Extract from DOUBLE PROOF by Martin Stewart

  16 Feb '24   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Robbie Gould is not psychic. Of course he isn’t – that’s not a real thing. So why is a woman standing in his driveway begging him for help in finding her son, who she’s convinced has been kidnapped? Join Gould as he plunges into a bizarre world of rare whisky, drug dealers, bent cops, social influencers and yakuza mobsters to uncover the truth.

This extract is from chapter seventeen.


Gould stared into the battered briefcase, inside which sat three bags of powder the colour of an unwashed shirt. His head was dry with blackberry spit, the Malbec still sharp in his throat. There were two untouched coffees at his feet, and another mug – cold, petroleum skinned – in his hand.

He had persuaded Mrs Glennon back into her bed when she’d flown into the street, blind without her glasses, waving a long, serrated knife.

‘A steam pudding?’ she’d screamed. ‘At this hour?’

‘I had it on the stove,’ Gould had said, rolling his eyes. ‘Nodded off and the tin burst. I’m so sorry, Mrs G.’

She’d deflated, actually shrinking about four inches as her lungs emptied. ‘For heaven’s sake, Robert!’ she said, hand on his chest. ‘That could have been so dangerous!’

Yes, Gould thought now, glancing at his makeshift barricade of cardboard and tape, its edges popping in the wind. It really could.

His phone rang. He necked his cold coffee, grimaced and answered. ‘Morning.’

‘How’s the Columbo thing going?’ said his brother.

‘Fine. It’s mostly driving about and asking wallopers questions – like being back in my reporter days.’

‘Which ended so well. You seen the day’s papers?’

Gould put the mug on the floor, his eyes fixed on the briefcase. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Why?’

‘Why d’you think?’

‘Checking the horoscopes?’

‘More like checking you on the front page, looking like Ryan Gosling’s let himself go.’

Gould sighed, opened his phone and thumbed through the headlines: himself, Albie and a Southside hit and run amongst the usual noise. ‘Shit. What’s it saying?’

‘That you shaved your beard as a disguise then broke into some members’ club. I thought you were looking for the wee YouTube guy?’

‘I am – I was asking the staff questions about one of their members.’ Gould’s face creased. ‘How did they know I’d be at the Tobacconists’ Guild?’

Scott shouted for his dog, whistled, kicked a ball with a thud.

‘Wazowski not dead yet?’ said Gould.

‘He’s only eight, fuck sake.’

‘He’s fat, though. And he stinks.’

‘Why d’you hate dogs so much, man? You should get one. It could keep you company.’

‘So could Josef Fritzl,’ said Gould. ‘And he wouldn’t shit on the carpet.’

‘Jesus,’ said Scott. ‘Bad night?’

Gould dragged a hand over his face. ‘Barely slept.’

‘How come?’

‘’Cause someone fired a gun through my front door.’

Scott stopped walking. Gould heard birdsong. ‘Like a machine gun?’

‘Aye, Scott, it was Tony Montana and his leetle frien’. A shotgun, you tit – there’s bits of lead stuck in the plaster.’

‘Well, excuse me, fucking ballistics expert. You all right?’

The clouds moved, and the room brightened. Gould watched the packets twinkle in the box. ‘Aye. They weren’t aiming at me, obviously. They’re just looking for a reaction.’

‘They get one?’

‘Too right they did. I nearly shat through Bertie’s chinos.’

‘How d’you know they weren’t aiming for you?’

‘Because if they were,’ said Gould, replaying in his mind the explosion, the moment of waking, the screech of tyres, ‘they’d have put the thing right in my face. And ’cause they’ve left me a wee present.’

‘What’s in it?’

Gould cleared his throat. ‘Heroin.’

‘Jesus Christ,’ breathed Scott, a tremor in his voice. ‘Robbie, man, that’s mental. Are you sure?’

‘There’s a label on the handle,’ said Gould, leaning forward and turning over the little tag. ‘It says: Please look after this smack.’

There was a pause. ‘Like Paddington?’

‘Aye, only it’s not a furry wee bear, it’s ten kilos of uncut heroin.’

‘How do you know it’s ten kilos?’

‘I weighed myself holding it, then put it down and weighed myself again.’

Another pause. ‘How d’you know it’s uncut?’

Gould let his head fall back. ‘I don’t, I just . . . that’s not the important thing, is it?’

Scott whistled again, called the dog, kicked the ball.

‘No,’ he said after a moment. ‘Probably not. But, look, maybe they’re just messing with you – maybe it’s just flour or something.’

‘Sure. It could be fucking cocoa powder. But I don’t think so.’

‘All right. But how do they know you won’t just chuck it in the sea? Or sell it?’

‘Sell it? What am I going to do – put it on Gumtree?’

‘I don’t know, just . . . you know what I mean. They’ve given you something worth a shitload of money, and for what?’

‘There’s an address on the other side of the label,’ said Gould. ‘I’ve to take it to some flat in Maryhill.’

‘Why’d they want you to do that?’

Gould looked at the white skin of his closed fist. ‘To involve me in something criminal,’ he said. ‘And because they can. Because they’ve got shotguns and they know where I live.’

‘Shit, man. Yesterday you were Columbo – now you’re a drug mule.’

‘Hee-haw,’ said Gould. ‘But I think I prefer “bagman”.’

‘What you gonnae do?’

‘I’m going to deliver it.’

‘What? Jesus, why don’t you phone–’

‘I’m not calling Sam – taking this stuff to the polis is another thing that would bring the shotguns back, and it wouldn’t just be my wallpaper I’d need to worry about. No. I’m going to deliver it. Fuck them. I’ll throw it through their fucking window.’

‘Robbie,’ said Scott. ‘Hang on, these guys could . . .’

‘What are they going to do?’ said Gould. ‘Kill me? I don’t think so.’ He sniffed. ‘They could have done it last night if they’d wanted. But it would create too much hassle.’

‘Hassle? But–’

‘If I’m going to find Albie, I need to follow through on everything – even shit like this. I must have got on their tits asking questions about him, and now they want rid of me.’ Scott laughed. Gould heard his feet on the doormat.

‘What’s funny?’

‘Nothing,’ said Scott, ‘it’s just . . . getting on people’s tits is like your superpower.’

Gould nodded. ‘And with it comes great responsibility.’

‘When you doing it?’

‘This morning. I’ve got stuff to do in Glasgow anyway.’

‘So you’re adding this to your to-do list? Deliver heroin, rescue kidnap victim, pick up dry cleaning?’

‘Tell you what,’ Gould said, smile fading, ‘it looks like Albie’s in proper trouble. Fucking heroin, guys with guns. Who knows what’s happening to the poor wee bastard.’

Scott cleared his throat. ‘Mind and gie’s a . . . gie’s a call the night.’

Gould laughed. A needle of wind whipped through the splintered door. ‘You want three rings when I’m home?’

‘I’m serious, Robbie. This is mental stuff – it’s not like I’m worrying about you getting the night bus or something. I’d just like to know you’re not deid before I go to sleep.’

Martin Stewart’s Young Adult work was published in the UK and US by Penguin Random House and nominated for several national awards. His Middle Grade series, Bridget Vanderpuff, launched in 2023 with Zephyr. Martin’s work has been published all over the world and translated into multiple languages. A native of Glasgow, he now lives in Troon with his wife, two children and a very big dog. Double Proof is his adult fiction debut.

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