Winter is pounding its way through Indianapolis, and trouble for Michael follows swiftly on the howling winds. A serial killer has just taken the life of another homeless victim, and One-eyed Bob, Michael's closest friend in the homeless community, has gone missing, putting everyone on edge and uncertain of who to trust. Meanwhile, as the bad economy takes its toll, the shelter director, Pastor Steve, is forced to partner with another congregation to keep the refuge open. As tension, drama, and the threat of a killer on the loose hang like a dark cloud over the shelter, Michael soon discovers he has another problem: the demon he defeated over a year ago may be back to seek revenge.
In this continuing series, a Guardian Angel on a journey of redemption must find his homeless friend before a serial killer strikes again and his demonic nemesis satisfies his grudge.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.73(d)|
|Age Range:||1 - 17 Years|
Read an Excerpt
Book III of the Guardian Angel Series
By Kurt R. Sivilich
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2014 Kurt R. Sivilich
All rights reserved.
Feeling uneasy, I walked quickly south on Meridian Street and away from my latest assignment. The snow was falling harder and faster and the wind blew the flakes into my face with enough force to sting, adding a psychological chill to the real, perceptible one. My hands were shoved deep into the pockets of my jacket for warmth since my gloves weren't cutting it, and I hunched my shoulders against the constant, biting cold, hoping to stave off discomfort for a few minutes more. I had at least a thirty-minute walk to get back to the shelter, and I just knew that by the time I arrived, my fingers and toes would be numb little bits of flesh attached to the rest of me.
The sky was hidden behind the falling tapestry of snow creating a somber tone across the city and washing out the visibility of everything in sight. Even the persistent sounds of the city were muted, the snow acting like a big, fuzzy blanket. It helped that traffic was rather light, probably because it was mid-morning and most people were already at work, but one could assume that it was even lighter due to the inclement weather assaulting the region. People just didn't like to go out in this stuff if they could avoid it. The traffic that I did encounter didn't seem to be having much trouble with the conditions, even though there were at least five inches of white crap all over everything. I sighed, knowing that within another two hours, I'd be outside in this stuff with my shovel once more, clearing the sidewalks around the shelter and breaking my back in the process.
The businesses along Meridian were prepared for Christmas, with decorations in their storefront displays and signs plastered to the glass proclaiming the latest sales and bargains. Some places even had inflatable holiday figures in their parking lots, the whine of the air blowers the only real sound to be heard as I walked along the sidewalk. It all served to remind me that I had Christmas shopping to do, myself. I didn't have a long list, but I did at least need to get something for Bandit, my dog and erstwhile companion. With a grimace, I also recalled that I had to get something for Darla, the second in command at the shelter and all around Rottweiler with lipstick. At the last staff meeting, I had the misfortune of pulling her name out of the box for the Secret Santa gift exchange, so I was on the hook for a gift of at least twenty bucks.
It was easier to walk in front of some stores than others. Some places took pedestrian safety seriously and were trying to keep up with their snow clearing responsibilities, while others didn't seem to care. It made for a hit-or-miss pattern of passable and impassable surfaces along the street, which served to further remind me that I also needed to get my backside in gear when I got back to the shelter so I could do my duty and shovel more snow, a job I loathed almost as much as cleaning the toilets in the men's rooms.
I had a near-hit as I got closer to the shelter. I had just stepped off the curb to cross the last street between me and home, when a mound of snow shaped vaguely like an older Subaru Outback came hurtling out of the blizzard and missed me by a fraction of an inch as it slewed around the corner, not even bothering to stop at the stop sign. Being buried in snow from the bottoms of the windows and up made it hard to tell that the main color of the car was green. I jumped back in a panic, trying to get out of the way of the horizontal avalanche and caught the back of my heel on the edge of the curb. I tumbled over to land on my ass in the snow. Although embarrassing, at least it didn't hurt as much as getting run over by a car.
Oblivious to how close they had come to killing me, the driver punched the gas and the all-wheel drive vehicle powered onto Meridian and disappeared as fast as it came into sight. I was able to get only a glance at the license plate, which had IHRT visible as the first half, with the rest obscured by an accumulation of snow on the back bumper. Whoever was driving evidently didn't care to see much of what was around him or her, as they only scraped off enough snow on the windshield to clear an area that could be easily covered by a paperback book. I lay in the snow and gathered my wits for a moment, shaking my head at the laziness of someone who would take the chance of driving as if in a tank with only that small viewport. How long could it have taken them to properly clear their windows?
I'd like to say that I forgave them for their idiocy. I'd like to, but I can't. Before I pushed myself up off the snow-covered sidewalk, my middle finger somehow presented itself in the general direction of the car for a second or two. Then, feeling like a Popsicle stuck in the back of someone's freezer, I brushed the snow off of my posterior before hurrying along toward the main entrance to the Helping Hands Shelter. My pace quickened as thoughts of heat and dryness danced in my head.
