“This is the end, my only friend, the end….”
Caird Park. Shit. I’m still only in Caird Park. Every time I think I’m gonna wake up back in the jungle. Or Leith, even……
I had a raging hangover. The previous night in the Fairmuir had taken a heavy toll. I looked in the mirror and barely recognised myself. My eyes were bleary and bloodshot, my skin sallow and blotchy. Damn those tasty pints of Special at clubbie prices. I stumbled aimlessly round my tepee trying to get my head together. I checked my phone and remembered my meeting with Chairman Bob Brannan. His voicemail the previous night had mentioned a serious problem with Jocky Scott. I was already cagey from the previous day’s session, and the thought of what was on the cards today magnified the dull sense of doom in the pit of my stomach. Best get to Dens to face whatever was in store.
Bob Brannan’s office, 0900 hours. Brannan and Gordon Chisholm welcomed me and invited me to join them for a spot of breakfast. We ate and made small talk. Brannan’s desk was covered in official looking documents and photographs. He flicked through some papers and got down to business.
‘Leigh, we have serious matters to discuss. Needless to say, you know Jocky Scott….’
‘Yes, of course.’
Brannan nodded and continued. ‘Jocky Scott is one of the finest men to have ever graced this football club. He was brilliant, outstanding in every way. And he was a good man, too. A humanitarian man, a man of wit and humour. He joined the ranks of the club’s legends, but after that his ideas….his methods….became….unsound.’
Gordon Chisholm picked up the thread. ‘You’re aware that we were deeply concerned about Jocky’s reaction to his dismissal. After a couple of quiet weeks we thought he’d come to terms with it and we no longer had cause for concern. Unfortunately this is not the case. Intelligence reports inform us that Jocky Scott has “gone rogue” in the wilderness out in Perthshire. He has taken command of a small moustachioed army, a group who worship the man like a God and follow his every order, however ridiculous, in a quest to “get them telt” and locate a bottle of Tippex, which for some unknown reason he puts a great deal of stock in.’
Chisholm went to a laptop sitting on Brannan’s desk. ‘We’ve intercepted a radio transmission that Jocky has managed to broadcast. He’s putting his crazed thoughts out over the airwaves.’
Chisholm clicked the mouse. After a few seconds of static and high-pitched whining Jocky’s voice spoke loud and clear.
“Hiya a’body. Hiya! Check one-two, wha’s in cherge here? Fuckin’ right. Whaur’s meh fuckin’ Tippex, like? Has any cunt seen Jocky’s Tippex? Bet that Boaby Brannan’s got it, fuckin’ sure o’ it. A’ we hear is, Radio Jocky (clap-clap), Radio Teckle (clap-clap), Radio Jocky (clap-clap). Radio what’s new? Radioooooo! Some-cunt-still-loves-youuuuuuu! That’s what eh’m talkin’ aboot! Bit o’ Queen fur yiz there like. Thon Freddie boy had a fuckin’ teckle ‘tache! Boy wiz hefty fruity like, but that’s a’right! Anyway, ken what? Jocky watched a snail crawl across the edge o’ a straight razor. That’s meh dream; that’s meh nightmare. Crawling, slithering along the edge o’ a straight razor….and survehvin’. Ooft! Mental, eh? Ken it is like. And now fur Jocky’s traffic report…”
The broadcast disintegrated into static, and Chisholm stopped it.
Brannan continued. ‘There was an incident at Dundee United striker David Goodwillie’s house recently. As a result of Jocky’s mission to “get him telt”, a warrant has been put out for his arrest. We’ve talked to Tayside Police about it and they have agreed to treat the matter with a degree of sensitivity. They will allow us to keep the matter private, an internal affair for the club, as long as we bring him in and hand him over. We can’t let this go public, Leigh. The bad press would be too much to bear, especially when we’re on the brink of failing to achieve our objective of winning promotion. Our benefactor, Calum Melville, would be forced to reconsider his position here if Jocky’s actions and the resulting negativity were exposed. Quite simply, we cannot allow that to happen. Melville’s backing is our main hope of returning to the upper echelons of Scottish football.’
I felt deeply uneasy about where this was going. Brannan continued.
‘There’s a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational. Between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes the better side of our nature. Every man has a breaking point, Leigh. You and I have one. Well, Jocky has reached his, and very obviously he has gone insane.’
I felt the weight of Brannan and Chisholm staring me down. I quickly considered everything I had been witness to in my relationship with Jocky. As much as it pained me, I couldn’t disagree with them. Chisholm spoke again.
‘Your mission is to journey up the Tay, pick up Jocky’s path, find his Unit and infiltrate it by whatever means available to you. You should then terminate his command.’
I looked at him with wide eyes. ‘Terminate….Jocky?’
