The angel of death had been
struck mute by her words and the truth behind them. But he
couldn't remain frozen while his friend wept. And he couldn't let
her think he'd want her to betray her faith. With a sigh, he
took a seat beside her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders.
"Laja, you're right. I'm
sorry. I would never want you to disobey the Father and it was
wrong of me to doubt Him. You can stay."
"But... do you want me to?" she questioned, peering at him.
It was a tough question. It was lonely being in the house.
Andrew certainly didn't mind the company. If he could pick the
house up and relocate it to some quaint Irish village or pristine
Midwest plain, then he would want her there. But her safety was
infinitely important to him and with everything that was going
on... Was the Father honestly asking him to leave her alone for
at least twelve hours every day? And then there were the hours
when they'd both be there...
The house was plenty big for two. In fact, the receptionist at
the police station had told Andrew that at one point it had
been a bed
and breakfast. But it didn't seem entirely kosher
for the two of them to be living there alone. Especially when the
department had proved to be something of a gossip mill. And
JenniAnn was extremely sensitive to gossip, especially where he was
to delicately raise the issue when he noticed a basket on the
floor. It was at the foot of the chair JenniAnn had been
occupying when he entered.
Inside was a stack of sheets. A sizable stack. More than
one would ever need for two beds at any given time. Before he
could ask about them, Andrew heard a beep.
"That's the laundry." Giving up on getting an answer to her
question, JenniAnn left and went into the laundry room in the
Confused, Andrew followed. He watched as she removed still more
bed linens from the machine. "Laja, what's going on?"
JenniAnn loaded the pillow cases and blankets into the dryer then
turned to the angel. "Have you had dessert?"
Andrew shook his head.
She reached for his hand. "Dessert it is, then. Come
Andrew let her lead him up the steps and to the kitchen. He
almost commented when he noticed that the previously barren cupboards
now housed a variety of mugs, glasses, plates, and bowls... those, too,
were more than
two people would ever need. He wondered if all the changes had
come with JenniAnn's arrival or before it. But he
sensed that she was preparing herself for whatever it was she had
to say and he gave her time, instead focusing on starting some tea
while she cut slices of pumpkin pie. When the chamomile was
they took seats across from each other at the table.
"I'm glad you called me this morning. Really, it meant a
lot. I mean I've always told you that you can during assignments,
if you need to talk. But you
never had. So I wondered if maybe you just weren't really
listening. But clearly you were and this morning was just the
first time you really needed to," JenniAnn began.
"I've always listened to you, Laja. And I did need to
talk. It helped a lot. But I'm starting to wonder about the
impact it had on you that you've dropped everything and come
here..." Andrew took a sip of his tea before studying her.
"I did... have a nightmare after it."
"Laja..." Andrew looked sadly at her and squeezed her hand.
"It wasn't anything new. It was actually a flashback to... to
your breakdown. Remember when I came over and read Matthew
The angel of death nodded as he studied the grain of the table.
Even though he'd been forgiven by all concerned parties, he still
felt terrible about the pain and worry he'd caused everyone in Dyeland
and the Tunnels.
JenniAnn squeezed his hand back and continued. "Well, in the
dream version of it I was hung up on the second poem I read...
'Excuse'... being on page 515. Which struck me when I woke up
cause that's impossible. The book's not that long. And then
I realized... it was the area code of your phone number. So I
reverse searched it... tracked it to here in West Hollow."
Andrew abruptly let go of her hand and stared at her. It dawned
on him that *he* with his desperate phone call was
responsible for her presence there. After another moment of
reflection, he recalled how his cell phone... which wouldn't have given
her any help in locating him... had spontaneously charged down.
And then the rotary phone with the local number... JenniAnn's first
clue... had appeared. The Father's work, clearly. Andrew
felt humbled and grateful.
"I... I found the paper. And I saw the headline. And read
Officer du Lac." JenniAnn smiled softly at him.
"A bunch of us watched Camelot
right before I left for this assignment, remember? It seemed less
than Pendragon." He returned her smile then grew serious.
"So at least you know why I'm concerned having you here. That
didn't... it didn't stop you?"
JenniAnn shook her head. "I... I called Logan and using his
hacker abilities, we found the
house. We figured out it was only 3.5 hours from my parents' and
we were trying to find a bus line when Eli showed up."
"And asked you to just come here with him?"
JenniAnn shook her head. "Eli never asked anything. My mind
was already made up. Logan's, too. Eli was just... the
voice of reason."
"I knew I couldn't come alone. Or just with Logan. So this
morning a bunch of us met up for breakfast. As Eli had directed
me, I simply laid out the facts for our friends." She beamed at
Andrew. "I never once mentioned Eli. Nor even my
prayer. Not until later. But every last one of them seemed
to have settled on the
same scheme... or same variation of it... as I told them what was going
on. Yva asked how far
West Hollow was from Omaha. Rose asked if, by chance, you'd left
your van so we could use it. Lady Beth suggested that maybe
Catherine would let us borrow one of hers. And C.J. suggested we
rent one. The point being:
unbidden and unasked... we all wanted to come here to be with you,
Andrew. This is a complete and total exercise of human free
will. I can remember that before we went to Missouri...
when Tess showed up to say that it was God's will we all go with you...
you were troubled by the idea that our lives were being interrupted and
put at risk for your sake. I'm sure you are now, too. But
the thing is... this time is different. We all made the decision
come here before any of us even knew it was God's will. I mean we
certainly hoped it was. We wouldn't have wanted to go against His
will! So we're glad this is His will. But it was our choice
from start to finish. God...
through Eli... only helped us to accomplish getting here in an easier
"And how was that?" Andrew gazed around the room, wondering where
the others were hiding.
"Well, we were just all so focused on getting here all at once...
together... and soon. But then Eli told us you wouldn't be home
evening, anyhow. So this afternoon, Cliff, Eli, and I headed from
my parents' to here in Eli's car. Cliff put in a portal... it's
in the wardrobe in the laundry room actually... then he tested
it. He's probly relaying the news right about now.
He only finished a few minutes before you showed up. And so...
our friends are due here about 9:00."
Andrew blinked. "When you say our friends you mean..."
"Right now just Rose and Lady Beth and C.J. and Yva. Sir Sven
will join her when he gets back from his trip. Vincent
Logan will come tonight, too. Logan insisted on coming from the
first, like I
said. He wouldn't let down his 'lord liege,'" JenniAnn recalled
with a laugh.
Andrew smiled but was still struggling to make peace with the entire
JenniAnn's heart went out to him. He'd tossed aside his
reservations and allowed her to stay. That was progress.
She still firmly believed that her presence there and the eventual
arrival of their friends was God's will. However, she wasn't
entirely sure what that meant. It was highly possible the Father
had only meant for them to visit, to cheer His homesick and distressed
angel, and then leave him to finish his assignment. That they
were willing to stay for the duration was certain. But JenniAnn
wasn't willing to do that at the expense of Andrew's own
autonomy. It wouldn't be fair to him... or them. He had
capitulated earlier because she'd been crying and not necessarily
because he'd wanted to. Her question remained unanswered.
"Do you want me to stay, Andrew? And the others?" she repeated.
Andrew leaned back heavily in his chair and tried to discern what his
friend was feeling.
He could tell JenniAnn was fighting to keep her emotions at bay.
She wanted the choice to be his, not swayed by what she wanted.
But Andrew knew. She wanted to stay and so, apparently, did their
friends. He envied her certainty. She loved him,
he was lonely, God allowed them this time together, and, thus, she
should stay. Her heart and soul were in agreement.
His were not. His heart desperately wanted his friends
near. Andrew knew he'd never entirely adjusted back to working
alone after Monica and Tess. Some of that feeling of camaraderie
came back at the mere thought of having someone... many someones at
that... at his side during this assignment. Yet, the assignment
also brought to the surface the angel's soul-deep fear that one day
something terrible would happen to one of them. And there he'd
be... helpless and silent except for cries to the Father. A tear
rolled down his cheek.
Unable to sit still a moment longer, Andrew stood up and went to the
kitchen window. It faced the tree lined back yard. The
angel realized with a shiver how much it looked like the forest of his
"You don't know what you're asking me, Laja," he murmured. "Do
you remember when Bennie asked me if I ever get tired of being the
'knight in shining armor' to you all? I don't, Laja. But
what if... what if something happens and I couldn't be that?"
Tears formed in JenniAnn's own eyes. She moved to stand beside
him and gently stroked his back. "Andrew... I know this is
difficult. And I don't believe this rather extreme use of our
free will should impinge on yours." She sighed. "We all
just really needed to see you. So, please, just let everyone stay
tonight... to see that you're okay... ish. And then, if you
don't want us here, we'll leave tomorrow after breakfast. And
anxiously await your return. I promise. But if that's what
you want... please tell me now so I can call and tell everyone so
they're not lugging more luggage than needed."
The angel of death considered the offer. He knew his friends well
enough to know that if he put his foot down, they wouldn't push
him. And yet... even as JenniAnn had made the offer to leave in
the morning, her eyes seemed to be pleading with him to turn her
down. "Laja, please know that it's never, ever a case of me
simply not wanting all of you around. Even when I pulled away
from all of you, it wasn't because I wanted to be away from you.
It was because I was afraid that I couldn't protect you. Not from
the bad things that can happen and not... not from myself." With
a faltering smile, Andrew continued. "You know, sometimes it may
not seem this way but you've all succeeded a lot in getting me to talk
more about my feelings. And I worry... having you all around at
times like this... I'll just start talking and... Laja, I won't be able
to stop. And you'll hear too much and it will hurt you and..."
JenniAnn shook her head. "I have more faith in your empathy than
you do, Andrew. If that were to happen, you would stop at the
first sign of real distress in us. I know you would. And as
for the other... we'll be very careful, Andrew. I mean Logan will
be here. Vincent. With the portal and this place being on
its own lil road, he has little concern of being seen. So he'll
stay. Mick may stop in. And Catherine, eventually.
Once she's back. My cousin may not seem so tough but
I've seen her
take down men twice her size... in self defense class, I mean.
When I was in college she took me. Catherine doesn't, like, go
around beating up thugs as a form of entertainment or anything..."
Andrew chuckled at the bizarre mental image.
JenniAnn grinned. "I love your laugh."
"I'm not sure I've done much laughing this whole week," the angel
confessed. "It felt good."
"It could stay this way..." JenniAnn hinted, bringing them back to the
subject at hand.
Andrew inhaled deeply and closed his eyes. He prayed for
guidance. He prayed for an answer that was truthful yet wouldn't
hurt his friends. Mostly he prayed to do his Father's will, just
as he always did. When he had finished, his heart and soul both
knew there was only one answer he could give. "Stay.
Please," he requested.
JenniAnn's face glowed and she threw her arms around him. "I'm so
glad and so, so relieved. Thank you, Andrew."
"Laja, I'm the one who should be thankful. You're all helping
"I know but... I was worried... I know you said not to be but...
Your nightmare..." JenniAnn drifted off and looked out to the
Andrew sighed. He wanted JenniAnn and the others to be careful
and vigilant. But it seemed wrong that an angel would make
someone more fearful. He remained haunted by his nightmare but
regretted that he'd passed the fear along to JenniAnn. "Laja, I
know you'll all be careful and not risk your well-beings. Right?"
JenniAnn nodded. "Of course. But Andrew... you telling me
about the dream... well, it didn't make me fear for us girls at all."
The angel of death cocked his head, trying to make sense of the
woman. "But you were the only ones in danger in it."
Shaking her head, JenniAnn explained. "Andrew, did you realize
that in your dream us five women... well, the
way you described it, it seemed like we could see and interact with
each other. We were together. You... you were the one we
were separated from. I was so afraid that it meant there would be
a repeat of... That maybe on some level you were afraid you
wouldn't be able to keep yourself from... from drifting away...
again. And I couldn't... I don't think any of us could... go
through that again. We've had four more years to get more
attached, to love you more... to be hurt more deeply if we lose you."
The angel briefly replayed the dream and was surprised to realize
JenniAnn was exactly right. Seen from a different angle, it
hadn't been about the five women being in peril at all. Only he
had been. Yet one thing continued to trouble Andrew. "But
the scream?" he asked.
JenniAnn's face became tinged with pink. "You don't think there
was some cathartic
screaming done back then by certain individuals who felt thwarted when
they felt they couldn't help you? Maybe some pillows were also
beaten up... Impassioned, teary poems written..."
Andrew took his turn to blush. "I see. Well, I hope those
certain individuals don't ever feel the need to do any of that again on
account." He smiled reassuringly at JenniAnn.
"The chances of such a reprise are looking blissfully slim." She
beamed at him.
Andrew continued to smile before returning to serious matters. "I
hope you are as happy as can be, all of you. And I'll do my part
to make that true. But, Laja, there's no escaping that there's a
very serious, very scary situation going on here. So can
we... I don't want you to feel like I'm trying to control any of
"But?" JenniAnn prodded. "I'm sure whatever you're struggling
with saying isn't so dire as you think. You're many things,
Andrew. But domineering has never been an adjective I felt suited
Andrew grinned. "When you put it that way... I was just
thinking it might be good to have some
ground rules... if you all stay. We can discuss them but things
like not leaving the house alone when it's dark. Or maybe just...
not leaving the house alone, period?"
"I'm sure everyone would be amenable to some ground rules. As
long as we get to make some, too." JenniAnn returned his grin.
"Good. And of course you can" Andrew sighed and brushed his
hand through his hair,
still not remembering there wasn't much there. He smiled
sheepishly at JenniAnn. "They, umm, have guidelines about hair
length at the station and so..." He made a scissors gesture with
his fingers. "Think it'll surprise everyone? I know you all
liked my long hair..."
"It just... it made you look more boyish... carefree. That's why
we liked it. But this is a good look, too. It reminds me of
when you first came to Dyeland. I was so happy to see you... even
if I was painfully shy and afraid to touch you. I wish I could go
back and tell her not to be afraid or nervous. That a good life
awaited her." JenniAnn beamed at the angel. "Anyhow, I'm
the others will adjust. We love the person, not his hair."
She squeezed his hand. "But speaking of the others... I need to
start making some beds."
"I'll help. You shouldn't have to make, what? At least six
beds by yourself? Wait... are there even six beds here?"
Andrew arched an eye brow.
JenniAnn shrugged. "So I've been told. I get the impression
a lot appeared after you left this morning. But I actually
haven't taken the grand tour
yet. So let me go get that last load of laundry and then you can
show me around and then... you are going to rest. Cause you've
worked all day."
"Like you haven't, Laja! Packing and laundry and apparently
baking a pie and even if the
Father did give us a bunch of furniture and flatware and everything...
I can see your decorating touch so it's obvious you did some of that,"
"Stuff was just in boxes," JenniAnn admitted. "I think He knew I
needed busy work to keep calm while I waited for you. In any
case, that's considerably less demanding than what you've been doing."
The angel of death folded his arms over his chest and shook his
head. "Laja, I'm not just gonna sit on the couch as you buzz
housework. I had enough of that last November and December when
my arm was broken."
JenniAnn saw that this was an argument she was going to lose. Who
was she to dissuade a man from helping with housework? It was
unseemly. That didn't mean she couldn't have some fun
first. She waved her hand dismissively. "No... I really
think you should rest. Watch a game on TV. Put your feet
"I don't want to watch a game and put my feet up while you work!
That's... that's archaic!"
"Well, Andrew, you're archaic so it kinda... ya know... makes
sense. So I'll just go start..."
Andrew glared at her. Then a twinkle came to his eye. "Not
if I get there first," he taunted before tearing out of the kitchen.
JenniAnn giggled and ran after him. "No fair! You're taller
and, thus, have
longer legs!" she shouted as she ran down the stairs to the laundry
room to find Andrew had already unloaded the dryer and managed to fold
the contents. She gasped. "You used angel powers!
That's not fair, either!"
The angel of death gave her his most innocent smile. "Did
I? Maybe I'm just a really fast folder."
Looking doubtfully at him, his friend shrugged. "Well, either
way... gimme that."
"No." Andrew held the basket over his head. "Not until you
agree to let me help."
JenniAnn made one attempt to jump and claim the basket but
failed. She laughed. "All right, all right. C'mon."
"Gladly." Andrew smiled and followed her up the stairs.
And so the two went from room to room, making beds, checking for
unlocked windows, and, on a whim, hiding notes for their friends.
When they finished JenniAnn's room, Andrew dismissed her so
he could hide her note. When he was through, he entered the hall
in time to see her opening his bedroom door.
"Laja, that one's mine. I already have sheets. You don't
But it was too late. She turned back to the angel with a bemused
Andrew stood beside her and glanced from the unmade bed to her.
"I was in a hurry?" he suggested, cringing.
JenniAnn giggled and stepped inside. "Good to know there's
something about you that's not utterly perfect. C'mon, I'll help."
Once they'd made the bed, JenniAnn took a few moments to hide her note
to Andrew and then rejoined him in the hall. He glanced at his
"It's 8:58," he told her.
"You doing okay?"
Andrew nodded as he twirled the pen he'd used for the notes.
JenniAnn set a hand on his shoulder. "It'll be all right."
She glanced down the stairs. "I think I hear them."
Andrew started down the steps and made his way to the basement door
with JenniAnn a few paces behind him. The sound of footsteps grew
louder. He opened the door and was immediately swarmed by his
friend and two enthusiastic dogs.
"You cut your hair! I thought you might have!" Rose
exclaimed. "I really like it."
Lady Beth hugged him and, pulling back, eyed him suspiciously.
pale. Have you been eating enough? Please tell me you
haven't been making lunch out of those awful office vending machines."
"Andrewkins! We're so glad we could come see you. We missed
you so much!" Yva immediately hugged the angel as soon as Lady
Beth was through.
"Can I see your badge?" Logan asked, overly enthused.
"Give him a second to pet Lulu before she gets completely annoyed with
us," C.J. suggested.
Andrew's concern evaporated in the pandemonium. He crouched on
the floor to hold his dog and gazed up at his friends. "I'm
really glad you're all here," he told them.
They smiled down at him, grateful to know that their presence was
Andrew buried his face in the nape of Lulu's neck and thanked the
Father for the gift he'd been given.
For a couple of hours after their
the gang gathered in the living room to chat. They laughed at
Yva's stories of the pre-Halloween shenanigans and chaos at Willy's
factory. Andrew's heart was lightened by JenniAnn's recollections
of the Tunnel children's week of festive crafts and spooky stories they
wrote all by themselves featuring friendly ghost bats and Shakespearean
pumpkins. Rose caught Andrew up on the slumbering Theo's latest
escapades and Aunt Josephine's health. C.J. calmed him with
visions of her frolicking
horses. Lady Beth did her part in assuring him his days of
hastily thrown together lunches were over. And Logan regaled his
tales of epic video game victories. He also sought to assure the
angel of death of his friends' safety by informing him that he had
learned all manner of martial arts from those same video games.
For his own part, Andrew had done his best to open up to his friends
about his own recent activities. However, at the late hour he
didn't want to frighten them and they seemed to understand his
As the evening drew to a close, Andrew had considered broaching his
ground rules discussion but he realized they were all tired.
JenniAnn had racked up a mere 3 hours of sleep to 36 waking ones.
others had spent much of the day running around, readying themselves
for a week or more away from Dyeland. So he had decided to let it
wait until breakfast and seen them all off to their rooms before
settling in his own with Lulu. It was there his thoughts returned
to the more sobering reasons for his presence in Iowa.
As he lay in bed, Andrew considered the turn his assignment had taken
the last few hours. He'd gone from an angel of death working an
assignment solo to one surrounded by devoted and
determined friends. Despite his initial repulsion to the idea of
having the Dyelanders in Iowa, Andrew admitted to himself and the
Father that he felt better
than he had in days. He smiled as he recalled the evening that
only just ended. However, he found it more difficult to fall
asleep than it had been the previous night. Then he'd had only
himself to be concerned about. And the unknown, devious assailant
who was at large could do nothing to him.
Andrew cuddled his basset hound to him. He was glad Lulu was
there. And Fawn, too. Not simply for their unconditional
love, either. He knew that dogs were among the best
forms of household security one could have. He made a mental note
to get some "Beware of Dogs" signs to prominently display around the
yard. He racked his brain for other things he could do to ensure
the house's inhabitants were safe. He already prayed constantly
for their well-being. But the angel knew that, though God was
never far, sometimes safety was.
As he tried to calm his nerves, it struck Andrew that all the bedrooms
were on the upper level of the house. At that very moment, the
main level was completely unguarded. And the main level was where
most intruders entered...
With a start, Andrew got out of bed. He picked Lulu up in his
right arm and gathered his blanket and pillows with his left.
Creeping to the door, he prayed no one would hear him. If the
girls knew he was going to sleep on the couch, they'd revolt.
Once he reached the stairs, he hung tight to the left wall where the
steps were less likely to squeak. A series of night lights near
the floor allowed him to navigate to the living room and the
largest couch. It was still too small to stretch out his legs but
the cushions were soft enough. Lulu curled up to his chest,
apparently okay with the arrangement.
The angel stared at where moonlight was sneaking through the drawn
curtains. Silently, he began to pray.
"Dear Father, please help me to do whatever I can to keep my friends
safe. I entrust them to You, as always. And please, Father,
help the women who have been hurt to realize that You are with them and
that... that they did nothing wrong. That sometimes terrible and
hateful things happen but You're still wonderful and loving. Help
Jonah to accept that truth, too, and to know that You are so proud of
if You can use me to help find this man who is hurting others... I'm
here. And I'll be here for as long as You want me to be. I
love You. Amen."
At last feeling some semblance of peace, Andrew drifted into a
Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
Andrew woke up to the enticing
bacon, homemade syrup, and coffee. And Lulu's wet nose against
his neck. And hushed chatter. It was the latter that most
drew his attention.
"All right! This is not gonna be how it is. I definitely
have one of my ground rules picked: no sleeping on the couch."
JenniAnn. The revolt had begun.
"Why do you think he's down here? Aww. That couch is so
small he has to sleep in fetal position!"
"Question: If you were never a fetus, can that be called fetal
Lady Beth... followed by contemplative silence that didn't give way to
any answers. Andrew stifled a chuckle. He was about to
speak up and reveal that he was awake but JenniAnn beat him to it.
"I think it's some safety thing," she guessed, foregoing a
response to Lady Beth's query. "My dad used
to say someone should always sleep on the ground level. That's
where most break-ins happen."
Andrew considered calling Robert Chandler to get some more tips.
"But I thought you said he'd already been sleeping upstairs?" Rose
JenniAnn's voice grew tender. "He didn't have anyone here he
wanted to protect. Until last night. Poor love."
"He'll be embarrassed if we're hovering around when he gets up.
Let's head back to the kitchen," Lady Beth suggested.
Andrew waited for the retreating footsteps then began to rouse.
Lulu seemed disinclined to get up but once he was on his feet and had
gathered up the bedding, she gave
in and trotted after him. The hallway and staircase were
deserted, everyone was apparently either in the kitchen or still in
their rooms. Andrew was relieved. He didn't relish the idea
of getting lectured in his pajamas. He returned to his room,
quickly made himself presentable, and slipped into his uniform.
Not wanting a repeat of the night before, he paused to make his bed
before going to the kitchen.
Stepping into the room, Andrew found Lady Beth, Rose, and JenniAnn
putting the finishing touches on breakfast.
"Good morning," he greeted.
Rose was nearest and hugged him in greeting. "Good morning.
How'd you sleep?"
JenniAnn smiled reassuringly at him. "We already know about the
The angel nodded. "I thought it was safer if someone was on
"That's probably true," Lady Beth agreed. "But I think we can do
better than having you sleeping on a too small couch."
"We'll talk about it. We actually need to talk about a few
things. But where are C.J. and Yva? And Logan?" Andrew
"Logan's sleeping. I think he stayed up all night. He's
used to the basement and I think the morning light was getting to
him. Yva went to go check in with Willy. She'll be back any
minute. And C.J. went back to Dyeland with her to check on her
horses. She's due back shortly, too," Rose explained.
"When they return we can have our rules chat," JenniAnn added.
"We can fill Logan in later."
"Andrew, how do you want your eggs?" Lady Beth asked.
"Scrambled, please. What can I do?"
Lady Beth shrugged. "I think we have it under control."
JenniAnn grinned. "I think we better find something for him to
do. He gets bratty when foiled. You should have seen him
last night with the laundry."
Andrew chuckled. "What can I say? I just like to be
"We know. And we love that about you so... how about you pour
juice?" Rose suggested. "Six glasses."
"I can do that."
Just as the angel was pouring the last glass, Yva and C.J. walked in
from the basement. They all carried the dishes out to the dining
room and took seats around the table.
"Andrew, why don't you lead grace?" Yva suggested.
The angel bowed his head as everyone held hands. "Dear Father,
thank You for this meal and all the love that went into preparing
it. Thank You for giving us this time together. And please,
Father, guide the men at the station and me. Help us to bring
about justice and peace and comfort. Thank You. Amen."
"Amen," the others echoed, touched by the determination and commitment
in Andrew's prayer.
"So what time are you due in, Andrew?" C.J. asked as she began to cut
"10:00 today. I probably won't be home until around 8:00.
Because the station is so small, our shifts are longer and not entirely
predictable," he answered. He surveyed his friends' faces.
"What all do you intend to do here?"
"Well... Eli mentioned something about our presence here... and even
yours... being twofold. God has something planned for this
place," JenniAnn waved her hand around to indicate the house.
"Eli wasn't sure what. But he said we'd find out. So I
think we're meant to fix it up a bit. Which brings me to... I
think maybe we should convert that den off the living room into a
bedroom." She glanced across the table at Andrew. "If we're
going to be setting rules, I would like to suggest 'Andrew will not be
allowed to sleep on the tiny couch.'"
"I second it!" Rose declared.
"Any objections?" Yva asked with a grin.
C.J. and Lady Beth shook their heads.
Andrew laughed. "I knew that one was going to pass
unanimously. I know it looked a little uncomfortable..."
Lady Beth peered at him.
"Okay, it *was* uncomfortable," the angel clarified. "But I
need... you're going to have to let me do some things to ensure
your safety. If not for your sakes, then mine. I just need
to feel like I'm doing everything I can."
C.J. patted Andrew's hand. "We understand and we will. So
that can be our first project. Now back to the rules.
Andrew, your turn."
The angel took a few bites of bacon as he thought. He was
still concerned that his bid to keep the ladies safe would come across
"Amish Boy, I'm sure whatever you're thinking of is completely
reasonable," Rose assured.
Andrew felt more at ease hearing his friend use one of his many
nicknames. "I hope so. I would feel better knowing that
none of you were ever out alone. Especially not at night.
But my preference would be not at any time of day... And I'm not
crazy about anyone ever being alone in the house, either. There
haven't been any home invasions yet but... you never know
with..." His voice trailed off.
Yva shrugged. "This is a town none of us has ever set foot in
before. And we know that right now some very troubling things are
happening. Even if you weren't here, I don't think any of us
would be particularly anxious to leave the house alone. I agree
to that rule. And to not being in the house alone, either."
The other four nodded in agreement.
"All right, thanks." Andrew smiled at them all. "But I
guess I'm still a little concerned that..."
"That what?" C.J. prodded.
"That you might hear something that will upset you and that in your
panic you might try to come find me and..." Though he was trying
his best not to look at JenniAnn, Andrew slipped and his gaze fell on
JenniAnn smiled tenderly at the angel of death. "We won't do
anything rash, Andrew. None of us. I know you're thinking
about when I tried to find you last November. But I learned a lot
that night. Enough to keep me from doing anything similar
again. Don't worry about that."
Andrew sighed with relief. "Thank you. And thank you for
"You're welcome. Now... what else?" JenniAnn encouraged.
"No answering the door unless we know who it is?" Rose suggested.
"That's a good one," Lady Beth agreed. "I know sometimes it's
easy to be tempted because you worry about seeming rude. Or that
someone will need help."
"It's not rude to be cautious," C.J. assured. "And if people seem
to need help, at least keep the screen door locked when you talk with
"And call the police if you think that's the case," Andrew added.
"Maybe we'll be lucky and even get Officer du Lac to come out," Yva
"Maybe," Andrew grinned at her.
"If the dogs need to go out when it's dark..." Rose began.
"Just don't go outside with them unless someone else knows you're out
there," C.J. suggested.
Andrew nodded, appeased.
"Does anyone have any other rules? I mean I'm sure we're all
gonna be conscientious about common sense stuff like locking doors,
being aware of our surroundings, etc. But beyond that?" JenniAnn
looked from one friend to the next.
"What I have isn't really a rule. More like a request," Yva spoke
"What is it, Yva?" the angel asked.
She reached for his hand. "Andrew, I know that what you've heard
and seen and what you're going to hear and see... it's very troubling
and sad. And I don't think any of us will expect you to tell us
everything. But, please, remember that we're here for you.
To listen if necessary but also simply to be here with you. So
don't... please don't draw away. Sometimes people can occupy the
same physical space but still be emotionally miles apart. We
don't want that with you."
Andrew squeezed the woman's hand and looked intently at each of his
friends. "I won't let that happen. Laja pointed out to me
last night that we've all grown closer in the last four
years. Losing our friendships would be
harder... maybe impossible... for any of us to bear now. So I
won't withdraw like that again. Ever. I promise."
The five women smiled with relief and happiness. They
trusted Andrew and knew he kept his promises.
"Well, now that that's settled, what are we going to do today while
Andrew's away? Other than switch the two rooms?" C.J. queried.
"I vote we start going through the other bedrooms, one by one, and
them. I get the feeling based on the rust, avocado, and goldenrod
walls... not to mention some of the paisley wallpaper... that it hasn't
been done since the 70s." JenniAnn wrinkled
"I thought you liked the 60s and 70s?" Andrew teased.
"I like the clothes. I could do without the decor," she
responded. "And painting, with all due respect, is something we
can do without you. Just as soon as we get paint."
"It's going to be a little hard to pick colors without knowing what the
ultimate goal is with this place, won't it? Maybe we should..."
Before Rose could continue, the doorbell rang.
Andrew looked quizzically at this friends. "Expecting anyone?"
"Others said they'd stop in," Lady Beth answered. "But through
the portal. And not until tonight."
"I'll go see." Andrew stood up and left the table with Lulu
trailing after him.
The five women strained to hear what was going on in the living
room. After a few moments, they heard the angel of death laughing.
"Hey, come out here. Come see who I found!" he called.
Excited to see who their visitor was, the five women quickly dashed to
the hallway where they found Andrew and Tess hugging as Lulu and Tess'
dog, Widget, reacquainted themselves. The supervisor angel was
surrounded by boxes marked with words like "Paint brushes" and
"Well, hello, babies! I see I'm going to have lots of helpers!"
the elder angel greeted with a warm smile. Once Andrew had
stepped away, Tess bestowed a hug on each of the five women.
"Tess, we're so glad you're here!" JenniAnn enthused, pushing a
suddenly shy Fawn towards the other two dogs.
"Are you hungry? We have plenty for breakfast," Lady Beth offered.
"Breakfast would be delightful and it will give me a chance to fill you
all in. Thank you, Lady Beth."
Andrew led Tess into the dining room while Rose went to prepare a plate
for her. When they were all settled back down with their
Tess began her explanation.
"As I'm sure Angel Boy can attest, support services here in West Hollow
are severely lacking."
Andrew nodded. "The town's so small that people usually travel to
the bigger cities for psychological help, even some medical
services. And with these rape cases... there isn't much we can
offer the women. Not any expert help unless they're willing to
"And that's a shame. So a certain Anonymous Benefactor is going
to donate this house as a shelter/counseling center for women who have
experienced abuse of any kind." Tess peered
upwards. "And He has asked us to get it into shape."
"I love that idea!" Yva cheered.
C.J. nodded. "And we all have some experience with that since we
helped Catherine get the Phoenix Inn in order."
"I knew this place was special the first time I set foot in it."
JenniAnn smiled at the walls and then Andrew. "And not simply
because of its sole occupant at the time."
The angel's checks colored and he smirked.
"Nice one," Rose congratulated.
Tess shook her head but continued to smile. "So I will be staying
here for the duration to head this redecorating, fixing up effort."
"You know, I noticed that the sink in the bathroom on this floor drains
kinda slowly. So will you be fixing the plumbing, Tess?" Andrew
asked with a devilish glint in his eye.
The supervisor wrinkled her nose. "No, baby, I think I'll be
leaving that to you. You look much better in a tool belt than I
do. And I don't think I'll be getting any argument on
that." She eyed the ladies, certain they would back her up.
Lady Beth laughed. "She's got you there, Andrew."
Andrew held up his hands in defeat. "I'll look into it
tonight. But now..." He glanced at his pocket watch.
"My shift starts in half an hour so I better be leaving."
The others at the table grew quiet at his words, their recent levity
slipping away at the thought of him leaving to confront ugliness and
"I'll be fine," he assured. "I've been doing this for two
weeks. And now I have friends to come home to." Andrew
smiled at each of them.
Tess also did her best to calm the five Dyelanders. "We'll be so
busy the time will just fly by and soon Andrew will be back."
"Exactly." Andrew looked gratefully at Tess. "So I'll see
you then. Don't wait for me for dinn..."
"We'll wait for you for dinner," JenniAnn interrupted with a grin.
Andrew opted to accept it without argument. "Okay, then I'll
see you all for dinner.
As he began to stand, Lady Beth bolted up from her chair.
"Wait! I almost forgot..." She left the room and soon
returned holding a paper bag. "Your lunch."
Andrew beamed at her. "Thanks, Lady Beth!"
"I told you we wouldn't let you eat out of a machine. No Cheetos."
The angel laughed. "Great." He hugged her then began to
embrace the others one-by-one. "Now enjoy the rest of your
breakfast and have fun painting or whatever you decide to do.
I'll see you all tonight."
C.J. returned his hug. "Take care, Andrew."
"We promise not to paint your room neon pink!" Rose teased.
"Although we may go with traffic cone orange," Yva added, laughing as
"With magenta accents?" Andrew guessed.
"Exactly. Lime green, too. Very pretty." JenniAnn
smiled as she hugged Andrew good bye.
"Good bye, Angel Boy. We'll take care of each other," Tess
vowed. When Andrew stepped away from her she caught his gaze and
"I know you will," Andrew murmured.
"Good. And, baby, check your wallet once you get to the station."
Andrew looked at Tess with confusion but she seemed unwilling to offer
further explanation. Letting the mystery go, he crouched to give
each of the dogs a farewell pat and hurriedly left the room.
Rose looked at Tess with concern once she heard the front door close
and lock. "I think he's still more concerned about us being here
than he's letting on."
Tess nodded. "He is. It's difficult... even impossible...
for Andrew not to care deeply about those he loves."
"But it's also difficult for him *to* care deeply about those he
loves," JenniAnn pointed out.
"I know, baby. But he wouldn't have it any other way. You
know that," Tess chastised gently. "Now how about we finish our
breakfast and then get going with that new room of his? We'll
make it comfortable and cozy and, most of all, calming."
"That sounds like the perfect idea," Yva agreed.
As the six finished their meal, their focus shifted from the absentee
Andrew and his disquietude to the room they were going to design for
As Andrew stepped into the police
three sets of eyes settled on him. Jillian, the receptionist,
Jonah, and another officer named Simon were all grinning at him.
"Good morning," the angel greeted. "Why do I have a feeling I'm
missing something? Simon, please tell me you didn't put my
stapler in Jello again."
Simon shook his head. "No, the hazing is over, Officer du
Lac. But we got a call from Gus. He's out doing patrol and
drove past your place. Saw a car that was definitely not your
honking green van. So... who's the company?" He grinned as
Andrew blushed. He knew what they were thinking and that he had
to clarify the situation for them. However, he realized he wasn't
entirely sure how. Then he remembered Tess' direction to check
his wallet. He smiled when he saw an unfamiliar business card
reading "Andrew du Lac, Head Handyman, Tess' Divine Design." He
held the card out to the three. "That was Tess. She's an
old friend who heads up an organization that remodels spaces for
counseling centers, places like that. Remember how I told you I
like to do repair work in my free time? Now you know why."
The angel smiled confidently at them, silently thanking Tess and the
Father for the well-timed cover.
"I thought that place seemed awfully big for a bachelor like you,"
Jillian confessed. "So what is Tess' Divine Design looking to
turn that old place into?"
"A shelter/counseling center for victims of abuse. Not just rape
but also domestic violence. Tess heard about what's been going
on here and this morning she showed up, told some friends and me her
idea, and we
decided to pursue it."
Jonah, Simon, and Jillian nodded and looked at Andrew guiltily.
They'd been giving him a hard time only to find out the guy's motives
went beyond innocent to completely charitable!
The angel laughed. "I'm sorry to disappoint you all."
Andrew's good humor put the others at ease immediately.
"That's a great idea, Andrew," Jonah encouraged. "And I'm glad...
well, it's just that since you don't have a family... I mean I
know the rest of us have families and it's been... they keep us
grounded and hopeful. I was getting concerned about you not
The angel smiled at his assignment. "These friends are a lot like
family. Believe me, they'll be keeping an eye on me when you're
not. But now that we have the identity of my mysterious visitor
settled... what's happened over night?"
Jillian and Simon returned to their paperwork as Jonah motioned Andrew
to their neighboring desks. "Thankfully, no attacks," he informed
his partner. "Gus hauled in a couple drunk drivers, there was a
minor fight at a bar, and someone thought their house was being broken
into but it was just a raccoon."
Andrew chuckled. "What happened to the raccoon?"
"Ran off before Gus could apprehend him." Jonah smiled before
picking up a file. He was all seriousness when he handed it to
Andrew. "Tina called. Molly Tucker is getting released
today. Tina thought she might be more apt to talk once she's back
in her own home."
Andrew frowned as he accepted the file. He recalled his first
visit with the most recent victim. The twenty year old had
been attacked on her way home from a party. Understandably
rattled, her initial statement had been incoherent. "So we're
going over there?"
Jonah nodded. "I've spoken to her roommate. Molly will be
home around noon, the roommate will be there until 5:00 when she starts
work. We'll plan to go during that five hour block. Maybe
Molly will feel more at ease with her friend there."
