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Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Treasure of Eerie, Arizona -- Chapter 5, Part 2

By Christopher Leeson and Ellie Dauber 

Posted 04-21-18  


Chapter 5, Part 2

December 17, 1871, Continued


Myra, seated uncomfortably on a crate, was glowering down Riley Canyon Road.  Behind her, George continued chopping wood, using rapid, powerful blows.  Myra didn't want to be anywhere near the neighbor boy, but she had received her orders and the spell held her fast.  The slaves in the South must have felt more free than she did.  They, at least, could run away.

The young workman finally paused to catch his breath.  Though Myra faced away from him, he started talking.  “The stage that brought you into town in must have been the same one that got robbed right afterwards, when it moved up into the Gap.  Ain't that right?” he asked.

The receipt of another prying question made the girl scowl.  She hadn't worked out every detail of her made-up story, but had to bluff through.  She met him eye to eye, and said, “Yes.”

He shook his head.  “It must have been awful, to hear about your cousin dying on the day you came in.”

She shrugged.  “Well, I've heard better news.”

“I've been wondering.  Where did that new riding horse over yonder come from?”

Another hard question.  “I don't know.”

“Didn't your aunt buy him?”

Myra pondered.  She couldn't tell George the same story that she'd already spun for the gang.  “It wandered in by itself.  It was trying to get at the hay when Irene and me came from in from town.”

“Does you aunt recognize the critter?”

“She never saw it before.  The saddle neither.”

“If it was saddled, it must have strayed away from its rider.  Do you think it could have been Myron's horse?  It might easily have walked a couple miles from the Gap.”

“I haven't thought about that.”

George glanced at the animal in the corral.  “It's a fair-looking cayuse.  It'ld be nice if you and your aunt can hold on to it.  I don't know about Mrs. Fanning, but you ride as smart as an Injun.  How did you learn?”

Myra didn't like the way he'd asked that.  He had the eyes of a hunter tracking a coyote.  “We kept horses back home,” she answered.

He suddenly changed the subject.  “I've been wondering.  If the stage men saw Myron shot, and if he was dead, what happened to him afterwards?  Your aunt didn't mention that there'll be any funeral.”

She tossed a hand into the air.  “Search me.  The bandits must have hidden the body.”

“Could be.  But you don't seem too broken up about your cousin not getting a proper burial.”

Myra changed her tone.  “I – I feel sorry for Aunt Irene.  But I never met Thorn.  He never did so much as send us a card back East.”

“If you didn't really know Myron, when did you find out that he wanted people to call him Thorn?  I've never heard your aunt speak that name in front of me.”

Damn him!  “That – That's the name the judge and the deputy were using when they came to talk yesterday.”

“Judge Humphreys was out here?  Why so?”

Blast it!  Did he have to haggle over every word?

“The judge knows Aunt Irene.  He wanted to let her know that Th – Myron was suspected of robbery, and also to express his sympathies.”

“Was he already sure that Myron was dead, even with no body?”

“The stage people's message said that he was shot bad.  The sheriff sent somebody up to look around, but there was no sign of anything.  So everyone just assumes.  If he wasn't fit to ride off, he must have died and his body was hidden.”

George's brows knitted.  “It seems kind of odd that those outlaws rode out for three days, but then came back to Myron's house for no reason.  Or was there a reason?”

Myra thought quickly.  “They knew Myron lived close-in to the Gap, but that wasn't why they came.  They needed some pack horses to carry off the gold that they'd hidden before.”

“So, if they only came for horses, why did they need to take you back up there with them?”

Myra was again tempted to tell George to go to hell, but held herself in check.  “A couple hours before they showed up, I'd gone to the Gap with that Deputy Grant, to search around.  We found the gold and then Grant hid it in a different place, so the robbers wouldn't be able to find it if they happened to sneak back.  But by the time we left the canyon, the gang was already hiding up there, watching us head out.  They must have followed us, out of sight, and saw where I stopped at.  Then they barged in after dark to make me show them where the box was.”

“I thought you said they just came to steal a couple horses.”

“They did steal horses!” she replied sharply.  “They would have come to get horses no matter what.  It's just that they had two reasons to come.”

“What I can't get is why the deputy seemed to be so all-fired sure that the chest was hidden up there in the first place, if nobody told him.”

“Ask him.”

George wasn't put off.  “Another thing makes me wonder.  Why on earth did you need to ride up to the Gap with the deputy?  I figure he already knew where Stagecoach Gap was.”

Myra glanced away again.  “No reason.  I just asked if I could go along, for the adventure.  Buried treasure; that's exciting.”

“That gets back to the main question.  How did anyone know there was buried gold?”

The girl's fists were clenched; her nosy neighbor was just begging for a slam to the jaw.  Carefully, she said, “Nobody knew anything, but they suspected.  The law in town knows how strong and heavy those stage company boxes are, and how the drivers don't carry the key with them.  The deputy and the judge were talking about how the outlaws might have needed to hide the gold close by, so they could come back later, with tools and pack horses.”   Then she added, “Also, one of them said that a lot of stage robbers did that sort of thing.”

“I see.  But how did the deputy find the chest so quickly?  Wasn't it buried?”

Myra stood up to storm away, but couldn't move her feet.  Sitting down again, Myra finally replied, “Sure, it was buried under a pile of rocks.  But the stupid outlaws left a corner of the box still showing.”

The youth again shook his head.  “They surely do sound stupid.”

