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Heaven's Light 5: The Light Between (Part 3)

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The Light Between (Part 3)

Book Five of Heaven's Light

By Erisian


Earth. Deep blue skies filled with clouds and sun.

Returned from the desolation and horrors of Hell, Jordan finds herself again surrounded by friends, kitty, and a peaceful campus with idle moments seemingly to spare.

Yet relaxation and inner peace remain elusive, as unanswered questions flit across thought and dream. After all that she has endured a quiet life as a simple school student feels like a mighty jest - one with a waiting and deadly punchline.

For time, even for angels resurrected in the light, does not so easily stand still.



Note: It is highly recommended to have read the previous four books before reading this one! Thanks!


Chapter 8 - Scans


The Los Angeles DPA headquarters and research labs, which were actually not in the city proper but out in Agoura off the 101 freeway, hadn’t changed much since I was last there - at least from the outside. It still had the three stories worth of dark reflective windows sticking out of the hill into which the complex was embedded and also the massive open parking lot of the kind only found in the suburbs.

While Haruko had indeed arranged for a car and driver (a limo no less!), I’d borrowed a phone to ask her to have them start the slog over the hill and meet me here at the agency. Despite being in the middle of studying for finals Kurohoshi’s daughter had already heard about the attempt on Isaiah’s life and promised to pass on the instruction to the driver. She also gave me his number so I could reach him direct if anything else changed.

Before she hung up she reminded me that I was on the clock to be ready for the evening - all while still not giving any details of what was going on.


Using the whole invisibility trick to fly over and skip all the stupid traffic stuck climbing the Sepulveda Pass had another benefit, one which alleviated one of the Director’s concerns, namely the fact that the crowd of religious groupies outside the storage unit had only increased and if I’d been spotted who knows what would have happened. Enough people had seen the videos from Egypt (let alone the ones from Syria) before the records disappeared that I might be recognized, especially if I were to step out in front of people hoping for a “glorious return.”

Or a divine resurrection.

Apparently the owners of the self-storage franchise were threatening legal action against the DPA claiming unlawful appropriation of the facility - a suit funded by parties wishing to purchase the land upon which to found some kind of new church. I deliberately hadn’t asked the details of the faith they intended to create.

I had enough headaches to deal with.

Being close to the end of lunchtime, I marched into the DPA building and its lobby filled with agents returning from lunch. Everyone in boring black suit jackets with matching dull slacks, conservative skirts and blouses, and even some pantsuits all lined up in front of a contraption that hadn’t been there before. Gone were the standard x-ray scanners and in their place was one of Gregor Kirov’s obvious monstrosities: a gigantic device flashing lights with huge bundles of cables for power and cooling all coalesced about the pod at its center, dutifully scanning each and every agent heading inside.

Making my way to the much smaller line for the lobby’s front desk I stood out like a sore thumb in the purple and blue runner’s outfit that had amazingly come with me through the teleport transition. Granted I had (for once!) tried to mentally hold on to my clothes while willing the shift and much to my surprise that had worked.

Just don’t ask me if they were really still the same clothes. I’ll leave that argument to the Star Trek nerds and Grecian shipwrights.

As I was about to command the girl behind the armored glass to stop wasting time and go fetch someone authorized to let me in, another agent came bustling out the exit-only walkway and called out.


Seeing who it was I smiled. “Mark!”

The taller man in a suit and shirt with creases more perfect than the surrounding abundant examples hurried over. Agent Mark Boone, brother to my dearly departed wife, then found himself caught in a fierce hug I couldn’t help but throw around his still-too-thin waist.

At least this time he didn’t wince. His injury from the past Summer’s “fun” was healing, though it was clear he hadn’t regained all the muscle he’d lost. His short-cropped hair also had gained substantially more gray.

“C’mon,” he said, disentangling from the hug that had reached the awkward gone-on-too-long phase. “I’ll get us to the front of the line to get in.” Were his cheeks flushed? Huh.

Leading past all the civil servants dutifully lined up within the barrier of stretchy straps, he spoke to the linebacker-sized security guy at the front and showed his ID. While the security officer got on the radio to confirm our priority level I took another look at the behemoth of a machine everyone was waiting for.

“Hey Mark,” I said to regain his attention.


“You aren’t putting me through that thing.”

He frowned and his posture stiffened. “It’s procedure.”

“Did Isaiah?”

“Yes. It wasn’t his first time to do so either, from what I understand. Though they wiped the data once he was done.”

That was news. “Well, I won’t.”

His face went blank, transforming into another official agent of the state. “Everyone goes through.”

Once upon a time I would have been a good tax-paying citizen and buckled to the authorities.

But that was then.

“Not me.”

My former brother-in-law stood even taller in his perfectly polished leather shoes, beating my height by several inches to look down his nose with an officious glare. “That’s the policy for entrance. Are you trying to hide something?”

“I’m tired of all these damned scans. Your agency got tons of data when I was here before, the school has plenty more, and I’m sick of it.”

“But why would-”

“Put it this way,” I interrupted, staring up at him. “I’ll fry every last circuit that device has before letting it do its thing on me. And if I wanted to force my way inside this building there’s nothing you could do to stop me. Your wards are horribly insufficient and the walls themselves may as well be made of cardboard.”

Poor Mark stood there flummoxed. Behind us the crowd of agents and government bureaucrats had gone quiet except for someone who whispered, “It’s her.”

That resulted in even more hushed whispers which I did my best to ignore.

Beeping from the security guard’s radio got our attention. The linebacker pushed a button and said, “Go ahead.”

“This is the director. Put her on.”

The guard gulped and I was handed the radio.

“Hey chief!” I said cheerfully after pushing to transmit.

“Is there a problem?”

“That’s up to you. But I’m not getting into that contraption.”

“Do you have a practical reason for this refusal or are you deliberately being a pain in my ass?”

Several of those in range to overhear inhaled sharply and gaped with wide eyes to see what I would do. Clearly they lived in fear of their director’s disapproval.

Whereas I simply laughed. “Much as that might be fun, nope. It’s a personal choice. Though now that you mention it, yeah there’s a political angle for why you don’t want me in there.”

“Care to share?”

“Your superiors and so-called experts would need clean underwear if they read the report. And as I’m standing in a public lobby, I’ll leave it at that.”

“Hand the radio to the guard.”

The poor guy took the receiver back like I’d infected it with radiation. “Go ahead, sir?”

“Let her through.”

I was nice. I didn’t pat Mark’s shocked face before following the linebacker up the exit-only lane while the rest of security stood aside and watched.

And hey, for once they weren’t staring exclusively at my ass.




Isaiah and Director Goodman sat together in a small conference room that was in the midst of some remodeling, what with the cans of unopened paint in the corner atop a folded tarp and the missing wide screen television removed from its spot on the wall. Something interesting must have happened in here as fresh spackle patchwork crawled across everything - ceiling included. The arms for the TV’s mount also weren’t hanging parallel as the metal was seriously kinked. And while the table had room for six chairs only five of the rickety plastic corporate things were present.

Both men looked up as Mark and I entered, and they kept their attentions fixed only on me. In fact the director and Isaiah eerily mirrored each other with how expressionless and studious was their analysis of my every move.

Pulling a chair around to the end of the table where the TV would have been, I sat with Isaiah on my left and Goodman on the right. As for Mark, the poor guy lurked at the entrance as if not sure whether he should even enter.

Goodman waved at him. “Guard the hallway. Make sure we are not interrupted.”

With an unhappy-at-being-excluded grimace Mark closed the door, sealing the three of us in with a loud thunk.

Correction: the four of us. Technically the room was haunted as there was one more person leaning against the wall behind Isaiah. The curly-haired redheaded ghost in a dark green skirt and lighter green blouse noticed being spotted and bowed her head in acknowledgment with a rather polite if not outright reverent nod.

Which was rather suspicious.

