An angel teams up with a demon to save his sister from an early death at the hands of a goony drug dealer who is eager to pull a trigger.
Written by Gregory Patrick Travers
A lot of humans think that angels don’t swear. That’s fucking stupid. Angels swear all the goddamn time. We are sworn to uphold anything that accentuates the raw, timeless beauty of life. And I’ll be fucked if swearing doesn’t add a messy splotch of color to the black-and-white palette the humans sadly believe to be existence.
See, that’s the problem with you fucking humans. You have to define and compartmentalize every little action so that it fits in with your delicate understanding of right and wrong. And if it doesn’t fit in with part of the plan, part of the neat little picture of how things go, well, then you don’t want it. You don’t even acknowledge it.
If it can’t be explained in the simplest of binary terms, you think it’s a load of hogwash.
Take my sister for example; a beautiful young girl in the prime of her earthly life. She could probably be happy and with someone who treated her right, but to her, that life didn’t exist. Because she can’t explain it. She has no point of reference. Dad split when we were young and her and ma’ never did really click. Then I got shot. Jackie just wanted someone to protect her. And so she fell for the guys with the biggest arms and the loudest mouths. Guys like that no good street hustler, Cody Ross.
From the roof of the convenience store I watched them both in the alleyway standing between a pair of city dumpsters. Cody looked panicked and Jackie looked tired. Her hair was greasier than I remembered it and, even from the roof, I could see the dark circles under her eyes. The pain in my stomach that had led me to her was getting worse. That wasn’t a good sign. Jackie was in danger.
I wished that I could float down to where they stood, grab Cody by his oversized neon tank top and tell him to get the fuck away from my baby sister, but unfortunately, one thing angels don’t do is interfere with the doings of the living. We can’t, even if we wanted to. It’s forbidden.
Angels can influence, but they can’t interfere.
“Where is he?” Jackie asked Cody, weepy and weak.
Cody looked upset to be bothered. “He’ll be here. Just relax. Have a smoke or something.”
Her voice raised in pitch, “Well, can I have one then?”
Cody pulled out a dented pack of Player’s Light’s and tossed it at her. She fumbled the catch but got a grip on it before the it hit the ground, looking back to Cody as if expecting praise for her quick reflexes.
It was not received.
Jackie opened the pack and slid a smoke out from the deck. Her hands were shaking pretty bad.
She spoke softer this time, “Lighter?”
Cody scoffed and shook his head. “You want me to smoke it for you, too?”
He pulled a lighter from the pocket of his faded denim jeans and held it outward until Jackie came and took it from him.
Soon after she took her first puffs, another person joined them in the alley. This man was a large, muscular man, dressed in all black, with a shaved head and a brow line that protruded over his tiny eyes like a neanderthal. Despite his intimidating form and aggressive posture, both Cody and Jackie looked relieved at his arrival.
The man pulled out a small package from the breast pocket of his leather coat and handed it to Cody, saying coldly and very direct, “Money by Friday, you understand?”
Cody nodded and assured the man he had nothing to worry about. But worried was the last thing that this man looked. He stared at Cody, huffed, and turned back to the street.
Once the neanderthal had left them alone, Jackie skipped over to Cody and wrapped her hands around his waist. “We got it,” she giggled. Her mood had brightened exponentially. “Let’s go do a line in the car. I’m dying…”
That’s when it became clear why Jackie looked so rough. She was hooked.
I should have guessed as much with her kicking around Cody, and all. He was the type of guy who liked to keep his girls on the powder. That way they needed him. I’ve dealt with those kinds of guys my whole life; the ones with low self-esteem, the ones that lash out and belittle the people around them to make themselves appear bigger than they really are. My father was one of those guys. So was the guy that killed me.
As the two of them walked out of the alley, I took off my jacket and let my wings span out. I let them extend upward at first before they relaxed, settling in a resting position against my bony shoulder blades. It felt nice, like the first big stretch when you get out of bed in the morning. Under an overcast sky, the mid-afternoon breeze tickled my feathers. I rested my jacket down on the gutter, reminding myself to return for it before nightfall and its accompanying chill set in on the city.
My right sneaker tipping out in front of me, I stepped off the edge of the roof and gently sailed down to the garbage littered pavement twenty or so feet below. If the living were able to see angels I’m sure it would have been quite the sight to be seen; a man with a six-foot wingspan descending from the sky like I was. But unfortunately, angels cannot be seen, nor heard, nor felt by the humans they watch over.
