Authors: Greg Curtis
Copyright May 2014
Source of the original photo used in the cover creation:
Flickr: 9 of 365 ~ Frustration. Date 8 July 2010, 14:01:14
Author of the photo: Tanya Little
The image was offered under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Permission to use the image was kindly given by Tanya Little and the photo was then altered digitally.
Hearing his name called instantly ruined Garrick’s evening. Or it would have if there had been much to ruin. Since he was sitting in the lounge staring disinterestedly at the idiot box with the sound turned down, a beer in one hand and the remote in the other, it wasn't really as if he was being disturbed. Still, he sighed. Normally he would have groaned but he was simply too tired.
It had already been a long day. He'd been up since the early hours driving from one residence to another, chasing down witness statements from people who didn't want to give statements, being abused, lied to, threatened and then writing up reports about his day. Now all he wanted to do was sit back and relax. Maybe in time he'd put on some music, read a book and think about throwing something in the microwave for dinner. He didn't want visitors. And he especially didn't want this one. After all, her visit meant she either had more work for him to do, or more likely she wanted to harangue him about something he’d done wrong.
Still, there wasn't a choice in the matter. Cassie hadn't asked for him to come; she'd required his presence. That was why he'd really sighed.
Garrick put down his beer, hauled his aching body out of the ageing recliner, and headed to the small entrance hall where his visitor was standing, waiting impatiently for him. It wasn't a long journey – his house was too small for that – but she was still probably annoyed that it had taken him so long to answer her summons.
She looked perfect as always; her hair neatly tied back with not a single strand out of place, her dress clean and freshly pressed, her expression carefully neutral and of course with not a hint of makeup on. Not that she needed it – she didn't, having been gifted with the exquisite if austere looks of her kind. She refused to wear makeup because she viewed all such things as a deception. A covering up of what was meant to be.
Naturally she stood straight and tall as well. There could be no slouching in her world. And it wasn't just an image she tried to project, he knew. It was simply the way she was. Her nature did not allow for slouching. It didn't allow for untidiness, dirt or chaos. Nor did it allow for white lies, half truths, exaggerations or modesty. It didn't allow for any of the other thousand and one imperfections that were simple human nature. But then she wasn't human. She was an angel.
As always that shocked him. Not that he had an angel in his house – that was unfortunately not unheard of. They bothered him from time to time just as they bothered most of his people as they checked up on them and told them off for their many failings. It was that of all people Cassie and her brothers and sister could be angels that he found shocking. She just couldn't be. None of them could be.
All his life as he'd grown up his mother had taken him to church. Given whom his father had been it was hardly surprising. And over the years, as part of the church’s teachings he’d learnt something about angels. Or rather, what angels were supposed to be. He knew what they did according to the Bible.
They had halos and wings. They wore long Greek or Roman looking togas, liked to play the harp and often spouted on about love. In fact some of the little ones primed their bows with love arrows and then shot them into people's hearts. They also carried the word of God.
Cassie however, didn’t fit the job description. None of them did.
For a start there were no wings and no halo. She didn’t play a harp nor did she seem to bear the word of God. He had never seen her in a white flowing robe either. Instead, generally she wore a long black skirt and immaculately starched white shirt that covered every inch of her that could be covered and which had never seen a wrinkle or a crease as far as he could tell. In fact she looked just like any other human would, save a bit more prim and proper than most. No, scratch that; a lot more prim and proper. Cassie bordered on the emotionless. In fact so much so that she could have been scripted to play a robot in a big budget science fiction epic.
For those with less imagination they might mistake her for a rather stern school teacher, or maybe a prison guard – but without the soft heart or the tolerance of waywardness. Certainly she considered him to be a wayward child. Lazy, self-indulgent, disobedient and occasionally falling into temptation. Naturally she knew he'd been drinking and as expected, she didn't approve.
“Alcohol? Again? Is there a problem Garrick?”
That her first reaction upon seeing him was to criticise him didn’t surprise him. It was an angel thing. They looked for faults and they inevitably found them. It was the nature of being human. They also tended to fix the problems they saw. But not in a nice way. They weren't what you'd call tolerant or easy going, and they absolutely didn't understand human weaknesses. If Cassie thought he was having a problem with alcohol there would be no counselling, or twelve step programme. She would simply make sure he could never drink it again – probably by making him throw up at the sight of it. Angels were direct to the point of brutality.
“No problem. It's just been a long day and I was relaxing.”
“You could relax without the need for mind altering substances.”
Cassie didn't sound convinced, and that Garrick knew, could be a very bad thing for him.
“I don't have a need for alcohol. I just enjoy a beer now and then.”
Of course he suspected she didn't really understand the word 'enjoy'. Not in the way a human being did. She understood service and duty instead – doing them well was as close as she got to happiness. And she didn't really understand why he wasn't the same given that he shared her peoples' blood. Half of it anyway. So he changed the subject before she could start lecturing him about his life.
