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Thursday, February 9, 2012

FIGHTS - MULTIMEDIA BOOK EXCERPTS - "Pit Fighters: Baptism by Fire"

by Bowie V. Ibarra

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming re-done combat-sports themed book, "Pit Fighters: Baptism by Fire", now available exclusively from ZombieBloodFights.com.  The passage below is designed to provide readers a chance to hear the music and see some of the fighting styles, rituals, and techniques displayed in the story.  Click on the highlighted links to enjoy the multimedia excerpts.


In the first passage, Scottish Boxer William Campbell makes an appearance at a local boxing show, and little does he and his manager Angus McKinnon know that a pair of eyes in the crowd holds the key to their dreams of fighting in the states.



WILLIAM CAMPBELL AND ANGUS McKINNON




            “Did you know he had a fight about four days ago?”
            “What?”
            “Yeah, he had a fight in Japan with Kickbox Alpha.  It was at Yokahama Arena, even.  One of the biggest venues in Japan.”
            The two spectators took a swig from their cups of beer as the arena they were in was buzzed with anticipation.
            “I’d tell you your out of your goddamn mind, Nigel, if I didn’t know you were such a fight pundit.”
            “Listen here, Hess.  This blighter knocked out Olaf Leendert, one of the biggest names in international kickboxing.  And one of the toughest as well.  He’s a mean bastard that no one expected to lose.  Until this guy walked in.”
            “How long did the fight go?” asked Hess, looking toward the entrance ramp for the appearance of the contestants of the final fight.
            “Two rounds.”
            Hess was taking a sip and choked on his beer.  He coughed, wiping his mouth in disbelief.  “Leendert had never been knocked out before, right?”
            “Spot on, chief.”
            “Has this guy, what’s his name?”
            “William.  William Campbell.”
            “Yeah.  William Campbell.  Has he even had time to rest and recover from that fight?”
            “If you consider smoking fags and drinking scotch rest and recovery, then yes.  This Scot’s rested and recovered.”
            “This is crazy,” said Hess.
            “Rumor has it he hasn’t had more than four hours sleep since he got back,” said Nigel, also looking at the entrance ramp as the lights began to change, preparing for the next fight.  “I don’t know how he’s going to do it.”
            “Well, it’s fight night,” said Hess.  “I imagine he’s as ready as he’s going to be.”
            The roar of the crowd echoed through the small arena in Blackpool, England.  It was located on the south side of town.  It was close enough to entice the wayward tourist, but far enough to be a part of the city that mostly locals knew about.  It was just an old warehouse that was glammed up enough with some lighting and a little pizzazz to add to the fight atmosphere.  The budget was spent for the pizzazz, as there were no chairs in the venue. 
Nevertheless, the fans did not seem to mind.  A vendor had brought enough ale to placate the rowdy spectators.  Even though there seemed to be a little over four hundred some-odd people in attendance for the 16 man fight tournament, their enthusiasm filled the dusty old warehouse, making it feel like a thousand.  Through the buildup of cigarette smoke, Hess and Nigel caught sight of the odds on favorite. 
“I don’t know how Campbell is going to get through this guy,” said Hess.
“Souvanaphong is going to be the a test for Hess,” said Nigel, taking a final swig of his ale.  “If he gets a bingo shot in, it could be over.”
“For either of them.”
             As Nigel went off to get another cup of ale, the crowd broke out into a loud cheer as favorite was a tall man, standing near 6’4” and weighing two-hundred and fifteen pounds.  His name was Mungkut “Red Dragon” Souvanaphong.  Mungkut was a trim specimen, with long, muscular arms and legs to match.  The size gave him a definite advantage with his punches and kicks.  A white towel hung around his neck above his toned chest and stomach.  Red boxing trunks with yellow trim held fast to his waist.  ‘Thai Kickboxing’ was written in traditional Thai letters in blue across the front.  Written along the back in Thai was “Red Dragon”.  He was wearing his traditional Monkron headband around his head and Kwrang Wrang around his upper arm.  Both bands contained small idols of Buddha and were ceremonially placed on his body, along with his fist wraps.
“What’s that guy’s name again?” asked Hess as Nigel arrived with the ale.
“You mean that rubbish trainer of his?”
“Yeah.”
“Thanong Bancha,” said Nigel.  “That wanker was a former kickboxing champ back in Thailand.  He opened a gym in Tottenham in ’94.  Trained some locals.  Did good by them.  Even had a contingent come in from Thailand.  Souvanaphong’s his golden boy, though.”
            Mungkut was walking to the ring in a penitent fashion for the final, his hands held together in front of his mouth, as if he was praying.  He was led through the smoke and cheers by Thanong. 
            “Mungkut is a mean bastard, he is,” said Nigel.  “A lot of it is because of Bancha.”
            “What do you mean?” asked Hess.
            “That chap Mungkut came here when he was 18, but as a heavy for some opium den up north.”
            “Opium?” asked Hess.
            “Right-o.  He had to put that place ‘under new management’, so to speak.  He’s been kickboxing since he was nine is what I heard.  Won titles around the globe since he was fifteen, but he started milling about with some right wankers around Bangkok and had a falling out with his mum.  So he started running opium and dropped his titles to make cash with the runners.”
            “Wow,” said Hess, taking a sip of ale.
            “His higher ups gave him a bell and told him to take over for an associate in London.  He wrecked shop and took over the market here in England.”
            “And the authorities?” asked Hess.
            “In his pocket,” said Nigel, taking a sip of ale.  “Then Bancha came in the picture.  Trained Mungkut.  And now the bugger’s undefeated and Bancha gym is making waves all across Europe while Mungkut was making connections.”
            “Hence, the promotional work,” said Hess, indicating the large pictures of Mungkut lining the warehouse walls.  They lined the walls like stained glass windows of a church.  He was clearly the main draw, and fans from all over England, and some from Germany and the Netherlands, had shown up.  Though the attendance was relatively small, it was enough for Bancha to make a nice profit.
            Standing by the steps to the ring, Thanong Bancha and the Red Dragon bowed their heads in prayer.  Then, the Red Dragon entered the ring, stepping over the top rope.  Mungkut began to run his hands along the top of the ring ropes, symbolically sealing off the ring from any outside assistance for him.  Traditional Thai music blared from a speaker above the crowd.  Mungkut then began his ram muay, the traditional dance of the Thai boxer, giving thanks to his family, friends, and teachers.
            Things were looking good for Bancha gym and Mungkut yet again.  The tournament final seemed well in hand, apart from one small detail. 
            Actually, it was a large detail.  Buzzed, smoking, and waiting in the wings.
            William Campbell had driven from Glasgow to Blackpool that afternoon, after spending the night drinking back home with friends, to participate in the tournament.  Even though it wasn’t the largest tourney, William and his manager, Angus McKinnon, were hoping that another victory would ensure an invitation to travel “across the pond” for a fight in an American boxing promotion, giving them a shot at some big money.  The drive was long, the event relatively cheap, but the opportunity to win a tournament and show off his skills was big.
            Little did they know Hess could be the man that could provide that ticket.
            The ritual dance of Mungkut continued as William made his way to the ring, Angus by his side with a bucket in his left hand.  A water bottle was inside the bucket.  Angus hobbled to the ring with the assistance of a large brown shillelagh.  The crowd fell silent.  Even Hess and Nigel shook their heads.  They looked upon the man who was once a great fighter, a man who was done fighting and preferred drink to gloves.  A man who everyone thought did not stand a chance tonight. 
            A man everyone knew was back, somehow.
            The audience looked at William.  The guy was short and overweight.  The fans could not fathom their favorite, the Red Dragon, falling to this man.
            William Campbell stood 5’10” and weighed around 230lbs.  A white towel hung over his neck onto his bare chest.  He had a slight gut that rested atop his blue patterned Campbell clan tartan.  A small scar was located on his left side.  His arms were shapely, but far from cut, evidence that lifting weights was not a priority.
            Unless you counted curling a mug of ale as lifting weights.
            William was strong, though.  His might was a result of the combination of raw, God-given power and the strength gained from manual labor.  His legs were visually striking, squat and powerful.  His tartan socks stretched across his calf muscles above his traditional shoes. 
            “William Campbell has always been a tough bastard.  A great fighter.  He has punches like Jackie Patterson; fierce and savage,” said Nigel with pride.  He loved sharing Scottish boxing history with friends.
            “Well, he showed some of that tonight.”
            “He has the attitude to match,” said Nigel.  “Like Jim Higgins, he never turned down a fight, and always seems to do good on short notice.”
            “If only he didn’t drink so much, huh?” said Hess.
            “Like a bloody fish.  Chap’s been on the piss since he got back from Japan.”
            Born in Dundee, Scotland, William was the sixth child of eight.  Trying to live in Dundee was rough.  It was not uncommon for William to engage in brawls on a daily basis after school in the streets of Dundee.  Before he was a teenager, William had gained a reputation as a scrapper.  He was fortunate, though, to be blessed with size.  Even when he was young, he was stout.  Very much like his father.
