The crowd is split on how they feel about the situation playing out in front of them, but they certainly don’t like the men rushing out from the back. Tony Gamble and the rest of the Gamble Adoration Syndicate come running down the ramp, but Arthur Pleasant doesn’t panic. Instead, the monster slowly backs up and steps between the ropes, before making his way down the steps and toward the guard rail.
I know we should have been ready for this, that Arthur Pleasant wasn’t going to let things go.
Pleasant climbs over the guard rail, as Tony comes rushing around the ring while Dom and Frank slide into the ring with a towel in hand. Dom covers Main Event Morty’s face with the towel, as Frank pulls the chair off of his chest and tosses it across the ring. Tony runs up to the guard rail, watching as Arthur slowly makes his way up the steps with half of Mortimer’s mask sticking out of his toothy grin.
I should have ignored Morty’s wish to face FLAMBERGE alone, but he wanted to redeem himself by winning the Intense title and I respected that.
Tony can see the glint of chrome in Pleasant’s teeth, as he drops to the ground and sits Indian style on the steps – just staring back at The Grin with the crowd around him and Mr. Zappenstein on his lap. It was almost as if he was daring Gamble to follow him, but Tony knew better than to do that now. Right now, they need to get Mortimer to the back so he can be checked out.
After what went down with Tom, I know this is going to be nothing short of a war. A war that I also know Morty can handle himself, but the way this son of a bitch is looking at me right now – I’m not sure if I am going to let him.
Dom and Frank help Morty to his feet, the towel draped over his head to keep people from seeing his face. Tony backs away from the guard rail, his gaze never wavering from Arthur’s icy glare. He seems at home there in the chaos, but you would expect that from a sociopath.
= * = * =
She didn’t expect to feel like this, to have such hatred for a man that once held her heart in his hands. Still, as Victoria Henderson stared at the picture of Tony Gamble standing next to Frank Pastore on the monitor of her laptop, she couldn’t stop thinking about how fast he was able to put a wedge between her and Olivia. His hair was still short and dark, and that ever present scar left no doubt that this was the father of her child. That grin had haunted her for years, threatening to bring everything in her life crashing down if he ever found out the truth.
She finished chewing the frozen grape that was in her mouth, swallowing it down with a quick sip from the bottle of water that she wanted to throw across the room out of frustration. She wasn’t sure if the reason she held back from doing it was because Tony was the one she really wanted to throw across a room, or she really didn’t want to clean up the mess. Either way, neither one of those was going to help her deal with what was really bothering her.
Olivia hadn’t really spoken to her since that night they argued, when she told her that she was never going to meet her father. It was harsh, but knowing she was out there and actually being a part of her life were two very different things. It was obvious that nothing had changed, that he was still the same jerk of a man she had spent almost two years with, and that was something she didn’t want to subject their daughter to.
Olivia was not their daughter, she couldn’t – wouldn’t – let him be a part of her life. Maybe it was selfish of her, but Victoria had made up her mind years ago about this and she wasn’t ready to change it anytime soon. The problem was going to be convincing Olivia to give up on her desire to meet him, because she remembered being her age and there was no way she would give up that easily.
“You’re up late.”
Victoria lifted her head and stared out into the darkness, the dim light of the laptop only providing enough light to see a few inches in front of her. “I couldn’t sleep.”
She figured her mother was on the other side of the room, probably in the doorway that led down the hallway to where her bedroom was. She had lived here so long, and while the furniture had changed a few times over the years, the layout had pretty much stayed the same – so she could make her way around the house without turning on a light.
“Want some tea?” Rachel Henderson came around the side of the coffee table, holding her pink robe closed with her left hand even though she had it tied around her waist.
“I have some water,” Victoria replied. She remembered when she was younger, if she had a stomach ache or trouble sleeping, her mother would boil a fresh cinnamon stick with a tea bag of chamomile. The aroma was calming enough, but the combination with a spoonful of honey and a squeeze of lemon always managed to calm her down or settle her stomach. She wished she had inherited her mother’s knack for knowing exactly what her daughter needed when she was hurting or feeling down, but unfortunately that type of thing was not hereditary.
“That explains a lot,” Rachel groaned as she took a seat next to her daughter, she had seen the pain and heartache the man with the scar on his face had caused for her daughter with her own eyes. She had spent countless nights trying to comfort her, trying to assure her that she had made the right choice, even if she wasn’t sure if she believed that herself.
