June 3rd, 2005
Chris walked up to the mountain of a man standing on the corner. The giant wore a long black trench coat, a black t-shirt, black cargo pants, and matching black military boots. His beard was thick and curly, but his hair was shaved close to his scalp. Chris looked up into his dark eyes and said, “You realize that this isn’t the best corner to stand on, right?”
“It, in fact, is the ideal corner. It is well marked, and in close proximity to our destination,” the man replied without acknowledging Chris’ presence.
“I know, but others will suspect that you are up to something.”
Ivan made a grand show of looking around, twisting his head, leaning over, straining to look up and down the streets. “I see no one, anywhere, of whose opinion I am the least bit concerned.” Ivan locked eyes with the smaller, thin, young man. He sized his escort up. Chris’ hair was high and tight. He wore a crisp pink polo shirt and blue jeans. He stood straight, like a man used to standing at attention. Ivan snorted in condescending amusement. “I assume you are my local expert?”
“Yes, sir. Name’s Chris,” Chris said extending his hand.
Ivan sighed and looked off into the sky. “Your name is unimportant. You won’t live long enough for it to be worth remembering, Gracanjo.” Ivan sniffed the air.
“I might surprise you,” Chris retorted with a smile.
Ivan sniffed the air. “You smell new.” He sniffed again. “And unwise. Where is your elder?”
“He said this wasn’t really his scene,” Chris said with a grin. “He’s got better things to do than be your errand boy.”
Ivan laughed. “But you do not, I see. Errand Boy it is then. Or just Boy. Yes, small and young Gracanjo. From now on, to the Rothman you are ‘Boy.’”
“Are you ready to go?” Chris said, rolling his eyes. Darryl, his partner, had warned him that Ivan Rothman was an ass.
“I have been waiting on you, boy,” Ivan corrected, accentuating Chris’ new nickname.
Chris rolled his eyes. “This way,” he said as he walked down the street with his hands shoved his hands into his pockets.
Ivan spun on his heel, whipping his long black coat around behind him and moving into step behind Chris.
They walked away from the lights of the city, into an abandoned industrial area. Tall vacant warehouses and steel mills created long sheer valleys of sheet metal siding, broken every so often by an empty loading dock or decrepit dumpster that served no purpose.
They turned right at the next corner and headed for a windowless door that was flush against the side of the building. The door was held shut by a large key padlock.
Chris knocked and then stepped back to wait.
They stared at the door together.
Ivan huffed with impatience.
“Be patient,” Chris said.
“You, boy, are supposed to be my local expert. You have one job. Only one. Escort me. Any you, boy, have escorted me to a closed door.”
“Just be patient,” Chris said, then he knocked again.
“The boy is a terrible escort,” Ivan said under his breath.
More minutes passed. There was no sound. The only light was a dim glow from a street lamp that repeated the same process every 30 seconds of warming to its maximum brightness and then shutting off completely.
Ivan shuffled his black leather boots on the sidewalk, looked down at Chris, then back up to the rusted metal door and said “Contrico tempore!”
Chris laughed. “I don’t know what you just said, but just wait, okay?”
“The Rothman hates to wait,” Ivan grumbled crossing his arms across his bulging chest. “We should break in.”
“Listen,” Chris said rubbing his hair with both hands, “I was told you knock and you wait. So we have knocked and now we are going to wait.”
“Boy? Are you saying that you have never been here before?”
“Of course I’ve never been here. I don’t hang out in places like this.”
“You, boy, are the worst escort I’ve ever had – and I’ve had a lot of escorts. Once a stupid Gracanjo got me lost in the catacombs of Calcutta for two years. I abandon him there to play alone with the rats.”
Chris stepped forward and pounded on the steel door a third time. He screamed, “Hey! Open up!”
“You are wasting my time, boy. You should not dare to waste my friend’s time like this. He will not be as kind as I am being right now, boy.”
“Where is your friend, anyway? I thought we were here for him,” Chris said.
