"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."
~ from the hymn "Abide with Me," words by Henry F. Lyte

Hi all,

Richard Paul Evans, author of The Christmas Box novels among many others, once wrote: "Some stories are crafted as if by blueprint, built line by line and brick by brick.  There are stories born of angst, wrung painfully from an author's mind onto pages that, in the end, are more of bandage than paper."  This story is the second type.  Whether that's a good thing or bad thing... I don't know.

This is, I think, the most difficult story I've written.  But maybe the most personally necessary one.  I started thinking of it when my city had a string of not one but two separate cases of serial rape.  Thankfully, both men have since been apprehended.  But it was scary times for a while there.  It never affected anyone I personally knew.  But I don't think any woman can be unmoved by horrifying accounts of attacks on her fellow citizens.  And so this story began running about in my head.

And then it happened to someone I once knew in a place I pass nearly every day, a place I've walked.  A place I felt safe and where, likely, this young lady felt safe, too.  So then I began to write this story down.  I wasn't interested in examining why men rape a la "Full Moon."  Maybe the TBAA writers are better people than I because I simply don't care to try and feel for them.  I was interested in the people who help the survivors and the survivors themselves.  And I was interested in the psychic toll these crimes take on the rest of us.  And, maybe most of all, I wanted to question and maybe even rage a little.  And I could through these characters.

Finally, this story also ended up being my attempt to deal with yet another tragedy.  It bore no resemblance to anything that happens in this story other than the fact that it brought up the same question that had screamed in me before: "Why are some spared and others not?  Why do some get miracles and others don't?"

I never found the answer.  So it's certainly not in this story.  But maybe it's not just misery that loves company but confusion, too.  And so here in Andrew, in the other angels, in the Dyelanders, in the people of West Hollow... I found my company.  May we all some day come to the peace that surpasses all understanding.

God bless,

PS- No easter egg.  It seemed insensitive to hide one in this story.  And, typically, a story of this length would be spread over 2 or even 3 newsletters.  But I really, really need to let this one go and move on.  I promise the next newsletter will be tons shorter and much more amusing.


October 22nd      October 23rd      October 24th      October 25th

October 26th      October 27th      October 28th
October 29th      October 30th      October 31st      Epilogue

As he stood alone in a dark, chilly forest; Andrew struggled to remember how he'd come to be there.  Without knowing that, he wasn't sure how to get himself out.  He looked to the sky, hoping that the stars might offer some hint of direction.  However, he could only see the moon in the obsidian void of the sky.  That lonesome moon, which the angel of death usually found so beautiful, cast an eery blue glow on everything that surrounded him.  Not that there was much to see.  Only brittle, barren trees every where he looked.  The silence, too, was strange.  There were no owls hooting.  No raccoons or deer trafficking through the brush and dead leaves.  Nothing.  Until he heard her voice again.

"Andrew, where are you?"

The angel spun around.  He spotted JenniAnn several yards away.  "Laja, don't move.  Stay where you are.  I'm coming," he shouted.

She seemed not to see or hear him and turned away to search through some brush.  Then she looked up abruptly, as if she'd heard something, and bolted further into the woods.

Andrew tore after his friend, desperate to catch up with her.  Such a task was usually no problem.  In fact, JenniAnn often teased him that their races were seldom fair since his legs were considerably longer than hers.  And yet she was easily outpacing him.  Once she finally stopped, Andrew leaned against a tree to regain his breath but kept his eyes trained on her.


The angel once again turned to a familiar voice.  This time he saw Yva.  Like JenniAnn before her, she was several feet away.

"Yva!  What's going on?  Is this some kind of joke?" Andrew demanded.  He noticed JenniAnn still appeared to be searching.  "Laja, what are you looking for?  I'll help you look if you just tell me what..."

"Why isn't he here?" Yva asked JenniAnn, looking deeply troubled.

"I am here!  But neither of you are listening!"

"I just want to see him!" JenniAnn cried.

Yva shook her head sadly.  She put her arm around the younger woman's shoulders.  The two turned and began to walk away.

"Yva, Laja wait!"  The angel made another attempt to catch up to his friends but both again began fleeing at inhuman speeds. 

Andrew was so preoccupied with catching up to Yva and JenniAnn that he nearly collided with another figure.  He sighed with relief when he saw it was Countess Jennifer.

"C.J.!  I'm so glad to see you.  I don't know what's going on but Yva and Laja ran away from me and..."

The woman didn't respond or even seem to notice him.  She merely looked at something past his shoulder, turned away, and began running in the same direction as the other two.

Andrew turned to see what had so frightened his usually unflappable friend.  He frowned when he saw Lady Beth and Rose running towards him and yet not looking at him.  Nonetheless, he held open his arms.  "What's wrong?  Tell me what I can do!  Please!  I want to help but no one's talking to..."

The two women ran past him.  Like their friends before them, they simply disappeared into the trees.

Not knowing what else to do and with concern for his friends trumping any care for himself, Andrew ran in the direction they'd gone.  Maybe there was a portal there and, if so, he wanted to go wherever they had.  No matter where that was.  Maybe they were in trouble or lost.  He had to be sure they were safe.  He'd only made a few yards of progress when a scream rang through the woods.  The angel's heart began to race.  He ran as fast as he could, ignoring the cold air that was burning his lungs.  All he knew was that he had to find his friends.  He couldn't let anything happen to them.  Never.


Friday, October 22nd, 2010


Andrew's eyes shot open and he stared at the neon green numerals facing him.  4:10 AM according to his alarm clock.  "Thank You, Father," he murmured with relief.

It had all been a nightmare, obviously.  He wasn't in the woods at all.  Neither were his friends.  He was in the same bed in the same huge, old house he'd fallen asleep in four hours previously.  Yet, the angel couldn't quite shake the horror and sense of helplessness he'd had in the dream.  It had been awful to know his friends were troubled... maybe even in danger... and he hadn't been able to do anything.  He'd been completely powerless, invisible even.  It reminded him of...

The angel of death left the thought unfinished.  He tried to console himself that his feelings of nervousness and dread were normal.  They were likely caused only by the novelty of the experience.  Angels seldom dreamed.  Nightmares were even more rare.  But they were definitely not real.  His friends were fine.  They were safe.  It was two hours earlier in Dyeland so they were no doubt all asleep.  Peacefully, he hoped.

And yet...  It would be 2:10 there.  Maybe one of them was awake.  Maybe he should call.  Just to check.

"You are way too old to need to be soothed back to sleep after a nightmare," Andrew muttered to himself.  "Way too old.  Let them sleep."

Despite his resolve, the dreamer stared at his cell phone on the bed stand.  JenniAnn had always told him to call whenever...

But, no.  He'd only worry her.  Maybe he could call Jonah Webb, his fellow police officer.  It was Jonah's shift and it seemed perfectly acceptable for an officer to call his chief.  But maybe not when the chief was also his assignment...  That couldn't be right.  It wasn't supposed to be him seeking consolation from his assignment.  Besides, what would he tell the man?  How could he possibly explain the nightmare without revealing far too much?  No, he couldn't call Jonah. 

And how many times and in how many letters had JenniAnn told him to call?  Andrew had never even bothered counting.  Many, many times was all he knew.  Maybe it wouldn't hurt to check in...

Andrew rubbed his eyes and turned on the bedside lamp.  He reached for the phone and moved to dial JenniAnn.  Nothing lit up.  The screen was entirely black.  He was positive he'd charged the phone earlier in the day.  It shouldn't have run down already.  But despite his best efforts, Andrew couldn't get the phone to work.  Giving up, he plugged in the charger and turned off the light.  Then he settled back into bed, intending to rest for a few more minutes before his responsibilities beckoned.

He didn't usually sleep during assignments.  But he'd been working this one for two weeks.  No journeys Home.  No visits to Dyeland.  And the type of work...  It left him exhausted, emotionally and physically.  Spiritually.  He wanted to sleep but his mind wouldn't stop replaying his dream.  Laja, Yva, C.J., Lady Beth, and Rose disappeared over and over again.  That terrified scream seemed to run on a loop.

