Golden Intentions had been pure insanity.
Nevermind all of the weird shit that had gone down before the Rumble, but then Andy Murray had to pull himself out some bullshit Japanese indy where he was playing the “Legend” role in a Trios team and insert himself into the Golden Intentions Rumble just so he could take away my Wrestle Fest IV main event title shot?
Andy fuckin’ Murray?
God, did I ever want a drink. All night long it was everything I could do not to find myself a bottle and crawl into it. That wasn’t who I was anymore, though. That’s the mantra that I’d been repeating over and over ever since I found myself at the Philadelphia International Airport at two in the morning riding one of a slew of stationary bikes scattered throughout the terminals.
You may be asking yourself, “Why, only a few hours after I’d gone forty minutes in that Rumble only to get tossed out by Andy goddamn motherfucking Murray, am I riding a stationary bike at an airport?”
And my answer?
Fuck, I dunno, gotta get that cardio in when you can, right?
The struggle is real.
I had Angus book me on the redeye home. I knew that we already had tickets for in the morning but the Liberty City was already wearing on me. I rode that stationary bike like it was my only means of escape from Golden Intentions, from Andy Murray, from the Ouroboros…
From everything and everyone.
That is, until the coffee-fueled voice over the speakers informed me that it was time for First Class to board. I didn’t bring much luggage, had left it all with Angus, actually. The only thing I had was a carry-on full of my wrestling gear. You can only imagine how hard it can be to get that titanium knee brace through TSA…
Anyway, the flight(s).
Philly to Charlotte to New Orleans.
The layover in Charlotte would give me almost another hour to sit on a stationary bike, blasting Norse folk metal through my Beats by Dre and trying unsuccessfully to forget that either one of those Murray assholes had ever been born, let alone crossed career paths with me.
Oh, right, you don’t know, do you?
Andy’s not the only fuckin’ Murray that wrestles.
His squid-dick little brother Cayle broke my fuckin’ neck with a goddamn GANSO Bomb two years ago next month. Nevermind that I’d put him through a year of grief between the end of the UTA and the first six months of his run in DEFIANCE, I was trying to HELP that kid.
I was trying to show him the way.
Little fucker never would have gone on to win the FIST of DEFIANCE and lead the home team in the battle against the Mikey Unlikely and the invading UTA Roster. Not that anybody in the CWF gives a shit about DEFIANCE’s problems, but that motherfucker broke my neck.
And now here comes his big brother, sticking his nose into places where they don’t belong, and taking the proverbial “food off of my plate.” So far I haven’t decided how I’m going to get my pound of flesh out of Big Andy, but I do know that I’m going to take it.
I would say to Andy that he’d better call his brother and have Cayle teach him the fine art of the Ganso Bomb, because the only way I’m going to let this one slide is if somebody breaks my fuckin’ neck again.
My brain finally just gives up and takes a hard reset somewhere in the sky between Philadelphia and Charlotte. I’m sure I disembarked the plane, walked the terminals, purchased and consumed at least one latte, found and rode another stationary bike, and then boarded the next plane, I just don’t remember it.
That’s a thing now.
Sometimes I lose time. Hours. Whole days.
That’s the price you pay for a lifetime of concussions, addictions, and expensive tastes. I blink myself into consciousness just as Flight 232 from Charlotte to New Orleans begins making its final descent. It’s dark, the cabin lights haven’t come back on just yet. Pulling the earphones out I take a look at the less than twenty people on the flight with me. Either sleeping or just as dreary-eyed as I am. It occurs to me to wonder, if only for a moment, what these people are doing on the same flight as me.
I mean, who flies from Charlotte to New Orleans at four in the morning?
The lights gently creciendo back to full strength. The Captain is on the loudspeaker telling me that it’s now 6:42am local time, the flight attendants get busy teaching me for the eleventy-billionth time how to take off my seatbelt, open my overhead compartment, file out of the plane in an orderly fashion, oh and by the way thank you for flying the Friendly Skies…
The walk through the terminal in New Orleans is a fair bit less painful than either Philly or the Queen City had been. But then, I was home, and I do love my city. Before I have time to think I’m through two more latte’s and there’s just the hint of a pep in my step. Once outside I’m scanning for a cab, any cab, but there are none to be found. A quick check with an attendant assures me that another will be along shortly.
