website design software
Story 4

Cathy Spangler

 Catherine Spangler began writing when she was a teenager. She’s had a life-long interest in paranormal and metaphysical topics. Her love of both romance and other-wordly themes sparks the blending of the two genres in her stories.

Cathy’s award-winning futuristic Shielder series earned her a 2005 RITA nomination. Then she forged new territory with her Sentinel series –- dark and sensuous urban fantasies set on present-day earth. She’s currently working on an angel series.

Cathy lives in Texas with her husband and a menagerie of dogs and cats. She loves playing poker, reading, listening to music, taking naps on the sofa with a good football game for background noise, and chocolate (not necessarily in that order).

Here then is Operation Hell, proving that things in Dallas, Texas aren't always what they seem....




Operation Hell

"Ms. Smith, would you please come into my office? I have some questions about the payroll reports."

My supervisor’s voice grated across my psyche like nails on a chalkboard, churning up nausea in my stomach. I resisted banging my head on my monitor. Oh, joy, another wonderful encounter with Hell Supervisor, as I’d dubbed Mr. Turlow.

I’ve often heard that God/the universe/whatever always balances out the bad with the good, gives us mere humans abilities to counteract our disabilities, allows us to make lemonade out of lemons, yadda, yadda, yadda.

First off, I have serious doubts about the existence of God. Secondly, I know the above platitudes are a pile of crap and I have the life experiences to prove it. Actually, my entire life is proof positive.

Take the voices I’ve been hearing since I was twelve, accompanied by oh-so-fun migraine headaches (my pediatrician insisted it was my adolescent hormones kicking in, and still does to this day); or the fact that everyone—including me—thought I was crazy. Meds for schizophrenics and the incurable insane didn’t make a dent, except to leave me feeling like I was having a permanent out-of-body experience. I spent my junior high and high school years as an outcast—never hung out with other kids, never dated, never did any of the normal teenage stuff.

Fortunately, I was able to lose myself in my studies, graduate from college with an accounting degree, escape small-town, Texas (where everyone knew about me), and find anonymity as a drone in the bee hive of big-name banking/investment firm in Dallas. Okay, so Supervisor Hell makes my life miserable; I still hear the voices, still suffer from headaches, as well as being terminally plain and non-memorable—but hey, I have a job! And I have an efficiency apartment, a sociopath cat, and a neurotic gold fish (with protective wiring over the fish bowl). Like attracts like, and all that.

I also have a best—and only—friend. If I believed in God, I’d think co-worker Kelly Jordan was an angel—why else would she befriend me? Especially since she’s drop-dead gorgeous and has guys drooling over her everywhere she goes. But she did, taking me under her wing my first day on the job, and we’ve been eating lunch together almost every day since. She’s kind and fun and seems to genuinely like me.

So there are a few shining moments in my otherwise crappy life, thanks to Kelly. But not even she can deflect Hell Supervisor’s shadow. Now he stood waiting for me. Feeling doomed, I got the monthly payroll binder and dragged myself to his office. He was beside the door, looking somewhat like a bedraggled rat, with his thick glasses, slicked back hair, wannabe mustache, and ugly suit.

"Come in, come in," he said with an impatient wave of his hand. I forced my feet to move me inside his lair and he closed the door behind me. "Have a seat, Ms. Smith."

Then it happened, as it always did around HS (Hell Supervisor), the voices sprang to life inside my head, hissing, screeching, muttering—all obscenities and threats. That seemed to happen around certain people, including HS. They could be associates or total strangers, but whenever I got within a few feet of them, the voices went ballistic. Having long ago dismissed my pediatrician’s hormone theory, I thought it might be some sort of freak allergy.

I pressed one hand against my head as I sat in a chair opposite his desk, trying to ignore the voices. HS started around me toward his seat. "Now, about the pre-tax deductions—" He paused, his beady eyes widening as he stared at me.

"Ms. Smith. You look unusually delectable this morning."

"What?" I stared back at him, the voices momentarily forgotten.

He leaned closer, sniffed. "And you smell heavenly."

I use both unscented body wash and deodorant and never apply fragrances because they make the headaches worse. "Excuse me?"

"Oh, yes" he murmured, jerking my chair sideways. He grasped the chair arms on either side of me, effectively trapping me. "I must have you."

Stunned, I watched him lean toward me. His eyes appeared dilated and he smelled like onion and mold. Realizing his intent, I jolted to the side as he lunged and his face hit the chair.

"Uh, maybe this is a bad time," I said, pretty sure he was on drugs.

He grabbed my arms and yanked me to my feet. "On the contrary, Ms. Smith, this is a perfect time." He crushed me close and tried to kiss me.