"I hope so." Andrew bowed his head in a silent prayer.
The other officer looked around, self-conscious. "The mayor is
breathing down my neck. With Election Day in a little
over a week..."
The angel grimaced. He knew Mayor Irvington. In fact, he'd
assigned to him once many years ago when he was "Chad the Rad"... an
student whose reckless, drunken behavior had nearly resulted in a fatal
car crash. When he'd hired Andrew as a special investigator, the
angel had been disappointed to discover that sobriety hadn't brought
about much of a change. Now he was a sober, arrogant man.
His selfish motives with the ramped up investigation proved as
much. "So the mayor thinks we're not already trying our
hardest? So he wants us to put more effort into it so he can get
a spike in votes?" he questioned.
"You hit the nail on the head, my friend."
"I hope we find this guy. The sooner the better. But the
mayor's just gonna have to excuse me if my interest in finding him
stems from wanting to give all the women in this town some peace, not
playing into political strategy." Andrew shook his head.
Jonah nodded. "While we wait for Molly, I was thinking maybe we
could visit some of the local pastors? I know the news has been
reporting on ways to increase personal safety. But sometimes
direct outreach has more impact. We should speak to the
people. How comfortable are you in
"Very comfortable," Andrew responded.
"Then maybe that could be your gig tomorrow."
In his weeks with Jonah, Andrew had sensed that the man had great
mistrust for churches.
He wanted to know why, sensing that he needed that answer in order to
help Jonah. But just then it didn't seem like a good time to
him so he simply agreed with the plan. "Sure. I'm sure my
friends will be headed to one or
two, anyway. I'd love to join them."
Jonah stood. "Then let's get going. The pastors will be
more apt to let you speak if we go through everything you intend to say
with them first. Do you have a religion? I'm sure they'll
Andrew's face lit up. "Then I'll tell them that I believe in a
God who is Love and who loves His children and wants them to love each
The angel's partner chuckled. "You're one of those 'I don't like
to label myself,' folks, huh? Well, we'll give that a try."
With the issue of religion settled, the two went to their squad car to
begin their mission of making friends with the local clergy.
Having visited with the
pastors at the Lutheran, Methodist, Evangelical, and Catholic churches
and securing times to speak;
Andrew and Jonah made their way to the home Molly Tucker shared with
her roommate, Heather. The latter opened the door to greet the
"Hi Heather," Jonah greeted.
"Officer Webb," she responded, eyeing Andrew.
"Heather here used to babysit my youngest," Jonah introduced.
"Heather, this is Officer du Lac. He's the one the mayor brought
"I know. Do you have to do this now? Molly's only just
settled down a little."
Andrew looked sympathetically at the considerate friend. "I wish
we could wait, Heather. But while we do, this person could be out
there and... and maybe your friend knows something that could help
us. We won't push her. I promise."
Heather stepped away and allowed them in. "I know I can't be in
the room during the questioning. But I'll be in the
kitchen. And if she gets too upset, I'm coming in and it's
over. Got it?"
"Of course," Jonah agreed.
The young woman led them into the living room where Molly sat, wrapped
up in a voluminous sweater and baggy jeans. Andrew's heart went
out to the girl. She looked even paler than when he'd seen her
two days before after Heather had brought her in following the attack.
Heather took a seat beside her friend. "I'm going to go start
lunch. But I'll come back if you need me. Okay?"
Molly forced a smile and nodded. She looked to where Andrew and
Jonah had taken seats on the couch across from her and simply
nodded in greeting.
"Hi, Molly," Jonah greeted. "I'm sorry we had to come over but we
have some follow-up questions."
"More like outright questions. I'm not stupid. I know I
sounded like a lunatic before," the woman responded dully.
Andrew shook his head. "Molly, you had every right to be upset
and in shock. We never, ever thought you sounded like a
lunatic. We believe you."
"So go on."
"Did you see anything about your attacker that might help us find
him? Anything about how he looked?" Jonah asked.
"It was dark. I only saw his hand when he... when he grabbed me
behind. It was white."
"Did he have any rings? Any tattoos? Birthmarks?"
Molly finally looked up at Andrew and shook her head. "None."
"And you didn't see his face?"
"He was wearing a hood and when... after I was on the ground he made me
cover my face with my jacket."
"How about any of his clothes? Maybe even just the color of his
sleeve?" Jonah suggested. "Or could you see the hairs on his
"I think the sleeve was maybe black. And it was... it was dark
like I said. And I'm sorry I..." Shaking her head, Molly's
eyes began to fill with tears.
Andrew's gentle eyes met her tormented ones. "Molly, you have
nothing to be sorry about. You did nothing wrong."
She glared at him. "There had been three rapes and, genius that I
am, I decided to walk home at 2 AM just because I got into a little
fight with the friend who drove me. Don't tell me I did nothing
"That's no excuse for rape, Molly," Jonah insisted.
"Maybe not. But now I have to live with the fact that my stupid
decision is what made it possible." Molly pulled her knees up to
her chest and rested her head against them.
Andrew and Jonah both knew that Molly couldn't tell them anything to
further their investigation. But with no local rape counseling,
the officers found themselves taking on that role, as well.
"Molly, do you have family? I know Heather is here for you but
maybe your parents or a sibling or someone could stay here and help you
during these first few days," Andrew suggested, hoping she would
respond in the affirmative. He didn't know Heather as Jonah did
but he could sense that as supportive of a friend as she was, Molly
"I haven't told them," came the girl's muffled reply.
"Don't you think they'd want to know so they can help you through
this?" the angel questioned gently.
"Before I left for college my parents told me not to drink, not to go
to parties where I don't know people, not to walk around at night
alone... They said they trusted me to make good decisions."
Molly began to sob.
Jonah crouched down near her but not too close to avoid unwittingly
intimidating her. "Molly, I'm a dad. My kids would probably
even say I was a stern dad. And I've said things exactly like
that to them. But I would still want to know when they needed
me. I wouldn't be angry. But I would feel terrible if I
found out later that they'd struggled alone."
"How... how do I even start?" Molly at last looked up and
searched the policemen's faces.
Andrew moved to kneel beside Jonah. "You tell them that you love
them and that you need them. And if that's all the farther you
can get, maybe Heather can help you." He looked up to see the
roommate peering around the corner, nodding. Knowing the official
questioning was done, he waved her in.
"Molly, I'll do whatever you need," Heather vowed. "But I would
feel better having someone else here, especially when I go to
work and classes. And I know your mom and dad. And I know
they love you
so much. They should be here."
At last, Molly nodded and smiled slightly. "We'll call them," she
promised Andrew and Jonah.
"Good." Jonah smiled at her and handed her his card with Andrew
following suit. "If you need anything, you call us."
"I will, thanks." She reached for Jonah's hand and then
Andrew's. As she shook the angel's hand, Molly froze.
"Molly, what's wrong?" Andrew asked with concern.
"I... I... forgot something." Molly's hand flew to her
neck. "When he... when he was done he tore off my necklace.
I don't know why. It wasn't worth anything. Just some cheap
Andrew and Jonah exchanged a quick glance.
"Thank you, Molly. That's more helpful than you realize."
Molly's face lit up a little as Andrew spoke and smiled proudly at her.
"We'll do everything we can to find this guy," Jonah vowed. "But
now we'll leave you ladies. We mean it, though. You call if
you need anything."
"Yes, sir," Molly and Heather responded.
Once they were outside, Jonah held the keys out to Andrew. "You
think you could drive?"
"Sure. Everything okay?"
Jonah shrugged as he settled into the passenger seat. "It's just
hard not to... I mean that girl's pain is bad enough. But it's
hard not to project. My oldest, Megan, is just two years younger."
Andrew frowned. "I know what you mean. In a way. I
don't have kids. But some of the people in my group..."
"Tess' Divine Designs?" Jonah checked with a grin.
Andrew smiled. "Yes." As he drove off, his expression
became thoughtful and sad. "Some of them are more like sisters
than just friends. And when we've interviewed the victims... I
thought of them."
"Are they all at the house?"
"Most of the girls. I wasn't happy about it at
first. But they could tell I was down. And they wanted to
Jonah looked at the clock on the dashboard. "It's 12:30.
Think they're having lunch right now?"
"Think they'd have enough for two more?"
With a grin, Andrew turned down the block that would eventually lead to
the house. "I think they would."
The two were silent for several minutes. When Jonah at last
spoke, Andrew realized that they'd both been going over the interview
"That was something at the end. When she shook your hand and
suddenly remembered about the necklace."
"Sometimes I bring out the truth in people."
"Maybe because you have an honest face."
"Maybe." Andrew opted not to offer further comment. He
couldn't yet reveal to Jonah that he came from the place where Truth
lived and that sometimes, without realizing it, people picked up on
"That makes four. He's taken something from all four.
Ruby's scarf. Laura's hat. April's bracelet. Molly's
necklace." Jonah stared out the window. "I don't get these
kinds of perverts."
"I'd be worried if you did," Andrew responded, glancing over at his
partner. He looked to be a world away then suddenly snapped back
"Well, we'll get back to that later. I don't want to worry your
friends. At least not any more than they should be."
Andrew focused on the road but continued to wonder about what was going
on in Jonah's mind. He knew that the man, like all the local
parents, was worried about his family. But he'd seemed to be
recalling something painful. Perhaps, like himself, Jonah
occasionally thought back on earlier cases. The angel let it rest
as he turned onto the dirt road. Jonah was right. They
needed to be in a positive frame of mind when they greeted the
The moment Andrew had parked the car and he and Jonah stepped out,
JenniAnn and Rose were running out the front door.
Jonah looked on, chuckling as his partner was stopped in his tracks by
enthusiastic hugs from the two.
"We saw a car coming down the road and were hoping it was you!
You came back for lunch!" Rose greeted.
Andrew nodded. "I'll have to promise Beth to eat her sandwich
tomorrow. But Officer Webb and I were in the area and couldn't
resist stopping in. This is JenniAnn and Rose."
JenniAnn, still clinging to the angel, blushed as she noticed the other
man for the first time. She stepped away from Andrew and held out
hand. "Hello, Officer Webb. I'm glad you can join us for
"Jonah, please. And I'm pretty glad about that, too. I was
going to make a lunch out of Cheetos and diet Coke," he responded with
a warm smile.
Rose laughed, recalling Lady Beth's earlier admonition to Andrew.
"I know we can do better than that. Beth made grilled cheese and
Tess made tomato bisque."
Jonah's face lit up. "Sounds delicious!"
"Well, c'mon. I'll introduce you to everyone else." Andrew
ushered his partner inside.
The sandwiches and soup were just being brought out when the four
the house. As everyone took their seats, Tess led grace and
Andrew made introductions.
"Jonah, this is at least some of the people who make up Tess' Divine
Designs. Starting with Yva." Andrew smiled at the woman
next to him.
"I take care of most of the sewing and upholstery," she
explained. "Eventually I hope to refinish some furniture, too."
"She does a beautiful job with it all," the angel added. "And
next to her is C.J."
"Co-painter, tile-layer, and Head of Safety. I make sure the
smoke and carbon
monoxide detectors and things like that are in order. Check the
Jonah looked at C.J., impressed. "Now that I definitely like."
"Me too. " Andrew smiled at C.J. then waved to Rose beside
her. "And next to her is Rose who you met."
Rose waved to the newcomer. "I also help with the painting,
wallpaper removal, and
washing windows. And I give JenniAnn a hand with the decorating."
"She keeps me from doing anything too crazy," JenniAnn added, smiling
at her friend.
"And I'm very thankful for both of them because this place was pretty
drab before they came along." Andrew looked proudly at them then
turned to Logan. "And this is Logan."
Logan held out his hand and eagerly shook Jonah's. "Head of
wiring. Electricity, computers, all of that. And I know
Jonah stifled a chuckle at the non sequitur. "Great. I'm
sure that all comes in handy."
Logan nodded enthusiastically.
"Logan's the newest to the group and we're all very glad to have him
with us." Andrew smiled at the seemingly young man. "And
across from Logan there is Beth."
"Head cook and I'm helping Tess with getting the kitchen in order," she
explained as she shook the officer's hand.
"Then I have you to thank for this. It's delicious." Jonah
savored a bite of his grilled cheese dunked in the soup.
"Thanks. Tess contributed the bisque. She promised me the
"I know Tess and Beth will spoil us all with their culinary
efforts. And that brings me to Tess herself." Andrew beamed
at his longtime friend.
"Welcome, baby. As Beth said, I'm helping with the cooking but
I'm also overseeing this project. Andrew tells me counseling
services are very much needed here in West Hollow." Tess looked
intently at their guest, easily making him feel a part of the group.
Jonah nodded after he took another bite. "We've just
never had enough funding and with a small population, it's hard to
attract outside interest. We never really felt we needed
it. Not until recently..." He drifted off, not wanting to
ruin the congenial atmosphere. As he looked at the people sitting
around the table, hoping he hadn't troubled them, Jonah realized Logan
didn't have any food in front of him. "We didn't short you on
sandwiches, did we? I see Logan doesn't have one."
Everyone grew nervous for a few moments.
"I was impatient and couldn't wait for lunch. Filled up on far
less yummy food," the vampire covered.
Jonah laughed. "Well, if this is any indication, you can make up
for it later with an excellent dinner."
Logan merely smiled in response.
"Jonah, do you have family here?" Tess asked, eager to draw focus away
from the awkward hacker.
"Yeah. Three kids. My oldest is a senior in high
Megan. Then I have a boy, Thomas. He's a freshman.
And my baby, Kristie, is eight. And, of course, my
wife Nancy." Jonah smiled fondly as he thought of his
family. He produced a photo from his wallet and passed it around.
"You have a beautiful family, Jonah," Tess complimented. "And
have you lived here in West Hollow your whole life?"
"Nope. Des Moines, originally. Went to the University of
Iowa for college. My
roommate was from West Hollow and invited me here for Christmas one
year. I just fell in love with the place. And with his
"And your parents? Are they..."
Jonah shook his head. "Never knew my father. My mother has
Tess reached over to pat the man's hand. "I'm sorry to hear that,
"It was a long time ago. When I was eighteen. You don't get
over it, of course. But it doesn't hurt as much any more."
The officer smiled bravely.
Andrew peered at his partner. When Tess had asked about his
parents, Jonah's eyes had taken on that same, distant look they had in
Jonah quickly changed the subject. "So Andrew tells me you're all
a little like family yourselves."
Yva nodded. "I think he's sort of adopted us as younger
sisters. And a younger brother." She smiled at Logan.
"Well, except for Tess. She's more like..." Yva found
herself unsure of how exactly to capture the closeness between Andrew
Andrew chuckled. "Tess is unclassifiable. But I've known
her for a long time and she's great. She's seen me through a
lot. She's actually known me since I was a baby."
Feeling as if they were coming close to their long sought answer to the
question of Andrew's age, both JenniAnn and Rose gasped. Jonah
cast them a curious look.
Andrew continued to chuckle. "You'll have to excuse JenniAnn and
Rose. They get excited when I bring that up. I think they
think Tess is going to spill dirt about my younger years."
"It would be nice if she did..." Rose hinted as JenniAnn nodded.
Tess looked at them sternly. "I'll divulge what should be
divulged in my own sweet time, Miss Rose and Miss JenniAnn."
Jonah laughed. "I'm glad we
stopped in so I could meet all of
you. I was a little
concerned about our friend here. Doing the work we do and coming
home to an empty house isn't a good thing. But I can tell
Andrew's in good hands."
"The best," Tess assured.
Yva set a hand on the angel's arm. "We'll watch over him when you
Andrew blushed. "Trust me, they will."
"Glad to hear it." Jonah smiled at each of the women and
Logan. "So what all are you planning to do with this place?"
For the remainder of their lunch break, discussion revolved around all
the plans everyone had for the house that was soon to become something
much more. As the ladies gushed over their ideas, Andrew studied
his partner. He was pleased to see that as Jonah listened he
seemed to grow more hopeful. The angel felt it, too. While
he still wasn't sure what the grand plan was for the pending center nor
who would staff it, it brought him relief to know that one day Jonah
and the rest would be able to direct victims of crime to a safe
place. To a place that would help them heal. As Jonah
weighed in with advice on how to repair a sticky cupboard, Andrew
silently told the Father how grateful he was to be working towards an
amazing goal with those he cared about.
When Andrew returned to the house
night he found that even though they'd seen him at lunch, his friends
had still waited for him to start dinner. Though he wouldn't have
said it for fear of impacting their meal times for the remainder of
their stay, the angel was relieved. Although the visit with Molly
had been the most difficult, his and Jonah's afternoon had held its own
share of sadness. In between stints with paperwork, they'd
intervened in a domestic dispute and spent time contacting neighboring
departments looking for unsolved cases that mimicked the local
rapes. They hadn't come up with anything close enough to pursue
but hearing of so many heinous crimes weighed heavily on both
men. And so the angel of death felt great relief and contentment
when he settled into a chair at the table and was quickly caught up in
the world of feminine laughter and decorating snafus. It also
took some weight off his shoulders to find that Vincent had joined
The group settled in the living room following their meal. Due to
Vincent's presence, they'd drawn the curtains. Between the
darkness, warm fire, and his weariness; Andrew found himself dozing off
along with the dog in his lap.
At one point he woke up to find eight faces staring at him in concern.
"Wow. Sorry. I guess I drifted off there..." he apologized.
Tess frowned. "Angel Boy, I think you best turn in for the night."
Andrew didn't see any point in arguing. "Yeah. I think I
should although... I don't know where my room is. Did you decide
to stick with the den?"
JenniAnn nodded. "Yep. And we painted it early and kept the
windows open to air it out so hopefully it'll be okay to sleep in."
The angel got to his feet and approached the closed door while Lulu
sluggishly followed. When Andrew moved to step inside, the six
women who had all contributed to the room clustered around him.
It had been decorated much like his room back in Dyeland. The
walls were a soothing sage picked especially for him by Rose and C.J.
who had also seen to it that some of Lulu's toys were brought in.
Yva had made curtains to compliment the color. Andrew smiled as
he noticed she'd also fetched his handmade teddy bear. He could
see JenniAnn's hand in the custom framed photographs that covered his
desk and the tastefully framed prints of Monet's "Meadow with Poplars"
and "Antibes seen from the Salis Gardens." Lady Beth had selected
his favorite books and lined them on
a shelf near the bed. Tess had carefully arranged his clothes and
personal effects with an expertise given to her by eons of love and
care for her Angel Boy.
"I love it," Andrew declared. "I can tell you put a lot of
thought and love into it."
"We did. And we also had a lot of fun working together on
it." C.J. looked around the room, admiring their work.
"Good. And I know I'll sleep better being down here."
Tess wrapped him in a tight bear hug. "We enjoyed doing this for
And I hope you can get some rest here." She released him and
allowed the others to hug him good night.
"What time do you need to get up?" Lady Beth asked when she stepped
"8:00, leave by 9:00. Unless... unless someone calls."
Andrew bowed his head, knowing exactly what such a call would mean.
"Then we'll be sure to have breakfast ready by 8:00," JenniAnn assured.
"I don't want any of you staying up later than you want or getting up
earlier than you feel like because of me, Laja." Andrew shook his
head. "I like cereal. And I'm perfectly capable of
making toast, too."
"But we like seeing you off. We don't get to do it that often,"
Rose pointed out. "Having you at breakfast... it just starts the
day off right."
"Lady Beth and Tess are seeing to it that we get a nutritionally
balanced breakfast. You can ensure we got an emotionally balanced
one." Yva grinned at Andrew.
Chuckling, the angel capitulated. "All right, all right.
I'll hope to see you all at breakfast. Thank you, again, for
this." He waved to the room. "Good night, Vincent.
Good night, Logan," he called, stepping back into the living room.
"Good night!" Logan echoed.
"Sleep well, my friend," Vincent wished.
Andrew tried to do exactly that once he and Lulu were alone in the room.
Sunday, October 24th, 2010
A little after midnight, JenniAnn
downstairs to the kitchen. She jumped when she found Vincent
sitting at the small table there.
"I'm sorry I startled you. I could not sleep and rather than
waste the wakefulness, I decided to look over the children's literature
"Why couldn't you sleep? Because Catherine's not here?"
JenniAnn took a chair beside her godfather's.
Vincent shook his head. "I miss her very much but my insomnia
stems more from having read the newspapers, learning what those young
ladies have gone through. What some man has put them through...
it goes against everything I believe... everything I feel... as a man."
"Because you are a good man, a gentle and respectful man. And a
kind and loving father... and not just to Jacob." JenniAnn
Vincent smiled. "Thank you. But why aren't you asleep,
JenniAnn shrugged. "My
mind just wouldn't shut down, either."
"Would you like to talk about it?" Vincent set down the papers
and studied her.
"I dunno. It's just like all day... we focus on this house.
And it's great. And I love that God let us be here to do
something helpful on top of supporting Andrew. And I love that us
girls are spending so much time together. I mean only a few short
months ago, before the cruise, we were really growing distant.
But really I'm mostly relieved for Andrew's sake. I feel blessed
to be here for him. I know the others feel the same and
JenniAnn's cheeks took on a crimson hue.
Vincent took one of her hands in his. "I have always told you
you could tell me anything."
It was all the encouragement JenniAnn needed. "Why do people say
'absence makes the heart grow fonder'? Maybe
it's true with someone you just kinda like. But when it's someone
you truly love, it seems to me that nearness makes your heart grow
fonder. You pick up on more and more that endears them to
you. And then absence... absence only becomes more and more
excruciatingly painful." The woman swiftly twirled her claddagh
ring around her finger as she waited for some soothing word.
Vincent had long been adept at hearing what his godchild didn't
outright say and responded accordingly. "Surely God knows you
feel this away. I
cannot believe He would now or ever take Andrew away from you for any
great length of time."
"I know. I don't believe He would either. I spose, well,
sometimes it's just good to hear someone else say it. Still... I
help feeling... sad sometimes. And it's not like
if Andrew's gone for three days on some random assignments, I'm at home
wailing. I manage. I mean more... when I know things are
rough for him. Or when things are falling apart in my own life
and he's gone. And that's only gotten worse the more years that
pass with him. But more than that... what if
he... Remember last November? When I, umm..."
JenniAnn blushed again. Nearly a year later she was still
embarrassed by her reckless attempt to flee safety and family to find
Andrew on the streets of Manhattan.
"I remember," Vincent assured. He didn't tell her that the memory
was seared into him. It was the first time in many
years that they'd raised their voices with each other. But it had
been more than that. He had growled at her and she had shuddered.
But that aspect of the ordeal was forgotten by JenniAnn. She only
remembered her godfather's counsel and its implications. "You
made me see that it was wrong to think Andrew's love for us was
less real, less powerful just because there wasn't a romantic element
to it. So along those same lines... how do I know it's not
painful for him, too, when we're absent and that being around him only
makes the inevitable separation worse? I mean... we won't always
be here. Were we right to come here, do you think? Was it
wrong to pray to be here?" she implored.
Vincent settled more deeply into his chair. "Psyche, Andrew's
heart is much stronger than our mortal ones. He will bear
whatever comes. And you cannot think only of the future.
Has it never occurred to you that the likelihood of my passing on
before Catherine is considerable? I am older, my body does not
respond to several medications and treatments." He noted the
alarm and sadness
on his godchild's face and held her hand. "I do not say this to
frighten you. Only to help you see that you must live in this
moment. If I should die before her, I know Catherine's grief will
be immense. But will you have had me distance myself from her at
the start had
I known? What of my parents? If they had known they would
have mere months together and my mother would spend the rest of her
life grieving my father... should they have drawn away from each other?"
"Y-you wouldn't exist if they did."
"But they would never have known that, never have missed what they
JenniAnn shook her head at the terrible thought.
"You do not know what God has in store for you or for Andrew or for any
of us. Drawing away to try to circumvent the pain may seem like a
fine idea but you will never know what miracles you might also
foil. But I know that you would hurt Andrew very much. Be
him for as long as you can and then... then you must do what,
eventually, we all must: move on and trust those you leave behind to
Letting out a deep breath, JenniAnn nodded. "I know. You're
right about it all. I spose sometimes the responsibility just
seems so... immense. I mean... we've impacted someone who will
still be here 300, 500, 1000 years from now... til the last day, even."
Vincent smiled. "Yes. We're used to believing that our
influence will not last beyond a few generations. But with And..."
The phone began to ring.
"Oh... oh, no..." JenniAnn murmured, knowing exactly what the call
Vincent hung his head at the first ring but quickly roused. "Logan said
he had not finished running
the phone line to Andrew's
room. Would you like me to..."
"No, no. They may ask who you are and..." The woman snapped
up the phone. "Hello. He's asleep, Jonah, but I'll
definitely... I'm so sorry to hear that. No! Andrew
will want to be there. Just let me get him up and I'll have him
call when he's on his way. Okay. Thank you." She sat
the phone back in the
cradle and moved into the living room to knock on Andrew's door.
He was sleeping heavily and did not respond. "Should I really
pound on it or just go in and..."
"Go. Or I will. A loud noise will only cause undue alarm to
him and potentially the others," Vincent advised.
JenniAnn saw the sense in that, crept into the room, and turned on the
light. Lulu stared at her as if she knew she was bringing bad
The angel began to stir. "Mmm? Is it 8 already?"
"N-no." She approached and set a hand on his shoulder.
"Andrew, Jonah called. There's been another rape. He said
you didn't have to come. It's still Simon's and Gus' shift but I
Andrew stared at his friend, blinking. Then he shook his
head. "No," he moaned. However, divine confirmation soon
JenniAnn squeezed his hand. "I'll go make some coffee while you
Mute, Andrew only nodded. Once JenniAnn was gone, he tore around
the room. He prayed as he prepared for the initial meeting with
the latest victim. It broke his heart that he and Jonah would
to bother the woman so soon after she had been victimized.
Sometimes it made him feel like they were only further harming
her. But time... time was all they had.
Once he was dressed and had called Jonah back to get details on where
he should go, Andrew went to the kitchen where JenniAnn and Vincent
were waiting for him. The former handed him a coffee
"It's black," she murmured.
"Do you want me to pack you something to eat like may..."
Before JenniAnn could finish her offer, Andrew pulled her into a
hug. "No. Just go back to bed. Try to rest.
Tell everyone I'll be back as soon as I can be. And to be
especially cautious. And... maybe you could go back to
Dyeland. I'll call when..." Andrew felt JenniAnn shake her
head. He peered over her head to Vincent with a silent plea.
"Andrew, I will stay here with them until your return and longer.
I will not leave," Vincent vowed.
The angel of death gave a wavering, grateful smile to the man and
released JenniAnn. "Rest," he repeated.
She nodded even though she knew what he asked was impossible.
With Vincent, she followed Andrew to the hall and waved as he
left. Lulu came dashing out of the
den-turned-bedroom and lay at the bottom of the door whining.
JenniAnn stared at the dog briefly. "Why is he doing this?" she
looking to her godfather with tear-filled eyes.
"Psyche, there's no use trying to make sense of evil. I pray
neither of us ever knows why it is a man abuses women so hor..."
"I'm not talking about the rapist," JenniAnn simmered. Without
further explanation; she scooped Lulu up, kissed Vincent's cheek, and
crept back to her room.
Vincent looked from where she had gone to the door as he heard Andrew's
van drive away.
The man turned to see Yva a few feet behind him.
"What's going on? I woke up because I heard the door close and
then I saw JenniAnn crying as she went into her room."
"Jonah called. Andrew just left to go with him for an
The tense lines in Vincent's face and the anger in his deep-set eyes
told Yva all that he'd left out. She sighed as she took a seat on
one of the couches. "That makes five."
"Yes." Vincent took a seat by his adoptive sister.
Yva could sense that Vincent was deep in thought and needed to speak of
something he hadn't quite found the words for yet.
"When I was younger..." he began before trailing off.
The woman sat a hand on one of his.
Vincent set his other over hers. "When I was younger, I was
appalled at what these hands could do. They could protect my
family, yes. They could defend the innocent and the weak.
But the violence these hands wrought..."
"You had no choice, Vincent," Yva assured, praying that the attacks
hadn't cracked open Vincent's healed guilt.
"No, I did have a choice. I chose to use what I had to protect
those I love. And I was ungrateful for it. It never
occurred to me that some men would never have that choice. That
some men could not rise up and defend their loved ones."
Vincent stared at the door which Andrew had exited. "God forgive
Yva embraced him. "I'm sure He understands, Vincent. He was
with you in those struggles... and He's with Andrew now in his."
Vincent nodded and, together, he and Yva prayed for the woman the angel
was going to
see, for the angel himself, and all the others whose fates were
intertwined with the cruelty of one, unknown assailant.
Andrew rushed into the emergency
finding Jonah waiting in one of the chairs. He took a seat next
to his partner. "Tell me."
"Her name's Erica. She's fifteen, Andrew," Jonah whispered.
He wearily rubbed at his eyes. "She's in Thomas' class."
Andrew closed his eyes and slunk back into his chair. Now he knew
why Jonah had refused to tell him much over the phone.
"Tina's with her now. She should be finished with the rape kit
"What about the girl's parents?"
"Remember the domestic disturbance case yesterday?"
Alarmed, the angel nodded.
"That would be them. We called. No answer. Gus went
over there to check."
A nurse in pink scrubs entered the waiting area.
Andrew and Jonah stood to greet her. "How's she doing, Tina?" the
"She was very frightened but now she's sleeping so you can't
interview her. And she doesn't want to speak to you, in any
Jonah sighed. "Tina, they don't usually but if we're going to
help them... could we just try?"
The nurse crossed her arms over her chest. "You told me that the
previous four times. And what do you have to show for it?"
The two officers looked at their feet, Jonah turning away from the
"I'm sorry. God knows you didn't deserve that. But I'm
just... I got my training to be a SANE because the hospital
thought we should have someone on staff with the
credentials. Just in case. Prior to this month, I'd only
done two rape kits in five years. Now I've done five in two
weeks. And these girls..." Tina broke down and began to sob.
Jonah embraced her. "I know. I know. We're all at our
Nodding, Tina waved for them to follow her. She led them into a
hall and paused in front of a window looking into an exam room.
"Look at her! She's a baby!" she cried.
Andrew brushed at a tear as it rolled down his cheek.
Jonah stared into the room, the color drained from his face. "We
won't try to interview
Erica now," he murmured. He pulled his gaze away from the girl
and looked to the nurse. "Please, just have her call us when you
think she can
"I will," Tina promised.
Jonah turned to Andrew. "C'mon. Let's go see if we can find
anything at the crime scene."
The angel nodded. He smiled sadly at Tina, briefly clasping her
hand in both of his, then followed Jonah to
the parking lot.
"I'll bring you back later for your van," Jonah offered. "Let's
ride out there together."
"Sure." Andrew stepped towards Jonah's car, relieved that the man
wanted to stick together. He knew it was best that neither of
them be left to their own musings.
Breakfast at the house was a
affair. After Yva led their prayer, there was hardly any speaking
beyond requests for salt shakers or dishes to be passed.
Halfway through the meal, Tess noticed JenniAnn staring at her.
"Baby, what's on your mind?"
"Why is God doing this?" JenniAnn blurted out.
Vincent turned to the woman at his side in alarm. He hadn't
imagined that her angry question after Andrew's departure had been
directed at God.
Tess' gaze softened. "JenniAnn, you know better than that.
This is *not* the Father's will. He is not causing those precious
children of His to be hurt."
"I know that! Of course I know that! But of all the angels
He's created, of all the
caseworkers and angels of death, why does He put this assignment on the
shoulders of one who He has to know is going to be especially
bothered? For that matter, why does Andrew increasingly seem to
be getting these assignments involving young women being harmed?"
Rose looked up from her waffles. "I have to admit I've wondered
the same thing. I've got the impression that there aren't a whole
lot of angels spending a lot of time with human friends. Not like
the few of you who know about Dyeland do. I know that's made
Andrew more sensitive to assignments that remind him of us. He
said so with Dawn. Maggie. Apparently that woman who was
killed right before his breakdown."
"And Meg. That girl who was beaten. That last year you,
him, Monica, and Gloria worked together. The one who couldn't
remember her name," JenniAnn added. "If we can understand
the way Andrew sometimes experiences transference between us and
how can God miss it?" she cried.
"Baby, God doesn't miss a thing about Andrew! And He always
gives the right angel the right assignment. Yes, He knows that
assignments like this are especially hard for Andrew. But He also
knows that if given the choice between taking on an assignment that
will be painful for him but that he can do better than any other angel
or passing it along... Andrew would always take the assignment."
Tess' eyes filled with tears as she thought about her Angel Boy's
struggles. "The Father knows every tender word, every hug, every
gentle touch, all the friendship and the love that has passed between
all of you and Andrew. He knows how they've made an already
compassionate angel even more so. And even more gentle and
reassuring and passionate about helping people in need. Andrew is
on this assignment because he is best suited to helping women at their
most vulnerable, their most frightened... because he's been there with
all of you for the past decade. Tell me this, babies... last
November, I could see how much it pained all of you to see our boy
hurt. To see him with that broken arm, testifying about what
those boys had done... would you have let someone else be with
him in your stead? Someone who might not be as emotionally
impacted by what they saw and heard but who also wouldn't be as
"No, ma'am," C.J. answered.
"We would have all still chosen to be there with Andrew," Yva agreed.
Tess smiled at each of them. "And so, babies, that same devotion
is why Andrew is on this case. And we need to support him and
love him. But we cannot pity him or wish him away to somewhere
Chastised, JenniAnn bowed her head to pray for forgiveness for her
doubt. When she was finished, she looked back up at Tess.
"Thank you for setting me straight."
"Baby, we all lose our way sometimes. But you gotta let God help
you find the way again. And sometimes He does that through your
friends. But now... I'm told Andrew will be back soon. But
then he needs to leave. The department has asked him to go around
to the four churches here in town and make a plea for information and
encourage vigilance. I don't think we should let him do that
alone. So why don't we divide up the services and one or two of
us will attend each with him?"
In a far better frame of mind, the group settled down to determining
who would accompany Andrew on his visits to the churches.
Andrew, JenniAnn, and Yva sat
in a pew at the Lutheran church. Andrew had already made
appearances at the Methodist, Evangelical, and Catholic churches with
his other friends. This was the final service.
As Pastor Mark Martin finished his sermon, he smiled at Andrew before
to the congregants. "Now, with that over, I'd like to extend a
to Officer Andrew du Lac. You have likely read about his arrival
in the Herald and we are blessed to have him with us today.
Officer du Lac has graciously offered to say a few
words to us about the current situation and steps we can all take to
ensure the safety of our loved ones. Officer du Lac,
please." He stepped away from the pulpit and gestured towards it.
Andrew took his place and smiled out at the crowd. He noticed
several children, far more than had been at the earlier services and
took care to tailor his message. "Thank you, Pastor
Mark. I have to say that I, and the entire department, have been
very encouraged by the support the local churches have shown us at this
difficult time. Support, love, hope... these are things we all
need right now. And we also need information. If you know
anything, anything at all that you think might help with our
investigation: we beg you to come forward. It may not seem like
much to you, but to us it could be the break we need. At this
time we know
of five women who have already been hurt by this man. We don't
want there to be a sixth. And if there are other victims...
please. Seek help. You did nothing wrong. Nothing at
all. It was not God's will this happen to you. It never
is. He loves you and He is there for you. Now and
forever, just as Pastor Mark said. But the only way we can stop
another attack is if we
find this person and get him off the streets. So, please, come
forward. In the meantime,
we have a few suggestions we'd like everyone to follow..."
As Andrew continued to advise the crowd, the door to the stairs leading
to the unused choir loft cracked open. A lone person peered
out. They stared intently at the man at the pulpit.
With no further services to attend,
Andrew remained outside the church alongside the pastor as he bid his
flock adieu. While Andrew offered further counsel and advice to
those who sought it, Yva and JenniAnn stood on either side of
him. They silently willed him their love when a question pierced
through his calm exterior or a particularly frightened person accused
the police of not doing enough. When the crowd had dispersed,
Andrew continued to visit with the pastor. Yva
soon joined in with questions about the choir which she had found to be
While Yva and the clergyman were engrossed in discussing their favorite
arias and canticles, JenniAnn tapped on Andrew's sleeve. "Is it
all right if I step back into the church for a bit? I loved that
stained glass window behind the altar and want to get a photo.
Okay?" she asked. It wasn't that she felt she needed the angel's
permission. But she didn't want to cause him any undue alarm.
Andrew bit his lip. He felt foolish not wanting to let her out of
his sight. There had to be limits. Besides, it was the
middle of the day. It was a church. There were three of
them gathered at the only public door. "Sure," he agreed.
Smiling at him, JenniAnn re-entered the church. It had taken on
an increased feeling of holiness in the silence and noon
light. She knelt to offer a prayer before withdrawing her camera
from her purse. She was preparing to take her third shot when she
felt a hand rest on her shoulder. Alarmed, she spun around.
"I... I'm sorry!" a young girl apologized. "I didn't mean to
scare you. I'm so sorry."
JenniAnn tossed her camera back into her bag. "It's all
right. Please don't feel bad. I guess I'm just a little on
edge. Probly like we all are. Can I help you with
something? I hope I didn't
disturb you. I didn't realize anyone was in here. If I had
I wouldn't have started taking those photos. It's just so
beautiful." She smiled at the stained glass dove and cross.
"I've always liked it. And I was in the balcony. That's why
you didn't see me."
JenniAnn looked curiously at the girl. "During the service, too?"
The stranger nodded.
"There were plenty of
seats open here on the main level."
"I... I know. I just... I didn't want a bunch of people
The girl looked away, attempting to hide behind her mass of jet black
hair. But as she turned her head, JenniAnn noticed a bruise on
her check. A sickening feeling formed in her
stomach. Shaking herself back to attention, she held her hand out
to the girl. "My name's JenniAnn. Pleased to meet
"Erica." She lightly shook JenniAnn's hand then blushed. "I
not my business but when I was up there I saw you and that other lady
with the policeman. Officer du Lac. You seemed... I mean I
saw the way you sometimes held his hand. And... and stroked his
back when Pastor Mark started to talk about the... the rapes."
