The crowd was getting settled and was in surprisingly high spirits considering the nature of the match. There were always a large group of people that would come to this sort of match expecting the inevitable outcome, but still hoping for the surprise and excitement of the unforeseen upset. Holden chuckled to watch them, they were in for a treat today, that was for sure. Row after row of spectators had shown up to see if Coble could pull off the impossible and unseat the Hurricane. More had shown up just to see how Westie would put the upstart contender down. The room was hazy with the smoke of cigars flowing from the box seats on the second floor, and the whole room smelled of adrenaline and alcohol.

Holden flagged down a vendor to get some chips for himself and Famke and settled back to take in the show. His excitement and anticipation was palpable. He noticed the hulking form of Neilson in one of the box seats, standing next to Krux himself, looking smooth and relaxed, waiting for his plan to play out. Holden gave Krux a nod, not that the mobster would have noticed or cared, but at this point he almost felt like a secret co-conspirator. He did not approve of Krux’s methods, certainly, but he did feel a certain gratitude. After all, Krux was the reason his life was finally changing for the better. He’d have to remember to send him an anonymous gift basket or something.

His thoughts were interrupted by the announcer taking the stage. Tonight’s turnout was decent, but the numbers had been slipping over the last few years, and they had been working hard to find ways to up the showmanship, so the man was wearing his traditional bowler hat above a flashy sports jacket made of a tacky purple fabric with a metallic sheen with oversized lapels. He looked like a cross between a referee and the ringleader from the circus, and was carrying a large red bullhorn to address the crowd. They were also trying out the idea of having a musical backdrop for the fight, and had apparently hired a couple of trumpeters that were currently having their own battle providing fanfare.

“Ladies and Gentlemen!” he boomed, his arm waving wildly around the stage. “Welcome to tonight’s amazing fight!” Each word was elongated and choking vibrato, but Holden had to admit that it was bringing him in. “In this corner,” the man said, quickly snapping his arm to Holden’s left, “our challenger, five foot ten, weighing in at two hundred and twenty pounds, Vince. The Clobberer. COBLE!” The crowd threw up a half hearted cheer as Coble climbed into the ring and punched his gloves together and made a couple spins around waving his arms, amping up the spectators. The trumpeter on Coble’s side of the ring nearly lost his footing trying to belt out an appropriate, if obviously improvised, fight song to welcome him into the ring.

“And in this corner,” the announcer continued, after waving the crowd down, “our reigning champion. The man that can’t be stopped. The Force of Nature. Six foot two, two hundred thirty five pounds. Jim. The Hurricane. WESTIE!” The crowd went wild, so they could barely even hear the spirited refrain Jim’s trumpeter belted out. No one seemed to mind the unconscionable amount of extra vowels the announcer had thrown into Jim’s last name. They just saw Hurricane, modestly entering the ring and throwing up his arms above his head, simply, subtly. He was wearing an easy smile, but Holden was sure he saw a look of worry in his eyes. This fight was on, and Hurricane knew he was losing.


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