Andrew raised his eyes heavenward and began to pray.  "Please help me.  Just let me know my friends are safe.  And if they need me... please, let me go to them.  I only want..."  Andrew cut off his plea when his lamp clicked back on.  He turned towards it and saw, there beside his useless cell phone, a rotary phone with a line coming out of a phone jack that had been empty only moments before.  The angel smiled.  "Thank You."  He was grateful both for the phone and the obvious signal it sent that it was permissible to call Dyeland.

Andrew picked up the receiver and dialed the familiar numbers.  He knew JenniAnn was his best chance of not waking someone up.  Vincent had canceled Friday classes to allow the children to attend a pumpkin patch outing with the denizens of the Phoenix Inn.  JenniAnn had no doubt taken that as an excuse for a three day weekend.  She had a habit of downing coffee after coffee on weekend nights so she would be able to stay up until all hours.  Normally that behavior caused Andrew some alarm but just then he found himself grateful for it.


Andrew was surprised by the confusion in JenniAnn's voice then remembered he was calling from a number that would mean nothing to her.  "Laja, it's me."

"Andrew, what's wrong?" she asked, the expected worry evident in her voice. 

The angel cringed.  "Nothing's wrong.  I'm fine.  How... how is everyone there?  How are you?  The dogs?"

"Everyone's good.  We had dinner altogether at the Cafe tonight.  Missed you much.  Now they're all sleeping, probly.  As are Fawn and Lulu.  Actually, it's probly a good thing I'm scrap booking.  I don't think they left any room for me on the bed.  And as for me...  I'm... well, I'm confused.  I can't say you've ever called me out of the blue, in the middle of the night.  I mean... I'm glad you did... I was thinking about you... but... why?" 

Andrew hesitated.  He couldn't lie to her.  Even if it hadn't been a rule, JenniAnn was a friend and he couldn't mislead her.  "I... well, I just had a strange dream.  You know, it actually seems kind of funny now.  I probably shouldn't have call..."

"Don't say that!  Honestly!  If I called you at two in the morning and then downplayed how I felt, you'd jump all over it and play the big brother, 'tell me your woes, Laja' card.  So... I would like to play the no-appropriate-term-available, 'tell me your woes, dearest and loveliest of all Andrews,' card.  Please."

The angel chuckled.  "When you put it that way..."

"The true way."

"Yeah, the true way," Andrew agreed.  "I called because I had a nightmare and it made me want to check in.  That's all."

"I don't think I've ever known you to have a nightmare, Andrew.  Do you want to talk about it?"

Andrew could hear the apprehension in her voice return.  He decided he'd better give her more details before her mind took her to one of a million possible frightening scenarios.  "Well, I was in some really dark woods.  And I saw you.  Then Yva.  Then C.J., Lady Beth, Rose..."

"In that order?"

"Yes.  Why?"

"It's just interesting.  Cause that's the order you met us in.  Might mean something."

Andrew smiled.  She of the dream interpretation books was fast at work.  "Good catch."

"So what were we doing?"

"You were calling for me.  And I was right there.  But you didn't seem to see me.  And then you'd all run off and I'd try to follow but you'd disappear."


The angel wondered how she knew he was holding back.  "And what?"

"You sucked in your breath right after you said 'disappear.'  Like you were gearing yourself up for something.  But then you just stopped.  Andrew, it's okay to tell me.  I'm a big girl... nearly thirty, ya know."

Andrew fiddled with the cord of the phone as he considered how to proceed.

"Stop playing with the phone cord and finish telling me about the dream, please."

"How did you..."  The angel of death dropped the cord and looked around the room in alarm.

"I've known you for over ten years.  You always twirl or fold or pick at something when you're nervous.  And the line keeps getting a lil fuzzy.  It was a good guess."

Andrew smirked.  She definitely had him pegged.  The smile melted from his face after another moment.  "I heard a scream.  When I couldn't see any of you.  And no matter how fast I ran... you were all no where to be found.  So I didn't know what had made one of you scream.  I couldn't help any of you."

"Poor love," JenniAnn cooed.  "Andrew, what's going on wherever you are?  I mean... what's your assignment?"

"It's a caseworking gig right now.  A man named Jonah.  I haven't taken anyone Home."  Andrew knew by the sigh on the other end of the line that JenniAnn wasn't accepting such a general response.  "We... Jonah and I... are working a lot with... with crime victims," he added hastily.

"Do you think that in any way impacted your nightmare?"

"I suppose it's possible but no, not really.  I work difficult cases all the time and I hardly ever have nightmares."

"These crime victims... are you afraid that whatever's happened to them might happen to one of us?  And that you wouldn't be able to intervene?  Maybe that's why, in your dream, we couldn't see you.  Andrew, is this... is this like with Dawn?"

Andrew could hear JenniAnn draw a shuddering breath.  "Laja, you all right there?"

JenniAnn disregarded the question.  "Or... or is it like that time before.  In 2006 when you..."  Her voice drifted off.

Andrew's face colored.  "I'm not having a breakdown... or whatever we decided to call that.  No."

"I know.  But I worry that this case is mimicking that one and..."

"It won't, Laja.  I won't let things unravel like that again.  I promise."  The angel glanced at the alarm clock.  "Laja, I need to start getting ready for work.  I have an early shift."

There was only silence on the other end of the line.

"Laja, please, don't worry.  Maybe I shouldn't have called.  I really did just want to check in.  And I have and I feel better.  Thank you.  I absolutely didn't want to worry you and now..."

"I'll be fine.  Just... take care of yourself.  And know everyone sends their love."

"I will, Laja.  And I hope you take care of yourself, too.  And please give my love to everyone else.  To Lulu and Fawn, too."  Andrew smiled at the image of the two dogs, curled up on JenniAnn's pillows and leaving little room for her.

"Can you call back when you get off later?"

"Sure.  Try to get some sleep, okay?  Tell the dogs I said to move."

JenniAnn giggled.  "I don't think they accept orders by proxy."

Andrew grinned.  "I don't think they accept orders, period."

"True."  She paused.  "Andrew?"


"You'll for sure call?"

"I will.  It might not be until late tonight.  It's a long shift.  But I will.  Thanks for talking with me."

"I love talking with you.  And I love you."

"I love you, too, Laja.  But now I really have to go."


"Bye, Laja.  Don't worry," Andrew added one final time, praying she wouldn't.  He set the phone back in the cradle and frowned.  Maybe the call hadn't been such a good idea.  His past breakdown cast a long shadow and no amount of discussion and promises seemed to fully dispel it.  It lurked, still, in his mind and in the girls'.  All he could was try his best to ensure it never happened again. 

Resolved on that, if little else, Andrew got out of bed and prepared for another day.


JenniAnn had been contemplating turning in for the night even before Andrew's call.  Though she was bothered by some of what he'd said, simply hearing his voice and his laugh had lulled her even nearer to sleep.  After picking up her craft supplies, she shuffled off to the bed.

"Andrew said to move," she declared as she eyed the two dogs.  Fawn remained asleep.  Lulu lifted one eye lid but otherwise didn't budge.  With a sigh, JenniAnn gently shoved them both and made a little spot for herself.

After laying down, she crossed herself.  She said her usual prayers and made petitions for a couple of sick Tunnel-dwellers and family members.  She thanked God for the beauty of autumn and the fun had with friends at the Cafe earlier.  Then she turned to what was chiefest in her mind.  "Dear Father, I have a feeling that something's going on with Andrew.  And maybe it's Your will that we not know what that is.  But if it is Your will that we help... I think everyone would like to.  And I know I would.  So... use me.  Please let me be with him.  Amen."

Having finished her prayer, JenniAnn drifted to sleep where her own nightmare awaited her.  But, unlike Andrew's, hers was very much based in fact.


JenniAnn felt guilty being there in Andrew's living room.  Two days before the women of Dyeland had all concluded that it was best to leave him alone.  If he wanted a complete lack of communication, he could have it.  Their hope was that the silence would eventually prove too much, even for him in his reticent, aggrieved state.  Then he would, finally, open up to them and let them help him. 

