It was on some farm out way out in the county, down a road that wasn’t even big enough for a yellow line. Cattle pasture with a gate and several yards of a gravel road was good enough. The trucks pulled in and circled around and flipped on their lights. That was your ring. One on one, single elimination, until everybody had fought who had a mind to. A couple organizers who picked the spot and handled the book.
Daniel leaned back against his car, sipping a beer. He wasn’t stupid enough to want to start the evening. Not very many men could start off the evening and last through. Besides, he’d done enough of these that he had a bit of a name. The bookers wanted him close to last, try and drive the betting up. Especially since his fights never lasted long enough for much betting.
He drained the beer, tossing the can in the bed of his truck. He rolled his shoulders, watching the two men in the lights. One was a big farm boy, tall and muscled, probably played high school football. Not much technique, just powerful blows. One of them connected you’d feel it. The other guy looked to be Mexican or something. Small but tough, like a jockey. And he seemed to have some idea what to do. Didn’t just stand there and swing his arms around like fence posts. Some decent foot movement, arms held ok. He ducked in under a big blow and peppered the farm kids ribs with several hard shots before dancing away. War of attrition sometimes.
Daniel’s head fell back and he studied the stars. Beautiful sight. He could still hear the smack of a fist on flesh, harsh breathing, the grunts when a blow landed. He could feel it rising up in him and his hands clenched at his sides. It was time. He walked over to the two guys with fists full of money.
“Booker man, I want in.”
“Next?” Daniel nodded.
“Carl, what do you think.
“I think Hugo there is gonna take the farm boy. Only one other guy wanting in. Woodson here takes out Hugo he’d face Steve Collins,” Carl said. “That fight could be worth some money.”
“I’ll fight them both, Jimmy. I need in now.”
Jimmy shrugged. “All right. Let’s get this one over with first.”
They turned their attention back to the fight, Daniel practically bouncing. The farmer had landed a blow or two; blood leaked from the corner of Hugo’s mouth. But the boy was slowing and Hugo was barely breathing hard, focusing on stiff body blows instead of attempting any wild knockout punches. Daniel snarled as he watched, his adrenaline and need for violence spiking.
The farm boy roared, swinging a wild punch that would take off Hugo’s head. Instead, he ducked beneath it and slammed a hard fist to the boy’s kidneys. The boy cried out, back arching, momentarily frozen in pain. Hugo grinned mercilessly and landed a one two combo, right on the farmer’s chin. The big man stood a minute, swaying and eyes going blank. Then he crashed to the ground, right on his face.
Jimmy stepped into the lights. “All right, winner is Hugo Martinez. Next fight in five. Hugo against Daniel Woodson. Come settle up and place bets for that one.”
Men whooped and rushed up to Jimmy and Carl, cashing in and placing bets for the next round. Daniel never bothered betting, he wasn’t here for money. Wasn’t worth the jail time to get into bar fights. Here he could work out whatever it was inside him and not worry about the cops. Hell, he’d be surprised if there wasn’t cops watching and betting.
Hugo poured some water over his head then took a drink from the bottle. “They say you are tough, man.”
Daniel shrugged. “I get by.”
“Not this time, eh? I’m winning it all tonight. Going to take that prize home.”
Hugo grunted and turned to talk to some friends who came up to him. Daniel tugged his shirt off, tossing it over the nearest hood. Rolled his shoulders and neck again, swinging his arms a bit. Anyone who saw the scars on his side kept their mouth shut. Last time someone made a comment he’d woken up with a busted jaw. A few who didn’t know him eyed the Grim Reaper tattoo on one arm but also kept quiet. It wasn’t a place you asked questions.
He stepped into the middle of the clearing, waiting patiently. “All right,” Carl called out. “Bettings over. Guys, you know the drill. Just fight.”
Daniel watched Martinez step into the circle, taking his fighting stance. Hands up, feet apart. Must have had some boxing training. Daniel just stood still, watching the other man. He wasn’t bouncy any more but he could still feel the the adrenaline flowing. Wouldn’t have been surprised if his eyes were glowing with the shit. This was what the shrink couldn’t understand, this need. Daniel didn’t quite get it himself, just knew it was there and that the fighting helped.
“Do yourself a favour, man. Don’t make me hurt you too bad,” Hugo said. “This is my night.”
Daniel just smirked a bit. Some kind of big prize tonight, not that he paid much attention to that. “All right, go,” Carl yelled.