As I got close enough to see the doors clearly, I could see that there was no line out front today, queuing for the breakfast hour, but that didn't surprise me. On a day like this, people would have already found a warm, dry place to hang out and would be very loathe to leave. Maybe a handful of people would show up, and there would be a hot meal available to them, but the lobby would be sufficient to keep them out of the storm until the kitchen and dining area opened for service.
Practically running to get out of the cold, I passed into the vestibule as fast as I could without seeming to be impatient before I stamped the snow off my boots onto the walk-off mat strategically placed to cover the area around the doors. I noted that the mat was going to need another cleaning soon. With the off and on snowfall we'd received over the past two months, the mats quickly accumulated a layer of filth, and it was my job to see that they remained clean.
Keeping mats clean and shoveling snow represent the other side of my life. I'm the maintenance man here at the shelter.
Don't get me wrong. It's a good gig, and I'm not complaining in the slightest. It may seem somewhat tedious, but it has some good perks, like a free single-bedroom apartment on the third floor, some pocket change, and a marginally flexible schedule which allows me to do things like take handguns away from businessmen who want to shoot their ex-partner, for example. Seeing that my boots were as snow-free as they were going to get given the state of the mat, I popped open one of the inner doors of the vestibule and walked into the main part of the lobby.
It wasn't all that crowded; only three people were in view as I took a glance around. Pastor Steve stood at the windows looking into the day room, Darla at his side. Pastor Steve was dressed in his usual ministerial outfit with his reddish hair and beard neatly trimmed. Darla must have just arrived. She still had on her heavy coat and knee-high snowmobile boots, and she stood there with her hat clutched tightly in her hands. A third person was sitting in the dining room, his back toward me, holding a cup of what looked like coffee. He was wearing a heavy, dark green woolen coat that appeared to have water stains on the shoulders. His jeans were soaked from the knees down, and his boots were also glistening with snowmelt. His head was bowed, but I could see that he had short, chestnut brown hair. It took me a moment to realize that the man was Allen, the Assistant Director of Children's Services for the shelter.
"Man, it's bitter out there," I said casually as I started to peel myself out of my jacket. "It's really coming down now. I doubt that we'll see many...." I trailed off to silence as I realized that nobody was paying attention to my arrival whatsoever. What was more disturbing, Steve and Darla had very grim expressions on their faces. A faint clatter coming from the dining room made me glance over to see that Allen's hands were shaking so badly that the cup he was holding was rattling against the table. There was no way the man could drink his coffee in that condition.
By reflex, I reached out with my empathic sense and was nearly knocked over by the power of the emotion radiating from those around me. Pastor Steve was feeling anger tinged with worry. Darla wasn't radiating much since she seemed to be in a state of shock. I attributed this to her being a new arrival on the scene and hadn't had the time to process what she was seeing. Reaching out to Allen, I found that he exuded a real sense of fear.
But the emotion that almost put me on the floor came from the day room, the interior being just out of view through the windows. What I felt from that area could only be described as hard anguish, and from multiple sources at different levels of intensity.
Pulling my sense back in again, I took a moment to settle myself down before carefully treading over to the glass windows to peer into the day room. Inside, I could see a young woman sitting in a chair, holding onto—and being held onto by—three children still in their snow outfits. Although the doors between us were closed, I could hear the sounds of children crying in anguish.
"What's going on, guys?" I asked, cautiously. "What's wrong?"
Steve's jaw clenched as he spoke. "Rosario was killed this morning."
His words stunned me to the core, and it was several seconds before I could even think to respond. Rosario and I lived in the same homeless community together prior to my coming to work at the shelter. She had lived in a tent close to the edge of the encampment, and from her vantage point, she could see quite a bit that went on in the homeless community. She was one of the kindest people you'd want to meet, and would do almost anything to help you out, at least with things she could spare, like food or clothing.
She also had three kids that she had been raising in that environment by herself, and had been doing it rather well, all things considered. Roberta was the oldest daughter, and was in the third grade. Mariana, the middle child, had just started school this year. Raul was around four, if he was even that old. They were well mannered, as far as young children go, and it was entertaining to see them play outside under the watchful eye Rosario kept on them.
Three kids who were now without their mother. The thought of that made my guts knot up.
"Who did it?" I asked, finally able to speak. I felt my anger rise, felt the heat of it in my face, and knew that I was completely impotent to do anything about this situation.
Steve shook his head sadly. "We don't know, but we think it might have been the Homeless Killer," he answered. "Allen showed up about fifteen minutes ago, shaking like a leaf, with the kids in tow." His eyes never wavering from the children on the other side of the window, his voice took on a greater tone of sadness. "He just blurted out that Rosario had been killed, and that we needed to call the police."
"He could have been more tactful in front of the kids," Darla said in a quiet tone I wasn't used to hearing. Usually she had a snarl going, so her mild-manner under the circumstances was unnerving.
