“The Coach” barreled down Interstate 95 as fast as it would go, the pedal slammed to the floor by it’s enormous Texan driver. The speedometer read 72 mph, but as Clay watched the never ending stream of cars pass him in the left lane he knew he was going far slower. The Behemoth flipped through the radio stations, driving with his knee. His left arm was trapped slightly sticking outside of the window by the compression cast he wore on his arm.
It wasn’t broken, but the number Farthington had done on it necessitated some precautions. His skull had finally stopped pounding from the sunlight, and now Clay had this issue. Cecilworth had done exactly what he said he would do, and softened Clay up for Sutler. He snarled as he continued to scan through the stations. Normally he would have gripped the steering wheel harder, but he’d been advised not to use the arm for anything.
The match coming up with Sutler was the biggest match of Clay’s career to date, that seemed to be a running theme lately. The Alliance was clearly giving Clay opportunity after opportunity, and if he continued to fail, well he knew where he would end up. Finally Clay had isolated a sports radio show out of Charlotte, North Carolina. While the banter on the Charlotte Panthers upcoming season wasn’t what he was looking for, he knew that the station would eventually have wrestling and fighting content.
Clay continued to watch cars and semis pass him as he drove down the road. This match against Sutler was complex, on one hand it was an incredible opportunity that aligned with Clay’s ultimate desire. On the other hand, he knew the timeline of his future revenge against Teddy Palmer hung in the balance. Teddy had tried to kill him, he had humiliated him, and left Clay unconscious in the middle of the ring at War Games.
Once again running themes.
Every time Clay had stepped into the ring against the elite of High Octane Wrestling he found himself coming out missing some pride. It had begun to grind on him, the losing was frustrating, each time it felt like he had missed a small advantage he could have taken, or mistimed a move.
The elite of High Octane Wrestling preyed on everything. They saw the small advantages, telegraph too much? End up with your arm in a cast. Leave enough room smashing an opponent with sledgehammer sized fists? End up in a triangle choke. He’d already gone to sleep in a regular triangle choke, he had no desire to make taking a nap during a match a running theme.
And he couldn’t work his damn elbow.
He had no clue how it would feel come show night, would he have complete mobility? Or would it be an obvious and easy target for the champion? If the elbow wasn’t fully functional, the lariat wouldn’t be either. The biggest moment of The Monster’s career, and his best weapon may or may not be out of commission.
How much did he really want this win anyway? Yes it would show the world that he had arrived, that he was actually capable of keeping his promises and his threats against the upper echelon of High Octane. At the same time, as Lee had told him, it would remove him from the equation against Teddy Palmer.
We make decisions in are life based on many things, Clay had always operated on a simple principle. What was better for his pocket book is what always drove him forward. There were other factors that normal people would use to make a decision, they’d take love into consideration, they’d take passion into consideration, and they’d take revenge into consideration.
Clay would normally identify these people as idiots, and yet here he was driving down interstate 95, becoming one of the idiots. He tried to assure himself the revenge against Teddy Palmer would come some other time, that hurting Conor Fuse would be enough to goad Teddy into another altercation. Hell, the way Teddy looked at Mcavay as he tapped out: The World Title would be enough on it’s own.
Sektor had already claimed the LSD Championship, the mission was theoretically accomplished with Teddy for The Alliance. So Lee had pivoted The Behemoth in another direction, at the latest irritant amongst the masses. Enter the new World Heavyweight Champion. He’d either finally accept Lee’s offer to take his rightful place, or Clay would destroy him. Lee Best had used Clay Byrd as motivation for Sutler Kael.
Clearly he at least still thought highly of The Monster from Plainview.
As the road stretched out ahead of him, and the sun had entered it’s twilight Clay pressed on through the mountains of North Carolina. Finally his radio caught his attention, as two men began speaking.
