There is a building in Possilpark that often goes unnoticed by everyone who passes it by; it’s tucked away at the end of a street of industrial buildings that continually pump clouds of chemical gases into the air – which is fortunate for the people that work in the hidden-away building, as it helps mask the odour of the things that they are producing through clandestine chemistry. If you have a particular need for substances that are harder or more innovative than the heroin that is rife throughout Glasgow, you need to visit the building at the end of the row on a Sunday, either between four and five in the morning, or eleven and twelve at night. If you knock on the door and hand over a full bottle or packet of any prescription medicine when requested, you’ll be led into the lab.
The lab is operated by three people. A woman named Rachel Marshall handles all the business enquiries, and it is she that allows you into the lab when you arrive – she’s playful but assertive in asking for your details, straight-talking but eloquent in describing her business, and powerful but relaxed in her neatly-pressed blouse and skirt. If it’s your first time there, she’ll give you a brief tour around the large, single room that she and her team work in. The low stone ceiling makes the place seem quite cramped, but the use of partitions to cordon off certain areas does do wonders to give each section of the room its own unique personality. Rachel provides introductions to the other two members of her team: Mark Lawson, a man in his forties with an unusual taste in anabolics, and Harpreet Singh, a twenty-two year old Religious Studies student. They do most of the cooking and manufacturing in their own corners of the lab.
Mark – a bald man with bulky, unnatural muscles interwoven with ridges of veins - spends most of his time at a desk cluttered with racks of hypodermic needles. If you are present during the morning, you may find him gripping one of the filled needles in between quivering fingers, pressing it in only a few inches of flesh above his nipple, and plunging a thin, milky liquid into his chest. Occasionally, lashes of blood squirt across the floor of the dingy building – a failure to aspirate with the needle – but otherwise, his experiments seem to progress quietly. At night, he is seen taking empty needles and drawing another, darker liquid from his pectorals. If asked, he will explain that during his wife’s pregnancy and his child’s birth, he experienced some of the biological and emotional processes that his wife was undergoing – a medical anomaly known as Couvade syndrome – and he is attempting to metabolize a formula in his own body that replicates the hormonal glow he experienced, using a strange milk taken from an undying, unseeding plant locked away in a museum somewhere in the city.
Harpreet – a young woman in a lab-coat, with her hair tied back in a net – works at a number of small tables with neatly organised equipment and paraphenalia lined up along the sides. She is most often seen experimenting with an off-white powder – sometimes using the flame from a brass candle-shaped object to heat it up inside a foil cradle. Apparently she is synthesizing a new form of heroin that allows the user to see hidden pathways, roads that never existed, and imaginary anti-spaces in the mesh of city streets.
After the tour and introductions, Rachel will take you to her office near the front of the lab, and ask what it is you’re looking for. It is best to turn down the offers of meta-amphetamine, a drug that accelerates and intensifies the effects of almost all other chemicals, or Code, an Oxycodene variant that allows the user to see the messages written on the walls of the ancient city. No, the piece de resistance of Rachel Marshall’s lab is “Gideon’s Key” – brittle brown crystals packaged inside pages from a Bible, which, when ingested, will cause the user to experience a heavily altered state of consciousness that they will summarily never remember – but when they awake, they will find themselves in the approximate location of the most recent thing they wanted to find, provided it is still within the region of Glasgow.
Rachel will never tell you the price of the drug, nor will she demand anything from you as she hands over the neatly-folded square of Bible pages. In fact, she seems to suggest that the price is always paid during the amnesiac trip after taking Gideon’s Key – what it is is anyone’s guess, but given that the lab always seems to get a lot more equipment, stock and resources immediately after someone takes away Gideon’s Key, it would seem that it’s what keeps Rachel Marshall in business.