August 19, 2011
Gabriel froze as he felt the ground beneath him shudder. A quick look at Michael and the others convinced him that they were all feeling it. Shine gripped him frantically around the waist and he could feel Sarah’s hand on one of his wings.
“What’s happening?” Shine cried.
Before Gabriel could answer, the entire landscape was overwhelmed with a low, fierce rumbling. The sky erupted into a solid ceiling of flame and a searing hot wind blasted across them all.
“It’s a sirocco,” Gabe shouted. He struggled for a word the humans would understand. “It’s a ghibli, a leveche.”
“It’s a hot fucking wind,” Az supplied, “and it means big trouble.”
“It’s a precursor,” Gabe said.
“A precursor to what?” Sarah asked, shouting to be heard over the primeval roar of wind and fire.
Before he could answer, a massive pillar of flame descended from overhead and touched down in the center of the area, practically blinding them all with its radiance.
Az spun around and drew his wings over his head, cringing away from the fiery light. The other demons were scattered like leaves in the wind, blown out of the light and into the dark recesses of the landscape, their roars of outrage and fear growing steadily more faint until the Dark Ones disappeared completely and took their complaints with them.
Michael sheathed his sword and, with the company of other archangels, turned to face the pillar with his head bowed.
The wind stopped as suddenly as it began and out of the pillar of fire stepped a creature with six fiery wings. One set of wings was crossed over its golden head, another set crossed in front of its body, and the third set – larger than the others – jutted from its shoulder blades and flapped slowly, continuously.
The creature glanced briefly at the archangels before approaching Gabriel and the others. It stopped several yards away as if aware that its fierce light would harm the humans. It stared solemnly at Gabriel for a moment, then Shine, then Sarah and Tawny, and finally Roni.
When it spoke it had the voice of ten people combined, some male, some female, some which weren’t even human. “And so you have come,” it said.
“What is that?” Sarah hissed.
Shine stared in awe. “It’s a seraph. It’s one of the highest order of angels in heaven. It’s like the boss of all angels.”
Gabriel motioned for the girls to be quiet. He returned the seraph’s gaze with a steady look of determination. “I know I can’t win, Metatron,” he said, “but I’ll still fight you. You’ll have to kill me to get to the child.”
The seraph nodded. “You are truly a wonder, Gabriel,” Metatron said. “I am gratified to be chosen for this task.”
Knowing the futility of trying to fight the seraph, Gabe waved his sword nonetheless and said, “Then come try it, Metatron. I won’t go easily.”
Metatron gestured. “Put away the weapon, Archangel. There will be no more fighting here today.”
He turned to the group of archangels. “Michael, step forward.”
Michael raised his head and stepped proudly toward the seraph. “I am here, Most High One,” he said.
The seraph regarded him stoically. “Michael, you have been the Father’s best soldier since the beginning of time. You have performed tasks for the Father which were so egregious that your brethren shied away. You are the best of your kind. But you are blind in your obedience.”
Michael looked at the seraph in surprise. “But Most High One –“ he began.
“Search your heart,” Metatron interrupted. “Tell me of one instance when events took place that were outside the will of the Father. Tell me of one instance when events unfolded in a way unexpected to the Father.”
Searching the ground as if the answer was somewhere around his feet, Michael remained silent.
“You called Gabriel disobedient,” Metatron continued. “Is there no room in your philosophy for those who carry out the will of the Father, even when they aren’t aware that they do so? Even when it seems in contrast to what you perceive as His holy will?”
Metatron turned back to the bloodied, tattered group pressed tightly around Gabriel. “Some souls sent to teach the population were unprotected. Not so with this child. The Father tried you, Gabriel. He tested you and you prevailed. You were sent to protect the child and you have done so. She has divine purpose in her world and will live to fulfill it.”
Reaching out his fiery hand, Metatron pointed at Shine. “The child has the women now, the mystic and the mother. They surround her and will protect and teach her how to survive in their world.
“You, Shining Light of Heaven, will return to earth and grow among the populace with your new guardians.”
Shine squeezed Gabriel tightly around the waist. “I don’t want to go without you,” she wailed to him. “I won’t! I won’t go without you!”
Metatron ignored her. Pointing at Roni, he gestured for the snowy white man to come forward.
Roni padded fearlessly towards the seraph, stopping a few feet away and looking at it expectantly.
Metatron said to him, “We offer you a choice. You have earned a place in the light of the Father. You have only to take my hand and you can join us in His magnificent presence. Or you can return to earth with your humans and finish out your short life as an animal. What do you choose?”
Without hesitation, Roni turned and began walking back toward Sarah. By the time he reached her side, he was a dog again. He sat at her feet and licked her hand.
“A noble creature,” Metatron commented. “The finest work of our Father resides in him.”
Metron pointed once more, this time at Az. “Demon Asmodeus,” the seraph intoned. “Step forward.”
