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Monday, March 24, 2014

Excerpt From JRD's "Tiara"!!!

Father George Sohn was praying for the people of South Armagh before finally blowing out the candles in the chapel, blissfully unaware of the latest sectarian confrontation in the neighboring city. The other four parish priests were away for the weekend tending to friends, family and relatives in nearby Armagh. He had stayed behind to tend to the rectory and maintain a prayer vigil for the victims of the violence. He prayed they might get back to where they were before the Princess of Edinburgh was kidnapped, ever so close to a peace treaty at long last.

He was going to call it a night when he heard a knock on the chapel door. He was immediately alarmed as it was far too late for anyone arriving for services. Yet his code of ethics required him to remain available for those in need regardless of circumstances. He could only pray that it was not a hate group attempting to launch an attack on the Church. In that case he could only place his fate in God’s hands.

He opened the door and was surprised at two men wearing black hoodies at the door.

“Greetings, Father. I am Father Jones and this is Father Kurt. We were traveling around the Continent and decided to stop here in Ireland. We crossed the border after visiting Dublin and encountered a civil disturbance in Armagh. We hoped to take a ferry to England in the morning but have no place to spend the evening. Perhaps we might be able to rest here in the chapel until sunrise.”

“How many of you are there?”

“There are seven of us. Six priests and a Sister of Charity.”

“Why, certainly. As a matter of fact, the other fathers here are traveling this weekend. You’d be welcome to use their rooms.”

“Wonderful. I’ll let them know.”

Father George walked to the heavy wooden door of the chapel and watched as the other black-clad figures approached the chapel. Father Jones introduced them all as they walked in carrying heavy duffel bags, but the Sister of Charity caused him to do a double-take.

“This is Sister Jennifer,” Father Jones peered from beneath his black hood.

“You---you’re the Princess of Edinburgh! Your picture is all over the telly!”

“She gets that all the time,” Father Jones assured him.

“C’mon, Boss, he may be dumb but he’s not blind,” Kurt the Bruiser grunted, pulling off his hoodie to reveal his tattooed 22” biceps accentuated by his sleeveless black T-shirt. “Let’s see if we can get some chow and some z’s before we find us a boat ride.”

“I suppose so,” Mansfield replied, pulling off his gray wig and tossing it at Father George, revealing his graying black mane and smoldering cobalt eyes. “My companions are hungry. We are escorting the Princess back to London and would like to refresh ourselves for the trip. The Protestants are very much against us, I’m sure you can appreciate that.”

“Of course, of course,” Father George nearly dropped the wig in a fright. At first he thought the man had scalped himself. “There are some provisions in the Frigidaire, I’ll make you a meal.”

“God bless you, Father,” Mansfield clapped his shoulders.

Father George made his way to the kitchen, intimidated by the menacing aura of his visitors. There was the sociopathic Chopper, the shifty-eyed Van Tran, the cold-eyed Cat and the arrogant Sting. He was somewhat comforted by the presence of the Princess who followed to help him in the kitchen. Yet he cringed at the thought of Father Jones being Berlin Mansfield, who was said to be the Devil himself.

“My Princess,” Father George managed as the Princess took off her hoodie, wearing her black T-shirt to help him with the cooking. “How long have you been free? The entire country of Northern Ireland is looking for you.”

“I was rescued Saturday night,” she revealed. “We tried to escape through Newtownhamilton but there was rioting and we had to return to the place we were staying. We drove through Crossmaglen a couple of hours ago but we came across another terror attack. There has been violence in every direction we’ve turned. I simply must get back to try and put an end to all this.”

“That fellow---the man traveling with you,” the priest hesitated. “Is that---Berlin Mansfield?”

“No, that’s Jim,” she smiled sweetly. “I met Jim Jones at the dance, the night I was kidnapped. Jim is the man who rescued me.”

Father George considered all these things as he set about making a huge pan of Ulster fry. He knew that the forces of evil had kidnapped the Princess to derail the peace negotiations. Yet he may have been the only person in Northern Ireland to know that she may have been delivered unto a greater evil. If this was indeed Berlin Mansfield, then he may well be holding the Princess for an even greater demand than anyone could fathom. He prayed mightily that God would intercede and save the Princess from the horror that might well loom ahead.

