MacGyver took a deep breath and pushed through the glass
door of the old bingo hall. Since Coastal Elite Wrestling
was booked for another show the next day, the ring was still
set up and people were still constantly flowing in and out
of the locker rooms. It was the perfect time to blend in
the first conversation he came across sounded like this:
thizat Gizaijizin gizot hizurt fizor rizeal.”
“Yeah, looked like he got some stiff potatoes. Definitely
“Hizope hize's izokizay.”
a corner to avoid being seen, MacGyver ran a hand through
his hair and frowned. He'd never heard that many Z sounds
in his entire life. And none of it sounded remotely like
a language that he was familiar with. If eavesdropping and
snooping for information wouldn't work, then he needed to
try a different tactic.
He went straight
into the locker room, pausing at the doorway when he saw
fifteen pairs of eyes turning to stare at him. “Hi,”
he said with an awkward wave. “Name's MacGyver.”
Rapidly forcing himself to recall what Jack had introduced
him as before, he added, “I'm Jack's new producer.”
For a split second,
everything was silent and MacGyver wondered if he'd made
a mistake. Then the wrestlers burst into laughter and returned
to their business.
when you'd come by to introduce yourself,” Panama
Frank commented, offering a handshake.
Mac replied. “With Kobayashi getting hurt, Jack and
I were a little busy.”
He reached out to shake Frank's hand, expecting a firm grip---and
being taken aback when the wrestler's handshake was as loose
as a limp fish.
“How new to this business are you?”
“It's okay. We were all new once. You shake hands
the way you work. If you shake stiff, you work stiff. If
you shake loose, you work loose. So, you want to make sure
you say hello to everyone. Start with Paul.” He gestured
to the largest man in the room, who was playing cards at
a folding table in the corner.
As he walked over
to the table, he wondered which of these men could be secretly
working for a group of vicious criminals. None of them seemed
particularly outgoing so far, but none of them seemed dangerous,
either. He approached the card table and cleared his throat.
Paul and the two men at the table with him looked up. Paul
was huge up close, with muscles that were even more impressive
than Kobayashi's and blue eyes that glared up at MacGyver---and
suddenly, Mac began to wonder if it had been a smart idea
to interrupt the game.
the new producer. Name's MacGyver. Just…thought I'd
Paul stood up and
MacGyver's brain began to filter through every self-defense
move he knew. But then Paul's face split into a grin and
he grabbed Mac for a handshake (loosely, of course). “Hey,
man. I wondered when you were gonna stop by. Jack mentioned
he'd be bringing on some new hands. So you're gonna be helping
everyone choose moves and set up spots, huh? Well, it's
great to have you here.” He sat back down again and
added, “Especially if you're a friend of Jack's.”
(still keeping in mind that everyone was a suspect), MacGyver
asked, “So, what do you think of Jack?”
Paul chuckled as
he picked up his cards. “I gotta say, when he first
took over, I wasn't sure about him at all. He knew next
to nothing about this business. But he's picked it up like
a natural. Between you and me? I think all of us are about
to go places. That is, if everyone can stop screwing around
and take it seriously. But you didn't hear that from me.”
The men at the table snickered and restarted the card game.
that Jack was doing well with his employees---and even more
relieved now that he finally knew what it meant to be a
wrestling producer---MacGyver introduced himself to every
wrestler in the locker room before making his way back to
aboard,” Frank said with a grin. “It's a good
thing Paul likes you. You sink or swim depending on what
“Seems like it went well. I have one more question
and then I'll get out of you hair.”
a stiff potato?”
* * * *
“Okay, Hikaru,” Jack said as he started the
car. “How are we going to start investigating these
guys? Do you have any ideas?”
Kobayashi answered without hesitation. “But it's dangerous.
I'll need your help, but when the time comes, I won't ask
you to go in with me.”
kidding? It's going to take at least both of us to get rid
of those yakuza guys. I'm all in, amigo.”
thoughtfully. “You might not think so when you hear
what I have to say. I think we should forget Rin and Ichiro.
They're small-time enforcers anyway. I think we should go
straight to the kumicho.”
is the yakuza boss, the leader of my gang. Ichiro let it
slip that he was nearby---probably in this city.”
great, but how are we supposed to find this guy? The city's
“Check the hospitals!”
Jack frowned in
only one reason why a man like Riku---the kumicho---would
leave Japan, and that's his liver.”
“You're losing me. I don't get it.”
his head impatiently. “Yakuza always drink and smoke.
