“You’ll never guess who I just got off the phone with.”
The voice enters the room before the body does, but it’s so familiar that Lindsay Troy doesn’t need to look up from the gym’s 2018 fourth quarter financials to know who it belongs to. She knows it’ll take that body two short strides to breeze through her doorway and one sweeping arm motion to slam the metal door behind him. Two more steps and he’ll be plopped down in the seat in front of her desk, spit-shined Ferragamo shoes hoisted onto some folders, hands behind his head, shit-eating grin on his face.
This is the way of Clay Darcy: friend, lawyer-slash-agent, snark-machine.
Like many in the legal profession, Clay is smart, meticulous, gregarious, and – when the situation calls for it – not above obtaining ethical outcomes through dubious means. His friendship with the Queen dates back to their time in high school when a much skinnier, nerdier, and more pock-marked Clay was picked on by the jocks and a much taller, more popular, and more intimidating Lindsay told those in her social circle to knock it off or get their dicks kicked in.
That was the way of Lindsay Troy. Still is, all these years later.
After he got his law degree, and after Lindsay started making waves in professional wrestling, she became his first client. Now, Clay represents those jackwagons from yesteryear for $500 an hour. The Queen gets his family and friends discount, of course.
“Working on the weekend, Clay?” Lindsay still hasn’t looked at him; instead, she types something into a laptop. “Is the apocalypse nigh?”
“It might be. I did see your husband out on the floor, on a Saturday, before noon.”
The first time Clay met Tyler Rayne, the man was not impressed. It was after a particularly nasty run-in Lindsay had in PRIME with a woman who called herself Cozen. Troy’s injuries were so severe that she was ordered to take time away from the company, so she opted to recover at Dan Ryan’s place in Texas. Rayne, on leave himself, drove 14 hours from California to see her. He couldn’t get a flight, so he just started driving. He looked a mess when he showed up at Ryan’s, where the Inner Circle had gathered to figure things out.
The first impression was shot to shit. And while everyone eventually came around to the unique personality that is Tyler Rayne, Clay still likes to get a little subtle dig in here and there.
This is the way of Clay Darcy. Nobody will ever be good enough for his friend.
Lindsay, though, takes note, and shoots Clay a pointed look. “Ty closed the bar last night and will again tonight. He may be retired, but he still gets the workouts in. Besides, not all of us business-owners have the benefit of weekends off, my friend.”
“You could. Both of you, actually. You both own your places. Certainly that comes with some favorable scheduling perks.”
“It could, but we don’t actually mind it. So,” she closes the laptop, done for the time being, “did you come here to advocate for us adopting your work schedule or did you come here to talk about this mystery person? Which, by the way…” she points to both her cell and her office line, “…were these not an option for this conversation?”
“And miss out on this witty repartee in person?”
The pointed look from a minute ago morphs into a withering one, and Clay is forced to hold his hands up in surrender. “OK, OK. I really just wanted to see your reaction rather than hear it.”
A sigh. “Fine. Hit me with it.”
“Should I drumroll or…”
“I swear to God, Clay…”
“Alright!” He readjusts his posture and grins. “I almost didn’t believe it myself, and why he still had my number after all these years, I don’t know, but it was Lee Best from High Octane Wrestling.”
Seconds pass. Lindsay leans back in her chair, laughing softly, shaking her head in disbelief. The Chicago Devil, awakened again, and come back to tempt her.
“He’s resurrecting the machine,” Clay continues, “His words. Kicking it back off with a World Title tournament, and he wants you to be a part of it.”
“Of course he does,” she murmurs in response. “It wouldn’t be Lee if he wasn’t extending this invite.”
“And you wouldn’t be you if you didn’t turn him down, but this time isn’t like all the others.”
His response is met with a side-eye, but Clay is undeterred. He puts his feet on the floor, scoots his chair closer to the desk, and folds his hands on the mahogany top. “Look. The man has been after you for how long now? Something like twelve years? And I’m not saying your reasons for saying ‘no’ before weren’t legit. Between all your time in PRIME, taking over the gym after Brent passed on, then working in DEFIANCE with Dan and Tyler, the timing was never right. But it looks like it is now.”
Lindsay casts her eyes to the front corner of her office where two large windows meet. Stares at nothing in particular. There’s silence between them for a bit before Clay finally breaks it.
“What are you thinking?”
“…That it’s not a good idea.”
“OK,” Clay leans back, brings his folded hands to his waist. “I’m listening. Tell me why.”
Quiet again. Then…
“For one, I’ve been out of the game for two years.”
Clay nods. “This wouldn’t be the first time you’ve taken an extended break and gone back.”
“I was younger then,” Lindsay replies. “Can’t stop the passage of time.”
“True. But you’re still in the best shape of your life. You’re here pretty much every day, training students. And I bet, if Tyler’s still working out, you still are too. Am I wrong?”
A little smile from across the desk. “No. You’re not.”
“Can you still go?”
“Of course I can still go. There’s no question, no doubt in my mind of my ability to still compete at any level, anywhere. But that shit with Dan in DEFIANCE, Clay….for the first time in my life, I truly hated this profession. I hated that wrestling broke my family, that we didn’t talk for a year, and that it took the better part of another to patch things up. Do you know what that’s like? To have the most important part of you shattered to pieces because of the thing you love to do the most?”
