No rest for the wicked.
No sleep for the abused.
Lindsay barely caught a wink after the Extra Large Refueled at the Best Arena. Didn’t even bother making the trek up the stairs to her bedroom once she walked in the door, crashing instead on the sectional where she lays awake – propped up – all night, watching the ceiling fan twirl away and trying to ignore the aches and pains from where Dan’s forehead smashed into her nose. She slept in fitful intervals, never for long stretches, and never deeply enough to matter.
HOW medical staff reset the bones before she left the Arena, and she passed their concussion protocol, but Lindsay knew the number of shots to the head she’s taken in recent weeks is something of concern. First the pipe shot and the war with Eric Dane. Then the half-dozen chair shots from the Minister. And now, the strike from Dan’s titanium elbow brace.
The willingness to rise and keep coming back for more every time she’s felled shows heart, stubbornness, and maybe a little insanity. As the ceiling fan spins, and she struggles to breathe with a busted-up nose and a body that feels like it’s been hit by a train, the Queen wonders how much heart, stubbornness, and insanity she’s working with now. How uneven are those levels, really?
She must have been insane to agree to this match.
She would have been stupid to refuse it.
She said four weeks ago that this Dan Ryan wasn’t the same Dan Ryan she’s tagged with, ran the roads with, sold out arenas with, for sixteen years. It wasn’t hype that spilled from her lips at Refueled 37, but there may have been some part of her subconscious that didn’t fully believe it until she saw it in his eyes.
There was nothing there.
She’d dealt with flippancy from him before, so while the extremity of it was odd, it wasn’t wholly out of place. But the vacantness in his brown eyes was like nothing she’d ever seen before.
It was chilling.
Dan’s always talked about flipping the switch when it comes to competing; being able to turn the viciousness on in the ring and off outside of it. And tonight, for the first time, because it actually happened to her, Lindsay fully understands that the switch is off, completely.
And there may be no turning it back on.
She pulls herself up off the couch sometime around 5:00AM and trudges to the bathroom. A handful of water is splashed on her face and when Lindsay looks in the mirror to find a canvas of violence staring back at her, she hardly recognizes herself.
Fading mark from the Minister’s pen.
Two black and blue eyes.
She looks down at the sink, at the droplets of water collecting there, and feels an overwhelming sense of rage creep along her spine. Her face a horror show, made imperfect by imperfect, frightening men.
Her head remains bowed as her fist smashes the mirror, once, twice, glass splintering and crashing all around her.
“I knew this would happen. I knew we’d be here again.”
Ami sighs and props her arm up on her desk, letting her head fall heavily into her palm, partly from exhaustion and partly from disbelief. She had another late night, as many Saturday nights are for a 20 year old in college. She takes a sip of coffee and stares at her brother’s face on the computer screen, waiting for him to continue with his rant. Kaz looks both disheveled, having either returned from a run or come back from the gym, and annoyed at the events that transpired the night before.
Things between their mother and uncle have come to a head, and now their cousin is involved of her own accord, so it seems.
“This is how it started four years ago, with Mom and Uncle Dan competing for a belt,” Kaz runs his fingers through his sweaty hair, just for something to do with them. He’s amped up, and understandably so. “And it ended with Uncle Dan breaking the family apart. Now he’s done it again, but in reverse. I don’t get it.”
Ami grimaces; there’s no good answer she can offer her brother. The Lee Best Invitational match between Dan and Lindsay didn’t break the family, to everyone’s relief. But the twins have watched their uncle’s demeanor change with each passing week for several months now, have had text messages to both him and Cecilia – many more sent to her than to him – go unanswered. It’s illogical, disturbing and, for Ami and Kaz, heartbreaking for Cecilia to flat-out ignore them given how close the three of them are.
Now, with the “traitorous” picture delivered to Lindsay, the youngest Ryan’s silence has become more than a heartbreak. It’s become a betrayal.
