Chapter 2 “Snakes” 21

As he reenters the station, Sky sees Sgt Gwydion casually seated on the edge of Cpl Kaur’s desk, smiling seductively and chatting with her. She is seated, chewing on the end of a pen in her hand, eyes wide, looking up at him, smiling shyly. Gwydion says something with a smile, and she looks shocked and delighted, her blunt-featured, lightly freckled face blushing before she bursts into loud laughter, her head thrown back. Gwydion looks slightly surprised at her earthy reaction, but pleased as well.

At the next desk, Constable Lamore sighs heavily at Aliyah’s laughter and looks daggers at the back of the beautiful god. For a moment Sky wonders if she is jealous, but no…that look is not one of jealousy. It is a protective, quiet fury. If she had a weapon that could slay a god, Sky thinks wryly, Gwydion’s name would soon be decorating a mausoleum’s wall.

Two other constables – Sky takes a moment to remember their names, Silva and Patel, the former short but burley, hair shorn very close; the latter a local, nephew of the same Patel who owns the nearby grocery, fresh from the Academy, skinny and standing like someone unsure of himself – stand near the coffee pot, watching all this with amusement.

Just then the door to the street opens and the goddess Kyri peeks around the edge, smiling. “Goodness me,” she calls out, “it sounds as if things are going well in here!”

Aliyah stands, breaking free of Gwydion’s alluring hazel eyes, and swiftly walks toward the plump goddess, looking concerned. “Dona Kyri! I heard you came for a visit this morning! Are you all right? Is your café all right? Oh, did you hear about Rocco?” Aliyah presses her palms together in a perfunctory prayer and bows her head to Kyri for about half a second, then takes both of Kyri’s hands in hers.

“Oh, yes, yes, and sadly yes, my dear,” Kyri says as she clasps the mortal’s hands affectionately. “In fact, on that last point, I need to speak to your Inspector – hellooo, Inspector!” she sings out, releasing Aliyah’s hands and waving. “May I have word with you in private?” At his nod she switches her attention back to Aliyah, unslinging a bulging cloth bag from her shoulder and handing it to her. “This is for the officers on duty, my dear.”

Aliyah opens it, breathes the aroma in deeply with closed eyes, and exclaims in joy. “Oh, Kyri, you make the best pastries in the City! Thanks!”

“Thank you, my dears, thank you all,” the goddess says to all the cops as she follows Sky into his office.

Sky closes the door behind her. “Dona Kyri, please sit. Now, if you’ve come to ask me to take Zeffretti back, I’m afraid –”

Oh pish-posh, Inspector – Rocco was never much of a cop, and I’m not here to question your decision. No, no, please, no time for tea,” she says, her voice transitioning to song, perhaps something titled “No Time for Tea,” as catchy music fades in, but she slaps both hands over her mouth and squeezes her eyes shut, face turning red from exertion. The music trails off, with a final dopey-bassoon note, and she releases her mouth and breathes deeply. “Sorry…sorry about that…I’m here to tell you that Rocco knows where Eater of Frogs is!”

神兎神兎神兎神兎

Sky escorts Kyri out, thanking her again, then turns to the officers in the station. “Sergeant Gwydion, my office. Corporal, choose two constables to accompany us. We could use some assistance with crowd control. Full riot gear.”

Aliyah looks alarmed. “I-I’ll come with you myself, sir! And –”

“No,” he says firmly. “I need you here. You’re the ranking officer while we’re gone. Also,” he takes her aside and speaks to her quietly, “Sergeant Alma is…resting.” At the woman’s confused look he says, “It’s…a god thing. Just, if there’s any trouble, you go pound on her door. But, um, don’t try to wake her yourself.” He’s not sure what an ill Death Goddess’ reaction might be on being forcibly shaken awake by a mortal, but he imagines it might possibly be unfortunate. “Get Mayumi to do it.”

“Do you think there might be trouble here, sir?”

“I don’t know, but it’s best to be prepared. A little paranoia goes a long way.” He lightly claps her on the shoulder and heads to his office, where Gwydion is already waiting.

He shuts the door. The sergeant looks at him expectantly.

Sky takes off his jacket as he walks to a stand-up locker in the corner. “Corporal Kaur,” he says.

After a brief pause, Gwydion replies, “Yes, sir?”

“She’s a fine officer, isn’t she?” Sky opens the closet and takes out a wooden hanger.

“She appears to be capable, sir,” Gwydion says.

Sky hangs up his jacket and pulls out a heavier one of leather, reinforced with metal plates and studs. “Attractive too. Pleasant, good-humored, cute smile. Freckles.” His voice sounds stoney, with a hint of anger.

Gwydion chuckles. “Oh…earlier. That was just…a conversation, sir. A little friendly flirting –”

“Does she know that?” Sky interrupts, shooting the sergeant a hard look.

Gwydion opens his mouth to reply, then, smile fading, closes it.

Sky’s expression softens a little as he slips on his armored jacket. “Gwydion…have you had much experience with mortals? I mean, romantically? No, forgive the personal question. You don’t have to answer. But even if you have…you’re from the First Ring. The mortals there, the palace servants and priests, they know the score. They know affairs with gods are brief. They don’t expect more from us. But here…” Sky sighs as he buckles up his jacket. “She’s probably never met someone like you. And mortals’ hearts…they break, perhaps more easily than ours…and they don’t have as much time as we have, to heal.”

Gwydion’s back straightens as he addresses his commander formally. “Are you saying the Guardia Popula are off limits, then, sir? As per regulations?”

Sky pulls a beautiful, long, handmade truncheon out of the locker. The wood is nearly black, highly polished, carved with sigils of power along its length up to the well-worn sharkskin grip. He hefts it, then slides it into a loop on his belt. “Well, there’s a reason for the regulations. However…I wouldn’t cite regs at you if both of you were serious.” He looks Gwydion in the eye. “But you’re not… Are you, Dion?”

“No sir.” Gwydion pauses, considers. “Understood sir.”

“Good.” Sky grins at him, and takes out a pair of silver handcuffs, encrusted in charms. “Now, gear up. We’re going to arrest a god, and he’s new to the area, so the cops I spoke to about him earlier today weren’t able to tell me anything about his powers. All we know is, he’s deaf and he hisses a lot. So be ready for anything.”

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