Geoffrey Long

Bones of the Angel is a story about what happens when a fossilized angel skeleton is found in a small university town. Old relationships are brought back into the light, beliefs are re-examined, and soon the bullets start to fly. An action-arthouse piece about different types of faith, their loss and their reclaimation.

Work in Progress

This is where I'm posting excerpts as I'm going along, so keep in mind that everything on this page is Rough Draft. --G


Part One:
The Angel in the Rock
Part Two:
l'Histoire Secrete des Anges
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight


Chapter Three

God sometimes you just don't come through

God sometimes you just don't come through

Do you need a woman to look after you

God sometimes you just don't come through


I drove through the streets on my way back to Michael's, half listening to the Tori Amos song playing on the radio, but mostly lost in my own thoughts.  Outside the dirty windows of the car, the light snowfall made a kind of gentle static in the dim glow of the streetlights.  The sidewalks were essentially bare, save for the occasional early-evening window shopper or small ragtag gang of schoolkids.  Most of the kids weren't even wearing jackets; it was cold enough to snow, but too warm to amount to anything.  That was one of the weird things about Beckett being so secluded from the rest of the world: even our weather sometimes seemed like it was from another planet.

I tugged uncomfortably at my shirtsleeves as I turned the corner, all too aware that I hadn't had any occasion to wear this particular shirt since I graduated.  Since it was Two-for-Tuesday, the opening piano chords of another Tori Amos song were drifting from the radio as I pulled the car up to the stoplight at the town square.  From where I was sitting, I could see the Time Out was doing a decent business.  When the light changed, I pulled the Escort around the corner and into the parking lot in front of the cafe.  "Hold on to nothing, fast as you can, well, still, pretty good year," Tori was singing as I switched off the car and stepped out into the cool evening air.  I turned my face up to the snow and watched the flakes come down through the night and into the glow of the streetlights, watching them fall down towards me like stars tumbling from their assigned positions.

Still staring up into the sky, I opened my mouth for a moment and caught snowflakes on my tongue.  Gabriel Garcia Marquez's great novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, begins with the memory of a father taking his son to discover ice.  I remembered the first time that I read that book, back in seventh grade: when his characters discovered the preserved remains of an ancient Spanish galleon inexplicably fixed in the middle of a South American rainforest, I didn't bat an eye.  Instead, I wondered why no one had ever discovered anything like that in Beckett.  It would have been perfectly in character.

A cold wind blew through the parking lot, snapping me out of my reverie.  I reached into the Escort and pulled out my coat, the only one I owned that didn't have any holes or patches.  I slammed the door, slipped the coat on over my shoulders, and walked towards the cafˇ.  As I neared the window, Jack looked up from where he was fixing a sandwich behind the bar.  When he saw me, he broke into a wide grin and waved.  I waved back as I ducked around the side of the building and headed for the steps to the apartments.  Michael and I were late and I didn't want to keep Vicky waiting.

I didn't bother going up the steps.  I rang the doorbell for Michael's apartment, and almost instantly I heard the door slam upstairs.  A moment later he came galloping down the stairs in a pristine, freshly-pressed black suit with a black collarless shirt.   He glared at me from behind his still-gleaming glasses.

"For Christ's sake, Pi," he said.  "Where've you been?  We're supposed to be there in ten minutes!  Come on, I'll drive."  He produced the spare set of keys from his pocket with a jingle.  Wordlessly, I pocketed the set I'd used to get there, shoved my hands in the pockets of my coat, and followed him with a silent smile.


"Jesus Christ, will you look at this place?" I remarked softly as we brushed the snow off our coats in the entryway.

"Relax, Pi," Michael said quietly as he smoothed out his sleeves.  "Just be cool.  And try not to look so uncomfortable in that tie."

