“Dark Angel” by David Carrico

Mordechai Zalman’s mobile sounded at 23:43. “Answer,“ he said, and the mobile routed the sound through the car speakers. “Zalman speaking.”

“Sir . . .” He recognized the voice of one of the regular operators. As they frequently did, she spoke in English. “. . . Pakad Dayan says it’s urgent that she speaks to you.”

“Patch her through.”

An audible click.

“Colonel?” As was her norm, the pakad spoke in Hebrew.

“Rivka,” Mordecai said. “Make it quick.”

“I need you in the Golan Heights area as soon as possible.” Her voice gave a sharp edge to the Hebrew syllables. “The Druze village of Ayn Qunya.”

Mordechai frowned. “Why?”

There was a brief pause. “Colonel, do you remember the time we found the man frying his wife’s liver after he killed her? What was that—fifteen years ago?”

“Sixteen. And yes, I recall.” Mordechai’s stomach tightened, and his left hand was white-knuckled on the steering wheel.

“You remember what you told me afterward?”

Mordecai said nothing, and after a moment Rivka Dayan’s voice assumed a deeper intonation. “‘Dayan, when you see something weirder than this, call me.’” She paused again. “I’m calling.”

Mordechai looked at his watch, said, “Two hours. End call.” He turned the nearest on-ramp to Highway 6, the Yitzhak Rabin Highway.

* * *

Mordechai was north of Haifa and had transitioned to Highway 77 when he sighed and tapped a control to turn the air conditioner fan down. Summer in Israel was hot, and even a vampire could appreciate modern technology at times.

“This is not good,” he growled—to himself, to haShem, to the not-yet-present Dayan—he wasn’t sure. But for Rivka Dayan to bring up that grisly old story, one which was legend among the ranks of the Israeli Police Force? It didn’t help any that the man’s name was Livshitz. What the typical police mordant sense of humor did with that was almost a crime in itself. But after all Dayan had seen and done in the twenty years it had taken her to climb to a pakad’s rank—basically a captain in the IPF—for her to bring that old case up meant that it wasn’t just going to be bad. It was most likely going to be horrific.

He grimaced. Of course, given the things that Mordechai himself had seen in his two hundred and eighty-plus years of life as both a Jew and a vampire in eastern Europe—the wars, the persecutions, the pogroms, the Holocaust, the Warsaw ghetto—his perspective on bad and horrific was almost certainly a bit different from the young woman’s.

He snorted. Young woman. She would really take him to task if she knew he thought of her that way. She was every bit of forty years old, and rightfully proud of it—proud of the age, yes, but even more so, proud of the experience and everything she had survived to attain it. But from his point of view, she wasn’t much more than a child. Everyone was, with the exception of the less-than-a-handful of other vampires he knew or knew of.

A kilometer post flashed by, catching Mordechai’s eye. Thoughts of the ghetto returned. That—that had almost broken him. They had fought so hard. He had fought with them, making the Nazis pay an exorbitant price. The world still had no idea of what the true cost of defeating the Warsaw Revolt had been., Many of the German casualties from quelling the uprising had been buried in the Eastern Front casualty lists by the Hitler regime. The world also had no idea how much death an angry vampire could wreak against even a modern army.

But in the end, it wasn’t enough. In the end, the revolt failed—almost a modern-day Masada.

And that had almost broken him. Even he had finally tired of killing the gray-clad soldiers who were helpless against him. It was the rebirth of Israel that had saved him, had called him forth from his silent retreat and given him purpose. And that was why he was here tonight.

Another kilometer post flicked by, resetting his perspective again.

Mordechai’s chuckle was almost a laugh, acknowledging the change. He tapped the GPS on the dash. “Taking 77 over to Tiberias, where we’ll pick up Highway 90 and go north. If this is accurate, we’re about seventy kilometers from the junction with Highway 99, and from there it’s just a few kilometers to Ayn Qunya. About an hour, maybe a bit less.” He still wasn’t sure who he was talking to, but he didn’t feel alone tonight, and that was okay.

