It was a curious gathering on the train that night. Unusually the first-class births had all been booked and their residents were assembled in the restaurant car.
Unseen, The Moonerazzi surveyed the scene suspiciously and, catching the pungent smell of pickled onions drifting from the raucous gathering opposite, scribbled something hastily in a note book.
Simon Gold, Mark Lawrenson, Normetta No Mates and Mark Young were all smiles and something appeared to have gone wrong at the hairdressers as she could just make out the faintest of green tinges. Young, with his soft American drawl, was being particularly attentive to this evening, topping up Normetta’s Ribena and Babycham at regular intervals with the result that she had acquired a distinct tide mark which masked the hairs on her upper lip. Normetta delighted in the unexpected attention of her fellow Joker players and the reporter took notes as they compared their scores. Gold and Lawrenson (6 points) forced oily grins as they conceded to the skills of the unctuous American (10 points) and the weekâ€™s top scorer (14 points) who was gradually sliding under the table.
Catching sight of Normettaâ€™s predicament, the gallant Sanjiv Sachdev swiftly lunged for Normaâ€™s braces and hoisted her back into position.
Oblivious to the ladyâ€™s plight however, Lawrenson continued to spout incontinently to his greasy companion: â€˜There is an awful lot of mediocrity in that [Liverpool] squad” of course.â€™
â€˜Ideally I would like to see the Scousers stuffed by the Gooners and ultimately relegated… here’s hoping.â€™ Sachdev butted in to the obvious distaste of the pundit who continued ignominiously.
‘I think that Fernando Torres will return for Liverpool, but I am not sure Alberto Aquilani will feature. He played 76 minutes against Fiorentina on Wednesday and Rafael Benitez will probably decide the Italian needs 23 weeks to recover!’ the oily gent chuckled like an old Etonian in a gentlemanâ€™s club.
David Jones, the weekâ€™s top non-joker playing scorer strutted the aisle like a pregnant pigeon in a sharply pressed military uniform greeting Chairman David, with a hearty slap between the shoulder blades.
â€˜Weâ€™ll speak later Mr John.â€™ the stiff Englishman mumbled hurriedly into his phone before snapping it shut. Robert quickly composed himself to make an awkward acknowledgement before introducing his companion, Nicola Savage who had curiously assumed a German accent. The threesome were soon deep in conversation comparing their correct scores for the week: Jones (Burnley & Liverpool) and Roberts (Burnley & Sunderland) and Savage (Birmingham & Burnley). However Jones ego was easily distracted and, on the look-out for more plaudits lighted on fellow Predictors of the Week Janet Roberts and Roger Taylor (Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal) for another round of self-congratulatory back-slapping.
Meanwhile, over on the â€˜jokersâ€™ table, yet another Babycham had arrived, courtesy of John Collins who toasted Normetta ostentatiously from the bar. Celebrating his clever prediction of an Aston Villa win against Manchester United had undoubtedly go to his pocket as well as his head. As another stroke of good luck Collins had encountered Maziar Sattari as he was bringing in the drinks â€“ the first zero of the season (aside from Normetta of course) which only helped to augment the Millwall manâ€™s cheery disposition.
Already half cut from celebrating his continuing poll position on his way home to Belfast, Steve Dunlop put his arm around the disconsolate Seattle Gooner and offered him a warming brandy.
â€˜I’ll have to keep my wits about me over the holiday period as I’ve been known to miss a few games here and there during the holiday season.â€™ confided Steve cheerfully, but at that moment, the midnight train plunged into a snow drift on the outskirts of Church Langley. The passengers screams were as chilling as the night air, but more had just been extinguished than the lights.
As the dim orange glow returned to the carriages, anxious faces scanned the chaos and harvested scattered possessions.
Normetta was dead.
The crowd parted the Moonerazzi saw the still body swimming in a pool of blood spilt BabyCham fizzing out of the fresh wounds. She counted 13 stab wounds to the ravaged body.
“The greatest cast of suspicious characters ever involved in murder.” muttered the reporter. With an average score of just 3.46 this week, she realised there wasnâ€™t one person in the carriage who wouldnâ€™t profit from this nightâ€™s work.