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From the New York Times bestselling author of the Fallen series comes a new Remy Chandler novel.
He was once known as the angel Remiel. But, generations ago, Boston PI Remy Chandler renounced Heaven and chose to live on Earth, hiding among us humans, fighting to save our souls...
Remy Chandler is hovering on the brink of death, surrounded by friends who are trying to ward off those who would take advantage of his vulnerability. Unbeknownst to them, the greatest threat to Remy is one they can’t fight—God himself. The Almighty dispatches Remy far beyond their reach, to an alternate universe where there has been an apocalyptic catastrophe: the Unification.
Only as he hunts down the source of this calamity, it becomes clearer and clearer that the person responsible for the tragedy may have been none other than Remy himself.
And while he searches for a way to stop his world from following in the footsteps of the doomed alternate reality, enemies are massing in his universe. For the Unification is at hand and, this time, Remy may be powerless to affect its outcome...
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Thomas E. Sniegoski is a full-time writer of YA novels, urban fantasy, and comix. His novels include Walking in the Midst of Fire, In the House of the Wicked, A Hundred Words for Hate, Where Angels Fear to Tread, and Dancing on the Head of a Pin.
For my father.
A shopping mall food court
Somewhere in the United States
It was a day that seemed just like any other.
The sun rose as it was supposed to, and people woke from their nightly slumber to begin their daily routines: preparing for work, getting dressed for school, walking the dog, retrieving the morning paper from the front walk, making breakfast.
It was all so normal.
All so mundane.
If only they were aware of the event of cosmic proportions and significance that was about to occur.
· · ·
He who had been called the Son of the Morning sat at a table in the food court of the mall, observing the ebb and flow of humanity.
Leaning back in the metal chair, Lucifer Morningstar saw them at their best and worst: an old woman fumbling with multiple plastic bags unwittingly drops a wad of dollar bills to the floor; a man sidles up alongside her, snatches up the money, and then promptly returns it to her. A teenage girl—a mere child—picks up her phone from the tabletop, her hands shaking horribly as she checks to see if her dealer has called, and bursts into tears when she sees that he hasn’t. An overtired and whining child is brought to obvious joy when handed a book to read. A man who is unhappy with the speed in which he received his burrito takes it out on the young girl at the counter. A Benny Goodman instrumental plays over the food court sound system and an old man grabs hold of his wife’s hand; they look into each other’s eyes and smile, their love still strong.
“Don’t tell me that you’re still upset with them,” said a voice beside him, and Lucifer turned to see an elderly gentleman, dressed in a beautifully tailored dark suit, standing at the table, orange tray in hand.
“I was never upset with them,” the Morningstar said, pushing out a chair so the gentleman could sit down. “I was much more upset with you.”
The old man sat down and began to disperse the items on His tray. He placed a cup of steaming coffee in front of the Morningstar. “You thought that I loved them more,” He said. He took His own steaming cup from the tray, and what appeared to be a container of chicken fingers.
“I wasn’t the only one,” Lucifer said. He continued to watch the patrons of the mall food court.
“No, but you were the loudest voice.”
The old man prepared His coffee: two sugars and three containers of cream.
“I felt I needed to be loud so you would hear me . . . hear us.” Lucifer sipped his own black coffee, dark eyes roaming the court.
The old man chuckled, drinking delicately from his cup before setting it down upon the table. “Oh, I heard you, all right.”
Lucifer fixed Him in a steely gaze.
“But did you listen?”
The old man did not answer but reached into the foam container and removed a piece of fried food.
“Is that a chicken finger?” Lucifer asked Him, shocked by what he was witnessing.
The old man studied the batter-covered object, which did not resemble any part from a chicken, or a finger, for that matter. “I love chicken fingers,” He said, taking a bite. “Horrible for you, but everything in moderation.”
Lucifer drank more of his coffee, noticing the euphoric teenage girl from before, walking past them while talking happily on her cell phone, her dealer having finally called. Life was good again. Or not.
“I listened, but I don’t believe there was anything I could have said at that time to convince you otherwise,” the old man said, picking up a napkin to wipe the grease from His mouth. “You did what you felt you needed to do, as did I.”
Lucifer turned his cup ever so slowly.
“Was it worth it?” he asked, feeling a heavy sadness for all that had come to pass.
“That’s a question I should be asking you,” the old man said, pointing with a chicken finger.
Lucifer continued to slowly turn his cup, a faint trace of steam billowing from the hot liquid.
“It is what it is,” he said finally, neither regretful nor content.
The old man finished His chicken finger and licked the tips of His delicate fingers.
