The first night, eighteen years ago, was just Buckley and Benson. Sammy had entered the bar and immediately ordered a boilermaker, and kept asking for refill after refill. Bill Buckley had been sent to pick the drunkard up, but they were right back there after the inaugural PRIMETIME.
In the eighteen years since, the CSWA crowd has grown to include nearly the entire company, and the owners have extended their hours until dawn for the post-show get togethers.
In the eighteen years since, Sammy Benson still takes the same barstool as the first night.
"Another round for my friends!" shouted Sammy towards the bartender, barely out of diapers the first night he sat here.
"On the CSWA's tab, I take it?" she asked, smirking.
"Of course, Ally," replied Sammy, "Like I'm gonna pay for these people to get drunk."
The bartender - Ally - was fast and efficient, and immediately began to line the bar with drinks.
On the other side of the bar, Ivy McGinnis was trying her best to make her way to the staircase. It wasn't there eighteen years ago - but the CSWA has given quite a bit of business. The second floor was solely a VIP area with a few tables and no bar - therefore no reason for people to linger upstairs unless they had business.
Ivy had business. Unfortunately, this was the first time in a long time that a lot of questions for her about her 'delicate state.' She was gracious and genuinely happy to see everyone, but her eyes never left the stairs.
"So whose is it again?"
"F**k off, Teri."
"Jeez, I was joking."
Old habits die hard.
Finally, she reached the stairs. As she walked up, the noise slowly dissolved in a rolling wave, replaced by the low sounds of classical music.
"Didn't they tell you drinking is bad for expectant mothers?"
"My doctor told me a glass of red wine on occasion is healthy," replied Ivy, as she sipped from the glass in her hand, "Haven't you ever been pregnant, Merritt?"
Former CSWA Co-Commissioner Chad Merritt looked up from the stack of papers in front of him, and chuckled. "Can't say that I have. How is it?"
She took another sip. "It's not whiskey."
"Ain't that the truth. How have you been, Ivy?"
That did it.
"How have I been," she said, "What is it with you people?"
Merritt raised an eyebrow. Ivy sat down at the table facing him, and put down her glass. "Every time one'a you owner/boss types disappears for years at a time, you act like I just saw you yesterday, and it's driving me f'kin crazy! How have I been? Not counting Eli, the sanest conversations I've had in the past year and half have been with Craig Miles. How do you think I've been?"
"Calm down, Ivy. That kid's already going to have high blood pressure and way too much energy as it is."
She started to respond, but started laughing instead. The tension broken, she was able to turn her attention to why she was here. "Why'd you come back?"
"Thomas asked me to. Said he wanted to discuss a little problem."
"So you're BACK back?"
"I told him to piss off. I’m sure you can understand why. I really just wanted to see him sweat."
"We need you back, Chad."
"Oh?" he asked, with a sarcastic edge, "Thomas isn't righting the ship?"
"Funny," replied Ivy, "Thomas' tunnel vision hit a wall tonight. He had a great idea with the Gold Rush, but no clue where to go after that. We don't even have another arena booked."
"Well then," said Merritt, "I'd suggest you jump aboard a liferaft before the ship goes down. Oh wait… there’s no ship anymore."
"So why are you here then, really? If you don't care about the CSWA, why'd you come? Are funerals entertainment now?"
Merritt chuckled again. "Thomas forced me out, and I have no interest in trying to work with him anymore. But do you really think I don’t care about my company and all the people and families that worked for me for years? About the legacy? My blood went into the CSWA, Ivy... my blood, my money, my risk. You may be one of the strongest lifelines the company has, but for me it was my life. Thomas thinks he can do it on his own, let 'em fail."
He leaned in towards her. "But that doesn't mean I don't care."
"You want my help?" asked Merritt, as he tore a piece of paper off his notepad and started to scribble some words, "Here. Here's the name and phone number of my contact in Chapel Hill. Call him tomorrow and you can have my old arena down there booked within two weeks."
"You want to save the CSWA," said Merritt, "you can't do it unless the CSWA wants to save itself. Which means you need to run all the old buildings where the fanbase is as die-hard as those insufferable Sox fans. You want to save the CSWA, you've gotta have the will to do it the way me and Tard did it eighteen years ago."
He handed her the folded piece of paper.
"One show at a time."
Without another word, he folded up his notepad with the papers he was reviewing, organized them in his hands, and stood up to leave with an appreciative nod to Ivy.
"Hey Merritt," she said, as he approached the back stairs.
He didn't answer, but he did stop.
"There's still a hacker running around the entire network."
"Do you still have your office in the Enterprises building?"
"Of course I do."
"Then," he reminded her, "there's actually two hackers running around the network."
The back door closed and Merritt left the building with none of the boys downstairs any the wiser.
For Ivy, she stayed put for a few minutes, mulling over what he told her.
You can save the CSWA, if you have the will.
She looked at the folded paper in her hands.
"One show at a time."