Shadows of God

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Chapter 13

Marcus meandered around his family compound for three days. It’s not that he didn’t believe his uncle. It’s just that there was so much to digest and think on that Marcus found himself unable to do much of anything else. He knew he was going to put on the ring eventually. His curiosity would ensure that. The issue was that with the ring came the moniker of the Crusader and the responsibilities thereof. Marcus wasn’t sure how he felt about being a superhero. Even asking himself that question felt weird. After all, who didn’t want to be a superhero when they were a kid?

Growing up, Marcus could still remember waking up early on the weekends to watch cartoons with his late brother Noch. He loved watching the heroes soar through the sky and seeing bad guys being taken down with fantastic powers. But this wasn’t a weekend cartoon. The hoods in the streets of Damokles used real guns. He could actually die doing this. One slip and he was gone, delivered to the Mistress of Death. Those three days involved an internal struggle with his survival at the center, but as he sat in his uncle’s lair on the afternoon of the third day, the inevitable happened.

When the gold settled on his finger, a tingling warmth spread from the ring to Marcus’ arm then over his shoulder. It spread from his shoulder to his back then slowly across his chest. Once the tingling touched his heart, the sensation shot down to his toes and became a throbbing all over his body. The ‘more’ he had been looking for days ago found him, grabbed him by the hairs on his neck and yanked hard. The throbbing sensation made the muscles on Marcus’ back clench, eyes wide. There was no possible word to describe the heights of ecstasy he was feeling. The depths of his pleasure were making his head spin and his uncle’s justification for this high suddenly made sense. This was a high that the rich and famous died to achieve.

Once the initial hit passed, Marcus looked around the room. He could feel the power of the ring in his veins and his curiosity was growing by the second. Cato hadn’t left behind any instructions so Marcus was left to discover his new power on his own. He flexed his hands as he got to his feet and he looked down at the table. He decided to see if he could lift the large piece of furniture but his grip faltered. When he pulled his hand away the metal was crumpled. Marcus considered running outside to throw heavy things, but a better idea popped in his head. He knew of the perfect way to test this newfound strength of his...and get a little payback.

Around midnight, Marcus was walking into a particular dive bar on the outer fringes of south Old Town. The smoke-filled bar was dark with two bartender stations blaring rock music throughout the venue. The middle of the room had a few pool tables with bar stools for spectators in whatever space could be found. It seemed as though every man in the bar wore one of the black leather vests with the fiery winged angel and they all noticed Marcus as soon as he walked in. Marcus sat down at the bar and the bartender, frowning in confusion, walked over to him.

“Beer, please,” Marcus ordered.

“Get to jibbing with Jeffrey, guy,” the bartender said. “We dropped dues already.”

“I’m sorry?” Marcus asked.

“We already paid…” the bartender trailed off when he saw the look on Marcus’ face. “You’re IAC aren’t you, guy?”

“I’m not here for anybody but myself, friend,” Marcus said smiling.

The bartender looked around the bar for a long while before lowering the volume of the music a bit. He looked back at Marcus with a concerned frown. “Positive you want to lubricate here, guy?” the bartender asked. “Your toes know the dirt you’re standing in?”

“Why not drink here?” Marcus asked. “I just happened to be in the area and I got a little thirsty.”

“Guy,” the bartender paused for a second, eyes darting around the room. “You’re jibbing with the right form so your mother must have dropped you nearby. I don’t know if your lid don’t tick, if the Lord of Perdition got you, or if your looking to get delivered, but you should really look to lubricate at another watering hole.”

Marcus said nothing.

“Guy,” the bartender said a little on edge. “You’ll be delivered with no pause by my guys over there. This is the Fiery Angel, birthplace of the AD. The AD have are in with the Eight themselves. They could probably deliver a detective with a little extra grease. Even if your blood is purple, my guys will short work you. I don’t need that. Lodge my words and get quick with the feet.”