            His family owned a butcher shop in the middle of town, and all his brothers and sisters helped run it.  William had a happy home life, and was the peacemaker for his brothers and sisters.  In fact, he preferred that method.  But he was not above solving problems people had with him or his family with his hands on the streets.
            When he was fifteen, William was encouraged by his father to join a boxing club in Dundee.  It was a blessing and a way for William to stay out of trouble on the streets, even though most people stayed well away from him at this point.  His size, intimidating.  His reputation, fearsome.
            “So who’s the guy with William?”
            “Angus McKinnon.  He owns the boxing gym William trains at.  He was a boxer that did good for himself, and really knew how to work with William.  He helped William win his first super-heavyweight title at twenty-four, and had a good run here in the UK and Europe.”
            “And the, the drink got him, huh?”
            “And the smokes, and the slappers.  He’s a man’s man, after all.  He would work hard to get fit, then lose it all after the fights for a good time.  He even had a chance to fight in America, but lost it when the promoter saw how he was behaving like a prat.  He’s been washed up since.”
            “William did fall into a slump,” said Hess.  “He was out for a year, right?”
            “Spot on,” said Nigel.  “But he did money fights at pubs and back alleys.  Money fights.”
            “Hmm,” grunted Hess.
            After the year hiatus, William got back into the gym and started training with Angus again.   Though he was still drinking and smoking, William began to find the fire he once had.  His power was still there, but the snap was gone.  After several months of training, he brought his weight back down to a reasonable fighting weight.  He found the snap again.  His skills were honed again and his heart was ready. 
            But when Angus approached boxing promoters, no one wanted to take a chance with William anymore.  His reputation as a drinker and smoker was fresher on their minds than his knockout history.  Some of the only fights Angus could sign were money fights like the one they were at tonight. 
            It would all work out, though, in Angus’ mind.  Once William took care of business in the ring tonight, people would remember William.  Tonight, memories were jogged.  The fans knew the name, and had a recollection of the knockouts.  Hess and Nigel most certainly did.  But as far as many others were concerned, William was washed up.
            It took his first fight that night to make people take notice again.  William one-punched his first opponent, a Thai boxer stylist from the Bancha gym, with a right cross as the guy finished a low kick to the leg. 
            In his second match, William worked his combos against a western kickboxer from New York, pummeling the fighter until the corner threw in the towel for the TKO in the second.
            Both fighters had relatively short fights.  The moment of truth was upon them.  The two would soon stand face to face.
            William slowly strolled to the ring.  In one hand, he had a lit Marlboro.  In the other hand, he had a bottle of Scotch whiskey.  Standing by the ring, in the very area Bancha and Mungkut were praying, William took a final drag off his cigarette and crushed it under his foot.  He twisted the top off the whiskey bottle and took a long swig.
“I see he really has the drinking under control,” joked Hess.
“Yes,” said Nigel.  “I observed the same thing Jorgeier tonight as well.”
Returning the top to the bottle, William let out a loud laugh and handed the bottle to Angus.  Tossing the white towel around his neck toward his corner post, William entered the ring and walked to his corner.
McKinnon clan tartan
            Angus approached their corner and set his things down on the corner of the ring.  Angus wore his traditional red and blue patterned clan tartan kilt and wrap, with a traditional fur wrap hanging around his waist that he removed.  The kilt remained.
            In the middle of the ring, Mungkut was finishing up his ram muay, as the music began to wind down.  William looked at Angus from the ring.
            William leaned toward Angus, and the two shared words.  Nigel listened closely.
“What did they say?” asked Hess.
“William said, ‘We should ask if they’re going to be playing such terrible music next time’,” said Nigel, chuckling.  “Then Angus said, ‘I’ll just bring my pipes next time.’” 
            They both chuckled.
            As Red Dragon finished his dance, he walked to his corner where Bancha was standing.  Both bowed their heads in prayer for a moment.  Bancha removed the head dress and said one more prayer with Mungkut.  Mungkut then turned and faced William.              
           Mungkut could not figure out his opponent, and that scared him.  Most of his challengers had conformed to certain fighting styles.  They could be studied and weaknesses could be found.  This is how Mungkut remained undefeated, of course.  Making sure his opponents lacked experience was another way to keep his record untarnished.  Bancha had been smart to screen all the entries in the night’s tournament.  Fighters who had street fighting experience and who were well known were not selected. 
            William had slipped through the screen.  Even though his fights were good several years ago, Bancha assumed he was a has-been, like everyone else.  At 27 years of age with his training inconsistent and his drinking legendary, William was a good name to have crushed at the hands of the favored Red Dragon. 
            With William’s current skills being a big question mark, even with the many people who had seen his money fights, Bancha sent the invitation.  To Bancha and Mungkut, William was to be one more stepping stone on his way to becoming the world champion kick boxer in England, Europe, and then back home to Thailand. 
            Standing in front of the brawny Scot, though, had Mungkut reconsidering his original notion.  His victory was in doubt, not only by him and Bancha, but by the fans in attendance. 
            But he was a warrior, a fighter like William.  The decision was in their hands, in their skills, in their choices they were about to make in the ring. 
            The two gladiators stood across the ring from each other, glaring, searching for that one sign of weakness, for sign of fear, for a sign of doubt.
            William was a stoic brick wall, hiding any apprehension behind his stare.   He stopped leaning in the corner and stood, planted, ready.
            Mungkut hid his fear behind his eyes.  His heart beat wildly as he flexed his wrists.
            The announcer walked to the center of the ring and made his announcement.
          “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the championship final of the Bancha Gym Invitational Fight tournament.  We are scheduled for three three-minute rounds.  Introducing first, in the blue corner.  He is wearing the blue Campbell tartan kilt, weighing in at 16 stone, 3 pounds, 7 ounces.  43 fight record.  34 wins, 7 inside the scheduled distance, and 2 draws.  He was a former European boxing champion and representing McKinnon’s Fight Den.  From Dundee, Scotland, here is William Campbell!  Campbell! 
          William raised both gloved hands in the air and once again let out a great big laugh, looking right at Mungkut.
         “And now it’s time to meet his opponent, standing in the red corner.  He is wearing red trunks with yellow trim and blue writing.  Weighing in at 15 stone, 5 pounds, 14 ounces.  Undefeated.  42 contests.  42 wins.  He’s and representing the Bancha Gym in Tottenham, England via Bangkok, Thailand.  Ladies and gentlemen, its Mungkut “Red Dragon” Souvanaphong.  Souvanaphong.”
         Mungkut walked forward, bowed his head into his gloves, then looked up, glaring at William.
“Timekeeper of the bell is Bobby Gilmore, and referee in charge of the action is Charlie is Mr. Charlie King of Wellingborough.  This is three three-minute rounds.”
            The tension was broken when the referee called for both fighters to join him in the center of the ring. 
            The whiskey was the only thing that was keeping William cool.  Even though he seemed as calm as a stone, he was actually a bundle of nerves.  This was his chance, a chance to prove his skill.  A chance to redeem himself and show the world he was not done, not washed up.  As he stood, glaring at Mungkut, he could not help but crave another cigarette.
            But his craving began to subside, replaced by energy.  A ruthless energy was ready to pulverize and destroy.  An energy within him that would soon catapult him into the ranks of the best fighters in the world.  William felt the energy, a wish about to come true, a dream near realization.
            The fight referee broke William out of the daze with the command, “Shake and give me a clean fight.”  William and Mungkut bowed to the referee, then to each other.  The fighters walked to their corners and stood in their fighting stance, ready to figure it all out in the middle of the blood-stained ring.
            William, kilt and all, stood in a traditional boxer stance.  His black four ounce gloves were designed for grappling as well.  There was little movement in his feet.  William could be scientific, but preferred brawling. 
            Though Mungkut stood on the other side of the ring, he still seemed like he towered over William.  Both hands raised parallel to his head in front of his face.  Fists, ritually wrapped in the back dressing area, were clinched in a Thai boxing stance.
            The bell rang, beginning round one.
            “Here we go,” said Hess, taking a drink.  The energy in the warehouse was electric.
            The two men approached each other from their respective corners and began to figure out the distance needed.  The “feeling out” process, as it is usually referred to.  It was the time to test for strengths, weaknesses, and to get the first shots in.  The anticipation was palpable.
