What else would a young, twenty-one year old girl want to do on a Wednesday night?
I mean, sure, some go to bars; others go hang with friends. If you’re a “good girl”, you might hit mid-week services at the church. But me?
It’s not a bad job, not in the least, but it’s not exactly what I’d planned for when taking this role. I thought I’d be in front of the camera waxing poetic about whatever big D’s latest challenge in the ring was. But some challenges aren’t so easily expressed.
“You can’t go,” she said, her voice a hoarse whisper.
I tried not to listen, I really did, but stationed just outside the room – voices carried, especially in these tiled hallways. I wouldn’t have been there, but after Bare showed up last week, Deac had asked. I couldn’t tell him no. I had my job to do.
“I,” he said then paused. He paused so frequently; it was a part of his charm. Most of the time it was to think of the correct word, but somehow, this time, I suspected he knew the word he was going to say.
“I have to,” he said.
I just knew he didn’t want to say it.
“No, you don’t,” she continued. “We can find another way.”
“T’is is t’e door t’at opened,” he continued. “I walk t’rough it.”
“There’s other doors,” she said.
“Not…,” he paused again. “After 7 years. T’e world…not as it was.”
“No,” she pleaded. “It’s not. Seven years ago you didn’t have a family.”
I wanted to walk away, give them space, but … that Bare. He locked me into this as much as Deac and everyone else had been locked into theirs.
“Seven years ago, you could go and risk your life against those monsters. Hell, I’ve seen some of the monsters you fought seven years ago. They weren’t that beast Max Kael. Did you even see what he did to Jack?”
“Did you see what you did to Jack?” She asked. It wasn’t a question desiring an answer and the Mute Freak knew it. “I’ve never even met the guy, but I’ve heard you talk enough about him. You guys were co-workers for what… five years?”
“It…” he said. “Complicated.”
“So? Is that what you’re gonna do to me in seven years if things get complicated?”
He didn’t answer. He thought it was another of those questions.
“Well,” she said. “Will you?”
He was wrong.
“They’re already complicated.” Her whisper became a cry. And her cries grew to sobs.
I heard the thunk and knew she’d pounded her forearm into his chest. I didn’t need to see them to know that he held her and took it. Again.
Magdalena sat inside a small chapel. A few accoutrements dotted the sparse surroundings – a cross, an praying altar of sorts, a candle and incense burner, and an opened Bible on a book stand that Magdalena didn’t need to look to know was open to Psalm 23. She’d lit the candle and incense burner, not because she needed it but because she liked the glow. Her white hair, tinged in red, rested around her slumped shoulders. Stark shadows contrasted her hair, giving it an almost halo effect. WIth her fingers, she made a steeple beneath her chin that appeared to hold her head up.
“They say you better watch what you wish for, you just might get it,” Magdalena began without formally acknowledging the camera setup. She leaned back and took a deep breath. “Deacon’s getting it – exactly what he came to HOW to do. March for Glory, he gets to enter the ring with Max Kael.” She took a pause, her eyes squinting at the thought of Max. “I must admit, when I walked into HOW, Max, I saw you as an abomination – half man, half machine, you were like a skinnier version of Schwartzenegger in David Prowse’s costume.” Magdalena said with a smirk. She’d seen David Prowse years ago at a comic convention. He’d signed a portrait of himself for $20 sitting in his wheelchair. That thought lingered for a moment – the once powerful man, a bodybuilder if she recalled correctly, now couldn’t hold his own weight.
“Just like them,” she said. “With less redeeming qualities. But as I’ve watched you’re little situation with the Group of Death, you’ve seemed to change.” She stood up, absently twirling her lip ring between her forefingers. “I thought you were this invincible double champion who destroys lives, but I’ve watched as your tag belts got freebirded to the false messiah’s two latest toys while he saddles up with your Daddy… again, I guess.” The confusion was real. A few shows prior, they hated each other, or seemed to. Then, Lee was planning a Mike Best celebration day at the Colosseum. It was mind blowing.
“Your Daddy and Brother do all they can to destroy you because they gambled on the wrong horse for a night, kicking you like an unwanted stray cat,” she said. She lifted a finger and glanced to the side with the thought. “And maybe that’s what brings me to a new realization – you’re not an abomination, you’re not even invincible. What you are is a survivor – no matter what happens in the world, no matter what transpires in HOW, no matter what happens to you. Somehow, someway, you survive. Just like that feral cat with the stubby tail that always runs from anyone trying to feed it. You just know it’s gonna starve to death only to realize a few months later that twenty-five more cats have appeared in your alley, all with that same stubby tail. Not only has that cat survived, it’s grown in numbers.”
Magdalena smirked. “Just like this match.”
She started to pace, not nervously, but more leisurely. “Deacon assumed that at some time, he and you, Max, would stand across from one another in that ring. What he didn’t expect was that first addition – another Hall of Famer in Chris Kostoff. It feels like yesterday, Chris, that you & Deacon ran at one another like two bulls. Deacon took the W but you got your ounce of flesh, just like it seems you always do. And just like I’d said leading into the matchup, I had faith that you’d show up.”
She smiled, appreciating her expectations had been met. “I was correct. I’d told you that if you did show up, it’d be the hardest check you ever earned. It was a bloody check, indeed.”
She gave a moment to let that thought echo before continuing. “But this check for March for Glory will be different. It’s not a consolation prize – it’s one held by Max Kael, and that alone says it all. It’s a belt tied to crazy matches, and that seems straight up your alley. But be careful, there’s a survivor feline in that alley that wants a pound of your flesh as well. Along with a 7 foot Deacon who plans to take another pound.”
Magdalena paused at the stand with the Bible. She glanced down. Yep, Psalm 23 – Though I walk through the valley of death. She turned it back a few pages as thoughts rushed her. She blinked them back and regained her focus. She had one more to do.
“And if that’s not enough to deal with,” Magdalena said. “Deacon has one more, not a man he’s ever faced or ever planned to face, but a man who hired some shyster to cast out the demons of 11:12 for his friend…”
True disgust formed on her face. “Teddy.”
She probably twitched once or twice after spitting the name out. “But this isn’t about him, it’s about you, Alex Redding.”
She looked down. She let her hair cover her face for a moment, using the time to gather her thoughts before parting her hair like a curtain and throwing it out of her face again. “Good match for the tag titles. Really. Great match with… your partner last week. You’ve certainly proven your worth as a competitor. Unfortunately, you’ve stepped into a situation that none of us expected – WE–” Magdalena gestured broadly with her hands. “All of us are in this situation to be Lee’s vengeance on Max Kael. Like Lee is actually a god, using the Babylonians and Hittites to teach his children, Israel, a lesson, we… you, Kostoff, and Deacon, are expected to be the instruments of Lee’s wrath on his child.”
With a smile, she continued. “Except with Deacon, that was his plan all along. He gets Max Kael. Last time that was possible, during the LBI, Alex, it was derailed by your partner. This time, Deacon gets what he came for.”
She glanced down. The Bible was open to Psalm 2.
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?
She smiled as she thought of its words and its end.