Sunday, April 2, 2023
“Craig, what do you have on Charles De Lacy?”
Dan Ryan sat behind a solid oak desk. He had instructed his people to clean up his old office so he could take possession of it again, after neglecting it during the time when he was neglecting himself. He had reading glasses pulled down over his eyes and he read through a small dossier. Craig Massey sat across from and pointed at the papers in front of his boss.
“Everything’s in there, everything I could find at least. There’s not a ton of info on the guy.”
Dan’s eyes darted from left to right across the page. “I see he’s quite the accomplished grappler. At least, he seems to think so. Aristocratic family, black sheep…”
Craig smirked. “Likes to chat up American women.”
Dan looked up and squinted his eyes at his assistant.
“Is that relevant to our match this week, Craig? Like… Do you expect that some goth chick will jump out of the crowd and hit me with a framed photo of Panic! At the Disco?”
“Not that I know of,” he responded. “There’s some video footage there as well, or rather the code to the footage I uploaded for you. He’s a grappler alright. You’ll need to reach back into your amateur past for this one.”
Dan nodded. “I’m a little slower than I used to be. I’ll have to be on my guard.”
Craig reached over and pointed at the header at the top of the paper on the desk.
“He’s no spring chicken himself, boss. Forty-four years old. And he’s English. His nickname is ‘Dandy’”
One of Dan’s eyebrows raised as he looked across the desk. “Are you saying you like his nickname, Craig? Or is his actual nickname the word ‘Dandy’?”
“The second one.”
Craig looked at him, and receiving no reply shrugged his shoulders.
Dan sighed. “Fair enough. Doesn’t matter. I want to see the footage, then I want you to set up a training session down at the arena before we leave for Oklahoma. Bring in some sparring partners who are technically proficient. I want them to run me through the wringer. I want to be ready for anything.”
“Sure thing, boss,” Craig replied, taking the dossier back from Dan with an outstretched hand and standing up to leave. “Come by the arena this afternoon around 4 pm. I’ll have everything ready to go.”
Dan nodded curtly as Craig turned to leave, then he swung his chair around to face a side desk. On it was a forgotten family photo. Dan, Alaina, Cecilia, Lindsay, Kaz, Ami. All of them, at the beach, smiling.
His face, not smiling, not frowning, but empty, drained slowly of color and he felt a coldness wash over him. He reached out and picked up the framed photo and stared at it. He looked at the faces, the smiles, the laughing eyes. A beautiful day with once-beautiful memories. After a moment he subconsciously started to shake his head, and then, he took the photo and smashed it over the corner of his desk. Bits and pieces of glass flew everywhere and the wooden border came apart in three or four pieces. One of them flew into the wall and made a small mark.
He stared at the wreckage, a fitting metaphor, then stood up, walked to the door, and left.
”You could jump so much higher when you had somewhere safe to fall.”
– Liane Moriarty
NEWTON’S THIRD LAW: ACTION AND REACTION
Dan packed his bags and set out on the long journey from Chicago to Tulsa. He’d chosen to hire a driver and make it a road trip. The miles would give him a chance to get some things done, and also give him a break from the maddening hustle and bustle of O’Hare.
The driver turned up the radio, but Dan couldn’t hear a thing with his AirPods in his ears. But he looked out the window as his own music played, enjoying his own little world and the freedom of the open road.
Ultimately, as the car crossed into Missouri, he watched as the view turned from rolling hills to lush green forests. There was a quick break in Springfield, Missouri for lunch, and he walked around the charming downtown area, taking in the sights and sounds of the small town and simply thinking…
Back on the road, they continued westward on I-44, the miles flying by as they passed through small towns and vast stretches of farmland. A stunning sunset became visible in front of them as the early afternoon gave way to early evening.
Crossing into Oklahoma, he was greeted by the flat and open plains that stretched out before them. They drove through Vinita and Claremore, and he took note of the charming small-town vibe that permeated the area. Having grown up in big cities his entire life, he felt a surge of jealousy. It seems the older you get, the less you need the excitement.
