So, I’m working tonight on my latest WIP. Azazel Has a child. It’s the final book in the Brodie Wade series. I have had several people ask me about it. In all of the hurry to get Fort Reiley out, I had to put AHAC on the back burner.
Well…. Brodie’s back.
The good news is that I have made some great progress on the story lately. The bad news is that this is FAR from being the final, official version. It will likely have typos. And certain plot points within it will probably even change before final release.
But in the spirit of saying “Thank you” to all of you who have waited so patiently for this book, I’m going to be posting chapters as I feel they are at least solid enough (plot-wise) to make sense, even in their rough state.
So without further adieu … Chapter 1 of Azazel Has a Child.
December 17, 2010, Chicago, Illinios
Detective Phil Dawson stood staring at his would-be killer. Thaloc – a shape-shifting murderer – had taken on a very familiar form. He looked much like his friend, Brodie. He even wore Brodie’s trademark black trench coat, but Brodie – the real Brodie – was laying unconscious at the bottom of the subway tunnel, not fifty yards away. Thaloc had beat him unconscious, then led Phil up here to the main atrium. The concrete and tile walls echoed every sound. The snowstorm outside could be heard whistling against the broken windows. The large room was warmer than the wind outside, but he could still see his breath in the dim light.
Phil’s hands were bound behind his back with his own handcuffs. He had been shot through the palm of each hand with his own gun by this madman. The blood loss and pain had made him woozy, but he refused to back down or give up. If he could just stall a little longer, surely the guys from the station would burst through the front doors and put an end to the insanity. They would take down Thaloc. They would bandage his wounds and make everything right with the world. Surely someone would come in and save him.
Thaloc led Phil through the old, abandoned bus Myriad Bus Depot. Phil walked as slowly as he dared to the center of the main lobby. The whole room was dark except for the closet where Thaloc had said there would be a camera to film Brodie shooting the detective. In that moment, his revenge on Phil and Brodie would be complete, and he would finally have the police off his scent. Phil had begged and pleaded, finally striking a deal; Thaloc would shoot him, even frame Brodie for the act, but would allow Brodie to live and face the actions of the legal system instead of being shot while unconscious.
Once at the old closet entryway, he turned to face the monster. The only other source of light washed dimly in through the front doors illuminating a large swath of the room in a pale gray glow. The front doors used to be large glass structures, but now bore a heavy chain around the handles. The right door had been shattered long ago and now sported a large piece of plywood bolted to the frame. The left door hadn’t fared much better. A long crack spiderwebbed through the glass, letting light wash across the floor, revealing the horror of it all. Several corpses lay scattered around the room. They had likely been street bums merely trying to get warm in the winter storm; the wrong place at the wrong time. Thaloc had surely killed these men using some other person’s form. He now stood in Brodie’s shape and held Phil at gunpoint.
Phil looked around, but had run out of stall tactics. He prayed for the first time ever. Well, for the first time when he sincerely meant it from the core of his being. He called out for God to save him, but nothing happened.
Even God had given up on him.
Thaloc raised his arm and quipped something Phil didn’t quite catch.
Phil closed his eyes, ready for whatever may come.
A loud explosion ripped through the open area. The gunshot echo lingered for quite a while in the vast space, but Phil didn’t feel any pain. In fact, his hands even stopped hurting. He felt short of breath. He scowled, trying to inhale, even though his body seemed to refuse. He closed his eyes to concentrate on breathing, but … nothing seemed right about this moment. The temperature in the room slid downward until it was beyond freezing, and all noise slipped away until even the rhythm of the city in the distance was gone and the silence was as black as his vision.
When he opened his eyes, the smoke still plumed outward from the gun, but didn’t ascend as smoke usually did. The bullet hovered in place a mere inch from his chest, glowing an iridescent yellow. A strange man in a white Egyptian thoub stood two paces behind the shooter. Everything seemed frozen in place except this strange man, who had the oddest little grin across his bearded face.
