Read A Deafening Silence In Heaven Online

Authors: Thomas E. Sniegoski

Tags: #Remy Chandler

A Deafening Silence In Heaven (2 page)

“A favorite,” He said. “But on the brink.”

A nearly overwhelming sense of panic washed over Remy . . . followed by the numbness. Once again, he found it difficult to remain standing and fell to his knees. “Please,” he begged. “I need to help them.”

The old man stared at him and Remy saw in His eyes an array of infinite possibilities.

And as he believed his question—his plea—was about to be granted, the old man turned His attention to the sky above. The clouds had grown thinner and the stars were beginning to shine down upon them.

“You need to see,” He said wistfully. “You need to see what it will be like if you fail.”

“Show me,” Remy pleaded.

“It is a sad thing,” the old man said, His voice quavering with emotion. “A tragic thing.”

“Show me,” Remy demanded.

The old man turned tear-filled eyes to Remy, extending a hand to gently cup the angel’s face.

And Remy saw.

CHAPTER
ONE

T
ime was standing still.

Linda Somerset was afraid to move as she sat, cradling her injured lover in the doorway to the living room of his Beacon Hill home.

What she had just seen—what she had just experienced—tested everything that she had always considered her reality. She was even afraid to breathe, afraid that the up and down of her chest would be enough to cause it all to break away.

Her entire world shattering like an old mirror.

But she had to breathe to live. Carefully, slowly, she exhaled, eyes darting about, watching for signs that the world was about to come apart.

And it stayed as it was.

For the moment, at least.

Linda took in a small, tremulous breath, not sure exactly what she expected to happen. Would there be the sound of something cracking as her world fell apart? Like a frozen lake on a late winter’s afternoon, when the sun was at its strongest.

There was a moment of silence, and then the sound of a soft exhalation, followed by the most pathetic of whines. Linda jumped, remembering that she wasn’t alone. Marlowe lay on the floor nearby, the black Labrador’s brown, soulful eyes locked upon his master’s still body.

Reality had remained in one piece after all.

Linda dared to look at Remy as she cradled him in her arms. There was blood on the front of his dress shirt, the expanding stain reminding her of the violence that had erupted in her lover’s home.

She saw the fight in staccato images burned into her memory: Remy—her wonderful, handsome Remy—fighting a pale, horrible thing that seemed to have appeared out of nothingness. The memories were as clear as if the events were unfolding before her at that very moment.

But it was really just one particular sight that caused her to doubt her sanity.

Made her doubt her reality.

Maybe it had already fallen, insanity growing like some malignant vine, twisting the normal into something beyond comprehension.

Remy had had wings—powerful, golden wings. She had seen them as clear as day in the theatre of her mind’s eye but still doubted their actuality.

Marlowe whined again and shoved his black snout beneath Remy’s still hand, attempting to flip it so that Remy would pet him. But the hand just flopped back to the floor.

The Lab’s sadness was palpable, and whether Linda believed in what she had just witnessed, Remy was injured, and she needed to help him.

She let his body slide gently to the wood floor, placing her hands on his face, struggling to remain in control of her emotions. His skin was cold and turning an unhealthy shade of gray. She could feel Marlowe’s eyes watching her as she searched for signs of life.

“He’s going to be all right,” she told the dog as she jammed her fingers beneath the collar of Remy’s shirt, desperate to find a pulse. “Don’t do this to me,” she said aloud, panic creeping in as she felt none. “Don’t you dare!”

She’d had to take CPR classes when working as a waitress at Piazza and tried to remember what she’d been taught. She placed the heels of her hands, one atop the other, on the center of Remy’s chest and began compressions.

Marlowe paced around her, vocalizing his concern.

“It’s okay, buddy,” she said, breathlessly, still pumping. “We’re going to bring him back to us.”

She stopped for a moment and checked again for a pulse. Still finding none, she reached into her back pocket for her phone to call 911—and found it empty.

“Fuck!” she screamed in frustration, turning toward the living room, where she had landed when Remy had thrown her inside. Her eyes scanned the room, landing on a small pile of crushed bone smoldering in a patch of sunlight that managed to creep from beneath the pulled shades. She thought of the pale-skinned attacker and the weapon he’d wielded. She remembered the feel of it shattering beneath her foot as she stomped down upon it.

