SHADOW OF THE RING

By Enola Jones



Mike walked out of the house and grinned as the truck pulled up. "They're home!" he called over his shoulder.

"Yes!" Davy cheered as he came out to stand beside Mike. "Now we can finish moving in!"

Shaking his head, Mike chuckled at Davy's phrasing. "It does seem like we're movin' in all over again, don't it?"

Micky vaulted from the passenger side and ran around to open the back of the truck. Peter followed at a more sedate pace, pocketing the keys and jerking his head toward the drummer. "He's a bit excited."

"Honestly, can you blame him?" Mike grinned as he walked down the steps and watched Micky -- and Davy, now -- exploring the boxes stacked four to five high.

Peter's grin was just as large. "Not a bit. After that quake, I thought for awhile that we were going to be homeless. So to have the last of our stuff finally here..." He sighed happily. "It's like Christmas!"

"I just wish Andy was here," Davy said as he passed a box to Micky, who passed it to Mike. "He's so strong, he could do this two, three at a time!"

Mike passed the box to Peter, and then faltered. "Uh -- I'm done for now."

Micky opened his mouth to protest, but then saw the hesitating way Mike was moving, turning in the direction of the porch and heading there with his arms outstretched. "'Blobby' moved?"

"Yup," Mike called as he reached the porch. "I swear, it's a conspiracy to keep me from doin' my fair share!"

They laughed and kept unloading the truck. Thirty minutes later, Mike's sight returned and he came out to help again.

This time, 'Blobby' behaved, and they were able to unload the truck as a full team.

Peter went to return the truck and drive the Monkeemobile back home. Mike, Micky and Davy went inside to begin the process of sorting the boxes and the even longer process of unpacking.

Peter returned to find the other three merrily sorting the myriad of boxes into piles. "Bathrooms," Davy informed him, pointing. "Our room. Their room. The kitchen. And the rest," he finished with a broad smile.

"We're the lucky ones," Mike smiled. "All we lost were some dishes and a few pieces of furniture. Everything else needed cleaning, but survived."

Soon, only one box was left to be sorted. They all remembered carrying it out -- but nobody could seem to recall who it belonged to, only that it had come from the closet in Peter and Davy's room.

"Odd," Davy frowned. "And it's neither of ours."

"Or ours," Micky said.

"Open it!" Peter bounced excitedly. "Let's see who it belongs to!"

Mike produced his knife and slit the tape with a flourish. Then everyone stared at what lay inside the mystery box.

Peter reached into the box and pulled out a satin robe. "Bit thin for a bathrobe," he muttered.

Mike chuckled. "That's cause it's not a bathrobe." He took the garment and held up the back. "It's a boxer's robe."

Micky's eyes went wide as he read the stitched-on letters. "'Dynamite Jackson'. Hey, I know about him! He was a bantamweight contender in the twenties and thirties -- till he was blinded in a fight." At their shocked looks, he spread his hands. "My dad auditioned for a role based on him. Didn't get the part."

"I didn't know your dad was an actor!" Davy grinned.

"Well, he never got beyond bit parts. But he did support us okay." Micky smiled, lost in pleasant memories for a moment.

Mike was thinking out loud. "Twenties... thirties... and our chanteuse died in 1940. Wonder if they knew each other." The 'chanteuse' was Gloria Russell, a singer who had died in their house and whose voice kept cropping up whenever they recorded their music.

At least she stuck to the background now.

"Well," Davy put in, "considering his stuff is here -- I'd say he more than knew her."

Peter was poking through the box. "Hey, guys? There's an address here -- this gym still exists. Think we ought to return this stuff?" He shivered slightly as he felt a hand slide over the back of his neck, frowning to realise that all his roommates were in front of him and none were touching him. Okay, this is bizarre...

"Well, it ain't ours," Mike said. "So who returns it?"

"Well, since Peter found it," Davy grinned, "he and I will."

"In the morning," Peter said. "We've still got a lot of unpacking to do!"

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

When Peter and Davy returned from the gym, both looked shaken.

"What happened?" Mike gasped, standing up. "Did you get the box returned?"

"Not at first," Peter admitted. "We ran into some trouble."

Mike sank back into his seat. "What happened?" he repeated.

"We were heading into the gym and this guy stepped outta nowhere," Davy said. "Peter ran right into him."

"He started yelling at me, threatening to knock me out," Peter put in.

Davy rubbed the back of his neck. "And I... kind'a.... lost my temper."

"Oh, this gets better and better," Mike groaned. "What did you do?"

Davy mumbled a reply.

"Again, Dave."

He cleared his throat. "I....I knocked the guy out cold."

"Aw, Davy," Mike groaned.

"It gets worse," Peter informed him.

Mike sighed deeply. "All right -- tell me the whole thing."

"Turns out the guy was a flunky," Davy said. "We were not who he was supposed to shake down. He got the wrong kids. We met his boss Joey Sholto."

"And basically, he's trying to blackmail us," Peter interrupted. "He said he won't sue us for his man's hospital bills -- if Davy will come box for him."

"What?!" Mike roared.

They both nodded glumly.

"That's preposterous!"

"I don't have a choice," Davy sighed. "We can't afford to get sued."

Mike's eyes narrowed. "We'll see about that. Go find Micky."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

By the time Micky arrived, Mike was blind again. He sent Peter and Davy to the beach to talk, then filled Micky in.

"What?" Micky roared.

"My sentiments exactly. So I need you to drive me down to Gold's Gym. We need to have a discussion with this Sholto person."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was a very discouraged and disheartened pair that returned to the Pad several hours later.

Hours of cajoling, negotiating, and out-and-out arguing had landed them right where they'd started.

