“My home is not
a place, it is
Boy... not sure where to start. I've been working on this for
months so how it all started is rather blurry. I know it began
with just some random mental images that I decided I wanted to weave
together. I can't say what those were with out spoiling the story
but they were pretty vibrant. That they became a story about
homelessness probly isn't surprising given, when I completed the TBAA
episode bracket I used as an easter egg some time ago, "Children of the
Night" came up as my favorite TBAA episode. I felt there was more
to be explored, though, as much as I love that episode. Andrew's
life among the homeless was barely touched upon. Here I attempted
to bring that in more.
Due to the length of this story (I stopped counting after 100 pages), I
am dividing it in half. This also solves the problem of trying to
cram in newsletter-creation time during the Thanksgiving holiday.
I'm basically done for 3 weeks! Part 2, the conclusion, will be
sent on Nov. 25th. I'm currently proofing it but it IS complete
so don't worry about being left with out an ending.
I would like to forewarn anyone starting this that allusions are made
to the previous story, "Be Thou My Vision". I would strongly
recommend reading that first if you've not already. Allusions are
also made to various past newsletter and Author's Cut stories but I
don't think those are as integral as they're mostly explained in this
story. But if you feel like you're missing something, please let
me know and I'll recap.
I hope I caught all the typos but suspect I did not. If you
notice anything, please let me know. Most of my
proofing was done either late at night or early in the morning so...
questionable. ;-) Finally, thanks to Nicole for
pre-reading and offering feedback on this! If you'd like to
become a proofreader, please contact me. I'll even give ya a
goofy title if ya want.
Here's hoping I did these characters justice.
November 18th ~
~ November 22nd
~ November 23rd
Andrew smiled as he looked
window of the Cafe. A light snow was blowing and everything
glistened. It was the perfect morning to be sitting in front of a
fire and sipping a mug of hot chocolate while waiting for
friends. The angel thanked the Father that he'd been given the
time to do exactly that.
The door bell jingled and Andrew turned to see Yva and Rose
"Beautiful morning, isn't it?" he greeted, standing and hugging them
Rose shivered. "Cold! But, sure, beautiful." She
smiled at Andrew.
"At least it puts me in a Christmasy mood. That'll help when I
go to the factory to help Papa with the Christmas orders," Yva added.
"It's hard to believe it's only a little over a month away, isn't
it?" Andrew smiled at the idea and secretly hoped that he'd be in
Dyeland for all of the festivities.
"Definitely. Umm, do you know yet if you'll be here?" Rose
asked. She let her mind wander back to the previous
Christmas. Despite its wonders, there had been several sad
moments when Andrew's absence was felt keenly by each of his friends.
Andrew gently patted her shoulder. "You know, I was just thinking
that myself and I
don't know. I hope I am, though."
"But now you're leaving?"
"Yes, Yva. I'm not sure for how long but I do know that I won't
be taking my cell phone with me and email is probably going to be out
of the question. So I wanted to spend some time with all of you
this morning." He gestured for them to take a seat then slid back
into the booth.
Rose beamed at her friend then looked around curiously. "Where's
JenniAnn? She's almost always the first one here for one of
"She stopped by before I left the house. Vincent called a meeting
Below. He said she didn't have to come and that he'd fill her in
later but she thought she should be there," Andrew explained.
"That's too bad but I'm glad she got a chance to see you before she
left. I really didn't want to have to drag out the Andrew
Scarecrow to console her." Yva laughed at the idea but then
thought more about what Andrew had said. "So why won't you have
your phone or laptop? Are you spending time with the Amish again?"
"Amish Boy!" Rose chirped.
Andrew chuckled and shook his head. "No. Well, actually I
that. I don't know. I just know the Father told me this
would be a technology-free assignment so... Hey, Lady
Beth." He smiled as the newcomer took her seat at their
table. "I'm glad you could make it."
"Of course I'd want to stop by and wish you well. So where are
you off to?"
"I was just telling Yva and Rose that I'm not sure but I won't be
reachable by the usual means. Don't worry, though. I'm sure
happened the Father would get word to me. He has the best
messaging system." Andrew bestowed a reassuring smile on each of
"It'll be hard not to have you around or be hearing from you."
frowned. "But we'll just have to manage." She sighed
dramatically and began to hum "Ain't No Sunshine."
Andrew blushed, laughing as he did. "I hate to break it to you,
Rose, but there ain't much sunshine even when I'm here lately."
Yva shook her head as she began to laugh, as well. "Do you have
to be so
literal, Andrewkins? We really will miss you but I'm sure
whatever you're going to do will be very meaningful to someone who
really needs to hear that God loves them."
"I hope so." Andrew reached across the table to squeeze her hand
then looked to all three of the women. "So are we going to get
some breakfast or just tease each other unmercifully?"
The table unanimously agreed to breakfast... with some teasing thrown
Nearly every adult member of the Tunnel
community was packed into Father's chamber making it cramped and
noisy. The patriarch was seated in the center of the room with
Vincent standing to his right
side. Catherine was beside him and to her other side stood a
uniformed police officer.
From her vantage point on one of the spiral staircases, JenniAnn
couldn't make out what any of them were saying. Nor could she
determine whether she'd ever seen the cop before. She concluded
that he had to be a Helper or relation to someone there. Even at
that, his presence was unusual. She was just about to ask her
friend, Owen, if he knew what was going on when Father raised his hand
and silenced the group.
"Everyone, could we please have your attention," Father called.
"There is something very important we need to discuss. But,
first, I'd like everyone to listen to Detective Matthew Bratton."
The officer stepped forward and smiled at the assembly. "Good
morning. To those of you who don't know me, I'm the grandson of
Luke Bratton who was a Helper here. I had the privilege of
celebrating Winterfest with some of you about, oh, two decades ago when
I was nine. I regret that it's been so long in between visits and
I wish my return was under happier circumstances." He grimaced
and glanced to Vincent who nodded for him to continue.
The Tunnel-dwellers grew even more hushed.
"There's, umm, been a rash of attacks on the homeless recently... some
of them fatal," Bratton continued. "At first they seemed random,
but we're becoming increasingly concerned that what we're seeing is the
work of a single person or group specifically targeting the homeless
population. We haven't yet released these details to the press
but when the reports came across my desk, I thought of all of
you. I know that sometimes you travel Above and with your...
umm... style of dress..."
Vincent noted the officer struggling, fearful of offending them, and
"It is no secret that we have, at times, been mistaken for being
homeless. Some of us have even relied upon that assumption to
move through the world Above without attracting attention or
curiosity. Father and I wish to thank Matthew for thinking to
Bratton smiled at Vincent with gratitude then took a seat near
"Until more has been learned about this threat,the Council has decided
that no one will go Above, alone, during the nighttime hours when it is
our understanding these attacks have taken place. In addition,
any group going
Above at night will be required to tell a sentry
where they are headed before leaving and state their estimated time of
return." Vincent looked
to Bratton who nodded in agreement with the plan. Vincent
continued. "If you wish to travel Above during the daylight
hours, we would request that you choose your more... standard
clothing. If you do not have any, Catherine has graciously
offered to obtain some for you so please speak to her."
As Father began to list off further safety precautions and solicit
suggestions, JenniAnn felt
someone lightly shake her shoulder. She turned around and saw it
was Owen. Some of the color had drained from his face.
JenniAnn reached back to squeeze his hand, knowing he must be
remembering his own days on the streets as a teenager. "Yes?"
"Terrible. Scary stuff. Has Andrew mentioned any of this?"
She shook her head. "No. Nor the others. I'm
glad they aren't assigned to this... How terrible..."
shuddered then gave her full attention back to Father. She tried
to focus but Owen's question and the entire scenario unnerved
her. Anyone who spent any time at all in the Tunnels had heard
more than their fair share of harrowing tales of abuse and
cruelty... if not experienced them directly as Owen had. When one
also happened to have befriended a handful of
angels of death, being sheltered from violence was no longer
possible. Nonetheless, to think of someone deliberately striking
out at those already struggling so greatly was heartrending.
JenniAnn tried to focus on the discussion, all the while hoping the
meeting would break up in time for her to get to the Cafe and see
Andrew once more before he left.
Yva settled back against the booth's
cushions after finishing the last of her cinnamon roll. She
glanced across the table and noticed that Andrew was staring out the
window, an enigmatic expression on his face. "What are you
thinking, Andrew? You suddenly look... I don't know,
actually. Are you okay?"
Rose and Lady Beth immediately gave the angel of death their full
Andrew pulled his gaze away from the window and smiled at his
friends. "I'm feeling great, thanks. I don't know what it
was. I found myself thinking about all the times I've sat here,
surrounded by friends. And about how much I feel like I belong
"You do belong here," Lady Beth assured.
"Thanks. I know. Does it ever happen to you that, for a
brief moment, it's like you step back from your life? And you
realize all over again how blessed you are? And you're just
astounded. I felt that."
Rose nodded. "I've felt that and I'm really glad you felt it
"And I hope you know the being blessed goes both ways," Yva
added. "When those moments happen to me, you're definitely one of
the people I think of."
"Definitely," Rose echoed as Lady Beth nodded.
Andrew smiled with immense fondness at each of them. "Thanks,
but..." He pulled out his pocket watch and looked at it.
"Now I have to get going. Thanks for meeting me." He slid
out of the booth and the other three followed. He hugged Lady
Beth first. "You take care of yourself. And don't let Henry
talk you into cooking every meal for him. He can reciprocate once
in a while! You taught him, after all!"
Lady Beth laughed at Andrew's mock-sternness. "Believe me, I'll
tell him! And you take care of yourself."
"I will. I know if I don't I'll have several lectures to look
forward to," he jested before turning to Rose. "Give your aunt my
best. And give Theo a hug from me. And... here."
Rose stared at the keys Andrew dropped in her palm. She noted the
silver Irish symbol on the key chain. "These are your van keys."
"I know. The van stays, too. I thought maybe while I was
gone someone could take you out to practice winter driving. Use
the van if you want. I trust you."
Rose hugged the angel. "Thanks! Wow!"
"Sure. Have fun and be safe."
"Definitely!" The young woman was again staring in awe at the
Andrew chuckled then turned to give Yva a hug. "Say 'hi' to Willy
and have fun. I'm sure he's got some wonderful new
creations. I hope you, Sir Sven, and Nigel keep warm. The
bunnies and Miss Ellie, too."
"We will. We'll be thinking of you and waiting anxiously for your
return. Who knows, maybe Papa and I will even have a box of
samples of the new holiday line waiting for you when you get back!"
"As if I needed another reason to come hurrying back here once I'm
done. And... I hope with all my heart that I'll be able to wish
you a happy birthday on your birthday. But if I can't... you know
I'll be thinking about you." Andrew hugged Yva again then beamed
at each of them. "Tell everyone else I
said good bye." He paused. "Better yet, just tell them
see them later."
"Good call and will do," Lady Beth assured.
With one more hug for each of them, Andrew left the Cafe. The
three women slid back into the booth and peered out the window,
watching as their friend faded into a swirl of light snow.
"I'm so proud of him and what he does but the whole 'good bye/ see you
later' thing still leaves me a little drained each time," Rose
"I think that's perfectly normal. God understands. So do
they. I mean as long as we're not missing them so much that we
opt for running after them and forcing them to drag us from assignment
to assignment, I think it's okay." Yva smiled at Rose with a
mischievous twinkle in her eye, hoping it would make her friend feel
"True. That might be fun to try sometime, though." Rose
smirked at the idea of Andrew trying to do a revelation scene with one
of them clinging to him, refusing to let go.
"'I'm an angel sent by God to tell you that God loves you... and that
my friend here isn't playing with a full deck.'" Lady Beth
laughed at the image, too. "Sure, try that sometime, Rose."
"Augh... I missed him, didn't I?"
The three turned to see JenniAnn standing in the door way.
"I'm afraid so. You saw him this morning though, didn't you?"
A dreamy look crossed the late arrival's face.
"That would be a yes, then," Yva guessed at the answer to her own
JenniAnn blushed. "We had coffee while the dogs did their
"So you at least got to say goo..." Yva caught herself.
"See you later?"
"Yep," JenniAnn nodded and took a seat. "I guess I just wanted to
see him again cause... Did he mention that I was at a meeting
"He did. What's going on? That's pretty unusual, isn't it?"
"Definitely. Vincent said he was going to come here later to
spread the word but just so you're prepared: the Tunnels are kinda on
lock down. Well, a minor form of it." JenniAnn frowned and
then began to fill her friends in on what Detective Bratton had
told them and of the resulting security precautions. "And I guess
I just wanted to see Andrew cause when I hear stuff like that... I
dunno. I just feel a bit better after I've talked with one of the
AODs. It reminds me that, no matter what, someone loving and
lovable was with those people and that they didn't... didn't suffer
"Adam might be back by now. Maybe you could go talk to him?
Henry's away for a few days but can you contact Eli?"
JenniAnn smiled appreciatively at Yva and shrugged. "Maybe.
Good ideas. So how did Andrew seem before he left? Does he
know where he's headed? He didn't really when I saw him."
"He didn't know but he said it would be a technology-free one. No
phone, computer. And... he left me his van keys." Rose
jangled the key chain then frowned. "I was really excited but now
it's making me sad to think of being behind the wheel... I want Andrew
to be there."
"We could hide surprises in the van," JenniAnn suggested. "It'd
be fun to do that instead of, ahem, accessorizing his house as
usual. I feel like doing something goofy. Take our minds
"One of these days you're going to scare him away from leaving anything
here," Lady Beth teased.
"He's a big boy. He can handle it," Yva protested with a laugh as
she rose from the table. "Do you think there's a way to get Silly
String to shoot out of the glove compartment?"
"I think the back seat definitely needs a disco ball," Rose added with
"Why stop there? Let's do tie-dyed seat covers!" With a
giggle, JenniAnn followed Yva towards the door. Rose and Lady
Beth took the last gulps of their drinks then hurried after them.
The four felt their melancholy over Andrew's absence melt away as they
spent the rest of the morning giving the Jolly Green an extreme,
thankfully temporary, makeover.
In the nearly four days since Andrew had departed Dyeland, the ladies
thrown themselves into various activities. Yva spent much of her
time working with Willy at the factory. Adam had graciously
volunteered to continue Rose's driving lessons. Lady Beth found
herself giving yet more cooking tutorials to Henry.