“I met them.  Believe me, they're as dumb as they come.  Why are you so interested?”

George shrugged.  “There's not much excitement around Eerie.  Anyhow, a little conversation might help us get acquainted.  I already know you've got spirit.  My oldest sister would still be shaking like a leaf if she'd been put through all that you were.  If you think I’m asking too many questions, you can get even by asking me anything you want to.”

She sniffed.  “Why should I be interested in anything that concerns you, Mr. Severin?”

“No reason; we're just passing time.”

“It seems like time isn't passing half so quickly as I'd like it to.”

“Whenever I'm busy, it just flies by.  Did your aunt ever write and mention that she had someone helping her work the farm?”

“She never wrote.”  Damn; that didn't sound likely.  “Almost never.  Just a card now and then, like at Christmas. She never said much more than 'I hope you've been well,' or 'Merry Christmas.'”

George nodded and resumed chopping for a few minutes.  Then he took another break, drew a sip from his canteen, and said, “You mentioned you're from back East.  Whereabouts?”

She raised her chin.  “My aunt told me that I had to...that I should...chat with you, as annoying as you are.  But she didn't say that I had to answer a thousand snoopy questions.”

The youth leaned the ax against the stack of cord wood.  “Why not let a person know a little something about yourself?  Are you some kind of outlaw on the dodge?”

Myra felt a jolt, then quickly forced a laugh.  “Do I look like an outlaw?”

“No, but... ” he paused.  “No, you surely do not.  By the way, why is it that you don't want to go with me to the Christmas dance next week?  Do you have a fella already?”

“Stop the questions!”

“Okay, no more questions.  What would you prefer to talk about?”

“I don't want to talk at all.”

George sat down on the woodpile.  “So, you're a girl who doesn't like to talk too much?  I didn't know that kind existed.”  He grinned broadly.  “Finding a sensible gal is like finding buried treasure.  I definitely want to get to know you better, Miss Myra.”

“I've only known you for four days and I already know everything I want to.  It's as plain as the sun in the sky that you can't stop jabbering like a parrot.”

“People say I grow on them.”

“Yeah, like a wart!”

He chuckled.  “Yessirree, you're a girl full of ginger.  I like that.”

“Maybe so, but you bore me to tears!"

This reply only added to his mirth.  “If you really don't like me being around, you can tell your aunt that you want to do all the chores by yourself.  Is that what you're aiming for, Miss Back-East Girl?”

Myra frowned.  “I can learn farming easily enough if I want to.  For all I care, you can go off and annoy someone else.”

He gazed at the cut wood he was seated upon.  “The chopping you did earlier seems decent.  You're already used to doing certain chores, ain't you?”

She stood up again, rested her hands on her hips, and faced him boldly.  “Certain chores yes, some chores no.  When are you going to stop jawing and start earning your pay?”

“I'm not getting paid in coin.  Chatting with the pretty new girl in town is my pay; I said that straight-out to your aunt.”

“Hah!  My aunt thinks I'm a kid.  She's got no call to be deciding who my friends are going to be.”

“Don't you care for your aunt?  I like her just fine.”

“You aren't the one she's always bossing around.”

“Of course I am.  She pays me to do things for her.”

“If you think she's so nice, you should take her to the Christmas dance.  Lord knows that no other man is going to ask her.”

George made a click at the side of his mouth.  “She's got a few years on me.  I want to spend time with the calibre of gal that I could get serious about.”

“That sure ain't my kind of...gal.”

“I hope that won't always be true.  There's precious few young ladies of the right sort out here.  The two of us are about the same age, I reckon we go to the same church, and neither of us is seeing anybody.  Maybe we're neighbors because Providence is working its magic.” 

She suddenly looked like a volcano ready to blow.

He smiled again, in a way to let her know that he'd only been funning.

Myra, still holding in her temper, said, “Providence is like a mule, if you ask me.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because a mule is stupid and stubborn, and all it's good for is kicking a man in the teeth when he least expects it!”

“You sound like you've been kicked lately.  What happened?”

She gave that a second's thought, then answered carefully.  “I lost both parents, or maybe you didn't get the news.”

The youth look abashed.  “Pardon, Miss Myra.  I plum forgot.”

“If that's the case, you should be working on your memory, and also working on that wood pile.  If you don't, there's no reason you should be keeping me out in the wind jawing with you.”

George seemed to accept that observation and set to work in earnest.


#

About an hour later, the light was failing and the air was getting colder.  George went to put away the ax for the night.  At the same time, Molly O'Toole got back into her carriage and set out for town, while Mrs. Fanning stood waving goodbye from the front door.   Suddenly, Irene started toward the wood pile.  At first sight of George, she called him over to speak, but Myra didn't wait to listen.  She no longer felt compelled to stay put, and so went back to the house.  About five minutes later, she heard the farm boy riding off.  Her aunt joined her indoors a minute later.

“Did you and George have a good talk?”

“No, we didn't.  I don't care much for the fellow, but you told me I had to keep him company!”

“I suppose I did.  Anyway, did you two discuss the Christmas party?”

“He talked about a lot of things.  He almost talked my ears off.”

“Young men often jabber when they happen to like a girl.”

“I know what boys do!  And I especially know George Severin.  If he hadn't been around so much when I lived here, I probably wouldn't have headed out as soon as I did.”

“You didn't like any of my helpers.”

“Good riddance to the lot of them!”

