This Feels Like a Setup

This Feels Like a Setup

Posted on June 11, 2024 at 1:37 am by Warrick Hill

Edinburgh, Scotland
June 22nd, 2024

This place smells like piss and tastes like ass. Or is it the other way around? Not that I know what piss tastes like.

Eh, fuck it. All I can tell you is Scotland blows.

If I had to rank all however many countries in order based on my preference to visit Scotland would rank right above Canada, for obvious reasons, and beneath Wales. Only because Whales are cool.

Regardless, here I am. Tiny hotel room. Overcast sky. Tasteless food.

A life fit for a much younger man. A man on the hunt. A man fighting to secure his future.

Yet I am not young. I’m at the age where the fruits of my previous labor should be paying off. Only they aren’t. Because, instead of selling the fruit, I ate it. Every last bit of it.

I indulged. There was no sacrifice, only satisfaction.

But the bill has come due. It’s now or never for me. If I don’t make this run count then I’ll be forced to get a real job like a normal person and that just sounds fuckin gross.

War is on the horizon. And I didn’t fly out all this way to play any games.

June 9th, 2024
Somewhere in the Good Ole US of A

It’s nine o’clock in the morning. I’m wide awake. I want to go back to sleep but I can’t. If I lay on my right side, my shoulder starts to hurt. Same goes for my left.

Is this what getting old feels like?

Another hour or two of sleep would’ve been nice had I not been so rudely awakened by that recurring dream. The one where Max Kael wins my DeNucci division and goes on to do what Max Kael does best, lose to Teddy Palmer in the finals.

That was my spot. That was my shot.

I should have won the LBI. I would have dethroned Farthington.

Should have. Would have. Only I couldn’t. Because, like always, I got in my own way.

Did I mention how fuckin hot it is in this room? This bedside fan isn’t worth shit. I’m already sweating through these boxers. My last clean pair.

Guess I’d better get up and check my account. See if Mobley’s weekly deposit came through.

Derek Mobley has always been a good friend to me. Far better than I deserve. Despite his loyalty, even he was forced to cut ties with me a few years back to prevent the anchor that is Warrick Hill from weighing him down any longer.

But he still sends me cash every week which pays for…this shitty living arrangement.

Sweet! Money is there. The fear of being cut off from my lone source of income is quieted for another week.

Think I’ll burn one down and maybe do some laundry before definitely biking to the liquor store.

I see my neighbor outside, leaning against the railing smoking like he’s got nothing left to live for. I’d like to go out there and say hi but I know what that will lead to.

It began with him paying the full rate. Then half. Then we just started hooking up for free. Part because it was fun. But also because I felt bad for him. Life’s expensive, though, and I can’t waste my time…

Ah dang, he saw me. That’s what I get for looking through the blinds.

“Hey Warrick,” I greet him upon stepping outside. He offers me a cigarette but I turn it down. I learned a long time ago you don’t take what someone can’t afford to give.

We allow a quiet moment to pass as I size him up. This isn’t a man built for a life like this. This is a man built to be something special. A man blessed with talents very few dream of possessing. This might be the most tragic man I’ve ever known.

Torn jean shorts. A pair of faded flip-flops. Dirty, white tank top. His curly, shoulder-length dirty blonde hair a mess, each strand having a mind of its own. His face, like the rest of his skin, a slightly burnt shade of brown. Enough stubble on his face to indicate he shaves once a week.

“Did you ever check on that theater job I told you about?”

He finishes his cigarette and flicks it over the balcony while reaching into his pocket for another. “Nah.”

“Well, why not?” I try not to sound too judgmental. But it’s tough seeing someone hellbent on self-destruction.

“I can’t work a normal job. Not after everything I’ve been through,” he looks at me, expecting compassion. He finds confusion. “Never mind. You wouldn’t understand.”

And now I feel bad. I didn’t even do anything. I couldn’t let the conversation end there. “What about your old job?”

