EXCERPTS and GIVEAWAY
Leadership and Redemption Series
by Michael Cantwell
Michael Cantwell's Leadership and Redemption series is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for some excerpts from the series and a giveaway. Please make sure you visit the other tour stops as well.
Introduction to the Leadership and Redemption Series
Do you believe you own a soul? Caeles Novo and his disciples know you do. If you don’t appreciate all that has been given to you, Caeles will steal it. He has removed the souls of musicians, stock brokers, fashion models, star athletes, and hundreds of others. However, he is at odds with others like him who want to retain the stolen souls because their own existence is dependent upon the power derived from stealing dark souls. Caeles Novo wants to offer redemption to souls who want a second chance. He must battle the gatekeeper of the stolen souls as well as his own disciples to finish the mission started centuries ago. So be aware the next time someone is snapping your photograph or shaking your hand, you may have just lost something very valuable to you.
Leadership and Redemption, Book One
Leadership and Redemption, Book One
Caeles Novo has lost count at how many times he has have taken a soul. He now fears his actions are not saving his existence, but damaging it. It is a painful transition when you question if your life has been a lie.
The granite steps were damp and cold from the drizzling rain falling on an early British afternoon. The time had come for me to return what was never mine. My subject sat with his hands covering his face, his shirt torn at the sleeve, his breaking point was near. I cautiously sat down on the same steps to his right knowing the time was now or never. It took nearly five minutes before he reacted to my presence.
“Your face seems familiar to me. People assume because I meet hundreds from around the world and I am generally surrounded by bright lights and cameras, I would not notice when someone is following me, but I do. Who are you? Are you a fan looking for an autograph? Or do you want to sit here and pity me like so many others do now? ”
“It is not important for you to know who I am, but only that you focus on what you believe is lost in your life. If you don’t, it will be impossible for me to give you back what you seek.” My subject had been without his soul far too long. I do not know for sure what it must feel like to lose something so valuable, yet in watching my human targets struggle without them for several decades, it is not a feeling I want to know firsthand.
His tired face and frail body slumped even more at the shoulders. However, for the first time in months, I knew he was ready for me to restore his soul. He stared down into the cold grey steps where we were sitting and replied, “I know I am lost. My wife was taken from me far too young. My ability to do the only thing in life I have ever loved was destroyed, yet you sit here, a total stranger and I feel like you know all this without me telling you, and I don’t know why. Did you do this to me? Did you take my most precious of gifts from me? If you are the one who is punishing me, please stop. My daughters need me. My band needs me. I need me. Please, I know you have been following me for several months and I don’t know why. But if you can help me, I beg you to release me from my misery!”
Maybe I did pity him to some degree. Here was someone who had everything most humans seek, yet because of one mishap in his life, he threw it all away.
“You did this to yourself fool, but I will try to repair the damage you have done. However, I cannot repair what is broken until you open your mind and body. Allow yourself to fully understand what it is you have lost. It is imperative you admit to yourself what you have done to your life. Stop blaming your ills on everyone else and admit you are the one responsible, not me, not your family, and not your band mates. It will be in a single moment, a simple frame in your life, where I can offer back what was stolen from you because you stopped appreciating all which was given to you.”
As he looked up and turned my way, I focused on his face and hit the shutter release. It was done. I noticed one small tear had leaked from the corner of his left eye as he asked, “How long was I without it?” It was forbidden for me to be doing any of this, but I felt obligated to tell him. It seemed I had broken so many ancient laws already, what was one more? Choking back my own emotions, I could only respond, “Longer than I had anticipated, but let us both take comfort in knowing you are whole again.” After delivering my final remark, I could only hope he had found his long lost hopes and dreams and my Elders would not send me back on another mission to steal again what I had just returned.
Myself, I felt drained of life, yet somehow relieved. My subject was given a reprieve, something I had never attempted. My body was reacting in the opposite way to what it felt when I stole all the souls in my past. To return one was new to me, and expressly forbidden by the laws of our High Council.
A young woman, who seemed to recognize my subject, was now sitting to his left. She was speaking to both of us, but my senses were so dulled I could barely speak. I was not sure I could stand and walk away, but I knew I had to try. My legs wobbled as I hobbled down the many steps of The Royal Albert Hall. For a few moments, I was not sure I would survive my last snap of the camera shutter. It was not until a tall stranger, clean shaven and pale skinned with long flowing white hair, whispered for me to lean on him. When I did, instantly my abilities to function were restored.
