Blinding light pierces my eyes as I groan lowly. I open my eyes fully slowly and stretch as the sun makes its way through the hotel window. Evidently the blackout curtains weren’t going to do their job this morning. Oh well I didn’t really want to sleep another few hours anyway….yes I did, but anyway. I kick the sheets off of myself as I sit up on the side of the bed. Looking over to the nightstand I see my pack of smokes and grab the days first Marlboro, screwing the smoke between my lips I look around on the nightstand for my lighter. I don’t see it at first and look around for a bit, eventually seeing where it had fell down between the dresser and bed. I lean down, but can’t quite reach it so I lay back on the bed on my stomach and reach down far to grab it. I sit back up and nearly shit myself as a figure is standing infront of me.
“Jesus man, don’t do dat shit, gonna give me a heart attack!”
“You’d need a heart for that to happen Mr. Devereaux, your presence is required.”
Death’s gravely voice seemed sterner than even normal. That’s sort of like saying black is darker than normal, however in this case it was true. I rub the sleep from my eyes and light up my cigarette taking a drag.
“Can ya give me like turty minutes to wash up a bit and get dressed?”
“That will be satisfactory, I shall return to retrieve you shortly.”
I give him a quick nod and go back to my cigarette closing my eyes and exhaling slowly. It’s been a rough month if I’m being honest, the end of twenty eighteen and start of twenty nineteen hasn’t been going the cajun’s way. For every good thing that occured like costing Loki the match at Civil War, there were a few bad things such as the last few tag matches with Jimmy Allen. All of those matches saw me eating a lot of punishment, more than I’m use to if I’m being honest. Hell the tag tournament was grueling enough but it just led straight into beatdown after beatdown. Of course my partner wasn’t pulling his weight hence the separation, although, if we’re being honest maybe that was for the best. Jimmy was a good wrestler, but he came with a lot of baggage.
I get up from the side of the bed and head towards the bathroom, standing in front of the mirror I turn on the sink allowing the water to warm up slightly as I stare back at myself. I shouldn’t bash Jimmy too much, his baggage wasn’t all his fault, he just got caught up in Milenko’s game as well. A lot of this shit storm could fall upon ole James’ shoulders if we were being honest, however he done played himself by crossing Christopher St. James. Should've known better than try to bring CSJ into the whole mess and then play him. Now Milenko finds himself out the outs with the CWF and CSJ is now in charge or partially in charge. Not sure honestly which it is, should probably look into that. I do know he’s talking about running a new version of Hostility under the CWF umbrella, which just seems blasphemous in all honesty but I don’t care enough to say anything about it. I take my cigarette and stick the but in my ear as I splash some water on my face and give it a good rub getting all the gunk off. I grab my cigarette back and take another drag.
“Looking a lil rough dere Tobias, de cajun charm only get yew so far, might be time to clean up a bit.”
I grumble slightly to myself noticing all the stubble that’s grown out to almost a very thin beard by this point. The most facial hair I think I’ve had ever, my hair is getting a little longer than normal as well. I just sort of shrug and run a comb under the water before running it through my hair to at least comb it back. I even use the small tooth part of the comb to comb out the little bit of beard growth. It doesn’t look horrible, maybe I’ll let it grow. New year, new look, new me? Nah, I’m just too tired and sore to worry about such trivial things as of late. I take one final drag off my cigarette before tossing it into the nearby toilet. I walk out of the bathroom and head to the dresser in the corner of the room. I pull out a black undershirt and a pair of black socks.I slip the shirt on before sitting down on the edge of the bed to slip on the socks.
