Colin Galbraith Author (Official Website)

Hunting Jack by Colin Galbraith

Hunting Jack


According to the map, the first Wallace Street was to be found in Rutherglen, a suburb toward the south-eastern corner of the city, the second lay on the western outskirts in a place called Clydebank, and the third nearer the city centre close to the River Clyde.

He lifted himself from the bench, threw his rucksack over his shoulder and began walking across the Square. He stopped a female tourist guide and asked how he could get to Rutherglen and she advised him to get a train from Central Station, three blocks along, three down to the left – he couldn’t miss it.

The streets swarmed with all kinds of people eager to get to their destinations; old and young, suits and jeans, fast and faster. The pavements were narrow and he fought to avoid bumping into the seemingly endless rush of pedestrians, apologising to them as he wormed his way through. The sky seemed to be smaller from street level, the towering buildings on either side making it appear as though he was walking through a series of ravines. He hadn’t expected Glasgow to be so claustrophobic and intimidating.

He arrived at Central Station a few minutes later, and was happy to see it’s large welcoming entrance. He walked up the smooth tiled slope of the main entrance and the station opened up before him. Shops lined either side of the concourse area and the sound of people waiting for trains or just passing through suddenly became more acute under the high glass roof. The faint smell of oil and steel mingled with burgers and chips, and a four-sided clock hung from the ceiling indicating the time in large Roman numerals. Further into the station he noticed what appeared to be a large bullet standing on its end. He stopped to look at the small plaque attached to it: The Shell.

"Any spare change, mate?"

Jackie turned round away from The Shell and saw a young man — a boy when he looked more closely – standing next to him, leaning inwards with his hands in his pockets as though he was an off-balance clown. His voice sounded nasal and croaky and he was wearing what once were white tracksuit trousers, a dark blue tracksuit top and a light brown cap. His face was spotty and greasy, and he begged from behind a pair of hollow, shadowed eyes.

"Sorry," said Jackie. "I don’t."

"Got any fags then, mate? Go on – help me oot," the boy said in a more irritated tone.

"I don’t smoke," said Jackie, wishing the boy would disappear.

The boy staggered back a step, his head unravelling in line with his spine. "You looking for a fight, ya wee prick?" he threatened, then stepped forward so they were face to face. "Well? Are ye?"

Their feet met toe to toe. The boy’s breathe smothered Jackie and he tried to look away but was met each time with an icy, hollow stare. He felt like running but his feet wouldn’t move. He had frozen, and the smell of alcohol and stale urine had now become more obvious.

A luminous yellow flap-jacket appeared from the side and hoisted the boy away by his arm.

"Time to move on, Kenny," said the policeman.

"Beat it, pig!" the boy spat.

"Watch your language, son. Now move on, I don’t want to see you in here again today."

The boy shuffled away with his head low, muttering obscenities under his breath and quickly disappeared into the crowd.

The policeman turned to Jackie. "You okay, lad?"

"Yeah, I’m fine," he said. "Do you know him?"

"He’s a common face around here. If you’d given him another couple of minutes he would have had your wallet and probably given you a black eye for the trouble. You’re okay now — he’ll not be back."

The shock of having such a forthright display of arrogance and intimidation in his face had left Jackie rattled. The policeman walked off. He turned toward the departure board spanning almost the entire width of the station concourse, displaying all the impending arrivals and departures in flickering black and yellow tickers. He searched down each list for Rutherglen; a train was due to leave in a couple of minutes if he could get to the platform in time.