Desperate times, as they say, call for desperate measures.
For Lindsay Troy, this meant flicking a little pointed star of pain into Mia Rayne’s back to save Dan Ryan’s from a concussion or - worse - a broken neck.
She’d seen the set-up from her recovery point in the crowd, where Mia had gotten the better of her in their fisticuffs out there. The One Woman Party Favor rocks Ryan with a chair, taken from one of the CWF Faithful fortunate enough to afford closer seating than those in the bleachers a little further back. A bloodied and downed Ego Buster’s head is sandwiched between the open seat back and Mia backs up to the ropes, getting the crowd behind her. Dan looks out of it, not able to fight back.
Brandon Youngblood, Mia’s first chairshot victim, is slowly coming-to, but he won’t get there in time to intervene.
A switch flips in Troy’s brain and she’s off and running, ripping tape from her arm as she goes.
These little things hold sentimental value; given to her by her uncle as a child, Troy has practiced and mastered shurikenjutsu throughout her years of martial arts training. Since becoming a wrestler, throwing a star outside of a contained environment - a cage, for instance - goes against everything she believes in about crowd safety. Even with the fans set back from the ring in Paradise Beach’s untraditional PPV set-up, and even though Lindsay has never once missed a target, it’s not something she’d normally risk.
But Jaiden Rishel changed the game.
And, heart over head be damned, she wasn’t going to let Dan suffer for it.
She hits the ring behind Mia; one little flick and the distraction’s complete. Mia screams and falls to her knees, uncomprehending what’s happened, what’s in her back, and where it came from. She tries to dislodge it but Lindsay’s too quick, butterflying her arms and planting her to the mat with a front-face driver.
The Queen pulls the weapon from the Party Favor’s back before rolling her over. She lightly tosses it, and a little black pouch, to a rising, surprised, Youngblood.
“Hold onto these.”
Hold onto these.
Never leave a weapon behind.
Always take your family with you.
“Wait, so you always have these on you?”
Brandon Youngblood holds Lindsay Troy’s shuriken between his thumb and index finger, twisting the steel star in the moonlight. A cigar rests in a tray on a table next to a glass of single malt scotch. At another time, this would be breaking all sorts of laws, being from recovery and all that, but that was in the past. What wasn’t was the faint smattering of blood staining the one of the points.
“In some form or fashion,” is the reply. Lindsay Troy takes a sip of her rum and coke and looks out at the waves lapping against the shoreline.
“You could just get a tattoo, y’know.”
The Queen turns to Brandon and pulls down the collar of her shirt, just a bit. In the faint porch light, the Last Diamond is able to make out the initials BDP below her left collarbone, along with those of other members of her family.
“Beat me to it I see,” he smirks, taking a sip, letting the bite etch his facial features. “Always heard it felt weird on the bone, but if I’m honest, I don’t remember feeling much when I got mine...though only one of ‘em got any sort of meaning to me now.”
“No new ones for me in awhile, and I guess a high tolerance for pain helps when I got mine.”
Turning over his left forearm, he tapped the shuriken to the only tattoo of color in the amalgam of black skulls and iconography of his sleeve; it was a Texas Bluebonnet with a ribbon tied underneath the plume, the name Cody written across it in cursive. The rose itself was clutched in the beak of a spectral California Quail stripped down to the bone.
“You seen him lately?”
“Pictures.” He clutched his cigar, rolling it over his fingertips for a moment before taking a drag. “He’s from another life. Probably the only good thing that came from it.” He put the shuriken on the table, pushing it back to her, to the person to whom it truly belonged. “I did some bad things to Melissa. She didn’t ask for ‘em. Wasn’t her fault. I don’t wanna suppose upon them, though they’ve left the door open. Kid is like ten years old now, Lindsay.” A pensive chuckle. Uncomfortable. “Besides, he’s got another father. A real dad. Takes good care of him. And her. And everything.”
