Monday, October 20, 2008

Chapter 6

The crime scene was over near Ave C and East 5th, and the nearest Downtown Hospital was the one closer to Pace U. It would take a bit for the ambulance to get there, but not for us. The spirit world of the Earth is a lot like the living world of the Earth; it is flooded with lost souls. Lots of souls go to Heaven or Hell when they die, but the vast majority end up here in purgatory, the netherworld of Earth. They spend the majority of their afterlife doing their best to move in one direction or the other, up or down. It is where souls hang out until they get sentenced to Heaven or Hell. They say one of the reasons the DBI was created was that Purgatory needed to be policed, and none of the real Angels wanted to be stuck with job of slumming it down on Earth for all of eternity. So, lucky us, we have the job. I guess it makes sense; since we came from here, we are more comfortable here. Or at least, that’s what they tell us in orientation. Truth is some DBI Agents can’t stand coming back down here. Some agents volunteer for the DBI, but want to stay up in Heaven as Lab Rats, or Pencil Pushers, never really getting out in the field. They figure they lived their whole lives trying to get away from here, and the last thing they want to do is go back. And to be honest, I don’t blame them.

“Come on MB, let’s get to the Hospital. I have a bad feeling about leaving Chike alone.” MB unfurled her wings and took off with me, for once not making a comment at all. She really was pushing herself, and I didn’t know what her limits where. That’s why I always hated taking rookies on tough cases; they pushed themselves too hard, which sounds great, but a cop who’s exhausted or past his limits make mistakes. And mistakes get people hurt.

“MB, are you ok?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, why do you ask?”
“Because you’re not and I need to know how not ok you are.”

Angels, by our nature move fast, especially when we wing it, so we were already at the hospital. I was used to walking, talking, and checking out an area for suspicious characters at the same time, which is no mean feat when you are checking out a hospital in the Spirit world. They are warehouses for suspicious characters, and netherworld hospitals are three times as bad. Tons of unscrupulous ghosts hover around hospitals looking to take advantage of the newly dead who don’t receive an immediate sentence to Heaven or Hell. Basically every hospital is its own version of the Port Authority Bus Station. I moved through the ER swiftly, seeing people moving closer and farther away from Death on beds everywhere. Lost souls crowded the corridors, looking after loved ones, urging them one way or the other. One of the biggest inaccuracies the living believe is that “the voice” they hear is the voice of God or of Angels, or even of loved ones. It could be none of the above. It could be some guy who’s working for a demon, enticing people to die so that he can collect their soul upon arrival and sell it to Demons in order to curry their favor. Not all of these people are bad guys though; some are honestly trying to do good work, urging people to hold on, and trying to build up good karma in order to push their own cases a lil closer to getting towards the Pearly Gates. Good luck trying to tell one kind from the other though.

“MB, look at me. I’m not kidding here, I need to know that you’re 100% or not, because this has gone from being a CSI to an ongoing crime, and if you’re wiped then you have to tell me.”
Mary Beth followed close behind Joe. She was lost in thought; she had in fact been thinking very intently on the very subject Joe was asking her about. This was her first real field mission, and she did very much want to impress Joe and Chike. But she was also very exhausted, and her Angelic energies were mostly spent. She would be damned, however, if she was going to let Joe know that. She didn’t come this far to flake out now.

“I’m fine Ruffino. You cover your side of the street and I’ll cover mine ok? I wish you would get out of my way so I could work.” As she said this she pushed ahead of him and went further into the ER. She did not know where she was going, but she knew she had a job to do, and she was determined to do it. Joe, for his part, responded thusly;

“Well, well, look whose wearin her big girl pants today. Look, you can be I am Woman Hear Me Roar all you want, just make sure you can back it up.” Joe had caught up to Mary Beth to look her in the eyes. He saw her determination, but he also saw the truth she was trying to hide. He had been a rookie once, and he was sure he had that look in his eyes once as well, “especially with the ton of ego that I used to carry around” he thought. Dying had humbled him though, and made him a little wiser. “Just be careful, I…”

“Hey. Hey you. Angels.”
Joe and Mary Beth looked around, but didn’t see anything. They weren’t used to disembodied voices; they were disembodied voices.
“Down here geniuses.”

They both looked down and saw a small, gnarled green man wearing a garishly tasteless orange suite and an even more tasteless expression. Mary Beth tried to hide the revulsion she felt as she took in the whole scene below her; Joe did not.
“Who are you and what the hell do you want.”
“Well, I see you have all the people skills you fuckin angels are known for. I need your help. I was fuckin robbed, and I need you pigeons to do sumthin about it!”

Mary Beth was initially at a loss for words. Then she shook her head and quickly developed an exit strategy from this conversation, “Joe you handle this, I’m going to finish checking out the hospital. I’ll call you if I need you.” And literally, in a flash she was gone. “Why that bitch”, Joe thought, “just ditched me with this little…”

“Hey you payin attention shit for brains? I’m talkin to you! Now I had scored three perfectly good souls in the last week, and just as I was about to sell em, these three toughs rolled me in an alley and stole em from me!”
Joe just stared at the gnome-ish being at his feet in horror and disbelief. “What are you?!”

“I’m a gnome numb-nuts, the name’s Derlun. And some would call me a soul-slaver, pimp, or middleman for Demons, but I prefer the title Afterlife Entrepreneur.”

Joe’s mental circuit-breakers all blew at the same time. “So… you want me, an Angel…”
“An Agent of Heaven entrusted with the duty of upholding Celestial Law…”
“To help you, an admitted slave trader and outlaw who openly deals with demons…”
“Recover the souls that you stole, and will most likely sell to the aforementioned demons so that they can be taken to Hell.”
“I’m glad you’ve been paying attention you greasy Wop, now are you gonna help me or not?”
Joe had seen a lot when he was alive, and he had seen even more since he had died, but never had he seen anyone like Derlun.

“I can’t deal with this right now.” In one swift motion Joe pulled back and punted Derlun as hard as he could, right in the stomach. The little orange ball of nastiness sailed across the ER like a mutant soccer ball, right through the ER doors. “Ugly little fuck”, Joe thought, “He’s lucky I didn’t use my sword on him like a 9-iron. Now I’ve gotta go find Chike My bad feeling is at a 9 out of 10 right now.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

Chapter 5

Once Joseph and Mary Beth were gone, it was just the girl, the officer, some paramedics and I in the Ambulance on the way to the hospital. It would seem that it would be fairly packed in that ambulance, but being an Angel means that you do not take up a lot of space. The ambulance lurched into movement, and I said a little prayer to myself. I did not like to withhold information from my teammates, but in the grand timescale they are both babies, and I myself, for all intents and purposes, am a teenager. That means that I am in charge, and their welfare is in my hands. Joseph and I work well together, but I can’t risk either of them having to face Blackwell. Maybe when this is all over I will tell them; no, I will tell them, and hope they’ll forgive me for not being wholly upfront with them. If this mission is going to succeed, then they have to be able to see the patient to the hospital, and they won’t be able to do that if they are battling the Dark Lord of Wrath.

The ambulance had just been getting up to a decent speed when it screeched to a halt; two cars had nearly crashed in an intersection. And the drivers were angrily screaming at each other. While they were doing so, their cars were blocking the intersection. I leapt from the inside of the truck to the hood to see what the matter was. Something seemed wrong, very wrong. As I examined the combatants’ emotions, I saw snaking tendrils of dark red energy wrapping themselves around their spirits. I quickly drew my sword and heard a voice I had hoped to never hear again.

