Shadows of God

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Chapter 8

Through sheer force of will, Marcus was able to forget about the attempted robbery and his bizarre errant thought. He didn’t tell anyone about what happened because who would believe him? Damokles wasn’t the safest city in the Republic, but the Crusader? Marcus cringed just thinking of telling someone about it.

Instead Marcus poured all his effort into the takedown of Ser Nathan. Unfortunately, he only achieved weeks of failure. Ser Nathan was very careful and very efficient. Not even a decimal point was out of place. There wasn’t enough repetition in the numbers to ring any alarms, but there was too much repetition for these numbers to be coincidence. That frustrated Marcus even further and Byron just kept saying, ‘I told you so.’

One day a few weeks after the foiled robbery, Byron and Marcus were working on that day’s purchasing orders. Ser Nathan was once again after more lumber companies, but this batch of orders were for companies in the Region of the Head to the northeast. In the middle of their work, Dorian called Marcus asking the two of them to join him for lunch and they naturally agreed.

Later that day, Byron and Marcus found Dorian’s SUV waiting for them in front of the Nelson Trading building. Byron and Marcus sat in the back seats and found Dorian facing them. Dorian waited for his driver to pull away from the curb before he produced two blue folders and handed them over.

“What you both have there is everything I’ve been able to dig up on Nelson using the leads Byron provided me,” Dorian said. “Open the folder. The first packet you see there details what I was able to dig up on all those missing people.”

Before his downfall, Byron had a retinue of employees loyal to him and him alone. In the last six years, every last one either found employment elsewhere or disappeared outright. Byron feared the worst.

“You were able to find them?” Byron asked, sounding uncharacteristically hopeful.

Dorian sadly shook his head. “I couldn’t find a single trace of them,” he said.

“No trace?” Byron asked. “I thought the police made contact with them after I made my reports?”

Dorian nodded. “The next few pages detail the ‘contact’ the police made,” he said. “The correspondence is through company emails. Nothing else.”

Marcus felt a chill run up his spine.

“I tried contacting these people myself using this information from the police but I have yet to get a reply.” Dorian said.

“Is there any way of finding out who sent the emails?” Marcus asked.

Dorian hesitated before he replied. “Is it possible?” he asked. “Yes.”

Byron frowned. “Is it legal?” he asked.

“Without an official ongoing investigation?” Dorian asked. “No.”

Byron cocked his head. “I thought this was an official investigation?” he asked. “You all told me the Commissioner of Police is involved. The Commissioner of Police is involved right?”

Dorian winced. “Yes the Commissioner is involved, but no this isn’t an official investigation,” he admitted.

Byron groaned and rolled his eyes. “Of course something underhanded is going on,” he said. “I mean there isn’t one but two of you Spyros involved. Why in the name of the Divine would everything be above board?”

“Watch yourself,” Marcus warned. He wasn’t happy that Dorian never told him the investigation was rogue, but Marcus trusted his cousin. He had no other choice. The ITG failing due to some scandal would precede Armageddon or something akin to it. Dorian would never risk something like that.

Dorian waved Marcus down. “No, he’s right to say that, young cousin,” he said. “Our family has done many ugly things to secure the position we hold today. But there’s a reason why the investigation isn’t official. Byron already has his suspicions.”

Byron frowned as he thought for a second before replying. “Ser Nathan has someone in the DPD feeding him information,” he said.

Dorian nodded. “There’ve been too many times in the past where the manner of Nelson’s adjustments have been too precise to have come from any other source,” he said. “If this investigation is made official, Nelson will find out and the small openings we have now would close up faster than an Old Town prostitute with a poor man.”

“So you mean to tell me that we have absolutely no legal authority in this investigation?” Byron asked.

Dorian brought his hands together as he leaned forward to stare Byron in his eyes. “The Commissioner will protect us if anything goes wrong,” he said. “Truth by my Dynasty.”

Byron sat for a long second. In Damokles and the Heartlands, swearing on a family name was no small thing, especially a family name that carried gravitas. The more gravitas on the name, the greater the commitment. The importance, veracity and authenticity behind the words became undeniable when swearing with such an archaic phrase. As a native-born Damoklian, Byron could only accept whatever was said as truth if the head of a family as heavy as the Spyros was making the guarantee.

“The next packet details everything I could find about the banking irregularities,” Dorian said motioning back to the folders. “This stuff is gold. Not quite Minos gold but this is what will get Nelson on the path to prison.”

