The Mechanic

There was nothing I loved more than cars than the purr of a good engine and the feeling of a day of meaningful work that leaves you covered in grease but satisfied. The problem wasn’t that I wasn’t driven. I had my certifications, every single one I could get my hands on. The problem was finding a shop where I could work and not have problems. Then I found this shop. How I’d never noticed it sitting in the center of town, I will never know. Not when there was a line of gorgeous muscle cars from the heyday of such things. Dodge and Cadillac and Ford and Corvette all in a neat row.
The mechanic was a broad man with a fondness of sleeveless shirts and an old Nascar hat. When I first saw him working in the open garage bay, it was like watching a painter or a sculptor at work, his large hands deft and capable. It was watching his hands that I didn’t notice at first that he wore braces on both his legs to help him stand.
I don’t know how long I stood in the door, in the open garage bay and watched him work. I was enraptured. That was when he turned to me.
“Well, girl? Are you going to just stand there or will you pick up a wrench and get started?”

Dinner and Dessert

I was fidgeting with the fork again, spinning it between my fingers as I watched the door. The waiter was standing near the kitchen giving me this piteous look and I felt miserable. The placemat drew my eyes again and I wondered if she was going to show up at all. I was about to reach for my phone when the little bell above the door rang and my eyes snapped up. A woman like none I’d ever seen before stood just inside the door with a little frown of concentration on her face. But my shoulders only slumped. She wasn’t Jessica. This was pretty quickly sizing up to be the worst Valentine’s ever. That was when the woman slid into the empty seat opposite me and gave me a smile.
“Sorry, I’m late.”
For a long moment, I just stared into her eyes. It was like looking at the ocean; bottomless, beautiful, and a little bit terrifying. Then I gave my head a little shake.
“But…you’re not-”
Her smile turned a little sad and she nodded.
“I’m here to make sure you don’t spend today alone. She’s not coming.”
I looked down again and then back up, forcing a smile.
“You don’t have to do this. I’ll be alright.”
She shook her head and her hair fell loose around her shoulders.
“Let me just make this up to you. After all, it shouldn’t have happened.” She hesitated and then smiled at the approaching waiter. “A bottle of sauvignon blanc, if you would? Thank you.”
“Right away, Miss.”
He gave me a grin and a wink and walked off to fetch the bottle in question.
“What do you mean ‘shouldn’t have happened’? Is everything alright?”
But she didn’t seem to hear me. She leaned in, smiling.
“So, handsome, what is it you do?”
That was how the evening went. She suggested a few appetizers I’d never had before, calling them crudités and teasing me into trying them. She flirted and we laughed and at last, we sat there with sundae between us. That was when she finally answered my question.
“You’ll see Jessica tomorrow, just so you know. Once I’ve had a chance to fix things. But I couldn’t let you be alone tonight. Not when it was all because of my son and his leaden arrows.” She smiled cryptically. “Eros feels rather badly about his mistake.”

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?”

Archery Camp

I spent a lot of time in the coffee shop on the corner during the end of that school year. I wish I could say it was because of the free wifi or the good coffee. Mostly, it was because I had nowhere better to be and the barista was hot. So, I did my homework there and tried to get her number. Unsuccessfully. But with the end of the school year approaching, I was paying more attention to the tack board by the door where people posted job listings. That day was mostly like all the others, at least until the man I’d never seen before walked in. He didn’t say a word to anyone, just strode over to the board in his heavy black boots. When he raised his arms to attach a small posting to the board, I noticed the arrow tattooed on one arm and the antlers on the other. He had jet black hair tied back in a ponytail and a black leather jacket over a t-shirt that seemed entirely at odds with the rest of him. It was a jarring almost dayglow blue with a bow-and-arrow camp logo. As he walked out, he turned to glance at me for just a moment and he seemed to grin.

So of course, I got up and checked out the posting, my interest piqued. It was for an archery camp looking for counselors, no experience necessary, just a desire to help kids. I could certainly do that. I jotted down the number and packed my things to head home and apply.

The head instructor was unfairly attractive. The kind of woman who could make a room full of nuns swoon just by smiling. Her hair was a chestnut brown that she kept in a messy ponytail, though wisps of it escaped to frame her eyes. I’d thought at first that they might be silver, but that was mad. They were just a very pure gray. She really cared about those kids. Each and every one of them. When one of the littlest boys was afraid of the big dog that followed her everywhere, she took time out of her day to help him work through his fears. I can’t blame the kid, though, I’d thought that was a wolf the first time I saw him.

I’d hoped her co-instructor was her brother or something. No such luck. I’ve met her brother. He’s a piece of work. Blond surfer type who comes on the weekends to help out at the lake with swimming. Not that he’s ever gotten in the water. I think he just likes laying in the sun all day. He’s alright, though. Nice guy and great with a guitar. I think he might have a crush on her co-instructor, which is too bad really because they’re definitely dating.

We were out at the archery range one day, each of the kids lined up with their arrow to the string and their eyes on the target. That was the day we got the word that someone had snuck onto the grounds of the camp who very much should not have been there. She took one look at me and told me to take up my bow, I would hunt with her. The children would be safe in their cabins. I followed her, because what else could I do? We were miles out into the woodland of the camp before I heard a mix of howling and baying…and…laughter? There were other people now, all women like us…but green? They were carrying bows and running with the dogs that were ahead of us.
“He’s nearby. Keep your eyes out.”
That’s when I heard the twig snap and I whirled. There was a man there, a frantic look on his face and a gun in his hand. I had my bow up but panic was quickly setting in. He had a gun. I had a bow. This was not a fair fight. He raised the gun, aiming it right at my face. Just when he would have pulled the trigger, there was a pop like the world shifting and a stag stood in front of me, wheeling in panic.
“Take aim, little one.”
She was standing right behind me and I did as I was told now. My arrow loosed and found its mark quickly. She was laughing as she strode up to where the animal lay, bleeding.
“Never threaten one in my care.” Her voice was cold and harsh for an instant before she lifted the stag onto her shoulder. “Come along. I can leave this with the kitchens and we can have venison for dinner. You hunt well, but we need to work on your form a bit.”
“Of course.”

New kids come to the camp every year and it’s the safest place they could ever be, no matter what else happens in the rest of the world. And I would never leave here. Even if she’s in love with Orion. Even if her brother is too. It’s alright, this is home.

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.