Story: Artemis and Orion Winner! The Hunt
ADULT language and themes!
Kimberly’s story won the Artemis and Orion contest. I just love the way she took the characters of Artemis and Orion, and wove the mythology into a modern setting. Artemis is suitably feminist, but finds an unexpected ally in Orion . . . or does she?
The Hunt doesn’t address Orion’s death, but rather, the formation of a great partnership that defied what everyone expected of the goddess. Kimberly’s done a great job of weaving the mythology into the story without getting in the way of actually telling the story.
by Kimberly Morning
Artie’s Office, Washington, DC
“Ahhhh. This coffee is truly ambrosia.” After the night she had, she definitely appreciated this gift from the gods. Artie tried not to chug the steaming hot coffee, but she’d pulled an all-nighter staking out her latest target and her ass was dragging this morning. It was taking a lot longer to take down her prey than she had anticipated.
Artie set the now empty coffee cup on her desk and looked up in time to see her assistant slide into the room. Opis was dedicated to Artie. She really couldn’t ask for a more conscientious and hard-working assistant. Also of Greek descent like herself, Artie and Opis had developed an almost instantaneous bond as mutual outsiders in a city of transient people. A slight, almost ethereal woman, Opis seemed to walk with a grace and rhythm all of her own, as if she moved to music only she could hear. She had also stood at Artie’s side countless times as they took down their target time and time again.
“So who’s on the most wanted list this time? What dirt bag are we taking down this month?” Opis asked Artie as she set another hot cup of coffee onto Artie’s desk.
“None other than Mr. Orion Vepo,” Artie answered.
“Really?” Opis responded in surprise. “Why him? You don’t usually go after business men, even if this one has slept with half of the most beautiful women in this country. Hell, in the world probably.”
Grabbing the cup to warm her still chilly hands, Artie looked beyond Opis’ head, out the glass window, to the office where her co-workers were just starting to arrive. Writers, editors, and photographers for FEM, the newest women’s feminist magazine, were just settling in, divesting their coats and sharing the weekend’s gossip. Artie had joined FEM only the month before after several years of reporting on international wars, corruption and other various nasty misdeeds of mankind. After she’d won an award for her exposé of the devastating impact of abused women during war, she felt she needed a change of pace. To work someplace where, hopefully, there wouldn’t be bullets whizzing past her head. Artie hoped that FEM would finally give her a place to focus on her core goals – the empowerment and protection of women and equal rights for women and mothers. The editors at FEM had granted her free range to hunt any story she set her sights on. And for the last month, her sights had been firmly targeted on Mr. Orion Vepo. Another transplant to Washington, DC from her native Greece, Orion has reportedly brought his old world charm, charisma, and dark Greek looks to his venture capitalist business and made a killing on Wall Street. The gossip columns also suggested that he routinely made a killing between the sheets, and they were forever linking him with various actresses and models. Yet for all of his cavorting, there were few complaints or overtly hostile portrayals or stories about the man. His business partners sang his praises, and even the women he had loved and left wouldn’t go on record with a single, negative comment. You’d think he walked on water given the way he was praised for his skill both in the boardroom and bedroom.
But Artie couldn’t shake the gut feeling that Mr. Vepo was hiding something. There was a dark skeleton hiding in the deepest recesses of his closet and she was going to find it. Shaking her head and returning the second empty mug to her desk, she tried to focus on the messages that Opis had apparently been reciting for the last several minutes.
“And finally, your mother called. Again. Apparently your father’s wife is continuing to post harassing messages on Facebook. It seems she’s upset about your mother having lunch with your father at the Olympus Hotel last week. She wants you to plan a day out with her to track down the new spring fashions. Her exact words were, ‘you tell Artemis Diane Kuvnyi that she will join me and help me show up that bitch.’ Those were your mother’s words, not mine.”
Artie winced at her mother’s use of her full name. “Let’s table my mother’s long suffering and on-going saga with my stepmother for now and focus on a more satisfying target, Mr. Vepo. I’m scheduled to interview the man himself tomorrow. Go use your amazing research skills and find something I can throw in his face.”
“Will do boss. Though I hear he’s pretty clean. And totally hot too.”
“I’d rather not walk into the office of one of the most successful and eligible men in the country to interview him about his recently announced candidacy for Congress with nothing. I need to be armed with the best information or I’m going to be fucked.”