You see, there are some cultures that believe someone can steal your soul if you take their photograph or they see themselves in a mirror. Others believe you can lose part of your soul with the click of a shutter release and still others have no desire to seek the truth. Those who believe that such a force exists know the truth. How can I be so certain in my words?
I am one of the few remaining who roam this earth and are responsible for collecting broken souls. They are the damaged souls, ones which my Elders have deemed far too ruined to deserve to remain within their earthly bodies. However, in my opinion, the time has come when my Elders have lost their way for not hearing my pleas. Anytime I talk of exploring it my way, I am branded a heretic and shame is brought to my family name. “Caeles our mission is clear and concise, the longer you deny our truths the more you damage all of our kind.”
In Latin they call it “anima furtim,” to steal one’s soul. However, I have over time started to develop my own plan, my own system. Unfortunately, my first attempt made me weak and disoriented. It is a system I need to perfect before I try again. The next time I might not be so lucky. Despite my Elders objections and threats, there will be a next time.
Since some in our highest court had lost faith in my judgments, I was now being tracked in the same manner I would track my own subjects. Once word got back to them, the Elders were furious with me, but what else is new? I had again over stepped my limits and used my powers with little regard for our laws. They were furious that I restored a soul years after I had stolen it from the original owner.
“We ordered you before our Council yet again because you have been taught beyond a shadow of a doubt our powers are to take, never to return. Our mission is not to offer hope to the hopeless or restore what has been deemed forever broken. These people we send to you as subjects, they do not deserve to keep their most precious of all gifts and you know this Caeles . You have been taught this since you could barely read and write, yet you insist on disobeying us, even with our most sacred law! Have you nothing to say to defend your actions?”
What could I say? It is true in all my years of reading the ancient scrolls, nowhere does it read where our kind can or should restore souls our kind had already stolen. Our mission on earth has always been to steal from humans who no longer appreciated their blessings on earth. Yet as I stood before the six men who comprised our highest Council, the Elders who would decide my fate, I felt confused. I felt that way because I knew our powers grew stronger the more we stole. This was not my opinion or a lesson taught to me. No, this was more, it was physical. I could feel all my senses explode with energy every time I ripped a soul from my intended target. I could feel it when others of our kind stole as well. So I knew it was very important for our own survival to continue to steal. But after I restored my first soul, and discovered respite on another’s shoulder, I felt a moment of peace in my own soul, never realized in my past.
“No, Elder Orcus, I cannot defend my actions before the High Council. I only beg that before you hand down your ruling you seek to understand the power of healing can be a powerful source of energy, possibly more than destruction.”
“Damn you Caeles, have you not listened to a word I have told you today? Or the last time you stood before this Council? We have shown you mercy in the past, yet you continue to develop powers not permitted by our laws. Do you not realize I have the power to destroy your soul as you stand in front of me?
My powers were growing stronger with each passing day. So as I looked upon the six men deciding my fate, any one of whom could remove my soul with a flick of a finger, I didn’t believe I had to answer to any one of them for my actions.
“Caeles, I can see into your soul as I can anyone else’s here on earth. I see confusion and murkiness that was not there the last time you stood before this Council. Our entire survival depends on thieves like you to be strong and vigilant. As you are aware, our numbers have diminished in recent years. We once numbered in the thousands across the globe with the power to steal. Now we are but a small number who still possess the sacred power granted centuries ago. If you insist on returning souls, I don’t know what will become of our kind. You must know everyone of us felt the same weakness when you restored that pitiful man’s soul. That includes your own family. This Council cannot and will not tolerate your wreck less behavior in restoring what is broken and jeopardizing our people’s existence here on earth. Rules have been in place for centuries and will exist long after your time on earth has expired!”
As Charon Orcus, the highest of our Elders, sat staring down at me with his piercing black eyes and long grey hair, again scolding me for my actions, I knew I was at a point of no return. I had been penalized before, having been forbidden to steal for one year. That might seem like a holiday for many, but for every year we are forbidden to steal, we lose years off of our time here on earth. Our powers thrive from thieving. He knows by denying me the right to steal, it not only weakens my body but also disorients my mind to the point of permanent dementia. But he understands, the longer he keeps me from thievery, the longer there is one less on earth collecting broken souls. We cannot survive as a species without collecting and feeding off broken souls.
