FanPost

Liverpool Detective Agency: H is for Hamstring (Part 1)

Writer's note: This has been a super fun form for me, but this will be my last time trotting out the detective stuff because I think (as, I hope will become apparent), I've run out of stuff to say in this way. I'm not at all saying this is a masterpiece (and I'm writing this note before I even write the piece because I'm both anal about starting at the top and cause I'm fairly certain of where this will end up), but it will probably be the most ambitious/cohesive/potentially idiotic thing I've written. This, I'm certain will be a long one, so you might want to just print it out and read it in parts. Or maybe you'll take a look at the block of text and be frightened. No hard feelings in any case and I wanted to use this space not just to caveat the piece (hey...I do that all the time!) but also to say thanks to all of you that have actually shared in this with me. I fancy myself a writer, but these pieces were the first time I'd really pushed on to try and write something fantastical - my writing was often about Liverpool and while my comments on TLO (and other FanPosts) maintained my unmistakable love for writing long pieces, it was never about inhabiting a different world. I've certainly made tons of mistakes and will continue to do so as a writer (stay tuned, I guess, for something on that in what I hope will not be too long), but this began as a labor of love and, now, hopefully ends as one. Thank you all once more for indulging this quirky (and probably pretty dumb) thing that's entertained me (and caused anxiety) to no end. I'll certainly miss Q and I know he'll miss you. Anyway, as detective me would say, let's get the fuck on with it. - AJ



My head is spinning. I've been trapped for 46 hours and the tartan pattern on the fabric covering the dagger has lost its allure after being stared at for most of that time. I'm trapped. Or, I should say, we're trapped. We started with 11 of us - lured to this mansion for various reasons and now only 6 remain.

I wasn't even supposed to be here - a refrain I've uttered endlessly as I slowly scan the room for the thousandth time looking for clues amongst my fellow prisoners. I fear each pass causes me to lose more focus - more edge. And considering that the person that lead to the disappearance of the other 4 are in this room with me, I need it more than ever.

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Thinking of it now, I could kill him. Q. That stupid, irrepressible grin underneath that stupid, anachronistic Kangol hat shoving the invitation in my face.

To: Ian

From: Señor Herida Del Cuerpo

RE: Dinner Party

Friend! Please join me at my retreat at the Chateau Mormont as I celebrate some great news. RSVP to me and a coach will be provided to meet you at LAX and transport you to the venue. Be sure to bring some rice! ;-(

Q was so ecstatic about being able to come to LA and hang out with me. Being that he'd be in Florida just prior, it became easier to take the time and so he felt the stars had aligned for us to spend some much needed time relaxing and talking about things that didn't involve detective work.

I, on the other hand, did not at all look forward to this. Not only was I busying myself to prepare to audition for the impending arrival of Hamilton: The Musical to Los Angeles (hey, I am an Angelino y'all), but I felt something was fishy about the note.

"Oh, c'mon AJ...haven't you ever been to a BYOR party?" Q asked.

"No," I replied. "What in the world are you talking about?"

"You know, 'Bring Your Own Rice!'" Q said, expecting me to understand what sounded like Russian spilling from his lips. "These parties are all the rage right now - people bring their own rice like I might have a Calrose and you might have a Jasmine and then we all cook it and eat it and stuff. It's pretty damn wild."

It's clear Q and I have different definitions of wild.

"Uh...ok...I guess," I say. "It's just...I've got so much on my plate?"

"BS, AJ...you promised!" Q yelled. He was right - I'd avoided attending his Cafe Racers of Merseyside meet ups by telling him that I couldn't afford the trip to Liverpool. This had been working just fine until he decided to look at what FSG has been paying for my services and then all of a sudden my phone was filled with sobbing and umbrella emojis. He even snuck that lion/ewok looking one in there but I'm pretty sure that was an accident. Anyway, as atonement for that, I promised we would spend some time together doing recreational things.

"Ok...ok. I'll go," I relented. "But if this party gets weird, you and I are out and we get some hot dogs at Pink's."

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Q picked me up at my Hawthorne office in a black Lincoln Town Car.

"Nice wheels, Q!" I said, giving him a high-five which he greets with his fist in a pound formation. Our interactions, I am reminded, will never not be awkward.

"Oh, this? Eh," he shrugged. "Honestly, I kind of expected more but this is ok. You excited for the party? What rice did you bring?"

I hold up a bag.

"Basmati?" He said crinkling his nose. "Really?"

"Look, I usually prefer short grained rice but, lately, I've taken to the light and fluf---oh, what the hell am I doing discussing rice with you?!" I shout. "Grab your coat - let's ride."

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The memories at the beginning of that night are a bit of a blur - a small party of 11 gathered in the foyer of this grand Los Angeles landmark. It appears that, in classic Q fashion, Ian presumed that people would be allowed to bring a guest but, in fact, I was the only guest that was not planned for. Still, Señor Cuerpo was very gracious as he greeted me and dealt with all of Q's hemming and hawing over his faux pas. Once he collected our cell-phones (to ensure privacy for all of our guests), we were shown to the study where everyone was made to await dinner.

Scanning the room, I saw the other guests:

  • Mr. Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool striker extraordinaire.

