These stories are fan fiction. They were written to be shared as a read aloud at Camp Half-Blood, Austin branch. They were not written by Mr. Riordan and should not be confused with his amazing body of work. We hope you enjoy them in any case.
Today Tommy Sparks was going to work so hard the dead would rise up and applaud. He’d spend his entire eight-hour shift on the JFK tarmac parking airliners packed to the brim with human souls. No lunch break, nothing. Just work. He’d be a blur, move like he had wings on his feet.
It was two days before Thanksgiving-the busiest time of year for air travel. If he could just prove to his boss he was indispensable, the best marshaler ever to grace the lanes of JFK, then maybe he’d get that raise. Of course he’d get it. He had to. They didn’t call him “Tommy the JFK valet” for nothing.
At the moment there were hundreds of people waiting to get to their gate, to get home.
“Southwest 7-4-2, taxi to gate 7.”
Tommy tapped his headset. That wasn’t right. The manifest said it should be Southwest 9-8-9. Nobody told him the tower had switched missiles on him. Just like those jerks. Trying to throw his mojo off from the get go.
“Tower, this is marshal 7. Could you repeat tower? The board says Southwest 9-8-9. Confirm, over.”
Tommy waited four heartbeats without a response.
Tommy repeated his call to the tower. Nothing. He tried again.
The plane rolled into view then stopped. Tommy tried to check its serial number, but couldn’t find one. The plane’s lights flickered out and the engine cut off.
He turned the baggage conveyor toward the 737. He froze when he saw the plane more closely.
“What in the…?”
He snatched the goggles from his face in order to see it with his own eyes. There it was, a regular old 737, parked on the taxiway with all lights off. It was still early and the sun hadn’t come up yet so they should have been on. More disturbing than the stalled rocket, even more startling than the lack of operating lights was the faint glow that seemed to fight with the blue and red paintjob of the fuselage. The light was just under the paint, trying desperately to escape, forcing brilliant golden cracks in the paint.
Tommy called it in to the tower.
“It’s what? Glowing? Heck, Tommy what’d you eat for breakfast?” His supervisor said.
Tommy cursed silently.
“The Crow’s nest wants you take a look. We got a team on the way.”
“Mick, seriously something’s not right.” Tommy finally responded. “This feels all wrong.”
“Just roll out there will you Sparks? Don’t be such a pain.”
“Fine! You’re a jerk.” Tommy blurted into the mic.
“Yeah, yeah.” Came Mick’s voice.
Tommy winced. Something bad was going on he just knew it, but his need to get that raise won. So, out he went, past the taxiway and onto the apron. He looked for signs of movement in the cockpit and saw none. This was really starting to creep him out.
When he got closer to the 737 he saw what looked like a thin veil of mist hugging the fuselage like a halo. Beneath that was the glow. The paintjob flickered in and out like someone flipping a light switch. The closer Tommy got to the plane the more intense the golden glow became.
He checked the body and wings for damage. None. The landing gear checked out too.
“Whadya got kid?” Said his supervisor through the headset.
“It’s still glowing sir.”
“Like that flying pony you saw last month, or that…” There was a muffled laugh on the other end, “what’d you call it a centurion?”
“A centaur Mick,” corrected Tommy. “The centaur was chasing a Pegasus across the tarmac.”
“Listen Sparks,” Mick began, “as your supervisor I gotta tell you, this glowing nonsense has gotta stop. The whole tower already thinks you should be in a straitjacket. Enough with the crazy talk.”
“I’m not crazy Mick.” Tommy bristled. “It’s really glowing.”
“Yeah, whatever. You see any damage?”
“What about any movement inside? See anybody moving around? Without horse hooves that is?” His supervisor chuckled.
Then, a shade snapped up to reveal a grim young face behind an acrylic window. There was light inside after all. All the blinds had been drawn. Tommy could see the girl in the window clearly. She was wearing the brightest orange shirt he’d ever seen.
“Mick, scratch that part about not seeing anyone. The blinds were down, my bad. There’s a chick waving at me right now from inside the plane.”
“That’s good news kid. In that case tow her in.” There was a pause. “The plane not the chick.”
“Hah, hah!” Tommy muttered. “Roger. On my way to Gate 7.”
The headset popped with static. “… No… crazy? …H. A. 3!”
Tommy tapped his headset. “Repeat, over.”