Marcus’s smile broadened. He appreciated the bartender trying to save his life, but before he could reply, the man abruptly turned. He walked away, cutting off the music before vanishing down the hallway behind the bartender stations. All the women and hanger-ons began running for the door as soon as the music was cut off, familiar with what was happening. The door of the bar’s entrance was still swinging when Marcus heard boots come to a stop behind him. He didn’t turn and instead sat like he was waiting for the bartender to return. A chubby hand slammed down on his shoulder and gripped him tightly, a hard voice speaking as he turned Marcus around on the swiveling stool.

“Old Freddy was trying to be saint-like with it,” the voice said.

The chubby hand belonged to a squat ugly man with thick forearms and crooked teeth. His belly cast a shadow over his feet, forcing Marcus to wonder how this man could balance on a motorcycle. There was a patch on the right side of his vest that read ‘ROAD CAPTAIN’ and the Road Captain was clearly upset.

“I’m not Freddy, boahe,” the Road Captain said. “Now get quick with the feet or Inspector Jeffrey is going to be very upset.”

Marcus chuckled, swiping the ugly man’s hand off his shoulder like he was fending off a fly. The sudden movement got the attention of the entire bar and anyone who wasn’t standing before was on their feet now, bottles, pool sticks and knives in their hands. More than a few of the bikers got closer, but the other man with the ugly Road Captain caught Marcus’ attention. He was a middle aged man of average height who had lanky brown hair to his shoulders, and a bushy goatee threaded with gray hair. The patch on the front of the right side of his vest said ‘SGT. AT ARMS’ and he gripped a beer bottle tightly. Marcus wondered if the beer bottle would hurt him with the ring on.

“No second chances, guy,” the Road Captain said, holding out a thick forearm to keep the Sergeant-At-Arms at bay. “If you don’t leave now, your body will be carried out but you will never leave here again.”

Marcus flicked his eyebrows up with a smirk as he reached over the bar and got himself a beer in response. He managed to pop the cap before the whole bar erupted.

The Sergeant jumped at Marcus, beer spilling as he raised the bottle in his hand. Before he could take a second step, Marcus planted his foot in the biker’s chest while placing his self-served beer on the bar top. The Sergeant’s eyes bulged as he flew clear across the room, smacking against a steel frame on the back wall of the bar and shaking the whole bar with the impact.

The Road Captain moved to pull out a knife, but Marcus was faster. He was in front of the Road Captain before the man’s knife was halfway out and Marcus snatched his wrist, feeling the bones snap like twigs. He yanked the Road Captain, a loud meaty pop echoing as his momentum changed. The Road Captain was off his feet and soaring through the air like a rag doll when Marcus kneed the man in his ribs, making the once rotund man fold in half. Marcus felt the man’s chest collapse and the accompanying crunch was all the confirmation he needed. The Road Captain’s struggle paused the charge so the entire bar watched the Road Captain slowly slide off Marcus’ still lifted knee, smacking the sticky floor lifelessly. The chubby man’s body rolled onto his back and blood trickled from every orifice of his head.

Marcus turned away from the Road Captain to face the once again charging bikers from the pool tables. To Marcus, these men moved in slow motion and he was unable to stop the smile forming on his lips. This ring was incredible. Beyond incredible. How could he ever have thought to deny himself this ring?

A muscle bound man with no shirt under his vest swung a fist with large rings on every finger. Marcus met the punch of the over-sized biker with a punch of his own and the man’s hand crumpled in a cloud of red mist. As the biker turned to stare at the knot of muscles and bones hanging from his wrist, Marcus took a step forward and threw his elbow forward. He struck the man’s throat and a loud crunch echoed in the bar, the body collapsing in a boneless heap like a puppet with the strings cut. Marcus spun and used all his momentum to smash his other elbow into the face of another biker that was coming up from behind him. Blood squirted from the man's eyes, nose and ears, dark red streams arching in the air as he soared backwards to land on one of the pool tables. The unfortunate biker tried to get up, but all he succeeded in doing was making a mess of the blood pooling in his hair and around his head.

