3.30pm. Monday, August 19th, 2019.
“… yeah, I-… I’ve been-… Listen to me, please!” yelled Silent Witness into his dashboard; angrily. It was the third person today that he had spoken to from the National Park Service, after two frustrating days of trying to find out any information regarding the whereabouts of Christopher America. “I just want to find out if anybody was transferred into any of the cells over the weekend” he added, trying to regain his composure.
The HOW veteran was headed North along I-75, driving out of Florida in a rented Dodge Charger and making his way towards Atlanta for Friday Night Chaos. He had decided to head out early and find himself a quiet place to train; beating the mad rush later in the week, when the rest of the roster would show up. It was also a chance to enjoy some down time before the atmosphere in Atlanta increased to a fever pitch – it had been a long time since High Octane Wrestling had presented a show in that part of the country, and Silent Witness was expecting a party atmosphere.
He had no time for that.
“… Of course I know it’s not used as a prison anymore, but-… Yes, I know-… Ok. Thank you” concluded the LSD Legend; dejected. He slammed his fist into the steering wheel, as the line went dead. “Ok, Google…” he began; pausing to allow for his phone registering his command. “Call-“ he paused again. He shook his head, sighing, the Google Assistant request timed out.
After Christopher America had been forcefully removed from the building on Refueled last Friday night, Silent Witness had been calling any number he could think of to try to find his Ground Zero team-mate. All weekend, he had been greeted by the same response: Alcatraz is no longer a prison. We don’t have any inmates.
That was an understandable thing to say, of course – the prison had been decommissioned for decades. But Silent Witness knew for sure that there was an inmate present on Alcatraz. He had been placed there under the terms of the long-standing contract HOW had with the administrators on the island and he would be there for the next six or seven weeks, until Rumble At The Rock landed ashore on October 12th.
Mike Best had surprised Silent Witness in many ways at Refueled. The LSD Legend had expected an arrogant, self-serving narcissist to turn up and start making his mark; a man-child acting out after finally taking control from his overbearing father. What he – and the rest of Ground Zero – hadn’t counted on was Mike being… well… level-headed. He understood the punishment match; Mike was getting his own back for War Games. It was a waste of a match; a pointless match in many ways, but it evened the score.
Silent Witness had expected Mike to hold a grudge, like Lee would have done. He had expected the Mike Best he had seen a hundred times before, but had rarely been on the opposing side of: The vindictive, nasty, cruel Mike Best that crushed anybody that didn’t agree with his every word.
So, yeah… level-headed? That wasn’t on the list of expectations. After pre-empting further retaliation, Ground Zero had made their feelings about Mike Best and the eMpire known – Silent Witness perhaps more so than anybody else. He had been a little bit more personal in his attack; citing the Mickey Mouse Club, essentially calling them all cartoon characters.
When the other side doesn’t play the game, it isn’t a good look. Especially from someone calling for fair play.
But not everything was a surprise. Mike had shown that side of himself just a little: After convincing Christopher America to sign the contract for their match – a match Silent Witness had to admit was an exciting prospect – Mike had his fellow Hall of Famer carted off to Alcatraz; to Solitary Confinement, well in advance of their match. Silent Witness had spent hour after hour ever since, trying to find out if America had made it there; trying to find out if he was ok. Or at least, as “ok” as anybody could be after being dragged off against his will and placed in a dark cell in an abandoned prison…
“Fuck it” he said to himself, slamming his fist against the dash before signalling his intention to leave the highway. “Ok, Google” he said, as he turned onto the exit road. “Call Rhys Townsend” added the determined Silent Witness, before internally re-routing towards Tampa Airport as he waited for the Ground Zero founder to pick up.
“Mate, I’m on the farm. This better be important” stated Townsend, a little irked, to greet his fellow Hall of Famer. The ‘farm’ he was referring to was a weed farm, out in Oregon. Nobody that had ever spent more than five minutes with Rhys Townsend would be surprised to learn that, in the time since Measure 91 came into force in 2015 – legalising recreational use of cannabis in Oregon – Rhys Townsend had become somewhat of an agricultural icon in that part of the world. “You know I don’t want to be disturbed when I’m on the farm” he added.