His heart leapt for joy as he heard a pounding on the chapel door once again. He only hoped it was none of the other priests of the parish returning, lest they panic at the sight of the strangers and make a move that might provoke violence. He prayed that it was the authorities conducting a random patrol of the area and come to see that all was well. They could take custody of the Princess and return her to Buckingham Palace where she could complete her historical mission in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.

The gangsters waited for Father George to come down to the chapel and answer the door. He could hear the sound of metal clattering in the shadows and felt a chill down his spine. He feared the worst and only wished the Princess had not followed him from the kitchen in the rectory through the passageway to the chapel. He prayed to the Blessed Virgin that there be no bloodshed and that the suffering of the people of Ulster come to an end at last.

“Greetings, friends. How can I help you?”

“Good evening,” the auburn-haired man in black stood at the threshold with his companion as the six men inside the chapel gathered around in curiosity. “I’m Father Stevens and this is Father Slash. We were in the area and can really use a place to stay for the night. I saw the car parked outside and I thought maybe you were providing shelter for travelers here.”

“This place is full,” Kurt the Bruiser was belligerent. “Try the church down the street.”

“Hey, bro,” Slash Scimitar spotted Sting Ramipril in the crowd around the door. “You look like you’re a long way from home. You wouldn’t be from that swampland in Jamaica.”

“The only swamps I ever crossed was bringing Jamaican rum to the beggars in Grenada.”

Jon Stevens rolled his eyes, knowing what was coming next.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Excerpt From "The Standard"!!!

            “Say, Miss, I’ve a bit of a problem and could use a lift,” the dark-haired, ruggedly handsome man stuck his head in the passenger window.                                                                              

“Sorry, dude, out of gas,” she replied curtly.                                                                                            

“Well, I’ll tell ye, I’ve got no trouble payin’,” he replied, opening his suit jacket to show his Glock in his waistband while pulling a soggy $100 from his pocket.                                                  

“You don’t have to do that,” she grimaced.                                                                                         

“Well, if I told ye I was havin’ t’drive, I might,” he replied. “Go on and scoot over, I’ll get us filled up. Don’t do anything silly, I’m pretty much out of sorts right now and might do something desperate.”                                                                                                                                     

“Are you carjacking me?”                                                                                                                

“Kinda hirin’ ye at this point,” he replied. “I’ve got a couple more big bills on me and lots more waitin’ where I’m going. Judgin’ from the look of this vehicle, I’m pretty sure you can use the money.”                                                                                                                                               

“Hey, if you don’t like it, you can go carjack somebody else,” she shot back.                            

“Y’know, that may not be the worst idea,” he mused. “Look, gimme the key and I’ll fill her up. Ye’d best move over and not get any funny ideas. G’wan and take the $100 for now, I’ll give ye some more later.”                                                                                                                                

“Are you a drug dealer?” she wondered as she stuffed the bill down the front of her T-shirt into her large-cupped bra.                                                                                                                        

“Nay, but I’ve put a couple out of business as of late,” he replied, fishing his credit card out of his wallet before going around to the driver’s side. He gunned the engine and drove the VW over to the gas pump before switching it back off to fill the tank up. She watched moodily as he got back into the car, heading back towards the highway.                                                                                  

“So are you a cop?”                                                                                                                            

“Not in the strictest sense of the word,” he cruised onto the access road towards the highway entrance. “What do you do? How d’you put gas in the tank?”                                                         

“I’m unemployed right now, I get my checks,” she replied. He glanced over and saw she was an attractive woman in her twenties. She wore her hair in a spiked shoulder-length punk style, though her thick Goth makeup and nose piercing were not to his liking. Her hourglass figure and generous bosom, however, were more than sufficient compensation.                                     

