“Listen Claude… when we get ta Atlanta yer on the first plane back ta Dallas,” The Behemoth said to himself as he exited a Sunoco gas station. The trip from Charleston to the State Farm Arena in Atlanta wasn’t a marathon trip. He didn’t have hours upon hours to dwell on the subject, he had to explain it to Claude, make it definite. There wasn’t an easy way to be friendly telling your best friend for the last eighteen years to go the fuck away for the second time in under six months.
But as Clay approached the black and #97Red RV, he knew it was for the best. The idea of Claude becoming collateral damage caused The Monster’s skin to crawl. His friend; who had warned him against aligning himself with Lee Best. Who had begged him not to take the money, becoming a statistic in High Octane Wrestling. Just another name on the long list that contains the lives that Lee Best had systematically ruined.
And he had ruined many of them for less than what Clay had done. If anything could be said about Lee, he doesn’t suffer fools. Unless you have something he wants. Then he’ll entertain you until you no longer have something that he desires. Clay had no collateral, nothing that Lee desperately needed. Clay Byrd was now the fool, the shitbird if you will.
No longer was there a need to protect all twenty seven members of The Best Alliance, War Games was in the past. Sutler wasn’t a man with an army. No, on the contrary, Sutler was actively trying to recruit an army in the landscape of High Octane. Every opponent given an offer, but Sutler was still by himself. A lonely boy with the sloppy seconds of his fathers empire.
Call it instinct, call it a gut feeling, call it what you will. This match against Cancer Jiles wasn’t something Lee Best put together on a whim. You don’t send two prized assets into a ring to hurt each other, you don’t send valuable pieces to collide. You’d never position two of your most valuable fighters against each other.
You could make the argument that going into War Games, The Best Alliance had three incredible advantages: Cancer Jiles, Sutler Kael and Clay Byrd. The landscape post Jiles and Clay’s failures in Tokyo had altered drastically. It moved as quick as Cancer Jiles had found himself out of War Games, and as frequently as Clay took naps during big matches.
John Sektor was now sitting somewhere and relaxing, drinking, smoking, galavanting. The Gold Standard was now living a life of luxury, paid for by Lee Best. While The Behemoth walked out of Sunoco with three bags of cashews, two bags of beef jerky, and six bottles of water. All purchased on his own dime.
Something was wrong in The Alliance, and Clay had heard the whispers. Jiles and Byrd, the men expected to lead the charge into War Games had left War Games empty handed. Teddy Palmer had left as LSD Champion, Cancer Jiles had walked in with two titles and nearly managed to leave without his sunglasses. The vultures of The Alliance weren’t picking the bones off of the corpses of Clay Byrd and Cancer Jiles, yet. However they were circling, waiting for the moment to strike. Foaming at the mouth thinking of every time Jiles or Clay had insulted a compatriot.
“You getting in or what? You’ve been staring off into space for like ten minutes!” Claude had leaned out his own window and was shouting across the hood of ‘The Coach’ to The Behemoth. This was another prime example of why Claude couldn’t be here, it was another part to the puzzle. Someone else to worry about hurting and affecting with his decisions. The difficulty of the High Octane political landscape was already daunting. Let alone with baggage in tow.
Clay pulled himself up into his seat, his arm still ached from the battle with Farthington. A new wound had formed, a knot above his eye that had formed from Sutler driving his skull into the canvas. He’d already faced and lost to three of the past four world champions. Left with souvenirs and injuries from each. Why not throw him in there with the fourth and find out if he still had anything left? A great way to ring out the last bit of usefulness, go out there and inspire Jiles back into form.
Yeah, Claude had to fucking go. It was far too dangerous. If Clay lost, his status as a target would quickly escalate. There was no waffling about it, there was no dancing around the subject. Clay rummaged through the center console for a water, but stopped himself. He needed to get this over with.
“Claude, when we get ta Atlanta…” Clay wasn’t able to finish his sentence as he put the finishing touches on his preparation for the drive.
“You’re taking me to the airport?” Claude smirked as he looked at Clay through a side eye. “You think that’s smart? With people disappearing and all?”
