Focus

Saturday, April 13th.

Purfleet, Essex.

Specifically, Tenshi Gentlemen’s Club.

No, I know you don’t care, but it’s important for this story, alright? Let’s get on with it…

Joey Conrad and Silent Witness are in the men’s room. Silent Witness is washing his hands, while Joe is rapping along to the music in the club.

Joey Conrad: They call me Hot-steppah…

He throws up what we’re going to call a gang sign. Which gang? Well… not a good one, that’s for sure.

Joey Conrad: I’m the lyrical gangstah…

Another gang sign, although this one looked more like Kev from Derek doing the “sign of the Twine” with his brother. At this point, the guy that stands in the bogs all night waiting for you to put a quid on the tray so he can spray you with overpowering, shit cologne, is just standing there, shaking his head.

Silent Witness finishes up and puts his hands under the hand dryer – thankfully drowning out his protégé’s attempt at rapping that makes Vanilla Ice look like he’s Eminem. Joey is a very, very white man.

The LSD Legend turns to face Conrad and grabs him by the shirt collar for the second time this week. You’ve got to wonder how long it’s going to be before Joey gets pissed off with that, but he seems ok with it so far.

Silent Witness: Alright, let’s get back in there.

He pushes Joey forward, then pats him on the back. Joey opens the door and steps back into the club. He looks around and frowns; open-jawed. Ini Kamoze’s all-time classic Hotstepper is still booming out of the sound system.

Joey Conrad: Where’s the girl?!

Joey is looking towards the empty stage, hands outstretched by his side in shock and disgust. Silent Witness smiles and puts an arm around his shoulder.

Silent Witness: Nobody is stripping to Hotstepper, Joe. That was just something they put on in between the dances.

Suddenly, the volume drops and the DJ’s voice booms out.

DJ: Please give a warm welcome to the lovely… Charity

From behind a “Personnel Only” door steps out a twentysomething blonde. Wearing what is basically a red version of a Mankini, the big-titted girl locks eyes with Conrad as she glides past him towards the stage. Joey cannot take his eyes off her. Silent Witness notices and smiles.

Silent Witness: Come on, man. Let’s go watch her.

He steps forward, leading the way back towards their VIP seats.

After the events of Monday night, Silent Witness has decided he wanted Joey to let loose. So, he booked a flight back to England and told the rookie that they could go wherever he wanted. He had done well against a seasoned veteran and, although he came up short, he had put in a good showing. Poor Joey was completely clueless about the significance of even appearing on a HOW production, but nevertheless, the LSD Legend wanted him to let off some steam.

It was his birthday this past Tuesday, after all.

Joey Conrad: Mate, she is ridiculous.

The pair walked back to their seats, front and centre to the stage. Charity had already clocked on to Joey’s lust and kept her eyes locked on him as she walked onto the stage. Ariana Grande’s 7 Rings replaced Hotstepper and Charity began to do her thing. Straddling the pole in the middle of the stage, she started to dance around it seductively.

For the next few minutes, she had every man in there firmly in the palm of her hand. But her gaze was fixed on Joey Conrad – she knew he was a blank cheque. Yes, it’s spelt cheque – not check. We’re not in America now.

Joey sipped on his Grey Goose vodka and coke. Silent Witness wasn’t sure what was so good about Grey Goose, but that’s what Joey wanted so that’s what they were drinking. Joe loved it – it was what they drank back in the day, apparently. How a twenty-year-old could have done anything “back in the day” is beyond anybody reading this story – he’s a fucking child.

He was enjoying himself, however. After a couple of months Stateside, where he wasn’t allowed to drink because of the ridiculous age limitations they have over there, Joey was back in his home town, with his people.

None of them were there – it was just Joey and Witness – but, y’know… it’s a figure of speech. He was amongst likeminded people that he felt comfortable with.

… and half a dozen half-naked girls. That always helps.

As the song ended, the onlooking sleaze-balls politely clapped. Usually, the girl would head backstage again to freshen up, or… whatever they do back there… before coming out to greet the punters. Tonight, though, was Joey Conrad’s lucky day. Charity made a bee-line for him. Smiling, she took the eager, puppy-like Conrad by the hand and, without saying a word, guided him towards the private area.

The private dance area. Put your dick away.

As she led him away, Joey turned to look at Silent Witness with a wide-open mouth, akin to that scene in Wolf of Wall Street where Jordan puts his fist in his mouth. Except, Joey didn’t quite go that far. Nevertheless, Silent Witness chuckled at how lucky Conrad thought he was at that moment.

The truth is, he was about to give this girl £120 for 30 minutes of cock-teasing – without her actually going anywhere near his cock!

But fuck it, it’s only money, right? $500 a week is like… Five grand in real money? The exchange rate is a bit of a blur to young Joe, but he knows it’s more in proper money than it is in the blood money he received from Lee Best this week.

As Joey disappeared behind a shiny, golden curtain, Silent Witness had a look around the club.

The clientele in a place like this is more diverse than most people realise. Sure, you’ve got the drunken, lewd, perverted old men that think of women as nothing more than sex objects. The Billy Big-Bollocks’ of the world.

