By Christopher Leeson
An Angel from Hell story.
CHAPTER 2, Part 1
by Christopher Leeson
A night scene. A large automobile pauses before an ornate set of double gates. When the latter opens, the vehicle rolls forward, stopping in front of a silent, shadowy mansion. A young blond woman, wearing a red club dress, climbs out. The house, though imposing, is only dimly lit behind great arched windows. Walking toward it, the girl commences a song.
Inside, she passes by many silent party guests. The singer next ascends a grand staircase, but those whom she encounters above are just as remote as those below. Abruptly, the scene changes and the girl is now wearing a dance costume – a vest, thigh-high boots, and a short skirt. There are other dancers, and she joins in a kinetic, but detached dance exhibition.
The time-line rewinds. Again wearing red, the female performer winds through the lethargic party-goers, before yet another time-shift sends her back to the upstairs dance. Very soon, the focus flashes to a dark-haired maid who likewise dances and sings. The blond and her dance together, fondling, with the suggestion of Lesbianism.
At that moment, a young, well-dressed man emerges from among the celebrants. The man exudes lordly aloofness, acknowledging no one. The viewer struck by a black snake icon that starts above his brow and extends to a little below his left eye.
The video, as it continues, once more features the group dance. Then the blond is discovered atop a long banquet table. The demeanor of the young man, who occupies a chair at its head, evokes the idea of a monarch upon his throne. On hands and knees, the blond creeps toward him, her face an incongruous mix of passion and inner isolation. The male looks at her as if she is a lowly pet or a sexual offering, not a lover. He appears unaffected by her seductiveness, which attitude makes him seem less than human. The blond settles down before the man to await his acknowledgment; he coolly regards her, but denies her his touch. Neither does she touch him; perhaps she dares not.
The last minute of the video resolves nothing, explains nothing. The tableau ends with partiers piled up, a mass of them on the carpet, some half-awake, some slumbering like hibernating animals.
Jezebel frowned. The video had reminded her of long ago, when human pets had fawned before the Watchers. Like gods among base creatures, they had condescended to protect them, but at a steep price. Some who caught their fancy they customarily blessed with rape; others they casually destroyed, for any reason or for no reason at all. The fallen angel felt a nostalgic pang for those bygone days of grandeur.
“Such a scene is more satisfying in real life than on a television screen,” she suddenly remarked.
“If you say so,” responded Shekinah. “If you have not guessed, you are looking at the subject of your mission.”
Jezebel blinked. “What mission?”
“The girl from the limousine is called Pelopia Wittke. She is what people call a celebrity. Powerful interests have beguiled her with promises, dazzled her with opulence, as if she were royalty. It fed her vanity, concealing from her the understanding of how controlled she really was. The worked on her for years, taking away everything free thought, every sense of independence, everything that separated her from their docile herd. They even robbed her of her birth name.
"She grew up as Susan Wevers, just another girl from a broken home, one of thousands inside a large, impersonal city. Sinister interests thought they could use her, and they made her proud to have done better than any of her peers. Millions of strangers came to adore her under a name that was not her own. But then, abruptly, she passed out of public view. The media reported that Pelopia Wittke has been recuperating inside a European drug clinic. But like so much else reported as news in this realm, such is not the case.”
“Her employers, false friends, and co-workers had come to the point when they thought they owned her, inside and out. They gradually moved her to ever deeper depths of degradation, but suddenly Susan refused them one of their demands. They imprisoned her immediately, expecting that fear and a sense of being rejected by the only world she knew would soon make her change her mind.
This was the instant that the Son had been waiting for. Pelopia Wittke realized in a flash how completely alone she was, how empty she felt. Her father had left her as a child; her mother had lived in self-pity and without faith. But the daughter had seen how people pray in motion pictures and in her locked room she did as those characters did, not expecting an answer, but desperate enough to try anything. An angel came to deliver her.
"In her automobile, driving fast away, for the first time she was able to grasp how horrifying Pelosia's world really was. She knew of no safe place to hide, of no friend who was not a proven traitor. So, not even daring to stop for an overnight bag, she left everything behind and ran for her...soul. Since that hour, she has been living with poverty, fear, and friendlessness.”
“It doesn't sound like much of a rescue,” Jezebel observed.
“All her hardships have been a test. Many lost ones bolt as Pelosia did when she saw what face was looking back at her from the abyss, but few have had the will to remain free. Most return to the Dark Throne on bended knees. Because this girl has not surrendered thus far, the hour has come that Susan Wevers should receive the reward that she has earned.”