  • Mr. Divock Origi, young Liverpool striker.

  • Mr. Mamadou Sakho, Liverpool central defender and fashionista.

  • Mr. Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool attacker and resident pug enthusiast.

  • Mr. Dejan Lovren, Liverpool central defender and a count or duke or something.

  • Dr. Zaf Iqbal, former Liverpool doctor and minor celebrity.

  • Col. Joshua de la Torre, a member of the RAF and major Liverpool fan.

  • Professor Joe Harry, Liverpool-based mathematician and old friend.

  • Ms. Linda Bream, another Liverpool super-fan from America and heiress to a major fortune.

    Myself and Ian would round out the full and slightly confusing XI. Aside from being either hyper connected to the club or being fans, the group assembled seemed to lack any real connection to each other. It was clear in the way the group rubbed against each other with unease - the excitement and tension creating a rather electric atmosphere as these disparate people attempted to have small-talk.

    Poor Joe Harry looked lost and a bit nostalgic as Philippe Coutinho spoke about board game nights with his teammates. Col. de la Torre seemed imposing despite his slight frame and appeared to be carrying on quite the lively conversation with Dr. Iqbal. Catching Col. de la Torre's eye for a brief moment, I seemed to see a glimmer of recognition - but though he may look like someone I've met, the full awareness of who his identity kept sliding past me. Ms. Bream, on the other hand, was holding forth with the remainder of the player contingent, barely disguising a slight disdain towards (Duke? Count?) Lovren's habit of pointing in various directions and gesticulating wildly while describing his large estate.

    As I pondered all of this and ignored Q's observations of Art Deco-style interior design, we were ushered out of the foyer, past what looked like a solarium, through a library and into the dining room. Señor Cuerpo clearly has spared no expense.

    Upon looking down at the place settings, I get a bit nervous as I notice papyrus place cards with gold-leaf script amongst the fine china and sterling cutlery, each baring the guests names. As I walk along the finely carved inlay on the large, oak table - cursing Q under my breath - I come to a place setting containing a card just like the others except baring my name. I try to hide my puzzlement as I take my seat, but I know Q can sense it.

    "That's...wow...you think Señor Cuerpo has an in-house printer on stand-by?" Q offers.

    "No, Q, I don't." I whisper. "Keep your eyes and ears open. Something's a bit off."

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    Dinner was a flurry of good food and beverages the likes of which I haven't had since I dined at Marea - and I only did that because my younger brother happens to be the pastry chef there. While I make a decent living, fine dining isn't something I do often. After that meal, though, I might have to reconsider.

    At the table, I was sat next to Q on my right, Professor Harry on my left and Col. de la Torre directly across from me. We mostly sat making polite conversation and it was indeed a delight listening to Professor Harry try engage Dr. Iqbal (seated on his other side) about the mathematical virtues of modern video games - every time Zaf would indicate a video game that he wasn't familiar with, Harry would let out a "For fuck's sake, Doc!" The Colonel, though, remained mostly tight-lipped, besides the occasional laugh or affirmation. When he did speak - usually about mundanities or his obsession with attacking from the flank - his accent piqued my interest: a blending of Scouse and Spanish that seemed familiar. And yet, much like a specter, my abilities to pin the identity of the Colonel down seemed to evaporate just as my mind would clench around the image.

    Right as Professor Harry tried to engage Ms. Bream on her thoughts on the latest edition of the NBA 2K series, Señor Cuerpo abruptly cut above the din and asked us for a moment to allow a toast. Cuerpo, despite his name, it seems, did not speak with any hint of a Spanish accent. Instead, his accent had a hint of Glaswegian.

    "Friends...invited and uninvited..." he added, tipping his hand towards me. "Thank you all for coming to celebrate with me. As you may know, I've worked very hard to put my business at the top of its industry - to place it on the top perch, as it were. Today will mark the culmination and furthering of that goal; to keep us on our fucking perch. Raise your glasses and toa-..."

    Suddenly, the lights went out, screams were heard and when the lights came on all four Liverpool players and Señor Cuerpo were gone. On the wall behind where Cuerpo once stood, was a note held in place by a fine, tartan-sheathed dagger. It read:

    Hello AJ, my old friend. I am so glad you and 'Q' could make it to this party - I knew Ian couldn't resist a BYOR and would drag you here for the fun. Well, now, here's the puzzle for you: figure out where I have Cuerpo and the LFC players before I ruin their hamstrings forever. Already, the four have been sidelined with injuries of varying lengths, but if you do not find them soon, it could mean full time on their seasons. Do you want that on your hands? Well, detective, I'll leave you to it. You have 48 hours. - Injury

    Of course, Injury would be behind this. But why now? Why here? Why Cuerpo? And why in the fuck did he want us to bring our own rice?!

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    And I've been stuck on those questions for the past 36 hours as the remaining guests and I mill about the empty mansion. We've scoured the grounds and haven't found anything except the great disappointment that we are, in fact, locked in without a way to escape the grounds.

    As I begin recounting the many ways I'm going to dismantle Q's favorite motorcycle, the Colonel and Professor Harry come bounding into the conservatory. They've made a discovery - Cuerpo is alive....

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