Friday, September 27, 2013

Rings of Paradise -- Prologue


PROLOGUE

 
Shadoe Donovan stood in front of the large office window overlooking the bay of Lake Monona. His six-foot, two-inch muscular frame cast a shadow over the thirty-something man sitting behind a weathered oak desk.
“When did all this happen?” The man’s voice came from behind him.
“Officially, the deal was signed last night.” Shadoe smiled, feeling a bit of pity for the man. Hell, if someone suddenly walked in off the street telling me he’d just bought the company I worked years for, I’d be a bit pissed off, as well.
“Why this magazine?”
“It’s small, virtually unknown...exactly what I was looking for.” Watching the local ski team practice their routine to perfection, he felt their aches and pains as they worked to hone each move with precision. He felt his own aching muscles spasm in response.
“For what? A tax write-off after you’ve driven it further into the ground?” The voice came again, edged with sarcasm and irritation.
“Look here, Scott—”
“My name is Ric, damn it!”
Shadoe turned from the window as one of the skiers completed a jump. “Right now, all I’m looking for is someone to write a story. I want a fresh, unbiased unknown for this. Someone with the drive and desire to tell the truth as they see it, who’s not afraid of a little bit of controversy.”
“Controversy?” Ric Scott turned away from the files he’d been asked to get. “Just what the hell is this story about, anyway?”
Shadoe observed the man a bit closer. Ric Scott was going to be just the person he needed to keep things under control while he was away on other business. He had a reputation for being dynamic in his profession. So far, everything Shadoe had heard about the editor-in-chief was right on the money, including the shooting-straight-from-the-hip warning.
“Pro wrestling.” Shadoe smiled, watching closely for the normal reaction to the game he loved so much, a profession many people considered a circus of highly paid performers. He supposed they could be right about the circus part. In the past few years, he’d been asked to wear costumes his father wouldn’t have put on for any amount of money.
“Are you nuts? Controversy is right.” Tossing down a pencil, Ric pushed away from his desk.
“I’ll be damned if I’ll let you bring this magazine down with that kind of cover-up story,” he continued. “We write the truth, not some sugar-coated soap! Our readers aren’t a bunch of hicks; they’re intelligent, well-educated members of society.”
“Take it easy, Scott.” Shadoe walked to the front of the desk. “I’m not about to change the format. I just want a writer to do this expos√©, is all.”
Standing over the man, Shadoe knew under usual circumstances his size and attitude could be intimidating, but this wasn’t the case here. Even at a less imposing five-foot-eight, Ric Scott wasn’t about to back down from him, and he liked that fact very much.
“I have a plane to catch. I don’t have time to pull rank with you. Let’s see who’s on staff and go from there.” Shadoe pulled up one of the large winged-back leather chairs.
Shadoe listened to Ric as he read each staff member’s credentials. Sitting back in the chair, he knew halfway through the files not one of the staff would fit what he was looking for.
“Look, Scott,” he began, sitting forward. “Everyone so far has experience. If the rest of them do, too, I can’t use them for this assignment.”
“All right, Donovan, just why do you want a virtual unknown?” Scott sighed. “Unless you’re ready for a lawsuit, which, by the way, would destroy the magazine, an experienced journalist would be best.”
“As for the legal and financial condition of this magazine, it’s of no concern to you.” Shadoe liked the directness and aggression of Scott. The fact that this man was so protective of the magazine and its staff was a welcome relief, but he wasn’t about to play nursemaid to the man.
“This company can handle anything thrown at it from now on. As for the why, it’s time for the fans to know how hard pro wrestlers train every day of the year, how difficult it is on their families when they’re on the road ninety percent of the time,” he continued, walking back over to the window, gazing at the lake and the lone boater drifting out on the water. He felt much of his life was like that boat, just going with the flow, never really coming to rest for a long time.
“Besides, I’m the boss, and I said so.” Returning to the desk, he once again stood with authority over Scott. “Because it’s the sport that’s enabled me to follow the career I love and cherish more than anything or anyone. I owe it to the wrestlers who have been disabled for life or even given their life in the ring for the love of the game.”
Shadoe watched the reasoning register deep in Scott’s mind as he let him think. He glanced at his watch. His plane was due to leave in less than two hours. If things didn’t progress right now, he’d never get through security and would miss his flight to Hawaii. The cocky posture diminished slightly with each passing moment until at last Scott exhaled in a small surrender.
“Okay, I get the picture. I may just have the person you’re looking for.” Scott ran his hands through his short, dark hair, hesitation flashing through his face.
“Great! Who is he?”
“It’s not a he.” Scott smirked. “It’s a she. There’s no real formal training or experience. Just the drive and desire to write. Her name’s Khristen Roberts, but she’s on a long-deserved vacation.”
“Perfect. Put her on the assignment as soon as you can reach her.” Shadoe stepped toward the door. “I’ve got a plane to catch. I’ll be in touch with the details soon.”
“What’s your connection, Donovan? What makes you think you’ve got the inside track to this ‘secret’ society?”
Shadoe turned just as he reached for the door. Pausing, he looked Ric Scott straight in the eye, deciding quickly to tell him just how connected he was.
“Ever hear of ‘The Flame’?”

~~~ To Be Continued ~~~

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