It’s Been Stalions All Along
2:33 PM EDT on October 25, 2023
Shhhh. Don't speak. Not here. Follow me to the cafe around the corner, but not too close. Stay 15 paces behind. When you get inside, order a flat white, take two sips of it at the counter, and walk directly into the kitchen.
Good, you made it. Please, sit down. We can speak freely here. This is a secure room. I used to run my Joes out of here back before the Wall came down. Not a bad place to do business, eh? Here, take a seat.
I trust you've been made aware of the Connor Stalions affair? Real mess, that one. We've more or less cracked the operation. No small feat, given the advanced tech underpinning his surveillance program—holding up his phone—and how difficult it was to trace back to him the tickets he purchased with his own credit card. A real nose for espionage on that boy. But we still haven't made any progress in locating Stalions. He's been in the wind for more than a week. I'm pacing around the ops center with my bloody pants around my bloody ankles while 17 of what I'm told are the best analysts the Home Office has to offer keep telling me what I already know: Stalions is evading us.
It's a funny thing, isn't it? Stalions is a talented operator, there's no doubt about that, but how has he stayed hidden this long? I can't figure out why Michigan hasn't offered him up yet. We've got a good relationship with their intel service—Jimmy H. takes Sunday lunch at Disraeli's house, for God's sake—and they should be just as motivated to put this whole bleeding mess in the past as we are. What better way to wrap this all up than to put the finger on a patsy? Stalions should have been dropped on our doorstep a week ago, with a pretty fuckin' bow tied around him. Yet he's still loose. I can't square it.
I couldn't square it, I should say, not until this morning, when I got my hands on this report. It was compiled by an asset I cultivated at Sports Illustrated, one of my first, and it's ... well, see for yourself:
Stalions, now 28, revealed that he was part of a small group of people—two of whom he said were at low-level positions on different college football coaching staffs—who were putting their heads together on a long-term plan to run the Michigan football program. Stalions claimed to have a Google document between 550 and 600 pages long that he managed daily, containing a blueprint for the Wolverines’ future. He referred the document as a movement more than a plan, dubbing it “the Michigan Manifesto.”
“Any idea you could ever have,” he wrote, “there’s a place where it belongs in the document. It’s super organized.”
Stalions wrote, “I think it’s pretty rare to find the right type of people who can grasp a vision of the future and want to team up and run s---. And we all got our own stuff goin on, but we all got some pretty unique approaches. Basically the way I see it, there’s a future Ohio State head coach and staff out there somewhere preparing for it whether they know it or not. And we have a group of a half dozen actively planning s--- 15 or so years out. And another dozen or two on board. So by the time it’s ready to rock, we’re all on the same page and we quickly make Michigan the ultimate standard.”Sports Illustrated
You see what this means, don't you? All this time we've been chasing our tails. We thought Stalions was just a puppet, and I've been doing my nut in trying to figure out who was pulling the strings. But don't you see it? He wasn't taking his marching orders from Jimmy H. and the rest of the boys in maize and blue, he was giving them. It's Stalions. It's always been Stalions.
I now have every reason to believe that Stalions has been running a sleeper cell that has infiltrated the highest levels of every college football program, intelligence agency, and message board in the West. Which is why I've brought you in. I can't trust anyone at the Circus, and we both know that you're still the best man we've got, no matter how long you've been out of the game.
I also know that you've already been working Stalions, off-book. Oh, don't look so surprised. I may be a fossil but I've still got eyes, don't I? I know that girl came to see you, the one Stalions banned from the message board all those years ago, and asked you for help. I also know that you've already read that report I just handed you, and that you came here today to suss out where I stand. That was smart of you. It's good to be cautious.
You've actually seen Stalions, haven't you? In Geneva. My God, what was that like? Tell me, how did it feel to see him in the flesh? It must have felt like a monster crawled from under your bed and stared you right in the eye. How I wish I could have been there. How I wish I could have seen him myself, just once.
We live in strange times, my boy, and I am sad to say that you and I are running out of time. You can stop fingering that infernal transponder you've got hidden in your pocket. Your man in the Vauxhall across the street isn't coming. Don't worry about the girl, either. We picked her up as soon as you left her flat this morning. We'll get what we need from her.
Easy there, chap! I'd stay seated if I were you. The poison that was in your flat white is one of my personal concoctions; it works slow and takes you softly, but it can cause some dizziness and I wouldn't want you to take a nasty fall. That's it, let's just get you back in your seat. There you go.
Ah, see, there we are. It's starting to take hold. Don't panic, chum. It won't hurt a bit. I'll be here with you the whole time. Let's sing a song together, eh? To help pass the time.
Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan
the leaders and best
Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
the champions of the West!
You got closer than most, my boy. Take heart in that.
Stalions sends his regards.