Search This Blog

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Treasure of Eerie, Arizona -- Chapter 3, Part 1

By Christopher Leeson and Ellie Dauber 

Chapter 3, Part 1
December 14, 1871, Continued

Mrs. Fanning brought the buckboard around and Molly waved to Myra, calling, “Let yuir aunt be taking ye home, lassie, and don't make any fuss for her on the way.”  The girl only frowned down at her knees peevishly, but Irene waved back at Molly.  The latter then faced forward and shook the reins to start the horse walking. 

All the way to the farm, Myra sat sullenly, refusing to say a word.  Irene let her behavior pass without remark.  The tension they both felt would quickly reduce any talk into an argument.  The woman, emotionally drained, didn't want to deal with that.

Before too long, the pair could see the landmark hill that overlooked their stead.  A few minutes later, Irene drew the carriage up before the farmhouse and, dismounting, dropped to the ground.  When she looked up, she saw Myra's hard, resentful expression still unchanged.

“Unhitch the horse and get it ready for night,” the aunt told the niece, wondering if she would obey, now that Mrs. O'Toole wasn't with them. 

Myra looked as though she was resisting the order, but that effort lasted only a moment.  With a sour face, she climbed down in a careless, unladylike fashion.  In such a mood, the girl started undoing the harness.

“What's the matter?  Did Molly tell you not to speak?” Irene asked.

“Go to hell, bitch!”

The rebuke stung.  Irene thought out a reply that wouldn't sound angry.  “Maybe Mrs. O'Toole didn't tell you to be quiet, but I know she told you to be polite.  People shouldn't be calling family members by wicked names.  Remember that when you're speaking.”

It looked like Myra was going to shout something vile, but seemed unable to complete the effort. 

“I know this day must have been a nightmare for you, Myron.  I didn't want this.  I wouldn't have allowed it to happen, except to save your life.  No matter how much we both wish that things could have turned out differently, we're just going to have to deal with this somehow.  When you finish your chores, you can rest.  Come in for supper at the usual time.”

Then Mrs. Fanning went indoors.  Irene could hardly put her mind around the idea of how much the world had changed.  She, as much as Myra, needed time to overcome the shock.  Only then would it be possible to sort things out.  Despite all, there had to be some way for the two of them to live together and cooperate.


Once she had finished unhitching the horse and leading it into the coral, Abigail Myra Olcott needed to visit the outhouse.  That interlude lent more insight into how much her life had changed.  She emerged shaking her head.  It was like she had died and was now living in somebody else's body.  She felt too numb to feel her full range of anger.  At a loss, Myra didn't have a clue as to what the rest of her life was going to amount to.

She had tried so hard to get away from this place, and yet here she was again, doing farm chores.  She detested living at the edge of nowhere, an empty world with nothing to fill a person's time except hard work.  It had actually been a little better earlier on, when Myron had still been going to school.

The boy had never liked learning, but some of the things that he'd read had excited his imagination.  Books had taught him about faraway places.  Now it seemed that Myra would never see any of those distant lands.

But the emptiness of farm-living was, for the young person, a very old gripe.  Worse than that was being ordered to wear a dress, and a corset even!  People would laugh if they knew whom she had been up until the day before.  She couldn't help blaming her aunt for what had happened, even though, deep down, she realized that it had probably been the only way to save her life.

Myra started to wonder, 'Is  staying alive a good thing?  Is being alive all it’s cracked up to be?’  She didn't believe in either heaven or hell.  As she saw it, living had no purpose, and the best way to spend one's time on earth was in having fun.  After all, sooner or later, everyone's light would go out like a spent candle.  If life lost its enjoyment, why prolong it?

‘What good is my life,’ she asked herself, ‘if old lady O'Toole and my crazy aunt can boss me around like some damned slave?’  The slaves were free now, but where was her freedom?  ‘Out on the owlhoot trail, I was always afraid of getting shot, or getting caught and going to prison.'  But what actually happened had turned out to be so much worse.

While she wrestled with her grief, Myra had been carrying out her chores.  The horse was corralled and the manger filled with hay.  The level in the animal trough seemed low, so the girl released the brake on the windmill and adjusted the blades to catch the wind.  The fresh breeze started them spinning and she soon heard water flowing.  But no water was coming into the trough.  Myra quickly realized that the valve had been set for filling the cistern, and so cranked off the cistern valve.  By diverting the flow into the pipe that ran to trough, the water would quickly fill it.  She had done these tasks many times before as a farm boy, too many times in fact. 

