The pressure was largely off the Arsenal team now they had won the league and made it to the Champions League final in a space of a few days. There were a few league games to play out where Bradley would be rested for some of them, and the FA Cup final which would be against another local rival in West Ham who were having a fine season. It would be a tough game, but an FA Cup final should always be tough.
Bradley had picked up a knock in the league game against Everton so Sr Cantonelli had given him a week off to go and get some rest to ensure he was fresh and recovered in time for the final few games. He decided to pop over to Spain again and stay at the resort he visited in close season. His manager had even let him use the club’s private jet to get there and back, which was nice. Saved him having to go through Gatwick again and get mobbed by fans.
He enjoyed the break, doing nothing but sitting in the sun and some light exercise to get his knee back in shape. At the end of the week, his knee was good as gold and he was feeling more relaxed than ever. Relishing the thought of beating Juventus in the Champions League final and West Ham in the FA Cup final where he would have been playing against his Scotland team mate, Dougie Brown except that Dougie had returned to Scotland and signed for Rangers, he packed his bag and got into the waiting taxi to the airport.
Three hours later, he was back at his apartment getting unpacked. He had spoken to Sr Cantonelli on the phone and told him how good his knee was now and was he going to be picked for Saturday’s game away to Leicester.
Once he had caught up with all his calls and messages, he decided to call his dad for a chat. When he didn’t answer, he left a voicemail message for him and then called his mum. She was out getting some shopping and had stopped for a coffee.
‘Hi Bradley, did you have a nice time in Spain?’
‘Aye, it was great. I love that place, Think I might buy an apartment down there so you can pop over whenever you fancy it. You’d love it there.’ Bradley enthused.
Martine wasn’t so sure. She didn’t particularly like travelling much although she would always put on a brave face whenever they went to Florida as a family. That seemed so long ago now. They still had their Disney timeshare points that they bought a few years ago but hadn’t used them for a while and they had thought about selling them as part of the divorce settlement.
‘What about Florida? Are we never going back there again?’ Asked Martine.
‘Of course we will. I’m going to be there in a couple of months for the World Cup. I’ll be due for some holiday after the tournament so why don’t we all stay on for a couple of weeks?’
Bradley sounded like his old self, Martine thought. He would always get excited at the thought of holidaying in Florida.
‘That’s a great idea. Let’s organise it.’ She said. ‘Although, it is going to be awkward with your dad. He will want to go as well, especially as he will be out there to watch you. What can we do about that?’
It was a genuine problem and one Bradley hadn’t contemplated. He didn’t know if his dad was going to bring Lucy with him or not. If he did, then there was no way they could stay with them in Disney. Martine didn’t know about Lucy yet, and he wasn’t sure how his mum would react well when she found out.
‘I’ll speak to dad and see what he thinks. Leave it to me, mum. Anyway, got to go, speak soon.’ Bradley ended the call and threw his phone onto the sofa.
Brian had been in meetings all day so hadn’t been able to catch up with his messages. It was in between meetings when he was grabbing a coffee from the machine, that he overheard a conversation that pricked his ears up. He had definitely heard the words “Toppers”, “Slapper” and Blow Job” mentioned and hoped they weren’t talking about Lucy.
He peered around the corner and saw that it was the two City Boys that Lucy had told him about that night in the Dil Chad. They were fairly senior in the company so it wouldn’t do to put them in their place too forcibly, so he thought a quiet word was in order.
‘Hi Dan, sorry to interrupt but I couldn’t help overhearing you talking about a friend of mine. The girl you tried to chat up in the Shooting Start the other night? Have you mentioned how you were shown up by her in front of the whole pub?’ Brian could see he was getting embarrassed.
‘So, she’s a friend of yours Brian. I’ll bear that in mind.’ Dan replied sheepishly.
‘Good. Because if it happens again, I won’t be so friendly about it. Understand?’
Brian left him at the mercy of his colleagues who were now ridiculing him for being made to look an idiot. Dan wasn’t happy and he would see that Brian paid for showing him up in front of his team. He knew his son was the famous Bradley Gardner and that his family had already been dragged through the mud after his mum was caught out. Let’s see how they like it when his dad gets exposed as well.
He had a contact at one of the red tops who would love a story like this, so without hesitation, he found an empty interview room and made the call.
‘Ron? It’s Dan. How you doing? Might have a bit of gossip for you concerning Bradley Gardner’s dad. Interested?’
Of course Ron was interested. Dan told him the whole story about her being a stripper in Toppers and although he wasn’t sure they were an item, he was sure a nosy journalist like him could find out without much effort.
Ron scribbled notes and told Dan it sounded like something they would like to prove and publish. Nothing like a bit of dirt to undermine someone’s life. If he timed it right, it could put Bradley off when he played the FA Cup final against West Ham who were Ron’s team. That would be double bonus for him, he laughed. His first port of call would be Toppers to talk to some of the girls there; see how much they knew about this Lucy, or Becky as Dan had told him. There were certainly perks to this job, he laughed again as he pocketed his phone and headed for Hackney Road.
