Millhaven’s Finest

Millhaven’s Finest

Posted on March 9, 2024 at 10:00 pm by Teddy Palmer

February 12, 2024 – Toronto

‘I need your help. I can’t tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later, and we’re gonna hurt some people.’

You know when you hear something and it makes the hairs on your arms stand on end? Yeah? Well that plea from Doug MacRay in ‘The Town’ fuckin’ did that for me. It’s something I haven’t been able to forget since I heard it, nor would I want to. It resonated with me more than any other sentiment I’ve heard fall from someones lips, and sure as fuck more than anything I’ve seen jotted down in some book, given what little reading I’ve attempted through the years.

I mean, who wouldn’t get fuckin’ jacked at the prospect of that type of friendship?

Loyalty ain’t an easy thing to find in our short time here, and it’s fair to say trust is even harder to earn, or invest for that matter. You can spend what feels like a lifetime in search of that type of friend, and more often than not you’ll find yourself looking at empty hands reflecting the loneliness you’ve found, and broken promises in the form of knives stuck in your back. That fuckin’ sucks, but believe me when I say it’s a necessary evil in the journey. 

I speak from experience.

You need to get burnt along the way. You need to live the betrayal of a ‘real one’ turning their back on you. You need to see your world burn down around you while you watch ‘em in the distance, safe from the heat of the flames. It’ll harden you. It’ll mould you into a remorseless, ruthless asshole who has zero fucks to offer this world. You definitely don’t want to experience it, and you sure as fuck won’t like it, but you unequivocally need it. 

That is who you need to become to make it anywhere in this fucked up world.

And that’s when you’ll find ‘em. Your ride or die. Your through thick or thin. You’ll find that one just like you, who’se been fucked over along the way. That one who society will look at as worthless, but you’ll see ‘em as an invaluable asset to your day to day operations. That one who comes with no conditions, who will put their complete trust in you and devote every ounce of loyalty they possess. A brother who you’ll be thrilled to do the same for.

My brother is Marek Sochochki.

Instead of turning his back on me when shit hit the fan, he stood beside me. The two of us watched those within our circle crumble around us, showing they were nothing more than two-faced pissants. I saw my wrestling career go on life support, while he watched his boxing career come to a complete end. We don’t need to go over all the case details, so in keeping it blunt, an indictment for possession of schedule two drugs carries a maximum of five years in the penitentiary.

We were given three.

Three fuckin’ years in the Millhaven Institute together was nowhere near the torture that watching our ‘boys’ walk off with slaps on the wrist was. We lost our freedom while they remained entitled to sleep in their own beds. We lost our careers, while they were given the chance to continue theirs. We lost everything, while they didn’t have to sacrifice a damn thing, short of making a couple enemies in the process.

And I wouldn’t change a fuckin’ thing, even if you gave me the opportunity to do so. Nah.

What we gained was far more valuable than any of that shit. We each found a brother in this fucked up world. We’d been friends since childhood, but this made us so much more. An unspoken bond forged that didn’t require the maintenance others did. Spending every day trying to survive a life that long ago gave us the big fuck you.

And survive we did. Stronger we got.

And fuck man, we each tried to reintegrate by their standards, playing by everyone else’s rules. I was lucky enough to see the wrestling industry open its arms back up to me, albeit under the supervision of an Irish prick who spoke on my behalf. Sock wasn’t as lucky, however, the boxing world viewing him as some bastard child while trying to erase his name along the way. 

But again, we tried adapting and living within their guidelines. 

I was paraded like some show pony, portraying an image for everyone that didn’t come close to resembling the face I saw staring back at me in the mirror. Sock turned to training wannabe fighters, attempting to set them on the path he once walked with vigour. And I can speak on both our behalfs in saying we fuckin’ hated it. 

Making chicken salad out of chicken shit is damn near impossible.

But I shit you not when I say we tried buying into society’s mantra that honest, hard work pays dividends in the end. But the reality is that notion is nothing more than a lie we all tell ourselves to accept mediocrity. So fuck that, and fuck everyone else. It’s time we go about business OUR way, and we take what we’re owed and deserve.

And you want to know what the best part is? I can guarantee Sock is only going to have one question before we get started.

“Whose car we gonna to take?”

***

“I’ve wanted to do that for years,” Sock says to himself, scanning over the bloody knuckles used as his bludgeon. “I never fuckin’ liked that guy.”

“Nobody does.” I’m blunt in my response.

