This is the second printing of Angel: Camden's Journey, the first of the Angel series. This series is widely undiscovered as of yet, but below are some comments from readers.
"Angel: Camden’s Journey” is my first work of fiction and my favorite writing thus far. Those that are aware know this book is the first in a series of five. Book two is complete and book three will be completed soon. Of course, readership popularity will determine the publishing of the series
If you’re ready to experience a fresh new fantasy novel apart from wizards, dragons and superheroes, please read the extended excerpt of “Angel: Camden’s Journey” below.
A few words from fans:
“I enjoyed this book immensely, sitting on the edge of my chair. A few times I had to stop reading and give my heart time to settle down before continuing on.” ~ Shellie (CO)
“This is the ultimate good vs. evil book. It is well-written and I had a hard time putting it down. The characters in this series you will come to know and love. In a world where fantasy has been dominated by sparkly vampires and kids dabbling in witchcraft this is a welcome relief.” ~ J. Garlock (VA)
“This book not only sparked my imagination to a higher level but also made me realize what is truly “worth it” in life and where to find genuine happiness. I have come to realize from this book that happiness doesn’t come from material objects but from the people in your life.” Brad “wags” (UT)
“Angel: Camden’s Journey” is a wild cross-country ride that will keep you spellbound and horrified, while at the same time demonstrating the divine influence in our lives, and the power of light over darkness. At first glance, Angel is a six-foot-six powerful, menacing biker traveling the highways of the Southwest. Maggie Munoz, along with other characters in the story, see more than his intimidating demeanor, they see answers to their prayers.
When seventeen-year-old Camden James flees an abusive father in New Jersey, he falls right into the clutches of another vile beast. But as chance would have it, after a few of life’s tough lessons and a couple of brushes with death, Camden discovers his true destiny.
"Angel: Camden's Journey" contains infrequent profanity and a graphic rape and murder scene. If you are squeamish, please consider "Devastation" or "Benjamin Ridge" instead.
For my dear friend Krista who has touched my heart through laughter and lemon drops, angels, and the beach.
Man’s state of being treads the twilight amid divine light from the Creator and the darkness of perdition.
Perched on the razor’s edge where two domains collide - Angel waits.
If a man’s life passes before his eyes in the last moments of life, Charlie Harris’ memories played out in cinematic reality, complete and without interruption.
On an isolated hilltop surrounded by cedar trees, he was a solitary figure hunched down beside a boulder. Memories of a lonely life haunted his thoughts.
As if seated in a theater, he watched the screen of his mind flashing with scenes of countless solitary holidays. In fonder memories, he hunted with his Labrador dogs, Bandit and Beau, along the frigid winter banks of the Colorado River.
At dawn on Christmas day, his loyal companions sat at his feet while he imagined tiny children leaving their cozy beds in search of gifts from Santa. On Thanksgiving, he could imagine the fragrant aroma of roast turkey and the promise of a family feast.
The dogs had been gone two years now. His shoulders drooped with the memory; they had outlived two marriages and countless relationships. Never critical, they had shared intimate conversations with him. They had loved unconditionally until their passing. The dogs had taught him to listen. Charlie had learned to offer an ear to those in need.
His thoughts drifted to his three children and another holiday at which his face would be absent.
Countless conversations had left him empty as each night he arrived home to a TV dinner and a fifth of rum. Alcohol provided him solace and afforded him a dreamless sleep. With the last drop consumed, the bottle had to be shattered, lest parts of his soul be imprisoned in a trash heap.
To his recollection, Charlie had never cheated anyone. Kindness had, however, been his undoing. Now, he accepted life as it came but he had found that blessings had become as elusive as the mythical unicorn.
South of Cedar City, Utah, a motorcycle pulled to the side of Interstate 15 and parked behind a broken-down, late model Ford Bronco.
This is the place. It had been a long ride. The lone rider pulled a water pouch from a saddlebag and took a long, cool drink. He clipped the bag to his belt and threw one leg over the gas tank, his crossed arms resting in front of him. He gazed into the opaque black paint of the gas tank and listened. Look to the right. He circled the Bronco cautiously and occasionally laid a hand on the truck. He lingered at the driver’s side door, opened it, and placed a palm on the seat. His chest ached and his thoughts became confused. He closed the door and chose a path through the disturbed red shale rocks.
His head cocked to one side; he searched the cedar-covered mounds. He walked toward them and found faint footprints disappearing into the sparse trees. Follow the trail. He walked with a purpose, firm in his goal. Glancing above him, he saw a hawk circling in the sky.
