"I cannot rise above,
I cannot rest beneath,
I cannot find out love,
Or escape from death;
Dear hopes and joys gone by
Still mock me with a name;
My best beloved die,
And I cannot die with them."
~ from Christina Rossetti's poem "Uplifting of Eyes"

Hi all,

Wow...  So I started this newsletter/story so long ago (in August 2006, apparently, with a working title of "The Furies") that by the time I finished it I had to change some characters' names in the first couple scenes because the original characters aren't active any more.  I can't even really give you a good reason why this kept getting delayed.  The timing was just never right.  But now I hope it is.  This is probly the darkest, most unsettling story I've ever used as a newsletter before (the Author's Cut has some doozies, of course).  There are questions that are left unanswered which is different for me.  I usually like to tie things up.  But for some of the questions there are no answers and for others, well, the bonus of having a biweekly newsletter that is now almost entirely dependent on a fictional world for its inspiration is that you can have story arcs that sweep across several newsletters.  Yay! 

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy.  I reintroduce some of the characters from the story in JABB 185 here.  However, if you've not read that story I don't think you necessarily need to before reading this.  Just a heads up.

And some credits...  This story would not have been possible without the characters created by the folks at the JABB YG.  So thanks to them.  And to the TBAA people, as always.  And also the following substances without which this wouldn't have been completed: chai tea, green tea, Diet Code Red Mountain Dew, coffee, Tylenol, hot chocolate, normal chocolate, cranberry tea, some other tea that I'm not sure how I obtained it or even what it was but it was good and apparently caffeinated.

Thank you.

God bless,

PS: Just a reminder that the Dye Day chats are on Friday January 30th at 7 PM Central and
Saturday January 31st at noon Central at http://onthisside.net/jabbchatroom.html.  Please let me know if you plan to attend.  Thanks.

We Trust to Thee

Sunday, January 18th

As the sun set, several of the Dyelanders were sitting in front of Willowveil Castle.  Andrew had begun a lengthy assignment shortly after Christmas.  While he had still been able to spend some time in Dyeland, he had been absent for much of the previous week.  Now, however, the assignment had ended and his friends were waiting for his arrival..  Ever hoping to have a reason to party, the group had decided to take him to Monica’s Café for a celebratory dessert buffet so they could catch up.  They had all agreed to meet on the Willowveil porch and walk to the Café as a group in order to enjoy the unseasonably warm Sunday evening.

Lady JenniAnn sat on the porch swing.  She occasionally glanced at Serendipity two doors down then at her pocket watch.  8:30, 8:35, 8:37, and so on.  It was a quarter til nine at her most recent check.  None of this would have been troubling if she waited on anyone but Andrew.  Well she knew how he took pride in his ability to be punctual.  And he was fifteen minutes late.  She blushed whenever she caught her friends' amused smiles after they caught her staring either at her watch or his house.

"I'm sure Andrew's assignment just went a little long," Rose encouraged.

JenniAnn nodded.  "Of course.  I'm sure... that's all it is," she answered without much conviction.

Adam noticed the woman's agitation.  The crease in her brow grew deeper and she twisted her ring around her finger more and more quickly.  "Did I ever tell you about the time I was assigned to a veterinarian?" he asked.

JenniAnn turned away from Andrew's house and smiled at Adam.  "No, you've not.  What happened, Adam?"

"Well, you see it was my job to bathe and groom the dogs.  When I came to the collie, Maisy, the note beside her read that she was to be bathed and given a significant haircut complete with requisite pink bows.  So I said 'Okay, Maisy, let's make you pretty!'  And I bathed her, gave her a trim, and was just attaching some lovely pink polka dot bows when I heard a scream.  The dog's owner was staring at me in horror.  'What have you done to my Rex?' she shouted!  That's when I realized...  The notes had gotten mixed up.  I'd just gussied up Rex who was apparently being introduced to a female collie later that day that his owners hoped to breed him with.  I've always wondered if that worked out..."

The entire group laughed at Adam's ordeal but then Countess Jennifer looked at him with a raised eye brow.  "Wait a minute, if you bathed the dog...  Shouldn't you have realized 'Maisy' was a male?"

Adam's face began to color.  "I didn't want to be overly familiar with the dog, of course."
Countess Jennifer shook her head and laughed some more. 

“At least the bows were removable and the fur grew back, no doubt,” JenniAnn mused.  A moment later she drew in her breath sharply.  “The light… his light.  It’s on!”  She stood up and dashed to the edge of the yard. 

“I’m sure he’ll be over soon,” Lady Beth called after her.  “May be he just needs to change or wash up or something.”

Several others nodded in agreement.  But then it began to dawn on them that Andrew’s washing up and changing of attire probably wasn’t necessary.  He was generally perfectly groomed and appropriately dressed after an assignment.

“Maybe he’s forgotten.  After all, it’s been a week since we made these arrangements,” Lady Beth offered another reason for his delay, hoping to calm her friends.

Yva began to feel some of JenniAnn’s anxiety.  It wasn’t like Andrew to simply forget an event in Dyeland.  Even when he was unable to attend he sent notes or called.  She glanced at Adam to see if she could determine his thoughts on Andrew’s uncharacteristic tardiness. 

“I really think if something were wrong and he needed help he’d let us know, wouldn’t he?” Yva looked at the others hopefully, trying to convince herself.

JenniAnn shook her head vehemently.  “I don't know.  I felt so strongly that he'd learned a lot since that time a couple Novembers ago...  But what if he's gone back to that and... and...  If he is very upset we’ll be lucky if we don’t find him wandering the Fields tomorrow waterlogged and sneezing if those night storms come!  I am going over there right now,” JenniAnn insisted, with a touch of drama, and started to the house.

The rest of the group looked at Adam expectantly.  “May be she’s right.  And if not we can all hassle him for getting forgetful in his old age,” he jested though a bit uneasily.  He stood up and hastened his steps until he caught up to the blonde woman striding purposefully towards Serendipity.  The entire group crowded on the porch as JenniAnn knocked.  The door opened just by the force of her touch.

Adam frowned and moved to stand in front of JenniAnn.  “Andrew, are you in there?” he called.  “The ladies and I are here.  We were worried when you didn’t show up at 8:30 like we had all planned.”

They heard hurried footsteps then and Andrew came down his staircase.  He stalled at the bottom step and seemed about to say something but then stopped.  The waiting group walked towards him and in the better light many of them gasped.

Andrew’s hair was mussed as if he’d run his hand through it many times in frustration or anger or grief.  His friends guessed the latter based on his red-rimmed eyes.  Rose took his arm and led him back into the living room and guided him to his favorite chair.  “What’s wrong, Andrew?” she asked quietly.

The rest of the group settled on the couch, chairs, and floor space around him.

“I’m sorry I forgot about tonight.  I had just remembered and was going to head over as soon as… as soon as I was more presentable,” Andrew explained.

“It’s okay,” Rose assured him.  “We’re just concerned about you.  Did something happen?”

Andrew shrugged.  “My assignment didn’t turn out like I thought it would is all.”

None of the Dyelanders believed that this was all there was to it.  Andrew wasn’t given to moping about just because something went a little off track.  Something had happened, something awful. 

“Would you like to talk about it, Andrew?” JenniAnn asked, patting his shoulder.

Andrew surveyed the ladies’ faces.  The youngest among them had reached eighteen.  He could tell them what happened.  They could handle it.  Just as they’d handled Hope’s sad story years earlier.  And Sarah's.  But this was different.  This assignment hadn’t involved people from eras that they knew only from history books, movies, and plays.  This had happened only two days before.  To someone so much like them.  Andrew wanted to speak, he wanted to be heard but if that meant hurting them...  He’d wanted to go Home.  Why wasn’t he Home?  He could have been at peace there and not weighing the need to unburden his own heart against his desire to protect his friends from painful events.

“You’re here, Andrew.  There must be a reason for that,” Adam spoke up, seeming to read Andrew’s thoughts.

“Yes, Andrew.  Please, let us help you.  Tell us what you need to say,” Yva prompted.

Andrew cleared his throat.  “Thank you,” he murmured, “I will.”  His face began to clear then and a sparkle returned to his eyes.  “I was in a small city in Missouri.  My assignment was a young woman named Dawn.  A case working gig.  Dawn was this bubbly, outgoing girl with the most infectious laugh I ever heard.  But she could also be so gentle and compassionate.  She was a counselor in a hospice and I'd see her telling jokes to cheer a depressed patient or holding hands and listening quietly to one who just needed to be heard.  Dawn was dedicated to her work.  Maybe to a fault.  She held in her own fears and frustrations.  That’s why I was there as a psychologist brought on solely for the staff.  Really I was there to be her friend.  To be there for her and give her a safe person to speak to.  We're not supposed to have favorite assignments, of course, but Dawn was really special.”  Andrew smiled and withdrew something from his pocket.  He handed it to Adam.

“She looks like a really sweet kid,” Adam commented with a smile and handed the photograph to Lady Beth.

Lady Beth stared at it.  Others peeked over her shoulder to see.  It depicted a young woman with bronze skin and black hair pulled into a ponytail wearing a hideously colored bowling shirt.  Her brown eyes were lit with a devilish glee and her arm was around Andrew’s shoulder.  He was smiling, too, and seemed to be in the middle of an eye roll when the snapshot was taken.  His own shirt mirrored hers but in different colors.

Rose drew in a ragged breath.  “Dawn looks like she could have been one of us,” she said quietly. 

Andrew nodded, not looking at any of them.  He'd thought the very same about Dawn and now the comparison haunted him.  He took a deep breath and scanned his friends' faces.  “There was a bowling tournament to raise money for the hospice.  We were captains on the opposing teams.  Dawn’s team won,” Andrew told with a chuckle.  “She was giving me a hard time about it there.  I was one pin away from a spare that would have tied up the game but… gutter ball.”  He shook his head even as he continued to grin.  But the smile soon faded.  “Like I said, Dawn was very outgoing.  She could have a conversation about just about anything.  But she seldom talked about her personal life.  Not even when we’d meet for the one-on-one sessions that I had with the staff members.  She always spoke only about challenges she had at work.  But I knew… something was going on…”  Andrew drifted off. 

“It’s okay.  No hurry.  Take your time,” Countess Jennifer assured him.  “Can we get you some ginger ale or something to drink?”

Andrew shook his head and rewarded Countess Jennifer with a grateful smile.  “I’m okay.  Thank you, though.”  He drew in another steadying breath.  Why was he telling them this?  But why not?  Everything about this assignment had been bizarre.  He prayed again to go Home.  Adam could explain his absence to them.  But there was no divinely sent answer.  Or, he supposed, his continued presence in Dyeland was the answer.  Defeated, Andrew continued.  “Dawn did have a boyfriend.  His name was Alex.  She was crazy about him.  She’d met him a few months before my arrival.  He lived in another city about an hour away.  Alex came to her house often.  Occasionally he’d take her on weekend trips out of town.”

Lady Beth bit her lip.  “This sounds awfully fishy.  They’d either stay at her house or go out of town?  Why were they never at his place?”

Andrew glanced at her.  “I think you’ve guessed why.”  Lady Beth nodded and he continued.  “Dawn had no idea he was married.”

JenniAnn gasped.  “That’s horrible!  What a.... a... jerk!” 

Andrew spoke through a tightly clenched jaw.  “That and more.”

“Oh Andrew…  No…  Alex didn’t…” Yva shook her head and reached for his hand.

Andrew nodded and the tears began to pool in his eyes.  “On Friday Dawn found out Alex was married.  She screamed at him when he showed up that evening and told him she would tell his wife.  She needed forgiveness and that woman needed to know what sort of man she’d married.  Alex was so quiet.  He just nodded and left.  But… but… he came back.  He asked if they could go out to dinner and talk.  Dawn agreed but... he didn't head to a restaurant.  He… he…”  Andrew began to sob.

“Shh…  It’s okay.  Rest now.  We understand.  We’re so sorry you had to see that, Andrew.  So very sorry,” JenniAnn murmured.

Andrew bolted up from his chair and began pacing.  He raked his hand through his hair making it even more disheveled.  He looked at Adam.  “Doesn’t it ever bother you that we see so much and yet we can do so little?”

Adam hadn’t moved from the couch where he sat with his head in his hands.  The worst part about hearing a fellow angel of death’s assignment woes was that they often brought back his own memories.  “We get them Home.  We get them to safety and love and peace and no more pain,” Adam answered.  It was just as much for his own benefit as Andrew’s.  “That’s what you did for Dawn.”

Andrew sighed.  “I know that.  And I’m grateful for that.  But how many times have we been the sole witnesses to heinous crimes?  How many murders and assaults sit in cold case files when *we* know who committed them?  Alex killed her!  He murdered a woman who loved him!  And I saw!  And I… I’m the only one who knows.  The only witness.  And a useless one at that.”

“You’re not useless, Andrew,” Rose quickly insisted.

“I am in this instance.  What am I going to do?  ‘Excuse me, officer.  I know who murdered Dawn.  Well… I saw it.  How?  You see, I was her angel of death.’”  Andrew grimaced and shook his head.  “Even if we could do that they'd commit us before they'd believe us.”  He moved to the window and stared outside at the starry sky.  “The police interviewed each of the staff members.  They have no leads.  And Alex… he must have planned the murder out.  Dawn’s house didn’t have a shred of physical evidence when he left.  It was so coldly calculated…  And here I am with all the answers and I can’t tell the police anything!”

Before any more could be said a phone began to ring.

“Oh no...” JenniAnn muttered.  It wasn't just any phone.  It was the emergency phone that rang at Andrew's house, Willowveil, City Hall and the Café.  She went to Andrew's desk and picked up the phone.  “Hello?  Nadia!  We've not heard from you in...”  The smile fell from the woman's face.  “Nadia, what's wrong?  Yes... Andrew's here but... he's having a little bit of a difficult time right now and...  No, of course.  Hold on.”  JenniAnn cupped her hand over the phone.  “Andrew, Nadia needs to speak to you.  I think she's crying and she says it's urgent.”

Andrew nodded and reached for the phone.  He did a double take when he realized the hand he held out to JenniAnn was shaking. 

“Nadia, I'm going to put you on speaker phone so it's easier for Andrew to talk.”  JenniAnn hit a button on the phone then set down the receiver.  “We'll leave now to give you some privacy.  There's a bunch of us over here.”

The former Dyelander's voice filled the room.  “No.  Wait.  I-I need to say something and I don't think I have the strength to keep repeating it.”

“Go on, Nadia,” Lady Beth urged.

The group grew more troubled as they heard the woman many considered an old friend begin to sob.  “My family just got a call.  My... my half-sister's been murdered and... and they don't know who or why and... and... we'd had a stupid fight and hadn't been speaking and... Oh God.”  Nadia began muttering something no one in the room could make out. 

“Oh Nadia, I'm so sorry,” Adam responded. 

“A-adam?” the voice bleated.

“It's me, kiddo.  Andrew, Lady Beth, Yva, JenniAnn and Countess Jennifer, too.  And Rose.  She came to us after you left.  We're all here and we're all praying for you and your family,” the angel assured.

Andrew took a deep breath and then spoke.  “Nadia, the pain you're feeling right now is immense.  But I hope you know your sister is at peace and, you know, when someone gets to Heaven they learn how much they're loved.  No matter what happened, your sister knows you love her.”

“Is there anything we can do, Nadia?  Other than the praying, I mean,” JenniAnn asked.

They could hear Nadia inhale deeply.  “No.  It's enough you're listening.  I guess I just needed to hear Andrew's voice.  Adam's, too.  To remind me of the love and kindness that's awaiting Dawn.”

Andrew gasped and the color drained from his face.  “No,” he moaned. 

The room and the phone line went silent as everyone came to suspect that Andrew's assignment and Nadia's sister were one and the same.  Andrew himself knew with certainty the moment Nadia had said Dawn's name.

“Y-you took her,” Nadia stated, at last.  “Andrew, you took my sister.”  Her voice was eerily calm.  “Y-you watched her die.”

Andrew began to look as if he might faint.  Countess Jennifer grabbed his arm and tried to get him back to his chair.

“You didn't stop them.”  Nadia's voice had taken on an uneven, high-pitched tone.

“Pick up the phone and tell her we'll call back.  Andrew can't take this right now,” Rose whispered to JenniAnn who was still nearest the phone.

Yva shook her head and stayed JenniAnn's hand as she let it hover above the phone, uncertain.  “Andrew won't let us do that.  You know that.”

Rose nodded and watched tearfully.

Andrew wrested away from Countess Jennifer and sat on the floor, near the phone, and put his head in his hands.  “I-I didn't know she was your sister b-but... I couldn't stop...  I wanted to stop him but...  I-I couldn't.  Nadia, please...”

“Nadia, I know this hurts but you have to know Andrew did everything he...” Adam started.

“Shut up!” Nadia bellowed.  “I-I loved you both but I see how it really is now.  It... it takes a cold heart to watch someone be murdered and do nothing!”

“Nadia!” JenniAnn cried.  “You don't know what they feel...”

“I know what my sister felt!  Why don't you ask your beloved about watching my sister gasp for breath and about how she tried to fight,” Nadia snapped.  “She did.  Didn't she Andrew?”  The sobs that followed resounded through the room.

JenniAnn shrank away from the phone.

“Andrew, let's go outside for a little bit,” Adam coaxed, kneeling by his friend.

Andrew shook his head and looked to the phone.  “I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry.  Nadia, I cared about Dawn.  I did.  If... if I could have I would have traded places with her.  Please know that.  Please.”

Andrew's plea was met with silence.  He hung his head. 

“Nadia, my heart is breaking for you.  I can't imagine your pain right now.”  Lady Beth took JenniAnn's place beside the phone.  “But this is Andrew you're talking to.  Your friend.  Nadia, your words they're... they're hurting him.  Please, can't we just pray together?”

For a moment it seemed Lady Beth's words had given Nadia a much needed opportunity to consider her words.  The phone line was again silent.

“Andrew,” Nadia's voice finally broke the silence.

“Yes, Nadia.  I'm here.”

“Stay the hell away from me and my family.”

There was a click and then the line went dead.  Yva scrambled to hang up.

“It was her pain speaking, Andrew.  She didn't mean it,” JenniAnn murmured, kneeling before the angel.

“It doesn't matter,” Andrew answered wearily.

“It does matter!  Please tell us you don't actually believe what she said!” Yva cried.  “You and Adam have some of the warmest hearts of anyone I know!”

“Thank you.”  Adam brushed at some tears that were sliding down his cheeks and smiled at Yva.  “Give Nadia some time to grieve, Andrew.  Once she has she'll realize that your being with her sister is a reason to feel some amount of peace, not anger.”

“Dawn called out for me to help her.  There was nothing peaceful about how she died, Adam,” Andrew muttered. 

No one knew what to say at that and the room grew eerily silent, each person lost in a whirl of their own thoughts.

When the silence became insufferable, Rose walked over to Adam.  “Why isn’t he Home?  He needs to be there.  We can’t do anything for him here!”

At the young woman's words, a brilliant light filled the room and Tess appeared.  “That’s not true, Rose, baby.”

“Tess!” Andrew cried and ran to her. 

“There, there Angel Boy.  Dawn says hello.  She wanted to thank you for being there for her,” Tess hugged him and stroked his hair.

Andrew peered into her eyes.  “Why can’t I see her, Tess?  I understood why I returned to Missouri.  I had to tie a few loose ends up at the hospice but why am I here in Dyeland?  I just want to go back Home!” he whispered, not wanting to hurt the Dyelanders’ feelings.

Tess squeezed his hand.  “Because your assignment’s not over, Andrew.  And right now you're in the home you need to be in to prepare for it to continue.”

Andrew laughed darkly.  “My assignment is dead, Tess!”

“Angel Boy, there's someone who needs to hear from you.  Someone who needs to meet the one who was with her daughter in her final hours, even if she doesn't recognize you as such.  And your friends here... baby, they need to help you heal yourself and all the others of God's children who have been hurt by that man's cruelty.”

The Dyelanders gasped in unison.