Irene changed the topic.  “I asked George if he'd be willing to clean the hog pen as soon as he has time.  If you don't care for having him hereabouts, would you be willing to take on that job yourself?”

The girl looked fit to be tied.  “Hell, no!  That work is too hard for...”

“For a girl?”

“I'm not a girl.  The work is too hard, period.  But what does it matter what I want?  Go ahead and bust my back.  You'll get me crippled.”

“You're so dramatic about everything!” Irene stated in exasperation.  “Girls clean pig pens, and do even harder chores.  I need help to work this piece of land.  Whatever you do on this farm helps us make a living.  George is at least willing to pitch in while he earns a wage.  We could save a parcel of money if you would do more of the things that I've been asking him to do.”

Myra looked away, annoyed.

“By the way, Molly suggested that I should make it clearer when I'm...I'm telling you something that is really necessary.”

The girl turned.  “When you're giving me an order, you mean.”

“That's not the way I'd like to put it.  But this is my idea.  For now, when I making a statement and call you 'my girl,' it means that I'm telling you something important and I want you to do what I say.”

“You're always bossing me around.  You're not either one of my parents.”

Irene shook her head.  “I loved your folks, too, Myra.  What happened to them wasn't anyone's fault.  Or are you only using them as an excuse to avoid necessary work?”

“I just want to have some time to do the things that I want to do."

“I don't like ordering you about like a servant, not at all.  What would you prefer?  To run off again and become a girl outlaw?”

“What's wrong with trying to better myself?”

“Better yourself with stolen money?  Look what it's cost you already?  Would you ever have robbed people if you knew that it might get you turned into a young lady?”

The girl threw up her hands.  “My only mistake was coming home to the craziest town in the world.  I don't see why a person should be criticized just for taking care of himself, as long as he doesn't get caught.”

“But you did get caught – caught by a strange fate that you truly did bring upon yourself.  Every time you look into the mirror from now on, think about how different your life could have turned out if you'd only worked a little harder at being honest.”

Myra swung away again, her arms crossed.

Irene sighed.  “You certainly don't seem in any mood to talk sense.  Now, listen, my girl.  Change out of your nice clothes, and take care that you don't dirty or tear them!”

The girl felt this new form of command taking a grip upon her.  Angry, with teeth clenched, Myra scooped up her pile of cast-off everyday clothing and stomped into the pantry, preferring to change out of sight.

Irene then went to finish supper.  This new quarrel had gotten her thinking.  Myra didn't like farm work, no more than Myron had.  Would the girl take to household tasks any better?  She considered asking Myra for help with the evening’s meal.  Then she shook her head.  That would probably be pushing things too quickly.  Patience would be needed.  If Molly knew about these things from experience, Myra should eventually start looking at life the way that most young ladies did.  It might be wisest to nudge her in the right direction bit by bit, trying not to force things too insistently, especially when she was in a mood to get her back up.



December 18, 1871

The next morning, George Severin returned for a full day's labor, already game to take on the pig sty.  Irene appreciated that her youthful neighbor was able to give her so much of his time  It would have been different, probably, if he hadn't had four younger brothers and sisters at home, all old enough to take over the chores while he was away.  The youth deployed the manure cart in a convenient spot before entering the pen carrying the farm's four-tined manure fork.  He had worn his wet-weather boots; the mess at his feet was gummy; the exacting task required a strong back.

Mrs. Fanning's niece had slipped away the instant that she'd seen the young man coming in.  The girl's aloofness disappointed her aunt; one thing that hadn't changed from when Myra had been Myron was the way that she still wore a chip on her shoulder.  Locals generally liked George and he wasn't known to misbehave – other than by pulling a few pranks.  Myron, she was aware, hadn't found it easy to make friends – at least not nearly as easy as he made enemies.  He had often complained that no one liked him, and that had probably been one reason why he had left home at just sixteen.

Irene was starting the noonday meal when someone rode in through the gate.  Through the window, she recognized the same big man who had been helping Paul Grant.  The deputy and two others, including this one, had, finding her tied up in the kitchen, cut her loose.   The two posse men had spoken with some sort of Scandinavian accent.  Her visitor was large, broad-shouldered, and very strong-looking.  She recalled that his eyes had been the color of shadowy ice.

The townsman was getting down from his horse when the farm woman stepped out to meet him.

“Is there any news about the outlaws?” she asked.

“Some gude news,” he replied with a single, exaggerated nod.  “That pack horse of deirs must have bolted loose when dey vere running and vee found it vit lots of gold in da saddle bags.   Paul kept after da bandits vith two of da men, but he sent my brother and me back to town with the gold.  They're slippery as seals, deese outlaws, and dey yoost may git avay.”

“If they do, I hope they never come back to Eerie!”

“How is Myra doing?” the Scandinavian asked.

“She's doing well.  She's a brave girl.”  Irene then frowned perplexedly.  “Excuse me.  I can't seem to recall your name.” 

“Tor,” he said with a good-natured grin.  “Tor Johannson.”

“You're from... Norway?”

“Sveden!  I come over vith my brothers during da var and right off we got drafted into da army.  After a lot of bad things, it vas over, and ve vent gold-seeking.  Ve came down to Eerie dis year.  Ve've been finding gold enough to pay for our beer and beans, but not much more!”

“You speak very good English.  Gracious!  I don't think I could learn Swedish in a hundred years.”

“Tank you, Mrs. Fanning.  You are very kind.”

