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Of Love and Evil

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Of Love and Evil

?

    ALSO BY ANNE RICE

Angel Time

    Called Out of Darkness

    Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

    Blood Canticle

    Blackwood Farm

    Blood and Gold

    Merrick

    Vittorio, The Vampire The Vampire Armand Pandora

    Violin

    Servant of the Bones Memnoch the Devil

    Taltos

    Lasher

    The Tale of the Body Thief The Witching Hour

    The Mummy

    The Queen of the Damned The Vampire Lestat Cry to Heaven

    The Feast of All Saints Interview with the Vampire

This Is a Borzoi BookPublished by Alfred A. Knopf and Alfred A. Knopf Canada

Copyright ? 2010 by Anne O’Brien Rice

    All rights reserved.

    Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf,

    a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Alfred A. Knopf Canada, a divisionof Random House of

    Canada Limited, Toronto.www.aaknopf.com????????www.randomhouse.ca

    Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.KnopfCanada and colophon are trademarks.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Rice, Anne, [date]

    Of love and evil : the songs of the seraphim, a novel / by Anne Rice. — 1st ed.

    p. cm.

    1. Assassins—Fiction.??2. Angels—Fiction.??3. Rome (Italy)—Fiction.??I. Title.PS3568.I26504

    2010

    813′.54—dc22??????2010028267

    Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Rice, Anne

    Of love and evil / Anne Rice.

    (The songs of the seraphim ; 2)

    eISBN: 978-0-307-59453-2

    I. Title. II. Series: Rice, Anne. Songs of the seraphim; 2.PS3568.I22D93

    2010??????813’.54??????C2010-901441-3

    This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of

    the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living

    or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

    v3.1

For

    my son,Christopher Rice

and

For

    my friendGary Swafford

    Contents

    Cover

    Other Books by This Author

    Title Page

    Copyright

    Dedication

    Epigraph

    Chapter One

    Chapter Two

    Chapter Three

    Chapter Four

    Chapter Five

    Chapter Six

    Chapter Seven

    Chapter Eight

    Chapter Nine

    Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

    Chapter Twelve

    Chapter Thirteen

    Chapter Fourteen

    Author’s Note

    ?

    Become my helper. Become my human instrument to help me do what I must do on Earth.

    Leave this empty life you’ve fashioned for yourself, and pledge to me your wits, your courage,your cunning, and your uncommon physical grace.

    Say that you’re willing, and your life is turned from evil, you confirm it, and you’re atonce plunged into the danger and heartache of trying to do what is unquestionably good.

—The Angel Malchiahspeaking to Toby O’Dare in Angel Time

    ?

God appears, and God is light,

    To those poor souls who dwell in night;

    But does a human form display

    To those who dwell in realms of day.

    —From Auguries of Innocence

    William Blake

We are, each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.

    —Luciano de Crescenzo

    CHAPTER ONE

    I DREAMED A DREAM OF ANGELS. I SAW THEM AND I heard them in a great and endless galactic night.I saw the lights that were these angels, flying here and there, in streaks of irresistiblebrilliance, and some as great as comets which seemed to draw so close the fire might devour me,and yet I felt no heat. I felt no danger. I felt no self.

    I felt love around me in this vast and seamless realm of sound and light. I felt intimately andcompletely known. I felt beloved and held and part of all I saw and heard. And yet I knew Ideserved nothing of it, nothing. And something akin to sadness swept me up and mingled my veryessence with the voices who sang, because the voices were singing of me.

    I heard the voice of Malchiah rise high and brilliant and immense as he said that I must nowbelong to him, that I must now go with him. That he had chosen me as his companion and I mustdo what he would have me do. How strong and brilliant was his voice rising higher and higher.Yet there came against him a smaller voice, tender, lustrous, that sang of my life on Earth andwhat I had to do; it sang of those who needed me and loved me; it sang of common things andcommon dreams, and pitted these with faultless courage against the great things which Malchiahsought to do.