There was nothing put the pop and fizz of static now. Tommy looked up at the tower and signaled he was having problems with his communications.
Nothing about this was by the book. What the heck was he doing towing this dead rocket anyway? The union had specific guys for that. Everything about this stunk, from the arrival manifest on down. Guys got fired for stuff like this.
He knew he heard Mick mention H. A. 3 in that garbled mess. It was a hangar designation used for movie stars, foreign dignitaries and quarantines.
He looked up into the open window one more time before hitching the plane to the tow. The window was empty.
H. A. 3 was a cavernous hangar in a little used part of JFK. It looked like a crumbling fortress, backlit by the blush of the rising sun. Tommy was shocked to see the hangar bay doors wide open, like a great toothless mouth waiting to swallow him up. He’d heard stories about this place back when he was a new hire. Ridiculous things like how it was used by the CIA to torture confessions out of suspected terrorists. Or his favorite, how JFK and Marilyn Monroe would meet there to make out.
Nonsense, all of it. Tommy knew it, but the place still weirded him out for some reason. It was just so unfamiliar.
The flashing strobe of the baggage conveyor illuminated the inside of the hanger in an eerie amber light. It reminded him of the belly of a great skeletal whale. He wasn’t ten feet in when the lights snapped on overhead, one after the other like a row of falling dominoes.
With the lights on Tommy squinted through the murk of his goggles at a shape at the far end of the hanger. It was a big white van, lights on, coasting slowly towards him. Probably CDC or Transit Authority – that was standard in cases like this. Odd. The tower should have warned him if they were worried about a biological hazard.
“Tower, this is marshal seven. I think I see your team. Please advise, over.”
Nothing, not even static. The van got closer.
“Mick, should I be worried?” Tommy’s voice cracked.
Nothing. The van was right in front of him.
“For the love of… would someone please tell what the heck is going on here?” Tommy yelled and threw up his hands, accidentally knocking the goggles of his head. It skidded to a halt under the driver’s side tire.
Tommy regretted this immediately.
A large man in a blue sweat suit emerged from the van’s driver side. He was easily the largest man Tommy had ever seen. The mist that clung to the fuselage of the 737 seemed to hover around this man too. It undulated and danced around him in thick ropey coils. Tommy hit the brakes bringing 51 tons of metal to a jerky halt.
It wasn’t possible. The man was at least eight feet tall, as thick around as an oak, and covered in blinking eyes.
The giant bent down and picked up Tommy’s goggles then stepped forward to offer them back.
“What the heck are you?” Tommy blurted.
The man looked confused for a moment, staring intently with all of his eyes at Tommy’s face. He snapped his fingers sending a cool blast of Mist in Tommy’s direction.
“I’m a driver for the Strawberry Farm,” said the driver.
A chill shot down Tommy’s spine. The guy had spoken without moving his mouth. The words had just appeared in his head. Tommy was thinking that this guy must be the world’s best ventriloquist.
“Shut up!” Tommy replied. So what if he could throw his voice? He hated being lied to and this guy was lying through his teeth. “What’s with blowing smoke in my face? That’s a tad rude pal.”
The man’s posture changed then. He looked uncertain. The side-lock hatch, on the plane, opened. The man held up a giant hand, also covered in eyes, as if to warn the occupants to stay where they were.
Tommy followed the line of the man’s outstretched hand to the passenger hatch. No one appeared in the doorway.
When he returned his gaze to Tommy he looked stern, and something else. Was it caution? Nah, this guy could pound him to dust anytime he wanted.
“Tell me young man, what do you see when you look at this?” He held up a pencil.
No, it wasn’t a pencil it was a wicked looking spear. No it was a pencil. It shifted unsettlingly.
“I wish I could have taken the SAT’s with that thing. It looks like a number two spear.”
The man smirked.
“Do you know both of your biological parents?”
What was this, a test of some sort? What the hell?
“Listen pal, I dunno what…” Tommy began.
“Just answer the question!” The man bellowed.
Tommy clutched his head against the pressure of the man’s words. It felt like his skull was going to pop.
“Yes, for the love of God. I know both of em.”
The man relaxed a little. Tommy nearly peed his jumpsuit.
“If you ever speak a word of what you see here today, I will come find you and it won’t be pleasant. I know where you work. Do you understand?”
