By Jay Stringer
Back in 2017 Kate and Dan Malmon put together a fun anthology Killing Malmon in which a whole bunch of crime writers lived out our deepest, happiest, fantasy of killing Dan. For a good cause, obviously. All proceeds go to the the MS Society.
This was my story. Read it. LOVE IT. And if you want to see more, you can order the book here.
A Long Time Ago, In A Glasgow far, far Away....
Mackie woke up with one hand in his pocket and another in a plastic bag.
Neither of them were his.
This was shaping up to be one of those mornings.
Scratch that. He checked the time on his phone. It was shaping up to be one of those afternoons.
His head was killing him. Pain pulsed from his temple. He felt a lump beneath his hairline. It was tender, and sent sharp rods into his brain when he touched it.
The sun streamed in through vertical blinds. Mackie was on the sofa. It had been a nice cream colour, but now was stained brown and red. His clothes were covered in blood.
Mackie climbed to his feet, patting himself down for wounds. There were a few odd scratches. Like he’d climbed through barbed wire in one of they old war movies. A hero. An adventurer. A leader of men.
That was better.
Captain Mackie and his ragtag band of rebels, on the run from the Germans. Maybe it was a future-type movie, and he’d been running from zombies. How cool would that be?
Cool, but unlikely.
So, if this blood wasnae his, then whose was it?
More importantly, whose clothes was he wearing?
Mackie was strictly a trackies and trainers man. Occasionally he might wear an Asda suit if he was going to a wedding.
There was that one time, when he was six, that he wore a tuxedo. He still didn’t like to talk about that.
But these clothes were proper, like. Shirt and tie. Trousers.
With a severed hand in the pocket.
He could feel something else, in the other pocket. A wallet? Mackie pulled it out and looked at the driver’s licence.
There was a note on the floor.
Mackie saw Cal’s scrawled handwriting.
“Gone for supplies. Call me before you go in the bathroom.”
That was a challenge.
Mackie climbed the stairs. The bathroom door was directly ahead of him. A strange noise was coming from inside. Mackie gripped the handle and slowly inched the door open.
There was a panda in the bath, staring at him.
He looked back down at the wallet.
“Who the hell is Dan Malmon?”
Cal set the two pint glasses down on the table. Amber liquid splashed over the sides, running down to form a pool. Mackie picked up a beer mat and mopped at the spilled drink. He crossed himself and said a prayer for the wasted alcohol.
Cal raised a toast, garbled an Irish word, then got back to the conversation they’d been having.
“Anyway, aye,” Mackie said. “What you need to do, I’ve been thinking on it, and what you need to do is apologise.”
“You think I haven’t tried that? It’s the first thing I did. Then I tried buying him a present.”
“I don’t suppose they make ‘sorry I killed your fish’ cards.”
“No, they don’t. Or if they do, the shop didnae have any.”
“Tell me you asked.”
“’Course I did. They says, ‘can I help you’ and I says, ‘I accidentally killed my dad’s Koi Karp, do you have anything I can give him?’ You know what the little fud did? He pointed to a balloon. One of they floaty helium ones, shaped like a fish.”
“Was it a koi?”
“How should I know?”
“I thought you were the expert,” Mackie paused to sip his beer. It was pish. Chilled pish. But it was a warm day, and he never turned down a cold drink. “So you didn’t buy the balloon, I’m guessing?”
“Naw. I asked him to keep it back for me, just in case.”
Mackie rubbed the bridge of his nose with thumb and forefinger. He could feel the buzz building. This beer wasn’t the problem. The ten he’d had before, they were the real issue.
Plus the eckies he’d been popping last night. And maybe the Feminax he’d used that morning. He’d never taken it before, but would try anything once.
Mackie figured the second and third doses were probably a mistake. He was choosing to forget them. Also, he couldn’t remember how he got to the pub. Had they walked? Stolen a car? It was a blank.
“Oh, hey,” Cal said. “There’s Dan.”
Cal turned up back at the house with three plastic bags full of supplies. Mackie was sitting on the stairs, waiting. Cal noticed Mackie had piled three chairs up against the bathroom door.
It wouldn’t help. The door opened inwards. Still, Cal had to admire the work that had gone into it.
“So you’ve probably got some questions,” Cal said.
“One or two, aye.”
“Well,” Cal started lifting items out of the bags. “I didn’t go in for the meat, but this joint was in the reduced section for seventy-one pence, and you cannae say ‘no’ to that. Then, these biscuits were down to-”
“Haw now, bawheid.” Mackie threw a hand in the air and caught it. “I’m no’ interested in the shopping. I want to know why there’s a panda in the crapper.”
“Don’t worry, he’s sedated.”
“Been using your heroin. He seems to like it.”
“How are you measuring the doses?”
Cal shrugged. “Just guessing, really.”
“Great, so we’re either gonnae kill him, or he’s going to get really into Lou Reed.”
They both paused as the sounds coming from the bathroom changed. The stoned bear’s low snuffling gave way to a long, drawn out, snore. Cal thought, no wonder these animals are dying out. None of them can find a mate, with snoring like that.