“Of course, the way I drive, probably a lot less.”

Mordechai chuckled again but said nothing else. He simply stared ahead through the windshield. It still sometimes amazed him how much detail he could see at night. He settled back in the seat and pressed the accelerator down a bit more. The Audi responded and arrowed through the night.

* * *

“Time,” Mordechai said, eyes on the slightly winding road.

“01:19,” his mobile responded through the car’s speakers.

About what he figured. He should be about five kilometers or so out.

“Call Dayan.”

The third ring was cut off by the response, “Dayan here.” Still in Hebrew. “Zalman?”

“Yes. I’m almost there. Four minutes, maybe. Where do I find you?”

“You know where the administration building is?”


“Meet me there. We can walk from there.”

“Good enough. Soon. End call.”

In point of fact, it was only three minutes when Mordechai brought his car to a halt in front of the city administration building below a sign with a line of Arabic script and a line of Hebrew script, putting the Arabic Ein Qiniyye above the Hebrew Ayn Qunya. Two related names describing the smallest Druze village in the Israeli-claimed Golan territory.

By the time Mordechai was out of the car and closing the door, Dayan was striding toward him with another plain-clothes inspector beside her. His blazer over jeans didn’t compare well with Mordechai’s Savile Row suit. Mordechai’s mouth quirked at that.

They were joined by two Border Policemen in their standard gray uniforms to one side and three male Druze in civilian clothes on the other. Dayan was wearing her standard pants suit in a dark hue—green, he judged. It was a shade that was hard to discern in really dim light, even for vampire eyes.

“Dayan,” he said with a nod.

“Colonel Zalman. My partner, Elon Nazriani.” The two men exchanged nods. Dayan shifted to Arabic. “Do you know Mayor Tarek Jurdi?” She gestured to the central of the three Druze, an older man with a graying beard.

Mordechai shifted his gaze, and followed her lead into Arabic. “I know of him, but I’ve not met him before. Mayor.” He gave a second nod.

The mayor’s face was in a set expression, but Mordechai didn’t miss the furrows between his brows. “Colonel Zalman. I’ve heard of you. Pakad Dayan insisted we call you in.” His tone indicated reservations. Mordechai didn’t blame him.

Mordechai’s gaze shifted back to Dayan. “What’s the problem, Dayan?”

“It will be easier to show you than to describe it, sir.” She gestured to the west. “If you’ll accompany us, please.” It wasn’t a question, which gave some indication of the stress she was under.

Dayan led the way. Mordechai walked beside her, the Druze followed, and the two Border Policemen brought up the rear with rifles slung across their chests in high carry position, alert and watchful.

They walked past several buildings along the curving road, until Dayan turned into an alley between two buildings that turned into a pathway up the rise of the hill behind them. They walked a bit over a hundred meters up the hill, stopping beneath an ancient cedar tree with a wide-spreading canopy of branches. There were half a dozen more Border Police standing perimeter guard fifty meters apart from each other around the tree. Mordechai could see a mound beneath the tree, even in the shadow of the canopy, that didn’t match the line of the ground around it. His night vision didn’t reveal anything else.

Dayan led them to a spot directly beneath the canopy of the tree. “Here.“ She flicked her flashlight on. The bright beam dazzled Mordechai for a moment, but his eyes adjusted quickly. He watched as she bent down and pulled a blanket from where it covered the mounded shape. He saw instantly why she’d called him.

“How long?”

“The Border Police were called four hours ago. As soon as they saw this, they called us in. As soon as I saw this, I called you.”

The body was that of an older man, clearly dead by the amount of blood on him. His hat lay on the ground beside him. His thinning hair was tousled, and the gray stubble on his cheeks and chin had trapped a lot of the blood from the wounds in his neck.

Mordechai knelt by the body, holding one hand up.


