My Mortal was on The List: Two words that struck fear in my heart. I spent the entire weekend checking my phone for messages from the Angel of Death Department, but my inbox remained empty. Depending on the severity of the situation and the order of her death on The List, I would get notification. The fact that I didn’t get one yet, was good… for now.
The sun was coming up on Monday morning by the time we made it back to Muddy Gap, this time hanging off the tail end of a semi-truck. There was Guardian work to be done in Jeffery City and it looked as if it had been a while since any angels, both Junior and regular Angel Corps had been to town for a visit. Anna put in a request to Dispatch for reinforcements.
We flipping had our hands full the entire weekend. Despite the spat we had with the demons Friday night, we didn’t see another demon in the area again. It was a good thing too. Duff called in an order of new ammo and it wouldn’t get in to Muddy Gap in time for us to duke it out with demons again for a day or two. Well, that and no Mortal seemed to be in any rush to drive down to Muddy Gap for us to catch a ride. The semi truck was the only vehicle to pass through town headed south all weekend.
Duffy sat on the tailgate cleaning his glock while Phil watched and Min situated and resituated his throwing knives in his shirt pockets until they were all where he wanted them to be. Anna and I were clinging to the door. She had started out a solid foot away from me, holding on to the handle with one hand, but didn’t stay that way for long.
The roaring hum of the eighteen-wheeler lulled Anna back into her narcoleptic state making her head fall forward on my shoulder and she began to drool. After ten minutes of this, I had a decent sized wet spot down the front of my shirt.
I liked her a whole lot more when she was awake. However, it was a good thing she’d nodded off because I was embarrassing myself staring at her every time she was coherent and had her startling blue eyes open.
I was anxious to get back to Muddy Gap. Stan’s last words to me made me sweat. I joggled Anna’s shoulder with little hope that she would wake up and make the semi pick up the pace.
“Leave her be, Gideon,” Duffy said. “She was awake a whopping two hours this weekend and that’s a record for her. I’m sure she’s exhausted.”
“Fine,” I said. “Then help me rummage through her jacket. She’s got to have something in there to speed up a truck.”
Phil regarded me skeptically. “You’d risk pawing down a passed out Miracle worker just to go a few miles an hour faster? Obviously you don’t know how hard Anna can slap when she’s jerked awake.”
“And you do?” I said, then caught myself. “Never mind, I don’t want to know. I’ve got to get back to Cody.”
“Muddy Gap,” Duffy corrected.
“No, I think he means the Mortal girl. Katelyn, right?” Phil said.
“Whatever! She’s in trouble, I know it.”
“Just because some swaggering A.O.D. said she’s on The List?” Duffy said. “Gideon, you can’t take that kind of stuff seriously. Futures change all the time. Being on The List doesn’t make death certain.”
“The fact that she’s on it at all makes me nervous,” I said.
“It shouldn’t,” Phil said. “Mortals die all the time. It’s not a big deal.”
“The Boss specifically said I had to keep her alive.”
“Then you’re screwed,” Phil said.
“Says the angel who got his butt handed to him by a demon,” Duffy kidded as Phil’s pimply face turned deep red. Min snickered. “What we’re trying to say, Gideon, is that there are reasons The Boss has Guardians and Miracle workers and it’s not because once a Mortal gets on the List, they can’t get off it. I’ve gotten a Mortal off the List before.”
“Once,” Phil sulked.
“So it can be done,” I said.
“Chop,” Min said, nodding reassuringly.
“But they have to die eventually,” Phil said.
“Phil, shut it, will you? Just because you got your bottom shot off with demonfire doesn’t mean you’ve got to ruin a perfectly good Monday morning,” Duffy said.
“I can sulk if I want to. I didn’t see you ruin a prime opportunity to do damage on some demons. I’m the only one here with anti-demon ammo left,” Phil whined. “I didn’t even get to pull the trigger. Being a klutz totally sucks.”
“Yeah, but the way you fell flat on your face was epic, man,” Duffy said. “It was picturesque.”
“I’d rather not have two left feet, thanks.”
I let Phil and Duffy bash out their issues without interruption. I had bigger problems. I’d told the others about my conversation with Stan, but left out one glaring piece of information: the Banisher. That soul-sucking, black hole packed into a bullet shell freaked me out. There were five angels Stan could use it on and I didn’t like the idea that he’d pull the trigger on any one of us. Though I had a rotten feeling it was meant for me.
“That Banisher can’t be for me. I won’t let it,” I said to myself.
