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Friday, July 21, 2017

The Treasure of Eerie, Arizona, Chapter 1, Part 1






 Posted July 21, 2017


By Christopher Leeson and Ellie Dauber

In our prologue last month, Myron Thornton Caldwell, seventeen year old runaway and would-be stage robber, had been accidentally shot during his attempt to steal a gold shipment from Eerie, Arizona.  He had led the gang to his own neighborhood to commit the crime, which is lucky for him, because the only person in the world who cares if he lives or dies is his aunt Irene, who lives just a couple miles away.  With his life at stake, that is the place to go.  But things have changed in Eerie since the last time he has been there. . . .

*****



Chapter 1, Part 1



December 13, 1871



Irene Fanning made the whip snap over the horse's back, wincing at the thought of what the joggling must be doing to Myron's injuries.  She was forcing the buggy down Riley Canyon Road as hastily as she dared.    Though only twenty-six, it had taken all of her strength to hoist him into the carrier behind the driver's seat.  Since then, under a woolen blanket, he hadn't made a sound.  This had alarmed the widow so much that she had stopped once to check on him, to gratefully find that he was still breathing slowly.  Then she was on her way again.  If she couldn't reach Hiram Upshaw's office in time, her nephew didn't have a hope.  The doctor had been an army surgeon during the War, she knew; if anyone in Eerie could save a badly wounded boy, Upshaw could.



At that moment, the buckboard was rattling past the familiar wooden sign that was painted with the words “Eerie Arizona – Welcome, Friend.”  The first of the town's lamp-lit houses were showing up ahead.  She dreaded to think what might happen over the next few hours.  Myron was an outlaw that the law would be ready to arrest the moment that they learned he was back.



Irene Fanning slowed her buckboard when it entered the town proper.  Eerie wasn't large, and in just a minute they were halfway through it.  She pulled up behind the doctor's office.  It was supper-time, after regular hours, but Doc Upshaw lived in the rear section.   She was whispering prayers that he would be at home.



Irene drew up and braked.  She wrenched her ankle springing to earth, but didn't stop before she was pounding on the back door.  Though she was striking the panels as hard as she could, the widow didn't shout.  She didn't dare attract attention. 



“Hold on, hold on, I'm coming,” sounded a resonant but muffled voice. 



A few seconds later, the door swung open.  The man looked questioningly into the face of the young woman whom he'd met several times before.  “Mrs. Fanning?  You look a sight,” Doctor Upshaw remarked.  “What's the trouble?”



“M-My nephew.  He's been shot!”  Breathless, the farm woman had to put her shoulder against the door post for support.  Hiram helped her inside, to a chair beside the door. 



“Thorn?” he muttered.  “Shot?  Where is he?”



“In – in the buckboard.”



The doctor spied the one-horse vehicle through the window.  In the back was what looked like a body covered by a blanket.



“Don't tell anyone he's here!” Irene said.  “He broke the law.”



The words were hardly spoken before the Hiram Upshaw was outside, closing in on the buckboard.  Almost covered by a quilt was a boy's face.  He'd seen that sort of face many times before, on many young soldiers who had been brought to the infirmaries of General Joe Johnston's Confederate army.  Drawing the blanket lower, he saw the blood, so much of it that it looked like a spill of warm tar in the fading twilight.  It seemed to be a gut-shot wound, and that was always bad.  Upshaw called for the widow's assistance and together they moved the boy inside. The doctor had lost hundreds of patients in the late war, but had fought for the life of every last one of them.  He didn't know any other way to do his job.



Moving a belly-shot man, the surgeon knew, could kill him right quickly, but every second counted.  He was already guessing that the case was hopeless, but with a family member looking on in horror, he couldn't let himself think like that.



The doctor and the widow took Thorn Caldwell down a central hall that connected his living and work areas, and into a room with three infirmary beds.  As they eased him down on the sheets, the sufferer cried out, which at least informed Upshaw that the boy was not so far gone that he couldn't feel pain.  Fortunately, his blood loss inside the buckboard hadn't given evidence of a full-blown hemorrhage.  But if his bowels were leaking into his bloodstream it would poison him in a day or less. 



Hiram banished the boy's aunt to the waiting room and then lighted the whale oil lamp on the night stand by Thorn's bed.  Examination told him that the bullet was still lodged inside the youth's body, making a bad situation worse.  He wiped his hands on a towel and joined Mrs. Fanning.  “Whether I take out the shell or not, I don't think the poor boy will make it... ” he trailed off.



