Editor’s Note: Liverpool Detective Agency is a work of fiction that dates back to the writer’s first stint on the masthead. It is to be treated as such.
Writer’s Note: Not sure how my characters will take that note, but ok!
It’s been an unusually mild Southern California summer. Well, at least until the calendar turned over to July, at which point I was reminded of exactly why I missed living near the beach. “A quieter, more bucolic life would suit you,” they said. I try to stifle the resentment and some sweat while I slowly waste away in triple digit heat.
I start to fall into a sweaty and fitful sleep when the familiar ringing of an old mobile stirs me. That tone is specific - Allez Allez Allez by Jamie Webster - and it feels impossible; I haven’t heard it in four years. I wait a beat thinking I must have imagined it but then it starts back up, loud and unmistakable. I bound out of bed, equal parts annoyed and excited and then annoyed at being excited. I grab the flip phone out of a box that’s covered with a layer of dust and answer it.
“AJ! It’s me, your old pal...”
“I know Ian, what are you doing calling me?” I interrupt the anxious and twitchy voice of my old friend, Ian Ayre.
“Well, first, it’s Q. And second, you should be glad I’m not going to even bring up how you haven’t liked a single one of my new Cafe Racers Turned Bakers of Merseyside posts because I...”
“Jesus Christ, Ian, it’s 2am here!” I thunder. “What is going on?”
“Oh, right, sorry!” I can hear rustling papers in the background. “So, tell me: what do you know about PGMOL?”
Landing in John Lennon Airport I’m once more reminded of both why I love this city and to never take jobs from Ian because he refuses to fly me direct and only wants to book me out of Ontario. My back cracks into place with each step and I softly curse that man until my entire vertebrae has settled.
At the Liverpool offices, Ian ushers me into a familiar space. I step in, unexpectedly moved. “You haven’t moved a thing,” I whisper.
“Well, we always held out hope you’d come back, detective.” Ian says with a wry smile.
I take back 40% of the curses I muttered earlier and force out a word of gratitude before asking where the tape set up is.
“Right. So we’ve got the audio file in and the set up next door to you. I’ve got to say, though, I’m not sure what to make of this.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” Ian starts as he absentmindedly twirls his pencil, “there’s the obvious shout for corruption and with three of the officials involved having just been to the UAE recently, it’s not a good look. And when you hold that up against PGMOL’s immediate insistence it was ‘human error’ or whatever without a thorough investigation, well it definitely raises alarms. But, I don’t know...”
I nod at him. Ian may be a bit of a himbo, but he’s sharper than he gives off.
I rap my knuckles against Ian’s office door, unsurprisingly adorned with decals of various cafe racers.
“AJ! It’s only been like 10 minutes, you can’t possi-”
I cut him off by flipping the thumb drive of the recording into the air and towards him.
“It’s mind numbingly simple, Ian, and incredibly infuriating because it is essentially as they said: sheer incompetence. The recordings reveal little except that the farcical display explains how PGMOL came to their conclusion so quickly: there’s no way else to explain what happened in that booth.
Crestfallen, Ian inhales. “I knew it was a long shot, but we thought it was worth pursuing. I mean, the data on the sheer number of negative decisions Liverpool have received and not to mention the sudden uptick in cards...”
I put a hand on Ian’s shoulder to quiet him. “Forget it, Q. It’s the English FA.