“He likes to make an entrance,” Ivan replied coldly.
The door scraped open. Ivan laughed as he and Chris realized that the lock holding the door shut was a fake, held against the door by a simple magnet. They could have pulled it open at any time.
On the other side of the door was a bald tattooed man with sleepy eyes. “Head to through the doors at the back into the next building,” he muttered looking back over his shoulder.
They walked in silence for more than a minute until coming to an open doorway. Above the door a hand scribbled sign said “All Comps MUST regester with Boomer B4 fitin”.
Ivan stopped and pronounced the words on the sign. “All comps must re-gester with Boomer, bah, roh, before fit-in?”
Chris corrected, “All competitors must register with Boomer before fighting. I assumed you could read, old man.”
“I can read. I can read twenty-seven languages. I can read languages you will never have the privilege of seeing. I read can read languages, boy, that are so old they are lost to history and only exist in my mind. But that gibberish,” Ivan said pointing angrily at the sign, “is not writing.”
“Follow me,” Chris said shaking his head as he stepped through the doorway into another massive building.
At the near end to the left was an open garage door wide enough for several trucks to drive through. Across a space that seemed the size of a basketball court stood the far wall that stretched two stories tall. The rest of the building stretched out to the right in an open expanse at least twice the width of the old steel mill.
Chris and Ivan crossed a large portion of the empty space and proceeded toward the milling crowd. Chis stopped just short of the press of people and looked up in frustration. He turned to Ivan and said “Everyone here is huge. I can’t see anything through the crowd.”
Ivan looked out at the crowd. “Maybe you are just small, boy.” Ivan peered over the heads of the mass of men. “I speculate that Boomer is that direction,” he said, pointing through the crowd.
Chris started weaving his way through a packed crowd of men and women, all sizes and builds. No one seemed to mind as he reached his arm through small gaps of elbows and muscles to push open a path to where he hoped Boomer was. Ivan followed as closely as possible, and from anyone looking on from above they would have seen a close cropped head of black hair part the crowd like a boat in the water. Where Chris had passed through the crowd almost unnoticed, Ivan was assaulted by sinister stares, as if they were estimating the price of a sow at the state fair before an auction.
Chris came to an abrupt halt to keep from bumping into the tattoo of the Punishers skull on the hair covered bare back of a man in front of him. The man towered above Chris. Chris looked up at the Punishers head, back at Ivan’s forehead where his hairline ended in a point, and back at the Punishers head. “Wow, he’s almost got you beat. Must be six and a half?”
After 30 seconds, the beast of a man moved away to reveal a small table built of stacked plastic crates. Behind the table, stood a stocky short bald man. The bald man finished counting through twenty dollar bills, snapped a large rubber band around the roll, and yelled, “NEXT!”
Chris stepped forward.
“New guy.” he growled in frustration, “I ain’t got time.”
Chris looked the man in the eyes. “I assume you are Boomer?”
The man turned his massive forearm over to show the underneath side where a fire red tattoo in calligraphy font read BOOMER.
Chris tilted his head sideways, like a dog trying to identify a new sound. “We are supposed to see you if we want to pay to fight?”
“Yeah?” Boomer let his eyes slowly move from the top of Chris’ head to his feet and then back to meet his eyes. “Are you sure about this? People don’t like lame ducks wasting their time.”
“Oh, no, not for me. I am paying for someone else to fight.”
Boomer eyed Ivan and mumbled, “Not bad, what’s your name.”
Ivan stood straighter that he had been and his voice resonated, “I am the Rothman. You have never seen the likes of me.”
“Is he for real?” the bald man said to Chris.
Chris replied, “That’s not the guy. That’s the guy’s friend.”
“We are not friends,” Ivan said to himself.
“The guy is on his way,” Chris explained.
“Fine. One hundred dollars in twenty dollar bills only and a name.”
Chris leaned sideways to reach into his pocket and extract a wad of cash, handing it to Boomer.
“Name?” Boomer said as he counted the cash.