“I’m Jack, by the way,” he cruised onto the highway and could see emergency vehicles all over the road in the distance where he just sent Jimmy Burke and the O’Connor brothers to the briny deep. That meant that neither MI6 nor the CIA had any way of knowing their plans to dispose of Jack Gawain had gone astray.                                                                                                             

“I’m Darcy,” she replied. “So where we headed?”                                                                           

“Over the bridge to the ferry. I need to pick up some money, then I’ll have to get us out to the airport. I might need to rent a room in the meantime to get my bearings. If I get as much as I’m expecting at Port Bolivar, I’ll probably be able t’give ye enough t’get this piece of shite tuned up.”                                                                                                                                                       

“Hey, fuck you. I didn’t see you cruising up in a limousine, dude.”                                                   

“Y’got some mouth on ye, missy,” he smirked.                                                                                 

“Glad you like it. Where you from anyway, Germany?”                                                                    

“Now that’ll get ye a bullet in yer arse,” he chuckled. “I’m from Norn Iron.”                                    


“Nor-thern Ire-land, ye silly twit.”                                                                                                       

“Don’t blame me, you sound like you just got off a boat.”                                                                

They slowed to a crawl as the police diverted traffic to the right lane, emergency vehicles filling the area where he ran the Explorer off into the bay. He could see patrol boats down below, indicating they had not made much progress in getting the SUV out of the water. He smiled and waved at a lady cop as she waved him through the bottleneck.                                                                   

“Wonder what happened?” Darcy peered out the rear window.                                                         

“Ah, some silly bastards making rude remarks about the Protestants in Belfast.”                        

“Yeah, how do you know?”                                                                                                                

“Well, I just put ‘em in there, don’t y’know.”                                                                          


“Feel me pants leg, if ye like. I got soaked to the gills.”                                                                      

“So you walked to the gas station, then carjacked me…holy shit,” Darcy realized. “That’s why you’re carrying a gun and your money’s soaking wet.”

“Y’know, yer pretty bright. Y’oughtta think of goin’ back t’school while your dole holds up,” he said airily.                                                                                                                                            

“And maybe you should go back and take some English lessons, you son of a bitch.”                  

“Language, child,” he chided as they continued down the highway. At length they came in sight of the ferry to Port Bolivar. Gawain’s luck continued to hold out as they arrived right on time to pull onto the boat before it left the dock.                                                                                            

“So how come you didn’t stick around for the cops?”                                                                        

“To tell the truth, the bastards were plannin’ t’do me in, but it didn’t go well for them.”                    

“Dude, this is some deep shit,” she shook her head. “You’re not going to kill me so I don’t talk, are you?”                                                                                                                                              

“And y’think they’d believe ye for one minute, with that shit stickin’ outta yer nose and all?”                                                                                                                                                                    

“Fuck you,” she snapped.      

The ferry let them off at Port Bolivar, and they drove to the nearest gas station to ask directions to the Port Bolivar RV Park. The Winnebago was parked in the rear just as they had been instructed by Six at the MI6 phone number. Gawain left Darcy in the VW as he accessed the truck, using the combination he had been given to unlock the door. Darcy felt a thrill rush through her body, feeling as if she had woke up in the middle of a Mission Impossible movie.                  

At length he returned to the Beetle and got back in, gunning the engine and heading back towards the ferry.                                                                                                                                        

“Okay, here’s the deal,” he explained. “We’re going to take a room on Galveston Beach while I get things sorted out. I need to get on the Internet and make some calls. I may need you to ride me around for a bit longer, but I assure you I’ll make it well worth your while.”                                 

“Hey, if you have another one of those soggy hundreds to spare, it’s all good by me.” 

Friday, March 21, 2014

"Destroyer (Abaddon)" - An Excerpt!!!

He hated to disturb her, but the call of nature was too great. He eased himself away from her and slipped out of the car, grabbing the pepper spray and the bottle of JD. He closed the door quietly and opened the bottle, swallowing the last of its contents. He decided not to indulge any further until this mission was accomplished, for her safety. He walked across the pavement to a row of bushes and relieved himself behind a trash can, tossing the bottle in the meantime.

“She likes you, you know that.”

Richard was adjusting his clothing, whirling to find a young boy standing behind him.

“You can have at her if you like. Even better, why don’t you run away with her? You’ll both feel guilty at first, but it’ll pass. It’ll be a whole new life for both of you.”

“Where did you come from?” Richard asked incredulously.
He looked around and saw nothing but the fifty-yard stretch of driveway surrounded by a metal barrier that led to shrubbery, treelines, and endless miles of rolling plains.

