The Death Game are you game to play? Read this taster from Chris Longmuir's latest crime thriller
The next day Kirsty went to look at the properties she had seen advertised in the local newspaper but by the time she had inspected all but one of the places on her list she was thoroughly discouraged.
The first place she looked at had been a two-roomed flat at the top of a tenement. The toilet was shared by six flats on the top landing and another six on the landing below, and stank. The door hung off its hinges, and the wooden seat was split into three parts. The flat was no better. The lock did not work, there were holes in the floor, and the bedroom reeked like the toilet on the stairs.
The next three places were in a similar condition, so her expectations were now as low as her spirits.
The landlord of the last place lived on the ground floor in the tenement next door. He looked at her with a gleam in his eyes that made Kirsty uneasy.
‘The rent’s five shillings a week and that’s a bargain. You pay the first week in advance and an extra ten shillings key money.’ He wiped his grubby hands on his dungarees. ‘When d’you want to move in?’
‘Do you mind if I take a look at it first?’
He stared at her as if she were crazy. ‘What d’you want to see it for? The rent’s cheap, it’s well furnished, and it has an inside stair with a cludgie on each landing. It’s in a good class tenement, better than a lot of the other ones with their outside stairs and outside cludgies.’
It was a name she had not heard for years, and for a brief moment she blinked at him in puzzlement until she remembered. She just hoped this cludgie did not stink as much as the toilets she had already viewed.
‘I suppose you can see it,’ the landlord grumbled, ‘although you’re not going to get any better for the rent I’m asking.’
She followed him into the next tenement, up a creaking set of stairs to the first landing and into the two-roomed flat that Dundee folks called a double-end.
Weak sunlight filtered through the dirty glass of the window, picking its way past the grimy sink. A greasy-looking gas cooker was situated to the left of the black fireplace while a gas jet on a swivel arm protruded from the dust-covered mantelpiece. A blue paisley-patterned oil-cloth covered the table in the middle of the room, and two wooden chairs sat close by. A sideboard, and an armchair sagging in the middle with what suspiciously looked like broken springs completed the room’s contents.
A door in the rear wall led to the bedroom. It was sparsely furnished with a bed and a small chest of drawers on the top of which was a saucer with a candle stuck upright in its own grease. The bed looked solid enough, although the brass ends were badly in need of a polish and the blankets covering the mattress looked distinctly unsavoury.
‘It’s a new mattress,’ the landlord grumbled when her eyes returned to the bed. ‘Had to throw the last one out when the tenant left. Dirty bugger.’
Kirsty was tempted to tell him he should have thrown the blankets out as well but did not want to antagonize him. For, although she had hoped for something better, this was the best she was going to get for the price she was prepared to pay. At least there were no holes in the floor or walls, the door was intact, and the smells were only of dust and the lack of fresh air. With a good scrub, new bedding, whitewash and paint, it might not be too bad. Besides, she could easily afford the rent of this place out of her policewoman’s pay of two pounds eight shillings a week.
‘I’ll take it,’ she said. Although a moment after she spoke she realized the assistant chief constable had made no mention of how much she would be paid. She hoped it would be the same as she had been getting in London.
The landlord grabbed her hand and shook it. ‘McKay’s my name, Alfie McKay. You and me, we’ll get on like a house on fire.’
Kirsty looked at him dubiously. She was going to have to watch out for this one.
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