At half past seven, Marianne was already stationed in the hall leading to her classroom. Her intention was to intercept Belgina and talk to her. She had been texting her all night with no response from the girl, which worried her. She might feel overwhelmed and even reluctant at first, she could relate, but she was really hoping it would be easier to assimilate after witnessing everything. Although she was having doubts now.

“What if she decides not to go along with this?”

“She was born with it. She can’t just undo it.”

“I just don’t want her to think she’s forced to do something she doesn’t want to.”

“Would you wish otherwise now that you have seen the implications?”

“I admit it was hard for me to accept it at the beginning, but it’s very clear to me now. I’m ready for this. But Belgina . . . I don’t know what she’s thinking, maybe she doesn’t see it the same way.”

“Then you’ll have to convince her.”

Marianne rested her head on the wall, trying to think what she would say to her. When her classmates began to arrive, she straightened and waited patiently for her, until she saw her turning in the hallway and pulled herself from the wall as a clear sign that she was waiting for her, but Belgina slowed down at the sight of her.

“…We need to talk.”

The girl retreated to the previous corridor and Marianne had to run to catch up with her, finding her pinned against the wall with her eyes closed.

“Is there a way you could tell me that yesterday never happened and it was all in my head?”

“Listen, I know that you might be overwhelmed, I get it, but once you realize how important this is, you’ll understand that if we fight together . . . ”

“How did you know? How did you find out?”

Marianne babbled, unable to answer. Talking about her angel wasn’t, in her opinion, the best way to be taken seriously.

“If you can’t explain something so simple, then . . . how do you expect me to agree to fight by your side?”

“It’s our duty,” she finally managed to say, but Belgina shook her head.

“It may have been your choice, but not mine, so . . . you should start looking for someone else,” she finished, turning her back on her and going to her classroom.

“Belgina, wait!”

She tried to stop her before turning down the corridor, but someone grabbed her arm and pushed her against the wall. She looked up and realized Kristania was in front of her with a menacing expression and folded arms.

“What the hell is your problem?”

“I wanna know what you have to do with Demian!”

“Oh, come on! I don’t have time for this!” She tried to walk away from her, but the haughty girl blocked her way, already exceeding her in height.

“I saw you talking to him yesterday, so just answer. How do you know him?”

“I didn’t even know his name until you said it! Why do you even care?”

“We dated, and I don’t want anyone getting in my way,” Kristania said, drilling into her eyes. Marianne twisted her eyebrows in exasperation.

“Ooooookay, whatever you say. Now, excuse me, I have more important things to do,” she insisted, but Kristania still stood in her way.

“Kristania! Renzo is looking for you, something about homework,” Angie interrupted, looming from the hallway.

“Ugh, I’m coming! I’ll be watching you,” she warned her, making a threatening gesture with her fingers pointing at her eyes and then leaving.

“Psycho,” Marianne huffed and Angie winked at her, meaning she had just made that up, and Marianne responded with a grateful smile.

“Miss Greniere.” The principal’s call took her by surprise. “Could you come to my office? I need to talk to you.”

Marianne followed him, puzzled, wondering what could it be now.

“We received another call from the investigation department regarding the questions you answered yesterday. They want you to come back for a second interview,” said the principal once in his office, and Marianne swallowed so hard she felt something stuck in her throat, but tried to look poised. “Arrangements were already made. The only thing left is to tell your parents to accompany you.”

“Don’t bother. I’ll talk to them on the way,” she rushed to say before he took the phone, although she intended to keep her family out of the way. Especially if she was in real trouble now.

When she arrived at her destination, she found the street full of reporters gathered in the passage leading to the courthouse, broadcasting live. The attack during the trial was the news, it was the third major assault in the city for the past two days and everyone was talking about it.

Time and time again they showed the scenes from the trial that the only cameras allowed in the court caught on video. It was the moment those two entities came out of nowhere and caught the judge and the accused man, and caused mayhem right before throwing everybody out of the room. Marianne could see some of these scenes on the screen of a reporter who prepared to go live, but she didn’t stop until she entered the building, following the same route as the day before.

As she was approaching the waiting room, her nerves began to surface. She had no idea if there were going to be more people or if she would be the only one. Or even worse, they could arrest her for making a false statement.

She tried to take those ideas out of her head and shook herself to clear her mind. Then she pushed the door and found the room empty, except for a chair, with the person she’d least expected to find there.

“Believe it or not, I’m not even surprised to see you here,” Demian said, leaning forward. He was dressed in what looked like a basketball uniform with the number 12 on the front. Marianne just snorted and went to get a seat away from him.