Andrew backed away from Tess, shaking his head.  “What do they have to do with this?”  He waved his hand to the ladies who had assembled on and around the couch.

“They’re your friends and you’re going to need as many friends as you can get on this part of your assignment.  Babies, will you go to Missouri with Andrew, Adam, and I?” Tess asked.

Still stunned, the Dyelanders nodded silently in unison.

Andrew looked at Tess as if she were insane.  “They most certainly will not!  I have just lost a friend to this man and you think I’m going to let any of my other friends go any where near where he lives?” he asked, incredulous.

Tess gave him a stern look.  “I didn’t think up anything about this, Andrew.  The Father did.  Do you think you know better than Him?  He brought you here to Dyeland instead of back to Heaven for a reason.”

“We want to be there with you, Andrew, if it's God's will,” Countess Jennifer assured the angel.

Yva glanced from the simmering Andrew to Tess.  “When would we leave?”

“Tomorrow, Yva,” Tess answered with a reassuring smile that faltered when she looked to Andrew.

Andrew stepped towards the picture window, once again, and looked out at the night sky.  He knew he couldn't look at any of his friends as he said what was then in his heart.  “Rose was right.  Dawn was so much like all of you.  When I was with her... she could cheer me up.  We had these goofy inside jokes and...  I could imagine her here.  And then... when it happened...  I... I could imagine all of you.  When it was over I thanked God that I knew you were safe.  That you were protected here.  And now... now I wish you would stay here forever.  No New York.  No Los Angeles.  No Earth, period.  Just here.  Where you'd be safe.”  He sighed and ran his hand through his hair.  “Respect free will.  That's one of our big rules.  And here I am wanting to lock my friends away.  I'm ashamed of myself.”

JenniAnn stepped towards Andrew.  “You don't think it's ever crossed my mind to do something drastic to keep you out of harm's way?  I gave some serious thought to locking you in the basement before Christmas when you went to Iraq.  I probly would have tried it if I didn't think you'd just walk through the walls.”

Despite the tumult he was feeling, Andrew smiled and met her gaze.  “The basement, huh?  Which one?”

“Well, mine, of course,” she answered as if it was obvious.

Lady Beth gave JenniAnn a curious look and then also moved nearer to Andrew.  “I think what JenniAnn's trying to say is that we all have times we'd like to protect those we love, even if it means limiting their freedom.  But we don't because we know it's wrong.”

“Exactly,” JenniAnn agreed.

“Buddy, you can't see what we do day in and day out and not bring some of it home.”  Adam gestured to those around him.  “But you keep going and you allow those you love to live their lives and do what they need and want to do, praying that God will protect them.  Right now, we all need and want to help you as the Father asks.”

“Andrew, none of us are going to wander off alone.  We'll stick together and we'll help you finish this assignment, okay?”  Rose smiled bravely at Andrew.

Andrew shook his head but his resistance was failing.  Tess’ reprimand and the impassioned words of his friends had gotten to him.  The Father’s plans didn’t always make sense to him but they had a way of always turning out.  “I still don’t like the idea of you being in that town with Alex around and growing edgier and more paranoid each day.  He has to be.  The media has grabbed a hold of this and...”

“Like Rose said, no one will wander off when we're out.” Adam surveyed the group.  “And no one ever leaves wherever it is we’re staying by themselves, is that clear?”

“Of course,” Lady Beth agreed.  The others murmured assent.

“Having you or Andrew escort us around town is no sacrifice, Adam,” Yva smiled.

Andrew found himself smiling at that.  “You’ll come, too?” he asked Tess.

Tess nodded.  “There will be nine of us.”

“Like the Fellowship,” Countess Jennifer piped up. 

Adam chuckled, relieved by the injection of humor.  “Only if I get to be Aragorn.”

“Why, you have a thing for elfin princesses, Luscious?” JenniAnn teased.

Adam blushed momentarily then winked at her.  “She was pretty but not my type.”  He sobered then turned to Andrew and set a hand on his shoulder, looking into his eyes.  “Please… let’s do this.”  Adam’s voice lowered.  “Look at them, Andrew.  They want to help you.  And like you said, we see so many brutal crimes happen that never get resolved.  We leave behind so many families always left wondering if the murderer is still out there.  We have a chance to at least bring some peace to Dawn's mother and to feel like we're leaving an impact on those left behind.  Please, Andrew, think about the gift the Father is holding out to us.”

Andrew wiped at a tear and hugged his friend.  “Okay.”  He looked at his other friends then and smiled tearfully at them.  “Thank you for listening and for agreeing to this.”

The Dyelanders all took turns hugging him.  Tess gathered them back onto the couch and surrounding chairs then and began to explain to them what would and would not be allowed on this assignment.  Adam piped in on occasion.  Andrew wandered outside for a moment and stared up at the starry sky. 

“Thank you, Father.  For my friends and for this chance.  I was angry with You for not answering my prayer to go Home.  But now I see You were bringing me to the home I needed to go to and answering an even more important prayer.”  Andrew paused and looked back at his house.  “Please protect them, Father.  They’re my friends and if anything were to happen and I couldn't help...”  Andrew shook his head.  “Please protect them.”  He bowed his head and felt peace envelope him.  Then he returned to the living room.


Monday, January 19th

It was shortly before noon the following day.  The previous night had been a flurry of activity as calls were made and things were packed.  When everything had been taken care of, five women, three angels, Fawn, and Lulu were gathered
in the Willowveil ballroom among an assortment of bags.

“Okay, last chance to back out if anyone wants to.  No one will think less of you,” Andrew announced.  He no longer hoped all five of the women would leave but felt he needed to offer them one last out.  Of course, no one budged.

“I think we’re all determined to go.  Although…” Lady Beth looked around with a raised eye brow.  “Tess, I thought you said there would be nine of us?  I count eight.  You, Adam, Andrew, Yva, Countess Jennifer, JenniAnn, Rose, and me.  Eight.  Unless we're counting the dogs in which case it's ten.”

Tess smiled and shook her head.  “I wasn't including the dogs in the number though they're welcome.  And I wondered when someone would notice that.  Very observant, baby.  Number Nine will show up eventually.  Trust me.”

JenniAnn shrugged.  “Okay but...”

“What is it, baby?” Tess asked.

“We're going to Missouri and I've been there before.  I'm pretty confident they don't use royal-sounding titles so... I'm just reminding people ya best stick with just calling me JenniAnn.  Although Laja is okay, too.”  She grinned at Andrew, hoping to draw the same from him and succeeding.

“Good point,” Countess Jennifer agreed.  “I'll go by C.J. again.  Even when we're alone, less chance of slipping up in public that way.”

“Sure and I'll just go by Beth and then I think that takes care of it, right?” Lady Beth glanced around the room.

“That should do it,” Tess agreed.  “Now are we ready to go?”

“I am,” Rose responded first.  “But I'm curious.  How is it we’re getting from here in Dyeland to Missouri?” she asked.  “There's no existing portal.”

Adam winked.  “You just leave that to us.  Or to Him, I suppose is more accurate.  Everyone ready?”  His question was met with a chorus of six female yeses and one nervous male voice.  Tess reached for Andrew's hand and he relaxed.

Adam proceeded to the supply closet door and opened it.  “Ladies first.”  He grinned and bowed his head politely and indicated the door.

“Missouri is in the supply closet?  Funny, I thought I’d put the extra dishes in there,” JenniAnn smirked.

“I’m sure the people of Missouri enjoyed your extra soup tureen,” Yva joked.  “This reminds me of ‘Touched.’  I remember ‘Andrew’ opening doors that went to Heaven but never Missouri.”

“‘Andrew’ also never had to worry about his human friends going on assignments with him,” Andrew pointed out but he smiled good-naturedly.

“Poor him,” Rose teased and then she stepped into the closet and promptly disappeared.

The rest of the women followed then Adam ushered Andrew in and stepped in himself.  The door shut leaving the ballroom empty.

Upon arriving in Missouri, the group found themselves in a large cabin.  It looked as if it had once been a bed and breakfast.  The bottom floor housed the kitchen, two parlors, a game room, a restroom and a meeting room with computers.  Seven bedroom suites were on the second floor. 

“There are eight of us and apparently a ninth expected.  Who gets to share?” Beth asked.

Everyone tried their best not to look at Andrew who seemed to be considered the ideal roommate.  Adam elbowed him, openly chuckling.

Tess rolled her eyes.  “Angel Boys, you’re on the *third* floor.  We'll need that seventh bedroom down here later.”

The Dyelanders sighed as the two guys headed up the stairs.  Once Andrew and Adam were gone, the women received their room assignments from Tess and began unpacking.  They’d barely had time to empty out their bags when they heard a scream.  All five ran from their bedrooms and into the hall just in time to see Tess exit her room, fuming.  Andrew was running down the stairs from his room so quickly that the women worried he’d end up in a heap at the bottom.

“Get *him* down here,” Tess seethed.

Andrew looked at Tess with confusion.  “Tess, what happened?  I heard you scream and I came as quick as I could.”

Tess pushed past him and yelled into the stair case.  “Adam!  You better get down here and take care or that… that… monstrosity in my bag this instant.  OR I WILL BREAK YOUR HALO!”

“A little over-dramatic don’t you think, Tess?” Adam asked, breezily walking down the stairs, grinning from ear to ear.  “I thought Terrence was adorable.”

“Terrence?” C.J. asked, looking confusedly from Adam to Tess.

Adam nodded.  “Yes, Terrence.  I thought he could keep our dear Tess company in her room.”

“Don’t you 'dear Tess' me.  Get that thing out of my room.  NOW.”  Tess grabbed his arm and pulled him down the hall.

Adam looked back at the group and winked.

JenniAnn looked at Andrew, confused.  “What did he do, Andrew?”

Andrew shook his head.  “I have no idea…”

Adam stepped out of Tess’ room with something cradled in his hands.  Tess followed him warily.  Lulu and Fawn bolted towards the angel of death, trying to see what he held.

“Aww!  A mouse!” JenniAnn cried and stepped forward.

“That’s no mouse, baby,” Tess called, hovering a few yards away.

“Well, what is it?” Rose asked.

Adam held his cupped hands toward them.  He smiled beatifically.  “A baby rat.”

Andrew burst into laughter.  “You put a rat in Tess’ bag?”

“He’s perfectly harmless.  And I made sure he had an air supply,” Adam answered defensively.

“Perfectly disgusting more like it,” Tess countered, nose upturned.  “That goes outside.”

“Aww, c’mon Tess, he’s a creation of God.  God loves Terrence, right?” Andrew asked, a twinkle in his eye, as he pet the tiny creature.

Tess sighed.  Of course she couldn’t deny that.  Maybe she should rethink leaving Andrew and Adam in the upstairs rooms alone.  She had the notion they could get themselves into all sorts of mischief at her expense.  But it was good to see Andrew smile and his eyes light up.  If that thing… Terrence… had brought that about, the angel considered the idea that maybe he wasn’t so awful.  “Yes, the Father loves even Terrence.  You can keep him.  Upstairs.  Away from me and in a cage.  Understand?” Tess answered.

Adam and Andrew nodded eagerly like two little boys. 

Beth ran to fetch a cardboard box they could use until they returned from the pet store with supplies. 


Once Tess was assured Terrence was safely secured in his box, the two angels of death and Rose and JenniAnn headed to the nearest pet store.  While Adam and Rose compared prices on various habitats, Andrew and JenniAnn perused the rat food section. 

“We gotta get these.  They're pretty,”  JenniAnn tossed a carton of multi-colored fruit bits into the basket.  “And my cousin had a rat once.  She loved em.”

Andrew picked the box up and looked at them.  “You know, they look like something a person might eat.  Fruit snacks or something.”

“Yep, they’re actually pretty yummy,” JenniAnn answered, turning to the water bottles.

Andrew looked at her with a raised eye brow but chose to let the comment slide.  He began to examine various types of food pellets. 

“We should get a surprise for Lulu and Fawn while we're here,” JenniAnn suggested.

Andrew nodded.  “I know they'd love that.”  He took note of the dog and cat display only a few yards away.  “I'll only be a minute.  If you want to start looking then I'll be right over.”

“I was hoping you'd say that but I didn't want you to worry,” she confessed.

“Laja, I'm not putting you or anyone under some sort of reverse retraining order.  You can go outside of 20 feet from me, you know,” Andrew teased.  “I know you won't leave the store alone.  So, yeah, it's okay.”

JenniAnn laughed.  “Not sure I'd mind that reverse restraining order, generally speaking, but okay.  I'll be right over there.”

Andrew nodded and watched her walk off before focusing on the task at hand.  Did the rat want extra carrot bits thrown in?  Exactly what vitamins did Terrence need?  Finally, Andrew selected a box and headed towards the dog treats.  His pulse began to race when he realized he saw no blonde ponytail sticking up from above the five foot shelves.  He tore around the corner and into the aisle.


The same in the next aisle.  And the next.

Finally, a familiar laugh met Andrew's ears.  He spun around and saw JenniAnn kneeling down beside a small boy in front of an aquarium.  A man stood near them both, his hand on the boy's shoulder.

Any peace Andrew had felt at spotting his friend evaporated.  He quickly made his way to them.

“There you are!  I need to show you something,” Andrew said as he approached.  “These guinea pigs are nuts!”

JenniAnn looked curiously at the angel.  His gleeful grin hardly matched the worry in his eyes.  “Right.  Okay, well, nice to meet you, Robbie.”  She smiled at the little boy and then went to Andrew and followed him as he led her a few yards away.  “That was abrupt.  Listen, I'm sorry I wasn't with the dog stuff but that lil boy was there and crying cause he was lost so I was gonna lead him up front but then he saw his dad by the fish so I walked him over.  Irresponsible idiot just laughed when I told him the lil guy had been crying.  Some people...  So what are the guinea pigs doing?”

But Andrew didn’t answer her.  He was transfixed, staring at the man and the boy near the fish display. 

JenniAnn reached over to try to shake Andrew out of whatever had gotten into him.  Her eyes grew wide when she felt a tremor run through his arm.  She peered back over at Robbie and his father.  “Andrew, that's Alex, isn't it?” she whispered.

The angel nodded. 

“My God... he has a child!  Did you know?”

Andrew shook his head.  “Did you tell him your name?”

“Well, no.  I just told him I'd found his son and he thanked me... barely... and I felt so sorry for the lil kid I talked to him for a moment but, no, never my name and...  Andrew, let's find Adam and Rose and go.”  JenniAnn looked with concern at the angel. 

Andrew nodded and scanned the rest of the store.  Adam and Rose were still checking out rat homes, completely oblivious.  He was just about to answer when he heard Robbie's laughter.

The angel stared at the little boy of about four who came running down the center of the store.  He had blonde hair that poked out at odd angles, red glasses with thick frames, and was missing his two front teeth.  He wore a gingham shirt, only half tucked in, and crumpled corduroys.  In short, he was adorable and JenniAnn and Andrew both smiled despite the troubling presence of Alex only yards away.

“Daddy, come look at the kitties and hamsters and stuff,” the boy prodded. 

“Not now.  We don’t have time.  Besides we have fish.  I just need to get their food and then we have to leave, Robbie.”  Alex grabbed a bottle off the shelf then led Robbie up to the registers.

“I can't believe he has a kid,” Andrew muttered. 

JenniAnn watched as he began to run his hand through his hair.  “C'mon, let's get Adam and Rose and we’re going to go back to the cabin.  You need to rest.”  She took his hand and dashed off then.  Andrew continued to stare at Alex and Robbie as JenniAnn explained the situation to their friends.  Both Adam and Rose looked to the front of the store, aghast. 

“Are you sure he was his son?  Maybe a nephew?” Adam asked hopefully.

Andrew shook his head.  “The boy, Robbie, called him dad.  I can’t believe…”  The crease between his eyes grew deeper.  His hands formed two fists.  “It was bad enough he has a wife and now… he has a son!  How could he…”

Rose shot JenniAnn a concerned look and tilted her head to the front door.  JenniAnn nodded.

“Let’s leave Adam and Rose to make the final decisions for Terrence.  You look like you could use some fresh air,” JenniAnn suggested to Andrew.

Adam nodded and took the basket Andrew was holding.  “That’s a good idea.  We'll be right out.”

Andrew looked from Adam to Rose who both nodded, then pulled out his keys and led JenniAnn outside.  He hated feeling so out of control that his friends were more or less babysitting him but he also felt that if he had to see Alex for one more moment he might do something he’d regret.

Adam and Rose stared after their two retreating friends.  The latter shook her head.  “I think this all just got far more complicated,” she mused.

“You’ve said it,” Adam agreed as they made their way to the checkout lanes.  They tried to talk breezily about mundane topics as they waited.  But both kept catching themselves staring at Alex.  Robbie was eying some coffee mugs with different breeds of dogs on them.  Alex wasn’t paying him any attention at all.  Robbie picked one up with a collie on it.  Just then a dog barked, startling the boy, and the mug plunged to the ground. 

“God damn it, Robbie!  What were you doing?” Alex shouted, at last paying attention to his son.

“I… I… just wanted to look.  Da-daddy,” Robbie cried.

“Really, it’s not a big deal, sir.  It was just an accident,” the cashier assured him.

Alex was undeterred.  “What have I said about not touching things that aren’t yours?  Now pick it up!”

Robbie knelt to pick up the shards but Adam and Rose swooped down. 

“Here, let us help,” Adam offered with a kind smile.  He and Rose used the scoop they’d been about to purchase for cleaning Terrence’s cage to gather the pieces together.  Then a store employee arrived with a dust pan.  In less than a minute there was no evidence of the accident.  But still Alex was fuming and Robbie had tears streaming down his cheeks.

“Look, it’s all fixed now,” Rose pointed out, gently smiling at Robbie.

“Thank you for your help,” Alex muttered.  By that time his receipt had printed and he grabbed that, his bag, and Robbie’s hand and left.

Rose sighed.  “I think I'm beginning to feel a little bit of the frustration Andrew feels,” she whispered to Adam.

The angel of death nodded.

“And yours, too,” Rose added.

“I wish it was a more fun club to be in,” Adam muttered as he placed Terrence’s items on the counter.


Back at the cabin, the four took turns telling the others what had occurred at the pet store.
“This does make it harder,” C.J. admitted, shaking her head.

Yva nodded in agreement.  “The poor boy…”

“He must not have him with him much.  He certainly found enough alone time to be with  Dawn,” C.J. pointed out.

“Exactly,” Andrew added, his tone foreboding.  Everyone looked at him.  “He’s just going to move on now.  Find some other unsuspecting girl.”

“Okay, so where would one go to meet girls?” Beth mused aloud.  She glanced at Andrew and Adam.

Adam laughed.  “Don’t look at me.  I’ve never had problems meeting the ladies.”  He did his best to look as studly as possible causing all the women to laugh.  Even Andrew smiled.

“Bars?” JenniAnn suggested after regaining control of herself.

“Are there any dance clubs around here?” Rose asked.

“Movie theaters?  Music festivals?” Beth continued.

“I think they met at a dance club,” Andrew spoke up.  “About an hour away.  Near where Dawn lived.  But why are we having this discussion? 

“Well... I think we were all just thinking that maybe we could make life, and further conquests, a little difficult for Alex.”  Yva looked to the other women, checking.  They all nodded.

“Whoa, whoa... no.  Uh uh.  You actually want to possibly run into him again?  I don't think so,” Andrew protested.  “Tess, tell them we're not doing that.”

Before Tess could answer, Yva spoke again.  “With all due respect and love, Andrew, you can't tell us what we can and can't do.  This is our life, this is our world, Dawn was so much like us, you said.  Don't we have a right to do what we can to protect others?  We can help stop Alex.”

Andrew bowed his head, knowing Yva was right.  Nonetheless, he looked pleadingly at Tess.

Tess had been suspiciously quiet during the previous discussion and remained so.

Adam looked curiously at her.  “Tess, care to let us in on what you're thinking?  You okay?”

