Trade of Wrath

Trade of Wrath Trade of Wrath

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Summary

After Cara Stevens walks away from a deadly, demon-instigated car crash that should have instantly killed her, The Angel of Wrath is given the mission to hunt her down, find out what exactly she is, and deal with her accordingly. When Cara mysteriously survives the traffic accident, she finds herself going through some strange changes. She's stronger, faster, and is gifted with a double-edged kiss that hurts and heals. Before long, angels, demons, and a determined ex-boyfriend all want to get their hands on her. As Wrath and Cara cross paths, they discover a deep connection between them, as well as an ever-growing attraction to each other that neither can deny. Together, as they battle demons and try to find answers to the riddle that is Cara's life, they are steered and manipulated by the forces of good and evil in a cosmic game of winner-takes-all.

Summary

After Cara Stevens walks away from a deadly, demon-instigated car crash that should have instantly killed her, The Angel of Wrath is given the mission to hunt her down, find out what exactly she is, and deal with her accordingly.

When Cara mysteriously survives the traffic accident, she finds herself going through some strange changes. She's stronger, faster, and is gifted with a double-edged kiss that hurts and heals. Before long, angels, demons, and a determined ex-boyfriend all want to get their hands on her.

As Wrath and Cara cross paths, they discover a deep connection between them, as well as an ever-growing attraction to each other that neither can deny. Together, as they battle demons and try to find answers to the riddle that is Cara's life, they are steered and manipulated by the forces of good and evil in a cosmic game of winner-takes-all.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Trade of Wrath

Author Chapter Note

After Cara Stevens walks away from a deadly, demon-instigated car crash that should have instantly killed her, The Angel of Wrath is given the mission to hunt her down, find out what exactly she is, and deal with her accordingly. When Cara mysteriously survives the traffic accident, she finds herself going through some strange changes. She's stronger, faster, and is gifted with a double-edged kiss that hurts and heals. Before long, angels, demons, and a determined ex-boyfriend all want to get their hands on her. As Wrath and Cara cross paths, they discover a deep connection between them, as well as an ever-growing attraction to each other that neither can deny. Together, as they battle demons and try to find answers to the riddle that is Cara's life, they are steered and manipulated by the forces of good and evil in a cosmic game of winner-takes-all.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: October 16, 2011

Reads: 689

Comments: 1

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: October 16, 2011

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Prologue.The Wager

God and Satan met on neutral ground in the Astral Realm, also known as the Realm of Dreams. God was a bright and beautiful being of light and Satan was a warped and wicked being of darkness. The two adversaries stood across from each other, face to face.
God, being the greater, spoke first. “Why have you asked me here, Satan? You must know you cannot avoid my wrath forever?”
Satan, being the lesser, must answer. “I want to make you a wager. In truth, it has everything to do with your wrath.”
God was intrigued by Satan’s words. “Your wagers, tests, and trials never bear fruit. I grow tired of your schemes. But tell me how my wrath could be wagered upon.”
Satan began his argument. “There has been an age old conundrum debated on by the masses. People of all walks of life, from atheist to theologian, have talked themselves blue over it. It is this: how do we reconcile the God of Wrath with the God of Mercy?”
God rebuked Satan. “It is foolish to demand answers you could not comprehend.”
Satan would not retreat. “Do you not have an answer then? Have you fallen into hypocrisy?”
God did not answer Satan’s questions. God gave Satan a command. “Explain the details of your wager.”
Satan was only too eager to comply. “I say your wrath and your mercy cannot be reconciled. Together they will destroy themselves with the best of intentions.”
God understood the great significance of the wager. “The stakes would be more than you could bear.”
Satan understood the great significance as well. “The same could be said for you. Shall we bet the key to Heaven and Hell on it? Winner takes all?”
In his infinite wisdom, God gave his answer. “So be it.”


