Ten thousand years ago, two dozen people knelt on the wet shore of the lake. Their hands were bound with cord. One woman tried to cradle her swollen belly, only days from giving birth.
The Others, the ones who had bound them, approached. The lake was theirs, but it was not enough to merely take ownership.
The club came down. Bone splintered. Blood sprayed. One after another the bound raised their hands and called out in desperation or prayer. One by one they died.
It probably was not the first war crime, and it certainly would not be the last.
Sammy closed the little door and turned the key. He dropped the little key into the envelope and sealed it. He walked meet Chira and Omar, dropping the envelope in a remote mailbox along the way.
Chira hugged him and Omar waved. “Sushi?” asked Chira.
“Yeah,” said Sammy.
They walked for a while. No one talked. Suddenly Chira turned down an alley. “Short cut,” they said.
Sammy looked at Omar. Omar swallowed hard. “Short cut,” he said.
Sammy looked at his phone. There was nothing from Taiwo. “Okay,” he said, and followed Chira into the alley with Omar close behind.
“You were right,” said Nate, “about me owing you one.”
“Okay,” said Nichelle hesitantly. She switched the call to her earpiece from the car audio. Honor rolled her eyes from the passenger seat.
“I know you have been trawling for dirt on Phillips. I might have something. Something big.”
“Yes. From a source from inside Platinum Galactic.”
“Okay,” said Nichelle. “Wait. Why doesn’t the Times want it?” Nate started to answer but Nichelle cut in. “Exposure. You don’t trust it enough to break the story.”
“Something like that.”
She didn’t hesitate. “Fine,” she said. “Give it to me.”
Javier, the HVAC super, was shaking his fist while raving at Stacey. She kept her composure but Justin could see she was nearing her ‘take shit from contractors’ limit.
Justin hollered for Javier’s attention. Javier abandoned Stacey and started hurling curses at Justin instead.
“This is bullshit!” he yelled. “How am I supposed to do all this?” He was waving a paper.
“Okay,” soothed Justin and gently took the paper.
Stacey trotted up behind Javier. “All the supers got them.”
“What?” he said, looking more closely at the paper.
“Change order,” she said. “Zavod moved up everyone’s deadlines by weeks.”
Sammy listened to the afrobeat ringtone until an electronic voice told him to leave a message after the tone.
“Tai, sis, call me. Please,” he said into the phone for the fourth time and hung up.
He stared at his phone for twenty three minutes before dialing her again.
“Tai, this is serious. Please call me. There’s something–” The words caught in his throat. Then there was another tone and the call ended.
He dialed again. There was no ringtone and he was sent immediately to voicemail.
“Taiwo, the world–” he started but the electronic voice said, “–mailbox is full.”
Nichelle slammed her phone down hard onto her desk.
“How are things–” Bernard started.
“Don’t!” she said. She exhaled and then said, “Sorry. I am getting blocked at every turn.”
Bernard frowned. “Maybe it’s because there is no there there.”
“How long have I been here?” asked Nichelle. “How many times have I chased a turkey?”
“Then let me do my job, Bernie.”
He raised his hands in surrender and stepped back. “Okay, okay. Keep digging.”
She let herself seethe for a handful more heartbeats but then focused and moved on to the next contact on her list.
“Okay,” yawned Justin. “Six PMs have been replaced since construction started and?”
Stacey handed him a coffee and sat down with her own. “Yeah. And it’s not just the PMs. Turnover on everyone from superintendents to laborers is really high.”
Justin picked up the report Stacey had prepared. He flipped to the page he wanted and said, “What I don’t get is the mechanicals. HVAC. Plumbing. Electric. The budget is astronomical.”
Stacey rubbed her eyes. “I’m too tired to think.”
“Go home.” He glanced at his phone. “Shit, it’s late.”
“And we have real work to do tomorrow.”
“Phillipsheads” were the cohort of fans that dominated discussion about Harrison Phillips’ innovations and exploits. Sammy thought the cultish, but they were prolific. They filled the internet with wikis and websites and apps.
Sammy found what he was looking for in the sub-forum of a fringe astronomy community. Buried among the pedantic arguments and conspiracy theories was a link to a website that tracked the Platinum Galactic asteroid live based on data provided by amateurs.
Sammy downloaded the data and began the very long process of comparing it manually to the telemetry data he had smuggled out of the office.
“You owe me, Nate,” Nichelle growled into the phone.
Honor upped the volume until her music drowned out her mother’s work stuff and focused on her own homework.
Suddenly she felt hard tapping on her shoulder, then her earbud was out and mom was yelling, “–you listen?”
“I was doing homework!”
“Don’t take that tone with me!”
“Do you have to be such a bitch?”
“What did you say?”
Honor slammer her notebook shut. “I get it. You’re mad because you had sex with dad.”
Nichelle almost physically staggered. “How–?”
“His apartment is small, mom!”
Nichelle stared. Honor stared back.
“Your wife is quite the bulldog,” said Peter Zavod.
“Ex,” said Justin.
They were meeting in Zavod’s business office: modern, clean, sterile. It made Justin nervous.
Zavod smiled. “I hear that intern of yours–”
“Stacey. She’s my assistant project Manager.”
“Stacey. She is digging up old invoices?”
“Because I told her too.”
Justin leaned forward. “You hired me to make sure your HQ was open within six months. Part of that is figuring out what the last six managers fucked up.” Justin leaned back. “That’s a lot of managers, by the way.”
“Yes it is,” said Zavod.