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As part of each full novel in the Girl With Broken Wings series, I always include characters relaying certain stories or scenes from their point of view. In Falling, both Gabe and Tarren gave Maya wildly differing accounts on how they rescued her from Grand. In Landing, Maya and Tarren give Gabe dubious accounts of what happened when he and Maya rescued Tarren. I also originally had a section in Landing where Gabe tells a story of his own. It takes place in Chapter 10 when the Fox family starts out on a new mission. Often to amuse Maya, Gabe makes up crazy stories, and this entire scene is just basically him bullshitting around. I loved writing this scene, and I think it really demonstrates Gabe’s humor and his role as the glue that holds his fragile family together. Unfortunately, sticking a random story in the middle of the book didn’t help move the plot forward, so I decided to cut it. It was one of the toughest cuts I’ve had to make, and I still wonder if I did the right thing.

***

The start of a mission is always anti-climactic. It usually involves Gabe stashing a grocery bag full of protein bars, water bottles, and Red Bull in the backseat while Tarren checks the tire pressure and oil on the Murano.

When we take off, it’s always with care and caution. Tarren rides the speed limit like it’s an un-mutable law of the universe. He uses his blinkers. All the time. Actually stops in front of yellow lights and treats the white crosswalk lines as if they were protected by force fields.  

Of course, I understand the old maid driving now. It’s all part of Diana’s code — the ironclad list of rules that her sons continue to honor even six years after her death.

A new unspoken routine governs these family road trips. I sit up front more often now, and usually the driver will shed pearls of angel-killing wisdom upon me. These PBS-like moments of teaching take on vastly different forms and vary drastically in levels of sarcasm depending on the driver.

Tarren elucidates Diana’s rules of survival in the soft tones of an acolyte uttering sacred dogma. Gabe’s advice is always couched in wild anecdotes of dubious verity.

 

Gabe’s Teaching Moments:

“So we sneak onto this cruise. Total fancy, smancy shit. Course, Tarren immediately gets sea sick, so I’m on my own…You were down for the count man…Shut up, this is my story.

I drag Tarren to a utility closet so he can cry to himself softly…My story…weeping like a baby, really, now that I think about it. Begging me, b-e-g-g-i-n-g me to save the day.

I take out one of the waiters and switch into his clothing. It fits perfectly of course, and no one is the wiser…Well, it was one of those huge ships. The staff didn’t all know each other…Shut up Maya. How many cruises have you been on, and the Disney Princess Cruise doesn’t count. OW! Dammit. Fine. It was going to be a really good story though. Really, really, really fucktastically awesome…Was that a pretty please? Come on, let me hear it….Okay.

I’m wandering around this ship, handing out these little shrimp hor d’ourves thingys, looking for my angel. Everyone is in beautiful dresses and suits, and this violin band is playing. All very elegant and la-de-dah. I see my angel, but he’s sitting down at a poker table. How am I going to pop this guy in front of all these people?

Then I have a great idea…Hey, I saw that smirk…Your foolish doubts notwithstanding, I have a brilliant idea. I go to the men’s bathroom and knock out another guy and steal his clothes. Before you even ask, his suit fits perfectly. I comb my hair back, and I look like a million bucks…Of course. I clean up real nice.

I come over and invite myself into the poker game. It’s high stakes. These guys are all millionaires or whatever. They’re suspicious of me at first, but I disarm them with my sparkling personality and incredibly high brow humor. You see, I can slip between all different social straits. I’m just incredibly gifted like that. Practically a chameleon – Hey! No chuckles from Mr. Vomit Bucket in the back… Alright.

We play poker for hours. Did I mention that this was high stakes? I’m talking hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of chips going back and forth across the table. These guys are all masters of the game, and we’re bluffing the shit out of each other, trying to figure out tells and, of course, keeping up a conversation of witty rejoinders filled with subtle threats. A huge crowd forms around us. Lots of beautiful women in low cut dresses…Just trying to give you a feel for the situation.

One by one the others drop out, until it’s just me and the angel….Tarren? Still weeping hopelessly in the closet with his vomit bucket as his only companion in the world. Back to me. The tension Maya, the tension. The crowd is getting bigger and bigger. Some of the women are fainting of course, because I am really revving the charm on all cylinders. Dropping like flies, those women.

Me? Totally cool. Just sipping at my martini…Good guess. Yep, shaken not stirred. Only way I’ll drink ‘em.

Finally, the game comes down to a single hand….Are you not listening to the story? Of course this was all part of my brilliant plan. Absolutely necessary, all of it.

We get down the last hand, and the angel has this tell, so I know he’s got something big. My hand is looking a little weak, until the flop brings me some gifts. I got the makings of a royal flush, but I’m depending on the draw. I know the angel already got his hand on the river, because he’s piling on the chips until we’re both all in.

There’s only one card left to turn.

There’s a huge stack of chips in the center of the table. The crowd is holding its breath. I’m nervous as hell, but I don’t let it show.

Dealer whips down the last card, and it’s the jack I’m looking for. The angel lays down his hand, straight flush, and starts raking in the chips.

“Good hand,” I concede, “almost as good as mine.” I lay down my royal flush and the crowd gasps in unison and then breaks into wild cheers. I grin smugly and pull in my chips…I’m getting to that part, calm down. I tip the dealer, buy everyone drinks. Shake so many hands I lose count. The women, wow, they were all over me. Can’t say I blame them, really…Yeah, yeah, you mock out of jealousy…

The plan, it worked. Angel is so pissed at losing that he goes to bed early. I sneak into his room and get a clean round off right in the back of his head. See, because he went to bed early, I had enough time to plug him, clean everything up, throw the body overboard with some nice heavy candlesticks tied to his feet and then entertain some of my new lady friends.