Still bothered by the news that Detective Bratton had shared on the
morning of Andrew's departure and leftover anxiety from an unfortunate
run-in with a psychic, JenniAnn had focused all her nervous
energy into working
newly opened shelter for homeless women and children. Catherine
had dubbed it
Inn, hoping the idea of rebirth, new life, and hope would be extended
to every woman and child who passed through.
While there was only one guest at the Phoenix, there was much to be
done. While attempting a multi-course
Saturday brunch, Catherine had noted that the
pantry was still
lacking. JenniAnn and Angie, the wife of Catherine's former boss,
readily agreed to help stock it. Hours later, they returned
with their arms overflowing with bags and boxes of food.
JenniAnn struggled with her packages as
she unlocked the door.
should just ring
doorbell," an equally bag-laden Angie suggested.
Besides, Jacob could be napping so if it's not truly
necessary..." Upon hearing a clicking noise, she grinned and
kicked in the door.
into the kitchen and
her bags on the table then helped JenniAnn in. They began to put
the items into the cupboards and refrigerator, chatting as they did.
should be all
for the week!" Angie declared, eying the numerous bags before glancing
at her watch. "Wow. I didn't realize it was
already after 7:00. Joe will be home any time. He's been
gone so often..."
It's that late? Wow, I
didn't realize, either. But, yeah, you really gotta go
then. I can get
everything put away easily.
Thanks for helping, Angie. Give Joe my best." JenniAnn
the older woman.
just going to say good night to Catherine then head out."
nodded, smiling as
the room in search of Catherine. Secretly, she relished the
chance to organize the pantry herself. She was debating whether
to sort the items by placement on the food pyramid or actual likelihood
of being used frequently when she heard scuffling at the door.
Alarmed, she peeked out. Though it was difficult to see in the
darkness she could make out Cira, Catherine's first and only
charge, on the
stoop. And there was someone slumped against her.
set one freaking
far: no strangers without checking with Catherine! And she's
already broke it!" JenniAnn muttered. Nonetheless,
it was obvious there was some sort of distress going on so she opened
I'm sorry," Cira blurted
out, face flushed. "I know we're not supposed to bring people
straight here. And not boys at all... but if you'd seen..."
some stray hair out of her
face then looked up. "JenniAnn, he's hurt and he needs help."
stared at the mess
clothes and rumpled hair. She opened her mouth to say something
but was cut off when the figure lunged at her.
and Joe and
need to meet up some night, go out to dinner. I owe you that much
after all the help you've both given us here." Catherine smiled
warmly at Angie and hugged her after setting her
sleeping son down.
"Any time! This is a worthwhile cause, Cathy. Joe was sorry
to see you go
but he can't deny that what you'll be doing here... what you're already
doing... It's amazing, Cathy. And necessary... especially
in light of recent events."
frowned and shook her head in disgust. "That's all too true, I'm
afraid. But I've
back for a long time. Growing up here, for so many years, I
eye to..." She was
by pounding footsteps on the stairs. Seconds later, Cira tore
into the room.
just bolted at her!" she screamed.
and JenniAnn answered the door and oh God..." Cira crumpled to the
"Where? Cira, where are they? Where did they go?"
around the room. Some wooden planks Andrew had been working
with lay in a pile. She picked one up and turned to
Angie. "Stay with Cira and Jacob. Call the police if I
don't come back in five minutes or if you hear... anything. And
don't open the door!
by Cira, trying to console the girl.
out of the
room, relieved to hear the door lock behind
her, and climbed down the stairs. She
raised the plank over her shoulder like a baseball bat.
She peeked into the kitchen, hoping to plan her attack with a
better idea of where the man was... if he was still there at all.
From her angle all she could see was one of JenniAnn's legs strewn
floor. She seemed to be trying
to catch her breath. Enraged, Catherine swiftly rounded the
dismay at the scene in front of her. Stunned, she lowered the
sitting on the
back to the cupboards. Andrew was beside her. The reason
for her cousin's distress soon became clear to Catherine.
Andrew's right hand
resting on JenniAnn's lap and a blood-spotted towel was wrapped around
away the makeshift wrapping and staring at the cut in
even that deep of a..."
"It-it's your good hand!" She bowed her head as tears threatened
to spill over.
"Hey there... now don't... It will heal, I promise." Andrew
his left hand and moved to stroke her hair but stopped, noticing
the dirt and dried blood caked to his skin.
on his shoulder and began to sob.
Catherine silently exited the room. She didn't think they'd seen
her. Andrew had seemed slightly dazed and as for her cousin...
she'd been oblivious to all but him. Catherine crept back up
the stairs to assure Angie and Cira that all was well. Once
she had a chance to speak to JenniAnn, she'd go to Vincent and
assure him also. Well she knew he'd have felt her fear through
bond. Though relief would be flowing to him, too, his wife knew
he wouldn't be at peace until he had some answers.
a few moments more, Catherine returned
to the kitchen, lightly knocking on the wall to alert the
angel and woman to her presence.
for the first time how haggard and disheveled the angel looked.
He had the beginnings of a beard and his hair hung limply around his
face, lacking its usual luster. She drew in a deep breath in
an attempt to steady her voice.
"A-andrew," she responded. "Are
you... do you need help?"
his head and
smiled. "Already have it, thanks."
looked up. "Could
you please get me the First Aid kit?"
fetched the box
from the counter then watched as her cousin began to properly clean and
dress Andrew's cut. He looked over his nurse's head and
caught Catherine's gaze.
"I, umm, am on assignment. Things got a little out of
"So I see. What happened?"
Andrew sighed and ran his uninjured hand through his hair.
knife fight broke out and I tried to intervene. It... sort of
worked? I mean no one got stabbed so..."
"Whoever you saved better darn well appreciate it!" JenniAnn
finishing off the bandage.
The angel frowned. "They ran off."
JenniAnn shook her head. "I... I thought with stuff like
couldn't get hurt. Like catching bullets and walking into
buildings right before a bomb goes off. You're invincible!"
"Usually. But I have to live with these people for a
Wouldn't you get a little suspicious of someone if you knew you'd cut
them but they didn't bleed? Laja, it doesn't even hurt now.
Really. I'm fine." Andrew smiled to encourage her.
"I'm glad to hear that you're not in pain, Andrew. But I do
to ask..." Catherine began.
"Cira, the girl staying here, came running to me. She said
JenniAnn. To be honest, I think she thought..." the older woman's
voice drifted off as her cousin looked up in surprise.
Andrew's face flushed. "I'm sorry! I wasn't thinking
straight. I heard Cira say 'JenniAnn' and I realized where I was
and... I guess I was worn out and knowing a friend
was there, I just... collapsed."
"It's okay," JenniAnn assured. "Cira knows I'm fine now,
right?" She felt a little ashamed for having completely forgotten
about the girl in her fussing over Andrew. When Catherine nodded,
she faced Andrew again. "You
seemed disoriented. Are you sure nothing else happened?
W-would you tell me if it had?"
The angel gave her the most encouraging smile he could
little sleep deprived maybe. It made me a little dizzy.
"Can you stay longer? Are you hungry?"
"I really need to get back, Laja." The angel of death stood
then reached down to pull his friend up, as well. He regretted it
immediately when he realized he barely possessed the strength to do
what he usually could so effortlessly. He prayed JenniAnn hadn't
noticed but the unease and deepening concern on her face told
"I'm going to pack some food for you," she insisted.
"Andrew, I know it's important that you live this life among your
assignments. But what good are you going to do if you completely
lose your strength? This," she reached for his bandaged hand,
"proves it's possible. And... and I'm going to have to tell our
friends about this. This isn't a secret I... or Catherine for
that matter... can rightly keep." Her face darkened but she
forced a smile. "And what do you think they'll make
of me if they hear I sent you off with nothing?!"
Andrew smiled sheepishly. He knew Lady Beth especially would
take kindly to that. "Point taken. Okay."
"Is there anything else we can get you, Andrew?"
The angel shook his head. "No, Catherine. Actually,
already doing more than I can say. Word is getting out about this
place. With a little more time I might have a couple women
convinced they should come here and maybe I'll be able to convince some
of the men to head to shelters, too. People like you make this
"People like you make life a little easier to bear."
hugged him. When she pulled away she noticed JenniAnn was already
removing items from the refrigerator and looked on the point of tears
once more. She knew she wasn't the one able to stop them from
falling. "I'm going to leave the two of you alone now.
But if there's anything, and I mean anything, any of us can do you let
us know right away. Got it?"
Catherine returned the angel's warm smile and then looked to her
cousin. "I'm going upstairs. Come see me."
Her cousin nodded, intent on the bread she was slicing.
Once Catherine had exited the room,
Andrew directed all his
to JenniAnn. She threw several granola bars into a
bag. Next, he watched as she made him sandwiches, knowing exactly
which ingredients he preferred. Lastly, she returned to the
refrigerator and pulled out two cans of ginger ale. She was just
about to place them in the bag when one slipped from her hand and
clunked to the floor, rolling several feet away. Andrew noticed
that her hands were shaking.
"Augh! I can't even flipping do this right!" JenniAnn
cried, going after the stray can. "I'll switch that one out so it
"Do you want chips?"
"Or what about fruit?"
"What's in the bag is plen..."
"I should really put some water in there." She returned to
refrigerator, the door almost completely hiding her from Andrew's view.
Andrew walked around the island that separated them and stood
her, lightly brushing her shoulder. "I'll be fine. You know
I will. I've been homeless for assignments before."
"I know. B-but... Th-there's some freaking maniac... or
multiples... out there."
"And your hand is bleeding."
"Was. You fixed it up just fine."
"Not the point."
"I know," Andrew admitted. "You're shaking. Laja,
JenniAnn grabbed another ginger ale and some bottled water and set
them on the counter. At last she turned around to face the angel
of death and a
moment later embraced him. "It's not that I want to be
scared! I know it goes against everything you tell people.
But I can't help it!" she cried.
Andrew repressed his initial instinct to push her away, concerned
what he may be carrying on his tattered clothes. However, he knew
she'd only be
hurt by such a reaction. He returned her hug and felt her
shuddering. "Pray with
"Of course." She pulled away enough to hold his hands,
right hand gently.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?" Andrew
recited. He prayed the entire 27th Psalm, JenniAnn's voice
occasionally drifting in though more often she remained in prayerful
"Be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the
they finished together. "Amen."
Andrew released his friend's hands. "Laja, I really need to
She nodded, hugging him once more. "I love you."
"I love you, too. Please tell the others I send my love and
I'll see them soon. Will you do that?"
"Good, thank you. Seeing you did me a lot of good."
smiled at her, stepping away. "If you get scared, remember the
Father is there, listening to and loving you."
"I will. Here." She handed him the bag. "Take
yourself and know... know we are so proud of you and we all love you
"I do know and I'm so grateful." He sighed. "Laja, I
think it would be best if you go upstairs now and don't... don't see me
"B-but can't I just walk with you a little ways? Just
yard. No one will..."
Andrew shook his head. The idea of leaving her standing
the cold night air, not entirely convinced she wouldn't follow him,
wasn't a particularly appealing one. Relieved, he caught sight of
Vincent peeking from behind the basement door, trying to determine
whether it was safe to reveal himself or not. Andrew motioned for
"Psyche," Vincent called, holding his hand out towards her.
"Please, go to Vincent. For me," Andrew requested.
"I-if anyone says anything hurtful or disrespectful to you...
us. Think of our home," she pleaded. "Think of Home."
"I won't be able to stop myself from it, that I promise you," the
JenniAnn drew in a deep breath then moved to stand at Vincent's
facing away from the door. She flinched when she heard it open,
rush of cold air into the room that quickly died down as the
door closed. She seemed unsteady so Vincent steered her towards a
chair then jotted
a note for Catherine before leading his godchild into the Tunnels.
Andrew walked quickly as he left
Phoenix and made his way to the alley where he'd spent the past three
nights. By the time he reached it, he'd regained his
composure although he was still troubled. His last glimpse of
JenniAnn had revealed a very shaken, heartbroken person. He knew
it was only a matter of time before the rest of their friends had heard
about their unplanned encounter and his current status. Even if
it weren't for the
angel's unceasing regard for the truth, he still couldn't have asked
her to keep quiet.
Emotionally and physically exhausted, Andrew leaned against the wall of
an old warehouse and slid to the ground. He closed his eyes and
prayed that his friends not become too distraught or, worse yet, decide
to track him down. Once finished, he opened the bag JenniAnn had
packed. In spite of his mood, he smiled as he withdrew one of the
sandwiches. Closing his eyes, he could imagine for a moment that
he was at one of the many Dyeland picnics... albeit an unseasonably
The angel's eyes shot open when he heard hurried foot steps and someone
"Maggie?" he called, peering across the alleyway to a dumpster near
which someone was crouched.
The angel of death watched as the woman stepped into the
moonlight. With a nervous smile, she sat beside him. He
studied her troubled face. He hadn't asked but guessed
Maggie to be 22 or 23 at the most. Despite the dust and tangles,
her hair shone a brilliant red as it tumbled past her shoulder
blades. Andrew found it easy to imagine her sitting around the
table at the Cafe, laughing at Adam's latest joke or joining in on
Rose's fruitless attempt to uncover his age.
"What are you thinking, Andrew?"
Andrew shook himself out of his reverie. "What?"
"For a moment there you seemed to go somewhere else. You
looked... wistful. Where were you?"
"A world away. In a cafe," he confessed, knowing Maggie would
never guess how literal he was being.
"What about you? Did something happen?"
Maggie shrugged. "Just some jerk... you know how it is. In
case recent events haven't made it abundantly obvious to you, they
think they can do whatever they like with us. We're
dispensable." She clucked her tongue and hung her head.
Andrew put an arm around her shoulders. "Maggie, if you've been
"No. I got away... This time."
"You're not dispensable. Whatever they might think. You're
one of God's children. He loves you. And I happen to think
you're pretty special myself."
Unused to receiving compliments, Maggie didn't reply. She caught
sight of the bag near Andrew and redirected the conversation.
Andrew placed the bag between them. "Take what you want.
You really should eat something."
Eagerly, Maggie dug into the bag and pulled out a sandwich and bottle
of water. "Thanks. Where'd you get it?"
"A nice lady gave it to me."
The woman raised an eye brow. "Just gave it to you?"
