Heavenly bodies are rare in these parts. He should know. It's his business to scope these streets, separate the sinners from those that are blessed.

Most nights, it's slim pickings--hordes of dismal sinners who've fallen from grace, now carrion for the vultures who feed off them. Vultures in pimp suits and pinky rings who promise salvation but deliver death in dime bags. It's an easy trap for young angels anxious to fly. But it's their legs, not their wings they'll be spreading, and flight comes only via needle and a spoon. After that, it's an express train to Hell on the tracks that course their arms. His trained eye sees past the throngs of wasted souls, all the hopeless hollow eyes that line this strip. No halos here, no clouds except the black exhaust of cruising cars. And when these angels step to the curb, it's neon, not glory that bathes them in color as cold as their shivering bodies. Love for sale carries a higher price than the crumpled 10's and 20's these girls barter for flesh. It's a hard lesson learned only after too many men and too many nights have extinguished their dreams and robbed their souls.

But his angel is different. There's a radiance about her, a glow from within. That killer combo of youth and beauty, with enough innocence to make his mouth water. Her shoulders are creamy porcelain, fresh flawless skin that tells him she's closer to cherub than angel, young enough to be saved. And a ripe body that shows she's old enough to be his savior. She smiles when he approaches. He sees Heaven in her eyes, potential in that luscious mouth. Cheeks still baby-plump dimple when he speaks to her, flush slightly in the shadowed light. He wants to eat her alive, right here, right now, but knows he has to wait. When they're this young, it's better to be patient. Angel food is a delicacy to savor and enjoy. Mesmerized, he tracks her body's soft curves as a Bible passage comes to mind. The one about Jacob and the angel, that little saga about the earthling with attitude who thinks he can strong-arm a winged warrior. And once in the clinch, Jacob tells the angel, "I will not let thou go except thou bless me." A sentiment fitting for this moment, except he has no intention of letting this particular angel fly away. Blessings are optional, but before he's done, somebody's going to get sanctified.

She calls him 'Father.' Maybe she's into role-playing, or maybe it's his cleric's collar, but either way it works for him. She trusts him--confidence bought with a simple garment and a cheap crucifix. A handy trick, but one that only works with young angels. Once their wings are broken, they recognize the demons in disguise. A few more words, a nod, and she's in his car with a shy smile and breasts that make him hungry. But he can't show it. Control is critical for angel guardians. Make his move too fast and she'll panic. He wants her wings to flutter, not soar. She'll be soft and warm, sweeter than the others. Tender. From Nebraska, she tells him. Just arrived this morning. Not yet familiar with this city, this street, or the shadowed figures who huddle along it. So much the better for him, and his purposes. While she chatters on, he contemplates her thighs. He can tell she's hungry. It's a simple matter to buy her a meal, watch that incredible mouth move around the greasy cheeseburgers she claims are her favorite. Child's fare in a woman's inviting mouth. She offers him some, but he refuses, content for now to watch her. His meal will come later when his feeding frenzy is unleashed. For now he'll watch those lips and dream. She thinks he's listening, a priest attending to the words of one of his flock, and so she chatters on. Solemnly he nods, imagining how her pink nipples will bruise between his teeth.

ack in the car, they head toward the edge of the city and the heart of his personal darkness. She doesn't know, of course, couldn't know, since nothing here is familiar to her except the office his clothing represents. A priest who cares about her, who came to save her soul. Who fed her a cheap meal before feeding his own appetites. His angel from Nebraska knows only that she trusts him, the thoughtful caring priest in that crowd of hungry sinners. And so she chatters on, oblivious to the desolate streets or his black intent. They say Heaven is in the details. Like the way she smiles when he pulls up to the house, tells her there are good people here who can help her. The way she follows him blindly through the darkened rooms even as her breath quickens like a captured rabbit. The light he switches on is just bright enough to show the way her eyes dilate in fear and comprehension. Too late now to fly away. This angel has fallen into the demon's pit where there's no escape. Her fear rises up around them like the fires of Hell, as wild as his intentions. He can smell it, taste it when his tongue flicks over her shivering skin. Terrified, she whimpers when he touches her, mewling sounds that clog her throat.

Like a tortured animal, or an angel fallen from grace. To his ears, as sweet as a celestial choir. His angel has no halo, so instead he rings her throat with hands that mark her tender flesh. Christ, she's soft! He's barely squeezing and already she's choking. He eases up, but just a little. No sense snapping that fragile neck. Not yet, anyway. Not until his angel has blessed him. So, he pins her wings back, makes her kneel before him as if in prayer, and shouts God's praises while she chokes and gags. A religious experience if ever there was one...and it's not over yet. He's the rutting god who fills her, leaves stigmata in the form of welts and bruises on that milky skin. She's beyond screams now, beyond resistance. Her eyes are dark with the knowledge of who he is--the only one who can deliver her from this evil. No angel in the firmament ever tasted so sweet, and his teeth clamp down for more. His fingers clench that spun silk hair and twist her lower. He's ready for salvation now, expects Paradise just beyond those heavenly gates. He parts them roughly in a single thrust hard enough to vanquish the demons. There's deliverance in her ruptured softness sweeter than any blood or wine. Benediction as he rides blindly into the light. Afterward, she's barely breathing. His angel is motionless, with not even a flutter of her broken wings. That happens sometimes after he's been sanctified. But he's the angel guardian, and knows exactly what to do. The same thing he's done countless times before to help these angels fly away home. He carries her into the kitchen, props her limp body up in a chair. Places the mirror in front of her that reflects her pale angel's face. And carefully pours the white powder in a mound large enough to guarantee flight. For one last time, he strokes her silky hair before pressing her face into the cocaine, holding it there until her pulse lugs to a stop. Until her soul takes flight and she returns to the heavens. After that, his mission is complete. He's delivered another angel.

Just one last thing to do now. Removing his priest's collar and the crucifix, he returns to his waiting car. His ankle holster is there, the kind all narcotics cops wear. He clips on the badge and keys in the radio that transmits to police dispatch. "792-Charlie," he says, as he's done countless times before. The dispatcher's voice crackles in response. "Is that 792-Charlie coming in?" "Ten-four. I've got a O.D. at the dope house, 6178 Exeter. Looks like a young girl. Can you get an ambulance rolling?" "Ten-four, ambulance is on the way. Got any I.D. on the subject, 792-Charlie?" He glances back at her golden hair, at the creamy skin now tinged with gray. "That's a negative. Just another young kid who wanted to fly."

Copyright 2002 by Gina Gallo









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