Dayan slapped her light into his hand. Bringing it close, he peered at the neck wounds. As he suspected—as he feared—they weren’t caused by a wild animal. They didn’t match the kind of biting, slashing, and tearing that the fangs of a larger feline or canid would have produced. Not that there were many such in Israel anyway, but those possibilities were ruled out by what Mordechai saw. It almost looked like something had been trying to chew on the neck without much success. There was little tissue missing, but also very little intact skin—mostly just raw bloody tissue between the collar of the man’s shirt and his jaw.

Mordechai turned the light off, and bent forward to put his face close to the victim’s neck. He inhaled, softly but deeply. He held the breath for a moment, then opened his mouth to release it quietly, then repeated the process.


A hint. The barest hint of a musklike scent, slight and almost covered by the metallic tang of blood in the air, but it was there. After his second exhale, he leaned back and turned the flashlight back on.

Rising to his feet with one lithe motion, Mordechai handed the light back to Dayan and turned to look between the mayor and the inspectors, straightening his jacket and cuffs as he did so. “Brief, please.”

Nazriani pulled his mobile from his pocket and read from the screen in a deep baritone. “Faisal Safadi. Age 54, widower with no living children. Gardener. No known record or charges. No history of violence or politics. His neighbors say he was a quiet and peaceful man. No known enemies, no major debts, no known addictions.” He thumbed the screen off and put the mobile back in his jacket pocket.

Mordechai stared down at Safadi’s corpse for a long moment, then looked up to face the Druze who had been watching him with expressions varying between expectation and disdain.

“My sorrow for your community’s loss, Mayor Jurdi.” Mordechai placed his hand over his heart as he spoke in Arabic.

“It is indeed a loss,” the mayor replied. “He was a good man, a gentle man. Can—will—you find who killed him?”

Mordechai ignored the implication that he might not do his duty. As insults went, it was pretty weak. “I believe I know what killed him. We will see what I can find tonight.”

“Your pakad insisted we wait for you, at the cost of several hours.” The mayor’s voice was even, but a narrowing of his eyes indicated anger. “May we remove him to prepare for the burial? The day will be on us before long.”

Mordechai nodded. “Indeed. I have what I need. You may do him honor now.” The three Druze came forward. “And Mayor?” Jurdi turned to face him. “After you remove the body, it would be best if your people remained indoors until dawn. For their own safety, you understand. It may take some time to find and take down the killer.”

The mayor’s mouth tightened, but he nodded. “As you say.”

The other two Druze rolled the body into the blanket and lifted it, following the mayor’s flashlight down the hill back toward the streets of the village. Mordechai watched them go.

After they reached the bottom of the hill, without turning, he said, “Dayan. Nazriani.” He felt them draw up on each side of him. “How many people do you have here?”

“The eight you’ve seen,” Dayan said.

“We can have more in an hour—two, at the most,” Nazriani said, pulling his mobile from his pocket.

Mordechai lifted a hand. “No, this is enough.” He turned and faced them. “Dayan, you and seven of your people stay here. Lights on. Four watching out, four watching the ground around the tree. Rounds chambered, and knives loose in your sheaths. Keep lights on the space. You,” he pointed at Nazriani, “you and the newest recruit will come with me. We will scout the village, then come back here.”

“Take more men with you, Colonel,” Dayan said. “At least two more. I can manage with five.”

“No.” She opened her mouth, and he gave her a commander’s glare. “No.” She shut her mouth and nodded stiffly.

Mordechai looked at Nazriani, and said, “Find your man, and let’s go.”

“Spira.” Nazriani held up a hand and beckoned with two fingers. A short troop pushed through the others and stood before them. “Colonel Zalman, this is Shoter Dov Spira, the newest man in the squad, and also the best marksman in his class.”

“Good. You’re both with me. Spira to my left. Nazriani on the right. Walk as soft as you can. And no talking.”

“Right,” Nazriani replied. Spira just nodded and shifted position, lifting his rifle just a touch from where it rubbed on his armor. Mordechai lifted his hand to point forward and stepped off toward the northwest.