            William threw out a jab, not necessarily to connect, but to feel the distance.  Mungkut bobbed and responded with a double jab.  The second connected, without authority, but with certainty, on William’s right cheek.
Campbell clan tartan
            After a moment, Dragon tried to pull an ace early, sending a lightning fast kick to the left side of William’s head, absorbed a bit by his left arm, but connecting.  Mungkut followed the strike with a spin and a reverse kick to the midsection, sending William to his knees.  The rules were non-traditional, so he would receive no count from the referee.  The fight was still on, to the finish.
William groaned in pain, wincing and covering his belly.  He took a moment, but felt a brutal energy flying his way.  Instinctively moving to his right, William dodged a flying knee from the Thai boxer, meant for his chin. 
            Regaining his bearing and getting to his feet, William found the distance between him and Mungkut and delivered a double jab followed by a right cross.  The second jab found Mungkut’s cheek, and the cross was dodged with a bob to the right. 
            The Red Dragon responded by attacking with a flurry of kicks aimed at William’s head and his love handles.  Dragon was a well-conditioned machine.  It was as if he was gaining power, momentum, with every strike.  
William moved to his right and circled, but was stunned by three connecting kicks from the flurry, catching him under both arms.  The leg speed was unexpected, as Dragon had used punches and forearm strikes in his previous bouts that night.  Mungkut was going for the finish Early.
            “Circle, William, fa’ Christ sake!” yelled Angus in a heavy Scottish accent.  “Keep him away with the jab!”
            “He does need to use the jab more,” said Hess to Nigel, having heard Angus yell.  “He’s right.”
            Mungkut worked the kicks, hacking at William’s legs.  He saw William losing breath, losing faith, losing the fight.  Confidence began to build in Mungkut.  He felt the kicks stunning William, and was back in the zone.  William was trying to concentrate, focusing the pain from those kicks to find a combination of his own to take out the kick boxer. 
Mungkut moved toward William slowly, hands raised, gloating as if already victorious.  The crowd cheered for the vicious striker. 
William took several breaths.  His thighs ached and his ribs throbbed in pain.  Mungkut was ready to take the victory.
            “Slug him, dammit,” yelled Angus, “Use ya’ hook.”
            Mungkut closed the distance and, coming within range, ate a right hook to the abdomen, followed by a left hook to the same area.  Dragon flinched at the unexpected blows and, bringing his hands down near his ribs, opened up his chin for the end of the combination, a devastating right uppercut, sent with desperate authority from William. 
            Mungkut hit the canvas, but William didn’t jump on him.  Instead, he walked back, waving Mungkut up.  He even offered his hand in a show of confidence that stunned the crowd.  Dragon did not accept the hand, and William walked near his own corner as the referee motioned for Mungkut to rise.
            The crowd was stunned.  The odds on favorite was down, a sight everyone, including Thanong Bancha, had never seen before.  The crowd began to shout for their hero to get up, their voices thundering around the arena and in Mungkut’s ears.  He rose slowly by what would have been a six count and spit out a tooth.  Blood trickled out of his mouth and down his chin as he raised his hands at the eight count, ready to fight.  He knew he had to strike back to regain his honor. 
            Concentrating, the Red Dragon became surgical with his strikes.  He threw out a slow left jab which William easily blocked, but opened up a space for a blindingly fast right cross, stunning William.  As his vision returned, William saw a spinning right elbow moving swiftly from a 360 degree spin connect with his right cheek.  William was rocked, and Mungkut felt good again.  The combination excited the crowd as they cheered for the favorite. 
            Mungkut was blinding William with strikes.  Dancing around the large Scot, Mungkut surgically delivered three kicks at different intervals to William’s left eye.  One hit the mark, adding to the swelling that was already evident on his face.
            William was getting frustrated.  He knew The Red Dragon had skill that was much better than his own.  This night was the only time William had faced kickboxers.  The Dragon was pushing William to the limit, testing him with every shot. 
            The bell rang, ending round one.  The fighters went to their corners.  William sat on his stool. 
            “Ya’ got t a’ punch, William,” said Angus, tending to the cut above William’s left eye.  “Ya’ lettin’ that bastard walk all over ya’!”
            William took a swig from the water bottle, and then spit it out into the bucket.
            Mungkut was taking a swig from his bottle and spitting it out.  A cold bag was being rubbed on his back and shoulders.  He knew he had to be quick, but careful.  The Scotsman was tough and could not be underestimated.
            William had taken a lot of punishment.  Angus was not pleased with his performance in round one.
            “Use ya’ combos, William,” said Angus, pouring some water on William’s back, “He didn’t like those hooks to tha’ body!”
            “He’s right,” said Hess to Nigel.  They were both close enough to hear Angus work William’s corner.  “If he can land another series of those shots to the body, he could take Mungkut out.”
            The referee called for the fighters to stand.
            Removing the wooden stool and other care items, Angus yelled out, “Enough a’ this crap, William!  Get back in there and fight him, dammit!”
            The bell rang, starting round two.
            William worked the jabs with some success.  Mungkut worked the low kicks. 
            William had an idea.
            Mungkut delivered a solid kick to William’s ribs.  Craftily, William played possum and dropped to a knee.  The crowd exploded with applause, and Mungkut was electrified.
            Mungkut was determined to hit the flying knee and before the referee could start a count, sent it toward William’s face.
It was just what William wanted.
            With the momentum of the knee taking Mungkut in one direction in air, William moved a bit to his left and brought a right hook that connected solid to Mungkut‘s chin, effectively clothes-lining the kickboxer and sending him to the mat.  William was on his feet, casually walking to a neutral corner as the ref stood over Mungkut.  The ref yelled at Bancha, who was hysterical.  “Watch your fighter,” shouted the ref. 
The crowd stood in awe, stunned.
            The fall was concussive.  The back of Mungkut’s head slammed hard against the canvas.  Mungkut was still dizzy as he rose to his feet.  He put his hands up, but had yet to shake off the cobwebs from the blow and the fall.  He approached William and delivered a round kick to William’s head. 
            William blocked it easily as Mungkut had lost his snap.  William sent a lightning fast left jab to Mungkut’s midsection, followed by a right hook to the same area.  Mungkut responded with a slow jab, catching William in the face before staggering backward, breathless and hurt.  He had never been hit so hard by a hand technique to the midsection. 
            William followed the retreating Red Dragon, throwing two fast jabs to the head and a cross.  Mungkut covered up, but ate three brutal combination uppercuts, each landing one right after another.  The force of the shots sent Dragon into the ropes, his arms falling away from his head.  A right cross and a left hook to the head took Mungkut out of the fight.  He began to fall against the ropes, his legs buckling, his body falling against the ropes and down toward the canvas.  On his way down, William threw one last cross that connected with the Red Dragon’s chin for good measure.  With all the grace of a statue toppling to the ground, Mungkut fell face first to the canvas with a resounding thud.
            The referee waved off the fight.
            “Wow,” shouted Nigel.  “Things have gone bloody pear-shaped for Bancha!  Bloody hell!”
            Hess and Nigel clapped and cheered as William walked to his corner.  The referee stopped waving his hands and waved in the ringside doctor.  Mungkut “Red Dragon” Souvanaphong was out cold.  The crowd went crazy.
              William raised his hands in victory.  It was a big win; a win he hoped would land him on a card in a promotion in America.  It was hard for him to believe. 
            “And I thought William was rubbish,” said Nigel.
            “Not today,” said Hess.
            The crowd could not believe it, either.  No one had ever seen the Red Dragon lose in such a stunning fashion.  It wasn’t necessarily that they cared for him and were fans, but more that they always bet money on him.  Most everyone lost big on this night.
            Two men were very happy, though.  While everyone was betting on a victory in the final by Dragon, Angus and William had pooled their cash and bet on William to win at 5 to 1.  Coupled with the fight purse, the two fighting Scots had had a good night. 
            The announcer grabbed the mike again as a medical team tended to the still fallen Mungkut.  William was pulled away from the crowd around his fallen opponent by the referee, who took him to the center of the canvas.                                                                  
            “Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of tonight’s kickboxing tournament via knockout in :35 seconds of the second round…. William Campbell!  Campbell!”
            Angus stood by William.  Both glanced at each other as the crowd cheered. 
            “We did good tonight, my friend,” said William, “Very good.”
            Lighting a cigarette that was passed to him by Angus, William took a long drag.  Taking the cancer stick in his right hand and exhaling, William and Angus waved at the crowd
            Hess turned to Nigel.  “I want to talk to them.  Can you get me to them?”
            “I can do that.”

