As the Goddess of Victory, many people and Gods alike think I have it all together all the time. That winning came easily and naturally to me. Because to them, that is all they see. They never really see me. Like one of our customers at Dark Sparks. She came in every Tuesday and Thursday and ordered the same drink. She was always wearing one of those face protector masks. Well, I guess everyone was now, but there was something about her that spoke to me today.
I saw her in line and decided I would take her order. Jake ordered his Moxie Dark as Night, which was dark roast chicory with no sweetener, just a splash of real milk and a red straw. Next up was Susan. She ordered a Polar Seahorse, a green tea with strawberries, milk, and ice cubes, double sweet. Then it was her turn. She looked at the board once more. She wore glasses and a light blue sweater that looked like it was two sizes too big for her, torn up fashion jeans, and blue flats. If I had to guess, she was maybe 23 or 24, but her eyes looked exhausted.
“How can we improve your day?” I asked her with my bright smile.
She looked right at me, shocked that I was helping her, I guess. My heart did that leap thing it did if someone needed a victory.
“I..I…” she blushed, “I’d like the Clio, please.”
“And your name?”
“My name? You want my name?”
“Yes, miss, so they can call you when it’s ready.”
“Oh, right? Aha, my name…” Her eyes darted around the room. “My name…” She fiddled with her jacket zipper.
Looking at her, I tilted my head. I did my best to send out calming energies, similar to what I use for athletes before an important game. I searched for some way to help her. Why couldn’t she just say her name? I thought to myself. I decided just to give her a lucky one.
“How about I call you Goldie for your hair color? Would that be all right?” I asked with a smile.
She looked up at me, and through her mask, I could see her give me a slight smile. She paid and moved to the barstool near the window in the nook, right where the rose bush outside covers that corner. No one ever sits there except her. I helped four more patrons, then traded positions with Marney to help make a few drinks. I noticed Todd was about to call out Goldie’s name, so I moved over to him and whispered, “I’ll handle this one.”
Taking Goldie her drink, I noticed her tapping her fingers on the counter next to her laptop, a clear sign she was anxious about something. She had one of those protected covers over the screen, but with my better than human vision, I could see what her screen said:
Please stop. I don’t have the money.
You better get it, or I’ll do it, and you know I will.
But you promised you wouldn’t if I gave you the money last month.
No, I said you better keep giving me that money you bit…
Goldie, seeing me near her, closed the laptop slightly to hide the screen.
“Here you go, Goldie. Enjoy. May Clio bring you joy today,” I said as I set the drink next to her laptop.
“Thank you,” she said, looking up at me.
I walked to the counter. Glancing back at her, I could see her shoulders moving up and down and the sounds of quiet sobbing coming from her. Sometimes having godly hearing is heartbreaking. I wanted to rush over there, wrap my wings around her, and offer her comfort. But as this is a modern age, hugs that are not asked for are deemed harassment. Remembering the video equipment, I went to the back office and started reviewing the tape.
Cara came into the office. “What are you doing?”
“What?” I replied, trying to sound innocent.
“Nike, I know you well enough to know that something is up. What’s going on with that girl?”
“What do you know about her?”
“I know she comes in every Tuesday and Thursday and orders the same drink. Samantha, Linda, Mary, something like that.”
“Wait, you mean every time she comes in here, she gives a different name, and yet she orders the same drink? Hmmm.”
“Come to think of it, yeah, she does.” Cara was quiet for a minute. “Wait, you don’t think she’s FBI, NSA, Mi6, or something like that, do you?”
I shook my head. “Just because we found one spy in the OA doesn’t mean everyone is a spy,” I said, laughing at Cara. She was one of the few mortals besides Francisco who knew who I really was.
I zoomed the security camera in on her laptop—don’t try this at home, kids, you will go to jail—and read more of the messages on the screen. I noted where she was to meet him for the drop off in a week. I knew I needed to help her.
That night, I went home and told my siblings about what had happened. It pissed Bia and Zelus off. Kratos stood nodding, which meant he was planning.
“The address is near The Mermaid’s Tale, so we could easily help dispatch this scumbag,” Bia said telepathically.
“I think I want a more permanent solution because if he is extorting money from her, he is probably doing the same thing to others.”
“Good point, Nike, but what is it you are thinking?” Kratos asked.
“Oooh, Nike, that’s good.” Bia smiled as she could see what I had envisioned.
I filled the rest of my family in on my plan. The following week, Goldie only came in on Tuesday. She normally paid with cash, but today she used a credit card. Boom, I had her actual name. Bethany. I bet she used the card because she was going to bring that…that…scumbag her money.
The day had arrived, according to her email last week with the guy. I had Bia and Kratos head to the ocean and round up some help. The guy had told Goldie to meet him on his yacht with the money. He was having another party and wanted her to be there. If she couldn’t pay, he would…I couldn’t see that last bit on her laptop but didn’t have a problem guessing his intentions.
Zelus was already at the dock and was part of the yacht crew. How my brother talked his way on board, I had no idea. I was perched upon the Coast Guard tower, waiting for Goldie. She arrived right on cue, dressed in a raincoat, even though it wasn’t raining. I knew something was going to go down.
I quickly rushed to be near the boat. The guy looked like he was dropped from the 1980s show Miami Vice. He was dressed in white slacks, a white and pink double polo with both collars up, and boating shoes.
“Aw, you made it, Kat. Good, good, come on board.”
Moving faster than the human eye could see, I positioned myself out of view and listened.