For the next ninety minutes, Mordechai quartered through the parts of the village that lay north of the cedar tree where Dayan was watching. He of course had no trouble seeing where he was going. The others weren’t as fortunate, stumbling every so often, especially if they left a street to walk to the crest of a hill, which Mordechai did fairly often.

Mordechai said nothing, not even in response to the occasional muttered curse from Nazriani. He would stop fairly often to listen to the night sounds—or the lack of night sounds, it might have been. And he would draw deep breaths through his nose, teasing out subtle scents. He appreciated that none of the Israelis were wearing perfume or cologne. Those scents could spread across wide spans and mask everything else around them. Something the early resistance fighters had passed on to the Israeli Defense Force in its infancy.

Spira was silent and motionless at such times. Nazriani would shift from foot to foot, and mutter under his breath at least once for each stop. Mordechai’s hearing understood his curses just fine.

It was at the northernmost point of their course that Mordechai finally found a hint of scent, a very slight catch of the almost-musk he had smelled on Safadi’s body. It wasn’t even really a spoor, just a wisp that he only caught because he’d imprinted on it during his examination of the victim. Though very faint, it was distinctive.

The night air was still, and as he turned toward the east, he picked up more hints. A slow incremental turn, another inhale, another taste of it. A fractional turn, and his hand shot out to clamp on Nazriani’s shoulder in mid-mutter.

“Stand still!” Mordechai hissed. “Be still.”

Nazriani froze, and after a moment the vampire removed his hand.

Mordechai tracked the scent around, hint by hint, step by step, until it brought them back to the tree. That was no surprise to him. Once he’d caught it, that was where he had expected it to lead him. And so it did.

They walked through the police perimeter surrounding the tree. Mordechai waved Spira and Nazriani on to rejoin Dayan as he slowly paced around the tree at the edge of its canopy. As he came around to the south the second time he left that circle and walked over to where Dayan was standing with Nazriani and Spira.

“What time is it?”

Everyone looked at their watches, but Spira spoke first. “2:57, sir.” In contrast to Nazriani, he had a pleasant tenor, Mordechai noted.

“Pull your men in, Dayan, all of them, and take them fifty meters down the path.”

“Do you want the perimeter maintained?”

“No. Just take them down the path.”


“You’ll see,” Mordechai said. “Just do it, Dayan.” He knew his voice sounded hard, but he was focused on what was coming next, not on being polite. He stripped off his suit coat and handed it to Nazriani. “Hold this.” The coat was followed by his shoulder holster and pistol, which he placed in Dayan’s hands. “And this.”

He looked Dayan in the eye. “Pull them back now, and don’t move until you hear me call you or it’s dawn.” He turned and walked back up to the edge of the canopy and waited as the troops filtered past him and they all moved down the hill.

Mordechai turned his head to watch them go. They went the fifty meters, although he was certain that Dayan and probably Nazriani were standing a little bit short of that mark. He would have wanted to be closer to the action, in their place.

He waited until he felt the moment was right, at which point he walked softly to the trunk of the cedar and rested his hand upon it. He felt the life of the tree under his hands, slow moving, regular in its rhythms. After a moment, he stepped back and looked up.

“You might as well come down.” Mordechai spoke in Arabic, in a conversational tone. “You can’t hide from me. I know you are up there. I can smell you. I can hear your heart beat.” He allowed himself to enter the hunt, and felt his fangs descend. The resulting smile had nothing of humor about it.

There was a slight scrape and thump sound. Mordechai’s smile sharpened. After a moment, a figure walked around the trunk of the tree to stand facing him. The figure was tall and wide-shouldered, though not quite as tall as Mordechai. Mordechai could see that its face was covered by several days of matted beard, and it was dressed in a ragged Syrian army uniform with a captain’s insignia.

“Apostate . . . heretic . . .” the figure mumbled, raising one hand to point at Mordechai. “Kill you . . .”

