They’ve been at it for an hour with no signs of stopping.
Outside on the sun-dappled, house-length back deck, sitting knees-to-chin on a grey rattan sectional, Lindsay Troy scribbles furiously on a notepad while trying to keep her oversized mirrored aviators from slipping down the bridge of her nose. Summer and sun have finally arrived in Chicago, in the blink of an eye, with temperatures finally hitting the seventies in a May filled with fifties and clouds. Papers, both crumpled and pristinely intact, litter the table in front of the sofa. Two vaguely brown, likely flammable beverages sweat on top of coasters on either side of a serving tray of chips, guac, and salsa.
West Lakeview is quiet; some pedestrian conversation and cars driving by filters back to where she sits, but not enough to be a bother. Her rental house is far enough away from the main drags of Belmont and Damen to afford some peace and privacy, but is a close enough walk or a drive to busier neighborhoods to not be out of the way.
“So…” she trails off, dropping both the pen and pad into her lap. “Elves. Really?”
At the other end of the couch, cell phone in his lap and a thick file next to his hip, Mike Best tilts his head and smirks. Adjusts his own sunglasses on his face. “Yup. Elves. Max is deathly afraid of elves.”
“Huh. That’s a first.”
“Yup. Swear to Dad, Lindz. It’s elves.”
With the Mother of GoD’s victory over Brian Hollywood at Refueled 27 to officially cement her status on Team Mike Best, the Group of Death is officially in “War Time.” Gone are whatever niceties or allegiances the Group of Death has toward any member of Team Lee. Easy enough to say where 24K are concerned; not so much where Max Kael is. But this is for victory in War Games, and this is also for victory where the LSD Title is concerned; a chance for Team Mike Best to have all the singles titles going into the big dance on June 20th.
A chance for Lindsay to even up the score against Max from their semi-finals match in the Lee Best Invitational.
A chance for her to actually win her first title in High Octane Wrestling, instead of Freebirding one.
And who better to help her than the Captain? The person who knows Max best? The man who has been to hell and back with him more times than anyone outside of the two of them can count?
His own adoptive brother.
Mike had quickly helped her prep for her and Max’s first encounter, non-title, in the hallway before Max caught onto their strategy session, but the Son of GOD’s help wasn’t enough to help her avoid a Weapon of Max Destruction and dash her tournament dreams. Four and oh, and done.
That loss to Max at Refueled 20 was the beginning of Lindsay’s three match skid that was just now broken by making Hollywood tap out a few days ago. Her victory on Saturday night felt huge, not only because it got her into the “big boy” War Games match, but losing three matches in a row just doesn’t happen. Losing a fourth would have been unheard of.
She’ll never admit it, but the last thing she wants is to go into the PPV with a new loss hanging over her head. And she’s desperate for a belt to call her own. Over a year without a singles title, which is another thing that just doesn’t happen.
Is this what a career decline looks like?
Lindsay quickly blinks the thought away, then smirks at Mike to deflect. “Think you can send me the GoD logo? I’ll see if Kaz can make something with an elf on it and I’ll wear it to the ring Saturday night. Have OneHourTees print it.”
“No, because I already did that, and they’re already doing it.”
She laughs. “Figured you’d already be on it. Why bother having my kid do anything with his college education.”
“Oh right. You have a college aged child. Cool. Cool cool cool.”
A pause, as Mike takes a long, sweaty shower of an already sweaty cocktail.
“Uh, yeah,” he goes on, after a beat. “I sometimes do Chief Marketing Things when I’m not kneeing or elbowing people to death.”
“I always forget that title of yours is A Thing.” Lindsay grabs a chip, dunks it in salsa, and inhales it, deftly managing to avoid dripping anything on her tank top. Once it’s consumed, she continues. “Probably because you’re better at kneeing or elbowing people to death.”
“That’s because I’d rather do the kneeing or the elbowing. I’m personally responsible for Bobby Dean returning to his past Beautiful glory.”
You can’t see it fully, but the Queen has an exasperated look on her face. She hits the eye-roll in stride. “Can we not? I’m convinced it’s only a matter of time before all the Bandits find out where I live and start stalking me. Can we get back to Max, please? This is important.”
She lifts the notebook back up. “I already know he’s being weird, trying to join all these different groups…”
Mike shrugs, almost thinking nothing of it. “It’s Max. He’s a weird guy.”
“Mike,” Lindsay lifts her sunglasses away from her face and peers at him, hazel eyes trying to pierce through the tint of his lenses. “He’s weird weird. Far past anything I’ve ever dealt with before weird.”
“Yeah, but, have you seen his eye?”
“The one the North Koreans put in. Yes. I have been around guys with red eyes before. This is not out of the norm for me.”
“Wait.” Now it’s Michael’s turn to lift his sunglasses away from his face. “Really?”
“No, Mike,” Lindsay rolls her eyes. “Red devil eyes are NOT NORMAL.”
An uncomfortable silence fills the air for a moment or two. Mike had always assumed that Max’s eye was made of spare parts and nightmares and didn’t want to ask too many questions; after all, who would want to when the North Koreans were concerned? But maybe Lindsay had a point. Maybe there was something more going on with his brother than he had been more keenly aware of with everything else going on: the War Games picks; the War of Attrition with GOD, his Father; the boiling seas of battle with 24K. Max certainly wasn’t helping things, with his erratic behavior as of late.