JenniAnn had tried the "Angel Boy-cott," as they'd dubbed it in a humorous attempt to deal with the devastating situation.  For a day.  But it had proven unbearable.  It wasn't that she thought she could actually make him talk.  She certainly hadn't succeeded in that thus far.  Nor had Yva or Lady Beth or Countess Jennifer.  She didn't even think Adam had.  But she simply couldn't go on knowing that Andrew was two doors away from her and she couldn't see him.  Over six years of her life... more if she were to be completely honest... were wrapped up in this temporary mess of a man.  Further, she understood his silence... at least in part. 

From what they'd gathered via the precious few remarks from Andrew, general knowledge of the joys and sorrows of life as an AOD, and some time-consuming news site searches; Andrew had been working as a case manager with an organization that strove to combat Internet predators.  His assignment had been a man named Ernest who was deeply committed to his partner, Susannah.  Andrew had been convinced it was a caseworking gig and that he was only there to support Ernest emotionally and encourage him.  But then one case sent Susannah over the edge.  She'd gone off, without the more cautious Ernest, to track down the perp.  All while Andrew sat at his desk in their office, filing reports.   Then came the call from the Father.  When Andrew appeared in a seedy motel, the struggle had already started.  And all he could do was pray and wait as Susannah was brutally raped and murdered.  He'd taken her Home and in that experienced the joy he usually did.  But then he'd had to return to deal with the aftermath of her death.  Ernest, when told his case manager was actually an angel of death, met the news not with solace but utter rage.  The investigator had railed at Andrew, saying he'd "done nothing to help someone who needed him."  The situation had become so toxic that Andrew had been pulled from the case and replaced.  In what would be one of his last flashes of optimism, he'd chosen not to go Home but to go to Dyeland.  He'd thought seeing the ladies so vibrant and full of life would rouse his spirits.  Instead, he'd only been troubled by their mortality and vulnerability and the idea that one day he might find himself standing near them... only able to pray and wait.  To complicate matters, Andrew's need to protect his friends from the terror and cruelty that sometimes comprised his cases hadn't allowed him to tell them much.  And so he'd become lost in his own mind.

JenniAnn understood the angel's protective impulse.  She wasn't Vincent's godchild for nothing.  But she knew something had to give.  They couldn't go on with Andrew never talking about the things that concerned him most deeply.  Straight forward efforts to get him to open up had failed but she had another idea.  If all she could do was sit there and read poetry while he stared out the window and absently pet the basset hound in his lap... well, then that was what she was going to do.  But that didn't mean she wouldn't pull out the literary big guns.

"'Come, as thou cam'st a thousand times, a messenger from radiant climes, and smile on thy new world, and be as kind to others as to me,'" she recited.

Andrew's gaze shifted from the window to her. 

"Or, as thou never cam'st in sooth, come now, and let me dream it truth.  And part my hair, and kiss my brow, And say...'"

The angel raised an eye brow.

JenniAnn drew in a deep breath and continued.  "And say-- My love! why sufferest thou?'"

Andrew blushed under her gaze as she finished the poem.  "Matthew Arnold," he finally said.

"Yes.  He's my favorite.  That's my second favorite of his poems.  Hey, did you know that he knew William Wordsworth and really looked up to him?  I just think that's cool because Arnold is my favorite poet and Wordsworth is one of yours.  How does that one poem you like so much go?  'My heart churns when a rainbow'...  No, that's not it."  JenniAnn frowned and looked pleadingly at the angel.

"'My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky,'" Andrew responded in a dull tone, completely devoid of the passion his listener knew he usually brought to the poem.

"Yes!"  JenniAnn waited but it seemed the angel was unwilling to proceed.  "Thanks."  She covered her disappointment with a smile and continued to blather on.  "To think Wordsworth and Arnold knew each other and we know each other and I look up to you kinda like Arnold looked up to Words..."  JenniAnn drifted off.  She knew she sounded loony.

"I don't think you brought that book over just because he's your favorite.  Or because he knew my favorite," Andrew guessed.

It was JenniAnn's turn to blush but she quickly regained her composure.  "Yes, well, at least one of us isn't completely inscrutable."  She immediately regretted the biting tone of her voice when Andrew's face fell.  "I'm sorry," she mumbled.  She opened her book again, searching for her favorite poem.  Page 515 was stuck in her head so she flipped to it and found the poem.

Andrew cocked his head as she began to read again.  It was obvious to the woman reciting that this poem was new to him.  Just as she'd hoped it would be.

"'She smiles and smiles, and will not sigh, while we for hopeless passion die; yet she could love, those eyes declare, were but men nobler than they are.'"

Andrew grew more at ease and JenniAnn noticed.  She felt almost bad about the way she was fooling him.  But not bad enough to stop.  The poem seemed to be about some young man's failure to seduce a stand-offish young woman.  Andrew no doubt felt it much less a commentary on his own state... or her feelings for him... than "Longing" was.  But all that would change with the fifth stanza.

JenniAnn glanced briefly at Andrew as she read the all too relatable words.  "'Yet, oh that Fate would let her see One of some worthier race than we;  One for whose sake she once might prove how deeply she who scorns can love.'"  A tear rolled down her cheek.  Lulu looked up, left Andrew, and curled up into her lap.  JenniAnn cuddled the dog and continued.  "'His eyes be like the starry lights-- his voice like sounds of summer nights-- in all his lovely mien let pierce the magic of the universe.'"

Andrew rested his head in his hands.  JenniAnn was found out.  He gaped at her ability to find a poem about a woman who fell in love with an angel.  And how she was using it to get to him, to reach him.

"'And she to him will reach her hand, and gazing in his eyes will stand, and know her friend, and weep for glee, and cry-- Long, long I've look'd for thee.  Then will she...'"  JenniAnn's voice died away.  The emotion was too much and, based on Andrew's averted gaze, pointless in any case.  She moved to slam the book closed then, remembering Lulu, merely closed it and shoved it across the coffee table.  Andrew glanced at her and swiftly away.  JenniAnn drew in a ragged breath as she stared at him.  "'Then will she weep' because he just fades away and leaves her!" she cried, giving up on the poem and adding her own ending.  She picked Lulu up and sat her on the ground before beginning to pace frantically.

Andrew rose from his chair and went to her when she began to sob.  "JenniAnn... please, please don't cry."

Starved for the affection she'd been kept from, JenniAnn sunk against him.  But when his arms closed around her, she pulled away.  "No!  I am not doing this.  I'm not some assignment you can just hug and comfort and leave it at that!  I'm your friend!  And friendship goes two ways!  And if you're not ready to acknowledge that..."  She sighed and shook her head.  "Maybe the others were right.  Maybe we should just leave you to your own devices so you can feel how awful it is to have a friend not talk to you.  To... to be so emotionally distanced and... and to only want to be a part of your life when he gets to be the rescuer!"

"That's not fair, JenniAnn," Andrew countered in a soft but adamant tone.  "You're upset because of what I've done.  It's only right I should try to fix it.  But what happened during my assignment... that's not your doing."

"You've been there for me when friends you'd never even met hurt me!  When family members you didn't even know died!  Were those your doing?  My eating disorder...  Our friends who left Dyeland... are you telling me you drove them away?  That was all *you*, huh?"  she demanded. 

Andrew shook his head.

"Didn't think so.  So let me in!  Let all of your friends in so we can help you!" the woman begged.

"I can't...  It's too awful and too painful and..."

"I am a twenty four year old woman!" JenniAnn cried.  Though it took some effort, she stared straight at the angel as she continued.  "It's not like I don't know what rape is!"

The angel of death stepped back.  "How did you..."

JenniAnn bowed her head.  She hadn't meant to reveal the extent of the research they'd done behind Andrew's back.  "The Internet."  She grew more brazen.  She didn't care if their sleuthing angered Andrew.  He was the one being secretive.  She looked up at him, defiant.  "You can't protect us from everything that's terrifying and heartbreaking."

"I know," Andrew admitted, taking one of her hands in both of his.  "Believe me... I know.  But I don't need to add to it.  Your heart is with the victims and their families when you read those things.  I know.  You don't need to add me to your list of people to feel sorry..." 