The rider stood six-foot-six from the heel. At two hundred and sixty pounds, dressed in blue jeans and black riding boots, he gave the image of an outlaw biker. But that was only what he seemed to be with his rugged face and dark brown wind-blown hair. The back of his worn black leather jacket read ‘Angel.’
Initially the disturbance he saw in the gravel was well-spaced, considering the fact that the boots had walked with meaning. The toes of the boot prints he followed had left deeper impressions than the heel. The person wearing the boots had walked with definite intent. The trail wound through trees and over a couple of small hills leading away from the freeway into a vast and arid wilderness. In time, the tracks became faint and closer together. The walker had slowed; no longer traveling with conviction as the toe print left fainter impressions. A glance at the soaring hawk confirmed the target ahead.
His determination to find the man never wavered. After a mile hike under a harsh sun, he caught a glimpse of a solitary figure at the top of the next rise. The figure faced away from him, head down. It appeared, as he drew closer, to be that of a man in his mid-fifties with sparse gray hair.
Angel approached casually with no attempt to cover the sound of his footfalls. The figure turned, startled.
“Well, hello!” Angel called out with a smile. “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” The man’s right hand lay concealed behind him by the boulder where he leaned.
“Uh, yes,” the man managed. “What are you doing way out here?”
Angel squatted on an adjacent stone. “Same as you,” he smiled. “Spotted your Bronco back on the road, reckoned you must have taken a walk. Sounds like the perfect idea on a nice day like this.”
The stranger eyed the big man warily and muttered, “You must be a few bricks short of a load.”
“I know a dozen folks who would agree with you on that point.” Angel laughed as he flipped the pouch from his belt and filled his mouth with the cool liquid. “Water?” He extended the pouch to the stranger.
The man accepted the skin with his left hand and took a long drink. “Much obliged,” he replied as he passed back the canteen.
“My name is Angel.”
The man extended his left hand hesitantly to shake the big paw. “Charlie Harris,” he offered. His right hand remained concealed.
Silently the two men surveyed the cedars and pinion pines.
“Need help with your Bronco? I’ve turned a wrench or two,” Angel offered.
“Nah, nothing we can fix. The fuel pump went out. On that old clunker, the pump is in the gas tank. I don’t have the money or the energy to fix it.” Then his head dropped. “It’s just the latest in a series of disasters for me. I’m done with it.” He raised his head. “I’m done with all of it,” he said fiercely.
Angel allowed a pause to linger. “Life is filled with stubbed toes, isn’t it?”
A tear trickled from Charlie’s eye as he sighed. “I’m tired, mister; tired of facing one problem after another. My feet hurt, my neck hurts, my teeth hurt; hell, even my hair hurts, or what’s left of it. All I have to show for forty years of work is a broken-down Ford.”
“Maybe things aren’t as bad as you think, Charlie,” Angel reflected.
“You just don’t know,” Charlie replied, shaking his head.
“Where are you headed?”
Charlie showed no surprise at the question. “Salt Lake,” he muttered, listlessly.
“What’s in Salt Lake?”
As they spoke, a desert rainstorm darkened the sky.
“I’ve got two little girls and a son there I haven’t seen in a few months. Thought I’d stop by. Maybe try and pick up some temporary work and then make my way to Florida. I have a brother who might be able to help me get out of the jam I’m in.”
“How old are the girls?”
“They’re ten and twelve. My son is fourteen.”
“They’re the best. They take after their mother. Always a joy to be with. A walk along the river is as special for them as a day at the amusement park. My youngest is about the funniest damn kid you’ve ever seen. She comes up with the strangest stuff. She’s always dancing, or breaking into some silly song at the weirdest moments. She talks to rocks as if they’re pets.” The man’s voice grew more animated and his lips parted in a slight smile as he reflected.
“I’ll bet they’ve missed their dad.”
A few drops of rain fell and quickly increased to a downpour.
Charlie laughed. “Perfect!”
Angel stood to face the sky and with outstretched arms embraced the offering. Charlie gaped at the display as his eyes riveted on the white glow radiating from the man. His mind was unable to grasp whether the glow came from a strained imagination or a trick of light filtering through raindrops. The downpour ceased, as did the mirage of light. Both men were drenched. Sunlight burst through the clouds to reveal a double rainbow arched over the hills. Unbroken vivid colors stretched from end to end. The lower rainbow appeared more solid than many Charlie had witnessed.
Angel shook his great head like a big St. Bernard dog and sent a cascade of droplets to the ground. His dark curly hair glistened in the sun as he settled back on his boulder.