‘Phone the police and give them his location. They’ll swoop in to arrest and convict him quietly. Doing this will save the club from the embarrassment of having him continue to ruin our good name. It will also prevent us from having to let your career rot away to nothing.’
Chisholm gave me a cold, unflinching look.
‘You’re one of the best young players in the country, Leigh. You’re also the closest man at the club to Jocky. He won’t suspect you. Find him, call the police, and end his reign of craziness once and for all. Do this for us and we’ll allow you to flourish into the player you’re capable of becoming. If a big club comes in for you we won’t stop you leaving us and fulfilling your potential. You will languish away into nothing if you stay here, especially if we don’t win promotion. Your career depends on this mission.’
Brannan interjected. ‘Terminate….with extreme prejudice. This mission does not exist, nor will it ever exist……’
Good grief. My back was against the wall here. I had no choice but to obey orders, to save the good name of the club and indeed my own career. I was about to step into a place I did not want to tread. I was about to step into the heart of darkness.
I left Brannan’s office and was put into a taxi that headed towards the banks of the Tay. I was to join a small crew who would guide me up the river. The cab pulled up by the Tay bridge and I got out. A small boat was bobbing up and down in the water. Just as I started to wonder who would be joining me in the boat a child-like voice burst forth.
‘BILLY’S GOING ON HOLIDAY! IN THE WATER WITH THE FISHES! BILLY LIKES FISH!’
Sweet mother of mercy, Billy Dodds was coming along for the ride. He was wearing an all-in-one bathing suit, his propeller hat, water-wings on each arm and a pair of flippers. He was carrying a surfboard.
‘Hiya Leigh! Hiya pal!’
Dodds came up and hugged me. His greeting reeked of Jocky’s influence. He was an interesting choice for this mission. While he was part of the new regime at Dens I had seen his love for Jocky. Brannan and Chisholm may have seen Dodds as an ideal man for overseeing the mission, but they may have overlooked the fact he was actually pro-Jocky in his own way.
‘Hi Billy. Erm….Hiya pal! Are you going to be sailing the boat?’ I certainly hoped he wouldn’t be. The man couldn’t tie his own shoe laces, never mind navigate a vessel up the Tay on a dangerous mission. The question was answered by an eastern European accented voice that came from behind me.
‘In my country, we do not let half-wit command boat.’
I spun around to see Maros Klimpl, our Slovakian defensive midfielder. He was in full combat gear.
‘Mr Brannan tells me to guide you up river to find crazy person. Ve vill find Jocky Scott and end his reign of madness. Mr Brannan vill pay me seven goats for carrying out mission successfully. In my country this is equivalent of winning lottery, and offers opportunity for sexy liaisons. I vill take you to required location, Leigh Griffiths.’
Maros was an intimidating character. He had a thousand yard stare and a tough demeanor that had never sat comfortably with me. He seemed like a perfect fit for this mission though. He was certainly dressed for the part, and I got the feeling he wasn’t a stranger to undertaking military-style operations. One could only assume all Slovakians were war-hardened soldiers of fortunes who made love to goats before using them as currency.
Our unlikely trio stepped into the boat. Klimpl immediately got to work getting it started and steered it out into the river. We passed under the bridge and headed west. The mission was underway.
As Maros guided us up river I sat looking through some documents, marked TOP SECRET, that Brannan had given me. There was dossier on Jocky detailing his career and fall from grace. I read through it, trying to gain further understanding of the man. Where had it all gone wrong? When, and why, did he flip his lid and start going insane? I thought back to the time I’d spend with him. The crazy training techniques, the jetpack, the fact he hadn’t worn any form of clothing on the top half of his body in the all time I’d known him. Though it had almost started to seem normal, it clearly wasn’t. Anyone could see that.
‘LEIGH, BILLY’S FISHING! LOOK AT BILLY, LEIGH!’
Billy Dodds was sitting at the end of the boat waving at me. He had a big stick with a long piece of string attached to it. It was a homemade fishing rod. The fact he was using a tin of corned beef as bait meant it was unlikely to yield any results.
‘That’s good Billy, I see you pal. Catch us some fish for tea.’
‘FISH FOR TEA! BILLY LIKES FISH!’
All of a sudden he threw the rod down and dived into the water.
‘Fucking hell! Maros! Man overboard!’
Klimpl turned from the steering wheel, shook his head and started muttering in his own tongue. He turned the boat round and manoeuvred towards Billy, who was flapping around in a panic. Lucky he had those water-wings on. We pulled alongside and I grabbed hold of him. He was spluttering and choking.
‘Billy ya numptie, you can’t go jumping out the boat like that!’
I hauled him in.
‘Billy went swimming with the fishes! Here fishy-fishy! Fish for tea!’
Klimpl looked deeply unimpressed. ‘In my country, ve would keep you in cage and charge people 15 rubles to poke you vith stick!’ He gave Billy a wee slap on the head, making him burst into tears.
