The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1) (6 page)

BOOK: The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1)
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Chapter Ten

 

I rocked back on my heels and looked around the room. We’d been at this for hours. He’d directed me from one spot to another and while I’d found some amazing stuff in this front room, I didn’t find anything that resembled Mother’s ring.

“Dr. Stephano, are you sure it’s here?” I didn’t want to question his memory, but the more he talked, the more I worried that he’d overlooked either the placement or who he’d loaned it to. Or, if he’d ever even had it in the first place. So much for that divine intervention Metraton was going to handle before I arrived. I closed the box I’d been looking through and stood.

He reached for a box on a high shelf and I hurried to help him. “If it’s not in this one, you may be right that I’ve forgotten what I did with it.”

Cold seized my intestines and I steeled myself. I took the box and set it on an unsteady stack. We could be buried alive by an avalanche of boxes and papers in here and Anna would never be able to save us. I eased the lid off the box and it was immediately evident that it was filled with nothing other than papers.

Beside me, the good doctor
tsked
.
“Darn, darn, darn. I really hoped it would be in there.”

I put the lid back on. “Want me to put it back up there?” My voice cracked and he set a heavy hand on the box. “No. I’ll have Anna help me sort through these later.”

He watched me struggle, then tapped his cane on the floor. “Tell me why you want this ring, Judy.”

I flinched at the alias. I wasn’t solidly in this persona and barely had a hold on my own life. I’d been right that I wasn’t ready to go back to work, but I had to pull it together because I couldn’t turn this mission away. “It would mean a lot to me. It was the last thing my mother found before she passed away.”

He stared at me and for a moment I felt the burning gaze of a man not addled, but of one in his prime—sharp, astute, missing nothing.

Then in a flash, the scrutiny was gone and he grinned. “That’s the beauty of relics, isn’t it? They hold memories for us.”

I nodded.

“Let’s look in one final place.” He sat heavily in an armchair overloaded with books and boxes to the side of it. “There’s a desk in that far corner and my leather notebook cataloging all my sales are in the far corner. Be a dear and bring it over, will you?”

I hurried to comply, pushing aside trinkets and papers until I found a thick leather book. I brought it back. He set it in his lap and flipped to the last third of the book. His crooked finger traced the notations and he flipped another page.

I stood silently and tried not to fidget. Part of me wanted to reveal what I knew about Metatron and what I was really going to use this for, but until I knew I could trust him, I couldn’t. Plus, who would believe me? I doubted that even Dr. Stephano with his somewhat feeble mind would buy into my story of the archangel and what my real mission was to be with the ring.

“Here, here you are. I wondered if I’d sold it after all.” He looked up triumphantly, as if we hadn’t spent the last several hours on a wild goose chase. I leaned close and read the entry.

Dr. Simon Felt. Albany, New York.

I took the book. “Do you mind if I make a copy of this?”

“No, no, not at all.”

I scratched out Simon Felt’s details on a crumpled bit of notebook paper and shoved it in my pocket, then handed the book back. “Would it be okay if I came back again? If I find more questions after I talk to Dr. Felt?”

“Of course, of course. Love to have you. You’re a delightful girl.”

I wanted to laugh. I didn’t know which of his descriptions of me described me the least—delightful. That was a first. A girl? Not sure I’d been a girl for many years. However, his grandfatherly ways were definitely endearing.

He struggled to stand and I helped him, then waited for him at the top of the stairs. “You know,” he said, tapping his cane on the floor. “Now that you’ve jogged my memory, there were other pieces. Other relics that go with the ring, I believe.”

Metatron said I’d need to find three of them. If Dr. Stephano knew what and where they happened to be (please, dear God, don’t let them be somewhere in this house), that made this scavenger hunt much easier.

He stared at me and his focus slid in and out like he wasn’t sure if he should be here or in the past, remembering. Finally, they cleared and he gave me a bright-eyed stare. “Leave it to me to do a bit of research while you meet with Mr. Felt. This is a fascinating puzzle. Do leave your contact information with Anna.”