"Stop!" I yelled, struggling. "What are you doing?"

"It’s fate. It’s futile to resist it."

"The hell I can’t," I said, trying to get my knee up. "Mr. Turlow, stop this now! Or I’m filing harassment charges."

"You can’t fight me. Just give in to it," he said. His eyes were wild and he was surprisingly strong.

"Help!" I screamed. "Somebody help me!"

Kelly burst through the door. "What’s going on in here?" She strode toward us. "Let her go right now!"

"How did you get in?" Mr. Turlow asked. "That door was locked."

"Let her go, you pervert." Kelly put her arm between us and shoved HS away from me. She stared into his eyes a long moment. "Don’t you ever touch her again."

He staggered back, a horrified expression on his face. "Get away from me."

With another glare, Kelly took my (now-sore) arm and marched me out of the office. "How dare he come on to you like that?"

"There must be some mistake," I said. "Why would anyone—even Turlow—be interested in me? I mean, just look at me—"

"That despicable excuse for a human," she interjected. "Actually, it explains a lot. I was suspicious before, but now I’m certain." She pulled out her cell phone and punched the screen.

"Certain about what?" I squeaked as she took my arm again and dragged me toward the elevator bank. "Uh, I can’t leave right now. I don’t’ go to lunch until 12:30 and—"

"Carson, it’s Kelly," she said into the phone. She let go of me to push the elevator button. "We have A Situation. Susan is broadcasting and we have Vermin responding."

"Broadcasting?" I asked. "What are you talk—"

"Parking garage is good," Kelly resumed her death grip on my arm and pulled me into the elevator. "We’ll meet at your car." She hit the button for the garage level and the elevator doors slid shut.

"What’s going on?" I asked as the elevator swooped down.

"Shhh." Kelly held up one hand as she pocketed her cell phone with the other. "Let me think. And it’s better if Carson explains. He’s in charge of O-H."


"Just wait," Kelly answered.

Knowing she wouldn’t budge once she dug in, I shut up. We reached the garage and she hustled me out and toward the farthest corner. We approached a shiny black Lexus with a man braced against the hood. As we got closer, I saw it was Carson Miller, arguably the hottest guy in the company. I knew him only from a distance, but I and every other female in the building were in lust with him. He had thick dark hair, hawk-golden eyes, and a sleekly muscled physique that filled his designer suits to perfection.

As always, whenever I saw him, my saliva dried up and my brain turned to mush. Kelly appeared unaffected as she pulled me to a stop about a foot away. He straightened and smiled at me. "Hello, Susan."

OMG, he knew my name! "Gah," was all I could manage.

"It’s time," Kelly said. "We have to tell her"

"I agree," he said, his gaze still on me. "We can’t wait any longer."

I wanted to ask what this was about, but could only manage a few guttural sounds. Carson frowned. "I think she’s in demon shock."

"Naw," Kelly said. "More like angelstruck."

"Ah." Carson smiled again and my heart stuttered. "Well then, time for the truth. You go first."

"Great," Kelly muttered. "Okay, no good way to do this. Susan, Turlow is a demon."

My stupor vanished. "You dragged me down here to tell me that? Everyone knows that!"

"No, he’s really a demon."

Oh wow. She wasn’t dealing with a full deck. No wonder she’d befriended me. "Sure he is," I said, playing along. "Well, thanks for rescuing me. Back to work now." I tried to turn, but my body wouldn’t move.

"Susan," Carson said. "There are a lot of demons in human form living on Earth. It’s our job to track them down."

Obviously, they were both crazy. Since my legs wouldn’t move, I decided it was best to play along. "So does that make you angels or something?" Come on body, get going!

"Bingo!" Kelly said. "You win the prize."

They must be into fantasy role playing, but I didn’t find it amusing. "All right, then. Thanks for sharing. Gotta go now."

"We have to show her," Carson said.

"Maybe some other time," I said, trying to lift my leg.

"Look at us," he said, and I did.

Kelly had moved beside Carson and they were both glowing like the sun was behind them—only we were underground. The glow seemed to move and reform into . . . wings! I was dreaming—that had to be it. Too much chocolate chunk ice cream before bed.

"You’re not dreaming," Carson said. "We’re angels, Turlow is a demon, and you are a light striker."

I relaxed, realizing this was a strange dream, but not a nightmare. "Okay, let’s get to the end of this."

"She still thinks she’s dreaming," Kelly said to Carson. "It might help if you show her the sword."

"I don’t know. It’s a little soon."