‘Oi! Leave him alone, man! Don’t hit him!’ I wasn’t happy with the Slovak. Billy wasn’t the sharpest guy, but he was harmless and a nice bloke who I felt quite protective over.
‘Keep him in check, Leigh Griffiths. He will ruin mission!’
I gave Billy a cuddle, trying to console him. ‘I’ll keep an eye on him. You just drive the boat, eh?’
Klimpl headed back to the wheel. Billy was sobbing away. ‘He’s a bad man, Leigh.’
‘I know, pal. Just ignore him.’ Checking that Klimpl was looking elsewhere, I smiled and whispered, ‘He shags goats!’
Billy burst out laughing. ‘KLIMPL SHAGS GOATS! KLIMPL SHAGS GOATS!’
I clamped a hand over Billy’s mouth. Klimpl turned round. ‘What did half-wit say?’
‘Nothing, Maros. Just keep on doing your job there.’ He eyed us suspiciously and went back to concentrating on steering the boat. Billy and I laughed and sat down. He had calmed down after his venture into the river. He looked at me and grinned. ‘We’re going to see Jocky. Billy likes Jocky. Jocky’s Billy’s pal.’ A pang of guilt stabbed at me. ‘Leigh likes Jocky too, Billy. Leigh likes Jocky too.’
I sat back and looked to the clear blue sky above. I was going to the worst place in the world and I didn’t even know it yet. Hours away and dozens of miles up a river that snaked through this madness like a main circuit cable plugged straight into Jocky.
We sailed west up the Tay. Maros was under instruction to go to a small stretch of beach a couple of clicks (his terminology, not mine) away. We were to rendezvous with some kind of special forces group who would take us past Perth. Perth is no place for Dundee players. While the feeling is generally unreciprocated, Perth folk, and particularly St Johnstone fans, have a great sense of rivalry towards Dundee. I was ambivalent towards them, but I was aware of the potential danger brought on by our presence in the vicinity of the Fair City. We’d have to tread carefully.
We reached the rendezvous point. We docked the boat by the shore and clambered up on to the beach. Klimpl checked his watch. ‘Ve made good time. Special forces unit vill be here soon.’ He went back to the boat to carry out some minor maintenance work. Billy had a bucket and spade and was making a start on a sand castle. Just as I was settling down to enjoy the moment of peace and quiet the dull “whump” of helicopter rotors came over the horizon. What the hell? We all stopped and looked towards where the sound was coming from. Sure enough, half a dozen choppers were heading towards us. Klimpl shouted, ‘Make space for landing. This is unit ve are here to meet.’ I grabbed Billy and got out the clearing. As the helicopters hovered down to land they kicked up sand and dust and made a lot of noise. We jammed our fingers in our ears and turned away. The choppers landed and switched their rotors off. I turned to see who on Earth it could be.
Men dressed in military uniform jumped out and headed to the boat. One of them went to what appeared to be the lead chopper, opened the door and saluted. A older man wearing aviator shades and a stetson hopped out and started walking towards me. He looked familiar. It couldn’t possibly be…..
‘Leigh Griffiths? I’m Jim McLean.’
Goodness gracious me. Dundee United legend Jim McLean had arrived to assist us on our mission. He gave me a firm handshake.
‘Mr McLean, I….um….didn’t realise you were the commander of a helicopter attack unit.’
‘Son, the only reason United won the league in ’83 was because this very helicopter attack unit blew the shit out of the Old Firm training facilities in the weeks leading up to that fateful day at Dens Park. Massive casualties. It went largely unreported because we blew the shit out the west coast media headquarters around the same time. They were the glory days, son. Good times that will never be repeated, mainly because the Old Firm have installed heavy artillery at their new facilities. Weedgie bastards. Anyway, we’re going to fly you over Perth to a point where you can continue your mission safely. We’ll attach your boat to one of the choppers and glide right over the Fair City.’
Incredible stuff. One of McLean’s men ran up to him. ‘The boat’s ready, Captain. Are you ready to go?’
‘EH TOLD YOU NO’ TAE ASK ME THAT QUESTION!’
Boom! McLean punched him out.
Maros Klimpl ran up to us. ‘Vhy you punch your own man?’
‘EH TOLD YOU NO’ TAE ASK ME THAT QUESTION!’
Boom! Klimpl went down like a ton of bricks. McLean had some swing on him. He turned to me and said, ‘Leigh, it’s best you don’t ask me any questions.’ He grinned and headed towards his chopper. One of his men took out a bugle and sounded the charge. I helped Klimpl up and told Billy to come along. We jumped in the back of his chopper and it quickly took off.