I followed close behind Cody and Jackie as they hurried down the sidewalk. Gliding through the air, I sailed comfortably just above the sea of lunch traffic rushing manically through the city grid. Car horns honked in the distance. Delivery trucks kicked plumed black clouds from their exhaust pipes. The lanes were moving at a snail’s pace and the frustration was starting to show on the faces of the drivers in their cars. The living were always in a great, big hurry to get somewhere or go somewhere or leave somewhere, though, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you why. They were all going to the same place in the end.
Jackie and Cody got into Cody’s old, rusty Honda Civic and pulled out into the street, merging with traffic and driving off down Main Street. The further they got from me, the worse the pains in my stomach became.
My wings cut through the wind as I picked up speed, sailing just over one of the many yellow taxis patrolling the city. I caught up with Cody’s Civic in seconds and hovered just behind the beat up car all the way to the east of town, to a Motel 6 beside the exit to the freeway.
When they got out of the car, Jackie looked a lot better, more calm and content than she had been in the alleyway. I knew why. She had gotten her fix.
I followed behind as they jogged up the staircase at the side of the motel leading up to the second floor, and entered a room. The door shut behind them. I arched my wings and soared to the second level, landing softly on the veranda. I stopped by the window to their room. The curtains were drawn but the window was cracked just a bit for air and I could hear them speaking inside.
“Cut us out some,” I heard Cody order.
I decided it was time for me to intervene. I could use my power of influence to wake Jackie from the drugged-out trance she was under. But just before I could walk through the concrete wall and into the room, the front door swung open and Cody walked out with his cell phone pressed against his ear and a cigarette dangling from his lips.
He closed the door behind him and hunched over the railing, looking down into the parking lot.
“Joey…” he said to the person on the phone. “It’s Cody…yeah, I got it…It’s a quarter ounce…I’m at the Motel 6 on Windrex Road…alright…okay…If we’re gonna skip town we need to do it now. They want the money by Friday. We need to get out of here before the bullets start flying…The girl? She’s just some junkie, don’t worry about her, she doesn’t know a thing…Okay, I’m leaving now…See you soon.”
Cody hung up the phone and walked inside the motel room, closing the door behind him. From the crack in the window, I heard him say, “I have to head out for supplies soon, babe. You stay here, understand? I’m taking the package with me to make a chop, so take some out for yourself…not too much…”
It was right then that I had a vision and it was clear to me why the pains in my stomach had led me to Jackie. When the Neanderthal from the alley came for his money, Cody will have already skipped town and Jackie would end up paying for it with her life.
I knew I had to save her, but how? Angels were forbidden to interfere with the doings of the living.
Then it hit me and a smile stretched across my face. Angels may not have been able to interfere with the living…but demons were a whole other story altogether.
I took a seat at the bar beside him. I didn’t need to expose my wings for him to know why I was there. He didn’t even break his gaze from the bar television as he said, “Why you gotta fuck with me here? It’s my day off…”
The bartender stepped over and pointed at the empty shot glass in front of Telly. “Another gin?”
Telly nodded, continuing to watch the game.
I chuckled. “A demon drinking gin…”
The bartender came back with the shot of clear liquid and left just as fast. Telly put it back and slammed the shot glass back down on the bar, breaking from the television to turn to me and shrug. “It’d be funnier if you were Muslim…what the fuck do you want?”
“I need your help.”
Telly laughed at me. “That’s not how things work. We’re not exactly on the same team, you know?”
“I know,” I said. “I’m an angel and you’re a demon. But you can interfere with the living. I can’t.”
Telly grinned with pride. “Yeah, fucking with these flesh-bags comes pretty easy. But why would I help you?”
I knew that question was coming. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my Gold Card, placing it in front of Telly on the bar. His eyes were locked on to the shimmering plastic from the moment he saw it.
“Is that what I think it is?” he asked breathlessly.
I grinned. “Yup. The Gold Card.”
Telly picked up the card with great care and examined it. “And this little thing will absolve you of your sins and get you into heaven?”
“When the time comes to cross over…yeah. And I’m willing to give it to you. All you have to do is help me.”
Telly’s mouth closed shut and shot me a narrowed, conspicuous glare. “Why don’t you want it? Don’t you care about getting into heaven?”
I told him about my sister and the vision I had about the dealer who would end up killing her.
“That’s some notion,” he replied. “You’re willing to spend eternity in hell just to save this girl’s life?”
“Sounds fucking crazy,” he said with a shrug of nonchalance. “But I guess that’s why you’re the angel and I’m the demon. Sure, you got a deal…what’s the plan?”
“You ever wonder who’s right?” I asked Telly as we sat on a curb in the Motel 6 parking lot that Friday. Cody had been gone for more than a day. Jackie had promptly sniffed through her stash and was starting to come down from her high. I knew because Telly and I would watch her pace back and forth outside the hotel room on her phone trying to get a hold of Cody. But Cody wasn’t coming back and soon the goon from the alley would be there to collect his money. Money that Jackie didn’t have.