Isaiah had clasped hands in front of his face with elbows on the table. His suit coat draped behind him on the chair, and under navy suspenders the dress shirt was more rumpled than usual. His professionally styled dark hair had gained flecks of additional gray this past year, and while he’d obviously lost some weight it was hard to tell if that was due to exercise or simply stress. Given the circles under his eyes though, it might have been more of the latter.

As for Goodman, he was every inch the company man: black coat, gleaming white shirt, and a solid color tie. Today’s choice was a deep red, and while I couldn’t see his shoes I’d bet good money that they were perfectly polished just in case he had need of a mirror by which to shave his chin.

In other words, as usual I was oddly dressed for the occasion. To emphasize this I kicked sneakers up onto the table and leaned back, waiting for them to speak first.

From behind circular lenses my friend broke the silence with a grumbled sigh. “Say it. Just get it out of your system and say it.”

Crossing arms to complete the rebellious (or possibly petulant teenager, dangit) demeanor, I glared. “I told you going back to work was dangerous. I told you! And don’t freaking minimize it by telling me to ‘get it out of my system’ like I’m some sort of harpy nag. They could have killed you!”

“And yet I’m fine. I had security. They did their job.”

Unseen to anyone else the spirit behind him smirked.

“Did they?” Goodman asked, maintaining the neutral expression. “Video of the court house steps shows you stumbling forward just before the bullet would have taken your head. That had nothing to do with your security detail.”

Oh really? I glanced back at Tracy’s spirit whereupon she lost the smirk to feign innocence.


Isaiah didn’t blink. “As I have noted, Director, I have no further comments to add regarding the incident. You have my statement, and the statements of my driver and bodyguard. Any further interviews will require my attorney be present.”

Goodman tugged at his mustache then reached into a coat pocket to withdraw a small electronic device. Pushing its only button the black plastic flashed a red LED which after blinking went solid, and he then tossed it onto the conference table where it slid to the center.

“While that thing is lit,” he said, matching stares with both of his grumpy guests, “everything said is off the record. No recordings, nothing in my reports. We’ve got to come to an understanding here.”

Isaiah squinted at me. “That true? Is there anything in here taping us?”

Pulling feet off the table so I could sit up, I let eyes glow to take in the room and its walls, floor, and ceiling. The space was definitely wired but the circuits were down. No voltage. And beyond the walls I sensed no souls directing their attentions towards us - and no parabolic microphones to pick up wayward vibrations, nothing.

Just Mark lurking out in the hall pretending not to be frustrated and a spirit who moved to stand more directly behind Isaiah.

“It’s clear,” I said.

Goodman turned attention first to me. “What’s the real reason you balked at the scanner downstairs?”

“You sure you want to know?”

The director shook his head. “No, I am not. But the last time Mr. Cohen was here he revealed to us who his spirit was - though I suspect that Diego knew already. The stakes with you two keep climbing - how much higher are they now?” Tired eyes pleaded at me. “How can we help if we don’t know what’s going on?”

Okay, that answered that question. The DPA’s wizard - whom they had rehired despite a past indiscretion - had learned that Isaiah was Azrael’s incarnate when I’d told Kami. Diego had promised to keep his mouth shut as he’d been kicked out of the agency at that time and therefore had no obligation to report it.

Apparently he’d kept his word. And judging from Isaiah’s startled expression, my friend hadn’t known about that.

“Alright, listen,” I said, uncrossing arms to tap a thumb on the edge of the table. “I really am tired of all the scan and testing crap. One stupid device at the school even scrambled my presence here on Earth. That was well and truly annoying.” I paused, remembering needing Raphael’s help to regain clarity from senses gone haywire.

“But that’s not all,” Goodman prompted.

“Not hardly,” I continued. “I escaped Hell by taking a dive through raw Chaos. That’s the stuff you termed ‘tainted’ when we were dealing with Azazel’s goons. Gregor’s contraption might pick up on any residue and flag it. Then what? Your whole agency would freak the heck out as would everyone above you in command.”

The director’s eyes widened. “If you’re tainted, as an angel have you fallen?”

“She hasn’t,” said Isaiah immediately. “Her connection to the Source is brighter now than ever.”

Which was the other reason - but not one I wanted to say. If that device was anything like Gregor’s original Big Betty scanner, the feedback from plugging my even-more-sparky-than-before butt into it could possibly cause the works to explode. Who knows what it would do. Maybe the damage would be limited to the lobby or maybe it would take the entire building down.

Either scenario could best be described as bad.

Goodman was nodding as he began to understand. “I’d have to report the measurement. The debate at the NSC would be a disaster.”

“Exactly,” I agreed. “So let’s focus back on today, shall we gentlemen? Someone tried to kill my best friend. Again.”

That reoriented the director’s focus away from me and back to Isaiah. “Did you sense the bullet and dodge?”

Isaiah didn’t flinch or look over his shoulder. “Something like that, yes.”

I pointed a finger at Goodman. “Hey, you said the bullet was cursed. Was it tainted like the ones at Whateley that hit Danielle and Brendan?”

“Our experts say no. But you tell me.” Reaching into a different pocket he produced a sealed and labeled evidence bag. Inside was a crushed chunk of metal. “Agents dug this out of North Hill street.”

He offered it to Isaiah who instead motioned to me. “Her eyes are sharper.”

I took the bag, careful not to damage the official tape. As I peered past the wrapping, the bullet’s pattern became clear. The Academy’s training regarding firearms - a side requirement of study for the combat driving course - kicked in.

“Three three eight Lapua Magnum. That’s a serious round. No taint of Azazel or Chaos, but it’s enchanted and the spell is odd.” Okay, I may have read more for the class than was strictly required - but hey, the recommended books had spiffy pictures.

“Odd how?” Goodman leaned forward.

“It’s technically mortal magic - to guarantee death on impact, if I read the intent rightly. Except the workings are super tight. I don’t think I’ve seen anything this packed - not even Circe’s spells approach this.”

“What are you saying?” Isaiah’s fingers twitched like he wanted to hold it too but I wasn’t done with the spent core just yet.

“Hold your horses,” I grumped. “I’m still looking.” Getting up, I took a step back from the table.

I needed a boost.

Manifesting only the original pair of wings, they lit up the room as if floodlights had turned on. The illumination revealed a lot more than intended.

As hiding behind Isaiah, caught by the edges of the glow, stood not a law assistant but a warrior.

From behind a gold-lined crimson chest piece with matching pleated skirt, armored onyx wings spread in response to that shine. With a sword of coppery-bronze in a sheath at her waist, she took a knee behind a perfectly polished circular shield to bow her head in reverence to the light. The red of her braids was akin to Camael’s stained wings, as if coils of blood streamed wetly past the armored neckline.

Compared to this, the revelation that the bullet’s armor-piercing death magic had been anchored to an invocation of the angel Sariel seemed rather anti-climactic.

Heck, that much was practically expected.




Chapter 9 - Clarity


Dropping the bullet still in the bag on the table, I let the light show drop away - though I kept staring at the angel as she too faded back to being a blouse-and-skirt-wearing legal assistant. She put a finger to her lips.

Yeah, I had to agree. This really wasn’t the right place to discuss it.

“Well,” I said both to the guys and to her for different reasons, “that explains that.”

“What exactly?” Goodman immediately picked up the bag and shook it so the bullet fell to the bottom.

I looked at him. “Angelic energy was invoked to aid the spellwork’s potency. As I feared, it’s Sariel’s.”

Isaiah grimaced. “I thought you’d informed the Grigori that I’d promised not to break the Seal. He has no reason to go after me anymore.”

“I did. Armaros promised to spread the word. But as I told you before, that doesn’t mean Sariel will believe it. And we still have no idea who Sariel is now. No leads, right?” I looked to the Director.

He shook his head. “No. Though that is hardly surprising. Looking for someone across the world who could have been taken over by a foreign spirit is entirely too vague. Do you have any idea how many people are in comas on any given day? Complicating this is the fact that as far as any other agency is concerned, the terrorist behind the assault in Egypt is dead. Even should we find where his spirit went, there’s no court that would entertain charges on such grounds. There’s nothing we could do legally against him.”

