I sat and listened to the phone ring as I waited for Captain Renard to answer.
We had a great date the night before and found that we have a lot in common. Well, as much as a goddess and a mortal can have. He was very pleasing to look at and a very sweet man. It’d been a long time since I met a man as compassionate, caring, and intelligent as him; he had so many wonderful qualities. I was almost afraid to think about when things might end, as they usually seem to do. We agreed not to put a label on whatever we were doing. We’re casually dating and enjoying each other’s company with no strings, no labels, and no drama. We worked together, that work was important, and we agreed that work came first. I just hoped he wouldn’t become all possessive and clingy. That always tended to end things badly. The date was fun and finished with more adult-themed fun after. He had to leave early for work, and I had some reconnaissance to do.
I checked out the area surrounding the address that I got from Julio. I suppose got is too small of a word since I am pretty sure he pissed himself during my interrogation. Some big bad guy he was. I didn’t even get to the fun stuff before he folded like a sheet. They just don’t make them like they used to. I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing.
“Renard,” the voice came through the other end.
“Hey, it’s Athena.”
“Oh, hey, I wasn’t expecting to hear from you so soon. Looking for a lunch date?” He had a hint of humor in his voice, and it made me smile.
“That sounds lovely, but unfortunately, that’s not why I am calling. I have a source that the Cartel is having a meeting tonight at an old warehouse on 56th and 3rd. I think we should attend.”
“Do I even want to know how you got this information?” The humor was still in his voice, but now it held curiosity as well.
“Probably not. It would be less paperwork if you didn’t know.”
“This wouldn’t have anything to do with the miraculous finding and seizure of Julio Conswaigah and his contraband, would it? It was the darndest thing. Someone gift-wrapped him and a number of his men, including one of his Lieutenants, for the FBI.”
“Did they? That’s amazing,” I said with mock surprise. Renard burst out in laughter on the other end of the line.
“I thought so. Okay, where and when? I’ll send a team to back you up, as I’m sure that you will graciously insist on attending since you gave us the tip.”
“You know what they say, it’s never just the tip,” I said while laughing. I gave him the information that he needed once we were both able to speak without laughing.
Renard was one of the few people that found me funny and was not offended by my sarcastic and often unique form of humor.
We said our goodbyes, and I got ready for the evening. I wasn’t sure what I was walking into. I knew there would be lots of casualties, and I would try and make as many of them the bad guys as possible. Unfortunately, Renard wasn’t able to attend, but he assured me he’d send me his best men.
The sun was starting to set as we got ready to raid the warehouse. What is it with bad guys and warehouses? Maybe it’s all the space, or maybe it’s the seclusion. I don’t know. I did know that someone was going to need a cleanup crew after this.
It’s not that I planned to kill a bunch of people, it just always seemed to happen that way. I wished I could say that I was remorseful or that I wished it could be done without the loss of life. However, sometimes the world was just a better place without certain individuals in it. Some people did not deserve to live. In fact, they deserved horrible and excruciating deaths for the evils that they committed. I just did my civic duty by ridding the world of them. At least that’s what I told myself. Whatever helped get me through the day.
Everyone was in position and waiting on my signal. Sure, technically, they could try to run the show, but when you have a goddess on retainer, it’s wise to let her do what she does best. The mortality rates were a hell of a lot less when they cooperated.
I had an MP5 submachine gun ready and a M1911A1 Springfield professional custom .45mm pistol in my holster, complete with two extra clips filled with hollow points. The Captain insisted that I wear a tactical vest for my protection. I didn’t really think it was necessary, but sometimes you must pick your battles.
I moved into position by the front door. I knew there were teams at the sides and back waiting on my mark. I nodded to the officer by the door, and he opened it silently. I led the team in. There were two right inside, and I took them both out quickly. My shots signaled the other teams to do the same. We were eliminating them from all sides. We were tactical and precise with our shots.
The men had orders not to shoot Manuel Consweigah, Julio’s eldest brother. He was supposed to be here, leading the meeting, and he had the information I needed. Everyone else was fair game.