"Yes, sir," I muttered, but my cynicism soon evaporated in the face of the sheer luxury of the restaurant.  Chez Rashi was decorated in lavish red and gold, with beautiful embroidered tapestries hanging on every wall.  Each tapestry depicted a different sign of the zodiac, crafted from rich threads in all the most brilliant shades of the rainbow, and they seemed to glitter in the candlelight from each table.  The tables themselves were ornately carved from a dark walnut that seemed to grow out of the hardwood floor, which was so polished the customers seemed to be dining on black ice.  The tables were covered with pristine white tablecloths, set with gleaming china and silver settings, and the guests' faces were cast into mimelike masks of light and shadow by the chiaroscuro of the candlelight.    Indian music played softly beneath the din of refined chatter, and the sharp smell of exquisite curry sliced through the thick scent of dozens of designer perfumes mixing in the still air.  Everywhere you looked, you caught the gleam of jewels and gold flashing from earlobes and ring fingers and scooped necklines, the sleek silhouettes of designer suits and dresses tracing the sharp edges of the bodies underneath, and the cold shine of elitist eyes assessing you from every corner.

I glanced down at my shoes, the scuffed old black loafers I'd had since high school, and the thin webwork of the worn socks sticking up out of them.  I noticed that I could see the pink skin of my ankles through the socks, and the hemline of my trousers was high enough to keep them from getting wet if God were suddenly to renege on his promise to Noah.  I suddenly became aware that the bright red tie I was wearing was undoubtedly entirely the wrong color to be acceptable this season, that the black of my coat obviously didn't match the faded black of my much-more-worn trousers, and that I was the only person in the room whose hair wasn't slicked back like a leading man on a daytime soap opera.  I glanced worriedly at Michael.  He'd slicked his own hair down so much that he looked like he'd just come out of a swimming pool, but he eyed the crowd with such cold confidence, or perhaps it was merely sheer indifference, that no one gave him a second glance.  I, on the other hand, stuck out like a garbage collector at a society ball.  I shoved my hands deeper in my pockets, set my jaw and scanned the room fiercely for Vicky, of whom I could find no trace.

"May I help you, gentlemen?"  I turned to look at the maitre'd, who was regarding me with the same look of wary contempt that one might give a small child in a china shop.

"We're supposed to be meeting someone," I replied.

He cocked an eyebrow at me.  "And who would that be, sir?"

"A Miss Ravenswood," Michael said, stepping forward.  "A Miss Victoria Ravenswood."

The maitre'd turned his disapproving stare at Michael, sized him up in a moment, then sniffed disdainfully.  "I see.  I believe she's waiting for you in the private room."

"Of course she is," Michael replied coldly, but the maitre'd didn't bat an eye.  "Now, if you would be so kind, we don't want to keep the lady waiting any longer than is absolutely necessary."

"Of course not, sir," the maitre'd said, with a bit more respect in his voice.  "Right this way, sir."

I looked at Michael with a pang of jealousy.  Silently I cursed him as I followed him and the maitre'd to the private room, feeling every pair of disapproving eyes following me as we went. 

When we reached the rear of the restaurant, the maitre'd led us down a small hallway past the kitchen and stopped before a small, unmarked door.  "I believe your party is right through here, sir," the maitre'd said coolly, then bowed at the waist and stepped past us.

"Thank you," Michael said to his retreating back.  Michael looked at me and nodded, then opened the door.  He stepped through, and I followed close behind him.

As the door clicked shut behind us, we were greeted first by the cold air, and then by the thick smell of the garbage.  I blinked my eyes a few times to adjust to the sudden darkness of the alley behind the restaurant.  I wasn't sure whether to laugh or be furious, so I looked at Michael, who was standing in an oily puddle of ooze beside an overflowing dumpster.  For a moment, he just stood there, stunned, and then obviously selected the latter option.

He brushed past me and seized the door handle, but the door was locked. "Come on, Pi," he growled, and stormed off down the alley.  I followed him out into the parking lot and back around to the front of the building.  Michael threw the door open with a flourish and strode into the entryway.  I could almost see the cold steam rolling from his ears as I followed him into the entryway and back up to the podium where the maitre'd was standing, regarding him with a prissy little smile.

"Is there some kind of problem, sir?"  The maitre'd looked down his long nose at Michael and sniffed again.  "I trust you found your proper seating without any difficulty?"

