The First Rule of Fight Club

My talk with Solveig last night – as disturbing as it was – gave me an idea, so this morning, I went down to the gym where I work. Worked?

I say gym, but this place is way more special than that. It’s run by my boss Roddy, who is the most fabulous wee guy. He comes from one of the roughest housing estates in Glasgow – he once looked out the window and saw a tank driving past and he had no idea whether it was the only way the authorities felt safe entering the estate, or whether one of his neighbours had nicked it.

He was well on his way to a life of mild-to-medium criminality, when a couple of brave souls came into his school to tell them about the Duke of Edinburgh Award. It’s this scheme where kids can do life skills and survival skills and stuff. Roddy got into it and ended up joining the mountain rescue, then became one of the top martial artists in the world – and a few years later, opened this place. We do classes and take on personal training clients which we charge the earth for, then Roddy channels most of the profits into outreach programs for kids from places like where he grew up. He often says that if he could have got into a ring or punched a bag when he was a teenager, he never would have killed anyone – and I genuinely have no idea whether or not he’s joking. So that’s Roddy.

The minute I stepped in I felt at home again. Roddy paused a brutal round of burpees to wave, and gestured he’d be with me in a minute. He’d heard from Cara who heard from Solveig that I was back – shit, I need to phone Cara, she’s going to string me up. When he came over he reminded me that he operates a strict ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy in life, grabbed me in a massive bear hug and asked when I could start work again.

I asked him to give me a couple of days to let the bruises go down a bit more, and he shrugged and said I’d be on the schedule from Monday. I offered him a coffee from the crappy vending machine, and told him I needed a favour.

This is what I realised last night: though I was joking about our friendly neighbourhood murderer being on Team GB, the guy who attacked me is a fighter. Like, a trained, elite fighter. He wasn’t just flailing wildly or relying on his strength: not to give a diabolical bastard undue respect, but he had moves. That means he must have trained, in fact, I’d be amazed if he hadn’t competed – probably even at a world class level. And that means, Roddy will almost certainly know who he is.

The other thing is, there was something distinctive about his style. The more I think about it, the more I remember it. There’s a lot of overlap between techniques obviously, there are only so many ways to get another human on the ground, but even so he definitely didn’t train in any style I’m familiar with. Or at least that’s what I’m thinking. The details still aren’t clear enough for me to be able to properly describe it, but I thought maybe if I could recreate what I could remember some muscle memory might kick in – or even better, Roddy might recognise it.

Roddy listened to all this, in his quiet, thoughtful way. He pointed out that it’s unusual for someone to be dedicated to something like martial arts, and also be a psycho killer. It takes hours of dedication and training to get to anything approaching an elite level, and psychos don’t tend to be known for their patience for hours of dedication and training. Which is a really good point, and for a minute made me doubt my impression – but I’m certain. There’s exceptions to every rule.

We decided I’ll come back tomorrow when he’ll have time to work with me and I set off for home. Roddy had confirmed something that I already knew, even if I hadn’t totally clicked it. If my attacker wanted me dead, I would be. Unless he was interrupted after I blacked out, he spared me.

Which led me down a train of thought that me realise something else. I’d reached Kelvingrove Park by then, which was lucky as there was a bench nearby when my knees gave way. We’ve had such gorgeous weather lately, as if I didn’t need more confusion in my life than a Glasgow bathed in sunshine. I sat watching folk enjoying the park, a wee lady walking a dog that looked on its last legs, a school group shepherded by exhausted looking teachers shuffling towards the Art Gallery, a couple of guys sunbathing slathered in what looked like cooking oil. My heart was pounding and the pins and needles were riproaring through me; I saw one of the mad wee olive oil guys looking at me funny and turned away.

The attack happened the day I left the flat. There’s no question in my mind about that: I distinctly recall the train, the ferry and the family with the wee dog, more or less every moment of the walk up until the attack. And I know that the first thing he did was slam me to the ground: I can see the rock coming right at my forehead in my mind’s eye right now, I remember flinging myself to the side and the explosion of pain as it grazed the side of my temple instead.

So if that happened over a year ago, why is the cut on my temple fresh?



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