“Wow! What a show! High Octane Fighting Championship 1 was a smashing success Ray!” Clay’s ears had perked up and he turned up the radio to listen in. The other critic named Ray chimed in “Absolutely! Everything went pretty much as expected, Cancer Jiles beat some bandits, Steve Harrison smashed Doozer, and Clay Byrd did what he normally does in big situations… he lost!”
The Behemoth’s grip on the steering wheel was white knuckled. He had anticipated this happening, he had mentally prepared for this happening, but it still bothered him. It still gnawed on his pride. “You’re telling me Ray, Farthington put him in his place! Serves him right, a second generation wrestler who doesn’t respect the business. What a joke.”
Clay once again sighed, he’d listen to the criticism. He knew he deserved it, he’d swung the lariat out of desperation against Farthington trying to end the match because he was hurt. They didn’t know the damage that The Finish Line’s leg kick had caused. The welt that Farthington’s foot had left was so tender that he had to wear shorts to keep the fabric from contacting his skin around the injury.
The Behemoth listened as they ran down the rest of the HOFC card, giving analysis their cutting analysis. It meant very little coming from men who had never been in the ring or cage before. By now the headlights were on and a small storm had blown into Clay’s path. It wasn’t anything out of the usual in the south east, but the wipers on the coachmen weren’t exactly perfect.
The hosts had wrapped up the HOFC1 talk, and Clay had felt relieved until before they went to the quarter hour break. “And right after HOFC 1, Sutler Kael had some wild words for Clay Byrd! We’ll have them for you when we come back! You’re listening to Ray and Sam’s Combat Showcase on 490 AM!”
Clay smiled, he wondered what sort of antics the kid was up too. His interactions with the adopted son of Max Kael had been nonexistent to this point. Yet watching how Sutler worked for Lee, and the way he had worked in the cage at War Games, Clay had developed a bit of a soft spot for the kid. Sutler was one of the few people in the world, who had it far worse than Clay did as a second generation competitor in the business. The boy was a bit of a loose cannon, a little entitled, but he had survived. He had dispatched Teddy Palmer and Conor Fuse to win the title, Sutler Reynolds-Kael was alright in Clay’s book.
“We’re back, and wow, first off Sutler turned down The Alliance! How crazy is that? The boy turned down his own grandfather.” Clay shook his head, he liked Sutler, but the boy was a bit of an idiot at heart.
“You’re tellin’ me Sam. Then the champion offered High Octane’s resident punching bag a way out of the match! Lay down for him and join the Kael family!” The two radio show hosts cackled as Clay rolled his eyes and cracked a small smile, the boy was a wild man.
“Ray, he even told that Texas sized moron that for his trouble he’d get him out of that RV he’s been living in! HAHAHAHA!”
As the two men laughed Clay was pulled back to the road, the wheel had started to veer on him and became difficult to control. The sound of the flat tire echoed through the camper, as his belongings and the camper shook like a cheap children’s ride in front of a Wal-Mart. The Behemoth was still able to steer, but the wobble on the wheel indicated one of the rear tires had went. Clay threw on the caution lights and veered himself off the road. He turned the vehicle off and paused for a moment. He sat with the highway noise of cars passing and the talking heads on the radio still laughing.
“Be careful! The bum you see living in your local Publix parking lot could be Clay Byrd himself. HAHAHAHAA!” Clay smashed the off button with his right hand. The entire console vibrated from the impact and The Behemoth was left grimacing. At the same time, the rain on the windshield began to come down harder.
“Fuckin’ obviously,” The Monster mumbled under his breath, he went to storm out of the cab of The Coach, but thought better of it as a car screamed by, far too close for comfort. Clay had a much better idea, and crawled his way through the cab and to the actual camper door. Pushing it open and into the storm. Luckily this wasn’t like a storm in the midwest, where the icy water and wind tore at you. The water was at least warm when it struck Clay’s skin. His first course of action was to figure out which of the four back tires had went flat, and he rapidly ran around the car using his iPhone to illuminate them. Obviously it couldn’t have been the passenger side.