Finally, after a long day of driving, they arrived in Tulsa, and he realized he had gotten absolutely nothing done on the drive down. His thoughts nagged at him, and he rolled them over and over in his mind until finally, his attention was diverted elsewhere when the car slowed to a stop. At the door to his hotel, the doorman greeted him, and the friendly lady at the concierge desk offered up suggestions for exploring the city, trying new restaurants, or indulging in local culture.
Dan politely declined and walked past the desk to the bank of elevators beyond. After a moment, the large gold-colored elevator door opened and a smiling older gentleman nodded his head slightly in greeting.
“Penthouse,” came the reply.
The elevator opened directly into the penthouse suite at the top of the building, and floor-to-ceiling windows displayed a stunning view of the surrounding countryside, plains as far as the eye could see, and deep green thickets of trees along the way.
Looking out, he sighed, then walked to the kitchen, where he could see a stack of mail wrapped in thick rubber bands set on the table. The dining room was adjacent to the living room area and the table was large enough to comfortably seat ten or more guests. Set on the table were table settings of fine china, crystal stemware, and silverware, though he had absolutely no plans to use any of it.
He pulled the band and multiple large manila envelopes unrolled. He slipped a finger along the opening of the largest, addressed to his family estate LLC, and pulled out a substantial stack of papers. He looked down and smiled slightly
“TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER REVOKED”
He had no intention of reaching out to his daughter just yet. He had tried that and was met with intense rage and enough yelling to break a man’s eardrum from a hundred miles away. She was furious. She said to leave her alone and he agreed that it was best… until things could cool down. He had absolutely no doubt that other parties were pushing for her to take legal action.
He wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. Nevertheless, he had no plans to call on his daughter just yet. She needs time. She can have it. He was a patient man.
He opened another manila envelope and pulled out a smaller packet of legal papers. On the front of this one was “Alaina Troy-Ryan v. Daniel Ryan” and a court date. This was part of the process, but not a part he had to be present for. It was still the purview of the attorneys involved. The juicy stuff comes later.
He tossed the rest of the mail to the side and walked back over to the windows. The suite was the epitome of luxury and opulence, designed to provide the ultimate indulgence and comfort to guests.
The spacious living room was adorned with plush sofas, high-end artwork, and elegant decor. The windows bathed the room in natural light, and deep orange sunset light streamed in from the direction of the private terrace.
A private butler had been offered, but he turned the offer away. Then, he chuckled to himself regarding how, in a room so over-the-top, he considered a butler pretentious.
In fact, it all seemed like a bit much, and it was.
Ten months earlier, the rug was almost pulled out from under him. In the foggy haze of self-hatred that followed the scandal, he somehow had the wherewithal to move the bulk of his money through the shadow corporations he used for tax purposes. It gave him time to figure out his next move, and the next move after that.
And now, things were ramping up again.
To be truthful, they were ramping up much faster than he had expected.
He thought he would come in, do the grunt work, do whatever Lee required, and he expected to be happy to do it. He had been humbled, and the entire wrestling landscape seemed like it was opening itself up to him for the first time.
Before he knew it – there were title matches. The HOTv title. Suddenly, in his very first match back, he was a champion again. Just a few weeks later, the HOTv Tag Team titles.
Jatt had proven to be a surprisingly loyal ally.
And suddenly, Dan Ryan found himself a double champion.
Too much, too fast.
Everything you do, everything you say, think, or feel, once you put it out into the world, there is an equal and opposite reaction as the universe tries to balance itself. There’s nothing you can do about it. You are not in control. No one is. He marveled that he could be so low and then start to climb back up again. It seems when contriteness wins out over arrogance, the rewards often follow.
He slid open the door to the terrace and stepped out. There was another living area here, and enough space to qualify as another room entirely. He walked past a fire pit nestled into the eave of the rail and leaned forward there, looking down on everything below.
He stood there and his mind began to clear. In the silence, there was a sort of peace, but it was suddenly broken by the buzzing of the phone in his pocket.