“Things happened, and as a result . . .” He made a rolling gesture with His hand.
“Here we are,” Lucifer finished. “When it’s presented that way, it all seems so simple.”
“It’s all in how you look at things,” the old man replied as He wrapped His hand around His coffee cup. He was watching the elderly couple that Lucifer had been observing earlier. They were talking happily, and for a brief moment even began to dance, which got them both laughing.
“Why are we here?” Lucifer finally got up the courage to ask. “I’m sure you’re well aware of the whispers of a new war between Heaven and Hell floating in the ether.”
“Yes, I’m afraid I am.”
The old man lifted His cup and had some more coffee. “I think it’s time for something more to happen,” He said, speaking over the rim of His cup.
Lucifer leaned in closer. “War?” he asked.
The old man was silent, as if deciding on His answer.
“No,” He said after a moment. “The opposite.”
“Truce?” Lucifer suggested. “I thought we already had that.”
“Peace,” the old man corrected.
Lucifer was shocked. “What are you suggesting?”
“I want you to come home.”
And for the first time in countless millennia the Son of the Morning was speechless.
“It’s time for us to be whole again,” the old man told him.
“Do you mean to say . . . ,” Lucifer began, and stopped as the old man sitting across from him nodded slowly, a loving smile spreading across His face reminding Lucifer of the very first dawn over the world on the eighth day.
“Unification, my son,” the old man said, and then slid the container of chicken fingers toward him. “Chicken finger?”
· · ·
The Bone Master screamed far longer than Remy Chandler imagined it could have.
When the creature finally fell silent, Remy let its body slip from his grasp. But the fire continued to burn, jumping to the assassin’s robes and the flesh beneath; before long, there would be nothing left to show that the assassin had ever lived . . .
. . . except for the physical and mental damage it had inflicted.
Marlowe came to Remy, leaping up onto his chest, stretching his neck to eagerly kiss Remy’s face. Remy found it suddenly difficult to remain standing, and dropped to his knees, giving the dog ample opportunity to display his rampant affections.
As Marlowe licked his face, Remy caught sight of Linda staring at him from where she sat, perfectly motionless upon the floor. He wanted to explain everything to her, but the words would not come.
The look of fear in her eyes froze them in his throat.
“I believe,” he began, forcing the words from his mouth, “I owe you an explanation.” He found his speech strangely slurred and wondered what could be the cause, then realized that his entire body was growing increasingly cold. He could not feel his limbs and suddenly toppled over onto the floor.
Marlowe yelped in panic as he fell, and Linda was at his side, leaning over him, tears in her eyes, her face racked with the beginnings of panic.
“You’re bleeding,” he heard her say, though the words were strangely muffled.
He managed to lift his head and saw that he was indeed bleeding. The cold realization washed over him—the assassin’s bullets had found their target, the venom-infused teeth sending a powerful poison coursing through his veins.
Remy tried to alter his internal chemistry, as he had so many times before, to burn the poison away. . . .
Nothing happened, and the cold continued to permeate his every fiber. He was finding it harder and harder to remain there—to remain with Linda and Marlowe.
Marlowe cried pathetically, pacing back and forth in front of them. Linda was holding him now, gripping him tightly in her arms and begging him to stay with her.
“Remy, what should I do?” she pleaded.
She was panicked, and he wanted to hold her, to tell her that he would be fine, but he could no longer move his arms, and now that what he truly was had been revealed, he did not want to begin another lie.
“I . . . I’m so sorry,” he managed to squeak. “Didn’t want . . . to lie.”
“Remy,” she cried, her tears raining down upon his face—tears that he could not feel.
He tried to stay with her, but his eyes had grown so heavy, and he could no longer hold them open. Maybe if I close them for just a moment.
Marlowe howled, his cries reverberating through the room, and Remy thought it was the saddest sound he had ever heard.
Darkness surrounded him, but there was fire in the midst of shadow, a flame struggling to stay alight within the encroaching gloom.
But the flame grew smaller with each passing moment until it was but a faintly glowing ember, and it could fight no more and gave in to the dark.
Is this what it’s like to die?
· · ·
Remy opened his eyes to look upon an eternal expanse of ocean, the color of copper and fire in the light of the sun hanging over the horizon.
He felt a sense of calm as he realized he had been to this place before.
“Is this it?” he asked, shifting in the beach chair so he could see the person sitting beside him, still as beautiful as she had been in life.
Madeline stared out at the ocean, her attention unwavering.
“Do you want it to be?” she asked.
