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Author Topic: Chapter 1: The Road to Sin City (RP 1/2 vs. Gabriel Cash)  (Read 324 times)

Max Wu

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Chapter 1: The Road to Sin City (RP 1/2 vs. Gabriel Cash)
« on: October 17, 2014, 12:34:08 PM »
Two Weeks Ago

Welcome to Mesquite, Nevada.

It is a living embodiment of the dream retirement for that foul-mouthed uncle of yours who consistently turns up drunk at family gatherings to inject a hearty dose of crude levity over dinner. Golf courses, slot machines and enough booze to euthanize whatever’s left of that liver in his twilight years.

On the other hand, the years have not been as kind to Mesquite as that other city down the road with all their bright lights and nice things. It has been in a constant state of recession-recovery for the past decade or so. Jobs outside of aged-care or whatever’s left of a decimated service and hospitality industry are scarce. Education opportunities are even scarcer; most of the college-aged demographic with any kind of higher aspiration would put good ol’ Mesquite in the rear-view mirror, eventually deciding that they’d leave it there for good.

All that are left are retirees, trailer-park trash and last-straw gamblers or hustlers bounced out of every other gambling joint and backroom in the state of Nevada.

And of course, that uncle of yours.


-


Johnny Yang is likely the last man any regular worth their bottom dollar will remember before sunrise. 

The Last Call is a small bar, or as some would have it – a dive, tucked away in a corner of town. It had everything a bar, or dive, of its kind would need to survive in Mesquite: open 24 hours, steady supply of booze, a couple of slot machines, the occasional poker table and of course, and the regulars.

Johnny works the graveyard shift as a bartender at The Last Call. Like clockwork, he signs in at half-to-midnight, give or take a couple of minutes. He tends the bar, he dispenses the drinks and he looks after the regulars. There’s harmless small talk in between or even a sympathetic ear on slow nights. 

Some nights are better than others, but nothing gets out of hand on his watch. In comparison to some of his more slovenly colleagues, his appearance and grooming is immaculate. Despite the lax enforcement of uniform standards; he visibly adheres to them regardless – black dress shirt and pants, both pressed, polished black leather shoes, along with the issued vest and bowtie.  It doesn’t warrant a ticker-tape parade in his honor, but consistency is a rare gem in this day and age.

Most of the regulars who make some kind of effort to get to know their surroundings would describe him as an ‘alright guy’ who otherwise keeps to himself if not prodded into conversation. From whatever little the most stalwart of barflies would be able to disclose; he lives modestly in a rented spare room within walking distance and is unmarried.

As far as anybody in the dive is concerned, Johnny Yang is an alright guy who’s a credit to his profession. He does a good job at tending a bar, serving up drinks at odd hours and cleaning up at the break of dawn.

That’s just the way he likes it, all routine and no hassle.

None of that mattered a damn to the man who was about to walk in.


-


One Week Ago

Las Vegas, Nevada.

Andrew White, formerly a trust-fund brat from a long-lineage of New England old money, graduated (without honors) about 2 years ago from some fancy-pants arts college, majored in media & communications, moved to Las Vegas a month ago after being cut off from that trust-fund.

Alone in his rental studio apartment, he picks up his iPhone and slides a thumb across the screen. With a quick tap of a finger, he opens up an application that offers a secure, encrypted chat service.

“Alright, keep your pants on, you’ll be getting your fix soon enough,” he mutters to himself after reading the message.

Having failed to secure any kind of full-time employment and unwilling to stack shelves, Andrew White turned to dealing drugs.

Trust-fund heir turned pusher boy.

As he places the phone down, his attention immediately turns to his front door after hearing a series of loud knocks. His face twists into an expression of annoyance and spite.

“Nice try asshole, rent ain’t due until tomorrow!” he shouts out in response. After only a few seconds of peace, pounding begins again. Andrew stands up from his seat and approaches the door.

“Look buddy, if you’re hanging out for crank; it’s fucking coming out of my due rent!” he shouts out as he undoes the bolt lock and begins to open it.

