CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-ONE
Tuesday midday — 12:45 p.m.
“Can I ask you something?” Holmes Olivas asked Sandy.
He was lying back with his neck resting on the edge of her sink while Sandy was washing his hair. They were in the back of Sandy’s hair salon.
“’Member how you said that I could ask you anything and you would always be honest with me?” Holmes asked.
“Yes,” Sandy said.
“You said that we were connected because of what happened to us,” Holmes said. “And that we have a deep bond that can never be broken.”
“I believe that,” Sandy said. “Do you?”
“But we also agreed that I wouldn’t keep secrets from your dad,” Sandy said.
“If you thought I was in danger,” Holmes said.
“Only then,” Sandy said. “Are you in danger?”
“No more than usual,” Holmes said. He gave her a saucy wink.
His blue eyes looked incredibly blue over his blue face mask.
Sandy gave him a soft smile. When she had met him, he had been a small undernourished boy who’d been horrifically abused. His mother had just been killed by the man he’d thought was his father, the man that he’d been named after until his recent name change. He and his brother had just moved to Denver. Alex Hargreaves had asked Sandy if she could try to connect with the boy. Alex felt that Sandy’s recovery from her traumatic past might help Holmes find his way through this new life. In the meantime, Holmes had grown into a lovely, charming, tall boy who was sometimes too bright for his own good.
Holmes’ eyes squinted as if he were smiling.
“What’s up?” Sandy asked.
“Heather is the demi-god Hedone, right?” Holmes asked.
“She has become a full goddess,” Sandy said. “It’s complicated but that’s where things stand. Basically, her father went insane while looking for her mother. He has now retired and retreated with her mother to a romantic island somewhere.”
“Huh,” Holmes said. “Uh, don’t be mad but I listened to your conversation.”
“Oh?” Sandy asked.
“I didn’t mean to,” Holmes said. “I finished an exam early so I just came over. I thought we could eat something if you weren’t busy.”
“Makes sense,” Sandy said.
“You’re not mad that I listened in?” Holmes asked.
“Not particularly,” Sandy said. “Nothing I do is that confidential. Plus you know everyone anyway.”
“Valerie is a siren,” Holmes said. “Delphie is an oracle. Tanesha glows and Jill radiates power.”
“I don’t know why Tanesha and Jill do that,” Holmes said.
“You should ask them,” Sandy said. “I know that they will tell you all about it if you ask.”
“Okay.” Holmes nodded. “I will.”
“Did you hear something that you’d like to talk about?” Sandy asked.
She finished rinsing the conditioner from his hair. She wrapped his head in a towel and helped him sit up. They walked together to the station she was working at. Because of Covid-19, they were alone in the salon. Sandy was, of course, also wearing a face mask.
“Um, yeah,” Holmes said.
Sandy started combing through his curly dishwater blond hair. Like most people, his hair had grown long over the “stay at home.” It was now past his shoulders. After a few minutes, she leaned to the side.
“What’s going on?” Sandy asked.
“It has to do with. . .” Holmes caught Sandy’s eyes in the mirror, “. . .you-know-who.”
“Do you want to leave this long or cut it?” Sandy asked. “Your dad said something about college interviews?”
“No one cares about my hair,” Holmes said. “He just wants me to cut it. He thinks I look like I’m a hippie.”
“What do you want?” Sandy asked.
The boy thought for a long moment before saying.
“You can tell me,” Sandy said.
“I think he’s right, but I don’t want him to win,” Holmes said.
“Fair enough,” Sandy said. “Why don’t we split the difference? We can take most of this length off so it looks a little more professional. You can slick it back or come let me do it when you have your interviews.”
“Sounds perfect!” Holmes said.
“Highlights?” Sandy asked. “Your brother had purple this time.”
“I don’t know,” Holmes said. “You think it will make me more attractive to. . . you know, those guys?”
“Pedophiles?” Sandy asked. She shook her head. Intentionally putting her hand over the top of his shoulder to ground him, she said, “No. This is your body. This is your hair. You can do what you want with it. And if anyone gives you any trouble, what do you do?”
“I call Auntie Alex,” Holmes said with a nod. “Anywhere in the world and she’ll come home and kick their ass so hard they’ll wish they didn’t have an ass.”
