Before the Committee
D M Roberts Copyright 2022
Azrael entered the room, he bowed to the committee that sat before him. St Peter occupied the middle space.
He did as he was instructed.
Azrael wondered why he had to introduce himself, they knew who he was, more protocol.
“Azrael, Angel of Death, Archangel chief of the Guardian Angels.”
“You know why you have been summoned?”
“I do not.” He shifted uneasily as he said this.
“We have a matter come to our attention. The human in question has, for most of his life been a fine, upstanding person in his community. However, he has not always been so. It is our responsibility to make a judgement on the placement of the human. Now, do we discard all the good he has accomplished through the latter part of his existence or, do we take his entire lifespan as guidance? What is your answer, Azrael?”
“Am I to be party to the deeds, good and bad, or am I to make a choice purely on what you have said?”
The committee mumbles amongst themselves. Finally, they gave their reply.
“You are to make the decision on the facts that we have presented.”
Azrael stared at the figures that sat before him, surely a man’s ascension into the beyond could not be decided upon with so little to go on, could it?
“You disagree?” Boomed the voice.
“I merely beg your indulgence that you might offer me a fuller explanation.”
“You do, do you? And what gives you the right to ask such a thing? No other Angel has asked for further explanation, why should you?”
He shifted again, this was becoming uncomfortable. No celestial questioned the committee and here he was, doing exactly that.
“I feel if the human has done one selfish act and one hundred selfless acts, that he surely deserves admittance into the great beyond. Humans make mistakes but are they not created in the Almighty’s own image?”
Once again the mumbles went around the group.
“You may leave.”
“You do not require my decision?”
“Not at this point. Leave now, we shall call you back when we have considered your argument.”
Bowing he left the room, none the wiser as to the human they had referred to.
“How was it?” Dumah was waiting outside.
“Strange, very strange. They will call me back.”
“No! What did you say? They have not asked for the others, or myself to go back.”
“I did not say anything that a fair and reasonable Angel would not have said.”
“You answered their questions?”
“No, I did not. I needed more information before I condemned another to damn nation.”
“Oh, my. That will, as the humans say, put the cat amongst the pigeons. Why do you care so much for these selfish creatures? They fight, kill, lie and commit such abominable acts, yet you defend them still. Oh, Azrael my friend, they will be your undoing.”
Dumah walked on, his head shaking from side to side as he tried to understand the Angels care for these Godless souls.
Brian entered the office, today he was to sign the document that would keep him comfortable for the rest of his life. The young solicitor stood as Brian came in.
“Good to see you Mr Felling, please have a seat. Help yourself to coffee and doughnuts. I have had the secretary draw up the paperwork and she will be in with it shortly. How was your weekend?”
Brian poured himself a coffee, maybe just one doughnut he thought as he placed it on the saucer.
“Very good thank you, how about you? Are you married, children?” Ridiculous questions he thought, the man looked barely out of college.
“It was good, thanks. Yes, I have a wife and 2 small children. We spent the weekend at her parent’s beach house, so nice for the little ones to get away from the city now and then.”
Brian gulped, the coffee seemed to go the wrong way. Jeez, he must be getting old! He imagined the man to be all of 22 or there about’s. The solicitor continued.
“We were celebrating our 10th anniversary, really doesn’t feel that long. You are no longer married I see from my notes?”
“That’s right. We finalised the divorce last year. Congratulations on your anniversary, I have to say, I thought you were a lot younger than you obviously are.”
The man laughed, his perfect white teeth glimmering in the sunlight.
“I have my mother to thank for that, people still mistake her for my sister if you can believe that and she’s 63! A wonderful woman too.” It was at this point that the secretary entered the room.
“I have your documents here, Mr Ramona, I’ll leave them on the desk.”
Brian looked over the papers paying particular attention to the clauses that were brought to his attention by Mr Ramona, these consisted mostly of a no publicity agreement and a notification that he was not to speak to anyone concerning the settlement. Standard clauses in a case like this commented the solicitor. Happy with the terms Brian signed the documents.
“There will be a cooling-off period as is customary, if you don’t change your mind in these days the funds will be transferred to the account you have specified. Now, with that in mind, we have various financial advisors that can talk you through options and investments. If this is something you will find useful we can set up some meetings in the coming months. That about sums up the business for now. Do you have any questions Mr Felling?”
Brian sipped his coffee, there was one thing he needed to ask, should he?
“Mr Felling? Anything you ask is in the strictest of confidence.”
“My ex-wife, am I obliged to divulge this to my ex-wife?”
Mr Ramona laughed.
“Excuse my bluntness Mr Felling but you are not at liberty to tell your ex Jack shit. This is revenue received after your divorce, you have no offspring to support, therefore and in laymen’s terms, you are free and clear.”
