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Right outside the station was God Olive. She was a pain in the ass reporter who was real good at finding stories and tracking you down. She wasn’t as good at relaying real facts to the public, but hey, as long as she sold papers, right?

“Detective Axiom! Detective Axiom! Can I get a statement?”

“The police will issue a formal statement later. All I can tell you is that I was part of the investigation.”

“But you found the suspect, didn’t you? Look, Ax, I’m not gonna burn you in the press. One headline ain’t worth it, and you know I know that. Give me something. Any detail, any quote, even if you don’t want it attributed.”

I was about to tell her to piss off, but I wasn’t in the mood. I just had this itch. “All right, Olive. Tell your readers that the official investigation is over.”

“Come on, Ax.”

“Listen, stupid. The OFFICIAL investigation is over. Now you keep things to yourself that might make for a better story later on. Got it?”

She gave me the biggest smile I’d ever seen on her. I had to hope that she’d play it cool. Olive wasn’t subtle, but she could sometimes get the goods. She was almost as good at her job as I was at mine. If I had baited that hook right, then she might be a source. And along with that, I would have the opportunity to put the story out to the city whether the cops and the Temple liked it or not.

Olive wasn’t the only one waiting for me. I saw him, standing by his big, black Styx vahana, arms spread casually. “Ares.”

“Ax. Mister Winters would like to talk to you. We got the call. You did a good job.”

Aggie looked at me like he was worried. I wasn’t. Ares was just a delivery boy. They sent him, so I figured he’d have something to say during the drive. That was all. He even held the door open for me like a chauffeur.

Sitting there next to this notorious war god, I’ll admit I was just a little nervous. He was an intimidating guy. “I hope there’s no hard feelings.”


“About the tires and all.”

He actually laughed. “Oh come on, Ax. S’nothin’.” He caught my eye for a moment. He knew his own reputation. “Okay, so I collect grudges the way Winters collects drevens. A thing like that though? Hell, the way I see it, you did me a favor. I don’t know why Mister Winters sent me to follow you. That’s not my forte. I guess he wanted to make sure that the money made its way home.”

“He didn’t really think I’d keep it, did he?”

“Now how can anyone tell what Moloch Winter thinks? What I can tell you is that once you popped my tires he knew I couldn’t tell where you were goin’. It was a shit job, and you got me off it.”

“Fair enough. Why’d he send you to pick me up?”

“Look, I’m not a guy who sends flowers to anything but funerals. I’m here to lean on you. Mister Winter didn’t say it specifically, but the message was plenty clear. You were in the Temple. You looked at hiring records and you were in the apartments. None of that makes it to God Olive or the Herald. Right?”

“I don’t need you to tell me that. You know it and Moloch knows it.”

“Sure. But your job is over. Right?”

“I don’t have any need to look any further. Unless Sands or someone asks me to.”

That got his hackles up a little bit. Then he reminded himself out loud, “He won’t.”

“Is that right?” The drive turned quiet for a moment. “So tell me something, Ares. You don’t seem like an Urgist to me.”

“I’m not, I guess. I’m more of an Iconist.”

“So we’re not gods, we’re just images.”

“You really think any mortal would imagine Pantheon City as the home of their god? No. Man invented god. So who invented man? We didn’t. Is there really some DemiUrge creator that is beyond names and faces? Hell, I dunno. I’m more concerned with my role in the universe. I went to different Iconist Temples. None of ’em were like me. You see it the way they see it or you shouldn’t be there. The DemiUrge Temple, the big one I mean, that’s flexible. Different gods believe the way they believe. So I can be a part of that, even if I’m not really a believer. All that said, they pay well. What are you, anyway, Ax? Agnostic? I know a lot a gods don’t like using words like that about themselves.”

“What I think now doesn’t matter. What I figure out tomorrow is what matters. That’s what makes me the Detective, whether that’s a real name or not.”

Ares seemed to think that I was describing part of his mentality. “I’m old school. I long for the old days, the bloody days. Back when we fought, we kept things pure. Now the population of gods is huge. The city changed though, so we change with it. I don’t know who you really are behind that face and name. I suspect that you’re older than you let on. I bet you did some violent things before we got all civilized. Hell, you still do. You’re a bodyguard. You’re a collector.”

“I’d rather just be a Detective.”

“I was a helluva lot more than a hired gun back in the day.” We got to the temple. When he parked, he didn’t stop the engine right away. It looked like he was just turning to me, but he checked the immediate area and the mirrors. He knew that I was the only one who could hear him. “Listen up, Ax. You repeat what I’m about to tell you to anyone, then that grudge you were afraid of will turn real.”

“What do you need to say?”

“That little cupcake they got at the station? Do you really think she could kill another god?”

“Well they were real close to the boundary. It’s a lot easier to do the job out there. You don’t even need a weapon.”

“If you’re strong you don’t need a weapon. I know Bible Lighter. They don’t know that, but I do. She was hanging out at the Brahmastra Club until she recently broke into the high society at the Primum Mobile. No way she coulda killed that guy and then made her way back to the city from the boundary. She’s sharp. She’s dangerous. But she’s dangerous here, not out there where words don’t mean shit.”