    Oh, that such a mingling of themes could be so very magnificent and this music should surroundand enfold me as if it were a palpable and loving thing. I lay upon the breast of this music,and I heard Malchiah triumph as he claimed me, as he declared that I was his very own. Theother voice was fading but not conceding. The other voice would never concede. The other voicehad its own beauty and it would go on singing forever as it was singing now.

    Other voices rose; or they had been there all the while. Other voices sang all around me and ofme, and these voices vied with angelic voices as though answering them across a fathomlessvault. It was a weave, these voices, angelic and other, and I knew suddenly that these werevoices of people praying, praying for me. They were people who had prayed before and would prayafter and in the far future and would always pray, and all these voices had to do with what Imight become, of what I might be. Oh, sad, small soul that I was, and how very grand was it,this burning world in which I found myself, a world that makes the very word itself meaninglessas all boundaries and all measures disappear.

    There came to me the blessed knowledge that every living soul was the subject of thiscelebration, of this infinite and ceaseless chorus, that every soul was loved as I was loved,known now as I was known.

    How could it not be? How could I, with all my failures, all my bitter losses, be the only one?Oh, no, the universe was filled with souls woven into this triumphant and glorious song.

    And all were known and loved as I was known and loved. All were known as even their prayers forme became part of their own glorious unfolding within this endless and golden weave.

    “Don’t send me away. Don’t send me back. But if you must, let me do your Will, let me do itwith all my heart,” I prayed, and I heard my own words become as fluid as the music thatsurrounded me and sustained me. I heard my own particular and certain voice. “I love You. Ilove You who made all things and gave us all things and for You I will do anything, I will dowhat it is You want of me. Malchiah, take me. Take me for Him. Let me do His will!”

    Not a single word was lost in this great womb of love that surrounded me, this vast night thatwas as bright as day. For neither day nor night mattered here, and both were blended and allwas perfect, and the prayers rising and rising, and overlapping, and the angels calling wereall one firmament to which I completely surrendered, to which I completely belonged.

    Something changed. Still I heard the plaintive voice of that angel pleading for me, remindingMalchiah of all that I was to do. And I heard Malchiah’s gentle reproof and ultimateinsistence, and I heard the prayers so thick and wondrous that it seemed I would never need abody again to live or love or think or feel.

    Yet something changed. The scene shifted.

    I saw the great rise of the Earth beneath me and I drifted downwards feeling a slow but certainand aching chill. Let me stay, I wanted to plead, but I didn’t deserve to stay. It was not mytime to stay, and I had to feel this inevitable separation. Yet what opened now before mewasn’t the Earth of my expectations but vast fields of wheat blowing golden under a sky morevivid in the brightening sun than I had ever beheld. Everywhere I looked I saw the wildflowers,“the lilies of the field,” and I saw their delicacy and their resilience as the force of thebreeze bent them to and fro. This was the wealth of the Earth, the wealth of its blowing trees,the wealth of its gathering clouds.

    “Dear God, never to be away from You, never to wrong You, never to fail You in faith or inheart,” I whispered, “for this, all this You have given me, all this You have given us.”

    And there followed on my whisper an embrace so close, so total, that I wept with my whole soul.

    The fields grew vague and large and a golden emptiness enveloped the world and I felt loveembracing me, holding me, as if I were being cradled by it, and the flowers shifted and turnedinto masses of colors I couldn’t describe. The very presence of colors we did not know struckme deep and rendered me helpless. Dear God, that You love us so very much.

    Shapes were gone. Colors had detached themselves effortlessly from shapes, and the light itselfwas rolling now as if it were a soft and consuming smoke.

    There appeared a corridor and I had the distinct impression, in words, that I had passedthrough it. And now, down the long corridor there came to me the tall slender figure ofMalchiah, clothed as he always was, a graceful figure, like that of a young man.

I saw his soft dark hair, his oval face. I saw his simple dark suit with its narrow lines.

    I saw his loving eyes, and then his slow and fluid smile. I saw him reach out to me with botharms.

    “Beloved,” he whispered. “I need you once again. I will need you countless times. I willneed you till the end of time.”