Az’s voice was muffled by his covering of wings. “Ah, if you don’t mind, I’ll just stay right here,” he said.
“Demon Asmodeus,” the seraph repeated with infinite patience, “step forward.”
“I am so screwed,” Az muttered. He lowered his wings and took a cautious glance at the seraph. He stepped warily around Gabriel and inched forward. “Look, Most High One, I gotta tell you, I was just helping the dude out,” he stammered. “It’s not like I did anything except – you know – what I always do. You know. Snagging dirty souls and stuff.”
“Demon Asmodeus,” Metatron said, “you have made yourself an outcast among your own kind because of your affection for this archangel.”
Az shrugged. “Yeah, well – yeah. It does kinda suck to be me right now, I gotta tell you.”
“The Father offers you protection.”
Startled, Az stared at the seraph. “Protection?” he repeated.
“You can rejoin the heavenly hosts just as you were before the Fall. You can rejoin the host of Golden Ones and leave the Dark Ones behind forever.”
For a moment, with the light from the seraph’s fire shining on his face, Gabriel could see the Asmodeus who was his brother before the Dark Times, before the Fall. Gabriel studied Az’s handsome, unblemished face and felt tears fill his eyes at the childlike hope he saw in Az’s expression.
“I can be an angel again?” Az asked softly.
Az turned and looked at Gabe, then looked around the archangel and locked eyes with Tawny. He stared at her a minute, then turned back to Metatron. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, and don’t think I don’t appreciate the offer. I mean, I’m probably gonna want to kick my own ass over this, but – “ He shrugged. “I think I’ll stick with what I know.”
The demon returned to the group and stood looking down at Tawny. Her hand came up and rested gently on his chest.
“Step forward, Gabriel,” Metatron instructed.
Gabe unwound Shine’s arms from around his waist and approached the seraph. A brilliant white light engulfed him, flaring so brightly that the humans were forced to turn away. When they turned back, Gabriel stood before them unwounded, his pale skin shining with a silver glow. His wings were fully formed again, resplendent and iridescent.
“Your place among the host is exalted now,” Metatron told him. “Come, take your place with me beside the Father.”
The archangels around them turned to Gabriel and dropped to their knees in reverence. Gabe stared at them almost sorrowfully. He walked over to Michael and touched the archangel on the shoulder. “I know why you did what you did,” Gabe said softly. “I love you, my brother.”
With his head hanging low, Michael reached up and grasped Gabe’s hand in both of his and brought it to his lips. “You are among the Most High, brother,” he whispered. “Forgive me for my doubt.”
Gabe shook his head. “There’s nothing to forgive.”
Turning back to Metatron, Gabriel said, “Let me make sure I understand this. These two women and Shine are going back to their lives, right? With the bag of money?”
“And I guess the dog and Az are going with them.”
“As they have chosen,” Metatron said.
He walked back to the group and took Sarah’s face in his hands. His magnificent glow engulfed them both as he kissed her lips. Releasing her, he knelt and gathered Shine into his arms.
“I love you, Heaven’s Shine,” he said.
“I love you,” Shine wept. “I love you! I love you! I love you!”
Gabriel pulled away from her and caressed Shine’s face. “I guess there’s only one thing left for me to do,” he sighed.
He searched the ground around them until he spied his leather duster. Picking it up, he shook the dust out of it and began to pull it on, struggling to tuck his huge wings under it. Then, taking Shine by the hand he looked at the others.
“Let’s go,” he said.
“Archangel, do you understand what you are doing?” Metatron called after him. “You will be an outcast among your kind and among theirs. Not a human, not an exalted host of heaven. An outcast.”
Gabriel looked over his shoulder at Metatron. “I understand.”
“There is no turning back after this,” Metatron intoned.
“I understand,” Gabriel repeated. He looked at Sarah. “Let’s go home,” he said.
With one arm around Tawny and holding Roni’s leash with the other, Az fell in behind Gabe, Sarah and Shine. “Dude, we’re totally screwed now, both of us,” he whined. “For fuck’s sake, couldn’t you have bargained a little? You know? You were holding all the cards, man. Shit! Someone take this damned dog, he’s biting me!”
August 13, 2011
Sarah moved away from Tawny and, taking Roni’s hand, put him next to her friend. “Guard her,” she said.
Roni’s brow furrowed with worry, but he inched closer to Tawny and leaned against her. He glanced at the surrounding demons and snarled.
Ruffling his white hair, Sarah said, “Whatever happens to me, you guard Tawny, okay?”
Roni threw his head back and howled briefly, inconsolably, then leveled his azure gaze at Sarah again.
Sarah stepped toward the battling angels. “St. Michael defend us,” she said in a steady voice. Her eyes were locked on the glowing Archangel. “St. Michael defend us in battle. St. Michael defend us from the wicked and protect those we love.”
Michael froze with his sword in mid-arc. He looked over his shoulder at Sarah in surprise.
