Where Angels Go Online


Chapter One

The sights and sounds of Christmas were all around him. At home, the scent of evergreen mingled with ginger and spice, and multicolored lights glittered throughout the house. This was Harry Alderwood's favorite time of year. He'd settled in Leavenworth, Washington, more than five decades ago, and he loved the way this town celebrated Christmas. Despite his eighty-six years and failing health, nothing could dampen his love of the season. Even sitting in Dr. Snellgrove's office, with its spindly artificial Christmas tree, waiting for what he was sure would be bad news, Harry didn't feel depressed. This appointment would probably drain him for the rest of the day, and yet it seemed pointless. He doubted there was anything left for Dr. Snellgrove to do. His heart was giving out; it was as simple as that.

Harry wasn't afraid of death. He often thought about it, especially with so many of his friends dying. He'd seen death, witnessed it countless times on the beaches of Normandy and the battlefields of Europe in World War II. He'd grieved when his own parents and his older brother, Ted, had passed away. He wasn't afraid, though. Maybe he should be, but why worry about the inevitable?

An exhausted young mother sat across the room, keeping her little girl entertained by reading to her. Looking at them, he found it hard to tell who needed the doctor most, mother or child. Both seemed to be suffering from bad colds. Harry was grateful for the distance between them, since his own immune system was so weak.

Harry knew this would almost certainly be his last Christmas, and that saddened him. He'd always been a man of faith, and that faith had grown stronger as he grew older. Which was a natural progression, he supposed. He wondered if the angels celebrated Christmas in Heaven; he suspected they did. Harry figured he'd find out soon enough. Meanwhile, he was determined to make his last Christmas on Earth as special as he could for Rosalie. Already he was thinking of what he might do to show his wife of sixty-five years how much he loved her. Leaving Rosalie. That was his one regret....

"Harry Alderwood."

He was caught up in his thoughts, and the nurse had to repeat his name before he heard her. She was a young woman named Kelly Shannon - or was it Shannon Kelly? - but he affectionately called her Nurse Ratched. She didn't seem to mind.


"Coming." He needed a moment to clamber to his feet. Sometimes he forgot that his legs weren't as steady as they used to be. Not long ago, he didn't have a problem getting out of a chair, but these days he got so winded just standing, he could barely walk. Growing old wasn't for sissies, that was for sure.

Using his cane for leverage, he slowly pulled himself upright, smiled at the young mother across from him and carefully placed one foot in front of the other. More and more, walking even a few yards was a chore. Still, he waved off Nurse Ratched's offer of assistance. He took several deep breaths and winked as he walked past her. She smiled, adjusting the holly brooch she wore on her crisp white uniform.

He liked her attention to Christmas. And he was grateful that she didn't rush him. That was the problem with people these days. They all seemed to be in a hurry, stepping around him, practically pushing him aside, in an effort to get ahead in the grocery store or the parking lot. Didn't these folks realize he was moving as fast as he could? A few years ago, he used to be just like them, trying to get someplace quickly and then, once he arrived, wondering why he'd been in such a hurry.

"Your color's good this morning," Nurse Ratched said as she held open the door of the examining room and waited for Harry to move inside. "You must be feeling better."

Harry never did understand why other people made assumptions about how he felt. No one really wanted the truth. Well, okay...maybe doctors and nurses did. But when it came to friends and acquaintances, he wasn't interested in discussing his health. He accepted the likelihood of illness and the certainty of death, although he didn't want to get there any sooner than necessary.

"Have a chair." Dr. Snellgrove's nurse pointed to the one against the wall.

It took Harry a long time to reach that chair and sit down again.

The nurse, chattering in a friendly