This was supposed to be a graduation party. The ballroom was lavish, lacquered wood and gold plating everywhere with a huge crystal chandelier. The setting was right to celebrate another successful collegiate career and yet the men and women filling the ballroom were content to stand around and in small groups and talk. What was supposed to be a celebration was something more akin to a lively funeral. Then again, what’s to be expected when the elites gathered? The gravitas of each person in the room was so heavy that a bomb or gas leak here would see the entire world descend into utter chaos. Real heavyweights in the realm of international importance, and there in the center of everyone were Cato and Marcus Spyros.
Cato was a man in his middle years who stood well over six feet like most men in the Spyros family, but his lean frame had none of the bulk his Minoan lineage was famous for. He had tanned skin, buzzed black hair and an easy smile over a short goatee. Marcus was a young half-Havaaian man with pecan brown skin, taller than his uncle with a thin frame as well, but his broad shoulders made him seem bigger than he was. The younger man had a bald head and a short black beard that glistened under all the lights. Despite the racial disparity between the two, the uncle and nephew still resembled each other in the face. They both had strong jaws, hair as black as ink, the same long aquiline noses and piercing golden eyes, the signifying trait in all members of the extended Minoan Royal Family.
Cato led Marcus around the ballroom introducing his nephew to these powerful people, chatting with them as though he knew them personally. All night Marcus felt like he was some sort of prized horse being shown off. There were many lofty names here and Marcus knew what his uncle was doing. Networking was great and all but this was just too much and Marcus’s social skills were the match of a prized horse. A smile and a nod was usually the best he could manage, but his uncle was good enough to network for the both of them.
“Catotigernus!” A nasal, high pitched voice rang from behind the two Spyros men.
Bidding farewell to the heads of the Iotan Military, Marcus fought to keep a straight face when his eyes fell on Headmaster Matthew O’Neil. The round, immaculately dressed Headmaster of the United Universities waddled up to the pair of them and Marcus tried to figure out why the Headmaster was at his house. He pulled Cato into an incredibly familiar hug, laughing as though he’d just found his long lost brother and that reaction interested Marcus even more. The Headmaster opened his mouth to begin some form of congratulations, he was sure, but Marcus couldn’t let this conversation escape him.
“You seem quite familiar with my uncle, Headmaster,” Marcus said just short of too quickly.
The Headmaster was obviously irritated at the interruption, but this was supposed to be Marcus’ graduation party, so the round man just smiled and gave Marcus the barest amount of attention that skirted rudeness.
“I must ask,” Marcus continued. “How is it exactly that you know my uncle, Headmaster? Neither of you has mentioned the other.”
“I’ve known this old slum dog for years!” Headmaster O’Neil said, gripping Cato around his shoulders and chuckling. “Your Uncle didn’t want you getting any nepotistic ideas in that vast brain of yours, Mr. Valedictorian!”
“Is that right, uncle?” Marcus asked with an odd smile on his face.
“Don’t give me that look,” Cato said chuckling.
“Aww man that hurts, uncle,” Marcus said clutching his heart.
“Shut up, son,” Cato mumbled as smacked the back of Marcus’s bald head.
The Headmaster almost jumped to make sure his words were the next ones Cato heard.
“You remember that research team we-“
“My dear Mr. O’Neil,” Cato said cutting off the Headmaster, “if you will excuse us, there are a few more people I want to meet my nephew.”
The Headmaster’s eyes popped at being cut off, but he was still amiable as he replied. “Of course my dear Mr. Spyros, but please do come see me before the night is done. I have some news that just might excite you,” he said.
Marcus and Cato bowed to the Headmaster before walking away. The large man turned away before bellowing the name of some other guest and waddling his way over to his target.
“But how do you know the Headmaster, uncle?” Marcus asked as he followed his uncle through the groups of people.
“Why do you ask?” Cato asked without turning.
“It’s just that the Headmaster never mentioned you,” Marcus said. “Not a hint. Even after he discovered my last name, he didn’t say a single thing about you.”
“Does that bother you?” Cato asked as he glanced at his nephew.
“Not really…I mean…somewhat, I guess, but the Headmaster doesn’t seem like the man to keep a secret like that. By what I’ve heard, the man all but ordered the Dean of the Financial College to host a mixer in the hopes of meeting me. It’s just a rumor but I mean…the fact that a rumor like that even exists is bad enough.”
