Angel Stakes audiobook
I’ve completed the checking of the audio files. Julia has a couple of little corrections to make and then all that remains is the Audible/ACX internal processes. I’ll keep posting as it inches towards release.
Progress on Bian’s Tale
Two of five sections are now with the editor. I’ve actually torn up my earlier versions of sections 3-5, as they simpy were not working. Having done that, strangely, writing has been easier. For some peculiar reason, it’s quicker to rewrite than to amend.
Less than a month to the publication of Vampires of the Caribbean anthology, which contains Enzili, an Athanate short story set in 1790s on the British island of St. Mark’s. There have been some teasers on the Bite Back Facebook page, and more to follow.
Bite Back 6 – not a lot of progress this last couple of weeks.
New York episodes
Father Julius, Livia and Elodie: the New York outsiders story with the twin threads is taking shape. Below is a summary of the story so far (with links) as it will appear in the novella, with the threads interleaved, and with one new chapter.
Julius and Livia
At St Judes. Introduction to Julius and Livia, the threat of Skylur’s arrival.
Greenpoint. Introduction to Elodie. Barlett abducted during meeting.
Greenpoint. Elodie background and illness. She speaks to Nathan.
Julius and Livia
Brooklyn waterfront. Julius meets Livia and they go together to Manhattan to face Skylur.
Introduction to Keensleigh (Were alpha) and Hinton (Adept community leader).
This week’s chapter, see below
Julius and Livia
Meeting with Skylur at his office penthouse.
Next week’s chapter
Julius and Livia
At the restaurant with Skylur.
And I guess 4 or 5 chapters after that…
Sunset Park, Brooklyn
The southwestern tip of Long Island is its own little world, made up of little countries.
There are Poles in Greenpoint. Russians in Brighton Beach. Asians in Flushing. Mexicans in Jackson Heights. Haitians in Flatbush. Irish, Italian, Jewish, Greek, Brazilian.
She hadn’t told Barlett that particular item of information. He’d thought he’d been investigating a super-secret criminal gang.
His office is on 2nd Avenue, down in Sunset Park. A single room off a short corridor, over a shop selling household electrical components. It has a coded keypad on the door.
But the door is unlocked, and someone has already been here. Elodie can almost sense them. They could still be watching. Or they could come back at any time.
If they’re watching it’s too late anyway.
She’ll take her chances. There’s no real alternative. And after all, that was exactly what she hired Barlett for; to find her a way to contact a group of people who don’t want to be contacted. If they find her, the job is done.
It is dangerous. They are dangerous.
But unless she’s hallucinated the whole language and conversations that she hacked into on the internet, they are the only people who can cure the growth in her head that’s killing her.
All she has to do is become part of their secret world, disappear from the sight of everyone she knew before…and be prepared to give her body and blood in exchange.
The thought makes her stomach contract and her head starts pounding again. She feels the dizziness returning.
No time for that. No time. Concentrate.
She pulls out her cell and clicks on the rabbit, watches the first few slides. It calms her. The cell is like a safety harness and a snapshot of her life all rolled into one. It’s her ID. Her email. It has copies of her medical records. Familiar photos and clips from her former life in Ann Arbor. All the useful apps. Even street maps to find her way here. And the soothing knowledge that her brain reboot slideshow is there whenever she needs it. My name is Elodie Villiers. I am not mad. I need to trust myself.
She pats her pockets. Spare battery. Charger.
She stops the slideshow, resets the timer and pockets the cell.
Then she switches on the office light.
Barlett said he was getting out today. She got the impression he’d meant he would leave straight after talking to her, not come back here. So, what did he do during his last visit to this office, besides call her and set up the meeting?
She stands at the desk and looks around.
The place is tidy. Barlett is an obsessive.
He hadn’t cleared the place; he probably believed he didn’t have the time, that they were too close. He was right about that. He thought he had enough time to meet her. He was wrong about that, but she suspects he intended to come back here at some point in the future when things cooled off.
So what would he have done last time he was here?
There’s no point checking the filing cabinets. He wouldn’t have taken time to file anything he’d found out, and they had been here already. There wouldn’t be anything left in the files about them.
They know about her from those files, but that’s limited to the cellphone number she’d given Barlett.
If they track her using that, so much the better, as long as she gets the opportunity to speak when they catch her.
She can’t control whether they hunt for her or not. Or how quickly they might. Time is running out for her.
What can she do? What clue might Barlett have left that will help her find them?
There was a laptop on the desk when she visited. She guesses he took it with him.
Or they did.
If there was anything obvious he left here that linked to them, they’d have taken it.
Despair wells up.
She feels dizzy again and fights it off.
What else did he use?
His cellphone, which isn’t here.
Notebooks? Old fashioned paper notebooks.
She closes her eyes, swaying, and tries to bring an image of him to mind.
Yes, he had those small notebooks that fit in jacket pockets. Blue covers, lined sheets. There are packs of them unopened, neatly stacked in one corner.
No sign of any ones he’d written in.
Hats and scarves. No use.
Walking sticks. She sees an image of the pale one with the pistol grip handle lying in the road, swallows painfully, and puts it from her mind.
