As an Angel, Remy Chandler possesses powers and skills he puts to good use in his chosen profession—but only if the situation calls for it. And the sudden reappearance of the Garden of Eden is definitely one such situation, since the seemingly benevolent Sons of Adam want him to find the Key to the Gates of Eden. But there are those who want the Gates to stay shut, for there is something terrible and dangerous buried in the Garden…
Caught between two warring factions of immortals, Remy must decide how to proceed: find the Key, or not? Desperate for help, he turns to a very old acquaintance—a fallen angel who is sometimes friend, sometimes foe, and always deadly.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Fernita Green could not remember what she had lost, and that was why Remy Chandler was there.
He stood in the kitchen of the old woman’s home, surrounded by the accumulations of her very long life. Plastic bags filled with other plastic bags and scraps of what he could describe only as trash, but kept by Fernita because it just might—one day—be important. Stacks of newspapers like ancient rock formations grew up from the rubbish-strewn floor, some leaning dangerously, but somehow defying the laws of physics.
The counter near the sink was covered with empty bottles and flattened cereal boxes. Tin cans and glass jars had been rinsed clean and stacked amid the debris.
Remy found the teakettle behind a stack of plastic Meals On Wheels containers. They had been washed out as well.
The inside of the sink was relatively clear, and he placed the empty kettle beneath the faucet. He turned on the water, gazing over a row of knickknacks and through the grimy window at the lushly overgrown backyard while the kettle filled.
A little over three weeks ago, Fernita had started calling his office. She had wanted him to help her find something, but she couldn’t remember what it was. Remy had tried to dissuade her, encouraging her to call a family member instead. But she had continued to call him—sometimes leaving as many as four messages a day—until he had finally agreed to pay her a visit.
That had been two weeks ago, and he’d been visiting regularly since.
“How do you want your tea this time?” he called out from the kitchen as he turned off the faucet and took the kettle to the stove. He had to push aside a stack of fine-china plates that he didn’t remember seeing there last time.
“With some milk, baby,” he heard Fernita call out from the living room.
Sometimes she liked her tea dark… “like the color of my skin,” she would say with a chuckle, letting the bag steep in her cup for a good long time. Other times she’d take it with milk, like today.
Remy moved the plates to a tiny dinette set in the corner under a pair of windows. He had to push aside Easter baskets filled with green plastic grass to make way for them.
He returned to the stove only to find Fernita’s cat, Miles, sitting in the center amid the four burners. The black cat with the white bib of fur stared at him with intense green eyes.
“Hello, Miles,” Remy said as he placed the kettle on one of the electric burners and turned it on. “Careful now; this is going to get hot.”
“Hungry,” the cat said in its feline tongue.
Remy looked over at the two dishes on the floor beside the refrigerator. One was filled with water, and the other had some Friskies in it. “There’s food in your bowl,” he told the cat, turning around to search out two clean cups.
“No,” the cat growled. “Hungry.”
Remy opened the cabinet to the left of the sink, catching a stack of recipes torn from the pages of magazines before they could drift to the floor. There were plenty of cups inside as well—enough to offer tea to the whole city of Brockton.
“And I said there’s food in your bowl.” Remy pointed to the dish on the cluttered floor.
The cat jumped down from the stove, his paws crinkling some stray plastic bags that lay there as he padded over to his dishes.
“See?” Remy said as he opened the box of tea bags that was left on the counter. He would have much preferred coffee, but finding the coffeemaker in the chaos that was Fernita’s kitchen was far too daunting a task. Tea would have to suffice.
“No,” the cat said again, pawing at the nuggets in his dish.
“Stop playing with your food,” Remy scolded, but Miles didn’t listen.
One by one he removed the pieces of food from his dish and left them on the floor. “No, hungry.”
“Did anybody ever tell you you’re a pain in the ass?” Remy said as the teakettle began to whistle.
Miles answered no.
One can of tuna and two cups of tea later, Remy was sitting in an overstuffed wing-back chair across from the old black woman as she went through box after box of stuff.