The circumstances of Blackwell’s death are considered to be nothing more than legend today, a ghost story. But those of us who were there know that there is nothing mythical about that night, or what happened after it. Elijah Blackwell was one of the older Negroes on our neighboring plantation in Mobile, Alabama in 1840. His family came over with ours on one of the last slave boats from Africa in the early 1800’s. Our families had always been close, and we ended up on neighboring plantations in Alabama. I looked up to him my whole life, until the day he died. I was 15 at the time, and thought he was just about the greatest man alive. My own Father had been killed when I was 5 while he was trying to escape, but after that our masters had a change of heart and started to treat us a lot better. Well, better for slaves, not as people. Our neighbors to the east were not so lucky. In May of 1840, a whole family of slaves tried to escape to a shipping boat near the gulf so that they could sail to South America. They succeeded, and that Plantation’s master was red with rage. As punishment, he killed Elijah’s entire family. It never occurred to him that killing another family was not the best thing to do when he had just lost a family, but that particular master was known more for his cruelty than his intelligence. To him it was a personal insult that anyone would want to leave his "hospitality". Elijah fell into a deep depression for 3 months, not speaking to anyone. The few people who did come into contact with him reported that something definitely was not right with him. He had a look in his eyes that wasn’t quite human they said. He went about his work as usual, but fewer and fewer people ever wanted to work with him. Even over on my land we heard rumors that the Devil had gotten into Elijah, and no one would talk to him or work with him anymore.

The master of that land, Silas Nutt, had had about enough of Elijah., He left Elijah live because he knew that Elijah was the de-facto leader of all the rest of the slaves, and that he would keep the rest of them in line since his own family had been killed. But now he was becoming a liability, since everyone was afraid of him. And, we heard, Nutt was afraid of him as well. There was a growing sentiment that Nutt had created a monster, and no one quite knew what to do about it. We all know Elijah would do something, but none of us on Earth could say what. One night, one horrible night, everyone in Alabama found out what Elijah would do.

He rose in the middle of the night. Through none of this did he ever say a word. He grabbed the two sharpest machetes he could find, and headed up to the house. He killed everyone he came across, white and black. As he got to the house, he killed the servants he saw, so that they could not sound an alarm. All of this he did soundlessly. Most of the people Elijah murdered that night did not have a chance to scream. He found Nutt’s oldest brothers downstairs, telling stories of the night they had had out on the town. He ran one through in front o his brother, and the other, in his shock, did not have time to draw his pistol before Elijah removed his right hand and then his head. He killed the nursemaid. He killed the maids. He killed the houseboys. He snuck upstairs and into the rooms of Nutt’s two sisters, and cut their throats while they slept. As their beds soaked through with red, he went to Nutt’s parent’s room, and ripped them apart with his twin blades. With grim determination he went to the room where Nutt’s three young daughters slept. He showed them as much mercy as Nutt had shown Elijah’s family. When he was done with the daughters, he piled the three bodies on top of them, and threw them in a pile before Nutt’s bedroom door. He did the same with Nutt’s sisters and his parents.

Silently, he slipped into Nutt’s room, and pulled his wife from the bed. Nutt still didn’t awaken, until he heard his wife’s screams. He opened his eyes to see a large blade emerging from his wife’s belly, blood shooting everywhere. Not sure if he was awake or dreaming, Elijah moved Nutt’s wife closer to him so that her blood could hit him in the face, erasing any doubt about what was happening. When he felt that his point had been made, Elijah stuck his other blade through the woman, then calmly pulled them apart. As she fell to the ground, all that was left was Elijah’s silhouette. What little Nutt could see of Elijah was soaked through red with blood.
"Elijah? Is that you?" Nutt stammered.

"Here’s a hint." With that he grabbed Nutt and dragged the portly man from the bed with one hand. He pulled him out into the hallway, and threw him onto the pile of his family members remains. He let Nutt have a good 5 minutes to soak in the reality of his situation before he spoke again. "The pile of meat you’re laying on, is your family. I wanted you to know what I been thinking about the last three months. But you ain’t gonna be thinking about it for three months, cuz you goin to Hell tonight. But not just yet. I want you to see the rest of what you built burn to the ground."

Elijah threw Nutt down the spiral staircase that lead to the ground floor and then began to light the place on fire. He threw Nutt bodily from the building and then… waited. Nutt turned around, the horrible shock of what had happened creeping into his mind. On his way out Elijah made sure to show him the dead bodies of Nutt’s two sons, so that he would know that Elijah’s revenge was complete. He fell to his knees and shuddered, for all intents and purposes he was in shock. Eventually the fire brigade and a bunch of neighbors showed up to put out the fire. When they saw Nutt, they asked him where his family was and what started the fire. He couldn’t talk. Nutt had already said the last words he would ever stay. When everyone was assembled, Elijah made his entrance. People say that he walked straight through the flames, unscathed. People say that because it was true.

As he walked out looking to all the world like a devil from hell, he spoke, "This man took everything from me, and now I’ve taken everything from him. Except for this." As he said that, he removed Nutt’s head with one clean stroke. He picked the head up and threw it at Nutt’s best friend, who had come over to help. With that, he launched himself at the crowd. When it was all over, he had killed another 16 white men, and I heard that it took 18 musket shots to finally kill him. In his dying breath he said that he wasn’t done, that all white men would feel his rage before he was done.

Today I found myself facing down that rage. Elijah’s rage impressed the Devil so much, that he made him a demon. Over the years he earned his way up to a demon lord of Wrath, since it was what he was good at. I lunged forward and rolled so that I was facing behind me. When I looked up the spot that I had been standing in had a very large glowing machete stuck there.
"Well, if it isn’t little Charles, fancy meeting you here." He waved his hand and the sword returned to his side. "I haven’t seen you since the first time you came back to Earth. Imagine my little adopted boy coming back to Earth playing for the other side. I though I would have set a good enough standard in my glorious exit from life for you to follow. But here you are persisting in being a good person."

I drew my sword and went into my fighting stance. Maybe if he was distracted by me the disturbance would clear up and the ambulance could get to the hospital before she dies. "I told you the first time I learned of your reemergence in this Demon state, that after that day my image of you died when you came out of that house. You’re something now I could never be, and it is proof that the Universe works that you burned in Hell. Unfortunately, the fact that you’re here now is a oversight I intend to correct.

"HAHAHAHA, REALLY! YOU? I thought Pride was a sin. You saw what I did to you pigeons last time, and there were 10 of you then. What do you think I’m going to do to just you?" Elijah stepped down from the top of the Ambulance to the hood. As he moved every human in the area seemed to change subtly, and get more and more annoyed with the situation. The ambulance drive began to lean on his horn. "Man, it’s so easy in this city. Spreading Wrath in NYC is really much easier than falling off a log. But then, I guess you’d know that. No one knows how fucked this world is better then you pigeons up in your golden nest."

It was a good thing he was in a talkative mood, but his very presence was driving the humans mad, and further stalling the trip to the hospital. I had to do something to get him away from this area. "You know Elijah, the other thing that’s done is me listening to you being a windbag. Back in the day you had something useful to say, but now, all they teach you in Hell apparently is how to blow hot air. Appropriate actually.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chapter 4

It’s a well known cop rule that things will go wrong both when you do and don’t expect them too. The only difference being that worse and deadlier things happen when you aren’t expecting them. Turns out being an Angel doesn’t change any of that. In fact, it’s even worse when you’re an Angel because so many more things can go wrong on a much grander scale. The biggest problem we have as Angels is that unless it’s supernatural, we cannot affect the world directly; that is, we are not allowed to directly change human behavior. Heavenly Angels can, but even they don't as much as they used to, at least, that's what the rumors are.