Pulling it out, he looked at the screen and noted a message from his close friend and assistant Craig Massey.
“Hit me up when you get settled in. Something interesting has come up?”
Dan tapped a response.
He watched as the message went through, then almost immediately three dots indicated a response was forthcoming. A moment later, another message.
“Did you realize PRIME was holding Culture Shock in Arlington this weekend?”
Dan frowned and tapped away at his phone again.
“I don’t give a flying fuck what PRIME is doing.”
Three dots again, and then…
“Your tag team partner had an idea….”
As he read the message, another popped up beneath, and as he stared at it on the screen, a smirk slowly came across his face, and he typed out, “I’m in.”
”Those born to wealth, and who have the means of gratifying every wish, know not what is the real happiness of life, just as those who have been tossed on the stormy waters of the ocean on a few frail planks can alone realize the blessings of fair weather.”
– Alexandre Dumas
MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING
I very much don’t want to be ‘that guy’. I’ll explain what I mean by that in a minute.
I watched you wrestle your first two matches here. Smooth sailing. The first test in High Octane is, of course, weathering the threat of the first few matches. So many accomplished people have come through these doors and foolishly coasted by before ultimately crashing headfirst into the wall.
I speak with some authority on that topic. I was guilty of it myself, you know.
High Octane Wrestling is a different animal than you’re used to. We rally around our own, but we don’t tolerate arrogance. There have been many, many terrible things done in this company. Men have died for this company, not metaphorically. Men have literally died. More than one. And sometimes, those men come back somehow. Don’t ask me how it works. But the unforgivable sin around here is arrogance.
So when I say I don’t want to be ‘that guy’, I mean I don’t wanna be the guy who says he has no fucking clue who you are. I don’t want to tell you that despite your age and your background, I have no idea if any of it’s true. And here’s the plot twist… I don’t actually care if it’s true. I’m gonna prepare as though you are the greatest wrestler that ever stepped in the ring, and maybe you are. If you are, I’ll be ready to meet you head-on, and we’ll see how that goes.
I appreciate many things about you. You and I are two men who lived life going in directly opposite directions. You were born into wealth, born into privilege, born into nobility. I was none of those things.
You willingly walked away from your birthright, forsook the money, and chose to work as the thing that made your life worth living. You chose to get in that ring and make your living that way, living a meager existence in run-down hotels, paying your dues, dues that would have been paid for you had you stayed back home in York.
And I respect that. This sport is what gets inside me and lights me up. So I respect it, and I approve of it. I, on the other hand, was born into a very average sort of family, but a family that pushed me to be what I clearly was, a phenomenally gifted fighter. I fought my way to the top of the profession and in the process made enough money that I could survive a devastating failure and still have the ability to crawl back out of that hole. I’m a self-made man, and you want to be.
I think that’s wonderful.
But money changes a man, good or bad. It amplifies who he really is, and often he doesn’t realize who he is until the moment slaps him right in the face. Give a man money, or take it away, and find out what he’s really made of, what he chooses to use his money for, and what he does to make good of his misfortune when it’s gone.
I’ve been doing this a long time, Charles. I will take your word that you’ve been doing it for a long time as well.
But I’m the HOTv Champion, and you’re new here.
This championship is about more than wrestling to me, Charles. It represents so much more that I could possibly impart to you in words, and there’s no way you can understand going to the heights where I’ve been, then going to the depths, then crawling back out again. I have won this championship with sweat and blood, sacrifice and loyalty, and I will not give it up so soon.
This is your third match in HOW. You got through the first two rather easily, but you’re taking a giant leap forward this week. I’m the real welcome, so I’ll introduce you to High Octane Wrestling the proper way, with class, the way you like it. Happy Chaos to you, Charles, from Lee to you. I go on, you go on, or maybe you don’t. No one knows for sure.
All I know is, don’t get your hopes up. This championship isn’t going anywhere. It’s staying right here where it belongs, you’ll just have to figure out how to live with that. It will be my pleasure to drop you on your head and pin your shoulders to the mat.
Now isn’t that just ‘Dandy’?