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Authors: Vijaya Schartz

Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Fantasy, #General, #Angels, #Human-Alien Encounters

Archangel Crusader (4 page)

BOOK: Archangel Crusader
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"Are you a relative?"

"Sort of... She's my girlfriend. How is she?" Why didn’t the officer tell him? It couldn’t be that bad... He couldn’t stand it if she died. The thought brought a wave of nausea.

"Come this way." The policeman led him off to the side. "They took her to Albert Einstein Medical Center...unconscious. Alive, but it didn't look good... She took the full impact... Go to the hospital, I won't bother you now. Just stop by the precinct later, we may need some information."

"What happened?" A creepy feeling told Michael this was not an ordinary accident.

"The black vehicle crossed against the light full speed... No one saw the driver... No license plates, no fingerprints... Quite unusual... Strange accident."

Now, Michael recognized the Mercedes. This couldn’t be happening! He couldn’t lose the woman he loved. “I've got to go."


I understand. Good luck." The officer nodded a dismissal.

As he started back to the van, Michael saw a familiar figure in the crowd, dressed in black leather, smiling. Immediately, his body stiffened. The long black hair, the handsome face, it was Krastinios, the man born of a snake.


You, mother-fucker!" Pressure tightened Michael's brain in a vice. He flinched, brought a hand to his eyes.

A voice blared in his head. "I warn you, Earthling. Do not contact the Blue Angel, or I will kill you, too." The man of his nightmare smiled, looking him straight in the eyes, then simply vanished.

Kill? Surely, Veronica wasn’t dead. "What are you? Did you do this?" But Michael talked to empty air. "I'll get you for this!" he muttered in a dangerous whisper. Retrieving the van, he turned the vehicle around and sped to the emergency room, cursing the traffic.

Too late... Veronica was no more, said the physician in blue scrubs. She had died of massive hemorrhage, the surgeon explained, as if the technical details made any difference.

Like an automaton, Michael identified the mutilated body lying, abandoned, under the white sheet of a gurney in the cold emergency unit. So this was all that remained of the beautiful woman he loved. Where had the laughter and the happiness gone? Michael felt cheated. The medical staff left the room to give him privacy. He drew the sheet over her bloody face and held her inert hand as if to comfort her. “We were good together... Don’t worry, honey, you’ll be all right. Just wait for me up there, will you? I’ll be gentle telling Jennifer." He closed his eyes, remembering her smiling face this very morning, with clear eyes dancing with life.

Inside him, a deep void, a numb, empty hole... Never again would he hear the comforting voice, feel the satiny skin... Never again would she run fingers through his hair... Never again... Michael wanted to howl like a wounded beast. So many innocent people had died around him, his first-born son, his teenage wife, Krystal's little girl, now Veronica. Why was life so unfair?

What about Jennifer? She remained his only anchor in life. Would she have to die, too?

Michael wondered if he would survive the unbearable pain. He could not fathom the loss. Veronica... All the love he'd felt for her and never expressed. Michael realized now how much she had meant to him. If only he could tell her now... At least apologize for being such a jerk sometimes. She would probably forgive... He would do anything to make things right again, to tell her one more time that he loved her.

Michael wiped a tear and collected himself. He squeezed Veronica’s hand, knowing she wouldn’t approve, but he had to do this. “I promise you, honey, on Jennifer’s life and mine, that I will exact justice. I will kill the bastard who did this to you. Over your cold body, I swear it. Never let me forget it.”

 

 

Chapter Four

 

 

"Hi Dave, it's me." Michael hoped that calling his younger brother would help. They had shared rough times over the years.

"Mike? Something wrong?" Concern colored Dave's thick voice.

"That obvious?" Michael felt his voice tremble.

"Well, it's three in the morning and you sound awful."

"It's Veronica, a car accident. She died at the hospital." Michael's grip strengthened on the glass, threatening to break it.

"What? My God, Mike! How are you holding up?"

