Where does an angel go when he's been to Hell and back?
Renegade angel Bobby Dollar does not have an easy afterlife. After surviving the myriad gruesome dangers Hell oh-so-kindly offered him, Bobby has returned empty-handed – his demon girlfriend Casmira, the Countess of Cold Hands, is still in the clutches of Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell. Some hell of a rescue.
Forced to admit his failure, Bobby ends up back at his job as an angel advocate. That is, until Walter, an old angel friend whom Bobby never thought he’d see again, shows up at the local bar. The last time he saw Walter was in Hell, when Walter had tried to warn him about one of Bobby’s angel superiors. But now Walter can’t remember anything, and Bobby doesn’t know whom to trust.
Turns out that there's corruption hidden within the higher ranks of Heaven and Hell, but the only proof Bobby has is a single feather. Before he knows it, he’s in the High Hall of Heavenly Judgement – no longer a bastion for the moral high ground, if it ever was, but instead just another rigged system – on trial for his immortal soul...
Sleeping Late on Judgement Day is the third installment of Tad Williams' urban fantasy Bobby Dollar series!
About the Author
Tad Williams has held more jobs than any sane person should admit to—singing in a band, selling shoes, managing a financial institution, throwing newspapers, and designing military manuals, to name just a few. He also hosted a syndicated radio show for ten years, worked in theater and television production, taught both grade-school and college classes, and worked in multimedia for a major computer firm. He is cofounder of an interactive television company, and is currently writing comic books and film and television scripts as well. Tad and his family live in London and the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find Tad Williams at tadwilliams.com.
Read an Excerpt
I hadn't attended a trial in Heaven before—not in person. They don’t happen that often, for one thing.
But wait, O wise angel, I hear you say. How can there be trials in Heaven?
Which is a perfectly good question, because once you’ve made it to the Big Happy you should be golden, right? You’ve been judged righteous or you wouldn’t get in, and after that you’re doing the work of the Highest, so how could you go wrong?
Well, first of all, there’s the whole Free Will thing—people and angels have to be free to make mistakes, or else we live in a clockwork universe where everything’s predetermined and perfect. Most of the time Heaven does seem like that, a flock of serene shiny creatures living in complete harmony, a hive of buzzing happiness and shared purpose. But we all know that in nature, no matter how well any system works, there’s always a couple of dumbass birds heading north for the winter when everyone else is flying south, or one dipshit salmon belly-surfing down the rapids, yelling, “Whoo, yeah! Check me out!” as he smacks face first into the more sensible fish swimming upstream to spawn. The fact that these unrepresentative idiots freeze and plummet from the sky or die without issue isn’t the point—the point is Free Will, and apparently we angels are capable of poor impulse control just like everybody else. Thus, there are trials in Heaven, and I was about to attend my first.
Although “attend” is a bit misleading, I admit. It wasn’t really my first, because I’d been aware of several other trials. Here in the Happy Place you can know about important things like that and even follow them closely without actually being present, although it’s hard to explain, because—duh—it’s another Heaven thing. Imagine sitting in a crowded bar when the playoffs are on and a local team is involved: you don’t have to stay glued to the screen to know what’s going on in the game; you can pick up what’s happening in a dozen different ways. And that’s how I’d done my trial-watching in the past.
But this trial was going to be different, and so I had secured myself an excellent seat, front row center. The poor bastard angel on trial was going to face the full weight of Heaven’s judgement, and the entire Shining City was full of anticipation. The Hall of Justice sparkled and throbbed with the light of watching angels, angels who wanted more than just a general feeling about this trial, who wanted to experience it up close and personal. I thought I even saw my boss, Archangel Temuel (who us angelic grunts usually called “The Mule”) not too far away.
The crowd of the Saved, jostling each other in the massive shining hall despite being only semi-tangible (another Heaven thing which doesn’t really translate), began to murmur with anticipation as the jury appeared, a row of blooming angelic flames that represented the great and the good—in fact some of the very greatest and goodest that our Third Sphere had to offer. I recognized them all.
