“Come in,” I said to the knock at my office door.
The door opened, and Nyx peeked her head inside.
I smiled to see her and said, “Hey, come in. What’s going on?”
Nyx stepped in and closed the door behind herself. I stepped around the desk and we met halfway for a kiss and an embrace. She seemed odd, almost flustered. The girls both raised their heads and whined a bit before laying them back down.
“Nyx? Is something wrong?”
She shook her head. “No, no, not at all. What are you working on?”
I released my arms from around her waist and turned to the desk full of documents and papers.
“Well, this…somewhere in here is a new Intelligence Agency for the family.” I chuckled, then added, “I just have to figure out where it is in all this…this stuff.”
Nyx gave the desk a cursory glance, then asked, “So Zeus and Hera are still going along with this?”
I nodded. “Zeus won’t want to know a lot of details. Nana, on the other hand, wants dirt on everyone.” I laughed. That was so Nana.
Nyx smiled at the thought of Nana knowing more dirt than she already did, then reached out and touched my arm. “Dinlas, I have to ask you something.”
Her serious tone caught my attention and I responded, “Yeah, Nyx, what is it? What’s wrong?”
I watched as she shifted her eyes left and right while starting and stopping to ask me something.
“Just ask me, amorcito.”
She flashed a smile, seemed to draw strength at my term of endearment, then said, “Well, I have been discussing the events at Tartarus with your uncle, with Hades. And he, uh, well he wanted me to ask you if you still have your key to the prison.”
I looked at Nyx. She thought I was going to get angry about being questioned. Truthfully, I did feel irritated. She must’ve read my face because she added, “Dinlas, he asked for mine as well. He made me show it to him. I just need to check that yours still has my sigil on it.”
It took me a second before I nodded and said, “Of course, Nyx, you are both right. We need to pursue every option to eliminate the innocent from involvement.”
She nodded and followed me from the office to my private apartment. We entered the master suite and I went straight to my strongbox and opened it.
“Is something wrong?” Nyx asked as I peered into the chest and frowned.
“Yes, there is,” I answered as I moved several things, “this – this is not how I keep my chest. It looks like someone has rummaged through it.”
I pulled several things out and set them aside, then my heart sank. There, lying in the bottom of the chest was the wooden piece that hid the secret compartment. The compartment was open and the key was gone. I frantically ran my hands around the inside of the chest, but it was no good.
My key to Tartarus was gone.
I looked up at Nyx and said, “It was here, right here. I told no one I even had a key, not even Eros.”
Nyx just stared, her expression unreadable.
“Nyx, say something. You believe me, right? You know I would never just turn a bunch of rampaging titans loose on the world?”
Nyx ignored my question and asked one of her own, “You told no one about the key?”
“I just said I didn’t.”
“Yet it remains that the key is gone.”
I sighed and leaned back on my heels. “Yes, Nyx, the key is gone.”
“Who has been to visit you recently?”
“Just you, I mean, back here anyway. I see plenty of people in the office: Phobos, Deimos, Ares, Eleni just to name a few recently. But they don’t ever come into my apartment.”
“Well,” she said as she scrutinized my face, “someone came back here.”
“Well, I don’t know who or when. Believe me, I learned my lesson with Estrella.”
Nyx put her hand up and said, “Don’t mention that bitch’s name in my presence.” Calli and Ao whined at her statement and she glanced over at them. “Apologies, girls,” she said with a wink.
“Still,” I said, as I watched them, “what if she created a portal or something for others to use? What if someone accessed it by teleporting in here?”
“Do you have cameras here in the bedroom?” she asked.
I twisted my neck a bit, then replied, “Well, yes, strictly for security purposes, you know.”
She gave me a dour look and replied, “Yes, of course, just for security.”
I put everything away and we teleported out of my master suite to the security offices in the OA Building at the God Complex. I gave a few cursory nods to people in the outer office before I went in to where the monitors were kept for reviewing security footage.