"Not good. It's hard... The hardest thing since Krystal's kid died three years ago." Michael struggled not to cry.

"Mike, talk to me, brother, I don't want you to do anything crazy like last time... We love you. The world wouldn't be the same without you. Think of Jennifer. She needs you badly."

"I know... Don't worry. I won't try that again. It didn't work last time either." The smiling picture of Veronica looked straight into his soul from the bottle of Jack Daniels he had propped it against.

"I know your relationship was not perfect, but you loved Veronica very much, I know that."

"Yeah, I miss her... She changed my life forever. I'll never be the same again. What am I going to do without her?" Michael toyed with a birthday card on the desk, with Veronica's writing on it. "When I think that just this morning... we opened up, finally. She seemed to understand me. We were so happy, as if we made our peace just before... Then Zap! Bizarre accident, too. Sometimes I think I'm going crazy. I've got to tell someone about this."

"Of course, Mike. I'm really sorry. Tell me everything..."

Michael retold the events of the past few days, his nightmares and pseudo-hallucinations. As usual, Dave listened patiently. Michael could not have wished for a more attentive brother. Nevertheless, Dave's final advice did not match Veronica's vote of confidence.

"I think you should try to forget about the whole thing. What you need is a vacation. Why don't you come here for a while, with Jennifer? You haven't been in your hometown in twenty years. You could help me build my house, just like old times. Becky and the kid would love to have your company."

"Come on, Dave. Did you hear my story? Are you deaf or what?" Michael's voice rose several decibels. The anger withheld so far needed to erupt now. He could not control it anymore. Standing up suddenly, he knocked the chair down. The receiver in one hand and the glass in the other, Michael paced up and down the living room like a caged beast. "I said I have to find out what happened to her. Do you understand?"

"Yes Mike, I'm sorry. I think I understand," Dave apologized.

"I know the black leather guy wants to get to me. If the son of a bitch killed her, he'll pay for it, I swear." Michael kicked the wall with a boot, leaving a dent. Still not relieved, he sent the empty glass crashing against the kitchen tile. "I know he did it! And he'll kill me too if I don't stop him. Mark my words."

"Calm down now... Don't do anything rash. You know where it led you before. You don't want to find yourself in jail, do you? You're paranoid, man. Are you taking your pills?"

"Not for ages... That stuff's bad for you." Michael tried to joke, annoyed by the reminder.

"I was afraid of that. You should, you know. Mood disorders can be serious... Anyway, it's none of my business."

"Damn right! None of your goddamn business." Michael drank a gulp of scotch straight from the bottle and slammed it back unsteadily on the coffee table. He felt so vulnerable as he stared at Veronica's photograph. "She just happened to be in the way, man... She believed in me, thought I could help the blue bastard. She wanted me to do it. I owe her... Someone will pay for this."

"Maybe when you go to the police they'll volunteer some information," Dave ventured timidly.

"Me? To the police? You're dreaming." Michael took another gulp of Jack Daniels. “I jumped bail on two DUIs. I'm not taking any chances."

"Well, anyway... My offer still stands. You're welcome here anytime. How's Jennifer taking it?"

"She cried a little. I told her Veronica went to heaven with Penny. Kids take it a lot better than we do sometimes. When little Penny died, Jennifer didn't even cry. Of course she was prepared then. But this!" Michael paused, a painful knot contracting his throat. "I don't understand this. It's so... unexpected." He sighed but did not feel any better for it. Then, his powerful shoulders heaved out of control, and he broke into wretched sobs.

Dave's voice came to him, soft and warm. "It's all right, brother, it's all right to cry. You're entitled. Maybe it'll make you feel better."

Good old Dave always took anything Michael threw at him, and never complained. After a while, wiping his face with one sleeve to clear the pain, Michael added, "There's something else... Do you know whatever happened to Jennifer's mother?"

"Tori? Last time I heard, she married a Frenchman and went to live in Paris. I could ask her mother."

"Thanks, I'd appreciate that. Did she kick the habit?”

