The Plot Thickens, Part I

The morning light has completely illuminated both my bedroom and the master bath. For the first time in a very long time, I do not loathe the morning for being so… well, morning.

I awoke slowly to the smell of fresh coffee brewing in my kitchen and the sound of someone cooking. It smelled delicious, but who the hell was in my house? I really didn’t want to shoot someone before getting my morning mug of coffee. Perhaps I could multitask and do both? I wouldn’t want to spill my coffee…or clean up a body. A goddess must have priorities. The morning light was bright and cheerful. Why hadn’t I closed my blackout curtains? 

I went for my .45mm Taurus that I kept behind my headboard. Why the hell am I naked? Memories of the night before came flooding in and caused an involuntary smile. I released my gun and let it remain in its holster. It would probably be rude to shoot the man that I had thoroughly enjoyed a night of passion with. Besides, I am hoping to repeat the experience. 

I stretched and let out a yawn. I was very well satisfied, but after a night like that, I needed a shower. The sheet fell to the floor as I stood, and I walked naked to the master bath. The morning light illuminated both my bedroom and the bathroom. For the first time in a very long time, I did not loathe the morning for being so…well…morning. I let out a small laugh, and turned on the shower, waiting for the water to warm up. Honestly, grinning like an idiot, standing naked in my bathroom, all I could think was that I could get used to this.

Strong arms wrapped around my waist as I was about to step beneath the water. “Mind if I join you?” He was already naked, and I liked that he wasn’t ashamed of last night. The knowledge of his vulnerability made the memories even better. He trailed kisses along my neck.

“Only if you keep doing that,” I murmured, closing my eyes and enjoying the sensation. Small chills of anticipation ran down my spine. I led him into my oversized shower, and I turned towards him to meet his kiss.. The throes of passion swept over us, carrying us along until we were both sated.  

I leaned against the tiled wall, languid and boneless in the glow of satisfaction. Renard picked up my body wash, lathering it in my loofa. Gently, he turned me around and gathered my hair over my shoulder to wash my back. He took his time before he turned me back around and started washing the front of me. 

“I can bathe myself, you know,” I said breathlessly.

“Hush, woman, and let me touch you,” he said with a wicked smirk. I did as he said, convinced this was the cleanest a goddess had ever been. The thought made me smile. Seeing it, he leaned in and kissed me, and I took the loofa, returning the favor. It was soft, thorough, and sensual as we explored each other’s bodies. 

“We’re going to run out of hot water if you keep kissing me like that,” he said with his lips still pressed to mine. I agreed, half protesting. 

“I could use some food. You have worked up quite an appetite in me,” I teased as we exited the shower.

“I guess it’s a good thing that I made you breakfast. I put it in the warmer when I heard you turn on the shower.” 

We dried off and went into my kitchen, our modesty only covered by our towels. 

“Why don’t you sit. I’ll get you coffee and breakfast. How do you take your coffee?” he asked.

“Are you trying to spoil me?” I asked, teasing him.

“As long as you will let me,” he replied with his dazzling smile. That smile could melt an iceberg.  

“Cream and sugar.” 

“Coming right up, my lady.” He gave a little bow, and I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Damn right and don’t you ever forget it,” I said with a grin.

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

He made us coffee and filled our plates with omelets, bacon, sausage, and toast. All he was missing were the pancakes, and we would have a buffet. 

“Thank you,” I said as he set the coffee and food before me.

“Anytime.”

We ate our breakfast and made small talk. For the first time in a long time, I enjoyed a mortal’s company without care. How did he make me feel so relaxed and at ease?

The ringing of his phone broke my thoughts. Renard picked it up and grimaced. Great. Watch him be married, and it’s the wife calling. Honestly, that’s my luck with relationships. There is a reason that I was still single after all these millennia. 

“Renard,” he answered. The greeting was short and told me it wasn’t a spouse calling. “Okay, text me the address, and I’ll be right there. No, I’ll let Athena know.” He disconnected and put the phone aside. “Leave it to the criminals to put a damper on a perfect morning. We have a case.”

“Well, shit. I guess we need to get dressed then. Probably shouldn’t show up to a crime scene in just our towels.” We shared naughty grins.

“I’ll leave the address and meet you there. I need to run home and change.” He got up and walked over to the clothes we’d discarded last night. I knew that I should get moving too, but right then, I was enjoying the view. I watched him get dressed, and when he turned around, he caught me staring. He gave me his dazzling smile as he walked over and kissed me. It was a sweet but short kiss. I was thankful because if it were anything more, we would both be terribly late for work. He wrote the address down on the notepad on my table.

“I’ll see you there.”

“Yes, you will.”

We said our goodbyes, and he left. I finished my coffee and went back to my bedroom. The sight of my messy bed brought another smile. After a moment of standing there like an idiot, I went to my closet. Choosing a jet-black pants suit with thin pink pinstripes and a matching pink button-up shirt, I dressed quickly. I put my shoulder rig on and put my gun in its holster. I finished with my hair, makeup, and shoes, and exited with my matching suit jacket in hand. I needed to get my coffee and get going. I grabbed my favorite travel mug that says Rock, Paper, Scissors, Throat Punch, I Win on it and left. Nothing was going to ruin my day, not even a crime scene.

***

I pulled up to the address that Renard left me. It’s not the usual house, abandoned building, or area that I had come to expect for a crime scene. I parked my car. The Police Department, Forensics team, Detectives, EMT’s and the basic cavalry that you would expect were already there. Of course, this morning’s activities had me late to the scene. Having to go back home after realizing that I would need a coat over my suit jacket hadn’t helped my tardiness. It’s the middle of May and a chilly 41 degrees out. I would have to have a talk with Boreas or his daughter Khione about this cold. The winter is their domain, and I was not happy that they were overstaying their welcome. Perhaps Persephone and I would pay them a visit. This was her time to shine, quite literally. I didn’t care for the extended cold or the fact that they were infringing on Seph’s time. 

