(This is the third 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 find the Categories widget on the right and click on ‘My Writing.’)
# # #
I slammed to a stop at the edge of the dirt. “Puccini! Webber!” I yelled, searching the shadows under the well-lit playground. I should’ve been able to see even my black teacup poodles under the lights.
“Arf. Arf. ARF! ARF! ARF!” Webber barked off to my left and I dashed towards the noise.
And slammed to a stop again.
The boys were just off the side of the bright blue slide, Puccini lying down, licking his paw like it was made of bacon while Webber danced in front of him, barking at the… the thing in front of him.
It was a foot tall purple plant with gold petals draping down from its center like ringlets.
Webber kept barking, darting up to the plant to growl and running away. He pulled back his black doggie lips and growled harshly, running in, teeth flashing.
One of the golden ringlets reared back.
I was moving before my brain caught up. Concentrated speed rushed through my muscles and I covered the ten feet in a second, swooping Webber up and jerking back before the flower could swing.
I huffed like I’d just ran an eight minute mile and my knees knocked together as I shivered. It was always like that when I used my speed. Like I’d downed a triple espresso while snorting cocaine and was just coming down.
The flower turned its face towards me and I swear if a flower can look confused, it did.
I flipped it off and kneeled next to Puccini. A sharp purple quill stuck out of the paw he was licking.
“Ohhhh, baby.” I put Webber down, with a “Sit,” and gently took Puccini’s paw. The spire looked deep. He was probably standing right over the monster flower when it shot up.
Ever since the Awakening, weird stuff just happened.
A few plants and animals that’d been perfectly normal before became sentient. Environmental lawyers had a field day. And then they hit the courts with talking animals and flowers that learned sign language to argue for their rights.
Magical beings appeared randomly, made from thin air. Some people suddenly got powers. And physical rules just went out for coffee breaks in certain spots.
Magic, running amok as it reestablished itself in the world.
Puccini squirmed against my hold and I made soothing sounds as I grabbed the spike. I pulled it out quickly and Puccini howled, jerking his paw away. But at least I got it.
It was four inches long, thin as a needle, and sharp enough to separate molecules. The first half inch was dark with Puccini’s blood.
“Bitch!” I snapped at the flower. It straightened a petal and pointed at me. I pointed back. “Even think about it and I swear I’m running to the store. Can you say weed-wacker? You may get me with a few of those spikes, but I guarantee it’ll be the last thing you do.”
The petal lowered slowly.
“Uh-hu. That’s what I thought.”
I was threatening to murder a freaking flower. God, life had gotten weird.
I put Puccini down and he went back to licking his paw. I called the magic hotline and told them about the flower and the danger it posed and they said they’d send a witch right over to investigate.
The hotline had only been up and running for a little over a year. The new witches who’d put it together tracked the magical occurrences, talked to the new sentient beings, determined if they should be moved, exterminated the dangerous things, and put up a website mapping everything new and weird.
They were doing wonderful work. I kept telling myself when I had time, I’d volunteer. You don’t have a lot of weekends free when you’re a baby prosecutor though.
Though, I really should’ve made time. They were finding more and more events every day and couldn’t keep up with it lately according to their website.
I picked up my boys and walked home.
So much for our exercise for the night.
# # #
“Death,” I said as I put down the first tarot card in my cross formation. No, I didn’t get a chill down my spine or gasp in terror. Death in tarot means a change, nothing more. I leaned over, tracing the sunset in the background with my finger.
The deck belonged to my grandma. She was a part time “psychic” in the fifties. The thick cards were heavy in my hand, cracked and soft with age, faded dark purple with elaborate gold edges. The intricate, once brightly colored pictures on the fronts had faded like the backs, but were still beautiful.
I finished flipping. The Devil, upside down. The Hanged Man. The Chariot. And Judgment.
Oh dear. Most of the cards were saying I was trying so hard to maintain control, to not slip back into who I used to be, that I was enslaving myself, and a change was coming.
I had no clue what the Hanged Man was saying.
He’s the symbol of a time of suspension when you can think, a time to see things in a new light. The card’s also about sacrifice so you can get that illumination. It was the twelfth card, the opposite of the twenty-first, the last one. Besides the fact that today was the twelfth of December, I had no idea how that card fit.
All major arcana. That was telling in of itself. The major arcana represent life lessons.
“Why do I have a bad feeling about setting up a meeting with Apollo now?” I asked Webber, running my fingers over his soft curls.
Brrrrring. Brinnnnnng. BahRING, my phone trilled, vibrating on the table next to my soda and what was left of my chicken sandwich dinner.