It was real.

She recalled the ferocity of the battle, Remy holding on to his foe as his hands began to burn. And there was the black, oily stain where the pale man had died, eaten alive by the fire that had come from her lover’s hands.

It was real.

Linda was suddenly dizzy, but the sound of Marlowe’s whines as he licked Remy’s ashen face spurred her on. She caught sight of the phone and lunged across the floor, snatching it up.

Just as Marlowe erupted. The dog stood over Remy, staring beyond the open door to the foyer, barking furiously, black hackles raised the length of his back and tail standing out stiffly from his body.

As if yet another threat was about to present itself.

•   •   •

Francis was in the basement apartment of the Newbury Street brownstone that he owned, trying to drown his anxieties in a tumbler of scotch and Sergio Leone’s
Once Upon a Time in the West
. But he hadn’t even made it to the introduction of Henry Fonda’s reptilian villain, Frank, before being forced to switch the Blu-ray player off.

He couldn’t banish the look from his mind—the expression of utter disappointment on Remy Chandler’s face.

He’d tried to explain his actions to his friend, why he had joined with Heaven’s angel elite to execute the offspring of Nephilim whores and archangel soldiers.

“I didn’t have a choice,”
Francis had said.
“Part of the deal I made. He says, ‘Jump,’ and I ask how high.”

“And exactly how high can you jump, Francis?”
Remy had retorted, wearing the look that now haunted Francis’ memory.

It wasn’t as if he had never disappointed Remy before; the former Guardian angel’s penchant for violence had often been a bone of contention between the two friends.

But this time it was different. This time, Francis might have gone too far. He considered just leaving Remy alone, giving him a chance to work through his anger, and maybe in time, they would talk things through.

But the look in his friend’s eyes had hurt so much more than harsh words or a knife to the kidney. This was something that Remy wouldn’t let go; this was something that had altered their relationship forever.

Even though Francis was sure Remy had already put two and two together. How else could Francis have survived being trapped in a re-forming Hell, if the Morningstar hadn’t saved him?

And for that save, Francis owed the former right hand of God and failed conqueror of Heaven. Where had the Almighty and all His angelic legions been as Francis lay dying upon a transforming, hellish landscape? Nowhere. It had been Lucifer who had found him—saved him—lifted him up and made him whole again.

What fucking choice had he had but to once again swear his allegiance to the Son of the Morning?

He’d known how it would go over with Remy, so he’d kept his mouth shut. There was no easy way he could ever have explained himself.

Dude, yeah, not sure if I mentioned this, but Lucifer is my new boss. Let me tell you about his kick-ass benefits package.

He could see that going over like a fart in an iron lung.

But Francis couldn’t leave it alone, couldn’t let what he had with the former Seraphim wither and die. As much as it killed him to admit it, their relationship meant something to Francis.

And that was why he had to talk to his friend now, whether Remy wanted to hear it or not. Francis was going to come clean about everything that had gone on and was going on.

Francis hoped it would be enough to get him back in Remy’s good graces, but one never knew when dealing with the former soldier of Heaven–turned–private investigator. He could be a little prickly sometimes.

Francis would just have to wait and see.

Wanting to get it over with as quickly as possible, the fallen Guardian angel stood and began to use one of the gifts that Lucifer had bestowed upon him—the ability to walk between realities, to go from here to there in a matter of seconds, even though his wings had long ago been taken from him. He thought of the foyer in Remy’s Pinckney Street brownstone and stepped through the rip in the fabric of time as it opened before him.

Francis sensed it immediately; something bad had transpired in his friend’s home, and not too long before his arrival, by the feel of it. Instinctively he reached for the Colt pistol inside his suit coat pocket.

A dog was barking ferociously nearby, and Francis recognized it as Remy’s dog, Marlowe. One didn’t need to be able to speak the language of beasts to know that the dog was upset.

The heavy wooden door into the hallway was wide-open, so Francis began to move toward the sound of the frantic animal, gun cocked and ready to fire. The atmosphere grew even more tainted, a negative energy electrifying the air, telling him that whatever had happened was bad.

Really bad.

But nothing could have prepared him for what he saw as he turned toward the living room.

