Raquel watched the young black woman step out from between two pine trees lining the northbound arm of the road. He could tell from the glow of the girl’s soul around her form that she was a burgeoning saint. His eyes narrowed. How had he not sensed her coming from at least a mile away? No matter, he would take care of her easily enough. As he reached for the door handle, a series of taps drew his gaze away from the young saint. Standing next to his window in a pair of black and yellow basketball shorts, a white wife beater, and a pair of scuffed high top Converse sneakers was a handsome young man smiling pleasantly at him. Raquel scowled and forced the door open. The young man gave way with ease, opting to shove his hands into the pockets of his shorts and stare down at Raquel’s five foot eleven-inch frame with that small smile twisting his lips. Raquel crossed his arms and glanced at his pawn: she still hadn’t noticed the young saint slowly approaching her. Good. He would have time to deal with this strange human who’d come out of nowhere before he killed that new woman too.
“Who the hell are you?” He asked as calmly as he could. It was never a good idea to let these humans know when they got under your skin. They always found a way of spreading that kind of information to each other, and tonight was not a night he wanted marred by rumors of his being unnerved by a handsome, if strange, young man. This was his big moment, the culmination of several decades of failed attempts to get to this very moment, and though he could not help the way his muscles were perpetually tense or the thrill that kept shooting up and down his human’s spine, he could keep such embarrassing reactions to himself. The human’s smile turned into a small pout. “You mean you don’t remember me, Raquel? I’m a little hurt; after all I am the one who taught you to fly,” he said with the barest hint of petulance in his voice. Raquel froze. He could literally feel the blood leaving his human host’s face. It couldn’t be. That archangel hadn’t been seen on earth in centuries. There was no way it was him. “G-Gabriel?” He managed to choke out. The young man smiled and spread his arms, and Raquel could see the outline of the archangel’s wings burning the air around him. “You guessed it, little demon. How long has it been since we last met? I’d say at least since the first Crusades, right?” Gabriel finished with that same infuriating smile. Raquel hissed and glanced back and forth between the two women and Gabriel. The archangel blocked his view of the humans, all trace of petulance or geniality gone. All those burning eyes were fixed on him, their glow growing brighter and brighter. Raquel could hardly stand to look at him, his holiness and the familiar high pitched singing that accompanied it reminding him too much of what he’d forsaken and bringing reluctant tears streaming down his face. “Don’t worry about Gwenn anymore, Raquel, she’s in really good hands,” Gabriel said, his true voice beginning to bleed through and make Raquel’s eyeballs throb in tune with his human’s racing heart. Deep within him, he could feel the soul of the young man start to rejoice as it realized its torment was at an end. “Now, Raquel,” Gabriel said gently, the sound of Heaven in his voice, “why don’t you come out of poor Colton Hayes?” The force of Gabriel’s command ripped Raquel out of Colton’s body and out of the physical realm. The demon screamed in terror as he felt himself being hurtled straight towards the same cage that held those disobedient Watchers of old. A final anguished screech and Raquel was gone.
Jamika watched the encounter between Gabriel and the demon possessing Gwenn’s younger brother with a sense of admiration and fear. The whole thing took all of maybe three minutes, and besides the fairly loud gasp that escaped Colton’s body as the demon was forcibly removed in streams of purplish red light that gave way to pure light and poured out of Colton’s eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, it was a relatively silent confrontation as far as she could tell. Gabriel even caught Colton’s body as it fell limo and placed him back in the Mustang. She could see that there was blood leaking out of the same orifices the pure light shone out of, but the thumbs up Gabriel flashed her before he disappeared into the wood lime calmed her racing heart Andersen the almost instinctual fear that burned her throat at his small display of power. The Gabriel she was seeing now was the same archangel who sat next to her in Mass, too full of awe and wonder to say the prayers and who shook his head vehemently when she tried to get him to receive the Eucharist. The memory of it made her smile, remembering how he barely fit in her brother’s best church clothes, his ankles showing when he knelt to pray, and the longing in his voice when he asked her how she felt once she returned from the altar. There was no reason to fear Gabriel or the events of this night: he was her friend and a source of great strength, and if she died this night, she would see him again of that she was sure. Gwenn was no different than any other enemy she’d faced, and panic would not help her here anymore than it had when she was deployed, so she lifted her eyes to the sky. “I’m afraid, Lord, only you know how much. Please give me the courage to do what needs to be done and not fuck this up,” Jamika said with only a hint of the awkwardness that plagued her when she prayed. Calm spread from the center of harshest and throughout her arms and legs, and she gave silent thanks. Finally, she was ready.
