Even gods need a hired gun every now and then.
The holidays just got a little crazier for Ike the assassin. Still in turmoil over her boyfriend’s missing kids, the ante is upped when Ares – god of war- requests Ike’s special skills. Find his kidnapped son or the whole world goes to Hades. Literally!
“Oh come on Ike. It’s only a couple of decorations, not much.” Hannah begged while walking through their local party supply store.
“Why do you insist on turning my normal world into an obscene freak-fest?” It was still a couple of weeks before Christmas and Hannah hadn’t stopped riding her ass about the fucking twenty-fifth of December. To Ike it was another day on the calendar, but for everyone else in the world it was a freaking holiday.
What made it worse; she was looking for Thomas’s three children. There wasn’t a clue one, of where they could be. Five years ago, Ike had been sent on assignment, take out Thomas Fielding. In the midst of it all, she learned of his children and how they had been sold.
Ike never thought in a million years she would fall for her mark. But here she was, in the middle of nowhere, deeply in love and deeply out of her mind.
“Could you, like, for once in your life, take the cob out of your ass and enjoy something…please?” Hannah stomped her foot and folded her arms over her chest.
Ike turned back toward Hannah and snarled, “I’ve got something I could stick up your ass girly. You best remember who I am.” She turned back toward her cart and smiled. She loved Hannah more than anyone in world, but sometimes she could get on Ike’s last nerve.
“So, do you want a paper Santa? Maybe we should go with plastic, you know, so we can use them again. Oh wait, I know! How about an elf or a reindeer? Or maybe a snow flake,” Hannah asked, unaffected by Ike’s tone.
Ike shook her head, “Here, you drive the cart and get whatever you want. I’ll go next door and pick up my new set of guns.”
Hannah greedily took the cart from Ike and begun to spin it around when she stopped and looked back at Ike. “Should we get Thomas’s kids something for Christmas, you know, just in case?”
How could Ike not want to get them something? She could still hear Sally’s bitter voice screech out her contempt for the kids and for Thomas. Luckily for Sally, her ass was in an eight by ten cell in a federal prison right now.
“Yes, get them…” Ike rubbed the bridge of her nose, “Hell I don’t know what to get them Hannah. What do kids like now days?”
The sly slow grin that spread across Hannah’s lips had Ike worried. “There’s a toy store two doors down from here, I could ask them. I am sure they could point me in the right direction.”
Ike nodded in agreement, “Sure makes sense. When you’re done here, why don’t you head down to the toy store?”
“Sweet. Thanks Ike, but...uh...how am I supposed to pay for everything without the credit card?”
Ike pulled out her black AMX card and handed it to Hannah, “Remember, nothing cheesy, and nothing I can’t figure out how to operate.”
“No problem. I won’t let you down.” Hannah turned the cart around and skipped down the aisle.
“Why do I have the sinking feeling I’ve just signed my death warrant?” Ike sighed with amusement. Walking out of party supply store, she headed toward the gun shop. The air was crisp, causing Ike to shiver. It had been the hottest part of summer when Ike and Hannah had first set foot in Alabama, and she wouldn’t have believed the dramatic difference if she hadn’t been there to experience it.
“Excuse me? Are you Ike?” A man asked as he approached her.
“Depends. Who’s asking?” She still didn’t trust anyone. It was one of her character flaws, as Hannah so delicately pointed out, that needed work.
“I have a very sensitive case I was hoping you would be willing to take,” he said stopping in front of her and holding out his hand. “My name is Shiloh.
Ike cocked her brow. “Hello Shiloh. Would you care to elaborate?” She said pointing to the envelope in his hands.
“I saw you were walking toward the gun shop. Do you mind if I join you and we can talk on the way?” he asked, gesturing toward the store.
Ike shrugged. “Sure, but you better talk fast. This will only take me a minute.”
“Thank you. Here’s the paperwork.” He handed her the brown envelope and continued, “Not too many people know about our world. We try to keep our kind hidden until we need the help of a human—a human of your talent. You see, we are only allotted so much time here on this plane, and then we have to go back.”
Ike pulled the papers out of the envelope as the man talked. She wasn’t really paying him any attention until he got to ‘plane’ and ‘help from humans’. “Wait. What do you mean humans like me and better yet, what plane do you come from?” She closed her eyes and held her hand up.
What the hell? Do I have a sign on my back that says, Freaks Welcomed? She thought as she shook her head. The conversation had gone from, I need your help, to look at me, I have three heads and come from Uranus.
“Never mind I asked, okay? Just walk away now and we’ll pretend this little meeting of planes and humans never happened.”
“We are not your run of the mill people, Ike. This case—if you take it, will demand that you open your mind to the impossible.”
Ike stopped and turned toward the man. He was tall, and his hair was pitch black. His eye color surprised her. His irises were a muted red, but clear like they held a secret too close to the surface. “The whole opening your mind to the impossible has been done. I’m talking to you right? Now, take your papers and be gone. Maybe if you try hard enough the next time you give this speech, some poor soul will believe you.”