“St. Michael, protect those who fight for our preservation,” Sarah continued. “Hear my prayer, blessed guardian of the embattled. St. Michael save and defend Gabriel.”
A murmur of shock and consternation rippled through the half-circle of Archangels standing around Shine. The demons were more vocal about their displeasure.
“Don’t listen to her!” Moloch cried. “Kill him!”
“Spill his guts!” Belphagor screamed.
Az looked on, puzzled. “What the fuck, man?” he muttered to Tawny. “What the fuck is she doing?”
Tawny glanced sideways at Az, then did a double-take. His dark membranous wings stretched protectively up and around them both. She touched his shoulder once, tentatively, before Roni wedged himself more insistently between her and the demon. She tried to reach around the tall man to touch Asmodeus again, but Roni deftly kept himself between them.
Az looked at Tawny’s in surprise when she touched him. He reached out to her, but Roni snapped viciously at his fingers.
“Okay! Damn! Chill the fuck out,” Az hissed.
Michael stared at Sarah for a moment, then turned back to Gabriel and lifted his sword again.
“St. Michael, save us from the wicked and preserve those who would defend us,” Sarah prayed loudly.
The archangel swirled around again. “What are you doing?” he shouted at Sarah.
Gabriel scrambled out from under Michael’s sword and fumbled on the ground for his weapon. The sword vibrated with power under his touch and he grasped it with two hands.
“I’m saying the only prayer I ever knew,” Sarah told Michael.
Michael turned in time to parry Gabriel’s sword. He took a step back under the force of the blow.
“I told you that you’re not a fit guardian,” Gabriel spat. “In fact, as guardian angels go, you pretty much suck right now.”
“You tell him, Bro!” Az yelled.
“They are tricking you,” Moloch growled at Michael. “It’s only a distraction, a cheap ploy. Kill him, Warrior Angel! Kill the traitor!”
Covered with his own blood and swinging wildly, Gabriel advanced on Michael, driving the golden angel backward the way Michael had done to him earlier. Michael parried every blow, his face set in concentration.
“You said you saved her,” Gabriel continued as he swung repeatedly. “Is that why she was battered and raped and torn when she came to me? She would have died, but it was me who saved her. Me. Is that the measure of how you save those who pray to you? And what about the dog? What about the dog, Michael? Did you save him, too? Yes, I’m sure you did. He bears the scars of your brand of ‘salvation’.”
“I am not a guardian of dogs,” Michael shouted angrily.
Locked in fierce battle, the angels moved around the center of the crowd. The group of demons stirred eagerly, incited by Gabriel’s blood. The demon Rangda, smelling of incense and spice, leaped forward and grabbed at Moloch’s arm.
“Why are we waiting?” she screeched. “Let’s take the women now. I will have a piece of each.”
“We are constrained by agreement,” Moloch said, pushing her away.
Rangda’s long tongue hung from her mouth and slithered on the floor. “I will not wait!”
Without warning, Roni rushed the demon and they fell to the ground together.
“Roni!” Sarah cried.
Tawny turned to Az and grabbed him by the shoulders. “Help him!” she pleaded. “Please, help him!”
Az stared Tawny’s hazel eyes. “Ah, shit,” he whispered. “I am so fucking screwed.” He pressed his lips against hers quickly and briefly, then pushed her toward Sarah.
Gabriel could only glance in the direction of the demons as he and Michael engaged. He saw Az leap into dizzying fray of limbs and wings, and then step back holding Roni by the arm. Bloody and torn, Roni snapped at Az, trying to free himself and get back to the fight. Gabriel knew that the demons would tear the dog to pieces. In his man form, the dog was even more vulnerable. He heard Sarah wail Roni’s name.
He glanced to his left and saw Shine still standing quietly between the archangels. Their eyes met and he saw the depth of fear in her. The sudden rage that swept through him made it hard to breathe.
Lifting his weapon and swinging with all of his power, Gabriel knocked past Michael’s upraised sword and landed a blow across the archangel’s armored chest. This time, the blow staggered Michael. The golden angel fell and a gasp went up from the company of angels around them.
Without a moment’s thought, Gabriel jumped over Michael’s prone form and ran to Shine. He scooped her up and rushed over to Sarah. “Stay together,” he told them.
Sarah stared at his wounds in dismay. “Gabe – “
He cut her off. “Just stay together, Sarah! Tawny, you too.”
Gabriel waded into the mass of snarling, writhing demons. With Az by his side, he found Roni fighting savagely under several Dark Ones and together they pulled the white man to safety.
He waved his sword at the demons. “So help me, I’ll gut the next one who moves,” he shouted.
Az and Gabriel, their backs turned defensively to each other, edged themselves and Roni over to join the women.
“I hope you realize how fucked I am,” Az muttered. “I’ve pissed everybody off now.”
Gabe nodded. “Join the club, my friend.”
