Monsters and Heroes

The first thing Lysandra did was belt on a sword stolen from her brother. If she succeeded, he need never know. If she failed, it would never matter. The second was to tie a cloth over her eyes. It was hard to be certain when she would meet the monster, so it was best she be protected. With any luck, the patron of Athens would be with her. Or maybe the Goddess of Love, given the nature of her quest. Taking a breath, she began to feel her way through the rocks that led to the cave. She was certain she would find what she was looking for there.
It was slow going, that sightless progress from beach to cave. Lysandra stopped twice, certain she heard movement but never once daring to adjust her blindfold just in case it was the monster. Her questing hands found stone before her and she nearly jumped out of her own skin when it moved, falling backward.
“Lady of Wisdom, please let that not have been her I just knocked over…”
A voice sounded from behind her, disturbingly close.
“The Lady of Wisdom has no place on my island. And neither do you.”
Lysandra didn’t turn. It would have done her no good. She let her hands fall to her sides and tried to keep from shaking.
“Neither does Pelagia.”
She wished for a moment that her voice had sounded more fierce, more determined, less afraid. But there was nothing she could do now. Snakes snapped all around her head and Lysandra knew that Medusa had come right up behind her. For a long moment, they both stood there like that. Then Medusa spoke, her voice low and dangerous.
“Do you know what happens to the people who come here?”
Lysandra licked her lips nervously.
“They turn to stone. When they see your eyes, they turn to stone.”
“Which is why you wore a blindfold, clever Athenian girl. Then you know the girl you’re looking for is stone. So why are you here?”
“Because I think you know how to turn her back.”
Lysandra listened to the shifting behind her as Medusa considered her words.
“Assuming for a moment that I could, why would I? Why would I restore any of them? What do you know about any of this?”
Medusa grabbed Lysandra by the arm and the girl screamed. Clamping her free hand over her mouth, Lysandra felt hot tears beginning to soak her blindfold.
“I don’t. I don’t know anything beyond the stories. They…they said you were a monster. I just came to rescue Pelagia. Because. Because I love her.”
When Medusa spoke, there was distaste in her voice.
“So, of course, you carried a sword to face a monster. Everything becomes clear. Once, I was as human as you, girl. As it happens, I can do what you wish, but it will be for a price.”
Lysandra’s heart leaped into her mouth and her pulse hammered in her ears.
“I’ll do it. Anything you want, I’ll do it.”
“There’s spring on the island. Use the water from that to wash the stone off of her and only her. Then take your Pelagia and go tell them that I am dead. I don’t care what story you tell, but make it convincing. I’m tired of would-be heroes trying to test themselves on me. I just want to be left alone.” Medusa let go of Lysandra’s arm. “I’ll be in my cave, so you can take your blindfold off. If you swear to the deal.”
Lysandra didn’t hesitate.
“I swear it on the River Styx.”

Lysandra had tucked the sword back among her brother’s belongings before she and Pelagia went to the agora with their news.
“I tell you, the gorgon Medusa is dead.”
Lysandra stood on a low wall, hands on her hips.
“And who slew that monster?”
“Was it you, girl?”
Lysandra glanced at Pelagia at her side and then smiled, spinning a tale no one would ever forget.
“Not I. It was a hero, a demigod named Perseus. I can tell you exactly how it happened.”

Anonymous Gifts

I was knelt down by the filing cabinet, looking for the records related to a case I was reading through for my boss when the door opened behind me. Turning, I was surprised to find a tall man standing there. He looked a bit like a surfer; blond, tan, and buff, with an easy grin. His blue eyes seemed endless in the halogen light.
“Can I help you?”
When he spoke, I would have sworn he was a singer. That was how musical his voice was.
“Is your boss in? I just need her for a minute.”
I adjusted my skirt.
“I’ll go see if she’s free. Would you like a drink or anything?”
“No thanks.”
He waved me off and settled into one of the comfortable chairs, tapping out a beat as though he was listening to music I couldn’t hear. I shrugged a little and stepped into the doorway of her office.
“Excuse me, Ma’am? There’s a man here to see you.”
She stood, gray eyes measuring me for a moment. Then she glanced at the calendar.
“Of course. Every month like clockwork.” She smiled, standing. “Go pull papers for an anonymous donation, if you would. Make it out for my sister’s archery camp.”
I raised an eyebrow at that but went to do as I was told. All the while, I could hear them talking in the background.
“I still don’t understand why you won’t just tell her. She’s your twin. It’s not like she can get mad at you.”
He just shrugged, an affable smile on his face.
“We both know she likes it this way, thinking there’s some kind stranger out there who cares as much about the kids as she does.”

A New Case

I was filing papers in the back when I heard the chime of the bell opening.
“I’ll be right there!”
Clambering down the ladder, I smoothed down the front of my skirt and stepped out into the waiting room. A woman stood standing in the door, an imperious expression on her face, framed by wisps of chestnut hair that had escaped her ponytail. She was wearing jeans and a camp t-shirt, with a strip of leather strapped to the inside of her right arm. An archery guard, I realized. Her eyes met mine and for a moment, my world felt like it had dropped out from under me. Then I noticed the young girl standing beside her, one arm in a sling. She was small and thin, eyes downcast.
“So,” the woman said, a bit of a smile on her face. “You’re the intern I’ve been talking to on the phone?”
“I…Yes? I mean… I’m sorry, how can I help you?”
That got a bit of a laugh and she knelt for a moment, telling the small girl she could go read a book in the corner.
“I need to talk to my sister, it’s about a case I need her to open.”
I took a breath and nodded, somehow knowing exactly what she was talking about.
“She’s in her office. Let me just tell her that you’re here. Would you like something to drink?”
She shook her head and then paused.
“Have you got juice?”
She glanced over at the girl and I nodded.
“I’ll get her a juice box.”
First, I went to my boss’s office. Knocking on the doorframe, I leaned in.
“Your sister is here about something. She says it’s a case.”
I thought I had seen my boss turn into an avenging angel before. I had thought wrong. When she stood, I could have sworn that for just a moment she was wearing armor.
“Send her to the deposition room. I need you to watch the little girl. There are cookies in the pantry, get her one.”
I headed off to do as I was told before I’d even processed that I hadn’t told her about the girl.