“I . . . ,” he began, then hesitated, letting his wife’s question reverberate through his mind, surprised that he couldn’t answer right away.
“Did you finish?”
He watched her as she continued her study of the ocean.
“What do you mean?” he finally asked.
Madeline turned her gaze to Remy, her dark sunglasses showing the twin reflections of the setting sun in their center as if they were her eyes. “Did you finish everything that you started?”
Again, he had to think about her question, the memories of what he’d left behind already starting to fade. It would have been so easy to just say yes, but he knew he would be telling another lie.
“I doubt it,” he said sadly.
She nodded, smiling the way she always had, and he felt a love for her that was so great he was surprised his mortal form could contain it.
And then he remembered another woman who had managed to capture his heart after Madeline’s devastating loss.
“Linda,” he said quietly, fearing that speaking the name of another would somehow take away from the love he had shared with the woman sitting beside him.
“I bet you two would have told a wonderful story,” Madeline said.
Remy held on to the memory of Linda, refusing to let it diminish—refusing to let her go. “Yeah” was all he could say.
“Yeah?” Madeline repeated, reaching out to let her fingertips caress his biceps.
“Yeah,” Remy said again. “I’d like to tell that story.”
Madeline smiled, and he knew that she was truly happy for him.
A sudden breeze came off the ocean then, a cold sharpness to the air that made him wince as he pulled his bare legs up from the sand. Remy gazed down and saw that he was bleeding. He’d forgotten that he had been hurt.
The sky above the ocean had grown dark, thick, roiling clouds blotting out the warmth of the sun.
“That’s going to be a problem,” Madeline said, her fingers still gently caressing the skin of his arm, which had now gone cold.
“It looks bad, doesn’t it?” Remy said, staring at his wound, not quite remembering exactly what had happened.
“It’s even worse on the inside,” Madeline told him.
“Do I have a chance?” Remy asked, a sudden despondency washing over him.
Madeline returned her gaze to the ocean. The water was receding, exposing an ocean floor that resembled the surface of some alien world.
“That’s not for me to say.”
“Something’s happening,” he said, his body racked with pain as he too watched the sea pull away from the shore.
There was a sound, far off in the distance, like the blast of a trumpet heralding the arrival of something great, but as Remy listened more closely he realized it was the sound of a giant wave as the ocean rushed back to meet the shore.
The wall of water came toward them with incredible speed, and he reached out, searching for his wife’s hand, before—
The wave froze in place as his fingers wrapped around hers.
“What’s happening?” Remy asked, eyes fixed on the wall of bluish green water before them.
“I told you He was coming,” she whispered as she leaned in to kiss him warmly on the lips. “Your Father.”
The water parted like a curtain, and an old man stepped out.
Remy gazed quickly to where his wife should have been but found that she had left him alone on the beach with a petrified ocean and an old man.
An old man.
Remy knew this man, dressed in His fine, dark suit. They had spoken on this very beach, not long ago, about a coming war.
“The war,” Remy called out as he stood.
The old man, who was so much more than that, did not look at him, instead gazing off in the distance as if seeing something that Remy was not privy to.
“A horrible thing,” He said.
“What are you saying?” Remy was confused. “The war hasn’t happened.”
The wall of water crashed to the sand behind the old man in a roaring rush that sent water and foam splashing through the air. But it did not touch the man. “Yes,” He said, His gaze drifting toward Remy. “And no.”
“I don’t understand.”
“In some instances it did happen, while in others . . .”
Remy still wasn’t certain what He was going on about, but who was he to question his Father?
“So many worlds,” the old man said. “I wish I could save them all.”
“My world?” Remy asked, stepping closer. He could feel the power emanating from this being, and knew he should be on his knees with his head bowed in respect, but his concern was too great. He needed to know if his world was all right.
The old man looked Remy up and down, the hint of a smirk playing at the wrinkled corners of His mouth. Remy took a step back.
“A favorite,” He said. “But on the brink.”
A nearly overwhelming sense of panic washed over Remy . . . followed by the numbness. Once again, he found it difficult to remain standing and fell to his knees. “Please,” he begged. “I need to help them.”
The old man stared at him and Remy saw in His eyes an array of infinite possibilities.
And as he believed his question—his plea—was about to be granted, the old man turned His attention to the sky above. The clouds had grown thinner and the stars were beginning to shine down upon them.
“You need to see,” He said wistfully. “You need to see what it will be like if you fail.”
“Show me,” Remy pleaded.
“It is a sad thing,” the old man said, His voice quavering with emotion. “A tragic thing.”
“Show me,” Remy demanded.
The old man turned tear-filled eyes t...
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