The L'Angell family is a dark one, full of twists and turns and kinks. It extends from the deepest swamps to the highest echelons of power. They go back generations, and put great stock in tradition - except in times of war, all the men were preachers. The women were considered to be breed mares for the production of more sons. Family elders arranged marriages and imposed absolute control over the raising of the offspring.
In the late 1990s, the chief of this black and wicked family was Marie L'Angell, a woman so despicable and cruel that she was unable to marry until she was over fifty. It is believed that she had her husband killed after the birth of her daughter.
Her daughter shamed her by running away from their family home, Angelville, when she was a young woman. Christina Custer managed to escape her family with the intention of never returning to it again. This was perhaps part of the reason why she became lovers with John Custer as soon as she did - he was good, decent and honorable, everything her family was not, and a chance to give up the very name that she despised.
Christina's family found her, however.
A New Family
Jody and T.C., two of Marie L'Angell's chief henchmen, tracked Christina down in Texas, and forced her, John and their young son Jesse Custer to return to Angelville. Marie imposed strict conditions on them: they would marry and live as a proper family. Jesse would be groomed to be a man of God. They would never leave Angelville, and should they be tempted to try, the punishment for John Custer would be death.
A year later, John Custer was dead, and Marie L'Angell had complete control over her daughter and grandson. She gave Jesse presents when he was good an imposed terrible punishments when he was bad. When he was seven, she began to teach him about God. To his eyes, the God of Marie L'Angell was a fearsome creature, but he soon learned that his grandmother wasn't interested in his opinion, only that he learn to love the Lord. He learned that, and he learned not to cross his grandmother.
His most terrible lesson in that regard came when he was caught cursing at Jody for having killed Jesse's dog. Marie heard the language and set his punishment at a week in the coffin.
The coffin was just that - an airtight coffin fit with an air hose that would be sunk to the bottom of the swamp, with Jesse inside. It was a horrible punishment for any violation, and Christina Custer wasn't about to let that happen to her son. She tried to stop her mother, but was dragged away by Jody.
Marie L'Angell had done the simple math: there was a child already. There was no longer any need for its mother. The fact that she was Marie's daughter never entered into the equation.
Jesse spent a week in the coffin, and never saw his mother again. He tried to be on his best behavior, and succeeded until he was sixteen, when he went in the coffin again. T.C. had killed Jesse's friend Billy-Bob Bobbs, and Jesse called T.C. a cocksucker. For that, and not for the fistfight Jesse tried to have with Jody, Jesse spent a fortnight in the coffin.
When he recovered, he went to talk to Billy-Bob's family about the boy's death, and never returned to Angelville.
Marie L'Angell was understandably furious. She started to use her family resources to track down her errant grandson, and once again sent out her bloodhounds, T.C. and Jody. They found him in Phoenix, AZ. He was happy and in love with a woman named Tulip, whom he hoped to marry.
Jody and T.C. told him that if he came back to Angelville with them, the girl wouldn't be killed.
Jesse spent a month in the coffin.
After that, he was his grandmother's tool. He became a preacher.
The Prodigal Returns
She sent Jesse to a small town, where he became the preacher for the parish of Annville, Texas. When the church blew up, taking most of the parishioners with it, she suspected the worst, and once again sent for word.
Help came in an unexpected form - God.
God appeared to Marie L'Angell and promised to help her find her grandson. What's more, he gave her and all those who worked for her resistance to Jesse's newfound Voice of Command.
Powerless and terrified, Jesse allowed himself and Tulip to be taken back to Angelville by Jody and T.C. Once there, Marie L'Angell ordered Jesse's last extra-familial loyalty to be cut - she had Jody shoot Tulip dead right before Jesse's eyes.
He was beaten. His Voice didn't work, and the woman he loved was dead. As far as Marie was concerned, all that he had to do now was get some girl pregnant and she could be done with the whole mess.
God, however, had different plans. He resurrected Tulip and restored the power of Jesse's Voice over the family. Jesse, with the help of his imaginary friend John Wayne, pulled himself together and went to deal with his grandmother's henchmen. In the course of killing them, he set the house on fire, and on her way out of the house, Tulip kicked over Marie L'Angell's wheelchair. All that was needed then was for the flames to reach her oxygen tanks.
Marie L'Angell, along with all of her evil hopes and dreams and plans, perished in flames. Another would later try to avenge her death, but the horrible old woman who ruled Angelville was gone forever.