    It seemed then the other voices sang from their hearts, in protest, in praise, I couldn’ttell.

    I wanted to hold him. I wanted to beg him to let me stay just a little while more with himhere. Take me again into the realm of the lamps of Heaven. I wanted to cry. I had never knownas a child how to cry. And now as an adult, I did it repeatedly, awake and in dreams.

    Malchiah came on steadily as though the distance between us was far greater than I hadsupposed.

    “You’ve only a couple of hours before they come,” he said, “and you want to be ready.”

    I was awake.

    The morning sun flooded the windows.

    The noise of traffic rose from the streets.

    I was in the Amistad Suite, in the Mission Inn, and I was sitting back against a nest ofpillows, and Malchiah sat, collected and calm, in one of the wing chairs near the cold stonefireplace and he said again to me that Liona and my son would soon come.

    CHAPTER TWO

    A CAR WAS GOING TO PICK THEM UP FROM THE LOS Angeles airport and bring them straight to theMission Inn. I’d told her I’d meet her under the campanario, that I’d have a suite for herand for Toby—that was my son’s name—and that I’d take care of everything.

    But I still didn’t believe she’d really come. How could she come?

    I’d disappeared out of her life, in New Orleans, ten years ago, leaving her seventeen andpregnant, and now I was back via a phone call from the West Coast, and when I’d found out shewasn’t married, not even engaged, not even living with someone, when I’d found that out, I’dalmost passed out on the spot.

    Of course I couldn’t tell her that an angel named Malchiah told me I had a son. I couldn’ttell her what I’d been doing both before and after I met that angel, and I couldn’t tell herwhen or how I might see her again.

    I couldn’t explain either that the angel was giving me time to see her now, before I went offon another assignment for him, and when she agreed to fly out here to see me, to bring my son,Toby, with her, well, I’d been in a sustained state of jubilation and disbelief.

    “Look, the way my father feels about you,” she’d said, “it’s easier for me to fly to theWest Coast. And of course I’ll bring your son to see you. Don’t you think he wants to knowwho his father is?”

    She was still living with her father, apparently, old Dr. Carpenter, as I had called him backthen, and it didn’t surprise me that I had earned his contempt and scorn. I’d crept off withhis daughter into the family guesthouse, and never dreamed all these years that she’d had achild as the result.

    The point is: they were coming.

    Malchiah went down with me to the front walk. It was perfectly plain to me that other peoplecould see him, but he looked entirely normal, as he always did, a man of my height, and dressedin a three-piece suit pretty much like my own. Only his was gray silk. Mine was khaki. Hisshirt had a sheen to it, and mine was a workingman’s blue shirt, starched, pressed andfinished off with a dark blue tie.

    He looked to me rather like a perfect human being, his wondering eyes drifting over the flowersand the high palms against the sky as if he was savoring everything. He even seemed to feel thebreeze and to glory a little in it.

    “You’re an hour early,” he said.

    “I know. I can’t sit still. I feel better if I just wait here.”

    He nodded as though that was perfectly reasonable when in fact it was ridiculous.

    “She’s going to ask what I’ve been doing all this time,” I said. “What do I say to her?”

    “You’ll say only what’s good for her and for your son,” he answered. “You know that.”

    “Yes, I do,” I conceded.

    “Upstairs, on your computer,” he said, “there’s a long document you wrote called ‘AngelTime.’?”

    “Yes, well, I wrote that when I was waiting for you to come to me again. I wrote downeverything that happened on my first assignment.”

    “That was good,” he said, “a form of meditation and it worked well. But, Toby, no one mustread that document, not now, and maybe not ever.”

    I should have known this. I felt a little crestfallen but I understood. With embarrassment Ithought of how proud I’d been to recount my first mission for the angels. I’d even boasted toThe Right Man, my old boss, that I had changed my life, that I was writing about it, that maybesomeday he’d find my real name in the bookstores. As if he cared, the man who’d sent me asLucky the Fox to kill over and over again. Ah, such pride, but then, in all my adult life, I’dnever done anything before to be proud of. And The Right Man was the only person in this worldwith whom I had regular conversations. That is, until I had met Malchiah.