"Like we have a lot of time with her broadcasting so strongly," Kelly argued. "It’s obvious her power is almost fully matured. She must begin her training."

Carson nodded. "You’re right." He opened the back car door. He pulled out a compact silver umbrella and brought it to me. "Here you go."

I started laughing. An umbrella for a sword? Only in a dream.

"It just looks like an umbrella," Kelly explained. "It’s easier to carry around and no one knows what it really is."

"Sure, whatever you say." I gripped the handle. I’d wave it around and slay a few imaginary dragons and—whoa! An incredible warmth flowed from my hand and through my arm and into my body. The umbrella handle seemed molded to my hand and it felt so right. Mine! My sword! echoed in my mind. Then the umbrella began to vibrate and expand, growing longer and longer and then—flash!—it was a shining sword.

It jerked and I grabbed the handle with both hands. Then I was spinning around, unable to let go, at the mercy of the sword’s movement. I felt more heat gathering in my arms and hands. There was another flash, this more of an explosion that sent me to the ground. Gasping, I released the sword and the heat receded. Carson and Kelly were looking up, so I did too. Right above me was a scorched crater in the cement ceiling.

"She definitely needs some practice," Kelly said.

There was a burning smell in the air, and my arm was tingling. My bottom hurt and I was still here. I looked at the sword on the ground, only it was an umbrella again. "Some dream."

"It’s real, Susan," Carson said. "Not a dream. Because you’re a light striker, you have the ability to draw demons to you. The voices you’ve been hearing these past years are from demons that sense you and are trying to find you. The built-up mental energy is what causes the headaches."

I was stunned. No one in Dallas, not even Kelly, knew about the voices and the headaches. So how could Carson know . . . unless he really was an angel? If his wild explanation was true, it explained so many things. And if I was really awake—and I had a sinking feeling that I was—then there really were demons and (mind-reading) angels on earth, and I was a light striker, whatever that meant.

"Oh my God," I said. "This is unbelievable."

"Believe it," Carson told me.

Kelly crouched down beside me. "You and I have been friends for months," she said. "You know what kind of person I am. Trust me, and come with us. We’ll explain everything, and we’ll train you and get you ready to kick some demon ass."

Kelly was the best friend I’d ever had. How could I not trust her? I thought about my life up until now, my mundane existence, and working for Hell Supervisor. What did I have to lose?

"I’ll give it a go," I said. "But I reserve the right to check myself in Parkland’s psych ward if you’re wrong."


It was four days later. I, along with my psychotic cat and neurotic goldfish, was living in a north Dallas mansion that was occupied by angels in human form. They had a full training facility in the basement, and no mercy whatsoever where I was concerned. These past four days, Carson had tortured me with hours of martial arts moves and sword wielding. Have I mentioned I’m totally uncoordinated and non-athletic? Not that he cared.

We were in another marathon training session and I landed on the mat for the thousandth time, gasping for breath. Carson loomed over me, oozing sex appeal even as I plotted his demise. I wondered if I could skewer him with my sword.

"Much better," he said, offering a hand to help me up. "I think we’re ready to make our first foray, starting at the office."

"Get real." I staggered to my feet, my body one big aching bruise. "I don’t think I can even walk."

"This will be a simple mission, just targeting a few demons in a finite area."

I felt a twinge of alarm. I’m a non-violent wimp and wanted no part of someone dying. "What if they’re not really demons?" I asked.

"We’ve been over this, Susan. When they respond to your light, their true nature will be revealed. You’ll have no doubt about what they are." Matt patted my shoulder. "You don’t realize how special or valuable you are. Without your ability, we wouldn’t be able see through the demons’ shields and do our job."

And that job was to search out and destroy demons. The angels called it Operation Hell. I told myself the world was better off without demons in it. Besides, there were already plenty of human monsters doing bad things.

"We’ll go to the office tomorrow," Carson said.

We hadn’t been back since the incident with Hell Supervisor. Carson and Kelly’s only purpose there had been to keep an eye on me, so Kelly had emailed resignations for all of us.

"Who else besides Turlow triggers the voices?" Carson asked.

Apparently it was close proximity to a demon that set off the voices, and my maturing power that had made me irresistible to Hell Supervisor.

I thought about it. "Ms. Bookman from corporate accounts and Mr. Stamos,"

"Stamos? The CEO?" Carson shook his head. "Sad, but this is a financial institution, so it makes sense. But we’ll take care of him tomorrow."


The next morning, Carson, Kelly and I entered the building through the service entrance. We took the freight elevator up to the 20th floor to a private, windowless conference room. On the way up, I tried to keep from hyperventilating.