“She confessed.”

Ares sat back. “A dreven to a doughnut says that when her time is served she ends up under the wing of the Temple.”

“Strange sentiment coming from a member of the Temple.”

“Already said it, Ax. Member, not adherent. And they don’t care about that.”

“Who is they, Ares?”

“The Temple. The Urgists and their leaders.”

“No, I mean, before you said ‘They don’t know that, but I do’ about the girl. Who was the they?”

“I’m supposed to make sure you go straight to Moloch Winter. That all right?”

“Sure.” I wondered if he hadn’t answered my question the first time.

I didn’t get to see any of those wonderful, sky high corner views on my second visit. Instead I was brought to an unnervingly quiet office level. Moloch’s office was a big one, I think near the center of the temple. I expected ornate carvings, artwork and other luxuries. It was really a pretty blank space. The desk was a big, solid piece of stone. Similar to Ares. It looked like Moloch liked to surround himself with imposing objects.

Moloch waved to a chair, and I sat. “You’ve heard the news?”

“I have,” Moloch said with a near smile. “The Temple appreciates your efforts. Your payment will be given to you by my secretary. There’s a bonus for the quick work. I can admit that I didn’t expect you to turn up a suspect this fast. Are investigations typically that easy?”

“I don’t know that I’d say typically, but it happens often enough. I prefer the challenges.”

“Well I’m sorry that we couldn’t provide a challenge.”

“But not too sorry. It’s best for you and the city to have this matter resolved. Right?”

“Murder is uncommon in Pantheon City. You know that. It hits the headlines, and everyone worries. Somewhere out there, someone has gotten away with killing a god. Until the cops catch up with the murderer. The city will sleep better tonight.”


“Is that all, Detective?”

“I’m sorry, I thought you wanted to see me. What is it you need?”

“Well, to give you your payment, naturally. I assume that it was a bigger check than the one you got from the police.”

“I haven’t been paid by the station yet. I don’t get that check until they determine that the investigation is closed.”

“I was under the impression it was closed.”

There was more than a little bit of his classic, acrid hatred behind that. I understood why he avoided the public eye. A lot of politicians can make it seem as though they’re unconcerned when they have to. Moloch never learned that even with all his centuries. “Moloch, an official investigation can not be closed until the hearing is over. It’s open the entire time.”

“A formality?,” he asked hopefully.

“Mister Winter, Moloch, what if this woman wasn’t Triumph’s killer? We know she had the money. That makes her a thief, and she’ll doubtlessly do time for that. We don’t know that she killed him.”

“She confessed, didn’t she? Have I been misinformed?”

“Yeah. She did.”

“Now why would anyone confess to a murder they didn’t commit?”

“That’s a really good question, Moloch. You might even call it challenging.”

The glare in his eye scared me. Ares intimidated me, I’ve already said so, but he was just a guy with a gun. Moloch was a lot more than that. He swallowed his pride and reasoned with me to the best of his ability. “The Temple is satisfied. Your payment is waiting. There will be no further private investigation of this matter. And I do believe that you’ll be paid by the station as soon as this Bible woman is put in prison, yes?”

“That’s correct.”

“No one is paying you to look into this now. Is there any reason for you to do it? Is there some fact, some lead that has your interest?”

I thought about that. “No.” I should have told him that the crime just didn’t seem to add up. That was a fact, possibly even a lead. I didn’t want to provoke the man. Instead, I wanted to play along. “I’m not really concerned with it, but I do have questions. It’s my job to ask them. To keep my standing in the city, I have to see that through. I’ll be honest, even if there is more to this I don’t expect to find anything.”

“That’s unfortunate,” Moloch said, finally returning to character. “If you need any help, we’ll be right here.”

“That’s all right, Moloch. Any help the Temple can offer has already been given. I’ll see you when the next robbery hits the headlines.”

He actually laughed. “I suppose so. Good luck, Detective.”

I shook his hand, wishing I didn’t have to. Then Ares quietly escorted me out of the building. He gave me a friendly piece of advice, “Stay away. This place is no good to you now.”

“Got it.”

I wasn’t certain what I wanted right then, but that didn’t last long. I can figure myself out pretty well. That’s the first part of my job. I knew exactly what I was going to do. The problem with immortality is that you have so much time to fill. I didn’t know exactly how many centuries I had left, but barring a bad encounter with someone like Ares, I was going to be around a while. Would I live out my days in my office? A better office? On the streets? Over in a sanctuary, trying to remember what my name used to be? I didn’t care. I’d made my mind up about that a long time ago. There are gods like Moloch Winter and Saint Michael Zero who looked to the future. I couldn’t bring myself to. There was just too much future to consider. So I worry about today instead. I had half my mystery solved. I had the money, even if I wasn’t sure how it got there. But I didn’t have the killer, and no killer was going free on my watch.

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