By Kimberly T.

Outside, the morning sun was climbing slowly into the cloudless sky, and shone through the tiny windows in the stairwell as an old man climbed slowly up the stairs of a plantation mansion. He opened the door to the attic, walked through it almost absent-mindedly navigating past all the obstacles in his path, and finally went out through the rooftop access, blinking in the morning light.

At the edge of the roof perched another man, sitting soaking up the sunlight with his eyes closed. At the squeak of the door hinges he called out without turning around, "Is that you, Maurice?"

"It's me, Adam," the first man said cheerfully. "I'm a little surprised to find you awake and up here, but Yvette said you were waiting for me. Needing a private chat, I assume?"

"You know me too well, brother mine," Adam said wryly as Maurice made his careful way to the edge of the roof and gingerly sat down next to him.

"From the crib, brother mine," Maurice said with fond nostalgia, clapping his hand to Adam's shoulder. His hand, pale and showing the first 'liver-spots' of age, made a stark contrast against Adam's mahogany-dark skin. "So, what's on your mind? Worries about the upcoming trip?"

"What else? The only people we have knowledge of who live in New York are the friends of friends, or relatives of the friends of friends, and not one of them do we dare trust with our secret. We'll have no allies up there, no 'safe-house' to retreat to if we're discovered or things go badly. The smart thing to do would be to delay until after we've established an advance party up there, to make a safe-house for us if need be… And yet, we dare not delay any longer. Not after reading that article from the New York Sun that Alphonse showed to us last night."

Maurice nodded grimly. "I know what you mean. From the looks of that article, we're heading directly into a war zone."

"Which makes our mission all the more important... and potentially all the more hazardous. Which is why only you, Marcel and I will be going now."

"Only us three?" Maurice blinked at him in surprise and concern. "Adam, are you sure? That places a large burden on your shoulders…"

"I know. But I simply can't risk any of the others in this; we're too few as it is, and none of the others have my advantage. An advantage that may well be crucial, in what's now known to be such hostile territory."

Maurice sighed. "You may well be right. Well, it's your decision, though you can expect a lot of controversy over it. And by the way, we may have an unwitting ally up there after all; I finally tracked down a priest up there who was a fellow student in seminary school, and luckily still remembers me. I told him I was planning to visit New York, not saying why of course, and he's invited me to come tour his parish with him. He's with Our Lady of Mercy, and his church is supposed to take up most of a city block; quite large, and well ornamented," he said with a very significant look.

Adam caught the significance of that look and mused, "Do you suppose…? No, I won't say it. We'd never be so lucky as that. But still, do you think you can gain access to that church without him tagging along as your guide? It might make a good base of operations."

"We'll have to see how things go after I get there. So, when do you want to leave now?"

"As soon as possible, after Marcel returns with the new truck and his trucker's license. Michelle and Stephen have already finished modifying the trailer."

Maurice nodded acceptance, then shaded his eyes as he looked to the southeast, towards the highway that led to the city of New Orleans. The cab of an eighteen-wheeler rig, though without a trailer attached, could be seen in the distance, slowing down as though preparing to turn onto the long private drive that led to their estate. "Look there; do you suppose that's him now?"

"It could well be; he said he'd had the rig painted red and white… And it's turning down our driveway. That's Marcel!"

Adam and Maurice stood up together, and Maurice grinned as he said, "What say we go down to meet him? Care to give your brother a lift?"

Adam was already grinning boyishly over his shoulder as he turned his back to Maurice. Maurice hooked his arms around Adam's neck as Adam grabbed his legs to hoist him up, like a father giving his son a piggy-back ride. "Ready?" And without waiting for a response, Adam jumped off the roof, spreading his mahogany-brown wings.