Caledonian Thistle

Originally published in “The Magpie’s Nest” Winter 1998 edition, “Caledonian Thistle” is the only story I’ve written with a Scotch setting….


Things were a bit slack in the Tourist Information Office. We’d been open three hours and only seen two customers, both just wanting maps of the town. To ease the monotony, me and the other two flipped the sign over to read CLOSED and locked the door. Having checked we were all packing, I gave the sign and we put on our stocking masks and balaclavas and walked into the bank next door. Bobby and Joe were a little nervous, but l”d done this sort of thing many times before.

The bank was of the old style; all pillars and marble floors, not a piece of chrome or pane of smoked glass in sight. It was chilled and airy compared to the noise, smog and humidity of the outside world. I thought this ambience would have kept the novices calm, but they were unable to maintain a professional approach. I suppose it was my fault for not keeping them in view at all times, but I’d perhaps grown a little complacent, having pulled this stunt once a month for around half a decade. We’d decided I would take the money, Bobby was on crowd control and Joe would keep his eyes peeled at the door. At least that was the plan.

Just as I was easing my way to the front of the small, orderly queue, ready to jam the revolver into the mouth of the customer at the front, Bobby became a literal loose cannon. One middle aged woman, all twin set and blue rinse, seemed about to object to my queue jumping. I’’d scarcely brushed past when she started out Excuse me young man but that’s as far as she got. Bobby unloaded the whole chamber on her and she fell, punctured in half a dozen places. The screaming started for real, most of it Bobby’s. Joe had shit himself; he was out of there as soon as the tiring began. I was still in charge, so I took Bobby out with the first bullet, then unloaded indiscriminately on the rest of the queue. They all went down. Sirens were ringing crazily. I reloaded carefully before walking out empty handed. Shit, this job had been a real fuck up.

Outside a crowd watched a bloke in motor bike gear give Joe mouth to mouth. He’d run straight in front of a bus and it looked bad. You could tell by the way the biker was shaking his head and wiping away a tear that Joe wouldn’t make it. After ditching the mask and balaclava, I let myself back into The Tourist Office. Almost immediately I took a provisional telephone booking for a cottage from a woman who fancied it for New Year round here. I told her we still called it Hogmanay and she laughed. Later on four businessmen came in wanting a hotel with visiting massage and cable porn. I told them this was Inverness and not New Orleans. They saw my point and took two twins in the Glenmorangie View guest house.

Being short staffed, I closed early and headed down to Archie’s for a few. I sat on a stool, contemplating life in front of a beer and idly smoking until the bank crew came in right on five fifteen. They gave me some hard stares I can tell you. Shit,it wasn’t my fault Joe and Bobby had ruined the monthly profit sharing scheme. I didn’t feel too great about rubbing out half a dozen folks myself. Yawning, I ordered another beer. Maybe I could have an early night.


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