Chapter 4 – Bargaining Chips
414 Berkeley Street
Lexi Lovehart Loft
Lexi sat on the Suede chair. She wore a white ceremonious lacy dress. It parted at her chest showing a pushed up cleavage. Her legs were slanted and her knees bent. She held herself up with an outstretched arm behind her. She held the belt up high, too. Her hair pinned up with long bangs falling in front of her face. She posed for the photographer Alyssa. Alyssa snapped the last shot for Spearhead Wrestling news line. Alyssa worked with Jen for ten years, snapping pictures for different projects. Jen Walter’s nephew, Travis, handled camerawork. He placed the camera in front of Lexi after Alyssa walked to the back table. Jen waited at the back table.
Lexi leaned forward, holding the belt across her arms. She gazed down at the belt. Silver straps with white gold plating. Travis gave Lexi the countdown.
“Muy bella. Isn’t that’s how it’s said in your tongue, Sophia Rose?” Lexi said after some time. “A tongue that’s broken and withered because without your title—the one I hold; the one I won from you cleanly—you no longer have an identity. I stole your identity and I’m proud of that.”
Lexi raised her head and the belt. She stared deep into the camera.
“Don’t fret, my dear. Your title is safe with Rogue Kingdom.”
Lexi walked to a poised Zemi. The camera followed Lexi tucked her long bangs behind her ear. She placed the title on her shoulder.
“To my left stands the greatest man alive. He may not have gold yet but when he does: we are unstoppable. Our Rogue Kingdom will flutter and drip golden for all the world to see. Even silver at its core runs gold.”
“We’re finally getting recognition,” Zemi said stepping closer into view. He touched shoulder-to-shoulder with Lexi. He leaned slightly forward with arms crossed. “Once underlooked now the overlooked. We’re balanced in your minds. You know us now. I’m Zemi DeMarx,” he pointed to himself, “The Rookie of professional wrestling all because of my immaturity. I’m a smarter wrestler now, and I’ll show my skills tonight against Vincent Kross in that steel cage.” Zemi paused. “Vincent Kross has been living a lie his whole career. He may be your hero. He may be your savior Spearhead Wrestling, but he isn’t mine. Hero’s don’t dodge the rookies looking to prove themselves. And hero’s don’t betray the company they supposedly love. Hell, hero’s don’t betray the love of their adoring fans!” Zemi took a breather. He wrapped his arm around Lexi.
“We are the power couple to rule wrestling. Lovely Lexi gained the first power piece. Next, I’ll gain the second power piece: The Spearhead Heavyweight Championship.”
Jen Walters moved away from the table. “Cut!” she yelled. Travis stopped recording and walked to the back table with the footage. Jen clapped for the good performance.
“We actually impressed you?” Zemi asked.
“Not in the slightest,” Jen said. “But I do thank you, Lexi for letting us use your loft for the filming.”
“Not a problem,” Lexi said. “I better get my extra pay. Owning a Loft on a indie wrestler budget is difficult.” Lies, her parents still pay the payments. But Jen didn’t need to know that.
Jen dug into her pocket and pulled out a folded check. She handed it to Lexi. “$1,000, like we agreed.”
Lexi grabbed it, quickly glance at the amount before stuffing it into her pocket. “So…this isn’t going to bounce right?”
“Excuse me?” Jen said.
Zemi gave Lexi a confusing look.
“That’s the whispers in the locker room,” Lexi said.
“Don’t listen to the rumors,” Jen recovered. She turned to walk off.
“Is this why we can’t have more titles?” Zemi asked.
“We don’t have enough room for titles,” Jen said.
“We have more than enough,” Zemi said. He then took a moment to think. “Are you tired of running Spearhead Wrestling?”
Jen turned around with arms crossed, hip to the side, and thinned lipped. “I’m not tired of running the promotion and that check won’t bounce.”
“That’s not what Senor Raul is saying,” Lexi said and showed Jen her phone.