“I just don’t know where all it all came from,” Fernita said, picking up one piece of wrinkled paper, dropping it back down into the box, only to pick up another. “I think I might’ve been saving these for the tax man.”
The pieces of paper appeared to be old, very old, and Remy doubted the IRS would have any interest in them now. “Why don’t you just throw them away?” he suggested. He placed his cup on a coaster beside his chair and reached for a plastic trash bag that he’d brought from the kitchen. “Just throw them right in here and you won’t have to worry about it anymore.”
Remy watched as the old woman seemed to consider this. “I guess I could,” she said slowly, and he almost believed he was getting through to her. “But what if I should need them?”
“Do you really think you will?” he asked, his tone urging her on.
Fernita’s wrinkled hand reached into the box again and picked up some of the papers that she’d already looked through. “I’d better hang on to them,” she said with a pretty, yellowed smile. “It would be just my luck to have the tax man bang on my door, and me not have my papers in order.” She put the box atop three others also filled with things she might need someday.
In the old days, she would have been called a pack rat, but now, in this more politically correct age, when everyone’s quirks were diagnosed with a fancy name and a weekly series on the Discovery Channel, she was definitely a hoarder.
And perfectly fine with it.
“And what if what I’m looking for…” Her voice trailed off as she gazed around the cramped confines of the sitting room. It was stuffed with old furniture and boxes of God knew what.
“What if what I’m looking for is inside one of these boxes?” she finished.
“I suppose.” Remy sighed, drinking more tea and wishing it were coffee.
“All right, then,” she said with finality. “I’d better not be putting anything in that trash bag.” She leaned back in her chair and took a sip from her cup, looking at him through the thick lenses of her glasses. They made her dark, watery eyes look huge as they fixed upon him. And then she began to laugh.
Remy couldn’t help but do the same.
When he’d asked her why she had called him, Fernita told him that an old friend named Pearly Gates had once told her that if she ever had a problem to give the detective a call. She’d produced an old business card from the pocket of the flowered apron she was wearing. It had been a long time since Remy had used that particular card—at least thirty years.
He had no idea who Pearly Gates was, but the name amused him.
Fernita was suddenly very quiet, staring off into space as if seeing something beyond the room.
“Are you okay?” he asked her.
She seemed startled by the sound of his voice and looked at him inquisitively. For a moment Remy was certain she had no idea who he was.
A smile then appeared, and he knew she had returned from wherever she had temporarily been.
“Remy Chandler,” she said happily. “It’s so nice that you visit me.”
He smiled, reaching out to take her hand. “I like that you let me.”
And it was true. Remy had actually started to look forward to his visits with Fernita, who had lost something very important, but couldn’t quite remember what it was. He had to wonder if maybe it was her dwindling faculties she was missing, and was desperate to have back.
But there was something about this wonderful old woman, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
The grandfather clock, nearly hidden by stacks of old magazines, tolled the hour, and Remy counted twelve. He had planned to stay only until lunchtime. He had things to finish at the office, and he was going out tonight.
His stomach did a little bit of a flip, and he felt the nature of the Seraphim coiled in slumber at his core stir.
“I need to get going,” he said to Fernita, almost too quickly.
He reached out and patted her hand affectionately, then stood and retrieved his heavy leather jacket from the banister near the front door.
“Where are you off to now?” Fernita asked from her chair.
“I’ve got to get back to the office and help more people,” he told her. He was tempted to tell her what he was doing tonight, knowing that she would get a kick out of it, but he really didn’t feel like talking about it at the moment.
“You’re a good man, Remy Chandler,” she said.
“Thanks for noticing.” Remy slipped into his jacket as Miles sauntered toward them from the kitchen.
“And there’s my other handsome boy,” Fernita said, making a noise for the cat to come to her. Remy had to give Miles credit—he didn’t ignore her, jumping into her lap and settling down to be petted.
“When will you visit again?” Fernita asked Remy, her eyes wide through the thick lenses of her glasses. “You know I’m never gonna find that thing without your help.”