I walked over to the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, connecting Wrightsville to Columbia. Once upon a time, the bridge was burned down. Of course, that was during the Civil War, one of the many wars that the mortals rage. The bridge was rebuilt and is usually filled with traffic. I’m sure the local population was not happy about having to reroute their travels to the bridge in Harrisburg. It’s going to add a good chunk of time to their commutes.

“About time you got here.” I heard the familiar voice of Captain Renard tease me. His dazzling smile was out of place at the crime scene, but I knew why he was so chipper. A good time can do that to you, and we had a great time last night and again this morning. 

“Yes, I was detained. Someone decided to give me a late start. Maybe we should talk to him about doing that.” We both laughed. It’s inappropriate, I knew, but we couldn’t help it. It’s the giddy afterglow when nothing could touch you. 

“This way.” He motioned for me to follow. I half expected him to lead me onto the bridge since the emergency personnel had it completely barricaded and closed off. I was surprised when he turned and led me below the bridge. 

“Going for a secret rendezvous?” I asked jokingly.

“I wish. Unfortunately, this is where the body was dumped. I warn you; it is water-logged and looks like it has been here a while.” 

Okay, I thought nothing was going to damper my mood. The smell hit me before we got to the body. Renard was right. He had been here at least two weeks. The cold had slowed the decomp time down, but not stopped it. 

We walked over to the body and crouched down to take a closer look. I’m going to need to invest in some fashionable work boots that I could easily clean all the blood and muck from crime scenes. Something that would be easier to run in would be nice too. Perhaps a spit-shined form of combat boot? I could make that work. 

“Anything?” Renard’s voice brought me back to the matter at hand. I assumed my staring at the body indicated a clue rather than a spaced-out thought. 

“Most of the skin is missing, presumably from the fish and birds. He has been here a little while, at least a couple of weeks. The decomp has been slowed down due to the cold, that will help in identifying him. If it were warmer out, the decomp would make that harder. From what is left, I can tell you he is a Caucasian male of a large build.” I put on my rubber gloves and examined the body.

“His teeth are intact, so you should be able to get a dental identification on him.” I moved my examination to his body.

“Any evidence or indicators of death have been eaten away. You might be able to have forensics clean the bones and look for striations or weapon marks. But…” I noticed something…

“I think I know who our vic is, at least I know his connection. Do you remember the case a little while back, with all the blood but no bodies? Only the severed hand in the tub? It was in Harrisburg.” 

His face paled. The story had been all over the news. Gruesome stories have a way of sticking with you. No one remembered the little old lady that was mugged or the poor kitty that was lost, but everyone remembered the bloody murder scene. We had found so few clues, and even fewer leads, that everyone started speculating about what had really happened. Then the rumor mill began to circulate, and the stories ran wild. The truth was, this was the first real piece of evidence that we had found. The fingerprints at the scene were not in the database, any of them. All we had was a ton of blood samples from multiple unidentified victims and a severed hand. The case had become cold, and we were forced to move on to more solvable cases. It’s an unfortunate part of the job, but it’s our reality. 

“The area around where the hand was severed shows signs of various stages of healing. This suggests that the hand was severed pre-mortem. Has forensics processed the scene?” I knew they had, but it’s polite to ask before disturbing the body…well, what’s left of it. 

“Yes, you have the all-clear to examine the body.” Which was his way of saying I could touch.. Since I had the Boss’ approval, I rolled the body on its side. It made a wet, sucking sound as the remaining water-logged skin peeled away from the mud.. 

“There are no obvious signs of cause of death on the back either. I would say that the body will need to be transported to a lab for further testing.” I grimaced because I didn’t have any real answers for him. I felt like I had wasted their time. The body could have been moved and processed by now, but they were all waiting for me to give them some Godly direction on the scene. I wished I had some for them.

“I’m sorry I don’t have more answers.”

“It’s okay. We are always thankful that you are willing to lend your expertise in these cases. More often than not, you can catch things way before any of our techs do, and time is often of the essence.” He tried to manage a smile to make me feel better.

“Thank you. If you find anything out, I would love to be kept in the loop. Maybe I can be of further assistance.” It was mostly true. I really wanted to be in the loop because kids could be involved, and I had a genuine hatred for those who hurt the innocent. If I couldn’t find the kids and bring them to safety, I at least wanted to make the bastards who hurt them pay.

“We will.”

“Thank you.” I removed my surgical gloves as I stood to leave. 

“Athena…” the Captain said from behind me. I turned to face him.

“Athena, would you be available later?” 

“Of course. Do you need to go over another case? I can make time…”

“Oh, no…. Um…” he interrupted me, so I waited for him to finish. He looked so nervous. It’s cute. Normally he was so confident and authoritative that the vulnerability was endearing as hells.

“Would you be available later… for dinner? I…uh…I would like to take you out to dinner.”

“Are you always this…adorable when you are asking someone out?” I couldn’t help but smile. I didn’t get asked out as often as you would think. I intimidated most people or they are on the wrong end of my wrath. Either way, I don’t get many invitations to be courted. 

“No, but it’s not every day that I ask out a Goddess.” He looked nervous that his honesty would earn him a no on the date.

“Yes, dinner sounds nice. Pick me up at 7 and expect to be teased if you bring your big truck.” I winked at him and turned to leave. We both knew that he only drove the huge truck because he liked it and not for compensation reasons. Men and their big toys. I couldn’t stifle my chuckle as I left the scene. I felt like I needed another shower.

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