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Authors: Campbell Armstrong







“Campbell Armstrong is thriller writing's best-kept secret.” —
The Sunday Times

“Armstrong is among the most intriguing of blockbuster writers … near to unputdownable.” —

“While touching on suspense with a skill to please hard-core thriller addicts, he manages to please people who … warm to readable novels of substance.” —
Daily Mail

“Armstrong's skill is not just an eye for a criminally good tale but a passion for the people that will populate it.” —
The Scotsman

“Subtle and marvelous … This is a dazzling book.”
—The Daily Telegraph
Agents of Darkness

“A consummate psychological thriller … Without doubt, Armstrong is now in the front rank of thriller writers.” —

“Armstrong has outdone both Frederick Forsyth and Ken Follett.” —James Patterson on

“A full throttle adventure thriller.”
—The Guardian

“A wonderful puzzle that keeps us guessing right to the end.” —
Publishers Weekly


A Glasgow Novel

Campbell Armstrong


It was time. He'd watched bosses rise and fall and others emerge to take their places. He'd seen fragile allegiances forged only to disintegrate in squalls of treachery and violence. He was forty-five and primed for advancement and he'd waited years for his moment.

He stepped out of his Jaguar at the top of Hill Street. He wore a full length camel-coloured cashmere overcoat against the cold October night. Beating his gloved hands together, he surveyed the city spread beneath him – the intricate splendour of St George's Mansions lit by red floodlights, the towers of Trinity, the electric clusters of Maryhill, the dark pool that was Kelvingrove Park. Beyond lay Partick, Broomhill, Hyndland. He heard the roaring motorway ferry cars and trucks to Anderston and the Broomielaw, and then across the narrow water of the Clyde to Kingston and Kinning Park, Govan and Pollok, and beyond.

So much buzz, so many lights, so many pockets of darkness.

This city is mine.

Reuben Chuck took his mobile phone from his pocket and punched in a number and said, ‘Start movin.'

Jimmy ‘Bram' Stoker sat in his usual private dining room at the Corinthian, a restaurant and club in an ornate Victorian building that was once the Glasgow Sheriff's Court. His ulcer, that wicked wee cunt in his gut, was acting up. He'd eaten curried bream, and the taste kept coming back at him. Never trust bream. Specially

He finished his brandy and rose from the table and looked at his guests, a Texan called Rick Tosh and a local girl, Patsie, who'd been brought along for the American's amusement.

Stoker said, ‘I'll leave you two. Enjoy.' He made an expansive gesture, indicating that he was bestowing on them not only the finest of meals and the best wines, but also any pleasures the rest of the evening held.

‘Jeez, it's only what, ten o'clock?' Rick Tosh, a leathery man with a neck so gnarled the cords were like stretched brown rubber bands, protested mildly. He had one liver-spotted paw on Patsie's compliant knee under the table. He planned to reach the inner thigh as soon as Stoker had split.

‘We'll talk business in the morning,' Stoker said. ‘Tonight's for enjoyment.'

‘Place like this, gal like this, a guy'd have to be a goddam Baptist not to enjoy.' Rick Tosh had a silent laugh. His head went up and down like a man dooking for apples, and his mouth opened and his shoulders shook, but no sound emerged.

Jimmy Stoker inclined his body toward the girl, and whispered in her ear. ‘Treat him well, lassie.' Her perfume was so overwhelming he suspected prolonged exposure to it would collapse his lungs. He shook Tosh's left hand, knowing the right was otherwise engaged. ‘I'll send somebody at 10 a.m. to pick you up at your hotel.'

‘Looking forward,' the Texan said. ‘

.' Jimmy Stoker moved away from the table. Simultaneously, two young men who'd been standing at the bar all evening left their drinks unfinished and followed Stoker to the cloakroom. One claimed Stoker's hat and coat and helped him into it. He'd give him the hat outside if there was inclement weather, the only time Stoker reluctantly acquiesced to covering his thick white blow-dried hair, his pride.

‘Nice night, Mr Stoker?'

Stoker belched. ‘Texans are all fucking windbags. Oil this, oil that, and if it isny oil it's cattle, and who knows how many million head and how many million acres. You could build a city size of five Glasgows on his land, he says. He's a blowhard. Soon's you let Americans get their mitts into your business, they're leeches. Give em an inch.'

