By Random Chandlery
The sign on the door says Doc. Bayou. Data Analysis. But that doesn’t tell half the story. What do I do? I scan, I read, spot patterns, watch, observe. People pay for the right sort of information. People in the background, people in the shadows. But sometimes what you see is best forgotten. Like catching your mum naked with Santa on the sofa, Christmas Eve.
So I made a mistake, I saw something and remembered. Moved it on. Now it’s getting hotter than Fishy Fred’s chip fryer on a busy Friday night.
It started when I gave Nick the Blog a steer in the direction of the District Line. Strange goings on. Too many bodies by the tracks. And I could see trouble for the Italian.
And it wasn’t long in coming. The town was in uproar. As I hurried down the Fulham Road with more than just a nervous glance over the shoulder, I spotted “Fat” Archie, 5 foot 6, thin as a whippet and no more than 7 stone wet through. Word was back in the day he could have made it on the Flat, even worn the Queen’s colours. But a misunderstanding in a casino about counting cards resulted in two broken hands, which left him looking for work where use of your fingers wasn’t a prerequisite. Now at 82, still lively on the pins, he was running errands for Irish Paddy the bookie and was therefore a veritable mine of information. I gave him a wink and we dived in the Fox for a couple of cheeky ones.
I paid and he laid it out for me.
“Pandy-effing-monium my son! Fabric Ron only goes and offs Eyebrows Carlo in a piss-stinking stairwell, basement of some shite-hole in Scouseland. Another botched hit. Frankly I wouldn’t let him take out my bins, let alone a valuable asset. Job had to be done but where’s the respect? No way to treat one of your own.
“He’s a liability. Should have stayed shifting shirts. That’s all he’s good for. Understands stretch materials but that’s his limit.
“I mean look what happened back in November. Carlo’s man, Sideways Butch gets the tap on the shoulder while watching the boys training, next thing he’s supposed to be history. Only Fabric doesn’t do it right. Turns out, Sideways is still alive and surfaces weeks later fronting football for the Dirty Digger.
“Yeah, quality of life is nothing much, just sits in a chair mumbling “smashing” and what’s worse he even talks about Spurs as though they’re a proper footballing outfit. Sad really.
“But what’s Fabric playing at? Amateur hour. You shouldn’t leave loose ends. Who knows? One day Butch might decide to cough it and that’ll put the cart right among the horses.
“I’ll say this, the Russian can’t be happy. Too much publicity. Too much light being shone in dark corners. Too many people thinking he’s lost the plot.
“All that money can buy him the soldiers but he’s never got the right general, the man whose supposed to tie up the European end of the business. They get one or two goes at it and then bam. Gone. Don’t matter what they’ve done over here.
“Now the lanky streak of Yankie, his glasses all steamed up, is trying to damp it all down. Putting out fires? You’d have more chance with Pugh, Pugh and Barney Mc-effing-Grew and the rest of Trumpton’s fire brigade.
“Firestorms, shit storms, every class of weather and no-one’s happy.
“As for you Blue my son, I’d hightail it sharpish. Motel Ken’s not too pleased with your poking about looking for bodies down the District Line. He might be up there ripping the piss out of the Tykes but he’s still got people watching his back down here.
“I’d lie low for a bit if I was you.
“And another of the same when you’re ready.”
So taking Fat Archie’s sage advice and with all the fans covered in shit, I made out for the Island. It’s a backwater and I was sure no one would look for me there. Close enough to the mainland to monitor communication channels but sadly the wrong end of the shipping lanes when it came to getting the full picture of what was coming out of Rotterdam, the Kiel Canal and the Baltic.
Meanwhile, over in Twitterville, History Rick and a few of the others get to thinking there’s something dodgy with a bird known as the Blonde. She’s claimed to be working the inside ticket, passed a few pictures and a snippet or two, but it all smelled worse than a tramp’s crotch. They tried to flush her, but she got wise and went to ground. Cherchez la femme indeed.
Threads but no needle. A reference here, a rumour there, but none of it making much sense. Surely the Russian had his ducks in a row before Eyebrows took the fall?
