Deacon put the tablet down and nodded, his gaze turning to the window. It stayed there.
Way too FREAKING long! Was the segment good? Did he like the last line? What about the shot from the scripture? Did I choose the right verse? The right angles? Maybe I should’ve gone for a stronger faith connection? Maybe I should’ve watched yet another Chris Shepherd promo? He almost always got it right.
“T’ank you,” Deacon said flatly, his Arabic accent as strong as ever.
“For what?” I asked.
“I not have time to devote.”
I snorted then said, “Neither is anyone else.”
Deacon’s eyebrows rose and he glanced my way.
“You’d think with March to Glory in less than a week, and with all those verbal shots I sent to all of your opponent’s, that we would’ve been deluged with death threats, or at least a ‘thanks for your concern’.” I paused for dramatic effect. “Nope. Not a one. Well, did get some footage of Kostoff walking, but that was it. I can’t imagine Lee or the local promoters in Italy are happy.”
“Maybe Lee should not given Mike Best night off,” Deacon said then added as flatly as ever. “That dude never shut up.” The edges of his lips curled up imperceptibly to anyone who hadn’t grown up around the man. It was good to see some jocularity, especially in this place. Jack must have had a good night.
“Excuse me,” a doctor said with a knock at the door. After seeing so many, they all looked the same – this one of the male, middle eastern variety. I wondered if they’d forego the English & go full native, but I wouldn’t be finding out.
I knew my role; I grabbed the tablet and headed for the door. I stopped just shy and asked, “you want me to call your wife?”
“Let her rest,” Deacon said. “She need it.”
With that match coming up against those 3 men, you need it, I thought but knew better than to suggest. He would carry the load until his wife could once again.
And then he’d fall apart, maybe less this time than last.
The door closed behind me, and I entered the waiting room just across the hall. I took a seat where I could see the door to Deacon’s room. Dr. Phil played on the television – something about a teen girl going crazy on her parents and how it was … I tuned it out and gathered my thoughts for the next presentation.
Maybe I can bring in the Coliseum? – Lots of history there. I could drive home the point that Deacon knows what it’s like to step into the ring with a monster. I could–
“That douchebag,” I said a moment before adding with increased volume to reach across the hall. “Brian Bare, I swear on all that is holy, if you open that door.”
Brian stopped, his hand seemingly frozen to the handle. I stood up and headed his way, but he turned toward me and smiled – not the TV variety but what seemed more genuine. Clearly, the douchebag had been practicing. “Magdalena…so surprised to see you.”
“Wish I could say the same,” Magdalena said. “You’ve put me on guard duty for the last week.”
Brian glanced down, nodded, then looked back at me with a raise of his eyebrows. “Yeah… I heard. Sorry about that.”
I stared at him. Who’d this douchebag think he is? I took a deep breath then said, “Fine. Forgiven. Now get out of here.”
“Fair enough,” Brian said. “I just wanted to come and thank you.”
I’m pretty sure my face said what I was thinking. What in the world for? That Deacon didn’t kill him last week when Brian tried to sneak into their hospital room? What did he think he would accomplish?
“What did you think you would’ve accomplished?” The thought slipped out of my mouth.
“I… don’t understand.”
“Why? What did you hope to happen sneaking into a hospital with a camera?”
Brian blinked as if gathering his thoughts. “I… just wanted to get on the show.”
“So you come to a hospital?”
“You’ve watched Refueled,” Bare said. “Name the last time my number was called to do anything. It’s all ‘Blaire over here’ and ‘Blaire over there’.”
“Maybe if you weren’t such a douchebag.”
Brian put his left hand up, palm out. “Fair enough. I deserve that. Probably worse, but after last week,” Brian’s smile returned. “I got my number called. 24K interview.”
My face told him I wasn’t impressed.
“Listen, I swear I’m not trying to be a… douchebag, but it was my only chance to gain some traction.”
“Glad to give you my shirt,” I said. “Want my coat to go with it? They match.”
He tilted his head and furrowed his perfectly manicured eyebrows. Clearly, the reference was lost on him.
“Nevermind,” I said then sighed. “Fine. You’re welcome. Forgiven. Whatever it takes for you to leave.”
“One more thing,” Brian said, his voice changing slightly. “How’s he doing?”
“Who?” I asked. “Deac?”
Brian glanced down then back at me. “Sure.”
“Good,” I said as flatly as I could. “Never better. Ready for his match this week.”
“Against Max Kael,” Brian said. It was a question more than a statement.
“That was Deacon’s plan when he walked in the door,” I said. “Max’s North Kaelerean thing got Deacon’s attention before he ever signed with Lee. Putting an end to that farce was at the top of Deacon’s to-do list.”
“And the LSD championship?”
I smirked. “The thought of Deacon holding such a title doesn’t escape me.”
“But he’s not just entering the ring with Max. This match has two other competitors, one of which has already faced the Deacon.”
“And lost,” I said with finality. “I won’t pretend that the matchup with Kostoff wasn’t a physical one, but power for power – there is no power against one who can do all things through Christ. That’s at the core of who Deacon is, has always been.”
Brian tilted his head slightly, a questioning gaze crossing his face. “But he’s not unbeatable.”
“As the HOW has already proven. Redding’s partner proved it in the LBI. But that’s the only man who’s done so, and Alex had best not think that just because his buddy topped Deacon, that it’ll give him a free pass as well. There’s no free passes in the HOW.”
“So when do we get to talk to the Deacon?” Brian asked.
“Not today,” I said. “And if he catches you here, not today will become never.”
Brian held up his hand again. “I’m not pushing; just wondering. I’ll leave everyone at peace. And,” he gave a quick, sincere smile. “Thanks again.”
He left, leaving the oddest feeling I’d had since meeting Brian. He’d traveled all this way only to turn around and leave without talking to Deacon or really anyone. He seemed conciliatory, and strangely honest – nothing like the man that had introduced me to HOW backstage. Bewildering, I thought.
People change, I reminded myself.
Maybe even douchebags.
“Did you get it?” Terry asked.
“Did I get it?” Brian said with a gesture to his lapel. “Of course I got it.”
He took his lapel pin off and handed it to Terry. “And you best make sure Lee knows who’s exactly pounding the pavement for his stories for this show in Italy.” Brian smiled, the most genuine smile he’d felt all day. “I hear the wine in Italy is amazing.”