Looking out the fourth story window, I can see the flashing red and blues down the block, parked in front of the Northwood Tavern. The rain has picked up, cascading down on King Street West, but not enough so to deter curious onlookers from gathering around the entrance of the gloomy establishment. Positioned far enough down the strip that fine details are obscured, Grady is still easy to identify as he stumbles out onto the sidewalk, his short stature and embellished theatrics serving as his giveaway.

“Think he snitches?” Sock asks, taking a peek out the window.

“Nah,” I’m dismissive of his inquiry. “Last thing a guy like that is gonna do is file a report. He gets itchy around cops.”

“Hmmph,” Sock snorts with a smirk. “Beer?”

“I think this calls for one.” I reply, watching Grady’s knees work against him, falling into one of the responding officers, much to the amusement of the crowd that has formed.

As Sock makes his way through the open concept apartment, likely advertised as a bachelor, it’s hard not to take note of the conditions he’s living in. Empty Miller Lite cans litter the top of a folding card table, a table I presume serves as one to dine at. The futon is currently set up in ‘sofa mode’, but the comforter draped over its back and pillow on the floor beside it are enough to deduce its dual purpose as his sleeping quarters. And the island, if you choose to call it that, surrounded by his kitchen appliances, is home to his vast supply of workout supplements.

Whey protein. Nyquil. Ephedrine. Tren bottles. Metamucil. And don’t forget the syringes. 

“Nice collection you got there,” I note, pointing towards his pharmacy.

“Ah, you know how it is,” he winks, tossing a Miller my way. “Gotta look after yourself.”

“The body is a temple,” I offer sarcastically, setting the can down on the futon before pulling out a pack of Lucky Strike’s from the breast pocket of my jacket. “Don’t mind, do ya?”

“You see the place?” he spits, a puzzled look etched on his face. “Have at it.”

Brushing what I can only assume is protein powder off the cotton shell of the futon mattress, I grab a seat. While I light a dart, Sock pulls a folding chair out from his table, knocking over a dozen or so empties across the vinyl top as he sits across from me. I’ve barely pulled the lighter away from my face, let alone been afforded a second for that first drag before he hassles about my beer remaining unopened. At his behest, I comply with the pushy host and crack open the ice cold beverage.

“Happy?” I ask, taking that first refreshing gulp.

“Very,” he begins before taking a swig of his drink. “But let’s cut the shit, Teddy Boy. What the fuck is up?”

“What are you talking about?” I snap back, almost defensively.

“I haven’t heard from you in ages, then out of the blue I get a text saying ‘Your fist plus Grady’s teeth. Interested?’”

“A late birthday gift,” I quip with an exhale of smoke.

“I’m serious,” he nods curiously. “Why now? I’ve wanted to break that slimy prick’s jaw since day one, but I didn’t outta respect for you and your business endeavours. Not to mention we’re completely ignoring the fact I ain’t the one he’s been fuckin’ around the past decade and a half. Why the fuck didn’t jump all over that one.”

“Oh trust me, it was hard to pass this one off,” I chuckle, a hint of regret in my voice. “But I needed a very clear message to be sent. One that little fucker couldn’t mistake.”

“And that’d be?”

“That my career has reached a fork in the road, so to speak. I’m gonna be taking that hard right, while he’s gonna have to stay course left.”

“And that fancy jacket of yours wasn’t hint enough,” Sock says, lifting his nose towards the 97 Red Crested B on my chest.

“Grady isn’t one for subtleties. And this bad boy is only half the story.” I begin, taking a sip from my golden beverage. “This was a welcome back from Lee. An olive branch to come home and right my wrongs. Pay back the man who has always given me an opportunity when others offered me nothing more than a fuck you.”

“And you think running around looking like a high school jock is the right way to go about that?”

“Fuck you,” I spew, my cigarette wielding hand waving off his jab. “Make fun of the swag all you want, but this was my foot back in the door and into the LBI. Not to mention it never hurts to have GOD on your side.”

“I’m sure that one comes at a cost.”

“And it comes with its rewards too.”

“So you’re saying it’s worth wearing that thing,” he replies, a shit eating grin resting underneath his beard.

“It’s a nice fuckin’ jacket,” I snap back. 

“Alright, it’s a nice jacket. You’ve got my vote for Prom King. Let’s get to the other half of your story, alright?” he asks, leaning dangerously into the thin metal frame of his seat, challenging its structural integrity with his bulky frame.

Letting a brief moment of silence sit between us, I’m drawn to take in my surroundings once more. Ignoring the playful banter shared between childhood friends, it doesn’t hide the fact this is a simple, sad existence for a man who should have so much fuckin’ more in life. A man who had the world by the balls, and everything and anything he desired within arms reach. A life he gave up without hesitation because that’s what a true friend does for another. And his reward? Living conditions that rival the cell we shared together at Millhaven.

