Chapter Four: In which Guardian Angels are Schizophrenic

Asmodeus paced back and forth in his office, more confused than ever. He didn't want to bug Luke another time about this problem until he'd figured it out. The only thing that he knew for certain was that Vanessa had started to cave in to the full force of his charm, if only slightly. That ruled out any hint of a blessing. If an angel had given her protection, then he would be completely powerless to her. So it must be something natural, or some spell I've overlooked, Asmodeus mused, finally sitting down and roughly sketching the design of a man's suit.

He had to do something to take his mind off of the issue, so he tried to come up with something new in a field that had been business-ified. What, exactly, could one do to the average lawyer's suit to make it more interesting? Perhaps an exciting tie, a new shape. Try though he might, Asmodeus' mind still came back to Vanessa. Who is she, really? Asmodeus had picked up next to nothing from her conversation with her friend Kyle. Her friend tried to start a band, but it failed. She had done well in high school, of the academic variety. All of it mundane, ordinary lifestyle. Nothing to suggest some reason for why a single human girl could yet resist the full force of the most compelling of the Seven Deadly Sins.

From somewhere in the room, a phone began to ring. Asmodeus glanced at his iPhone, which remained silent. Swearing, he dug through the contents of his desk until he unearthed a slim black device. Reluctantly, Asmodeus flipped it open and held it up to his ear.


"Asmodeus." The voice which greeted him was musical, but in a minor key.

The demon sighed and his mouth turned into a grimace. "Azrael. I thought I told you not to call me."

"As the Angel of Death, I am neutral. Your animosity is ill-founded."

"The key word there is angel," Asmodeus growled back.

Azrael sounded vaguely amused. "Yet you still keep this method of communication, though you stubbornly refuse to give me the number of the smart one."

"It's called a cell phone and an iPhone, Azrael," Asmodeus said wearily. "How you survive in this modern world is beyond me."

"I do not survive. I exist. You should have known that, or at the very least remembered what we taught you."

"Yeah, yeah, you're preaching to a sinner, remember? What do you want?"

"To warn you." The voice now sounded much closer, and not entirely contained within the phone. Asmodeus slowly turned around to where Azrael was standing directly behind him, snow-white hair and ice-blue eyes about six inches away.

"...Azrael. Personal bubble," Asmodeus explained, gesturing to the nonexistent distance between them and shutting off the phone. "And why the he...why would Heaven send you to warn me about something?"

"The council of archangels met in the hall of Tilatari yesterday afternoon," Azrael replied, shifting backwards marginally. Asmodeus distantly recalled that conference hall as the one where everyone talked in low, serious voices and stopped whenever a cherub walked in.


"Michael deployed a guardian angel to watch over Vanessa Florence, one who has looked after her before." The Angel of Death's tone turned sharp. "He would not say why."

Asmodeus considered this. "She's a girl, and she works for me. That would warrant a guardian angel in any situation."

"I suspect it has something to do with the power she has thus displayed over you."

"Hey, watch who you're calling weak," the demon replied testily. He wasn't all that upset, since Vanessa truly did have power over him, but he was concerned about Azrael's knowledge.

"Don't worry, I haven't informed any of the others," Azrael chuckled softly, sending melancholy chords around the room. "My reason for warning you is this: that the balance may remain so."

Azrael vanished before Asmodeus could get out a single word. Blinking at empty space, he ran a hand over his pink locks and sighed. "Can't bother to say good-bye, huh?" What did he mean by "the balance"?

Vanessa finished handing off another pattern to Mrs. Rosbraun and walked back to her office. Asman was talking to Tanza at her secretary desk. The manner with which he leaned against it reminded Vanessa about what had happened that morning. She still wasn't certain it had all been a dream, but then what else could it have been? There was definitely no way her boss was trying to seduce her. Right?

"Asman, I'm heading on lunch break," she called, and waved when he looked up.

He straightened and walked swiftly over to her. "Sorry, I just have a quick question. You looked distracted when you came in this morning. Everything all right?"

"Oh no, it's fine. I met an old high school friend earlier and my mind was still thinking about something he said."

"Really? What was it?"

"His name's Kyle. I...probably shouldn't say this, but he has schizophrenia. He brought up one of his hallucinations from a while back. Something about the outline of a spirit on my shoulder." Vanessa bit her lip. Yeah, I definitely shouldn't have told him that. But...I really do need to talk to someone about this. I'm sure it won't hurt.

"Huh," Asman said by way of answer. He walked away, and she was instantly confused. Wait, what did I just do? That's Kyle's private situation. I can't go around telling people about it!

Vanessa nearly fled the building as she scrambled to straighten things out in her head. Okay, things have officially crossed the border of strange. Just what the hell is going on here?

She beat a path down the sidewalk through the sea of people, ignoring the incessant noise of the streets. Unsure where exactly she thought she was going, Vanessa let her feet carry her to a small park, and she sat down on the grass with a groan.

"I'm either going crazy or Kyle's the sanest person on the planet. What am I going to do?" she implored a songbird pecking at a seed near her feet. "And if you say a word in English, I swear I'll lose it," she added as an afterthought. Thankfully, the songbird only chittered away in its own tongue, busily going about its life.

From a distance, unnoticed by the black-haired woman talking to a bird, Kyle watched in silence. That was his job. Watch, and protect. He furrowed his brows in worry. The spirit on her shoulder had grown more solid, though still faint and transparent. Kyle didn't know why it was there, but there wasn't much he could do about it. The thing was harmless, and only served as a signal to demon activity while in this incorporeal stage. The question was where the demon was.

Kyle dropped his head in a hand. "This would be so much easier if she'd told me something I could use," he muttered. "Working for a fashion designer? This is New York City we're talking about! How am I supposed to find the demon when I don't even know where to stop looking?"