“Did you come to tell us about the robbers?”

“Yes, and no.  It's a funny ting.  Out hunting outlaws, I kept tinking that it vas too bad dat you and me didn't get to speak a little more.  I t’ought you vere... a handsome woman.”

“You flatter me, sir.”

“I am very sad dat your nephew was killed.”

Irene regarded Tor.  Obviously, the deputy had not shared the whole story with him. 

“Paul said dat the boy was shot by da outlaws,” he continued.  “He said dey hid his body somevhere.”  Then the man winced.  “I am sorry.  I shouldn't be talking about anyting so awful.”

“Yes, it's very hard.”

“Vhat I came for vas to ask if you vhould let me take you to da Christmas dance next veek.  Please forgive me if you are already planning to go vith someone else.”

This surprised the widow.  She had almost no social life in Eerie and, when she thought back, she realized that she had kept making excuses to avoid socializing, until the local men had stopped asking her. 

“No, I haven't been going to the Christmas parties.  I haven't been invited in a long time.”

“Dat is a shame!  A lady like you!”

“I don't wish to be rude, Mr. Johannson, but there are bad stories about gold miners.  Do we have any mutual friends who...who could vouch for your good character?  Other than Deputy Grant, I mean?”

“Vell, I go to Styron's hardware store.  Dey know me at da Lone Star Saloon, and at da Eerie Saloon.”  He looked abashed.  “I know dat deese do not sound like very gude places to a church lady like yourself.  I yoost to go to church a lot in Sveden, but not so much in America.  Ve've spent a lot of our Sundays up in da hills.”

“Myra has said that you fought bravely to rescue her.  I'm very grateful.”

“I did vhat I had to.  I'm sorry you don't troost prospectors, but I von't be one for long, I tink.  Paul says dat da sheriff is tinking about hiring a new deputy...   Say, Paul mentioned you  know Molly O'Toole.  I know Molly, too, and her husband, Shamus.  I think they vill tell you dat I am a gude person.”

She smiled, liking the way that Tor Johannson pronounced his long 'O's', as when he said O'Toole.  “I was planning to take my niece to the Christmas party,” she said, not entirely truthfully.  “We might meet one another there on the dance floor.”

He returned the smile.  “Yes, it is very possible that ve may.  I von't be vith anyone else.”

“I'm quite sure that I won't be either.”  She made a daring decision.  “Mr. Johannson, I am forgetting my manners.  Myra and I owe you so much.  Won’t you stay and join us for dinner?”

He beamed.  “I vould be very pleased.”

Irene led him inside and showed him to a chair.  “The table will be set in about an hour,” she said.

He nodded thoughtfully.  “Vell, dat is a good long vhile to be joost sitting around.  Vhould you mind if I helped out vith da farm chores till den?”

“Oh, Mr. Johannson.  That's not at all necessary!  You have done so much already.  But if you really want to, maybe George, the boy outside, will have some suggestions.”

He excused himself and exited.  Irene went outdoors at the same time, around to the west side of the house, where Myra was doing the laundry.  The homemaker had earlier decided to test Myra's willingness to be helpful.  The girl had been predictably resistant to her suggestion, but Irene had ordered her to stop complaining and try to do the wash as best she could.  At the very least, Mrs. Fanning hoped, having some busy task to perform would take the edge off her brooding.

She now addressed the girl.  “Myra, I've decided that it would be a good idea for us to attend the dance.  I'll drive us to it in our buggy.  George will also be coming, with his family, I suppose.  You won't have to speak to him there if you don't wish to.”

The girl stopped scrubbing.  “What do you want to go to that dance for?” she demanded.  “You'll only be a wallflower, and I'll be miserable.”

“I'll fare all well enough.  This is a chance for both of us to make new friends.  Anyway, I might even find someone willing to dance with me once or twice.”

Myra frowned.  “Who are you talking about?”  Then she remembered the man who had ridden up.  “You're planning to see that foreigner, aren't you?” she accused.

“He's Swedish.  Anyway, he helped you, didn't he?  Wasn't he a good and brave man?” 

Her niece, looking peevish, said nothing.

“Please answer, my girl, wasn’t he?”

“I got no complaints,” Myra felt obliged to reply.  “But it sure was irritating, listening to him mispronounce everything, all time.”  

Irene was not really listening.  She was considering Myra's hair, liking the way that Molly had arranged it.  It had looked even nicer before her niece had slept on it.  Mrs. Fanning then, on impulse, reached back and touched the tight bun that she had been wearing ever since her widowing.  The style had grown to be so much a part of her sense of being that she hadn't even considered changing it.  But now, for some reason, it no longer seemed that tomorrow always had to be exactly like the day before yesterday.

“Dinner will be ready in about an hour,” she said absently.  “Mr. Johannson will be joining us.  I'll call when things are ready.”

Myra was left where she stood, feeling infuriated.  ‘Aunt Irene’s acting like a gooney bird,’ the maiden thought.  'And I’m gonna have to go to that tomfool dance and be a public spectacle, if she gets her way!’  It was at moments like this one that she almost wished that that dumb yak Ike Bartram had shot her dead.

Almost.


The End.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Falling Star: Chapter. 7, Part 2


Posted 04-07-18




An Angel from Hell story

By Christopher Leeson


Chapter 7, Part 2



Exiting the hotel by way of the stair, Jezebel filled Holly in.