“That sounds like Alex,” Sandy said. “Why don’t you let me do this? I think you’ll be pleased.”
Holmes nodded, and Sandy got to work.
“You can talk while I work,” Sandy said.
“Oh, right,” Holmes said. He swallowed hard. “When I lived with dickface. . . Do you mind if I use that word? It’s kind of a swear word.”
“I’ve heard worse,” Sandy said with a laugh.
“Oh, okay,” Holmes said. “Mom and me and Hermes lived with dickface. He wanted so bad to be as smart as my dad, you know, Troy?”
“I do know your father,” Sandy said.
“Right,” Holmes said. “Okay. The only way he could be smart like my dad was to make all of us do the work. Because he was lazy as fuck.”
“What do you mean?” Sandy asked never taking her eyes off his hair.
“I mean, well, okay. . .” Holmes scowled. “You won’t make fun of me?”
“I would never make fun of you,” Sandy said.
“Well, I’m kinda smart too,” Holmes said. “I mean, Hermes is too, but he’s, you know, a different kind of smart from me and dad.”
“Hermes has the soul of an artist,” Sandy said.
“With the mind of a genius,” Holmes said with a grin. “Dad thinks that he’s going to be an architect, but I think he’ll do something literary like write books or poems or maybe paint. He did some painting with Mike when we were there. It’s really good. Oh, I shouldn’t have told you. That was a secret.”
“I won’t tell a soul.” Sandy said with a smile.
There was no one in the world that Holmes loved more than his younger brother.
“He made a painting for dad for Christmas,” Holmes said. “It’s at Mike’s studio so dad won’t see it.”
“I might take a peek then,” Sandy said.
“You should,” Holmes said. “Dad’s going to like it so much that he’ll cry.”
Sandy couldn’t help but smile at the sweet boy.
“You were telling me something about living with your uncle,” Sandy said, after a few minutes of silence.
“Oh, I know,” Holmes said with a sigh. “I was avoiding it.”
“Well don’t,” Sandy said. “We have this private time so we can talk.”
“He made me learn Ancient Greek, Latin, and a bunch of other languages so that I could translate these ancient texts that his freak father owned,” Holmes said.
“Why?” Sandy asked with a shrug.
“I’m not really sure,” Holmes said. “He liked to show off and quote these old texts as if he had translated them himself, but it was me.”
“Of course it was,” Sandy said with a shake of his head. “Why shouldn’t he take all the credit for your work?”
“Right,” Holmes said. “But what I wanted to say is this — you’re missing a line of that prophecy.”
“What?” Sandy asked.
“I mean, that’s what made me start listening,” Holmes said. “I heard Heather speaking Ancient Greek. I don’t think I remembered that I knew that prophecy until she spoke it. But she left out a verse.”
Still focused on the boy’s hair, Sandy didn’t respond. Hermes touched Sandy’s hand.
“Oh, sorry,” Sandy said. “I kind of wheeled out there with my anger at your stupid uncle.”
“Heh,” Holmes said. “I do that.”
“I know you do,” Sandy said. “You’re saying that you translated this prophecy and there’s a verse missing. The one they think is about Katy and Paddie?”
“And I think it is about Katy and Paddie,” Holmes said. “And the Vanquisher is a great blade, but the Sword of Truth is truly the greatest blade ever made, at least that’s what the ancient Greeks thought. Of course, Perses had the Vanquisher made and also told the world it was destroyed. At the time of the prophecy, the Vanquisher was considered to have been destroyed in the Titan purge.”
Sandy stopped cutting and looked at Holmes in the mirror.
“I don’t know anything about what you’re saying,” Sandy said. “Would you mind if I asked Heather to help?”
Holmes thought for a moment and then shook his head.
“She might want to bring a few of her friends,” Sandy said.
“They won’t hurt me or want. . . you know,” Holmes said.
“If they do, they’ll have to deal with me,” Sandy said.
She leaned back into her best martial arts stance. She was so small and fierce that Holmes laughed. She smiled.
“They do this think they call ‘walking time.’ So the moment I ask for them, they kind of pop in,” Sandy said. “Some people don’t like it. Freaks them out.”
