Private: Teddy Palmer
December 21st, 2021
Cripple Creek, Colorado
“You’re not getting away this time,“ I whisper to myself, using the sleeve of my flannel shirt to knock free the icicles that have formed along my mustache.
Crouched low to the ground, I remain hidden behind the mighty Douglas Fir. The branches overhead form a canopy of sorts, sheltering from the flakes of snow that steadily fall from the sky. Leaning into the furrowed and corked bark, my eyes peer out beyond, remaining locked on my target. As I press further into the tree, my fingers can’t resist dancing along the coarse texture.
“So scratchy,’ I note, the pads of my fingers scraping downward. After a few strokes of admiration, an exaggerated blink and command of, ‘Focus Ted,’ exits my lips.
The furry silhouette fights its way through the night’s flurries, its progress towards my quaint cabin hindered by the blistering conditions. Helplessly it swipes its upper limbs, trying with little success to clear its path of vision. Frustrated, it comes to a sudden halt, throwing its head skyward.
“Fuuuuuuuuck,’ it cries to the heavens, much to my surprise.
“It…no…SHE…can talk,’ I say in wonderment, it’s shrill shriek alerting of its sex.
Slinking my way past the tree, I remain crouched, shuffling my feet through the snow to avoid the audible crunch that footsteps on the white blanket would create. As I make my way closer, the details of her fur coat become all the more clear. The moon has cast a flattering light on the pelt, each individual strand standing on its end, emitting a healthy glow. She fashions various shades of brown linear stripes that cascade down her back, the type of highlights women would pay a small fortune to obtain.
Simply put: Stunning.
“Stunning,” I say aloud as thinking it is not enough.
Realizing that time isn’t my friend, I break free from my trance. I pat down my left breast pocket and am quick to notice that it’s empty. Doing the same to my right, I don’t find what I’m looking for there either.
Fumbling my way through the front pockets of my jeans, I still find myself empty handed. I give my ass cheeks a quick grab, and to my dismay, there are no protrusions hidden underneath the outer layer of stone washed denim.
Where the fuck is it?
Rubbing my forefingers along my hairline curiously, I pull off my wool trapper. Running my hand through the medium length mane atop my head, my thumb brushes along a foreign object wedged behind my ear. Excited, I quickly yank it free, holding it ever so gently in front of my face.
The item, you ask?
A syringe, it’s barrel filled with Ketamine.
“Thank you, Dexter Morgan,” I giggle.
Discarding the cap in the snow, I tap its exterior with my nail. Pushing the plunger slightly, a tiny stream jets from the tip of the needle. The moment before me becomes all the more real and I hesitate with baited breath.
‘Dexter’ was a television show. What if…
“Don’t be a pussy,” I growl.
With that self motivating mantra being the kick in the pants I need, I spring into action, leaping forward. My sudden burst of adrenaline has me reach my destination quicker than anticipated, three large strides all that’s needed to collide with the female’s back. My initial attempt at injecting the anesthetic proves to be a miserable failure, a swing and a miss. Recocking my arm, my second attempt is close to contact, but blocked at the last second. As we both jockey for position, the syringe slips out from between my fingers, falling down into the trampled snow.
“Ted, no!” she cries out.
She knows my name!
This unexpected revelation creates the distraction she desperately needs, and she takes off with exaggerated steps. Looking down for the syringe, it is all but lost. My hope, however, didn’t vanish into the elements with it.
Plan B it is.
With a confident, snarled lip, I take off in hot pursuit. In what I can only assume is some sort of world record for a thirteen yard dash, I tackle the creature with the brute force of a linebacker.
“Why?” she gurgles as I take the rear, wrapping my arm underneath her chin. “Is this about your twenty bucks!?”
“You’re safe with me,” I try to ease her mind with a soft tone, but the choke hold I’m applying might be sending her mixed signals.
Wrapping my legs around her soft, dainty torso, I’m finally able to firmly lock in the desired rear naked choke. She pulls at my wrist, resorting to digging her nails into my skin. As irritating as it is, I can slowly begin to feel her grip fade away. In a final act of despair, she begins to…
“Clever girl,” I say, impressed, but not fooled by her ploy.
With a deep exhale, every limb goes limp. I release the hold, not wanting to cause permanent damage of any kind, and push the surprisingly light body off of my own. Scurrying to my feet, my chest rises and deflates rapidly. I inhale deeply through my nose, sucking the trickles of snot rolling out of my nostrils back in.
