I awoke with a start, pulling my eyelids apart from the sleep and wiping the dried blood from the edge of the mouth, gasping for air. I clawed in surprise at my chest, quickly interrupted by the pain shooting up my arm. I paused and took a closer look at myself. I had been cleaned up, and was wearing the lower layer of my suit, knee-length compression socks and black cargo pants, with a plated half-sleeve compression shirt that zipped up the middle to just beneath the collarbones. My arm had been set, and Iris had already gotten to it, fixing it almost completely. My leg had also been braced accordingly, which certainly didn’t seem to agree with me when my feet hit the floor. Nevertheless, I stumbled across the room into the master bathroom, leaning over the vanity and taking it all in. I pushed my brown hair to my right, staring into my own gray eyes in the mirror and running my hand over the sizable contusion on the right side of my face. I ran the water, scrubbing the dried blood off my face when my daughter came into the room.
“Nice to see you’re up.” She said.
“I’d say it’s nice to be up, but,” I squeezed at my arm. “I’d be lying.”
“What happened?” She said. “I’ve never seen it this bad.”
“You win some, you lose some.” I shrugged, spitting a minute amount of blood into the sink. I unzipped the shirt and began cleaning the various wounds on my torso. “Didn’t win this time.”
Iris stepped through the door, looking a little less than thrilled. “Carolynn, do you mind giving us the room?”
I toweled off my face. “Yeah, sweetie. Your mom’s going to yell at me.” Carolynn stepped out as I placed the towel on the vanity and turned around, leaning against it. I rolled my shoulders. “Well” I said, “Lay it on me.”
Iris stepped forward like a tornado ripping through the ground, and kissed me as hard as she could. She spoke frantically as she wrapped her arms around my head. “What the hell did you do? You take on Temple by yourself, Carolynn wakes me up in the middle of the night and you’re bleeding out on my floor, I mean,” She cursed. “Come on, Azrael, Gloria’s fifteen years old, what if she’d seen you? Imagine what that’d do to her, her own father bleeding to dea-”
“Woah woah woah.” I stopped her. “Iris, it’s okay.” I smiled, attempting to reassure her. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have tried to stop him by myself, but I didn’t have a choice.”
She sighed. “I just…”
She leveled with me, gazing into my eyes, her irises now a deep blue. “I don’t want you to die trying to do this by yourself.”
“You won’t have to.” I whispered. “We’ll stop him together. Both of us.”
“Both of us.” She sighed. “But I think it’s going to take more than both of us right now.”
“We’ll see.” I smiled. “But right now I still have some cleaning up to do.”
She touched the wound on the side of my face, her hand glowing with a warm, white light. I wrapped my hand around her wrist, smiling as she worked to close the cut. The purple finally returned to her eyes as she leaned in, kissing me gently and running her other hand along my side beneath the shirt. I winced and vocalized my discomfort as she ran her hand over one of the bruises from my broken ribs. She pulled back and took a closer look at it. “Looks like your ribs caused some hemorrhaging. I did my best to fix up what I could, but I figured you’d need another go from me, plus a little extra help for your arm and your leg.”
“Extra help?” I said. “What kind of extra help?”
“I have someone on the way.” She replied, crawling up underneath my good arm and shouldering my weight. “Now let’s get you put back together.”
Iris sat on the edge of the bed as she ran her hands over my wounds, my scars slowly closing and my bruises fading away. When she’d finished the more superficial damage, she told me to take a shower before our guest arrived.
I zipped up the half-sleeve plated compression shirt, pulling the high, tight collar into place around my neck when I heard a knock at the door. “Come in.”
Carolynn stepped through the open door. I smiled at her in the mirror as I styled my hair. “You here to mock me about it too?”
She smiled, hiding beneath her short brown hair. It was hard for me to not see myself looking at her. She sat on the edge of the tub in silence for a few moments before she began. “Why…”
“Why what?” I asked.
“Why do you do this?” She asked. “You almost got yourself killed last night. What for?”