“Give us a few minutes,” I said to the security officer sitting at the desk in front of the mammoth bank of monitors. He nodded, got up, and exited the room. I flicked through the settings to the security camera in my office, starting at the last day I remembered seeing the keys and we started scanning forward to Nyx’s Yule Celebration. Video flashed quickly as Nyx and I scanned it for anything untoward. Finally, we found something.
“There,” we both said simultaneously as we came to footage of me kissing Nyx and then grabbing her by the throat.
“What is that? I don’t remember that, and I certainly don’t own a blazer like that,” she said as she pointed to the figure on the monitor. I rewound the video and we watched as Nyx entered the office, we spoke several words, I then stood and kissed her deeply. During the kiss, I suddenly grabbed her throat and pushed her hard against the wall. I paused the video there.
Nyx looked over at me and smirked. “Well, it could be us. But I have no memory of it and I don’t own a suit like that.”
I nodded and replied, “Aye, I have no recollection of it, either.”
“Well, let’s see what happens next,” she said.
I continued the video and we watched in total fascination as Nyx and I erupted into a swirling fight that included her punching me through a wall and me unloading both my pistols into her, but not before she disappeared into a swirling mist. When she reformed into her corporeal shape, she had clearly cast some spell on me because I sank into my desk chair, docile as a kitten. The entire office was destroyed in the video, yet there was currently no sign of damage anywhere in the office. I paused the video again. Both of us looked at the other.
“Do you remember any of this?” I asked her as she stared at me.
“Dinlas, as far as I am concerned, none of this ever happened.” I nodded in agreement to her and we resumed the footage.
No one came to my rescue. Even Calli and Ao slept through the entire melee, obviously drugged or charmed. There was no way they wouldn’t have been right at my side. The video resumed, and the woman spoke to me. I appeared to mumble something as she started running her fingers through her hair. As she did so, her hair darkened and she shrank in size. I was lost, the woman suddenly was shorter than Nyx, brunette, light-skinned and very slender. Her face was turned, so it was hard to see her features, yet Nyx stepped closer anyway and scrutinized the screen. Finally Dinlas, on camera, stood and walked out of view toward the bedroom. At that point, the woman turned and followed, her face still obscured and unclear.
“I wish the cameras had audio, we could tell what is being said,” I grumbled in frustration.
“We don’t need audio,” replied Nyx, “all we need is in that head of yours.” She then pulled out the chair and added, “Here, sit down. Watch the video and tell me what you remember as it rolls along.”
I looked at her hesitantly, but then sat down. She ran her fingers along the side of my head, then pressed her fingertips firmly into my scalp.
“This won’t hurt,” she said, “but you will feel like you are in a trance. You will remember everything that happens.”
“Uh, okay,” I replied as I felt myself slip down into a dream state. I was going to protest, but it was too late. All this mind control and being charmed, I felt like I was going to end up with mush for brains if it kept up.
“Dinlas, you know what happened that night,” Nyx whispered. “Now you need to recall it. Her magic locked it away from you, but I released it. You will repeat to me everything she said.” I nodded, under her spell and suddenly started speaking in two distinct voices, male and female, having a conversation. It sounded like Nyx and I talking.
Do you think I am stupid? I hissed.
Kind of hoping you would be, I then replied in Nyx’s voice.
The scuffle continued on the monitor, and when she snapped my phone, I heard myself in her voice again.
I wouldn’t do that. You don’t want to talk. No, you want to sit. Don’t you?
On the monitor, I slid down into the desk chair only to again say in Nyx voice.
Good boy. Now you can speak, but you don’t reach for any weapons or call for help.
What are you and what have you done with Nyx? I growled in my own voice.
I replied in the female voice, but it no longer sounded like Nyx. In fact, it sounded garbled as it changed from one voice to another. The new female voice was softer and higher pitched than Nyx’s husky tone.
More like, who, I replied in the new voice.On the screen, the stranger was at the point where she was running her hands through her hair and transforming into the smaller woman. She looked at Dinlas on the monitor, and as her lips moved, my mouth opened while I watched, and in a wholly unfamiliar voice, I said.
Hello, Dinlas. I am Ate, Goddess of Mischief and Ruin, and you, my dear, are fucked.