Chapter 5

  • Chapter 5

    Angus dialed the number.

    “It’s about time you called, what’s going on, why didn’t you tell me she had someone with her?”  Ed asked.

    “He’s just a tag-along,” Angus said.  “There’s two beds in that room, they wouldn’t let me stay the night.”

    “What?!”  Ed was angry, “They know about you?”

    “Seems they do now,” Angus said.  “Makes things easier with this fella.”

    “How are you supposed to collect evidence when they know you are trying to collect evidence?”

    Angus laughed, “Ed, my friend, as long as they think I’m just making sure she gets home safe and I’m on their side, it really will be easier than hiding in a tree and taking a picture.  Besides, she really doesn’t seem interested in what you’re hoping for.”

    “I thought I told you to……….”

    “I did,” Angus interrupted.  “He won the fight.”

    “What do you mean he won the fight, what was he armed with?”

    “His opponent’s gun,” Angus said dryly.

    “What should we do now?”  Ed asked.

    “Ed,” Angus said, “I suggest you let her be and let her finish what it was she started, whatever that is.  According to her, you haven’t been an angel yourself.”

    “I was open with her, I told her that someone was interested in me.”

    “You did, did you?” Angus was interested in this.  “So how did that conversation go?”

    “She asked if I was interested in the other girl and I told her no.”

    “And…….” Angus prompted.

    “Um……she asked me why not?”

    “What did you say then?” Angus asked.

    “I said because she was prettier than the other girl.”

    Angus boomed with laughter.

    “What’s so funny?”  Ed asked.

    “Oh nothing, genius, you figure it out.  I gotta get some sleep, I don’t know when those two plan to hit the road tomorrow and I have a feeling this is going to get interesting.”

    “This is costing me money,” Ed said.

    “I’ll sleep cheap,” Angus promised and hung up the phone.


    Angus sat watching her car until the redhead finally appeared, she was the best bartender in the whole state of Colorado, at least Angus thought so.  He honked his horn at her.  She walked over, “Angus, what are you doing here?”

    “Jazz, darlin’, I need a place to sleep tonight and I’m in no mood for a motel.”  Her name was Jasmine Dupree but those who knew her well called her Jazz for short because she was accustomed to doing as she pleased instead of doing what was expected.  Bailey’s in a tall glass.  He chuckled.

    She deposited her right hand on her hip, “I guess you can have my bed Angus, big as you are, but there won’t be any funny stuff tonight because I’m tired and it’s been a long night.”

    “Don’t be like that Jazz, not even for old time’s sake?”

    “You must be out of your mind Angus.  I left you for a reason and I like to see you from time to time, I’m quite fond of you, enough to give you my bed, enough to run interference for you here and there, but honey you broke my heart a long time ago.  Look, I’m tired, we’ll talk about this in the morning.”  She turned and sashayed over to her truck and got in.  Angus followed her home even though he knew the way.

    When they arrived at her basement apartment, she took his arm and walked him to the door, “It’s nice to see you again,” she said.  He could tell she was a little lit.  Bartenders sometimes drank the spill from the pad where they made the drinks.  He remembered her telling him that once, more than once she’d come home feeling pretty good at the end of the night.  It wasn’t a practice that he embraced.  When you’re a bouncer, you had to keep your wits about you.

    Her outside attire could be pretty flashy, but her apartment was quite conservative and tasteful.  Tia was waiting up for her mother and was delighted to see her dad in tow.  She hugged him as soon as she saw him.  “What are you doing here Angus?”  She didn’t know, she would never know, it was an agreement between her parents. 

    “Just in town on business,” He said, “Now go to bed and let me and your mother talk.”

    “I was going to bed anyway,” she replied, “I have plans tomorrow.  I made some coffee,” she said as she went to her room.  Just before she left she said, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”  Then she giggled and disappeared.

    “I plan to ignore that advice,” Angus said as he watched Jasmine taking the bobby pins out of her curly hair.  It cascaded all around her in auburn curls.  Angus swore she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

    “What’s your business in town,” Jasmine asked him.

    “It’s a runaway bride situation, nothing special.”

    “Would you like some coffee?”

    “I still don’t drink the stuff,” Angus replied.

    “How about a beer then?”  Angus took the beer.

    Jasmine didn’t own a TV set, but she had a wide variety of music.  Angus put in some Zeppelin and made himself comfortable on the couch.  Jasmine fixed her coffee and then sat next to him.  “My feet are tired,” she said.

