By Philip Jackson
I stood at the window of our lodgings and peered out at the familiar scene below; it was a crisp bracing day, a keen wind whipped the thick grey clouds across the sky. I could see the shards of sunlight emerging from dense cover and landing on surrounding hills and on honey-coloured buildings in the distance. I was not peering due to mist, for it had dissipated whilst my companion and I devoured a hearty breakfast.
My need to peer was due to the activities of my companion and friend Sherlock Parkinson, I knew full well not to disturb him at times like these. I turned around and looked across a room dense with the smoke that had billowed from his pipe all morning. He was leaning forward, his brows knotted deep in concentration, his thin, agile fingers hovering over the buttons of his remote control, studying winger after winger, striker after midfielder. I had heard his musings all morning, periodically he would shout or sigh or exclaim as another player offering so much had been found lacking by his keen senses.
I studied the player on the screen from afar, I had learnt long ago, any closer and it was as if I was breaking into his thoughts, snapping the threads he was gathering around this player or that. Having sensed my interest he suddenly asks for my opinion.
“What are your thoughts on this one Parkin?” I assessed the young man on the screen in front of us, close control was excellent, strong, holding off players, seemed vocal, can use both feet. I gave my thoughts to my companion. “Excellent Parkin, excellent, our deductions are very much on the same track!”
We both continued watching for a few minutes.
Suddenly, Parkinson grabs the remote and puts a halt to proceedings, with a shake of his head, his manner changes. “How was I taken in so easily, all smoke and mirrors Parkin, again, at least I discovered my error before it was too late?”
“He seemed ideal though” said I. “Seeming is not good enough, he will never fit, a square peg in a round hole, I would go as far as saying a bad apple.”
I could not follow his thinking. He proceeded to highlight a number of singular features that, to him amounted to a man of dubious character that would not fit into the intricate picture my friend was piecing together.
The conversation was broken by the sudden interruption of the doorbell. This was followed by the familiar shuffle of our landlady’s slippers across the tiled hall floor and the click of the front door latch, we heard muffled male voices, an exclamation from our landlady and the sound of hurried feet upon our stair.
“I believe we have a visit from two gentlemen Parkin, a shorter rotund gentleman in soft brown shoes and a taller, thinner man in formal black shoes”
A moment later Parkinson’s deductions were proved correct as in burst the two familiar frames of our chairmen, Lawn and Rhodes, well known in these parts as businessmen of repute and for their sterling work in the Bantam rescue conundrum in recent years.
The shorter of the men, whose keen eyes sparkled from a reddened face, seemed to be giddy with excitement and quite breathlessly was attempting to enlighten us as to some new development or case they were enveloped in. I caught the words, belter, telly, derby and full house; clearly some devilish cypher they needed Parkinson to shed some light upon.
“I believe you are trying to refer to our impending meeting with Leeds United” my companion interjected.
“Indeed sir!” said Rhodes “We have had our tussles with them in the past, we have strained the sinews of the Bradford force trying to get this scurrilous gang on many an occasion, only to be foiled by an unseen power and have victory taken from our grasp, this opportunity sees us with, if not the advantage, a far better hand to deal, and if dealt correctly will strike a mortal blow to their shadowy organisation.”
“It’s gonna be on telly, just got the green light from them lot at Sky, it’s got the good folk of Bradford buzzing no mistake, bound to be a sell-out, which means more finance for your own plans Mr Parkinson” the more robust chairman interjected, in his broad Yorkshire accent.
“You know my methods Lawn, I manage for the sheer mental stimulation and the physical exertions that it sometimes brings, never for financial gain. But I must admit the prospect of the old ground alive and the vibrancy of thousands at one’s back is a drug I do so enjoy.
The game is afoot gentlemen, we must begin our work at once. I know I can count on you two and your ever dependable comrade Baldwin to put the official wheels in motion, Parkin and I have our work to commence. Shall we say 10am tomorrow morning at your quarters?”
“Till tomorrow Parkinson” Lawn responded. With that the two chairmen, bowed and made a swift exit, their excited voices could be heard until they had left our lobby. I watched the two friends and colleagues step into their hansom, which sped off in the direction of Manningham and silence had descended on the room once more.
“It will be just like the old days Sherlock” I said. “You are referring to a few of our old cases you have so diligently chronicled no doubt Parkin, I must say that is one of those irreplaceable attributes that marks you out as an excellent companion. The Greying Frenchman mystery and the case of the Aston Villains to which you refer were indeed baffling at first sight, hand me down my 2012/13 almanac if you don’t mind Parkin.”