1.Orders


The demon actually thought he was holding his own in this fight. Granted, I did let him get in a decent swipe for the sake of good sportsmanship. What glory was there in kicking a weakling around? Honestly, I was surprised I was even assigned this one. Not to toot my own horn here, but I'm not The Angel of Wrath for nothing. There's plenty of lesser warrior angels who could've taken this guy blindfolded. Why was my talent being wasted on this? The only answer I had was the usual one. God said so. So be it. I shrugged my shoulders gamely. That was good enough for me.
I lunged at the demon, grabbing him by the throat and slamming him against one of the many pine trees in this dark forest. He crumpled to the frozen ground, his black eyes glaring hatred at me. I ignored him for a moment to scan the surrounding area. Nobody there. This, at least, was a good place for a fight. It was quiet, remote and secluded. No worries about mortal spectators. They weren't likely to go for a stroll in the woods during a snowy winter's night.
He took advantage of my distraction. I was glad. Hoping for it, really. He suddenly twisted, so fast the movement was a blur, kicking a leg out to sweep my feet out from under me. I fell hard on the ice-crusted snow. The demon flipped to his feet, then crouched over me. He reeked of burn and rot. I held my breath.
"Gonna take you on a trip to Hell, Angel-face," he taunted. His black eyes crinkled up as he smiled down on me. "You know what happens when an angel loses a fight with a demon?"
“Yeah, actually, I do.”
When he reached for me, I whirled up behind his back. All he got was a fist full of snow. The demon straightened up to stare ahead in confusion.
"Behind you."
He twisted around to face me. He looked angry, but wary, too. The moment his desire was clearly defined, I could see the vision of it in my mind--and he knew it. 
In my mind's eye I could see myself as I appeared to him. For an angel, I looked remarkably dark. I had my usual black hooded trench coat on open down the front with a black shirt and black pants underneath. Even the work boots on my feet were black. I wasn't trying to go for a gothic look. I was just being practical. In my line of work, there's plenty of spilled blood. Angels and demons both have black blood when we manifest into the physical world. Well, that's not all together true. It's more like a very dark, navy blue color. It's so close that we just call it black. And, apparently, it was this demon's current desire to spill my blood as he tore me apart. That's what I got a clear flash of, anyway.
"Scared of what you see?" he jeered. 
I admit it, I snickered a little bit. As if. "I just realized I’ve got no idea who you are. What are you called?"
He lifted his chin to an obstinate angle before answering. "Darzapael. Why, who are you?"
I knew it, he was a nobody, a demon of the lower ranks.
We slowly started to circle each other. I made a casual half-shrug with one shoulder. "Considering how confident you seem to be, I thought you might want to know what you're up against. If you come out on top, you’re gonna win yourself quite a prize, if I do say so myself."
I don't mean to come off too cocky. I know how much the Almighty loves to take the prideful down a few notches. That said, I couldn't turn up the chance to make him squirm some. He earned that much with his vile desires. I mentioned I didn't like to be a bully to weaklings, but I always kept in mind that demons exactly like this one are the cause of the world's most violent, twisted crimes. They are the instigators of human suffering more often than not. 
My body shivered with power. Those kind of thoughts brought on the righteous anger. It was time to quit playing and get to work.
"You, Darzapael, have been charged with crimes against Heaven and Earth." My voice was far from sounding human then. It lashed out at him cold and hard, layered with the power of the Almighty speaking through me. "You have been found guilty and are sentenced to suffer the Wrath of God."
If I hadn't been in full-on wrath mode, I would've thought Darzapael's expression hilarious. Since I don't often get to do the whole formal sentencing where I sort of channel the power of the Almighty, I was much too absorbed to fully appreciate the demon's whimpering. Instead, with my left hand I reached across my chest and over my shoulder to grab the hilt of my sword. Pulling it loose of the sheath hanging on my back, I swung the blade in a swift, well practiced arc. It sliced through his arms and chest, from right to left. 
