THE ANGEL BLUeS
Length: short story
Genre: contemporary, paranormal
Publisher: self-published, previously published by Storm Moon Press
It's a nondescript, depressing night when Nathan, a seasoned cop, finds a witty stranger perched on his windowsill, who shares his appreciation for the blues. Concerned for his own sanity, Nathan does his best to ignore the man who insists on materializing and the most inappropriate times -- and claims to be an angel, too.
That is, until Nathan finds himself on the wrong end of a gun, and is forced to see just how much the stranger means to him. And, when his unconventional guardian angel seems to have disappeared, he needs to figure out whether there's any truth to what's happening to him -- or if his therapist is right, and he is finally losing it.
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It was 11:32 p.m., it was dark, and the windows spread a cold halo into the room when Agent Nathan Moore decided he’d had enough.
He was slumped on his favorite armchair, old and puffy and placed at a strategic distance from his hi-fi, where Robert Johnson’s King of the Delta Blues Singers, Vol. II was currently playing in hushed tones. Nathan stretched his arms, dark skin tense over his aching muscles, and poured himself another bourbon.
The glass was heavy and cool; the ice clicked as he lifted it to his head, pressing it against a throbbing temple. The cold spread slowly, a fresh veil smothering the pain, if just a little. Nathan closed his eyes and tried to relax against the backrest. The leather squeaked, adjusting under his weight. Nathan half-heartedly wished he could just shut his brain off; he distantly envisioned himself slamming the heavy tumbler against his forehead over and over until the bone broke open and the pulsing and throbbing and insisting refrains were free to drip out. There was no silence inside his head.
(Mr. Johnson’s chords reverberated through the empty room, curling around him in sleepy waves. It was pleasant: it almost helped.)
“That doesn’t sound like a good idea,” said a voice, light and unobtrusive, slipping in as the guitar took a breath before unfolding in the finale.
“It was just a thought,” Nathan grunted, without bothering to open his eyes. A trickle of breeze brushed against his neck, which was kind of nice. “Not like I’m that stupid.”
“Yeah, well. It’s good to know,” the voice commented, seeming rather amused. Nathan could already feel a pinch of irritation towards the stranger, who thought it appropriate to--
--and right about then it sunk in. His hand was on his belt, the gun already in mid-air before his brain finally, finally caught up (assess: analyze the threat. Be rapid, efficient). His eyes snapped open, already scanning the room, and God damn it, it looked like he actually was that stupid.
The window had been pushed open; the curtains were parted, and the street gleamed through the gap, peeking into the room, blinking. There was—Nathan’s gun was steady in his hand as he barked, “Freeze. Hands above your head. Now”—there was someone, a slim young man, perched on the windowsill. And, in the mid-shadow of the room, the faint blue light spreading from the stereo display, he seemed to be smiling, of all things.
Nathan blinked and resisted the urge to shake his head. Something was off. “You. I said, hands above your head. Right now.”
The guy just looked at him, the hint of a smug smile curling his lips up. “You can relax. I assure you I pose no threat,” he said and leaned forward, hands folded in his lap. His eyes were bright and benign and oddly sort of sparkling. Nathan wondered why he should find that so damn irritating.
“I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t take your word for it,” Nathan replied, his aim accurate and steady. “Now, if you would—”
“Hands above my head. I heard,” the guy replied, his tone amused. He still did not comply, however—he tilted his head to the side, staring somewhere to Nathan’s left. He seemed to listen, intent, as the rumble of engines from outside seeped into the room, and the night air wove through his hair, wavy and messy, long enough to brush his chin. “‘Me and the Devil Blues’. This is one of the classics,” he said approvingly. His fingers were tapping the time on his thigh. “I can assume there is ‘Crossroads Blues’, too?”
“Yeah. Couple of songs on,” Nathan replied. He blinked again—he shouldn’t get distracted. But the street noises mixed beautifully with the song, counter-pointing it beat by beat, sliding around it with ease. The stranger’s fingers tapped the denim of his jeans, light and vaguely hypnotic. Nathan had to tear his gaze away, willing his eyes back on the gun. He should probably stop talking. “You know Robert Johnson?” he asked instead the gun beginning to weigh on his tired arm.
“You could say that,” the stranger replied, gentle. “Also, you could put that down.” He motioned with his chin towards the gun. Nathan groaned and shifted the glass pressed against his temple.
“I don’t think so,” he said. For some reason, he couldn’t quite drag himself out of the heavy, quiet atmosphere that seemed to have enveloped the room. He sought sharpness and focus, and his senses responded too slowly, as if they’d been enveloped in warm, thick molasses. Nathan felt a tug of dread somewhere near his nape—he could have been drugged. He tried to remember if the whiskey tasted different, wrong, but he couldn’t seem to focus. “Hands on your head, and identify yourself. This is your last warning.”
The stranger smiled, and it was shiny and silent and strangely luminous—and bordering on infuriating, now. “That’s a lot of rationality from someone who was just thinking of cracking his head open with a glass,” he said, all too happily. Nathan swallowed.
“I said it was just a thought,” he couldn’t quite stop himself from protesting, and it was a second too long before he realized what he was saying—and his blood temperature seemed to suddenly drop a good few degrees. He shifted his gaze on the smiling stranger, suddenly cautious. And somehow, the gun did not quite make him feel that safe anymore. “And you—you are not supposed to know that,” he said slowly. The stranger looked back at him, and God, if only he’d stop smiling.
“Yeah, well. Don’t worry,” he said. “I won’t tell anyone.” He shook his head as he chuckled to himself, a stray lock falling in front of his eyes. He brushed it back, careless, and adjusted himself more comfortably on the wooden window frame. “As I said, you can put that down. Perhaps a sip of that drink of yours would help.”
Nathan had been in all sorts of dangerous, crappy, even flat-out deadly situations, and he’d learned how to keep his cool and remain rational. He had rules, strong and unyielding like fucking iron bars, and he followed them without cutting himself a single inch. It was easier to make it out alive when the mind was not crippled by terror, the logic not smothered by screaming animal instincts. He clung to controlling his mind and body when there was nothing else he could control; he’d learned to appropriately restrain himself in the face of danger and fear, and if surviving this far was any indicator, he knew that it worked.
And that was pretty much why, Nathan mused, he hadn’t got a fucking clue of how he should be behaving now. He tried to visualize the situation, adapt it to recognizable patterns, locate the danger, the unsolved equation, hazard a solution. There he was, sitting in his armchair in his freaking living room at ass o’clock in the morning and pointing a gun at a cheerful, blues-loving stranger who sat on his window and who had, apparently, just read his mind. Not much logic to be found there...