The blond scowled. “Testing, testing! Like Job, people are forced to accept what they hate most and that's suppose to win them over. Satan wins so easily because he draws them to him with everything that a fool could desire.”
Shekinah shook her head. “But remember, Job was won over. What a mortal desires is seldom what he needs. Such fainthearted persons represent the chaff of the harvest. The wheat is the soul that dares to go forward with it no more than courage, possessing nothing beyond what it had when it first entered the world. When all the distractions of a corrupt world is lost, the seeker will at last be able to find the one who is always willing to provide. When that moment is reached, there is no reason to look back at what the world offers, and thereby be destroyed like Lot's wife.”
Jezebel shrugged. “I suppose the Cabal is still looking for her.”
The angel nodded. “She has assumed a new identity in a small town. So afraid was Susan of being found that she abandoned her car, with its treacherous GPS, and took a bus into the hinterland. Despite her every want, she has avoided using credit cards or ATM machines. As you may know, the great banks represent the very beating heart of the Beast.”
“I see,” said the Watcher, not very interested. As much as she hated Satan, she had to admire the way he had conquered the world, even without all of the power commanded by the Father.
“Loneliness compelled Miss Wevers to call her mother once, to tell her that she was well but could never come home or tell her where she was. She believed she was using an untraceable phone, but the technology was not honestly described to her. Cabal surveillance recorded her number, and the Evil One's servants are now acquiring a court order to gain her location. Susan does not know how late the hour is.”
“So why not tell her?”
“Telling her shall be your job,” the angel informed her.
“Is that all I have to do?”
“Not at all. You will place her under your protection.”
“My protection?” Jezebel grimaced. “For how long? How do I get rid of her?” On an instinctual level, the Watcher felt that protecting anyone was a ridiculously inappropriate job for her.
“When the time comes, you will be enlightened.”
The girl threw up her hands. “Why do the Son and Father always have to be so mysterious?”
“All you need to know is that Susan is not the only one who needs a stern testing. A task, in and of itself, never is the be-all or end-all. It marks the way to something that is much more important. How is it that one who has stood before the Throne is not able to grasp that much?”
The girl sighed roughly. “Shouldn't I at least be told where I can find the miserable creature? I'm not all-knowing.”
Shekinah drew a small object from her gown; this she handed to Jezebel. It was a matchbook that read “Tumbleweed Cafe and Bar, Bixby, Wyoming.”
“Very astute. Now, make haste, Daughter of Man. Don some of the apparel that you will find in this apartment, gather gear that should make your journey a comfortable one, and insert yourself into that automobile without. For its operation, you need only search the memories of Jill Arendel. And harken. Fail in this mission and your reward shall be no more than the measure of your results. Succeed, and the same shall be true.”
As Jezebel glanced down at the matchbook again, and it dawned on her, as if out of nowhere, that she was in Omaha, Nebraska, a full state away from the Tumbleweed. She scowled. Such knowledge must have sprung into her head from the trash heap that was Jill Arendel's memories. Her fists clenched, offended that the contents of a low creature brain should be permitted to contaminate her mind.
When the Watcher looked back to where Shekinah had been standing, there was no one there.
While Jetrel had existed in the In-Between Place, he had frequently spied upon the world, including every corner of the United States. But this dismal speck of the globe had left few noteworthy impressions. She could tell it had been a dry winter; the plains stretched out monotonously, brown and expired. Along US Highway 70, through western Nebraska, Jezebel had passed by infrequent towns, and these became even more infrequent over the Wyoming border, especially after Manville.
An aspect equally unpleasant was the cold of the season, something that angels were impervious to, but which women were not. She had packed carelessly, never having had to deal with climate factors, and had found it necessary to stop in a Nebraskan Wild West shop, there to buy a winter coat, warm boots, and a stocking cap. The purchases had diminished her currency, reminding the Watcher that replenishing it would be a problem to solve in the near future.
The town of Bixby, when the quester found it, looked small, so small that the Tumbleweed Cafe & Bar stood out prominently along the highway. Jezebel drove into in a parking space and got out. The chilly breeze induced her to pull her cap lower.
The unpretentious, single-storied building was recently painted -- red-brown trimmed with white. Besides the long rooftop sign, two different Budweiser signs were displayed. Behind the restaurant there was nothing to see, except a flat horizon of forlorn emptiness.
