“No,” Heather said. “I’m sorry, Nash, what has been done cannot be undone.”
As if he’d just received a death sentence, Nash stared straight ahead. Heather touched his arm.
“Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?” Heather asked.
Somewhere between angry and sad, Nash simply shook his head.
“Do you not like Nadia?” Heather asked.
“No, Nadia’s perfect,” Nash said. “I think about her all the time. When I see her, even on the computer screen, it’s like the whole world stops. Everything I thought of before I see her simply vanishes. It’s like what people say about wearing glasses. Everything gets clearer, easier, when she’s there. And, then she’s gone and I…”
Nash shook his head.
“And you?” Heather asked.
“I’m just some dumb kid,” Nash said. “Don’t say something otherwise. I really am a dumb kid. I haven’t done anything with my life. I don’t know anything. I haven’t even had that much life! And she…”
Nash shook his head.
“I understand,” Heather said.
“You do?” Nash asked. “Could you explain it to me?”
Heather chuckled and put her arm around him. He leaned over the dog and into her. Buster panted happily.
“No really,” Nash said. “Explain it to me. I really need… something to…”
Heather gave him a sideways look for a long moment before given a slight nod.
“I have actually been your age a number of times,” Heather said.
Surprised, Nash pulled back to look at her. Heather nodded.
“My mother would let me age until I was in my twenties or so, and then yank me back to being ten again,” Heather said. “She thought that if I could just grow up the right way, we wouldn’t need my father or grandmother. Particularly my grandmother. We hid from Olympia for more than a thousand years until my grandmother figured it out.”
“I think that my grandmother went looking for us because my father was really losing it,” Heather said. “The Black Arrows were part of him losing his mind.”
Heather shook her head.
“I’m losing the point,” Heather said. She sighed. “My point is that I know what it’s like to be on the verge of adulthood, but still be a child. I’ve done it in almost every human time. It’s always hard. Very hard. You don’t know what you’re going to be or do, but you feel like there’s something you need to do, something you were born to do.”
To contain her stronger emotions, Heather reached for a towel. Mimicking her, Nash began folding the warm towels with her. She didn’t say anything for a moment.
“In some eras, sixteen is an adult age,” Heather said.
“Some countries right now,” Nash said.
Heather nodded and continued.
“In the 1930s, we’d start working when we were three or four years old…” Heather said.
“What?” Nash asked.
“By the time we were sixteen, we were so old and tired that…” Heather sighed. “It was a really different world. Sixteen was an adult. But now, kids go to school. They have a chance to grow up. It’s a mark of the growth of human civilization that most countries have ended this kind of child labor, that kind of extreme poverty.”
“Did you want to talk to me about something?” Heather asked.
Nash cleared his throat.
“I wanted to ask you…” Nash started.
He looked at Heather and stopped talking. He shook his head and dropped back down to pet Buster. Heather gave a quick shake of her head and went to put all of the pre-treated toddler clothing into a free washer. Mike appeared at the doorway.
“Hey,” Mike said to Nash.
Heather looked over at Mike after she turned on the washer.
“Val is coming down to dominate,” Mike said. “Or at least that’s what she told me to tell you. She said to leave the toddler clothing.”
Heather pointed to the washer.
“Already going,” Heather said.
“Thanks, that’s a big job,” Mike said. “I’m supposed to help but…”
Mike pointed upstairs. Heather nodded, and Mike disappeared.
“You have about five minutes before Val and a whole lot of chaos arrives in this room,” Heather said. “What did you want to talk about, Nash?”
“I wanted to know if you could take off the Black Arrow,” Nash said. “You know, the one that hit me and Nadia. I know that it’s worked out great for Sissy and Ivan — they are very happy and all — but I think you should take the arrow away.”
Heather looked at Nash for a long moment. She picked up a basket of dry clean laundry and hefted it out of the room.
“Get the towels,” Heather said.