“I did it,’ I laugh with relief, beginning to pace back and forth. “I can’t believe I did it.”
“You sure did,’ that voice calls out in congratulations. “Even without this..”
Looking to my left, it’s with a bewildered joy I see Alex Redding trekking towards me and my fallen prey. In his hand, the lost syringe is gripped tightly. He looks at me with what can only be described as an amused confusion.
“Red!” I exclaim, my best friend arriving just in time to bask in my greatest glory to date. “We’re gonna be fuckin’ rich!”
“Actually, that’s why we’re here,” he nods with a smirk.
The fire has grown mightily over the past few minutes, the burning logs crackling the only sound heard in the dead of the night. Overtop the fanning flames, Grady Patrick sits across from me with a scowl on his face, his eyes staring a hole through me. He has pulled his raccoon fur pea coat snug to his body, and slid his coonskin cap down beyond his brow. Seated to his right and in between us in this campfire circle, Red makes no effort to hide his enjoyment of the events that have unfolded.
“It was an honest mistake,” I break the awkward silence with a playful shrug.
“Are you serious right now?” Grady barks. “A Sasquatch? You thought I was a fucking Sasquatch?”
“Hey, this is just as much on you as it is me. Look at the outfit you’re wearing,” I scoff, turning my attention to Red. “City Slicker over here thinking he needs to make a fashion statement out here in the woods.”
“City Slicker? You’re from Toronto, dipshit,” he indignantly shakes his head. “Say Ted, why don’t you share a mythical tale with us right here round this campfire? How ’bout the one about the elusive five foot eight Irish Sasquatch. Idiot….”
“For all I knew you were a malnourished adolescent!”
“Don’t forget female,” he sarcastically retorts.
“You did scream like a bitch…” I mumble.
“What the hell is he smoking out here?” his question is directed at Red, before turning back to face me. “Sasquatches aren’t real!”
“How dare you!”
“Okay, let’s take a step back,” Red finally interjects. “Let’s reign ‘er in before someone says something they can’t take back. Grady, just breath. Calm down. It’s not the first time you’ve been choked out, I’m sure it won’t be the last. And, in fairness to Ted, you did scream like a bitch.”
“Thank you,” I nod.
He points at me, to which I do the same. He purses his lips in confusion, and I too do the same. He holds up his opposite hand, swinging it in a circular motion. I pantomime his movement with deadly precision.
“I’ve hung out with this Ted before. It’s been years, but I’m guessing…” he taps thoughtfully on his chin. “…LSD”
“Nah, I lost that back in the summer,” I’m quick to reply.
“No, not that LSD,” he waves off the misunderstanding. “You’re tripping on acid right now, aren’t you?”
“Winner, winner,” I tap the tip of my nose. “Chicken dinner.”
Grady shoots up from his wooden stool, tossing his hands skyward. He begins to pace back and forth, his irritation having only grown. Red watches him until the angry Irishman makes eye contact, and he can sign language him off the proverbial edge.
“No big deal,” he offers. “We can still talk. He just…”
“Might need a reminder in the morning that this is real,” I finish his thought, letting out a snicker. “I’m not sure you’re actually here right now.”
“How the fuck are we supposed to talk to him about the tournament when he’s like this?”
“That fuckin’ thing,” I shake my head at the mention of it. “I heard all about that, and I hate to break your hearts boys, but no can-do. I ain’t heading back to Chicago to be Mr. Magoo’s workhorse. I’d rather starve in the cold than have that old prick make another cent off my name.”
“No, no, fuck no,” Red says with great disdain. “We won’t be bowing to no false GOD.”
“Laughable, even for you, Theodore.” Grady slows his march. “I’m afraid you two will never be Best for business when it comes to that territory. We’re here about the Almasy Invitational.”
The hazy visions around the fire become quite lucid at the mention of his name. Grady has stopped in his place, and he’s shed his anger, if only temporarily, to express the seriousness. Red too has removed his cheshire grin, rhythmically bopping his head.
“I haven’t heard that name in ages,” I say softly, reminiscing about our paths crossing over a decade earlier. “If it’s named after him, that can only mean…”
“It’s finally happening,” a reserved smile curls. “PRIME is relaunching.”
“Don’t fuck with me…”
“Shit you, he does not,” Red says.
“This is unreal,” I latch my hands to the side of my head, springing up from my seat. “How are you two not jumping out of your skin right now? We’ve been wishing for an opportunity like this for years now.”