The Behemoth, now resembling an enormous wet rat on the side of the road waited for an opening in the cars and semis to look at the driver side rear tires. The culprit was at least the outside tire. It hurt the mobility of the vehicle more, but it was easier to change. He’d take whatever small advantage he could get. He went to the spare on the back of the camper, pulling the wheel cover off.
Clay was shocked when he found that there was no spare tire to be found, he looked under the vehicle, making sure he hadn’t missed the spare tire anywhere. Once again the violence took over and Clay dented the back panel of the motor home with his fist. He smashed it a second time for good measure. It hadn’t fixed anything, but it had at least made him feel better.
Clay picked up the #97red wheel cover, he shook his head. It had been sitting on the bracket where the wheel was supposed to be the entire time. As he went to put it back up, he noticed a message written on the inside. The original brown paint made the black spray hard to see, so Clay illuminated it with his phone.
‘CHEAP FUCK’ was painted on the inside of the wheel cover. Clay tossed the pointless and now insulting accessory into the woods angrily. The now drenched behemoth stormed back into the camper, slamming the door. He stopped and composed himself for a moment. He could feel his heart thumping in his chest, the adrenaline running through his body, he took a deep breath and then another. The faint sound of the men still laughing on the radio was present again. Apparently the first time he had punched the radio it had only turned the volume down.
He calmly leaned into the cockpit area as the men continued talking about him. “Can you believe a guy with a degree in economics from the University of Texas is so broke he has to li…” Clay clicked the volume to off and stood with his back and neck hunched low in the camper. It took everything he had not to smash the radio into a million pieces.
Clay, seething, searched through his gear bag. Finally he found a towel and used it to dry off a bit, and to wipe his now drenched cellphone off. After a few more moments of rummaging he dialed a number on a card that he had found in his wallet. After a few minutes of excruciatingly painful hold music someone finally answered.
The conversation with AAA went as expected, Clay had at some point let his membership lapse. But they had found a tow truck company with a truck big enough to tow his RV to the closest dealer. Obviously, it would take them three hours to get there with the current weather. The Behemoth accepted his fate, and laid down in the back of the camper listening to the vehicles motor by.
Sutler Kael had embarrassed The Behemoth. Giving him a way out? Did Clay need a way out? The man was small enough that he could toss Sutler from the apron into the crowd without any exertion on his part. Even with a bad wing. The Monster from Plainview ripped his air cast off angrily, throwing it to the front of the RV. He couldn’t sleep with the damn thing on anyway.
He tried to shut his eyes, but the words of the radio hosts continued to echo in his head. The ridicule, the laughter, Clay knew he had brought part of it on himself. The downward spiral that being launched from the deck of the octane had started had finally led him here. He had finally let his confidence find rock bottom.
Maybe he did need to take Sutler’s offer, maybe he needed an easy way out of the match with the kid. Maybe, just maybe, Clay wasn’t the destructive force that he thought he was. The victories were always against men and women at the bottom of the rankings. His record had been inflated by his employer so he could thrusted into positions like this. Maybe Farthington was right, maybe Clay didn’t deserve anything.
Maybe this match was like the dumb piece of paper he used as validation that he was intelligent. He knew he didn’t deserve that. He was on the Longhorn’s football team, he’d had a full staff of tutors after class, all his tests had been take home exams. The other kids in Austin hadn’t had the same experience to earn their degrees, he knew that.
Maybe he was a fake? A phony? A fraud?
That couldn’t be it. There was one thing that couldn’t be fake.
The violence wasn’t fake. The things he had done to people his entire life, the mean streak he’d carried since birth. Nothing about that was fake, nothing about that was an illusion. The broken bones, the careers he had taken. Clay Byrd hurt people, that’s what he did, and that’s what he did at an elite level. That’s why Lee Best kept The Behemoth on the payroll, that’s why Lee Best had used the match with him to motivate Sutler.