    “I don’t know how you do it,” he could smell her perfume, it wasn’t the cheap kind, there was nothing cheap about Jasmine and he knew it.  Anyone who knew her knew that.  He reached down and grabbed her feet, bringing them to his lap.  Maybe a foot rub would get him somewhere.

    “So that was the woman you were telling me about I presume, the one with the cheating husband?”

    “I looked into him, I’d run too if I were her,” he said.  “He’s scamming the church worse than he’s scamming her.”

    “……..and all they see is her,” said Jasmine.


    “His hands,” Jasmine thought as he caressed her everywhere except where it was vital, Angus wasn’t a subtle man, except when he was serious.  She nestled against him.  “You know what you said,” her mind interjected, “Ah but I know what I feel,” her body responded.  He finished his beer and she put her coffee on the table.  That night they made love and he slept in the bed alongside her knowing this was the best it would ever get.  Tomorrow he’d be on the trail again.


    Alec rose before the sun, he looked outside and the sedan wasn’t anywhere to be seen.  He turned on the lamp and selected something to wear and went to take a shower.  Something about the night before bothered him.  Angus was well connected and honest, or so it seemed, but the husband was another matter.  In the end it was of no consequence to him.  He had to follow the box and she was the possessor at the moment.  He didn’t know why Pappy had chosen her, Pappy had ways of knowing things and a propensity to keep those things to himself.  He was no different than many of the creatures in this world.  Alec didn’t feel the need to push those boundaries yet his curiosity was aroused.  Everyone had a destiny, if they had the courage to find it, even Alec.

    Olivia saw the light under the bathroom door.  “At least he’s not off gallivanting in the car,” she thought.

    She arose and went to the coffee maker, it always varied how much you could have from motel to motel, and these people were generous.  She wondered if they could give Angus the slip and felt like a spy just thinking that way.  It wouldn’t matter as long as Ed had her phone number and access to the account, all he had to do was call and it would record where she was.  “Speak of the devil,” she thought, as John Cougar warned her to brace herself.

    “What is it Ed?”  She asked.

    “You’re heading to Santa Fe, aren’t you?  That’s the staircase you were talking about?”

    “How did you know?”  She asked.

    “I had a friend crack your password, I saw the e-mails.”  He sounded calm enough.  “I could have taken you to see that if you’d just asked me.”

    “Ed, you wouldn’t have appreciated it like I would.  You think my beliefs are silly at best and foolish at worst.”

    “No I don’t, how can you say that?”  He said.

    “You laughed when I was crying at the end of that church meeting in the stadium Ed.  You didn’t even ask me why I was crying.”

    “Why WERE you crying then?” He asked.

    “It’s personal, you wouldn’t understand.  Look, I need to get ready; we should make Santa Fe sometime today.  I like your P.I. but I really don’t need him and neither do you.”

    “I don’t know that guy you are traveling with and I don’t think I can trust your judgement.”

    “You’re living proof of that,” she retorted.  “Bye, Ed.”

    “Why were you crying Olivia?”  Alec asked.  She hadn’t even heard him enter the room.

    She turned to face him, “Because it had been several years since I felt the movement of the Holy Spirit among so many people and the love in the room was something I had been missing.”

    She saw gentle vindication in his eyes, his expression softened.  “You believe in such things, don’t you?”

    “It’s a matter of faith,” she said, wondering why it mattered so much to him.  She started to ask, but she didn’t want to ask him anything he didn’t freely volunteer, even though he’d had no qualms about asking her about her business.

    “I wasn’t talking about faith, I was talking about love.”  He said.

    She dipped her head and averted her eyes, then she looked at him, “I believe in love I suppose, everyone talks about it, the media markets it like its candy, I think it’s been cheapened and the meaning lost because of overuse of the word.”  She hesitated, “Unfortunately, in my world the word love has been used all too often as a means to manipulate me.”

    “And so you found it in that room?”  He asked.

    “I’ve had a gun pointed to my head and the love of God stopped it, I’ve been abandoned before and the love of God was there.  I’ve always believed in the Lord and now I can see his world.  Love,”  She said, “Love in the human world is like sprinkles on ice cream, sometimes there is plenty, sometimes there isn’t.”

    “I suppose we should be on our way, maybe we can give Angus the slip.”

    “I like him,” she smiled.  “He’s an alpha male on steroids and somehow that’s comforting.”

    Alec didn’t look convinced.  “I think there was something fishy about last night.  He had someone else in the car.”

