“You have kept me safe in battle for over millennia…” I try to explain.
“While I was dead? DEAD?” she asks.
I need to be careful, so this doesn’t turn into a fight. I need her help, but even more, I need to be able to explain things.
“I see your face every day. Well, not your face now, I guess…But your face as…well…as you in all your glory…I umm…Shit, I’m fucking this up.” I feel the heat creep up into my face. She is the only one who knocks me off my game this bad. I thought I was bad around Renard…
“Hmm. You think?” she says sarcastically. Her anger is understandable. Especially since the revelation about her head being mounted on my shield. I drop my gaze and stare intently at the floor.
“Medusa…I…I’m sorry.” I don’t know what else to say.
“Why? Why did you hate me so much?”
I bring my gaze back to her. She runs her hands absently through her hair and stares at me. Her eyes are as filled with tears as mine are. Damn it. If she starts crying, I am going to start too.
“I didn’t hate you. I was crushed. I felt betrayed, and I took it out on you. I was so angry for so long. I wanted to punish you.” Hells have no fury as a goddess scorned and all…
“You felt betrayed? How the hell do you think I felt?” she scoffs at me.
“You did forsake me and break your vow to me for my uncle.” I know being defensive will not help, but it’s not all on me. We both had a part in it. Mine was just bigger. It’s something that I regret deeply.
“So, wait…you don’t,” her voice drops to a whisper before she continues, “hate me?” She drops her gaze to the floor.
“It’s not like I had a choice. I loved you, above all else. It just…” It was my turn to look away. My voice barely whispers as it cracks and threatens to give out.
“I had never loved a mortal before. And you chose him. You loved him. It broke something inside of me. I couldn’t kill him. He is my uncle…” The tears spilled from my eyes and streaked down my face. “I was so angry, but I never hated you. My rage just blinded me.”
“I never thought you really wanted anything from me but worship. He wanted more.” Her voice was starting to crack, and I knew without even looking at her that the tears were falling from her eyes.
“It may have been a curse, but it was an immortal one. You are so beautiful, even as a gorgon. I wanted more, too. I just didn’t know how. So, I cursed you…” I hear her snakes hiss and fight to come to the surface. They want to show themselves. Our eyes meet.
“I have always been a warrior…I didn’t know how to love you the way that you needed me too.”
“I’m not a mortal any longer,” she replies. She isn’t a mortal, and she isn’t dead. At least not anymore.
“Look, to be honest, I’m not sure how or why I have been brought back. But I’m here now,” she continues.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to see you. I am glad you are here. I don’t know how, but—wait, why are you here?” With the shock of seeing her here, I completely forgot to find out why she was at this crime scene. It’s not open to the public, not even for the Goddess of Snakes and Stone. She looks around and gestures to all the dead bodies.
“I am your specialist. They have asked me to help. Who is in charge, anyway?”
“I am,” I tell her.
“I still want to help. If I can.” She looks back at me.
“I was told that a specialist was being called in to help me, but I had no idea.” I manage a smile.
“I do need help and welcome any help you can provide.”
She smiles back. “We have a lot to do, but I think we will make a great team.”
I hear someone audibly clear their throat behind me. I slowly turn around and see that everyone is staring at us. I completely forgot that anyone else was here. Apparently, we have been putting on the immortal version of a Telenovela. Our own edition of the Immortal and the Restless. Medusa looks around too.
“I guess this wasn’t the appropriate place for this conversation.” She looks embarrassed.
“It appears that we have an audience. Can we finish this conversation later?” I ask. I am afraid of what her answer will mean for me…for us.
She smiles. “I would like that very much.”
She clears her throat and regains her composure.
“Okay, so I was told that my services are needed. I assume that you don’t need the bodies to disappear. So, can you tell me what happened, so I can best help.” She was right. She needed information.
“I have been investigating murders and missing persons cases. It led me here. These morons obviously had no idea who I am or what was going to happen. I entered and broke up the party, and before I could get any more information, the leader decided to blow his head off. So, they are all dead, and I have zero new information.”
“I see. Well, it does appear that you have changed. I can help, but we need to hurry.”
“I have had a lot of time to adapt.” I manage a small laugh to break the tension. Medusa nods and rushes over to the first body. I follow her and wait for her to tell me how I can help.
