The Bitter End, Part One

The Bitter End, Part One

Posted on August 1, 2023 at 6:15 am by Shane Reynolds

One more thing before we start the final face off,
I will be the one to watch you fall,
So, I came down to crash and burn your beggar’s banquet,
Someone call the ambulance,
There’s gonna be an accident!


Two doctors, contrasting in age but walking in identical strides, moved through the hospital. The elder of the two, the hair at the temples greying from decades of on-the-job stress, glanced at his clipboard and then to his associate.

“How long has he been unresponsive?” he asked as the took the next turn in tandem.

The younger doctor looked back to his superior and what may very well be his future. “Ever since he was checked in,” he answered. “We thought that it was perhaps time to bring in somebody with more experience.”

“Hmm,” the older doctor replied, once again flicking through the notes. He always hated being referred to as “more experienced.” He was old, he knew it just from looking at his hands as he turned the pages. He knew even more that he should have retired long ago. But maybe this was why he hadn’t. Maybe the was the final case he’d always been waiting for.

“This is his room,” the younger doctor said, breaking his superior from his revelry.

Doctor Thorn closed the notes and looked up towards the door. The handwritten note stating the name “Shane Reynolds” had been slid into place. Separating it from the other rooms in the wing, however, was the fact it was not only locked but chained in three additional places. Furthermore, there was a guard perched on a chair to the right of the door.

“I thought you said he was unresponsive?” Doctor Thorn enquired.

“He has been,” Doctor Webb answered, then paused to gulp. “But there was an incident just prior to that.”

“What kind of incident?” Thorn pressed further. “There was nothing in the notes.”

“That’s the thing,” Webb continued. “Nobody knows. Whatever it was, the facility has kept it under wraps. We were just told to keep security around him at a maximum.”

“Can I see him?”

“By all means,” Webb said, indicating to the hatch in the door.

The security guard suddenly stood with a groan and pulled out a key. Thorn was surprised to see that even the hatch was double-locked. The guard took care of that and then quickly retreated back to his seat. Thorn reached up and pulled the hatch down. What he saw was even more surprising than all the locks – namely the various scars that had ravaged his pale face.

“He had all those injuries when he arrived, or were they achieved in this ominous incident?” Thorn asked.

“No,” Webb answered. “He came to us with those. We’ve been unable to ascertain the cause.”

Doctor Thorn turned his attention back to Shane. He had seemingly not moved a muscle beyond merely breathing. He was sat cross-legged in the dead center of the room. His one remaining eye was trained straight ahead, unblinking as he bore a hole in the door of the padded cell. His upper body was securely fastened within a straitjacket. Next to him was an IV, which Thorn saw was both attached to his arm and a string that ran the length of the room to the door.

“That’s so we can change the IV bags without going into the room,” Webb explained, having noted Doctor Thorn’s gaze. “Nobody wants to go near him.”

“Why does he even need all of that?”

“Because he doesn’t eat or drink otherwise.”

“Oh,” Thorn said. “When you said unresponsive, you meant unresponsive.”


“Do you have any theories?” Thorn asked of Webb as he continued to stare at Shane.

“Not personally, sir,” Webb hesitantly answered. “But some of the nurses have expressed some ideas.”

“And what ideas are they?”

Doctor Webb hesitated again, and then, with another gulp, he spoke with an unconsciously ominous tone. “…They think he’s waiting.”


Back in the present day, Shane awoke with a start. There had been no insane dreams of alpaca and crucifixion this time. There had only been a range of memories that blended together so that his mind felt as pained as his body. The first still rang in his ears. Even though he’d defeated Jatt Starr and retained the HOTV championship, the future he had predicted and feared had come to pass. Even as he held the title aloft, Jatt Starr was the one that the crowd cheered. Shane sneered as the memory once again played out in his mind’s eye.

The second was an attack on his pride. Somehow, he’d allowed Bobbinette Carey’s alter-ego to get the better of him. As loathe as he was to admit it – and he never would outside of his own thoughts – Nettie Carey had outsmarted him. And now here he was, staring at yet more white walls and all but choking on the smell of disinfectant. This hadn’t been how it was supposed to go. He’d returned to unleash a relentless assault on Bobbinette. While he had achieved that in multiple weeks, she had gotten the last laugh. That feeling was more unbearable than the pain gripping his back and every one of his limbs.