The surgeon felt rather than saw the widow blanching in the gloom.  “He's too young,” she said. 



Upshaw shook his head.  “In a better world than this one, he would be too young to die.  But during the war, I saw hundreds of boys like him pass from less serious wounds.”



“Lordy, lordy,” the woman moaned.



“We'll have to keep him warm and reduce the pain with laudanum, until...



Irene groaned and covered her face.



The doctor surprised himself when he blurted, “There may be one way to save his life... ”



The widow looked up hopefully.  “If you can save him, do it!”



He was immediately sorry that he had spoken.  Death was an everyday thing.  But was the cure that he was about to suggest… ethical?  He’d read through the few books he had on medical ethics: “the patient can refuse treatment” versus “the physician should do what is best for the patient” and “do no harm.”  He still wasn’t _completely_ sure what was right.  “I'm not sure you would like saving your boy’s life the way we'd have to.”



Mrs. Fanning looked excitedly into his face.  “I don't care about the cost!  You can have the cattle.  Even the farm.”



Upshaw shook his head.  “It's not the cost.  The medicine...does things that might horrify you.  I'm not sure that Thorn himself wouldn't want to die instead.” 



‘Just as Elmer O’Hanlan had refused the potion,’ the physician thought.  ‘His father had to trick the boy into taking it, but the trick backfired; the father had been transformed as well.  But… Elmer – Emma now -- _was_ still alive.  And wasn’t having one's patient survive the goal of every doctor?’



“What kind of medicine is it?”



“Indian medicine man medicine.  Magic.  Maybe magic.  Probably.”



Irene drew back.  “Magic?”  Then her eyes opened wide.  “You're thinking of doing what Shamus O'Toole did to save that O'Hanlan boy?”



Upshaw turned away.  “I should have said that better.”



Irene wheeled away, her mind reeling.  “I've heard the stories...  I've seen Patrick O'Hanlan and his... son.  People are saying all sorts of things about the potion, and how it messed up their lives.”



The doctor shrugged.  “That it surely did.  My work is science, not sorcery.  If you wish to get advice from somebody else, you ought to talk with Sheriff Talbot.  He has more experience with potion girls than I have.”



“I don't know what I should do,” Irene answered back.



“I suggest you pray.”



Hiram Upshaw returned to his patient.  From a shelf, he took a brown-glass bottle of laudanum, unstopped it, and put the open neck to the stricken boy's lips.  The cinnamon, added to subdue the drug's bitterness, wafted pungently.  After setting the vial aside, the physician used his scissors to cut away the dirty and bloody shirt that was pasted to his patient.  That done, he cleaned the wound with alcohol and stuffed the bullet hole with gauze. 



'Inoperable,' he was thinking.  Whatever Mrs. Fanning decided, under no circumstances would it be his hand that administered the bewitching draft; not while he still had so many ethical questions.  But should he do more?   Did he have the right to say no if -- _when_ -- she asked for it?  The War had driven God out of the hearts of many of his fellow doctors, but that hadn't happened to Hiram Upshaw.  He had seen miracles – many of them -- during those four awful years, and even later.  Maybe Shamus’ potion was one of those miracles.



The office had grown as silent as the tomb.  He looked into the drawing room and realized that he was alone. 



#



The coal-oil lamp he was reading hung by a black chain from the beam above Sheriff Dan Talbot.  He was deep into _Castle_ _Dangerous_ by Sir Walter Scott.  There wasn't much else for a man to do at such a quiet hour.  His deputy, Paul Grant, was due in at ten.  Paul liked the night shift; nothing ever happened during the small hours, and the younger man's only address was the jail storeroom.  Dan smiled.  Right now Paul would be over at the Eerie Saloon, where his lady love worked.



He shook his head.  That match-up was one that he had never seen coming.  He wondered how long the two of them could stay a couple.  An outlaw and a peace officer?  Miracles happened.  They really did.



Talbot glanced up when pounding hooves stopped in front of the jailhouse.  A moment later, the door flew open.  Dan swung his heels off the desk and turned in his swivel chair.  The lawman knew his excited visitor.  It was Hank Durst, a cowpuncher from Abner Slocum's ranch.



