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Proprietor Hercules (Roman name), also known as Heracles (Greek name), also known as Herc (Nickname)

Hades was a mighty god, one of the most powerful gods in ancient Greece. He was in charge of the Underworld. Sometimes, just for fun, Hades would lock the gate to the Underworld, leaving the souls of the dead to pile up outside the gate, while Hades and his beloved dog Kerberos climbed aboard Hades' golden chariot and tore across the Underworld. Some poor souls in the Underworld were scattered left and right. Some had to dive out of their way. But that was an occasional treat. Mostly, Kerberos guarded the gate, making sure no one entered or left the Underworld without permission. Kerberos was a very good watchdog. He seemed to love his job.

Which all goes to explain why Hercules was surprised when his uncle Hades pounded on his door, in a panicked sort of way, "He's run away, Herc. He left me. He says he's not coming back. I don't know what has gotten into him. I need you to find out the problem and get him home." The pounding continued. "Open this door, young man! I need you!"

Hercules opened his door and invited his uncle inside. He gazed at his uncle in astonishment. "Kerberos ran away? Your terrifying, three-headed, grumpy, old dog ran away?"

Hades slumped in a chair near the fireplace. He seemed to have run out of words.

"If you want me to try and get him home, I'll do it," Hercules decided, not that he had much choice really. His uncle was famous for asking for favors. If he didn't get them, well, his uncle Hades was one of the three most powerful gods in the world, and he was the Lord of the Underworld. To make sure things were clear, Hercules added, "I want two souls in payment. Someday, I am going to ask you to send two souls back, two souls of my choice, healthy and alive. That's the deal."

Hades did not hesitate. He took the deal and went home to wait. Everyone knew that Hercules was the strongest mortal, half god really, in the world. Ever since Hercules had opened the Hercules Detective Agency, chatter about Hercules had spread. People were beginning to believe that Hercules might be the smartest half god in the world. Hades knew his Kerberos could be anywhere. He knew the job he was giving Hercules was impossible. He was also quite sure if anyone could find his beloved dog it would be Hercules.

Hercules went back to eating his breakfast. He stuffed his mouth full of olives. Money had been tight recently. Hercules had taken to foraging for food. It was no hardship, however, to eat fresh, green olives. While he munched, he tried to think like a three-headed dog. He was finding it somewhat difficult. "Where would I go?" he mused.

"Hercules!" someone pounded. It sounded a great deal like his uncle Hades. It was his uncle Hades. "Charon's left me too!" Hades told him in a panic, when Hercules opened his door. "He said he was leaving with Kerberos to travel the world!"

"Charon? Your ferryman? The monster who ferries the ghosts of the dead across the river Styx for you? That Charon?"

"I'll give you as many souls as you want," Hades offered recklessly. "Just get them home."

"Two souls are all I need. Probably. What I need is gold. People keep paying me in everything except something I can spend."

"I'll give you my magic helmet," Hades offered reluctantly.

"My head's too big."

Hades took a deep, painful breath. "I'll give you my golden chariot!"

"Uncle Hades, I can't take your chariot. Go home. Let me figure this out. Then we'll talk."

As it turned out, Hercules had no trouble finding the two runaways. Signs had sprung up everywhere. They all said the same thing: MONSTERS ON THE BEACH! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK! The monsters on the beach did not have to be Kerberos and Charon. Greece was packed with mythical monsters. But it was certainly a good place to start. There they were, the two of them, stretched out under a beach umbrella. Charon gave him a lazy wave with one of his snake like arms. Kerberos was a bit more chatty.

"I told you he'd come," one head told Charon smugly. "Everybody takes their problems to Hercules these days," said another. "Nobody takes their problems to me. Nobody talks to me at all," sniffed the third.

"Hades is worried about both of you," Hercules told them in a reasonable way. "He wants you to come home."

"Home? To the Underworld? Where everyone hates me?" The heads grumbled loudly. "He's the worse driver in the world," one head blurted. Another shook his head. "He tears through the Underworld in his stupid chariot, scattering souls everywhere. Some don't make it out of the way, you know. They're flattened."

"Such a mess." the heads agreed.

"It's not like he's hurting them," Hercules pointed out reasonably. "They're already dead."

"You think they like to be flattened? He has a wonderful time, while I get hit with everything - rotten tomatoes, horrible curses," one head snarled. "It's not just you," another head snapped angrily. "It's all of us," whined the third.

"You've been hit with tomatoes for thousands of years," Hercules pointed out. "And pomegranates. And who knows what else. It never bothered you before."

"Of course it bothered me. I'm a mass of bruises. Do you think I like to be pelted with rotten vegetation? I don't blame the souls, I really don't. I blame him. He doesn't care, that's the problem," Kerberos said angrily. "I guard the gate to the stupid Underworld all day and all night, and does he even once say thank you? No, he does not," Kerberos answered his own question. "I'm not going back. I'm staying on this beach forever, lazing about, and soaking in the sun."

"And I'm going to sail the world," piped up Charon.

"The souls of the newly dead are piling up," Hercules tried again.

"Not my problem," Kerberos huffed.

"Not my problem," Charon echoed.

Just like that, Hercules had the best idea. "I'll see what I can do," he told the runaways.

Hades hung his head in shame when Hercules explained why they had run away. "They're right, you know. I take them for granted. I love that old dog. I promise not to make him come with me when I take my chariot out for a spin. And Charon deserves a vacation. I'll figure out a way to pay for it. He won't even have to spend his own gold. Tell them they have a deal."

When Hercules returned to the beach, both Kerberos and Charon looked up hopefully. Hercules told them exactly what Hades was willing to do, which made them both very happy.

"Kerberos!" cried Hades when Kerberos returned home. He hugged on tightly to all three necks. "Don't you ever leave me again!"

Three heads frantically licked Hades' face. "I love you, too, you stupid old god," Kerberos managed between licks.

As for Charon, he took a two-week cruise, just as Hades had promised he could. The boat felt deserted to him after packing the ferry each night with the souls of the departed. But his cruise took him all around the Mediterranean Sea. It was very peaceful. Too peaceful. To tell the truth, after only a few days, he was looking forward to getting home.

As for Hercules, he ferried the ghosts of the dead across the River Styx, while Charon was on vacation. It cost one gold coin to ride the ferry. Each soul paid Hercules. That was his deal. He would operate the ferry and keep the cash for his trouble. But only while Charon was on vacation each year.

Hercules called this case The Case of Kerberos On Strike. He might have named it The Case of Kerberos and Charon on Strike, but that sounded much too confusing. Hercules liked things simple. He laid back comfortably in his worn chair by the fire, and propped his feet up on his pile of gold.