I sighed, preparing to call up my answer from within. “Well, there’s a few reasons. To protect Bastion, my city. Its people.” I said. “I love this place more than anywhere else in the world, and believe me, I’ve been a lot of places. Problem is, there’s so many people. People who are going to get hurt. People who are going to hurt them. People who need saving. People like you, headed toward the future. They all need someone. A line between right and wrong. Someone who’s willing to rise up and do whatever it takes to save this city, to give those people an example.” I said. “But even above all those, I do what I do because it is my singular sworn purpose.”
“What do you mean by that?” She asked.
“Well, that’s a little bit complicated.” I said. “You see, I’ve been around for a very long time.”
“Since before time was set in motion.” I said. “Your mom was there too. When humanity was young, God selected for it seven guardians, his fiercest and most powerful Angels. We were chosen to lead humanity, bastions of inspiration and guidance to help lead the young race into glory. To do this, we all had to walk among humanity. This meant existing in human form. Regrettably, humans have an expiration date, so we have to be given a new body every so often. Not only does this help our ability to fit in with humans, but it helps with relocation, and a more intimate and personal knowledge of your cultures.”
“Your cultures?” She asked.
I turned and knelt in front of her. “Don’t get me wrong.” I said. “You’re just as much my daughter as ever, but surely you understand we’re different.”
“I guess.” She said. “I just never really thought about it that way.”
“But no matter what,” I said “you’ll always be my girl.” I leaned forward and kissed her forehead. “Always.”
“Thanks dad.” She laughed. “So mom is the same?”
“Me, your mom, Michael, aunt Raziel, your cousin Gabriel, and Raphael and Uriel make seven.” I said. “And all of them have gone through the same thing I have.”
She pondered in wonder before her next question. “So you fight demons and stuff?” She asked, trying to contain her excitement.
“Sometimes, yeah. Other stuff, too. All kinds of mons-”
“Did one of them do this to you?” She interrupted.
“Not exactly.” I said. “We call him Temple, although his real name is Tetlazteotl.”
“Tet-los-tee-otal?” She said, stumbling past each syllable. “Where’d he come from?”
“His name comes from the Nahuatl language, an ancient Aztec tongue.” I answered. “In the particular dialect, it means Cornerstone of the Gods. They built the original idol a few thousand years ago. I haven’t seen him in about a hundred and fifty years, but unfortunately, it looks like he’s gotten out.” I said.
“Out from where?” She asked.
“Temple can attach himself to any brick the idol comes into contact with. Thankfully, he can only pick up a certain volume at once, so he can’t get too big too fast. Last time I encountered Temple, I sealed him in an airtight glass box so he couldn’t gain access to any more materials, but the case was shattered after falling off a museum transport truck.” I said.
“How do you stop him?”
“Well, that’s a whole other story.” I sighed, limping out of the bathroom. I heard the doorbell ring. “It seems we have a guest.”
Carolynn went before me as I limped toward the railing overlooking the foyer. I leaned over it into the large, round room as she proceeded down the curved staircase and opened the large red door. Behind it stood a woman with wavy brown hair falling gracefully past her shoulders, pulled to the left side of her face. She wore a white V-neck t-shirt with a white three-quarter sleeve leather jacket, blue jeans, and a gold necklace bearing an insignia that resembled an eye. The left side of her just boasted a white tattoo of a sun, its triangular rays stretching up above her collarbone. She stepped inside and threw her arms around Carolynn, before casting her bright mauve eyes toward the upstairs railing. Her voice was smooth and soothing. “God, you look awful.”
“Well hello to you too, Raziel.” I smiled.
“Hello, Azrael.” She laughed. “I’d ask how you are, but my sister already filled me in on that.”
“She’s done some work already. Sorry it isn’t exactly a social visit.” I said, beginning to limp down the stairs. “We could use your help.”
“I’ll say.” She agreed, coming up the stairs to help me down. “You look like death.”
“Very funny.” I groaned.
