To understand what the Angels is all about, get to know the characters HERE and read the other chapters HERE:
___ CHAPTER 3 ___
De Angelis Ark
De Angelis Ark bookshop worked in a four story building in SoHo, in the corner of a charming street filled with expensive clothing stores and art galleries. It was a rustic corner shop, which emanated an atmosphere of nostalgia. Not because it was the oldest in neighborhood, but because its classical pieces of furniture and piles of dusty books called to mind a no more existent old New York charm. In a time Mega Stores were the sensations, De Angelis was an escape for the real book lovers.
He could walk the park even with his eyes closed and it didn’t take
long until he got to Belvedere Castle where a beautiful girl awaited for him.
However, as Andy was standing up, a dark mist, fast travelling
through the air, surrounded them, turning it impossible to see an inch beyond.
Andy open his arms, walking around Alice, as a personal shield while the girl
rubbed her arms nervously trying to get warm. When the mist retrieved, it
revealed the nine hooded men, the same ones in the castle.
Customers, some of them collectors, could find pieces of rarities such as signed books and first editions of famous writers. There was something special about spending some hours in a place like that, everyone agreed. However, there were some complaints about the staff. Cristovão Santiago, the owner, was absent most of the time and his manager, William Mason, seemed to be the only person who really knew about books and could speak with customers about all subjects. Unlike Victor and Christine, the attendants, who, for several times, left the shop in a hurry and forgot it was by itself. Mr. Dodson, an old regular, said once he’d been by himself in the shop for over two hours before an attendant showed up. He even sold a few books himself.
It was for sure strange for the customers, who had no idea that, on the three floors above their heads, the Angels’ headquarter worked 24-7. The shop, even working in a steady basis, was nothing more than a façade.
Hours after New Year’s arrival, streets were empty on the De Angelis’ whereabouts. However, a tiny security camera caught any movement around it and was the first to notice a tired couple getting closer to the shop.
When Victor and Christine appeared by the back door there was an electronic click and then it opened. They looked at each other apprehensively while taking deep breaths. There was a slight hope Selina was sleeping but, as they could tell, she wasn’t. They went upstairs through the ancient spiral ladder that led to the operational basis. There was a whole change of spirit on the simple act of reaching the second floor; while the first one was classical, dark and rustic, the second one was modern, clear and decorated in white tones. A steel door would only allow people with the number password to get in. Christine typed 55321, her personal code, and as the door opened they noticed there was nobody at the monitors or in the Research room, which meant they were waiting in Selina’s office. The Angels’ mentor was sat by her paper-filled desk while William, Cris and Marcia stood beside her. They all looked miserable with dark circles under their eyes.
“So?”, Selina was anxious.
Both Victor and Christine looked terrible as they let their bodies stumble on the chairs in front of her.
“We failed…”, he said, finally.
“What do you mean? Where’s the artifact?”
“We lost it, Selina.”, Victor took a deep breath, “We were chased by the Reapers around the city and we had to split to mislead them, but some of them came right after me… I left the artifact hidden in an alley... But somebody took it from us…”
“The Order?”, asked Cris with his eyes focused on them.
“We don’t know.”, said Christine, “Probably not. It was a guy about our age…”
“A street thief! A little rat”, Victor was furious, “He took advantage of our state and hit Christine.”
“And where were you?”, asked Marcia, fully awake.
“I told you… We had to split! I was going to meet Christine in the Natural History Museum, but I was surrounded by those fanatical…”
“He was nearly killed, Selina.”
“That’s not true… A girl saved me.”
“A girl?”, William smiled.
“Yeah, a girl, ok? She took the situation over and knocked them out. Almost by herself.”
“Selina…”, Christine continued, “They are not so worried about keeping a low profile anymore. They are ready to kill no matter what. There was something different about them…”
“I don’t know… They were… Like…”
“Stronger!”, completed Victor, “They’re getting stronger. And... They’ve got the Cross’ guardian killed… In front of us.”
Selina was violently hit by the news. She even tried to disguise it but her voice sounded brittle.
“Dead? The Portuguese’s always been with us, fighting for the Order not to reunite the artifacts… And now he’s gone.”, She took a deep breath but held the tears. It was no time for crying, “You knew how that Cross was important. As much as the Book of the Days we lost at a high price. You shouldn’t let it go, you shouldn’t. Now the Order of Nostradamus may be possessing another sacred symbol.”
“They only have the Book of the Days, Selina, as far as we know”, Replied Christine, “And I do believe the boy wasn’t working for the Order. He was by himself, I’m sure, because I saw him knocking one of the Reapers out when he asked if he was one of us.”
“It can complicate things for us...”, sighed Marcia.