Even inject amphetamines. And the bigger you are, the more
you have to drink.”
Jack said, finally understanding. “So he must be here
for a transplant or something, then.”
“Yes! If we find his liver, we find Riku.”
Jack pulled into the parking lot of the UCLA Medical Center.
“Don't get your hopes up too much, okay?” he
told Kobayashi. “But I have a nurse friend who works
here, and she might be able to give us some information.”
an eyebrow before gesturing loosely to the building with
his intact pinky finger. “So…?”
his shoulder. “Is she a girlfriend, Jack-san?”
She's just a very sweet girl that I happen to---”
Jack trailed off and sighed. “Yeah, okay, we've been
out a few times, but it's not serious. Now, c'mon!”
Jack's friend was
short with ginger hair, and she glared at him from behind
the nurse station as he walked over. “Can I help you?”
she asked coldly.
Long time, no see! Listen, I kinda need a favor…”
should've called me back!”
She started to
walk away, but then Kobayashi called, “Please! It's
The nurse looked
back at him. “How serious?”
death,” Kobayashi answered.
“Oh, all right. What do you need?”
check the list for liver transplants and see if Riku Minamoto
“Okay, but it'll take me a while to check the files.”
“We can wait,”
Jack replied cheerfully. “This is going well so far.
See! This'll show Mac that I can investigate, too. I don't
need to be left behind!” Then his smile faded away.
“Although, I do have one question. What will we do
if we find this guy?”
rolled up his sleeves. “Riku is an old samurai. He
believes in giri.”
does that mean?”
means you give something and you get something.”
you've got to learn how to say things clearly. I have no
idea what you're trying to tell me.”
my life, so I'm going to make him think that I want to take
see. Smart plan. But, that's if he's here. He might not
be. Maybe that guy misspoke and the boss man isn't even
Jack never finished
his sentence because Alicia returned with a clipboard in
“I don't know how you knew, but Riku Minamoto is definitely
on the transplant list,” she said. “At the very
top, too. Which is strange, considering that I didn't even
see his name on here when I checked it day before yesterday.”
he? Which hospital?” Kobayashi asked urgently.
actually,” Alicia replied, followed by a cry of “Hey!”
when Kobayashi grabbed the clipboard from her hands. He
checked to see which room the kumicho was waiting in before
tossing the clipboard onto the counter and taking off down
the hall---with Jack in pursuit.
I'll call you later!” Jack shouted as he chased the
as she picked up her clipboard. “Yeah, like I haven't
heard that one before.”
MacGyver was beginning
to realize that Jack had been right about the wrestlers
being a tight-knit group of people---and the more he learned
about them, the more he realized how much of an outsider
he truly was. Frank, his self-appointed mentor, had started
to explain some of the basics as they walked to the ring.
“If you work
stiff, that means you hit hard. You don’t want your
wrestlers to be stiff. This isn’t Japan, and somebody
could get hurt. Now, if something is scripted, like me going
up against Jack, that’s called a work. If it’s
real, like when those two dudes started beating the tar
out of Kobayashi earlier, then that’s called a shoot.
And above all, you always keep kayfabe. That’s not
gonna bother you so much, being backstage, but just remember
that when you’re helping these guys figure out what
to do during a match.”
the help, Frank, but you still didn’t tell me what
any of this has to do with potatoes.”
then socked MacGyver in the jaw. “That was a potato.”
his sore face, knowing that he’d have a bruise later.
Then, he did what he would do if someone had tried to crosscheck
him in a hockey game: he hit back. Not hard, but enough
to get Frank’s attention.
grin grew wider and the hand that flew to his jaw mirrored
Mac’s motion from earlier. “And there’s
the receipt. Not bad! C’mon, the guys are already
in the ring.”
to the three wrestlers and they paused in their training
to look. “Hey, guys. This is MacGyver, the new producer.
He just met everybody in the locker room, and he's all right.
But he's just getting smartened up, so don't break him just
MacGyver said dryly.
The three wrestlers
climbed out of the ring and gave him three limp handshakes.
“I'm Randy Thompson,” the biggest one said.
“I go by Trucker. These guys are Stewart Nixson and
Saul ‘The Saw’ Wilson.”
meet you. What are you working on?”
Saul grinned. “Triple
Threat match for tomorrow night! We're working on the finish.”
to win,” Stewart said, twisting one finger around
the strings of his hoodie. His voice had a ring of aggression
to it that automatically made Mac suspicious.
MacGyver said, keeping his thoughts concealed. “Why
don't you show me what you have so far?”