“Welcome,” the man said with a warm smile. “I have been waiting here in this spot for you for a very long time, Phillip.”
The use of his name made him hesitate. This strange man obviously knew Phil, but Phil didn’t recognize him at all. And yet, here they were, together, like old friends reunited.
“Thank you. I’m not sure what you did, but I could use your help. I have a key to the handcuffs here in my right coat p—”
Startled, Phil realized that his hands were already pointing at his coat pockets, unbound. When he looked down at his hands, the wounds from the gunshots were also gone.
The strange man smiled, almost a laugh. “You are already free, Phillip. You were free the moment you called for my help. It just took this long for that freedom to manifest itself in this place.”
“I don’t understand,” Phil said.
“I know. Time is a complicated thing for you to grasp.”
Realizing that he could move, Phil took a step to the right, out of the path of the hovering bullet. He glanced down to inspect himself. He stood, shivering in the cold. His gray suit looked as though it had been professionally cleaned. His clothes were spotless, despite the beating he had taken earlier, and the blood that had been there only moments before. Nothing about this moment was making any sense.
“Who are you? What’s happening?” Phil said, still trying to wrap his mind around what was happening.
“I am Joshua. I am The Way.”
Insanity swirled in his head. “I … the gun … this man just tried to kill me. But …”
“I warned you that time was complicated,” Joshua grinned. “Sometimes what is real and true isn’t what happens. Like your death. It is real. It is true. But it was never meant to be this way. At least, not here at this point in time. I have come to make that right and to put everything back the way it should exist, if you will let me. If so, your death will occur on the day and moment that it was supposed to take place. And the hole in time that others have caused will finally be repaired.”
“Wait… I’m dead?” Phil looked around the open space. His senses told him that he was still very much alive. At least, he thought so, but the room had changed in the past few moments. The street bums were gone. The only people in the room were himself, the frozen visage of Thaloc, and his odd savior.
Joshuah was about five and a half feet tall. Despite the flecks of gray in his long brown hair and beard, he seemed strong and athletically built. Phil doubted that he could take the man down if the situation deteriorated to hand-to-hand combat. It would be a struggle, for sure. Phil stared directly at Joshua, fear trickling through his body like ice-cold pellets. The man still had that strange smile, but said nothing.
“Please, Joshua. Tell me. Am I dead?”
The man approached Phil and put a hand on his chest. His hand began to glow as he spoke. “You have two paths before you. For I alone know the plans I have for you, Phillip – plans not to harm you, but to bring you a hope and a future. But you must decide which plan you want to follow. Yours or mine.”
“But, you still haven’t answered me.” Phil stepped back. “Am I dead?”
“When you are here in this place, absent of time, the answers are more complicated than you could fathom. In reality, the answer is both yes and no, but you will have to follow me and learn my ways for that to make any sense. For, it is appointed for man once to die, then the judgment. This is not your time, Phillip Dawson. You asked for my help and I have come to give it. You will meet your end at its appointed space in time. If you heed my words, you will save Brodie, his wife and his child. No greater love is there than this, that a man would lay down his life for a friend.”
Phil stared into the man’s eyes, but couldn’t make sense of the riddles. He now understood all too well what Brodie had to go through. The sentences weren’t scrambled. They were whole and complete with nouns and verbs all where they needed to be, but nothing seemed to fit any form of reality he’d ever known. He answered the question with words that only raised more questions.
“I have come because you gave this most sincere form of love. You were willing to lay down your life for Brodie. You offered the most incredible sacrifice a man can offer, and I heard your cry for help and I am here. Now, you must follow my plan. If you do, Brodie will live and the world will be changed for the better.”
Phil nodded slowly, the reality of the moment finally sinking in. A nauseating wave of fear swept over him. “But I still die right here, in this very moment. When it comes down to it, I have to take that bullet in the chest, don’t I?”