“Not really… It actually can help!”, Selina had some energy when she said that, “We’re going to find this boy and buy the Cross back!”
“We’ll do it now, Selina!’, said Victor standing up.
Christine sighed and shook her head, in disbelief. The only place she was willing to go was her bed.
“Not today, Victor.”, said Selina, “You and Christine need to rest. As a matter of fact, all of us do! The past days have been demanding for all of us.”
“Besides”, Cris was finishing Selina’s thoughts as he usually did, “the boy is going to wait for things to calm down before going out with the Cross to sell it. Tomorrow is a new day.”
“Off to your beds, guys!”, concluded Selina.
Christine was the first to leave, followed by Marcia, Cris and William. Selina was ready to do the same when she noticed Victor was still there.
“I’m the one to blame, Selina. I did all wrong.”
“You shouldn’t have let Christine by herself, because we’re a team and we have to be there for each other. However, Victor, we are all susceptible to mistakes since we are dealing with something entirely unexpected. We have to learn from it and avoid making the same mistakes.”
“This was a very uncommon night.”
“All the nights are uncommon for me since I embraced my parent’s mission. Now go rest.”
“What about you?”
“On my way. Don’t worry about me. I’ve got to tell Philip about the passing of… Our dear friend.”
“I’m so sorry, Selina.”
Victor sighed heavily and left the office, trying to think of things to say but with no idea of what. Inside, he was resenting letting the artifact go away with a stranger. Before closing the door behind him, Victor noticed Selina leaned over the table to cry. He felt even worse about himself.
William, who waited for him in the corridor, followed Victor speaking:
“What about the gadgets?”
“They helped.”, Victor answered, simply.
“That’s all you have to say?”
“They helped us to escape from the Reapers. The smoke bombs were great, but we have to train a little more before using that again. I like the gloves, though.”
“I knew you would. I’m improving them a little bit. Selina gave us a bigger budget, so I will make them awesome.”
“At least make them work for more than one shot.”
They took the stairs for the third floor. Victor enjoyed talking to William very much, but not when it was too late for chatting and he was longing for his bed.
“Ok, Victor. Before you disappear under your blankets I just want to make sure you’re not blaming yourself again for everything that goes wrong, are you?”
“I’m the field leader, William.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. None of us is perfect!”
“But I want to be perfect! Is my duty to prove myself, being the son of an Order member!”
“I’m just saying sometimes we have to take things easy with ourselves.”
“Sometimes…”, he opened his bedroom door, “I still don’t believe I was fooled by a pickpocket! All I want to know is who he is!”
André Santos Parsons, or Andy, as people would usually call him, was always considered a punk. Born in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, Andy had already been to juvenile correction twice before the age of fourteen for minor thefts. Rosalie, his mother, was always telling him to be a man, to take a stand in life, but the boy never really cared about it. He left school too early to spend more time with his gangster-apprentices-friends from the neighborhood, Brazilian Street Fight classes, and his skateboard, his biggest passion. His mother never knew about the school, though. She died before that, a few months after his stepfather ran away from them. Andy was then a seventeen-year-old boy with a six-year-old sister who needed him. He, who was never responsible even for himself, had a child to take care of.
And he would never let anything happen to Michelle. When Child Care assistants came to his house to tell Andy they were going to take his sister to a home where she would be held until her father claimed her, the boy sold everything he could and entered The USA through Mexico’s border. He wanted to meet an American named Nicholas Parsons... His father.
Nick Parsons lived a comfortable life in Woodstock, New York. When that slim young man showed up by his door, holding a little girl, Nick’s first thought was calling the police but ended up serving the kids some lunch. Andy imagined he would feel connected to his father as soon as they met, but that never happened. Nick said he had a new family and his mother was just an adventure. He was willing to give Andy some money, though. The boy didn’t even finish his lunch and took his sister away from his father for good. He could never come back to Brazil; not if he wanted to keep his sister.
They spend some days at a room in Harlem, where Michelle would cry every night, and when the money was done, Andy went back to the streets. Manhattan was full of fool tourists ready to serve him with their wallets and purses. He also learned how to open any lock by using two pieces of wire and would use that ability to break into stores to get money, food and clothes. His version of the American dream. They moved to the second story of a house in Jackson Heights, since the money was good.
However, Andy’s never had in his hand anything that looked as valuable as the Cross fate put on his way. That golden piece woke a greed feeling he never knew he had and while he walked in the dark Central Park, he caught himself in thoughts of how much he would make by selling the artifact.
|Belvedere Castle. Central Park, NY.|
Alice turned her face and held him, relieved. She had a whip in her right hand and was wearing an overcoat that looked really warm and cozy. Andy enjoyed when his best friend held him like that. He would feel like taking care of her for good, as he did a few months ago when they met. On that occasion, Alice was homeless, living with a trashy boyfriend and a dog, trying to make money to go back to France. When ‘the boyfriend’ threatened to hit the young girl because she didn't ask for money when he demanded, Andy interfered and knocked the man out. Alice was living in his house since then. Andy was the one who taught her how to defend herself and ended up accepting the girl as a sidekick. They would call themselves Batman and Catwoman, just for fun.
