Sunday, November 22
The Best Arena Parking Lot
The show might be over, but the white-hot electricity from the Best Alliance’s shenanigans and Lee Best’s habitual shitmongering during the night’s main event hangs in the air, even after the HOTv cameras have turned off for the night and the promotion’s rabid fanbase have trudged out to their cars and the nearby L station. Most of the roster in attendance tonight has cleared out by now, off to the bars in the city or wherever they lay their heads at night.
Some, however, haven’t quite made it off the premises yet.
The Best Arena’s back door hits the side of the building with a crack, and through the threshold – just wide enough for two people – emerges Lindsay Troy and a still-very-much-out-of-it Zeb Martin. The Queen catches the door with her hip on the backswing, and grimaces as it collides with her body, but manages to get them both into the parking lot and out of the burrow of the Best Alliance’s bad intentions.
She’d managed to get the youngster out of his bindings and backstage following that spine-shattering powerbomb from whoeverthefuckitwas that showed up, sharing a quick nod to Hughie on the way – an acknowledgement that this wasn’t over – before depositing the Comer native in her locker room while she got her things together. She didn’t bother changing, she could grab a shower at home, and instead threw a long-sleeve tee and jacket over her gear while she made sure she had both hers and Zeb’s keys handy.
“This’d be easier if you’d snap out of it, kiddo,” Lindsay murmurs, not out of malice toward Zeb for the predicament he’s found himself in, but at the situation itself. She feels like a pack mule, half-supporting / half-dragging Zeb to safety while also maneuvering her gear bag. Martin’s a healthy 235, but drugged up and blacked out he feels twice as heavy. Luckily, the parking lot is empty; no fans lingering about hoping for autographs or selfies or to stir up shit for a viral video. Lindsay was able to get Benny’s artwork off Zeb’s face with the help of hand sanitizer and paper towels, but to see the area cleared out is still a welcome sign.
“Alright,” she sighs, looks at the cars, and tightens her grip. “Which car for the least possible headache?”
Zeb’s white, Georgia-plated Tundra sticks out like a sore thumb in a lot filled with dark colored SUVs and sedans, making it an easy target for any further “pranks” that a Best Alliance member might want to pull. Getting it out of here might be the best idea, and Zeb’s address would hopefully be programmed into the truck’s GPS, but it would mean Lindsay would have to grab an Uber back to the Arena. Depending on where the kid lives, that might not be easy. She could take her car, get his address out of his phone, and come back for the truck herself tonight or the next day, but is that a risk she wants to take, even for a short amount of time?
Her ride’s a little more inconspicuous, and she’d be able to cover damages to it. The teenager might not be able to say the same.
“Fuck it,” she finally says. “We’re taking the truck.”
The Queen’s two cars away when the arena door opens again and more voices – both male and female – filter out into the chilly night. Their chattering is soon replaced by a cry of “Hey!” and hurried footsteps along the pavement. Lindsay half-turns to see Blaire Moise and some production assistants dashing over.
“Oh my God.” Blaire falls in-step with Lindsay. “I saw what happened, is he-?”
“Still out of it, yeah.” The group stops by the pickup, Lindsay walking around to the passenger door and propping Zeb up against it. She keeps a hold on him so he doesn’t slump to the asphalt. “I think Solex spiked his drink when he left it behind to do the interview with you.”
A look of horror crosses Blaire’s face at the thought of her being a party, however inadvertently, to Zeb’s misfortune.
“No, don’t…” Lindsay interjects, trying to cut the bad thoughts about to run through the HOW interviewer’s mind off at the pass. “I didn’t mean anything by that. This isn’t your fault; it isn’t anyone’s fault.”
“No, I know,” Blaire agrees. “I just feel bad.”
Lindsay drops her bag to the ground and stretches her back and neck out, looking relieved when some of the discs pop in response to the lack of weight on them.
“Is there anything we can do to help?” one of the PAs asks. “Don’t worry, we’re not dicks; we’re not gonna tweet this out or some shit.”
The Queen smiles in appreciation. “I know Blaire doesn’t hang around with assholes so I trust you guys. But no, I’m good. I’m gonna get Zeb home and then come back for my car.”
“Why don’t I follow you?” Blaire offers. “I feel like I should do something. And Zeb seems like a nice guy; he didn’t deserve this, you know?”
Lindsay nods; he really didn’t. And it didn’t feel like just an innocent prank, either. It felt like retribution for the chair shot the week before, and for braining Doozer at Max’s Memorial Show.
“If you’re offering and you don’t mind driving my car, Blaire, it would be a big help. I can drop you off wherever afterwards.”
“Of course,” she smiles as Lindsay hands over her car keys.
“It’s about halfway down the row, on the left.”
“I’ll find it.”
“I’ll go with you, Blaire, so you don’t have to ride alone,” one of the girls chimes in and walks after her.
“And we’ll help you get Zeb in the cab,” the first PA says, his buddy bobbing his head in agreement.
The outbound Dan Ryan (Expressway, not Wrestler) at this time of night is nearly deserted, with most people having made their treks out of the Windy City at a much more reasonable hour. Inside the Tundra, Zeb’s head slumps uncomfortably against his seatbelt, while Lindsay keeps the stereo on low. Every so often, Waze’s feminine voice breaks in over the music with directions but the Queen’s only paying moderate attention, flicking her eyes over to the in-dash screen at different intervals than the instructions being given.