Brian was visibly relieved, she had taken as much from him as he was going to allow.
The celebration was a low key one, mostly because they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves. The table was booked at the restaurant with only Mel, Neil and Linda joining him. Brian said it was a celebration of his recovery, only he and Neil knew the real reason. Not even Linda was privy.
Brian had his first meeting with an accountant/financial advisor since he had given over the company. Mr Ramona had set it up with a firm that he knew to be reputable and discreet. Brian waited in the foyer of the large building, it was clear that the firm handled a lot of high-class clients by the décor alone. You didn’t have these types of offices without hefty chunks of cash behind you. The receptionist called him over. Her perfectly manicured appearance left him feeling underdressed.
“If you would like to take the elevator to the 6th floor there will be somebody there to meet you.”
“Thank you. 6th you say?”
“That’s right Mr Felling.”
The elevator played classical music, not the usual muzak that often filled the cramped space. This was class, the size of the elevator itself was twice as big as they normally were.
Brian was met at the doors by a woman that could have been the clone of the one that sat at the reception desk.
“If you would like to follow me, Mr Felling.”
They walked down the airy corridor to the office at the glass-fronted end of the building. It all felt very grand to the man that only a few months ago could barely afford a cup of coffee.
He was shown into the plush room that looked more like a grand hotel suite rather than a financiers office.
“Do come in Mr Felling, would you prefer I call you Brian?”
“Brian is fine, it is my name after all.” He laughed.
“Excellent. Right, I have spoken with Mr Ramona about your position and today is merely a fact-finding mission as to what you intend to do with such a vast and sudden accumulation of wealth. There are various options that we could take a look at if this is agreeable to you?”
The advisor took Brian through a mountain of options, so many that his head began to spin.
“Brian? Do any of these options sound like something you would be interested in?”
Brian rubbed his temples, he had never dealt with the money side of things in all the years he was married or ran a business. Maybe that was his undoing, maybe he should have taken more of a first-hand approach to these matters.
“Can I think it over?”
“Of course, you can, nobody expects you to make a decision straight away. It is a lot of money we are talking about, Brian. My job is to search out the best and most lucrative options for you and, should you decide to go with our firm, we are here to get you the best return. Make your cash work for you, so to speak. I have taken the liberty of emailing you some of the ventures we have discussed this morning, that you can go over them in your own time.”
Brian shook his hand, picked up his jacket and left the imposing building with a brain full of numbers and names that he had no clue about.
Maybe he should talk with Neil, he was good with these kinds of things. Yes, he would call on his friend and get his thoughts.
Walking into the car showroom, he had come to the conclusion that he needed a new car. For the months since his divorce, he had been using a battered old Chevy that he picked up cheap. He didn’t want anything too extravagant, no point drawing attention to his newfound wealth. Something reliable and comfortable would do just fine.
The salesman approached him, his ridiculous cowboy hat perched slightly askew on his head.
“Howdy partner, now don’t tell me. I see you in one of our more luxurious vehicles, am I right? I can always tell a man with taste and you Sir, have that air about you. Am I right?”
Jeez, this one was a card. Brian had to fight back the urge to say, ‘you’re rooting’ tooting’ right partner.’
“Browsing my friend, just browsing. I’ll give you a shout if I need assistance.”
The salesman nodded, tipped his hat, and stood in the corner of the showroom as he watched the man carefully. There were 3 other salespeople in there and he didn’t want to lose a commission to them.
After spending a good 20 minutes looking at the various cars on offer, Brian approached the man.
“Do you mind if I sit in that one? “He pointed to a shiny black pick-up truck.
“Be my guest, it’s a particularly good example of its make. I can take you for a test drive if you have the time, give you a feel for its comfort and ease of use.”
“That would be great, yes, a test drive would be better.”
“I’ll grab the keys, back in a minute.”
An hour later, Brian was driving off the lot in the truck, it felt good to finally have a car that he didn’t mind being seen in. He had loved his Jeep, unfortunately, Martha had made sure that he didn’t get to keep it. This was better than the jeep in so many ways, it had all mod cons and the music system was ridiculously superb. This would do very nicely!
When he turned up at the coffee house he beeped the horn several times until eventually, she appeared at the door. Her smile radiated as the driver bobbed his head down to give her a wave.
“Fancy a ride in my new wheels?” He grinned.
Mel called back into the shop as she untied her apron.
“Cover me, back soon.” The young man gave her a thumbs up, raising his head out of his phone. It had been a quiet morning, an even quieter lunchtime period.
“You sure you can get away?” Asked Brian as she climbed up to the seat beside him.
“No problem, I have a great relationship with the boss. Well, this is some set of wheels you have yourself here, I have to admit, she puts my old truck to shame.”
