Selene and I watched Kara, who was lying on the couch in my office. “Who is she?” Selene asked.
Sighing, I said, “I don’t know much about her, to be honest. Her mother came to me last fall, claiming that the girl had been kidnapped by a man in broad daylight. The message she was told to give me was ‘Tell Ares this girl will serve as a sacrifice, and I will claim what it is rightfully mine. He and his father will not be able to keep me from taking my rightful place in the Pantheon. He will know where to find me.’”
“Rather archaic, isn’t it? Sacrificing someone, I mean.”
“Any idea who this man is?” Selene said. “Well, if he’s specifically talking about you and Zeus, then he would have to be a god, wouldn’t he?”
“Not a clue. All I have is the description Meredith Fletcher, the mother, gave me. My height, muscular, about 180-190 lbs, black hair, icy blue eyes.”
Selene got a thoughtful look on her face. “Sounds familiar, but I’m not sure why. We could ask around; someone is bound to know who it is. Let me make a couple of calls,” she said, pulling out her phone.
Reginald appeared in the office doorway. “There’s someone here to see you,” he said, looking to his left. “He is a gorgeous specimen of a man, too. Mmmm…eye candy.”
Rolling my eyes, I got up and followed him to the lobby. Aegis, Aunt Demeter’s latest secretary, stood near the desk, holding an envelope. We shook hands. “Aegis, how are you doing?”
He glanced over at my secretary. “Is there somewhere we could talk privately?”
“Reginald, why don’t you see if Selene or our guest need anything?”
“They looked like they were just fine when I stuck my head in there,” Reginald replied, clearly not wanting to miss any juicy gossip.
“Fine,” Reginald huffed before stomping away. Holding up my finger, I waited until he was in the office, then followed him. He was standing right by the open doorway, leaning against the wall so he could hear us talk. He jumped back when he saw me, his left hand on his chest. “You scared me to death!”
“You’re still alive,” I replied. “If you want to stay that way, I suggest you go sit by Selene and stay there.” I looked at her while pointing at him. “Keep him in that chair, by whatever means necessary, until I come back.”
“We’ll be just fine,” she said. “When I’m done with my phone calls, we’ll have a talk about Ferragamos and Milan.”
Closing the door as I left, I returned to the front. Gesturing at the seating area, we sat down in two matching black leather chairs. “What’s wrong, Aegis?”
“It’s your aunt,” he said. “She’s…well, she went on a trip about a month ago, and was due back last week. I’ve tried calling and texting her; I even called the hotel where she was supposed to be staying. They haven’t seen her, and she hasn’t gotten in touch with me.”
“Where did she go?”
Aegis shook his head. “She wouldn’t tell me. You know how secretive she can sometimes be. The only thing she said before she left was if she didn’t return as planned to get this letter to you.” He handed it to me. “She said you’d know what to do.”
I glanced down at the plain white envelope, where my name was written in cursive. “Did you read this?”
“No,” he said, “although I was tempted. I am very concerned about her. She’s very good to me and my family. I think of her as a friend, not just my employer.”
I nodded in understanding. My aunt had a way of making people feel special, usually through a kind word or a gentle touch. But if you crossed her…
“You will go find her, won’t you?” he asked.
“I promise I’ll bring her home.”
Looking relieved, Aegis stood up. I rose and shook his hand. “Thank you. If there is anything I can do to help you, please let me know.”
“Did she leave her travel itinerary with you?”
“She did. I have it at the office.”
“I’d like to come by and get a copy of it later, if it’s not too much trouble. Perhaps take a look around her office.”
“I’m not sure about that,” he said. “She’s rather picky about who touches her things.”
“Yes, I am well aware of that,” I chuckled, remembering the times I had gotten into trouble for taking items from her without permission. “But I think, in this case, she would be all right with it. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Let me read her letter first.”
“There are a few things she asked me to do for her trip; I’ll make a copy of everything and have it waiting for you.”
Once he left, I sat back down and opened the letter.
If you are reading this, then my trip has not gone according to plan, which means that I, like others before me, have disappeared in an area of Vermont known for such things.
Do you remember last fall, when I mentioned a man named James Tedford? I don’t think I told you his story, but basically, he disappeared on his way back to the Old Soldiers’ Home in Bennington. I’m sure you’re thinking that he just wandered away during one of the stops. He disappeared off the bus. Poof. He got back on after their last stop, and between there and Bennington, he vanished. His suitcase was still on the bus, and an open bus schedule was on the seat next to him. Fourteen people and the bus driver didn’t see a thing. He was never found.