Handing him the envelope back, she continued into the store and walked up to the counter.
“Hey Sam, did you get my guns in?” Ike asked the elderly man behind the counter.
“Well hello Miss Ike, is Shiloh messing with you?” he said, nodding toward the man who followed her in.
“No, he isn’t bothering me. As a matter of fact, we were just saying goodbye. So, goodbye Shiloh.” Ike smiled and turned away from the man who had approached her in the parking lot.
“I’m not giving up on you, Ike. We will talk again soon.” The jingle from the doorbells and the soft click of it shutting had Ike relaxing just a bit. “So, about those guns? Did you get them back?” Ike inquired, trying to take the focus off Shiloh and back to why she was in the store to begin with.
“Yeah, I sure did. You know, they really turned out pretty.” He reached under the counter, pulled them out and placed the pearl handled guns on the counter for Ike to inspect.
Sam was right; the guns had come out pretty nice. She missed her old set of course, but they were in Hannah’s hands now. Ike had given them to the kid after rescuing her from the orphanage and Lyann, the orphanages Mother Superior. It was the one time she hadn’t intentionally killed someone. Ike couldn’t believe it had been more than five years since the scrawny—smartass kid came into her life.
“Thanks, Sam. How much do I owe you?” She reached for her wallet. “Ah shit,” she grimaced, “Sorry Sam, Hannah has my card, can I leave these…” She was cut short when Hannah came barreling through the door with several bags in her hands.
“Sorry, I just got caught up in the whole shopping thing.” She dropped half of the bags and dug Ike’s black AMX card out of her back pocket. “Careful, it’s still hot,” she smiled.
Ike sighed and handed it over to Sam. She wasn’t worried about how much Hannah spent. It wasn’t like Ike didn’t have enough money to buy just about every building in the strip mall.
Hannah picked up the bags she dropped, “Hey, Ike, who’s the guy leaning against your car?”
“What?” He couldn’t be that stupid...could he? She asked herself while waiting for her transaction to go through.
“When I was walking over here, I saw a guy with wicked eyes leaning against your car. Who is he?” Hannah tapped her foot impatiently.
Sam chuckled as he tore off Ike’s copy of the receipt, “If I were you, and I’m not,” Sam held his hands up as if to say, whoa partner. “but if I were you, I would talk to Shiloh. He can be very persistent.”
“Thanks for the heads up. I think I may just need to show him how well I handle being stalked.” Ike picked up the receipt, the guns, her card, and made her way out of the store. How dare he! What was this idiot thinking? Did he seriously believe she would just drop everything and take his crazy ass case? Fuck that! She’d just have to show him who was top dog.
When she looked toward her car, Shiloh was nowhere to be seen. But, on her front windshield she saw the brown envelope he had handed to her earlier. On the outside of the envelope scrawled his phone number and the simple message, call me.
“I guess Sam was right. This guy doesn’t get the meaning of no.” Hannah said while loading her Christmas loot into the back of the Jeep.
“Yeah, and he’s going to learn a lesson from it too.” Ike said, throwing the papers into the car.
“Why are you all quiet like over there?” She asked, never taking her eyes off the road. For the last twenty minutes, they rode in silence and the inaction was making Ike a little edgy.
“I was thinking about what Sam said about Shiloh, that’s all.” She turned her head and smiled.
“Oh, and what would you be thinking?” She braced herself for what Hannah would say. She had the uncanny knack of spouting shit you would never have thought of. The kid’s brain was hardwired backwards or something. What scared the shit out of Ike the most was the fact she totally understood Hannah. She shivered admitting it to herself, but it was true. “I was thinking maybe you should just take the case. I mean, he wouldn’t have come to you if it wasn’t important.”
Hannah had a point. No one came to her unless it was important. But Hannah hadn’t been standing there when he opened his mouth and called her a human, as if he weren’t included in the designation. Or said he came from a different plane either. “Here’s the deal, kiddo...” She put her hand up to stop Hannah from going gangster on her ass for the kiddo comment. “He said some really kooky shit in the parking lot, and I don’t know if he is pulling my proverbial chain or not.”
She made the mistake of glancing over at Hannah and sighed. “How about this? You can read the documents in the envelope. I want your opinion on what he has to say. If you don’t find anything suspicious about it, I’ll take the gig.… Deal?”
Hannah giggled and fist bumped Ike’s hand, “This is my first contract. How cool is this!”
The years fell away from Hannah’s face and she was the kid Ike had picked up at the orphanage almost ten years ago. Although she was scared shitless at the time, Ike loved every minute of watching Hannah grow and become one kick ass adult. “Then it’s set. When we get home, you get to work on the logistics and we’ll go from there as a team.”