While he was away, Myron had sometimes wondered how his aunt was faring.  From the look of the farm, Irene had been keeping up with the work well enough.  Plenty of hay had been put away for winter, and haying was a daunting job for one or two people.  Irene couldn't have done so much by herself, so she must have kept on using hired men.  The last of those that Myra knew about had been George Severin; the girl hoped that her aunt had found different help over the last eleven months.

The potion girl clenched her fists as wrathful memories concerning George buoyed up.  Myron had been able to whip any buck his own age, all except Severin.  Myron had never liked being around kids he couldn't bully.  With George coming by every day and doing what had been his chores, young Cadwell had been embarrassed.  It was like someone else had become the man of the house.  He couldn't stand it.

Remembering those victorious old fights with smaller boys, Myra drew up her left sleeve.  The willowy bicep she beheld looked like it should belong to a stranger.  No wonder everything felt about twice as heavy as before.  The girl realized that, from now on, she probably wouldn't be able to beat down any male older than twelve.

Just then, Myra noticed movement out of the corner of her eye.  She wheeled.  It was her horse – her own horse -- the one that she had ridden from the robbery site.   The beast was looking at the water flowing inside the coral.  That gave the girl an idea.

She opened the gate and moved toward it slowly, not wanting the animal to spook and run off.  When Myra got extremely close, she took the bridle and stroked its mane.  It didn't mind being touched and allowed her to lead it into the corral.  There was plenty of hay waiting there and the equine seemed to accept its circumstances contentedly.  The bay had seen plenty of livery stables and unfamiliar people didn't frighten it.

While the horse drank and fed, the girl went back to finish her chores.  When they were at last done, Myra was freed from the compulsion to keep working.  She had been told to rest once she'd gotten her tasks done, but the girl had her own ideas about how to relax.  She thought about going into the house to put on some of her old male clothes before riding off.  But that would be risky.  Irene wouldn't tolerate her disappearing again, and any command to stay put had to be obeyed.

But the auburn-haired maid still wanted to ride.  Those thousands of dollars in gold ingots had been hidden up in the gap.  She had to act before her aunt caught on to her plan and spoiled things.  She knew that Irene had a compulsion to spoil things.  Unadventurous, unimaginative, the woman didn't seem to complain about doing hard work, going nowhere, and almost never seeing anything interesting.  In other words, she'd make Myra's life just as dull as the one she was living herself.

Myra had to get out, she just had to.  There was no telling how soon the gang would come back.  If she were them, she would have gone after some tools, and then laid low until the town posses around the area got tired of looking for outlaws.  But how many days would they stay away?  The smart thing would be for her to go after the gold as soon as possible.

There was another reason for speed.  If any of the three polecats got caught, they'd spill their guts about where the treasure was.  Then the authorities would dig it up and leave her a pauper.

What hopes could Myra still cling to?  Not many.  Gold was the last chance she had for a good life.  Being a rich girl couldn't be as bad as being a poor one.

Myra looked down at herself.  She wanted to get out of female clothes, definitely.  With this in mind, she went to the buckboard and tore apart the bundle containing Myron's soiled garments.  How repulsive!  The jeans stank, and not only from blood.  Myron hadn't been able to control either his bladder or bowels after getting wounded.  There was no way she was going to put on those foul pants.  The shirt, too, was a red-encrusted mess that Myra wouldn't have worn on a bet.  The coat wasn't too bad, fortunately, and so she drew it on over her dress.  Then she went into the barn and brought back a ragged, dusty old horse-blanket that, for years, had been hanging from a peg.

The sun still hung reasonably high.  Myra thought that she could do her treasure hunting before dark and then head out across the prairie with a load of gold.  The darkness would deepen the cold, naturally, but as Myron she had already spent a peck of chilly nights out in the open.  The old blanket would come in handy then.  Then there was the matter of provisions.  The potion girl didn't want to confront her aunt while looking for food in the house.  Instead, she hurriedly searched the farm sheds.  It soon became obvious that there was nothing there that a human could eat, but she did find some useful tools -- a hammer, a chisel, and a crowbar that could be toted by a horseman.  Nothing else seemed either convenient or useful.

By now, the bay had stopped feeding.  Myra led it out of the corral and climbed into the saddle.  Her garments, she discovered, were too tight for sitting naturally astride a horse.  The girl therefore hiked up her skirt to give her legs room enough, while still leaving them protected from the chill by her calf-length drawers and high stockings.  She jabbed the beast's sides with her heels and the beast moved off obligingly.


The trail to Stagecoach Gap climbed slightly along the way, but it didn't take Myra long to reach the robbery site.  She gazed back down the road.  Most of her memories of the old place were bad ones.  The stead had ceased to be a real home when her mother and father had died of cholera, a day apart.  Aunt Irene had come to Eerie a couple months later, but the loss of his parents had left a hole inside young Myron that Irene's companionship couldn't fill.  It took more than someone mending his clothes and fixing his supper to put heat back into the cold ashes of what had become his life.