“Andy, I’m afraid. There’s something weird happening today!”
“Tell me about it!”
“What about your stepfather? How was the meeting?”
“No meeting, babe. Daniel didn’t show up! I was there, by the meeting spot, but no sight of the coward. I tried to reach his cell phone, but… Voice Mail. For the best!”
“I don’t believe he would take Michelle from you.”
“Not even if he begged! That moron caused enough problems for mu family! But, thanks to his absence, look what came to daddy tonight!”
With a naughty smile, Andy unwrapped the package and showed her the Cross. Alice examined the object, feeling some aversion to it.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“I was going to say creepy!”, she looked at him with severe eyes, “How did you get it, Andy?”
“Oh, babe, it’s a long story, you wouldn’t like to listen…”
“Isn’t that surprising? I would!”
Andy would never tell her ‘no’. Not when she asked something with those sparkling blue eyes looking straight to his. Smiling, he told her an adventurous tale on how he bumped into a guy in an alley until the moment he got to the castle. He even made some “necessary alterations” when he told her the African girl he fought was named Zabula Abdala and had a voodoo talisman that gave her supernatural powers.
“Gosh, Andy! Weren’t you afraid?”
He laughed like a naughty kid.
“Me? Afraid? Come on… As if you don’t know me!”
“I said there was something weird happening! Some minutes ago I saw a guy, our age or so, being chased by some scary men in hoods! I saved the guy’s life but I don’t even know why!”
“You’re Catwoman, babe. You’re the bad girl but when you see someone in trouble, you help!”
“That’s not like that. I saw the men surrounding the guy… I thought about running away, I really did, but… I couldn’t… I just couldn’t! I had to get into his fight and save him and I don’t know why! I’m so scared, Andy!”
She held him tight, eyes tearful. How could she look so strong and at the same time be so frail… So sweet… In a way Andy felt like having her on a place only he could get to her, where she would be protected and be his… Why was he thinking that shit again? Friends! Alice and him were just friends! Nothing else! The best friend he ever had!
“Let’s go home”, he said, kindly, “Everything is gonna be all right!”
She smiled and opened her eyes. She thought of something to say but the words didn’t come out. Something had just walked away, hidden in the shadows, just a few steps behind Andy. Alice’s heart missed a beat.
“We’re not alone here…”
Andy turned his head and didn’t see anything but shadows on the place his friend was looking at. He felt there was something there, though.
“Let’s get outta here!”, he said pulling Alice by the hand.
But she couldn’t move. In front of them a group of nine hooded people was coming out the shadows, towards them.
“I said run!”
And she did. She ran down the dark pathway but somehow it felt like they could follow her, so she stepped into the woods. It had started snowing again and the bushes stuck her overcoat. She couldn’t see clearly how nervous she was. She pulled her coat but, as it didn’t go from the bushes, she took that off and ran again, wearing just the black leotards, the boots and the whip. Burrowing nervously through the trees, she was sure someone had managed to follow her.
“Stop!”, someone yelled.
She pretended she didn’t hear that and kept on running. Her chaser then ran a little faster and held her left arm, which made a scream came out of her mouth.
“That’s just me!”, said Andy, breathless.
“Andy!”, she smiled, “You told me to run!”
“I did. But I didn’t say I was going to stay there! C’mon, let’s get outta here!”
Feeling a little calmer, although speaking in whispers, they continued walking in the dark park until it got clearer, by the Boat House. They couldn’t see anyone around when they stopped to decide the next move. Andy sat on the snow-covered ground to tie his boots while Alice finally noticed she was cold.
“My coat’s gone… We need to get home!”
“Before they get us!”
“We know you have the Cross”, said the one in purple vestments, with a sophisticated timber, “That’s all we want!”
“Who the hell are you?”, asked Andy, looking for a way out.
“You’re not Angels. You’ve been in both our ways tonight.”
“You didn’t answer my question, sir!”
“Do you know the demon, my boy?”
“Not personally. It was just a ‘hello/goodbye’ in the supermarket and that’s pretty much it.”
“We’re at his services! My friends here are called the Reapers because everywhere they go, death follows.”
Alice held Andy’s arm, apprehensive.
“That’s great! Working with the devil”, continued the boy, “With all the benefits?”
“A funny lad, huh! The kind of person who tries to disguise his feelings by making jokes. I think I like you!”
