Fall for Freedom

Reads: 424  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

It's 1995 and Pete Sinclair is feeling the heat. He's been blamed for closing the Gates of Hell and releasing an imprisoned fallen angel by the name of Azael. Now Pete's on the run from mercenaries who've been paid to take off his head.

Lucky for Pete, an angel's apprentice believes he's innocent, but she's not about to let him off the hook. She offers him freedom from Satan's forces in exchange for his help. Brandishing the only weapon that weakens angels, Pete must rescue kidnapped nuns and capture Azael. If only he had a clue how to use a sword.

Fall for Freedom is a prequel to The Courier series that explains Barry's existence, and why Pete becomes Barry's mentors.

This series is loved for its unique characters, dark humor, and fast pace that's like playing a video game. Read if you're a fan of Christopher Moore, Terry Pratchet, or Jim Butcher. You're sure to have a damned good time!

The Set Up

September 1995 - Walsenburg, Colorado

Driving a van four-hundred miles a day for Satan sucks bad enough. Add a tailgater in a black pickup for the last few miles, and I’m ready to exit the highway and head for the nearest bar.

Then the van lurches forward. Hit from behind. My dark, slick-back hair falls to my forehead, partially veiling my view of the pavement and sunflowers that dot the dry Colorado landscape. With a shaky grip on the steering wheel, I snap my bulging eyes to the passenger-side mirror. No surprise, the jerk to the rear is closer than he appears.

I floor the gas pedal and swerve into the right lane, jarring awake the demon possessing me. In his whiny voice, he says, I don’t bother you when you’re sleeping.

Of course he does, but most times I’d rather poke my eyes out than argue with him. “It wasn’t my fault,” I say. “We were rear-ended.”

Why would they bother us now? We’ve already unloaded the evil energy tanks in Trinidad.

“It’s not God’s Army.”

Who then, Mister Smartypants?

Again, I glance at the side view mirror. “If you were awake a minute ago, Mister Pain in My Ass, you’d have seen our friend is driving a black vehicle, not the usual heavenly white.” A comment I instantly regret when his demon essence, merged in with my spine, sends a shot of hot, sharp discipline up my back. I groan. “I’m trying to drive here.”

Hee, hee, hee. Boss’ laugh sounds like a dog munching on a squeaky toy.

The pickup’s engine revs, and with the next hit the van swerves toward the ditch. “Boss, help me, please,” I say while fighting to stay on the road.

Chill out, he says. Probably some moron out for a joyride. Besides, he can’t hurt us unless you stop.

“Like if the van flips next hit?” I shake my head and call out for Hell’s useful level of support. “Margery, you there?”

As our dispatcher and the head demon who protects the evil cargo we haul, normally her voice would pipe in over the AM radio. She barks orders through it anytime, anywhere. So when she doesn’t answer, I squirm in my seat and stare skyward for a murder of crows. They’re one of Satan’s fiercest defenses against attacks. But there’s no reprieve in sight. “Where are the birds?”

Duh! Clear blue sky. Try Margery again.

I lean toward the radio and say louder, “Hey, I’m in trouble here. How about a little assistance?”

“After what you did,” Margery replies in her gruff New York accent, “you’ve got a lot of nerve, taking one of my vans.”

“What do you mean?” I stammer. “I’m driving back to Denver like I do every afternoon.”

“Don’t act stupid. I know you sabotaged the hellhole.”

“What?” I ask. “I haven’t been near the hellhole for years.”

“Tell it to the mercenary on your ass. I hired him to take off your head.” Her deep inhale and crackling cigarette resonate in the background while the shocking news sinks in. Heat rushes up my spine, telling me Boss is equally surprised.

Wow, that’s the thanks you get after fifty years of brown-nosing.

Boss, go back into your coma. Then I tell Margery, “I’m your most loyal driver. Why would I turn on you?”

“You tell me.” Phlegm gurgles in her throat as she adds, “We were so close to opening the Gates of Hell, and now we have to start over. You have any idea what will happen to me when Satan finds out what you did?”

“C’mon. Please. Call off the mercenary. Give me a chance to prove I didn’t do it.”

She blows out a long exhale, ending in a hacking cough.