Jen took it and pressed play as small perplexed creases showed on her face.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Raul’s voice expelled from the phone speakers. His anger laced his accent. The video started shaky, but stabilized after. He stood in front of a white bricked wall. “I welcomed Mrs. Walters into mi casa. I welcomed her wrestlers into mi casa. I give love and hospitality. All competitors together are worthy adversaries and we put on a good show. I even offered to take Zemi DeMarx off her hands because she couldn’t handle a talent that needs to grow. She refused. I respected that. We talked at length about the woman title: Femme Fatale. Ella lo robo.”
He paused. Took a breath and collected his thoughts.
“There’s a confession too I must make. My door is always open to accept wrestlers of any background, any strength, and weakness. I polish the dirt into diamonds. Here’s my confession: Jen Walters is planning to sell you guys out to GGW—Global Generation Wrestling. She doesn’t care. She’s tired of running a business that takes more than a husband’s inheritance. If she tells you, Spearhead Wrestling, that all I’m saying is a lie, don’t believe the bitch. Believe in what you feel; what you experience. Ever wonder if why your checks are short or bounced? It’s coming from her funds to keep everything up. So you won’t turn on her. But like I said: mi casa, su casa. I will not let GGW ruin our business. We must unite against one traitor to fix the wrongs. Mrs. Walters congratulations on making an enemy. La Fiesta is coming for that belt. Bet. On. That.” The video ended.
The Territory Ranch
226th Stratton, NY
Sadie and Anoka stretched after helping ring crew assemble the ring. Sadie rolled into the ring to run the ropes. Anoka watched from the outside. His arms crossed, eyes following Sadie’s focused movements. His felt the heaviness dripping over Sadie. Lately, she doubted herself. The confidence she once had slowly leaving her. And Anoka knew running the ropes for Sadie meant clearing her mind. Sadie picked up speed. Anoka lowered his arms and slid into the ring. He waited for an opening. And ran the ropes East to West while Sadie ran North to South. She didn’t hesitate. They kept running until one became tired. The ropes reverberated a smacking sound. No heavenly music by any standard. Anoka saw Sadie’s fatigue settling in. He couldn’t slow down. It’ll be dangerous.
“Stop!” a loud voice and clap surprised Anoka and Sadie. The two almost collided. They rested against the ropes of their respective sides. They focused on head trainer Airon Seven who stood outside. Airon Seven slid into the ring. “Let’s sit together,” he said. Sadie and Anoka did as instructed.
Sadie controlled her breathing; so did Anoka. “Where have you been,” Sadie said.
“Mrs. Walters didn’t need me any longer and I walked away. I came back to check on everyone,” Airon Seven said. “Now, let’s get to the heart of the problem. Sadie, I know you’re doubting yourself. The last couple of television tapings I can see you struggling.”
“It’s nothing, really.”
“Oh no, it’s something. I don’t need the spirits telling me so,” Anoka added. “You usually have this confidence.”
“It’s intervention time, huh,” Sadie said. Sadie took a moment to think. “I guess you can say I worry about my technique and displaying who I am. I don’t know who I am in wrestling. I don’t have fancy pose, a fancy taunt, but confidence in my wrestling. I know I’m better than Lexi.”
“You were better than Lexi during training. But right now, no,” Airon Seven said.
“Always know how to soften up a lady,” Sadie retorted.
“Hear me out. Lexi’s match against Sophia Rose proved that Lexi could hold her own. She’s a tricky woman wrestler. She’ll show you her weakness and twist her strengths against you when you don’t see it. She got into your head.”
“No. I got into my head.” Sadie said. “After our tag team match against El Sol and La Luna, they were perfectly synced. Something Anoka and I aren’t.”
“We just formed an alliance. Nobody’s perfect overnight,” Anoka said. “You’re thinking too hard about what happened. My spirits can lend a hand to help you find yourself.”
“Or we can start with your name and personality. We did this in class. You chose to be goth. That’s what you like. You have the long black hair, pale skin, dark makeup, and even naturally sharp incisors. You have a strong conviction about professional wrestling, but lately your passion is dying. You’re becoming scared. I suggest you take Anoka up on that offer. Talking to the spirits changed me,” Airon Seven said standing up. “I’ll see you guys tonight. Think about it Sadie.” Airon left them.