“I’ll try to stop by toward the end of the week; how does that sound?”
“That would be wonderful!” She stopped petting Miles and held him firmly. “Now you be sure to close that door quick,” she ordered Remy. “My little friend here is dying to get outside, but I’m afraid the world is just a little too tough for Miles.”
“Out,” Miles meowed, trying to jump from Fernita’s lap.
Remy hurried out the door.
“You take care,” he called to her, closing the door gently behind him before the cat could escape into the cold, cruel world.
The Seraphim was confused.
The angelic nature could sense his master’s distress, and waited for the inevitable release.
And waited… and waited some more…
He longed to be free; to spread his golden wings… to wield the fires of Heaven once more.
To reduce his enemies to smoldering ash.
But the loosing did not come.
So the Seraphim waited, and waited some more.
Remy breathed in sharply through his nose, and exhaled through his mouth. He was standing in front of the mirror in his bedroom, gazing at his reflection and feeling the pressure.
He would rather have been doing just about anything other than what he was about to do this night. Briefly he wondered what the Black Choir was up to, and how hard it would be to attract their attention.
The Seraphim churning inside him would surely appreciate that.
He was wearing a tie, and wasn’t sure if he liked the look.
“What do you think?” he asked, shifting his gaze slightly to look at the reflection of the black Labrador retriever sitting sphinxlike on the bed behind him. “Tie or no tie?”
“Tie!” Marlowe barked.
“What do you know?” Remy asked.
“Know lot,” Marlowe responded indignantly.
“You think?” Remy reached up to tighten the knot on the blue-and-red silk tie. “Worn a lot of ties, have you?”
Marlowe remained silent, watching his master.
Remy laughed as he turned from the mirror to face the dog on the bed.
“Honestly, do I look all right?”
The dog just stared, droplets of drool leaking from his loosely hanging jowls and staining the bedspread.
“Your silence speaks volumes.” Remy moved to the bed to ruffle the black dog’s velvety soft ears and kiss the top of his hard, blocky head. “I’ve got to get going,” he said, feeling a lead ball form heavily in the pit of his stomach.
He turned to leave the bedroom, and heard the familiar thud as the dog leapt to the floor to follow.
“Out?” Marlowe asked, looking up from Remy’s side.
“I am, but you’re not,” Remy told the animal as they started down the stairs.
He’d been dreading this night since he’d planned it a little over a week ago. Every day since he’d tortured himself with the question of why he had done it, swearing he would cancel.
But he never did, and now it was too late.
“Why?” Marlowe asked, having already forgotten what they’d discussed earlier in the day.
“Because I have to go someplace where they don’t allow dogs,” Remy explained, going to the hallway closet for his heavy jacket. “I know it’s hard to believe that there are actually places in this city that won’t welcome your smiling face, but it’s true.”
The dog plopped heavily onto the living room carpet just inside the doorway.
“Work?” he asked, tilting his triangular head quizzically.
“I wish it was,” Remy answered with a sigh, slipping into the leather coat. “But no.”
He’d debated for weeks and then made the call in a moment of weakness. He’d finished watching Streisand and Redford in The Way We Were, and blamed the film for lowering his resistance.
Remy went to the kitchen, took a Red Delicious apple from the bowl on the counter, and cut it into pieces.
“This should hold you until I get back,” he told the black dog, as he returned to the living room and dropped the pile of chopped apple on the rug in front of him. “I shouldn’t be too late.”
The dog didn’t seem to notice him anymore, scarfing down the apple as if he hadn’t been fed in days.
Remy said good-bye again, and left the house.
The Seraphim nature stirred within as it sensed his anxiety.
If only the current situation could be resolved by unleashing the heavenly might of his angelic essence, it would be one of the few times he wouldn’t regret the loss of control.
But this wasn’t the time for an angel’s rage, for beating wings and flaming swords.