There was yelling from all sides as we told them to drop their weapons and get on their knees with their hands folded behind their heads. Of course, being the typical bad guys, they chose to go out in a blaze of glory. They often saw suicide by cop as a better way to go than being killed for snitching. That way, they got to be martyrs for their cause. Idiots.
The sound of gunshots stopped abruptly as the last man fell lifeless to the floor. I scanned the room and signaled for everyone else to fan out and double-check the area. Manuel had to be there somewhere. There was a small office at the back of the building. We all centered around it.
“Manuel, I know you are in there. Come out with your hands up. You don’t have to die here today,” I yelled into the office. The windows were covered, but we heard movement inside. I half expected to hear, You’ll never take me alive, coppers! But that would be more old school gangster than cartel style. Oh, how I missed those days. I missed the style of clothes, the mannerisms, the way of talking and walking. Don’t get me wrong, they were still bad guys, but they were men. These were boys. They only spoke violence and cruelty. It’s a different time, and it made me reminisce for days long gone.
“Jodete, perra!” He yelled. I guess, Fuck you, bitch! was close enough.
“Come out, or I’m coming in to get you!” I yelled back.
“Come in, gringa, and I’ll put a bullet in you.” Isn’t that cute? He thought I cared.
“I won’t tell you again, come out with your hands up.”
“Ven a buscarme, puta perra!”
I guess we were going to do this his way. I told the others to fall back, and I busted out a window, throwing in a flash-bang. There was a loud pop, light, and smoke. Then I entered the small room. Manuel leaned against the wall at the other end, holding his head with one hand and a gun in the other. I knew from experience how unpleasant flash-bangs were. They made your head feel like the world was exploding. The ringing was deafening and hurt like a son-of-a-bitch. Poor Manuel probably wished it was his head that had exploded right about now. He hurriedly popped off a few shots at me. They whizzed by and hit the wall behind me. I wasn’t sure if he could aim for shit before the flash-bang, but he sure as hell couldn’t now. I shot him in his kneecap, and he went down hard with a scream.
“You fucking puta, you shot me!”
“Put your gun down, Manuel, or I’ll shoot the other one!” I knew I must get the gun from him and detain him so I could find out what the hell was going on.
He looked me straight in the eyes. “Jodete, perra!”
Before I reached him, he turned the gun on himself and fired. Time seemed to stand still as I yelled NO! and rushed to stop him. Even with all of my speed, I was not fast enough. I wasn’t sure if even Nike would have been fast enough to stop the bullet from leaving the chamber. The back of his head opened like a firework exploding in the sky. Bits of brain, blood, and skull painted the wall behind him, and he fell lifeless to the floor.
“Fucking shit!” I screamed. He was the best lead that I had, and now his brain was splattered all over the wall. How the fucking hell am I going to get what I need now? What about that poor family? I’m sure there are others. What about them? I hung my head, feeling defeated as the team standing-by rushed into the room. One officer was yelling, but I didn’t register what he was saying.
How could I have let this happen? I had one job…now what? I really hated failing, especially at something that I am so good at. I knew that Manuel was a wild card and that I could not have anticipated this, but damn it sucked when shit like this happened.
“Athena are you okay? Are you hurt? Athena?” The officer was careful not to get too close or touch me, not after I almost broke an officer’s arm the other day. “Athena? Are you injured?”
I blinked a few times and brought myself back to the matter at hand.
“No, I’m fine. I need to make a phone call.” I walked out of the room and didn’t stop until I was out of the warehouse. I took a deep breath and rubbed my eyes. I needed to figure out my next move. I took out my phone and dialed the assistant director of the FBI. He was my main point of contact and always helpful when I needed it.
“Assistant Director,” Alexander’s voice came through the phone.
“Hey Alex, I need help.” I didn’t bother with formalities. Usually, it was him asking for help, but on the rare occasion that I needed it, he did his best to provide it. It’s the hell or high-water attitude that has earned my respect. If he said he would do something, you bet your ass it got done.
