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A beautiful night. Starlit skies above, crystal waters below, showing their blue color beneath a full moon. A light breeze played across St. Thomas harbor, teasing the reflection of Charlotte Amalie's skyline into a late night dance. It should have been a night of romance, happiness and of bright colors and sounds. Not a night of sadness, fear and evil.
I was moving across the harbor at about twenty miles an hour, having come from the Havensight docks on the eastern side. My feet were less than two feet above the short waves, my head only three feet. Normally I "stood" when flying, but I didn't want the kidnapper to see me, so I flattened out.
Lieutenant Lewis' bulletproof vest was bulky and hot. I wished he hadn't talked me into wearing it. Still, he wouldn't let me go in unless I wore it, so I adapted. I was still sleepy when the call came through and in my rush to get here, I'd forgotten to bring the one made for me. Next time I'd remember.
The comlink crackled.
"You're coming in fine, Carlita," Lt. Lewis reassured me. Himself, more like, I smiled to myself. I'd been helping the police for ten years now--the last two as a member of the force--but he was still nervous when I went into action.
"Thanks, Lieutenant. I'm at the beach and turning west."
I reached the sharp white line of the shore waves and cut west, toward Trompeter Gade. The burglar had taken the little girl into Samson's Auto Repair around midnight. He hadn't intended on kidnapping her, just robbing her family's home. She happened to catch him in the act and things got out of hand. For a six-year-old girl, I could think ofnothing scarier. I was going on eighteen and it scared me.
There'd been a determined but brief chase by the police down to the harbor before he fled here. He didn't have any demands; he just didn't know what to do. I was supposed to keep him from doing anything.
The second floor window was open, so I went up to it and quietly lifted it just enough to squeeze through.
"I'm entering at the second floor," I whispered into the mic. "I'm going off-line now."
"Roger," he replied. "We're outside and in position. Good luck, Carlita."
"Thanks. Over and out." I clicked off the headset and stored it in the vest. I needed to look just right. Not for vanity, but for safety.
A storeroom. Good. Nice and quiet. I almost landed then, but decided not to. It was risky to stay in the air--especially if this guy knew anything about me. But if I landed, I wouldn't be able to go airborne again while in the building. Staying aloft offered more choices for me and more chances for the girl.
It was very dark. I increased the amount of sparkles that were a side effect of my flying. The room brightened, and I waited. Sooner or later one of us would make a sound, and I wanted it to be him.
It wasn't him. It was Liza, the little girl. I heard a stirring noise, followed by a small whimper of fear. The burn of anger flared inside me but I reined it in.
"Quiet down!" He had a hissing, desperate voice. This was bad. There was almost no chance of talking our way out of this. I continued listening, but floated slowly toward the door and into the hallway. The voices were coming from downstairs.
"Are you going to let me go?" she asked in a trembling voice that made me want to race down there and protect her. "Please!" she pleaded. "Let me go!" I located the stairs and drifted down them, into a neatly kept repair shop that smelled of oil and fresh tires.
"Shut up!" he growled. "You're not getting out of here unless I do. You better hope they let me go, too. Whatever happens to me, it'll be worse for you."
"There is nothing worse than what's going to happen to you," I said in a haunting voice. I'd practiced that for a long time. I didn't have the voice to sound intimidating, so I tried to spook them. "Release her and you'll have mercy." I flew into a shaft of moonlight coming from a window, flying upright about three feet above the floor and trailing a shower of sparkles.
"The Angel!" Liza gasped. She was in her jammies and was tightly clutching her doll. But her eyes lit up even in the dim garage when she saw me. I smiled gently at her.
"Hello, Liza," I said in a voice very different than the one I'd just used. "Don't worry, little one. The police are outside and I'm here with you."
I glanced back at the kidnapper, giving him a very different kind of look, the kind that freezes the soul. He was of medium height but very thin. His emaciated looks told many stories about the drugs he used. Sad stories all, but no excuse for this.
"If you want to be a free man before you're an old man, let me have the girl now. I'll take her outside and tell the police you let her go. They'll be a lot nicer to you that way."
He had been staring at the space between my feet and the ground. He wasn't from the islands, or he'd know me. That could work for us or against us.
"Wh ... What are you?" he stuttered.
"She's the Angel of St. Thomas," Liza told him in the matter-of-fact tone children have about what they believe in. Much of her fear was gone. "An' you gotta do what she says or you'll be very very sad you didn't do it."
"I'm a messenger, come to give you one chance," I said, keeping a ghostly lilt in my voice. It might still work without violence. "But one chance only."
"No!" he shouted, pulling a knife and yanking Liza in front of him. "This is some kind of a trick! You can't be flying! It's impossible!"
"Not for our angel!" Liza said, worried but still calm. "You gotta b'lieve her, mister, cause she always tells the truth! An' even if you're a bad man, she can still help you! But she watches all us kids an' you been bad, taking me away from my mom 'n dad!"