As we flew towards Perth, which was only a couple of miles away, McLean’s men took their helmets off and sat on them. Klimpl asked, ‘vhy do you boys sit on your helmets?’, to which a came the reply, ‘so our balls don’t get blown off….’ Klimpl laughed, thought about it for a second, then followed suit. Billy, who was having the time of his life flying in a helicopter, shouted, ‘BILLY’S BALLS HAVEN’T DROPPED YET!’ McLean glanced round from his “shotgun” seat to see who had spoken about their balls. ‘Sweet mother of mercy, is that Billy Dodds?’
‘Hiya wee Jum! Billy played for United!’
McLean laughed. ‘Yes, I remember you Billy. Welcome on-board.’ He took a lollipop out his breast pocket and passed it to Billy. ‘Thanks wee Jum!’ As Dodds slobbered all over it McLean looked at me with an arched eyebrow and let out a soft whistle.
We were approaching Perth. McLean began yelling about starting up the music. He turned to us, pointing out the loudspeakers that were attached to the exterior of the chopper. ‘I like to play music when we’re on a mission. It scares the shit out the enemy.’ He fired up an antiquated tape recorder. I was expecting something powerful and dramatic, maybe a classical piece by Wagner. Ride of the Valkyries would have been appropriate. We got something altogether different.
As we swooped low over Perth city centre Erasure came blaring out the speakers. McLean sang along at the top of his voice and gestured to the bemused shoppers below.
‘I TRIED TO DISCOVER! A LITTLE SOMETHING TO MAKE ME SWEETER. OH BABY REFRAIN! FROM BREAKING MY HEART. I’M SO IN LOVE WITH YOU, I’LL BE FOREVER BLUE…’
He turned to us, shouting, ‘EVERYONE JOIN IN THE CHORUS!’
Klimpl and I looked at each other, shrugged, and decided to go with the flow. As we swept past Perth we sang with gusto.
‘OH BABY PLEEEEEEEEEEASE, GIVE A LITTLE RESPECT! TO-OO-OO-OOOOO MEEEEEEEE!’
Billy was giving it laldy too. We wasn’t singing the right song, but the intention was there.
‘The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round….BILLY’S ON A FLYING BUS!’
The choppers zoomed past Perth and reached our destination. We disembarked and watched as our boat was lowered back into the river. McLean’s mission had been a success. He accompanied us to our vessel and had a look around. Billy was highly animated and was desperate to show McLean all his stuff.
‘Look wee Jum, Billy’s got a surfboard!’
McLean chuckled. ‘Well let’s see you use it, son! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man surf the Tay before!’
Klimpl intervened. ‘Bad idea, McLean. Perth people must be angry at us, too dangerous to hang around here surfing.’
McLean replied, ‘Too dangerous? Son, if I say this river is safe to surf, it is safe to surf!’
Klimpl persisted. ‘But these Perth folk, they will be after us!’
McLean was getting wound up. ‘Son…….FARMERS DON’T SURF’
Billy broke the tension by bounding out with his kit bag. He started showing McLean his Noddy bubble bath and Winnie the Poo toothbrush. As Klimpl and I used the distraction to sneak on the boat and prepare for a fast getaway from this crazy old Arab, Billy passed him something. ‘Present for wee Jum for shot on flying bus.’ McLean took it. ‘Ah lip balm……thanks Billy.’ Klimpl fired up the engine. I hauled Billy into the boat. Just as we took off Mclean uncapped his gift, took a good sniff of it, and remarked, ‘I love the smell of lip balm in the morning…….’
Maros hit the accelerator and we left him and his men to their business. As he became a small speck on the horizon I smiled and gave a little salute to Jim McLean, who truly is a legend in his own lifetime.
We continued our journey up the Tay. As darkness began to fall Klimpl delivered some bad news. We had a problem with the fuel tank that meant we were losing petrol rapidly. An emergency stop would have to be made in order to buy a small part to fix the problem and some replacement fuel. I was concerned, but Klimpl seemed to have the situation under control.
‘Ve vill stop at depot in Dunkeld. Parts and fuel can be purchased there.’
‘Whatever you say, Maros.’
It was dark by the time we approached Dunkeld. The place was lit up like the Blackpool illuminations and a great deal of noise rose from it. Maros got on the radio and tried to contact the depot. The word that came back was not good. It transpires there was some kind of Playboy Bunny show going on. This was very, very strange, and highly unexpected. We were still in St Johnstone country. There was potential danger here. As we had no choice but to go into port we decided to attempt to wear some form of disguise. Maros wasn’t easily recognisable, but I was. He had a spare military outfit that I put on. We both applied stripes of greasy black face paint across our cheeks. It would have to do. Billy stood out like a sore thumb in his swimming costume and flippers, so we put a big khaki jacket and cap on him to try and make him less obvious.
