Novelist and more.
Robert, Sam, and Raquel after confronting Adam Longstreet (who claims he now rules New Orleans and the French Quarter) continue sight-seeing around the area. Robert believes they need to see the many Veiled creatures of the Quarter and guides them to St. Louis Cathedral to teach them what is beyond, but so very close to their world…
Exiting the Café, Sam gravitated to the sketch artists by the gardens, drawn by the tune of a harmonica playing in the front of St. Louis Cathedral. After admiring the artwork and trailing after Sam, they went toward the church. Sitting by the entrance, a black blind man played the harmonica whose music filled the air. The musician, dressed in a suit, tie, dark sunglasses, and wearing a fedora with a wooden cane resting beside him, with a bucket of money in front of his shiny black shoes, reclined slightly as he played. They listened for a while then Robert tossed some money into the bucket going toward the entrance to the church.
Entering the Cathedral, Raquel and Sam were shocked at the feeling of Holiness permeating the building. With their new sight, they witnessed a constant flurry of Angels of every shape, size, look, and faith moving about the oldest church in America.
Raquel swelled with emotion with the beauty of the place. Hues of gold and white covered everything. Flags hovered over the pews lining the interior. Above the altar, a beautiful painting hung of the cross with Christ. The altar was beautiful; she looked to her side at the confessionals. Beside them, a statue of an armored person stood, floating over and beside the confessional an Angel resembling the statue smiled at her, waving. She waved back in slack-jawed awe. Toward the ceiling, relief pictures stretched in small and larger circles. That is, when she could see through the flying Angels.
Joy and rapture filled every face of each Angel. This was a holy of holy place. Feeling dizzy, she sat down at the nearest pew.
Robert asked her if she was alright.
She nodded silently.
Armored and weapon carrying beings slowly descended toward Raquel from the second floor and down the main aisle. She cried in joy as each bowed or touched her. Some leaned down, hugging her. As they touched her, she could tell they gave her blessings silently calling her a warrior. She somehow instinctively knew each of them was a warrior angel. Not a messenger, or a healer, they were warriors. They recognized her as one of them even though she was human.
Sam backed up against the wall near the entrance. Robert stood casually just inside listening to the tour guide.
Overwhelmed, Sam felt frightened. He had seen many angels in the last few hours but never this many in one place or in this assortment since he gained the sight. He didn’t feel worthy being in their company.
Numerous small angels approached, flittering around him. They shed tears, weeping for him, and he felt it in his heart.
“What? Why?” he whispered to no one.
His response came as they flew through him, hugged and felt him.
He felt uplifted. He felt worthy. Loved, whether he believed in their creator or not. He knew he was a Champion, a healer. Needed, wanted and cherished as one of the helpers divine.
He choked on his questions as the angels silently answered.
He was needed to help those who needed it, to assist those who were lost in the dark, those wandering aimlessly, or alone. He was worthy or he would never have been chosen as a Champion. He was a shepherd for the lost and confused. He was the front line defense in the war against evil. He found the souls needing defending or help.
A million whispering voices quietly told him in his mind.
“Samuel Brady; you are a Champion.”
He smiled walking through the angels surrounding Raquel, wrapping his arms around her neck, they wept together. She held his arms, he hugged her tightly, and both of them instantly knew what was going on with each other.
Robert watched. He knew what transpired through the crowd of angels and them. He knew because he knew it when it happened to him and others he previously brought here.
Now he watched the riders in the tour group writhing in torment assaulted by the Hosts. Several of the horses threw their riders, spontaneously converting. The riders screamed silently in agony as the angels attacked. The riders that couldn’t make it to the exit turned to smoke returning to whatever version of Hell they belonged. Only one rider rode comfortably with the tour group. Its horse was a clean-cut woman in her middle twenties, fashionably coiffed, and dressed businesslike, answering a cell phone, barely seeing the beauty around her.
Robert shook his head, some never learn, or pay attention.
A few more moments of his companions’ sightseeing and regaining their composure, he gathered them to leave.
Two Angels appeared in front of him. He nearly bowed to his knees knowing these were Archangels. In his peripheral vision, other angels bowed to them. Since he couldn’t openly react to the unseen world, he placed his hand over his heart, nodding slightly, acknowledging their presence.
They appeared male in white flowing robes. The one on his left placed his right hand on Robert’s left shoulder, the one on the right did the same to his left.
Like a flashbulb, a bright light blinded him. Falling to his knees, his vision clearing, the others joined him.