Nash grabbed the basket of warm, dried towels. He followed Heather down the hallway to her apartment. Buster came along at Nash’s side. She gestured for Nash to take a seat on the couch. He set the basket of laundry on the coffee table and sat down. Heather set the basket of laundry onto the table. She filled a bowl of water for Buster and set it on the ground before sitting next to Nash on the couch. The dog jumped up on the couch between them, pushing Heather and Nash up against the armrest. They sat in companionable silence for a few minute as they began to fold.
“I can’t,” Heather said finally.
“You can’t what?” Nash asked, completely forgetting what he’d asked.
“I can’t remove the arrow,” Heather said.
“What do you mean you can’t remove it?” Nash’s voice rose with anger and panic. “You’re a full goddess now! You can do all kinds of amazing things.”
“I can,” Heather said. “I just can’t do that.”
Nash’s hands dropped into his lap. His head dropped.
“Why can’t you do it?” Nash asked, his voice high and whiney. “Is this one of those stupid Olympia rules?”
“I can’t do it because I can’t,” Heather said, keeping her voice even. “And, you’re right. Those rules in Olympia are mostly stupid. Archaic. From a time when humans were barbarians.”
“Can someone else do it?” Nash asked. “What about that Hecate? She seems powerful and not as crazy as her father.”
“Hey,” Heather said, looking up from a basket full of folded clean clothing.
Heather turned and pulled a load of towels out of the washer and shoved it into the gas dryer.
“What’s up?” Heather asked, when Nash hadn’t said anything.
“I was looking for you,” Nash said.
“You have found me,” Heather said, turning on the dryer.
“I thought Valerie ran the laundry when she was home,” Nash said.
“She and Mike had a doctor’s appointment this morning,” Heather said. “I thought I’d get in here and work through some of the bigger loads so she’d have less to do.”
Heather gestured to what looked like a load of toddler clothing. Each piece of clothing had some kind of spill on it.
“Can I help?” Nash asked.
“Sure,” Heather said. “Grab a garment. Check the spill and…”
“Yeah, I know the drill — dab or soak or brush but never ever wipe or scrub or you push the stain into the fibers,” Nash said.
Heather grinned at the young man. They worked in silence until the basket was about half full.
“Did you bring your laundry?” Heather asked.
“Maresol does it,” Nash said. “I think.”
“You think Maresol does it?” Heather asked with a grin. “Or Maresol does it?”
“It’s weird,” Nash said. “I take off my dirty clothing, put it in a pile ready to carry to the laundry, and it disappears. Then it shows up clean. I know that Sandy’s not doing it. Dad’s certainly not.”
“Your Dad does a lot of laundry,” Heather said in mild reproach.
“Dad folds things weird,” Nash said. “And anyway, some of my clothes are ironed. The rule is always, ‘If you want it ironed, do it yourself.’”
“What?” Nash asked.
“Ava loves to iron,” Heather said. “They’ve been working on a tough case. She’s probably up late ironing.”
Nash grinned at Heather.
“Good to know,” Nash said, grinning.
“Dale loves to iron too,” Heather said. “He and Ava have ironing contests.”
“Oh, Dale. Yeah, that makes more sense,” Nash said. “Ava’s been in Grand Junction.”
There was a shuffling sound and a grunt. Buster, the ugly dog, arrived in the doorway trailing Blane.
“Buster!” Nash yelled and dropped to his knees.
The next moments were filled with boy giggles and dog slobber. Blane gestured to Buster and Nash.
“Mystery solved,” Blane said, gesturing to Nash and Buster. “He started running in this direction at East High!”
“True love.” Heather grinned. “He’s really missed the kids.”
Blane pointed upstairs, and Heather nodded. He jogged up the stairs. Heather kept working on the toddler clothing while Nash and Buster caught up. When Nash stood up, he was grinning from ear to ear. Heather chuckled. They settled in to work on the toddlers clothing.
“Did you want to talk to me about something?” Heather asked.
“I want that stuff out of my house,” Maresol said.
“We can deal with this when you get home,” Sandy said.