“We Are Convened In The Sight Of The Highest To Do Justice.” These words came from the diamond-faceted white light that represented Terentia, a powerful angel who was acting as master of ceremonies. The other four heavenly judges, Karael, Raziel, Anaita, and Chamuel watched silently from beside her, their flames lined up like a menorah on Hanukkah Day Five. “God Loves You All,” Terentia added, then turned her attention to me. “Angel Advocate Doloriel,You Are Accused Of Conspiring Against Heaven’s Laws. In Addition To Several Crimes, You Are Also Charged With The Sins Of Wrath, Pride, Envy, And Avarice, All Most Dreadful. If You Are Found Guilty, You Will Be Cast From Heaven And Into The Unholy Pit, There To Dwell In Suffering For Eternity. Do You Have Any Questions Before We Begin?”
So, yeah, the reason I had such a good seat was because I was the one on trial. And if you’ve got questions, believe me, so did I—probably the same ones, in fact, beginning with “How did I get here?” and “How do I get out of here again?” But for reasons I’ll explain as I go, I didn’t think it would do me any good to ask.
“Look, you’ve already decided what you’re going to do,” I said, with what I hoped came off as a tough, cold-blooded calm I sure didn’t feel. “Let’s cut to the chase, because we all know the fun part is going to be the sentencing.”
But wait, I hear you say. How did you wind up on trial in Heaven, Bobby Dollar? How could such a thing happen to you, one of Heaven’s most beloved and respected angels?
Oh, yeah, that’s hilarious. Kick a guy when he’s on trial for his immortal soul just to get a cheap laugh, why don’t you?
You really want to hear how I wound up here? I guess it started with a dream I had.
one just an angel
The wood was stacked higher than the heads of the catcalling spectators. On top of the mountainous pyre, the prisoner sagged against the stake like something unreal, a discarded shop-window dummy or a forgotten toy. The condemned wore a soldier’s gleaming armor, but the slightness of the figure told a different story. This was a woman about to be burned. This was St. Joan.
She lifted her head and looked out across the crowded town square. Our eyes met. I saw the pale white-gold hair, the eyes red as blood, and my heart went cold. This wasn’t the Maid of Orleans, it was Caz—my Caz, my beautiful demon-woman, the creature who had both captured and endangered my soul.
Someone set fire to the stacked wood. The kindling caught first, freeing wisps of white smoke that quickly rose and spread around her feet. Within moments the flames began to climb the sides of the pyre, painting the rising smoke with sunset tones. Caz struggled against her bonds, more and more desperate as the fire rose.
I couldn’t move. I opened my mouth and tried to call to her, but I couldn’t speak, either. I was frozen, helpless. When she needed me most, I couldn’t do a thing.
“I can’t reach you!” she cried, coils of smoke climbing her writhing body like snakes. “Oh, Bobby! I can’t reach you!” Then her words turned to shrieks.
Flames leaped high into the air, until I could hardly make her out through the shimmer of heat. Her struggling figure, the smoke, the buildings in the background, all bent and wavered as if under water. Then, through the rising, spreading cloud, I saw a clutter in the air above her—winged shapes, dropping from the sky.
Hallelujah! The bells of the town began to clang, ringing out the song of redemption. Hallelujah! The winged ones swept down through the smoke—angels, angels coming to save her!
But then I saw the shapes more clearly. Maybe it was the warping of the heated air, but these supposed rescuers looked grim and terrible, eyes lightning-bright, wings black as burnt paper and glowing at the edges as though fire were their natural element.
Angels, I wondered, or demons? Coming to save her—or drag her back to endless torment? Paralyzed, silent, I could only watch as the bells grew louder, louder.
• • •
I lurched upright, my blanket tangled around me. The room was dark except for a little bit of streetlight creeping in between the cheap curtains. No flames, no smoke, but my phone kept beeping out that horrible joke melody over and over.
My phone. It was just my phone.
Yeah, I thought through the pounding of my heart and the slow gathering of my confused thoughts. Fuck you, Handel—and your fucking Chorus, too. And fuck whoever in Heaven decided to use it as our ringtone.
After knocking half the crap off my nightstand, I found the phone and then the “talk” button. The hosanna-ing finally stopped.
“What?” My pulse was banging like I had stumbled off a cliff into empty air. “This better be good or someone’s gonna die.”