“If you’re ready to go, we’re ready.” Raquel said.
Robert remained stunned, “Uh…sure.”
They exited with the tour group.
The blind harmonica player still sat outside, playing Bringing in the sheaves.
They walked past him.
The blind player suddenly stopped, “That a great thing in there eh? What you think, Robert, Sam and Raquel?”
They looked at each other in surprise.
“I’m sorry, do we know you?” Robert asked.
He tapped his harmonica, “Never met, no. Heard about you, oh yeah, that be true. Blind man Johnson be my name,” He tipped his Fedora, “Retired Champion, retired since the last time you come around these parts. Why don‘t the three of you sit with me a while ‘fore you go.” His accent sounded southern but not completely Cajun.
Raquel sat down immediately, feeling completely relaxed with him.
He turned his sightless; sun glasses wearing face toward her, “Ah, now that’s what I like in Nawleans, the pretty girls, they can’t get enough of Blind man.”
“How do you know if I’m pretty?” she blushed.
He smiled confidently, “Oh, you sound like a young girl but I see you, little warrior. You been around, can tell it in your speech. Still, that alright, Blind man thinks they all’s pretty especially the new Champions.” he patted her knee.
Sam tried to peek over Blind man’s black glasses, “What do you mean, you see us, how?”
He leaned over to whisper quietly to Raquel, “He the grumpy one, that one, yeah? He okay though, he the kind what grows on you.”
She chuckled, Sam grumbling quietly.
“I take it you’re one of our friends in the city?” Robert asked.
Blind man looked up at The Champion lowering his glasses conspiratorially.
Cataracts completely covered both pupils.
“That right. The Word say come to ya, meet ya here. Can’t read me no good can ya though? Try the soul mirror read on me, you not gonna get nothing, eh?” he pushed the glasses back up, “That’s why I’m retired. They think I cain’t see them, that make me a good informer, ya?”
Sam crossed his arms, “So how do we know you’re really a Champion?”
Blind man leaned back to Raquel, “See, de grumpy one.” nodding at her.
He took off his fedora waving it like a fan against his face; sweat reflected the sun off his shaven head.
“The girl, she be knowing I be lyin’ or not. Part the power she got, along with the warrior she is.”
Robert remained skeptical, “What’s he talking about? The word was telling him to meet us here? Who told him we would be here?”
Robert shrugged, “The Word of God, that’s who convinced me to have you come with me at the asylum. I guess he called ahead.”
Blind man laughed, “Hoo, that the truth, sure enough. Nearly swallow my harmonica here.”
Raquel smiled, “I love your playing.”
He smiled back, “Now, girl, don’t be making an old man’s heart go a flutter. Flatter me, ooo wee, you get yourself in trouble.”
Sam huffed, “You didn’t answer my question? What do you mean you could see us?”
Blind man placed his fedora back on his head seemingly looking Sam up and down.
“I got the permanent sight. I see the color now. See you with the healer color; see the fire in the warrior girl. See the shimmer fire off a young Robert there. I see the good, the bad, the living, the dead, and the not so dead. I see what Champions all the time see, no? Just none of the bad thinks I can. I sorry, my accent it kinda heavy now, I born, raised here in the Bayou. I no traveled in a while, so ya’ll give old Blind man here a second, and I get my words under the control, non?”
Blind man lowered his head bringing his harmonica to his lips.
“Robert?” Sam tapped him on the shoulder.
He motioned to the side street further across the left side of the Cathedral. Slinking toward them down the street trying to hide from them was Adam Longstreet.
“He’s gonna be a problem I can tell.” Raquel noticed him too.
“Who’s that you talking about?” Blind man asked.
They jerked at the different tone and speech pattern in his voice even with his accent.
“Adam Longstreet. He says he’s the new power in town.” Robert answered.
Blind man spit to his left, “Longstreet. That young fool done got himself sold to the highest bidder. Yeah, he killed old Mattie May, least way, no body found yet. So he better hope he killed that old girl. He got the power of the evil in him too soon, too quick, gonna burn him or gonna use him, if he’s not careful.”
“So Mattie May really is gone?” Robert asked.
He frowned, “Aye, she is, and I say is because you could insult her ghost if she be dead for sure, once being the queen here in the quarter. Longstreet, her apprentice, looks like he took over, he’s got a lot of the same power, and I don’t think he knows what to do with it all. Got to watch out for apprentices, like Sam is Robert’s, have to train them right.”