    “Children of the Angels come and go as we do,” Malchiah said, “only seen by a few, unseenand unheeded by others.”

    I nodded.

    “Is that what I am now, a Child of the Angels?”

    “Yes,” he said, smiling. “That’s what you are. Remember it.”

    With that he was gone.

    And I was left realizing I had some fifty minutes to wait for Liona.

    Maybe I’d take a little walk, have a soda in the bar, I didn’t know. I only knew suddenly Iwas happy, and I was.

    As I thought about this, I turned around, and looked towards the doors of the lobby, but for noparticular reason. I saw a figure there, to one side of the doors, a figure of a young man, whostood with arms folded, leaning against the wall, staring at me. He was as vivid as anythingaround him, a tall man like Malchiah, only with reddish blond hair, and larger blue eyes, andhe wore a khaki suit identical to my own. I turned my back on him to avoid his fixed stare, andthen I realized how unlikely it was that the guy should be wearing a suit exactly like mine,and staring at me like that, with an expression that was just short of anger. No, it hadn’tbeen anger.

    I turned back. He was still staring. It was concern, not anger.

    You’re my guardian angel!

    He gave me a near-imperceptible nod.

    A remarkable sense of well-being came over me. My anxiety melted away. I’ve heard your voice!

     I was fascinated and oddly comforted, and all of this inI’ve heard you with the other angels.

    a split second.

    A little crowd of guests came out of the lobby doors, passing in front of this figure, andobscuring him, and as they turned left to go along another path, I realized he had disappeared.

    My heart was skipping. Had I seen all this correctly? Had he really been staring at me, and hadhe nodded to me?

    My mental picture of this was fading rapidly. Someone had been standing there, yes, of course,but there was no way now to check what had happened, to submit it to any kind of analysis.

    I put it out of my mind. If he was my guardian, what was he doing but guarding me? And if hewasn’t, if he’d been someone else, well, what was that to me? My memory of this continued tofade. And of course, I’d settle the whole matter with Malchiah later. Malchiah would know who

    Oh, we are creatures of such little faith.he was. Malchiah was with me.

    An extraordinary contentment filled me suddenly. You are a Child of the Angels, I thought, andthe angels are bringing Liona and her son, your son, to you.

    I took a long walk around the Mission Inn, thinking what a perfect cool California day it was,passing all my favorite fountains and chapel doorways and patios and curios and other suchthings, and it was just time then for her to have come.

    I returned to the far end of the walkway, near the doors to the lobby, and I waited for twolikely people to start up the path and then pause under the low arched campanario with its manybells.

    I couldn’t have been there for longer than five minutes, pacing, looking around, checking mywatch, moving in and out of the lobby now and then, when suddenly I realized that amid thesteady flow of foot traffic along the path, there were two people standing right beneath thebells as I had asked those two people to do.

    For a moment I thought my heart would stop.

    I’d expected her to be pretty because she’d been pretty when she was a girl, but that hadbeen the bud to this, the radiant flower, and I didn’t want to do anything except stare ather, to drink in the woman she’d become.

    She was only twenty-seven. Even I at twenty-eight knew that’s not very old, but she had awomanly manner about her, and she was dressed in the most becoming and most finished way.

    She wore a red suit, fitted at the waist and flaring over her narrow hips, with a short flaredskirt that just covered her knees. Her pink blouse was open at her throat and there she wore asimple string of pearls. There was a tiny bit of pink handkerchief in her breast pocket, andher purse was patent leather pink, and so were her graceful high-heeled shoes.

    What a picture she was in those clothes.

    Her long full black hair was loose over her shoulders, with only some of it drawn back from herclear forehead and fixed perhaps with a barrette, the way she’d done it when she was a girl.

    A sense came over me that I would remember her this way forever. It didn’t matter what wouldhappen next or hereafter. I would simply never forget the way she looked now, so gorgeous inred, with her full and girlish black hair.