Things in the ring have been improving though, I was able to reconnect with Paradine from the ole sVo and Hostility days. He even agreed to team up with me at the Frozen Over pay per view. Of course we were able to take down Jimmy and his surprise partner, who I think was a surprise even for him as I don’t honestly think he had one figured out when he came down to the ring. The Australian Submission Machine has always been one of my favorite wrestlers given his gruff style and technical prowess in the ring. He’s also about the only person I know almost as smug as myself. It’s honestly like we’re the same person come from two very different worlds. That factor has made working with him always high on my “bucket list” as it were, just glad I was able to convince him to team with me. The promise of gold probably helped a lot, as that normally comes with a good paycheck and everyone likes that don’t they?
I get up from the bed and head towards the closet. I open it and start rummaging through the clothes hanging up. Pulling out a dark blue dress shirt, slipping it on as I start to do up the buttons. I have to admit that the match wasn’t exactly fair to Jimmy and Dorian. They had not long before gone through hell itself against one another. They had wounds as it were from their war previously. It was obvious that Jimmy could barely breath and needed very little attacking to the rib cage to all but stop his ability to catch a single breath. Meanwhile Dorian being the beast of a man that he is was still formidable albeit not all there after what I would imagine was a serious concussion that busted him open. Not much of a resistance against two people who their whole thing is finding a weakness and exploiting it. Might of been better off for the two’s career to just take the defeat by default that was facing Jimmy when he had no partner at all.
I leave the top couple of buttons undone before grabbing a pair of black slacks out of the closet as well. I step into the slacks and start doing them up. Looking for a belt I grab one of my dark green alligator leather belts. I start to feed it through the loops of the slacks. However the world of the CWF has only been half of my problems as of late. I wish it was the worst of my problems, but it’s not even been remotely the same. My main job has been getting rather rough. Between running into Hamish which has ignited this fire within Christian to understand his situation. Somethings in this world is best just not to know, but he’s too headstrong to listen to such advice. He is bound and determined to find the source of his power, that’s not a good thing to go nosing about, unless the bossman himself says so of course. Then we had an intruder, which I didn’t even know was possible. Death was not happy about that in the slightest took it as an insult to his dominion. Like someone just slapped him in the face then smirked about it. As one would imagine he didn’t take that too well, ripped the bastards heart out with one hand. Was terrifying and awesome in the same breath. Was a reminder that maybe I shouldn’t keep pressing my luck with him as much as I do.
I step over to the dresser once more and open the top drawer, pulling from it my forty five slipping it down the lower part of my back. I step back over to the closet and grab a black vest and slip it on. I stretch a bit to make sure the fit isn’t too snug before grabbing my fedora and duster. I sit on the edge of the bed waiting for Death to come reclaim me. Since the incident with the intruder he’s been on a bit of a war path. Keeps sending us out looking for clues on who sent the intruder. By us I do mean just me as Christian still can’t be trusted on his own for more than small errands. So I do the heavy lifting then leave him with the stuff to research and follow up on. Not that I mind too much, I did really hate the book work aspect of the job. The biggest question of course is who would send someone to take me and Christian out of the picture, let alone be willing to piss off Death himself. The next question is what is he going to do when I figure out who it was. I mean it’s gonna be someone of some immense power and when mega powers go at it, well really bad things happen, that’s the whole point of having us acting as a proxy in these wars. However I get the feeling Death took this attack far more personally than some in the past because they came into essentially his house to do it.
As quickly as a blink Death appeared sitting beside me. I about popped to my feet from the sheer startle, you’d think I’d get use to it but that really hasn't happened yet. He in the most deadpan stare just looks ahead, places a hand on my shoulder and darkness engulfs me before light shatters the darkness as I find myself in the library as we refer to it. Christian is sitting at the table already face deep in a tome the size of one of those old webster dictionaries. He’s gotten at least good at noticing the poofing in and out of the area as he throws up a couple fingers as if to say hello.
“So to what do I owe dis honor today mon amie?”
“You are to set about making some things right for me. Primarily you're going to be going to the Coliseum.”
I had been rather nonchalantly walking to the table to join Christian until the final word was spoken. I stop dead in my tracks as the color leaves my face. Christian looks up at me, seeing my reaction he immediately asks what I already know.
