Ever since I had decided to pursue the lawsuit, things had been crazy around here. The phones were ringing off the hook, causing Reginald to actually grab the phone off his desk and throw it at the wall. I had to give the poor guy an afternoon off to go get a mani/pedi, whatever the hell that is.
I had locked the front doors and switched the phone over to the answering service. Now I was in my office with the shades drawn, stretched out on the sofa, trying to take a nap. I was almost asleep, like right there on the edge, ready to drop over, when something whacked me on the head. “Son of a motherless goat herder!” I opened my eyes to find a redhead standing over me. “Strawberry blonde…must be Moxie. Who let you in here?”
She smiled down at me. “I have my ways of getting into places where I need to go,” she replied.
“Yeah, of that I have no doubt. Who gave you the key?”
“Bastard. What do you want?”
“Is that what you’re wearing?” she said, looking me up and down.
I glanced at my black t-shirt, black jeans, and boots. “It’s what I’ve been wearing since I got up and got dressed this morning.”
“Too informal,” Moxie said, shaking her head. “You need more business casual. A nice dress shirt, pants, and some loafers or dress shoes.”
Sitting up, I grinned at her. “Does this mean that you’re finally taking me up on my offer of dinner?”
“Truthfully? Not really. I’m not ready for dating or anything like that yet. But dinner with a good friend is always a welcome distraction.”
Moxie gently touched my cheek. “The pain will fade, in time. Be patient.”
I placed my hand over hers for a moment, grateful for the contact, then dropped my hand away. “Well, if we aren’t going to dinner, then why do I need to get dressed up?”
“Because in fifteen minutes, we have a press conference in front of your building.”
Groaning, I ran my fingers through my hair, causing it to stand up on end. “Damn, I forgot about that.”
“That’s why you have me, to remind you of these things. Come on, get up. Go upstairs and change while I read over your statement one more time.”
“Why can’t you do it?” I groused as I stood up. “You’re the public relations person. This is your job.”
“Because I’m not the one bringing the lawsuit, you are. Now go! We don’t have time to waste!”
Grumbling, I popped upstairs, changed clothes, combed my hair and brushed my teeth, then popped back down to my office. Aunt Demeter was standing next to Moxie, reading the statement over her shoulder. “I would leave this out. We don’t want to give too much away,” she told Moxie, who grabbed a pen and crossed something out.
“I didn’t know you were going to be here,” I said to my aunt.
“I thought you could use the moral support,” she replied. “It’s not every day that a man sues his own sister, although it does happen more often than you know.” She looked at my clothes. “You look nice.”
Moxie looked up. “Much better,” she said. “But do you own anything that isn’t black?”
“There might be something in grey up there…oh, and I think there’s some green mold growing in the fridge.”
One of my employees stuck his head in the office. “Everybody is set up outside, boss. They’re waiting for you.”
“Thank you, Matt. We’ll be right out.”
He nodded and left.
Moxie got up, came around the desk, and handed me the statement. “All you have to do is read this. We might take one or two questions, but that’s it. We’re saving the big stuff for the T.V. interview I have set up for you.”
“Oh, joy,” I said sarcastically.
The three of us walked outside. I was surprised by the number of people standing there, waiting to hear me speak. Moxie and Aunt Demeter hung back while I stepped in front of the microphones. “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank you all for coming today, and I promise to make this as brief as possible so you can get out of this hot, humid air.” I glanced down at the piece of paper in my hand, then over my shoulder at Moxie. She smiled and nodded, and I turned my attention back to the people in front of me. “My name is Ares. Most of you will recognize the name from ancient history; as you can see, I am very real and not some myth. My family and I have returned to live here among you all again. Since our return, we have learned that history has not been kind to some of us, in particular the men of Olympus. We have unfairly been branded…well, some of the worst things you can say about men in your society. Unfortunately, the accusations are not just coming from the great historians and storytellers of your people, but also from within the walls of the Pantheon, from one of our own. For thousands of years, my father, uncles, brothers, and others have had to listen to these false accusations being told repeatedly with no recourse. Today, I am here to tell you that it is time for the truth to be told. I will be taking action against the loudest voice against us. I have instructed my lawyer to file a lawsuit in your court of law; the charges are defamation of character and slander. Many hours of research and interviews have been conducted, old wounds have been reopened, and much healing has taken place because of this. This is not a decision that I have made lightly. But at the end of the day, I feel that I have no recourse. It is time for someone to take a stand, and I am honored to represent my father, brothers, uncles, and others to reclaim our good names. I want to thank you again for coming out on such short notice, and for giving me a small amount of your time.”
It was quiet for a moment, then they started firing questions at me right and left. They were coming at me so rapidly, I couldn’t keep up. Finally, I held my hands up. “I’ll take a couple of questions, but that is all.” I pointed to a tall gentleman in the back to my right. “You, sir, what is your question?”
“Les Nesman, KRST News. Why are you so concerned about your reputation? I mean, your exploits are well-known. Why do you care what we think of you?”
“Fair question, Mr. Nesman. From a personal standpoint, I know that I have a bad boy reputation: quick temper, ready to fight at the drop of a hat. But that was a very long time ago, and I am not the same person I was then. I want the opportunity to prove that to you. However, that is rather hard to do when people continue to look at me and call me a rapist, which I am most definitely not.” I glanced around and saw a young brunette to my left. “Ma’am, you have a question?”
“Roberta Sandford, Olympus News. You say that you are not the same person, but didn’t you and several other members of your family just kill a group of people a week or so ago?”
I looked over my shoulder at my aunt, who nodded. “Yes, Ms. Sandford, that is true. However, the people in question were attempting to sabotage my family’s businesses. They not only killed two people in their own group who were about to defect to our side, but an innocent young woman who had no stake in any of this whatsoever.”
“So you conducted your own form of vigilante justice?” she persisted.
“I suppose it could be looked at that way,” I conceded. “However, we were in touch with the proper authorities during the course of our investigation. The police were familiar with the group, and provided us with as much assistance as possible. But at the end of the day, this was something that could only be handled by myself and my family.”
“The young woman who was killed, didn’t you have some type of relationship with her?” Ms. Sandford asked.
My back stiffed. Moxie appeared next to me. “That’s all the questions we’re going to answer at this time. More details will be released during an upcoming interview.”
“Why won’t he answer the question?” the woman demanded.
Moxie started to reply, but I put my hand on her arm to stop her. “I’ll answer you, Ms. Sandford,” I said quietly. “The young woman was someone that I loved very much, and had hoped to marry someday. Instead, I had to bury her.” I turned and walked into the building as more questions were called out.
“Well, that went well,” Aunt Demeter said.
“You know you’re going to have to answer that question again when you do the next interview,” Moxie pointed out.
“And I’ll give them the same answer I did gave them just now,” I told her.
“Do you want to walk away from this?” my aunt asked.
“Nope. I meant what I said: I’m going to help the men in my family reclaim their good names. Let’s kick butt and take names later. What’s next?”
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