The sound of thunder greets us as the picture slowly fades into almost total darkness. As the rumble recedes the rush of rain and the howl of wind replaces it, with sharp bolts of lightning illuminating the dark scene, blinding the beholder and bathing Ravenhearst Manor in its ghastly light. The Manor is sparsely lit and as the camera zooms in to the study, the window is still partially open despite the onslaught of the wind in an attempt to get some cooler air inside while trying to avoid flooding the place. Inside The Shadow is sitting with Sanford, dark shadows under his eyes.
Sanford Thibodaux: Are you sure it’s a good idea to keep flying back and forth? You look like you could fall asleep on the spot.
The Shadow: They call me The Shadow, might just as well look like one, no?
Sanford: Haha, very funny. So what are we going to do with DJ?
The Shadow: Right now he’s more leverage than really a source for info, he will not talk.
Sanford: If you would have let me strap him to the lightning rod like I wanted to…
The Shadow: Frying his circuits won’t serve any purpose.
Sanford: I gue--
At this moment a mighty thunderclap shakes the foundations of the manor while a lightning seems to hit something close-by as simultaneously all lights inside the house go out and a spray of sparks can be seen outside.
Sanford: Holy fucking fuck! What the living hell?
The Shadow: Guess upstairs didn’t approve of your plan either.
Sanford: Now what?
The Shadow: Now we do what we do best. We improvise.
Sanford: What do you mean?
The Shadow: Since DJ won’t talk, all we can really do is use him to flush out Stewart.
Sanford: What about Ataxia?
The Shadow: Ataxia’s on remote control, he won’t really know where she is. Stewart is the ke.
Sanford: Do you think he’ll be in Kingston?
The Shadow: No. He won’t risk getting anywhere close right now, so no, you don’t have to drag DJ to Jamaica. Speaking of which, how the hell did you get him out of Cuba to begin with?
Sanford: Well, let’s just say that it pays off to know a few people of Cuban descent back home. And if there is a bit of money involved, you can get anything in Cuba.
The Shadow: OK, I feel that I probably should not know more about this than I already do.
Sanford: Your feeling is right, boss. But rest assured, nobody got hurt or jailed in the process.
The Shadow chuckles in the darkness.
The Shadow: Good. So now at the other matter at hand.
Sanford: Dan Ryan?
The Shadow: Yep. Mr. Ego himself. Well, you know what they say, the higher they come, the harder they’ll fall. And bottomless pit season has opened.
Sanford: Excellent. Now let me light a fire or something, this darkness is a little unnerving.
Moments later a clang reverberates through the room, followed by a heavy thud and groan.
The Shadow: Found something?
Sanford: Oh shut up.
The Shadow: At least the floor broke your fall.
Sanford: Will you stop it?
In that moment a flashlight turns on, showing Sanford sprawled out on the floor, his foot caught in a table leg.
The Shadow: Does this help?
Sanford: For fuck’s sakes, you had one the whole time?
The Shadow: Yes. But you didn’t ask, so…
Sanford: That’s it, I quit!
The flashlight goes out again.
The Shadow: It’s your choice, good luck finding the door.
Sanford starting to laugh hard is the last we hear as the sound fades out.
The National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. Night has fallen, but the infield is still brightly lit with hundreds of busy workers setting up the ring and rigging for the lighting and sound system for CWF’s Evolution 57 taking place on Tuesday. Somewhere in the distance a clock tower strikes once to indicate that it is 1 am in the morning, the temperature still a sweltering 30 degrees (86 for the Fahrenheit fans out there). The camera slowly turns and shows The Shadow sitting in one of the seats in the top row, cloaked in the twilight of the night mingling with the bright lights of the stadium. He is looking down at the busy worker ants, yet at the same time his stare is as vacant as someone deeply lost in thought. Without acknowledging the camera, he begins to speak.
