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Archive for January, 2011

Big Dave Lockwood stands beneath the murmuring West Stand with a clipboard and a mic. What a day this is for the club he loves. The return of a hero, a legend. He looks up around the faces in the stand and feels a flush of nerves. What if he fluffs it? What if he stumbles on his words? All those people looking at him, disappointed.

No, he won’t let it happen. Not today. Not for this man. A true gent of football, one of the real good guys. Always smiling, always in good humour. A real bloody gent.

Big Dave nods his head approvingly. And a club legend to boot. What a day.

Here he comes now. Big Dave rehearses his introduction one more time in his head. And here he comes. The atmosphere is crackling, it’s electric – there’s lightning in the stands.

Garry Nelson, welcome home.

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Little Charlie Bucket pushed forwards with the crowd as it edged closer to the gate. The sense of excitement was in them all, all the boys and girls and men and women that held in their hands a red ticket. With a clunk the gate wrenched open and they poured forwards, into the grounds of the magical factory where Sir Chrissy Powell was waiting, dressed in red velvet, his eyes twinkling with a smile that cracked his face in two.

‘Welcome, children! Welcome, one and all!’ called Sir Chris.

‘Oh Chrissy Powell, Chrissy Chrissy Chrissy Powell,’ sang Arthur at the back, his haddock flying high from the pole he swung wantonly above the heads of the kids, causing Sir Chris to turn quizzically to Slater at his side. But Slater could only shrug, forcing Varney to step forward and explain, ‘Just a local fishmonger, Chris. Quasi-mythological status among a very small number of the Addickted.’

Sir Chris nodded, not missing a beat as he reached for the hand of little Charlie Bucket. And together they led the procession through the factory door, where doves and yellow butterflies flew in the rafters, confetti fell unendingly, not a cloud gathered, and month was always May.

And where the workers ran like they’d never run before.

When the crowd had gone there was one man left out in the street. He wore a heavy coat, the collar plucked. His hat brimmed low over his eyes. And from his mouth drooped a lit cigarette.

‘Just what’s going on in there?’ said Mortimer under his breath. ‘What’s the story?’

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Outside his little room the crowds are on the street, jubilant, a mass of them forcing their way from Charlton Church Lane onto Floyd Road. Banners are flying, confetti falls from the air. Mortimer can hear them, their excited chatter, the cheering.

He puts the finishing touches to the miniature rocking chair he’s been working on all week. It is perfect, he feels a slow sense of pride.

Oh Chrissy Powell, Chrissy Chrissy Chrissy Powell!

The crowds keep coming. Men and women, girls and boys. They’ve got their Charlton back, and they’re loving it, every minute. Mortimer frowns, rests his head on the window pane.

What’s wrong with you Morts? Can’t you just get out there, get among them and celebrate?

But there’s something wrong, he thinks. Something that just doesn’t add up. Slater, Jiminez – sure, they’ve made a popular move, and it sends a message. But there’s something missing.

Mortimer feels the old instincts take hold of him again. Follow the money, Morts, follow the money. You follow the money, you find out who’s really at the top. Who’s really pulling the strings. What kind of Charlton we’ve really got.

Mortimer wheels around – there’s a scuffling at the door, a hand pressed against the reeded glass. What is that, blood? Mortimer reaches for his desk drawer, feels the reassuring touch of cold steel.

‘Who’s there?’ he rasps.

The handle of the door turns, and it gives with the weight of a man. He falls to the floor. Mortimer rushes forward. The man’s face is covered with bruises, scratches, smeared with blood. Mortimer leans forward.

‘Parkinson?’ he says, disbelieving.

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