The grin tugged a little more at Daniels lips as Hugo approached, hands up, feet moving. Figured the guy would mostly once again stick to body blows. Boy was fast, he was going to take a punch or two. But that was all right. Teeth bared as his lips pulled back in a snarl as he watched Hugo’s fist flash toward his belly. Daniel stepped forward, absorbing the blow with a grunt even as his knee slammed up, crashing into the man’s crotch. Hugo doubled over Daniel’s knee, eyes bulged out, not even able to scream out in pain yet. Daniel gripped his head, slamming his knee into the man’s jaw. Martinez straightened up, wobbled a second then fell over, unconscious before he hit the ground.
The crowd was silent for a moment before those who had bet on Woodson started cheering. Jimmy called the fight and the gamblers gathered around him and Carl, collecting money and placing money on the next, and last fight.
“That was uncalled for. No need to put the man in the hospital.”
Daniel shrugged, eyeing the man next to him. Well over six feet and probably hitting three hundred pounds of muscle, he’d been the top man in this fighting ring for quite some time. “Way I learned,” Daniel said.
“Why are you here? Some of us are fighters who can’t do it anywhere else. Some just trying any way they can to put food on the table. But you don’t fit either of those. What, you just like to hurt people?”
“Whatever you say, Collins” Daniel shoved his hands in his jeans pockets and turned to walk away.
A big hand gripped his shoulder. “Ever learn its not polite to turn your back on someone?”
Daniel straightened, eyes narrowing with anger. “Don’t touch me, Collins. I’d hate to break your arm before the fight even starts.”
Collins laughed and lifted his hand. “Oh it’s gonna be a pleasure kicking your ass, you fucking basterd. Maybe they’ll put you in a bed next to Martinez.”
Woodson just growled and stomped off into the darkness between a couple cars. Mumbling curses under his breath and fighting off the urge to slam his fist through a window. Save it. Just plant it in that asshole’s face, boy. Paced back and forth, waiting for the betting to be done and the call to go out for the fighters. He stalked back into the clearing as they announced the prize amount, barely hearing it through the blood lust roaring in his ears.
“Anndd…fight,” Carl yelled, dropping his arm and stepping back out of the way. Daniel stepped forward, eyes on Collins. He’d raised his hands, held loosely in front of him, feet in some sort of stance. Probably expecting a kick to the balls. They moved in closer and Daniel kicked. Collins saw it coming and turned, one hand pushing down. Planning on taking it on his thigh if he couldn’t block it. But Woodson was aiming elsewhere and his booted foot slammed into Collins’ knee. Ligaments tore as it hyperextended to the right and Collins roared like a great wounded beast, desperately fighting to stay upright. Daniel slammed a heavy fist into the man’s kidneys then swept his feet out from under him. The champ crashed to the ground, immediately rolling over and trying to push himself back to his feet.
Daniel snarled, fighting the urge to inflict as much pain as possible on the fallen fighter. Instead he stepped, kicking Collins in the head just hard enough to knock the man out. Stepped back, looking around, his eyes settling on Carl. “Well?”
The two bookers came into the circle to check the champ and Jimmy shook his head in disgust. “All right,” Carl called out, “Woodson took it. See me for pay out. Billy, you two help Jimmy with Steve.”
Daniel shivered, cold as the need to commit violence left him. He grabbed his shirt and pulled a leather jacket out of his truck. Took a long pull from a bottle of water and glanced at his watch. Not too late to go into the city and find a woman to take him home. Violence could do funny things to a man.
He dug into the cooler in the back of the truck for an Ale-8 and turned around to barely catch the envelope of money thrown at his chest.“What the fuck was that,” Carl said, practically hissing in anger.
“A fight. I know you’ve seen one or two.”
“Goddamn Daniel. Shit like that could shut us down. I can’t afford for anyone to start wondering why there are guys in the hospital with injuries like that.”
“So take em to two different counties. Make sure their not in the same state police post. Somebody attacked em or mugged em or something.”
“I know you’ve always been a little rougher than some but this is too much. Shit like this is what brings the cops sniffing around. Don’t come back.”
Daniel said nothing as Carl walked away. Then growled and threw his truck door open.
“You certainly have a way of making friends.” The voice was educated, a white haired older man dressed in a three piece suit, in this of all places.
“Blow it out your ass, old man.” Daniel climbed into the truck and yanked the door shut. The man just walked up closer.
“No need to antagonize everyone.” He dropped a business card on Daniels lap. “Come by this address at ten am Monday. I have work that would suit your, ah, talents.”
Daniel grunted and turned the engine over. The man in the suit stepped back and lifted a hand. “Monday, now.” Backing the truck up, Daniel slipped it into first and threw gravel as he roared down the short farm track to the road. Fuck em all to goddamned hell. He didn’t need any of them.