“I wanna twist and shout,” I sang along with the music as I plated a small spread for the family I knew was coming. I paused to yell into the spatula as if it was a microphone. “Ahhhhhhhhh,” I sang along with the song. I felt something trigger one of my alarms, and I smiled. A member of the family had arrived.
As I started to leave the kitchen, I heard a very demanding voice call out, “Hestia, we need to talk.” I chuckled at the goddess’s tone as she yelled again, “Hestia! Where are you?” There was a slight pause before she snapped, “Hestia!”
Well, she can just simmer down. Whatever crawled up her backside can just wait for dinner. I popped my head out. “Artie, is that you? Ah, yes. Good to see you. So good of you to knock,” I said as I hopped down the stairs.
“Yes, Auntie, it is wonderful to see you again. It has been too long. We need to talk,” Artemis said.
I stopped in front of her and looked at her for a moment. She seemed tense. Something had her worked up, and it was time to fix that tension. “I see you are in work mode. Allow me to take you out of work mode for a moment with a hug.” I spread my arms wide, a smug grin forming as I waited.
Artemis closed her eyes for a moment, but I caught the flash of frustration before she opened her arms and wrapped them around my body. It was stiff at first, but she slowly relaxed. When was the last time she had the touch of another? The mortals called it touch-starved, and it must change.
I held up my hand. My eyes must have been twinkling slightly, judging by the slight head tilt Artemis gave me. “Have you eaten, my dear niece? I would be quite remiss if I didn’t feed my visiting family, even if only three are dropping in tonight.”
“Yes, dear Auntie. I would love some of your food. Just us and Adrestia?”
“Well, there is someone else,” I said as the lift doors opened, revealing Adrestia. “Well, beyond the Goddess of Revolt.”
Looking uncomfortable, Adrestia said, “Hi.”
I waved to Adrestia as I returned to the kitchen. “Do sit. Artie dear, would you mind sitting on my right tonight?” I asked, motioning to a chair that would put Artemis’s back to the elevator. I didn’t want to scare away the fourth person I was expecting. Come into my trap said the spider to the fly.
After grabbing the plates, I headed back out to feed my visitors. “Thank you both for coming.”
“Two days in a row? You’re spoiling me, Hestia,” Adrastia said as she sat.
Artemis moved to help me with the platters. “You said there was another joining us?”
“Well, I have to butter you both up for my revenge on this kólos billionaire,” I said as my friend took her plate. “And yes, but they will be here later. Eat. It’s been a while since Artie had a proper meal.”
Adrestia furrowed her brows. “Gonna have to narrow that one down, Hestia.”
Artemis laughed. “I do have people taking care of me, Hestia,” she said as she laid platters on the table. “What kolos billionaire? What do they have to do with your missing keys?”
“Let me show you,” I said before slipping back into a storage closet. I grabbed a cardboard box and brought it back. I sat and started to stack ornate boxes between the other goddesses. “This Davids guy has apparently broken into my penthouse, stole my keys, defiled my safe houses, and then tried to mess with one of the local community centers. He tried to steal my buy after I rightfully outbid him,” I snarled.
Adrestia stopped chewing on a piece of lamb. “Davids… Warren Davids?”
Artemis asked, “What have you found out about him? Do you have any clue why he would be targeting you?”
“Yes, that Davids,” I said before turning to Artemis. “I did stop him from tearing down a neighborhood so he could rent to his rich buddies, but these boxes were broken into while I was in Asia.”
Artemis asked, “Were you in Asia before or after the real estate coupe?”
“No, I am not driving a two-door car,” Hestia said.
Artemis threw a piece of asparagus at me and realized how childlike she became around her family. It was fun.
Adrestia sighed. “I thought I got rid of that guy after he was having an affair with the Rep.”
I caught the asparagus in my mouth, munching as I took a moment to gather my thoughts. “Well, he’s back and messing with families. Artie, can you find anything to track on these boxes? I want to string the persons responsible up by their toenails for messing with my safe houses. I use those places to protect the innocent from their abusers. They’ve ruined my whole network in Utah and Montana. They shut down the network two years ago.”
Artemis picked up a box and examined it.
“Fuck, I couldn’t even get rid of that guy,” Adrestia moaned and dropped her face into her hands.
Artemis thought out loud, “So, we have a mortal who came out of nowhere, is interfering with two gods, and had the ability to break into your penthouse. Do either of you have reason to think he is not mortal? Or have you suspected magic, spells, or anything other around him?”
“They broke the seals on my keys and then resealed them so I wouldn’t know. There isn’t a mortal dead or alive that could do that. It would have to be one of the demigods, like Zeus’s spawn, to even find this place, much less break in,” I said, anger flashing as I speared a slice of lamb, the fork causing the plate to crack in half before embedding into the table.
Adrestia said, “He never pinged on my divine radar, but then again, that’s other people’s specialty. I should’ve done more investigating. I should have done…better. More.”
“Tia, what did he do to you?” Artemis asked before taking a bite of lamb and settling in to hear a good story.
“Cockroaches tend to pop up again and again, even if you think you’ve beheaded them. Don’t worry about that,” Hestia seethed.
Artesia said, “Nothing. He didn’t do anything to me…I just..fucking failed to do the bare minimum.”
Artemis looked from Tia to me. “What is she talking about?” she asked before pulling out her phone.
“Well, this mortal has a lot of money, like more than like a quarter of the people that live on this land. He’s been interfering with my property, and apparently, he’s messed with Tia. He has to have a sponsor to be that bold. It’s a question of who’s using him,” I said as I started to clean up my broken plate.
Artemis watched me for a moment. “Alright, tell me more about the keys. Are they for something special, or do they have meaning for you?” she asked.
Adrestia sighed. “A while back, my team and I were trying to speak to Representative Abbott about the inequality in the lower-income neighborhoods of Boston, but she was avoiding us. Because she was having an affair with Warren Davids and allowing him to develop those low-income neighborhoods for his own profit. I cornered her in a restaurant bathroom and used a little bit of manipulation to get her to confess to the affair on national television and admit that she’d been under his thumb. I thought that would be the end of him.”
“He’s a billionaire, Tia. They never go away,” I said. I felt the color drain from my face as I turned to Artemis to answer her question. There was a cold edge to my voice when I spoke. “The keys belong to homes of love and safe places for runaways to find a new home. A place of safety when so-called parents of trans children try to beat the unnaturalness out of them. They are places where they can know peace and love. A place where I swore they would have a proper hearth and home. A place where I failed to protect them.”
“Ah yes, Tia,” Artemis nodded. “The threat of scandal does not have the same impact it used to hold.” She turned to me with some hesitation. “I don’t think you will need to worry about your charges being harmed as long as you get new locks. There is more to this than trying to hurt the innocents you protect. I believe your keys are being mutilated, but I don’t know why they had to be your keys.” She pulled out a small intricately carved box from her pocket and set it on the table. “I had to defeat a Minotaur that was terrorizing children to get what is inside this box.”
Adrestia looks at the box curiously, gently patting her coat pocket.
“What’s in the box?” I wondered as I used my knife to pop it open. I closed my eyes moments after seeing the key. “This was to one of my houses,” I whispered, a tear sliding down my cheek.