Author’s note: While I think the people of Sibley, Iowa might be incensed that I took liberties with their town, this particular story needs an abandoned church. So I created one for my alternate universe. All names and places in this part of the story have been changed to protect their owners. Thank you.
“So tell me again why we’re going to the middle of no where, Iowa to see an Angel who is misbehaving?” Henry said about mouthfuls of his burger.
“because the Angel in charge is sending us to kill said Angel for not acting like an Angel should,” Grace said as she pulled in to the parking lot of the local inn.
“This is bad because the Angel could become another Lucifer?”
“Yes and that’s bad. No Angel has fallen in years. The last time, we had two world wars.” Grace said as she got out of the car.
“Whoa, that did not happen because an Angel fell.” Henry said as he got out of the car and followed her.
Grace spun around and faced Henry. “You didn’t know Demons existed until ten years ago, when you sold your soul to me. I fought in the wars. It was not pretty to see what one Fallen could do to an entire people if given enough power.”
“Not Hitler at all. A prick in a skin sack that decided to take a gentle man and turn him in to a racist who wanted to eradicate an entire people because of a damn prophecy.”
“and the prophecy?”
“That one of those people would grow up to become a catalyst for avoiding the apocalypse.”
Henry stopped. “So all those people died because of something that might or might not have happened?”
“Fucked up, isn’t it? Millions dead because of one Angel who claimed he was tired of watching over humanity decided to start a couple of wars to kill us all so the apocalypse could happen.”
Henry watched her face change from anger over what she’d seen in the war to sadness.
“You’re not a normal Demon, are you?”
Grace laughed. “No, I’m not. I fought for Hell against the Angels because I was forced to. I’ve killed more than my fair share of Michael’s brethren while trying to save those I could at Michael’s command.”
“You’ve been doing this a lot longer than fifty years.” Henry said.
“It started at the end of the first world war. So I guess its closer to a hundred now,” she said as she pulled open the door to the inn and ended the conversation.
Henry followed her in and looked around the reception area. It was decorated in LL Bean Americana, but felt like home that people actually lived in. Henry smiled at a Russian nesting doll on the mantle of the fireplace. He didn’t notice that Grace was standing next to him again, nudging his arm with her elbow.
“Got a thing for blondes?” she asked.
Henry laughed. “My grandmother had one.”
Grace smiled. “Come on. Let’s get the bags. They had two rooms, other wise dear cousin, we’d have to share.”
“Well, small favors. You snore,” Henry said as he walked out of the Inn.
Grace heard the Inn Keeper snort and smiled over at her.
Grace followed Henry out and cuffed him on the back of the head.
“Just getting in to our new roles,” Grace said as she opened up the trunk of the car.
Grace pulled out her bags and scooped up another duffel before closing the trunk again. Henry reached in to the backseat to pull the bag that had the athlete’s clothes. They hadn’t had time to stop and get him new clothes yet, which Henry thought about as he hefted the bag.
“I’m going to need new clothes soon.”
“I know. We’ll go out tomorrow. Tonight we’re going to scout the town.”
“How do you propose we do that?” Henry asked as he slung his bag over his shoulder and followed her.
“The local diner for dinner, then the town bar. I’ve been in a hundred towns like this one over the years. There is always both and in those places, there are busy-bodies who know everything,” Grace said as she climbed the steps and walked in to the inn.
Scooping up the keys the inn keeper left on the counter, Grace headed up the stairs without stopping. Henry followed her as she climbed to the second floor and went down the hall to a door painted bright yellow.
“You’re in the blue room, which is across from mine.”
“Key?” Henry said and caught it on the fly when Grace tossed it to him. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll see you in an hour. I need to shower and change,” Grace said as she unlocked her door and stepped in, closing the door behind her.
An hour later, Grace emerged with wet hair and pulling on her coat. She tossed her bag over her shoulder and settled it cross body before locking her door. Henry stepped out of his room just as she turned to knock on his door.
“Oh good, you’re ready.”
“Yeah, but did you have to pull out the sledgehammer?” he said as he gestured to her dress.
