This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 743 words.
Before Selina could continue, I held up my hand. I told her I needed a drink. I was talking about tea or coffee, maybe water, but she nodded and produced a half bottle of Martell from a desk drawer. Unscrewing the top, she passed it to me. No glass or cup. I lit a cigarette, and took a big swig of the Cognac. She was also blowing out clouds of smoke from her fourth cigarette, making me feel like I was in one of those old film noirs, sitting in a smoky detective’s office drinking from a bottle.
I handed the bottle back, and she left it sitting there on the desk as she continued.
“When you hear this bit, you are going to be glad you had that drink, Darren”. She was pleased with herself, relishing the moment when she was going to impress me with her discovery.
“Do you follow football, Darren?” I shook my head, not bothering to mention Joel, who lived his life for football. She slid a newspapaper across the desk. It was the back page, and the paper looked recent, almost new. She tapped the head and shoulders photo below the headline that read ‘Southampton confirms their youngest manager’. “Recognise him? Silly question. You don’t follow football, so you won’t”.
Sitting back in her cheap office chair, she folded her arms under her substantial breasts, then hit me with her big news.
“Brendan Holloway. Son of our Sergeant Holloway. Former youth team player for Chelsea. Former member of the England under-21 squad, and later a full-time professional midfielder for Brighton. Following a knee injury when he was at Brighton, he went into coaching. Last month, he was the surprise pick for manager of Southampton”.
As I was still looking goggle-eyed at the smiling man in the photo, she suddenly lifted both legs and rested her feet on the corner of her desk.
“Oh, but here’s the best bit. He is forty-four, not quite forty-five. The same age as your brother would have been if he was still alive. And the Chelsea youth team was the one Terry was trying out for the day he was killed. Guess who else was trying out for that team that same day in Surrey? You don’t need to answer, it was Brendan Holloway. According to my source, Holloway was second choice, with your brother offered the place. Brendan only got the place because Terry died. Now tell me that doesn’t smell fishy. It got my nose twitching, I tell you”.
Reaching for the Martell without asking, I lit another cigarette. I was almost in danger of catching up with Selina. There was no denying she had done well. I was amazed how much she had found out in such a short time, and impressed with the quality of her contacts, considering she was in a depressing little office in a half-dead seaside town. Sliding papers into a box file, she told me what they were as she added each one.
“These are for you to take. My notes on the information from my two contacts. Holloway’s home address, and location of his golf club. The copies of the police investigation at the time, and the details of the appeal instigated by your mum. There are also some photocopied police photos of the car, but be warned. They show your dad dead in the wreckage before the bodies were moved. That’s it for me, I’m afraid. you’re on your own from now on. I don’t want to get any deeper into investigating a policeman, even a retired one. That will bring me a whole world of grief”.
Closing the file, she put her legs back down from the desk, and stubbed out her cigarette. My mind was whirring with all the information, not helped by the two big glugs of Cognac. But I seemed to be being told to leave.
So I left.
Sitting in the car for a long time in the pay-and-display car park, I had no inclination to start the engine, and drive home. Would a serving police officer really stage an accident, then kill my brother, just because of a place on a youth team?
It sounded far-fetched to me, but the combination of circumstantial evidence and inconsistencies in the cause of death certainly pointed to that. And a career in the top flight of the football league was worth big money.
A lot of money.