Get an east Texas girl good and mad,and there’s going to be hell to pay!
Rachel Farnsworth doesn’t believe in the paranormal—she can find plenty of evil forces right in Dogwood County, like the Mega-Mart that’s driving her family’s hardware store into the ground. Then there’s her own little hell-raiser—a rowdy toddler who can turn his birthday candles into a blazing inferno with just one breath. But when her marriage goes up in smoke, Rachel discovers her husband, Kevin, isn’t just a deadbeat, he’s also a demon (a sloth demon, no less, which explains why he never helped around the house) with a renegade bounty hunter—a fallen angel named Sam—chasing down a powerful secret Kevin has kept for a millennium or two. Sam’s downfall was a beautiful mortal woman . . . and now, the heavenly attraction zinging between them has down-to-earth Rachel believing in celestial magic. But will it be enough to save her and her son from the dark forces Kevin has unwittingly unleashed on Dogwood County?
“Would you watch your wings? They’re in my face,” said Gabriel Too (not the Gabriel, archangel, but Gabriel, lower-ranking, non-archangel; thus the “too”).
“Sorry,” apologized Frank the New. “I’m not used to them.” Frank the New scrunched his shoulders and folded in his wings so they flapped less conspicuously as they glided toward Earth.
“It takes a while to get used to,” agreed Gabriel Too, giving the new recruit a soft pat on the shoulder. “And make sure not to lose the halo. They’re always slipping off. They never fit right. They should come in half sizes but they don’t.”
“Thanks for the advice,” said Frank the New as he adjusted his halo, which happened to be tilting a little too far to the right.
“Hang on,” Gabriel Too said, holding up his hand and signaling to Frank the New that he ought to stop. “You always look both ways before crossing the jet stream.” The two paused as a 777 jet cruised by. “Okay, it’s safe to go.”
“Thanks for the heads-up,” Frank the New said as he kicked his feet out of the long hem of his robe. Frank was slight in build and was much shorter than Gabriel. His white billowing robe swam on him and his ears were a little oversized, a combination that made him look a little like Dopey the Dwarf. His small stature, however, didn’t change the fact that if there was a fight at hand, he was going to run in, fists up. He had more courage than he did size.
“So when do we vanquish some demons?” Frank the New asked, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. He spoke in a clipped British accent, not unlike Anthony Hopkins. “I am very ready to trounce some evil.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Double-oh-seven,” Gabriel Too said, holding up his hand. “Not so fast. I know you are a little tough guy, but we’re just watchers. We watch.”
“I’m sorry, but I am not a sidelines kind of fellow.” He rolled up one of his blousy sleeves and sighed. “How are you supposed to fight evil in these robes?” he asked, sliding out a hand in a fake punch, only to have it covered by the cuff of his billowing white sleeve. He shook his hand loose and then grabbed the golden harp he’d slung under one arm. “And what’s this for? Where’s my flaming sword?”
“You don’t get one. You don’t fight evil. You just watch it.”
Frank the New grimaced. “I’ll have you know that I didn’t stop the Antichrist by sitting around and watching.” Frank the New was talking about a few months back when he was still an angel in training, and managed, with the help of a reluctant psychic, Constance Plyd, to stop the devil from impregnating a vapid pop princess, thereby preventing the conception of a half demon who would’ve brought the end of the world. He also happened to do all this while in the body of a French bulldog, which he thought should’ve earned him extra points.
“You aren’t in the Wrath division, or even Messengers, who occasionally get to dust it up. We are Watchers. We watch. Period.”
“Well, then, the Big Guy made a mistake. I’m not a watcher. I’m a doer.” Frank the New finished rolling up his sleeves and started popping his knuckles.
“The Big Guy doesn’t make mistakes,” Gabriel Too said. “Not even dinosaurs or the platypus. Which, by the way, is a sore subject with the Big Guy. Don’t mention the platypus.”
“I wasn’t planning on it.” As the two angels floated down from the sky, the earth came into view below, showing a truck stop and a highway, framed on both sides by long slopes of grass where cattle were grazing.
“Hey, this place looks familiar,” Frank the New said, nodding to the cows.
“It should,” Gabriel Too said, leading the pair across Route 9 and over to a small grassy subdivision. “This is Dogwood County—the place you saved from the Antichrist—am I right?”
Frank the New nodded.