My friend the lawyer agreed. “The entire premise of the justice system would be upended should you try.”

I plonked back into the chair. “Why? I mean, if we could prove it, wouldn’t that be worth something?”

He looked at me like I was an idiot. “Can you imagine people filing suits declaring that so-and-so was the reincarnation of an unpunished criminal? Like a murderer who died before trial? That’s not a door you’d want opened.”


Isaiah turned to Goodman. “The explosion we saw, I presume that’s where the sniper set up. Anything left to identify who they were?”

The director rubbed his face, causing one side of the bushy mustache to droop more than the other. “No. No body, no gun. They’re combing the wreckage now to grasp at straws. Gregor reports resonances at the scene indicating the shooter likely warped out before detonation. And we know Sariel has made heavy use of portals.”

“Great,” I muttered. “Just great.”

“They knew you’d be at the courthouse,” Goodman said to Isaiah. “We’re analyzing footage in the lobby to see if there was a spotter to alert them when you came out.”

“Why not shoot him when he went in?” I asked.

Both men tried to talk at once. Goodman motioned for Isaiah to go ahead.

“They likely needed to confirm my face,” Isaiah said. “From that vantage it wouldn’t have been as visible going from the car to the entrance. A spotter on the steps would barely have time to give notice before I’d have been out of the targeting opportunity window.”

The director nodded. “Mr. Cohen, will you now accept protective custody? The danger to your life is clearly still present.”

Isaiah’s eyes flared, muscles along the jaw tightening. “No.”

“What?!” I blurted. Yeah, okay, that came out sounding rather like a certain princess when learning her planet was still on the menu for destruction. “Are you nuts? You need protection!”

“No,” he said again, avoiding my outrage by focusing on the director instead.

“That’s your choice.” Goodman pocketed the bullet again. “We advise against it, of course.”

I wanted to shout at Isaiah but clamped down on the urge. Figured I’d wait until it was just us two before letting loose.

“Any progress tracking Bishop?” asked Isaiah, obviously wanting to change the subject. “Or Coatl?”

Goodman’s face pinched with disgust. “Unfortunately the answer there is also no.”

Bishop was the Nephelim who had harnessed the power of an incarnate fallen angel to gather immense necromantic energies for fun and profit. It was his crystalline device - sold to Sariel - that had blown my ass to Hell. Coatl was his faithful vampire servant. Both had disappeared after Bishop’s attempt to kill his imprisoned-in-limbo brother went awry and almost let a plague of evil Nephelim loose upon the world, something Isaiah had prevented.

My sudden appearance in the midst of all that mess may have contributed to Bishop and Coatl’s escape so I stayed quiet.

Isaiah stood. “Then before Mrs. Feingold insists on showing up in person to drag the two of us out of here, we should go.” Mrs. Feingold was one of the managing partners of Isaiah’s firm. She was a no-nonsense attorney who had strong opinions on not talking to authorities unless forced to do so. As our personal representative, if she learned we’d breathed a single word to the DPA without her approval, her tongue would likely melt from the acidity content of the words she’d throw at us.

Goodman held up a hand. “One more question.” He turned to me. “When you appeared at the storage unit, you said you came for your own task.”

Isaiah’s eyebrows rose above the glasses. “You didn’t just rush out here because of the sniper?”

“Nope.” In my irritation with his stubbornness it was tempting to add that I wouldn’t have, but that’d be a flat out lie. “Something is going on at Kurohoshi’s tonight. Haruko is getting me in because I officially requested her aid in being better available to assist her father. And no,” I added before Goodman could pose the obvious question, “I don’t know where or what exactly, nor who else is invited. All I’ve been told is that it’s a formal event of some kind, and it’s clear that Haruko very much wants me to be there. She’s even given me a driver.”

“We should send an agent with you,” Goodman said.

This caused Isaiah to laugh. “Don’t be ridiculous. Kurohoshi’s people would never let them in.”

“She shouldn’t go alone. It could be dangerous.” The two men stared at each other for a moment then both turned their focus back at me.

I rolled my eyes. “I wasn’t planning on it. I was able to wheedle a plus-one.”

“Who?” Isaiah gruffly demanded.

Getting to my feet I grinned at him.

“Have you got a tuxedo?”




The limo sent by Haruko was parked and waiting in a visitor’s spot by the time we got out of the building. This included myself, Isaiah, and Isaiah’s bodyguard Jim who’d also finished giving a statement. As Isaiah’s own transport vehicle was now evidence, his previous driver was stuck dealing with additional paperwork and coordination with their security agency.

Casually leaning against the tinted windows of the extended sedan was my driver. Wearing an expensive dark blue silk jacket, genuine crocodile leather shoes, and a sky blue shirt, he also had these expensive gold-rimmed sunglasses pushed up to rest upon some seriously gelled and spiky hair. The guy was like the handsome older brother of some teenage anime protagonist, while the hair was styled vertically on top, the sides were shaved and his physical build screamed that if the clothes were to fall off then underneath he’d be as toned as Bruce Lee.

And from the way he moved to pull himself away from the car, he was similarly proficient at hand-to-hand combat.

As we approached his eyes flicked over Jim first, then Isaiah, before settling firmly on me. With an appreciative grin bordering on a suggestive leer he executed an exaggerated bow, complete with sweeping hand.

In Japanese he said, “You must be the lovely rose for whom I have been waiting: the shimmering and legendary Lady Aradia. Allow me the honor of introducing myself: I am Kurohoshi Saito. And I am at your service.”

Isaiah stiffened, but Saito deliberately ignored the lawyer’s glare.

“Kurohoshi?” I said with some surprise before replying in the same language. “Are you related to our esteemed host for this evening’s affair?”

Switching to perfectly American-style English, Saito maintained that smile. “He’s my uncle. My cousin arranged for a fashion consultant to assist in getting you a gown for the event, but the clock is ticking if you want it done in time.” He reached behind without looking and opened the limo’s passenger door.

Jim, having sized up Saito and therefore spotting the pair of handguns lurking under the suit, put a hand on Isaiah’s shoulder. “Sir, this could be a trap.”

I snorted. “Seriously? Kami would flay him alive if he did anything rude either to me or anyone in my retinue.”

Saito chuckled. “The lady has the right of that. I’m no threat, old man.”

Jim however continued to regard him with suspicion.

“C’mon,” I said. “We’re wasting time.” I climbed into the limo, scooting across to the row facing backwards.

Isaiah got in after, but as Jim started to join us in the back I stopped him. “Nuh-uh. You’re riding shotgun with Saito.”

The bodyguard didn’t like that. “I can’t protect Mr. Cohen from up front.”

“Relax,” I said. “I’ve got him covered.”

Jim threw me a “don’t be stupid” look. “No offense miss, but you should leave this to the adults.”

Oh really. Isaiah’s choked chortle didn’t earn him any brownie points either.

“Dude,” I said, “you’re new to this scene so I am going to let that pass. But right now Mr. Cohen and I have things to discuss. In private. Whether you like it or not.”

“Miss,” the bodyguard said with a dismissive growl, “It’s not up to you.” He even straightened his posture and stuck pectorals out trying to be more intimidating.

As if.

Saito, realizing the guy was digging himself a deeper hole, put a hand on Jim’s shoulder. “You’d best do as she says. From what I hear he’s safer with her than just about anyone else.”

Jim knocked the hand off. “Don’t tell me how to do my job.”

Enough was enough. “Right. You asked for it.” In a tone entirely flat I said, “Jim, that shoulder holster of yours is carrying a Glock Twenty-Two. Tucked in your waistband is your backup, a Smith & Wesson Model Fifty-Eight. With two speedloaders for the revolver and three extra magazines for the Glock tucked into various pockets, you’re a walking arsenal. That suit jacket has a Kevlar liner good enough for most small arms but not for long rifles or heavier. On your right calf is strapped a Ka-Bar; it’s on the right because you’re right-handed. You’ve mainly boxed, but you’re also military trained - likely by the Marines due to the initials etched into that blade. Your left knee has arthritis - not bad enough to really slow you down so you’ve still passed your physicals, but it’s influencing your footwork enough to tilt your balance. Now if I wanted I could also describe the various scar tissue you’ve acquired and how it’s all starting to impinge on the range and speed of your strikes, or I could just grab one of those hand-cannons and simply shove it into a nostril before you’d even think to move. But as Saito said, the afternoon is wearing thin and I need a damn dress.”

