missing kid

We’re at a diner in a small town I definitely won’t name. We’re not in California, and we’re not in the desert and that’s all you get.

It’s quiet here, and too secretive to be exactly sleepy. Honestly it sort of reminds me of home, which was my first indicator that this was going to be a case. See, sometimes when we follow a lead the Hawthornes do some sniffing around in a town, find nothing, and move on. But this place has that same misty, mossy quietness that home used to, so I just sort of knew this one was going to be the real deal.

It started with a google alert on Julian’s phone, passed between them in the front seat. They didn’t even discuss it they just switched highways and kept driving.

I’m not completely how their system works. I know they get calls from people sometimes, but often it’s just a ding on their phone. In this case it was a small town with a history of unexplained disappearances. That must have been how they found Black Lake too. Madelyn’s story got just a little national coverage.

We drove all night and got here early yesterday morning.

Neal, who’d been driving most of the night, was laid out on the booth bench across from us, but Julian was indulging me, explaining the case. I thought they might revert to keeping me totally in the dark after the vampire incident last week, but actually it seems to have had the opposite effect. So now I’m getting hunting for dummies. It’s awesome.

“Someone in town knows something that will help us find the kid,” Julian was saying. “Trick is to get them to tell us. Sometimes it’s best to impersonate some authority — FBI, for example. In this case, that sounds like more trouble than it’s worth. There’s already been other disappearances in the area. There was another just six months ago, but they never found a body,” Julian said.

“Which is why we should be good to go FBI,” Neal said from under his arm. “No bodies. Might not be murder. FBI might never show up.”

“Right on the border between states like this?” Julian replied. “Wealthy family? It’s already getting national coverage.”

Neal just grumbled.

As they were speaking the door bell rang and a sleepy, bundled group of people came into the diner. One of them called for coffees all the way around and the waitress replied that everything was on the house for the search party.

“Search party?” I suggested, glancing at Julian.

Julian shrugged a shoulder. “Yeah alright,” he said. “Maybe not the most efficient way to get close to people, but I can think of worse.”

Neal groaned and turned over. Lazy bastard. I of course loved the idea because there was no reason I couldn’t join a search party same as they could.

An hour later we were tramping through the woods off the road where this kid disappeared.

According the other searchers this is the story:

Braydon Summerson, a twelve year old last seen in a puffy red down jacket, was riding his bike up towards the water tower with some of his friends when a white car cut them off on the road and a man in a ski mask pulled a gun on them. He wanted to know where they were going, and when Braydon answered the man demanded Braydon get in the car with him. The kid did what he was told and his friends, terrified, rode their bikes back to the nearest of their houses and called the police.

“What was Braydon going to show his friends?” Neal asked. The woman telling the story wasn’t a police officer, she was a school bus driver volunteering.

She shrugged. “No idea,” she said. “You know how kids are.” She fixed them with a look. “Who did you say you boys were exactly?”

“Oh we’re the Johnson’s cousins,” Julian said easily and the woman nodded as if this made sense.

Only when she was out of earshot did Neal say, “We need to talk to those boys.”

Easier said than done. Turns out when there’s some guy out there kidnapping boys at gun point there isn’t a great opening to approach them. So that’s our current dead end. In the meantime we’ve done some background research on the town.

The first disappearance was thirty years ago or so. A little boy, Fred Ericson, vanished out in the woods in the late 80s and was never seen again. He was out playing with a friend and apparently just disappeared. There was no man in a mask in that story. There was no one else at all — one moment there were two boys in the woods the next there was one.

“Does it say who the friend was?” Neal asked, leaning over Julian’s shoulder to read the article on his ipad.

“No names,” Julian said. “We’ll have to ask around.”

Which meant going to the library, only it was too late at that point. We spent all damn day out in the woods trying to learn something about the disappearance. So instead we came here for dinner. We’ll pick up the case again tomorrow.

drinks

Soooo the Hawthornes decided that the triplets should be allowed to meet their mortal parents based on their behavior the other night.

I haven’t told them about the biting incident with Jess. I don’t know what to say about it. She’s so excited to see her parents. And like it wasn’t even like… bad after that thing happened. It’s not like I stormed out of there, you know? It’s not like I made any indication that I was freaked out.

I mean I did tell her to stop drinking my blood and she didn’t. But then I slept in their big ass bed with them and everything was fine so like… fuck I don’t know what to do. And like we were drunk. I don’t want to keep her from seeing her parents because of a stupid mistake. It’s not like I kicked and screamed or anything.

Also I mean it’s not like she dragged me out into that hallway!!! I definitely was trying to make out!! Like she’s a vampire what was I expecting to happen?