He shrieked in agony. 
With a flick of my wrist, I brought the blade up high above Darzapael, then sliced it down his midline, halving him from head to tailbone. My blade crashed down into the snow, steaming and dripping with the demon's hot, black blood. Before the quartered body parts could fall to the ground, they dissolved to shadows, leaving nothing behind but the acrid smell of sulfur. In a fight between angels and demons, there’s only two possible outcomes. The winner survives and the loser ceases to exist.
"That's what happens when you lose a fight with The Angel of Wrath," I whispered, using my full title. There was no trace of smugness in my hushed voice, there was only awe and humility. When the Almighty personally witnessed his justice being done, no one was left unaffected. I was no exception.
Using a handful of snow, I washed the blood off the blade of my sword as best I could. Afterward, I dried it off with the inside of my coat. I held the sword out in front of me to inspect my handiwork. It was clean, but the long blade with its slightly curved tip was stained a midnight blue as if scarred by its history of bloodshed. Long ago I thought it might’ve been a better idea for the blade to be black, like my attire. Of course, I couldn't bring myself to tell the Almighty that. When the Creator of all that is bestows a gift on you, it doesn't do to critique the craftsmanship.
By the time I stomped my way through to the end of the snow-covered trail and continued across the clearing to the adjoining neighborhood park, I knew someone was waiting for me on a bench by the swings. I couldn't get a clear view of who it was, but the platinum head of hair and the slight build gave him away despite that. Shoving the sword back in its sheath, I walked over and sat down beside him on the 
bench. It was nice to take a load off. I could really use a break, but I seriously doubted that was gonna happen anytime soon...not with him showing up. 
I nodded my head in acknowledgment. "Zophiel."
He nodded back. "Wrathanael."
We sat in silence for a few minutes, brooding over our own deep thoughts. Briefly, I wondered who'd give in to speak first. I was pretty curious about why he'd showed up here. He didn't normally assign me back to back gigs unless it's too important to hand off to someone else. Which reminded me that I wanted to harangue him about giving me Darzapael to deal with. I wouldn't question the Almighty about it, but I’d damn well question Zophiel. He was the Ear of God, after all. He always knew a lot more than he was saying. I sometimes envied his close relationship with the Almighty. Mostly, I felt kind of sorry for him. He doesn't have the best reputation amongst the angels. He's been labeled as God's own tattletale. To give him his due, he handled it pretty well. I'm sure that if he wanted to, he could get the Almighty to sick me on any angel who picked on him. Hasn't happened yet. 
Finally, I broke the silence. "Zophiel, why was I given this last demon?"
He quirked an eyebrow at me. "Are you questioning God's orders?"
"Not unless you claim to be God. I'm asking you, aren't I?" I rolled my eyes, exasperated. Sometimes I think that his closeness to the Almighty was making him get a little too big for his britches. "And quit stalling. Answer the question. This demon didn't require my attendance. Shoot, I bet even you could’ve taken Darzapael. He was kind of pathetic."
A haughty expression crossed Zophiel's pale, choir boy face. "Insulting me isn't the way to get me talking, you know. But since I can't give you a satisfying answer, anyhow, it doesn’t much matter. God wanted to have it all done by the book. I can't say exactly why, but I will remind you that even lesser demons can do horrendous things. The Almighty foresees the potential of each individual. Perhaps this Darzapael would have gotten away from another angel. Or won the duel? Maybe he would have went on further to cause a great deal of havoc in the life of a pivotal figure in the mortal world. So many possibilities God has to consider."
That was a better answer than I expected. I didn't really know what to say to that. So, I muttered a thoughtful, "Hmm...."