Silent Witness smiled to himself. Rhys Townsend was a pretty balanced, centered guy – at least, these days – when it came to most things. But rule #1 of Ground Zero wasn’t ‘Don’t tell anybody about Ground Zero’. It was ‘Don’t get between Townsend and his weed’. The LSD Legend’s response was simple: “I’m going to Alcatraz”.
“Well… Yeah. Probably against one of those fuckers that follow Brian Hollywood” replied Townsend. “Either that or Mike will just leave you off the card altogether” he added. Silent Witness shook his head, urgently.
“No, I’m going there today” explained the HOW veteran. “I’ve been trying to get some kind of status update on Christopher America all weekend and all anybody can tell me is that Alcatraz isn’t a prison anymore; they don’t accept inmates” he added. “I’m going to try and find him!”
“Well, of course they would say that… Are you sure this is a good idea? I mean… It’s Alcatraz… They still have security-” began Townsend, only for Silent Witness to cut him off.
“I know, I know… Trust me; I know. But he’s one of us now; we need to look out for him, like we would if it was you or me. I’m heading out there to see if I can at least make sure that’s where he actually is and that Mike hasn’t got him locked up in a fucking dungeon, being tortured or something” explained Silent Witness. “I just wanted to let you know my plans. I’ll meet up with you in Atlanta over the weekend sometime” he added.
“Tidy” replied Townsend. “Talk to you soon” he added, before ending the call and, most likely, returning to making weed angels in a field somewhere near Portland.
10:25am. Tuesday, August 20th, 2019.
Silent Witness’ eyes darted around the room; beyond the tour guide and the other visitors, packed into the main concourse alongside him. There wasn’t much security around – certainly, not as much as there would have been when this old relic was still a prison. But there were a couple of half-interested guards on the clock; probably expecting today to be like every other day since they had been on the job: Watching the clock, waiting for the hours to drift by. Finding a way beyond them probably wouldn’t be the most difficult thing in the world to do – if the HOW veteran could find an unlocked door somewhere that might lead him to Solitary Confinement, and maybe Christopher America.
The guide kept moving along the general population cells, no doubt pointing out where Al Capone took a shit once, or where the Birdman tried to stab a guard with a toothbrush shiv, or whatever bullshit stories they liked to tell on these things. Silent Witness wasn’t paying attention, however; he was watching one of the security team closely. He was making his way towards a door with a ‘restricted access’ sign plastered across it… He was also reading a newspaper as he went; paying no attention to anything else.
As the guard opened the door, Silent Witness surveyed the scene: The tour guide was busy lapping up the excitement from the crowd. The other security guard seemed to be more interested texting some girl that was ‘down to fuck’ or whatever term it is kids use these days, or playing a game; whatever it was, he was paying attention to his phone and nothing else. The holes in the security operations at Alcatraz surprised the HOW star, but it was something he had been hoping to find.
He hung back from the crowd; lingering at the back so that he wasn’t too far away – and sticking out like a sore thumb – but far enough away that when he made his move, he could get away without being noticed. The guard disappeared through the door; letting it go to slowly close by itself. Silent Witness looked towards the other guard; still tapping away at his phone. He looked at the guide, and the visitors; engrossed in the tales of Alcatraz. This was his chance; quickly, but quietly, the LSD Legend darted across the floor, getting a hand on the swinging metal door before it shut. He pulled the heavy door open and sidestepped over the threshold.
He quickly turned his head to survey his new surroundings. He was confronted by four large, rusted pipes; two on either side of a metal grate beneath his feet, functioning as a long, narrow walkway. In the dim light, provided by a single bulb in the middle of the room, he could follow the pipes down for a few feet, but other than that, beneath the grate was darkness. At the opposite end of the walkway, the guard was opening another door. Silent Witness paused with bated breath; hoping he would not be seen. The guard stepped through the opening and disappeared. Witness took a step forward but froze instantly; his heavy boot connecting with the steel floor made a loud clang and rattled the grate. After a few heart-stopping moments; waiting to find out if he had been heard, he tentatively continued along the makeshift hallway; steadying himself by putting his hand on one of the pipes for balance.
After what seemed like the longest 30 seconds in history, the LSD Legend had made it to the other end of the room. He had a door in front of him, which would lead him in the same direction as the guard. That seemed like a risky move, so he looked at a door to his left. This one again had a ‘restricted access’ label on it, but it seemed like a better option than following the guard and surely being caught.