Tess smiled at the elder angel of death.  “I'm fine, Adam.  Babies, I couldn't tell you about the full assignment earlier because the idea couldn't come from me.  It had to be borne of free will.  And it has been.  Andrew, baby, I told you that the Father sent you back here so that you could be healed along with others.  There will be no healing until the truth comes to light.  And these babies want to help you bring it to light.  Let them.”

Andrew shook his head, not in defiance but disbelief.  He felt as if the Father was asking him to risk everything.  He could justify putting himself at risk but... not them.

“Andrew,” JenniAnn sat on the arm of his chair, “we love you.  You know that.  And it hurts us when you or Adam or Henry come back from an assignment deflated or discouraged or, worst of all, heartbroken and beating up on yourself.”

“This is exactly why I was so reluctant to let all of you see me like...” he began.

“This is exactly why you need to,” she counter-protested.

Adam rose and stood behind JenniAnn.  “She's right.  You know that, buddy.  You asked me if it bothered me that we knew the answers to so many unsolved crimes, that we could bring justice if only it were possible.  Right now... with them... it is possible.  We owe it to Dawn, to her family, and to ourselves to do what we can.  And we owe it to Robbie and his mother.  Andrew, if Alex does this again... what if next time he decides it's the wife and kid that go?”  Adam shuddered at the all-too-possible thought.

Andrew nodded.  “Fine.  I don't like it.  But... I know all of you, and most of all the Father, are right.  But I still don't understand.  How is preventing Alex from meeting another woman going to bring his murder of Dawn to light?  None of you can go to the police any more than I can.  What are you going to say?  'The angel of death is a close personal friend and he said Alex did it'?”

“We aren't going to the police, Andrew,” Rose answered.  “I've seen Mick do this sort of thing pretty often during the ride-alongs I did with him.  What if we just drop a few key phrases into conversation he might overhear?  Things relevant to Dawn.  It could play on his guilt and then he might turn himself in.”

Andrew raised an eye brow.  “I guess that's an idea but I feel a little better about an 85 year old vampire making murderers paranoid than I do all of you.  What if we just do our best to trail him and then any time he approaches a young lady... we make nuisances of ourselves?  Can we just try that first?  Between that and the media attention it might be enough to push him into confessing.”

Beth nodded.  “That could work.  And it could have the same effect without making Alex think we actually know anything about the murder itself.  He'd just think we're really annoying people made paranoid by local news.”

“We can do annoying.”  C.J. grinned at Andrew.

At last, Andrew laughed.  Then he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.  “Okay, so where are we going?  I suppose we should head to Dawn's town.  Alex knows he's less likely to be spotted by someone he knows there.  It's more anonymous.”

“I vote dance club.  Not only does Alex have a history there but... might be nice to go dancing and relax if he doesn't show,” Yva suggested.

Tess nodded.  “That's a fine idea.  If anyone doesn't want to go you're welcome to stay with me, babies.”  She wrinkled her nose.  “The music in those places... if you can call it music.”

Adam chuckled.  “So those of you with discriminating musical tastes can stay with Tess.  Everyone else will leave after dinner.  Does that sound right?”

“It sounds good to me but, um, since I'm not 21 yet I'm not sure I'd even get in,” Rose pointed out.

“We could call ahead and check.  But seems to me that when I was under 21 I could go into places.  They'd just stamp or mark my hand with a M for minor or something so I couldn't get drinks.”  JenniAnn rolled her eyes.  “Course, it's not exactly fun scrubbing a big ol' red M off your hand the next day...”

Rose laughed.  “I think I can deal with it.”

“I'm not sure...” Andrew again looked concerned.  “If Alex is there and approaches one of you...”

C.J. shrugged.  “Then we brush him off and approach either you or Adam.  As despicable as he is, he doesn't seem to be stupid.  He probably went after Dawn because she was isolated.  He wouldn't approach anyone who was clearly with someone else.”

“So we'll all promise to keep in at least pairs, okay?” Beth glanced at Andrew expectantly.

Andrew bowed his head and sighed.  “Okay,” he finally agreed with a far from effortless smile.

“It'll be okay, Andrew.  Really,” Yva consoled. 

“Just trust in the Father, Andrew.  He loves all of you and His eyes are on each of you.  He'll take care of all of you,” Tess assured.  “But first I'm taking care of dinner.  I don't want you all going there and filling up on fried appetizers.  So would anyone care to help?”

Yva giggled as Adam began slowly backing away.  He looked relieved when Beth, Rose and JenniAnn readily volunteered and he found himself sharing table setting duties with the others.


Despite the anxiety attached to the evening's events, dinner was a friendly and lively affair.  Everyone oohed and aahed over the chicken a la Tess and the turnovers that followed.  But after the last dish was put in the dishwasher, everyone knew it was time to get ready.  Tess waited in one of the parlors while the others drifted in.  She couldn't help but note how different some of the women looked.  Gone were the bell bottoms and peasant dresses and casual clothes.  They'd all been replaced by cocktail dresses and slick suits.

“You all look wonderful, babies,” Tess assured them.  “Now just remember to stick together and with Andrew and Adam, okay?”

All five of them nodded. 

“We will, Tess.  I don't think a dance club we've never set foot in is really anyone's idea of a great scene so I don't think we'd separate even if we wanted to.”  Yva indicated her nodding friends.

“There's just one thing, though...” Beth smirked.  “Since when does it take men longer to get ready than women?”

Everyone laughed but then grew uneasy with Adam's and Andrew's continued absence.


Andrew picked up his wallet and put it in the pocket of his jeans.  Adam was waiting in the door way.

“Are you ready now?” he asked.

Andrew shrugged.  “I just can't help feeling like maybe this isn't the best idea.” 

“Andrew, buddy, you've got to let that go.  Remember what Tess said about the Father watching over us all.  Besides, this is a dance club.  It's not like we're headed to... the Whiskey Roadhouse or something like that,” Adam grinned. 

Andrew smiled but it quickly faded.  “If anything were to happen...”

“We won't let anything happen.  We're not assigned to them, Andrew.”  Adam indicated the doorway from which laughter and chatter could be heard.  “They want to help you.  And if you just let them you might discover that there's even more to this.”

Andrew looked at Adam curiously but could tell his friend intended to say no more.  “Okay, let's go.”  Andrew took a deep breath and then went down the stairs with Adam following.

They were greeted with smiles when they met up with the women.  At Tess' suggestion, they all held hands for a few moments as she led them in prayer.


Twenty minutes later the group arrived at the club.  Adam, Beth, JenniAnn, Yva and Rose waited outside while Andrew and C.J. parked the mini-van.  Once all seven were together they entered.  After they'd entered Rose was showing off a black M on her right hand.  To calm the nervousness everyone was feeling, Adam began a game of making up what the M stood for.

“Majestic,” he offered.

Rose giggled.  “Right...”

“Maniacal,” JenniAnn suggested with a grin.

“Probably closer to the truth,” Rose admitted with a laugh. 

“Monica!” Andrew blurted.

“But that's not an adjective,” Beth pointed out.

“No, look!” Andrew waved to Monica who was sitting in an upper room with glass walls, waving them up.

The seven approached and took seats around a table.

“So I guess you're Number Nine?” Yva asked.

Monica looked confused for a moment.  “Oh, yes.  There are nine of us here.  Tess mentioned that.  Where is she?”

“Back at the cabin.  This isn't her scene.”  Adam raised an eye brow at a couple dancing in an immodest fashion below.  “Not that I think it's any of ours but Tess may find it especially trying.”  The angel of death smirked then redirected his attention to Monica.  “You're looking as lovely as always.  It's good to see you.”

“Ah, it is.  It's been months, hasn't it?  I was so happy when the Father said I'd be working with all of you.  Of course, I wish it were under happier circumstances.  I met with Dawn.  A very sweet girl and she's quite fond of you, Andrew.  How are you?”

Andrew had bowed his head upon hearing Dawn's name but looked up with a strained smile.  “I'm doing fine.  Being surrounded by friends helps.  I'm really glad you're here, Monica.  I've missed you.”

Monica smiled at him and reached across the table to squeeze his hand.  “I've missed you, too, Andrew.  I think of you every time I look at your pocket watch.”

Andrew smiled again and nodded, wondering why he was struggling to think of things to say to Monica. 

Rose noticed his unease and looked to Monica.  “So what have you been up to?  Do you like your new job?”

“Oh very much,” the angel answered enthusiastically.  “Of course I miss working with a group.  I learned so much from Tess and Andrew and you, too, Adam.  In fact, just last week I was assigned to a young man on a farm.  He was talking to one of the turkeys and I couldn't help but think of you.” 

Adam chuckled.  “I'm glad I left such an impression.”

“You did in many ways.  You both did.”  Monica looked again at Andrew and frowned.

Once Andrew caught onto it he again smiled but seemed nervous. 

Rose cast JenniAnn a knowing look.  JenniAnn bit her lip, considering what she should do.  By luck, or perhaps Divine Intervention, the jolting music suddenly gave way to Coldplay's “The Scientist.”  She'd put it on a mixed CD for Andrew and from then on out had considered it “their song.”

“Andrew, I'm feeling a bit jumpy.  I think I had too much coffee at dinner.  I need to move around a bit.  Would you please dance with me?” the woman asked.

“I'd love that.  If you'll excuse us,” Andrew smiled at the rest and led JenniAnn outside the room and onto the dance floor.

Monica looked confused for a moment.

“She's fine.  But he's not doing as well as he'd like us to believe, I don't think,” Beth explained.

Adam nodded.  “He really enjoyed his time with Dawn and I think, until the end, he thought it was a caseworking assignment.  Her murder and seeing it...  Sometimes it's hard to not be able to do anything.”  Adam looked appreciatively at Yva when she patted his shoulder.

“Yes, Andrew had mentioned that before when we used to work together.  Terribly sad...” Monica sighed.

“It is,” Rose responded, emphatic.  “And very difficult on Andrew and Adam and Henry, too, I'm sure.  That's why we're all so glad that we can be here to help and to support Andrew.”  Try as she might, Rose could not keep an edge out of her voice.

Monica looked startled for a moment.  “Of course, you're all wonderful friends for that.” she finally responded with a smile.  She looked out at Andrew and JenniAnn in time to see the latter rest her head against the angel as they danced.  Monica again looked surprised.  “Is JenniAnn still seeing that fellow who lives with her cousins in New York?”

Beth shook her head.  “No, they broke up about a year ago.” 

“That's too bad.  He seemed a nice young man.  I only asked because it seems she still has a wee crush on Andrew.”  Monica indicated the dance floor.

Adam reddened slightly, not comfortable discussing the emotions of someone who wasn't present.  “I think it's gone past a 'wee crush,' Monica,” was all he felt right saying.

“Oh, poor girl.”

C.J. had begun to feel restless and felt that the ease of the group's communication was thrown off by Monica's presence.  “Now that we've explained everything, why don't we go out there?  Nothing's going to get accomplished being holed up in here alone.”

“She's right.  Just remember, no titles.  So Beth,” Yva smiled at Lady Beth.  “And C.J.”

“C.J.” smiled back.  “Right.”

With that the group exited their transparent enclave.


While the others had been speaking, Andrew and JenniAnn had begun dancing.

“Do you feel better?” Andrew asked after a few moments.

JenniAnn smiled up at him and nodded.  “Yes, thanks.  How about you?”

“Glad to see Monica.  I guess I just...” Andrew drifted off.


Andrew looked back at the group for a moment.  “It just seems different.  It used to be easier to talk to Monica.”

“I think that feeling's normal.  It's hard when you used to see someone so often and then you're parted for a while.  It takes time to fall into the old patterns.  It'll come, Andrew.  And this isn't the easiest of circumstances.” 

“I'm painfully aware of that.  I'm still not sure about all of you being...”

JenniAnn shook her head.  “We had to be.”

“I appreciate your coming to support me and help me but the danger...  Laja, sometimes I get to thinking about all that I've seen and what could happen.”

“Bad things could happen any time and any where, Andrew.  But... there's more to why I wanted to come.  I can't speak for the others, of course, but... something tells me they'd agree with what I'm about to say.”  JenniAnn stopped to glance at the couples in their immediate vicinity.  One couple seemed completely oblivious to all around them.  The next closest was a few feet off.  Nonetheless, she tilted her head and Andrew led her further away.  Once assured they were out of hearing distance, JenniAnn spoke again.  “You have seen so much, Andrew.  And the truth is you'll go onto see so much more after we've... died.  Our time to influence the world is limited.  Yours... it isn't, Andrew.  And so if we can help you and if one day you find yourself discouraged and you can think back on that, then a part of us will still be helping the world into which we were born.  Because you'll go on to help so many people.  And they will be so blessed.”  JenniAnn blinked back tears.  Despite her near decade long friendship with the angel of death, it daunted her to think of one day being apart from the world.  Wearied by the knowledge and feeling slightly unsteady, she rested her cheek against Andrew as they continued to dance.

Andrew struggled to come up with an appropriate response.  JenniAnn's words had made him all at once touched, saddened and troubled by the passage of time in a way he generally was not.  At last he settled on words that to him sounded pathetic and dumb.  “I'm glad you came.”

However, for JenniAnn they were just the words she needed to hear.  She tucked them away to carry back to her friends as the song morphed into something loud and obnoxious and she and Andrew left the floor.


Andrew and JenniAnn approached the booth their friends had relocated to. 

“So are we ordering anything?” Adam asked.

“Apparently not fried appetizers.”  Beth echoed Tess' words with a smile.

“I could always do with a mocha latte,” Monica answered.

“How does that not surprise me?”  Adam winked at Monica.  “Anyone else?”

Yva withdrew a piece of paper from her purse and everyone jotted down their drink orders.

Andrew stood up.  “I'll take this to the bar.  On me.”

“Well thanks, buddy, but you just sat down.  Why don't you let me?” Adam offered.

Andrew shook his head.  “No, really, I want to.  I'll be right back.”  With that he left, his friends staring after him.

“Great,” Yva muttered. 

“Pardon?” Monica questioned.

Yva looked startled, not realizing she'd spoken loud enough to be heard.  “Oh sorry.  It's nothing.  I guess I'm just concerned for Andrew and the way he holds everything in sometimes.  He's being very evasive right now.  Did he say much to you?”  She looked to JenniAnn.

JenniAnn shrugged.  “A little.  He told me he's glad we came.  Still worried about the danger, though.” 

“Well, that's a relief.  That he's glad we came, I mean.”  C.J. looked to the bar where Andrew stood.  “I really think he has changed.  It's still difficult for him, obviously, but he did talk to us about Dawn.  Progress.”

“Changed?  Changed how?” Monica questioned.  “He seems like the same old Andrew to me.”

Silence.  Adam cleared his throat.  “I, well... he is.  I mean the Andrew we all know and love... he's a constant.  But, yes, Monica I think in some ways he has...”

“Heesh like old nuf to be their dad.  Like, grossssh.”

The loud, slurring voice cut Adam off.

“Other dude's totally hot.  Wouldn't mind going home wish....  Oopsh!”

The group looked to a table a few feet away in time to see one spectacularly drunk woman slide out of the booth and onto the floor.  Her friend began laughing hysterically and yanked her up. 

“Who'sh he think he's kidding?  Hish hair's to'ally gray.  Ish just wrong.  Why can't dey jush shtick to own aged women.”  More hysterical laughter ensued.

“I, uh, think maybe they're talking about me.”  Adam had turned a bright crimson realizing he was, in fact, the only gray-haired patron in the club.

Yva rolled her eyes.  “How embarrassing... for them.”  She stressed her last words and patted Adam's hand.

“We should so shay shomething.” 

The Dyelanders and Monica looked, with trepidation, as the two women virtually slid out of their booth and began to approach them.

“Fan-bloody-tastic,” JenniAnn muttered.  “Let's move.”

“No, let's stay.  Give them something to think about.”  Yva grinned.

Adam couldn't help but smile at the impish gleam in her eye. 

“Hullo peeps!”  The first woman greeted.

“Hello, strange drunk lady,” Rose greeted. 

The two broke into a fit of giggles.  “We not shoooo drunk,” the second responded.

“A picture of sobriety, clearly,” Yva deadpanned.

“Dontcho think you're a lil too old for these girlsh, shir?” 

Adam was beginning to mesh with the red booth again.  “I, uh...”

“I thought older brothers were supposed to be, well, older,” Yva responded.

“Wha??!?  You fam'ly?”

“You bet.  Don't you see the resemblance?”  She led the group in a cheesy smile.

“But hesh sho much older... and dere so many of you...”

“What can I say?  Dad was so impressed with this one,” she motioned to Adam, “He decided to keep going.”

Adam burst out laughing and soon the whole table was consumed with giggles as the drunk women looked on, stunned.

“Your poor mutter...”  The first to have approached them shook her head.  “Long time to be preggers.”

“I suppose you could say our Mother is of the same mind as our Father,” Yva continued.  “It's as if they were the very same Person, to be honest.”

“Wow...  Shorry.”  The embarrassment of this intrusion was dawning on the women despite their drunken haze.

“Easy mistake to make,” Adam finally spoke.  “You ladies alright there?  Can I help you back to your booth?  Get you some coffee, maybe?  Our treat?”

“Shertainly raised you well.  Shuch a gentleman... thank you.  You shingle?”  One of the women asked as Adam began to steer them back to their booth.

“Married to my job,” Adam responded without hesitation.

“He sounds like he's practiced that,” C.J. mused as Adam led the two fawning women away.

“I'm sure he has.  Well done, Yva!  That was awesome and hysterical!” Rose congratulated.

“Best part had to be the whole Mother/Father same Person thing.  Not a lie but not in the least suspicious!” JenniAnn gushed.

Monica laughed.  “It was really wonderfully done and I could tell Adam was put at ease.  It's too bad Andrew wasn't here to witness... ah, here he comes.  And, Adam back, too.”

“They'll be right over with our drinks.  What was going on over here?  When I looked over I saw you had visitors.”  Andrew looked curiously at his friends as he and Adam reclaimed their seats.

Adam blushed.  “Debra and Michaela, they told me.  Apparently they felt I was too old to be in this group and made it known to us.”  He smiled at Yva then.  “But they were straightened out by Yva here.”

Yva beamed.  “I merely explained to them the dynamics of our family.”

Andrew chuckled.  “I'm surprised that didn't take longer.”

A waiter approached with a tray of drinks which Andrew passed out.  Adam purchased two coffees for their newfound friends and the group resumed chatting.  It was some time before anyone looked back at the table where Adam's hecklers-turned-admirers sat.

“They ordered more drinks?” he asked, aghast, as a waiter set two martinis in front of them.

“I don't think so.  Look, the waiter is pointing to...”  Andrew went silent and pale.

“Is that the fellow, Andrew?” Monica asked.

Andrew nodded, still staring at Alex where he stood in a dark suit, coyly waving to the two women.

“I think we should offer Debra and Michaela a ride home.  Now,” Adam suggested as Alex strode around the dance floor, headed towards them.  The angel hurried over to the table.

“What if they won't go?” Rose asked as the group gathered their things.

“We can't make them,” Andrew reminded.

“If Adam goes, they'll go.  Trust me on this, Andrew,” Yva encouraged.  She'd not been oblivious to the stares and giggles coming from that table after Debra and Michaela had visited with Adam.

“Praise be to God for crushes.”  JenniAnn couldn't help but giggle as she watched Debra and Michaela flirt unmercifully with Adam who diligently stayed focused on the task at hand and helped gather their coats and purses.  However, her levity was short lived.

“We have to get out of here.  Now.”  Beth tilted her head to where Alex stood, staring at Andrew.  Andrew had noticed and the two men's eyes locked.  Andrew's simmering, Alex's suspicious.

“Out we go.  Go, go, go,” Monica directed, alarmed by the look on Andrew's face.

C.J. grabbed his arm and in a huddle the group hurried after Adam, Debra, and Michaela.


Adam and Monica had seen Debra and Michaela safely home while Andrew drove the others back to the cabin.

“Where's Adam and Angel Girl?” Tess asked after greeting them. 

“They took a couple ladies who had imbibed a little too much home,” Yva answered.

Tess rolled her eyes then smiled.  “I'm glad they did so although I always wonder why someone would do that to their self.  Thank the Father they had some angels looking out for them.”

