After a week of chasing down every lead possible, I found myself standing in front of an abandoned building in West York. It had a large red box with a white X on the front, letting everyone know that it was condemned. The church across the street had long since closed its doors for the night. The street was quiet, with very few vehicles passing by. I looked at my watch, 2:00 a.m. I couldn’t see anything inside the building, because almost all the windows and doors were boarded up. I suppose the city hoped that it would deter vagrants or the homeless from entering.  I roll my eyes, obviously not.  

I had called in backup from the local PD, but it did not appear that they were going to get here anytime soon. I let out a slow breath. You know the saying about never being around when you need them. Another eye roll. Well, I couldn’t just continue to stand out here, waiting for the bad guy to see me and escape. I had to find Bella.

I drew my gun from the shoulder rig under my blazer and quietly walked around the side of the building. So far, there was still no way in. At the rear of the building, I could see that one of the pieces of plywood had been torn away from an entrance. No one had even attempted to disguise or cover it. These were the people who had been eluding me. The UNSUB had been smart enough to constantly cover their tracks and stay one step ahead of us this whole time, and now they hadn’t even bothered to hide an entrance? It just seemed too simple. As much as I would have loved to find another way in, time was not on my side. Most of all, it was not on Bella’s side, and she needed time. I silently prayed to Zeus that she was still alive. I couldn’t face her poor parents again with more bad news. They needed hope. Most of all, they needed Bella back.

Like it or not, I had found my way in and I had to take it. Cautiously, I approached the empty doorway. Everything was clear. One final breath before entering and I stepped inside. The first room was completely empty, from what I could see. Unfortunately, I was not blessed with the power to see in the dark, so I had to rely on my trusty little flashlight. After this was all over, I was going to have to ask my father about getting a relic or magical item that allowed me to see in the dark. 

Since Bella was obviously not in the entrance, which would have made life that much easier, I continued to the next room. I could see some broken and dusty remnants of furniture, but still no one in sight. I paused and listened for a moment…nothing. The next doorway led down a corridor and up a flight of stairs. Quietly, I ascended, hoping not to hit a creaky board and give away my position. Still nothing. Was this just another dead end? Had the UNSUB eluded me once more? Was I ever going to find poor Bella? Was she even alive? All the troubling questions swirled in my head. I had grown to love these mortals so much. Especially the children. They had such innocence and wonder. They were not yet tainted by the evils of the world. That made me want to protect them all the more.

Nearing the end of the next hallway were two doors. One was the opening to a small bathroom, the other opened into a much larger room, the largest one yet. At the far end of the room, a small light shone. Next to it was a tiny mattress, a bucket that had contained what I could only assume to be human waste, some water jugs, and boxes. That’s when I saw her. Curled up, dirty, bound by duct tape, and sobbing. It was Bella! Without thinking, I ran to her. 

“Bella, it’s okay. I’m here to rescue you. You are safe now.” 

Her eyes grew wide with panic. She tried to scream around the gag that was placed so tightly in her mouth, I knew it would leave marks. Her scream came too late. I was so distracted by finding her that I hadn’t bothered to clear the rest of the room. It was not usual for me to make such a human error.

Something hit me. It was hard and made a loud metallic sound when it struck my head. The impact caused me to sway forward. I lost my balance and my .45 caliber Colt skidded across the floor. My world spun for the barest of moments and I closed my eyes. Damn, that hurt! I carefully touched the wound at the back of my head. I looked at my hand and saw blood. 

“You are going to pay for that, asshole!” I let my anger fill my voice and drip from every word.  Slowly, I stood up. I heard the object hit the floor behind me.

I turned around to face the moron who had struck me. There he stood, wide-eyed and starting to panic. At his feet was a shovel. He hit me with a shovel. 

“A shovel…really? You make me chase you all over Pennsylvania and now you hit me with a shovel?” 

His eyes widened, showing too much white. Good, I had him scared. Scared as he had made poor Bella. The impact that had been meant to knock me out or kill me had just pissed me off. But now I had him. I had him and I was going to finally finish this. I let a smile curve my lips up as I looked at him. 

He turned to run away. He was actually trying to flee. After all that he had done, he really thought that he was going to escape. That I would let him escape. Foolish mortal. I took a step forward and picked up the shovel that he had probably meant to use to kill and bury me with. I tossed it up in the air and caught it. Yes, this would do nicely. Another smile curved my lips. He had no idea who he was dealing with. I am a master at spears, swords, and shields. I threw it in the air and as I caught it, I drew back and hurled it at him. 

The blade of the shovel hit home and buried itself deep upon impact. The sound echoed in the large room. Then his body fell to the floor with a thud. The shovel fell to the floor with it. His head fell about five feet from his body and rolled as it hit. I stalked up to him, or what was left of him. Now that the adrenalin was starting to dissipate, I recognized him. He was the responding officer to the original scene. My first impression of him was that there was something wrong with him. He interjected himself a little too far into the investigation. What seemed like compassion and dedication to the others did not sit well with me. My first impression, as with most first impressions, was right. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. A sick son-of-a-bitch, disguising himself as one of the good guys. When I had contacted dispatch, he must have intercepted the call and thought he would take me out. The media was going to have a field day with this. They will swarm and frenzy over this story. Thankfully, that wasn’t my problem.