Silent Witness grabbed the door handle and pulled, but the door wouldn’t budge. He tried again a couple more times, but there was no give. He began feeling a sense of urgency; knowing that a guard could find him at any moment. His eyes darted around; looking for an exit. He spotted a small, wooden hatch, around a quarter of the way back down the hallway, in between the pipes. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to fit in the gap, or even reach up to access it, but it was the only choice he had. He quickly, but carefully, walked back along the floor towards his new exit point. He pressed both hands into the wooden panel, which was head-height to the six-two HOW veteran; testing it to see if he could open it. He heard a rattle above him and his eyes lit up as he looked up to see an old latch; holding it in place. He reached up and got his fingertips to the latch but couldn’t quite get enough purchase on it to lift the metal bar.
Silent Witness scanned the area, looking for something to give him a leg up. He quickly put his foot on one of the pipes that lined the hallway and pushed himself up; opening the hatch, before dropping back down onto the grate with a heavy thud and rattling the grate all along the walkway. He knew that somebody must have heard the sound. As the wooden hatch door swung open, he quickly reached up to the wooden frame and pulled himself up. He heard a key entering a lock in one of the doors below and quickly reached out; grabbing the hatch door and pulling it towards him. Silent Witness carefully closed the latch; evading the guard entering the room below.
With his heart ostensibly beating out of his chest, Silent Witness turned his attention to his new surroundings. Everything around him was metal. His first thought was that he must have entered a shaft of some kind; perhaps an air vent. But why would an air vent have a hatch at the end of it, instead of a grille? Whatever it was didn’t really matter; Silent Witness just needed to get out of there. He began crawling along, making as little sound as possible. Behind him, he could hear what he presumed was two guards talking about the sound they had heard in the hallway, but he could not make out what they were saying.
He continued crawling along the air vent for what seemed like an eternity. After a few minutes, the route took a left turn and the HOW veteran could see daylight in the distance. He continued his crawl; his arms beginning to ache. As he got closer, Silent Witness could see the beams of daylight through cracks in what looked like another hatch door. He crawled closer still; until he reached the hatch opening. He lifted the latch, just as he had a few minutes prior, and opened the hatch. He immediately felt the fresh air on his face and realised the shaft had led him out of the prison. He saw blue skies overhead; San Francisco in the distance.
He began crawling out a little further… and his heart sank. Waiting for him were two SFPD officers and a man dressed in a grey suit, whom Silent Witness assumed was the director of Alcatraz or whatever bullshit title they gave to the person in charge of day to day operations. For a moment, he considered his options. He could try to escape; heading back the way he came and most likely being caught by the guards, but maybe he could somehow sneak by. It seemed like a futile exercise, however, as they would all be on alert; looking for him. The other option was simply to give up; to accept that if Christopher America was being held somewhere in the prison, he was not going to find him. That was the sensible option; go quietly and hope that HOW’s long association with Alcatraz would work in his favour.
Before he had a chance to do anything, however, the decision was taken away from him: The officers lunged forward and grabbed him by the collar of his t-shirt and under his arms; dragging him out and onto the concrete below with a thud. The officers moved quickly to cuff the former World Champion and lifted him to his feet; bringing him face to face with the big man in charge. “We have cameras everywhere” he hissed; smirking. “Take him away, officers” added the dickhead in a suit, before Silent Witness was carted off by the SFPD; still none the wiser as to why they had hatched up an old air vent.
9.37am. Wednesday, August 21st, 2019.
Silent Witness lay on the rock-hard mattress; staring up at the ceiling. He had made his one phone call. He had been appointed a lawyer – his own lawyer was on vacation at the most inopportune time – and he had been interviewed by the San Francisco police in the presence of said lawyer. His case had been fast-tracked through the courts and bail had been set. Now, all he could do was wait. It’s all he had done since waking up at 6am to be fed… something. It looked like regurgitated lasagne and tasted like an old shoe – without the $45 steak sauce.
His thoughts drifted to next week’s Friday Night Chaos. He was set to share the ring with Evan Ward and Rhys Townsend again, only this time they would be competing together, instead of against one another. He had enjoyed Refueled; their match had been the highlight of the night and, although he would never brag about it to them, being two-and-oh in triple threat matches against his Ground Zero brothers was a good feeling. Competing with them, however, would be far more gratifying.
