Posted on 02/14/23 at 2:04pm by Paxton Ray
Event: ReVival 23
February 12, 2023
Roosevelt Black muttered under his breath as he walked into Gray’s Academy early in the morning. He rolled his suitcase behind him – not because he had a trip later that day, but because suddenly he didn’t. He looked down at his suitcase, tracing his fingers along the Bang! sticker he had just put on his luggage, then dropped the suitcase by the door. He saw Dith Timble affixing a turnbuckle pad in the ring.
“Hey Dith,” he shouted. “Where’s boss man? Told me to come in today instead of flying out.”
Dith looked up suddenly, then pointed a shaking hand to the back. “O-office,” he said.
Shaking his head, Roosevelt stomped past the ring to the back office, where Foster leaned back in his chair, a phone in his hand. “Yeah, I’m here. See you in a few.” Hanging up the phone, he smiled as he saw Roosevelt come in. “Rosy! Happy to see you.”
“Not my name, can’t say the same. Why am I here and not on a plane to Tokyo? I’m supposed to be in Yokohama tomorrow and I already pushed back my flight a day.”
Foster looked at his student gravely. “Emergency came up. I called Inoue, you’ll be there for the back half of the tour.”
Roosevelt raised his hands. “Back half? What’s so important that I got to give up three bookings?”
“I need you to wrestle Paxton today.”
Foster smiled. “You’re the only guy we have who’s the same size as Sage Pontiff.”
Roosevelt hung his head. “You got to be shittin’ me.”
By the time he was suited up and walking to the ring, Roosevelt’s anger had given way to enthusiasm. “You don’t have to do this,” said his friend Tani Albright, leaning over a set of crutches.
“But I do,” Roosevelt said, staring at the Bayou Butcher who was already entering the ring. “And not because the boss said so, but because of what Paxton did to you. Because of what Paxton did to Justin. Because of what Foster just did to my trip. These guys are the worst.” Roosevelt looked down at Tani’s legs. “You should be getting on that plane with me, man. Bang! was going to get a dose of Black and Tani.”
Tani laughed. “I hate that fucking tag team name. People hear it and think I’m Irish. I’m from Baton Rouge.”
“Still though. We’re supposed to be doing this together.”
“And we will be as long as you don’t do anything stupid like get in the ring with a guy who gets off on shortening careers.”
Roosevelt put a hand on Tani’s shoulder, then looked past him at Foster, who was looking at him, eyebrows raised. “I’ll be fine. It’s good training for Japan. If I can take down Paxton, I can take down the Powerslam Osiris.”
Tani shook his head. “Anubis.”
“Whatever. Wish me luck.” Without waiting for an answer, Roosevelt leapt onto the apron and used the ropes to catapult himself in a somersault into the ring where he landed five inches from Paxton’s face.
“Howyadoin’,” Paxton said with a grin.
“Never better,” Roosevelt exhaled.
“Bout to change that.”
“Okay, Paxton, so this is Sage Pontiff. He’s tall and wiry, a little like you, but you’ve got more bulk. He can fly, but he also likes mucking it up, using weapons, inflicting pain on both himself and his opponent. He’s going to try to do literally everything to take that title off you, so you need to be just as ruthless – not that I need to tell you that.” Foster turned to Roosevelt. “Rosy?”
“Not my name.”
“Do all that stuff I just said. Ding ding ding!”
Roosevelt ran in to do a leaping forearm strike, but instead of meeting Paxton’s body, he met Paxton’s fist. Roosevelt spun to the canvas, looking up for a second to see Foster turn away and answer his phone. He felt a hand on his shoulder and he was pulled to his feet as if he were a paper bag. Paxton lifted him in the air. “Tryin’ to avenge your buddy?” he said through gritted teeth.
“Man fuck you,” Roosevelt said before being planted with a chokebomb.
A few minutes later Paxton stood up, wiping the sweat from his head. He looked down at Roosevelt, who lay on his back, breathing heavily while staring at the ceiling. He looked over at Tani, who leaned against the ring, his face lined with concern. “Enjoy Japan,” Paxton said, rolling out of the ring.
“Pax, Foster needs you in his office,” Dith said, sliding past him to check on Roosevelt.
Paxton nodded and walked towards the back, opening the door to Foster’s office. He wasn’t alone.
“Mr. Ray, it is a pleasure to see you again,” Bertrand Ward said, holding his bowler cap in front of him. Behind him was the Greek man who was with Bathory before, Dimitri Gouskas. Gouskas nodded.