“Margery, listen to me. I would never—”

“Too late. You’re on your own.” She cackles. “And good luck. There’s no protection hex on your van. I give that mercenary less than five minutes before he runs you off the road.”

This can’t be happening. My hand trembles as I smooth my hair back into place. All I can think is one of my shady co-workers must have set me up. “Margery! I’m innocent!”

No answer.

Dude, we are so fucked.

The van jolts and my gut smashes into the steering wheel. A twenty-ounce cola in the center console flies to the floorboard under my feet, spraying foamy liquid onto my cowboy boots and jeans. “Dammit!” I reach to pick up the bottle.

Give that mercenary half a second, he’ll lop off your head and use it as a bowling ball.

“No kidding.” I swallow hard around the knot in my throat.

Fifty years ago, Margery granted me immortal life in exchange for a few strokes of a pen on a satanic contract. There’s no chance a mercenary will take it away with a stroke of a sword across my neck.

even if you are short, gassy, and afraid of women.

“Cut the insults. We need sanctuary.” I push the accelerator to the floor. “Find us an escape route.”

There’s a Purgalator coffee shop connected to the Conoco station.

As a haven for otherworldlies, it’s our only hope for survival.

I swerve onto the Walsenburg off ramp and descend the hill. The pickup roars along behind me. At the red light, and halfway into a hard left, the van tilts and skids through the intersection, cutting in front of a semi-trailer. From behind, wheels screech and a deep horn blares.

You trying to decapitate yourself and save him the trouble?

“Hey, I bought us some time. Can’t believe I did it in an unprotected vehicle.”

And surprisingly without soiling yourself, he says.

I race into the gas station lot and park. The black truck’s engine amplifies as it closes in. I jump from the van, run past a dumpster, and blast through the Purgalator’s door.

You do realize, there’s nothing stopping the mercenary from following us inside.

What’s in It for Me

A sign on the coffee shop wall reads, ‘Neutral Zone. Offenders will be ousted to their respective realms.’ This place better be as safe as it promises because it doesn’t ease my mind or Boss’ when the door bursts open. Sleigh bells break loose, fly across the room, and jingle all the way to the floor. The mercenary stomps through the joint and snarls, revealing rotting teeth buried inside an overgrown brown beard and mustache. With a wide nose, a shelf of a forehead, and dark eyes, he appears both Neanderthal and strangely familiar.

It’s Roy Morrow.

Looking past his unkempt mane, I recognize one of Margery’s long-lost couriers. He was so mean that when he went missing no one cared. Makes sense he’s hunting heads.

Roy sweeps aside his black trench coat to expose an Egyptian-style sword strapped to his hip.

I return a nervous grin and skulk backward into a wood table.

“Hey, you.” Harvey the coffee jerk points at Roy. “Back off or you’re out on your ass.” Anyone who frequents the Pugalator knows Harvey and his piercings, arm tattoos, dirty apron, and all around grunge look.

Roy grumbles under his breath and closes his coat, but holds his ground with his arms crossed.

Harvey shakes his head and turns to me. “Can I get you something?”

Last rights, Boss says.

I roll my eyes. “Is there a back exit?”

“You leave the same way you came in.”

As stubborn as Roy looks, he could block the door forever.

While I’d rather remain quick on my feet, I go ahead and settle into a metal chair at the table Harvey’s wiping. Maybe a little caffeine will help me think clearer. “Black coffee, please. As bitter as you’ve got to match my mood.”

He schleps back to the counter without a word.

I take in the heavenly aroma of coffee and the dark decor. This place is peculiar in that no matter where you enter, patrons only see customers who came in through the same door. Any of the eclectic mix of chairs could seat any number of other unseen beings who entered at a different location. As the Purgulator’s one server, only Harvey knows true occupancy.

With an eye on Roy, I ask Boss, What should we do now?

At least we’ll be safe here.

A high-pitched voice at the neighboring table interrupts. “Can I buy your coffee?” The caramel-skinned beauty emits a glow that catches me off guard every time I encounter her, although not in a good way.

Boss laughs. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse…an angel moves in.

“Angel apprentice,” I say. The very same one who’s been chasing Boss and me for years. She has a team of white warriors—couriers who have defected to God’s side. Dressed in her usual silky white blouse and mini-skirt, I sometimes wonder why I haven’t let Trisha catch me already.