"Listen to me," Michael said quietly.  "My name is Michael Coldman, of the Coldman Oil family.  This is my associate, Pi St. John, of the St. John family who founded this city and, I might add, still has a great deal of influence in the city council.  We are here to dine with our host, Miss Vicky Ravenswood, who I'm sure you already know is the daughter of Vincent Ravenswood the Fourth, head of the Ravenswood Corporation, who also happens to own this establishment.  Any one of us has enough connections to ensure that you, sir, could be reporting to work tomorrow mopping the ejaculate off the floor of a girly show theater in Queens."  Michael leaned forward, so that he was staring the maitre'd straight in the eyes.  "If you do not believe me, I suggest that you locate Miss Ravenswood here in your establishment and ask her for yourself.  It is my most heartfelt belief that by doing so, sir, you will simultaneously discover that I am correct, and any further bullshit on your part will guarantee your seat on the next available flight into LaGuardia.  Sir."

As Michael spoke, all the blood drained from the maitre'd's face.  "I do not believe that will be necessary," he said softly.  "Miss Ravenswood is waiting for you in, ah, the other private dining room."

"I'm sure she is," Michael said.  "If you would be so kind as to take us to her, sir, I am sure that all parties would be most grateful indeed."

The maitre'd nodded.  "Right away, sir."

Michael nodded back.  "Good man."  He turned to me as the maitre'd hurriedly moved off through the restaurant.  "Shall we, Pi?"

I nodded.  All that bit about my family still having some pull with the city council was basically bullshit, of course, but it had produced the desired effect.  I silently wished I could be that much of an asshole sometimes, but then I put the thought out of my head as we followed the maitre'd through the restaurant for a second time, our heads held high.  This time, I ignored the stares and concentrated instead on what I would say when I met with the daughter of the richest bastard in town for the second time that day.

This time, the maitre'd led us down a hallway in the opposite direction, which was lined with paintings and photographs of Beckett in the 1920's.  I checked out each of the photographs in turn, searching for some sign of a relative, but I could find none.  Instead, one photograph was of a gentleman standing in front of what was obviously the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  I paused for a second in front of that one, and with a bit of a shock I realized that the gentleman in the photograph had the same cheekbones as Vicky.  So, I thought to myself glumly.  Even in the city history Ravenswood has managed to edit us out and edit his family in. 

Then the maitre'd was ushering us through another door, and this time we found ourselves in a small dining hall, decorated elegantly in the same lush motif as the rest of the restaurant but situated beneath a wide, arched ceiling.  The far wall was comprised enitrely of picture windows looking out over the lake, and in the middle of the dining hall was a single table with three chairs.  Seated at that table, dressed in a very beautiful blue dress and reading a book by candlelight, was Vicky.

"Miss Ravenswood," the maitre'd announced humbly, "your guests have arrived."

She looked up from her book, and her face lit up in a bright smile.  "Hello again!" she beamed, setting down her book and standing up to greet us.  "You didn't have any trouble finding the place, did you?"

Michael shot the maitre'd a look.  "No," he said calmly.   "No trouble at all."

The maitre'd bowed low at the waist.  "Sir," he said quietly, then turned and took his leave.

"You must be Michael Coldman," Vicky was saying.  "You have no idea what a pleasure it is to meet you."

Michael stepped over to her and took her hand.  "The pleasure is all mine," he said, kissing her hand lightly. 

She smiled, slightly embarrassed.  "Hello again, Pi," she said to me.  "Thank you for coming."   

"Thank you for having us," I said, smiling uncomfortably.  "You look very nice tonight."

"Thank you," she said, and smiled.  "And you look very uncomfortable.  For Christ's sake, Pi, take that tie off."

I stared at her for a moment, then laughed out loud.  As soon as I did so, the tension broke, and the three of us settled down around the table.  I reached up and wrestled the knot free as Michael turned to Vicky.

"So," he said, "Pi tells me that you've read our book."