“Ivan, what’s your friends name?” Chris asked.
“Lawson. Today it shall be Lawson,” Ivan said with authority.
“Spell it, ” Boomer demanded.
Ivan pronounced each letter as if it caused him pain. “L, a, w, s, o, n.”
Boomer looked up and said “Fine. Lawson.” Then looking past Ivan and Chris he yelled, “NEXT.”
Ivan, indignant with the lack of respect from Boomer, said, “Have you no interest in the capability of the man we will be presenting? He will non provocation patior.”
Boomer looked at Chris with question in his dull eyes, exasperated by the two men in front of him.
“Uh, what Ivan means to say is, don’t you want to know how good he is?”
“I mean to say what I said, boy,” Ivan snapped.
“What Ivan’s getting at is that Lawson will not be happy if he shows up to fight someone that is too easy.”
“Too easy?” Boomer asked surprised by the request. Most newbies wanted the easiest fight they could get.
“Death must be on the line,” Ivan said coldly.
Boomer closed his eyes and sighed. “Ok, fine, if you want to pay an extra one thousand dollars I can put Lawson at the end of the night. He’s fight the champ. Otherwise he fights his way through the ranks just like everyone else.”
Chris turned over his clump of twenty dollar bills and dropped them on the table. Then he leaned to reach into the other pocket and pulled out another fistful of twenty dollar bills and dropped them on the table. “That should do it. What time is the fight?”
Boomer looked up at Chris with disbelief. “Are you for real? What is it with you two? Can’t you just sit down and wait your turn like everyone else.”
“The Rothman does not wait in line,” Ivan said dismissively.
“Shit. Fine,” Boomer said. “Each fight lasts no more than ten minutes, last fight starts promptly at two.” Then once again Boomer looked past them and screamed, “NEXT!”
They turned and pushed back through the crowd together. Chris looked up at Ivan and said, “This is going to be a long night.”
When they arrived at an open area, they stopped. Ivan surveyed the crowd again. “How many warriors will die tonight, boy?” he asked..
“No one dies. This is the MMA. Ultimate Fighting stuff..”
“Why are they allowed to call it ‘ultimate’ if no one dies? It can’t be ‘ultimate’ unless it is to the death.”
“It’s a league. This is where it starts. Then you work your way up to the championship.”
“This is dumb. You are a terrible escort, boy.”
“You said your friend, uh, Lawson, wanted a real challenge. This is the biggest human challenge there is in the States.”
Ivan snorted in retort, unimpressed. Chris looked around and was satisfied that he could see the doors and the crowd, as well as the raised section of the floor that served as a ring. He glanced toward the wide garage door at the far end of the space wondered how many shades would be coming in later to feed off of the hate and pain that this old steel mill would contain tonight. Chris leaned to a woman to his right and asked, “So, how does this work?”
She looked toward Chris and her arching eyebrows made the studs pierced through her forehead stand straight out. Her hair was dyed purple and braided into six strands that hung to her shoulder.
“First time, huh?”
“Yeah, this is new to me.”
“So, okay,” She lifted her arm to point toward Boomer, accenting the tattoo of a snake that wriggled its way from shoulder to palm. “At the beginning of every match, Boomer will announce the record for each fighter along with the shortest time that it has taken to beat each fighter. If it’s a first timer, he’s called a ‘gimme’ and he doesn’t have a time. The amount of money each fighter wins is proportionate to how strong his record is and how fast the fight goes.”
“So, a first timer doesn’t have a time to beat to get a payout?”
“First timers don’t normally win, but if they do, they win the max payout for the fight.”
“Huh. And when does the timer start?”
“The timer starts when both fighters say they are ready.”
“What if things get out of hand?”
“Out of hand? It always gets out of hand. But, the rules are pretty simple. Don’t bite or scratch. No weapons or anything like that. And if things get too ‘out of hand’, Boomer and his boys step in. But it never goes that far. Once you have seen what his boys do, you don’t act out.”