On the verge of tears again, JenniAnn ripped her hand away and grabbed the book from the table.  "You have never been just some stranger on a list.  Not to me.  Not to any of our friends.  And I am sorry if whatever is going on with you prevents you from seeing that.  But finish the poem.  By yourself.  Since that seems to be how you want to be.  Then you can read about what happens to the woman when the angel leaves.  Page 515!"  She shoved the book at Andrew then abruptly turned and fled the room, slamming the front door behind her.


JenniAnn woke up shaking.  The dream had been so real.  As if she'd been watching video of that day four years before.  Fawn's presence assured her that it wasn't 2006.  And there had been something else that made the dream unreal.  Her dreams were often quite detailed but the fact that she was recalling page numbers was ridiculous.  Her Matthew Arnold book didn't even have 515 pages.  Why had the number seemed so important?

Then something clicked. 

JenniAnn picked up her cell phone and went to the Received Calls menu.  There above Mick's and Catherine's names was the word "Unknown" and the number Andrew had dialed from.  The area code was 515.  It was a sign.  A sign that she was meant to remember that number.  It had to be.  She snuck out of bed, careful not to awaken Fawn and Lulu, and made her way to her office.  She navigated to whitepages.com then entered the number from her phone.  The search engine quickly reported back that it was an unlisted number based out of West Hollow, Iowa.  She'd hoped it would link to a full address but just having the city helped.  West Hollow wasn't too far from her parents' place in Nebraska...  She decided to go another route and Googled "West Hollow, IA."  It wasn't long before she was loading a local paper.

Her heart stopped when she read the top headline: "Serial Rapist Strikes Again, Police Issue Warning to Area Women."

And there in the third paragraph was reference to an Officer Andrew du Lac being brought in from another department due to his experience.  Even without a photo, JenniAnn knew at once he was "their Andrew."  She picked up her phone.  One of the plus sides of having vampires for friends was they never minded if you called them in the middle of the night.  She considered dialing Mick but then thought better of it.  He'd never help her with this particular plot.  He was too cautious and protective and, if anything, he'd probably rat her out to Andrew.  Josef would be more apt to lend a hand but he was in Russia.  However, JenniAnn knew someone else who wouldn't hesitate to help her...  She began to dial.


The two stared at the photograph of the house on the screen.

"It's awfully big for just him," JenniAnn commented.

"Sure is," Logan agreed.  He was still grinning over his achievement.  Using his Internet prowess, he'd been able to track down Andrew's temporary abode using only his unlisted phone number.  He looked over at the woman next to him.  "Maybe he's not meant to be there alone."

JenniAnn smiled.  "Can you copy that address?  It's on a street called Daffodil Lane...  So appropriate."

"Huh?  How?" Logan asked as he copied the address.

"In the language of flowers it stands for unrequited love and, hence, they've always reminded me of Andrew.  It's why I have a bunch of daffodils incorporated into the decor here at Willowveil and it's also why he bought me that daffodil quilt for my birthday a couple years back.  But even more appropriately, daffodils stand for chivalry."

"Huzzah!" the vampire cried.

JenniAnn giggled.  "And our Andrew is definitely chivalrous.  Also they stand for rebirth and new beginnings.  Which is just plain nice."

"Cool.  I had no idea flowers meant stuff.  I guess I kinda get why girls like em in that case.  But I'd still rather have action figures."  Logan grinned.  "So I've copied this Daffodil Lane address.  What now?  What's the next step in our AOD cyber-stalking venture?"

JenniAnn pointed to an icon on her tool bar.  "Now go to Mapquest.  See, that default is my parents' house.  So... just see how much distance is between the two, please."

Logan dutifully did as requested.  "Three and a half hours, milady.  I can drive.  Just so you know.  I mean I don't... much.  But I can."

"Do you have a car?"

Logan frowned and shook his head.  Then his face lit up.  "But I could get one!  I have some money saved!"

"No, no.  That's too much..."

The young vampire stood and bowed as regally as he could.  "I would gladly do it to aid my lord liege... and a lady."

JenniAnn did her best to suppress a giggle.  She and Andrew hadn't known what they were getting themselves into when they'd knighted Logan a couple years before in thanks for help he'd rendered to Dyeland.  "I know you would but Andrew's probly gonna be annoyed enough as it is without also thinking you'd made a major purchase that you wouldn't have otherwise.  Also... we need it to be some way that a bunch of us could go.  I couldn't just leave without asking the others if they'd want to come."

Logan turned back to the computer and entered more information.  "Maybe we could get a bus..."

"Wouldn't that be a little... difficult for you?  It's hard to be discreet with, umm, beverages... on a bus."

"Who can tell what's in a flask?"

"True but you don't exactly look old enough to drink and if someone saw and asked..."

"Yes, good point, kiddo.  Because Logan's beverage needs are the only hitch in this great scheme of yours," a voice responded.

JenniAnn and Logan looked at each other in alarm then turned towards the door.  Eli was standing there, leaning against the door jam with his arms crossed over his chest.

"Uh oh..." Logan whispered.

JenniAnn stood up and hugged the angel of death in greeting.  "Eli, I know this looks bad but..."

He smiled and shook his head.  "I'll admit... it looks a little misguided.  And rather like cyber-stalking."

"Cyber-stalking out of love!" JenniAnn interjected.

Eli chuckled.  "Sure.  We'll go with that."

"Is God angry with us?" Logan asked fearfully.

"Oh no.  I'm just teasing you both," Eli assured.  "JenniAnn, you asked the Father to use you to help Andrew.  And He's heard your prayers to the same effect, too, Logan.  And obviously you meant them since you were planning one heckuva an interesting bus trip.  Your love for your friend pleases God.  But... with a little patience you just might have discovered that God already had the way planned for you."

JenniAnn blushed.  "It's just Andrew called and he sounded sad and troubled and then... I had this dream... about the last time he was so upset and it turns out this case has some similarities to that one and... and it kicked me into overdrive and...  Anyhow... so do we get to go be with Andrew?  Like we were in Missouri?"

Eli sighed.  Even though he hadn't yet been reunited with Andrew in November 2006, he knew enough about that period to realize why JenniAnn had acted so swiftly.  He was grateful the Father had sent him to assist her and the others.  "In a way, yes, it will be like when you went to Missouri.  But in another way... it can't be."  He pulled out his pocket watch.  "It'll be six soon.  Do you think you could arrange a breakfast for the ladies?" he asked JenniAnn.

She nodded eagerly. 

Logan looked up to Eli shyly.  "Sir, I know I'm... I'm a vampire and not a very impressive one.  But Andrew... he means a lot to me.  He's never made me feel like I was anything less than he is because of who I am.  If you're all working together to help him... do you think you could find a place for me?"

Eli set a hand on the boy's shoulder.  "Logan, God always has a place for His children and it always makes Him smile when they want to help each other.  There will be a place for you in this.  I promise you."

Logan beamed at him and enthusiastically hugged the angel.

Eli chuckled.  "Now, since you're both on board, I suppose you'd like to know what we're doing?"

JenniAnn and Logan nodded eagerly as Eli laid out the plan.


Shortly after 9:00 AM, C.J., Lady Beth, Rose, JenniAnn, Yva, and Logan were sitting at a booth in the Cafe.  Pleasantries finished, the four other women looked at JenniAnn curiously.  It wasn't that shared breakfasts were out of the ordinary.  But they'd only just had dinner together and JenniAnn's tone as she called them with the invitation sent up red flags.  Further, Logan's presence was very much out of the ordinary.

"So what's going on?" Yva asked after taking a sip of her tea.

JenniAnn absent-mindedly twisted her claddagh ring as she tried to decide how to begin.

"Clearly it involves Andrew," Rose surmised, noticing her friend's Andrewcentric tic. 

"Well, uh, yes," JenniAnn admitted.  "He, umm, called this morning... around 2:00."

Lady Beth's eyes were wide over the rim of her coffee cup.  "That's really strange.  I don't think he's ever called anyone in the middle of the night."

"When last I wrote him, I mentioned that Vincent gave me today off so I think he put two and two together..."

"He knew you'd be hopped up on coffee and still awake, unlike those of us who are sane," Yva teased.

JenniAnn was grateful for the laugh.  "Exactly."

"So he just called to chit-chat at 2 in the morning?" C.J. checked.  She well knew that there had to be more to this story.

