“Argh... oof... ooooh it stings...! Mmmm... ohh... OW!”
“Seriously?! At times, you’re such a big baby!”
“Owwwww! Ouch ouch ouch... owwwweeeowweeeeowwwwweeee!”
“Must you always prove me right so quickly and so emphatically...?”
Our scene opens up in a modern, minimalist studio apartment on what appeared to be a pleasant spring day, the hazy sunshine shining bright through wide open windows and reflecting with a wink off impeccably clean surfaces and appliances. A sleek black leather sofa sat dominating the centre of the lounge area, with a double-bed tucked away in one corner of the room, alongside a table littered with a handful of personal effects. In the opposite corner, a small yet perfectly ordered office area had been carefully constructed, complete with laptop docking station, phone charging port and a number of files and folders which looked to have been arranged and sorted to within an inch of their life. It was here where ‘The Wrestling Inspector’ Stan Summers sat, brow-furrowed, as he browsed intently through whatever document he had pulled up on the screen in front of him.
Judging by the clinical cleanliness, order and general unfussiness of the place, it was almost immediately obvious that the apartment belonged to Summers. Indeed, The Wrestling Inspector, although clearly deep in thought, appeared much more at ease than any other time he had been seen. He had even dispensed with his default suit, and was sat at his desk in dark chinos and a navy polo shirt.
“Oh no, you carry on. Wouldn’t want your concern for my wellbeing to get in the way of whatever crucial business it is that you clearly need to attend to at this very moment...!”
The voice of ‘The Enforcer’ Scott Dann, dripping with sarcasm, came echoing out from the apartment’s bathroom, the door of which sat slightly ajar at the opposite end of the room from the seated Summers. There was pause, during which the only sound or movement came from the rhythmic tapping of fingers on laptop keys, before Dann appeared, leaning against the open doorway.
The Enforcer stood, naked from the waist up, wearing only a pair of gym shorts, as he stared over at his apparently oblivious host. His bare chest clearly showed a number of the war wounds he had suffered at last week’s CWF Evolution show at the hands of Quentin Scarboro, the multicoloured bruises and half-healed cuts thrown into sharp relief against the bright sunshine flooding into the room.
Stan, though, seemed completely ambivalent to Scott’s condition, a fact that seemed to rankle with the big man, as the sarcastic onslaught continued:
“No no, seriously, do continue! Why break tradition, eh? You didn’t come rushing to my aid on Tuesday night, why bother now?!”
“Are you quite finished?”
Summers spoke coldly, blithely, still steadfastly refusing to take his eyes from the screen in front of him. The Enforcer’s patience was wearing thin.
“Finished...?” Dann asked, his voice rising in pitch and volume as he stood more upright in the bathroom doorway. “Finished?! I haven’t even fucking started, pal! Don’t get me wrong, I get that there’s no honour amongst thieves, and I’m well aware of my role in this partnership, but seriously Stan... a little support here and there wouldn’t go amiss.”
More tapping. No reaction.
“I mean, let’s face it, Tuesday went from awesome to awful quicker than you could say ‘failed inspection’” Scott said matter-of-factly. “Scarboro was outfought, outmatched, and outclassed, and only your compassion in stepping in and ensuring the referee stopped the match prevented me from ending his career.
“And yet he had the gall to be pissed off at me? Powered by some kind of misplaced righteous anger, he decided to take matters into his own hands, and took a shortcut to accomplish what he couldn’t do when the playing field was level, inside that ring, man to man. Put simply, he revealed his weakness to the world.”
The Enforcer made his way across the room, still limping and wincing slightly as he did so, before settling himself on the edge of the bed. He placed his elbows on his thighs, thrusting his chin into his palms, staring forwards with a slightly faraway look in his eyes.
“Yet the fact of the matter is that, when all was said and done, it was me who was left laying at the end of the night. It was me who was embarrassed in front of the thousands of fans in Phoenix.” Dann turned towards the still-seated Summers. “And it was you who didn’t do a damn thing about it.”
Another pregnant pause, as Summers scribbled something on a nearby Post-It; finally, The Inspector turned and regarded his enforcer with an impassive look.
“I can’t disagree with anything you’ve said, Scott.” Stan said. “But your little tirade there just highlights exactly why I’m the world-wise inspector, and you’re essentially the hired muscle.”
Dann snapped his head upwards and opened his mouth to retort, looking furious. Stan stopped him with a single, authoritative raise of the hand, before continuing on:
“In many ways, you’re very similar to our dear Mr Scarboro. You’re instinctive, impulsive, constantly living in the moment and reacting, sometimes rashly, to everything happening before you. That’s not a knock on you, either – it’s one of the things that has made you into the powerful, dominant force that you are.
“But it’s up to me to harness that force effectively, and to do that it is vital that I be the one to step back, to consider the bigger picture, and to recognise that sometimes, a battle must be lost in order for the war to be won.”
Summers dropped down to his haunches, placing both of his hands on Dann’s shoulders and staring at The Enforcer until their eyes met in stereo stares of determination.