“I don’t want ya ta be one of the ones that vanish…” Clay had tried to take an authoritative tone but Claude shot back quickly.
“Don’t you work for the guy doing the disappearing?” Claude stated, the tone he used reeked of sarcasm. Clay could feel the I told you so coming and tried to start the car and reaffirm his point.
“Ya, I do… I just don’t think I’m on the best of terms with the boss right now…” Claude was on the words before Clay could blink.
“You think? Jesus Clay, why do you think I’m here? I saw this coming back in March. I saw this when you smashed Lindsay Troy’s head in with a chair, the moment it was on my television I prepared myself for this and here we are,” Claude tilted his head to the window and stared outside. “I”m not fucking leaving Clay.”
“Why? I dug my own fuckin’ grave Claude, I did this ta myself. Why the fuck do ya have ta try ta go down with me?” Clay demanded as he tried to keep his eyes on the road. Looking back and forth at the highway and Claude.
“Because it’s what friends are supposed to do Clay, when shit gets hard were supposed to be there for each other, pick each other up,” Claude kept staring out the window. “So why? Why the fuck should I go?”
He had tilted his head back around as he asked the question. Looking at Clay’s weathered face, the knot above his eye, he could tell his left arm still hurt. As Clay was driving, Claude had watched The Behemoth struggle with his injuries. The constant added effect of punishment on top of punishment taking its toll.
His friend was bruised and beaten, his body literally falling apart. The toughest schedule of anyone in High Octane Wrestling over the last nine weeks had performed a number on Clay. Most men would have quit, most men would have been a disaster after being tossed off the Octane. Most men would have walked after failing at War Games, most men would have ran away after the losses to Farthington and Best…
And yet here his friend was, still battling, still grinding his body into dust.
He wouldn’t let him do it alone, he couldn’t.
“Why should I fucking go Clay?” Claude demanded, slamming his fist off of the console. It shuddered from the impact. Claude wasn’t a young man anymore. He hadn’t competed in a decade, but with the school he had still worked out consistently. He was formidable to anyone that may approach him in the streets, yet in High Octane Wrestling…
“Tell me fucking why!?” Claude shouted at The Behemoth. Clay knew he had to pull the bandage off, he had to stop dancing around the issue. He had told himself to be blunt, be firm before they had started the argument, and he needed that reminder.
“Man… this ain’t easy…” Clay stammered as Claude pounced on the statement.
“What ain’t easy Clay?”
“Yer a liability.” The words hit Claude in the chest like Clay had crushed it in with a sledgehammer. The adrenaline spike caused from the anger had subsided, and what was left was a man staring down his own mortality. A wound inflicted from his former understudy and now a friend. “Yer what? Fifty-one now? I can’t trust that ya can take care of yerself. If Lee sends Rum, or Wahl after ya yer as good as fuckin’ dead Claude.”
Clay wasn’t wrong and Claude knew it, for minutes you could cut the tension between the two men with a knife. Clay had tried to explain the situation to Claude in more detail, but the ramblings of The Behemoth didn’t mean much to him as he turned back to the window. The two men had argued for the better part of a hour.
“I’ll leave,” Claude said as he stared out the window. “If it’ll shut you up for the next hour of this ride I’ll do whatever the fuck you want.”
Jiles… ‘Cool’ Cancer Jiles… it’s funny how it’s come to this. Do ya ‘member right before War Games? All them fellers talkin’ ‘bout how dangerous we were, how we had been ridin’ incredible momentum inta War Games?
Here we are now Jiles, how the mighty have fallen. Shitbirds trapped together.
Do ya ‘member on the boat when ya locked Bobby and Doozer in that room and we used them like our personal slaves? What’s that like? ‘Cause I got a feelin’ the shit we put Doozer through on that boat, the beatin’ we gave him, the toilet scrubbin’. Ya know, all the shit yer intimately familiar with from yer association with The Bandits? That’s what’s comin’ fer us.