Sadie rolled out of the ring.
“Sadie,” Anoka called. He too rolled out the ring. Sadie turned around, engulfed in thick arms and rested her head against a strong broad chest. Anoka brought his hand up, cupping Sadie’s cheek and leaning down locking lips. He kissed her briefly. Their eyes met.
“How could I be such a fool,” Sadie said. She leaned on her toes, gaining some inches to kiss Anoka. He met her halfway, head tilted, and lips parted.
The Cantina Rosa
Bleeker, New York
“The Gold Standard” Roddy Keegan nursed a glass of Jack Daniels on the rocks. He sat in the booth alone for the moment. He focused on the thick cherry wood color of the cushion seat in front of him. He took a small sip of the cold liquid that soothe his throat and chest. He felt the tingles of tipsy. Times change. His body aged faster than his nineties mind. And his alcohol intake diminished.
Roddy Keegan kept his full blonde hair which remained fluffy and lively. His sense of fashion didn’t change. Keegan wore a navy shirt with white buttons that trailed from the third down. He rolled up his sleeves and didn’t button up his collar exposing a smooth tanned chest. His pants gleamed white with creases of perfection. His tailored dark navy shoes completed his look.
Scar tissue and wrinkles covered Roddy Keegan’s face. His body quivered with small arthritis and aches. Twenty-eight years in the business and his body’s still holding even if barely. No longer in the public eye, he managed to make amends with his divorced wife, Cassandra Keegan, and his three children, Lauren, Jasper, and Allison Keegan.
The Cantina Rosa became home for Roddy Keegan. A place to clear his mind. A place to stay in the shadows. No one bothered him except buying Keegan drinks. No one asked for autographs or pictures. The locals understood personal space. Sometimes random conversations started between Keegan and the customer. He cherished those moments even if he wanted peace and quiet.
Former professional wrestler, Luka “The Precision” Fisher owned The Cantina Rosa. He allowed Roddy Keegan to stay however long he needed too. Keegan never created trouble and limited himself to three drinks.
“Holy hell, you look like shit,” an older man with a boyish charm entered the booth and sat down. He placed his Brandy drink down on the table. “What are you thinking about?”
Keegan’s blue eyes shifted and landed on the man in front of him. “Nice to see you too, Brent Nova.” Keegan took another sip of his Jack on the rocks. He placed the drink on the table and sat back, exhaling. Brent Nova, former rival and professional wrestler, took a drink of his Brandy. It burned going down, but a pro-whiskey drinker never cringed.
“How’s the school doing,” Keegan asked.
“It’s well. In about two weeks it’s graduation. You should come and make a speech.”
Brent Nova always wanted Keegan at his school for a training session with the prospects. Nova and Keegan had marvelous matches in the past that sold out venues, arenas, and stadiums. The best of friends, the worst of enemies. Keegan refused, well more like politely declined. His experiences were different from the new age generation of current reality. His thoughts and ring psychology were different. He played a heel his whole career. A small portion of his career he happened to play anti-hero when teaming with Brent Nova. He didn’t want to hinder any of new age generations imagination. But he could, wholesomely, be thinking too hard about the offer.
“We’ll see,” Keegan responded.
“How’s the wife and kids?”
“They’re expecting me home,” Keegan said.
“That’s wonderful. Glad to hear it,” Nova said with a smile. “Now, what’s this meeting about.”
“There’s about to be a power shift in wrestling. You remember Spearhead Wrestling?”
“Yeah. Lenny Walters’ promotion. What about it?”
“Global Generation Wrestling is gonna buy it. The widow Jen Walters is gonna sell out.”
“How does this concern me? Us?”
“I want to be there when all this goes down. I want to be part of this new group, Rogue Kingdom. They need a manager to usher them into the spotlight. I may be retired, but I still love this. I need to do something. I want the young to remember my name, my legacy. Plus, I still want my revenge on Helix Martinez.”
“I’m still waiting for the part of you dragging me into this,” Nova said.