“Only if you are lucky,” Opis said as she winked and then quickly dashed out of the room.
Orion’s Office, Washington, DC
From the windows of Mr. Vepo’s office, Artie could see the Capitol building and top of the Washington monument. She had arranged the interview to coincide one of Mr. Vepo’s frequent visits to DC. Since announcing his candidacy, he had given few speeches, ran only a couple of ads and granted no in-depth interviews. Until now. Staring at her own reflection in the window, she had to wonder if she was finally out of her depth. Opis, despite spending most of last night digging for dirt, had turned up exactly nothing. Feeling unexpectedly self-conscious, she ran her hand through her long wavy dark hair. She was the antithesis of her assistant. Where Opis was light and seemed to glide on air, Artie was solid, with broad shoulders tapering to a sleek but athletic frame. Years of following soldiers in war-torn countries had toned her body, and daily morning runs around the National Mall kept her in shape.
“Like what you see?” The deep, very male voice came from behind her. Artie lifted her eyes from her own reflection to take in the picture now filling the window slightly above and to the left of her.
The man himself had arrived. He was just as tall, dark, and handsome as all of the tabloid magazines had claimed. “I certainly do,” she replied.
Orion released a deep laugh. “How come I’m not sure if you are referring to me or yourself?”
Artie simply smiled, glad to have gotten off on the right foot. “Mr. Vepo,” she said as she approached the tycoon with her hand extended, “it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Artemis Kuvnyi, writer for FEM. I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me.”
“The world famous, award winning Artemis Kuvnyi requests an interview with me, you can be sure I cleared my calendar. Please sit. Can I get you coffee, water, tea?”
Releasing his hand, she proceeded not to the chair he had indicated, but to the couch and chairs situated in the far corner around a lower coffee table. She had studied the office upon her arrival and had already targeted the couch as the best location for the interview. She would not let him place the masculine desk between them, which would allow him to speak from a place of power and put him in a dominant position.
Settling into the comfortable seat, she pulled out her notes and pen, and looking up, smiled and declined any drink.
Orion took one look at her and said, “Well, I think I’m going to need a drink.” Pressing a button on the phone, which beeped, he then said, “Darlin’, two on the rocks.”
He crossed the office and took the chair opposite her. While it was a more equal position, Artie knew she was still in his territory where he remained in control.
A gentle knock on the door was followed by a young lady who Artie could only assume was “darlin’” filling the drink order. The assistant strolled in, placed what appeared to be two glasses with ice and what was probably some of the finest whisky on the table, and silently slipped back out the door.
“Is someone else joining us?” Artie asked.
“No. No one. I was hoping you would relent and join me.”
“At two o’clock in the afternoon?” she asked as he slid the drink toward her. She laughed in reaction, starting to feel a slight crack in her opposition to him despite herself. “I hadn’t heard you were given to such indulgences.”
“Oh, I indulge all the time. But not usually at the office and not with a reporter who has made it her life’s work to take down powerful men.”
“Only those men who abuse that power and use it to suppress and harm those with less including women and children.”
Orion nodded his agreement while he took a long pull from his drink. Artie couldn’t help but notice the strong line of his throat, firm chin framing a face with a classic Greek nose and slightly too long dark brown hair.
“I can promise you, you’ll find no such behavior in my past or present. If anything, the compliant is that I love women too much.”
“Yes, I’d heard that. The constant bachelor flitting from one lovely and beautiful woman to another. You’ve even been nicknamed the George Clooney of Wall Street. And somehow, and I still haven’t figured out how, for all of the broken hearts you’ve left behind, not a single one of your former lovers has a harsh word to say about you.”
Orion’s responding smile was an attempt at modesty that failed completely. “I never kiss and tell, but each woman has been special in her own unique way and while those relationships may not have lasted, I would like to think I treated each woman with honesty and respect. But you do not write gossip slop. Why are you really sitting in my office?”
Artie stared at him. He sounded sincere. The facts seemed to support his statements. But she wasn’t willing to be swayed that easily. “Now that you are a candidate for national office, I do believe the way you have treated women, especially since you’ve made no secret of your solicitation of the female vote, is relevant. I’ll leave the analysis of your personal relationships to the gossip rags. I’m more interested in your sincerity and promises to improve the lives of women in this country, not just the lives of your former girlfriends.”
