Shweta didn’t want to, but she knew there was no choice.
After fancying herself a clone of Desade in more ways than one, she was becoming disheartened with her inability to find a suitable hiding place for Nora and Melissa. The comparisons were inevitable in her own head.
Desade would have solved this problem already.
Desade would’ve eliminated Paxton Ray.
If you can’t do this, what can you even do?
Shweta had fought these feelings for over a decade at this point, convincing herself that she didn’t want to be Desade. That because she had worked so hard to shed the bad parts of her past, that not being as productive as The Spider was just fine.
But after two failed attempts to help Melissa, her resolve was beginning to weaken, and with that weakening was a realization that was as obvious as it was sudden.
She would need help from Desade herself.
October 7, 2022
Shweta listened intently, waiting to hear a click and a dialtone. Instead, she heard an annoying repetitive tone. Sighing, she hung up the phone.
“No answer?” Jon asked from the hospital bed. He was sitting up and could move his arms, as he was currently proving by offering a tentative thumbs up.
“No phone,” Shweta grumbled. “That’s the sixth one I called whose phone is disconnected.”
Jon nodded. “Who did you try?”
“Donovan, Hawke, Julissa, Ashe, Alex of course, and that was just Kat.” Shweta shook her head. “The entire Dead Man’s Hand, the most prevalent and unstoppable force in wrestling 13 years ago…they’re just gone from the face of the earth.”
Jon waited a few minutes to respond, and when he did he wouldn’t look up. “That’s not everyone,” he said.
“Who am I for–oh,” Shweta said, matching Jon in the floor inspection. “Are you sure you want me to…?”
“Shway,” Jon said, finally looking up. “If there is anything, anything at all we can do to help this girl…I don’t care how painful it is. I’ve been through hell already. Call her.”
Shweta nodded slowly, then looked at her phone again. “I’m sure she didn’t change her phone number.”
“Probably not. She has a business to run, after all.”
Shweta dialed the number and waited, then was finally greeted with a voice instead of a tone. “Hello?”
“Hi…hi, Sarah. It’s Shweta.”
Sarah Riley did not answer immediately, but when she did her voice was curt. “I figured you would call eventually.”
“I’m sure you did,” Shweta said. “After all, that’s what we were trained for, right? To be prepared for every situation.”
“Some of us better than others,” Sarah said. Shweta could hear the smirk over the phone.
“Anyway, since you predicted that I would call, I’m sure you know exactly why I’m calling.”
“Yes, I do.”
Shweta waited for more, but Sarah did not expand. “So can you help me find her?” Shweta asked.
“No,” Shweta repeated. “Is that a can’t, or a won’t?”
“Amazingly it’s both,” Sarah replied. “As you’re well aware, The Dead Man’s Hand is not around anymore. We all split off to do our own things.”
“Ah yes, you had to continue to be the sports psychologist who sleeps with her patients.”
Sarah laughed. “I haven’t slept with a patient in forever, honey. The last one I did, let me think…hmm, he was blonde, cute, and would eventually date an idiot traitor and become paralyzed.” Shweta looked to Jon, hoping the speaker wasn’t loud enough to hear. Based on his eyes, it clearly was. “So no, I do not know where Desade is. And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.”
“Because you know our boss as well as anyone. If she wants to be found, she’ll be found. If she wants to be lost, she will be lost forever. I’d never deny her of that. And I don’t think some fool’s quest to protect a girl is enough to get her out of hiding.”
Shweta’s mouth dropped open. “You sound like you still have those connections.”
“Maybe I do. Maybe I don’t. But you’ll never know, because we’re done talking. Give Jon my best. Shame what happened to him.” And the phone hung up.
Shweta didn’t bring the phone done, not at first. She stared forward, afraid to move, afraid to look at Jon, afraid to do anything.
“Shway,” Jon said.
She looked at him and started to speak, then moved over and lay her head in his lap. “It’s okay,” he said, running his fingers through her hair. “We’ll find someone. It’s okay.”
But it wasn’t okay.
It wasn’t just another failure that bothered Shweta. It wasn’t just the constant comparisons where she found herself coming up short.
It’s that she couldn’t find Desade. Desade didn’t want to be found, and so she wasn’t found. And that’s exactly what Shweta wanted to do with Nora.
No matter how much she had learned, no matter the skills she had and the knowledge she gained, she was never able to match the master, and so she would never be able to do what the master did.
She almost wept there, laying in the arms of her paralyzed lover, feeling his fingers fumble through her hair. The only thing that stopped her is the one thing she learned from Desade that wasn’t failing her: her internal strength.
Everything felt hopeless. In some cases, it always did. But Shweta would not allow herself to fully break, not before every option was exhausted. There was always another person to find.
“I’m sorry,” Jon said.
“You didn’t do anything.”
“No, I don’t mean that. I just mean…you had to talk to her about…about me. About her and me.”
Shweta laughed. “That’s nothing. The past doesn’t change what you and I have. You’re mine, I’m yours. I could talk to every ex-girlfriend of yours and I still…” she stopped suddenly.
“Nothing,” Shweta said, smiling. “I just know who I’m going to call next.”