I had just set down my issue of Janie’s Weapon Systems and ground my cigarette in the ashtray when there was a knock at the door. The girls whined a little and perked their ears up. I gave them each a quick pat on the head and shushed them. I didn’t think anyone even knew I had rented this warehouse, other than Zeus. I approached the door.
“Who is it?” I asked through the heavy wooden door.
“It’s Hephaestus. Open up.”
I opened the door a crack and there he stood, Hephaestus. He was just as big and ugly as I remembered him. I opened the door wider and gestured for him to come inside.
“Uncle Heph, good to see you. I was going to call you for some weapons once I got situated.
The giant blacksmith shouldered past me into my office in the corner of the warehouse.
“Cut the crap. I wanna know what you’re up to, and it better not involve revenge on Ares or Aphrodite. In fact, it better…” He trailed off as he saw my two black wolves get up from behind the desk and move toward him.
“Wha-what are those?” he demanded as they curled their lips and eyeballed him.
“Oh, those are my two girls.”
“But why do you have them?”
“Well, they were a gift. I’ve been reading up on current events and culture here among the mortals, and they’re called support animals.”
“Support animals?” he looked at me and frowned. “I don’t think that’s what they are.”
“Sure they are,” I told him. “They’ll rip the throat out of anyone that tries to mess with me. I totally support that.”
Hephaestus shook his head. “Still pretty sure that’s not what support animals are. Who would give you such a gift?”
“Loki? The Norse God of Mischief?”
“Yeah. You know, Odin is really curious about how this whole plan of Zeus’ is gonna work out. In fact, a lot of the other chief deities are following this thing pretty closely. Odin All-Father, Amun-Ra, Marduk of Babylon, Amaterasu of the Shinto, I mean the list goes on and on. I’m guessing if this thing works out and we start racking up followers, it’s going to become a regular pantheological mosh-pit down here.”
After a moment of him looking at me, I gestured to the two wolves and said, “Anyway, this is Hate and Jealousy.”
Hephaestus shook his head and said, “It’s not why I came out here. Why aren’t you at the Olympus Administrative Offices like everyone else?”
“Because Zeus agreed to let me rent this place. I’m going to be dealing with criminals much of the time.”
“Really? You are?”
“Yeah. I’m now officially what’s called a bounty hunter. When people don’t show up for criminal trial or skip out on parole, then I go out and track them down. Then they get sent back to prison. The technical term is bail enforcement officer.”
“I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“I hadn’t either, but I saw a television show about this guy and his family who were bounty hunters. Once I realized I didn’t have to grow my hair long and call everyone ‘brah’, I warmed up to the idea. Anyway, Zeus agreed to give me a little leeway since he didn’t want unsavorys mucking up his new marble floors in the complex.”
“So this has nothing to do with your parents?”
I flared up at that. “I don’t have parents, you know that. The closest thing I have to a parent is Hades. He was nice enough to let me sleep on the ground in Tartarus, if anyone could sleep with the Titans being tortured for eternity in that pit.”
I watched Hephaestus. He hesitated for a moment, then turned to leave. He placed his hand on the doorknob and without turning back said, “I’ve always felt sorry for you, Dinlas, but I will stand with my brother and my wife if ever I need to choose sides.” Before I could answer he opened the door, stepped out, and closed it behind himself.
I went back and sat down at the desk. It and the chair were the only two pieces of furniture in the entire building. But that would change soon enough.
I thought about Uncle Heph. He was close to the truth. I didn’t want to see Ares or Aphrodite, but there was another Olympian I would prefer to avoid as well. It simply tore at my heart every time I saw her. Staying clear of the bunch of them would be best for me. Zeus knew that. The girls whimpered and nuzzled me, so I scratched behind their ears. After a minute, I leaned back in the chair, tapped out a cigarette, lit it, and inhaled deeply. I had a lot to think about, and the next few weeks would be busy for me. Plans like mine don’t just come together on their own, they take plenty of forethought.