Jim Vanderpump returns to revisit the lives of the 1998 Norwich squad. This month the boys bond over a Murder Mystery evening...*
“Calm down, Malky!”
They’re all on their feet now and have formed a protective semi-circle around me, hoping to block my escape. Everyone’s shouting at once, and through the blur of noise my eyes can make out a colourful sea of angry faces, coming towards me. I need to move.
“Fffhfhffhf fhfhfhhf!” A muffled voice tries to say from beneath me. I look down and realise Darren Eadie’s head is gripped against my waist, locked in a headlock by my bicep. I dunnae remember putting him there. He manages to free his mouth to speak, but only succeeds in landing his throat in the clench of my arm, so that his west country voice comes out like a bumble bee who’s running low on batteries (or pollen, I guess).
“God sake, Malky, it’s just a game!”
“Stay where you are,” I shout at the approaching crowd. “I’ve already killed one person tonight, dunnae make me kill again!”
They stop in their tracks, afraid of what I might do next. Matt Jackson’s flapping his hands around in a gesture I can only imagine he thinks might calm me down but only serves to wind me up further, while Darren Kenton’s whaling uncontrollably and having to be comforted by a ‘sshhhing’ Daryl Sutch.
“Right,” I say, my eyes darting around for the nearest exit. It’s behind me, the way we came in. I begin to back away, dragging the doubled-up Eadie with me. “Now, naebody follows us, or I slit his throat. Got it?” I grab for a knife from the table, I was going for cheese but a quick press against my thumb tells me I’ve got butter instead. Never mind, I’ll have to bluff it out. I lower the butter-knife (not sure you can even call it a knife, more a dabber) down to Eadie’s face, hoping that they cannae tell the difference from where they’re stood. Maybe they’ll appreciate that I could stick it down his throat and choke him to death.
The useless bastards dunnae know what to do. Some of them hold up their hands, as if to say, ‘OK OK,’ or, ‘dunnae do it,’ or maybe, ‘you the man, Malk, go for it; choke him with that butter-knife!’ and before anyone can try anything heroic I’ve backed myself and Eadie away to the door and into the hotel lobby.
Soon we’re out into the car park and I get us to my car. I shove him in the back (the doors are still child-locked from when I gave Adrian Coote and Che Wilson a lift to training that time) and I get in the front.
I’ve had a bit to drink tonight, about 10 pints of lager and a couple of glasses of champagne on arrival, but over a period of an hour and a half so I should be fine to drive. As I begin to turn the car around they all spill out of the hotel, down the steps and into the car park. The look on their faces is a picture. Matt Jackson’s got his head in his hands and is shouting something, which I can’t hear over the revving engine, but guess is along the lines of, ‘you win this one, Malky, you absolute legend.’
Aye, that’s right, Jackson, I win! And you’ll never catch me now.
The evening had started normally enough. We met at the hotel bar at 6:30, dressed in our 1930s’ clobber, as instructed, and received a briefing from our host, Lawrence, on what to expect from our ‘Murder Mystery Dinner Party’.
My character was Matteo Kilarenzo, a real low-life piece of shit from the wrong side of the tracks, who had made a good life for himself by bullying and intimidating the vulnerable into doing whatever he told them.
“Typecast again, eh, Malky?” said a yellow-moustachioed Iwan Roberts, to a few chuckles from his cronies, Fleming and O’Neil. I laughed and pretended I thought it was funny but made a mental note to give the twat a dead-leg in training next week.
“Er guys?” Matt Jackson was trying desperately to get everybody’s attention. “Er guys? Hey, listen up.” He made some kind of a ‘one of the lads’ joke before basically telling everyone not to have any fun. “Let’s not get too squiffy tonight, yeah? I know it’s New Year’s Eve and whatnot, but let’s remember we’ve got training tomorrow, yeah? OK guys?”
Fucking toff. I downed my flute of champagne and smashed it on the bar next to him. He jumped about a foot in the air in shock and I’d bet good money that he soiled his pin-striped trousers.
We made our way into the dining room and found our seats by the name cards of our characters.
“Do we have to stay in character from now then- Wonderwall?” asked Rob Green as he sat down next to me. He was dressed as Charlie Chaplin which is ironic cos he’s got a worse sense of humour than a condom full of spark plugs. “Or can we just be the characters in between each course- Like a Rhinestone Cowboy?”
Greeno’s got this strange condition where he impulsively says lyrics or names of pop songs at the end of every sentence. It was funny to start with, now it makes me want to smash him in the skull with a hammer.
“Let’s stay in character, it’s way more fun!” Chris Llewellyn, dressed in a sleeveless, black dress and long gloves up to his elbow, leant forward over the table, flamboyantly waving his cigarette holder. It was far too long and he came close to dropping ash from the cigarette into my glass of Stella, and consequently close to getting a broken nose. “I’m heiress to a £500,000 fortune. I just need my father to die and I get the lot...”
“Why you dressed like a girly?” frowned Darren Kenton from beneath a top-hat.
“That’s my character,” replied Llewellyn with a shrug.
An argument ensued. Eadie, who had arranged the whole thing due to his love for fancy dress, which I swear straddles the border between hobby and sexual fetish, said that this was an ‘all-male character murder mystery’ given that we were a party of all males, but Llewellyn stuck to his guns.
“My character is called Sam Peacock,” he said with a triumphant swish of his blonde bob. “Sam. Girl’s name. How many men do you know called ‘Sam’?” Everyone around the table named at least 5 men called Sam and he sheepishly pulled his character card out of his sparkly handbag to double check.
Lawrence, the MC, returned to give us a historical context for night: Post World War 1 Britain, The Great Depression, the rise of Fascism in Spain and Italy. Nazism.
“Aye, well, maybe they had the right idea,” I snapped at him when I’d had enough of his patronising tone.
“Good, getting into character already,” he said with a wink.
“Who said anything about character,” I replied into my glass as I downed the last of my pint.
The food was nothing special but it beat my Christmas dinner of 8 pints of Guinness and a family bag of Twiglets so I couldnae complain. The company on the other hand... Jesus. Between courses, ‘History Boy’, Darel Russell, bored everyone on the next table to tears with his facts.
“Actually, it's a common misconception that Mussolini made the trains run on time,” he droned in his monotonous robot-voice. “Much of the repair work on the railways had been done before Mussolini had come to power in 1922. Furthermore....” Bla-bla-bla-bla-bla.
Even Matt Jackson was reaching for the nearest bottle of wine.
“We find out if we’re the murderer now- Return of the Mack,” said Rob Green and sure enough, with an unnecessary flourish, Lawrence reappeared and told us to open the envelopes that had been delivered with our fresh cutlery.
There was a murmur of excitement and a shuffling of paper as everyone did as instructed, apart from Kenton who was tugging at Eadie’s cuffs and asking if it was nearly time for ‘beddy-bye’s’.
I looked down at the card in my hand and… Fucking hell. It’s me, I did it. I was shocked. I mean, I did hate the bastard (whoever he was), and I’ve always been a proper evil bastard, but a murderer? I didnae know I had it in me.
The waiting staff began bringing out the desserts and cheeseboards and I decided it was probably time to make a run for it.
“I’m on to you, Matteo Killer-renzo.” Someone whispered. I dropped the card, alarmed. Eadie was leaning towards me, a crafty smile playing on his lips as he drank in my dirty secret.
I’d been rumbled. But I wasn’t about to go down without a fight...