When rodeo star Beau Van Braugh crossed over after a losing battle with an angry bull, he took the one thing with him that he should have left behind - his ego. And it's that ego that gets the guardian angel in trouble. It isn't long before his behavior comes to the attention of his spiritual superiors, the Councill of Angels. As a result, an enforcement angel, a female ninja spirit named Marren, is set on his trail. When Beau crosses paths with the angry spirit of Adolph Hitler, however, he sees an opportunity to banish the enforcement angel forever. He also recognizes the destruction that comes from living an egocentric existence, whether it's on the earth or spiritual plane. It's decision time for Beau. Will he choose good or evil?
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From the heavens, the lights below formed an almost perfect circle in the middle of the black New Mexico mesa. As the angel moved closer, the multitude of stars that draped the heavens diminished and gave way to the sight and sound of humankind below. The closer she got, the noisier the air became.
Unlike the sounds of wailing and chaos that swept much of the planet known as earth, now immersed in World War II, this was a good noise, a happy noise.
When the war began, eventually pulling in the United States of America in December of 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, the guardian angel had anticipated greeting her human, Beau Van Braugh, on some forlorn battlefield in Europe, or perhaps somewhere in the Pacific islands.
Her young man, a rodeo performer, was not caught up in the turmoil of war. She recalled how he tried several times to enlist, but every time he went through a physical exam, the doctor tested his blood pressure and it was always too high. Time after time, he was dismissed.
“Thanks, but no thanks,” he was told.
After his seventh attempt – four with the U.S. Army and three with the U.S. Navy – the young man gave up and resumed his activities as a rodeo performer. It was not long before he found satisfaction in keeping the folks at home entertained, even taking their minds off the war for a few hours with his heroics.
With the rejection from the military came a separation. The war, as far as this cowboy was concerned, could have been fought on another planet; that is how removed he was from it. Other than wanting to be part of the action, which for the cowboy was a matter of national pride, Beau knew very little of the war.
First a farm boy, then a ranch hand, and finally a rodeo performer, Beau never had the opportunity to learn to read past the third-grade level. He knew enough to sign his name with a mixture of printing and cursive, something a girlfriend from church taught him, but that was the extent of it.
As a youngster, he attended class in a one-room schoolhouse, but more often than not, he remained at home to help with the chores. Farming was hard work, and most families toiled together long and hard to bring in the crop. Beau’s family was no different. Neither of his parents could read, he reasoned, and they forged a life filled with plenty of good food and a safe and warm home. So why bother?
He never saw the need to sit idle and gaze at rows and rows of letters strung together in order to experience an adventure. Beau left home at fifteen to join the rodeo circuit, and from that day forward, his life was a series of one real adventure after another.
If the military did not want him, so be it. He was free to continue his rise to the top of the rodeo standings. Unable to understand the state of the world as presented in a newspaper, the young man did not know who the allies were. In addition, he did not know, or care, who the enemies were. They were half a world away.
Oftentimes, at night, after a long hard day, he would crawl into his cot and listen to some of the older rodeo hands. He heard them speak of people with foreign names, like Hitler and Mussolini, and of far-off places, like France and Germany, but he paid little attention to the details. All he knew was that the war raged on, sons and fathers were lost, and with a shortage of commodities, a person had to sell his soul for a cup of sugar. He also knew there was an ample supply of lonely women everywhere the rodeo went, all hungry for a male’s attention.
Throughout his twenty-seven years, his guardian angel, Camille, followed him, whispering in his ear when danger was near, and guiding him when he was not sure what to do next. Most of the time, she knew he did not pay attention. He was the stubborn sort, with a mind of his own.
Nevertheless, she was glad he had not been accepted into the military. Too many of her angelic colleagues bemoaned the tragedy that plagued the world. Too many guardian angels rescued their confused and frustrated charges from horrific situations. Some died in prisoner-of-war camps, others were blown apart on beachheads, and many drowned at sea, the result of a well-aimed torpedo.
“My poor young man took six days to freeze to death in Europe,” a fellow angel cried. “It was so painful to watch him. So many times, I wanted to reach down and just pluck his soul from his shivering body.”
No, Camille was glad to be far away from the battlefield, whether it be on land or in the planet’s oceans.
She shied away from all things related to the war – all, that is, except for the activities of earlier in the day. They were simply too overwhelming. The news spread quickly throughout the Realm of Spirit. She, like many others, rushed toward the Realm of Light to witness the arrival of the infamous Adolph Hitler and his wife of but a few hours, Eva Braun.
Camille left her rodeo performer for a short time while he rested, catching a light nap before his big show. She waited with the others, wondering what the Creator would do with such a person. Would he be banished? Where would he go? What would the Creator do to the woman?