He arrived during the lunchtime rush and surveyed the pub before ordering a beer at the bar.
‘Do you now if Becky is dancing today?’ He asked the barman.
‘No, she left a while back. You a friend of hers?’
‘Not as such. A friend of mine recommended I watch her next time I came here. Shame, she’s highly recommended.’ Ron continued. ‘Do you know where she went? Is she dancing at another pub near here?’
‘Don’t think so. I heard she got out of the business altogether. No idea what she’s up to now.’ The barman told him.
Ron wouldn’t give up that easily. When one of the girls came round with the pint pot for £1 coins, he asked her the same question.
‘Yeah, I know Becky. She’s a friend of mine. Who’s asking for her?’
‘Nobody she knows. She was recommended, that’s all. Do you know if she’s working somewhere else?’
‘No, she packed it in when she met some City bloke loads older than her. She moved out of her flat recently. Think she’s moved in with this bloke. Couldn’t tell you where that is though.’ The dancer explained.
Ron removed a £20 note from his pocket.
‘Would this improve your memory?’ He asked.
‘Let’s go for a private dance. Cost you an extra twenty though.’
She led him through to the back of the pub and found an empty room with a pole going from floor to ceiling.
After accepting Ron’s money, she pressed a button for some sexy music and looked at him.
‘Her real name’s Lucy and I think this bloke lives on the Isle of Dogs. He works in some office in Canary Wharf. He met her in here and they’ve been together for a few months now. That’s all I really know.’
‘Come on, Love. I need more than that for my money. Any truth in the rumour that this bloke is Bradley Gardner’s dad?’ He pressed.
‘Who are you? You don’t look like a punter, so what’s your angle? Are you press?’ She asked.
‘I’m just someone who is interested on behalf of a friend, nothing sinister I assure you. So, do you know where she is now? Does she work somewhere else or is she a stay at home wifey?’
‘You are press. I’m not telling you another thing, now bugger off!’ She shouted to him as he got up and tried to exit the room. When he opened the door, he found a bouncer waiting for him.
‘Any problems, Love?’ The bouncer asked.
‘It’s okay Rafa, this gentleman is just leaving.’
Ron flashed her a smile and edged past the man mountain and through the bar to the street. He reckoned she must be at his place on the Isle of Dogs. That would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. He headed back to his office and did some research on Brian Gardner. It didn’t take long searching LinkedIn to find out who he worked for and what he looked like. That was a good start as it meant he could follow him home after work and maybe get to ask him a few questions. He might also see this Becky or Lucy with him which would be a bonus.
He called his photographer and told him to meet him in the lobby. There was a job to go after, he explained. On the way to Docklands, Ron filled the snapper in on what the story was about. As his cameraman was a West Ham supporter as well then he was more than up for the challenge.
They arrived outside Brian’s office around 4:30 and waited across the road for him to emerge from the building. Ron hoped this bloke didn’t like working late and was one of the 5pm rush hour merchants. The weather was starting to look a bit threatening and he had been soaked on numerous occasions staking out someone.
His wish was granted as he spotted Brian leaving the building just after five. He hadn’t noticed them so they followed discretely a short distance behind him. If he lived on the Isle of Dogs then he would either walk back or take the Docklands Light Railway a couple of stops, depending on what part of the island he lived.
As he walked straight past Heron Quays and Canary Wharf stations, Ron assumed he lived in one of the more prestigious tower blocks just south of the Wharf. Very nice, he thought.
Five minutes later and he stopped at the Millharbour block and press the security access. So now they knew what building he lived in, it wouldn’t take much to find out what number by going through Yellow Pages or the electoral role. What he wanted to see now was the two of them leaving the building hand in hand. He was already thinking up a headline.
BRAD’S DAD SHACKED UP WITH STRIPPER!
Bradley and his Mum aren’t the only ones who know how to score!
After waiting patiently in a coffee bar next to Millharbour for a couple of hours they spotted what they had come for. The door had opened and out came Brian and Becky not just holding hands, but in a full-on cuddle. Brilliant!
His photographer spun into action firing off loads of photos of the two of them in a romantic clinch, while Ron stood in front of them and asked some questions.
‘Is it true that you are a stripper, Becky? Are you and Bradley Gardner’s dad an item? Does Bradley’s mum know about this? Come on, let me have some answers! This is going to get out anyway so you might as well help yourselves by giving me your side of the story. What do you say?’ Ron pressed.
Brian looked pale as he turned around and ushered Lucy through the door.
‘Please, Brian, let’s talk. I can help you.’
‘Fuck off and leave us alone! It’s none of your business!’ Brian shouted as they waited for the lift. He would have to return Bradley’s call and tell him what happened. Oh shit! This isn’t going to go down too well.