Authors: Christa J. Kinde
Tags: #Retail, #Ages 11 & Up
hat is it you wanted to show me?” the warrior murmured uncomfortably as he followed his companion along a path that twisted deep under the earth.
“Two things,” replied Abner quietly, continuing downward until they reached an enormous cavern. The cave floor fell away on one side of the path, which hugged a sheer cliff face until it dead-ended before a huge slab — a square door, hewn from gray stone and polished smooth. Its blank face was made ominous by heavy chains that anchored it to the surrounding rock.
He glanced at his companion. “May I?”
“By all means, Captain.”
Striding forward, the warrior laid a hand upon the cold
metal of the bonds. “The Deep holds,” he pronounced, glancing at Abner for confirmation.
“Yes,” the silvery angel confirmed. “Now for the other … in silence, if you please.”
They made no sound as they backtracked, then plunged deeper into the inky labyrinth. Finally, Abner drew to a halt and turned to his companion, raising a finger to his lips, then tapping his pointed ear. At first, there was nothing, but then a faint noise like the scrape of broken glass against stone. The captain’s eyes widened in recognition, and Abner nodded gravely.
Retreating to the surface, the warrior finally broke his silence. “How long have you suspected?”
“I will arrange for additional guards.”
“Thank you, Jedrick.”
On the following Wednesday, Tad pulled into the parking lot of the elementary school in Harper, the next big town down the highway from West Edinton. A large banner hanging over the gymnasium door declared it the home of Deo Volente. Tad and Neil had been coming for a couple of years now, and Beau had been attending since the beginning of summer; however, this was Prissie’s first time, and she had a bad case of the jitters.
Koji nudged her with his elbow and smiled reassuringly. “Milo is already here,” he whispered.
“How can you tell?”
The boy considered the question, then answered, “I just can.”
Sure enough, as soon as they stepped through the school doors, he hailed them. “Hey, there, Pomeroys!”
“Yo, Milo!” loudly greeted Neil, while Tad confined himself to a friendly nod. “Are
the reason my sister finally decided to show up? Figures.”
The mailman held up his hands and chuckled. “I only invited Miss Priscilla … something
might have tried?” he challenged lightly.
The sixteen-year-old rubbed the back of his neck. “Uh, point taken. I’m going to catch up with the rest of the guys,” he declared hastily and hurried into the gymnasium.
“I’ll be in the sound booth,” Beau announced before sloping off after his older brother.
Tad hesitated. “You okay, Priss?”
“I’ll stay with Koji,” she offered.
“We’ll find you when things start up,” he promised, then ambled away.
“Ready?” Milo invited, gesturing toward the wide double doors, beyond which all manner of noise was coming.
Glancing over her shoulder to make sure no one was paying attention, she whispered, “There’s an angel
“Come on in, and I’ll introduce you,” Milo replied with a smile.
Prissie’s first impression of Deo Volente was the racket. Bleachers and folding chairs provided seating in front of a temporary stage against the far wall, but in the part of the gym that wasn’t being used for the event, twenty-odd basketballs were in constant motion. Prissie spotted Neil in the mix, shooting hoops with some of the guys from his class.
The chatter, laughter, and constant
of balls only provided a backdrop for the main noise, which was coming
from the stage. “Test, test, test …” rang out over the speaker system. A lean, balding man in a yellow polo shirt scooped up a cord and plugged in his acoustic-style guitar, then began tuning. At the same time, an electric guitar ran through a scale, ending on a wailing note. Random chords came from a set of two keyboards arranged side by side, and a rhythm was tapped out on a big drum set’s cymbal.
“We’re early enough to say hello,” Milo explained in a raised voice as they walked slowly down the center aisle. “This is their sound check.”
“Okay,” Prissie replied, her voice lost in the din.
At center stage stood a man with red hair that fell to his shoulders. His clothes had that lived-in look — faded jeans and a tank top, with another shirt carelessly tied around his waist. As Prissie and Milo made their way down the aisle, he turned to speak to the other band members, giving her a clear view of the vibrant red tattoos twisting over his shoulder blades and along the backs of his arms. He tapped a sandaled foot as he counted in the others, and the drummer picked up the beat. The keyboardist struck an opening chord, and after the first few bars, the throb of a bass guitar filled the room, sending deep notes vibrating through Prissie’s whole body.