"I heard she was clean when she got married."

"Good! Jennifer really wants to meet her. I can't say ‘no’ forever. Sooner or later, it'll happen. Maybe this is a good time for her to visit Europe."

"She's a little young, don't you think, to travel alone?"

"She can handle it."

"Are you going to be all right, Mike? Call me anytime... I wish I was there with you."

When Michael finally hung up, thoughts of his childhood with Dave brought up tough memories. So much hurt, so much pain, what for? Sometimes he wished he had killed his stepfather when he'd had a chance that day, long ago, when they were chopping wood in the forest. The son-of-a-bitch had ducked the ax flying at his face. Too bad, that good-for-nothing did not deserve to live.

 

*****

 

Two days later, Veronica, in full makeup, looked serene and beautiful as usual lying in the expensive casket her parents had chosen. Tender pink roses and pure white carnations filled the cold room with fragrance and softness. Muted, pointless conversations buzzing in his ears, Michael felt awkward, even after a few beers. He never liked social gatherings while Veronica enjoyed them.

Michael was glad for Bill's presence and conversation. The big man in his fifties had been his friend and working companion for the past two years. Michael trusted Bill's pale grey eyes. The weathered face and receding gray hair had lived through many experiences. It showed in the way Bill always understood, whether it pertained to work or personal matters.

Except for Bill and Jennifer, Michael did not care for anyone here, mainly acquaintances of Veronica's mother and a few co-workers from the hospital. Lying there in state, Veronica held the center of attention one last time. Where are you my love... Oh, how I miss you. For an instant, he saw the shadow of a smile on the cool red lips, but no, although the body rested here, Veronica was gone... Gone forever.

As Michael stared wordlessly at the loved made-up face, Veronica's mother, impeccable and disdainful despite her red eyes and silk handkerchief, crossed the room, supported by a few friends. When she saw him, she approached as if to give him a hug. Michael stepped back instinctively.

"Thanks for arranging all this," he said, a little more bravado in his voice than he intended. "I know she likes it."

"Yes, she enjoyed parties. Where is Jennifer?"

"Somewhere around the chocolate cake, I think."

"I should have known. Dear child... Oh hi, Bill, it's nice to see you. Michael, I want you to know that although Veronica is gone," she dabbed at her eyes with her handkerchief, "you and Jennifer will always be welcome in our home."

The sweet words stung Michael like poison. This was the very woman who had tried to steer Veronica away from him, undermining the relationship with her venomous tongue.

"Save your breath, woman. It's no secret you never liked me, or anyone for that matter. You never understood why your daughter loved me, and to tell the truth I don't either. But Jen and I won't stay around much longer. Have no fear." Michael's tone, louder than intended, made some heads turn.

"We'll miss you both," said the older woman, obviously containing a smile of relief.

"You may miss Jennifer, but I don't believe you'll miss me much Ma'am. And I won't miss you either." Michael felt Bill's restraining hand on his arm.

"Well... I have to see to my other guests... Good luck to you, Michael, and to Jennifer." She might as well have said, good riddance. Never one angry word... The hatred was all in the nuances.

"Thanks anyway, we might need luck sometime soon."

As Veronica's mother retreated, surrounded by her faithful friends, Michael's gaze wandered past the heads of the guests across the room, focusing on a particularly tall and handsome back in fine black leather, harboring a dark ponytail. The man turned around, flashed an engaging smile then raised his glass in a cheery toast.

This was too much. Michael pounded his glass on the nearest table. As he stared at the stranger, unblinking, the blood drained from his face. "Asshole from hell," he whispered dangerously, "How dare you?"

Outwardly calm and resolute Michael cut his way through the small groups in the direction of Krastinios. In his chest, however, the very name sent red-hot flames fueling a hate worse than any he had ever known for his stepfather. Hands clenching as he traversed the distance, Michael was aware of Bill following him with difficulty, but the man in black quickly headed for the door.

BOOK: Archangel Crusader
6.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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