“The question is, where are you going?” the boy asked. He wore a faded yellow T-shirt with an indecipherable logo and brown shorts that matched the color of his bronzed legs. He stood barefoot on the muddy asphalt. “Are you going to dump her off in Houston? Do you think she’ll be there waiting for you next time, like Cindy or Gail? The Colombians will be able to smell her. First it’ll be an invitation for a couple of drinks, then some coke. They’ll get her drunk one night, wait until she passes out. You know the drill.”

“Agnes’ll send for her. Felipe’ll take care of her until then.”

“Without a chip? Come on, gringo,” the boy, barely four feet tall, sneered derisively. “Agnes and Sandra aren’t about to let her within a mile of Capitol Hill. Agnes is bad enough with her accent, naturalized or not. This girl’ll put Marlon Ritz on the front page of the tabloids. They’ll be looking for that green dot on her wrist, you know, even quicker than they’ll look for her ring finger. She’s not going to Washington, she’s going to the Galleria in Houston until they figure out what to do with her. Unless she goes to work for Felipe, without a chip, all she’ll get is domestic work or a minimum wage job, if that. She’ll be on the South Side before you know it.”

“Whatever it is, it’s better than what she left in Colombia,” Richard growled. “At least she’s got a chance here. She’s got family she can turn to.”

“If you go up that road, there’s nothing but violence, blood and death ahead,” the boy’s eyes narrowed with venom. “You can spare her that. You can have each other, all you have to do is walk away. She’s worth it, you know it.”

“I’m married to her sister. I’ll wait until hell freezes over before I give that up.”

“You’ll pay for it,” the boy pointed his finger at Richard. “You’ll both pay for it.”

The wind suddenly kicked up in a violent gust, hurling dirt, leaves and twigs across the pavement. Richard turned his face away, and when it subsided, the boy was gone. Richard looked around and saw the pack of dogs staring at him before they turned and headed up the highway towards Houston.

Abaddon!” he heard the boy’s voice shrieking accusingly in the wind. “Apollyon! Destroyer!

“Richard,” Isabel rolled down the window. “Are you okay? I fell asleep. Be careful of those dogs.”

“Did you see anyone else out here?” he returned to the car. 

“No,” she replied, looking around the parking area once again. “Did you hear anything?”


Destroyer II - A Sneak Preview!!!

Damien Blakey appeared refreshed and exhilarated as he emerged from the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium that evening. His speech before the delegation at the UN Building had gone off without a hitch, and despite the gravity of its importance, his audience proved both rapt and inspired. 

He had convinced the world powers that the joint agreement between the USA and the EU allowing simultaneous programming of its Verichip satellites was a paradigm for the New World Order and its implementation. It ensured that all persons embedded with the chip would be immediately traceable throughout both America and Europe. They could be located at any time or place, with their medical, financial and legal records fully accessible. It was an absolute guarantee against kidnapping or other abduction, provided full prevention against an individual becoming lost or detained against their will. It gave a person immediate access to their bank accounts, more secure than any credit or debit card. It eliminated the possibility of identity theft, provided vital statistics to any emergency medical service, and helped the authorities ascertain the legal status of anyone on both continents. 

It was, he assured the world, automatic acceptance into the world community. 

He and his entourage crossed the street to the Millenium UN Plaza where they had reservations for dinner in the glass-domed, elegantly tiled Ambassador Grill. They enjoyed a sumptuous meal before it came close to their scheduled flight back to Washington. 

"I need to use the bathroom," Damien informed his two Brownshirts and the MPDC detective at his beck and call. "Call the limo and we'll take the chopper to the heliport." 

Damien's ASPs (Armed Security Personnel) was becoming a law enforcement phenomenon across the country. Known as the Brownshirts (or Shirts in their ad campaigns), it started as a volunteer force recruited to augment ICE (*Immigration Control and Enforcement) units in key cities across the country. It was the high-profile campaigns in those areas that caused volunteers to step forth in droves. Damien began to use them for a wider variety of assignments, raising their profile even higher as an elite group. It became an in-thing to be a Shirt, and there was always the possibility of being assigned to a major political event where the media treated world political figures like rock stars. Damien remained behind the scenes, playing his Machiavellian strategy perfectly as he slowly but steadily reinforced his position along the top echelons of government. 