“Sure, very exciting, especially for the industry,” Red agrees before his bottom lip stretches horizontally with unease. “For us though? We might want to temper our expectations. There’s a giraffe of a hurdle in our path.”
“Name one hurdle we haven’t been able to clear,” I cockily reply.
“Lindsay Troy is the head of it’s relaunch,” Grady bluntly states.
The mention of her name sends a chill crawling down my spine. The late December air suddenly feels much colder, tearing through my flannel shirt. My eyes, as if controlled by some supernatural force, shift over towards the tree stump I chop my wood on. The blade of my axe is buried into it’s dead surface, cold and unforgiving. An ominous glint reflects from its worn edge, my bottom lip mirroring that of Red’s.
“Boys,” I say with a gulp. “I think it’s fair to say if she gets her hands on me, I’ll be able to do a hyperrealistic impression of Buffalo Bill, sans tuck job.”
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” Red shifts uncomfortably at the thought.
“You definitely screwed the pooch by dumping her through text.”
“She deserved better than me, better than I was capable of giving her,” I offer with sincerity, before turning on Grady. “And texting her was your idea! I wanted to send a singing telegram!”
“Let’s not point fingers here,” Grady diverts, waving his hands in front of his face. “This is an issue, yes. But this isn’t the first time your pecker has gotten you in trouble. And it’s not the first time I’ve had to do damage control.”
“Yeah, well I’m guessing this is one hole we’re in that we ain’t climbing out of,” I say with a pit in my stomach. “I appreciate the visit, but I’m afraid it was all for naught.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure, there,” Red says with an all knowing smirk.
“Someone maaaaaaay have reached out to the dirtsheets,” Grady says with a roll of the shoulders. “And there might be this rumor circulating about the impending return of Red and Ted.”
“And where, oh where is their rumored return?”
“Funny you ask, Red. That would be…” the businessman’s teeth show. “…PRIME.”
“Great, you started a rumor,” I slump down onto the frozen log. “I start them all the time. Did you know that Red has a tail? Fuck Grady…”
“The dominoes have begun to fall. That rumor created a buzz, a desire among the industry’s fanbase. With that rumor, Red and Ted merchandise has experienced a ReVival of sorts, climbing the sales charts.”
“Annnnnnnd,” I reply, waiting for the point.
“And if Lindsay approaches negotiations with us from a business standpoint opposed to personal, she’d be an idiot not to jump on these free agents,” he waves his arm between the two of us. “Especially when it comes to needing marquee names to fill the Almasy Invitational.”
“And if it all falls into place,” Red’s trademark smile reappears. “That global exposure? Well, we’ll be fucking rich.”
Their scheming smiles are contagious, and I’ve caught it. I can’t help but raise a brow, and acknowledge how well thought out their plan and sales pitch has been. As we exchange looks with one another, the brush behind them begins to sway, lower branches cracking underneath pressure. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up as I look beyond them.
Both their heads turn to face behind them, and when they see the creature peeking out from the foliage, their legs pump furiously, their feet struggling to gain traction. Red is the winner of their race for survival, having shoved Grady to gain his advantage. Grady isn’t far behind, darting by me with vigor, yanking on the collar of my shirt as if to say ‘fucking move’.
“That’s a Goddamned Black Bear, Ted.”
February 3rd, 2022
Las Vegas, Nevada
“I don’t think he’s gonna show up,” Grady groans, impatiently looking at his watch.
“No shit,” I reply as if it’s common knowledge. “I didn’t invite him.”
If Grady had a drink in his mouth, it’d be a cloud of mist traveling towards some unfortunate party goer. He gives me the once over before looking back towards the entrance of MGM Grand’s Whiskey Down. Specifically, he points in the direction of the evening’s event poster.
Face To Fuckin’ Face
Teddy Palmer – Eryk Van Warren
February 3rd, 2022 – 8 PM
“Nice poster, eh. Had that printed up at Staples,” I boast as a lightbulb simultaneously turns on. “Hey! You think we could convince them to jump on board as sponsors?”
“You didn’t invite him?” Grady pulls the smart device out of his pocket, immediately opening his notepad. “Was I supposed to? You never told me.”
“Simmer down, you didn’t fuck up,” I reassure him, taking a refreshing sip from The Down’s finest Canadian Whiskey. “I had no intention of inviting him.”
