Dark Angel (Chapter 16)

Gillian stood as if her snow-powdered body had been turned to ice. Because it was the worst, the

absolute worst that she could possibly have imagined.

He killed a kid.

"The little girl who disappeared a year ago," she whispered. "On Hilkrest Road." The one she'd thought

of-completely irrationally-when she'd heard the crying.

"I was doing a spell," Gary said. "A strong one; I was a quick learner. It was a fire elemental spell-so I

was out in the woods. In the snow, where nothing would burn. And then she showed up chasing her dog."

He was staring into the distance, his face dead white. Looking not haunting, but haunted. And

Gillian knew he wasn't with her at that moment; he was far away, with Paula.

"They broke the circle. It all happened so fast. The fire was everywhere-just one white flash, like

lightning. And then it was gone." He paused. "The dog got away. But not her."

Gillian shut her eyes, trying not to imagine it. "Oh, God." And then, as something twisted inside her, "Oh, Gary …"

"I put her body in my car. I was going to take her to the hospital. But she was dead. And I wasconfused.

So finally I stopped the car. And I buried her in the snow."


"I went home. Then I went to a party. That was the kind of guy I was, you see. A partyin' guy.

Everything was about good times and me, me, me. That was even what being a witch was about." For

the first time there was emotion in his voice, and Gillian recognized it. Self-hatred.

"And at the party, I got really, really drunk."

Oh. Suddenly Gillian understood. "You never told anybody."

"On the way back home I wrapped my car around a tree. And that was it." He laughed, but it wasn't a

laugh. "Suddenly I'm in Neverland. Can't talk to anybody, can't touch anybody, but sure can see

everything. I watched the search for her, you know. They passed about a foot away from her body."

Gillian gulped and looked away. Something had twisted and broken inside her, some idea of justice that

would never be put back together. But this was no time to think about that.

It hadn't really been his fault… but what did that matter? You played the hand you got dealt. And Gary

had played his badly. He'd started out with everything-good looks, obvious brains, and witch power

enough to choke a horse-and he'd blown it.

Didn't matter. They had to go on from here.

She looked up at him. "Gary, you have to tell me where she is."


"Gary, don't you see? That's your unfinished business. Her family doesn't know…" Gillian stopped and

swallowed. When she went on, her voice wobbled. "Whether she's alive or dead. Don't you think they

ought to know that?"

A long pause. Then he said, like a stubborn child, "I don't want to go anywhere."

Like a frightened child, Gillian thought. But she didn't look away from him. "Gary, they deserve to

know," she said softly. "Once they're at peace-"

He almost shouted, "What if there isn't any peace for me?"

Not frightened, terrified.

"What if there isn't anywhere for me to go? What if they won't take me?"

Gillian shook her head. Her tears overflowed again. And she didn't have any answers for him. "I don't

know. But it doesn't change what we've

got to do. I'll stay with you, though, if you want. I'm your cousin, Gary." Then, very quietly, she said,

"Take me to her."

He stood for a long moment-the longest of Gillian's life. He was looking at something in the night sky that

she couldn't see, and his eyes were utterly bleak.

Then he looked at her and slowly nodded.

"Here?" David bent and touched the snow. He looked up at Gillian. His dark eyes were young- a little

scared. But his jaw was set.

"Yes. Right there."

"It's a pretty strange place to do it."

"I know. But we don't have any choice."

David got to work with the shovel. Gillian pushed and mounded snow into walls. She tried to think only

of how she'd done this in childhood, about how easy and interesting it had been then. She kept at it until

David said, "I found her."

Gillian stepped back, brushing off her sleeves and mittens.

It was a clear day, and the afternoon sun was brilliant in a cold blue sky. The small clearing was

peaceful, almost a haven. Untouched except for a welt in the snow where a ground mouse had tunneled.

Gillian took a couple of deep breaths, fists clenched, and then she turned to look.

David hadn't uncovered much. A scrap of charred red wool muffler. He was kneeling beside the shallow

trench he'd made.

Gillian was crying again. She ignored it. She said, "It was the last day before Christmas vacation, so we

took the day off from school. We were playing hooky in the woods. We decided to make a snow fort…."

