The borscht was cold, but the blood that ran down my face was hot. I’d come to North London to get some answers from my client and boy did I get them. A whole fistful of them. Right to the kisser. His name was Roman. It sounded Italian, but he was all commie. He played soccer for a living. Turns out his hobby was knocking out my teeth.
My head was pounding. Whether it was because of the blunt trauma I’d just endured or the shitty electronica music he had on in the background, I’ll never be able to tell you. "Oh comrade," he chortled in an accent that dripped with vodka. "Your job, you do it too well."
I met the Bolshevik a few months earlier. It was a cold and rainy Tuesday in Stoke. Nothing ever good happens on a cold, rainy Tuesday night in Stoke. Just ask Lionel Messi. The client’s bossman was a friend of mine from back in the 70’s, when I used to blow the bloody doors off in Londontown. Happy Harry Redknapp. "Let me lay it out for you straight, my son." he said. "Roman fucking Pavlyuchenko lost his fucking form. He couldn’t fucking hit the broad side of Sandra’s fucking ass with a fucking heat seeking missile. If you don’t bloody find it, he’s going to be one dead fucking Russian."
I worked fast and cheap, so Harry always liked to wheel a deal with me. But this one stunk like a dead fish left out for tea time on a pier. I was about to turn the gaffer down, but then I saw his muscle, Joe "Jaws" Jordan. He cracked his neck and flashed me a smile that had left more than a few teeth behind in the necks of some unruly Italians. I’d seen what he did to Gennaro Gattuso, and I sure as hell didn’t want to end up with my genitals smeared across a tifo at the San Siro, so it appeared I was on the case. "’triffic." Harry replied.
Famous last fucking words.
My first impression of Roman Pavlyuchenko was not a good one. He looked like Shirley Temple had fucked a mop, had a boy, and left him in Russia on the doorstep of a clown college. He didn’t know what happened to him. He assured me that form is temporary, but class was permanent and that in Russia, form classes you. Whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean. I told him that I’d find his form and not to worry. He said he’d cook me dinner once I found it. Little did I know what a bad idea that would turn out to be.
So I started my search. I knocked around a couple scousers and from what I could understand he had apparently once scored goals in buckets. So I returned to the scenes of the crimes. I was everywhere. I was Tyneside, Merseyside, East side at Stamford, and North Side at Tottenham. The rumors persisted. And everywhere I went, they had a travel partner. And he spoke French.
I thought it was all bullshit and coincidence. Until one night, at a bar in Ipswitch, I went to take a leak. Midstream, a hobbit emerged from the stall next to me. He had a weird brow, a stupid haircut, and a shaved arse. He also had a gun, which he shoved into the small of my back. He told me to stay away from the Frenchman. In a Russian accent.
Fucking paydirt. I cleaned the piss off my shoes and headed off toot sweet. I went to Russia and traveled from one vowelless hell hole to the next. Tales of goals persisted, and so did stories about the Frenchman. I knew who did it.
I caught the red eye back to London. I was a mess. I saw anyone who even looked French and I started to twitch. I was running on coffee, cigarettes and pills, but it didn’t matter. I had to see the commie. I cracked the case.
He had a nice pad for a socialist. He was surprised to see me, but offered to make me some borscht and poured me a nice Pinot Noir. We sat down to eat and I laid the skinny out for him nice and easy. He couldn’t believe what he heard. And when I mentioned the Frenchman, I couldn’t believe how fast he could crack my skull open with a bottle of wine.
When I came around, the fucker had tied me too a chair. He stood over me gloating. I didn’t understand it. Then I smelled it. Clove cigarettes. The fucking frog was here!
He emerged from the shadows and Trotsky was all ready to make the introductions. His name was Arsene and he’d been in on it the whole fucking time.
"Oh, my clever friend." Arsene laughed. "I have known Roman for years. I scouted him when he was six. He covered so much ground on the pitch. My computers caught him very early. You are smart, but I am very ahead of the curve you see."
It made perfect sense. How could he become so utterly shit right when Harry needed him. And why would a Russian drink French wine. They’d planned it. They’d planned it all along. And they’d been playing me like a cheap guitar in a third rate bar.
"I score to attract Tottenham. Then they sign me. Now, it sucks to be them. Do you see?" Pavlyuchenko explained as he ran around the room like an airplane.
They’d been screwing Harry like he was the wife of one of John Terry’s teammates. And now that I knew that, my goose was cooked.
"So what happens to me, Johnny Foreigner?" I spat defiantly.
"Ohh, I don’t know." Arsene equivocated. "I think I will leave it to my Russian friend here. As for me, well, you know, I didn’t see anything."
He glared down at me down his long frenchie nose and I swore to myself that if it was the last thing I ever did, I was going to snap that nose off and send it to Barcelona in a pickle jar.
But before I could take my imaginary revenge any further, Roman kicked over my chair, knocking me onto the floor.
"Now comrade," he said, tightening the laces on his shoe. "Have you ever been to Row Z? Allow me to show you"
He swung his leg back. And then everything went dark.