Tabbris, the Angel of Free Will, is in Hell…
Worse, the keys to the gates of Heaven and Hell have gone with him. Now, the hounds of Hell are close on his heels as he fights a desperate battle to keep the keys out of infernal hands, while trying to reach Earth once again. At least he prevented Adelaide from being dragged down with him.
Meanwhile, Adelaide is still possessed by the Angel of Visions, and Iaoel seems to be planning to stay, regardless of what Addy wants. Now she’s in search of a rogue angel to find a way into the underworld to rescue Tabbris…
Before all Hell breaks loose…
“This is it?” I asked and huffed out a dubious sigh.
“It’s a prison. It ain’t the Ritz, Baby.”
I glanced over at Uriel and narrowed my eyes, “When Gabriel does it, it’s funny, and almost cute. When you do it, you look like a jock strap.”
His eyebrows disappeared into his fiery ginger hairline, and his lips spread into a giant smile as he struggled not to laugh.
“Uriel,” Raphael’s lyrical voice came from behind the both of us, “Michael has asked us not to encourage her crude behavior.”
“You always do what Daddy tells you to do, Raphael?” I asked, turning.
Raphael gave me a smile that was beatific in nature, as serene and unblemished as the silver glass of a lake on a calm day. One of the most peaceful things I had ever seen. I blinked when he answered me, “Yes, Child… but do remember, Michael is not our father.” He pointed one elegant, long finger skyward. “He is, and always will be.”
I rolled my eyes heavenward. “Yeah, sorry. You guys really don’t get us at all though, do you?”
Uriel shrugged. “We try.” He side-eyed Raphael. “Some of us harder than others.”
“Right.” I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, returning to the problem at hand, “How am I supposed to break into a prison?”
We stood alongside the road leading up to the prison gates, a long, lonely stretch of cracked blacktop, the center lines so faded they were barely there. Two lanes, one in, one out, nothing but scorched and waving unkempt grass, no more than knee height for almost as far as the eye could see. Even if a man managed to escape, he’d be easy pickings out in that grass. It was a sad, lonely, and desolate place to spend your last days. I wondered how on Earth Haziel had become an inmate here. How the fuck I was going to get in? Did they even allow death row inmates visitors? I mean, random ones…
“There,” Uriel said, and I followed his pointing finger. An old Mercedes, something out of the 1980s, was stopped behind what looked like the last in a series of chain link gates topped with razor wire, as it trundled aside. The Mercedes waited until the gate was all the way open, pulled through, shifted gears and headed up the road in our direction.
Uriel and Raphael stood with me on the side of the two lane highway. They had assured me we were quite invisible to the humans inside the prison. They said that was one of Raphael’s stronger gifts: to obfuscate. Being a healer, obfuscation during the heat of battle was kind of a necessity. I’d asked him why he hadn’t done a better job in the battle beneath Chernobyl and he’d smiled a little sadly and had told me that with the state of things as they were, he’d had little to no energy to expend on obfuscation, that he had, instead, relied on Uriel to defend him and the rest of the healers. It’d made me a little ill to think of the implications in that. I’d voiced my theory anyways…
“Were we really that outnumbered?”
“My dear child,” he’d said, “We are fortunate that none of the Archen fell during such a fight. Our Father, was with us, so it seems.”
I looked from Uriel to Raphael and back to the Mercedes coming our direction. The Archangels both looked expectant, and I sighed inwardly. Not for the first time, I wished that Gabriel were here instead of these two. Mostly because Gabriel was at least familiar, and we kind of got each other. I looked from Uriel to Raphael one more time and followed their eyes to the oncoming Mercedes. The car pulled up, and I looked at the driver, a priest: black shirt, white collar and all. He turned his head and looked right at us curiously, before pulling past and driving on. I blinked stupidly. Damn it!
“I thought we were invisible to anything human,” I said with a sinking feeling.
“We are.” Raphael’s serene smile stretched, and I really wanted to smack it off his face.