Girls’ Night

The third Wednesday of every month, at least during the summer, was girls night. That’s what my boss said when she left the shop in my care. So, I was expecting to be alone in the old barn surrounded by odds and ends until closing time. I wasn’t expecting a teenage girl in a Day-Glo blue archery camp t-shirt and a woman a few years older than me in a neat blouse and flowered skirt to come walking in through the door within short order of each other. The younger girl spoke first.
“The Huntress says you know.”
The other woman relaxed visibly.
“Oh thank the gods, I was starting to think I’d taken a wrong turn. When my boss said to come to the home of the forgotten things, I never pictured a junk shop. Even if she did give me an address.”
I looked between the two of them, relaxing the grip on the chunk of stygian iron in my pocket.
“Well then… I wish my Lady had told me I’d have company tonight.”
Unceremoniously, I shifted a box of records to the floor and sat at the now-cleared off patio table. With an airy gesture, I motioned for the other two to sit. Names weren’t exchanged, but that was to be expected. The lawyer took a seat but the young archer didn’t, she paced. After a long silence, the lawyer spoke. I was starting to suspect she didn’t like silence.
“Do either of you know why we’re supposed to meet?”
I stayed silent. The archer didn’t. She was dynamic and mobile in a way that the overcrowded barn did not tolerate and it was starting to get on my nerves.
“I would guess,” she started, “that they don’t want us to be alone. We know who they are and that sets us apart. But that makes us kind of like a little group.”
I expected the lawyer to object, even sparing a moment for a mental laugh at the image the thought conjured. But she nodded.
“That makes sense. We’ve seen things that are…hard to explain. Or impossible.”
The archer stopped dead in her tracks, her expressive face closing.
“She…she turned a man into a stag. We ate him. I killed him. I…I didn’t mind. The gun was aimed at my face! And I like venison a lot. He was going to hurt the kids, I think…and…”
She was shaking and I stood, grabbing her by the shoulders.
“Tell it from the beginning.”
My voice sounded like hers for a moment, like my Lady’s. That clear and calm tone that radiated confidence. The girl’s shoulders slumped and she nodded. Slowly, the story came out of her and I nodded.
“He’s been judged and found Punishment. You did the right thing.”
The easy smiles were back on her face now.
“I know, she told me. But I needed to…to talk to someone else, I think. You know?”
The lawyer spoke softly then.
“How did you do that?”
It took me a second to realize she meant me. I knew I was just staring at her like an idiot.
“You pulled the ghost of the memory out of her.”
“I did what?”
Then I looked at my hands and saw the shadows there. With a quiet curse, I pulled it together into a ball and cast it down into the Underworld.
“I…have no idea. But it’s good to know I can.”
I looked back and forth between them for a moment and then sighed.
“I’ll go grab some sodas and a deck of cards. We can all talk and sort this out, alright?”

Pro Bono

It was my first job out of law school, working as an intern at a Pro Bono law office in the city. The place was run by two women. The first, my direct boss, was pretty much the poster child for female fire iron. She was the kind of woman who thinks nothing of staring down a judge and telling them that they’re wrong about a point of law. If you look up ‘she-demon’ in the dictionary, she’ll be there smiling out at you in a pantsuit and sensible flats. Her partner wasn’t exactly like her. She won every case she ever saw, but she also showed up late a lot of days wearing a tracksuit and carrying a gym bag.

It was your average Tuesday, which meant new cases coming our way and I got to deal with the clients in the waiting area. Make coffee, translate what Mrs. Gonzalvez was saying about her landlord, try to pretend I didn’t know the meanings for some of those words because those should not ever be written in anything official. Stuff like that. That was the day that the young man walked in. He was thin and pale, his clothing ill-fitting and his hair roughly cut like he’d done it himself. When he spoke, his voice was higher than I’d expected and light.
“Excuse me, but…can you help me file…something? I don’t know what I need. I just need to get away from my parents and keep them away.”
And my boss was there before I could call her, gray eyes flashing and her stance like she was ready to put a spear clean through someone.
“I’m sure we can help you.” She glanced at me. “A pot of coffee and order a pizza. Feta, olive.”
“Of course, Ma’am.”
Her partner was talking to the woman in the corner with the two toddlers and the black eye. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but that wasn’t important right now. I placed the order with the pizza place on the corner and they said they’d bring it as soon as it was ready. I heard my name called and stepped into the back deposition room.
“Yes, Ma’am? Did you need something?”
The young man was sitting at the table, tears of relief on his face as my boss presented him with papers and options and plans.
“How’s the coffee?”
“Coming right up.”
“Good. Can you also pull an official change of name form and…” She paused, thinking. “And call my sister and see if she needs an extra counselor at the camp of hers.”

There was something about that office. It wasn’t just that we tried to help people, or that my bosses always won their cases. It was like the women who walked through the door left stronger no matter what. Like they had a glow of confidence about them.