I’m not made fer that Jiles, the submissive isn’t my preferred role. I’m more of a dominant personality, but you my friend, you’ve been here. Barely managin’ ta scrape by, a dastardly deed here, a compromise there. Ya make a good shitbird Jiles. I on the other hand? It’s just not fer me.
Ya like slickin’ back yer hair and goin’ ta the mall ta hit on sixteen year old girls comin’ out of Abercrombie then followin’ them all the way out ta their parkin’ spot. I like punchin’ people in the face. Ya like gettin’ super high, stumblin’ ‘round an aircraft carrier before the biggest match of yer career complainin’ ‘bout the Ukulele noises. I like tryin’ ta get my head on right and beatin’ the fuck out of anythin’ I can find.
Jiles, ya and I are very different people.
So what, ya wanna be friends? Opposite attracts and all that shit, ya want me ta take it easy on ya? The two bottom feeders of The Alliance chummin’ it up together in the ring. What, we wanna bring some beach chairs ta the ring, work on our spray tans until the referee falls asleep?
I just, I just can’t do it Jiles. I just can’t take that easy way out. I’m not made that way Cancer, I never have been. Sure I’ll cheat a bit in the ring, choke a feller, hit ‘em with a weapon, but I’m not fuckin’ lazy. I don’t treat this place like it’s my second rate play toy when I’m not feelin’ it.
Cause I always feel it Jiles.
It’s just how I’m wired. And I can’t be asked ta do anythin’ different when I get inta the ring. I can’t just turn the switch ta halfway, take a fuckin’ nap at the wheel and hope we all get out of the car alright on the other side. No Jiles, I have to knock you the fuck out. I have ta do it ta get right, I have ta do this fer me, I need somethin’ in High Octane Wrasslin’ ta finally go my fuckin’ way.
It feels like it’s been months since my last win, it feels like I’ve been frothin’ at the mouth, on the brink of greatness at every turn. On the brink of breaking through and actually doin’ somethin’ that actually fuckin’ matters. Just teeterin’ on the edge of a breakthrough, just waitin’ fer it ta happen…
That’s the problem Jiles, I feel like I’m waitin’ fer it instead of takin’ it. I had Sutler dead to rights, I beat that kid within an inch of his fuckin’ life last week, I’ve gone twenty fuckin’ minutes with Teddy Palmer, twice. And I’m still in the fuckin’ mud, I’m still waitin’ fer that big breakout, that moment.
I need a win against an opponent that’s worth my time, I need a win against someone who can put up a fight. I don’t need ta be out here fightin’ the gymnasts, the hillbillies, the Zions of the world takin’ the hand outs over and over again. I need ta smash somethin’ beautiful, someone makin’ a run up the standin’s, someone who wants ta be the fuckin’ best.
I need to destroy someone, someone with a future, with more to do in High Octane Wrestling, with a career in front of them. And we all know, that’s not you.
God I fuckin’ hate people like you Jiles, gigantic shit bags with no personality other than ‘I’m a shit bag.’ You probably drive ‘round town listenin’ ta Motley Crue and drivin’ a fuckin’ firebird too ya pathetic waste of carbon. Yer the worst type of bad guy, there’s no chance of ya bein’ trustworthy, there’s no chance of loyalty, Jiles there’s no chance of anythin’ interestin’. It’s just you bein’ a piece of shit forever, on loop, the broken record that never fucking stops.
First time? It was great.
Second time? It was ‘COOL’
Third time? It’s expected, normal, maybe even boring.
You get my drift right? Yer pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down? No magic small fuckin’ guitar in yer ear playin’ ya a tune? It’s played out, yer a sack of shit, we all get it. I can’t trust you, I can’t take yer olive branch of friendship seriously. ‘Cause behind it Jiles, is just a knife waitin’ ta stab inta my back.
I might not be the brightest crayon in the box Cancer, but ya don’t have ta be a genius ta figure that out. So, instead I have ta do what GOD has asked. What GOD has demanded of me. I’m goin’ ta crush ya in the fuckin’ ring, grind ya down inta fuckin’ nothin’. And beat ya so bad yer standin’ outside Doozer’s window with a boombox playin’ ‘Baby Comeback.’