In all the years he had known Cesar, he had never prepared an actual answer to the question.
“Why couldn’t you stop him from killing himself?”
Maybe the truth was, he could have. But Larry wasn’t a damn therapist. He wasn’t in the business of changing minds and opening eyes to reality. He was a wrestler and he was not responsible for other people’s actions. That’s how it had always been.
In the offices of Tact Enterprises, the usual buzz and energy coursed through the hallways. Deals were being brokered, prospects contacted, ideas given and mostly rejected, until the diamonds rose from pressured minds. Nevertheless, it is the office of Larry Tact where our attention is focused. Inside, we find Larry behind his desk as he worked on the details of an Excelsior level client gathering from the Enterprises pool. He was abruptly interrupted, however, when his door swung open unexpectedly and none other than Cesar Salvador Ramon, his protégé and chief associate at the company, entered the room. Larry looked up from his laptop, a brow cocked in irritation.
“Cesar, where’s the fire?”
“Not the time for jokes, Larry,” Cesar shot off, a look of hostility scrawled over his face. “You know, when you told me you’d get film on my dad, I didn’t know if it would even be worth it. You never spoke about him all that much, but I guess there was a reason for that, wasn’t there?”
Larry gently shut his laptop and leaned forward, his hands steepled under his chin. “I’m not sure what it is you’re getting at, Cesar, but I think this is misplaced aggression. It wasn’t a year ago that I told you I’d had an association with Cesar, Sr. I remember seeing you at a few events before he…”
“ ’Before he’ what, Larry? Killed himself??” Cesar spat. “Don’t worry, I knew he had gotten himself into some trouble. I know he took a lot of trips to the ‘doctor’ and needed to get ‘checked up.’ My mom had to deal with the days he couldn’t get out of bed. She suffered so he could indulge his career, and the fallout from engaging in cage fighting. That’s not what surprised me,” he shook his head, disgusted.
“So you looked up a few articles, found out some thing? Where is this going? Don’t forget where you are,” Larry warned, motioning vaguely around the office as he leaned back in his seat.
“I know exactly where I am, Larry Tact. In the company of a man who may as well be an accomplice to murder!” Cesar looked wild-eyed.
Larry was taken aback by the exclamation, but kept his exterior cool. He had learned to not give an inch to aggressors, or irritants. He had never thought of Cesar as either, but it seemed there was some peeling back of layers to do. “I don’t know where you’re getting this from,” he began, pulling the words carefully and pointedly, “But I didn’t murder anyone, much less your father. Cesar, you may think you know his story, for whatever reason. Trust me, you don’t. Tabloid articles and reports aren’t going to give you the reality.”
“You were there the night he died, I saw a press photo with you in the crowd!” Cesar went on, undeterred. “You must have known how badly off he was by then. You must have known he shouldn’t have even been in the ring. Somehow, though, you and the coaches… you still let him go out there and fight…” Cesar strode up to the solid cherrywood desk Larry sat behind, and slammed his hands on it, glaring at him. “You all but signed off and sent him to his death!”
At this, Larry abruptly stood from his desk, his solid red tie perhaps not the greatest choice today. It stood out in stark contrast to the grey suit and white pressed shirt behind it – a cape to the bullish focus of his protégé. Larry wasn’t one to be accused, though, no matter who it was. “Don’t throw out charges like that when you have no concept of what was happening! You don’t know what the man was feeling, thinking, or experiencing, including with you!” he sniped back. These were old wounds, nearly two decades old. It wasn’t a scab he had believed would be picked open, ever again, nor did he intend on letting it be.
Cesar said nothing for a few seconds, perhaps feeling said intensity, or making a calculation. “You may not have been guilty of a crime,” he straightened up slowly, then shot a finger at Larry’s. “But you’d be guilty in the court of public opinion. Not to mention, I’ve heard my father isn’t the only one who was a victim of your negligence,” a mix of repugnance and indignation on his face.
Larry paused, taking a breath. “First of all, you’ve got nerve barging in here. You know full well this is a place of business. You’re disrupting that. Then, you’ve got the audacity to bring some warped version of history to me, that you were fed by who knows what sources. Cesar, this isn’t like you at all. All due respect, what the hell is going on?” Larry tried his best not to look like he wanted to slap the man in the face, even if he deserved just that.
“You know I’ve watched you for a long time, years and years,” Cesar began, “The funny thing is, you’ve built a career on the back of someone you walked right over and past, without a second thought.”
“Enough of the riddles, get to it!” Larry snapped.