My attention was again focused on our leader as he continued his rant, “This Council will no longer tolerate you developing new powers. Do not dare to believe that your new found skills can save you should you attempt your foolishness again. I can assure you the Council of Elders will have no mercy on you. Your punishment will be harsh, swift but just. You cannot continue to behave so poorly by ignoring our decrees and customs. Should you break any law or attempt to take another soul before my ruling; your fate will be death. Now retire to your home and await your punishment.” With his decree, I knew of only three words which would allow me to leave with my soul and possibly my life still intact, “Yes, Elder Orcus.”
The Council was now placed with a very difficult decision. Remove me from the ranks of the few remaining soul stealers and slowly watch our kind suffer, or go beyond their archaic beliefs and listen to my plea that healing souls can nourish us as well. I held out little optimism they would hear my plea.
Leadership and Redemption, Book Two
Leadership and Redemption, Book Two
Caeles Novo continues his journey of seeking broken souls that he started in Soul Intentions. Caeles is now the leader of his disciples and must discover the mystery as to why so few soul stealers remain on earth. He learns the high cost of both leadership and success. Caeles is assigned to remove the soul of an internet blogger who is spreading false information for the President of the United States, a man who trains fighting dogs, and others. He meets up with a doctor about to cure cancer and a woman with multiple personalities. He does all this while attempting to lead his people and be a good husband and father.
Few remained. The old and weak had lost their ability. Among the young and strong; few had the will. Yet it was imperative I persevered. This is my story.
Most have the luxury of choosing their own destiny. Maybe I did. I do trust everyone has the ability in freedom of choice. Only my choices were far more limited than most. It was always presented as my duty to feed our kind with stealing damaged souls. It was not until later in life, I also believed that most, if not all, deserved a second chance. Our Council had eliminated the power of restoration of broken souls long ago. My grandfather’s bloodlines were chosen to alter the power of the Council and restore the power of redemption. The responsibility was now mine. However, along the way, I had lost my family as well as faith in my leaders.
My given name is Caeles Novo. I was the preeminent soul stealer on earth. I assumed I knew who my family was, and what my future held. That was until I discovered the people closest to me, never told me the truth about who I am. My mother and father did not disclose my true bloodlines to me until my natural born grandfather visited me in a hospital bed. He appeared to me with his grand visions and my future path. Sure I had been known to fight my elders, but I never could have imagined the destruction and pain that ensued.
Charon Orcus no longer owned his soul since I had just removed it. He was lying in the fetal position on the floor exactly where I’d ripped out his most prized possession. I couldn’t muster up even one drop of sympathy for him. If anyone no longer deserved a second chance, it was my former leader.
After the unexpected had happened, silence fell upon the room. Three of the five elders left. I peered across the room, eyes still filled with tears. My wife and son stood like statues, where Charon Orcus cast his spell. They were not like stone but still in the flesh, unable to move. The cold marble floor started to feel even less inviting as I struggled to stand. The lone window was barely offering a glint of light as the two elders remaining in the room guided me to my feet.
“Caeles, I can assure you, no one on this Council expected this outcome. Orcus assured us your family would only remain motionless for a few moments. He told us he only wanted to scare you into backing down. I would be a liar if I stated that some of us on the Council weren’t hoping for a way to remove him as our leader but no one wanted this. It all happened so quickly. Yes, there is no doubt I wanted to find a way for you to replace Charon Orcus on our Council, but removing his soul was not our first option.”
“No? Then tell me, what was your first option?” I asked my grandfather.
Again silence filled the room. It was all very obvious to me that they didn’t expect the outcome they just witnessed. They never dared to believe I would remove his soul. However, some on the Council did want me to start a power struggle with the man who was our leader for decades.
My grandfather spoke again. “What is done cannot be erased Cale. We will move forward from here. You have been elected as a full voting member of the Council and our new leader. Many of us are tired and have little time left on earth. It is time we pass along the responsibilities to someone with your youth. This has always been your destiny, Caeles, long before you were born.” I attempted to gain a firm footing to stand alone as my grandfather continued.
