At a tavern one Friday night, astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz meets a mysterious young woman. Captivated by her beauty as well as her views on good and evil, he spends the next several days with her. After a while, however, he begins to notice a strangeness in her…especially the way she seems to take pleasure in toying with his conscience.
The young woman, Kamilah, invites him to Rize, Turkey, where she claims her family owns a cottage in the woods. In spite of his heavy workload and the disturbing visions and nightmares about his sister’s baby that is due to be born soon, Gabriel agrees to go with her.
But nothing, not even the stunning beauty of the Black Sea, can disguise the horror of her nature…
In a place where death dwells and illusion and reality seem as one, Gabriel must now come to terms with his own demons in order to save his sister’s unborn child, and ultimately, his own soul.
Purchase your copy at AMAZON.
From across the tavern she watched him.
Adorable, that’s what he looked to her, with those mellow brown eyes, those rebellious waves falling carelessly over his forehead, down the sides of his neck. Ragged, eccentric hair. He didn’t have lashes. What he had were black velvet Spanish fans. A man had no business with lashes like that. He was tall, well over six feet, and slender like a cheetah. But the best were his eyes. They were generous and kind; they were ingenious; they inspired trust; they had that special spark. They had angel.
To the Spaniards, having angel meant a lot more than being handsome or beautiful. A woman might be beautiful, but if she didn’t have angel she was as memorable as a drop of water in the sea. On the other hand, an ordinary-looking woman with angel would captivate. A man or woman must be born with angel. It could not be learned. It was not a physical attribute. It was in the voice, in the words, in the aura.
Yes… he had angel.
The sight of him was already reason enough to melt her distraction, her perpetual restlessness. But what pulled her to him like a newborn to a breast was a single mental image he’d had while waiting at the table for his friend to arrive.
Over a tall glass of dark beer, almost in a state of stupor, his eyes fixed down on the flickering candle, he had envisioned a young woman humming a lullaby and pushing a pram in a beautifully wooded park. A lovely young mother, yes, the picture of ecstatic bliss, once in a while leaning over the pram to murmur soft words and coo at the baby. And the lullaby, what a lovely lullaby. Never in all her existence had she heard such a sweet and maternal lullaby.
When the vision was over he had blinked, startled, as if waking up from a distasteful and deeply disturbing nap. He had appeared sickened. He had taken a deep draught of his beer as if it were a drug.
But the image of the young mother had nailed itself permanently in her mind. What a gentle smile she’d had, what wonderful radiance emanated from her face, from her very being.
His friend had arrived, and he was passionately arguing about the higher good, about vigilantism, about good and evil.
What innocent arrogance! Good and evil!
She put the palm of her hand over the flickering candle and closed her eyes until the pain became unbearable.
Yes, hurt me, burn me, scorch me, for only in feeling do I exist.
She opened her eyes and pulled back her hand. Then she ran her tongue along the palm, soothing the tender flesh.
It would be impossible to keep away from him. Already she could feel the texture of his stubble. Even if freshly shaved his chin would be slightly rough, she knew it. Already she could drown herself in the sensation of her hands through his hair. They would tangle through his thick waves, drive her impatient with longing.
And of course, the thrill of tempting him a little, a little more, more more more….
Playfully make him fall.
Now his friend called him Gabriel. His name was Gabriel!
This was too much. Surely it must be a sign.
She bit her lower lip until a bit of blood flowed into her mouth. Gabriel.
Once again she closed her eyes to savor the intensity of the moment. It was like subterranean heat, this sensation coursing through her. She had fallen in love with the angel Gabriel. That’s what he was, an angel. With those eyes, an angel.
Perfectly enthralled, she watched him some more, stared at the movement of his lips some more, listened to his passionate words as if she were listening to God. His looks, the beauty and honesty pouring out of his eyes, his silly proclamations about the higher good—all these had captivated her.
And the woman of his thoughts, yes, the lovely young woman humming the lullaby.
Yes… the young mother.
Gabriel Diaz took a long sip of beer. Then, almost regrettably, he put the glass down. He wished his glass were bottomless so he could relish his precious prime Belgian beer forever. At almost ten dollars a bottle, Belgian beer was his most expensive vice.
Yet the buzz it gave helped him deal with Liz and her wild ideas. “You’re blind, Liz. Reading all those sociology books has shredded your spirit.”
“That’s not true. You’re only mad at me because I was fifteen minutes late,” Liz said.
“Not at all. I was enjoying my beer and meditating.” A fast-paced Middle Eastern melody was playing. He drummed his fingers in time with the music. “I only want justice.”
The tavern was quite packed by now. With so many colleges and universities around, it was a popular place among students, especially on Friday nights. Gabriel loved the smell here. Old wines, the sweet tang of anise, the strong aroma of Turkish coffee. Yet there was something gloomy about the place. The flickering candles on the tables cast eerie shadows on the walls, making the faces appear pale and distorted, malevolent even. Old paintings of historic Ottoman battles hung from the walls; figures killing each other with long and pointed spikes against dark and desolate landscapes. He could clearly discern Christian bodies impaled on stakes.
“You’re an idealist.” Liz sadly shook her head. “Justice doesn’t exist. But you’re obsessed with it.”
“For Heaven’s sake, don’t you feel a sense of ease, a perfect sense of meaning, every time a serial killer is fried at the chair?”