The young man checked the street from the front door and said, ‘All clear, Mr Stoker.'

‘Righto,' Stoker said.

The door was held open for him. The two young men flanked him as they moved along Ingram Street toward Stoker's parked Daimler. One opened the back door.

Stoker climbed in and said, ‘Take me home, country roads.'

The young man who'd opened the door settled into the passenger seat, the other got behind the wheel. The car rolled past the Italian Centre and down Glassford Street in the direction of Argyle Street. Glassford wasn't very well lit; dark buildings on either side, old warehouses transformed into shops with flats above them.

Jimmy Stoker tasted bream again. It was like the fish had come back to life and was swimming up his gullet on a cloud of aqueous gas. He belched profoundly a couple of times and said, ‘Never eat curried bream, boys. I swear to God.' He undid the buttons of his grey single-breasted suit, and loosened his belt. He also popped the top two buttons of his trousers.

The young man in the passenger seat looked round. He still had Stoker's hat, and he held it out to him. ‘Here's your hat, what's your curry?'

Stoker leaned forward. ‘See you, Jack. The last thing I need is any of your rotten jokes. See if there's Rolaids.'

Jack opened the glovebox and a little lightbulb glowed. He rummaged around. ‘None, Mr Stoker.'

A car coming the other way angled abruptly into the Daimler's path. Stoker's driver braked to avoid collision and said, ‘Fucking

The other car stopped and doors swung open and three men jumped out into the glare of the Daimler's headlights.

Stoker shouted, ‘What the fuck is this?'

Jack was reaching for a gun he kept under the passenger seat as the windscreen cracked and collapsed. Jack fell sideways. A piece of his scalp was blown into the back seat and blood splashed into Stoker's eyes. The driver tried to squirm down in the seat and take the gun out of Jack's dead hand but a second shot blew through his jawbone and he slid silently away from the wheel. Stoker opened the back door, stumbled out of the car, felt his slackened trousers begin to slide from his hips. He tripped on the pavement. He blinked, Jack's blood blinded him. He tried to get up – if I run, if I run

‘Don't even think about it,' somebody said.

Stoker did think about it – and decided he wasn't going out like a snivelling wee boy. He grabbed the top of his falling trousers and rose, thinking he'd make a mad rush into a dark side-street, but he stumbled again. Ah shite.

Cardamom, ginger, chillies and fish flakes clotted at the back of his throat.


Move Over Darling
,' Eve Curdy said. ‘That's my favourite.'

‘Nope, has to be
Pillow Talk

‘When you get down to it, Gordy, is there a difference between the two?'

‘Get down to it?' Gordy had a big smile. ‘How far down?'

‘Oh you – you know what I mean.'

Gordy Curdy said, ‘
Pillow Talk
has that extra magic.'

They were lying on loungers in the room Gordy Curdy called The Kon-Tiki Room, created out of what had once been the cellar of his house in Newton Mearns. Both Curdys wore identical khaki shorts, red and yellow Hawaiian shirts, and they had tanning-salon tans. Somebody had once referred to them as The Trader Vics Twins.

The décor was ersatz Hawaiian: plastic palm trees, a cocktail bar with a pineapple-shaped ice bucket, and brown hula girl swizzlesticks that fitted nicely between thumb and forefinger when you stirred. It was a cosy warm place where Gordy loved to invite clients and friends, showing them with enormous pride how an ordinary basement could be transformed, with a little imagination, into an exotic South Sea island retreat.

On the 52 inch plasma screen Tony Randall was having a nervous breakdown. Big Rock was trying to console him. Curdy preferred the scenes between Big Rock and Doris. Doris had that special

He said, ‘Rock was a good actor. A poofter playing a straight guy. That's got to be hard.'

Mrs Curdy looked at her husband. ‘Hard?'

‘Oh, very hard.'

‘And how hard is very?'


Eve Curdy slid her feet out of her fuzzy slippers. Her toenails were bright red. She wiggled them. ‘Know that rock near Dumbarton?'

Gordy nodded. ‘They say it's an old volcano. Inactive. Except you never know where you stand with volcanoes.'

‘And exactly
do you stand with volcanoes?'

‘That's just it. They're unpredictable. They can erupt any time.'

‘Erupt any time, mmm.' Eve Curdy narrowed her eyes. ‘Isn't there a lighthouse on that rock?'

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