“I know I’ve said this before, but Patch doesn’t instill a deep sense of comfort in me,” Vee said. “I still have nightmares about the guy in the ski mask. In one of my nightmares, he ripped off his mask, and guess who was hiding under it? Patch. Personally, I think you should treat him like a loaded gun.
Something about him isn’t normal.”
This was exactly what I wanted to talk about.
“What would cause someone to have a Vshaped scar on their back?” I asked her.
There was a moment of silence.
“Freak,” Vee choked. “You saw him naked? Where did it happen? His Jeep? His house? Your bedroom?”
“I did not see him naked! It was sort of an accident.”
“Uhhuh, I’ve heard that excuse before,” said Vee.
“He had a huge, upside down Vshaped scar on his back. Isn’t that a little weird?”
“Of course it’s weird. But this is Patch we’re talking about. He has a few screws loose. I’m going to take a wild guess and say … gang fight? Prison scars? Skid marks from a hitandrun?”
One half of my brain was keeping track of my conversation with Vee, but the other, more subconscious half had strayed. My memory went back to the night Patch dared me to ride the Archangel. I recaptured the creepy and bizarre paintings on the side of the cars. I remembered the horned beasts ripping the wings off the angel. I remembered the black upsidedown V where the angel’s wings used to be.
I almost dropped the phone.
“Ssorry, what?” I asked Vee when I realized she’d carried the conversation further and was waiting for my response.
“What. Happened. Next?” she repeated, enunciating each word. “Earth to Nora. I need details. I’m dying here.”
“He got in a fight and his shirt ripped. End of story. There’s no whathappenednext.”
Vee sucked in a breath. “This is what I’m talking about. The two of you are out together … and he gets in a fight? What’s his problem? It’s like he’s more animal than human.”
In my mind I switched back and forth between the painting of the angel’s scars and Patch’s scars. Both scars had healed to the color of black licorice, both ran from the shoulder blades to the kidneys, and both curved out as they traveled the length of the back. I told myself there was a good chance it was merely a very creepy coincidence that the paintings on the Archangel depicted Patch’s scars perfectly. I told myself a lot of things could cause scars like Patch’s. Gang fight, prison scars, skid marks—just like Vee said. Unfortunately, all the excuses felt like lies. Like the truth was staring me in the face, but I wasn’t brave enough to look back.
“Was he an angel?” Vee asked.
I snapped to myself. “What? ”
“Was he an angel, or did he live up to his badboy image? Because, honestly? I’m not buying this whole hedidn’ttryanything version of the story.”
“Vee? I have to go.” My voice was strewn with cobwebs.
“I see how it is. You’re going to hang up before I get the details on the big shebang.”
“Nothing happened on the date, and nothing happened after. My mom met us in the driveway.”
“I don’t think she likes Patch.”
“You don’t say!” Vee said. “Who’d have guessed?”
“I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”
“Sweet dreams, babe.”
Fat chance, I thought.
After I got off the phone with Vee, I walked down the hall to my mom’s makeshift home office and booted up our vintage IBM. The room was small, with a pitched roof, more of a gable than a room. One greasy window with faded orange curtains from the 1970s looked out at the side yard. I could stand up to my full height in about 30 percent of the room. In the other 70 percent, the top of my hair brushed the exposed beams of the rafters. A single bare bulb hung there.
Ten minutes later the computer secured a dialup connection to the Internet, and I typed “angel wing scars” into the Google search bar. I hovered with my finger above the enter key, afraid that if I went through with it, I’d have to admit I was actually considering the possibility that Patch was—well, not …
I hit enter and mouseclicked on the first link before I could talk myself out of it.
FALLEN ANGELS: THE FRIGHTENING TRUTH
At the creation of the garden of Eden, heavenly angels were dispatched to Earth to watch over Adam and Eve. Soon, however, some angels set their sights on the world beyond the garden walls. They saw themselves as future rulers over the Earth’s population, lusting after power, money, and even human women.
Together they tempted and convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, opening the gates guarding Eden.
As punishment for this grave sin and for deserting their duties, god stripped the angels’ wings and banished them to Earth forever.
I skimmed down a few paragraphs, my heart beating erratically.
Fallen angels are the same evil spirits (or demons) described in the Bible as taking possession of human bodies. Fallen angels roam the Earth looking for human bodies to harass and control. They tempt humans to do evil by communicating thoughts and images directly to their minds. if a fallen angel succeeds in turning a human toward evil, it can enter the human’s body and influence his or her personality and actions.
However, the possession of a human body by a fallen angel can take place only during the Hebrew month of Cheshvan. Cheshvan, known as “the bitter month,” is the only month without any Jewish holidays or fasts, making it an unholy month. Between new and full moons during Cheshvan, fallen angels invade human bodies in droves.
My stare lingered on the computer monitor a few minutes after I finished reading. I had no thoughts.