Raziel dropped me onto the couch, pulling up her sleeves and taking a closer look at my leg. Iris stepped into the room and set a glass of water on the end table for her sister, crossing an arm and placing her hand over her mouth as she watched Raziel begin her work.
“Well,” Raziel looked up at her sister. “Looks like you did pretty well on a lot of it. Was there much that wasn’t structural?”
“A lot of bruising and some nasty cuts, but not too much I couldn’t handle. You might want to have a look at his ribs while you’re at it, but the arm and the leg are his worst issues.”
“I’ll say.” Raziel agreed, her hand shining a bright white as she moved it slowly above my leg. “Good thing you’re durable.”
“Funny,” I said. “That’s the same thing he said.”
“He?” She asked. “You mean one person did this to you?”
“I wouldn’t exactly call him a person.” I said. “Iris didn’t tell you?”
“She was a bit preoccupied.” Raziel winked. “Somebody I know?”
“Temple.” I said.
“Crap.” She said. “Again already?”
“Fell off a museum transport truck from Pyropolis on I-52.” I explained. “He’s already started getting himself some pull, as you can see.”
Raziel unwrapped the leg, whose blotchy surface was clearing by the moment. She looked concerned. “Do we know where he is?”
“The decommissioned sewer system on the west side.” I said. “We haven’t seen any reason to believe he’s left it yet, but he already got some height, and I expect he’ll be making a move before too much longer.”
“We’ll have to stop him as soon as we can.” She said. Iris agreed. “If we can’t find him soon, it’s going to take more than the three of us.”
“Maybe we should finish up the arm first.” I said.
“Gotcha. Do you have any strategic ideas to stop him?” Raziel asked, beginning to work on my arm.
“Well, we’ll need someone with some strategic capability, who can pack some serious damage.” I said.
“Anyone in mind?” Raziel asked.
“I know just the person.” I smiled.
I stepped out onto the porch and looked out over the front lawn, flexing the stiffness from my arm. I leaned against one of the two-story white pillars and took a drink from the glass in my hand. I looked up to the air. “Three, two, one…”
Just as soon as predicted, the sky flew open as a streak of blue like a meteor ripped through the air, crashing into the center of my front yard and shooting a blast of air in all directions. I braced the glass against my chest to prevent it from spilling and squinted against the gust.
Two silvery white wings spanned the width of the yard, drawing slowly together toward the figure in the center. The man stood about a head taller than me, dressed in a black compression armor not unlike mine, lined in blue. He wore a blue jacket with silver plating over the shoulders and lower sides, black platelets lining the edges of each plate component. His blue and silver plated boots strode forward across the lawn as his wings folded into his back, folding behind the short sword and quiver slung over his shoulder. His belt buckle was adorned with a circular sigil with thirteen lines circulating outward from the center. His helmet collapsed and folded behind his back to reveal a thin face with short blonde hair, and two bright blue eyes, the right being marred with three faded scars.
I brushed my hair back into place from the breeze and took another drink. “You and your dramatic entrances.” I called to the blue-clad warrior.
“You and your daytime drinking.” He smiled, stepping onto the porch.
I shook his hand and threw an arm around him. “Can I get you one?”
“Just one.” He said. “You mentioned it wasn’t a social visit.”
“Not exactly.” I said, following him through the front door. “Temple’s back.”
He placed his sheathed sword and quiver in a window alcove on the foyer wall. “Great.” He said sarcastically. “How big is he?” He asked, unlatching his vambraces and placing them, along with his jacket, in the alcove.
I led him into the kitchen as I spoke, where Iris and Raziel were now waiting at the island table in the center of the room. “When I fought him in the sewers last night, about eight and a half feet.”
“You spend a lot of time in the sewers?” Michael asked. I looked at the three of them over my shoulder, and Iris threw me a snide wink.
“All things considered,” I said, passing a glass to Michael. “We need a battle plan.”
“Then you called the right man.” Michael said. “Do you have any idea where he is?”
“Decommissioned sewer system on the north side, last we saw him.” I answered. “We don’t have any reason to believe he’s left.”
