The following day, Marcus sat in Byron’s smoke filled office a few hours after the conclusion of the objectives meeting. The two of them were going over the finalization of the purchase of yet another lumberyard in northwest Iota and Byron had been grumbling all morning ever since Ser Nathan made the purchase a priority. Ser Nathan said if Byron dragged his feet, he would buy the property using his privileges and take the money from Byron’s paycheck. So there they sat drawing up the papers to buy this lumber company.
Marcus’s eyes ran over the words of the contract, but all he could think about was the right time to approach Byron about taking down Ser Nathan. This morning was impossible with so many people around and Byron had been sulky ever since that objectives meeting. Marcus had hoped food would make things better, but the workaholic of an old man of course decided to work through lunch. So now Marcus was stuck hoping for an opening to could ask this nearly legendarily loyal executive to commit corporate espionage for the government. Simple stuff.
“Have you ever been to any of these lumberyards, Byron?” Marcus asked.
Byron took the cigar from his mouth and looked up at Marcus over the rim of his eyeglasses. “What was that, Your Majesty?” he asked.
“These lumberyards, have you actually been to any of them?” Marcus asked, deciding to ignore the inevitability of his nicknames. “I was looking over past purchases to adjust my price points when I saw that there were once six of these lumberyards just a few miles south of the city.”
Byron shrugged. “I tried to go, Your Gloriousness,” he said. “But you have to get clearance from Ser Nathan himself to even get close without risking attack dogs biting a chunk out of your ass. Your Exuberance of course knows that the Lord of Imaginary Money would never do something like that.”
“You sit at the Executive’s Table,” Marcus said. “You have the highest levels of access in the company.”
“I did but Ser Nathan had them revoked, Majestic One.”
Marcus frowned, incredulous. “How?” he managed to ask.
“Two days after getting hemmed up while trying to get into one of those very same lumberyards,” Byron said. “Ser Nathan produced some of my old medical information.”
Marcus’s heart froze. “What in your medical history could have possibly authorized the revocation?” he asked.
Byron looked at Marcus for a long while. He seemed to be making up his mind and Marcus could tell he wasn’t happy with the answer he came to. His chest caved inward and his shoulders sagged as he placed his cigar in the ashtray.
“My son committed suicide after his fiancee left him,” Byron admitted. “I had a mental breakdown and was institutionalized at the behest of my ex-wife. Last good thing that bitch ever did for me. The doctors there were good and nursed me back to health before I was released.”
“You were...released?” Marcus asked.
“Yes, why?” Byron asked.
“When Ser Nathan pulled me aside after the objectives meeting yesterday, he showed me a file.” Marcus said. “The file had medical records from the Mount Gudrun Mental Institution…”
Byron’s eyes flashed open before he snorted. He looked at Marcus and sniffed. “What?” he asked, tapping the ash from his cigar before replacing the rolled leaves in the ashtray. “You think I didn’t know that? I didn’t have specifics but I knew he had something on me. I’m not just bragging when I say that I was a big deal around here. People wouldn’t turn on me for spoken rumors.”
Marcus nodded. Byron was most definitely not a dumb man. Rising through the ranks of any company with a last name bearing no weight was nearly impossible unless one was cunning, a whore or some combination of the two.
Byron picked up the cigar once more and began rolling it in his fingers. “Listen Marcus,” the old man said. “Ser Nathan is terribly dangerous and terrifyingly resourceful. You understand? He has a wide net. His gun is oiled. His walls are high and mounted. However you want to say it, Ser Nathan is nearly untouchable and mind-numbingly ruthless. If you’re going to take him on, learn from me and don’t. You Spyros are ancient money. That might hurt you as much as it helps you with all the bad blood. Ser Nathan is old money. People like him don’t get caught. Just leave him alone and line your pockets with as much fex as you can.”
“Why don’t you just help me take down Ser Nathan?” Marcus asked, throwing the line and praying for a bite.