Quickly, the three
of them got into position in the ring. Lightning-fast, Saul
got MacGyver up to speed. “At the last part of the
match, after we throw a whole bunch of punches, Trucker's
gonna knock me flat on my back!”
shoved Saul backwards with one meaty hand, and Saul flew
to the center of the ring and sprawled out like he'd been
hit with a concrete block.
that, Stewart will take over,” Trucker said. “I'll
catch his moonsault for a piledriver.”
I'll recover and attack them both!” Saul finished
from his place on the mat. “That's all we have so
far. What do you think?”
good to me,” MacGyver said slowly, hoping that this
wasn't a test of his knowledge. “Now we need to figure
out how we're going to go from your attack to Stewart's
Stewart said slowly, running a hand through his short black
hair. “Well, whatever we plan, I have to be able to
do it in a lion suit. So this is what I think: when Saul
attacks, I'll roll out of the ring and hide. Then Saul,
you can go to town on Trucker.”
good,” MacGyver said. “You're a heel, right?”
Stewart replied. His eyes narrowed.
nonchalantly. “Just checking. So when you roll out,
you can wait for Saul to get Trucker on the ground. Then
just before he goes for a pin, you can hit him with a sneak
could use the kendo stick beneath the ring without the ref
seeing,” Saul suggested. “That'd get you some
real heat, and it'd be something that doesn't happen every
Trucker shook his
head adamantly before any of the others could reply. “No
way. The last time Stewart used a kendo stick, he got somebody
hurt. I'm not going in the ring with him like that until
he proves he knows what he's doing.”
Stewart snapped. “I didn't do anything wrong! Besides,
I'm the heel! I'm the one who calls the match. It's my decision!”
Trucker shook his
head again. “It's MacGyver's decision. He's the producer,
and he reports straight to the boss. What he says goes.”
blew a puff of air through his mouth as he scanned each
man's face. Saul was completely unfazed, but Trucker was
looking to him for a real decision. Stewart, on the other
hand… Stewart concerned MacGyver. Not only had he
been showing aggression, but he had also been acting nervous
the entire time Mac had been there. He was certain that
the wrestler had something to hide, and he thought that
maybe if he could push the guy just a little farther, he
might be able to get Stewart to slip up. “Sorry,”
Mac said finally. “I think using sticks in the ring
is just too dangerous.”
slid out of the ring and shoved MacGyver as hard as he could.
“You don't know anything!”
I do. I'm almost certain that you're the one who helped
two yakuza enforcers threaten Kiryu and Tanaka enough to
make them fear for their lives.”
The truth was that
MacGyver had been anything but certain, but the bluff worked.
that crossed the wrestler's face was enough to convince
him, but then Stewart said, “You don't know who you're
dealing with! And you can't fight back.”
need to,” Paul's voice rang out from across the room.
He stepped forward across the concrete and Stewart's face
contorted. “You know, it's funny,” Paul continued.
“I pegged MacGyver here for a mark the second I laid
eyes on him, so I thought I'd come see how planning the
spot was going. But then, you know how these concrete hallways
echo. I was standing in the Gorilla, man, and I heard every
word you guys just said.” When he spoke, he edged
in closer. “Is it true? What he said about you getting
Kiryu and Tanaka to attack another wrestler. Did you do
drained of color and his hands balled into fists. “No
way. He's not even one of us! Why are you listening to him?”
it adds up,” Paul said. “You were late yesterday,
and so were those two Japanese guys. I had to get Antoine
to cover for you in the lion suit. Where else would you
have been? And it ain't exactly a secret that you need money.”
“We all need
money! It doesn't mean anything.”
Tanaka also told me that they only knew the third man was
an American because of his voice. They couldn't see his
face,” MacGyver added quietly. “That black hoodie
that you're wearing would make it easy for you to cover
your face enough to avoid being seen.”
began to back away---but he collided with Trucker's chest.
His lip curled and he stared daggers at MacGyver. “I've
had just about enough of you!” He charged forward
at MacGyver, ready to attack the troubleshooter.
sidestepped and punched the wrestler as hard as he could.
The next instant, Trucker had grabbed the smaller man by
the collar and MacGyver was shaking his hand.
Paul nodded at
Trucker. “Lock him up in the broom closet until the
boss gets back. Then he can decide what to do with him.”
Then he looked at MacGyver and laughed. “So much for
Mac the Mark! Where'd you learn to throw a stiff shot like
modestly. “I took up karate a while back, just as
a hobby. But I guess I'm still a mark.”