“That does seem like a bit much,” Cato said as he gave an over embellished at wink a passing woman. “Anyways-“
“So how do you know him, uncle?” Marcus asked once more. “And why does he know about- as a matter of fact, why did you cut him off so abruptly? What was he about to say? Something about a research team?”
Cato laughed and shook his head. “It’s nothing,” he said. “You should stop worrying about me and start enjoying your party.”
“We both know this isn’t my party,” Marcus said doing his best to not sound sullen. “I don’t know anyone here, so no jokes when you’re not around. I have a different taste for drinks, so no getting drunk, not easily at least. The food is bland, so no enjoying any food I might eat. Worst of all, every woman here is at least twice my age, so not even a hope of me daggering. This is a networking party, uncle. Your networking party. My graduation is just an excuse so that anyone who didn’t get an invitation won’t be as offended as they likely already are.”
Cato clicked his tongue. “I swear,” he said shaking his head with a smirk as he stroked his goatee. “I’ve told Sly at least a million times you’re too smart for your own damned good.”
Ever since he took his nephew in, Cato was a devoted and open guardian. Although Cato was technically Marcus’ guardian, the two acted more like best friends than uncle and nephew. Marcus told his uncle all his deepest secrets and growing up, every question Marcus had was answered immediately with complete honesty. His uncle’s frankness made for some awkward moments from time to time. The sex talk made for some very interesting conversations at school the next day. Including one with the Principal that involved suspension for Marcus and possible jail time for his uncle. Yet as awkward as his uncle’s frankness could be, Marcus loved that because he always knew he could count on his uncle to tell the truth. Marcus thought his uncle was completely transparent but obviously that isn't the case. Too many strangers tonight were too familiar with his uncle and this closure put Marcus’ back up.
“How do you know the Headmaster, uncle?” Marcus asked again.
“You still don’t have a girlfriend yet do you, son?” Cato asked turning to Marcus.
“Uncle,” Marcus said, his voice hardening. “How do you know the Headmaster?”
Cato stopped walking, his eyebrows lowering as he stared at his nephew.
“Why are you so desperate to know?” he asked coolly.
Marcus frowned. “Why are you being so evasive?” he asked.
“You know I don’t have to tell you everything I do,” Cato said in that same chilly tone.
Marcus met his uncle’s stare. A chill ran up his spine. His skin prickled. His stomach was churning under his uncle’s hard gaze, but he wasn’t going to look away. There was nothing different in his uncle’s face, but there was something in those golden eyes that started a boil in Marcus’s guts. He’d never challenged his uncle. There was no reason to. Marcus had always seen his uncle as a genial and kind man but right now, the bubbles erupting in his stomach and his steadily increasing heartbeat felt suspiciously close to intimidation.
“You’ve told me everything since I was a child,” Marcus said, just managing to keep his voice steady. “What’s making you stop now?”
Cato abruptly chuckled and nudged his nephew as he resumed walking, his cool demeanor nothing more than a memory.
“He actually isn’t as close as he would like to think we are,” Cato said as though nothing happened.
“What do you mean?” Marcus asked, happy to be able to breathe again.
“He does it solely for appearances at parties like these,” Cato said as the two of them stepped to avoid a server. “Mr. O’Neil kind of has a reputation for being incredibly familiar with the host at events he attends. I only invited him because it wouldn’t be right to have a graduation party without the head administrator. Appearances and whatnot.”
Marcus rubbed the crown of his head. “That’s definitely something I would’ve liked to know before I attended the United Universities,” he said.
“Because I wanted to go to Catigernus University!” Marcus said. “You remember? You told me attending the United Universities was the correct move for my life. Was the Headmaster the reason you wanted me there?”
“The United Universities is one of the most prestigious schools in the world,” Cato replied as he shook the hand of another stranger in passing. “I didn’t want you to be discouraged from attending and that school in the south…well... it’s in the south for a reason.”
“Their tournament record is near flawless!” Marcus said shaking the hand of the same man. “Their marksman teams have gone undefeated for the past two years in a row and I could’ve captained both of those teams my freshman year!”
“And then caught something that made your manhood fall off after daggering one of those loose southern girls!” Cato said. “The United Universities was where you needed to be even if the Headmaster is something of a catamite at times.”