The crowd grew.
“The coward took his own life,” an angel whispered to Camille about the fuehrer. “He and his woman killed themselves rather than face the punishment they deserved at the hands of the Soviets. I heard that they were very close to the bunker where they had taken shelter.”
This angel, like so many, held on to a speck of ego, and this caused her to be opinionated. She nearly spit out her next words.
“Nazis! Cowards, the lot of them! I hate them all!”
Camille tried to remain indifferent. She gave her companion a half-smile and turned her attention toward the crowd. Some were guardian angels, but many were the lost souls who were afraid or were not yet ready to enter the Realm of Light. She noticed something else. There was a heightened sense of excitement and chatter.
“Maybe this means the war will soon be over and we can go back to guarding people living ordinary lives, dying ordinary deaths,” a male angel said.
Camille could sense their angst. She realized, without a doubt, war was horrible for the “living” and the “dead.”
The noise heightened around her and the excitement electrified the air. Then she saw them – the Nazis. They looked like ordinary people to her, not the monsters she had heard so much about.
The woman had medium-length hair, waves of reddish brown just touching the inside of her shoulder. She was of medium build, well dressed, and appeared to be in her early thirties.
“Whatever did she see in him?” a male angel commented.
“Power maybe? Who knows?” another replied.
The woman, oblivious to the small conversations about her, lingered for no more than a few seconds before stepping toward the light, under the loud protests of her companion. Stopping, she turned and spoke to him in German. Having been born in Munich, it was only natural. The man reached out his hand and tugged angrily at her sleeve.
Her guttural comments echoed her annoyance as she pulled her arm away sharply. She then turned to speak briefly with the angelic sentry at the entrance to the Realm of Light, and looked once more over her shoulder toward him. She lifted her hand to beckon the belligerent man, but it was to no avail. He clenched his fists and demanded her presence next to him. She merely smiled, turned, and disappeared into the bright light.
He stood as still as a post. His eyes, which changed color according to his mood, were dark and full of bitterness. He was not a tall man, no more than five feet, nine inches or so. He had a slight paunch protruding from his long torso. His legs seemed almost too short for his body. His dark hair, streaked with gray, lay flat upon his crown. His small mustache, something that would identify him to the world for years to come, seemed lost beneath his huge nose. When he opened his cruel-looking mouth to protest, he revealed the poor condition of his teeth.
The most reviled man in history refused to enter the Realm of Light.
He shouted and cursed, making a complete spectacle of himself. In his native tongue, he insisted, “I was forced to take my own life. I was going to be the ruler of the world. This is not fair!”
His anger clouded the atmosphere so much that it became impossible to see him, and under the cover of his angst, he was gone, disappeared into the ether.
Once the atmosphere cleared and the ambient light returned to fill in the space where he stood, there was much confusion.
“Where is he?”
“Has he been banished?”
“Is he dangerous here, too?”
The sentry at the Realm of Light assured the crowd that all concerns would be addressed and asked everyone to return to their proper places and tasks. No one, not even the Creator’s sentry, knew to where the man had disappeared. Some pondered that, perhaps, Hell did exist, and he was thrust into the dark, endless place, the space between space. Most angels believed that was nothing but a transitory dimension, if it existed at all, and that eventually, the man would reappear. Very few angels traversed the dark space.
“Where in the Realm of Spirit could such a monster hide?” Camille wondered aloud to her companion.
She was met with silence as the angel merely shrugged her shoulders and drifted away with nothing more than a slight wave of the hand.
“See you around, Camille,” she said.
The time had come for Camille to take her leave, too. She quickly headed back toward the Realm of Matter, making sure to use the sky route that would take her to the exact spot she intended, avoiding battle sites. She landed just beyond the veil that separated the realms, just as her young man was about to climb on a raging bull.
She was happy to be back among the “living.” Camille liked the Realm of Matter. She liked the smell and feel of the atmosphere. Unlike the peaceful Realm of Spirit, this realm was super-charged with excitement and energy. Perched atop an outer wall, she took a good long look around. Flags in red, white and blue were draped from overhead hangers, and people of all ages cheered and raised their hands in applause. Men and boys were dressed in blue jeans, cowboy boots, and slick Western-styled hats. The women and girls, many wearing calico dresses and leather boots, joined in the cheer.
Camille spied her human. Even in his dirty riding garments, he had an angelic beauty about him, as though he was almost too perfect for this realm.
“Beau Van Braugh,” she said to herself, “you little heartbreaker, you. You’re a legend in your own time.”