“We are winning this war, Scott. Exactly as you said – every time our paths cross, Quentin reveals another weakness, another chink in the armour that allows us to dig a little deeper into his damaged psyche, his tortured soul. Little setbacks like the conclusion of last week’s show are mere bumps in the road as we speed towards our ultimate goal of transforming the CWF into the perfect wrestling federation. Free from faults, perfection personified; a company completely modelled in my own image.”
Scott Dann stared once more into the eyes of the man who had led him so effectively and efficiently up to this point; eyes which normally framed a cold and calculating face, but which now burned brightly with unbridled passion. A wave of doubt seemed to pass over Scott’s face as he regarded The Inspector’s unusual expression with trepidation, but eventually The Enforcer’s look changed into one of determined satisfaction.
The two men stood in unison, sharing a nod, before Scott spoke again, this time in a lighter tone.
“You’re right, we need to look on the bright side, and look ahead.”
Scott stepped over to the wide window by the bed, which provided a panoramic view of the sprawling city outside.
“Next week’s Evolution has presented us with the ideal follow-up to last week’s redemption, and a further opportunity to right the wrongs of Confliction. Dann vs Paradine – take two.”
Scott glanced over his shoulder with a knowing smile.
“I imagine you’re itching to tell me everything I did wrong at Confliction, and the preparations we need to put into place to ensure the right result second time around, yeah?”
An uncomfortably long silence followed, causing Scott to turn away from the window and back in the direction of Summers. The Inspector had actually turned away from his enforcer, and was now tapping away intently on a retro-looking flip-phone. His attention, quite obviously, was not on the upcoming Dann / Paradine rematch.
“So... errr, Stan...” Scott faltered slightly as he spoke again, clearly rattled by Stan’s aloof attitude. “What are we doing? What’s the plan?”
Summers closed the flip-phone with a dramatic ‘SNAP’, before turning on his heel and facing Scott Dann once more, an unreadable expression on his face.
“I have some... preparation... of my own to do...” Stan said mysteriously.
Scott looked questioningly back, frowning at Stan’s evasiveness.
“What?” Stan shot back almost instantly. “You’d do well to remember that I’m your boss, Scott, and not your babysitter. Sometimes I wonder if you can tell the difference...”
Stan pocketed his phone and gathered up keys, laptop and the classic clipboard from the table in one fluid movement, before throwing open the front door with a flourish.
“I have important business to attend to. We’re flying down to New Mexico tomorrow morning. I’ll see you at the airport. What you choose to do between now and then is up to you. Use the time wisely, though, OK?”
He gave Dann a final curt nod, before turning and disappearing out of the front door of the apartment, leaving The Enforcer staring out of the still-open door, looking utterly dumbfounded.
I stepped out into the Spring early-afternoon sunshine, letting the door of Stan’s apartment shut softly behind me. Pulling a jacket roughly over the top of my wifebeater vest, I looked down from the top of one of San Francisco’s many hills, and across the idyllic, sun-kissed cityscape below.
Well... judging by all of this, WIRE must be treating Stan pretty well... and certainly paying a pretty penny...!
I pushed a pair of sunglasses on, and began to walk pretty aimlessly down the street, hands thrust roughly into jacket pockets as I mused.
I couldn’t help but think that something... nay... everything was off with Stan lately. It’s not been an instant change, which probably explains why I hadn’t noticed it at first. But the more I thought back to his mindset, and his actions over the last few weeks, it was unmistakeable. Everything was just... off.
Don’t get me wrong, as long as we’ve known each other, we’ve never really been bosom buddies – we were employee and employer, after all. But equally, you didn’t have to get super close to Stan to understand him. He was hardly an enigma. Solidly dependable, unbelievably predictable, and consistently easy to read; Stan rarely deviated from ‘the norm’.
However, on reflection, over the past few weeks, it had been increasingly obvious with Stan’s mindset and his actions that something different was going on behind those grey glasses. As much as I was struggling to put my finger on exactly what the specific issue was, there was no denying that something big and out-of-the-ordinary was brewing under the surface with Stan...
I stepped briskly aside to give enough room for a hand-holding couple to pass alongside me on the sidewalk, not even raising my head as I shook my head roughly from side to side, almost as if trying to physically banish those thoughts from my head.
I’m probably wasting my time mulling it all over in my head, though. At the end of the day, Stan was right – I should stick to what I’m good at, leave the thinking to him, and not worry myself about ‘maybes’ and ‘what-ifs’. It was important to keep reminding myself that I’m paid to do one thing, and that certainly wasn’t to doubt or question the motives of my superiors. Lord knows, that sort of thing had gone me into trouble in the past...
No... it wasn’t worth worrying about. What was worth thinking about was my upcoming rematch versus Nathan Paradine - the man who had spoilt my one and only chance to make the perfect first impression in my CWF debut.
I had to give it up for the cretinous convict at Confliction, he was a tenacious bastard – no matter how hard or how often I hit him, he just kept coming back for more. There was no doubt in my mind that I got it bang on the nose when I said that ‘The Australian Submission Machine’ was faulty – unfortunately, his major malfunction at Confliction clearly meant that that he was unable to comprehend the beating I was dishing out, unable to fully compute the pain he was in. As a result, he was able to opportunistically take advantage of my frustration, capitalise on a momentary lapse in my concentration, and escape with a fortunate victory.