“Whatever,” Holmes said. “It’s not going to be the worst thing that happened to me.”
“Hold you breath,” Sandy said.
“Heather, I need you,” Sandy said.
Heather appeared a second afterward.
“Shit, that’s crazy!” Holmes said.
His bright eyes and laugh indicate his irrepressible joy for life. Heather looked at him and then back at Sandy. She scowled and opened her mouth.
“He says there’s a verse of the prophecy left out,” Sandy said.
Heather turned to Holmes.
“This is very important,” Heather said. “Can you explain it to me?”
Holmes opened his mouth to start and Heather shook her head.
“Would you mind if I touch you?” Heather asked.
Holmes shook his head. Heather reached out to hold his nearest hand. For Holmes’ part, he was flooded with a sense of peace and love. Tears fell from his eyes at the sheer joy of being so loved. The feeling lingered for weeks after this experience. He would later attribute this moment to changing his life forever. But right now, he simply enjoyed the sensation.
After a moment, Heather shifted away.
“Hecate,” Heather said. “Perses.”
The Titans appeared. Perses had Cleo the cat on his shoulders.
“Hey!” Sandy said. “You can’t treat my cat like that!”
“We thought you might want the whole family,” Hecate said.
Sandy pulled the cat from Perses’ arms. She walked away from them talking to her cat.
“This is Holmes Olivas,” Heather said. “Holmes, I’d like you to meet Hecate and Perses. I believe that you know who they are.”
Still high from his experience of being touched by the goddess of love, he just waved at them.
“He says that there is another verse to the prophecy,” Heather said in Ancient Greek.
“You’re being rather rude,” Perses said, in English.
“He speaks it fluently,” Heather said. “He’s Troy Olivas’ eldest son, raised for his first years by his uncle, Homer. I believe you had some interactions with him.”
“Horrible man,” Hecate said. “Rotten to the core. I bet he made you learn the language so that he could get credit for all of those translations.”
“Exactly,” Heather said. “He abused his children horrifically.”
“Oh no!” Hecate said. Without asking, she touched Holmes’ hand. “I’m so sorry. If he were alive, I would smite him for you. Since he is gone, I can assure you that he will never return.”
Overwhelmed, Holmes began to weep.
“Cleo wants to be out here with you,” Sandy said. She pointed to Perses and squinted, “You be nice.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Perses said, taking the cat from Sandy.
Cleo climbed up onto Perses’ shoulders as if the Titan was wearing a feline shawl.
“What did you do?” Sandy asked. She knelt down to Holmes. “This is a child. He looked bigger and older, more mature, but he . . .”
“We understand,” Hecate said. “No one in this world understands his experience, your experience, more than I do. You have my power.”
“I don’t know what that means, but okay,” Sandy said. “His father will be furious that his son is so upset.”
“Human life is very hard,” Hecate said. “If you’re telling me that some human man is going to be mad at me, it sounds like Tuesday.”
“It is Tuesday,” Sandy said. She pushed Perses out of her way. “I’m working on his hair.”
“Don’t let us concern you,” Perses said.
“This is Perses,” Sandy said nodding to the Titan. “Holmes Olivas.”
“I’ve seen you before,” Holmes said. “You’re a friend of my Auntie Alex’s, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Perses said. “She’s gotten me out of a number of tight spots. You should know — in my day, we put pedophiles behind huge boulders and force them to spend eternity pushing the rock up the hill only for it to roll to the bottom. The man who hurt you was a monster.”
“Thank you, I think,” Holmes said with a slight nod.
With Perses words, Holmes seemed to relax in a way Sandy hadn’t seen previously. She looked from Perses to Holmes.
“What?” Perses asked.
Sandy just shook her head and kept working on Holmes’ hair. After a moment she said, “I have to get some color from the back. I’m trusting you to be nice.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Perses and Hecate said in near unison.
Cleo the cat meowed, and Heather rolled her eyes.
“Tell us what you know,” Heather said in Ancient Greek.
“Where did you find this prophecy?” Hecate asked in Ancient Greek.
“It was a parchment,” Holmes said in the same language. “I think that it was some kind of historic record of the person who asked the question. He was a politician of some kind, from some other region.”