“What the fuck?” he said aloud, bearing witness to his best friend lying on the floor, dog tensed protectively over him, and a woman, cell phone caught midway to her ear.

“Oh my God,” cried the woman, whom Francis suddenly realized was Linda, the waitress from Piazza. “Are you the police?”

Ignoring her question, Francis dropped to his knees beside his downed friend, the pistol disappearing back inside his jacket. Marlowe growled as Francis reached to check Remy’s vitals.

“It’s all right, pal,” Francis said, and the growl turned to a pathetic whine.

“I’m calling nine-one-one . . . ,” Linda began.

“Put the fucking phone away,” Francis snapped at her, and she recoiled as if slapped. He pressed his hand against Remy’s throat. The coldness of the flesh beneath his fingertips and the widening stain on the front of Remy’s shirt told him all that he needed to know.

“Give me the abridged version,” Francis barked, ripping open his friend’s shirt, sending buttons in every direction.

“He was attacked. . . . We were attacked . . . ,” Linda stammered.

“By who?” Francis asked, eyes upon the strange injuries.

“It was some sort of . . . thing,” she said, trying to find more words but failing miserably.

Francis looked up at her and followed her gaze to a pile of what appeared to be bones smoldering on a greasy stain in the corner. “Is this it?” He sprang up from Remy’s side toward the bone pile. “Is this what’s left of the thing that attacked you? Did Remy do this?” he asked as he knelt before the remains.

“Yes.” Linda nodded furiously. “He did that before . . .”

There wasn’t much time. Francis reached for what was left of the creature’s skull. There were still bits of skin attached, and he hoped that there might be enough inside its brainpan to read.

From inside his coat, Francis removed a knife with a blade so thin it looked as though it might be able to cut between molecules. Linda was watching him, wide-eyed, and he wondered if he was going to lose her as he positioned the blade above the skull and brought it down with great force, puncturing the skull, like a straw into a juice box.

It wasn’t going to be pretty, but he needed to know.

A brief blast of foul-smelling steam escaped into the atmosphere, and Francis wrinkled his nose in disgust.

But the knife found what it was seeking, as it sank into what remained of the attacker’s brain, drawing up information and feeding it to Francis in a series of staccato images. In a matter of seconds, he knew about the demonic assassins known as the Bone Masters, how they’d been contracted to kill Remy Chandler . . .

. . . and how they had hoped to use the angel’s female to lure him into the open.

Francis pulled the knife from the skull, gazing at Linda, who returned his stare with deer-in-the-headlights eyes.

The angel’s female?

CHAPTER
TWO

T
he Old Man had done something—sent Remy to someplace, someplace where he could see the price of his failure.

It had been like falling into a hole, the darkness so all-encompassing that it became the world, and the distance so deep and far that he forgot he was falling.

Until he hit bottom.

Remy landed in an explosion of pain. The world of cold primal darkness that had been with him for what seemed like an eternity was replaced with a jarring agony. From his internal workings, to his bones, to his every joint, muscle, tendon, and ligament—everything was screaming.

A painful reminder that he was still alive—

And under attack.

Remy opened his eyes, and immediately knew that he was in another place—
another reality
, familiar yet strangely different. Winged forms flew above him in a gray, smoke-filled sky.
Angels,
he thought, watching one of the shapes bank sharply to the left, wings spread to their full impressive span as it glided down at a breakneck pace.

But questions of where he was and what was happening would have to wait, for a hissing gout of flame rocketed toward him from the sky. Remy reacted even though his body cried in protest. He rolled across the rubble-strewn ground as the miniature comet struck mere inches from where he’d been, melting the surroundings to glass.

A spark of divine fire landed on the sleeve of his coat, the heavy material beginning to burn as the holy flame sought out the soft flesh beneath. Remy slapped at the fire before it could grow any hungrier, and what he saw on the back of his hand chilled him to the bone.

A tattoo of some kind appeared to be permanently inscribed upon his flesh. He did not know what the mark was or how it had gotten there, but could sense that it was a sigil of some long-forgotten power.

“Move your ass or you’re toast!” commanded a gruff, almost animal-sounding voice from somewhere close by. Remy didn’t have an opportunity to find the source of the command, but he did what he was told as spears of fire hurtled toward him.

