I drag deep on my cigarette and hold it for a few seconds before I slowly exhale through my nose. The smoke encircles my head and face. It clouds my vision, much like Estrella keeps clouding my thoughts. I’m currently in Venice. I’m sitting at Osteria Ai Do Pozzi, a discreet little cafe that is located off the beaten path. It is also a known haunt of one Antonov Stravopoulos, or something like that. Antonov had escaped police custody in Athens, crossed international borders, and is now hiding out across the Adriatic, in Venice. I take a sip of my espresso and keep an eye out for him to show. I’m sure he likes it here, because Ai Do Pozzi is tucked away from the tourist-y parts of the city. My plan is just a simple “grab and teleport” back to Athens. It will leave him disoriented, but he’ll be fine. I had to leave the girls, Hate and Jealousy, at home since they don’t like to teleport with me. Antonov has been here every day this week, according to my people. I’m sure he would be here again today.
I crane to see down the street and a flash of red hair catches my eye. Instantly, my thoughts fly back to Estrella and our session several nights before. She’s now my receptionist and assistant. And while she doesn’t have much secretary experience, she was quite experienced in other ways. She definitely interviewed the best. I close my eyes and can see her tattoo undulating, almost serpentine, as she writhed on the sheets under my hand. By Hades, I need another dose of her.
“Antonov,” a man with an accent said several tables over said, “how have you been?”
My eyes snap back open and I think, “Damn, I could’ve missed him. That was sloppy. Pay attention, Dinlas.”
Antonov is a large man. Both taller and far more muscular than me. Fortunately, the element of surprise is on my side. I watch as he talks to several men. They all keep their voices low, but I don’t really care what they’re discussing. I just want to grab this guy and get back to the warehouse. Under my table, I pull out a pair of handcuffs and click one of the restraints around my wrist. The other dangles free. Once I’m sure the men are engrossed in their conversation, I tilt the cup back and drain my espresso. Then I stand and step over to the fugitive’s table. Before he has a chance to react, I slap the empty handcuff restraint onto his wrist, which is laying on the table. Antonov looks shocked as he tries to pull away.
“What in the hell..?” he says, but I cut him off.
“Say goodbye to your friends.”
He pulls away from me, and I have to catch myself on the table to avoid falling. It made no matter. The instant I utter the word and picture the warehouse lobby, we’re gone from Venice.
Before we go any further, I’d like to say that teleporting is second nature to a god. But for mortals that sometimes get dragged along, it can be a difficult experience. They find it dizzying, nauseating, and of course terrifying to go from one location to another in an instant. It turns out Antonov is no different. We arrive at the warehouse with the telltale pop sound and he immediately stumbles to the floor in front of Estrella’s desk. The big oaf drags me down with him. Estrella, the sweetheart, thinks he’s attacking me. She grabs a small black object from her bag, jumps around the desk, and presses it to his neck. A blue light flashes out, accompanied by a zapping sound. I can feel the tingle of electricity shooting through my connected arm. Antonov goes flat to the floor, then vomits and lies still. Thank Zeus it wasn’t on the carpet, just the hardwood foyer. I struggle to get the key from my pocket and unhook myself from the felon. Estrella holds out her hand and helps pull me to my feet.
“Are you okay, Sir?” she asks.
“Yes. Thank you, Estrella. What is that thing?”
“It’s a taser. It gives them a good jolt of electricity.”
“I can’t argue. I felt it, too. It was like Zeus had thrown a bolt closeby.”
Estrella smiles. “It’s good for when I want to defend myself.”
We move aside as my security detail arrives to drag Antonov away. I sidestep the pool of coffee and croissant vomit and just look at her. The top of her tattoo meanders up and out of the collar of her snug sweater only to curl behind her ear. I know everywhere else that tattoo twists and turns. Suddenly I need her; it’s such a strange sensation. I’ve been alone my whole life and never needed anyone.
“Would you like to go out tonight?” I whisper to her.
“For another training session?” she asks with a petite hand over her mouth to veil the words from the others in the office. “Even though your father cut our time short, I’m still extremely sore from the last one. I can barely sit my bottom at the desk without squirming.”
“No,” I say, “not like that. Just dinner.”
I glance over at Tiffani and Cyndi, two of the women who handle the tips line. They’re both staring at us. They avert their gaze, but not before they glance knowingly at one another.
Estrella sees the interaction and whispers, “We shouldn’t, they’re already jealous.”
“No. That’s ridiculous,” I answer. “I’ve never been romantic with either of them.”
My delicious ginger smiles again.
“You know nothing about women. Clearly, they have been wanting you, but now they feel usurped by a newcomer.”
I look over at them again. Both were taking phone calls and neither looks particularly upset. I shook my head and look back at Estrella.
“So, dinner tonight?” That tattoo running up her neck is just driving me wild for some reason. I almost can’t stand to look at it, but neither can I look away. She seems to sense it, and tucks her hair behind her ear so it’s clearly visible. She murmurs into my ear.
“Fine. After work. I’ll just need to use your space upstairs to freshen up.”
I look at her and reply, “Gladly.”
She nods and returns to her desk. I watch her sore little tush work in that snug skirt as she switches away. She has dark stockings on, but I can just make out the other end of the tattoo as it curls under her silver anklet and disappears into a pair of four inch heels.
I sigh and head up to my office. As I climb the stairs, I glance back. Cyndi is still on her call, but she’s watching my every step.“Maybe Estrella is right,” I think, “maybe she is jealous.”