I mean, that’s all of us, on a certain level.

But you also have your regulars – the guys that have invested month upon month “getting to know” the strippers. The guys that the girls wave and smile at every day, knowing that one of their money pigs is in attendance today, so they don’t need to worry about rent this week. They are The Deluded.

You’ve got your stag-do crowd, who are there for the first and last time and the girls fucking swarm around them. There’s where the money is – a group of drunken lads that have are away from their wives and girlfriends for the weekend, eager to see some new tits and fanny.

Fanny = pussy, for the benefit of you Americans reading this story. It does not mean bum. Remember when Vince said he was going to slap the shit out of Stephanie’s fanny? Yeah… that was weird in the UK.

Where were we? Oh yes. Next, you’ve got the faux-high-brow. Usually virgins, these are the men sipping on a single Peroni Azzuro Nastro for the next four hours. They chuckle to themselves when they see a guy enjoying himself, going off for a dance with a woman he could never fuck if he had the biggest cock on the planet…

… ok, maybe he could in that instance, but you know where this is going…

You’ve got the chancers, the drunks, the shy-and-embarrassed…

… and tonight, you’ve got Silent Witness. The LSD Legend is no stranger to a strip club, but he’s not there for any kind of personal pleasure or distraction tonight. He’s there for business. His eyes dart to the entrance. There’s nobody there, other than the “security” that couldn’t even contain his crippled old ass. He takes another sip of his drink, has a quick glance of admiration at the girl walking by, then looks to the entrance again.

A tall, bald, angry looking motherfucker walks in. He’s got the belly of a powerful man that has let himself go, like Arnold Schwarzenegger six months after he became Da Governator. Silent Witness recognised him immediately and stood up as he smiled. The man nodded in acknowledgement and walked over to the LSD Legend.

Silent Witness: Rhys Mother-Fucking Townsend!

The pair embrace like the aforementioned Arnie and Carl Weathers in Predator. The only thing missing was someone yelling “You son of a bitch!”

Rhys Townsend: Mate, I love tits, but this place is a shithole.

He looks around, smirking with disgust. It wasn’t exactly keeping with Ground Zero, after all. Then again, neither was Townsend these days. Now, it’s all about that damn Taco Truck.

Silent Witness: I know, I know. This is what he wanted, though, and I’m going to let him have the time of his life tonight. Tomorrow, his life is going to change…

The LSD Legend looks off towards the curtain where Joey Conrad is undoubtedly having ‘the time of his life’. He’s all deep-thinking and whatnot. Townsend laughs at him.

Rhys Townsend: Alright, mate…it ain’t exactly Rocky, is it?

Silent Witness chuckles. He understands where Rhys is coming from, but that’s just how he’s always been – intense, serious… a little bit neurotic.

Silent Witness: This kid has got a real shot, Rhys. He’s got more natural talent than I’ve ever seen.

He turns to look at his fellow Hall of Famer with a smile.

Silent Witness: I just need to help him learn how to use it!

Rhys Townsend: Good luck with that… He’s a fucking idiot, mate.

Silent Witness drops his shoulders and sighs.

Silent Witness: … I know. But… I’ve got a good feeling about this…

Rhys Townsend: I can tell, or else you wouldn’t be investing time and effort into him. I mean, if we’re going to be honest about things… I wasn’t exactly too fucking bright myself when I started out. But I learned quickly. Knew what I wanted and how to go about getting it. But enough of the seriousness for a minute…

Townsend put his hand on Silent Witness’ shoulder and smiles.

Rhys Townsend: Because, dude, I’ve got a feeling that everyone in here is hungry…

Townsend hops up onto the stage, immediately drawing the attention of the security guard. He steps forward to apprehend the former HOW World Champion, but Silent Witness quickly intervenes; putting his arm around the deluded man.

Silent Witness: Do you really want to try to stop that guy? Look at him…

The security guard takes a moment to consider his actions, before making a very wise decision and backing away. Townsend turns to face the punters and outstretches his arms, before bellowing out.

Rhys Townsend: TACOS FOR EVERYONE!

The crowd cheers, and Townsend points at the LSD Legend.

Rhys Townsend: That guy is paying.

Townsend steps down from the stage and pats a shocked Silent Witness on the shoulder as he walks by him. At the entrance, one of his lackeys has set up a makeshift taco stand, emblazoned with Townsend’s Taco Truck across the front.

As everyone makes their way towards the taco stand, Silent Witness spots Joey Conrad stumbling out from the VIP section, looking a little dishevelled. His shirt is partly torn, and his belt is in his hand. Joey’s been having a good time.

Silent Witness smiles and walks over to the rookie.

Silent Witness: Had a nice time?

Joey is grinning from ear to ear. His immaculately white teeth – no, of course they’re not real, he’s British – are shining as bright as the spotlight on the stage.

Joey Conrad: Wallop!

He laughs, drawing a smile from his mentor.

Silent Witness: Good for you, Joe…

He puts his arm around the rookie, guiding him towards the club entrance.

Silent Witness: Come with me… There’s someone I want you to meet…

As the pair walk over towards the taco stand, Silent Witness begins the next phase of his plan.