“Decommissioned? That might be useful.” He suggested. “The most important thing will be getting him away from the city where he can’t do any damage before we take him down. Where did you want me in all this?” He asked.
“Control.” I said. “We need some firepower on the outside while the others do the dirty work.”
“I can work with that.” Michael said. “Where can we take him where he won’t do much damage and we can keep him contained?”
The four of us all thought for a moment. “What about the waterfront in front of the cliff on the west side?” Iris asked. “People wouldn’t be able to catch much sight of him, and there’s nothing in the area.” She said.
“Plus the water would help slow him down.” Michael said. “Now how do we get him there?”
“I have an idea.” I said, approaching the laptop computer on the counter, using it to find a map of the sewage system and presenting it to Michael. “There’s a pretty large access hatch beneath the water just out from the shore.”
“Perfect.” Michael said. “We use that to bring him where we want him. Raziel, I’ll need you at my side with the heavy power, and don’t let up. Iris and Az, you two will focus entirely on going for the heart, no matter how big he is. Whatever he throws at you, push through it. We clear?”
Iris and Raziel agreed. “Good as it sounds,” I said “How are we going to pull him out of the sewers? As far as I understand, his exit strategy was mostly to smash his way to the surface.”
“I think we can handle that.” Michael smiled.
Raziel’s eyes flashed with light as a mauve wave of light flowed down her body, forming a flowing white dress and white jacket, embroidered in white gold. The dress depicted intricate embroidery of the sky, a bright gold sun emblazoned across its front, matching the tattoo on her chest. Her hand closed around a pale golden scepter, its head bearing three small circles inside a sun insignia and a short silver blade.
“No gods before Me.” She smiled.
An occasional dripping noise echoed through the darkened brick tunnel as I made my way toward the next impact point Michael had indicated, keeping my eyes open for any ancient idols prowling the passages. As I reached an open corridor feeding into the tunnel in which I stood, I checked the sewer map from my cell phone. I pulled a charge from the sling over my shoulder, sticking it to the ceiling and priming it before pressing the call button on my earpiece.
“Point twenty-six prepped.”
“Roger.” He called back. “Any sign of the big guy?”
“Negative. Eyes open.” I responded, setting off towards the next point.
A few tunnels later, we were almost prepared to activate the charges. I primed my final charge and called Michael. “Final charge set.”
“Good.” Michael said. “Exit the tunnels and prepare for action.”
“My pleasure.” I said, setting off down the tunnels toward the reservoir gate in the cliffs. My headset chirped as Iris’s voice came in. “Do you think fighting Temple in front of the cliff is a good idea? The house isn’t far from the area above the reservoir intake.” She said.
“The house will be fine.” I said. “It’s far enough from the edge, plus I don’t think he’ll be able to do much damage. This cliff has seen far worse than Temple.”
“If you say so.” She said.
A groan echoed through the tunnel. I called to Michael. “I’ve got movement in the west tunnel.”
“Do not engage.” He said. “Rendezvous back at the gate and wait for the charges.”
The slow sound grew longer, like a giant stretching beneath the earth. I began to move through the tunnels at a more determined pace, bounding around the corners and hoping he wasn’t following me.
The rightmost tunnel of the intersection in front of me cried out with the grating sound of a thousand stones scraping against one another. The enormously wide walls squealed as the equally massive ceiling shook, loose bricks falling from it like the first few drops of rain before the storm.
I grabbed frantically at the headset. “Temple’s coming.”
Michael came on the headset barking orders, masked by the sounds of the giant passing through the narrow tunnel. I took flight down the tunnel as the wave of chaos followed at my heels.
I shot through the reservoir intake gate and out of the water like a rocket, meeting the other three in the late night air above the water and turning to face the gate. Our eyes all remained trained squarely on the massive steel grate beneath the surface as we readied for the approaching behemoth not far behind it.