Dogwood County, population 17,891, sat smack dab in the middle of east Texas and was famous for award-winning chicken-fried steak, the largest pecan pie ever baked (weighing in at thirty-five thousand pounds), and ground zero for the epic battle of good versus evil. Not that most of the Dogwood residents knew their quaint country home happened to be the place where angels and demons fought it out for the souls of all mankind. Only a select few knew about Dogwood’s importance in the scheme of things, and God and the Devil hoped to keep it that way. They were waging a covert war that neither wanted on the front page of the Dogwood County Times.
The street below came into view, home to about five houses spread out over a little hilly patch and separated by the occasional grazing cow. Gabriel Too stopped above the house belonging to Rachel Farnsworth. Rachel was sound asleep in her bedroom, one foot sticking out of the covers and her arm thrown over her eyes. Her son, Cassidy, had awakened in his crib in the next room, and was eyeing a small wooden train engine on the floor. Both angels could see through the roof, one of their many convenient angel powers, along with the ability to be invisible and hear the voice of God without shattering into a million pieces.
“So what do we do now?” Frank the New asked as the two settled onto a large branch of a nearby oak tree.
“We watch and report.”
“But, correct me if I’m wrong, God already knows what’s going to happen. He doesn’t need our little reports.”
“Yes, God is omniscient. Or omnipotent? I always mix those up.” Gabriele Too looked thoughtful. “Anyway, whatever it is, the short answer is, yes, God already knows everything, but he has to give us something to do.”
“So it’s a test, then?”
“Probably. Most everything is. God likes pop quizzes.” The two angels watched as Cassidy tried to stick his arm out of his crib to reach the little wooden train engine. After trying, and failing, to reach it, he stood on sure legs and started climbing up the crib’s side, his dark brown curls bouncing as he went. In seconds he’d jumped off the edge and landed in a pile of stuffed animals in the corner of his room. He pulled himself up to standing and then waddled over to the train, picking it up with a look of triumph in his bright brown eyes.
“This is a waste of time.” Frank the New sunk his chin into one hand. “I didn’t almost die defeating the Devil so I could be on babysitting duty.”
“He’s not, technically, a baby.”
“No, no, no, I mean he’s not technically human. He’s half demon. But he’s definitely a toddler.”
“Demon? How come I couldn’t smell him out, then?” Frank the New took a whiff of the air but didn’t smell the telltale sign of burnt popcorn—the trail most demons left behind.
“He’s pretty good at camouflage. Must be one of his powers.”
Frank the New smashed one fist into his palm. “Well, then, old sport, what are we waiting for? Let’s send the demon tyke back to hell.” He made as if he were going to march down there and swoop up the child.
“Hold on, buddy,” Gabriel chided, grabbing Frank the New by the arm. “There is no vanquishing. There is no fighting. There isn’t even any cussing. We don’t lay a finger on that boy. We watch him. That’s it. Do you understand?”
Frank the New crossed his arms across his chest and sighed. “Fine.”
“We’re supposed to sit here and wait and see if her husband shows up, and if he does, we’re supposed to report back to Peter. It’s the dad who’s the full-blooded demon, and he’s gone MIA. Everybody is looking for him, too. Heaven and hell.”
“Why is he so important?”
Gabriel Too shrugged. “Dunno. Peter didn’t tell us. We don’t have the right kind of clearance.”
“So we can’t zap this kid?”
“Not even with holy water?”
“Not even with holy water.”
“What if he runs out of the house and eats one of the neighbors?”
Gabriel Too looked down and saw that Cassidy had made his way to the kitchen and was opening cabinet doors. His mother, who was still sleeping, hadn’t heard his escape.
“We can’t intervene,” Gabriel Too explained. “You don’t know the h-e-double-l we’d catch if we stuck our noses where they don’t belong. We just watch and take notes.” Gabriel Too waved around his legal notepad. “That’s our job.”
Below them, Cassidy was bouncing around the kitchen, half-leaping, half-flying from one counter to the next.
“I can’t believe I got a desk job,” said Frank the New with a sigh as he took the notepad.
Cara Lockwood is also the author of I Do (But I Don't), which was made into a Lifetime movie, as well as Pink Slip Party and Dixieland Sushi, and Every Demon Has His Day, all available from Downtown Press. She was born in Dallas, Texas, and earned a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked as a journalist in Austin, and is now married and living in Chicago. Her husband is not a rock star, but he does play the guitar -- poorly.