Silent Witness: … You see, Joe… I wanted you to have a nice time here tonight, because it’s the last big blowout you’re going to have. Tomorrow, you’re going to start taking HOW seriously. You’ve got a match against a very dangerous man in a couple of weeks and you can’t go into it acting the fool, like last week.

Joey looks a little confused. That’s nothing new but add the tits and booze to the equation and the youngster is caught off-guard.

Silent Witness: Eric Dane is an animal. You saw what he did after that loss to Zion – he ripped the ring apart. What do you think he’s got in mind for his next opponent?

Conrad suddenly looks concerned. It’s exactly what Silent Witness wanted.

Joey Conrad: He’s going to be angry…

Silent Witness: Yes. Very angry, Joe. So, you have to be prepared. You have to want this. Lee Best hand-picked you for this match. Sure, he did it as a punishment because he doesn’t like you, but this is an opportunity for you. You’re going up against the man that ran Defiance – we hated those guys. They hated us, too.

Silent Witness stopped – placing his hand on Joey’s chest to stop him and staring intensely at Conrad.

Silent Witness: This is your chance to show Lee Best that you fucking belong here. You can show everybody that you bleed ninety-seven like the rest of us… I want you to be a lifer, Joe…

Silent Witness begins walking again. Joe eagerly follows. He is hanging on every word.

Silent Witness: … that’s why I want you to meet a true HOW legend – Rhys Townsend…

Silent Witness stops, as Townsend comes into view. Conrad keeps going; drawn to the Welshman’s intimidating aura.

Joey Conrad: It’s an honour to meet you, Mr. Townsend.

Conrad and Rhys shake hands; Townsend exerting just enough pressure for Joey to feel his immense strength.

Rhys Townsend: You too, butt. Now… What is it you want to know?

Conrad was overwhelmed. He stuttered and tripped over his own tongue.

Joey Conrad: I, uh… I’m…

Townsend frowned. He had a choice to make: Let the rookie off… or give him a hard time.

Rhys Townsend: Spit it out, mate!

Joey took a deep breath and calmed himself.

Joey Conrad: I want to know what separates you from everybody else. How did you become so successful in a company that is so… hard?

Townsend smirked. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a joint and lit up.

Rhys Townsend: Desire. It all comes down to desire, mate. You can have a Steve Hawking type level of intelligence, yeah, but it won’t matter for shit if you don’t want it enough. Because the desire, it’s like…

He stops, inhaling deeply as he tries to find a comparison that won’t fry Conrad’s brain

Rhys Townsend: It’s like the most important thing, Conrad. Because the desire will make you stay in the training ring three or four hours longer than you should have, that’ll make you watch hours and hours of tape on your opponent, that’ll make you go looking for literally any possible advantage you can get. You have to be willing to give your life over to this shit, Joey – I’m not willing to do that anymore myself, so now I peddle tacos, and occasionally do a bit of stuff around the fringes of the business.

Joey Conrad: I’m… not a great wrestler, I’ve only just started, six months ago.

Rhys Townsend: Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be the best wrestler to win, you’ve just got to use what you’ve got to your own advantage. Look at this old crippled bastard…

He gestures towards Silent Witness, whom is now taking a seat to ease his back pain.

Rhys Townsend: He gave the best years of his life to HOW. Made his debut in 2003 – you were barely walking then. It took him nine years to become World Champion, but he carved out a Hall of Fame career along the way. Then he won the title, lost his desire and hasn’t done shit since. But most importantly…

Townsend took another toke.

Rhys Townsend: You’ve got to fucking love HOW. You won’t always agree with Lee Best, but you’ve got to love that company, or you don’t stand a fucking chance.

And just like that, the rousing pep-talk was over. Townsend turned back to greet his customers as Joey looked on, disappointed.

Silent Witness: Let’s go, Joey.

Silent Witness led Conrad out of the club and out into the cool, April night air. He looked back over his shoulder, expecting Townsend to come out asking for that taco money, but nobody was there. He shrugged – Townsend could wait, for now.

They began walking towards a black limo – another of Joey’s requirements for the night. There was a driver inside, waiting for them.

Silent Witness: I fought Dane once myself…

Joey Conrad: Did you win?

Silent Witness shook his head.

Silent Witness: No, he gave me a beating. Like Townsend said – I didn’t want it anymore.

The paid reached the car and Silent Witness turned to face Joey.

Silent Witness: If you want this, Joey… This is your chance. Eric Dane is a piece of shit in the eyes of almost everybody in HOW. He took us on and… well… now he works for Lee Best. But he’s a crazy motherfucker and he will fuck you up if you don’t rise to the challenge. It’s up to you, Joe. If you want to be a HOW legend… here’s where you start.

Silent Witness opened the door and got in the car. Joey reached for the door handle, but hesitated; deep in thought, despite the drinking he had done tonight.

Silent Witness and Rhys Townsend had opened his eyes tonight. Joey knew he had a choice to make: Was he really a HOW guy, like those two legends?

It’s a long way to the top from where he is, starting from ground zero… It’s time to focus.

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