Angel of Mercy
by Zenia

Chapter One

The hour of midnight well passed, fatigue finally getting the better of her, Jane called it a night, laying aside the report she'd been slaving over for the last half day. Gathering her belongings, the small office left in darkness to its own devices she struck out for home; a good half hour's walk through the city. At any other time of year, this usually most cautious of women would never in her wildest dreams have sanctioned such a risky decision, but faced with hours to wait for a taxi (Office Christmas parties, end-of-year functions and the like placing higher claims upon their services) she would sooner take the chance rather than still be waiting at sunrise for a ride home. If this were not irritating enough, foul weather, chill and rain-laden conspired to render this venture even more unpleasant than necessary. Donning coat and gloves, the chief librarian set foot outside, steeling herself against the elements; wishing above all else to be done with this night altogether.

Ever grateful for small mercies (the torrential downpour having subsided to a finer though equally soaking rain), she made her way along the high street still vibrant with revelry despite the inclement weather. Little pity, however was afforded by none too few motorists, almost without fail ploughing headlong through any puddles in their way; their sheeting stream drenching an already chilled Jane to the bone, coat or no coat(several car-loads laughing riotously at her misfortune.

Beset by sinking spirits, the traveler, soaked through and frozen, found herself contemplating dark thoughts indeed; wondering what on earth society had come too over the past few years (following the tragic demise of her dear, late husband) (leaving his wife widowed aged only twenty thre - their marriage at nineteen being unusual indeed ); sadly disillusioned by a world where one's misfortunes simply seemed only to form the basis of another's mirth. Did Christmas count for nothing nowadays? Conceding to the battle apparently lost for the night, the librarian's gloomy introspection rapidly gave way to a creeping sense of dread the tell-tale hint of following footsteps having become increasingly frequent over the previous five minutes or so. Some distance from Portsmouth's town centre, Jane hurried through darker side-streets bereft of activity; present conditions keeping all but the most intrepid (or foolhardy) safely indoors. Heart pounding in her chest, she nervously picked up her pace with the vain intention of appearing more determined to any would-be assailant; too terrified now to even think of stopping the option of seeking assistance out of the question. If her present circumstances were not worrisome enough, a quick check of her mobile phone revealed it to be dead flat - Useless! The rain having all but ceased, through the late night quiet, not one, but three or four sets of footsteps gained upon their quarry, her fear all but palpable. Brisk walk breaking into a sporadic jog (now passing through a somewhat neglected, not to mention decrepit neighbourhood its ancient buildings slated for demolition - not even of value to the likes of the national Trust, Jane broke into a run; her pursuers easily gaining distance. Out of nowhere, the situation escalated in an instant from bad to deadly - an uneven section of pavement felling the slightly built woman, her ankle cracking sickeningly as the ground rose to meet her; its contact blurring her vision - pain's warm tide engulfing her entirely. Desperate not to cry out, Jane uttered a prayer for the Almighty's protection - her fate, in her own mind already sealed. Attacking their prey with a ferocity unmatched by wild dogs (thoughts and actions warped beneath intoxicants too numerous for mention) the youths (lay siege to her person relentlessly - bashing, kicking and pummeling their victim till unconsciousness threatened. Minds sinking ever deeper into depravity's abyss, their designs swiftly wandered into unmentionable territory - the leader egging them on towards the inevitable culmination of their efforts. Laying hand to Jane's coat, her feeble semi-conscious efforts to ward off her attackers proving futile, Providence possessed a mind of His own - the storm-s return heralded with a thunderous flash of lightening forking to earth not fifty feet from this terrible scene. Having little impact upon their drug-fueled excesses , only the report of pistol shot some seconds later broke their stride. Attempting to cart poor Jane off to her grizzly end, they stopped dead in their tracks; stunned by the appearance of several men attired in what appeared to be the uniform of officers belonging to His majesty's Britannic Navy of yesteryear demanding they cease and desist immediately, sidearms and swords at the ready, the group scattered into the night leaving Jane battered, bleeding, barely clinging to life; not even pausing to steal any personal effects. Rushing to her aid - horrified at the sight confronting them, the youngest of the group crouched beside her; his expression at once filled with deepest compassion and repulsion that anyone calling themselves human would set upon an innocent, unarmed civilian in such a heinous manner - made all the more disgraceful by the fact their victim was a woman.

Terrified, barely clutching at consciousness, Jayne instinctively curled into the fetal position as her assailants set about their wicked activity her spectacles long since plucked from her face, broken into a thousand pieces, discarded in a nearby gutter, she struggled to fend off their blows; unable to see from which direction the next would come. Shielding her head as best she could, the diminutive woman could not prevent a hail of kicks to back and front; several knocking the very wind from her. Lucid enough to hear their changing plans, Jane screamed for dear life - an otherworldly bolt of lightning and crash of thunder drowning out her anguished cry. Convinced of the worst, she tensed expectantly at the sound of nearby weapons discharge (assuming the manner in which her life would shortly end only to notice , even in her current state, the gang of thugs fleeing like terrified rabbits. Petrified these new arrivals would indeed be far more dangerous than the first, Jane tried futilely to move out of sight, all efforts proving utterly ineffective; her injuries far too serious for that. Sick with terror, the visage now before her (visible even to unfocusing eyes) was that of an angel - a heavenly blond haired, blue eyed beautiful angel kneeling next to her; his countenance a picture of deep, heart-felt compassion jostling with shock at the site before him. Fearing herself in the throws of concussion, Jane squinted her eyes shut fast, hoping desperately this action may dissipate the hallucination. Upon opening them once more, this apparition persisted, now speaking gently to her; reaching forth a tender hand so as to check for signs of life. Cradling her head and shoulders, he continued, softly asking if she were able to stand, a limp shake of the head all Jane could muster in response. Flanked by several fellows, this young man turned to a cohort - another angel, taller and slender of build, eyes of deep brown and a shock of like coloured curls straying from their cue, hastily planning the next course of action - much of the conversation admittedly lost upon their charge. Trembling with cold, the effects of shock setting in, jane's delicate state was most certainly not unnoticed by them; one of their company (a stoutly built fellow, his features beyond the range of her unaided vision) unhesitatingly offering his greatcoat(jane's rain-soaked jacket carefully removed as not to intrude upon her person)before the blonde angel wrapped her warmly within its ample confines. The world now spinning dizzyingly about her, she felt herself being gathered effortlessly into the arms of one of these heroic rescuers before darkness at last overcame her completely.