No matter what we do to try and show someone the right way, they have Free Will. It’s God’s greatest gift to his children. The Heavenly Angels don’t have it, and many say that is what finally drove Samael to fall, though there are as many different theories for The Fall as there are years since it happened. We got outside to see what the matter was, and, of course, the victim, Jean Martinez, was on top of the building. In a second we were up there with her. We have permission to intervene as much as possible when it comes to preserve the most valuable and precious thing in the Universe; life. We do this through a basic Angel gift, Mind Speech. You know that little voice that told you to stop walking right before that truck blew through the stop sign when you were busy staring at that girl’s ass? Yeah, that was us.

This is too nice a night to kill yourself.
Dramatic scenes like this usually take place someplace high up. Well, that part was established; we were on the roof of the 12-story building we had just been in the basement of. But everything else was all wrong. The wind wasn’t blowing dramatically; in fact it was unnervingly still. The sounds of the city wafted up from below us, as well as the sound of the police rushing upstairs to try and save the young woman who now was standing on the edge of the roof. There was no lightening and thunder either; the sky was clear as a bell. In fact, if it wasn't for all the blood and horror, it would have been a beautiful night. The lack of dramatic music to accompany the scene also left me with the feeling that something was absent. Real life often lets us down in so many ways, but there was the life in danger, and that’s all that mattered.

"You have to stop, this isn’t what you want to do”, I told her, “You have a lot to live for, and you can make it through this. You’re a strong woman and you can survive what has happened here.”

“No I can’t”, she said aloud, “It’s all my fault. I killed him. I made him hurt me. If I was better, it wouldn’t have happened. I should have been stronger. I was a bad girlfriend, and I deserved what happened to me. I made him do it, and now he’s dead because of me.”

“She‘s still under the effects of the ritual.” Chike had a plan,. I could see it in his eyes. Thank God he did, because I hated talking suicidal people down, even though I had had some success with it, it took too much out of me. I usually don’t sleep for a few days afterward. “Mary Beth, you know the Dispel Gift, right?” She quickly nodded her assent. “Good. If we both concentrate, perhaps we can reduce the power of the Ritual enough that Joe’s words can have some effect. Are you ready?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be.” She took a position on Jean’s right, and Chike was on her left. In unison they chanted “Ayin, Samekh, Waw.” As they performed the hand seals the air around Jean began to shimmer, and bits of reddish energy emanated from her and dissipated into the air. I knew it was now or never.

“Jean, listen to me; you are not going to jump, this is wrong, you KNOW it is wrong. Before all of this happened you were a functioning, strong-willed girl. If you do this, it’s permanent. It... that down there... was not your fault, there’s nothing you could do. Before, there were forces at work that were entirely beyond your control. But right now, this, THIS you can turn around, THIS you can control, you can live your life. You can reverse all of the damage that’s been done. Listen to me, it’s not your fault!”

“It is my fault. I’m the reason he’s dead. I don’t deserve to live.”
“You do deserve to live! God gave you the gift of life, which mean’s you deserve it! God doesn’t make mistakes!” Man, I hoped she was religious; I hadn’t had time to check beforehand. Chike and Mary Beth chanted harder; they’re faces showed the strain of their exertion. Whatever this ritual was, it was powerful, more powerful than the combined effort of two Angels.

She tottered on the edge, staring down at the ground, longing to join it. “All my fault, all my fault… I don’t deserve to live, I shouldn’t live. I want to end it, I can’t live this way….”

“Joseph, it isn’t working, we are losing her. You have to join in. The three of us, maybe… Mary Beth is still tired from the Gifts she used before.” “Chike I suck at Soul Gifts. I would be more harm than help!” “You want her to have hope and faith in the future and you don’t have hope and faith in yourself?!”

Damn, I hate it when he points out my hypocrisy. It’s his most annoying trait. Behind us I could hear cops coming up the stairs. I knew their words would not be able to break through the spell, and she would definitely jump if they tried to approach her. We were running out of time. “Alright, but if this backfires, you’re taking the hit.” It took me a couple of seconds to remember the hand seals, then “Ayin, Samekh, Waw! Jean, snap out of it!” I unfurled my wings (man I will never get used to this) and focused on breaking the Demon’s hold on this girl. Mary Beth peaked an eye open and saw me helping out with the Gift. She seemed to get her second wind, and let her wings fly as well. Soon Chike did the same, and our combined effort started to have an effect on the girl. Bigger streams of red energy started to float from her like steam from a hot summer road. We reinforced each other, and the circle we made filled the troubled soul with the Light of God. After about 5 minutes of this, enough of the evil energy had been lifted for the poor young woman to regain some of her self control. She stepped away from the ledge, and fainted; right into the arms of a rather handsome young police officer.
“You see that” I said to Chike, “He’s falling in love.” Human emotions are as visible to angels as sunlight is to flowers. We can look at someone from 20 feet away and know how they’re feeling; it’s another one of those cool little innate gifts we have. And this guy was definitely falling in love with Jean, which was impressive, because she looked like hell right now.

Chike smiled his huge self-satisfied smile, “Yes, I see it. It will take many years, but together with that young man her heart and soul will heal from what’s happened to her today. We did well, we did very well. Isn’t that right Mary… where is she?”

We looked around and saw Mary Beth flat on her back, staring at the sky. I think I really did underestimate the incredible strain she had put on herself to help this case. She maybe an annoying know-it-all, but when the feces hit the fan, she left it all on the field. She was exhausted to the point where she had almost used up most of her Divine Energy. She laid there looking quite content however.
“Did we do it? Did we save her?”

I nodded in assent and helped her up. “Yeah kid, we did it. She’s alive.”
Good. I’m going to sleep for the next century, if that’s OK with the two of you. I don’t have enough energy left to be able to tell how many fingers I’m holding up right now.” Chike got her other arm and helped her up as well. “You’re not holding up any fingers child.” “See, that’s how exhausted I am. So what do we do now? We saved the day right? We can go home.”

I thought about this and then looked over at Jean again as the paramedics were working on her. Though we had saved her, she was still malnourished and had been through a hell of an experience. Her body was weak and she would need to spend some days in the hospital. I looked through her, to her spirit, and saw that after all she had been through it was still exceptionally strong and surprisingly pure for someone in New York City. Hm, I thought, she must be from Jersey. “Guys, we aren’t done yet. This woman has an exceptionally strong spirit, and I bet the Demon who did this was counting on collecting it when she eventually offed herself. I doubt he’s going to let it go this easily, especially after all of the effort he put into getting her.

Chike nodded, “I had noticed that as well. I think we should put in for Guardian Duty until we can get some other people on this. We definitely need backup.”

The greatest innovation humanity brought back to Heaven was technology. Now in the beginning, Angels invented technology, along with all of the other knowledge there is in the Universe. The University of Heavenly Knowledge is in the 6th Heaven, and it’s where all of God’s laws are researched and written down. They have lots of blueprints for technology that is thousands of years ahead of what humanity has thought of. But when Adam bit the apple, it merely gave humanity the ability to think, not the actual knowledge; that we had to learn for ourselves. The by-product of this is that on Earth, we think of what we need; in Heaven, they don’t really need anything, so they do research for research sake. So it had never occurred to Heavenly Angels to say, develop cell phone technology, because they didn’t really need it. When the EBA’s started to complain about not being able to communicate freely with headquarters and each other, a wise old soul named Alexander Graham Bell suggested that we utilize Angelic Technology to make cell phones that would connect the EBA’s on missions with the HA’s in headquarters. Long story short, we all have snazzy little golden cell phones to keep in contact with each other with. Who’s on an Angel’s phone book list? Wouldn’t you like to know?