Unfortunately for Paradine, I knew that lightning would not strike twice; I was doubly determined to expose the Nondescript Nomad as the inflexible, overrated fraudster that I knew he was.
The fact of the matter was that Paradine’s recent good form had nothing to do with his ability or tenacity, and everything to do with his opponents’ complacency. I’ll admit, I was guilty of it too – being lulled into a false sense of security by his brash bravado and stubborn desire to stick to a single gameplan. Sure, that gameplan was a pretty solid one. But you’ve gotta change with the times, lest you become a footnote in history. Paradine has proven himself unable to change, therefore this Tuesday night, at Evolution, he’ll be consigned to history, right there at The Enforcer’s feet.
I had wandered on for many minutes, and almost a mile down the road, as I had become lost in the intoxicating thoughts of revenge and redemption. I looked up, blinking into the sunlight, and realised I had meandered into the local Sigmund Stern Park – a vast expanse of green space, currently occupied by a huge array of different people and different activities. I gazed around, taking in the crowd, and quickly came to the realisation that I had stumbled straight into the middle of a massive game of Ultimate Frisbee!
Why always me...?
As I stood wondering how exactly it was that I managed to consistently get myself into these ridiculous situations, the contest was in full flow around me, competitors of all shapes and sizes throwing, leaping and somersaulting around in what was one of the most ridiculous displays of athleticism that I had seen a long time... and that’s coming from a professional wrestler!
I watched the game with some interest for a couple of moments, and before long the Frisbee came haring through the air, straight for me. I snatched it out of the air with a flourish, looking down at it with a smile.
“Yo! Good catch bro! Wanna play?”
I looked up to see a scruffy looking college student shuffling towards me, holding his hand out towards the waiting crowd of Frisbee-ists.
I returned the Frisbee with style, confused at the disappointed look that was returned, as the guy looked around at his Frisbee-throwing brethren, before back over my shoulder, and finally back to me.
“Awww shit...” he mumbled. “Teams are already, like, perfectly balanced, man. You’d be messing with the Chakra if just you joined. Know what I mean, dude.”
If I was being completely honest, I couldn’t say I did know what he meant. I got the gist though – he needed two of us to play to keep the teams even. No worries, I thought.
“Hey, that’s cool.” I replied, looking round. “Fancy learning a new skill, Stan?”
I looked over both shoulders, laughing in spite of myself; my laughter quickly tailed off though, when I realised and remembered that Stan wasn’t with me.
I scowled, the recent memories of Stan’s entitled face and pompous words from earlier coming flooding back. Stood here, now, alone, I couldn’t help but seethe at Stan’s selfishness... at his... betrayal.
I gazed around at my surroundings, and couldn’t help be drawn to all of the small yet noticeable acts of selfishness unfolding right before my eyes; over on one side of the park, a young guy, who had clearly enjoyed a growth spurt years ahead of his friends, was embarking on what looked to be one of many sparkling individual runs in the midst of a friendly game of American Football, whilst his disgruntled teammates looked on with envy. Fifty yards or so away, a suave looking guy in his mid-twenties was putting his dog through its paces, getting it to perform a variety of impressive-looking tricks – not a selfish act on the face of it... until you catch sight of the nearby attractive-looking female, who the would-be dog trainer is clearly so desperate to impress.
Selfishness... everywhere you look, selfishness. For all his faults, at least Summers wasn’t the only one guilty of the moral crime. Thinking of everything I’d seen so far during my CWF stint, and looking around at this microcosm of the world, it was clear and obvious to me that selfishness was nothing more than an ugly necessity; practically a pre-requisite to get where you want.
And something else was becoming abundantly clear – it was time that I stopped thinking about others, stopped worrying about how others perceived me... even Stan! It’s time I started doing things for me.
No longer will Scott Dann be an afterthought in Stan Summers’ CWF crusade. Starting from Evo 46, Scott Dann will start his own crusade, waging war against the infidels and the do-gooders of this world, in an attempt to pardon Scott Dann of the sin of apathy and mediocrity.
Nathan Paradine will be the first victim in this crusade, the first in a line of opponents put before me with the sole purpose of clearing my conscience, making the Scott Dann warpath deadlier, and more impactful.
The Frisbee had flown toward me at speed once more, but this time I wasn’t as agile, having been lost in the intoxicating thoughts of starting my own CWF crusade. As a result, the disc had clunked squarely against the side of my head, before falling sadly to the ground in front of me.
“Heyy! Sorry dude... could you, like, throw it back?”
I looked down at the Frisbee laying atop the lush grass, before raising my head slowly and regarding the same shaggy haired student who had approached me not five minutes before. A flicker of a smile danced across my lips as I took in his vacant gawping expression, which only intensified as I calmly thrust my right foot straight through his beloved Frisbee, causing it to shatter into several vibrant yet useless shards of plastic.
“HEY! What was that? What the fuck’s going on, man?”
I’ll tell you what’s going on, my moronic mate.
Playtime is over. And the war is about to begin.