Only when I was done did I let eyes pulse with a flare of power.

Jim’s mouth hung open as his mental model of me spun around on several axes before tipping right on over. “I’ll…I’ll sit up front.”

“Good boy.”

Trying his best not to bust out laughing, Saito shut the door. Once everyone was in, Saito turned back towards those of us in the plushly appointed passenger section. “The consultant appointment is out on Melrose. But do we need to get him a suit too?” Saito tossed a thumb towards Isaiah.

“No,” Isaiah said from the middle of the rear seat. “I own one. I’d suggest dropping her off while we go pick it up.”

Saito proceeded to don a pair of fingertip-less leather driving gloves while looking to me for approval.

I shrugged. “Sure.”

With a wave of a mostly-covered finger Saito said, “Hi-ho Silver, away!”

“It’s ‘Hi-Yo Silver, away’,” grumped Jim. He was obviously not happy about being stuck up front.

Too bad.

Looking around the compartment I found a set of controls. One of them was marked “Privacy”, so I pushed the button which caused the hidden barrier between the front section and the back to slide into place with a solid thunk. A white noise generator also started up, lending an audible hum to everything.

Right. We were finally alone, just the two of us. Well, three if you counted the ghost sitting next to him. Isaiah stared at me for a long moment as the car maneuvered out of the parking lot.

Sinking into the cushy seat, I said, “What?”

He tilted his head. “Since when have you had a ‘retinue’?” The stern lawyerly facade finally cracked and my old friend smiled.

“Oh, I dunno. Probably around the time I became a queen.”

“Queen?” Eyes blinked in measured surprise. “That’s new.”

“As of last night, actually. Forged a realm for the fae who followed out of Arcadia.” I didn’t feel like explaining that as the reincarnation of Aradia there were already those who believed me to be the “Queen of the Witches,” so I didn’t mention that.

“A new realm,” he pondered. “A queen indeed.”

I couldn’t hold it in any longer, blurting out, “Why haven’t you been answering your phone?!”

“Been busy.”

“That’s a stupid excuse and you know it.” Pulling feet onto the seat, I hugged the bare knees. “Tell me the truth, dammit.”

Anger flashed. “You really want to know?”

“Of course I do!”

“It’s because of this.” He held up his gloved left hand, palm out.

“Your hand went all dark months ago. How is that a reason?”

“Because of what it represents.” Turning fingers around, he stared at it. “Because of the question it raises.”


“Who am I?” Making a fist, he stared over the clenched fingers. “Am I Azrael? Or am I Isaiah?”

“You’re both.”

“You just don’t get it.” He sighed, dropping the hand to his lap.

“Then tell me. For fuck’s sake, if you can’t tell me who else can you tell?”

“What about you? Interesting show you put on there with Jim. If I didn’t know you better I might have been scared. Are you really that fast?”

“Oh no you don’t! You don’t get to change the subject. If you’d answered my calls I’d have told you things I haven’t said to anyone else, but now you bloody well get to wait. Got it? Good. So you and Azrael. What’s the deal? And why on Earth are you risking your life going to court like that - is this case or whatever that important?”

“Yes. It is.”

“It’s just a lawsuit.”

“It’s mine!” He hadn’t exactly shouted but the vehemence behind the statement came across loud and clear.

I hugged knees tighter and watched his mind wrestle with something deep inside.

“Look,” he said slowly after a moment’s silence. “We know what will happen when I die. With the Fourth Seal left intact I’ll just incarnate again. Isaiah Cohen will go up on the shelf, right alongside all the other human lives.”

“We don’t know that.”

“Yes, we do. I’ve had a glimpse of the end of the previous life, when Gabriel woke Azrael up enough to release your spirit so she could bind it to the seed from the Tree of Life by weaving it all together with strings from her own pattern. I’m just another character that Azrael is playing in this crazy game of Cities & Humans.”

I swallowed, thinking of Cassius’ struggles against Shemyaza. And what of myself? Goodman already asked the angel to speak to “Jordan”, as if we were separate beings.

But we weren’t, right?

“That can’t be all there is,” I said. “I don’t buy it.”

“Maybe not for you. But you died, returned, and broke the First Seal.”

Biting a lip I stayed quiet, not knowing what to say.

He leaned forward. “This is my life. This case can make or break my future, do you understand? It’s got nothing to do with angels or heavenly destinies. Azrael isn’t channeling through to enact divine justice. This case is just a legal conflict born of simple human greed stomping on the rights of another. It’s my fight. I put it aside to go after Bishop in vengeance for what happened to you, hoping for that to lead on to Sariel himself so he could pay for what he’s done. But look what happened.”

“Nick and Camael found me in time for Camael to deliver his message. And then you pulled me out of the Chaos. That’s what happened.”

Shaking his head, he said, “Yes, but also no.” His hands were trembling.

I wanted to reach out to him. “Tell me. What else?”

Eyes burned with anger and also fear. “You stopped me. From ripping the corrupted and imprisoned Nephelim from their prison and tossing their rotted spirits into Oblivion.”

The scene flashed past again. Isaiah’s image blended with Azrael’s, his shared grip reaching towards Limbo’s rift, preparing to enact their combined desire. “All I did was ask you a question.”

He spat a bitter laugh. “Don’t you see? Your question kept Azrael from Falling from grace! You saved him from me, from my messed up incarnate’s rage - think of the terrible consequences if you hadn’t!”

My heart surged and the light stirred within. I didn’t fight it and shadows within our compartment melted away.

“Untrue,” I found myself saying. “To none other than Isaiah did I speak. And thus was the spirit of mine uncle and brother kept from crossing a line, one he in pain and sorrow has stared at for so long that clarity has become twisted, perhaps even lost.”

My best friend gaped in astonishment as the illuminated words slowly penetrated his thick skull.

“You idiot,” I said softly as the light faded away. “You’ve had it backwards this whole time. It was you who saved him.”

He sat in stunned silence while Saito smoothly sped past other cars on the freeway. With a tired sigh I couldn’t help but add one last comment:

“I could’ve told you sooner if you’d just returned my danged calls.”




Chapter 10 - Fashion


“Tiffany, if you show me one more overly-flowered cocktail dress I swear I will make you eat the fabric.”

Yeah, I was not doing a good job of hiding the mounting frustration.

Saito had dropped me off at one end of Melrose Avenue, just past Santa Monica Blvd. There I’d been met by a woman in her early twenties wearing a pantsuit whose blue would have been right at home at Dodger Stadium and whose blonde curls must have taken all morning to get so tight. While the boys went on their way to Isaiah’s house in the hills to pick up his tuxedo I’d been stuck with this lady who kept trying to foist fabrics and designs more appropriate for a junior high student in pigtails and braces.

“Hmm okay,” she said all bubbly while the threat went in one ear and out the other. “What about this one?”

“Dear god, that’s a plaid dishwashing towel with a hole for the head cut into it!”

“It’s designer label!”

“You’ve got to be kidding.” No, I’m not going to embarrass the designer by naming them. That so-called dress must have been an inside joke at the design house that clearly had gone too far. A twenty-four-hundred dollars apiece prank even, unbelievable as that was.

We were in Tiffany’s small office space at the back of one of the many fashion stores lining the Avenue. Much like the other buildings around this one was single-story with tilted head-in parking along the street that lined up before the glass windows. I’d been motioned to an uncomfortable-yet-trendy bar stool while she had perched herself on a minimalistic silver plastic chair kept behind a glass-topped cedar desk. The desk held only a monitor (which had the entire computer integrated inside of it), a wireless white mouse and matching keyboard, and nothing else.

