When I came around, I was staring up into a flurry of snow. The storm still hadn’t eased up and there was a pile of it on the end of my nose. I rolled over with a groan. Somewhere in the back of my head there was a nagging thought that I had a job to do.
I did a quick mental and physical assessment. I still had my guns, which were empty and hanging lopsided and charred in the holster. My shotgun was gone and so were my belts of ammo. Dang it. I’d have to put in a request at Headquarters for new ones. I had two arms, two legs, a head and my face seemed to be intact. My hair was singed slightly.
I rolled to my knees and stood up. I felt fine. Healed up like nothing had happened…
Wait a second.
Sirens screamed and two fire engines had battled high snowdrifts to get at the school, hook a hose to the fire hydrant and begin dousing the rubble with water. I caused that fire. I think.
“That is one heavenly sight, don’t you think?” Duffy said clapping me heartily on the back as we stood staring at the scene of destruction.
“I still can’t believe we pulled it off,” Phil said. He dusted snow off his jeans and shook his head in disbelief. “What did you end up doing in the basement, Duffy?”
“I found the gas line to the furnace and rigged an explosive to it,” he said, grinning. “I’ve been wanting to pull off that stunt for a while, but didn’t have an opportunity until now.”
“Genius,” Min said. The compact Asian wiped snow and demon guts off his swords with his shirttail and sheathed them on his back.
“Best. Prank. Ever,” Phil said as he gave Duffy a congratulatory fist bump.
“It was okay,” Duffy said with false modesty. “That was the biggest stunt I’ve pulled off for a mortal in years. I hope your girl appreciates my efforts, Gideon.”
My brain sped up to reality and tripped over itself like it had Phil’s feet.
“I’ve got to get to my Mortal,” I gasped. “She’s still on The List.”
Phil checked his watch. “You’ve only got a few hours. It’ll take a miracle to get her off it.”
Exactly. I needed a miracle. I spun around looking for Anna. As I searched, I felt around my pockets for my phone. The demons were gone and I prayed communication with Headquarters was back up.
I found the Miracle Worker curled up in a ball with snow piled up all around her. I rolled her to her back. I hoped she was only knocked out, but I wasn’t so lucky. She snored softly with her eyes peacefully closed.
“Come on,” I said, slapping her cheeks. “Wake up.”
“She’s knocked out cold, Gideon,” Phil said. “I figure after all that excitement with the demons, she’ll sleep for a week.”
“No! She can’t,” I said. The Boss told her she needed to stay awake and so help me, she was going to stay awake.
“Dude, you have a weird fascination with narcoleptic chicks,” Duffy said. “She’s just sleeping. It’s not like she’s dead or anything.”
“Have you ever thought that one of these days she might stay asleep?” I said over my shoulder. I turned back to Anna. “Help me get her awake.”
I groped for my guns and searched for ammo only to come up empty. I was all out and whatever I may have had left got obliterated in the blast. I had no Panic Button to shoot her with, not even a Genius or those dinky shells we nicknamed Criers because all it does is give the Mortal a warm feeling.
“Anybody got ammo?” I said.
Phil checked, but he and Duffy had nothing, just like me.
“Sorry, dude,” Phil said. “I put everything I had into the blast. Looks like you’ll have to wake her up old school.”
“Shove your finger up her nose,” Duffy suggested. “I do that when my Mortals fall asleep in class.”
“Dude, not cool,” I said.
“Hey, it works every time,” Duffy said.
“Forget it,” I grumbled. I swatted Min’s finger away from Anna’s face. Knowing him, he’d probably try it just to see if it worked.
“I know,” Phil said, snapping his fingers. “You could kiss her.”
“HA! That’ll go over great,” Duffy said. “Do it. I want to see how hard she slaps you.”
“No, really,” Phil said. “Just like in the fairytale.”
“Phil, if the babe wakes up after the kiss, it’s probably because Prince Charming had seriously bad breath,” Duffy said. “Besides, Gideon is about as charming as a rock.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“You’ve got to be joking,” I said, gaping up at them. “I’m not going to kiss a sleeping Miracle.”
“Why not? I highly doubt you’ll get the chance when she’s awake,” Duffy said. “Not with that A.O.D. hunk, Stan, hanging around.”
“It might work. You never know unless you try,” Phil said.
They were crazy. Totally out of their minds.
Thankfully, my phone buzzed weakly in my pocket and I whipped it out, leaving the question of whether to kiss Anna or not unanswered. I had five messages, none of them urgent except for the most recent.
I pressed the button for my messages and held the battered flip phone to my ear. It got damaged in the fire and the screen blinked erratically. The cool voice on the line was as impersonal as ever.