“What’d you say?” She frowns and bounces her crossed leg.

“Was talking to my demon.” I point at my temple.


“You’ve got some timing,” I tell her with my head turned toward Roy.

“Gee, Pete, considering that goon wants your head, I thought you’d be happier to see me.” The sound of her drumming fingernails gives me an eye twitch.

“You know about the hellhole closing?” I ask. Gossip around the worlds of good and evil spreads as fast as lightning.

“Why’d you do it?” she asks. “Not that I’m complaining. You’re making my mission to destroy Hell’s Trinidad operations easier. It just strikes me as odd that you would betray Margery.”

“I didn’t.”

“Why is Margery so convinced you’re guilty?”

“I think someone set me up.”

“At this point, it doesn’t matter. Something much worse happened when the hellhole closed.” She leans forward. Long brown curls frame her face. “It’s related to why I’m here to offer you a way to keep your head.”

Even though I’m afraid of what she might propose, I better hear her out. My hand shakes as I pull my chair over to her table. The legs screech, grating on my nerves.

“Did you feel the earthquake around noon?” she asks.

Boss laughs. Does she think you caused the quake? Because you can’t even make a woman’s legs tremble.

My face reddens.

“Well,” she says. “Did you?”

“Sure, I felt it.” I cup my hands at my knees and stare down at the cola stains on my jeans. “Happens every six months, when the hellhole gets closer to opening.”

“Today’s earthquake was more intense, and caused by a dark and abstruse magic,” she says. “It spread into the Sangre De Cristo Mountains and weakened a fault line near Blanca Peak, where a dangerous fallen angel named Azael was imprisoned.”

“What do you mean by ‘was’?”

“He escaped his holding cell.”

I cough and beat my chest. Being blamed for the hellhole closing is bad enough, but freeing a fallen angel? “I had nothing to do with that either.”

“Calm down.” She strokes her forearm with the tips of her manicured nails. “Margery can blame you all she wants, but I happen to know neither you nor your demon are capable of magic that can release a fallen angel,” she says. “The question now is, are you willing to help put Azael back in his cell?”

Sounds like a faster path to decapitation than joining Roy for coffee, Boss says.

I repeat Boss’ sarcastic reply, then add, “Seems to me, if you think I’m innocent, I’m more inclined to persuade Margery—”

“She’s already convinced Satan you closed the hellhole. You honestly think she’ll go back and admit she was wrong?”

Harvey approaches and places a steamy ceramic mug on the table. “Sucks to be you.”

“Now, now,” Trisha says, then she hands him a ten-dollar-bill and tells him to keep the change.

Harvey snickers and walks away.

she’s got you by the balls.

unless you want to be known as a demon who helps angels.

What could Trisha possibly expect from a now outlaw courier? Especially against a formidable being? “Count me out if you want to turn me into one of your white warriors.” After serving God’s Army for a thousand years, a warrior’s only reward is an eternity in Purgatory’s bookkeeping department, accounting for souls. Not my idea of redemption.

“I can respect that, and it’s not what I’m offering,” she says. “But you do realize a refusal to work for me means an eventual date with a mercenary?” She glances the direction of Roy.

A sip of coffee burns the back of my throat, invoking a vision of a sharp blade hacking at my neck. Then again, pursuing a fallen angel will probably end in the same fate. “If you want me on your side, start with the facts. Why would God’s Army need me?”

With her eyes averted and a leg shaking, she says, “It’s a long story.”

I gesture toward Roy, who snarls and cracks his knuckles. “I have time.”

“Fine.” She huffs. “After the earthquake, Azael stormed my cave in Poison Canyon and took control of my white warriors. He also hacked off my left wing before I escaped.”

Boss laughs so hard he snorts. What a moron. No wonder she needs us to do her dirty work.

I don’t share my demon’s amusement. The prospect of white warriors under the influence of a fallen angel is terrifying.

“You have any idea how long it takes to earn back a wing?” She stares deep into my eyes as if examining my soul, or the violet discoloration that happened when Boss first possessed me.