During his year away from home, Myron had felt no guilt.  His aunt had seemed to like the farm better than he did, so he had left it to her.  He had even left the farm’s horse behind, to make it easier for her to carry on.  But doing that had made him a horse thief.  The consequences of that mistake had taught him a lesson.  The lesson was that a grown man should never let himself care about other people.  Let them solve their own problems; one had enough problems of his own.

Myra was trying hard not to ask herself questions about how was she supposed to live.  She couldn't imagine anything good ever coming her way again after such a disaster – except for one thing.

The gold.

Myra came to the mouth the little side canyon and drew up.  She'd been visiting Stagecoach Gap since the Caldwell family had come to the region, when Myron was about ten.  It had no proper name, but the boy had called it Secret Canyon.  The youngster had once looked at its narrow confines with eyes full of imagination, pretending to be one of those English lords who explored Africa's darkest corners.  It was a place to hunt wild tribes, tigers, and elephants.

Myra slid down from the saddle and removed the tools from the saddlebags.  So that the horse wouldn't wander off at the worst possible moment, she tied the reins around the slim trunk of the nearest desert willow.  Then the girl started up into the defile.

Climbing over the rocks was tricky while wearing slippery wooden-soled shoes.  She wasn't sure which spot would have looked like a good hiding place to the other robbers, so she paused to search her memory. 

Ike, along with those damned fools, Jeb and Horace Freely, couldn't have done much to conceal the strongbox without picks and shovels.  The canyon, which had no exit, was only some three hundred feet long.  It was not easy to climb up to the rims on either side.  The slopes of fallen rock ended well before they reached the top of the walls.  Taking a heavy box out of Secret Canyon that way would have been impossible.  It was hidden somewhere very near.

Since the three were all lazy sidewinders, the gang member would not have taken time to do anything fancy or smart.  The chest would have to be close to the floor of the canyon, hidden with nothing better than rocks piled on top of it.  Most probably, Ike would have looked for a natural dip or cavity to place it in, and then piled stones on top of it.  It had been years since Myron had last explored Secret Canyon, but Myra still knew the general layout.  Really, there wasn't much to know. 

The girl observed that after about a hundred feet, the flatness of the canyon bed gave out and the Freely brothers would have run into the beginning of the talus slope.  She looked left and right, up and down, trying to spot any place where she could remember a hidey-hole that the gang might have noticed.  Right now, it would probably be the site of a low mound of loose stone. 

She made a lot of educated guesses and checked possible spots by means of trial and error.   In the process, she was again reminded of how much weaker her new body was, as she moved rocks here and there.  After only about forty minutes of searching, her heart leaped.  She had found what she was looking for!  The stones at one location had looked slightly different from the surrounding ones; they didn't seem like they could have come together naturally.  She had started moving the limestone chunks aside and soon found the metal-reinforced edges of the missing strongbox. When it was mostly uncovered, she stood back, contemplating the box that would make her ruined life worth something.

But this box also brought back evil memories.  Ike's brainless shooting was responsible for the fix that she'd found herself in.  That ricochet had turned her whole existence upside down.  Could the chest, even by half, hold enough dust and nuggets to make up for the damage that it had caused? 

Myra took the tools she'd brought with her and worked hard at breaking the lock.  For a person who didn't care for intense physical labor, she applied herself furiously, with only short rest periods.  She skinned her knuckles several times with the tools, and still kept at it, until both her hands were aching with bruises and burning with scrapes.  The crowbar was a clumsy implement that kept slipping, while the hammer and chisel could make no certain progress, despite all the din that they raised.

Her arms began to ache seriously, and all that kneeling on rock had started her knees hurting.  Myra had begun to doubt her ability to conquer the chest by herself.  She sat back on a stone, searching her imagination for another plan.  If the strongbox were left in place, the returning outlaws might take it away before she could come back.  To prevent such a thing, it should be moved and hidden elsewhere, so that the gang couldn’t find it.  But easier said than done.  It had taken two strong young men to lug the locked chest to its present depository.  She was all alone and a lot less strong than either of the Freelys.  Despair began to grip at her.

Her tools now seemed pathetic.  It might take a sledgehammer and a mining bar to overcome those locks and reinforced hinges.  She'd need a helper of considerable strength.  A still better approach would be using explosives.  She knew that a lot of miners around Eerie handled blasting powder and dynamite.  But how was she to get some?  She could hardly walk into Styron’s hardware and buy a keg.   Any way that she looked at it, she was stumped.