“Someone already did.” It was Alice from the downtown office—our local branch of Heaven’s management. “You’ve got a client, Dollar.” She gave me the details like she was reading a shopping list. “Go get ’em, cowboy. And maybe you wouldn’t be such a grumpy piece of shit if you didn’t drink yourself to sleep.”
She hung up before any witty replies occurred to me.
“I can’t reach you!” Caz had cried in my dream. And I couldn’t reach her, either, because we were separated by much more than distance. One of us was in Hell. The other one only felt that way.
As I lay there waiting for the morning’s first flood of black hopelessness to pass, I heard a scuffling noise on the other side of the wall near my head. I’d noticed it earlier when I was going to bed, and had put it down to rats, or possibly one of the neighbors in the adjoining apartment scraping something off the wall. This time it went on for a while, a repetitive skritch-skritch-a-skritch that quickly got on my nerves. Finally I thumped the wall with my fist and everything went silent.
I wasn’t crazy about my new digs in the downmarket Tierra Green apartments, but things and people that wanted to hurt me kept finding out where I lived, so lately I hadn’t been able to stay in any one place for long. And I hate moving.
Between my girlfriend-on-fire nightmare and the noise in the walls, it took me a good minute or two dunking my head in a sink full of cold water before I could calm down enough to get my mind to focus on work.
Angel advocate, I reminded myself. Somebody needs you.
The client was only a short distance away, out on the Bayshore freeway, but even after I got out of the apartment I couldn’t find my car for about ten minutes. Not, I hasten to say, because I had come home drunk (although I might have been a tiny bit fuzzy around the edges) but because after recent experiences with a murderous semi-zombie named Smyler, I’d started leaving my ride in a different place every night.
I felt like I’d only managed about ten minutes sleep, but it was almost dawn, which meant I’d slept a decent amount: I’d passed out almost directly after getting home. Again, not because I’d been drinking, although I’d probably had a few beers with dinner. (I’ve been trying to cut back lately, in fact, be a little more responsible.) No, I was falling asleep at odd hours and forgetting where my car was because I’d been sleeping so badly. And I was sleeping badly because I kept dreaming about Hell. See, I’d just spent what felt like half a year there, and it was exactly as bad as you’d imagine. No, worse. It’s not something you just get over in a night. Not to mention the fact that the whole reason I’d gone there had been to free the demon-woman I loved, Casimira, the Countess of Cold Hands, and I’d failed. Badly. Thus, your pal Bobby’s apparently permanent sense of insufficiency, and ugly dreams nearly every night.
This had been a new one, though, and worse than usual. Usually I just dreamed of Marmora, the fake Caz that the archdemon Eligor had used to sucker me like the smallest small-timer you can imagine, and how she had transformed from Caz into liquid nothing in my arms. Sometimes I also dreamed of the horrible things I’d seen happen to Caz while I was being tortured by Eligor, her boss and ex-lover, although I was convinced most of those things hadn’t actually happened to her. (I really needed to believe that.) So what had been different about this dream? Caz told me once that when she herself was being executed, she had thought of Joan of Arc, so it only made sense my subconscious would add that nasty wrinkle to the regular pattern of nightmares.
But there had been something different this time—something deeper that I couldn’t grasp, almost as though she had truly been trying to communicate with me. But how, why, or about what, I had no clue.
I found my boxy old Datsun at last, down an alley off Heller Street that I only barely remembered choosing. It was late November but dry and clear, so traffic wasn’t too bad even this close to downtown; it took me less than a quarter of an hour to reach the accident scene, just a little way south of the Woodside Expressway cloverleaf. Some kind of minivan with writing on its side lay upside down and badly damaged at the end of a trail of wreckage. Black and whites and emergency vehicles had parked all over the shoulder, lights whipping blue and red. The only body was on the ground, covered with a bloody sheet, and nobody looked like they were in much of a hurry.
I left my car on the shoulder about a hundred feet past the accident and walked back through the ice plants. None of the cops gave me a second look as I approached, but that’s pretty much how it is: when angels are working, especially at a death scene, we just don’t get noticed. Of course, the cops and paramedics were going to see even less of me in a second. When I was within a few yards of the body, I stopped and opened the portal of bright but unsteady light we angels call a Zipper.
