Quickly, I dart out of the elevator and into an adjacent hallway. Right now, my plan is to just outrun Dyche and his goons and come up with the next thing as it goes. I’m much shorter than he is, but it turns out still quite a bit nimble. Turning into one more hallway, I find a door unlocked and dart in and close it gently.
I can hear heavy footsteps slow and approach the door. Heavy breathing and the distinct aroma of…earthworms? Suddenly the stop. I hear chatter. Then, footsteps scatter. Alone, for the moment, I let out a sigh of relief.
Turning around, I’m confronted by a frightening sight: Q and two other people bound and gagged in the center of a room. The walls, a shrine to British managers: Fergie, David Moyes, Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, Big Sam. It’s the picture of privileged mediocrity.
Shaking my head at this unbelievable sight, I approach Q and the other two men. Looks like it’s Josh Tower and Joe Henry, the mathematician. I haven’t seen either of these guys in a number of years and I try to mute the joy in seeing old friends in light of how truly terrible it is to come together in these circumstances.
When I undo their gags and loosen their ties, it’s Henry who opens his mouth first, “We always end up in a bit of trouble when you’re involved, eh Detective?”
”It’s trouble worth getting in,” Tower interjects, deep brown eyes filled with gratitude locked on me. My heart warms a bit.
Turning to Q, I ask for a rundown on what exactly is happening. It appears that Q had actually been working a bit with Tower and Henry back on Merseyside on a strange case - Liverpool players once more going missing as rumbles of a voided Premier League season have gone on apace.
”Q, you’ve gotten into detective work? I’m…I don’t know what to say,” I trail off.
Q looks at me with the deep earnestness that only he can muster. “AJ, I just missed you. Thought this was at least one way I might be able to keep your memory alive. Someone needs to take up the mantle of protecting these boys. But I knew I couldn’t do it alone, so I called up the Josh and Joe. We’ve been putting out fires for a little while now, but we got out hustled here. Guess we kind of were too green, huh?”
”No,” I say. “Everyone gets caught out at least some of the time. And seems like I always do. Y’all are doing just fine. I’m honored to be on this mission with you. So, any idea why Dyche?”
”To avoid the drop,” Henry says.
I’m stunned. Watford are currently safe. Why would they even want to try and void the season now?
Tower seeing the confusion in my face, cracks a smile, and jabs Henry in the side of the ribs. “Go on, math(s) boy. Tell him why.”
Henry lets out a long, exasperated sigh and rubs the bridge of his nose. “It’s because Dyche doesn’t understand the goal difference rule has him ahead of AFC Bournemouth in the current table.”
After a few more minutes, we all have a plan. Turns out Tower knows that we’re in a warehouse used by Mike Ashley’s company, in Liverpool. I always new he was a villain but asking the obvious question about why a team safely in 13th place would want a voided season only elicits a frustrated, “No one knows how to do math(s) anymore, fucking hell!” from Henry.
We crack the door open and spill into the hallway. The objective is to make it down to the control room and hopefully get our way out to the street level without meeting Dyche and his goons. Looking at the guys around me, though, I trust that we’ll be ok even if it comes to fisticuffs.
Which is a good thing because fisticuffs look inevitable: on the final leg to the control room, we are stopped dead in our tracks as we notice Dyche, back to us, consulting with his men. We are able to turn back around the corner before they spot us.
Improvisation is a thing I’m good at but I am not enjoying the amount of life and death improvising I’m having to do on what should be my first day in my retirement home. I say a quick serenity prayer and turn to the guys.
”I think we’re gonna need to wait and see if they’re going to come down the hallway and ambush them that way. Surprise benefits us now.”
They all nod as we hear footsteps approach. We all tense up. As the first shoulder clears, we pounce. Like a pack of fired up Liverbirds, we take these guys down and tie them up with the gags used on my guys.
When we ask how many of them there are, they give up the information quickly. Turns out they’re hired muscle by Mike Ashley and haven’t been paid well. They indicated that they were also the only ones hired. Dyche was now alone. In the control room. We had to move.
We opened the door slowly and approached the door to Dyche’s hideout. We tapped lightly and heard him growl to enter.
When we opened the door, we found him with his back to us, looking at screens that had flowcharts explaining tiebreakers for relegation. I stepped up and hit him on the head with a stapler. I’m against violence but I think it was necessary in this case.
We tied him up and then walked through the control room to the exit. Free at last.
Explaining all of this to the authorities took a bit of time. We tried to get them to be as lenient to the hired muscle as possible, and reminded them that this could all have been taken care of if the FA would just accept that the current situation is dire.
They thanked us and let us go.
Turning to the guys, I gave them all a big thanks. They’re gonna do amazing things keeping Liverpool FC safe.
Q clasps my hand and says, “I know this is truly your last go, old friend. But I want you know that I’ll always be indebted to you for everything. Thank you, mate.”
”Well, I’ll be on Merseyside for a while. I’m still confused as to how they managed to sneak me and you out of LA,” I say.
”Rich people as vectors of this thing and, ya know, super villains is how,” Tower offers. We all nod in agreement.
As we part ways, I watch them all stroll off, headed off for their own adventures. I don’t know that I’ll miss the escaping of death stuff, but I know I’ll miss that feeling that I’ve contributed something to the general good of everyone.
Maybe I’ll just start a baking blog.