“Caeles, everyone understands things have gotten out of hand. After Elder Orcus assumed his position as leader of our Council, he believed his authority was more than our laws describe. It had become a problem. However no one assumed you would use your powers to remove his soul. Even if you attempted it, not one of us considered it possible. We assumed he was too powerful. Therefore, please believe me when I tell you, what just occurred was never our intention. That being said, none of us intend on returning his soul to him.”
“With all due respect, Grandfather, I don’t give a damn about Charon Orcus or his soul. I only care about how to restore my family. Now, if you would be so kind in doing so, it would be much appreciated.”
“Caeles, none of us has a cure for your wife and son. We don’t know what Elder Orcus did to your family.”
“Well isn’t that just great! You bait me into a battle with Orcus and none of you envisioned what the consequences might be? On top of that, my family is lost to me and the only man who understands what he did has the capacities of a newborn, whoo hoo! Do any of you have anything to offer me other than your lame excuses?”
Stillness erupted in the room as we stared at each other. My grandfather, James Spia, the oldest of the five remaining elders with a soul, along with, Jair Rex, another elder and the grandfather to my frozen wife, looked down to the ground. The elder who was usually first to voice an opinion on the Council after Orcus, Elder Jair Rex, spoke up.
“Caeles, we all realize this was a tragic accident. We will find a solution. However, our disciples need leadership. As stated earlier by Elder Spia, who we just now find out is your own flesh and blood, we are an aging Council. Some of us, me included, should have retired many moons ago. It should be obvious for all to see that you were sent to us for a reason. You must be the one to bring back our disciples from the brink of extinction and our wicked ways.”
“Thanks guys but let me say this slowly so I don’t confuse any of you. I don’t want to be the leader of this Council, our disciples, or even my home town city council, until my family has been saved. Can I be any more direct with you?”
At that point, my grandfather raised his voice to get my attention.
“I will not tolerate any more of your insubordination, Caeles. We will find a way to restore your family but you will lead this Council. There is a room set up here in the complex for you to rest. Once you calm yourself, you will assist us in deciding our future path, but no more childish behavior.”
I’m not sure what everyone could expect from me. For as much training as I had to learn not to be emotional, it was still difficult. It is true the highest honor for our kind is to lead the Council. But I was in no emotional state to lead anyone. However, I would listen to the advice and retired for some self examination to determine what my life now had in store for me.
Sleep was difficult. Not only was I stressing about my family all night but the few times I could drift off, I would have a dream loop over and over in my brain. It contained a voice reciting, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” It played in my brain throughout the night.
“Elder Novo, it’s time to wake.” That was the next thing I heard. It was one of our disciples standing alongside my bed. “Elder Novo, please a long day awaits you.”
“Who are you? Why are you in my room? And who’s Elder Novo for goodness sake?”
I did my best to focus on the young man’s face. I could see his confusion matched mine.
“You’re Elder Novo, are you not? The Council has a long day planned. With all due respect, you need to get your wits about you. After all, you are our new leader, Sir. And to answer your initial question, I have been assigned to assist you while in the complex. My name is Peter, Peter Pascal.”
“Well Peter Pascal, your first assignment is to head back out the door, lock it and don’t allow anyone to enter it until I walk through it to leave.”
“I’m sorry, Elder Novo. I am under strict orders from Elder Spia. I believe his exact words were; get his ass in this Council room immediately.”
“Maybe so but I’m now the leader of the band around here, so what I say rules. Am I wrong?”
“Elder Novo, a wise man once said, what’s in a name? I am going to conclude it applies to titles as well. I refuse to go back into that room and tell Elder Spia you decided to sleep past noon. I’m too new here. I would like to keep my job and my new title for more than a few hours. Please get up.”
I didn’t want my new assistant to shed tears on his first day. I got up.
When I arrived in the Council room, there were three of our disciples with their noses plastered inside the pages of old dusty books. Along with them were the five members of the Council with a soul, anxiously peering over their shoulders, as if the books contained the winning lottery numbers.
Elder James Spia, took the lead. “Have a seat Caeles. Our best historians are reading all they can to solve the issue with your family.”
“Issue, you are calling it an issue?” I was none too pleased. His words and demeanor seemed almost trivial.
