“Fools take a knife and stab people in the back. The wise take a knife, cut the cord, and set themselves free from the fools.” – Unknown
High above Michigan Avenue, on the rooftop of the InterContinental Hotel, Lindsay Troy feels like soaring.
It’s late, or early, depending on your perspective; well past any reasonable hour for anyone to be up there. But Lindsay isn’t just anyone, and the adrenaline from the night’s earlier events still hasn’t worn off. So, armed with a bottle of champagne and her silver-tongued charm, she persuades security to let her up there, just for a little while.
The Chicago winter’s been mild; that’s what the locals say. But when you’re standing 470 feet above Michigan Avenue, the air doesn’t feel very tepid. It’s a hell of a view after a hell of a night, though, and Lindsay wears a parka and gloves, which not only protect her hands from the wind but from the chill of the bottle. The cork’s been popped and recovered, a healthy swig of celebration downed, and a soft, serene smile crosses her lips as she stares south toward the clock face on the Wrigley Building.
It’s fitting, considering it’s about time this all went down. Her defection’s been months in the making, planned in secret with Mike Best, who assigned Cecilworth Farthingon the responsibility of working on Dan Ryan…not that it was very hard to do. Turning her back on a long-time colleague – nay, friend – no … frenemy in Jack Harmen and an impressionable youth and potential mentee in MJ Flair isn’t something that Lindsay would have contemplated a decade ago. Hell, not even five years ago. The perennial savior of PRIME, the High Queen DEFIANT, never abandons the struggle. Won’t throw-in with the riff raff. Has taken more knives in the back than a cutlery block can hold, but doesn’t throw them in return.
Time changes us all. You grow a little older, and your patience for certain things wanes. Lindsay will be 40 this year, and while none can argue that she’s not still at the top of her game, her tolerance for playing around and settling for the status quo is gone.
The status quo being: suffering fools gladly but not coming out ahead at the end. Playing nice with her teammates only to get shit-kicked at every turn by the too crafty, too talented, too infuriating eMpire.
The Industry’s, FKA the Best Alliance’s, War Games loss was a blow, but not one she didn’t think she could personally rebound from. The regressive attitude of Eric Dane in the weeks that followed, however, stuck in her craw. Not wanting to rock the boat, or risk another gigantic blow-up like they’d had in years’ past, the Queen kept quiet and silently stewed. MJ Flair’s personal achievement in the match, capturing the LSD title, was a boon to the group for a short time, but as the world soon saw was never meant to last. Jack Harmen hadn’t been able to really find his footing since joining HOW; a fact that is no less true today. Even Dan, the Ol’ Reliable, stumbled, unable to secure a belt or a win over Cecilworth Farthington in multiple tries.
At least he and Eric won the tag belts in the weeks before Rumble at the Rock. Another bright spot for the group until the Only Star upped and quit right before the show, leaving Lindsay high and dry in her title defense against Hollywood and Zion. Dan offered to pull double-duty, and thank the maker he had her back. Their victory was the only one for their team that evening, as MJ lost the LSD title to Max Kael, Jack Harmen was the reason why, and Dan barely made it out of the Infirmary Match in one piece.
’Sometimes, a girl just needs a change,’ she thinks to herself, taking another long pull of champagne. What’s the harm in being a little selfish once in awhile? Why not put her needs, her wants, above others’ for once in her life? Dan has no qualms about it. Jack’s done it…continues to do it, to his own goddamn detriment. MJ learned, finally, that there are consequences for arrogance, especially when she should’ve known better, was taught better.
The lessons from the Group of Death are only just beginning.
November 10, 2019
Ritz Carlton San Francisco
The Morning After Rumble at the Rock
It’s easy to find what you’re looking for if you know the right people. And even though the Ritz Carlton is a five star hotel, with top-notch professional staff, everyone can spill a secret or two. Discretion can be overlooked, or kept, for the right price.
A bartender at the hotel’s restaurant, after receiving quite a hefty tip on a not-so-hefty bill, put her in touch with the sous chef, who made sure she was connected to his best server, who told her what time and where breakfast has been sent every morning to a Very Important Person. This is how Lindsay Troy winds up standing outside a room that is not her own, on the tail-end of brunch hour, feeling like she got hit by a semi-truck but looking as fresh as a daisy, or at least trying to give the appearance of one. Taking a shiv to her leg and jumping off a guard tower the night before is making the task a little difficult. Despite the painkillers and the medical wrapping, her back is sore and stiff, her right ankle feels twingy, and a dull ache persists in her left calf.
These ailments may soon feel like nothing when compared to the potential headache that awaits her.
Lindsay stands, hesitating, beside a food cart at the far end of a hallway, her own breakfast roiling about in her stomach. This has the potential to go very, very badly. What’s worse, there is absolutely no chance for discretion if it does.
The last time she was this nervous was on her wedding day. Both times.
”Goddammit, get a grip,” she mutters. Takes a deep breath. Grits her teeth. And knocks.
When Michael Lee Best finally throws the door open, he expects to see nothing but the cart, having instructed the staff to ‘leave it and fuck off’ on his first day at the hotel. He especially expects it today, a day removed from a hellacious Solitary Confinement match with Christopher America. Getting his body out of the king-sized bed just to answer the knock was a miracle in and of itself.
