Author's Note: In my humble opinion, Warrior was one of the best and most underrated films in 2011. The story telling was wonderful, the script suburb, the performances moving. And the ending left me wanting more. So I took it upon myself to write an epilogue of sorts. I've inserted a character of my own design to move the plot. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, please feel free to leave a review. Constructive criticism is always appreciated and desired.
Disclaimer: I do not own the settings, characters or situations in the movie "Warrior". This story is an exercise in creativity only and not to be used for profit in any way.
It became a rhythm after a while; the familiar lull of casino sounds, the scent of cigarettes. The acidic smell had stopped bothering me by now. It had faded into the background with the rest of my surroundings: the music, the conversations, and the computerized sound of coins clattering in a dish. I arbitrarily push buttons, barely registering my actions as I jerk the handle down. The lights blink, the wheels spin and a series of sevens flash and wink cheerfully at me.
An older woman next to me congratulates me on my win, and I offer her a prefatory smile. The elderly woman's face briefly registers recognition. Acting quickly, I cash out, not even bothering to look at the amount. I flash another smile, collect my ticket and haul off as quickly as my stilettos will allow.
My heels click quietly on the low pile carpet. I study the pattern—a tacky design of colored circles and swirls—the words of my boss still echoing in my head. I am not accustomed to failure. As a sports reporter and a woman in a predominately male world, I have developed tough skin early on. It took a certain amount of grit to power into the men's locker room night after night and ignore the bare, masculine bodies around me. You do not get the story by hanging out in the background. You elbowed, clawed and sweet talked your way into an exclusive interview. It was a skill that after 5 years I had gotten pretty damned good at. I was becoming a household name, a fixture on ESPN, a figure seen stationed on basketball courts, football fields and college arenas. I never fail to get the story.
Except once. It was not my fault, per se. How was I to know that the star player of the MLB's biggest team would be indicted on steroid charges at the exact moment that I had stepped outside to take a call? That thirty second lapse of time had cost me a vital sound bite and landed me in the producer's office, hands folded in my lap, getting scolded like a teenager in detention. You did not make it to the big show by making mistakes. And this mistake had earned me a one-way ticket to Atlantic City.
It is not really so bad. MMA fighting is the up and coming sensation and I am at its biggest event. The only trouble is, I know nothing about it. No statistics, no faces. I barely have a grasp of its rules. And there has been no time to prepare. The rookie reporter came down with pneumonia, so here I am, stuck in a smoky casino in Atlantic City, hoping for something interesting to happen so I can wheedle my way back into familiar territory.
I fiddle with my ticket, absent-mindedly going over my game plan. All I need is one story, just one. A Cinderella tale would be best, but I will settle for an upset. There has to be a fighter here with an interesting back story, some harrowing tale of a long road to success. I just have to find him and convince him to talk to me. No problem.
I stroll through the casino with some vague notion of cashing out my ticket, noticing that fewer and fewer people are occupying the machines as I get closer to the back wall. I briefly note one man sitting alone, seemingly as lost in thought as I am. Something about him gives me reason to pause. He looks familiar. Quietly I slide into a seat adjacent to him.
It takes a moment of scouring my mind before the answer comes to me. This man is Tommy Riordan, the black sheep of the Sparta tournament. I had seen him briefly before the opening ceremonies. He is some sort of internet sensation, a nobody who beat a contender to a bloody pulp in some gym in Philadelphia.
Now this is something I can work with.
I take a moment to study my target. Dressed down in a dark thermal shirt and jeans he does not look like much. One might assume he is just a kid—some out of towner down on his luck, gambling his last dollar away on the penny slots. Riordan shifts his weight, adjusting the plastic cup on his knee. This shift in his posture sends the muscles under his clothing rippling. In that brief moment it becomes clear to me that this is a man of considerable physical power, a man to be watched. Under the guise of rooting in my purse for change, I chance a glance at his face. He has messy brown hair cut in no discernible style, gray eyes rimmed in long dark lashes, full, pouty lips that belong on a model. He makes himself unassuming in everything from his clothing to his posture; his shoulders hunch forward, his head is bowed. He's shutting the world out. What stands out though is the absence of the bells and whistles the other fighters possess. No cockiness, no tight t-shirt decorated in sponsor logos, no entourage, not even a glimmer that he has any particular feelings about the chance to win 5 million dollars. You could walk right past him and the only thing that might register was that there was a very sad looking individual playing the slots along the back wall.