“What do you mean, who’s right?” asked Telly.
“Like, what religion is right. I mean, we’ve never actually seen God. So how do we know what religion is the right one?”
“Does it really matter?” said Telly, not very moved by the question. “You get pains in your stomach until you help people, I get pains in my stomach until I fuck shit up. Does it really matter who’s up there?”
“I guess, no. Not really.”
“Then stop asking stupid questions,” he concluded.
Right then, a black SUV pulled in slowly to the parking lot and came to a stop in front of the Front Office. As I suspected, the Neanderthal from the alley stepped out.
“There he is,” I said to Telly. “Did you bring it?”
Telly reached behind him and pulled a small, black revolver from his waistband. “Yeah, I brought it,” he said, gripping it tight in his palm. “Let’s go fuck with destiny…”
We got up from the curb and followed the Neanderthal as he headed up the stairs to the second level of the Motel. We stayed a good distance behind so Telly wouldn’t be seen. I didn’t have much to worry about in that department.
When we got to the second level, we could hear him banging on Jackie’s door before we even turned the corner. And once we did, there was no turning back.
Telly raised his revolver and yelled, “Back the fuck up, motherfucker!”
The Neanderthal turned and saw Telly with the gun pointed at him. He reached inside his leather jacket and withdrew a firearm of his own, firing off a shot at me and Telly. The bullet pinged off the guard railing and a flock of birds quickly fluttered off the roof where they had been perched.
Telly fired off a return shot but it was for nothing. The Neanderthal had taken cover around the far corner leading to the opposing staircase. A moment later, his stubby hand appeared and his firearm shot off another loud blast. It missed.
Telly hadn’t even flinched. He remained straight-armed, the revolver in front of him, aim steady. And when the Neanderthal poked his head around the corner to place our position, Telly squeezed on his trigger and sent a bullet whizzing through the Neanderthal’s beefy neck.
The beastly thug collapsed to the floor, grabbing frantically at his wound.
Telly grinned, proud of himself. “And they say I wasted my life on video games…”
We jogged over to where the Neanderthal laid spread out on the veranda, choking on his own blood. He looked up at us, trying to say something, but his words only came out as a gurgle.
Telly dropped to one knee beside him and pressed the barrel of the revolver against his lumpy forehead. He stared the ogre dead in the eyes as he pulled the trigger.
The Neanderthal was still after that.
“There,” said Telly, getting to his feet. “Problem solved.”
The sounds of sirens appeared in the distance, and grew increasingly louder with each passing second.
I looked over the second-floor railing, down into the street. A trail of flashing blue and red lights on the tops of black and white squad cars were racing towards the Motel parking lot.
“You better get out of here,” I said to Telly, knowing that he, unlike me, could be seen by the humans.
I whirled, wondering why he hadn’t answered, and found Telly was already gone. Vanished.
I let my wings stretch out and I jumped over the railing, slowly floating down to the parking lot just as the parade of squad cars squealed onto the property.
The car doors swung open and a gang of blue uniforms exited the vehicles with their guns drawn.
“Drop the gun, now!” yelled the officer closest to me from behind his shielding driver side door. He seemed to be looking right at me. They all did.
“I said, drop the gun!” he repeated.
I looked down and saw Telly’s revolver in my hand. How I had gotten it, I had no idea. And even more confusing was the fact that the humans could see me.
“Drop the gun or we’ll shoot!” yelled another one of the officers surrounding me.
Didn’t they see my wings? I wondered. Weren’t they afraid?
I let the revolver fall out of my hands and before I could say a word, a couple officers tackled me from behind and brought me to the floor.
“No! Stop it!” I heard a woman yell. Though a fleshy palm was forcing my face into the asphalt, I had no problem recognizing the voice.
“Stay back!” ordered the officer whose knee was dug deep into my back.
I didn’t understand why my wings weren’t getting in his way.
“You don’t understand,” begged Jackie. “That’s my brother! He’s been missing for years! He’s sick mentally. He’s not right! He sees things! Please, don’t hurt him!”
The officer pulled my hands behind my back and I felt the cold steel of handcuffs tighten around my wrists.
What was Jackie talking about? I see things? I’m not right? And where had my wings gone? How did they just disappear?
Suddenly, it all made sense.
I had given Telly my Gold Card. The switch had been made. That’s why he disappeared. That’s why my wings were gone.
Telly was the angel now. He would be the one going to heaven.
And I…I would be the one going to hell.