“Caeles, please, have a seat. There are many topics that need to be discussed. Some are of a delicate nature, but we can all agree your family is our highest priority. Now, please, we all understand you are still emotionally charged, but you are a trained professional. You’ve been trained for emotional situations. So calm down and get your mind right. We will fix the wrong that has happened. However, you are now on this Council. One day soon, you will be presented to our disciples as their new leader. But until that day, there are many urgent issues around the table for discussion.”
I looked around the room. The five members of the Council were all seated at a large round wooden table with me. They included my grandfather, James Spia, along with my wife’s grandfather, Jair Rex. It was not until recently these two men were exposed to me as more than Council members. I was hoping there would be no more surprises concerning the other three. They included, Nathan Stella, Baruch Robus and Reuel Polus. I only knew these men from coming before the Council when I was being praised or punished. Along with Charon Orcus, the previous leader of the Council, these six men had shaped my life with their decrees and words of wisdom.
There was one window I could stare out. The floor was as cold as the icy stare Orcus had in this room the previous day. The table we were using was designed as the more informal place for the Council to sit while discussing the agenda. There was also the dais where the Council sits when conducting official business, such as handing out penalties to the likes of me, when I would take matters into my own hands. There were a few scant paintings from past European masters on the walls, merely to cover up the boring and sterile qualities of the room. I was trying to focus on all the discussion around me but I wasn’t interested. That was until one topic came up. Elder Stella started to speak in an anxious manner.
“Elders, we cannot continue to pretend our dwindling numbers of soul stealers is not an issue. We can no longer support all we need to support. Our research indicates that our disciples are living on average fifty years less than they were only one generation ago. This generation has been dying at an alarming rate of less than two hundred and fifty in earthly years. Our founders all survived past three hundred. Our mission on earth is far too important to allow this trend to continue.”
This information was all new to me. I had noticed my own parents starting to slow, despite being barely two hundred years on earth. Why the trend?
“Ok, this being all new to me, can someone please explain why the lower life expectancies?” I inquired.
Elder Stella attempted to explain. “It is simple math, Elder Novo. When the Lord of Life bestowed upon us the ability to remove souls from humans, who no longer could appreciate all that was given to them, we were one hundred strong. Each and every one of our ancestors had the ability that the six of us have, meaning to be able to see into another’s soul and remove it, if deemed necessary. Once we started to marry pure humans and thin our bloodlines, fewer and fewer acquired the same abilities. It is why now some can only remove souls and so few other than the six at this table and possibly our offspring will be able to see into another’s soul. Because so many have mated with humans over the generations we have hundreds that we feed but we are down to less than thirty active soul stealers other than us at this table.”
“Ok, so what’s the plan? I mean you guys have been sitting around this table for decades, you musta’ seen this coming? I mean if you are telling me it’s all simple math then let’s fix the math.”
Elder Polus spoke up. “As you are aware, Elder Novo, all our bloodlines are carefully recorded. We have hundreds living now with some remaining strains of our bloodlines that we feed. However, with less than forty at least half blooded and less than fifteen full blooded, it is likely why we are dying at an earlier age. We are a dying breed.”
“Why has it taken so long for anyone to do anything about this Elder Polus?”
“Would you have listened if we ordered you to marry someone other than Kalani, Elder Novo? I think I’ve made my point.”
I couldn’t believe all I was hearing. But then again, why should I have cared? I could care for myself. I could steal all the souls I wanted and keep myself in top form.
“You know what guys, this is not my problem. I can see into another’s soul, I can steal, I can survive. I don’t think we should really care about anyone who decided to thin out their blood line.”
My grandfather spoke up. “So tell me Caeles, should you become injured removing a soul, or when you become too old or ill to remove souls, will you still wish this Council to have the same approach you are taking now?”
“You are missing my point, Grandfather. I have worked very hard to reach my goals and my position in life. If others don’t care to try, why should I help them?”
“What about the ones who through no fault of their own, but only through genetics have never developed the power to steal like your father Caeles? Shall we tell him, sorry but we no longer can support you? He pays his dues to us. There are hundreds with good jobs in life who help support our cause. We should ignore them?”
“There has to be a better way, Grandfather.”
“There is and it’s one reason why you are now on this Council. When you risked your own life to offer redemption to Dylan James, a man who you barely knew, I knew you would one day find a solution to this issue. I suggest you start thinking.”