Fuck listen to me. Facts are I genuinely don’t know what would have happened if someone hadn’t happened to walk into that alley. Hahaha ok like even writing that feels super dramatic. I probably would have been fine!!!!! What was she gonna do, drain me dry???? (maybe)

LATER

Oh god I made a mess of things. Oh god oh god

So the whole parent interview was all set up. It was like almost six, the sun was almost down and Leopoldo gathered the triplets upstairs in the airy part of the mansion.

“Alright,” he said, looking seriously between them. “When you see them you’re going to feel a great rush of emotions. It’s hard to interact with people from our past lives. They bring up old feelings, often magnified. It may strain the self control you’ve been learning these last years, but from what the Hawthornes have seen and from what I have seen, I think you’re ready.” He smiled. “You’re not going to hurt them.” Then he gestured for the woman behind him to come forward. She was carrying a pitcher of dark viscous liquid. “That said,” he continued, “I thought you’d like to drink before your parents arrive. Just to be safe.”

Valentina and Caitlin got eagerly to their feet but Jess just smiled serenely and said, “that’s alright. I’m not thirsty.”

Leopold beamed at her and patted her cheek proudly. Jess winked at me conspiratorially and my stomach clenched.

“Neal?” I said quietly, turning to face him. “Can I talk to you?”

“This thing’s about to happen,” he replied. “Give me like —”

“Right now,” I said and he pricked an eyebrow and glanced down at me. Then he nudged Julian and they both followed me down the tall, white halls and out into the front yard.

“What’s up?” Julian asked, totally casual. Neal looked a bit impatient.

I didn’t know how to begin. I cracked my knuckles and hugged myself. I was fidgeting and couldn’t make eye contact and I knew it was making me look guilty but I couldn’t stop.

“Shiloh?” Julian said. I found myself smiling apologetically.

“Okay,” I said. “So the other night —” I began and saw their expressions darken, as if they already knew what I was going to say. The Panic amped up.

“What happened?” Neal growled.

I took a deep breath and said goodbye to ever being allowed to come on a case again. “I let Jess drink from me,” I said, pulling back my collar to show them the mark. “I was drunk and… and I wanted to know what it would be like so when she asked I said yes.”

“Jesus, Shiloh —” Neal began but Julian must have understood faster because he held up a hand and Neal shut up.

I took a deep breath and spoke to Julian. He was very calm. “It was okay at first, but then I sorta panicked and asked her to stop? And she didn’t?” I didn’t know how explain the crushing terror that she was going to drain me like an otter pop, or the intense relief when someone came into the alley and she had to stop, but luckily the silence must have explained on it’s own.

“Okay,” Julian said after a moment. “You did the right thing telling us.” He looked me right in the eye when he said it and I felt a rush of relief. But then I looked at Neal and saw The Rage and wanted to dig into the earth and stay in there with the worms.

Julian must have noticed too, because he turned away from me to speak to Neal. “You got it?” he said quietly.

Neal nodded mutely and strode purposefully inside.

“Wait, I mean she did stop eventually —”

I started to follow but Julian intercepted me with a hand on my shoulder.

“I think it’s best you stay out here,” he said gently.

“What’s he going to do?” I asked.

“Put a stop to this meeting,” Julian said. “The girls aren’t ready.”

Que the wave of guilt. “It wasn’t her fault,” I said. “I let her drink.”

Julian took a moment before he bent to get a good look at me. “Look,” he said. “I understand you want to take some responsibility. But agreeing to let her drink was not license for her to take whatever she wanted.”

“But she wants to see her parents,” I said. I thought I might cry and really didn’t want to.

“She will, someday,” Julian said. “When she’s ready. But if she can’t listen to you, she’s not ready. She doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but that doesn’t mean she won’t, and until we can be certain that she has complete control over herself under any circumstance she’s not ready to be around people.”

I looked up at the huge house. Behind me in the street a car pulled up. “I feel terrible,” I told Julian.

“It’s not your fault,” he said.

“I don’t think she’s a bad person,” I said. “Or… vampire, or whatever.”

Julian shrugged. “That’s not really for us to judge,” he said. “But she hurt you, whether she meant to or not.”

He was right. Even then I felt a bit woozy.

“Come on,” Julian said. “Let’s go.”

“We’re not going back in?”

“Nah,” Julian said. “Neal will handle it.”

I don’t know how it went in the house. Neal was tight lipped and angry when he met us at the car. He slammed himself into the seat and started the car.

“Everything handled?” Julian asked.

Neal nodded tightly. He caught my eye in the rearview. “Good?” he asked. I nodded and he pulled off the curb and we drove away and that was that.

making my way downtown

I’m so fucking hungover. I have never been so hungover in my life including last new years when we were all winnowed.

Also I feel… I don’t know, I feel weird it was a weird night I just — fuck ok

So after we left the vampire house on Monday I told Julian and Neal what the triplets were like and they thought it was fucking hilarious. Apparently young vampires have huge appetites and the triplets are being weaned off daily feeding right now, so they were like extra weird and spooky that day.