    She said, “He did?!”  She got up and gathered some clothes so she could take a shower.  Black slacks and a grey pullover.  Today she would see the staircase.  She wouldn’t see Wyvern, her unknown e-mail buddy.  She thought he should be there too though since he was the one who had discovered its location for her.  She wondered if she would be able to be alone there so she could use the box.  Perhaps there was a librarian there also who could verify the truth of the place.

    It took them three hours to reach Santa Fe.  They both had their own thoughts and did little talking other than commenting on the scenery.  Once there Olivia asked Alec, “How do you think we could use the box here?”

    “I don’t know,” he said.  “All we can do is take it inside with us and then see what happens.”

    They had to pay a small fee to enter and already she could hear the echoes, somehow so much noise in such a place seemed sacrilegious, a reflection of today’s society she thought.

    “How will we go up the staircase?”  Olivia whispered for fear her voice would echo.

    “I have an idea,” said Alec.  He took her hand and led her to the confessional, it was empty.

    They went inside, it was a tight fit but they managed.  Alec opened the box and steadied the mirrored box over its base.  “Ready?”  He asked.  She nodded.

    He tapped the box and looked away.  The box spun and again, it did not reflect anything, only the flashing and soon she was there.  The confessional was empty so she opened the curtain.  She saw several oracles there, they were in various types of dress and they were all adults, they each seemed to be focused on other things, or other people maybe?  She counted twelve of them, not nearly enough for how many people she had seen when she came in.  Olivia made her way to the staircase and no one stopped her.  It was immaculate, it was beautiful.  Gingerly she touched the railing and made her way to the top, as they said, it was exactly thirty-three steps.  The years Christ had lived.

    She turned around and looked down, how could it be so far to the bottom?

    There were two oracles at the top and they joined her at the railing.  “We hear you are seeking the council of one,” the smaller of them said.

    “Do you have a confession?”  Asked the other one, she didn’t like his voice.

    She turned to focus on him.  “Confessions are only made to God, are you God?”

    “Don’t you seek absolution?”  He asked.

    “You cannot give me absolution,” she replied, “I’m not sure what manner of spirit you are, but the scripture says that the devil is the accuser of the brethren, are you one of his?”

    “You are wise,” said the other spirit.  “What would you seek from us?”

    “I want to know about the staircase, if the legends are true.”

    “They are true,” he replied.

    “Then the man who built it, what of him?  What can you tell me?”  She asked.

    “He was the man who sold you the box, he has been on his journey a long time now, the staircase was an act of absolution, if you would have it.”

    “What does he need absolution for?”  She asked.

    “You will have to ask him that question.”

    “But what if I never see him again?” 

    “Then you will never know.”

    “So I’ve come here to find that the staircase is still a mystery.”

    He smiled gently, “Mystery can drive the imagination, as the Lord says, ‘My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts’ no?”

    Olivia stared at her feet, “That is scripturally sound.  Very well then, I’ll wait to see if I ever see him again to ask.”

    She turned to leave and glared at the other spirit as she passed.  She made her way down the staircase and through the room and back to the confessional.  She sat down and the box was there, flashing as it came to a slow stop.

    Alec whispered, “Well?  Did you learn what you needed too?”

    Olivia said, “No, I didn’t, let me go again.”

    Alec sighed and spun the box.

    Once again she was alone in the confessional.  She exited the curtains and looked around at the oracles trying to find another one to talk to.  There was one sitting on the front pew who seemed unoccupied, she made her way there and sat next to him.  His hair was shoulder length and he looked as though he’d had a hard time of it because his face was scarred.  She didn’t say anything for a while, then finally, “Do you guys know everything?”

    He didn’t look at her or acknowledge her at first, but then he said, “Only God knows everything.”

    “God?” She asked.  Then she said, “I had a friend who helped me to know about this place, would you know about something like that?”

    “What did your friend look like?”  He asked.

    “I saw a picture online, I never met him in person, but he had long blonde hair and was short in stature.  He was holding a pineapple,” She smiled.  “I was hoping to meet him someday.”

    “How do you know the person you were talking to was the person in the picture?”  He asked.

    “I was thinking the same thing,” She replied.

    “We are not mind readers,” He told her, “We can introduce a thought, we can offer comfort, we can witness what we see, to my knowledge, I don’t know your friend.”

    “Thank you,” she said.  She felt disappointed as she walked back to the confessional.  “I suppose I’ll always have to wonder who he was.”

    She opened the curtain and sat down.

    Alec said, “Did you find what you were looking for now?”