“Katelyn Cody has…five hours…until death. You have… zero hours… to request an Angel of Death of your choice. Junior Angel Stanley of the Angels of Death is your Mortal’s next contact. Have a blessed day.”
The line went dead and so did half my brain. This could not be happening. I snapped my phone shut and shoved it back into my pocket.
“I need her awake,” I said. “I’ve got no time left to get my Mortal off The List and I can’t do it without a miracle.”
I braced myself and grabbed Anna by the shoulders. Desperation made me stupid because I was going to lay a big smooch on a sleeping Miracle. What I should have done was shield my face or other body parts and literally prayed for a miracle.
Let me clarify something here: Prince Charming had it rough. I leaned in to peck a kiss on Anna’s half open, snoring mouth and my first thought was not a romantic one. I heartily wished that snoring didn’t include partially dried drool and a waft of sleep breath to puff up my nose. Let me repeat, it was not romantic.
Neither was Anna’s fist crashing into my jaw.
“Holy nightmare!” she shrieked. “I can’t believe I just dreamed that!”
“Mufgh gufhda,” I said. I saw stars as I clutched at my busted jaw.
“Well, that was harsh,” Phil said. “Maybe we should have called in Stan.”
“What this about Stan?” Anna said, confused as she scrambled to her feet. “Never mind. We’ve got to get to Katelyn, like right now.”
I rearranged my face and snapped my jaw back into place. “Yeah, I know, I just got a notice that she’s got five hours left and communication is back up with Headquarters.”
“Then what are you messing around with me for?” she exclaimed. “Get on the phone with Transportation and get moving.”
“Okay, okay,” I said as I dialed the number. “Geez, you’d think you’d be grateful I woke you up.”
“Thank you,” Anna said tersely. “Keep dialing.”
The line was marred with static and sparks flew off the battery pack in the effort to connect. To my relief, the smooth-style Kenny-G music that was lulling enough to put an elephant to sleep clicked on as a sweet angel voice encouraged me to stay on the line until the next operator came available.
“Hey, Anna,” Duffy whispered. “What were you dreaming about?”
“Yeah, how bad was the nightmare?” Phil said.
“Horrible,” Anna said, sticking her tongue out in disgust. “I dreamed I was making out with Edward the Dorkface.”
“Nasty!” Phil grimaced.
“So, you don’t know what actually happened before you woke up?” Duffy said.
I had my back to them, but I turned slowly and fried Duffy with a glare fit for Hell. If he didn’t get the clue, I’d clobber him.
“No reason,” Duffy said quickly. “Just wondering.”
Anna looked at him, confused. The line clicked on and I was finally through to Transportation.
“Transportation Department,” a perky voice said. Call me crazy, but it sounded like the same angel who sent me to Muddy Gap.
“Uh, hi,” I said. “This is Gideon of… Cody—,”
“Muddy Gap,” Phil corrected.
“Sorry, Muddy Gap, Wyoming.”
“Gideon! How do you like Wyoming? Are you sticking to your Mortal? Please tell me you’ve got everything under control.” The Transportation Operator angel spoke whiplash fast. It was the same angel I had spoken to days ago, which made my life easier. At least I didn’t have to remember and rehearse all the details of why I was stationed in the middle of nowhere.
“Wyoming is…great. Look, I need to get to my Mortal fast. Can you catch me a light?”
“Let me scan the area.”
I waited and chewed on my thumbnail. It was pretty dark out. Thanks to the storm, there was no moon out or stars either. My guess was that we were nearing dawn, but it wouldn’t be light enough to travel by sunlight for at least another hour. The fire trucks had control of the fire and were wrapping up to head out. In fact, the first truck had already pulled out of the school parking lot and the second was close behind.
“There seems to be a malfunction in the electric system in your area,” the operator said. “Was there some sort of natural disaster that knocked out the power?”
“Natural? No. Disaster? Yes.” I said, feeling panic rise in into my throat. “I need a light. I’ll take anything.”
“Look around, Gideon,” she said. “Whatever happened at Muddy Gap knocked out every light for miles.”
I turned toward town to see she was right. Through the thick flakes of the snowstorm, there was nothing to see. I could see the dying embers of the school fire, but beyond that there was nothing but white snow and dark.
“Duffy, I think you overdid it a bit with the prank,” Phil said. “The entire power grid system for Muddy Gap is down.”
“Oops,” Duffy said.
Anna shook her head impatiently. “I am so done with sleeping,” she grumbled to herself. “Dreams have everything I need, but it’s reality where I am needed. Sanity doesn’t rule Muddy Gap because you dopes do. Give me the phone.”