Mackie started singing Perfect Day.
“Okay,” Cal said. “So what do you remember?”
“We was in the pub, talking about your dead fish.”
“We was in the pub, talking about your dead fish.”
“Really? That’s all. Well, Dan Malmon walks in, and you’re all like, ‘never met this guy in my life,’ and I’m all ‘aye, you have, we went to his house for Hogmanay that time.’ Then you’re, ‘was that the one when I took a load of horse and slept on top of the cooker?’”
Mackie offered Cal a high five. Cal pulled back when he saw it was one of the severed hands.
“So anyway,” Cal continued. “Dan’s been working in Edinburgh Zoo.”
“Oh, I know who you mean, now.” Mackie looked at the two severed hands. Turned them around a few times. “Yeah, I can see it. Recognise him. Okay.”
“Then we get to talking, and you’re cracking that joke about how there’s more Pandas in Scotland than Tories.”
“Doesnae sound like me.”
“I know, aye? That’s when I knew you were stoned. You never talk politics.”
“Never even voted.”
“How about that time your uncle Rab stood for the council?”
“Oh aye, well, yeah. I voted then. But that was with a bunch of other people’s voting slips. I meant I’ve never voted in my own name, like. You know?”
“Well, Dan said he’s sick of hearing the thing about pandas and Tories. And you were about to kick off with him, he looked all scared and shit. Then, you got this idea. And you said...”
Cal paused for breath. Looked down at the panda they’d bundled into the shopping trolley. “Are you sure?”
“Come on. Stealing a panda, it’s the best idea ever. You said you tried apologising to your ol’ Da’, you tried buying him presents. But you didn’t try stealing him a panda, did ye?”
“No. That’s true.”
“He’ll be pure made up, man. Best present ever.”
“And all the better, because it’s free.”
“A free panda is the best kind of panda.”
They crept through the grounds of the zoo in the darkness, stealthy as they could with a stoned panda in a shopping trolley.
They were dressed in Dan’s spare security uniforms. Dan led the way, checking around corners like in an action movie. He would hold up his fist when he wanted them to stop. Occasionally he’d do that thing where he’d point two fingers at his own eyes, then at Cal and Mackie, before indicating something off to the right or left.
“Do you know what any of that means?” Cal said.
“Not a clue,” Mackie said. “Are they like dance moves?”
“Here we are, trying to break our new pal out of solitary, and Dan’s throwing shapes.” Cal leaned over to talk into the bear’s ear. “Howbout you, big man? Any idea what he’s up to?”
The panda made a snuffling noise. He’d been doing it on and off ever since they shot him up with heroin. It had all gone so easily. Dan provided the keys and access codes, and he’d been able to let them into the panda enclosure.
“Very dangerous,” Mackie said to Cal. “You go first.”
“Me very little, you cheat very big.”
The panda had been asleep. Mackie got in close and jabbed a needle full of heroin into the big fella’s arm. He wasn’t sure how you searched for a vein on a big furry beast, so he took a best guess.
“Lemme have a go,” Cal said.
He stepped in and injected the same arm.
They stood back and waited. Cal said, “How will we know?”
The panda rolled onto its back and made a low keening noise, almost like a human sigh, before letting out the longest, wettest, and foulest fart Mackie had ever known.
They nicked a shopping trolley from Tesco on their way to the zoo after googling the weight of a giant panda. Turned out, the bear wouldn’t be any heavier than Cal’s uncle Chris. Though, right enough, that was before Chris dropped a leg to diabetes.
So, with a panda in a shopping trolley and a dancing security guard, they were making their escape. Everything went smoothly until they passed the elephant enclosure. Dumbo had appointed himself neighbourhood watch. At first they heard him snort a couple times, like a large horse, then he raised his trunk and bellowed out into the night.
“We need to stop him,” Cal said.
“Oi, bawbag,” Mackie called out. “Shut it, ya fanny.”
That didn’t work.
The elephant sounded out again.
“I know a way,” Dan said, climbing over the enclosure wall. “He just wants some attention.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Cal said.
Dan waved him off. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
Cal stopped talking. He picked the bags back up and headed through to the kitchen. Mackie watched as Cal started to unload the shopping. He grabbed a beer from the fridge and turned to look blankly at Mackie.
After a few seconds, Cal seemed to realize Mackie was waiting for something and said, “You want one?”
Mackie took a deep breath.
He counted to five.
Cal had some kind of attention deficit thingy. Mackie knew about it. Dropped on his head as a baby, something like that. He had a scar across the back of his scalp, it showed up whenever he went grade one.
Mackie tried to be sensitive about it. He almost never called Cal ‘stupid.’ And he only called him a ‘fucking spanner’ when he really deserved it. Or when it was funny. Or when he felt like it.
“No I don’t want one, I want to know...actually, yeah, toss us a beer.”
Cal threw a can over. Mackie opened it. He took a belt and sighed. The cold beer had hit the spot. Whatever spot that was. Why do people say that? Is it always the same spot?