*   *   *   *   *   *



In the second passage, taking place in the early 90s, a fight breaks out in the Cadillac Ranch in San Uvalde, where members of a fight club who also work at the establishment take out the ruffians.  But the troublemakers find they might have a new opportunity open for them.


CHIN WU AND CHAIN

            The heavy quad speakers above the dance floor of the Cadillac Ranch thumped as Duice’s “Dazzey Duks” blasted across the overcrowded club dance floor.  The Cadillac Ranch used to specialize in country music, but the demand from the libidinous eighteen-year-old girls wanted hip-hop.  So to accommodate them, the club changed and played a mix of everything on Thursday nights, from hip-hop, to Top 40, to country, tejano, and anything else the DJ wanted to play.  The excitable young preppies came in, the kickers’ numbers diminished, although many still stayed around for the most part.        
Saturday and Sunday was strictly country and Tejano night, after all.
            Vladymir Saltovsky did not really care one way or another.  The responsibility of keeping the Cadillac Ranch safe for the customers (thus, making it a safe place for Mr. Hess to make money) was Vlad’s only concern. 
            The Cadillac Ranch was of modest size, but still allowed for plenty of space for people to have some fun and still not be a fire hazard.  Patrons would enter from the front door and be led along a railing to the ticket booth.  A large area below the railing and the line of people was set aside for the pool tables, which stood about three feet below the entrance and the railing.  The wooden dance floor was elevated off the ground about three feet with the DJ booth sitting in the middle.  A steel railing encircled the oval dance floor, with four stairways at four symmetrical points beside the floor.  A set of booths lined one side of the wall near the dance floor.  A set of tables were on the opposite end, accompanied by several large leather loveseats.  Small tables encircled the elevated dance floor.  Four televisions played music videos, rodeos, or sports, depending on the theme of the night, in four different areas.  One was near the booths, one above the dance floor, one was near the pool tables, and the last was near the tables opposite the booths.  A large projection screen was above the dance floor, displaying the kind of images you get when your computer uses a music player and translates the music to bizarre shapes, colors, and gyrations. 
            All around the bar on the walls were the usual dance hall knick-knacks: mirrors with fancy beer labels, cow skulls, Texas flags, and Christmas lights.  A large disco ball hovered and spun slowly over the floor, reflecting the colored lights beamed from fancy light sources.  The lights danced and wiggled above the floor.  Colors spun, jumped, and raced across the faces and bodies of the patrons dancing on the floor.
            Three times a week, Vladymir was to protect these patrons.  Standing by the railing on the elevated dance floor, below a television set, Vlad stood, stoically.  His cruel and strong Russian facial features intimidated the male teens that danced near him and enticed the females who admired him from a distance.  A dark blond moustache sat between his mouth and nose and moved down to his chin.  Since his arrival in the U.S., Vlad had let his hair grow out.  It was now a long mane of dark blond hair, tied in the back, and dangling just below his shoulder blades.  The hair covered several large yellow letters of the word SECURITY written across his broad back.  Though the purple Cadillac Ranch shirt was a double extra large, it still fit him tight.  A two-way radio was discreetly placed behind one ear.
            The shirt was tucked into a pair of faded shorts that hung just above his knees.  On his feet was a pair of blue wrestling shoes.  Vlad certainly was a big man.
            Vladymir and the other bouncers were experiencing quiet times, troublewise.  There had not been a knife-wielding thug or drunken kicker looking for trouble in several weeks.  Though it was nice to have such peaceful gatherings, not having any fights to contend with was making Vlad edgy. 
            “Hey Vlady!” yelled Murphy, a fellow bouncer, from below the elevated dance floor, “Did you get the message from Hess?”
            “No.  What did he say?” asked the burly Soviet in a heavy accent that Murphy had a hard time understanding.
            “Uh,” said Murphy, trying to translate in his head.  “Oh, yeah.  You need to meet with him tomorrow at around 3:00 to talk about the possibility of a tournament you might be fighting in next month.”
            “I will find him.  Thank you.”
            Murphy proceeded to the pool tables to monitor for possible trouble.  Vlad leaned on the railing of the elevated dance floor and looked at the people coming through the crowded entrance.  His mind drifted to the fight. 
            His training had been coming along, in his opinion, and he had trimmed down from nearly 285lbs to a trimmer 250.  He could move easier, shoot quicker, and grapple better.  His conditioning was good, but could still be a lot better. 
            He was happy that Hess had found some people his size to work his Sambo again.  Most of the fighters were volunteers from the East Side Baptist Church.  Hess was searching for sponsors around town to help finance the stable of fighters and bring pride to San Uvalde.  The East Side Baptist Church was the first to jump on the bandwagon.
            The East Side Baptist Church, for all intents and purposes, was your regular Christian community.  Services were held throughout the week, with Sundays being the most important days.  Naturally.
            The church sponsored religious retreats for youths and adults both on site and off at a small ranch owned by the church outside of town known as “The Valley of Jesus”.  Adults and youths would spend weekends at the beautiful ranch and learn the Word.
            The pastor and spiritual leader of the church was Father Hugo Farkas.  Pastor Farkas was a breathtaking orator, whose sermons aroused the congregation to spiritual passion and inspiration.  He was a generous philanthropist in the community, donating thousands of dollars to local charities and also the police department. 
Above all, he was a decorated war hero.  He was also quite the dynamo, a fascinating surprise considering he was in his seventies.  Most people attribute his high energy to his service in the military, which spanned generations.  He served in World War II and was later awarded three purple hearts for his efforts in the battle of Guadalcanal.  In Vietnam, he was awarded one Purple Heart and a Medal of Honor for courage above and beyond the call of duty while holding and securing single-handedly a small hill near the Mekong delta.  He also served in the Korean War as an intelligence officer. 
            Hugo’s final military journey sent him to the Gulf War.  Though Hugo could talk your ear off about his experiences in the previous wars, he remained silent on his involvement in Desert Storm.  Although, he would always tease that he could tell you, but he would have to kill you.
            And it’s this mysterious air that surrounds Hugo and the church that have had the community wondering, behind closed doors and in casual conversation, what is really going on at the church.  For years, rumors surfaced, gossip abounds.  Some say the East Side Baptist Church, a large three-story white brick building, is actually a front for an underground base.  The nuns that work his front office are always mysterious, but very nice.  The control hub they man always raises suspicion, but no one says anything.
Others say that there is no underground base, but there is an underground bunker that Hugo stockpiles with weapons from his gunrunning.  Hugo is confirmed to have a hand in the local gun shop. 
            Still others say he deals arms to the highest bidder, with connections through his travels and the military.  Outrageous stories even claim he supplies weapons and arms for a local group of mercenaries, who some claim are either aliens or “mutant animals”.  Rumors abound that he had a hand in the big cat catastrophes from the 80s that occurred near the Nueces River.  All wild speculation.
Most people dismiss most of those rumors as fantasy.  And even if some or all of it were true, Hugo has kept his nose clean.  Keeping the police department coffers filled with generous ‘donations’ and offering discounts at the formal gun shop never hurt either.
            These same connections gave Vladymir plenty of people to train with.  The East Side Baptist Church flew men from around the state, nation, and world to train with Vlad.  It was excellent.  Most were Sambo stylists, but Hess would bring in people to work on Vlad’s striking, including kickboxers, western boxers, and karate stylists.  Not only was it good to learn the techniques, but also good to fight the different styles.  Hess was building a winner.
            A young temptress began to dance around Vlad, running her hands around his broad shoulders.  The stimulation brought Vlad out from the contemplation and back into the Ranch.  He grinned, but ignored the nymph and continued to monitor the club.
           