Raziel’s scepter extended to a full-length polearm, its blade growing as the points of the sun insignia grew larger. The three points in the center lit up different colors as she prepared her spells. With a similar flash, a large, sun-shaped white gold shield appeared in her other hand, its center shimmering with a pale rose light in the shape of an elaborate symbol resembling an eye, the outside edge accented with constantly changing angelic characters.
Two massive plumes of fire shot from Iris’s back, taking the shape of a set of wings and waving in the wind. Her eyes turned to white-hot flame as her hands lit with fire. A single gladius with a bright orange pommel levitated in front of her, pointed at the steel gate.
Four explosive-lined swords drew from my vambraces and began to float in a circular pattern around me as I drew the scepter from my belt, it extending and jumping to life with my touch.
Michael gazed fearlessly at the door and pulled two large, silver pistols from his belt. He pulled back the slide of each of them before spinning them in his hands. A complex matrix of steel beams folded out from the grip of each pistol, and after placing the end of each component together, they formed a hybrid compound bow with pistols at the ends of the arches. He pulled a cartridge from the back of his belt and loaded it into a slot on the underside of his right forearm. An arrow extended from the cartridge through an adapter on his wrist, instantly nocked for firing on the bow’s bridge. He collapsed it back into the cartridge as he spoke, pulling an arrow with an explosive charge at the head from his quiver. “Blowing the tunnel charges on my mark.” He said, counting down in his head. He steeled his gaze, uncompromising in his intensity and projecting an air of unparalleled confidence in the face of terror. “Mark.” He said, the controlled explosion nearly inaudible beneath the water as it collapsed the ancient tunnels. We all hovered in silence for a few moments before the faint sound of the monster making his way up to the surface echoed through the gate beneath the water. “Preparing to blow secondary charges. On my mark.” Michael said. “Weapons ready.” He drew back his bow as the swords surrounding me curved through the air into a frightening point. The tension grew by the moment as the creature struggled to reach the surface. In a moment, the executioner’s bell rang in the form of a beast knocking at the steel grate. “Showtime.” Michael said, a blast beneath the surface throwing the steel grate open and exploding into the air, water and bricks flying into the sky.
“Hold.” Michael demanded as the water and debris settled. Pure silence pierced the air as we waited to see if Temple would resurface.
Suddenly, a fifteen-foot-wide brick fist pierced through the water’s surface, gripping at the edge of the underwater tunnel and preparing to pull up the fury that followed.
“Wait.” Michael reiterated, the body writhing beneath the surface as it squeezed its enormity through the narrow intake tunnel. The tunnel’s borders broke as a forearm the size of a public bus stretched into the air. The creature pulled itself up from the water, keeping his massive arms in front of his face and chest as he steadied his feet. He extended to over twenty stories tall, and threw his arms out to toward us, revealing his enormous and sinister grin.
“It was getting so cramped down there.” His voice boomed with an indescribable enormity. “Glad to get out and finally see you guys again.”
“Now!” Michael boomed, his words marking the fury of four Archangels’ weapons explosively lashing out against the titan. Temple laughed as the swords, arrows, and blasts shredding through the air erupted against his forearm.
“Right into it, then.” He laughed, raising his arms above his head before throwing his conjoined fists toward us and into the water.
Michael called his order as he and Raziel flew toward the cliff to push Temple away from the mainland. Iris and I flew around him in the same motion, causing him to turn and face the mainland. Raziel and Michael took up position in the air, Michael striking the titan with one explosive arrow after another as Raziel’s staff shot shining charges through the air. Iris and I circled to Temple’s back as the others distracted him. Her eyes burned white with an even greater intensity as she pushed her flaming hands together, crying out and blasting an enormous beam of fire into the colossus’s back. She flew through the opening in the mere instant it took to close behind her as the bricks of Temple’s body reshuffled, and with a blast from a flying sword, I followed suit.
We stood in the ever-moving chamber inside Temple’s back, his entire body constantly rocked by the explosions produced by the two Archangels outside and with Temple’s every furious motion. I helped Iris to her feet and we moved hastily down the narrow brick passageway. I clutched the scepter tightly in my hands, prepared to hold off any structural changes that would do us harm.
