Book of Hades
The biggest issue I have constantly had to deal with is the size of my dominion. I hate doing the rounds, walking from place to place to watch over my subjects. After a few centuries, it is repetitive and boring. So naturally, I am way beyond bored.
I found the people needed to fix my problem. My cameras were set up. I stood at the entrance of the Underworld, watching the sheep wander around in a daze. My eyes were on them even though I was not there. Who would have thought human technology would come in so handy? A man called Alexander, and a woman named Francine made it work. They were recently dead and up to speed with these things. Alexander worked for an electric company, fixing telephone poles and underground wiring that sent electricity to people’s homes. Francine worked for a satellite television company, installing equipment and erecting satellite dishes.
Alexander and Francine knew where to find the tools and extra equipment needed to make it happen, so I sent some of my underlings to collect them. A few wires needed to be fed through the walls of the Underworld and a dish set up, but it worked. They were rewarded for their efforts in the form of being released from Tartarus. They were both evil souls, and I gave them entry to the Asphodel Fields with the promise of a place in Elysium if everything went to plan. That was some reward for those two individuals, and if they stepped out of line, the punishment they would face would be great.
I was out of the Underworld, so I watched over it on my new phone. I had a little freedom at last. I had bought myself a new car, a 1970 Dodge Challenger in black. I found I liked older cars much more than the new ones. The newer ones were too civilized for my taste. With the extra boot room and three seats in the back, they were just big lumps of metal on wheels with no character or finesse. The Challenger was a thing of beauty and sophistication, everything you could ever want in a vehicle.
Now that my problem was all but solved, I began to think about what I should do. I made mental notes. First, I wanted a property now that I could spend a considerable amount of time on Earth. Secondly, I needed to start working. It was not for the money. I had more than enough. It was to merge into society, be a member of the community and world again. Third, well third became number one on my list, coffee. I wanted coffee. I had my minions bring me plenty of it in the Underworld, but I had never experienced it here. Coffee shops were an amusing thing to me. People went to these places to drink coffee and socialize. How simplistic life had become.
I cruised in my car and found a small, quiet, little place called Coffee Kingdom. It was on the corner of a poor, mostly derelict, street. What a bloody mess. I pulled up to the side-walk and exited my car. I’d had a top of the range security system installed. If anyone got within a foot of it, a voice would boom out, Step away from the vehicle. I asked the guy who sold it to me if I could voice it myself, and he’d agreed.
He stayed in the room when I recorded it. That was a mistake. Let’s just say his white trousers turned a dark shade of brown at the back. Maybe I was over the top with it. Then again, nobody was going to mess with my ride after hearing that. I pulled open the doors of the coffee shop and looked around. It was clean and well looked after. The owner obviously had pride in their work, something I could relate to.
“Hello, sir,” a woman of maybe 25 said. “What can I get for you?” she spoke kindly, with a radiant smile. I half suspected she was the child of one of the gods. She was a bit too special to be completely human.
“What would you recommend, my dear?” I was in a good mood, and the day was going well. The Underworld was secure, I had a new car, and I was in a coffee shop with nothing but time on my hands.
“You look like a man with good taste. Men with good taste drink black Americano with no sugar,” she stated with a smile.
“Sounds wonderful, thank you,” I replied as I sat at the counter. Americano was not what I drank, Kopi luwak was what I drank. It is one of the most expensive coffees in the world, selling for between $100 and $500 per pound. The speciality Vietnamese weasel coffee, as it is known, is made by collecting coffee beans that wild civets have eaten then crapped back out. Sounds gross, I know, but it happens to be quite delicious.
Coffee Kingdom was a plain place with light brown walls and red leather stools that were worn and torn in places. She obviously did her best with the place, and after looking at her neighbours, she was like the queen of the area. This was her palace, or kingdom as it were.
“There you go.” She placed a black mug down. It was filled with wonderfully smelling black coffee that steamed up my nostrils. Bliss. I took out a wad of cash and put down a note in payment. “You got anything smaller? As you can see, I don’t get too much custom. I don’t have anywhere close to the amount of change for that.” She looked troubled, slightly embarrassed as she glanced at her feet uncomfortably.
“Keep the change, my dear.” I felt a twang of pity for her. I was not sure why. She had a nice little business, more than everyone else around her.
“Oh, no, I couldn’t. This is a hundred,” she argued. I could tell she wanted it, maybe even needed it, but her kindness and need to do the right thing were outweighing that.
“Please,” I pushed the note towards her, “I insist. This, without a doubt, is the best coffee I have ever had.” I was lying, of course. It was cheap stuff. She smiled with pride, shyly picking up the note. I think she was about to thank me, when the doors of the shop opened, and two rough and ragged men entered. She looked afraid as she stared down at her feet. They strode alongside me, lying their arms across the counter casually.
“That time of the month, Kate.” One of the men was slightly older than the other, but they looked like brothers. The elder one spoke with a cracked voice and a slight whistle, his words being forced through the gaps in his teeth.
“I only have half. It’s been a quiet few weeks,” she explained, in a slightly pleading tone.
“Your landlords?” I asked her between sips of my coffee, which made me grimace. I didn’t like them at first glance. I knew just talking to her would cause them to try to intimidate me. I had seen enough rogues to recognize them instantly. I knew what they would do, and that was what I wanted.