The group formed a tight knot in the center of the crowd, the women and Roni protected by the upraised wings of the angel and the demon. Shine broke away from Sarah and pushed past Gabriel’s bloody wings to wrap her arms around his waist. “Gabriel,” she sobbed, “Gabriel! You’re dying, you’re bleeding to death.”
Michael got to his feet and, together with the rest of the archangels, advanced. The Dark ones, unable to attack the others in the presence of the fiery archangels, howled and gibbered and cursed on the periphery. Gabriel knew that if just one of the archangels backed away, nothing would hold Legion back except whatever fight he and Az could give them. He felt weak and dizzy as his blood pooled on the ground around his feet, but the sword still vibrated in his hand. He hoped Az would take the women and run if the fight ended the way he now believed it would.
“The child is correct, Brother,” Camael said. His face was twisted with sorrow. “You chose to live as a human and now you’re dying like a human.”
“What is wrong with you?” Michael shouted at him. “Why didn’t you smite me while you had the chance? Have you lost your courage? Have you lost your heart?”
Gabe nodded. “Yes, Michael,” he panted. “I’ve lost my heart. I lost it to these humans you’re so scornful of.” He smiled painfully. “And I would do nothing differently if given the chance to begin again.” He gestured at the archangels. “Come on, then. Let’s end this.”
August 5, 2011
A fierce stab of pride and love shot through Sarah as she watched Gabriel step toward Michael. With his blonde hair tousled over his forehead and his wings stretched taunt on either side of his shoulders, he took her breath away. He was smaller than Michael – much smaller – but he was muscled and sinewy, and she felt a strength radiating from him that the other angel lacked. She breathed deeply through her nose, inhaling his determination.
And this is the one they say went bad, she thought.
She felt Tawny’s hands on her arm and reached down to help her friend stand.
Her white dress torn and hanging precariously by one shoulder strap, Tawny pushed her disheveled red locks from her face and stared as Michael and Gabriel circled each other.
Tawny pointed and whispered shakily, “Your boyfriend has wings.”
Although she was trembling with fear, Sarah smiled. “Yeah. He does.”
“Will he save us?”
Sarah turned and the women stared at each other. “I believe so,” was all Sarah could say. She hoped she was right.
They both gasped as the first clash of swords split the air with the force of a lightening strike. The vault of clouds overhead flashed orange and yellow in sympathy.
Gabriel took a staggering step back under the force of Michael’s blow and managed to raise his sword again just in time to parry the next strike. He was suddenly aware of how terribly overmatched he was. Michael is a warrior, his mind screamed. Michael was made for this.
The Archangel Michael continued to move forward, landing blow after blow against the sword that Gabriel only just managed to raise in time to defend himself. Again and again he struck, driving Gabriel back until the weaker angel stumbled and fell to one knee.
Michael lowered his sword in disgust. “You’re a fool, brother,” he said angrily. “Do you want to die like this? Do you want to die in defense of – of what? Humans?”
Gabriel staggered to his feet. He gestured at Michael. “Come again,” he urged.
With a low growl, Michael advanced again, swinging his sword powerfully again and again. The crowd of demons drew back with a cry as Gabriel was driven into their midst and once again stumbled to his knees.
“There,” Michael shouted. “That’s where you belong, among the Dark Ones!”
Az slithered over and helped Gabriel to his feet. “Dude, he is so gonna kill you,” the demon muttered.
Gabriel put out a hand and pushed Asmodeus away. “I’ve got this,” he panted.
“You’ve got this?” Az flapped his hands in disgust. “You’ve got your ass in a sling is what you’ve got.”
“Come forward then,” Michael bellowed. He held his arms out to either side, leaving himself open for a blow. “Come then, Fallen Brother!”
Gabriel rushed forward, striking his sword against Michael’s armored breast. The force of the blow almost knocked the blade from his hands, but Michael barely flinched.
Michael reached out and grasped Gabriel by the back of the neck, flinging the angel aside like a rag. He glowed with a blinding golden light as he stared at Gabriel. He swung his fiery sword in for a death blow which Gabriel only managed to partially block.
There was a searing pain across his bicep and Gabriel looked in wonder at the blood flowing from his shoulder.
“You even bleed like a human,” Michael said.
Gasping for breath, Gabriel managed to regain his feet and raise his sword as Michael came at him, striking again and again, once again driving him backward. The sky was on fire above them.
Michael drove Gabriel back into the crowd of demons and continued coming after him.
Gabriel stumbled against a wet mass and Leviathan hissed in his ear, “Hurry up and die. I have plans for the scarred woman.”
Crying out in fury, Gabriel brought his sword up to block Michael’s next thrust. He knocked the demon out of his way. “Get thee behind me,” he shouted.
Michael struck relentlessly, continuing to rain blows down against Gabriel’s upraised sword. “You should have listened to me,” the golden angel roared. “I tried to save you, Brother, but you wouldn’t listen.”
Gabriel braced himself against the blows as best he could. “Listen?” he shouted back at Michael. “Listen to you? You failed as a Guardian, Michael. You failed. You’re still failing.”