 "Certainly," she said, and she picked the book she'd been reading up off the table.  There it was: the slim volume with Michael's name on the cover, printed in gold foil over top of one of my drawings.  "I was just boning up on it a little before you got here.  Great stuff."

"A bit dry, I'd imagine," Michael shrugged, "but it started out as a purely academic paper, remember.  In any case, I'm sure you didn't ask us here tonight to discuss New England folk legends."

Vicky smiled.  "You're right, Mr. Coldman."

 He held up a hand.  "Call me Michael."

"Michael, then," she nodded.  "I trust Pi here has told you about the recent discovery at my father's excavation site?"

Michael frowned and looked at me.  "No...?"

"Good. I hate it when someone steals my thunder." She reached into her purse and pulled out an envelope, which she laid on the table. She put her hand on it to slide it over to Michael, then stopped. "Are you..." She didn't look at him. "Are you a religious man?"

Michael snorted. "Religion is the opiate of the masses," he growled.

"Here we go," I groaned under my breath.

"In my opinion, Miss Ravenswood, a man should be able to pick and choose which kernels of timeless wisdom actually apply to the world as it is. The ten commandments may be good ideas, a fine sociological framework for getting along with your fellow humans with limited resources, as well as an excellent example of how most modern religions are merely literary metaphors for a somewhat foolish argument that we as a species are somehow something more than the animals we are, but I do not believe that I will rot in hell for all eternity if I happen to imagine my neighbor's wife in the latest fashions from Victoria's Secret."

"So the Bible, then...?"

"The Bible, then, may be considered an excellent literary work, a spectacular piece of writing, one of the most influential philosophical treatises ever written, and the greatest fable the world has ever known."

"A fairy tale, then."

"Your words, Miss Ravenswood, not mine."

"Call me Vicky," she said with an odd smile. She slid the envelope across the table with one finger. "Open it."

Michael looked at her quizzically, searching her face for any further clues, but she only smiled that strange smile. I slid my chair over beside him as he slid his finger under the flap. Inside were half a dozen Polaroids. Michael pulled them out and turned them over in his hands.

The first picture was a wall of rock, with a large section in the middle of the shot cordoned off with yellow security tape. Spotlights had been set up on both sides of the area, and were pointed at the center of the wall.

The second picture was a close-up of the center of the wall. Michael squinted at it. In the middle of the shot was what looked like the bones of a hand, its fingers splayed wide open. "An archaeological dig? Where were these taken?"

"Downtown," Vicky replied, "at the excavation site."

"How far down were they digging?"

"Deep. Very deep."

The next picture was of a computer screen. Someone had been doing some kind of X-raying or radar scanning of the wall. In light blue relief against a dark navy was a more detailed outline of the bones in the hand. The picture was a close-up, almost an overlay of its predecessor.

"Interesting," Michael said. "High resolution computed tomography... Looks like your father's bringing in some specialized toys."

"Actually, the specialists brought the toys with them."

Michael glanced at her. "Who did you say these specialists were again?"

"There's a team of them," she said, "but the alpha male is a Harvard professor, Dr. Simon Blacknail."

Michael froze. "Blacknail?"

"Do you know him?"

I cleared my throat. "Michael studied under Dr. Blacknail. He did two years at Harvard before transferring to Beckett."

"Well, then," she said brightly, "I'm sure you two will have plenty of catching up to do."

"Plenty," Michael said. It sounded like he was being strangled.

"Ah, Vicky," I said, "Blacknail's specialty is religion, isn't it? Shouldn't this be handled by an archaeologist?"

Her smile disappeared. "Look at the last picture."

Michael flipped it over in his fingers, and froze. The last photo was another X-ray scan of the rock wall, but this was a full-body shot of the skeleton. It had been caught, somehow, in a mostly upright stance, with its elbows bent and its hands up by its shoulders, as if it were pressing out against something. Its head was bowed, its legs held close together, and the magnificent set of skeletal wings that extended out from its shoulders were stretched so wide that they didn't fit in the frame.

"Answer the question?" Vicky whispered. "Now, who's hungry?"