Myra went back to the idea of  getting a sledgehammer.  Who did she know with muscles enough to help her?  This was bandit loot and most people would want nothing to do with it.  Who did she know that wouldn't go running to the law, hoping for a reward?  Myra would not be able to claim a reward for herself, since the local sheriff knew that she had been one of the thieves.  The stage company wouldn't look too keenly on that idea, either.

Who did she know?  Myron didn't have many friends around Eerie.  Or anywhere else, in fact.  Of those few, the best choice that came to mind was Lydon Kelsey.  He'd talked a lot about finding gold in the mountains, but had always been too work-shy to actually go looking for it.  His best assets were his strength and dishonesty.  Myron and Lydon had done some petty thieving together.  To a layabout like Kelsey, this could be the score of a lifetime.

But Lydon wouldn't recognize her in the shape she wore, and Myra surely didn't want to tell the loudmouth who she really was.  He'd spread the word all over town, that Thorn Caldwell was the newest “potion gal.”  Everyone from thither and yonder would come to take a look and give her the horse laugh.

What if she pretended to be just an ordinary girl, new to the town?  She might act like she wanted to cozy up to Kelsey.  Then she could give him some made-up story explaining how she knew about the strongbox.  He'd go for it quick if there were a chance for gold.  But there was a catch.  Would Lydon be honest enough to share the swag, or would he just shove her aside and take it all for himself?  Would she have to be prepared to shoot him once the box was opened?

And what about that order that old lady O'Toole had given her, about not hurting anyone?  What would Lydon do if she stood there pointing a gun at him, unable to fire?

Myra just didn't know what that accursed magic left her capable of. 

For now, she had no choice but to conceal the chest again.  Her hands, already sore, became sorer still by the time she'd gotten the box covered with rocks.  She was bone tired, too.

Myra glanced at the sky.  The sun could no longer be seen over the canyon rim.  She knew that supper-time was not far off.  The very thought of not getting home for the meal unsettled her more than it reasonably should have.  Irene had wanted her back by supper.  To make the deadline, she needed to hurry.

Taking the tools with her, Myra re-secured them, swung herself up over the bay's back, and hastily started down Riley Canyon Road.

The girl kept the gelding moving at a canter.  The anxiety about being tardy loomed larger and larger within her.  She hated acting like a slave, but couldn't help herself. 

Myra was about halfway home when she saw someone trotting up the dusky road on a mule.  Myra preferred to avoid him, whoever he was, but her compulsion to beat the clock didn't give her any option except to continue along by the shortest route.

“Whoa!” the rider said as she cantered close.  “You have to be Myra, Miss Irene's niece!”

The girl reined in.  The youth on the mule was no stranger.  It was George Severin.

“Severin!  I – I've got to go!  Aunt Irene wants me back by supper!”

The youth frowned bemusedly.  “I know,” he said slowly.  “She asked me to go looking for you.  Whose horse is that, anyway?  Your aunt said you came in by stage.”

Myra shrugged.  “I don't know where it came from.  It was grazing nearby and we took it into the coral.  I just felt like taking a ride.”

He regarded her with curiosity.  “Be that as it may, you gotta get on home.”

“That is what I was trying to do, when you started jawing at me.”  She tapped her heels to get the horse moving again.  But George didn't consider their conversation finished and rapidly caught up with the unusually attractive maiden.

“You don't need to come,” she said in annoyance.

“I don't mind.  Hey, Myra is a pretty name.  Your aunt should have told me I was looking for a gal who was every bit as fetching as her moniker.”

Myra felt like cussing, but said only, “Myra was my grandmother's name.”

“Yeah?  So where are you from?”

“You ask too many questions, for a stranger.”  The more she urged her horse to speed, the more determinedly George spurred his mule to keep up.

“We won't be strangers for long,” he said.  “I work for your aunt.  Unless you're going to be assuming all the chores that she can't handle.”

“I don't know anything about that,” Myra replied, refusing to look at him.

“Are you from the East?”


“How do you like things -- this far West, I mean?”

Myra scowled.  “So far, I haven't liked anything about it.  And did anyone ever let you know that you talk too much?”

“Now and then,” George responded with a tolerant grin.  “Say, did you hurt yourself?  That looks like blood on that coat of yours.  It was made for a man, wasn't it?  Your uncle's?”

It took the girl a couple seconds to come up with an answer.  “Yeah, it's my uncle's.  Irene said she was wearing it when she butchered a chicken.”

To her relief, George stopped trying to force a conversation, even though he persistently kept pace until they reached the corral.  “If you still work here,” Myra told him, “get the horses ready for the night!”