“Then was that..?” I pointed after the Mercedes.
“It was.” Uriel’s smirk was even more infuriating.
I ground my teeth and watched the taillights fade into the gathering twilight before turning on the two Archangels.
“Now what do I do?” I asked, and it sounded petulant even to me.
“Well, I guess you wait for him to come back,” Uriel said with a wink, and then they both winked—right out of existence.
“Oh you happy bastards!” I cried, then wondered if I were suddenly visible to the guards that were mere dots in the towers to either side of the distant gate. I had to assume I wasn’t, and that I was still hidden from sight or invisible or whatever when no one came out to investigate When the shift change came? Well, the cars that passed me by, not a single one of the occupants turned to look at me, so that confirmed my hypothesis.
“You guys are such assholes,” I muttered under my breath to myself. I wondered briefly to myself: if you prayed to someone and cursed them the fuck out in your prayers, would they hear it? I unshouldered my pack, dropping to sit cross-legged on the edge of the road and prayed to who mattered.
“I’m not giving up, Tab. This is some serious bullshit, but I promise, no matter what crap they pull, I’m going to get you out.” I felt stupid talking to myself, but I had to believe that somehow, some way, he could hear me. I didn’t know how well prayers travelled to Hell specifically, but I had to have faith that they did, that he knew I wasn’t giving up.
I looked up to the sky and huffed out a breath at the cloud cover. Of course it couldn’t be a clear night full of stars. Why wouldn’t I get rained on? Let’s make this whole fucked-up situation as cliché as possible! No sooner had I thought it, than the first drop splattered against my cheek.
“Aw, damn it!” I uttered. I rooted through my pack and satchel to no avail: nothing that would serve as rain gear, of course. I cinched up the pack quickly, so at least I might have a dry set of clothes to change into later, when the slide and snap of nylon against nylon made me jerk my head up. Gabriel smiled down at me, a large golf umbrella open above us.
“Thanks,” I said with a gusty sigh and pulled myself up to my feet. I pulled my pack back up onto my shoulders to keep it off the ground while the rain pattered down around us, picking up in intensity.
“Particular reason why he didn’t stop and why Raphael and Uriel just left me out here?” I asked.
“Yes, you know there is. We don’t tend to do things without a reason.”
“Care to fill me in?” I rubbed my hands over my face and sighed out. Gabriel, who loved to gender bend with the best of them, had chosen to show up as a dude this time around and, as always, was impeccably dressed in a suit and tie.
“Haziel and the Archangels don’t have the best rapport.”
“Seriously? No wonder he didn’t even slow down. That’s great, that’s just great… why would he stop for me tomorrow?”
“Because tonight, he is working to find out who you are, and when he can’t do that, and when he finds you here all alone tomorrow… hopefully his curiosity will get the better of him.”
“Jesus, Gabriel! Why couldn’t you guys have just left me alone out here in the first place? Why didn’t you guys just say, ‘Hey Addy, when the priest drives by, flag him down. That’s the dude you need!’ I mean, wouldn’t that have saved so much more time?” Time. Time that could be better spent getting Tab out of Hell. I didn’t want to leave him down there any longer than I had to. It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t fair!
“Easy, Addy,” Gabriel put his hand on my leather-clad shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. He’d used my name, which meant we were being super serious, which was good. This was as serious as it got.
“We didn’t know where on death row Haziel was. We couldn’t be sure. Standing out here was recon as much as anything else. He gave himself away when he looked at you guys. Truthfully, we’re almost as blind as you in all this, and your guess is as good as ours.”
I threw my head back and stared at the inside of his umbrella, it was growing so dark that I could barely see the silvery spiderlike legs of the metal skeleton above us. I prayed for patience, and for Tab to hold on, but mostly I prayed to God that Haziel would talk to me. Give me a direction to move forward with. I had to find Tab, I had to help him, and I had such a feeling of urgency surrounding it all that it wasn’t even funny.
Text Copyright © 2016 Jeffrey Cook & A.J. Downey
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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