Tommy’s mind raced. He nodded numbly. What was this thing talking about?
The giant walked to the side of the hanger and grabbed the portable stairs. He slowly and deliberately brought the stairs up under the hatch and pulled the handle brakes to set it in place.
The giant then motioned Tommy aside and then cocked his head to one side thoughtfully.
“Are you alright?” The words came into Tommy’s mind gently this time.
It was Tommy’s turn to smirk. “I might be regretting some of my life choices, if that’s what you mean?”
The man did something then that caught Tommy off guard. He laughed.
“That’s not what I meant, point of fact. You should be careful. The world is a far more dangerous place than you realize.”
People began to emerge from the doorway, slowly at first, cautiously. The first was an adult in a bright blue tee shirt with a silver Caduceus inside two concentric circles. Wings sprouted from either side of the outer most circle and, to Tommy’s mind, seemed to flutter above the shirt. She motioned for the rest to come to the door, wishing each of them good luck as they passed.
They were just kids. Like the girl he’d seen in the window. All of them wore the same safety cone orange tee shirts. Instead of backpacks and baggage each of the kids had a bedroll, some had bronze plate armor, and either a bronze sword or a knife. A few even had bronze helmets with brightly colored plumes.
“What is all this? Some kinda war?” Tommy’s mouth hung open.
How they got all those weapons past TSA security he couldn’t even begin to guess. Somebody was getting fired for sure.
“They would be the field hands for the Strawberry Farm.” The man smiled at him and winked – at least three hundred times.
“That’s some impressive fruit.”
“We have some impressive pests.” The man answered.
None of the kids said a word. They all looked dour and maybe, Tommy noted, a little scared. They filed in, one by one, to the van, closed the door and sat quietly.
“Hey, before you go,” Tommy rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “I saw one of those flying horses those kids got on their shirts last week. Those are real aren’t they?”
The giant regarded him with his many blinking eyes as he climbed into the van.
He shrugged. “What do you think?”
He snapped his fingers before driving off. Tommy nodded, pleased his suspicions were confirmed, and looked around the hanger. He didn’t see it at first, but once he spotted it gave him a start. The paintjob on the southwest plane shimmered out leaving a glittering golden fuselage. Out on the tail Tommy spotted the true logo of the airline.
Tommy pulled his incident report pad out of his back pocket and scrawled down the image he found on there. It was the same image from the stewardess’s shirt.
Hermes Air. What Zeus don’t know won’t hurt him.
Tommy put his headset and goggles back on and waited for the team to arrive. He wondered what he’d tell Mick and the ground crew. No one would believe him. Then it hit him plain as day. Why tell them anything? “What Zeus don’t know won’t hurt him.”
TSA Interrogation room P13, JFK International Airport
“One question kid,” said the detective. “Can you give me one good reason not to hand you over to the FBI? Do you realize how much trouble you’re in?”
The kid smiled. “That’s two questions detective.”
Detective Porter was having a crisis of conscience. He wanted to break something – with his hand if possible, with a bat if not. The problem was that the catalyst for the crisis was a scrawny teenager. The day had started poorly, and it had turned into one of those red banner days for adolescent crazies, pranksters and thieves.
He’d had seven separate calls that morning, weird calls – all of them before his first cup of coffee. First, Someone had broken into the TSA locker room and taken things from the lockers. Granted, this happened on occasion. What made this incident remarkable is that none of the locks had been cut, and there was no sign of forced entry. That meant that the room’s door and all forty-two lockers inside had been somehow unlocked, robbed, and then shut and relocked. What kind of person did that kind of stuff?
The answer to that particular question “had come” when Porter got his second call. It turned out that the mystery thief had managed to replace all the food in the TSA staff lounge vending machine with the missing items. There had been some really embarrassing stuff in that machine. It was official – the airport had a prankster on the loose.
“You broke into TSA property,” Porter began. “That’s a federal offense. What’d you say your name was again?”
“I didn’t sir.”
He wanted to throttle this kid.
Calls three through six involved some really pointless crap. Someone, presumably the same person, had replaced all the I NY tee shirts at every airport gift shop with “Hermes Air” shirts. Detective Porter was pretty sure there was no such thing as Hermes Air, so what was the point?
