Tacoma General Hospital, a hospital like countless others around the world, beige walls, grey/beige floors, beige doors, enough to drive the sunniest mood into a drab depression. The Shadow and Myfanwy are stepping out of an elevator, heading towards the information desk when Christian Fagermo approaches them from one of the corridors leading outwards from the central room.
Christian Fagermo: Over here.
The Shadow: How is he?
Christian: Somewhat ok, they put him into an artificial coma right now, they are suspecting some swelling of the brain because of repeated hits.
Myfanwy’s face grows stern.
Myfanwy: How serious do they think it is?
Christian: They are pretty sure he will fully recover pretty quickly, but it is a precautionary measure.
The Shadow nods gravely.
The Shadow: Can you stay here, please, I’d want someone he knows to be here when they wake him up.
Christian: Of course, I will let you know if anything happens.
Myfanwy: What if whoever did this would want to come back?
Christian: Oh, don’t worry, I’m not alone here, the Cederberghs are here, too, and you know that to get through them, they’d have to bring more than what we’ve seen so far.
A faint smile comes to The Shadow’s face.
The Shadow: Good, thank you, it’s much appreciated. We better get going, we have some things to take care of before we can go to Sacramento.
He gives Fagermo a quick pat on the shoulder before turning back towards the elevators, deep in thought.
A sitting room in a bed and breakfast in Sacramento, proof again for The Shadow’s dislike of big hotels. A bay window is overlooking the American River, the Sacramento skyline partially obscured by rain. Myfanwy is seated in a comfortable looking couch facing the window, while The Shadow is pacing back and forth, brow furrowed, looking almost haunted.
Myfanwy: Please sit, you are going to wear out the carpet.
The Shadow: He hit something out there. Something sensitive. He came too close to their liking.
Myfanwy: Ever since they showed up, they have been kind of freaky.
The Shadow continues to pace.
The Shadow: Yes, they’ve been unpredictable at best and they seem to have come in with a purpose, I just have no idea what that purpose could be. They seem to have a particular beef with Elijah and Omega, though, which is odd. I’ve never heard or seen of them around the two before.
Myfanwy: It almost feels like they are working for someone and were sent to CWF for a reason.
The Shadow stops dead in his tracks.
The Shadow: Working for someone?
Myfanwy: From what you told me, Elijah and Omega have not exactly only made friends out there in their past.
The Shadow: No, they haven’t. There are several things that feel fishy about this and strangely familiar. The modus operandi reminds me so much of what the SSRI used to do, with the strange attacks and the arcane incantations and then Eris crucified upside down…
Myfanwy: Are you trying to say that they are back?
He shakes his head and finally sits down next to her.
The Shadow: Nobody has heard anything from them in months, basically since that coup in Pierreia, it’s almost as if they had vanished from the face of the earth.
Myfanwy: Was there ever any proof that they were gone and broken up?
Again he shakes his head.
The Shadow: No. And that’s why I have a bad, bad feeling about this. Look at what happened to Sanford. I don’t want to send someone else into their doom, we’ve seen with him that scruples are not exactly their strong suit.
Myfanwy: But what do you want to do then? Go yourself?
The Shadow: I don’t know.
He puts his elbows onto his knees, burying his face in his hands.
The Shadow: I don’t know. This is hitting too close to home in some ways, it almost feels like--
Myfanwy puts her hand on his arm.
Myfanwy: --like he is back?
His head whirls around to face her.
The Shadow: HE is back?
The Shadow: I-- I had this feeling, too, but with no news at all for months…
Myfanwy: Evil never dies…
With a grave mien he slowly nods.
The Shadow: If it indeed is him, then I’m afraid we’ll be in for a lot more than what we’ve seen so far. He was ruthless on a good day, now imagine him being back with a vengeance. It would all make sense.
He looks Myfanwy in the eyes as he takes her hand into his.
The Shadow: If it is him, then may the Lord have mercy with us, because he will not…
Fades to black.