"I think he was in too much shock to know what he was doing," Steve said gently as he cast a glance back at the topic of conversation, his facial expression taking on one of pity. "He kept saying over and over 'There was so much blood'. I didn't know what do to, other than sit him down there to keep him from falling down."
"I take it you called the police?" I asked.
Steve nodded. "As soon as I got the chance. They're on the way, but given how the storm outside is...." He didn't need to continue; I experienced firsthand how bad the roads were on the walk back to the shelter. It could take the police some time to get to us.
I exhaled noisily, mulling over what I could do to help. It seemed that, at the moment, everything was being handled and I would just be in the way if I tried to assist. Looking back at Allen sitting by himself, I was struck with a great feeling of compassion, imagining what he must have been feeling at that moment in time.
"I think I better try to talk with him," I said. "Maybe help calm him down or something."
Steve and Darla just nodded, so I walked away from the bank of windows and, making sure that Allen could see me approach so I wouldn't add to his distress by appearing too suddenly, I took the seat across the table from him. He didn't react to me, so I wasn't certain if he even knew I was there.
I simply watched him, careful to not make any sudden moves. Allen just sat there, trembling and staring at the table top, his coffee well past the point of being able to slosh any more liquid outside the rim of the cup in his hand.
"Allen?" I prompted quietly.
"Allen, are you okay?" Yeah, I know it's a lame thing to ask, but it's not like I had anything better to say.
"There was so much blood," he answered quietly.
"What happened?" I asked, keeping my voice as soft as I could. His head snapped up. "I didn't do it, I swear to God."
The quickness of his response startled me and I leaned back in my chair, holding up my hands passively. I met his eyes with mine. "I'm not saying you did, Allen. I'm just trying to find out what's going on, that's all."
"The cops are going to look at me hard, Michael," he said. "I was the last one to see her alive, and then I went back without the kids so there are no witnesses...."
"Allen, take it easy," I replied firmly. "I'm not blaming you for anything. Hell, man, you've been part of that community longer than I was. People trust you and know you."
Allen nodded, and I could see his body relax a little. He started to raise the coffee cup to his lips, but by the time it got a few inches above the table, his hand was shaking so badly that he shook his head and put the cup down again.
"Tell me what happened," I nudged gently. "Maybe I can help."
Allen sniffled and composed himself before speaking. "I always walk the kids to school before I bring Raul here to the shelter," he began, and his voice started to get stronger as he spoke. "They didn't cancel school this morning, so I stopped by Rosario's tent to get everyone, like I do every day. Rosario was really worried about the storm. I guess the kids were cold last night in their sleeping bags, so we talked a little, and I convinced her to spend the night here instead of sleeping another night in the tent."
I nodded in understanding and remained silent, waiting for him to resume his side of events.
"She said she had some things to get done before she left, pack some things," Allen continued, "but she was going to come to the shelter for lunch and then just stay here with Raul until it was time to get the kids after school. We got the kids in their coats, which was a real trick with how much clothing they were already wearing, and then the kids and I headed out into the snow."
He paused, and I could see that he was growing more agitated now. "We got to the top of the hill by the road, and Raul started to cry. He left his bear back in the tent and he didn't want to leave without it. I asked Roberta to keep an eye on the others, figuring I could get back to the tent faster without having them following me. I mean, we weren't ten minutes away from Rosario at this point, right?"
I agreed. "That embankment isn't that far from her tent, no."
"I managed to get back to the tent pretty fast, but when I got there, I saw that the flap was unzipped and flapping in the wind. Rosario always buttoned things up this time of year, to keep the heat in and the snow out, you know? So I thought that was odd. I looked in...." His voice began to quiver now, and he had to stop and steady himself again. I could tell that what was coming wasn't going to be pleasant, so I did my best to brace myself as well.
"I looked in, and I saw Rosario, laying there, covered in blood. It was spattered everywhere." Allen swallowed, and I saw the glint of tears welling in his eyes. "She wasn't moving, and she was just staring up at the top of the tent. I wanted to go in, see if I could help but.." His voice trailed off as he looked down into his lap, and I could see tears falling from his partially hidden face. I didn't hear any sound, but I could see his shoulders shaking as he cried.
"That must have been horrific," I acknowledged, and he glanced up at me again and nodded.
"It was," he said after he got himself back under some semblance of control. "I just stood there, staring. God, it felt like forever." He shuddered and let go of his coffee cup to hug his elbows to his chest. "I thought I heard someone walking toward me in the snow, and I panicked. I didn't want to be seen around that, you know? So I bolted back to where I left the kids." He blinked more tears out of his eyes as he looked up at the ceiling, staring at probably nothing in particular.
"I didn't know where else to go," he said, his voice quivering again, "so I brought the kids here. I thought Steve would know what to do."
He suddenly brought his head down to stare at me, wide-eyed. "Oh my God, I just blurted it out in front of the kids! What kind of idiot...."
Excerpted from Precious Possessions by Kurt R. Sivilich. Copyright © 2014 Kurt R. Sivilich. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
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