            “I swear, the next time I see Raphael, I’m going to kick his ass!”  yelled the troubled street tough as he delivered a vicious kick to an aluminum trash can in a back alley of San Uvalde.  It flew and bounced against a dirty wall.
            “C’mon, Chain, relax,” said Dagger timidly to his gang leader.  “If Raphael wants to run around with those West Side pendejos, then let him.  Everyone knows the South Side is best.”
            “He betrayed us, Dagger!  No one betrays the South Side Animales!”  Chain kicked at another aluminum trashcan.  The crashing noise echoed down the alleyway.
            Chain was wearing torn blue jeans and a leather jacket emblazoned with a patriotic American flag design.  He also wore a matching bandana around his head.  Underneath the jacket was a white t-shirt. 
            Chain was a big young man in his early twenties.  He was constantly lifting weights to build and maintain his strength for defending himself with ruthless aggression, a necessary quality for a life on the streets.  His baby face was marked from the fights he had participated in throughout his life.
            Chain was the child of Esmeralda Esparza and a man who never stepped forward as his father.  Chain grew up with three older brothers and two younger sisters.  Esmeralda was not much help raising any of them, and the largest portion of the child raising came from Esmeralda’s mother, Constancia.  Chain, whose real name was Alejandro Appolonio Perez, was constantly bullied by his older brothers.  His grandmother was not much help to him, apart from cleaning up the wounds his brothers opened. 
            Chain grew up angry, but had a good sense of right and wrong.  When Chain was 14, his oldest brother, Jorge, was talking back to his abuela ConstanciaThis kind of behavior had gone on for years, with the three older brothers disrespecting not only their grandmother, but also their own mother, on a daily basis.  On this particular day, Chain was fed up.  Though the family’s life was hard, Chain recognized early the love and the efforts made that abuelita Constancia and his mother gave to the boys and the girls.  His own inner anger and frustration at the mistreatment boiled over and Chain challenged his brother.                                                                                               
            “Ya me canse de todo este pedo, Jorge!” he yelled at his brother.  “You leave abuelita alone!”
            Surprised, Jorge responded, “What are you going to do about it, cabron?”
            “C’mon outside, if you want to know,” challenged Chain as he stepped out the door.
            Jorge was a little scared, as he had never seen Chain behave like this before.  But to save his pride, he followed.
            Before the back door even closed, Jorge was beat down within an inch of his life.  Grandmother Constancia watched through the screen door, old and helpless.  She yelled for Chain to stop.  Chain’s little sisters, then three and five, were crying near her side.
            “Alejandro Appolonio!  YaDeja lo!  Es tu hermano, Alejandro”, she screamed, pleading with Chain to stop pummeling his own brother.
            Chain heard her voice.  He punched his brother one last time in the face from his mounted position.  Jorge’s head was cut.  Hematomas were forming and his face was beginning to swell.  Blood was flowing from two spots on his forehead.  Another cut on his cheek dripped blood, and his mouth was red with blood.   Jorge weeped as he held his  hands in a pleading manner towards Chain’s face.
            Chain rose from his brother’s body and ran to his grandmother, embracing her.  Tears formed in his eyes.
            Several days later, Jorge ran away.  No one ever saw him again.  The other two brothers became respectful, not only of abuelita Constancia, but of their mother as well.  The family was united when they were together, but fought for their lives outside of the home.
            Chain graduated from High School and got a job as a bagger at a local grocery store, but could not stay out of trouble.  Several run-ins with police and some time in jail made Chain harder, more bitter, more angry.
            Five years out of school, with little to no work, Chain gained cash through money fights on the street.  The money was for him and his family.  Chain would give at least half of his earnings from the fights and other illicit activities to his family.
            “C’mon, Chain, let’s just…”
            “If you don’t stop whining right now, Dagger, I’ll smash your ass!”  Dagger looked at his leader in fear, but also with respect.  He didn’t want a ‘Buffalo Punch’, as Chain called one of his favorite strikes.  Sometimes referred to as a ‘double ax-handle’, it was a double-handed strike to the face or head that could come at any different direction.  “That’s better.  Look, let’s go do something.” 
            They began to walk to the mouth of the alleyway that led to the street.  As they walked, they noticed a group of young men walk by.
            “Hey Chain!  It’s Raphael!”
            “Where?” asked Chain.  His voice filled with anger, thirsty to unleash brutality.  They walked to the street.  The lights lit the sidewalk in the humid, still night.  They looked toward the group of people that had just passed, who were crossing the street over a block away.
            “It’s Raphael.  The baboso!” growled Chain.
            “They’re going to the Cadillac Ranch!”
            “Well, I hope you have five bucks,” replied Chain, “because that’s all it’s going to cost to watch Chain kick the shit out of that son of a bitch!”
            Dagger reached into his pocket.  “I’ve got a ten.”
            “Good, because you need to pay my way in, too.  Let’s go.”
            They crossed the busy street, stopping traffic at the intersection, cussing and threatening drivers, in hot pursuit of the rival gang and their new member.

            “Well that boy wasn’t very nice,” said Veronica Sanchez in perfect Spanish as the roomy white Rolls Royce drove by the two angry gang members.  She shifted in her seat.  Her high cut sequined red outfit caught light from outside the vehicle, shimmering on her body.  The chauffer looked in the rearview mirror and grinned.  Her long black hair and tanned complexion was a complement to her small, round face.  Her dark eyes were passionate, her lips full.
            “Donde, amor?” asked the masculine masked Mexican, El Aire, sitting in the back seat to her left.  He turned his head to look out the back window.
            “Ay, Veronica!  Todo el tiempo…” began another woman who sat on the other side of El Aire.
            “Cayate, amor!” said El Aire to the sensuous woman sitting to his left.  “Dejala.  Veronica just wanted the boys to be a little more polite.  Didn’t you, amor?” 
“Well, yes,” she said, looking at El Aire.  “But what about you?  You’ve been rude to us since you picked us up.”
“What do you mean?”
“When we arrived at your home, you ravished us and have been ignoring us since.”
“Yeah,” said Delihla.  “Why do you just use us like that.”
“Because you like it,” he said, plainly.
The girls looked at each other.  They shrugged.
“Don’t be ashamed, girls,” he said.  “I would expect nothing less than that from such, uh…” He hesitated, looking for the right words.  “Such wonderful private dancers.”
The girls just nodded.
“Yeah,” said Veronica.  “I guess you’re right.”
Pulling Veronica’s face towards his, El Aire leaned in and kissed her lustfully.
            “What about me, Aire?” asked Delihla Gutierrez, a buxom, tan, and healthy siren in a heavy Mexican accent.  “Don’t you miss my always generous lips?”  She stared at the two lovers, engaged in a passionate kiss.  Her hands began to caress El Aire.  Her high-cut black sequined outfit shifting to her movement.
            Diego slowly pulled away from Veronica, whose eyes were still closed with lust, and gently approached Delihla. 
            “El Aire never forgets any of the women of his collection.” 
            Taking Delihla by the back of the head, he pressed his lips to hers.  Their tongues clashed in ecstasy. 
            There was no sense in the girls defending themselves as paragons of virtues.  They were escorts, plain and simple.  And yes, they did enjoy El Aire’s company.  They wouldn’t have played the ‘use me’ card if they didn’t want that attention again.
            Veronica, aroused at the last kiss, moved toward Diego and Delihla.  Her hand reached around his pinstriped Versace suit, feeling his toned stomach and chest through his shirt.  The plush maroon seats became warm with the fire of passion as she devilishly began to nibble on Diego’s neck, below his sacred mask.  With one hand, she reached down toward the midsection of his matching pants and began to encourage his arousal to maximum height and width.  Diego pulled down Delihla’s top and began to fondle her breasts.  She was already breathing heavily.  Diego was rubbing her nipples the right way with experienced fingers.  As Veronica moved even closer to Diego, Delihla reached for Veronica’s intimate passage and began to caress her most delicate area.
            “Ladies,” said Diego amid the moans of the lustful satyrs, “You must start to control yourselves… starting tomorrow.” 
Rolling up the privacy window to protect the chauffer, Diego unzipped his pants.
            As the window closed, the chauffer pouted.