I kept hoping that his brain would kick in and he’d have some golden nugget of wisdom that would be the key I needed to this search. But all I got from him as he walked me to the front door was a tale about that time he’d been in Chile and had upset the local medicine man.

I thanked him for his time and Anna came to collect him before he followed me outside. I gave her my most encouraging smile—that was some job she had, taking care of the dear old doctor.

 

Chapter Eleven

 

“Motherfucking son of a bitch.” Yes. It was apparently becoming one of those weeks. I leaned against the fender of the Land Rover I’d rented and crossed my arms.

Before me stood a hulking estate. From what I’d been able to figure out about Felt, not only was his place massive behind its ten-foot stone walls, but it was outfitted with all the latest security gadgetry. I was an assassin and while that meant stealth, there was a big damn difference between being able to kill a man at a thousand yards with a sniper rifle and sneaking into a highly guarded location.

This wasn’t going to be hard, it was going to be impossible.

Beyond the issue of just getting inside the place, I’d still have the problem of finding my relic and getting out of there without being noticed. Impossible.

“Oh, Metatron.” I bent over and braced my hands on my knees. And laughed. “This would have been so much easier if I could have killed him while he was out on a stroll with it.”

I straightened and looked around, but nothing was frozen and Metatron hadn’t popped in. I was on my own.

The only upside to this job was that Dr. Felt was traveling in Kenya for the next three weeks. If I could quickly pull together a plan, I could vanish before he even knew it was missing.

I dug my simple flip phone out of my pocket. You’d never catch me with one of those government-tracking smartphones. I’d traced over a dozen kills using those things and if my targets ever got wise to what they carried around in their pockets, my job would get a lot harder. Sadly, that didn’t help me here one bit. I dialed Malcolm’s number from memory since I also didn’t have a single contact stored in the device. It went to voicemail and I left him a coded message that I only used during dire situations. No matter his circumstances, if he had cell service, he’d call me back within the hour.

I opened the passenger side door and pulled my camera from beneath the seat and took a dozen pictures of everything from the wall to the security cameras, to the gate, to the lone security guard. There were other layers not visible to the bare eye, but I wanted to at least get what I could. I spent the next twelve minutes scouring the details of Felt’s place, then my phone vibrated. “Hi.”

“You okay?”

“I need serious help. Are you on?”’

“Finished yesterday. Where are you?”

“Upstate. I need your assistance.”

“Okay.” He sighed and I could see him checking his watch. “I have one thing to handle, but if you can give me two hours, I’ll be ready for you.”

“Thank you. It’s going to take me at least two and a half hours to get back into the city anyway, and I need to do some recon first.”

“See you when you get here.” He hung up. We always kept phone conversation to a minimum, because you just never knew. I was glad he was home and not out on a mission. I didn’t have anyone else I could turn to for the kind of surveillance this place was going to need.

On my way out, I drove the SUV about a half-mile up, grabbed my camera and walked back to Felt’s place where I cased the perimeter taking photos. Fortunately, the manse backed up to a heavy wooded area. This could be to my advantage. I took several photos that I figured Malcolm and I would be able to use.

After playing photographer, I headed out, and sorted through the bits I’d figured out so far. If Malcolm couldn’t get me past Felt’s security, I was screwed. But in all our time together, Malcolm had always come through for me, and we’d had some damn tight squeezes. My past was hounding me and I hadn’t dealt with any of it, preferring just to shove it away so I could face my future. The past held so much pain. After escaping Jordan, I’d landed at JFK to become a ward of the state.

My orphan sentence had been a thousand times worse than escaping a war. For a long time, I’d wished that I’d have died with my parents, because a future without them was bleak and acclimating to a system that I’d never known had left scars. When Malcolm found me, I’d been through four sets of foster parents and kicked out of three high schools. My counselors had told me that if I didn’t straighten up, I’d end up in juvie ... but that hadn’t been a threat. I’d lived my life outside of the confinement of the system and conforming had been impossible.