She was mad enough that I handed it over without complaint. She nabbed it out of my hand and pressed the dying phone to her ear.
“Hi. Anna here. I’m a Miracle and I’m calling in for a Hail Mary,” she said. The line went silent for a long moment.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” Miss Transportation said nervously.
“Look, lady, I’ve had a long night and I’ve been awake for most of it which is a miracle itself. We just blew up our school, obliterated at least a million demons and are stuck without a light. I’m narcoleptic and dead tired so just send in the order, okay?”
“Your order is sent.”
“Thank you. Now where is Katelyn Cody?”
“Forty three degrees northwest and fourteen miles from your current location. Good luck.”
The phone let out one last weak spark and then died. We were on our own.
“What’s a Hail Mary?” Duffy said.
“It’s a last resort miracle,” Anna said, rolling up her sleeves. “It is a multipurpose use detonation for my travel needs, but it should only be used in a case of an emergency.”
Anna held out her hand and pivoted on her heels, searching for true north. Once facing in the right direction, she calculated forty-three degrees west and marked it in the snow.
“How does it work?” I said.
“It’s easy, really,” Anna said. “I am going to chuck you fourteen miles to your Mortal.”
“You’re going to toss me, just like that? Impossible.”
“Which is exactly why it’s called a Hail Mary. I make the impossible, possible.”
“Then why do you only use it for emergencies?”
“It’s only good for one time use and only one angel can use it at a time. It’s outdated tech, but it comes in handy in a bind.”
“But I need you to help me with my Mortal. I can’t pull her off The List with out a major miracle.”
“I’m sorry, Gideon, but if you don’t go, she won’t have a chance at all.”
Anna rubbed her hands together and stepped in closer at my side. The tips of her fingers began to glow, actually, they didn’t glow, it was as if a light was being shone down on them. The clouds parted and the snow stopped falling directly over our heads. Out of the dark sky fell a single missile and Anna caught it.
“I’m going to attach this to your back,” she said, ripping away the plastic sheeting from the adhesive and slapped it on between my shoulder blades. “Then I’m going to point you in the right direction and light it.”
“Are you insane?” I yelped and backed away from her.
“Only in my dreams,” she said, as if that tid bit of information was helpful. “Now, whatever you do, don’t throw the missile off course. You’ll end up missing your target.”
“Or explode right into it,” I said.
“That is a possibility too. Hail Marys are unpredictable. They have fifty percent accuracy so try not to move too much when you’re in the air.”
“I don’t like this at all,” I grumbled. “How many times have you used one of these?”
“This would be my first, so when you get back, let me know how it worked.” Anna found the mark she made in the snow and pointed out the direction I needed to go. “You’ve got to get moving. Ready?”
“Good. Try not to hit anything.”
Anna forced me to bend at a forty-five degree angle and with a snap of her fingers, lit the fuse. I scrunched my eyes shut as the fizz of the sparks zipped up the detonation cord and lit the end of the rocket.
I don’t know why I agreed to this. I shot off into the air and it felt as if I’d left my skin on the ground. Gravity had nothing on a Hail Mary Missile. I zoomed over dark trees, houses and power lines. Thank The Boss there were no tall buildings for me to crash into. Then again, maybe a building or two would be good to help me slow down. I was hurtling through the storm as an incredible speed. Wind and snow pushed into my face and flattened my eyeballs. I began to tear up, but as soon as a tear was forced out under my eyelid, it was instantly dried by the wind. I was careening over the landscape insanely fast and I didn’t relish the idea of the sudden stop when I reached my destination.
I was flying along swimmingly for a whopping two seconds when the shadows beneath me began to shimmer and hiss. It couldn’t be. I dropped my head to get a better look through my fuzzy vision. I didn’t want to believe it, but there was no mistaking it. Far below me, running wicked fast, was a demon.
I was way out of town now and heading for the base of a rolling hill tall enough to be a mountain. Ahead was a snowmobile, toppled over on its side with two Mortals curled up next to it. My heart leapt. I was so close…
All thoughts of beating the demon to the crash were dashed. The demon took two bounds and sprang upward. Sickly black fingers grabbed my legs and clawed their way up my pants to get a crushing hold around my waist.
The added weight threw the missile off course and we spiraled toward earth. I fought the demon, hitting and kicking every part of him I could get at. He responded by biting my stomach, which stung from the acidic demonfire that came off his teeth. We were going to hit the hill any second now. The demon looked up and sneered at me.
“What the devil?” I gaped. It was Dorkface.
“Hello, Gideon. Did you miss me?”