"None of the suspected demons are on this floor," I said as we entered the room.

"Girlfriend, when you strike your light, they’ll sense it, even if they’re on the 50th floor," Kelly explained. "They won’t be able to resist your pull and they’ll find their way here."

I still didn’t feel good about taking part in assignations, but I’d come this far and I trusted Carson and Kelly.

"Do it now," Carson told me.

I took a deep breath. My hands shaking, I pulled the umbrella from my tote. As I grasped the handle, it transitioned into the beautiful, shining blade. Power flowed through me. My training kicked in and I kept my balance, the sword steady in my grip. When the energy began to throb, I mentally opened a channel and directed the power into the sword. It hummed as a starburst of light flared around me.

"Awesome," Kelly said. "Just hold it, Susan, no matter what happens."

We didn’t wait long before the door burst open and Ms. Bookman rushed in, her eyes wild. As she entered the room, her face blurred, contorting into hideous features and razor sharp teeth. Her body elongated, her fingers turning into talons. She wasn’t anything close to human. Horrified, I stumbled back.

She raised her hand and I knew she planned to hurl demon fire at us. But Kelly and Carson were ready and both discharged a blinding burst of angel fire. Ms. Bookman screamed and collapsed. There was a horrible stench, and an unearthly howl filled the room as a black twisting form rose from her body. Kelly and Carson had prepared me for this, so I knew the dark form was a howler, the demon’s spirit trying to escape. Kelly and Carson zapped both it and the body, and there was nothing left but a black spot on the rug.

We didn’t have time to breathe before Turlow rushed in, followed by Mr. Stamos. Both contorted into hideous monsters and both were obliterated by Kelly and Carson. Then it was over, and we stared at the three black spots.

"What do we do about those?" I asked.

"Nothing," Carson said. "They don’t contain any sort of DNA, and the authorities won’t be able to figure them out. But the cleaning crew will have a hellacious—pardon the pun—time getting them out of the carpet."

Kelly hugged me. "That was fantastic! How do you feel?"

Relieved. Elated. Certain I’d done the right thing. Empowered. Most of my life, I’d been a nobody, but now I had an important purpose—freeing the world of demons. Who knew?

"I feel good," I said, resisting the urge to do a victory dance.

"You look great," Kelly said. "Using your power gives you a special glow."


She offered her compact and I stared at myself in amazement. I did look good. My eyes were dark and luminous in my glowing face, my lips seemed more lush, and even my hair was smoother and shiner. "Wow."

"Yep," Kelly said. "It’s a side effect of light striking. All that energy you draw in revitalizes your body. We need to go shopping for clothes for the new you. And we’ll get you some high-heeled boots, because you’re going to be kicking a lot of demon ass."

I really liked that idea and gave into the urge to do a victory boogey.

"That was well done." Carson hooked his arm around my shoulders. "Now let’s get out of here."

In a short time, we were back at the mansion. Kelly’s cell phone rang, and she walked off to talk to the caller. Carson and I paused by the stairs.

"You did great," he said. "Thank you for your help today. What you’re able to do is crucial for the good of the world. I hope you plan to continue working with us."

I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. "I want to keep doing this," I told him.

"Good. Very good." He gave me a killer smile that raised my blood pressure a hundred points. "By the way, you’re still glowing." He started up the stairs.

And he was still hot. Riding high on my triumph as a premiere demon summoner, I impulsively called out, "Hey! Can angels date humans?"

He turned. "Sure, when we’re in physical bodies. We try to act as human as possible." He walked back down to me, brushed my hair out of my eyes. "Want to see a movie tonight? I hear there’s an angel movie marathon at the Angelica, and they’ll be showing Heaven Can Wait."

My heart started pounding. "Are you asking me out?"

"Yeah," he said, his hand still lingering on my hair. "I am."

Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow. Wake up, brain! Engage, mouth! "Gah," I managed. I cleared my throat, tried again. "Uh, I’d like that." Could that husky voice possibly be mine?

"Good. Meet you down here at 7:00." With another smile and a wink, he sauntered upstairs.

As I willed my heart to slow and my blood pressure to stabilize, I mentally did a personal inventory list:

Now able to control voices in head—check.

No more headaches—check.


Proficient with sword—check.

Able to attract demons—check.

Now have an alluring glow—and boots—check.

Date with a sexy male angel—check, check, check.

My crappy life had done a 360—and I could no longer deny the existence of a higher power.

Okay God/universe/whatever, you win!


[Index] [About Us] [Stories] [Story 1] [Story 2] [Story 3] [Story 4] [Guest Art] [Editors Write] [Archives] [Contact Us] [Links]