“Your brother, Larry! You got hired in your first national wrestling company by leveraging a tragedy. A regional match that, as it happened, made quite a few wrestling ‘tabloid’ headlines. You and your brother, that tag team match. Ring a bell?? A match you invited him to be in – a teenager! – and lost control of. Again, you weren’t directly responsible for what happened… your were knocked out, or nearly, and they turned to him,” Cesar said, more somberly for the moment. “They left him beaten and bloodied… he died days later. If you hadn’t thought you could bring in a teenager and make a big show of yourself, who knows where he– “
“You dumb bastard…” Larry fumed, coming around the table and grabbing Cesar by the lapels, lifting him to his toes, teeth gritted. “With. Ease. I could rearrange your face just like I remembered his was!”
Now it was Cesar who remained collected, and never broke eye contact. “I bet you could. Go ahead, show yourself, Larry. Make me a humble man. It won’t change the past,” Cesar challenged, venom in his voice, but also something else. A couple tears suddenly streaking down his face. “Why couldn’t you stop him? Why couldn’t you stop him from killing himself?”
Larry took a couple shallow breaths, then shoved Cesar off and stepped back, adjusting his own suit. “I should beat your ass for talking like this, but I won’t. Don’t you dare speak about my brother, or think you know anything of what happened to him. Again, you have no idea how ignorant you sound. You’ve very suddenly stepped way out your place here, Cesar. Maybe I overestimated your ability to handle the power and influence of running this place last year, it’s clearly made you think you can take plenty of liberties.”
“M-Mr. Tact? Is… is everything alright in here?” Larry’s assistant had poked her head into the doorway, a look of confusion at the tense staredown.
“No need to worry, Samantha,” Larry said, retying some strands of his golden blonde hair that loosed themselves from being tied back. “Right, Cesar?”
“Oh, this place? You can have it because I don’t want to be around someone who can’t own up to their own mistakes,” Cesar continued with malice.
Larry couldn’t hide the shock on his face at this statement. He watched his protégé-no-more turn on a heel and storm from the office, while Samantha the Assistant stepped outside and made space. “Cesar!” Larry approached the doorway. He got there just in time to find Cesar turned long enough to give a two finger salute before he proceeded to the elevator. “What… the hell,” Larry whispered, uncertain what he felt at the moment.
Maybe the truth was, he could have saved them. After last year, Larry wasn’t even entirely sure what the true fate of his brother was, given the appearance of certain individuals. He was still processing that piece of personal business that had struck him like a lightning bolt, in what he thought were dreams but turned out to be a bizarre experiment. Allegedly it coincided with his return to wrestling, waking dormant demons of the past. Even his wife, Cindy, thought he may want to see a damn shrink when he shared a piece of it with her. He wasn’t prepared to fully disclose the details to anyone, not yet. Even if it meant Cesar walked out. For now, they would both have to live with it.
Larry wasn’t prepared to let it die, though. He was going to find whoever it was that fed Cesar this information, and then… he would cross that bridge of consequence for what he may do to them.
Cesar was part of Larry’s inner circle, and nobody messed with his inner circle without answering to him.
The following statement has been written and authorized by LARRY TACT. It is to be distributed by PRIME to those parties they deem appropriate to receive. These will represent official remarks from LARRY TACT ahead of his match at ReViVal 04:
“I know I’ve been radio silent to PRIME since ReViVal 02, when I participated in a first round match of the Almasy Invitational. In that match, one Nicholas Pfefferman was able to escape the match with his spot in that tournament intact, at the time. I would be hard-pressed to think he ever believed he had the fortitude and ability to win the match respectably. I wouldn’t typically be surprised at a wrestler using the means this man did to win, it’s practically a hallmark of wrestling. However, this man is supposed to represent calculation, institution (of some sort), and a sound projection of what moves should be anticipated by his opposition? Instead, we find he was little more than of median intellect, resorting to the same nefarious deeds of meatheads and juicebods you could find in any town. His actions were those of a dime a dozen wrestler.
Truly, Nicholas Pfefferman debased himself with such measures.
On top of that, I was informed after the match that there was a junior referee officiating our match? A JUNIOR REFEREE? I could see if Cecilia Ryan or another rookie was in the match versus this Slick Nick, but I’m a veteran of 20 years. A junior referee?? Nevertheless, it made more tactful sense then that I heard some of the things Slick Nick was saying to this man. You PRIMEates heard he was complaining about counts, but what the mics apparently didn’t pick up was the out-and-out overtures of bribery he was attempting with this junior ref – during the match, no less! To boot, a truly abhorrent string of mathematical equations – I assume they added up to insults of some kind – thrown both mine and this referee’s way.