“Muriel? It’s Chike. We have a big problem. We saved a soul, which is the good news, but the bad news is that we saved the soul from Blackwell. Yes, Elijah Blackwell. You’re sending Avengers? Is that Necessary? Ok, if you believe it is, then we will stay out of their way. OK, OK, yes, we’ll be on Guardian Duty until notified otherwise. We’ll report again in 4 hours.”

Chike closed his phone and sighed heavily. I knew exactly how he felt. “What’s wrong guys? I thought this was a happy time, we saved the day, right?” The three of us floated down to the ground again, where several uniformed officers were being chewed out by their lieutenant for letting the only witness in a brutal homicide case wander up to the rooftop of the building and nearly kill herself. I wondered too how the girl managed to get away from everyone’s attention, but that was a mystery for another day. Right now we had to concentrate on keeping this girl alive until we broke the hold of the ritual over her for good.

“It’s not that. HQ is sending Avenging Angels down because of Blackwell’s involvement. He must indeed be a badass if they’re sending Avengers. Have you ever seen them in person?”

We folded our wings back into our coats and waited for the girl to come downstairs. “No I don’t think I have. All I know is that they’re the biggest toughest Angels around right?”

”That’s not the half of it. Only the biggest, baddest, and meanest angels become Avengers. Michael personally trained all of the HA Avengers, and very few EAB’s have had what it takes to earn their way in. Tellingly, only those humans who were Navy SEAL’s or Army Rangers or some other kind of Special Forces have what it takes to be Avengers. They’re like the special forces of heaven, and it’s really in our best interest to stay out of their way. They have a tendency to treat us ‘civilians’ almost as bad as Demons. If they weren’t so effective against Demons, no one would ever deal with them at all. They’re crazy, spend all of their time in the gym working on their swordsmanship skills, only know martial and healing Gifts, and really have no time for anything that doesn’t involve training and/or fighting. But they hate demons with a burning passion, and that’s why they’re so valuable.”
“They are extreme”, Chike said, “but when it comes to Demons, that is what is called for. I have a plan; I will stay with the girl, Joe, you can scout out their path to the Hospital, and Mary Beth, you can check out the hospital and make sure that is clear. Anyone encounters any trouble, yell for help and the other two will be there in a flash. Sound good?”

“It all depends; Mary Beth, are you up to being on your own right now? You were pretty wiped before.”

She sighed and stoop up straight, with her brave-girl face on. If she wasn’t quite so dorky she’d be cute; like I said before, she was 24, about 5’4” and had vaguely Irish features. She had long brown hair which she always wore in a braid on Missions, and for the most part she had a pretty nice body, from what I could tell. Angels really aren’t supposed to be checking other Angels out on missions, so I got back to the matter at hand. “I think I’m OK now. I feel a lot better after the breather I just had. I can make it to the hospital, and if there’s any trouble I’ll come right back.”

“Ok then, Chike, your plan is a go. I guess you gave yourself the hardest task because you’ve been around the longest, but don’t be a Hero and try to take this guy on if he shows up, you come get us right?” I don’t know why I was asking; Chike was by far the most responsible among us, and he never broke the rules. I should have known there would be trouble as soon as I had that thought; as soon as you count on something in this world, it’s bound to change. “Me and the girl will go on ahead. I’ll show her where the hospital is, and then backtrack the route until I meet up with you. We’re going to Downtown Hospital.”
“Hey, ‘the girl’ has a name you know.”
“Yeah whatever, let’s go.”

Me and MB spread our wings and took off. I knew the routes the ambulance would most likely take to the hospital, so I hoped that I could get her there and back to Chike as fast as possible. I just didn’t have a good feeling about this.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chapter 3, part 2

Who. The victims are Jean Martinez and Randy Kyle. Kyle is the one who is currently spread all over the floor; Martinez is outside with the EMT’s. I get the sense that there were two other people here, but I can’t be sure that they were both participants in the crime. What. It looks like several… garden tools it looks like… were used to torture and eventually dismember the victims. The tools are still here, but they don’t seem to have any fingerprints on them. Where. It seems like the victims were abducted somewhere else and brought here, but they have been here for a few days at least, judging by the marks the chains used to bind them left on the bodies. When. I can find that out by looking up the interview with the other victim later. How. Chains, knives, gardening shears… whoever did this guy in took his time and made sure that it hurt for as long as possible. He also made sure that the other victim had a front row seat for all of it. And Why. Well, the why is why, I assume, we have been saddled with Mary Beth.

“Ok Mary Beth, time to earn your keep. Tell us what happened.” Mary Beth had a talent for the Time gifts, and could see into the past amazingly well. Mary Beth nodded and went to the center of the room. She closed her eyes and began to chant.

“Res, Teth, Qoph!” She performed the hand seals and her eyes flew open, golden light emanating softly from them. As she looks into the past, she tells uus what’s happening as if she’s there seeing it live. I here the experience can creep you the hell out if you’re not ready for it.
A large black man sets his tools out on the folding tables. A Hispanic woman and a White male hang against the wall from chains wrapped around their hands. They both look haggard and weary, as if they and been through a great ordeal. Mary Beth walked over to the chains and touched them, her eyes still glowing.

They were here for at least 6 days. The demon possessed the male victim and repeatedly raped the female victim over the course of those 6 days.
The Black male wears a deep blood red suit, with a matching trench coat. He is immaculately groomed, and seems quite tranquil.

“This”, he intoned, “is my favorite part. Over the centuries I’ve gotten quite good at this, and I’ve performed this ritual 3, 4 dozen times, but really it never gets old.”

He goes over to the female victim and picks her head up, gazing straight into her eyes. She’s Puerto Rican possibly, maybe 26 years of age, medium build with shoulder length black hair. Her face is swollen from where she has sustained several punches and kicks both from the Demon and the male victim. Her eyes speak of the pain, heartache, and despair that she has experienced over the last 6 days. Mary Beth narrated the scene to us as if she was half writing a book, half writing a coroner’s report. I gotta tell ya, she was wholly giving me the chills. I’ve seen some shit, but like I said, we are all still relatively new to this magic stuff.

The Demon’s eyes blaze red as he stares directly into the female vic’s soul through her eyes and says “Your boyfriend has been holding you hostage for the last 6 days, raping you and beating you over and over again. But you still love him. Now you will watch him die over the next 24 hours, and you will feel every bit of his pain as if it was yours. Do you understand?” The vic’s eyes blaze red for a few seconds, then she nods her head in assent. He lets her face drop down, and slowly she regains consciousness. As her spent mind takes in the scene around her, I feel what is left of her sanity begin to crumble away. She tries to scream but the Demon had duct taped her mouth shut long ago. The Demon goes over here, to the male victim and unchains him from the wall. With one hand around his neck he drags the body over to one of the folding tables and slammed him down on top of it like he was a rag doll. The male victim is around 25 years of age, painfully thin with bad acne, oily skin, pale as a ghost, thick, coke-bottle glasses, and messy, greasy brown hair.

If it wasn’t such a horror show I would have taken this opportunity to point out to Mary Beth that this kid she was bein so hard on coulda been her brother, they looked so much alike.

His skin is broken in many areas from the beatings he has received over the last 6 days from the Demon. He is shirtless, and his ribs show through his skin; it is not clear if this was his normal state, or whether the Demon had not been feeding them. The Demon took a pair of gardening shears and slowly pushed them into the male’s sternum. His screams filled the room, and a few second s later the female victim screamed as if she was in exactly as much pain.