“Athena? What’s wrong? What can I do to help?”
I recounted the last few hours’ events to him and explained my predicament. I explained to him that Manuel was my only lead, and he had made it rain brain. He listened patiently as I finished, and the phone went quiet for a moment.
“Alex?” I asked.
“I may have a solution. There has been chatter about someone who can pull information from the dead. Let me make a few calls and see if I can get her to assist. It’s a long shot, but it may be just what you need. I’ll call you back as soon as I know more. Give me an hour. I suggest in the meantime you sit on the scene. She will need it preserved.”
I felt a wave of relief flow through me. The possibility of someone being able to unfuck the current situation was promising. Gods, I hoped it would work.
“Okay, thank you, Alex. I owe you one.”
“After Julio, I think we still owe you.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about.” I laughed, and so did he.
“I’ll talk to you soon.”
The line went dead. Okay, it looked like we would be waiting. Hopefully, the specialist could help. If not, we were screwed and not in any of the good ways.
It didn’t take the full hour for Alex to call me back with the news that his tip was credible and that he was sending a specialist to assist in the investigation. It sounded like the person who would assist was an immortal, but I didn’t know who. Alex didn’t either. I guessed I’d see when he or she arrived. Hopefully, the specialist wasn’t some blowhard that would make my life more difficult. Alex assured me it wouldn’t take long. I thanked him and went back inside to let the troops know. Captain Renard’s second in command came out to help, and I walked over to brief him on what was going to happen next. He would fill in his people. I was in a full conversation when I heard a familiar voice behind me. I knew the voice, but from where?
“It can’t be.” She didn’t say it very loud, but something made me turn around, anyway.
I recognized her as soon as my eyes met hers. I could never forget her. It was Medusa. I had once cared for her greatly, even loved her, but I was a young goddess and chasing after grandeur instead of my heart. She was one of my priestesses and vowed to me. She broke that vow and found herself in the arms of my uncle. I was enraged and hurt. In my pain, I cursed her. I transformed her from human into the Gorgon that is in the legends. Sure, it was a bitch move, but at the time, my wrath overtook my wisdom. After that, we fell apart. Eventually, I assisted in a mission that left her headless. Her head was then mounted on my shield and presented as a gift to me.
She was dead. Her head was literally mounted on my shield. How the hell was she here? Without thinking, I strode to her. Time was standing still and on fast forward simultaneously. The rest of the world just fell away, leaving the two of us alone. I couldn’t find adequate words. What could I say? Nothing seemed like enough.
“What are you doing here?” she asked. Our eyes were locked on one another.
“How in the hell? You’re dead.” I know, I know. Not my finest moment. I didn’t know what else to say. All my wisdom and tact just left me stranded, mouth agape.
“Obviously, it didn’t stick.”
She was still pissed at me. I understood why, but it still sent a pain through my heart. Then I did something we both probably didn’t expect. I couldn’t help it. Without thinking, I closed the gap between us and wrapped my arms around her. I held her in an embrace as her body tensed up. Did she think I was going to hurt her? I held her there longer than I should have. I just couldn’t let go. My eyes filled with tears as I breathed in her familiar scent. Gods, I have missed her.
“Umm…I thought…I thought you hated me?” she asked as the tears threatened to spill from my eyes.
Slowly, I let go and took a step back. I looked down, trying to hide my shame and embarrassment.
“I…I don’t understand how you are here. Your head is mounted on my shield…how the hell—”
She shrieked and interrupted my babbling. “Wait, what? My head is where? Why would you do that?” She stared at me, the shock and horror evident on her face.
“It was a…” I cleared my throat and tried to finish the sentence. The room was suddenly very hot. “It was a gift…it…you…um…your head…shit.”
She just stared at me, mouth open. Damn it! I am fucking this up. Out of every possible situation that I could have ever prepared for, this was not it. I tried to explain without shoving my foot firmly into my mouth. I would kick myself later for this. Damn it, Athena, get your shit together. This may be your only chance.