I won’t say more about it now, but the air needed to be cleared somewhat. Do the math, and you’ll find Nicholas Pfefferman is nothing more than a basic bitch.
Now, I’m supposed to speak to my match at ReViVal 04, where I will make my return to Las Vegas and the PRIMEates watching. PRIMEates, heh… is that truly what these fans have taken to calling themselves? I say ‘these’ fans because, honestly, I would not wish for a single one of these people calling themselves a PRIMEate to be my fan. I don’t need a neanderthal following, nor one that is related to ripping meat with their bare hands and teeth. I don’t even like barbeque all that much! It’s the type of food you would find the likes of Tapioca Puddings eating, seeing as he’s a PRIMitive-minded being himself. What, you think the little bastard eats pudding every meal? This guy looks like someone who was never overweight, and someone – maybe his sister – told him to diet anyway. Then they never told him to stop, and he’s too dumb to realize it. When I have my first colonoscopy someday, Tapioca Puddings could be the sum of what comes out. And yet, he’s in PRIME because he obviously has a point to prove. I’m not saying he doesn’t stand a chance in this match. I’m just warning the execs that if I need to turn Puddings into a puddle of warm jello to win, then I’m not above Five Star scrambling a few bones to get a victory.
Speaking of someone who devolves into a puddle, Jonathan Christopher Hall is in this match. JCH, the ‘Vow of Virtue,’ right? The way you and Vickie go on, I’d say you’re taken the ‘Vow of a Virtuous Virgin’ since you arrived to PRIME. Hey, more power to you if true love is defined a certain way for you lovebirds. I’d hate to be someone to spoil true love… but since that Hallmark story type run to the Universal title was already torn to tatters, it’s a perfect setup for a recurring nightmare story. Those can be a real trip, especially when it’s someone you think you know. Maybe you think you know how to beat me after Slick Nick pulled off an upset, and you’re angling to repeat that feat. Let me assure you, I’m not one to sink like a stone from one loss. I’ve got more than a few tricks to play, and I’ll twist your expectations of me like I’ll twist your love story into that nightmare, when I leave you continuing to flirt with a PRIME victory.
Wait… crap, those weren’t Hallmark channel movies, were they? They were on Lifetime. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to scramble your whole damn perspective of Larry Tact, then.
The only person in this match who may have an idea about really shaking things up would be Jacob Mephisto. It’s all in the name? Well, in the case of PRIME, I doubt we’ve really seen what he’s capable of. I mean to keep the PRIMEates waiting, as far as their seeing Jacob move his agenda forward in the ring at ReViVal. My job isn’t to stop the coming force, or darkness. I’m not a soothsayer or a therapist, dissecting what it is you’re aiming to do. All I need to do is leave you in limbo, Jacob, unable to score a win in this match. If you have plans to overrun PRIME, that’s not my business. A win here brings me a step closer to keeping myself in contention for a title, and that’s the PRIME agenda I can work towards. You keep having your brooding sessions as you wait for the next signal to take action. The PRIMEates may not care much for you, but there’s no doubt a sect of them that are curious as to what scheme you’re going to spring on this company.
I’m sure they’ll love someone like TP, who is going to entertain in his own way, even if it is at the expense of his own bodily harm. Fans eat that crap up, and TP will feed their faces with a good laugh and a heaping helping of FUN.
These PRIMEates can maybe even relate to the story of JCH and Vickie, since most of them will only dream of having someone they can devote themselves to. It’s hardly likely for this audience, given they’re more likely to get drunk and go blow their paychecks on the Strip. The closest thing they’ll find to JCH and Vickie’s bond is the bond they’ll find with a dancer at ‘Treasures Las Vegas’ or the ‘Hunk Mansion.’ Naturally, these sad sacks in the seats will gravitate a little bit towards JCH, and you know what? Once this match is over, they’ll be able to relate that much more to him, as not winners.
What I bring to the ring, though? That’s not something to appeal to the PRIMEates. I don’t have a sinister name, bring any fun food references, or a love story. I bring myself, and every person in that audience knows when I come to the ring, I’m all business. If anything, it burns them up that I’m here because I don’t represent something cool. I bring the fight and I do it well, and it just isn’t relatable to a bunch of people who probably got beat up too many times in school and watch wrestling to vicariously ‘win.’
I, on the other hand, am actually going to win. At ReViVal 04, the shenanigans end. Three competitors touting their nonsense, and one who will bring a divergence from the nonsense, and make a clear statement in this match:
Larry Tact is here to displease you all. Welcome to humble reality, PRIMEates.