“How can I be of service?”
Service was the key word. He was a nephilim. His role – his only role in life as far as she was concerned – was to serve. That wasn't a derogatory view. She expected no less of herself and the rest of the Choir. That was their purpose. It was what they were. Which was why she found it hard to understand that he being half human, had a different view. That he had free will and liked to indulge it.
But then she wasn't human. She didn't really understand what it was like to be one. She also didn't understand why any of those who carried her people's essence could have human characteristics. In her mind a nephilim was just a lesser type of angel. It was no wonder that he was a constant source of disappointment.
“I need you to look after this one.”
Cassie stepped to one side and suddenly he could see a teenage girl who she'd obviously brought with her. She was on the shorter side – probably because she wasn't fully grown – and was very thin which he thought might be due to a poor diet. Her hair was long, dark and straight and needed washing. He had a feeling that she hadn't seen a shower in a while. She also had a small carry bag with her which he had a horrible feeling might be the sum total of her worldly possessions.
“She has been misusing her abilities. Running wild with the humans. She needs direction.”
And that Garrick knew could only mean that she too was one of his people; a nephilim. After all, if she'd been human she wouldn't have had any abilities to misuse, and if she had misused whatever other skills she might have Cassie wouldn't have brought her to him. The angel might have secretly whispered of God's law and right and wrong and such things to the girl – something most people didn't seem to hear – but she wouldn't have acted. Not without specific orders. It was something to do with free will. People had it. They were allowed to choose. All the angels could do was hope that they would choose well. The Choir would not take that choice away from them.
Nephilim however, weren't so blessed. They had free will like most people, but using it was frowned upon.
“I'll bring her to Olmstead in the morning.”
Instantly Garrick agreed to do as she wanted, despite the fact that he had plenty of other things planned for the day – a full day’s work for a start. But it wasn't a choice. It wasn't that Cassie would force him, it was simply that she had the authority. Humans could ignore angels; nephilim had a harder time of it.
“Good. See that she learns her duty.”
With that Cassie was gone. Not that she vanished as might the assistant in some magician's stage show. There was no cloud of smoke or flash of light, no sound, no rush of air to fill the space where she had been, no nothing at all to explain her absence. She was just gone. As if she had never been there at all. He didn't understand that. Not how she did it nor what it really was. But he knew it was no mere trick. Angels didn't do tricks.
Which left him standing there in his entrance way, staring at his unexpected house guest and wondering what exactly she'd done to attract the attention of one of the Choir. It couldn't be good. Looking at the girl though Garrick thought that she didn't look particularly violent. Sullen, brooding and obviously unhappy – but not violent. In fact she wasn't very intimidating at all. Pathetic might have been a better description. Perhaps she’d irritated someone? If he had to guess he would have said that she'd simply annoyed the hell out of someone. She had the look of a general pain in the arse. She had an air about her that said that she was sick of authority and should be allowed to do whatever the hell she wanted. So why was she here? Then again, she was looking at him and no doubt thinking similarly unpleasant thoughts about him.
They didn't exactly match after all. He was tall and powerfully built, the results not so much of his heritage as the considerable amount of time he spent working out. He had to keep fit for his work. For the same reason his hair was cut short and he was clean shaven. His work demanded a neat and tidy appearance. His guest on the other hand was a little under average height and on the thin side. Scrawny would probably have been a better word to describe her.
She was also quite dirty as if she hadn't washed in a while. That was something that didn't go down well with him. It might be a sweeping generalisation but in his world criminals were unwashed, decent people bathed.
She was about fifteen at most. The age of teenage rebellion. And if there was one group of people he didn't want to deal with it was teenagers.
On the other hand, at thirty four, and wearing a suit and tie, carrying a badge and living in his own home he imagined he probably represented everything she was rebelling against. And she didn't yet know that he was a federal agent. Given that she was already viewing him like he was the enemy, he thought perhaps he should keep that little fact to himself for a bit.
“Okay kid, I'm Garrick. What's your name?”
She didn't answer him, just stared sullenly around his house, or as much as she could see of it from just inside the doorway. It didn't seem to impress her from the frown on her face. But then it was a small house in a not so well to do area quite a ways out of the city. It was all that he could afford on an agent's salary. And while he'd done his best to keep it neat and tidy he hadn't yet started on any of the renovations he'd wanted to. That was simply the result of having a mortgage. So the wallpaper was still dark and depressing as he hadn’t yet got the cash together to replace it with something more light and cheery. The carpet was a bit worn in some places, threadbare in others and the few rugs he'd bought couldn't hide that. Added to that the furniture was old and a little tatty, though at least comfortable. One day he'd get around to fixing things up. But not today.