“We weren't the only ones watching them,” Andrew muttered as he hung up coats.

“What's that, baby?”

“Alex was there.  He sent them drinks and was going to approach them.  That's when Adam intervened.”

Tess clucked her tongue.  “I have to admit I didn't think he'd act so soon.”

Andrew shrugged.  “There's no understanding him, Tess.  Who can understand a cold-blooded murderer?  Who can understand how someone could...”  The angel was suddenly aware that the five women were looking at him with grave concern.  He shook his head.  “I think I just need to get some sleep.”

Andrew hugged each of his friends good night, holding them for a moment longer than usual and then bounded up the steps and to his room.

“T-tess,” Rose looked at the angel with tears in her eyes, “what can we do?”

Tess pulled the youngest woman into a bear hug.  “Be his friend, baby.  Love him like you always have.  We'll all get him through this.”


Andrew readied for bed with haste.  He felt some regret for hurrying away but it was for the best.  If he could just get some sleep then maybe by the morning his emotions would be easier to keep in check and his friends' less prone to worry. 

To help him get to sleep, Andrew popped one of his myriad mixed CDs into the player he'd found in his room.  This particular one had been masterminded by JenniAnn and began with a slow-paced, Irish-influenced lullaby with a calming melody.  Andrew hit the Loop button and settled into bed, Lulu snuggled beside him. 

The theme of the song had intrigued Andrew from the first time he'd heard it.  In the first verse a woman recalled being lulled to sleep by her guardian angel.  However, by the third verse, the roles seemed to have reversed.  Now it was her singing to him.  Or her.  There was nothing that implied the angel was necessarily male.  Andrew had just assumed that to be the case.

The second verse started.  Andrew realized he hadn't paid much attention to it before but right then the words rang out clearly:

Why has my angel gone from me?
The moon I fear and the stars fall on me.
I won't close my eyes 'til the morning light.
Oh, bring on the sun I cannot rest tonight.

Andrew tossed and turned.  Why was the woman losing sleep?  Where did the angel go?  What was wrong with him?  Why couldn't he see what he was doing to her? 

Why couldn't he see what he was doing to them?

The angel of death got out of bed and threw on a robe over his flannel pajamas.  Lulu sidled after him.  He crept down the stairs and into the hallway where the ladies' bedrooms were.  He must have listened to that song more times than he realized.  All the lights were off as if everyone had fallen asleep.  Only one room had light shining from beneath its door.  He thought it was JenniAnn's and knocked softly.

Once she'd opened the door Andrew found himself looking in on what appeared to be a slumber party although that was hardly the right term.  All five of the ladies were there along with Adam.  None of them looked to be in a party mood.

“Hey, umm, what's going on?” Andrew asked as JenniAnn moved to allow he and the dog in.

“Couldn't sleep,” Rose and Beth answered in unison.

“It seems to be a common problem.”  Adam waved at an empty chair which Andrew took.  “The ladies told me you went to your room as soon as you got back.  They think maybe you need to talk about something but won't.”

“I wasn't sure where to start.”  Andrew hesitated before adding, “Or if to.”

Yva shook her head.  “Andrew, I'm not going to watch you close yourself off again.  I'm just not going to do it.  So if this is how it's going to be this whole time... I need to know that right now.”

“I know.  When I was trying to get to sleep I realized that I was doing more harm than good but, you know, sometimes I can just barely face things myself.  So to talk about them... to tell all of you.  I don't know what to do sometimes.”  Andrew rested his head in his hands.

“Well, let's start with this,” Beth began.  “What made tonight so difficult?  Was it seeing Alex again?”

Andrew shrugged.  “That wasn't pleasant but it was more than that.  It was... a comparison.”

“A comparison?  Between who?  Or what?”  JenniAnn looked curiously at the angel as she held Fawn on her lap. 

“Between Alex and me.”

Rose had been sipping tea and nearly dropped the cup.  “Wh-what?” she sputtered.

“What comparison could there possibly be?” C.J. covered.

“I don't mean a similarity.  Or maybe I do.  I just mean...  I guess I started to feel it when we were dancing and talking.”  Lulu had hopped onto Andrew's lap and he distractedly pet her.

“It?  What's 'it'?” Adam questioned. 

“The trust and the love and the... well, the commitment.  I mean we're all friends so it's a different sort of thing but once Dawn looked up at Alex with all of that.  Once he held her in his arms as they danced.  And once she was in love with him.  He knew that.  He knew that.  And he still killed her!” Andrew cried.

“Andrew, you can't try to make sense of Alex's actions, especially by comparing them to your own,” Adam counseled.  “You can't make sense of evil and you... you especially can't understand that level of betrayal.”

“I know.  I'm not trying to understand him.  I won't and I can't.  But when I look at all of you,” he indicated the ladies, “and I see that love and that trust in your eyes and I think of the times I've done things to harm that trust and I remember that look in your eyes...  I could almost feel it myself.  That sadness, disappointment, and betrayal... some version of that is what was in Dawn's heart as she left this world.”

There was silence for a moment before Andrew spoke again.  “I,” he glanced at Adam, “we have seen so many crimes committed.  So many murders.  Some that weren't even that different from this one.  They have never been easy but now it's like they're getting more and more difficult to handle.”  Andrew looked to the elder angel of death.  “Aren't they or is it just...”

“It's not just you,” Adam answered the question before Andrew could finish it, the response coming too easily.

“All this time you were afraid your emotions would hurt us,” JenniAnn began.  “Could it be that after all these years of minding ours... they've made life more difficult for you?”

Andrew opened his mouth to protest but Yva was already speaking.

“Every little misstep you've both made, you wanted to know what we felt so you could make it better.  So we told you how we felt about those little betrayals.  Now, in your mind, you multiply that countless times over and you know in a way you couldn't before what Dawn felt and what others like her felt,” Yva hypothesized.  “That's it, isn't it?”

Andrew and Adam looked at each other.  Of course that was it but what could be done about it?

“I think it is,” Adam agreed.  “But it also makes us better angels.  And if this has made what we do more difficult then it's also given us even more encouragement.  Nothing needs to change.  But it is good to recognize.” 

“Andrew?  Do you feel at all better having said this?”  Rose looked with concern at him.

Andrew brushed at some lingering tears but smiled.  “I do.  Thank you.”  He yawned then.

“Let's let the ladies get some sleep now.  I wouldn't mind the same myself.”  Adam stood and everyone followed suit, hugging him and Andrew as they said their good nights.

Before the two angels of death had left the room, C.J. called to them.  “Wait.  I just think you should know...  Andrew, maybe that pain and betrayal weren't the last things Dawn felt.  She had you and she had God.  The same for all of your assignments.”  She looked at Adam, too.

Moved, the two angels of death only smiled and nodded and continued their walk to their rooms.


Tuesday, January 20th

“I'll have to check with Vincent but somehow I don't think this is what Rilke had in mind when he wrote the line 'Every angel is terrifying.'  Yet... it's what I feel now.”  JenniAnn was staring out the window of her temporary room the next morning.  Now it was populated only by Beth, C.J., Rose, Yva, herself, and the two dogs.

Rose stepped to the window.  “They're laughing.  That's a good sign, right?”

“I dunno,” JenniAnn answered.

“Tess must have had a reason to send just Andrew and Monica grocery shopping,” Yva encouraged as she passed around a box of chocolate Willy had sent them.

Beth looked up from the recipe book she had found in the kitchen.  “Monica can't possibly rebuild the emotional walls in one shopping trip that we've spent years chipping away.”

“Has anyone spoken much to her?” C.J. asked.

“Just a lil chit-chat about coffee at breakfast,” JenniAnn answered.  “Anyone else?”

Rose thought.  “Oh, she did say a little at the club.  While you were dancing.  She, uh...”  Rose began to regret responding.

“Oh geez.  What?” JenniAnn pressed.

“Well, we told her about how upset Andrew was and she said something about how she remembered him sometimes getting like that when they worked together,” Yva recalled. 

“So she did notice?  Fantastic!  And then?”  JenniAnn looked excitedly from one friend to another.

“She asked about Eliot.”

Crestfallen, JenniAnn looked at Rose as if she'd just said Monica had launched into a lecture on mitochondrial DNA.  “What does he have to do with anything???”

“That's what we wondered.  She just changed the subject.  Asked if you were still dating him.  Said something about your 'wee crush' on Andrew.  Then when Adam suggested it wasn't exactly a 'wee crush' she said 'Poor girl,'” C.J. recalled, bracing herself.

JenniAnn looked horrified.  “Wait.  So I was dancing with Andrew... which let's just all admit is by no means an unpleasant experience...  Meanwhile, Andrew's been through a hellish ordeal, seen someone he cared about murdered by her boyfriend... and she's feeling sympathy for me?!?!  Is she insane?” 

“Maybe she just didn't want to make too much of Andrew's state with us there.  'Protect the human,' that sort of thing,” Beth suggested.

“Gah, I hope it's something like that.”  JenniAnn took a chocolate covered cherry from the box Yva pushed to her and then plopped onto her bed beside Lulu and hugged her.

“So did Andrew say anything to you while you were dancing?  Or to anyone for that matter?”  Rose looked to each of her friends.

“Just the 'I'm glad you came, worried about the danger' thing,” JenniAnn answered.  “I don't think we can do anything about that.  He's really stuck on it but... he's not letting it control him.  Anything else?”

“No, same here basically,” Yva added.  The other three nodded.

“That's a good sign, right?”

Four nods answered C.J.. 

“I'll be glad when he's back,” Rose muttered as she continued to stare at where the red Cadillac had been.


“Oatmeal?  Tomato soup?” Monica asked as she eyed the list Tess had written.

“Check and check.”

“Two dozen eggs?  3 heads of lettuce?  A bag of fruit?  2 gallons of milk?”

“Check, check, check, and check.” 

Monica laughed as she glanced at Andrew.

“What?” he asked, self-conscious.  “Is something wrong?”

“Ah no, Andrew.  I just forgot how expressive those eye brows of yours are.”

Andrew blushed but smiled.  “So I've been told.  I can't say I've ever noticed.”

“I suppose you wouldn't.  I think it's lovely how you've made so many friends in... well, you know.”  Monica smiled knowingly as they passed another shopper.

Andrew nodded, his face still flushed but his features relaxing.  “They're all great.  I love having a group where I feel I belong.  You know, it's not the same as with you and Tess but something like that and...”  He drew his hand through his hair.  “Sometimes I really miss...”

“Ah look, Andrew!  Aren't they beautiful?  They remind me of our assignment at Taffy Town.”  Monica rushed towards a display of brightly colored taffy and other candies. 

Andrew was dazed for a moment and then smiled as his friend gleefully began filling a bag with the confection.

“I don't think Tess'll mind if we do a little improvising, do you?”

Andrew chuckled.  “I don't think she has much choice.”

Once Monica had filled her bag, the two angels finished off the list and pushed the cart towards the check-out lanes. 

Andrew tensed as they neared.  Magazines and newspapers filled the shelves that divided the cash registers.  In black and white newsprint, Dawn smiled up at him.

Monica was searching her purse for the money Tess had given her but looked up at Andrew and then at the newspaper.  “Andrew?  Would you like to wait outside?  I can handle this.”

Andrew looked away from the papers.  He smiled sadly and shook his head.  “No, I'm fine.  Thank you, though.”

Monica nodded.  “Great.  Then we can head on back and plan out the day!”  With that she warmly greeted the cashier and began the check-out process.


After everyone shared a lunch of tomato soup and grilled cheese the cabin emptied out and the group headed to an art museum. 

Andrew had again begun to turn on the idea of his friends going anywhere near Alex's haunts.  However, as he had no reason to believe Alex to be the artsy type, he'd readily agreed to the trip.  The nine passed through each gallery together.  Andrew sensed that some of them would have hurried through some galleries but they matched their pace to his, always staying within his line of sight.  Or maybe they were keeping him in theirs, he couldn't be sure.  Either way, he was grateful.

The angel was staring at a Monet that reminded him of the Fields of Gold when someone tugged on his sleeve.  He looked down, expecting to see one of his friends, and met Robbie's curious gaze.

“You were the guy with the rat stuff yesterday, right?” the boy asked.

Andrew smiled.  “Yes, I was.”

“You have a rat?”

Andrew had been looking around to see who Robbie was with but he couldn't ignore the boy's question, even as he grew concerned.  “Actually, he belongs to a friend of mine.  Do you see that very tall man over there?”  Andrew pointed to where Adam stood looking at a Degas with JenniAnn.

“He's by the lady who helped me find my dad?”

“Yes.  Is your dad here with you now?”

Robbie shook his head.  “Nope, mommy.”

Andrew sighed with relief.  “Where is she?” 

“Bathroom.  I was supposed to stay with her but...” Robbie wrinkled his nose.  “It's a ladies' room.  I shouldn't be in there.  I'm not a lady.  I'm a boy.”

Andrew chuckled.  “I'm sure your mommy was just worried you'd get lost.  I'll get one of my friends to go tell her you're out here so she doesn't worry.” 

Rose was nearest Andrew and had begun to approach when she heard him speaking.  She hung back so Robbie could speak to him but then drew nearer when Andrew waved her over.

“Could you please stop in the ladies' room and tell Robbie's mother that he came out here?”

“Sure,” Rose smiled at Robbie then and headed to the restroom. 

“Do you like the rat?  What's the rat's name?  Is he nice to pet?” Robbie questioned.

Andrew laughed and led Robbie towards Adam.  “I think he's nice.  His name is Terrence.  And, yes, he's very soft and he's very happy when someone pets him.  Let's see if Adam can tell you more about him, okay?”

As Adam greeted Robbie, the boy's mother rushed to them.  “Robbie!  You can't just wander away like that!  I told you to wait, young man.”

“See, young man, not a lady.  That's a ladies' room,” he pointed out.

Robbie's mother gave him a Look but couldn't keep from laughing. 

“They have a rat, mommy,” Robbie informed his mother in a tone that suggested a rat was a treasured valuable.

Adam chuckled.  “We ran into Robbie and your husband at the pet store when we were picking out some things for our new rat,” he explained to Robbie's curious mother.

“Oh!  Robbie had mentioned meeting some nice people there.  My name's Lynn Brewer, pleased to meet you.”  The woman smiled at the group.

Adam led introductions in a quick manner and then answered myriad rat-themed questions from Robbie.

“I hope your friend doesn't mind the inquisition.  Robbie has wanted a rat or mouse or hamster for a long time but my husband... not big on pets,” Lynn confessed to Tess.

“I'm not so fond of those... creatures myself,” Tess responded.  “But your boy sure seems enthralled.”

“I know and I'm afraid our fish just don't cut it.  So I do my best to make it up to him.  My husband's on a three day long business trip so at some point I'm taking Robbie to a petting zoo if it's not too cold.” 

Lynn and Tess took a seat on a bench in the center of the gallery, near the one Adam and Robbie occupied, and continued to chat.  The others drifted off towards a neighboring, empty gallery.

“It's no coincidence we ended up here.  Alex on a business trip for three days?  Right.”  Rose shook her head and rolled her eyes.

“Back to the dance club?” Monica guessed.

Andrew shook his head.  “No, I think we spooked him there.  He'll move on.”

“To where?”  JenniAnn looked with concern to a clearly bothered Andrew.

“I don't know.  Like I said before, Dawn was very secretive.  She let the dance club meeting slip once but nothing else.”  The angel of death was again raking his hand through his hair.

“Aw, now, it's okay, Andrew.  We'll figure a good place out,” Monica assured.

“We'll talk about it when we get back to the cabin.  In the meantime, let's just be thankful that Robbie and Lynn are away from Alex for the next three days,” Yva pointed out.

C.J. had poked her head back into the gallery they'd exited.  “It looks like Lynn and Tess have become fast friends and Adam all ready has Robbie's attention.  That's great because if this plan works out... they'll need all the friends they can get.” 

Beth frowned.  “No matter what happens, their lives will change drastically.”

“And they didn't do a thing wrong,” Andrew lamented.  “One person does something terrible and so many people suffer!”

Monica looked sympathetically at Andrew.  “It is something we see far too often.  Let's go check on them, don't you think?”

Andrew nodded and followed her while the five women hung back a moment.

“He's not just seeing it, Monica, he's experiencing it,” Rose muttered.

JenniAnn peered after them.  “She'll notice more sooner or later.  She has to.”

“I hope so,” Yva agreed.  “But for now... let's go back in there.” 

Yva led them back into the gallery where Robbie and Lynn were saying their good byes.  Adam and Tess had agreed to stop at their home the next day with Terrence in tow.  Robbie's cheerful anticipation shone on his face and took some of the sting away from the nine who knew how much upheaval awaited him.


Later that afternoon, at the cabin, Andrew went into the kitchen to get a ginger ale.  He found Tess sitting at the kitchen table, looking out at a light, delicate snowfall.

“Tess, are you alright?” he asked.

Tess smiled at him.  “Oh yes, Angel Boy.  I was just thinking.  Why don't you sit down here and think some things over with me?”

“Sure.  But first can I get you anything while I'm up?”

Tess shook her head and Andrew sat beside her.  He squeezed her hand and then looked expectantly at her.

“Andrew, I never got to talk to you this morning.  How was your grocery trip with Monica?”

Andrew shrugged.  “It was... full of groceries.”  He smiled.  “We had fun.  We even got a little nostalgic about the old days.  I do miss them sometimes, Tess.”

“I know, baby.  I do, too.  But right now I'm concerned that maybe those 'good old days' weren't always so good... for you.” 

Andrew raised an eye brow and grimaced.  “I'm not sure what you mean.  Sure there were some really difficult assignments.  People... people can do some hideous things to each other but at least we dealt with that together.  Like we are now.  And now we have the girls with us, too.”

Tess beamed at Andrew.  “That we do.  I'm so pleased the Father brought you so many friends, Andrew.”

Andrew looked embarrassed for a moment and looked down at the table.  “You know, I used to worry that maybe you wouldn't approve of Dyeland and things there.”

Tess set a finger under the angel of death's chin and raised his head until his eyes met hers.  “Angel Boy, I approve of anything that makes you smile like I've seen you smile there.”

Andrew was startled by her tender response and could only respond with just such a smile.


“Well, you seem much more relaxed than last night.  I thought I might have to drag you down those steps.”  Adam tilted his head towards the staircase outside Andrew's door.

Andrew chuckled.  “Tess would have loved that.”

“I suppose I'm a little more comfortable with an Irish pub than a dance club myself.  Was this Monica's idea?”

“No.  I was glancing through the paper and saw an advertisement of theirs that read  'First drink free for the colleens on Tuesdays!'  And if I saw it maybe Alex saw it and...  We're going to make sure none of those 'colleens' leaves with him.”

Adam didn't miss his friend's determined gaze.  “We will.”

Andrew grabbed his coat and then softly pet Lulu's head as she slept.  He glanced down at the photo of he and Dawn on the dresser, touched it briefly, and then followed Adam down the stairs.


Monica sighed contentedly as she sipped her free Irish cream flavored coffee.  Alex had not shown up during the dinner hour or afterwards and the entire group felt more peaceful than they had since arriving in Missouri.  The happy families, enamored couples, and giddy friends that filled the pub made it difficult to stay morose for long.  If that weren't enough to brighten anyone's mood, a small band played a spirited jig in the far corner. 

“So then I look out my window and there's this bearded dude, all dressed in black, just hanging around!  I was freaking out... and on my birthday of all days!  But then he starts pacing... and his hand brushes through his hair and...”  JenniAnn stopped and sighed dreamily at the recollection.

“And that is how Andrew became Amish Boy,” Rose explained to Monica and Tess.

Yva smiled at the memory.  “Andrew looked very nice with his beard.  Although I think we were all glad he started wearing his normal clothes after that.”

Andrew chuckled.  “You and me both.  I missed my jeans during that assignment.”

“It sounds as if you've all had a great deal of fun.  I think it's lovely that everything has gone so well.”  Monica smiled and took another sip of her coffee.

“There have been many challenges but we get through them.  Together,” Beth added. 