Call seven had born him fruit. Airport security had caught a kid sneaking around Hangar Three. This had always been the hangar used to welcome famous people and foreign dignitaries. It was occasionally used to handle quarantines too. According to the runway spooks, the lock on the hangar door had been picked earlier that morning. It ended up not being such a big deal as the hangar was needed to house an emergency landing not too long after, but that was beside the point as far as Porter was concerned.
“Listen, you may as well come clean, kid.” Porter thrust out his chin. “The best detective in the city is on this case.”
“Really, have I met him?”
“This isn’t funny.” Porter picked up a folder from the desk. “I’ve got your file here.”
“May I see it?”
There was a perfectly good reason not to give it to him. The file was empty. They had run his prints. Nothing. They had dusted for prints. Nothing. It was like he was a ghost – that or he was a minor. Porter was sure it was the latter.
“So what is this ‘Camp Half-Blood’ place?” Porter popped a stick of chewing gum into his mouth.
This appeared to rattle the kid. “What do you mean?”
“It’s on that ugly orange shirt of yours.” Porter motioned to the kid’s chest.
The kid relaxed. “Oh, this old thing? Think of it as a halfway house for kids with… extraordinary problems.”
Now they were getting somewhere.
“So you’ve got big problems, huh?” Porter smiled.
“Believe me detective; you can’t even begin to imagine.” The kid traced a figure eight pattern on the desk.
Porter fixed the boy with his stoniest gaze. “Give me a shot. I’ve got a pretty good imagination.”
The kid snorted. “Sorry, Detective. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
The detective felt like he was on the verge of exposing something big, but there were just still too many missing parts of the equation. First off, how’d the kid get past security – in a bright orange shirt no less?
“I’ll make you a deal, kid.” Porter sat on the edge of the table. “I don’t care about the lockers or the vending machine. But, how did you get out to Hanger Three? You tell me that, and I might go easy on you.”
The kid considered the request. It looked like he was wrestling with something big. Then, the kid brightened and sat forward in his chair. Porter knew it then. He had him.
“See, I’ve got this brother,” the kid began with a smile. “The biggest pain in the butt you’ve ever seen. We do everything together – well, almost. Anyway, our dad is pretty… hands-off when it comes to interfering in our lives…”
“Excuse me, but what does your brother or father have to do with any of this?” Porter interrupted.
The kid held up a hand and fixed the detective with a you’ve got-to-be-kidding-me kind of stare. “That was my dad’s plane in Hangar Three earlier.”
“The emergency landing?” Porter asked.
No way. No way was this kid the son of the CEO of Southwest Airlines. If the kid said yes, then Porter knew all bets were off.
Porter’s shoulders sank. “I’ve seen pictures of the CEO’s family, kid, I’m afraid you aren’t in any of them.”
The kid seemed to be making a calculation of some sort. He was sizing Porter up, and Porter knew it.
“What airline do you think has a plane out in that hangar, detective?”
“Southwest,” Porter answered.
“Are you willing to bet your life on it?”
“My life? What the hell kinda crack is that?”
“Well, no one said being the best detective in the city would be easy, right?”
Porter chuckled. “Well, it is easy for me actually.”
“Then, I’m sure it won’t blow your mind when I tell you that’s not a Southwest flight out there in the Hangar, it’s my dad’s plane.”
What the hell? Was this kid saying that plane in Hanger Three was painted up to look like a Southwest flight? If it wasn’t Southwest then what was it? It hit him then. The tee shirts. All those tee shirts from the airport gift shop.
“Let me guess…’Hermes Air’?”
The kid tapped the tip of his nose in response.
Porter puffed out his cheeks and sighed. It was going to be like this was it? Fine, he’d play along.
“It’s my job to open the hangar doors when one of his flights lands at JFK. Well, mine or my brother’s.”
“Heck kid, there are tons and tons of protocols that say you can’t just waltz out onto a United States International Airport tarmac and start cutting locks on hangars.”
“I sure didn’t write any ‘protocols’ and, for the record, I never cut locks.” The kid scoffed. “You can bet my father doesn’t care what protocols the pencil pushers have written down. When he asks you to do something, you do it, Detective.”
This father of his sounded like a tyrant.
“I thought you said he was hands-off, kid? Why would he send a teenager to do something so dangerously irresponsible?”
“It’s because of my dad’s hands-off attitude that we do this, Detective. He wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important. The kid leaned in to Porter. “Besides, dangerous and irresponsible is what we do best.”