“Sheriff!” he exclaimed.



Talbot set aside the book and stood up.  “A problem, Hank?”



The cowboy's head bobbed up and down.  “Big problem.  Stage robbery!”



The sheriff gritted his teeth.  The stage often took on nuggets and dust from the assay office.  But it had been a long while since a robbery had occurred near Eerie.



“Where?”



“Riley Canyon Road, up in the gap,” replied the young man.



“Anyone hurt?” Dan asked.



“One bandit got shot.  Old lady Deeters thought it was Thorn Caldwell.”



Talbot scowled.  “Who shot him?”



“A ricochet off the strongbox, the guard said.  “The bandits let the stage go free, with Thorn just lying there on the road.  They kept the chest.  The stage men flagged me down when I ran into them.  They was going on to Phoenix to alert the authorities.”



The sheriff scowled.  He knew Thorn Caldwell – a quick-tempered kid with a chip on his shoulder, some seventeen or eighteen years of age by now.  The boy had done a lot of fist-fighting and could always be found practicing target-shooting and the quick-draw.  He was suspected in some thieving, too.  Once Dan had had to go out to the farm to reprimand the lad for reckless gun-play.  Not too long after that, Caldwell had disappeared, run away.  A neighbor had accused him of stealing one of his horses.  That had been back in January, and the boy hadn't shown his face in Eerie since.



“What are you going to do, Sheriff?” Durst asked.  “I'll join the posse if you're starting one.”



Dan took a deep breath.  “First, I'm going to send out alerts.  All the towns on the telegraph line have to be put on the lookout.  Tell, me, Hank, how many long riders were there?”



“The stage people saw four, including Thorn.  They thought they were all young pups.”



“If Caldwell was wounded, that might slow them down,” Talbot mused out loud.  Dan decided to leave organizing the posse to Paul, who could get things ready for him to lead out after a night's sleep.



“Lad, hang around until the emergency bell rings if you want to hunt bandits.  We'll start at first light.  Get yourself a little rest before then, if you can.”



“Sure enough, Sheriff,” Durst said.  The young man then hurried out into the street. 



Dan Talbot had just started putting on his guns when there was a tapping at the door.  He yelled over his shoulder, “It's not locked.”



A woman stepped in and he recognized the widow Irene Fanning, Thorn Caldwell's aunt.  This couldn't be a coincidence.



“Mrs. Fanning.  Did you hear about your nephew?”



She blinked, amazed at how swiftly terrible news could travel.  “That he's hurt?”



“That he's robbed a stage!”



“He robbed?”



Talbot frowned.  “You didn't know?”



“I know he's been shot!”



The peace officer nodded.  “A rider came in.  He said the stage was relieved of a strongbox up in Stagecoach Gap.”



She looked pained.  “He came to the farm badly wounded, about an hour ago.”



“How is he?”



“He's with the doctor.  Doc Upshaw says that he's... he's probably... lost.”



Talbot sighed.  “I'm sorry, ma'am.”



“He says that the... the potion might save him, like the O'Hanlan boy.”



Dan sent her a hard look.  “I see.”



“Dr. Upshaw told me to tell you.  What should we do?”



“Ma'am,” he said, “do you know what that potion does?  A lot of men would rather die than take it.”



Irene's anguish was writ large.  “Maybe it isn't as bad as him dying.”



The tall man shrugged.  “Are you sure?  Is he able to speak for himself?”



“He's lying like dead.  He can't talk,” Irene explained.



Dan nodded.  “I can't make that decision for another person.  I think you should talk to Judge Humphreys.  He's the one who orders up the potion for outlaws, sometimes.”



She looked despairing.  “Will he let Myron have it?”



The sheriff shook his head.  “I can't say.”



“I just --” Mrs. Fanning began, but couldn't find the words she needed.



“We've got get a move on, ma'am.  While you and the Judge talk, I need to get on the telegraph, so the robbers won't get away.”  As courteously as he could, he led the farm woman outside.



#



Judge Humphrey's lamps were lit.  Sheriff Talbot banged on the door and, when it opened, the jurist stood regarding him, looking like he was ready for news concerning some new trouble.



“Dan?” Humphreys asked.  “What's the emergency?”



Talbot let Mrs. Fanning lead the way out of the night's chill.  “The Prescott to Phoenix Stage has been robbed,” he told the Judge.