All of their opponents had been involved in the statement-that-nobody-understood to close out Refueled. Bobby Dean and COOL Jiles were the unfortunate victims of Brian Hollywood and his band of merry men, as they tore down the Yuengling Center. Now, Ground Zero would have to compete against Hollywood, Jace Savage and Crash Rodriguez in one corner, and the disadvantaged Bobby Dean and Jiles in another. Was it another punishment match from Mike? Well, any time anybody had to share a ring with the walking cliché of everything that is wrong with professional wrestling – Brian Hollywood – it was a punishment. But if this match was Mike’s way of getting back at anybody, it must have been aimed at the Bollywood Boyz, or whatever they intended to call themselves.
They had destroyed an arena and left Mike to foot the bill. Of course, they would be fined, that was a given. But what better way to punish them than to put them in the ring with the first tag team champions of the new era – well… sorta… – and a team with the pedigree of Ground Zero? That would be the perfect way of sending an actual message; not a half-assed attempt of looking like Superman.
It would be a mistake to simply wave off The Supermen as caricatures of professional wrestlers, however. For all their bluster and over-the-top antics, they had some pedigree of their own. Hollywood was the last World Champion of HOW’s Modern Era – you might have heard him mention that – and Silent Witness had competed with Crash and Savage at War Games. He knew first-hand what they were capable of. It would be worth reminding his Ground Zero team-mates of that – if he ever got out of this damned jail cell…
Dean and Jiles were a known quantity. They were the fun guys that liked to party and didn’t take anything seriously. At least, that’s the persona they projected, but everybody knew that as soon as they stepped into the ring, it was all business. Bobby Dean was the heaviest 250-pounder Silent Witness had ever seen… probably because in reality he weighed double that… and Jiles was a proven force in HOW. Although their paths had rarely crossed over the years, Silent Witness was an admirer of Jiles’ abilities and knew that he was a threat in their upcoming match.
The sound of jangling keys and heavy footsteps snapped the veteran out of his thoughts. He raised himself into a seated position on the bed; lowering his legs to the floor, as an officer walked up to his cell. Behind him stood two men – both of them smiling and trying to contain their laughter. Silent Witness stood up. “Fuck you” he said, angrily. The officer looked at him, sternly. “Not you” clarified the LSD Legend. “Those two” he continued; gesturing to Rhys Townsend and Evan Ward.
“You’re a fucking idiot!” exclaimed Evan; letting his laughter out, like a cork popping out of a champagne bottle. Townsend could no longer contain himself, either and almost doubled over; pressing his hands to his knees to keep upright as he laughed, uncontrollably. “Rhys called me to tell me about your plan” he continued, as the laughter began to ease off. “You tried to break into fucking ALCATRAZ?!” he yelled; amazed at the stupidity of his Ground Zero stablemate.
“Oh, come on, now” added Townsend. “It was a great idea… y’know… except for all the security. Who knew there would be police officers at the most famous prison in the world?!” he exclaimed; bursting into laughter again. Silent Witness frowned; annoyed with their reaction. The officer unlocked the cell door and opened it up.
“Your bail has been paid; you are free to leave” he stated; stepping aside to allow Silent Witness out. The HOW veteran stepped forward towards the door. “There is some paperwork you need to complete, but that shouldn’t take too long” added the officer, as Silent Witness stepped out of the cell. He stopped and stared at his team-mates; frowning, angrily.
“Fuck you both” said the LSD Legend; deadpan. This was greeted by more laughter from Ward and Townsend, however, as the officer guided them back towards the front desk.
2.15pm. Wednesday, August 21st, 2019.
In the hours following his release, Silent Witness had relaxed after the ribbing from Townsend and Ward. He had accepted the stupidity of his decision to try to break in to fucking Alcatraz… and had even started seeing the funny side. Now, as the three of them shuffled along to their seats at the San Francisco 49’ers training field in Santa Clara, he could even join in; poking fun at himself. “Next time, I’ll go for somewhere that’s a bit more of a challenge…” he began, as they took their seats. “Is it too late to storm Area 51?” he asked; smiling as he placed his hot dog on his lap and settled into his seat.