“Vampires get super bizarre when they don’t eat,” Neal explained. “They aren’t getting as much blood to their brains, so their bodies supply more venom to keep themselves functioning, but the problem is that… well, the venom makes them act less human than blood does.”

“They’ll feed tonight,” Julian said. “They’ll be less creepy tomorrow.”

And they were right. Yesterday when we got to the vampire house at dusk the triplets met me at the door, and they definitely seemed less likely to devour me. It was sort of weird though, they greeted me super enthusiastically, like hopping around and talking to me really quickly like we were old friends. You know how little kids will get super excited when you come over to babysit, even if you’ve only babysat them like once or twice? Same energy.

So we go back down to their bedroom, which, again, I can’t stress this enough — it’s literally 2003 in there. Don’t get me wrong, ya girl can get down to some Avril Lavigne and Vanessa Carlton but it was weird.

“This is so bogus,” said Jess, flicking through clothes in their closet to find something for me to wear. They were wearing these t-shirts with their names in bubble letters across the boobs so I could tell them apart. “Obviously they’re just testing us to see if we’re going to eat someone.”

Valentina, lounging in the hot pink armchair in the corner and flicking through her iPhone, added, “We’re not monsters. We have self control. Like obviously we’re not going to eat anyone.”

“Not unless they want us to,” said Caitlin, grinning.

Valentina’s acrylic nails made little tapping noises on her phone screen as she scrolled. Also, and I really think this is worth mentioning — she’d somehow managed to attach phone jewelry to her iPhone case? Like did she glue it? Idk but it was so tacky that it crossed over from tacky back to awesome.

Jess pulled out the ugliest fucking dress I’ve ever seen. White jersey tube top with like… a flapper skirt? It was horrifying. She said, “omg, this would be, like, perfect for you Shiloh.”

And because I’m sadistic, I said, “yeah, okay.”

I let them do my hair and makeup, too. Madelyn and I used to do makeovers when we were little, and for school dances and whatever, so it’s not like I’m foreign to the girls-making-each-other-pretty genre of feminine bonding. But still, there was definitely something like… intimate about Jess leaning down close to me, tickling my face with brushes and powders. They passed around a bottle of peach schnapps and discussed make-up theory in great detail. At one point Jess said, “god you smell so good.”

Now looking back, I definitely know she was talking to me the way I might talk to, say, a lasagna. But at the time I felt that little rustle of butterflies as she studied my mouth, running a wand of gloss over my lower lip, biting her own in concentration.

It was pretty soon after that that the alarms started going off in my head: I’M TOO GAY FOR THIS. But it was too late. Jess was smiling and pulling me in front of the mirror to see myself.

I looked ridiculous of course. That horrible dress, pink platform strappy sandals, sticky lip gloss that made my lips tingle. They’d straightened my hair board straight. Look I’ve seen Mean Girls. I get it. I still looked terrible.

The triplets disagreed. “Omg you look amaaazinngggg,” they cooed. We all posed in the mirror for photos. Apparently the whole no reflections, no photos for vampires thing is a myth, because we took like a thousand photos complete with coordinated poses and gestures. It was embarrassing but I was sort of caught up in the fun of it, you know? It all felt surreal.

I’d been so involved with the dress-up aspect that I sorta forgot that I was gonna have to leave the room, but eventually we did have to go rejoin the others. Neal about cracked a rib trying not to laugh at me.

And then off we went. The Hawthornes pulled me aside before we left and basically gave me the dad speech. Keep your phone on, if we get separated meet back at the car, keep an eye on my drinks, don’t drink too much blah blah blah.

There was a limo waiting for us outside the vampire house. I climbed into the back with the triplets, and a few of the other vampires and the Hawthornes all joined as well.

I was already sort of buzzed from the schnapps but I was hot and thirsty so when Jess popped champagne I drank it like it was water. After that everything goes sort of blurry.

We went to a few different clubs, but they all sort of blurred together. You know. Low lights, loud music. In the mansion the triplets had seemed sort of tragically out of sync with current fashion but now that we were out I understood that it didn’t matter what they wore. No mere mortal being could compare to these creatures and I was just lucky to be a part of their circle for the night.

We danced. It was fun. I never imagined I’d be the sort of person who bypassed lines and walked right into exclusive LA clubs but here I was, taking vodka shots and dancing between Jess and Valentina and making sultry eye contact with sleazy, coked-out LA dudes across the dance floor.

“He’s looking at you,” Jess shouted in my ear, gesturing over my head. My drunk ass barely even looked at the guy. I didn’t care about the guy. It was Jess that I was dancing with, Jess who smelled like vanilla and jasmine, who’s hair kept fluttering against my neck.

“Let’s get him to come over here,” she said, and I said “What?” and then she kissed me.