“I have to turn him into stone first. Is that alright? Any evidence will be lost. The memories come easier from stone than they do flesh and bone. I usually have someone to help. He holds the eyes open for me.”
“We have already collected the evidence that we need. I am sure no one will miss these assholes. Hells, we may even throw a parade.”
I whistle loudly to get everyone’s attention. I instruct the other officers to wait outside before I nod and crouch down next to Medusa. Without being asked, I open his eyes and hold them open for her. She looks at me.
“You might want to look away.” Her concern sends flutters through my heart.
“It won’t hurt me …it’s my…curse.” I manage to squeak out the last word. It was almost painful to say. She smiles and clears her throat before shifting into gorgon form. My Gods, she is breathtaking. She quickly turns the man to stone and stares intently at him. I wait, unsure of what to do. Then she looks at me.
“They were warned that you were coming. They didn’t have a lot of time, but it was enough to move their shipment. I don’t know what it was yet. We will need to do more of them to get all the information. It comes in pieces as memories, so I have to sift through them.” She sways as she says the last part. I immediately put an arm around her to hold her steady, and she leans into me. I wait a few minutes to make sure she is okay. She straightens herself and looks at me.
“Okay, I’m fine now. It takes a lot of energy to pull the memories out, but I am ready to do it again.” She stands up and moves to the next dead body. We continue the same process for eight more men before she starts to sway again. I wrap my arms around her and hold her up.
“Woah there, I got you. Are you okay?” She closes her eyes and shifts back into mortal form. I support her weight as she leans her head into me. I hear her start to sob softly.
“Oh, Gods…there is a container…full of women and children… that’s the product. They are smuggling people. They got the call just before you arrived, and that was all they were able to clear out. The container is on a semi-truck. It’s all jumbled. They don’t know where it is going, but there is a car that just left. They have someone…they are torturing him. He looks like a cop. That’s all I can tell. I am so sorry.”
I smooth her hair and try to comfort her.
“Don’t be sorry. You did great. Can you tell me what the officer looked like?”
She took a few deep breaths before continuing. “Caucasian, male, dark hair, tanned skin.”
“Shit, that’s Agent Morrison. He has been MIA. We have to find where they are holding him,” I reply. I am thankful that Morrison is still alive. He disappeared without any trace, and we had zero leads as to where he had gone. We all thought he was dead. Medusa stood up again and smoothed her clothing.
“Okay, let’s see if the rest know anything.” I nod in agreement and follow her to the next body to assist her. I hold open his eyes, and she shifts back into form and turns him to stone. Once she is finished, I ask, “Okay, so I have to ask. What did you mean? Make them disappear?”
She gives me a broad smile.
“I have found that I have power over the stone.”
My eyes widen. “Really?”
She smiles broadly. “Yes. I must admit that it’s pretty cool. I really don’t see it as a curse anymore. It’s more of a gift now.”
Her words make me smile, too. Maybe we both will be able to move past this. Maybe there was hope for us yet. Just maybe.
“Can you show me?” I ask.
“Really? Sure.” She looks pleased to be able to show me what she can do. She lays her hand on the statue, and it crumbles into dust. I must admit it’s amazing to watch.
“See, the body is gone.”
I stand up and clap before doing an exaggerated little bow.
“I can see how that would be useful. So, I have one more question before we finish up.”
She eyes me warily. “Sure, what is it?”
“You said you have help. How does that work?”
“I have a…friend. He has his own security company. He usually holds open the eyes. We have the same view on criminals and make a great team.”
I think for a moment on how to phrase the question without sounding like a jealous schoolgirl.
“How does he do it without turning to stone?” See, I can use my brain after all.
“Oh.” She stifles a laugh. “He usually turns away and closes his eyes. It’s actually very funny. He has run in to help me with his eyes closed.”
We both laugh.
“Medusa… Can I umm…”
“You want to see my snakes again?”
She shifts back into gorgon form, and I can’t help but stare in awe. I reach up to touch them. At first, the snakes are hesitant but soon wrap lovingly around my hand, much like a cat that wants to be loved. I smile and gently stroke them. I return my gaze to Medusa, who is smiling too.
“You are breathtaking,” I tell her.
“You are the only one who has ever thought so.”
We share a moment of tenderness and understanding before I hear an officer call in.
“Athena, is everything all clear.” I laugh and put my hand down.