In what seems like an instant, he finds himself on the floor clutching his face. As Andrew draws his hand back, he finds his palm smeared with blood.

“Rent isn’t the only thing that’s due kiddo,” says a man’s voice. Andrew looks up and finds an Asian man looking down at him instead of his landlord. The man is tall, solidly built and attired completely in black; looking down at him with a hard expression of contempt.

“Ah fuck…” Andrew blurts out before he’s picked back up to his feet by the collar.

“You’ve borrowed a lot of money from somebody a couple of months ago,” explains the man, hand still firmly gripping Andrew’s collar. As he looks into the hardened eyes of the intruder, Andrew could only manage a weak gulp in response.

“There’s a reason why they call people like you deadbeats, Andy,” says the man before raising an inquisitive eyebrow. “Are you a deadbeat? Or are you going to do the right thing, with due interest?” asks the man.

“By the way it’s Andrew, nobody calls me…” was as far as Andrew got before ending up on the receiving end of a sudden, vicious backhanded slap that sends him back to the floor.

Andrew musters whatever strength he and begins crawling away from the man. The intruder slowly follows him, likely curious as to what he would attempt. Driven purely by survival instinct, Andrew reaches to retrieve something taped underneath his desk. As he quickly turns to face the intruder and make his move, his hand is caught in a firm grip.

“Shit,” says Andrew, as the man forcefully raises his arm to get a better look at what he was holding. The intruder smiles as he recognizes the object.

“My, oh my…” says the man, shaking his head admonishingly. The object appears to be a short black baton, with two metal points protruding from the visible end. The man presses down on Andrew’s thumb with his own, causing what appears to be electricity current to arc between the metal points; crackling loudly.

Andrew winces as the Tazer crackles and the man’s smile turns into a wide, monstrous grin.

“This is going to be fun.”


-


Two Weeks Ago.

“Scotch on the rocks, and a glass of water on the side.”

Johnny Yang was wiping down a beer glass as he heard the order. He looked up instinctively and paused momentarily.

“Hello Johnny, fancy finding you here,” greeted the customer.

Johnny appeared to be at a loss for a second, frozen in his tracks. He hadn’t expected this, not here, not in The Last Call, in Mesquite, Nevada of all places.

“What are you waiting for? I just ordered a drink,” said the customer. Johnny awkwardly went through the motions of preparing the customer’s drink. He scoops ice into a tumbler and retrieves a bottle of house scotch.

“No, not that shit. You should know by now, Black Label,” said the customer as he pointed towards a bottle on the higher shelf. Johnny sighed briefly before reaching for the Johnny Walker Black Label and unscrewing the cap.

“That’s going to be extra,” replied Johnny acidly as he poured into the tumbler, the ice crackling as the scotch filled the glass. After serving up the scotch on a coaster, he filled a tall glass up with chilled water from a dispenser and placed it next to the tumbler.

The customer peeled off a couple of banknotes from a folded stack and placed them on the counter. “That should cover it, keep the change,” he remarked.

Johnny took a long, hard glare at the customer for what seemed to be forever. The tension between both men was unspoken, yet evident in the ensuing silence. The customer smirked as Johnny glared daggers at him.

“Do it,” whispered the customer; his smirk widened to a grin that promised only malevolence.

Johnny shook his head and picked up the bills on the counter, depositing them in the cash register without counting. He slammed the tray shut with considerable force. This roused the attention of another man sitting at the edge of the bar.

“You alright there Johnny?” asked the middle-aged man. Johnny immediately rubbed his eyes in response before turning his attention to him with a polite smile.

“Sorry, just having a long night,” he answered. The man shook his head and chuckled hoarsely, his hand around an empty beer glass.

“Aren’t we all…” said the man before raising his glass, “…another one for the road?” he queried.  Johnny nodded and walked over to collect the glass. As Johnny made his way back to retrieve another glass, he shot the previous customer a dirty look.