Nevermind that it’s 2019 and we don’t make out with girls to get guys attention anymore. Like literally that is the most 2002 thinking on this earth. And as if to prove my point that guy looked sorta sheepish and disappointed and turned back to his drink. I didn’t care obviously, because I’m a real actual bi and I didn’t want that crusty dude coming over anyways. Jess tasted like peach schnapps and idk drugs or something. It must be a vampire thing.

“Huh,” Jess said. “That always used to work.” And then she kissed me again which was siiiick.

Then things get a little fuzzy. I’m not really sure how we ended up in the alley behind the club. We were both sorta stumbling and sloppy and making out. Jess’ heels made loud clicking sounds on the concrete.

Jess pulled away briefly and said, “can I bite you?”

“…like…drink my blood?” I asked and she grinned, showing teeth.

“Yeah,” she said. “Is that okay?”

“Uhh,” I began, shrinking back against the alley wall and she laughed.

“No, I won’t hurt you,” she said. “Just a little bite. I’ll get a little taste, and you’ll get some venom. It feels awesome. Best high of your life.”

I knew it was a bad idea. I could practically hear the Hawthornes in my head being like the fuck Shiloh, absolutely not. But Jess was really tall and her lipgloss was super sticky and I was curious. How often do you get the chance to be bitten by a vampire? Also — and I really can’t stress this enough — I was drunk. I mean WASTED.

“Okay,” I said and Jess leaned down to kiss my shoulder. I felt just the slightest prick. And then, a feeling like falling through water.

“Whoa,” I said. Jess laughed.

It literally was the best high of my life. I can’t even describe it. It was like floating with sun shining on your face. But then, distantly, I felt my knees buckle.

“Wait,” I said. I had my hand on her shoulder and I gave her a little push. “Stop,” I said. And maybe she didn’t hear me? Or maybe I wasn’t as insistent as I thought I was being? I don’t know, but one way or another she didn’t stop. Well, I mean she did eventually, I’m not dead. It’s just that like, for a minute there I really realized that like I wasn’t in control of what was going on and it was sort of scary. K it was really scary. I literally wondered if maybe I should be fighting harder, realized there was nothing I could do, thought, not as bad as last time I died, definitely better than last time.

But then a door opened down the alley from us and she stopped. She wiped my blood off her lip and sucked it off her finger. She still had me pinned up against the alley-wall, like we were just two girls kissing outside the club.

“Amazing, right?” she said. She laughed and flung her head back. “I love being a vampire!” she shouted and I put a clumsy hand over her mouth, trying to shush her, and when she released me my legs gave out and I landed on my butt in the alley. Jess lurched to catch me too late.

“Are you okay?” she asked. She was smiling very wide and my blood was still in her teeth.

That’s the last thing I remember until hours later. We were in the limo again. I was leaning on Jess and laughing a lot. Leopold was saying he could drop us off at our hotel, and I was wailing that I wanted to spend the night with the triplets. Some time after that I remember getting into that gigantic bed with them. I remember lying there with my head on the crook of Jess’ elbow. I remember her sighing and saying, “can you believe that we’re going to see mom and dad this week?”

“I can’t believe it,” said Valentina.

“I miss them so much,” Caitlin added.

Then I fell asleep. And now I’m just like the most hungover person who has ever existed. I feel so fucking sick. Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh

la la land

So our job — I say our, but I only mean it in the loosest sense because I’m pretty sure Neal really is going to make me sit in the hotel room the whole time — is in a city I can’t tell you about obviously because I can’t get caught but like I don’t feel like you’ll really understand what’s happening unless you know where I am, you know? Like this is one of those cities where the stuff that happens here can only really happen here.

A hint: lots of… rich people are here. Palm trees. Movies. Beaches. Brunch. Lol look if you haven’t figured out we’re in LA I don’t know what to tell you.

(I’m really counting on no one reading this hahahaha)

I’m literally writing this from a coffee shop in Hollywood. It’s wILD here. I feel like such a small town brat. It’s not really the way I imagined it, you know? Like I usually imagine cities to be like… tall? Everything is low to the ground and sprawling and there’s nowhere to park and it’s super sunny.

Neal and Julian are a few blocks up interviewing our… clients? Idk what to call them exactly but in this case client is a close enough descriptor.

Hahahaha I’m so excited I can barely type. Fam it’s VAMPIRES. As in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, straight up VAMPIRES.

K I’m over simplifying. Julian explained it this morning as we drove into town.

“What people call vampires is actually a number of different species of creature,” he said, navigating smoothly through the morning traffic. “The different species have varying levels of… I mean I hate to say intelligence, but that’s basically what I mean.”

“So what species are we dealing with today?” I asked, mouth full of drive-through breakfast burrito.