"And then we found the body." David got up and gently put a hand on her elbow. "It's a weird story, but

it's better than the truth."

"And what can they suspect us of? We never even knew Paula Belizer. They'll know she was murdered

because she was buried. But they won't know how she died. They'll think somebody tried to burn the

body to get rid of it."

David put his arm around her waist, and she leaned into him. They stood that way for a few minutes,

steadying each other.

It was strange how natural that was, now. David had agreed to help her with all this without a moment's

hesitation… and Gillian hadn't been surprised. She'd expected it. He was her soulmate. They stood together.

At last, he said quietly, "Ready?"


As they left the clearing, David added even more quietly, "Is he here?"

"No. I haven't seen him since he showed me the place. He just-disappeared. He won't talk to me either."

David held her tighter.

Mr. Belizer came at dusk, after most of the police had left.

It was almost too dark to see. David had been urging Gillian away for an hour. So had Gillian's parents.

They were there, both of them, huddling close and touching her whenever they could. David's father and

stepmother were on the other side of David.

Yeah, Gillian thought. It's been a rough last few days on everybody.

But here they all were: David, pale but calm; Gillian, shaky but standing; the parents, bewildered but

trying to cope. Not comprehending how their kids could have found so much trouble in such a short time.

At least nobody seemed to suspect them of having hurt Paula Belizer.

And now, here was Paula's dad. Alone. Come to look at the last resting place of his daughter-even

though the coroner had already taken his daughter away.

The police let him go up to the clearing with a flashlight.

Gillian tugged at David's hand.

He resisted a second, then let her tow him. Gillian heard murmurs as they went. What are you doing,

following that poor man. My God, that's- ghoulish. But none of the parents actually grabbed them to stop them.

They ended up a little distance behind Mr. Belizer. Gillian moved to see his face.

Now here was the thing. She didn't know about spirits. She wasn't sure what needed to be done to

release Gary from the between-place. Did she need to talk to Paula's dad? Explain that she had the

feeling whoever had done it was sorry, even if they could never tell him themselves?

It might get her locked up. Showing too much interest in a crime, too much knowledge. But, strangely,

that didn't scare her as much as she'd have thought. She was Gary's cousin, and his debts were hers

somehow. And things had to be put right.

As she stood hesitating, Mr. Belizer fell to his knees in the trampled snow.

Oh, God. That hurt. If strong arms hadn't been holding Gillian up, she might have fallen, too.

David held her and pressed his face into her hair. But Gillian kept looking at the kneeling man.

He was crying. She'd never seen a man his age cry, and it hurt in a way that was scary. But there was

something else in his face. Something like relief… peace.

Kneeling there, with his overcoat spread around him, Mr. Belizer said, "I know my daughter is in a

better place. Whoever did this, I forgive them."

A shock like cold lightning went through Gillian, and then a spreading warmth. She was crying suddenly.

Hard. Tears falling straight down from her eyes. But she was filled with a hope that seemed to lift her

whole body.

And then David drew in his breath sharply, and

she realized he'd raised his head. He was staring at something above Mr. Belizer.

Gary Fargeon was hovering there. like an Angel.

He was crying. And saying something over and over. Gillian caught "-sorry, I'm so sorry…"

Forgiveness asked for and given. If not exactly in that order.

That's it, Gillian thought. Her knees began to tremble.

David whispered huskily, "Can you see that, too?"

"Yes. Can you?"

Nobody else seemed to see it. Mr. Belizer was getting up now. He was walking past them, away.

David was still staring. "So that's what he looks like. No wonder you thought-"

He didn't finish, but Gillian knew. Thought he was an angel.

But… why was Gary still here? Wasn't the forgiveness enough to release him? Or was there something

else that needed to be done?

Gary turned his head and looked at her. His cheeks were wet. "Come in a little farther," he said. "I have

to say something."

Gillian untangled from David, and then pulled at him. He came, jaw still sagging. They followed Gary

past a thicket and into another clearing. As the trees and the darkness closed around them, they seemed

suddenly far away from the police noise and bustle.

Gillian guessed even as Gary sank down to face them. But she let him say it.

"You have to forgive me, too."

"I forgive you," Gillian said.