“No,” Shane muttered defiantly under his breath. “Not the last laugh.”

There was still 97 Red. There was still their match. That would mark the bitter end of their 15-year-long animosity. That would be where the victor would ultimately be decided – and Shane once again grew confidently determined that that victor would be him. As if to mock him, however, that was the moment his back tightened, something icy cool stabbed at his temple and his left arm started trembling.

At the same time, the third of tormenting memories rushed to the forefront of his mind. This one being the sight of the masked group aiding Nettie in her ambush. He knew all-too-well that they weren’t his people beneath the masks but still… They had been nowhere around to help him, meaning they’d been somehow coerced into abandoning him or, worse still, did it of their own volition. It was either that or Nettie had gotten the best of them too, which was just as unforgivable. At least he had the excuse of being ambushed. And that he was one man. They were—

“You’re awake!”

—here! Shane was startled for the second time in under five minutes. Equally, he was wracked by a tsunami of pain sweeping through his body for at least the tenth. He tried not to let it show as his gaze turned towards the door. He hadn’t heard it open over the beeping of machines and the screaming of his own thoughts. It was Riley…

Or somebody pretending to be her, Shane thought.

She moved across the room, holding a cup of no doubt cheap hospital coffee. She was wearing her Phantasm mask, so it was impossible to be sure. She sounded like Riley, but so did the person that masqueraded as her in a replica mask. As she passed a mirror, Shane also saw that he wasn’t wearing his own mask. He shrunk away from the sight, feeling even more exposed than he had been in the wake of the recent betrayal. Riley sat herself down in the chair parallel to the bed.

“Take it off,” Shane commanded, refusing to took his eyes (well, eye) off of her.

“The mask?” she questioned, provoking another spike of suspicion.

“No, your bra,” Shane snapped. “Of course, I mean your fucking mask!”

Riley put her coffee on the nearby table and stood back up.

“That’s good, because I’m not wearing a bra.”

She assumed that was supposed to be a seductive remark, designed to evoke an image of her petite naked frame. It worked only a little bit, however, Shane still driven primarily by rage and the need for vengeance. Riley reached back and started unclasping the buckles. She then pulled it off, revealing her emerald green eyes and flame red hair. It was tied tightly to accommodate the mask, which she placed reverentially next to the coffee. She turned to the mirror and pulled out several pins, allowing it to cascade back down around her face. Neatening things up with her fingers, Riley returned back to her seat.

“Happy now?”

“Not even remotely!”

Shane didn’t appreciate her dismissive tone, not one iota, and allowed that disdain to pour into his expression. He wasn’t sure if that fact was sinking in, but he noted Riley did squirm a little in her seat. She offered nothing in the way of an apology, though. As such, an awkward silence hung between them for a good few moments before Shane took the charge on breaking it.

“Where the hell were you?”

Riley still offered no apology, momentarily making Shane miss when Jigsaw was his right-hand. Riley may share his bloodthirsty viciousness, but Jigsaw was much more of a diplomatic loyalist. Regardless, Shane was sure that he saw her gulp and fidget once more in the chair.

“I don’t know how,” Riley eventually answered, “but she had us barred from the arena. And you insisted on not having your phone on. This is why I said we shouldn’t leave your—”

“NO!” Shane barked. “No excuses and no passing the buck. You failed me!”

“I know.” Riley bowed her head, finally sounding demure and apologetic, even if not saying the words.

“I want you to go out there and tell the others immediately, then start preparing our trip to Australia.”

“Um…” Riley hesitated.

“What now?”

Riley lifted her head again, to match her master’s stony gaze.

“The others aren’t here…”

The expression that swept over Shane’s face said the “what?” that his mouth was currently unable to…

“…And we are already in Australia.”

…before a different kind of surprise took its place. He was suddenly unsure where to even begin, but eventually decided to just take the two issues in order.

“What do you mean they aren’t here?”

“Well, after what happened, they felt like they were a potential liability.” Riled informed him. “So, we decided as a group that they’d return home and prepare for your celebratory homecoming.”

“Rather than make amends by helping me destroy Bobbinette?” Shane argued. “Fools, the lot of you.”

“Well, they figured that there’d be nothing they could do…given the…”

“The what?” Shane demanded, sensing yet another hesitation on the horizon.

