We’d been out searching all day. Warehouse after warehouse, barn after barn. So far, we’d turned up nothing. Just spiderwebs, straw, and old logs. We hadn’t come any closer to finding my baby boy. It was starting to get discouraging. I was losing hope. But I wouldn’t admit that to anyone. I wasn’t coming home without my son, and I meant that. There was no way I could spend another night in that house without him.
“Okay, this is one of the last warehouses around here, Thena.” Hillary told me hesitantly. I thought maybe she could sense my discouragement, I just hoped she wasn’t getting discouraged too.
“Maybe we should head back after this one.” Sebastian suggested. “It’s started to rain, we shouldn’t get sick right now.”
“No. You guys can go home without me, I’m not going back without James.” I knew I was being stubborn, and probably very stupid. But I couldn’t stand the thought of my son out in the world without me.
“We’re not leaving you out here alone. We’re going back when you’re going back.” Hillary was just as stubborn as I was.
“Alright, then lets get moving.” I ushered for them to follow me into the warehouse.
“Oh god.” Hillary’s hand shot up to her nose. The stench inside the warehouse was absolutely horrific. It was full to the brim with trash and boxes. The smell was like death mixed with garbage.
“Well, I guess we better start looking.” Artemis sighed. We started to fan out to search, but something stopped us in our tracks.
Upstairs, we heard the soft murmur of a few different voices. Everyone looked at me, and I used two fingers to point towards the stairs.
I slowly started to move up the stairs. The voices were still talking, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. My heart was pounding. What was I going to find at the top of these stairs? Squatters? People just looking for shelter in the rain? Or was I going to find that man, and my son?
Was I prepared to do whatever I needed to get my son back?
I was about to find out.
I gestured for everyone to follow me up the stairs. Hillary was directly behind me, it was a comfort to have her so close. Having her there made this easier, I knew she would do anything to help me get my son back. It was reassuring.
We all got to the top of the stairs, and everything fell apart. Artemis immediately started to break down. Hillary and I started yelling, Zeus threatening lives.
My son. He was there. His head was shaved and all he was wearing was a diaper, but I knew it was him.
He was sitting in the middle of some weird sigil, surrounded by people dressed alike and reaching for candles.
And we knew some of them.
The man who’d been calling me, I finally realized where I knew his voice from.
It was Anson Fernandes, my sister’s fiance.
“You motherfucker, what the hell is wrong with you?” I screamed at him. I always knew he was slightly creepy, but I didn’t think he’d do something like this.
“Ah, dear Athena. So you’ve found us. I told you not to come looking for me. It’s sad, really. I didn’t want to have to kill you.” He sighed, like he was being asked to do a mundane task for a boss, not willingly commit murder. “And you, my dear Artemis. I’m so sorry you had to find out this way.”
“Fuck you.” She sobbed. My heart broke for her.
“Ah, that’s no way to talk to your fiance.” He smirked, then laughed maniacally. “I guess I’m gonna have to kill you too. All of you actually. This’ll be fun.”
“Leader, should we…?” The pretty blond woman next to him trailed off.
And just like that, everything dissolved into chaos.
His people jumped up and formed a line, immediately shooting off spells at my people. We all jumped into formation as well. Each on of us with an opponent. Athena and Hillary took on the two girls, Sebastian and Brooke took on two of the guys. Zeus took on Ricky, the guy who stood me up for homecoming. I thought it was slightly fitting.
And I, I took on Anson. I wanted to kill the son of a bitch.
All of the rage I’d been feeling the past few days came to a head. All I saw was red. I needed blood, and I was going to get it.
I immediately started with the strongest blinding spell I knew. I wanted to blind that asshole, I wanted my enraged face to be the last thing he ever saw. I was going to do whatever I could to destroy him.
But by the time my spell reached him, he’d reduced it to sparkles.
“You idiot, you think you can defeat me? I’m the strongest witch of the century. Your pathetic little spells won’t even affect me.” Anson laughed.
“You can’t defeat me. I’ll always win. My followers? They’re expendable. I’ll get new ones. But you can’t get new friends.” He laughed.
“Ricky, do it.”
Ricky drew back his wand and prepared to aim. I wasn’t sure what he was aiming for or what he was supposed to be doing, but I intended to find out.