"No... he had a nightmare... about us... well, at least that's what he thinks... and I guess he needed to talk to one of us," JenniAnn explained.

"You're doubting him on his own nightmare?"  Rose was as much a fan of studying Andrew as any of them but it seemed odd to her that JenniAnn was second-guessing him on such a personal matter.

JenniAnn shook her head.  "I don't doubt his interpretation.  I just think he's reading it from his typical altruistic stance.  See, in this dream he could see and talk to all of us.  But we couldn't see or hear him.  And we ran away and he couldn't keep up.  And he heard a scream.  Andrew seemed to think it was about something happening to us.  But I just don't see it that way.  I mean the way he described it all... we interacted with each other.  He was the lost one, the disconnected one.  And because of that... I think he was the one in danger.  Is the one..."  Her voice trailed off as she rubbed at her eyes tiredly.

Lady Beth sunk back into the booth.  "I don't like that.  Angels seldom dream.  They've told us that.  So if he had this one... it's got to mean something.  Did he mention what sort of assignment he was working?"

JenniAnn nudged Logan, preferring for him to pick up the narrative.  "Lady JenniAnn called me shortly after Andrew called her.  With some internet searching, she'd tracked him down to West Hollow.  Some little town in Iowa.  There's...  Well, I mean... Andrew is a police officer.  Officer Andrew du Lac.  Like Lancelot!"  The boy beamed.  He could tell the four women were growing impatient, however, and he shifted uncomfortably.  "There's a... well, some crimes against women are..."

JenniAnn felt badly for thrusting the task of informing their friends onto the socially awkward vampire and resumed the telling herself.  "Apparently there's a serial rapist in West Hollow.  Andrew was brought into the department to help solve the crimes.  I mean I'm sure there's more to it, assignment-wise.  I think his assignment is actually one of the other cops based on something Andrew said and this article I read.  But, regardless, I know the rape cases are very difficult for Andrew to handle."

C.J. frowned.  "This is beginning to sound like 2006 all over."

"That's my fear.  And why I interpreted the dream the way I did.  When he called... Andrew didn't mention any of this.  But, c'mon, he has a nightmare about us being in danger?  Even if I don't totally agree with his interpretation... the fact that he came up with it suggests some major transference is happening.  And that's exactly what set him off four years ago."  JenniAnn shuddered and pulled her sweater more tightly around her.

"And it's almost what happened with Dawn's case.  And then Tess showed up."  Brightening, Yva looked to JenniAnn and Logan.  "Did any of the other angels come by and tell you that we were supposed to go be with Andrew?  Is that why you called us together?"

JenniAnn shook her head.

"But Logan said you tracked him down.  Do you mean... tracked down where he's living?  If so, how far can West Hollow be from Omaha?  If we left from your parents'..."  Yva studied the others' faces.  "I think we'd all be willing to do that."

"We do know where he's living.  It's some old-looking, huge house," JenniAnn verified.

"Probably with plenty of room for long-term guests," Rose guessed with a sly grin.  "Did Andrew leave his van?  I know when he does he lets us borrow it..." 

"Andrew took the van," Lady Beth answered.  "I know because I offered to go to his place and turn it on every so often to keep the battery from dying but he said he was taking it.  But maybe Catherine could let us use one of hers?"

"Catherine's on vacation.  A college friend is getting remarried in Vermont and she wanted to meet Jacob.  She left Cira in charge at the Phoenix and they're using the vans for a field trip today.  But..."

Anxious, C.J. cut JenniAnn off.  "We could rent a van.  If we split the fee six ways, it won't cost too much."

Logan looked at JenniAnn, beaming as he did.  "It's just how Eli said it needed to go," he whispered.

"I knew it would be this way."  Smiling, JenniAnn looked to the others.  "So you'd all be willing to go to West Hollow?  Even though we haven't been formally asked?" she checked.

C.J., Lady Beth, Rose, and Yva all nodded. 

"I don't think we should need an angel to appear and give us direction in order to help a friend," Lady Beth insisted.  "I know Andrew might worry about us being there but if Logan goes... that's some pretty impressive protection."

The vampire visibly puffed up with pride.

"Vincent needs to attend a Council meeting tonight.  But he said he could come starting tomorrow evening," JenniAnn added.

"This is an insanely busy time for Willy... but I know he would come if we asked," Yva offered.

"We'll see.  But I think it might be best if some people stay in Dyeland.  Because... well, there's a lil more to what happened after Andrew's call.  See, Eli showed up while Logan and I were trying to track down a good bus route."

"And you didn't mention this before because..." Rose prodded her friend.

"Because Eli said that this is all going to be a little difficult for Andrew to take in.  Us showing up, I mean.  Do you remember right after Tess showed up and told us we were going to Missouri?"

"He didn't like that we were being asked to go into a dangerous situation for him," C.J. recalled.

"Right.  So Eli said that this time we need to be able to assure him that we weren't asked.  That we didn't go out of fear of disobeying God or anything like that.  We need to be able to tell him that this was our choice, our decision.  But... that doesn't mean we can't get some angelic help now that the decision is made."  JenniAnn's face lit up. 

Yva looked to JenniAnn eagerly.  "Okay, what's the plan?" 

"Eli will come back at noon.  At that point Cliff and myself will go with him to my parents' place in Omaha since that's the closest portal.  Eli will then drive us to West Hollow.  Cliff will get to work putting a portal to Dyeland in the house somewhere."

"So we'll be able to come and go!" Rose cried, very pleased with the idea.

"Yeah.  I think that will make Andrew feel better about the whole situation.  Not just for safety reasons but also cause then he can't worry that we're interrupting our lives.  Vincent and I will go Below for classes.  Yva, you can come back to help Willy with the Halloween rush and to greet Sir Sven once he gets back from his trip... and bring him to West Hollow if he wishes.  C.J. can check on her horses and Rose on her aunt.  Logan can easily get back to L.A. to fulfill his needs.  We can have visitors, etc.  And I think it'll just be good for everyone to be able to come back here or Below or to London or L.A. for a bit of normalcy as needed."  JenniAnn grew happier the more she thought about the idea.

"So when will we all come?" C.J. asked.

"Once he's ready, Cliff will use the portal to come back to Dyeland.  He'll then let you all know.  Then you can come.  Andrew won't get back to the house til 8:00 so Eli, Logan, and I were thinking maybe everyone could come at 9:00... 7:00 Dyeland time.  That should be enough time to pack, settle some business, right?" 

Pleased with the efficient plan, the other four women nodded to JenniAnn.

"We thought maybe it would be easier for Andrew if JenniAnn sort of... warmed him up to the idea of all of us being there before we're actually... there," Logan added.  "Because he's so protective.  Like a good knight."

Rose smiled.  The description suited Andrew.  Her face grew serious when she turned to JenniAnn, however.  "How can you be sure he'll let you stay?  Let alone let us come?"

JenniAnn sighed.  "I can't be so... can we all just take a few minutes to pray about it?"

"Of course," Yva agreed.

The six joined hands and prayed together for the strength, wisdom, and love to reach Andrew.  They also petitioned the Father to reach out to his angel and help him to cast aside his concern and his stubborn selflessness and accept the love and friendship that would always be his.


It was nearly 8:00 by the time Andrew turned onto the dirt road leading to his house.  He smiled at the Daffodil Lane marker as he passed it.  It made him think of JenniAnn and then all of his friends in Dyeland.  For a moment, Andrew allowed himself to imagine that he'd find them at the end of the road but he quickly banished the fanciful but teasing thought.  As he continued to drive, the angel mulled over his twelve hour work day and the later visit to a bar with his partner.  There Andrew had endured some good natured teasing about his beverage of choice: ginger ale.  But it had been worth it to see his assignment smile.  The angel had only been working with Officer Jonah Webb for a couple of weeks but over that short time the man's face had begun to show signs of grief and concern brought about by the up tick in crime.  Andrew was grateful that the officer was spending the evening with his family.  As for himself... he wasn't exactly going to a warm, love-filled home.  But at least it would be peaceful.