His companion watched in silent wonder. There was something about the man he just couldn’t fathom. From nowhere, he had a thought. “My mother told me once that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. God does not discriminate.”
“Your mother is wise.”
“It’s true. Y’know, I’m glad I stopped here. I mean, I’m glad I met you.”
“I’m glad you did too, Charlie. I don’t think I need to tell you that your children are the best part of you. I wouldn’t let the last memory of their dad be the fact that he committed suicide. You can give me that gun now, Charlie. You need to go on. We are all stronger than we give ourselves credit for.”
Slowly Charlie handed the pistol to Angel, without a thought as to how he had known. “I figured out here no one would hear the shot and come lookin’. Couldn’t do it, though.”
Angel smiled and tucked the pistol into his belt with a glance toward the highway. “Why don’t we take a look at your Bronco?”
Charlie rose from the boulder to walk at Angel’s side. “It was dumb luck that I ran into you, Angel. I was at the end of my rope. Your kindness and the sight of that rainbow seem to put my life into perspective.”
“It wasn’t luck, my friend. Coincidences are merely a perception and strangers are often friends we just haven’t met yet.”
The desert sun dried their clothes as the pair walked toward the highway. At the truck, Angel instructed Charlie to pop the hood. After a brief glance at the engine, he nodded for the driver to turn the key. The engine turned over but refused to start.
“Fuel pumps don’t usually just quit,” Angel thought out loud. “It’s probably something else.”
Angel popped the cover from the master fuse box and removed each fuse in turn, examining the filaments. After half a dozen, he held one up to announce, “There’s the problem. This one is shot.”
“That’s it? It’s just a fuse?” Charlie asked.
“Well, maybe. A short may have blown the fuse.” Angel inched beneath the vehicle, lying on his back, and traced wires from the fuel tank to the engine. “How many times have you driven these roads, Charlie?”
Charlie had little knowledge of engines but did his best to look for anything that might be out of place. “Oh, dozens, I’d imagine.”
“Then you’ve seen the Grand Canyon?”
“No, never have.”
“Zion’s Park then, or Bryce Canyon?”
“No, never had the time.”
“Sad,” Angel murmured under his breath.
Charlie could see big hands trace the wire through an opening between the engine and firewall. The fingers paused below the manifold. “Aha!” Angel exclaimed.
The big man slid from beneath the truck. Massive hands dusted his jeans before he pulled the wires carefully from the engine compartment. The protective insulation easily peeled away to expose bare copper. “These were leaning on the exhaust, burnt right through. The bare wires shorted out the fuel pump.”
“I’ll be damned,” Charlie said, amazed.
“Not by a long shot, my friend.” Angel stepped to the rear of the Bronco and opened a small compartment on the side of the motorcycle. “I think I have just what you need.”
Charlie stole a glance over Angel’s shoulder as the big man emptied the contents of the toolbox: one fuse and a roll of electrical tape.
Angel stripped damaged insulation from the wires and wrapped each with electrical tape. With the individual wires protected, he bound the bundle in several insulated layers and replaced them in the compartment. With a quick slide under the vehicle, he plugged the wires into the receptacles and slid his large frame from underneath. Finally, he replaced the spent fuse. “Fire it up,” he ordered.
Charlie climbed into the driver‘s seat and turned the ignition. The engine purred. He bowed his head to the steering wheel in silent prayer. “Thank you God.”
Angel slammed the hood. His grin filled the windshield.
Charlie cut the engine. “I don’t know what to say, Angel. How can I ever repay you?”
“Don’t be so quick to look for such a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” Angel chided softly. “You’re a good man, Charlie, and a good dad. You’ll do just fine; trust me. If you want to repay me, get your life on track. One day you will be in a position to help someone else in the same way. Consider your help for them as payment.”
“I’ll be happy to do it.” Charlie smiled gratefully.
“Give those kids a hug for me.”
Charlie’s throat tightened as he thought of his children.
“We both learned a lesson today. Sometimes we get so focused on our destination we don’t take time to enjoy the journey. Occasionally we need to look to the right or the left. Stop and see the Grand Canyon, Charlie. Zion and Bryce.”
“Maybe I’ll find rainbows there too.” Charlie smiled. “There are some natural springs along these roads, maybe I’ll take an hour and enjoy one of them.”
“Now you’ve got the idea.”
“I’ll remember you, Angel.” He offered a handshake.
Angel slipped a fifty-dollar bill into his palm. “You can’t go see your kids empty-handed. Buy them something nice on the way. Now go see your kids.” Angel nodded as he closed the door and slapped his palm on the roof.
Charlie started the engine and mouthed the words “Thanks again!” With a wave, he pulled out onto the highway.