“I suppose we should finish up,” I yell back to the officer that we are almost done.
“I have found that I can’t turn immortals into stone. At least not yet. Maybe with more practice.” She is right. With some practice, few will be able to withstand her Gorgon form.
“Her powers will never hurt me, though…because it’s my…curse.” It still hurt to say it. Even with the revelation that she now sees it as a gift, it hurt.
“I would like to talk more. Especially about your shield, but first, we need to finish and go over everything. You have an agent to find.” She is right. I know she is. I just don’t want to leave this moment. We finish up with the last of the bodies, and she is able to keep her composure without swaying. She is so much stronger than I could have ever anticipated. After this, I will tell her anything that she wants to know. We have so much to talk about, and so far to go to mend our bond. She looks at me.
“Most of the information isn’t important. Sifting through the memories is difficult.” I feel concerned for her.
“Do you need to rest?”
“No, we need to go over this while it’s fresh. Thank you, though.” I wait for her to continue. She closes her eyes and concentrates.
“Come on!” She jumps up and starts in a full sprint out of the building. She starts looking around wildly at the surrounding areas.
“What is it, Gorgie?”
“One of them has a memory of looking at a grey van as they loaded your agent into it. It has to be here somewhere.” I feel a rush of adrenalin. We are going to get these bastards.
“My car is over here. Let’s go.” We hop into my car, and I rev up the engine. I start driving around the building.
“Are there any other buildings? They have to be close.”
I immediately start driving towards the other buildings near the warehouse.
“There!” Medusa yells and starts pointing. Off in the distance is a parked grey van. It is by a smaller warehouse on the south side.
“Hold on!” I slam on the gas and speed up. Once I am closer, I drift into a stop and slam on the emergency brake. I don’t bother turning the car off just in case we have to chase anyone. The cavalry is with me when we exit my vehicle. Squad cars swarm the area. I motion for three teams to cover the exits. Do so silently.
“Athena,” Medusa whispers, “I don’t know how many are in there.”
“It’s okay. If you are coming in, you will need a vest and gun. Do you know how to use one of these?” I take out my handgun and hold it out to her.
“Um…point and shoot.”
“You got it, babe. I am going to create a distraction, and you look for Morrison.”
She takes the gun and moves to the side of the door. I hit the button on my radio.
“Bang bang.” It’s the signal. The other teams all open the doors and throw in flash-bangs. After they go off, I look at Medusa and smile as I give her a wink. I stand straight up and kick in the front doors. They fly open as I yell, “Wakey, wakey, assholes!” I see Medusa’s mouth hanging open.
As soon as I walk in, a guy rushes me, and I shoot him center mass in the chest.
“Marco…What no polo? Come out and play!” I yell again. Two more guys emerge and start to shoot at me, but their aim is terrible. I easily avoid the shots and shoot them both.
“Three down!” I yell again. I am hoping to keep them distracted and focused on me, so no one else gets hurt. Medusa is coming in the door behind me and shifts into gorgon form and turns four guys into stone. I beam with pride. One guy rushes me, and I punch him in the chest. You can hear the crack as his ribs give away. Two more men come at me from opposite sides. I turn and elbow one in the face. Blood explodes from his nose, and he instantly moves his hands to cover it. I take the opportunity to shoot him in the head. The other one reaches me as I turn to face him, and the broken board splinters as it impacts my shoulder.
“You are really going to wish that you hadn’t done that.” I kick in his kneecap and then roundhouse him in the face. He falls to the floor and lays there motionless. I didn’t need to shoot him, but I do it anyway.
“Feel better?” I heard Medusa ask. I can’t help but smile.
“Why, yes…Yes, I do.” The other teams are flooding in and apprehending the rest of the men. As soon as Medusa sees them enter, she shifts back into mortal form and rushes to the man bound, blindfolded, and gagged at the far end of the room. She found Morrison! The day is looking up. With all the threats neutralized, I join her next to our missing agent.
“Do you do this a lot?” Medusa asks me with a laugh. I smile wickedly in response.
“It’s a necessary evil. Some people must die to protect those that deserve to live. Not Everyone would have rushed headfirst into battle with me, and you did so without hesitation. Even after everything.” My words trail off as we turn our attention back to the agent slumped over in the chair.
“We need to get him out of here,” I tell Medusa as she hands me back my gun. I guess she didn’t need it after all.