“What the fuck are you doing out here?” queried Johnny under his breath as he slowly filled the glass with Budweiser. The customer placed the tumbler back down on the counter after having a taste of the scotch.

“You’re a hard man to find Johnny, I had to ask a lot of hard questions – no easy answers,” he answered, smirking again briefly before picking up the tall glass of water for a sip.

Johnny takes the filled glass of beer back to the middle-aged customer across the bar counter. He appeared to have the casual air of a regular.

“Thanks Johnny, another one for the tab” said the middle-aged man with a genial smile and a wink. Johnny nodded understandingly before reaching for a piece of paper pinned to the back of the counter. He retrieved a pen from his breast pocket and jotted down an addition to the tab.

The Last Call was one of the last few places in town, or the entire state for the matter that allowed customers to build up a tab. Most of the regulars had little trouble paying on time; they were relics of another time themselves.

“When are you getting off?” asked the other customer before taking another drink of his Black Label. Johnny turned to the wall clock behind him, it was 5.30 am.

“In about half an hour,” he replied before placing both hands on the counter, looking straight at the customer.

“I got no quarrel with you Max,” he said.

Maximilian Wu shrugged his shoulders, nursing the tumbler of Black Label scotch on the rocks close to his cheeks.

“No, not now,” replied Max as he shook his head.

“But we’ll see.”


-


One Week Ago


“You don’t have the money, don’t you?”

Andrew White is lying on the floor of his own studio apartment, face down with both of his hands behind his head. He expected only the worst at this point, he knew deep down that it was only a matter of time. He didn’t think it was going to catch up with him this soon – in Las Vegas of all places, half the world away from the scene of his magnificent fuck-up.

“I’m taking it from your silence that you don’t,” says Max, answering his own question. On one hand, he wields the short, Tazer baton that Andrew tried to pull on him earlier; tapping it against the palm of his empty hand.

“So you tell me, what would you do if you were in my shoes?” asks Max, as he studies his surroundings. He comes across a stand of display shelves and studies their contents. There were cameras of all kind: Go-Pros, DSLRs, handheld video recorders, lenses, a Polaroid and even an old-fashioned Minolta film camera.

“Looks like you got an expensive habit yourself,” comments Max as he picks up the antiquated Minolta camera with his free hand, studying it briefly before placing it back down on the shelf.

“So sue me, I’ve got an interest in the visual arts,” replies Andrew, breaking his silence after turning his head slightly to look up at Max.

“Why not get a job as a photographer?” queries Max.

Andrew turns his head back towards the floor, shaking his head.

“You shitting me? Every hipster out there with a smart-phone camera’s a goddamn photographer. Sure you get some cool shit with Instagram but it’s pretty much killed any respectability the profession’s got in the open market,” he answers caustically. Max smirks at the response and turns his attention back to the shelf.

“How about filming, you much good at that?” asks Max, raising an eyebrow as he glances at the camcorders and the Go-Pro.

“I mess around with it every so often, but I guess I’m not much worse than your average film grad fucking around with espresso machines at Starbucks for minimum wage,” answers Andrew with a tone of disdain. Max lets out a snort in response before diverting his attention back to the floor.

“Yeah, it’s tough, but I’ll bet a lot of them aren’t in a jam quite like yours right now,” counters Max with a grin. Andrew winces at the response, Max was right – they didn’t have their balls in the death grip of a collector.

Max picks a chair up and sets it down in front of him, seating himself on it to face Andrew directly. He appears to be contemplating something, rubbing his chin between two fingers as he gazes at Andrew, who is close to resigning himself to the inevitable. The quiet uncertainty is killing his nerves by the second.

Finally, Max speaks again.

“You ever heard of SHOOT Project?”


-


One Night in Vegas.

“FUCKING WHAT THE FUCK?”

The Aftermath.

Andrew White finds himself throwing up beside a dumpster, the contortions of his facial muscles was inflicting pain on his recovering nose. Behind him, Maximilian Wu is studying the screen of an iPhone intently, appearing to be playing back a video clip.