Join The Alliance or fight this gigantic mean angry man, Lee Best hadn’t hired Clay Byrd to do his taxes. He’d hired Clay Byrd to fucking hurt people, he’d put Sutler Reynolds-Kael in his path fer a reason… He wanted Sutler eliminated, and Clay would do just that. He wouldn’t do it with intelligence, he wouldn’t get cute, no, Clay Byrd would do it the only way he knew how: With unfiltered, unadulterated, magnificent violence.
Sutler, Sutler, Sutler…
First off, do ya prefer Andes or Werthers? This is an important question kid, think about it fer a bit. We’ll get ta it later.
Second, what the hell are we gonna do with ya kid? Yer Pappy made ya a very generous offer. One that I was excited ta see ya take. Cause truthfully, I like ya. Yer a smart kid, hard worker, use a toilet brush like it’s nobodies business. Hell yer the best damn referee in the company. Absolutely first rate officiating when yer in the ring. Destined for a spot in the Hall of Fame beside Hortega and Boetcher.
Havin’ a man like yerself, with yer pedigree would have been a huge pick up for The Alliance. It would have guaranteed yer own Pappy’s happiness, myself and the boys even had the champagne ready ta pop if ya said yes.
Let’s talk ‘bout loyalty fer a minute. Sutler, I’m a very loyal dog. I do what’s asked of me ta the best of my abilities, especially when an employer sees somethin’ special in me. Yer grandfather is a great and wonderful boss, who has given me everythin’ I’ve asked of him and more. He’s thrown title shots at me, he’s showered me with money, he’s put me ‘round a team of winners. He’s made me apart of a team full of legends Sutler.
And ya want me ta throw all that away, fer what? So I don’t have to live in an RV? Now don’t get me wrong Sutler, I ain’t the biggest fan of travelin’ ‘round the country in a motor home. Lord knows it’s given me more problems this week than it’s worth. However, it gets the job done just fine. I get ta save money, I have the shortest ride from the arena ta home, and really I don’t have a lot of possessions.
Ya want ta slap my employer in the face by turnin’ down his very generous offer, and ya wanna slap him in the face again by tryin’ ta take one of his most destructive assets? Ya want me ta give up my gigantic salary and the payments that prop up my fathers legacy? All fer what? A hotel room? Young Sutler, Son of Scions, holder of the #97Red Leather, yer gonna have ta do better than that.
So I have an offer fer you. Stop the madness, stop runnin’ from yer destiny, stop runnin away from how yer life’s been predetermined, how it’s been laid out fer ya. Change yer mind Sutler, and join The Best Alliance.
But sadly, the terms of the previous offer have now been altered. It was a great offer Sutler, a fantastic offer. Join The Alliance, get a raise, get all the henchmen ya could desire. The meanest and dirtiest of bastards High Octane Wrasslin’ has ta offer at yer disposal. Willin’ ta tear the world down ta destroy Conor Fuse. Ya could have had everythin’ Sutler.
The new offer is this boy, ta join The Alliance, you’ll need ta surrender the red leather strap ta yer Pappy by layin’ down fer me in the middle of the ring. Think ‘bout it kid, ya said it yerself, we’d be great together. I can forgive the previous embarrassments, I’ll even let ya ride ta the ring on my shoulders. I’d do that fer ya. I don’t forgive many people Sutler, I obsess over them, and eventually I get my way. It’s been that way my entire life, and what I have my eyes on this week, is takin’ that title off of ya.
I mean I haven’t spoken ta Lee ‘bout the idea yet, but I’m sure he’d see the declaration of fealty as an advantage and take pity on ya… Maybe… Because ya won’t say yes, ya won’t listen ta yer family, and lay down in the middle of the ring Sutler. We all know what this leads to.
So back to that first question Sutler, Andes or Werther’s? What’s yer preference?
Figured I’d let ya guess what Lee likes best. So that after I’m done separatin’ yer skull from yer spinal column with a lariat and when I give him the attempted usurpers skull as a fuckin’ candy dish it’ll be on you if yer remains end up in a desk drawer like yer fathers.
Ya have twenty four hours, or I’m goin’ with skittles and hopin’ fer the best.