I had done my job. The job that Bella’s mother had hired me to do. I had found Bella and she was alive. I picked up my gun and holstered it before walking over to the small, terrified child. The poor dear was going to need a lot of therapy to get through this. I prayed to Zeus that she would come out on the other side, stronger and not damaged by all of this. I knelt down beside her. “Ssshhhhhh, it’s okay.” I went to remove the gag and she flinched. Closing her eyes tight, as if waiting for something bad to happen. I moved the hair from her face and saw why. The sick bastard had hit her. She had bright purple bruising down the right side of her face, mostly concentrated around her eye and jaw. “Ssshhhhhh, it’s okay, Bella. Your mom sent me to find you. I’m going to take you home.” 

As soon as I undid her gag and cut the bindings free from her hands and legs, she leaped up and hugged me. Her little arms tightly encircled my neck and she buried her face in my hair. She sobbed and her little body shook wildly. I wrapped my arms around her and stayed as still as possible. For a few minutes, I just knelt there, holding her. Letting her cry and feel the safest she had in over a week. 

Once her sobbing slowed and her body stopped shuddering from the force of her crying, I stood up, holding her in my arms. “Bella, I want you to keep your eyes closed until we get outside. I don’t want you to see the bad man again, okay?” She had been through and seen enough terror. More than any child should ever have to. I didn’t want her to see Officer Asshole, or what was left of him.

She nodded her head while it was still buried in my hair and snuggled against my neck. “Good. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to look,” I said, gently trying to soothe the child. I walked out of the room, stepping over the body as I did so. Once outside, I would call it in, but for now, I focused on getting Bella out of the building. 

The walk outside seemed shorter than it had when I was looking for Bella. As we exited the building, I let out a sigh of relief. I walked to the parking lot across the street. I had parked in the church’s parking lot to try and look as inconspicuous as possible. I clicked the unlock button on my key fob to my gold Mercedes-Benz S550e. It was my earthly golden chariot.  Not as fast, but just as pretty. I held Bella up with one arm and opened the back door with the other. I had kept Bella’s favorite blankets and her stuffed bear in my back seat, in hopes of finding her. Her mother told me the bear’s name was Mr. Bear Bear. Bella had lovingly named him and never went anywhere without him. It was the first indicator that something was terribly wrong. She never would have willingly left him behind.

Once the door was opened, I gently wrapped her in her blankets and handed her Mr. Bear Bear. She eagerly grabbed him and snuggled him close. I attempted to put her in my car, and she clung to me and started to sob again. “NO, no, no, no, no,” she cried repeatedly. 

“Shhhhhhh, it’s okay. I’m going to start the car and get you warmed up. Then I’m going to call your mommy. It’s okay. I’m not leaving you. You are safe now. I promise.” 

This time, she let me set her in the seat. I tucked the blanket around her and gently shut the door. I walked around the car, opened the driver’s side door, and started the ignition. I left the radio off but turned on the heat. It was cold outside, and she had been in the freezing weather for days without any source of heat. I’m thankful that she was not injured further than that. 

Now that she was safe and warm, I dialed the police chief. I gave him the necessary information and the location. Then I dialed Bella’s mother. “Hello, It’s Athena. I have Bella and she is safe. Once the paramedics get here and see her, you can take her home.” Her mother broke out in an incoherent babble of thankfulness. I could barely understand her. Her husband picked up the phone. “Thank you so much. Thank you.” I gave him the address and let him know I would wait for them here, even after the police and EMTs arrived.

It wasn’t long before the cavalry had arrived. I could hear them approaching from blocks away, sirens blaring. Alert the world, I thought to myself. I rolled my eyes; mortals could really exasperate you. I was leaning against my car when they pulled up. The chief was the first one out of his car and walked over to me. 

“You said there was a body?” he asked. Blunt, I liked that. 

“Yes, he is inside.” 

He looked at me. “Self-defense?” 

I almost smiled. “Why, of course, it was.” I gave my best bullshit innocent look. The chief and I had come to an understanding lately. I did the job that they couldn’t, and they didn’t ask too many ignorant questions. 

“Uh-huh,” he almost chuckled. If the situation hadn’t been so terrible, we would have laughed. He turned to walk towards the building. 

“Chief,” I stopped him, “there is something you need to know. It’s Willison. He was the UNSUB.” 

The chief’s eyes widened a bit and then returned to their normal no-nonsense state. “Ok. We will contact you for a statement. And Athena…thank you.” We shared a moment of mutual respect, and then he turned and went into the building. 

The EMTs approached and took Bella to make sure she was okay. The entire time, her little eyes stayed locked on me. As if I were her focal point, and as long as she stared at me, she was safe. I gave her a small smile and mouthed, “It’s okay.”

Soon after, her mother, step-father, and biological father arrived. They were in the same vehicle. One big happy family…rriigghhtt. They exited the car and as soon as Bella saw them, she was in a full sprint. She leapt into her mother’s arms and they both sobbed. The fathers hugged them both tightly. Maybe they could move on from this and be one happy family.

One of the rookies approached me. “You’re Athena, right? 

I smiled, “Yes.”

 A huge smile broke out across his face. “Oh, man! The boys are not going to believe that I met you!” 

My smile widened. “It’s nice to meet you, too.” 

He looked at the building and his smile disappeared. “A ransom letter came in an hour ago. It said that if a million dollars wasn’t paid by 6:00 a.m., the kid was going to die. She is lucky you found her.” 

I looked at him. “It wasn’t luck. I don’t give up on children. I wouldn’t have stopped until I found her.” 

He nodded. I turned to look at the family one more time. They were lost in a world all their own. I got into my car and drove home. Not to my mortal house, but to the Complex. After tonight, I needed to be with my family, too.

Athena (Rainbow Brubaker)
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