“Suck it up Andy, it beats being dead,” remarked Max, unmoved by Andrew’s reaction to the night’s events.

He struggles to slow down his breathing, trying his damndest not to hyperventilate and lose his shit completely. Taking large breaths, he manages to calm himself – but Andrew’s hands still shook.

Finally, when he had caught some semblance of stability in his breath, Andrew slowly straightens himself back up and looks at Max.

“I didn’t expect… this…” replies Andrew. Max taps on the lock-button of the iPhone and hands it back to Andrew, who immediately snatches it from his hand.

“If you’re done with the theatrics, I’m getting some food and we’re going back to your apartment to tidy this up,” says Max, his calm demeanor a direct contrast to Andrew who appears to be on the verge of losing it completely.

The former trust-fund brat turned small-time drug-pusher with an interest in film and photography takes a moment to straighten himself out, running his hand against his torso to smooth out his shirt. He contemplates his options at this very moment, he didn’t know if he could take anymore of it but it was far better than ending up in the desert somewhere as a corpse.

“Alright, lets get this shit done and get some drugs into us after,” replies Andrew with a nod, trying his best to get it all together.

Max grins and stuck out a thumbs-up gesture.

“That’s the spirit.”


-


Two Weeks Ago


Two men find themselves standing, staring each other down face-to-face around the outskirts of Mesquite.

“So here we are, out in the ass-end of nowhere.”

The clouds are visible in the pre-dawn sky above them, an indicator for the coming sunrise.

Johnny Yang takes a deep drag from his cigarette before removing it from his lips. He is still attired in his bartender’s uniform, minus the bowtie and vest.

“You know how much shit I went through just to get out?” asks Johnny as he exhales a cloud of tobacco smoke that disperses quickly with the wind

Maximilian Wu stands in front of him, lighting a cigarette of his own.

“Guess who got left holding the bag Johnny,” replies Max, flicking ash off his cigarette on to the ground.

“Nobody asked you to hang around Max,” replied Johnny, shaking his head as he takes another drag.

“You think it’s that easy? Shit Johnny, this ain’t some jack-off job at Wal-Mart where you get to call it quits after handing in your two-weeks notice,” remarks Max with an incredulous look on his face.

“That right there…” says Johnny, pointing his cigarette towards Max before continuing, “...is the fucking problem in the first place. It wasn’t just a job anymore…”

Max interjects him before he can finish, “It’s a way of life, you should’ve known better before you decided to ditch your balls and run-off to do your own thing in FUCK knows where!” he explains, raising his voice sharply towards the end for emphasis.

“FUCK YOU MAX!” yells Johnny, waving an arm violently in a gesture, as if to brush aside whatever Max had said to him, YOU should know better than to spit out that collector shit at ME like I’m some kind of FUCKING DEADBEAT!

For a few seconds, there is silence between them. Johnny raises his cigarette to his mouth and inhales deeply from the filter, the bright embers burning away the tobacco. Max took another drag himself, looking downwards and shaking his head disapprovingly.

“I got tired Max,” Johnny blurts out in resignation, sighing deeply after his explanation.

“I figured…” replies Max, taking another puff from his cigarette before continuing, “…if it was money we could’ve worked it out, but you owe more than that,” he says.

“Fucking hell,” Johnny blurts out, raising a hand and placing his palm against his forehead, as if struggling to recall something; or perhaps to forget.

“Where is she?” asks Max as he flicks more tobacco ash on to the ground.

Johnny shakes his head in response.

“I don’t know Max, one day we were happy together away from it all and the next day she’s gone…” answers Johnny, after exhaling another blue-gray trail of tobacco smoke into the wind, “…no messages, no notes, no explanation, nothing. She could be in Hong Kong where I was with her last, back state-side with family or dead. I just don’t know anymore,” he continued.

Max could see from his former acquaintance’s expression that it was genuine. Johnny was looking for answers as badly as he was, maybe even more. Max breathed in more tobacco smoke; he knew it wasn’t going to be easy but deep down, he’d foolishly hoped for otherwise.