JenniAnn motioned to a pew and took a seat, smiling when Erica joined
her. Andrew had opted not to tell them any specifics about the
most recent rape victim when he'd returned to the house. Only
that he and Jonah weren't able to speak to her. She was
forming a suspicion that the latest victim and the girl seated beside
her were one and the same. JenniAnn wanted to do her best to
Erica that she could trust the officer. "Andrew's a very good
friend. I've known him for over ten years. These cases have
been very difficult for him so my friends and I came here to help him
through. He deserves that. We love him very much."
"You've known him for ten years?" Erica eyes lit up for a moment
as she looked to
"Yep. Erica, maybe I'm being presumptuous but I can sense
that you need to talk to him. And... I think I know why."
Erica jolted but calmed when the woman set a hand on her shoulder.
"Erica," JenniAnn continued in her most soothing tone, one she usually
reserved for anxious students or beleaguered angels, "I
also think that maybe you need to know this: Andrew is the sweetest,
gentlest, most loving man I have ever met. He would never judge
you. And he would definitely never, ever hurt you."
"I know he and another officer wanted to talk to me earlier. But
I just couldn't... the idea of being alone with two men I don't know
after..." Erica shook her head adamantly as she began to cry.
JenniAnn gently squeezed her shoulder, tears forming in her own
eyes. Erica wasn't any older than many of her students. She
couldn't imagine going through anything so terrible at any age, let
alone at an already tumultuous one. "I can see where
that would be scary," she sympathized. "What
you feel is
completely understandable, Erica. And I know Andrew and Officer
Webb feel very badly about having to ask questions so soon after what
you've experienced. But they're trying to help."
"Can you... can you tell me a little more about Andrew... Officer du
"Of course," JenniAnn agreed. The pink tinge to the girl's face
and ears told her that, despite her vulnerability and fear, Erica was
taken with the angel of death. JenniAnn waded through ten years
of memories, trying to pick out the ones that were most apt to make a
young girl feel comfortable with Andrew. At last, she settled on
one. "Well, like I said, Andrew... and I'm sure he wouldn't mind
being called that if you prefer it... is very loving. And
affectionate. And I think that's partly why he always wanted a
dog. But because of all the time he spends working, he never got
one. But then I, uh, took it upon myself to get him one a few
years back. And lemme tell you... You have not seen
adorableness until you've seen a nearly 200 pound man be completely
ruled by a twelve pound puppy."
Erica giggled as JenniAnn continued with the saga of Andrew and Lulu.
"We used to use the loft quite
frequently," Pastor Mark explained to Yva. "But we found that the
congregation was more apt to join in when they could see the choir."
"I'm sure the choir members love it, too. There's nothing quite
like seeing so many happy, smiling faces as so many voices join
together in song." Yva's face lit up as she thought back on her
own experiences with choirs. "I especially love
singing Christmas carols."
The pastor nodded enthusiastically. "We've already begun
practicing. I know some people cringe when they hear carols too
early but I look forward to those first few choruses of 'Silent Night.'"
"And 'O Holy Night,' too."
"Yes, another of my favorites! Last year our choir director
introduced us to a stunning rendition of
that. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think back on that
Andrew smiled as the two continued to discuss their beloved
songs. However, he couldn't help glancing at his pocket
watch. JenniAnn had entered the church fifteen minutes ago.
Surely it didn't take that long to snap a few photos. But then
maybe she was praying. Still... she'd been so careful not to
worry him and...
"Andrew!" Yva called. "Pastor Mark just invited us to
He's waiting for an answer."
Andrew smiled apologetically. "Sorry. I was just, uh,
distracted. Lunch would be great. Thank you so much.
But, umm, I'm just going to step into the church for a minute.
JenniAnn seems to be taking longer than I expected. And..."
Just as he moved towards the door, his cell phone began to vibrate in
his pocket. "Phone. Please excuse me for just a
Yva frowned as Andrew ducked around the corner of the building.
The pastor set a hand on her shoulder. "You have a very good
friend there. I was very impressed when I met him
yesterday. But I'm sure he's as shaken as the rest of us."
"Andrew just hates to see people in pain. And he's always been
very protective of us." Yva saw Andrew rake his hand
through his phantom hair. " Oh no. I think he just got some
news. I'll be right back, sorry." She smiled apologetically
preacher before stepping away.
Yva approached the angel as he slid his phone back into his coat
pocket. "Andrew, what's
"The latest victim ran away from the hospital. Her home life
isn't good and no one knows where she'll go and... Is Laja out
yet?" Andrew looked around the churchyard in alarm. "I need
to go check on her. If you want to stay for lunch, I'm sure Tess
can pick you up later. I'll be right back." He hugged his
friend then ran into the church.
Troubled, Yva returned to the pastor to fill him in on the latest
Just as JenniAnn was about to launch into a description of Indiana
Andrew from the previous Halloween, the church doors swung open.
"Laja, we need to go. I just got a call from Jonah. The
latest victim has run away from..." Moving up the aisle, Andrew
noticed that JenniAnn was not alone. Further, he recognized the
girl sitting beside her as Erica. "Hello," he greeted.
Erica looked from Andrew to JenniAnn. The latter smiled to
"Hi," Erica responded. "I... I'm sorry if I worried anyone but I
just had to..."
"It's okay, Erica." Andrew smiled gently at her. "I'm just
glad you're somewhere safe."
Concerned, Yva and Pastor Mark entered the church in time to hear
"Erica..." the pastor whispered, tears forming in his eyes.
Like the pastor, Yva sensed that the mysterious girl was the runaway
troubled her friend only moments before. She knew the angel
needed some time
with her. Thanking God for the
girl's safety, Yva approached and smiled at the three. "Hi
there. JenniAnn, Pastor Mark just invited us over for
She waved to the clergyman who plastered on a smile and waved
back. "I was thinking the two of us could walk over there now and
wife a hand. What do you think?"
JenniAnn nodded, grateful for the excuse to leave. She knew
Andrew couldn't question Erica with her present. "That
sounds great." She turned to Erica. She very much wanted
the girl to stay and speak to Andrew but also knew getting up and
leaving her alone with a man, even a man JenniAnn trusted immensely,
would not be wise or kind. "Would you like to come with us or
Erica looked from the women to Andrew. "Will you stay, Officer du
Lac? I'd like to talk... to you."
"Erica, I will be here for as long as you want to talk," the angel
"I hope we see each other again soon, Erica." JenniAnn bestowed a
friendly smile on the teenager.
Pastor Mark stepped forward. "If you'd like to, Erica, my family
and I would love to have you join us for lunch, too."
Erica's gaze shifted from JenniAnn to the pastor. She nodded
shyly. "Sure. Thanks, Pastor Mark."
JenniAnn set her hand on Erica's for a moment before leaving with Yva
and their host.
Once the door closed behind them, Erica turned to Andrew. "Could
we go to the loft? I like it better up there."
"Sure," he agreed before following her. He sat in
the same pew she chose but left a few feet's worth of distance between
"I know I shouldn't have left the hospital," Erica began. "The
nurses were nice but I kept seeing people in the hallway... and I'm
sure they were only visiting patients or getting tests done or... or
something like that but I couldn't stop wondering... what if he was
there?" She used her sleeve to wipe at some tears. "I
thought I'd feel safer here. And I do. I used to come here
with my grandma. Every Sunday. I used to live with
her. But she died when I was ten."
"I'm sorry for your loss, Erica."
"Is that when you moved in with your parents?"
"My partner, Officer Webb, and I were at your house yesterday. I
didn't see you there."
"I was at the library. I try to be away as much as I can when
they're home. I don't like to hear them fight. That's...
that's why I was out last night. It was a little after 10:00 and
they were screaming at each other again and I just wanted to be away
from it. I'd been so careful after I heard all the stories on the
news! I didn't go out at night, I kept my window locked."
Tears began to stream down the girl's face. She gratefully
accepted a tissue from Andrew. After wiping her eyes, Erica set
the tissue in her lap and began to pick at it. She stared at her
hands as she continued to speak. "I guess I just wasn't
thinking... I just wanted to get away. So I snuck out my window
and just started running. I was trying to get here. It was
only a few blocks b-but... I didn't even make it half way.
I was crossing through the park and... and an arm came around my waist
and he put his hand over my mouth. I tried to get away! I
really did!" Finally looking up, Erica was surprised to see that
Andrew was crying softly.
"I know you did, Erica," he murmured. "I'm so sorry this happened
Andrew's compassionate gaze and the way the light from an oval window
behind his head illuminated him helped the girl regain her composure
and continue her recollections. "He punched me on the chin and on
my side and I fell. He... he dragged me behind some bushes and...
I was st-stunned and dizzy and next thing I knew..." She shook
her head. "I begged him to stop. I told him I wouldn't tell
if he just... if he'd let me go. I... I had a ring my grandma had
given me. It wasn't worth much. But at least a little
something. I told
him he could have it if he just... if he'd go away and leave me.
He took the ring, laughed, and just... just kept..."
Andrew wanted to retch. The thought of the girl trying to
bargain for her safety to no avail sent him reeling. But he
calm, internalizing it all so as not to further distress Erica.
All that mattered in that moment was her.
"I... I don't know how long it lasted. It felt like
forever. But then suddenly he just got up and walked away.
I wanted to chase after him... see if he got into a car... or where he
went or even... maybe if he passed under a streetlight I could see him
better but... I couldn't... my legs kept giving out and... and...
when I finally got up, there was no sign of him. That's when I
ran to the nearest house and then the EMTs came and that's how I got to
the hospital," Erica finished in a rush. She peered at Andrew
The angel reached his hand out and when she didn't flinch, he rested it
on hers. "Erica, you are very, very brave. And it took
a lot of strength to tell someone about this, especially someone you
hadn't met before today. Not everyone can do that, not even
people much, much older than you."
"I didn't want to. But then I thought... 'What if something I say
could help the police? And I don't say it and then another
girl...' But I don't really have much that's helpful, I don't
think. I barely saw him."
"Everything we know about him helps. Trust me, it does. So
what can you tell me, even if it's not much, about him? Anything
about the way he looked or sounded?"
"He was wearing a black hoodie. And black tennis shoes. And
his pants were dark, too, but I couldn't tell anything else about
them. The hood was pulled tight around his face so... so I
couldn't see much about it. But I could tell he was white.
And his hair was darkish. Once... when it had started... I tried
to look. So that I could tell... But he pressed my cheek to
the ground. And... he said he had a
knife. And that if I tried to look again he'd use it. I...
I never saw it. I don't know if he had one... but I didn't want
to find out. So I didn't... I didn't try after that."
""I'm so sorry, Erica," Andrew repeated, the words seeming pathetically
inadequate. "It was right of you to focus on staying alive."
The angel wanted to end the interview right there. But he knew he
couldn't. "Erica, did he say anything else? Was there
anything about his voice
that stood out?"
Erica shook her head sadly. "When I first tried to get away, he
said 'Stop it' and... and called me..." She looked hesitantly at
Andrew. "The B word. But he sounded
like anyone from around here. No accent."
Andrew patted her hand. "If you had to make a guess on his age
based on his voice..."
"Not old. Maybe twenties or thirties. But sometimes it's
hard to tell."
"I know it is. But thank you for trying, Erica. And for
letting me talk to you. Is there anything else you want to tell
me?" Andrew looked intently at the girl and noticed she was
shaking slightly. He wanted so badly to be able to promise her
that nothing bad would ever happen to her again.
"I... I don't want to go home!" she cried. "My parents will just
fight even more a-and be mad at me and say... say it was my fault
and..." She lunged at Andrew. "Please don't take me back
there. Please, Andrew."
Andrew carefully brought his arms around her, aching over her pleading
use of his true name. As if she was one of his own friends.
But he knew Erica had no one. He wished he could
tell her, as he had Molly, that her parents would understand and
support her. But his experience with them made him doubt
that. "I won't make you go back. No one will make you
go back," he vowed. "We'll figure something out. But for
right now... I think you
could use something to eat. So would you like to walk over to the
Nodding, Erica gave him a small smile and followed Andrew back down the
stairs and over to the parsonage.
Once they were welcomed into the
Martins' home, Andrew was pleased to discover that their daughter,
Abby, attended school with Erica. Though Abby was a senior and
Erica a freshman, the elder girl made no show of superiority and
welcomed the young visitor with a hug.
"Hey, Erica! I'm glad you're staying for lunch. I've been
meaning to talk to you," she greeted cheerily. "Us senior girls
were thinking of organizing a sort of Big Sisters program at school and
I was really hoping to get your opinion as a potential Little
Sister. Wanna come chat before lunch?"
Erica blushed, not used to being spoken to by an upperclasswoman.
"Umm, sure. Yeah. That would be cool."
With that, Erica was whisked away from Andrew.
Pastor Mark beamed at his child. "I always felt Abby would be a
wonderful big sister. But it seems God didn't mean for it to
be." He turned back to Andrew, the light fading from his
eyes. "I know you can't tell me much, if anything, but... was it
Andrew simply nodded.
With a sigh, the pastor set a hand on Andrew's arm. "Let me go
check in with Isobel and then why don't the two of us visit
in my study? I'd like... well, maybe you can give me some general
guidance on what I should know to help Erica and any other members of
my congregation if they've been assaulted."
"That's a good idea. But, first, I need to run to the cruiser for
a moment. I'll be right back."
As Andrew left the house, he was unaware that the kitchen window looked
out on the secluded spot where he'd parked. Standing near it,
JenniAnn and Yva saw him enter, sit down, and disappear.
JenniAnn looked to Yva, stricken.
"He'll be all right," she assured. "Maybe he just needs a few
moments to collect his thoughts." Yva smiled but she knew
JenniAnn wouldn't see it as at all genuine. How could she when it
Tess was enjoying some downtime in
room when she heard a quiet knock on her door.
"Come in," she called, setting down the scrapbook JenniAnn had lent her
to look through. She was surprised when the door opened to reveal
the book's subject. "Angel Boy, whatever are you doing
here? Yva just called to say the three of you were staying with
the pastor's family for lunch!"
"We are. I just stepped away for a moment."
The supervisor opened her mouth to rebuke the angel of death but
remained silent when she saw his face begin to contort.
Andrew walked into the room and closed the door. "Tess, the
latest victim... she ran away from the hospital. But she was at
the church. And so... so I questioned her and... and...
fifteen... and she tried..."
Tess pulled him to her. "Just let it out, baby. My Angel
Boy," she cooed. Quietly, she began to sing a hymn to him.
"'Abide with me. Fast falls the eventide. The darkness
deepens. Lord, with me abide. When other helpers fail and
comforts flee, help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.'"
For a few moments, Andrew listened and wept in his friend's arms.
Then he took a few deep breaths, hugged Tess tightly, let her wipe the
tears away, and left.
While Yva, JenniAnn, and Abby
entertained Erica after lunch; Andrew spoke with the
pastor and his wife.
Pastor Mark shook his head. "I should have been more aware.
Erica comes here a couple times a month. Never with her
parents. I went over there once. I can't say I was
impressed by them but they didn't send up any red flags. If I'd
paid more attention maybe none of this..."
Andrew shook his head. "Abusive and neglectful people know how to
hide what they've done. Unless Erica outright told you about how
situation was, you couldn't have known."
"Now what's going to happen to her?" the pastor's wife, Isobel,
asked. "It'll take a week for the State to get out here to look
into her situation. If not longer. In that time who knows
what that poor girl
will have to face back home? And when she most needs to be
surrounded by love and care."
Andrew looked from the wife to the husband and back. "Actually...
hoping maybe you could take her in. I know it's a lot to ask
"Andrew, we'd do it in a heart beat. But if her parents caused a
fuss and she wasn't legally placed with us..." The pastor held up
his hands. "I don't want to risk our getting in trouble and what
that would mean for our girl."
The angel nodded. "I know. But... I have a feeling that her
parents won't say anything. As far as they're concerned... it'd
be one less burden for them."
Isobel clucked her tongue. "I can't imagine thinking of my own
child like that." She looked to her husband. "Mark... we
have to do this. 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to
eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger
and you invited me in.'"
Pastor Mark gave his wife a penitent smile before looking up to
Andrew. "Who can argue with that? Erica can stay with us as
long as she needs a home."
Andrew beamed at the couple. "That's great! Thank
you!" The angel was so touched by their great generosity after
hearing about tremendous cruelty that he enthusiastically hugged them
After dropping Yva and JenniAnn off
the house, Andrew returned to the station to fill out paperwork on
Erica's statement and fill Jonah in. While there he
learned that DNA gathered from Erica's rape kit and the park had
sent away for testing. Mayor Irvington had pulled some strings to
get them processed quickly and no matter the politician's motives,
Andrew was grateful for that. The four others had all come back
unknown but he prayed, somehow, that Erica's would give them
answers. While all the women's testimonies had
grieved the angel, Erica's had cut especially deep. Rehashing it
for the record only increased the angel of death's anguish. It
wasn't simply because she was the youngest. The idea that she'd
desperately tried to bargain with the rapist and only been laughed
at... it struck Andrew to the core. That brand of cruelty and
callousness was something that his countless years on the earth still
hadn't prepared him to confront. And a fifteen year old had been
Once he'd finished filing the statement, Andrew joined Jonah in
houses that were near the park. But except for the house Erica
run to, no one seemed to have experienced anything out of the
ordinary. Only one person reported seeing a suspicious vehicle,
around 9:00 in the evening, that they knew didn't belong to any of
their neighbors. But that had turned out to be a rental car
driven by a fifty something African American woman whose car was in for
repairs. Hardly their suspect.
Andrew was mulling over his notes on the many interviews, absently
eating the sandwich from Lady Beth for dinner, when Jonah knocked on
his desk. "Andrew, you've been up since midnight. And
you've had a helluva day. It's time to go home."
"So have you," he responded, not looking up from his computer.
"And I'm going home. Just as soon as I drop you back off at the
hospital to get your van. Gus and Simon can take it from
here. And if anything... you know you'll be called."
"Maybe we missed something in these statements..."
"Andrew, as your senior officer, I'm ordering you to go home."
The angel looked up at his partner, challenging him.
"All right. If that won't work... I'm calling that Tess'
Divine Designs number and reporting a disobedient carpenter."
Andrew stopped typing and looked up at Jonah with a sheepish expression.
Smiling triumphantly, Jonah knew he had won. "Maybe the seniority
card won't work. But I find the 'I'm calling your friends who
will come down here and push you, desk chair and all, out that door'
card to be extremely valuable."
Andrew knew he was caught. And he also knew Jonah was
right. He needed to get back to the house and let his spirit be
restored by the love of his friends. He pushed his chair back and
stood up. "Let's go," he agreed.
Jonah smiled with relief and led his partner out of the office.
Following dinner the group, who had
Mick and Beth while Andrew was gone, once again gathered in the living
room. Everyone gave Andrew wide berth. He seemed to be in a
contemplative mood and, since he wasn't shirking their company, they
accepted his quietness and left him alone. However, Mick's keen,
trained eyes picked up on something the others had missed.
The vampire approached JenniAnn and Rose who were looking through a
"First chance you get, you need to get him out of here." Mick
waved towards the angel of death.
"I'm not sure we can exactly do that but... why do you say that?
We all know Andrew is troubled but how can you expect him not to
be? He spent his afternoon interviewing an underage rape victim,"
"I know. But this is beyond 'troubled.' He's been staring
at the same page of that book the entire time we've been in here.
So maybe... I don't know... try to do something fun with him. I
mean... I know it's good for him to be here with all of you but
"More???" JenniAnn prodded.
"Maybe take him to a sports game. Or whatever you crazy kids are
entertainment these days."
"We could try that," Rose agreed. "Or even play some football
Mick laughed when he noticed JenniAnn begin to wrinkle her nose.
"Or go out dancing," he suggested. "Just something. He
needs to burn some
energy. Look at the way he's bouncing his knee."
"Dancing's a lil more my speed." JenniAnn looked tenderly at the
subject of their conversation. "But I'll do whatever.
You're right, of course. I
guess we just haven't wanted to leave the house much in the
evenings. Afraid of
worrying him. But... I'm starting to feel a little stir crazy
"Then that definitely means you should do it. And if it would
make you feel better... I could stick around," Mick offered. "Go
out with you. I'm sure Beth wouldn't mind. She might even
want to stay, too. She has some vacation saved up and..."
"Yeah, but she's been talking for weeks about your day trip
tomorrow. She's been anxiously waiting for the cooler weather so
you can be outside more. Spend time with your fiancée,"
Rose nodded. "We'll be fine. But thanks. And we
definitely will look into your ideas."
"Great. I think it'll do you all a lot of good. In the
meantime..." Mick grinned and walked towards Andrew. "I
sir, to a round of pool."
Andrew looked up from his book and blinked. He'd gotten lost in
his recollections of Erica and was startled to find Mick saying
something so mundane and frivolous. "There's no pool
table here," he responded after a few confused moments.
"Not a physical one, no. But... Logan, did you bring your XBox?"
Logan looked up from the laptop he was working on. "And my
PlayStation. And vintage Atari."
"The XBox will do for now. Can you put in that billiards game you
were showing me? Andrew wants to play." Mick smiled at the
angel. "Trust me, it'll be fun. Besides, Beth made me
promise that tomorrow I'd go antiquing with her in wine country.
So at least give me this."
Andrew chuckled. "Okay."
Logan bounded to his room to retrieve the game system.
"Oh joy," C.J. muttered. "Now we get to spend two hours watching
them play video games." She rolled her eyes but smiled. If
it cheered Andrew up, she was all for it.
"Welcome to my world," Beth responded with a laugh.
"I'll get snacks. We might as well have something good to eat if
we're going to be sitting around watching them." At Lady Beth's
suggestion, Tess and Yva followed her into the kitchen to help.
"Will they be playing pool on the television?" Vincent asked JenniAnn,
warily eyeing the TV.
"Yep. With hand held controllers. I'm sure they'd let
you try," she responded with a grin.
Vincent shook his head. "I'm content to watch, thank you."
Rose giggled. The image of Vincent playing video games amused
her... and was more than a little disconcerting. "I'll watch,
too. But I think this is a great
idea. Andrew needs a little fun."
"And he needs a little break from reality," Yva added, as she sat down
a bowl of popcorn.
"Okay, it's ready!" Logan bellowed.
Beth smiled. "It'll be good for Logan, too. He's eating
this up. Poor guy always has to play one player."
"Well, it looks like he has at least two playing with him tonight...
maybe three." Tess smiled mysteriously.
"Aww, cool. You playing, Tess?" JenniAnn asked.
Tess' face crinkled in distaste as she shook her head. "I never
was much of a
fan of pool. Never mind playing it with those itty bitty
controllers. But I know someone else who has been known to enjoy
a game or two. I expect them shortly."
"Wait... what? Someone else is coming here? To stay?" C.J.
"Patience is a virtue, baby."
Tess had no sooner finished her thought than the doorbell rang.
"Although you aren't going to need much of it tonight. If you'll
just excuse me..." Tess grinned and sauntered off to the hall.
Andrew looked up from where he was sitting on the floor in front of the
TV. "Does she know who it is?" He began to stand.
"Maybe I should..."
Before Andrew could check to see who the surprise guest was, he heard
two sets of footsteps approaching and the sound of wheels on the floor.
"Hullo," the new arrival greeted as she propped her suitcase against
the wall of the living room.
"Monica!" Andrew leapt to his feet and hugged his friend in
"Ah, Andrew, I've missed you." Monica returned his hug and smiled
at the others. "I was so pleased when the Father told me I'd be
joining all of you."
"Do you want to play XBox pool with us?" Logan giddily asked.
Mick buried his face in his hand. "Give her a second to settle
in, don't you think?" he muttered.
Monica laughed. "I've been known to enjoy a round or two of the
real thing. I'd love to join you."
Beaming, Logan entered Monica's name into the system.
"So you're on this case or are you here to help with the house?" Andrew
"Both. I'm the crisis counselor. I'll be helping all of you
with getting the house in order and then I'll remain for a few weeks."
"Well, that's great!" Yva enthused as she approached. "This
whole time we've had to make judgment calls on getting things
together here. But now we'll be able to ask you since you're the
one who's going to get this place going. And... I'm just glad
"We all are," Lady Beth echoed.
"I really am looking forward to working with everyone." Monica
looked around the room. "This is beautiful and the hall... I
love what you've done with the place so far. Yva... did you
make those curtains?" The angel approached the window and ran
her fingers along the beautiful fabric.
Yva nodded. "We found the fabric at a thrift store the first day
we were here."
"Lovely!" Monica gushed.
"Baby, let's get you settled into your room and then we'll give you the
grand tour," Tess directed.
"There are a couple empty ones we've already painted," C.J.
explained. "And three we haven't gotten to yet. So if you
don't like either of the painted ones, you can pick a color when we go
to get more paint tomorrow."
As several of the women left with Monica and Tess, Andrew looked after
them with a proud smile. Only a few short months ago, such
easygoing friendliness would have been difficult to pull off. But
cruise they'd shared with Monica had been very healing. Andrew
was relieved to know that, even though his assignment hurt his spirit,
the time he spent at the house would continue to be pleasant. And
now he had yet another friend who would greet him after a hard
day. Once again, he thanked God for all the blessings
his time in West Hollow had brought him. When he finished, Andrew
noticed that Logan was casting him a forlorn look. He
chuckled. "She'll come back soon. We'll play a round while
we wait, how about that?"
With Vincent and Beth as their dedicated audience, the two vampires and
the angel of death commenced a game of billiards.
Andrew had learned that his pool
was not limited solely to the corporeal variety. He had squarely
beat all three of his opponents. But they and their "fans" had
all enjoyed the evening. Nonetheless, as Andrew settled into his
bed, he found his thoughts drifting back to earlier in the day.
JenniAnn rousing him awake, the hospital, the visit to the churches,
Erica, all the interviews with disturbed locals... Sound bites
and flashes of images swirled in his mind. Suddenly, they all
stopped and settled on something Andrew had made a mental note to
remember then forgotten. After the Catholic Mass, an older
gentleman had pulled him aside and told him what he had done when his
young daughters had first moved out on their own. They were all
simple precautions and Andrew had meant to put them in place.
Remembering, he crept out of bed and set to work.
Monday, October 25th, 2010
After seeing Andrew off, the
occupants of the house cleared out for the morning. JenniAnn and
Vincent went Below to teach their classes. Rose, C.J., and Monica
headed to the home improvement store for paint. Lady Beth and
Tess made their way to the grocery store to restock. Yva returned
to welcome her husband back from a visit with family and give Willy a
hand. And Logan, beginning to feel depleted after so long away
from his freezer, went back to L.A. for some much needed deep
They had all been in such a hurry to leave and get their errands and
responsibilities covered, that it wasn't until their return they
noticed subtle changes around the house.
Rose was tidying the living room when she found a sports coat of
Andrew's thrown over the chair nearest the window. "Weird.
I haven't even seen him wear this while we've been here." She
held up the coat for the other women to see.
"Maybe he needed it for something before we came?" C.J. guessed.
"Maybe. But then I wonder why it's out now?" Rose shrugged.
"Who knows. Here, I'll put it in the hall closet," JenniAnn
offered. "I think poor Andrew's just become a bit
scatterbrained. I found a pair of his boots just tossed on the
Yva entered, having finished helping Sir Sven unpack. "What about
Andrew's boots? Please tell me you're not stealing his shoes now."
"I am not," JenniAnn defended with a grin. "They're not very soft
and cuddly... like flannel shirts. I was just telling them that
found his boots tossed on the porch. And they weren't muddy or
anything. It was like he just switched shoes and then forget em."
"We think Andrew's gotten a bit spacey," Lady Beth explained. "No
"Maybe it'll help that Adam, Henry, and Eli are visiting tonight.
Maybe we can have a football match. Andrew needs to relax and
have fun." Yva sat down so
she could sew some napkins as they visited.
"Definitely. And there's the actual football game Friday night at
the high school." JenniAnn pointed out. "Right, Rose?"
"Yeah. I checked the paper this morning. I was hoping to
find something sooner but there's just not much going on. But at
least it should help Andrew unwind a little before the weekend."
"Take his mind off everything..." Lady Beth murmured.
"That's what we'd hoped but, Unfortunately, it won't be
soon as Rose and I brought the game up and Andrew agreed, he called the
and asked if the police could speak during halftime. And Monica
she's going to have a table near the field, publicizing the pending
opening of this place."
Rose nodded solemnly. "True but I don't think Andrew could
completely lose focus of those girls even without that. You know
how he is."
"That we do," JenniAnn agreed. "I mean think of all the times
he's brought up assignments that happened years, even centuries
ago. Sometimes I feel so bad for him. But, on the other
hand, if he didn't bond so deeply with his assignments, he wouldn't
have the Masons. And in time..."
"Us," Yva finished for her.
"Exactly. Even when we're gone, I'd like to think Dyeland will
continue. And that he'll still feel connected to it.
Sometimes I get bogged down in thinking about how we'll eventually go
Home and he'll still be here. But Vincent reminded me that we
don't know what miracles God has in store." JenniAnn smiled as
she recalled her wise godfather's counsel.
Rose looked up from the swatches she and C.J. were comparing.
"I'm glad Vincent's here. I saw him and Andrew talking after
breakfast. I think Vincent kinda gets what Andrew's going
"He's at war with himself, in a way. Something like Vincent used
to be. There's a part of him that wants to lash out but the
greater part knows that would be wrong. And, thus, he
can't. Honestly... sometimes the
two of them..." JenniAnn shook her head.
"They do say women are drawn to men who share traits with their
fathers..." Lady Beth teased good-naturedly. "It may apply to
Vincent's goddaughter laughed. "Apparently I just can't get
enough of that protective 'I can handle my own pain over there...
alone... but let me handle yours, too' thing."
"And they both perch on buildings," Yva pointed out with a grin.
"Ha! I totally never even thought of that. Groovy."
JenniAnn continued to laugh but then grew quiet. "But the other
similarities aren't as fun."
"No. But Vincent seldom struggles like he used to. I mean
was the last time? Mid-2007? And that was only due to
extreme circumstances." Yva tried to remember when
exactly Andi had wrecked havoc on Dyeland and the Sibling Cities.
"Yeah," C.J. verified.
"And if Vincent can learn, Andrew can learn," Rose stressed. "But
wasn't great watching him space out last night. I wish he'd talk
more. At least he's here. I mean he doesn't seem to be
acting like the way you've all described how he was before."
"Not at all. He's actually letting us be here, for one.
Still... they've just got to get this guy," Yva murmured. "So
can feel safe again."
The others nodded solemnly and prayed for exactly that.
Andrew and Jonah were going over
case files once again. They were searching for one common link
between the five girls. Physically, they looked nothing alike
beyond being Caucasian. That was hardly striking when 90% of the
population in West Hollow was. They were all under thirty but
that wasn't exclusive enough to be very helpful. Up until Erica,
they'd all been attendees
or recent graduates of the local college, Byler University. But
that wasn't saying much. It was the only college within driving
distance of West Hollow. Nonetheless, they called all five of the
victims and asked them if they'd experienced any problems on the
campus. None had and Erica had never set foot on it.
That left them back at square one. If they could figure out
particular women were targeted, they hoped to stop their attacker from
setting his sights on anyone else. But they both knew that they
might be searching in vain. Perhaps the rapist chose his victims
randomly or was an opportunist. And if either was the
case... Neither officer wanted to think about how long the case
might drag on.
The words were beginning to blur on the page and Andrew reached into
his desk for his glasses. Jonah saw the break as a good time to
"Do you think some people are born bad? Or do they become
bad?" Jonah questioned. "Like did this monster ever have the
choice of being anything else or was he just doomed? Bad genes or
Andrew shook his head adamantly. "I don't believe anyone is born
doomed. God creates everyone in love. He loves
everyone. He would never put someone on this earth and make it so
there was no chance for them to be anything but vicious and hurtful."
Jonah bit his lip and shook his head. "Sometimes I envy people
"People like me?" Andrew cocked his head and peered at his assignment.
"God people. People who believe there's a plan, even if they
don't understand it. Instead of just randomness and chance."
"You don't believe in God?"
Jonah shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I find it easy to
believe there's a Creator. But I don't see how He can be very
much involved. If He was... what kind of God wills this sort of
"I don't believe everything that happens is God's will," Andrew
explained. "But I do
believe He gave people free will and when they misuse it... God
weeps and He holds those who are hurt close to Him. And His
still, small voice assures them that He can turn even tragedy into
"See, that right there. You're staring at a rape victim's
statement and yet you have hope. I envy that."
"I have to have hope. If I didn't, how can I assure her that
things will get better in time?" Andrew indicated the photo of
the first victim, Ruby, paper-clipped to the file. "And, you
know, I think you have
hope, too, Jonah. Even if you don't recognize it. I don't
think anyone can have children and not have some hope. When you
and your wife talk late into the night about college, weddings,
grandchildren... that's hope, my friend." The angel smiled at the
officer. "When you wave the kids off to school and wish them a
good day, that's hope, too."
Jonah looked somberly at Andrew. "It's getting harder and harder
to do that. Sometimes I just want to bolt the doors and keep them
close forever. I don't see how you're handling having all those
girls at your place."
"Ooh..." Andrew shook his head as his eyes grew wide. "I don't
think I'd want to face them if I tried to lock them up. They
would *not* be happy." He chuckled at the thought of the revenge
they'd take. Maybe confiscating his ginger ale. Blocking
ESPN. Definitely give him a lecture he wouldn't forget for at
least a few millennia. But in thinking of his friends, Andrew
began to grow serious. "It is hard," he admitted.
"Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night... just to check.
The first night they came, I slept on the couch. So I'd know if
Jonah nodded as Andrew's voice trailed off and they refocused on the
task at hand. After a few minutes passed, the angel of death
glanced over at his partner who was staring into space.
"Jonah, you all right?"
The man jumped. "I guess I just zoned out. Thinking."
"Well, there aren't any visitors in town. I mean not except for
you and yours. And even if I could bring myself to consider you a
suspect, which I can't, you didn't arrive until after two of
the rapes happened. And that kid staying at your place came later
still. Which means it has to be someone we've been living
Andrew could see the dread and repulsion wash over Jonah's face.
"You don't know that. Someone could be driving in from who knows
"And no one ever sees him? It's a small town Andrew, people
talk. Just think about your own situation. Your friends had
barely arrived when the whole station knew you had guests. And to
sneak away unseen... None of the victims saw much of him but
they're all in agreement that he wears a lot of black. Which
between that and no one ever seeing an out of place car, makes me think
he travels on foot. Which means he's local. So why
Why did he start now? Do you think..."
"Do I think what, Jonah?"
"Do you think maybe he just snapped? That some perfectly
respectable, law-abiding, even good citizen... a good person...
suddenly snapped and
started hurting these women and..."
Andrew shook his head. He had his own concerns... valid
ones. But Jonah was bordering on all out fear and paranoia.
"No, Jonah. I don't think that's what's going on. I think
whomever is doing this, assuming they are from around here, has
probably always harbored some... some need to control, a lack of
compassion for others. Good, truly loving and compassionate
people don't just snap and
start raping women, Jonah."
Jonah drew in a deep breath as Andrew spoke. He closed his eyes
for a moment and thought about what he'd said. Once the chief had
he smiled at Andrew. "You're right. You sure you
won't stay on full-time? I think you could keep me in line."
Andrew chuckled. "I think you'll manage without me.
Personally, I hope I'm out of here very, very soon. As much as I
love the company."
"Because then it will be over."
"Yes, then it'll be over." With a small, hopeful smile; Andrew
returned to his files. He sifted through them and prayed for it
all to end very, very soon.
That night, extra chairs were
to the dinner table to accommodate the newly arrived Adam, Henry, Eli,
and Sir Sven. Tess beamed as she set down the last of her pot
pies. She'd made three: chicken, vegetable, and turkey like
substance with heaps of love in each.
"Adam, baby, since you partially supplied the food, why don't you bless
the meal?" she requested.
The elder angel of death nodded. "Dear Father, thank you for this
wonderful meal. I know it'll taste as great as it smells.
Thank you for allowing us this evening together. Thank you for
the great football weather. Please continue to bless us, bless
this community, and draw us all closer to You and to each other.
"Amen," the others echoed.
"So how was your day, Andrew?" Henry asked cautiously.
Andrew looked up from his plate to see everyone was staring at
him. "It went well. A quiet day as far as they go. We
went through files. Looking for leads but..." He shook his
"We all know you and the others are trying your very best," Monica
assured him. "You always do, Andrew."
The Dyelander women all smiled, knowing how much a compliment from
Monica meant to Andrew.
"Thanks, Monica. I think we all wish we could do more,
though. I know... my case with Dawn was hard. But there was
comfort in knowing who the dangerous person was. But in this
case... I haven't actually been there for any of the attacks...
You know, this may not be the best dinner conversation." Andrew
looked apologetically at all of his friends.
Adam surveyed the faces of the others at the table, noting their
apprehension. "Buddy, I think everyone just wants to be sure
you're talking about it when you need to. No matter the time or
Andrew smiled ruefully. "I know. And everyone's concern
means a lot. But I've talked about my feelings with Jonah.
You know, even though our lifestyles are really different, we see
eye-to-eye on a lot. This has made him more concerned about his
girls and it's made me more concerned about... mine." Andrew
blushed. While he sometimes thought in possessive terms, he
seldom used them aloud.
Touched, Lady Beth rested a hand on his arm. "We'll be
Everyone's being careful, following the rules. Staying
safe. Although I will
say that I have seen some awfully unorthodox painting positions."
Andrew raised an eye brow. "And what do you mean by that?"
"Logan offered!" Rose protested.
Vincent chuckled but remained silent.
"Explain," Andrew prodded, suddenly concerned about the vampire's
"Rose and I saw this great roller painting technique in a
magazine. And we wanted to do it to the ceiling of the room that
Monica said is going to be a daycare. So it would look like
clouds. We tried to stand on ladders and do it but it made our
shoulders and arms fall asleep. So..." C.J. laughed at the
"So Logan offered to let us wrap him up in a big thing of foam," Rose
continued. "He did his special jumping thing... rolled around on
the ceiling for a while... it looks great."