“You can’t assume that!”
“And yet it’s still true,” Cato said with finality.
Marcus just shook his head as the conversation died the way it always did. Southern girls may have had a reputation for being friendly, but that didn’t mean he was doomed. He would’ve been safe. Marcus surely would have kept himself safe and-
Cato suddenly stopped walking, forcing Marcus to stop short or run into his back. The man in front of Cato was solidly built and seemed overweight but a closer examination revealed the muscle-bound build under a layer of fat. The stranger had darkly tanned skin and wore a policeman’s formal uniform loaded with medals.
“Marcus,” Cato said smiling with his arm around the officer’s shoulders. “This is the top cop in the city, Police Commissioner Dominick Knight. Commissioner, this here is the man of the hour, my nephew Marcus.”
A large white gloved hand gripped Marcus’s hand like a vice and he swore he felt the bones in his hand bend. Commissioner Knight was definitely much more solid than he appeared.
“Very nice to meet you, Commissioner,” Marcus said, grateful to get his hand back whole.
“And you as well, Valedictorian,” Commissioner Knight said in a deep rumbling voice.
“I have to ask,” Marcus began. “What’s your opinion of this masked vigilante?”
“That’s a great question, Marcus,” Commissioner Knight said, shaking his head softly.
About six years ago, odd reports began emerging from all over the city. Reports that had a single man waging a crusade against all crime. Only, the stories surrounding this figure were hard to believe considering every story involved him shooting flames out of his hands like some comic book hero. However, all attempts to contact this man have failed and now the popular opinions of him were one of two. Either you loved him or you hated him.
“Don’t give this child any more of an ego than he already has,” Cato said with a smirk.
Marcus barked an obviously fake laugh at another of his uncle’s poor jokes before turning back to the Commissioner.
“It’s just that…well, this is a man who’s been operating outside of the law for the past six years, so he needs to be brought to justice,” Commissioner Knight said, holding out one hand as though attempting to weigh something by the feel. He lifted the other and continued. “Yet, I’m struggling to find the justice in taking down a man who’s helping me keep the streets safe. I know what the Mayor and…they want me to do, but as an urchin from Old Town I love the guy. He keeps the streets my mother worked a little bit safer.”
“But you aren’t an urchin from Old Town anymore,” Cato said with a sad look on his face. “You’re the Police Commissioner of Damokles, my friend.”
“I’ll always be that urchin no matter how high I rise,” Commissioner Knight said with a sad smile. “Either way I have one of my best detectives on the case. I’ll decide what to do when the vigilante is caught.”
“Well our fine police force will catch the man and put him behind bars where he belongs!” a new voice declared with all the grace of a truck ramming through a brick wall.
The owner of the voice was a pale weasel of a man with a long nose and large eyes that seemed to be looking at everything. Upon his appearance, Commissioner Knight stepped aside with his fist on his shoulder in salute. Marcus smiled when he recognized the new face, but Cato’s lips curled and his nose wrinkled like he smelled something foul.
“Good evening, Mayor Gunderson,” Commissioner Knight said.
“I didn’t realize that you received an invitation,” Cato said stonily.
“The good Commissioner here allowed me to be his plus one,” Mayor Gunderson said patting Commissioner Knight on the shoulder.
Cato’s golden eyes cut to Commissioner Knight and the large man raised his white gloved hands defensively.
“He all but made it a requirement to keep my job,” the Commissioner said.
Cato turned back to the Mayor. He deliberately looked the small man up and down before putting an arm around Marcus’ shoulder and turning the both of them away in silence. Both the Commissioner and the Mayor remained silent as the pair departed, choosing to stare at their backs instead. Marcus could only look at his uncle confused.
Catotigernus Felix Spyros was one of the most beloved men in the city. Marcus had never even seen anyone so much as look at him crossways. What reason did his uncle have to hate someone? Yet Marcus couldn’t shake the feeling that he just met his uncle’s…nemesis? Marcus shook his head, mystified with the thought. An old saying came to his mind right then; humans need air to exist, a Spyros only needs secrets.
After walking in silence for a while, Cato took a deep breath. He squeezed his nephew’s shoulder before dropping his arm.
Marcus stared at his uncle. “Should I even ask what that was about?”he asked.