Humphreys frowned.  “My word!” he said.  “Do we know who did it?”



Dan nodded.  “It was Thorn Caldwell, along with three other kids.  Caldwell is with the doctor now.  Wounded.”



“Thornton Caldwell?” the Judge muttered.  Only now did it dawn on him why Dan had brought along the woman, one whom he knew from church.  “Your nephew?”



“Yes, sir,” she said.  “He's dying.”



Humphreys rubbed his thin hair.  “I regret to hear that.”



“Your Honor,” said the lawman, “she's got something to consult with you about.  I'll abide with your decision, whatever it is.  But, right now, I have to send out the warning that there are thieves on the road.  If you're going over to the saloon, let Paul know that he has to form up a posse.”



“The saloon?” the Judge repeated. 



“Mrs. Fanning will explain.”  Talbot tipped his hat and withdrew.



Parnassus C. Humphreys shifted his attention to Irene Fanning.  “How can I be of assistance, my dear?”



She hurriedly explained.



The Judge pursed his lips thoughtfully.  “If that's what you want, it might be the judgment of fate.  If a boy with Thorn's record for trouble-making was ever found guilty for stage robbery in my court, I'd be sorely tempted to give him the potion, even if it were only a first offense.  It may be that justice is about to be served, with no trial required.”



“Thank you, Your Honor, I think,” Thorn's aunt replied bemusedly.  “But one thing... ”  She hesitated.



“Yes?”



“I'm not sure giving him the potion is the Christian thing to do.”



Humphreys' brow wrinkled.  “I'm not sure either.  Mostly, I've let it happen because I don't like hanging an outlaw.”



Irene shook her head.  “Myron tried to grow up too quickly, I'm afraid, and grew up angry.  But if he takes the potion and changes, it's important that no one knows about it.”



The Judge nodded.   “I dare say that being humiliated would make him even angrier.  I assure you, Madame, no one will find out such a thing from me.  But if you really want to do this, we have to hurry over and see Shamus.  He's the only one who can prepare the potion.”



#



There were few lights along the benighted street.  Many buildings were full dark; the shops had mostly closed, thought the several drinking establishments were lit.  Long before they reached the batwing doors of the Eerie Saloon, the pair heard music and a girl singing:



`      When the blackbird in the Spring,
`      On the willow tree,
`      Sat and rocked, I heard him sing,
`      Singing Aura Lee.


`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Maid with golden hair;
`      Sunshine comes along with thee,
`      And swallows fill the air.


Judge Humphrey led the widow inside and guided her between the tables.  From his companion's darting eyes and curious glances, he guessed that she had never set foot inside a saloon before.  Shamus had a good-sized crowd tonight.  There were card games and layers of conversation going on.  A slim blond in blue was holding people's attention, delivering a version of the soulful Aura Lee.  These war tunes usually hushed a house, bringing back memories of  hardship and lonely nights in camp. 



`      In thy blush the rose was born,
`      Music, when thou spake;
`      Through thine azure eyes the morn
`      Sparkling seems to break.


`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Maid with golden hair;
`      Sunshine comes along with thee,
`      And swallows fill the air.



`      Aura Lee! birds may flee
`      From the willow bare,
`      Flying 'gainst the winter's breath,
`      Through the stormy air.


`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Maid with golden hair;
`      Sunshine comes along with thee,
`      And swallows fill the air.



`      When the mistletoe was green,
`      Midst the season’s snows,
`      Sunshine in thy face was seen,
`      Kissing lips of rose.


`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Maid with golden hair;
`      Sunshine comes along with thee,
`      And swallows fill the air.



`      Says thy beau, sweet Aura Lee,
`      Thy smiles warm his heart,

`      So let the sadness that I see
`      From thine eyes depart.


`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Maid with golden hair;
`      Sunshine comes along with thee,
`      And swallows fill the air.



`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Take thy wooer`s ring;
`      Love and lightness welcome thee,
`      As robins hail the spring.


`      Aura Lee, Aura Lee,
`      Maid with golden hair;
`      Sunshine comes along with thee,
`      And swallows fill the air.



“That's Jessie Hanks,” remarked Humphreys to Irene Fanning.



She had heard the name before.  “One of the outlaws?”



Humphreys nodded. 



She stared, amazed, at the gaily-dressed, petite girl.  Embarrassed, she changed the subject.  “Please, we must hurry!”