"I'd be shocked but you... you I can imagine women just giving things
to." Maggie looked with fondness and ill-concealed appreciation
at Andrew. Though he'd looked ragged and careworn from the moment
she'd met him the previous Wednesday, there was something about him
that captivated and enchanted her.
The angel blushed. "I think she would have given it to anyone she
saw who needed it. Actually... she works at a new shelter for
women and children. The Phoenix Inn, I mentioned it
They have space and I was
"I'm not going to a shelter, Andrew!" Maggie snapped. She saw a
hurt look cross Andrew's face and immediately regretted her
"I'm sorry. But I just... I just can't. And I'm especially
not going somewhere without you. I know we just met four days
ago but you're my
only real friend out here... at least you're the only one I feel
comfortable with. There's just something about you."
Andrew smiled. "You're my friend, too. But I don't want
concern for me keeping you from..."
"It's not that. Please, can we talk about something else?
Like maybe... you."
He chuckled as she looked up at him with intense, pleading
curiosity. "What would you like to know?"
"For starters... have you ever been married?"
"Ever wanted to be?"
Maggie's face fell.
"It's not that I don't want close, loving relationships with
Andrew began to explain.
"Oh God. You're like some free love hippie, aren't you?"
"No! No, no, no..." Andrew's felt the color again
his cheeks but chuckled in spite of it. "I just prefer to have
"I get that. Romance can be..." Maggie's voice drifted
off. Once again she changed the subject. "So how'd you end
up out here? Where did all your friends go?"
"Life sometimes takes turns we don't expect," was his simple reply.
"So it does."
"How about you?"
"What about me?"
"What ever you'd like to tell me. I'm interested in you,
Maggie sighed. "I was married. Technically still am, I
Andrew tried to mask his surprise at this revelation.
"Craig and I married right out of high school. My friends
was a bad idea... turned out they were right. He hit me one too
many times and so one night when he was passed out on the couch... I
left. Eventually I ran out of money and, hence, you find me
currently residing in beautiful downtown NYC."
"You couldn't have stayed with friends?"
"Lost them. Craig didn't like me spending time with them and
after I turned them down so many times I guess they just gave up on
me. Can't say I blame them." Maggie yawned.
"Thanks for dinner. It was great."
"You're welcome. More?"
Maggie shook her head and helped Andrew stash what remained.
As she did, she yawned again.
"Why don't you get some sleep? I'll keep
"I've agreed to that for the past three nights but you never wake
for my shift. You need to sleep, too, Andrew."
"I'll manage. If Ryan or Crystal show up I'm sure they'll
"If Ry shows up, I'm going to give that man a talking to.
Running off after you saved him! How is your hand? I'm
sorry I forgot to ask before." Maggie reached for Andrew's right
hand, her eye brows raising as she took in the professional-looking
bandaging job. "Did you go to a clinic or something?"
"No. That lady I mentioned..."
The young woman opened her mouth to tease her new friend about his
mystery woman. However, before she said a word she noticed that
Andrew's face had clouded over and he looked upset.
"I really think you should sleep. I'll take first shift,"
Andrew smiled appreciatively at her. "Thanks. But,
it's okay. I don't think I can sleep right now so you might as
well. Maybe I'll feel more like it when the others show up."
Biting her lip, Maggie peered at him . "Alright," she
agreed. "But if they don't, wake me up so you can rest."
"Will do. Sleep well, Maggie."
"For your sake, I wish you weren't here but for mine... I'm glad
Andrew smiled at her and squeezed her hand. "Me too.
Maggie pulled a worn sleeping bag from its hiding place then
against the wall of the building.
Andrew kept watch, praying that the night wouldn't bring another
Rose, Yva, Lady
Adam, Catherine, and Vincent all sat silently in JenniAnn's chamber as
she finished recounting what had occurred at the Phoenix. Fawn
and Lulu were curled together on her bed, the latter occasionally
drawing sympathetic looks from the humans and angel.
"I'm staying here. Dividing my time between the Tunnels and
Phoenix. I just... I guess I feel better being... being under the
same sky at least. Until this is over." JenniAnn blushed,
realizing how sappy that sounded.
"I'd like to stay here, too, if that's okay. Maybe bring
Josephine along?" Rose looked to Vincent.
"Of course, Rose. You are both more than welcome. All
"Thank you, Vincent." Lady Beth hugged him. "I'd
love to be here, too."
"And if it would be easier for anyone, you can also stay at the
Phoenix. The rooms might not be completely furnished yet but I
definitely have enough beds," Catherine offered.
"That might be the best idea, that way we could help you, too,"
Rose nodded, blushing. "And some of Andrew's things are
somehow that's comforting even if it is just a bunch of tools and
Torn, Yva shook her head. "I wish I could but with Papa
help and Sir Sven... I don't think I can."
"Andrew wouldn't want us disrupting our lives. We all know
"And it's not as if it takes much time at all to get here if
did come up. We'd tell you, Yva. And anyone else who stays
in Dyeland." Catherine smiled as Vincent patted his sister's hand.
"Adam, you're awfully quiet." Lady Beth looked to him
The angel of death looked up from the candle he'd been staring
at. "I'll be here. I'm actually on assignment. I
found out about it earlier today. I'm a detective with the NYPD
be working with the district attorney's office, hopefully helping to
is behind these attacks." He glanced up at Catherine. "I'm
meeting with Joe tomorrow. I was going to tell
everyone but hadn't had the chance yet. And I didn't know Andrew
was out there."
"Do you know how long your assignment is going to last?" Lady Beth
asked, hoping his answer would reveal the length of Andrew's.
Adam shook his head, a sad smile on his face. "No.
me, I wish I did."
"Wh-what's the longest you've ever known an assignment like this
last?" Rose questioned.
Adam bowed his head, his gray locks falling over his face and
it. "Not counting deep cover assignments?"
JenniAnn shivered at the idea and sensed she wasn't the only one
horrified by the thought. "Not counting them."
"A month or two." He looked up and glanced around the
"But usually it's more like a week. Maybe two. If the
Father intended on keeping Andrew out there until after Christmas, I
think He would have given him some warning so Andrew could prepare all
"I feel like God must think we're impossible to please," Yva
Catherine looked at her with alarm. "What do you mean?"
"I suppose I mean that we want Andrew, Adam, Henry, and now Eli,
to be with people at their most harrowing moments. We need to
know that no one's alone when they die." She looked to
Adam. "At the same time, it's
desperately hard not to want to keep all of you near by.
Safe. And then we become upset when that's impossible."
Adam stood up and gave Yva a hug. "The Father understands
than you can know. He feels that, too. He doesn't want
Andrew out there any more than any of us do. But He also doesn't
want His other children struggling alone there. And you know
something else? If the Father had told Andrew that he could be
where he is right now, helping people out or he could spend the week
sitting outside a Parisian cafe, kicking back crepe after crepe...
none of this would be any different. Andrew would still be up
there right now."
"Because he loves us," JenniAnn murmured.
Adam beamed at her. "Exactly." He glanced at his
watch. "My shift starts soon. I need to get going.
But I'll check in as soon as I can. Take care of yourselves and,
like Andrew said, try not to worry."
After a round of hugs, the group watched Adam depart. They
remained silent for several moments, reviewing all that had been
Yva spoke first. "I know I can't be here the whole time but
really would like to take some shifts at the shelter, Cathy. I
feel like helping others there might make this a little easier to bear."
"We'd love your help, Yva. Right now we only have one guest
Andrew said we might be getting more. He is a persuasive
JenniAnn stood up and began to pace the room. She soon
aware of the six sets of eyes watching her and halted. "I'm sorry
but I just need to do something. Keep myself busy. So who
all is staying? I'll go make some of the beds up."
"I'll help," Rose offered.
"Did Adam mean he'd be staying here here or just New York here?"
"We'll make a chamber up for him. Just in case. How
Lady Beth nodded in response to JenniAnn. "I think I'll
time so, sure, that would be great. Right now I think I want to
do some cooking. Do you think William would mind some help?"
"Not at all. I think he'd quite enjoy it," Vincent
"Likely he's begun work on the bread for tomorrow."
"Do you think we could all meet tomorrow for dinner? I just
it'd be nice," Rose suggested. "Especially with it being Yva's
birthday. Andrew would still want us to celebrate, of
course. I mean unless you already had plans."
"Thanks, Rose. That's sweet. I'd love to do
I'll mention it to everyone else when I get
back to Dyeland. Where? The Cafe?"
Vincent noticed Rose and JenniAnn tense at Yva's suggestion.
"No, not the Cafe," Yva corrected. She recalled how
absences were at the Cafe and she wasn't eager herself to sit there on
her birthday with
unbidden comparisons between the contented, comfortable Andrew she'd
last seen there and the bleeding, weakened one JenniAnn had described
floating through her mind. "Here?"
"Yes. I think that would be best," Vincent agreed. "It
would be an honor to celebrate your birthday here, Yva."
"You eat around 6:30, right?" Lady Beth checked.
"We do," the man responded. "I'll tell William to expect a
crowd. Though it is not particularly festive, it would be a fine
time to reiterate safety precautions,
as well. I'll speak to Father of it immediately. Be well,
dear friends." He and Catherine embraced each of the women before
The four women said their good byes then Rose and JenniAnn went
chambers, Lady Beth to aid William, and Yva to
Dyeland. Whether they stay or remained, each was thinking about
their friend Above and wondering how he was spending the night.
Maggie woke up to Andrew gently
"The sun's coming up, we better get moving."
"Ryan and Crystal?" the woman sleepily asked.
"They never showed up."
"Then you never slept! Andrew! You said you'd wake me
The angel shrugged. "I planned to. But I just never
like I could have gone to sleep."
Maggie stood, rolled the sleeping bag up, stashed it, and then
directed her full attention to Andrew. "What's wrong?" she asked,
setting a hand on his shoulder.
"I'm fine. It's just... today's a friend's birthday and I'm
I won't be there to celebrate with her."
"The lady that gave you that?" Maggie waved to the bag
"No, another friend."
"I bet they miss you. Andrew, why don't you go back home...
wherever that is?"
Andrew considered how he could answer Maggie without lying or
too much of who he was. He was still fumbling for an answer when
Maggie gasped and clenched his arm. He looked to where she
was pointing then ran towards the approaching figure, catching them
just before they fell to the ground.
Maggie knelt beside them as Andrew sat on the ground, holding
injured person. "Oh...
oh..." She tried to brush some blood-matted hair away from the
man's face but he flinched and pulled away.
"A-andrew... I- I think it's Ryan. Oh God, what did they
The figure stopped moving.
Andrew gently set his hand on the man's neck. As he did, he
felt a beaded necklace like one he knew Ryan to wear. "I think it
is Ryan and his pulse is slowing. We need to get him help.
Follow me." Lifting the injured man, Andrew ran as fast as he
could with Maggie trailing him. They both kept an eye out for
police officers or emergency personnel but, seeing none in the still
dim light, Andrew kept on his path. Soon he was at the back door
of the Phoenix.
The angel turned to Maggie. "Knock. I know the people
Maggie pounded on the door, trying to catch her breath. She
noticed how ashen Andrew looked and prayed someone would open the door
soon so he could set Ryan down. A split second later the door
flew open and Catherine ushered them inside.
"Call 911, Psyche!" she shouted, waving to the nearest couch from
Rose had leapt up. "Here, set him down here."
Once Andrew had set Ryan down, he thudded to the floor beside the
"Andrew!" Rose cried, kneeling beside him and steadying him.
Maggie watched, trying to make sense of everything that was
"Yes, right. The new homeless shelter. Across from
Coffeehouse. Please, please hurry!" JenniAnn pleaded into the
phone. "I... I don't know. Is he breathing?"
Catherine was hovering over Ryan. "Barely. Tell them
afraid to start CPR. I think his ribs are damaged."
JenniAnn relayed the information into the phone. She sighed
relief at the sound of sirens.
Only moments later, the room was swamped with EMTs. They
Ryan into the ambulance, taking Maggie
along with them to supply what little information she could about him.
"Wh-what happened?" Cira asked, still dazed with sleepiness as she
down the stairs. She noticed Andrew crouched on the floor
"Hi," Andrew greeted, unsure what else to say.
"Cira, there was another attack last night. A very, very
one. Andrew here was good enough to bring the young man here so
we could get help to him. Just like you did for Andrew,"
"Will he... the man... make it?" Cira questioned. "And what
his name? Do you know?" She looked to Andrew.
"His name is Ryan and we don't know. His injuries were very
severe. They must... they must have beaten him repeatedly... so
forcefully..." Andrew blinked then hung his head.
Catherine took Cira by the hand. "Let's give Andrew some
time. Come on, I'll fix you breakfast."
Blinking back tears, Cira nodded. She set her free hand on
Andrew's head before following Catherine. "I'll pray for your
"Thank you, Cira. And thank you for bringing me here
yesterday. I'm sorry I frightened you."
"Don't be." Cira mustered a bright smile before exiting the
Realizing she was still clutching the phone, JenniAnn finally set
down then plopped beside Andrew and Rose.
"Andrew, what can we do... for you?" Rose asked.
"I need to get back out there. Ryan was with someone when I
saw him. A woman. Crystal. I need to find out where
she is... if they... if they..." He lowered his head and began
rubbing his temples.
Rose and JenniAnn exchanged a quick look of concern.
"Andrew, did you know Adam was on this case?" JenniAnn asked.
Andrew looked up in alarm. "He's out there, too?"
"No. I mean not exactly. He's working with the D.A.'s
office. With Joe. Why don't you let us call him?
We'll tell him about Crystal. He can tell whomever he needs to
and they can look for her... while you rest." Rose peered
hopefully at him, desperate for the angel to accept her suggestion.
"Yeah. Call Adam. That's great. Maybe he can get
someone at the hospital. Ryan could tell them where she... if
Ryan wakes up. He looked really bad, didn't he? How could
anyone..." He swayed forward and rested his head on his knees.
"I don't know, Andrew. I can't imagine having that much hate
heart... that cruelty... And I wish... I wish you didn't have to
see it," Rose murmured, gently patting his back.
Andrew sat up again. "I need to go out there. If she
the police she'll just run. She trusts me. I should go."
The two women watched nervously as Andrew got to his feet and
approached the door.
"Don't worry, I'll be fine. I'll come back if..."
"Andrew!" his friends shouted in unison as he began to teeter and
jumped to their feet.