“We gotta move fast before he figures out where we are.” I said.
“Let’s go.” She agreed.
The passageway opened up into a small antechamber at the edge of Temple’s torso where his shoulder met his left arm. The room was largely featureless, save a series of complex accent bricks at the top of the room.
“Be careful.” I said. “God only knows what kind of traps and stuff Temple’s got in here.”
“Why’d you have to say it?” She asked in exasperation. There was a brief pause, as the room remained almost completely still. She shrugged. “Damn. You know, stuff usually tends to happen when—” The floor split open with a thunderous roar, bricks collapsing down a chute into Temple’s arm. Iris and I took flight to the top of the room, hanging on the brickwork around the edge of the ceiling. “I told you!” She said. I looked down to the bottom of the room for a way out, my eye eventually landing on a hole in the side of the chute.
“There!” I indicated to Iris, taking flight toward the gap. I grabbed her hand and hurled her toward the gap, propelling her through the gap as it shifted closed behind her. Temple’s arm moved and shook, every motion causing me to slide further down the shaft of his forearm.
“Here goes nothing.” I said to myself, drawing an explosive sword from my vambrace. I braced myself against the wall, aiming toward the spot on the wall where the hole formerly was. With a pounce across the chasm I pierced the sword into the wall, shooting through the gap.
Iris helped me to my feet as we gazed into the next room. It was a long room with a low ceiling, walls lined with a series of ominous-looking brick faces.
“Spears?” I asked Iris.
“He’s an ancient Aztec temple. Why wouldn’t there be spears?” She said. She threw a sword through the passage, the faces in the wall spewing fire as it passed.
The sword drifted back into her hand. “Well then.” She said.
“I’ll be damned.” I agreed. “You first.”
Her eyes burned white. “Gimme a hand.” She said, bracing herself against the back wall of the chamber. I held out my hand as she ran down the center of the room. She grabbed my hand and swung down to the floor, sliding across its surface to the other side of the chamber.
“Do I get any help?” I called across the room. Iris winked as she threw her hands forward, casting from the underside of her vambraces two massive sheets of crimson fabric, attaching them to the walls on my side of the room. The shooting flames burned furiously behind them as I passed quickly through. “Thanks babe.” I said.
We turned to pass through the exit and into the next chamber, and in only an instant, the floor of the next room rose up and covered the door. “What’s going on?” Iris asked as the room began to shift, the brick walls crying out with loud scraping noises.
“Temple’s trying to keep us away from the central chamber.” I said. “He’s shuffling the rooms.”
The room came to a dead stop, but the doors remained closed.
Iris gave me a quizzical glance. “What now?”
“I don’t know.” I said. “The doors should open.” As soon as I said the words, the floor split open and we dropped into a similar chamber. “Or that.”
The walls shuddered as they began to push toward one another. “Seriously?” Iris said.
I drew an explosive-lined sword. “Thousands of creepy old temples and nobody ever learned how to build any more traps.” I said. “Back up.”
We stepped through the broken wall into the next chamber, a large cubic room with a tall square doorframe on each of the four walls. Iris looked each direction. “Which way?”
“The heart is probably toward the top of the room. Considering the size of these doors, we might get closer if we can get him to shuffle the rooms again.” I said.
The bricks in the floor began to shift, removing themselves and flipping around the room. I drew two swords from my vambraces while Iris pulled a crimson heart-shaped hilt with a three-handed grip from her belt. She spun it around her hand a few times, causing it to project a long two-edged blade. Her eyes lit up a flaming orange, and the blade of the weapon grew white hot.
The brick piles on the floor began to spin into shape, taking the form of three large, human-like figures, not too different in shape from Temple.
“Well.” I said. “That’s new.”
Iris leapt into action, slashing at the creatures with all her might. She flew through the air as one with her weapon, blasting a beam of fire through one of the titans as she cleaved through another in a single fluid motion. I threw my swords to the ceiling, blowing loose a pile of bricks. I drew my scepter to catch them and send them flying, blasting through one of the brick creatures like a shotgun.
