This is a new experiment for me. I want to write a weekly serialized fiction project. Every Friday I plan on posting a chapter of the story. I do not know how long the story will run. As I said, this is an experiment. I hope some people find it interesting.
Here is a brief synopsis of the tale about to unfold.
“Michael Hill is a showman without a show. Once the promoter of one of the most popular live television programs on the air, he is now trying to reclaim his former glory in the aftermath of a terrible on-air tragedy. Marshall Ellis was his biggest star, and the one probably most affected by the downfall of Hill’s empire. Together the two have a plan to rebuild. They want to start something new. They want to change the business forever. They are not yet Counted Out.”
“You looked larger on TV,” Ms Green said as she shook Marshall Ellis’ hand, maintaining the sort of unbroken eye contact that causes killers to confess to heinous crimes.
“Yeah,” Marshall said. “I haven’t exactly kept up with my regimen.”
“We’ll have to change that,” Ms. Green said. “The audience expects to see ‘Marshall the Mechanic’ in all his glory. Such as it may be.”
Michael Hill sat sipping from a mug of herbal tea on a black leather couch near the open window of Ms. Green’s office in Boston. The decor was modern and industrial and cold, the ambiance matching the aura of Green herself. She was young but had presence, an aura not dissimilar to a jungle predator or a bird of prey. Her hair was darker than obsidian and her eyes were a vibrant shade of her namesake. Michael Hill admired the steel of her resolve. Marshall found himself slightly unnerved by it.
“Marshall will be back to his prime by the time we host our first televised event,” Michael said. “His body is a machine and ‘the mechanic’ knows how to fine tune a machine.”
Marshall stifled a chuckle. Mike was always in promoter mode. He didn’t fault him for it because that was what made him so successful. If Michael Hill weren’t a consummate showman, Marshall ‘The Mechanic’ Ellis would never have been a household name. It was also that showmanship and charisma that kept Ellis out of prison when everything went to hell. Marshall knew that. He wasn’t sure if Ms. Green did.
“Some of our investors are concerned,” Ms. Green said. “That your recruitment for this new endeavor seems to skew in a particular direction.”
“What direction might that be?” Michael asked.
“Male,” Ms. Green said. “Analysis shows that the popularity of females in combat sports is at an all time high and yet there is nothing in your treatment that mentions a female contingent to your roster.”
“My focus is on telling a very particular story,” Michael said. “And so my focus has been on touching base with my guys from IWPA.”
“Are you looking for longevity here, Mr. Hill?”
“Of course,” Michael replied.
“Then let me paint a picture for you,” Ms. Green said. “Imagine the headlines the day after your first show reading ‘Michael Hill Tries To Regain Former Glory With Same Old Bag Of Tricks Semi-Colon Fails Spectacularly And Embarrasses Own Self Yet Again’ because you think that controversy will be enough to keep you on the air.”
Michael set his tea down and tented his fingers, his eyes displaying the tenacity of a cornered animal. “What I am building here,” he said. “Cannot be subject to the whim of fads, trends, focus-group second-guessing or the personal agendas of suits sitting back and collecting checks.”
“And what about the whims of a man too stubborn to let the past stay buried or too afraid to try something new?”
Hill and Green stared at each other in silence, the tension between them lingering in the air like the dying echoes of a sustained power chord. Marshall watched them the way an anthropologist might watch an unfamiliar tribe; with caution and just a modicum of suppressed excitement.
“This show will be unlike anything that has come before,” Michael said. “I know we’re talking about a damned professional wrestling program, but there are always expectations. Some people try to shake things up by using a hexagonal ring. Some people go for celebrity cameos. We are here to tell a story. The story of men, and women mind you, affected by the death of IWPA. Ultimately, this is a show about grief. About reconciling the process of mourning with personal growth. And I will not compromise that by using my time to fill a quota because the network doesn’t think I have enough female athletes.”
Ms. Green took a seat behind her desk and pulled a folder from the drawer to her left.
“Nicki O’Neil,” she said. “Why isn’t she part of your plan.”
Marshall and Michael exchanged hesitant looks.
“Nicki is a complicated matter,” Michael said.
“No she’s not,” Marshall said. “She’s just a headache.”
“A complicated headache,” Michael said.
“She was one of your top stars,” Ms. Green interjected. “Why are you so hesitant to bring her on board?”
“Because he wanted to fuck her and she shot him down,” Marshall said.
“That’s enough Marshall,” Michael snapped back.
“Would she be uncomfortable coming back?” Ms. Green asked.
“No,” Marshall said. “Because Nicki is a professional.”
“I’m a professional,” Michael protested.
“Yes,” Marshall said. “But you’re also emotionally vulnerable, no matter what sort of ‘all-business’ personal you want to adopt. Nicki isn’t like that.”
“Yeah, she’s a heartless bitch.”
“You see what I mean?”
Ms. Green threw her hands up. “Gentlemen,” she said. “I think it would be worth exploring the possibility of contacting her. I can’t help but feel that there is a hole in your narrative without her.”
“Yeah Mike,” Marshall said. “We need to fill Nicki’s hole.”
Ms. Green actually smiled. Michael didn’t see it.