“What's the Coliseum?”
“It is where scores are settled.”
Death spoke with a venom dripping from his words. He had been insulted and it appeared it would be me that would pay the price. I shake off the weight of the words and put on my best smirk I can force.
“It's de official battleground for de champions mon amie. It means El Jefe here has found someone to direct his rage at and I've been selected to regulate.”
“Not exactly Mr. Devereaux, you still are no closer to finding me the culprit of the desecration of my home. So you're going to go eliminate champions one by one until someone speaks up.”
I turn towards Death, my voice crackling slightly.
“So yew mean to tell me, yews want me to go to de Coliseum, fight in de only battles where we can actual die and yew want me to basically take on everyone dere until someone fesses up for someting dat most of deme don’t even know wat is goin on? Aint dat a bit extreme mon amie? I mean dese are still people, it’s not like we’s mowing down monsters ya know?”
“They are already dead Mr. Devereaux much like yourself, only brought back to serve the purpose as champions. You do remember that is the reason you exist, just because I don’t send you to the Colisuem daily like some do their champions, never forget your role. You are a tool of my destruction, I point and you eliminate. If you are unhappy with that arrangement then I suggest just saying so and I’ll be more than happy to return you from the cold black ground in which I drug you from those years ago.”
Christian wisely just sticks his face back into the book he was reading originally. He wanted no part of this, can’t blame him for that. It is true that he could send me to hang at the Coliseum daily if he so chose, most of the entities did just that. THe “lifespan” on a champion wasn’t exactly high. Most last a year or two before being eliminated by another champion. However being the type that used me for a “higher good” as he would put it, I’ve been doing this job for several years.
“Okay mon amie, whatever yew say. I don’t tink dis is de way to be making friends and getting information. Yew know best case scenario and I run de gauntlet so to speak all it’s gonna do is make all de others mighty peeved at us. Worst case scenario I find myself back amongst de unliving. So seems like yew shooting yaself in de foot out of anger. Dat’s all I was sayin, but if dis is de course of action yew wants to do, den send me on my way.”
Death gives a toothy grin, it was honestly unsettling.
“Maybe you’re right Mr. Devereaux, very well, I will give you a little more time to do things your way. However if you don’t have me something within a week I’m sending you to to do things my way.”
With that he turned from us and disappeared down one of the many long corridors. I turned towards Christian once he was gone and sighed a breath of relief. I made my way over to the table and had a seat. As soon as my body was allowed to relax my face falls into my hands as I let out a long groan.
“So, that went well.”
I don’t even look up as one of my hands switches to flipping off Christian without removing my face from my palms.
“Yew tink dis is funny mon amie, but it not de time.”
“Yeah, sorry, just trying to lighten the mood.”
“I know, but dis is some serious shit at de moment. De Coliseum is basically a death sentence mon amie. Dere is a reason most of us don’t last dat long. I only have by keeping my head down and doing de job. Imagine every god or major entity dat has ever existed, now take about eighty percent of dat number and dat’s how many people are probably at de Coliseum right now. He want me to kill dat many people, in a row. It can’t be done, it’s just not physically possible.”
“Well then I guess we better find a lead.”
“Dere’s nothing to go on dough, Maybe if death hadn’t ripped out de cooyons’ heart so we could of asked who sent him.”
“I still don’t get why he doesn’t just bring him back and interrogate the guy.”
“Because once you’re brought back by a entity den dat is de entity dat basically owns yew soul. So only dat entity can bring you back again, and only through certain methods. Generally speaking dough, yew’d need ya heart to come back. Dat aint happening after Death rips it to shreds from your body, no?”
“So all that really tells us is that the intruder was someone’s champion.”
“Dat and it has to be someone awful powerful to feel as dough dey could poke dis bear. I mean most of dese entities have lasted so long by knowing which fights to fight.”
“Wait, are you telling me that gods can die?”