The night was a head-to-toe disaster. Not just because Zeb got accosted, but because she was put into an impossible position to help him. Intervene, confront Solex, risk a countout in the ensuing brawl and the loss of the LSD title. Turn her back on Hughie – a hard-nosed, no mercy fighter – and eat a Fatality Punch that’d knock her clean out before the match even got going. Or do what she ultimately did – keep one eye on Solex and the other on Hughie – and try to give the champ the best possible fight while making nothing too terrible happened to the most junior member of the High Octane roster.
Sitting there now, with Zeb still unaware of all that transpired, Lindsay’s not so sure she made the right decision. The two of them aren’t very close; they’re friendly enough for two colleagues, and he did help her pilfer Jiles’s couch and fern to teach him a lesson a couple months back, but beyond that she isn’t to him what the actual eGG Bandits were before the group’s implosion. Still, she should have been there for him, even if it meant tossing away the match. Call it a veteran instinct, or the fact that Zeb’s close in age to her own kids, but Lindsay feels a sense of obligation to look out for him, especially since introducing Steve Solex to a chair means Zeb’s now wading into waters with sharks instead of sea bass.
Hughie too, by extension. The young Irishman may not be a wet-behind-the-ears greenhorn when it comes to scrapping between the ropes, but by virtue of being her opponent last week he was dragged into all the Best Alliance bullshit. There’s an admiration there for Freeman’s stance of taking on all comers, any time, any where – the two of them share that mentality – but Lindsay’s also not one to run into the throes of battle without some kind of gameplan. Fighting hard and fighting smart have always gone hand in hand with her. To have another title snatched away, this time because of Lee Best’s machinations and all-consuming desire to make every possible moment of her time in HOW as difficult as possible, is as infuriating as Dan Ryan not handling his business without putting her name in his mouth.
It’s as infuriating as her constant failings at standing at the top of a mountain in HOW as a singles champion.
So many chances at the LSD title. The ICON title. A loss in the semi-finals of the Lee Best Invitational. Lindsay Troy has never faced as tough of competition as she has faced in High Octane Wrestling; has never gone this long without holding singles gold. It’s not only a testament to the caliber of talent, but a motivator and a driver in her refusing to not walk away like so many others have done.
This additional chance at the LSD title against Hughie, whether Lee understands it or not, is a blessing in disguise. A chance for Lindsay to not only realize the fruits of her struggle, but to put the belt that once signaled its holder as Lee’s SuperStar as front and center and on par with the World Title.
Dan Ryan might be the ICON title; it might hold a special place in Lee Best’s heart, but Lindsay will find a way to shatter those sonofabitches assumptions of her abilities and place herself above and beyond their expectations.
The GPS chirps at her to bear right toward I-57, and she does, checking the rearview to make sure Blaire and Melissa do the same. The caravan continues heading south, toward the comfort of Zeb Martin’s home, and a new set of challenges on the next dawn’s rising.
Didn’t miss the deadline; I know you were worried. You must not have gotten the memo, being out there with your da in the wilderness. A Queen is never late, nor is she early. She arrives precisely when she means to.
Sorry if you think that makes me a tease, or if it makes Blinkin mad. GOD knows it’s really hard for Lee to see when he’s crossing lines now; you’d think that Mario would do his fucking job as his right hand and see about reigning him in, but I guess the “Godfather’s” gone poof in the night like so many others who don’t seem to have staying power around here.
Just to name a few.
Not me though, Hughie. Your girl hasn’t quit. Make no mistake, though, I’m sure there’s a list of people who wish I would, or wonder why I haven’t yet, because the reasons for why I should by now might outnumber the reasons why I shouldn’t.
Can’t win a singles belt in HOW.
Lost her way.
Too many young guns whipping by her.
Not what she used to be.
I know what you might be thinking, that I’m gonna come out here and say, “They’re wrong, that’s not true!” but I’m not gonna. There’s some truth in there. I’m forty years old and I can’t escape the ticking clock; none of us can. The fact that I’ve made it this far, for this long, have recovered from injuries as well as I have, is a testament to longevity, but it’s not gonna last forever.
Young guns? HOW’s got ‘em. You’re one of ‘em, Hughie. Zeb Martin’s another. Conor Fuse. Sutler Reynolds-Kael. You all are fast, you all are good, but that doesn’t mean there’s no longer a place for me here, or anywhere. The only person that’s gonna run me out of this business is me. Not Jatt Starr. Not the Best Alliance as a whole. And certainly not Lee Best.
I might’ve lost my way a little bit, but finding new paths brings about new opportunities, new chances for success. Lord knows I’ve been defeated this year; professionally and personally, it’s been one of the worst years I’ve had in a long, long time. Difference is, I’m committed to figuring my shit out. I’m committed to working through the tough losses, the professional setbacks, the personal disappointments. I’m committed to being as stubborn about it now as I was when I first started out, because as many times as I’ve lost, as many times as I’ve had folks try to run me out or run me down, I keep showing up just to prove someone wrong.
Today, it’s Lee Best, because the man might be blind, but he’s also a dumb motherfucker for giving me a reason to finish the job that Kostoff started. The little needling jabs keep adding up, and adding up, and I’m never one to forget, or forgive.
I’m proud, and I am relentless, just like you are, Hughie. I am the matriarch of my clan and I come from a strong fighting tradition, put through my paces by my uncle – may he rest – in the muay-thai and jiu jitsu traditions, and you will get the fight that you seek. We will sweat and we will bleed; you’ll throw your fists and I’ll throw my knees, but only one of us will break.
Only one of us will quit.
This time, it’s not gonna be me.
I’ve got a belt to finally win.