It was a good day for Shweta; Jon was being released from the hospital.
Movement had returned to his fingers and hands, and soon he’d be able to lift his arms and turn his head fully in either direction. They’d be able to go home, get Jon back to the gym, and start a new life, whatever it may be.
But Shweta couldn’t celebrate, not with her current mission still in flux. Time was rolling towards Colossus, and if Shweta was going to get Melissa and Nora out of their home in Lafayette, it had to happen before the match. Shweta wasn’t positive, but she suspected that Paxton had help in injuring Jon, and she also suspected who helped. And if she was right, there would only be a set amount of time before Nora would be in danger.
Jon was set to stay with Lindsay for a few days while Shweta boarded a plane to Indiana. When you need help, it’s good practice to ask nice people for it, and there weren’t many nicer folks than the Midwest’s premier wrestling family.
October 14, 2022
Shweta was a true professional in every sense of the word. She stuck to her goals, she pushed down emotions that would jeopardize her mission, and she focused on very little else than accomplishing the task at hand.
But she still felt a stab of jealousy when she saw Jennifer Colton walk up to meet her.
“Jennifer, thank you for arranging this,” Shweta said, holding her hand out.
Jennifer practically brushed her hand aside and gave Shweta a hug. “Of course,” she said. “Anything for you guys. How’s Jon doing?”
Shweta resisted the hug at first, then gave in and embraced the Colton daughter before stumbling back a step. “He’s getting better every day. He’s out of the hospital now, and within a few weeks he should be back on…heading back home.” The two women started to walk together. “It will be an adjustment for everyone, but we will get through it together.”
Jenny let out a sigh like she’d been holding it for weeks. “Oh my God, that’s amazing. I’m so–ah, jeez.” She turned away slightly, too flustered to talk about the subject. “C’mon, let’s talk to Dad.”
She led Shweta through the front doors of the Colton Academy, a humble but promising gym that hoped to build the wrestling stars of the future.
“Do you think…” Shweta started, looking around the gym. “…do you think he will help us?”
“Never thought he wouldn’t,” Jenny replied. “Sorry about the smell; you’ll get used to it.”
Shweta wrinkled her nose. “No offense, but I hope I don’t have to.” She smiled as she saw Jake Colton standing in a doorway. “Mr. Colton. It’s great to finally meet you.”
“Shweta! Great to see you too,” Jake answered as he offered a handshake. “How are you? How’s Jon?”
“He’s better. He’s already talking about everything he’s going to do when he gets home to his gym, talking about seeing his students and helping them get back on track.” Shweta looked down, a small smile on her lips. “I swear, he gets hurt so badly, loses his career, and all he can think about is helping other people. It’s…it’s admirable.”
The older man nodded, a smile on his face. “That’s somethin’ else, all right. It gets real easy to fall into bitterness when it’s all taken away. Damn near happened to me way back when, and I didn’t get hurt near as bad.”
The trio sat in Jake’s office, Shweta and Jenny taking chairs on one side and Jake sitting behind his desk. Shweta adjusted her pants as she sat. “Well, he’s special. And because I’m not one for wasting time, I want to talk to you about another special person that I’m trying to help.” And Shweta told Jake about Melissa’s request, and Shweta’s promise to hide them from Paxton. “I have focused on those in the wrestling business because I think everyone here can understand the gravity of the situation. Paxton Ray is dangerous, and I am hoping with your help we can save Nora from him.”
“I’ll do whatever I can,” Jake said. “With the kids out of the house, we’d have the room to put her up. I’d have to clear it with Mallory, of course.”
Jenny’s eyes lit up; like so many others at the Fighting For Nora Fundraiser earlier in the year, she had been won over by the little girl. “Mom would love Nora SO MUCH. Maybe then she’d stop bugging us about grandkids.”
Shweta smiled at Jake’s response, but as Jenny talked the smile slowly melted away. She closed her eyes for a moment, then sighed. “That would…be great. But something that just occurred to me is that if Mallory were to treat Nora as a proxy grandchild, she would have to avoid the common grandparent tactic of posting pictures to social media and showing her off. The entire operation relies on secrecy.”
“Oh no…” Jennifer whispered. “Mom would one million percent put pictures on Facebook.”
“Damn.” Jake brought his right hand up to his mouth and thought for a moment.
“Maybe we can ask one of your friends?” Jenny asked. “Uncle Pete, or Charlie? Charlie’s great with kids.”
“Charlie’s got a YouTube channel,” Jake replied. “That gets us back into the same problem. But…all right, I think I’ve got an idea. Jen, go back to the gym and get started on your workout.”
The young woman huffed. “But I–”
Jake cut her off. “You want another loss like your last match? Go.”
Anger flashed in her eyes, but she stood up and stormed off, giving the office door a good slam as she went.
Once the mood in the room had settled a bit, Jake turned back to Shweta. “I don’t want her any more involved than she already is. You understand.”
Shweta nodded. “I do. I felt bad enough contacting her in the first place, but…” She sighed again. “Tell me about your idea.”
“I’ve got a lot of contacts in the business, and I bet if I asked for their help on this, damn near every single one of them would agree. I might have to call in a marker on a few of ‘em, but most folks know who Nora is…and who Paxton is. They’d put her up, no questions asked…but we’d keep running into the same problem. They might slip up, or their neighbors would see the kid and start talking, or who knows what all, and word would get out.”
Shweta nodded. “As I said, secrecy is what we need more than anything.”
Jake pulled his phone from his pocket, and scrolled through his contacts. Before long, he found the name and number he was looking for, and scribbled them down on a notepad.
“You need help? I know a thousand people. You need to keep a secret?”
He tore off the sheet and handed it to Shweta.
“I know one guy.”
Shweta didn’t recognize the name on the paper – Frank Mazurskiewicz – but she heard alarm bells in her head just the same. Before she called the man who Jake Colton recommended, she wanted to know just who she was about to talk to.
The internet was not as reliable as usual for her. Mazurskiewicz existed, that much was clear, but the details of his life were spare, and they were completely missing between the years of 1995 to 2013. A lack of information online does not a criminal make, but Shweta was familiar enough with the criminal organizations that she could smell something wrong.
She knew that currently the man was a talent scout, and she assumed that meant he had long-standing ties to the wrestling business. This plus the year gap made her focus on wrestlers with connections to the Colton Family or their affiliates, and after nearly an hour of what felt like fruitless google searches, she found herself on a google image search of a man she recognized very well as a colleague and opponent of her former boss. She blinked once, twice, three times to see if she was mistaken. But she was not.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said.