“This is a very old and established coven of highly respected vampires,” Julian said. “They aren’t killers, and they don’t turn anyone without permission, so they’ve been allowed to amass a great deal of wealth and power over the many years they’ve been here. We pretty much live and let live with this particular family — so long as they don’t hurt anyone.”

“Not that we’d be able to do much if they did start hurting people,” Neal said darkly.

“So why do they need us then?” I asked.

“Apparently they’ve run into some issues with a recent turn,” Julian said.

“Did they go bad?” I asked. I might have been a little overeager. All my cool new hunter IDs miiight have gone to my head a little bit. “Have they been exsanguinating people? Are we going to have to hunt them down?”

Neal rolled his eyes. “Your enthusiasm doesn’t inspire much confidence in your hunting maturity.”

Julian laughed. “They didn’t go bad,” he said. “Apparently the new turns are triplets, and their human parents found them by accident, and now they all want to be reintroduced to each other. Trouble is, young vampires are notoriously unpredictable. Leopold wants us there to help negotiate with the girl’s former family. Make sure nothing gets out of hand. It should be an easy case.”

“…so easy I can come along?” I asked.

And now Neal and Julian meet with the Vampire coven to get a better idea of what they’re dealing with while I sit here in a coffee shop, blogging.

So annoying.

But Julian did suggest that depending on how things go I might get to meet the vamps tonight.

later

Ok, I’m on my way out the door, but I just want to update you really quickly.

The boys picked me up from the coffee shop after like an hour and brought me RIGHT TO THE VAMPIRES LAIR. Lol it was absolutely not dramatic at all. They live in this huge house in Beverly Hills, an airy, pillared white mansion. There was an enormous fountain in the entry way of the house. I’ve never seen a place like it it was insane. I felt like a mouse in a castle, but the Hawthornes have apparently been around or something because they greeted the housekeeper by name and seemed utterly unimpressed by the enormous chandelier hanging over our head.

We went downstairs. Apparently that whole situation with vampires and sunlight is the real deal because the vampires themselves were underground in the windowless basement. It was an enormous room. There were maybe ten of them, lounging around on pillows. One of them, a long pale creature, was smoking from a hookah. Another was painting a scroll.

The boys introduced me to the vampire seated almost at the center of the room, a tall, pale man in an ornate velvet bathrobe.

“Shiloh, this is Leopold Sara, head of this coven,” Julian said.

The man offered me a long, pale hand, and I took it. His skin was cold and dry.

He wasn’t like… inhumanly beautiful or anything, but there was definitely something inhuman about him. He was strangely still, and each of his movements seemed very deliberate. I even noticed when he blinked, because it seemed so intentional.

“You have the smell of death on you,” he said. He had a dry, whispery voice I didn’t particularly like. Or maybe I just didn’t like being told I smelled like death. “You’re the girl people have been whispering about.”

“Shiloh is under our care,” Julian said. His tone was measured and careful.

“She is young, like the triplets were young before we turned them,” Leopold said. He had just the memory of an accent, maybe European. “They are in the back room, would you care to join them?”

I glanced at Neal and he nodded me off towards one of the doors. It crossed my mind that maybe I didn’t want to go wandering off into the depths of a vampiric cavern, but I figured Neal and Julian are so annoyingly cautious the last thing I wanted to do was balk the moment they actually let me do anything. So I went in the direction they indicated, through an archway and down a short hall.

When I opened the door at the end of it, it was onto an utterly different scene.

It was like I’d walked off the set of Pride and Prejudice and into Paris Hilton’s bedroom circa 2003. Three tall, thin girls were sitting on the high, enormous bed. They all looked up at me at the exact same moment. They were identical. It was honestly terrifying.

I said, “Uhh, hi. I’m Shiloh.”

And they all said, at the same time, like some kind of terrifying satanic choir: “are you here to feed us?”

To which I was like “NO, NOPE, LEOPOLD JUST SENT ME.” And they all sighed and leaned back across the bed, a tangle of long thin limbs.

“I’m so hungry,” said one.

“I’m always so hungry,” said another.

“I could eat this whole city,” said the third.

Vampire triplets. Terrifying.

One of them said, “I’m Jess, and these are my sisters, Valentina and Caitlin.” She didn’t indicate which sister was which, but it didn’t matter because I couldn’t tell them apart anyways. “What do you do?”

“Mostly I just sit in the back of the Hawthorne’s car,” I said. “They kidnapped me.”

The first one, Jess, sat up on her elbows to get a better look at me.

“That’s funny,” she said.

“That’s so funny,” said the second.

“You’re funny,” said the third.

None of them were laughing.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Jess said. “We thought being vampires would be fun, but it’s sooo boring.”

“It’s so boring,” said Valentina and Caitlin together.

“We feed tonight, but I think we’re going out tomorrow,” Jess said. She grinned, showing off sharp canines. “Leopold says we’ve been so good we can finally go out, as long as it isn’t like last time.”