Byron’s head snapped onto him but Marcus made sure his golden eyes held the same cool almost bored cast to them as he stared back. Byron’s eyes narrowed a fraction and he leapt to his feet, pointing at Marcus with a quivering hand.
“You’re working with Ser Nathan!” the old man seethed.
Marcus said nothing to that accusation. Instead he just smiled. After a while in silence, Byron sat back down, returning to tending the cigar once more.
“You must be kidding then,” Byron said. “Today is your second day, Your Supremeness. Don’t outpace your stride.”
“I’m quite serious, Byron,” Marcus said, surprised at the even keel of his voice despite his thumping heart.
“You can’t be doing this on your own,” Byron said.
Marcus nodded. “You’re right,” he said.
“So then it’s that slime ball of a cousin of yours pulling these strings,” Byron said, finding his lighter and touching the ash to the flames.
“I would suggest you refrain from speaking of my family like that.” Marcus said in what he hoped was still an even tone.
Byron looked up at Marcus for a second before he placed the cigar between his teeth. “So is it him?” he asked.
“I can’t say until you agree to come on board.”
“Of course you can’t.” Byron said pulling another drag from the cigar. He looked away for a second before he took the cigar and pointed at Marcus. “You must realize that I’m not joining anything unless I know everyone involved.”
Marcus nodded before pulling out his phone and dialing the number Dorian gave him when they returned to the villa last night. Dorian said Byron was going to resist and force a crossroads. When he did, call this number. Oddly specific but one doesn’t become Commissioner of the ITG unless one was prepared for every eventuality. The line rang once and a woman answered, saying only ‘Thank you for your custom!’ in the clipped accent of the Headlands. The line went dead and Marcus stared at his phone seeing ‘00:03’ blinking in the top right hand corner of his phone.
Marcus looked up at a frowning Byron not knowing what to do. Just before he began worrying, the door handle turned. Byron began to shout for Katerin to come back later, but the opening of the door cut him off. A tall stunning brunette woman entered the office as though she belonged there. Her eyes never wavered from the far window as she walked over to place a tablet on Byron’s desk. Setting the device down, she turned around and left, all without making a sound or even acknowledging the presence of other human beings.
Byron and Marcus turned towards each other before looking down at the tablet. Byron stared at the black screen. Marcus noticed the blinking circle at the bottom and pressed the button. The screen erupted in lights which resolved into Dorian’s visage, that infuriatingly arrogant smile on his lips.
Marcus breathed a sigh a relief knowing that Dorian could take the issue from there. Then he looked up at Byron’s face. The cast to the old man’s features were becoming darker and darker.
“I knew it was going to be you.” Byron said, his grinding voice becoming harder than steel.
Dorian’s smile widened on the small screen. “Oh, come on now, Byron.” he said with laughter in his voice. “You can’t still be angry about that?”
“SHE WAS MINE!” Byron shouted at the screen as he slammed his fists on either side of the tablet.
Marcus recoiled at the sudden explosion of anger out of Byron and turned to look at the flattened rendition of his cousin. And what exactly was this? The Spyros and their secrets…
“And yet, like whores across the world, she’s with the man with more money.” Dorian said, the affability in his voice becoming hard for an instant before returning to affability. “Besides, it was years ago, old friend. I think it’s high time we leave that incident in the past and mo-”
“TO THE DEPTHS OF PERDITION WITH THAT!” Byron roared at the top of his lungs as he jumped to his feet.
The door flew open, Katerin’s head poking into the office. Byron said nothing, turning to face the door and Katerin retreated just as suddenly as she appeared. As soon as the door was closed again, Byron turned back to the tablet, his pale face now red, thick blue veins popping out of the skin on his neck.
“What in the name of the Divine are you doing with this cloak and dagger garbage?” the old man asked. “Too afraid to see me in person so you send a pup? Afraid that I’ll give you what you deserve?”
Dorian laughed. “You avoid me at every given opportunity and do you really think Ser Nathan would allow me to enter his building unless I was on ITG business?” the CEO asked. “Me? His only real competition on the stock market?”