Humphreys scanned the crowd.  “I don't see Shamus.  We'll ask the bartender where he's at.” 



A dark-haired man in a deep blue silk vest and white shirt stood behind the counter serving customers from brown bottles.  He glanced up as the pair neared.  “What's your flavor tonight, Judge?”



“No time for that, R. J.  This lady and I have urgent business with Shamus.”



R.J. Rossi looked across to the stairs.  “He's in his rooms; go on up.”



TO BE CONTINUED IN CHAPTER 1, Part 2


Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Falling Star: Chapter 3, Part 2



An Angel from Hell story

by Christopher Leeson

Posted 07-08-17


The Cabal, Jezebel knew, had emerged from amid the oldest of Asian secret societies, going back as far as the days of Nimrod.  Under changing names, the cult had been the moving force behind many of the most blood-thirsty oriental thrones prior to the Crusades.  The arrival of Christians into the Holy Land didn't upset its plans; instead, the Cabal sized up the intrusion as a new opportunity.  Converts were made, and many Crusaders, the Knights Templar, especially, fell in with Cabalistic mysticism.   With ease, the Templars cast off the faith of their ancestors in exchange for the promise of wealth and power, commencing the secret worship of  the dark demon that they chose to call Baphomet.  A ritual to Baphomet revealed to them a vast hidden treasure, and cultists taught them oriental banking processes to help maximize the value of their loot.  They were good students, and in fact improved upon the old system of legal thefts and swindles.

The new Satanists, returning to Europe, took their Cabalistic doctrines home with them, and also the ancient Babylonian banking system, thereby becoming the debt-masters of the entire Mediterranean world.  The Templars', being scions of the great noble and royal houses, quickly drew many of their friends and kin into the Cabalistic cult.  When the spreading danger of this new apostasy became too obvious to ignore, the European old guard struck back, denouncing the Templars for what they were and using troops to suppress them.  The blow was strategically backed by Pope Clement V and it fell most heavily in France, but the reprisals were ultimately ineffective.  Most of the knights, along with nearly all their wealth, eluded the dragnet. 

It was the Templars' themselves who spread stories about their own "total destruction," but, in fact, the majority of the knights had gone to countries where they would be protected, including Scotland and Portugal.  With a truly Satanic lust for vengeance, they quickly struck back against their enemies, using poison, assassins, and curses.  Their most formidable opponents among the anti-Templar backlash died untimely deaths, usually under suspicious circumstances.  

The Templars then infiltrated back into their own strongholds, having set up secret societies under a myriad of names.  The cultists created new banks, by which they came to dominate Europe's kingdoms through debt and bribery.  Their vile religious documents were eventually codified into books of rites and rituals that no insider could reveal on pain of death.  The Stone Builders' Order, one of the most successful of the Baphometic secret societies used elaborate ritual to seduce the high-born and spread itself like a plague across the entire Western world.  

A portion of the Cabalistic cult, calling themselves the Illuminati, dared to come out in the open in the latter 18th Century, and made its goals known.  That was too much, even for a corrupt society, and the Illuminati were quickly driven back into the shadows.  But the Cabalist movement as a whole was not seriously affected and it continued his subversive work with renewed caution.

Some of the older Cabalistic bloodlines came to be revered as Cabalist royalty, such as the Rattfilther family, which managed, through swindles, to take over the Bank of England in late Victorian times.  Having gained control of a nearly inexhaustible source of wealth, the Cabalists moved on to the next stage of their centuried plan – the provocation of a series of world wars intended to leave the international banks and corporations as the last power-mongers still standing.  The Cabalists were now actively striving to achieve their end game for the glorification of Satan – world-wide genocide.  Every death in these wars would be an explicit blood-sacrifice directed toward the empowerment of the Demon.

As the comforts and distractions of materialism weakened the traditional faith of the Europeans, their beliefs were further subverted by provocateurs.  Cabalists gained undo influence in the academies and theories called "scientific" were calculated to undermine belief in the Scriptures.  With a Western world already reeling from the pace of change around it, many were deceived.  But the Cabalists were not rationalists; as always, they worked to take advantage of every sort of social ferment.  While they were solidifying their stranglehold upon the universities, other provocateurs were at the same time promoting mesmerism and spiritualism upon avant garde groups.  Celebrities such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini lent these Cabalist initiatives a veneer of respectability, probably without understanding the sinister underpinnings of the people with whom they were cooperating.