“No,” Cato said putting on a smile as he locked onto another group of men.
The group they approached was comprised of impeccably dressed men who stood apart from the rest of the room, giving everyone disdainful stares. That all changed when the Spyros men approached. All nine men lit up with smiles as soon as Cato approached.
“This is my nephew, Marcus,” Cato said, shoving his nephew forward after greeting them. “Marcus, I would like for you to meet your new boss, Ser Nathan, and his fellow members of the Iota Trading Guild.”
Marcus fought the spike of irritation that flared in him when he thought about the fact that he wasn’t offered a job at the Lions Club. Fools may still look down on Haavaian blood, but he was still a Spyros. He deserved to be at the Lions Club, but working for a company belonging to the ITG board would still solidify his career. With one of the ten companies that generated the nation’s economic policies he would get more connections than an old timey switchboard. Not to mention the money to be made. Still doesn’t compare to the wealth and connections he should be getting by working at the Lions Club, but he was over it…kind of.
Gripping the CEO’s hand, Marcus examined this man who would determine the course of his career. Ser Nathan was an old man with his iron gray hair slicked back and a thin, somehow slicker gray mustache over his lips. He wore a dark blue blazer fresh off the runway and pressed khakis that looked to cost more than some yearly salaries with the gold trim on the ankles and pockets. With the addition of the jewelry on his fingers and his gold canine tooth, sporting a diamond in the middle, Ser Nathan look like a retired mobster on the white sand beaches of Haava. Maybe even some sort of con artist.
“It is truly a pleasure to finally meet you, Marcus,” Ser Nathan said in a silky baritone voice. “Your uncle has gone on incessantly about you. Together we’re going to takedown that cousin of yours and put Nelson Trading at the head of the ITG table. You have no idea how excited I am to have landed you.”
“Landed me?” Marcus blurted. “Is that a code word of some sort?”
The group of men chuckled. Another impeccably-dressed man stepped forward and took the attention away from Ser Nathan. The man looked like the stereotypical version of a servant dedicated to the Lord of Perdition in his blood red suit. He introduced himself as Ser Charles Jeffries, CEO of the Costlow Grocery Franchise. Marcus found himself inching away from the man when he thought about the company’s alleged ties to the worst parts of the criminal underworld and their rapid ascent over the last decade.
“Yes, well you see, your uncle is a highly respected man and his word isn’t taken lightly,” Ser Charles said with the grinding voice of a chain smoker. “So when this respected uncle of yours began ranting and raving about his financial genius of a nephew, naturally we all started salivating.”
“No one more than you, Jefferies,” one of the other men said with a voice as velvety sweet as melted ice cream. “We all know you need a fresh mind on your board to save you from the Silver Bear Company.”
The newcomer’s youth among these men was jarringly apparent. Unlike the gray and balding men surrounding him, his dark blonde hair reached his shoulders, but only membership to the ITG could give one that pretentious look he held in his bright green eyes.
“My name is Ser Cristiano Narciso,” he said smiling brightly. “CEO of the Golden Dawn Company. It’s a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance.”
Marcus took Ser Cristiano’s hand and smirked. “So then it is true that the ITG board members collude with one another,” he stated.
“Oh that is just a rumor, my boy,” Ser Nathan said genially. “The laws, governing bodies, watch dogs and all. We just try to be supportive of one another. You know how the saying goes. Familiarity may breed contempt, but the unknown might just kill you!”
Ser Nathan flicked his gray eyebrows up and nudged Marcus as he laughed with his fellow board members. Marcus and Cato joined in, but their mirth was forced. The glance towards one another confirmed the inward cringe they shared.
“So how’re you horny toads enjoying the party?” Cato asked, taking two glasses of champagne from a passing server and giving one to his nephew.
“It’s a feast worthy of Emperor Sigismundus,” Ser Charles said, his grinding voice making his unnecessary volume slightly painful to the ear. “He was an ancestor of yours, right?”
“The second Emperor was actually an uncle of mine,” Cato answered. “We’re descendants of his brother, Grand Prince Catotigernus.”
“Is that who you’re named after?” Ser Charles asked.
“I do say, Jefferies,” Ser Cristiano said. “It’s a wonder how that grocery franchise of yours made it onto the board.”