Speak of the devil? Maybe.
I grabbed the phone. The caller ID said unavailable. Of course it did.
“Here we go,” I whispered, hitting talk. “Cassandra Berry.”
“I have Apollo calling for you, Ms. Berry,” a professional sounding male voice said. “Will you please hold?”
“Sure,” I snorted. Geez. He couldn’t even call me himself. Nope, had to have the secretary call.
A lot of snotty lawyers do that, too. And don’t get me started on politicians.
Tinkling lute music came over the line and I took another sip of my soda. What would the secretary have done if I said I wouldn’t hold?
Huh, the sounded just fun enough to try next time I called someone who put me on hold. Maybe I’d…
The music switched off.
I resisted the urge to shiver. Apollo was the god who was the epitome of youth, health, and strength, and his voice reflected it. Just deep enough to be truly masculine but not bone rattling, smoky, silkier than snake oil, and always sounded like whatever he was saying was vaguely dirty. The Greek accent gave it an exotic edge.
Yes, I’m into voices.
There was a reason I was avoiding the pain in the ass. My heart was racing just from him saying my name.
“Hi, Apollo. I need a favor.”
He was silent for a few seconds.
I was about to say, ‘can you hear me now?’ when he said, “No small talk, no buttering me up, just straight down to business? Cassandra, you shock me.”
“A man who actually wants foreplay? Trust me, Apollo, I’m more shocked than you.” I slapped my forehead. The joke just came to me. With a normal guy it’d be funny. With Apollo it was an invitation.
“Oh, Cassandra,” his voice dropped half an octave, “you should know by now how much I enjoy foreplay. We’ve been having it for two years.”
I was blushing. Dammit! This was so not a good idea. Even talking on the phone with him was dangerous.
“Cute.” My voice was sharper than those molecule splitting quills. Oh well, better than breathy. “Seriously, I need a favor. But,” I held up a finger even though he couldn’t see… at least, not that I knew of, “I will give you something in return.”
His, “I’m listening,” brushed over my skin like a heavy breath, calling the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck to attention.
I rubbed my arm with my free hand. The hairs wouldn’t go down. And I wanted to risk being in a room with him?
“I’m on an assault case right now and the defendant’s using what we’re calling the Gods Defense. He’s saying Dionysus made him break a guy’s nose in a bar. The defense lawyer and I both subpoenaed Dionysus, and I think he’ll just ignore it.” I took a deep breath and Apollo was still silent. “Should I just keep explaining while you pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about, or can I cut to the chase?”
“By all means, Cassandra.”
I really wished he’d stop saying my name like that.
“You talk to Dionysus, get him to agree to obey the subpoena, come to the office to be interviewed, and I’ll meet with you in person.”
“So you can establish a precedent for such an action?”
“So you can show the country you really do intend to work within our system and not try to take it over. Like you guys have been claiming.”
I don’t know why I felt the need to add the last part. Maybe because I didn’t get exactly why they were trying to integrate into society. They were gods after all. They could just tell us to take our system and shove it.
“Consider it done.”
Huh? My brow pinched up and my jawbone went jelly. “Excuse me?”
“I have already spoken to Dionysus. He will call your office tomorrow to set up a time for his interview.”
“But… you…” My hand flew out and Webber jumped off the couch. “He was already planning on answering it?”
“No. This was a joint decision by all of us. We told you to plead it out. If you could not, you would have to come to me.”
My stomach twisted up. The blood dropped from my face. The mirror across the room shot my image back at me. I’d always been teased about looking like Snow White. Now I looked like her after she ate the apple.
He didn’t… he wouldn’t… yeah, he would.
“Apollo, is there a basis for Reily’s client’s defense? Did a god make him attack someone?”
“Why would you think that, Cassandra?”
Horror hit my stomach like a solid punch and I closed my eyes. “You planned this!”
His voice was oh so calm as he said, “You now get what you want, and so do I. Meet me in my theater in an hour. I will tell the guards to be expecting you.”
“What… no… you son of a bitch!”
He’d already hung up.
“DAMMIT!” I threw the phone down and it bounced off the couch cushion, landing on the floor with a thud. I grabbed it, shoving it into my purse.
I stomped to my bedroom with all the weight my little body could manage. I banged open the closet door. I nearly tore the buttons off my top taking it off. I yanked a dress off its hanger, throwing the plastic garment bag as I marched across the room. I slammed the bathroom door. None of it helped.
I’d been played.
And there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.
# # #