Waving a hand, Zophiel added, "Besides, you were needed here anyway. This was conveniently squeezed in before the real assignment."
"Yeah, what's up with that?" I jumped in, again wanting to harangue him. "Am I getting paid over-time for these back to back gigs? Not to mention that one of these days I'd like to get back home to the third heaven for some much deserved R&R."
Zophiel looked at me blankly for a minute before he threw back his head and burst into surprised, but delighted, laughter. He even gave my shoulder a playful shove that clearly said you're such a kidder! 
Mystified, I watched him with a mixture of worry and suspicion. I know my comment was of the wise-ass variety, but I didn't think his laughing like a barking hyena was quite called for. Zophiel could be really annoying, infuriating even, when he chose to be. "What? What's so funny?"
He shook his head and patted his knees, while he struggled to stop laughing. "Nothing, nothing."
"Zophiel, can we move on then? What's next?" I demanded with a thwack to his shoulder in return for before.
Reminded of what he was here for, he quit his laughing. He became Mr. Business once again. "Uh, we have a delicate situation coming up in a few hours time. I think I'll be sending Briathos and Marmaroth in as back up."
My brow shot up in surprise. It's been awhile since I had to work with back up. "Really? That bad?"
Steepling together the fingertips of both hands, he nodded, then clarified. "Possibly. The potential is there. A demon by the name of Alariel, who is much more powerful than your Darzapael, has decided to whip up some serious trouble."
"And why is this delicate?" I asked, perplexed. Shifting my weight on the bench, I continued, "I mean, that sounds pretty straight forward."
Zophiel jumped up from the bench to begin pacing back and forth in front of me. His sandaled feet kicking up bits of dirty snow in his new agitation. "Okay, here's the thing Wrath, this one is going to get messy. There will probably be mortal casualties. And we don't know for certain that Alariel will be working alone. The girl will need...no, forget the girl. First things first, Alariel needs to be taken out and all of his helpers. If he has any, of course."
He stopped his pacing to stand before me. I got up from the bench and looked him in his black eyes. "Got it. Take out Alariel and his toadies. Sounds like a regular day to me. I'll just have some of my pals along for the ride this time. No biggy."
I thought my confidence and nonchalance would reassure him, but Zophiel only pressed his lips together in a tight line, looking disturbed. Then he did something that really made me uneasy. He stepped a little closer to me, lightly placing his hands on my shoulders. The emotion on his face was intense, filled with a sympathetic pain as he held my gaze. I had an idea that he was holding out on me, that he knew something more. Something that would directly affect me. But what could happen to me? Would I get snuffed out of existence? Captured? Not likely. Something, though. His next soft words confirmed my suspicions. "Wrath, this one is a biggy. This one counts. Do not rush into this with all brawn and no brain. Remember, delicate."
He let his hands fall from my shoulders, then took a step back. His pale blond head cocked to one side like he was straining to hear something. I kept quiet, trying to hear whatever he was hearing. I picked up nothing but the mild rustle of leaves responding to the low whistle of the chilled wind.
Zophiel's head snapped straight again. To himself more than me, he murmured, "Something is changing. It looks like Alariel is refining his plan. Ah, but there's still so much left to a moment's notice."
"What's happening?" I asked.
"No time. I have to confer with Laoel. It would seem he has a new vision of the situation. Wait here, Marmaroth and Briathos will arrive shortly. I'll be back as soon as I can to update you." Employing his signature exit, Zophiel turned on his heel and disappeared. 
I swear, I don't think I've ever seen his back while he walked away. The most anyone ever sees is a vertical trail of mist dispersing where his body was last seen. Each of us have certain moves, I guess. Over the eons, it's only natural to fall into habits that express our individuality.


