‘So, it’s 11:00 p.m. here in frosty Glasgow. Over the next few hours the temperature will drop to minus eleven and everyone is talking about the cut in winter fuel supplements for the elderly.’ Siobhan pauses for breath, flicks long black hair from her headset and pushes on. ‘I’m opening the lines now. You know the number and you know me. Don’t phone with wet opinions; I want facts, who is being affected and how. I mean the cuts make sense; all the elderly will die off so the government don’t have to pay their pensions and they get a nice trickle of inheritance tax to pay for their love nests. Welcome to The Combat Zone.’
Two buttons pressed and she announces, ‘This is Immolate from Sighthill. Three minutes of glorious Glasgow rock.’
She sits back, sips water. Blue lipstick on a plastic cup. Tapping a blue fingernail against a tooth she waits for the call lights to come on. Nothing.
She thinks: Stupid producers. Who is going to phone about this at this time? Wankers. Independence factions are killing each other and shooting the troops sent to restore order. The city is crawling with drug dealers and prostitutes but I have to talk about…
Wait … a call.
‘I’m interrupting Immolate for our first call. Hello, whoever you are, what’s up?’
A breathless rushed voice. The rattle of coins in a call box. ‘Siobhan it’s me Connel Roxburgh. I need to tell you something…’
‘Connel, I don’t take personal calls on air. This had better be about…’
‘Siobhan, I’m going to die. Listen to me.’
‘Call an ambulance!’
‘No, someone’s going to kill me.’
‘Connel, call the police.’ Siobhan breathes an inner sigh of relief. Connel may have been the weedy nerd bullied right up to sixth form; a spotty lanky-haired misfit but at least what he is saying will wake up her dwindling audience.
‘Like the police could do anything.’
‘Siobhan, listen. I was invited to a meeting. I thought it was to be a social thing but it was a rebel cell. They wanted to enroll me. Told me what an asset I’d be. I think they just saw me as a pushover. My initiation was to kill a man in Govan; some guy in Hislop road. They gave me a gun and told me to be back in two hours.’
‘Is this some sort of joke? Because…’
‘Listen, they probably guessed I wouldn’t do it. They followed me but I dodged them at Queens Street Station. Half the rebels in the world will be out looking for me now.’
‘Connel, get out. Get to a police station or something.’ Siobhan felt Connel’s pressure of speech, the jagged breath and desperation in his words pulling her in.
‘What’s the point? If they don’t get me today it’ll be tomorrow. I’m a dead man. Look, Siobhan, I’ve got something to say. I’m sick of all this killing. The papers tell us it’s about politics. That’s bollocks. This is all about violent bastards screwing scared people. It’s all based on old prejudices that no one gives a toss about any more. It’s done for power, the buzz and the money the bastards get from intimidation.’
‘Look, it’s obvious. People think this is rebels against the State but the criminals, the murderers at the top will kill their own kind if they stand up to them. They don’t really care if you are one of them, police or army. All they want is wealth and power. Out there all over the place are good kind people that don’t care about ancient history, don’t want the violence to go on, don’t want to get pulled in.’ He pauses. ‘Shit, a car just went past. People looking out at me.’
Siobhan waves two fingers at her director and then a fist. Behind glass, he’s making gestures like he wants her to cut the conversation.
‘Connel, my boss wants me to cut you off. I swear to God if he touches the connection, I’ll kill him. Go on.’
‘If all these perverted bastards knew how many people are against them. Hey, if everyone wore a red badge, you know, like they are sick of blood. No! If everyone wore a red badge with the names of all the family or friends they’ve lost in these troubles we’d all see just how evil these people are and how much we all hurt because of their greed. Maybe… Fuck, two have got out. It must be them.’
Siobhan’s words tumble out before she’s aware of them. ‘You’ve got a gun, kill them!’
‘I couldn’t do that, Siobhan. Look, this has been going on for years. The graveyards are full of mums, dads, children… The body count rises nearly every day. Why do people listen to idiots who think the only way you can solve a problem is by making it worse? Here they come. Hey, Siobhan, it’s been lovely talking to you. Do you know how many times I tried to at school? My tongue seized up every time. It was like you’re some sort of princess and I was just…’
‘Connel!’ Siobhan shrieks as two shots ring out. Glass smashes, the receiver clatters against something hard. Gasps and groans from Connel. The sound of a door opening is followed by two clearer louder shots. The door slams on silence.
Siobhan screams. Tears run. She’s shaking, spluttering. ‘Oh, dear God, dear God…’ Draws a sleeve across the mucus running from her nose.
‘Connel, oh God, Connel.’ She takes a shuddering breath in. She’s not aware of the time passing, just rocking back and forth, moaning and sniveling. A thought rises and hammers into consciousness – she’s still on air. ‘Bastards … bastards. Is there no end to this fucking stupidity? Listeners, a man just died. Died giving us a message. I’ve got a red cup mat here; I’m sticking a pin through it and writing “Connel Roxburgh” on it. Tell everyone you know about this. Phone them, text them, email them. I’m going to run this conversation on a loop all night. Make them listen. Get them to make badges too. Write the names of loved ones killed in this insanity. Dear God, maybe a hero has just told us how to put a stop to it all.’
© Gary Bonn: 2012