‘Ok Leigh Griffiths, Maros vill do deal at depot. You must keep half-wit under control at all times. Mission may depend on it, ze people here may not be friendly.’ He made good sense. ‘Ok Maros, no problem. We’ll keep a low profile. Isn’t that right, Billy?’ Dodds said nothing, but he made the universal gesture for zipping your mouth shut and throwing away the key. We were ready to go.
We’d walked into a more dangerous scene that we’d initially anticipated. Dunkeld was awash with St Johnstone and United supporters. Our disguises were working a treat though. Nobody batted an eyelid at us. Maros was proving his worth, he was as cool as a cucumber.
‘Ok, I must seek out depot where fuel and spare parts are sold. Ve split up and meet back at boat in 20 minutes.’ He pointed at Billy and made the “zip it” gesture. Billy smiled and did the same back. He seemed to grasp the potential for trouble and was on his best behaviour.
Maros headed off. I decided to follow the crowd to see what this Playboy show in Dunkeld of all places was about. We reached an amphitheatre of sorts that overlooked a circular platform on the edge of the river. A huge crowd had gathered, many of whom wore the colours of St Johnstone and Dundee United. The Perth/Dundee rivalry apparently extended only to the dark blue side of Dundee.
The crowd was buzzing with anticipation. They were ready for whatever show was about to be put on. For the second time of the day the dull “whump” of a helicopter’s rotor came into earshot. The crowd rose and cheered. Billy, who had been perfectly quiet since being asked to do so, turned to me and whispered, ‘Wee Jum?’ No, I didn’t think so. I shook my head and repeated the “zip it” motion. We watched from the sidelines as the chopper came in to land on the platform. As soon as it hit the deck a bespectacled man with a gammy leg bounded out. The bad foot on the leg he dragged behind him was clad in the biggest orthopedic shoe I’ve ever seen. He was wearing a white tshirt with a huge image of Tam Cowan’s face on it, and brandished a banjo. I smirked as I recognised the popular broadcaster and die hard St Johnstone man Stuart Cosgrove. A mic was passed to him and he burst into life. ‘Gentleman! Are you ready for some red hot female action?’ The crowd roared in approval. Cosgrove cupped his hand to his ear and repeated, ‘I said, are you ready for some red hot female action?’ Again the crowd roared. Cosgrove worked them into a lather by bellowing out the words, ‘OH WE HATE DUNDEE, HATE DUNDEE!’ The crowd picked it up instantly and finished the song for him. ‘HATE DUNDEE AND WE HATE DUNDEE! WE HATE DUNDEE AND WE HATE DUNDEE! WE ARE THE DUNDEE – HATERS!’ They cheered in unison. Fuck me, St Johnstone and United fans were a strange bunch. Billy and I looked at each other. With remarkable insight for someone whose mind had come loose from it’s moorings, he pointed his index finger to his temple and twirled it. Bang on, Billy. The “wanker” gesture he followed it up with was pretty close to the mark too.
Cosgrove took his banjo and burst into a fast-paced yokel tune of some description. The St Johnstone fans went wild and started bouncing about like it was the last day of the harvest. They whooped with delight and encouraged the Arabs to join them in their rural revelry. Cosgrove finished to great applause. He got back on the mic and worked the crowd.
‘Gentleman, we have the two sexiest ladies in the country right here for you! United fans, please welcome…….Lorraine Kelly!’
For fuck sake. United’s most famous supporter came out the chopper in a tangerine bikini and started dancing about like a £10-a-ride whore. It was a million miles from sexy. Credit where it’s due though, she had a cracking pair of tits and wasn’t shy in whipping them out. The Arabs in the crowd were going bonkers. Just I thought it couldn’t get any worse, Cosgrove continued.
‘St Johnstone fans, please welcome……Aggie the tea lady!’
Holy fuck. Seriously. Holy fuck. Aggie was well into her 60’s. Cosgrove dragged his sorry ass over to her and raised one of her arms aloft. She was dressed in a St Johnstone top and a pair of hot pants. When Cosgrove pulled her top up to reveal tits that went south of her belly button I thought my eyes were going to run out my skull in protest. The crowd was going wild. Lorraine was sucking a cucumber suggestively as Aggie stood looking slightly lost. Her demeanour changed in an instant when Cosgrove brought out a blow up doll in a Rangers top and a Graeme Souness mask. All of a sudden she was a whirling dervish of roundhouse kicks and and savage karate chops. When the doll burst she raised both hands in the air and drove the crowd to the brink of mayhem by hoisting one of her floppy old tits up round her neck so she wore it like a skinned ferret stole.