“It’s complicated.”

“I’m sure it is,” my hand finds it’s way across his back. He looks at me and smiles.

“You wanna…” his eyes move toward his door.

Ugh. Those eyes. That face. “Sure.”

Again, how does a man like this get so down?

Charlotte may not be much to look at but she’s a pro for a reason. And while I have no issue scoring better-looking chicks I kinda like throwing her a bone every once in a while. Make her feel good about herself.

So, with that good deed out of the way for the day, I perform some hygienic maintenance, grab my wallet, and kill what’s left inside an open Coors Light bottle from the night before. Say what you want but warm beer in the morning tastes about as good as anything.

My aim’s a little off as I throw the bottle into the trash. It nicks a lopsided stack of plastic containers holding a bunch of shit I probably forgot I saved.

What a fuckin mess. I’ll pick it up later.

Wait, what’s that?

‘The door is open if or when you get your shit together – Lee Best’ followed by his contact information.

I do not remember having this conversation. Huh. Must’ve been while I was drunk.

Whatever. Probably just an invitation to get my ass jumped by Mike. Throw this shit away. And into the trash can it goes.

Fuck off HOW. I’m doing just fine without you.

Is it just me or is liquor getting way too expensive? At least that’s what I ask the cashier after he rings my items up.

I don’t really appreciate his look. And I sure as shit don’t appreciate the side-eye he gives to the bike I rode up to the store.

“Hey, eyes over here, douchebag.”

“Look, if you can’t afford it then put it back.”

Oh, man. This dude really wants to fuck around and find out.

“What are you gonna do?” he shoots with way too much confidence.

This asshole is really begging me to hit him. I’d break this slim jim built looking mother fucker in half. Only, I can’t really afford the penalty. Derek might cut me off and then I’d be screwed.

I’ve been to jail before. Not too excited to go back. Still a miracle they let me out, to begin with.

“It’s fine, I got the money,” I say against every fiber of my being. Douche bag smirks and takes my cash. Unreal. I need to find a new place to get my booze.

There’s this new coffee shop not far from my place. On the other side of the highway. Charlotte told me she heard they have comfortable chairs and really fast internet.

I wouldn’t mind checking out some porn without it buffering every five seconds. Maybe even catch up on some YouTube shows I like. Might even snag old highlights of my matches. Those are always fun to watch.

Ya know what? She wasn’t wrong. Place is pretty swanky. I order a small coffee. Barista looks me up and down. I still got it, folks.

There’s a comfy chair in the back corner. Don’t mind if I do.

Make sure nobody’s looking and empty this tiny whiskey bottle into my java. Irish coffee for Warrick Hill! Alright!

Internet is as fast as advertised. I go straight to YouTube. Pull up some Warrick Hill highlights. Most watched? My victory over Max Kael.

I relive the moment once. Twice. Three times. I go for a fourth viewing when some asshole rudely interrupts me.

“Excuse me, sir.”

I look up and it’s a fuckin police officer. Did the liquor store dude bitch me out? And for what? I walked away.

“Look, man, I didn’t do anything, alright? I thought about it but I didn’t.”

The officer looks over his shoulder at the barista. She folds her arms and stares at the ground as if what I said made her very uncomfortable.

“Sir, your presence here is bothering people.”

“Wait, what?”

“I’m going to ask you to leave once, nicely.”

I sit up. This cop isn’t even staring down at me with anger. It’s almost pity. Somehow that’s way fuckin worse. To my right is a group of 20 somethings, glaring at me. To my left are a couple of housewives who look fresh from the gym, studying me like I’m a disease.

And then there’s the barista.

“But what did I do?” Seriously, I don’t even know.

“Sir, please leave now or I’ll have to arrest you.”

“Alright, fine.” I stand up, snagging my coffee. “I’m gone.” I walk out with my hands where everyone can see them. Last thing I want is to further scare these weird people. On my way out I make eye contact, or try to, with everyone. The ones brave enough to look at me do so with condescension.