“Time to move.” I said, grabbing Iris’s hand and flying toward the hole I’d made in the ceiling. The floor of another room quickly passed over it as the room we were in began to move upward. I set Iris down in front of one of the doors, as I prepared to jump through it. “Wait for it.” I said.
The other rooms inside Temple’s body shuffled in front of us, flying by like cars down a highway. “Now!” I said. In an instant, we hurled ourselves through the brief opening in the door.
We stood in a large cubic room not unlike the previous one, save the back wall hosting a large stand that took up half the room. Above it floated a large yellow sphere, surrounding a small red cylinder with a thick yellow coating. Iris and I gazed up at the core. “I haven’t seen that in a long time.” She sighed.
I stuck a sword into the wall opposite the core and drew a scythe as I looked her in the eye. “Like I said, both of us.”
She smiled as she drew her sword. “Both of us.”
We plunged the blades into the glowing yellow field, causing it to shatter like glass. A small, cylindrical red idol floated there, projecting a faint yellow glow. Iris’s hand lit up in flame.
“Hey Temple.” I said. “You know how an angel can beat a god?”
Iris blasted the statue as I blew the front wall open, producing a hole to the outside. The idol fell weakly from its place in the air, as the bricks composing the room began to crumble to the floor. We flew through the opening and took to the side of Michael and Raziel in the air as we watched the mad titan collapse into the bay, brick by brick.
The four of us drifted gently onto the massive pile of bricks, and after pushing aside some of the rubble, I pulled out a small cylindrical stone, riddled with intricate carvings and bearing two small eyes, a yellow gem directly beneath them.
I flipped Temple over in my hand and smiled at him. “You’re not a god.”
Four archangels stood on the deck in my backyard, throwing back drinks and laughing together as the setting sun cast a fading rose light over the city.
“It’s kind of weird.” I said. “Yesterday my daughter is mocking me about wearing high heels, today I’m taking down an ancient idol.”
Iris brushed back her hair and smiled at me, her eyes decorated with the colors of the sky. “I guess that’s just our line of work.” She said.
“Wait.” Michael said, setting his glass on the table and leaning forward. “When were you wearing high heels?”
Raziel placed her hand in front of her mouth as she struggled not to spew her drink all over the table.
“Just our line of work, Michael.” I laughed. “Just our line of work.”
Raziel laughed and shook her head. “Did you ever figure out where that truck he fell off of went?” She asked.
“I’m sure it’ll turn up.” Michael said. “Clear and present is out of the way. I think that’s good enough.”
“That reminds me.” Iris said, running through the back door to the kitchen and returning a moment later with a few sheets of paper in hand. “I found this.” She set the documents down in front of me and pointed to the cargo manifest for the shipping truck. “This list details the weight of every cargo item on the truck.” She pointed to the other slip of paper. “This is the last weigh station report from before the truck was taken. If we add up the weights of each item on the truck, the truck itself, and all the personnel onboard.”
I looked over the sheets. “The truck was heavier than it should’ve been.” I said. “By a few hundred pounds at least.”
“You know what that means?” She asked.
“There was something on the truck that wasn’t declared on the manifest.” I said. “Something big.”
“Exactly.” She smiled.
“What could it be?” Raziel asked.
“Whatever it was, it looks like the people you’re looking for had a pretty sincere interest in it.” Michael said.
“And it’s probably going to bite me in the ass.” I sighed.
“Well,” Michael said “when it does, you have my number.”
“You’re not going to stick around for a little longer?” I asked.
“Nah.” He said. “I’ve got a city that isn’t going to save itself, and a wife who won’t stop worrying about me.”
“I know a little something about that.” I said, taking Iris’s hand in mine. “See you around, Captain.”
Iris, Raziel and I looked out over the cliff visible past the fence.
I looked into Iris’s sunset-colored eyes. “Both of us?” I smiled.
“No.” She said.
“All of us.”