            “Wow!  So this is the Cadillac Ranch?” asked an excited Chin Wu to Chris and Mandi as they walked from the parking lot to the line.
            “You got it, my friend.  Man, I’ve been waiting for this all night.”  Chris checked for his wallet as they walked to the line near the building.  “You mean you’ve never been to a place like this?”
            They got in line.
            “Never,” replied Chin Wu.  “It seems like so much fun!”
            “Wait ‘till you get inside,” said Mandi.  Music blared from inside.
            Chris had taken Chin to his apartment where they both cleaned up before arriving at the club.  Chris had put on his best preppie outfit: striped Tommy shirt, faded designer jeans, and classy leather shoes.  Chin Wu freshened up his black gi with a chemical spray detergent.  Chris offered a few dabs of cologne as well.  Chin accepted. 
            Mandi then picked them up in her gray Eclipse.  Mandi had put on a low cut spaghetti strap black shirt that revealed her strong stomach, navel piercing, and the cleavage of supple, young breasts.  She was wearing torn and faded blue designer pants with black heels.  Chin Wu could not help but notice that she smelled wonderful.
            Standing in line, Chris noticed the people staring at Chin Wu in his traditional gi.  It made Chris feel a bit uneasy.  The gang-types seemed to be staring and laughing at Chin, who did not in the least notice.
            Chris turned to Chin, who was still in awe at the building, the neon lights, and the night sky.  “Look, Chin, I know this is your first time here.  I just want you to know that things here sometimes get pretty wild.  Sometimes people pick fights and stuff,” said Chris nervously, the gang-types still staring them down.  “I wouldn’t want us to get hurt.  Do you know what I mean?”
            “Don’t worry, friend, “said Chin Wu with a smile, “I’ll protect you!”
            “Thanks,” said Chris with a dubious grin.
            After several minutes and general conversation, they made their way to the doorman.
            “I.Ds, please,” said the Hispanic doorman.  He took the I.Ds.
            “Hey guys, scope it out,” said Mandi, turning their attention to the white Rolls Royce that pulled up to the dance club.
            “Fancy car,” said Chin, “Do you know who it is?”
            The chauffeur pulled the side door open, and Delihla Gutierrez stepped out.  A majority of the males in line began to whistle.  She looked good, even though she was a bit sweaty and her hair needed just a little more attention.  Next stepped El Aire.
            “Who are they?” asked Chin Wu.
            “I don’t know,” replied Charlie, “But they sure look important.”
            “It’s El Aire,” said Mandi, admiring the shining mask and slick suit of the luchador.  He was adjusting his tie as he stepped from the vehicle, putting his coat on.  “He’s a Mexican wrestler who lives here in town now.  He’s quite the lady-killer!”
            “What is a ….” Chin Wu was stopped midsentence as Veronica Sanchez stepped out of the Rolls.  Chin Wu’s mouth dropped open.  Veronica straightened her hair as best she cold as she looked across the crowd in front of her as she approached El Aire, who was holding Delihla in his other arm.  Veronica caught Chin’s gaping stare and playfully winked back as they proceeded into the Ranch through a side door.
            “Did you see that?” asked an ecstatic Chin Wu, “She winked at me!”
            “Who winked at you?” asked Mandi.
            “The girl in red!  She winked at me!”
            “Oh, give me a break,” said Chris.
            “I’m serious!”
            “She sooooo did, Chris.  It was funny!” said Mandi.  “Well, Chin, looks like you have something to look forward to when we get in there, huh?”
            “C’mon, Chin,” said Charlie pushing Chin through the door with a laugh, “And Kim Basinger wants to boff me!”
            The trio entered the Ranch.
            As the Rolls pulled off, the two south siders passed it.
            “Do you see him?” asked Dagger.
            “I think he already went in,” replied Chain.  “It doesn’t matter.  We’ll find him when we get in.”
            “Chain, what are you going to do when you find him?  You can’t beat him up in there.  Security will…”
            “Fuck security,” said Chain, “It doesn’t matter.  I’ll kick his ass and any security that thinks of jumping me!”
            A preppie in line stared at Chain with disgust.
            “What are you looking at, gringo baboso?” said Chain, glaring at the prep, who turned away.  “Maybe if I’m lucky, Raphael’s ass won’t be the only one I kick!”
            After several minutes in line, they made it to the entrance.
            “I.D.s please,” said the Latin doorman.  “You’re going to need to give me your wallet chain, sir,” he said to Chain.
            “Shit,” said Chain, very disappointed.
           
            “Vlad!” yelled a voice from a cross the crowded dance floor.  It was Elias, another one of the bouncers.
            “What news, comrade?” asked the Russian.
            “Santiago tells me he saw two known gang members come in tonight.  One of them is named Raphael and the other Chain.”
            “The names are no good to me.  Tell me what they look like.”
            Elias continued, ignoring the sharp tone.  “He said one was in a red flannel shirt and the other was dressed in a leather jacket with an American flag.”
            “I’ll keep my eye out for them.  Thank you.”
            “No problem.”  Elias returned to the tables.
            “And Elias,” called out Vladymir with a grin as Elias turned around, “Forgive my short tone.  I do not mean to offend.”
            “No offence taken, ‘comrade’,” replied Elias.  He turned and walked off the dance floor.
            Vladymir turned around and looked toward the door.  A large crowd was coming in.  It was the ten-thirty rush, and the sociably late crowd was on its way in. 
            Veronica, El Aire, and Delihla passed through Vlad’s sightline as they walked to their reserved booth.  El Aire waved.  Veronica grinned.  Delihla blew a kiss.
            “El Aire,” muttered Vlad with a laugh and returned the wave with a grin and a nod.  Vlad was curious as to why Hess allowed the masked man to join his stable.  But when he saw El Aire display his grappling skills in training, Vlad understood.  The two became friends, sharing grappling skills and tactics in training.
The sexy trio approached a booth hidden in the corner.  Vlad scanned the crowd again, looking for the two potential troublemakers Elias had warned him of.
            “She’s in here somewhere, Chris, I can smell her perfume!”  Chin Wu looked around the crowded dance hall for the alluring temptress.
            “Well, I can smell perfume, too.  But from Candace North!” Chris pointed to a lovely, dimpled young lass tearing up the dance floor.  The girl waved back to Chris.  “C’mon, Chin.”
            “I’m going to get a drink, guys,” said Mandi.  “I’ll meet you up there in a bit.”
            “O.K.,” said Chin Wu, following Chris to the floor.
            Candace saw them coming and, with a girlish giggle, waved and ran toward Chris.  She came down the stairs off the dance floor and hugged Chris, almost knocking him over.
            “Chris,” she squealed like a small girl, “how are you?”
            “I’m doing great now, Candace,” replied Chris.  He could not help admiring her tanned and supple dancer body.  “When did you get here?”
            Chin Wu was behind Chris, completely oblivious to the conversation.  He was looking around the club, but could not see Veronica, the girl of his dreams, at ground level.  His friend Bonnie Elliot caught his gaze, though.  She was dancing on the floor with her friends, Kristi and Wendy.
            “Hi Bonnie,” said a distracted Chin Wu with a wave.  She waved back and motioned him to the group.  Chin informally left Chris and Candace and approached the girls.
           
            Walking to the bar, Mandi was suddenly shoved into the girl in front of her by someone behind her.  She turned to look.  A young man in a flannel shirt walked away with several friends.
            “Excuse me,” she said, sarcastically.
            “Fuck off, bitch,” replied the man in the flannel.
            “What an asshole,” she said to herself and turned to the bar.
           
            “You know what, Dagger?” said Chain from the lounge area, “When I’m done with college, I’m going to be a professional fighter.”
            “You’re not even in college,” said Dagger, sitting in a chair and searching the dance floor, “Why do you need to go to college if you’re going to be a fighter?”
            “Because I want to do something with my life, pendejo!  I can’t be doing this stupid shit forever.”
            “Well, what are you going to do, then?”
            “I could, you know, get a job teaching or something.”
            “You?  A teacher?  Shit.  With all the shit you gave teachers in school?  No way.”
            “Hey, I have a lot of knowledge.”
            “About what?  Fighting?”
            “Hey, fuck you, man.  At least I graduated.”
            Dagger fell silent.
            “O.K., then,” said Chain.  “I could be a mechanic, too.”
            “You have to go to a trade school for that,” replied Dagger.
            “No, you don’t.”
            “Yeah, you do.  You have to, like, sit in a class and have some teacher tell you how to do it, then you go do it for your tests.”
            “Nu-uh,” said Chain with contempt, “My friend Jaime says his cousin is a mechanic in Floresville and he didn’t have to go to a trade school for it.”
            “Your friend Jaime is a stoner, vato.  He doesn’t even know how to be a mechanic.”
            “Fuck you, man,” replied Chain, “I can do whatever I want.  You watch.”
            “Why don’t you just become a garbage man or something.”
            “Kiss my ass, cada de mis nalgas,” replied Chain angrily, punching Dagger in the arm.
            “Ow, buey!”
            Chain looked into the crowd again.
            “I see him,” growled Chain.
            “Where?”
            “Over there, walking to the dance floor,” pointed Chain.  “Let’s go get him.” 
            The two walked away from their tables and approached the dance floor.
           
