"Domingo." Samuel acknowledged Dom's presence, nodding to the vacant low-backed chair across from him at his desk.
Dom sat, adjusted his wings then looked questioningly at the head guardian angel. "You have a task for me?"
"Yes. One that's very different from your last one." Samuel studied Dom. "In fact, quite different from most of the ones I've assigned you recently. This time you won't be protecting your charge from someone who wants to harm them."
"Really?" Dom replied slowly. "Then what?"
"You'll be saving him from himself."
"From getting into trouble he can't handle?"
Samuel seemed to search for the proper reply. "One could put it that way I suppose. His name is Timothy Chandler. For all intents and purposes, he's an orphan."
"Strange way to phrase it," Dom commented.
"His father vanished soon after he was born. He was taken from his mother when he was ten. She's institutionalized, due to"—Samuel smiled slightly—"I believe the term is she fried her brain on drugs and alcohol—something he's not aware of, to the best of my knowledge. He spent his formative years in a group home. Now he works as a librarian. He considers himself worthless and has been contemplating suicide, although not on a conscious level so far."
"I see why…" Dom shuddered.
Samuel gave him a look of sympathy. "I though you might. He needs help and you're the best one for the job."
"I'm not so sure of that."
"Domingo, you, of all my available angels, know to some extent what he's going through. I have faith in your abilities in this respect."
Dom chuckled wryly. "I'm glad one of us does." Standing, he straightened his wings before asking, "Where am I going?"
Samuel told him and seconds later Dom vanished. "Good luck," Samuel said softly. "If you can't help him, Domingo, then the world will lose a man who could help make a major difference in its future."
* * * *
"Snow," Dom grumbled. "What's wrong with sending me someplace with heat and sunshine?" He knew the answer. He was sent where he was needed. This time it seemed to involve a raging snowstorm, but at least for the moment, he was indoors—invisible, but inside.
The library was old by today's standards. To one side of the check-out desk were rows of metal and wood shelves, holding all the fiction books by type and category. On the other side, more shelves for non-fiction. Interspersed between the shelves were tables and chairs. On the side wall of the non-fiction section were three doors marked, 'Employees Only', 'Restrooms', and 'Computer Room'. On a summer day, Dom suspected the sunlight coming through the large front and side windows would make the library seem cheerful. At the moment, though, the only real illumination came from the fluorescents overhead.
The desk was being manned by two middle-aged women—one of whom was telling a child of about eight where she could find the books on horses. Other than those three—plus the child's mother, Dom presumed—and a couple of elderly people sitting at one of the tables on the fiction section, there was no one else around that Dom could see.
God help me, I hope I'm not too late.
He was almost certain that wasn't the case. Samuel wouldn't have sent him in after the fact. Only one way to find out. He stepped outside again, quickly checked to make certain no one was around, and became visible.
"Ma'am," he said moments later, as he approached the check-out desk, "is Tim around?"
The woman seemed a bit surprised that anyone would be asking, as she shook her head. "It's his day off. Knowing him, he's undoubtedly spending it at home."
Dom nodded. "Then I'll try there. Thank you."
Which isn't really going to help me. I can hardly knock on his door and introduce myself. Unless… He pondered the idea that was slowly forming and nodded.
He walked out into the storm, but this time he was thankful for it, as it covered his vanishing in a trice, only to reappear in front of Tim's apartment building.
"First things first," he murmured under his breath, pressing the button marked 'Manager'. A disembodied voice through the speaker by the door asked who was there. "I was wondering if you had an apartment available," Dom replied.
"That depends. I'll be there in a second to let you in." As good as his word, a man in his early fifties, Dom figured, came to the door and opened it. "Damned cold out there to be apartment hunting," he said when Dom stepped into the small lobby.
"Tell me about it," Dom replied with an ingratiating smile. "I just got into town and someone at the bus station said they heard you might have a vacancy."
The man introduced himself as Mr Paulson before saying, "I might have one. It depends."
"So you said. On what?"
"If you can afford it and have the proper ID. You know, the usual."
"I do. May I see it?"
Dom sighed and gave Mr Paulson a mental push to get it in gear. That was all it took—but he knew that when he did it. Half an hour later, he was letting himself into his new, small, and very vacant apartment. In some ways it reminded him of the last one he'd lived in before he'd died, even though that one had been three times as large and furnished—but still desolate in the end. That was something he'd rather not think about at the moment, as it brought back painful memories.
"Now to get to know my neighbors—or, one in particular," he said under his breath. "And I know just how to approach him."
He'd found out, by the simple expedient of reading the names on the mailboxes, that Tim lived one flight below in apartment three-zero-four, so he headed down there—entering the place invisibly for the moment.
Interesting décor—or lack thereof. The man however… He eyed Tim. He's far from handsome, but there's something about him that's appealing, or should be to the right person. He chuckled, but not out loud. He definitely could use a better haircut. Or more so, he needs to let it grow some. A smile would help too. Whatever he's reading…
Dom moved close enough to look over Tim's shoulder. His instant reaction was a desire to take the book away. Is that how you feel? That you're less than zero? You're not. No one is. But how will I convince you of that? Not by standing here, that's for sure.
Seconds later, Dom was in the hallway outside of Tim's apartment—and visible.