Robert and Sam looked at each other.
“What do you mean?” Sam asked.
“Well, that’s what it looks like. The Word says you got to lead him on the path so he can-”
“You stupid little idiot!” someone yelled, interrupting him.
Nearby a father yelled at his son as the mother helped the crying boy up from where he fell near the caricature stalls. The father picked up a painting, fallen face down on the ground. The paint had smeared. The mother quietly spoke to her husband as the boy cried saying he was sorry.
Blind man Johnson resumed talking, “The Word say you got to lead him on the path so Sam can build his power. I thought that meant you were being his apprentice. Maybe I didn’t understand right?”
Robert grinned evilly at Sam, “So…you work for me?”
Sam grimaced, “Don’t get any ideas.”
“What about me?” Raquel quietly asked.
Blind man turned his upper body toward her.
“You? You girl? You just start on your path of life. The Word says ‘watch that one calling herself Raquel Monroe, the Heavens have a purpose for her’.”
Her eyes widened.
The father yelled again, over the crowd, “I don’t give a damn! That damn picture cost me thirty bucks! Now he’s gone and fucked it up! I don’t give a damn what these people think! When we get back to the hotel, his sorry little ass is gonna be sore for a month!”
They watched the angry father’s tirade then turned again to Johnson.
All but Raquel.
“What’s the Heavenly host planning for her?” Robert asked.
“The Word didn’t say, he did say, you two will teach her some things she need to know. He say…said…he said that ya’ll need to be a team for a while.”
The father swatted at the mothers hands trying to calm him down, “Well, you’re the fucking one that wanted the damn thing in the first place! If he wasn’t so damn stupid, and paid attention to where he was going, he wouldn’t have fallen on his stupid face.”
They looked at her.
“You okay, Raquel?” Sam asked.
She didn’t say anything but stepped around both of them walking toward the angry father.
Sam reached for her, “Raquel?”
Blind man stopped him, “No Sam Brady, let her go.”
Raquel marched across the twenty feet to the man. The sound of her combat boots reverberated across the paving stones. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched the unseen world beyond the Veil, both divine and malign, stopping what they were doing to turn to watch her. She felt the Taser gun she called ‘Sparky’ hitting her right thigh, while her butterfly knife rubbed against her left leg. She clenched and unclenched her fists.
People stopped, watching the scene the man created. She noticed even nearby police were doing nothing to intervene.
“He needs a good kick in the ass, that’s where he keeps his brains!” the man grabbed the boy by his collar.
“You don’t appreciate a damn thing do you? You get your ass over here!” He turned the boy around not noticing the stomping boots heading toward him.
He raised his hand back to spank the boy. The crowd gasped as his hand descended. Two smaller sets of hands grabbed his. Raquel separated his fingers into two groups forcefully twisted behind his back, and then she whispered in his ear.
“You hit him and I’ll break your fingers maybe even your arms.”
He looked into the eyes of the petite Latina or Italian looking woman almost snarling at him speaking with a little girl’s voice. He released his son starting to grab her.
Raquel’s left hand snaked forward around the front part of his throat, her arm straightened, leaning the man backwards encircling his neck but not letting him drop to the ground. His back rested on her left knee.
“Don’t fight me, stupid, I could really hurt you.”
She looked at the police officer she noticed earlier, he hadn’t moved, he grinned slightly but only watched. She noticed how quiet it was in the immediate area.
In a normal tone of voice, she said; “Some people deserve children, some people don’t. Some can be parents, some can’t. You were making your son and his mother feel like shit because of a stupid picture! You were embarrassing them because your boy fell! You were mad over thirty stinking dollars? Do you realize how many people in the world would love to have a child, love to have a mother or father? You’ve been granted a gift, you idiot! Appreciate what you have.”
She dropped him, letting him fall hard to the pavement.
“Give me that!” she barked at the mother holding out her hand for the caricature.
Raquel looked at it. A portrait of the three of them, the father as a gunslinger on the bottom left, the mother a saloon girl, and the boy was a broncobuster. The artist used paint instead of pen and ink. The picture hadn’t dried so it smudged, dirt clinging to it.
The father started to rise.
She glanced down at him commanding him, “Stay!”
The command stopped everyone in their tracks, from her Warrior power or from sheer intimidation who could say.
She went to an artist handing him a twenty, “May I borrow your easel sir?”
The surprised young man nodded jumping out of his chair.