But Malcolm had saved me. He’d come, apologizing and begging my forgiveness that he hadn’t known, that he’d been so deep undercover it had taken an entire year to find out about Dad, and then another six months to find me. But I didn’t care about any of that. He’d saved me and had become my mentor. I owed him my life—the one he’d saved, and the one he’d given me as an assassin, since he was also my recruiter.

I parked across the street from his brownstone in Carnegie Hill. The door opened before I could knock. We hugged awkwardly again, like we were bound to it by a duty stemming from Griffin’s death.

“Whatcha got? Why are you here?”

I rubbed the back of my neck, unsure how much of the truth I’d be able to give him. We hadn’t ever kept secrets from each other, but there was a big difference between omitting a few details and telling someone about archangels. “I took a freelance job.”

He arched one untamed eyebrow. “That wise in your current state?”

I didn’t have a lot of options and blurted, “You’ve seen some crazy shit, right? I mean, like, you’ve seen it all? Real batshit crazy stuff in your day?”

He chuckled. “Sounds like we’re both going to need a drink.” He walked down the hall and into his kitchen, his sock filled feet shuffling along the hardwood floors. His place was old, historic and charming. He opened one of the cherry-wood cupboards and took down a bottle of scotch that I was certain had to be at least one hundred years old. That was how Malcolm rolled.

I sat on his caramel suede leather sofa. The place was kind of an eclectic blend of John Wayne meets Phillip Starke—a combination of what one would see when they think “cowboy” mixed with bright colors, geometric artwork, and an order that I certainly didn’t have in my place. Don’t ask me how, but it worked. He poured us both tumblers of scotch and plunked down in the oversized leather chair across from me.

I sheepishly smiled. God, I didn’t even know where to start. He was either going to have me committed or take this at face value and I was really hoping for the latter.

“I have to find the keys that open the gates of Hell, then I have to get to Griffin’s soul, and help him ascend. I promise you I haven’t lost my mind and I am not smoking crack. I’ll explain everything.”

He drained his glass, got up and brought the bottle back from the kitchen, filling the tumbler again. He eyed me, one brow arched and he had this kind of wincing look on his face, almost as if he were in pain. “Go on.”

“First I have to find three religious relics, the first one was with mom when she…”

He nearly drained the second glass.

“I’ve followed all my leads to a private residence, fully secured.” I was worried if I didn’t purge it all at once, I’d lose my nerve and go back to attempting this on my own and that was a guaranteed disaster. Even on my smallest missions, I had a team backing me up with whatever intel they could find. I backtracked and told him pretty much everything—even the visit from Metatron, and his cool act of frozen time and space. I couldn’t lie. It wasn’t who I was, especially with Malcolm. From the moment he opened his doors to me and took me in as his own, the first thing he promised me and made me promise him was:
Always tell the truth, no matter what.
That included how outlandish it might sound, like now.

He lowered his glass and scrutinized me. “This is an incredibly bad idea and you need to walk away from this, Lina. What you’re talking about is not something to play with. Angels? Gates of Hell? Those are real.”

I was all too aware of that fact, but that didn’t change my plan. “Very real. I know. So, you believe me?”

He nodded slowly, and set his drink down, his eyes warning me. “Yes. Yes, I do.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “There may be some things that I should have told you before now. I was afraid something like this could happen...”

My stomach tensed, we’d never kept secrets before, at least that was what he’d told me... the one thing he’d promised me. “Tell me.”

He topped off my drink but I set it aside and crossed my arms.

“You asked if I’d seen some crazy shit, and I’ve seen shit that will make your hair curl. I’ve been in as deep as a man can go, and I don’t want to go back. Those archangels are powerful, girl, beyond anything we’ve ever seen. I don’t want you messed up in that.”

I narrowed my eyes. “And what haven’t you told me?”

He blew out a breath and looked everywhere but at me. I leaned forward into his space until he couldn’t avoid me. “You never asked how I found out about your mom and dad’s deaths. I was in Berlin, deep undercover and working on a mission that seemed to have no end—9/11. Every trail we followed gave us three new leads. It was a nightmare.” He cleared his throat. “One night, I was in a bar and this old guy comes strolling up.  I’m standing at the bar, scotch in hand”—he nodded at his current beverage—“there I am trying to meet a contact and this guy just won’t give it up, he’s telling me about archangels and missions. I’m trying to get rid of him and then he started talking about you.”

