So suddenly after 60 chapters with a pretty clear sense of where I was going, I have hit a bit of a hiccup in Blood of Angels. I don’t know if it is just writer’s block or running into the usual “soft middle” of the story or what, but I feel stuck. If you are one of the handful of folks following the story, don’t worry: I am not abandoning it. But it might take a short while for me to find my footing on it again.
The people were stacked like lumber in the hold. Their sick and offal reek mixed with that of salt water. For nightmarish months they clung to life, until they couldn’t. If their captors noticed, they were cast overboard to feed the school of sharks that followed the ship across the broad Atlantic.
These were the lucky ones. The unlucky ones were brought onto the deck as sport for the captain and crew before being discarded alive into the hungry sea.
They were not the first people treated worse than animals by their fellow man, nor would they be the last.
“Hello? Sammy?” Chira called out. Their words echoed through the parking garage.
“I don’t like it,” Omar whisper-shouted.
“Here,” called Taiwo, faking a masculine voice.
“Fuck,” Chira said.
“I don’t like it. I mean, how–”
“Help,” Taiwo called. “I’m trapped.”
“Shit!” said Chira and Omar said. “No way,” but both still moved closer.
Taiwo hit Omar first. She emerged from behind a column and swung her scavenged pool stick. It broke across Omar’s skull and he collapsed soundlessly.
Chira spun and raised their keychain pepper spray too late. Taiwo shoved the jagged end of the stick into Chira’s neck.
Nichelle kissed Honor on her forehead then hugged her tightly.
“Mom,” started Honor with tears in her voice.
Nichelle held Honor at arm’s length. “Go. I love you,” she said and pushed her toward the gate.
She watched, weeping, until the plane taxied away.
In the car, she messaged Justin then dialed Bernie.
“Hey,” he said. “How are–”
“No,” she said. “We aren’t doing that.”
“The only reason I’m not on that plane with her is so we can nail this bastard. Tell me you have a plan.”
“I do,” said Bernie. “But it’s going to be unpleasant.”
“You are coming out here,” said Justin in his Dad Voice.
“I am not leaving the city to go live in the desert!” whined Honor into the phone, then yelled, “Mom, tell Dad I don’t have to go live with him!”
Justin did not hear what Nichelle yelled back but judging by Honor’s pouting, “It’s not fair!” he guessed Nichelle had held fast. He wished she had agreed to come, too, however.
“Look, Ho-Ho,” he said gently, “it’s important. It might be the most important thing in the world.”
Honor huffed her resignation.
“I love you,” he said. “Get packed.”
By the time Taiwo’s plane touched down and she exited customs and retrieved her luggage, she was exhausted. Upon finally reaching her small, dirty hotel room she collapsed onto the bed and fell immediately asleep.
The next day she sent the first text. She spoofed it to come from Sammy’s number.
I NEED YOUR HELP, it read.
She waited and watched the cellular traffic. Sammy’s friends texted each other frantically. After an hour the one called Chira texted back.
WHERE ARE YOU? ARE YOU OKAY.
Taiwo sent the address and added, I’M SCARED.
WE’RE COMING, said Chira.
Taiwo smiled hungrily.
“Look,” said Nichelle into the phone, “I just want to give Mr. Phillips an opportunity to address these allegations head on.”
Her lips tightened as she listened.
“I couldn’t say. Sometimes a ‘conspiracy theory’ turns out to be Watergate. All I am saying–”
She paused suddenly, frustration evident in her expression.
“Mr. Phillips and I have a working relationship. He knws that his side will –”
She snapped her mouth shut and clenched her jaw.
“Well,” she said evenly, “in that case Harrison Phillips can go fuck himself and burn in Hell. We are running the story with or without him.”
Justin and Javier faced one another across the room. The HVAC foreman’s bruises had faded but his hateful sneer was fresh.
“Come on,” pleaded Zavod. “Water under the bridge.” He produced a bottle and glasses and poured three shots.
Justin picked up a cup and waited for Javier to do the same. After a quick glance at Zavod, he did. They downed the bourbon.
“Okay,” said Justin, “I’ve developed a schedule that will get us complete by–” the word resisted him –”deadline.” He swallowed. “But it’s relentless.”
“We can handle whatever you got,” spat Javier.
“Good,” said Zavod. “Do it.”
Taiwo seethed. Twenty four hours had passed and not a single legitimate outlet was running the story.
It was incomprehensible: the world’s richest man had intentionally thrown a mountain at the planet, guaranteeing the collapse of human civilization and probably the end of all life. And no one was talking about.
Even the fringe social media channels were tentative. The conspiracy theorists had taken it up, of course, but they were fighting over whether it was a false flag or a globalist coup.
“He’s going to fucking get away with it,” she said to no one. Then, “No he isn’t!”
“Nichelle,” said Bernie, not for the first time.
She looked up at him across the conference table. A dozen producers and reporters were looking back at her. “What?”
“The interview. Will you do the Harrison Phillips interview?”
“What? No.” She felt nauseated.
“You’ve been after–”
“–because I thought he was dirty! Not because I thought he–” She threw up.
After a moment, she stalked out unsteadily.
Bernie caught her just before she reached the parking garage elevator. “I need you on this.”
“Why? None of it fucking matters!”
“Yes, it does,” said Bernie. “It matters right up until the end.”