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Thirty seven children, along with their bus driver, have been kidnapped on their way to school. They’ve been hidden away in a location known only to the kidnappers, and booby-trapped so that explosives will go off at 5 PM, unless the kidnappers receive their demands. What they want is simple: Joey Justice. They want to trade Joey to Esteban Fernandez for the bounty, and they’ll kill the children unless it happens. The city’s FBI chief, Marcus Moore, orders Justice Security to call in a specialist in child abduction cases to help find the children…Nicholas Turner. Marcus also knows that Nicholas will bring his secret weapon along with him – his half-angel daughter, Madeline. Justice Security finds the kidnappers with plenty of time to save the children. But, when an unfortunate accident kills the kidnappers before the location of the children can be revealed, all seems lost. However, Joey comes up with a solution that only Madeline can help them with. Why not go to Hell and ask the kidnappers? Going to Hell is dangerous, and there’s always a mortally high price to pay when someone starts ringing Hell’s Bells. Who lives? Who dies? Find out what happens when Justice Security goes to Hell in the eleventh Justice Security story from T. M. Bilderback – Hell’s Bells!
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A JUSTICE SECURITY NOVEL
T. M. Bilderback
Cover design by Christi L. Bilderback
Cover photo © Can Stock Photo / sjhuls
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual people is a far-fetched dream of your own.
No part of this novel may be used without express permission of the author.
About The Author
Connect With The Author
Other Works By T. M. Bilderback
HELLO, READER, AND thank you for your interest in this novel.
If you haven’t read my first novel, If You Could Read My Mind – A Nicholas Turner Novel, stop now. Go find a copy. Read it.
This novel is a sequel to that novel, and there are things in this novel that you won’t recognize if you haven’t read that novel.
It was my plan all along to have Nicholas Turner and his “secret weapon” interact with Justice Security. It has taken this long to set the stage for their inclusion.
The Justice Security stories, if you’ve been a long-time fan, have become darker as the series progressed. One of my personal directives with this series is that no character is safe...no character is immune to being killed, or crippled, or otherwise injured to the point of that character’s exit from the series. If the story demands it, that character falls into the darkness.
With this novel, darkness falls. Hard. Brace yourself, and enjoy the ride!
T. M. Bilderback
“MO-OM! MADELINE’S FADING my stuff again!”
“I am not! It’s just one you haven’t found yet!”
“No, it isn’t! You’re lying! You’re not supposed to lie!”
“I’m not lying, Karen!”
“You are! You’re lying, Madeline!”
“I DON’T LIE!” The voice came from everywhere at once.
“No fair! You’re not allowed to argue with your angel voice! Daddy said!”
“Daddy also said not to fade your stuff anymore, and I haven’t! So, hush!”
“Girls, that is enough!”
“But, Mom!” said Karen.
“Meredith!” said Madeline.
Meredith Turner raised her hand, palm out. “Not another word from you two, or I will ground you both! Understood?”
Silence greeted Meredith until she put her hand down.
“Mom?” asked Karen.
Meredith sighed. “Yes, Karen?”
“How do you ground an angel?”
Out of the mouths of babes, thought Meredith to herself. Aloud, she said, “I want you two to finish cleaning this room, then come downstairs. Your father will be home soon, and we have to start dinner.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said both girls in unison.
Meredith turned and walked out of the room the two girls shared Behind her, she heard Karen say, “I’m sorry, Madeline.”
Madeline said, “No biggie, Karen – I just forgot that one.”
Meredith smiled as both girls giggled. They were growing as close as regular sisters...and acting like them, too. Wow...fading Karen’s stuff began as a joke. Madeline made Karen’s things so that Karen’s hand would pass right through whatever she was picking up. It was funny, until Madeline “faded” Karen’s bed. Meredith started down the stairs. At the bottom, in the main foyer of the house, she turned to go to the front door to check on the workers patching the damage to the house. The house had been shot up in a failed attempt to kill her when her daughter, Karen, had been kidnapped by a couple of rogue cops a while ago. After wrangling with the insurance company, Nicholas had asked the local FBI office...well, Marcus Moore...to inquire as to why the insurance company was holding up the claim. The inquiries had their desired effect: the insurance company agreed to repair the house. Replacing the windows was the biggest headache of the whole job.
Had it really only been that short a time? Such a blissful, happy time!
Meredith had, at an FBI man’s suggestion, hired a private detective, Nicholas Turner, to help find Karen. The FBI man was Marcus Moore, best friend to Nicholas. When she had met him, he had been a scruffy-looking ex-cop that had occasional alcoholic binges due to the deaths of his wife and unborn daughter ten years earlier.
Then, the miracle happened that turned all of their lives around.