The Demon closes his eyes and begins to chant, “Beth, Daleth, Lamedh.” He performs the corresponding hand seals, and the victim’s blood ran from the table into the demon’s hands. Lucky for Mary Beth, our gifts are kind of like guns, you can point one and pull the trigger, but if you don’t put any juice into it, no one gets hurt. Just like shooting a gun with no bullets. Comes in handy when you have to mimic a demonic ritual and don’t want to, you know, become a demon.
“What I just did was attach your life to my soul. Now you will stay alive as long as I do, until I cut the tie. The practical upshot of this is that no matter what I do to your body, you won’t die until I want you to. Needless to say, you’re in for a long night.”

The male vic is trembling with pain and fear as the Demon resumes breaking apart his sternum with the gardening shears.

“Look… Maybe we can make a deal? Why don’t you take her, exchange my life for hers?!? I’ll do anything; I’ll kill her if you want… I don’t like her that much anyway; I was only dating her because she’s Puerto Rican! Please, just let me live, I’ll do anything, anything if you let me live!”

The Demon smiles a self-satisfied smile to himself. “You know, I watched you for a bit before I abducted you in order to find the right time to do so. You should be grateful that I’m ending your sorry excuse for a life.” The Demon sharply turns the scissors, a sharp crack echoing through the room, “I think even Jesus would have to admit that I am doing you a favor here. The fact that you have a girlfriend, and a reasonably attractive one at that, pretty much confirms for me that the Universe is sick and needs to be put out of its misery, much as I will soon do for you. You can thank me later.”

“Oh, but don’t misunderstand me either; I do appreciate you pleading for your life. Feel free to do so; it won’t help, but it may make the time go by faster for you.”

Over the course of the night the Demon systematically removes each and every vital organ the victim has, and separates them from the body. The Demon never loses his cool or strays from his methodical pace; he goes about this the way most people would go about making their morning breakfast. By the time he is finished he has arranged the male’s organs in such a way so that the female victim has nowhere to look in the room where she cannot see some piece of her boyfriend’s still functioning internal organs. On the table the hollowed out body of the male vic twitches involuntarily from the monumental pain it’s experiencing. The vic has long ago gone mad from the pain and trauma of seeing himself eviscerated, and he is probably insensible to what is happening to him now. Mary Beth’s eyes were still glowing as she looks over the table. Her focus was amazing; her voice stayed strong as she described the horrors she was witnessing, but I could see that her hands were shaking like she had just come out of a cold rain.

The Demon, his work almost complete, removes the still-beating heart from the victim and presents it to his girlfriend. “I understand that people who are in love speak often about giving their hearts to each other. I know they do not mean it literally, but I thought that you should have the pleasure of experiencing that concept first hand.” He took the heart and rubbed it over her face until she wore a red mask of her boyfriend’s blood. He then proceeds to crush the heart right in front of her. As it crumbles and falls away, a small white glowing pearl is left in its place. “Hm”, he said, “Kind of small. I usually don’t agree with humans, especially White ones, but this was an exceptionally pathetic life; almost not worth the trouble of harvesting his spirit. Still, a soul’s a soul.” The body goes though one final palpitation then thankfully goes still. The Demon looks over his shoulder and said “Is our deal satisfied?”

Mary Beth turned around and stared at nothing, “there’s another person here I didn’t notice him until just now. He was hiding behind my vantage point. This person watched the whole thing happen and did nothing to stop it. He’s human; he apparently sold his soul to this Demon to make all of this happen. She unconsciously started to bite her nails.
The man the Demon was addressing was another white male, approximately 23 years of age. He stepped into the light and admired the demon’s handiwork.

“Yeah”, he said, “This definitely taught that bitch a lesson. Just because I broke up with her was no reason for her to go and date someone else, especially not this skinny piece of shit here. Well, I guess he’s really skinny now, cuz that’s all you left of him. I told you he was pathetic. I was wondering if you could do anything worse to him than what genetics and fate already did.” The boy looks crazed; he is obviously mad with rage, and his jealousy and lust for revenge must have pushed him to sell his soul. He staggers over to his ex-girlfriend and slaps her in the face. “Bet you’re sorry now, huh bitch!”

The Demon steps over to the damned soul and says “Look, I just have to set her up, and then I will be finished. Are you satisfied with the job that has been done or not? I do not have time to waste while you gloat over the fallen body of your ex-girlfriend.”

“Yeah Blackwell, yeah this is fine. This is better than fine. So, uh, you don’t get my soul until I die, right?” The demon turned to the boy, his eyes and right hand glowing hellfire red again. He thrust his hand into the boy’s chest, and after grasping onto something, pulled his hand out. In it he held another glowing white orb, almost crystalline in nature. The boy’s body was unharmed, but Mary Beth realized what had happened immediately.

“This Demon; he’s a soul-stealer.” She said. “He finds corrupted humans and then helps the darkness inside of them grow until it completely consumes their soul. Once he’s done that he can steal their souls before they die.”

“Actually, I’ve had about all of you that I can stand. You run along now and cause havoc. I’ll make good use of your soul, since you obviously haven’t.” The now soulless boy ambled up the stairs and into the streets. “As for you young lady, I spared you because you are not White; but that doesn’t mean that you are off the hook, only literally.” He releases the chains binding her and she falls to the floor. Once again, he gazes into her eyes with his hellish stare, “You will remember every second of these last 6 days for the rest of your life, and the overwhelming emotional feeling you will experience is guilt, because this, all of what’s happened, especially your rape, was all entirely your fault.” The Demon dropped the girl to the floor and straitened out his suit. He placed the rage-filled soul into his jacket pocket next to that of the male vic.
“Another day, three more souls. There really can’t be many people who enjoy their work as much as I do.” The female curls into a ball on the floor, shaking and crying soundlessly as tears streamed down her face.

Mary Beth closed her eyes, and when they opened they were normal again. She collapsed, but Chike caught her. “Are you alright child?”

She shook her head and rose to her feet. “No I’m fine, thank you. It was just the strain of holding the gift for so long. I’ve researched lots of crime scenes; this isn’t so bad.”

“How many have you actually been to?” I asked.
She rubbed her eyes and said “This is my first that I’ve been to in person. I mean.” She seemed a little self-conscious about that, so I decided to push the issue.

“So this is the first time you’ve actually seen blood and entrails in person huh? Must be pretty traumatic I would think.” She looked like she was going to faint, which I didn’t think was possible for an Angel, but surprisingly she held it together.

“It’s ok. I mean, this is horrible, but I’m ok. I promise you.”
Chike looked as grim as I’d ever seen him. He also hadn’t said anything since we had got there. He was deep in thought, I knew that much, and he didn’t like what he had seen at all. I got the sense that he saw something we didn’t and it was turning his stomach.

“We have to report this,” Chike said. “The Demon Blackwell is extremely dangerous, and he hasn’t made an appearance in over 20 years. We need to put every Angel on the East Coast on alert. He’s sent more Angels back to the Maker in the short time he’s been reincarnated than any other single Demon in history. He’s the Demon lord of Wrath, and way out of our league. We need to return to HQ and get more direction.”

Chike was a very by-the-book guy, which is good because it’s always good to know exactly which rules I’m breaking so I can be aware of what’s going on when I get yelled at later. “We can call them you know. I say we stay down here and investigate further. We have two pressing issues that need to be addressed ASAP; first we have a soulless human wandering around New York City, and, call me crazy here, that can’t be a good thing.

“Aren’t there lots of soulless humans wandering around NYC? I mean, I thought that was New York’s main attraction. You know, come to New York for the homeless and the hookers and the soulless degenerates!” Mary Beth uselessly chimed in.

I shot her a dirty look and continued on unabated, “Second, we need to check on the spiritual stability of that other victim. We don’t know the ramifications of that ritual, and we don’t know what she could do in that state.” Just as I finished saying that we heard a scream from outside. “Damn I hate being right.”