Anarchists in the pay of great banks began World War I by means of a carefully-calculated assassination.  The conflict allowed Cabalists “Merchants of Death,” such as Sir Basil Zaharoff, to make countless millions through the sale of horror weapons.  The disintegration of society on every side gave the Cabal the opportunity to bring the first Communist regime into power.  The banking system, allied to the arms producers, alone could have made socialism succeed, financing Lenin while undercutting the faint attempts of war-weary democracies to wipe out such an evil system.  

Stalin was encouraged to carry out an experiment in totalitarian control in exchange.  Far from being the enemy of the banks and robber barons, he was their pet.  Having met with such success, the Cabal felt ready to launch a second world war, ostensibly to put down a loose association of freelance dictators that had emerged from the chaos of the post-war era.  Their nationalism stood in the way of the Cabal, which wanted to promote a globalistic mind-set and a homogeneous, demoralized system that their oligarchy could rule.  Also, Satan's appetite had only been whetted by the First World War.  He wanted many more tens of millions of sacrifices.  The horror of it all played into the Cabalists' hands, causing a decline in nationalism and allowing the United Nations to be created.  From the start, it was intended to be the platform that Satan's own anointed leader, called the Anti-Christ, who would one day gain control of.  If Shekinah were to be believed, the hour was late.  The Anti-Christ-to-be was already plotting with the international billionaires, whose goal since earliest times had been to make over the entire planet into a single death-camp. 

At that point, Jezebel summoned her thoughts back to the present.  She glanced over to her companion.  “How did you connect with that deputy this afternoon?” she suddenly asked Holly.  “I've been warning you; phones are dangerous.”

“I didn't phone,” the young woman protested.  “When that Dodge was going after your car, I started praying for you.  The officer drove up just minutes later.  I ran out and flagged him down.”

The blonde frowned.  “You were praying for me?  Why not for yourself?”

“I thought they'd get you before they got me.”

The Watcher regarded her skeptically.  “How's all that praying been working out for you?”

The brunette betrayed a quick smile.  “Well, here we are.”

Jezebel sniffed.  “Lucky us.”

The fallen angel was just then distracted by the condition of her clothing.  Her jeans were covered with dry mud.  She unsnapped the waistband and worked her way out of them.

“Oh, my God!” Holly exclaimed.

Jezebel saw what Holly was seeing.  Her ripped briefs were held up by one leg only, and there was dried blood between her thighs.

“I'm...I'm so, so sorry,” the waitress stammered.

The Watcher snorted.  “Don't make an apocalypse out of it.  It's only sex.”

Holly shook her head.  “Sex of the worst kind.”

Jezebel didn't want to talk about it.  “I'm  going to take a shower.”

#

The fallen angel soon returned, towel-dried but naked.  Digging into her bag, she found an undershirt and another pair of nylon briefs.  Holly sat quietly, observing.  The Watcher noted her expression out of the corner of her eye.  Being pitied by a  mere human made her feel like doing something violent.  

“I've been wanting to ask you...” the waitress began.

“What?!”

“What should I call you?  Is your identity some kind of secret?”

The angel frowned.  She despised the name of Jezebel, and Delilah was no better.  “Jill,” she finally said.

Holly nodded.  “Jill.  Somehow I wasn't expecting anything so – ordinary.  But having a name to use makes you seem a little more real.”

The Watcher looked askance.  “ I don't seem real?”

“You're too mysterious to seem real.  Like, where do you come from?  What do you do for a living?”

Jezebel finished dressing.  “I could lie, but why waste the energy?”

“Why not just tell the truth?”

“You couldn't handle the truth.  But come to think of it, if you decided to hang yourself, I'd be rid of you.”

Holly looked pained.  “That's mean.  I don't know you and I didn't ask for any help, but you've gone through a lot of trouble for me anyway.  If this is only a job for you, what exactly is your job?”

“My job is doing what I'm told.  If you were smarter, you'd be doing the same.”

“Why can't you ever be nice, Jill?”

Jezebel grimaced, not liking being called Jill, but she didn't have a better alternative.  “Where do you get the idea that you're likable?” she asked.  “I bet a lot of those Hollywood types treated you nicely enough while they were trying to do you in.  Niceness is phony; it's over-rated.  With me, this is as good as things get, so don't push it.”