If those two aren't for real” said the ex-waitress, “it means that the bad guys must have planted that Holiday Inn message inside the Bible.  That's not possible.  We ourselves didn't know where we'd end up that night.  And look, they already had four guys in Alliance.  Those tough guys didn't need any tricks; they just went in and grabbed me, and they almost got you, too.   So why would their side have any reason to point us toward Omaha?  It doesn't add up.”

There's one more thing that doesn't add up,” admitted Jezebel.   “The girl with the reverend had a very familiar face.”

You knew her?”

No.  I just knew the face.  She's a dead ringer for a younger version of Princess Diana.”

The Princess Diana?”

The angel nodded.

Holly shook her head.  “But she's dead.  It has to be another impostor.”

That minister guy didn't try denying that it's really her.  Another thing.  If it were an impostor, how could the Cabal ever think that it would be a good move to shove her into my way?”

That's super weird, all right.  But you said the girl was young.  The real Di would have to be in her fifties by now.”

Jezebel sighed.  “If you want to understand the world, Holly, toss science out the window.  Scientists know a lot, but all the universities are Cabal.  The honest researchers usually lose their tenure.  The rest of them are play for pay agents who hold back most of what they know to be true and distort the rest.  She's Nephilim.”

What's that?”

It means that she's descended from fallen angels mixed with humans.”

The singer looked amazed.  “There really are fallen angels?  You mean to say those that old paintings of angels making out with hot girls come straight out of history?”

Jezebel grimaced uneasily.  “Ah, yes.  The Fa...  God allows Nephilim to live as long as five hundred years.  A lot of them are shape-shifters.  They can pretend to age.  They're expert at staging phony death scenes and funerals.  After they check out of a life, they simply lay low for a while.  Later on, they go back into the world by setting up a new identity.”   

Are these Nephilim always bad people?”   

Most serial killers and career criminals are Nephilim.  Most terrorists and radicals, too.  Wherever there's money or power, Nephilim go for it like pigs to a trough.  Watch out for anyone who comes out of nowhere with a lot of inherited money.  They're probably Nephilim.”

I guess a person wouldn't want to run into one of that kind.”

You've already met hundreds or thousands.  The music industry is full of them.”

Holly blinked.  “No wonder show people seem so crazy!  But what you're saying sounds like a nutty movie plot.”

It's real.  I could tell you plenty more that's even worse, but why keep you awake at night?”

If all that's possible, what should we do?”

I don't know.  Normally I'd say we should get out of town, but something is telling me that we should hear them out.”

That's scary, especially if one of them isn't human.”

I wish I could say that it'ld be perfectly safe, but I can't,” said Jezebel.

Holly nodded thoughtfully.  “Okay, Jill.  If these Neph-guys are all over the place, meeting one more shouldn't be the end of the world.”

Not yet anyway.  My idea is for us to go in separately.  I'll enter the restaurant first, and you should follow a couple minutes later.  I don't want you to be alone for very long.”   

The Watcher took a few bills from her wallet.  “Buy something to eat or drink, and try to seem like an ordinary customer.  Don't look around the room too much.  I'll be watching out for Nephilim that shouldn't be there.  If things don't look suspicious, I'll go sit down with the couple.  I don't know how long we'll talk.  If I take off my coat, that will be your signal to come over and join us.  But if I leave Culver's without taking it off, follow me outside a couple minutes later.”

Then what?”

Beats me.  If the Cabal knows we're in Omaha, we have to leave.  But we're nearly out of money again, so it's going to be bad for a while.”  To pay for food, lodgings, and gas, in fact, Jezebel would probably need to steal.  The trick would be committing crimes without making themselves fugitives from the law as well as from the Cabal.

Do you mind if I pray for guidance and protection?” Holly asked.

Jezebel shrugged.  “Yeah, sure, go for it.  But make it snappy.  We've got a tight window of time.  The strangers know what I look like and could tell any backup that they have.  I only wish I could go in wearing a good disguise.”

We still have that little red dress in the car,” Holly suggested.

Forget it!”

The restaurant was made of gray blocks covered by a blue roof.  Jezebel stepped in, still thinking about Frances.  A righteous Nephilim?  That idea was a tough sell.  From real life experience, she knew that most Nephilim were born violent, and rarely with a sense of right and wrong.  Worse, Satanist children were routinely brutalized, especially emotionally, to create what humans called psychopaths.  After such upbringing, how could the mind and soul of a Nephilim still be salvageable?  The Flood had been sent primarily to destroy the hybrids on Earth.  But even though Noah and his boys were of pure human stock, the Scriptures didn't say the same about the sons' wives.  Had the Father waited too long before sending the Deluge, until no women without mixed blood yet remained alive?

She was falling into the age-old quandary.  Could the Creator make mistakes?  If not, it meant that he had purposely allowed Nephilim bloodlines to survive.  If that were so, it meant that the Father had foreseen a use for them.  But what was his plan?  The angel gritted her teeth.  Why couldn't the I Am ever do anything simply; why did everything have to be a mystery or a puzzle?  If Jezebel read things wrongly and made a mistake in the course of the next few hours, she'd probably be held to blame for the resulting consequences.  The smart thing might be to leave the final decision about what to do with Holly up to Holly. 

But what was really going on?  The Creator was always testing men and angels.  Was this another test?  Was the Father creating a situation so confusing that Jezebel would have to ask for discernment?  Well, that wouldn't happen.  She didn't like running to daddy with every question.  Having to ask for forgiveness while in the In-Between Place had almost made Jetrel choke.  Even now she didn't want to appear weak.  How could one who had existed even before the universe itself existed respect weakness?

