The graveyard looked even more grey and miserable under a sky that was throwing a tantrum. The rain was so heavy it half-obscured the stone memorials to the dead, and the grass squelched under his feet, turning his white trainers brown. Still, they'd been falling to pieces anyway; he really needed to get some new ones.
But this wasn't the time to be thinking about shoes. He was here for a reason.
Memories came flooding back as he looked around the cemetary. There had been a lot of meetings here, three years ago. He'd met them all here at one time or the other; Dallas and Candy and Carl of course, and Candy's twin brother Luke, and ever-flirty Marie, and Sophie with her pet owl...and Peter too, you couldn't leave out Peter. He was the boss (and father to most of them), and he never let them forget it, even now. With luck he wouldn't be involved in-
His train of thought was rudely cut off as a heavy, furry body smacked into him, causing his tatty trainers to lose what grip they had on the muddy ground and pitch him sideways. He rolled over, spitting out dirt, and was enthusiastically licked by a huge, wet tongue that belonged to what looked like a sizeable Rottweiler.
If, of course, you ignored the three heads and the fact that the tail, which was being violently wagged in an outburst of sheer ecstasy, was a snake.
"Cerberus! Get off me! Off!"
The hellhound reluctantly removed his bulk, but not before the other two heads had got in a couple of licks of their own. Thunder, now sopping wet and filthy, hauled himself to his feet and felt even less inclined to listen to Dallas.
Still, the fact that the monstrous Hound of Hades, the ferocious guardian of the Underworld who could rip a man to shreds in seconds, was so glad to see him was rather flattering. He gave Cerberus a pat on all three heads, for old time's sake.
"So, you finally got here."
The voice was only too familiar. Slowly, knowing that this meant there was absolutely no going back, Thunder turned and looked at its owner.
He was fairly nondescript. Blonde hair, average height, a nice body that suggested he took plenty of exercise (which he did; running, mostly). It was only the eyes that hinted that their owner was somewhat unusual; they were a peculiar caramel shade, never seen in nature.
That, and the fact that he was hovering about three feet off the ground.
"Hello, Dallas. I see you got your sandals out again."
"And the hat," Dallas reminded him, gesturing at the headwear. Thunder sighed and nodded.
"Is Carl taking part in this, then? Or is it just you and me?"
Dallas glanced around vaguely, as though expecting Carl to pop up out of the ground, which asn't as unlikely as it sounded.
"He'll be around...Cerberus is here."
The hellhound wagged his snake at the sound of his name, and gave a happy triple bark. Shortly afterwards, his master poked his head out of a half-dug hole in the ground. He worked as a gravedigger; it made him feel safe, apparently.
"Did someone call?" he enquired, brushing soaking black hair out of his eyes. "Oh. Thunder's turned up."
He pulled himself up out of the bowels of the earth, and gave his friend a nod. Dallas folded his arms and drummed his fingers impatiently.
"Can we get on, please? Right. Candy's gone and we need to find her. Suggestions?"
"Have you tried phoning the police?" Thunder asked, knowing the answer would be no. The deities harboured a great suspicion of the law. Sure enough, Dallas shook his head.
"We don't want them clumping around, messing stuff up."
Is it possible they might not mess it up? Is it possible they might actually find her? Was what Thunder didn't say. It was hopeless trying to get them to change their minds once they were made up. You might as well be Sisyphus, pushing a rock up a slope only to have it roll down again. Thunder had met Sisyphus, in actual fact, but he hadn't been a great conversationalist. Swearwords had featured largely in his vocabulary.
"All right, so no police...but what about the blood?"
"What about the blood?"
"Couldn't you get Cerberus to trace it or something?"
Dallas glanced at Carl, who shrugged.
"It's a possibility," the erstwhile Lord of the Underworld admitted, and that was quite enough for Dallas.
"Let's go then! C'mon, Cerberus!"
He dashed away out of the graveyard gates, followed by an enthusiastic Cerberus, leaving Carl and Thunder to follow as best they could without the benefit of four legs or winged sandals.