Ivan leaned close to Chris. “Go to a phone and put the number ‘2’ into Lawson’s little black messaging box.”
“It’s called a pager,” Chris mumbled as he turned and walked toward the exit to look for a pay phone.
“I don’t care, boy” Ivan said, watching the ring as the first fight began.
The night moved fairly quickly. Fights lasted anywhere from less than ten seconds to the full ten minutes. The fights that “lasted out” were judged by Boomers guys and they decided the winner.There was one fighter that clearly was the “One to Beat”.
“Boy, clarify something for me.?” Ivan said as Boomer’s boys dragged an unconscious man from the ring.
“The hairy beast that we were behind in line, he is the crowd’s chosen, right?”
“You mean the crowd favorite. Yes, he seems to be.”
“His name is ‘Razor’?”
“Yeah. You think Lawson can take him.”
Ivan laughed. Ignoring Chris’ question, he continued, “Why would a warrior name themselves after something so small?””
Chris clamped his eyes close in disbelief. “I, I don’t know” he stuttered with frustration. “It’s scary. Razor is a scary name.”
“This is stupid. I miss Rome,” Ivan said. “The Romans knew how to hold a fight.”
Chris looked at Ivan in confusion. “Who are you? And who is this Lawson? Why are we here? This all seems, uh, off mission. This is off mission.”
“Ha!” Ivan laughed, smacking his leg. “The Gracanjo speaks of mission. What does the boy know of mission? Ha, ha. You will not live long enough to understand mission. You are like a disposable rag.”
“I don’t have to take this shit,” Chris said angrily, standing to leave.
“Alright, please stay,” Ivan relented, still laughing. “Lawson and I, we have deep history. We have an arrangement. We do things for each other. This is a favor I can do for him, he likes to be challenged. I also feel that the time has come to keep him proxime.”
Chris sat back down and sighed.
“But I fear this Razor will not be a challenge enough. Lawson may think of it as an insult.”
“But Razor is huge,” Chris said in disbelief. “And he’s fought twice tonight and no one’s even laid a hand on him.”
“Veritas,” Ivan replied.
“And you don’t think he’ll be a challenge?”
“This is what I said. Yes.” Ivan pointed to the digital clock hanging from a pole on the corner of the ring. It read 1:55. “We shall know soon.”
Chis began looking around excited to see this Lawson he’d waited all night for. “Maybe he’s here, and we just don’t see him yet?”
Ivan shook his head slowly. “No, you will know when he arrives.. He has a certain theatrici.”
“He is not known for discretion, he can be, um, theatrical.”
“Like how?” Chris said with a curious grin.
“As he becomes more acclimated to current culture, he takes inspiration from what he sees. I believe that your World Wrestling Federation has given him many ideas. For a while he would rip a shirt off before a competition and walk around the ring waving his hands in the air for the crowd to cheer. Once he claimed to be the Ultimate Warrior, but he found that there was another competitor by that name. Before that, years ago when an actor named John Wayne was popular, Lawson liked to enter fights on a horse. He wor leather and boots and a large cowboy hat. His most recent fascination has been with your Terminator movies. He finds it difficult to separate veritas from falsum. He has requested me to find him Arnold Schwarzenegger because he believes the metal robot to be a fair challenge in single combat.” The clock turned 1:56. “He said he would even allow Arnold to bring two large guns to the battle field.”
Chris laughed in disbelief, “Well, if he doesn’t show, we will have a lot of angry people to deal with.”
They waited longer, watching the clock to tick another minute..
Boomer pressed through the crowd and appeared in front of Chris. “So, new guys, here’s how it works.. If your guy doesn’t show by two, one of you are going to stand in his place. And then, if you don’t last at least more than sixty seconds with Razor, I’m going to turn away and whatever happens, happens. This crowd doesn’t take kindly to waiting an entire night for some lame waste of skin an’ bones.” Boomer gazed up at Chris, eyes burning with anger.
Chris’ soft blue eyes showed humility as he leaned over to look close into Boomer’s face. “He will be here, or I will stand in his place.” Chris replied timidly.