“I think not,” Mordechai replied. “You end tonight.”

“Can’t . . . kill me.” That was something like a snarl.

“What? Of course I can. You think you’re the only vampire around? Poor deluded baby vampire.” Mordechai’s voice had grown very cold. “You know so little, and now you will never have the chance to learn more.”

The Syrian shrieked—almost a steam whistle—and leapt at Mordechai. His left hand clawed across Mordechai’s shirt as the older vampire spun away, and only the fact that it was partly woven of Kevlar kept the shirt from being torn to shreds.

The next few minutes were both frantic and frenetic. The feral vampire laughed and shrieked like a crazed baboon, and fought like one as well, hands clawing and slashing, teeth constantly seeking to tear whatever could be brought to his face. Even for a young vampire, this one was particularly manic, Mordechai observed as he blocked a kick and a claw. That was followed by the thought that maybe the old saying that the most dangerous opponent was one who knew nothing might not be so far away from the truth after all.

A fist slamming him on the top of his head punctuated that.

The Syrian spun and leapt at Mordechai again, but this time the angle was right. Mordechai reached up and grabbed the other’s left wrist and, with all of his own strength, redirected the feral vampire to slam face-first into the trunk of the cedar.

Even a vampire can be stunned for just a moment by an impact like that, which was more time than Mordechai needed. In less than a split-second he was on the Syrian, left hand between his shoulder blades pushing his opponent against the tree with his full strength, while his right hand landed rapid trip-hammer blows to the back of the Syrian’s neck. With the third strike he heard pops and cracks. With the fifth he felt two of the vertebrae shatter.

Mordechai put his left hand against the back of the Syrian’s skull and pushed while his right hand cupped the chin and pulled. In less than a breath the Syrian was looking back over his own shoulder, still conscious, still with eyes glaring, still spitting incoherent threats. Mordechai push-pulled harder. The flesh around the Syrian’s neck began to tear. Blood began to ooze and spurt as he forced the head farther and farther around. As the rotation increased, so did the tearing, until at a critical point the flesh gave way entirely and the head ripped loose from the body.

He let the head drop, stepping back to let both parts fall without getting any more blood on himself. The body fell backward and landed more or less straight, feet pointed toward the tree. The head hit the ground and rolled a bit, but came to rest face up, empty eyes perched above a meaningless leer that displayed the fangs to good effect.

Mordechai took a deep breath, then released it in a slow sigh. Always the new ones were the same: always rage and adrenaline. Fierce, but blind and stupid. He shook his head. And once they killed, they had to be taken down.

He turned and walked down the hill until he reached Dayan and Nazriani, with the Border Police troops only two meters behind, all with weapons aimed up the hill.

“Spira,” Mordechai called out. The new recruit lowered his rifle and stepped forward. “Run down to my car. The code to the boot is 84637. In the left side of the boot is a small kit bag with some workout clothes in it. Dump the clothes in the boot, but bring me the bag and the towel. In the right side of the boot is a box with three body bags in it. Bring me one of those as well. Run.”

Spira saluted and took off in a sprint.

Mordechai turned to Nazriani. “Go find the mayor and bring him back here.” Nazriani handed Mordechai’s jacket off to one of the troops and left. He didn’t sprint, but he wasted no time in being about his task.

“And what do you want me to do, Colonel?” Dayan said in a flat tone.

“Just wait here for a few more moments and have one of your men get me some water to wash my hands.”

“Yosef!” Dayan snapped over her shoulder.


“You still carrying that extra canteen?”

“Yes, Pakad.”


A moment later Dayan was twisting the cap off the canteen. Mordechai held his hands out and she poured part of the water over them. He scrubbed them together, then held them out again and she poured the rest over his hands to rinse them. By the time Mordechai finished shaking the water off of his hands Spira was back and was offering him the towel, which he took and wiped his hands dry before stuffing it in the kit bag.