Parkinson flicked through the pages of the well-thumbed volume, and sporadically smirked as certain reminiscences passed through his encyclopaedic mind, he halted when finding what he wanted and then proceeded to sit in silence for some time, deep in concentration.
“There is certainly information here that can be instructive to us in this case, but the ordeal set to face us has some singular characteristics that will separate it from anything we have confronted yet, and I am sure my dear Parkin you will faithfully record in that manner which seems to capture the public imagination so readily, whereas to myself it will certainly provide some most instructive points.
I can see what Rhodes is saying, Leeds is a familiar and constant foe, but its workings have changed, they have certainly been wounded, but it is the current running of their evil organisation, this maverick Italian and his devious henchmen that could be their wildcard, I will not rest until they are in the power of the proper authorities and the people of Bradford can sleep happily knowing this spectre has passed from them.” To action Parkin! We must set the wheels in motion! We must talk to our agents in the field, let our men know how the game stands.”
As the days passed, Parkinson kept very odd hours, he would lock his door, all I knew of his existence was the violin sounds emanating from his quarters, he would be ravenous at times and at others would not eat, he would appear and disappear in all sorts of costumes and disguises for which he had made an art form.
For my part I kept to my own practices, diligently working through my own plans and schemes and those given to me by my agitated and giddy colleague.
On my return one evening, I found Parkinson home and ready to converse, we had eaten heartily, and as were reclined in front of our fire, smoking happily, I could sense that we were ready, all preparations had been made, the calm before the storm you could say, I could tell Parkinson was eager for the challenges ahead to begin.
I began by detailing my efforts and reports of the players as I had found them, highlighting that which I felt would be most pertinent to him. “Excellent Parkin, reliable colleague, I could do none of this without your help and incision, for those areas I feel I lack, those are the ones where you surpass all others!”
He then went on to explain his ideas, how the game lay and how we were going to proceed with the team from here on in.
As is the way Parkinson works, nothing had been left to chance, his logical brain forbade it so and come the day all were ready.
We were sat in our sanctuary prior to the game when we were visited again by the chairmen.
“All is ready! Just as we predicted! It’s going to be a snorter, a real snorter tonight! The foe is out there in front of us, their agents of evil have been busy, the hoards are at the gates I hope you know what you are doing Parkinson, all our reputations hang on your summations being correct”
“I thought you knew me better than that Lawn! I believe my assertions are correct, now gentlemen are we ready? Are you carrying Parkin?” I patted the outside of my coat pocket where my faithful service revolver sat, patiently biding his time to be used as a last resort. “You may not need it but with this sort of opponent no risks can be taken. Now gentlemen, to our places. The scene has been set, the stage and audience awaits, this is why we are in this profession sirs, for acts such as these.”
At times such as these, Parkinson was at his most alive, nostrils flared, spirits raised as if an unseen fire from within had been lit and would not be extinguished until his subtly drawn plans reached their conclusion.
The late summer’s evening had more than a hint of autumn, the bright day was giving way to night as we entered our arena; ahead of us and to our left rose the sheer raked north and west stands, filled with bright colourful and uproarious Bradfordian folk. To our right were the foe, the familiar signs and colours of an arrogant and malevolent force. The way I read the situation was that by the end of the evening’s events they would be completely entangled by the very same machinery they had wielded to such great effect on many a less-brilliant combatant.
The play began, the old Leeds arrogance was there to see, to our left the Beeston hierarchy flashed evil glances in our direction, sending their workers about their duty. The first, savage blow was made, an all too familiar course of action had been taken, their sneers could be seen as they trod the very margins of rules, daring us to follow and cross that line that would, no doubt lead us into a maze of terror that they knew all too well and one, if chosen, would lead to their ultimate victory.
Our diligence had not been in vain though, our men worked and played, stood toe to toe with their oppressors and slowly started to wield the weapons we had at our disposal. Aware the game was playing into our hands, and that the same old tactics were impervious as they had been in recent times, foul Leeds played a card that they hoped would lead to an uncouth triumph. Their man came down hard and late. “Come and fight us, this is how we play, join in and see how you fare!” But nothing, our game is our game, their man is detained, leaving them and their schemes exposed.
“Sometimes it is easier to allow them to defeat themselves Parkin” Parkinson commented as Dr Hockaday retreated into his lair.
The game that was already turning into our hands progressed in our favour to a far greater extent. Our swift agents, led by the incomparable Knott continued to draw the enemy from their tightly packed ranks, this once all powerful antagonist was left to barrier themselves in and wait and hope the end would come before we could unpick the puzzle laid at our feet.
As the game drew on, I turned to Parkinson and wondered if this was all his game, and enquired when he thought the conundrum would be solved.