Rose led him to a chair while JenniAnn quickly turned each of the four
locks on the door and stood defiantly in front of it.
"What are you doing?" Andrew looked at her with raised eyebrows
Rose an appreciative smile.
"I, uh, I think I'm kidnapping you."
Andrew chuckled, distracted from his malaise. "Kidnapping
"Or false imprisonment. I don't really know. I don't
care. I'll ask
Catherine later. But here's the deal: you are going to stay here,
you are going to rest, I am going to call Adam, Adam will see to it
that the authorities keep an eye out for Crystal and wait with Ryan,
and *then* after you've rested and ate... I'll let you go."
JenniAnn blushed then as her gumption began to waver. "Is that...
is that okay?"
"I say it is. And I'm aiding and abetting," Rose added.
The angel reached for their hands. "Laja, Rose, while I'm
touched that you're willing to commit a felony for me..." He
shook his head and grinned for a fleeting moment. "I really do
need to go. Part of this assignment is to live the life of a
homeless man, to build their trust in me so I can help them. And
most homeless people don't have..." He squeezed their
"Andrew, do you honestly think if any other homeless man would
in here... carrying a wounded man all the way here despite his own pain
and exhaustion that I would have just kicked him to the curb? Do
you think Rose would? Catherine?" JenniAnn demanded, tears
filling her eyes. "If you want me to treat you like any other
homeless man then I am! Sure, maybe I wouldn't be this emotional
about any other homeless man. Maybe my mind wouldn't be filling
with nearly ten years worth of memories right now as I pleaded with him
stay just for an hour or two... but I wouldn't let him just go!
You know me better than that!"
"Oh..." Rose murmured. "Andrew, it's okay. We're not
with you!" she insisted, noticing that tears had begun to streak down
Andrew's face as JenniAnn spoke.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to upset
Oh, Andrew, don't cry!" JenniAnn knelt beside his chair. "I
shouldn't have went off, I..."
Shaking his head, Andrew drew in a deep breath to calm
"It's not what you said... well, it is. But not how you're
thinking. These past four days I've met people who led amazing
lives. Former teachers, clergy, counselors,
mothers, fathers... people who made tremendous differences, bettering
the lives of others. A-and one guy, a Gulf War vet... he had burn
marks on his arms. Someone found him sleeping on a park bench and
that... that's how they expressed their disgust. He fought for
their country, watched his buddies get slaughtered, and that... *that*
"Andrew..." Rose hugged him. It was not lost on either
or JenniAnn that Andrew himself had spent time in Saudi Arabia during
He paused for just a moment then continued. "And the things
people say and do... They don't show any regard for these people
been living among. They don't see us as having a history,
meaningful lives. Laja, when you started defending yourself...
rightly... that was the only time during this assignment, other than
last night when I was here, that anyone other than Maggie has spoken to
me with any concept of my having ever belonged anywhere... of my having
people who cared about me, 'ten years of memories,' an impact."
"Andrew, you will always have us caring about you. And we're
always going to be impressed by your amazing history and downright
sappy about the impact you've had not just on us but so many people
through countless years!" Rose assured.
JenniAnn nodded. "And you do belong, Andrew. With
But if right now you feel you need to go... then go."
Moved, Andrew drank in the love shining in his friends'
noticed anxiety in them, too. He had no doubt that they would
let him leave the house as JenniAnn had promised but he also considered
the advice he'd been giving his assignments: there is strength in
asking for and accepting help. He shook his head. "I think
I would like to stay. I can't for long but it would be good to
The relief JenniAnn and Rose felt was instantly writ across their
Andrew carefully stood up, glad that he felt steady on his feet
"So what do you want to do fir..." JenniAnn's question was
off by a strange sound from one of the bedrooms up the stairs.
"What is... uh oh!" She trotted up the stairs and opened the
first door she came to. "I'm sorry! I didn't realize that
had got clo... Sheesh!" She flew back as two bundles of fur
pushed past her legs.
Andrew squatted on the ground, waiting. A second later he
had both Fawn and Lulu vying for space on his lap. Eventually, in
their puppy-level excitement, they pushed their friend to the ground
and covered him with kisses and brushes from cold noses.
Blinking back tears, JenniAnn and Rose allowed them this for a few
moments before the former called her own dog back to her. Lulu
remained nestled against Andrew's chest.
"There's my girl," Andrew cooed. "I missed you so, so
much." He buried his face in the scruff of her neck.
The two women and Fawn exited the room to give Lulu some alone
with her boy.
into the sheets,
resisting the notion of getting up. Finally, he opened one eye
and noticed the beige flannel sheets. He was surprised to find
they weren't his own green and blue ones. After another
everything came flooding back. He wasn't in Dyeland, only resting
temporarily at the Phoenix. Soon he would leave, facing another
tearful good bye, and then what? Was Ryan still alive?
Crystal? Would Maggie stay there, stay safe?
Lulu was still asleep and Andrew rested his forehead against her soft
fur as he prayed. "Father... please give me strength. And
please give my friends strength, too. I see what this is doing to
them. Sometimes I find myself wishing..." His voice cracked
and he shook his head. "I'm sorry. Please give me the words
to help Maggie. Help me to find Crystal... keep her safe.
And for Ryan... help him to know You're with him." His forehead
creased as he struggled for the next words. "And whomever is
behind these attacks... help... help them. Help them to find Your
love and the compassion it bestows. Please, Father. Amen."
Andrew pulled Lulu into a hug and in doing so felt something
else. Another lump of fur that didn't feel at all like
Fawn... He sat up and reached for the strange object only to
discover it wasn't strange at all. It was the teddy bear Yva had
made him several years back! He pondered how it could have got
there as he stood up, stretching and testing his legs.
He remembered JenniAnn running Below to fetch him pajamas and clothes
while Rose fixed him something to eat. In the meantime, Catherine
had left to take Cira to the doctor. After that he'd taken a
shower and shaved. Those tasks had been interrupted numerous
times by Owen, the "official shower time emergency buddy" JenniAnn had
brought with her, knocking to ensure he was okay. Amused, Andrew
recalled all the different ways in which the Tunnel dweller had asked
after him: "Andrew, please say something. Psyche requires
assurance that you haven't split your skull open on the tile," "If
you'd prefer your friends not have coronaries, say something!," and "If
you're still breathing give a shout, else I'll burst in there of that
have no doubt."
Between the warm surroundings, lighthearted way in which Owen spoke,
and the cozily familiar sounds of feminine giggles the remarks
elicited, Andrew had felt something like his old self. Or
at least a version of his old self who put on pajamas at 10:00 in
the morning as he had before leaving the bathroom. At that point
he'd entered the bedroom he now lay in. JenniAnn and Rose had
resurfaced briefly to hug him and make sure he was comfortable.
The former had rebandaged his hand. Then he'd drifted to
sleep. At no point did he remember anyone
leaving the teddy bear.
Andrew turned when he heard the bedroom door creeping open. He
smiled when he saw Yva peer inside.
"You're up. How did you sleep, Andrew?"
The angel sighed with contentment. "Very, very well. Thank
happy birthday!" He frowned. "You didn't leave a
celebration to be here, did you?"
Yva took a seat in the chair pulled up to the bed, shaking her head as
Andrew realized he didn't remember it being positioned so when
he'd gone to sleep.
"No. We're having a dinner tonight. JenniAnn and Rose knew
that one of the best birthday presents I could get today would be the
chance to see you, Andrewkins." She smiled at him but it couldn't
mask her concern. "You look..." She paused, not knowing
what she could possibly say. Gaunt? Worn out?
Alarmingly fragile? They were all true but not one seemed prone
to cause him anything but sadness. "You look like you need a
hug," Yva finally finished. "And I'd really like one for my
As soon as she was standing, Andrew embraced his friend. "I'm
really glad you're here. I'm sorry I won't be there tonight but I
really did want to wish you happy birthday in person, Yva."
Pulling back, she peered into his face. "Thank you. Andrew,
I wish there was something I could do for you. Is there anything?"
Andrew glanced back the bed. He stroked Lulu's head then reached
for the bear. "Did you bring this?"
The bear's creator nodded. "When Rose came to get me we ran by
your place first because I wanted you to have it now, even if just for
a little bit."
Brushing at a tear, the angel hugged Yva again. "Thank
you. That means a lot. I love this little guy because I can
all the love that went into him. But... how did you get him in
here? I don't remember seeing him when I went to sleep."
Yva bowed her head. "I just had to see you as soon as I got
here. JenniAnn was weepy and Rose only slightly less so.
Even Owen looked grave and I was
concerned. So we took turns sitting here and praying for
you. When it was my turn, I brought the bear in. I guess we
thought that if angels can sit at humans' bedsides when they're going
through things... why wouldn't the reverse be alright?"
Moved to tears once more, Andrew traced the bear's face. "Thank
you. It's more than alright," he assured. He promised
himself later he would tell them each how much those bedside prayers
him. However, at that moment, Andrew couldn't express what
devotion and recognition of him meant without breaking
down. And that was something they most certainly didn't need to
see only a short while before he departed again.
As Andrew and Yva visited;
Rose, and Owen sat in the living room waiting for Adam. JenniAnn
was mending some clothes for Andrew while Rose handed her odd bits of
"And the purple ribbon? What is it from?" Owen asked. All
his earlier bravado had fallen away as he'd sat down to this new task
with the girls.
"It's from one of my dresses," JenniAnn explained. She looked
down at the bit of ribbon she was sewing into the inside of a coat
pocket, for a moment drifting away to the night she had last worn the
dress. Missouri, the dance club, "The Scientist."
Rose pointed to a bit of red sewn over the torn knee of a pair of
jeans. "That was from one of my Halloween costumes. My
first Halloween party in Dyeland. This
from the blanket JenniAnn had Lulu wrapped in when she gave her to
Owen smiled at them both. "You're doing a really great job."
"Thanks. And thank you for the idea." JenniAnn set down the
needle long enough to squeeze her friend's hand.
"You're welcome. I can remember what it was like. You begin
to feel like no one realizes you exist... or that you have feelings,
that you love and want to be loved."
Rose nodded. "Andrew said something a lot like that."
Owen shook his head, his own memories of life on the streets surfacing
with a clarity that had waned over the years. "If people only
knew... He's buried their dead, encouraged their dying, lifted
them up, loved them... and now... now they probably..." He
drifted off, noting that the women were looking at him in alarm.
"He'll be fine. He'll stick his hand in his pocket and remember
the crazy, little would-be felon that just can't seem to get enough of
JenniAnn's face flushed hot pink but she smiled.
"And when he notices that the cold air isn't coming through that worn
out hole in his jeans' left knee, he'll think of the baby of the
family: Rose. Who may at that moment be sitting with her history
books, trying to figure out exactly when he was born. What you're
doing won't make him less hungry, less tired, or less distraught over
man's inhumanity to man." Owen blinked back a tear. "But
be giving him something more important: the memory of man's and woman's
capacity to love without limits."
"Amen," a voice finished.
"Adam!" Rose cried, springing up to hug him.
"Otherwise known as Detective Addams. Adam Addams. What can
I say? I wasn't feeling particularly creative." He
JenniAnn giggled. "At least your given name isn't Gomez. Or
"The Father forbid!" Adam approached her, gazing intently at the
lump of clothes in her lap
and the basket Rose had set down upon greeting him. He reached
for a piece of nylon. "This is from one of our football jerseys."
"One that tore and had to be replaced. Owen suggested we sew in
lil bits of memories. So when Andrew leaves... we can't go with
him but he'll have all these little reminders of us and how much we
love him," she explained.
The angel of death squeezed her shoulder. "That's a wonderful
idea." He blinked then looked to the ceiling. Smiling, he
reached into his pocket. "Do you think you could sew this
somewhere?" He handed JenniAnn a small patch of material
identical to what had been used to create their AOD Band jackets.
Accepting it with reverence, JenniAnn nodded. "Of course.
So have you heard... how is the man Andrew brought in? Ryan?"
There was a creak on the staircase and the group turned to see Andrew
and Yva coming towards them with Lulu at their feet. Owen ushered
them towards the couch. Once they'd sat down, Fawn and Lulu
commenced their struggle for room on the angel's lap. Laughing,
Andrew eventually got them both situated and scratched their
ears. Then he looked at his longtime friend. "Hey,
Adam. How are you?"
Adam smiled though he wasn't sure it was entirely believable.
Despite being warned by Rose over the phone, he wasn't fully prepared
for Andrew's transformation. He shuddered to think what the bags
under his eyes must have looked like before his nap. "I'm doing
well, buddy. But how are you?"
Andrew shrugged. "Right now I'm really great. For a
kidnapping victim." He beamed at JenniAnn and Rose.
"What?" Yva gasped.
JenniAnn and Rose laughed but kept mum.
Andrew chuckled. "I was just joking. Earlier JenniAnn
informed me that I was being either kidnapped or falsely imprisoned."
"As a representative... temporarily... of the NYPD and ally of the
office... I'm going to choose to ignore that." Adam winked at
JenniAnn and Rose before redirecting his attention to Andrew.
"Now... how are you really?"
The younger angel of death sucked in a deep breath before letting it
out slowly. "Right now
I'm nervous and concerned. I heard what JenniAnn asked.
Could you... could you answer?"
Yva put her arm around Andrew's shoulder as they waited for Adam to
"Ryan is in a coma. He hasn't regained consciousness so we don't
have any information about the girl you and Maggie mentioned:
I'm sorry." Adam looked sympathetically at his friend who only
nodded. "But, Andrew, please know that Joe and the police are
doing everything they can. There's increased police
presence at night, they're offering rewards for tips, the shelters have
been handing out information and been trying to get more people
inside. You have no idea who is behind this? Have you
personally seen any of the attacks in progress?"
Andrew shook his head. "I've only seen the after effects.
Those practices the authorities have put in motion are all really
great. But these people... they're like
shadows. And anyone who sees them is either left dead or too
wounded or distraught to say anything!" Andrew cried. He held his
head in his hands for a moment. When he looked up, the others
were all looking at him with deep concern but equally deep
uncertainty. There wasn't a thing any of them could say to bring
him comfort on those points and they knew it. "Where's Maggie?"
he asked, hoping to dispel the feelings of helplessness he could see so
"She's still at the hospital. It turns out that Cira's clinic is
at St. Vincent's where they brought Ryan. Catherine will be
bringing both girls back with her. She's hoping that she'll
good impression on Maggie so she'll stay here," Adam explained.
