Chapter 20

WINGING IT

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The angel had opened six envelopes of powdered hot-chocolate mix and handpicked out all the minimarshmallows. "They trap them in these little prisons with the brown powder. You must free them to put them in the cup," the angel explained, tearing open another packet, pouring the contents into a bowl, picking up the little marshmallows, and dropping them into his mug.

"Kill him while he's counting the marshmallows," said the Narrator. "He's a mutant. No angel could be that stupid. Kill him, you crazy bitch, he's the enemy."

"Nuh-uh," said Raziel, into his marshmallow foam.

Molly looked at him over the rim of her mug. By the candlelight in the kitchen, he certainly was a striking fellow  -  those sharp features, the lineless face, the hair, and now the chocolate-marshmallow mustache. Not to mention the intermittent glowing in the dark, which had been helpful when she was looking for some matches to light the candles.

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"You can hear the voice in my head?" she asked.

"Yes. And in my head."

"I'm not religious," Molly said. Under the table, she held the tashi with her free hand, its blade resting across her bare thighs.

"Oh, me either," said the angel.

"I mean, I'm not religious, so why are you here?"

"Lunatics. We're attracted to them. It has something to do with the mechanics of faith. I don't really understand it. Do you have any more?" He held up the empty cocoa envelope. His mug was overflowing with melted marshmallow foam.

"No, that's the whole box. So you're attracted to me because I'm loony and will believe anything?"

"Yes, I think so. And because no one will believe you. So there's no violation of faith."

"Right."

"But you are attractive in other ways, too," added the angel quickly, as if someone had suddenly smacked him in the head with a sock full of people skills. "I like your sword and those."

"My breasts?" It wasn't the first time that someone had said that sort of thing to her, but it was the first time it had come from a messenger of God.

"Yes. Zoe has those. She's an archangel like me. Well, not like me. She has those."

"Uh-huh. So there are female angels as well?"

"Oh yes. Not always. Everyone was changed after you happened."

"Me?"

"Man. Mankind. Women. You. Before we were all one kind. But then you happened, and we were divided up and given parts. Some got those, others got other things. I don't know why."

"So you have parts?"

"Would you like to see?"

"Wings?" Molly asked. She actually wouldn't mind seeing his wings, if he had them.

"No, we all have those. I mean my special parts. Would you like to see?" He stood and reached down the front of his pants.

It wasn't the first time she'd had an offer like that, but it was the first time it had come from a messenger of God.

"No, that's okay." She grabbed his forearm and guided him back into his seat.

"Okay, then. I should go. I have to check on the miracle and then go home."

"The miracle?"

"A Christmas miracle That's why I'm here. Oh look, you have a scar on one of them»

"He has the attention span of a hummingbird," the Narrator hissed "Put him out of his misery "

The angel was pointing to the jagged five-inch scar above Molly's left breast, the one she'd gotten when a stunt went wrong while filming Mechanized Death Warrior Babe VII. The injury that had gotten her fired, the scar that had ended her career as a B-movie action heroine.

"Does it hurt?" asked the angel

"Not anymore," Molly said

"Can I touch?"

It wasn't the first time that someone had asked, but  -  well, you know. "Okay," she said.

His fingers were long and fine, his fingernails a little too long for a guy, she thought, but his touch was warm and radiated from her breast through her whole body

When he pulled his hand away, he said, "Better?"

She touched where he had touched It was smooth. Completely smooth. The scar was gone. The angel blurred in her vision as tears welled up in her eyes.

"You complete shit bag of sentimental saccharine," said the Narrator

"Thank you," Molly said, with a hint of a sniffle "I didn't know you could  - »

"I'm good with weather," said the angel.

"Idiot!" the Narrator said

"I have to go now," said Raziel, rising from his chair "I have to go to the church to see if the miracle has worked»

Molly led him through the living room to the front door. She held the door for him. Even so, the wind whipped his coat around him and she could see the white tips of his wings below. She smiled, laughing and crying at the same time.

"Bye," the angel said. He walked away into the woods.

As Molly closed the door, something dark flew through it. The candles in the living room had blown out, so all she could see was a shadow flying through the house, disappearing into the kitchen.

She got the door shut and trod into the kitchen, holding her sword at a low ready. By the candlelight in the kitchen, she could see the shadow over the kitchen window, two eyes shining orange back there in the dark.