Grace laughed. “The cut is a little much, isn’t it?”
“That’s not the word I’d use, but we’ll go with that.”
“Henry you are so stuck.”
“The mud,” Grace said as she started down the steps.
“I’ll have you know I am not stuck in the mud. I just don’t see the point in flashing your bits to everyone.”
“The point is to get noticed. I want people to talk to me. The more information I get, the better off we are.”
“Let it go, Henry. You’re not the same person you were before you sold your soul. You are a Demon’s familiar now,” Grace said as she walked the rest of the way down the steps and out the front door.
Grace would have slammed the door behind her, but she saw her Prince and stopped short.
“Luke, what are you doing here?” she asked.
“I’m here because of you. You left in quite a hurry after we spoke at Bell Harbor,” he said as he stepped forward and cupped her chin. “Father said he saw you with an Angel. I came to see if it was true.”
“It’s true. I was trying to turn the General.”
He hissed out a breath. “How could you be so stupid? He’ll never turn. Being anywhere near him is dangerous.”
“I was only thinking that he’d make a great addition to your father’s plans.”
“I’m thinking I made a mistake taking you,” He growled out.
Grace looked down. Her nerves were wire thin and she prayed he didn’t see her fidgeting as a sign that she was lying to him. She had to play it just right so he wouldn’t kill her. Luke sighed and pulled her close.
“You couldn’t have known that we already tried to turn him,” he kissed her hair and continued. “Stay away from him. I know Father already talked to you, but I’m asking you not to go near him. I don’t want to have to put the chains on you again.”
“I won’t. I’ll stay clear.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“I’ll have to take that. I don’t want to have to kill you either. I’d hate for my prize to be sullied by an Angel,” He said as he stepped back. He was gone a second later.
Grace sighed and pushed her hair back. Henry came out the door finally, followed by Gabriel. Grace narrowed her eyes at the Angel.
“What are you doing here?”
“Michael,” he answered.
Gabriel laughed. “You’re his best agent, it’s not like he’s going to freak out when you leave such a cryptic message.”
He stepped forward and gave Grace a hug, whispering in to her ear; “I miss Reno too.”
Grace laughed. “I bet you had a blast teasing him over that.”
“You gave me the best fuel I’ve had in a long time for embarrassing him.”
“He deserved it for making me feel like I’m unclean for doing something he asked me to do.”
“I don’t blame you for being who you are now or then,” Gabriel said as he ran a hand over her cheek. “just be careful. Luke isn’t to be trusted. His father either.”
“His father has been making noises about forcing me to take The Blood. I can’t become one of them, Gabe. I won’t,”
Henry finally spoke up. “The Blood?”
“It’s the final rite for Demons. To take The Blood is to become a full Demon. Grace here has resisted and they’ve let her because she’s valuable to them.”
“Taking it means I don’t have a chance anymore of going to purgatory. It means I’ll never get my freedom and my forgiveness.”
“I’ll let him know about what’s going on, but you have to promise to keep a lower profile. No more politicians,” he warned.
Grace smiled. “That was a masterwork, if I do say so myself.”
“It was. I enjoyed it even more when I found out you were responsible for that trash getting what he deserves, but Michael is partially right about how it’s going to affect the family.”
“I know he is, but at least this way they cannot just sweep it under the rug. They actually have to deal with what happened,” Grace said as she blew her bangs off her face with a huff of breath.
Gabriel smiled. “I know what you were aiming for. Michael is Michael though.”
Henry coughed. “I hate to interrupt the love-fest going on, but we’re here to hunt.”
Gabriel looked over his shoulder. “I like this one, Grace Anne. Where did you find him?”
Grace hooked her arm around Gabriel’s waist and smiled.
“He was one of my contracts. Sold his soul for his wife’s health so they could have babies. Three kids and ten years later, he ended up in the Arena.”
“Kid, that’s a tough break. I’m glad she pulled you out of there before you were too far damaged.”
Henry shrugged. “It wasn’t that bad.”
“They were dosing him.”
Gabriel looked at Grace sharply and then back at Henry.
