Since handing over the daily operations of Wares Security to Dinlas and Eleni, I had spent every waking moment at the forge. The stack of “requests” from Pops were overwhelming, not to mention a bit outrageous. The ones I felt were the most plausible and realistic went in one pile; the others went in file thirteen, aka the trash.
Milos, my new foreman, came in, carrying his usual clipboard. He was in his mid-thirties, married with kids, and more than qualified for his position. Things had been running more smoothly since he had come on board, and I was considering having him take over the day-to-day operations of the forge. “Good morning, boss,” he said.
“How are things going, Milos?”
“Just fine. Some guy just showed up and handed a work order. Said you knew him.” He shrugged. “I’ve never seen him around here before, but considering you seem to have family coming out of the woodwork, I figured he’s another one of yours.”
“I haven’t heard of any new arrivals.”
“You’ve hardly been out of this place since you came back from Paris,” Milos pointed out.
I ignored his comment. “Let me see the work order.”
“It’s really strange,” he said. “The guy asked for an indestructible heel shield, or something like that. Who the hell needs something like that?”
“Achilles,” I growled as I took the order from Milos. “Damn it.”
“Wow, are you serious?”
“You didn’t look at the name?”
“Well, no, that’s not my job. I just worry about what we have to make, not who orders it. I just met Achilles. That is so awesome!”
“I hardly think it’s awesome.”
“Are you kidding me? He’s the greatest Greek warrior in history! There was the Trojan War, where he…” he stopped in mid-sentence when he saw the look on my face. “Of course, he doesn’t compare to you, Ares. I mean, you are the God of War, after all.”
I grabbed the stack of approved work orders on my desk and held them out to him. “Here you go.”
Milos took the papers from me and started backing toward the door. “So, I’m…I’m just going to go now. Lots of work to do.” He turned and fled my office.
Shaking my head, I looked down at the work order. Boots with blades? What the hell did he need blades for? Did he think he was an Aston Martin in a James Bond movie? Disgusted, I decided to go for a walk.
Thirty minutes later, I found myself standing outside of the OA building. There was a young man standing in front of the doors, staring at them like he was afraid they were going to bite him or something. “Do you mind?” I snapped. “You’re ogling and you’re in the way. Could you move? Now?”
He bowed his head and stepped aside, and I walked past him. For a moment, I got a glimpse of his face, and I thought I recognized him, but the name escaped me. At least it wasn’t Achilles; I’d have punched him in the face.
Once I made it inside, I headed for Dark Sparks. I ordered a BLT and a bottle of water, paid for it, then turned to find a place to sit. “Ares! Over here!”
I scanned the area until I saw Mother waving at me from across the room. Aunt Demeter was sitting with her. As I headed in their direction, I wondered what Mother had done this time.
Putting my plate and water on the table, I leaned over to give my aunt a kiss on the cheek, then turned to Mother. “What did you do?” I asked as I kissed her cheek as well.
“I’m insulted that you would think I have been up to no good,” Mother said, pouting slightly.
I sat down and took a bite of my sandwich. “Who did she smite this week?” I asked my aunt.
“No one…yet,” she laughed. “Give her time; I’m sure she’ll find someone.”
“You two are not funny,” Mother said.
“So what’s the problem?” I asked.
“That ungrateful woman, Mrs. Franklin, says she’s going to sue me for future lost earnings.”
“Why, did she lose her job? That has nothing to do with you.”
“She’s referring to the wages of her husband, the deceased Mr. Franklin,” Aunt Demeter replied. “Once the shock of what happened wore off, she realized that she would not have the money to provide a good home for her children.”
“Didn’t we give her a settlement to make sure she was comfortable for the rest of her life?”
“Oh yes, we did, but she has now become accustomed to living a certain way, and she wants to maintain that. Her solution is to sue us.” My aunt sighed. “This modern world sues each other over the smallest slight. It’s pathetic, really.”
“That woman should be grateful I saved her from being beaten the rest of her life,” Mother sniffed. “Instead, this is how she repays me!”
“Things are different now, Mother,” I said. “You cannot walk down the street and smite someone just because they look at you funny.”
“Yes, I can. I’m Hera! I can do what I like.”
“Not without consequences, you can’t.”
We were interrupted by a young man, who dropped to his knees at Mother’s feet and kissed the hem of her dress. “M’lady, I’ve dreamed of the day when I might have the opportunity to meet you, but I never believed it would come true! You are more beautiful than any portrait I’ve ever seen.”