As if he read my mind Parkinson said, “A fine orchestral piece with its crescendos would be nothing without the preludes and great sweeps of mood.” “Will it take an encore?” I replied with a similarly musical retort.
Then with the flash of a man who knows how to steal what he wants, when he wants, our rival made his move, sensing his chance he moved forward and struck, not with the grace and panache of a criminal mastermind but with the industrial clunk of the everyday thug we had so become accustomed to in the seedier end of the lower leagues. A huge brute had run us through. We were all aghast, the seething hoards opposite were at the gates, clamouring and howling at their impending victory, I turned to see a hideous grin sweep across their leader’s face, our course was almost run, that planning and care had come to nought, try as we might we had failed to encroach their goal for 80+ minutes, now we had but a blink of an eye to achieve. Opportunity was speeding away towards a distant horizon.
“Parkinson! What to do now? What to do? Did you see this happening, was this calculated within that brain of yours?” I exclaimed.
“Parkin, we have trained our men well, we have trained our men well!”
His words re-assured me somewhat, I turned my eyes toward the field and between my position and that of the hideous mass of humanity before my eyes stood a familiar scene, play moving from my right to my left. They were still going, again the Leeds keeper worked with vigour, the last line of an unbreakable fortress, surely our attacks had done something to weaken them.
Then like a flash, similar to the momentary gleam in Parkinson’s eye as an idea charges through the synapses in his head, the ball drop to the faithful Knott, and with all the exquisite skill in the world thunders a mortal blow through the house of cards that is the Leeds game, effecting such a singular change within the ground, those motionless with fear find energy and spirit and the cacophony ahead of me dies, to be rekindled by those around me!
I stay calm, for the story is far from being wrapped up neatly and revert I to my post and my duties. I had little time though as the dam had now been breached, our agent Hanson now appears out of the gloom, surrounded by sinister opponents to deliver a final blow. The almost mystical grip Leeds had over this place is broken, they lie stunned on the ground, they squirm bitterly, twisting within the web their brilliant combatant has spun for them, with bulging eyes and foaming of the mouth they utter curses and insults which show they have been thwarted so completely that they struggle to comprehend their own predicament.
“It is of no use, we have you in our powers, your reign is now over, struggle all you will, the game is up for you” said Parkinson.
“Come Parkin, let us leave our men for the glory, this scene is for the them now, let our actors make one final curtain call”
With that we retreated into our haven, our ears ringing with a noise only this sort of occasion can bring. I did so admire my good friend, how he had engineered such a result was again beyond me, but the excitement and adventure is something that was both intoxicating and addictive.
I found Parkinson chuckling to himself in front of the fire. “I do believe I even had you fooled on that one Parkin!” “I must say I was flummoxed alright” I was happy to confess my deficiencies.
“Do you not see, to catch a cunning spider one must draw its sting, let him show his game and let him assume you have no other? We showed the same cards so long he thought he had a winning hand, only then at that point when he feels impregnable you strike! Their own arrogance was their downfall, convinced they had outwitted the famous Sherlock Parkinson they started the chain of events that was to be their own downfall”
“But what if they hadn’t? What then?”, “My assertion and research showed that was the logical outcome, I had considered and discarded all eventualities and as I have long said, if you exhaust all possibilities, that which is left, no matter how implausible must be correct. I just had to bide my time, but we did cut it mighty close, our men had the merest of windows to work in, but you can always rely on the diligence of the Bradford force to come up with the goods.”
At this point our privacy was interrupted by the presence of two very jolly fellows indeed, Mssrs Lawn and Rhodes stood in front of us, their faces beaming with pride and emotion and a great deal of admiration for my colleague. The shorter of the men leapt forward and shook Parkinson firmly by the hand, “By jove, you’ve done it again, I had my worries, I’m not too proud to admit it was hard to follow your thinking at times Mr Parkinson, I thought they had us at one point! There’s more coming your way sir, I’ll vouch for that myself, you have my word, whatever resources you need are at your disposal! Are you coming sir, the press are waiting?”
“You are most welcome to them my man, I will no doubt catch up with it all in the broadsheets over breakfast”
“It’s good evening then gentlemen, I have much to do” With that, our guests left leaving us again with our thoughts and pipes.
“Our friend Mr Lawn does get carried away with himself, he means well and is of good humour, but we both know he will have forgotten his words come the morning. Without him our work would be doubly hard no doubt, he is a good man and can be relied on in the crunch. We all have our own idiosyncrasies, I have more than most so I bear him no ill will.
Now Parkin I do believe we just have time for a celebratory curry at one of the city’s famous purveyors of Asian cuisine.”
With that we were gone, leaving a trail of revelling Bradfordian and broken Leeds supporters in our wake.