“I wish I could say the same…”, said Andy, trying to see something under the purple hood, but all was dark.
“Trying to look at my face, lad? Is that so important?”
“I like talking face to face, eye to eye!”
“Andy”, Alice muttered. She knew what they could do, “Be quiet, please!”
“You may not like it”, the man under the purple hood continued, “Since I liked you I would like to make a proposal. A very good one, actually. I would like to invite you, and the lady of course, to join us in our task force.”
“And what does this task force mean?”
“It means the Devil himself chose us to guide his son when he is recognized by him.”
Alice let a scary whisper out. She was not the type of girl who was easily scared, but those men somehow made her feel uncannily upset.
“Andy, please, don’t!”
“Calm down!”, he whispered to her and said, turning back to the man, “I don’t believe I would help that much. You know, I hate this group thing. That’s just not me! And I don’t think having the Devil as boss is an appealing idea! But… What if I gave you the cross and in exchange you let us go? Good idea, huh?
“That’s not that easy, I’m afraid. You saw more than we could allow.”
“Dude, we just want to go back to Florida. No mess! What about it?”, he handed him the package, “What about it?”
The man under the purple hood looked at the package and lifted his head, revealing a subtle smile.
“Hope I don’t see you on my way again… You’d better forget what you saw here.”
“Done!!!”, said Andy, pulling Alice’s hand.
They soon start to run, out of Central Park, and got into the first cab they saw on 5th Avenue.
“Jackson Heights, sir!”, he said to the cab driver, “Extra tip if you make it faster!”
“Andy, don’t worry! We’re safe now!”
“Just until they realize they don’t have it!”, and lifted his sweater to reveal the Cross stuck between his jeans and his belly.
“You deceived them?!”
“What kind of thief do you think I am?”
“But how did you do that without me seeing?”
“I just happened to see the perfect rock when I sat on the ground to rest…”
“You’re insane! Totally!”, and then to the cab driver, “Why are you so freaking slow?”
“I can’t go any faster with this dark smoke around…”
That wasn’t smoke at all. They both knew what that dark mist held before it was gone to show nine Reapers around the cab.
“What the f…”, said the cab driver, taken aback.
“Hit the road!!!”, Andy screamed.
Only the car didn’t work. The cab driver tried for some seconds to make it, but the engine didn’t respond to his efforts. The Reapers took silver daggers from their vestments and walked calmly to the automobile. In panic, the cab driver opened his door and ran, screaming for help. The Reapers didn’t really pay attention to him for the ones they wanted were still in the car.
Andy jumped to the front seat and locked the door, as fast as he could. One of the Reapers tried to open it with no success. Andy could feel they were furious by their moves.
“Andy, we need to get outta here!”
“That’s what I’m trying to do, Alice!”
The young man pulled two wires from under the steering wheel and tried to hot-wire the car. He had never really done that, although he got trained to do so by some of his first friends in America; carjackers. There were sparks in the end of both wires but the car remained in silence. Andy felt sweat running down his face and got rid of his scarf. He looked at Alice who was looking nervous outside; the Reapers were hitting the glass with the daggers. When the back window was broken and one of the men pulled her hair violently, Alice screamed.
“Let me go!”
“Give us the Cross now!”
She grabbed his arm with both hands and broke it; the man roared in pain. Andy heard the distinctive sound of a bone breaking but he didn’t move his eyes from the panel and the wires.
“Calm down, Alice…”
The engine made some noise and got silent just after. Andy’s face was covered in sweat. He connected the wires once again. The same happened. Only this time there was no silence; the car was working again.
“Hold on tight, babe! We’re getting away!!!”
Andy hit the gas pedal hard, making the car screech on the street, leaving the Reapers behind.
“We made it!”, he shouted with a smile, “Can you freak believe it? Alice?”
That was only then he noticed he was by himself in the car. Alice had disappeared from the back seat. In her place there was only her whip and some shattered glass from the back window that was gone completely.
“Damn it! Damn it!”
He turned the car so fast on the street it almost overturned. However, when he got to the place he was a few minutes ago, he couldn’t find any sign of his friends or the Reapers. They had all disappeared in the night. Andy left the car holding the Cross; his eyes were full of tears.
“Oh, Alice… What did I do?”
He looked around, hopeful, but didn’t see or hear anything. Nothing. They could’ve gone back to Central Park or crossed 5th Avenue to the Upper East Side area. He didn’t have time to think much about that. Sirens could be heard getting closer; the cab driver probably called the cops. Talking to the police about what happened was definitely not in his plans. Even because he didn’t know much about that. He opened the back door and got Alice’s whip before running away from the crime scene. He couldn’t spend the night in jail if he wanted to help his friend.
TO BE CONTINUED...