This is a tale of tragedy. It begins pleasantly, but soon descends into intrigue, crime, betrayal and revenge. And it is all true.
It was back in the early 1980s, John and his pal, Al, decided, on a whim, to dine away a Friday evening at a good Chinese Restaurant on the Southside of the city.
Being a warm summer’s evening, the traffic in Glasgow was as light as the evening. The restaurant was pretty busy, so they were lucky to get a table without a booking. By the time they had ordered, it had filled up.
“Well, hello there chaps!”
John looked up, “Hello there Billy – how’s it going?”
“Not bad, John, not bad.”
“Are you out and about tonight, Billy?” asked Al
“No, no, just staying in tonight; I haven’t got paid yet, but I’m starving, so I thought I’d pop in here and get a cheap take away deal, you know, and watch the telly with my mum.”
“Nope. I won’t hear of it. Not at all; Billy, come and join us – Al shift up!”
And that is what happened. And that is how it all started.
The waiter asked if they would like more drinks, and was also given Billy’s food order.
When the food came, they ordered yet more drinks. The alcohol began to take effect, and they relaxed, chatting and laughing through the meal. But Billy was slightly less relaxed because the terms were not made clear at the outset.
“Listen guys, I told you I was strapped for cash, could you lend me a fiver? That should do it; I have enough for the rest, I think…”
“Oh, don’t worry, Billy, mate, we’ll take care of it”, offered Al.
“Now wait a minute”, said John, a thoughtful look on his face, “I have an idea!”
Billy and Al listened to the plan as it unfolded from John’s imagination. It went something like this: Billy would finish at some point, get up and leave. John and Al would stay, maybe have another drink, then get the bill. They would refuse to pay for Billy as he had just sat down with them for a while. Billy would get a free meal!
Well, the three of them were just drunk enough to think this was worth a shot. Billy downed his lager, cast down his napkin, slipped on his jacket and left.
Everything went according to plan – the waiter was cross, the manager came over. John protested about paying someone else’s bill.
People in nearby tables chimed in – telling the manager that the man had come in afterwards and was not actually with the two gentlemen – who came in for a meal together. The manager was chattering in Chinese to his staff.
“The Police have been Called!” He announced. The restaurant was in uproar.
John and Al, kept quiet, and waited for it all to subside. Two policemen arrived at the table.
“These men refuse to pay bill for three covers” explained the manager.
John, Al and most of the restaurant told the story – that these two men came in, got a table together, ordered together, and asked to pay the bill together. They were not refusing to pay for the food and drink consumed. A gentleman came in ordered food and drink, and then left without paying his bill, and there were plenty of witnesses to back up this version of events.
The policemen explained to the manager that John and Al hadn’t broken any law, and that the restaurant could not force someone to pay someone else’s bill.
The restaurant cheered. The Chinese staff were forlorn. John caught Al’s eye, and smiled as they waited for their change and receipt.
Suddenly, the door opened – and in came Billy.
“That’s the man! – That’s him!”
“Sorry, guys, I saw the police car, and I cannot let you get arrested on my behalf!” blurted Billy.
John and Al tried in vain to stop Billy. “Ah there you are! These people tried to make us pay your bill, have you come back to pay…?”
“Look, officer”, Billy kept on, “We cooked up the whole plan to try to get off without paying for me, I’m sorry; it’s not like me. I can pay most of it, and I’m good for the rest next week…”
And so, to the horror of almost everyone (except the Chinese), the game was up, the cat was very much out of the bag, and the truth was out. The Chinese looked at the police, the police winked at the Chinese.
“As you have returned to deal with the restaurant, we are no longer needed. We’re sure you will come to ‘an agreement’ – good night all”.
The three drunks’ acute embarrassment was soon replaced by horror, as they were escorted from the restaurant, through the kitchen, and out into the dark lane.
There they were held while their shoes and socks were removed by Chinese kitchen staff.
And there they were held while the chef thoroughly beat the soles of their feet using strange Oriental kitchen implements.
They couldn’t walk properly for almost a month afterwards.