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Chapter 3, Part 1

Heaven is pretty much what you’d expect, depending on what level you’re on. Most of the Angels on active duty in the DBI are stationed in the First Heaven, to be deployed to Earth at a moments noticed. The actual Headquarters of the DBI are in the fourth Heaven, which is where the real City of Angels lies. This is where we returned to give our report. As Earth-born Angels, we have the ability to earn our way up through the ranks. I mean, we can never be Seraphs, but there are a few Earth-born souls who earned their way up to being Cherubs. That’s as high as we can get to God. Most of us however, spend our tours being Dominions, Virtues, and Powers. Chike is a Virtue, and because I spent my life in the force, I got to skip the beginner level and left the academy as a Power. The 7th order are the Integrating Angels, and they are more a bureaucratic order, not really suitable for the DBI, though they are invaluable contacts for us since they are the ones who notice a lot of the stuff that ends up being our cases. We report to Muriel, Angel of Emotions and one of the leaders of the Dominions. In her role as one of the DBI team leaders though, she acts more as a Forensic Psychologist and sometimes teaches classes at the DBI Academy in 6th Heaven. We told her how our last assignment went, and she was nice enough to only laugh at us for about 10 minutes.
“Oh Dear, I haven’t had a laugh like that in eons. You Earth Angels are the best thing to happen up here in a long time. You certainly keep things interesting; I’ll say that for you.” Chike and I smiled sheepishly, “Um thanks ma’am. We are quite anxious however to get onto our next mission and put this one behind us.”
‘Yeah”, I chimed in, “far, far behind us.” Muriel’s office, like most things in Angel City, is opulent and beautiful, and the overwhelming color scheme is white and gold. You sort of get used to beauty in Heaven. Muriel, however, REALLY likes Gold, it’s everywhere in her domain. She is usually seen wearing golden robes, and her hair is the color of absolute 24 karat. Around the office she usually wears suits, somewhat like what we wear, but still with a classical flair to them. Most of the Angels in the DBI have their “office clothes” and their ceremonial robes. The way angels are usually portrayed in paintings s when they are wearing their finest robes. Doesn’t everyone dress up when they know they are going to have their picture taken?
“That’s another thing I like about you Earth Angels, you’re always so eager to do things. I guess that’s the benefit of having a finite lifespan, your limited sense of perspective gives you a lot more motivation to get things done. That is also something that Heaven needed. In any event, I do have a case for you, but it won’t be nearly as… … cardiovascular as you last one. But it is no less serious.”
We straightened up in our chairs and paid attention. Though our last call wasn’t as bad, we often have to deal with matters of life and death; we are, after all, at war. “We have been getting reports from the Northeastern area of the United States of murders that are suspicious. We suspect Demonic involvement, so be very careful. If you do engage any Demons, engage as appropriate, but if things get too dangerous, you get out of there as soon as possible. A lot of Earth Angels have been sent to be with the Father this year, and I don’t want that trend to continue. Meet with the Integrating Angel of New York City, I believe his name is Nisroch.” I knew Nisroch well, he was one of the first angels I had ever met, even before I died. But that’s a story for another time. Me and Chike prepared to leave when Muriel stopped us. “One more thing boys. I want you to take a third Angel along with you, one who’s more familiar with forensic psychology. Joseph, you know her well, she was in your graduating class.” Muriel smiled that smile she smiles when she knows that she just screwed us over but there’s nothing we can do about it. And this screwing was named Mary Beth Jameson.
Angels don’t die; well, Heavenly angels don’t anyway. The way they explained it to us at the Academy, was that being part of the DBI was dangerous because there were two ways that you could lose the Grace of Heaven while being a DBI Angel. First, and the one we always had to be on the lookout for, we could Fall, with a capitol F, and become Demons. Second we could be destroyed. Heavenly Angels are formed from concepts, and concepts can never die, so when they are destroyed, they eventually reform in Heaven. That doesn’t mean that Angels are disposable; the more powerful angels may take centuries to reform, or longer depending on how powerful they are. The loss of an Archangel would be devastating to the Cosmic order of things. Us Earth-Borne Angels, however, still are human souls. If we are beaten down enough, we lose our Angelic Imbuement and just become normal souls again. Human souls outside of heaven can become prey to all sorts of nasty things. If we take damage after that, then our essence rejoins God. We cease to be individuals anymore, and rejoin the source of us all. That’s cool and all, but it’s still better to be a powerful angel than to lose yourself forever. It’s something we all try to avoid.
Mary Beth was my nemesis from day one of the Academy. Like me she had a background in Criminology, but she we to school for it. She had just graduated from UMASS with a MA in Psychology with a concentration on Criminology, when she dropped day from a brain tumor. She was only 24. Pretty tragic, until consider that now I have to spend the rest of eternity listening to her prattle on about her theories of human behavior and tell me how to do my job better. I thought this was supposed to be Heaven! ‘Joe, I am so glad we were put together on this mission! With Chike’s wisdom, your experience, and my intelligence, we should have this solved in no time!” You may ask, if I dislike this woman so much, why I know so much about her. Well, it’s because she never missed an opportunity to tell anyone who’d listen who she was an what she had done while she was alive. Chike told me later that for the first 100 years or so EBA’s had a hard time letting go of their lives, especially what they were doing the last year or two before their deaths. I guess that’s why such a high percentage of DBI Angels are cops or soldiers who died in the line of duty. I mean, that’s how I ended up here anyway.
Angelic travel is better than anything you could possible imagine being alive. When we spread our wings, we can travel anywhere we want to in the blink of an eye. The 4th Heaven is kind of far from Earth though, so it takes about 4 seconds for us to get there. There are some orders of Angels that train using their wings to be able to fight in close combat while flying. I don’t have nearly that level of balance, but I hear it’s pretty cool when you see it in action. We met with Nisroch on the tip of the antenna on top of the Empire State Building. I will never get used to some of the perks of being an Angel. Next week I think I’m going to go dancing on the head of a pin. As he is the Integrating Angel of NYC, Nisroch’s appearance shifts often to reflect the enormous ethnic diversity of the city. This time he looks like a very old, very small Chinese woman. Somehow though I always know him when I see him; his personality is textbook New Yorker.
“What took you guys so long? I’m sitting here jugglin my balls waiting for you while all Hell literally breaks lose underneath me.”
Integrating Angels have the most contact with humanity then any of the other HA’s because it’s their job to guard large groups of humans, whether that be Cities, Large Corporations, or whole ethnicities. Consequently they tend to be more colorful than the HA’s who don’t get to Earth much.
“Anyway, it doesn’t matter, let’s get into it. This is the first of these murders I’ve seen in my city, but I consulted with some of the 1st Heaven angels, and they put me in touch with the IA’s of Baltimore and DC. They both had one of these kinds of murders, but they thought they were isolated incidents. When their angels snooped around, they sensed demon presence. When I heard that I called you guys right away. Us IA’s aren’t made to get in there and mix it up with Demons. That’s for you DBI suckers. The crime scene is in the East Village. You’ll know it by all the bright lights and guys in blue milling around. Now I gotta city to guard. Good luck, you’re gonna need it.”
And with that, he was gone in a flash. I looked at my partners and sighed, “Shall we? You guys follow me, I know this city like the back of my hand.”
At the speed of thought we were there. It was around 10:45 pm, and most of the action had died down at that point. The main CSI team had gotten everything they needed, and the Detectives were still interviewing witness and collecting collateral information from family and friends. The great thing about being Angels is that we can be invisible to humans whenever we want to. It’s actually our natural state. Occasionally the mentally unstable, or children or animals will see us, but they are dismissed pretty much every time. Me and my partners fanned out in the crime scene, while the few remaining CSI members and uniformed officers held down the scene, completely oblivious to our presence. I could feel from the gate this was going to be a bad one, and I was right. I really hate it when I’m right. The scene was one of the worst I had ever been to. I could see why Demonic involvement was immediately suspected. This was brutal. We went down a short flight of stairs from the street to a sub basement of the apartment building where the victims were found. It was dark and badly lit by two bare light bulbs. Honestly, it was the kind of place where things like this happen. There were literally blood and entrails everywhere. It was bare, as most basements are, save for a washer and dryer and a utility sink and water heater. Two folding tables were where we found the murder weapons, and parts of the victims. Cobwebs filled most corners, and unidentifiable vermin skittered about in the darkness. I had forgotten in my time in Heaven how evil humanity could be; it did not take long for me to be reminded.. As I went over the scene, I did my usual mental checklist,. I had learned to keep it simple in order to not overlook the most basic details. Start with the Who What Where When Why and How, and then move on to the details.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chapter 2, continued

