Bitter Water

Lire ebook Bitter Water
Auteur: Gordon Ferris

Bitter Water
ONE
    B ubonic plague starts with one flea bite. Spanish flu with one sneeze. Glasgow’s outbreak of murder and mayhem began simply enough and, like
a flea bite, hardly registered at the time. In a volatile city of hair-trigger egos one savage beating goes unnoticed, a single knife wound is nothing special. Fighting goes with the Celtic
territory, runs with the Scottish grain, is indeed fuelled by the grain, distilled to 40 proof. These belligerent tendencies explain my countrymen’s disproportionate occupation of war graves
across the Empire.
    So it’s just as well Glasgow’s a northern outpost of civilisation. The cold and damp keep tempers in check for much of the year. It’s just too dispiriting to have a
rammy in the rain. But even Glasgow knows the taste of summer. When the tarmac bubbles, and the tenement windows bounce back the light. When only the great green parks can absorb and dissipate the
rays. When the women bare their legs and the men bow their bald pates to the frying sun. When lust boils up and tempers fray.
    When suddenly, it’s bring out your dead . . .
    For the moment, in blithe ignorance, Glasgow was enjoying a hot July and I was enjoying Glasgow. It had been seven long years since I’d last stomped its checkerboard
streets and bathed my ears in the tortured melodies of my countrymen. Six years of fighting across North Africa and Europe and one year trying to get over it.
    What had I to show for it? They’d taken back the officer crowns and my life-and-death authority over a company of Seaforth Highlanders. A burden removed but my heart went with it. Now I
queued with the housewives and the gap-toothed old fellas for a loaf of bread and a tin of Spam. I hated Spam. I had no more ration coupons than the wide-boy who’d spent the war dodging the
call-up and pestering the lonely lassies. I had no wife to set my tea on the table or light the fire in the grate. I had no children to cuddle or skelp, read to or protect.
    On the credit side, I had the clothes I stood up in – secondhand, having discarded my Burton’s demob suit in the Firth of Clyde. Not a sartorial statement, merely a choice between
wearing it or drowning. My officer’s Omega had survived the dip as it had survived bombardments, desert dust and machine-gun vibrations. In a box in my digs, wrapped in a bit of velvet, lay
the bronze stars of action in Africa, France and Germany. But they were common enough currency these days. Even the silver cross with its purple and white ribbon had little rarity value; not after
Normandy.
    I had a degree in languages; my French now sprinkled with the accents and oaths of the folk whose homes we razed in our liberation blitzkrieg; my German salted with the vocabulary of the
tormented and the tormentors in the concentration camps I’d worked in after VE Day last year.
    Outweighing all the negatives, I had a job. Not any old job. The job I was meant for after too many years of detours through academia and law

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