The Story of Ray Markman-Part 13
Friday, 5:00 pm – The Conclusion
It’s 5pm at the Union League Club. We crowd into a squash court, not a boxing ring, and close the door. This is a private fight between Alexander Harbinger PhD and Loop Lonagan, man-about-town. That’s right—two of my colleagues and best friends are about to beat each other senseless. And I’m here to enjoy every second of it.
Three rounds to decide the issue. My office manager, Jim Kren officiates. He does college matches and knows his stuff. Bill Blaire stands in a corner with a stopwatch and an air horn. My assignment is to stay out of the way.
And the thing that gets me is I can’t recall what set off the fight. The two of them are helping me research Ray Markman and next thing I know, angry words are flying and the big German challenges Lonagan to a duel. Loop chooses boxing gloves, so I guess it could be worse. They’re not slashing each other with sabres or blazing away with pistols.
Bill Blaire helped get the big PhD warmed up, but Alex doesn’t stand a chance against a tough street fighter like Loop Lonagan. I’ll be walking off with a Bill’s $10K bet after Loop finishes with Dr. Alex.
They touch gloves, and the fight is on.
Harbinger gets in two quick jabs and my assumption that he’s inept in the ring turns out to be wrong. Right away, I know why Bill made that bet. Alex knows boxing and at six foot five, he’s taking full advantage of his reach. He bluffed us all afternoon and I fell for it. As the boxers circle each other, he throws two more jabs.
Lonagan is the pure street fighter and it’s clear that the Marquis of Queensbury rules hamper his style. He crouches and weaves from side to side and I know he’s looking for a chance to step inside Harbinger’s long jabs. He ducks and blocks but a lot of those jabs land and I hear Kren click his counter again and again. Loop could lose on points alone. He hasn’t even thrown a punch.
Harbinger’s style follows his personality. Impeccable form but stylized and calculating. If Lonagan can pick up the pace, he might short-circuit the German’s thinking process. I bite my lip and restrain my urge to shout advice. I don’t want to show favoritism between my two pals—but ten thousand bucks! Things don’t look so good for the good guys right now. If Harbinger gets him back on his heels, this thing could be over quick.
Ouch—that one connects and spittle sprays to the side. Lonagan should’ve laid off the scotch before the match. Overconfidence. It gets you every time and I decide to revise my decoding PhD. Maybe it’s not ‘Piled higher and Deeper.’ Could be it’s ‘Punch hard and Duck.’
The shockwave of the air horn in that small room gets everybody’s instant attention. Both boxers retreat to folding chairs in opposite corners. The German breathes slow and deep. Lonagan is sweating freely and mops his head with a towel. First round to Dr. Harbinger. I can almost see my money swirling in the toilet.
They’re up again. For some reason, Lonagan stands tall—relatively speaking of course. What the hell is he doing? He circles Harbinger in sidelong hops, blocking jabs with his forearms, mostly staying out of reach. Time winds down. Now he’s getting too close. He drops his guard. What the hell does he think he’s doing?
Just like I figured, Harbinger swings for his head, his whole body behind it. As if predicting the move, Lonagan ducks under the big man’s arm. He instantly scores a combination of blows—two to the solar plexus and an uppercut to the jaw. He scores a few more to the gut before they go into a clench and the ref separates them.
Now both men are sweating. Each animal knows the other has teeth. Lonagan keeps his gloves high the rest of the round. The air horn sounds. Lonagan wins round two.
I have to admit, I never expected this to last a full three rounds the way these guys packed away the booze.
Now they’re up again.
Harbinger taps Lonagan’s gloves a couple times then comes right over the top and throws his shoulder behind a long blow that connects square on the nose. The smaller man abruptly goes down.
Kren pushes Harbinger back.
But Loop is back on his feet. He raises his gloves and covers his face but I’ve already seen it. His nose is bleeding, maybe broken.
Lonagan abruptly lunges at Harbinger and absorbs two powerful body blows, but gets close to the taller man.
Before they can clench, Loop drives an elbow into the big man’s jaw that snaps his head back. He instantly follows with elbow thrusts to one side of the head, then the other. One-two-three—just like that. Definitely not Marquis of Queensbury. Kren blows the penalty whistle as Alexander Harbinger drops backwards to the floor like a felled tree.
He lies there, limp, motionless.
Lonagan assumes his boxer’s stance once again but Kren orders him to his corner and signals Harbinger the winner.
I quickly approach and feel the back of Alex’ neck with great care while Bill checks his pulse. The guy’s out cold. I can’t find any evidence of displaced vertebrae or a caved-in skull, but I hold his head immobile while Kren phones the paramedics.
“Ten Gs!” Bill Blaire shouts. “Alex done great! Ten thousand bucks! I’ll take it in ones, Mr. Jonelis!”
I steal a glance at Loop, sitting in his corner, blood running down his chin. I instinctively turn away from the gruesome sight. What made me think he’d fight fair? It’s entirely against his nature.
But I force myself to look again and get a surprise. Loop Lonagan leans back, staring into space with a blissful–yes I said blissful grin on his ruined face. A look of satisfied peace. It’s as if he just had the time of his life. And in that instant, I know that’s just what he did. As his face swells, he looks so pleased with himself. In his own personal way, he won that match as sure as he carried his point about Ray Markman. Ω
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