“All the better that she got you out. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, being contracted to her, but you’re really in the best hands. She’s one of the better demons.”
Grace smiled up at Gabriel. “I only made him promise years for the mark. Other Demons would have bound him to be much darker.”
Gabriel laughed. “Years? In exchange for a chance at topside again? You softy.”
“Your fault. I’d have gone mad in the Arena if it wasn’t for you and Bill.”
Henry looked at Grace. “You were in the Arena?”
“The Black Banshee, that was me.”
Henry’s eyes bulged out. “but they still tell stories about your viciousness in battle. How did you stay sane?”
“Gabriel and Bill smuggled me out every couple of years, showed me what the world was like and what I was fighting for. If they hadn’t, I don’t think I would have survived.”
“You made it easy, Grace Anne.”
Grace elbowed Gabriel in the side. “Stop. Go back to Michael, tell him what was said and what we’re doing.”
Grace watched him step away and walk off. He stopped and turned back to her.
“Oh, the Angel? Rumor has been going around that it’s Araqiel.”
Grace swore. “The Earth Guardian?”
“Yeah. If its true and it’s her, you’ll need more held than one fledgling. Contact the Hunter and the Wanderer. You’ll need them both.”
Grace nodded. “As soon as it’s confirmed, I’ll bring them both in. Thanks, Gabe.”
Gabriel nodded and walked off whistling the theme from Gilligan’s Island. Grace smiled.
“So that’s the Avenger?”
“How did you two meet?”
“World War One. I pulled him off the battlefield and into a rat infested bunker where he tried to kiss me as I cleaned his shoulder wound,” Grace laughed.
Henry smiled, but gave her a skeptical look. “I assume that Michael sent you to look for him?”
“Nope. I was looking for Michael on the battlefield to tell him that I would accept a mission. I found Gabriel first and let him in on the secret so that he could send a message to Michael.”
Grace walked over to her car and got in. Henry followed, slipping in to the other side. As Grace started the car and backed out, Henry was watching her.
“Whatever it is you want to ask, now is the time to ask it.”
“You got a raw deal, even though I had to take the contract. I’m giving you the second chance I’ve always wanted,” she said as she looked over at him. “You don’t like that answer.”
“You took the contract anyway.”
“I had to. I was under orders to take it when you called for me. To disobey would mean my death.”
Henry fell silent again. “I still don’t like it.”
“I don’t either, but here we are.”
Henry snorted and Grace sighed. She pulled to a stop in font of a small restaurant. The place was packed.
“Popular place,” Henry said as he looked around.
“This kind of town usually has one or two places like this that are always packed. Great way to find out information,” she said as she tucked the keys in to her bag.
Henry opened the door for her and followed Grace inside. There were several people who stopped what they were doing to look at the new comers.
“You’re not from around here,” The Hostess at the stand said.
Grace smiled. “Passing through. We’re here for research.”
“Research?” the Hostess asked as she walked them back to a table.
“I’m writing a book about local urban legends. I was tipped off that there was something good here.”
The Hostess laughed. “You could say that. We’ve got ourselves an abandoned church outside of town that folks say is truly haunted.”
“Now that is interesting. Haunted by what?” Grace asked.
“Some say it’s the ghost of one of the teenagers that were killed in the fire, others say it’s something else. Something like a demon or a Fallen Angel.”
“Well, that sounds interesting enough to have us stay for a couple of nights. Don’t you think so, Cousin?” Grace asked Henry.
Henry smiled. “I think so.”
The Hostess smiled. “Well now, Ya’ll go talk to my Uncle down at the library tomorrow. He’ll give you all the good bits about the Church.”
“I think we’ll do just that,” Grace said as they sat down at the table.
The Hostess smiled. “Ya’ll enjoy your dinner now.”
Grace watched her walk off, then turned to Henry.
“Now tell me again why it wasn’t worth the dress?”
“Shut up,” Henry said as he opened up his menu.
Grace knocked on Henry’s door the next morning and kept knocking until he answered. Somewhere around the fifth round of drinks last night at the local bad, she’d lost him to a drunken stupor. Grace wouldn’t make that mistake again and she doubted that Henry would either. He slept through her visit to see the Hostesses Uncle.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m coming.”