"It was really quite a sight to behold," Monica added.
"Very impressive," Adam agreed.
Andrew looked doubtfully at his friends. "And so where's our no
dizzy knight now?"
"He wasn't dizzy. At least he said he wasn't. But he did
need to leave because apparently some comic book writer is doing a
signing tomorrow night in Manhattan so he went to get in line,"
"Twenty four hours early?" Tess raised an eye brow.
"I lived in a hobbit house for a week before that third Lord of the Rings movie
came out," Eli responded, dismissing Tess' shock. He quickly
realized everyone was staring at him. "We had some wild times,
believe me. But what happens in the Shire, stays in the Shire,"
Andrew chuckled. "The things that happen when I'm not around..."
Yva smiled at him. "We'd do just about anything to get you to
laugh, Andrewkins. Or have fun."
"Exactly. Which is why we all need to hurry and eat so we can
play football!" Rose enthused.
Tess cleared her throat. "There will be no hurrying while
eating. Enjoy the meal. Savor the meal. Eat the meal
at a normal pace. Or else."
The others stifled giggles and did exactly that.
After the football game ended, many
the house's inhabitants were exhausted. Andrew was mentally worn
out from his investigation and the others physically spent after
several hours of work on the house. For a while, only Adam, Eli,
and Henry lingered in the living room. They had each worked
assignments earlier in the day. But, unlike Andrew's, theirs had
all been joyful ones and thus
they still felt energized. They lingered for another reason,
however. All three knew that Andrew needed to speak to them even
though he hadn't voiced it. Therefore, they weren't surprised
when Andrew's bedroom door creaked open and he joined his fellow angels
death. The latecomer smiled as Henry handed him a ginger
ale. It was all the proof he needed that his friends had been
"We figured you'd want to talk," Adam explained. "And that maybe
it would be easier with just the four of us."
Andrew nodded. "It's not that I don't trust the girls. Or
Sir Sven. Or Vincent. But the three of
you... you know. This is your life, too."
"That it is," Eli agreed. "So what's on your mind?"
Andrew took a sip of his drink. "When I was going through those
files... I didn't find any leads. No connections. But I
did... I found some of my old cases."
Henry shook his head. "I was worried about that. It was
bound to happen."
"And I started to wonder who was there during these cases."
Andrew looked at each of his friends. They all shook their
"If there wasn't a chance of death then an angel of death wouldn't be
there," Adam reminded.
"But someone would. A guardian, at least." Andrew
countered. "And I know... I know
that's important. They should never be alone. But that
doesn't mean it's easy to just stand there and pray and..." Tears
began to well up in his eyes. "I've been interviewing these girls
and I can tell they trust me. At least a little. But if
they knew that if I'd been there I wouldn't have been able to stop
anything from happening... would they trust me still? Would they
even want to see me?"
There were several seconds of silence. Andrew had hit upon
something that deeply bothered each of his friends. Through the
years, they'd all come up with various ideas which helped them through
those cases. But none were ever enough to kill the feelings of
grief and impotence entirely.
"Sometimes I've thought... 'What if I stopped this? What if I
appeared right now and scared this man?' I know it would be
against the rules. I'd be punished. But maybe it would be
"Andrew, no," Henry countered, adamant.
"I know. I couldn't disobey Him like that. But sometimes
the thought still won't go away."
Eli bowed his head. "Ignore it. You don't know what your
time in the Netherworld would do to your friends. I saw Sophia
once... sobbing because she didn't know if or when she'd ever see me
again. It's not an easy thing to see. And it's worse for
them to feel."
Adam nodded. "I was in the waiting room when you were first
brought to the hospital last fall. I saw what they were like when
they worried that you were lost to them, even if only for a little
while. I don't want to ever see them like that again."
Andrew buried his face in his hands. "I don't either. But
to be able to do something..."
"You're doing something now," Adam encouraged. "You're trying to
get to the bottom of these crimes. You're keeping Jonah from
losing hope. That's something, Andrew. When we
get chances like this... we have to make the most of them. And
don't think those girls upstairs aren't moved by what you're
doing. They are. They know that you can't prevent bad
things from happening. But they see that you spend so much time
and give so much of yourself to helping build people back up after
they've experienced terrible things."
"They see that in us all." Andrew smiled at each of his
friends. "They care about us all."
Henry nodded. "We're very blessed."
Adam shrugged. "I just think they have impeccable taste. I
mean look at us. We're not at all a bad looking bunch." He
stood up and winked at himself in the mirror over the mantel then
grinned back at
His friend's charade was enough to break through his melancholy and
Andrew burst out laughing. He quickly realized the late hour and
But it was too late. Andrew had awoken many of his friends on the
floor above him. But far from being annoyed, they only smiled and
drifted back to sleep to the sound of his hushed laughter.
Shortly after parting from his
angels of death, Andrew received the call to go to Jonah's
house. In all his time with the man, the Father had not yet
directed him to visit his assignment in angelic form. Andrew knew
must be afoot.
A moment after the word from Above, Andrew appeared in the Webbs'
room. He stood in the corner and looked on as Jonah flipped
through some files he'd taken home. He was pale and looked
exhausted. Andrew guessed he hadn't slept at all since they'd
parted for the evening. After a few moments, Nancy stepped into
"Jonah, hon, come to bed. It's nearly midnight."
"I will. I just got to thinking of something and maybe..."
"Those files will be there in the morning."
"Who knows what he might have done by the morning."
Nancy sat beside her husband and wrapped her arms around his
"I know. But Gus and Simon are out there. And people are
relying on you. And you're not
going to do them any good if you don't take care of yourself.
Remember what Dr. Myers said..."
"Doctors don't know everything."
"Maybe not. But wives do."
Andrew and Jonah both smiled.
"And I know you need to come to bed. Jonah, your heart..."
Nancy sat her left hand on his chest. "It's my heart. And I
know it's breaking. In more ways than one. Love, please
come to bed." She nuzzled his thinning hair.
Jonah set down the file he was holding, took his wife's hand, and
ambled out of the room. He seemed unsteady on his feet.
Andrew recognized it as a mark of exhaustion. He hoped it was
only that. As the couple
disappeared into the hall, Andrew found himself back in his bedroom.
"Father, is Jonah dying?" he asked, tears in his eyes. Jonah's
family needed him, the community needed him.
No answer came.
"Help me, Father, to prepare Jonah for whatever comes... whether that's
death or life. Please," the angel of death petitioned.
Assured of that much, Andrew settled into bed. He tousled Lulu's
fur as she snuggled up to him then both angel and dog drifted to sleep.
Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
Andrew jolted at the sound of the telephone. It seemed as if he'd
only just gotten to sleep. At that realization, he felt
chilled. It was Sunday morning all over again. But due to
Logan's progress with the wiring, the angel was able to answer the
"This is Andrew."
Andrew winced. "Another one..."
"No. I mean not exactly. Close call. The girl's
frightened but unharmed. Simon was the responding officer.
He took her to the hospital only because she was panicked. I'm
headed there. Since I interviewed all of the others, except
Erica, I want to be
there for hers. Can you meet me at the hospital? If not
then Simon could..."
"No. No, I want to come. I'll be there in fifteen.
But I could go by myself. You don't need to," Andrew tried.
After his visitation, his concern for Jonah was immense.
"See you at the hospital," the officer responded, ignoring Andrew's
last two remarks.
Once the line clicked dead, Andrew let out a sigh of relief despite his
concern for Jonah. He didn't know what was going on but from the
it a girl had escaped being raped. That was certainly something
to be glad about. And if the girl had gotten away, maybe that
meant the rapist had gotten sloppy. Maybe he'd left a clue.
Or maybe she'd gotten a good look at him. If this could all be
wrapped up quickly, not only would the people of the town feel better
but Jonah might take better care of himself.
When he was dressed, Andrew stepped outside his room with Lulu at his
heels. He found Adam sitting on the couch with Rose and JenniAnn
on either side of him. All three looked worried.
"We heard the phone," Adam explained.
"Has another girl..." Rose frowned and stood up to hug Andrew.
Andrew shook his head as he embraced her. "No. It sounds
like there was an attempt but she got away somehow. Jonah didn't
say much over the phone. But I'm headed to the hospital
now. They took her there, only for observation. Then I'm
sure we'll go to the scene to look for clues so I may not be back for a
while." He looked to Adam. "Are you staying?"
The silver-haired angel of death nodded. "Henry and Eli had to go
but I'll be here through the day."
"And Vincent's leaving come daybreak but he'll return in the
evening. With Catherine
and Jacob now that they're back from their trip," JenniAnn
"Great." Andrew smiled at the three.
Rose squeezed his hand. "If we're not still up when you get back,
wake us up."
Andrew declined to respond directly to his friend's request.
"Tell everyone I'll see them soon." He hugged the three quickly
then scratched Lulu behind the ears.
With renewed hope that they might be on track to solving the rapes and
bringing some peace to the victims, Andrew hopped into his van and
drove as swiftly as the law allowed to the hospital.
Andrew and Jonah sat to the right
of the young woman's hospital bed. Andrew was relieved to see
that, as Jonah had said, she was unharmed. She was simply waiting
for a doctor to officially release her and had agreed to let them
question her while she waited.
"Taryn, please go over for us exactly what happened," Jonah requested.
"I'd just gotten off work at the Coffee Hut. I'd been driving for
about five minutes when my left rear tire gave out. I called my
dad and he said to wait in the locked car until he got there. I
was worried about... about the rapist. But I felt scared just
being out on some dirt road in the middle of no where. I know how
to change a tire so I thought I'd give it a try and be on my
way." Taryn shook her head. "I should have stayed in the
"You wanted to get home. I understand." Andrew smiled
gently at her.
Taryn nodded. "I'd just got the new tire out when I felt someone
grab me from behind. I screamed and his hand clamped down on my
mouth. I tried to pull away. I even bit his hand. But
he wouldn't let go. And I thought... I thought he was going
to rape me and my dad wouldn't get there in time and..." Tears
fell down her cheeks.
"But you got away. You're safe now," Andrew soothed.
Taryn took a deep breath and smiled. "I know. Because my
angel was with me."
Andrew's eye brows rose. Jonah jotted down notes, unmoved by the
supernatural turn Taryn's statement had taken.
"You saw an angel?" Andrew checked.
The woman shook her head. "No. But I heard this creaking
noise. And he did, too. I think he thought it was someone
coming. But it
wasn't. All of a sudden a big branch from a nearby tree crashed
down. It must have bumped him on the way down. He let go
then and fell. At first I thought maybe it had gotten him...
knocked him out, I mean.
But then I saw him run off. I know an angel made that branch fall
to scare him away." Taryn beamed at the officers.
Andrew smiled back at her even though he felt uneasy with her story for
reasons he couldn't allow himself to contemplate at the moment.
"We're very glad you're safe, Taryn."
"When he ran off did you see anything that might help us identify
him? Or at any point before that?" Jonah questioned.
"He was all in black. He was kinda a big guy. I mean not,
like, fat. But kinda like a football player type of body.
But I never saw him from the front. Only from the back when he
was on the ground and when he was running."
"Did he ever speak? Anything distinctive about his voice?"
"He never said anything. He kind of groaned when the tree hit
"How about when he ran? Did he have a limp or any distinctive way
"No, Officer Webb."
"Is there anything else you'd like to tell us, Taryn?"
She shook her head at Andrew. "It all happened so quickly."
"Have you ever had anyone at the cafe give you trouble? Maybe act
inappropriately?" The angel looked sympathetically at her.
Taryn shrugged. "You have the occasional jerk or socially inept
guy who makes a pass. But no one's ever made a major nuisance of
himself and I've never felt threatened by anyone there."
"Good. Well, Taryn, I think that's all we have.
Thank you for letting us speak to you. You give us a call if you
need anything, all right?" As always, Jonah held his card out to
"I will, thanks. I really hope you get this guy soon. As
scared as I was... and still am... I can't imagine how those other
"We'll do everything we can," Andrew vowed.
With that promise made, Taryn's father was called back into the room
and the two police officers made their way to the road where she'd been
Gloved and waving flashlights,
and Jonah surveyed the scene. They marked off where they could
make out footprints and roped off the fallen tree branch.
"Since this is a dirt road and there was some rain earlier, maybe we
can get some fingerprints off of
it. Taryn said he fell face first. Most people reach out to
catch themselves when they do." Jonah bit his lip. "Of
course, that doesn't help us if he's not in the system. But it's
worth a shot." The officer stared at the branch in the middle of
the road. "She's one lucky girl. I suppose you think an
angel sent this falling, too." He waved to the mass of twigs and
Andrew shrugged. "I suppose it's possible. But sometimes
things just happen."
"I'm surprised. Knowing you, I thought you'd jump all over the
"I just don't know," Andrew answered, shortly.
Jonah let the subject rest, sensing it was upsetting his partner.
"I can handle this. I know you couldn't have gotten much sleep."
Andrew shook his head. "And you did? We both left the
station at the same time. I can handle this, too. And I
call Simon out here. Jonah, you look like you haven't slept
in days," he pointed out, apologetically. With the visit to Taryn
over, all of Andrew's concern had returned to his beleaguered partner.
Jonah shrugged. "Can you honestly say you've been sleeping
soundly? That all of this doesn't just swim around in your mind?"
Andrew declined to answer. He couldn't very well explain to Jonah
why sleep was less important for him.
"Exactly. Doing this helps. At least I feel like I'm
helping, even if I'm not." The police officer looked away from
his partner and focused on the ground. "Look, there. It
looks like he headed into that cornfield. Let's see where his
Dutifully, Andrew followed.
Following their exhaustive search
Taryn's car had broken down, Andrew and Jonah returned to the
station. When Gus and Simon came back from night patrol, they
compared notes with them.
"I drove past that part of town about half an hour before Taryn said
she reached it. Nothing to be seen," Gus told them.
Jonah shook his head. "We need more manpower. More
officers. We were lucky to get you, Andrew, but even the four of
"And the two of you aren't even sticking to your shifts any
more." Jillian clucked her tongue as she handed out coffee.
Once she'd handed Andrew his mug, she tilted her head towards the
TV. "Hey, isn't that the girl you just interviewed?"
Jonah and Andrew turned to the TV and nodded.
"What's Taryn saying? Turn it up, please," Jonah requested.
Gus, closest to the TV, did so.
"Justin Jacobsen is live with the latest victim of the rapist.
However, calling her a victim wouldn't be exactly accurate. Isn't
that right, Justin?" an obscenely cheery anchor asked.
"That's right, Kelly. I'm here with Taryn Baker who has quite a
story for us. Taryn, tell us what happened last night?" a puffed
up Justin asked.
"Uh oh. The vultures have landed," Gus muttered.
"Well, my tire gave out on Rhymer's Road and before my dad could come
get me, I decided to try to replace the flat. Just as I
started, someone grabbed me. And I knew it was
him." The girl on camera began to shake.
"God, she's not ready to do this," Jillian protested.
"They probably offered her a few hundred for a story. What poor
college kid is going to turn that down?" Andrew lamented, all too
familiar with some of the press' tactics.
"And you say something... something miraculous... happened after that?"
Taryn drew in a deep breath and nodded. "A dead branch fell from
a tree. And it knocked him down. And then I think it scared
him so he just ran away."
"That's quite a story!"
"Uh huh. I just thank God for sending His angel to keep me
safe. Because I know it was an angel that kept that coward from
attacking me. And I hope he remembers that," Taryn said with eyes
Andrew rubbed at his eyes. It wasn't that he didn't think an
angel was capable of dropping a branch. In his long ago time in
Search and Rescue, he'd done such things. But it left a question
gnawing at him: why was this girl saved and not the others?
Jonah shook his head as the newscast turned to local sports news.
"I'm glad the girl feels comfortable enough talking about what
happened. And if this angel thing makes her feel better...
great. But now we have some rapist who likely feels shamed... and
"Which means he's going to need to demonstrate his power even more
now," Simon finished. His face fell. The youngest of the
men, he'd been merely encouraged by Taryn's powerful statement.
Now he saw the problem it presented.
Jonah pounded his fist onto the desk. "Those damn
reporters. Half the time they don't give any thought to the
outcome of their stories. They just need those viewers!"
Andrew looked at his assignment in alarm. It was obvious Jonah
was struggling mightily. He felt helpless as they all did but
there seemed to be something more. "Jonah, why don't we go visit
the previous victims? Just see how they're doing? If they
Jonah nodded, grateful for something productive to do.
Andrew steered into the Martins'
driveway. He was feeling cautiously hopeful. His and
Jonah's visits with the first four victims
had gone reasonably well. They were shaken but seemed to have
taken some hope from Taryn's account. Each felt that maybe the
occurrence had scared the rapist from making
further attempts. Andrew and Jonah kept their fear of the
exact opposite reaction to themselves.
As Andrew exited the cruiser, he hoped that Erica would be thriving
the Martins' care. From a phone conversation with Pastor Mark,
he'd learned that the teenager had returned to school. While the
angel wasn't naive enough to think any of the girls had fully recovered
from their attacks, that tidbit of information gave him hope for
Erica. However, his optimism began to fall away when Andrew
noticed the minister sitting on his front
stoop. Pastor Mark stood as soon as they approached.
"Is Erica back from school yet, Mark?" Jonah asked.
The preacher nodded and grabbed Andrew's
"It's not good, Andrew," he murmured.
Andrew's eyes grew wide with worry as he looked to the house.
"Did something happen to Erica? Something more?"
"Not exactly. Sunday and Monday were actually kind of
great. She's an awesome kid. We love having her here.
But then today... she heard about Taryn's interview and went to
pieces. I don't know what to say to her. Six years in
seminary. Eighteen in the ministry... I have no idea what
to say." The pastor folded his hands and rested his forehead
Andrew sat a hand on the man's shoulder. "But you're here for
her. So are Isobel and Abby. That's the most important
thing. Do you think we should go in or not?"
Pastor Mark looked from Andrew to Jonah. "She asked for you,
"I'll wait with Mark, unless you want me to go with you,"
Andrew shook his head. "No. I'll go." He didn't want
to frighten or strain Erica with an unknown presence. In
addition, he hoped
Mark and Jonah might be of some help to each other. Though they
had a vast difference in opinion when it came to God, they were both
fathers and community leaders shaken to the core by the suffering and
After taking leave of the two men, the angel stepped into the
house. Abby approached him immediately.
"I'll show you to Erica's room. Mom's with her now but..."
The young woman shook her head. "Erica was doing so well but she
just snapped when she saw the news during study hall. She
couldn't understand why an angel didn't help her."
"I'll do what I can," Andrew assured, wishing he felt as confident as
When they reached the door, Abby knocked. "Erica, Andrew's
here. Can I let him in?"
No answer came but Isobel pulled the door open and stepped into the
hall. "She's ready to talk to you, Andrew. But just know...
she's a very angry girl right now. And very, very hurt. So
if she says anything hurtful to you..."
"I understand," Andrew assured.
Isobel nodded and stepped to the side so he could enter the room they'd
made up for Erica.
"Hi Erica." The angel studied the girl curled up in the
her cot, tucked between two walls.
"Officer du Lac."
"Pastor Mark told me you were upset and wanted to speak to me."
"I don't have any more information to help you," Erica responded flatly.
"That's okay. If you just need to talk, we're here for that, too."
"Why did they save that girl?"
Erica's voice was so soft and shaky that Andrew had to strain to hear
her. If he hadn't been expecting the question, he may not have
understood it. The angel grabbed a nearby chair and pulled it a
couple feet away from Erica's bed. "You mean the angels?"
The weeping girl nodded.
"Erica, that's what Taryn believes. That doesn't mean it's what
"But angels could have saved her. God could have saved her," she
spat out. "He... He could have saved all of us. B-but He
didn't. I... I'm glad that girl d-didn't have to go through
wh-what I did. But why... why did I?"
Andrew's heart broke for her once again. "Erica, I don't know why
bad things happen to good people and I don't know why it seems like
sometimes some people are saved while other people... they
aren't. There is so much in the world that doesn't make sense."
"Someone at school said that it was an example of God's will and His
glory that she was saved. Does that mean it was His will that
I... that I was raped?"
Andrew shook his head. "No, absolutely not. It is never
God's will that people suffer like that. Erica, you are His
beautiful child and He loves you."
"He has some way of showing it!" she screamed. "So if my being
will then that means He could have stopped it if He wanted to.
Last night He
did stop it! Or He sent an angel to stop it. But not... not
for me. Even though I prayed and prayed. Even though there
was a tree there... in the park. A branch could
have fallen then, too. I... I could have gotten away."
"I'm so, so sorry that you had to go through that. And I believe
that God wept when..."
"I wept, too! And I prayed the entire time for help. But no
angel came for me! Maybe... maybe I'm just not good enough for an
angel," Erica muttered. She pulled her knees more tightly to her.
Tears formed in the angel's eyes as he beheld the heartbroken,
frightened form of the girl. "Sweetheart, no. No.
That's not right at all. This did not happen to you because
you're not 'good enough.' You're better than 'good enough,'
Erica. You're brave and you're smart and you're loving
and..." Andrew stood and rested his hand on her arm.
"And not worth saving." She shrugged his hand off.
"That's not true!"
"I wasn't saved! So obviously it is!"
Andrew drew in a deep breath, pleading for some words to help
her. "No, you weren't. But you're still alive. And
I'm so glad you are, Erica."
There were several seconds of silence save Erica's crying.
"I'm not," she finally said.
"Erica, don't say..."
"Get out!" she bellowed.
"I don't think you should be alone..."
"Get out!" she repeated, raising her head to look defiantly at
Andrew. Her eyes were cold and distant. "In the loft... at
one point I looked at you and the window made it look like you had a
halo. And you looked like an angel. And that made me feel
better. I wanted an angel with me then. But now I know they
don't care. Or else they sometimes just do a really crappy job of
protecting people. And I don't want them around."
Andrew flinched. Each word felt like a blow.
Erica's gaze continued to bore into the angel. "And I don't want
you around, either. If you did *your* job right, I'd still be
okay. I'd feel safe," she spat out.
Andrew felt dizzy as he stood
up but he wouldn't subject the girl to his presence any longer.
"I'll be thinking of you and praying for you, Erica," he
whispered. Then, after one final sympathetic look, he left her.
Hours later, the Dyelanders were
gathered around the dinner table. Their merry chatter gave way to
silence when the phone rang. Nearest the little desk where it
rested, Monica snapped it up.
"Hullo. Andrew! Are you on your way back? We were
just sitting down to... Ah but, Andrew, you're in human form...
you can't push yourself like..." Monica looked warily at the
others. "Yes, I know.
We'll save some for you. We all hope you'll stop in at least for
a wee bit later. Of course. I'll pass that along.
The angel turned the phone off then reclaimed her seat. "He's
going on patrol tonight. All four of them are. They're
afraid the man will retaliate after Taryn's interview."
"And I imagine they're all running on about two hours of sleep like our
Angel Boy." Tess shook her head.
"Andrew called this afternoon, too, while you were all out getting
supplies. He sounded... he didn't sound right. I asked him
to call back when you were all here. I thought he'd want to speak
to everyone but... did he even ask to?" Catherine queried Monica.
The angel shook her head and frowned. "I think, maybe, he didn't
want to disrupt everyone's dinner," she covered.
JenniAnn buried her face in her hands. "I can't do this
again. It hurts too much. And... and he promised."
"He hasn't broken his promise, Psyche. Not yet. And I don't
believe he will. Perhaps he did not speak to everyone because it
would have made it more difficult for him to have focused on the long
night ahead. His desire to come here and be with all of you may
have increased at the sound of your voices,"
"That sounds like the Andrew I know," Adam agreed. "Besides, if
he really is upset wouldn't you rather he wait to talk about it when he
can be here? When you can listen *and* hug him?"
Yva smiled. "That's a good point. Plus, you know how good
Andrew is at reading people's emotions. If he has something
difficult to discuss, he'd want to wait until he could see how we were
all taking it."
"That's it exactly, baby. But I still wish they weren't pushing
themselves so much." Tess shook her head. "But just because
those boys in blue aren't taking care of themselves doesn't mean we
shouldn't. Eat up, everyone. I think it would be a fine
idea if we all got to bed early tonight and got up early tomorrow to
whip up the breakfast to end all breakfasts. Then we can take
down to the station. How's that sound?"
Lady Beth beamed. "That sounds like my kind of morning.
Muffins, fruit compote, waffles, hash browns, and men in uniform."
Rose laughed. "That really doesn't sound so bad."
"And orange juice," C.J. added. "And ginger ale."
"And heaps of hugs." Yva smiled.
"Andrew and his men will be very spoiled, I think," Sir Sven posited.
Monica nodded. "They deserve it."
"Amen to that," Adam agreed. "How about a toast?"
Everyone raised their glasses.
"To Andrew and Jonah and Simon and Gus. May they know their
dedication and their selflessness is recognized and appreciated," the
angel of death offered.
The others clinked their glasses, hoping somehow the four police
officers knew they were being thought of warmly.
Shortly before midnight, Andrew pulled onto Daffodil Lane. Early
the evening, a group of concerned citizens had descended upon the
police station and offered their help. And so a dozen people had
joined the four police officers in driving around, keeping an eye out
for any trouble. With the reinforcements, Jonah had insisted that
his men take turns returning home to rest up. Reluctantly, Andrew
had agreed when his turn came around.
The house was silent when Andrew stepped inside. He thought of
Rose's last words to him. But he didn't like the idea of rousing
his friends from sound sleep. Every time he returned to the
house, he saw evidence of their hard and exhausting work. The
thought of them in dreamland made him yawn. However, while he had
eventually obeyed Jonah's directive to go home, he had no intention of
actually sleeping. He had too much to do and not much time in
which to do it.
Creeping around the house and yard, the angel of death set to
work. When he finished, he pulled out his pocket watch and
noticed he still had half an hour before Jonah expected him back.
Andrew quietly crept up the stairs. He saw light peeking out
from underneath JenniAnn's door. He could hear her, Rose, and
Lady Beth quietly chatting. Their talk was interspersed with
laughter. Smiling, Andrew raised his hand. But before he
knocked, he thought better of it. Instead, he simply rested his
hand on the frame of the door.
"Keep them safe always, please, Father," he whispered.
"I think I hear someone in the hall," Rose's voice sounded, more
distinct than earlier.
Andrew realized that she must be standing near the door.
"Maybe Logan's back," she continued.
The angel heard a scratching noise.
"Or Andrew! Look at Lulu!" JenniAnn cried as loudly as she dared
at the late hour.
For reasons he didn't fully understand, Andrew couldn't bear talking to
them in that moment. As the doorknob turned, he disappeared.
Rose poked her head out into the hallway. "Huh, no one," she
Dejected, Lulu waddled back to JenniAnn's lap and the three women
shared in her disappointment as they resumed their conversation.
Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
By the time his friends awoke,
was long gone. His absence seemed to cast a pall
over the morning. Their own breakfast was quick and lacking in
spirit. Melancholy glances were cast at the empty chair at the
head of the table. They soldiered on, looking forward to
delivering breakfast to the police station. Shortly before 9:00
they piled into Tess' and Monica's cars bearing all manner of enticing
breakfast foods. However, even the comfort of seeing Andrew and
Co. enjoy their catering was denied to
them. When they arrived at the station, they found only
Jillian. The four officers were still scattered around the
town. Dejected, they helped the receptionist wrap up the food for
later then returned to the house.
The Dyelanders weren't normally
bothered by a day spent without Andrew. It was a regular
occurrence and one they all had learned to deal with. But this
absence troubled them. It made the house feel
suffocating and unbearable. After only a few minutes, they all
various errands or obligations. JenniAnn and Vincent went
Below for classes, taking Jacob with them. Catherine tagged along
before heading to the
Phoenix. Lady Beth joined them to get some recipes
from William. Tess left for another brief assignment.
Monica went to file paperwork for the pending center. C.J.
returned to Dyeland to tend to her horses and Rose to check in with her
aunt. Yva and Sir Sven left soon after to give Willy more much
needed help and share lunch with Nigel who was finding it difficult to
focus on his assignment in London while his friends were struggling.
Due to their gloomy haze in the morning, it wasn't until they began to
drift back to the house that afternoon that the women noted the changes
After ambling from room to room and onto the porch, trying to decide
which project to begin,
JenniAnn strode into the kitchen.
Rose looked up from the cupboards she was painting to see her friend
looking quite agitated. "Hey, welcome back. You look a
little... frustrated. Were the kids acting up?"
C.J. stood up from where she was laying tile in the pantry and drew
JenniAnn shook her head. "No... the kids were great. But,
umm, am I the only one who noticed there are some things amiss around
"I didn't notice anything. But then I didn't take much in this
morning. And I haven't really left this area since I got back
from Dyeland," C.J. answered. "What's amiss?"
"I just got here myself so I don't know what you're talking about,
either. It doesn't look like someone tried to break in or
anything, does it?" Rose questioned.
"Oh no. Nothing like that. Sorry if I scared you.
It's not anything scary. Or... at least not scary that way.
It's just... Andrew..." JenniAnn shuffled nervously.
The other two grew more concerned.
"What's wrong with Andrew?" Rose prodded. "Did he call?
Leave a note?"
JenniAnn shook her head. "No. And maybe nothing's
wrong. I'm just kinda... disappointed, I guess. And maybe
"What?! At Andrew?" Rose asked, aghast.
"I'll just show you." JenniAnn waved for her two friends to
follow her and began her tour.
There was Andrew's leather
jacket flung over a dining room chair. The top of the china
playing host to his fedora and a baseball cap. In the living room
his dinner jacket was once again tossed over a chair. His bulky
football jersey was hung in the hall, almost completely obscuring one
the paintings JenniAnn had chosen with great care and an eye to what
pleased the angel. When the three
stepped outside they immediately noticed that one of the angel's
much-loved flannel shirts was tied around the porch railing.
He'd apparently retrieved his boots from where JenniAnn had stashed
them in the closet and left them in a heap just
outside the front door.
"Three times I've picked them up and three times he's
just haphazardly threw them there!" JenniAnn exclaimed. "And the
yard... Look at it!"
Rose and C.J. shook their heads before stepping off the porch and
taking in the view.
invented a new sport or decided to have a go at each," Rose surmised.
"And then neglected to
put the equipment away after he'd dabbled with them. In the
middle of the night. Because I know this stuff wasn't out last
night. We woulda noticed it when we all came out to see Adam
off," JenniAnn pointed out.
C.J. and Rose shook their heads as they walked around the yard. A
had been pulled out to the east side of the yard, a portable basketball
hoop stood to the west, there were two
footballs laying in the lawn, a hockey stick was leaning against the
porch, a punching bag was tied to the clothes line which had boxing
gloves hanging off it, and a cooler proudly boasting the NFL logo sat
beautiful pot of mums Yva had planted.
Since it was a chilly day, the three quickly returned to the living
room to discuss their findings.
"Well, Andrew has been under a lot of stress," Rose defended. "I
know sometimes when I'm distracted I'll just leave things lying around."
JenniAnn nodded. "I can understand the clothes. But that
yard??? And if he is that stressed... he needs to talk to
us. Not sneak around playing sports! He must have been here
last night and not a peep... And it's like he's just deliberately
around! Has anyone even seen him wear that jersey crowding up the
hall?!" she asked, exasperated.
C.J. and Rose exchanged surprised looks. They'd never heard
JenniAnn go off on Andrew like that.
"I'll admit that I think it's a little strange. I always knew
Andrew wasn't a total neat freak but this... It's
surprising." Rose shook her head as she studied the sports
jacket. It was pristine and neatly pressed. It didn't look
like it had recently been worn. She had to admit JenniAnn seemed
to be right. It was as if Andrew was intentionally leaving his
belongings all over the house.
"Maybe he just hasn't had
time to clean up after himself. Or he got used to not bothering
when he was here alone. I'm sure if you asked him then he
would," C.J. suggested.
"I shouldn't have to ask him! He's an adult! Several times
cried. She rubbed her temples, a headache setting in. "Ya
know, I was totally okay with being in love with an angel of
death. Weird, yes. But it worked. But I'm gonna have
a really hard time being in love with a slob if this doesn't stop
soon. But worse than that... I just have to wonder if...
if..." She left the
thought unspoken as she plopped onto the floor and eyed the jacket.
Rose laughed. "Oh, come on, JenniAnn. So it turns out
Andrew's a little messy. But at least it's just clothes and
stuff. I mean it's not like he's tracking mud through the house
or even tossing dirty laundry around. I mean it all looks
"So then why isn't it in his closet?" JenniAnn asked. "I just
don't think it's too much for him to put his boots in the hall closet
when he's not wearing them. Unless he's trying to..."
Noticing they were no longer alone, C.J. began shaking her head
adamantly and stared at JenniAnn wide-eyed
but the aggrieved neatnik missed the cues and continued.
"I guess I don't know what he's trying to do. But how about
tossing that flannel shirt in the laundry or putting the sports
equipment in the shed when he's done with it!" JenniAnn cried.
Hearing the unexpected voice, JenniAnn spun around to find Andrew
standing behind her. He looked
embarrassed and hurt. Despite her annoyance, she immediately felt
sorry for what she'd said. A few misplaced clothing items and
sports junk wasn't worth the look on his face.
"I... I was going to have lunch with Jonah but he had to take his
youngest to the dentist so I decided to come back here and see what all
of you were doing," Andrew explained. He smiled at Rose and C.J.
but when he looked at JenniAnn, his expression faltered.
"It's just us. And Vincent and Catherine are working in the
basement with Jacob... until it's dark. Logan's in what's going
Monica's office trying to rewire that faulty outlet. We were
going to start some macaroni and
cheese soon. You want some?" Rose offered.
Andrew nodded. "Yes, please. But right now I
have some things to do."
With that he abruptly headed down the hall and towards the front door.
"I... I need to go talk to him," JenniAnn muttered.
Logan poked his head out from the stairwell just in time to see
Andrew leave and JenniAnn run after him. "What happened?"
"JenniAnn's upset with Andrew for leaving stuff laying around the house
and yard. Now he's upset about upsetting her. I'm sure
they'll talk it out," C.J. assured. "They always do."
Frantic, Logan looked back and forth from the women to the door his
friends had disappeared behind. "B-but... Andrew and JenniAnn
Rose could tell the vampire was crestfallen. She knew, as they
all did, that he had a very starry-eyed view of not just Andrew but
them all. She approached and set a hand on his shoulder.
"Sometimes. We all have disagreements at times. Even with
Andrew. But it'll be okay. Trust me. They're
probably already out there hugging and laughing."
Wanting that assurance, Logan went to the living room window. But
hugging and laughing was not what he saw.
In the yard, Andrew was beginning
his sports paraphernalia away as JenniAnn looked on, unsure how to
"I'm sorry, Andrew," she began, unable to bear the chilly
silence. "I shouldn't
have said any of that. I was just..." She shuffled her
feet, feeling very ill-at-ease as she stood on the porch. "I mean
I guess I just thought..."
"You thought I was a little less of a slob?" Andrew suggested with a
"It's just... I kept putting your boots away and they just kept showing
back up! Same with the coat! And then today... there was
just so much... stuff."
Andrew kept his back to JenniAnn. He didn't want her to see that
he wasn't simply hurt but also angry. For all her talk about
loving him unconditionally, it was obvious there were conditions and he
had failed to meet them.
"And you knew we've spent so much time
trying to put the
house in order! And I started to think maybe..."
The way JenniAnn's voice
cracked during the final "maybe" made Andrew turn around. "What
you start to think?"
"That maybe you were trying to subtly signal that... that... you wanted
us to go." JenniAnn began to intently study a line in her palm.
Andrew folded his arms over his chest. "Laja, you know me better
than that. That would be... that's passive-aggressive! I
would never try something like that with you! If I really wanted
all of you to leave, I would say so."
"I guess I should have known that. But then... I saw all
this..." The distraught woman indicated the yard. "You must
have come back here at some point and I guess it hurt to think that you
decided to play sports... by yourself... rather than talk to us."
The angel of death winced. He wondered if they knew how
close he'd been that previous night and how he'd chosen not to speak to
JenniAnn looked back to the house, remembering her first few hours
there and all the anticipation she'd felt as she awaited him.
"And... and I picked
those paintings because I knew you'd like them and I wanted you to feel
comfortable here... to want to be here... with us when you could... and
then you practically covered the one that most
reminded me of you... 'Champ d'avoine et coquelicots'... it always
makes me think of meeting you in the Fields of Gold. And I told
you that! But you put that jersey up over it and... and I
couldn't help but
think between that and how you haven't been talking much that you were
trying to drive us back to Dyeland."
Andrew saw the tears begin to form in her eyes. "Oh, Laja.
No." He took her hand and walked with her down to the edge of the
yard then turned her to face the house. "Pretend you've never
this place before. Tell me what assumptions you might make about
person or people
who live here."
JenniAnn wasn't sure what the purpose of this activity was but she felt
badly and went along with it. She once again surveyed the yard
and what she could see through the windows. "Based on the decor,
I'd say there were at least a couple women living there. I mean
we've tried to make it so you and Vincent and Logan and Sir Sven would
feel comfortable. But it will eventually be a women's center
so... soft curtains. Light colors. And the furniture's
smallish. Curvy, not boxy."
"Well, if I got closer I'd see..." she blushed. "Well, I'd see
the sports coat and..."
Andrew affectionately squeezed her shoulders to encourage her, sensing
JenniAnn sighed. "I'd see the honking jersey and know a man lived
there. And then the yard..."
"What about it? What does it make you think?"
"That a man who loves sports lives here. I mean I know girls can
love sports but... There's so much of it. And I mean you
wrote your name on the part of that hockey stick that hits the black
thing. I lost the word."
Andrew chuckled. "My name is on the head which hits the
puck. But what else? Tell me honestly."
"And I'd say that the man who lives here... that he's... he's
mean his stuff is all over the
place... I... I'm sorry but you asked." JenniAnn turned and
looked up at the angel apologetically.
"Laja, have you ever known me just to toss stuff around my yard in
She shook her head. "That's why I kinda thought it was a signal."
