It had been another long night, in a string of long nights. I returned to my home in the OA and fell back onto my black, overstuffed couch. My home in Pennsylvania was closer, but right now I needed somewhere I could truly relax and decompress. I needed to be home with my family. I rested my head on the back of the couch and rubbed my temples. I needed to alleviate some of the stress. Even immortals can have migraines, and this felt like it was going to be a bad one. I closed my eyes and just sat there, utterly perplexed by the recent events that had led up to this moment. You wouldn’t think being a Goddess, in the mortal world, would be this much work, or this exhausting.

This case has felt more grueling than most of the past ones. If only I could come up with some type of lead or had some otherworldly power to help me crack it. Even with all my wisdom, battle experience, and brute strength, I felt at a loss. All that know-how and power did not help me now. Was it because this case hit a soft spot? The cases involving children always bothered me the most. I had grown so attached to the mortals, especially the young ones. They always held such innocence and wonder. Perhaps that is why I felt so terrible right now.

Usually, I was extremely proficient at my job and even enjoyed it most days. Get a case, figure it out, catch the bad guy and give him a good thrashing while I’m at it. But with Bella, there was no ass yet to kick. There wasn’t even a body. She had just vanished in the night. No forced entry, no sounds or signs of a struggle, nothing. Her mother and stepfather were sure that it had something to do with her biological father. Except he had come up squeaky clean. Not so much as even a traffic violation or parking ticket.  Honestly, he was a little too clean for my taste.

However, I have not had hands free of bloodshed in eons, and that’s exactly how I liked it. The ones with clean hands always gave me the creeps. It just wasn’t natural, especially for the mortals. Beings with such a disposition to violence and rebellion can rarely hide it as well as the father had. I found absolutely nothing. He was an outstanding citizen who often volunteered in his community to help others. In my experience, I have found that those who look that good on paper were anything but. They just hid their monsters well.

Bella’s parents and the local police department had zero evidence, zero clues, and zero leads. All they had was the hope that the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit would be able to help. The BAU had been invited by local authorities, and I had been called in on my retainer as well. I had a history with the BAU. I had worked there and probably could have run the division if it weren’t for my tactics. We rarely agreed with the apprehension of the UNSUB. I am not a fan of all their rules, regulations, and politics. I wanted to enact justice and they were all about their silly rules for doing so. Often, those rules allowed the perpetrator to walk free, even after we knew that he was guilty. I couldn’t stand to see them walk free, smiles on their smug faces, knowing that they had gotten away with their crimes. I preferred a more direct approach. I found out rather quickly that I am more effective as a private investigator. No red tape or hoops to jump through. Even after leaving the BAU, the FBI kept me on retainer as a consultant. I guess they couldn’t really let me go. Smart mortals.

Unfortunately, there just weren’t any clues or leads to chase. No prints at the scene. No ransom or demands. The BAU had composed a profile of the UNSUB and released it to the local police department and the media. Bella’s parents even went on television to appeal to the person who took her. They cried and begged for them to let her come home. Still nothing. Sure, there were tons of anonymous tips. It did not take long to realize that none of the tips would help us, or even lead to something that would help. All our efforts had led to dead ends. We were no closer to finding Bella than when we began. Unfortunately, the BAU has an overload of cases, especially with the current state the mortals have the world in. Every day, there is a crime more heinous than the last. The BAU is just stretched too thin. 

The parents were devastated when they were told the news. No one could find anything, and the case looked as if it would become just another cold case, tossed in the rather large pile of unsolved cases. These mortals’ lives are so short, they can’t seem to stay focused on one thing for too long. It’s a sad reality for them. What is even sadder, is the fact that the longer this young girl is missing, the smaller her chance of survival is.

I rubbed my eyes. I couldn’t shake the image of the Fontes’ faces. After the news of the BAU’s departure and discovering the local PD was no longer pursuing the case, the Fontes looked as if they had lost all hope. The stepfather tried to keep a brave face, but I knew the pain he was in. The mother, she completely crumbled. Her face had already been long stained by tears, flooded with every desperate sob. Her makeup ran down her face in little black streaks of eyeliner and mascara. Her foundation was ruined. It was completely absent from her nose. It was red and irritated from constantly wiping the snot away. 

I replayed the image of her and her husband over in my mind. I couldn’t stop seeing them. The wife stuck with me the most. I could still see her as she fell into her husband’s arms, sobbing so loudly and uncontrollably that I thought she might actually break and fall apart into tiny pieces. Honestly, I do not blame her. Bella was her only child, her whole life, and now she was being told that she was gone forever, and everyone was just giving up.

To Hades with that! That couldn’t be the end of the story. Not for the Fontes and definitely not for Bella.  I remembered walking over to the distraught parents and sliding the stepfather my personal business card. I leaned in close, so only the two of them could hear me. Although, I am not sure that the mother could hear anything over her grief. “Come to my office tomorrow at 10:00 am. We have work to do if we are going to find Bella,” I told him. I have learned that using the victim’s name helps. It lets the parents know that their loved one is not just another case, but an actual person. That, and it shows them you give a damn. 

Mr. Fonte looked up from his wife then. He looked me straight in the eyes, bully for him, and asked, “Why?”

I knew the only thing that would make sense right now was the simple truth. “Because I don’t give up. Especially, not when children are involved.”

Athena (Rainbow Brubaker)
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