Ash vanished at 8pm. It took him exactly twenty seven minutes to return, and the whole time he was gone, Kate sat on the edge of her seat, her arms wrapped round herself, jumping at every imagined sound her mind conjured up. When he returned, with a brown paper take-away bag, he had to apologise for making her jump. He hadn’t brought any old take-away either, the bag was printed with an Italian flag and the name of one of the best restaurants in York.
“Fellini’s don’t do take-away,” Kate said, helping him plate up her meal.
“They do for me.”
She was impressed – was there anything he couldn’t do? Could he bring her the moon on a silver tray?
If you asked.
Kate’s smile wavered. She still hadn’t got used to how easily he could read her thoughts. He sighed. He had to stop doing that.
They sat at the kitchen table while Kate had dinner and the conversation inevitably turned to Isabel and the Witch Finder.
“Does it always work out like that?” she asked between mouthfuls of delicious Maiale Rollatini.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Catherine was accused of witchcraft and died, then Isabel accused the Witch Finder and he died. Is there always that kind of tit for tat connection?”
Ash studied her for a moment; the frown was back. It was as though he was watching the neurons inside her brain fire.
“Not quite so directly,” he eventually replied. “But your father’s soul-purpose is always the same.”
“And that is?”
“To achieve immortality.”
“And he does this with the book and dagger that Catherine’s father had, right?”
Ash nodded. This was where she found out how much danger she was in.
“And how does that work exactly? How does it make him immortal?”
“The dagger is the only weapon in existence that can kill an angel. It belonged to Lucifer and was thought lost, but he somehow found it again and corrupted it. His hatred towards God, towards Michael for defeating him, towards all angels, I suppose, made him turn it into a weapon with one single purpose. In Hebrew it became known as Malakh Rozeach – Angel Killer. Anyone can use it for that purpose, but the ritual for immortality binds the angel’s soul to the dagger which can then be sold to Lucifer in exchange for eternal life.”
Strictly speaking, he shouldn’t be telling her any of this, but since angel history didn’t have an effect on her lives, he wasn’t breaking the rules.
“And what does Lucifer get out of it, other than your soul?”
“The satisfaction that he’s diminished Heaven by one more angel, I suppose.”
He missed out the part about him being able to torture him for all eternity, she didn’t need to know that. In fact, she was taking all this remarkably well so far, he thought.
“I think I need another drink,” she said.
Or maybe she wasn’t.
“I’m assuming this would apply to any angel?”
“So why doesn’t he try to capture another one?”
“Firstly, he’d have to find one and that’s not easy. Most people aren’t aware of their guardian angels, let alone best friends with them and when I messed up, the book and dagger became inextricably bound up with you and your father. No one knows what happens to it between lifetimes, we only know that when you are re-born it shows up, finds your father, wherever his soul may be, and we start all over again.”
There was a pause, then…
“So I’m going to die,” she said.
“Not necessarily,” Ash said, but he had hesitated and Kate’s lip trembled as she looked away, tears welling up again.
She took a moment to get her emotions under control and changed the subject, pushing the remains of dinner away from her, her appetite gone.
“So what happened to the man who gave my – Catherine’s father, the book and dagger?”
“I don’t know who he was, one of Lucifer’s soldiers, I guess.”
“Like the one you killed?”
“Possibly, or a human who’d sold his soul to Lucifer in exchange for something. Either way I’m guessing he’s long gone by now.”
Kate sipped her drink. Ash took her plate away, scraped the food into the bin and began washing up. When he placed the plate on the draining board, she joined him with a tea towel in her hand and wiped it dry, putting it away in the cupboard above the worktop. He could see her turning the conversation over in her head and waited for her next question.
“So, somewhere out there, is a man with this book and dagger, who wants to kill you so he can become immortal?”
“That about covers it, yeah.”
“And to stop him I have to kill him, which solves nothing, or find a way to send you back to Heaven or…”
“Or what?” he said.
“I don’t know,” she sighed. The answer was too elusive. “Seems like there ought to be a third option to me.”
“Yeah?” was all he said, but his hands were shaking and his heart quickened pace. For the first time in five hundred years, he dared to hope.
* * *
He stationed himself outside her door as she readied for bed and when he was sure she was asleep, he set up a chair in the open doorway and settled himself to watch over her.
As she began to dream about Isabel he closed his eyes, watching the images in Kate’s head as if on a cinema screen. He hoped that once she’d absorbed Isabel’s life into her subconscious, the jealousy she felt would subside. It was hard for Kate to get her head around being someone else, but she had to know it was her he loved. The soul at the core of her being was constant. He had always loved her, even if he couldn’t show her in the way she wanted.
As Isabel’s life came to an end, Kate stirred from sleep. Isabel’s passing had been one of the few natural deaths in all of Kate’s previous lives. It should have been one of the easiest for her to assimilate, but it had also been one of the saddest because it had cut short a lifetime they could have spent together.
“I didn’t want to leave you,” she sniffed.
Kate wasn’t aware of him sitting in her doorway, but Isabel was not at all surprised to find him there.
He crossed the room towards her and touched his fingertips to her forehead.
“Sleep,” he said.
In an instant Kate’s head fell back into the pillow and she was unconscious.