October 25, 2020
Ritz Carlton San Francisco
The words escape her lips halfway between a growl and a desperate plea as Lindsay stands in the hallway outside her hotel suite, helplessly staring at the door lock and its blinking red light.
Her key isn’t working.
Although they’re dimmed for the evening hours, the lights in this hallway feel obnoxiously bright, which Lindsay attributes to the pummeling she took in the Alcatraz prison yard a couple hours before. It was yet another battle in her and Dan Ryan’s long and storied history, and it was by far the most personal one yet.
Dan might have been right to call her a weak link, but it wasn’t anything she didn’t already believe about herself and was trying to correct, on her own, away from GoD. It wasn’t going to happen overnight, but it started with Dane and held fast with grueling battles against both the ICON champion and the Minister, where she more than held her own and dished out just as much punishment as she took.
This defeat, while disappointing, didn’t quite feel like a setback on her road to private redemption. She might not have been the victor, but she was the survivor, which is more than the Murrays could say.
Others lost more than a match tonight, Lindsay thinks, somberly, as she takes the plastic key out of its slot. Not even the end of sixteen years of partnership can really compare to the death of a loved one. She tries the card again, hoping for better luck, only to be teased with the whirring of the reader and finally denied entry again.
The last thing she feels like doing is trudging down to the lobby and asking the night manager to reset her access, especially when she looks like a tall, tan, carved-up Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas. She can deal with staring and astonished expressions, it’s part of the job, but at 1AM all she wants to do is get in the hotel and get in her room as quickly as possible. The first part was easy; the second part…not so much.
Lindsay leans her forearm against the door and rests her head against it, closing her eyes for just a moment before resigning herself to her fate. She stands slowly upright and isn’t a step down the hall when she hears the locks from inside disengage. The door swings open and Ami stands at the threshold, her eyes strikingly bloodshot and puffy, her cheeks a red, splotchy mess.
“Ami!?” Lindsay’s to her daughter in an instant, ignoring the pain from the stitches across her stomach and neck as she wraps her daughter up in a hug. “What’s wrong? I thought you’d be at your hostel?”
“No, I stayed here…you gave me a key.” Ami gingerly wraps her sweatshirt-clad arms around her mom’s waist. The normally reticent, calm young woman starts sniffling and Lindsay can feel fresh tears start to dot her shirt. “I’m sorry, Mom. I tried. I tried but it didn’t work!”
Lindsay looks genuinely confused as she guides the two of them into the room and shuts the door behind them. “What are you talking about?” she asks quietly, unwrapping Ami’s arms from her body and steering her toward the blue-grey couch in the suite’s living room. “What didn’t work?”
“The forearm guards I made.” Ami sits on the edge of the cushion and looks down at the floor, dejected. She reaches into the kangaroo pouch of her hoodie and retrieves a Kleenex to wipe her nose. “They were supposed to help counteract Uncle Dan’s elbow brace, and then he showed up with that plus those glass covered gloves. The blinding mist was Kaz’s idea, and it barely even phased him. You got hurt and you didn’t win and I feel like a failure.”
“You’re not a failure, first of all.” Lindsay sinks down on the couch next to her daughter, grimacing as she does so. “Whether you made those for me, or whether your uncle had his brace or those gloves, we were going to get hurt. That’s the nature of this sport, and the nature of the match we had. The forearm guards worked. The mist worked. I may have lost the match, but I never needed them to win. Your ingenuity helped me out more than you know, and I may have come up short this time, but next time, who knows what’ll happen.”
Ah, Jack. Here we go with Round 2.
I know you’re probably still feeling salty about what I did to you in February when I clocked you with a microphone, left you and MJ in the dust, and formed the Group of Death. You probably still want the retribution that you didn’t get when we faced off in the LBI in March, where I bested you at your own game of violence. I can’t say I blame you; if I were you, that’s how I would feel.
I’m sure Mary-Lynn’s still upset with me about all that. She’s entitled; I can’t say I blame her.
I’m sure you enjoyed seeing Dan beat the shit out of me a couple weeks ago. If I were you, I would have too.
I’m not gonna sit here and run you down about your hard luck when I don’t have much good luck to brag about. Sure, I’ve got a better record than you. Yeah, I’m still in the Top 5 of the standings despite having a pretty shit year, but there are people knocking at the door who are hungry as fuck. I’m not inclined to let ‘em get past me, though. One’s a Milkman. Another’s an Eggman. And another’s a Pikey. I might’ve already beaten one of ‘em, but make no mistake, they’re all threats, and I don’t want ‘em leaving me in the dust.
I don’t want you leaving me in the dust either, Jack. I know you’re making a little climb up the rankings, but I’m not gonna be the springboard that vaults you up a few positions. Our business was finished awhile ago, and the only thing we’ve got in common now is that Lee’s sending his hired goons after us to try and make a statement, and I dunno about you but I’m not so inclined to let him keep thinking that it’s gonna work.
He tried it with Eric Dane, and it failed. Now I suppose Jatt Starr wants to press his luck.
I may be battered, but I’m not broken, or beaten. And I’ll be sending a statement of my own to the Best Alliance on Saturday.
Unfortunately, it’ll be at your expense, old friend.