“Sorry.” I try to be sympathetic to her loss even though she deserves no pity from me. She’s been trying to put me out of commission for fifty years. “Why isn’t God sending one of your archangel bosses after Azael?”

“Well, for starters, no matter what new protections God adds to Azael’s prison cell, he figures a way out. With each subsequent escape he becomes stronger than his brothers and in his ability to evade capture. Because he’s so arrogant in his power, he only lets his guard down around humans and otherworldlies like you and your demon.” She sits up and wiggles in her seat. “It’s who he intends to rule over. He wants to steal your free will.”

Boss butts in. There’s no arguing with her. Even I know Azael’s a bad ass. He’s the only other being besides God who sends Satan into a panic attack.

My chest tightens and I clear my throat to speak, but all I can manage is to open my mouth.

“There is a positive side to this.” Her warm smile provides no comfort. “We do know how to weaken him.”

“Let me guess. It’s what you want me to do.”

“We have a weapon, created by rogue Knights Templars who wandered across North America and released Azael in the twelfth century,” she says. “It’s made from one the spikes that held Jesus to the cross and the bottom half of the Spear of Destiny that pierced His side. It’s called the Sword of Sin, and humans and immortals can wield it, but it weakens angels and apprentices like me. It’s a sort of angel kryptonite.”

Boss says, She wants us to risk your neck to fight a fallen angel that God can’t control. Screw it. Get the sword and use it on her and everyone else in our way.

Again, she stares into my eyes while drumming her fingernails on the table. “Pete, I’m giving you the only way out of this coffee shop with your head. If you’re untrustworthy and your demon’s out of control, I’m wasting my time.”

I jump back in my chair. “Can you hear Boss?”

“To fight evil, you have to be able to perceive it. Plus, your violet eyes are pulsating. A dead giveaway your demon’s up to no good.” She lifts an eyebrow. “So, what’s it going to be? Follow your demon or help me?”

Part of me continues to believe I can convince Margery I’m not to blame for this mess. With Roy on my tail, I’d be lucky to make it three feet out the door.

Don’t agree to anything unless she gives us something in return, Boss says.

“My demon wants to know what we get out of this.”

“Demons,” she says. “Always in it for themselves.”

when they should be spreading—


Trisha glares across the table. “What do you want, Pete?”

“Freedom from Hell,” I’m quick to say. “I want freedom from Hell.”

“That’s a given. We can’t fight Azael with Satan and Margery controlling or tracking you.”

“Then I want a safehouse, where no one from Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory can screw with me.”

“That better be it.” She huffs. “I’m not a genie who grants three wishes.”

I think how separation from Boss should have been demand number two, but heat penetrating my spine says he disagrees. After half a century, I’m not sure I could live without his quirky thoughts in my head.

She holds out her hand and we shake.

“What now?” I ask.

“A car will be here shortly to take us to Sisters of the Divine Heart Convent. The Sword of Sin is there as well as a priest with more information about Azael. It’s also where we’ll break your contract with Satan.”

“What about the mercenary?” We look over at Roy, who’s sipping espresso with his pinky finger pointed skyward, almost taking the edge off his threatening appearance. Then a large beetle crawls out of his ear, rolling an orange ball of ear wax down his arm and toward the cup.

Don’t do it, Boss says.

Before I can verify Boss is thinking what I’m thinking, the orange ball drops into the cup as does my stomach drop.

Eww, echoes in my head from the both of us.

“The sooner we get out of here, the better.” Trisha’s lips draw back. “Unfortunately, I can’t call off your kill warrant until Azael’s back in his cell. So I sneaked a note to Harvey when I paid for your coffee, asking him to slip a mickey in Roy’s drink,” she says. “Get ready. When he nods off, we’re out the door.”

Courting Nuns

The convent resides in an adobe-style mansion with a terracotta exterior. Cross-cut logs stained a dark brown, dot across the full length of two floors. Foothills rise in the distance, but the building sits on flat and barren wasteland, covered with rocks, sagebrush, and sparse ponderosa pine trees.

Trisha makes herself at home by opening the tall, ornately carved door that swings on black metal hinges. I, on the other hand, hesitate to walk through the archway, expecting Boss and I will burn up like vampires.

