Chapter 39, Pyra Dice
[BY BLAKE BOWMEN]
“Come along,” Kyle urges and I reluctantly get out of the car.
Myra is there as well, sticking to Kyle like a shadow with that purple wig of hers and a short dress. She hasn’t said a word to me, but I keep getting the annoying feeling that she’s watching me. Waiting to make a comment.
“They said they’d have our luggage sent up later, so we don’t have to worry about our bags,” someone suddenly stepped in to say. A quick glance and I know it’s Jaaco. Urgh.
I scoff. What bags? I didn’t have anything to bring along with me. The so-called bags Jaaco’s referring to is probably whatever Kyle bought me for this trip. I really didn’t want to come along. In fact, I strongly protested against coming, but Kyle insisted I join him at the international gathering in Egypt, much to Jane’s dismay. No doubt Kyle wants to use me against Amber. When will these people learn I have no value to anyone? I sure as hell have figured it out by now. How could I not?
With not much of a choice, I follow Southern Sterling’s leader to the gambling resort up ahead. I’ll admit, though I’ve traveled around the world a lot. Whether to visit family I didn’t like or to make dealings for the drugs I ran, I’ve never seen anything quite like the resort we’d be staying at this year.
Even back at the gate where we needed to pass heavily armed security, I could see the size and money of this place. It feels wrong calling it a pyramid since it’s modern beyond belief, but that’s the shape the resort takes. A pyramid made of glass, metal, and polished sandstone. The pharaohs would be proud. It was located half an hour’s drive away from the prying city eyes - a wise choice considering the amount of tourist it would attract. The thing was massive enough to threaten the actual pyramids.
I walked past the rows and rows of palm trees, towards the automated bulletproof glass doors where the name of the gambling resort was visible. Pyra Dice, it read and I would be surprised if the name was carved from gold.
“The reception is this way,” the nervous guide explains as he leads us through the door. The small Arab man hasn’t stop sweating the moment he picked us up at the airport. I feel sorry for the guy. Even Kyle’s natural charm could not calm him. Not with the two dozen guards following us to the reception. I don’t even know most of them. I can only recognize Jaaco, my ex English teacher, and Nixon with his intimidating beard and warrior-like scowl. He used to work for Amber before Jane took over.
God, I’m glad she was left in Tygerwell.
It doesn’t take long for Kyle to sign in at the reception and disperse the guards to get a feel for the place. Jaaco and Myra stay with us, the former keeping his sharp hazel eyes fixed on everyone and everything. A loyal second in command. All around us, dangerous families and their guards are keeping watch over our every move. I’ve been to an international gathering before. The first year I became the leader of the West. Back then it was much worse for me. I was just a kid with no idea what he was doing. I had to cling to the ties I did have to just stay floating in the shitstorm that was the Internasional Gathering. Never had I tasted quite as much poison as when I spoke to these people.
“Don’t fall behind,” Kyle smiles as he follows our guide to the room we’d be staying at. He snakes his arm around Myra’s shoulder and walks on like he owns everything in this place. The gold decor and natural light make him truly look like some sort of ancient king in that tailored suit of his.
I can feel Jaaco’s eyes on me from behind. He’s been operating as a ghost and yet probably knows more about what’s going on than I do. I clench my fists instinctively but try to hide them from the second in command. I hate that nothing has phased Kyle since Amber’s wedding. If anything, the guy is even more excited than before. Doubling the charm.
We get to our room after quite the walk and an elevator ride. We’re staying on the fourteenth floor in a suite with the same floor space as your average mansion. The guide scans a matte black card at the door and we enter before he hands Kyle the key card. Nervous, the man explains if we needed everything, we should simply call reception. After reminding us of the Introductory Party tonight, he leaves about as fast as one could.
“Not a bad room, ey Blakey?” Kyle asks as he turns around. He lets go of Myra and the girl walks off to the kitchen. “How’s this place compared to the last Internasional Gathering? You went to the one held in Russia four years ago, right?”
I snort and walk past Kyle with my hands in the pockets of my leather jacket. “You could’ve experienced it yourself if you weren’t a psychopath faking his death,” I replied.
“Ouch,” I heard Kyle say behind me, “You know, it really hurts when you say stuff like that, Brother. I trusted you enough to leave West in your hands. You’re the one that threw it away and now I’m getting bashed!? How’s any of this fair?”