“It won’t be like last time,” said the second.

“Nothing will be like last time,” the third sighed wistfully which was ominous.

“You should party with us,” Jess said.

“You should totally party with us,” the other two said in unison.

So creepy.

My instinct was to be like nah, I’m good, I prefer living and being alive, but then I remembered that I’m in LA and I have a brand new fake ID just waiting to be tested.

So instead I said, “yeah, that sounds great.”

They slid like liquid off the bed and came towards me, smiling and weirdly fast.

“I hope you have clothes,” said one.

“She can borrow some of ours,” said another.

“She’d look so good in that pink tube top,” said the third. I couldn’t tell which one was Jess anymore.

I was starting to feel like I was being circled by sharks when the door opened again and all three whipped around to see who had come in.

It was Leopold and the Hawthornes.

The triplets grinned and bounded towards Leopold. It was weirdly puppyish.

“Shiloh said she’d come out with us tomorrow,” said one.

“Isn’t that awesome,” said another.

“It’s so awesome,” said the third.

“That’s okay, isn’t it?” said the first and all three of them looked up at him with big, pale eyes. I couldn’t tell if it was funny or terrifying.

Leopold looked up at me. “You really want to go?”

I mean my guts were screaming in rebellion, but these girls were something ELSE man, I was too curious to back down. Plus, I couldn’t let the Hawthornes think I was scared. “Yeah,” I said.

“Wonderful,” Leopold said. “We’ll all go. You can see how the triplets have progressed.” This he aimed at Neal and Julian.

“Great,” Neal said, utterly unenthusiastic.

Hahahahahahahaha wish me luck

on the road again

Well it’s official. Paige Bell, 21 year old Scorpio, is born. According to her passport photo, she has a bad attitude and grown out roots. I have health insurance — at least cryptozoologists get free health care am I right — and a drivers license hahahahahaaha me with a driver’s license that’s a whole disaster.

Neal got a call yesterday so we have a case. I feel sort of like this is my first case, even though Neal assures me that I will not be participating at all despite my fancy new identification.

“But I have health care now!” I whined but he wasn’t hearing it.

On the one hand I’m sad to be leaving. Bass has turned out to be excellent company, and you never know what kind of creature’s gonna end up here. I feel like I’m getting a very slow, drunken education about what exists in the world.

On the other hand I’m relieved to be on the road again. I had a nightmare last night and woke up screaming, which brought people knocking on my door. Which isn’t to say I exactly prefer sharing a motel room with Neal and Julian, but at least I don’t have to explain myself. It feels good to be on the move. I was starting to get the itch to move on.

drunk, lazy, hummingbird

Okay the Red Rock Inn? Bruh it’s a PARTY. The Hawthornes had me out here thinking it was gonna be scary and dangerous or whatever, but literally it’s awesome. We just like lounge around and drink. Marcus, the bartender, is trying to “make a drinker out of me” by which I mean he’s trying to convince me that I like drinking straight bourbon. He keeps pouring different ones into glasses and saying “that’ll put some hair on your chest”. I’ve been buzzed since Monday night.

Also there’s a pool in the back, between the bar and the rooms. I pretty much float around all day with Bass. Andrea, the girl who was working the insurance desk on Monday, let me borrow a swim suit. Bass let me borrow his sunglasses. Ken, Marcus’ younger brother, makes me fun fruity drinks with umbrellas. I’m drunk, lazy hummingbird. It’s awesome.

Plus, even if this whole week weren’t a welcome vacation from all the Very Important sitting in the back of that stupid car that we usually do, I feel like I’m getting such an education hanging out in here.

For example, according to Bass, the Hawthornes aren’t really hunters.

“Hunters are assholes,” he said. “I mean, they are obviously. Like that’s what they’d call themselves. But there’s more than one way to skin a cat, you know? And the Hawthornes they prefer… like not literally skinning the cat. They’re like… monster conservationists. Cryptozoologist’s.” He laughed and took a long drink of his margarita. “They’re the fuckin Steve Erwins of monsters.”

Lmao SICK.

Plus the WILDEST people come through. I was having a totally casual conversation with this lady dressed like she was on safari, only for Bass to tell me later that this bitch is a SUPERNATURAL BOUNTY HUNTER? I swear yesterday I saw someone come through with HORNS. COOL. Bass says anyone is welcome at the Red Rock inn, cuz it’s witch land so no one’s allowed to hunt.

“We’re Switzerland,” Bass explained. “Neutral territory. Try to hurt someone at the Red Rock and you wake up six days later high as a fucking kite.”

The Hawthornes are… doing their best. I get the impression that this whole place is like an unpleasant family reunion for them. Apparently hunters, or cryptozoologists or whatever, is a pretty small community and they pretty much all know each other. Everyone buys them drinks and apologizes about Nolan.

