Marcus felt drained after his brief training session. He was worried about blood loss being the cause but Cato told him not to worry. His uncle said that was exactly what happened to him, but that alone wasn’t enough of a reason for Marcus to not worry. Just because it happened to him too didn’t mean that blood loss wasn’t something to worry about. Cato suggested going through the breathing exercises of King’s Law and that actually helped. By the time the two of them made it back to the villa, Marcus was pleasantly surprised to feel an uptick in his energy.
When they got inside, Marcus took all of ten minutes to get dressed for work. He tried to rush out of the door but Cato managed to catch him and sit him down to eat, reassuring no repercussions at work. Marcus wanted to run off but he knew he couldn’t. The house moved only when Sly said go. Sly said go only when Cato said move.
“What’s so important that you had to take me hostage?” Marcus asked.
Cato laughed a little too hard. Marcus smirked but something about his uncle’s laughter struck him as off.
“You know I love you, right?” Cato asked.
“I love you too, uncle.” Marcus said growing worried.
“I just…for all the fact that my brother’s seed gave birth to you, you’re still my son,” Cato said, eyes misting. “There’s nothing you can do to change that.”
Marcus nodded, the lump forming in his throat choking off his words.
“I’m sorry for what I’m about to put you through, son,” Cato continued. “I’m sorry for this burden I was too weak to carry on.”
Marcus didn’t know what to do. Cato was a gentle man, but he never got emotional. This was so sudden Marcus was struck into silence and he just stared at his uncle, trying to swallow the growing lump in his throat and keep himself from getting misty eyed too. He was failing miserably.
“The battle I’m throwing you into is impossible to win,” Cato said. “In order to make progress, you must become something akin to the very thing you are fighting against. Some of the things I’ve done…they torment me. I’ve been warped by this battle against crime. I’ve lost my fight.”
“You haven’t lost,” Marcus said, finally finding his voice.
Cato snorted. “It’s gotten to the point that I have this recurring nightmare,” he said. “I’m in front of some robed man with glowing eyes that scare me but don’t hurt me. I’m so terrified all I can do is kneel before this man. His glowing eyes pierce through me and he says the same thing over and over again, ‘Give the ring to Marcus, give the ring to Marcus, give the ring to Marcus’ until I wake up.”
“Me? Why me?” Marcus asked.
“I don’t know,” Cato said. “I just know I can’t ignore it anymore. It’s been years since I slept through the night.”
“Years?” Marcus asked with his throat drying up.
“Just always do the right thing, son,” Cato said. “It doesn’t matter if that man in my dreams was the Lord of Perdition or the Divine Everlasting, if you always do the right thing with that ring then you’ll serve the greater good. Always do the right thing. Promise me. Promise me you’ll always do the right thing.”
Marcus nodded automatically. But what had been tormenting his uncle for years to the point where he succumbed to a hallucinogenic suggestion? Maybe wearing the ring wasn’t the best idea, but it was too late now. He was addicted to this thing.
“Most importantly, please, please, please, please be careful,” Cato begged. “You mean more to me than anyone or thing in this world. I don’t know how long I’ll survive if something happened to you. So don’t go out there being reckless.”
Marcus nodded and tried not to think about the fact that his uncle just suggested that he would commit suicide in the event of his death. That was more jarring than Marcus’ realization of just how much closer to death he...and his uncle were with this ring. Cato stared at Marcus for a long while before he got to his feet with a nod, ordering Sly to get his nephew to work.
A little while later, Sly careened towards downtown. Marcus was in the back seat, his stomach roiling from more than just the dizzying speed of the car. Uncle Cato’s demeanor really got to him. Marcus couldn’t help but wonder if continuing to wear the ring was the wisest decision. His mind was swirling around and around, leaving him lost to the point that he hadn’t realized his phone was buzzing non-stop. His ringtone finally captured his attention. He pulled out his phone to see Cato’s number and answered, worried that there was more his uncle hadn’t said.
“Hello?” Marcus answered. “Uncle Cato?”
“Heeey there, nephew,” Cato said.
“What’s wrong?” Marcus asked, his back going up immediately.
“I never contacted Dorian!” Cato said in a rush. “I had one of my guys block all signals to your phone and Dorian has no idea where you’ve been!”
Marcus’s stomach dropped and his heart lurched.
“Love you!” *click*
Marcus flinched when the line clicked. That was when he saw the notifications of missed calls, voicemails and texts, each one like a physical blow to his chest. Marcus immediately threw up on the floor of the other seat. By the time his body stopped heaving, the car stopped moving. Sly opened the door and Marcus snatched his briefcase from Sly’s hands as he got out of the car.
“Have you known the entire time?” Marcus asked angrily.
“Known what exactly, sir?” Sly asked in that infuriatingly consistent voice.
“That my uncle sabotaged me!” Marcus shouted.
“I hardly think that is fair, sir,” Sly said walking to the car.
“You are late enough as it is, sir.” Sly said getting inside.
Marcus jumped and in the time it took to look at his watch then up once more, the tires were squealing and Sly was peeling away. All Marcus could do was glare at the shrinking car until he could only see a black speck. Once all trace of the car was gone, he turned turn towards the famed Lions Club building, his breathing exercises the only thing keeping him conscious.
Hosting two thousand offices, two hundred meeting rooms and every possible amenity in the world on one hundred floors, the Lion’s Club headquarters was just as famous as the family that ran the company. The entire building was made of white brick that the CEOs of the past made sure to keep gleaming year after year. The windows of the building twinkled like sapphires and the capstone on top of the building was a ginormous solid gold pyramid with the Lion’s Club emblem emblazoned on all four sides. Roaring golden lions lined every corner of the building and the largest two lions, each fifteen feet in height, stood guard outside the gargantuan golden doors of the entrance. Marcus steeled himself and then walked into the massive golden doors ready to face down his cousin no matter the odds.
Ten minutes later he was walking right back out.
Dorian wasn’t happy to say the least. As soon as Marcus appeared in his cousin’s office, he told Marcus to go home and try again tomorrow. When Marcus tried to explain himself, Dorian lost all semblance of control. He roared at the top of his lungs mentioning how Marcus embarrassed the family with his actions and made a fool out of Dorian in front of the investors. Dorian continued on for a good three minutes about how disappointed he was and then begged Marcus to get rid of any nepotistic ideas. He warned that if something like this happened one more time, Marcus was gone. Forget familial ties. Nothing outweighed the success of the Lions Club.After getting his butt gnawed on for an additional seven minutes about responsibility and manhood, Marcus stood on the street trying to catch a cab. He was bitter about his lack of opportunity to defend himself and angry about how helpless he was in all this. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do to his uncle, but it wouldn’t matter anyways. Dorian didn’t even care to hear any reasons why Marcus was late. For all he knew, Marcus could have been dying somewhere but th-
Marcus turned sharply. He thought he heard a woman screech from somewhere- he heard the screech again and jumped into action.