“As if my luck couldn’t get any worse,” she grumbled, sitting several chairs away.

“Thanks for yesterday, by the way!”

“You’re welcome, it was my pleasure!” she snapped back without even turning to him. He scoffed in disbelief and both of them fell silent for several minutes, waiting for someone to call them.

“I suppose you also had inconsistencies in your answers.”


“They told me that they needed to confirm some information I gave yesterday, and if you’re here that means it has something to do with you.”

“What did you say about me?” She thrust her fingers into her seat, feeling her shoulders tensing just by the thought that he was to blame for her being there.

“Just what happened, the questions you asked me and what I told you. Nothing that wasn’t true.”

Marianne gritted her teeth and turned her back to him before saying anything else. The fact that he could be responsible for getting her in trouble did nothing but increase the utter dislike she already felt for him. But losing her temper wouldn’t benefit her at all. She should use the time to figure out a solution.

“His name is Erwing Boot.”

“What?” She noticed Demian had changed seats and was now sitting beside her.

“The man you were looking for, that’s his name. He’s been working for my father for the last five years. He has a wife and two little girls. If they ask, his wife’s name is Olivia and his daughters Gwen and Camille. You could say you’re new in town . . . ”

“I am,” she clarified, not sure of where he was going with it.

“Perfect. So, you’ve just learned about his existence and at your parent’s request you went to visit him at the hospital. Mr. Boot has relatives he doesn’t even have contact with, so it will be easy to convince him an unknown niece came to visit.”

She stared at him with a scowl.

“Why are you doing this?”

“Doing what?” he said, as if cheating the system to get her out of trouble wasn´t that big of a deal. Maybe he felt guilty and was trying to make up for it somehow, but didn’t want to admit it. Whatever it was, if it worked, she was willing to hate him a little less.

“Okay, Erwing Boot. I’m from Palmenia, does he have family there?”

“Possibly, he has so many relatives he had lost track of them over the years,” Demian said and then remembered the figure he had seen turning down the corridor at the hospital. “Did you ever find his room? Did you get to see him?”

“N-No. I got to cardiology, but had no time to look for him, it was right when all hell broke loose.”

“Will you tell me now why you needed to find him?”

Marianne startled. Perhaps she would have to answer at least that question in order to satisfy his curiosity. But saying that an angel asked her to protect the man from demons not only sounded crazy, but also made her look even more suspicious, given the attention those two demons were getting lately. So, between looking suspicious or looking like a nutcase, she chose the one she was already used to.

“I was there when he was pronounced dead. It’s not something I would normally tell anyone, but . . . I have a highly developed sixth sense,” she said, making it up on the fly, trying to imprint a dramatic tone to her voice for greater effect. “I saw his spirit leaving his body and it came to me. He told me then that soon he would be coming back to life, but he would need someone who reminded him of some revelations he had that could enhance his life from now on. He made me promise I would look for him to tell him, so that’s why I went to the hospital. Promises must be kept. Satisfied?”

“O . . . kay,” Demian hesitated, unsure of how to react to that information. He blinked for a few seconds, expecting her to say she was joking, but she remained dead serious. “That was . . . interesting.”

“Memorize it, because I won’t repeat it.”

“So . . . we’re even?”

An expression of irony crossed Marianne’s face.

“I knew this whole act had a hidden purpose. You think this way you can make up for the accident. Well, let me tell you then, this won’t do it.”

“You know what? You’re right, we can’t be even just yet,” he rectified with a forced smile. “After all, you still owe me a pair of glasses.”

She squinted, but had no time to reply because at that moment Officer Perry appeared holding a paper.

“Marianne Greniere and Demian Donovan. Follow me, please.”

They both got up and followed him to the office, but instead of going to the same cubicles like the first interview, they were separated and taken to different rooms with only a single table at the center, a couple of chairs and a huge mirror at the back.

Once Marianne sat, she waited several minutes until the door opened and a couple of officers entered, carrying a screen with a video player. They left them on the table and got out without saying a word, which struck her as odd. She looked up at the ceiling and noticed a camera pointed right at her, so she tried not to look nervous and chose to cross both arms and legs to avoid moving them like she’d been doing.

“Sorry I’m late, let’s start with this already,” Commissioner Fillian said, striding into the room, holding a cup of coffee alongside Officer Perry, who was carrying a folder with lots of papers. While he stood beside the table, the Commissioner took a seat right in front of her and took a sip of his coffee, his eyes analyzing her. “…Do I know you somehow?”