I walk over to the massive window and admire the landscape outside. “Yeah, you left the West in my hands,” I started, “But handing a fifteen-year-old kid an empire comes with fine print. The stress, the pressure. The fear that I’d be next. The best leaders the West had ever seen had just died. How would a runt like me survive? More importantly, how could a kid barely able to take care of himself, be responsible for thousands of lives? Every night those thoughts were running through my head. I felt like I went crazy. No...”
I turn back around and hand Kyle a cold look. My mother’s eyes stare at him indifferently. “I did go crazy, Brother. In a world of madness, there was nothing else I could do to survive.”
Kyle and I stare at each other. Like me, he also has those cold grey eyes, but his are the color of rain clouds after a drought. His eyes make people want more.
“I suggest we all settle down. Get rid of jetlag,” Jaaco says to break the tension. He loosens his tie before going to take Kyle’s jacket. “You need energy for tonight’s party, my leader.”
Kyle nods absentmindedly - keeping his eyes on me. “Yes, I’ll go take a bath. I suggest the rest of you freshen up as well.”
Just when I think I can’t take my brother’s stare anymore, he breaks eye contact and leaves to head to one of the many bathrooms this suite has. Jaaco sends me a look that I honestly can’t bother to look much deeper into other than the fact that he probably hates me for betraying Kyle at the wedding. He’s definitely not taking his eyes off of me. Not that it matters. It’s not like I’ll try to escape or anything. There’s nothing left for me to do in this life.
I stand there, in front of the window, and wonder what the hell there is for me to do. I know Amber will be at the gathering as well. But I’m really not sure how I feel about it. I’m still loyal, of course, but I’m also just... embarrassed. Would it be too much for me to go back to her? After she threw me out again. I feel like I might annoy her if I try to get back, so I’d rather just fade away... Urgh, I wish I didn’t have to be here. I don’t want to see anyone. Not as I am now. I’m half the man I was a year ago and it’s just fucking humiliating.
Taking Kyle’s advice for once, I go to one of the rooms and decide it’ll be mine. The people with our luggage don’t arrive much later and one of them hands me a bag that I’ve never seen with clothes I’ve never worn. Kyle really wants to spoil his little brother it seems.
When I’m aware that I smell like sweat, I go to the massive bathroom attached to my room. The place is spacious, a bedroom on its own with a bathtub in the middle of the room, sunk into the floor. It’s made of polished sandstone and an array of bathing oils stand ready for me to never use.
With a touch of a button, I start running the water and head to the intimidating mirror across from yet another massive window. I don’t bother looking at myself. I don’t want to see myself. I just start to undress. I let my leather jacket fall to the floor and I pull my shirt off before tossing it away as well. I start unzipping my pants, but hearing the door open gets me to stop immediately as I look over.
“Can you really not give your brother any pri-” I stop mid-sentence when I notice it isn’t Kyle at the door, but Myra instead.
“What do you want?” I ask with an annoyed sigh.
Myra fidgets with her hands - her fingers toying with a hairband as she stretches the thing round and round. I watch her eyes dart to my abdomen before quickly back at my face. I look down and though I’m definitely not what I once was, I guess I’m not as bad looking without a shirt. Man, I should get back in shape. But then again... For what? I don’t have any fight left in me.
“What is your goal, Blake Bowmen?” Myra asks.
I stare at the girl in disbelief. “Are you serious right now?” I ask her, “Get the fuck out.”
“Don’t you want to get out of here?” Myra continues to press.
“What’s it to you?”
“I can help you get out...”
“And go where!?” I demand.
Myra’s eyes widen and she looks down for a second. “Keep your voice low. Kyle might hear you,” she whispers. I think I spot a brunette strand of hair in between the purple, but I can’t be sure since it’s hard for me to look at this girl... Myra’s saved my life. She’s betrayed me. She spared Owen when she could’ve spared herself. And yet she was a spy for my brother all along... She’s sending me mixed feelings and I don’t know what to do with her.
Just like how I could never tell exactly what color her eyes are, I’m not sure whether she’s a good guy or just another traitor in the sea of snakes.
“Aren’t you working for Kyle?” I ask when the girl can’t answer me.