"It is a signal. But not directed to you," Andrew assured, his
tone gentle. All the anger had fallen away from him once he
realized the true reason behind JenniAnn's behavior. "I saw what
saw. The beautiful, feminine curtains. The light
colors... Laja, I love the paintings you chose. You knew I
loved Impressionism and it meant a lot that you took that into
account. But no one is going to look inside that house and know a
man lives there. And I kept thinking about..." The angel
waved to the trees that nearly surrounded the house. "If he was
hiding out there, what would he see? When I went to the Catholic
Church on Sunday, an
older man stopped by and told me how when his daughters moved out
together, he dropped some of his old work boots on their porch and
insisted they keep one of his shirts visible from the front window at
all times. So that's why I've been doing that. I know you
kept putting them away... and I kept putting them back out. I
thought about coming out and telling you what I was doing but I didn't
want you to know..." Andrew dropped her hand and looked to the
"To know what, Andrew?"
"That I was that worried. It's not very angelic."
"Worry doesn't necessarily mean you lack the faith in God. I know
that. Sometimes it just means you've seen so much of how people
can misuse His gift of free will. I wouldn't have lost any
respect for you, Andrew. No one would have," JenniAnn assured.
Andrew thanked her with a tremulous smile. "I should have
realized that. But
something happened yesterday and it just... it made me feel like I had
to do more. So when Jonah told me to go home for a couple hours
around midnight... this is what I did with that time. Maybe I
overdid it but..." The angel shrugged and began to gather up the
sports equipment again.
It all clicked into place for JenniAnn then. Every misplaced item
of clothing inside was near a window or door. And the yard...
made it a paean to athleticism and strength. For them. It
some desperate attempt to protect them. Andrew could not fire a
gun with the intention of harming someone. He could not defend
them with a sword or a knife or any other weapon. So he had built
a fortress of clothing and sports equipment around them. It was
the only physical protection he could lend them and he'd given it his
all and given them his love. And in her panicked fear that he was
pulling away, she'd
derided him for it.
Coming out of her reverie and shame, JenniAnn approached Andrew.
She took a
football from him and tossed it. "Leave the hockey stick, too,
please," she requested. "Leave it all."
Andrew smiled and let the hockey stick rest against a bush. "I
should have said
something. Explained what I was doing."
"Yes. But I shouldn't have said you were a slob. Or assumed
trying to drive us away. I know you. I know how loving you
are. And I should have known that you were acting out of that
love. I'm sorry, Andrew. So sorry. Let me do
something to make it up to you, please," JenniAnn pleaded.
The angel chuckled. "Laja, you don't need to do penance for
this. Especially not when I should have been more open about all
this. And I should have said something when I stopped in."
"That's true. But it's still not
right to call you a slob... Hey, I'll watch an entire football
with you," she offered.
"That's tempting but I'm gonna have to pass... for your own good,"
Andrew protested, knowing that televised football games were a form of
torture to JenniAnn. "Although..."
The woman was intrigued by the devilish glint in his eye. "Yes?"
"Well, if you really want to do something to make it up to me..."
"That I do so..."
Andrew retrieved the football and handed it back to her. "You
threw it underhand."
"You can't throw a football like that! Come here."
Just as Andrew started to demonstrate the proper way to toss a
football, the front door opened. Rose, C.J., and Logan stepped
onto the porch.
"See, we told you everything would be fine!" Rose beamed at Logan.
"Are we playing?" C.J. shouted excitedly.
Andrew chuckled. "I don't know... I was just trying to teach
JenniAnn how to throw. I'm not sure we're up for a full game."
C.J. shrugged and then grinned at JenniAnn before directed her
attention back to Andrew. "I'm all for throwing her into the deep
end on her first try. Rose and I will even play you, her, and
Logan. You'll have a one person advantage."
"No powers," Rose told the vampire.
"Of course not," he agreed amicably.
Still laughing, Andrew turned to his reluctant student. "What do
Seeing the joy the idea brought him, JenniAnn could do nothing but
agree despite her massive apathy when it came to football.
Laughing herself, she shrugged and nodded. "Why not? I'll
have an angel to keep me safe, after all," she teased. No sooner
had the words escaped her mouth than she saw a change come over
Andrew's face. For the briefest moment, the gleeful football
junkie was transformed into a vulnerable boy on the verge of telling
what was cutting him so deeply. Shocked, she looked to Rose and
C.J. to try and gauge if they'd noticed it. They were several
away and seemed not to have. When JenniAnn turned back, Andrew
was smiling and clearing debris from what would be their makeshift
"If you end up with the ball, just run that way," he directed her,
Mutely, JenniAnn nodded and the game began.
After the football game and lunch,
Andrew drove the cruiser to Jonah's house to pick his partner up.
"How was the dentist visit?" Andrew asked as the other officer stepped
into the car.
"Set me back $75. But the cavity's filled. What did you end
up doing for lunch?"
"Went back home, had lunch with some of the girls. It was
nice." Andrew smiled at the memory as he drove off.
"Cool. So how many people you got in there now? Jillian
said that when they stopped by this morning there were about ten of
them. That's a few more people than I saw at lunch."
Andrew did a brief count, leaving off Vincent for his own
protection. "Eleven of us, I think. There are the six women
you met. Logan. And now Yva's husband has joined us.
JenniAnn's cousin. Another friend, Monica. Me.
"And you're really not... with any of them?"
Andrew blushed. "Not in the way you're thinking. I told
you: they're like family. And I just... I'm married to my
job. What's with the sudden interest in my non-existent love
Jonah shrugged. "I'm not trying to pry or anything. I just
worry. Doing the work we do, it's important to have someone to
support you. All the time. And friends... they get married,
they move away, they have kids, and their free time becomes
Andrew smiled. "I'll be fine, trust me. I'm never
"If you say so. I suppose I just got to thinking about it because
Monday night Nancy finally got me to talk about everything. Not
for long. I got the call about Taryn shortly after that.
But it helped. A lot. I wish you had that is all."
Andrew remained silent. He knew, despite his perpetual and
divinely-ordained singleton status, he did have that. The girls
were all willing and waiting for him to let go and unburden his
heart. But, unlike the man next to him, he hadn't opened
up. "It does sound nice," the angel admitted. "I mean I'm
not marriage material... that's for sure. But it probably is a
good idea to talk with someone."
"Yeah, well, something to think about. Hey, head over to the high
school, will ya? I ran into the English teacher at the
dentist. She thinks the principal might be wanting to hold an
assembly about all of this. Worth checking into. And I want
to tell him about that idea you had for the department hosting
trick-or-treating there on Sunday. I think it's a great one and
I think he'll back us up on it. Keep the little ones off the
streets and maybe we can get some of the older ones to volunteer...
keep them out of danger, too."
As they made their way to the school, they two men's conversation
turned to the hypothetical assembly but Jonah's words of advice
continued to weigh on Andrew's mind.
When they exited the school after
agreeing to return for a presentation the following day, Andrew and
Jonah were surprised to find Isobel Martin waiting in the office.
"Isobel, what are you doing here?" Jonah asked. "Dismissal isn't
for another couple hours, is it?"
Isobel nodded. "Yes. But Erica's English teacher
called. She had a breakdown during class. She's with the
school counselor now but when they're finished, I'm taking her home to
Andrew's shoulders sagged. "I really wish I could have said
something to her... something that would have helped her. But I
think I only made it worse."
The pastor's wife hugged him. "We all wish we could heal
her. Don't be so hard on yourself."
Andrew nodded and forced a smile. "Thanks."
A door opened and Erica appeared, guided by a middle-aged woman with a
sympathetic smile. "Take care, sweetheart. You let us know
what we can do," she called as Erica moved to stand beside Isobel.
"Hi Erica," Andrew greeted. "Is there anything Officer Webb or I
can do for you?"
"Can we please go?" Erica asked Isobel, turning away from Andrew.
"Erica, Officer du Lac is speaking to you." Isobel smiled kindly
and waved towards Andrew.
"I didn't hear anything," the girl retorted.
"Erica!" Isobel looked apologetically at Andrew.
"It must be hard to call out to someone and not have them answer,"
"We'll leave. I'm sorry," Andrew mumbled, hastily exiting the
"Take care, Isobel, Erica," Jonah bid them before following Andrew.
He caught up with him at the cruiser.
"Andrew, I know what happened yesterday at the Martins. But you
can't internalize that. Victims sometimes redirect their anger at
their attacker onto us. It's not personal," Jonah consoled.
Andrew couldn't tell him that it was personal. "I know it
happens," he muttered, sliding into the passenger seat. "I took
this job so I could help people. And when I can't... it hurts,"
he confessed. Though he meant his job as an angel of death, it
was just as true in his temporary role as a cop.
"I know. Believe me, I know. But we do help, even if it's
not apparent to everyone. You're helping Erica by being the best
cop you can be. Eventually it will pay off." Jonah
grinned. "Hey, that's that hope you were talking about, isn't it?"
Andrew smiled, despite his sorrow over Erica's pain. "See, I
told you you had it."
"It just took me a while to realize it. And maybe that's what
Erica needs, too. Time."
Encouraged by that thought, Andrew's mood improved as Jonah drove them
back to the station.
Andrew and Jonah were settling down
dinner of leftover muffins, sausages, and hash browns at their desks
when someone entered the station. It was long past the time when
Jillian left for the day so they went to the front desk to see who
was. The sixty something man standing there in jeans and a
well-worn sweater looked vaguely familiar to Andrew but he couldn't
"Ben!" Jonah greeted, stepping past the desk and clapping their guest
on the back affectionately. "What brings you here? I
don't think it's very good use of your campaign time. You know
you already have my vote and Andrew here's an outsider."
It became clear to Andrew why the stranger seemed so familiar. He
was the mayoral candidate running against Chad Irvington and his face
had graced more than a few fliers and signs around town.
"Andrew, this is Ben Hendricks. Ben, Andrew du Lac.
Irvington brought him in but don't hold that against him.
Andrew's a good guy." Jonah looked proudly at his partner.
Andrew shook the politician's hand. "Good to meet you, Mr.
Hendricks. I'm sorry I didn't recognize you. I've seen the
signs but couldn't place you."
The man waved away his concern. "Don't think of it.
Although... you're looking a little familiar to me yourself." Ben
studied the angel. "Been here before?"
Andrew shook his head.
"Des Moines? Jonah and I both spent a few years there."
"I've been there but never for very long. Maybe you saw my photo
in the paper, Mr. Hendricks?"
Ben didn't seem fully satisfied with the suggestion but let the mystery
go. "Could be, I guess. But call me Ben, please, Officer du
"Andrew, please, Ben," Andrew countered with a smile.
Ben chuckled. "You got it, Andrew. Listen, my niece tells
me that you two have been running yourselves ragged and that Simon and
Gus aren't much better off."
"Jillian is Ben's niece," Jonah explained.
"Oh. Great lady!" Andrew complimented.
"I've always thought so. Takes after her mother, my sister.
But back to why I came here. Jillian's worried."
"I know, Ben. I know. But we only have four officers and
with this situation... You know I have little love for Irvington
but at least he brought us Andrew. Otherwise there'd just be the
three of us and Jillian would be even more worried. We're taking
breaks when we can," Jonah assured.
"But not enough, Jonah. You have a family and they're probably as
scared and angry as the rest of us. They need to see their father
and husband more often. And Andrew... Jillian tells me you come
from quite the family yourself. They need you around, too.
So I have
Jonah sighed. "Ben, please don't go all politician on me.
I've got enough on my plate with the mayor's schemes, only one of which
amounted to anything."
Andrew smirked in response to the cheesy smile his assignment flashed
Jonah continued in a more serious vein. "And,
frankly, I'd rather these... these tragedies not be used as fodder for
anyone's campaign. Not even yours."
"Of course not!" Ben agreed, hurt by the assumption. "I don't
want any publicity. I don't even want my name mentioned.
This is bigger than any race or job. I just want to help."
"Sorry," Jonah apologized. "I'm just down to raw nerves, I guess."
"Proving my point," Ben teased. "But here's my offer: you know I
spent some time as a Navy SEAL."
Andrew looked at the man, impressed.
"It's the darnedest thing. Last night one of the men I served
called me. Out of the blue. Said he got to talking with
some guy named Henry at a bar earlier in the evening. Henry
said he'd been through West Hollow and somehow my name came up."
Andrew's eyes brows arched as he began to wonder about how this
mysterious Henry was related to his friend. He suspected they
were the same person.
"They got to talking about our situation," Ben continued. "Turns
out this guy and two other men I served with went on to start their own
private defense company about a year ago. They operate
out of Dallas. He called to offer me three of their recruits for
a reduced fee. He wanted to do more but they're just starting out
and it would be difficult for them not to get any income from
this. But I'd like to take them up on that offer. They'd
take their orders from you, unofficially, if you'll agree. It
might take some of the strain off you and your men," the veteran
Jonah stared at his friend in shock. "Ben, those guys don't come
cheap... even at a reduced rate. Someone will definitely question
"Then you tell them that an anonymous donor stepped forward. I'm
not out to make a name for myself using the pain of those girls.
But I'm a grandfather, a husband, brother, and
uncle. I can't do nothing and I know I may not be much use to you
physically, any more," Ben pulled up his right pant leg, revealing a
prosthetic leg to Andrew. "But I can do this. Let me,
Jonah was silent, moved by the man's generosity. "Of course,
Ben. Thank you."
"Great. They're back at my place. I'll send them
over. And then I want the both of you out of here!"
"They're already here?!" Jonah laughed. "What were you
going to do if I said no? Drop them right back off at the
"I knew you wouldn't. You care too much, kid." Ben
grinned. "Good night, Jonah. Good night, Andrew. Good
to meet you, son."
While the two police officers stood there, awestruck, Ben left the
After a few seconds, Jonah turned to Andrew. "There are still a
few good ones, you know."
Andrew beamed. "I know."
"Ben was the closest thing I had to a father growing up. He and
his family lived next door to my mom and me. I guess he still
watches out for me." Jonah smiled wistfully and picked up his
plate. "Well, he only lives about ten minutes away so
how about we finish our dinner and get ready to meet our new fellow
crime fighters? Then... we head home."
The very word was welcoming to Andrew and he eagerly nodded and
followed Jonah back to their desks.
The inhabitants of the house on
Daffodil Lane filtered into the living
room with bowls of apple crisp a la
mode. They were settling into chairs, couches, and pillows
clustered around the fire place when the doorbell rang.
"Another angel?" Rose guessed.
Monica and Tess looked at each other, wondering if either knew of
another angel's pending arrival. They both shrugged.
"I'll go get it," Logan offered, noting the late hour.
"I'll go with him." Sir Sven stood to follow.
Vincent moved towards the basement door in case a quick escape was
needed, taking Jacob with him after the boy clung to him.
Some of the women, with the three dogs at their heels, peeked around
the hallway entry when Logan opened the
door. The squeals of excitement, enthusiastic barks, and race to
the door quickly revealed the new arrival's identity to those who had
remained in the living room.
Andrew was immediately escorted to a chair in front of the fire and a
of apple crisp was shoved into
"We weren't sure when next we'd see you the way you've all been running
yourselves ragged!" Yva exclaimed, pushing the angel into the comfy
Lulu clamored onto the arm of the chair and laid across Andrew's
lap as if attempting to keep him there.
Andrew laughed at all the fuss. "You'd think I'd been gone for
more than, oh, eight hours."
"But not all of us got to see you at lunch!" Lady Beth protested.
"And even those of us who did know it wasn't very restful."
JenniAnn blushed. "I hope you're staying all night."
"You've hardly slept, Angel Boy," Tess chastised.
Settled into the chair, Andrew nodded. "Something really great's
happened. An anonymous donor hired three professional security
people. So with them, we can go back to splitting up
shifts. Right now Jonah and I are off. Then we'll switch
with Gus and Simon. We'll still all want to be out there if... if
something happens. But we realize we can't keep running on two
and three hours of sleep."
"I'm so happy to hear that, Andrew." Monica bent to hug her
"I think you were just afraid I was going to steal your title as the
coffee angel," Andrew teased.
Monica rolled her eyes. "I can really tell you've been spending a
lot more time with Adam, you know."
Andrew chuckled. "I learn from the best. But now... I want
to hear about what you've all been doing."
For several minutes Andrew was told of how shelves had been restained,
windows washed until they sparkled, doors planed, the last remnants of
psychedelic wallpaper removed, and the main level bathroom retiled.
"I still need to fix that sink," Andrew remembered. "As soon as I
finish this delicious dessert I'll..."
"No!" several voices shouted in unison before laughing at the immense,
spontaneous sound they'd created.
"You're going to rest, baby," Tess ordered.
"And this isn't like with the laundry last Friday. Tess means
it." JenniAnn cast an admiring glance at the supervisor
angel. "She can boss you around even if I can't."
The supervisor smiled proudly. "And don't you doubt it."
"Besides, Vincent took care of the sink already," Catherine assured
before turning to her husband with a coquettish smile. "It's only
fair that I should sometimes be able to admire a tool belt."
"I left it on the bench in the basement if you would like to continue
admiring it, my Catherine," Vincent deadpanned.
Catherine laughed as she brushed some crumbs from Jacob's face.
Andrew briefly closed his eyes, savoring the warmth and happiness of
the moment. Ben Hendricks had been right. He was needed
back at the house. But even more, Andrew himself needed to be
there with them. After a few moments, the angel realized the room
had grown silent. His eyes flashed open.
"We thought you were going to sleep," Rose explained.
The angel of death shook his head. "No, I was just feeling very
content." He beamed at them.
"Well, you could probably do with some quiet time. And we have a
few odds and ends we'd all like to tie up before bed. So why
don't you rest for a few minutes and then, if you're up to it, we can
come back and keep talking?" C.J. offered.
"I'd like that a lot," Andrew agreed.
As Lady Beth and Tess began to collect empty bowls, Andrew stood up to
help them. The act was almost automatic, he hardly realized he
was doing it. But he was startled back to mindfulness when Tess
grabbed his shoulder.
"Angel Boy... sit," she ordered.
And, with a bemused smile, Andrew did.
After double-checking that Andrew was resting; JenniAnn,
Yva, and Rose folded the last load of laundry while Catherine and
Vincent put the
finishing touches on a refurbished toy box. Nearby, Jacob played
with a foam tool set Monica had picked up for him after a few scares
when he attempted to borrow the real deal.
"Earth to JenniAnn," Yva called after asking her friend for the laundry
basket three times.
Startled, JenniAnn looked over at the other woman. "Huh?"
Yva laughed. "You must be a million miles away. I asked you
for the laundry basket three times and it was like you were gone from
world." She looked with concern at JenniAnn once her own words
sunk in. "You didn't have a seizure, did you? Sorry that I
didn't think of..."
"Oh no. Just spacey. Thinking I guess." JenniAnn slid
the basket over.
"Would you like to talk about whatever has so consumed you?" Vincent
asked as he set down his awl and drew nearer.
"Umm, sure. Well, it's just... I was having another of those
moments where I just realized anew how truly
extraordinary life is for us. I mean think about it: Dyeland
started out as more or less a playground for disenchanted high school
students and a few adults whose common bond was a love of the show Touched by an Angel. I mean
that's... that's goofy!" JenniAnn cried, laughing at her memories of
the early days.
"True," Rose agreed. "But then
Andrew showed up for real: flesh and spirit, unscripted, and more
lovely than even talented writers and a solid actor could render
"God's Andrew," Yva murmured.
"That's the extraordinary part. How we leapt from this giddy fan
group to... to a family, really. And then with Andrew..."
JenniAnn drew in a deep breath.
Catherine hugged her cousin, noticing a fleeting look of immense
sadness. "What is it, Psyche?"
"I hope you're still not upset about earlier." Rose
frowned. "Because I don't think Andrew would like it if you
were. He's forgiven you. Completely. He told me that
realized why you were really upset... he understood."
"I know he did. Because he's lovely. That's not what makes
me sad. Although I spose it kinda brought it all to mind.
Ya know, at some point in the years that
followed Andrew's arrival, it became difficult for me to even watch the
Yva looked at JenniAnn, confused. "I've seen you watch it.
With Andrew even."
"I know." JenniAnn nodded. "But not as much as I used
to. And, actually, very
seldom without Andrew. Having him there helps. But
otherwise... I know it was never the creators'
intention but... sometimes I feel taunted by the show. So many
episodes... well, they come with a quick resolution that
doesn't always come in life. At least not for the angels... not
Yva nodded sagely. "I think I know what you mean now. The
truth is, Andrew's cases aren't
resolved in 45 minutes. He isn't restored to
peaceful equilibrium every week. The emotions of a case
linger. They leave a mark... like this one no doubt
"Exactly." JenniAnn focused on the towels she was folding,
quietly thinking for a few moments before looking back to the
others. "So just now I was recalling how my younger self had
as a sort of benign Dorian Gray."
"Psyche?!" Vincent questioned, aghast.
"Isn't he some sort of horror character? Like a murderer or
something?" Rose asked.
"Dorian, yes. Complete mess. That's why I said Andrew was a
benign version. But I agree.
It's an odd comparison to make. What can I say? I was
18." JenniAnn smirked and shook her head. "It makes
a lil sense, though.
Dorian retained his ethereal
good looks even as his portrait grew to resemble his hateful, selfish
soul. Then there's Andrew: eternally handsome, forever
young... at least that was my belief at the time... even up til last
Valentine's. Anyhow, with the fatalistic melodrama of the truly
young, I would
imagine a magical portrait of our Andrew. It wouldn't show a
monster of a man as the evil Dorian's had. Andrew's would
show a kind old fellow with a creased brow, haunted eyes, lank and
thinning hair. This was the toll of others' evil, my younger self
"Aww," Rose cooed, moved by such an image of Andrew. "It's
that far-fetched. Andrew really did seem to age ten years in a
matter of weeks last November."
"It was like seeing my imaginary
painting turned real." JenniAnn gave a slight smile when Vincent
took her hand. She could sense he was remembering her anguish
during that period and his own battle with her. She soldiered
on. "The thing is... the chilling, jaded sensation I'd felt in my
adolescent day dreams wasn't there. I no longer felt like beating
up every person who ever looked askance at him or made him sad.
The reality of seeing him
like that left me
even more love for him."
"I think we all grew to love Andrew more then." Yva smiled sadly
as her own memories turned to that time of intense darkness but also
incredible strength and hope.
"I'm feeling that again with this case, too." Rose glanced up at
the ceiling, wondering what the angel was doing at that moment.
"We've spent days living alongside Andrew now. We've seen him
blurry eyed, with mussed up hair,
drifting to sleep sometimes even as we talked. And... and he
hasn't always been able to offer us an easy laugh or a
smile. But he's become even more lovely to me."
"And lovable," JenniAnn added. "When we were outside... after we
cleared everything up with the slob issue... for just a moment I had
the feeling that he wanted to tell me something. That if I'd had
just a moment more... he would have let me in. He would have let
us all in. But then... he pulled away. But I can tell it's
Yva frowned. "We can't force him to talk. We promised him
we wouldn't and we have to keep that promise. He's not pushing us
away. That was his promise. All we can do is pray the rest
comes in time."
"Sometimes... I just worry that we don't have enough time," JenniAnn
Catherine's gaze fell on each of the three other women.
"Sometimes it's not about how much time you have but about how much
love you have. I know it can be hard, trust me... I know."
She grinned at Vincent who bowed his head sheepishly. "But it
will happen. Give him time and give him your love."
JenniAnn rolled her final pair of socks and tossed them into the
basket. "Thanks, Catherine. Now that we're done... I think
I'm going to go up there with him now."
"I just want to call Aunt Josephine and then I'll be right there," Rose
"I think Sir Sven's planning on an early night. Logan spent the
afternoon quizzing him about different planes then they set off a bunch
of vinegar and baking soda rockets and I think it wore him
out." Yva laughed at the memory of her husband's agog
expression. "So I'm going to say good night and then I'll be
"I think maybe just you girls should spend time with him," Catherine
"However, we'll either be here or in our room if you need anything,"
Vincent assured, hugging each good night.
The couple watched the younger set go up the stairs. They
silently prayed that they would reach their troubled friend.
JenniAnn crept quietly into the living
room where Andrew was
watching ESPN. She
plopped down at his
side on the couch and wrapped her arms around him.
The angel turned away from the football game and looked quizzically at
her. "Laja, what's this for?" he asked with a smile.
"No reason," she murmured.
Andrew briefly rested his cheek against her hair before turning the TV
"I didn't mean for you to stop watching. I might learn
something. Even after today, I still don't know a
from a quarterback," JenniAnn protested.
The angel smiled. "I know. But I'd rather talk."
"Then we'll talk." JenniAnn looked hopefully at him, willing him
to say whatever he'd held back earlier.
Andrew was quiet for a few moments as he pondered how to begin.
He knew he had to speak up. Jonah had been right earlier.
He needed to talk about what he was feeling with those close to him.
"What are you thinking about?"
The angel roused and heeded his friend's prompting. "Last
November. Do you remember when you and Rose found me in the
JenniAnn nodded, hugging the arm that had been broken shortly after
that fateful visit.
"Rose said that it would probably be easier for all of you not to have
me in your lives. But that it wouldn't be better."
"Not at all better."
"I agreed with her. But I didn't exactly know how she felt when
she said that. Or how you all felt. But I do now."
The angel's listener pulled away just enough to more easily take in his
"Laja, I won't lie to you. It would be easier for me
if none of you were here. I wouldn't have to worry so much.
I definitely wouldn't have been acting like a slob."
JenniAnn blushed, touched by the knowing smile Andrew bestowed on her.
"Maybe you picked up on what I was feeling and that contributed to you
thinking I wanted you to leave. I didn't. Because I
knew it wouldn't have been better to have all of you gone... only
simpler," he continued. "No matter
what I've faced at work... I knew I was coming back to laughter and
warmth and friendship. To people who love me. To a place
where I didn't have to stay strong and calm. Where it didn't...
it didn't matter if I didn't have all the answers. Because...
Seeing how mightily Andrew was struggling, JenniAnn took one of his
in both of hers. "It's all right, Andrew. You can talk
about it. Whatever it is. You're home. And you're
among friends. You don't have to be strong for us. You're
With the invocation of that word, the full force of what Erica had said
her pained, angry scowls hit the angel of death. His face
contorted as he
tried to hold
back his tears. "I don't,
Laja. I don't have all the answers," he spat out. Andrew
shook his head, trying to suppress the feelings after noting how
distraught his friend looked. He drew in a deep breath, trying to
control. But the memories continued their assault.
Erica's futile bargaining with her grandma's ring. She thought he
like an angel. The tree branch. Her devastated
questioning. His inability to
say or do anything for her. Her feelings of abandonment and
betrayal. It was all too much and the angel of
death began to sob.
Alarmed, JenniAnn again embraced him. "It's okay. Oh,
Andrew... dearest and loveliest," she cooed. Peering over his
shoulder, she saw Yva and
Rose peeking in from the hall. She waved them in, feeling
grateful for their presence.
"Hey, Andrewkins," Yva greeted softly as she took a seat on his other
"What's wrong?" Rose asked. She'd seen Andrew emotional many
times but never so broken up. She pulled a foot stool in front of
him and took a seat, effectively surrounding him.
Andrew pulled away from JenniAnn in order to hug his other two
friends. "I don't know," he answered after regaining his
composure enough to speak. "I was just telling Laja about how it
meant so much to be coming back to all of you and then I couldn't stop
thinking of... of Erica and what she said and..." He rubbed his
eyes. "I'm all right."
JenniAnn shook her head, refusing to let him slip away again.
"Andrew, you're not all right. Listen to me: it's not some sort
of betrayal to talk about this."
"She's right, Andrew. You don't need to... and probably
shouldn't... talk about what Erica told you happened to
her. She told JenniAnn and me that she was raped, although we
already knew. But the specifics... it's not our business.
However, if she said something to
you... something that hurt you... that is our business. Because
you're our friend and we care about you. And we deserve the
chance to try and help you feel better."
Yva's no-nonsense reasoning did give Andrew pause.
"Andrew, I called Erica last night. I felt like I should reach
out seeing as how I spent some time with her Sunday. She was
polite but whenever I brought you up..." JenniAnn searched for
the most gentle words possible. "She changed the subject
rather... well, she seemed rather agitated... about you. What
Andrew sniffled. "She heard about Taryn's interview. About
how she believed she was saved by an angel. And Erica couldn't
understand why she wasn't saved. Why she... why she was
raped. Why an angel didn't help her... Why God didn't and
I... I tried to tell her God loved her. That He didn't will what
happened to her. B-but it just made her angrier and I couldn't
say anything to help her and what's worse... if she knew who I was...
what I am... I've done... not done... exactly what made her so
angry and so
"Andrew, no..." JenniAnn murmured, resting her head on his
shoulder. "You have no choice. We all know that."
The angel continued, his guilt not assuaged by his friends'
sympathy. "I have just stood there as... as... I wasn't
there when Erica was raped. But if I had been... I wouldn't have
stopped it. I couldn't. I haven't before. She has
every right to be angry at me because I..."
"Stop it!" Rose shouted, tears pouring down her cheeks.
The other three looked at her in surprise. Rose had been so quiet
as they'd talked.
In an impassioned stream the words poured out of her. "You've
told us that you
don't want to open up for fear of hurting us somehow. And I can
understand not wanting to give us the horrible details of things
you see. But those aren't the only words that hurt, Andrew!
I hate it when you run yourself down like that. I love you.
We all love you. And people don't enjoy hearing those they love
talked about like they're... they're some sort of failure."
Yva glanced at Rose with approval and respect before turning back to
Andrew. "Rapists are cowards. They have to
feel power and control and they brutalize other people as a way to feel
both. They're cruel and they're weak. They are the only
ones who should feel guilty for their crimes. You should not and
you cannot feel even an ounce of guilt over anything you've had to
witness. Because those assaults would have happened whether you
were there or not, Andrew."
"And your presence does matter, Andrew. Even though you can't
intervene. It's like I've told you before... it means something
that, if a person does die due to an act of violence, their last
physical connection in this world isn't one of cruelty or apathy.
It's of you, Andrew. Or Adam. Henry. Eli. Or
someone as wonderful. It's of love and compassion," JenniAnn
The three women all gazed at him, desperately hoping for some sign that
he believed what they said.
Yva made a further attempt. "Erica is in so much pain right now,
Andrew. And she's confused and I'm sure fearful. She lashed
out at you because of that. Not because of you. In her
heart of hearts, I'm sure she doesn't really expect you to have all the
answers. You're not God."
"But I'm an angel, His servant. And she's angry at us, too,"
"Yes, she is," JenniAnn agreed. "And it's not right. But
it's what she feels. Sometimes... the misuse of free will
allows for terrible, senseless
things to happen. To good people, to innocent people. And
can't make any sense of it. We can't grasp at why this beautiful
person we love or... or our own selves are harmed. And in that
mourning for our loved one or for a part of ourselves we feel is
lost... there's anger. And sometimes it makes us lash out at
people who don't deserve it. Erica is so angry and so hurt and
the rapist... the person who forced her to feel those things... is a
phantom. But you... you she can see, you she can scream at and
hurt and blame. But it's really not about you."
The angel drew in a deep breath. "I guess I know that. I
know I'm not a failure. Or God. Or to blame." He
smiled sadly at first Rose then Yva and JenniAnn. "But sometimes
I feel so useless. Helpless. It's a terrible feeling to
that one word, one movement and you could save someone and yet... you
can't. Not without taking away the Father's gift of free
will. And not without being sent away." Andrew buried his
in his hands, unable to look at his friends.
"You don't ever... consider doing that do you?" Rose asked,
trepidation in her voice.
Andrew shook his head. "No. I wouldn't disobey the Father
like that. But sometimes... sometimes I do think that it would be
better for me to go through that than... than for my assignments to go
through what they do while I just stand there."
"Well, that's just stupid. And you're not a stupid person!
You're a kind, loving, beautiful person!"
JenniAnn and Yva gasped in unison and stared at Rose. Equally
surprised, Andrew lowered his folded hands and gaped.
"What exactly do you think you'd be doing in the
Netherworld? From what all of you have said about it, it sure
doesn't seem like a very productive place. So maybe you could
stop one thing from happening. But then how many chances to be
there for someone, to comfort someone would you miss, Andrew?" Rose
questioned. "A couple days ago Tess reminded us that God always
gives the right assignment to the right angel. So what if the
'right angel' was wandering some gloomy white sands while he was
needed? And what about us? What do you think we'd be
doing? I couldn't handle seeing all that pain and sadness of the
others on top
of coping with my own. I saw how we all were when you were
homeless. And we at least knew you were still in our world
then. If we didn't at least have that..." Rose's voice
"Andrew, I believe you when you say you would never disobey God.
But... the very idea that you'd otherwise think it would be okay to
experience that if it meant saving an assignment..." JenniAnn
began to cry. "That... you break my heart saying that.
Those women didn't
deserve what happened to them. Not one bit. But you... you
don't deserve to suffer for someone's cruelty, either."
Yva took Andrew's hand. "Not at all, Andrew. Something like
that... it would be worse than anything we've ever gone through
Andrew shuddered as he thought back on his conversation with his
fellow angels of death. Eli's and Adam's words about the girls
without him had been chilling enough. But to hear it from
"What did you say?" JenniAnn asked after Andrew mumbled something,
brushing away tears as she did.
"I said 'You're right, it's stupid.'" Andrew's smile betrayed
embarrassment but also immense love. "And it's not that
I... I promise that I never
really have considered disobeying the Father like that. But
sometimes... it's hard to see past one moment of pain."
"That's why you need to talk to your friends," Yva urged.
"Because sometimes they can see for you if you just let them."
JenniAnn nodded. "I think that after some time has passed, Erica
will remember your kindness and your gentleness. And she'll
realize that the four of you are working as hard as you possibly can to
get her and the others justice and at least start to restore her sense
safety. She'll remember what you did do, not what you couldn't
do. Andrew, you have an impact far beyond what you realize.
You don't know what miracles your kindness now will work later!"
"Maybe. But I'm afraid... there's more to it than that."
Andrew began to pluck at the fringe on a pillow. "It's not just a
matter of an angel not stepping in and helping her. It's this
idea that one helped Taryn and let Erica to suffer. I don't know
what to say to that! I don't understand it myself. Even
when I was in Search and Rescue sometimes I wondered why I was told to
pull up one person who was drowning while I might hear of others who
did drown. Why that one and not someone else?"
In the silence that followed Andrew's plea for an answer, Lady Beth and
C.J. entered the room. They both noticed immediately that all of
their friends looked like they'd been crying.
"What's going on?" Lady Beth asked quietly as she and C.J. pulled up
"One of the girls I interviewed is upset. She doesn't know why
that last girl was saved... supposedly by an angel... but not
herself. And I don't know, either." Tears again welled up
in Andrew's eyes. "I don't know whether that branch falling when
it did was an angel or not. But the truth is... things like that
happen all the time. Some people are miraculously delivered and
"I don't think anyone but God knows the answer to that one, Andrew,"
C.J. responded. "For what it's worth... in a way it's comforting
to know that you don't understand, either. That we're not alone
in our confusion and dismay."
JenniAnn nodded. "We used to talk about it in my Theology
classes. Everyone had suggestions but none were ultimately
fulfilling. Maybe a person is saved because they have some
purpose they'd not yet fulfilled... but those who aren't saved must
have a purpose, too. Maybe God will use that tragedy to bring
about some great miracle... but surely He could have worked a miracle
from the pain of the safe person, too. It's one of the most
difficult mysteries in life... but we all have to live with it."
"Andrew, you can't beat yourself up for not having an answer to a
question that no created being can answer. One day Erica will go
Home and then maybe God will explain to her what His purpose was if
indeed Taryn was saved by an angel.
But until then... we can only pray that she finds peace even without
that answer." Yva's smile faltered as she looked at Andrew.
She knew he desperately wanted to help bring the teenager peace, sooner
and not later.
Lady Beth smiled. "I suddenly had a memory of when we were
building the kids' tree house. Some of them got frustrated
their painting was streaky. Or a nail didn't go in
straight. You huddled them all together and you said something
like 'Not everyone can do everything. But I can guarantee that
each and every one of you can do something to get this tree house
together. So focus on what you can do and what you've already
done so well. Eventually we'll get to it all if we just work
together.' I think that's what you need to do right now,
Andrew. Focus on what you can and have done... not what you
"You've been a friend to Jonah," C.J. pointed out. "I know we
haven't seen much of him but when we did, everyone could tell he enjoys
working with you."
"Jillian also told us how much she's enjoyed having you around," Rose
"And you've listened to the women you interviewed. And you're a
good listener, Andrewkins. I'm sure they noticed that.
Simply being heard, knowing someone is taking you seriously... that's a
big deal," Yva stressed, patting Andrew's hand.
"Especially when survivors of rape haven't always been heard out and
trusted. But with you... I'm sure they knew their words were
valued and that you care about them. And that's to say nothing of
what you've done for us."
"Laja, I don't feel like I've done much for any of you. I've
hardly been around."
"You have been when you can... for the most part. And even a
little time with you means so much," JenniAnn continued, trying to
dispel the regret she saw writ across Andrew's face. "But beyond
that... we were talking earlier about how important it is for all of us
to be here."
"We go through life trying to be carefree and happy. But every so
often, in our hometowns, in the places we frequent, or even just on the
news; we hear about women being raped and otherwise assaulted.
And then come all the tips on prevention. Women should know that,
don't get me wrong but..." Lady Beth sighed. "All that fear
and worry takes its toll."
"Exactly," JenniAnn agreed. "It starts to build. And you
feel unsafe. Even helpless. Like 'This is the way it's
always been and women will never, ever be safe.' It can be almost
paralyzing. A holler on the sidewalk can seem like a
threat. A come-on from a stranger in a bar sends chills down your
"I'm sorry. Being here can't help if you feel that way."
Andrew looked compassionately at each of his friends. "I can
manage if you feel like you want to lea..."
"No!," Yva interrupted. "That's the exact opposite of the
conclusion we came to. We decided that being here, working on
this house... it feels like fighting back in a way. We're doing
something to help women. We're doing something that sends out a
message of empowerment and of support of our fellow women. We're
not being passive or fearful. We're being productive and useful."