"Boo!"
I twitched in surprise and spun around. Marmaroth and Briathos stood a few feet away, they were grinning at me. Both were wisely wearing dark clothing, but the similarity between the two stopped there. Marmaroth looked like your typical big goon. He was tall and wide. His coloring, both skin and hair, were a rich golden brown. His features were blunt, like his attitude. He never bothered much with diplomacy. While Briathos was no slouch in height or width, his was a lean, wiry strength. His bone structure was finely pointed, as was his manner, and his long flame-colored hair hinted at his potential for a hot temper. It was a good thing Briathos had a long fuse, otherwise being paired with Marmaroth–-and his mouth-–would be an impossibility for him. As it was, they usually ended up wrestling each other before too long. It was inevitable.
Marmaroth did a slow one-eighty, taking in his surroundings. His grin widened into a smirk. "Now Wrath, were we called here to push ya on the swings? Maybe catch ya at the bottom of the slide? It's okay. No need to be embarrassed. I can tell this is a big-boy park."
Briathos, only too happy to join Marmaroth since it wasn't him being picked on this time, added in a mock croon, "Aw, are we afraid to fall on our bumbum?"
Trying to look severe, I cast them a cold glare as I hitched up my chin before saying, "Keep it up and I'm gonna tell Zophiel."
Both of their jaws dropped. Then we all busted up. Marmaroth was bent over, guffawing. Briathos chuckled, closed mouthed. It sounded like hmm, hmm, hmm.
"Oh, man," Marmaroth choked out, still bent over. "You did not say that!"
"Tattling to the Snitcher, funny," Briathos said, stating the obvious. Then, looking around like he just realized said snitcher was missing, he inquired, "By the way, where is he. I thought he was gonna be here to coordinate everything."
"He'll be here soon. He said something about needing to meet up with Laoel because of a new vision." I explained. "How much do you know about the assignment?"
Marmaroth unbent himself, swaggered to the bench, then plopped down on it. He spread his hefty arms along the bench's backrest. "Enough to know that this Alariel isn't a match for the three of us. Personally, I think it's overkill. Any one of us could take this demon out."
"Zophiel said he might bring friends," I warned. 
"Mr. Snitcher is just being his usual dramatic self. You know, Chicken Little, the sky is falling, yada, yada, yada," Briathos scoffed while picking at a bit of nothing on his coat.
"Amen!" Marmaroth chimed in from the bench. "Did you hear the little tattletale ran right to the Almighty when he heard about me and Briathos getting into that small scuffle at the bar on our last assignment?"
"Earned us two weeks of choir practice," grumbled Briathos in disgust. "I ask you, do we look like the singing sort of angels? Stuck out like sore thumbs and bored to tears!"
"That had to suck," I empathized. "Still, it's neither here nor there. Listen, he wasn't playing it up this time. I could tell. He was dead serious when he said this one counted."
They shrugged off my warning. It didn't matter to them either way. In truth, I knew exactly how they felt. I felt the same, mostly. We went into each and every one of our assignments ready to kick ass and take names. This wouldn’t be any different in that respect, but I was prepared to be extra alert. I've known Zophiel long enough to know when to take him seriously. 
With a poof of his special mist, Zophiel appeared before us.
"Speak of the snitcher," Marmaroth muttered under his breath.
We all heard him anyway. Zophiel ignored the jab, focusing on the matter at hand. "Alariel will be possessing the driver of a large, yellow delivery truck heading south down the Garden State Parkway. Laoel sees it ending in a nasty multiple car crash at the tollbooth just before Exit 67."
"So, we're gonna grab Alariel further up and stop the crash?" Briathos asked. Marmaroth and I were already nodding yes to him.
Zophiel shook his head. "Not at all. Wrath will try, of course. He'll be on his bike in hot pursuit. You and Marmaroth will be waiting near the tollbooth, acting as defense. The main objective here is to stop Alariel. He doesn't move past the tollbooth. The crash is unavoidable."
We all fell silent for a moment. None of us liked sitting back, allowing demons to kill. Realizing that it was probably the right time for those mortals to die didn't make it easier. Knowing that God works in mysterious ways wasn’t nearly as comforting as so many people made it out to be. It may be part of the Almighty’s grand plan, but it chafed to lose lives to demon scum.
My eyes narrowed on Zophiel. "I'm allowed to try to stop the crash?"
"Sure," he consented. "Won't do any good, but the chase will be thrilling, I’m sure."
"Ya know, you're a real schmuck, Snitch," Marmaroth casually commented.
Briathos agreed. "Couldn't have said it better, myself, Bro."
They grinned at each other and bumped fists.
Zophiel sighed good-naturedly, but his slim shoulders sagged a little. I doubt anyone else noticed, but I did. This pissed me off to no end, being torn in two different directions. I wanted to be mad at Zophiel for acting so cold, so detached whenever it came to God’s Plan and The Assignments. Then I'd see little things like his sagging shoulders and know it was hard on him, too.
Somewhat unwillingly, I managed to say, "Lay off him, guys. Don't kill the messenger and all that." 
They shook their heads, mystified as always when I defended Zophiel. I thought I heard Briathos whisper "snitch lover" to Marmaroth.
Zophiel held up his hand. "Enough. It's time to get going. Wrath, we'll meet you there. Take Rt.70 until you hit the parkway. You should make it in twenty minutes, leaving now. You'll actually be ahead of him. Slow down a little then, he'll catch up and go whizzing by you. Impossible to miss."
Not even stopping to answer, I stalked off toward my bike--a sleek, black Ninja ZX-14--calling over my shoulder, "Later."
I started the Ninja’s engine and took off, fishtailing on some black ice for a hairy second before getting control. 