The gentle eyes transformed into a deep dark blue, and Chris growled “And if I do, you won’t be disappointed.”
Ivan laughed and smacked Chris on the back in approval. “Look at the boy,” he said proudly to Boomer. “He has giant stones, no? I love it!” He squeezed Chris’ shoulder and said, “You are my favorite Gracanjo since Augusta of Carthage.” Then turning back to Boomer, Ivan added. “New deal. If my friend does not show, I will snap this Razor’s neck and then come for you.” Ivan’s smile filled his face. He drew close to the now unsure Boomer, “Because you do not threaten the Rothman and live. Are we clear?”
Boomer shook his head and held his hands up defensively. “I just don’t want to disappoint the crowd, okay,” he said backing away. “These people are animals.”
The clock flipped to 1:59, and Boomer made his way to the center of the ring.
He held his hands up and the crowd grew silent.
“Now for our main event,” Boomer screamed. “In this corner I give you our champion, Razor!” The crowd responded with wild cheers. “Forty seven fights and still undefeated.”
Cheers and applause erupted again until Boomer again held his hands up in the air.
The clock turned 2:00.
“Our second contestant, for the first time in our ring, is -.”
A burst of sound interrupted the introduction. It seemed like rolling thunder moving down the street until entering the building at the far end. When it cleared the garage doors, the roar became a deafening rumble that rolled through the warehouse as an all-black Harley Davidson Iron 883 Sportster. Closer to the crowd the bike slowed and gurgled its way to the edge of the audience. Tires as wide as Razor’s arms slowly pressed their way into the edge of the crowd.
The rider on the black motorcycle was bald and dressed in a black t-shirt that stretched over lean muscles. He wore black boots, faded jeans, and large mirrored sunglasses. He held one finger in the air.
Boomer looked over to Chris.
Chris looked at Ivan.
Ivan shook his head one time, yes.
Energized by the showmanship, Boomer screamed, “And facing Razor is the undefeated, the unknown, the unseen, Lawson!”
The crowd cheered wildly in response. Loving the attention, Lawson gunned the engine of his bike again. “To the death!” he screamed with joy.
“Not to the death,” Ivan screamed back.
Lawson turned to the stands, furious. “Not to the death?” he screamed at Ivan.
“No killing,” Ivan yelled, apologetically.
“Gamoti poutana sou!” Lawson screamed at Ivan, enraged.
“Ay gamisou!” Ivan screamed back, standing and throwing his hands into the air.
With the exchange over, Lawson faced forward once again and Ivan returned to his place.
“What did he say?” Chris asked, in awe of the size and power of Ivan’s friend.
“It translates in your language as something not said in front of women.”
Chris laughed. “What did you say back?”
“I told him to go and do the same,” Ivan said with a smile.
Lawson turned his attention to Razor. He deep voice boomed over the top of the crowd, “You who I am not allowed to kill, prepare yourself to face me!”
The crowd again cheered.
Lawson again yelled across the noise, “What has been the shortest time before you have been knocked down?”
Boomer yelled back smugly, “It took Gracie one minute fifty five seconds to knock him down with a kick to the face, and Razor still jumped back up and beat his ass. He’s UN DE FEATED! Now are you ready?”
Ivan whispered to Chris, “Ha, ha. Is Gracie his wife, and she kicked him and knocked him down?”
Chris shook his head, “No. Wow, you really are out of touch. Royce Gracie is the best – ah, forget it.”
Lawson reached down to change a setting on the dash of the bike and yelled “You say one five five?” and continued fidgeting.
“Then I am ready!” and he pressed play on the bikes radio.
“Bring it bitch!” Razor yelled in response.
The crowd responded again. They were frenzied with excitement. This was the kind of match they longed for.
“Ok. Start the clock!” Boomer yelled, stepping out of the ring. .
The digital clock switched to a timer that began spinning in hundredths of a second.
