Strangers.Mature

Chapter Ten
Phaedos, by rhetoric
Word Count: 1,236

Six hours before “a little love, a little resentment.”

It was almost noon when the knock sounded on his office door.  He pressed the button on his desk and the door unlocked.  He didn’t look up to see who opened the door; he was too preoccupied with the mountains of files for his cases.  To be rather blunt, Phaedos was beginning to feel overwhelmed for the first time in his career; his time in the department was, by no means, a small investment; in over seventy years he had never filed a single case as “unsolved.”  He simply could not imagine his life without work, and it was beginning to occur to him that there was more to life than the usual hundred hours a week.  He tried to remember the last vacation he’d taken and couldn’t; in fact, he realized, he couldn’t remember one at all.  He sighed, running his long fingers through his shaggy sunshine-blonde hair.  He felt greasy and unkempt.

Someone cleared their throat in front of his desk and he snapped his attention up.  He’d forgotten entirely that he had a guest.  A man stood before him, dressed poorly but with the posture of a man that knows his worth.

“Yes?  Can I help you?”  The fatigue was clear in his voice, even to his own ears.

The man frowned, as if he had been expecting to see an entirely different man behind the large, cherry oak desk.  “Are you Detective Elias?”  His tone implied that he did not think Phaedos was capable of being Detective Elias.

Phaedos scowled and gestured with his hand, “That’s what the plaque says.”

“I was instructed to speak only with Detective Elias,” he responded, turning as if to leave.

Curious, Phaedos said, “You are speaking with Detective Phaedos Elias, badge number zero-one-three.”

The stranger paused, as if weighing something larger than himself, and said, “I have some information you may be interested in having.”

“And what information would that be?”

There was a moment of wariness that passed over the stranger’s face.  Something resembling suspicion hovered behind the hazel eyes.  “There are two Atlanteans in the city; they were led into Finneous’ hotel.”

Phaedos kept his voice even despite the sudden flare of panic that shot through his consciousness, “Is that so?  Might I ask, why do you expect me to believe you?”

The man did not answer; instead, he reached into the inside pocket of his trench coat and pulled out a thin touch screen panel – identical to the ones piled on top of Phaedos’ desk.  He slammed it onto the desk, the sound reverberating in the sparsely occupied office.  Without another word, the lycan turned and left.  Phaedos flicked through the images on the touch screen, not allowing himself to acknowledge the anxious swell of anticipation in his chest.  He knew this moment well; he’d been expecting it, if only half-heartedly, for most of his life.  He wasn’t sure what to feel about it, not knowing the things he knew.  Complicated feelings for a complicated situation, he thought, with an inward sigh.  He rose from his chair and reached for his own trench coat.

It was time, came the echoes of a familiar voice in his mind; ghostly ripples of remembered conversations.  The image of the gnarled old woman flashed before his eyes but was gone before he could adjust to the sight.  He shook his head to clear the last remnants of recollection.  He hated that old woman; she’d taken away everything in his life.  Every iota of happiness, gone the moment she uttered that fucking prophecy.  He stifled a growl of frustration and shrugged the coat onto his shoulders. 

He lifted his eyes to the wall across from his desk.  It was the only wall with any decoration; there was a single bookshelf containing nine novels, and a picture frame holding the one remaining photo of Ana.  Her mystic green eyes stared at him from the shelf.  He tore his eyes away from her, telling himself that he couldn’t allow those old miseries to come flooding back.  It was time to move, whether he felt ready or not.  He stuffed the touch screen with the photos into his pocket.  Turning, he made his way out of the office, down the corridor, and directly into the Lieutenant’s office.

“Lieutenant Hallow, I’m resigning.”  He did not allow himself to hesitate as he reached for his badge and gun.  He unloaded the firearm, displayed the full cartridge, and set the items on his superior’s desk before the man even looked up. 

He was through the door and halfway down the hall before Lieutenant Hallow hollered after him, “Wait, Elias!  Why?”  His voice was panicked.

Phaedos ignored him, walking through the automatic doors and out into the city streets.  With the fresh air awakening a small sense of adventure within him, he plunged into the afternoon light, shoved his hands into his pockets, and sought his destiny.

*

Present time, immediately following “a little love, a little resentment.”

Dinner had gone surprisingly well.

He stood in front of the small sink, rinsing off the last of his loose dishware.  The dishwasher beside his leg hummed gently.  He could feel the warm air pushing through the seals to blow against his pant leg.  Everyone had politely avoided helping him clean up by escaping onto the balcony.  He heard someone uncork a wine bottle and he frowned.  Friends indeed, he thought.

The footsteps that drew his attention up from the sink were so faint he thought he was hearing things.  He didn’t expect for his gaze to collide with the raw honey eyes of the Queen, and when it did, he nearly stumbled backward.  It was all he could do to remain still.  She smiled at him and he felt his body relax back into a casual stance, as if by her will.

“You are a marvelous chef, Phaedos.”

He wasn’t sure what it was about her voice that made him think of a thunderstorm, but his conscious mind was barely aware of it to begin with.  Her words passed through his ears, his mind, his conversational understanding, and were gone before the compliment settled in his brain.  “You’re too kind, your majesty.”

Her head tilted to the right, almost indiscernibly.  She said, “You should not be afraid to call me Atlas, Phaedos.  You do not need to be so formal.”  He knew.  She’d already suggested they be on a first name basis but when her eyes met his something in him said worship her and he could not compel himself to do otherwise.

He offered her an apologetic smile and nodded.  “Yes, of course.  I am glad you enjoyed the meal, Atlas; it was an honor to cook for you.”

Her smile was genuine, as if she truly believed that the well-worn phrase was a fresh and sincere remark coming from his lips.  He found himself hoping she did, because he felt it was true.  He hadn’t realized it until then.

His gaze lingered on hers for a heartbeat, the smile on his lips as unwavering as hers.  Footsteps came from the hall and, as if instantly, Elseron appeared.

Phaedos dried off his hands and bowed to the Queen.  “I believe I shall take my leave and retire to my room.”  Rising, he looked directly into her face and said, “It was an honor, Queen Atlas, to have been in your presence this evening.”

 

 

The End

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