This Guardian Angel Bleeds Red

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In 2005, the Angels lost their parking contract and their major source of funding. A few months later, Brimstone moved the Angels' headquarters from their historic stamping grounds on Colfax to a place on Santa Fe — a decision that upset some of the members and hurt recruiting.

In early 2007, after returning from Vancouver, Sebastian decided it was time for him to return to the Angels to help rebuild. The move was hard on Oriton because Sebastian critiqued his decisions, acting like a backseat driver, but one without sufficient short-term memory to know the directions. Eventually, Sebastian says, it became too much for Oriton to bear, and the two had a falling out. Oriton left the Angels. He didn't return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment for this story.

"I don't know what I could've done differently," Sebastian says. "I was injured. I wasn't myself in many ways. I had to grow back into my own ability to do my own life, let alone the Guardian Angels. So I did some damage to the group in that way."

After Oriton left, Jag was enlisted to lead the western region, but he was also in charge of dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, so he had to manage Denver business from afar. Neither Doc nor Brimstone liked Jag's style, which they considered too aggressive for Denver, and both left shortly thereafter.

Soon the Denver chapter was down to just two or three members.

After Sebastian's return to Denver, Shauna decided to take Rooks to Nashville, where she could pursue her music career. She asked Sebastian to go with her, but he insisted on getting his own apartment in Capitol Hill and taking care of himself.

"There's a lot of layers of difficulty: There is the difficulty of losing a partner and losing a father for your kid and your confidant and your best friend," Shauna says. "And on top of that, he changed very much. His behaviors were different than they used to be. He would never yell or have a hair-triggered temper, and after the brain injury, he did."

Although she knows that's normal for someone with a brain injury, "after a year and a half, I couldn't do it anymore," she adds. "I didn't want to raise Rooks in that environment, and I had no idea what the future held. I still don't. We don't have a fairy-tale ending here, and that's okay with both of us; we'll deal with it. But we're not going to stop loving each other and having love for our child, pretending what happened to us didn't, because it did, and what happened sucked, and I wish I could change it every day."

"This injury has affected me. It's made me do things I'm not proud of. I was moody and angry, and I snapped at people, and I snapped at my wife," Sebastian says. "I was behaving more like some kind of degenerate than Sebastian Metz, Guardian Angel, this guy that my wife had married that was pure of heart."

But he's also gained an appreciation for things he didn't have before. "I reconnected with my family," he continues. "I know I will not abuse time the way I did — time is precious. I'll never work as long as I once did, I'll work as hard, but I'm not going to spend my whole life working. That's what I did before. I did the job all the time; 24/7 was the deal. I spent all my time working, coming home late, going in early, skipping lunch.... The Angels are important, but my wife and son, it's not even close."

The Angels still pay Sebastian a small stipend, and he still does regional work, recruiting and helping to develop new chapters. He plans to get the newsletter back out. Under the leadership of Arch Angel, who took over in January, the chapter has moved back to Capitol Hill, and membership stands at about ten Angels. At Sebastian's request, even Doc has returned to help.

Outside of New York, where Sliwa has always held things together, every chapter in the country has gone through something like this, Sebastian says. And Sebastian was usually the one who revived them. So before he moves to Nashville, which he plans to do, he hopes to pull one more Angels chapter back together.

"The Sebastian you deal with now, he's brick," Sliwa says. "That's the highest compliment we can give to a Guardian Angel.He's been to hell and back, and he's ready to do it again — there's no stopping him.... He's a living, walking, breathing example that somebody can make a difference.

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Luke Turf