The Light at the End of Judgment and Day by Marcia Colette (UF)Violinist and angel, Yvette Mills has spent the last 189 years living among humans while rounding up ghosts to send into judgment. Back on the mend from her last confrontation, she's ready to reenter the classical-music scene. One problem. She’s not facing one ghost. It's hundreds with a few demonic entities sprinkled in.
Dozens of tenants have left the Folsom Building in downtown Charlotte because of the strange goings on. When Yvette's agent goes for the bargain-basement rental prices and now has an office there, her mission is clear. Rid the building of the paranormal vermin to keep him and other innocents safe. It won't be easy when a team of paranormal investigators discover she can see ghosts, too.
With a job this big, Yvette will need help. Relying on the investigators will either result in victory or her downfall to hell, if they discover her secret.
The elevator wobbled. I touched the wall to make sure there was something to hold onto in case the next wobble meant something else. I watched as the green numbers incremented by one on the wall above my head.
What kind of rickety elevator was this? Surely, this wasn’t the top-of-the-line building on South Tryon Road, but the least I expected was to get to the nineteenth floor in one piece.
The lights blacked out and the elevator slowed to a stop. I stood on a dark, metal box with nervousness creeping across my shoulders. All sorts of horrible images about what could happen next assaulted my thoughts.
I should've been used to situations like this.
After a deep breath, I steadied my nerves. Death by elevator would be a new one, given the number of other ways I had died over the years. The only good thing about it would be I’d never feel the moment of impact. God was good.
Calmness blanketed me. I reached inside my purse and pulled out my cell phone. I pressed the button on the side to light up the screen.
A screaming, ethereal face appeared and disappeared with the speed of a flasher standing on a street corner and exposing himself to a pedestrian. That was why the elevator really stopped. Sighing, I slipped my phone in my purse and crossed my arms.
The lights on the panel lit up on all of the floors, the dim light giving my light brown skin a slightly darker hue than normal. I was only on the eighth floor.
“Are you done?” I asked, glancing at the dark ceiling. “Because I have to go.”
The lights came on, dousing me in brightness. However, the lights flashed and reshaped themselves into a downward arrow.
The elevator dropped…and slammed to a stop, throwing me off balance.
Pissed, I picked myself off the floor and dusted off any crumbs or dirt that decided to cling. “If you want to scare me, you might want to make sure I’m on a high enough floor that I won’t survive the fall. And by survive, I mean die and don’t come back...this time.”
A long pause and nothing happened. Then, the button for the nineteenth floor lit up and the elevator ascended at normal pace again. Whoever thought scaring someone like me was a good idea or was possible must have gotten a clue. I normally didn’t go around exposing my aura to anyone unless they pushed me to that point. I wasn’t pushed yet.
I got off on my floor and continued down the hall until I came to one of the smallest offices in the building. Maybe the entire block, for that matter.
I expected more of Dennis Furze, but I guess this was more his speed, since he preferred to work at home. This place was more for show whenever he needed to meet with people other than his clients. It was also the first time I visited in the three weeks that he had opened up his new digs for his clients.
When I entered, I let the elderly receptionist know my name and my appointment time.
“There she is.” Dennis traipsed into the lobby and gave me a firm handshake before pulling me close for a peck on my cheek. He reminded me of a spoiled, rich kid who looked somewhat naïve, but had the wheeling-and-dealing prowess of a stockbroker on the Wall Street floors. “How’s my girl? You practicing for your big day tomorrow? Your reentrance back into the classical music society?”
Despite my smile and the earlier attempt at a good scare, I wasn’t moved. “No worries, Dennis. You’ll have your meal ticket again tomorrow night—I swear.”
“Meal ticket? Is that all you think you are to me?”
“Yes, considering you’re my booking agent and you take a certain percentage of all the gigs you put together whether they’re for me as a soloist or my ensemble.”
“Okay, but I also care about you as a person.”
“I also happen to be one of your considerable draws."
Even though Dennis could be a pain, he knew his business better than most and had booked enough engagements that it more than doubled what I would make working in an orchestra. It wasn’t that I was money hungry, but rather, I needed enough money to ensure I could do my other work. Ridding the world of evil while looking normal at the same time. Being a professional violinist allowed me access to places I normally wouldn’t have.