“Yes, I am,” she preened, “and you are very sweet to say so. What is your name, peasant?”
“Chris, M’lady, your humble servant.”
“You have pleased me today, Chris, and the Gods will shower you with blessings for your devotion.”
The man looked like he was going to burst into tears at her praise. I shook my head. Mother always had that effect on people.
“If it would be all right with you, M’lady, I wish you offer you a small token of affection.”
“If it pleases you.” Meaning that it would totally be all right with her, because she loved getting gifts.
Kissing her hem again, the man said, “I wish to offer you a flying carpet, M’lady. I do not have it with me, but I shall have it delivered to you tomorrow. I hope it brings you much pleasure.” He stood up, bowed once more, and hurried away.
My aunt and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes. “So, about Mrs. Franklin,” I said to her.
“What is a ‘flying carpet’?” Mother asked, cutting our conversation off.
“There is no such thing as a flying carpet,” I told her. “It only happens in the movies.”
“Well, actually, that’s not true,” Aunt Demeter said. “I saw one the other day. That young man was flying around the streets on it. There must be some kind of magical element to it, of course.”
“Oooh,” Mother said, clapping her hands in delight. “I must have one. Just think of all the things I could do with one.”
I recognized that gleam in her eyes and almost choked on my BLT. “Absolutely not, Mother,” I said, shaking my head.
“I can do what I like! I’m the Queen!”
“I don’t care if you’re the Pope, you cannot have that rug.”
“Stop!” my aunt said. “What is going on? Ares, why don’t you want your mother to have a flying carpet?”
“Do you remember what it was like in ancient times?” I asked her. “When she walked down the street, if someone looked at her cross-eyes, she’d smite them on the spot and walk away?”
“Well, yes, but it was acceptable then.”
“But it isn’t now,” I pointed out. “If she gets her hands on that flying monstrosity, there will be smite and runs all over the city.”
My aunt’s eyes widened as she finally got my point. “Our liability insurance would go through the roof.”
“And there would be constant lawsuits,” I added. “We’d bleed drachma, and that would drive Pops nuts.”
“Ares is right, Hera,” my aunt said. “You absolutely cannot have that rug.”
She stomped her foot on the floor. “What’s wrong with a little smiting? Zeus promised me that I could smite people if we came back.”
“You did,” I reminded her. “Mr. Franklin, and it was well-deserved, too, I might add. That one we can justify. But we cannot justify you flying around, smiting people just because it amuses you. There will be witnesses.”
“So I’ll smite them, too,” she said.
“You cannot smite the witnesses, either!” I said, exasperated. “They’ll throw you in jail, and trust me, Mother, bright orange is not your color.”
“Ha! I dare them to try and throw me in jail. Their bodies will lie smoking on the ground.”
“This is why you cannot have the flying carpet, Mother. I am not going to allow you to commit smite and runs whenever the mood hits you.” Which would be every damn day, knowing her.
She glared at me. “I will have that flying rug, and I will do as I like,” she said. “No one can stop me.”
“I’ll speak to Pops about it. As soon as I mention the words ‘bleeding drachma’, he’ll pay attention and stop you himself.”
“That’s what you think,” she replied. “He’ll do whatever what I want.”
I looked at my aunt. “Would you please talk some sense into her? I need to get back to work.”
“I’ll try, but you know how stubborn she is when she really wants something.” My aunt placed her hand on my arm. “Come by and see me,” she said. “Just to say hi and talk.”
I kissed her cheek again. “I will. Good luck with her.” I walked around to the other side of the table and kissed Mother’s cheek as well. “No flying rug, Mother,” I said firmly.
“Hmphf,” she said, her arms crossed.
Shaking my head, I returned my empty plate to the counter and took my water with me. I walked outside and headed toward the forge.
A middle-aged woman, her face creased with worry lines, stepped in front of me, stopping me in my tracks. “Please, sir,” she said, her voice trembling, “may I have a moment of your time?”
At one time, I’m sure she was a very beautiful woman. I could still see that beauty in her face. But there was fear in her eyes, her hands were shaking, and upon closer inspection, I could tell she had been crying. “Of course, ma’am,” I replied. “What can I do for you?”
“I need your help.”
“My help? With what?”
“My daughter has been kidnapped.”