Incendiary blasts struck all around him as he darted and weaved about the blighted landscape. So intent was he on avoiding the Heavenly fire that he did not see the body smoldering on the ground before him, and he tripped, falling onto his stomach, the air punched from his lungs as he hit. Scrambling to rise, he glanced at the corpse, recognizing the dead man as one of Samson’s children, somehow knowing that the Biblical strongman and his brood had once again come to his aid despite the near certainty of catastrophic failure.

The air was filled with acrid smoke and the heavy, dusty smell of something . . .
familiar
. It was that intimate aroma that froze him in place.
It can’t be. How is this possible?
he thought, his mind racing as he tried to process the overwhelming flow of information into his already addled brain.

An angel dropped from the sky, its powerful wings kicking up clouds of dust and dirt as it touched down before Remy. He stared, hypnotized by the creature he would once have called brother. It was covered in a thick coating of black ash, with fish-belly white skin peeking out from cracks in the filthy covering, but it was its eyes that told Remy a story he did not care to hear. The eyes were filled with madness, what divinity had once pulsed through its holy body having long since fled.

He wanted to ask it what had happened, what horrors had occurred to make it this way, but Remy knew that it was about to kill him.

Twin daggers with blades as black as the soot that covered its body appeared in the angel’s hands, and it lunged at Remy, eager to vent his body to the outside world.

Remy tensed the muscles in his back, wishing his wings into existence to evade the blades—

And nothing happened.

He did not have time to ponder this latest insanity. The filthy angel screeched something unintelligible as it thrust with one of the knives. Remy managed to leap back, the edge of the blade catching the front of his shirt and slicing across his belly.

The angel cried out as the scent of Remy’s blood perfumed the acrid air. The other blade was eagerly coming around for more of the same. This time, Remy caught the angel’s wrist and twisted it back behind it, pulling up savagely until the sounds of snapping bone and sinew mixed with the angel’s cries of pain.

The knife fell to the ash-covered ground, and Remy snatched it up. The blade felt wrong in his grip, as if the weapon did not care to be held by anyone other than its owner. The intense burning sensation came next, causing Remy to drop the black-bladed knife to the ground as he gazed at the blistered flesh of his palm.

The angel started to cackle as it came at Remy again, still gripping the other knife, one arm now useless and dangling at its side. On reflex, Remy again called upon his wings, and again he could not summon them. The horror of his new reality grew even more oppressive as he braced himself for the angel’s further assault.

Something huge and incredibly fast suddenly moved past Remy in a blur, landing upon the angel and driving it back to the dirt. The air became filled with the sounds of growls and screams of pain, which grew louder and more intense until silenced as the monstrosity standing upon the angel’s blackened chest tore away its throat.

Remy stared with equal parts wonder and horror at the great beast that had taken the angel. Two sets of memories—the old and the new—struggled for supremacy, and he thought his skull might split.

The beast’s body was huge, the size of a great jungle cat, with short, black fur covered in filth. The color tickled his memory, and he remembered a part of his life filled with the love and loyalty of an animal named . . .

It spun its large square head around to face him, its muzzle shiny with the blood of the once divine.

“Marlowe,” Remy said aloud as he looked into the face of the demonic hound.

“What did you call me?” the animal asked, its fleshy lip peeling back in a ferocious snarl. “You’re never to call me that!”

And that was when Remy felt it all slide out from beneath him, his brain unable to handle it anymore, deciding that this would be the right time to shut it all down—

To drop the curtain.

To fade to black.

•   •   •

Heaven had the most distinctive of smells.

Everything else Remy had experienced since leaving the Golden City paled in comparison to the scents of Paradise.

Madeline had once asked him what it was like to be in Heaven. At first, he’d been speechless, unable to find words suitable for the human mind to comprehend.

“Okay, we’ll make this easier,”
she’d said.
“What’s it smell like?”

And he’d given it a shot.

“You know how you feel when you walk past a bakery and smell the freshly baked bread, or that delicious aroma of a home-cooked meal, or even the wonder of a freshly brewed pot of coffee?”

He recalled Madeline’s magnificent smile.

“Imagine all the wonderful feelings and sensations created by those awesome scents.”
He’d paused, watching to see if she was doing just that, and the twinkle in her eye had told him she was.
“All right, now multiply all those feelings by a million, and then a million more, and then a hundred million more.”