Or not...  Pulling into the driveway, the angel was startled to see that there were lights on in the house.  He knew he hadn't left any on.  There was a timer that turned the hall light on at 7:00 but nothing was programmed in the living room.  His eye brows raised when he saw what looked to be the silhouette of a man behind the curtains there.

Andrew parked his van and hastened to the house.  While the prospect of a break-in didn't thrill him, he found himself amused by the idea.  The robbers must have been very disappointed when they'd entered only to find a couple books, a few personal mementos of great emotional value but little monetary worth, and precious few pieces of furniture or appliances.  He drew in a deep breath and lifted his eyes to the sky, whispering a prayer, before unlocking the door and entering. 
The bewildered man of the house froze on the threshold.  There'd been no robbery at all.  Nothing was missing that he could see.  In fact, things had appeared!  Candles burned in sconces attached to Monet and Cezanne decked walls that had been bare when he'd left.  There was a rug at his feet.  He could see into the dining room where a basket of fruit sat in the center of a table on which linens lay in a neat stack.  Overcoming the shock, the angel walked towards the living room.  He smiled quizzically at Eli who was seated on a couch littered with unfamiliar throw pillows.  Before Andrew could say anything, a creaking noise called his attention to a rocking chair with its back to him.  Even though he could only make out a pile of blonde hair, the daffodil quilt tucked around the figure's shoulders betrayed the intruder's identity.
"Laja?" he called, not sure whether he wanted her presence proven to him or denied.
Eli saw the deep breath the woman sucked in before standing and turning to the newcomer.  "Uh... huh."  Her voice faltered on the second syllable as she made eye contact with Andrew, taking in his appearance.
Self-conscious, Andrew's hand flew to where his locks of hair would usually be.
JenniAnn kept staring at the angel and his shorn hair.  For a moment the entire house faded away.  Even Eli faded away.  Ten years faded away.  She was seventeen and Andrew had come wandering back into her life, oblivious to the fact that he'd long been part of it.  And he had looked exactly as he did in that moment, barring the uniform and the haunted look in his eyes.  JenniAnn recalled how, on that day in the Fields of Gold, she had hidden behind Sibyll.  She'd felt shy and afraid to touch the angel or even speak to him, worried that if she did he would fade away or draw back from her.  That pessimistic thinking had kept her at a distance then but in the present it was something else entirely.  She needed him to reach out to her first, to know that he wanted her there.
Eli's gaze traveled from one set of green eyes to the other.  His reflected a mixture of relief and trepidation, hers tenderness and anxiety.  He decided he'd push the two to confront their warring emotions.
"All right then.  I'll just be on my way."  Eli shot each of them an encouraging look as he grabbed his coat.  Andrew stared at him in horror.  "I was only here to wait with JenniAnn until you got back, Andrew," he explained, choosing to be vague.  "Now you're here and I have an assignment.  But I'll stop in later in the week.  Maybe for dinner."

Andrew held fast to his arm.  "Eli, I don't want to do this again!" he whispered.  "I mean I'm glad they could help me in Missouri after Dawn was killed.  It meant a lot.  B-but why does the Father keep asking them to interrupt their lives to help me?" he demanded.  "And when there's a ra... when it's not safe!"

Eli continued to smile peacefully and met Andrew's hushed anger with a hug.  "Ask JenniAnn," he answered, waving to her.  "You all have a good night."  With a wink at the woman, who had at last pulled her gaze from Andrew long enough to smile at him, Eli disappeared.
Andrew gaped at the empty air where his fellow angel had been then turned back towards JenniAnn, his expression growing stern.  "Laja, you shouldn't be here.  You have no idea wh..."
"I don't think there's any where else for me to be, Andrew.  After your call, I prayed to be with you and soon after, Eli was in my office saying that God had answered my prayer.  So... it seems to me... here is exactly where I'm supposed to be," JenniAnn countered.
Andrew was furious.  That the Father had arranged the impromptu reunion was unfathomable.  God knew better than anyone what was going on in West Hollow!  This scenario of an unknown repeat attacker was even more sinister than what they'd faced nearly two years before in the form of Dawn's easily identifiable murderer.  And that had made him uneasy enough!  That had put the girls at too much risk... risk that now seemed minuscule in comparison!  The angel roused from his inner struggles and focused on his friend.  "That can't be, Laja.  I can't... I can't bear having you here.  Do you have any idea what's going on out there?"  He waved madly towards the window then reached for her hand.  "Come on, I'll get you home."
Tears formed in JenniAnn's eyes and she yanked her hand away from Andrew.  "I love you beyond reason," she vowed, caressing his cheek.  Her hand dropped and she moved away when he remained as still and resolute as before.  "But not beyond faith, Andrew.  God has brought me here.  And I won't tell Him no.  Not even for you.  And I know, if you just thought about it for a moment, you wouldn't ask me to."  She stared at him with defiance and determination.  She wouldn't leave no matter what he said but it hurt more than she was prepared for to know he simply didn't want her there.  She began to second guess whether it had been wise to come alone.  She wanted her friends there with her, standing up to and for Andrew together.  Dizzy, their representative plopped onto the nearby couch and began to weep, trying to hide the tears with her hair.
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 concerned.  Andrew was pondering how 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 basement. 

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.

"Dinner even?"

He nodded.

She reached for his hand.  "Dessert it is, then.  Come on." 

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 ready, 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 Arnold?"

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 about you... 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 conspicuous 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."

"Uh huh..."

"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 to 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 way."

"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 til the 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 tomorrow.  And 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 situation.

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 nightmare.

"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 really 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 me!"

"I know but... I was worried... I know you said not to be but...  Your nightmare..."  JenniAnn drifted off and looked out to the trees.

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?" he checked.

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 my 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 you but..."

"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 you." 

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 sure 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," Andrew countered.

"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 around doing 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 up."

"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 need to..."

But it was too late.  She turned back to the angel with a bemused expression.

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 pocket watch. 

"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.  "You look 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 wanted.

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 arrival, 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 hero with 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 quietness. 

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.  The 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 in 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 had 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 him.  And 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 dreamless sleep.


Saturday, October 23rd, 2010


Andrew woke up to the enticing scent of 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 position?"

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 asked.

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?"

Andrew blushed.

JenniAnn smiled reassuringly at him.  "We already know about the couch."

The angel nodded.  "I thought it was safer if someone was on ground level." 

"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 asked.

"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 helpful."

"We know.  And we love that about you so... how about you pour some 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 her pancakes.

"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 as being controlling.

"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 her.

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 understanding."

"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 them."

"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 teased.

"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 up.

"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 repaint 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 her nose.

"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 "Hardware."

"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 breakfast, 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 travel."

"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 sorrow.

"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 she did.

"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 smiled reassuringly.

"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 him.


As Andrew stepped into the police station, 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 Jonah snickered. 

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 shelters, 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 having that."

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 over 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.  "Anything else?"

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 been assigned to him once many years ago when he was "Chad the Rad"... an arrogant college 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 church?"

"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 press 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 ask."

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 other."

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 two officers.

"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 in to..."

"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 from 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 hand?"

"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 wrong, officer."

"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 needed more.

"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 silver heart."

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 help."

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 with Molly.

"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.

"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 to attention.

"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 girls. 

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 her hand.  "Hello, Officer Webb.  I'm glad you can join us for lunch."

"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 entered 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 locks."

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 karate."

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 recipe later."

"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 school.  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 cousin Nancy."

"And your parents?  Are they..."

Jonah shook his head.  "Never knew my father.  My mother has passed on."

Tess reached over to pat the man's hand.  "I'm sorry to hear that, baby."

"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 the cruiser.

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 and Tess.

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 can't."

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 that 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 them. 

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 you, baby.  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 away.

"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 crept 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 papers."

"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 hugged him.

Vincent smiled.  "Thank you.  But why aren't you asleep, Psyche?"

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 yet..."  JenniAnn's cheeks took on a crimson hue.

Vincent took one of her hands in his.  "I have always told you that 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 just can't 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 never knew."

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 with 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 God."

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 meant.

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 news.  "Andrew?"

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 thought..."

Andrew stared at his friend, blinking.  Then he shook his head.  "No," he moaned.  However, divine confirmation soon came.

