Sunday 1:00 pm
The next day, Bill waited to be picked up for the short ride to Stamford Bridge. He wasn’t sure what to wear and eventually decided on the dark grey suit that he usually kept reserved for weddings and funerals. He would be in the company of a Member of Parliament and a Chief Superintendent of police, so had to make an attempt to look good. He also wanted to be a bit defiant, so he selected his England rugby tie.
Bill Slade had always lived in Chelsea. His father had been a watchmaker, as had his grandfather, who had bought the simple two-bedroom mews house after he returned from the Second World War. Other than a few years while at the police academy, and the two years that he was married, Bill had lived in the house all his life.
His father had died ten years earlier and up until last year, he looked after his mother in the house until she died. He was now alone in the house, apart from a stray cat, that he called Moggy, that regularly paid him visits.
The house was now worth a small fortune, due to London’s skyrocketing property values. He could never afford to live in Chelsea if his mother had not left him the house.
At exactly the appointed time, his doorbell rang. A huge man filled the doorway. His broad friendly smile revealed a set of perfect teeth which looked whiter than white against his ebony skin.
“Hello, Inspector, I’m Mike. Sir Geoffrey and Mr. Barrington are in the car. Are you ready to leave?” he said in a broad cockney accent.
Bill set his alarm, locked his front door and followed Mike to the waiting Bentley. Bill joined the two important men in the comfortable seats in the back of the car.
“Sir Geoffrey, this is Bill Slade, one of our top homicide inspectors. Bill, this is Sir Geoffrey Fender,” said Barrington.
“Yes, I’ve been following Bill’s career in the newspapers, and we met a few years ago in court, if I remember correctly,” said Sir Geoffrey.
“I’m pleased to meet you again, Sir Geoffrey. You have a good memory, or you’ve done your homework!” said Bill.
Sir Geoffrey just smiled as they set off for the stadium. The car stopped outside a modest-looking terraced house next to the stadium. The house was not near the entrance gates, so there were hardly any people at this end of the stadium. An official from the Chelsea club met them at the car and took them into the house. The ground floor rooms had been converted to offices, which were empty.
“We have to go down to the basement. This way,” said the official.
The basement led to a broad well-lit passageway. On the walls were huge photographs of past and present Chelsea star players. Although it was described to Bill as a tunnel, the passage was large and bright with a thick blue carpet, so it was not his idea of a tunnel. At the end of the passage was a lift which took them up several floors to a VIP reception room.
Bill overheard Sir Geoffrey whisper to Mike “Make sure that Joey has a pass to get up here. We have to see him before half-time.”
Mike nodded and made his way to speak to the official who had been guiding them. Bill tapped his boss on the shoulder and said “I’m going to check things out on the pitch. I’ll get back with you before half-time.”
The atmosphere at Stamford Bridge was electric. Hundreds of good humoured football supporters were trying to get further up in the long queues to get inside before the kick off. The police were having a difficult time keeping control. Many youngsters were obviously drunk after their usual sessions in the local pubs before the match. Some, who had already been banned for bad behaviour, were still trying to evade the police to get in.
This was no ordinary match, the winning team would qualify for the semi-finals of the FA Cup knock-out competition. Chelsea were the favourites, as they were playing at home. They were drawn against Tottenham Hotspur, their rivals from North London.
Most of the fans were unaware that there was to be a special ceremony to award a medal to D.C. O’Brian whose alert action, at the beginning of the season, had foiled a couple of terrorists from setting off a bomb at the ground. He had probably saved the lives of some of those now queuing to get in.
Those who had bought the official program would have read:
“Sir Geoffrey Fender will be presenting the Queen’s Gallantry Medal to Detective Constable Dermot O’Brian at half-time, in recognition of his outstanding act of bravery.”
Bill spent the first half walking around the stadium, chatting to policemen that he knew, but he didn’t watch any of the match. Just before half-time, he ambled up to the VIP box to accompany the dignitaries to the pitch.
He saw Barrington sitting alone eating a sausage roll.
“Where’s Sir Geoffrey?” asked Bill.
“Oh, he just went to the gents, he’ll be right back,” said Barrington.
“I’ll go and check on him’” said Bill.
As Bill walked towards the gents, he saw Sir Geoffrey approaching with Big Mike at his side. Sir Geoffrey didn’t seem to notice Bill until Big Mike whispered something in his ear.
Then he said, without the warmth that he had shown previously, “Are we ready to go, Inspector?”
“Yes. Please wait here, I’ll go and get the Chief.”
At the end of the first half, Tottenham were leading, having scored the only goal. The players walked off the field and the Chief Superintendent came onto the pitch amidst deafening applause from the fans of both teams. He introduced Sir Geoffrey and started by saying that O’Brian's bravery was not just a great result for Chelsea, not just a great result for football, but a terrific result against terrorism in general.
For once, the supporters of both teams were united in their appreciation. The feeling in the air could not have been more exhilarating than if one of the teams had scored a winning goal.
He calmed the crowd and gave a short recap of the events of the Saturday when O’Brian had achieved more than what a victory in football could mean. He had achieved a victory over terrorism. Suddenly, a loud bang interrupted the speech and the crowd were shocked to see Sir Geoffrey fall off the platform onto the pitch.
He'd been shot!