What the Heck is Aramaic?
I can still remember my first year at the academy. They tried to teach us westerners how to use our God-given Angel powers in a long, long dead language. Never mind that the whole concept of magic was foreign to us, they were also teaching it to us in a foreign language. Jophiel, our basic Aramaic teacher, ran his fingers through his hair and started again. “All angel powers use the same basic language to activate them. When activating a gift, you invoke the Area of Knowledge, Mind, Body, or Soul, then the appropriate Realm of reality you’re using, then the specific Gift you are going to use. Demons also use about the same system, because all of our powers, for better or worse, come from the same source. The only differences come from different dialects and regions of Aramaic. Some of us use different ones, but the basic system is the same. Each power is activated with hand seals and by using the correct words of power. So if, say, you wanted to move faster than the eye could follow, how would you go about it?” Without even looking, I knew whose hand shot into the air first. Mary Beth Jameson. She died around the same time as I did, and so we were in all of the same classes. She was the ‘Miss-Know-It-All’ of our class, and she annoyed everyone because of it. “I know, I know! Beth Teth Nun! And you do the hand seals like so.” As she demonstrated, she forgot that occasionally new Angels manifest their powers faster than others, and she immediately got up and shot out of the room like she hadn’t peed in weeks. Jophiel shook his head as the rest of us fell out our seats laughing. “Miss Jameson has it correct, though a demonstration wasn’t necessary. Since words are personal, some of us add our own names to a gift in order to make it more personal, and hence, more powerful.
I cross slashed at Thor twice, dodged to my left, jumped up and did two spinning roundhouse kicks to the side of his head. Nothing. He came at me full force but I danced easily out of his way. Behind him, Chike parried Odin’s spear to his left, spun and used his momentum to crash the handle of his sword into Odin’s temple. Then, using his right arm for leverage, he cracked him in the head with the broad side of his sword all inn one swift motion. At least he actually managed to stun his opponent. Thor pulled off his own combo on me, hitting me with lightening (I should have really seen that coming), then a shoulder charge, then whacking me in the chest with that hammer of his. If you need to know what it’s like being hit in the chest by Thor’s hammer, imagine being hit by a speeding freight train. Now imagine that this train had hit you after speeding off of the top of the Empire State Building. Now you may think I’m exaggerating, but I think it’s pretty accurate. The next time Thor hits you in the chest you tell me if I oversold the experience. Thankfully all Angels are given heaven’s Armor, a golden chest plate that absorbs the damage from almost everything. Mine now had a big dent in it, as did I. I flew backwards and slammed into one of the many pillars outside of the statehouse. The experience of pain is strange when you’re dead. It’s the same, but not the same is the only way I can put it. If I were better with words I could explain it, but I’m not. I slumped to the ground, just as Thor’s hammer came up to meet me again, this time in the face. I managed to block at the last second with my sword. It was a nice flight I took from there back to the hard, hard ground some 10 ft away. Chike at this point was not fairing any better. Odin had him against one of the pillars with one arm, and was repeatedly punching him in the stomach with the other. When he grew tired of that he threw Chike over to where I was. He at least managed to recover in midair and land somewhat on his feet. Odin and Thor looked down at us and sneered. “I grow tired of this place Father,. Let us return to Valhalla and find someplace better to spend our time.” Odin seemed to agree, but he wanted us to know something first, “You’re ‘God’ maybe in charge now, but you mark my words. Our day will come again. Even now we gain more followers day by day. Eventually are strength will be back to the point where we can challenge you’re holy father for control of reality again. Then I’ll see you two pigeons again. You just wait.” Then with a blinding bolt of lighting and more thunder than was really necessary, they were gone. I slowly, glacially slowly, got to my feet. My sword was broken, as was my pride. We had just gotten our asses kicked by two guys who looked like Mascots for the Minnesota Vikings. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this feeling of pain being an Angel.” Chike was till on one knee, trying to compose himself. “I know what you mean. It’s not a physical pain, it’s a spiritual pain. It is an extraordinary feeling to wake up in the morning and have a sore soul.” There, that’s how I would have described it. “So, uh, what do we tell them when we get back? That we got our asses kicked?” Chike brushed off his coat and somehow managed to look none the worse for wear. “You’re too negative Joe. We came here to cause the disturbance to stop, and we did; Odin and Thor are gone. And if we had to get our butts kicked, as you say, at least we did so in a way that accomplished the mission. I think we can return to HQ with our heads held high.”
I groaned with obvious displeasure, “maybe you can. My neck doesn’t move that way anymore.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Chapter 2