She picked up a candle from the table and moved toward the window until the shadow cast shadows of its own. It was some kind of animal, hanging from the shutter over the sink, looking like a black towel with a little doggy face. It didn't seem dangerous, just, well, a little goofy.

"Well, this is it I am getting back on my meds tomorrow, if I have to borrow the money from Lena»

"Not so fast," said the Narrator. "It'll be so lonely in here when I'm gone. And you'll be back to wearing your normal clothes. Jeans and sweaters, you can't want that."

Ignoring the Narrator, Molly approached the creature on the shutters until she was only two feet away and staring right into its eyes. "Angels are one thing, but I don't even know what in the hell you are, little guy."

"Fruit bat," said Roberto.

"He might be a Spaniard," said the Narrator. "Did you hear the accent?"

"I'm going out there," Theo Crowe said, finding a grip on the Christmas tree.

"He still has one bullet," said Tucker Case.

"They are going to torch the place. I've got to get out there."

"To do what? You going to take their matches away?"

Lena took Theo by the arm. "Theo, they'll never get a fire started in this rain and wind. Don't go out there. Ben didn't make it two steps."

"If I can get to an SUV, I can start running over people," Theo said. "Val gave me the keys to her Range Rover."

"Well, that's not going to work," said Tuck. "There's a bunch of them. You might get some of the feeble ones, but the rest will just run into the woods where you can't get to them."

"Fine. Suggestions? This place will burn like tinder, rain or no rain. If I don't do something we're going to get roasted."

Lena looked at Tuck. "Maybe Theo's right. If he can drive them into the woods, maybe the rest of us can make a break for the parking lot. They can't get all of us."

"Fine," Theo said. "Divide people up into groups of five and six. Give the strongest member of each group the key to an SUV. Make sure everyone knows where they're going once they get out the door. When you hear the horn on the Range Rover play 'Shave and a Haircut, it will mean I've done what I can do. Everyone make a break for it."

"Wow, you came up with that while stoned," Tuck said. "I'm impressed."

"Just get everyone ready. I'm not going out on that roof until I'm sure no one is waiting for me."

"What if we hear a gunshot? What if they get you before you get to the car?"

Theo pulled a key out of his pocket and handed it to Tuck. "Then it would be your turn, wouldn't it? Val had her spare car key with her, too."

"Wait a minute. I'm not running out there. You have an excuse, you're stoned, you're a cop, your wife threw you out, and your life is in shreds. Things are going good for me."

"When Constable Crowe leaves, then can we cut off his head?" asked Joshua Barker.

"Okay, maybe not," said Tuck.

"I'm going," Theo said. "Get everyone ready at the door."

The lanky constable made his way up the Christmas tree. Tuck watched him climb out on the roof, then turned to the others. "Okay, you guys heard him. Let's break into groups of five and six by the front doors. Nacho, grab the hammer, we're going to have to pull the nails on the reinforcements. Who's driving an SUV?"

Everyone but the children raised their hands.

"It won't spark, it's wet," said Marty in the Morning. He was trying to coax fire out of a drenched disposable lighter. The undead stood around him, looking at the pile of gasoline-sodden debris they'd piled against the side of the chapel.

"I love barbecue," said Arthur Tannbeau. "Every Sunday out at the ranch, we used to  - »

"Only in California could one refer to a citrus farm as a ranch," interrupted Malcolm Cowley. "As if you and the yahoos would all go out on horseback to round up the tangerines."

"Didn't anyone find a dry lighter or matches in any of the cars?" Dale Pearson said.

"No one smokes anymore," said Bess Leander. "Disgusting filthy habit anyway."

"Said the woman who still has brain matter on her chin from that fellow in the sweater," said Malcolm.

Bess smiled coyly, most of her gums visible through her receded lips. "They were so tasty  -  it was like he'd never used them."

There was a chirp from the front of the chapel and all of them looked. Yellow lights flashed on one of the vehicles up there.

"Someone's making a break for it," screamed Dale. "I thought I told you to keep an eye on the roof."

"I did," said the one-armed Jimmy Antalvo. "It's dark. I can't see shit."

As they rushed down the side of the chapel toward the front, they saw a dark shadow slide off the side of the roof to the ground.

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