He grabs his drink again, takes another sip, and returns the glass to the table. Not the coaster.
Lindsay lifts her eyebrow. “‘Scuse me?”
Mike looks at her, then his glass. “Oh. Sorry, Mom.”
Before he can even wrap his hand around the tumbler, the menacing barb shoots across the table and stabs him full-bore in the eardrum. “Don’t ever call me that again.”
Back in Ye Olden Days, when Andy Murray convinced a Voodoo Priestess in New Orleans to cast a spell that traded his two working knees for a dumbed-down vocabulary, Eli Flair and I would have a good ol’ laugh, I’d drink rum, and we’d make shitty Captain Jack Sparrow references.
Today, instead, you all get whiskey and a bad fucking attitude. Welcome to Glendalough and Ginger Talk with your host, El-Tee.
I would dedicate this little diatribe to Barbara Joan Streisand, but instead I want to dedicate it to the Innovative and Ingenious, the Eccentric and Enigmatic, Maximilian Wilhelm Kael. First of His Name. Et cetera.
You’ve been a difficult little douchebag since the Group of Death started, haven’t you, Max? Didn’t look happy when Dan and I massacred MJ and Flyer in the middle of the ring. Still can’t check a Discord message. Didn’t show up to Dan’s Annual Memorial Day BBQ; the steaks were delicious, by the way, and we even had a blender for your own personal use.
That part about the Group of Death not taking shitty swipes at each other? Clearly you think it doesn’t apply to you.
Hell, it’s not like you’ve even been taking the “group” part of the Group of Death seriously. Running around and joining the eGG Bandits, and 24K. Acting like War Games is supposed to be friendly, when you and I and the World knows that it’s going to be anything but. Really can’t wait for you to join Dead and Dead, and DadTag. Maybe you can show Joe Bergman other parts of the arena besides Section 214 and the parking lot. I don’t know you that well, because – again – you’ve barely been part of the FUCKING GROUP since February – but from what Mike says I know you’d rather kill yourself than pledge your allegiance to Scotty, so I’m not even going to bother worrying about you trying to join HATE.
Trust me, getting you on-board is not for my lack of trying. But you’ve been resistant, and you’ve been strong-willed. You still refer to this group as the eMpire, you won’t adapt to the new normal. Sure, Lee drafted you to his War Games team, as we suspected he might do with someone within the Group of Death, but for three months now everything has been a constant battle rather than a smooth transition.
And now, week after week, you’ve just been wandering around doing GoD knows what, rather than actually getting good with your teammates.
But hey, at least you’ve still got time to bring up my recent failures. Don’t worry, they haven’t gone unnoticed by countless others in this company, least of all me.
Least of all, Lee.
Because let’s face it, nobody’s happier when I fail than Lee Best.
You think the man hasn’t been praying at my altar for over a decade just to get me here and throw every tough as fuck challenge at my way as a gigantic FUCK YOU for me not getting here sooner?
It took me a little bit to figure it out but man, when all the pieces finally fell into place, what a goddamn revelation it was.
The man doesn’t want me to succeed here. The man just wanted me on his roster for his own wish fulfillment. His “dream signing,” the person – regardless of gender – that he’s been wanting to sign for THIRTEEN YEARS makes a pittance and has dealt with more shade thrown her way by his front office for, literally, no reason other than she doesn’t cater to one man’s whims.
He should’ve known that I bow and bend to no man.
And I’ve been told that the best way to stick it to Lee is to stick one straight up his ass, and that’s why I stick around, because I am resilient, and I am tougher than anything he tries to dish out.
Two out of three falls? I can take it. Three match losing streak? I’ve already proven I can beat it.
You think I’m not tough enough to rip that belt away from you, Max?
You beat me one fucking time. So what? Why don’t you go find wherever Warrick Hill’s hiding, probably huffing glue behind a 7-11, or out in the woods erecting effigies to the eMpire, and ask him what underestimating someone gets you. Because you underestimate me this time, and I’m going to break your fucking neck, and Lee’s going to have to draft the Hollywood Bruvs as a replacement. Actually, come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea. I would love to take on the whole of 24K in War Games, so why don’t we fucking do that instead. You let me know what flowers you like and I’ll have some sent to your hospital bed. Tap their name out in Morse code on the side of your ice chip cup and maybe, if you’re extra good, I’ll come by at night and read you a bedtime story.
“The Tale of Max Kael’s Final LSD Match”
Don’t think I don’t already know how important this defense is. You’re real close to setting another record, aren’t you. Cecilworth and I may have had a plan to secure his ICON record-setting streak as part of our Group of Death accord, but you and I have no such pact, do we? And why would we? The ICON belt may have been for the pure wrestlers, but the LSD belt has always been for the superstars, the ones not afraid to lay it all on the line, the ones who will go the extra mile, do whatever it takes, use whatever’s at their disposal, to win the day and secure the belt.
And that’s what I intend to do, Max.
You’re right; no one’s been able to touch you for a very long time. You’ve earned your spot atop the rankings and atop this division. Many have tried and all have failed. You can be pissy that I was the cause of you losing your tag belt and you can think that I’ve brought shame to the Group of Death, but when you’ve barely been part of this Group yourself, when you’ve been the Black Sheep and the Problem Child, your words hold no water.
All good things must come to an end, Max. And I’ve been looking to ascend a throne in High Octane Wrestling for a very, very long time.
Might as well knock the King of the LSD Division off of his.