“With your approval—and our approval—grow the group with your hand picked students. Or have your students fight against the group for more training. And I want you to be in my corner if I have to fight Helix Martinez.”
“Your arthritis will act up. You’ll end up paralyzed; possibly dead.”
“Then I’ll tag you in,” Keegan said. He took a long drink of his Jack on the rocks.
“What up, bitches!” another older man exclaimed. He plopped in the booth next to Brent Nova with a Long Island Iced Tea. Keegan didn’t seem phased. Nova did. Gave this man the only look.
“Darryl, what are you doing here?” Nova said holding his drink.
“I heard that Keegan was in town. How are you Keegan? I wanted to know if he’ll be ready when the deal goes down. I want him there. Well, he works for me anyway.” Darryl took a breath. “What are you doing here Nova? Don’t you have a school to run?”
“You work with Darryl?” Nova, with a raised eyebrow, asked Keegan.
“That’s why I know so much.”
“And Global Generation Wrestling will expand into a better tomorrow!” Darryl clapped.
“I’m in Darryl. I’m ready. I do want one thing: let me manage Rogue Kingdom,” Keegan said.
“Of course. Cheers to new beginnings,” Darryl raised his glass and the two did the same. They clinked glasses.
Each man sipped their drink. Nova gave Keegan a look only he understood. Doing business with Darryl Gates meant extinction.
The Territory Ranch
226th Stratton, NY
The steel cage surrounded the ring. Chad Murphy announced Zemi DeMarx on the outside of the ring. Zemi DeMarx made his way down the ramp. Momentarily, he stopped before entering the cage. His hand gripped the laced chain links of the steel cage. He finally let go and entered the cage. Chad Murphy then announced Spearhead Wrestling’s Heavyweight Champion, Vincent Kross. Vincent Kross walked down the ramp, trailing the belt next to him. Vincent entered the ring, handed the belt to Referee Kerry Bonds. Bonds quickly gave the blet to the time keeper and signaled for the bell.
Vincent Kross approached Zemi DeMarx. Zemi stood at five foot, nine inches tall. He puffed his chest. Vincent Kross towered over Zemi by four inches. Both men clench their fists.
“You’re in my house. You’re going to regret challenging me,” Kross told him.
“Your fuck girl told you to say that? Because Jen isn’t here to slap you on the ass for guidance,” Zemi snarled.
Fire erupted in Kross’s eyes, his lips curling in anger. He shoved Zemi hard. Zemi’s back thudded against the mat, and used his momentum to roll on his feet. Zemi rushed at Kross with his own shove. Kross staggered back. He lunged with a forearm to Zemi’s collarbone. Zemi grunted but threw a forearm back at Kross.
Kross leaned over for two seconds before lifting his leg and kneeing Zemi in the gut. Zemi coughed, hugging his midsection. Kross grabbed the back of Zemi’s head, started running and threw him into the cage. Zemi’s flesh hit the cage. He rested on the ropes monetarily. Kross rushed to Zemi’s limp body. He drove a knee in the small of Zemi’s back. Zemi cried out in pain. Kross went for the pin only to be pushed off by Zemi. Zemi rolled to his side, breathing deeply.
Kross grabbed Zemi by the back of his head. He guided him to his feet. Zemi wobbled on weak legs, his hands were fists and his arms loose in movement. He still breathed deeply, and peeked through the blond bangs covering half his face. He has yet to trim or cut his hair.
Kross ran towards the ropes to propel himself at Zemi with a clothesline. Split second before Kross’ arm connected, Zemi ducked and kicked Kross’ running feet from him. Kross’ face slapped the mat. Zemi tied up Kross’ legs. Zemi balanced himself in the bends of Kross’ legs. He leaned down, striking both sides of Kross’ long abdomen. Kross gave up his arms. Zemi hooked his arms under and clasped his hands together. He put pressure against Kross’ neck. Kross cried in pain. Zemi leaned up a bit, having Kross hover above the mat.
“Ask him,” Zemi yelled at the referee.
“Kross, do you give up?” Referee Bonds asked.
