn’t figure if it came from my head or my scratched hands. Both formed their own pain brigade, marching through me in time to my fit-to-burst heart.

    The screams came up again. Louder now. I was closer. The ground I covered, skitting down the hill on my arse, must have been in the right direction. I didn’t know whether to be grateful or not. The noise seared me. Real pain. Suffering. And, if I wasn’t wrong, laughter . . .

    Someone’s up to no fucking good.

    I tried to get a look about but there was little or no light, save the moon, just the thin crescent job, and half covered by cloud at that.

    I strode on, tracked the wails. Felt my teeth itch with each new burst of anguish. Someone, or something, was in serious trouble. As if I needed any confirmation of this, the tormentors upped the ante.

    As the first shot rang out, I thought: That’s it.

    Game over.

    I waited for a cry, a scream, something to seal the deal.

    What I heard was . . . nothing.

    I stood stock still. Only the breeze moving all around me in the silence of the wood. I felt the veins in my neck thumping like pistons. I strode forward, branches lashing at my face, caught a log below and it hurled me down a steep slope. As I fell, my pocketbottle of Grouse escaped and rolled away.

    I could hear movement below, voices, more shots, then . . . the screams again.

    The ground hit me like a Mack truck. I stopped dead by the edge of a clearing. There was light now. A pimped-up Corrado with the full beam on. I got myself upright, spat out a mouthful of muck, checked my bridgework was still in place and tried to focus.

    C’mon, Gus, get a fucking grip!

    My eyes smarted. I wiped away the long grass my hair had trapped and waited for my vision to settle. It didn’t take long; I wished it hadn’t come back at all. This I did not want to see. I was ready to kill. There’s a phrase, hear it all the time, I’ll swing for you . . . That’s where I was at with these bastards already.

    I looked about for a weapon, rock, stick, anything. Found nothing. Was gonna have to be old school. Didn’t faze me. I ran in, fists balled.

    ‘Right, y’bastards!’ I wailed, like a nuthouse on meds night. Grabbed the first body I could, a young ned, say seventeen tops, and put a sledgehammer jab through his puss. He dropped like a wet sandbag. It took the other three a time to turn around; the howls from the dog they had tied to the tree drowned out everything. They were taking potshots at it with air rifles; when they spotted me their target changed.

    ‘Get that cunt!’

    I felt a crack on the side of my head, then a thud at my shoulder. There seemed to be a few seconds before the almighty agony of hot pain burnt at both these points, but when it did, I cuffed it aside, like swatting flies.

    I took my own aim, on the one nearest the dog. He was tall, a six-footer, but a string bean – all coat hanger shoulders and skin pebble-dashed with acne. He wore a white hooded top that was an easy grab in the dark. I quickly hoyed his face down onto my boot.

    ‘Taste that, shithead.’

    I must have got a good few kicks in before I felt two lightning bolts strike my back, right between the shoulder blades. I dropped the lanky streak of piss and flung up my hands.

    I’ll give them this: they were hardy. Grabbed my arms and laid into me with fists. I’m guessing they were no strangers to the odd pagger. The fists came quick and sharp, jabs, interspersed with the odd kick. It took me a while to roll over, but I got there, just in time to catch the big one aiming to jump on my head.

    I pulled back. He missed, rolled over on his backside.

    The other two watched him fall and I took my chance to get upright again. On my feet I cracked some quick rights, pegged one of them out.

    The two on the ground scuffled backward on their arses.

    I stood in front of the car lights. ‘Right, you sick little fuckers, want to meet the daddy of pain?’

    I picked up the rifles, smacked them over their heads. There were wails, shrieks. ‘Not so fucking hard now, eh?’

    ‘Ah, mister, fuck off.’

    ‘That’s me – Mr Fuck-Off . . . How do you fucking do?’

    The dog whimpered. I heard it struggle to free itself, blind with panic.

    I took the gun barrels, bent them under my Doc Martens and flung them down. As I went over to the dog, I tried to lower my threat level; the animal was in a state of abject fear. The wounds didn’t look too serious, but Christ, I was surprised it hadn’t died of sheer terror.

    I bent down, offered an open palm. ‘It’s okay . . . it’s okay, boy.’

    I got to within inches of the dog when I felt a heavy thwack on my spine.

    ‘Think you’re hard, eh? Think you can mess with the likes of us?’

    The second strike knocked me into the undergrowth. I seemed to roll a bit, five maybe ten yards, then came to rest under a tree. I thought I’d landed in shit – smelled like it. I turned over, put my hands behind me, tried to push myself up, but I was slipping on something that felt wet, slimy.

    As I made a last attempt to ease myself up, the string bean appeared before me, holding up a branch like a club, ready to knock seven bells out of me. I felt my hands slip again, fail to find any purchase. I thought that was it, I was a goner.

    ‘Holy fuck,’ said the yob, ‘holy fucking shit!’

    He lowered the branch and then his pals appeared at his back. ‘C’mon, let’s get out ay here.’ They tugged at his white hoodie, grabbed his arms.

    ‘Is he dead?’ he said.

    ‘Aye, course he is . . . look!’

    They seemed to be looking at me. Problem was, I didn’t feel dead. Was this dead? Never. It felt too much like life, which was depressing to contemplate.

    I struggled to free myself again. As I did so, I slipped back. Seemed to slide off whatever I’d landed on. I heard the yobs scampering away through the bushes as I turned over and lifted myself from the ground.

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