“I don’t understand. Why go to all this trouble? Assuming any of what you’re saying is above board, you’re telling me your father’s clandestine airline is significant in some way?” Porter shoved another stick of gum into his mouth.
“We are in a state of heightened… alert, right?”
Porter thought about all the security warnings and terrorist watches over the last eight years.
“Yeah, but…” Porter began.
“My father’s… company is in a heightened state of alert as well.”
“What’s the point of painting an entire plane to look like it belongs to another airline, kid?”
“Just painting part of a plane would be silly, Detective.”
“Enough with the wisecracks.”
“All the secrecy is about keeping it from the Big Guy.” The kid stated flatly.
“Big guy? What Big Guy?”
Maybe the “Big Guy” thing was a reference to organized crime. Could it be something meaty like the mob? Porter decided it was getting exciting.
“Yeah, the Big Guy doesn’t like it when his nieces and nephews take to the skies. It’s one thing if it’s his own kids, but boy does he blow a gasket when one of us flies. A full third of my dad’s cargo fleet has been disguised and reassigned to troop transport.”
Porter’s mouth opened and closed but nothing came out of it. What do you say to that?
“Yeah, it’s pretty impressive. We get the troops where they need to go. What the Big Guy don’t know won’t hurt him, right?”
The kid got up and slapped Porter on the back. “This has been great and all, but I’ve got to get back to camp. I assumed I was right in thinking you weren’t picking up my taxi fare, so I called my brother.”
“Someone call my name?” Came another voice.
Porter was flummoxed. Standing in the doorway was another kid in a bright orange tee shirt. How’d he get past the security outside? Porter pointed at the second kid as if he were a ghost.
“I know. T. really has a case of the uglies.” The first kid began. “I got all the looks while my brother here was dipped in the ugly pond. Not all of us can be fortunate.”
They made to leave.
“Hold on a minute.” Porter shouted.
“Now, Detective. I have one of your cards. I promise to call if I think any suspicious thoughts.” The first kid said.
Then he smiled and threw his arm around his brother, as they both left the room.
Porter felt a chill run down his spine. The kid couldn’t have one of his cards because he’d never given him one. His hand wanted to check his coat pocket for his wallet but couldn’t because it was handcuffed to the table.
Porter was going to have a hard time explaining this to his superiors.
Walt’s grandfather had picked him up from the apartment in the wee hours of the morning, before the hustle and bustle of New York’s rush hour traffic clogged the city streets. They hadn’t spoken a word to one another while in the car. Walt hadn’t known he’d had a living grandfather, because his mother had failed to mention it. So now Walt sat alone in the backseat, silently fuming, refusing to look at the old man. It was strange to realize that his relationship with his grandfather was going to begin today, out of the blue, curbside at JFK International Airport.
The peculiar day only got stranger as they practically had to fight their way into the airport through an army of sandwich board-wearing protesters proclaiming, “The End is nigh!” Walt had seen folks like this before on the busier street corners of downtown Manhattan, but this was weird. What, did they all decide to hold a get-together outside the airport that morning? Walt counted over 30 of them.
Walt’s grandfather seemed… prickly as they passed through the bunch. Whatever it was about these protesters that had put his granddad in “a mood,” as Walt’s mother would say, had spread to Walt. As they pressed through the doomsayers, Walt suddenly felt the hairs on his neck and arms stand straight up, as if they had been charged. Walt wondered if there was a thunderstorm blowing in?
When they were met with bad news at their gate, Walt’s grandfather’s expression quickly went from prickly to downright stormy.
“What does ‘flight delayed’ mean?” Walt glanced anxiously at the departures board.
“It just means our flight had a more charming engagement elsewhere,” his grandfather said.
“It doesn’t really mean that,” Walt replied.
The old man raised his eyebrows. “Oh really?” he began. “What do you think it means, young man?”
“I’m not young; I’m seven.”
“Would you prefer I call you ‘old man’?”
“No,” Walt pouted. “Call me Walt.”
Walt could tell the old man wasn’t used to these kinds of conversations. He seemed to be having some sort of internal war with himself, but then he sighed and asked calmly, “Alright, Walt. What do you think ‘flight delayed’ means?”
“I don’t like you. You smell funny.”
“I give up,” the old man shrugged with the hint of a smile. “What kind of funny?”
