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I wasn't going to write this book initially, but my partner, Kye, convinced me to. I'm glad I did.
As was the case with Book One, Book Two takes no prisoners. It won't be easy for people who have suffered sexual assault, like I have, to read, and so I include a strong warning at the very beginning. Do not heed it at your own peril.
The story, sadly, is all too easy to believe in today's world. We have a "president," after all, who has faced absolutely no consequences for sexual assault on what now appears to be multiple women; and for a brief, nightmarish time it appeared that a serial pedophile was poised to win a seat in the United States Senate. That virtually half of those who voted in that election voted for him should tell you just how far the United States has collapsed morally. Deanna's story isn't far-fetched at all.
Most people will face Oblivion after death. That's what I believe. Voting for pedophiles is a great way of guaranteeing that kind of end. There are countless other ways. Heaven is a tough proposition. Most refuse to go through that Narrow Gate that leads to the Narrow Path and the hard life that will see them through to eternal life. I believe that as well, and I believe that to be completely fair. The newly minted angel Ray Wilms, having come back to save Deanna, finds himself back in a world that has no moral qualms with assaulting one such as she, or electing a bona fide monster to the highest office in the land.
He's got a lot of work to do--and he won't be taking any prisoners.
When he was a mortal, Ray Wilms had no time or patience for children. Despite being an educator, he couldn't stand them.
As an angel of death, his very first assignment back to Earth is to save a sixteen-year-old girl from her family and church.
Her name is Deanna, and she's thinking of killing herself. She is a brilliant young woman gifted in mathematics, which is his subject of expertise. As he gets to know her, he finds himself increasingly awed by her inner beauty and strength. Despite her horrific circumstances, she fights on, her soul intact and luminous.
Ray is deeply moved and inspired by her example--and enraged by the hell she's going through. He's an angel of death, and it's time to go to work.
Therefore thus saith the Lord God: I will also stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword. And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel: and they shall do in Edom according to mine anger and according to my fury; and they shall know my vengeance, saith the Lord God.
I'm pretty sure
That leopard dog
Can't change no spot
It is full on
What he has done
Come on come on inner man
Sing the song that He has sung
And of the firm foundation stand
~from Wovenhand, “Long Horn”
IT WASN’T like it had been for Calliel.
Calliel had stepped aboard this very trolley and had sat down, and nary a man, woman, or child noticed, despite his brown longcoat and just-off-the-ranch duds beneath. No one paid him a lick of attention.
I gazed around. People were noticing me. I wasn’t wearing a longcoat or a snap-down shirt; I was dressed in a navy suit and burgundy tie. And yes, I just bought the cowboy boots (black), but they weren’t looking at those. They were looking at me, at my face.
But never directly. They stole glances. When I gazed in their direction, they looked away, as though frightened I might notice them and become angry.
Was there something scary about me now? Did I look angry or irritated? Of course not! In fact, I believe I was sporting a slight smile.
What did they see when they looked at me?
It did not matter.
No one sat next to me. Several went to, including a hugely muscled man covered in tattoos, but all took one look at me and hurried off. Two stops later I noticed that there were no seats open save the one next to me, and that many were standing.
I dreamed of having just this kind of power when I was alive. Now that I had it, what was I going to do with it?
A young woman with a toddler was closest. The kid had thankfully dropped off after raising a ruckus about something-or-other. His head bounced on her shoulder, his mouth half open, drool running off his lower lip onto her T-shirt. She appeared fatigued beyond the definition of the word. Even so, she too chose to stand instead of sitting next to me.
I reached for her hand and touched it. When I did, what Calliel said would happen did: I caught a perfect glimpse of her soul, and the lifetime of triumphs and tragedies and choices that made it what it, and she, was.
She glanced down fearfully at me over her child’s shoulder.
“Come and sit down, Nicky. Give that back of yours a rest.”
“H-How … how do you know my name?” she demanded, her eyes saucers.
Nearby passengers glanced fearfully at me out the corners of their eyes, as though terrified I might pick them next. One even pushed into the crowd, eager to get away. He disappeared to grunts and protests.
“I know your name like I know you’ve got a slipped disc and that Hoby there is damned heavy and you’re praying to get to the 916 so you can finally sit and take a load off. Well, sit and take a load off right here. Come on, Nicky. I won’t bite. It’s still fifteen minutes to the National City stop.”
Her eyes got wider. But pain beat her fear, and she sat, though at the very edge of the seat. Hoby didn’t stir.
I gently touched his head. The soul that touched back was so pure and bright it hurt. Nicky gawked at my hand as I pushed Hoby’s angel-thin brown hair out of the way.
Calliel warned me about the pain of touching a young child. I let it burn through my hand into my chest, where it warmed my heart and made it skip. It was painful, but also pleasurable. There were wondrous potentialities in that ache.
“He loves music,” I said, identifying the strongest one.
Nicky gaped. A moment later she found her voice. “Uh ...yes. He does. Would you mind telling me how … I mean … How do you know that?”
“Give him music. Lots of it. Especially classical. He listens closely whenever you play it. He tries to make sense of the notes and the interplay of one instrument with another.”
Her gape increased. There was a wonder-filled smile hiding behind it, but it was too afraid to come forward. I scared her too much.
“Are … are you a father?”
It was plain she didn’t care to know, and was only asking to be polite and to assure herself that I wasn’t a monster.
I appreciated the effort. I shook my head.
“You seem like you’d be really good at it.”
Could monsters be good fathers? When I was sure I could respond without chuckling, I said, “Thank you, Nicky. You don’t know me, but your comment is appreciated all the same.”
“It’s just … something I feel.”
“I believe this is your stop,” I said, glancing over the top of Hoby’s head. “There’s the 916. When you get home, play Hoby ‘Ode to Joy.’ Play it even if he doesn’t wake up. It’s his favorite. He’ll still hear it.”
Nicky goggled and stood.
The trolley slowed to a stop, and the doors opened. She stopped and turned when she got to them. “Thank you.”
There was the smile. It was weak and mauled from its victorious fight with her fear; but there it was nonetheless.
She got off and hurried through the drizzle to the 916 parked next to the curb. Hoby didn’t stir.
The trolley lurched on its way. I sat back in my seat and smiled. I, Ray Wilms, an angel of death.