Marcus shuffled the papers and looked at the documents detailing the bank transactions. What immediately stuck out was the regularity to the irregularity. Highlighted as they were, it wasn’t difficult to see the same nine banks being used twelve times over eighteen week periods.

“The banks that handled the sale of the lumberyards all dissolved after the eighteen week periods and their records evaporated with the banks,” Dorian said. “And now, this is where things get interesting. Turn to the next page.”

Marcus turned the page over and saw numbers followed by a set of Xi characters. The sequence of numbers and characters were repeated over and over with the only difference being the names of the bank listed next to them.

“That is an address in the city of Xinhua,” Dorian said. “This address is the same address as the last known addresses of Byron’s missing associates.”

Byron eyebrows jumped as he looked down at the page. The old man looked up at Dorian for a second before his eyes dropped to the page once more. Byron looked up again and his thick reading glasses magnified his blue eyes as he stared at Dorian.

“That’s mightily sloppy work,” Byron said. “Ser Nathan isn’t that sloppy.”

Dorian nodded. “Nelson isn’t this sloppy, true,” he said. “But his contact in Xi however…”

“A contact whose name we don’t have,” Byron guessed.

Dorian smiled. “I’m a hometown hero, old friend,” he said. “My name only means so much overseas.”

“How has he been able to get away with this?” Marcus asked. “Someone in the company must have noticed the pattern.”

Byron barked a laugh. “You think the person who oversees the sales isn’t licking his shoes?” he asked before turning back to Dorian. “You been able to get information from the ground level?”

Dorian snorted. “Please turn to the next page,” he said in response.

Marcus turned the page and saw a ramshackle convenience store sandwiched between two overcrowded apartment buildings. The small street was filled with potholes and a neon sign with Xi characters over the door. Marcus couldn’t help but wonder how exactly Dorian got all this information if his name ‘only meant so much’ overseas?

“This building has been owned by the same person for over one hundred years,” Dorian said.

“One person cannot possibly live past one hundred,” Byron said for both him and Marcus.

“Obviously,” Dorian agreed. “But there’s no death certificate. Any time the local authorities try to take action on the property, someone claiming to represent the owner fights the injunction. They win every single time.”

“I thought Xi had eminent domain laws?” Marcus asked.

Dorian rubbed his chin. “The ownership of the land precedes the current government and you know Xi judges are constitutional maniacs,” he said.

“And there’s no way you can get the name of Ser Nathan’s contact?” Byron asked.

Dorian grew still.

“He already has a name.” Marcus said, seeing that his cousin wanted them to know this.

“Well then what is it, man?” Byron asked. “Let’s get him in on this! We can take down Ser Nathan in no time!”

“I can’t say where my friend is.” Dorian admitted.

“Conflict of interest?” Byron asked.

“Conflict of interest.” Dorian confirmed.

“So where do we go from here?” Marcus asked.

Before Dorian could speak, Byron roughly cut in.

“Then what was the purpose in telling us this if we can’t use the information?” the old man asked.

Dorian sighed. “I can rearrange things to keep my friend clear of danger, but it would be a very expensive rearrangement and I doubt my friend would appreciate the change very much,” he said.

“A last resort,” Marcus said.

“Look here,” Dorian said. “With that address linking Nelson Trading, the missing employees and the banks, we have enough to take Nelson down. However, with what we currently have, Nelson would only go away for a short while.”

Byron looked lost in his thoughts for a minute before a smile bloomed on his face and he refocused on Dorian. “I’m assuming that with a paper trail established, the Police Commissioner would then become properly involved?” he asked.

“That’s something we have in place, yes.” Dorian answered.

Byron nodded. “So when can we expect to see Ser Nathan led away in handcuffs?” he asked.

“I could arrange for the takedown to happen as soon as tomorrow morning.” Dorian answered.

“I think tomorrow morning would be perfect.” Byron said smiling. “As a matter of fact, be there at 8:32 exactly. The Lord of Imaginary Money is anal about his time and the morning objectives meeting always begin promptly at 8:30.”

Dorian smiled. Byron’s smile widened. Marcus smiled as he looked between the two older men, happy that these past weeks of frustration were finally going to pay off but for some reason something else was nagging at him. He thought over the conversation and for the longest time everything seemed on par. The information was solid and the laws that Ser Nathan violated would see him imprisoned. Dorian hadn’t lied to either of them in anything he showed them and...Marcus’ heart thumped, hard.

Dorian never confirmed that he was bringing in the police.

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