What happened next, no one could or would ever remember. She started to paint with acrylics covering the previous painting. Within two minutes, but no one would remember how long it took, she picked up the canvas shielding the painted side with her body rejoining the mother and child.
She addressed the father who still lay on the ground, “This is what I fixed, this is what better be! This is how you should be with your family, you ass! It would have cost you a lot less than thirty stinking dollars to live like what’s on this canvas. Be a good father. Raise a good son. Be the picture instead of what you are right now.”
She handed the woman the canvas, stomping off.
The mother gasped, beginning to cry, the boy thanked Raquel as she returned to the others.
The father struggled to get up, “She better not have fucked up that picture or I’ll have her arrested I should have her arrested for assault –“He stopped speaking when the mother turned the canvas around, displaying Raquel’s work.
The portrait was their family, but no longer a caricature. It was lifelike. The father still on the left smiling, the mother leaning her head on his shoulder from the right, the young boy stood in front of his father looking up at him with obvious pride while his father’s arms wrapped lovingly around his sons shoulders. Their eyes beamed outward with love from the picture for the world to appreciate.
The father sat back down on the ground and began to weep.
The French Quarter’s noise returned to normal as Raquel noticed Angels approaching the family. She stopped for a second, looking back at them for some reason. Angels surrounded the family but especially the man. She glanced at the officer, who tipped his hat at her, smiled, and turned away.
She went back to the others.
Blind man grinned, “Now, that was a sight! Little Warrior girl! You did a conversion! I hadn’t seen one of them in near on ten years! You did it on the spot! Yeah, ‘watch that one’ is right!”
“What’s a conversion?” Sam asked.
Raquel sat down beside Blind man as he answered, “A conversion to the light! She done switch that man over to the good side. At least started him on the path. May take time, but she done it.”
“I know I do not see Robert Oliver Wilcox standing in front of me and has not come and said hello,” a purring voice echoed from the doorway to St. Louis.
In the entrance frame of the Cathedral, a bright light surrounded a curved, slim, short figure, obviously a woman.
Robert’s face beamed rushing forward, picking the woman up in his arms, hugging her to his chest, “Bastet!”
She laughed as he sat her back down. Petite, wearing a classical style skirt and jacket top. Her caramel complexion complemented her short fashionable hair. She had an exotic face, with touches of the orient, the plains of Africa, and the Mediterranean, all rolled into one. Her eyes flashed bright green in the sunlight, with a pouting, full mouth and high cheekbones. Her figure was shapely and feline. Her light aura was deep and bright, a mix of seashell, sandy brown, Persian green, and midnight blue. It was obvious Robert and she knew each other well.
“Hey, there now, that my lady there, non?” Blind man laughed.
Bastet giggled, flowing as she walked toward him, taking off his hat, kissing him on top of his head, replacing it as she sat on the corner of the bench on his other side.
“Blind man, I like them young but seasoned, Chere‘. Robert is a kitten,” she winked at Robert, “We’re just very good friends. Not like…” she took Johnson’s hand.
Blind man smiled at her, grasping her hand in his.
“No, no, I not worried my petit’. I joke with him.” A Creole accent crept out of his speech, or perhaps Cajun, Robert wasn’t sure.
“Bastet, still the same I see.” He snickered seeing the affection between them.
“It’s Bessie Tate around here, remember? Oh, I’m sorry, you don’t maybe. We understand you’re just getting your memories back,” she pouted at him then smiled at Raquel,” I heard an instant conversion just occurred and the hosts came to see. I didn’t know it was the same people I was supposed to meet.”
Robert indicated Sam and Raquel, “Everyone, this is Bessie Tate. Yes, Bastet the Egyptian cat goddess. As I said, some of the old ones still are around.”
She huffed at him, “Old? What a horrible thing to say.”
“You know what I mean.”
“How do you know each other?” Sam asked.
Bessie looked at him, “Direct aren’t we, Mister Brady? He and I go back a way. Last I saw of him, we had some trouble a short while ago here in New Orleans before he went into seclusion. We’ve been friends for some time, even when he was-” she stopped as if listening to someone.
“Oops, I do run off at the mouth sometimes. Sorry Boss.” She held her right hand up to the sky.
“Sam the new one, he the grumpy type,” Blind man whispered.
“I am not grumpy.” Sam crossed his arms.
Blind man smiled, “See.”
She smiled appreciatively leaning forward speaking to Raquel, “So, you little warrior, you were the converter?”