“Pleasure’s all mine if ya found my daughter,” Paxton said.
“Not quite, but we do have a lead. After doing some research we have found that Mrs. Ray has turned her phone back on.”
Paxton sat down in the chair across from Foster’s desk. “Yeah? She had it off for a while so I stopped callin’.”
“Yes, well we did not.” Bertrand Ward grabbed a folder and handed it to Paxton. “We were able to get phone records and found that she has only answered one call in the past three months.”
Paxton looked down at the paper. “Who’s it from?”
“St. Bernard Parish Hospital,” Ward answered.
Paxton looked up suddenly. “Oh shit, of course. She’d need t’ keep her phone on in case the hospital needed her for somethin’.”
“So what happens next?”
Foster stood up. “What happens next is the wonderful members of MESSIAH continue to do their work and we focus on your title defense against Sage Pontiff.”
Paxton stood in response, still looking at Ward. “Not a chance. If y’all are doin’ somethin’ at the hospital, I wanna come too.”
“Mr. Nackedy, if I may interrupt,” Ward said, putting his hat back on and taking the folder from Paxton. “I understand you wanting to keep your protege focused on his wrestling business. However, trust me when I say that in my experience, it is better when the wrestler understands what is going on, or else it will consume him and distract from his focus. Mr. Bathory performed much better with his fingers in the pie, so to speak. It’s counterintuitive when you think about it, but it does indeed work.”
Foster raised his eyebrows. “So what are you suggesting?”
“I’m suggesting that Paxton join us on our reconnaissance mission to St. Bernard. In fact, his presence as the father could be helpful in gathering information.”
Foster looked from Ward to Paxton and back to Bertrand. “Are you sure that’s a good idea? Paxton sometimes has a little too much…enthusiasm to be covert. Honestly he could learn how to be calm from his opponent next week.”
Bertrand Ward flicked his head slightly, and Gouskas stood up and walked past Paxton to the door. “That is why we shall accompany him. Your concern is appreciated, Mr. Nackedy, but ultimately it is unnecessary. By the end of the day we will know where Mrs. Ray is hiding Paxton’s daughter.” Ward looked at Paxton. “Are you ready now?”
Paxton grinned. “You bet your ass I am.”
Bridget hated working at St. Bernard Parish Hospital. Not because she hated talking to angry people, or dealing with people in various states of illness and disease. No, Bridget hated working at the hospital because she hated working with doctors and nurses.
Doctors. With their smug faces and their coats and the way they brushed off anyone who tried to talk to them. Doctors were the second worst.
“Sorry, what?” Bridget said, snapping to.
“Sorry you bother you. I need a file for room 319.”
“Oh, sure Julie.” Nurses were the worst.
Nurses. They acted like doctors without credentials. Rude, pushy, always needing things right then without any regard for how busy you were or if a patient was waiting at the front desk. Bridget looked up to see there was someone at the desk,someone she recognized faintly. But her mind went to the file folder and the smug nurse waiting impatiently for it.
“Here you go, Julie.”
“Thanks so much Bridget. Talk to you later!”
Nurse Julie was the worst.
Bridget turned back to the desk and looked at the tall, bearded man wearing a white tank top. “May I help you?”
“Yeah, I was tryin’ to see Doctor Nunez, he was seein’ my daughter Nora before she moved away.”
Nora. Now she remembered. This was the guy whose kid had cancer. The guy who was doing everything he could to get her better again. The guy they threw a party for a few months ago when Nora went into remission. The story that made everyone smile when they thought about it.
And if Bridget’s fiancé wasn’t a huge wrestling fan, Bridget would smile too. But instead she felt a chill run down her back.
“Um…of course, Mr. Ray. One moment.” Bridget picked up the phone next to her, dialed a few numbers, and listened to the dead dial tone for a few moments before hanging up the phone. “I’m sorry, he didn’t answer. Did he know you were coming?”
“Nah, I didn’t really have an appointment. Just had a question since he called my wife a few days back. I wanted to ask somethin’ she forgot t’ask.” Paxton smiled a pleasant smile as Bridget forced herself to keep hers steady.
“Well, I can leave a message for him and he’ll get back to you,” Bridget said, scrawling FUCK YOU ASSHOLE on her pad.
“Thanks, doll,” Paxton said, pushing himself off of the counter. “I’ll hang here for a few minutes, just in case I run into him.”