“You think it’s a, she? I was hoping to impress you with the manliness of the thing.”
“Course it’s she, her headlamps are feminine, whereas mine, well he’s just a brute of a man.” Their laughter could be heard as they drove off down the hot, dusty road.
Azrael was called back to the great hall. Upon entering he noticed that the committee was not the usual 6 or 7 but 1, that 1 being St Peter.
He made his way to where the smaller figure sat.
“We have reached a decision, I wanted to discuss it with you as you were the only being to cause us to stop and think. We have looked over the human’s life and, as you pointed out, the human had indeed accomplished many a great selfless act. We noted that he changed his path at an early age, never to do a selfish deed again. In light of this, we, the Elders, granted the human entrance into the great beyond.”
Azrael was thrilled, he did not know the human and it certainly was not he that brought the human to the gates to be judged, still he was thrilled. In his soul it pained him whenever one was denied access, for having spent so many millenniums amongst them, he knew they were not all bad, some circumstances lead them astray. Some would say they were weak, they were human, that was the truth of it. Stepping forward he knelt before the Elder, his wings folding back on themselves.
“Thank you, your Holiness. I pray the decision will not be one you regret.”
“Is there any other matter you wish to discuss, Azrael? Any more humans that you feel compelled to save?” St Peter eyed the Angel carefully as he spoke. Azrael could feel those eyes boring into him.
“No other matter.”
“Very well, you may leave, but know this. I have been around since the beginning, I see more than I need to see, more than I want to see. Do not fail me Azrael, clean up your loose ends.”
Dumah walked with Azrael through the meadow. The day was a warm, sunny one with a cooling breeze. They were headed for the house in the distance. It was a large house with off white weatherboarding that had not been painted for some time. The fence around the garden was falling down, rotting slats that had buckled under the weight of the elements of the passing years. Azrael opened the gate, the squeak was loud as it echoed through the still of the air.
“Do you remember when we came here last, Dumah?” He asked, pausing to hear the response.
“Yes, it seems only a small fraction of time, yet to these humans, it is a lifetime ago. I remember the child that sat on that very porch, what did she hold in her hand? I forget.”
“She held the book of the Lord’s words, she held it close to her chest. Do you think she was praying?” Dumah shrugged, for he had only small memories of the child.
“I would like to think so. Do you?”
“She was, I could hear her amidst her cries. She prayed that her Grandfather was no longer in pain, that God would take him as an Angel. She prayed for nothing of herself, such a little one to have been left all alone in the world.” He continued as they walked silently into the darkened room.
The elderly woman lay in the bed, a bed that had not seen clean linen in quite some time. Her gentle eyes flickered as though a light had been switched on.
The pair remained silent as they watched her frail body try to hoist itself further up the pillows. She did not look afraid as one would suspect of a human that thought a stranger was in their midst, instead, she smiled. Azrael smiled back, he realised that she could not possibly see him yet felt moved to all the same.
“I remember you.” She continued. “You looked so bright, like the sunshine on a winter’s day. Did Grandpa become an Angel? I often wondered, but who would I ask?”
“Can she see us?” Dumah was beginning to feel uncomfortable with the old woman’s questions.
“No, Dumah, she cannot see us, she senses our presence as other’s often do. Few can see us.” Azrael made his way to the bed, he sat on the edge, no indentations could be seen in the mattress as they would be had a human sat there. He picked up the pale hand, staring at the puckered, loose skin with its brown patches of age. The hand was warm and soft, lifting his gaze she stared straight into his eyes.
“Will I see him when we go?” She asked quietly.
“You will. You have waited a long time, have you waited alone?” whispered Azrael. She nodded her expression one of sadness.
“I thought he would come back.”
Azrael shook his head, such a wasted, lonely life spent waiting for a thing that could never be.
“She can see you!” Hissed Dumah. Azrael turned to his counterpart, his head shaking slightly from side to side.
“No, she senses her time, she cannot see me.” The woman squeezed his hand as he spoke. He knew she could see him, hear him and that it served no purpose to relay this to Dumah.
“The time is close.”
Azrael leant close to the old woman’s face, he whispered into her ear, she smiled, a sigh escaped her lips as she whispered back. Taking her hand once more he helped her to her feet, they were back in the meadow. The sun shone down, the flowers smelt wonderful as the breeze picked up their scent.
“Thank you, it has been some time since I walked amongst the glory of nature. What a beautiful world we have, that he made all of this for us, don’t you think?”
Azrael nodded, this earth was spectacular.
“Here.” She leant and picked a small flower, tucking it into his gowns she patted the soft fabric with satisfaction. Dumah looked on in disbelief, that she put it in exactly the right place.
“You truly are a benevolent Angel.” She whispered as the bright figure clapped his hands.