It was freezing outside—typical January weather for Boston, but Remy paid the harsh temperatures no mind. He had other things to think about as he walked to his car and drove the few blocks to Boylston Street.
Everybody had told him he was doing the right thing… well, everybody meaning Steven Mulvehill, homicide cop and Remy’s closest human friend.
Madeline had been Remy’s anchor in this human world, and so much more, but it was nearly a year since her death now, and he’d had no one in his life since. Mulvehill argued that this was causing his friend to disconnect from the humanity Remy had worked so hard to create.
Remy’s true nature surged with the thought. He was, after all, a creature of Heaven… a warrior angel… a Seraphim… but Remiel—as he had once been called—had grown tired of the fighting, and the war, and the death, and he had left the Kingdom of God, heading to the world of man to find an easier life.
A happier life.
A human life.
And after a few thousand years, give or take, Remiel had found just that as he made the Earth his home. He’d chosen the name Remy Chandler, and started his work as a private investigator, and suddenly it had all fallen into place.
That was when a beautiful woman had applied for a job as his office secretary, and suddenly he wasn’t pretending to be human anymore.
He was human.
The love of her—of Madeline—had transformed him into so much more than what he had been.
He wished more than anything that their love could have gone on forever, but the Lord God had seen fit to make His most favored creations mortal; a very sad flaw in the Creator’s design, Remy believed.
So Madeline was gone now, taken by cancer and age, and he was left alone to grieve for his beautiful wife, and his slowly faltering humanity.
It had been so much easier being a thing of Heaven, serving the Almighty with nary a question. And the business of being human? That was truly a chore, but despite the confusion and pain, it was something Remy was desperate to hold on to.
That was what brought him out here on this cold January night. It was all about his need to connect again. To find that special thing… that special someone to tie him to the world of man, and keep his eyes from straying to the heavens.
The power inside him would return to its master in an instant, but Remiel… Remy had seen far too much as a soldier of God and preferred the grimy city streets of Earth to the golden spires of Heaven.
Remy handed off his keys to the valet in front of Mistral and headed toward the restaurant. As he reached for the brass handle on the door, he felt as if the world were dropping away from beneath his feet, and he tried to recall whether he had felt this anxious when stepping through the passage to the Hell prison of Tartarus.
He didn’t think so.
He took a deep breath and stepped into the lobby, unzipping his leather jacket as he scanned the dining room.
“Hi, may I help you?” asked an attractive woman with long blond hair and a radiant smile.
Remy returned the smile. “I have a reservation for Chandler,” he said, not seeing his date.
The woman studied the open book on the podium. “Yes, sir, seven fifteen, for two,” she said, looking up at him. “The other member of your party hasn’t checked in yet. If you’d like to wait in the bar, and I’ll call you as soon as…”
Remy felt a blast of January air as the door opened behind him, and he turned to face it.
Linda Somerset stood in the entryway.
Her cheeks were a rosy pink, and there seemed to be a touch of panic in her gaze as she looked past him to the restaurant beyond. She pulled the floppy woolen hat from her head and combed her shoulder-length, chestnut brown hair with her fingers.
Remy couldn’t help but smile as her gaze turned to him and recognition dawned on her pretty face.
Linda laughed, reaching out to grab hold of his arm. It was a nice sound, and she had quite a grip.
“I didn’t even notice you,” she said, her eyes never leaving his. “I was afraid I was late.”
“No worries,” Remy said. “I just got here myself.”
The manic look he’d seen when the woman had first entered started to recede, and he found himself suddenly feeling more comfortable as well.
What’s that all about? he wondered, staring at Linda. Mere seconds ago he was ready to jump out of his skin, now…
She was the first to break their gaze, reaching into her coat pocket for a wrinkled Kleenex. “I’m sorry,” she said, laughing again as she brought the tissue to her nose. “My nose runs like crazy when it’s cold. I don’t want to embarrass myself any more than I have to.”
She looked self-conscious, turning away from him as she wiped beneath her nose and quickly put the Kleenex away.
“There, perfect,” she said with an exaggerated eye roll.