The group laughed once more, but Ser Charles’ only smiled while his cheeks began turning pink.
“So then if Grand Prince Catotigernus was your ancestor, which of his sons are you descended from?” Ser Cristiano asked.
“The youngest of the three, High Duke Sophos,” Cato answered.
“The Great Finder of King Henoch’s treasure? How impressive! So then do you all still have the legendary Ring of the Architect King in your possession?” Ser Cristiano asked.
“No,” Cato answered.
“Who has it?” Ser Nathan asked.
“Ser Dorian,” Cato said. “He is still heading your board, right?”
“Spyros has the ring?” Ser Nathan asked incredulously. “I’ve never seen it.”
“Odd, I think it is the only one he wears,” Cato said, tapping his chin as though he was actually pondering the ‘conundrum.’
Ser Nathan’s head tilted. “But the only ring he wears is that wedding ring of his,” he said as he thought.
“That is right! I completely forgot that he got married using that ring,” Cato said.
“How did he get it?” Ser Cristiano asked.
“His great grandfather kept it hidden so after the 1800′s he managed to find it once more and he passed it down,” Cato answered. “But I-“
“How exactly did your Spyros branch of the Minos Dynasty escape the Culling of the Lions?” Ser Cristiano asked.
“Turning this into a pretty heavy conversation for a party, wouldn’t you say, Ser Cristiano?” Marcus asked before anyone else could speak. There were enough people in the world attempting to prove the veracity of that one foolish legend. Each one thinking they would be the ones to crack the proverbial case wide open with one trivial answer hidden in the Spyros family history. Those idiots.
“It’s just a simple inquiry,” Ser Cristiano said with that smile of his locked in place. “I’ve known your uncle for years and it never occurred to me to ask.”
“It’s quite alright, Marcus,” Cato said smiling. “My great-great grandfather found refuge in one of the ancient forts built by the Lord of War. He waited out the storm there with his family and we’re here today thanks to his foresight.”
“Incredible,” Ser Cristiano said. “I didn’t think there were any more of those hidden forts in existence.”
“It seems like more are being found every day!” Ser Nathan said. “Is there no end to them?”
“One… two… three…” Cato said shrugging. “The world may never know.”
Only Marcus smirked at the reference to the old commercial. His uncle’s jokes always came at the weirdest times.
“So then what about this story of a map detailing the locations of all the forts?” Ser Cristiano asked. “Is that a lie as well?”
Marcus’s smirk curdled like milk in a desert as he turned to stare at the young Ser. He smacked his lips and sighed as frustration and irritation welled up in his chest.
“I’m sure at one point it existed, but that map is no more,” Cato answered.
“Have you tried looking for it?” Ser Cristiano continued.
“Are you looking for it?” Marcus asked in a tone just short of rude. “You seem to have a keen enough interest?”
Ser Cristiano chuckled as he turned to Marcus. “Come now, Marcus,” he said with his hands up defensively. “I know how your people are but there’s no harm in a few questions.”
Marcus met Ser Cristiano’s stare. Your people? And which people would that be? Marcus could only focus his anger on one thing at a time.
“You passed a few questions quite some time ago,” he said as evenly as he could manage. “Is there something you’re looking for?”
“Just a few answers,” Ser Cristiano said bowing his head with a hand over his heart. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“No offence taken,” Marcus said, forcing a smile onto his face. “Your interrogation was taking up all the time we have and I have some questions myself.”
The group of men laughed uneasily.
“Well what’s on your mind?” Ser Charles asked.
Marcus actually didn’t have a question so he took a sip of champagne to give himself time to come up with one. “So how do you all think this appearance of the masked vigilante will affect the markets in the next quarter?” he asked.
Ser Nathan irritably waved at the air as if to clear the space of the words. “Don’t tell me you thinks he actually exists?”
“There are more than enough people who believe he does exist for there to be an effect,” Marcus said.
“You mean to tell me that you believe there is a man out there who runs around in a skintight bodysuit wearing a mask and shooting fire out of his hands?” Ser Nathan asked. “You really think the government would allow that? You think the Eight would allow something like that?”
“I never said I believe the man exists,” Marcus answered. “The Syndicate of the Eight might not have anything to fight, but at the end of the day, there is a significant percentage of the population that believes this man exists, and the markets react to the people.”