And who the fuck is Nolan? Bass was the one who finally explained. We were floating in the pool sipping daiquiris.

“They didn’t tell you?” he said, surprised, and when I shook my head he sighed and scratched the back of his head. “Nolan was their brother. He died in a hunt. Last summer.”

I looked up sharply at Neal and Julian, deep in animated conversation with some woman I hadn’t met yet.

“They haven’t really told anyone what happened,” Bass continued. “But I mean with what they get up to…” He didn’t need to finish the thought, like obviously whatever happened it was brutal.

As I watched Neal threw back his head and laughed, apparently totally at ease. Neither of them have said anything. We’ve been sitting in the same tiny ass car together for like two and a half months and they haven’t mentioned a third Hawthorne brother?

I would have asked more questions except then Veronica called Bass in to help her get some work done.

WORK as in FRAUD. Going over all our credit cards and making sure no one figures out they’re fake!

Oh my god we’re going to prison. I’m gonna go to jail and everyone at home will be like ‘whoa did you hear about what ended up happening to Shiloh? She’s in jail for just like a shit load of fraud.’

Fake money! Fake insurance! Fake ID (that part’s cool)!

Neal says that we’re doing a necessary public service and we should get our payment any way we can, so that’s some good rationalization you’ve got goin on Neal.

Anyways Bass finally took pity on me and was like “why not just set up a Patreon account then?”

Soooooooo…….. Hahahahaha like don’t feel like you HAVE to donate anything obviously but like… idk if you wanted to send some pocket change to your friendly neighborhood monster hunter? <33 uuu

https://www.patreon.com/shilohwhytho

Red Rock Inn

We’re in — lol okay I can’t tell you, but we’re out in a city in the desert, not Vegas. When I asked what we were doing here, Julian said, “we’re finally getting you some insurance.”

Which was a sorta cool thing to say, right? Like I thought maybe they were gonna buy me like a sick magic weapon or something cool hahaha, but instead we literally pulled up to a grungy little office building with a sign that said SCELERAT INSURANCE.

These fucking assholes are literally getting me insurance. Why is nothing about this job as cool as it should be?

We got out of the car and stretched. It was oppressively, horribly hot outside, but it wasn’t so bad once we got into the building. It was low and dark in there. The blinds were drawn. It was like ducking into a burrow.

Everything inside looked totally legit. There was a little lobby area with magazines scattered on the coffee table. The chairs were hideously upholstered. There was a welcome desk and beyond that a series of cubicles, all of which appeared to be empty.

The girl at the desk was a few years older than me. She looked up with that veiled customer service expression, but then when she saw who it was she beamed.

“No way,” she said. “I didn’t know you two would be heading this direction.”

Julian smiled and went to lean against the counter. “Yeah we didn’t call ahead,” he said. “We’re hoping your mom won’t mind doing a quick job for us.”

Julian thumped a big hand on my shoulder and the girl looked me over. I managed a queasy smile, but she’d locked onto my black eye and I don’t think she noticed. “She’s that girl from Washington state? From that case you were on for like six months?”

“Word got around about that did it,” Neal grumbled, but the girl seemed unbothered by his tone.

“Everyone’s been saying she died and came back,” the girl said. “All sorts of insane rumors.” And then she looked sharply at the boys, as if hoping they’d fill her in.

I just stood there. Like uh bitch I’m right here.

“She wants to learn the business,” Julian said, totally pleasant, though I could feel Neal’s mood darkening behind me. “We’re here to get her official.”

“Well we’re under investigation again, so we’ve got a set up at the Red Rock. You’ll have to head over there.”

Julian smiled and tapped the table. “Yeah, we’ll do that,” he said.

Her face fell. “Hey,” she said. “I was real sorry to hear about Nolan.”

There was an awkward moment of quiet. I glanced between the boys, confused, but Julian only smiled, still pleasant. “Thanks,” he said. “We’ll see you later.”

We left and got back in the car.

Neal had gone Full Brood and even Julian was weirdly quiet. “Who’s Nolan?” I asked.

Neal didn’t say anything and didn’t look around. Julian cleared his throat. “Nolan’s our brother,” his tone was totally even but it was so tense in there that I just sorta nodded and let it go.

We drove maybe three minutes and pulled into the parking lot of some cheesy, old-school, 50s themed motel. According to the big neon sign it was called The Red Rock Inn and there were no vacancies.

“Popular place,” I said, eying the mostly deserted parking lot.

“Hm? Oh,” Julian said, noticing the no vacancies sign. “There’s never any vacancies at the Red Rock.” He blew out a long breath. “We ready to do this?”

Neal made a creaky groan. Then he said, “Yeah.” He adjusted to the rear view to fix me with a look without looking around. “I’m gonna need you on your best behavior in there, alright? No melodrama.”