"If you hadn't let us stay," Lady Beth picked up, "we'd all be gathered
together at the Cafe. Bemoaning your absence. Probably
torturing ourselves with talk of how troubled you must be. And
that would only make us feel more helpless or more futile.
Instead we're here."
"Putting together a shelter and seeing, firsthand, how dedicated you
and the other officers are." C.J. beamed at Andrew. "We're
glad we're here! And as hard as it is to see you struggle...
we're glad you're here, too."
"Because you are the right angel, Andrew." Rose looked proudly at
Andrew let their words sink in, beginning to heal his broken
heart. "I am the right angel," he echoed, truly believing
it. "And I have just the right friends. Thank you for
listening and for helping me."
"Any time, Andrewkins!" Yva smiled broadly as she hugged him.
"We're just so glad you let us," JenniAnn murmured as he hugged her.
Andrew stood to embrace the other three. He smiled sheepishly at
Rose. "I'm sorry I didn't realize before the impact of what I was
saying about myself."
She shrugged. "Maybe it was good for you to learn that in such a
dramatic way. Next time you find yourself thinking like that, ask
yourself: What would Rose say? And if the answer you come up with
is 'That's stupid!'... stop thinking it."
Andrew chuckled. "I'll do that."
He hugged C.J. and Lady Beth then looked around the living room.
"You all really have done an amazing job. And I'm glad it's meant
so much to you. Maybe now that I'll have a little more time here,
I can do more."
"Only if you want to," Lady Beth warned.
"I do. I miss it."
"Working with your tool belt?" C.J. asked with a grin.
The angel smiled. "That. But mostly working together with
all of you." Suddenly, his eye brows lifted.
"What is it?" Yva asked.
"I just realized it's the 27th of October and there are no Halloween
"Oh. Yeah. We discussed that earlier, too. We just
thought that since things are already trying for you, well, with your
feelings about Halloween maybe it would just be best to not decorate,"
Andrew shook his head. "I hate Halloween in general. But I
like it when celebrated with all of you. And I know some of you
enjoy it. If you want to decorate... I'll appreciate each and
every pumpkin and witch and spider you put up. You know I would
never want you doing without something you cared about because of
me. Besides... I'll feel awfully goofy wearing my costume if no
one else is celebrating. I'll have you know, I'm actually helping
host a Halloween party on Sunday. At the high school. I was
hoping you'd all join me but if you're not in the mood for Halloween
this year... well, that's okay." The angel grinned devilishly.
Five sets of eyes lit up.
"What are you going as?" Lady Beth questioned.
Andrew shrugged and made the motion of zipping his lips.
Grateful to see their friend having some fun, even at their expense,
the five Dyelanders pestered him for a few moments longer then parted
for the night. As he saw them up the stairs and to their rooms,
Andrew recognized each of them as the blessings they were. They
like his own angels, lighting his way when he became lost and leading
him back to peace and hope.
Thursday, October 28th, 2010
Andrew smiled as he sat at his
mentally reviewing the morning as he waited for Jonah. He'd
awoken from a sound, dreamless sleep feeling fully rested. Once
he'd gotten dressed and left his room, he'd been greeted by the scent
of pumpkin pancakes and the sight of a handful of the Dyelanders
decorating the living room. Seeing the smile on JenniAnn's face
as she unwrapped her spider music boxes and Rose's delight as she set
out the pumpkin votives and Yva's pride as she poured Wonka bars into a
large black cauldron, he'd been glad that he'd convinced them to
decorate for Halloween. His happiness had only increased when
they shared breakfast. It was the perfect coda to their intense
discussion of the previous night.
However, the angel's serenity faltered when his assignment entered the
station. Jonah looked as if his night had been anything but
"Good morning, Jonah," Andrew greeted. "You all right there?"
The man shrugged as he threw his coat on his desk. "Just didn't
sleep well. And, believe me, I tried."
"Couldn't get to sleep?"
"I got there. Just didn't want to stay there. Damn
Andrew thought back to his own nightmare and the anguish it had caused
him. "About the cases?" he asked.
Jonah shook his head. "My mom. They happen sometimes."
The angel frowned. In the times he'd tried to get the officer to
open up about his mother, he'd reacted in much the same way as he had
to Tess' query: only ever giving short, matter-of-fact
answers. "Do you want to talk about it?" he attempted.
"Naw. I'm just going to get myself some more coffee and I'll be
fine. Then let's look over those reports from last night.
Not that I suspect there will be much to them. Simon said it was
pretty dull. Only calls they got were suspicious vehicles... from
people who apparently hadn't heard about our new friends from
Dallas. I like that, let me tell you." Jonah smiled then
went in search of caffeine.
Andrew frowned, his gaze following the chief as he practically limped
away. He didn't know how he was going to be
able to help Jonah if the man wouldn't tell him anything.
"So how was your night?" Jonah asked when he returned to his desk.
"It turned out really great. I took your advice, you know."
"You got hitched?" Wide-eyed, Jonah peered over the rim of his
"No! No, no, no." Andrew adamantly shook his head. "I
told you that it's just not for me. But I did talk to my friends
about things I was feeling. It helped. A lot. So
"Great. I'm glad. You needed that."
"But you're sure you don't need to talk about..."
"I'm fine. Besides, we don't have a whole lot of time.
Remember we have that assembly at the high school at ten. I was
hoping maybe you'd do the honors. I'll be there with you.
But I have a feeling those girls might pay a little more attention to
you." Jonah smirked. "Don't think I missed some of the
looks you got when we were walking through the halls yesterday. I
know it wasn't me. That's Megan's and Thomas' school so I'm there
a lot and I
sure don't get those looks."
As Jonah continued to kid him, Andrew's stomach did a somersault.
He hadn't forgotten but the
pending assembly had drifted to the back of his mind.
Jonah could tell his humor wasn't reaching his partner. He began
to wonder if maybe he was taking things too far with his teasing when
he remembered the
tense scene inside the office the day before.
"Andrew, maybe Erica's starting to calm down," he suggested. "And
remember what I said...
it's not really about you."
"I know. But I don't want to upset her any more than she already
"It might help her to see you standing up there. You know, I
heard from a couple of the pastors after
Sunday. They had high praises for you. You talk and people
feel like they matter."
"They do matter!" Andrew insisted.
Jonah smiled. "See, you really mean every word you say.
People pick up on that. So if you get up there... talk about how
we're here to help, tell the kids how to be safe, and remind them that
if they've been victims of assault that it's not their fault... they'll
see the sincerity and they'll listen. And so will Erica. I
have a teenage daughter, Andrew. I know how they are. They
may act like they're not listening to you. They may even fight
you on what you're saying. But deep down... they're paying
attention and they're glad you're paying attention to them."
Andrew nodded. His own experience with the girls told him as much
but Jonah's assurances put him at ease. "All right. First
reports, then off to school. And maybe on the way we could talk
about that dream of yours."
The officer rolled his eyes. "You're not going to give up on that
"I'm not gonna give up on you, my friend."
Jonah's face softened, touched by his partner's unfailing
concern. "Maybe," he grunted.
Andrew smiled and directed his attention to Simon's review of the
While Andrew was gearing himself up
his appearance at West Hollow High, his friends were hard at work in
the soon-to-be counseling center. With the Halloween decor
already in place, JenniAnn and Rose were cleaning a few dozen votive
holders they'd found at a Goodwill store when Monica entered what would
eventually be the center's chapel.
"Those are beautiful!" she enthused.
"We thought so. All the colors made us happy. So we're
hoping they make the women who come through here happy, too," Rose
explained. "They'll need some light and some cheer."
"I'm sure they will. Could I help?"
"Of course." JenniAnn held a rag out to the angel. "Here,
there's some glass cleaner on this cloth."
For a few moments the three worked silently. JenniAnn and Rose
glanced at each other, both curious. They had a sense that Monica
had come to them for a very particular reason. What that reason
was... they had no clue.
Monica held an olive votive up to the window, smiling as it
shone. "Look, it reminds me a bit of Andrew's eyes." Her
gaze traveled to the other two women.
"Yeah, that's almost the color exactly." JenniAnn smiled kindly
at Monica, sensing that Andrew was the reason she'd tracked them
down. There was something heartbreaking in the caseworker's gaze,
something that reminded her of a child desperate to please and have her
"I hope he's having an easy day at the station or wherever he is.
Last night was inten..." Rose abruptly stopped speaking and
focused on her work.
"I, uh, was walking through the hall last night when I heard the six of
you," Monica confessed. "I wasn't trying to listen. But I
did hear some. I think it's wonderful the five of you could help
"Why didn't you come in?" Rose questioned. "We wouldn't have
kicked you out, Monica."
"You were all handling it so well that I didn't know what I could
say. And... I wasn't sure I belonged there." Monica bowed
her head, gently setting the votive with the other clean ones. "I
have tried to visit more since we had that talk on the cruise.
And I've been very happy doing so. But I haven't forgotten all
the times I wasn't there. I'm afraid I'll do or say something
wrong. Or not do or say something I should. But all of you
seem so natural with him."
"It'll all come back with time, Monica. And just follow your
heart," JenniAnn urged. "Do you think we've always known how to
act or what to say with Andrew? God knows I've completely messed
it up at times. But we apologize and we let him know we love
him. And we try better the next time."
"I just wonder how often, when we worked together, he was feeling the
things he did last night. And didn't say anything... maybe
because he didn't think Tess or I would care," Monica mused sadly.
Unseen, Tess had been standing in the doorway. She sniffled,
inadvertently drawing attention to herself.
"Tess!" Monica held her hand out to her, silently begging her to
sit beside her.
"I-I don't think Andrew ever thought you didn't care," JenniAnn hastily
responded as Tess took a seat. For years she had harbored
resentment towards Monica and Tess. They had been able to be with
Andrew when she and her shifting gang of fellow Dyelanders had
simply had to settle for waiting for him back in Dyeland. And at
times she would have given anything to have hugged him and told him
everything would be okay, Monica had often let him slip away or Tess
had snapped at him. But in the past few months, JenniAnn had
realized that there was pain on their sides, as well. And her
anger no longer seemed as justified nor as oddly
comforting as it once had. "I just think sometimes he didn't...
well, he wasn't sure how you would react so he kept it inside," she
continued. "And that seemed to work. I mean the three of
you did some amazing things together and maybe he just didn't... he
didn't want to rock the boat. And I'm sure he realized that the
two of you had already bonded when he showed up and he didn't hold that
against you and... and... maybe sometimes he did need a lil... a lil
support but... but..."
The supervisor smiled kindly at the woman as she grasped at
straws. "You don't need to protect us, baby." She
sighed. "I know I was harder on Andrew than I was on
Monica. As I should have been. Andrew is older and has much
more experience. But... just because a heart is older and more
experienced doesn't mean that it gets hurt or broken less
easily." Tess smiled wistfully. "I can remember when Andrew
was very young..." She cut herself off, warily eyeing Rose and
Rose set her hand on Tess' arm. "Tess, please tell. What
was Andrew like as a baby? I promise we won't pester you about
his age. That's all just a joke, really. But we would
really like to know what our friend was like back then. I know he
never bald and seven pounds, six ounces or anything like that."
But when he was new. What was he like then?" JenniAnn
queried. She and Rose both yearned for the slightest glimpse of
an Andrew they'd
Monica looked intently at her friend, also eager for a glimpse into
Andrew's past. Besides her anxiousness, she felt guilty that
she'd never thought to ask. Tess' pre-existing friendship with
Andrew had only made her jealous. She felt humbled by the two
women who simply wanted to know about their friend and gave no thought
to the fact that he'd once been someone completely detached from them.
Thus assured, Tess resumed her recollections. Her smile grew less
melancholy as she began. "He loved everything and everyone from
the moment he saw them. Most angels, when they're born, have a
period of confusion. And Andrew had that. But even when he
was confused, his initial reaction was still love. Not
apprehension. Not fear. Love. I'd never seen someone
so thrilled by a sunset. Or the sound of a voice singing praises
to the Father. He never grasped at anything. That sunset
didn't make him regret that he couldn't replicate it on a canvas.
That voice didn't make him want one finer than his own."
"He was simply happy that someone had those talents and that he was
alive to admire them and that the Father allowed him to do so.
Angel Boy was without guile, without bitterness. He made me smile
just to look at him. But now don't go thinking that Andrew was
some blissful, starry-eyed nitwit." Tess wrinkled her nose as the
others smiled, well knowing that description couldn't possibly match
their friend at any point in his existence. "Andrew had an inborn
sense of what was right and what was kind and what was loving.
One day he was in choir and the choirmaster was in a testy mood.
Remember how Ruth used to be, baby?" she asked her former
Cringing at the memory, Monica nodded.
"A male version of her. So in the middle of a hymn, one of the
sopranos hit an off-note. That choirmaster let her know in no
uncertain terms that he did not want to hear that again and that if she
couldn't keep control of her voice then there were other uses for her
'talents.' Poor baby was crushed. Now, I was playing piano
and have to admit it was a sour note but she did not deserve
that. And Andrew apparently agreed because he raised his
hand. I sat there, cringing. I didn't want to see that
baton-wielding grump go off on my Angel Boy. He called on Andrew
and Andrew, never taking his eyes off the choirmaster, said 'I thought
it gave the song character. And I think she tried her
he smiled at that teary-eyed soprano, then back up at the
choirmaster. Unflinching, never stopped smiling. The
choirmaster was flustered. He simply mumbled 'Perhaps, you're
right' and resumed his practice! I saw him apologize to that
other angel baby afterwards." Tess beamed.
Rose smiled, proud to have such a friend. She glanced at JenniAnn
and gripped her arm when it seemed she was about ready to swoon right
off the bench.
Tess shook her head but her eyes twinkled. "So that was what
Andrew was like 'when he was new.' But, eventually, he moved on
from the choir. He spent some time in Search and Rescue and other
departments. Eventually he landed in Caseworking and that was the
first time he really became involved with humans." Tess' face
fell. "It was also the first time that gentle smile of his, those
reasoned, caring words weren't enough. He just couldn't wrap his
mind around why someone would hurt someone else. He didn't
understand greed or lust or envy. He didn't understand the drive
for power and control. He didn't understand cruelty. That's
not to say any angel truly
does. But Andrew... he seemed more shocked by it all.
Eventually, of course, he grew accustomed to it... at least as much as
anyone can. He had to. He was committed to the Father and
to his assignments and a shell-shocked angel isn't much good to
either. In some ways, he even became a little jaded, I
suppose. But I don't think he ever came to understand any of
it. Not by the time the three of us came to work together and I
don't think even now. If anything, it all seems less fathomable
to him." She smiled at Monica. "He took you under his wing,
baby, and then parents who neglect their children and siblings who are
cruel became even more of a dreadful mystery." Tess' gaze drifted
to JenniAnn. "You grew to love him, you trusted him with your
heart. And those who mistreat those who love and adore them...
the crushed hearts they leave behind cry out to him even more
now." Next, she smiled softly at Rose. "And you, barely
more than a child when you met Andrew, you thrived amidst his
friendship and his love and that makes him so proud and so happy,
baby. But it makes those who hurt children and young people all
the more upsetting because they shirk a basic responsibility... to be
kind, to be helpful... that Andrew was so eager and so happy to take
on. And I wish, in those years we worked together, I would have
thought more often of that boy in the choir. And realized that
when Andrew grew impatient or angry... it wasn't necessarily right...
but it was the reaction of someone who found that the respect and the
love that filled his heart wasn't felt by all."
"But you're here for Andrew now, Tess. And you, too, Monica,"
"And this time we won't take that for granted. Will we,
Monica shook her head adamantly, brushing at tears.
JenniAnn let out a contented sigh, blinking back her own tears, and
smiled. "So the next time you overhear us and Andrew having a
"I'm there!" Monica finished with a wide smile.
"Me too, babies. Me too," Tess vowed. "Now, Lady Beth and I
think tonight might be a good night for some take-out pizza."
"Good!" Rose agreed. "The two of you deserve a break from the
"Thank you, Rose. But I think I'm just going to run to the store
and get some buttermilk and cocoa so I can make some red velvet cake
for my baby." The supervisor moved to her feet. "I noticed
he seemed quite partial to it on the cruise. And I'd like to make
him some. Of course, I'm sure he'll share with us all."
"Could I help, Tess?" Monica requested.
"You promise not to try to sneak any coffee beans into it?"
The caseworker nodded vigorously.
"Then let's go!"
Rose's and JenniAnn's faces registered obvious joy at how things were
falling into place.
"Would you ladies like to help?" Tess offered.
"If you need it, sure! But, first, Mick thought it might be nice
for us to take Andrew dancing. So we called around and the only
place we could find wasn't exactly Andrew-friendly." Rose shook
her head, frowning.
"We could hear the theme from The
Exorcist playing in the background," JenniAnn explained.
"Oh dear," Tess lamented.
"So we were thinking maybe we'd just open up the living room a bit by
moving the furniture. Go dancing there?" Rose suggested.
"Go for it!" Monica encouraged.
"It's a fine idea, babies. And a very thoughtful one." Tess
hugged the two women before exiting the room with Monica.
"I think tonight's going to be really great. I bet when Andrew
and Monica dance it's going to be a whole lot less awkward than when we
were on the ship. I really feel like things are getting a lot
better between the three of them. Don't you, Jen..." Rose
smirked when she turned towards her friend who seemed lost in her own
dreamy little world.
"I love him..." JenniAnn murmured.
"Really? I had no idea," Rose teased. "Here, let's finish
these holders and then we can start downstairs. I'll even let you
clean this olive one." She pressed the glass and a cloth into
"He has beautiful, soulful eyes..."
"Ya know, sometimes I really want to record you when you're like this
just so Andrew can see what we all have to put up with."
JenniAnn giggled. "You do that. But, rest assured, I'm not
so drippy as I seem. I just like saying that stuff... putting it
out there. Maybe he'll pick up on it somehow. In any case,
I agree. I think things are gonna be a whole lot better going
Secure in that belief, the two finished cleaning then went to turn the
living room into a space suitable for dancing.
As Jonah drove to the school,
kept stealing glances at him. Eventually, the man caught on.
"Sometimes I really think it was Nancy who hired you, not the
mayor. To watch out for me."
"It doesn't matter who hired me. I want to watch out for
you. It's what partners do so... if you want to talk about
anything... anything at all before we get there..." Andrew smiled
innocently at the driver.
"All right, all right. I know you're right. But as chief...
it's hard for me to say much about how I feel to the other guys.
I need to be the strong one, the unshakable one."
"I know the feeling," Andrew admitted. He knew it all too
well. And in recognizing that, a little more of the Father's
reasoning in assigning him to Jonah made sense. "But sometimes
we're exactly the kind of people who most need to talk. It
took me a long time to learn that. I still struggle with
it. But I know it's true. And think about it... I'll be
gone in a while. So whatever you tell me, it goes away with me."
"Good point." Jonah drew in a deep breath and let it out
slowly. "You've probably noticed I don't talk much about my
The angel nodded.
"Her name was Emily. Ben and his wife, Regina, are the only ones
who know about her. Well, and Nancy, of course. She, uh,
she killed herself when I was eighteen. Swallowed a bunch of
pills while I was at school. I found her." Jonah's eyes
remained fixed on the road and his face still.
"I'm so sorry, Jonah."
"In my nightmare, I was there when she did it. And I kept yelling
at her not to do it. And I tried to grab the pills away but my
hand went right through them. Like I was a ghost or
something. I couldn't stop it from happening. I was
"Jonah, why don't you pull over and let me drive?" Andrew offered.
"I'm fine. It's been over 25 years. But this is the first
I've dreamed about her in a long time."
"Do you think maybe it's because you feel helpless about this rapist
being out there? Maybe what's happening reminds you of your
mother and feeling..." Andrew stopped talking when Jonah turned
The man quickly regained control of himself. "Yeah, you're
probably right," he responded, his tone too airy to be believed by
"You're not responsible for her death, Jonah. Not any more than
you're responsible for what's happening here. I'm sure you tried
to help your mother just as much and as passionately and as dedicatedly
as you're trying to help the people of this town."
Andrew could sense that Jonah had closed himself off again and would
say no more about the nightmare. However, he wanted to keep him
talking. "So afterwards... that's when you went to college and
then ended up here?"
"You got it. I needed to get away. No one keeping me from
it. Well, except Regina and Ben."
"So I know how you wound up in West Hollow. What brought them
"Ben would say he and Regina just got used to keeping an eye on
me. They didn't have children of their own. Just me.
When I was growing up back in Des Moines, they helped
us out with food and clothes
when they could tell my mom was struggling to keep up with a growing
need for both." Jonah smiled wistfully. "I think they
sensed I needed those four years of college to find myself. But
once I did and settled here with Nancy, they picked up and moved.
Secretly, I suspect they were wanting grandkids. Which is how
Megan, Thomas, and Kristie have always thought about them."
Andrew's own features perked up when he saw how much the older couple's
care meant to Jonah. "That's great that you have them. And
Ben's clearly doing well for himself here."
"Ben's a good guy. If he wins this race, I know he'll do a lot of
good. Which reminds me... you'll like this. After the
Hendricks first moved here,
I asked Ben why he was always going out of his way to help me and other
that when he was in Vietnam, his platoon got hit really hard.
when he lost the leg. He swore to me that this man materialized
no where in the midst of the battle. Long hair, a suit."
The angel of death looked over at Jonah in surprise and then out the
window as the real reason Ben Hendricks had looked so familiar to him
"At first Ben thought maybe he was a soldier who had gone rogue," Jonah
continued, not noticing his partner's shock. "But he sat with Ben
whole time until another unit arrived and got him back to the
said the guy kept him company, held his hand. As the other unit
approached, the man said he needed to go. Ben asked him how he
pay him back for his kindness. According to Ben, the guy just
and said 'When you have a chance to reach out to someone, help
Then he disappeared into thin air. So that's what Ben's been
doing ever since: reaching out. Personally, I think
mystery man was the creation of massive blood loss and panic. But
whatever happened out there in the jungle, it made Ben the man he
is which, in turn, made me the man I am.
And I'm grateful for that."
As Andrew thought of the frightened but brave soldier he'd appeared to
and the considerate, altruistic man he'd become, some of JenniAnn's
words from the previous night drifted back to him.
"Andrew, you have an impact far beyond what you realize. You
don't know what miracles your kindness now will work later!"
If it had been true with Ben... maybe it really would be true with
"Hello, Officer du Lac!" Jonah called as he put the cruiser in park.
Andrew roused, noticing that they were at the school.
"Sorry. I was just... wow. That's some story."
"I suppose you think an angel really was with Ben?"
Jonah smiled. "For some reason, that makes me glad. Now,
come on. And, hey, don't forget to tell them we're hosting
trick-or-treating at the school on Sunday."
Andrew smiled, too, and followed Jonah inside.
Andrew peered out at the crowd of
students, hoping his message was sinking in.
"Now, I know that sometimes shows on TV make it seem like police...
well, they don't always believe people when they come forward.
But I just want you to know that Officers Webb, Grant, Lewis, and
myself aren't like that. When victims come to us, they are taken
seriously. They are not blamed. Because they've done
nothing wrong," he assured.
Noticing a young man's raised hand, Andrew pointed to him.
"Isn't it true that some of these girls were out walking alone at
night? I mean isn't that kind of..." He shrugged. "I
mean that doesn't seem real smart."
Before Andrew could respond, Abby Martin shot up from her chair.
"Have you never needed a little fresh air at night, Michael?" she
demanded. "Have you never had an emergency? Never had your
car break down?"
"Well, sure but I'm a guy and..."
"I guess I didn't realize one needed a Y chromosome to be outside at
night. Stupid me." Abby bopped herself on the head then
rolled her eyes.
Andrew noticed Erica, slouched in a chair beside Abby, was
smirking. He had the sense that the older girl would be a good,
healing influence on her.
"A girl should be able to go for a walk at any time in this town.
We should all feel safe here. That someone has made it unsafe for
girls is that person's fault. Entirely and only their
fault. The girl shouldn't be blamed or called stupid when
something terrible happens to her," Abby continued.
"I'm sorry," Michael muttered then slunk back to his chair.
"Abby is right. West Hollow should be safe for everyone.
But until this danger has passed, we're asking that *everyone* take
extra precautions. No one should be out alone at night. If
you need to go somewhere and don't have a car and can't get a ride...
call us. Officer Webb and I both left our cards on the table
behind me. We'll help you out. As will Officers Grant and
Lewis. Now, this is only if it's important. Please, don't
call us because you're craving a hot fudge sundae at 2 A.M. That
is, unless you're willing to treat us." Andrew smiled, thankful
for the kids' laughter. He knew it was important they realize the
seriousness of what was going on but he also didn't want to dampen
their youthful optimism. "So that's pretty much all we have to
say. But we'll stick around through lunch if you have any
questions or just anything you'd like to talk about. Or if you
want to sign up for candy duty on Sunday, we'll be happy to take your
name and phone number. Thank you for your time." Andrew
waved and reclaimed his seat beside Jonah as the principal took his
place at the podium.
"On behalf of everyone at West Hollow High, I'd like to thank Officer
du Lac for speaking to us and to Officer Webb for being here. If
you have any questions or would like to look at any of the materials
the officers have brought for us, please form an *orderly* line.
Thank you. Those of you who have first lunch please head to the
lunchroom when you're ready, everyone else return to classes as soon as
you're finished at the table."
"Great job, Officer du Lac!" Jonah praised, clapping Andrew on the back
once the crowd had begun to disperse.
"They're a good group of kids. Thanks for letting me speak to
them. I hope we get a lot of volunteers for Halloween."
"I'm sure we..." Jonah turned when his
daughter, Megan, approached and tugged on his sleeve. "Hey,
"Hey, Dad. Hi, Officer du Lac." The girl blushed as she
smiled at Andrew. "I just need to talk to my dad for a sec then
I'll bring him back."
"Sure." Andrew smiled as the father and daughter moved a few
paces away. He looked up when he heard Jonah begin to laugh
loudly. The man hugged his daughter and then returned to Andrew's
"Hey, you don't have any more of your cards on you, do you?"
"Just three or four in my wallet. But I set a whole stack on the
table. I can go grab some from there if..."
"No, I really don't think you can. Megan just told me that
they're gone. While mine remain in a neat stack. I feel so
loved." Jonah grinned. "Come on, there's a line forming and
I have a feeling I'm not the one the girls in it want to talk to."
Turning bright red in a perfect compliment to his blue uniform, Andrew
dutifully followed Jonah to the table.
Andrew sunk back into the driver's
of his van shortly after 7:00 when his shift ended. His and
Jonah's stint at the school had lurched well into the afternoon.
The blush returned to Andrew's cheeks as he recalled the disappeared
business cards. Jonah hadn't let him forget that. Or the
"Call me, Officer du Lac" delicately printed amid stars and hearts near
one girl's name on the Halloween sign up sheet. But then his
partner's amusement after his harrowing night was worth a few blushes
and awkward moments.
As Andrew began the ride home, his thoughts turned to the best moment
day. It had come when Abby and Erica approached the
table. The former had chatted easily with the two officers as she
signed up for their Halloween party. Erica had remained
silent. Yet she had signed her own name, as well, and it gave him
The afternoon and early evening that followed had been comprised of a
dispute between two neighbors, a handful of traffic violations, and
then meeting up with Gus, Simon, and the three Texans who would be
taking the night shift. A calm day as far as they went and it had
left Andrew with enough energy to enjoy an evening with friends.
When he stepped into the living room at Daffodil Lane, Andrew did a
double take as he noticed the furniture pushed to the walls. He
wasn't left with his
confusion for long. JenniAnn entered the room, humming
along to the CD player.
"Oh, good! You're back!" she greeted, setting down the CDs she
was carrying and hugging the angel. "How was your day?"
"Good. Really good. I spoke at the high school. Jonah
went, too." Andrew stepped into his room, removing his gun from
its holster. "I think the kids are handling everything pretty
JenniAnn followed him but looked away when he locked the gun up,
knowing he felt self-conscious about it. "How many admirers did
you end up with?"
Andrew looked at his friend in surprise and stepped back into the
living room. "Did Jonah call you?"
JenniAnn laughed. "That many, huh? But no, he didn't.
Just remember... I was a teenage girl when we met. I know how it
Blushing, Andrew waved his hand around the room, eager for a change of
subject. "So, umm, what's going on in here? I didn't
Halloween decorating involved moving the furniture."
JenniAnn's face lit up at the question, excited to tell Andrew what
they had in store for him. "Well... the decorating doesn't.
"Dancing?" The angel of death looked curiously at her. "Are
you taking up ballet again?"
The woman wrinkled her nose and waved the idea away. "No! I
wouldn't look so cute in a tutu anymore. It's just... well...
when Mick was here he said you needed to burn some energy and suggested
dancing. But when we called around to see where one would go here
to dance the only place we found was hosting something called the
'Ghouls and Ghosts Gala.' Which gave us the impression that maybe
it wouldn't be your scene so... we turned the living room into a dance
Andrew chuckled. "I see I have very enterprising friends.
So we're going to be dancing the night away, huh? But where is
everyone else? Are you here alone?" The smile faded from
the angel's face.
"Relax! I'm not. No one broke a rule. Tess, Monica,
Rose, C.J., Lady Beth, and Logan went to pick up pizza. Well... I
suspect the latter only went in hopes the pizza parlor would have
arcade games. Yva and Sir Sven are due back from Dyeland any time
now. Vincent and Catherine are upstairs getting Jacob to
sleep. The dogs, too. They've really taken to the lil
guy. So, no, I'm not alone."
Relaxing as directed, Andrew began to tap his feet and hum along to the
music. "Pizza and dancing. And do I smell something baking?"
Andrew headed to the kitchen but JenniAnn pulled him back.
"You have to wait, it's a surprise."
The angel chuckled. "Okay. Well, whatever the surprise is,
it sounds like a great night to
me. Thanks for helping arrange this."
"Any time. We want you to have some fun and some peace and... we
just want to be with you for a lil while." JenniAnn squeezed his
hand then directed her attention to closing the blinds and curtains for
her cousin's sake.
Andrew moved to help, studying his friend as he did. There was a
wistful sadness in her eyes and he wanted to know its cause. Once
all the windows were secure, he smiled at her. While dancing was
a good way to get him to burn energy, Andrew knew it was an even better
way to get JenniAnn to talk when she otherwise might not. "What
do you say we break the dance
JenniAnn's face lit up and she reached for his hand then paused.
"Maybe we can wait til the next song?"
"Why? I like this song. You like this song. It's
Irish." Andrew paused, tilting his head. "Why are you
"You don't always listen to the lyrics of songs, do you? You just
get to liking a beat and then you want to dance."
"I just can't do that, I guess. At least... not when dancing with
someone. So, ahem... sample lyrics from Van Morrison's beautiful
but inappropriate for us 'Moondance': 'Well it's a marvelous night for
a moondance with the stars up above in your eyes... a fantabulous night
to make romance 'neath the cover of October skies," JenniAnn recited.
Andrew grinned. "So you're saying he's not just a fan of the
Shelleys or Poe or
Hawthorne urging us to write novels and poems with
supernatural undertones and an intense focus on nature? Make
Romance. Capital R. Like the Romantic period, get it?" he
"You're really such a goof ball sometimes!"
"You should really show more respect for an officer of the law, young
JenniAnn shrugged. "Eh. Wearing a uniform and carrying a
badge doesn't make you any less goofy."
Andrew laughed. "All right then. But I still like this
song. And if we never danced to anything with romantic
undertones... I think that would leave us with Christmas carol, hymns,
and 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame.'"
"True enough. But some songs eke a lil past simply
happens with verse two: 'Well, I wanna make love to you
tonight. I can't wait till the morning has come.'" JenniAnn
teased, blushing as she did. "So... shall we wait til the next
It was Andrew's turn to blush. "Yes, we shall. I never
realized..." He began to wonder what other songs he'd bopped
along to in the past, having no
clue what he was dancing to.
"I didn't think you had. Actually..." JenniAnn began to
rifle through her CDs. "I
first heard this one a couple weeks ago and thought immediately of you
Andrew watched closely as she selected another CD, skipped to the
correct track, and stood still as the song began with a few soulful
piano notes. This time, he paid particular attention to the
"Loving a person just the way they are, it's no small thing. It
takes some time to see things through. Sometimes things change,
sometimes we're waiting. We need grace either way. Hold on
to me and I'll hold on to you," the chanteuse crooned.
JenniAnn turned around and smiled at him. "Maybe she's talking
romance, maybe she's not. I dunno. But we probly shouldn't
be too picky, like you said."
"We shouldn't," Andrew agreed as he held out his hand.
As they danced, their earlier levity gave way to companionable silence
until Andrew spoke.
"Before, when you said all of you wanted to spend time with me, you
looked sad for a moment. Why? You know, it's not fair
making me talk so that you could help me... which you and the others
did very much... and then not letting me return the favor."
JenniAnn knew he had her there. "Well, for starters, I've just
especially missed you today, I guess. Tess told Rose,
Monica, and I a little about when you were first created."
"No, Andrew. It was sweet. And it made me realize all over
again how blessed I am to know you. How blessed we all are.
To experience your kindness and that innate sense of fairness and
respect for others. And it mixed with other things I've been
thinking about. After our talk last night a lot of the worry and
concern I had for you fell
away... you let us in." JenniAnn smiled up at him briefly.
"And so then I found myself focusing more on what's been happening
agree with what Yva said then about only the rapist should feel
guilty for these attacks. But at the same time... I think about
all the messages young women... maybe all women... get from aspects of
this culture. And guys must see and hear them, too, and God only
knows if it warps a few who are already off when it comes to how they
perceive women. 'Wear this', 'use this', 'do this', 'eat this',
'don't eat that'... all 'to attract a man.' 'Learn the Top Ten
Turn Him On.' 'Fulfill His Fantasies.' 'Your Guide to
Andrew noticed his friend was turning bright red and he couldn't tell
if it was due to anger or embarrassment. It seemed the latter
when she buried her face in his shoulder, hiding. "Laja, I know
that's all out there. I've worked in enough supermarkets and book
stores and newsstands to see more than my share of magazine
covers. You're not shocking me. Or making me
uncomfortable. The only thing that would make me feel
uncomfortable about this was if I knew you wanted to talk about it but
wouldn't because you were afraid of offending me. I'm your
friend. That means I get to be with you through the fun stuff...
and the rest, too."
JenniAnn perked up, meeting his gaze with an admiring smile.
"Everyone should have an Andrew," she murmured.
The angel chuckled. "I don't know about that."
"I do. But as for what I was saying... those screaming magazine
headlines are bad enough. They make it seems like the guy... and
what he likes and wants... should always be the chief concern.
But sometimes it's the more subtle things... the more personal
comments... often from other women!" JenniAnn seethed. "It's hard
not to sometimes feel like we're supposed to fulfill whatever some man
needs or wants and whatever we need or want... well, that's
secondary. Even with you..."
Andrew looked at her in alarm.
"You don't emanate that message at all. I don't mean that.
Not one little bit," JenniAnn hastily covered. "But remember last
Christmas? That awful dress that lady wanted me to buy? She
had to have been able to tell I hated it. But she kept looking at
you. As if it would please you and, thus, I should suck it up and
wear it. That you steadfastly disagreed with her doesn't make her
mode of thinking any less upsetting. And she's hardly
alone. I can remember when my grandma first found out that I'd
actually befriended a boy... you... and she thought... well, I said we
were going to see a play... that was when Adam was in The Taming of the Shrew...
and I guess she thought it was a date. Despite my protestations
to the contrary. Next thing I knew, she was carting me around a
boutique and, again, she knew I wasn't comfortable with some of the
clothes but 'This is what boys like, JenniAnn.' And they weren't
horribly revealing but still... I didn't want them. But she
thought you did and so..."
"Laja, why didn't you tell me any of this before now?" Andrew
demanded. "You're talking about things that happened almost a
decade ago! It obviously got to you but not once did you ever,
ever tell me!"
"What could you have done? Showed up in her living room, all
beautifully aglow, and said 'I'm an angel sent by God. And I
really have no interest in your granddaughter's figure'?"
"Well, no. Probably not that. It's a little blunt."
Andrew smiled, hoping to cheer JenniAnn and succeeding for a
moment. "But I could have listened to you and supported
you. And I would have told you that even if I did care about your
figure, that would still be no reason at all to wear something you were
uncomfortable with. But I had no idea..."
"It's weird for me to talk to you about this stuff. This...
people thinking you're out for something you're not."
"I know. But I'm not naive. I know how some people
But, Laja," Andrew soothed, "I'm sure they didn't mean to hurt
you. Or make you feel secondary to me. Because you're
not. It's just..."
"And that's my point! That just makes it more depressing.
And I do know my grandma
never meant to hurt me. Nor that saleslady. But as long as
that mindset lingers... the misogynists and the abusers will be harder
to combat. Because they also have that subset of the culture
into their beliefs that women are inferior and exist for their
benefit! And it'll be harder
to feel confident and secure and safe. I'm blessed in that I have
you to counter all those messages. But for those who don't... it
all makes me angry and hurt enough. How must it be for someone
who has survived rape... that most extreme demonstration of
"Laja, we can hope and pray that those close to them will do their best
shield them from those influences. And that when that's
impossible, they'll have someone to counter those messages.
Someone to tell them that God loves them and created them as their own
beautiful person who deserves respect. It's
not something only I can do, you know."
JenniAnn sighed. "I know. Although I wouldn't be the least
bit surprised to find out that those girls flocked to you earlier
because of that. They're probly all confused. I just hope
that confusion doesn't turn them mean... like it did some of my
classmates. And I just can't imagine going
through what someone like Erica has and then facing the throng in high
and even college. Sometimes they were the worst... the other
girls, I mean. Don't do
anything and you're a prude and a snob. Do something and you're a
slut. Sometimes girls were just joking with those names,
sometimes not. Imagine Erica or one of the others hearing all
foolishness bandied about so casually when they've experienced...
All that chatter implies there's always a choice for the girl...
forced... Nothing... nothing violent."
Andrew watched helplessly as his friend's facade cracked. The
arguments which had shielded her receded to the back of her mind.