“I can tell.”  Monica smiled at the group.  “So tell me more about your adventures.”

“Adam was Santa Claus at a store this past Christmas and a truly wonderful one!” Yva gushed.

“But we'd actually seen him all dressed for the part at Halloween.  That was a great holiday celebration, too.”  C.J. smiled at the memory of Andrew as a scarecrow and their frantically amusing shopping trip.

“Taylor's visited a couple times.  It was great to see him again.”  Andrew smiled as he remembered his fellow angel's amazement upon seeing Dyeland decked out for Christmas.  “Monica, you're welcome to come visit any time.  Even if I'm not there or Tess or Adam or Henry, I know anyone would be happy to show you around since a lot has changed since you've been there.”

The Dyelanders exchanged nervous glances as they waited for Monica's response.  But before the angel could speak, someone approached their table.

Adam noticed the newcomer first.  “Danny, what are you...”

“We're here for the funeral Friday.  Nadia and I just got here and we hadn't eaten since breakfast and Dawn used to bring Nadia here so...”  Nadia's husband shuffled uncomfortably.

“So Nadia is here?”  Andrew looked around for her. 

“She ducked into the bathroom when she saw you.  Listen, she's really upset with you right now and maybe that's not right but...”

Andrew became especially intent on folding his napkin. 

“She just really can't see you right now,” Danny finished. 

“Babies, I think it's time we leave,” Tess announced. 

“I'm sorry,” Danny mumbled.  “I don't mean to be...”

“Your wife is grieving, we understand.  We'll settle the bill and leave,” Yva promised. 

Danny nodded, his gaze averted, and left them.  The group hurriedly gathered their things as Adam and JenniAnn settled the bill.  Once that was done they joined the others outside, huddled by the cars.  All of them except Andrew.

“He's in the van already,” Rose answered the unasked question. 

“Adam, baby, do you think you could drive it back?  I don't think Andrew should.”

“Sure, Tess.”  Adam readily agreed and accepted the keys that C.J. held out to him.  “Everyone going in the same cars they came in?”

“I think that would be best,” Tess answered. 

Monica waved and smiled sadly at the darkened passenger window of the van before getting into the Cadillac.  Tess followed suit. 

“We'll see you back at the cabin.  Drive safe, baby, and... tell Andrew there's a hug waiting for him.”  There were tears in Tess' eyes as she hugged Adam. 

Once Monica had started the caddy, Adam waved towards the van.  The Dyelanders got in quietly and Adam took the driver's seat.

“How are you doing?” he asked his fellow angel of death.

Andrew stared out the front window and at the pub.  “I'm sorry that everyone had to rush out of there because of me.”

“Andrew... no.  It was not because of you.  It's a mistaken belief that Nadia has and we left so she could feel as much peace as possible in her time of grief,” Beth stressed.

“Exactly.  But it was not because we believe at all that she's right.”  Yva was in the seat behind Andrew and patted his arm. 

Andrew forced a smile and nodded.  “I know.  Thank you all.”

“Do you think you might need to talk about what happened?” Rose checked.

Andrew nodded.  “I know I should but right now I'm just very tired.  Adam here's a smooth driver so I think maybe I'll just rest if that's okay?”

“Of course it's okay.  Rest well, Andrew,” JenniAnn answered as the others echoed her.

Adam drove off as Andrew drifted to sleep.


After they reached the cabin, Andrew woke up just long enough to assure himself that everyone was safely back and reasonably well in the wake of the confrontation at the pub.  Once that was accomplished he quickly joined Lulu who was still sleeping where he'd left her.

It wasn't long before the others followed suit and turned into their own rooms.  However, sleep didn't come for everyone.

Monica made her way to the kitchen for a clandestine cup of late night coffee and was surprised to find JenniAnn there.

“Well, hello.  I thought everyone else was asleep.” 

“I was,” JenniAnn answered, “but I couldn't stay asleep and when that happens... I clean.”  She held up the rag she was wiping down counters with.

“I'm sorry you couldn't sleep.  I can't imagine how all of you are coping.  Would you like to talk about it?” the angel offered.

JenniAnn looked at Monica with caution.  She did feel she needed to talk but also knew that Monica was the last person in the cabin she felt comfortable talking to.  She continued to clean.  “I dunno,” she muttered.

Monica decided she would help the woman along.  “I know it must be very difficult to be away from your home and then to know that an old friend is so very upset and in pain.”

“I can handle being away from home when among friends but, yes, it is difficult to see them upset.  And... especially him.”  JenniAnn set down the rag and turned towards Monica.

“Wait, him?”

“Andrew.  Who were you talking about?”


JenniAnn did a double take.  “Well, yes, I feel terrible for Nadia but she's barely kept contact for two years.  We tried to console her, to pray with her but she shut us out.  I guess now I'm a little more concerned about Andrew being told to 'stay the hell away' and then being treated like he's... he's the plague.  And...”

“What is it?  I'm a good listener and you can tell me whatever you like and know I would not share it with the others.”  Monica smiled encouragingly.

“Then why don't you listen to him?” JenniAnn muttered.


“Why don't you listen to Andrew?!?!  Why don't you see Andrew?!?!  See him for who he really is, I mean!?!?  Why are you down here trying to get me to talk when he's tried to get you to come visit with him and you won't?!?!  I'm not your friend, Monica!  He is!” JenniAnn cried, hoping the sound wouldn't travel to the second floor or, worse even, the third.

Monica reached out for the hysterical young woman.  “Shhh, there.  It's okay.  I know you care for Andrew and seeing him like this must hurt you deeply but...”

JenniAnn pulled away, concern over the noise forgotten.  “Stop it!!!!  Stop it right now!  I won't hear another word about my being hurt.  Think about this, Monica!  Andrew has just seen someone he came to care about murdered.  One of his friends, someone he loves, then said terrible things about him.  And he just keeps getting emotionally pummeled and... have you asked him if he wanted to talk?”

Monica was stunned.  She hadn't expected an outburst directed at her.  “A-Andrew's an angel.  I know he'll be fine.”

“Fine?  He is NOT fine!!!”

“He is fine!” Monica insisted, her voice raising also.

“How can you say that?!?  How can you believe that?!?  He's hurting, Monica!”  JenniAnn paced back and forth along the counter, unable to even look at Monica.  “He's not... he's not fine.”

“Then why doesn't he tell me?  What doesn't he let me know when he's upset?  He never has!” the angel shouted.

“He shouldn't have to!  How many times when you worked with him did you go check on him after a troubling occurrence?  And how many times did he check on you?  And did you ask him to or did he just do it?”

Monica sat down on a kitchen chair, her head spinning.  “I suppose I didn't very often and he did... very often... without my asking.  But he was older and he'd been at the caseworking thing long before me.  I... I thought he'd get through whatever came to pass.  I... I needed to believe he would.”

JenniAnn felt a stirring of sympathy seeing Monica's discomfort and took a seat across from her, lowering her voice.  “Don't think that it's any where in my mind that if we're not around Andrew will... will fall or go AWOL.  It's not that.  I know he won't do that.  But here's what he will do.  He will go off alone.  Maybe he'll deal with his emotions, maybe he won't.  He will carry on with his assignments because he is a devoted servant of God.  And he will be happy... when He's home.  But when he's here?  I've seen what can happen here and... it frightens me.  It... nearly tore us all apart.”

“I remember Tess mentioning that to me.  About two years ago?”  Monica traced the grain of the table as she asked, struggling to accept all of this.

“Yes.  And I still think Andrew would have eventually pulled through, even without us.  But maybe without the memory that there were people willing to fight for him.  And we were, Monica.  And that... that can be a very powerful thing.  And I pray to God that I, and all my friends here, can always do that.  But when Nadia...” JenniAnn drifted off.

“I'm afraid I do not know much of what their friendship was,” Monica confessed.  “I'm beginning to think there is a lot I don't know.”

For a moment the frustration fell away from JenniAnn and she smiled wistfully.  “There's a tree in Dyeland.  Nadia and I went to it shortly after Andrew showed up.  We were seventeen and completely goofy and...  I carved 'JenniAnn Hearts Andrew Forever' into it.  Nadia thought he'd appreciate French a little more so she wrote 'J'aime Andrew.  XO Nadia.”  Or something like that.  I barely remember French.  In any case, I don't think Andrew ever saw the tree.  But I know it's there.  And I know that while I may choose my words differently now... I do still agree with what I wrote.  More even than I did at the time.” 

“I'm sure Andrew appreciates that,” Monica encouraged.

“I hope so... and I don't.  Because... Nadia doesn't feel that any more.  And I don't mean I begrudge her love for Danny.  I don't.  God knows Andrew never wanted anyone to fall in love with him and so he's perfectly content when they fall out of love and move on.  He's still there, friends forever.  Until the other person breaks that bond, as Nadia has done.  When things get rocky, like they are now, I want to promise him that I will listen forever and that I will love him forever, no matter what.”  JenniAnn looked distant for a moment, traveling back to that terrible phone conversation two nights before.  “But I'm human.  My family and most of my friends are.  And I can't guarantee that in grief and panic and with a broken heart I might not say things... terrible things to Andrew.  Like Nadia who once loved him as I do.  But you... you're different, Monica.  And I just... I need to know you'll be there when we can't be.  And even when we can be there... one friend is not interchangeable for another with Andrew.  He misses you.  And even though I know we don't get along so well... I can see a lot of why he does care about you so much.”  She gave Monica a melancholy smile and then stood up.

“You've given me a lot to think about,” Monica murmured.

JenniAnn nodded.  “And I'm sorry if any of it came out more angrily than it should have.  But I am tired.  And I am worried.  And there is much I don't understand.  Maybe we can talk again, more calmly, in the morning?”

Monica forced a smile.  “I would like that.”

“Great.  Good night, Monica.”

“Good night, JenniAnn.”

Monica watched her leave the room.  She stood up and pulled something from her pocket: the watch Andrew had given her.  She sat it on the table and stared at it as the conversation whirled through her mind.


Wednesday, January 21st

“It's been nearly a week since the body of Dawn Seywell was found and the police still have no leads.  Ms. Seywell was last seen when she left her workplace, St. Peregrine's Hospice, on Friday at 5:00 P.M.  Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff's office,” the newscaster finished.

Adam clicked off the TV after the segment ended.  “Why are you watching this, buddy?”

Andrew shrugged.  “I'm going to think about it either way and I guess I hoped maybe something would have been found over night.  I don't know what I thought it would be.  Alex was meticulous and...”

The TV flicked back on.  The two angels of death looked at it curiously. 

“We're going back to Randall now who is stationed outside the home of murder victim Dawn Seywell's mother.  We've learned that the sheriff has just arrived at the home.  Randall, tell us what's going on?”

Andrew and Adam watched as footage of a sheriff approaching the house rolled.  They looked on angrily as Dawn's mother appeared and the porch was swarmed by reporters while she tried to let the sheriff in.

“Back off, get out of here!” the officer shouted.

“Do you have any new leads?” a reporter called.

“Mrs. Seywell, do you have anything you would say to your daughter's murderer?”

“Is it true that Dawn was having an affair with a married man?”

The camera caught an image of Dawn's mother looking stricken just before the sheriff pulled the door closed.  Randall said something inane and then the newscast moved onto a story about a product recall.  Adam again turned the TV off.

Yva had walked in just as the questioning had begun.  “Disgusting,” she hissed.  “That poor woman doesn't need the press bullying her.  But... how would they know about the affair?”

Andrew drew in a deep breath, trying to quell the indignation he felt.  “It was a rumor around the hospice.  Because Dawn was so secretive, some of the more gossip-inclined people had their theories.  I imagine they told their friends and from there...  Unfortunately, none of them were developed enough to help the police... just add fuel to the fire for the media.” 

Adam shook his head.  “Do you think it will bother Alex now that the theory's public?”

Andrew sighed.  “No.  Alex knows there's not a shred of traceable physical evidence connecting him to Dawn.  Any gifts he gave her, he paid for with cash.  And even if they could find some DNA or prints at her place, he's not in the system.  And now... he's had one night to begin his terrible game again.  Lives are destroyed and he's out there worry-free and confident.” 

Yva and Adam watched with concern as Andrew buried his face in his hands. 

“Tess sent me to tell you two breakfast is ready.  Andrew, please come.  You need to keep your strength up.”  The woman smiled encouragingly at the angel and patted his shoulder.  “It's French toast,” she bribed.

Andrew nodded and then met Yva's gaze and smiled.  “You all take such good care of me.”

“Of course.  I wouldn't want to get scolded by Tess for taking bad care of you.  So I think I'll stick with this.  I'm sure the others will, too.”

Adam chuckled at Yva's response.  He felt some relief as Andrew began to laugh, too.

“Okay, let's go before we get scolded for being late.”  Andrew stood up and followed Adam and Yva into the kitchen.

“There you are, Angel Boys.  I haven't seen you all morning.  Is everything okay?”  Tess set down the pan she was holding and looked at them, searching their faces.

Adam frowned.  “Andrew was watching the news.  I tried to turn it off because I didn't think it could do any good but the Father must have thought otherwise because it came back.”

“Oh?”  Tess looked expectantly at Andrew.

Shoulders slumped, Andrew sunk into a chair.  “The media is hounding Dawn's mother.  Don't they think she has enough to deal with?”

“I can tell you the Father most assuredly knows that woman is carrying a lot of grief right now.”  Tess patted Andrew's shoulder as she sat a stack of French toast in front of him.

“Thanks, Tess.  So did the Father tell you what we could do for her?  I know I'm supposed to meet with her but I haven't been told when.”  Andrew looked hopefully at his former supervisor.

“Before you came we were just talking about that.  As you know, Adam and I are meeting with Robbie and Lynn Brewer,” Tess began.

“Terrence, too,” Adam piped up.

Tess rolled her eyes but nodded.  “While we're doing that, you, Beth, C.J., Yva, and Rose will pay Raquel, Dawn's mother, a visit.”

“Okay...”  Andrew noticed then that JenniAnn and Monica were both intently stirring their cups of coffee.  “And JenniAnn and Monica?”

“JenniAnn and Monica have... volunteered,” Tess beamed at them, “to go shopping for décor for the new bedroom.”

Rose's stifled giggle made Andrew and Adam guess that “volunteered” was Tess-speake for “strongly urged to on pain of Tess-dispensed discipline.” 

Andrew knew better than to comment.  “New bedroom?  Is someone else coming?”  He sipped his orange juice and surveyed the table.  Everyone but Tess shrugged.

“Yes, baby.  Dawn told her mother about you.  Raquel trusts you.  That's why she's going to agree when you and the other babies offer to let her stay here to escape the media,” Tess explained, finally sitting down.  "That woman should not be alone right now and we're going to see to it that she's not."

“Tess, isn't that going to make it a little difficult to trail Alex?  Are we still doing that?  This is great, by the way.”  Adam gave Tess his best appreciative smile before taking another bite of French toast.

“Well, thank you.  Beth and Rose helped so I can't take all the credit.  And, yes, you will go out tonight to try and deter Alex.  I'll stay with Raquel.  She won't think anything strange about some young people going out for a night on the town.”

“Young being extremely relative?” Adam questioned with a wink. 

Tess laughed.  “You're only as old as you feel, baby.  You know that.  And knowing you as I do I'm going to guess that's fourteen years old for you.”

Beth laughed.  “You know him well.”

“No fair gaining up on me,” Adam protested with a grin.

The banter put Andrew at ease and soon everyone was excitedly plotting out their day.


The group dispersed shortly after breakfast.  Monica dropped Adam and Tess off at the Brewer residence and then headed to the mall with JenniAnn.  As directed, Andrew, C.J., Beth, Yva, and Rose drove off in the mini-van and headed to Raquel Seywell's home.

As they began the near hour-long ride, Yva reported on a recent phone conversation she'd had with Willy.  Rose relayed some well-wishes and advice from Mick.  They all laughed as they imagined Tess looking on nervously as Adam showed off Terrence, all too aware of the ever-present threat of the mischievous angel plopping the rat down onto her lap.  When the conversation finally hit a lull, Rose asked the question that was one everyone's mind.

“Andrew, how are you doing with what happened last night?”

Andrew glanced quickly at his passengers as he stopped at a red light.  “I guess I'm not sure.  I haven't thought much about it, I mean.  I really was tired last night.  It happens sometimes.”  He smiled sheepishly and started driving again.

“That's okay.  We're just glad you did sleep since you needed to.  We want you to talk to us when you need to but we don't want you to push yourself to do it,” Yva stressed.

“I know.  And I did plan on talking to everyone before breakfast but then I turned on the news and that... that was just a whole new concern.  But I have been thinking about Nadia.  More than anything I feel like I failed with her.”

“Andrew, you can't break the rules and save people like some sort of crime-fighting superhero.  That's not a failure, it's just a fact.  We know that and, deep down, so does Nadia.” 

“Thanks, Beth.  You think so?”

“I do,” she assured.

“And maybe one day she'll know that you came back here because you wanted to do everything you could to save others from Dawn's fate, in honor of her,” C.J. added. 

Andrew nodded but then frowned.  It was obvious there was still something he would not or could not say.

“Andrew, what is it?  Can you tell us?  You can pull over if you need to,” Rose suggested.

Andrew turned into an empty lot.  “It's not that I don't want to tell you or can't.  It's just... there's a question I get asked pretty often by the assignments that learn who I am.  And lately I've found myself asking it.  And it's not an easy question.  And I don't know the answer.”

“Then I'm sure we don't but sometimes confusion can be a really strong bond.”

“Beth's right.  Whatever it is, if you think it will make it easier for you if you voice it, I hope you will, Andrewkins.”

Yva's pet name wore at the last of the angel's reserve.  “Why are some people spared and others aren't?  Why was I sent to take Dawn Home and to try to save the next person?  Why couldn't I be sent to save Dawn?”  Andrew's voice cracked.  “Even if Nadia does find out that I... we came back to get justice for Dawn, to bring some peace to her mother, and to protect someone else... how can I answer her if she asks why Dawn didn't get that protection?”

It was a question that had daunted humans for all time and in that moment found voice in one of their protectors.

Beth had been right.  There was only confusion.  No one could answer Andrew except for the Father and the answer was not forthcoming.

“I'll admit I had the same thought,” Rose admitted first.

“Me too,” C.J. added.  “I think we all did.  But I think we often do and it's the sort of question that has no real answer.  At least not in this world.”

“I guess I thought maybe you, Adam, Tess, etc. knew the reasoning.  But I guess you don't so now you just have to do what we do.”

“What's that, Yva?”  Andrew blinked back tears.

“Be glad and grateful for the time the help does come and pray for peace and understanding when it doesn't,” she answered.  "And remember that God loves you, no matter what."

Andrew nodded and then glanced upward and did exactly that.  His answer came not in words but in the memory of Raquel's tormented face splashed across the TV screen.  This was a time when help could come for her and Andrew was determined to bring it as he glided back onto the road.


Tess looked on with pride as Adam patiently answered yet more questions from Robbie about Terrence who was currently snuggled into the boy's shirt pocket.  The angel and the boy were putting together a puzzle and Robbie was clearly enjoying himself.  Tess looked across the coffee table to Lynn who watched them, her eyes misty.

“Are you okay, baby?” Tess checked, producing a handkerchief from her purse.

Lynn forced a smile.  “Oh, yes.  It's just so good to see Robbie so happy.  My husband... he's not very good about spending time with him, I'm afraid.  He spends so much time focused on work and...  I'm sorry to be going on like this when we've only just met.”

“Don't you worry a bit about that.  Ol' Tess is a good listener and happy to be so.”  She patted Lynn's arm in a motherly way.

Lynn drew in a deep breath.  “It's not just that he doesn't have much time for us.  Alex... sometimes he...  I mean he doesn't hit Robbie.  Or me.  Please don't think that.  But he can get so angry and scream so at Robbie...”

“Lynn, abuse comes in many forms.  It's not just physical.”

“I... I have thought about divorce but my own parents split when I was five and I can remember crying myself to sleep and feeling... lost.  I don't want to do that to my little boy.”  Lynn began to cry full force and left the room for fear of alarming Robbie.  Tess followed.