I kicked my heels for a week but my patience gave out. I had to get back and work the streets, scour the alleyways. You can scan the net, punch the phones, work the media but that won’t make any sense of this ruckus. It was all about wearing out shoe leather, being there to hear the whispers.
It was risky if Motel Ken was taking an interest in my general health but I couldn’t afford to be out of the loop for too long. So I booked the Hovercraft but took the ferry and hit the Town late Saturday.
And a good job too. No sooner had my hand rested on the bar of the Fox than a familiar face was level with my elbow.
“What’ll you have Archie?”
Settled in a corner I soon realised that with so many hares running, the greyhounds were overcome with stress and had to be pensioned off. Archie was into his stride in no time.
“Word is, the Russian’s taken personal control. There’s one almighty postmortem and he’s in it up to his elbows. Luckily he’s rolled his sleeves up first, ‘cause his shirts are expensive and you don’t want to be poking about in someone’s guts when you can’t find a Faberge cuff link, so to speak.
“But I digress. He wants the Dutchman and won’t take no. But the Turks are cutting up rough and it might get expensive.
“Meanwhile you know Danish fucked off to Hamburg? Well he keeps popping up and raiding the larder. Talk of a deal where the kids that ‘aint up to snuff go one way and locally grown and very cheap Bean Sprouts come back the other. Helps with the catering costs in Hospitality apparently. Search me why they’ve got such a surplus. Bean Sprouts that is, not the youth. There’s talk of them coming in by container through Southampton. (I bit my lip and hoped my pictures of the those freighters in the Cowes Roads had come out. Footballers for Bean Sprouts? This was a twist I hadn’t guessed at when I’d spotted anomalies in the shipping manifests.)
“And there’s constant static about the Average stepping back in now the Pornographer and his mate have dispensed with his services, but I think that’s just bollocks.
“But what really tickles me is that all of a sudden the Persian Car Dealer pops up and upsets Egyptian Mo by taking his boy, “the Welsh”, away from the Cottage and parking him on a boat out on the Thames. He’s waiting to see whether the Dutchman wants to work upstairs and if so he’d need a right hand. Unless of course he brings Marco “Tulips” with him.
“Some fancy Frank “The Spit” for that job, but I don’t see it. Add in all the talk about Wesley “Snipes” Sneijder and Christ we’re in danger of going so Dutch all they’ll need is an effing Windmill down at Cobham and everyone will feel right at home.
“‘Cause quite frankly I don’t see the young Portugeezer fetching up any time soon and as for the Second Coming well, look what happened to Harold Camping’s predictions. Mind you Irish made a few bob there when punters got a bit twitchy late on.
“Talking of Twitchy, he’s looking at less living space than a trapped Chilean miner come August, so count him out.
“Meanwhile Pina Colada and the Persian are rustling up another consignment of Brazilians from what I hear, but that all depends on the Dutchman. If he stays cosy with the Caliph then all bets are off.”
“Jesus Archie where does it stop?”
“Search me son. I’m only telling it like I hear it.”
I stepped out into the warm night air and took a walk to clear my mind and think, all the while watching for signs of a tail.
Patterns? I’ve seen better patterns in a cheap rug.
The press boys are no help. If shooting in the dark was an Olympic Sport we’d have all the medals. They’re making it up as they go along and sticking pins in the phone book just to come up with names.
Mind you it might all calm down in that department now they’re all off chasing Taffy the Pikey whose has been caught dipping more wick than a busy chandler.
Time must be running out. The Russian has to get it sorted soon or he faces a pre-season of chaos. The way I read it it’s like a line of dominoes. The first one falls the right way and the rest will topple. Making a pretty pattern.
All I can do is keep sifting, weighing, filtering. Taking each clue, each sign and assigning it co-ordinates on the tidal chart of uncertainty. Everything now is fragmentary, but somewhere is the central piece around which to build and so bind it all together. But I have to get to it first.
I shiver involuntarily. A chilling breeze is coming in off the river. I’m in deep now. I’ve heard too much, been seen in the wrong places. If I don’t find the blueprint, see the pattern, I might have to face a very uncertain future. And that’s not even beginning to factor in Motel Ken.