“Hurry up. I’ve got news.”
“So do I. If you don’t quit knocking, I’m going to puke on your shoes,” Henry said as he opened his door.
Grace eyed him over. He looked like he’d been in bed for a week with the flu. Grace held up a container of coffee and waved a huge omelette under his nose. Henry got one whiff of both and was clutching his stomach and stumbling for the bathroom. Grace grinned.
“It’s for your own good.”
The sound of Henry throwing up followed her statement. Grace grinned and stepped inside his room, putting the coffee and food on the little table against one wall. She was reading the paper when he came out of the bathroom ten minutes later.
“You’re evil,” he said.
Grace laughed. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“Right now it is.”
“Eat, drink. I’ll tell you about what Maisy’s uncle had to say about the church.”
“You went without me?” Henry said as he stopped mid-pour of the coffee.
“You wouldn’t get out of bed. Threw something at the door.”
“Who’s Maisy?” Henry asked.
“The Hostess from last night. Anyway, her uncle says that ten kids died about five years ago when the church burned down,” Grace said as she watched him sit down and tentatively start eating the omelette.
“and? What’s that got to do with us and our Angel problem?” Henry asked around a mouthful of egg.
“Fallen Angels tend to pick sad spots like this one to start their dirty work. Even the ones who haven’t yet Fallen gravitate to spots like the one outside of town,” Grace explained. “We’re going to head out there tonight after nightfall to take a peek. With luck, we can kill him tonight. I don’t hold much hope for that though.”
“The Angel isn’t in the area right now. Bob, that would be Maisy’s uncle, says that the biggest activity is around the full moon. That’s in a week.”
“So you mean we’ve got to stick around here for a week?”
“No. We’re going to head out tomorrow so I can pick up a soul or two. I’ve still got to collect contracts that have come due and you’re going to read my journals.”
“Every evil thing that I’ve come across I’ve written down how to kill. The journals will give you information about what you’re up against while helping me.”
“So you’re telling me you’ve got a set or journals with that kind of information just sitting around?”
“Not really. They’re in my library.”
Henry ran his hand over his face. “I know I’m going to regret this, but where is the library?”
Henry laughed. “Yeah, I knew I was going to regret asking.”
Grace grinned. “I had to keep them safe some how. The house is well guarded and protected. Not even Himself could get in without me.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah, that’s so. Don’t worry, Henry. I’ll train you to take care of yourself. Who knows? You may even like doing this sort of thing,” Grace said as she stole a piece of bacon out of the take out container.
Henry frowned at her. “I doubt it.”
“I’m not talking about the demon part of this whole business. I’m talking about the hunting part.”
“That’s what I’m talking about.”
“You were a police officer, this sort of thing should be normal for you.”
“I was a street cop. I don’t know anything about being a detective.”
“That’s why you’ve got me. You’ll be fine… ish. I can’t guarantee that you won’t get banged up.”
“Define, ‘Banged up’,” Henry asked.
“Well, the last time I ended up killing an Angel I had to switch bodies. That was twenty years ago.”
Henry let his head hit the table. “I do not like this. At all.”
“Cheer up. At least your soul can now transfer between new bodies. It’s a lot better than waiting to be reincarnated.”
“How would you know?”
“I’ve met a couple of them. Not fun. Came back as a dog. Anyway, get cleaned up. We’re going shopping later. You need new clothes for sulking around in a church,” Grace said as she got up and let herself out.
“Tell me again why we’re out here?” Henry asked as he followed Grace in to the church.
“We’re looking for the Angel’s symbol. Every Angel has one,” Grace said as she pushed her way through the doors.
Grace hissed as the holy power of the church slid over her skin. Her nerves were strung thin and she itched between her shoulder blades.
“Consecrated ground has power, which doesn’t mix well with Demons. Even ones who haven’t taken blood, it affects us,” Grace hissed out. “You’ll feel it, the more time you spend as a Demon. For now, just keep an eye out for anything weird.”