Only three nights ago, he found his anonymity compromised by a weird event. He had returned home to his Georgian-style home in the exclusive Kalorama Heights area Thursday night in his Porsche, activating the garage door with his keyfob as he pulled into the driveway. He stopped it at once in noticing graffiti on the door. He leaped out of the car and saw the number '911' spray-painted on the door. 

He cursed and swore as he pulled the car into the garage and reactivated the door from outside. He decided to look around before calling the police. He searched the driveway and the sidewalk, the tulip garden and the shrubbery, then stalked up the walkway before stopping short at the sight of more graffiti. 

He saw the similar marking '9:11' appearing on his front door in blood-red spray paint. He looked around angrily, wondering how a vandal could have done something like this without having been seen. Even worse, what would make him target Damien Blakey? 

He decided not to tell his boss, Sandra Flores, the Assistant Secretary of DHS (*Department of Homeland Security), about this. She would probably tell Marlon Ritz, her future father-in-law, the Secretary of Homeland Security, who would probably tether him to a full-time security team. He decided his Brownshirts and his MPDC connections could take up the slack. He would call Detective Mulvihill in the morning and see if he could get him to pull a full-time watch. He would rather have Mulvihill than a bunch of Ritz' watchdogs. He was sure that his connections with the MPDC would go along with his request. 

He entered the $1.5 million mansion with its 11-foot ceilings and highly-buffed hardwood floors, switching on the light to study the colonial-style living room furniture placed strategically around the brick fireplace. He needed to use the restroom, but when he flicked the switch he was shocked once more by what he found. 

The words 'Rev. 9:11' were finger-painted on his bathroom mirror with the same blood-red paint. He rushed to the study and retrieved his .357 Magnum, rushing to check the upstairs bedrooms before returning to the main floor and completing his search. Satisfied that the intruder had long since departed, he switched on his PC and got online, putting the abbreviation into his AOL search engine. 

"And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon." 

Damien put the words into his search engine, the results raising the hair on the nape of his neck. 


Damien was astonished that his uncle dared to set foot in DC, much less break into his home here in the Heights. The man had truly gone insane and had to be stopped. He was already on top of the FBI's Top Ten List as Public Enemy Number One, having surpassed Osama Bin Laden himself. He knew that his uncle would continue to risk his life harassing him, as suicidal as a moth drawn to a flame. He would forever seek justice in trying to avenge his Dad's, Damien's Grandpa's, death. Yet it was hard to believe that the man could be this foolish. 

The elevator door sighed open at its appointed stop and the quartet exited into the carpeted hallway. They walked along the corridor, spreading out casually as Damien took leave for the restroom. 

The three bodyguards separated, searching up and down the corridors according to routine. Eddie Mulvihill stepped out into the main corridor and was confronted by the taller of the two brownshirts. 

"Guy on the fire stairwell says you got an emergency call," the brownshirt peered from beneath the black rim of his cap. "Think you can tell the guy on One that I got a break at ten?" 

"Say who the call was from?" Mulvihill asked. 

"Said it was a female," the brownshirt shrugged, swaggering back down the hall. "Didn't get the name. Typical rent-a-pig." 

The detective glared at the back of the brownshirt, swearing under his breath as he descended the corridor to answer the call. Most of the volunteer force were toy cops, wannabees with more enthusiasm than qualification. He trotted down the stairwell, determined to take it up with the powers-that-be that they needed more professionalism in the introductory ranks. 

Damien Blakey relieved himself in the lavatory, exiting to find one of his brownshirts washing his hands at a sink. 

"Everything okay?" he washed his hands in a sink by the door. "We need to get airborne in about thirty minutes. There's a tight schedule between here and DC." 

"There may be a delay." 

Damien's blood froze when he found himself face-to-face with the Destroyer. 

"You didn't think I was going to abandon my only nephew so soon in life?" Richard Mc Cain seized Damien's left hand, racking it in a wristlock, twisting it to the breaking point. Damien let loose a stream of sulphurous curses as Richard led him to a toilet stall. 

"You'll never get away with this," Damien cursed and swore. "This building is packed with security and police." 

"So far so good," Richard allowed. He next locked his fingers onto Damien's carotid artery, blocking the flow of blood to his brain and sending him into momentary unconsciousness. Damien collapsed to his knees and Richard quickly wrapped his arms around the toilet bowl, binding his hands with masking tape. 