“I think my record speaks for itself. All of the companies I’ve run or owned have implemented paid family leave well beyond what’s required under the current laws, free on-site daycare and required equal pay for both genders to name just a few initiatives.”
Orion leaned back, apparently satisfied with his response. And she had to agree, according to Opis’ research, he was telling the truth and yet she still had the urge to wipe the smug smile off his face. She just didn’t have the justification yet.
“So that’s it? Do you intend to push for mandatory adoption of those types of policies on a federal level?”
“I’ve proven it can work; companies can remain competitive while at the same time providing the necessary flexibility and resources to their workers.”
“You know the other side will oppose you at every turn, right?”
“Of course they will, yet the facts and the numbers prove my position. I just need to wear them down. I’ll have my manager provide the background and analysis to you. We haven’t released it publicly yet, but I’m pleased to give you the scoop.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Why what?” he responded.
“Why are you making women’s issues the forefront of your campaign?”
“Because it’s the right thing to do.” He replied then paused. “And it makes the ladies love me.”
Orion sat silently and watched her process his statements. Without taking her eyes from his, she reached for the glass of whisky that still sat in front of her and, tipping it back, emptied it in a single swallow. Orion let out a booming laugh, slapped his thigh and said, “Now we are talking!”
They spent the next hour discussing his other proposals and implementation and reasons for running. When she’d finally exhausted her questions, she thanked him for giving her the opportunity to conduct his first major interview. She gathered her notes, packed them away and started toward the door. With her hand on the knob, she stopped and turned back.
“Before I go, I have one more question. Why me? Why did you grant your first major interview after your candidacy announcement to me?”
Turning his back to her, he set the empty whisky glass on his desk. “Because if I can win you over, I will have survived my greatest challenge and won my strongest advocate.”
She stared at his back for a moment, reluctantly feeling both respect and some admiration for the man she had spent the afternoon with. With nothing more to say, she quickly left his office, headed out outside, suddenly blinded by the blazing sunlight. She’d come here determined to find his weak link, his secrets, and his vulnerability. Instead she walked out impressed, amused, and slightly turned on.
Three Days Later, Artie’s Office, Washington DC
“What!” Artie barked into the phone. She was stuck at her desk, looking at a blank screen, unable to form even the beginning of her exposé on Orion when the phone rang, interrupting her non-work.
“Hello to you too dear sister. What has your panties in a twist today?”
Artie relaxed at hearing the teasing tone of her brother’s voice. “Sorry, dear brother,” she joked in response. “It’s been a rough couple of weeks. It’s been too long since we’ve talked. What have you been up to?”
“The usual. Still playing with the orchestra and teaching music on the side. And while I’d love to catch up I did call you with a specific purpose. I heard a rumor there is a certain playboy god you have in your sights.”
“True, though I have exactly no ammo with which to take him down. I’m starting to think he might actually be one of the rare good guys.”
“Not to mention he’s hot,” her brother continued to tease her.
“I’m smart, not blind Apollo.”
“Well, don’t get too hot and bothered yet. And don’t be too accepting too quickly. Little brother has a tidbit to share with you that just might illuminate the subject. You know how I love to shine a light into the darkest corners.”
“Do tell.” She would take anything at this point. Anything verifiable, of course.
“Nope. Not going to be that easy. You’ve been dodging my dinner invitations for weeks now and our mother is worried about you as always. The price of my information is you sitting down to a meal, so I can report back to our dear mother you are hale and whole.”
“Fine. It’s not like I’m getting any work down. Meet you at the usual spot at 9?”
“See you there sis,” Apollo replied before hanging up. Artie stared at the phone until it started buzzing and she hung it up. Shaking her head, she wondered, not for the first time, what the hell her brother was up to.
Olympus Hotel, Washington DC
The Olympus Hotel was decorated with jack-o-lanterns and fall flowers. Apollo was already at their usual table located in a quiet corner of the hotel’s Greek-style restaurant. It wasn’t mom’s cooking but it was damn good. Smooching his cheek, Artie flopped into the chair he held out and immediately popped one of the stuffed grape leaves into her mouth. As usual when she was hot on the trail of a story, she’d neglected both sleep and food. Siblings could be annoying but it was comforting that her twin brother knew what she needed right now. When was the last time she’d eaten? She couldn’t remember and stuffed another wrap into her mouth. Only after she’d taken the edge off of her hunger did she shift her focus to her brother.