Grace lifted her flashlight up and shined it over the walls. She knew what she was looking for and prayed it wasn’t the Earth Guardian’s symbol she found. Henry moved away to search the walls on the other side, but kept her within view. Grace approved. She concentrated on her side and moved along the other wall, searching for anything that might give her a clue.
“Grace, over here.”
Grace moved over to Henry’s side carefully, there was still debris from the fire on the ground. She made her way over to an alcove that would have held a saint statue, but now the statue was broken and on the floor. When Grace saw who the saint was, she smiled.
“Michael the protector. Well it looks like he’s not protecting much here,” Grace said.
“Very funny. That’s not what’s weird. Look at the podium,” Henry said as he shined his light over a graffiti tag.
Grace saw the symbol and cursed. “Well shit. Looks like this just got a whole lot worse.”
“What do you mean?”
“That’s not the Earth Guardian’s symbol. That’s an Seraphim’s symbol.”
“Which one?” Henry asked.
“If I had to guess?” Grace said as she looked overt the symbol. “Nathanael or Kemeul.”
“That’s bad, right?”
“Well, World War One was started by an Authority that Fell. This is two ranks above that,” Grace said as she grabbed Henry’s arm and hauled him out of the church. On the way out, she tripped over a cell phone laying in an aisle. Grace scooped it up and then grabbed Henry, pushing him out of the door.
“Hey, hey! Not so rough,” Henry said. He stumbled down the steps.
“We’re leaving,” Grace said as she practically ran for the car. “I need to call for more help and let Gabriel know what’s going on here. This is the worst kind of not good there is.”
Grace opened the trunk of the car when she got there and wrapped the cell phone in a length of warded cloth.
“Something I picked up on our way out and before you ask, I’m wrapping it in the cloth so if it is bespelled with a tracking charm, it won’t lead whomever put it on there straight to us.”
“Oh. That’s good.”
“Thanks. Now get in the car,” she said as she tucked the cell in to a bag and closed the trunk.
Grace got in to the car and started the engine, threw it in reverse and sped back to the Inn. She ran up the steps and to her room, Henry on her heels. As Grace was stuffing her things back in to her bag, Henry came in and saw what she was doing. He went to his own room and grabbed his things.
“What’s going on?”
“We’re getting out of here now and we’re not coming back until we’ve got more help. I can’t kill a Seraphim with only a familiar. Hell, I probably couldn’t do it with an entire fucking garrison of level three Angels.”
Grace hauled her bags down stairs and checked them out. The Innkeeper looked at them funny.
“Family emergency. Our Grandmother is in the hospital,” she said.
The Innkeeper nodded and didn’t ask any questions. Henry waited to talk until they stowed their gear in the car and were on the way out-of-town, heading north.
“So what’s going on?”
“I told you, we need more help. We’re going to my house so that I can put the call out,” Grace said as she pulled out her cell phone.
Henry stayed quiet as she dialed Gabriel’s number and left a message.
“Gabe, it’s Grace. We’ve got a bigger problem. It’s a Seraphim. Heading to Paradise and Eden. Calling in help from the Hunter and the Wanderer. I might even pull in the Librarian. Stay on guard. Stay safe. Warn Michael,” Grace said as she hung up the phone and tossed it on to her bag, which was laying in the middle of the seat between them.
“So who’s the help we’re pulling in?” Henry asked.
“They’re the good guys, Henry. I’ll explain more when we get to Paradise. It’s not safe to talk about it until then. Not with a Seraphim in danger of Falling,” Grace said as she checked her rear view mirror again.
“What would happen if one of them were to Fall?”
Grace looked over at Henry. She knew the fear in her eyes was there. Henry looked at her and the fear crept in to his heart.
“Nothing less than the Apocalypse,” she said.
Henry nodded. “Okay then.”
“Okay,” Grace said as she reached down and flipped the radio on to settle her nerves.
Bad Moon Rising came through the radio and she laughed. Grace started singing along with the radio. Henry looked over at her like she lost her mind.
“I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin’.
I see bad times today.”