    “Alec, what happens when a person DOES find what they are looking for?”

    He said, “I guess it all depends on what it is they are looking for, what are you looking for Olivia?”

    “Alec, these must be angels.”

    His eyes crinkled as he smiled, “And how do you know that?”

    “Well,” she began, “He told me that only God knows everything.  I don’t suppose I could gain an audience with him.”

    He laughed.

    “What’s so funny?” She asked.

    “You, wanting to interrogate God.”

    She was equally amused, “You’re right, I read how that went for Job.”

    “You read the Bible?”  He asked.

    “Every time I don’t understand why my life isn’t going the way I want it to and I’m tempted to blame God, I read Job.”

    “How does that help you?”

    “It reminds me of how insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things.  It also tells me that pride in our efforts to do good can also be a sin if you expect God to honor you for doing what you should anyway.”

    “What of Job’s pitfalls?”  Alec asked.

    “Those didn’t come from God.”  She responded.

    Alec nodded, “Let’s get out of here.”

    He put the box away and they exited the confessional.  She took a good look around before she left, the place was beautiful and her eyes lingered on the statue of Christ, the author and finisher of her faith, God’s way of showing his heart to his creation, she lowered her head and thanked him.  She gazed at the staircase and thought of Pappy, the nuns must have been happy to be able to reach the choir loft.  It would be a wonderful thing to have heard them sing.

    They stepped out into the sun and located the car only to find Angus leaning against it in wait.

    “We thought you were going to be sleeping in,” Alec said.

    “Which one of you is religious?”  He asked.

    “We both are,” Alec said.  “You should go see the staircase sometime.”

    “My mother brought me here when I was a child,” Angus said.  “More than once.”

    “It’s almost lunch time,” Alec offered, “You joining us?”

    “I thought you’d never ask.”  He signaled Shep and they went to the Sedan.

    “I guess he’s here to stay,” said Olivia.

    “I guess so,” Alec replied.  “Let’s see what the GPS has on the menu.”

    They decided on the Radish and Rye.  It had outdoor seating which meant a certain amount of privacy since most people ate inside.  The waitress was upbeat and efficient.  Angus was able to bring Shep.  Alec ordered the steak and potato, Olivia ordered the chef salad and Angus ordered the chicken fried steak plus a plain burger for Shep.

    “So, where are we going next?”  Angus asked.

    “How are you finding us?”  Alec asked.

    “Ed has an app for the phone,” Angus lied.

    Olivia couldn’t get over how big Angus was, not in the sense that one would think, but stout, no fat, not cut with muscle, just stout.  He had a beard so she had no idea what he would look like shaved, he seemed to prefer cargo pants and tee shirts.  She listened to the men talk and joke, Angus had a deep laugh.  There couldn’t have been any more contrast between two men as there was between the two of them. She decided she would feel safe in either of their care.  They were discussing whether or not to visit Vegas before going on to Oklahoma.

    “This is MY trip, don’t you think I have a say in this?”  She interjected.

    “Well then,” said Alec, “what do you think?”

    “I don’t like to gamble and I don’t want to be around a bunch of people who do, I say we skip Vegas.”

    “Then it’s the interstate,” Angus decided.

    About then the waitress brought their food.  She asked if they needed a refill on their drinks, the men did.  She left with their glasses and then Angus reached over and took Olivia’s plate and switched it with his.

    “Now why did you just do that?”  She asked.

    “I thought you needed to put on some weight,” He said.

    She looked at the chicken fried steak, it did look pretty good.  She said, “So what kind of dressing are you going to have?”

    “Something with vinegar in it,” He winked.  The waitress brought back their drinks and then complied with his request.  Shep wolfed down his burger in short order.

    The weather was nice, the company was cordial, Olivia couldn’t have been more content.

    “Who’s gonna pay?”  Alec asked.

    They all looked at each other and laughed.  She said, “Angus, are you doing the honors or am I?  This ticket should be over forty dollars I think.”

    “Don’t forget the tip,” Alec said.

    Out in the parking lot Angus said, “So you two are avoiding the casinoes?”

    “That’s what we decided,” Olivia told him.

    “I’m not,” He said.  “I’ll catch up to you later.  Don’t tell on me.”

    Alec did the lock and key thing with his mouth.  “Your secret is safe with me,” Olivia said.  “Just how many P.I. licenses do you have anyway?”

    “You’d be surprised,” he told her.  He loaded up Shep and they were off to never-never land, where you never won anything.