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EXCERPT: In Midnight's Silence (Los Nefilim) by Teresa Frohock
Monday , 06 June 2016 , 03 : 49 AM

The hero of Los Nefilim is Diago Alvarez, and much like the Shadow (of the old Shadow pulps), Diago has magical abilities. He and his lover, Miquel, are part of a secretive group known as Los Nefilim (Spanish for The Nephilim--say it like "The Mob" and you've got the right idea). This group of angelic Nefilim monitor daimonic activity for the angels.

The only thing is: Diago is not fully angelic. He is part daimon, part angel, and his very unique form of magic is sought by both sides in the conflict between angels and daimons. Like the Shadow, Diago moves through a world of espionage and partisan warfare with a rogues' gallery filled with angels, daimons, and mortals.

In this excerpt from In Midnight's Silence, Diago has arrived home to find a mysterious package has been left for him. Inside the package is a glass box with a triptych etching of a woman Diago once knew on the first panel, Diago and the woman together on the second, and a boy on the third. Diago quickly deduces that a dalliance with another Nefil has resulted in the birth of his son. Inside the box, is the wedding band of Diago’s partner, Miquel, who is missing. Diago’s only clue is a calling card, which lists the name Beltran Prieto.

Exclusive excerpt from In Midnight’s Silence

 Diago switched on every light in the loft. Nothing appeared to have been disturbed, and there were no signs of a struggle. Miquel’s gun was still in his suitcase, along with his bowie knife. Diago closed the suitcase and shoved it back under the bed.

In the front pocket of Miquel’s pants he found a crumpled theater bill. The heavily creased paper advertised a new bar not far from the Villa Rosa, where Miquel usually played. A large black scorpion had been drawn to dominate the top of the page. The tail formed the “S” within the club’s name and swirled to encircle the words: Club d’Escorpí.

The bill announced Beltran Prieto as the singer. The dancer was unnamed. Miquel de Torrellas was listed as the guitarist. That couldn’t be right. Miquel had made no mention of working in a new club, and the artwork indicated the handbill had been weeks in the making.

Diago refolded the advertisement and pushed it into his back pocket. He would begin his search at the Villa Rosa before moving to the Club d’Escorpí. Perhaps one of the other performers had seen or heard something about this new club. Any information might help him circumvent more of Prieto’s surprises.

He switched from his shirt and tie to a worn sweater with frayed sleeves, so he would blend in with the mortals that frequented the area. From beneath the bed he yanked out his suitcase and opened it. Inside, concealed beneath a false bottom, were his Luger and a long wicked knife.

His hands no longer shook. Initiating a course of action steadied him. He checked his magazines. One was full, the other half full. Diago emptied a box of silver-tipped bullets onto the bed and added rounds to the second magazine.

Yet, even though he had a plan, it didn’t change the fact that he had no idea what was going on. He considered the clues he had so far, but he could find no way to connect them. Candela had never mentioned anyone named Beltran Prieto—but to be fair, they hadn’t spoken beyond murmurs of passion and her whispered lies.

Another spasm of guilt twisted his stomach before he shut Candela from his mind. Think, God damn it. The etched triptych indicated supernatural skill. That was a start, but Diago had no idea whether Prieto was angel or daimon. His motivations were just as veiled as his character.

What can he possibly want?

“He needs me,” Diago murmured. Specifically, Prieto needed skills that only Diago possessed. But what? The answer to that question required a meeting. One that Beltran Prieto was about to regret.

Diago pressed bullets into the magazine and thought of the hourglass. They used to mark time with hourglasses. There was a clock ticking somewhere. Whatever Prieto needed, time was of the essence. “Okay.” Diago inserted the fresh magazine into the Luger, then tucked the gun into his holster. “Let’s not keep him waiting."

* * *

Diago withdrew the playbill and read the address for the Club d’Escorpí. The bar was located three blocks deeper into the Paralelo’s tangled backstreets. At least I’m close. He crammed the playbill into his coat pocket and hurried down an alleyway. The noise of the main avenue fell behind him. Here, the fog thickened until Diago could barely see a metre ahead.

The quiet was too heavy to be anything other than supernatural. The hair on his arms rose in response to the power around him. Barcelona was behind him, along with the mortals and their everyday worries. Diago had stepped into a different realm. No matter how many times he moved between the spheres of mortal and angel, he never got used to the insidious slide from one reality to another. He paused to get his bearings. 

