(Two weeks—and one gluttony demon—ago)
Father Menchú had passed the point in his life when long nights did not inevitably lead to longer mornings. He had been awakened by a call from Sal and Liam, which had led to the dead body of Katie, ship’s steward of the Fair Weather, who had been executed by Team One without so much as a consultation with Team Three. That revelation had led to a lengthy and dissatisfying confrontation with Monsignor Angiuli, followed by an even lengthier conference between Menchú and Asanti as the two of them tried to determine—not for the first time—if taking their displeasure directly to the cardinal was a moral necessity, or if it would only result in Team Three and its operations being subjected to increased scrutiny and oversight. As it so frequently did, pragmatism had won out over principle.
The familiar creak of old leather and loosening wooden pegs in Menchú’s office chair echoed in his own joints. Not for the first time, he wondered if this sort of deep politicking was really what God had intended when He called Menchú to his vocation. Or, whispered the tiny voice of doubt, did you join the Church merely as a way to embrace your politics?
Menchú had never shied away from politics. He had entered the priesthood with seemingly boundless energy for his calling, shunning sleep for days at a time, going from mass to the homes of his parishioners to late-night meetings with like-minded individuals—inside the clergy and out of it—committed to creating a government and a country worthy of the Guatemalan people. Of course, even in those days, he had eventually succumbed to exhaustion—once, memorably, as he had knelt before the altar celebrating mass.
Decades later, sitting in his corner of the Archives, waiting for his tea to cool enough to allow him a satisfying slug of much-needed caffeine, Menchú thought of the unavenged body of a young Australian woman and wondered if her fate had been a result of letting his ideals interfere with his calling or of failing to pursue his ideals energetically enough.
Fortunately, after a few days, even bad nights receded into memory, edges softened by the sands of time. Until Sal came to revive the events of the Fair Weather with a knock at Menchú’s office doorway.
“Do you have a minute?” she asked.
Even if Menchú had been inclined to send her away, Sal’s expression told him that whatever was on her mind couldn’t wait.
“Come in,” he said.
Not that there was strictly an “in” involved. Menchú’s office was merely a niche among the shelves of the Archives, its “doorway” an accident of the main room’s idiosyncratic layout. Still, it gave the illusion of privacy, which was usually enough. Menchú waited as Sal sat down on one of the large piles of reference books that served for most of his furniture. He let her take her time, years of experience telling him that he didn’t need to push. She had come this far because she wanted to talk. Eventually, she would.
“There’s something I didn’t tell you about the Fair Weather.”
“There was a tour guide. Well, I thought he was a tour guide, but that was before—”
Menchú put up a hand. “Take a breath.”
Sal did. A little shaky at first, but it firmed up on the exhale.
“Whatever it is, it’s all right. Just begin at the beginning.”
Sal took another breath. And then, she told him.
The pit of Menchú’s stomach pooled with dread as Sal came to the end of her story.
“I know it’s crazy,” Sal said. “But I think Aaron might be an angel.”
Yes, he’d been afraid that was where this confession was heading. Menchú leaned forward, took Sal’s hand.
“I assure you. Whatever you encountered, it was not an angel.”
Sal shook her head. “Maybe not an angel-angel. But in the same way that we call the evil things that come out of the books demons, isn’t it possible that some of these supernatural creatures are trying to help—”
Sal jumped as Menchú’s empty mug hit the scarred surface of his desk with a near-shattering crack. He noticed her flinch, and made an effort to rein in his tone.
“If the man you met was truly a divine messenger, carrying the will of God to his people on Earth, why could he only give you vague hints and whispers?”
“I don’t know.”
“Demons that wear evil on their faces, like The Hand, are easy to identify and combat. In New York, was there ever any doubt in your mind that your brother had been taken by a sinister force?”
Sal shook her head. “No.”
“The clever demons are more subtle. They force you to fight yourself, your own doubts, before you can fight them. That is why you must always be on your guard.”
Slowly, Sal nodded. “Have you ever seen an angel?”
“Never. Nor do I expect to until after I have departed this world for the next.”
When Sal left, Menchú noticed that his hands were shaking. It took some effort to still them.
(Two weeks—and a trip to Scotland—later)
Asanti snagged Menchú as he passed her desk by holding...