            “Vlad,” said Elias over the communication headset, “I see Raphael.  He’s approaching the dance floor on the north side by the pool tables.”  Vlad was on the other end.
            “I see him”, replied Vlad, “Be prepared for some possible trouble.  He looks drunk.”
            “I got you, Vlad.”
            Vlad began a slow walk, weaving through the dancing teens and lights to the center of the dance floor where D.J. Mike was hanging out in the D.J. booth spinning the ones and twos.
            Mike was making an announcement over the microphone.  “Don’t forget, folks, fifty cent Natural Light and Coors all night tonight and well drinks are only a dollar until eleven.  Let’s turn back the clock and play a little cha-cha!”
            Somewhere in the club, Murphy heard the announcement and grimaced.  “Cha-cha?”
            An old cha-cha song began to play.  Surprisingly, many young couples, mostly preps, stayed on the floor.
            Mike saw Vlad approach.  “What’s up, big man?”
            Vlad, who was looking toward the crowded north side of the elevated dance floor, pulled from his pocket an audio tape.  
            “No problem, Vlad.  I’ll put it on right after this cha-cha.”  He inserted the tape into the tape player; a little dust blew off of the device.  It had not been used in years.  “I hope the tape player still works.”
            “These kids will dance to anything,” commented Vlad, leaning on the DJ booth.
            “You’re right,” said Mike, “They like to have fun, that’s for sure.”
            “I like ‘Song of the Volga Boatmen’ myself,” commented Vlad, comfortable in his recline on the DJ booth.
            “I’ve heard that one before, man,” said Mike, making a list of the times of the upcoming songs and mixes.  “Is that the one that goes,” Mike began to hum, “Du DA, du DA, du DA, du DA, *crash* DAAAAAA!?”
            “No, comrade,” said Vlad.  “You are thinking of ‘Polvestian Dance’ (3:20).  I speak of ‘Song of the Volga Boatmen’.  It is sung by large choir and sounds like this,” Vlad began to hum.  “Du Da Du Duuuuuuu, Du Da Du Duuuuuuu, Duuu Daaa Du Da Da Du, Du Da Du Duuuuuu.”
            Vlad was quite the musical connoisseur.
            “Oh, yeah,” replied Mike.  They both began to chant, “Du Da Du Duuuuuuu, Du Da Du Duuuuuuu.”  They laughed.
            “Can you play that for me some night, comrade?” asked Vlad, jokingly.
            “Sure.  I’ll play it between the country and rap set.  The people will pack the floor, I’m sure!”  Mike and Vlad laughed again.
            There was an awkward silence for a second as Vlad glanced toward the north side of the dance floor.  A concerned look spread across his face.
            “Do you still have that bottle of vodka I gave you?” asked Vlad.
            “Yeah?”
            “Give it to me.”  Mike reached under the bar and handed the bottle of Stolichnaya to Vladymir.  Vlad opened the bottle and took a hearty swig.  Showing no ill response to the burning liquor, Vlad replaced the cap and gave it back to Mike.
            “I smell trouble, Vlad,” said Mike ominously, replacing the bottle in its hiding place.
            “Maybe, comrade,” replied Vlad stoically as he glared toward the northern part of the floor.

            “Wow!  A cha-cha!”  Excitement was written all over Chin Wu’s face.  “Can you dance the Cha-Cha, Bonnie?” asked Chin Wu, elated.
            “I’m afraid I don’t know how,” replied Bonnie.
            “I can,” said a seductive accented voice from behind Chin Wu.  Chin took a quick whiff of the air around him.  An overpowering scent overtook his senses.  The fragrance was ‘Narcisse’.  Chin Wu turned around.
            Behind him on the dance floor was the object of his youthful desire.  Veronica Sanchez looked seductively into Chin Wu’s eyes.  “Well,” she said in a heavy Mexican accent, “Are you going to show me what you got? “
            Bonnie, with a grin of approval for her friend, snuck away from the two.  Chin did not notice.
            Overtaken by a warm sensation in his chest and pure infatuation, Chin Wu grabbed Veronica’s nearest hand.  He bowed courteously to the temptress.  With a grand gesture, Chin Wu stepped back and struck a dramatic pose.  Veronica followed his lead and countered with one of her own.  Hand in hand, they created a sensuous picture.  With a subtle tug, Veronica spun into his arms.  Chin Wu, with all the eloquence of a ballroom dancer, dipped his maiden towards the floor.  They gazed into each other’s eyes.  Chin Wu with innocent fascination, Veronica with tempestuous lust. 
            Effortlessly, Chin Wu brought her up from the dip and into his arms.  Her ample breasts greeted the slightly shorter Chin Wu, hiding behind the sequined dream she was wearing.  Chin looked up into her eyes.
            “Let’s dance, caballero,” said the nymph in an alluring Mexican voice.  The music played along as Chin Wu and Veronica Sanchez began to cha-cha.

            “El Aire,” said Delilha in a high, sweet voice, “Who is Veronica dancing with?”  The two were sitting in the corner booth.  Several shot glasses were sitting on the tabletop, followed by two margarita glasses.  Salt lined the glasses; limes slices floated in the Margarita drinks.
            “I don’t know, amor, I can‘t see him.”
            “Veronica loves dancing,” said Delilha, “But you know what I like to do, don’t you?”
            “You’re the best,” said Aire.  He pulled her close and began to kiss her neck.
            “Oh, Aire.  You’re such a tease,” moaned Delilha with a smile.
           