"You have to be sure. I did some terrible things to you. I tried to warp you, damage your soul."

"I know," Gillian said steadily. "But you did some good things, too. You helped me-grow up."

He'd helped her conquer her fears. Gain self-confidence. Discover her heritage. And find her soulmate.

And he'd been close to her in a way that she would probably never be with anyone else ever again.

"You know what?" Gillian was on the verge of tears again. "I'm going to miss you."

He stood facing her. He was shining just dimly. His eyes were dark and bruised looking, but his lips

were smiling. And he was more beautiful than she had ever seen him.

"Things are going to work out, you know," he said softly. "For you. Your mom's going to get better."

Gillian nodded. "I think so, too." "And I checked on Tanya and Kim. They're going to be all right.

Tanya's still got all her fingers." "I know." "You should go see Melusine. You could help

them a lot with Circle Daybreak. And they can help you deal with the Night World."

"Yes. All right."

"And you might want to talk to Daryl at school. She's got a secret that Kim was spreading rumors about

last year. It's that-"

"And-Gary!" Gillian held up her hand. "I don't want to know. Someday, if Daryl wants to tell me her

secret, she can do it herself. But if not-okay. I have to deal on my own, now."

She'd already thought about school, all last night while she'd been lying alone in her room. Things were

going to change, obviously. It was surprisingly easy to sort out which friends mattered.

Amanda the Cheerleader and Steffi the Singer and J.Z. the Model were all right. No better and no

worse than any of the less popular girls. She wouldn't mind if they still liked her.

Daryl-who was not Daryl the Rich Girl anymore, but just Daryl-was better than all right. The sort that

might turn out to be a real friend. And of course there was Amy. She owed Amy a lot.

As for the others-Tanya and Kim and Cory and Bruce and Macon-Gillian didn't really want to know

them. If she never went to another Popular Party, that was fine.

"And I don't want to know if J.Z. really tried to kill herself, either," she said now.

Gary shut his mouth. Then his eyes actually

seemed to twinkle. "You're going to do all right." And then, for the first time, he looked at David.

They stared at each other for a moment. Not hostile. Just looking.

When Gary turned back to Gillian he said very quietly, "One last thing. I didn't change my mind about

killing him because I couldn't go through with it. I did it because I didn't want you to hate me forever."


Gillian put out her hand. So did he. Their fingers were close together, blurring into each other… but

they couldn't touch. They never would.

And then suddenly, Gary looked startled. He turned to look up and behind him.

At the dark, starlit sky.

Gillian couldn't see anything. But she could feel something. A sort of rushing. Something was coming.

And Gary was lifted toward it like a leaf on the wind.

His hand was still stretched toward her, but he was in the air. Weightless. Bobbing. And as Gillian

watched, his startled expression melted into something like awe.

And then joy. Joy and… recognition.

"I've got to go," he said wonderingly.

Gillian was staring at the sky. She still couldn't see anything. Not the tunnel, not the meadow. Did he

mean he had to go to the between-place?

And then she saw the light.

It was the color of sunlight on snow. That brilliant, but not painful to look at. It seemed to shimmer with

every color in the universe, but all together the colors made white.


But something was happening. He was moving without moving. Rushing away in some direction she

couldn't point to. Getting smaller. Fading. She was losing him.

"Goodbye, Gary," she whispered.

And the light was going, too. But just before it went, it seemed to take on a shape. It looked something

like huge white wings enfolding him.

For the briefest instant, Gillian felt enfolded, too. By power and peace… and love.

And then the light was gone. Gary was gone. And everything was still.

"Did you see that?" Gillian whispered through the ache in her throat.

"I think so." David was staring, his eyes big with awe and wonder.

"Maybe… some angels are real."

He was still staring upward. Then he drew in his breath. "Look! The stars-"

But it wasn't stars, although it looked like star-dust. Crystalline points of light, frozen beauty sifting down.

The air was full of it.

"But there aren't any clouds…"

"There are now," David said. Even as he said it,

the stars were covered. Gillian felt a cool touch on her cheek.

Like a kiss.

And it was ordinary snow, just an ordinary miracle. She and David stood hand in hand, watching it fall

like a blessing in the night.

[The End]