And now, this surprise, which he masks quickly via a roll of his eyes.
“Let me guess,” Michael starts, voice dripping with sarcasm. “You’re tired of the Industry and you’re here to defect.”
Lindsay does a quick double-take, then recovers. She frowns, folding her arms across her chest. “Jesus, way to be a shitty buzzkill.”
“Okay, Lindsay. Sure. Right. I bet.”
Michael peeks his head out into the hallway, looking for the ol’ ‘Jack Harmen around the corner with a knife’ trick. It’s the oldest one in the book, but if that’s the game that Lindsay’s playing, it’s pairing well with hide and seek. There is no Harmen.
“Nope.” Lindsay shakes her head, oddly at ease now. “You guessed it, Carnac. I’m tired of the Industry and I want to defect.”
“Oh.” Michael replies, flatly. Confused. Then, the lightbulb. “….OH.”
“Even put your breakfast on my bill.” She pushes the cart forward and he catches the handle, more a reflex response than anything. “Call it a truce.”
Michael eyes the cart suspiciously. He isn’t necessarily thinking that there is a bomb in the eggs, but he also isn’t necessarily not thinking that there is a bomb in the eggs, either.
“…there a bomb in the eggs, Lindz?” he asks, getting right down to brass goddamned tacks. “I might have a concussion right now, so I’m very sorry for asking. But legally, you have to tell me if there is a bomb in the eggs.”
“Oh for Christ’s sake…” Lindsay swipes the metal lid off the plate to reveal a very tempting Eggs Benedict and breakfast potatoes. “Do you want me to poke around your food for you? Here…” She unrolls a napkin and grabs the fork, but Michael releases his hand from the tray and catches her wrist.
“Don’t fuck up the presentation,” he smirks. “I just wanted to see if you’d do it.”
“Ass,” she replies. Michael releases her from his grip. “Can we not talk about this in the hallway? My ankle and calf are screaming right now.”
Michael looks up and down the hallway again, performing another brief recon. Lindsay throws her arms up in the air, exasperated.
“Seriously,” she huffs. “They aren’t here. I am not fucking around with you.”
“Shut up, I know.” Michael answers playfully, the smirk returning to his face, the wheels beginning to turn. “But if no one knows you’re here right now… I want to keep it that way. Hurry up and get inside. We need to talk.”
With all pretense seemingly gone, and her face not chewed off at the mere mention of the idea, Lindsay tosses an easy smile Michael’s way.
This might go a lot smoother than she originally believed.
“Thought you’d never ask,” she quips, sliding easily into the room, Michael close behind.
“Let’s just get this out of the way right now, Jack…”
Lindsay Troy sits, one leg crossed over the other, hands folded in her lap, in a high-backed office chair in front of the Five Time Academy ring. Her presence in the gym is a little show of solidarity to her three new teammates, although Mike Best, Cecilworth Farthington, and Max Kael are nowhere to be found.
“Yes, I smashed you in the side of the head with a talkie stick at Refueled. Yes, it was the most coherent sound you’ve made into a microphone since the days of you yelling ‘WILDCARD, BITCH!’ in a pathetic attempt to be professional wrestling’s Charlie Day. Yes, the last time two knees collided that hard with a man’s face, it was because a Canadian dropped four dollars off the Empire State Building.
She pauses, then sighs, resigned.
“Nevermind.” A dismissive wave of her hand. “They probably didn’t teach you about foreign money at KNIVES UNIVERSITY.
“We tried to warn ya, Jack. You and MJ and everyone else. The Architect told you time and time again that the Group of Death was going to destroy the Industry from within, but nobody was listening. Too busy looking at the small picture to see the big one. You and MJ lived rent free in the house that Dan and I built, so we condemned the whole damned building.
“And I know you think this is going to be the start of a rivalry that changes the face of professional wrestling. You’re probably digging through the Williams Sonoma catalogue as I speak, looking for the latest and greatest in cutlery technology and figuring out new ways to tweet the word ‘coward’ or threaten to cough and hack on me like the choke artist you are.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Jack, but you can’t fly high forever. Lee might’ve booked this match as a no DQ affair to help you save a lil’ face, help you get a lil’ revenge, hell…might even have done it to soften me up a lil’ bit for his adopted son after I get through with you. But hey, no shade there. I’ve got a lot of pent up feelings I’ve been keeping bottled up for four months, and I am beyond thrilled that I’ll get to smash your face in without repercussion and take whatever last shreds of dignity you’ve still got.
“Maybe then you’ll finally believe you just don’t have it anymore. The glory days of the Lunatic are long since gone, but you refuse to admit it. You’ve been called on home many times, and you simply just won’t go.
“Mom knows best, old friend, and come Saturday I’ll be doing the business a kindness by putting the ol’ dog out of his misery. This match at Refueled is the final nail in the LBI coffin you were always destined to be buried alive in.
“I’m done with you, Jack. I’m done with MJ. The ride is over.
“Sorry about your shitty, dead Industry.”