The atmosphere in the Railway Arms was so full of smoke that Sam Tyler could hardly see from one side of the bar to the other. He didn't care. He sipped his pint of bitter appreciatively and smiled at Nelson, who smiled back at him and winked.
"Not a bad day's chess, eh, Chris?" he said as DC Skelton appeared by his side at the bar, waving a pound note at Nelson for a refill.
"Yeah…" Chris replied, leaning on the bar and turning to Tyler. "Shame it all blew up when it did, though, eh?"
"How'd you mean?"
"Well," Skelton replied, "Spassky opened with his king's pawn against me, so I played a Sicilian against him, and he let me go into a Dragon, right? So as soon as I fianchettoed my bishop, he played a Yugoslav variation, and castled long, so I pushed my queen's pawn and… What's wrong?"
Tyler was staring at Skelton. "I… didn't know you knew so much about chess."
Chris Skelton chuckled a little self-consciously. "Been top board on the Manchester Police Chess Club ever since I was a woodentop. Didn't you know?"
"Bloody hell," exclaimed Tyler. "I hadn't the faintest."
"Don't talk about it much. Ray and the guv… they think chess is for jessies. But yeah. If things hadn't kicked off when they did… I'd've liked to see how Spassky played our middle game."
Across the bar, Ray Carling banged a ten pence piece into the jukebox. "Bloody hell, Nelson! Do you have nothing on here by anyone but these modern ponces like Bowie and the Sweet? No golden oldies?" He ran his finger along the buttons trying to find some music he approved of.
Nelson joined Carling at the juke box. "I got Beatles, mon."
"Bloody Scousers," was all Carling had to say to that.
Tyler and Skelton wandered over to join Carling as well. "What music do you like, Ray?" asked Tyler.
"I always liked the proper rock and roll… Elvis and Jerry Lee and… Hey, Chuck Berry! Oh shit, "My Ding A Ling." Carling groaned, but pushed the button by it anyway. "Better than any of this other bollocks, I suppose."
The word 'bollocks' made Tyler smile suddenly. "Wait till 1977," Sam Tyler murmured softly as the record swung out of the rack and into place ready for the needle.
Sam looked at the jukebox as the record started to revolve and Chuck Berry's tones began to fill the bar. He did a slight double-take as he realised what he was watching. The label design of the 45rpm record, spinning round and round in front of his nose, featured a chess knight. Round and round it went.
Round and round.
He looked away and found Nelson was watching him. As his eyes met the barman's, Nelson gave him another wink. "Hey, mon. I don' mind if you get drunk, but you be careful. Soon, you no be able to walk in a straight line no more, yeah?"
"This here song, it ain't so sad! Cutest little song you ever had!" warbled Chuck Berry as the knight went round and round on the record label, and Sam Tyler's head went round and round as he tried to make sense of things.
"And those of you who will not sing, you must be playing with your own ding a ling!"
"Your ding a ling! Your ding a ling! We saw you playing with your ding a ling!" Gene Hunt pushed his way over toward the juke box, his face red. He did not have a good singing voice, but Ray Carling and Chris Skelton joined in anyway. A moment later, so did Annie Cartwright.
"Your ding a ling! Your ding a ling! Come on, Tyler!" bellowed Gene Hunt.
And Sam Tyler's face broke into a smile as he joined in the final line of the song. The record ended and the knight on the label stopped its endless circling as the machinery returned it to its box, its job completed.