(This is the second installment of my short fiction story, The Gods Defense. If you’re just seeing this, I realllllllly recommend going back and reading it from the beginning. And keep a lookout for more. Just look on the right side for the Categories widget and click on ‘My Writing.’ All of the posted parts will be there.)
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“What the hell is this?”
I jumped in my chair, looking up from the notes on my desk. My boss, Mark Filaduchi, waved a folder in the air in the doorway. His usually smiling, wide face was set in hard lines and his eyes were dark brown stones. If looks could kill, I would’ve been pounded into powder.
My office was barely more than a closet in a line of them in the D.A.’s building. My desk occupied the far wall and the rest of the space was taken up by bookshelves and filing cabinets. There was enough room for me to walk to my chair and between the cabinets, but not for my six-three, over two hundred pounds boss to get through easily.
Which was probably the only reason he was staying in the doorway.
“It looks like a file, sir.”
“Don’t be a smart ass.” His Texas twang made his voice gravely usually. Now it was downright threatening. “Tell me you did not subpoena Dionysus.”
“Okay. I did not subpoena Dionysus.”
“Okay.” My hands flew up, swishing in front of me. “No more smart ass. Reily subpoenaed him already, and if he ignores it, which I think he will, Reily will say we can’t go forward because he can’t mount a proper defense.”
“So why are you subpoenaing him if you think he’ll just ignore it?”
I pressed my lips together. “Ummmm, because I don’t think he’ll ignore me.”
Filaduchi’s eyebrows went up so fast it was like they were trying to jump off his face. “What makes you say that?”
“I… uhhh… see, it’s… well…”
“Spit it out, Cassandra.”
“Maybe we should talk in your office, sir.” I got up and he nodded. I followed him down the hall to his office. It was just as crowded as mine, but bigger so at least someone Filaduchi’s size could get in. He sat at his desk and I took one of the black chairs in front of it.
“Go,” he said, leaning on his desk with clasped hands.
“I want to set a precedent for subpoenaing the gods. If a two bit lawyer like Reily does it, Dionysus’ll ignore it and it’ll get ugly once we start taking it up the chain of courts and he never shows. It’ll be the U.S. v. Nixon all over again, without the court prevailing in the end. And that would only be if you’d let me take the time to do that. I want the gods to recognize the legal system, now, before they get used to going around it.”
“Same question. Why would they jump just because you tell them to?”
How much did I want to explain?
I looked around. His office wasn’t as nice as Spenser’s, not nearly., but it was… cozy, more human. Dark woods, well-worn red carpets, cushy chairs, and personal knickknacks all around. Pictures of his family wife and three boys decorated his desk and walls. A beautiful clay horse his grandson crafted out of wood sat on one of the bookshelves.
“Stop with the darting eyes and just tell me.”
I hopped in my seat, eyes snapping back to my boss. “Apollo has… taken a special interest in me. He wants me to work for him. Earlier, Henry Hepner tracked me down at the courthouse. He said Apollo wants to talk to me. Apollo has pull with his brother. I’ll trade Apollo a meeting with me for Dionysus’s testimony.”
“You really think he’ll risk setting such a precedent to talk to you?”
I nodded slowly. “Apollo thinks if he can get me alone in a room with him, he’ll be able to convince me to work for him. That seems to be pretty important to him, and the gods theoretically want to work within the system. I think the gods’ll see this as an opportunity to establish their good intentions and willingness to integrate into our culture and government.”
“Then why would Dionysus say no?”
“Pride. The gods seem to want to work with our system, but only on their terms. I want to convince them to start cooperating on ours. Apollo might, might,” I held up a finger, “take the two birds with one stone approach, talking to me and establishing good relations with the government while making it seem like it’s on the gods’ terms.”
“Why does he want you to go work for him?”
“That,” I switched the finger at him, “is an excellent question. He wants a personal lawyer, and he likes psychics, but I’m not the only psychic in the country. There’s enough that I’m willing to bet at least a good amount of others are lawyers, too.” I shrugged. “So I don’t know.”
Filaduchi stared at me until the spot between my shoulders started to itch and I wiggled them. “You’re a good liar, Cassandra. But you’re not that good.”
“Please give me some leeway here?”
“Is whatever you don’t want to tell me relevant to the case?”
Another long stare down had me wiggling in my seat like a naughty eight year old sent to the principal’s office. Not that I was ever sent to the principal’s office.
“All right,” he finally said. “You’ve got some rope. Don’t hang yourself with it.”
