It was a wet Sunday. Outside, rain poured down relentlessly, promising floods in the near future, but inside the small house it was warm and peaceful and for once its occupant was feeling rather optimistic.
He hummed to himself as he poured out a cup of tea and took it over to his favourite armchair. He would curl up with a new book and spend a lazy afternoon reading, and then maybe he would watch some television; there was a drama serial beginning that evening that looked promising.
Yes. Today would be a good day.
He’d just settled down and turned to the first page of his novel when the shrill, demanding chirrup of the telephone cut through the silence. With a heartfelt groan, he hauled himself up and went to answer it. Probably a salesman. They always managed to phone at times like this.
“Mr…Thunder Young? Will you accept a collect call from a Mr. Dallas McLean?”
The impersonal female operator probably would never have guessed the effect her words had on Thunder. He felt as though a pit had opened beneath his feet. What was Dallas doing calling him up? It had been years since he’d seen him. Three years, to be precise. But an interval of fifty years wouldn’t make Thunder glad to hear that voice again.
All his instincts screamed at him to refuse, to say she had a wrong number, but a sinking feeling crept up and reminded him that if Dallas wanted to talk to someone, then Dallas would bloody well talk to them. It would only delay the inevitable.
May as well get it over with. Hopefully he was only phoning up to reminisce about old times…although that was highly unlikely. Dallas didn’t go in much for small talk.
“Uh…yes. Put him on.”
A click, and then Dallas’ voice, as bright as ever.
“Thunder! Hey, long time no see! How are you?”
“I was wonderful until you called,” Thunder said waspishly, in no mood for pleasantries. “What do you want? I thought I told you never to call me, ever again.”
“You did, but I am anyway,” Dallas replied, without a trace of apology. “It’s an emergency.”
“What sort of emergency needs my help? You know I’m no good at this sort of thing. Remember what happened last time?”
“Last time was not your fault, how many times do I have to say this? Shut up and listen. It’s Candy.”
The sinking feeling intensified tenfold. Thunder began to bang his head gently against the wall above his phone.
“Godsdammit, what’s she done this time?”
He could almost hear Dallas’ grim smirk as the man replied.
“What the hell do you mean ‘disappeared’?”
“Just that. I went round to her house yesterday and she wasn’t there. She hasn’t gone on holiday or anything. Clothes all there, no notes, no nothing. Poof. Like she’s vanished into thin air.”
Resting his forehead against the wall, Thunder cursed the day he’d ever got involved with this bunch of incompetent idiots. He should have known he’d end up dragged into their thricedamned affairs again. Once a friend of dispossessed deities, always a friend of dispossessed deities.
“Are you sure she just hasn’t popped out to get milk and got a bit distracted?” he asked desperately. “I mean, it’s happened before.”
“If she’d popped out to get milk,” Dallas said in a sing-song tone, “There wouldn’t be bloodstains on the wall.”
A chill went through Thunder’s frame and he scuffed a hand through his bright red hair in sudden anxiety.
“Oh, it’s not hers, it’s all human. But it doesn’t bode well, does it?”
“No. But can’t you lot deal with it? Why do you need me?”
All of a sudden, Dallas sounded slightly pleading.
“Oh, come on Thunder, you know us. We can’t organise our way out of a paper bag. Too long sitting up on Mount Olympus tossing thunderbolts around. We wouldn’t have a hope. I’m the only one with even a modicum of common sense and they won’t listen to me, I’m just the messenger. We need an organiser and the only one we can think of is you.”
“Please, Thunder. We think…we think the other lot might have something to do with it.”
Utterly defeated, Thunder made a show of thinking about it, but he knew he’d agree. The anxiety that seeped through Dallas’ usual bright tones when he talked about ‘the other lot’ had swayed him. He knew he had to help. After all, it was true-the dispossessed Greek deities really couldn’t organise their way out of a paper bag.
“All right. Where do you want to meet?”
“Oh, thank you thank you thank you! Usual place, quick as you can. I’ll be there.”
A click as he rang off. Thunder replaced the handset slowly and stared unseeingly out of the window at the pelting rain. He’d never thought, when he’d met Dallas for the first time six years ago, that he’d be consequently embroiled in a bitter battle between the dispossessed Greek gods and goddesses, masquerading as normal people in London, and the dispossessed Norse gods and goddesses, also masquerading as normal people. That had ended three years ago and he’d consequently attempted to sever all ties, as it was a world he had found he hated intensely; being the only human involved meant a lot of difficulties that the others never encountered. Dallas and Candy and Carl-or, to put it more correctly, Hermes, Artemis and Hades-had been sorry to see him go, but he’d sworn that from then on he was going to be completely normal.
But now it looked to be starting again, and once again he was going to end up to his neck in it.