Joseph Anthony Ruffino died on March 25th, 1980 in Brooklyn New York. He was 33 years old, and left behind a wife, Paula Ruffino, and two children, Angela and Gina.
The night you die, you almost never see it coming. That’s the consensus I’ve gotten from most of the souls I’ve talked to up here. Mine was no different. I was investigating a murder in Brooklyn, Red Hook to be exact. Three women and two men where found shot in the head, execution style. It took us some work, but we figured out that they were all members of the same gang, and someone was going around systematically exterminating this one blocks’ gang presence. That night I dug around in census records to find out that one of the vic’s had a sister. I called the local precinct and rushed out there to try and get there before whoever was out to get her did. I wasn’t too late. I saw her a few seconds before the bad guys did. I tackled her, fortunately not hurting the 3 month old baby she was carrying. That was the last thought I had on Earth. Well, at least as a living person. I took 4 shots in the back, both lungs were wrecked. I died beside her, her crying over me. I think her name was Susan. It gets hard to remember the day you die; it’s a traumatic thing for all of us, even when faced with the glory of heaven. I heard at my funeral that she was there, and she even planned to name her baby girl after me, Joanne. When you die, you don’t just pop out of your body, it takes a while. I came to in the morgue, apparently, as most of us do. I wandered around, dazed and confused among millions of other restless spirits. I was given a hero’s funeral; bagpipes, horses, the whole 9. My kids looked beautiful. When I saw my wife, my darling Paula, my heart broke. Just when I thought I couldn’t take it any more, I heard the horns. Its cliché and cheesy, but when you experience it, when you see the Divine Light for the first time, the deepest sadness instantly turns into the greatest joy. I had done good, I could tell my mother that when she gets up here. I made it to Heaven. I was shocked to tell you the truth. I wasn’t a choir boy, not by a long shot. But I always tried to be a good person, and I guess I succeeded. St Peter checked me in, and I looked forward to an eternity of R&R. As it turned out though, “my eternal rest” would have to wait. I met Chike the second day I was there. “I know that you are looking forward to your eternal rest Joseph Ruffino, but God needs you to return to Earth. Your work is not done yet.”
These Norse Gods never want to do things the easy way.
When I was at the academy, I got straight A’s in my Divine Weapons class. Each Divine weapon has a classification and a Damage level. For Instance, Gabriel and Michael’s swords are at Level 10, the highest a Divine weapon can get. Mjolnir and Gungir are Level 9’s. Our swords are currently at Level 1. To say that we are at a slight disadvantage would be, you guessed it, an understatement.
Chike is steadily trying to reason with Odin, but it’s nothing doin. Odin may have given up his eye for wisdom, but that doesn’t mean he wants to hear anything about leaving quietly. “You’re out of your jurisdiction! Do you know how far away the Netherlands are?!?” Chike hated to use his sword, but he did when he had to. And this was definitely a “when he had to” type of situation. Our swords are our sidearm. Only the original Angels get the giant, flashy fire-spitting swords. Ours aren’t as nice, but they are pretty much equal to the amount of focus and training we put into our sword training. Chike has been a DBI Angel since the 1800’s, so he’s had a bit longer to hone his skills than I have. That’s why he’s talking on Odin. Me, I just have to deal with the Mighty Thor, God of Thunder and Lightening. “Now Thor, why don’t you just calm down and come along quietly. I mean, we don’t have to do things this way.” Thor picked up the large, heavy object that I had heard scraping against the floor earlier. The object in question was his hammer, which from the angle he was waving it at me from, and the lack of distance it was from my head, looked like it could dwarf most telephone poles. Hell, he might as well have been waving a telephone pole at me for all the intimidation factor my sword had. “Well I got two things ta say ta that. First off, I like doing things this way, and second, I doubt you’re going to be able to stop me with that glorified letter opener you’re brandishin at me.” My mind was racing; I had to concentrate and start to use the powers I had been studying for the last 36 years. When I was alive, 36 years was a long time. In Angel’s terms, I’m a lil bit younger than an infant. Odin and Chike were already getting into it.
Truth be told, two Angels are no match for two Gods, even ones who have lost the greater part of their influence like Odin and Thor. True Angels, the ones who were created when everything was created, could maybe handle this. Michael maybe, or Gabriel, or even Raphael. Chike and Joe? No way in Heaven, Hell, or anywhere in between. For the moment, however, Chike was holding his own. He was using his speed to stay out of the way of Odin’s spear maybe that would work for me too. Ok, “BETH TETH NUN! New York Minute!” And just like that, everything became a blur.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chapter 1

“So what’s this call for again?”

“Some souls called in a few minutes ago. It’s a disorderly spirits call.”

“I hate these calls. You never know what’s going to happen.”

“True, but we have to treat them with some kind of respect according to Celestial Law. They are still Gods after all, and we should treat them as such.”

“Yeah whatever. You ready to get into character?”

“Yes, I believe so.”

It’s a dark and stormy night in Columbus, Ohio. But then, it’s been a dark and stormy night here for the past 5 nights, and 5 days. That’s why me and my partner are here. My name’s Joe Ruffino, and my partner is Chike Umenyiora. We’re Angels.




Me and my partner had been called to a Disorderly Spirits violation in Columbus after the resident souls around the Statehouse started complaining about a couple of newcomers showing up and making a general mess of the place. Lost souls are the souls of those who never subscribed to a particular religion or belief system in life, so after they die a lot of them just linger around Earth as what most people understand to be ghosts. They putter around like recent retirees, trying to resolve whatever issues they had in life until their applications go through. Ghosts have three options; they can screw around for the rest of eternity as ghosts, apply to heaven, or apply for another go around in reincarnation. Since the divine reincarnation office is all the way in India, the waiting list for reincarnation is enormous. Getting into Heaven is just as hard as you have to present a pretty good case. It’s like going to traffic court without a lawyer; you may get over if you’re really good, but most of the time you’re going to end up having to pay a bunch of money and getting points anyway.

In any event, most ghosts are reasonable people, just like they were in life. They just want to go about living their afterlives in peace. That’s what the ghosts of Columbus where doing up until a week ago, when these two showed up.

We found ourselves in front of the old Statehouse that most of the older, more respectable ghosts called home. As we landed, our wings folded in flat against our backs. It was generally considered bad form to flaunt our wings and halos around ghosts, since they obviously didn’t have either. For the most part we just looked like Feds to them. All angels wear the usual suits and trench coats you’d see any FBI agent in… well, not exactly usual. Angels wear blindingly white suits and trench’s with gold buttons and trim. I mean we have to stand out at least a little, or else where’s the fun of being an Angel? We keep our halos in our jacket pockets though, just like where I used to keep my badge when I became a detective. Our Halos are our symbols of being ambassadors of The Boss, but we usually only wear them on our heads for special occasions. I let Chike take the point, as he has a lot more experience with these sorts of things than I do. Plus he’s 6’4, dark, and way more imposing than a 5’ 11” Guido from the Bronx. I was a New York City Cop for 15 years, but I never had to deal with anything like this before. He knowcked on the door and asked if anyone was in there; a silly question in retrospect, because there were obviously three or four elephants slam dancing in there. “Who wants ta know!” came a literally booming voice from inside. Chike, unfazed, called back “It’s the DBI, Angels Umenyiora and Ruffino. Open up.” I heard what sounded like something big and heavy scraping across the floor and what were either small bombs exploding, or the footsteps of a very large man approaching the door. “Yeah sure… you’re Angels? Where are your Halos? Chike stepped back and pulled out his Halo, lighting up the area for a good 15 feet. There was another reason we don’t like to have our halos out all of the time; they attract a lot of attention, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

The doors to the statehouse had glass panels in them, and the tree of a man that approached the doors crouched down to observe what Chike had produced. “Hmph”, he grunted “Angels always showing up to spoil the fun. Dad, get off yer arse and come here. We got trouble.” The doors opened and out stepped the tree of a man in question. He was at least 8 ft tall, and the air around him smelt of ozone and electricity. “Thor”, I said, I never thought I’d actually see you. They told us stories of you in the academy”. Thor puffed out his chest and looked down at me with a look of smug superiority, which isn’t hard to pull off when you’re 8 ft tall. “Aye, an what tales will they tell when they see what I do to you?” At that point Chike, Thankfully, intervened. “Now Thor, this doesn’t have to go the way it always goes with you two. We can all just agree to disagree, and you can stop pelting the city with lightening. You know that you’re violating several Celestial Law Codes, mainly because you’ve broken all of them at some point. So why don’t you and your father just move along, and we can all have a nice, peaceful night.” Thor snorted the snort of a Bull that had just eaten a Jalapeno.

“Hey Da, ya hear that? They say we should move along like a couple of wet behind the ears newborn sheep. Ya think we should?” At that point an equally sequoia-like man with a Raven on each shoulder stepped from the doorway and eyed me lazily. He could only eye me, because, well, he only had one eye. Are ya daft boy. I like this town, and no puny pigeon-winged angels are gonna tell me ta move on when I’ve a mind to stay put.” Thor grinned wildly, electricity in his eyes. Thunder boomed behind us, and I knew that, as usual, these two were going to do things the hard way. He swirled his Hammer, Mjolnir around his hand in short arcs, looking at me the way fat people look at a cake display. I had my poker face on. It was one of those times that I was glad I was dead so I physically as not able to shit myself. There was an entire class on “weapons of the Lesser Gods” at the DBI academy, and I had done pretty well at it. Mjolnir was one of the most destructive carried by a non Archangel. I drew my sword which, of course, seemed painfully undersized for the job at hand. Thor almost giggled at me, which was far more frightening than him outright laughing at me. “An what’re ya gonna do ta me with dat ya lil pigeon? Pick me teeth?” I sighed and looked at Chike, “why do they never, ever pick the easy way?”