Other than the expensive brand to-go coffee cup whenever she put it down anyway.

On one wall was a much larger display she’d been tormenting with displays of horrible dress after horrible dress that only brain-damaged teenage girls would ever have been willing to wear. On the other wall was a wooden cabinet with a full length mirror on its front, but we hadn’t needed it yet and at this rate never would.

“Look,” I said while temples throbbed with irritation, “Like I told you at the start, I need a formal-style evening dress, conservative yet elegant. Backless is preferred, and a slit up the skirt on one side would be nice. Nothing black and nothing white; I don’t know if the event is strictly Japanese or if other Asian nationalities will be present. Heck I don’t even know if it’ll be global. But I don’t need to show up with a color faux pas.”

“Oh, so this isn’t for a prom?”

“No! For god’s sake, no! It’s probably a gathering of power brokers of the kind that would make most heads of state nervous.”

“Hmm. So what is your mother wearing? Maybe we can complement that.”

“My mother has nothing to do with it!”

“I see. Who are you going with then? Your father?”

I stared aghast at the idiot with the obviously bleached hair and brain. This was beyond ridiculous. Come to think of it, there’s no way Haruko would have arranged a booking with someone as incompetent as this woman.

“Tiffany,” I said slowly so I wouldn’t shout, “when my appointment was made - who was it supposed to have been with?”

She blinked. “Oh. Well, Marion was going to be here but her kid is sick, see, so I said I could totally help out and take care of it!” The girl smiled wide showing off blindingly bright veneers.

“Marion, huh? I’m going to be honest here, you aren’t helping. In fact this is wasting my time.”

A heavily lipsticked and collagen-plumped pout emitted a whine. “It’s not my fault! You said you needed something within a few hours but you’re too tall and proportional to fit anything off the racks! For a long dress like you want the length has to match the legs precisely or else you’ll either trip or it’ll be too short and look all wrong.”

“Are you saying this is pointless?”

The puckered lips quivered. “Marion might have thought of something, but a custom-made dress like you need would take days. As is we’re almost late to getting your hair and makeup done!”

Great. Just great.

I couldn’t help it. Much to Tiffany’s confusion I started laughing. Where were those amazing and magical fae tailor ladies when you needed them? I’d thought of manifesting the fairy-made dress they’d gifted me, something I’d managed to do when showing it off to Jenna a few weeks ago. But that gown was all white with gold trim and could very well be horribly inappropriate for whatever Kurohoshi had planned. It’d be just my luck that the whole thing was actually centered around someone’s wedding, for example.

So here I was, a supposedly great and powerful Seraph, yet utterly stymied by the ridiculous rack offerings of so-called “high fashion”.

Though wait a minute.

Cutting the laughter mid chortle I flicked eyes to study Tiffany who was still caught between trying to summon tears or attempting to fake laugh along with the crazy yet high-paying customer. “Alright,” I said. “You got good Internet here?”


“Yeah, connectivity. Is the bandwidth any good?”

“I…I think so?” She waved vaguely at the computer.

“What about fabrics and trims? You have that in stock?”

“Yes? But there’s no time-”

I cut her off. “Silk and velvet in greens and darker purples. Trims in gold, rhinestone, or even diamond. Bring what you have out here. And get me a phone while you do that. Move!”

Flustered, she pulled out her own smart phone, fumbled it into my hands, then ran out of the office.

Dialing from memory I prayed the person would answer. It was her private number so I had a chance.

It rang. And rang.

On the third chime it picked up. “Hello?”

“Cecilia? It’s Jordan. Jordan Emrys.”

“Why hello!” she said cheerily. “If you’re calling about the grades for class I haven’t posted them yet.”

“No, it’s not that. I’m in Los Angeles and I could use your help.”

“I’d heard you’d gone off campus. What’s wrong, hon?”

What I said next was something I’d never have imagined to ever need say. “I have a fashion emergency.”

A pause and then in a fully focused and professional tone she said, “Give me all the particulars.”

I was saved.




In every field of human endeavor there have been true geniuses, people astoundingly brilliant within that domain much to the envy of everyone else. Einstein, Ramanujan, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Mozart and Beethoven - the list goes on and on. When it came to fashion and clothing design, I’d discovered that there was one name known in high cultural circles as well as in the darker corners of espionage and wet-work teams.

That name was Cecilia Rogers.

Her shop was tucked away in a small New Hampshire town not far from a certain academy with equal renown in the highest and lowest circles. Spinning out fabrics using her blend of magic and technology she crafted items worthy of making royalty weep and operatives flush with desire. She also happened to teach Ballroom Dancing at that school. Last summer she’d drafted me into her class so I’d stop moving around like a forty-year old geezer and more like the girl my body had become.

After explaining the situation to her she thought for a moment.

“Alright, hon,” she said. “I think I understand what you’re up against but I’m not sure you have the financial means for me to solve it.”

“Well, what are the options?”

“I may be able to assemble an outfit for you in time for your engagement, but your deadline is quite tight and there wouldn’t be a window for alterations or adjustments after seeing how it moves and feels to you. And the real issue is delivery. The few portal users who even offer this level of last-minute service will charge on the order of at least fifty thousand. And while I love you dearly, my own fees are not inconsiderable.”

The fact she knew folks capable of such was another indication of what kind of clients she was used to dealing with. “Actually,” I said, “I could pop back to campus easily enough for a pickup. And then back to my usual arrival spot in Los Angeles after. But without a margin for traffic and travel to our mysterious evening destination that may or may not work. In any case I had something else in mind.”

“Now I’m curious.”

Tiffany came in and began dumping the fabrics and accessories I’d sent her to retrieve all across the desk. “I’m thinking if you can whip up on the computer a fully detailed design down to the last style of stitch, I’ll get someone else here to put it all together.”

“Have you met another tailor with abilities similar to mine who could meet the timetable? I certainly haven’t heard of any, and trust me I keep my ear out.”

“If your blueprints are good enough and they use the fabrics and thread we’ve got on hand, I was thinking of doing it myself.”

That caught her off-guard. “You think you can in one afternoon learn to sew and have the results be suitable for such an event? That’s rather ambitious, Jordan. Even for you.”

“You know that horrible place I just got back from? To not freeze your butt off, either you had an expansive wardrobe or you kept mending whatever little you owned. And my wardrobe sucked frozen rocks. A friend taught me the basics.”

Many hours had been spent fumbling with needle and thread repairing the scraps I called an outfit, with Twitch patiently showing what to do. Could we design fabulous attire that would turn heads on a catwalk for critical acclaim? Heck no. But we could reinforce stitching and perform some darn good patchwork when things ripped, tore, or got sliced off. Which was often.

“I don’t have to be an expert on technique here,” I continued. “I only have to visualize the dress as complete and manifest it. Heck, my subconscious or higher self has had to do that whenever I’ve shifted between realms. Otherwise I’d be popping in and out naked all the time.”

“You sure? If you can accomplish this, it’d be an astonishing feat.”

I sighed. “Look, I haven’t told the faculty everything I can do, okay? I’ve already worked out how to deal with the wings bursting through t-shirts and sports-bras and restoring those, so pretty sure I can do this. With your precisely rendered models it can’t be any harder than reading the blueprints of reality to fix things like, oh I dunno, my balcony doors. I just need to understand the pattern. And also for it to not be some hacked garbage like the god-awful crap they’ve been shoving at me here. Help me, Cecilia Rogers, you’re my only hope!”

Behind me Tiffany emitted a strangled meep and proceeded to have a coughing fit.

Cecilia however laughed. “Start sending pictures of your available materials and we’ll discuss design. You just have to promise me something.”

“Name it.”

“If you pull this off, you must stop by and model it for me.”


Without any time to spare we video conferenced Cecilia to show off material after material, pausing to discuss exactly how the dress should look and feel, as well as for her to describe and show examples of every type of stitch required.

It was in the middle of one of those discussions that the men returned. They shuffled into the office to find me surrounded by swatches of fabrics while holding up a piece of dark violet velvet and saying, “I like this one. Especially how it shimmers. Oh, hey guys.”