But my attention was pulled away from him and back to my opponent, when my wand went flying out of my hands. Anson had used a spell to fling my wand across the room.
I looked back to him, and he was suddenly on top of the creepy alter. There was no way he could’ve climbed up there in the second I looked away from him. Maybe he really was the best witch of the century. Normal witches were not strong enough for teleportation.
“Athena, I will spare you. Your friends, they’ve maimed all my followers. They’ve won the battle. Except you. You can’t defeat me, you can’t kill me. There’s nothing you can do about it. You’re going to have to live the rest of your pathetic life knowing that you couldn’t kill the man who kidnapped your son.” He chuckled. “And well, I think the repercussions of this battle will be punishment enough.”
“I will fucking kill you, even if I have to do it with just my hands. You’re not going to get away with this.” I growled. I started to come for him, but was frozen in place. He’d managed to do a freezing spell without lifting his wand or even saying anything aloud.
“Ah Athena, you’re so naive. You really think I’d let you get close enough to do that?” He laughed. “I’ll be back. For both of you.” He stared at me for a few seconds, but it felt like it went on forever. He had such a creepy, dead look in his eyes. It was like there was nothing but pure evil behind them.
And with that, he jumped over the railing and into the pool of garbage on the floor below. I turned to rush down the stairs, to follow him, but I was stopped dead in my tracks by a scream.
“Zeus! Zeus no!” My sister screamed in such a way it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
Artemis kept screaming his name over and over. Hillary was crouched next to her, trying to get her attention. Trying to comfort her. Brooke was latched onto Sebastian, crying into his chest.
We’d defeated all of Anson’s followers, but not without a casualty of our own.
Zeus Garnet, my first love and the father of my child, lay dead on the cold, disgusting floor of that old warehouse.
Before I even really registered what I was doing, I ran over to him. I pulled him into my arms. I’d never felt anyone so limp in my life, his head just flopped right over. It made my stomach turn, I thought I would puke. The feeling was so different from the usual strong and comforting way of his body. It didn’t even really feel like him.
“Zeus, Zeus.” I couldn’t cry anymore, not after the past few days. I was numb. “I’m so sorry. I’m so fucking sorry. I wish we could’ve worked things out. I wish we could’ve co-parented.”
No one could really hear what I was saying. Artemis was having a full-blown breakdown. I didn’t blame her. Her fiance was an evil mastermind, and now her best friend of all time was dead.
I was glad no one could hear me though. This was just between me and Zeus.
“I’m so sorry. I know you wanted your son to have two parents, unlike us. Fuck, I’m so sorry.” I pulled his limp, cooling body to my chest. “I really did love you, Zeus. I always will.”
I held him close to me for a while. I lost track of time and my surroundings.
Despite all the noise, a tiny little voice pulled me out of it.
“M-mama?” My little James. He sounded so small, so terrified. Gently, I laid Zeus back down on the ground.
“Baby, it’s okay, Mama’s here.”
I scooped my son up into my arms. He clung to me, as I did him. I held him so tight, I never wanted to let him go.
“Mama.” He sobbed into my chest. He was scared, his entire body was trembling.
“It’s okay my love, you’re safe now.” I told him. I wasn’t going to let anything happen to my baby ever again.
“Athena, we should leave. He might come back for us. And we don’t know if these people are dead, knocked out, or stunned. We should get out while we can.” Sebastian interrupted my moment, but I knew he was just looking out for us.
“We can’t leave without Zeus.” I told him sternly.
“We won’t. I’ll take him.” He offered.
It was dark when we left the warehouse a few minutes later. It didn’t seem like that much time had passed, it felt like everything that happened only happened within the span of a few minutes. But it must’ve been at least an hour.
As we left, I scanned the entire area multiple times. I was anticipating Anson behind every tree and around every corner. Maybe he’d changed his mind, maybe he wanted to kill us all after all. But I didn’t see him anywhere.
I hoped no one saw us, because we looked like such a mess. A dead man, multiple crying woman, and a terrified mother clutching onto her son for dear life.
I was dreading our return home. As happy as I was to have my son back, I wasn’t looking forward to dealing with the aftermath.
I couldn’t fathom having to tell Winter her son died to make sure my son got home okay.