Yes, that’s what we call them. Spare me the crude jokes, because believe me, I’ve heard them all, mostly from other angels. The Zippers are just an opening we go through to do our work. They’re holes in Time, and everything on the other side of them is kind of a bubble made of that single moment.
The sounds of the freeway died as I stepped through. On the other side, the emergency vehicles and the passing cars, and even the people, had all frozen into place as if a billion gallons of clear plastic had been poured over everything—cops halted in mid-gesture, lights frozen at different stages of illumination, an entire universe gone silent as a tomb. Other than me, the only thing moving was a guy in work clothes walking in and out among the motionless cars, pounding on windows, trying to get one of the drivers to notice him. They wouldn’t, of course, because he was outside of Time and they were all still inside it.
He saw me coming and ran toward me. He had a thick mustache and dark skin, but all I could really focus on were the terrified whites of his eyes. “Help me!” he shouted. “I have had an accident!”
“Gurdeep Malhotra,” I said. “God loves you.”
“Who are you?” he asked, stumbling to a stop.
“I’m Doloriel, your angelic advocate.” I gave him a moment for that to sink in. “I’m afraid you didn’t survive your accident.”
He stared. If blood had still been flowing in his veins, I’d have said he went pale. As it was, he seemed to lose resolution for a moment as the shock washed through him. “But . . . but I can’t! My son! It’s his . . .” He shook his head slowly. “My wife! Will I never see her again?”
“There’s a lot I can’t tell you,” I said as kindly as I could. In fact, there’s a whole lot I don’t know myself. “But first we have to prepare you for judgement. That’s my job. I will do everything I can to defend you. I know you were a good man.” (I didn’t really know that yet, but it never hurts to calm a client down so you can work with them.)
He was still staring at me. “But you . . . you are an angel? How can this be? I am not a Christian!”
“That’s okay, Mr. Malhotra. I’m not a Christian angel. I’m just an angel.”
• • •
The judgement didn’t go as fast as I would have liked. The prosecuting demon was a little upstart named Ratpiddle, the sort who thinks he’s going to win every case with some amazing Perry Mason move. He dragged out every transgression the poor dead guy had ever made—a reckless driving where the officer hadn’t even ticketed him!—and tried to create a picture of a life of unconcern for others, despite the fact that this morning Gurdeep had only been hurrying because he wanted to wrap his son’s birthday presents before the kid got up for school. That got to me, and I’m afraid I referred to the prosecutor as, “scum scraped from the restroom floors of Hell,” which, although reasonably accurate, was not strictly collegial.
Excerpted from "Sleeping Late On Judgement Day"
Copyright © 2015 Tad Williams.
Excerpted by permission of DAW.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
"Delicious, crunchy, Hellish fun.... Bobby’s odyssey makes for a compelling, page-turning experience, chock-full of visceral sights and sensory overload." —Tor.com (for Happy Hour in Hell)
“A noir fantasy series with a dark and thrilling story of Heaven and Hell battling for human souls. Exhilarating action, fascinating characters, and high stakes will leave the reader both satisfied and eager for the next installment.” —Publisher's Weekly (for The Dirty Streets of Heaven)
“When I heard that Tad Williams was writing an urban fantasy novel, I got all tingly. Now I’ve read it, and it’s even better than I’d dared to hope. It’s snarky, fast-paced, and above all, original. You should be tingly, too.” —Patrick Rothfuss, #1 NYT bestselling author of The Wise Man's Fear
"Fans of hard-living angel Bobby Dollar will no doubt mourn the end of this outlandishly imaginative series, but not before they savor another unpredictable and enjoyable adventure from Heaven’s most unconventional angel." —RT Reviews (for Sleeping Late on Judgement Day)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A well wrapped-up ending to a good series. Bobby Dollar is a great, sass-mouthed character. Kinda gonna miss him now the series is done.
In depth character development and masterful storytelling are in every book Tad Williams crafts and why I am a lifetime fan.
Tad kept the momentum rolling to the end. A must read. Loved it! !!
I'm making my way through all of his books. So far this series had been my favorite! Who knew angels could be so naughty!