While Nicolaj Bur seeks redemption for the “Nearly Men” of Europe, the world continues to turn. Join us now for the “The Ballad of Toothless Bob,” a Football Manager story which explores the broader in-game world, away from the pitch.
Because far more is at stake than the Champions League. In fact, the fate of the entire world may rest upon the shoulders of a half-mad Leeds United supporter with questionable personal hygiene. What lies beyond the twisted redstone doorway, hidden deep in the bowels of the Santiago Bernabéu? More importantly, who is on the other side…and what do they want? Read and find out.
Previously, on the Ballad of Toothless Bob:
Volume 1: Nicolaj risks disrupting the space-time continuum with a casual roll of the dice, while a Leeds United supporter known only as Toothless Bob prepares his army of children for the new season.
Elland Road; Exterior. Early December. Late Evening.
Most people thought it was an odd sight. They had questions they wanted to ask. Concerns they wanted to raise. Possibly even some law enforcement agencies they wanted to call.
But no one would ever dare. Why? Well, quite simply, because of the… implications… that would have.
No. However unfortunate it was, no one wanted to upset the man known as Toothless Bob.
Sure, you’d love to have a pint with him at the Old Peacock. Maybe even join him for a match at Elland Road.
But you’d watch your wallet the entire time. And maybe even count the fingers on your hand after shaking his.
Because even if you could trust him, you certainly could not trust the swarms of children surrounding him, following him everywhere. Passing unknown items to him, all of which disappear into a leather satchel over his shoulder.
The children? Common sense tells you that they are the ones you have to keep your eyes on.
Each one quick as a flash, more amoral than the last. Unwashed. Clothed in hand-me-downs. Surly, with no respect for their elders…all save one, that is. You would ask yourself where their parents are, but you do not want to know the answer.
Only this evening, perhaps they’ve taken things too far.
The flashing blue lights outside Elland Road tell you all you need to know. All you want to know.
West Yorkshire Police Headquarters; Interrogation Room.
The man known as Toothless Bob lounges in a folding metal chair, waiting.
He sucks his gums, occasionally flashing a smile into the one-way mirror at the law enforcement officials behind the glass, occasionally making an obscene gesture towards the camera in the corner of the room, blinking red.
Toothless is something of misnomer, he knows. Only his top teeth are missing, the bottom still intact even if they betray years without proper dental care.
A man enters. He wears the suit of the West Yorkshire Police, medals decorating his chest, a look of abject resignation on his face. He glances towards the mirror and the camera. The blinking has stopped.
For the first time tonight, Bob is surprised. Shaken, even. “You?!” Bob follows the man’s gaze, a confused look on his face as he realizes they are alone.
The man sighs. “You knew it would eventually come to this. That all of … this… would eventually end. That I couldn’t protect you forever.”
Bob chuckles, deep down in his belly. A dark laugh if ever there was one. “We both know there is nowt you will do, Roger… At least, not if you want to keep certain things we know about you…quiet.”
The man in the suit shudders involuntarily, before continuing on. “Bob, you’ve gone too far this time. People have been asking questions about you. About your lads. Two of them were recognized tonight. The twins.”
Another flash of surprise crosses Bob’s face, but only briefly. A neutral expression returns. “How do I know you’re not just making that one up, like a sneakly ****?”
“Their father was at the match tonight. It looks like you’ve played your little games too close to home, for once.”
Bob pauses. He knows that he has not been traveling as far lately, in his “recruitment” efforts. The usual hunting grounds had been over-fished, so to speak… Bob realizes that, even if his old “friend” is bluffing, it is a bluff that cannot be called. The risks are too high.
“So what is this, then? Why are you here, risking your own hide?”
The man in the suit looks away, refusing to meet Bob’s gaze. “We both know why, Bob.”
Bob laughs again. He always knew that incriminating photos of the Chief Constable would come in handy. They’ve served to safeguard his lads for so long, praise be to Saint Revie.
“The Crooked Warden sees you, Roger. He knows you, down to your core.”
The man in the suit shakes his head, still refusing to meet Bob’s eye. “None of that matters, Bob. I can’t protect you from this. When it was just stealing, a bit of harmless scuffles with other firms…that, I could protect you from.”
Bob shrugs, waving a hand dismissively. Bob knows he can talk his way out of this, in time. Bob knows he can talk anyone into anything…except women into sex.
The man in the suit looks directly at Bob, arching an eyebrow. He knows that Bob has yet to understand the gravity of the night’s events. He has an ace up his sleeve, still to be played.
Bob returns his gaze, thinking through the various forms of leverage he has to play.
“That Millwall lad died, Bob. He was 11. Just the age you like to bring them in, isn’t it?”
Bob blinks. A pit grows within his belly.
The man in the suit laughs, if anything, a darker laugh than the one that emanated from Bob a few short minutes earlier.
“You didn’t know…did you?”
Bob sits, silent. Weighing his options. To the extent he has any, given his current circumstances.
The man in the suit continues to look Bob in the eye as removes a keychain from his pocket, selects a key from among the others, and places the keychain on the table, before looking away. A sadness in his eyes and voice.
“You have one chance, Bob. We’re alone. I’ll say you got the jump on me. That key will get you out of this room and, from there, the 2nd door on the left will see you in the parking lot. Take my car. Go. Get out of Leeds. Get out of Yorkshire. Run as far away as you can. Because they won’t stop looking for you. Not now.”
Bob sits quietly, looking at the key. Thinking through his options. He knows there are none. He could bring the world crashing down on the broken man in front of him, but that wouldn’t change his own circumstances.
The moments pass. Finally, Bob speaks. “What about my boys, then? I’ll not leave them behind.”
The man in the suit continues to look at the floor. “They’re juveniles. We’ve released them for now. I suspect they’re waiting for you to come home.”
Bob chuckles. Thank the Crooked Warden, they would be waiting for him.
“Well, then, let’s not keep them waiting.”
Bob stands and grabs the keychain, inserting the key into the lock.
Just before he can pull open the door, the man in the suit interrupts, looking straight at Bob, and whispers. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”
Bob chuckles wryly. In a flash, he rears back and strikes the man in the suit violently, who falls to the floor like a puppet with his strings cut. He lies unconscious, blood flowing from what is an obviously broken nose, as Bob exits the room.
Abandoned Warehouse on an industrial estate in Leeds; Interior.
A horde of young children sit awake, passing around bottles of Buckfast. They wait impatiently for news of their garrista, who several saw being taken away in handcuffs by the West Yorkshire Police.
They have not given up hope.
Fires in metal drums cast eerie shadows on the walls.
From the far corner, they hear a familiar, dark chuckle. A man emerges, cloaked in shadow, the firelight plays across his face.
“Tell me, lads. Who wants to go on a little holiday, yeah? Take this firm international. A pilgrimage to the continent.”
Relief washes over the children. Truly the Crooked Warden has blessed them, on this fine day.
Next time, on the Ballad of Toothless Bob:
Bob and his child army descend on Paris, ready to wreak havoc in homage to the dark arts of PSG manager, Jose Mourinho.