Ward laughed. Townsend wanted to laugh, but he was annoyed. “Mate, they’re supposed to be selling my tacos here…” he grumbled. “Not this fucking generic shit!” he moaned. “I pay them a fair amount of money for exclusivity rights” he added. Silent Witness resisted the urge to ask if he paid upwards of $17 – this wasn’t the time for Cecilworth Farthington references.
“Right, what the fuck are we doing here?” asked Ward; breaking the tension and moving on from TacoGate. “What is this, anyway? Baseball is it?” he added, turning to look at Witness. The LSD Legend was just finishing off a bite of his hot dog, sopping with condiments; ketchup dripping everywhere.
“Football” replied the LSD Legend, as he wiped ketchup from his cheek. “49’ers practice. I thought I’d treat you to some great sport as a thank you for bailing me out” he added, smiling. Ward looked nonplussed. He was not a fan of American sports; didn’t care for Baseball, which was damn near a deal-breaker for Silent Witness, and clearly didn’t know anything about football. “There’s Jimmy G – look!” stated Silent Witness, excitedly, as he pointed towards the 49’ers QB warming up with some throwing drills.
Ward shrugged. “I don’t care, mate” he stated; monotone. “What are we going to do about Chaos?” he asked; shifting attention back to the one American sport he did care about. “Rhys will have to deal with Bobby, obviously…” he stated, turning towards Townsend to see his face frown; objecting to Ward’s assessment. “Mate, neither of us can lift him!” he added. “He’ll do his back in!” he continued; gesturing towards Silent Witness with a smile.
“Well, Crash is a fucking headcase…” began Silent Witness. “He is obsessed with the number nine… I don’t really understand it, to be honest. But he’s been hit in the head with heavy objects enough times, it seems, that now he loves to hit other people in the head with heavy objects – and he’s pretty fucking good at it” continued the veteran. “He was a capable performer, from what I saw in the ladder match at War Games. If things get out of hand, he’ll be in his element; he loves the chaos” he added. “Savage sort of reminds me of you, Evan” continued the LSD Legend. “… not as good as you, of course…” he added, smiling.
“Right, so I’ll deal with Fat Bob, Ward can deal with Savage, and you can deal with Hollywood” began Townsend, focusing on Silent Witness. “You’re both from Los Angeles, you’re about the same stature… tidy” he continued. “If we’re lucky, Crash and Jiles will just take each other out and happy fucking days…” added the Hall of Famer, flippantly. His assessment was, of course, tongue in cheek, but it wasn’t the worst plan put together over the past couple of days…
“Yeah, yeah…” began Silent Witness; sighing. “It’s not that simple, I know” he added. “But if we do get the opportunity to isolate ourselves with specific members of the opposition, that is probably the correct pairing for all of us…” stated Silent Witness, his sentence trailing off.
“The fact is, all of these guys are dangerous” stated Ward, authoritatively. “Hollywood’s team will see this as a chance to make a name for themselves and their group – a win over Ground Zero would be massive” he added. “Jiles and Dean will be missing Doozer, but it’s their chance to step up and show everyone how strong the Bandits are.”
Silent Witness concurred. “Yeah, they’re basically in the same spot we were last week. We wanted to show everybody how good we are – and we did a damn good job of it” he began. “They’ll be hungry for this; we’ve got to be aware of that” warned the LSD Legend, before taking another messy bite of his hot dog. Townsend, meanwhile, sparked up a joint and took a toke. Silent Witness looked over at him in disbelief. “You’re not allowed to do that here…” he stated; curiously.
Townsend shrugged. “Mate, it’s California” he replied, before leaning back in his seat to watch the practice. Silent Witness shook his head.
“No, I mean… obviously it’s allowed… but not in public places” explained the LSD Legend. Townsend looked around and, seeing nobody around, shrugged again. Silent Witness raised his eyebrow; curious at Rhys’ actions, but didn’t push the matter any further. Townsend clearly didn’t care and the LSD Legend didn’t care about it enough to cause an argument. Besides – he was hardly the one to be professing law and order at that moment. He decided that the best thing to do was to relax, forget about everything to do with HOW for the time being, and enjoy the spectacle in front of them. He slid down a little in his seat and reached for his drink, which he had left on the empty seat next to him. “Fuck it, then” he stated. “Let’s watch some football…”