“Well I, for one, am hoping that this rumor of him dies quickly,” Ser Cristiano said.
“Why’s that?” Marcus asked turning to the young Ser. “You have a few underworld connections he’s been targeting?”
Ser Cristiano stared at Marcus. He obviously did not like that question. Good.
“No, I have a defense company whose bottom line he will be affecting,” Ser Cristiano answered.
“So you would choose to make money as opposed to the people being safe?” Marcus asked with his eyebrows raised.
A smile appeared on Ser Cristiano’s face. “Fex is the ultimate objective, old chum,” he said. “Never forget that.”
“I can’t say I’m displeased with his work,” Cato cut in. “But I would like to know the man behind the mask. To see him work in conjunction with the police.”
“Well said Cato,” Ser Nathan took up. “No one can say that they’re displeased with what he’s doing. We all heard the report about that Governor in Gamma killed by the underworld not too long ago. This crime fighter keeps things like that from happening here, but such a man could end up being a new crime boss of some sort. We can’t put our faith in someone we don’t know.”
“A crime boss that’s...lowering the crime rate?” Marcus asked.
“Well if he’s consolidating his power then that will be one of the effects,” Ser Nathan said.
“Over time, maybe,” Marcus said. “But the man hasn’t been fighting long enough for that to have happened.”
“He could still be a hired gun,” Cato chimed.
“What makes you say that?” Marcus asked turning to his uncle.
Cato nodded with a shrug. “Okay so I have nothing to back that up, but it’s still a possibility.” he said with a chuckle.
“You and your pessimistic view on life,” Marcus said, shaking his head.
“Well it’s kept me alive so far.” Cato said. Something distracted him and Marcus turned around to see Sylvester lowering his thick arm.
“Ah yes, it seems the most important guest has finally arrived, late as usual,” Cato said to the nine Sers of the ITG board. “Ser Cristiano, I would suggest you look closely at my cousin’s wedding ring the next time you see him. If you will excuse us.”
Marcus and Cato stepped back in unison and bowed to the nine businessmen before leaving the group. The uncle and nephew waded through the party, leaving the ballroom through the grand doors on the northern end of the room. Marcus thought they were going to wait in the foyer on the other side of the manor, but Cato kept going and opened the front doors.
A sudden gale nearly took Marcus off his feet. Cato leaned forward to fight the wind as he walked and Marcus mimicked his uncle in the hopes of surviving this sudden storm. After a little time the wind relented and Marcus heard the high-pitched whine of an engine dying down. Marcus lowered his arms and he saw a helicopter still rocking as the undercarriage bars rested on the gray stone driveway. The small white aircraft was emblazoned with the roaring lion emblem of the Lions Club Corporation on the side and Marcus felt his heart thump.
One of the helicopter doors opened up and a man jumped down. As soon as his feet touched the stone, the helicopter engines flared back to life as he ran bent over at the waist. By the time the helicopter was airborne, the man was upright with a huge grin on his face and his arms open wide.
The newcomer was handsome, his face familiar to Marcus, but he couldn’t place where he recognized it from. After a night of meeting strangers, Marcus felt comforted when he recognized the Minoan gold in the man’s eyes, but the newcomer differed from him and his uncle. He was tall like Marcus and Cato, but this familiar stranger had the muscle-bound frame of a prize fighter. He wore a well-cut blue suit with a silver tie held down by a diamond studded clip and a large elaborate ring on his right hand.
“Dear Divine, it’s good to see you alive and well, cousin,” the man said as he wrapped up Cato in a massive hug, his suit looking as though it was about to rip trying to contain his muscles. “How long has it been?”
“Fourteen years now I believe,” Cato said, the bear hug turning his words into a near whisper.
“That’s right, at your brother’s funeral,” the man said, shoulders drooping as he dropped Cato. “How’s that little nephew of yours?”
“Ask him yourself,” Cato said stepping away from the massive man.
The man’s golden eyes nearly popped out of his head when his eyes fell on Marcus. “Marcus? Is that you, young cousin?”
The man slowly approached Marcus, each step seemingly a struggle for him to carry out. He nearly put his nose in Marcus’ cheek as he carried out his examination and Marcus stood still to let him get his fill.
“So this man is the shy little boy I met all those years ago?” he asked softly.
