The grating of the warehouse door jars against the imposing desolated buildings around me. I should be concerned about the noise, but there’s no one nearby. That’s why I picked this spot. Everything is deliberate with me.
“You are so smart. Yet you didn’t plan on this happening tonight, did you?”
“I knew this was coming, just not this soon.”
“I thought you were always prepared?”
“I am. But you know as well as I do that life is a moving picture.” I can see the way that decisions come together. Options, choices, moves, and the corresponding counters, all lay before me like a rich tapestry. I know which threads to pick at. Which ones to leave alone. I can see it all, and I’m always ready. I just wish this wasn’t happening tonight. I don’t need it, not now.
“Still got your panties in a twist after the tiff with your little girlfriend?”
“Watch it! You are playing with fire, and you know what happens to the people who do that.”
“If it were that easy to burn me, you would have dealt with me already.”
“Oh, trust me. I will. I just need a little bit of time.”
“Too busy chasing that piece of skirt? I’ve been meaning to ask, what do you see in that mortal?”
I stride purposefully across the derelict space, considering the question. It feels like I’ve known Lily for an eternity. Realistically it was two-and-a-half years ago, which is hardly any time for a god. I was at a charity benefit. Save the whales. Working a scam. “When aren’t you?” This was nothing much to that one. A simple get in, connect the right people, unnerve an investment. It was all in a day’s work for me. I probably could have left it to a lackey. But sometimes, I like the personal touch. “Like what you’re doing now? Why not just go home and leave a mortal to deal with this for you?”
“I’m not exactly ready for sleep, am I?”
“I really don’t see what all the fuss is about. That woman isn’t exactly on par with any of the gods you could be with. What attracted you to her?”
I was working the floor. You have to at these types of events. It’s the done thing. “By the mortals, you mean? Honestly, sometimes you forget who you are! Where you come from.”
You never know when you might stumble across an opportunity. An investment. The charity’s Chief Executive was doing his best to impress me. Like it might encourage me to donate more. There he was waxing lyrical about how important it was to get the whales out of captivity, or into, I forget. He was desperately trying to wow me with his staff. Blah blah does this. Thingy-ma-bob does that. Then he grabbed Lily by the shoulder.
“And this is our outstanding new fundraising manager. A great asset to the team. Approved her appointment myself.” The look on Lily’s face told me that was a lie. It also told me so much else. The delicate creature was so out of place in the middle of that grand hall. Despite the stunning red dress she wore, the way her curly locks bounced, it was so clear how she itched to get back to her work. She was so straightforward, especially when you compare her to the other women I’ve met over the years. There was nothing hidden. No angle being played. She didn’t even wear makeup to adjust the way she looked. There was something so innocent. So honest about her. It was…refreshing to me. “So, what went wrong?”
“Come on? You saw that earlier. She’s straight up. What you see is what you get.”
“I’m not. I can’t even say, well, you know.”
“I love you?”
I open a small door, step into a darkened storage area, and flick the light switch. The single bulb bursts into life, casting a circle of illumination around the figure tied to the chair. I move across the open space, keeping my eyes peeled. At least he’s still where he should be. She hasn’t gotten to him. Not yet. I lift the bag off his head. The blonde hair is matted to his pretty face. Well, it was attractive before someone did some damage.
The cut, fat lip barely moves as the word is uttered. I lift the bruised chin and look into the one eye that can still see. I don’t like violence. But sometimes it’s necessary, a means to an end.
“About time you got here.”
The voice cuts through the blackness. There’s an edge there. It’s intended to make me fear her, but it just reveals her location. If she’d kept quiet, I might have considered walking away and letting her take her brother back. But it’s not going down that way now. “What does that mean for you?”
“Good evening, Sophie.” It’s not. I just want some time alone. Maybe distract myself with some pottery. Give my mind the space to process what happened earlier with Lily. But it’s not to be.
“Don’t think you can smooth talk me! You thought you were better than the rest of us!”
“Are you going to let her talk to you like that?”
“Relax, I have this all in hand.”
The gun slides out of the shadows, and Sophie follows it. She’s nervous. I can see it in the way she moves. The way the revolver shakes in her hand. Her finger is wrapped a little too tight around the trigger.
“Wouldn’t want to be annoying her now, would you?”
“Well, I am immortal. Or did you forget?”
“Whatever you are thinking, just give it up.” As she speaks, Sophie advances, waving the gun back and forth like she’s fanning a fire. “I have you covered, and I’m not afraid to use this.” I just manage not to sigh at her words. It’s so theatrical. I could be at a movie. I can’t express my true feelings, so instead, I pose a question.
“Is this really necessary?”
“Just keep quiet, you.” The gun twitches, shifting up from my abdomen to point at my face. “Did you really think I couldn’t work out where you were holding my brother?”
“Why don’t you put the gun down?” I ask, following up with a nice whopper of a lie. “We can sit down and talk this through like adults.”
“Fuck off!” She advances, closing the gap between us. The muzzle lowers, my chest a much easier target.
“And a much messier outcome for you if she does fire.”
“Do you really think I want to discuss this with you, you monster?” Her eyes burn with unveiled anger. “You kidnapped my brother. Forced me to run all those stupid errands. Now I have the upper hand, and you are going to pay.”
“Are you sure?” It’s the best I can do to communicate my one-upmanship. I look around expectantly. Sophie’s head tilts to the side, and she takes a step closer.
“Were you expecting the cavalry? Your security goon? I’m afraid I might have taken him out of the picture already.” Sophie purses her lips, lifts the gun, and blows across the business end. It’s almost seductive. Almost.
“Please tell me that some rent-a-cop mortal wasn’t your backup plan? Because that would be some real great work, oh Master Trickster…”
“Now listen here,” Sophie continues, “I know what you are up to. And we want in. A piece of the action. Our share.” I back up slightly as she saunters over to the battered figure in the chair. Her hand rests on his shoulder, but she keeps her eyes on me. The weapon once more fixed on my chest.
“Look, Sophie, I think we need to start again.” We don’t. She’s exactly where I want her. The pipe strikes me square in the back of the head, and the pain pushes me to the floor. I gurgle as my vision blurs.
“You didn’t expect that, did you?”
“Actually, I did…”