The Shadow: Three days until I will stand in what will be the ring down there. Against Dan Ryan - the man that took the title off me. Wait, you actually did not. You beat Duce Jones and won the title that way, you never actually beat me. I know that this is a common occurrence in these multi man kerfuffles, but you hold the title I never actually lost…
At this moment he turns his head and focuses on the camera, the look on his face dead serious.
The Shadow: But that holds no importance right now, the only thing that counts is the match. Nobody else in the ring but you and me. No title on the line, no crazy stipulations. The Ego Buster. What does that even mean? You bust other people’s egos but hitting them with your own ego that has its own postal code? An old trope for sure, but look at yourself. You are an aging monument that the ravages of time are gnawing on, chipping away here and there and revealing cracks that you did not even know where there.
Oh, without a shadow of a doubt--
He briefly chuckles.
--you are a highly decorated veteran that has been ducking and diving around the federations of the nation and beyond. Towering over your opponents, kicking them to the curb one by one and collecting the gold wherever you went. If I counted correctly, CWF is the tenth federation you have held a title. An impressive feat? Definitely. Something that counts for our match? Not in the least.
He gets up and slowly walks along the top of the stadium.
The Shadow: I am assuming that you will feel that your pedigree does hold a good amount of weight, but look at me. Do I brag about having run the gauntlet throughout Modern Warfare? No. Why? Because while it was an impressive feat, it does not mean one thing when we step into the ring. The past is the past. While not forgotten, it is buried. Yet you rarely fail to drag up the memories of bygone years. Only very recently this has somewhat changed, coinciding with Lindsay Troy appearing on the stage.
Is she enough of a distraction or is she herself your past incarnate coming back to give you your fix of what once was? Either way, you are still living in the past, clinging to former glory in a vain attempt to impress the younger, less experienced wrestlers. Make them feel scared of the oh so great “ego buster”, when you actually aren’t doing anything but deflect the truth of you having gone way past your prime.
He reaches a poster for the event with Dan Ryan, showing off his cockiest smile and his belt.
The Shadow: Oh sure, you have been holding that belt in your clutches for quite a while now, I’m not saying that you don’t have any juice left in you. And in all honesty, look at the last, what, two months, our trajectories could hardly have gone more in different directions, with your latest blaze of glory starting as my shooting star faded away. You standing firmly in the spotlight of the federation, the knight in shining armour, while I have scoured the shadows, the dark alleys in search for a damsel in distress.
The bookmakers are clear in their odds, I’ve barely featured in anything worthwhile, while you’re still at the top. I should be easy pickings, shouldn’t I? Distracted by the war with Ataxia and the puppet masters behind him, distracted by still not having found Myfanwy, distracted by the last fragments of the Forsaken having broken away. A former husk of a champion, right?
He points at himself, fake shaking like a weakened warrior close to his death.
The Shadow: Well, it is true, I have faced a lot of distractions of late and feel free to view me as an easy prey. It’s what Nathan Paradine thought last week as well and look where it got him. I have been thrown a lot of lemons over the course of the last few years, but yet I am here, still standing. I have met greater challenges than the Ego Buster and I will continue to meet greater challenges than you, Dan.
The camera zooms in on him and his icy stare.
The Shadow: No, I am not arrogant enough that you will just discount me and I will be the proverbial David slaying the mighty Goliath, but at the same time you’ve been known for your attitude and let’s be honest, an old dog might be able to learn new tricks, but this ain’t one that the big Dan Ryan is going to. It’s as they say, there is a narrow ledge between confidence and arrogance and to be perfectly frank, we have all seen which side you are more prone to falling off of.
Anyways. Enjoy the sun, enjoy the sights of Jamaica, Dan, because once Evolution 57 rolls through, you will spend more time licking your wounds than celebrating on the beaches… The black flame is burning bright and prepare for Nightfall…
At these words he lets himself fall backwards and over the railing into the darkness beyond, the cameraman bracing himself for the sound of a body hitting the concrete below, but there is nothing but the sounds of the workers inside the stadium as the picture fades to black.