It’s now that I would smoke a cigarette.
But I don’t.
It’s not who I am.
That old mantra again.
Maybe if I keep telling myself, one day it’ll come true.
I doubt it.
The headphones are back in and I’m lost in Heilung when a black Navigator pulls up to the curb in front of me. Normally I wouldn’t even notice, but when the blades of the ridiculous spinning rims that you know belong to your best friend continue spinning long after the vehicle comes to a rest, well, you just can’t ignore shit like that. The driver’s side door pops open and the first thing I can see is his perfectly crafted afro, followed by a gleaming mouth full of grinning teeth.
As usual, Tyrone Walker is all smiles.
“My nigga.” I can read his lips. He’d been calling me that for years, tells me it gives me street cred. I hate to break it to him, but the minute that he started playing the stock market more than his video games he walked away from any and all forms of street cred. Of course his argument is that since he’s black, he’s immune to any and all loss of credibility in the streets.
I finally just gave up arguing with him one day.
I pull the earbuds out and extend a fist. He daps and then thumbs the button opening the automatic rear hatch so that I can stow my carry-on. Next thing I know we’re in the Navi and even with the sound cranked down as low as it could go without being off I could just feel the base from the back tickling at my cockles.
Ah, rap music, I do enjoy you so.
Just not, you know, often.
Ty drops it into gear and away we go. A few seconds pass before I utter the first words of the morning to my brother from a different colored mother.
“Fuck are you doin’ here?”
“Pickin’ you up.” he answered.
“I’m not supposed to be here for hours.”
“I know.” he grinned. This was a game that he liked to play.
“Fuck does that even mean, you know?
“Angus called.” Of course he had. “Said you took the redeye.”
This I consider. For a moment.
“Yeah, I guess he would call. Still, why the taxi service?”
He glances over at me, taking the time to try and read my mood. I know that this means that something convoluted is about to come out of his mouth.”
“Kels called, too.”
My eyes narrow. Kelly didn’t call, they lived together. I knew this, hell he knew I knew this. That he was telling insignificant lies like this clued me in even further that something was up. Having already had a shit of a night in Philly followed by a plane-ride that I can only sort of remember I wasn’t exactly at my level best at interpreting things though.
“And what does Kelly have to say?”
It was Ty’s turn to let the air out of the room, so to speak.
“She says you can’t sleep in the office anymore.”
“So here I am, black and with bells on.”
“You know,” I chuckle, ‘Kelly called’ doesn’t make anything else you’ve just said any less racist.”
The next day.
Angus Skaaland hadn’t had nearly the smooth experience on his flight from Philly to New Orleans. As a matter of fact, that he had been able to fly direct was just about the only net positive of the entire ordeal.
For starters, there was the extra two bags that he’d had to deal with. It’s not as if he wasn’t used to the whims of his employer, it’s just that some days it weighed on him more than it did on others. He sighed as he dropped everything, his own bags and Eric’s, down onto the conveyor belt at TSA.
Before he so much as made it through the metal detector, things went from bad to worse. You see, Angus had been wearing flip-flops on the flight home. Nobody at the airport in Philly seemed to care, but the squat little cajun woman blocking his way wasn’t budging on her stance, not one little bit.
“Don’t care about Philly, This’s New’ah’lins, and in New’ah’lins you be takin’ off dem shoes before you walk through dat dere metal detector.”
Angus stared blankly at her, unbelieving.
“You wan’ me ta call Airport Security?” She eyeballed him.
“Seriously. You can see NINETY GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKING PERCENT of my feet!”
It would have been about here that another TSA agent walked up. In his giant hands, because he was a very large man, were two small pill bottles. He shook them at Angus to shut him up.
“These belong to you?” The large man, identified by his badge as Johnson, had a voice as deep as the ocean. Angus looked up at him, then back down to the two amber bottles. He could see the name on the label was Eric Dane and he rolled his eyes.
“Awww, c’maaaaawn man.” Angus lamented.