Her resolve and righteous indignation fell away. There was only
grief left. "Laja, c'mon. Maybe you need to sit
down." He began to lead her to a chair.
She shook her head, fighting back tears. "No. We should
keep dancing. I just... I don't want to let you go."
"All right. We'll keep dancing," the angel promised.
"Thank you. Andrew,
I try not to but I can't help thinking about... When I first saw
Erica... the look in her eyes. So haunted. So hurt,
afraid. What she went through... What the other four
did. What so many have... It tears me up. My young
adulthood... it was outstanding teachers, proud parents,
discovering Jane Eyre
and Pride and Prejudice,
reuniting with Vincent, the arrival of friends in Dyeland, and, always,
always... you. And still there were struggles. And
theirs... theirs is interrupted by this heinous, awful, unfair
thing. And I can't help imagining what struggles they may
face. And what if..."
Andrew ceased dancing for just a moment and hugged the distraught
woman. "What is it, Laja?"
"I got to thinking... what if Erica's not particularly angry at you or
God or angels? Or what if that's there but also something else..."
"What if... what
if she's lashing out at feelings that scare her now? When I
first spoke to her... I suspected she had a crush on you. She
wanted to hear more about you. Something in her eyes when I
mentioned you... I just know these things. And what if, as
the shock wore off, those feelings... those desires... they became less
palatable? What if what he did made her afraid to be vulnerable,
to trust herself with a man? And what if that doesn't just go
away when she reaches the age when she really wants a serious
boyfriend? What if she decides it's easier just
to block that part of herself off? To be safe that way?" JenniAnn
questioned desperately. "I've never wanted... It seems to
not be in me to want to sleep with anyone. Not even you.
But I'm at my happiest with you. Dancing with you... although
perhaps right now doesn't make it seem that way. Curled up beside
you watching TV or some old movie. The spontaneous hugs.
But if something had happened... something that made that sort of
closeness difficult... I would be lost. And I would be angry
because I would feel like a chance at something I wanted badly was
stolen from me. What if she feels that for real?"
Andrew stared over her head and out the window, into the stark black
sky. He had
to admit JenniAnn's theory was
within the realm of possibility. And he had few answers for
her. But he would try. "Laja," he began, "if something...
if something had happened to you that made it difficult for you to
trust me, but I knew you wanted what we have now... the dancing and the
hugs and all of that... I would have been patient. And I would
have taken my cues from you. Because I still would have loved
you. And I still would have wanted you in my life. I know
that it's not exactly the same. I know that, in time, Erica might
want more from a relationship than I ever will."
"More than either of us ever will," JenniAnn piped up quietly.
"Right. But when she meets that man who will truly, truly love
her... he'll be patient and he will help her. Because he'll want
her in his life. And Erica and the others... they're not
alone. They will have help. They'll have counseling for as
long as they need it. Monica and whomever follows in her
footsteps will see to that. And as long as Erica stays with the
Martins, all those girls have incredibly supportive families.
That'll make a big difference in helping them reclaim all aspects of
their lives. And as for your concern about them getting through
school, I have to believe that, at least
eventually, a loving parent's words outweigh anything spoken by an
inconsiderate classmate. And that a true friend's respect will
have more of an impact than an acquaintance's callousness. And
who knows? Maybe
those girls will be more careful with how they talk, knowing what's
happened to some of their own."
JenniAnn mulled it all over in her mind, finally nodding.
"I think Erica will eventually want to talk to you again. I
think... once some of the pain has passed... she'll remember and cling
to your kindness. Because it's awfully hard to ignore or forget."
The angel sighed. Despite his improved mood and increased hope,
Erica's anguish and
anger still hurt deeply and caused him great concern. "You really
think so, Laja?"
"Very much." JenniAnn paused in their dance and hugged him.
'Unforgettable' would be a good song for you, too."
Andrew chuckled. "Maybe we can dance to that later."
"Sure, after dinner. Which reminds me... I need to go set the
"We'll set the table," Andrew corrected. "And then I'm going to
go change. I'm getting a little tired of this uniform."
"I like the uniform."
"As much as flannel and jeans?"
"Yeah, changing is a good idea," JenniAnn agreed hastily.
Both smiling, the two worked together on their task.
Andrew, Adam, Tess, and Monica had convinced their mortal friends
turn in for the night and leave them to put the living room back in
order. After some argument and the realization that the four
angels might enjoy some time alone together, they had agreed.
the last of the dinner dishes was
put away, Andrew found himself smiling as Lady Beth held her hands over
his eyes. "I think you all must have forgotten that my birthday
was last month."
"I don't think we only get once a year
to celebrate you, baby," Tess
responded as she set the cake platter in front of Andrew.
"Besides, I didn't get to be there with you. Lady Beth, let him
Andrew looked down at the white
frosted cake with "We love you, Andrew"
spelled out in pecans. "Aww, Tess. Thanks!"
"Monica and the girls helped, too."
"What kind is it?" Andrew
asked, his finger poised over a
corner of the cake.
Tess laughed. "Go ahead and
sample the frosting. I know you
want to. We'll just make sure you get the piece you
The angel of death happily obliged. "Mmm... cream cheese
frosting. It's great!"
Tess sliced the nicked piece for Andrew who glimpsed the interior of
the cake as she did.
"It's red velvet!" he cried. "You remembered my favorite!"
Tess beamed at him. "Of course, baby. Now take a bite of it
all." She held a loaded fork out to him and waited anxiously as
he tried it. "So, how is it?"
Laughing, Rose handed him a glass of milk as Tess patted his
"You all gotta try this. It really is delicious. You all
did a great job. Here." Andrew paused in his own enjoyment
of the cake so he could begin slicing pieces off for his gathered
friends. Once everyone was served, the angel sighed
contentedly. "This has been a perfect evening. And we
haven't even gotten to the dancing yet."
"I think you'll be as popular on the dance floor as you were at the
high school earlier," JenniAnn teased.
"What happened at the high school?" Catherine asked.
"I imagine it's what Jonah was laughing about when we ran into him at
the pizza parlor. He told us to ask you about your business
cards. So, Andrew?" Monica grinned at her fellow angel.
Blushing, Andrew regaled them all with tales of his popularity amongst
the teenage set. "My cell phone and desk phone went off all
afternoon. Finally, Jonah started answering them. The calls
stopped shortly after that," he confessed. "But at least they're
not being shy about reaching out to us."
Yva laughed. "I guess it's probably a good thing you don't have a
business card as an angel. We'd probably never be able to talk to
you without interruption."
"I'm not sure about that," Andrew responded
modestly. "On the plus side, we have plenty of volunteers for the
"Jonah mentioned that, too. He said he was real glad you came up
with the idea. He said even without the current danger, it's
usually his least favorite night with the vandalism and the kids
darting into the street and everything." C.J. smiled. "Kind
of ironic that you're organizing a Halloween party, though."
"I suppose I can put up with a grim reaper or two if I get to see a
bunch of smiling, non-ghoulish kids. Besides, everyone needs to
come together and have a good time. This poor town... but between
the party and the football game tomorrow... I'm hopeful for them."
"As am I," Vincent agreed. "When there has been trouble in the
Tunnels, nothing has put us at ease as much as coming together. I
sure it will be as true here in West Hollow."
"You know, I'm looking forward to this assignment ending. Because
then I'll know... well, he'll have been caught. But I'll miss
this place. The people, mostly. And I've made some good
memories here." Andrew smiled at each of his friends.
"Maybe you'll come back some day, Andrew," Monica encouraged.
"Maybe. But for right now..." The angel of death's gaze
drifted around the table, taking in all the empty dessert plates.
"Maybe we could make some more memories. How about we get started
with that dancing?"
In ready agreement, the crowd drifted into the living room and the
To everyone's delight, Adam, Henry, and Eli had all dropped by
making the shortage of male dance partners far less dire.
After a few turns on the dance floor; Adam, JenniAnn, and Rose were
sitting one out and enjoying some cider.
"So how's he doing?" Adam asked quietly.
"Much better," Rose responded, relief evident in her voice.
"And how are all of you holding up?" he checked with obvious concern,
putting an arm around each of them.
"It's been hard at times," JenniAnn admitted. "Both in seeing how
sad Andrew sometimes gets... and just thinking about those girls."
"But it's been good putting this place together." Rose smiled at
all their handiwork.
"I'm really impressed. So much improved just in the last couple
of days. Remind me to ask you to repaint my living room when we
get back to Dyeland. Or maybe I'll just ask Logan," Adam joked.
At that the three looked to the vampire who was proving a devoted
student as Tess tried to teach him to waltz.
"Are the three of you staying for long, Adam?" JenniAnn asked
after prying her eyes away from the bizarrely adorable scene.
"Henry and Eli will leave within an hour or so. I'll be here for
The three sat in silence for a few moments, the two women mulling over
the implications of Adam's stay.
"Is there... is there going to be another rape? Are you here
for... for whoever he goes after?"
Adam met JenniAnn's fretful gaze and shook his head. "I don't
know what's going to happen. But I know Andrew's going to need
me. So I'm here."
"You do know... even if you were here for one of those ladies... we
wouldn't be angry at you, Adam. We know you can't stop people
from hurting each other. You do know that... don't you?" Rose
"I do." Adam hugged them. "But I'm glad I'm not." He
drew in a deep breath. "But try not to worry about it.
Let's just enjoy tonight. Look at Monica and Andrew out
like old times. But better. Because now we have all of you
Trying to focus on the here and now, the three watched their friends as
they danced and reveled in the coziness and companionship of the
Friday, October 29th, 2010
A quarter after midnight, the last piece of furniture had been slid
back into place and the four angels plopped down onto the couches and
"That was really great, you guys. Thanks."
Monica smiled at Andrew. "The dancing was all the girls'
"I'm glad the dance club idea didn't work out. It was
nice to have Vincent and Catherine join us. And great to spend a
relaxing night in, just with friends." Andrew began to
chuckle. "And I think some new friendships may have been
made. Tess, you really broke Logan out of his shell. He was
dancing the night away. I don't think I've ever seen him dance
outside of a video game."
"He's a good boy and he's got a fine sense of rhythm. He
shouldn't spend so much time hiding away in a basement."
"He thinks very highly of you, buddy. He told me you reminded him
a lot of his older brother. Especially now. He said his
brother was a cop."
"That's funny. Logan's never once mentioned having an older
brother," Andrew mused. "I wonder if he's passed on? Or
maybe... maybe he's just had to keep his distance." Frowning,
Andrew shook his head. "Poor kid."
"Sounds like you've got yourself another surrogate sibling,
Andrew. At this rate, I think Yva's going to have a hard time if
she ever again tries to convince someone that we're all siblings.
The number is becoming too incredible." Monica laughed at the
"When was that, babies?"
"When we were in Missouri some rather inebriated young ladies took
offense to my... distinguished appearance... and felt it unseemly that
I hang out with so youthful a crowd as Monica, Andrew, and the ladies,"
Adam recalled. "Yva convinced them we had the same Father and..."
The angel of death's recollection was cut off by the ringing
phone. All four of the angels tensed. After the second
ring, Andrew bolted to his feet and answered. His voice was
barely audible as he turned from his friends to speak but his sagging
shoulders told them all they needed to know. Adam stood up and
retrieved his coat and Andrew's.
Andrew briefly rested his forehead on the wall when he hung up.
"Baby..." Tess approached and wrapped her arms around him.
"A-another one, Tess. He... in her house... her own
house..." Andrew pulled away then. "I need to go now.
He might still be on the run." He ran into his room to retrieve
his gun and badge and grabbed his uniform to change into later.
"Andrew, your coat," Adam called, putting his own on.
"Where are you going?" Andrew asked.
"With you. I'm your driver."
"Adam, stay with the girls."
"Friends don't let friends drive distraught. I'm going with you,
Monica handed Andrew his gloves then hugged him. "I'll pray for
you, my friend, and for her."
Andrew forced a smile. "Thank you." He turned to Tess'
waiting arms for another hug. "I don't know when I'll be
back. But, please, watch over them." He glanced at the
upper level where his friends slept. "There's no telling what
this... this person's going to do now."
With that, Andrew left the house with Adam close behind.
Not arguing at all, Andrew handed over the van keys and hopped into the
Adam made another circle around the
block area surrounding the latest victim's home.
"Head to her house," Andrew directed. "The only people we've seen
have been Gus and two of the Texans. We need to get back to
Adam nodded, glancing over at his friend. He noticed he was
wringing his gloves. "Andrew, you couldn't have stopped this."
"I was dancing while a woman was being raped."
"You were off-duty. And even if you weren't... unless you were
sitting on her door step you couldn't have stopped this. By your
own account, two police officers and three security specialists were on
the look-out. But five people can't see everything in an entire
town. Six can't, either."
Andrew shrugged and rested his head in his hands. "Jonah's going
to be thinking the same thing. If only he hadn't gone
home... If only he'd been out on patrol..."
"Then you tell him what I told you."
"I'm worried about him. If this doesn't stop soon... Adam,
there's something wrong with his heart and I think he's not taking care
of himself... he's trying to stay upbeat. I think he thinks he
needs to. For his family. For the other guys..."
"Two peas in a pod..." Adam muttered.
"But I can't have a heart attack," Andrew responded.
Adam nodded. "I know. But shouldering too much
responsibility isn't good for you, either. You need to not beat
yourself up about this. Because if Jonah picks up that you are...
even a little bit... you're not going to be able to convince him not to
do it himself. You have both given everything you can to this
job. But neither of you are omnipotent. And you're not
Energizer bunnies, either. Got it?"
Andrew sighed. "You're right. I know. I've got it."
"Good." Adam smiled with encouragement as he turned into a
"That's Jonah's car." Andrew pointed to the Taurus in front of
them as he stepped out of the van.
"I'll wait here for you."
"That's all right, Adam. You can head back to the house. I
better stick with Jonah."
Andrew nodded. "I am. I'd rather you were with the girls."
"Okay. Take care, buddy. And remember what I said.
Because it's not just me saying it." Adam tilted his head to the
"I know. I will. See you later."
Andrew closed the door and approached the woman's house, dug his badge
out of his pocket, and knocked.
When the two police officers and
the latest victim, reached the ER; Tina was waiting at the main entry
with open arms.
"Before you came, Brigid told me she's a nurse here. Tina's her
mentor," Jonah explained as the two women embraced.
Andrew blinked back tears. The already grieved nurse's
relationship with Brigid added another layer of tragedy to the grim
While Tina examined Brigid, the two police officers reclaimed the seats
they'd occupied on the night of Erica's rape. They were both
silent, too tired to speak until it was necessary. Physical
exhaustion was only a small part of it. Emotionally, they were
raw and yet very aware of the fact that they needed to stay focused and
"How's everyone back at your place?" Jonah finally asked after several
"Probably sleeping. We had a good night before that,
though. Your family?"
Jonah shrugged. "Kristie's fine. She's pretty
oblivious. I envy her. Nancy's worried. Megan...
she's just really quiet. I know she's upset but she seems to be
confiding to Nancy about it. And Thomas..."
"What's wrong with Thomas?"
"He, well, he was there in class when Erica broke
down. I think it really got to him. I guess he kind of
likes her and the poor kid just can't imagine why anyone would hurt
her. Or any girl. How do I explain that to my son?"
Andrew had no answers. He patted Jonah's back when the man
hunched over, burying his face in his hands and rubbing at his eyes.
When they both looked up, Tina was standing before them. "Brigid
is ready," she told them before ducking into her office and closing the
Andrew looked after the nurse with concern then followed Jonah as he
Brigid's room to begin the questioning. The fact that it had
didn't take the sting out of the initial interview for Andrew. He
suspected it didn't for Jonah, either.
"Did anyone find him?" Brigid asked immediately.
Jonah shook his head. "Five of them are still out there looking,
"I... I don't know where he came from. I didn't see anyone when I
got out of my car. Maybe... maybe he was hiding in the
bushes. I'd meant to cut them back but just hadn't gotten around
to..." The woman's voice drifted off.
"Brigid, I know it's hard to talk about... especially so soon... but
can you please tell us what happened?" Andrew questioned gently.
"I'd gotten off my shift at 11:00. Got home around 11:15.
I'd just gotten the door unlocked when I heard something. Like a
twig snap. I turned around to see and... and he was behind me on
"Can you tell us what he looked like?" Jonah asked.
"No. He was wearing one of those masks. The knit ones guys
wear when it's really cold." Brigid began to cry.
Andrew saw a look of defeat cross Jonah's face but he smiled bravely at
the young woman. "You're doing so well, Brigid," he assured.
"I... I ran into the house and tried to slam the door but he forced his
way in and... and I told Tina about everything he did. Do I have
back over all of that? I don't think I can... again."
her head furiously.
Andrew looked to Jonah, hoping they wouldn't need to press for details.
In the face of the woman's anguish, Jonah relented. "How about if
we look at Tina's notes and then if we need to follow-up, we'll let you
Brigid nodded, visibly relieved.
"But if there's anything you really think we should
know, something that could help us, we'd appreciate it if you would,"
the chief continued. "Anything at all that you think might help
us ID this guy or tie him to what he did to you when we have a
Brigid nodded. "When he was done... he pulled off one of my
gloves and I saw him stuff it in his pocket. Then he just
left. As soon as I could, I ran out of the house... to
see where he went. I saw him running down the alley across the
street, like I told you earlier. I knew I couldn't catch up with
him so that's when I went
back to the house to call 911. I... I thought I was safe. I
wasn't out walking at night. I was just going into my
house! He hadn't gotten into anyone's house before!" she cried.
Andrew gently set his hand on one of hers. "Brigid, is there a
friend you could stay with?"
"I just want to stay here. Tina said I could go home with her
when her shift ends. B-but what if he's waiting outside her
door?" Brigid's panicked gaze flew from Andrew to Jonah.
"We'll wait here with you. And then we'll follow you both to her
place and walk you right up the door. Even search the place if
you want. How about that?" Andrew offered.
"Okay," Brigid agreed. "Could I just take a nap now?"
"Of course," Jonah answered. "We'll just go visit with
Tina. And when she's ready, all three of us will come back for
The woman nodded.
Andrew squeezed her hand and smiled gently at her before following
Jonah into the hall. He was surprised when the man walked into
the chapel. Once inside the empty room, Jonah didn't take a seat
in a pew or kneel down at the front. Instead, he walked to the
hardwood wall at the back and began pummeling it. Andrew rushed
to him and pulled him away.
"Jonah, stop it. You're going to hurt yourself. Sit down,
talk to me," Andrew soothed.
"The God damn monster," he fumed as he threw himself into a pew.
"When I find him, I'll kill him, Andrew. Happily."
"You won't, Jonah. You can't. Because then you'd wind up in
jail and these people need you."
"They do. And I should have been out there tonight."
"Jonah, I thought the same thing. But unless we happened to be at
Brigid's... it all would have turned out the same."
"He's not afraid, Andrew. He's getting more daring. And
we're no better off than where we started as far as tracking him down."
Andrew sunk back into the pew. He didn't know what to say about
that. It was true.
Determined, despite his creeping pessimism, Jonah thought back to what
he'd seen upon first entering Brigid's home. "I saw a Byler U.
banner when I was at Brigid's. That means 5 of
the 6 have ties to the college. That's not saying much... most
people here do. It's a college town. But maybe we should
again. Gus and Simon spoke and left some materials there
Wednesday but maybe..."
"We'll do that," Andrew promised, grasping at anything Jonah could find
meaning in doing.
Jonah sighed. "Let's go find Tina."
Andrew pat his partner on the back then followed him out of the chapel,
turning back for just a moment to pray.
time Tina was off and she and
Brigid were safely tucked away in her house, it was after 9:00.
Once they'd checked with Gus and Simon to learn about the evidence
collected at Brigid's home, Andrew and Jonah made their way to the
university and visited with the security
staff there. But like Gus and Simon before them, they didn't turn
up any complaints or troubling behavior directed at female
students. They stuck around in the commons through lunch, waiting
to see if anyone would approach them, needing to talk. A few
students expressed concern but none had any clues to offer or
crimes to report.
The entire time, Andrew watched Jonah carefully. Once they were
back at the station and poring over files, he caught the man rubbing at
his chest and grimacing. However, when Andrew voiced concern,
Jonah had only blamed it on coffee-induced heart burn.
When Gus and Simon resumed their shift at 2:00, Andrew turned to Jonah.
"Jonah, Gus and Simon are back. And it's the middle of the
day. You've already worked through one complete shift and then
some. Maybe you should go home for a while," he prodded.
"Only if you do," Jonah responded, fully expecting Andrew wouldn't
accept the offer.
Andrew wasn't inclined to stop working. But he knew Jonah needed
a break. And he recognized he did, too. "I think I will,"
he responded, gathering up his coat and gloves. "Come on. I
need a ride back, remember. I was dropped off at Brigid's."
Surprised, Jonah gathered up his own things. "Call if anything
comes up. No matter what," he told Gus and Simon as he passed
"Sure thing, chief," Gus promised.
"We'll see you tonight after the game," Andrew called to the other two
officers as he and Jonah exited
Once they were in Jonah's car, he turned to Andrew. "I
didn't really think you'd go home."
"I need to see my friends. You need to see your wife and kids,"
Andrew responded with a slight smile.
Jonah nodded, too tired to argue, and drove off.
Unbeknownst to Jonah, Andrew
in the car shortly after being dropped off at Daffodil Lane. He
remained in the passenger seat, watching
the man, praying that he would keep alert on the road even as he grew
increasingly tired. More
than that, Andrew willed Jonah to keep heading to his house and not
back to the station. To Jonah's credit, when he eventually parked
it was outside his own home. Nancy ran out to greet her husband
in the front yard, taking his arm as they walked into the house
together. The unseen angel knew that his presence was no longer
needed and returned, once again, to the house.
To Andrew's surprise, it was empty. At least, that's what it
like initially. The angel could make out vague noises in the
basement. He walked down the stairs and found Vincent assembling
a book shelf.
"Andrew." Vincent was alarmed when he looked up at
Andrew. He sensed a great restlessness in him; the opposite of
the calm, happy angel of the night before. "How are you?" he
Andrew sighed and settled onto a bench. "Fine. Where's
"Adam thought a ride would do them good. They've all been gone
since lunch. I'm sure they'll return soon. They were
greatly saddened when they awoke to find you gone and learned why,"
Andrew nodded, already knowing as much. "I'm surprised you didn't
"I felt it best someone be here. If you returned. And I
wanted to keep busy. We are at last caught up on our furniture
needs Below. Here there are still a few things to be done.
And the work... I've found it therapeutic." Vincent peered at the
angel, hoping he would take the hint.
Andrew picked up a hammer, shifting it from one hand to the
other. "It is, isn't it?"
Vincent waved to a piece of furniture tilted against the wall.
"Monica found that daybed frame at a garage sale earlier. The
wood is beautiful but could do with a good sanding. Would you
like to work on that? I would myself but the work is messy and
best done outdoors. I could help you carry it upstairs. I'm
sure you'd have no difficulty getting it into the yard."
The idea appealed very much to Andrew. "I'd like that.
Thanks, Vincent. I'll go change into something more work
appropriate and be right back." He turned and made it halfway up
the stairs before looking back down at Vincent. "Thanks for being
here. For watching over them. I felt much better knowing
you were with them when I was on the job and even... even when I was
"You're most welcome but Andrew, you must know... you watch over them,
as well. I know your concern about not being able to protect them
physically. But what you have done... it is more. Your love
has so often acted as a buffer between my sometimes fragile Psyche and
the world. It has brought joy to my sister in difficult
times. Your love has strengthened each of your friends and your
attention and your care when things have gone wrong... it soothes our
wounds. I see these things and I remember them. They do, as
Andrew nodded, needing some time for the words to sink in, and trotted
up the remaining steps.
"Oh boy..." JenniAnn murmured as
turned into the driveway.
"What in the name of Doc Hock does he think he's doing?" Rose cried.
Monica slammed on the breaks of the caddy, causing Tess to cringe, when
it became apparent the
two women were going to bolt from the car. While she wasn't sure
what Rose was talking about, the sight of
Andrew huffing and puffing and dragging a bed out the front door was
more than a little alarming.
Adam, following Monica in the van carrying Yva, Sir Sven, C.J., Lady
Beth, Logan, Catherine, and Jacob, stopped the vehicle and rushed
out. He outpaced Rose and JenniAnn and reached Andrew first,
taking hold of the bed and helping settle it into the yard.
"Buddy, what are you doing?"
"I want to sand this. It'll make less mess outside. And
maybe... if he's around... he'll see me."
Hearing the answer, Rose and JenniAnn took a meaning from it that
escaped Adam. It seemed they'd happened upon yet another of
Andrew's security-driven plots.
"Thanks." Andrew smiled at Adam, hugged the two women, then began
sanding the bed frame. As he did, the others moved out of the
"Andrew, baby, you haven't slept since yesterday morning. Don't
you think maybe you should..." Tess quieted when she caught Adam
shaking his head and mouthing "Let him keep going." "Well, I'm
going to go get you some ginger ale to sip on while you work."
"Thanks, Tess." Andrew became aware then that all of his friends
had arrived. He once again paused to greet them.
"How are you doing, Andrewkins?" Yva checked.
"I'm fine. I just feel... restless, you know? I think if I
just work with my hands for a while..." He forced a smile.
"All right. Well, while you do that maybe the rest of us will get
some of this yard work done. Keep you company."
"I like that idea," C.J. agreed. "This is the perfect day for
"I like that idea, too, thanks." Andrew hugged them all, grateful
they seemed to understand that he couldn't discuss what had transpired
in the last few hours yet desperately wanted to be surrounded by
And so they all settled down to assorted tasks, keeping an eye on their
friend the entire time.
Long since having finished caring
the mums, Rose and Monica peered out the front window. Andrew
was still hard at work on the daybed. He'd finished sanding it
some time ago but had moved onto repairing some structural
damage. The crowd in the yard had dispersed but they took turns
keeping Andrew company. Only Lulu remained a constant, curled up
in a lawn chair and never taking her eyes off her boy. Yva and
JenniAnn re-entered the house looking
Tess approached them.
"He needs to come in, Tess," Yva insisted. "It's getting pretty
cold. And he hasn't taken a break for more than a minute since he
"He insists he's fine. Even that he's enjoying himself. He
smiles as he says it but... his eyes don't," JenniAnn added.
Tess turned to Rose and Monica who were awaiting their shift. "Do
you babies want to go get him or should
I? I agree that it's time he stops. That football game is
hour and he'll want to wash up. We can use that to get him in."
"We'll get him," Monica offered. "Come on, Rose."
The two stepped onto the porch. They studied the angel of death
a few moments. His face was red from the cold wind and
he occasionally shivered. They exchanged worried glances and
"Andrew," Rose called as she and Monica drew near. "The game's in
hour. Why don't you come in?"
"Just five more minutes."
Rose flinched when she set her hand on Andrew's back and felt heat
radiating from him and tenseness. "Andrew, we'll help you pull it
into the shed. You can finish later."
Monica stared at his hands which continued to grasp the
hammer. They'd become chapped in the brisk air and she worried
about what his palms looked like. In one swift movement, she took
from him, tossed it on the ground, and examined his hands.
"Andrew..." she murmured.
Rose winced when she saw a few raised calluses. She opted to try
and reach him with humor. "If JenniAnn sees
your hands bloodied up again, we're going to have to commit
her. So for that reason alone... you're done."
Andrew smiled sheepishly. "Okay. We definitely don't want
that. And we don't need to move the bed. I'll just throw a
tarp over it." He grabbed one from
the shed and with the women's help, tucked it around the frame of the
"Andrew, how are you doing?" Monica asked.
"I feel better. I'm sorry if that was an alarming scene to come
upon but I just need to... do something." Andrew studied his
just couldn't sit still, let alone lay still and rest."
"It's all right," Rose assured. "But we don't want you running
yourself ragged. So come inside for a bit, wash up. We made
cookies for during the game. But I'm sure you can sample some
Andrew smiled. "What kind?"
Rose counted off on her fingers. "There are peanut butter, sugar,
chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and... mocha coconut macaroon or
something like that."
Andrew turned to Monica knowingly.
"It's a new recipe I'm trying," she explained. "I'd really love
to get your opinion on them."
Andrew scooped Lulu up. "Cookies sound great."
Smiling with relief, Rose and Monica led the angel of death back inside.
When they entered the house, Andrew did his best to bestow a calm smile
on all his friends before getting ready for the night ahead.
Despite some talk on the news about
possible low turn out due to fear, West Hollow High's field was
brimming with fans of the local team and their opponents. Near
center field Monica had set up her informational table about the center
and the Dyelanders and Webb family were crammed into the three bleacher
rows behind it. Despite the ever present reminder of the
unpleasant reason for their presence there, Andrew and Jonah soon
joined the rest of the crowd in getting caught up in the game and
enjoying the culinary wonder of hot dogs, chili, french fries, and the
wide assortment of cookies.
After a particularly exciting play, JenniAnn tugged on Adam's sleeve.
"Yeah? Need some explanation?" he asked.
She shook her head. "Oh no. I mean I have no clue what just
happened. Don't really care. But I think I finally get
while people like
sports. At least a little. Maybe for the same reason we
read books. For just a bit... you're in another world.
Everything else slides to the back of your mind." She pointed to
Andrew who was laughing and cheering alongside Jonah.
Adam smiled. "I'm glad we're here. Not just for him but
also for us after that incident with the bed. It's good to see
him like this as opposed to... that."
"Even if only for an hour or two." JenniAnn's smile
wavered. They all knew that as soon as the game was over, Andrew
would redirect all his attention to a long night of patrolling.
When half time rolled around, Andrew and Jonah made their way to the
Jonah stepped to the microphone first. "Good evening,
everyone. Thank you to Coach Bradley and Coach Davis for agreeing
to let me say a few words. First, I think it's great that we
could all come out tonight to show our support for our teams.
Let's have a round of applause for the players."
After thunderous clapping and hooting, Jonah resumed. "As your
chief of police, it is my honor to serve and protect with two great
men: Officers Gus Lewis and Simon Grant who are out there right now,
patrolling the streets. In recent weeks, we've welcomed Officer
Andrew du Lac to our fold. I'd like to now pass this on to him
because, let's face it, he's nicer to look at."
As the crowd chuckled, Andrew moved towards the microphone, clapping
his hand over it. "You didn't tell me you were gonna say that!"
Jonah shrugged, smiling. "We all needed a laugh. And it's
true. My own daughter told me as much."
Shaking his head, Andrew returned Jonah's smile then faced the
crowd. "Thank you, Officer Webb, for that... very special
introduction." He paused for a few moments as the crowd snickered
then turned to Jonah. "In my time with the department, I have
greatly impressed by you, Officer Webb, and our fellow officers and by
and the strength in this town. Despite the reason I was brought
here, that's what I'll remember most when I leave West Hollow."
smiled out at the crowd then drew in a deep breath, steadying
himself. "I'm sure you've all heard what happened last
night. We're as disappointed and saddened as you
all are that our community continues to be victimized. That our
young women don't feel safe. That parents have to fear for their
children. But the person behind these assaults will not keep us
in fear. The
other officers and myself... we remain committed to finding him.
And we will. But we need your help. We're asking again that
if you have any information, please come forward. And we also ask
that you watch over each other. Be good to each other.
These are trying times but they are not insurmountable times.
Here's something I know: goodness always overcomes
evil. Light will come from darkness. The streets of West
Hollow will be safe again. Thank you."
As Andrew stepped away from the podium, the crowd again broke out into
cheers as the officers left the field... neither realizing that the man
they were in search of was in their presence at that moment.
While he looked on smugly, silently taunting the officers, the seeds of
his downfall were planted.
Andrew was standing beside Monica,
watching the third quarter unfold when he felt someone collide with
him. He was surprised to look up and find Isobel and Abby Martin
running towards him and then to look down and find Erica clinging to
"Erica? Erica, what's wrong?" Andrew asked, setting a hand on her
"We were standing in line at the concessions stand and I turned to ask
what she wanted and she was just shaking and..." Isobel shook her
head. "Erica, sweetheart, talk to us."
"He's here," she murmured.
Andrew's heart leapt into his throat. He looked up at Jonah who
was seated in the stands with his family. In a flash, the other
officer was at his side.
Gently, Andrew pulled Erica away from him, noticing she was still
shaking. Even though she was wearing a coat, he yanked his own
off and wrapped it around the girl. "Where did you see him?"
"He... he was in front of us in the concessions line. The lady
told him he'd have to wait fifteen minutes for fries and... and... he
called her the B word and he sounded exactly like... I know it's
Isobel gasped and clasped Jonah's coat sleeve. "Jonah, that was
Ted Irvington in front of us," she whispered.
"The mayor's son?" Jonah questioned, aghast.
"Did you see where he was sitting?"
"About five rows back on the forty yard line, east side of the field."
"Where are you three seated? Is Mark with you?" Andrew asked.
Isobel shook her head. "He had to visit a sick member of the
"Why don't the three stay here?" Monica offered, smiling
warmly at Erica. "We'll make room."
JenniAnn and Yva stepped down from the bleachers and approached
Erica. "How about you come sit by JenniAnn and me?" Yva offered.
Erica still had a hold of Andrew's arm and seemed unwilling to let go.
"I need to go, okay? But we'll talk as soon as possible," he
Erica relinquished her hold, nodded, and followed JenniAnn and Yva back
to the bleachers with
Isobel and Abby filing after her.
Andrew and Jonah headed towards the forty yard line, the latter on his
cell phone as they walked. They kept as far away from the crowd
as possible to avoid being overheard.
"Gus, I need you to start working on a warrant for the Irvington
mansion and guest house. Do not leave off the guest house.
Put the garage in there, too. Yes, that's right. List off
all the items that were stolen during the rapes. The black
hoodie, black tennis shoes, etc. As soon as you finish it get
over here to the field. And bring the warrant with you. I
saw Judge Penn here."
As Jonah conveyed his request, Andrew spoke into his own phone.
He alerted the
three security experts who were spread throughout the field and
directed them to the forty yard line.
Jonah slid his phone back into his pocket. "That's
him." He pointed to a dark haired man of about 25 wearing a red
hoodie and jeans. He was oblivious as they stood only a dozen
yards away. When the two officers spotted the three security
guards, they moved in.
Jonah walked up the bleachers. "Ted, could I please have a few
words with you?" he requested.
"Sure," the man agreed, rolling his eyes as his friends started with a
chorus of "Oooh... someone's in trouble."
Jonah gripped his sleeve and steered the man away from the
bleachers. "Ted, where were you on the night of October 1st?"
Ted scoffed. "Dude, that was practically a month ago. How
the hell should I know? Listen, if you think I've done something
then you can call my father's lawyer and I'm sure we can work out some
sort of agreement over the speeding or the parking violation or
whatever this is."
"How about October 5th? Or the 13th? The 20th? Last
Sunday? Tuesday? How about last night?" Jonah pressed, eyes
Andrew drew closer.
The color began to drain from Ted's face. "Man, I don't know what
you're talking about," he answered defiantly. "Let me go."
He pulled away and set off running.
The five were immediately in pursuit. They chased the suspect
parking lot and down the road leading away from it. He was much
faster than either of the two officers who were losing speed as he
continued to run. But two of the security guards had dived into
their cars and in no time had the man trapped between their cars and
school's storage unit.
When Andrew and Jonah caught up, the latter grabbed Ted and pushed him
against the wall of the building.
"Why'd you do it?" he demanded. "How could you do it?"
"Why does anyone do anything? And what kind of girl is out by
herself in the middle of the night? Only trash," Ted
Andrew glared at the man, utterly revolted and enraged. But
before he could respond, he saw Jonah's right hand form a fist.
The angel approached and set his hand on Jonah's clenched one.
"Jonah, no. He's not worth it. He's
not worth losing your job."
"He deserves to suffer. Like those girls suffered.
Just like my... just like my mother suffered." Tears were pouring
down Jonah's face and his grip on Ted was tightening as was his fist
which he pulled away from Andrew.
The truth hit Andrew full force. Jonah's intensely personal grief
over the rapes, his fear of someone snapping and becoming a rapist, his
reticence when it came to his parents... it all made sense. Jonah
was a child of
rape. And if he lashed out at Ted, it would only verify the man's
fear that there was something deeply dangerous and uncontrollable
inside of him. Andrew couldn't let Jonah believe that.
The angel set his hand on Jonah's shoulder. "Jonah, let
me cuff him."
Jonah adamantly shook his head. His fist loosened but only so he
could reach for his baton.
"He's not your father, Jonah," Andrew cried.
The police officer froze, his baton falling to the ground, but he kept
Ted pinned to the wall.
Andrew moved between the two, slapping cuffs on Ted, and
delivering his rights. "You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one
will be appointed for you."
Jonah stepped away, dazed, as Andrew led Ted away.
They had almost reached the cruiser when Andrew heard one of
the Texans gasp. A moment later shouts rose up.
"The chief's down."
At that moment, Simon and Gus pulled up. Andrew handed Ted off to
them then hurried back to Jonah and the three guards who were hovering
around him. The police officer was curled up on the ground,
gasping for breath and clutching at his chest.
"Burt, run back into the field and get Nancy and the kids.
They're sitting by center field, where that table's set up. If
ambulance gets here first, I'll go with Jonah and you bring them to the
hospital." he directed,
kneeling beside the fallen officer. "Larry, Steve, run down the
road and wave
the ambulance over. I'll stay with Jonah."
Once the three men had run off, golden light began to radiate from
Jonah stared at him, wide-eyed.
Andrew smiled. "It turns out I was right. There are
angels. And there is a God. And many years ago, God sent an
angel to Ben in Vietnam. Just like he told you. That was
me, Jonah. I'm an angel
of death. And I was sent to Ben that night to help prepare him if
he lost his life on that battlefield."
"I'm... I'm dying?"
"I don't know that yet, Jonah. But I do know this: God loves
So much. He is your Father. All your life you've worried
that you carried inside yourself some part of the man who raped your
mother. But that's not who you are, Jonah. It's never
been. You are God's beloved child. And He is so proud of
you. Proud of the boy you were, the man you became. The
family you raised and loved. Your devotion to your
community. When He looks at you, that's what He sees. And
that's what He wants you to see."