Anna murfed in my shirt and for a moment, I felt panic. Don’t get me wrong, I was festering a giant sized crush on her, but, for a moment, it seemed as if she’d heard me in her sleep. Her hand reached in the pocket of her leather jacket and rummaged around. She pulled out universal remote TV controller and pointed it at Duffy, Phil and Min. Clicking the Mute button, the angels, who were in the middle of a fairly heated conversation, were shut off entirely in silence.
Anna’s cheek was plastered into my shoulder, but she managed to snore as her arm and remote dangled uselessly.
“Um… Abby?” Dang it. That couldn’t be right. I was going to try again, when Anna’s head lolled to the side.
“Stan has a Banisher,” she said dreamily, which made the hair on the base of my neck stand on end. Creepy.
“And you think he’ll shoot you with it?” Her mouth went slack and more drool got added to my shirt.
“Yes.” Sometimes I really hated telling the truth. “Stan got sent to Wyoming the same day I came to Muddy Gap. That can’t be a…”
“No such thing as…” Anna dropped off deeper into sleep and this whole snoozing mid-sentence thing was getting to me.
“Coincidence. I know. We’re angels. We make fate and coincidence happen,” I said to the top of her head.
“It’ssss… our job,” Anna said, sleepily and yawned widely. I could see down her throat and got a clear view of her tonsils. Heck, any wider and I’d get a peep at her lungs.
“You have really white teeth,” I complimented, “and a very healthy looking throat.”
Anna giggled as if she found her dreams funny. “Stan is hot.”
“Okay, you can go back to sleep, now,” I said, getting annoyed.
Apparently, giving Anna a direct order to go to sleep made her jerk awake. I’d have to store that under useful information… that I’d probably forget. I really hated my memory. Anna pushed me away sharply as her pale blue eyes narrowed and turned ice cold.
“Don’t tell me what to do,” she snapped. “I’m not the one with a target on his back. You, out of all of us, have the most to lose. You have to keep one Mortal alive and she’s on The List. You can’t let this Mortal die, it was The Boss’s orders.”
“I thought you slept through the entire demon fight?” I said, taken aback.
“That doesn’t mean I stop hearing what goes on or dream about it… or think I do. Can you nightmare reality?” Anna said, momentarily confused. She shook herself out of her reverie. “Whatever! Banishers are the Angel’s version of second death. You’ve heard of fallen angels?”
“Everybody has,” I said. Not kidding. The stories scared the living daylights out of every angel at the academy.
“It literally sucks the goodness out of an angel, Gideon,” Anna said. “Until nothing is left but shadows and darkness.” Anna studied me long and hard for a moment. “What did that demon offer you?”
I blew out a heavy sigh. “The end to all my problems,” I said.
Anna shook her head. “Look, if Stan has a Banisher and Katelyn is on The List, you’d better snap out of this brain funk you’ve got going on and do it fast. That demon didn’t tempt you with a way out of your problems because he’s trying to be nice. He did it because you are…”
Anna stopped. Her pale baby blue eyes glossed over and her eyelids slid shut. That was the end of the conversation as her head flopped back and she fell face first into my chest.
“I’m what? Ally? Dang it! Addison…” I shook her shoulders, but she was so far gone, her eyelids twitched in deep REM. Anna was completely knocked out and her snores literally vibrated my torso. Narcolepsy was the bane of my existence.
Duffy waved for my attention and Phil was staring, his eyes wide. I wrestled the remote control out of Anna’s hands and took them off mute. For limply propping herself upright on my chest with her head, she had a death grip on her gear.
“Were almost to Muddy Gap,” Duffy said. “We’ll make it in time for school to start.”
“What were you two chatting about?” Phil said. He waggled his eyebrows at me like he’d just caught me and Anna doing something naughty.
“Nothing,” I said as I stuffed the remote back in Anna’s pocket, but the back of my neck was uncomfortably warm.
“Imagine having the hots for a narcoleptic,” Duffy snickered. “That’s got to bite big time.”
“You’d never know if she thinks your boring because she’s always snoring.” Phil and Duffy laughed uproariously at Phil’s lame rhyming skills while Min looked on, picking his teeth with his sword tip.
Whatever. I didn’t listen to them. Over the next rise, the town of Muddy Gap came slowly into view. The semi labored up the last hill, agonizingly slow. I half expected that, after been away for the weekend, the tiny town would be inundated with demon scum. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Muddy Gap looked exactly the same as when we left it Friday afternoon. The wind blew dead leaves in a straight line through town, as Mortals got ready for their day, doing whatever a Mortal did in the middle of nowhere Wyoming.