That could have never happened if I hadn’t won the game. See? Brilliant plan. B-r-i-l-l-i-a-n-t. I show two gorgeous ladies that my hands can do a lot more than shuffle a deck of cards. If you know what I mean. Double trouble. Two in the hand. Menage a trois….Just making sure. Not everyone has the same amount of, ahem, experience as me. 

Speaking of Tarren, I collect the poor bastard from the utility closet. He’s a mess, but I give him a hug anyway and tell him that he did just fine. The kid loves hugs. Don’t know if I ever told you that before. Then we put on our scuba gear – which of course we’d brought with us – dive overboard and swim to shore…

Isn’t it obvious? The lesson is that when knocking someone out in order to steal their clothing, always make sure to find someone who’s your size………..

I’m going to take your silence as acknowledgement of my genius. Alright, alright, here’s the exit. Tarren, you’re up at the wheel.

 

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Deidre


Age: 24
Occupation: Housekeeper to Nathaniel Hayward
Hobbies: Playing the cello

About: Deidre may not be a particularly good housekeeper, have a lot of natural talents or ever be able to tame her frizzy red hair, but what she lacks in life skills she makes up for in perseverance.  She needs a lot of it as she dodges the practical jokes of the haunted mansion's two resident poltergeists, makes sure The Thing In The Basement has fresh cow heads to munch on, and puts up with her cranky boss Nathaniel who is libel to drain whoever knocks on his door (usually Mormons) if she doesn't watch him.

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Nathaniel


Age: 266
Occupation: Vampire of leisure
Hobbies: Cleaning musket, reading biographies, watching I Dream of Jeannie, campaigning for Dwight D. Eisenhower

About: Nathaniel doesn't understand why everyone gets so uppity about newfangled fads like the telephone and horseless carriage. He also doesn't approve of the loose today's loose social morals, what with women walking around wearing pants and making it to age 20 without at least one child on their hip. This isn't what Nathaniel fought in the Revolutionary War for (only at night). The worst of the lot is his housekeeper, Deidre, a bitter old maid who insists he stop sucking the life blood from the Mormons who knock on his door and can't even get prune juice stains out of his kerchiefs.

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Dex


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Conveyor of Extreme Emotions
Hobbies: Guiding unwilling individuals to the conclusion that true fear resides in the devastation we bring to our planet and to our society.

About: Dex is dedicated to transcending the poltergeist stereotype by delving deeper into the nature of fear and showing his unwilling victims that our own reality is what truly deserves our fear and notice. He accomplishes this by through artistic haunting - murals, dioramas and even living projects (which tend to scurry away and end up jumping out at Deidre from the kitchen cabinets). Dex is a ghost with a cause, and he won't rest in peace until you've heard it.

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Sloppy Joe


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Scary-ass Poltergeist
Hobbies: Making Girl Scouts piss their skirts

About: Sloppy Joe grew up on the mean streets of Zanesville, Ohio  where he was pursuing a career as the world's latest and greatest skinny white rapper when he met his untimely death. Nathaniel's mansion is his first official haunted residence. He's still getting used to his powers, but that doesn't stop him from trying to make Deidre's life hell and demonstrate that death doesn't keep down a brother from Zanesville.

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Silas


Age: 79
Occupation: Retire factory worker/part-time vampire hunter
Hobbies: Collecting lawn gnomes, killing vampires

About: Silas was all set to marry his high-school sweetheart in the 1950s until she came home one day a couple of shades paler and with some dental enhancements. After staking his fiancé, Silas vowed to  kill the vampire who had turned her. This led to a 50-year stint as a part-time vampire hunter  and eventually brought Silas to Nathaniel's door. With his fanny pack filled with stakes, Silas is ready to avenge his long lost love.

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Silvia


Age: Claims to be 45
Occupation: Between jobs
Hobbies: Bingo, shopping on QVC, flirting

About: Silvia is proof that some gold diggers never stop digging. When she sets her sights on Nathaniel, she's not worried about his fangs as long as his bank account is just as sharp. Not one to put all her eggs in one basket, Silvia also treats Henrick the werefrog to a little of her wrinkly good stuff. Sure, the extra long tongue is a bit of a turnoff, but she just saw the cutest pair of heels on QVC. No time for scruples when there's sexy footwear on the line.

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Henrick


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Insect control
Hobbies: Taking a snack break at the dumpsters behind the nearest buffet (he only comes for the flies)

About: Henrick is an obese werefrog who was quite the monster back in his day. Now, confined to an electronic scooter, his terrorizing the human populace days are well behind him...unless something really gets him riled up.

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Drew


Age: 25
Occupation: Assistant shift manager at Arbys
Hobbies: Rooting for the Browns, playing Xbox

About: Drew just wants to be your everyday slacker jock. He's got the good looks, nowhere job and deep thought avoidance radar that would make him the perfect addition to any state college frat keggar. Unfortunately, a small genetic inheritance keeps getting in his way, as Deidre learns first hand. Even the knowledge of Drew's dark secret can't douse the flames of Deidre's crush though she knows that the handsome jock never falls for the chubby nerd...or does he?

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The Thing in the Basement


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Vortex of destruction
Hobbies: Anything that involves mayhem

About: The Thing In The Basement shall not be spoken of.

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