The Adventure of the Speckled Bandit
“Did you think I would leave you crying
When there’s room on my horse for two
Climb up here Eckle don’t be crying
I can go just as fast with two
When we grow up we’ll both be soldiers
And our horses will not be toys
And I wonder …”
“Warsaw” rasped Eckle with all the force he could muster “Shut up! It’s your fault I slept in a horse trough all night anyway. Egit.”
Branston Rabids Football Club is without a manager again as …Basho Johnson, the first team coach, is taking training again and he can only speak in haiku or in koan.
Eckle, nee Hercules Profiterole, the Belgian centre-half and part-time private eye, is still not entirely convinced of the integrity of the club chairman and owner Sir Derek Tannic-Stanza.
The next manager for the Rabids after the Mourir debacle had been recalled by the manufacturers due to production flaws.
Then arrived Andre Parboiled, the bathroom window boy, from Branstons fiercest rivals; Middlinghamsborough Frost.
He came amidst a barrage of spitting and wailing from the Frost fans and broad backs from the players. While the boy had done well to bring the tepid Frost into the Premier Division he had also sowed seeds of disharmony in the dressing room and in the dressing rooms.
Though not on the empty training grounds; the players felt safest at home in the day times, within petting distance of their dearest doe-eyed squeezes rather than running about with a deputizing coach.
Sir Derek Tannic-Stanza didn’t listen to waffle and was regularly seen chortling ribaldly with Parboiled whenever the delumptious Mrs Rocket bobbled by.
Chris “Golden Plums” Rocket, Branston’s star player, had only recently got hitched.
The arrival of Miss Geletine Fluff to the WAG scene in Branston suburbia had caused quite a stir and results had suffered. Rocket was roundly appreciated when he decided to make honest men of his teammates by marrying Miss Fluff and thereby taking the tempting Gelly of the table, so to speak.
But to Sir Derek and to Andre all life was a smorgasbord.
Not long after that the newly wed Rocket had come into training with red rimmed puffy eyes, looking generally even more pre-Raphaelite than normal. After he’d collapsed in wailing sobs a few times during triangle drills Eckle took him on one side.
The others were mightily disappointed but Eckle thought it best to find out what the problem was before the difficult away game at Gorky Blu Meanies.
“Boo .. hoo.. blab, there’s someone else Eckle, I just know it.”
“Well we all have to pass sometimes Chris but it shouldn’t get you down like this man.”
“No…sob…Gelly, she’s seeing someone else, wail.”
“Oh,” said Eckle: “Oh dear, er… have you seen a doctor?”
Soaring moans from striker.
“Well, do you know who it is?”
“Bawl, the only thing she would tell me is that he’s got a spotted birth mark on his todger.”
“Er…why did she tell you that Chris? Never mind, I don’t know of anyone with a birth mark there but I haven’t being looking very closely since that awful incident last May…” Eckle tailed off, lost in his own pain for a moment.
“When I get my hands on him I’ll cauterize that bloody birth mark me self I will” said Rocket in a growing rage that looked almost masculine, from a distance.
“Now then, young man,” said Eckle: “You just sit tight for a bit and I’ll see if I can’t get to the bottom of it. Save you doing anything rash, ok?”
“Alright Eckle, thanks buddy, and talking of rashes...”
A tense couple of days go by as our Hercules uses the shower time to his best advantage. It was soul destroying work however, distancing long time friends willy-nilly and nursing swollen purple eyes without even a glimpse of the offending article.
Then he happened by a guffawing Andre Parboiled miming the style of the doggy to Sir Derek.
“… like a steam train. She said 'Thrust me, baby!'"
How they roared.
“Thrust me baby! That’s a good one!” cried the chairman through tears of laughter.
Eckle sidled past quietly, deep in thought, plotting.
He had to find a way to get rid of Parboiled before anyone else found out; otherwise they’d all want a bit of Gelly on their spoons.
In the normal way of things at Branston all they had to do was lose 3 or 4 games on the trot and the manager would be strapped to the ejector seat asap. This time, thought Eckle, it had to be done on the double; he would have to move quickly.
By half-time at Salem’s Bridge the Rabids were 17 goals down and the Belgian centre-half had achieved an individual world record of 11 own goals in a single game.
“What the hell do you think you’re playing at?” spat Sir Tannic-Stanza as Eckle went down the tunnel: “Are you mad boy?”
“Its Parboiled’s plan,” insisted the centre-half: “He says if we lull them into a false sense of security we’ll be able to pounce like a Hippo in the second half.”
“Lull them like a Hippo!” screamed Sir Derek “What the FACK are you talking about?!?!”
He stormed off in search of the manager while Eckle sucked on his lemon sweetly.
At the end of the game the Rabids had kept it down to 18-1 and Andre Parboiled had already been fired, with a brick by all accounts.
Eckle took a well deserved shower and scrubbed off the stink of his afternoons play and just as he was whistling Ra-Ra-Rasputin and picking up the soap; it hit him square between the eyes.
The spotted todger.
Eckle looked up at the smiling face of the sneaky, slight Scottish winger in shock.
Never mind, he sighed, mentalist managers were ten-a-penny but tricky dribblers were much harder to find.