“O-okay. I don’t know if he’ll…” her voice broke off as she saw him walk away and sit down near the far end of the waiting room. She instantly grabbed her phone and texted her fiancé about what just happened before looking up and frowning. She was pretty sure that when Paxton had walked in there were two men with him, but now he sat alone, smiling and reading a magazine.
“Mr. Williams?” a voice called. Paxton didn’t look up until he heard the person clear their throat. He looked up and smirked at the Greek man wearing multi-colored scrubs. “Can you follow me back please?”
Paxton grunted and walked past Gouskas, muttering “Nice scrubs.”
“All they had in my size,” Gouskas said, sneering. They walked back in silence until they saw a hand beckoning to them from one of the waiting rooms. They slipped inside and joined Bertrand Ward, who was sitting on the patient’s bed.
“I assume you weren’t able to see the doctor,” Ward said.
“Nah, she knew what I did. I could tell, so I didn’t push it. Figured ya two geniuses would have another plan.”
“Plans are something we have plenty of,” said Ward, gesturing to the computer. “Time, unfortunately, is not. Nurse Gouskas is going to see what we can find in their records.”
Paxton raised his eyebrows. “What are ya, a hacker or somethin’?”
Gouskas smiled. “I’m not, but Nurse Robinson may as well be.” He took a badge and swiped it at the computer, and the computer desktop appeared.
“Nice. So what now?”
“Now Gouskas is going to look through the file for correspondence while I talk to you about Sage Pontiff.”
Ward chuckled. “Part of the agreement that Mr. Nackedy had with us is that we would help you prepare for your matches in the event that you insisted to come with us to find your daughter. I understand that this is uncommon. But do not worry, I am not here to talk about wrestling moves or ring psychology or any of the drivel that Mr. Bathory delighted in.”
Paxton stared at Ward for a moment. “So what are we gonna talk about?”
“I have paid attention to the young man you face in New Orleans. I watched his matches, watched his video feed. He is a man who genuinely believes the drivel he spews. There are no pretenses behind his beliefs. He truly believes in the oneness of self-reflection and the ability to reach it by hurting others and himself, as much a contradiction as that seems to be.”
“‘Kay,” Paxton said, looking at Gouskas type away at the computer. “And how will that knowledge help me in the ring?”
“It won’t. Not directly, at least. But it will help you know how far you have to go to find victory.”
Ward leaned back against the hospital wall, looking at Paxton.“Since the fall, what have you said about yourself? That you like to hurt people, that you’ll do whatever it takes to inflict your pain, and that no one will be able to stop you.”
“Yeah, it’s all true.”
“I’m sure. But what you need to realize is that these are subjective things. Your ‘whatever it takes’ may be more or less than someone else’s. When you face Sage Pontiff, you face someone who claims to do the same things you do, who will go as far as you will go, who likes to hurt people as much as you do. And he has what most would consider an advantage over you: he possesses these similar qualities, but also the calmness that comes with a bodhisattva.”
“I can be calm,” Paxton growled.
“So you have to understand this and force yourself to go beyond what you think your limits are. Only then will you be able to do enough to thwart anyone you face.”
Paxton laughed. “Guess you’re a big wrestling fan, then.”
“I’m a fan, Mr. Ray, of managing MESSIAH and its members to the best of my ability, which includes knowing everything I can about what they do.” Ward tilted his head to the side. “Though I do quite enjoy the sport of it, yes.”
Paxton chewed on his bottom lip, then nodded. “Thanks Bertie.”
“I prefer Bertrand.”
“Fuck,” Gouskas said, getting both men’s attention.
“Nothing?” asked Ward.
“The file is almost completely empty. I looked through both parents and Nora. Either the file has been wiped clean or this badge doesn’t have the access we need.” Gouskas banged his hand on the table.
“Quiet, Dimitri. We don’t want anyone coming in here.”
Paxton stood up. “What do we do now?”
“Well,” the short man said, walking to the computer desk. “If we could not find phone correspondence in the file, perhaps we can make our own.”
“He means we’re going to call your wife, genius,” Gouskas spat.
Paxton walked towards Gouskas with his arms up before Ward’s cane appeared between them. “The man is blunt but correct. Melissa has only answered one call in three months, and it is from this number. So if we call her from the desk phone, we will be able to find out what we need.”
“I imagine she will recognize your voice, and she will realize there are no British doctors here. Unfortunately my American accent is lacking.”