Another swing of Michael’s fiery sword and blood began to pour from a stinging wound across Gabriel’s chest. “I kept Sarah alive!” Michael roared. “And the dog, too!”
Tawny stared in horror as Michael worked Gabriel in a circle through the crowd of demons and back to the center of the fight. She groped for Sarah and the women clutched at each other’s hands. “He’s going to die,” Tawny cried.
On Sarah’s other side, Roni stepped forward, growling deep in his chest. Sarah put out a hand and restrained him. “No,” she said softly. “Not yet.”
She searched the crowd of angels beyond the fight and saw Shine. The little girl had lifted her hands and was praying fervently, her eyes squeezed shut.
Michael drove Gabriel to the ground in front of the archangels with a battery of thrusts and blows. He smiled grimly. “What a waste, Brother,” he growled. “All of this, for nothing. For nothing!”
Gabriel fought to keep his sword between him and Michael. He couldn’t catch his breath and blood was flowing freely from half a dozen wounds. He managed to raise his sword a final time, but Michael was too strong. The golden angel struck again and Gabriel’s sword fell clattering to the ground.
Gabriel looked up at Michael’s raised sword and felt a sickening sense of defeat. Shine, he thought miserably, Sarah! My loves and my life. I’m so sorry.
Az walked with long strides toward Sarah’s abandoned car just as Gabe rattled the old Indian to a stop nearby. The demon stared at the battered sedan. There wasn’t a flat piece of metal left anywhere on it. “Christ on a cracker,” he muttered.
Sick with dismay, Gabriel jumped off the bike and went to the driver’s window. Roni was curled on the seat, but jumped to his feet when he saw Gabe, wagging his stump of a tail. Gabe opened the door and caressed the dog gently, trying to calm Roni’s mind.
Friend, friend! Love you, love you! Roni’s frantic mind greeted the angel.
Shhhhhhhhh. Calm, little one. Tell me.
Bad smell. Bad woman.
An image of Belphagor with her silver eyes and her scent of the dead flashed through the dog’s mind and Gabe felt a prickling of anger in his stomach. “Belle was here,” he said to Az.
“I knew she was in town, so I figured she was in on this.” Az circled the car, studying the damage. “I see her slimy hand prints everywhere. And if there’s something fucked up goin’ on, you know that bitch has a piece of it.”
Gabe turned back to Roni. “Where’s Shine?” he whispered.
Michael, Roni answered. His stump of a tale began to wag again, moving his hindquarters with it. Michael. Michael. Michael.
The angel took a step back. “No,” he muttered. “Not Michael.” He reached for the dog again, capturing Roni’s head in his hands and forcing the dog to meet his gaze.
Roni stopped wiggling and stared back at Gabe, showing the angel what the dog knew. Gabe saw Sarah – a younger Sarah with fewer tattoos, the dog fighting scars still livid and fresh across her arms and neck. She was crouched in a dark corner, confronted by a man. Her thoughts screamed out where Roni picked them up and now they played back for Gabriel: “St. Michael, defend us. St. Michael, be our defense against the wicked.”
Gabe shook his head. When faced with danger, Sarah prayed to St. Michael and Michael responded. That’s why Roni knew the other archangel – knew the smell of him, knew the sight of him.
“Uh, hey, man,” Az said quietly from the other side of the car. “You’d better come look at this.”
On legs that felt rubbery with fear, Gabe went around the car to the passenger door. Gold dust shimmered everywhere – on the ground, on the door handle, even on the mangled passenger seat.
A whiff of attar of roses – the fragrance of the dead – reached Gabriel as ghastly titters floated through the air. He swirled and saw Belphagor standing a few yards away.
She smiled coquettishly, running a pale hand through her moonlight hair. “Hello, Gabriel,” she said. She waved at Az. “Hello, Asmodeus.”
Gabriel crossed the space between them in an instant, picking the demon up by the throat and smashing her against a BMW. The car alarm went off, wailing under the low ceiling of the parking structure, as a handful of scattered humans turned to look in surprise.
“Where are they, Belle?” Gabe hissed in her face. “So help me I will rip your lungs out through your windpipe if you don’t tell me where they are.”
“Whoa, buddy, whoa!” Az ran over and tried to pry Gabe’s steely grip from Belle’s throat. “Dude, if you want to find out where the kid is at, you need to back the fuck off.”
Gabe continued to squeeze Belle’s throat, staring at her in a blaze of anger.
A man across the aisle stopped in the act of unlocking his car and approached Gabriel. “Leave that woman alone,” he shouted.
Gabe turned a deadly look on him. “Stay away,” he hissed.
“Oh, shit, Dude,” Az said nervously. “This is getting out of control. You’d better let her go, man. Gabe – let her go.”
Giving her neck one final squeeze, Gabe shoved the demon against the BMW again and stepped away. Belle grasped her throat and looked at him with hatred.