An actual angel had chosen to be reborn into a human baby to re-experience what it was like to live as a human. The baby she had chosen belonged to Nicholas and Janie Turner. After her soul had combined with the sum of the biological contributions of Nicholas and Janie, the baby died, because Janie had developed a fast-forming and devastating uterine cancer. Janie miscarried the baby, and died herself shortly afterward. The baby, a girl who would have been named Madeline Louise, chose to develop as a normal human child alongside her mother in “Heaven”. When she was ten, Madeline had exercised her free will to do what few other angels or reborn souls had done before...she chose to come to Earth to assist her father with getting his life back on track. Madeline had a few surprises in store for her father, however.
Madeline could be what Nicholas, Meredith, and Karen called “faded”. That meant that she was see-through, and worldly objects passed through her. She could also make herself solid if she chose. However, if she chose to be solid, she was also vulnerable, and could be hurt or killed like any normal human. Madeline could make worldly objects faded as well, by touching them when she was solid, then fade again along with the object. She could be invisible when she chose. She could also fade other people, and transport them with the speed of thought. She could take people to higher realms of existence, and she could shoot bolts of pure white power from her hands. These power bolts were harmless to those creatures of good heart, but could immobilize, or even kill, those that embraced evil.
Madeline could also communicate with her father telepathically.
Because, even though Madeline had chosen to live out a life as a human child with angelic powers, she was still half angel, and answered to a different father as well as to Nicholas. But, since Madeline had free will, she could stay with her earthly father as long as she wished...and she would continue aging as if she were a normal little girl.
Meredith still sometimes found it hard to believe. When something happens in your life that literally confirms that the afterlife exists, that angels exist, that souls exist, that God exists...well, it can be overwhelming.
Overwhelmed or not, Meredith was now the stepmother of an angel.
And she loved it!
Meredith opened the front door just as one of the workers outside threw down a ruined upstairs shutter from the top of a ladder. When it hit the ground, it exploded like a gunshot, causing Meredith to scream and jump.
Almost instantly, Madeline faded in beside her, in full “angel”, or “battle” mode. Her body glowed with white non-light, and her eyes were a bright, penetrating deep blue. Sparks came from her hands, and her power cascaded from each shoulder in a fall that resembled wings. Her eyes searched for the threat that had made Meredith scream.
Meredith had only seen Madeline in “battle” mode one other time, and that was when the little girl had helped take down George Parker, the dirty cop behind Karen’s kidnapping. The sight was both comforting and frightening...and not for other human eyes!
“Madeline!” hissed Meredith “It was nothing! Back out of the doorway before someone sees you, honey!”
Madeline turned to Meredith, focusing those glowing blue eyes on her. Seeing the truth there, Madeline backed into the house, gradually becoming her normal self.
“I’m sorry, Meredith,” she whispered “I thought something was wrong.”
Meredith smiled and hugged Madeline close. “Oh, honey, everything is fine. You did nothing wrong, my sweet darling! Thank you for watching over me!”
“Everything okay, Mrs. Turner?” said a voice from the doorway.
Both Meredith and Madeline jumped at the sound. The job foreman stood in the doorway.
“I heard you scream...did the shutter scare you?” he asked sheepishly. “I’m sorry...we’ll try to be more careful.”
“No, that is fine,” replied Meredith. “I was daydreaming, and the sound startled me.”
“We should be finished by tomorrow evening,” said the foreman. “Then we’ll be out of your hair.”
“Thank you,” said Meredith.
The foreman smiled at Madeline. “I promise that the house will be as good as new, little Miss.”
Madeline returned the smile. “Thank you, sir.”
The foreman mock-saluted as Meredith closed the front door. Meredith, pressing her back against the door, looked at Madeline, who was looking up at Meredith. Suddenly, both started giggling and laughing.
Karen, having heard the laughter, started down the stairs. “What’s so funny? Wha’d I miss?”
Of course, neither could explain to Karen what was funny, which made them both laugh harder. Karen crossed her arms and frowned, but she shortly joined into the contagious laughter. Soon, all three were flopping on the foyer carpet, tickling each other. Finally, spent, they sprawled side by side, with Meredith in between the two girls, all of them trying to catch their breath.
“For not calling you a winghead?” asked Karen.
“No, poophead,” answered Madeline. “For loving me. And for liking me.”
Meredith, puzzled, said, “Why would I not love you, or like you, Madeline?”
Madeline was quiet for a moment, then she said, “Because I was Daddy’s daughter. From before. And because I’m an an...anom...”
“Yeah,” she replied. “I’m really not supposed to be here, Meredith...not the way I am.”
Karen propped herself up on one arm, facing Meredith so that she could hear Madeline better. “What do you mean the way you are?” she asked.
Madeline smiled. “Angels...or what humans call angels...have been reborn before. Most times, their memories have been wiped clean, and their powers were sup...sup...”
“Suppressed?” supplied Meredith.
Madeline nodded “Yeah. Or, they used their free will to give up being an angel to fall to earth so they could live normal lives as humans.”