“Thank you. I need that.”
“You’re welcome as always. I know how you get while on a hunt.”
“Too true. And you? Any hunting lately?” As eager as she was to hear Apollo’s surprise information about Orion, she hasn’t seen her brother in ages and she’d missed him. At least up until that moment he stepped on her nerves.
“That’s really more your foray sis, but I did have company last night.”
“Do tell. Anyone I know?”
“Not unless you know the 18 year old violin prodigy who is my newest student … and my very talented new lover. Violinists have the strongest and most agile hands.”
“I’m sure she is very talented.”
“Did I say she?” Apollo smirked.
“Of course, of course. My bad.” Artie had long known her brother was an equal opportunity lover. Interesting that he should have information on Orion that could help bring him down, when Apollo was just as much of playboy if not more.
After ordering their dinner and catching up on the latest news from home, Artie pushed for Apollo to reveal what he knew about Orion. “Okay, little brother, spill it. What dirt do you have on Mr. Orion Vepo?”
“I’m sure you are aware of his extensive previous romantic relationships and success in business. How much do you know about his activities before he hit the national scene?”
“Just general info. He attended Yale then Harvard business school. Before that, the record doesn’t have much detail. He grew up in Greece, immigrated here with his family who settled in the area where he completed his schooling before heading off to college.”
“What do you know of his more intimate relationships during that time? Before he left for college?”
“None. That was long before he had the attention of the press and gossip mags. Why? What do you know?” Artie sat up a little straighter. Her fingers tingled and heart pounded. She felt like she was standing on the edge of something very important.
“I know that Orion had a girlfriend in high school. I know that the girlfriend got pregnant. Then Orion left. Left town, headed to college, and never looked back.”
“He abandoned his pregnant high school girlfriend? Where is she? What happened to the baby?”
Apollo reached into his jacket and pulled out a piece of paper, which he slid across the table to her. Grabbing it up, she saw a name and a number.
“Go find out for yourself,” he said.
Artie stared at the paper while the waiter sat her dinner before her on the table, but the food had turned to dust in her mouth. How dare he? How dare Orion harm an innocent, leave a child abandoned and then use her to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. Her outrage grew every minute until her vision was tinged with red. She left the table without a word to her brother and, snatching her phone as she stomped out, hit speed dial and waited impatiently for Opis to pick up.
“Opis, wait don’t talk. Get back to the office now. We got him. We’ve got him dead to rights and I won’t rest until I take him down.”
Olympus Hotel, One Week Later
A week had passed and here she was, back the Olympus Hotel. Artie sat at the same table where Apollo had given her the news of Orion’s teenage fling. With Opis’ help, they’d found Sally. Then Artie traveled to upstate New York where the now 32-year-old woman lived with her son. As soon as she’s driven up to the house and seen the 14-year-old boy playing in the front yard, she knew the gossip could be right. Young Mark was the spitting image of Orion with the same Greek coloring, nose and wavy dark hair. She then spent the afternoon sipping lukewarm tea and listening to Sally’s story of a high school whirlwind romance. Orion has swept her off her feet, more mature than the average high school boys, romancing her and seducing her. It had all been fun and games until she discovered she was pregnant. After she told Orion, he cut off all contact with her, and two weeks later was off to college. She never heard from him again.
The whole drive back to DC, Artie thought about Sally and her son and her story of what happened. The child certainly looked like Orion. Before the trip, Artie had already verified that Sally had gone to high school with Orion, had run in the same circles, and even lived in the same neighborhood. The problem was it was almost too good. She’d learned over the years anything that looked too good to be true probably was. She had gone to New York ready to vilify and take down the almighty Orion, but now she knew couldn’t do it without giving him a chance to explain.
But he beat her to it. A message from Orion was waiting on her voicemail as soon as she got back to her apartment. He knew where she had been and who she had talked to. He would explain as long as Artie promised their conversation would be off the record. He didn’t want Sally or Mark to be harmed or subject to public scrutiny. She had called him back and reluctantly agreed to his terms, which brought her to this table watching his approach through the restaurant.
As Orion reached her, he stopped and leaned against one of the chairs as if the walk had exhausted him. He looked just as handsome as he had two weeks ago, but now there seemed to be a weigh hanging on him, dragging him down.
“May I?” he asked, gesturing towards the chair.