    In fact a passage came to me from a film, and it’s one that many people love. It’s from thefilm Citizen Kane, and an old man named Bernstein speaks the passage as he reflects on memoryand how things can strike us that we see for no more than a few seconds. In his case, he’sdescribing a young woman he once glimpsed on a passing ferryboat. “A white dress she had on,”he says, “and she was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second and she didn’tsee me at all, but I’ll bet a month has not gone by since that I haven’t thought of thatgirl.”

    Well, I knew that I would always remember Liona in that very way as to how she looked now. Shewas looking around, and she had about her the self-confidence and self-possession I remembered,and yet the pure uncomplicated courage that I had always associated with her simplest gesturesor words.

    I couldn’t believe how lovely she was. I couldn’t believe how simply, inevitably lovelyshe’d become.

    But right beside her was the ten-year-old boy who was my son, and when I saw him, I saw mybrother Jacob who’d died at that age, and I felt my throat tighten and the tears stand in my

    This is my son.eyes.

    Well, I’m not going to meet them weeping, I thought, but just as I pulled out my handkerchief,she saw me and she smiled at me, and taking the little boy by the hand she brought him right upthe path towards me, and she said in the most sprightly and confident voice,

    “Toby, I would have known you anywhere. You look exactly the same.”

    Her smile was so vibrant and so generous that I couldn’t answer her. I couldn’t speak. Icouldn’t tell her what it meant to me to see her, and when I looked down at the little boylooking up at me, this dark-haired, dark-eyed image of my long-dead brother Jacob, this perfectstraight-shouldered and regal little boy, this confident and clever-looking little boy that anyman would want for a son, this fine and splendid little boy, well, I did start to cry.

    “You’re going to make me cry if you don’t stop,” she said. She put her hand out and claspedmy arm.

    There was nothing hesitant or reticent about her, and when I thought back on it, I realizedthere never had been at all. She was forceful and confident and she had a deep, soft voice thatunderscored her generous character.

    Generous, that was the word that came to me as I looked into her eyes, as she smiled up at me.She was generous. She was generous and loving and she’d come all the way here because I askedher to do it, and I found myself saying it out loud.

    “You came. You came all the way. You came. I thought up until the last moment that youwouldn’t come.”

    The little boy took something out of his breast pocket and he handed it to me.

    I bent down the better to look at him, and I took what he had given me and I saw it was alittle picture of me. It had been cut out of my school yearbook and it had been laminated.

    “Thank you, Toby,” I said.

    “Oh, I always carry it,” he said immediately. “I always tell people, ‘That’s my dad.’?”

    I kissed him on the forehead. And then he surprised me. He put his arm around me, almost as ifhe was the man and I was the boy. He put his arm around me and he held me. I kissed him againon his soft little cheek. He looked at me with the clearest simplest eyes. “I always knewyou’d come,” he said. “I mean I knew you’d show up someday. I knew you would.” He said allthat as simply as he’d said the rest.

    I stood up, swallowed, and then I looked at both of them again, and put my arms around themboth. I drew them close to me, and held them, and I was conscious of her softness, of her puresweetness, a feminine sweetness so alien to me and the life I’d lived, and of a lovely floralperfume coming from her silky dark hair.

    “Come on, the room’s ready,” I stammered as if these were momentous words. “I checked youin, let me take you up.”

    I realized then that the bellhop had been standing there all the while with the cart ofluggage, and I gave him a twenty-dollar bill, told him it was the Innkeeper’s Suite and we’dmeet him on the top floor.

    For a moment I merely looked at her again, and it came back to me what Malchiah had said. Whatyou tell her, you tell her for her sake. Not for your own.

    Something else hit me full force as I looked at her, as well, and that was how serious she was,that seriousness was the other side of her self-confidence. Seriousness was why she would pickup and come here without a moment’s hesitation and let her son meet his father. And thatseriousness reminded me of someone I’d known and loved on my adventures with Malchiah, and Irealized now that when I’d been with that person—a woman in a long-ago age, I’d beenreminded then of this beautiful and living and breathing woman who stood with me in my own dayand age now.

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