Paul laughed again.
“Definitely. I'm sure you can't even speak a lick
MacGyver grinned. “Yizou'd be sizurprizised.”
in the middle of the hallway, just across from Riku Minamoto's
hospital room. So far, he didn't see any bodyguards, and
he didn't expect Riku to have any---they'd attract too much
attention to a yakuza leader outside his territory. But
the wrestler began to move cautiously, just to be sure.
must've been training really hard lately. You can run almost
as fast as Mac,” Jack sneezed behind him.
there?” a voice sounded from inside the hospital room.
A faint voice, quiet but still strong, and ragged due to
years of chain-smoking.
a deep breath and pushed himself to stand tall. “Don't
follow me, Jack-san,” he whispered. “Riku doesn't
need to see your face.”
Then he stepped,
slowly and displaying more confidence than he felt, into
the room. Like a shadow, Jack crept in behind him.
The gang leader
was lying feebly in the bed, but alert, despite sunken eyes
and skin yellowing with jaundice. He was connected to IVs
and medical monitors, yet he still exuded an air of authority
and danger. His eyes hardened with recognition. “Ah.
The uragirimono, daring to show his face before his leader.
a traitor,” Kobayashi said stiffly. “But I'm
also not a yakuza.”
breathlessly. “Then what are you, with all those tattoos?”
your property,” Kobayashi said defiantly. “I'm
my own man. I've come to make you a deal.”
Riku laughed again,
coughing slightly. “A deal? And what could you possibly
forward and reached out, tapping the plastic IV bag that
was hooked to the kumicho's arm. “Your life for mine.”
just saline. Removing it won't kill me. You'll have to do
tightly. “I have proof that you bribed the hospital
with funding in order to get yourself moved to the top of
the transplant list.”
no proof of anything!”
sure?” Kobayashi challenged. “I also have proof
of your dealings back home in Japan---and witnesses! What
do you think the American authorities will do if they find
out? Your visa will be revoked---and you won't get your
Riku stared at
Kobayashi, visibly enraged. “You're lying. You have
crossed the room and slowly picked up the telephone in the
corner. “So I can call the police now, then? You're
an innocent man, and I have no proof, right? So it's okay
for them to come?”
Jack watched Kobayashi
begin to dial with a poker face on the outside and a stifled
grin on the inside---and the hidden grin grew wider as Riku
let out a hiss under his breath.
the yakuza leader growled, muscles tensing beneath his traditional
tattoos. “Your life for my liver. If you keep quiet,
I'll let you go.”
satisfied, and hung up the hospital telephone.
Riku added sinisterly, “if you speak a word about
me ever again, you will suddenly decide to commit a very
messy suicide. I swear it.”
Kobayashi walked out the door and Jack scrambled to follow.
great!” Jack said. “I can't wait to tell Mac
all about it! Hey, do you think he managed to track down
the American guy helping them?”
Kobayashi said with a grin. “Thank you for helping
me, Jack-san. I'm free, and I wouldn't be without you.”
me boyo, anytime.”
like that, he gave up?” MacGyver asked Jack as they
walked out of the police station---again.
Mac! I guess he really wanted that new liver.”
know,” MacGyver said doubtfully. “I know these
gang types, and they don't usually give up easily. Something
tells me we haven't seen the last of Mr. Riku yet.”
Getting something for nothing---I mean, nothing for---no,
it was something for--- Ah, never mind.”
“Don't get too complicated on me now, Jack. I only
just learned the difference between a work and a shoot.”
a work, Mac. So, how'd you manage to figure out that Stewart
was the yakuza guy?”
“You want the real answer, or kayfabe?”
Jack sniffed and
adjusted his cap. “Very funny, Mac. Well, either way,
I'm glad you caught him. I can't believe he turned in those
two other yakuza guys to get a lighter sentence. So much
for gang loyalty.”
“All I know is that I thought the folks back at Phoenix
were doing the hard work while I ran out with you for a
break, but now I'm starting to think that maybe professional
wrestling is much more complicated than I thought.”
is. What's Phoenix working on this time?”
Mac ran a hand
through his hair. “Still trying to figure out who's
funding this Atlas thing. And basically, it's a lot of work
with nothing to show for it so far.”
hear that, amigo. But for what it's worth, the next time
you need a break, I hear that Mac the Mark is pretty respected
backstage,” Jack said with a wink.
his head. “No, thanks. I think my producing days are
over. And Jack?”
play another game of poker!”