It took me just under the twenty minutes I was allotted. Most of Rt. 70 had been free and clear of traffic. When I took the ramp onto the parkway, the yellow truck was already visible, though it would still have to catch up to me. I slowed down, but I hated to lose the speed. It felt so wrong to be crawling along on this bike.
In my rearview mirror, the yellow truck roared its way up to me in the next lane over. Alariel was in a real hurry to cause his mayhem. I guess he was on a tight schedule. When the truck overtook me, I wondered if he would sense me. As the truck blew past, I decided he didn't. I caught a quick glimpse of him. Or rather, the body he was controlling. He had been hunched over the steering wheel, peering intently at the road ahead. I couldn't be absolutely sure, but it looked like he was in a mood, if his bared teeth were any indication. Maybe I had it wrong, yet in my extended experience with demons, this was the point where he should've been laughing his head off in evil glee. Was he some kind of angsty demon or what? Perhaps he was simply having a bad day. We all have those from time to time.
Noticing the truck getting farther and farther ahead of me, I shook off my speculations and got focused while I upped my speed. The trees on either side of the road blurred by me, the wind whipped wildly through my hair. If I’d been an ordinary mortal, the rushing wind would’ve blinded me with tears. Being an angel granted me the liberty of not having to wear riding goggles or visored helmets. My angelic eyes were made of tougher stuff that required no such protection. 
I was gaining on Alariel.
We raced past the Lacey Food and Fuel rest stop. Soon after, I spotted a sign warning of the upcoming toll. I was almost out of time. Despite how fast we were going, it seemed like everything was moving in slow motion. It felt like I’d never catch up. Zophiel was probably right, I wouldn't be able to stop the crash.
"Maybe not," I said to myself through clenched teeth. "But I'm taking that scum down as soon as I can."
Pushing my bike as hard as I could, I swerved over to the left shoulder of the road, inching my up to the driver's side door of the truck.
That's when Alariel finally sensed me. He swung his borrowed head around to tip an imaginary hat down at me. Alariel sure didn’t seem put off by my appearance. Then he gunned the truck, rocketing ahead of me once more. The lanes were widening. The tollbooths loomed before us.
Alariel's desire solidified, the flash of it seared into my mind. I could see the whole thing coming. A small line of vehicles was backed up at the Cash Only lane. He was going to ram them head on at full speed. 
"No!" I roared, sickened by the vision.
The truck was nearly there, less than a minute away from the minivan. A streak of movement through the air captured my attention. At the last second Alariel had abandoned his host, preferring his own slimy black form for our confrontation. He jumped ship as the saying goes, landing upright on the road’s shoulder. He was lucky that there was a lull in the late night traffic or he would’ve been seen. 
Excitedly, Alariel waved at me, then pointed at the truck as it slammed through the vehicles in its path.
So he liked to play, did he?
Once I was close enough to him, I sprang off the bike in an inhuman back flip and watched as the bike's front wheel rotated slightly, making the bike fall onto its side. Due to the speed, it kept on going, sliding fast and forceful into the stunned Alariel. The impact threw him backward. 
Before I'd finished my flip I had my sword in hand, ready to end this demon. I rushed him while he was shoving the bike away from himself. There were no formalities this time. I stole all the glory from Marmaroth and Briathos by slashing at Alariel horizontally first, then vertically. He fell into the shadows before my “back up” could get near us.
When Marmaroth and Briathos reached me, I growled, "Check everywhere. I think he was alone, but we have to be sure. No demons walk away from this."