She swung out of the saddle and dropped to earth, like one accustomed to riding.  As she bustled toward the door, George called from behind:  “I'll take your advice, since that's what I think Mrs. Fanning would want.” 


Before Myra reached the door, Aunt Irene stepped outside, her arms crossed.  “Where on earth have you been?” she demanded.

Her niece stopped abruptly.  “I found my horse.  My chores were done, and I felt like taking a ride.”

Irene glanced over Myra's shoulder and saw George.  “We'll talk about this later, young lady.”

“Don't call...” Myra began, but Severin's voice interrupted her.

“Excuse me.  I was wondering if you'd like me to unsaddle the new horse, ma'am.”

Mrs. Fanning nodded.  “Yes, please.  And when you're done, come take supper with us.”

“Much obliged,” he remarked.

Irene watched the youth draw off and then said to Myra, “Come inside.” 

The girl followed her aunt through the door and glanced around the interior.  It hadn't changed much.  And it still represented the last house on earth that she wanted to live in.

“Where did you go?” Irene asked.

“Nowhere important.   I came back on time, didn't I?”

“Yes, you did,” Irene began slowly.  “So I’ll ask you again, where did you go?  And this time you will answer me honestly.”

“Yes,” Myra responded, wincing as a compulsion to tell the truth kicked in.

I-I rode u-up to the stage… to Stagecoach G-Gap.  I-I w-wanted to… to l-look… around.” 

Her aunt nodded.  “The crook returning to the scene of the crime, as they say?”

“Y-Yes, ma’am.  I wa… wanted to just… to ride off and n-not come back.”  It was the truth, but not the whole truth.

“So why did you come back?”

“You told me that I couldn't miss supper.”  Toldordered… it was all the same to Myra, thanks to that damned potion.

“So, you admit that you were planning to run off again?”

Myra didn't want to answer that one, but it came out anyway:  “'am.”

Aunt Irene regarded her sadly.  “Why...?  Why do you want to leave again so soon?”

The girl threw up her arms.  “This isn't any kind of life that I want.”

“You went off and became an outlaw before.  Was that better than the peace and safety you can enjoy in your own home?”

“Better than anything that happens in this home!”

Mrs. Fanning shook her head.  “I – I don't know what to say.  I just don't understand you.”

“Well, who says you have to understand?”

The aunt sighed.  “Sit down and eat your supper.  But before you do, set a place for George."

 TO BE CONTINUED in Chapter 3, Part 2


Friday, November 10, 2017

The Falling Star: Chapter 5, Part 1

Posted 11-10-17

An Angel From Hell story

Chapter 5, Part 1

By Christopher Leeson

Driving fast along Federal Highway 80, Jezebel checked every car she passed, looking for a silver Subaru Forester.  She was a hard woman, but the odds were beginning to worry.  How many failures would the Father tolerate before she was back on the Lake of Fire track?

No, buck up, the Watcher told herself.  She hadn't actually failed at anything.  Not yet.

Frustrated, the fallen angel increased her already-law-breaking speed.

Then she heard the siren and saw the flashing lights in the rear-view mirror.  Too pressured to stop, she unwisely gunned the engine to outrun the patroller. 

Two car chases in twenty-four hours!  Once again the speed of her Toyota Corolla was disappointing her.  An hour before, Jezebel had let another speed cop off lightly, with a mental command to go away and to stop making a pest of himself.  Before he'd gone, she had thought to ask, “Wait, did you send my license number in already?”  When he answered affirmatively, she decided to take precautions.  At the next roadside gas station, Jezebel deftly removed a random motorist's license plates and affixed them to her own vehicle.  This would, she wagered, afford her some needed anonymity.  These were only humans, after all.  It shouldn't be overly difficult to outsmart them.

The highway patrol car came up even beside her and the driver pointed to the shoulder.  Jezebel pulled over, trying to decide whether or not this problem was serious enough to warrant a homicide.

The uniformed man who came out of his car flashed his light into her face.  She couldn't take his measure through the glare.  But her night-blindness drove home the fact that her power was fading yet again. 

“It's not good manners to force law enforcement to chase you, Miss,” the state trooper told her. 

She was already concentrating, attempting to fog the man's mind.  The officer, however, seemed to shake off her effort.  Frowning down at a hand-held device, he asked, “Why aren't your license plates registered for this make of car?  Also, you don't look like a man named Maurice Linnsey.”

The girl shrugged.  “A lot of women are given boy names.  Modern parents are idiots.”

Supposing the under-dressed motorist was up to no good, he became wary.  “Step out of the car, please, and show me your driver's license.”