She saw him break his first wild pony at the tender age of nine. That, for the lanky youngster, was the incident that would put him on the fast track to fame and fortune, even in a time of war when money was scarce.
He was the country’s most talented rodeo attraction, and these days, he rode bull, breaking records across the land.
As Camille settled on the outer rim of the arena, she eyed the crowd. In the front row, a lovely young girl waited with anticipation to see her hero ride out and make his rounds before climbing on some wild animal in an attempt to break his last record.
“That’s what records are for,” Beau would tell anyone who would listen, “breaking.”
He said the same thing about hearts.
Camille looked at the girl and smiled. She knew that look. She remembered her time as a human. That young girl, who was no older than nineteen, was in love. What she knew and the girl didn’t was that Beau had several young ladies strung out, romantically speaking, far and wide across the country who waited patiently until their hero rode into town.
This girl had given him the ultimate gift the night before. He was her first experience with a man. In return for this gift, Beau promised to take her along with him as he traveled across the United States mesmerizing thousands with his rodeo skills.
The angel, however, knew better. She had witnessed Beau make the same promise to several other maidens in his wake, leaving them to cry into their mothers’ laps.
“The Star Spangled Banner” screeched out through high speakers as the star of the show rode in. The young woman’s eyes lit up at the sight of him. Even the angel was taken with his appearance. She smiled to herself. A tinge of humanity still lingered in her soul, too. Well, why not? She had been a human woman. She knew the ebbs and flows of romance and sexuality.
As the large wooden gate opened, Beau Van Braugh, no longer a wisp of a boy, but as magnificent as the stallion he rode, circled the rodeo arena. At one point, he took off his black cowboy hat and waved it to the crowd. They roared.
The young lady looked on, her loins still aching from her recent encounter with him.
“It was worth it,” she told herself.
Camille drifted in closer to whisper in his ear.
“Hold tight, Beau. Don’t take unnecessary risks.”
She knew he would not listen. He never did. However, she was doing her job, and fate would do the rest. As she did, she could smell him. She was so close she could almost touch him through the invisible veil that separated her world from his. Returning to her perch, she watched in awe.
Beau climbed down from the horse. He truly was something to admire. Aside from his good looks, he was tall, more than six feet, two inches. He had shoulder length blonde hair that had a way of looking soft, yet masculine at the same time. His eyes were crystal blue. His skin was tanned from years of outdoor work. He had full lips, and perfect white teeth that seemed to glisten when he smiled. His nose was straight, never deformed from being broken like so many other rodeo riders. His shoulders were wide, and his long legs were strong.
His black, wide-brimmed hat was worn from more than fifteen years of tipping. He called it his lucky hat because it was the one his father gave him, and the one he wore when he broke his first wild horse. At this time in American history, only the champion bull rider could get away with wearing a black hat instead of the customary white hat of the “good guy.” Then again, this was not Hollywood, and this cowboy could be very bad.
It was that devilish side of him that made the men like him. He had a way of spinning a yarn, especially about some pretty miss, that made the other men on the circuit laugh. They, especially the younger riders, looked up to him. They worshiped him and he, in turn, shared his knowledge of horses, and women, freely. The older men liked his energy, his enthusiasm for the rodeo that helped the traveling show grow to successful proportions. Some of the old-timers pursed their lips at his antics, but by day’s end, they too admired his dedication to the rodeo.
He stood alongside one of the stalls, ready to, as he often said, “Let the show begin!”
Splashes of rodeo dirt climbed up the lower edge of his long black duster forming patterns like the outline of a mountain range. It had the rugged look of a working man’s garment. When he turned to wave once again to the crowd before entering the stall where the mighty Boss waited, his coat swung open revealing his tight-fitting black shirt and leather pants that hugged his muscular legs. He wore tall black boots that were wrapped at the ankles with straps of rawhide also painted with rodeo dirt.
The angel chuckled.
“These women never had a chance. And the guys,” she said to herself, “all want to be him.”
The audience cheered, and the bull seethed within the confines of the tiny stall. He was an angry Angus and he was not about to let some pretty boy tame him. Two snorts and his nostril liquid slid through the opening in the slats and on the sleeve of Beau’s coat.
Beau felt a splash on his cheek.
“You ain’t gonna like this, Boss, my friend,” Beau said through the opening where he could see the bull’s angry eyes, “but you, like all the rest, are gonna be defeated. I’m gonna ride you and I’m gonna stay on you for ten whole seconds. And there ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.”
He smiled somewhat maliciously at the bull.
“He don’t know what yer sayin’, Beau,” the rodeo hand next to the gate said. “Why do ya always taunt these poor creatures?”
“I gotta let them know who the real boss is.”