When she started sucking on her nipple the crowd lost the plot. They started jumping on to the platform in an attempt to get closer to the “Bunnies”. Cosgrove was too busy masturbating furiously to care. Aggie was quickly taken back into the chopper by a security officer. Lorraine was ushered back too, but she shrugged the attempt away before ripping her bikini thong off and making the classic “come ahead” gesture to the oncoming crowd. Enough was enough. I didn’t want to see Lorraine Kelly being gang banged by hundreds of rabid Arabs, Saintees and Stuart Cosgrove. Actually, Cosgrove apparently wasn’t into Kelly. As the chopper took off with Souness-slayer Aggie inside he ran at it and threw himself off the platform. He managed to grab hold of one of the stanchions which the chopper sits on when it’s grounded. It continued to rise away from the platform. Cosgrove held on valiantly, even when his trousers fell down around his ankles and his butt plug slipped out his hairy arse. As his grip finally came loose and he plummeted towards the water below I grabbed Billy and dragged him off. This was no scene for the wee man. These people were savages.
I fought back the vomit that was rising in my throat as we ran back to meet Klimpl. He was already there and had the boat’s engine running. He waved us on.
‘You look like you have seen terrible things!’
‘Maros, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Let’s get the fuck out of here.’
He saw that I was serious. He jumped behind the wheel and set off.
We were back on track. We were on the final leg of the journey. We were closing in on Jocky.
He was close, real close. I couldn’t see him yet, but I could feel him, as if the boat was being sucked up the river towards him. We sensed it was almost time. Maros was tense. I was alone with a thousand thoughts. Billy was trying to lick his elbow.
Dawn was starting to break. We trundled on up the river in silence until, finally, we reached our destination.
Maros slowed the boat down to a crawl. Up ahead lay an abandoned temple of some sort. In the water before us scores of men, topless and sporting moustaches, sat in canoes. As we approached them they parted, allowing us to pass. They covered the land up ahead too. Hundreds of them, all fully focused on us. A voice broke the silence.
‘Hey come on in, it’s all approved! I’m a Dundonian, a Dundonian civilian!’
Maros guided the boat to the shore where the man who was shouting stood. He leaped on to the boat. He seemed vaguely familiar. As he started shaking hands with us all he announced, ‘I’m a photojournalist. Jim Spence! Leigh, I’ve been ghost writing your BBC website blog.’
‘My blog……..’ My voice trailed off and I gave Spence a strange look. His eyes darted from me, to the sky, then he quickly turned his head and looked behind him before looking at me again. He spoke as if in a dream-like state. ‘Yes, your blog……..but this is………’
We both snapped out of it and shivered. Something deeply weird happened there, but this was no time to dwell on it. I shook off the the strange sensation that had come over me and continued.
‘Jim, who are all these people?’
‘They think you’ve come to take him away. These are all His children, man.’
‘Him! Jocky Scott! Hell, everyone here….we’re all His children.
‘Could I, uh, talk to Jocky….’
‘Hey, man, you don’t talk to Jocky. You listen to him. The man’s enlarged my mind. He’s a poet warrior in the classic sense. I mean sometimes he’ll… uh… well, you’ll say “hello” to him, right? And he’ll just walk right by you. He won’t even notice you. And suddenly he’ll grab you, and he’ll throw you in a corner, and he’ll say, “Dae yi’ ken that stovies are the best o’ the teckle? If yi’ can keep yir stovies when a’ aboot yi’ are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if yi can trust yourself when a’ men doubt yi”… I mean I’m… no, I can’t… I’m a little man, I’m a little man, he’s… he’s a great man! I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas…’
Spence had clearly been out in the bush too long. I told Maros and Billy to stay with the boat and jumped on to the shore. Spence followed me, raving away in my ear.
‘I wish I had words, man. I wish I had words… I can tell ya something like the other day he wanted to get me telt. Somethin’ like that… ‘
‘Why’d he want to get you telt?’
‘Because I took his picture. He said “Here, spunk-splash, dinnae tak’ meh photae unless eh’ve struck a suitable pose. Come on, Vogue! Let yer body move tae the music! Like that boy Maradona. Ken what eh mean, Spence? You’ll end up gettin’ telt, cunto.” And you know what?’ Spence made spread his arms wide and gave me a wild look. ‘He meant it.’
I walked through the crowd with him. They all had a crazed look in their eye, and bristling moustaches on their upper lips.
‘I need to talk to Jocky’
‘He’s not here. He’s out with his people. But he’ll be back for his stovies in due course.’
The crowd of people started closing in on me. I was surrounded. Shit, they must have sensed I was a potential threat. They grabbed me and tied my hands behind my back. I was then tethered to a tree and left there.
Hours passed. The rain had come on and left me soaked to the skin. As darkness fell and the smell of stovies filled the air I braced myself for Jocky’s return. How would he react to seeing me? Would he realise what I was here to do? The tension was mounting. My mind drifted and I fell into a dream. I could hear Spence whispering in my ear about Jocky. ‘His mind is clear but his soul is mad…..’
