01 January 2012

Chapter 14

I didn't know what to expect as Jacob led me on a leash to the arena. It was the first time I would witness one of the fights. I was thankful it wasn't going to be Josh in the pit but somehow the same thought made me more nervous knowing that after this I would know what fate awaited Josh.

I could hear the rising pitch of the crowd as we approached the cavernous room and when we entered the roar of the punters rose with excitement. It seemed the appearance of Jacob meant the first of the fights was near.

I was shocked by the number of onlookers who crowded the viewing space on the far side of the pit. There had to be at least two hundred, if not a many more hundreds. I couldn't judge the size of such a robust crowd that included a collection of suits, cowboys and casually attired men and women.

The predominantly male crowd pressed against the barrier and rose all the way up to the entrance that Josh and I had first come through. For the first time, I realised just how much money must Jacob must be making. In my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined so many people to for wager their money on illegal fights.

Jacob pulled me into his booth, a platform raised about half the height of the opposite viewing platform. A solid safety barrier similar to those on a theatre balcony formed a wall in front of his chair. Being the only one seated on this side of the auditorium, I felt like I was accompanying royalty. In one sense, I was.

Jacob was wearing his open vest and jeans again; apparently his signature look. He sat on the single chair in the booth and tugged at my leash urging me down. I knelt, and his minders left the booth.

The house lights dimmed and the room erupted with the haunted drive of Brett Gleason's "I Am Not", a song I only recognised from my cousin's dark taste in music. The lyrics seemed fitting however as the hunky singer expounded:
I am not afraid
I am not ashamed
and I am not the one who controls this rage…

The sunken pit filled with a kaleidoscope of flashing lights and I couldn't help but be surprised by the theatricality of the event. I'd expect a raw, coarse, uninspired entrance of fighters, but suddenly I realised that the seduction of the fights came from not just the fights themself, but from their presentation.

An announcer's voice boomed over the music but the echoing volume couldn't let me place which of Jacob's mob the familiar voice it was.

"You think you're scum for placing bets?" the voice echoed. "Then think again when your man makes you rich! Are you ready to RUMBLE?!"

The crowd roared with excitement.

"You said you wanted fresh blood. Here it is!"

Another surge of appreciation.

"You said you wanted my blood for losing your hard earned cash. Here it is!"

The roar was almost deafening.

"Making his debut in the arena, my very own narcissistic nephew - PERSEUS!!!"

It felt like the roof was going to collapse. My ears echoed and ached from the screams of excitement as a figure stepped into the sunken arena. The cheers were out of proportion for someone who had never been seen before, so I could only assume that his popularity was related to his relationship to the announcer.

'Perseus' raised his arms in a triumphant show of confidence, egging the punters to cheer even louder. Like the Greek mythology of his namesake, Perseus was young and agile, although unlike Harry Hamlin or Sam Worthington from the 'Clash of the Titans' movies, he didn't seem like much like a hero. In fact, he looked like a kid. Based on Jacob's warped sense of morality, I knew he had to be at least 18, if not older, but he looked only barely legal.

Perseus was handsome, slim and defined but in a typically teenage way. His freckled face was partly hidden behind a long fringe that was parted down the centre, allowing him to peer through. He had redish-brown hair and exuded a confidence built no doubt built on ego rather than experience. Even so, he entered the arena with the confidence of a pro-fighter and played up to the crowd's lust for fresh blood, making them cheer for him even more.

"His opponent," the announcer boomed, "and fighting for his final chance of redemption…POSEIDON! The God of Storms!"

If I thought the cheers for Perseus were loud, I'd never heard anything like the welcome for Poseidon! The crowd chanted "Water! Water! Water!" drowning out any other announcement as Ronan entered the arena.

He raised an arm and the crowd cheered for him. Having lost his last few matches, he was the underdog that everyone loved, and seeing the juvenile physique of Perseus' it was obvious that the match had been rigged to let Ronan win.

That didn't stop the crowd from going mad though. Like the professional wrestling on TV, everyone knew it was a soap opera, and every match was pre-destined to progress the drama. Ronan would no doubt suffer through the match but ultimately triumph, letting him scrape through and retain his position in the House of Jacob.

Even knowing the set up, I couldn't help but get involved. Like the rest of the punters, I salivated at the thought of two cute guys grappling and watching each other suffer at the hands of their opponent. I didn't care how bad their acting was in the professional wrestling rings. They were gymnasts and acrobats. Some in that field chose to join a circus, some do clowning. Others opted for mock fighting like wrestling. The skill was the same though.

The grapplers circled each other cautiously.Perseus took the defensive line immediately, lunging forward and forcing Ronan to reel back into the wall of the arena. He landed a fist in Ronan's gut then twisted both arms behind his back, using his chest to pin Ronan's torso to the wall.

Like the rest of the crowd, I gasped as the speed that Ronan was subdued. He was the most experienced fighter of the two. It was Perseus' debut, but the youthful punk had gained control of the fight immediately.

Ronan squirmed in the hold, unable to break free, and it suddenly occurred to me that if a seemingly rookie opponent like Perseus could so quickly overpower a more seasoned hunk like Ronan, what chance would Josh have in this stadium of sadism…

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