Trisha waves me inside. “The nuns are sweethearts, and Father Timothy should be pleased you’re joining us.”

What does she mean by, ‘should be?’

Cautiously, I stride through the doorway unharmed, but the place is so quiet, the echo from my cowboy boots could wake the dead.

We pause under a black iron chandelier and face a set of grand staircases with dark oak steps and twisted railings. “They must be praying,” she says, then turns right, leading the way down a long hallway with tall windows that look out onto the front yard. Statues of saints are inset on the opposite wall.

Double doors lead into the chapel. Behind the altar hangs a life-like painted figure of Jesus on the cross. Twenty nuns in black veils kneel in the pews, chanting a prayer in Latin. Goosebumps break out on my arms from the decrease in temperature or the smell of incense that flashes me back to an unhappy parochial education.

I say to Boss, You’re remarkably calm for a demon in church.

A chapel’s the best place for a demon to fuck with sinful souls.

I half grin.

The dark-haired priest closes the Bible and steps away from the pulpit. He’s wearing the traditional clerical collar and black shirt above faded jeans. His sandals flap against the wood floor as he hurries to meet us halfway down the far-left aisle. “Trisha,” he says.

“Father Timothy.” She kisses his cheek, leaving a momentary glow of lip prints.

He frowns and extends a hand. “Who’s this?” While we shake, he focuses on my violet eyes.

“Name’s Pete.”

“He’s a courier,” Trisha says. “The man wanted for closing the hellhole.”

The priest stiffens and jerks away his hand. A few of the nuns turn and gasp. “Why would you bring him here?”

“I didn’t do it,” I assure him, although I expect Father Timothy’s two seconds away from throwing me out on my ass.

“It’s okay,” Trisha says. “He’s willing to help us with Azael.”

“Sisters.” Father Timothy’s voice echoes throughout the chapel. “Please go to your rooms until dinner.”

The nuns stand in unison. If it weren’t for their varying sizes, they’d be clones in their oversized gray sweaters and black skirts. With their veiled heads bowed and their hands clasped, they file out of the pews and through the doors where we’d entered.

Once they’re gone, Father Timothy says, “Trisha, there’s no one I trust more than you, but—”

“He’s immortal,” she says, “and has worked for Margery since the end of the Second World War. Anyone who can evade me for that many years has the skills we need.”

“You’re giving me too much credit,” I say. “Without Margery’s protection hexes, you were able to corner me in the Purgalator.” But no one seems to care about my objection.

“We’re under a time crunch,” Trisha says.

“But we still have to be cautious.” Father Timothy turns to me. “No offense, but I’ve been fighting on God’s Behalf for ten years, and never once have I met anyone or anything trustworthy on the side of evil. How can we be sure you won’t align yourself with Azael?”

All I can do is nod. He’s right in not trusting a guy who sold out to Satan and relies on a demon twenty-four-seven. I, too, have no faith in my fellow couriers, my suspicions about being set up today a perfect example.

An explosive crash and a wave of screams erupts in the hall. We run from the chapel to investigate. My heart quickens at the thought of how unprepared I am for whatever awaits. Boss concurs by squealing in my head.

Several nuns block our ability to access the grand entryway. My muscles tense as I inch forward through the crowd and make out the horrific scene. A winged being, at least ten feet tall and shimmering like a bronze statue, stands broad-chested, one fist resting at his waist. With a chiseled jaw, dark eyes and spiky hair, he’s handsome, yet terrifying in a way that makes my skin crawl. Or maybe it’s the fact he’s holding a nun’s decapitated head in his other hand.

Up above, where the iron chandelier once hung, a large hole now opens to the bright blue Colorado sky. Two sisters lay under the collapsed fixture, and a river of crimson seeps across broken candles. At the fallen angel’s feet lies the headless body of a heavyset nun, her blood creeping to meet with the expired life-forces of the other sisters.

The creature flaps his black-and-bronze wings a full twenty-feet before they disappear into his shoulder blades. A gust of air brushes a mixture of sulfur and men’s locker room stench over us. I gag.

It’s him. It’s Azael. Boss’ voice shakes in a way I’ve never heard.

He smells vulgar, I say.

To women, he’s intoxicating.