JenniAnn squeezed his hand.  "I'll go make some coffee while you get ready." 

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 have 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 tumbler. 

"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 promise 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 demanded, 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 interview." 

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 my ingratitude."

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 room, 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 soon."

"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 latter asked.

"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 case."

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 woman.

"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 wit's end." 

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 manage it."

"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 subdued 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 them... 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 supportive?"

"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 easier."

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 together 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 looking to the congregants.  "Now, with that over, I'd like to extend a special welcome 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 exceptionally talented. 

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 around me."

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 you." 

"Erica."  She lightly shook JenniAnn's hand then blushed.  "I know it's 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 assure 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 JenniAnn.

"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 Lac?" Erica requested.

"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 performance."

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 lunch.  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 moment."

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 bad news.  I'll be right back, sorry."  She smiled apologetically at the preacher before stepping away.

Yva approached the angel as he slid his phone back into his coat pocket.  "Andrew, what's wrong?"

"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 development.


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 encourage her.

"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 Andrew's last words. 

"Erica..." the pastor whispered, tears forming in his eyes.

Like the pastor, Yva sensed that the mysterious girl was the runaway whose location had 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 lunch."  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 give his 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 stay here?"

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 assured.

"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 them.

"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?"

She nodded.

"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 to you."

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 remained 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 then away.

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."

She shrugged. 

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 Martins' with me?"

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 very bad?"

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."

"Sure, sure."

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 wasn't? 


Tess was enjoying some downtime in her 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 precarious her 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... I was hoping maybe you could take her in.  I know it's a lot to ask but..."

"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 both.


After dropping Yva and JenniAnn off at 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 already been 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 as 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 forced to. 

Once he'd finished filing the statement, Andrew joined Jonah in canvassing the houses that were near the park.  But except for the house Erica had 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 welcomed 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 decorating magazine. 

"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," Rose whispered.

"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 something... more."

"More???" JenniAnn prodded.

"Maybe take him to a sports game.  Or whatever you crazy kids are doing for entertainment these days." 

"We could try that," Rose agreed.  "Or even play some football ourselves."

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 myself."

"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," JenniAnn urged.

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 challenge you, 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... and 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. asked.  "Who?"

"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 greeting.

"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 asked.

"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 you're here, Monica."

"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 the 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 prowess 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, listening to 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 remaining 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 Dyeland 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 sleep.  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 front porch."

Yva entered, having finished helping Sir Sven unpack.  "What about Andrew's boots?  Please tell me you're not stealing his shoes now."

Rose snickered.

"I am not," JenniAnn defended with a grin.  "They're not very soft and cuddly... like flannel shirts.  I was just telling them that I'd 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 wonder..."

"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.

C.J. frowned.   "That's what we'd hoped but, Unfortunately, it won't be escapable.  As soon as Rose and I brought the game up and Andrew agreed, he called the coach and asked if the police could speak during halftime.  And Monica said 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 through."

"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 godfathers, too."

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 when 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 it 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 everyone can feel safe again."

The others nodded solemnly and prayed for exactly that.


Andrew and Jonah were going over the 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 why those 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 speak up.

"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 something."

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 like you."

"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 crap?"

"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 something beautiful."

"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 anyone..."

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 amongst."

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 where and..."

"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 now?  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 relaxed, 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 pulled up 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."

"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 head.

"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 place." 

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 fine.  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 absence.

"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 memory.

"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 doubt 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," JenniAnn explained.

"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," he joked. 

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 of 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 of death.  The latecomer smiled as Henry handed him a ginger ale.  It was all the proof he needed that his friends had been expecting him.

"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 heads. 

"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 worth..."

"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 Andrew.

His friend's charade was enough to break through his melancholy and Andrew burst out laughing.  He quickly realized the late hour and quieted.

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 fellow 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 something must be afoot.

A moment after the word from Above, Andrew appeared in the Webbs' living 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 the room.

"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 shoulders.  "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..."

"It's fine."

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 phone himself.

"This is Andrew."

"It's Jonah."

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 sounds of 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 informed. 

"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 side 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 know he 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 car."

"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 him."

"How about when he ran?  Did he have a limp or any distinctive way of walking?"

"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 her.

"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 girls feel." 

"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 accosted.


Gloved and waving flashlights, Andrew 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 dead leaves.

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 angel theory."

"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 could 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 trail ends." 

Dutifully, Andrew followed. 


Following their exhaustive search of where 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 us..."

"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?" Justin prodded.

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 blazing.

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 enraged."

"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 need anything?"

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 under 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 arm.

"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 against them. 

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, Andrew."

"I'll wait with Mark, unless you want me to go with you," Jonah offered.

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 evil around them.

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 he sounded. 

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 corner of 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 happened."

"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 raped wasn't His 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.  G'bye."  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," Vincent suggested.

"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 some 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 in 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 whispered.

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, Andrew was long gone.  His absence seemed to cast a pall over the morning.  Their own breakfast was quick and lacking in its usual 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 departed on 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 there.

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 nearer.

JenniAnn shook her head.  "No... the kids were great.  But, umm, am I the only one who noticed there are some things amiss around here?"

"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 annoyed."

"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 cabinet was 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 of 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.

"Either he's 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 soccer net 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 beside a 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 tossing stuff 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 over!" JenniAnn 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 clean..."

"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.

"I'm sorry."

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 to be 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 fight?"

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 to put his sports paraphernalia away as JenniAnn looked on, unsure how to start.

"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 rueful smile. 

"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 did 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 them.

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 seen this place before.  Tell me what assumptions you might make about the 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."

"What else?"

"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 her reluctance.

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 messy.  I 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 Dyeland?"

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 you 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 ground.

"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... Andrew had made it a paean to athleticism and strength.  For them.  It was all 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 you were 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 of 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 game 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 you say?"

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 feet away and seemed not to have.  When JenniAnn turned back, Andrew was smiling and clearing debris from what would be their makeshift field.

"If you end up with the ball, just run that way," he directed her, pointing east.

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.  Yeah, eleven."

"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 life, anyway?"

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 non-existent..."

Andrew smiled.  "I'll be fine, trust me.  I'm never alone." 

"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 rest."

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," Erica hissed.

"We'll leave.  I'm sorry," Andrew mumbled, hastily exiting the office.

"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 to a 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 their visitor was.  The sixty something man standing there in jeans and a well-worn sweater looked vaguely familiar to Andrew but he couldn't place him.

"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 Lac."

"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 a proposition."

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 him.

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 with 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 offered.

Jonah stared at his friend in shock.  "Ben, those guys don't come cheap... even at a reduced rate.  Someone will definitely question that."

"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."

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 airport?"

"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 station.

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 bowl of apple crisp was shoved into his hands. 

"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 chair. 

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 friend.

"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 the 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 him."

"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 once he 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 show."

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 always."

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 will."  

"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 thought of Andrew 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 grotesque 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 had reasoned." 

"Aww," Rose cooed, moved by such an image of Andrew.  "It's actually not 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 feeling only... well, 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 still there."

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 confessed.

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 promised. 

"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 there, too." 

"I think maybe just you girls should spend time with him," Catherine suggested. 

"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 off.

"I didn't mean for you to stop watching.  I might learn something.  Even after today, I still don't know a receiver 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 alley?"

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 face.

"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... cause..." 

Seeing how mightily Andrew was struggling, JenniAnn took one of his hands 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 safe."

With the invocation of that word, the full force of what Erica had said and 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 maintain control.   But the memories continued their assault.  Erica's futile bargaining with her grandma's ring.  She thought he looked 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 side.

"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 happened?" 

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 hurt."

"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 stressed.

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," Andrew stressed.

"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 we 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 know 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 face 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 trailed off.

"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 together."

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 them... 

"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 of 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 chairs.

"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 the others..."

"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 because 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 can't."

"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 added.

"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 spine."

"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 her friend.

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 decorations here."

"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," JenniAnn explained.

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 were 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 desk, 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 peaceful.

"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 nightmares."

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 mug.

"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 thanks."

"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 is."

"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 are you?"

"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 previous night.


While Andrew was gearing himself up for 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 love recognized.

"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 him."

"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 JenniAnn.