A consoling smile spread across Joshua’s face. “Maybe. When and where you exit this world are written into the very fabric of time. Yet with time as damaged as it is, things that should be immovable are falling out of place. And things that should flow seamlessly are coming to an end. And now you see the complexity of time itself. Do you understand why you must fix it?”
Phil tried to grasp it all, but found himself just staring down at this little man. “If I am already dead, or if I die here and now, how can I do all that you’ve said? How can I be a help to anyone?”
“I spared you and pulled you from this moment, just as you asked, but only for a season. When you are done with your tasks, you must come back here and willingly place yourself in front of that bullet so that no harm comes to time. A person must take that bullet so that the entrances and exits within time remain in balance. Then you will fulfill all that I have for you. Then you will be complete. Time itself will be whole, and Brodie will be free from his curse.”
Phil stared at the hovering bullet. A yellow aura radiating in the dim space. The strangeness of the moment still twisted his mind in a blur of thoughts. A mere minute ago, he was handcuffed, bleeding, and about to be executed. And now… everything was different. So much change, so fast, all because of this odd, little man.
“Who are you, really? No human could do this.”
“I am Joshua. I am The Way.”
Phil tried to process the depth of that statement. He knew that there was so much more to it, but it seemed to be the only answer the man would give. “Are there more like you?”
Joshua nodded. “There are two more, yet we are one. I am Life. I am. There are others who wish to deceive all of humanity, claiming to be what we are, but they are liars, led by the master of lies. These same wish to return to the place from which I drove them out. One of the generals of the rebellion has solved an age-old riddle and is trying to bring his army back here to make their stand. I have chosen you and Brodie to stop him.”
Phil nodded. “Right. Thaloc. So, if I want to save Brodie from Thaloc, I have to do something for you. What?”
“No, not Thaloc,” Joshua said. He stepped away and paced a small circle around Thaloc who stood motionless. His arm and gun still pointed at the empty space where Phil had been.
“No, this is merely the man who breached the line of time and ripped you from your destiny. He has made the same mistake that Brodie’s grandfather made. As such, you and Brodie now share a common trait; you are both out of sequence with time itself. You stand in the torn fabrick, neither part of time, not out of time, but floating in the space between strands… the space that should not exist. But rest assured. The man you have called Thaloc will be swiftly dealt with by Brodie’s wife. He will not live to torture anyone else after today.”
“Wife?” It had been the second time this odd man had mentioned her, but it didn’t make any sense. “Brodie isn’t married. Is he?”
“From my vantage point, he is,” the man said with a satisfied nod. “As I said, Phillip, just because it has not manifested itself in your view of the physical realm yet does not make something true or false. It is what it is because of the nature of the statement, not because it can be seen or felt or held in the moment in which you expect it. A thing is true because it is true. No matter how much you wish it to be different, it cannot be, because it is. It is. It simply … is. But enough of the studies of time and continuum. You have much to do and you will learn all about it. You have only nine-hundred-and-eighteen days to get prepared, so we must hurry. Azazel started his preparations six hundred years ago. You will not completely understand all that you need in such a short time but I will tell you all that you need to know and Brodie will fill in the blanks in the last days. Come with me.” Joshua started toward the main exit, leaving Phil standing in the darkness.
“Wait! Where are we going?”
The grand entrance to the abandoned bus station was no longer boarded up, and chains no longer held the doors closed. The entrance was clear and pristine, as in the terminal’s glory days. Phil could see outside. The snowstorm that had been raging only a few minutes ago was now replaced with the golden glow of morning sunlight. As Joshua pulled the door open, his voice lingered in the cavernous space.
“Choose your path, Phillip. Follow me, or return to your destined place. That choice is yours alone to make. Time cannot wait for your decision any longer lest I make the damage worse.”
So, for those of you that thought Phil was dead…. he was. Kind of. Maybe. Either way, he’s not out of Brodie’s life yet. What do you think? Can Joshua be trusted?