“Tell me this, Lynn.  Does Robbie seem happier when his father is in town or out of town?”

Lynn peeked around the corner and looked at Adam and Robbie.  Robbie was giggling as Terrence's whiskers tickled his chin.  His mother smiled through her tears.  “I think it's obvious.  Even yesterday he smiled so much more than when his dad's around.”

“Then I think it's obvious what you need to do, baby.  God loves you and that little boy so much!  He doesn't want you to live your lives in fear.”

Lynn nodded.  “My brother already said we could stay with him in Kansas until I got my own place.  I have saved up a little money.”

“Is there anything we can do to help?”

“I'm not sure what I need right now,” Lynn admitted.

Tess drew a piece of paper out of her purse.  “This is where we are and this is our number.  You call there or stop by when you need to, okay?”

Lynn accepted the paper and fell into Tess' waiting hug.


Andrew knocked lightly on the now-familiar door to Raquel Seywell's home.  At least now there were no reporters around.  He'd had some concern about video of himself and the ladies making it onto the news for everyone, Alex included, to see.  He thanked God that it wouldn't be a problem. 

After a moment the door opened a crack, the chain still locked.  Raquel peered out and stared at Andrew, a flash of recognition in her eyes. 

“Andrew?” she asked in a raspy voice.

“Uh, yes,” Andrew responded.  He was surprised to be recognized.  “And some of my friends.  I worked with Dawn and I just wanted to come see how you were.”

Raquel unlocked the chain and ushered them in.  No sooner was everyone inside than she had Andrew in a bear hug.  The angel remained surprised by the outburst of affection but embraced the woman. 

The Dyelanders looked on curiously.  C.J. noticed the photo first.  On a desk covered with floral arrangements and candles, there was the framed photo of Dawn and Andrew in their wretched bowling shirts.

“I'm sorry.  I've startled you, young man.  And your friends,” Raquel smiled through her tears at each of her guests. 

“No, no a hug's always nice, Mrs. Seywell,” Andrew smiled.  “But I just don't know how you recognized me.  We never had the pleasure of meeting.”

“Raquel, please.  I know we never met but I feel like I know you.  Here.  Dawn gave me this the last... the last time I saw her.”  Raquel picked up the photograph and handed it to the angel. 

Andrew smiled sadly at the familiar snapshot.  “We had a lot of fun that day.”

“I know.  Dawn told me.  But, please, introduce me to your friends and have a seat.”

Andrew did as asked and took a seat on the couch beside Raquel once his friends were comfortable.

“I wanted to come because I was Dawn's counselor at the hospice.  My friends came because... because they're great friends and knew I could use the support.”  Andrew smiled at his friends. 

Raquel smiled kindly at the four women and then looked back to Andrew.  “Dawn's supervisor told me you took what happened quite hard.  I'd been hoping you would pay me a visit.  Because, Andrew, I just want you to know...”  She began to tear up.  “I've worried for a long time about Dawn.  She became determined to work with hospice patients ever since my second husband, the man who raised her, died of cancer ten years ago.”

“Andrew told us Dawn was amazing with the patients,” Yva told Raquel.

Raquel nodded, motherly pride writ across his face.  “Oh, she was.  But... I could tell the work was sometimes hard for her.  She didn't talk much about it but... a mother knows things.  But when Andrew came... she talked to you, didn't she?”

Andrew smiled at the memory of their conversations.  Dawn had such passion in her voice as she spoke about her work.  “She did and it was a privilege to spend that time with her.”

“She visited me a few times while you were working there.  She seemed so much lighter and happier... more peaceful than I'd seen her in a very long time.  And I... I can't imagine what my little girl went through in her final moments but I know in my heart that her last days were so much more peaceful than they had been and I have you to thank for that, Andrew.  So I do thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”  Raquel was sobbing then and Andrew readily hugged her as she cried into his shoulder. 

“I'm sorry,” Raquel choked out after a few moments.

Andrew shook his head.  “You have nothing to be sorry about, Raquel.  It's good to cry when you're hurting and you've been through so much.”

Raquel grabbed a tissue and dried her face.  “I wanted to meet you so much because I felt like, if I could, then maybe I'd feel some of that peace Dawn did in knowing you.  And... I do.”

Tears flooded Andrew's eyes then.  That single declaration made every hardship since he'd returned to Missouri worthwhile.  “Thank you,” he murmured.

“No, thank you, Andrew.  Because I'll take every little bit of peace I can get.  Lately it's not been easy.”  Raquel's eyes hardened as she looked out the window to where the reporters had ambushed her.

“Andrew and I saw what happened on the news,” Yva began, “we're all very sorry you had to experience that when you're already grieving your daughter.”

“I know that publicity increases the chances of finding Dawn's murderer and, oh, I need that.  I need to know no other mother will be grieving her lost child.  But... the questions and the insinuations...”  Raquel shuddered. 

“I know.  About that...” Andrew clasped one of Raquel's hands in his.  “I know you've only just met us but we, and a few other friends, are staying about an hour from here.  We have an extra room and we thought maybe you might like to stay there.  I know this probably seems odd but...”

Raquel again began to cry. 

Andrew was alarmed and looked pleadingly at his friends but they, too, were at a loss for words.  “I... I'm sorry.  That was probably too abrupt and...”

Raquel shook her head and smiled through her tears.  “No, you don't understand.  I'm not upset with your invitation.  Before you came and while the reporters were still here, I prayed to God.  I don't have any family here.  My friends... they've found it difficult to speak to me.  I'm sure they just don't know what to say.  So I can't ask to stay with them.  But I desperately wanted somewhere to go, to get away.  I couldn't bare the coldness and the impersonal element of a hotel.  And now you come... it's like an answer to that prayer.”  Raquel hugged Andrew once again.  “Yes, I would love to stay with you and your friends.  Thank you so very much.”

“We're so glad, Raquel.”  Beth smiled at her.  “So what needs to be done around here?”

In a few moments the six had dispersed to water plants, help Raquel pack, ask a neighbor to watch the house and collect any mail, and inform the police of Raquel's evacuation.

At seeing Raquel's relieved face, Andrew felt like the first piece of the puzzle that was this assignment had been put in place.


JenniAnn and Monica had easily collected the items Tess had listed for them.  Sheets, pillows, towels, etc.  At 11:00 they made their way to the mall's food court to await either a call from Adam or Tess asking to be picked up or from Andrew or a member of his group directing them on any personal items that might make Raquel feel at home.

Conversation was forced as they sipped at mocha lattes.

“I like these chocolate sprinkle things,” JenniAnn offered.

Monica nodded.  “They're tasty.”

“Good deal on that sheet set.”

“Yes and it's lovely.  I hope Raquel likes the wee floral print.”

“Me too.”

They were both relieved when JenniAnn's cell phone rang.

“Hey Andrew,” JenniAnn answered.  “Oh wonderful!  I'm so glad she's joining us.  I mean I figured she would or why else would the Father have you ask but...  Oh...”  She smiled at Monica.  “She said the invitation was an answer to her prayer.”  She diverted her attention back to the phone.  “So she definitely likes flowers?”  She gave a thumbs up to Monica.  “And cat stuff.  We can get some cat stuff, sure.  Have you gotten a sense for a favorite color?”  She listened.  “Yellow, he said.”

Monica nodded.

“Okay, he's almost got the van packed up.  Is there anything you needed to say or ask?” JenniAnn held the phone out to Monica. 

Monica took it.  “We'll see you soon, Andrew.  This is wonderful news.  Well done, my friend.  Thank you for calling us.  We'll try to have everything set before you get back.  Here's JenniAnn back.”

JenniAnn reclaimed the phone.  “So no problems with the reporters right now?  Great.  Okay, see you soon.  Love you.  Bye.”  She nonchalantly flipped the phone shut and returned it to her purse then smiled at Monica.  “Ready for more shopping?  What?  You look...”

Monica had her head bowed and was stirring the tiny bit of coffee that remained in her cup.  “You ended the conversation with 'Love you.'”

The woman remained confused.  “Yes...  It just seems to make a little more sense than 'Peace out, Blonde Dude'...  More natural, ya know?”

Monica smiled at the goofy closing but sobered quickly.  “Did he... did he say it back?”

“Yes...  I mean I know he meant it differently than I did because last I checked Hell hadn't frozen over and pigs were not flying but...  That's the way phone conversations usually end with us.  I assume the same of the others'.”

Monica nodded.  “That's really wonderful but I suppose it's made me think.  I... I'm not sure I ever said those words to Andrew.  I... I guess I always thought I had time and I do but...  I should have said them.” 

“I suppose that's one way in which it's a blessing to be human.  I've never felt like I had unlimited time to tell him everything.  I believe in Heaven, of course.  But I don't know what it's like.  I don't know what I'll be like in it.  So I tell him everything because I don't know when things will change.  It's like I told you last night... and... and I am sorry for raising my voice but...  After that run-in with Nadia that worry... that possibility that I could fall away...”  JenniAnn noticed then how crowded the food court was becoming as noon drew near. 

Monica noted her hesitancy and walked to a less-crowded mall corridor.  “Go on, JenniAnn, please.”

“We're more changeable than you are.  Sometimes I envy that in you.  But now I'm beginning to see that...” she lowered her voice, “immortality has it's drawbacks and uncertainties, too.  But, Monica, I do know one thing.”

“What is it?” the angel asked, eagerly.

“Right now we both have time to tell him what we need to.  Maybe that's why God brought us all here together.  To learn from each other.”

Monica smiled at JenniAnn.  “The Lord does move in mysterious ways.”

“Don't we all?  He just happens to be consistently good at it.”  JenniAnn grinned and for the first time the two laughed together.


JenniAnn and Monica had just finished making the purchases for Raquel when Adam called to let them know he and Tess were ready to return to the cabin.

“How are Lynn and Robbie, Tess?” Monica asked as soon as her former supervisor was seated in the passenger seat JenniAnn had given up to join Adam and Terrence in the back.

“Lynn has a lot on her mind and in her heart but I think she's decided to leave Alex.”

“Do you think she suspects?”

“No, I don't, Adam.  But I think it's going to be important to Lynn down the road to know that she made this decision, not that it was thrust on her when, hopefully, the truth finds Alex.  How was Robbie?  He seemed happy.” 

Adam chuckled at the remembrance of the little boy's glee.  “He was.  I was thinking when we leave maybe I'd leave Terrence here with Robbie as long as Lynn's okay with it.  That boy could use a friend.”

“I think that's a fine idea, baby, and I'm not just saying that because I may not be that thing's biggest fan.”

“Aww, Adam, I think that's a great idea.  Give him something to cuddle and hold onto when it seems like every thing's changing.”  JenniAnn smiled at the idea of Robbie at last having his most desired wish come true.

“So did you two have fun shopping?”  Adam looked from JenniAnn to Monica. 

JenniAnn was uncertain of how to answer and remained silent.

Monica smiled at Adam via the dashboard mirror.  “I would say that our shopping trip was definitely worthwhile.”

“Exactly,” JenniAnn agreed.

Tess looked out the window and smiled to herself.


By the time Andrew and the others arrived with Raquel, her room was ready and a late lunch was on the table.  The newcomer was impressed and touched by the outpouring of goodwill and soon felt comfortable in the cabin.

By 7 that evening, Raquel and Tess had become fast friends and so it was easy enough for Andrew to leave Raquel and go with the others to a bookstore/café near Dawn's apartment.  With only eight people, they all rode together in Andrew's van.

“So how did you decide on a bookstore, Andrew?” Monica asked from the back row of the van.

Andrew blushed.  “I, uh, Googled 'best places to meet women' and bookstore was on the list.”

The elder angel of death laughed.  “I don't think I want to know about some of the hits you probably got with that.”

“You do not,” Andrew agreed, still slightly red.

“This is awesome.  Andrew's blushing and we didn't even have to say anything,” Rose joked.

“Ah, so is that a game all of you play?” Monica asked.

Five faces looked back and nodded eagerly at her.

“They're very good at it,” Andrew admitted.  “But I can be pretty good at it, too.”

Before anyone could prove their abilities, Andrew had parked and everyone cleared out of the van and ran into the store to escape the chill.  The moment they stepped inside they knew that the result of Andrew's Google search had hardly been dumb luck.  At the café on the right side, Alex sat sipping coffee and surveying the customers.  Andrew inhaled deeply and pulled his gaze away from the man.  He walked towards a section of the store filled with journals and stationery.  It was the least populated area and the others followed.

“So what are we doing?  Are we just foiling his efforts like on Monday or are we actually going to try to get to the guy?” Rose asked.

Andrew shook his head.  “I know that might be more effective but... is it worth the risk?” 

“I was there at Raquel's house, remember.  I saw how much the idea of him still being out there devastated her.  I think it is worth this very small risk,” Beth insisted.

“We're in a public place, Andrew,” Yva pointed out.  “If he freaks out he's going to leave, not try anything here.  The last thing he wants is attention.”

“Buddy, she has a point.”  Adam tilted his head towards Yva.

“What if he recognizes us and tries to follow us?” Andrew protested.  “I know he saw me at the club and he couldn't have helped noticing Adam leading those two ladies away from him.  Just... let me think about this for a moment, okay?”

Everyone agreed and began to peruse the merchandise. 

“Well, this certainly got put out of place.  What's a great book like this doing here in a pile of goofy bookmarks?”  JenniAnn held up a volume of Christina Rossetti poems.

Andrew stared at the book.  “Dawn carried an edition of that everywhere with her.  They... they found it near her body.  It had fallen out of her purse.”

“So Alex would know this book, Andrew?”  Monica took it from JenniAnn.

Andrew nodded.  “Dawn read me some poems from it.  I wouldn't be surprised if she had read some to Alex.”

“It can't be coincidence that this book was just lying there,” Rose pointed out.

“And that JenniAnn found it right before that happened.”  C.J. tilted her head to the café where Alex was standing and greeting a woman. 

“He must have met her last night.  When we were at the pub,” JenniAnn hypothesized.

“Or maybe he's been stringing her along, too.  Regardless, we need to do something and Rose is right, Andrew.”  Adam put a hand on his friend's shoulder.  “You know Who put that book there.”

Andrew nodded.  “Let's go.  Bring the book.”

They followed him to the café.  Andrew and Adam pulled together two tables while Monica and C.J. placed their orders at the counter.  They ignored the piercing gaze from Alex as he briefly looked away from his date.  As nonchalantly as possible, the group sat down and proceeded to idly discuss recent publications.  When they had their drinks and were reasonably sure Alex's initial paranoia had been quelled, Monica set the book of poems on the table.

In her lilting voice, Monica began to read.  “'Remember me when I am gone away, gone far away into the silent land; when you can no more hold me by the hand.'”

As Monica continued to read, the color drained from Alex's face.  He glared over at their table but they paid him no notice. 

“Ah, and this one's lovely, too,” Monica smiled and continued.  “'Come to me in the silence of the night; come in the speaking silence of a dream.'”

Alex was staring at a fixed point beyond the head of the woman across from him.  He nervously tapped his foot on the floor.  Eventually she seemed to pick up on her date's disinterest and called him on it.

Monica read on to keep up appearances but the group strained to hear the conversation at the other table. 

“What?  No, I was listening.  Sorry.  I just got, uh, sidetracked by something I forgot to do at work.”  Alex flashed his most charming smile then.  “Please go on, Dawn.”

Monica kept reading but skipped a beat upon hearing the slip.  Andrew bowed his head, praying. 

“It's Rebecca and you, obviously, are a mistake,” the woman snapped, grabbed her purse and coat, and left the table. 

Alex glared at Monica but she continued on.

“'Yet come to me in my dreams, that I may live my very life again tho' cold in death.'”

The murderer took a step towards them then thought better of it and fled the café and the store entirely. 

Andrew bolted up.  “Stay here.  I'm going to make sure he's not going after Rebecca.”  The angel of death ran through the store, customers and staff looking curiously after him.  When the security alarm failed to beep, they shrugged and went back to their business.

Once outside, Andrew watched anxiously as Rebecca hopped into her car and drove off into the east.  Alex's car rounded the corner coming from another section of the lot.  The angel held his breath.  He let it out slowly as Alex pulled onto the street and headed west.  Rebecca was safe.  But Andrew felt the need to follow Alex.  He returned to the café where his friends waited anxiously. 

“What happened?” C.J. asked. 

“He didn't follow her but... but I think I need to follow him.  Alone.”  Andrew took the van keys from his pocket and dropped them on the table.  “When you're done here please go back to the cabin.  I'll be back later.”

“Andrew, are you sure?  I could go with you,” Adam offered.

Andrew shook his head and forced a smile.  “No.  I'd really rather you all stay together.  Please.”

The group nodded gravely, in unison, and watched Andrew walk back outside. 

Silently, the remaining seven gathered their things.  Worried for their friend, they wanted more solitude than the café and store could give.

Adam pulled the van to the front of the store and the women hopped in.

“Do you know where he went?” Yva asked as Adam pulled out of the lot.

The angel of death shook his head.  “I'm afraid not.”

“Where was Dawn killed?” Monica asked, looking out into the pitch black night.

“Last night before I went to bed I looked up the local paper online.  Mick had said that sometimes murderers return to the scene of the crime so I thought... well, it was an idea.”  Rose shrugged and continued.  “The article said it was just outside a golf course that was closed for the season.”

“Andrew's there,” Monica told them.

“How do you know?” Beth asked.

Monica frowned.  “I don't know but I have a very strong feeling that he is.  When we used to work together and he would get upset about an assignment... often he'd go back to the site where they had died.”

“Adam, do you have any idea where the golf course is?” JenniAnn asked.

“Andrew said he wanted us to go back to the cabin,” the angel averted the question.

“I know but...” the woman began to press.

Adam shook his head.  “It's like Rose said: sometimes murderers go back to the scene.  Andrew said he needed to follow Alex.  Monica said Andrew's at the golf course.  That means Alex is there.  So I'm not...”  Adam's voice trailed off.  He stalled the car and looked straight ahead, surprised.  “How did...”

“Happy Harbor Golf Course.  Closed for the season.  Come see us March 2009,” C.J. read. 

“It looks like the decision's been made, Adam,” Monica told him, her voice soft.

Adam nodded and headed down a dirt road that bordered the golf course.


Two figures stood near a creek though most anyone walking by would have seen only one man.  For both the events of a similar night nearly a week ago replayed.

“Alex, it's cold.  I don't want to go for a walk.  Besides, the course is closed.  Alex, I only came so I could give you a fair chance to give me your side before I call your wife,” Dawn reminded in an exasperated tone.

Alex wiped at a phony tear.  “I just needed some fresh air.  We'll go to the restaurant in just a little bit.”

“Fine.  I'm going back to the car.” 

Alex watched Dawn walk away.  He let her gain a few paces and then lunged at her.

“Let go of me!  Help!” the woman screamed.  “Hel...”  She went silent as a wave of pain washed over her. 

Alex pulled the knife from her side.

Andrew materialized from amid a grove of trees.

Dawn managed to break free of Alex's grasp but her lung had been punctured and she'd only moved a few yards when she fell to the ground.  It was then she saw Andrew.

“Andrew!  Help!” she rasped.

Alex looked around, nervous but laughed coldly when he saw no one.  He hovered over Dawn.  With one final push of energy, her hand reached up and she clawed his neck.

“Andrew!” she screamed.
Alex flinched but his deadly stare remained fixed on the woman.  With one more movement, his task was accomplished.

Andrew fell to his knees beside Dawn as she gasped for breath.  He caressed her face and  pulled her to him. 

“A..a...andrew,” Dawn gasped.  She tried to reach for his hand but her own fell limply to the ground.

Alex watched as the dying woman seemed to speak to thin air but with little more than passing confusion, he turned away.

Andrew took her hand in his own.  “Dawn, I'm an angel sent by God to bring you Home.  He is so, so sorry for what you have suffered and He wants you to know that where you're going there is no pain, no dishonesty, no cruelty... just love.  Only love.  And... and... the Father is so proud of what you have done.  You have helped those coming Home to Him to face their journeys bravely and with dignity.  You encouraged their faith and now He wants you to see the reality behind that faith.  You've reminded so many people that God loves them and now it's time for you to experience how much He loves you. 
Let's go Home, Dawn.