Andrew sighed. "I hope she can. I've tried to convince
Maggie but she refuses to go to a shelter. Maybe Catherine will
get through to her."
"I'll pray she does." JenniAnn, who had continued stitching the
whole time, smiled at Andrew and handed him the bundle of
clothes. "I threw the other things in the wash. I can keep
them here if you'd like. Maybe Maggie will be here and you could
come visit and change before... before going back out there."
Andrew smiled gratefully at her as he accepted the items. "Thank
you. But you know Maggie wouldn't be the only one I'd be
JenniAnn nodded silently as he hugged her.
"I'm going to go change and once Maggie returns, I'll need to leave."
The group nodded gravely and watched him go back up the stairs with
Lulu trailing him.
"Adam..." Yva murmured.
He took the seat Andrew had previously occupied and held her
hand. "I know this is very, very difficult. But, remember,
the Father is always with him even when we can't be. And remember
last Christmas? I think that proved that, somehow, we're always
with each other, too." He bestowed encouraging smiles on the
four and even Fawn.
"Maybe if Maggie stays, he'll check in once a day or something.
We can make sure he's eating and sleeping," Rose hypothesized.
"There you go. See, there's a good chance that things will get
better now," Adam encouraged.
The group again turned to the staircase when they heard the first
bedroom door creak open. Andrew was running his fingers over the
patch, supplied by Adam, sewn onto his left sleeve. "The things
you all think of..." he smiled at them. "Thank you."
"You deserve it all, buddy," Adam responded.
Before anything more could be said, the group heard the garage door
open. They waited expectantly, wondering if Maggie had made a
decision and if there was any more news regarding Ryan.
"Maggie's smiling," Yva announced, looking out the window.
"Then Ryan's condition either didn't change or has gotten better.
And maybe... maybe she's staying here." Hopeful, Andrew went to
open the door and let the women in. Maggie immediately hugged him.
"Ryan's in really bad shape but he's still alive, Andrew. He
might pull through! Thanks to you!" she exclaimed.
Andrew smiled. "I'm glad to hear it."
Maggie became shy as she faced the others in the room. "Hi,"
she squeaked out.
Noticing her unease, Cira stood beside her. "Maggie, that's
JenniAnn, Catherine's cousin, and her friends: Owen and Yva and Rose,"
she introduced. "While we were waiting, Maggie and I realized
we'd met before. We'd both spent some time at the old
shelter on 29th before it closed down. Right?"
Andrew noticed Maggie flinch slightly so he rested his hand on her
shoulder. Calming, the young woman smiled. "Yes. It
was good to have a familiar face with me while I waited to hear about
Ryan. Thanks, Cira. And Catherine." She smiled shyly
at the shelter owner then her gaze traveled to Adam
and she looked questioningly at
him. "Why are you here? I talked to you at the hospital."
"And you were very helpful, Maggie, but I wanted to ask Andrew a few
questions, too. Now I need to get back to the station and compare
notes. Thank you for your time, Andrew, Maggie, ladies, and
gentleman." Adam nodded cordially at all of them, not yet wanting
Maggie to know how closely tied he was to everyone lest she begin
asking questions and leave the ladies scrambling for acceptable
answers. "I'll pray
for your friend," he added, looking from her to Andrew.
"Thank you, sir," Maggie responded, shaking Adam's proffered
"Give me a call if anything else comes up," he told the room,
"Maggie, have you decided what you'd like to do?" Catherine asked after
showing Adam out. She bestowed a friendly smile on the young
"We'd love to have you," JenniAnn added.
"I do feel safe here. It's really a sweet place and you all seem
so kind b-but what about Andrew? He said this was only for women
children and I... I can't..." Tears filled Maggie's eyes.
"I don't mind him staying and since Maggie and I would be the only
guests..." Cira trailed off, looking hopefully at Catherine.
"Andrew?" she checked.
The angel bowed his head. He could feel his friends staring at
him, praying he'd agree. "Thank you, Catherine. But I
can't. I need to try to find Crystal. But don't think the
offer doesn't mean a lot to me." He smiled gratefully at her,
trying not to look too closely at the others. He was afraid he'd
determination if he took in too much of their disappointment. But
he couldn't have Maggie keeping tabs on him, potentially noticing if he
mysteriously disappeared at odd hours. Nor did he want JenniAnn
or Rose to grow anxious waiting up for him.
"Then I'll go with you! Crystal's my friend, too!" Maggie cried.
Andrew took her hands in his. "Then pray I find her and think how
happy she'll be when I bring her here and she has a friend waiting."
"But how will you sleep? Andrew, if you fall asleep and one of
*them* finds you..." Maggie clung to him.
Owen could feel JenniAnn tense up beside him and Yva's and Rose's
concern was equally apparent across the room. He stood up and
approached Maggie, smiling warmly at her. "Hi, my name is
Owen. I used to be homeless, here in the city. There's a
really great men's shelter not too far from here. I used to stay
there sometimes. What if I show Andrew where it is and he
promises to stay there every night and get some sleep? Andrew,
would you agree to that?"
The angel nodded. "Yeah. I would, thank you."
Maggie peered up at her friend. "Every night?"
"Every night. Maggie, I would feel so much better knowing you
were here. I've known Catherine and her helpers for quite a while
and I know they'll take good care of you."
"I-I'm afraid I won't see you again," she whispered.
"You'll see me again. Maggie, I promise you that." Andrew
hugged her then looked down at her.
"What do you think?"
Having teared up a bit, JenniAnn cleared her throat. "Maggie, I
know you're concerned about Andrew. So am I. He means
something to every one of us in this room. I know it's very, very
hard to let him go but I promise you... he will come back. And in
the meantime... if you'd like to join me and maybe some others in a
cathartic worryfest... that can be arranged."
In spite of her concern, Maggie couldn't help but laugh. She
couldn't quite make sense of what the situation was with Andrew and
the group but she felt that if Andrew trusted them, so could
she. "Thank you, JenniAnn. I..." she cast another look at
Andrew who nodded, "I'd like to stay."
Andrew sighed and bowed his head, offering a silent prayer of thanks.
"Wonderful! Now how about we all have some lunch? Get to
know one another a little better? Andrew, will you stay for
that?" Catherine requested.
"I'd love to. Thank you, Catherine. Thank you,
Soon the Phoenix was abuzz with meal preparation and chatter as Maggie
was brought into the fold and Andrew braced himself for stepping away
from it yet again.
After lunch, each of the Dyelanders
able to manage some alone time with Andrew to give him a proper "see
you later." Once he had left, as JenniAnn had promised, they'd
engaged in a fair amount of cathartic voicing of worries while Owen
supplied some semblance of a reality check. Yva left not long
afterwards to prepare for her birthday dinner. While Catherine
felt she needed to stay with Maggie as she acclimated to her new home,
Rose and JenniAnn to go.
Before dinner started Below, Vincent made a quick and child-friendly
update on the safety precautions he, Detective Bratton, Father, and the
Council had devised. Though Vincent had tried his best to calm
people, the agitated mood was obvious. Thankfully, everyone began
to settle down as the meal was served and Yva's favorite songs were
played. As the Dyelanders shared
dinner with the Tunnel-dwellers, many of the latter stopped by to wish
Yva a happy birthday. After enjoying cake together, some left to
settle back into tasks or get children to bed. It was
then Yva's gifts were produced and opened with much appreciation and
Having already amassed several treasures, Yva looked curiously at
JenniAnn as she sat a final gift in front of her.
"But you already gave me that great set of picture frames! I
especially loved the chocolate themed one."
"Very creative, JenniAnn," Willy agreed.
JenniAnn smiled at the chocolatier. "Thanks. I'll have to
make you one sometime."
"I'm sure Papa would love that but as for me, those frames were
enough!" the birthday girl protested, looking back at the new box.
Nigel peered at the box. He recalled seeing it some days ago when
he'd paid Andrew a visit. "Love, I don't believe the gift is
another from JenniAnn."
JenniAnn continued to smile though it quivered for a moment.
"Nigel's right. This one isn't
from me. Andrew asked me to take it... in case he wasn't back by
"Andrew," Yva murmured. She reverently set her hand on the
Sir Sven took his wife's hand as they both stared at the gift for a
moment before she moved to unwrap it. She silently read the card,
not sure she could manage a public recitation at the moment.
"Hey there, Yva! Happy birthday! I really wish I could be
there to celebrate with you but you know I am in spirit. Friends
can never be too far away, can they? We've come through a lot
together and I'm so grateful you've stuck by me... even when I've been
grouchy or anti-social."
Yva laughed as she looked at the drawn face with arched eye brows and a
grimace. "Such a goof ball," she muttered with a laugh before
continuing to read.
"But you know how to make me smile. Thank you for being my
friend." He'd drawn a second, brighter face beside it. "I
hope you enjoy this. Love, Andrew...kins."
Inhaling slowly and deeply, Yva calmed herself and opened the
box. Inside was an antique desk top writer's chest.
Opening each drawer, Yva noted that Andrew had stocked it well.
There were small tablets for jotting notes, a variety of pens and
pencils, paper clips, stickers, and even some decorative rubber
was intensely grateful that she'd been able to see and hug Andrew
earlier but wished she could express her gratitude for the thoughtful
"Are you alright?" Sir Sven asked after a few moments went by in
Yva nodded. "I really am, thank you. I was only wishing I
could thank Andrew right now but I know what I can do. Right now
I'm going to send him some good thoughts and prayers."
"I think that's a wonderful idea, Yva," Father agreed.
The party readily agreed to Yva's plan. Some joining hands, some
looking above, and others bowing their heads; they thought of and
prayed for their friend.
after leaving Yva's
Adam went Above and made his way to Joe Maxwell's home. It was
the usual work day but the district attorney was determined to spend
every waking moment he could pouring over the case files, investigating
the scenes, and interviewing witnesses. Such tasks were usually
left to underlings or police officers but Joe insisted on being
involved in every aspect of the case. In Adam and Detective
Bratton he found dedicated allies.
Though Angie admired her husband's dedication and service to his city,
she had become distressed by the prospect of spending a fourth night
alone in their home. It was at her suggestion that Joe and the
two police officers met there. As they sipped from mugs of
coffee, the three men pored over photographs and files.
Joe was staring at a particularly brutal image when he pounded his fist
on the table. "What kind of sick bas..." He bit his lip
when he caught Angie's warning look as she passed through the hallway
with a load of laundry. Whatever he might say in the office,
cussing was strictly forbidden in their home. "Sorry," he
called. He paused until he was convinced she was out of ear
shot. "Forensics thinks they beat this guy with a board covered
in nails. What possesses a human being to do that to another
human being?" He set another photo on the table. "Set on
fire and left with second degree burns covering 40% of his body."
Another. "Beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat, left with two
broken legs." A
fourth. "And this morning's... Pelted by rocks... one of
them large enough to cause traumatic brain injury leaving the victim in
a coma." Joe sighed and rested his head in his hands.
"Maybe Cathy has the right idea... maybe I need to get myself a
different line of work. Heck, maybe I'll retire."
Adam reached across the table and set a hand on the man's
shoulder. "I visited Catherine's shelter today, Joe. She's
still a part of this. It doesn't seem like she could step away
completely and I doubt you could, either."
"Chandler's actively helping people. What am I doing? It's
been over a week and we haven't found a single God d..." Joe
looked over his shoulder. He couldn't see his wife but was
stopped by the promise he'd made. "We haven't found a single
piece of evidence. Not a thing. The little bit of DNA
evidence we have hasn't been matched to anyone in the system."
"That's why we've got to keep looking, Joe," Matthew encouraged.
"We'll find something. These kids are going to screw up at some
"You're assuming the pathologist is on track with the young punks
theory. What if this is a serial killer?"
The officer frowned, deflated, but rallied. "They screw up,
too. And, as much as I hate to be counting on their continued
best bet may be waiting for their next attack. With the increased
patrols maybe we'll catch someone in action."
"The important thing is not getting discouraged. There are
innocent people still out there and they need you, Joe. You think
it means nothing that the district attorney himself is personally
investigating this?" Adam pointed to the evening's paper,
detailing Joe's efforts under the headline "D.A. Takes Personal
Interest in Homeless' Plight, Vows to Catch Killers." "Because it
does, Joe. Trust me."
Joe smiled. "Thanks, Adam. I need all the encouragement I
can get. So did either of you mention the possibility of
undercover officers to your chief? Maybe I should call him
myself. I hate to put any of you in the line of danger like that
but... Sometimes getting some of our own in there is the only
Adam was staring into the depths of his coffee cup. "Yes, it is,"
he agreed, wondering what Andrew was doing at that moment.
With desperate hope, Andrew
the alleyway that had been "home" to Maggie, Crystal, Ryan, and
himself. He poked around, looking for any place Crystal might
hide. He checked on the sleeping bag, personal mementos, and the
stash of granola
bars Maggie had hidden the previous night. All were
untouched. If Crystal had come looking for them, she'd left no
Sitting where he'd spent the previous night, Andrew thought back on the
last few days he had spent with the trio and what he'd learned of
them. Ryan had lived the
longest on the streets. Though he seldom spoke at length, Maggie
divulged that he was around thirty and had been homeless since losing
his job in 2001. He hadn't been on the streets long when he'd
developed a drug habit. It had been a dealer that Andrew had
rescued him from the night before. Despite his problems, it was
Ryan who had helped Crystal and later Maggie survive on the streets.
Crystal was in her early twenties and devoted to Ryan. Having
battled mental illness for much of her life, the young woman had
major blow at thirteen when she and her parents were in a car
accident. Andrew had worked the case and remembered it.
Crystal was knocked unconscious but the two adults had died on
impact. He'd taken them Home, praying that someone would find the
girl before he had to return for her. He'd been relieved when
someone did happen by and called for help, saving Crystal. Soon
after she'd been put into foster care and moved from home to home, some
good and some deplorable. At seventeen she'd run away.
for her. She was already so vulnerable and without Ryan...
"Father, please, help me find her," the angel begged. "I don't
know why else you've brought me here. Why I'm still here.
Ryan... Ryan is beyond what I can do as a caseworker now. And
Maggie is safe. I thank you for that. But Crystal still
me. I know it. She needs an angel, Father. And I want
to be that angel. So if you can use me to help her... here I
am. Your will be done. Amen."