Walt considered the question and deemed it worth answering. “You smell like burnt toast.”
“That’s very honest of you.” The old man folded his hands in his lap and turned away from Walt to look at a man working in the gift shop across the concourse.
Walt followed the line of his grandfather’s gaze to a balding shopkeeper. The shopkeeper, one hand on his hip, the other on his forehead, was staring up at a mannequin wearing a Hermes Air shirt, with confusion. It obviously bothered the guy. It looked like it bothered the old man too. Walt scratched his head. He had never heard of Hermes Air before.
Walt’s granddad got up and started toward the store.
“Mom never said anything about you before, and now she says I have to leave with you right away because the city’s not safe,” Walt fixed the old man with his best tough-guy stare. His granddad stopped short and turned back towards Walt. “I really don’t like burnt toast,” Walt added.
The old man gave a tiny, conciliatory shrug. “How have you been, Walt?”
Walt pressed on. “Everything was fine until Mom mentioned you. The city seemed safe enough. What’s so dangerous about New York anyway?”
The old man sighed, “At the moment, nothing apart from the usual.” He cleared his throat before continuing in a strange voice. “So, did your mom ever get married? I always thought your mom was exceedingly pretty.”
Walt gave him a hard look. He couldn’t believe this man was really his grandfather. His long hair and pinstriped suit didn’t go together, just like he and Walt didn’t go together. If his mom hadn’t insisted he leave, had she not promised they were related, Walt wouldn’t have given him the time of day.
“You’re upset about all the years we weren’t introduced, aren’t you? I can tell.”
“You’re sharp as a tack,” Walt said. It was a phrase he’d heard his mom use.
“So are you,” he smiled. “We must be related, eh?” The old man nudged him.
Walt always figured he’d gotten his smarts from his dad. He’d never known his father, but his mom had always referred to him as the brightest person she’d ever known.
“You talk an awful lot.” Walt sighed, looking down the concourse. He figured it was best to keep the old guy off-balance. Accusatory comments were perfect for this.
“We can be quiet, you know,” the old man began. “We don’t have to talk.” A few moments passed. “So, is your mom seeing anyone special?”
“Can we leave my mom out of this? You were able to forget about her for seven years. Another day won’t kill you.”
That shut him up. Walt was very pleased with himself.
The old man’s cell phone rang. He answered it.
“Excuse me, Walt,” he said and turned away, speaking into the receiver.
There was a pause.
“One of your flights is delayed, old friend. Taken to a hangar for repairs, I’m told.”
“Yes, my grandson’s flight.” The old man winked at Walt.
“What do you mean, it’s not your plane? Whose plane is in the hangar? Where is my grandson’s flight?”
Walt’s granddad furrowed his brow as he listened.
“See that you do, Herbert.” His tone was sharp.
The old man hung up.
“Who was that?” Walt asked.
“The CEO of Southwest. He has assured me you will be on the very next flight and that you will get to sit in the cockpit with the captain.”
“Yes… way. He wouldn’t lie to me. Being my age does have its advantages,” the old man smiled.
“How do you know him?” The answer hit Walt as soon as the words left his lips. Walt remembered his mom once saying that the only people who really knew rich people were other rich people. “Wait, you’re a millionaire aren’t you?”
“I do alright.” The old man continued, “Listen Walt, may I ask you to riddle something out with me?”
Walt shrugged, trying not to look interested.
“So, my friend Herbert tells me that the airplane out in the hangar, the one you were to have taken, isn’t a Southwest flight after all. That arrival board behind you says otherwise.” The old man leaned in to Walt. “What do you think is going on here?”
“Someone isn’t being straight with you.” Walt answered. Shouldn’t the old man have been able to figure that out on his own?
The old man slapped his knee. “My thoughts exactly.”
At that very moment two teenagers, in bright orange tee shirts, walked by. They huddled in close to one another, speaking conspiratorially. As they passed, one of them pointed at the mannequin in the gift shop and laughed.
The old man spotted the two and stiffened.
“You two!” He commanded. “Come here!”
The two looked over to see who was shouting and froze, like deer caught in headlights.
Walt couldn’t figure out what it was they’d done. He felt sorry for them on account of how miffed his granddad seemed to be.
The two boys must have sensed the coming storm because they bolted down the concourse without so much as a second glance. Walt had never seen anyone move that fast.