I inhaled swiftly.

“I nearly killed him. He was talking such nonsense about your parents, and you being in foster care, but he knew things. He knew things about your mom and your dad. He knew things about you, and it got me a bit.” He looked up and stared at me intensely. “He knew things about you that no one knew, like your birthmark.”

I broke out in a cold sweat.

“I shipped home the next day.”

“That’s when you came for me.” I touched the nape of my neck, where my strange birthmark was. I’d never questioned it, really. My mom had told me that it meant I was destined for great things. I always thought it was horrific and ugly. It was why I kept my hair past my shoulders, and if I pulled it back, I used cover-up on the mark, which looked like a dark red distorted star. My mom swore was the seal of God. I highly doubted that.

He nodded. “You can’t touch this, though. I’m telling you.”

I rolled my glass back and forth between my palms. I looked away, staring out the window for several long seconds. I looked back at him. “I have to, Malcolm. Would you have walked away if someone had told you to forget what that archangel told you? Who was this man?”

He shook his head. “No. I likely wouldn’t have walked away. And, as far as the old man, to this day, I don’t know who he was. I went to detain and question him. Like I said, he’d come into a bar I was in, waiting on the contact. My guy came in as I was starting to interrogate the old man who I thought was talking crazy. The contact started to take off and we needed him. We had a lead on Osama bin Laden. You gotta remember, sweetie, when I found you at fourteen, that the 9/11 attacks had taken place months earlier. The old guy got away. I knew my contact was going to run if I didn’t get to him then. I’m sorry. I don’t who he was. As soon as I turned over the intel, I started looking for you.” 

“I understand. It’s okay. I really do get it that you had to let the old guy go. But, with this stuff … this archangel stuff and Griffin, I don’t think I have a choice. I’ve got to go through with this assignment from ‘up high.’

I looked up at the ceiling and sighed heavily. “I’m not certain that I could go on living with the knowledge that the one man I’ve ever wanted to give my heart to is burning in Hell for eternity.”

“Pretty serious for a freelance gig.”

I laughed loudly. “Like I said … didn’t have a choice.”

He frowned. “You know how I feel about that.” My statement was a cardinal sin around him. He believed we always had a choice. I just didn’t see that I did. Not this time.

“I’d caution you to be careful with these kinds of things.”

He paused long enough that I knew he was waiting for me to agree and tell him I’d rescind the job. But I didn’t.

“You’re well beyond your limits, kid. Are you sure you want to do this?”

I’d been thinking about this a lot and the answer was an easy one. “I have to—I couldn’t save Griffin while he was alive.” I swallowed. “I have to do this for him—I can’t fail him twice.” I fidgeted in the chair. “Please help me figure this out.”

He grumbled. “What do you need me to do?”

“You’re brilliant at systems and I’m barely a novice, especially one like this setup. I need your help so I can get in there and find this piece.”

“I’ll do this, but I’m telling you, I’m not comfortable with you doing this. I don’t like it.”

He’d rarely told me his opinion on my jobs, and had never cautioned me against taking one. We both understood the risks associated with the job of being a professional assassin. And he was the one who’d recruited me, so I sometimes thought that he felt an extra pressure to keep me safe. But still, he’d never flat-out told me not to do a job, not even the extremely dangerous ones. His aggressive, overt refusal on this one was curious ... like he knew something I didn’t.

“Come on.” He picked up his glass of scotch. I did the same. We stood and I followed him into his “special room,” filled with computers and techno gizmos that my brain had a bit of a hard time wrapping around.

He took the captain’s chair in front of a six-screen setup. He flicked the mouse and the computer came to life. After giving him the small amount of intel I’d garnered doing my recon at Felt’s place, he discovered the security company for Felt’s house and back-doored his way into the system. On the screen was a green glowing floor plan of the entire estate. He clicked a few more keys and separated the floors and turned the entire thing into a 3-D model.

BOOK: The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1)
6.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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