I looked at him, incredulous. “You need my help? Well, let me mark this down on my calendar. The great Hephaestus, the great forge master, needs help from his brother, the god of war. Whose butt do you want me to kick for you, brother?”

I stared at my brother, who looked like he wanted to be anywhere but in my office. “If you’ve come here looking for your wife, I haven’t seen her since the last time you were here.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “But she’s not the reason I’m here.”

Well, at least I knew we weren’t going to have another knock down, drag out fight. Considering his crew had just finished repairing all the damage from our last encounter, I wasn’t anxious to have a repeat performance. “Look,” I said as I reached into my desk and removed my holstered Sig Sauer 320, “I really don’t have time for an argument with you. I need to get to the complex.” I slid the holster into place on my left hip and closed the drawer. “Perhaps you can make an appointment with my receptionist, and we can yell at each other another time.”

“I’m not here to fight with you, either,” Hephaestus said angrily. “I have a problem, and I need your help.”

I looked at him, incredulous. “You need my help? Well, let me mark this down on my calendar. The great Hephaestus, the great forge master, needs help from his brother, the god of war. Whose butt do you want me to kick for you, brother?”

“You know, I knew this was going to be a bad idea,” he retorted as he turned around and walked back to the door. “Just forget you ever saw me here. I don’t know what I was thinking, coming here.”

“Wait,” I said, walking around my desk and over to him. “If you are here asking for help, then it must be serious. What’s the problem?”

“My crew and I have been working around the clock to get the forge houses up and fully operational. With all the work orders I have from Dad and every other god and/or goddess on Olympus, we’re behind. Just when I think things are going smoothly, something breaks down at one of the forge houses, and I fall even further behind trying to get things fixed.”

“Well, it has been a while since you’ve used the forges,” I pointed out. “Is it possible that it’s just old parts not able to keep up with all the demands you’re putting on them?”

“Don’t you think I would have thought of that before I even got started?” he snapped. Taking a deep breath, he seemed to gather his thoughts before continuing. “I had the rollers in all of the forges replaced with titanium. It’s resistant to corrosion and can handle the high production demands. But the other day, the rollers at Number Seven broke down, and when I investigated, I discovered that someone had replaced the titanium rollers with aluminum ones, which snapped like twigs. I ordered a complete investigation of the rollers at all forge houses, and discovered four more that also had the cheap rollers.”

“Why don’t we sit down so I can take some notes?” I turned sideways and pointed to the black leather chairs in front of my desk. Hephaestus reluctantly walked over and dropped into one of the chairs while I went back around my desk and sat down. “Do you happen to have a copy of the orders for the rollers with you?”

Hephaestus leaned to his left, and dug around in his right front pocket. He pulled out a set of greasy looking papers and handed them to me. Unfolding them, I scanned them quickly. He had ordered titanium rollers, with specific instructions not to send aluminum, or he would personally return the unwanted rollers to the company and stick them in an anatomically awkward position (yes, it really says that; my brother is always doing things like this). I thought about asking him if he had, in fact, taken the rollers back and down what he said he was going to do, but decided I was better off not knowing. “Do you have the titanium rollers you need to replace the bad ones?”

“They’re supposed to be delivered today. I sent my best man, Charlie, to get them.”

I put the papers down on my desk. “Then I’m confused. What’s the problem? It sounds like you have things handled in your usual, efficient way.”

“When I talked to the owner of the company I ordered the rollers from, he claimed that he received a call from a woman, claiming to be my secretary, asking for several aluminum rollers instead of the titanium ones. He said he was by the request, but since I’m such a good customer, he complied.”

“But you don’t have a secretary.”


“So, what you’re saying is…”


The word hung in the air between us, like the smell of rotting fish left too long on the docks. “Who in their right minds would try to sabotage anything connected to Zeus and the gods? That’s a death wish right there. Have there been any other issues?”

“A few things here and there, nothing that I gave a second thought to until this happened.”

“What can I do to help?”

“I’d like you to run background checks on my people,” Hephaestus said, “all of them. If you could put up some security cameras in places where they won’t be noticed, that would also be helpful.”

“What about putting in someone undercover?” I asked him as I made notes on the notepad in front of me.

“It would have to be someone who knows what they’re doing around a forge. I don’t want any rank amateurs in there where they could get hurt.”

“I’ll see who I can come up with, and I’ll have you meet with them first for your approval.” I paused for a moment. “Nike was here earlier,” I said, “and she believes someone broke into Dad’s office while he’s away. Then I got a call from Ophelia in Human Resources, and she said the same thing.”

“Wow, someone has got some serious balls to break into his office,” Hephaestus whistled, “and a serious death wish.”

“I agree. I wonder if the sabotage at your forges and the alleged break-in at the office are connected.”

Hephaestus stood up. “That’s your job to figure it out,” he said. “That said, if there is anything I can do to help, let me know.” He held his hand out.

I shook hands with him, looking him in the eyes as I did. “I’m glad you’re not mad at me anymore. I’ve missed talking to you.”

“Oh, I’m still mad at you,” he grinned, squeezing my hand tighter, “but right now, we have a big problem in front of us. But just remember to stay away from Aphrodite, or next time, I won’t be here to discuss business. I’ll be here to rearrange every bone in your face.” He released my hand, turned around and left.

“Brotherly love,” I muttered as he slammed the door shut. “Ain’t it grand?”

Ares (Teresa Watson)
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