“Everyting can die if’n yews know how to kill it mon amie and Death, well he tends to know how all tings die, it’s in de job description.”
“So, what is our plan?”
“Dere’s only one ting really left to do mon amie, we need information, need to know who is making moves out dere. We spend most of our time out of dat world, however we do know someone who is neck deep in it. Maybe for a price he’d be willing to help wit some information. However I already know de price, she gonna suck awful.”
“You can’t be serious, we’re not going to really ask him for help. I mean, I don’t know much about this whole shit but that just seems like a really bad idea.”
“Hey mon amie, dere is many ways to get a job done, sometimes yew need finese and sometimes yew need de sledge hammer, ya understand? Dis is a sledge hammer moment we find ourselves in.”
“Do you even know how to find Hamish?”
“Oh yea, dere aint but one place to find him mon amie….just look for de trail of bodies, he tends to be at the end of deme.”
“Laissez les jeux aller pour toujours, mon amie.”
The room around me is darkened except for a single light that shines down on a black wooden table. Sitting beside my right hand is a simple deck of cards. To the left hand is a permanent marker. My fedora is tipped down almost covering my eyes but the smirk upon my face, leaves little doubt to the mischievous glint that would be shining in them.
“Ah Shadow, de endless supply of hot air. How good of yew to speak to me in one of my native tongues. Yew gonna make dis ole Cajun feel right at home. However we are at a disagreement when it comes to games. Yew see, yew want de games to end. Fair enough, however mon amie, our game is just beginning. You see, all dis time, yews been playing with Loki, Mia, Cheshire, or whatever de fuck dat nut bag tink she is dis week. Meanwhile I’s been playing dis game called winning. Yew see its where I go out dere and I win. Sometimes I won with Jimmay, sometimes I won by myself. However de end was always de sam, ole Tobias won.”
I grab the deck of cards and open the cellophane cover. I open the deck and pull out the cards as I start to shuffle them.
“Now dat is not to say dat dere has been no downsides, or bumps in de path. Everyone stumbles now and den, however even so, ole Tobias wins. How yew ask? Well dat’s simple mon amie, it’s all about what game yew playing. See some of dese people, dey playing the short game. I don’t blame them, they are just interested in de short term, in de immediate gratification dat dis world can bring. However ole Tobias, well I’s learned a long long time ago, dat de long game is where it’s at.”
I deal slowly out three cards in front of himself. They are a deuce, three, and ace all of spades. Sitting the deck back down to my right I reach over and grab the marker.
“See de best gamblers, all know dat sometimes, yews gotta throw a hand or two to keep de mark playing. See if I just win every hand, den de fella I’s fleecing for all his money, well he’s gonna grow mighty perturbed and he’s gonna not wanna play with ole Tobias no mo. However if I win a couple, den lose a couple, den win again. I have given him a shred of hope, dat hope, it’s a mighty strong ting, it’ll keep him coming no matter what. He don’t realize dat de hands I lost, well dey wont all dat important. Dey were throw aways as it were. So he may win ten, twenty dollars on dem two hands. However de next I’ll lure him in for forty. However he just knows dat de next big hand, gonna be his.”
I take the top off the marker and slowly and clearly write my name across the ace of spades. I slip the cap back onto the marker and wave my hand over the three cards.
“Now my favorite game is one yew may know of, it’s called tree card monte, or find de lady, or find de ace, dere a lot of terms for it mon amie. De concept is simple, it’s a test of focus. You see de ace, yew follow de ace, and den yew find de ace.”
I turn the three cards over and slowly starts sliding the cards around. The ace starts in the middle then goes to camera left, middle, right, middle, right, left, middle. I flip the middle card over and show the ace still there with my name upon it.