No answer came.
Mindful of his promise to Maggie, and knowing that his other friends
were counting on his keeping it, Andrew headed to the shelter
Owen had told him about. He was still several blocks away when he
heard a sound behind him. Metal on
brick. He ducked beside a pile of crates and peered over
men were approaching, one brandishing what looked to be a bat.
Occasionally he tapped it against the wall of a building.
Andrew's heart began to race. He was reasonably sure no one else
was in the alley but he worried about anyone who might be farther than
gotten. He considered running ahead to warn whomever might be
there. But that would no doubt draw attention to himself and he
didn't know what might happen then. The knife fight had taught
him one thing: his human form offered no protections beyond what any
human's did. As the two figures drew closer, the angel decided it
was worth the risk. He darted out and began running down the
alley, frantically looking for any lurking people who would be unaware
of the danger so close behind him. He could hear the two men
running after him. The cold air burned his lungs and his legs
threatened to give out on him but he ran on.
Suddenly, Andrew was engulfed in a bright light. He looked to his
hands. He was still dressed in the clothes JenniAnn had given
him. Dirt was still visible in the lines of his palm. The
bandage was still in place. He wasn't in angelic form.
The light moved. Andrew turned and sighed with relief. The
man on the right wasn't holding a bat at all but rather a metal
flashlight and he was wearing a uniform. The man beside him was
in the shadows but seemed to be working with the officer.
"Could you please stop right there, sir? We're sorry we caused
you alarm but we didn't see you. We won't hurt you," the police
officer called. "My name is Officer Tyron Billings. I'd
like to escort you to a shelter. This is no place to be,
especially alone. Will you let me do that, sir?"
Andrew nodded and stepped towards the two men. "Thank you,
Billing smiled. "Officer. This one's running his own
show." He waved towards the man Andrew had assumed to be his
"Good evening, sir," the man greeted.
Andrew looked up in surprise. He knew the voice.
"Let's get you out of the cold," he continued. "You look like you
could use some rest."
"Th-thank you," Andrew stuttered, wondering what was going on as Mick
stepped out of the shadows and smiled at him. The shock stole the
rest of the angel's energy and he began to rock on his heels.
Mick reached out for his arm. "Whoa there! You okay?"
He turned to the policeman. "Tyron, I think we need to give this
guy a ride."
Mick kept a steady grip on Andrew as they walked to the police cruiser
a few yards away.
Once they were all inside and Billings began to drive, Mick brought his
hand to his temple. "Rotten time for caffeine withdrawal," he
"I'd offer to get you some coffee but I'm not sure a good old cup of
New York City joe will measure up to whatever frou-frou stuff you drink
there in L.A.," the cop teased.
"Believe me, I'd drink anything right about now if it had caffeine."
"There's a diner not far from here. I'll run in. Buddy, you
Andrew caught the officer's gaze in the mirror. "No, thank you,
"Can you sit tight while I get some coffee for the newbie? He's
not on the job for an hour and he's already high maintenance."
Andrew smiled at Billing's good natured teasing of Mick. "Yeah,
"Great. We'll get you to the shelter after that." Billings
turned into a parking spot in front of a greasy spoon and stepped
Mick immediately turned around and looked intently at Andrew. "We
don't have much time so I need to get through this quickly. I
called Willowveil yesterday. No answer. I tried your cell
phone. Same thing. I even tried Dyeland's emergency
number. No answer there. You all had me panicked.
Beth, Josef, and Logan, too. Finally, I got Rose to pick up this
evening. She told me about everything that's happened. I'd
read about the attacks in the Times but I had no idea you..." The
vampire shook his head. "I knew I had to come. I had a
connection with the NYPD from a kidnapping case I worked a few years
back. I called him, told him a concerned citizen had agreed to
pay for my services if the department would allow me to help in the
investigation. They agreed. I'm staying here until we get
this solved," he vowed.
Andrew opened his mouth to protest but Mick cut him off.
"Listen, I contented myself with simply waiting by the phone and
offering counsel during your assignment in Missouri. I'm not
sitting this one out. You told me I had a place in Dyeland.
That despite of who and what I am... I belonged. Let me show it,
Andrew blinked back tears. "Isn't it dangerous for you?"
"I have other connections here, too. I can take care of
myself. Which is maybe more than I can say for you. Andrew,
you look like hell." Mick buried his face in his hand and pounded
the car door with the other. "I'm sorry. That came out much
more bluntly than I intended."
Andrew burst out laughing. "It's okay. Maybe you don't have
as a self-esteem guru but it felt good to laugh." He sobered then
as he saw Billings exiting the diner. "Thank you for coming,
Mick. It means a lot."
"It means a lot to be here. Andrew... take care of
yourself. Those girls need you to. And I don't want
anything happening to you before I can reclaim my pool champion title
from you." Mick grinned but his eyes didn't follow suit.
"Don't worry, Mick. I'll be just fine. Trust me.
Trust God," the angel assured.
Mick nodded then turned back around before his newly acquired partner
entered the car.
"For you," he handed Mick a cup which the vampire feigned drinking with
relief. "For me," he set a second cup in the holder before
reaching back to Andrew. "And, here, I know you said you didn't
want anything but the shelter has probably stopped serving food by this
time and you look like you could use something. Eat up."
"Thanks. Thank you very much." Andrew beamed at the officer
as he handed him a sandwich.
"No problem." Sliding into the seat, Billings turned the car on
and headed towards the shelter. "So you seen anything out there,
uh, could I get your name?"
"Thank you. You seen anything, Andrew? Anything that might
"I've seen what they've done... but I haven't seen them."
Billings sighed. "Yeah, I think we're all in the same boat with
that. Just know... know we're trying our best. Okay?
We'll get them."
Andrew could sense that the officer was saying it as much to assure
himself as Andrew. "I'll pray you do. And I'm grateful for
the effort. F-for knowing we matter."
"Everyone's a child of God. You believe that?"
"I do, sir," Andrew acknowledged, feeling wistful.
"Now if us kids could just stop killing each other," the officer
muttered. Soon he pulled up in front of a nondescript brick
building. "This is the shelter. You take care of yourself,
Andrew. Let us know if you see or hear anything. Got it?"
"Yes." Andrew stepped out of the squad car, paused, then turned
back. "Officer Billings?"
"Your Father in Heaven is very proud of the man you've become, don't
let anyone tell you otherwise." Andrew smiled at the man before
going up the steps and ringing the doorbell.
The police officer stared as the door opened and Andrew disappeared
"You alright there?" Mick asked.
"Yeah... yeah, man. Just fine. It's just... Somehow
that guy knew exactly what I needed to hear. And when he said
it... something about his face... you're going to think I'm crazy."
"He looked... beatific. Like he was glowing. You read the
Bible much, Mick?"
Mick shook his head. "Not as much as I did when I was a boy."
"'Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly
entertained angels,'" he quoted. "Now you definitely think I'm
"No," Mick denied. "Not at all. I've seen a lot of hate and
hurt in my days and it'd be nice to know that there were beings of love
and compassion out there. I believe, Tyron."
The two stared for a moment at the shelter before Tyron veered back
into the street.
"Billings, St. John. Location?" a voice called over the radio.
"Here. We're just driving away from the New Life Shelter for Men."
"There's been another attack. Standby for further direction."
"Roger that," Billings responded with a grimace as they waited.
Mick hovered over the body at the bottom of the staircase.
Through eighty seven years, World War II, and countless murder
investigations; he sometimes still gaped in horror at the things people
could do to one another. When Billings and the other detectives
were focused on looking for evidence, Mick leaned nearer. He
closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, memorized the scent of this
man's blood and hoping for any hint left by his murderers. Maybe
he'd be able to track them. Mick knew this had been the work of
more than one person... if such a word were even applicable. He
struggled to believe anyone with a concept and regard for personhood
could do something this malicious.
The vampire turned, hearing before anyone else the car that would soon
pull into the
junkyard. He ran up the stairs and
watched as three men stepped out. He nodded in recognition
when he saw Adam was one of them. Rose had mentioned he, too, was
on the case.
Adam nodded back then looked just past Mick to where Henry stood.
"What is it this time?"
Mick turned towards the man he recognized as the district
attorney. "Male, looks to be around sixty years old." He
waved for Joe to follow him back down the stone steps. Adam,
Bratton, and Billings followed.
Joe looked at the fallen figure in alarm. He fell to his knees,
pulled out a flashlight, whipped out some gloves, and examined the
man's face. The others, perched on the stairs, looked at each
other. None of them were sure what to make of the D.A.'s
reaction. Joe shook his head. Mick could swear he heard him
whisper "It's not him" but thought it best not to comment.
"Talk to me," Joe called, getting to his feet.
"Obviously he was pushed down the stairs. My guess is he
sustained an injury to his neck. It's possible he didn't feel
much pain as they kicked him," Mick related.
Adam looked to Henry again, noting that his fellow angel of death was
nodding in agreement with Mick's hypothesis. It was, at least,
"Who are you?" Joe asked, really taking a look at the stranger for the
"Mick St. John. Private investigator based out of L.A. A
concerned citizen has hired me to help
investigate this series of crimes."
"They'd prefer to keep their involvement anonymous."
"Why should we trust you?" Joe demanded.
Adam set a hand on the man's shoulder. "Joe, he came all the way
from Los Angeles. I'm sure his motives are pure. I believe
it. Call it a cop's instinct."
Joe sized Mick up and nodded. "Alright. I'm sorry.
I'm just running low on sleep and getting discouraged. You worked
many homicides before?"
"More than you could imagine." Mick looked back down at the dead
"Doesn't get any easier, does it?"
Mick met Joe's eyes and saw a determination and frustration that
mirrored what he felt so often. "No."
"But remember, we saved one tonight, Mick," Tyron assured.
"You came across another attack?" Bratton asked.
"No. But we got a man into a shelter. His name was
Andrew. Score one for us. We have to take what victory we
The others nodded. As they climbed back up the steps so the
medical examiner could get to the body, Adam gripped Mick's elbow.
Adam stared up at the stars, praying in thanksgiving to the
Father. He cast one last look at the bottom of the stairs.
He offered up another prayer, thanking God that the man had come to the
end of his pain and aloneness. He knew that whatever had
happened, Henry had shown him to a Home that would forever be his.
After bowing her head in remembrance of what Andrew had gone
through to save her from herself, JenniAnn nodded. "Maybe a
brownie or something like that wouldn't be so bad."
Not surprisingly, JenniAnn found
the first person in the Phoenix to wake up. Or at least she
guessed as much from the silence of the large house. She knew
Rose and her Aunt Josephine, who had spent the night after the latter
had received her first tour of the Phoenix, were across the hall and no
sound came from there. Cira's and Maggie's room was besides hers
and seemed still. And to the other side was the room Andrew had
used... She tried not to think of its emptiness. JenniAnn
lay in bed a few moments, snuggling Fawn and Lulu. She fought
back tears as she remembered the morning before with Lulu and Andrew
playing on the floor.
"I miss him, too," she murmured to the basset hound, kissing her head
Once she'd crawled out of bed, she knew she couldn't wait any longer
for her coffee and figured it a good idea to have some ready when
Catherine and Aunt Josephine, typically the next earliest risers,
awoke. Tip-toeing with a dog tucked beneath each arm so as to
create as little noise as possible in the old house, she made her way
to the kitchen. She let the dogs out but it was storming and they
quickly did their business and hurried back in. Flicking on the
TV, she began to prepare the coffee.
"According to the NYPD, another homeless murder victim was found last
night in a junkyard. No word yet on his identity. In a
related story, we've learned that the homeless man admitted to the
hospital yesterday has died. He was brought in with severe head
trauma as the result of a brutal stoning. Police are asking,
again, that anyone with any information..."
Stunned, JenniAnn ran to the basement door, down the stairs, and into
Catherine's office. She flung open another door that led into the
bedroom. Thanks to an alarm system set up by Mouse, Catherine was
awake and waiting when her cousin burst through the door.
Taking one look at the younger woman, Catherine called for her
husband. "Vincent, please come out. It's Psyche."
Vincent emerged from the hidden doorway in Catherine's closet which led
to the Tunnels.
"H-he's dead. It was just on the news. Ryan's dead!"
As Vincent pulled her into an embrace as she cried, Catherine hurriedly
grabbed some clothes. "I... I'll tell Maggie when she wakes
up. I knew it was bad but I kept praying..."
"Me, too. I wonder if Andrew knows. Oh..." JenniAnn
buried her face in Vincent's sweater as she remembered how devastated
Andrew had looked when he'd brought Ryan to them. Her mind filled
with the image of his face darkening when the EMTs rattled off the list
of his injuries to each other
as they prepped Ryan to be moved.
Vincent stroked his godchild's hair. "If he does then he also
knows that Ryan is surrounded by love and peace now. That he
always will be."
"Psyche, I know this is very, very hard. But I need you to be
strong. I don't mean not to cry because this is definitely
something to cry about," Catherine explained, brushing at her own
eyes. "But Andrew trusted us with Maggie. And in a little
while Maggie's going to need to rely on all the friends she can get."
Pulling away from her godfather, JenniAnn nodded.
Catherine directed her attention to Vincent. "Please take Jacob
and go Below. I'll come there later."
Vincent nodded in assent to his wife's direction.
JenniAnn moved towards the door to give them some privacy as they bid
each other good bye. Once on her own, she prayed to God for
guidance when it came to speaking to Maggie.
Andrew peered out from under the box he'd ducked under when the
had started. He hadn't been able to go back to the shelter once
he'd left the hospital. The idea of it made him feel
claustrophobic. A 6 by 3 foot cot wasn't large enough to contain
the emotions roiling through him: anger, disgust, compassion,
frustration, grief, desperate hope, and love.
Andrew had received the call from
Father around 4:00 that morning. Despite the protests of the
caretakers, he'd left the shelter. Turning around the corner of
the block, he'd disappeared and then found himself at Ryan's
bedside. Machines were screeching and doctors and nurses were
doing everything they could as two police officers looked on.
The angel of death reached for the young man's hand. "Ryan, it's
Andrew. There's something I need to tell you. I'm an angel
sent by God. He wants you to know He loves you. And right
now it is His will that you come live with Him, in that love, for all
eternity. Ryan, I'm going to take you there."
Ryan stood at Andrew's side, looking at the frenzy of those working to
restore life to his body. "I knew there was something about
you. Never would have guessed this." He smiled at the
"Ryan, what happened? Do you know where Crystal is?" Andrew asked.
