Meet Detective Zaniel Havelock, a man with the special ability to communicate directly with angels. A former trained Angel speaker, he devoted his life to serving both the celestial beings and his fellow humans with his gift, but a terrible betrayal compelled him to leave that life behind. Now he’s a cop who is still working on the side of angels. But where there are angels, there are also demons. There’s no question that there’s evil at work when he’s called in to examine the murder scene of a college student—but is it just the evil that one human being can do to another, or is it something more? When demonic possession is a possibility, even angelic protection can only go so far. The race is on to stop a killer before he finds his next victim, as Zaniel is forced to confront his own very personal demons, and the past he never truly left behind.
The first in a new series from the author of the Anita Blake and Merry Gentry series.
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About the Author
Hometown:St. Louis, Missouri
Date of Birth:February 19, 1963
Place of Birth:Heber Springs, Arkansas
Education:B.A., Marion College
Read an Excerpt
There were angel feathers in the dead woman's bed. They looked like huge white swan feathers, impossibly large, but then they were supposed to propel something the size of a tall man skyward. I didn't have to see the angel to know that he'd be tall; they were all tall, some close to eight feet, but average was between six feet and seven feet. I was six feet, three inches, a big guy by most standards, but angels always made me feel small, even when they were close to my own height. It wasn't about physical inches when you were in the presence of angels.
I stared down at the feathers scattered across the tangled bedclothes like soft ivory, lacy cream curling with their edges moving as the window air conditioner blew directly across from the bed. The bed was shoved up against one wall, with most of the small off-campus apartment taken up by the desk and enough floor space for the yoga mat that was leaning in the other corner.
The forensics team had finished in the bedroom, though I could hear them in the bathroom that this apartment shared with the one next door. I clenched my hands in the plastic gloves, booties over my shoes so I wouldn't contaminate the crime scene. My detective shield was around my neck on its lanyard. My FN 509 nine-millimeter was in a side holster under my jacket. I had its little brother, the 503, at home. Some of the other cops had given me a hard time about not carrying a Glock, until I invited them down to the shooting range to try an FN. Then they asked price. There were other cops around, lots of them; there always were at a murder scene, because that's how it was called in first. A murder scene with angel evidence on-site, and they bumped the call up to us. The Metaphysical Coordination Unit was our official title, but the other cops and most of the media called us the Heaven and Hell Unit, because we didn't just solve crime on one side of the spiritual divide, we worked both sides of the street-someone had to keep the peace between beings that could tear the world apart if they ever went to war again.
If the angel feathers hadn't been here it would have been listed as a rape homicide and been given to Sex Crimes. I stared down at the feathers; they'd started to gleam as the light faded outside the small window. I wasn't certain if they glowed with holy fire or I was seeing the light inside my head where I saw spirits and visions. The largest feather was so white it looked ghostly in the dying light. The others were less pure in color, more off-white, and they had flecks and edges of faint color to some of them. Not all angels had snow-white wings, but that was the color that most people expected, so that was the color the angels had chosen for the largest feather that they left behind. They had wanted to make certain the human police officers first on the scene would call in the Metaphysical Coordination Unit and send for me, because I was the angel expert.
I stared at the largest feather as if I was trying to read it, but it just lay there whiter than the sheets it was lying on. It was as long as the bed, carefully placed on the edge, a huge primary flight feather. There was no way for anyone to have gotten out of the bed without disturbing that feather, yet it lay ruler straight. The other feathers weren't anything that would cripple a wing, but this one would if angels flew like birds. The feathers were all on top of the sheets, not under them, not on the floor, not scattered like they'd be if the rapist had been an angel as the feathers seemed to imply. I knew angels didn't lose feathers when they had sex, not even if it was rough, because for most of them the wings weren't that solid. For those whose wings were solid, no human being was strong enough to tear them apart, not barehanded. Either the angels did it themselves, or something powerful enough to injure them did it, which meant it wasn't the victim. I'd have bet any amount of money that they'd been placed on the bed after the crime had been committed, but why? Why did the angels care enough about this one undergrad college student to incriminate themselves? God might know when every sparrow fell, but the angels didn't show up to catch the bird before it hit the ground. Of course, they hadn't saved the woman. She'd been found nude, beaten to death, and with enough dried bodily fluid on her body that rape was almost a certainty. Until forensics confirmed it, it wouldn't be rape, but it was a sexually motivated crime; we were only waiting on the medical examiner to give us a list of exactly what had happened to Megan Borowski. Thinking her name made it almost impossible not to picture her body, the beating her face had taken, her body left on the floor of the room like the murderer had just gotten up and walked out after he was done with her. There were no signs of remorse, no attempt to cover what he'd done to her face, or her nudity. It made it more likely to be a stranger, or someone who didn't feel regretful about what he'd done. We were all assuming the attacker was male, because of the bodily fluids on the body and the strength needed for the beating.
I had to try to think of Megan Borowski as just the victim, a body savaged by attacker or attackers unknown, because it could have been two men. That might explain why she hadn't screamed for help. Had one threatened her in some way during the rape-I won't kill you if you just do what I want-and then they'd killed her anyway? Evil, it was evil, even if it was just men who did it, but was it Evil with a capital E? Was that why the angels had been ordered to leave their feathers at the crime scene, so we'd know it wasn't just a human-on-human crime?
