THE ALLEYWAY behind the high street was dimly lit and perfect. No one had passed in either direction for at least 20 minutes. As time drew on the task seemed more achievable, albeit no less irksome.
It had become a desperate occupation, but there was no other choice if the team was to continue performing well. The amount of money riding on these nocturnal expeditions was so high that ethics were irrelevant. The star striker must retain his outstanding form, especially considering the indifferent performances of his teammates.
It was just after 10pm. Four hours ago the lid had almost been lifted on one of the biggest secrets in football. He’d got a result from the match and managed to palm off the press in the post-match interview, but he needed tonight to go off without a hitch to complete the run in to the end of the season. He could feel the low thud of adrenaline.
At first this little whim, as he thought it was then, seemed as harmless as wearing lucky underwear or kissing rabbit’s foot. The manager wasn’t a superstitious man, but plenty of his players were. He surveyed the dark street from the car he’d hired and wondered how it had come to this.
He’d noticed something strange about Luis Suarez a few days after becoming his manager. He’d called the striker in for a one-to-one and offered him his complete trust, as he did with all his players. Suarez had seemed shifty then, and it wasn’t until responding to a panicked, late night phone call to the striker’s home that he discovered why. Fortunately, no one asks questions when a middle-aged vagrant disappears.
Already he had sussed out the rest of the squad as a bunch of overpaid underachievers, and he needed his best player to be as happy as possible to produce his best football. Once he’d overcome the initial shock and been assured that no one else knew, he offered the striker his full support. League performance was everything.
The goals kept going in, but the demands to be sated became increasingly frequent and acquired. Homeless men didn’t do for long and by Christmas women were the preferred choice. Not just any woman, but a particular type that had he given this heinous menu more thought beforehand, he would never have guessed.
Just as humans prefer a fatted calf, Luis preferred the larger lady. The sort who wear XXXL fleeces, scrape their lank hair back in a Croydon facelift and march around with a determined expression and a box of Mayfair Menthol clutched in stubby fingers were ideal. Luckily this was the north west of England, and like the stolen credit card and fake driving licence he’d used to hire the car, this commodity was in no short supply.
And so he found himself waiting for the end of shift at the back door of Superdrug. This was the seventh different market town he’d visited in two months, but that afternoon’s outburst had shown the situation was getting out of control. Whatever the cost, he needed those goals.
A few yards away a metal door squeaked open and a figure lumbered into view. For a moment the face was illuminated until a plume of smoke rose into the night air.
He readied the chloroform.
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