Where was he....
“Right. Now. What the fuck happened next?”
“Well.” Cal was hesitating. He had one of those tones, like he was scared of how Mackie would react. “You know how you can get a wee bit violent when you’re high?”
Mackie climbed over the wall of the elephant enclosure. He slipped down into the moat that ran around the edge, splashing through sludge and weeds. He could feel thorns scratching at his clothes and skin, but he didn’t care, he was too angry. Man on a mission.
Mackie the Enforcer.
Dumbo was continuing to toot his fucking horn. Every few seconds. Like he’d just woken up and realised he had a trunk and, hey cool, now I’m going to use it. Mackie was having none of his pish.
“Oi, big man, I said pipe doon, or I’ll fucking smash ye.”
Dan was next to Dumbo, patting his side and whispering small cooing noises, like he was talking to a pet. He put a hand out towards Mackie, waved him back, but that only annoyed Mackie more.
Dumbo trumpeted to the sky.
Mackie took a step forward and punched Dumbo right in the trunk.
The elephant blinked. He actually blinked. Like he was surprised. He snorted and sat down on his rear haunches.
“See,” Mackie said. “Not so loud now, are ye?”
Dumbo swatted Mackie with his trunk.
Everything went black.
Mackie rubbed the lump on the side of his head.
“So that explains...”
Mackie held up one of the severed hands. “What about…”
Everything came back. The sights. The sounds. The pain. Pain? Was that a new thing, or had he always been hurting?
“Whoa,” Mackie said to himself. “That’s deep.”
Cal was stood over him. He was coated in blood. Mackie panicked, thought it must be his, but he patted himself down and was bone dry. Except his trousers. They were damp. And why was he wearing trousers, again?
“Where are we?”
Cal held out a hand to help Mackie to his feet. “Elephant enclosure.”
“Why are we? What?”
Mackie could see Cal peering into his eyes. “He hit you hard.”
Mackie felt anger surge. Someone had hit him? Who? He’d give then a right pure doing. Then he noticed the elephant. Dumbo was standing a few yards away, eating straw from a metal box hung on a wall. He didn’t seem to mind that they were there. There was something all over his arse, like a red paste.
“We have a problem,” Cal said.
He pointed to something on the floor. It looked like a pile of sausages, baked beans, and white pudding. Except it was wearing clothes. Mackie realized he was looking at the insides of a person. But why weren’t they....inside?
“Who the hell is Dan Malmon?”
“The guy an elephant just sat on.”
“You punched it.”
Mackie turned to look at Dumbo. Now he knew why the big lump was keeping so far away from them. “Aye,” he called out. “You better stay away.”
“So what do we do?” Cal said. “About Dan?”
Mackie took a step closer and looked down at the mess. He could see bones. A wallet. Some glasses. Two hands. Just sitting there. Not attached to anything. Dumbo had squashed them clean off.
Mackie pocketed the wallet and turned to leave.
“We can’t just leave him,” Cal said.
Mackie turned back. “Aye, you’re right. Deserves a proper burial.”
He picked up the two hands.
It was tough climbing out of the enclosure. Much harder than getting in. The weeds and brambles of the moat cut through to their skin, and the wall on the other side was ten feet up. Cal was smaller than Mackie. He was a skinny wee thing who’d never boxed. Mackie planted his feet on the narrow ledge at the edge of the moat, then held himself straight while Cal climbed up onto his shoulders and reached up to the top of the wall. Cal pulled himself over and vanished from sight.
Mackie waited, but Cal didn’t reappear.
“Haw, you,” Mackie shouted. “Giz a hand.”
“I think you’ve already got enough,” Cal said.
“I don’t remember any of this,” Mackie said.
“Aye. I noticed. When you got back up out of the enclosure, you freaked out because there was a panda in the shopping trolley.”
“There was a panda in the shopping trolley?” Mackie left that hanging for a second. Just long enough for Cal to sigh, and start telling the story again. Then he said, “I’m kidding. So, how many times have you told me all of this?”
“Well, three times on the way home. Then once this morning. And again just before I went to the shop.”
Mackie rubbed the lump again. The pain shot down the side of his face, and his vision flashed with white dots.
“Do you want the good news,” Cal said. “Or the bad news?”
“Good news. Always good news. And another beer.”
Cal tossed him another can.
“So, I’m talking to my dad again. I called him up, told him the whole story. He laughed.”
“That’s awesome, man. I’m the king of plans.”
“But he says there’s no way he’s taking a panda. Wants nothing to do with it. Says we’re on our own.”
“It was a stupid plan, and I’m angry you talked me into it.”
They fell silent for a moment. They both realized that was a problem. It was too quiet. There was no snoring coming from upstairs. They heard a low moan that turned unto a growl. The frustrated call of a bear who had woken up craving his next hit of heroin. There was the padding of big feet on the stairs.
A black and white furry face appeared in the doorway, staring at them.
“Run?” Cal said.
Mackie nodded. “Run.”