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 the end of 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 reply.

Two 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 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 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?

Why would he destroy what he wants? Boss says. 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.


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