"This is a lot more than you provided me with at your interrogation center," Richard stood with arms akimbo as Damien regained consciousness. "A cell can have quite a stink after a week without a toilet bowl." 

"There won't be enough of you left to dump in a toilet bowl next time," Damien hissed, struggling against his bonds. He was positioned so that his face was forced into the bowl, inches above water level. 

"Well, you may or may not have the chance to see that day, Day," Richard grinned wolfishly. He rammed his fist into the paper dispenser, breaking the shield and popping it open. He grabbed a roll of paper and reached around Damien's head, jamming it down the toilet drain. 

"I'm sure you remember this one from your days at Brandeis University," Richard chuckled. "The water'll rise in a few minutes after we flush. I hope you're real thirsty, or that you can hold your breath long enough for your knuckle-draggers to show up." 

"You won't get away with this!" Damien screamed, his voice echoing in the bowl. "Guards!" 

"You've got to admit, this is more of a chance than you gave my Dad," Richard muttered before he flushed the toilet and headed out the door of the restroom. 

The Brownshirt swaggered down the hall where Mulvihill reappeared from the elevator. 

"Did you see my relief?" 

"Nah," Mulvihill grunted, not having bothered to ask. "Nobody knew anything about the call. I called my wife and she said she never called here." 

"You may wanna check to see if he fell in," the man continued past Mulvihill in a patrolling gait. "He's been in there about ten minutes. Something about his hair getting wet." 

Mulvihill's instincts sent him to the restroom directly despite the cavalier attitude of the guard. By the time he rescued Damien and alerted the lobby police, the Destroyer had vanished into thin air. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Both Sides Now" - A Sneak Preview!!!

The Joe Naszhti Show was the hottest new series on television. Its host, who was nicknamed ‘Joe Nasty’ by viewers and the media alike, was one of a new breed of talk show emcees who routinely baited their interviewees for shock appeal on their broadcasts. He had a variety of guests on the show from all walks of life, and garnered an increasing number of viewers across the country when it was announced that he was going to have stars from the IWA on his Sunday segment.  

Jim Dandy and Mike O’Beirne entreated Lucien to appear on the show, insisting that it would be a major shot in the arm for the Company and wrestling in general. Lucien protested mildly before finally agreeing to go, requesting only that Anna be given a front row seat. He would have gladly gotten one for Manfred, who confirmed Lucien’s reservations by insisting he would not want to appear on such a show.         

 “I am afraid that I would end up striking that man for his insolence,” Manfred was adamant, having seen the show a couple of times to his consternation. “Be careful not to lose your temper, Lucien, lest you kill the dog on national television.” 

Lucien waited in the wings, having inspected himself after having his coiffure sprayed and stage makeup applied. He looked like a movie star in a $500 blue cerulean suit with matching tie and jewelry, starched pearl shirt and patent leather Beatle boots. The theme music played as the show went on the air, the audience chanting “NASTY! NASTY!” before the host took center stage. He gave them his standard greeting before a preview of the evening’s lineup, then good-naturedly ribbed a few members of the audience before taking his seat behind the table upon the dais at center stage.    

“Is is real or is it fake?” Naszhti asked rhetorically, resplendent in a $1,000 designer suit, his hair and goatee meticulously clipped. “That is the question in the minds of sportscasters, the media and audiences alike as they continue to watch one of the most fascinating spectacles in entertainment history. There are those who swear that this is as authentic as any other sport, while others say these are routines that are staged and even rehearsed. Yet many will ask, why ask why? Well, here tonight is one of what many are calling a new breed of professional wrestler. Here is a man who is not only a four-time amateur champion in his home town of Gottingen University, but a college professor at NYU who is known by his peers as a distinguished and well-spoken scholar and a gentleman. Ladies and gentlemen: Dr. Lucien Triskellion.”                  