"They... I heard them coming. I was high and drunk..." Ryan
stared at the floor.
Andrew set a hand on the spirit's shoulder. "Ryan, this isn't the
time for self-condemnation. God knows every thing you've ever
done and that doesn't change the fact that He loves you and He forgives
"It's so hard to believe. I've screwed up so much..."
"And you also helped people who desperately needed help. You
encouraged and advised those who would have died without your
guidance. Now you have the chance to save one more person.
Please, tell me whatever you can about Crystal."
"I was embarrassed about running away... leaving you after you helped
me. I didn't want to go back that night. So we headed to
Central Park. We were under one of the bridges when I heard
Then a rock flew right past Crystal's head. I wasn't thinking
straight. I thought I could fight them. I told Crystal to
run and at first she wouldn't. But they were coming closer and
another rock... it hit her. She agreed to go then. She told
me to meet her where the
angel sings. I had no idea what she was talking about. One
of her delusions, I guess. But I agreed so she'd leave. She
ran north but that's all I know. After that..." Ryan
brought his hand to his head.
The din of the emergency staff began to die down.
Andrew and Ryan watched as the doctors and nurses stepped back.
"Official time of death, 4:11 AM. November 23rd. Three days
before Thanksgiving." The attending physician yanked her gloves
off then left the room, anguished.
Andrew watched as Ryan followed her out of the room. "Thank you,"
he whispered into her ear. He turned back to Andrew then and
followed him into the light.
Rose, JenniAnn, and Cira sat in the
hallway as Catherine spoke to Maggie. They winced when they heard
the young woman moan and begin to sob. Catherine sang a lullaby
to her and, for a few minutes, it seemed Maggie was
In the living room, Josephine was bowed over her
Bible. The night before Maggie had confided in her how much she
reminded her of her grandmother and, at that, Josephine had determined
to stay for as long as Maggie did. Upon being awoken to the sad
news of Ryan, she remained very glad she could be there for the young
Suddenly, Maggie's and Cira's bedroom door burst open and Maggie ran
out into hallway, down the stairs, and towards the door.
"Maggie! No, please don't go!" Catherine cried, running after
her. The three other women also bolted down the stairs.
They were surprised to find Josephine was blocking the door.
"Sweetheart, I know you're in pain but what do you think going out
there is going to do?" the old woman asked, her tone gentle.
Maggie was fuming. "They took Ryan. They killed Ryan.
And like hell I'm going to wait here until they get Crystal, too!
Or... or Andrew."
Josephine sat a hand on each of the girl's shoulders. "Maggie,
you going out there, especially now," she waved to the dark sky and
pelting rain, "is the last thing that boy needs. Andrew is doing
what he needs to do and I know it brings him comfort to know you're
here, safe with us."
"He might even still be at the shelter, Maggie," Rose encouraged.
"I spoke to Adam earlier and he said one of his fellow officers
mentioned giving him a ride there."
This news calmed Maggie some. However, she was left shaking with
"Come sit down, child." Josephine took her arm and led her to the
"Maggie, I'm so sorry for your loss," JenniAnn offered.
Cira nodded. "Is there anything we can do?"
Maggie shook her head. "I... I just want this to be over."
Catherine hugged her. "We all do. So much." She begun
to hum her lullaby again as her latest charge rested her head on her
shoulder and began to weep.
Catherine was hanging curtains in
one of the rooms that had not yet been used when she heard someone
enter. Turning to see Maggie, she stepped off the ladder.
Maggie gave only a hint of a smile. "Hi. Catherine, do you
think you could..."
"Maggie, what is it you need? I'll do whatever I can for you."
"Do you think you could take me to that shelter Owen told Andrew
about? I just... I really need to see him and..." Her lower
began to quiver.
Catherine glanced out the window. Rain was pounding down and she
wasn't eager to be driving, knowing how inclement weather didn't always
inspire the caution it should in other drivers. "I tell you what,
I'm going to call someone who works there. And if Andrew's there
then, yes, I will definitely take you to see him, okay?"
Grateful, Maggie nodded.
With no phone yet in the unfinished room, Catherine made her way to the
kitchen. She smiled at the rest of the group: Aunt Josephine,
Cira, Yva, JenniAnn, Rose, and Lady Beth. They had what looked to
an assembly line going with tray after tray of cookies laid out.
Josephine stepped back long enough to embrace Maggie, holding her as
Catherine made the call.
"Hi there, Zeke!" Catherine greeted. "Yeah, miserable
weather. I bet your place is pretty busy... I hope it is.
Yeah? Well, good. Listen, I'm actually calling about
someone I think might be there."
The assembled women listened nervously as Catherine continued her call.
"His name's Andrew. Blonde. Green eyes. About..."
"Six foot three," Rose informed. "And his hair is more dishwater
blonde than blonde-blonde."
Maggie smiled in spite of her unease. Clearly she wasn't the only
one who was struck by Andrew.
"Six foot three," Catherine repeated. "And that's dishwater
blonde." She covered the
phone. "I can hear him asking around."
Josephine's hug tightened as Maggie tensed.
Catherine's face fell. "Well, do you think you could give me a
call if you see him? It's kind of urgent. Thank you,
Zeke." She hung up, pausing a moment before turning to
The women all bowed their heads for a moment, in prayer and concern.
"They haven't seen him since very early this morning. But I'm
sure he's fine. We all knew that he meant to spend most of the
daytime looking for Crystal. I'm confident Zeke will give me a
call back tonight and then, Maggie, I promise you I'll take you to
Maggie forced a smile. "Yeah. That sounds good.
Thanks for trying, Catherine." She breathed in deeply, calming
herself. "So, umm, do you think I could help?" she asked
"Of course, dear! How do you feel about stirring?"
Maggie's smile grew as she accepted a bowl from the old woman and set
work. For a while she just listened as the others talked about
plans for the upcoming holiday dinner, the first at the Phoenix.
"Will Andrew... I mean is Andrew invited?" Maggie asked.
"Of course!" Catherine responded.
Maggie smiled. "How long have all of you known him?"
"I was wondering that myself. I mean when I brought him here
after he was hurt, I assumed he was a complete stranger but obviously
he knows you pretty well!" Cira smiled at JenniAnn.
JenniAnn looked to her cousin, panicked.
Catherine smiled breezily at Cira and Maggie. "Yes, JenniAnn's
known Andrew for some time. You met him at a park, right?"
"Uh huh," she agreed, supposing the Fields of Gold could be considered
"Yva, did you meet him then, too?"
"No, shortly there after." Yva hoped Maggie didn't pry further.
"Right. And then Beth, Rose, and Josephine met him a few years
later, isn't that right?"
"Right," Lady Beth responded, glad that Catherine was handling the
"Now sometimes he helps us here. In fact, he helped build this
table," Catherine continued.
"A-and then you just let him go back out there?" Maggie demanded.
The easygoing manner Catherine had possessed as she glossed over
Andrew's history disappeared.
"I- I... I'm sorry. That was very rude after everything..."
Rose set a hand on Maggie's shoulder. "No, it's okay. We
wanted very much for Andrew to stay but..."
"I know. I shouldn't have accused. I've met plenty of those
cases. They get so accustomed to life on the streets that they...
they just can't integrate back into a normal life. I've been
worried for a while that I might eventually be one of them but...
I don't know. When I met Andrew, something started building
inside of me. Hope. Now I just want so badly to help him
get home... wherever that is for him."
Josephine cradled Maggie as she began to cry. "That's what we're
all working towards, my dear. And I know it'll happen.
Focus on that hope he gave you," she advised. "Okay?"
"Okay," the young woman promised, smiling through her tears.
As he'd ran away from the hospital after taking Ryan Home, he'd passed
a TV display. He knew Ryan's death had made the news. That
made it all but guaranteed that Maggie knew. He prayed that she
not isolate herself in her grief. He took comfort in knowing
Catherine and Cira were
with her and he was sure others of his friends would be, too. At
that moment, she was his ray of hope. Whatever else, he'd gotten
her off the streets and to safety.
His thoughts turned to Crystal then. Ryan had said she'd gone to
where the angel sings. Andrew considered what that might
mean. Perhaps a church. Or a monument. Even a
theatre. But New York City was filled with all three. The
angel was at a loss on where to begin.
Andrew began to pray, beseeching the Father again for guidance and
hoping he'd receive an answer. As he prayed, his weariness
increased and soon he was asleep.
That night, Adam sat waiting in a
empty hole-in-the-wall cafe near Central Park. He glanced
at his pocket watch, noting it was nearly 8:00. Like clockwork,
the doorbell jingled and a man stepped inside. With a smile, Adam
waved Mick over to the table he was sitting at.
"I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking. I should have suggested
somewhere else to meet," the angel apologized, realizing that the mug
of coffee he was sipping wouldn't be much comfort to the vampire.
Mick shrugged. "I do like the smell still."
"Not really. And not just because my hotel accommodations aren't
exactly... tailored to my unique needs. I have a whole new
respect for you guys. This... it's a lot to deal with."
Adam nodded. "It is. I never got a chance to thank you for
coming. I know you're not actually getting paid. I don't
think Rose has that kind of money."
"It's not bad that I lied about that, is it? It's not even really
a lie. I am getting paid. Just not in money. Believe
me, the gratitude on the ladies' faces when I saw them was enough."
"No, it's not bad. There's a difference between lying and not
revealing what it would be upsetting to people to reveal. Where
are the girls?"
"I'm told Yva's back home,
celebrating her birthday with Sir Sven. Earlier JenniAnn went
for a while to talk to the children. They'd heard whispering
Andrew and needed some answers. Lady
Beth's at the Phoenix baking up a storm with Josephine. Willy
delivered what appeared to be a bus load of cooking supplies and
been going to town with them all day. As we speak, Rose and
"That poor girl..."
"Rose said she wanted to go after Andrew but they persuaded her not
to. Thankfully they got her in on their baking craze."
"Thank God." Adam glanced to the ceiling. "So what did you
want to talk about that Joe and the others couldn't hear?"
Mick looked around. The sole waitress seemed to be in the kitchen
and the only other customer was on the other side of the room.
"What exactly is your role here? Can you say?"
Adam looked out the window. "I can tell you I'm assigned to
Joe. How I'm assigned to him... I don't know. I know I'm
supposed to be with him during this case but in what capacity, the
Father hasn't told me. Why?"
"It's something I thought I heard him say this morning. When we
found the most recent victim."
The angel of death looked curiously at the private investigator.
"It sounded like he muttered 'It's not him.' He sounded... upset
about what had happened but somehow relieved, too. Is it normal
for him to get so personally involved in cases?"
"Catherine's always said that Joe's passionate about his work but, no,
this isn't normal. I'd been wondering myself if he didn't have
some personal stake in this. I tried to talk to him about it, so
did Matthew. He just said to focus on the case and not to worry
about him." At those words, Adam's cell phone began to
ring. "That's him now."
Mick listened as Adam conversed with the D.A. It seemed Joe was
handing out the night's directions.
"Yes. Actually, St. John's right here. Sure. We'll
get right on that." Adam hung up then looked to Mick. "You
ready to do some patrolling again?"
Mick nodded. "As ready as I'll ever be. Where we headed?"
"We're going to start by canvassing shelters. Maybe someone will
have seen something and be willing to speak up. Then we'll hit
the streets." Adam set some money on the table and stood.
"Sounds like a plan." Mick followed Adam to the door and to his
waiting unmarked squad car.
Once in the driver's seat, the angel of death turned to his
"Thanks. For coming, I mean. I know the girls thanked you
but I wanted you to know it means a lot to me, too. Andrew's been
a friend for a very, very, very long time and it tears me up to see him
like he is now. And having you here... it gives me hope we'll get
to the bottom of this soon and then he can come home." Adam
smiled at Mick but there was no disguising his melancholy.
"Adam, you were all there for Josef when I was afraid I'd lose my best
friend... maybe forever. I couldn't turn my back on all of you
now. And I can't turn my back on these people now that I know
about this and know that I can help. So let's go do that now."
Nodding, Adam drove off towards the nearest shelter.
It was nearing 9:00 and Rose and
JenniAnn were in the latter's room at the Phoenix. The day had
been draining. A follow-up call to Zeke revealed that Andrew was
still unaccounted for. Though they assured Maggie that it wasn't
unlike him to stay out long past sunset, the words were easier said
than believed. Exhausted with grief and worry, Maggie
had gone to bed shortly thereafter. Her absence left
the two Dyelanders to their own thoughts and conflicted feelings... and
to their home DVD collection. They sat and rewatched footage from
the past months.
"Witness as the elusive AOD explores his native territory, sporting the
traditional garb of his people... jeans and a flannel shirt..."
"Sounds like someone's been watching National Geographic again."
Andrew smiled at the camera.
"Hark! He speaks!"
"And maybe reading some Shakespeare."
The camera's view went askew for a moment and, when it was righted,
revealed Lady Beth and Rose.
"Witness as the mischievous Dyelanders attempt to make a documentary
about yours truly raking." The camera spun around. "Let's
watch as the rare Lady of Willowveil does her annual 'Snake
"Andrew, are you sure it's cool enough that the snakes have gone into
hiding? I think maybe... Ahhhhh!!!"
The camera swiveled again and next revealed Andrew running towards
JenniAnn. As she stood frozen, he reached down towards her
feet. She shrieked as he lifted something up.
"I believe in many parts of the world they call this a stick,
Laja." He grinned at the camera then hugged her. "Poor
"Andrewkins! Don't get rid of that. That's a perfect
marshmallow roasting stick!" Yva walked into the frame.
The video ended there and Rose clicked on a different icon. Now
the group was assembled around a fire. Willy was doling out
"This is an absolutely perfect night," Yva opined with a dreamy sigh.
"Almost perfect. We need a campfire song," Rose interjected.
Adam grinned. "'This is the song that never ends, yes it goes on
and on my friends...'"
"No!" Lady Beth protested, playfully swatting at Adam. "Are you
trying to drive us insane?"
"Hey, that's a great idea! But I know a better song for
that." Adam cleared his throat. "Oh... 'I'm Henry the
VIII, I am. Henry the VIII, I am, I am.'"
Andrew chuckled. "You better be glad Tess isn't here."