“Yes, I do, but—”
Yet Gabriel went on, shifting in his seat and leaning forward over the table. “Let me ask you something. Let’s say a serial killer is—based on some trivial technicality—set free. Everybody knows he’s guilty. Everybody knows he’ll kill again. Would you—if you could, if you knew you wouldn’t be caught—eliminate him?”
“That’s beside the point, Gabriel. That would be murder. The act of premeditated killing, whatever the reason, would turn me into a being as corrupt as the killer.” Liz lifted a glass of red wine to her lips. She was calm, as if she were a patient and good-willed teacher talking to a raging child.
“Then archangels are murderers.”
“Don’t bring religion into this. You don’t believe in archangels.” Liz eyed him scornfully. “Human beings have made certain laws, and these laws are to be obeyed. If there weren’t laws, the world would be in total chaos.”
“Laws, laws, laws. You and your laws. Laws were made to favor the criminals, and you know it!” he burst out, making an impatient gesture with his hands. “Think of the good of the innocent people. Think about all the future murders you would be preventing. The hell with the laws. Justice. The good of the many. The end justifying the means.”
“Oh, no, not the higher good again!”
“That’s right. The higher good.”
“That higher good of yours is dangerous. It’s anarchistic. Goodness is subjective. Do you think a serial killer doesn’t have his own concept of goodness? What makes you think his is wrong and ours is right? We are forever impaired by our feelings.” She flinched, expecting another outburst from him.
He simply shrugged.
“I don’t know if I should have another beer,” Gabriel said. “I’ve already had two.”
“Beer will be your downfall.”
Gabriel made a face, a typical gesture that made her smile. Poor Liz. He suspected it would be a lot better for her if they didn’t see each other again. Or at least if they didn’t see each other so often. They had been together for three years and broken up only four months ago.
Love? From her part it had been obvious. From his part he had never been quite sure, and he figured if you’re not sure, it can’t be love. But they had stayed friends, which was more than fine with him. In fact, he was still experiencing a bit of ‘after-divorce’ blues, though this feeling was nothing compared to the overwhelming sense of freedom. They had never been married, of course, but they had become so close it felt to him as if they had.
He could tell she still had romantic feelings for him from her eyes; the way they lit up every time she saw him. The main problem had always been her jealous, suspicious nature, though now that they were apart she did a good job at concealing it.
“You want another sophisticated Belgian beer?” she mocked gently. “Order one. My treat.”
Gabriel ignored her jibe. “Elena’s due to give birth within a month. I’m going to fly to Brussels to be with her.”
For a moment he closed his eyes and massaged his temples with the tips of his fingers. Only minutes ago, he’d had the strangest daydream. He’d been sitting here, quietly sipping his beer, and then the vision had invaded his brain. He had pictured his sister Elena pushing a pram in a lushly beautiful yet desolate park, cooing and humming a lullaby to the baby, smiling and happy.
He had watched her from a distance, as if he were a far-off spectator. She had wandered round and round, every so often leaning over to peer inside the pram and whisper loving words to the baby. It was only at the end, when he had actually looked inside the pram himself, that he realized it was empty.
It had been empty all along.
Liz sobered up instantly. “So you’ve decided to go? That’s great, Gabriel. She’ll be so happy. Did you already tell her?”
He nodded. “A few days ago.”
“How’s she doing?”
“Very good—for now.”
Three years ago Elena had given birth to a baby girl. The baby, however, had died a couple of hours after delivery. Unusually rare situation, inflammation of the placenta or something. Maybe he was more worried about his sister’s pregnancy than he had thought. Over the phone, she was always overly positive and enthusiastic. Too optimistic to be genuine. His precious Elena, the eternal optimist, protecting him from her own fears, from her own pain.
He blinked. “Hmm.”
It was past eleven o’ clock. He was tired, sedated by the beer, and he still had lots of reading to do. Along with a colleague of his, he was writing a paper about the internal structure of neutron stars, and the research was staggering.
“You okay?” Liz asked, placing her hand over his. She pressed it lightly, comfortingly. “Everything will go all right this time, you’ll see.”
“I hope so.” Automatically his body reacted at her touch. After their break-up, he felt awkward when they had physical contact, even though Liz always acted natural about it.
Liz was getting her master’s in Library Studies. Her rebellious brown hair was forever trapped in a long braid down to her waist. She had kind eyes, big and brown and luminous, which she heightened with black kohl and mascara. An intricately carved St. Christopher silver medal, the size of quarter, hung from a chain around her neck, a gift from him last Christmas.
He grinned, suddenly feeling a pang of old love. She had always known how to press the right buttons to distract him from distressful subjects.
“But then freedom—free will—doesn’t exist!” he said so loudly a few heads turned in his direction. “Actions resulting from desire cannot be free. Remember, freedom is to be found only in rational action. Any action possesses moral worth only when it is done for its own sake. In other words: justice for its own sake. When we kill that serial killer in that chair, we’re doing it for justice’s sake! It is rational! It is right!”
“Wrong. We’re doing it because it makes us happy. There’s no such thing as rational action. Our feelings, our desires are forever involved, and because our emotions are involved the action becomes irrational. It becomes worthless.”
Gabriel shifted in his seat, incredulous. “How can you not believe in free will?”
Too heated up for his own good, Gabriel was about to spew forth a cutting rejoinder, when the most captivating woman he had ever seen approached the table where he and Liz were arguing. The stranger stood behind Liz, gazed down at him, and smiled.
Gabriel felt her magnetic force take control of his soul.