We split up to hunt out any remaining demons. Along the way, I assessed the damage of the crash. The four cars and the minivan lined up in the tollbooth lane were reduced to a zig-zagged twist of crunched metal and broken bits of glass. Grislier than the crash itself was the tollbooth attendant who got harpooned in the chest by a fly-away strip of steel. A freak accident inside the larger one. 
Holding my dripping sword in my left hand, I stalked closer to search out the vehicles. Time was limited, I could hear sirens heading our way. Striding towards the truck, there was a small movement I caught peripherally. I whipped my head to the left for a better look. 
Did someone survive? Could someone survive? I wondered in shock.
A dazed face looked out of the broken window of the minivan. It was a young woman with dark blond hair. Her rainwater gray eyes locked on my face. When she blinked, her eyes went full black. Like mine. Like Alariel's. My upper lip curled in revulsion. Bringing my sword up, I stepped forward.
The blaring siren coming up from behind stopped my assault. I stood there for less than a second, undecided. What to do? I was out of time. Marmaroth motioned for me. He, Briathos, and Zophiel stood at the edge of the woods to my right. Retrieving my battered bike, I stole over to them in silence, pushing the Ninja side-along by its handles. With any luck, the damage from the slide into Alariel would be superficial at worst. 
"What's wrong with you?" Marmaroth asked, taking in my grim expression. "Briathos and I should be the ones looking bitter here."
"Really Wrath, you could’ve saved us some of the action," Briathos quietly chided. He ran his hand over the chewed up side of the Ninja, then added, "That was a pretty sweet move with the bike."
I ignored them, looking to Zophiel instead, who was leaning against a huge oak tree. He was wholly absorbed watching the scene of the accident. His thin arms were crossed over his chest, a small frown pulled at the corners of his lips. 
Still holding my bike upright beside me, I turned my attention back to the accident and saw that two State Troopers and a couple of EMT's were just beginning their search of the vehicles for any injured motorists. I felt bad for the EMT who found the tollbooth attendant. When he went to the booth's window to get a good look, he immediately stumbled backwards in shock. That couldn’t have been a pretty sight. Yeah, I felt bad for him, but I was glad he-–whoever he was–-didn't shrug the sight off like it was nothing. Maybe he was new to the job.
"Over here! Get the stretcher!" A different EMT shouted. I didn't have to look to know who the lucky survivor was. Despite that, my eyes swung to the minivan.
"No way," Briathos breathed beside me.
"Someone survived that mess?" Marmaroth asked, incredulous. "Zophiel, you didn't mention anything about a survivor."
Zophiel shot me a wry look as he answered Marmaroth. "No. I didn't, did I? Why don't you ask Wrathanael about it."
"I ran out of time!" I hated how defensive that sounded, but it was all I had and, at least, it was the truth.
Briathos and Marmaroth caught on quickly, realizing the meaning behind my words. Both started talking at the same time.
"That's a demon down there–"
"You missed one?"
"What was I gonna do? Take out the demon in front of the cops?" I hissed though clenched teeth. "Besides, I'm not sure if it's a manifest demon or a possession." 
I raised a questioning brow at Zophiel.
"I couldn't say." He shrugged and waved a dismissive hand. "I gather you plan to investigate and take care of the problem one way or the other?" 
"Of course." The question pricked at my pride--like I'd leave this unfinished? He knew me better than that. 
"Maybe you had better get going then," Zophiel pointed his index finger in the minivan's direction. The rescue workers already loaded the woman onto the stretcher and were now wheeling her away to the ambulance. "I'll check in with you when I can."
"Guess ya don't need us here, anymore?" Marmaroth grumbled.
"Never did." I forced a grin, then bumped fists with him and Briathos. "Thanks, anyway."
So, I was off to the hospital. I had a hunch that this long night wasn't even close to being over. 


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