"B-but my mother..." Jonah choked out. "She saw... him."
Tears sprang to Andrew's eyes. "She loved you, Jonah. But
times were different back then. She wasn't treated well.
She didn't receive the help and support she needed... help and support
she deserved. And eventually... eventually she lost her way but
God found her. And He holds her to Him now and forever."
Jonah tried to speak but no words came.
"I can hear you," Andrew assured. "I'll give your love to Nancy
and the kids. I promise... And no. No, Jonah.
angry at you for not being faithful or for being angry at Him. He
understands you. He knows how your mother was cast out of her
church when her pregnancy was found out. The injustice and
cruelty of that... it wasn't lost on Him. And He understands that
experiencing that changed how she viewed Him. And then how you
did. But He was never far from either of you. You were and
are still His beloved children."
Tears streaked down Jonah's cheeks. He gripped the angel's hand
"No, death isn't
scary," Andrew assured. "I promise you that." He looked up,
sirens approaching. "Jonah, the ambulance is coming so I'm going
to need to step away for a little while in a moment. But there's
something you need to know and I need you to remember it: no matter
what happens... when you open your eyes... there will be life and there
will be love and God will be with you." Andrew squeezed the man's
hand then stepped away as Nancy came running towards them, followed
only a moment later by EMTs.
"I'll follow with the kids," Andrew shouted as Jonah was lifted into
the ambulance with his wife at his side. He wrapped the three
weeping children in his arms then led them to the cruiser. After
ensuring they were buckled up, Andrew started after the ambulance,
praying for Jonah the entire time.
The hospital waiting room was
packed. Along with the Webbs, the Martin family was there, Ben
and Regina Hendricks, and Andrew's friends. As they all joined
together in prayer, it was difficult for the latter group not to think
of the last time they'd been huddled together in a hospital waiting
room. Mimicking that previous time, Andrew was not with
them. While they supported and tended Jonah's family, they
wondered if the angel of death was still on earth or not. They
knew that answer would
reveal Jonah's fate.
Across town, Simon and Gus had
upon the horrified mayor's mansion with a search warrant.
While rifling through Ted's bedroom they found a box.
Inside they discovered a blue scarf, a knit hat, a charm bracelet, a
heart-shaped necklace, a leather glove, and a small ring.
Back at the hospital, Andrew was standing to the side of the operating
table as Jonah's life hung in the balance. Surgeons and nurses
hurried around him, trying to repair his heart as the monitor screeched.
Glancing at his pocket watch, Andrew reached over and took Jonah's hand
Saturday, October 30th, 2010
Jonah's first sensation upon waking
that someone was holding his hand.
"Andrew?" he mumbled, wondering why his throat was so dry.
"No, it's me, son," Ben greeted, squeezing his hand then holding a
glass of water up to his lips. "Andrew left about an hour ago to
take his friends home. And Regina finally convinced Nancy and the
kids to go get some breakfast. You certainly gave us all a scare."
"He's an angel."
Ben eyed his surrogate son curiously. "Who is?"
"He certainly is. The way he just took over when you collapsed
and then got the kids here. Although we all
thought it was very strange when he disappeared while you were in
surgery. He didn't show back up until after the doctor was out to
tell us you were on the mend."
"No, I mean he's an actual angel," Jonah insisted. "I think... I
think he was with me
during the surgery. He talked to me and held my hand. He
talked about God a lot."
Ben's mind flashed back to his initial meeting with the police officer
and his gut-deep feeling that he'd seen him before. Then his mind
traveled further back, to the battlefield and his own angel.
"He told me he was there... with you. In Vietnam. And he...
h-he told me God loved me. That I was His son. No
matter... no matter how I was conceived." The tears again began
to trail down Jonah's cheeks.
"I believe you, Jonah. And I've always believed what Andrew...
what our angel... told you." Ben smiled and carefully embraced
the man he loved as his own son.
In the hallway where she was waiting for Pastor Mark, Erica closed
her eyes and leaned heavily against the wall as she heard Ben's words.
Andrew returned to the hospital
after 9:00 AM. He was overjoyed to walk into Jonah's room and
find Nancy perched on the bed beside him, feeding him Jello.
"Well, hello there, partner!" Jonah greeted.
Andrew beamed at the man. "Good morning, Jonah. I'm very
glad to see you."
"I'm glad to see you. I was afraid that after last night you
might find a nice cloud to retire to with a harp or something."
Andrew looked at Nancy, wondering what she could possibly make of such
She laughed, hugging Jonah to her. "He already told me who you
are. I just... I can't believe it... and yet... I do."
"You never know when we might show up," Andrew responded with a
smile. The couple stared at him as if they expected him to ascend
through the ceiling or fly out the window at any moment. "I'm
still just Andrew, you know," he reminded.
Jonah chuckled. "All right then. So how are you this
"Very good. And very eager to hear about how you're doing.
So how are you feeling, Jonah?"
"Like I've been hit by a truck. But alive. And
relieved. Gus stopped by. He said they found the girls'
things. So it's pretty well guaranteed that Ted will be going
away for a very long, long time."
"And he said Chad Irvington was completely shocked."
"I believe he was," Andrew agreed. "We may have had our issues
with the man but I don't think he covered up for his son. I don't
think he knew anything."
"Have you... talked to any of the girls?"
Andrew nodded. "All of them. Except Erica. When I
called Isobel said she was somewhere around here with Mark. I was
hoping I'd run into her later."
"I'm glad it's over. But that means... you'll be leaving.
And it's pretty obvious I can't continue. I'd be more of a
liability than anything now." Jonah frowned and kissed his wife's
hair when she cuddled near to him, knowing how much his job meant to
him. "We had a hard enough time with three guys. If there's
only Gus and Simon..."
"You know, some of those days at the station I had some pretty involved
chats with Jillian," Andrew recalled fondly. "I think with a
little encouragement, she'd
join the force."
Jonah did a double-take. "She's interested? She never once
said anything to me about it."
"Well, she told me the West
police force had been all male for
as long as anyone could remember."
"And that's not a tradition we need to cling to. Give me the
phone, I'll call her up." Jonah leaned up, reaching for the phone
but Nancy delicately pushed him back to the bed.
Andrew chuckled. "I think it can wait at least a few days until
you're out of here. But... as it happens I do have someone with
me who would like to talk to you about *your* future employment."
Smiling widely, Andrew stepped into the hall and returned with Monica.
"Hullo, Officer Webb. Mrs. Webb," she greeted.
"Are you..." Jonah flapped the arm that was not hooked to any
"Ah, no. I'm not a bird."
Nancy giggled. "I believe my husband wants to know if you're an
"Ah, well, yes, that I am. But more to the point, I'm going to be
the director of the counseling center and shelter that we've all been
working on. At least for a little while. But our
"And that would be..." Jonah pointed to the ceiling.
Andrew kept laughing, enjoying seeing Jonah strive to accept everything
that was being thrown at him.
"God, yes. He felt that it may be beneficial if the permanent
directors had some experience with law enforcement. As I'm sure
you know, one of the most nerve-wracking things victims of rape and
domestic violence face is going to the police. It might be
helpful to have someone who was familiar with the procedures guide them
through it," Monica explained.
"Did you say 'directors' earlier? With a S? Plural?" Jonah
"I did. The Father also mentioned that there's a psychologist
among us who may have been considering re-entering the work
force." Monica smiled at Nancy.
"I... I had," she confessed. "I hadn't mentioned it to anyone yet
"He heard you," Monica assured.
As Monica and the Webbs continued to make plans for the center and
their futures with it, Andrew thanked the Father for allowing Jonah to
remain with the family and community who needed him.
Andrew and Monica left the
around noon when the nurses ordered them out so Jonah could rest.
They returned to Daffodil Lane where lunch and the company of friends
After finishing his meal, Andrew went to the front yard and lifted
the tarp off the bed frame. He bowed his head when he remembered
how much he'd worried his friends by slaving over it. He
considered hauling it into the shed and leaving it. Maybe he'd
return some other time to finish it. But then he hated to leave a
While he was still pondering his next move, Tess came up behind him.
"What are you thinking, Angel Boy?"
"Hi, Tess. Just trying to decide what to do with this. I
feel like I should finish it but then maybe I should just go back
inside and spend time with everyone. I know I had everyone a
little on edge yesterday."
"You did. But I think we all might cope all right with your
handyman efforts if you just restricted yourself to staining it or
carving it and not, well, I don't know, attacking it."
Andrew chuckled. "It was really that bad, huh?"
"Baby, we thought you were going to sand it to the ground and then just
"I won't dig up the yard, I promise you that. But I was
thinking... maybe a dove here. And then some stars around
it." He waved his hand over the back of the bed. "And then
smaller stars all along the tops of the frame."
"I think that sounds beautiful. And it's such a nice day, maybe
we'll all just sit out in the yard and join you."
"I like that plan, a lot."
Tess hugged him tightly then returned to the house to gather the others.
"All right... 'If you were
deserted island and your cell phone only had enough battery for one
call... who would you call?'" JenniAnn asked, peering up from the book
of questions she was holding. She sat on one of the porch steps
and looked out at
the others who were spread around the yard.
"The Coast Guard, of course," Adam answered.
"Without a cell phone tower nearby, I doubt the phone would have any
signal at all," Sir Sven pointed out.
JenniAnn considered that. "Good point. Stupid
question. So next... 'Name one person whose style you truly
admire.' So does that mean that I admire and want to
emulate? Or just enjoy looking at?"
"The first. Which means Andrew is not your answer," Yva
"Well, then I'd say a blend between Monica and a hippie," JenniAnn
Monica looked up, surprised to hear her name in such a context.
"Thank you, JenniAnn. That's very kind. As for myself, I've
always admired how daring Tess is with bright colors."
Tess hugged her.
"Humphrey Bogart for me. That man knew how to wear a suit," Adam
"My horses. Style's more than clothes to me," C.J.
explained. "It's grace and the way you carry yourself."
"Jedis. They have cool cloaks," Logan mused.
Rose shrugged. "I don't know. I just admire people who wear
what feels comfortable to them, even if it's not in style."
"Lumberjacks, home repair store employees," Andrew joked as he wiped
some sawdust out of a star.
"They do have excellent senses of style," JenniAnn agreed, only
half-joking herself. "Anyone else? No? Next
one? Let's see... 'If you could have one trait of any
animal...'" She stopped speaking when Andrew's department cell
phone began to ring.
"This is Officer du Lac," he greeted. "Hi Isobel. Oh.
Okay. Sure. I'll come right over. No, no. You
don't need to come out here. I'm sure. All right. See
you in a little bit." He flipped the phone closed then looked to
his friends. "Erica's asked to see me. So I think I need to
go over there."
They could all tell he was nervous despite her reaching out to
him the night before.
"Maybe I should change into my uniform?" he suggested.
"Andrew, I think you're fine to go as you are," Lady Beth
assured. "It might even be better. I don't think this
sounds like official police business."
"Okay. Well, I'll probably be back in a little while."
Andrew set his awl down and brushed some dust off his jeans.
Nearest to him, Yva hugged him first. "We'll be thinking of you,
Andrewkins. I know you'll find the right things to say to her."
"I know Erica cares about you, Andrew," JenniAnn assured. "Just
because someone says something in a moment of pain, doesn't mean they
Andrew hugged her. "Thanks, Laja." He received hugs from
the others as he made his way to the van and set off for whatever
awaited him at the Martins'.
"Thank you for coming, Andrew," Isobel
greeted as she opened the front door for him. "Mark just got back
from the hospital. He told me Jonah's
already up and on his feet!"
Andrew smiled. "That's great! I was up there until
noon. They were keeping him pretty still but they said they might
let him walk today. I'm glad to hear it worked out."
Isobel's expression turned melancholy. "Mark also said that
Jonah told him you're leaving after the Halloween party tomorrow."
Andrew nodded. "I might stop back in now and again to help Monica
out when I can. But, yeah. It's time for me to move on."
"Then I'm especially glad we caught you when we did. I think
Erica needed to see you once more before you go."
"Are you sure? I really don't want to upset her."
"You won't, Andrew. But, first, there's something else you should
know. Mark's spoken to her parents. Well, at least he tried
to. They weren't particularly cooperative. But they also
didn't make any move to get Erica back. So... if we can get them
to relinquish... we'd like to adopt Erica. Money's a little tight
but I know we have enough love for two girls."
Overjoyed at the news, Andrew hugged the woman. "That's great,
just so great, Isobel." While his concerns for Jonah had been
laid to rest,
Andrew hadn't been able to let go of his worries for Erica.
However, he knew that if she was able to stay with the Martins, no
matter how he parted from her, she would be well taken care of.
"Thanks. Now we're praying everything works out. But I
won't keep you any longer." Isobel led Andrew up the stairs and
knocked on Erica's door. "Erica, Officer du Lac is here."
Andrew heard the girl's muffled voice call for him to come in.
When Isobel stepped aside, he entered and found the girl in much the
same position as when he'd left her three days before. "Hi there,
Erica. How are you doing?"
"Pretty good," she responded, waving him into a desk chair. "Mark
took me to see Officer Webb. It was good to see that he's doing
Andrew smiled. "I saw him this morning and I thought so,
too. You know, with everything that happened last night, I never
got to thank you. You really helped us. Without you we
might not have been able to arrest him. So thank you, Erica."
Erica shrugged. "I didn't do much. Just told you what I
heard. But I'm glad he's gone. Do you think... do you think
I'll have to testify?"
"I don't know, Erica. But if you do, I know you'll do a great
job. You've been so brave through this all and..."
"It wasn't very brave to yell at you. To say the things I did to
you. Mean things, terrible things." Erica began to tear up.
"I know you were hurt. And you were angry. And you had
every right to be both."
"I know but... when I first saw you... I felt drawn to you. I
liked you. And I looked at Yva and JenniAnn and I wanted to be
near you like they were. And then... then I met you. And we
talked in the loft and it wasn't just that I thought
you looked like an angel. There was something about you...
something that made me believe you really were one. And... and I
overheard Officer Webb and Mr. Hendricks talking. I didn't mean
to hear but I was passing through the hall while Mark was visiting with
a lady from church and I did. So then I
knew. And I always wanted to see an angel. Ever since I was
a little girl. But then once I did... I hurt you." The
tears poured down Erica's face. She scooted to the edge of the
cot and held her arms open. "I'm sorry, so so sorry."
Andrew immediately went to her and held her and sang the same lullaby
he sometimes did to Shelby and the other Tunnel children.
"'Tender shepherd, tender shepherd. Let me help you count your
sheep. One in the meadow, two in the garden, three in the
nursery. Fast asleep.'" After a few rounds, Erica calmed
down. "It's all right, Erica," he assured. "I'm just
glad... I didn't want to leave here thinking you were mad at me or that
I'd hurt you by not knowing the right thing to say."
Erica shook her head. "The more I thought about it... when
something happens that is so wrong... maybe there is no right thing to
say. But knowing God sent an angel to help us... even if you
couldn't stop everything..."
"Sometimes I really wish I could, Erica. But then people wouldn't
be free any more. And God wants His children to be free."
"I know. I see that now. And I see that you did everything
you could do." Erica hugged him. "Thanks, Officer du Lac."
"You know, why don't you stick with just calling me Andrew?" He
voice. "Angels don't really have last names. I picked
that one a few weeks ago."
Erica laughed. "Why?"
"I miss being a knight sometimes, I guess."
She looked at him, wide-eyed. "You're old enough to have been a
"Plenty old enough."
"Could you... do you think you could tell me about Heaven? Just
whatever you can tell me?"
Andrew nodded, his whole face lighting up. "Imagine the time you
felt the happiest and most loved." He
smiled when Erica closed her eyes. "Then try to imagine feeling
that times a thousand. A million even. I think we
get little glimpse of Heaven here on earth. Like in the first
smell of rain after a long dry spell. Or that feeling you get
when you watch the sunrise and every thing's quiet and seems new.
And for just that one moment, the world seems perfect. Heaven is
that moment. But it never ends."
Erica listened intently, soaking in the peace and love that can only
come from being in the presence of an angel.
As the sun set that evening, Andrew
put the last
stroke of wood stain onto the day bed. He stepped back and
admired his work.
"It's beautiful, Andrew," Monica complimented. "You've done a
wonderful job. Just as you have with this whole assignment."
Andrew hugged her. "Thanks. So where do you think you want
Monica frowned. "I'm afraid I miscalculated a bit. We
actually have enough beds for all the rooms. But I'm sure I can
think of something. Maybe..." She looked back to the house,
pondering where space remained.
"Do you think I could have it?"
"Well, of course. You fixed it. But isn't it a wee bit
small for you?"
Andrew chuckled. "By more than a 'wee bit.' But I have an
idea." He smiled as he checked the bed for any spots he'd
missed. "A girl shouldn't have to sleep on a cot in her own
"Erica?" Monica guessed.
Andrew nodded. "Do you think she'd like it?"
Monica beamed at him. "I think she'll love it, Andrew. When
did you want to bring it over?"
"It should dry overnight. So tomorrow morning."
"It's a lovely idea, Andrew. But now... now there are some other
inside who are rather anxiously awaiting your entrance. I
think they've got their hearts set on 'Spin-the-Bottle: Dyeland Style:
"Apparently JenniAnn and Yva went through and selected some holiday
appropriate songs. They said to assure you they avoided anything
gory or anti-death. Just lots of songs about spiders and moons
and bats and the night. And JenniAnn said to tell you not to
worry, she won't make you sing 'Moondance.' What do you suppose
she meant by that?"
Andrew laughed as they headed into the house. "I think you should
ask her for her views on that song."
The angel of death's jovial mood continued long into the evening as he
and his friends sang, dined, and spent time together.
Sunday, October 31st, 2010
A little after 3:00 on Halloween; a
hippie, an oversized stethoscope, a Victorian era couple, Amelia
Earhart, an Irish princess, a fairy godmother, Bogie, Luke Skywalker,
two black-and-white bestriped prisoners waited in the living room...
some with baited breath... staring at the door to a newly remodeled
Eventually, the knob spun and out stepped...
Sir Lancelot du Lac himself with his faithful steed... looking very
much like a basset hound.
"Wow..." Logan aka Luke exclaimed.
"I know, I know. It's a repeat. But I didn't have much time
to pick a new costume and when Jillian heard my last name she said I
had to dress up as Lancelot so..."
"I like it!" C.J. the stethoscope enthused.
"Me too. And it's not really the same costume as a few years ago,
either. It's less... clunky," a hippiefied JenniAnn mused.
"No armor. More like Lancelot on his day off."
"Yes," Yva agreed, straightening her exquisite hat. "I like this
version much better."
"Much more huggable," Rose agreed, lifting her aviator glasses to get a
The knight laughed when he saw Henry, who had stopped in earlier, and
Lady Beth. "I feel like I should go put my uniform back on and
haul you two to the station. Although I'm not sure for what
"Henry stole some candy earlier," Lady Beth tattled.
"Well, I don't think the trick-or-treaters will miss one bar!"
Adam grinned from beneath his fedora and pulled his pocket watch from
his trench coat. "I think we should let Henry's infraction slide
all get into the cars or we'll be late, especially since we're swinging
by the hospital. And if we're late... we'll regret it.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow," he mimicked.
The fairy godmother bopped him on the shoulder with her wand.
"Baby, are we going to have to listen to that voice the whole evening?"
"I could go change and go as Marlon Brando if you want, Tess," Adam
"Just get in the van, baby."
With that, the gang began to clear out. Andrew paused for a
moment at the mantel, taking his badge off it.
"What ya thinking?" JenniAnn asked as she passed him.
"This Halloween party will be my last official act as Officer du Lac,"
he answered with a melancholy smile. "I'll kinda miss it.
And everyone I met."
She squeezed his hand then walked with him out the door and to the van,
pausing briefly to assure the dogs they'd be back soon and then,
finally, would go home.
"Shotgun!" Rose called.
"Hairspy!" Lady Beth shouted.
Tess looked up to the clouds. "Dear Father in Heaven..."
C.J. was trying to extricate her wiry costume from some branches while
Logan batted at them with his light saber.
Andrew smiled as he took in the chaos, looking away only briefly when
JenniAnn hugged his arm. He noted her wistful smile. "Now
what are you thinking?" he asked.
"About that first night. And how different this all could have
been if you hadn't let us stay here. I'm so glad we had this time
together. So... thanks for not kicking me out."
"Thanks for trespassing," Andrew teased. Then he drew in a deep
breath. "Thanks, really," he added, his voice catching for a
moment as he looked fondly and lovingly out at the group.
Jonah laughed when he woke up from
nap and found Andrew, fully costumed and seated at his bedside.
"Psych ward's up a floor."
Andrew smiled. "You know I promised Jillian I'd dress up as
here I am. We're headed to the Halloween party at the high
school but first... I wanted to say good bye."
Jonah sat up. "Already?"
The angel nodded. "The Father has other work for me."
"So will I ever see you again?"
"I hope I can stop in, lend a hand at the center now and again. I
am the handyman there, after all."
Jonah smiled. "I'd like that. Andrew... before you go..."
"What is it, Jonah?"
"For how long did you know... about what happened to my mom... about
how I was conceived?"
"Only right before you had your heart attack. God tells us things
on a need-to-know basis. And it wasn't until then, when you
brought it up, that I needed to know. Because it wouldn't have
changed how I felt about you or how I acted around you. Because
what happened... it's not
who you are, Jonah. It never has been."
Jonah exhaled deeply. "I know that now. Thanks to
you. And to
Him." He tilted his chin upward, noticing the clock as he
did. "Hey, you better get going. Your troop of volunteers
are going to be disappointed if you're late. And they'll already
be disappointed enough as is if they try to call you and just get Gus
or Simon," he teased.
Andrew smiled. "All right. But now you'll promise me you'll
take care of yourself? I don't want to have to come back up here
the next time I find myself in West Hollow."
"Yes, sir," Jonah agreed.
"Good. Take care, Jonah. And remember... God loves you and
He's always there for you."
"I won't forget, Andrew."
"Try to get some more sleep."
Already feeling tired, Jonah nodded and drifted off.
When next Jonah awoke, the window
only darkness. He turned around to see Nancy and his children,
still costumed. "Hey, how was the party?"
"It was a lot of fun, daddy! And I got so much candy I needed to
use two bags!"
Jonah smiled at his youngest's joy. "That's great, Kristie.
Did you see Officer du Lac there?"
"He was dressed as a knight," Thomas explained. "And Erica was
dressed as an angel."
Jonah and Nancy exchanged small smiles upon noticing their son's blush.
"Officer du Lac was so cute," Megan added dreamily.
Jonah chuckled. "Is that so?"
"Not quite as cute as you, my dear, but nearly so," Nancy verified.
"He said he had to go. And he asked me to give this to
you." Thomas withdrew an item from his bag and handed it to his
Jonah reverently took it. "His badge," he whispered.
"He knew he needed to turn it into his chief, I suppose." Nancy
brushed at his hair, knowing he missed his friend.
Just as Jonah began to feel lonesome for his former partner, he heard a
tapping at the window.
Kristie gasped. "Daddy! Turn around! It's a white
Nancy helped Jonah to shift to his other side and altogether the family
admired the snow white dove cooing on the windowsill, a reminder that
they were never alone.
Epilogue... Fifteen Years Later
The young woman was beaming as she
exited her doctor's office. She was so lost in her joyful musings
that she barely noticed the man sitting in one of the chairs in the
hospital's main hallway. But as she passed him, something told
her to turn around. She gasped and began to study him. He
looked different and yet was undeniably him.
"Officer du Lac?" she called.
Startled upon hearing a name so long abandoned, Andrew looked up.
The woman smiled. "I mean... Andrew?"
The angel nodded. He stood, smiling, and held open his
arms. "Erica. It's been a long time."
Erica closed the distance between them and moved into his
embrace. "Too long. Wow. What are you doing here?"
"I had an assignment," he whispered. "I took an elderly lady Home
Heaven." He beamed but then looked at Erica with concern.
"What brings you here?"
Erica grinned. "Well... I was actually here to pray with one of
my congregants who is having surgery tomorrow. And I thought a
doctor's visit of my own was due, too."
Andrew raised an eye brow.
"I went to seminary about oh... ten years back. Now I'm the
assistant pastor alongside Mark."
"Erica, that's wonderful!" Andrew exclaimed, thrilled by the idea.
"Yep. Of course, Mark's probably going to need to do without an
assistant pastor for a little bit in a few months..."
Erica grinned and set her hands on her belly.
"Shhh... My husband doesn't know yet and I'd like to be the one
to tell him and you know how this little town is." Giggling,
Erica again hugged Andrew.
"A pastor, married, and... and... you know!" Andrew marveled. "A
lot's changed since I was last here."
"In many ways," Erica agreed. "And you..." She looked up at
him and tilted her head. "You look great but I have to admit that
when I passed you... at first I second-guessed myself. You
"Older?" Andrew guessed, amused by Erica's attempt at delicacy.
"Well, yeah... I suppose I just thought..." The woman
lowered her voice. "I guess I thought angels didn't age. A
while after you left Ben and Jonah told me about their encounters with
you. And how you looked the same both times so... This is a
little surprising." She took in the few silver hairs mixed in
the golden ones near his ears and the way the corners of his eyes
crinkled from behind his glasses.
"Usually we don't age, you're right about that. But me... well,
it's a long story."
"I hope a good one."
Andrew beamed. "A very good one. Maybe I can tell it to you
sometime. But, hey, I don't want to hold you up. You have a
husband to give some very important news to and..."
"Come with me!"
"Erica, that's really kind but this... it's kind of personal and..."
"Just trust me, Andrew. You'll want to come with me," Erica
Andrew chuckled. "Okay then. I won't argue with a pastor."
"Good! Now, come on!" Erica took the angel's hand in hers
and led him to where her car was parked.
During the ride, Andrew peppered Erica with questions about the people
he had come to know in West Hollow. He noticed she seemed oddly
quiet whenever he brought up members of the Webb family. He hoped
nothing had happened to them since his last visit to West Hollow during
the Christmas season of 2010.
Suddenly, Andrew recognized the path they were taking. He
remembered driving it many, many times all those years before.
"This is Daffodil Lane," he remarked.
"I thought we were going to see your husband."
"Yup." Erica's eyes shone with happiness but she wouldn't take
them off the road for even a second. She was afraid if she looked
at the angel, she'd let everything spill out.
Andrew felt a wave of nostalgia hit him as Erica parked and they
stepped out of the car. He noticed the spot where he'd fixed the
bed he'd eventually given her. He recognized the area where he'd
made an attempt to teach JenniAnn how to throw a football, the first of
countless futile tries in the years that would follow. He glanced
around the yard and remembered the football games they'd all enjoyed
there. He blushed as he recalled the litter of sports
equipment. He thought of all the love and care his friends had
put into the house and yard those fifteen years ago.
Erica let herself into the center and motioned for Andrew to follow.
"They're probably in the kitchen," she whispered. "It's nearly
Andrew pondered what 'they' she meant.
Once they'd entered the kitchen, the first person Andrew saw was a man
in a police uniform. He looked incredibly like Jonah but Andrew
knew that wasn't possible. This man looked much younger than his
former assignment would be.
The man turned at Erica's call. He smiled at her then noticed
Andrew. Speechless, he continued to stare.
Laughing, Erica approached and hugged him. "Pretty amazing, huh?"
The police officer nodded. "D-dad," he called.
"Mom... I think you better get out here."
Andrew's heart leapt. He stepped further into the kitchen,
setting a hand on Thomas Webb's shoulder as he passed him.
Just as Andrew came into view, Jonah and Nancy Webb stepped out of the
pantry. Like their son, they only stared for a few moments.
Finally, Jonah snapped out of his disbelief and hugged his former
"Andrew, it's really you!" he greeted.
"Really me," Andrew assured. "But I don't understand... I
mean I'm glad you're all still here but..." He turned to
Erica. "You said we were going to see your husband."
Erica beamed and held out her hand. "I should have properly
reintroduced myself earlier. I'm Pastor Erica Martin-Webb.
Thomas and I got married three years ago. So... this is their
grandbaby I'm carrying." She pointed to Jonah and Nancy then
waited to see who would be the first to respond to her news.
Thomas turned to his wife. "Wait... what?" He looked from
Erica's stomach back up to her eyes. "Really?"
"Very much really," Erica replied with joyful tears in her eyes.
Thomas pulled his wife into a bear hug. "A baby..." he
After the two broke apart, Jonah and Nancy moved in to embrace the
happy couple. Andrew looked on, letting all the joy of the scene
"Well, now this calls for a celebratory lunch!" Jonah declared.
"And you," he pointed to Andrew, "are joining us."
"Oh, Jonah, thank you." Andrew smiled and shook his head.
"But I really think your family should enjoy this moment
together. It was great to see you all and congratulations to
"Officer du Lac, you're being ordered to join us for lunch," Jonah
insisted with the impish smile Andrew remembered so well.
The angel of death chuckled. "All right. I won't argue with
my chief. I'll stay."
"Erica, Thomas, why don't you give Andrew a tour while we finish
lunch?" Nancy suggested. "Show him around his old digs."
The young couple nodded enthusiastically and Andrew laughed as he was
practically dragged out of the kitchen by the eager young pastor and
her beaming husband.
After lunch, Thomas returned to the
station. Jonah and Nancy had a new client to settle in and so
Erica and Andrew found themselves sitting alone on the center's porch.
Andrew sighed contentedly. "Erica, I'm so glad I ran into
you. I can't tell you how great it's been to see how happy you
are. And how healthy Jonah is. When I left... I really
believed things were improving for both of you. I trusted the
Father when He told me as much. But to see it..." He
squeezed her hand. "It's been great."
"I'm glad, too. I always hoped you'd come back. So that you
could see... I know you were worried about me. After a while, I
begged Jonah to tell me as much as he could about you. And I
realized all the ways you tried to protect and help me. Thank
you, Andrew." She slid closer to him on the bench and hugged him.
"You're welcome, Erica. It was my pleasure to meet you and get to
know you a little bit." He smiled down at her. "So life's
"Very good. I mean... the first couple of years after the rape
were hard. I had difficulty trusting people, men
especially. And nightmares occasionally. But then..." Erica
smiled wistfully, "I'd wake up and look at that dove on my bed and
remember angels and God were always with me. And I had this
place. Monica, Jonah, and Nancy helped me through. My
family: the Martins. And the
other girls: Ruby, April, Brigid, Laura, Molly. Taryn, too.
We had group counseling for quite a while
slowly... I began to trust. Enough that when Thomas asked me out
during our junior year... I said yes. Haven't missed a date
"I'm just... I'm so happy for you." Andrew hugged Erica.
"Thank you. So how about you? Are you still friends with
Yva and JenniAnn and all the others? Ya know, you told me you had
a story," Erica reminded with a grin.
"That I do." Andrew looked up at the sky, smiling appreciatively
as he began to formulate how to tell Erica about how richly the Father
had blessed him. "I suppose the story really begins over twenty
five years ago..."
After Andrew had finished his tale,
Erica left him to go to the Martins' to welcome her sister, Abby, back
from her honeymoon. They parted with a warm embrace, neither
when next their paths would cross. Jonah took his
daughter-in-law's place on the porch with Andrew.
"So what do you think?" the former police officer asked, waving back to
"Jonah, I think you and Nancy and all of your helpers have done an
amazing job. But I always knew you would." Andrew looked
proudly at his assignment.
"It all came together really well with some dedication, faith, and a
lot of hope." He smiled at Andrew. "If memory serves, you
were the one who helped me find hope again."
"It was always in you, Jonah. You just needed to recognize
it. So how have you been? Any recurrences with your heart?"
"Nope. Working with Nancy helps with that. She keeps me in
line and doesn't let me overdo it. Best boss I ever had."
The man beamed. He grew quiet for a few moments. "A few
months after you left, Nancy and I went back to Des Moines. I
visited the house where my mom and I lived and the cemetery where we
Andrew looked to Jonah with concern. "How was that?"
"I walked around the house and... all these good memories came back to
me. Times when she was happy. Times when we had fun.
Times when I knew she loved me. For so many years, all I
remembered was... was finding her that day. And the times when I
could tell she was looking at me and thinking of him. But those
restored memories... it was like they crowded all the bad ones
By the time we reached the cemetery, I felt peace. I haven't had
a nightmare since. And I feel like being here, I'm making her
"I know she's proud of you, Jonah. And God is, too." Andrew
stood up. "I need to go now, Jonah. But before I do, the
Father has a message for you. He says to you 'Well done, good and
faithful servant.' He's looking forward to seeing how
many more lives you touch and bring
The man stood and hugged the angel. "Thank you. So is this
it? Will I ever see you again, Andrew?"
"One day, many years from now, you'll see me. And on that day,
I'll bring you Home to God and to a mother who loves you, Jonah.
But until then, know that I'm praying for you."
Jonah nodded, blinking back tears. "I'll remember. And I'll
be praying for you, my friend."
"Thank you. Enjoy that grandbaby, Jonah. And all the other
miracles that come your way."
"I will, Andrew. I promise I will." Jonah heard the coo of
a dove and turned to a cherry blossom tree where it was perched.
His face lit up. "Hey, Andrew. I think one of your friends
just show..." Turning back, Jonah realized he was alone on the
porch. "Take care, my friend," he whispered, smiling up at the
sky. Then he drew in a deep breath, wiped at his eyes and
re-entered the center to begin his work with renewed commitment and
Erica rocked her infant son.
and forth, back and forth. The motion began to calm the baby but
still he resisted sleep. The new mother looked across the nursery
to where her old daybed sat, awaiting the toddler her baby would become
all too soon. It brought back a memory Erica often clung to when
she was distressed.
She smiled down at her baby and began to sing. "'Tender shepherd,
tender shepherd. Let me help you count your sheep. One in
the meadow, two in the garden, three in the nursery. Fast
After a few rounds, the little one was fast asleep. Erica set him
in his crib, standing at its side for several minutes merely to admire
him. She looked up when she heard Thomas tiptoeing into the
room. He stood beside her, wrapping his arms around her.
"He's so beautiful," the proud father whispered. "And I'm glad he
has your hair. Maybe that means it won't start falling out when
Erica giggled quietly. "But he has your eyes. And that
makes me very happy." She reached into the crib to tenderly
stroke the baby's hair. "We love you so much," she murmured.
Thomas beamed down at his son. "Sleep well, Andrew."
The couple crept out of the room, leaving their son sleeping
peacefully. A moment later the moonlight shone on the child's
The elder Andrew looked down into the crib, admiring for the first time
the child who was named for him. "May your life be full of love,
Andrew," the angel whispered. "I hope you always recognize the
blessings in your life. Something tells me with a family like
yours... you will." He smiled down at the little boy and gently
patted his back. "Always remember God is with you,
and He loves you so, so much."
The angel stared for some time at the baby, praying for him.
Then, hearing the Father's call, he faded away. Andrew embarked
on another assignment of bringing hope and God's love to people who
desperately needed both and would find them in the words of a
much-loved angel of death.
Credits: First, I would like to
the JABB@YG members who submitted Halloween costumes for their
characters as well as other helpful tidbits. Also a big thanks to
the members who gave me a lil glimpse into police life. Thank
you! I never thought I'd have to spend so much time wondering
about what Andrew should do with his gun! Also, a thanks to my
dad who inspired a rather nice plot element by leaving some old work
boots on my porch. I'll take inspiration where I can get
On a more serious note, I
would like to recognize the Rape,
Abuse, and Incest National Network
(RAINN). Their web site was helpful in writing this story.
More importantly, I've long been impressed with the work that they do
to aid survivors of abuse and those close to them.
Sources: And here's my list for
later induction into Dyeland
"Longing" by Matthew Arnold
"My heart leaps up when I
behold" by William Wordsworth
"Excuse" by Matthew Arnold
Monet's "Meadow with
Poplars," "Antibes seen from the Salis Gardens"
and 'Champ d'avoine et
"Silent Night" composed by
Franz Xaver Gruber and Fr. Joseph Mohr
"O Holy Night" composed by
Adolphe Adam and Placide Cappeau
"Abide with Me" composed by
Henry F. Lyte and William H. Monk
Return of the King
"Tubular Bells" from The
"Moondance" by Van Morrison
"Take Me Out to the Ballgame"
"Loving a Person" by Sara
"Unforgettable" by Nat King
Tour of Duty
Finally, here are some songs
I listened to or had run through my head
during the writing of this story:
- "Something to Hold Onto" by the Wailin' Jennys- I actually
originally picked this for the cruise story. But it was just the
perfect fit for the nightmare/flashback scene of Andrew and LJA during
- "Too Much" by Leeland- Nicole introduced me to this
It's perfect for Andrew through out this story. So sad. But
- "I Think About You" by Collin Raye- I used this whenever I
to get into Andrew's head as far as his transference between the
Dyelanders and his cases.
- "Child of Mine" by Carole King- I thought about this song
was writing Tess' recollections of a young Andrew.
- "Push" by Sarah McLaughlin- I thought of this song during
the scene where Andrew finally opens up. But different lines
actually remind me of different aspects of the Dyelander and Andrew
scenes, not just that one.
- "Moondance" by Van Morrison- I needed some levity and it was
about time someone point out Andrew's trouble with lyrics from "Rock n
Roll Dad" :-) Asexuals can like this song, too. They just
maybe shouldn't dance to it...
- "Loving a Person" by Sara Groves- I heard this on Pandora
knew it was perfect for the dancing scene. Also, it reminded me
of "A Moment of Grace" which kinda has parallels with this story as far
as Andrew and the knight/protection theme. Plus, I could see LJA
picking this after the "fight" scene as a way to reiterate her
unconditional love for Andrew despite the temporary appearance of her
- "Abide with Me" by Mahalia Jackson- I'd actually picked this
the original Dyeland finale for a scene in which Tess comforted an
extremely distraught Andrew. That finale is toast now but I still
loved the scene.
- "Always" by Plumb- About vowing to keep someone loved
safe. Both Andrew and the Dyelanders basically spend the entire
story trying to keep the other safe.
(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from
an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon
Water Productions. They are not being used to seek profit.)