The man grinned, and revealed that his front left tooth was missing. He lost it taking a fall from a hard buck of the mighty bull just that morning.
“Well, I been working with old Boss here for some time,” the hand said, stopping to spit some chewing tobacco onto the stall floor, “and so far, he earned that name.”
“Tonight, my friend, is his night to be defeated,” said Beau.
He turned to the bull and said, “Right, old boy.”
The bull snorted again and turned his gaze toward the hand, ignoring Beau’s taunts, as if to say, “We’ll see about that.”
As the music reached its scratchy finale, Beau made his way into the stall. He climbed on the fence and then onto the bull’s massive back.
Ten seconds and he would not only have the record of time on this particular bull, but on any in the rodeo circuit by any rider. He would be the reigning champion, the King of the Cowboys.
He held tight to the flank strap, the sheepskin and leather rope that was tied around the bull's flank. Beau knew this procedure was intended to get the bull to use its hind legs more in a bucking motion. That was what the people wanted to see.
It had to be applied properly, because if it was too tight, good old Boss might not buck well or he just might decide to lie down. There was no challenge in that.
Beau felt confident as the bucking chute opened and they emerged onto the large open area fenced in with more than six feet of lumber, behind which the anxious audience held their breath.
He eyed one of the exits at the corner, knowing that was where he intended to run once he was tossed off the bull’s back in what he hoped was a graceful fall. He would depend on his agility to take him to safety.
Beau’s heart was pounding and, he was sure, he never felt more alive than when he was hanging on to a bucking bull. He understood why rodeo cowboys since the late 1800’s partook in this particular activity in the rodeo. He heard enough stories from the old-timers about bull riding to know that most careers ended on a bad note – either a broken back or a career-ending concussion.
As the crowd roared, he focused on the flat braided rope in his hand. Boss stormed into the center of the arena. Beau held tight with his right hand as his left one remained free, flying above his head – partly for balance, partly for showmanship.
Boss bucked, reared, and kicked. He spun around and twisted his body, trying in earnest to throw Beau to the dirt. The seconds hung like minutes as the rider clenched his fist, holding on for victory.
Beau wondered when the eight-second buzzer would announce the end of the ride and he could hang on for a couple seconds longer, enough to secure the title of king.
He had racked up enough points throughout the three-night event to reign supreme, and he wanted so much to seal his fate by breaking a record of nine seconds held by some good old boy from Texas. Beau was not about to let him keep the title.
Beau held his breath and counted. One second . . . two . . . three . . . four. He could almost taste victory. Five . . . six . . . seven . . .
Suddenly, the lights and the crowd were no longer surrounding him. They appeared to be below him. He could no longer feel the bull’s massive body between his legs. Confused, he looked around. He could see the pretty lady from the night before. He seemed to be moving in slow motion, floating toward her. Her face was contorted in fear.
“What was her name?” he asked himself.
It did not matter. He was flying now, moving in closer to the bull, now being chased into one of the chutes by the men in baggy pants and colorful shirts.
There, on the ground, before the now-silenced audience, lay the broken body of the would-be King of the Cowboys. His neck was bent with an odd twist, his perfect features motionless against the dirt floor.
“Oh, sweet Jesus,” he murmured.
It was then that the Camille moved closer, able now to touch Beau’s shoulder.
“It’s time to go,” she whispered.
She had crossed many a soul over, but this was different. She had formed a fond attachment to her human. There was sadness in her heart. He wanted so much to be a hero.
“Go? Go where?”
“It’s time to leave this place. You are done here.”
“No, wait a minute. I am about to become the King of the Cowboys, the superior cowboy of all time,” he insisted.
“I’m sorry, Beau, but you are no longer part of that world. Please, don’t make this any more difficult than it has to be. Just come along with me. I will take you home.”
“Home? To my ranch?”
She laughed and moved closer to slip her arm through his. As they ascended the Realm of Matter, through the universe and all things material, she could feel him holding tightly to the material world.
At first, he tugged. Then, he fidgeted. After a few seconds, he gave in to the pulling motion that drew him away. He said nothing for a long time, stunned as he was that his life had been snatched away at the most inopportune time.
Then, as if he could not contain it any longer, he shouted, “This isn’t fair!”
When Camille did not reply, he repeated his protest. “This isn’t fair, I said. I was going to be crowned King of the Cowboys tonight.”
With his protests, and feeling the victim of life’s circumstances, the cowboy held tight to his humanity, allowing ego to seep into his eternal being.
The Realm of Light, like a beacon at the farthest end of the universe, welcomed him with its warmth.
Like the monster that entered the Realm of Spirit earlier that day, all he could say repeatedly was, “This just isn’t fair!”