“Shut it, Jeeves,” the younger guy said, in a weirdly high-pitched tone that made me chuckle. “What’s so funny?” he asked me, a look of hate plastered on his pock-marked face. They were ugly, almost making Charon look dashing.
“Your voice, of course.” I looked him dead in the eyes as I said, “Surely you have noticed. Been sucking on helium, have we?” I spoke to him like a parent would a little child who had done something wrong. He moved towards me, but his brother stopped him.
“Please, don’t interfere,” the young woman pleaded with me. I never looked at her. I kept my eyes fixed on the younger rogue, never wavering, never blinking. I could see he was unsure of himself. Just a plain stare from me had shaken him.
“Enough, we don’t have time for this,” whistler guy said, with his hand to his brother’s chest, pushing him back and away. “Money.” He stared at me, clicking his fingers at the girl. She opened the till, pulling out several notes, and handed them over to him. “All of it,” he said again. She was still holding the hundred I had given her.
“No, keep it.” I tilted my head at him as I spoke to the girl, “that is my money. I gave it to her.” My voice was still neutral, but sometimes a neutral voice can scare more than a shout. It just depended on the situation. He stared back at me. I knew he was thinking about reaching over and taking the note from her hands. He must have had a feeling deep in his gut, that unexplainable inkling that comes from within. It stopped him.
“Let’s go,” he said instead. He began to back away. I hated that he had some self-control, that he would not bite what I had dangled in front of him. I wasn’t letting that scum walk out with her money.
“Give her the money back before you go.” My voice lowered a few degrees, and I rose from my stool. They were rooted where they stood and never answered me. “Unless you own this place, that money is hers.” I moved towards the door. I didn’t want them running. I didn’t want to chase them. My coffee would get cold, making it even worse to drink. I had to drink it. It would only be good manners.
“She has to pay her tax, just like everyone else around here, bub,” high pitch finally found his voice again, probably snatched from the sky. It was certainly high enough.
“Who asked you, squeaky bollocks?” I stepped towards him threateningly, my voice becoming more violent. He stepped away and hid behind his sibling. “And you,” I pointed to the other, “tax is terminated.” It was my turn to click my fingers. He may have been a piece of scum, but he was smart. He knew there was more to me and wouldn’t take the risk. He threw the cash on the floor, grabbed his brother by the collar, and dragged him out the door with him.
I picked up the cash and put it on the counter. With a grimace, I sat back down and drank my coffee.
“Cold,” I mumbled with irritation.
“They will be back. Next time they will probably smash this place up. Insurance against breakages, they call it. Why did you do that?” She was upset, and she was right. They would be back once I was gone.
“Ever thought of selling this place?” I didn’t answer her question.
“What? No, this is all I have.” She motioned around her.
“How about you sell this place to me? You can be the manager. Nothing would change. You would still be in charge.” I decided it would be a nice little project. She would get some much-needed cash. Plus, I didn’t agree with people drinking that rubbish. I would bring in some good stuff.
“I built this place, for what it’s worth, which isn’t very much. But it’s mine all the same.” She loved her coffee shop. It was her pride.
“It would still be yours., I would come in, now and again, to have some coffee. Other than that, nothing will be different. I can pump some cash into this place, make some real money for you, build an empire.” I held out my hands and motioned around the room.
“So, I would get a wage, and you would get profits. Plus, I would be an employee, not an owner,” she argued. She loved that she owned the place. She was the boss who answered only to herself.
“Alright, alright,” I said, stopping her. “How about fifty-fifty partners? I will give you a lump sum of cash and help you build this place up. You won’t have to worry about taxes, no more money troubles, and it is an investment in your business. We can get some leather chairs in here, industrial coffee makers, and new customers. I guarantee you will make a crapload more cash working with me than you would alone.” She was intrigued by what I had offered.
“I will still be the boss?” she asked.
“Yes, of course.” I pulled out my wad of cash. I put down a large sum, probably enough to buy the place twice over. “This is for my half of the business and to fix the place up. What you do is up to you, but I insist on leather chairs. Deal?” She giggled at that and nodded. “Good. Get a lawyer to write-up the documents. I will be back.” I smiled at her.
“What about Chas and Dave?” she waved her hand at the door.
“Who?” I asked, confused.
“Those two meatheads,” she answered.
“Oh, I will take care of that. Why don’t you close the shop and get that lawyer sorted, eh?” I walked out the doors back to my car, but I was hit with what I think was a metal bar. I dropped to the ground with a thud.
“Now, who’s the tough guy, huh?” The older brother was back with Squeaky. I blocked the following blows with my forearm, then managed to drag the bar from his hands. Safe to say, I beat the snot out of them both. It was nothing permanent, just a few broken legs.
“Now listen, you little cretins. I own this place now. If you come back, I will end you.” I threw my handkerchief on the ground and said, “You have some blood just,” I kicked Squeaky in the nose, watching it burst across his face, “there.” I then walked to my car.
I had gotten so sidetracked I forgot to check my phone. I pulled it out of my pocket and checked my cameras.
“Gods,” I said tiredly. What appeared to be a full-scale riot was raging. I turned on the voice interface and put the dead to order.
“Enough!” I screamed. Everything quickly became silent. Everyone stood still as my voice boomed around the Underworld. “I am watching you.” My deepest, coldest voice made every person physically shiver and cower. They hung their heads low then went back to being mindless wandering sheep. I turned off the connection and chuckled.
“That was easy.” I was in full control of everything. Life was good.