“Now I hear what yew tinking Shadow, what in de hell does dat have to do with yew? Well I’s glad yew asked, now in my time here, I’ve had a few ups and a few downs. However de ups, dey outweigh de downs. See I may of lost to some matches, like to dat Zach fella yew sometimes hang out wit. Or to de likes of Omega and Elijah. However, dese were simply throw away hands. Dey didn’t matter, oh no mon amie, when de game mattered, dats when ole Tobias has shined here in the cee dubya eff. When de titles were on de line, dat is when I dragged dat cooyon Jimmay threw de tournament and claimed dem. When de titles were on de line, dat is when i put your Dorian down with Paradine and held onto dem titles.”
I flip the ace back over and this time shuffle up the cards. If following along at home you would be positive that the card goes from the middle to the left, right, left, middle, right, left, middle.
“When de title was on de line against Em Jay Eff, I raised to de occasion and took her to de limit, she could not put ole Tobias down. Had it not been for dat Loki, who knows if’n yew even have dat belt around yews waist right now. Because I tell yew dis mon amie, I would of won in dem few extra minutes, and Loki wouldn’t of taken off of me, and yew damn sure wouldn’t take it off of me!”
Fire burning behind my words as I recall the slight against me that caused the whole break up within Hostility. I flip over the middle card to show the deuce of spades instead of the ace.
“Yew say dat I’m not trustworthy, dat I throw away my relationships, dat I am a hustler of people. Now mon amie, I’s gonna be real honest wit yew, dat mighty pissed me off. See I am a hustler of life, not of people, I play de game of life and I refuse to lose at it! Now if’n dat means I have to use someone once in a while den so be it, but I dont fuck over de ones dat dont deserve it! Dat Loki bitch stuck her nose in my business and cost me someting dat I was not willing to lose, so she found herself on de outside of my circle of friends as it were. Now I’s a good person to consider a friend in dis world Shadow, because I am mighty fine at alot of things dat most civilized folk aint willing to do. However dat makes me one helluva enemy at de same time. She chose to be dat enemy, not me!”
I flip over the left card exposing the three of spades.
“Milenko….he was just an employer. It may be hard for yew to understand the logic behind dis, as it seems yew have more den enough. But some of us have struggled in dis here life to get by, and dat has made us hungry, hungry to never be hungry again. So we take de jobs dat we are more den qualified for, such as being a bit of enforcement for ole Milenko. However he was never my friend,he was an employer, nothing more, nothing less. So those battles wit yew and de Forsaken, were just business. Hell I even like dat Zach kid yew keep around, not quite right in de head, but good kid. So dat relationship won’t worth a damn to me, especially when someone made me a better offer. So now I have a new employer. One dat saw it fit for me to put aside Hostiltiy’s goals as it were.”
I finally flip over the last card to reveal another deuce of spades. I smirk to the camera again.
“Jimmay, well, dat one, I’ll let yew have. He served his purpose in Hostility, and I liked him for de most part. I wouldn’t of called us friends, but we were acquaintances, and working to get there. Unfortunately his drama with yew all was bringing de team down. Now I, as I said, tend to enjoy winning especially in de long game. Jimmay, was not going to help in dat matter, so he had to be cut off. Now dat dont mean I hate him, or dat I have no good will towards him still. Just meant dat he won’t in de business sense needed no mo. He was replaced by someone who I do indeed consider a friend in Nathan Paradine. I know dat yew find dat hard to believe dat, dis hustler of people may have a friend, but dere are a few. One of dem even runs de company we both work for at de moment. Fancy dat, my boss is my friend, and I find myself with first crack at de world title. Coincidence? Who knows?”
I flip the three cards back over and shuffle them around a few times.
“What we do know is dis mon amie, it’s championship time, dat means it’s de big hand, and we done covered what happens when de big hand comes around. I’s stumbled, and I’ve shown weakness over de last few weeks. I’ve given yew dat shimmer of hope dat dis championship run is here to last. But de cards, dey been dealt, and dere is gonna be only one winner in dis here game.”
At the last few words I flip over the three cards one by one exposing the signed ace, followed by another signed ace, and a third signed ace.
Fade to black.