Dayan handed him his pistol and shoulder holster, and watched as he settled those into place, shrugging into the comfortable weight of them. Spira then handed him his jacket, and in a moment he looked presentable again—at least in the dark. He pulled his pistol from the holster and slid it back in to make sure it was settled correctly and ready if he needed it. In response to a gesture, Spira handed him the body bag.

“Why didn’t you use that?” Dayan said with a sidewise tilt of her head toward his holster.

“Not the right tool,” Mordechai said.

“A Glock 40 isn’t the right tool for dealing with a madman?” He could see her eyebrows elevated halfway to her hairline.

“Not this madman.”

Mordechai looked toward a noise. “Good, they’re here. Bring your flashlight.

“Mayor,“ he said, turning toward that worthy, “please come with me. I have something to show you. Just you,” he added, as the inevitable companions from earlier in the evening moved to come with him. “We’re just going up to the tree. Not far, and we won’t be long.” He gestured toward the tree, and after a moment of reluctance, the mayor waved his companions back and began mounting the hill toward the tree.

“Dayan, Nazriani, you also, but only you three.”

It took a bit over a minute to walk the less than fifty meters back up to the top of the hill. When Mordechai stopped, the rest stopped as well. Dayan and Nazriani spread a little to the sides.

“Dayan, your light please.”

A click came from her direction, and the bright LED-fed beam splashed over the scene. The headless body was prominent at first glance, eliciting grunts from the other two men. Dayan said nothing; her beam held steady.

Mordechai could tell when the others saw the head. “Shit!” Nazriani exploded, echoed by a sudden hiss of indrawn breath from the mayor. Dayan still said nothing, but the beam of the light wavered for just a moment, then settled to spot the admittedly macabre object.

“That, Mayor,” Mordechai said with a heavy emphasis on the first word, “is what killed Faisal Safadi. It won’t kill again. Obviously.” His voice was cold, his Arabic sharp-edged.

There was a long moment of silence, before the mayor said, “Thank you.” He paused to clear his throat. “But was this, then, the only one?”

“You may rest assured, Mayor.”

Nazriani had recovered enough that he was gazing at Mordechai with narrowed eyes. Mordechai could see his lips moving, but no words were spoken. That caused one corner of his mouth to quirk with amusement. Nazriani was not someone that Mordechai thought would often be at a loss for words.

“Dayan—light off.”

It quenched immediately, and the four of them were left in relative darkness. Mordechai knew the others would be effectively blinded for some time.

He bent down with the towel in his hands and picked up the head and placed it in the kit bag and zipped it shut. As he laid out and opened the body bag, he said, “You three are the only ones who have seen this. I'm telling all three of you that you need to not talk about this. It would cause needless panic.“ He picked up the body and laid it in the bag. “And I would not be happy if rumors started.“ He zipped the body bag up again. “And besides, you won’t be able to prove anything happened.”

Hoisting the body bag to his shoulder, Mordechai bent and picked up the kit bag. “Tomorrow it will all seem like a dream.”

With that, Mordechai started back down the hill. After several steps, he heard Mayor Jurdi hiss, “Iblis!”

“No, Mayor,” Dayan responded. “Not Iblis. Azrael.”

“But . . .” from Nazriani.

“Not another word, Elon,” Dayan muttered in Hebrew. “If he doesn’t shoot you, I will.”

Mordechai’s mouth quirked. He’d known Rivka would understand.

* * *

Mordechai had been on the road back to Tel Aviv for over an hour when he had finally unwound enough.

“Call Avram.”

His mobile made the call and routed it to the car’s speakers. It rang four times, followed by a click.

“Hallo.” Dr. Avram Mendel’s voice was dull, having just been roused from sleep, but it was recognizably his friend’s.

“Good early morning or late evening to you, Rav Avram,” Mordechai began in Hebrew, “whichever you choose.” Dr. Mendel the scientist was also Rabbi Mendel, which made for interesting conversations at times.


“The same.”

“It’s . . . 4:30 in the morning. Why are you calling me?”