This was definitely different than what Prissie was used to, but as the leader’s fingers plucked a melody from his guitar strings, she was pleasantly surprised, and when he turned to face the microphone and began to sing, she slowed to a stop.
His rumpled clothing and wild looks ceased to matter when he raised a light, sweet tenor. The song wasn’t one she’d ever heard before, and the lyrics painted pictures in her mind of a place she couldn’t reach and stirred a longing
in her heart for someone she’d never seen. Before she knew it, tears were prickling under her eyelids, and when he finished, she quickly swiped at her cheeks with the back of her hand.
Milo’s blue eyes held an approving shine. “Don’t be embarrassed, Miss Priscilla. That’s just the kind of response Baird gets when he sings one of his songs. Come on, I’ll introduce you.”
“To him?” she asked in disbelief. Her eyes swung back to the red-haired worship leader who was fiddling with the strings of his guitar, idly tuning. “Are you saying that
Milo grinned and whispered, “He’s not the
one. Tonight’s admission comes with two for the price of one!”
Prissie blinked in surprise and looked more carefully at the other members of the band. Beside the balding man stood the much shorter bass guitarist, whose lank brown hair poked out from under a knotted bandana. His head bobbed in time with the tapping of one diamond-patterned, high-top sneaker. The keyboardist was tall, with olive skin and black curls; his long fingers flowed easily through a rippling series of scales. Behind the drum set sat a woman with warm skin, wide-set eyes, dozens of coiling braids, and a pierced nose. She twirled one drumstick in her gauntleted hand.
“Which one is the other angel?” she asked curiously.
“Can’t you guess?” Milo asked.
“None of you look like each other, so how am I supposed to tell?”
be able to tell,” he assured her. “I was just curious to see if Kester is blending in. He’s new to our Flight — as new as Koji.”
“Which one is Kester?” Prissie asked in an undertone.
Milo shook his head. “First things first. Mentor and
“Haven’t you realized yet? We come in pairs — one who has more experience, and one who’s still learning the ropes,” he explained.
“I figured that out already,” she said loftily. When her conscience twinged, she admitted, “Koji told me about some of it.”
“Harken and I have been together for quite some time. Koji here is brand new, and this is his very first assignment. Kester has been around
longer, but he’s newly assigned to Baird.” Milo grinned and added, “Between you and me, I don’t think he’s quite adjusted to the partnership.”
“Why not?” she asked.
“Let’s just say that Baird’s style isn’t what Kester’s used to.” A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, and with a sidelong glance, he remarked, “I don’t really think this is what
used to either, right, Miss Priscilla?”
That was an understatement; her church tended toward the old hymns, and the only accompaniments to their singing were an organ and a piano. She wasn’t really sure
approved of how things were done here, which was confusing, since the worship leader was apparently an angel … and angels should know better.
Rather than answer, though, Prissie asked, “Won’t it be kind of weird for you guys to have a conference right out here in front of everyone?”
Milo chuckled. “Why? Is it so strange that I have friends outside of our home church? I’m here almost every week.” Stepping up to the edge of the stage, he propped an elbow on
the carpeted platform and called out to the worship leader in a sing-song voice. “Oh, Baird! I have a message for you!”
The redhead turned, and his hazel eyes lit up. Unplugging his guitar, he strolled over, calling, “What’s up, Milo!” He crouched down so they wouldn’t have to crane their necks to talk, and suddenly, Prissie found herself on the receiving end of an easy smile. Offering a hand, Baird said, “I haven’t seen you here before.”
Milo jumped in to handle the introductions. “This is Miss Priscilla Pomeroy, the one who knows about us.”
Baird turned wondering eyes on the girl whose hand was still in his possession. “No kidding?” the redhead drawled thoughtfully, then broke into a huge grin. “That is
cool! Are you freaking out? I mean, you’re not scared of me or anything, right?”
Prissie’s eyes drifted to the tattoos that peeked over the curve of Baird’s shoulder and the cuff that decorated his left ear. “Not really.”
