Undisclosed Location

August 2023

“Ninety-nine, a hun—DAMMIT!”

GLOBAL superstar and resident controversist John J. Truth drops his arms to his sides, causing him to collapse face-first onto the exercise mat on which he had been flexing.

“God FUCKING dammit! I could’a sworn I had you there!”

“Hey, don’t sweat it, boss.” One of the other two men in the room, the wiry specimen with weaselly features and a hooked nose who provides most of the brains to Truth’s personal security duo, throws his interloper a reassuring grin. “You almost had ‘im that time…”

“Yeah, boss.” The third man, built like a silverback gorilla and with a somewhat similar demeanor, joins his partner in offering encouragement. “You were only like one push-up off…”

“Fuck ‘almost’! Fuck how far off I was!” The fury displayed by the man in the tank top wipes the smiles off both his companions’ faces. “It’s still not good enough. And if I’m gonna be ready to crash that fuckin’ snowflake party next month and put all those bastards on notice, that’s gonna have to change lickety-split, So…” He pushes himself back to a horizontal position, before looking the bigger of the two men straight in the eye. “Best twenty out of twenty-five?”

A look of concern broaches the wiry man’s features. “Boss, are you sure you don’t wanna—”

“—no.” The answer, curt and peremptory, cuts across whatever suggestion the man had been attempting to make; still, to his credit, this does not deter him from pushing on.

“But you been at this all morning already!”

“Do I look like I give a shit, Washington?” The man in the tank top gazes up with a fierce glare. “Now shut the hell up and count us in!”

“OK…” The man stands up a little straighter and holds out an arm with three fingers outstretched. “On three…One…Two…THREE!”

The third finger is barely even down before the other two men in the room begin to frantically perform one-armed push-ups, their skin glistening with sweat, their muscles bulging with the strain. They have only been at it for a few seconds, however, when the nearby array of monitors and laptops begins to emit a steady beep, instantly sending Truth scrambling to his feet and rushing towards where the screens continue to display security footage. He then just as hastily rewinds it, his breath caught in his throat, before slumping onto the chair in front of the array, clearly deflated.

“Another Goddamn badger…!”

“Sorry, boss…” The wirier of the two bodyguards grimaces in sympathy, but his associate has no such subtlety.

“You think you ever gonna find him?”

Surprsisingly, Truth does not immediately fly off the handle; on the contrary, when he looks up at his associate, his gaze is surprisingly level, though as clearly pained as his husky tone.

“I know I am, Lincoln. It’s just a matter of time, that’s all.” Then, pushing himself back up to his feet, he quickly regains his usual harsh, direct demeanor. “Now – you two lazy sons of bitches got what you wanted. You had your break. Now let’s get back to work.”

With that, and without even leaving room for objection, Truth once again takes to the exercise mat, dropping down onto the push-up position and waiting for his two acolytes to join him; when they eventually do, he looks up at the one called Washington and repeats his request from moments earlier.

“Best twenty outta twenty-five. Count us in, Washington.”

A few seconds later, Truth and the man called Lincoln are once again engaged in a one-armed push-up contest, the alarm incident from moments before apparently well and truly forgotten.