Over the speaker Cecilia asked, “Better than the forest green?”

“Hang on, Cecilia. The boys are back. Hey Saito,” I said, looking past Isaiah and Jim who had walked in first. “What time do we need to arrive and how long will it take to get there?”

The studly-looking soldier for the Yakuza shrugged. “Arrival no later than seven. From here I’d say an hour’s drive so leave by six provided you both are dressed first.”

“Any problems getting Isaiah’s tuxedo? Oh hey, what color is his cummerbund?”

Isaiah answered. “It’s black.”

I made a face. “Well that’s boring. Alright, you guys shoo. We’re busy. Go get coffee or something. I’ve got maybe an hour left to finish this before it’s too late for my hair and makeup.”

“Don’t forget jewelry,” Cecilia said. “You’ll need accessories.”

“Crud. I almost forgot.” As the crew just stood there without moving, I rolled eyes at them and waved towards the exit. “Seriously guys, go! I’ve got to strip down soon and you’d better believe I’m not letting you all watch.”

Saito broke into a mischievous grin and gave an exaggerated sigh. “Aww.”

I laughed. “Trust me dude, this dress will be an eyeful reward enough on its own. Now git!” I winked at him and Saito, now sporting a wider smile, went out the door.

Refocusing on the task, I ran the current fabric between thumb and forefinger before speaking back towards the phone. “Yeah, this one. No trim needed, keep it simple. Also I’ve an idea for earrings and I bet I can cut the time down on getting my hair done. I’ll need help on makeup though, that has to work with the dress. Plus I don’t have any supplies with me. And the nails on my fingers and toes are going to need some color too.”

Isaiah was still standing there, staring as if I’d grown a second head. It took Jim to pull him out of the office. The bodyguard was kind enough to shut the door closed behind them.

“Got it,” Cecilia was saying. “You two work on finding appropriate heels while I get this design done. Give me thirty-five.”

“Okay. We’ll get back to you then.”

Tiffany, who had been holding the phone and quietly following directions, hung up the call and just stood there.

“Shoes, Tiff,” I prodded. “What have you got in my size that’s simple like a sandal? With an appropriate height to the heel, of course.”

She wasn’t listening. “You…you’re friends with Cecilia Rogers? The Cecilia Rogers?”

“Yes, I am. And when we’re done I’ll be deleting that phone number from your phone.”

This time when she looked like she was going to cry it was genuine. And no, I wasn’t going to remind her that she could find it again by looking at her billing statement. Shh!

More gently I added, “Sorry hon. It’s her private number. But you do get to tell Marion how you spent the afternoon working with her.”

The girl sniffled but her eyes brightened as she realized the size of the bragging rights she’d just been gifted. “I think I know just the pair!” With that she too disappeared out the door.

Frowning, I returned thoughts to hair and accessories.

Oh, and underwear. It wouldn’t need a bra, but a dress like this would require seamless underwear - like a sleek thong perfectly matching my skin tone. Fortunately the fae seamstresses had provided that too so I was covered there.

Though admittedly not by much!




With Cecilia’s perfectly detailed schematics and with the exact material right there in front of me, it turned out to be even easier than I expected. All I had to do to manifest the dress was to flip fully into spirit and then back while holding the intention of precisely what to be wearing when re-arriving. Of course to prevent losing my current attire I’d stripped out of it all first so nothing would be lost during the transition.

And okay, Cecilia did revise the design blueprints a couple of times after Tiffany zoomed in with the camera around my ass and armpits while I walked around.

The door was firmly shut (and locked) during all of this, of course.

What the legendary seamstress and fashion mogul had put together was, in a word, beautiful. In the deep violet and velvet fabric, she had designed a one shoulder cap sleeve dress where the ruched fabric rested across the right shoulder then draped down at an angle over the top of the chest as if the torso had been wrapped in a separate and thicker piece laying just above the (cough) prominent frontal curves. From there the fake shawl went all the way to the left arm which slotted through the “faux wrap”, as Cecilia had called it. This left the skin of my left shoulder and upper back bare with the front styling being rather reminiscent of a toga. The dress hugged tight against all the curves of stomach and past the hips the skirt fell mostly straight to the floor except for the thigh-high slit for the left leg. She’d also added some hidden extra support just below the shoulder-blades to keep everything from falling down should wings manifest - and having (quite literally) created the dress once I could do so again to quickly perform any needed repairs due to popping out and returning any feathery appendages.

It was simple, it was elegant, and all in all, I loved it.

“You know,” Cecilia was saying while Tiffany walked around with the phone’s camera again, “With you just appearing with it already on like that, I bet the zipper up the back could be removed entirely.”

“Uhm,” I said thinking about it. “Wouldn’t I need the zipper if someone else had to remove it?” Memories flashed on the numerous times we’d had to cut armor and clothing off wounded demons and soldiers to be able to treat them because there was no quick way to get everything off.

She chuckled. “Are you planning for someone else to strip you bare? My, my!”

“What? No!” My face went hot. Which she clearly noticed as Tiffany had panned back to focus right on it.

Cecilia grinned through the connection at my distress. “That length works well with those shoes. Though if your hair was long like it used to be then the whole look would be improved, especially due to the off-shoulder style. Now, you mentioned earrings - let’s see them.”

Shaking off the embarrassing thoughts she’d conjured, I closed eyes again - focusing instead on more pleasant memories instead. Flipping out and back once more earned gasps from Tiffany and Cecilia both.

This time I’d reappeared with a few changes. Dangling from both ears were the golden star-shaped earrings gifted freely by the fae, glittering in the office light with more sparkle than any mundane metal had ever achieved. Also soft yet fire-metal-touched red tresses cascaded once more across my back. A thin and expertly crafted gold Celtic-knotted circlet rested across the brow and ears, its magical nature holding every strand of hair perfectly in place.

I hadn’t recreated the fae gifts when returning to the physical, instead I merely lent them enough energy to make the crossing through the same gap I used each time. If I got too far away - like if I’d removed them and wandered off - they’d disappear and snap back to my spirit where I’d been holding them in a kind of spiritual limbo ever since I’d come back from Arcadia.

How that mechanism worked exactly was something I’d been exploring with Jenna to understand - somehow the gifts had bonded with me spiritually so where I went, so did they - even if not on display or use.

Across the video, Cecilia’s smile filled with warmth as she took in the details. “That’s lovely, dear. Simply lovely. You’ve come a long way.”

Dangit, cheeks blushed again.

Tiffany, after admiring the earrings, suddenly perked up. “Wait! We’ve got the perfect necklace!” She dropped the phone on the desk and ran out of the office.

“Hey Cecilia?” I said after flipping the phone over and propping it up so she could hear and see again. “What color should I do for the nails?”

She pondered. “You could go with either an even deeper purple, or with a subtle nude hue. Or do the French manicure with the white tips.”

“Eh, I’ve never liked the French manicure thing. Always looks weird to me. Do the fingers and toes have to match?”

“No, though it’d be best if the shades were similar.”

“What about making the fingers a slightly deeper shade of violet than the dress, and the toes even darker? For a three-shade effect?”

“Sounds good!” She laughed again.

I was about to ask her just what exactly was so funny when Tiffany came bursting back in.


Before I could object (or even see what she was holding), she ran behind and draped a thin chain around my neck. In the mirror I could see the charm it held against my upper chest: a simple eight pointed and equally golden star.

Cecilia said it first. “Perfect. Well done, Tiffany. And I think that wraps it up for my assist. Jordan, if you were here, I’d have you duplicate materials with actual protective properties. But at times you have to work with what you’ve got.”

“Thank you!” I shouted at the phone. “I owe you!”

The magic seamstress grinned. “Yes you do, and the bill will be sent out shortly. Try not to faint at the number of zeroes. Now get going and match those nails with appropriate makeup to drop the jaws of all onlookers into the dirt!”

“It was nice meeting you!” Tiffany called out from where she’d moved closer to the cabinet with the mirror.