Andrew led her.  He saw her joyfully greet the father she had lost and countless of her patients.  Best of all, he saw her indescribable elation as she at last saw the One who had created her.  But then it was back to Earth, back to the dark, cold patch where Dawn had died.

Alex had pushed the body to a creek that bordered the golf course, hoping the frigid water would erase what little evidence there was.  Then he threw the knife in one bag, his boots in another, and threw them in his car.  These he would ditch in a dumpster and a landfill near his home, an hour from the center of the investigation.  Andrew watched this dispassionate proceeding with tears streaming down his face.

Tears again welled up in Andrew's eyes as he stood where Dawn had died.  Alex continued to coldly replay the crime, trying to imagine ways anyone would have discovered his involvement.  He remembered Dawn calling out a name.  Andrew.  But he knew no one had been there.  He'd looked. 

Andrew prayed.  Maybe the police would come.  Maybe they would bank on the murderer returning to the scene.  Maybe they'd find Alex and Dawn would have justice and Raquel peace and Lynn and Robbie freedom.  Maybe Nadia would forgive him.  All these hopes were dashed as Alex began to walk back to where he'd parked his car.  Andrew began to shake as the cold night air nipped at him and frustration began to build again.  But then he heard it.  A car approaching.  Alex quickened his pace.  Andrew followed suit, hoping to see a patrol car.  It was too dark to make out anything besides headlights.  Andrew kept running after Alex who stuck close to the creek, hoping to go undetected.  Andrew kept closer to the road, knowing he wouldn't be spotted. 

Except he was.

“Adam, unroll the windows!  Andrew must have them locked and they're frosted and we can't see anything!” JenniAnn called.

Adam hit the button and the windows slid open.  “Where is he?”

“He's running after Alex.  I think Alex must have heard or seen us.  Oh... maybe this was a bad idea,” Rose fretted.

“Can he see Andrew?” Yva asked.

“I don't know,” Monica answered. 

“Breathing in all that cold air can't be...  Oh no!”  Beth pointed out the window. 

“He's on the ground!” C.J. cried, horrified.

“Andrew!” Rose screamed. 

Adam stopped the car and the group poured out and ran to Andrew's side.

The group was so focused on reaching him they didn't notice Alex stop, spooked by the ghostly echo of Dawn screaming for the mysterious Andrew.  Panicked, he turned away from the sound and dashed into the golf course.  He ran, blindly, until he collided with the course's grounds keeper who eyed him suspiciously.


Monica hurried back from the gas station to the van.  “Here, drink this.”  She handed Andrew a cup of hot chocolate. 

The angel accepted it gratefully and let the warm liquid sooth his aching chest.  He sunk back against the seat and closed his eyes.

“Did anyone see where Alex went?” Andrew asked, his voice hoarse.

“No, buddy.  We were too focused on you.  What happened?” Adam asked, peering back at Andrew.

Andrew shrugged.  “I think I tripped on a rock.”

“We thought maybe you'd passed out.  You were running awfully fast.”  Yva looked at him with concern.

Andrew shook his head.  “No, just clumsy.  I'm glad you found me even if I did ask you to go back to the cabin...  I was hoping the police might find Alex there but they didn't so... I'm glad you're here.”

No one missed the disappointment on Andrew's face. 

“We'll keep praying and hoping, Andrew,” Rose promised. 

Andrew nodded appreciatively and indicated to Adam that it was okay to begin the trip back to the cabin.


Andrew had fully recovered from his fall and the cold when they arrived back at the cabin.  Nonetheless, his friends still rallied around him and got him situated in front of the fireplace in the larger parlor.  Tess and Raquel fussed over him, too, the latter told only that he had slipped while they were out. 

Tess and Monica were handing out mugs of cider and hot chocolate when the doorbell rang. 

Adam glanced at his pocket watch.  “That's strange.  It's nearly eleven.  I'll go see who it is.”

The group carried on, chatting amongst themselves.  A hush fell over the room when Adam returned with the sheriff in tow.

“Raquel, Sheriff Trent needs to speak to you.”

Raquel nodded, growing nervous.  The room began to clear but the woman clasped Andrew's hand as he began to stand.  “Please stay with me.”

Andrew smiled gently at her and sat beside her on the couch.  The sheriff took a seat across from them.

“Raquel, we believe we've captured Dawn's murderer.  He's not given us a full confession but he was caught near the crime scene and he said some incriminating things,” he began,

Raquel began to weep, clasping Andrew's hand more tightly.  The angel bowed his head, hoping and praying.

“You remember we told you that we thought Dawn had tried to fight her attacker?”


“The suspect has three scratches, they look to be a few days old, at his neck.  If his DNA matches... we won't even need to rely on a confession.”

“Do you... can you tell us his name?” Andrew asked, bracing himself.  He prayed again to the Father that it had been Alex they'd found and not someone else who would prove to be a red herring.

The sheriff hesitated.  “Since we're not sure yet I'm not sure if...”  He sighed then.  “I've been at this job a long time and I've learned to listen to my gut feelings and my gut tells me this is our man.  So keep this to yourselves but his name is Alex Brewer and he lives about an hour from here.  Does that name mean anything to you?”

Raquel shook her head.  Andrew remained frozen but quietly let out a sigh of relief and sent up a prayer of gratitude. 

“It's late and I don't want to take up more of your time but I thought you'd want to know immediately.  I didn't want the media beating me to this,” Sheriff Trent explained with barely masked contempt.  He squeezed Raquel's hand then.  “I'll let you know as soon as we know more but I truly think this is it, ma'am.”

“Thank you.  Thank you, Sheriff.”  Raquel stood to hug the man and then turned into Andrew's embrace as he walked away.  “Wait,” she called.  “Can you tell me what incriminating things he said?”

The sheriff frowned.  “It wasn't so much what he said but his agitated nature.  He kept saying that 'Andrew saw.  Andrew isn't going to let me get away with it.'  No idea who this Andrew character is.  Sometimes these guys externalize their consciences.  I wouldn't be surprised if this is a case of that.  Please try to get some sleep.”

Raquel watched the man walk away.  Once he was gone she pulled away from Andrew and looked searchingly at his face.

Tears stung Andrew's eyes and he turned away. 

“Y-you were there when Dawn died?” Raquel questioned.

Andrew nodded.  “I was.  But you don't understand.  I...”

“Wait.  Just let me say something,” Raquel interrupted.  “When Hank, that was my husband, was dying I kept catching him talking and laughing with someone when he was alone.  Finally, I asked him about this.  He told me there was an angel who visited with him.  Andrew.  I... I thought it was the morphine but he insisted.”

Andrew smiled through his tears.  “We were swapping fishing stories a lot of those times.”

Raquel smiled.  “That sounds like Hank.”  She grew serious again.  “So you're... you're the angel of death?”

Andrew nodded.  “One of them, yes.”

“And you were there when this Alex killed my daughter?”

Again Andrew nodded. 

“Was she in very much pain?”  Raquel sat back down on the couch.

Andrew knelt in front of her.  “There was some pain, yes, but it all happened very quickly.”

Raquel began to sob and covered her face.

“I'm sorry, Raquel.  I wish I could have stopped him.  I... I wanted so badly to stop Alex.  I cared about Dawn and...  I'll leave now.  You can stay here.  Tess will see to anything you need.  I'll leave.  I'm so sorry,” Andrew repeated.  He got up hurriedly and walked quickly to the door to spare Raquel further sight of him.

“Wait!” the woman called.  “Why are you leaving?”

“I...I couldn't stop Alex.  I didn't save Dawn,” Andrew cried.  “And I don't blame you if you're angry with me because of that so I'll leave and...”

“Angry?  Oh, sweet boy, no...”  Raquel went to Andrew and turned him away from the door.  “The truth is I never believed in angels.  But then that happened with Hank.  And when Dawn got her job she told me so many, many stories about people claiming to be visited by angels who told them they'd be there to lead them to Heaven.  Or who simply stood by, offering peace and love.  So I started to believe.  And when Dawn... when the police came and told me... the only way I could keep breathing was to think about an angel being with her... leading her to God and to her daddy.  And now... now I learn that not only did she have an angel with her but a friend, too.  Oh, Andrew, how could you think I'd be mad at you?”  Raquel pulled Andrew into a hug that reminded him very much of Tess'.  She let him cry and then they sat together and remembered Dawn.


“Do you think every thing's okay in there?” Rose asked, seated with the others in the second parlor.

Tess smiled.  “I think things are better than okay, baby.  I think two people that desperately need some peace are finally finding it.” 

“The police have Alex, right?  I mean that's why the sheriff came?” C.J. checked.

The supervisor nodded.  “They do and he will go to court and he will pay for what he's done.”

“And so will Robbie and Lynn.”  Adam frowned. 

“They'll have friends to help them.  We aren't quite done here yet, babies,” Tess advised.  “So right now we all need to get some rest.  I know I could use some.”  She led the way in rising from her chair and heading to her bedroom.  The others followed her example without argument.  It had truly been an exhausting evening.


Thursday, January 22nd

Sheriff Trent called the following morning to warn Raquel that Alex's arrest had made the news.  Everyone was relieved that when the reporters arrived to hound her they would find an empty house while Raquel was safely ensconced amongst her new friends.

Breakfast was the cheeriest and least reserved yet of their meals.  Since Raquel had learned who and what Andrew was, it became easier for everyone to speak around her without fear of revealing too much.  In her desire to know more about the angel who had meant so much to her husband and daughter, Raquel asked many questions.  Andrew's friends were eager to speak of him and continued to do so after their blushing friend excused himself and Adam to go shovel some freshly fallen snow.

“He's a sweet boy.”  Raquel smiled after Andrew.  “How old is he, anyway?”

Rose laughed.  “It's a game of Andrew's and mine that I constantly try to guess his age and he always refuses to help me.  And so does Tess.”  She cast the angel a mock accusatory glare.

Tess laughed and rolled her eyes.  “I can tell you're just so upset by it, too, baby.” 

“So if only Monica, Andrew, Adam and Tess are angels...” Raquel drifted off, not wanting to be nosy or rude to her hosts.

“Why are we here?” JenniAnn suggested.

“Well, yes.”

“Moral support, just like Andrew told you,” Yva answered.  “He... well... as it turns out... someone we know...”  The woman stopped and looked at Tess for approval before continuing.  The angel nodded and Yva continued.  “Your first husband went onto marry again and had children, right?”

Raquel nodded.  “Three.  A son and two girls: Nicholas, Naomi, and Nadia.  I haven't really kept in touch but Dawn did.  Tomorrow will be the first time I've seen any of them in a very long time.”

“Well, Nadia was our friend.  I mean she still is but she moved away so we hadn't heard from her in... how long was it?” Yva looked to JenniAnn.

“It's been nearly two years.”

“Right.  But after she learned about Dawn, Nadia called Andrew.  She wanted him to console her and he would have.  Adam, too.  But...” Yva drifted off.

Rose, having never met the woman, knew it would be easiest for her to speak of that night so continued in Yva's stead.  “When Nadia found out that Andrew had been with Dawn and hadn't stopped the murder, she became very angry.  And Andrew... he just took it.  He wouldn't let any of us hang up and he wouldn't leave.  He just listened to her.  We all know she was in pain but the things she said to him...”

Raquel shook her head.  “Grief is no excuse for cruelty.  No wonder poor Andrew thought I was angry with him last night.  I know he was also hurt, very much, by what happened to my daughter.”

“Excuse me,” Monica murmured and got up to leave.

Tess looked curiously at her but let her go.

“We're just all so grateful that you feel that way, Raquel.  Since Andrew spoke to you... he's a whole lot more like the Andrew we know and love.”  Beth smiled at Raquel.

“I just know how much Andrew's compassion and friendship meant to my daughter and now... now that she's beyond my help,” Raquel sighed.  “I just feel better knowing I could help him.”

Tess hugged Raquel then, touched by the woman's empathy for her Angel Boy.  The angel realized then that Adam and Andrew had been outside for some time.  “We should get some hot drinks ready for those boys and tell them to come on in.  There wasn't that much snow.”

“I can go start some hot cocoa,” Yva offered.

“And I'll do coffee.  Anything else?” Rose checked.  The other ladies were content with those two options and continued to address Raquel's queries once Yva and Rose had left.

As the two women neared the kitchen they looked at each other, curious, when they heard the noise of someone sniffling.  They continued on.

Monica was seated at the table, looking out at Adam and Andrew who were in the distance, lobbing snowballs at each other.  The angel occasionally laughed but her tear stained cheeks were immediately obvious to Rose and Yva.

“Monica, are you alright?”

Startled, Monica wiped at her tears and nodded in response to Yva.  “Oh, yes.  Just... thinking,” she finished lamely.

“Do you... do you want to talk about anything?” Rose offered, somewhat hesitant.

“It's only...”  Monica bit her lip.  “Have you ever desperately wanted to change but when it came to actually changing you just... you're not sure you can?  And the truth is... maybe deep down... you don't really want to?”

“I think everyone struggles with things about themselves, Monica.  Humans and angels, apparently,” Yva answered.

“What... or who... is this about?” Rose questioned.

Monica looked back to the window.  “I... I want to be there for him, I truly do.  But this assignment...  It's made me realize... I can't.”

“It's been a hard time for everyone.  I really don't think right now is a good time to be making any judgments about our abilities.  Monica, you really should just come visit one of those times Andrew asks,” Yva encouraged.  “He was really upset for most of this week but he's really very optimistic and it would do you good to see...”

“I know.  I will try to make those but...”

“No buts, Monica,” Rose protested.  “If you can then you need to.  Andrew... he does a good job of keeping his emotions to himself when he wants to but we've all noticed his disappointment when you stopped coming to those get-togethers he was arranging.” 

Monica hung her head for a moment before again looking at the two women.  “And I am sorry for that but when I came...  It wasn't like the old days.  It wasn't Tess watching over each of us and Andrew being that calm, steady presence most of the time.  We had fun but we talked, too, about difficulties with our assignments and I started to realize that Andrew has the same questions, the same... the same concerns that I do and I saw how deeply he felt them and how hurt he could be and I wanted... to see him as I did for those 8 years and not...”

“Not as he really is?” Rose asked, her bitterness unchecked.

Monica looked away once again.  “I'm sorry,” she muttered.

Yva shook her head.  “We're sorry... for you.  It can be hard to see someone in a different light.  But if we truly care we will.  Andrew's worth fighting whatever is keeping you from doing that.”

Monica jolted at the way Yva's words so eerily paralleled JenniAnn's of the day before.  “I'll try.  I... I think I just need to be alone for awhile.  I'm going for a drive,” Monica whispered and then left the kitchen.

Rose brushed at a tear and then looked at the window to Andrew and Adam, obliviously content.


An hour after lunch the doorbell rang for only the second time.  This time it continued to ring as if whomever was outside was leaning on it.  Adam, having just come down the main staircase, was nearest the door.  He glanced out and threw it open.  Instantaneously, Lynn had her left arm around him.  Her right was cast around Robbie who was balanced on her hip.

“Come on.  You need to sit down and rest.”  Adam led the distraught woman into the main parlor.  The moment Lynn was seated she began to sob.  Robbie looked at his mother, frightened.  A second later Tess entered the room.

“Adam, baby, why don't you go get a snack for Robbie?  I'll sit here with Lynn.”

Adam nodded.  He squeezed Lynn's hand and then took Robbie's.  “How do you feel about brownies, Champ?”

Robbie looked back at his mother but then nodded.

When the angel and the boy entered the kitchen, they found Andrew, Beth, C.J., JenniAnn, Rose, Yva and Raquel frosting dozens of brownies and cookies.  Raquel had wanted to send something to the hospice and so the baking had begun.  Robbie's eyes grew wide at the sight of so many freshly baked treats.

“Robbie, this is Raquel,” Adam introduced. 

The woman smiled gently at the boy.  Tess had foreseen Lynn's arrival at the cabin and so had explained to the woman about Alex's family.  Andrew had told her about Dawn's commitment to protecting Alex's wife by telling her of the man's unfaithfulness.  Knowing this, Raquel had found it easy to join the others in protecting Lynn and Robbie from the media storm that had only recently threatened her.

“Hello, kiddo.  It looks like you showed up just in time.  See anything you might like to have?” she asked.

Robbie pointed shyly to a brightly frosted brownie and Raquel handed it to him then led him to the table.

Adam poured some milk and sat it on the table before the boy.  “Is it good?” he asked as Robbie nibbled on the brownie and he took a seat beside him.


Adam was concerned by the boy's quietness, so unlike their two previous visits.  He began to wonder what the boy had seen or heard.  “After you're done we could go see Terrence,” Adam offered, hoping for some reaction.


“Robbie, is there something you want to talk about?” the angel asked.

Robbie's lower lip began to tremble.  “Daddy did something bad and now mommy's crying.  And there were really mad people outside our house,” he confided before sliding off his chair and onto Adam's lap.  "I'm 'fraid, Adam!"

"There now, you're safe, Robbie, and so's your mommy."  Adam smiled encouragingly at the boy then began to hum a lullaby until Robbie drifted to sleep.


Raquel knocked lightly on the parlor door.

“Come in,” Tess called.

The woman poked her head in.  “Adam just wanted to let Lynn know that Robbie had fallen asleep.  He's in the other parlor.”  She waved shyly to the younger woman.

Lynn stood up and approached Raquel.  “I... I'm so sorry for your loss.  I had no idea Alex was... I... I never imagined.”

Raquel grasped Lynn's hand.  “I'm sorry for the pain this has caused you, too.  I hope you and your little boy can get away.”

Lynn nodded.  “My brother's driving from Kansas to come get us.  I just... I feel like maybe if I'd been less... less oblivious maybe I would have caught on and your daughter would still be alive and...”

“Don't think like that.  What your husband did...” Raquel drew a calming breath to quell the tremor in her voice.  “It has nothing at all to do with you.  You were wronged, Dawn was wronged, and neither of you did anything or are to blame.  I don't think that and I don't want you thinking that.  You need to focus your attention on helping yourself and your son.  Okay?”

Lynn smiled through her tears and moved into Raquel's embrace.


Three hours later Lynn's brother arrived at the cabin.  He, Andrew, and Adam transferred the few bags Lynn had managed to grab to his car.  The police would come later to take Lynn's for inspection.

Lynn led a still sleepy Robbie out to his uncle's car.  Adam followed carrying Terrence and his cage.

“Did you bring him so I could tell him good bye?” the little boy asked.  “Mommy says we're going away.”

Adam shook his head and crouched in front of the boy.  “No.  Actually, I talked with your mommy and with your Uncle Lee and we thought maybe you'd like to take Terrence with you.  I'm going to have to get back to my job soon and I'm just not sure I'll have as much time to hold and pet and take care of Terrence.  I was hoping maybe you would.  What do you think, Robbie?”

Robbie's face lit up and he threw his arms around Adam.  “Really?” he checked.

Adam chuckled.  “Really.  Let's get you both in the car before you catch cold.”

“I don't know how I'll ever be able to thank all of you,” Lynn confided as she hugged Tess.  “You barely even know us and...  Do you ever read the Bible, Tess?”

The angel smiled.  “Oh, yes, I've done some Bible reading in my day.  Why do you ask?”

“There's that part about entertaining angels unaware.  Maybe this sounds crazy but I get the feeling I've done exactly that and... thank you.  Whether you and Adam and the others are literally angels or not, I know you're my angels.”  Lynn smiled tearfully at Tess and then after one last hug moved to get into the car. 

“Will I ever see you again, Adam?” Robbie asked. 

Adam smiled and ruffled the boy's hair.  “I'm not quite sure when but I promise you I'll check in on you and Terrence, okay?”

The little boy beamed and then waved to Tess and Andrew as Adam buckled him in then shut the door.

Adam rejoined the other two angels and they stood together, waving as Lee drove off.

