“Who’s that?” Daphne asked as the Met Kids murmured in agreement with that suggestion.
“Oh, he’s a very powerful angel! But he’s also very wise,” Sapphire knowingly answered her. “Many Vegozians turn to him for help their deepest problems, and no fallen angel will dare to cross him!”
Daphne responded, “He sounds great! When does he get here?”
Sapphire let her know, “He doesn’t. He doesn’t leave his headquarters in Summerland, which is on the west side of Vegoz. It’s a fairly ritzy community. Must be nice to watch over that area! I’m not bitter, I like my assignment!”
“Yeah…” Daphne didn’t quite believe her, but with more pressing issues on her mind, she hardly had a minute to argue. “So, if I travel to this Summerland neighborhood, the Emerald Angel will help me get back to Kansas, California?”
“Probably.” Sapphire espied Daphne’s alarmed expression, so she elaborated, “He’s very exclusive in how he renders aid to, but you don’t have anything to worry about! The Carmine Clogs don’t choose just anyone to grace their presence with!”
Daphne inquired, “What do they do?”
Sapphire shrugged. “Whatever they do must be significant or else the Ochre Angel wouldn’t be plotting your demise over them!”
“Swell. Is Summerland far from here?” Daphne wondered.
“Uh… Kinda! But, again, don’t worry! Assistance will always find you at your most dire hour!” Sapphire assured her.
With wide eyes, Daphne queried, “You’re not going with me?”
Sapphire told her, “I’d like to, but if I set foot into the posh district looking like I do, I usually get arrested for suspicion of this and that. And no, I can’t change unless I leave Vegoz, which I rarely do. I did take a trip to U SUCK once!”
“U-S-C-K!” Daphne corrected her.
“Whatever. I had to observe Almira in her teacher role. I never did see how she runs her classes, but I heard her yelling at some employee for shelving her books too slowly…”
Daphne informed her, “That was me!”
This startled her a tad, but Sapphire nonchalantly addressed her, “Well, she won’t be an issue for you anymore in her lifeless condition!”
“She wouldn’t have been an issue anyways ‘cause she got me fired,” Daphne illuminated her.
“Is that why you killed her?” a Met Kid probed.
Daphne insisted, “I didn’t kill her! Will you stop saying that? The police are gonna make me a suspect!”
Sapphire relayed to Daphne, “There isn’t gonna be any kind of formal investigation. There’s no body and no real evidence, so they could never get enough proof to get a conviction in court.”
“I don’t believe that! Somebody somewhere knows who murdered her, and I’m gonna figure out who that is!” Daphne avowed.
“You wanna solve her murder even though she was so horrible to you?” another Met Kid catechized.
Daphne confirmed, “Of course! But not ‘cause I wanna do anything to assist her! There’s a killer on the loose, and they don’t deserve to get away with this crime!”
Sapphire commended her, “That’s very noble of you! The best of luck with that goal! In the meantime, you should get going before Whitney catches up to you!”
“What? Already? I can’t go so soon! I… Oh, I should call my aunt and tell her where her house went! I hope she has protection against magical cyclones on her insurance policy!” She pulled out her cellphone, and to her dismay, she saw that it was cracked beyond repair! “It’s completely busted! Oh gosh, I can get started on my journey now!”
“You’ll do fine!” Sapphire reassured her. She wrapped a supportive arm around her waist, and she indicated to the street in front of them that ran northwest. “Just follow those tall construction cones on Gold Stone Road!”
The choir students chanted, “Follow the Gold Stone Road! Follow, follow, follow! Follow the Gold Stone Road!”
“Okay, I’m off to see the Emerald Angel of Vegoz!” Daphne asserted.
“Goodbye, and God speed!” Sapphire’s height increased, and she shed her dissheveled appearance! She had a soft visage, a long, flowing, turquoise goan, and indigo feathered wings, and she gave Daphne a gentle wink prior to her departure. This gesture erased all of Daphne’s doubts about her angel claims, and she resolved to adhere to her advice. She waved farewell to the Met Kids, and she followed the cones on Gold Stone Road.