He didn’t know. Of course he didn’t, because Clay doesn’t think too highly of his family. His parents thought he was exaggerating about the high school bullying, and his grades were never quite good enough for them. So when he finally grew out of that ugly duckling phase, applied himself in college and law school, gained much-needed confidence by hanging around with Lindsay, and became a big-shot attorney, he decided their praise at his newfound success was just a little too late.
He found his new family. And family first and family foremost was the way of Lindsay Troy.
She stands up with a sigh and steps around the desk, stopping in front of the window closest to the door. Her office is on the gym’s second level and the windows offer a sweeping view of the floor below. A cluster of students begin warm-up drills on the mats, while a few work on heavy bag mechanics down the way. In a ring, Tyler Rayne wears punch mitts while a six foot tall Daryn Thompson, visiting from Japan, snaps a high kick off toward his head.
“I can push my cognitive dissonance to the back of my brain because the kids who come here depend on me, and they depend on Tyler, and they depend on Tiffany,” she continues, after a moment. “I see in them the promise and potential that Brent and others saw in me. But in my heart, I don’t know if I really, truly want to go beyond the rings in here again.”
Clay glides over, follows her line of sight, then turns to face her.
“I hear what you’re saying, Lindz. I know how that period of time went and how shitty everything was; you’ve got very valid feelings here. But y’know what? I have never known you not to gather yourself up and persevere, no matter what. You had your family taken from you. Fuck, you had the top belt in DEFIANCE taken from you because of that fallout. One thing got fixed; it took a little time, but it got done. Now it’s time to fix the other.”
When Lindsay doesn’t respond, Clay taps on the glass through the window’s blinds.
“You are great at what you do out there for those kids. Daryn’s bulldozed through F.A.T.E.’s women’s division and BK’s in month six of his heavyweight title reign. And I’ve kept the knocks at your door out of your earshot for two years because you asked me to. But I don’t believe you when you say that in there,” he points to her chest, “you’re done. What’s that you like to say about retirement?”
“That I’ve never retired, I’ve gone on a semi-permanent hiatus.”
“Right. Well, you can call it whatever you want, my friend, but don’t call it quitting. You let me know what you want to do.”
With a nod, Clay steps toward the door. He twists the knob to open it, and that’s as far as he gets.
“I’ll have to talk to Tyler and the twins.”
That’s the way of Lindsay Troy and Clay Darcy. They’re fighters. Especially when their backs are against the wall. Especially when people think they’re counted out. Especially when nobody wants to give them the benefit of the doubt, or when they just need a little bit of prodding.
“I understand,” he says, and looks back over his shoulder, “but you know they’ll all be behind you if this is what you want to do.”
“It’s a family decision, you know that.” She folds her arms over her chest. “And did you just pay my husband a compliment?”
“It was barely a compliment.”
“Sure,” Lindsay smirks. “And there’s one other thing if I’m going to do this.”
“Should I be taking notes?”
“I’ll be brief. It’s HOW, and it’s Lee Best. I’ve heard the stories. I know their reputation. As much as I’m flattered, I don’t trust him.”
Now it’s Clay’s turn to smirk. “I don’t think you’ll need to worry; you know I always look out for you. Besides, the man’s been chasing you for time eternal. I don’t think he’ll want to do anything to jeopardize the biggest get of his life.”
November 22, 2019
San Jose, California
“Alright, alright, steady now.”
Backstage activity at the SAP Center is winding down for the night; the ninth edition of Refueled has gone off the air and various stagehands and production assistants are darting through the halls, going about their duties to ensure that High Octane Wrestling personnel clears out in an orderly fashion.
Except, of course, for the medical staff. There’s no darting going on here. Instead, two assistants help guide Lindsay Troy through the corridors to the rear exit. They’re accompanied by Tyler Rayne, combat boots thudding ominously against the dull gray tile. He helps steady his wife as they walk and, every so often, glances over to check on her. The Queen of the Ring is still dressed in her gear and the steadying hand is needed, thanks to an immobilized and injured elbow, courtesy of the eMpire.
Shenanigans were destined to be abound in her ICON title match against Cecilworth Farthington; it was the eMpirical way, after all. And as good as Lindsay was at anticipating the inevitable – she always had a very good sense about these things, Mom knows everything, after all – the numbers game was far too much for her to overcome.
As was the belt shot from Michael Lee Best.
And the subsequent stompage.
And the Article 50 from Farthington as an insult to injury.
When she finally came-to in the ring, the Champ already had the cross-armbreaker locked in and her elbow felt like a thousand knives were jabbing it. With a woozy head, the renowned submissions and counter-specialist couldn’t move, couldn’t think straight. All there was, was searing pain.
And later, while on the medical table and in the presence of Dan Ryan, a very strong need for revenge.
Troy says nothing as SAP Center security opens the back door to let her chaperones guide her through and into the cool California fall air. The ambulance is already backed up close to the door. With a little help, Lindsay climbs in, Tyler right behind.
He already knows she’s pissed about having to ride in the bus. And he knows the last time the two of them rode in one of these together, he almost didn’t make it out alive. Very few happy memories are made in ambulances. Before long, the vehicle starts moving and the EMTs get to work getting Troy secure in a temporary arm brace.
“That was some bullshit.”
Lindsay looks at her husband. She knows there’s fury in her eyes. He knows it’s not for him.
“So what’s the gameplan, kid?”
Troy grimaces and tries not to cry out as the EMTs work. “Whatever the doctors say, whatever they put on me, I’m going to do whatever I have to do to get back to a hundred percent. And then, I’m straight gunning for Daddy Lee’s precious baby boy.”