“Well…” Dennis looked me up and down. “At least, you’re wearing less bandages these days. Is all of the therapy and stuff working? How about Carson? ‘Cause you know, we could always get you another nurse, if he’s not living up to expectations.”
I chuckled. “You mean like living up to your expectations. But to answer your question, my therapy with Carson ended last week, remember? I can actually see a therapist on my own, if I want.” I sort of missed Carson. Both he and Dennis went at it like cats and dogs caged in a crate three sizes too small. I was the only one who had the power to fire both of them. Thankfully, I kept Carson’s information in case I ever needed him again. In my line of work—outside of being a professional violinist—I left nothing to chance.
Dennis’s secretary—who was actually his seventy-five-year-old great aunt because he was too cheap to pay for anyone else—cleared her throat.
He nodded and smiled to her before motioning me to go to his personal office. Like the rest of his space, it was very simple and very small. Even though he liked the downtown scene and the prestige it held, I bet anything he spent more time in a high-traffic area with his fingers wrapped around the latest and greatest coffee fad.
I sat in the leather chair in front of his desk. “So what can I do for you, Dennis? I’m still planning to make the Wiesel-Chapman gig the day after tomorrow, so why call me down here?”
“That’s good to know.” He paused, the look on his face saying that was minor compared to something else. Steeling himself, he sighed. “Okay, so I was just wondering how much longer would it be before I can get you back on the national and international soloist circuit again. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is hosting a night of future stars type thing and you’ve been invited. Hell, you’re one of the few they want to give top billing to. It’s in a month and I know you'll need some practice, which is why I’m glad you’re doing the Wiesel-Chapman gig. Tomorrow night will let everyone know that you’re back and in the full swing of things. A hundred percent, if you know what I mean. Including Toronto.”
“And it pays…?”
“Enough to foot a three-month tour in Europe. They’re not looking for the next Josh Bell because his price is too high. But they’re looking for those who have potential. And if they’re considering you for top billing, then baby, you’ve got what they want.”
He had my attention. A three-month tour across Europe had the potential to more than double my investment. It would mean I could do other things like travel the country to send ghosts to Judgment, rather than allow them to stay here.
He crossed his arms, a smug grin perking his face. “So does that mean you’re interested? You have to be on your game, of course.”
"And if you say or even imply that I’m not one more time, I'm going to strangle you with my violin bow.”
But, I knew what he was getting at. Eight weeks ago, while attending the showing for my current home in southwest Charlotte, my little “accident” happened. I wasn’t looking for anything that expensive until I limped out the front door after the showing and noticed malign spirits standing on every front yard throughout the entire subdivision. They had been drawn to my wondrous halo, an aura only few were privy to see and that wasn’t always a good thing. Most of those spirits vacated the subdivision and hadn’t been seen since. The few who stuck around, scurried away like frightened squirrels, darting behind walls, trees, and houses whenever they saw me jogging through the neighborhood.
During the last 189 years, I had experienced drowning, car crashes, plane crashes, and even cold-blooded murder. Thankfully, I’d never felt anything because I managed to leave the body I inhabited before the first hint of pain or my heart stopped. When I’d awake, it was as though nothing ever happened. Unfortunately, the moment-of-impact memories never went away. There were times I wanted to talk to someone about it, but the last angel I’d seen was when I’d first entered heaven and he had told me about my unique distinction as a land-walker angel. Also known as a Witness. Mankind had reached a point where inviting evil in was as easy as opening the front door. So God decided it was time to meet the malevolence head-on by stationing various angels throughout the world and at any particular time to thwart the devil’s attempts to bring more souls to his side.
Dennis laughed. “That’s the beautiful violinist that I’m talking about. So, if you’re game, I'll send you a copy of the contract with my thoughts on some changes and we can—”
I raised a hand to stop him. “No dumb stuff, please. Yes, they’ll pay the travel expenses, but no, I don’t need to stay at a hotel that has chocolates on the pillows. That’s stupid.”
He shrugged. “Yeah, but—”
Again, I stopped his insanity. “Don’t. A simple contract where they spot all of the expenses up front or they pay enough to cover them on the back end. I’m not trying to get myself banned from the music scene by being a diva. That’s your speed.”