As the first second showed, speakers on the bike started to blare a high guitar solo repeating the same progression of notes in a rhythmic pattern.
The bike revved and started to slowly part its way through the crowd.
The sound system on the bike blared the same clear guitar, but now there were added vocals chanting in the background, “Ah ah aaa ah, uh aah aaah ah uh ah ah”.
The clock read 00:10:21.
The black bike reached the edge of the crowd and the motor cut off, but the song continued.
The entire crowd joined the music and at the end of the chant they yelled “Thunder!”
Lawson kicked the stand for the bike and slowly stood and swung his leg over the back fender. He stood to full height and towered above the surrounding spectators.
Over two hundred voices continued to chant, “Uh aah aaah ah, THUNDER!”
One by one, he pulled his fingers from the leather gloves of both hands and neatly placed them on the seat.
Two hands reached up to pull off dark sunglasses, and set them on top of the gloves.
Lawson turned to face Razor. Razor’s face was contorted with impatience and he paced back and forth.
The voice from the speaker screamed “I was caught, in the middle of a railroad track.”
The crowd chanted along “THUNDER!” while pumping their fists in the air.
“I looked around, and I knew there was no turning back.”
Lawson stepped into the ring.
Razor ran forward like a bull running after a matador.
Lawson ducked and stepped aside.
Razor stopped and turned, and they faced each other, eye to eye. Identical build. Hatred oozing from Razor’s face, teeth barred, eyes black. Lawson’s face showed only the slightest sense of amusement.
Chris looked up at Ivan, “That’s him, isn’t it. I mean, his name’s not really Lawson? Right?”
Ivan held up his hand, signaling for Chris to stop talking and watch.
Razor swung a great big right hook that flowed cleanly through open air as Lawson leaned backward.
“My mind raced, and I thought, what could I do?”
Razor followed his swing with running tackle, arms spread wide, aimed low at Lawson’s knees.
Lawson dove forward over Razor, landed and rolled back to a standing position.
Razor jumped up from his knees and spun to face Lawson.
“And I knew, there was no help, no help from you!”
The two warriors circled each other for what seemed like an eternity. Then Razor seemed to lose all control.
Razor’s fists began to swing pointlessly on broad shoulders.
“Sound of the drums.”
Razor’s knees shot up and down, ineffectively trying to damage Lawson’s ribs.
“Beating of my heart.”
Lawson dropped down to the ground and rolled, and Razor’s feet stomped several times on the mat without ever connecting.
“The thunder of guns.”
Lawson jumped back up to his feet, arms curled in to protect his sides and face.
“Tore me apart.”
A growl erupted from Razor’s chest, and he stepped forward with a determined stride. Hands outstretched, fists clenching in and out, muscles tense, almost as if he thought he could rip Lawson in two by laying hands on him.
The closer Razor got, the more Lawson crouched. Knees bending, compressing leg muscles, arms tense, body angling sideways.
“You’ve been – ”
Lawson’s body shot upward as it unwound, his fist taking a perfectly vertical course along the front of Razor’s mid-section. Five thickfingers curled into the shape of a sledge hammer connected with Razor’s chin.
There was a sickening crack as teeth slammed against teeth. His head jerked backward leading the way as his entire body fell backward and landed with a dull thud.
The clock stopped at 01:54:00
The crowd went berserk with joy.
Lawson stood for a brief moment and looked at the fallen Razor. Then, seeming satisfied with his work, walked back to his bike. Methodically, he placed his sunglasses on his face and pulled gloves on each hand.
With a rumble, the Harley roared to life again.
Lawson pointed at Boomer. Rubbed his fingers together making the international sign for money.
Pointed directly at Ivan. Then he gave a slight nod to Ivan and gunned the engine. He accelerated toward the open garage door of the warehouse.
“Went down the highway, broke the limit, we hit the -”. The song faded into the distance as Lawson disappeared around the corner.
Ivan looked to Chris and with a smile said, “Yes, boy. His name is not Lawson. That was Clovis.”