“She wants to know what happened,” Victoria began, as she leaned forward and closed the laptop. “How am I supposed to explain to her that I made a mistake, without making her feel like she was that mistake.”
“You can tell her the truth,” her mother responded. With arms folded in front of her chest, Rachel sunk a little further into the cushions as she attempted to get comfortable. “You raised her right and taught her how to be strong, she’ll understand.”
“I love that you think that,” Victoria grabbed the water and twisted the top off. “But the truth is just going to make her want to meet him more, because the truth is…I loved him.”
“I always admired the way you could see the good in people,” Rachel watched her daughter take a drink, and contemplated whether she should make some tea for herself. “But there’s no good in that man.”
“The thing is, mom,” She could feel the lump form in the back of her throat as she spoke. “I was the good in him.”
= * = * =
“You thought that was a good way to end things?”
“No, but it was the only way I knew how to end it without him finding out the truth.”
“So you lied to keep him from knowing you were lying to him,” Olivia Henderson sat across from her mother, arms folded across her chest. “Then you lied to me, because that’s just what you’re good at.”
“No, I lied to you because I was ashamed about what I did.”
Trails of mascara painted her cheeks, as tears continued the race to her chin. She didn’t know how to answer the question, because the truth was she was ashamed about it all.
Everything but her.
“You know what,” Olivia shook her head, the nearly closed eyes and subtle frown as she turned away from her mother in disappointment clear as day. “It doesn’t even matter.”
“It does matter,” Victoria grabbed her arms before she could get up from the bed. “I need you to know that I’m sorry about lying to you.”
“That’s the thing,” Olivia’s brow furrowed as her lips curled into a scowl. “I’m not mad that you lied to me.”
Victoria’s mouth dropped open slightly, while her eyes widened.
“I’m not even mad that I had to find out the truth from my friend,” tears began to fall out of anger, as her cheeks turned a darker shade of red to match her eyes. “What makes me mad is knowing that you never would have told me the truth.”
An awkward silence filled the air, as the two of them just stared at each other for a moment.
“I…” Victoria wasn’t sure how she should respond.
“I know now why you couldn’t,” Olivia leaned over and hugged her mother. “I know that you did it because you love me and wanted to protect me…I just don’t care.”
The comment took Victoria by surprise. She could only watch as Olivia stood up, looked down at her with tear filled eyes for a moment, then turned away.
“I want him to be a part of my life.”
She wanted to put her foot down, to tell her that she wasn’t old enough to make a decision like that, to remind her who the parent was, but she didn’t do any of that.
= * = * =
It was one word, but a word that Main Event Morty was not expecting to hear when he told Tony Gamble he was not going to apologize for not winning the Intense title from FLAMBERGE.
“What’d you jus say?”
Tony smiles as he spins his chair around to face Morty, his hands clasped together as if he’s contemplating whether or not it is time to take over the World.
“I said, okay.” His voice was calm, and the smile was genuine. “I told you before that apologizing was a sign of weakness, and I meant it. Besides…I already know why you didn’t win, and it’s the same reason you weren’t able to retain the Gamble Championship when you faced Lipschitz.”
“Look, Tony, not for nothin’, but–”
“I know you don’t want to hear what I have to say,” Tony cuts him off before he could finish his sentence. “And I ain’t really in the mood to be giving any lectures, so I won’t.”
Morty eases up a bit and leans back in his seat.
“But she’s in your head, Morty, and it’s going to hurt you in the long run.”
Morty shoots upright in his seat. “I thought you weren’t gonna bring her up?”
“No, I said I wasn’t going to give you a lecture about it, and I’m not.” Tony leans forward and rests his elbows on the desk. “I just want you to focus on the bigger picture here, and that’s Arthur Pleasant. I know you wanted to get him back for what he did to Kohime, but I want you to put that shit out of your mind and think about what he did to you.”
Tony could tell the wheels were spinning even though he couldn’t see Morty’s face, the thought of that cattle prod forcing enough voltage through his body that he went into convulsions would be a bit of a wake up call for anyone.
“I need you focused on what kind of threat this psychotic son of a bitch is, because I’m going to have my hands full with the damn peacock we got running around here.” His shoulders twitch slightly as he remembers all the damn feathers. “Frank and Dom are still in Japan for another couple of weeks, and Johnnie – bless his heart – would probably faint the moment Pleasant smiled.”