The clouds are still hanging low over Sacramento, a steady drizzle making the air feel colder than it actually is. The streets of Old Sacramento are glistening with the moisture, but the usual hustle and bustle of the historic downtown district feels subdued, as if the grey weather muted the colours and dampened the spirits of both the locals and the visitors. Verandas and extended roofs protect the old wooden sidewalks from most of the drizzle, even though the wind still drives enough of it to ensure everything is coated with a sheen of humidity.
Myfanwy: Ooh, can we try them out, please, please?
The redhead is pulling The Shadow towards a black storefront with the sign “Railroad Fish & Chips”.
Myfanwy: There are so few places that do this the right way over here!
The Shadow: Do you really think they’d consider this athlete’s food?
Myfanwy: It’s fish, fish is good for you, so stop complaining.
He chuckles as he follows her into the establishment.
The picture cuts to them sitting in front of the restaurant, on one set of the built in tables and benches that extend past the boardwalk to the edge of the street, both with a basket of steaming hot fish and chips in front of them. Myfanwy gives a slight yelp as she burns her fingers, trying to dig in right away.
The Shadow: Geez, you’d think you hadn’t eaten in a week or two!
Myfanwy: I’m hungry, ok? Can’t a girl enjoy a meal?
He laughs out loud.
The Shadow: I have learned a long time ago not to stand between a woman and her food.
She looks at him with mock indignance.
Myfanwy: What is that supposed to mean?
The Shadow: Exactly what I said.
Myfanwy scoffs at him as she takes a bite of the fish. She immediately rolls up her eyes.
Myfanwy: Oh my God, this is good, try it!
Doing as he was told, The Shadow bites into the golden fried fish strip.
The Shadow: Wow, this IS good!
Myfanwy: So you doubted me.
Holding his hands up in defense he shakes his head as he takes another bite.
Myfanwy: Good. Have you heard anything from Sanford?
The Shadow: Yes, the doctors are happy with the progress and are considering waking him up from the coma in a few days.
Taking another bite, she swings the fish strip like a conductor’s baton.
Myfanwy: I hope that this puts you at ease at least a bit, you have a match to focus on!
The Shadow: Yes, I know, and it’s going to be a tough one. Jimmy is a fierce competitor, even though his quest for redemption might weigh on his mind as well.
Myfanwy: He seems genuine about it, though.
The Shadow: Yes, but he burned more than just one bridge, so I am sure I am not the only one on his mind.
Myfanwy: There is that. So, let’s focus on this fish first, I just wish they had the chips cut the right way, and then you can dig into Jimmy, ok?
He nods and continues to attack the fish in front of him.
The drizzle has finally stopped and the sun is breaking through the cloud cover in a few places, even though it is not enough to drive away the humidity in the air. The Shadow is still in front of the Railroad Fish & Chips restaurant, Myfanwy at his side. He looks as serious as ever, focusing on the camera.
The Shadow: So Jimmy Allen... It is interesting to see how things sometimes play out. Last week you came to see me in your quest for redemption and to atone for the “sins” you committed and this week we meet in the ring in the pursuit of the title I’ve been holding. Well, one of them at least.
Things have been, let’s say, interesting since we first met. I still vividly remember when you hand delivered Jace Valentine, may he rest in peace, to us after they formed the Glass Ceiling, together with your, what did you call them, uncles. Dorian and you were old friends that reunited after a long time, you began to make a name for yourself in CWF and then - so many things have happened since then and I am still not sure why.
He puts one finger up.
The Shadow: You turned on Dorian, quite viciously actually.
A second finger goes up.
The Shadow: You joined the Hostility mob and teamed up with Tobias.
The Shadow: All of a sudden your alliance is gone as if someone snapped a finger and lifted the veil. So which Jimmy will be in the ring across from me here in Sacramento? Now I know that I said last week that I believed you and was giving you the benefit of the doubt and I still stand by my word. But that being said, the seeds of doubt have been sown by you many months before.