Gabe pointed at her. “You’re going to take us to them.”
“That’s what I’m supposed to do,” Belle gasped. “That’s what I was about to do before you attacked me. Unprovoked. Not very angelic of you, was it, Hope of God?” She smoothed her long hair petulantly and grinned. ”Besides, you have greater trouble than me. Michael is waiting for you.”
Several men approached them. One stepped over to Belle and reached for her arm. “It’s okay, Ma’m,” he said. “We’ve got help coming.”
Belle swirled on him, flashing several hundred wickedly sharp teeth and her soulless silver eyes. “I need no help,” she snarled.
The man jumped back. “Jesus Christ!” he cried. “Jesus Christ!”
Belle cackled. “There is no Christ here.”
“Well, this whole scene is going to hell in a hand basket,” Az commented wryly. “I hope you both know that you’re totally blowing our cover.”
“Shut up,” Belle spat at him. “Friend of angels.”
Gabe went back to the sedan to get Roni, then flung the end of the leash and the duffel bag at Az. “I’ll deal with Michael,” he said, grabbing Belle just above the elbow. ”Let’s go.”
“Shit! Fuck! Damn!” Az cried as Roni snapped at him over and over again. “I ain’t taking this damned dog. He wants to chew me up and shit me out.”
Gabe turned to Roni and pointed. “Roni,” he said sharply. “Chill.”
“He’s deaf, ya moron,” Az protested.
Roni stared at Gabe; then, with one last snarl at Az, seemed to wait patiently at the end of his leash for further instruction.
Gabe scanned the small crowd of humans who were now keeping a safe distance from the scene. Several of them were holding up camera phones.
Az put his hand on Gabriel’s shoulder. “Forget it, man. We are totally fucked. We’re all over the freakin’ internet by now anyway.”
Gabe nodded and turned back to Belphagor. “Let’s go,” he repeated.
July 18, 2011
Shine pushed ineffectually against Roni’s chest with one hand while she redialed Gabe with the other. The call immediately went to voice mail. She dialed again and continued to push on the big dog. “Roni, move,” she whispered.
Just as she managed to get one of Roni’s paws off her ribcage, the big dog sat on her stomach. “Oof!” Shine grunted. “Roni, I totally can’t breathe.”
Roni stared at the passenger window over Shine’s head. A deep growl swelled up from his chest and he snarled.
Shine shut the phone and squirmed out from under the dog. She was under the dashboard at that point, fenced in by Roni’s body and kneeling in his urine. She reached out to touch his back. “Roni?”
The Dogo sprang forward in a flash. With his front paws on the seat he gnashed at the window in a flurry of teeth and saliva.
Screaming, Shine crawled past him until she was under the steering wheel. She raised her head cautiously and peeked out.
The group of people who had been watching the car were closed around it, peering in at her from every window. Shine screamed again. Their eyes gave them away: Orange or yellow, silver or completely black, they were not human eyes.
Shine climbed into the driver’s seat and laid on the horn with the heels of both hands. “Help me!” she cried, “Someone, help me!” She blasted the horn over and over again.
Someone will help, she told herself. Between Roni’s savage barking and the blasts of the horns, someone would come over to help her or at least they’d call the police.
“We’ll help you, Shanyáo,” a black-eyed woman outside the driver’s side window promised. Her smile made Shine’s blood run cold. “That’s why we’re here. We’re here to help you.”
Shine saw Roni pivot on his massive haunches and ducked out of the way as he darted across the car to attack the glass separating Shine from the woman. She knelt in the floorboard again and continued honking the horn.
The car began to bounce on its tired shocks and Shine pictured the group of Dark Ones outside, pushing on the hood and trunk. “Go away!” she screamed. “Go away, go away, go away!” She let go of the horn and tried calling Gabe again.
“Come with us, Shanyáo,” a man said sweetly. “We’ll take you to Gabe.”
Another voice broke in, gibbering and wet, “I’ll get you a pony, Shanyáo! You always wanted a pony.” The voice dissolved into a cackling laugh.
“We can take you to your parents,” someone else promised. “You can all be happy together like you were before the angel stole you. We want to help you, Shanyáo.”
“Your parents cry for you, Shanyáo. They’ve been searching for you.”
“We’ll take you to them, Shanyáo.”
Shine dropped the phone and clapped both hands over her ears. “Stop saying my name!” she screamed.
Roni jumped over the front seat and attacked the rear windows where more faces were pressed against the glass. His saliva was foamy and flecked with blood.
“That dog will kill you, Shanyáo,” the woman with the black eyes said. “Look at him. He’s gone mad. Get out of the car before he turns on you.”
“He’s got rabies, Shanyáo. He’ll tear your throat out.”
Shine slumped into a fetal position in the floorboard, weeping helplessly. “Gabe, Gabe, why don’t you come?” she sobbed. “Gabe! Gabe!”
