”I know what they don’t want to tell you; just hope you’re heaven sent and hell-proof.” – Lil Wayne
November 10, 2019
Ritz Carlton San Francisco
The Morning After Rumble at the Rock
“What the hell am I doing?”
Lindsay stands, hesitating, outside of Michael Lee Best’s hotel room door, less than 18 hours removed from one hell of a battle for the High Octane tag team titles against the Order’s Brian Hollywood and Darin Zion. She’s already knocked, she’s alone in the hallway, and now she’s having second thoughts about it.
Her back’s sore as fuck.
Her calf where Hollywood stabbed her with a shiv is stitched and bandaged.
Her mind is absolutely not right.
She barely slept when she returned to the hotel room the night before, and when she woke up this morning from the little sleep she did get, she felt two shades of hurt and one shade of angry.
Hurt from the match.
Hurt from a phone call she received the day before.
And furious from that conversation.
Ami, home in Tampa for a friend’s birthday weekend, had called her right before she was set to meet Dan in the lobby to head over to the Rock. Tyler had left his phone at home on the kitchen island before heading to the bar to work the closing shift; not unusual for him to forget it. But Ami had wandered through the kitchen on her way out the door and noticed it there, alight with incoming racy text messages and pictures from an unknown number.
Pictures of not just a woman alone, but of a woman and Rayne together. Missives of missing him, of seeing him soon.
Ami called her mom, hysterical, talking a mile a minute. Lindsay could barely understand her, could hardly get a word in. When she finally did, she dropped the phone on the desk and didn’t realize she had until her daughter’s tinny voice through the speaker pierced through her ears.
”Mom, I’m sorry…I’m sorry…what do I do?”
Lindsay didn’t have time to process this. Could barely keep her hands from shaking.
”Mom? Mom, are you OK? Are you there?”
“I’m here baby. I’m…I’m OK.
She’s not OK. Far from it.
“Don’t do anything, Ami. I’ll deal with this later.”
“What’s going to happen?”
“I can’t answer that right now. But whatever happens, we’ll get through it, alright?”
Lying on her side now, sun peeking through the curtains, a million thoughts swirl through her head – how long has this been going on?; were there signs I didn’t pick up on?; but actually, how fucking dare he, I’m going to goddamn kill him… – before a thought snaps straight to the forefront; an off-hand remark that Rayne once made about Michael during a pre-War Games press conference at Tampa’s Tropicana Field.
He reminds me of me.
Without another moment’s consideration, she immediately throws the covers off, crying out and wincing at the effort that even that movement took, and rolls out of bed. A change of clothes is already laid out on top of her suitcase, and she grabs them on her way to the bathroom to shower quickly and change.
Motherfucker, two can play this game… she thinks as she storms out of her suite and on the prowl a half-hour later.
But now that the Son of GOD’s door awaits, invitingly, Lindsay is seriously having second thoughts about this revenge scheme.
“This isn’t me,” she mutters, looking nervously up and down the corridor. She stands next to a food cart and grips the handle to steady herself. “Why did I think this was me?”
Lindsay drums her fingers along the handle. “I can just leave. He’s taking forever; maybe he’s still sleeping.”
She looks at her watch. 10AM. A very likely possibility.
“He’ll never know I’m here. I’ll be the only one who knows I came here.” A hand through her hair. “This was stupid. I’m stupid. I have to be, to do this, to get cheated on again.”
Her breathing quickens, mild panic setting in. For someone always so sure of herself, who very rarely makes a wrong move, this is absolutely unchartered territory. She’s right; she isn’t this person. She’s not a cheater; never has been, and isn’t about to start now.
She can get through this; she did once before. She doesn’t need to do to Tyler what he did to her just because she can. Or because she thinks it’ll hurt him in any way. She may not always take the high road every time in every instance, but this time, she can.
She has to.
She has more than just herself to think about.
“Let me guess…”
She didn’t even hear the door open, it was done so quietly.
Michael’s voice is sarcastic and smooth as it cuts across the short space between them. He leans against the jamb, trying to play it cool and mask his surprise. “You’re tired of the Industry and you’re here to defect.”
Oh fuck. I wasted too much time…
Caught absolutely by surprise, and with no time to think or even consider what she’s saying, Lindsay blurts out the first thing that comes to mind: a sarcastic quip to match his. “Jesus, way to be a shitty buzzkill.”
Once the words leave her mouth, though, they surprisingly don’t sound half-bad.
“Oh, right, sure.”
“Nope, you guessed it, Carnac. I’m tired of the Industry and I want to defect.”
“Oh,” Michael replies, confused, before everything clicks. “OH.”
He might have been joking when he first suggested it. It might have been something that the eMpire had discussed in passing. Or maybe it was something the Son secretly wanted but didn’t think would happen. Lindsay won’t find out for sure until much later.
But on this day, on pure fucking accident, two sharp-tongued and shrewd adversaries shift the tides of High Octane Wrestling, for better or for worse.
An eMpire fortifies itself.
A new Group is born…
I’m getting very mixed signals and it’s hard to keep them straight.
I’m supposed to stay away from the Minister because he is very bad, very dangerous, and let Mike handle him.
I’m supposed to stay away from Mike because the Minister wants him for some unknown reason and if I go near him I risk pain of death by knifing.
At this point, the knife might be preferable, because then I won’t have to listen to one more misogynistic, lazy, bullshit thing come out of anyone’s mouth because they can’t come up with anything else clever to say.
I may not know the full extent of just how very bad and very dangerous you are, Minister, but what I do know is that I don’t believe for one second that you’re just going to leave me alone. And I think you know that if you come for me, I’m not going to back down just because Mike told me to.
Yes, you beat me twice. You shot a crossbow into my foot, you damn near cracked my skull apart with yours. But you didn’t keep me down, or put me out. You didn’t drive me out of this place.
This is War Games. If it comes down to me and you at any point, I’m not staying away. I’m not backing down. I might not have signed up for a fight for anyone’s eternal soul, but I know this match is gonna be a fight for our lives. It was last year, and I know Murray, Witherhold, and MJ will ensure that it is again.
You sew these seeds of discontent and try to paint me as the weak link. And for a time, I may have believed that myself. But I’m not one to dwell for long in negativity. I’m not one to let it shake me for long. And if you think you’re going to take me out, semi-permanently or permanently, do you think that the Group of Death will continue on? Do you think that the eMpire will resume and it will be you and Mike and Cecilworth once more?
Things will never be the same again.
You can’t go back to the way things were once they’ve been changed. You step on a butterfly, and the past is changed.
The only way forward is the future.
I am a fixture in the Group of Death. I helped build this new entity. I am a part of it, I am a part of its lifeblood, and no matter what you do, you will not take me from it.
I will help see us through to victory in War Games. I will help defeat you and get Max Kael back.
And if I have to, I will bring a gun to the knife fight.