A nod. Lindsay lets Brandon’s confession linger, taking it in. This is one of the few times he’s been open with her about his family, and while she had never actually met Melissa she knew that they were together for awhile. At least during all the time that she and Brandon were first running the circuits together and being collective pains in each other’s asses.
“Thing is, though,” Lindsay says, finally, “just because he’s got another father doesn’t mean you don’t get a chance to be one if that’s what you want. And it can be on your own time, Brandon. I don’t think Melissa would’ve opened the door if she didn’t want you to be a part of his life.”
She puts her glass on top of the star and gives him her very best “Mom” look.
“You can keep the bad shit buried with all those belts out in Texas and carry the good forward, y’know.”
“Dunno...ain’t been too long since I felt like wanting to stay alive, so the whole thing is a bit foreign. And even still, I don’t want them getting touched by the shit in my head. When you seen humans being turned into glue...” He stopped himself before continuing. Too far. For a moment, there was silence. Surely, she could sense his discomfort, his shifting in his chair, the scotch he’d been nursing suddenly going down in a single gulp. He didn’t look her in the eye. His heels pressed into the faceplate of the Impact Championship underneath his feet. “He’s gonna have a great nest egg though. Just hope he don’t burn through it too quick.”
“Him and mine both. Well, a great nest egg from me at least. Tyler still plays like he’s Tony Stark and I’ve long-since gave up on telling him otherwise.”
“I’d of figured you’d of put that sod in line,” he chuckled. “He doing alright, anyways? Always figured them compound fractures Shakur gave him took a lot out of him.”
“I’ve reeled him in in some ways, just not all,” she smiled, genuinely. “He’s doing great. Retirement suits him better than I think we both thought it would. And he’s keeping busy with the schools and some bar projects which means he stays mostly out of trouble.”
“Not bad. Not bad at all. Hey, at least we don’t have to pepper spray our eyes to get a paycheck in this world.”
A laugh; if there is a chance to make a crack at Silas Artoria’s expense, Brandon will find a way to take it. Lindsay raises her glass in salute.
“I ask because I’m sure Rayne would look at the kinda fun we’re having and would want in. Should we throw up the bat signal?”
“Don’t put that into the universe, man,” the Queen groans. “I love him, and I love having him in one whole piece again. I used a shuriken to save Dan’s ass tonight. I don’t want to think about what I’d have to do if it was Tyler.”
July 21, 2019
Atlanta Botanical Gardens
In the Skyline Garden section of Atlanta’s Botanical Garden, Lindsay Troy strolls through the Imaginary Worlds: Alice in Wonderland exhibit. The giant plant sculptures are trimmed to resemble classic characters and scenes from Lewis Carroll’s classic novel: the Mad Hatter and his Tea Party, the Cheshire Cat, and the Cards and Chess pieces all come to life amongst the lush greenery.
Families also roam through the exhibit, but they pay the Queen of the Ring no mind and give her, and the CWF camera crew, a wide enough berth.
Lindsay Troy: I know that sneak attacks and double-team chicanery may have been the Inner Circle’s calling cards to date, but you have to admit we really outdid ourselves at Paradise Beach.
Underneath the blanket of humidity, all coated in sand, we were able to withstand the do-gooder pluckiness of Mia and Duce to once again prove that there is no greater force in the CWF than myself, Dan Ryan, and Brandon Youngblood.
And now, we can haz all teh singlez beltz.
Big ups to Brandy for catching up to Dan and I. No doubt in my mind, of course. The man is a sadist, a suplexmasheen, and he has a singular purpose when he steps between the ropes.
Lots of it.
What is a company to do, though? I suppose if you’re Mia Rayne, you mobilize the troops. Send a few carrier pigeons. Put out a few calls to action. And what you get back in return is one from the pokey and another who can’t take a hint and keeps coming back for more.
How utterly stupid.
The Forsaken was dead and buried; you should’ve stayed that way.
Consider this match your wake.
Fade to black.