Prologue

Roberto Mancini lay on the floor, slowly losing consciousness. He knew he’d have to send across a message to the world with every ounce of energy he could muster, before the darkness closed in. He slowly reached into his pocket, and grabbed the ketchup sachet he’d been carrying. This would be his means to tell the world what could possibly be his final thoughts.

Chapter 1

Jose hated being woken up in the night. He groggily switched on the lights, grabbed the phone and grumbled a “hello”.

“Mr.Mourinho, this is the Paris police calling. I’m afraid there’s been a tragedy at the Louvre, and your experience in the matter is highly sought after”. Jose, who liked his ego being stroked every now and then, needed no more prodding to get out of bed. He was going to the Louvre.

Jose walked in, feeling ever so important as the cops made way for The Special One. A young aide came rushing over and offered to direct Jose to the Chief of Police. Jose obliged, and was escorted to a slightly obese man in a dapper suit. He looked familiar, even without his trademark beard. “Benitez?” Jose exclaimed “You’re a police chief now?!”. Rafa nodded “Government job. Can’t be fired”.

Jose looked bemused and spotted a tattoo on Rafa’s wrist that looked familiar. He could make out the letters OPUS… and then the letters SY CAT DOLLS. He shuddered, and then remembered what he’d been called for. “What do you want, Rafa?”. The Spaniard growled back “Shut up, clown. I’ll ask the questions here. Do you see this?” Mourinho looked at where Rafa pointed, and found Mancini lying on the floor, seemingly strangled by his own muffler.

Alongside him were scrawled several words in English.

POUT FOR.

PRIORY OF SION.

SILAS.

YNWA LOL.

Jose looked puzzled and said “I wonder what this means.”

Rafa took out a notepad, cleared his throat and announced “Facht. We know Mancini is finished”. Jose shook his head and smugly said “He’s still breathing”. Rafa, not used to being embarrassed in front of his men, snarled “And so were you, before you interrupted me”. Jose took the hint.

“But what could the rest mean? Priory Of Sion, sounds like some kind of secret society that has hidden out of sight for centuries.” Rafa mused out loud. Jose turned to him with an incredulous look, when the doors opened and a slender girl made her way across the room to the two men. Mourinho recognized her as the female lineswoman, Sian Massey, who’d been the centre of the sexist storm that got Andy Gray fired. Benitez, on the other hand, was pretty sure it was Torres, till she had come closer.

The girl cleared her throat, “I think I can answer that. It’s actually the Priory of Sian. A secret feminist group dedicated to overthrowing male dominance in football. Roberto was its grandmaster”. Benitez arched his eyebrows in surprise, “Mancini’s a feminist?”. Jose shrugged his shoulders “Sure. Why else would he wear a scarf?”. The rest of the officers at the scene chuckled.

“Silas doesn’t ring any bells though” Sian proffered. Jose pursed his lips and muttered “Unless it’s the name of the would-be murderer”. Rafa, who was squatting down at that point, immediately bounded up to his feet. “A ha! So you agree that writing your assailant’s name would be the natural thing to do”. Jose looked taken aback, but agreed warily “Yes, it seems plausible”. Benitez kicked a handkerchief out of the way, to reveal another line hitherto hidden. “Jose’s The One“.

Mourinho sputtered in shock, before he turned the tables on Rafa. “Goddammit, this looks like something YOU wrote here to implicate me!” It was Rafa’s turn to lose it now, “How dare you accuse me of planting evidence! Your attitude… It’s crossed the line”.

“No, it did not” Jose yelled back.

“Yes, it crossed the line” Rafa hollered back.

“No, it did not… Wait a minute, why does this seem familiar?” Jose wondered aloud.

Both of them looked lost for a minute, forgetting the Liverpool-Chelsea ghost goal controversy, before they gave up.

Chapter 2

One of the officers on the scene came running up to the duo, carrying what looked like a monk’s brown habit found in the fire-escape. Sian exclaimed “Could that have been left behind at the scene of the crime?” Benitez inspected it and noticed that it had been ripped off in a struggle. Jose pointed out that Mancini himself showed no signs of having struggled with his assailant.

“This can mean only one thing. The assailant himself struggled with his own disguise, the monk’s clothing specifically, and may have torn it in the process”, Jose reasoned aloud. There was a pregnant pause, and then Sian and Benitez began to chuckle knowingly along with Jose. There was only one man who could struggle with a piece of clothing meant specifically to be donned easily. Mario Balotelli.

It took till next morning for authorities to grab hold of him, Mario, was detained creating trouble outside a kindergarten playground, after having punched a toddler in the face for making silly noises at him. The former Inter Milan star was remanded into custody, and brought face to face with Benitez – that destroyer of men and their careers.

Beads of perspiration dotted Balotelli’s forehead, as Rafa leaned forward to question him. Jose, who by now had unofficially promoted himself to chief consultant on the case, waited impatiently outside the interrogation room quirkily named “The Rafa Room”. Sian shuddered to think what went on in there.