“What did he ask?” Perses asked in Ancient Greek.
“Who will stop these greedy assholes? Or something like that,” Holmes said. “They didn’t say specifically ‘assholes,’ but it was a Greek swearword for scum.”
Perses said a word, and Holmes nodded. Apollo arrived.
“Fuck,” Holmes said.
“Were you invited?” Sandy asked as she came out of the back with a rolling cart with two bowls of dye and aluminum foil wraps.
“I am a God, human,” Apollo said.
“You watch yourself! I will put you over my knee,” Perses said.
Apollo’s head jerked to Perses. He laughed, and they hugged.
“I apologize,” Hecate said. “I invited him. His temple was near the Oracles. He’s spent a lot of time in Delphi. I wasn’t sure if we’d need his assistance. But since he’s being an ass.”
“No, I’m okay,” Holmes said. “I was just surprised when he appeared. Sandy warned me but . . .”
“It’s freaky,” Sandy said.
“Well, young gentleman, my Uncle and Aunt are much more powerful than I am,” Apollo said. “They have sworn to protect you. You are safe.”
“Okay,” Holmes said.
“Now, why am I here?” Apollo asked.
“Our young friend found the written record of the prophecy,” Perses said. “From what I gather, he overheard Hedone speaking the prophecy and realized immediately that it was flawed.”
“It’s missing some of it,” Holmes said.
“Go ahead,” Apollo said.
Holmes gave him a hard look.
“I don’t take orders from you,” Holmes said.
Hecate and Heather laughed openly at the shocked look on Apollo’s face. Holmes was grinning by the time they stopped laughing.
“Okay,” Holmes said.
“Wait,” Perses said. “How do you remember this?”
“I remember everything I see,” Holmes said. “Anything I’ve ever read. I can mimic anything I’ve seen.”
“Let the boy speak,” Heather said.
“The prophecy goes like this: ‘There will be a female child — not an average child, but a female child, none the less — many, many oracles from now. She will rise from the greatest house of the great houses. Her champion will place everything on the line for her. The greatest blade will guide this small hand, to the smallest blade, where the finest cut will change the fate of those strive for power and gold over true greatness.’”
Holmes repeated the prophecy in English. No one said anything for a long moment.
“They took out all of the identifying information,” Hecate said. “I bet . . .”
She looked at Heather, who nodded.
“We are all here,” Sandy said in English. “You may as well tell us.”
“Yes, I’m sorry,” Hecate said in English. “You are right. I was thinking that by taking these pieces off the prophecy, someone could use it to control people.”
“She’s avoiding saying that they killed all of the female children in the area. Hung them up so that their blood reddened the streets,” Apollo said. “That’s the legacy of this prophecy. By removing details, they were able to terrorize the region for a very long time.”
“Shit,” Holmes said.
“I need to put him under the dryer,” Sandy said. “You are welcome to stay or go terrorize someone else for a while.”
“I like this one,” Apollo said about Sandy.
“Don’t . . .,” Heather started.
Apollo went to hug Sandy and she kneed him in the groin. He grunted.
“Don’t touch me,” Sandy said.
Holmes’ eyes went big, and he tried not to laugh.
“She doesn’t like to be touched,” Heather said.
“I see that,” Apollo said. “Please accept my sincere apologies.”
Scowling at Apollo, Sandy led Holmes to the dryers and stuck him under. Holmes was done under the dryers by the time the Gods and Titans had disappeared.
“Where’d they go?” Holmes asked.
“I never know,” Sandy said. “What you did there was super brave. I’m proud of you. You turned a horrible experience into something that will truly help people.”
“People?” Holmes asked. “They aren’t people.”
“No, they aren’t,” Sandy said. “But the world is full of people. The Vanquisher is said to be able to destroy the world. That’s what we’re talking about here. You were super brave and really helped.”
Nodding, Holmes blushed.
Sandy took him back to wash out the dye. She dried and styled his hair, and then showed him how to slick it back if he wanted to. The entire rest of the time, Holmes’ cheeks held a little bit of blush in them. He waved to Sandy from the door.
Shaking her head at her weird life, Sandy went to the back to clean up and get ready for the next client.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...