#

Decorated mostly blue and white, Culver's interior was airy-looking with large windows.  It had more wooden furniture than most other franchise places.  The noonday crowd hadn't descended as yet, so empty sections still remained.  None of the staff or customers in view seemed to be glowing violet, and that was reassuring.  Just then, she saw Holly enter.  The girl took a quick glance around and went to the serving counter. 

Jezebel turned to the window and peered outside.  Not seeing any Nephilim, she checked her watch.  It had been twenty minutes since leaving apartment 432.  She wondered whether the couple would be punctual.

They were.

The angel let the two of them pass while she kept out of sight.  From of the corner of her eye, she observed Holly filling up a paper cup at the soft-drink dispenser.  For a moment, Jezebel kept watch, but observed no bad auras following Orson and Frances in.  Game to take a risk, she went to join the waiting line behind the enigmatic couple. 

Orson looked back over his shoulder.  “Oh, there you are,” he whispered.  The Watcher nodded in silence.

The three advanced through the queue and made their orders.  Jezebel had already eaten and so asked for no more than fries and a soft drink.  Garland and his false daughter made selections from the breakfast menu.  When the food came up, the pair carried it into an unoccupied area.  The angel made a final check for threat signs and then joined them. 

Ahead of her, Frances had taken a chair that Jezebel would have chosen.  “Move around, blondie,” the angel said.  “I want to be able to see who's coming through the door.”  Frances complied, albeit with a look of annoyance, and Jezebel appropriated her seat. 

The pair seemed to be waiting for her to say something.

Jezebel took a deep breath and began.  “So, if I were the girl you came here to help, where would we go from here?”   

Orson appeared to be brimming with earnestness.  “Until you feel able to make plans of your own, Frances has agreed to share her apartment in Jasper.”

Jasper?”

It's a town in the Ozarks.  My church is there.  The 2010 census put us at 466 citizens.”

It sounds dull.”

The man gave a coaxing smile.  “Dull can be another word for peaceful, I like to say.”

Well, it sure does sound peaceful.  What's its other charms?”

It's has the courthouse for Newton County.”

So that's why it's so huge?”

Yes.  But there are some smaller villages around the general area, if you'd prefer.  For a while, though, it might be a good idea to stay close by.  Frances and I could help you get oriented to the area, and assist you with whatever special needs you may have.”

Okay, say I settled into this thriving town of Jasper.  What then?”

It all depends on you.  There aren't many jobs nearby.  Fortunately, there's usually openings in Branson.  That's across the line into Missouri, a little over fifty miles away.  A lot of Jasper people work over there.  If you found a spot, there'll probably be some commuter in the congregation for you to ride with, if you don't have a car of your own.”

While Reverend  Garland was speaking, Jezebel's attention had focused on Frances.  “Do you work in Branson, too?”

No,” she said.  “I teach at Kingston School.  Elementary.”

Then I hope you're a vegetarian.”  She eyed the sausage on the woman's plastic plate.  “Oh, I guess not.”

The young woman's wary glance became a glare.

Fine.  Jezebel wanted to test her.  If she could make the hybrid mad enough, the girl might give something away, something that didn't fit with their cover story.  The Watcher was also considering the nearness of Jasper to Branson.  Ideally, Holly should go to the most remote town possible.  Being close-in to a teeming tourist-trap could pose a risk.  Branson had a notable concert hall and Holly – Pelosia – might be tempted to re-involve herself with show business.  The entertainment industry typically drew Cabalists in like dung flies.  To remain reasonably safe, the girl needed to shun the public eye. 

Jasper may be workable,” she said offhandedly.  “But why would either of you put yourself out for a stranger?  I've told you that the Cabal is involved, and that's dangerous.”

Reverend Garland met her glance boldly.  “When the Lord asks something of a person, He always has a good reason.  I decided long ago that I would be an obedient servant.”

Do you hide a lot of fugitives?”

No, Frances was my first.”

Jezebel shifted toward the blonde.  “How you fit into all this, Highness?  Are you really Princess Di, or are you just impersonating her?”

The woman scowled.  “Don't speak that name.  I'm Frances Dillon.”  She was using her Arkansas accent again.

If that's so, what in hell is someone like you doing in Arkansas?  Is your life in danger?”   

Frances' expression changed.  “Maybe.  I had a uncle, James.  I didn't get to know him well, but he seemed to be less of a bastard than the rest of our family.  He was found dead in his hotel room, strangled with his own robe belt.  The police called it a suicide, a hanging, but the hotel staff had found him lying on the floor, as if struck down by an assassin.  There wasn't any real police investigation and the news barely reported it.  Think of it.  One of the richest men in the world was dead, the official report wasn’t making any sense, and everyone in authority was saying, 'There's nothing to see here.'  And all of that was just fine with the media!  But I kept my eyes and ears open.  The queen's people investigated the death privately, and I heard things leaked.  The gossip was that his own family might have removed him.  Supposedly, James had been too outspoken against Agenda 21.  No one – no one at all – is allowed to disagree with a ruling-counsel decision once it’s set into motion.”