“I’m trying not to, sir.”
He stood and I did, too. “All right. Get back to work.”
“Yes sir.” I went for the door.
“Yes?” I paused and turned back towards him. What was it with him and the ‘last word at the door’ thing?
“The gods might be petty and foolish in mythology, but from what I’ve seen the last two years, they’re conniving, ruthless, and as rational as you or I. Don’t yank Apollo’s chain. Don’t try to play him. Get him to agree if you can, but don’t get yourself involved in anything with him.”
I put on my brightest smile and gave him another, “Yes, sir,” before turning and marching away.
The smile melted off my face like strawberry ice-cream in the sun. It always felt that way when I put on my fake smile, like it needed a moment to tone down before it could turn off. If I could see my own emotions, there’d be a cloud of sickly yellow streaked with pink around my head. Anxiety. An emotional ulcer.
I clenched my fists and drew a deep breath as I sat back down at my desk.
My boss’s words rang through my head.
“That’s exactly what I’m trying to avoid,” I whispered.
# # #
I called Henry and told him to tell Apollo to call me, I had a proposition for him. I got off the phone when Henry started prying. As soon as I talked to Apollo, he’d get my reasoning, but there was no reason to spell it out beforehand.
I left the office near six, got in my car and pulled out onto Second Ave.
Six on a Wednesday. You’d think there’d be maybe medium traffic as the rush died down, right?
When I was in law school, the streets were usually crowded at night. The gods woke up in my third year. After the world adjusted and the gods started up businesses, and magic became the BFD of the twenty-first century, crowded didn’t begin to cover the traffic.
Shows, lectures, and shopping associated with the gods rescued the economy. That wasn’t what really clogged the roads though.
The protests were downtown’s hairballs.
The gods had a polarizing effect on religion. The nonreligious people tilted towards the new ‘religions,’ i.e. cults, while the people who already had a hand in religion turned and dug their nails into the familiar.
The latter had taken to the streets tonight.
Apollo’s Theater opened last year on Second. It hosts Broadway and Vegas shows, student productions, readings, conferences, and parties amid some of the most decadent surroundings in Nashville. And if you’ve ever been to Nashville, you know that’s saying something.
It was an elaborately carved dome in the middle of lush flowers, fountains and eucalyptus trees, all marble and gold with geographic designs and detailed statues of the gods carved in.
Tonight, guards in gold and black lined the front, protecting the group of well-dressed patrons. A mass of humanity surrounded the front and spilled into the street, holding signs and yelling. I didn’t have to roll down my windows to know basically what they were saying.
The gods were pagan pretenders. The Awakening was a second Pandora’s Box. Magic wasn’t God’s work. The people worshiping and supporting the gods in this world were risking their souls in the next.
I agreed with two of those.
I grabbed a sucker from my stash in the glove compartment and ripped off the wrapper, shoving the strawberry treat in my mouth and sucking.
The traffic inched up then stopped again and I turned up the radio, fingers dancing on the steering wheel. My left ones curled around an imaginary cigarette and I forced them back to tapping out the beat. I’d quit smoking last year and times like these I was still dying for a cigarette.
I got on the nearest freeway entrance and circled down to 65.
I lived in a nice building in the ‘burbs about fifteen miles away. The commute sucked in the mornings, but it was cheaper than living in the city.
I tossed my briefcase on the couch when I got in and locked the door behind me. “Kelsey!” My roommate didn’t answer. She was supposed to be off work at six, but supposed to be didn’t mean much to second year surgical residents. Kinda like being a young lawyer. “Puccini! Webber!”
They zipped down the hall like curly haired race cars and bounced up on me, yipping excitedly. Sunshine yellow shown around their tiny bodies like halos. I never saw a human with such pure, absolute happiness oozing out of them. Ah, to be a dog.
“Alright already, boys. Just give me a minute.”
The boys bounced around me as I changed into sweats and jogging shoes. I clipped on their leashes, and we were off.
We walked down to the park and I let them off their leashes. My boys ran around while I stretched. We did this every night. Walked, stretched, jogged the long way back around to the apartment. It’s harder during the winter, but it never really gets cold in Nashville. At least not to someone who grew up in Colorado.
I bent over one leg then the next, trying to warm up my muscles, ignoring the chub around my hips that had never quite waned after it blobbed up during 1L year.
“ARRELLP!” came from the direction of the playground.
I jerked straight and was running towards the colorful plastic monstrosity before I knew it. That yelp was Puccini.
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