He has a half dozen well-used coats hanging up behind the door. She looks. One is missing—the one he was wearing.
Closes her eyes again.
When she’d visited, she’d seen one of the coats had a newspaper rolled up in the pocket. He was a crossword addict and he said it gave him an excuse to sit in café windows and jot things down while doing surveillance. Less suspicious than a notebook.
He hadn’t had a newspaper in his pocket when he met her up in Greenpoint.
She opens her eyes.
The trash bin by the desk is empty. It’s the only place in the office he would have used to throw something like a newspaper away.
There’s a shredder, but that’s empty too.
Finally, she has to admit to herself she can’t think of anything else and the fervor of the search leaks out of her like air from an old balloon.
The office is a dead end.
An empty husk.
She stumbles outside and wonders whether they are watching her at this very moment.
It would be so easy if they just came and captured her. Of course that means, the way the universe runs for her, it’s definitely not going to happen. That they aren’t watching Barlett’s office.
She looks around for inspiration.
There’s a dumpster a few steps away. A couple of cardboard boxes. A small pile of bulging black trash bags.
If Barlett threw anything away earlier today, it might be on the top. If she’s lucky.
She uses her cell as a light to look inside the cardboard boxes. Packing foam. Discarded manuals. Old paperbacks. Some shredded paper, but it looks like bank statements and old legal documents. It could have come from anywhere.
The plastic bags aren’t worth checking; Barlett would have been in too much of a hurry to even tie up a bag, and he probably wouldn’t have had any bags to hand anyway.
That leaves the dumpster.
She knows she’s starting to look like a bag lady already.
She lifts the lid, shines the light from the cell down into the darkness.
The trash is right at the bottom, partly covered by a discarded newspaper, folded to the puzzles page. She can see handwriting on it. And there’s a notebook with a blue cover peeping out beneath it.
It is Christmas. Close enough.
The dumpster is tall.
She can just reach the trash, if she balances on the edge.
A little further…
The edge of the dumpster cuts into her hip. She hitches herself higher, keeping a firm hold on the edge. The smell is overpowering. She tries not breathing.
Her head is pounding, pounding and the light seems to fade a bit.
Just a bit further.
She grabs the newspaper.
The dumpster is deep and dark, and it spins. The rotten fruit smells bright purple. Rock music sears the inside of her nose. She can hear the taste of rotten pears. It makes her cry. The world twists around like one of those crazy pretzels, hits the back of her head and cuts abruptly everything off.
Where am I?
What am I doing here?
Something very important. Very, very important. Must remember.
A man with a walking stick. Empty streets. Dangerous.
Flakes of snow drift down out of the night and settle on her nose.
Oh, God, it stinks.
She staggers upright. The whole world is reeling around her.
I’m in a dumpster!
What’s happened to me?
There’s someone coming.
“Nate?” she says, and her voice wobbles, but there’s a buzzing in her ears and she can’t hear.
Who am I?
A flashlight shines in her face, blinding her. She can’t see, can’t hear, can’t think.
“What the hell? Get outta there, stupid bitch!”
Ross Woodward doesn’t have an issue with the homeless. He doesn’t actually care if one of them sleeps in the dumpster. It’s just that they throw stuff out and it always ends up with him clearing up the mess.
The woman looks bewildered, and she’s shaking. He’s sorry about that. He didn’t mean to scare her.
He lifts her out and puts her down gently on the sidewalk, trying not to wrinkle his nose at the smell.
“Go on,” he says, speaking mildly. “This is no place to stay. There’s a shelter up in Brooklyn Heights, and you can get food on the way. There’s a place on 4th will feed you.”
The woman sways, blinks. She seems completely confused, or frozen in panic.
Ross turns her north and points.
“Go up to 4th, take a bus. Here,” he offers her a few dollars. She doesn’t move to take the money and he has to slide it under her stiff fingers. She’s clutching a newspaper to her chest.
He sighs. Maybe that was all she was after. He knows they use paper as insulation when they sleep rough, but that isn’t going to be enough tonight. At least the woman is dressed for the weather. The clothes look good quality, but that coat isn’t ever going to smell good again.
He’s thinking maybe he should walk her to the stop, but then she starts on her own, still looking frightened and confused.
Shit. He feels bad about it, but he can’t be a knight in shining armor for every homeless woman on the streets.
He watches her shuffling away until she’s out of sight.
She’s obviously ill, mentally ill, and it looks as if she’s not had much chance to adjust to this kind of life. He wonders what her story is. A good life, friends, maybe even a family, a job, no worries, and then suddenly this? She’s young. Younger than him.
The temperature is dropping. Time to get back inside.
The dumpster lid is wide open, and snow is falling inside. He might as well throw the trash that’s been piled up alongside before he closes it.
I mean, what is it with people who can bring the trash out, then just leave it next to a half empty dumpster? he grumbles to himself.
He shines the flashlight into the depths.
There’s barely anything in there. A couple of trays of rotten fruit. Some spoiled TV dinners. Someone’s old notebooks. A broken cellphone – a good one. Looks like someone stepped on it.
Shit. Only in Brooklyn, he thinks and tosses the rest of the trash in before he slams the lid closed.