There is no doubt about your wrestling abilities, it is not coincidence that you managed to attain the tag team titles quickly in your surprising team-up with Tobias, and while I know only too well how much stress and outside factors can take over your focus and distract from what is important within the federation, I know that you have not all of a sudden forgotten what to do once that bell rings.
He shifts a bit and leans forward, closer to the camera.
The Shadow: But once bitten, twice shy, right, Jimmy? I know that you do not expect people to forgive you and what you’ve done, but even if they did, would they forget? No, betrayal like this is not something that is easily forgotten and something that will cast its shadow over you and your actions and words for a long time still. You said it yourself, friendship and trust are fragile things indeed and especially if you don’t just crack them, but take a sledgehammer to them, it takes more than just some band-aids to glue them back together and hope that they will stick.
You see, if someone fell for the lure and promise of power and money once, who can say, if they might not succumb to the same temptation for a second time? Not that I think that the probability was high that it would, but sometimes the conscience can only withstand so much…
In your attempt to atone you are making the rounds, trying to rebuild the bridges you had burned, with Dorian, with Chloe, with me, with everybody that was affected by your temporary blindness caused by Milenko and Hostility. And isn’t funny how everything coincided when he first burst into this federation, taking everything by storm, pulling people on his side and trying to enact his revenge on us for something that lay way in the past? And now just as sudden as he had come in, he is gone and so is Loki, Christopher St. James rode in like the knight in shining armour and all evil seems to be swept away.
He makes a hand motion as if something is flying away.
The Shadow: Now most people will see me as the favourite in our match, the man that went from not being able to hold on to a belt for longer than a week to the one that has been holding both Paramount and Heavyweight since Frozen Over now, while you are the underdog, having been singled out as one of the culprits, one of the bad guys of Milenko’s regime of terror. You managed to advance to the second round by decree of getting a second chance after technically already having been eliminated and taking the opportunity and running with it.
Then you faced Amber Ryan, one of the toughest cookies this federation has ever seen and once more came out victorious. Suddenly the crowds are cheering for you, the comeback kid that is living a new American dream, grasping for the straws and pulling yourself out of the mire of defeat. And look at yourself now, facing off against the champion who has everything to lose and nothing to gain really, other than advancing to the next round, where he will be in the same situation over again?
You are the one that has nothing to lose, heck, you had already lost and are still here, so anything beyond that first match already is a triumph for you and you just manage to prolong the parade. You lose against me and you can still celebrate for getting as far as you did. I lose against you and not only is the Heavyweight title gone, but I will just go down into the almanacs as the champion that could not overcome the underdog and fell from his throne on top of CWF’s Mount Olympus.
He brushes a strand of hair aside that the wind, which is now sweeping through the Old Sacramento district, had blown into his face.
The Shadow: You might think that the whole situation around Sanford and the potential implications of the SSRI still lurking in the darkness beyond the surface might be enough of a distraction for me to not be able to give you my full, undivided attention. But rest assured that you will not have to worry about me not being 100% focused on you and you alone. I have dealt with them before and they are probably about the biggest distraction they could be, and I managed to get through it.
Like I said, I believe that you have seen your wrongdoings and are genuinely intent on putting everything back together, but when we meet in that ring at Evolution, expect no mercy. It does not matter to me then, if you are friend or foe, if you are the favourite or the one everybody expects to lose. The goal is the same and that is to carry this title into Oakland. I will help you whichever way I can to rebuild the trust you had lost and believe in you and your genuineness, but don’t mistake that for getting any reprieve once the bell rings.
Your dream to become the new champion is about to turn into a nightmare, after all they don't call me the weaver of dreams for nothing...
Fades to black.
"The concession stands are now selling those cheap hotel room round soap disks that I have personally blessed for $100’s a bar….AND SINNERS….I suggest you buy one, and use it, because if you think your God wants you in his heaven smelling like a 3am New York City uber ride you got another thing coming."