Agenda 21?  I've heard about it,” said Jezebel.  Indeed she had.  It signified the Cabalist plan to kill seven billion people and enslave the survivors.  But the plan wasn't a new one; it went back almost two centuries.  It had taken a long time to create an effective mass murder technology.  The World Wars had been provoked as controlled experiments for testing new weapons of mass destruction.  Cabalist scientists working in New Mexico had ended the war by designing the atomic bomb.  Spies, including the Rosenbergs, were activated to send this nuclear technology to Stalin, with the aim of starting an atomic war between the West and East.  But Stalin died too soon, and his successors were less bold.  When the Cabal lost patience, their political subordinates started to provoke the current Russian president, Putanov, but they tried had tried so far had made him pull the trigger.  It must be frustrating for the internationalists; their modus operandi was always to make others do their dirty work.

Frances was still speaking.  “At the very least, I'd be kept under house arrest for years, until I managed to make them trust me again.  I can't let that happen.  Have you heard of MK  Ultra?  Advanced brain-washing.  The Cabal uses it to put people under their control.  Most mass-shooters, like Sirhan Sirhan, have been created that way.  In mere days, the CIA can remake a normal person into a deranged monster.  I don't want to become a monster again.  I'd rather....”  She broke off. 

Jezebel understood.  She didn't actually want to die, no matter how repulsive her life seemed to be.  The Cabalists only pretended to be atheists.  In reality, those at the top were Luciferian fanatics and worked feverishly to curry favor with Satan.  Those born into the high Bloodline families were reared to believe that they were barred from Heaven by birth, and that only the intervention of Satan had saved their ancestors from the Deluge.  But their rescue, allegedly, had been conditional.  If the Nephilim didn't please the Lord of Hell, they would be endlessly tormented.  Now that the End of Days were looming, the Luciferians were desperate to hand the world over to the Antichrist.  The victory of Lucifer in a second war waged against Heaven would supposedly promoted them to become demonic princes and they would not be thrown into the Lake of Fire.

Somebody's dead,” the angel reminded Frances.  “Who was in that car wreck anyway?”

The British girl seemed to struggle to hold her composure.  At last she said, “A look-alike.  I had more than one.  This lady wasn't a clone.  She had a soul.  She was working for money, to earn an MBA.  I knew her.  We talked sometimes.  When she took my place that day, she didn't know...what was planned.  I'd been told that all was set in place for my death scene to be played out.  I wanted that, so I could be taken out of the unendurable life I was living.  I was even willing to let a friend die.  I didn't think I had any other choice.”  She stopped for a moment, then forced herself to go on.  “I realize now just how twisted I'd become by then, how I’d let my handlers get into my mind.  Despite all, I still felt like rebelling sometimes, but then I had to remind myself of what had happened to Uncle James.”  She glanced away.  “I had already done so much that was wrong, one more bad thing didn't seem to matter.”

So you're claiming to be from a high-ranking Cabalist family?”  Jezebel asked.

Frances shook her head.  “I've said too much.”  She looked fiercely at Orson.  “Who is this person?  Why should we trust her?”

The clergyman seemed unsure.

The Watcher spoke up.  “My license says I'm Jill – and you don't need to know my last name.  I was sent by God.  That's all you need to know, isn't it?”

Frances scowled.  “Who really sent you?  I know what killer eyes look like.  Many people had killer eyes at the palace, and you have them, too.”

Jezebel showed a bitter grin.  “Don't sweat it.  I haven't offed anyone since early Friday.  And they were only a pair of ghuls.”  Then she shrugged.  “Well, maybe killed a security guard, too.  I left him lying there without making sure.  It wasn't like I cared.”

Orson looked amazed.  “I trust you're joking, Miss...Jill.”

She pointed at his chest.  “Hey, I've got a mission.  Do you think the guy upstairs likes Cabalist flunkies?”

The clergyman turned his gaze skyward again.  A moment later, he said, “The Lord tells me that you mean what you say, and He also affirms that you are, indeed, serving Him.”

That should be a relief to you,” said Jezebel.  “Did he mention if I'm doing a good job?”

When words failed Orson, the angel frowned.  “Why is it that the Father – or the Son – talks to you so easily, but never to me?”

I can't say,” the reverend averred respectfully.

Frances was shaking her head.  “This might be a bad idea, Orson.  We should go.”   

The minister seemed less certain.  “The Lord said one more thing.  He gave me the name Sampson, as if it should reassure me.  Does that name mean anything to you...Jill?”

She shrugged.  “Never met the gentleman.  I heard plenty about him, though.”

Orson looked encouragingly at Frances.  “Sampson killed thousands, but only those who had earned God's wrath.”  To Jezebel he said, “Is it your mission to protect the righteous, Miss Jill?”

Jezebel narrowed her eyes.  “Lately.  I've been told that I can kill anyone who gets in my way, if I don't happen to like the color of their aura.  Most of my job is a pain, but that part suits me.”

I'm not sure this person is safe to be around,” persisted the British princess.

Believe me, lady, I'm not.”   

Jezebel decided to up the ante.  “Listen.  I'm not the person you need to protect.  That's someone else, but I'm not going to turn her over to just anyone.  What really bothers me is having someone like you involved in this.  Nephilim are nothing but trouble.  I'd rather bet on an inside straight than buy into the idea that you've found God.  There's no wesen worse than a Reptilian, and the Windsores are Reptilians.  Royal reptilians only marry other Reptilians, so that makes you one, too.  Your species considers human flesh a delicacy, especially children's flesh.  Everywhere the Queen goes, kids disappear.  Get this straight, I’m nobody’s patsy, and I'm not running a meat wagon to deliver your next lunch.”