“You must be getting paid by someone.  But who pays people to help people they don't even know?”

“That's not what's happening here,” the angel replied, not looking at the girl.

Holly paused, expecting that Jill to say more.  When she didn't, she said, “You talk tough, and you must be kind of tough, to stand down those men all alone.  So, are you some sort of military contractor, or a professional bodyguard?”

“What I am is tired of talking,” Jezebel said and flopped down on the bed.  She hated feeling tired; it was so human.

“Okay,” Holly said resignedly.  As the girl stood up to clear the bags of groceries from her bed, she noticed a Gideon Bible on the lower shelf of the nightstand.  Picking it up, she flipped through the leaves.

“You read the Bible?” the other woman asked.

“I thought you didn't want to talk.”

Jezebel scowled.  “Okay, don't talk.”

The waitress smiled wanly.  “There were no Bibles in the school I went to; the teachers acted like they were porn.  And Mother never took me to church.  But after what happened at the ritual, and on the bus, I've decided that there's a lot more going on in the world than I ever knew about.  Angels and that sort of thing, I mean.  It isn't an easy read; it sounds like a Shakespearean play.  But this was just about the only book in the house where I was renting my room."

When the blonde said nothing and turned away, she continued.

“I had no car and no money, and nothing to do; the landlady didn't even let me watch her TV.  It was weeks before I saved up a few dollars to buy as much as a fashion magazine.”   

She wrinkled her nose.  “But, you know, I wasn't interested in that kind of reading anymore.  I didn't even feel like the person I'd used to be.  All the articles were silly and pointless.  Nobody in them was talking about the world as it really was.  Even the basic idea of fashion suddenly seemed unimportant."  She shrugged.  "If I'm going to stay a fugitive, the fashionable part of my life is over.”

The Watcher looked back at her.  “Why don't just you go home and tell your producers that you're sorry?”

“I can't.  I won't do what they want me to do.”

“That's about the first intelligent thing you've said today,” Jezebel responded indifferently.

“Is there anybody that you actually like?” Holly asked suddenly.  “I bet that if you ever did care about a person, you'd be really something.”

“Don't count on it.”

The waitress sighed and resumed paging through the Bible.  “Hey, there's a note in this book.”

“So what?”

“Nothing.  It's just an address.  But it says, 'To Jill.'  Isn't that mind-blowing.  It has to be a coincidence.”

Jezebel glanced across at her.  “What's the address?”

“Holiday Inn, 6939 N 102nd Cir, Omaha, NE, Room 632.  January 21.”  That's three days from now. Funny thing; we've been going in the direction of Omaha.  Say, do you think that that angel of mine could have left this note card here for us to find?”

Jezebel snorted.  “It's probably been inside that book for years.” 

Holly went back to her reading, when the blonde girl suddenly stood up and eyed the waitress with intensity.  The brunette met her glance warily. 

“Let me see if I can pick you up,” the angel said.

“Are you kidding?”

“I'm serious.  I have to see how strong I am.”

“What are you talking about?”

Jezebel turned away.  “Forget it.  I already know my strength is gone.  If either of us are going to get out of this mess alive, I have to get it back.”

“I don't understand.”

“So, what else is new?”

Jezebel stood in place for a moment, thinking, her expression grim and determined.  Then she abruptly pivoted and went to her luggage, lifting out the red mini-dress and rummaged around for the rest of the outfit.

“You're sure full of surprises,” the ex-singer remarked.

“We passed a bar up the street.  I'll be over there for a little while.”

Holly looked doubtfully at the skimpy pile of garments.  “It looks like you're gearing up for a weekend expedition.”

“Don't over-think it.”

The brunette shook her head.  “Have fun.  I'll snack on whatever we have left; I'm almost afraid to step outside.  Anyway, I want to get some sleep.”

Jezebel had found a small makeup kit, which told her that Shekinah had apparently thought of everything -- damn her.  “It's a good think I've painted women's faces before,” she muttered.

Holly raised one eyebrow.  “You were like a cosmetician?”

#

After their first foray into sin, the two hundred Watchers had gone into full rebellion.  It was like every resentment that they had nursed about their Creator's treatment of them suddenly came to the surface.  They wanted to make the Father understand that his human creatures were so inferior to the angels that they were unworthy of his love.  

