Monday, January 5, 2015

Behind the Mask, Part 2

Metal clanked as I set the weights back onto the rack, sweat dripping down into my eyes. Using the towel draped around my thick neck, I wiped my forehead and after grabbing a squirt of water from my bottle, walked over to the sandbag and began slugging away with rights and lefts. Finally, my muscles sore and my body exhausted I hit the showers, let the cold water wash over me, refresh me.

I threw a t-shirt on and a pair of jeans and stopped at the mirror to run a comb through my short blonde hair. I wasn’t the prettiest son of a bitch with my slightly crooked nose and the scars I had cutting through my eyebrows, but hell, I definitely didn’t have the pretty face of some of the men on those boxes. I took a step back so I could see myself head to toe, tried to picture myself in tights.

“The women’s locker room’s across the hall Eli.” James Johnson, JJ to his friends, said as he stepped out of the showers.

“Ha, you’re a funny guy JJ,” I smirked.

“I hear you caught a live one.” He said as he pulled on a pair of sweats.

I snorted, “Jim?”

“Yeah, guy won’t shut up to save his life. He’s really excited about this idea of his. You think he’s right?”

“Don’t know, it wasn’t my case.”

“You gonna do it?” 

JJ was smiling now, showing off his golden crown, and I just shook my head at him. “If it’s our best chance? Yeah. Bastard ain’t gonna do that to a woman and get away with it.”

“I agree, let me know if you need help or anything.”

“You? You watch that stuff?”

“Man, I used to, you know, back when it was all Hulk Hogan this and Andre the Giant that. But none of this recent trash, no. Just what I need, some idiot thinking he can go though a table and not get hurt. I’ve seen two kids seriously injured because of that shit.”

“I remember those cases. Stupid.” I shook my head, I seemed to be doing that a lot. “Well, I guess I’ve got some ‘wrastling’ to watch,” I said with a laugh and, after shaking hands with James, left the locker room. 

“Damn it,” I said aloud as I hit the parking lot, stopping in my tracks. I trekked back up to the common room and tracked down Jim, who sat behind his desk, a pencil behind his ear and a hoagie in his hand.

“Back for more movies already?”

“Don’t push it. I was just down talking to JJ and was reminded that I know nothing about the case, can I get the write-up?”

“Oh sure,” he shoved a stack of files off to the side, then shifted it onto another stack of paperwork, and finally, after moving aside the wrapper for his sandwich, he came up with the grease stained manilla folder that contained all of his current paperwork.

“Tell you what, go make me a copy while I get another folder out of the closet,” I told him disgusted by whatever slime was on the paperwork.

By the time I returned with the new folder, he was standing back at his desk, paperwork in hand, the other hand reaching for his meal.

“I’ll take that,” I quickly snatched the copies, and shoving them into the folder, I searched for a place to set my bag down so I could pack it away, but resorted to using an extra chair that was nearby. “Man, you gotta clean this place up. Especially if you want anything to do with this case once I’m on it.” I told him before walking away, ignoring his feeble attempt at a protest.

I decided that, if I was going to sit around and watch the tube all night that tonight was going to be my cheat night. Not a diet per se, but a way of life really, eat right most of the time, but don’t deny yourself your guilty pleasures, and mine was Chinese takeout, so I called ahead and picked up my meal, three separate entrees, I’d go through them all over the course of the next few hours, and I did.

I started off looking over the case file. Not really anything other than an autopsy and a couple of crime scene photos, followed by five photos of a promotional flyer for something called the Lucha Carnival Tour, with dates that lined up around the murders. All of them were labelled “From McClosky personal collection.”

I pulled out my phone and did a quick search for ‘lucha’ learning that it was a hispanic word for fight. I took a closer look at the pictures of the flyers, noting men in masks, as well as a few burly guys, men about my size, as well as a few little people, all in various states of, I looked at the list of terms I had been given, ‘grappling.’ I scanned the list over again, and sure enough, there was ‘lucha’ right next to the word ‘libre’. In quotes beside it was the phrase “free wrestling,” and then in parenthesis, just the word wrestling.

I looked at the stack of videos and shaking my head, I grabbed the top one and slid it into the tray of my dvd player, flipping on the lights and opening a box of Mongolian beef and digging in as the intro to something called “King of the Ring” came on. I did not catch the number. It culminated, or maybe not, I stopped it after I watched some maniac get thrown off the top of something called “Hell in a Cell,” which looked like a glorified chain link fence building. I sure hoped the chief didn’t expect me to do this kind of shit. I pulled the disc out and slid another one in, this one a lot more low key, taking place in what appeared to be a high school gymnasium, but the crowd seemed to be just as in to it. A number of the competitors in came out wearing gaudy masks and flipped around the ring, and again I found myself thinking that this mess was above my pay grade. But then the pace slowed down as a large man, about my size came out, and trashed everything, catching the flying luchadors, as the announcers had been calling them, yep, the term was on Jim’s paper, and tossing them around like crumpled pieces of paper. I had long since finished the beef and had moved on to some fried rice, saving the garlic chicken, my favorite, for last.

The big man was followed by a pair little people, in full body spandex suits, masks and all, wrestling, much to the delight of the crowd and then the final match of the video was a pair of ‘legends,’ the announcers called them, in a mask versus hair match. It ended in one of the worst haircuts I had ever seen, but I guess that had been the point. I looked at the pictures from Jim’s collection again and then at the clock. Nine o’clock, I had time for one more video, along with the garlic chicken. I dug through the stack of videos again, this time pulling out something with the Lucha Carnival logo stamped on it, and slid it into the player.

The production values were even cheaper, most of the footage looked like it had been shot with a steady cam, but I managed to make it all the way through, and thought they had enough of a mix that, if I really had to go through with this assignment, I could pull something off.

Shutting off the evenings entertainment, I brushed my teeth and hit the head one final time before settling down into bed, the case files on the nightstand beside me. I glanced them over one last time before turning the lights off, losing myself in dreams of me in a pair of spandex pants, throwing people around a wrestling ring.

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