            “You’re very good,” said Veronica into Chin Wu’s ear.  Chin Wu shivered with delight.
            “I learned a lot when I lived in California.  I was champion at a ballroom in San Francisco.”  The twenty-five year old Chin Wu blushed, “You remind me of my partner in California.”
            “I’m so happy I’m in the arms of someone who knows what they are doing,” she replied.  “It’s nice to be with an expert,” she flirtingly said.
            Out of nowhere, a hand came around Veronica’s waist.  Somebody was holding her from behind, but Chin could not make out anyone in the light.  Veronica shrieked.  The man was beginning to grope her and kiss her neck from behind.
            Startled and a little enraged, Chin spoke with a forced smile.  “Um.  Excuse, please.  Stop touching the lady like that!”
            “Back off,” said the masher.  “Che’s  mine, now,” the thug replied with a horrible Spanish accent.
            “Please leave the lady alone, or I will be forced to make you,” responded Chin Wu with authority.  He began to unbuckle the top buckle on his gi.
            The thug called out, “Vatos, get this pinche Chino!
            A hand grabbed Chin Wu by his right shoulder.  Chin spun around.  Two Hispanic teens dressed in blue plaid flannels, khaki pants, hairnets, and sunglasses stood behind him menacingly. 
            Sunglasses?  In a dark club? thought Chin Wu.
            One of the two thugs pushed Chin.
            With lightning fast speed, Chin punched the assailant twice in the face, stunning the foe.  As his partner approached, Chin launched a fierce kick to the stomach of the second foe, knocking the bully to the ground, cringing.
            Suddenly from behind, the groper was struck to the ground by a double-handed
downward blow to the head.  Chain had attacked Raphael with his ax-handle strike.  The groper fell to the ground dizzy.  Chain pushed Veronica out of the way and took a mounted position on Rafael, raining fierce punches to his face.
            “Mira que hijo de la chingada!” yelled Chain, “This is what you get for turning your back on us!”
            “Get him, Chain!” yelled Dagger, egging his leader on.
            Vlad, still standing by the DJ booth called to his partners, “Elias, Murphy.  Trouble on the dance floor.”
            Though some of the crowd was clearing the dance floor, a crowd had gathered around the two skirmishes.
            Four more gang members now surrounded Chin Wu.  All four were much bigger than the first two.  Chin Wu scoped out his adversaries.  Chin slowly began to take off the top part of his gi.  He quickly unbuttoned it and threw it aside.
            “Hey Chris,” yelled Mandi from the floor, who was buying Candace a drink at the bar, “Chin’s about to fight!” 
            Bonnie and her friends looked into the fray.  “Wow, I didn’t know Chin Wu had such a cute body!” said Wendy.
            “Right?” Bonnie replied.
            “Oh, be careful Chin!” yelled Kristi.
            Chin Wu’s frame was small, but his body sculpted.  His chiseled chest and his abdominal muscles were phenomenal.  After a flurry of motion with his hands and a unique and strong vocalization, Chin Wu stood ready.  His drawn right fist was near his chin while his left was in front of him, prepared to grab or deflect.
            With the left hand, he made a gesture, challenging the thugs to advance.
            The crowd cheered for Chin Wu, whooping and hollering at the challenge.
            Two gang members dashed at Chin Wu.  Chin met the first member with a jab to the face followed by a powerful uppercut then smashed the second member with a jumping spin kick, both feet connecting to the temple.  Both assailants fell.
            The next two charged.  A strong punch from the first attacker caught Chin on his cheek.  The second kicked at Chin Wu’s left knee.  Falling to the floor, Chin Wu reacted quickly and swept the legs of his first assailant.  He quickly jumped back up with a kippup and kicked the second attacker in the face.  Temporarily stunning the gang member, Chin Wu threw two quick punches to the attacker’s face followed by a third strong punch leading into a double hit kick to the head that sent his opponent reeling through the air.
            The crowd cheered again.
            The gang member who had been tripped to the ground was now standing again, holding a sharp blade.  He charged at Chin Wu from behind.  Sensing his approach, Chin stepped to the side, grabbed the leading arm, and flipped the attacker to the ground on his head.  The attacker was out cold.
            A single gang member, frightened by the fracas, made a dash to hide in the restrooms near the booths.  El Aire spotted him, stood up in his seat, and dove headfirst into the thug, flying over the crowd.  Aire’s head connected with the gang member’s chin.  The momentum of his forward motion and Aire’s tope sent the thug flying into the ground, ten-toeing the foe as he fell to his back.  Aire landed on top of him and nimbly rose to his feet.   Aire picked up the thug and tossed him in the direction of Murphy, who was rounding the corner.
            Aire nonchalantly returned to his seat, the patrons clapping.
            Murphy and Elias finally arrived on the scene.  Total pandemonium and confusion reigned as the cha-cha continued to play over the loudspeakers.
            Murphy grabbed Chin Wu.  “Alright, let’s…” he then looked at the floor and saw the six gang members either out cold or groaning in pain.  “Holy shit!”  He then looked at the small Chinaman in his grip.  “Wow.  Rule number one: Don’t fuck with the small oriental.  C’mon, son.”
            Elias had taken Dagger by the pants and was lifting the skinny Hispanic off the ground.
            “Hey, let go of me!  Let go of me!  I haven’t done anything wrong!” yelled Dagger.
            “Shut up!”
            Vlad tackled Chain, who was still beating on Raphael.  Chain tried to spin out of the hold Vlad had on him, but was quickly countered by the experienced grappler, who put the street tough on his back.
            “Pinche panzone, dejame!” yelled Chain in Spanish, calling Vlad a name and telling him to leave him alone.  Chain punched at Vladymir, striking the bouncer in the face.  “If you’re as tough as you think you are, why don’t you just fight me?  Or are you a gutless coward?” yelled Chain.
            A resounding “Oooooooooo!” resonated from the crowd at the Cadillac Ranch and the dance floor cleared in less than five seconds.  Everyone knew who Vladymir was.  Even the KO’d gang members got off the floor.  Everyone knew what was coming.  The crowd began to chant, “Vladymir!  Vladymir! Vladymir!” as the Russian picked the street punk off the floor.
            “Have it your way, comrade,” said Vladymir stoically.  Vlad stood across from Chain and began a ritual beating of a sort, a softening up of his body, in preparation for the fight.  He slapped his chest and shoulders with each hand, his thighs, and then the backs of his hands.  He took off his headset and placed it on the D.J. booth.  Murphy and Elias stood near two of the stairs of the elevated dance floor with their captives.  Chin Wu was allowed to put his gi back on, fascinated by what was about to happen.  Chain took off his jacket.
            Mike the D.J. began to speak into the microphone as the cha-cha faded out.  “Ladies and Gentlemen, don’t forget the fifty cent Natural Light and Coors all night.  Well drinks are only a dollar ‘till eleven.  This next song was a request from the head bouncer, Mr. Vladymir Saltovsky, who is standing on the dance floor prepared to defend you, our patrons, from the riff-raff of San Uvalde.  This is Travis Tritt’s ever popular
            A fast guitar riff shouted from the speakers and the song began.  Chain held up his fists and approached Vladymir.  Saltovsky began to purposefully approach his opponent,
his hands ready to grapple.
            Chain threw a hard right punch at Vlad’s face, but Vlad ducked the blow, shot low towards Chain’s waist, and grabbed Chain by the waist from behind.  Locking his hands, Vlad swiftly shifted Chain’s center of gravity over his, bringing Chain off his feet and into the air.  Arching his back, Vlad threw Chain up and over, smashing Chain’s head and back on the hardwood floor in a spectacular Greco-Roman style back suplex .  The crowd gasped and another “Oooooooo!” resounded around the dance club.  The throw was perfectly executed.
            “DAMN!” yelled Elias.
            Chain was disoriented.  A lump began to form on the back of his head and his shoulders throbbed with pain.
            But Vlad had yet to let go of the waist lock.  Chain struggled to his feet and tried to break the hold, but was heaved up into the air again with the same result.  Vlad let go of the hold and got to his feet.  The crowd continued to cheer his name.
            Befuddled, Chain got to his feet, shaking the cobwebs from his head.  He had a concussion.
            When Chain looked up, Vlad was taking a swig from a mixed drink at one of the tables beside the elevated dance floor.  Vlad handed the drink back to the stunning woman he had borrowed it from.  She grinned at the Russian and winked playfully.  The crowd had a laugh at the expense of Chain, who did not appreciate the mind game.
            Operating on instinct, Chain approached Vladymir.  Vladymir circled to his right, his hands prepared to grab.  Chain feinted a jab, and Vlad shot in.  But this time Chain was ready.  Chain sprawled away from the shoot, leaving Vlad on the ground on all fours empty handed.
            Vlad rose with his hands up, but Chain’s jab connected, followed by a strong right cross that rocked the Russian.  The kid had some skill and a lot of power, that was for sure.
            Another “Oooooooo” emanated from the crowd.
            “C’mon, Vlad!” yelled Murphy.
            One more attempt at getting up by Vlad was met with Chain’s power move: the buffalo punch.  The two fists came down with authority on the back of Vlad’s head and neck, knocking the Russian to the floor.  The crowd gasped as Vlad hit the floor, stunned.
            “Fuck you!” yelled Chain, standing above the fallen Russian. 
            But as Chain finished his rant, Vlad reached for Chain’s ankles and yanked them out from underneath him.  Chain hit the floor hard and solid on his back, the unexpected fall taking the air out of him for a moment. 
            Before he knew it, he was rolled onto his stomach; a painful standing ankle lock was being applied by the Russian.  Chain screamed in pain.  The ankle was moments away from snapping.
            “Give up!” yelled Vladymir at Chain.
            “FUCK YOU!” was the response from the gangster who was cringing in pain.
            With one fluid motion, Vladymir took the weak right ankle, placed it under his left arm, and sat on Chain‘s lower back.  The half crab hold  was straining the lower back and stretching the ligaments in Chain’s knee and ankles.
            “Give up!” yelled Vladymir.  The crowd was going crazy.
            “GO TO HELL!” yelled Chain, stubbornly fighting the pain from the hold.
            The crowd was going nuts.  Vlad held the seated position, but switched the leg under his other arm, putting even more strain on the knee. 
            “TAP OUT!” yelled Vladymir.
            Chain did not respond, the pain too much.
            “Finish him, Vlad!” yelled Elias.
            Tying Chain’s worn out knee in between his legs, Vlad moved to the floor and locked on a crossface on Chain, effectively an STF (2:03), cranking the neck at the cheek and nose.  Vlad pulled backward, applying the pressure not only on the knee, but on the neck.
            “TAP!” yelled Vladymir.
            Chain raised his middle finger.
            Vlad cranked the hold.  The pressure, weight, and pain were too much. 
            Chain tapped.
            The crowd went wild as Vlad let go of the hold.  His nose was bleeding, his hair a bit mussed, but he rose in victory.
            Chain lay on the floor, holding his neck.
            Vlad walked to Murphy and called Elias to him.  They still held the other thugs.
            “Throw those guys out,” commanded Vlad, “Bring the small Chinese boy to the office.  I’ll deal with this guy.”
            Murphy and Elias obliged Vladymir as he walked back to the fallen Chain, who was picking himself off the floor.  Vlad raised Chain’s hand to the approval of the audience.
            Vlad shook Chain’s hand.  “It was a good fight, comrade.”
            Chain nodded.  Though he was a thug, he did have honor.  He was beat tonight.
            “Please, follow me,” asked Vlad.

            After meeting and talking with the two men after the fight, Vladymir was convinced that they would make excellent additions to Mr. Hess’ fight stable.  Within the week, both Chain and Chin Wu returned; ready to sign on as fighters for Mr. Hess.  Chin had the blessing of Yin Baiwen.  Chain moved out of his mother’s house and into the small dormitories near the Cadillac Ranch.


======================

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Bowie Ibarra is the author of the 'Down the Road' zombie horror series from Permuted Press and Simon and Schuster.  "Pit Fighters" is a reboot of the fictional combat sports epic featuring fighters from around the world during the advent of combat sports.

You can network with the author at his official website, ZombieBloodFights.com.

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