A day later Toby is sitting in the manager’s office at Skelmerage. He looks at his dad who is sat right next to him. The moment that Toby arrived after getting the call to come in Anthony was on his case. Now though, sat in the office, across a big desk from Terry the manager and his coach, Anthony has shut up and Toby sighs a little in relief. But it’s short lived and shallow though. Toby has never seen Terry looking so serious, or the coach. They’re both frowning and there’s a look of pity in Terry’s eyes, directed right at Toby, that he’s not sure he likes.
“Toby…” Terry says slowly, “Toby, this is really difficult for me to say. I’m not happy to be saying it but I have to. I’m afraid that… I have to suspend you from the club.”
“What?!” Anthony cries, jumping to his feet. “Why?!”
“It’s out of my hands Anthony,” Terry says, holding out his hands as if to prove it, “I have no choice but to do this.”
“Of course it’s in your hands,” Anthony snaps, his face starting to turn a very angry shade of red, “You do have a choice. Hell you have the ultimate choice. You’re the manager for Pete’s sake.”
“I don’t have a choice this time,” Terry says sternly. He looks at Toby, “I was visited by the police today Toby. Apparently a large bet was placed by a Far Eastern punter just at half time. They bet was that an own goal would be scored in extra time, by Skelmerage. Now, as you can hopefully understand, they’re investigating foul play.”
“What?!” Anthony roars. “They think my son is involved in some sort of betting scam?! How dare they! They have no right to do this.”
“They have every right,” Terry says firmly, “This was a very unusual bet and for a very large amount of money. They’re going to be looking as deeply as they can in to what exactly is going on. We all have to co-operate with the police during their investigation. I’ve been told to suspend Toby until it’s over, both by the police and by the Football Association.”
Terry picks a small card up from his desk and reaches over the table towards Toby. He holds it out and Toby takes it, his hand shaking hard.
“Toby,” Terry says, looking him in the eye. “I really am sorry about this.”
Toby nods, not trusting himself to speak. He glances at the card and frowns. It’s the card of a police officer, a detective. The telephone number has been circled with a hand written message saying “please call”.
“That’s the number of the detective in charge of the investigation,” Terry explains. “They want to speak to you. Toby…” Toby looks up, “You need to call them. Today. The sooner that they can speak to you and get digging then the sooner that they can clear all of this up. If you work with them it’ll be over quicker.”
“This is a joke right?!” Anthony shouts, “He makes one mistake and suddenly he’s a criminal? That’s it, I’ve had enough, I’m not listening to this any more. Toby, come on son, let’s go.”
He puts his hand on Toby’s shoulder and squeezes hard. With his grip he pulls Toby to his feet. Toby winces with the pain and strength in his dad’s hand. They walk to the door, Toby glances at Terry one more time. The coach looks torn, like he wants to say something but can’t quite bring himself to say it.
“Toby,” Terry says, just as Toby is about to walk through the door and out of the office. Toby stops and looks at the manager, “Use this time wisely. Think about what you want to do from now on. No one else. Just what you want. And call the detective.”
Toby nods and follows his dad out. He doesn’t have much choice really, Anthony has a firm grip on his shoulders. Toby puts his head down and walks as his dad rants about the unfairness of it all. He thinks he knows what Terry is trying to say. That it’s time to step away from his dad and follow his own wants. Terry must know that Anthony is pushy, they’d been friends for years. Toby realises just how brilliant Terry is, and how strong. He’s something else entirely. The fact that Terry said those words, in front of Anthony despite being good friends, says so much more than what he actually said. Toby realises that Terry is ready and willing to sacrifice his friendship with Anthony for Toby. He’s willing to risk a decades old relationship to make sure that Toby actually does what he wants.
“Toby,” Anthony says, catching his attention. Toby looks at his dad, “This isn’t over you know. We’re going to get a lawyer and then you’re going to call the detective. You’re not speaking to anyone without someone who knows what they’re doing there. I’m not having your future thrown away because of one little mistake.”
“Leave it alone dad,” Toby says with a sigh. They stop beside Anthony’s car and he glares at his son, “If I go in with a lawyer it’s just going to make me look guilty. I’m just going to call them, talk to them and tell them what happens. Loads of the lads were there, they’ll be able to vouch for me. And besides, Scooby knows I’m crap at headers, he’ll tell them that.”
He turns and starts to walk away.
“Where are you going?!” Anthony shouts after him, “The police station’s in the other direction and so is the house.”