“So why are you an an...anom...anemonae?” asked Karen.
Meredith smiled. “Anomaly, Karen.”
Madeline turned on her side, facing Meredith. “Because I used my free will to come to earth and live...but I also kept my powers.” She smiled. “With Mom’s blessing...and His.”
Meredith said, “I like you just fine, sweet Madeline. And I love you, as if you were my own daughter. I did not know that it was with God’s blessing, Madeline. Why did he give you his blessing?”
Madeline flopped back down onto her back. “In the realm that humans call ‘Heaven’, I’m one of His most powerful warriors,” she said matter-of-factly. “Only Michael, and the other archangels, and maybe a couple of other regular angels, are more powerful. But, there are two realms...and the other is dark, painful, and evil. Humans call it ‘Hell’, and it’s where souls go that are bad. They have warriors, too...some as strong as Michael. The leader there is His enemy, and is almost as powerful. ‘God’, as you call him, sent me here because something big is coming, and I don’t know what it is, and I don’t know when, and Daddy’s going to be right in the middle of it.” A silent tear ran from her eye. “I was told he’d need all the help he can get...and he still may not win. And I may not win. But it isn’t here yet.” She moved her head so that it rested on Meredith’s arm. “Doesn’t stop me from worrying, though...”
“STOP!” SHOUTED NICHOLAS Turner. “Don’t move!”
“Well, you know, I hadn’t planned on it, Nicky,” said Snickers, computer programmer, snitch, and former junkie. “When ya asked, you know, for me to come give you a hand, you didn’t tell me that, you know, it was gonna be to hang pictures on your walls.”
Nicholas chuckled while he marked the picture’s location so that he could drive a nail. “You would have come anyway, Snick...you don’t fool me a bit.”
“You know, Nicky? You know me too well.”
“Okay, buddy, you can put it down now.”
Snickers sighed as he put the framed print down and leaned it against the wall. “You been doin’, you know, pretty good since you busted, you know, that Parker cop, haven’t you?”
Nicholas nodded. “Yeah, business has picked up quite a bit.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I think I’ve missed some because I’ve been out of the office so much lately. My paperwork has backed up like crazy because I don’t have time to do it the way I should. It’s hard to do it all alone.”
“Can your, you know, new wife help out with any of it?”
“I wish she could, but her artist commissions have doubled since the Parker bust, too. The whole story with Karen’s kidnapping, my busting the case open with your help, our jobs, and our marriage all came together enough to really turn things around for both of us.” Not to mention Madeline’s help...I wonder how much of this is because of her?
Snickers handed Nicholas a nail and the hammer. “Maybe you need, you know, one of those secretaries or something, you know?”
Nicholas hammered the nail into position. “I’ve thought about it I can afford one now...maybe to come in part-time, a few days a week...”. He hung the picture on the nail, straightened it, then backed up a step to admire it. “I’m just not sure that I can find someone dependable enough to do the job, but is flexible enough to do the job part-time. Someone that won’t freak out if I bring in a banged-up kid, or have to shoot some poor schmuck that objects to paying child support and goes rowdy on me.”
“Speakin’ of, you know, work,” said Snickers, “Whaddaya, you know, got goin’ right now?”
Nicholas smiled. “Believe it or not, old buddy, I just finished one up, and I don’t have another one on the horizon. For now, anyway. Why?”
Snickers shrugged. “I ain’t, you know, sure yet. Give me, you know, a couple of days, and I might, you know, be able to drive some business, you know, your way.”
Nicholas was touched. Snickers was one of his best and most reliable stoolies. He had known Snickers since his early cop years. As a street patrolman, Nicholas had arrested Snickers for robbing a liquor store. Snickers immediately began offering information about anything Nicholas wanted to know, as long as Nicholas didn’t lock him up. Nicholas made a counter offer: if the information turned out to be accurate, he would make the charges go away.
The information was accurate, and Nicholas was true to his word. Their give and take relationship grew, and information from Snickers was directly responsible for Nicholas’s promotion to Detective. As a gift, Nicholas paid for Snickers to enter a good rehab clinic to clean himself up.
A grateful Snickers still kept in touch with his underground connections, but he remained clean. He had a knack for computers, and held a job as a computer programmer. He was a small, ratty-looking man, and still had the nervous twitches that he had developed as a junkie. He hung out most nights at McFeely’s, a bar in the Hollow. McFeely’s, commonly known on the street as “McFeelme’s”, was a tough place that served hard drinks to harder customers, and had a reputation of being able to provide almost anything that a person might be looking for.
Madeline had told him that Snickers adored him, and looked at him as a big brother. And she wanted to meet Snickers. Since Madeline was what she was, that spoke volumes to him about Snickers.
“Well, I always appreciate more business,” replied Nicholas. “I don’t suppose you can give me an idea yet?”