Daphne reached a park that was mostly dry grass. Small children played on a nearby playground, and a few older youths played soccer in the field. Three gazebos had three different parties: the first one had a pinata and a bounce house, the second had a set of biker-looking people grilling some food, and the third had a group all wearing white dress shirts and black bottoms who were playing Bingo. Once Daphne soaked in this motley bunch, she turned her attention to her route. She could go straight ahead, turn right, or turn left- none of the avenues had signs by them and all of them had a trail of tall traffic cones! “Oh no! How are we supposed to get to the Emerald Angel now?” Daphne posed to Tater.
From seemingly nowhere, a jolly male’s voice recommended to her, “Pardon me, but going north will do just fine!”
“Who said that?” Daphne visually scanned the scene to discover who uttered that sentence.
“Course, some people go west too,” the voice conveyed to her.
Daphne eyed a mesquite tree that had a cart with pictures of corn underneath it, and she speculated, “That’s funny, I think that tree is talking to us!”
A pair of arms dangled out of the branches as the voice concluded, “Actually, folks have been known to go both ways!”
After it registered to her that someone was in the timber, Daphne circled around it and beheld a man with sooty, olive-toned skin, brown pants with various stains on it, a green jacket with random patches, and a burnt umber hat hanging from the limbs! It startled DAphne to see such a sight, and the man eagerly pressed her, “Did I scare ya?”
“No! You surprised me a little, but I wasn’t scared,” Daphne swore to him.
“But I didn’t scare ya?” He hung his head in disappointment.
Daphne’s brows furrowed at his reaction. “You were trying to scare me? Is that why you’re hanging out in the branches?”
The man briefed her, “Oh, no! I thought I saw some Easter eggs in there, and I thought I’d get myself a snack!”
“But Easter is still a month away!” Daphne pointed out.
“Eh…!” The man gestured that he didn’t care about the span that the candy had been sitting out there. “Anyways… Yeah, I was trying to scare ya! That’s my job! I guard the elote vendor’s cart while he spends time with family and in exchange for that, he gives me a dollar and a free ear of corn!”
Daphne noted, “That’s not a fair trade!”
The man lamented, “It isn’t? Oh gosh, that figures! Aw, if I had a brain, I wouldn’t keep getting myself into such terrible predicaments!”
“Don’t be silly! You have a brain! Everyone does!” Daphne differed with him.
“No, no!” the man pleasantly quarreled. “There’s only straw in my thick skull! It isn’t simply my hair, I swear! I can’t use any smarts for nothing! Even a roadrunner was able to outsmart me once!”
Daphne challenged him, “Are you sure you didn’t get that from a cartoon?”
The man despondently recalled, “I haven’t watched t.v. in years! I can’t pay rent anywhere ‘cause I don’t have enough brains to keep a job! I got real close one time, but that Whitney woman set fire to the car wash I was gonna get hired at! For some reason, the owner didn’t wanna take me in after that!”
With her interest piquing upon hearing this, Daphne interrogated him, “You know the Ochre Angel? Do you know her sister too?”
“Almira? Well, yeah! I may not have any intelligence, but I do hear about all the stuff that goes on in the streets!” He indicated to his ears.
“Oh, we have to talk!” Daphne chimed. “What’s your name?”
The man grinned. “Heathrow, Heathrow Bolger!” He tried to extend his hand to hers, but he couldn’t get his arm close enough to her.
Daphne volunteered, “Here, let me help!”
As Daphne climbed up the tree, Heathrow complimented her, “Aw, that’s kind of you! Very kind!”
She spotted a twig that was caught onto this clothing, and she bent the wood to release him. He crashed onto the floor, and Daphne apologized, “I’m so sorry! Are you hurt?”
“Oh, no!” Heathrow jovially reassured her. “I’ve got tough nerves! It’s a haphazard of sleeping on cement!”
“Well, that’s good, I guess! I’m Daphne, incidentally.” She extended her hand to him.
He genially shook it, and she strove not to wince as she felt the filthy texture of his palm. He affably regarded her, “Nice to meet ya, Daphne Incidentally!”
Daphne mentioned to him, “No, it’s just Daphne.”
“Okay! I won’t use your last name,” Heathrow obliged.
“Cool…” Daphne decided against further argument on the subject. “So, tell me more about Almira. Did anything different happen with her lately?”
Heathrow considered the matter for a moment. “Hmm… I don’t know! She’s acted the same for a decade now! Still causes mayhem whenever she’s in town!”
Daphne quizzed him, “How often is she in town?”
“Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Although, she’s been coming weekday nights lately too!” Heathrow remembered. “I did hear some rumors that she was planning to make Vegoz a more permanent residence though!”