My first Council meeting as a member disbanded. I had much to think about but my mind was still elsewhere. I walked across the hallway and sat with my wife and child, still frozen in time. I didn’t care much about others shortened life spans or ones who could possibly steal, who didn’t want to for various reasons, like my own mother. My mind rested with my family.
The Council sat around the table for a few more days until it became obvious that I had to continue on as a soul stealer and no one had the cure for my family. I sat through boring meeting after boring meeting with men who had led our disciples for years acting as if they were just brought into find solutions the same day I was. It was appalling to me that the ones who admonished me for years for my ideas, where now looking to me to lead. My entire world had become upside down in less than a week.
I decided that I would travel to Jamaica to visit with my old friend, Bastian “Doc” Duvaliar, who assisted me in restoring my first soul. He was in possession of a book that documented many of our secrets from the past. It had been given to his ancestors many decades ago. He taught me how to offer redemption to a broken soul from the writings stored in this book. Since many of our disciples aren’t even aware of its existence, my hope is that it also stores the secrets to unlock my family.
As I departed, my grandfather was there to offer a few words.
“Cale, everyone on the Council understands the pressure you are under right now. I promise you, we will search every avenue we can to find a cure for your family. We’ll also look into your idea of contacting all of our disciples to see if they want to go through some of our training again to see if they have developed powers since the last time they were tested.”
“Thanks, Granddad, it seems every time I think I have life figured out, I’m on another airplane entering a new phase in my journey. I wish I could go back to being a single guy with no responsibilities to anyone but myself.”
“No you don’t, have a safe trip.”
Leadership and Redemption, Book Three
Leadership and Redemption, Book Three
In this third installment, Caeles Novo has been removed as leader of the Council. He now seeks revenge for those who have taken away his power to remove souls and is on a journey to return his disciples back to their original mission.
Sadness and euphoria are intertwined within the fabrics of our lives. I should know; they are the emotional landscape I’ve crossed back and forth for decades. I never wanted for material items, mine were more spiritual. Maybe I didn’t care about the material things because I never had to think about them. They were always provided to me by my fellow disciples. The spiritual ones were developed over decades of following my instincts and intensive education. My entire life was dedicated to my craft, which led me to another dangerous exchange between sadness and euphoria.
My name is Caeles Novo. My grandfather believed I was sent from the heavens to change the ways of our disciples who have misplaced their values. This is why I was given my particular name. You won’t know me. I work in the shadows. I look like any other human wandering the busy streets of large cities. I can also appear as a broken man on the side of a dusty country road. That’s the idea.
My education and that of my fellow disciples was more extensive than most who travel the earth. My life expectancy was once more than three times longer than ordinary humans, so my structured learning lasted three times longer as well. Most would have you believe that more education could only be of value. Think again. Our superiority has destroyed our way of life. We are not ordinary humans.
Despite my superior intelligence, I was victimized by some who no longer found my way of leadership in compliance with their own way of life. Priorities changed for some, mine were more secure. My fellow disciples and I were trained for one mission in life. I followed my gut and continued our predetermined journey, others became wayward. I again crossed over from euphoria to sadness. I realized I lost the ability given to me from the heavens and was destined to do. In those mere seconds of self-realization, when you have once again crisscrossed back to the other side, you must decide who you are as an individual, leader, husband and father.
Some are designed to lead, while others follow. Some are dominant. Others live a more submissive way of life. Some live conservative lives while others want to change the structure of every institution they meet. Some are men, some are women. Some have dark skins, others the shade of cream. None of that mattered to me. I only cared about the next soul on my list. I could read souls like some read the daily newspaper. If yours was broken, I stole it. That was my mission in life. I make no apologies for who I am. If you couldn’t appreciate all that life had bestowed upon you, welcome to my list.
I was trained to be an unseen shadow. You never found me. I found you. When I did, you would either fall to the ground or barely feel a scratch. Everyone has a soul. However, depending on how much one believes they own a soul, determines how much the loss affects them. Non-believers are fools. I know the truth. I stole your most prized possession if you made my list of being a dark soul. I’ve taken from some who laugh in my face, or cry for redemption within moments of my thievery. Either way, I was completing what I was born to do.
If I wasn’t taking your soul, one of my fellow disciples would do so with as much passion as me. After all, we trained for fifty years to be experts in our decree sent from the Lord of Life. However, because of our extensive education, some of our disciples evolved past being mere soul stealers. For their sin in wandering away from our decree, I will destroy their perfect lives.
