The mortals simply have no clue what’s going on around them.

They just amble around, heads down, more often than not with their eyes glued to their phones. I lean back, feeling the welcoming leather of the car seat mould around my back, and revel in my view of the unaware.

How little they know.

Even the most powerful amongst them don’t really understand me. Or have any real clue about how far my influence stretches. I’ve been around long enough to have everything I need and more. My web of contacts is immense. They couldn’t unpick it, even if they tried. And that goes for the gods, too.

“You know they could if they felt so inclined.”

I shift around, looking over my shoulder at the back seat of the Bentley. There’s no one there. There never is. And it’s been a long time since I’ve felt the need to check.

I have flashes of another time, back when I first came to Earth, when I wasn’t so powerful. So very well setup. My abilities were raw. My anger smouldered. But I’ve mellowed. Time, after all, is a great healer.

The voice is nothing I feel I need to worry about, and even if it, or they, have returned, I can handle the situation. I have before, and I can certainly do it again.

I’m in control. I’m in control. I’m in control. I mentally repeat my mantra. I can’t say it out loud. If I did, I’d have to make it a lie. That’s just how I am. Inside I’m me. Out loud, I’m anything but. It’s taken some getting used to, but then I’ve had plenty of practice, especially with the mortals.

I’m in control. I go over the words once more in my head and know it’s just me reciting them, no one else.

I focus on why I’ve parked the expensive car in the financial centre of good old London town. My eyes drift back to the entrance of the office.

Still no sign of her.

I squeeze my phone from my trouser pocket, illuminating the screen with a tap of my thumb. It’s been 40 minutes since she went into the building, the display tells me. I once again go over the factors involved. The identification card I provided to my accomplice, the possible resistance the receptionist could put up, the number of people using the lifts at any one time. I have carefully factored in everything. I even accounted for the fact it’s a little drizzly today. I smile, realising how much the Brits would approve—if they had any idea about what’s going on.

By my calculations, even if the office staff challenged my partner-in-crime, she should be done about now.

“Are you sure you’ve allowed for every possible scenario?”

I don’t give in to the nagging doubt that underlines the question. I don’t need to. There’s nothing I can’t anticipate. Plan for. I’m the best there is at this. No one, living or immortal, can come close to me.

I stretch back, letting the warm embrace of my chair calm my nerves. Once more, I’m glad that I didn’t splash out on the heated seat option. Why do mortals consider having toasty backsides to be one of the true displays of wealth?

I try not to stare at the office front. Instead, I let my attention drift to the other goings-on beyond my tinted windows. A group of tourists gesticulate and wave their phones around. A well-presented pair of men push past them, clearly running late for some high-powered pow-wow. Further down the road, young women hug as they meet outside one of the many bars. Unseen within the hustle and bustle, I spot a pickpocket as she goes about her business. She’s stealthy, discreet, and invisible to all except me.

Any other time, I’d go after the light-fingered lady. I can always do with more people in my pocket, especially in this area. Not now, though. I’ve got other wheels in motion, activities that require my full attention. Even a little effort on my part. And this is more than just mischief. This means something to me.

I glance at my phone’s display again. Two more minutes have passed. She should be done soon. I watch the clock until it ticks over another minute, then I look up.

Still no sign of her.

I’m not sure why, but my attention returns to the phone screen. Besides the time, there’s nothing else to look at on the device. I don’t keep personal pictures. Mortals might think that it’s cool, cute. A good way to show off who they are. But all it does is expose their weaknesses and the parts of their lives where they can be exploited. Everyone has something that makes them weak, and I’m no exception, but I make it hard for people to know what’s precious to me. I have to, for her sake.

I look at the timepiece once more and wipe sweat from my brow. When did it get so warm in here?

I trigger the almost invisible control in the side of the car door, and the window slides down, a chilly breeze easing in. It’s refreshing, even if it does little to cool me down. I lean forward, my dark jumper peeling away from the leather of the seat. Instantly, I move to smooth creases from the material, but there aren’t any. There shouldn’t be, not for the cost of the garment.

Of course, not everything I own comes with a designer price tag. In my line of work, I need to be ready to appeal to anyone. I have to be able to adapt to each and every situation. That’s the reason I have wardrobes of clothes tucked away in houses, apartments, and even a caravan. Flash, classic, and run-down cars are stashed in garages across every continent. Some of my portfolio is easy to find. It has to be. The rest isn’t. But that’s the way I like it.

My stomach rumbles, and I glance around the car, already knowing it’s a waste of time. Sometimes I wish I was the sort of person who could keep packets of food strewn across their car. But that’s not who I am. I’m tidy. Always have been, always will be.

“If you’re so organised, why don’t you have provisions?”

“Sometimes events click together at short notice. It’s not always easy to stop for a sandwich!” I catch myself. I shouldn’t be engaging. The voice isn’t there. It doesn’t exist. I shouldn’t be encouraging it.

With a breath I hadn’t realised I was holding, I let out a deep exhale as my blonde companion pushes out of the office’s revolving door. She moves professionally towards the car, her strides steady and confident.

Or at least that’s what she wants people to think. I can see beyond the charade.

I notice how she cradles her handbag closer to her body than when she went in. I let a grin tug at my lips at how her eyes blink a little too quickly.

The door barely makes a noise as it opens, then the passenger seat sighs softly as the derriere, that society tells everyone is pure perfection, plonks down just a little too hard.

“Well?” I finally give in and ask. It’s not a lie. Questions are just that—they can’t be true or false. It gives me some leeway in conversations. Not much, but enough.

“He was as distracted as you said he would be. It wasn’t hard to get what you wanted.”

“And yet she took so long.”

I hold out my hand expectantly. There’s no need to say anything else to either of them.

Sophie retrieves a document folder from her handbag, the shake of her hand more pounced as she passes it over.

I flick through the paperwork, letting the smile stretch across my face. It’s a nice change not to have to keep my delight hidden. I don’t even mind that I’m sharing it with Sophie. 

“Is that everything?” she asks, her eyes downcast.

I consider my response, or at least look like I am. Her gaze comes up. There’s something extra there. I’m not surprised.

“Look,” she snaps, leaning forward, a slender finger wagging at me. “I’ve done everything you wanted. Attended your silly pottery classes, gone undercover to get whatever that is! I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me.

“Now,” her voice rises, a tremble cutting across her words, “let my brother go. Please!”

“There’s one more thing I want you to do for me…”My words aren’t true. There’s something I need from her.

Dolus (Andrew Harrowell)
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