“Gabe!” the group outside chanted, mocking her. “Gabe! Gabe! Gabe!”
“Gabe doesn’t care about you. He’s got the woman now. He doesn’t want you anymore.”
Shine pressed her hands more tightly against her ears. “’ Ye are of your father the devil,’”, she recited. “’He abides not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.’ You are all liars! Liars! Liars!”
The car rocked sickeningly. “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” The rhyme was caught up by the group and they sang it with the malicious glee of wild, malevolent children, banging in time on every surface of the car. “Liar, liar, pants on fire! Liar, liar, pants on fire!”
Roni dashed from front to back in a frenzy. Shine crawled as far away from him as possible, knowing that he could easy snap her arm off if she got between him and the monsters outside. With blood and foam all over his muzzle, he really did look rabid.
Finally, driven mad with frustration, Roni grabbed the back of the passenger seat in his mouth and tore half of the cushion away with one twist of his powerful jaws.
Shine screamed in terror. “Oh my god, help me!”
The silence was as instant as it was unexpected. The bouncing of the car slowed until it was completely still again, as if the Taurus had rocked itself to sleep. With fabric and padding and blood and saliva hanging from his mouth, Roni suddenly stopped and looked around in calm surprise.
From her position on the floor, Shine stared up at the windows. No more faces pressed against the glass. She climbed cautiously up from under the steering wheel and glanced around.
A few people – normal people – made their way to or from cars in the parking lot, oblivious to the little girl and the huge white dog staring out at them.
It was as if nothing had happened.
Roni bounced over the front seat again, this time whining happily and pawing at the window.
Shine stared at the man who walked over and leaned his face down to the level of the window. He was darkly golden, with long black curls of hair and kind, amber eyes. He smiled at her.
“Shine,” he said softly. “Open the door.”
Shine shook her head.
The man sighed patiently. “Shine, it’s time to come with me.”
Shine watched in shock as the passenger window rolled down on its own.
Roni leaned out of the car, covering the man’s face with kisses. The man chuckled softly and embraced the big dog’s head. “Yes, my friend,” he crooned to the dog, “I’m happy to see you again, too.” He turned back to Shine. “It’s over, Shine. It’s time to end this.” He held out his hand.
“I’m supposed to wait right here for Gabe,” she said.
The man nodded. “I know. But that isn’t what is going to happen. You’re going to come with me. Shine,” He paused for emphasis. “if you love Gabriel – as I love Gabriel – you will come with me. Then Gabriel will come to us.” He smiled again as she reached for the door handle.
Shine climbed out of the car and went around to join the man, staring up at him in awe. He seemed to glow with his own golden light.
Michael took her hand in his and gave it a gentle, reassuring squeeze.
July 8, 2011
“They don’t come in white,” one of them was saying about the motorcycle. “That has to be a custom paint job.”
“Yeah, but why white?” another one asked. “That’s so lame.”
Gabe squeezed past them. “Excuse me.” He threw his leg over the bike and was poised to kick down when he remembered that his bike was now a Ducati. He dug in his pocket for a minute, then keyed the ignition.
He walked the bike backward out of the parking space, resisting the impulse that urged him twist back the throttle and race out of the structure as quickly as possible. Glancing in the mirror, he saw two men burst through the entrance to the parking level and watch as he feathered the clutch toward the exit. One of them pointed at Gabe before they both pulled out cell phones and began making hurried calls.
Gabe had time to briefly wonder who the men were – he doubted if they were casual web video observers – before he was on the Strip and headed north. He hit the red light at Sands Avenue and realized with chagrin that Az couldn’t have set him up with a less discreet bike. An occasional pedestrian stared at the bright Ducati as Gabe impatiently waited for the light. By the time he reached Riviera, Gabriel knew he had to find someplace to change the bike over.
He felt the cell phone in his breast pocket vibrate as he maneuvered into the left lane.
Shine snapped her phone closed when the call went to voice mail. “He didn’t answer.”
Waiting at a red light, Sarah tapped the steering wheel impatiently. “Why didn’t you leave a message?”
“Don’t be daft. We don’t leave voice mails and we don’t send texts. Evidence – hellooooo.”
“Don’t call me daft, Sis.”
“Don’t call me ‘Sis’.”
Sarah sucked her lip ring into her mouth and ignored the jab. “I think I know where he is. I keep seeing The Black Pearl.”
Shine turned to glare at her. “Who?”
“The Black Pearl, a ship.” Sarah followed the cars ahead of her when the light changed. “Don’t tell me you’ve never seen any of the Pirates movies.”
“I don’t watch movies. I read.” Shine rested scornfully on the word.
“I can read too, you know. I also watch movies.”
“Look, don’t bitch at me, okay? I don’t bitch about how you and Gabe do things, do I?”
“No,” Shine muttered, “you just muck everything up.”