        The audience broke into an ovation sprinkled by hoots and catcalls as Lucien waved to the crowd, winking at Anna before taking a seat at stage left of Naszhti’s desk.                                               

“Now, that’s no way to treat a University professor,” Naszhti chided the audience before shaking Lucien’s hands. “You’re billed at the Great One by the IWA, am I right? How did that come about?”                                                                                                                                                          

“I think it was started by some of my students trying to improve their grades,” Lucien cocked an eyebrow as the audience laughed with him.                                                                            

“You know, you’re a pretty big guy, but you don’t look like the typical professional wrestler,” Naszhti mused. “You don’t look like a college teacher either. I think you’d make a great leading man in a German movie, or any other one, for that matter.”                                                    

“I’m sure my girlfriend is pleased by that.” More laughter.                                                              

“That would have been my next question. Is she here in the audience?”                                         

“There she is,” Lucien pointed to Anna as she shielded her eyes in embarrassment, blushing violently. “She’s much lovelier with her hand away from her face.”                                       

At that she playfully stuck her tongue out at him, causing the audience to laugh as they gave her a round of applause.                                                                                                                        

“Well, let’s start off with the sixty-four dollar question. Is it real or is it fake?”                        

  “You seem to have plenty of room here,” Lucien looked around. “You seem to be in pretty good shape. We can roll around a bit and you can see for yourself. I’ll even let you have a free hold.”                                                                                                                                                            

At that point it was Naszhti who took the jeers and catcalls, mixed with whistles and cheers for Lucien.                                                                                                                                                

“I think I’ll pass for now,” Naszhti laughed. “Let me put on about fifty pounds or so, get back in the gym, and I’ll get back to you on that.”                                                                                     

“I’m sure it’ll be a great draw,” Lucien kidded as the audience chortled.                                         

  “You’re currently appearing as part of a clique, if you will, headed by a particularly notorious fellow called Jim Dandy. Is that his real name?”                                                                                  

  “Only his hairdresser knows for sure,” Lucien quipped.                                                                 

   “The other night, on national TV, one of your associates, Gojira Tsunami, attacked Athos Leonidas from behind with a metal chair. Now, Wrestling Galaxy magazine lists Tsunami at 6’6”, 400 pounds. They have Leonidas at 6’2”, 265. How do you justify that?”                                            

“I’m not sure you can justify such a thing,” he speculated. “You do know that Tsunami has recently returned to the territory. He’s trying to reestablish himself, and I think he was probably trying to send a message of sorts. Perhaps the message was somewhat overstated.”                  

“Back to the sixty-four dollar question,” Naszhti continued as the laughter subsided. “Tsunami hits a man who weighs almost half as much as he does with a metal chair from behind. The man is helped back to the dressing room but, no police, no ambulances, no coroner. Is there something wrong with this picture?” 

        “Well,” Lucien weighed his words carefully, “let’s look at it from this perspective. You watch hockey players swing sticks at each other on a nightly basis.             People get hurt, but you don’t see them hospitalized or killed. We’re not gladiators, we’re not trying to finish each other off. Put it this way, if Tsunami had hit Athos with everything he had, there would be a lot of Leonidas fans who might just stop watching our show. We certainly wouldn’t make lots of money doing that sort of thing.”                                                                                                             

“Okay, let’s talk dollars and cents. Vito Mastrangelo has been the champion for over four years now. He’s been selling out Madison Square Garden every month throughout that time. Obviously this man is a virtual gold mine for your company. If he loses the title and, as you touched upon, Mastrangelo fans stop showing up, your company stands to lose a ton of money. Do you think your company would take that risk in allowing Vito to be defeated for the belt?”                 

“Consider the fact that Vito bench-presses over five hundred pounds,” Lucien replied. “Plus he has four years’ experience of defending himself five nights a week against some of the toughest men on the planet, some of who have resorted to every dirty trick in the book to beat him. With that kind of strength and skill, I don’t know if it’s a question of someone allowing anyone to beat him.”                                                                                                                                        

At once the chant of Vi-to! Vi-to! Vi-to! began booming throughout the studio.                        

“The word is out that you also bench press five hundred, and, of course, you have vast experience in what lots of people might call ‘real’ wrestling. Plus there are lots of rumors that Jim Dandy is putting you in position for a title shot against the champ. Do you think you’ve got what it takes to carry the flag for your company?”                                                                                      

“I’ll tell you, Joe, at this stage of the game I’d be delighted just to get voted Rookie of the Year.”                                                                                                                                                                    

“Well, Lucien, I hate to heat your seat more than it already is,” Naszhti allowed, “but we have another special guest from your company who may be able to shed some light on the competition on the title scene, as well as give us some additional insight into that weird and wonderful world of pro wrestling. Ladies and gentlemen…the IWA heavyweight champion of the world, Vito Mastrangelo!”                                                                                                               

Lucien surprised himself by feeling slightly jealous as the fans went wild when Mastrangelo made his way up from the dressing room onto the stage. The champion was meticulously dressed in a tailored midnight blue suit, white shirt and dark tie. He was nearly mobbed by fans, and security guards had to rush from the rear area to clear his path.                 