Johnson raised an eyebrow.
“That’s Lisinopril, it’s blood pressure medicine, and it belongs to my boss. His name is right there on the label.” The Motormouth of Malcontent did his best to smile, it looked more like a grimace. It did not help him whatsoever.
Johnson snorted. “Looks like illicit drugs to me.”
“Uh-huh!” The squat lady, Delacroix by the name on her tag, grunted agreement. Angus tried as hard as he could but he couldn’t stop his eyes from rolling nearly all the way out of the back of his head.
It was just going to be that kind of day.
Doctors were called.
Employment was verified.
Lawyers had been involved.
Fourteen and a half hours later and Angus found himself searching for a cab in nearly the same spot as Eric Dane had been standing in when Tyrone Walker had pulled up to the curb to pick up. Angus had no way of knowing any of this, but the one thing that there wasn’t was a friendly face there to give him a ride. He dropped his and Eric’s bags and slumped down onto a concrete bench.
He flipped out his handy dandy smart device and ordered himself an uber, all the while kicking himself for even bothering with looking for a taxi. He took a long, deep pull off of his vaporizer before swiping a few more things on his phone and then making a call.
Absently, he wished the juice in his vape tasted more like a cigarette, and less like the color purple. After what felt like forever he spoke into the phone.
“Hey,” he muttered. “Yeah, they just let me out.”
“I dunno, probably cost the boss a couple grand.”
More listening. More eye-rolling.
It didn’t occur to him that rolling his eyes is what got him here to begin with.
“Yeah, I know.”
Another long pause as he visibly loses it.
“Look, Richie, I don’t fuckin’ know why I had to piss ‘em off, I just fuckin’ did. I wasn’t trying to spend fourteen fuckin’ hours at the goddamned airport but that’s the way my fuckin’ day has turned out for me.”
“Yeah, well, what I do know is that I don’t fuckin’ need this shit right now, okay? Maybe just some fucking love and I dunno, support?”
After a moment he seems to soften, just a bit.
“I know. Love you too. I’ll be home soon.”
He pulled the phone away and taps at it a few more times. More time passed before the uber finally showed up. He thought about what Rich had said, about giving up the job and the two of them traveling the world. That’s what Rich had wanted for as long as Angus had known him, hell, Rich had become a wrestler himself just to give himself the chance to travel.
But Angus was stuck.
Stuck in New Orleans.
Stuck to Eric Dane.
Just plain stuck.
The Only Star paces back and forth.
“Here’s the thing.”
He stops and gestures widely.
“I don’t have the slightest urge to fight Mia.”
A shrug is followed by a hand deftly removing the shades from his face and placing them in the collar of his shiny silver v-neck.
“Truth be told, the kid’s starting to grow on me. SHe’s cute and she’s sassy and she backs up what she says with a force of personality that one doesn’t often come across. I can see what Ataxia sees in her, though, for the life of me I can’t figure out what that guy’s deal is. Doesn’t matter though, I’m quite sure that MJ will suss him out quite thoroughly come Evolution.”
“And then there’s the 2014 Hot Topic Customer of the Year himself, The Shadow. Here’s another dude I don’t have any real beef with, hell I’ve fought side by side with him on a couple of occasions now and I can say for sure that he can handle himself. But, and isn’t there always a but? Anyhow, what the Shadow has done so far by my estimation is completely misread the relationship between myself and my finely mustachioed compatriot. Whereas he either thinks that I’ve brought Bronson in to be my muscle, or he thinks that riling up ol’ Boxer before a match is a good idea.”
He screws an eyebrow up as if to say What in the actual fuck?
“In both cases he would be wrong.”
“That, however, is not why we’re here. We’re here because somebody thought it’d be a good idea to put and Mia against each other. There seems to be a running theme here, but far be it for me to try and figure that shit out. I mean, I don’t say things like this often, but I’m starting to think that this Institute shit is a little bit above my paygrade, naw’mean?”
The pacing resumes.
“Anyway, back to Mia.”