“Mmmh, nope. I don’t think so,” Marianne said, thinking it was an odd question. Commissioner Fillian shook his head and focused on his notes.

“Marianne Greniere, isn’t it? Did you call your parents? Are they coming?”

“Hmm . . . of course, I did tell them, but neither of them will be able to come, they’re very busy. But it doesn’t matter. I have nothing to hide.”

“Do you give up the right to an attorney then?”

“Do I need one?” she asked, modulating her voice not to show her growing anxiety. The police chief settled the cup on the table and leaned forward with an inscrutable expression.

“I think we better go straight to the point, young lady. We have a video you need to see,” the Commissioner said, turning on the player and the screen.

Marianne didn’t understand until she saw herself, first entering cardiology and another shot of her running with her armor down the corridor leading to the room of the man she was looking for. She felt her stomach rising to her throat, making it difficult to breathe.

 “That’s . . . not me,” Marianne said after a few minutes of staring at the screen, once she managed to control that feeling of having something stuck in her throat that prevented her from speaking.

“Are you trying to make us believe that THIS is not you?” the Commissioner questioned, pointing at the first image where she clearly was going inside cardiology.

“No, of course that’s me. I mean the second image,” she replied, reprising her tone. “I guess the camera was placed at the last corridor. I never got to that one, I got stuck at the first hallway looking for my uncle’s room because I forgot the number. Erwing Boot, that’s his name. Not even ten minutes passed when I heard the commotion, so I hid.”

“So you’re saying that, since the screams started, you decided to enter the area and still didn’t move from the first corridor, just stayed hidden there until we can finally see you getting out of there several minutes later, pretty exhausted actually.”

“Yes, exactly,” she nodded, holding her hands so she wouldn’t start tapping her fingers on the table.

“Okay, let’s skip that. There’s something wrong in this whole scenario.”

The man continued pressing other buttons. The image returned to the moment she appeared with her armor turning down the hallway, forwarding to a few minutes later when Ashelow was dragging her through the floor, getting back to the camera placed at the entrance where he dragged her out. Then he fast-forwarded to the instant she came back to the area, got past the last corridor a few seconds later and finally, after the officers’ arrival, she was seen hurrying out of the room. And just a moment before she turned down the hallway, Demian looked out the door. As the video paused, Marianne exhaled the little air she had left in her lungs.

“According to the video, we see the suspect for the first time in this hallway, but never get to see her going through the entrance first, and most importantly . . . we never see her leave. Got something to say now?”

At that very moment, a cellphone rang and she jumped thinking it was hers, but Officer Perry answered his. The chief gave him a look of disapproval and Marianne seized the moment to try and keep her resurfacing nerves under control.

“No, I didn’t see anything,” she said, thinking she should come up with something soon if she wanted to get out of it.

“Chief, it’s your daughter, she needs to talk to you,” the young officer interrupted with the phone in standby, receiving in response another disapproving glare.

“I’m in the middle of something here. Tell her I’ll call back,” he sputtered, causing the embarrassed officer to recede, giving Marianne the opportunity to think of a new strategy.

 “Maybe . . . she just burst into the air like the other guys.”

“The other guys? What do you mean?”

“You know, the ones who attacked the court,” she explained, recalling the videos she had seen before going into the building. “They have been showing videos from yesterday’s trial in the news, where these two guys appeared out of nowhere and began attacking everyone. She may have used the same technique to appear and disappear in thin air. After all, you don’t have tapes of them getting in or out, do you?

Commissioner Fillian stared at her as if trying to read her mind and she stared back, struggling not to blink.

“We’ll be right back,” he said, leaving the room along with Officer Perry, taking the screen and video player with them.

As soon as she was alone, she felt about to collapse from exhaustion on the table, but remembered the camera was still on her and surely someone would be watching her through the mirror, so she just settled back in the chair and waited for whatever would happen next.

Marianne kept looking at the door, waiting for someone to open it. She didn’t know how much longer she could bear the anxiety and wasn’t sure how much of her tactics would work, but she would stick with her statement. Still she couldn’t help but regret her mistake, but it was a relief there were no more cameras in every hallway of the hospital, otherwise she would’ve been caught on tape at the exact moment the armor covered her.

How long had she been stuck in there? It seemed like an eternity now when Commissioner Fillian finally came back, carrying a folder.

“On your feet. Come with me,” he commanded, pointing out the door.

“Where? I need to know what’s going on. Am I in trouble?”

“There’s no conclusive proof, we can’t do anything, but you have to sign some papers and we’ll have people watching you.”

“A-Are you serious?” she stammered, her stomach churning.