“I’m going home,” Toby says with a smile, “My home that I made for myself. I’ll text you went I get in.”
He walks away, ignoring the shouts that Anthony sends after him. He just wants to be alone, to think and figure things out. Now that football is out of the way he needs to decide what he’s going to do, just like Terry said.
When he gets to the house he’s surprised to see that he won’t need to call the detective after all. There’s a police car outside and two men are on the doorstep of the house, talking to a worried looking Carrie. She catches sight of Toby and her eyes widen. The two men turn and look in his direction too.
“Toby Arnold?” The older of the two asks. Toby nods. “I’m Detective Inspector Marks, this is Detective Simpson. We were wanting to speak to you about the match.”
“Sure,” Toby says, nodding, “come in.”
He walks in to the house, squeezing Carrie’s hand gently. She watches, her face etched with worry as the two detectives follow him through to the kitchen.
“I was just about to call you Detective,” Toby says over his shoulder as he sets to making the tea. “I just finished talking to Terry, the manager over at Skelmerage and he told me I was suspended. He gave me your card and told me you wanted to speak to me.”
“Do you have a problem being suspended?” Marks asks, “I mean, isn’t football a big deal for you?”
“It was,” Toby says, shrugging as he puts the mugs down in front of the detectives, “But lately I’ve started looking in to other things and found something that’s much more of a big deal to me.”
“You’re not angry about being suspended then?” Marks asks, his eyebrows rising in surprise, “I was informed that playing professional football was your dream. It must sting a bit to be investigated for match fixing mustn’t it?”
“A little” Toby admits, “But playing football stopped being my dream a while ago. Now I want to act. Sure, I’m going to miss playing football for Skelmerage and I’m going to miss training a lot but I get it. You can’t have someone playing football who might be willing to take a dive.”
“Did you?” Detective Simpson asks, “Did you take a pay off to lose the game Mr Arnold?”
“No,” Toby says, smiling and laughing, “I’m just really, really crap at headers. Can I ask exactly what makes you think I did it on purpose?”
The two detectives share a look and eventually DI Marks shrugs and smiles at Toby.
“Basically a sum of money was bet on events occurring as they did and the man was very happy to collect,” he explains. “Shortly after half time a very large sum of money was placed as a bet by a foreign man. He bet that Skelmerage would score an own goal in extra time and Manchester would win 1-0. When that actually happened the betting agency had to pay an even larger sum of money out. And because it happened exactly as the gentleman said you can understand how it might look to us, I’m sure.”
“Wow.” Toby says, blowing out a quick breath, “And you guys think this foreign guy paid me to throw the goal? It must have been a lot of money,”
“Try three quarters of a million pounds,” Detective Simpson says, “Payouts that big automatically get flagged and sent to us. We reviewed the bet and discovered exactly how correct it was.”
“Toby!” Fiona cries out as she enters the room, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry about what happened!”
“It’s ok,” Toby starts to say.
He can’t finish his sentence. Fiona throws herself in to his arms and his mouth is smothered by her hair for a moment. He hugs her back tightly and pulls the hair out of his mouth.
“I’m so sorry to hear about that goal,” Fiona says when she pulls back, “You must be so upset.”
“A little,” Toby says quietly. “But then again, it’s my own fault. I got cocky and tried to do more than I could. At least now I have more time to focus on my acting. We can practice again.”
Detective Simpson clears his throat with a quiet cough. The couple turn and look at him and Detective Marks who is grinning at them both.
“Is that all Detectives?” Toby asks as the minute stretches on. “Any more questions that you need me to answer.”
“No, I think that’s it,” Detective Marks said, flipping through his notebook. “If we have any thing else to ask we’ll be in touch.”
Toby nods and before he has a chance to offer to show them out Carrie appears and leads them away. Fiona watches them go before she turns and looks at Toby, worriedly.
“What was that about?” she asks once the front door closes, “Why were you talking to the police?”
“A dodgy bet was place,” Toby explains, “They think I was paid to throw the goal. Of course I didn’t and wasn’t though. They’ll figure it out eventually.”
“Oh Toby,” Fiona says softly. “I’m so sorry.”
She doesn’t wait for Toby to respond. She just grabs him and hugs him tightly, pressing him against her body. Toby thinks about arguing, telling her that he’s ok and it’s not the end of the road but he’s enjoying the hug too much so he takes it for a while before hugging her back.