The cop watches until I get on my bike and pedal away. Fuck that place. Never going back. 1 star on yelp. Assholes.

This day sucks. But, a good meal can always turn a bad day around. I swing my bike into the parking lot of this gas station that houses a pretty sweet taco truck.

I order the usual. There’s a couple of wooden benches in front of the truck, so I find a seat and begin enjoying my meal. First thing I’ve enjoyed all day. No offense to Charlotte.

A woman walks up, orders some food, and sits near me. I know what this means.

“Hey,” I nod her way.

Her brow furrows, “Hey?”

“Name’s Warrick,” I smile. I check her out a bit. Probably mid-thirties. A little heavier than I usually go for but the weight is in mostly the right places.

“Cool.”

Okay, she’s gonna play hard to get. I’m no stranger at that.

“It is cool. You know what else is cool? That bar over there, across the street. What do you say we head over there and I buy you a drink?” I do that thing with my eyebrows women can’t resist to seal the deal.

“Uh, no thanks,” she snorts. She stands and glares down at me, “It’d be nice if I could eat in peace without some old creep hitting on me.”

Old creep? Are you fucking kidding me?

I move to let her have it as she snags her food and heads for her car. But, I pause. The looks I’m getting from the cooks inside the taco truck tell me I’m one wrong move away from never being able to enjoy their food again.

I sit down and take it.

Suddenly the food doesn’t taste so good anymore. This weather is too fuckin hot. This town fuckin sucks.

I just wanna go home and get drunk.

What a horrible fuckin day.

At least I’m home.

Maybe Charlotte is up for another go-around. I could almost use it this time as much as she could.

I get up next to her door and hear another man’s voice. She must be working.

“For free? Again?” his shitty voice finds its way through the door and into my ears.

“I’m sorry,” she responds, pitifully.

“You tell that loser he’s gotta pay just like everyone else.”

Wow, I feel bad for whoever they’re talking about. A pimp and a prostitute calling someone else a loser, haha.

“Okay.”

“Why do you even do it, Charlotte? You’re way more professional than this.”

“Because I feel sorry for him. He’s got nothing. Nobody.”

“And he doesn’t have you. You’re mine. You make sure that neighbor of yours understands that, okay?”

Wait, what the fuck? Neighbor? Charlotte’s room is on the corner of the floor. I’m the only one who lives next to her so…wait. Are they talking about me?

The door opens and he steps out. He looks up at me. I look down at him. He shakes his head, spits at the ground, and walks away. I turn to Charlotte. She flashes a sheepish smile before shutting the door.

They think I’m a loser.

She pities me?!

My skin starts to boil. My head feels like it’s going to explode. I kick my door in and throw the bag of liquor onto the bare mattress. I reach into the trash and remove a piece of paper.

I put the phone to my ear. It rings. It rings. It rings. This better not be a fake fucking number.

Someone answers.

“This is Warrick Hill. Give me Lee Best.”

Edinburgh, Scotland
June 22nd

War Games it is, then.

An opportunity to make up all that was lost in one night. Hell, one match.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding this event. No idea who is on which team.

So, I guess I’ll focus on what we know. The captains are Evan Ward and Mike Best. Which means I’ll be forced to work with one of these two eight-letter named assholes.

I’m gonna imagine I’m rolling with the devil I don’t know.

Let’s take a trip for originality’s sake, alright? What you’re about to witness is a figment of my stupid imagination.

It’s ancient Scotland. About two thousand years ago. We’re on the precipice of War. A great invasion. Evan Ward has called me in, a renowned, mercenary to aid in his team’s efforts to stave off the legendary forces heading his way.

“You’re Warrick Hill,” this fictional Evan Ward greets me.

“What gave it away,” I respond, looking down at the name ‘Warrick’ across my chest. Evan feigns a laugh before taking me around camp.