“Nice circle you’ve got there, Gwenn,” she called out, halting about three feet away from the blonde woman. Gwenn jerked and swore, snatching the unopened jar and hugging it to her chest. Her eyes were wild, and her hands were coated in the blood she’d been using to write the circle, so her hold on the jar was tenuous at best. Jamika grimaced as she watched the blood begin to run down Gwenn’s forearms. “Jamika! How long have you been here?” Gwenn asked. Her gaunt green eyes darted all over the intersection before coming to rest on Jamika, her thin frame relaxing slightly once she’d assured herself that they were alone. Jamika shrugged nonchalantly and walked to the freshly dug hole, careful not to disturb the blood writing in the red dirt. The last thing she wanted to do was piss her childhood friend off and end up covering their poor little town in unending darkness because she wasn’t careful and ruined the circle. “I haven’t been here that long, gal. Saw you finish this hole then start writing in the dirt with blood. Would’ve been here earlier but I got turned around on 1249, and it took me a while to find the right turnoff,” she said with a laugh, hoping Gwenn wouldn’t think to ask why she hadn’t heard a car coming or seen headlights since the road was a straight shot for two miles before the crossroad. Gwenn pursed her lips and said, “What are you doing here, ‘Mika?”
“Well, Gwennie, I guess I thought I’d say hello and try to talk you out of opening that jar and making the biggest mistake of your life,” Jamika said idly, dark brown eyes trained intently on her friend’s face to catch Gwenn’s every facial tick. To her surprise, Gwenn started to laugh; except this wasn’t the kind of full-bodied and carefree laugh she was used to hearing from the other woman. This one was high pitched with a good dose of hysteria mixed in. In fact, now that Jamika was getting the first good look at her good friend that she’d had in at least a few weeks, she saw how wasted and thin Gwenn’s dealings with the demon had made her. Gwenn, always a little on the chubby side for her five foot four-inch frame, was now as slight as one of those high fashion runway models they used to be so envious of when they were young teenagers. Her skin hung loosely on her bones, and in the bluish light of the Mustang she looked to be more of an animated corpse than an actual living human being. The sight of her made Jamika’s eyes burn.
Gwenn’s laugh abruptly stopped, and she stood quietly regarding Jamika, her only movement being to absently wipe the blood coating her right hand on the blank expanse of her tan tank top. “The biggest mistake of my life? I’m sorry, ‘Mika, but you’re absolutely wrong about that. The only mistake I made was not doing this sooner!” Jamika quirked one perfectly sculpted eyebrow and slipped her left hand into her jean pocket, the feel of the knife grounding her. “What exactly do you expect to get out of this, Gwennie? You look three quarters dead already; do you really think you’ll be able to survive hosting a demon inside your body?” Jamika asked incredulously.
Gwenn scoffed. “The demon will heal my body just like Raquel healed Colton’s body of cancer when he possessed him three years ago.” Jamika almost gasped. Three years? Poor Colton had been held captive by a demon for three years and no one had noticed? A feeling akin to shame sat heavily in the pit of the young veteran’s stomach. She should have realized sooner. She and Colton were the same age. Though they had never been close growing up, they’d basically lived together. Sebastian and she had spent many nights over at him house, her playing with Gwenn and him playing video games with Sebastian. They were in nearly all the same classes together from middle school to high school graduation. She would have told anyone that she knew the guy like the back of her hand or her first tattoo. He wrote to her when she was in Iraq and woke up for her calls when she was in Afghanistan. He and Sebastian were the only ones who knew about the pain Iraq caused her. All of what she’d shared, had it been him or the demon? Jamika bowed her head and swallowed down the rage and sense of violation.
“Oh don’t blame yourself for not realizing sooner, ‘Mika,” Gwenn said while a sickly smile stretched her mouth across her waxy looking face, “Raquel’s very good at getting information. He practically tore Colton apart. You should have heard the screams, but it was all worth it to get close to your gorgeous brother.” Jamika, nearly sick with the thought of what Gwenn put her own baby brother through, started at the mention of Sebastian.
“What do you need Sebastian for,” she asked, astounded that anyone would want her big brother for anything. But her question had an unexpected effect on Gwenn: at the mention of Sebastian’s name, she sighed dreamily and relaxed completely for the first time that night. Her hold on the jar, now slippery and stained with quickly drying blood, loosened, and the jar began to slowly slide out of her hands. Gwenn didn’t seem to notice, but Jamika’s clenched. She forced herself to keep as relaxed a position as possible and brought the hand gripping the knife out nonchalantly. Hopefully she didn’t need to bathe the blade in blood again after years of disuse.