I had one of the few quiet moments I'd ever had at a scene like this, where some trick of duty or assignment had sent everyone somewhere else, so I had a moment to stare down at the dead woman's bed all by my lonesome. I didn't believe it was an accident that I was alone. The crime might not have been planned, but when every other person working a suspicious death leaves the prime crime scene to just me, well, I was waiting for whatever the Big Guy wanted me to see, or hear, or experience. Maybe there'd be a clue that only I would find, or needed to find. God worked in mysterious ways, and so did all His messengers, that much I knew. I heard one of the crime scene techs curse, as if something wasn't going to plan in the hallway. Celestial beings were involved; nothing would go according to human planning, I knew that much. In all the years I'd worked angel detail I'd never seen a single feather left behind unless the angel was fighting for their own safety.
If there'd only been one smaller feather, I might have thought the victim had an angelic lover, maybe. Angels were funny things and could affect people in ways that neither the human lover nor the angel could see coming. Because we were the wild cards, we humans, once angels got a taste for us, they could screw up both their eternity and our lives-screw it up all to Hell. Of course, one small feather might have been overlooked in the initial investigation. Realistic evidence of an angelic lover wouldn't have been spotted right away. It wouldn't have made anyone call us yet. I wouldn't be standing here if the angels hadn't gone all-out to grab my attention.
The silence got that weighted quality to it, and I knew that even if one of the techs came back into this room in the next few minutes, they might not see a damn thing except me. If they were one of the gifted and could see the unseen, they were about to be in for a Heaven of a show.
The angel manifested just in front of me, between the foot of the bed and the window. The hair on my arms stood to attention, but the skin on my neck stayed calm, so I knew it was an angel, but not one of the angels that had left the feathers. They wouldn't be able to manifest like this anymore. Once the spiritual got solid enough to leave DNA behind, they couldn't just conjure themselves out of thin air. The figure hovering before me wasn't even solid enough to stand on the carpet, because "it" was made mostly of light.
The angel glowed before me, all white and gold-yellow light; even its eyes were full of yellow fire, but there was no heat. Angels don't give off heat, no matter how fiery they look; if you ever see a glowing angel and feel heat come off it, it's not an angel, exactly. One of the first things you need to understand if you work angel detail is that fallen angels are still angels, and demons, well, that's another problem altogether, but the rule is, if it gives off heat, run; if you can't run, pray.
The angel's wings were barely hinted at; "he," or "she," was mostly just light with a humanoid figure in the middle of it, and a shimmering hint of wings, and flowing robes, but mostly just that full-bodied halo, the aurora.
The voice sounded male, but honestly angels this shining are sexless, they just are. "We are pleased that we do not have to manifest fully for you, Detective Zaniel Havelock."
It wasn't the opening I'd expected; if angels seek you out personally then it's with an extremely specific message like in the Bible: You are pregnant with the Son of God, or Flee now, enemies are coming. The personal conversational style was how they spoke to Angel Speakers, Angelus Dictum, which means "the angel said" to make it clear that the person sharing the message from the angel is not an angel but only their mouthpiece. Angels did not speak like this to people on the outside, but once I'd been inside and I fell back into the same rhythm, an old habit come back to haunt me. "You can lose the humanoid stuff altogether if you want. I do appreciate you trying not to drive me insane by manifesting in your pure energy form, but it's okay, I don't need the baby steps."
"Very well," it said, and the human pretense went away. I was left staring at light, or flame, or something in between the two. It filled nearly all of that half of the room, but it gave off neither heat nor formed shadows. Again, if something says it's an angel, and glows at you, but it causes shadows around it, it's not the good kind of angel, or maybe it's not an angel at all.
The light turned its "head," and I could read the body language of that glow; most people wouldn't have been able to. "You asked for me to drop the physical away, not for my comfort, but because you wished to see if I cast a shadow."
I shrugged and fought not to let my shoulders tighten. You couldn't wrestle an angel in this form; it wasn't "real" enough, but the body tenses, preparing for fight or flight, even though neither will help you. You can't hit pure spirit, and you sure as Heaven can't run from it, because spirit-level angels can just appear anywhere, in multiple places, at multiple times, and it's all real, all them, because when they're this pure, time doesn't mean to them what it means to most of us. They can simultaneously be in several places at once, at the same time for us humans, but different points of time for the angel itself. Time is way more flexible than the human mind can comprehend. It was a good thing that the pure spirit didn't commit crimes, because we would be beyond fucked trying to prove it, solve it, or catch them. When this guy was finished glowing at me, he'd go back to God, maybe even be absorbed back into that ultimate light. Witness protection had nothing on the pure spirit angelic. They could literally be reabsorbed and made pure and new again when they made their next earthly appearance.
"I know you are one who has walked through the flame and survived, but I did not understand what it might mean."
I remembered standing in the middle of flames that did not burn, and cast no shadow, and surrounded me on every side. If my faith had not been pure enough, I would have been consumed by holy fire. I blinked the memory away and faced the much fainter light of the angel before me. "And what does it mean?" I asked.
"That you do not think as others do or see as other flesh sees. You are the only Angelus Dictum to ever finish your training and then turn your back on it."
"I am not an Angel Speaker, I'm a cop."
"You are a police officer, but that does not mean you are not also an Angel Speaker; otherwise how could I be here?"
I couldn't argue with the angel and I very much wanted to, so I let it go. The conversation was getting too weird, and off topic. I was here to solve a crime, not dissect my past. "Maybe I was meant to be a police officer, and work with the angelic like this."
"Perhaps." Again, it did that "head" turn, but this time it was listening. The fact that it had to listen to hear God's voice meant it wasn't pure spirit anymore, or it wasn't going to be for long. This one was at the beginning of a path that might lead it to be as solid as the angel we were seeking. They sent down pure spirit, but every time they talked to anything of flesh, they stopped being quite so much spirit, and a little more . . . flesh. This one had come down to talk to humans before, several times before. The next time I saw "him" he'd probably be male, or closer to it. The voice is the first clue, the first move in choosing a "gender."