To drive home that point, they had taught men how to make and use weapons of war.  In contrast, they instructed women in sorcery and seduction.  The accouterments of the latter -- eyeliner, shadow, paint, blush and powder -- had all existed in Heaven, though they had never been used in the way that the Watchers used them.  The rebels didn't have to be creative; they had only had to pervert what they already knew and make it fit into their plans. 

Jezebel placed the makeup kit before the mirror of the bureau.  Thousands of years had passed since she had handled cosmetic paint, and even then had never applied such foolery to her own face.  The blonde's first experiment, though not unartful, made her look somewhat Egyptian.  Holly stepped in at that point and, with the angel's surly consent, made Jezebel up like a Twenty-First Century party girl, and also arranged her hair.

“Your walk needs work,” Holly advised.  “You tramp around like a soldier.”  The waitress demonstrated how show business women strolled in order to attract admiring glances.  “Keep your head up, shoulders back, and lead with your boobs.  With your arms swinging loose, like this, make your hips swivel.  Got it?  Try to keep your weight on your heels.   And, yeah, keep this mantra in mind while you're walking: 'Shoulders, hips, heels.…'"

The Watcher watched, but refrained from practicing the moves until she was standing alone outside the motel.  As Jethrel, she had already seen many thousands of women plying their skills, but tonight Jezebel had an ulterior motive in trying to emulate them.  Being quick learner, it took the angel only a minute to get her stride right, even while wearing the unfamiliar stiletto heels.  In fact, it all came to her so easily that she had to wonder whether she was only doing something that Jill Arendel's body already knew how to do -- as do it as if by second nature.

The Watcher glowered.  It was no big surprise that the girl had been a slut.  Shekinah  had said that Jill had acquired a Jezebel spirit.  Unfortunately, the Watcher was depending on that same spirit to help her exceed her debilitating mortal limitations.

Her fists clenched.  The Father had seemingly made human beings inferior to the angels in every way.  Why did he treasure them so much -- even to the point of humiliating his better creation for their benefit?

Jezebel decided not to hike to the Sandhillers Saloon, not caring for the cold breeze on her barely-clad legs.  Instead, she drove the short distance in her car.  When inside the place, she sized up the small weekday crowd.  Fortunately, she did not require a large audience. 

The angel approached the bar, doing the sashay that  Holly had demonstrated.  To her satisfaction, people were looking her way.  When she sat down on a stool, she tried to increase the interest of the onlookers by posing her legs languidly.  The barkeeper hailed her with more than casual interest and took her order attentively.  He was giving out the radiation of lust and Jezebel was feeling an agreeable tingle. 

Her drink came and she began so sip.  When an attractive girl passed nearby, Jezebel sent her a smile.  She wanted to know if Lesbian lust could be as potent as men's.  The fallen angel would actually have preferred to be with a girl that night, since old habits died hard. 

The girl smiled back, but continued by.  Fortunately, other people were still staring.  Whatever the chemistry of the dark energy they projected, she was progressively feeling stronger and more vital.  A giddiness came on her, in stark contrast to her recent rape experience and her teeth spontaneously gritted.   

The attackers had been a species of Nephilim, and one of the most odious variety. 

In the old days, the class to which they belonged had been called the emmim, “the terrible ones,” for the horror that they instilled in mankind.  That name had perished with the ages, but they still existed.  Today, they were commonly referred to as wesen, a German term that simply meant “beings.”  Across history, men had destroyed the hybrids wherever they could be found.  Only the emmim species that were shape-shifters able to hide in the midst of human society had escaped extinction.  The gang that had abused Jezebel had been a wesen type called ghÅ«ls.  They were descended from a ravenous Middle Eastern carrion eater, one of a sort that had since died off in the wild. 

“Can I buy you another drink, pretty woman?” a baritone voice from behind asked.  Jezebel looked over her shoulder.  A reasonably presentable male was standing there, grinning confidently.  Jezebel decided not to wait for a better selection; something was telling her that she shouldn't leave Holly alone for much longer.  The Watcher needed to take advantage of any opportunity and, besides, the energy she had drawn in so far was having an intoxicating effect and she was eager for more of it. 

The blonde shifted, forced a smile to her lips, and motioned for the man to take the stool beside her.

To be continued in Chapter 4, Part 1...