“But mine isn’t,” Gouskas said in his new voice, causing Paxton to raise his eyebrows. After a few moments, he grabbed the phone and dialed the number, putting the call on speaker. “Hello, is this Melissa Ray?”
The voice that replied was shaky and low, but was unmistakably Melissa’s. Paxton’s fingers curled into fists. “Yes, this is she.”
Gouskas smiled. “Hi, Mrs. Ray. My name is Dr. Roberts at St. Bernard. I was calling because I had a few questions regarding the transfer of care to your new city.”
Melissa didn’t answer for a moment. “I…I spoke to Dr. Nunez about this last month. I gave him all of the information he needed.”
“I understand that, but the problem is Dr. Nunez has been called away for a few weeks on a medical emergency, and I had some information I needed to give to your new physician. The information you provided to Dr. Nunez isn’t in our file.”
“It isn’t in the file,” Melissa answered, her voice growing stronger, “because we expressly told Dr. Nunez not to log it in the file. Are you sure that he isn’t there? Anything you need can go through him, or through our Foundation.” Paxton grit his teeth.
“Ma’am, we just need to find out who Nora’s primary physician is so we can send over this information–”
“What information is this? We shouldn’t be getting–”
“Listen here ya little bitch,” Paxton roared, leaping at the phone. Gouskas grabbed him but it was too late. “Tell us where ya went or I’ll–” Paxton stopped when he heard the phone click. “Fuck.” Paxton collapsed onto the ground, his hands trying to bore holes in the back of his head.
“That was irresponsible, Paxton,” Bertrand Ward said after a moment. “We had a good lead. And it is now gone.”
“Yeah, well…” Paxton started, then stopped, closing his eyes.
“We should get out of here,” Gouskas said. “She might call Dr. Nunez and say she got a call from the hospital. They’ll look for us.”
They all stood and walked to the doorway. “Three different directions,” Ward said. “We’ll find an exit and meet down the street, then go back to the Academy.” Without another word, the three men left.
Paxton couldn’t stop cursing under his breath as he walked towards the doors. He was nearly there when he felt a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t ya touch me,” he snarled, whirling around to deliver a threat that died in his throat when he realized who it was.
“Paxton! You’re okay!” Paxton was surprised when Nurse Julie flung herself onto him, wrapping him up in a hug. She held it for a few seconds before stepping away, her eyes wide. “Oh my god, I’m…I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
“‘S okay,” Paxton grumbled. “Sometimes we do things we can’t control.”
“I’m just so happy you’re here. I didn’t hear from you after the remission party, and then I got transferred to a different department, and the next thing I heard you all were just…gone.” Julie looked down at her shoes. “You…you and Nora were the highlight of my time here. And I hate that I didn’t get to say goodbye.”
Paxton stared at Julie, taking her in and stopping at the top of her multi-colored scrubs. Then he nodded. “I’m sorry Julie. A lot went down at my job, and there were problems between me and my ex. I’m as in the dark as ya are.”
Julie’s eyes widened again. “You mean she took Nora without telling you?”
“Yeah. Got no idea where they are.”
“My god, Paxton, I’m so sorry.” She looked up at his eyes and saw where he was looking, then blushed and looked back down at her shoes. Then she saw her watch. “Oh no, I’m running late for my next appointment. I don’t want to keep my patient waiting. But…I’d love to get coffee so we can talk about everything some time. Can I have your number?”
Paxton was on autopilot as they exchanged numbers. It wasn’t until she was a few steps away that he asked, “So no more sick kids for ya, huh?”
“No, I finally got to transfer to my dream job,” she said, turning around with a big smile. “Physical therapy. Being in recovery with the children was a rewarding experience, but seeing young kids so sick…it was the worst. I’ve always wanted to help people recover from their lowest moments, to see them go past the limits they thought they could go. And now I get to do it. Isn’t that amazing?” Paxton smiled in reply, then watched her walk away. Turning around, he almost got to the door again before he heard Julie ask the front desk worker, “Did Mr. Rhine already make his way to the back?”
Paxton’s eyebrows raised as he watched her disappear. “Huh,” he said as he walked out of the hospital.
Bridget had watched Nurse Julie act like a school girl talking to the monster who tried to sneak past her desk. Clearly she didn’t watch wrestling.
Bridget thought about telling her what Paxton did, and what he was trying to do.
But then she thought better of it. After all, Nurse Julie was the worst.