It was only a few miles down the road that he realized something deep inside of him had changed. His brief time with the stranger and the rainbow had worked some kind of miracle. The emptiness inside of him had healed. For the first time in his memory, Charlie saw his place in the universe and looked forward to his life ahead.
Angel pulled the water pouch from the saddlebag and drank deeply. His face turned skyward as the water poured into his throat.
Above him, he caught sight, once more, of the hawk riding the lower currents.
First flipping on the light, the boy crossed the room and then snatched his old baseball glove from the dresser. The evidence reflected in his mirror. He had inherited the eyes of the Beast. The mirror cast back an image of his father, the Beast, whose eyes could tear holes in a soul. The Beast had hurt him so badly that the dull stare no longer affected him. He dredged his mind for memories of a time when his father had loved him. They were there, he knew, but they were lost under so much pain.
He forced his hand inside the glove to test the fit. The musky leather brought a distant memory of an eighth birthday and a new glove. The memory he tried to hold was as faded and cracked as the glove itself. The glove no longer fit his palm comfortably and the memory slipped back somewhere into a cobwebbed past.
Some time ago, the Beast had moved into the house and made it his home. Gloom doused whatever light had been there. Failure and broken dreams had brought the Beast into the house. It stayed, with a bottle constantly at hand. The demons that haunted the Beast never left it. It tried to flee from them on a self-made treadmill, but there was no escape. Pain had turned to despair and despair to violence.
Ten years earlier, the family had moved into a beautiful home. Years of encroaching darkness had aged the walls quickly. Carpets and furniture had fallen into disrepair and had not been replaced. The house, which had once been a lovely thing, became a musty, dark, and broken shell.
Now the Beast had made the house to its liking; a cold and empty place. It staggered home that night, well after midnight. A bitter stink of whiskey came with it as it roared curses at an invisible betrayer and stumbled on the porch steps. From his bedroom, Camden listened as the Beast clashed with his mother.
Enough, we have had enough! Not tonight! Not anymore!
Drawn by the sound of fist on bone, the boy sprang from his bed, ran out of his bedroom and exploded into the kitchen. His mother fell to the faded linoleum as he seized the Beast from behind and launched it across the room. The flabbergasted creature lurched into the wall.
“Bastard,” it muttered, “you want a piece of me?” Its slurred words were barely human.
The boy howled with rage and threw his body into the creature. The Beast collided with the refrigerator. A sudden blow caught the boy between the shoulder blades and drove him to the floor. He dodged a feeble kick and sprang to his feet, knuckles pounding viciously into his father’s face.
The Beast absorbed the blows at first, but the boy kept hitting him with strength drawn from a bitter memory of years of abuse. Eventually, the creature collapsed to the floor, its features masked with blood.
The arms of a mother prevented further damage. Waves of crimson receded from the boy’s mind as he fell into her embrace. For his mother’s sake, he resisted the urge to strike again.
He would not remain in the house.
“You have to come with me,” he pleaded. “You can’t stay here any longer. He’ll kill you!”
Her voice quivered. “No, honey. He’s a good man, he loves us. He has a lot of pressure right now.”
The boy was stunned. “He doesn’t know love anymore! Can’t you see that?”
He could see in her face that she didn’t. Adrenaline forced a shiver through his body. “We’ve been trapped here long enough!” he snapped. The volume of his words surprised him. “You must leave this house and come with me.”
She shook her head slowly, almost regretfully.
“Well I’m leaving.”
“Where will you go?”
The Beast moaned and stirred.
She trailed her son to the bedroom as he snatched up a duffel bag he had started to pack weeks earlier and threw it onto the bed. “I don’t know where! Somewhere far away!”
“You can go to your Aunt Becky’s. I’ll call her.”
The boy shook his head. “Not far enough.”
“But you’re only seventeen!” she pleaded. “You’re too young.”
“I’ll be eighteen soon. Eighteen is old enough.”
The boy shoved a few assorted clothes and necessities into the bag. His head snapped toward a rustling sound in the hall, followed by the thump of a falling body.
“I’d better go look after him,” she said, glancing nervously toward the kitchen.
“You’d better,” he echoed, not knowing why he said it.
As she left the room, he cursed and threw a dirty pair of jeans against the wall. “Bastard!”
From a drawer, he seized more clothes and stuffed them into his bag. He wrenched the drawstrings tight.
In the kitchen, he paused for a quiet embrace from his mother. She assured him that she would leave in the morning.
Her lies never came easily and her tears caught at his heart. But one thing he vowed: the Beast would never hurt him again.