I wasn’t asleep, but I was miles away. A shadow fell over me and I snapped out of it. Looking up I saw Jocky. He looked at me, his face expressionless. He didn’t say a word. He pulled something from behind his back and dropped it in my lap. It was Maros Klimpl’s decapitated head.
I screamed and tried to shake it out my lap. It rolled away from me. My cry echoed for miles around. I looked back up at Jocky. A wee smirk started to spread, and he burst out laughing.
‘Meh Goad that wiz a fuckin’ belter! For fuck sake, it’s no really Klimpl’s heid, Leigh!! It’s paper fucking mache ya daft cunt! Did you think eh’d takin’ the boy’s heid aff?!! YAAAASSSSS! Oh ya cunt yi should’ve seen your pus Leigh!! Fuckin’ YAAAAASSSS! By Christ that wiz teckle! Eh kent that big goat-fucking Swedish spunk bucket wiz comin’, been makin that dingy heid a’ day!’
My heart was pounding. I’d never had a scare like that in all my life. The paper mache head was reasonably realistic and had been covered in mud, so it looked the part at a moments glance. I took deep breaths then looked up at Jocky, who was starting to calm down. He kneeled down next to me.
‘Hiya Leigh! Hiya pal! Welcome tae Jocky’s summer home! Eh’m pretty sure yi’ll agree that ootside o’ the Red Lion Caravan Park in Arbroath it’s the maist teckle holiday abode in the land. Have yi met the lads? Jocky’s army! Here lads, say hiya tae meh pal Leigh Griffiths!’
His men barked out a greeting as one, ‘HIYA LEIGH! HIYA PAL!’
He gave me a wee pat on the head and started to untie me. ‘Sorry aboot this pal, but the lads are a bit jumpy when it comes tae strangers. Expectin’ a visit fae the polis, likes. ‘Mon inside and git dried aff. Fancy a plate o’ Jon Bon Jovi’s? Tea time, cunto!’
He helped me up and we went inside. If I was going to complete my mission, now was the time.
I sat cross-legged in Jocky’s hut. We ate our stovies in silence. I was scared to look him in the eye, because I knew he was searching my soul with his gaze. He knew why I was here, and he was going to let me complete my mission. He finished his food and began talking.
‘Jocky kens what yir thinkin’ pal. You’ve witnessed a few mad things in yir time at Dens. Eh’ve seen horrors… horrors that you’ve seen. But yi hae nae right tae call me a lunatic. Yi hae the right tae phone the polis. Yi hae a right tae dae that… but yi hae nae right tae judge me. It’s impossible fur words tae describe what is necessary tae those wha dinnae ken what horror means. Horror… Horror has a pus… and yi must make a pal o’ horror. Horror is yir pal. If it’s no’, then it’s an enemies tae be feared. It’s truly an enemy! Eh mind when eh wiz up in Aberdeen visitin’ meh mate Alex Ferguson…..seems a thousand centuries ago. We went oot wi’ a’ the players fur a night oot. We a’ came pilin’ oot the boozer and walked past this field o’ sheep. A’ o’ a sudden the whole lot o’ them stripped aff and jumped in the field. They ran in, caught a sheep each, and started shagging the life oot o’ them. Eh could nae believe whit eh wiz seein’. Even Fergie was makin’ one o’ them suck his boaby. Wullie Miller wiz daein it wi’ a big ram, gave it a wee hand-shandy and a’hing. Boy wiz a bit fruity, likes. And eh remember… eh… eh… eh cried, eh wept like some grandmother. Hiya Granny! Hiya pal! Eh wanted to tear meh teeth oot; eh didnae ken what eh wanted tae dae! And eh want tae remember it. Eh never want tae forget it… eh never want tae forget. And then eh realized… like eh wiz shot… like eh wiz shot wi’ a diamond… a diamond bullet right through meh forehead. And eh thought, my Goad… the genius o’ that! The genius! The will tae dae that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. Nae point fannying aboot buyin’ wummin’ drinks and tryin’ tae chat them up when yi’ kin jist grab a sheep and shag fuck oot it! And then eh realized they were stronger than boys like me and teams like Dundee, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men… trained cadres. These men wha fought wi’ their hearts, wha had families, wha had children, wha were filled with love… but they had the strength… the strength… tae dae that. Tae shag sheep! The cunts won a trophy in Europe that year. If eh hud half a dozen o’ those men, the troubles at Dens would be over very quickly. Eh’d win the Dee the Champions fucking League. You hae tae have men wha are moral… and at the same time wha are able tae utilize their primordial instincts tae act without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment! Because it’s judgment that defeats us. Ooft! Hefty heid-fuck chat fae auld Jock there, eh? Ken what eh mean though, Leigh? Eh believe you hae a phone call tae make…’
I sat and held his gaze for a few moments. It was time. I took the phone out and flipped it open. I looked back at him. He didn’t budge, but his stare was locked on me. I looked deep, deep into his eyes. Flashbacks raced through my head. The laugh we’d had when he played the phone prank on me in his office……..the feeling of unity when we followed him in his charge out on to the street to back up Eddie Malone after he’d been fired out the cannon…….the image of him standing on the roof of the Falkirk Stadium with his fist raised after I’d scored for Scotland…..the camaraderie of sitting is house having a blether over a couple of tins the night before the Raith game……the soul-bearing, heartbreaking chat in the dugout night at Dens……
I dialed 9………..9……….
