? Death of a Macho Man ?


But I hae dreamed a dreary dream,

Beyond the Isle of Skye

I saw a dead man win a fight,

And I think that man was I.

The Battle of Otterbourne – Anon.

Hamish noticed with a sort of gloomy surprise that the rain had actually stopped falling and the pale twilight sky of a Highland summer where it hardly ever gets dark stretched above his head.

He was miserably afraid. Because of his silly pride, he would have to stand there and fight Randy Duggan in a clean and decent manner. If he had come up against such a thug in the line of police duty, he would have used every dirty trick in the book to protect himself. As he approached the harbour, he saw with dismay that the whole village had turned out to watch, even the children, even the minister and his wife. Had they no sense of decency? Going on like a lot of damned Romans waiting to see another Christian thrown to the lions, that’s what they were doing.

The crowd parted to let him through, cheering and slapping him on the back and saying things like, “My money’s on you, Hamish.” He thought that no one in his right mind would have placed a bet on him to win. Then the thought came to him that he owed this bloodthirsty lot nothing in the way of entertainment. If he got a chance, he would tip Randy into the loch. He would not fight fair. He looked at the luminous dial of his watch, a present from Priscilla. It was nearly eleven-thirty, almost the witching hour, the approaching moment when one Hamish Macbeth would get his teeth rammed down his throat.

“You’re looking a bit pale, Hamish,” called someone, and Hamish smiled and waved and tried to look as if he didn’t give a damn about anything. But Priscilla might at least have come. What was she doing? Romancing around with that Glasgow banker when she should be standing by to hold his hand and nurse him back to health after Randy had finished with him.


“Thank you for a lovely evening,” Priscilla was saying to John Glover. They were standing in the entrance hall of Tommel Castle.

“Care for a drink before you go to bed?” asked John. “I’ve got a good bottle of malt whisky in my room.”

“No, thank you,” said Priscilla quickly. “Maybe another time.” Her eyes dropped to her watch. Eleven-thirty! She had resolved to keep away from the fight. She wanted to know nothing about it. But what if poor Hamish got mangled by that brute? John Glover had been pleasant company, bet she did not think she wanted to take the friendship any further.

“Will I see you tomorrow?” John asked, wondering way the cool Priscilla was suddenly nervous and distracted. Maybe he should not have suggested a drink in his room. “I did mean just a drink, you know,” he said, smiling into her eyes.

“Of course. I mean, I didn’t think…Oh, could you excuse me. There’s something I have to do. Good night!”

Priscilla rushed out to the car-park, got in her car and drove off at speed, scattering the gravel in the drive. There might still be time to stop Hamish Macbeth from being massacred.


Hamish looked at his watch. Eleven thirty-five. Come on, Randy. Let’s get it over with. He resented the festive air of the crowd. Patel, the Indian shopkeeper, had brought out his accordion and was playing Scottish reels. The children ran about, shouting and yelling, delighted at being allowed to stay up so late.

And then Hamish began to feel calm. He had been in nasty fights before. He had allowed himself to be intimidated by Randy’s bragging. The man had probably never been a wrestler. Priscilla appeared at his side. “What’s happening?” she asked.

“Nothing yet,” said Hamish. “The fool’s probably going to make a grand entrance. I’m surprised to see you here. How wass your date?” Hamish’s Highland accent always became more sibilant when he was upset.

“All right. He’s an interesting man, very cosmopolitan for a Scottish banker.”

“Humph. You’re getting a taste for older men.”

“Hamish, how you can stand there and pick a quarrel over something trivial when you are about to fight that brute is beyond me. Can’t you just do the sensible thing and walk away?”

Hamish did not reply and they fell silent. The crowd had parted to leave a passageway for the expected arrival of Randy. Patel stopped playing. Heads twisted round until everyone was staring up the hill towards where Randy lived.

He drove a showy jeep painted in camouflage colours. It had a distinctively noisy engine, but as the great crowd fell completely silent, there was only the sound of the waves lapping against the wooden piles of the harbour.

By midnight, Hamish was beginning to feel cheerful. Perhaps the incredible had happened. Perhaps the Macho Man had chickened out.

Then Geordie broke the silence. “The man’s just a big Jessie,” he said in high delight. “I could have taken him on myself.” And he squared his thin shoulders and fired off punches into the night air to the cackles of the crowd.

Archie Maclean, the fisherman, piped up. “I’ll just go up the hill tae his cottage and see what’s keeping him.”

He went off and they all waited.

Archie strolled up the hill with his hands in his pockets, whistling. He hoped he’d find the big man cowering at home. That would stop his bragging. It had been fun at first and the free drinks had been grand but Archie, like the rest, was bored with Randy.

The holiday cottage which Randy rented had been built to the orders of an English family who hardly ever used it. It was a square box of a house, built of breeze blocks with a scrubby garden in front where little grew except heather. Archie saw that all the lights were on in the house and he could hear the stereo blasting out. He began to feel nervous and all his fear of Randy returned. He had been feeling bold until he heard the music, saw the lights, for he had secretly expected to find the place in darkness and the big man gone. He was now nervous of confronting him and hoped he wouldn’t be too drunk.

The front door was open and music was pouring out. The stereo was playing rap, one of those vicious hate- the-world numbers.

Archie rang the bell and waited. No answer. “Randy?” he called tentatively, and then louder, “Randy!”

Probably passed out, he thought, feeling bolder. He walked inside and stood for a moment in the small hallway. Perhaps Randy was with some woman. He had never shown any liking for any of the village women. But you never could tell. Archie turned the door handle on the living-room door and opened it a little and then peeped round it. The brightly lit room appeared to be empty. He then looked round the bedroom door and into the kitchen. No Randy.

Feeling cocky now, he strolled back to the living-room, thinking he might find out something from photographs or papers about Randy, for, like the rest, he was curious about the Macho Man’s real background.

And then he let out a squawk of fright.

He had been walking towards the back window to see if the jeep was still parked where it usually was before he started snooping. For if the jeep was there, Randy might be out in the garden, somewhere close at hand. Archie had walked round the sofa and headed for the window and that was when he nearly fell over Randy Duggan.

He was lying in a heap on the floor, looking smaller and crumpled in death. Most of the back of his head had been shot away, and it could not have been an accident, for his hands were tied behind his back. All this Archie took in with one terrified glance. He never thought to use the phone, or to turn off that horrible music. He simply took to his heels and ran.

He stumbled down the hill, falling on his face from time to time as heather roots caught at his ankles.

As he approached the harbour, he began to shout, “Come quickly. It iss horrible, awful. Oh, my God. Someone help me.”

Hamish pushed through the crowd and hurried to meet him. Archie was white and shaking. “He’s deid,” he said. “Hamish, Hamish. This iss the black day for Lochdubh. Someone’s shot the bugger’s head off.”

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