“You should seriously reconsider if your parents won’t be coming after all,” he advised, leaving the office alongside her.

Demian was just coming out from another room on their way out, taken by Officer Perry, and for a moment he looked at her as if he knew they were in trouble, even though she didn’t understand why he would be.

“Where are we going?” Marianne asked when she noticed they were approaching the building’s exit, with Demian and the young officer close behind.

Realizing they were heading to the passage connecting the two buildings, with all of the journalists and TV crews stationed there, she tried to stop, but the man didn’t slow down. She would hardly attract the media’s attention going out by herself, but being next to someone so identifiable as Commissioner Fillian with his imposing presence and his trademark silvery gray hairs at the side of his head, she was an easy target for the cameras. So, as soon as they passed through the doors leading to the passage, she lowered her head, but her hair was too short to cover her face, so she ended up going to his guardian’s left side, hoping his stocky build would block the view from the crowd.

She briefly glanced back and noted that they were followed by Demian and his escort at a considerable distance now. She heard the distinctive racket of a crowd of reporters broadcasting live or taping their stories, and begged not to be noticed, but right when they were halfway through she heard a voice calling the Commissioner and within seconds the cameras were all over them. She tried to stay glued to his side to avoid being caught, and managed to recognize some questions that emerged from the crowd, most of them focused on whether he knew who those ‘entities’ were, if they had made any arrest yet or if they knew the identity of the so called ‘angel’ that had defended the hospital. The Commissioner remained unflinching and not answering at all.

Marianne kept hiding until one of the cameras’ spotlights lit her left side and at the corner of her eye, the first thing she saw was the background screens broadcasting her at that very moment.

“Commissioner! Who’s the girl? Is it your daughter? A suspect?” Questions were hurled at them from everywhere and several microphones started to appear around her, trying to get a word.

She kept turning her face, but was still caught from every point, her face available in each and every one of the screens, even though the Commissioner tried to cover her up and a group of cops tried to keep them at bay.

“Are you involved in the last days’ attacks? Are you with the bad guys or the good ones?” The onslaught of questions continued and she didn’t know where to hide her face anymore. At this point she already felt lost. Even if she denied everything she would always be connected to the attacks and if the videos from the hospital went public, her secret would be revealed.

“Stop everybody! I lost a folder! Watch your step! Give it back to me!” Commissioner Fillian exclaimed, stuck in the crowd.

“Look up!” someone shouted and just like the cameras turned, so did the eyes.

Standing over the balcony balustrade, a statue-like figure stood firmly, its armor reflecting the lights with an indigo hue.

Marianne watched aghast. Was that really Belgina? What was she thinking? Her heart was pounding, unable to turn her gaze away.

“Don’t be afraid!” she suddenly shouted, while everyone started to shush each other to hear more clearly. “I’m on your side! I am an Angel Warrior, and my mission is to defend all of you! I mean no harm to anyone! I just want to protect you . . . even at the expense of my life!”

Marianne felt a twinge at her words. She could almost feel Belgina’s own agitation and distress, while everyone else erupted in cheers and shouts, throwing questions at her, swarming around the passage to get to her. Belgina made visual estimates by choosing a point in the middle of the crowd, and after making a circular motion with her arms, she just threw herself into the void, taking a swirl in the air that left everyone speechless, and right when she was falling at a spot near Marianne, a gust of wind cushioned her fall and propelled her to the other building, giving her a meaningful look right before being sent to the other side where she was quickly out of sight.

People seemed to lose their minds, cameras pointed at the building, Marianne and Commissioner Fillian already forgotten. The latter had already released her and was busy giving instructions to block all access to the place to catch her.

But Belgina was not there. She had used the building entrance as a distraction, pushing herself back to the courthouse, from where she came out a little later without her armor on, after making sure all of the attention was on the other side.

She searched among the crowd for Marianne, not daring to call her, fearing it might draw the media’s attention. There were only unknown faces around, until she finally saw her standing in front of her, her bob cut swirling with the air. Belgina looked down for a moment and then approached her, too ashamed to look her in the eyes.

“I’m sorry,” she managed to say.

“It doesn’t matter. You finally came,” Marianne replied with a smile of gratitude and Belgina eventually returned the gesture, assuming from that moment on she was accepting her duty. Now they were a team.

As they left the place and a horde of reporters continued their frenzy, Officer Perry decided to get back on track.

“Go on. There are still some papers to sign,” he said, pulling Demian’s arm while he was still watching, intrigued, at the armored girl’s trajectory, but at the insistence of the cop, he had no choice but to resume his way.