“Because I have a new case study for your favorite project, and I’ll be back in Tel Aviv in about an hour. I assume you want it in the usual place?”

“Oh.” Mendel’s voice sharpened quite a bit. Mordechai smiled at the clicks that were transmitted from the other end. Mendel was trying to find his glasses. “Yes, the usual location. I’ll notify Dr. Hurwitz about it as soon as we hang up.”

“He’ll be delighted, I’m sure.” Mordechai chuckled.

“Undoubtedly.” Mendel’s voice carried a note of a smile with it even through the car speakers. “What can you tell me about it?”

“You’re lucky to get this one. I’m coming back from the Golan Heights. It’s Syrian in origin, apparently crossed the line tonight. Just an infant, really. Still soft. I’d say no more than two weeks old.”

They were talking in circumlocutions. It was long ago established that they wouldn’t use the word “vampire” outside very secure locations, especially in communications.

“Any collateral issues?” Dr. Mendel, also being Rabbi Mendel, was always concerned about the people in any episode.

“One on our side of the line in one of the Druze villages,” Mordechai said. “I suspect one or more on the Syrian side of the line as well, depending on when it changed, but I don’t know for sure. Maybe our security monitors can pick up something.”

“I’ll drop a hint in their ear this morning.”

“Do. I’ll do likewise with the Mossad techs. And Avram?”


“Add Pakad Rivka Dayan to your list of good people.”

“Do you want to recruit her?”

“Umm . . . eventually, maybe, but not right now. But if we can ever do her a good turn, we owe her for tonight.”

“I’m making that note now. When will you have a full report for me?”

“Probably tomorrow night, unless something else comes up. It won’t be a long one. This was a very short episode. Less than five hours from first notice to conclusion.”

“Good. The shorter the better.”


“Will you be able to make it here safely?”

“Yes. I should arrive about dawn, and the darkened windows in the car will cover me until I get there. But I think I will doss down in one of the guest rooms at the facility. I don’t want to have to deal with the sun unnecessarily.”

“Understood. I’ll call staff.”

“And I’m afraid I’ll need fresh clothing.”

“Covered, my friend.”

“I’ll see you later today, then.”

“Indeed. Shalom, Mordechai.”

“Shalom, Avram.”

The wishing of peace to each other, while not usual practice among modern-day Jews, was something the two of them had done for decades, since almost their first encounter. Mordechai found it comforting that a good man like Rav Avram, knowing what Mordechai was, would still bless him with peace when so much of the world would not, not if they knew what he really was. The rabbi was perhaps not a tzaddik—a righteous man—but if he wasn’t, Mordechai didn’t know anyone else who came close.

His mouth quirked as Dayan’s last words came to mind. “Azrael, huh?” He shook his head. “Now that, Rivka, may be crossing a line. I am out of the ordinary, and I may be one of the priestly lineage of the Kohanim, but I am certainly not a mal’āḵ, an angel.” Not for the first time Mordechai contemplated the thought that the Most High might have a sense of humor.

“But since I seem to be called to be his assistant at times, if I have to have another name, that one is probably fitting.”

Azrael, the angel of death. Mordechai nodded. He could live with that—could live with that for a long time. It was fitting—especially on nights like tonight.

“Oh, yes. Note to self . . .” The mobile pinged back at him. “Reset the boot combination.”

All in all, a good night’s work.

Copyright © 2022 by David Carrico

David Carrico made his first professional SF sale to The Grantville Gazette e-magazine in 2004. Since, his stories have also appeared in the Grantville Gazette and Ring of Fire anthologies from Baen Books and in Jim Baen's Universe e-magazine. He is the author of 1636: Flight of the Nightingale, and, with Eric Flint, 1636: The Devil's Opera and The Span of Empire, which was nominated for the 2017 Dragon Award for Best Military SF or Fantasy novel. “Dark Angel” is set in the world of his upcoming Vampire novel The Blood Is the Life.