“We met before?” Marcus asked, still trying to remember the man and failing miserably.
“You don’t remember me?” the man asked, obviously overemphasizing his hurt.
“I’m sorry but I don’t recognize you, sir,” Marcus said still running through faces in his mind trying to place this familiar stranger.
“What about now?” the man adjusted his suit and frowned slightly as he flashed the most arrogant smile Marcus had ever seen.
The look on his face said he not only knew everything, but he knew that he knew everything. The sheer audacity of that smile made Marcus laugh because the smile actually did help him put a name to this stranger.
“Cousin Dorian,” Marcus said before realizing he was speaking. Dorian Leo-Alexandrus Spyros the third, President and CEO of the Lions Club Corporation and Commissioner of the ITG. Their common ancestor was over seven hundred years in the past, so their branches of the family were barely related, but the golden eyes made the bearers siblings…most of the time. “You look different on the computer.”
“AHA! I knew you couldn’t forget your dear old cousin,” Dorian cried out. “You liked that pose did you? Notice it’s the same one I did as my sign off after my interview with Iotan Entertainment?”
“I’ve...uh...never actually watched that show before,” Marcus admitted.
“You…you what?” Dorian asked. “How’s that even possible? My daughter refuses to watch anything but that damned show.”
“Well, my uncle isn’t a huge fan of the show,” Marcus said. “Neither of us are really.”
“Cato…Cato what have you done to this boy?” Dorian said gripping Marcus by his shoulders. “He’s never even watched the show before? Not even in passing? That isn’t normal, cousin! We should’ve kept him with my sister. Maybe even old Brutus.”
"Neither of us really liked the show,” Cato said as though explaining himself to a chiding grandfather. “Besides, I think did just fine with him.”
“Yes. Yes I suppose you did. Valedictorian and all,” Dorian said with a nod. “Tell me. How is Headmaster O’Neil these days? Still schmoozing like a politician the day before an election?”
Cato smiled, staring at Marcus with a twinkle in his eyes. Dorian waited for a reply in silence before looking at Marcus, eyebrows pinched and his lips puckered as he looked between the uncle and nephew.
“My uncle just told me of the Headmaster’s tendencies a little while ago,” Marcus revealed. The admission made Cato double over in laughter, incoherently wheezing about Marcus’s scared face when he told him earlier.
Dorian chuckled a bit but soon got bored as Cato continued laughing beyond what was really necessary. Rather than wait for Cato to finish, he turned back to Marcus and cuffed him on the shoulder.
“It really is good to see you again Marcus,” he said smiling. “And congratulations on graduating at the top of your class. You’ve made the whole family very proud. That Valedictorian title is a large feather in the Spyros family cap that’s avoided us for too long. I know you won’t disappoint me at your next job either.”
“The Spyros name may have weight, but that’s not why you’re at Nelson Trading,” Dorian said with a wink and a smile.
“Are you saying that you’re responsible for my position in Nelson Trading?” Marcus asked.
Dorian shrugged. “Nothing that specific,” he said.
“So why turn me over to Nelson Trading instead of bringing me into the family business where I should be?” Marcus asked. He was surprised at how even his tone was.
Dorian laughed as he wrapped one of his thick arms around Marcus. “You will be my Senior Vice President of Mergers and Acquisitions with unlimited funds for raids and takeovers at your leisure,” he said with a giddy tone in his voice. “However, right now, I need you at Nelson Trading.”
Marcus frowned. “Why?”
“That, my dear young cousin, is an indoor conversation and there are no exceptions to that,” Dorian said before patting Marcus on the shoulder. “Now come let us return your party before you miss it. Right now, I’m interested in seeing what party favors your uncle brought.”
Dorian smiled. “The prostitutes, my dear young cousin,” he said grinning dumbly. “No Spyros function is complete without the prostitutes.”
“But… there aren’t any,” Marcus said as he thought about the party.
“Aren’t any what?” Dorian asked with that same dumb grin on his face.
Dorian froze and his face dropped. He whirled back to Cato who was trotting to catch up to them. “Cato what is Marcus talking about there aren’t any prostitutes?” Dorian asked.
Cato’s trotting faltered .“About that…” he said trailing off into silence.
“YOU MEAN YOU FORGOT THE WHORES?!”