“Don’t you touch it again,” Maresol said.
“I won’t but… I mean, I hate to bring it up, but the items in special storage could also…””
The four people in New York gasped at the idea. Seth shook his head and then stopped.
“I was going to say that it’s not possible,” Seth said. “But of course it’s possible. The art in the special storage could also have magical properties. Those bastards melted into the background.”
“We’ll find out, Sandy,” Bernie said. “Is there anything else?”
“Perses said that you should call him,” Sandy said. “He’ll come to help. But he said that…”
“I don’t really know what it is,” Sandy said. “Perses wouldn’t let us open the crate. He said that Abi needed to be there to destroy it.”
“It’s that bad?” Seth asked.
“He wouldn’t let us open the crate!” Sandy said. “He was like, ‘We need to leave this alone.’ He kind of dragged us out of the area. Hecate and I had a great time going through the paintings, but he told us to stop. It was… intense.”
“Sounds intense,” Seth said.
“Well, we’re safe now,” Sandy said. “We’re going to head to soccer games and all of that soon. Do you want to talk to the kids?”
“We’ll call later,” Maresol said.
Sandy watched a look pass between Maresol, Claire, Seth, and Bernie. They all nodded in unison. Seth moved the computer so he was the only person in the frame.
“Don’t worry about this stuff,” Seth said. “We’ll do what we can. That’s all we can do.”
“Okay,” Sandy said. “Thanks, Seth.”
“Of course,” Seth said. “Don’t overdo it today. You’re doing a great job of mending. That’s got to be your priority.”
“I won’t,” Sandy said. “Tanesha and Heather are coming over to help with soccer and stuff. Blane, too.”
“Good,” Seth said. “Love you!”
“Yeah,” Sandy said. “Me too.”
Seth hung up the video call. Sandy sat for a long moment before she shook herself. She noticed the time and realized she needed to wake the kids. She rolled out into the den to wake the teenagers.
“Oh, right,” Bernie said. He grinned. “Sorry Sandy, I’ve spent too much time alone.”
Bernie had spent the more than thirty years living on his own.
“Okay,” Bernie said. “Sandy is right. We made an assumption. Because the scientist and his detonator was not on the interior of the mine, we assumed that the Nazis had never been into the salt mine. But… I mean, it’s certainly possible.”
Bernie nodded like he’d completed a sentence. He looked at Maresol and she shook her head.
“What’s possible?” Maresol asked.
“Oh, sorry,” Bernie said. “What if the Nazis got a key to the front door of salt mine?”
“He has a point,” Seth said. “They could have gotten it from our author before she was killed.”
“Or after,” Bernie said. “Given how much art is in this mine, much given by Jewish people before they went to the camps…”
“Oh, I see,” Claire said. “You’re saying that the Nazis knew about the mine. They got a key to the front entrance. Stored their own stuff there.”
“Things they couldn’t control or felt needed protection,” Bernie said.
“Or things they felt like they needed protection from,” Seth said with a nod.
“Anything’s possible,” Sandy said with a shrug.
“Exactly,” Bernie said.
“The coroner said that the bodies in the tunnel — you know the Nazis. He estimated that they died at the same time as the scientist,” Sandy said. “He said that he thought it was near the end of the war.”
“The papers those boys had on them indicated that they were killed around the time that the Nazis were hiding their nuclear program. 1945,” Claire said. She looked at Sandy. “I’ve been trying to find their families so their families will know what happened to them. I have a copy of everything from their pockets.”
Seth nodded to indicate that he and Claire were doing this together.
“The resistance could have changed the locks,” Bernie looked away from the camera. He stared off into space. “They could have snuck in there and changed the lock so that the scientist had to go around.”
“The Nazis followed and died in those tunnels,” Sandy said.
“Do you know anyone in the Polish resistance?” Maresol asked Bernie.
“I think so,” Bernie said with a smile. “It’s always hard to know who’s still alive.”
He looked at Sandy and said, “I’ll make some calls.”