She’s not a psychologist by any means, but Ami has always been very intuitive. So when she tells Kaz, “I don’t know. Maybe it’s always been his nature, and we just never knew it.”
“We have to do something, Ami.” Kaz replies, his voice dripping with desperation. “I don’t know what yet, but we have to do something…”
Ami looks over at the stack of textbooks, drawings, and sketches, then looks back to her brother, and nods.
You know the one
“They say that wolves are social creatures.”
The Queen, dressed in street clothes and a pair of oversized sunglasses, sits front and center on good ol’ 97Red. Her left hand is bandaged as she runs the fingers of her right hand along the back of the couch. The fabric is buttery soft, and she figures Jiles must not have picked it out because he’s a prick who doesn’t have good taste in clothes, so it’s a safe bet he doesn’t have it in furniture either.
Hair products and sunglasses?
The little plastic fern rests on one of the cushions at the end of the couch, having been given preferential treatment for this promo spot. No floor for you, plant baby, nosiree.
“Not ones to be alone for long, they run in packs and only leave the familiarity of what is known to join a new one or form their own.
“So it’s curious to me, Jiles, why you’re snapping at your pack and treating them like garbage, or even acting like you’re going to break away, especially after you and Dooze extended this invitation to me to join the Bandits.
“I know, I know…I still haven’t given you an answer yet. I’ve been a little…preoccupied.”
Lindsay removes her sunglasses and slips them into the pocket of her hoodie.
“As you can see,” she chuckles, sourly. “I look a little more like a raccoon than a mama bear this week. But don’t worry, now you have my full attention. Now we get to settle this matter, right? Because I know you’re gonna bring it up, so let me just address it now.
“You told me some time ago that I needed to make a decision on Bandit or No Bandit because soon ‘you all might be too rich for my royal blood.’ But I don’t see richness at all, Jiles. Not from you, anyway.
“I see a man who let a couple big wins and some gold rush to his head. And don’t get me wrong, beating Dan and Cecilworth are two huge accomplishments, but you let those successes translate into treating the Bandits – your friends – like they are peasants and you are their king. Screaming at them for losing the tag belts. Demanding they save your ass in case shit went sideways against Hughie in your title defense last week.
“You think I want to join up with that? With you in this state?”
She shakes her head.
“Fuck outta here.
“You can’t blame a clown for acting like a clown; you just need to ask yourself why you’re going to the circus.
“So nah, Jiles, I’m good. You want to drive everyone away from you, that’s your prerogative. You want to find a new pack to run with, so be it. Maybe you and Harrison can set aside your differences and make some Miracle Eggnog to shill; the holidays are coming up after all.
“Just don’t think that you can come knockin’ at my door and think I’m gonna be part of it after you’ve alienated the people who’ve put up with your shit, and have had your back, and have gone along with ever cockamamie scheme you’ve come up with, because you’ve got another thing comin’, my friend.
“I’ve been bludgeoned with a chair and stabbed in the forehead, had my nose broken and was called a traitor all in the last two weeks, and this week I’ve got a whole lotta pent-up anger and frustration to let out. I bet you do too, coming off that loss to Hughie, but you need to be taught a lesson, Jiles. And since Dooze went out to get milk and hasn’t come back yet, I’ll be more than happy to be the one to do it.
“Besides,” Lindsay smirks. “I’ve still gotta pay you back for spraying me with that yellow mist all the way back at Refueled 4.
“You didn’t think I’d forget, did you?”
The Queen stands up and exits stage right.
After ten seconds she walks back into frame.
“Actually, Jiles, there’s one more thing.” She moves to one end of the couch. “Since you love this couch and this fern so much, I think you need to be without them for a little bit. You know, until I think you’ve learned your lesson.”
She looks off-camera and nods. “Ready?”
The shot pans over where Zeb Martin stands at the other end, wiping his hands on the sides of his faded Levis.
“Great. On three. One. Two. Three…”