She’d told him that it must be wonderful.

And he’d remembered that it was—before the war, before he had abandoned his place of creation.

He’d told her that, and then they had made love with a passion far more intense than ever before, almost as if she was attempting to sate a hunger that could never be satisfied, and he trying to recapture a taste of what he’d abandoned so very long ago.

But all it had done was remind them each of what they would never have.

Now, deep in the darkness, Remy was again reminded of the glories he had left behind, the distant memories stirred by an all-too-familiar aroma.

Even deep within the clutches of unconsciousness, he could smell Heaven. The scent had caught him off guard as he’d tried to defend himself against his angelic attacker. Although tainted by other, more pungent odors, such as fear and despair, at the core of it all, Heaven was there.

Drifting in the air, Heaven was there.

The smell drew him up from the darkness, where he became aware of a strange stinging sensation in his lower body. He gasped, snapping his eyes open to the most insane of sights. The giant doglike animal stood by Remy’s side, his monstrous head lowered to Remy’s bare midsection, a tongue as thick as Remy’s forearm lapping languidly at his stomach.

“What the Hell?” Remy managed.

The beast stopped licking, and his massive tongue returned to his mouth.

“You’re awake,” he growled. “About fucking time.”

The dog moved away from him, dropping his enormous bulk to the ground with a heavy sigh.

Remy looked down at his stomach, at where the dog had been licking.

“What the fuck were you doing?” he asked, touching the tender spot with his fingers. It was still wet and quite sticky, with a nasty stink coming from the area.

“I’ll let you die from infection next time,” the monster dog said indignantly. “Believe me, the taste of your pus is not something that I enjoy.” The beast put his large face down between equally enormous paws. “And fuck you very much.”

Remy then noticed the additional tattoos, across the taut muscles of his stomach, snaking up his sides and down his bare arms.

“When did I . . . ,” he began, struggling to decipher the meaning of the markings but coming up with nothing.

“When did you what?” the beast asked, watching him with curious, blood-tinted eyes. “The sigils? What, did you bang your head or something?”

Remy remembered his wings, or lack thereof. He twisted his head so he might see where they should have been. “My wings. What’s happened to my wings?”

“Your wings?” The dog rose to all fours and cautiously approached. Remy could see the animal’s coppery hackles rising as he sniffed at him. “Are you all right? Maybe that blast took more out of you than I thought.”

Remy almost asked about the blast—what exactly had happened—but decided to wait. “I’m fine,” he said instead, getting up from the blanket he was lying on. He could see he was inside a tent, and he was suddenly desperate to head outside for a look at the world in which he now found himself. A world whose very atmosphere smelled of Heaven.

He found a shirt in a pile on the floor next to him. It was torn and bloodied, but he put it on anyway.

“You don’t seem fine,” the great dog said, continuing to study him.

Remy was saved from replying as the flap of the tent lifted and a dark, bearded man stepped inside. Remy knew at once the man was also a son of Samson.

“What is it?” the demon dog asked.

“You need to see this,” the man said, ducking back outside.

“Stay here,” the dog ordered Remy as he pushed his massive bulk through the flap and outside.

Remy followed, ignoring the command.

The sky was filled with billowing gray clouds that roiled and moved through the air like protozoa viewed from beneath a microscope lens, and Remy wasn’t sure if it was day or night.

The camp appeared to have been set up somewhere inside the crag of a mountain, the edge of the encampment looking down onto a sprawling and unfamiliar desert landscape. But it was the sight beyond the desert that sent a deep, icy chill down the length of Remy’s spine, for now he knew why the air was filled with the scents of his former home.

In the distance were shapes that at first glance seemed to be another great mountain range, but the longer he looked upon them, the more familiar they became.

The reason the air of this place was filled with the smells of Heaven was obvious, for it was Heaven—or at least a portion of it—that Remy saw sprawling across the landscape far off in the distance.

It seemed that Heaven had fallen from the sky.

Other books

Indian Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs
Home, Sweet Haunt by P.J. Night
Sitka by Louis L'amour
A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester
If by Nina G. Jones
Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
North Wind by Gwyneth Jones
Hugger Mugger by Robert B. Parker
Rise Once More by D. Henbane