“You too, hon. Take care!” Cecilia disconnected the video call, leaving me wondering what exactly Tiffany was doing over by the cabinet.

That became apparent as she swung the wooden doors open to reveal all the colors of the rainbow plus more across a selection of nail polish, lipstick, blush, and eyeliner stacked alongside all the required tools of the trade.

“So,” she said while flashing those pearly whites again. “What colors would you like? I may not have been as helpful with finding a dress off the rack, but makeup and mani-pedis are my stock in trade. Just have a seat and let’s get to it!” She pointed to the chair behind the desk as she began pulling out protective mats for the desk’s surface and also the linoleum flooring.

I did as told, and darn me if she wasn’t right this time. She did absolutely great work on the makeup and on each finger and toe. The extra foot massage tossed in was also pretty darn nice, and the tiny dark blue with green artistic flowers added to each big-toe were cute.

With ten minutes to spare - and after fending off a few not-so-polite reminding knocks on the door - we were finished.

“There,” she said, putting down the last brush she’d been using on my face. “Whatever you’re attending tonight, Ms. Emrys, I think you’ll knock ‘em dead.”

Slipping feet back into high-heels that had a simple strap around the toes and another behind the ankles, I stood and turned about in the mirror one last time. With a smile of my own I decided I was ready to do just that.

It felt good.




Chapter 11 - Armor


Emerging from the office and out to the fashion boutique’s showroom generated most of the reactions I’d been hoping for. Saito whistled while waggling eyebrows and Jim’s posture stiffened as he had to re-evaluate me yet again. I almost felt sorry for him.

Isaiah waited in a perfectly conservative tuxedo complete with black satin bow-tie, matching dark cummerbund, and immaculately polished narrow-toed shoes. Plus, of course, one of his prized gold Rolex watches. His eyes taking in first the high heels, slit-legged dress, and then all the jewelry, he turned away and moved towards the front doors. In a strangled voice he said, “We, uh, should get going.”

Saito watched him walk away then glanced back to me with an amused expression.

I shrugged.

Jim, realizing he was still staring while his client was heading outdoors, scurried over to Isaiah to check the street before allowing any exit. He too had changed clothes from the standard business jacket and tie into a tuxedo even more boring and nondescript than Isaiah’s - though his jacket was unbuttoned. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but Tiffany had quickly found something off the rack for him that was close enough.

“Here,” Tiffany said at my side as she held out one of those thick paper sacks with rope-like handles used at higher-end stores, complete with brightly painted logo. Inside were my expertly folded shorts, t-shirt, sports bra, socks, boring and plain panties, and sneakers.

Camael’s obsidian and gold bracers rested on top.

After getting me to take the bag she stepped back. “Thank you for visiting! Come again!”

Suppressing a chuckle I said, “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

“Oh no! Everything you had on is in there!” She smiled, blinking with projected innocence.

Slinging the handles over a wrist I held out a hand. “Your phone, hon. I wasn’t joking.”

Crestfallen she reluctantly handed it over. A quick search revealed that she had saved Cecilia’s number to three differently named contacts.

And had texted it to herself for good measure.

With a few taps they were removed and the phone was handed back along with a verbal warning. “Just remember. Should I find out you used that number to bug my friend in any way I will let it be known to your boss and to society circles of the kind you cannot imagine that you broke client confidentiality.”

I paused, letting that sink in before adding, “And if you somehow have it memorized and give it out to anyone else, remember this: I am owed favors by those who overnight could remove every electronic record attesting that you and this entire business ever existed. All your financial accounts, medical records, car registration, even down to what preschool you attended, will be wiped. Do you understand?”

The girl turned paler than Isaiah’s ghost and nodded.

Resuming a friendly smile I said, “Thank you for the help today. Saito, shall we go?” Without waiting for his response I too walked (or more accurately, sashayed) towards the front doors, pausing there to allow Saito to open them first.

What a gentleman.

As we walked towards Jim and Isaiah who were waiting at the end of the block, Saito asked, “Is that true?”


“About you having those kind of hacker connections.”

I thought of Erica Lain, the super magi-tech genius still lurking inside a pyramid charged up with all the magical power the entire planet had been generating for millennia and answered succinctly. “Yes.”

He whistled sharply. “Lady, forget steel - whoever dates you is gonna need balls of titanium.”

Giving him an amused side-glance I asked, “Are yours?”

“Not without a bottle of sake first.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

We were both still laughing as we passed the alert bodyguard and scowling lawyer on our way to where Saito had needed to park the long vehicle around the corner on the permit-only side-street. Naturally the windshield had gotten a ticket. I wondered if he’d charge the cost to Haruko.

Considering the likely costs of this entire fashion outing she probably wouldn’t even notice. Especially not after I’d forwarded Cecilia’s bill!




Once again Los Angeles traffic lived up to its obnoxious standard. An accident near the 405 and 101 interchange had snarled things in all directions. You’d think it would only mess up the side where the incident occurred, but nope that’s not how it works - especially when the collisions were near the fast lanes and thus clearly visible over the concrete barriers separating northbound from south. Idiots on either side always slow down to look.

As we crawled bumper-to-bumper along, I was therefore stuck contemplating whether we’d end up being “fashionably” late. I’d have shared the joke with Isaiah except he’d been strangely quiet since we’d gotten in the car. He kept sneaking glances at my dress when he thought I wouldn’t notice before quickly returning focus out the window. He was clearly bothered by something but like usual that had him refusing to communicate.

I’d even tossed a “what gives?” look to Tracy where she sat beside him, and the spirit merely shrugged as if to say, “no idea.”

Eh, whatever.

Opening the bag from Tiffany, I pulled out the bracers and held them over a velvet purple lap. Yeah, they totally clashed with this dress. Sure the gold inscriptions and patterns would work with the earrings and circlet, but the dark leather-looking-yet-harder-than-metal cuffs covered most of the forearms when worn, not to mention the small bit of a triangle that went over the back of the hands at the wrists.

I’d lost count of the number of times they’d saved me. From deflecting the blows of a light-swallowing sword to lending the fighting knowledge to go hand-to-hand against faster and stronger Hellish foes, they were a gift I’d come to treasure.

Frankly I’d worn the angelic armor pieces so often I almost felt naked without them, and if I was honest with myself the feeling was more akin to what Linus must have felt whenever his sister stole away his security blanket. But there was no way I could wear them to whatever Kami had planned for the evening which raised another issue. I sure as heck didn’t want to leave them behind in the car.

To casually shove artifacts of Heaven into a glove box seemed, well, sacrilegious.

My tapping them against each other while debating what to do caught Tracy’s attention, and the ghost leaned forward for a better look before speaking mind-to-mind like I’d done with other angels on occasion.

“Those are parts of Camael’s armor, aren’t they?”

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by this kind of dialogue anymore, but I still startled more upright. “Um, yeah?”

“They have accepted you. I’ve never seen our armor accept another wearer before.”

“He gave them to me. And when he found me in Hell I never had the chance to ask if he wanted them back.”

Isaiah’s former assistant smiled. “If he had they would have returned to him immediately.”

“I really don’t want to leave them in the car or anywhere else. But I can’t wear them with this dress without it potentially becoming a thing.”

Tracy tilted her head. “Normally we pull the armor back into our spirits when not wishing for them to show. Like this.” Checking first that Isaiah was still staring blankly out a window, she held out a hand and a bronze and gold gauntlet flickered into view. With a twist of the wrist it disappeared again.

I shook my head. “I don’t think that will work. They’ve accepted me, sure, but they’re not bonded to my spirit. Whereas yours is part of you, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it indeed is. Our armor is formed from concentrations of our spirit and divine purpose. Lesser angels such as myself require assistance from craftsman to forge their essence into usable hardened patterns, but for those like Camael his armor manifested naturally.”

Huh. I hadn’t known that. “You’re no ‘lesser angel’ - you feel more like a captain. Want to tell me who you are? Or should I light up the room again and read the name that pops up.”