“Word around the water cooler is that she’s pissed off at me about causing that Dee-Que in her Lumberjack Match. Now, every fucking Lumberjack Match that I’ve ever been involved with was contested under No DQ rules from the jump. However, apparently this one was different.”
He stops mid-step and grins a misunderstanding grin as his eyes go wide. It’s as if he’s pantomiming confusion. That is, until the pacing resumes.
“So look, long story short I guess I’m supposed to be sorry I fucked that match up or sorry I fucked that kid up or fuck, I dunno, sorry that my motives and actions don’t fit the status quo that the plebeians of the CWF have built up around themselves like fortress walls to keep them safe and sound from invading DEFIANTS like Eric Dane and Bronson Box.”
“Sorry, not sorry.”
He shrugs and walks toward the camera.
“What I am sorry about is what I’m going to have to do to that little goth girl if she fucks around and comes at me the wrong kind of way at Evolution. Honestly, I don’t think she will, but being a woman you just never can tell when she might do something batshit crazy, am I right fellas?”
Canned applause chimes in from somewhere, Eric winks.
“Let’s treat this like what it is, a Legend and the probably Next Big Deal coming together for a match, a nice respectable match where the Legend maybe even gets the urge to drop a little wisdom on the Up and Comer on the way to picking up his obvious victory. It’s not about the win though, really, but more the learning experience.”
He flashes that million dollar smile.
“Ain’t that right, Mia? You in the ring with your childhood hero, giggling and wondering if he’s gonna stab you in the face with a fork and giddy over the possibility! We’ll steal the show, kiddo, I’ll grab another win and you can pick up a few pointers that might help you get on the winning track sometimes down the line.
You can’t tell if he’s being genuine or a complete condescending douche. That’s his superpower, you know, keeps people on their toes. He goes on.
“So, like I said kid, I don’t wanna fight’cha, but I’m perfectly willing to help you put on what will be by far the best match you’ve ever put on. You’d better bring your dancing shoes though, because I’m for goddamned sure going to run you through all the steps before I drop you on your head, drive this knee through your skull, and pin your little shoulders down for the one…”
He holds up a finger.
That smile widens.
“It’s as simple as that.”
It wasn’t about racism, though.
Ty was trying to be funny so that he could gloss over the fact that Kelly Evans, my long time friend, confidant, former girlfriend, protege, and business partner had sent him here to tell me that I couldn’t sleep in my own office in my own building anymore.
Thing is, my office had a back room with a bed. I had it specifically built that way because at one time I was a very driven promoter and I tended to spend more time in that office than I did anywhere else, and I was drinking an unhealthy amount at the time as well, it only made sense I slept there.
Ty grinned nervously as he watched me putting this all together in my sleep-addled brain. He knew better than to press his comedy too far, though. The man was like a goddamned mind reader sometimes in his innate ability to know when to shut the fuck up.
This was one of the qualities that I very much liked about him.
“Why?”I asked after several minutes of percolating.
“Why what?” Ty pretended. I rolled me eyes.
“Don’t be coy,” I started. “And don’t play stupid.”
He eyeballed me for a moment. Returning his eyes to the road he finally answered me. His voice had a tinge of butthurt teenager in it that was probably fake but I couldn’t really tell and didn’t really care at the moment.
“For one, it ain’t there anymore.”
The fuck? How is that even a thing?
“And for two, after everything that went down with Mikey and that UTA business we had to downsize. A lot. Kelly had to let most of the office staff go.”
I hadn’t heard.
Then again, I hadn’t exactly been listening, either.
It tugged at that back of my mind that I’d let things get so out of hand. I pushed it out of my mind though, DEFIANCE may end up being my legacy in the business but I had stepped away from there and left it all for Kelly to run for a reason.
A few reasons, actually, my mental health being the paramount.
“Well then…” I didn’t know what to say. “Fuck.”
I say fuck a lot, it centers me.
Deal with it.
“Yeah.” He answered.
We rode along in silence for a while.
“Where are you taking me, then?”
More silence. He pulled the Navigator onto Rue Bourbon from Ann Street, crept down the road a bit until he slowed to a stop in front of the 1850’s townhouse with wraparound balcony that I had spent a small fortune on renovating and moving into after Katrina.