I stood up, walked to the doorway of his hut……………………….and threw the phone into the river. I turned back to him. He was still sitting. His face was a picture. Joy, pride, triumph….all at the same time. He leaped up, and we embraced. It was a fearsome hug.
‘That’s the gemme, Leigh! Jocky kent yi’ were sound! Kent yi’ were meh pal!! Tae be honest, if there wiz any doubts eh would’ve telt wee Jum tae throw yi’ oot that helicopter over Perth, but there wiz nae need!’
‘Did you know I was coming all along?!’
He laughed. ‘Fuckin’ right. Wee Jum’s a good pal o’ Jocky’s ya daft cunt! Pure telt iz on the Jimmy Bone. Wee Jum would’ve battered the fuck oot o’ yi’ if eh didnae tell him yi’ were a’right and would nae cause any trouble! That bear-shaggin’, helicopter-flehin’, BBC cunto-punchin’ chum o’ mine disnae take any shite, like. Go on yerself Jum!’
He went into his pocket. ‘Got yi’ a wee present, Leigh. It’s fuckin’ teckle!’
He handed me a sticky-on replica of his moustache. I pressed it against my upper lip.
‘Oh ya cunt, yi’ look like a fuckin’ muppet wi’ that on!’ He laughed hysterically. ‘But at the same time, yi’ look braw! Bit like Jocky!’
We walked out into the open. Jocky’s men were mulling around. Among them stood Maros Klimpl. He’d taken his top off and was wearing a ‘tache. I started to think about where we went from here.
‘Go back tae Dundee, pal. Tell Brannan fuck all. Tell him Jocky wiz naewhaur tae be seen. Maist importantly…….dae yi’ mind the lever in meh auld office?’
I remembered. How could I forget?
‘The………the Age of Jocky…….’
He nodded. ‘That’s right, cunto. Go back and pull the lever. Wee Billy might be useful when it comes to getting intae the office on the fly…’
Just then Billy came bounding up to us. His top was off, and just like Maros, myself, and every man here, he had a ‘tache.
‘BILLY’S GOT A ‘TACHE LIKE JOCKY! THAT’S WHAT EH’M TALKIN’ ABOOT!’
Jocky laughed and put a hand round his shoulder. He turned to me. ‘This cunt’s no’ wise! Solid gold, though. Braw laddie!’ Isn’t that right, Billy? Yi’re some boy!’
Billy smiled as he replied, ‘Billy likes futba. Futba and wee Jum’s flyin’ bus!’
Jocky chuckled away to himself. I was trying to think ahead. ‘Jocky, I can’t pull the lever. You said only you could pull it.’
‘Dinnae worry aboot it, Leigh. Go back tae Jocky’s hoose in the Ferry. Mind meh bookcase? You’ve got Art of War, but pullin’ Watership Down, which is a fuckin’ teckle book aboot rabbits by the way, will activate the mechanism that gets yi’ intae meh secret lab. Boy there will help yi’ oot. Keep yir eyes peeled fur wee Jocky tae!’
It was time to head back home. Maros had decided to stay as part of Jocky’s army. He’d been converted. Jocky had arranged for us to get a lift home with Jim McLean. A helicopter turned up to collect us, and Billy charged on. As I went to follow him Jocky shouted after me.
‘Here Leigh, Jocky disnae get the futba results up here. Wha got tae the Scottish Cup Final this year?’
‘Ross County!’, I shouted back.
For fuck sake. Exasperated, I replied, ‘Ross County. We played them several times while you were manager. They’re from Dingwall.’
‘Wha’s in cherge here? How the fuck did Ross County get tae the Cup Final?’
‘They beat Celtic in the Semi.’
Jocky spluttered. ‘Whit?!! By Christ, wait til the Pope hears aboot this! There’ll be carnage in the Fairmuir!’
I laughed as Jocky continued. ‘Leigh….wha are Ross County playing in the Final?’
I hesitated for a moment, then replied, ‘United…..’
His eyes rolled back in his head a little, and although I couldn’t hear him over the rotor of the helicopter I could see the words his mouth was forming as we took off and left his compound in the wilderness.
‘………………the horror…………….the horror………………the horror………….’