* * * * *
“Whoa, did you read any of this, Ike?” Hannah walked through the living room and back into the kitchen where Ike sat going over her paperwork.
It had been just a few months since Ike made the move to Alabama permanent. She had taken the vacation she needed so desperately after her time in New York, but found her thoughts always drifted back to Thomas. Soon, she found herself falling in love with him, which was new for her. Ike never believed in a million years, she would feel that way again, especially after what Justin did to her.
The night of her birthday party had been the last straw. Justin had attacked the poor kid who kissed Hannah. He was out of control and it broke her heart.
He had saved her from an Ecuadorian guerilla camp, nursed her back to health and that was the thanks she got? Pu-leeze! After the party and the fight, Ike never returned to Arizona or Justin. He never called to apologize either. Her heart had been broken in one stupid action. Any trust she had in him at that point had been crushed.
Ike rubbed her face and sighed just thinking about the day she sent her friends to pick up her stuff. Luckily, Justin hadn’t been there. She couldn’t even begin to think of the fight that would have ensued had he caught them. “Nope. Didn’t care too either.”
“You should. This guy Shiloh, or should I say Ares, is in deep shit. His son, Alek, has gone missing. It says something about falling for a woman who was not whom she claimed to be.”
“Please, tell me you’re not buying into this. Come on, Ares, God of War? Coming too little old me and asking for help? Pfft, throw it away. Let’s get serious.” Ike said. Especially where Thomas is concerned. She shuffled the papers in her hand.
Hannah didn’t give up. She turned the page and continued. “It goes on to say while searching for Alek they found his demi-god ring.” Hannah looked up from the paper. “What’s a demi-god and they wear rings…for what?”
She did not just ask me what a fucking demi-god was, did she? Ike glanced up from her paperwork. “Is this some kind of sick joke? Like ha, ha, Ike, we got you so good. Because if this job is a joke, you are seriously going to get your ass kicked.” She ground her teeth trying to control her anger. She had tried the count-to-ten thing, but it wasn’t her style. Grinding her teeth, on the other hand, slowed her roll when it came to spouting off shit she knew might hurt Hannah.
Hannah handed her the papers. “Read it. You know I would never try and trick you.” She was right again. Ike knew there was no way Hannah would mess with her. They respected each other too much.
Ike took the papers from Hannah and began to read what was happening. If Alek wasn’t found, all hell would break loose. If Ares didn’t see his son before Christmas, he would bring a war no human had ever seen before.
So what would be the purpose of asking her for her help? Ike looked over at Hannah and sighed. Without anyone coming for help, who knew where Hannah would be today.
She couldn’t think about that right now. How could she sit there and not want to help? Hell it was her job right? Protect the innocent and defend what was decent? I must be going fucking soft. What happened to killing people for a living? I was so good at that.
There was only one problem standing in her way, all of these people believed they were gods and demi-gods. Mythical persons who lived on Mount Olympus for God’s sakes! If she was going to work with Ares, or this person who thought he was Ares, he better be willing to prove he was who he said he was. “All right, so if what he says is true, what do you want to do with this case?” Cocking her brow, she threw the papers back across the table at Hannah. “Remember, I left it up to you.”
“Here’s what I think.” Hannah sat down at the table. Chewing on her bottom lip, she looked through the documents one more time. Ike could see the gears turning as she frowned while reading different parts of each page. “If this is true, this case is almost a copy of my life before you found me. I know all too well what Alek must be feeling.
“He is alone, probably scared. He hopes someone will come find him, but at the same time knows if they don’t, he will die. I think we should take the case.”
Ike couldn’t help but wonder if she hadn’t saved Hannah when she did, would she have killed herself? The memory of how Ike found her in the orphanage flooded her senses. Hannah had been painfully thin, her eyes were sunk in, and a nasty purple halo encompassed both of them. Her arm had been in a filthy cast. Plus, the clothes that hung from her frame were just as dirty as the cast. Yeah, the kid definitely knew what Alek was going through.
Without saying a word to Hannah, Ike picked up the phone and dialed the number on the front of the envelope. Just when she was beginning to believe he wouldn’t answer, she finally heard his voice.
“Hello?” Ares voice was gravelly, like he had awakened him from a nap.
“It’s Ike. Did I wake you?” she asked.
“Does it really matter to you?” He chuckled.
“No, I guess not. I have a couple of questions before I tell you what we have decided to do with your case.”
“Shoot, I figured you would.”
Ike took a deep breath and let it out slowly, “What is this crap? You believe you’re a god?”
“It’s not crap. It’s the truth. If it would help you to believe me, meet me at the old mill in town and we’ll talk about it.”
The old mill in town. Seriously? The urge to mock and laugh at him was almost unbearable. It seemed like every bad B-movie had an old abandoned mill were the bad guy crept around killing people. This was so not helping his case. “I’ll be there, but I won’t be alone.” She hung up on Shiloh before he could say whether or not it was okay to bring a friend or two.