However, I am now the broken one.
I was so involved in restoring the number of soul stealers on earth, being the leader on our High Council, as well as a good husband and father, I never saw the fact that our disciples had become leaders in their communities across the globe. The less than thirty of us who did remain loyal to our goals on earth, were constantly on a mission attempting to steal souls. That’s where our power resides. If we are no longer removing souls, we become mere mortals. Greed for power and money while abandoning our true task has become our collective downfall.
Because I no longer had my ability, to see into, and remove souls, I was replaced as leader of the High Council. Members of the Council had decided long before my appointment as leader, ruling the world’s economy was a better option for our disciples than to remain loyal to our original decree. Before they removed me, I was driven to make sure no mistakes were made in taking souls not dark enough to be stolen. I became dangerous. I would on occasion, return a soul which was preposterous to our leaders. My own kind set out to destroy me. They succeeded.
The crossroads where sadness and euphoria intertwine had found me once again. Many days came and went where I wanted no responsibility to anyone but my family. But that day had arrived without my consent. My destiny was stolen from me. I had to ask myself, could being restricted to being only a good husband and father be the path to euphoria, or the conduit of sadness? I had to answer one important question. Did I still have a burning desire to be the ultimate soul stealer and follow my mission sent from the heavens?
Kalani had been my wife and confidant for decades. She was furious when she heard what our fellow disciples had done to me. It took all of my best powers of persuasion to calm her over the phone and not allow her to seek revenge. I didn’t know what my response to my newly formed sworn enemies would be, but sending my wife on a suicide operation was not option one. She always wanted to protect me, as I did her, but we needed to think through our next move.
Kalani was on assignment the day we met in Hawaii where she was born and raised. I was on vacation from removing my first few souls when we met. Neither of us had any idea we were both soul stealers until days after our initial encounter. She found herself in some trouble with the local band of drug traffickers on Oahu, when we were both shoved off the road while bike riding. When the attacker stepped out of the car to finish his task, I instinctively removed the soul of her attacker. I caught grief with our Council for that mishap. It also exposed my identity as a soul stealer to my future wife. It wasn’t until later that she admitted we shared more in common than our love.
We were married soon after and have been faithful companions ever since. She got herself into trouble with the Council protecting me, as I have her, more than once. We don’t see each other as much as we would like because of our extensive travels, but we attempt to live as a normal family as much as possible.
Kalani and I wanted to grow our family. At the time of my removal as leader, we had one son, Nicon. He was training to be a soul stealer and already had what would be equivalent to a Master’s Degree in Business. Because we aged slower than full blooded humans, our son looked to be a child of seven or eight but was already nearing his twenty- fourth birthday. Kalani and I didn’t want to wait much longer to make a decision about having another child.
The tender ages were the toughest for our disciples. We are far more educated than others who look our age, until we appear to be in our late twenties. By the time we look to be twenty, we have traveled the world usually more than once, speak multiple languages, have read all the classic literature, explored many of the world’s great museums, and lived with one or more ancient culture. We are immune to most earthly diseases but we’re not super human. When attacked with common weapons such as a knife or bullet, we are wounded like an ordinary human. Those were the difficult years for our son, to look so young, yet still be so mature.
It wasn’t easy for Nic to associate with others who appeared his age on a physical level. He played little league baseball, and other physical activities with children who looked his age, but weren’t. He was forbidden to tell the other kids he went to the World Series at Yankee Stadium several years before they were even born. He had the mind of a student with an MBA degree, but he still struck out like an eight year old boy. That frustrated him to no end. But he needed the physical work as much as the mental side of life.
My dilemma was to decide if I had become one of those people who couldn’t appreciate all that was given to him or her. My choice was to live a secure and peaceful life with my wife and son, or seek revenge on the people who removed my ability to do what I was destined to do. I was not put on this earth to live out my remaining years selling used cars but I was a broken man.
I needed to make a decision. One issue was that the one person who could assist me with regaining my power was not exactly my best friend. I was told by my former Council members that Doctor Grayson Winfield created the potion which blocks my ability to remove souls. It was possible he had created such an evil toxin, but I had been misled so many times. The truth was always complicated.
