3. Desperate Angels, Mr D, and the Other Detective
I got 25 minutes. The door broke open and three of them came in before my wings had furled. That didn’t matter. I recognised the intruders. Cells, from the CBI, the Celestial Bureau of Investigation. Two Ophanim and a Hashmel: Shadrach.
‘Gabriel, well, well.’ He looked around the hotel room. ‘Better than the underpass, but not much.’
I had my Paradise Papers out - and my return ticket on the Hellavator. He ignored them.
‘We know you have those. We’d like you to ascend at your earliest convenience.’
‘My earliest convenience?’
‘And if I don’t?’
‘We cannot allow you to …’
He bit off the words piece by piece,
‘To complete your … investigation.’
‘It’s complete. I’ve seen her. Found her, that’s all I had to do.’
‘No he didn’t. Even those types know better than that.’
I saw the cloth on the back of Shadrach’s jacket ripple.
‘Nevertheless, we ask that you don’t report back to your client.’
‘So the CBI is asking me now?’
‘We can make things hard for you, even down here.’ But they couldn’t, not if it meant going outside the guidelines. I’d just have to hide in plain sight until I found a way to speak to the wife of the President of the United States, and found out why the CBI were so interested.
The lead CBI agent had assumed the look of a man around 40, bald and corpulent. He nodded at the other two stooges and they all left.
In Paradise, especially in Third Heaven, eternity takes some filling. Some angels think one of the Fallen invented TV so that they’d have something to do, instead of screwing around with the Earthbound women. I don’t like much modern TV, but I bless Ted, for inventing that channel with the old black-and-white movies. I heard that the Big Guy likes them too: he likes things in Black-and-White, just ask Lucifer. I met him once, when I was still in the CBI myself. There were protocols for when Gee Oh Dee and Mr D met. We helped out with security for the summits: the Seraphim Service couldn’t manage on their own, so they’d let us do a little perimeter security.
The first thing I noticed about Mr D was that he didn’t have horns, but he wore damned baggy pants with the crotch as low as an East Side gang banger. I guess they watch TV in the underworld too. We were on neutral territory, at the top of Mount Rushmore. It had taken days to camouflage the access. The Hellavator still used phone booths at that time: the CBI, the Seraphim Service and our counterparts had trumped up a geological survey above the ex-Presidents’ heads. Of course there had to be two phone booths: they couldn’t be seen to come out of the same booth. Protocols, see.
Anyway, I’d gone out over Washington’s nose for some peace and quiet. We’d had weather arranged, low cloud and fog. He was a handsome looking fellow, the Devil: he was sitting legs crossed on the bridge of George’s nose. I was hovering, feeling the air on my wings.
‘What’s up?’ he said. He blew out a smoke ring and waved a large havana in my direction.
‘Nothing, sir, just checking the perimeter.’
‘Call me Dev.’
‘Of course, sir, I mean … Dev.’
‘What’s your name?’
‘G-gabriel,’ I said.
This always happened.
‘No, no relation.’
He shook his head and then shrugged.
‘Know what this summit’s about?’
‘No s- Dev.’
‘It’s about ending it. The Manichean struggle.’
‘Didn’t the Earthbound make that up?’
‘What if they did? It’s what we’re all about, isn’t it. Me, Gee Oh Dee, you, the Earthbound. Everybody… Everything.’
‘What do you mean? Isn’t it real?’
‘Who knows? Maybe that’s why the other side won’t give it up.’
‘And you will?’
‘I’m tired Gabe, forever is a long time to play the bad guy. Frankly I don’t care if I finally do disappear in a puff of smoke.’
He blew another large ring and winked at me.
‘So it goes. Listen kid, if you ever…’
He broke off, smiled a sad smile and I saw the point of a long canine hang over his lower lip.
‘Naw, I guess not. You got the name to live up to, even if you’re no relation.’
Some grey cloud came lower still and separated us for a moment. When it lifted he had gone.
I never declared the contact. We were supposed to file a report on any contact even with the most lowly of the Fallen. I spoke to Mr D and never told anyone. So how did the CBI find out? They did and I lost my job and any chance of having six wings and having the ear of the Big Guy.
My wings furled. I sat on the bed in the Falls Church Best Western. It had been Shadrach who’d given me the bad news, that I was out of the CBI. I hadn’t seen him since. Not until he showed up in the hotel room with his goons in tow.
I figured I’d go see a friend, if we were allowed to call the Earthbound friends. It’s not in the Guidelines, but they don’t say you can’t. I took a cab into Adams-Morgan, to an office above a 7-11. The name on the glass in the door made me laugh as it always did.
‘Sam Sara, Confidential Agent’.
The detective didn’t favour the feet up on the desk greeting, although since she was wearing a skirt suit that day, I wished she had. On the other hand, maybe it was better she hadn’t. Looking was kind of okay, anything more and you would be one of the fallen before they could cut your wings off.
She was standing over by one of those metal filing cabinets, watering a zinnia that drooped like a tired nun.
‘Hey, Sam,’ I looked at her legs. Like I said, looking was okay.
‘Got a hot one?’ she asked.
She put the jug down next to the plant pot and sat on the other side of the scarred wooden desk. I sat down when she pointed at the seat and she poured us both a shot out of the fifth she spirited out of a drawer on her side of the desk.
‘Guess so, if you can’t even talk about it.’
‘That’s not it.’
‘What is it then? You look like you woke up next to the ugliest human in history.’
‘Yeah, well, it’s as bad.’
‘Hah! Say, Gab, it’d be dandy if she was hot?’
‘Let me think about that.’
‘We won’t Gabby, not ever. You know that, right?’
I did, but that didn’t stop me thinking about it.
‘Spill it then. You must want to, or ya wouldna come.’
So I told her. At least a version of it. A version without the CBI or God or the
Devil. She poured herself another shot and put the bottle back in the drawer. My glass stayed half-empty.
‘No, Gabby, not this time.’
Her eyes stayed on me as I stood up and left. She had finished the whiskey before I reached the door handle.
‘Good luck,’ she said.