Frances flushed.  “I'm not a Reptilian.  I despise every wesen species, but I hate that kind most of all!”

Jezebel regarded her for a few seconds, and then grinned lopsidedly.  “Nice attitude.  Give me a good honest bigot any day, over some virtue-flashing hypocrite.  But maybe you're just shamming to get on my good side.  I ought to slap you around until I can make you morph.  Are you betting that I can't?”   

Frances, red-faced, looked askance at the reverend.  The latter seemed surprisingly unmoved, considering the violent implications of the conversation. 

Dear one,” said Reverend  Garland, “the Lord wishes that you tell your story honestly.  It might make a difference.”

Frances seemed unsure what to do.  After a moment of evident perplexity, she said, “I-I don't know where to begin.”

Taking a sip of orange soda, the angel only leaned back in her chair and waited.  With the British girl still hesitating, she put a French fry between her lips.  Nice flavor.

Frances, resolved, now drew in closer and said, in a low voice, “The Reptilians have made themselves powerful, both socially and politically, but they are still only wesen.  People call them a royal family, but I come from the true Royals.  We have no animal genetics fouling up our ancestry.  Jacob Rottweiler is my father, and he is the real king of this world, at least until the Antichrist comes.  I was born to one of his more respectable mistresses.  The quality of my Bloodline made me a useful tool, and so my father chose to raise me as a Royal princess.”

Jezebel knew that Jacob Rottweiler was a British baron, but also knew that the known world was his invisible kingdom.  He held wealth and power that ancient emperors could have envied.  Next to him, a mere queen of Great Britain was no more than a subordinate, an unlovely handmaiden, whose only important task was to help his dynasty achieve its ambitions. 

I was taken from my real mother young, and had no regular contact with my father.  He saw to it that I became a well-polished pawn, but never let me become more than a pawn.  At his behest, I was inserted into a Cabalist family called the Spinsters, one of the few great British houses that isn't Reptilian.  I missed my mother badly, but she wasn't allowed to come near me, and I couldn't visit her, either.

The Spinsters had spent years preparing for my arrival.  Countess Spinster had faked a pregnancy overseas and returned with a daughter.  The girl was in reality a kidnapped commoner.  They kept up the pretense that she was a beloved child until she was ready to go to school.  Then the Cabal took her away suddenly and delivered me to their home to assume her identity.  I shudder to think what must have become of the poor child, once they had no more use for her. 

But though I grew up in that house, I never really became a Spinster, and they didn't want me to.  They deferred to me more like servants than parents.  But they were fanatics with no parenting skills.  They couldn't even provide a stable home.  The earl divorced the countess when I was eight, but kept me with him.  He and his people reminded me every day that I was special, that I was a Rottweiler, a true Royal, someone who was much important than even the Windsores.  I was told that I was being prepared for something very, very important.  They kept me out in society, making useful contacts for me, always being drilled by tutors on how to be charming and persuasive, how to be at ease in public.  As I think back, the way I was brought up left me feeling empty.  I wasn't anyone's daughter; I was an actress in training. 

It wasn't until my early teens that I was told what they expected from me.  I had been selected from infancy to become the Princess of Wales.  I was horrified.  I'd been introduced to the Windsores shortly after coming to live with the earl.  They were frightening, loathsome.  Prince Philip was the worst.  He came from a Nazi family of Reptilians with strong SS ties, and seemed even less human than the queen.”

The angel frowned.  “If this was a drawn-out plot to make you queen, whether you liked it or not, why were you allowed to divorce?”

Frances dried her eyes with a Culver's napkin.  “That was the day I had been dreaming of, my beautiful, wonderful divorce.  It couldn't have come too soon.  The plan was always to have us separate, even before our wedding date had been set.  Charles wanted Camilla and only Camilla.  She was a lizard like he was, and as much as I disliked the prince, he disliked me more.”

Jezebel wasn't sure that she should believe any of this, but was willing to play along.  “So what was the hoax all about?”

My purpose was to put the Rottweiler Bloodline into the veins of royal house of Britain.  For centuries the Rottweilers had been firmly against mixing their true Royal blood with that of hybrid beasts.  But the Windsores had been successful in acquiring wealth and power, mostly through drug-running and human trafficking, and my father wanted to control all of that, even if it meant sacrificing a daughter.  Half my job was accomplished once I had given those monsters an heir and a spare.  That part of it was absolutely degrading, but much more than that was expected of me.  I can’t believe that any good god could forgive me for what I did.”   

She choked off.  This confession was either hard for her, or else she was trying to make it look that way.

Orson Garland touched her hand.  “Dear Frances, I have told you so many times:  Your repentance is true; I know it is, and you know it, too.  You have been long since forgiven.  There will be no damnation, no Lake of Fire for you.  Have faith.”

The girl nodded, trying to make herself believe.

What was this other half of your job?” the Watcher asked.

Frances took a deep breath.  “My – My task was to destroy Britain.  My father and his planners understood the British people so much better than I did.  The divorce I asked for should have destroyed my reputation, but the scandal of it actually made my deception easier.  I did as I was told, did everything they wanted me to do.  And I succeeded only too well.”

Eyes shut, she clenched her fists upon the table and rested her forehead upon them.  “May God truly forgive me,” she whispered.

TO BE CONTINUED Chapter 8, Part 1