I returned home to California to Kalani with my wounded ego and damaged self to figure out what to do with my life. She looked as radiant as ever. Her dark olive skin and shiny black straight hair that reached an inch above her waistline hadn’t altered since the day we met. Her jade colored eyes and Polynesian shape that curved in all the proper places still made me smile knowing she was my one and only. A few had tempted me to stray over the years, but Kalani would always be my one true love.
My wife knew my short comings. “So, Cale dear, since you plan to sit on the sofa watching the woman from New York tell fortunes and do your best to cook us all dinner, does this mean you aren’t the best soul stealer now? I will admit maybe you were better at kicking ass and taking names than you are a cook, but hey, at least I know now I can buy you cook books for Christmas.”
She looked directly into my eyes, and offered me her stare she used when she wanted to challenge me. I wasn’t biting. She continued.
“But then again, we really don’t know if your numbers were legit since you liked to return half of souls you stole. At least when I take one, they stay taken. It can be official now that I‘m the best. I still think while you were sitting on the Council, Bink gave you far too many easy assignments. I had to earn all of mine slinking down dark alleys, chasing violent criminals. Your targets were white collar professionals who have to take in a Stallone flick to see a gun.”
Another stare, only this time longer.
“I’m sorry I introduced you to that Timmons woman, Cale. I might tease you, but I never tried to get the best of ya. It seems she did. I’m sorry.”
That was the wound. Fireworks started to blast through my skull. A pain rushed from my head down to my gut and back up again. It was as if someone was playing a game of pong between my head and belly using a bottle rocket as the pong ball.
“That woman didn’t get the best of me. And don’t you ever, ever suggest she did. Just for that, I’m not making you any dinner tonight!”
I could see Kalani’s ruby lips curl at each end, knowing she made me realize, I was the best ever. Not Tasha Timmons, not Charon Orcus, Peter Pascal, or any of the others who schemed to derail me, could keep me on that blasted sofa that sagged in the middle. I ordered take out for Kalani and mapped out how to proceed.
At my core, I was and always would be a collector of broken souls. There were occasions when I did find reason to return one, because deep inside I believed in redemption. I needed to come to grips with that.
Being a husband and father didn’t have to be secondary to my work. I think my conscience had been getting the better of me since my father had always been in the house with me and didn’t travel. I would spend time with Nic and Kalani but it never seemed to be enough. In that regard, I was like most humans.
It was imperative I board the first available flight to Texas to speak with Doctor Grayson Winfield. The desire to be the best soul stealer as well as to restore our disciples to prominence had returned. Kalani assured me, I had made the right decision. She kissed me as I made my way towards the front door of our modest home.
“I married you because of who you are, Cale, not because of something you’re not. If I wanted someone at home cooking dinner and polishing the silver, I woulda married someone else. It’s important to me that you are happy in who you are. Go be that person again.”
Kalani knew how to motivate me in those rare times where I felt lost. My personal pity party had ended. It was now time to seek my destiny not because my grandfather assured me he knew what it was, or because I was told it was sent from the heavens.
For the first time in my life, I was one hundred percent certain of my chosen path. Life is not a simple choice of one direction or another. It’s a long complicated one with peaks and valleys filled with every emotion one can imagine. I had long been on my journey. This slight detour wasn’t about to alter my destiny and who I was as a person.
I never thought I would return to Winfield’s office, but there I was. I walked in the door to find Nurse Simon sitting behind her desk.
“Good afternoon, Nurse Simon. I need to speak with Doctor Winfield. It’s an emergency.”
“Well hello, sugar, Rose sure has missed seeing you. How you been?”
“Rose? What are you doing here? Where is Doc Winfield?”
Rose stood up from behind the desk, walked over and put her arms around me. She offered a loving hug; then whispered in my ear.
“I told you, sugar, Rose would take care of everything and she has.”
About the Author
Michael Cantwell, CCIM (1958-present) is an author and commercial real estate agent in Florida as well as a published photographer. He was born in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, raised in Trenton, New Jersey, graduated college at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia. He now resides in Palm Beach County, Florida. He is married with three children and one dog. He loves music and is a Miami Marlins, Dolphins, Panthers and Heat fan. He also enjoys strolling Florida with his camera at hand. He has served on many board of directors and volunteered many hours as a coach for baseball and basketball as well as for Junior Achievement in many schools around South Florida.
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