Jezebel carefully emerged, her skin starting to prickle with goosebumps.  Despite her best efforts to keep out of trouble, switching plates had only made things worse.  Jezebel started to open her purse. 

“Pour the contents out on the shoulder, under the headlights, please,” the man said, his right hand resting on his holster.

She remembered that the purloined Walther that was inside her bag.  A policeman would probably ask about a permit.  That's what they did in the movies, anyway.  The girl was guessing that lame excuses wouldn't cut it, nor would a seduction attempt be useful.  That left only violence. 

Jezebel let the contents of her bag tumble out upon the concrete, weapon included.  The sight of the formidable handgun startled the patrolman, a reaction that gave her the second of distraction she needed.   

Two rapid blows had the officer down, all the fight knocked out of him.  Jezebel swiftly added his Smith and Wesson 940 to her collection of firearms.  Then she frisked the downed man while he still lay stunned, but didn't find his handcuffs or other restrains.   Why was nothing ever simple on the planet Earth?  How the angel wished that the trooper was a full-fledged Cabalist agent with a purple aura.  Her license to kill would come in handy.

“I'd prefer to keep you alive,” the Watcher told the trooper, “but only if you don't make things difficult for me.  I need your handcuffs, keys, and something to tie your legs with, too.  Cooperate and you'll get home with no more than the few bruises you already have.”

Though shaken, the trooper's indignation blazed hot.  “You crazy bitch!  You don't realize how much trouble you're in!”

Jezebel wasn't afraid of very much, least of all bluster, but she wanted to avoid the inevitable all-points bulletin for committing homicide.  So far, her face had been in the shadows, except for that brief flashlight glance at close range.  Probably the police officer would only remember that she had been a knockout; without a real license number, there wouldn't be much evidence to track her with, nor any crime so serious that they would spend a lot of resources on it.  Jezebel now cocked the Smith and Wesson.  “I'm not a criminal, just a...lady who's tired of being pushed around.  If you want me to be nice, you have to be nice right back at me.  And stop trying to make out my face or else – Oh, hell, I might as well just show you what I'm talking about.”

She kicked him in the gonads.

With her victim assuming a fetal position, Jezebel adjudged that the demonstration had made its point.  Just then, a stray car came their way, driving under fifty, as most people do when passing a flashing police car.  The stranger wouldn't be able to the officer on the ground and the latter couldn't yell for help, since he was gasping for breath.  The sedan simply moved past.  A little ways beyond them, it picked up speed.

“If you don't want another toe in the crotch, tell me where your cuffs are,” she advised her prisoner.

“In the utility case, on the passenger side,” he groaned.

“Roll over on your face and spread your legs,” she said.  When the officer complied, she opened the patrol-car passenger door, keeping the the gun ominously pointed.  She plucked the case from the floor and found it unlocked.  There were things inside she could use,  including zip-strips and handcuffs.

“Stay the way you are,” the Watcher said, “but put your hands behind your back.”  When the man had done this, Jezebel quickly figured out how to work the cuffs and secured her captive.  Then the girl took the longest zip-strip available and fastened his ankles together.   As a finishing touch, she took a loose handy-wipe from his car, stuffed it into his mouth, and held it in place by means of another long zip-strip. 

She stepped back.  It didn't look like a bad truss-up job, but as a precaution she turned off the police car lights, took the keys out of his ignition, locked all the doors, and then tossed the key chain into the nearby field. 

“This should slow you up for a while.  If I get into trouble over this, it will be because your bosses are too full of themselves to appreciate how lenient I've been.”  She re-stuffed her purse, taking whatever seemed potentially useful from the officer's utility case.

Jezebel, seeing the distant lights of more cars approaching, hurried back to her own vehicle and pulled out.  Having resumed an eastward trajectory, she came upon a highway patrol turnaround and it gave her an idea.  Cutting the headlamps, she made the turnaround, and then clicked the lights on again.  This way, she reasoned, when the trooper was rescued, he might send searchers in the wrong direction.  The angel still wasn't sure how clever this generation of human beings might be, but over the last couple days it hadn't earned her respect.  

The Watcher didn't want to go far in the wrong direction.  When she saw an exit sign marked Brady, she took it.  Once out of sight of the highway, the young woman stopped to check her map. 

The police encounter had been a near thing and she had made unforced mistakes.  By making them, she had lost time and had made the present situation even messier.  Among her problems was the ridiculous way that she was dressed.  It made her stand out as something unforgettable.

Worse, even if Jezebel could find Holly, she lacked any certain means to rescue her.  She had two guns, but the opposition would have many.  She absolutely had to get her powers back to even the playing field, but there was only one way to do that. 

