I arrived at Doug & Gary’s Tuesday morning carrying a bag filled with notes, a burned CD which contained footage of five of The Killer’s fights, and a change of clothes. My head was filled with doubt, nervous thoughts, anticipation, and a little bit of fear.
It was a lot for one guy to carry around on his own.
The rings on the main floor were empty, the posters on the wall eying them in expectant silence. The lone sound to be heard was the rhythmic pounding of wrapped fists on a leather speed ball.
“Morning Bomber,” I called across the floor. “Is Alex upstairs?”
“Haven’t seen him this morning Nate,” Jason replied without changing his pace. “We were supposed to start sparring half an hour ago though.”
I nodded my thanks and headed upstairs, trying to keep my worry cornered and under control. It was hard not to wonder if the confrontation the day before had been taken too personally, or that it had been more serious than I realized. Pride is a funny thing in young men. Especially in a sport filled to the brim with ego and bravado.
I distracted myself with thoughts of seeing Dawn that night, tried to remember a joke or two that might make her laugh. I hadn’t told Cara about the rendezvous because I didn’t want her making a bigger deal of it than it already was in my head. It had really been far too long since I’d had anything remotely close to a date.
I arrived in Doug’s office and powered up his dust covered computer with a quick prayer to the god of electrical fires. It rattled and stumbled to life and I thought for at least the tenth time that month that maybe the boys should pool some money together to get the stubborn bastard a new computer.
The Slug had a dentist appointment that morning so I was taking it over to review fight footage with Alex. I was hoping that the two of us could put our heads together and come up with a winning game plan. From what I had seen with Cara the night before, step one was simply going to be "avoid the right hook".
The Killer had finished all but one of his victories with a vicious hook to the left temple that took the legs out from under his opponents. One guy looked like he tore up his knee on the way down, his collapse was so awkward and sudden. Watching that replay in slow motion made my stomach churn and filled my head with images of Alex taking that same tumble to the canvas.
With only five days remaining before fight night I was beginning to feel the heat. The last thing I wanted was to send my guy into the ring unprepared.
“Hey Natty, I was looking all over for you,” Tommy said from the doorway of the office. I flashed the burned CD in his direction before bending down to pop it in the computer tray. “Oh, fight footage for the kid to study?”
“Yeah, I want to send him in there armed to the teeth, physically and mentally. Hopefully this stuff won’t scare him off.”
“That bad, huh? Well you might not have to worry about that.”
I straightened quickly, the back of my head narrowly missing the edge of the desk. I stared at Tommy hard and he reluctantly reached a hand out to me. I studied the plain white envelope in his hand for a good ten seconds without moving.
“What the hell is that?” I finally asked.
“Just read it.”
I ripped it from his hand and stared at my name on the front, printed in perfect school boy form. I thumbed it open without a word and pulled the single piece of paper from it, a butterfly heart floundering in my chest.
Thank you for all the time you have spent with me, making me a better boxer. Maybe a better man.
I wish that I could continue to stay with you, I think we could do much good for each other. But I tell you with a great sadness in my heart that I cannot stay in Vancouver.
Simone, my sister, she called me last night. Our mother is in hospital, she is badly hurt. It was difficult to get the details from her, but something happened in the night, an attack by a gang. Lord knows which one. The devil only knows why.
I must go home to take care of her. To take care of my sister. I will fly home to Haiti this morning. I am sorry Nate. I am in your debt for all that you have done.
I hope to see you again one day,