Byron returned to his seat and sniffed. “Well, until you set things right, you can go and die,” the old man said.
“Byron,” Dorian said sounding sad. “We were friends once-“
“Friends don’t do what you did!” Byron shouted at the screen. He took a deep breath and returned to lighting his cigar. “Until things are set right, you can keep whatever you have to offer. Better yet, shove it down your manhood.”
Dorian tried to speak but Byron lashed out and punched the tablet halfway across the room to land with a cringe-inducing crack of glass on the window before bouncing to the floor. Marcus was mortified at the exchange and looked between Byron and the tablet for a long while before his eyes rested on the cigar-puffing Byron.
“And what exactly was that?” Marcus asked.
Byron paused mid-drag to look at Marcus. Marcus could see the obstinacy in Byron’s eyes, so he instead walked over to the tablet and picked up the device. He was surprised to see Dorian on the other side of the cracked screen doing some paperwork.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” Marcus asked.
Dorian paused his work and looked up. “Well-“
“I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT IT!” Byron shouted.
Marcus looked up for a second before turning back to the tablet.
“Does Byron look like a dumb criminal with a cop nearby?” Dorian asked.
Marcus turned back, his head cocking in surprise as he realized that Byron was hunched over and looking at them furtively. Perfect description. Marcus nodded slowly without turning back to Dorian, unable to believe the change in the man.
“THAT’S HOW I KNOW YOU KNOW YOU’RE WRONG, BYRON!” Dorian shouted at the top of his lungs through the screen.
Marcus’ head snapped back down to the tablet, his mouth slowly cracking open as Byron turned and grumbled like a sulking child. Who were these men? Were they really just children in adult bodies? These were men who had a hand in deciding the fate of the world economy? May the Divine Everlasting protect us all.
“What’s going on between you two?” Marcus asked in a loud voice just short of a shout.
Neither man answered him. Marcus opened his mouth to make his demand again when Byron slammed his cigar into his ashtray.
“That cousin of yours outbid me to buy a yacht I’d had my eye on for years!” Byron said.
Marcus frowned. “Did he do something shady or underhanded?” he asked looking at the old man.
Byron grimaced. “Well...no but Spyros was my guest,” he said. “He was my plus one and he stole the yacht from under me!”
“I only bought the yacht because you made it sound so damned good!” Dorian said.
“That’s not right, Spyros!” Byron roared. “You could’ve had a bigger and better yacht built. You knew I couldn’t outbid you so you embarrassed me by setting the initial price so damned high I would have bankrupted myself trying to match half that number!”
“That yacht is mine!” Dorian shouted. “As bought and paid for as any woman I’ve ever been with!”
Before things could escalate once more, Marcus stepped in to interject. “When was the last time you used the yacht?” he asked his cousin.
“What was that?” Dorian asked, his entire demeanor changing, face transforming into one of a guilty child.
“When was the last time you were on that yacht?” Marcus repeated.
Dorian looked away from the screen and said nothing.
“He’s never used it!” Byron erupted.
The two Spyros men froze.
“Is that true?” Marcus asked.
Dorian mumbled something that sounded like an affirmative and Byron threw his hands into the air with a groan. Marcus sighed.
“Byron,” Marcus called staring at the screen. “If my cousin gives up the boat-“
“The yacht!” Byron and Dorian corrected at the same time, Dorian continuing to admonish his cousin.
“If my cousin gives up the yacht, will you come on board to help us take down Ser Nathan?” Marcus asked.
Dorian sputtered but Marcus wasn’t having it.
“You are not going to put this mission in jeopardy because you want to hold on to some toy that you don’t even use!” Marcus snapped.
The CEO of the Lions Club mumbled once again and Marcus just took it as consent. Marcus turned back to Byron with raised eyebrows. Byron looked at Marcus with a smile slowly blooming on his lips.
“Marcus I don’t know if I mentioned it but I just recently acquired a new yacht.” Byron said giggling. “I think I will be hosting a party soon. Are either of you interested in going?”