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 was never bald and seven pounds, six ounces or anything like that."

"Right  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 never known.

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."

Monica blushed.

"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.  Our 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 protégé.

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 best.'  Then 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.

Monica giggled.

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," Rose reminded.

"And this time we won't take that for granted.  Will we, baby?" 

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 meaningful conversation..."

"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 kitchen."

"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 JenniAnn's hands.

"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 forward."

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, Andrew 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 mother."

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 helpless."

"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 to him wide-eyed.

The man quickly regained control of himself.  "Yeah, you're probably right," he responded, his tone too airy to be believed by Andrew.

"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."

"I know."

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 here?"

"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 son's 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 people.  He told me that when he was in Vietnam, his platoon got hit really hard.  That's when he lost the leg.  He swore to me that this man materialized out of 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 set in. 

"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 the whole time until another unit arrived and got him back to the base.  He 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 could pay him back for his kindness.  According to Ben, the guy just smiled and said 'When you have a chance to reach out to someone, help them.'  Then he disappeared into thin air.  So that's what Ben's been doing ever since: reaching out.  Personally, I think this 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 Erica.

"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?"

"I do."

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, kiddo!" 

"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 side.

"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 seat 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 of the 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 hope.

The afternoon and early evening that followed had been comprised of a minor 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 well."

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 goes."

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 realize 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.  But dancing does."

"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 hall!"

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 floor in?"

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 giggling?"

"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 jested.

"You're really such a goof ball sometimes!"

"You should really show more respect for an officer of the law, young lady."

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 romantic.  As 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 song?"

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 so..."

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 lyrics. 

"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."

"Uh oh."

"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 and... I 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 Ways to Turn Him On.'  'Fulfill His Fantasies.'  'Your Guide to Hooking Up.'"

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 think.  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..."


"I suppose."

"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 feeding 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 objectification?"

"Laja, we can hope and pray that those close to them will do their best to 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 school 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 that foolishness bandied about so casually when they've experienced...  All that chatter implies there's always a choice for the girl...  Nothing forced...  Nothing... nothing violent."

Andrew watched helplessly as his friend's facade cracked.  The moral 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 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.   "Andrew?"


"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.  "Ya know, '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 table."

"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.


After 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 see."

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 touched."

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?"

"It's delithious."

Laughing, Rose handed him a glass of milk as Tess patted his hamster-like cheek.

"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 Halloween party."

"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 am 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 dancing began.


To everyone's delight, Adam, Henry, and Eli had all dropped by thus 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 duration." 

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 questioned.

"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 there.  It's like old times.  But better.  Because now we have all of you around, too."

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 evening.


Friday, October 29th, 2010


Andrew, Adam, Tess, and Monica had convinced their mortal friends to 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.

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 chairs.

"That was really great, you guys.  Thanks."

Monica smiled at Andrew.  "The dancing was all the girls' planning."

"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 memory.

"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, buddy."

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 passenger's seat.


Adam made another circle around the six 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 Poplar St."

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 driveway.

"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."

"You're sure?"

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 stars.

"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 Brigid, 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 proceedings.

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 calm.

"How's everyone back at your place?" Jonah finally asked after several minutes.

"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 door.

Andrew looked after the nurse with concern then followed Jonah as he entered Brigid's room to begin the questioning.  The fact that it had become routine 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, Brigid."

"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 the porch."

"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 to go back over all of that?  I don't think I can... again."   She shook 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 know?"

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 suspect." 

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 you.  Okay?"

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 head there 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.


By the 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 their desks.

"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 the station.

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 reappeared in the car shortly after being dropped off at Daffodil Lane.  He remained in the passenger seat, watching over 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 seemed like initially.  The angel could make out vague noises in the basement.  He walked down the stairs and found Vincent assembling a book shelf.

"Hi Vincent."

"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 asked.

Andrew sighed and settled onto a bench.  "Fine.  Where's everyone else?"

"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," Vincent explained.

Andrew nodded, already knowing as much.  "I'm surprised you didn't go Below."

"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 here."

"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 well."

Andrew nodded, needing some time for the words to sink in, and trotted up the remaining steps.


"Oh boy..." JenniAnn murmured as Monica 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 vehicles.

"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 some raking."

"I like that idea, too, thanks."  Andrew hugged them all, grateful that they seemed to understand that he couldn't discuss what had transpired in the last few hours yet desperately wanted to be surrounded by friends.

And so they all settled down to assorted tasks, keeping an eye on their friend the entire time.


Long since having finished caring for 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 gravely concerned.

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 started."

"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 in an 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 for a few moments.  His face was red from the cold wind and he occasionally shivered.  They exchanged worried glances and walked towards him.

"Andrew," Rose called as she and Monica drew near.  "The game's in an 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 the hammer 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 bed.

"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 hands.  "I 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 now."

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 a 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 field.

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 been greatly impressed by you, Officer Webb, and our fellow officers and by the goodness 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."  The angel 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 him.

"Erica?  Erica, what's wrong?" Andrew asked, setting a hand on her hair.

"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 him."

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.

Isobel nodded.

"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 congregation."

"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 promised.

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 blazing.

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 into the 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 the 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 responded, sneering.

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." 

"Call an ambulance!"

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 the 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 Andrew.

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 you.  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.  God isn't 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 in his.

"No, death isn't scary," Andrew assured.  "I promise you that."  He looked up, hearing the 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 descended 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 in his.


Saturday, October 30th, 2010


Jonah's first sensation upon waking was 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 shortly 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 a statement.

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 morning?"

"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."

"It is."

"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 Hollow 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 machinery.

"Ah, no.  I'm not a bird."

Nancy giggled.  "I believe my husband wants to know if you're an angel."

"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 Benefactor..."

"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 checked.

"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 except... God."

"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 hospital around noon when the nurses ordered them out so Jonah could rest.  They returned to Daffodil Lane where lunch and the company of friends awaited them. 

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 project half-finished...

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 start digging."

"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 stranded on a 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 teased. 

"Well, then I'd say a blend between Monica and a hippie," JenniAnn responded.

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 answered.

"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 mean it."

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 better."

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 lowered his 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 knight?"

"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 it?"

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 home." 

"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 girls inside who are rather anxiously awaiting your entrance.   I think they've got their hearts set on 'Spin-the-Bottle: Dyeland Style: Halloween Style.'"

"Oh really?"

"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, and two black-and-white bestriped prisoners waited in the living room... some with baited breath... staring at the door to a newly remodeled bedroom.  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 clearer view.

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 crime."

"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 and 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 offered.

"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 his 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 Lancelot so 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 showed 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?"

She nodded.

"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 father.

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 bird!"

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 to 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.

"You're preg..."

"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 look..."

"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 with 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 insisted. 

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. 

"Uh huh."

"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 lunch time."

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 partner.

"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 murmured. 

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 sink in. 

"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 everyone but..."

"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 been good?"

"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 afterwards.  And slowly... I began to trust.  Enough that when Thomas asked me out during our junior year... I said yes.  Haven't missed a date since." 

"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 knowing 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 the house.

"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 buried her."

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 out.  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 proud."

"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 hope to."

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 hope.


Eight months later...


Erica rocked her infant son.  Back 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 asleep.'"

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 he's thirty."

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 namesake.

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, Andrew, 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.

The End

Credits: First, I would like to thank 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 it. 

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 Cultural References:
"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                               coquelicots."
"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
Matt. 25:35
The Return of the King
Dorian Gray
"Tubular Bells" from The Exorcist
"Moondance" by Van Morrison
"Take Me Out to the Ballgame"
"Loving a Person" by Sara Groves
Jane Eyre
Pride and Prejudice
"Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole
Tour of Duty
"Tender Shepherd" from Peter Pan
Star Wars
Matt. 25:23

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 his breakdown. 
  • "Too Much" by Leeland- Nicole introduced me to this one.  It's perfect for Andrew through out this story.  So sad.  But also hopeful.
  • "I Think About You" by Collin Raye- I used this whenever I need 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 while I 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 and 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 feeling otherwise. 
  • "Abide with Me" by Mahalia Jackson- I'd actually picked this one out for 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.


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(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from "Touched by an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions. They are not being used to seek profit.)