(Part one is linked on the Amie’s Fiction page. I’m working on turning this into a full novel and have revised a lot of it to accommodate a longer and more involved story.)
The sunset as I exited the courthouse was amazing, all bright pinks and oranges, with yellow and green streaking though. Sunsets before the Awakening were never that spectacular.
One of Nashville’s many sidewalk singers was strumming a guitar across the street, his voice strong and beautiful, and attracting a nice crowd of professionals leaving work.
At least someone was having a good day.
I turned on the courthouse steps. Henry Hepner jogged up them, panting. His thousand dollar suit hid the extra weight around his middle quite well, but it couldn’t do anything about what shape he was actually in. He was pushing middle age, with a bald spot in the middle of his dark brown hair, a little goatee to make up for what he was missing up top, and brown eyes that were always soft and sweet.
Even when he was making deals with naive young things to sell their souls.
Devil’s advocate had never been literal before the gods woke up.
“Hello Henry. Here to sign up souls, or is this a social visit?”
“Cute.” He smiled, all white teeth and twinkling eyes. Used car salesmen had smiles like that. But the worst they’d do to you was take your money. “I want to talk to you.”
Really? “It’s a little, nothing assault case.”
“My client doesn’t want this defense becoming common.”
“Why does Hades care?”
Henry paused. “People blaming the gods for every little indiscretion could put the gods in a very bad light if others start to believe it. They’re already struggling with reconciling… their ways with the law.”
“Their ways, huh? Nice way of saying enslaving.”
“Come on, Cassandra, they’re not enslaving people. They’re merely building a following. Everyone follows of their own free will. And they can leave whenever they want. Just like any other religion.”
“Don’t spin me that bullshit!” My hands dug into my briefcase’s handle so hard I was surprised the steel didn’t melt into my skin, and I loosened my grip with a deep breath. “They don’t tell outside people what goes on in their temples.”
“Only some of them. They aren’t the first businesses, or religions for that matter, who have non-disclosure agreements.”
“They don’t answer questions. Like where the hell were they ‘sleeping,’” I put up air quotes, nice trick carrying a briefcase, “for thousands of years. Or why!”
His smile stayed in place but his eyes went sad. “Has working as a prosecutor made you this hostile?”
“I’m not hostile.”
“You have been to me ever since…” His eyes narrowed.
“Yeah, ever since you left the school and started working for the gods. Dammit, Henry, you used to stand for something. You were the one who said ethics were the cornerstone of law. And now look at you. You sold out.”
His face froze. “Everyone has a price, Cassandra.”
“No, they don’t. That’s just what people say when someone waves enough money in front of their nose. How much was your soul worth, Henry?”
His smile went up a few notches. “My client wants you to plead this out.” Nice change of subject. Can you say hit a nerve? “He wants this before others start getting ideas about accusing the gods without basis.”
My hairs stood on end. There was… something. I focused on him.
My peripheral vision fuzzed away, everyone else on the stairs becoming blotches of moving colors. Henry’s head came into sharp focus, red light bleeding out of it. Black streaks ran through it like poison in the veins. Two years ago, if you saw colors around someone’s head, it meant they were standing in front of a neon sign or you were just nuts. Now, to me, they meant emotions, thoughts, possible actions. It took me months after the Awakening to figure out what I was seeing.
I clucked my tongue. “Not nice to lie to a psychic, Henry.”
His smile warmed, the streaks disappearing. “Finally admitting what you are?”
“What? I have no problems with being a psychic.”
He spread his hands. “But you refuse to acknowledge your patron god.”
I jabbed my finger up at his face. “When the gods woke up, they brought magic back. They didn’t give me my powers, they just stopped withholding them. I don’t owe him anything.”
“I never said you did. I said he’s your patron.” He held up his hands with that same easy smile. He probably had that smile when wandering around his boss’s new underworld. “I was sent to deliver two messages. First, plead this case out. Second, your god wants to talk to you.”