"If Tess was here, I'd go with 'Turkey in the Straw.'" Adam
countered. "But obviously no one shares my musical tastes tonight
so you go for it, buddy."
The camera panned to Andrew, his brow crinkled in thought. He
smiled and began to sing, low and sweetly. "Kumbaya my Lord,
kumbaya. Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya."
Gradually everyone joined in.
Rose and JenniAnn watched the video and their friend, perfectly at
peace and surrounded by those who loved him. A sob escaped
JenniAnn and she was about to stand up and begin dashing around the
room when a hand reached past them
both and closed the laptop.
They turned to see Owen regarding them with concern. Once he
realized they were looking at him, the young man brightened. "On
behalf of another, if I may say it, handsome, long haired man who
hasn't the slightest inclination to romance you but cares very much
about you both, can we please stop acting like this is Le Morte de Andrew? Maybe go
have some fun?" He knelt behind their desk chairs, setting a hand
on each of their shoulders. "He really does care very much about
you both and he wouldn't want you torturing yourselves like this."
Brushing at a tear, Rose smiled sheepishly. "You're right.
What do you want to do, Owen?"
"There's this great new little bakery one of the Helpers told me
about. I was thinking maybe we could get some dessert? My
JenniAnn shrugged. "I just haven't felt much like eating."
Owen looked with concern at his friend, knowing she was prone to cease
eating when she became upset and at least once it had morphed into an
all-out eating disorder. He already knew she'd skipped dinner.
"Psyche," he whispered, "Andrew would want you to
eat. I happen to know that he
fought long and hard for that healthy body of yours."
"I second that," Rose agreed.
"Great. And it just so happens that the rain has stopped leaving
a reasonably pleasant evening and Catherine has agreed to let me borrow
the car. So, ladies..." Owen bowed and motioned for them to
exit into the hallway. Before leaving they checked with the other
women who were all busy with their own tasks or hobbies.
Catherine assured them she would call if Maggie awoke and so the two
women left with Owen.
Rose sunk back into the booth,
licking her lips after finishing her slice of pie. "Excellent
idea, Owen. Thanks."
"I knew it would be. You two needed a break. It's great
that you've been doing what you can for Andrew and helping Catherine
but if you focus only on that... I'd be very concerned for you both."
"I know you're right but it's so hard... I hate reading the news
any more because of all these things and then when someone I care about
it is part of the story... And knowing he could get hurt..."
Owen squeezed JenniAnn's hand. "I know. I know. But
you have to remember that there's a lot of good out there, too.
It's terrible that this is happening but think of all the unselfishness
and compassion it's brought out. Mick's here. What's in it
for him? Nothing, really, except helping people. Catherine
says Joe's thrown himself into this case. We all know it's not
just political capital to him. And that's to say nothing of
the..." Owen looked to where the baker was behind the
counter. He was bopping along to his iPod. "The angels."
A sudden flash of lightning illuminated the bakery windows.
Owen frowned. "I thought it was done for the night."
"I hope Andrew's gotten to the shelter. I hope they all
have..." Rose bit her lip and looked out the window, studying the
"Do you think he knows?" JenniAnn asked. "About Ryan, I mean?"
"Don't you think he was probably there?" Owen answered.
"I hope so. I think Andrew would want to be. Do you
think... once he finds this girl, Crystal, that'll be it?" Rose
JenniAnn flinched as thunder roared. "I pray so with all my
heart." She stared out the window.
"I wish we could just be safe in his basement. With him," Rose
"I was thinking the same thing."
Owen looked from one to the other. He knew there would be no more
escape for the night. Their minds and hearts were fixed on their
friend and he couldn't blame them. "Let's get you both back to
the Phoenix," he suggested. He settled the bill and they headed
towards the small parking lot where Catherine's car waited.
Just as they were about to settle into the car, the sky lit up
Rose gasped. "I thought I saw something! Someone in trouble
across the street!
"What do you mean?" Owen asked, trying to see across the street.
The bulb at the nearby light appeared to be dying and offered little
illumination. However, he could make out voices... taunting
JenniAnn began to rummage through her bag, quickly producing a
"No wonder that bag's so heavy!" Rose exclaimed as her friend handed it
to her. She flipped it on then pointed it across the
street. The beam landed on a cluster of boys, they appeared to be
gathered around something. Movement on the ground quickly
revealed it was not a something but a someone.
Owen tore across the street with the two women at his heels.
"What are you doing?" the young man demanded.
One of the boys turned around and snorted. "Out camping, ladies?"
Owen disregarded the snide comment and pushed past him. "Are
these boys bothering you, sir?" he asked.
The man raised his arm and hid his face. As he did, the two women
caught a glimpse of closely shorn gray hair. He wasn't Andrew.
"Oh! Sir! That's a little proper for the scum of the earth,
isn't it? McDonald's is hiring. Why doesn't he just go get
himself a job like the rest of us?" a second boy sneered.
"Hey!" JenniAnn and Rose cried in unison, stepping towards the group.
Owen held his hand out behind him, gesturing for them to stay put, then
stood back up. Though he was slighter of frame than the boys, he
towered over them. He grabbed the leather sleeve of one of the
boy's coats. "You buy this? Or did daddy?"
The boy pulled away, declining to answer.
"Thought so. Maybe you should make an appearance at
McDonald's. They'd at least teach you a little something about
decency with their customer service training. Get out of here."
They stood, defiant.
"What? You boys not remember the way back to mommy's and
daddy's?" Owen taunted. He turned to the ladies. "Girls,
why don't you call the NYPD? Tell em we got three lost little
boys. I think they might enjoy speaking to them, anyway."
He turned back to the boys, smiling. "Lately, they do so love to
meet with those who terrorize the homeless."
"Man, let's get out of here. My dad will flip if I get arrested,"
one boy muttered to the others.
In silent agreement, the three boys ran off.
"Should I call the police? Do you think they were the killers?"
"No. Just some idiot kids. I know their kind." Owen
shook his head as he watched them run. "And, unfortunately, being
weaselly little jerks isn't a crime." He stooped back down and
Rose and JenniAnn joined him.
"Sir, why don't you let us take you to a shelter?" Rose suggested.
"Leave me alone," the man hissed.
Owen looked up at the night sky. "It looks like it might start
raining again. Mister, I've spent some time on the street and I
know a warm cot's a lot more comfortable on a cold, rainy night than a
and last night's sports section."
The man let out a wheezy laugh. "Yeah." He moved to scratch
JenniAnn and Rose gasped and Owen looked on sadly as he revealed a
series of burn marks.
"Please, let us take you to a shelter," JenniAnn begged.
"You wouldn't want to deny a lady her request, would you?" Owen pressed.
"I suppose not," the man agreed, accepting their help to get to his
feet. They guided him across the street and into Catherine's
car. After assuring he was comfortable, Owen began to drive off.
Seated beside the man, Rose took it upon herself to make
introductions. "I just realized we didn't introduce
ourselves. I'm Rose, that's JenniAnn, and that's Owen. Can
I ask your name?"
"Hi Jerry," JenniAnn greeted, smiling at the man.
The man looked at her, curious. "You crying, miss?"
She wiped at her eyes. "Sorry. I didn't think it was that
obvious. I, umm..."
"A friend of ours is somewhere... out here. On the streets.
We're not sure where," Rose explained. "And he knew the man that
died this morning and we're worried about him."
"I saw the report. Poor kid." Jerry hung his head then
looked to Rose. "What's your friend look like?"
"Thirtyish. Dishwater blonde. Green eyes. His name's
Jerry jolted. "I saw him."
"Wh-where? Was he okay? Please, tell us," JenniAnn begged.
"Something not right about that guy... Y-you be careful with that
one," Jerry insisted.
Rose studied Jerry's face. He looked... not frightened.
Stunned, maybe. "What do you mean, sir?"
"I-I've seen him before... Those Iraqi bullets flying every which
way... he just walked on through."
Jerry clammed up for the remainder of the drive, leaving the trio to
wonder and worry over his meaning.
Andrew woke up to blinding light
that quickly faded. It took him a moment to recognize it was
lightning. The sun had set since he'd fallen asleep and the
temperature had fallen a number of degrees. He sat up and pulled
his knees to his chest for warmth. He hoped the rain wouldn't
start up again, too. Though he'd walked the streets of New York
so many times, during the day he'd found himself quickly disoriented
and the rain hadn't helped. He cursed himself for not persevering
and making his way back to where he, Ryan, Crystal, and Maggie had
camped out. Other than the unknown and potentially fictional
location of the singing angel, that was his best guess on where he'd
find the missing woman.
For a moment, Andrew considered heading towards the Phoenix and
checking in on Maggie. He pulled out his pocket watch and
strained to read the hands. Walking towards a street light, he
was able to make out that it was after midnight. He hoped she'd
be asleep. Even if she weren't he knew she should be. He
was positive word of Ryan's death would have reached her and she would
need as much peace as she could find. His appearance so late
would also alarm whichever of his friends were at the Phoenix.
Even without a mirror he knew he had to be unsightly after sleeping
through the storm. The past week hadn't been easy for them and if
they had managed to get some rest, he wasn't about to do anything to
Mindful of the promise he'd made, Andrew headed towards the
shelter. He hoped someone would let him in despite the late
hour. To cheer himself, he imagined how the day might have
played out at the Phoenix. Yes, it would have begun with
sadness. But he knew his friends wouldn't leave Maggie alone in
her grief. They'd listen to her and pray with her. Maybe
get her focused on something. Maybe all the pre-holiday baking he
knew they'd be busy with. Lady Beth would be managing it all, Yva
would be ensuring that only Willy's chocolate found its way into the
recipes, Rose would be taking hints from her aunt, and JenniAnn would
be carefully and precisely arranging sprinkles in the most attractive
arrangement. Catherine would beam at the community she had
created. Cira and Maggie would feel comfortable and at
home. And as she felt more at ease, Maggie would open up and the
questions would begin. He smiled as he thought of how they might
answer the inevitable questions about how they knew him. He'd
crashed a party they were throwing? It was true and vague
enough. Or maybe a flippant-seeming yet true "It was like he just
dropped out of the sky one day..."?
Andrew paused and looked up at the sky. "Please, let it be so,"
he prayed before continuing along his way.
had just finished changing into her pajamas after returning from the
bakery when someone knocked on her door. She didn't even have
time to call for them to enter before the door flew open and two little
arms wrapped around her legs. The
child was shrouded in a blanket, preventing JenniAnn from determining
which little one it was.
"I'm sorry, Psyche," Mary apologized, stepping into the bedroom.
"But our Shelby woke up from a nightmare. She was
inconsolable. She... she wants to see Andrew and when I told her
that wasn't possible she asked for you so I thought it best to bring
"Of course. It's okay, Mary. I'll handle this."
JenniAnn scooped the little girl up as Mary exited. "You had a
Shelby nodded and swiped the back of her hand across her face.
JenniAnn reached for a tissue and began to wipe the girl's tears and
nose. "Do you want to tell me about it?"
"It will make you sad."
JenniAnn began to feel queasy but smiled to encourage and calm the
child. "But if it will make you feel better to tell me then
Shelby rested her head on her teacher's shoulder for some moments,
thinking. At last she straightened up and nodded. "I... I
dreamed Andrew was out there." She beckoned to the window.
"And it was very dark and cold. A-and he was trying to get back
us. B-but... he couldn't."
Feeling shaky, JenniAnn plopped into the rocking chair near the window
and settled Shelby on her lap. "Why couldn't he?"
"They wouldn't let him."
JenniAnn was rendered mute as Shelby drew her blanket more tightly
around herself and more tears spilled down her cheeks. At last,
the woman's voice returned to her. "They who?"
Shelby shrugged. "I dunno. But I don't like em. I
think Andrew should come back now, Psyche." A sob escaped.
"Make him come baaaack!"
"Oh Shelby, I wish I could. Because I want Andrew back here with
us, too." JenniAnn tried to console the girl by gently stroking
back but she continued to heave with sobs. "Sweetheart, what he's
doing is so important. There are
people out there who really need a friend right now. And Andrew's
one of the best friends they could find, right?" She forced her
Nodding, Shelby snuggled closer.
"And you know what else? God is with Andrew. And God loves
him even more than we do. He won't leave him. Ever,"
JenniAnn continued, as much for herself as Shelby. "Andrew is not
alone. I promise you that."
Shelby nodded but continued to cry for several minutes. JenniAnn
thought she'd drifted into a fitful sleep until the little voice rose
again. "Psyche, can you sing the sheep song?"
"The sheep song?"
"Andrew sang it at the hotel after the Faire when I couldn't get to
JenniAnn remembered with a wistful smile. "I don't have as nice a
voice as Andrew but sure." She began to sing. She struggled
to maintain composure as she reached the second verse. "'Tender
shepherd, tender shepherd watches over all his sheep. One say
your prayers and two close your eyes and three safe and happily fall
Once Shelby settled into a deep sleep, JenniAnn tucked her into the bed
then returned to the rocking chair and stared out the window.
Another scene from that night flooded her mind. Myrna
peering at her with something that JenniAnn had come to realize was
genuine concern and fear. The woman's voice wafted back to her.
"Every so often... I see something real. Something that will
happen... He looked unwell. Unkept. Hurt. He called
for his father but..."
"But what?" JenniAnn pondered aloud before beginning to pray for Andrew
who was somewhere out there... potentially only yards away and yet
somehow more distant than she'd ever felt him to be before.
End of Part I
The following were referenced or
quoted in this story:
"Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers
Psalm 27- New American Standard Bible
"The Scientist" by Coldplay
The Addams Family
Hebrews 13:2- New American
Song that Never Ends" by Norman Martin
the VIII, I Am" by Fred Murray and R. P. Weston
the Straw" by Unknown
Morte de Arthur by
Sir Thomas Malory
Shepherd" by Moose Charlap and Carolyn Leigh from Peter
songs actually mentioned, I had some that I was listening to for
inspiration. Those are:
by The Wailin' Jennys (good song for Andrew's POV, I thought)
Shoulder" by Heather Nova (Dyelanders' POV)
by Howie Day (particularly during the kitchen scene when we get our
first glimpse of Andrew during his assignment and also during a scene
from Part II)
"The Ghost Of Tom Joad" by Bruce Springsteen (the overall mood)
The National Coalition for the Homeless provides a free
report documenting attacks on the homeless. Please visit their site for
ways you can help those in need. They also have a YouTube channel.
(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