He’s deserves so much fuckin’ more.

“You,” I’m firm in my response, throwing an authoritative pointer in his direction.

“Fuck off,” he blurts out, foam from his beer collecting in the stubble on his face. “What the fuck do I have to offer you?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

 “No, serious as a fuckin’ heart attack. Take a good look around, because this is it. This is all I have.”

“And you’re gonna give this glorified prison cell up and get back in the fuckin’ game,” I lean forward, taking a final haul from my cigarette before stubbing it out on the top of my can. “You’re replacing Grady.”

“I don’t know fuck all about any of the shit that dink did for you. Merchandise, sponsorships, none of it.”

“And you don’t need to. This industry is simple: You need to win, and win a lot to have any sort of value. I didn’t,” I choke out, hating to admit it. “That shit you just rifled off was to supplement the money that was being lost in the ring on a weekly basis.”

“I don’t follow.”

“I don’t need a business manager. I need a trainer,” I state, with a tone verging on asking. “I need someone I can put my complete trust in to help build value in the Teddy Palmer name. That is what is going to put money on the table.”

“Ted, I haven’t trained guys in years…”

“Who gives a fuck. You don’t all of a sudden forget how to be a bad ass,” I inhale between sentences. “While our sample size to go off is fuckin’ miniscule, it’s fuckin’ great at the same time. Eight days I trained with you.”

“St. Louis,” he reminisces, fondly I can only assume.

“Eight days working with you, and I brought home the LSD and Tag Team Championships in that timeframe.”

“Starr and Sektor,” he mumbles, his smirk once again starting to creep from the corner of his mouth. “Two Hall of Famers, if I’m not mistaken.”

“And again I say,” I briefly lose my thought, having regretted stubbing out a cigarette on a half drunk beer. Brushing the ash to the side with my pinky, I risk a sip, praying not to inhale debris. “Eight days. So don’t tell me you don’t have anything to bring to the table. There’s no one else I trust to be in my corner.”

I can see the wheels turning as he doesn’t so much look at me, but through me. He shifts his gaze, looking over what he’s been reduced to in recent years, and the life he’s accepted for himself. After sitting in silence for a brief moment that felt like an eternity, he pushes up from his chair. He offers a gentle nod, a slight glimmer occupying his eyes that had been vacant for ages. With an extended hand, he answers with the only two words I wanted to hear.

“I’m in.”

 

March 8, 2024 – Toronto

“Twenty Thousand…” he mutters in disbelief.

“Can you believe it?” I can’t help but laugh. “He put a fuckin’ bounty put on my head.”

“Twenty Thousand,” Sock repeats, seemingly stuck on the number. “You think there’s a way we can goad Jace into putting the Twenty G’s up for grabs?” 

“Fuck no,” I’m to the point in my reply. “Pencil pusher wants me gone, no way he’d watch me move on to the Final Four AND put that kind of money in my pocket for doing so.”

“I mean, it doesn’t hurt to try,” he ponders with a shoulder shrug. “We can explore some angle targeting his manhood…”

A throat slash is immediately tossed up, much to Sock’s chagrin. 

“That piece of shit tucked his manhood between his legs when he assaulted Lee, then proceeded to hide behind a desk, free of any consequence to his actions,” I bark, blood boiling as I recall the beating Lee took. “Don’t even get me started on the fact he’s holding the LSD Championship hostage in the process.”

Fair to say nearly three years after losing the LSD Championship, it’s still a sore spot for me.

“Fuck man,’ he slaps the side of his hip in frustration. “It would’ve been an easy twenty in our pockets.”

“I don’t envy Chuck making that deal, that’s for sure.”

To be a fly on that wall when he returns a failure.

Heading eastbound on King Street West, early signs of Spring have begun to present themself. The cool breeze whipping between the buildings lacks the frigid sting winter once carried with it. The sun has been staying awake slightly longer, in turn making the days feel like there’s more time to achieve the tasks at hand. The mist from above doesn’t rip through the clothes protecting oneself from the elements, core temperature being much easier to keep at bay.

Having just departed Sock’s apartment for what will have been the last time, there’s a pep to my step, and even more so for my campadre. That shit hole was the final piece of our existence prior to reuniting to embark on this journey together. Not to mention in the four weeks that have since passed, we’ve already bore witness to the rewards that come with having a plan, and executing it to perfection.

To say I dismantled Zack Kostoff would be an absolute crime against humanity. I believe in the Mortal Kombat universe we’d be referring to that one as a flawless victory, so let’s please do so.