Kross shook his head. Gritted his teeth. Zemi smashed Kross’ face to the mat several times. Then, pulled his body all the way back into a sitting position. Zemi then adjusted the hold. He wrapped his arm around Kross’ neck, bending his back in half. Kross stared up at the bright lights. Kross’ hands went to Zemi’s arm, slightly clawing. Kross grunted.
“Ask him! Ask him!” Zemi yelled.
Referee Bonds did so, and Kross shook his hand. “No!” Bonds said.
Zemi took his free arm, and with a closed fist hammered Kross’ chest. Kross couldn’t breathe correctly. He wiggled, trying to loosen Zemi’s grip. Kross finally caught Zemi’s slamming closed fist. A strength struggle happened. Kross used his right hand to tightly clasp Zemi’s wrist. Zemi tried jerking his wrist free. He felt the breathy smile upon his tricep. Zemi felt the small dose of fear weave within. Kross reared his elbow forward and drove it back against Zemi’s face. One powerful strike. Zemi grunted, released the hold, and fell back. A little dazed. Kross pinned him.
Referee Kerry Bonds got into position, “1…2..! 2! He got the shoulder up!” Bonds said.
Kross rolled to the side. Both men got to a wobbly vertical base. Kross tackled Zemi through the ropes and into the cage. Kross quickly rubbed Zemi’s face against the cage hoping to spill blood. Zemi yelled in agony but kicked Kross away. With speed, Zemi managed to throw Kross into the cage. He soon rubbed Kross’ face against it. Blood split from Kross rather than Zemi. Kross screamed in pain too. Zemi then threw Kross back on the mat. Streams of blood trickled over his forehead. Zemi jumped up to the second rope and launched himself into a moonsault. The move connected. Kross gasped for air. Zemi rolled onto his feet, prepared himself for a front flip. He flipped high, spinning like a wheel, and splashed upon Kross. Zemi hooked Kross’ leg for the leg. Referee Kerry Bonds jumped into position. Kross barely raised his arm up at the count of two. Zemi rolled off frustrated. He slapped the mat once. He took a moment to assess the situation. Zemi looked up at the cage. He walked to the steel wall of chain links. He started to climb. Kross stirred and noticed Zemi close to the top beam.
Lexi Lovehart walked down the ramp, title sitting nicely on her shoulder. She changed into a tighter, slimmer dress; her hair still pinned up. “You got this Zemi,” she yelled from the outside. “Keep going!”
Zemi looked down and smiled. But the smile jerked away when he felt a hand on his foot. Kross pulled himself up a little to hit Zemi’s leg. Zemi tried shaking Kross off his leg. But it only helped Kross to climb further. Zemi grabbed onto the top beam. He swung out, broke Kross’ grip on his leg, and smashed double knees into Kross. From there, Zemi pulled himself up and over the top beam. Kross fell, face first on the mat. Zemi gingerly climbed down.
Lexi jumped with joy, clapping her hands. Her encouragement guided Zemi to the floor. He jumped down. He raised his hands in victory. The bell sounded.
Chad Murphy announced, “And your NEW SPEARHEAD WRESTLING HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION, Zemi DeMarx!”
Referee Kerry Bonds handed Zemi the belt. Zemi held it in his hands. His eyes lingered upon the gold with the black strap. He chuckled, a smile remaining upon his lips. His eyes danced with happiness. He finally looked at Lexi. Lexi met Zemi’s eyes. She guided his lips to her. He embraced her, kissed her deeper all while holding up the newly won belt. They broke the kiss when unknown music blared through the speakers.
“Congratulations are in order for you, Zemi DeMarx,” the man said after the music died. A hush came over the crowd before a deafening roar of admiration for the man at the ramp. “If anyone had faith in you to knock Vincent Kross off his exhausting throne, it was me. Besides your girlfriend.” The man looked at the crowd. “How rude of me. Where are my manners?” he spoke and moved his hand. “I’m Darryl Gates. Owner and promoter of GGW—Global Generation Wrestling. And Zemi, Lexi, and everyone else I’ll see you tomorrow night at the Silver Hawks Center in Albany County. Tomorrow…we have much to discuss.”