In the same way that earth was an echo of other realms, this new place was a mere reflection of the Paralelo. On a superficial level, everything seemed the same: the walls were brick, the fog was blue, yet this new place was smaller, paler, less complete than the original. The handbills and advertisements were faded, nearly illegible. The scent of the sea became a memory embedded in the fibers of Diago’s clothes. Sounds of the Paralelo’s revelers diminished until the clamor vanished. Time stood still and soft, like the moments embedded in midnight’s silence.

Diago drew his Luger and held the gun close to his thigh. Not even silver tips would stop an angel, but holding the weapon comforted him with the illusion of protection. The skin on his exposed hands tingled. He paused, his palm damp against the grip of the gun.

The distant strains of a guitar drifted out of the fog. In those notes, Diago recognized one of Miquel’s favorite falsetas. This one began por arriba, high along the frets, shifting rapidly through the notes. A wedge of hope pushed back his fear. If it was Miquel, then he might be all right.

The tune picked up speed. The player missed a chord. The song halted.

Diago froze.

The music began again—louder, closer—although Diago had not moved. Whatever approached was coming to him. The fog became electric. Drops of moisture sizzled against the black windows and shadow doors that lined the alley.

The strings hummed when the player missed his next chord. It was Miquel. Any doubt was erased by that error. When he grew tired, he always failed to make a smooth transition between F and E. Judging from the screech of his fingers along the strings, he was exhausted.

But he’s alive. He’s alive, and that’s what matt—

The song ended abruptly. 

Diago thought he heard voices. He cocked his head.

A man spoke a command.

Miquel answered. “I can’t.”

The man spoke again. His tone mocked Miquel’s pain. “You will.” 

Miquel began to play.

Rage flared through Diago’s chest and into his head, almost blinding him. He clenched his jaw and pushed down his anger. He needed his mind clear.

The sounds drew closer still. Miquel’s ring was warm on Diago’s finger. Diago searched the gloom. A door appeared in the wall on his left. Cold blue light spilled across the threshold and shouldered the fog aside. Over the open door, an electric scorpion writhed and blinked in neon splendor.

Diago crept toward the entrance and peered inside. The room was gray, like the walls and the floor had been sculpted from the mist. The same lack of color that diluted the details of the bar enhanced the three figures within.

Miquel played a worn guitar, his fingertips dark with his own blood. Sweat dampened his black curls. Other than a bruise that spread across his left eye like a poison sunset, and his worn fingertips, he seemed to be all right.

Even so, Diago’s heart hammered at the sight of him. Adrenaline flooded his body with an intoxicating mixture of relief and rage.

The loud click of marbles striking wooden trays redirected his attention to the table where an angel in his mortal form sat across from a child. Diago focused on the angel first. He was the same one Estrella had described. To any human who happened to glance at him, he appeared as a beautiful man with long silver hair pulled into ponytail that cascaded down his back. A closer look revealed that he had only four fingers on each hand.

Safe within his lair, he made no attempt to hide his feet, which resembled the clawed talons of a raptor. Thick fur covered his ankles and disappeared beneath the seams of his pants. The eyes were the worst. Great crimson orbs shot through with streams of silver. He possessed no pupils, no whites.

An hourglass stood on the table. Yellow sand trickled from the top bulb into the bottom. The thin line of sand in the top half left no doubt that Diago had arrived just in time.

A mancala board was placed between the angel and the child. They used brightly colored marbles for their game pieces.

The boy chose a tray and scooped up the marbles. He counted them out and frowned at the board, tapping his fingers against the table in a slow rhythm, like a cat twitching its tail. The familiarity of the motion stunned Diago. He often did the same thing when distracted.

He is mine. And on the heels of that thought came the obvious: I have to get him out of here. He glanced at Miquel again. I have to get both of them out of here.

“Come in, Diago,” said the angel. “We have been waiting for you.”

END EXCERPT

 

Frohock has turned a love of dark fantasy and horror into tales of deliciously creepy fiction. She lives in North Carolina where she has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying.

She is the author of Miserere: An Autumn Tale and numerous short stories. Her newest series, Los Nefilim, is from Harper Voyager Impulse, and the Los Nefilim omnibus contains all three novellas: In Midnight’s Silence, Without Light or Guide, and The Second Death in one convenient book.

You can find out more about T. at her website, or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

 Order Los Nefilim for only $2.99USD on Kindle and pre-order the paperback for only $7.99USD (due for release June 14th).

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