Sarah inched the car forward as the Strip traffic grew heavy. “I keep seeing the ship and that means ‘pirates’, and that means Treasure Island.” She glanced at Shine and in a softer tone said, “I told you, we’re going to have to work together. I see bad things ahead. If we don’t work together, we’re screwed.”
Shine dialed Gabe again. “Whatever,” she repeated. “We were fine before you came along.” After a moment she closed her phone again. “He’s still not answering.”
They stopped behind a group of cars at the next light. Sarah hit the steering wheel with the heels of her hands. “Damn it! This is taking forever.”
Roni suddenly sprang out of the back seat, barking frantically in his discordant way at the traffic ahead.
“Ouch,” Shine cried, trying to shove the big dog back. “What’s he doing? Get off of me, Roni!”
Sarah grabbed Roni’s collar and tried to pull him off of Shine. “Roni, you bad baby, settle down! He sees something. Shine, can you see anything up ahead on your side?”
Shine moved as far toward the center of the car as possible while Roni took over most of her seat. He butted his nose against the window and howled. “It’s like he’s gone mad, or something. He’s had his shots, right?”
“He hasn’t gone mad,” Sarah retorted. She craned her neck out the window, trying to peer past the cars ahead of her.
“There’s a motorcycle up there,” Shine said.
“It was in the traffic coming the other direction. It just turned left into Circus Circus.”
“Was it Gabe?”
Shine shook her head. “No. It was a guy on a white bike, wearing a white helmet.” She looked at Sarah. “Your crazy dog must have thought it was Gabe. Can you get him in the back, please? He’s crushing me!”
“I don’t think I should try,” Sarah said as traffic began to move again. “You know me – I muck everything up.”
“That’s not funny,” Shine spat.
“It wasn’t funny when you said it either.”
Shine stared at the older girl for a moment, then turned to try and reclaim some car seat from Roni. “Fine, then. Roni and I can share a seat. He likes me.”
“So do I, Sis.” She held up her hand to stop Shine’s response. “And yeah, I know, I know: Don’t call you sis.” She turned to Shine and tried to smile.
Shine was staring straight ahead, her eyes huge. “Watch out!”
Sarah slammed on the brakes as a woman darted in front of the Taurus and pounded on the hood. “Stop!” the woman shouted frantically. “Stop, stop!”
Roni was silent, but his lips peeled back from his teeth in an alarming fashion. Shine put her arms around his shoulders and glanced at Sarah. “Don’t,” she whispered. “Don’t stop.”
Before Sarah could react, the woman ran around to her window and leaned in, bringing with her a sickeningly strong scent of roses. She pushed her long, blond hair aside and looked at Sarah with eyes so light they seemed almost silver.
Sarah tried to roll the window up, but the woman put out a hand to stop her. “Wait, just wait,” she hissed. “You’re looking for Gabriel, right?”
Sarah and Shine exchanged startled glances.
“Maybe,” Sarah said cautiously. “Who are you? What do you want?”
“Sarah.” Shine’s voice was low and shaky.
The woman ignored Shine. Her eyes were locked on Sarah. “I know where he is. I can take you to him.”
“Sarah,” Shine repeated, more urgently.
“Head up to Treasure Island. I’ll find you in the parking garage.” With that the woman turned and darted back cross the lanes of traffic to the sidewalk.
Sarah sat frozen behind the wheel. She seemed stunned. A car behind them began honking and she eased the car forward. “What in the hell was that about?” she cried.
“Don’t go, Sarah,” Shine said. “Don’t do what that woman said.”
Sarah shook her head. “She knows Gabriel! Shine, she knows where he’s at. I already knew he was at Treasure Island, so maybe she can help us – “
“You can’t trust her,” Shine interrupted.
“Do you know her?”
“No, it’s not that.”
“What is it, then?” Sarah asked impatiently. “If that chick can lead us to Gabe, then – “
“It’s Roni,” Shine said.
“Roni?” Sarah glanced over at the dog and gasped sharply.
Roni was pressed up against the passenger door as firmly as he could manage. The huge dog was visibly trembling.
“Roni?” Sarah repeated. “Shine, what’s wrong with him?”
Shine pointed down at the seat where a puddle of urine was wetting her pants. “He peed. That woman scared him.” She looked at Sarah in dismay and added, “Sarah, she scared me, too.”
June 17, 2011
The archangel Gabriel quickly finds out that he’s losing his way in a very human world of anger, violence and lust. Will the human woman, Sarah, be his salvation? Or his downfall?
Heaven’s Shine Chapter 12
June 3, 2011
The shit has hit the fan and the only thing our Archangel can do is retreat – to VEGAS, baby!
Heaven’s Shine, Chapter 8
May 27, 2011
I’m sorry that my blog seems to be all about the same subject these days, but I’m all about publishing Heaven’s Shine while I’m still on this side of the grass.
Chapter Six finds Gabriel confronting the consequences of taking battered Sarah and her dog into his life. Drugged-out punks, an abused woman and her dog, a special child and a deliciously opportunistic demon – I love this chapter!