Rafa, came out a few minutes later, looking quite smug with himself. It was evident he’d discovered something crucial to the resolution of the case. “Mario tells me he was called by an unknown man, simply known as The Teacher. We’re looking through his phone records to see if we can trace the origin of these calls”.

Mourinho seemed suddenly pensive, POUT FOR. It’s an anagram for TOP FOUR. Mancini was warning us! I believe, someone’s out to target the Top 4 managers in the English Premier League. They’ve started with Mancini, perhaps they might move on to Arsene, Carlo and perhaps even Fergie!”

“And, that would be a bad thing because?” Rafa countered.

Jose was in no mood to explain; he knew Arsene Wenger, currently vacationing in France, would be the nearest target for the assailant. Jose quickly gestured to the nearest officer and demanded to be taken to Wenger’s residence in the countryside. It took them a tiring two hour journey for the investigative trio to reach the Arsenal manager’s mansion. Outside the gate was a board, “Entry – Only Ages 18 and under”. The driver looked a bit hesitant, till Benitez insisted he go right through nevertheless.

“Welcome to my mansion”, Wenger graciously purred from his cosy chair. Jose nodded curtly before adding to the pleasantries “You seem to have quite a nice place here, Arsene. Only a man of academic tastes could have filled his house with so many rare works of literature. And what’s this? A telescope at the window?”

Arsene smiled “Yes, Astronomy is my latest area of interest.”

“Then why is your telescope pointed right at your neighbor’s bedroom?” Sian asked rather innocently. Wenger stared blankly pretending not to have heard her, while Mourinho shifted uneasily.

Chapter 3

Rafa pursed his lips and declared “Arsene, I fear it is my duty to inform you your life may be in grave danger. We believe an unnamed man called The Teacher is out to harm the Top 4 managers in the English Premier League. Mario Balotelli was sent to attack Roberto Mancini, but it failed thanks to his incompetence and a fortuitous wardrobe malfunction”.

Arsene looked a bit concerned, “Perhaps, it’s best that I am armed then.” He reached into a secret compartment and pulled out a revolver. But then to everyone’s surprise, he grabbed Sian and pointed the revolver straight at her temple. As it was with his football tactics, it took Rafa a while to realize what was going on. Rafa knew this was one situation where miming by the sidelines wouldn’t help.

Jose muttered “So, it was you all along, Arsene. I should’ve known. The Teacher. Or as they say in French, Le Professeur. You alone had the motive. Roberto had recently unseated your team from its hallowed third spot. You chose the ungrateful, eternally disloyal Balotelli to do your dirty work so that nobody would suspect it was you. But Mario struggled to put on his monk’s clothing and left it in the fire escape. Bet you didn’t see that coming!”

Arsene looked livid, upon realizing that’s how he’d been discovered. “That fool!” he exclaimed in anger.

Sian spoke up next “As Roberto lost consciousness, he scrawled out whatever came to his mind. POUT FOR, was an anagram for TOP FOUR – his biggest achievement thus far as City boss. PRIORY OF SIAN – was his way of letting us know he belonged to that secret society. And SILAS?”

Jose thought for a while, before smirking “That was Sila S, or Sila Sahin, that hot Turkish Playboy model. These were not clues! Poor Roberto was merely scribbling out his deepest thoughts as he lost consciousness.”

Sian then interjected “Of course and YNWA LOL was err…” but let that stay in the air, not wanting to offend Rafa.

Arsene, who was getting impatient with all this pointless, sleuthing cocked his gun and said “Enough. Now, prepare to say Au Revoir.” Rafa knew reaching for his gun would put Sian in even greater danger.

It was Jose who acted. He picked up a silver fork and spoon on the tea-table and flung it into the air. Wenger’s eyes widened as he reacted almost instantly, dropping his gun and launching himself across the floor, in a bid to catch the cutlery. He grasped on to both mid-air, but as he hit the ground, both the silver spoon and fork flew out of his grasp and clattered a few feet away.

Rafa called his men in, who restrained the once-again quiet and dignified Wenger. Sian looked pale, “Jose, how did you know that would work?”.

Mourinho smiled as he explained, “Well, I know that a man desperate for silverware would do anything just to get his hands on one. I knew Wenger would make an audacious leap for them, even though they were beyond his reach. I also knew, even if it looked like he’d make it, Wenger would invariably let said silverware slip through his fingers at the very end.”

As they turned they saw the silhouette of another man desperate for silverware, stuffing his pockets with the cutlery. Rafa, realizing he’d been spotted, went defensive immediately “What? They’re evidence. The case must be based on Fachts.”

EPILOGUE

Jose and Sian, smiled and walked out of the room, content in having played their part. They figured it might be a good idea to visit Roberto in the hospital and see how well he was coming along.

Rafa bounded up behind them, panting heavily “Wait, there’s still one unsolved mystery. What exactly did YNWA LOL mean? I get the you’ll-never-walk-alone bit, but the LOL bit has stumped me. Is that an anagram? A code perhaps? What on earth could it mean?”

Jose patted his shoulder “You’ll figure it out. In due time, Rafa. In due time”.