A shuffling of feet startles me from my observations. I quickly turn to my game, focusing on the task of gambling for the first time all night. A man is approaching Riordan like he knows him. I make note of his grizzled appearance and also the familiarity in which he speaks to the fighter seated at the slots. Their exchange seems largely one-sided and I feel myself losing interest. My attention snaps back however, when Riordan thrusts the contents of his cup into the older man's face. A host of coins spills out over the carpet, showering the pair. Riordan is staring at the man the way one might look at a cockroach. It is a look that could make a grown man want to run for cover. I am no exception. In all of my years of dealing with competitors who will say anything to intimidate an opponent, I have never seen a look so full of loathing. It makes me wish I had never taken a seat anywhere near the surly fighter.
The older man's back is toward me and I find myself wishing I could glimpse his face. It is hard to judge emotion from the back of a man's head. However, the defeated slump of his shoulders and the sad glance he tosses backwards at an impassive Riordan place me in the older man's corner. I wonder how heartless you would have to be to publically embarrass someone like that.
"Enjoy the show?" a scratchy voice with a thick Philly accent asks me, every syllable dripping with disdain.
I will myself to sink into the carpet and disappear. When the universe refuses to oblige me, I do what I always do when I am nervous. I assume my reporter face.
"Excuse me?" I ask, coolly sliding another coin into my machine.
"You know, you think you're real slick sweetheart, but I could see you over there." Riordan spins in his chair, two imposing arms crossed over his chest.
"Really?" I ask, eyebrow raised. "I came over here to play the slots." I gesture to the machine, mentally slapping myself for sitting down at a game that featured a large picture of a Persian cat.
"Oh yeah?" he leans forward suddenly and I flinch, fearful for a moment that he will strike me. Instead, he glances at the winning ticket propped up against my purse. "200 bucks wasn't enough for you? Thought you'd try your luck at "Kitty Glimmer"?"
For once, words fail me. "I like cats." I stutter.
This comment seems to coax a smile out of him. Or at least his lips twitch at the corners. "I think you like fights, Nicole Ryan."
"You watch ESPN?" I ask.
"I've been known to." He turns back to his game.
"What else have you been known to do?" I see my opportunity.
"Not talk to reporters." His curt statement seems to mark the end of conversation. I am not going to have that.
"Throw coins in old men's faces?" I question point blank.
"You've got no idea what the hell you're talking about." Riordan does not even blink at my accusation.
"And see my story on Sports Center? No thanks." He scoffs.
"It's going to be on there either way. Might as well be on your terms."
"You threatening me?" I have his full attention again.
"Of course not." I wave my hand as if the whole thing is inconsequential. "Just trying to get a feel for the enigmatic Tommy Riordan. Care to shed some light?"
"Not really." He stands up, wipes his hands on his jeans.
"You know," I hurriedly rise after him, not bothering to cash out of Kitty Glimmer. "the less you say, the more attention you'll get." I shove my purse on my arm, barely remembering to grab my 200 dollar ticket.
"So?" he is moving off quickly now.
"So," I maneuver to get in front of him, "Give them a little something. Might turn the heat down."
"Look," he pins me with a glare that could make lesser men shit themselves. "I didn't come out here for popularity and interviews."
"What did you come out here for?" I am intrigued now.
"To fight." Without further preamble he shuffles past me. "Have a good night Ms. Ryan." He calls over his shoulder. "Cash that ticket."
I watch him disappear into the elevator, my winning ticket in my hand. I glance down at it, reflecting that if I really want to win big in Atlantic City this Independence Day, I will score an interview with Tommy Riordan.