“Perfect,” Remy agreed. “Shall we head in?”
“May I take your coats?” the hostess asked as she stepped from behind the podium.
Remy helped Linda off with hers, then took his own off and gave both to the woman. They waited as the hostess hung them in a closet behind the podium, then returned, picking up two leather-bound menus.
“This way,” she said, holding the menus to her chest.
Remy gestured for Linda to go first, and followed close behind.
This is it, he thought.
Once more into the breach.
The floor of the underworld bucked and heaved like a succubus coming down from a weekend of gorging at the all-you-can-eat soul buffet.
Didn’t even have the common courtesy to wait until I died, the Guardian angel once of the angelic host Virtues thought as his injured form was thrown about the shifting landscape.
Fraciel—now called Francis—held on to his fleeing consciousness, staving off inevitable death, in order to bear witness to what was happening in the realm of Hell.
Lying upon his back, the ground beneath him moving like the Magic Fingers beds at the no-tell motel out on Route 114, he lifted his head to see the ice prison of Tartarus—that most horrible of places, created by God to imprison those who had taken up arms with the Morningstar—crumble and fall, disintegrating before his very eyes.
There’s something you don’t see every day, he thought in a pain-filled haze, watching as gigantic hunks of glacial ice cascaded toward the surface of Hell, only to stop midway and float inexplicably weightless through the debris and ash-choked air. Pieces of Tartarus, like an asteroid field above the quake-ravaged surface, gradually dissolved into a thick cloud of swirling matter.
Hell was coming apart at the seams, and Francis had a front-row seat.
After centuries of servitude, he had been given the job as Guardian of one of the many gates—passages—from the world of man to the Hell realm and the prison of Tartarus. It had been his way of making amends with the Almighty for temporarily siding with the Morningstar. And he had served his God well, helping those fallen angels released from their time in the icy prison to prepare for the remainder of the penance they would do upon the Earth.
He’d also shown some initiative, and managed to maintain a lucrative business as a professional assassin. Very selective in those he killed, Francis had eliminated only the worst of the bad. It had been the one saving grace in his exile upon the planet of man—that and his friendship with the Seraphim Remiel.
Known now as Remy Chandler.
The remains of Tartarus swirled in the air, a maelstrom of ice, dust, dirt, and rock.
And the storm was growing.
Francis lay upon the trembling ground watching in awe. He knew that was where Remy had been going when last he saw him, and wondered if the Seraphim had anything to do with the cataclysm that threatened the Hell realm.
Of course he did.
The ground beneath his back grew incredibly hot, but Francis didn’t have the strength to move. He was thankful Hell decided to do this for him.
There was an explosion of foul-smelling gas, the force of the blast propelling him up into the air, only to land on his belly at the edge of an expanding pool of lava.
Francis barely managed to hold on to consciousness, the sucking darkness of oblivion pulling him slowly closer. He tried to pull himself away from the burning fluid, but managed only to turn onto his back, where he could once again look up into the rubble-filled sky.
Pieces of Hell and Tartarus had mingled together, a growing, swirling vortex of all the misery, hate, and sorrow that defined this horrible place created by a supposedly loving God.
It wouldn’t be long until Francis too joined the maelstrom, sucked up with everything else into the yawning maw of the voracious funnel cloud.
What did you do, Remy? Francis wondered as he felt the first, burning touch of liquid rock on his battered flesh. What did you find inside the prison that could have led to… this?
And as if some higher power had heard his question, and knowing that he would soon no longer be among the living, took pity upon him, showing him the answer.
The vortex spun above him, opening wider and wider. And inside its mouth, floating in the dust-, dirt-, and ash-choked air, untouched by the madness of what was happening around him, floated a figure.
The figure… he was like the sun, repelling the darkness with a golden light that emanated from his perfect form.
Francis remembered this being, and how he had once stood alongside the Almighty.
The answer to his question hovered in the center of the storm.
The Morningstar had risen.
And Francis knew that nothing would ever be the fucking same again.