“I'm going to ask the Father if I can stop back in,” Adam told them.  “Lynn's going to need to come back to testify and I think it would help if she had a familiar face with her when she did.”

“I think that's an excellent idea, baby.  Even better than sending Terrence off with Robbie.  You sure made that boy smile when he so needed to.”  Tess hugged Adam.

“I'm surprised at you, Tess.  You actually called Terrence by his name!  Great job!” Andrew congratulated with a grin.

Adam laughed.  “I guess it's easier now that she knows he won't end up in her luggage ever again.”

Andrew chuckled.  “I'm sure that's it.”  His face clouded then as he looked at the sky.  “It's getting dark.  I'm surprised Monica's not back yet.  Do you know where she went, Tess?”

“Don't worry, Angel Boy.  Monica will make it back when she's ready.  Now let's get inside.  This angel is freezing!”  Tess shivered and then began to walk towards the cabin.

Andrew was bothered by her vague answer but knew not to press.

“Come on.  We don't want to worry the girls.”

Andrew nodded and followed Adam inside.


That evening, after dinner, Tess announced her intent to turn in early.  Raquel, too, excused herself to her room to make last minute preparations for Dawn's funeral the next morning.  Andrew had offered his help but the woman had responded by ordering him to take some time for himself and have fun. 

In adherence with Raquel's directive, Adam and Andrew were enjoying the foosball table in the gameroom.  The Dyelanders were in the kitchen making popcorn and other snacks to take into the gameroom where they intended to fully enjoy watching the angels of death play each other.  They were just loading up the treats when Monica, at last, returned. 

“Hi,” she greeted as she entered the kitchen.

“Hello, how was your drive?” Rose asked.

“It was very... calming,” the angel answered.

“Adam and Andrew are playing foosball.  We thought it'd be fun to watch.  Care to join us?” JenniAnn offered.

Monica smiled.  “I'd like that, thank you.”  She picked up a bowl of chips and followed them. 

“Hey, Monica, you're back.  I'm glad.”  Andrew looked up from the game and smiled at her.

“Thank you, I'm glad to be back.  What did I miss?”

The group took turns telling Monica about Lynn and Robbie and their escape to Kansas.  Then focus drifted back to the game.  Monica smiled when she realized that instead of separating into teams, all the women cheered for both Andrew and Adam.  After a few rounds everyone drifted to other games.  Monica debated which group to join then watched as JenniAnn walked away from the pinball machine after cheering Andrew onto a win.  She sat at a large table, likely intended for poker, and Monica followed.

“What's this?  It's lovely,” Monica asked as she glanced at the materials spread across the table.

“Oh, Andrew's scrapbook.  I'm majorly behind.  I'm only now getting the St. Patrick's Day 2008 pages done.”  JenniAnn smiled at a photo of Adam and Andrew clanking glasses of green ginger ale together.

“This design...  It's very beautiful.”  Monica traced the lines of a drawing.

“Oh, haven't you seen that before?  With your Irish connection I just assumed...  Well, anyway, it's called a triskele or triple spiral and it just happens to be one of the only Celtic symbols I can actually draw.  But I do like it.  Threes are kinda a big thing with me.  And I like it for another reason.”

Rose and Yva had noticed the two talking and approached, curious after their earlier run-in with Monica.

“Hey there,” JenniAnn greeted.  “I was just being a total Irish nerd and telling Monica about the triskele.”

Yva laughed.  “Oh, yes, that's the only thing nerdy about this scrapbook,” she teased, turning to a section devoted solely to Andrew's flannel shirts.

JenniAnn giggled.  “You can call me a nerd if ya like but I am a nerd with good tastes, thank you very much.”

As the two went back and forth, Rose watched Monica flip through the book.  From the sections devoted to the last five years of Andrew's life, Monica was almost entirely absent.  Rose wondered if the angel noticed and what she thought of it.

“Anyhow, the triskele,” JenniAnn began again.  “If you look... the three spirals actually join up in the center.  They have the same source.  That lil triangle there.  I like it because it makes me think that, ya know, even if we drift away...”

“We're still connected at the root.  Still together in some way,” Rose finished.


C.J. ran over to them then.  “Andrew's about to get a high score on the pinball machine, thought you'd want to see.”

“Well now I think that deserves a place in the scrapbook,” Yva suggested.

“Ooh, you're right.”  JenniAnn leaped up and grabbed her camera from her purse.  She, Rose, and Yva joined the others clustered around Andrew.

Monica continued to stare at the triple spiral.  “Even if we drift away we're still connected at the root,” she murmured.


Friday, January 23rd

At Raquel's request, the entire group was attending Dawn's funeral.  They had a suspicion that Raquel was asking them less for her own want of company than with consideration for the discomfort Andrew was bound to feel upon seeing Nadia.  Regardless of her reasoning, no one thought of turning her down.  Monica and Tess started off on the hour long ride to the cemetery while Andrew drove the others in the mini-van.  It was a quiet, solemn ride with those in the back seats thinking about all that had transpired and the two in the front remembering Dawn.

When they parked outside the church, Raquel finally spoke.  She set a hand on Andrew's shoulder.  “I'm not sure what's going to happen.  I hope Nadia doesn't say anything more to you but if she does... you promise me you'll remember that you did nothing wrong, alright?”

“Raquel, please don't worry about me.  You need to focus on yourself and getting thr...”

“I'm still a mother, Andrew.  Worrying is what I do.”  Tears formed in her eyes and she set a hand on his cheek.  “Promise me?”

Andrew nodded.  “I promise you,” he vowed, smiling bravely at her.  He got out of the van then and helped Raquel out.  He offered her his arm and together they led the group into the church.

Raquel faltered when she saw the casket but Andrew kept hold of her and steadied her. 

Adam and the ladies took their seats a few rows from the front where Monica and Tess were already seated.  They watched as Andrew continued to lead Raquel to the front. 

Dawn's father stood and hugged his ex-wife once she and Andrew reached the front pew.  As Andrew stood nearby, she embraced her daughter's half-siblings and step-mother. 

“Please, stay with me,” Raquel begged the angel, clasping his hand in hers.

Andrew felt her hand tremble in his and nodded.  The anxiety he felt about being so near to Nadia was overcome by compassion for the grieving mother and a desire to help her.  “I won't leave you, Raquel,” he promised and took the place to her right, Dawn's father to her left. 

Nadia looked towards the angel but then quickly away as the service began.

After an opening prayer, “Amazing Grace” was sung.  Then some of Dawn's co-workers, patients, and friends came forward to share their remembrances of her devotion, compassion, sense of humor, and gentleness.

Finally, the reverend returned to the lectern.  He smiled at the teeming church and then at Dawn's family.

“As I sat here with you, I heard so many stories of the love and joy Dawn brought to each of you.  I know she certainly brought that here to those of us in this congregation.  There's a poem that was written by Christina Rossetti, Dawn's favorite poet.  It's about some friends preparing to bury one of their own who was so swiftly taken from them.  At first they are shocked and they cannot fathom parting from her.  I know these feelings are familiar to us as we grieve a life cruelly cut short.  But I hope we can find comfort in the words of the poet.”  He open the book before him and read. 

“'Weep not; oh friends, we should not weep:
Our friend of friends lies full of rest;
No sorrow rankles in her breast,
Fallen fast asleep.

She sleeps below,
She wakes and laughs above:
Today, as she walked, let us walk in love;
Tomorrow follow so.'”

He closed the book and again smiled encouragingly at the congregants.  “Let us walk in love as Dawn did.  I can think of no greater testament to what she meant to us, nor a greater means of showing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for the time we shared with Dawn than this.  Go forth and love one another!”

As the choir began to sing the closing hymn, the congregation rose.  Many people embraced each other, some even strangers.  Raquel looked around her and smiled through her tears, seeing how many lives her daughter had touched. 


After a brief graveside service there was a luncheon at the church's community center.  For a time Andrew walked around with Raquel as she spoke with those who had come to remember Dawn.  Though she had never met many of the people Dawn worked with, it wasn't long before Raquel felt comfortable with them and was able to let Andrew go.

The angel made his way to a table where his friends had gathered.

“How's Raquel doing, baby?” Tess asked.

Andrew looked back at the woman and smiled fondly.  “Better.  I think it helped her to see how many people cared so much about Dawn and how many people care about her, too.  That's her best friend sitting by her now.”

“Oh good.  I was afraid they might still stay away.”  Beth smiled with relief.

“I think sometimes people just have a hard time seeing their friends in pain or struggling.  I'm sure they'll be there for her now,” Andrew said as he sat down.

Monica self-consciously looked away from Andrew.

Rose caught her reaction and spoke.  “Maybe they just don't trust themselves to say the right thing but... sometimes it's just the being there that matters.”

“Exactly,” Andrew beamed at Rose and then looked across the table and noticed JenniAnn's eyes growing wide as she looked past him.  Concerned, the angel turned and saw Nadia standing behind him.

“Hello,” she greeted the table.

“Hi Nadia.  How are you holding up?  We've been praying for you,” C.J. responded.

Nadia gave a wan smile in answer.  “I... I'm okay.  And thanks.  For the prayers.  I, uh...  Can we talk?” she asked Andrew without looking directly at him.

“Sure,” Andrew agreed.  He stood and followed Nadia upstairs to the church proper as the eight at the table watched with trepidation.

Once they entered the church, Nadia took a seat in the back pew and motioned for Andrew to join her.

“So... so you've been helping Raquel?” she asked, staring down at her hands.

“Yes, I was sent back to help her find peace and to help the wife and child of the man... the man who killed Dawn.  And I guess the Father thought I needed to find a little peace, too.” 

“Have you?”

Andrew nodded.  “As much as I can.  I'll never feel completely at peace when people hurt each other.  But, Nadia, how are...”

“L-like I hurt you?” she interrupted.

Andrew turned to the woman beside him.  “No, no.  Nadia, that wasn't what I was saying at all.  I meant... I'll never feel at peace with murder and abuse and...”

“And still you keep coming here, helping us.”

“Of course.”

“I'm sorry for the things I said, Andrew.  You didn't deserve them.  Not at all, not one bit.  Or Adam, either.  I know... I know it wasn't easy for you to be there but you stayed so Dawn wouldn't be alone.  And that's... that's not the sign of a cold heart but a very selfless and brave and loving one.”  Nadia looked into Andrew's eyes for the first time since she approached him.  “I... I just kept imagining what Dawn must have felt and what she thought and when I called you... I was tortured by those images.  But these last two days...  It's been something else I've imagined.”

“What is it, Nadia?  You can tell me.”  Andrew put an arm around her shoulders.

“You.  Whatever else happened, your face was the last thing Dawn saw on this earth.  And your voice, telling her about God and love and Home... that was the last she heard.  And I... I found peace in that.”  Nadia rested her head on Andrew's shoulder and finally let herself cry not in anger or fear but in a mixture of grief and gladness.


Raquel had been invited to stay at the hospice.  Her daughter's friends there were eager to get to know her and to mourn and celebrate Dawn's life with her.  The woman had readily agreed.  Andrew drove her there and helped her to the room she would occupy, Dawn's former on-call room.

Before they parted, Raquel pulled Andrew to her for one last hug.

"Thank you, Andrew," she whispered into his ear.  "Now you take care of yourself.  I got the addresses of a couple of the girls and I will be writing to check on you," she warned with a smile. 

Andrew chuckled.  "I will, Raquel.  I promise.  And thank you, too.  I know now how Dawn came to be so loving and compassionate.  You know, she told me once that I'd just love you if I met you.  She was right."

Raquel clasped his hand.  "She said the same about you.  Right there, too."  She sighed then and looked around the room.

"Thanks.  Do you want me to stay for a while?"

"No, you get back to your friends."  Raquel released his hand then.  "I... I don't know whether to say good bye or..."

Andrew smiled.  "There are no permanent good byes.  We'll see each other again some day.  So... until next time."

"Until next time," Raquel repeated, her face shining with hope as Andrew hugged her once more then left the room.


Soon after Andrew arrived back at the cabin, the group began to pack.  By 5:00 they were gathered in the driveway.  Monica and Tess stood outside the Cadillac while Andrew, Adam, the Dyelanders, and pets stood near the mini-van.

"Now I'll be seeing you later on in the weekend.  Okay, baby?  Until then, you get some rest," Tess directed.

Andrew nodded.  "I will, Tess.  I hope your assignment goes well.  Thanks again for being here."

"I wouldn't have had it any other way, Angel Boy.  I love you."  Tess hugged him.

"I love you, too, Tess," Andrew whispered before she moved onto Adam and the girls.

A second later he looked up to find Monica standing before him. 

"I'm glad I could be here, Andrew.  And... I hope I see you again soon.  I have missed you," she told him.

Andrew smiled wistfully at her.  "I'm glad you were here, too.  And I hope we do see each other again soon.  So you're onto another assignment?"

"Yes.  Ireland, actually."

"Well, that's great!  I know how much you love being there.  I'm happy for you!"  Andrew beamed at his old friend.

"Thank you."  Monica checked her pocket watch then.  "I should be going, actually.  Take care, Andrew."

"You, too, Monica."  Andrew hugged her and waved as she and Tess got into the caddy.  For a moment he felt as if he should hop into the back seat but he resisted the urge.  He recognized that his place was elsewhere.  He turned and smiled at his friends who surrounded the van.  His face broke into a broad smile.  "Let's go home!"

With smiles on their own faces, everyone got into the van.  Andrew lifted Lulu onto Rose's lap and shut the van door before climbing into the driver's seat.

“Does everyone have everything?” he checked. 

“I think so,” Yva answered.  “I'm not sure we could fit much more in here!”

Andrew chuckled.  “At least it's a short drive home.”

“Is it?  Kinda hard to tell with this means of transportation.”  JenniAnn smiled as she buckled her seat belt and pulled Fawn against her. 

Adam turned around in the passenger seat and smiled.  “I think Andrew just prefers being behind the wheel over using your storage closet.  It doesn't go 65 miles an hour.”

“Very funny, buddy.  But I do like this van and I do like driving around with all of you and actually...”  Andrew swiveled around in his seat.  “I just wanted to thank all of you, for coming along on this assignment.  I don't think I fully realized how much I needed to have my friends with me this week.  But I did.  So thanks.”

There was a chorus of “awws” and Andrew blushed. 

“Hugs for everyone when we get back to Dyeland.  I'm afraid if we get out and do that now...” the angel waved to the bags crammed around them, “we won't be able to fit back in.”  He smiled and then turned around and started the car.  He drove down the winding driveway and just before turning onto the main road, the van disappeared.


Saturday, January 24th

The evening the group returned to Dyeland, Andrew went Home.  Thankfully for his friends, his stay spanned only a day in human time and so by Saturday evening he was back.  The gang would, at last, have their celebration at the
Café.  Before heading there, Andrew thought about the week that had passed.  It had been the realization of many of his greatest concerns.  In that week he had also put some of them to rest, thanks to the Father and to his friends.

He thought of what JenniAnn had told him as they danced.  In her words he found hope that, no matter what came to pass, his friends would always be with him.  They were in his heart and would always remain so.

Lady Beth would be there, the consoling and understanding voice of reason who would never let him sink into self-blame or despair.

Countess Jennifer, too.  Andrew recalled the impromptu gathering that first night back in Missouri.  He'd become obsessed with the hurt and betrayal he knew Dawn had felt.  But his friends had consoled him and Countess Jennifer had reminded him of the last, powerful glimpse of love that Andrew and his fellow angels of death brought as their assignments prepared to leave the Earth.  It was those moments that kept Andrew going.

Andrew remembered the ride to Raquel's house.  He had confessed his own confusion and in doing so felt less alone in it.  When those questions again swam in his mind, he would recall what Yva had said.  He would rejoice in the times he was able to intercede and pray for peace when he could not.  And always, always remember that the Father loved His children.

Then there was Rose.  Andrew couldn't quite explain it but he had a feeling that she'd spent much of the assignment watching over him and seeing to it that he never felt alone nor needlessly stressed and he felt blessed by this.

Andrew thought of Adam.  Amazing Adam.  He could make his friends laugh with ease and yet with a single look he was able to tell Andrew that he was not alone in his questions or his struggles as an angel of death.

And Tess.  The angel of death thought back on that conversation they'd shared in the kitchen.  Andrew had gone back to Missouri to heal in the wake of Dawn's death.  But in speaking to him, Tess had helped him heal from so much more.  When she'd reached out to him he knew that he had never been an afterthought even if, at times, he'd felt that way when they worked cases with Monica.

Monica.  He had been grateful and happy to see her but of all the now reconciled uncertainties that had daunted Andrew that week, the ones connected to her remained. 

Andrew heard a thud at his door then and went to see who it could be, maybe JenniAnn bringing Lulu back to him or someone wanting to walk with him to the
Café.  However, when Andrew answered the door he saw no one.  He looked down then and spotted a tiny package.  He bent to retrieve it, opening it as he went to meet his friends.

"Saw this and thought of you," the note read.  Andrew recognized Monica's delicate script.   He tore at tissue paper and then stared down at the gold object in his hand.  A key chain in the shape of three spirals, joined together in the center.  As he stared down at the symbol, Andrew thought back on a Rossetti poem Dawn had read to him.  He heard her voice reciting:

"All come and go, all wax and wane,
O Lord, save only Thou
Who dost remain
The Same to all eternity.
All things which fail us now
We trust to Thee."

The angel smiled as a cooing dove seemed to assent to the poet's words.  Before entering the
Café, Andrew looked up at the sky.  He entrusted to the Father this wounded friendship, his friends' lives, his assignments, and his heart, knowing that God would always and forever heal and love them.

The End

Author's notes:

It's done!!!

In case anyone is wondering... yes, I did Google "best places to meet women" and bookstores was on the list.  No clue if the same applies to meeting men.  Regrettably, the "best places to meet lovely AODs" list was not available.

The poems referenced in the story include:
"The First Elegy" from Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies.
"Remember," "Echo," "My Friend," and "Patience of Hope" by Christina Rossetti.

There's not much of an actual soundtrack to this one.  Only Coldplay's "The Scientist" and Kate Rusby's "Sho Heen" and a couple hymns are actually in the story.  However, I did have some music I listened to for inspiration.  Those songs included:

"In the News" by Kris Kristofferson- Don't listen to this if you want to be happy.  But it is a really stunning song.  Mr. Kristofferson references the violence of this world and urges us not to blame God.

"Let Me Be Myself" by 3 Doors Down- I happened to hear this one in the car one day.  It immediately made me think of Andrew and Monica and so it became their theme for this story.  You can kinda hear echoes of it in Yva's and Rose's conversation with Monica.

"Angels" by Within Temptation- This helped me grasp some of the anger and betrayal Nadia felt.  Cause I needed some help there.  I obviously do *not* feel that way about Andrew myself. 

"Taken" by Plumb- If this was a movie and had end credits, I'd want this played.  It makes me think of something Raquel might say to Dawn.  But I also thought it was a pretty good Andrew/his friends song.

As for "The Scientist," I just love that song and it does make me think of Andrew.  And I can see LJA relating to it (which is why, though the Coldplay original would have been more likely to have been played at a club, Aimee Mann's cover would probly be more appropriate).  But that whole scene took on an ironic note when I realized some of the lyrics also reminded me of Monica like:
"Nobody said it was easy,
Oh it's such a shame for us to part.
Nobody said it was easy,
No one ever said it would be so hard."

I foresee that song popping up later in that context, too.  Ah, the shippers would probly hate me if they read this!  I am surprisingly okay with this. 

"Sho Heen" was the song Andrew played in his bedroom.  I first heard it on Pandora.com.  I then downloaded it on iTunes knowing that at some point it would prove useful.  And it did.  Love it.  Never heard of Kate Rusby but I will definitely be looking into her music now!

Finally, it seemed a lil crass to hide an easter egg in the text of "We Trust to Thee."  But I did hide a lil something in these notes.  A very little something.  Cause I am beat. 

If you read these nearly 80 pages... gold star for you!  You can pick it up when next you're in Nebraska.  ;-)

JABB 265

(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from "Touched by an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions. They are not being used to seek profit.)