None. Just a complexity of emotions tangling inside me. Cold, panicky amazement and foreboding among them.
An involuntary shudder roused me to my senses. I remembered the few times I was certain Patch had breached normal communication methods and whispered directly to my mind, just like the article claimed fallen angels could. Comparing this information with Patch’s scars, was it possible … could Patch be a fallen angel? Did he want to possess my body?
I browsed quickly through the rest of the article, slowing when I read something even more bizarre.
Fallen angels who have a sexual relationship with a human produce superhuman offspring called nephilim. The nephilim race is an evil and unnatural race and was never meant to inhabit Earth.
Although many believe the great Flood at the time of noah was intended to cleanse the Earth of nephilim, we have no way of knowing if this hybrid race died out and whether or not fallen angels have continued to reproduce with humans since that time. it seems logical that they would, which means the nephilim race is likely on the Earth today.
I pushed back from the desk. I crammed everything I’d read into a mental folder and filed it away. And stamped SCARY on the outside of the folder. I didn’t want to think about it right now. I’d sort through it later. Maybe.
My cell phone buzzed in my pocket and I jumped.
“Did we decide avocados are green or yellow?” Vee asked. “I’ve already filled all my green fruit slots today, but if you tell me avocados are yellow, I’m in business.”
“Do you believe in superheroes?”
“After seeing Tobey Maguire in SpiderMan, yes. And then there’s Christian Bale. Older, but killer hot.
I’d let him rescue me from swordwielding ninjas.”
“I’m being serious.”
“So am I.”
“When was the last time you went to church?” I asked.
I heard her pop a gum bubble. “Sunday.”
“Do you think the Bible is accurate? I mean, do you think it’s real?”
“I think Pastor Calvin is hot. In a fortysomething way. That pretty much sums up my religious conviction.”
After I hung up, I went to my room and slid under the covers. I threw on an extra blanket to ward off the sudden chill. Whether the room was cold, or the icy feeling originated inside me, I wasn’t sure.
Haunting words like “fallen angel,” “human possession,” and “Nephilim” danced me off to sleep.
I TOSSED ALL NIGHT. THE WIND GUSTED THROUGH THE OPEN fields rimming the farmhouse, spraying debris against the windows. I woke several times, hearing shingles being pulled from the roof and tumbling over the edge. Every small noise from the rattle of the windowpanes to my own creaking bedsprings had me jumping out of sleep.
Around six I gave up, dragged myself out of bed, and padded down the hall for a hot shower. Next I cleaned my room—my closet was looking slim, and sure enough, I filled the hamper with three loads of laundry. I was climbing the stairs with a fresh load when a knock sounded at the front door. I opened it to find Elliot standing on the doorstep.
He wore jeans, a vintage plaid shirt rolled to the elbows, sunglasses, and a Red Sox cap. On the outside, he looked allAmerican. But I knew better, and a jolt of nervous adrenaline confirmed it.
“Nora Grey,” Elliot said in a patronizing voice. He leaned in and grinned, and I caught the sour tang of alcohol on his breath. “You’ve been causing me a lot of trouble lately.”
“What are you doing here?”
He peered behind me into the house. “What’s it look like I’m doing? I want to talk. Don’t I get to come in?”
“My mom’s asleep. I don’t want to wake her.”
“I’ve never met your mom.” Something about the way he said it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand tall.
“I’m sorry, do you need something?”
His smile was half sloppy, half sneering. “You don’t like me, do you, Nora Grey?”
By way of answer, I folded my arms across my chest.
He staggered back a step with his hand pressed to his heart. “Ouch. I’m here, Nora, as a lastditch effort to convince you that I’m an average guy and you can trust me. Don’t let me down.”
“Listen, Elliot, I have a few things I need to—”
He drilled his fist into the house, smacking his knuckles against the siding hard enough to shake loose chipped paint. “I’m not finished!” he slurred in a heated voice. Suddenly he tipped his head back and laughed quietly. He bent over and placed his bleeding hand between his knees and groaned. “Ten dollars says I’m going to regret that later.”
Elliot’s presence made my skin crawl. I remembered back several days, when I actually thought he was goodlooking and charming. I wondered why I’d been such an idiot.
I was contemplating closing the door and locking it, when Elliot pulled off his sunglasses, revealing bloodshot eyes. He cleared his throat, his voice coming out straightforward. “I came here because I wanted to tell you Jules is under a lot of stress at school. Exams, student government, scholarship applications, yadda, yadda, yadda. He’s not acting like himself. He needs to get away from it all for a few days. The four of us—Jules, me, you, Vee—should go camping for spring break. Leave tomorrow for Powder Horn and come back Tuesday afternoon. It’ll give Jules a chance to decompress.” Every word that came out of his mouth sounded eerily and carefully rehearsed.