“Nah...you know, I have to convince, you know, this guy that you’re, you know, legit.”
Snickers chuckled. “Nicky, you know what I mean! I have to make sure he believes that you won’t, you know, turn him in...or treat him like, you know, crap just because he’s an ex-con, you know?”
Nicholas smiled at his friend. “I gotcha, Snick.”
“I mean, you know, that just because you’re, you know, a detective, I gotta convince him that you’re not, you know, that kind of detective.”
“That ‘kind’ of detective?”
“You know, Nicky! I mean, like you’re, you know, a private dick!”
“Well, I do my best to keep my dick private. Meredith says I do, anyway.”
Snickers smirked. “Ha, ha, funny. I dunno, you know, about the private part, but, you know, you are a dick!”
Both men lost control because of the juvenile humor, and began laughing uproariously.
LATER, AFTER THEY HAD finished hanging pictures, they locked the office door and moved to the back room, which had previously been the living quarters for the private detective.
“So, uh...how’s your, you know, new marriage? Everything, you know, goin’ good, Nicky?” asked Snickers.
Nicholas nodded. “It’s great, Snick. You should find some nice girl yourself...nothing beats coming home to people that love you.”
Snickers shook his head gently while smiling an odd smile. “I don’t, uh, you know, don’t think so, Nicky, you know? No girl’s gonna, you know, look at me and say, you know, that’s who I want to, you know, spend my life with. It just don’t, you know, happen that way.”
A knock came on the outer office door. The two men looked at each other, surprised. It was 5:30 PM, and, officially, the office was closed.
Nicholas made a face. “Ahh, why not? Might be a client, Snickers.”
“Mind if I, you know, disappear out the, you know, rear entrance?” asked Snickers. “Gonna head, you know, down to McFeelme’s.”
“Sure, buddy, I’ll catch you later. Stay out of trouble.”
Snickers ducked out the rear entrance as a knock sounded on the office door again.
“Coming!” called Nicholas.
Nicholas crossed to the door and unlocked it. When he opened it, a woman was standing there.
The woman appeared to be in her mid-forties, mouse-brown hair with gray streaks, shoulder length. Nice figure, settled firmly in middle age. About five-one, wearing a nice pastel blue dress to just below her knees, with an understated pearl necklace and pearl earrings.
“May I help you?” asked Nicholas.
The woman smiled. “Hello, Mr. Turner.” She held out her hand, and Nicholas shook it. She had a firm grip, but not overpowering. “My name is Cindi Moore. I was hoping to speak to you about some part-time secretarial and bookkeeping work.”
Nicholas was stunned. The only person he had mentioned the idea of a part-time person to was Snickers, and that was just a few minutes ago. So, unless Madeline had been inside his head again, this particular idea had been answered from a much higher source. Or it was a huge coincidence.
Nicholas smiled at the woman. “Please come in, Ms. Moore.”
Cindi returned the smile. “Thank you, Mr. Turner.” She stepped into the office.
Nicholas closed the door and gestured to his desk. “Please sit down.”
Cindi sat in the client chair. Nicholas settled in behind the desk.
“Well, Ms. Moore, what brings you to me?”
Cindi smiled. Nice smile, thought Nicholas. “It’s a very short story, Mr. Turner. I seem to find I need a job, after I sort of...fell into the city.”
“That sounds intriguing, but, why me?”
“I’ve been hearing about you a lot lately, Mr. Turner, through the newspapers and television. I felt that your business might be expanding enough to justify hiring someone to keep your office for you, so I came to see you. I love children, and I realize that it’s not always fun doing what you do. I have secretarial skills, I can write reports, I have bookkeeping skills, and I can keep my head in an emergency, and part-time hours would be perfect for me right now.”
Hi, Daddy! said Madeline inside his head.
Meredith says that dinner is almost ready.
I’ll be along shortly, sweetie.
I’ll tell her. I love you!
I love you, too!
Nicholas shook his head and smiled. “Sorry, Ms. Moore. Woolgathering.”
Cindi smiled. “I understand.”
“How about Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays?” Nicholas named the hours, and a generous pay rate.
“That’s fine, Mr. Turner. I accept the job.”
“Great! But you have to call me Nicholas, and I’ll have to do a background check on you.”
“Only if you call me Cindi, and I’ll bring all the paperwork you need for your background check. When would you like to start?”
“Would tomorrow be okay with you?”
Cindi smiled again. “It would.”
They both stood, and Nicholas shook Cindi’s hand. “Welcome aboard, Cindi.”
“Glad to be employed, Nicholas. I’ll be back first thing in the morning.”
SNICKERS HAD HUNG AROUND the back entrance long enough to peek through and see who was visiting Nicholas. When he saw Cindi, something ‘dinged’ inside his head, and he decided to hang around outside the building that housed his detective friend’s office.
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