“You must be hot in that coat.” He moved closer to her and helped her take it off. Bethany was wearing nothing but a bikini, and she had a small envelope in her hand.
“Tim, please, please, don’t do this,” she begged him.
“Is it all there?” He tossed the coat on the floor and took the envelope from her. “This is light…what the…Kat!!” he shouted as he looked in the envelope, tossing it back at her. “I don’t want ones! I want hundreds!” He grabbed her by the face, shouting at her before pushing her to the ground. “Listen here, broad. That’s it. I’ve given you enough chances.” He moved his arm in a circular motion, and the boat pulled away from the dock. The other girls screamed as he grabbed Bethany by her hair and tossed her to the front of the yacht. The girls huddled around her, and my blood began to boil.
Tim didn’t say anything until the yacht was a suitable way out in the ocean.
The boat lurched forward, then ground to a halt. The captain informed Tim that they were caught on something, and they were working on getting it fixed.
“Great, just great!” Tim shouted at them.
He walked up to Bethany and the other girls. “Well, I was gonna take care of this further out, but I guess this is as good a place as any.” Tim pulled out a gun and pointed it at the girls. “You see, Kat, this is what you’ve driven me to.” He began to do what all villains do, the monologue about why they’re doing something. While Tim was going on and on about how much Bethany was ruining his life, he showed her a book.
I whispered to Zelus to get that book. At the same time, Bia signaled Kratos, and he punched a big hole in the side of the yacht, causing the boat to shift to the port side before it started to sink. Bia leaped out of the water, grabbing the two girls before they slid into the ocean and flew them to shore. Tim dropped the book, and Zelus scooped up both it and Bethany before flying away. The crew abandoned the ship and were in the lifeboat, rowing quickly.
Tim didn’t know what happened. He looked all around him, and no one was there. I became visible. “Help me. Oh, please, help me!” he begged me.
“Timothy Barnet, because you have betrayed your oath to do no harm, harm has come to you. You have harmed women, luring them with a tickle like a catfish, and caused ruin and pain through physical abuse and sexual assault. You have no further use of the victory which I gave you as a child. From the sea, you came, so to the sea, you return. ”
“Wait? How? Who are you?”
“I am the Goddess of Victory, the Goddess Nike. Know me, hear me, for you are not worthy.” I rose above the sinking yacht.
“No, no, please help me! Save me!”
I watched the yacht sink into the swarm of stingrays that Bia had led to the surface. Knowing this was his end, I tossed him a small coin that he barely caught. “That is for the ferryman. I’m not completely heartless. Keep your pleas for the judges,” I shouted as I flew away.
But Kratos said that wasn’t something that would improve my ratings, so we called the Coast Guard to pick him up.
About a week later, I asked Cara to stop by the main office to pick up a package. “So how did Operation Stingray go?” she asked me.
“What on earth are you talking about?” I tried to feign innocence.
Cara reached for the remote on my desk and flicked on the TV.
“And he was a known racketeer and money launderer. He was also wanted on four counts of sexual assault,” the reporter said.
“Looks like someone finally made their charges stick,” I said.
“Well, the stingrays have a motto: don’t swim in the swarm because you will get stung. Good thing the Coast Guard got to him in time.”
I coughed and cleared my throat. “Plausible deniability. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sure, Nike. Sure.”
“Just make sure you deliver this, okay,” I said, pointing to the box she had in her hand.
“Got it, boss.”
“Hey!” I shouted after her.
I picked up one of my shields. I had just written Bethany’s name on the inside and hung it back on my wall. Snorting a laugh, I thought to myself, Thanks for the reminder, Brother. Sitting in my chair and looking at the shields on the walls, I reminisced about the thousands upon thousands of victories I had given.
Later that afternoon, I got a phone video message from Cara.
Cara said, “Nike, she’s here.” Cara placed the phone over near the donut counter. I watched Cara as she stepped in front of the phone camera and approached Bethany. “Excuse me, is your name Bethany?” Cara asked.
“This was left here for you,” Cara said, holding out the box.
“What? No one knows me,” Bethany replied, her voice shaking and a shadow of fear still in her eyes.
“Trust me. You’ll want to open this.” Cara winked at her.
Watching the video, Cara gave the phone two thumbs up and moved so I could have a clearer view.
Bethany opened the small box, gasped, and covered her mouth. She pulled out a piece of parchment and read the note I’d written to her:
My Dearest, Bethany,
I have granted you the victory you asked for. In this box, you will find all the pictures and videos of yourself. Do not ask me how, but know it is finished. You have been granted this victory. Do not waste it, for that which is freely given can also be taken away. Share how you were saved, but tell no one of this prize, for it is to be a reminder to you that you have the victory.
The Goddess Nike
I watched as tears streamed down her face. She set the letter in her lap, and dug into the box, saw the photos and flash drives. She pulled out the folded gold paper and unwrapped a golden feather. On the feather was written: Be blessed, Bethany.
She clutched the feather to her chest and wept. I saw Cara move back over to Bethany and hug her as she cried in her arms. I had to stop the video because a tear was rolling down my face. My phone buzzed. It was Cara.
“Yeah?” I answered, trying to compose myself.
“Couldn’t get through it, could you?” she said, somewhat smugly.
“Nope. Was she okay?”
“She left here with a smile on her face.”
“Good to know,” I said, my own lips curving in a happy grin.
“Hey, you coming in today?”
“Yeah, I understand. See you later then.”
“Thanks, Cara. See ya.”
I hung up and spun my chair to look at the midday sun, thinking we won this one. How many more will I be able to help? Maybe my sister’s right. This just might work.