“The fact that it’s a cage match.”

Shane’s eyes widened – both in surprise and because the memory of Bobbinette shoving him in a cage and throwing him down some stairs pierced his present focus.

“Son of a bitch,” Shane muttered.

“We don’t know how she made it happen,” Riley started, but was swiftly cut off.

“That’s irrelevant. If you think a cage could prevent you from assisting me in defeating her, you really are fools. What if I need someone to tie her arms around the bars from the outside? Allowing me to decimate her uninterrupted. What if I want a weapon passed through? Or somebody to ensure I can escape out the door if necessary or help to prevent her from doing the same?”

“That’s why I stayed behind,” Riley tried to placate. “Just in case.”

“You are all starting to think too unilaterally.” Shane scoffed. “You’re supposed to do what I say and nothing else, you got it?”

“Yes, sir!”

Shane decided to finally relent, albeit with a sigh.

“But I guess there’s nothing we can do it now. So, how did we get to Australia?”

Riley smirked, knowing she at least had a satisfactory answer this time. One that would no doubt provoke her master’s ire any further.

“Let’s just say you aren’t the only one sitting on a considerable nest egg.”

Shane’s eyebrows furrowed, as curiosity overtook the myriad emotions that had been coursing through him over the last few minutes. Riley was already full of surprises and contradictions and mysteries. But clearly, he had yet to even scratch the surface of them. Unfortunately, he would have to dig into those at another time. For now, the only woman he could focus on was Bobbinette.

“Well, at least that saves us some time,” Shane said. “And I can’t say I’ve not got some rest in for this match. How long have I been out, anyway?

If Shane had spidey-sense, it would have tingled right at that moment, as Riley’s now infamous penchant for hesitation returned.

“Eight days…”

Shane was finally able to vocalize his suddenly returning rage. “WHAT?”

If he could have pushed himself up, leapt across the room, and throttled her, Shane would have. But, at that moment, he hurt to even breath. As such, he decided her would save the rage and throttling for Bobbinette Carey at 97 Red.

“The doctors said it was best to keep you unconscious for the time-being, to let all the swelling go down.” Riley tried to explain. “So, I figured we’d just keep you rested while transporting you. Then, when we got here, they said there was no bones broken but they and your muscles had sustained so much damage in the attack, that training could push them over the edge. I didn’t think you’d want to step into the cage match with a broken arm, so I took their advice and kept you under.”

Shane groaned, knowing that it had done a fat lot of good. After all, most of the damage had been prior to Nettie’s attack and the pain still wracked him, even after seemingly eight days of sleeping.

“You didn’t think a broken arm would be helpful?” Shane enlightened her. “It’s much either to cave Bobbinette’s face in with a solid cast and metal pins.”

“Well, if you want me to break it for you—”

“No,” Shane interrupted. “No jokes. I need to think. Thanks to you I only have six days to prepare and train, meaning I have to work double-time, at least. As such all your decisions have been rendered moot. You didn’t help me, you’ve hindered me. Maybe you actually did help Nettie with the ambush.”

“I would never!” Riley insisted earnestly. “I kneel to nobody but you.”

She stood up, suddenly and dramatically.

“You think I’m a hindrance to your success,” she continued, simultaneously pointing. “I’ll throw myself out that window right now.”

Shane’s eyes widened, not with shock but with a sense of being impressed by her. Wow, he thought to himself. She’s almost as emo as me.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Shane eventually said with a smirk.

Riley nervously returned the gesture as she sat back down.

“But now you know how I’ll feel if I lose this match,” Shane continued. “Because this isn’t just a match. It’s the culmination of a destiny that’s been building for fifteen years. Because I’m not just a wrestler, I’m an Angel of Death. And death is what it’s going to take to prevent from ending Bobbinette’s career at 97 Red. The red in the title is either gonna spill from her, or me if I somehow manage to fail. Do you understand me?”

“Loud and clear,” Riley answered.

“Good. Because everything I mentioned above, you better be prepared and willing to do all of it and more.”

“There’s nothing I won’t do to help you walk out of that cage victorious.”

“Good,” Shane repeated. “Because, from here on out, there’s no room for failure. I believe in second chances, but I don’t believe in thirds. If I lose against Bobbinette, I can guarantee that I’ll be taking it out on you – and not in the fun way I would do if I were to win.”

