|Trapped and Bloody by Beki Yopek|
When a fallen angel whoops your ass, you start to think Heaven has blind spots. If freaking angels can fall and trap you with magic, then someone up there must have screwed up big time. The Seattle Port Commission land that Hooverville had been built on already got burnt like fried chicken once. Government during The Great Depression wasn’t the smartest, so of course The Pneuma Coalition convinced the humans to burn Hooverville again and again when the homeless rebuilt there. That’s why I didn’t see signs of magic among the rubblicious shanties.
Continuous rebuilding plus continuous burning equaled thousands of free souls for The Pneuma Coalition. All without bending Heaven Law. They wanted the humans to burn it over and over, and they twisted the weakened American government to make it happen.
This was a cycle we had to break before Jack and The Coalition repeated it.
I writhed against the twin tin slabs that pinned me in mid-air. Jack Te-Konos’s conniving voice shouted more French words and the tin sheets sandwiched me horizontally. He switched to English and belted out a laugh. “Heaven’s only into itself, Ava.”
The words reverberated off the tin and I slid my left hand closer to the haloxite knife in my trench coat. I tried gripping the handle, but Jack bellowed and I slammed to the dirt between the two former shanty walls. Dust choked me and the grit turned to mud in my mouth. I spat and made to shout a retort when pain lanced along my left palm. My own haloxite knife had sliced my hand wide open while Jack contorted me against the ground.
“The Septuplets chose me to help them tear down the Soul Fountains,” Jack screamed. “Heaven has always held itself above everyone, like the other Domains owe them something.”
I let the idiot talk and ground my teeth, then twisted my bloody left wrist around.
Jack kept ranting. “Damn those who want to make their own way.”
The tin smooshed me awkwardly and whatever spell Jack was using to keep me trapped would have worked for decades. IF--
“Jack Te-Konos wants something better. A grand place he built with his own magic.”
I tossed a verbal knife. “You mean magic that Heaven taught you?”
“Shut it, slave,” Jack barked, adding some French at the end like vitriol.
The walls whirled and lurched, and the slit of daylight I could see above me spun in circles. Crimson locks of hair tangled around my face and horns, and red flecks swam behind my eyes. This fangel thought he could disorient me on his psycho merry-go-round, but I’d been flying since before some kings were born. Pressing the bleeding hand against the top-most tin wall, I winced and made absolutely sure that the orange blood seeping from the wound covered a long streak of metal.
“You’re a slave to a system that lets the useless have the same chance that geniuses do,” Jack rambled, stepping closer to my whirling prison. “Jack Te-Konos did the work. He earned his spot with the Coalition. Thanks to him, we’ve got more plans than this measly soul farm. Heaven doesn’t get to take what’s ours because they wrote some law saying they could. And you and your buddy The Reaper enabled it. You’re letting the SPD and Heaven itself take advantage of demons and humans.”
“Bahaha,” I blurted. “That’s what you think? Eat metal.”
Blood Magic surged out of me and I used the unguided flow to shove the top wall skyward. Snapping both wings out, I scissored Jack’s legs from under him and sprang to my feet, then allowed the Newtonian kick-back from my unguided spell to cement myself to the ground and stop the bottom sheet from spinning. Jack’s shocked yelp twisted into a snarl and he beat his wings, shoving himself back along the dust and away from the haloxite knife I’d just brandished.
Jack righted himself and brushed dirt off his slashed blazer and his ruff. “You can stab me all day with that and it won’t even tickle.” He switched to French, but I sprang up off the tin slab a second before his spell kicked in.
Wings pumping, I flew high, swerving behind the tin slab I’d sent skyward. I unleashed a second wave of unguided Blood Magic. The tin clashed against the slab Jack had magicked up from the dirt, and I spotted French words etched on both sheets. Details of Heaven’s magic were lost on me, but I recognized that for most angelic spells to work, words had to be either spoken or written on the object. Grinning, I barrel rolled and let the Blood Magic spin the tin along with me, scratching up the words on both slabs.
Jack’s mad yells filled the air as much as the screeching of metal on metal. About time too. I couldn’t stand any more of his shenanigans. Shoving forward on the Blood Magic, I pummeled Jack into the ground with both shanty walls and he flopped underneath them, helpless. Clouds of dust kicked up around him and humans from nearby shanties gathered around to see what must have looked like a collapsed shanty having a seizure.
The Reaper hovered up from somewhere nearby and cackled, his hood covering his solid black skull. “Thank you for killing your inner demon, Avaline.”
I narrowed my eyes and peered sideways at him. “You’re lucky I know what you mean by that. I wasn’t about to kill Jack. He was too busy waxing philoso-bullshit, and I’d rather bust every single member of the Coalition.” Patting the holsters at my back beneath the trench coat, I added, “I didn’t even need the stilettos or my new boots to wreck Jack.”
The Reaper gripped Seversoul in one ebony hand and pointed down at Hooverville with the other. “Apathy is in The Coalition. Whomever he answers to ordered a perennial soul farm to be built here, and I have ended it.”
Maybe it was the stress or the absurdity, but I laughed and watched Jack flump around and scream about himself. “A fallen angel babbled in the third person, and The Reaper said the phrase, ‘perennial soul farm.’ “ Thought waves washed over me and I added, “Jack the Hack down there mentioned plans within plans. Or multiple plans, or something.”
The Reaper raised Seversoul and looked at the carvings in both the brimstone and haloxite sides of the blade. “We have us, and the SPD, and the Volunteer Guardian Angels. The Coalition has an unknown number of Septuplets, and an unknown number of plans. The work is ours to do. Now that you have earned your bodyguard position again, let us move.”
Back at the Down South Lounge, I put the pen down, glanced at Nia behind the neon bar, then at Reap’s hooded skull. Hard liquor and cool ice filled the air with scents, a sweet distraction I had no choice but to block out. I slammed the rest of my now warm Moloch and Coke, never taking my eyes off my boss’s.
Plans within plans.
I’d been writing these Case Notes for a week now. Was The Reaper after more than just a way to de-throne the Pneuma Coalition?