“WHAT? Then why did she bother to get me fired at the college?” Daphne cried out. Heathrow ogled her in confusion, so she advised him, “Don’t ask! So, was anyone upset about that decision?”
Heathrow stated, “Everyone!”
Daphne expressed, “Oh, yeah! That was a dumb question! Did anyone get upset enough to make plans to stop her?”
“I doubt it! No one really liked her, but nobody knew how to stop her,” Heathrow reported.
“No one liked her? What about her sister?” Daphne enquired.
Heathrow rubbed his chin contemplatively. “I dunno! I’ve never really seen them together. They mostly stick to their own territories. Well, Whitney does like to go into Almira’s domain when she’s out. I imagine they have some sort of fear quota they gotta fill, so she helps her out!”
Daphne took a mental note of this tidbit. “I see… And now that Almira’s gone, Whitney has full control of Almira’s territory!”
“She’s gone? Where did she go?” Heathrow pondered.
“She died,” Daphne disclosed.
Heathrow’s face contorted into a befuddled presentation. “She is? Well, if she died, why do you wanna know so much about her? She’s left this earth, so who cares what occurred with her while she was still here?”
Daphne enspeeched, “It matters ‘cause regardless of how nasty she was, she still didn’t deserve to get murdered! There’s a killer roaming the streets, and they don’t deserve to get away with their crime! We live in a society of laws for an important purpose! We can’t allow anybody to cherry-pick what rules they get to follow or else society will become chaotic! Whoever did this should have to account for their actions to set an example to everyone else that regulations are for everyone, and this will bring more peace to the land- something we all deserve to live in!”
“You’re probably right! I mean, what do I know? You have a working brain, after all! I don’t! There’s only straw in my noggin!” Heathrow sighed. He then got struck with a stroke of inspiration, “Hey! Do you reckon that the Emerald Angel could give me a real brain?”
“I have no clue!” Daphne remarked. “All I know is he’s super powerful and can allegedly pull off magnificent miracles. If any angel can… fix someone’s noggin…, it’d be him!”
Heathrow entreated Daphne, “Oh, please! Take me with you! I won’t be no trouble ‘cause I don’t have enough smarts to try and take over your agenda! And I won’t bicker none ‘cause I don’t have the ability to outwit anyone! Oh, won’t you take me with you?”
Daphne mulled it over for a spell. “Umm… It’s not that I don’t want the company! Heavens know I’d be better off with someone who has more insight into the layout of the city than I do! But I need to get to Kansas, California as fast as possible! I can’t afford too many delays…”
“I won’t cause any delays!” Heathrow promised. “I won’t even request a meal break ‘cause I can go for days without food! Oh, please let me come! If I only had a brain, I could get myself a decent job and not be a bum no more! It gets lonely out here…”
“Oh, alright!” Daphne consented. “But FYI, you have to be fine with a fallen angel going after us. I got the Carmine Clogs, and she’s plotting to get them back for some reason!”
Heathrow made a noise of disdain. “I ain’t afraid of no fallen angel! I may not got the intellect to best an opponent, but I’ve been a bum long enough to survive almost anything! I’m not afraid of anything…” He changed to a whisper, “Except fire… I’m highly flammable!”
Daphne acceded, “Okie doke! Let’s get a move on then!”
“Yay! We’re off to see the Emerald Angel!” He instantly sprang up and sang, “We’re off to see the Angel, the Emerald Angel of Vegoz! Because, because, because of all of the wonderful things he does!”
“Does everybody here have to sing?” Daphne grumbled.
Heathrow invited her, “Feel free to join in!”
Daphne rejected that notion, “Pass!” Heathrow repeated that verse, and Daphne attempted to interrupt him, “Heathrow! Heathrow! Heathrow!”
“What?” Heathrow paused his antics.
“Which way do we go? North or west?” Daphne grilled him.
Heathrow cheerfully communicated to her, “Yes!”
Daphne let out an exasperated exhale, and she clearly already regretted her decision to permit him to tag along! As he did a festive little jig, she arbitrarily opted to go west. He continued to prance around as they trekked down this path, and Daphne strove to ignore his shenanigans in order to stay calm and finish her mission more speedily. As they departed from the perimeter of the park, Whitney peeked out from behind another mesquite tree and sneered at the oddly paired travelers…