“That second rate Bond villain from Wish.com ain’t gonna be a problem,” Morty stands up, placing his hands on the desk in front of him as he leans forward. “Don’t you worry ‘bout nothin’, Tony, I know how to take care of Chompers.”
“I’m not worried,” Tony looks up at Morty, taking a moment to admire the intensity in his eyes through the holes cut into the brown paper bag he has over his face. “I just want you to be careful when I’m not around, because I need to focus on winning Lindsay Troy’s Love and Admiration so I can bring the Gamble Championship back home.”
“Give Limpshit a good kick in the balls for me.”
“I’ll try,” he chuckles as he continues. “But with Troy acting as referee, I’m going to have to be really careful on how far I push things. She won’t hesitate to disqualify me if she gets a chance.”
“Forgot he added that stipulation.”
“I wish I could,” Tony leans back in his chair, shaking his head. “If she watches me in the ring the way she monitors my Jabber posts, it’s going to be a short match.”
“With her there, maybe the wrong head’s gonna be in charge.” Morty points to his junk.
“With any luck, maybe he’ll forget I’m even there long enough to hit him with the most devastating move ever known.”
“A Tiger Driver 91?”
“A small package.”
“You think that’ll be good enough?”
= * = * =
“Am I good enough?”
Tony “The Grin” Gamble.
“The popular answer amongst the members of the PRIME roster would be a resounding no, because all anyone sees right now is the piss poor win loss record that I have accumulated since my return.”
The wooden stool he’s sitting on.
“Yet here I am with a chance to win Lindsay Troy’s Love and Admiration.”
“I asked myself the same question that the rest of the roster did when I saw the card…do I actually deserve this?”
A simple nod.
“More than anyone would ever believe.”
Tony interlocks his fingers as he continues, resting his arms on his lap.
“I can’t deny that I had a rough start, that I didn’t measure up to the hype that most of the returning hall of famers did, but something changed when I lost to Tom.”
The permasmirk on the left side of his face draws attention away from the seriousness in his eyes, but only for a moment.
“I realized that night that I was not taking this return serious, and while that win loss record still isn’t my main concern – or even anything I worry about – I still want to go into the ring and give it all I got to get a win.”
His grin widens for a moment.
“Of course, when I finally decide I want to get serious, my path leads directly to our current Universal champion. I’ll tell you, Abe, coming up short against him really threw me for a loop. Even though I almost pulled out a win against Brandon Youngblood, there was a voice in the back of my head telling me I wasn’t good enough and I should stick to not giving a damn. It was the following loss to Adam Ellis that pushed me over the edge, that had me ready to just walk away from this place because no one really wanted me here anyway.”
“Or so I thought, because not only was I wanted…but I was needed.”
Gamble lifts his hand, index finger outstretched and pointed to the ceiling.
“Mortimer’s desire to become the Alias champion – his need to overcome Darin Zion and do what was needed against Kohime Mori – gave me a new lease on life here in PRIME. Which leads me to this…”
Tony wiggles his hand, emphasizing the single finger with a subtle wag.
“Which leads me to you, Abe.”
He points toward the camera.
“I’m not sure if you realize this, but my match against you at Revival 28 is the only one I have lost since that night. One match in the last four I’ve had, where I came up short and have no excuse for. Plain and simple, Abe, you beat me.”
He shrugs his shoulders.
“Then you went and beat Morty for the Gamble championship, and turned it into the monstrosity you unveiled last Friday night.”
He shivers at the thought of all those feathers.
“What you claim to be Lindsay Troy’s Love and Admiration, is nothing more than a child’s pathetic attempt at making their own Mother’s Day card. A mess of hot glue and Dollar Tree feathers put together in order to gain something you don’t truly deserve.”
He allows the right side of his face to complete a smile.
“Something you’ll never deserve.”
The Permascar Superstar rises from his seat, still smiling.
“I can’t say that I’ll ever deserve it either, but I only intend to have it for a few minutes anyway. I will have Lindsay Troy’s Love and Admiration for a brief moment when I beat you, then I’m going to pluck those feathers out one by one repeating the words: she loves you not, she loves you not, she loves you…”
The camera zooms in, taking a moment before coming into focus on Tony’s face.
“Who am I kidding, you know how this ends.”