Artie nodded. As Orion took a seat, she grabbed one of the glasses of whisky on the rocks she had ordered before his arrival and pushed it across the table to him. With a sad smile, he lifted it to salute her then swallowed it in one gulp.
“What happened?” she asked without preamble.
“Sally and I were in high school together. We even dated a few times. I don’t know if things would have gone further. We never got a chance to find out what might have developed between us, because my father happened. He seduced Sally. He got her pregnant, and then flew back to Greece right as I left for college. I did what I could to help Sally and the boy, but I was only a college student with very limited funds. I argued with my father, threatened to leave school if he didn’t help her, which he finally did.”
“So Mark isn’t your son, he’s your brother?”
“Yes and Sally is one of the reasons I am now an advocate for women. I hate what my father did. I despise that he used me to cover his tracks and avoid responsibility. It’s not the first time, and unfortunately won’t be the last. As soon as I had the financial resources, I hired a team whose sole job is to monitor his activities and take care of any women and children he leaves behind. If he ever physically harmed them, I would take him down. But as you have seen, he loves them, cares for them, and then abandons them. Some of these women are able to take care of themselves and any child that results from the union, but many are not. That’s where my team comes in. I make sure there is never another Sally.”
It made sense. In fact, it made far more sense than the story that Sally has spun for her. Of course Mark would look like Orion if they shared the same father.
“But why would Sally make up a story? Why would she claim you are the father?”
“Because Sally has always been, shall we say, slightly odd. At first, in high school, I thought it was quirky, but after her affair with my father and Mark’s birth, she became even stranger. I suspect my father may have asked her to lie to you, for some unknown reason. Or he may have actually convinced her that she and I had a more physical relationship and Mark is my child. I don’t know. However, I do make sure that Sally receives the best care and she is constantly monitored to make sure she never harms herself or Mark. She has been an excellent mother. And now you know the truth.”
But only part of the truth, she thought. She still didn’t know why her brother tried to discredit Orion, but she was going to find out why.
Artie’s Office, Washington, DC
Back at her office, she put the finishing touches on her profile of Orion without any mention of Sally or Mark. It was nearly complete, but there was one loose end she needed to clear up.
The phone rang and caller id showed it was Apollo finally returning her call. “Hey, little sister, what’s up? Did you have a good trip to New York?” he asked after she picked up.
“New York is lovely this time of year, but I suspect you already know that. And I’m guessing you know exactly what I found there.”
“So when can I expect to see my big sister’s scathing profile of the womanizing Mr. Vepo hit the stands?”
“I wouldn’t hold your breath. Oh, my profile of Orion and his advocacy for women will be on the front cover of next month’s FEM, but there will be no mention of Sally or her son. I know the truth, little brother, but what I don’t know is why you did it. Why did you send me after a false story?”
Silence filled the line. She heard his sigh and knew she was right. “My apologies. Yeah, I knew. I owed his father a favor. A debt you might say. When Poseidon found out that Orion was running for office and you were writing a story, he demanded I share that tip about Sally in hopes you would derail his political aspirations. Why I don’t know, I only carried out his orders to clear my debt to him. But what I want to know is how did you know? How did you know that Sally wasn’t telling the complete truth?”
“I didn’t know for sure until you just told me. Oh, I heard Sally’s tale and I listened to Orion. While I was pretty sure his version was the truth, I didn’t know for absolute certainty until just now. I also didn’t realize it immediately but looking back I should have been suspicious that you had a tip for my big story when I hadn’t even told you I was going after Orion. So thanks little brother for confirming the truth. You’ll have to forgive me but I need to put this story to bed. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” And she hung up.
Three Weeks Later, Shooting Range, Virginia
Artie did a final check of her weapon, released the safety, aimed and fired five times. After emptying the clip, she pushed the button to move the target closer.
“Not bad. Not bad at all.” The voice came from directly over her left shoulder. She felt Orion’s breath on her cheek as he leaned closer to inspect her target. Four bulls-eyes and one shot that missed slightly to the right.
Laughing, she reloaded the 9mm gun and handed it to him. “Let’s see what you can do hotshot.”
He checked the weapon and stepping forward shot at the furthest target. Reeling it in, he grinned at Artie. Sure enough, five shots straight through the dead center of the target.
“Okay, you win. But only this round. Next time, I’m taking you down.”
“Let’s get out of here. You hungry? We can eat and discuss that hunting trip you want to take.”
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