“You know why I chose the name Phantasm,” Riley asked.


“Because she is also known as the Angel of Death,” Riley declared. “I may have lost some of your trust but I’m as all in on this as you are. I want nothing more than to watch you break Bobbinette’s bones against those steel bars, soak that ring in her blood, and walk out as HOTV champion. I will not fail you again.”

“Good,” Shane replied, still smirking. Even the idea of it being a cage match had grown on him during this conversation. After all, what better place to bring Bobbinette Carey to justice for her betrayal and theft than inside a cage. It would make for a fitting place to finally break her once and for all. “Has there been any word from Nettie?”

Riley shook her head. “She’s seemingly gone to ground.”

“Not surprising,” Shane lamented. “She’ll stick to the shadows and keep herself hidden until absolutely necessary, until the absolute last moment. Just like the coward that she is. But no matter, she’ll pop her head out eventually. And when she does, we’ll be ready to swing like an axe and chop that head off.”

Riley smiled at the imagery. “I can’t wait.”

“Until then,” Shane said, struggling to push himself into a full and upright sitting position.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do. So, bring me the HOTV championship and we can get started.”

That previous sense returned and Shane’s smirk faded.

“About that…” Riley started, swooping in before Shane could ask the obvious question. “Nettie Carey stole it, right after attacking you.”

Of course, she did, Shane thought to himself. He had moved beyond surprised and anger now. After all, he should have realized that this would happen. History always has a way of repeating itself. Unfortunately, Shane had learned the hard way that those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Fifteen years ago, Bobbinette had stolen a championship from him. And fifteen years ago, Shane had let her get away with scot free. As such, day by day, month by month, year by year, that regret had festered the most toxic of rages. He refused to let that happen again. In six days, Bobbinette would finally receive her judgement – for stealing the World title and HOTV title.

“Well, I hope she enjoys it,” Shane eventually said aloud. “Illegitimate as it may be, it’ll be the last time she ever holds a championship. I’m going to take it back from her, snap each of her fingers and wrists, and then her career is done. Either her career dies in that ring… or I die trying to bring it about. There is no middle ground.”

Shane turned away from his revelry and focused back on Riley.

“As for you,” Shane spat with a glare. “Any more bombshells you want to drop on me?”

Before Riley could even open his mouth to speak, the hospital window abruptly exploded into a million shards of glass. Each of them rushed through the air, many catching Shane and Riley as they went. The fabric of Shane’s hospital gown was as cut to shreds as the arm he held up to shield himself. Riley took cover but not before her face suffered multiple lacerations – though mostly only superficial. Shane was used to the pain, but was nonetheless consumed with anger. If it wasn’t self-inflicted then it just wasn’t the same.

“Maybe there was one bombshell left after all,” Riley said, lifting her head out from behind the chair she’d ducked behind. Shane could see she was already savouring the blood trickling over her already red lips.

Shane threw back the covers and allowed the rage-fuelled adrenaline spike to jump out of bed. Sciatica and damaged leg joints be damned. Racing through his mind were all the potential suspects. Nettie Carey. One of countless figures from his past like that spineless, compassionless, traitorous weasel of a human being known as Max Kael. He forced himself to bend down and pick up the brick – a note having been clearly stuck to it. Slipped disk and Radiculopathy be damned.

Shane tore away the note and unfurled it. He read the words allowed, as Riley tentatively moved across the room to join him. “Two…Four…Six…Eight…Shane Reynolds is who we hate!”

Still holding the brick, Shane rushed over to the smashed window. Down below, he saw not fans or associates of the aforementioned names. Instead he saw, much to his surprise, that it was a group of protestors. Shane could clearly hear that they were chanting the same mantra as was written on the note. Each of them were holding signs that displayed crude drawings of Shane and words just as imaginative as their chant.

“Who are they?”

“They’re members of a group that advocates for disabled people,” Riley answered. “They think what you did to Evan Ward was discrimination and ableism. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think it’d be a problem.”

Without warning, Shane hurled the brick back towards them. They quickly scattered to avoid it, before rushing back in to continue their protest.

“Well, they’re a problem.” Shane muttered.

“What can I do?”

Shane turned his head sharply in her direction, figuratively burning her eyes from her sockets where she stood at his side. “Get me some damn morphine!”