  “Vi-to! Vi-to! Vi-to “, they yelled as he waved before shaking hands with Naszhti, sitting alongside him opposite Lucien. He felt somewhat slighted that Vito did not shake hands with him, but immediately realized that he was probably observing kayfabe.                                                     

  “Mr. Mastrangelo, it’s an honor to have you here with us,” Naszhti began. “I’m sure you got to watch our discussion with Lucien Triskellion on the monitors backstage. There was an altercation between you fellows on your show out of Washington DC a couple of weeks ago. It looked a lot like a hype for your coming title bout at the Garden with Professor Moto. What a lot of the fans want to know is why you and Jim Dandy aren’t cutting to the chase and giving Lucien the title shot instead.”   

       “Well, neither Jim Dandy nor I have any control over the rankings, it’s the same situation you have in boxing,” Vito replied in a soft, respectful voice. “I have all the respect in the world for Lucien Triskellion, but I’m not about to look past Professor Moto. He’s a very tough and powerful man, and he is going to pose a serious threat to my championship. I’m just hoping that my fans will be able to come out and give me some support, and I can guarantee them I’m going to give it everything I can to beat this man and come out on top.”       

      Just then there was a commotion in the rear, and the fans began standing as a massive figure dressed in black made its way to the stage. Bill Ohms came down the aisle dressed in a Stetson, Western shirt, jeans and cowboy boots, stopping at the foot of the stage in front of Mastrangelo.                                                                                                                                                             

“Now, I just heard you say that Professor Moto was a serious threat to your title, and I also heard you say that you had all the respect in the world for Lucien ‘the Great’ Triskellion,” Ohms’ deep voice could be heard even without a microphone. “I know that this show is being broadcasted across the nation, and Mr. Naszhti is giving the American audience a chance to see what pro wrestling is about. My question to you is: why are you not telling everyone who the real threat to your title is, and why you aren’t willing to give Bill Ohms a shot at the world heavyweight championship?”                                                                                                             

“Well, now, like I just said, I don’t have anything to do with the rankings, and I don’t have any control over the promotion,” Mastrangelo tried to explain.                                               

   “That don’t have anything to do with it,” Ohms stepped up onto the platform, staring down at Vito. “The truth of the matter is, you’re a yellow, egg-sucking dog!”                                               

With that, he grabbed Mastrangelo by the hair, yanking him forward and snatching hold of his suit jacket. He pulled it over Vito’s head, ripping it up the middle before kicking and stomping at the champion as he fell out of his chair. Both Naszhti and Lucien rose from their seats, backing away as the security guards came storming down the aisle and tackling both men. It took six men to pull Ohms back to the dressing room, while two men helped the champion to his feet. Lucien walked over to the edge of the stage and held his hands out, shrugging at Anna as she watched the scene in astonishment.                                                                                                   

    “Uh, I’m going to have to check with our sponsors and see if I’ve got any vacation time available after this,” Naszhti managed as the audience was stunned by the altercation. Lucien returned to his seat as Mastrangelo was helped back to the dressing room.                                                 

“Now let me get this straight,” Lucien sat back. “Were you wondering why I didn’t want to be the champion?”  

 “I think that’s kind of a rhetorical question at this point,” Naszhti chuckled weakly. “Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve seen it with your own eyes, you be the judge. Is it real or is it fake? I’ll tell you one thing that I know for a fact: we’ve had a true gentleman and a great athlete on our show tonight. Let’s have a round of applause for Lucien Triskellion.”                                                

The audience expended their remaining energies into a boisterous ovation for Lucien as he waved back in leaving the stage. By tomorrow morning, replays of the show would be broadcast around the country as viewing audiences marveled at what had happened.                         

Cowboy Bill Ohms, within a matter of minutes, had become the biggest heel in the business, and Mike O’Beirne had become completely powerless to stop it.