“Fuck,” is all Max could manage in light of the revelation, breathing out tobacco smoke towards the sky above them. It had become brighter; soon the sun would be visible across the horizon.

Max shifts his gaze back down at Johnny shaking his head; he thought he saw a teardrop rolling down his face. However, Johnny rubs his face with a palm and nothing else remained. Johnny flicks the remnants of his cigarette off into the distance, the embers scattering as it lands on the dirt.

“So… what now?” asks Johnny, looking out into the distance with both hands in his pockets.

“I don’t know, you tell me, what would you do if you were in my shoes?” answers Max with a question of his own. He drops the cigarette butt to the ground, extinguishing it with the base of his shoe.

Johnny turns to face Max, removing both his hands from his pockets. He shifts his feet into an all-to-familiar stance to Max, raising both his arms with fists clenched.

Max smirks as he unbuttons the cuffs on his own shirt, rolling up the sleeves tightly before assuming his own stance. With an outstretched palm, he curls his fingers in a gesture; signaling Johnny to make his move.

“Come brother,” says Max as Johnny runs towards him, stepping off on a foot to leap into the air, closing the gap from further than arm’s length. It was a brave move, Max immediately reacted.

On the horizon, the bright desert sun emerges – it’s the start of a new day.


-


Present Day

“So, what have you got?”

Andrew White appears to be looking at a computer monitor in front of him. Standing behind him, Maximilian Wu leans in to have a better look.

“Gabriel Cash…” remarks Andrew as he points towards the screen before continuing his explanation, “…  28 years old, son of Warren and Genevieve Cash. Practically Hollywood royalty…” he explains, letting out a low whistle. Max shakes his head, looking unimpressed.

“Doesn’t ring any bells,” he comments, shrugging his shoulders. Andrew looks back up at him in disbelief.

“You shitting me? You haven’t seen any movie posters lately?” remarks Andrew incredulously. Max shakes his head again.

“Been awhile since I’ve been to the movies, and television’s full of shit these days,” answers Max dismissingly. He straightens himself back up and makes his way towards the couch.

“Alright, settle down gramps,” remarks Andrew as he clicks on another search result. Max seats himself down on the couch and leans back. He sighed to himself; it’s been awhile since anybody made him feel old. Still, he still had what it takes to keep give most 20-somethings a run for their money.

“Anything solid on young Gabriel’s wrestling career?” he asks and Andrew shakes his head in response.

“Nothing, except some blurb about having trained with the best and a few promotional shots. Apparently SHOOT Project’s his first gig,” he says. Andrew steps aside in his office chair to reveal a promotional photograph of Gabriel Cash; revealing a blonde man at his physical, athletic peak with the confident, photogenic look of a movie star. Max raises an eyebrow.

“Any physical stats?” asks Max. Andrew repositions himself in front of the monitor to scroll downwards through the display.

“6 feet, 3 inches, 235 pounds,” he answers. Max nods and closes his eyes for a moment. He visualizes the man he is about to face at the next Revolution flagship show to be the number 1 contender for the Sin City Championship. He sees a man who has the physical attributes to take and dish out significant punishment.

Being fresh out of training, Gabriel would still be well versed with the fundamentals. Having more than enough money to afford the kind of training and expertise from the best, that Max admittedly never had – it wasn’t anything to be sneezed at. The lack of any recorded matches or a career portfolio to study made it impossible to formulate any plan of attack.

In all honesty, from a pragmatic, competitive viewpoint: Max was at a clear disadvantage. For all intents and purposes, he would be going in blind.

Andrew appeared perplexed as Max’s lips curled into a smile with his eyes closed.

As a collector, no 2 jobs were identical. Max never knew what he was up against at any given time, which meant improvisation and adaptation, became second nature over the years.

Maximilian Wu had logged countless hours flying blind into an assignment.

“What are you doing?” asks Andrew. Max opened his eyes and grinned.

“Meditation,” he answers before breaking out into a laugh that unnerved Andrew to the very core of his being.


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