Evidenced by the five nuns standing in a single row, presenting themselves to Azael. They stare straight ahead, frozen in place, under some sort of spell. One pulls off her veil. Long golden hair flows across her back while she waves her hands as if in worship.

Boss adds, Bettin’ the blond wants to be first to have his baby.

This is the worst introduction to the fallen angel imaginable. My mouth goes dry. There’s no chance I can save the world from this unholy beast. “We’re screwed,” I whisper.

Try screwed with a double shot of fucked up the ass, Boss says.

While Father Timothy hurries the remaining nuns back into the chapel, Trisha advances. I somehow find the courage to push forward along with her, despite the sharp pain in my lower-back. I tell Boss, Stop playing my spine or I’ll end up headless too.

He lightens the pressure.

Trisha fixes her stare on Azael and says, “We’ve got to get those five nuns away from him.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

Azael turns to us. His deep laugh sends a vibration across the room that raises the hair on every part of my body. With a tight grip on the nun’s head, he winds up like a major-league pitcher and throws it at Trisha.

She makes the catch. Warm droplets of blood splatter over our faces and my knees weaken. Careful not to take her eyes off Azael, Trisha places the head on the floor, then she squeezes my arm and holds me near her side, as if she senses I want to run. “Where’s Father Timothy?” she says. “We need the Sword of Sin.”

“I’m right here.” He’s out of breath as he jogs in and joins us. “It’s locked up in Mother Superior’s office.”

“Let me guess.” Trisha huddles us closer. “Mother Superior has the only set of keys in her pocket.”

“Let me guess.” I point at the severed head, which has bulging eyes and a protruding tongue. “She’s Mother Superior.”

“Yes and yes.” The priest’s hand shakes while signing the cross.

“Then we do this the hard way.” Trisha gathers her hair, and it magically stays in a ponytail. “I’ll rush Azael and knock him off his feet. Pete, you run in and get the keys out of Mother Superior’s pocket. Throw them to Father Timothy.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to break into the office?” My wobbly legs unwilling to follow through on her plan.

“No.” Before I can object further, she rushes at the fallen angel.

I’m about to dash toward Mother Superior when Azael peers skyward and whistles. Five white warriors descend through the ceiling and each grab a spellbound nun. The warriors ascend through the roof before Trisha can connect or anyone can intervene.

“Come back here, you traitors.” Trisha waves her fist.

“What are you waiting for?” Father Timothy shoves me. “We need the keys.”

Easy for him to say. He doesn’t have to fight a cowardly demon, limiting his movement.

Across the room, Trisha pulls at Azael’s leg, but the fallen angel stands as still as a statue. “Look at the little one, trying to be a real angel.” As if she’s an annoying fly, he swats her into the air.

She clutches the iron railing on the second floor, and her only wing extends. He leaps at her, grabs the appendage, and shakes her in midair until the adjoining bone snaps and rips away from her shoulder blade. Again, his laughter rattles the room. Then he bares sharp, pointy teeth and rips into her wing like a hungry lion.

Trisha lands near Mother Superior, digs into the headless nun’s pocket, then springs to her feet and holds up the keys. Her white silk blouse and miniskirt drip blood. She throws the keys to Father Timothy. He pushes me out of the way and makes the catch before running between the grand staircases.

Trisha pirouettes and invites Azael to join her for another round. “Let’s go, asshole.”

“I have my brides,” he says. “Bye, bye, little cherub.” He springs through the roof.

She stomps her foot in a puddle of blood and shakes a fist at the sky. “Goddamn you!” After using the Lord’s name in vain, her eyes pop and she covers her mouth. She holds her palms together in prayer and bows her head.

The sisters rush into the room weeping. Some sign the cross while others hold their rosaries to their lips. The damage, barely believable, brings tears to my eye. At the same time, I wonder, Why didn’t he kill more of us?

He’ll be back for more nuns.

“Sisters, to your rooms!” Father Timothy shouts when he returns to the entryway. He’s holding a wooden box long enough to house a sword. “Trisha and Pete, follow me.”

His deep scowl shows he’s ready to kill.




Submitted: June 26, 2019

© Copyright 2021 Winnie Jean Howard. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Facebook Comments

More Fantasy Short Stories