I leaned against a wall, glancing around. The sky was very overcast, as if it was about to rain. You’d think that poofing home to grab swords wouldn’t take long, but alas, here we are, waiting on her to show up. I trust she’ll be here, as the biggest worry is not her, but those who managed to break into my place. Unless they didn’t and broke my enchantments on the safe houses?
Well, that would mean someone was more powerful than me. Sure, I didn’t do flashy things like throwing lighting bolts or making earthquakes, but fire was far more challenging to control. Lighting was more, I want to strike there, and bam, it was there. The mortals said it was because it followed the path of least resistance. Did you want to wipe out a coastal town? Just drop a few rocks a little away, and the settlement was wiped off the map.
But fire? Fire was hard to control. If you didn’t build the fire right, it wouldn’t work or it got out of hand. However, even when it got out of hand, fire was helpful. It cleansed the land, allowing new life to thrive. Yet, when you didn’t allow nature to take its course, it got worse. The Americans were doing this talking bear thing, trying to stop all forest fires, making natural fires worse. Forests were choking on all the debris left behind from dying trees. Moments after fire touched the dry forest floor, it went up like a matchbox.
I’d have to talk to Pan about that, but then again, the mortals were doing a lot worse things. I was sure he was pissed that the island of Cronus would lose so much ice and dump that into the oceans. That alone would cause the sea to rise half a meter. The level of greed that Midas had shown was choking the planet. It made me wonder if Plutus was doing something.
Snorting, I shook my head. If I were a mortal, I would have had what they called Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Most of the gods would qualify. Even with my thoughts, I went squirrel all the time. Where was I before the rant on how humans were wrecking nature? Oh, right, trying to figure out who broke into my safe houses and then tricked me into losing the kids living there.
“Hestia?” a woman asked.
I blinked a few times. “Hello there. Took you long enough, Tia,” I said as I smiled at my friend.
“Sorry… I got distracted,” Adrestia said flatly. “Where exactly are we going?”
“We are going to Beaver, Utah. I have a few safe houses there that I’ve lost contact with,” I explained.
“Beaver? Really, Hestia?” Adrestia said with a raised eyebrow.
“They killed beavers there, so they named it Beaver. What? Why are you smirking at me like that?” I demanded.
“Just amused by the lazy naming,” Adrestia said as she patted my shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. Let’s go.”
I took Adrestia’s hand, and the next moment we were in Utah. “That’s one way to avoid jet lag,” I said as I blinked away the brightness. There were a few wispy clouds in the sky.
My friend slowly turned, taking in the area. “Where’s the house?”
I pointed west and said, “Over that way. I bought a cul-de-sac. However, do you feel that?”
“Feel what?” Adrestia asked. “The area looks run down. I thought you’d have put money into the subdivision.”
“I did. This place was nice,” I said as we stepped out from the area behind the clubhouse. “Why is the pool cracked and full of green, nasty water?”
“Looks like a horror film set,” Adrestia said.
I tried to push the wooden gate open, but it fell with a thud. Several boards split, followed by a couple of dogs barking. “Considering that I paid, according to my lawyers, half a million in renovations to this property last winter, I’d say something’s wrong.”
The cookie-cutter homes had paint flaking off, a few houses looked like burnt-out husks, and more than one had caved-in roofs. This place looked like a disaster area. I rubbed my forehead, trying to think of what could have happened here. “I figured this would have been a good area. After all, north of here, there is money. There are also two ski resorts nearby, bringing in money for the town. This doesn’t make any sense.”
“You think Davids has something to do with this?” Adrestia asked.
Shaking my head, I paused in the middle of the street. Plants were growing in the cracks, matching the long grass of the homes. My eyes lost focus as I reached out to feel the nearby hearths. I frowned as I had to extend my reach from the local block. “On the north side, there are still homes, but here? I don’t feel any homes.”
“What happened here?” Adrestia said.
I pursed my lips as I lifted my hand to point where my homes were. “It makes no sense. The ski resorts should have kept the place alive. Something or someone is on the wing.”
“What? Wing? Where? Are there birds? What are you talking about?” Adrestia sounded very confused.
“Sorry, mortal reference. I am saying there is something here, but what I don’t know,” I said. We started walking, our senses alert for anything. Suddenly, there was a loud bang and the sound of metal hitting the ground. Both of us spun, our swords appearing in our hands.
“Just a cat,” Adrestia whispered.
“Yeah, just a cat. Poor girl, probably left behind when the town left,” I said.
Adrestia sheathed her sword as she started walking again. This place gave me the creeps. We came up to my road, and my heart sank. My safe houses were wrecked. One looked like it had exploded. There were toys strung out all over the lawn, with multiple pots, and glass.
That’s when the smells hit us. Adrestia shook her head. “Fuck, what in Tartarus is that?”
I closed my eyes. “They blew up the meth house. They turned homes for children into drug houses. They blew up my god’s damn house. Did they do other drugs here? I mean, the cartels have the kind of money to buy the places, but not the magic to redirect my wards.”
“So, probably not them,” Adrestia said.
“No. Probably not. Let’s do the meth house last. Come on,” I said as I crossed the street. It didn’t take long before we were on the porch. The door was ajar, so I pushed it open with my foot. The inside looked like a bomb had gone off. The walls were torn apart, and the wiring ripped out in the living room, but the kitchen looked like it had been turned into a lab. There were a dozen bottles of chemicals with multiple heating elements on the counters.
“Another meth house,” Adrestia commented.
“But why would they leave the house open like this?” I asked.
Adrestia shrugged. “If they’ve chased the town out, they wouldn’t expect anyone to poke their heads in.”
“Those chems don’t look like they are for meth,” I said.
“Wait, how do you know what goes into meth?” Adrestia demanded.
I pursed my lips. “It’s cooking. They were refining heroin here.”
“… I’m not gonna ask.” Adrestia surrendered.
“Come on, let’s check out the other houses.” The next house looked like the heroin home. But the third home was mostly intact, at least in the living room. We entered, looking at the stacks of boxes.
Adrestia walked up to a stack of boxes about waist height. She used a knife to cut the tape and then to open the sealed bag within. She lifted the blade, showing white powder. “I don’t think this is powdered sugar,” she said.
“No, that’s coke,” I said.
“You don’t get Beaver, but you know how to make heroin, meth, and what coke is?” Adrestia said, her face quite confused.
I shrugged. “It’s just cooking.”
There were several thumps behind us, causing me to turn in the doorway. Four winged humanoids were standing at the end of the driveway, blades in their hands. I raised an eyebrow at the quad. “Well, I guess that answers that. This is connected to that little problem of Khione’s.”
“But how?” Adrestia asked.
I looked at my friend, a grim smile crossing my face before turning to the harpies. “Hello there!” I called out.
“You are trespassing. This does not belong to you,” the lead harpy hissed at me.
Snorting, I shook my head. “I own the deeds to the properties. These are my houses, and they were stolen from me.”
“Ours now, finders keepers,” spat the harpy before they lunged for us. Blades appeared in their hands as wings flared.
I gave a wicked grin. “Bring it on, ladies. I shall not refuse your offering if you want to throw down against actual goddesses. Perhaps I’ll mount your heads on my mantel.”
“Get her,” snarled the lead harpy, her wings spread to help her glide over to us.
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