Walt could feel the hairs on his neck and arms rise again. He locked eyes with his granddad and saw something flash there for a moment, something dangerous. Just for a minute it seemed to Walt that the old man was torn between going after at the boys and holding the gaze of his grandson.
Two TSA security officers burst out of a doorway and thundered down the concourse after the boys.
The old man watched all this with a soured expression.
“Hooligans,” he muttered.
Walt watched the TSA officers sprint off after the boys. He was at a complete loss. His granddad had seemed fine one moment, and the next, he seemed as if he was ready to tear the world apart.
When Walt looked back to his grandfather, he was surprised to find him holding one of the tee shirts from the gift shop. How had the old man managed to get to the shop and back without him noticing?
His granddad glared at the Hermes Air shirt, smoldering. The smell of burnt toast was so strong that it made Walt feel sick.
“I think I might know who is responsible for your missing flight.”
“Who?” Walt perked up.
“May I answer that with a story?”
“I guess… if it’s a good one.”
“Oh, I think you’ll like this one. I know I do.”
The old man began at a cool, measured pace.
Maia, a modest… woman – so the tale begins – kept to herself. She lived, shadowed in secrets, away from the light in a deep cave. One night she fell madly in love with the most handsome creature she’d ever met…
“This isn’t a love story is it?” Walt complained.
“Don’t be a buzz kill.” The old man continued.
She couldn’t help herself really. He was quite ravishing….
“How could she tell?”
The old man sighed. “How could she tell what?”
“How could she tell what he looked like if she lived in a ‘dark cave of shadowy secrets’? He could have been really ugly, right?”
“Wrong,” the old man snapped indignantly. “He wasn’t just good-looking, he was ravishing… like I said. Who’s telling this story?”
Walt rolled his eyes.
Ten months later she had a son. He was of great cunning, a deceitful flatterer, a robber, a cattle-rustler and a bringer of dreams. He would soon become the second most famous person in his family for his crazy antics.
“Wait. I know this story,” Walt interrupted. “Mom told me this one. It’s the birth of Hermes, Greek God of Thieves.”
The old man’s shoulders sank. “So, you know this one?”
“Yeah, except his dad wasn’t some kind of good looking rabbit slayer…”
“Ravisher,” the old man corrected.
“Right. His dad was just Zeus, God of Cheaters.”
The old man went incandescent with rage. The lights up and down the concourse blazed brightly for a moment and then flickered as if hit by a power surge. A few bulbs burst sending shards of glass skittering across the concourse walkway. After a moment the old man managed to regain his composure and cleared his throat. “God of what?”
Walt swallowed hard. Then he smiled and leaned in to his granddad looking like the cat that just ate the canary, he whispered, “you know…he’s a total player. His wife was always mad at him for having so many girlfriends.”
His grandfather covered his face with his hands. “Who told you that?”
Walt held up his hands. “It’s okay. Mom told me all about this stuff. They were like… my bedtime stories growing up.”
The old man looked pleased and a bit confused.
“Well, I’m impressed… I think.”
Walt couldn’t figure out why this would be impressive. They were just myths after all. He was about to ask when the PA system blared to life.
Good morning Southwest fliers. Flight 9814 Non-stop from New York’s JFK to Connecticut’s New Haven Airport is now boarding at Gate Three.
“Well, that’s your flight, Walt,” the old man said. “I’ll be in touch when things settle down here.”
“Wait. Settle down? Aren’t you coming with me?” Walt began.
The old man steered Walt firmly toward the gate. “I have a big meeting to attend. I’ll see you afterward.”
“But I don’t know where I’m going.”
“Connecticut,” the old man answered. “My secretary Gany will pick you up and look after you. Now get going.”
Walt panicked, searching for something, anything to delay the old man.
“You said the story would tell who messed up the airplane, right?”
The old man sighed. “I did, and it does.”
As the old man handed the gate attendant Walt’s boarding pass, Walt decided he’d had enough. He planted both feet on the ground and refused to move any further.
He grabbed the scanning platform as an anchor but was immediately jolted by a massive discharge of static electricity. It gave him such a shock that Walt released his grip on the scanner and hurried down the gangway grabbing his backside.
Walt turned to say something sharp, but the old man was nowhere to be seen. So instead, he mumbled it to himself as he walked toward the plane. Talk about God of Cheaters…