Raquel’s face turned hot, “Yes, I guess.”
“Child, you’re blushing! How delightful in a warrior! Usually, they’re gruff and boisterous. Delightful!” she reached over, caressing Raquel’s face with the back of her hand.
A sense of wonder overcame Raquel. She smelled a fragrance on her hand. She smelled of dark jungles, city streets, dry arid regions and spice. Raquel’s eyes widened appreciatively.
“She do have the effect on you, non?” Blind man said as Bastet pulled her hand back.
“What is that perfume? I want some.”
Blind man shook his head, “That the scent of Bastet, little one. No other like it.”
Robert asked, “So are you two an item?”
Bastet started to answer but Blind man quickly said yes.
“I do so much enjoy the tigers, you know me. In his time, Blind man was and still is such a tiger. Irresistible.” she purred caressing his neck.
“Woo wee! It hot out here, non?” he took off his hat fanning himself.
“Why were you supposed to meet us anyway?” Robert asked.
She looked skyward then answered.
“Well, Blind man and I are here in case you need immediate help. I’m here to provide a girding of your loins lesson as it were. I know you plan to go to the repository to use the mirror to go back and learn more about your past and powers. Do you remember the man your father spoke of who helped your grandfather after he found the Key? Then later, the other man your father said helped you and your family during…the…bad day?” she looked away.
“Yes,” Robert’s memory was not bad enough to forget that day.
She sighed, “That man was you. You were the man your father and grandfather spoke of. You’re just now about to make that journey.”
Robert frowned and was speechless
“Anything we should know about here?” Sam asked any of them.
Robert shook his head, “No Sam. Just more questions about this mystery man my father told me came out of nowhere and taught my grandfather about the Key Signorum. So how does this help with us catching the Tearer that’s still lose we’ve been tracking?”
“Well, this little journey is to gird your loins as I said and to remind you of your powers. Things work the way that they do because that’s what they’re supposed to do. For everything, there is a season and a reason. Once you finish with your trips we’ll be able to talk more.”
Robert stared at her and she stared back, realizing she wouldn’t say more he shrugged.
“Well, I guess there’s no time like the present to get started.”
They rolled their eyes at his time joke.
“You’ve not changed…” Bastet smiled, “…and don’t ever.”
Sam pulled out his cell phone, “I might need to check in with my contacts before we go in to see if there is any new news about these murders.”
“Uh-unh, nope.” Robert shook his head, “Sam don’t you think they might trace your call? I’m pretty certain your contact, more than likely has been contacted by people looking for me, you don’t think they’ll move in as soon as they have some info?”
“They will.” Bastet calmly stated.
Robert motioned toward Bastet, “See? See, what better proof you need? Keep it turned off.”
She grinned, “Nothing has happened Samuel. I would be able to tell you if there had.”
Robert shook his hands toward her in mock exasperation. “See, see!”
Raquel took Sam by his hand, “Listen to the loony man, Sam I am, let’s head to the building.”
Sam lightly punched her in the shoulder, “Stop that Sam I am stuff.”
“Yes, woman, get thee to a nunnery!” Robert marched past them waving goodbye to the goddess and retired Champion.
As they walked down the street, they planned a quick strategy.
Robert waved his hands in the air, “Okay, we storm the turrets, Sam you swing from the ramparts. Raquel, you fire flaming arrows from your-“
Raquel shoved him sideways, “Chill out, King Arthur, you two should go in I’ll stand guard at the gates. Sam at least can carry the appearance of an official, you…” he gave her wild man eyes, “…you just do what you do. If trouble starts up, I can come and warn you. Sound like a plan?”
Sam nodded while Robert pouted.
“I wanted to storm the ramparts. Nobody ever storms the ramparts anymore. Why doesn’t anyone storm the ramparts? That’s what they’re for.”
“Nunnery’s don’t have ramparts, genius.” Sam chuckled.
“Well, they ought to. Rampart storming is a lost art you know?”
Raquel stopped at the open gates before the parking lot of the Nunnery, motioning for the two of them to go in.
“I’ll be here if you need me.” She smiled pushing them along.
Sam smiled, “I’ll try to keep him out of trouble.”
“Me? Trouble? Since when? See! That corner could be a rampart.” Robert pointed to the roof of the nunnery. Sam faced the heavens, shaking his head once again.
Raquel stopped, leaned against the gates, searching both the almost empty parking lot and the passersby on the street.
To be continued…