The dangerous part of her mission had begun. Ready for trouble, the fallen angel opened the front door and went inside. The lunch bar to the right had several maroon-topped stools flanking it. Tables lined the opposite wall, with up to six metal-framed chairs at each. The varnished pine-board walls were laden with pictures, mostly of wild game, but also with rustic objects that supposedly held an artistic attraction for these primitives. Beside the bakery display on the far end, there was a shelf that supported a television set. It was playing some political news program that was annoying to the ear. She counted ten customers, none of whom glanced her way with more than fleeting interest. As it happened, none of them looked like Pelopia Wittke.
But the waitress did.
Due to the limits of human vision, the Watcher had to look twice to be sure. The girl's lithe build was the same, as were those dancer-quality legs (amply displayed where her miniskirt wasn't). The tight blouse Pelopia wore showed her endowment and plentiful cleavage.
Looking at her, Jezebel considered how corruption had flourished over the centuries. In fairness, exhibitionism usually came into a human heart by means of a Jezebel spirit. Once a woman started dressing like a wanton, she would soon find herself unable to stop. Not so long ago, women would scarcely have let an ankle show in public, least they be called a slattern or flirt. How times had changed.
But the runaway singer had made some effort to disguise herself. Susan's face did not look as it had in the video. With hardly any makeup, she sized up as a very ordinary young woman – a little prettier than most, but ordinary. And her formerly blond hair now flowed black.
The Watcher went to the only empty table; a moment later the waitress stepped up. “Hello,” she said, and handed Jezebel a folded menu. The girl was wearing a name tag that read “Holly.”
The Watcher absently scanned the list. She had never developed much interest in human cuisine. Though they sometimes dined enjoyably at the banquet tables of Heaven, angels didn't require sustenance. Since her confinement in a mortal body, she had been hungry several times, and had had to deal with the consequences of eating. On the positive side, consuming food had so far had been a pleasure. She chose something at random. “A hot beef sandwich dinner, please.”
“Soup or salad.”
“What kind of soup?” Jezebel hadn't thought about that; such a trivial question had surely come from Jill.
“Cream of mushroom or chili bean.”
“Chili bean,” she said. “But I'm not sure we'll be staying long enough for the order to arrive.”
“How's that, ma'me?” the girl asked.
“Someone told me you were here,” the Watcher said. “We have to talk, preferably in private.”
Holly blinked, and then studied her customer skeptically. “I don't think so. My vibes are saying that there's something about you that means trouble.”
“Why do you suppose that?” Jezebel asked. She had assumed that she was looking very unremarkable.
“I don't know what it is, but you look...dangerous somehow.” She grinned. “Did you ever kill anyone?”
“Thousands. But they were only human.”
Holly neither frowned nor smiled at that. “It will be about fifteen minutes, if you're staying,” she said.
Jezebel took her wrist in a swift motion. “We're out of time. We have to speak, outside.”
Holly looked irritated. “Let me go or I'll poke you with my pencil.”
The blond leaned closer and whispered. “I know that you are Pelopia Wittke.”
The hand she was holding jerked; those words had rattled the waitress for certain.
“N-No!” stammered Holly. “I just look a little like her. People tell me I do.”
Jezebel was now certain that she couldn't detect lies as angels did. She wondered whether an inflow of dark energy would restore such useful abilities. But discovering such a handicap only added more distastefulness to a situation that was already repulsive. The night before, at a fast-food place, some men in line had been watching the Watcher. They were local rustics, louts to be ignored, but their fixation on her backside had stimulated her flesh like a lover's lascivious touch. Mortified, she would have behaved badly, except that the pair didn't push things to disaster. Maybe it had been her unfashionable mode of dress. Or could it have been the homicidal expression that she'd tossed back at them?
To Holly she said, “You're in danger. Have you ever heard of the Cabal?”
From her expression, Jezebel guessed that Pelopia Wittke, indeed, knew that name and feared it.
“I'm not going anywhere with a stranger!” Holly declared.
“Listen – I'm with the...people...who helped you escape from your so-called friends. I've been sent to take you to a safer place.”
Holly stared. “What do you know about me being helped?”
“I know that you were locked up and rescued by an angel.”
The waitress reacted with incredulity. “I thought I was imagining things. How do you know so much?”
“I've got friends in high places. He's what else I know. You called your mother, but your phone wasn't secure. The Cabal can trace you, and they might already have somebody with us inside this room. I don't know how much time we have, but it can't be very much.”
The waitress looked ready to bolt for the door. Fine, the Watcher thought; outside was exactly where Jezebel wanted her.
To Be Continued in Chapter 2, Part 2...