She tugs at her short dress, fidgeting as always. She’s completely different than what she was when I knew her. She was smart and brave and a bit of a mess, but still helpful. Now? Now she’s this nervous wreck. A shadow of what she once was. Like she’s trying to hide all the time.
“Yes, I’m loyal to Kyle,” Myra says.
“Then why are you helping me?” I ask.
Myra looks up at me. “I don’t know. I just... I just want to help,” she says.
I shake my head. “Well, you can’t help me. I have nowhere to go. Besides, being in Kyle’s hands isn’t so bad. I can keep an eye on him like this,” I explain.
“Oh,” Myra says, disappointed. “But... will you speak with Amber?”
“You’re spying right now aren’t you?” I ask. I send a sharp glare, just like my mother, and Myra flitches so I press further. “Just like before, you’re doing Kyle’s dirty work. He sent you, didn’t he? Sent you to gain my trust and see if I’m planning to betray him again, while I’m not fucking falling for it. No way I’m trusting anyone right now. So you can fuck off and tell my brother that yes, I will betray him. But I’m not saying when or where.”
“No, no, no,” Myra stammers, “It’s not like that at all!”
“Don’t lie to me,” I sneered, walking away from the mirror and to the bath where I press the button to stop the water. The tub is already filled.
“I’m loyal to Kyle, it’s true... I ... For personal reasons, I can’t leave him. But..” Myra pauses, “I can’t be loyal to his cause. Blake, he’s planning something big. You have to tell Amber.” I look over my shoulder and the girl starts walking over. I call her a girl even though she’s a year older than me, but... The way she toddles closer... so unsure and scared, she looks like a child.
It’s frustrating because I want to hate her, but when I see her like this, I just want to ask who did this? Who made her this scared mess?
As shitty as Kyle is... he wouldn’t do it...
I’m reminded of the smile Kyle had when Amber outplayed him at the wedding and I’m not too sure of myself actually.
“Don’t you understand?” Myra pushes. She walks up to me and I look down at her worried expression. “Amber is probably the only person that can stop what he’s planning, but she’s also the only person that can help his plan come to life.”
“What are you talking about?” I ask. I don’t understand a single thing this girl is trying to say.
“The password, Blake,” Myra whispers, “Tell Amber to forget the password.”
“Password to what?”
Myra looks at me and at this point she’s all but trembling. “I can’t say. It’s just... Make sure Amber gets rid of it. Or she should go into hiding like Taminn. If Kyle gets his hands on it... Nothing good will come of it.”
“For someone loyal to my brother you sure sound like a traitor,” I comment.
Myra shakes her head, clenching her hands together like there’s a pain in her chest. Maybe it really does break her heart. Warning me of Kyle. Maybe it breaks her heart that she has to warn me in the first place. “As I said,” she says, “I won’t leave him. When Southern Sterling falls, I fall too.”
No sense of self-preservation, I think to myself.
A fading memory stirs in me. I remember her once mentioning someone saving her life... What else did she say about that? That her life was now not hers anymore?
“I have to go now. Please tell Amber what I said,” Myra whispers before quickly scurrying out of the bathroom. I watch as she leaves.
Does Myra’s life really belong to Kyle? That’s not like my... No. I can’t judge Kyle by the facade he put up all these years.
Not knowing if I can trust Myra’s words about this mysterious password, I forget about warning Amber for now and instead go to bathe. I wash up and soak for a while before taking a nap. By the time the sun sets, Kyle calls Jaaco, Myra, and me. We assemble like the puppets we are and my brother announces we need to finish up for the party. Though I protested, I was forced into a suit. My black hair was gelled back, exposing my scowling eyebrows that always look like I’m thinking about beating the shit out of someone, which okay, is usually the case regardless.
When I’m ready and dressed, I head out with Kyle and the others. Kyle is in a black suit with paint at the hem of his pants while Jaaco is wearing a normal tuxedo and Myra is wearing a dark grey cocktail dress. She still has the purple wig, though she has it in a bun this time - exposing her delicate shoulders and a necklace that reminds me of a collar.
We walk down to the casino, but before I have a moment to really take note of my surroundings, I see someone walking up to me.
Someone I really wish I didn’t have to talk to again after the last international gathering.
“Hello, Cachorro,” doña La Maria greets me, “I didn’t think you’d survive until the next Gathering.”