There was no choice.

Davy would have to fight.

While they were milling this over, Peter shivered slightly, his eyes closing for a moment as his hand rose to his ear. He could have sworn he heard a faint whisper. And nobody was taking its suggestion. He cleared his throat and repeated the words. "Why don't we go to the police?'

The other three looked at each other, startled. It was clear by their expressions that that had never crossed their minds!

"I'll start the car," Micky said.

"Good job, Peter!" Mike said, clapping him on the shoulder. Davy grinned and followed Micky.

"......but it wasn't me," Peter whispered. "It was.... was....."

He heard a small giggle and felt warm lips brush his cheekbone as a cool hand caressed his neck.

"C'mon, Peter, let's go!" Mike called.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The police had been wanting to bag Joey Sholto for some time. They discussed the situation at length with the Monkees.

In the end, they were back to the beginning. Davy would still have to fight.

But this time, the police would be at every fight. Just "taking a dive", though, would not be enough. They'd have to have some kind of proof they could make stick.

And so, Davy's career as a boxer began. With a perverse sense of humour, Sholto gave him the nickname and same colours as the man whose robe Davy had returned and started this mess.

"Dynamite Davy Jones".

Davy hated it, but pretended to be pleased. Anything to stay in Sholto's good graces so he wouldn't suspect a thing.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Three weeks of intense training later, and Davy's first bout was scheduled.

Halfway through the first round, Davy realised this fighter -- The Slasher -- was not pussyfooting.

This was a real fight!

So, Davy called on his training -- and his streetfighting skills -- and knocked Slasher out cold.

But he had a sick feeling that would be his last legitimately won fight.

And he was right. His next two bouts -- with Tiger Smedley and Smasher -- were clearly "take a dive" bouts.

And then came the capper. Davy was suddenly scheduled to go against the Champ.

"But he's not one of Sholto's men like the others were," Davy sighed. "I'm good, but I'm nowhere near the Champ's clalibre. I'm gonna lose. Badly."

Their police handler, Jameson by name, suddenly spoke up. "Maybe that's the point."

Peter turned in his chair. "What do you mean?"

"Maybe the point is to bet against Davy -- and rake in the dough when he loses."

Davy groaned and keeled back in his chair, rubbing his eyes. "How are we gonna get outta this?"

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The weeks passed quickly. too quickly. The fighters met twice with the media. Each time, the Champ would trash-talk Davy -- always in rhyme.

Davy tried to say nothing but good and respectful things, but Sholto took him to task for it. So as the press swarmed Davy the day of the fight, the man said nothing as he entered the arena.

As Davy changed, he became aware that he was alone. His three friends had arrived with him, but now they were absent.

That didn't feel right. Davy pulled on the robe and tied it as he headed for the door to see what was going on.

Davy froze, seeing Sholto and his right hand henchman Vernon walk in. "What--"

Sholto put an arm around his shoulders, and Davy felt his skin crawl. "Looking for your three friends?" When he saw Davy's eyes widen, he laughed. "They're being taken well care of. Just until the fight is over." He gave Davy a little shove. "Let's go."

As they moved on, Sholto ordered Vernon to go make sure the other Monkees were still there. Vernon immediately took off in another direction.

He didn't notice a figure detaching from the shadows and gliding from shadow to shadow -- following the goon.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Vernon opened the door and smirked at the three tied-up Monkees. "Not so tough now, are you?"

"You won't get away with this," Mike snarled at him.

"We already have," Vernon laughed. "With you three here, you can't interfere! And with the sleeping pill Mister Sholto is gonna feed Jones, we can't lo--"

Vernon stiffened, a puzzled look on his face. He started to turn, and a folded metal chair smashed into the side of his head.

Vernon crumpled like a house of cards.

"Jameson!" Peter gasped.

Jameson, their police handler, was swiftly untying the blond. "Free your friends."

"What about you?" Micky gasped as the ropes fell away from Peter and the policeman ran for the door.

"I'm going to go stop the fight!" Jameson called over his shoulder.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Jameson arrived at the weigh-in in time to see the Champ drain a glass of water. From the look on Sholto's face, he guessed it was the doctored glass Vernon had mentioned.

Jameson burst into the room, displaying his badge. "Malibu Police!" he bellowed. "This fight is canceled!"

"What?" the Champ gasped.

Jameson looked at him and cut the rhyme off. "You've just taken a sleeping pill!"

The doctor who'd been doing the weigh-in sniffed the glass Jameson handed him. "Hospital," he ordered crisply. "You too, 'Dynamite'. We have to make sure you're all right, too."

Sholto had begun a slow slink toward the door. He suddenly found himself up against three visibly furious Monkees blocking his way. "Hold it, Sholto," Micky snarled.

Jameson walked over and clamped a hand on Sholto's arm. "Joey Sholto, you're under arrest for racketeering." Sholto opened his mouth,and Jameson cut him off. "We have proof. This time, you're going to jail."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The Champ's blood work contained sleeping pill residue. That, with the Smasher agreeing to testify to get back the money Sholto had stolen from him, was evidence enough to put Sholto away for a very long time.

Davy went to visit the Champ in the hospital, and the older man smiled at him. "Hey, hey -- we'll have to fight another day."

"No," Davy smiled. "We won't." At the Champ's expression, he chuckled. "I got blackmailed into the fight game, Champ. I'm a singer and musician. Not a prizefighter."

The Champ sat up, his eyes shining. "A musician, you say? You sing and you play?" At Davy's nod, a brilliant smile broke across the Champ's face. "Then I repeat -- we will fight some other time. Only our duel will be with words -- our fight will be with rhyme!"

Davy threw back his head and laughed. "You're on!"

THE END




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