“How in the…” he begins, trailing off as he corkscrews his knuckles into his temples.“
“Let me explain,” I mumble, spitting an ice cube back into my glass. “This event here is about putting the spotlight on me, and me only. Why would I want to share it with some forty year old who’s greatest personality trait is the unnecessary spelling of the name Eric?”
“I’m at a complete loss…”
“I know how to spell Eric,” Grady snaps. “You said, and I quote, ‘I got it’ when I mentioned I had a media room reserved at the convention center…”
“Grady, Grady…you’re not looking at the big picture here…”
My attention slowly vacates my explanation, more interested in following the cute brunette who just intersectected our conversation. She tries not to look, but her side eye is hard to miss. My brow dances flirtatiously, her cheek begins to flush a gentle shade of red. My lips part and I’m about to hit her with one of my patented pickup lines when…
“Ted! Big picture!”
“Right,” my gaze reluctantly shifts back. “Perception becomes reality. Is Van Warren really a no show? Not at all. But these people here don’t know that, and they’re gonna be pissed. They want to see that face to fuckin’ face. His words, not mine.”
“…and Eryk has ‘robbed’ them of that.”
“You’re damn right he did,” I wink, hopping up onto the bar. “And I’m here to give these people a night they’ll remember…a face to fuckin’ face with Teddy Palmer on PRIME’s dollar.”
“Okay, I’m finally…wait…did you say?”
“I know right!”
“How did you get them to pay for this? Did you run it by Lindsay?”
“God no,” I choke, visualizing my nuts in a guillotine. “I’m not that brave a man Mr. Patrick”
“Probably for the best,” he agrees. “You dealt with Mel then, did ya?”
“Who the hell is Mel?”
“Melvin Beauregard, the MGM Liaison.”
“Never heard of him,” I shake my head, swinging my legs over the bar, rising to my feet. “I just charged it to their account. Surprised they didn’t ask me to sign anything.”
“You did what?”
“We can talk about that later, it’s showtime,” I brush him off, heaving to clear my throat. “Ladies and gentleman! Thank you so much for coming out in support this evening, but unfortunately I have some bad news to share with you…”
7 Minutes Later…
“It was printed at Staples too,” I mention, slicking my drenched hair back. “It was a package deal.”
The ‘it’ is the massive banner, unveiled moments ago, unraveling from the ceiling. One of my most recent promotional photos is the centerpiece, all color removed, a flattering black and white shot. In blue bordered letters, ‘Mr. Universe’ sprawls over my head, ‘Teddy Palmer’ arching underneath where my torso cuts off.
“Face To Fuckin’ Canvas,” I snicker, holding one of my new shirts tightly in my hand. Looking over at Grady, he is in the process of wringing water out of his bowlers cap. “Nice little wordplay, wouldn’t you say?”
“Cause I’m gonna stomp…you get it…”
Turning back to the banner, the flames struggle to stay lit around its edges, ash floating off freely before succumbing to the sprinkler systems downpour. Smoke begins to fill the back corner of the room, the smell less than ideal.
“Sparklers,” Grady mumbles. “You bought sparklers on the side of the highway, and brought them inside a bar.”
“It was a great deal,” I defend my decision. “It was on the way to Staples…”
“And you,” Grady bites down on the tips of his fingers, no nail left to chew. “And you set them off.”
“For dramatic affect.”
“Well,” Grady turns to look behind us. “You definitely achieved that.”
Looking behind us, the bar has emptied out. A few stragglers drag their feet, enjoying the refreshment that is indoor rain. Off in the far corner right of the entrance, Red is relaxing on one of the lounge’s genuine leather couches. He clutches a bottle of Crown in one hand, making the glass in the other seem completely unnecessary. Looking back at us, he raises the bottle high.
“One Hell of a party, Ted,” he shouts.
Standing at the entrance, Enemigo IV, who had been hired as security for the event, shakes his head in disappointment. He raises his hands, and wiggles his fingers before pointing at me.
“Yeah, yeah,” I turn away, ashamed to have let down Enemigo IV. “Fire hazard…”
“You set them off…inside…” Grady repeats to himself.
Rocking my feet back and forth, the carpet beneath them squishes. The tables have been overturned in a panic, countless glasses shattered as a result. The monitors mounted above the bar have gone black, the ACE Network no longer streaming the glory days of yesteryear.
The damage inside The Whiskey Down is truly remarkable for such a short period of time.
“What’s that, Ted?”
“Do you think PRIME has insurance?”
“Ted,” he reaches over, snatching the shirt from my grasp. “You best hope these things sell like fucking hotcakes.”