Being the ever thoughtful individual that I am, I gifted Hugo Scorpio lifetime use of handicapped parking spaces in exchange for a loss against Charles de Lacy, setting up a winner take all affair at CHAOS 59.

And having caught the ire of our fine brandishing General Manager, I’ve officially become enough of a worry that placing a bounty was the necessary course of action to try and derail the Ted Train.

Teddy Fuckin’ Palmer is back, baby.

“We got time to hit up a bar?” Sock asks.

“Our flight to Newark ain’t for another couple hours.”

“Pearson can wait,” he proclaims. “Onward.”

Pointing forward like an obnoxious jackass, the destination he’s locked in on is the scene of Grady’s public execution, the Northwood Tavern. In the early hours of the evening, the sidewalks are packed with early bar hoppers staking claim to their Saturday night festivities. Looking ahead, Sock takes notice that our preferred watering hole doesn’t seem to be the ‘hoppingest’ of locations.

“Is it closed?” he asks, squinting as if it’d give him a better view.

“I’m sure it’s open.” I rebut, before moving onto more pressing matters. “Rainbow glitter sign aside, what are your thoughts on Chuck?”

“He’s old as fuck.”

“No shit,” I reply, somewhat indignant. “Let’s shelve mother nature for a second and talk abilities.”

“Alright,” he begins, concern absent from his voice. “If mid twentieth century vernacular factored into the outcome, you’d be fucked.”

“Vernacular?” I ask, taken aback with Sock’s chosen vocabulary.

“It means spoken dialect in a particular region,” he begins to explain before quickly taking note of the expression on my face. “I did a lot of reading in prison…”

“Fuckin’ nerd.”

“Whatever,” he brushes off my insult. “Chuck knows what he’s doing in the ring, but his best years are clearly behind him. The most effective weapon in his arsenal isn’t anything inside the ring, it’s that big fuck Mick roaming around outside it.”

“Not wrong there,” I press my tongue into my bottom lip, imagining scenarios that Mickey decides to interject himself in. “But if…rather when Mick decides to introduce himself into our little foray…”

“I’ll skull fuck that limey prick.”

“What is it with you and skull fucking?” I ask, slightly concerned. “Better yet, how do we go from ‘vernacular’ to ‘skull fuck’?”

“Do you want my help or not?” his stride halts, irritation having set in.

“Calm down,” I toss a firm hand on his shoulder, urging him to continue forward. “I’m just saying you’ve got range, that’s all. Tell you what, you want to skull fuck Mick, you go ahead and skull fuck him. I’m on board.”

“You won’t have to worry about him.”

“That’s all I ask. Eliminate him from the equation, and leave Chuck to me,” I place a hand over my chest. “He’s a Brit, so he’s likely gonna try and get technical, try and finess me. That’s fine. I hope he does.”

“All it takes is one misstep on his part…”

“And he gets choked the fuck out.”

Having reached our destination, Sock is aghast to see his earlier suspicions were in fact correct. The Northwood Tavern’s front doors are shut, and placed within the window is a ‘Sold’ sign. A staple in our lives from our fake ID days, well into our legal years, it’s as if a part of him has just died.

“What the fuck happened?” is all he can manage to spit out. “I don’t even remember seeing a ‘For Sale’ sign.”

“That’s because there wasn’t,” I shed a cheeky smile. 

“No shit sherlock,” he says, a grown man almost reduced to tears. “How can you fuckin’ smile right now?”

“Because I bought it.”

“You what?”

“You heard me,” the knowing smile grows. “I. Fuckin’. Bought. It.”

“With what money?” he asks, his heartbreak dissipating.

“Story for another day,” I dodge his inquiry. “Mark mentioned a while back he was looking to offload the place, figured what the hell. Who wouldn’t want their own bar? And the apartment upstairs, you’ve gotta see that fuckin’ thing.”

“We don’t know shit about running a bar!”

“We don’t need to,” I brag, tossing an arm around his shoulder. “I’ve got a guy for that.”

“What guy?”

“I’ll introduce you to him when we get back. But forget about that for now. Focus on this right here. This is a stream of income for us in the meantime. This is a place where we can hold all our business meetings. This is a place to hang our hats when we’re not on the road. We’re building a name, and this is where it starts.” 

“Let me guess,” Sock begins in a mocking manner. “Teddy Palmer”.

“I’m not sure I appreciate your tone, but no. Teddy Palmer is the name I’m building value in within the wrestling industry. This name will be Our empire outside of it.”

“What name?” he asks with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning.

“The same name that’ll be replacing that shitty old Northwood Tavern sign next week,” I tease, letting silence befall us for a moment before cutting the tension with the proverbial knife. “Millhaven’s Finest.”