The semi down shifted to coast the other side of the hill and we got off before it picked up speed. I had Anna held upright around the waist and her arm around my shoulder as I hit the ground running. The ride back to Muddy Gap must have wiped her out because her feet dragged uselessly. Her head fell forward and her long white blond hair got blown into her face. I gave up trying to drag her to school and hefted her like a sack of potatoes over my shoulder.
“Oh Stan,” she murmured sleepily. “You’re so sweet.”
The guys didn’t say anything, but they exchanged amused glances.
Back at the school, the first bell had already rung and the halls were emptying into classrooms. I found an empty bench and laid Anna down on it. I even tried to gently close her mouth with my finger under her chin, but it just popped open again. The snoring started up again too. Duff sauntered off in search of saran wrap to cover the toilet seats in the bathrooms. Phil and Min began their rounds, checking in on kids in each classroom, causing no small amount of chaos as Phil tripped and fell into a row of desks and Min jabbed a teacher accidentally in the thigh with his wicked swords. I figured that was my cue to leave.
I found Katelyn in no time. She seemed fine, sitting at the front of the class, in her usual place. The only problem seemed to be that her phone went off practically every five seconds as it vibrated on silent mode in her pocket. This never happened before and it was getting irritating after the fiftieth buzz. I could see the strain of the constant interruption tell on her face and when, at long last, the teacher turned her back and she dove for her phone. I peeked over her shoulder to see that on the screen was a novel’s worth of texts.
It’s me! OMG!!!
What did u do this weekend?? :0) I didn’t get my homework done!!!! :0(
Gap High sucks so bad!! IKR??? LOL!!!
The text feed went on like that for a long, long time. It was mind numbing. Katelyn scrolled through to the bottom without reading most of it and made a quick, polite reply that she’d talk later, but it didn’t stem the influx. The texts asked questions and answered them before Katelyn had a chance to reply. Exasperated, Katelyn gave up and shoved her phone back into her bag. She was not fast enough, however, to conceal the phone from the teacher who was standing over Katelyn.
Most teachers have ‘the look’. It’s the kid-you’re-in-deep-trouble look that flies straight out their eyeballs like demonfire. This math teacher had the look down to a science. Between her iron straight hair and stern grey eyes, she didn’t have to say anything at all to get the message across that she was ticked.
“Do you have an important message, Katelyn?” she asked.
“No, Miss Gibson.”
“Then would you mind sharing it with the rest of the class?”
Katelyn’s eyes went wide with fear as Miss Gibson held out her hand. I scrambled for my gun, equally panicked. I had to do a quick delete on her phone and hope for the best, but I couldn’t dive for my gun fast enough. I barely got my hand on the barrel and grab a Wipe/Delete bullet before Katelyn gave it to her teacher. I shoved the bullet into the chamber and shot the phone the millisecond prior to Miss Gibson reading the first round of texts.
The screen stayed blank for less time than it took for me to blow the smoke from the barrel of my gun. A wild buzz of new messages replaced the old ones and Miss Gibson read them with mock interest. I couldn’t blame her. The serial texter was vapidly verbose and her topics of conversation were decidedly lacking.
I scrambled for a bullet I nicknamed The Destroyer. It was a fun bit of ammo that broke any appliance or piece of technology. I only used it if breaking something was in the best interest of the Mortal. Now seemed like a good time as any to use it as Katelyn’s face turned deeper and deeper shades of red the longer Miss Gibson took to read.
I got the Destroyer in the chamber, unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to shoot the stupid phone. Miss Gibson had read enough to form a solid conclusion.
“My, my, Katelyn,” Miss Gibson said blandly. “It seems as if you are quiet the chatterbox today.”
“Sorry!” Katelyn sunk down low in her chair, trying desperately to disappear.
“See me after class,” Miss Gibson said, pocketing the phone.
Behind Katelyn a boy chuckled. He looked familiar.
“Dude, you are so screwed!” he whispered. It was the same boy that was ogling her in Biology class and now I could see why his unblinking stares were so annoying.
Katelyn buried her face in her hands. Whoever this obnoxious texter was, they were going down. I was steamed and needed to shoot something. Blindly, I aimed behind me and shot the boy who sat behind her with the Destroyer. His mechanical pencil cracked down the center as the bullet passed through it and hit him square in the shirt pocket where his phone was. There was a muted pop.
Yeah. That felt good. His phone was dead and no service tech out there would be able to fix it.
The rest of the hour passed uneventfully. I fumed in silence. Something had happened while I was gone and I didn’t like it.