"This is crazy!" He moved the knife to Liza's throat. Enough. I drifted in slowly. "Stay back! I'll kill her!"
I looked into his eyes. Fear. Desperation. Confusion. Evil.
"I believe you," I told him gently. "But I can't let you."
"Get out of here! Now! Tell the cops if they want to see her alive again, then clear out!"
I smiled at Liza. Inside, my heart was racing.
"Do you trust me, Liza?"
"Course I do!" she said in a small voice. She must have been terrified of the knife at her throat, but her eyes were completely trusting. "You're the Angel!"
"Clear out or I'll kill her! Now!"
I looked up at him. My smile faded and I shook my head. "Didn't you hear me? I said I believed you."
I was tempted to move back a little, to ease his desperation. But to do so would only scare Liza. I raised my hands to my shoulders and moved them out. Fireflies of light danced around my hands, making a swath of gleaming sparkles in front of me.
I ignored him, instead looking at Liza. She was wide-eyed at the "magic" lights dancing about me. I was careful to keep them close. Any approach to this madman would start something very bad. For him. He didn't know that Liza was already safe.
Suddenly, he gave a wail and pulled the knife across Liza's throat. Nothing happened. It couldn't because I'd put an impenetrable gravity field between blade and flesh.
He went from desperate to maniacal and raised his knife to stab Liza. She was safe, but I wanted her to feel safe, too. I shifted movement of the forces that pulled on us from all over, and his grasping hand yanked free of her. I quickly put a pillow of sparkles under her and whisked her behind me.
"No!" he screamed. He shifted the grip on his knife and came at us. Liza gave a scream; I reacted harshly and quickly. I pointed my left hand at the floor of the garage, seized the air and pulled up, hard.
Concrete snapped and growled and shot up six feet toward the ceiling. Unable to stop, the man slammed into it full force, his knife flying free. He staggered back, but he was unconscious. One step, two, then he fell to the ground.
Liza grabbed me around the waist and squeezed hard.
"Thank you! Oh, thank you!" She was laughing and crying with relief. I was, too. We floated over so I could check on the kidnapper. He'd keep until they got him to the hospital. Too bad, I suppose, to have to be so violent with him. The loving hugs from Liza, though, told me I'd made the right decision.
I put my arm around her.
"How 'bout we go out and see your mom and dad?"
"They're here?" she asked, happy and surprised.
"Of course they are, Liza. There's a whole bunch of people who wanted to see you safe." I hugged her. "Including me." I smiled and winked at her. "Why don't we fly out? Give them something really cool to see."
She gasped with a wide-open mouth and nodded vigorously. I couldn't erase tonight completely for her, but maybe I could make it tolerable.
I moved us toward the front door and called out.
"Carlita?" he called back. "Is everything okay in there?"
"Yep! Liza and I are coming out now."
"What about Williams?"
"He's sleeping!" Liza yelled out, causing chuckles among the police, reporters and even her parents.
We came out then, showering lights and reflective rainbows. Much more than needed, but it was for Liza.
I delivered her to her parents, floating her into her father's arms. He was crying in relief and hugged her close. I gave them their privacy and floated over to Lieutenant Lewis, finally landing.
"Here you go, Lieutenant," I said, handing him his vest. "Thanks, but that thing's scratchy! I need to remember mine next time."
He chuckled. "It would make all of us feel a little better, yes. I think there's enough money in the budget to have another one made for you, one we'll keep for when you're forgetful.
"It's the least we can do for our angel." He waved his arm toward the building, and five officers entered the building to put Williams into custody. And probably traction.
"If I were a real angel," I pointed out, "I wouldn't need a vest at all." I made a face. "And I wouldn't have to fill out all those picky reports at the precinct."
"You're a different kind of angel," he admitted. "Flesh and blood like us, but an angel nonetheless, even if you do have to fill out reports." He nodded toward Liza and her family. "Try telling them different."
Liza saw us looking at them and she ran to me, her parents right behind her.
"Carlita!" she shouted, jumping into my arms and almost knocking me over. "Thank you for saving me! And for the really neat flying!" She hugged me again.
"Yes. Thank you so very much," her mother said, also hugging me. "We were so worried about our Liza. I still can't believe she's safe!" She began weeping and took Liza.
"You're welcome," I said simply. What else was there to say?
Liza gave me her doll.
"Miss Jenny is still a little scared. Could you watch her 'til the bad man's in jail?"
I stroked the doll's hair gently, then handed Miss Jenny back to Liza.
"You don't have to worry about Miss Jenny, Liza. Your parents will keep you and her safe. You mom and dad are very good, very brave people."
Reassured, Liza hugged Miss Jenny, then me again.
A soft puff of wind broke passed by us, calling to me. Time to go. I backed up and waved.
"I'll see you at the precinct, Lieutenant. G'bye, Liza!"
I turned and ran into the breeze, laughing at its touch. I jumped into the air and felt it pulling me up. It caressed me once, then released me. I soared back out over the harbor until the small crowd of people looked like another small light that shone on the water.