Marcus ducked under a swing from a pool stick, catching the stick when the man attempted a return swing. Marcus whirled, yanking the wooden stick away from the man’s grip and throwing the stick with the same motion. His ring-enhanced strength and the momentum of the spin combined to make a dark yellow blur out of the pool stick as the wood streaked through the air. The pool stick impaled the leg of another biker, gliding through the man’s leg until the rope hand-holds caught on the man’s flesh. He was carried by the still soaring pool stick until the bloody end of the stick was embedded in the back wall above the still motionless Sergeant-At-Arms.

Marcus tripped the weaponless biker and the man scrambled to get back to his feet. Unfortunately for him, Marcus was already dropping his knees into the biker’s chest before the man made a second move. The sound of the biker’s ribs mimicked a fireworks show and a blood seeped from the biker’s eyes as they bulged further and further with Marcus's knees going deeper and deeper.

Marcus got to his feet still breathing easily. The last two take-downs happened nearly simultaneously and Marcus was sure he was moving faster with each passing moment. The other bikers paused for a second, staring at him. This stranger just took down six of their guys in less than five seconds. They were coming to understand that this wasn’t going to be as easy of a toss out as they were used to, but they seemed committed to their task. When Marcus turned and recognized the hesitation from the other bikers, he smiled. He rolled his shoulders and took a deep breath as he stretched his back and walked back over to the bar, making sure the bikers saw just how at ease he was. Marcus picked up the drink he placed on the bar top, downing the beer in one go and burped loudly as he dropped the bottle. He then tapped his chin as if thinking.

“I wonder if I could put out your angel’s wings if I pissed on them,” Marcus said as he reached to get another beer.

The words worked and the remaining bikers charged. He made short work out of them. The skirmish left the floor of the bar littered with the broken bodies of men wearing AD patches, most groaning in pain but a few that were motionless. The injuries to most of the men were visible with limbs hanging the wrong way or rough cut holes in their body. A few looked to be untouched, but none of those men moved. Broken stools and tables were strewn everywhere, the blood and beer covering the ground starting to dry into a sticky ichor. Marcus couldn’t see any of the carnage. He was consumed in the exhilaration of the ring’s power. He walked out of the bar, staring at his body in wonder, drinking in the power of the ring and glorying in the ecstasy it delivered. He managed to break away from himself long enough to hail a cab and return to the manor, hoping his uncle was still awake.

When he got home, Marcus found his uncle asleep in his study, laptop on his desk and playing clips of reports from various local news channels. Marcus crept into the room as quietly as he could with so much adrenaline pumping through his veins. He found an old jacket on the hat stand behind the door and took it to cover his uncle. But as Marcus bent over to drape the jacket over his sleeping uncle, something on the laptop caught his ear. On the screen was a brunette woman in a gray suit. She held a microphone and stood in an area that hadn’t seen better days in generations. Over her right shoulder, yellow tape sectioned off a familiar looking building.

Thanks, Tom. We are here live in south Old Town where tonight, less than an hour ago, an incident occurred that left fifteen dead and eighteen critically injured.

The bar I’m standing outside of, the Fiery Angel, is known by locals to be frequented by members of the Angels of Damnation Motorcycle Club. The police are currently investigating this event as a gangland incident due to the numbers involved. However, the details are few due to the lack of cooperation from witnesses and members of the organization.

One thing that is known is that fifteen men were brutally murdered and-

Marcus managed to not destroy his uncle’s laptop in his haste to close it. Fifteen dead. He felt his stomach turn and sweat began pouring from him. Fifteen dead. He thought back to the motionless bodies and waves nausea hit his stomach. Fifteen dead. He remembered walking over them like they were nothing and bile began to rise in the back of his throat. Fifteen dead. He murdered fifteen men in cold blood and that’s when he felt the first spasm of vomit. Marcus ran out of the room headed for the nearest bathroom.

He never noticed Cato’s eyes watching him go.

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