But he’s not the only one who has gone missing from that area, which is informally called “The Bennington Triangle”. Something strange is going on there, and I’m going to find out.
So, if you’re holding this letter, there’s a strong possibility I’ve disappeared in the Triangle. Don’t come out here, Ares. I know that will be your first instinct, but don’t do it. Your mother would never forgive me if something happened to you because of me. However, knowing you, giving you that advice is pointless. Start at the newspaper office; that’s where I’m going first.
Tell Persephone I love her.
Find me, favorite nephew.
Standing, I went back to my office and kicked Reginald out. As I shut the door, I asked Selene, “Any luck?”
“I think it’s Alastor,” she replied. “He was always full of himself and thought he was more important in the Pantheon than he actually was. A demi-god.”
I shook my head. “Great, just what I need on top of everything else,” I said, dropping into my chair.
Selene noticed the letter in my hand. “Bad news?”
I gave it to her, and she quickly read it. “The Bennington Triangle? I’ve never heard of it. Have you?”
There was a loud gasp from the couch, and we both turned in that direction. Kara was sitting up, a hard look on her face. “That is not a place you want to go,” she said. “That man…the one who kidnapped me…he took me there. He said he had a way to keep an eye on me, but that no one else would be able to find me. There is something off about the mountain there. You could be walking around, thinking you’re close to a certain trail, but discover that you’re five miles from where you want to be.”
“Then how did you…” Selene started to say.
“I got lucky,” she said. “A couple of hikers found me wandering around, dehydrated, starving, and a little crazy. They led me out and took me to a ranger station.”
“Do you know how long you were there?” I asked her.
“We wandered around the world for a while once he kidnapped me. He was nice at first. But as time passed, and you didn’t chase after him, he started to get angry and mean. Finally, we flew to Vermont, rented a car, and drove to Bennington. Two days later, he took me to a place called the Long Trail and told me to start walking. He gave me a bottle of water and a couple of granola bars, that’s it. He said he’d be back later to get me…if I was lucky. I tried to make the water and the food last, but after three days, it was all gone. I didn’t run into the hikers for another three days. There were streams where I could get water, but nothing really to eat. The people that helped me said I was lucky to get out of there. They said other people had vanished in those woods, and they’ve never been found.”
I rubbed my hand over my face. “So you managed to get out after a week. But my aunt has been gone for a month, so…”
Kara shook her head. “The odds of her coming out of there at all are almost zero.”
I doubted that; Aunt Demeter was a very resourceful immortal, level-headed and confident. She was never one to back down from a challenge. If anyone could find their way out of a situation like that, it would be her.
So where was she then? Did she finally come up against something even she couldn’t control?
Standing, I folded the letter and put it in my back pocket. “I need to go see Pops, and then Persephone. They both need to be told about this.”
“What about her?” Selene said, looking at Kara.
“I can have Reginald or Selene take you home,” I said to Kara. “Your mother has been worried sick about you.”
She shook her head. “I don’t want to go home yet. My mother is a bit…overprotective. It’s a miracle that she let me get my own place. After what happened, I doubt she’d let me out of her house again. She thinks I’m some delicate, fragile piece of glass.”
“Considering what you have been through,” Selene said, “and the fact that you survived, I’d say you are as strong as one of us.”
Kara smiled. “Thank you. That’s high praise indeed.”
“Why don’t you take her up to the penthouse? I’m sure she’d like a nice, hot shower. I’ll have Reginald find some clothes for you, as well as some food. There are two spare bedrooms upstairs; feel free to make use of one.”
“That’s very kind of you.”
“I may have questions for you later about that place. I need to find my aunt, as well as this…fool who thinks he deserves a place here.” I shook my head. “He has a lot to learn.”
“I’ll do what I can to help,” Kara said.
“Selene, you’ll stay until I get back?”
“Of course,” she nodded.
Returning the gesture, I left. I heard Reginald yelling at me as I walked out the front door, wanting to know where I was going. As I headed for the God Complex, I wondered how to tell my father his sister was missing. I knew he would want immediate action.
Vermont, here I come.
I just hoped I made it back home again.