She gave a grim smile. “I’d rather you didn’t.”

“Why not?”

Pointing at Isaiah, she sighed. “He hasn’t recognized me yet. He may not be ready.”

“Hmm. Okay.”

“But in any case I am no archangel.”

“And Camael is?”

“He became one, yes. And later took the title of Regent of the Seat of Light after refusing its full offering.”

“But Gabriel bossed him around.”

That got a laugh. “Gabriel is good at that when needed. For who would dare upset her?”

“Is her anger that bad?” That was confusing as I couldn’t imagine Gabriel having a horrible temper. I just couldn’t.

“Gabriel’s rage cuts all with the very pain from her heart that triggered it. To even bear witness is to share her sorrow. Yet that is not what most fear. Many would rather a thousand years punishment at Michael’s command than to feel an instant of Gabriel’s disappointment.”


“You would do well to remember this. There are many who feel the same towards you.”

That caught me.“Who?”

“You’ll need to figure that out on your own.”

Ugh. Not helpful. “Fine. But this doesn’t answer the problem literally at hand: what do I do with these bracers?”

“Why not ask them?”

I blinked. “They talk?”

“Communication is not always through conversation. Let them feel your concern and need, and see what happens.”

She was right. The bracers had never said words as such, but they’d spoken all the same. I’d taken that for granted, along with their reacting to threats with expert guidance. I tried to let them feel what I was worried about, focusing on keeping myself open to whatever response was given.

As usual I got a lot more than I’d asked for and all vision of the limo’s interior faded away.


Heaven’s defenders were sorely pressed.

Upon all sides the assaulting force clashed against those loyal to the Throne. Rebel angels had allied with other spirits, adding their powers and numbers to the mass now pushing closer towards its goal of breaching the City. Fae, demons, devils - countless were those who had rallied against the order imposed by Throne and Host.

And now the blood of all spilled forth across the many-layered plains surrounding the holy sanctuary of sanctuaries of the Bene-Elohim. The roar of endless conflict echoed off those towering walls to shake to their roots the very realms of Creation.

Wave after wave of inflamed rage and boundless ambition poured forward, led by the guile and strength of the Rebels’ ultimate Commander. Standing at their forefront wielding in each terrible hand a blade of darkness and chaos, Samael’s laughter of maddening glee accompanied each massive swing through the multitudes before him as he drove his cohorts to further heights of slaughter.

For the former Lord of the Seat of Destruction had calculated tactics too cunning for those desperate to halt his advance, targeted as they were to each and every one of his opponent’s weaknesses. Already a feint elsewhere which could not be ignored had forced away a contingent of Heaven’s strongest, as Beliel’s might anchored the Host’s defense of other realms deemed too critical to lose.

Despite the blazing light of the First sweeping before the walls lines of white fire across entire regiments, the intensity of the assault appeared unstoppable. And Lucifer’s own attentions had needed to split focus between deadly counter-attacks and channeling the holy light through the defenders and the realm itself to maintain their steadfastness in the face of a terror never conceived.

To his former comrade hovering above on six by six by six wings of light and glory did Samael shout even while his sandaled feet trod forward across bone, feather, and blood.

“Helel! Bringer of Light! Hear me! There is no victory here for your argument. Your awareness grasps full the flaws I exploit and lay bare! Surrender now and I shall pluck them forth that you may again perceive unblemished truth. Let this abomination of your forging be at an end and set yourself free!”

A flash of brilliance lanced from the skies with the heat of flames not witnessed since the birth of all things. Crossing twin blades before him as his only armor, the dark-winged angel stood steady while all those around screamed their horror as manifested flesh and the spirits embodied within boiled and burned to naught but smoking cinders.

Only then did the First from on High speak.

“Gaze not at our weaknesses, brother, but thine own. Amongst you are those who would be content only to see the Throne of Glory destroyed, but you ally also with those who desire to sit themselves upon it, to impose their own slanted and twisted words upon all. Can you stand alone against the weight of the greed and arrogance you marshal upon these fields?”

Marching forward as an army of one, Samael closed ranks towards thousands and then millions of golden shields and spears all arraying before him as a wall rising upwards on wing upon wing of purest white. Gazing at the growing number the Rebel laughed again. “This is your defense? Where are your champions, Lucifer? Waste not these tiny sparks and come down from your lofty perch. A direct discussion is overdue.”

To this the First offered no response, for he understood the goal his dark brother had conceived. Without the support of Light’s blessings upon the entire field of battle other salients of defense would fall. Should he swoop down to engage in single combat the war would be lost.

Snarling at the silence, Samael raised swords again. “Then witness the gifts the blood of your own heart has bestowed upon those brave enough to embrace the unpleasant truths from which you flee. Watch and tremble as our objections are proven by each and every obliteration!”

Feathers which once sliced the Primal Chaos itself filled with dark resolve and snapped outward, and in a blur the dread angel fell upon the defenders. Cleaving shields and those behind as if they were naught but the thinnest of ribbons, the blades taken from beyond sliced through that which Is, ripping through layer upon layer of Creation’s pattern - and thereby tearing through angel after angel desperately trying to hold.

Cries of dissolution blended with the tearing tumult of rent steel and flesh. But in the midst of the terrible clamor resounded a tremendous clang, the shockwave of its impact knocking away dust and angels alike from the source.

There at the center of the whirlwind one angel stood tall, his two-handed sword of blazing light holding firm against the twin blades of chaos and bringers of dissolution.

Samael, the lining of his black tunic fluttering in the gusts generated by their opposing force, grinned wide. “And Lo! Behold, brother. A single spark may yet show promise!”

The angel standing stalwart said nothing, beads of concentration dripping across skin tanned almost to match the black of the Rebel commander’s wings. But the eyes, the eyes blazed forth with flame and depth of fury the likes of which his opponent had never yet encountered.

Breaking free, Samael took a step back. “You burn, little one. With the cores of a trillion galaxies, you burn brighter than any but the First himself. What is thy name?”

To this the angel spoke, his words echoing across the battlefield even above the clash and clatter of the conflict entire.

“I am He Who Sees the Lord. I am Camael.”

The Rebel lost his smile. “Then you of all our brethren should perceive clearly the weakness in the Pattern which prick at skin and spirit.”

“I see through to what you do not. I see the Promise held within the Light.”

With sword whose burning flames lifted higher still, black and gold swirled across the angel’s skin as holy script enveloped him with armor forged of burning faith. Cuirass first of purest obsidian over leather shirt and greaves, matching bracers, boots, and gloves - all completed by an onyx and gold circlet which lowered hardened metal across the angel’s temples and cheeks.

The open slit across the eyes flared as a solid line of white flame.

Aloft on terrible wings, Samael again crossed twin blades before him. Instead of lancing forward however he pulled away, for his forces had gathered again with numbers overwhelming, each wielding spear and sword, battle-lust and rage.

And with a single shouted command he sent them forth.

Camael’s wings flashed as he readied himself for the incoming charge of hate and darkness. Behind him stood a scattered collection of heavenly comrades, the few who had survived Samael’s assault. From differing Choirs they stood firm as the power within Camael reached for them, and they too gained armor and resolve as their eyes came to blaze with the same surety as the one who had first held fast.

“Show me, brother,” said Samael. “Show me this newfound strength. And this I also wonder: when drowned you are in blood and fire will thy vision still remain?”

As the shrieking swarm surrounded the seemingly insignificant force Camael again gave reply.

“By blade and will a path to that Promise shall be laid.”

So saying the true slaughter began.


Coughing at memories both Camael’s and my own of throat-ripping smoke mixed with the visceral aroma of soldiers torn apart and set aflame, I fumbled and nearly dropped the bracers to the floor.

Partly that was because they weren’t bracers anymore. Instead I held a pair of gold-woven cuffs, the metal weave across their four inch height shimmering in the lights of passing cars. To my sight of course the angelic script was easily visible, but otherwise they appeared just as mundane - and elegant - as the rest of my accoutrements.

Naturally they were a perfect fit.


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