The girl put her car into gear and drove through the town of Brady.  It had a population of over three hundred according to the welcome sign, and she took note of a roadside tavern.  Such a thing might have been a good place for a recharge, but Jezebel didn't want to in a population center, should the police start combing the area for a young blond in a short red dress.  Suddenly, the angel noted directions to a highway rest stop.  If people were parked there, it might serve her as a convenient place to acquire a change of clothes. 

Jezebel reached the rest stop quickly, and could see that it was not only a auto rest stop, but also had a turn-off lane for overnighting trucks.  She could make out several tractor-trailers lined up along a parking strip.  She continued on into the car section, but found it empty.  There would be no women's clothes to acquire, but she got an idea.  Upon stopping, the first thing she did was to switch back the plates. 

Then Jezebel drove back to the trunk area  She could safely assume that there would be an assortment of men available, and she needed a man, the right kind of a man.  But how could she arrange to interview the truckers in a non-suspicious way? 

The Watcher parked close to the vehicles.  At this hour, the tractors were all empty empty, the drivers no doubt being settled down in sleeping bags or fold-away cots inside their boxes.  The casual approach she'd used to meet a male in Alliance wouldn't work here; this was neither the time nor place for subtlety. 

She pressed the horn to start a series of irritating honks.  After a couple minutes, sleepy men started lumbering out of their rigs.

“Stop honking, you idiot!” the closest one yelled at her headlights.  She let the gaggle of truckers stomp even closer before she cut the noise and stepped outside, into the lights of her vehicle.  From the way that the men's grumbling fell abruptly to silence, they must have been suitably impressed with her silhouette.

“Lady, what's wrong.  Why all the racket?” one asked.

“I'm sorry I had to wake you all up, but this is an emergency.”

“What?  A wardrobe crisis?” one guffawed. 

That her clothes were being appreciated was a good sign.  She smiled at the one who had spoken and he smiled back.

Someone else stepped up, a husky man of about forty, wearing an unclosed winter coat thrown over makeshift pajamas, these being comprised of a sweatshirt and jogging pants.

“I – I need a lift into North Platte,” the girl said.  “My car has been making these terrible transmission noises; I'm afraid that I'll wreck it if I drive any farther.  But it's important that I get into town by breakfast time.”

“What's so important?” a trucker asked.

“The reason is very personal,” she said coyly.  “But, really, I can use some help.”

“Call a repair truck out of North Platte,” said the man with the jogging pants.

“I was hoping that there might be a mechanical genius among so many males in their prime.”

Another of the several truckers shook his bearded head.  “Transmissions are serious jobs, Missy.  You're going to need a regular shop for that kind of work.”

She felt a sensation that informed her that the men were reacting as wished.  The tingle was making her goosed-bumped flesh feel warmer already.  Encouraged, the Watcher stepped closer to the men, trying to sense which one was beaming those hot shots of unbridled lust at her flesh.  “Can we talk about this inside one of your trucks?” she asked no one in particular.  “My luggage got stolen in the last club parking lot I stopped at, and I'm freezing.”

“Turn on the heater,” said Jogging Pants.  “That should be good for a few hours.”  He then turned back toward his truck with indifference.  That was one cold hombre, she observed.  A family man?

She shifted her attention to the trucker wearing a Stetson-styled hat, the one that she suspected of being the randiest man there.   He had wide sideburns and big arms, and presented a figure that seemed to suggest a fondness for  beer and donuts.   “Your companion is not very gentlemanly,” she said with a pout.  “How would he like to have a daughter out all alone and half-dressed on a night like this one?”  She now affected naivety.  “I'm not use to planning my own trips.  I make mistakes and so often have to depend upon the kindness of strangers.”

“What do you do?” the man with the Stetson asked.

Jezebel made a wry face.  “It's not nice to ask a person questions like that before you've bought her a drink.”

“I mean, what's your job?”

“I sing with a band.”

“Yeah?  What kind of songs?”

“Anything you want,” she promised, “for a thick blanket and something warm to drink.  I was hoping that some generous person would let me sleep over inside one of these big, exciting trucks.”  She surveyed the faces around her.  “If someone is going toward North Platte in the morning, and wouldn't mind a little company, he could drop me off close to a fix-it garage.”

Most of the men seemed well-disposed to the proposition.  “That sounds like an idea,” said the Stetson hat.

“Oh, I'm just full of good ideas,” agreed Jezebel.

The man held out his hand.  She took it pleasantly.