“I’m not what you expected though?” he inquired, giving her hand a light squeeze before releasing it.
has been,” she replied honestly.
Baird sat down on the edge of the stage, letting his legs dangle. “Well, some of the other guys are
scarier looking than I am. Me? I’m just a harmless musician, an angel with a harp!” He tipped his head to one side as he smiled, then plucked a few notes on his sky-blue guitar.
Just then, the young woman on the stage launched into an energetic drum solo. At the sound, Prissie jumped. Noting her discomfort, Baird smiled sympathetically. “You’re way out of your comfort zone, aren’t you, Priscilla Pomeroy?” She shrugged noncommittally, and he nodded wisely. “Well,
you’re not the only one. Hey, Kester!” he hollered, waving to the man who’d been at the keyboards. He stood near the back of the stage, a violin in his hands. “C’mere!”
Carefully placing the instrument in its case, Kester slowly strolled over. Baird thumped the floor at his side, and Kester hesitated only a moment before unbuttoning his suit coat and stiffly lowering himself to the floor. Prissie gazed curiously at the serious-faced man, who had a large nose and dark brown eyes. “Good evening,” he greeted politely.
“This is Priscilla Pomeroy, and she’s a friend of Koji’s!” Baird exclaimed, elbowing the neatly pressed gentleman. “Pretty amazing, right?”
The violinist pursed his lips thoughtfully, then offered his hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you Miss Pomeroy; my name is Kester Peverell.”
He spoke with a foreign accent, but it wasn’t one she recognized. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Peverell. Please, you guys can call me Prissie.”
“You may call me Kester,” he returned, smiling faintly. “I am most curious … how is it that you know our true nature?”
Baird nodded eagerly. “Yeah, I mean … I’ve never been outed before! Have you?”
“Yes, actually,” Kester promptly replied. “At least in part. There was an old woman who claimed she could see wings whenever I sang during worship services. She was very close to the end of her time and took great comfort in songs of heaven.”
“No kidding?” the redhead asked, eyes wide.
“No kidding,” Kester echoed solemnly.
Baird sighed. “Man, you
need to loosen up a little.”
“I will take that under consideration,” his apprentice calmly agreed.
Milo chuckled. “Looks like Kester’s a quick learner; he already knows how to handle Myron!”
“Hey, hey, hey …!” the redhead protested. “You’re
supposed to spread that around. The name’s
Everybody calls me Baird.”
Milo nudged Prissie and explained, “He prefers to go by his last name.”
Koji, whose attention had been fixed on the basketball game underway across the gym, belatedly turned back toward the stage. “Hello, Baird! Hello, Kester!”
!” exclaimed the worship leader, waving a hand at the youngest member of the angelic contingent. “Koji!
togs … very youthful humanity!”
“You think so?” the boy asked hopefully.
blending!” Baird assured with a wink, then bounded to his feet. “It’s nearly time to start, so why don’t you guys come hang out afterwards?”
“Count on it,” replied Milo.
As Kester picked himself up and brushed off his pants, he discreetly prompted Baird. “Your attire?”
When the redhead snapped his fingers and handed off his guitar to the other angel, Prissie realized just how much taller Kester was than his mentor. Baird pulled on the rumpled shirt that had been tied at his waist and did up a few buttons.
Kester cleared his throat. “You are off by one.”
The redhead blinked at the uneven tails of his shirt and snorted. “Good catch.”
While he fixed the problem, Prissie leaned over and
whispered, “Are you sure Baird’s the mentor and Kester’s the apprentice?”
“Quite sure,” Milo replied with a definite twinkle in his eye. Waving casually to the pair, Milo led Prissie and Koji away in a search for open seats.
“Grandma always says, ‘It takes all kinds,’ “ Prissie remarked when Koji fell into step beside her.
“Baird is very good at what he does,” Koji solemnly reported.
“Chairs or bleachers?” Milo inquired.
“Chairs,” Prissie replied quickly.
As they worked their way down one of the side aisles, she waved at Beau, who wore a headset. For the last few weeks, he’d been assisting the man in charge of the DeeVee’s webcast and was therefore in technological glory.