He waved his hand. “You know me too well. We’re like a match made in heaven.”
“Or hell.” My grin remained stuck on my face. A few seconds later, another thought cleared it. “So how much is the rent on this place?”
He laughed. “That’s the cool part. Office space like this doesn’t normally come this cheap, but I had someone come out and look at the place to make sure the plumbing and electric was okay and it was. Even talked to some of the other residents to see why the rent was so low.”
He shrugged. “They said if you’re in the market to try out the place, then maybe I should, but otherwise, don’t stay too long because the place is more rickety than an abandoned shack.”
“Then why did you rent it? A place like this—”
“Is fine. Besides…” He made his way to the other side of his desk and sat. “This wasn’t my first pick. I’m going month to month because I’m on a waiting list for the place I really want. It won’t be available for another three months at most, given that it'll need some work.”
Rickety building, eh? That was easier to believe than ghosts haunted the place like it was a spiritual playground. Something else was going on in here that was affecting the residents. It was rare that an entire building of this magnitude would be occupied with the afterlife.
When it was time to say goodbye, Dennis wanted to call the front desk to have them send a car around front for me. He must have forgotten that I had driven into town and parked in an outdoor pay lot. That was what normal people did. If I didn’t keep Dennis on a short leash, I’d have a bad-girl nickname splashed across every tabloid in the world with the paparazzi chasing me for fairytale stories. If nothing else, he was good at getting me the gigs that counted.
I hesitated before pressing the down button again. I glanced at the sign pointing at the staircase. As much as I wanted to take them, my last encounter with a ghost and stairs ended up with broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, and a twisted knee…among other things.
I pressed the button and waited for the elevator. This time there weren’t any surprises…until I reached the lobby. I walked through the sliding security doors and noticed two people standing on the other side, near the security desk. They seemed normal enough, but there was something about the woman that bothered me. Not in a bad way, but rather, in a strange way. Like her line of sight went beyond seeing the norm.
She was a psychic…
…and she locked her gaze on me. Her head tilted slightly like she had seen something. Her lips parted like she wanted to say something more.
I turned away and fished my keys from my purse. My aura was normal—I was sure of it. I had no reason to expose my true self to anyone, and I would still look like a normal person to the naked eye. But to the psychic eye, I had to be careful.
“Excuse me,” a voice said.
I looked up and was a little shocked that anyone had gotten so close without my realizing it. A man stood next to me wearing a maybe an adjective here, even if it’s the word “average” black suit and a white shirt. His hair was parted and somewhat greasy like he had stepped out of a movie from about sixty years ago. When he smiled, his teeth were rotten stumps bout as brown and rough as a tree trunk. Blackish green drool slipped from his mouth.
I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t. Not while there were others in the lobby who might catch me talking to myself. He wasn’t the same ghost who had tried to scare me on the elevator. Rather, he was something else. Perhaps this entire building was a magnet of supernatural activity after all.
He blinked away.
The psychic woman standing at the security desk stared back at me. She saw what I saw and knew I had seen it, too.
When she raised her hand and opened her mouth like she wanted to speak to me, I hurried through the revolving door and across the brick front to the sidewalk. I stopped and glanced back at the building to make sure nothing followed me.
ABOUT THE AUTHORAuthor Marcia Colette didn’t discover her love for reading until her late teens when she started reading John Saul and progressed to works by Bentley Little, Stephen King and Laurell K. Hamilton. Her reading tastes convinced her to write paranormals where curses cause people to shift into spiders, psychotic and telekinetic mothers are locked away in attics, and murderous doppelgangers are on a rampage. Let's not forget about the hunky werecheetah coalitions who live throughout North Carolina. As long as she can make it believable, that's all that matters.
Born and raised in upstate New York, Marcia now lives in North Carolina with her mom and beautiful daughter. They’re not raising zombies in the backyard. There aren’t any hellhounds living in the den, only a rabbit and a cockatiel. So where she gets her ideas is as much a mystery to her as anyone else.
The best place to find her--when she's not stirring up trouble--is on her blog where she loves connecting with readers.
Contact LinksWebsite: www.marciacolette.com
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