Jetrel had lived among humans for centuries, and had spied upon them for millennia.  Shortly after Creation, he had come to the conclusion that women could get away with delivering a great deal less than they seemed to be promising at the outset.  It wasn't so important what Jezebel did over that hour, but how the trucker felt .  And, clearly, he had a lot of pent-up lust to give away.  Jezebel drank it in like a health tonic. 


When the man became too yawny to carry on with his petting and pawing, the Watcher used her revived mind-power to put him into a deep slumber.  She also hypnotized her host to remember a wild and wicked night of action.  Then the fallen angel stole silently from the truck and returned to her car.  Though the air must have grown even colder by then, the breeze felt like room temperature as it brushed over her energized flesh.

Angels didn't come naturally with wings, but as mankind came to expect wings, they often assumed such a shape.  What angels could do was teleport, a talent that the mortal mind had equated with flight.  Fresh from her energy bath, Jezebel felt strong enough to give transposition a try.  But she stayed just where she was.  Maybe, the girl thought, a human body couldn't dematerialize, or it could be that it needed more power than Jezebel had stored away.  

It was something to experiment with later.  But for now, having no other choice, the Watcher  headed back to the town of Brady and from there took a secondary highway, L, to Gothenburg, where there was another entry ramp onto Federal Highway 80.  Hopefully, if the handcuffed trooper had told his story by now, they would be looking for a Toyota at points east from where she actually was.  Regardless, as long as she had a few angel powers, she didn't much fear encountering the eager beavers of the law.

Jezebel glanced at Jill's tiny wristwatch.  How much time did Holly have before she would be sent like a bundle to the West Coast?  Once the Cabal got her outside of Nebraska, her rescue would be immensely more difficult, and her present resources were few.

But, at some level, what bothered her seemed to be more than than the prospect of failure.   Had the girl somehow gotten under her skin?  Had she imperceptibly come to think of her as something like – a pet? 
Jezebel would have liked some help and wondered, briefly, whether she should pray.  Being in a human body had many downsides, but, curious enough, the Father wanted mortals to pray.  Maybe a prayer from her in this form would reach his ear.  But she still had her pride.  He who had created the angels had punished them severely for every disobedience, while at the same time pardoning his human creation with shocking ease.  He simply held mortals to be superior to angels, and that wasn't right.    If she sank to praying as a human for something that had been denied to angels, it would be like admitting that the angel kind was indeed an inferior breed.  She felt certain that most of the rebel angels had rebelled because they had been confronted by that outrageous proposition. 


Jezebel expected to reach Kearney well before her energy dwindled to usability.   She had to go after Holly wherever she could find her well before dawn.   There would be almost no chance for her to acquire some inconspicuous clothing, not unless she broke into a shop, and that would cause additional time to be lost.

Had Shekinah acted out of mere whimsy by hiding a red dress, with all its accessories, inside her luggage?  Probably not; back when the archangel had still been a graybeard named Enoch he/she had displayed not the slightest nugget of playfulness.  It had to be the Father himself who had put her up to it. 

The Father, for certain, had a whimsical side to his nature.  He had shown it to the world only two months earlier, when had taken the American election away from the Cabalists' choice for president and gave to his own Chosen One, a man who was as unlikely deliverer as Gideon had been in ages past, one who had never held elective or appointed office before.  So what sort of whimsy did the red dress represent?  It wasn't that the Father cared for immodest display nor, of course, for fornication.  In spite of that, he had saddled her with a custom-made Jezebel spirit, one intended to incline her toward both?  

Were his inexplicable actions merely a rebuke to Jetrel's pride?  Was it a harsh payback for the Watchers' previous use of demons to steer people into perdition?  Or did the Father wish her to give her no choice but to sin constantly, just so he could cast her into Hell?  She shook her head.  It had to be more than that.  He didn't need any additional reasons to damn her.  The very first prophecy in Scripture had been spoken to Satan by his Creator, promising that for what he had done in the Garden he would die.  The sins of the other fallen angels had been of lesser degrees, but were still damning.

Jezebel knew that even if she never sinned again, ever, she would still be doomed to the Lake of Fire.  Everything that the Father did had a purpose, everything.  This thing that concerned her also had a purpose.  What was she not seeing?  Was it possible that it was not she, but Jill Arendel who was the main principle in this mystery?   Though the fallen angels held humans to be of no worth at all, the Father saw things differently.  Still, how could the murdered adulteress be considered any sort of factor in this affair? 

Suddenly Jezebel received a flash of recall, the tapping of a  memory buried in Jill Arendel's physical brain that she had never tapped before. 

The very idea of it! 

“The worthless bitch!” the angel exclaimed out loud.

For the next twenty or so miles Jezebel tried to bury, to forget that recollection.

She couldn't.

To Be Continued in Chapter 5, Part 2