“Glad you could make it. I’d like to say we’re prepared for what’s coming but by the sounds of things Mike Best and his 9th Legion are stronger than we thought. The extra muscle will help.”

I urge him to move it along. I don’t have all day. He points out a fancy-looking blonde guy. I already hate the look of this fucker. “That’s one of our better soldiers. Charles De Lacy.” Oh god. I really hate that name. “He comes from noble sock…”

I stop him right there. “That’s enough. If I have to fight alongside this guy the less I know the better.”

“Fair.” He nods toward the most impressive warrior I’ve seen thus far. “That’s Drew Mitchell.” My eyes find the gold around his waist. Evan notices. “As you can see, he’s a champion.”

“A champion of what?”

“LSD”

“Sweet. Can I take that title from him?”

“Warrick, we’re teammates. We need to defeat Mike Best and his 9th legion.”

“Oh, right,” I nod. I’m still gonna take that fucker’s title somehow. I glance over at Drew. He looks back at me and I send him a message, via telepathy, that I’m coming for him. Based on the dumbfuck look across his face I don’t think he got it.

I then hear the rantings of a lunatic inside a tent. “Who’s that?”

Evan sighs, “That’s Darin Zion. He’s not important.”

“Ya, I didn’t think so.”

“Whoa, who is that?” I remark, spotting the best-looking (and ONLY) woman in camp bending over and cooking some food.

“That’s Lexi Gold. She…”

Wait, hold up. Did I just make one of only two women in this entire organization the cook? It’s 2024. How sexist of me.

Lexi is instantly replaced by Noah Hanson who is bending over, showing way too much ass, cooking some food. “That’s Noah Hanson,” Evan replies.

“What’s he cooking?”

“Chicken. Always chicken.”

“The other white meat.” My head turns away from Noah the chicken man Hanson and to an intimidating fellow with a huge backside. “Yikes. Dude’s got some serious ass in his, uh, ass.”

Evan laughs, “Yea, that’s Hugo Scorpio. It’s Long Islandian for ‘Huge Ass’. You could eat dinner off that thing, am I right?” Evan’s eyes immediately drop when he sees the questionable look on my face. “Anyway, let’s move on.”

“Please.”

We near the edge of camp where a kid is swinging a sword two sizes too large for his arms. He can barely keep the damn thing level. “When did this become a daycare?”

“Oh, haha,” Ward nods toward the kid, “that’s Zach Kostoff.”

“Kostoff, is that Russian?”

“What the hell is Russian?”

“Oh, right, this is like 100 AD. My bad.”

Evan kinda glitches with my fourth wall tap dance before refocusing, “His father is, was a legend. Now Zach’s trying to carve his own legacy.”

“Nepotism, great.”

We’ve reached the end of camp. Evan pivots and turns toward me, “So, what do you think?”

“I think if I knew I was signing up for a suicide mission I’d have asked for more gold.”

“That bad, huh?”

“Dude, you’re gonna get smoked.”

“Maybe not…with you at our side.”

I can’t tell if Evan is actually confident or just full of shit. So, I size him up, “Drew looks solid and Huge Ass has a Huge Ass. What about you? I’m sure you’ve accomplished some shit.”

“Oh, I’ve been a champion.”

“Fuck yea.”

“For seven days.”

“Fuck off.”

“What?”

“Seven days?! Geezus Christ!”

“The heretic?”

“It’s an expression…fuck it, whatever. This team sucks, man.”

Evan starts to lay some more bullshit on me but I vibe out and close my eyes. Returning to reality now.

I stare out my window, down at the venue that awaits. My mind keeps trying to solve this puzzle Lee has placed in front of me. The final War Games. Two team captains. One of them is the most decorated wrestler in HOW history. A current world champion. A multi-time Hall of Famer. The most feared man inside the squared circle.

And the other is Evan fucking Ward.

Call me paranoid but this feels like a setup. That or Lee lost his other eye.