This struck me as super unfair. I haven’t broken down and screamed at them in like months.

“That’s you, too,” Julian said quietly to Neal.

“I make no promises,” Neal replied and climbed out of the car.

Again, oppressive heat. It was so hot sound didn’t seem to work properly. Everything sounded far away. It’s only fucking May dude the desert is a nightmare.

“This is coven land,” Julian said as we approached the door.

“Witches?” I said.

“Brace yourself,” Neal said and opened the door.

Idk what I was expecting like maybe a little motel lobby, but instead it was like a dim, plastic-fern-covered tiki bar?

The bar tender was a gray haired man in maybe his sixties who looked way too serious to be the bar tender at a damn tiki bar, wiping out a glass stein with a rag. There were a few patrons hidden away in booths, out in the plastic ferns.

“I don’t have ID,” I whispered.

“Yeah, we know,” Neal said. They strode in confidently and the man at the bar looked up and grinned.

“Well what do you know,” he said, reaching across the bar to shake their hands. “Hawthorne boys. How long’s it been, a year?”

“At least,” Neal said, smiling an easy smile. Neal isn’t good a faking stuff, so I figured that the bartender at least must be cool. “Shi, this is Marcus Scelerat.”

He smiled and reached to shake my hand too.

“Welcome young lady,” he said. He eyed me for a moment before turning to Neal. “She the girl?”

Neal nodded.

“That’s quite an eye you got,” Marcus said. I looked away instinctively. I appreciated that he said something rather than just staring though. “I suppose you’re here to get her some cards?”

“That’s right,” Neal said. “The whole set.”

Marcus raised his eyebrows. “The whole set huh?” He reappraised me curiously. “She looking to join the life?”

“That’s what she says,” Neal said.

Marcus grunted. “That’s what a lot of them say,” he said, glancing down the table to the boy sitting at the end of the bar. He was on his laptop and had headphones in.

Neal shrugged. “She’s worth a shot,” he said and for a moment I thought I’d take back every rude thing I’ve ever said about him. But then he said, “At the very least I need her to be able to go into bars.” (EYEROLL EMOJI)

Marcus laughed, then shouted down the table. “BASS! Take those damn headphones off!”

The boy winced and took out one earbud. “What?” he said, but when he looked around he grinned. “Oh hey.”

“These ones are after a new set of papers, you seen your aunt?”

Bass shrugged. “I think she and Alexa went out climbing. I can take their pictures though.”

Julian smiled. “Our papers are okay,” he said. “We’re just here for Shiloh.”

I waved awkwardly.

“Oh okay, yeah,” Bass said. “Come on then.”

I glanced at Neal and Julian, but they were already sliding onto barstools while Marcus poured a beer from the tap.

“Go on,” Neal said.

So I went.

Bass was tall and gawky with pimples around his temples and a swagger that didn’t quite make sense with the rest of his whole look. He was wearing cargo shorts and his shirt had a wolf howling on it.

He lead me through a swinging door to a little back room, which was half dedicated to a computer and half dedicated to a make-shift photobooth.

“…so…” I said. Bass gestured me in front of the screen.

“Usually when we’re making fakes we try not to make people exactly 21,” Bass said, fiddling with the camera on the tripod. “But in your case I’m guessing we’ll probably go as young as possible.”

I made a face just as Bass snapped the picture. He cackled.

“This is a great one,” he said. “Perfect. No one will fuck with you with an ID pic like this.” And then, barely pausing. “So you’re that girl the Hawthornes picked up, huh?”

So I’m thinking, what the fuck kind of place did I walk into and why does everybody seem to know about that, when a tall, sleek blond woman walks in.

“Oh hey Veronica. We just got through her pictures,” Bass said. “She needs full papers.”

The woman eyed us coolly. “Yes, the Hawthornes filled me in.”

She bent over the computer and began clicking away at the keys with elegant fingers. She seemed entirely too sophisticated for the whole vibe of this place.

“Alias?” she said.

“Uh,” I said back.

Her lips flattened into a line.

“Just any name works,” Bass said. “How about Paige Bell.”

“Oh —” I began but Veronica was already tapping that into the computer.

“Birthday?” Veronica said.

“November,” Bass said. “She looks like a Scorpio.”

Lmao I am a Scorpio. “Um —” I began.

“Okay, that’s all I need from you,” Veronica said. “Please it’s so crowded back here.”

“Yes ma’am,” Bass said and held the door open for me. “Sorry,” he said as the door shut behind me. “She’s a bitch, but she’s the best in the business.”

“What business exactly?” I asked.

Bass grinned. “Isn’t that obvious?” he said. “We’re witches.”

Which made absolutely no sense at all. It wasn’t until later, when we’d rented a room that Julian finally explained.

“The Scelerats are hackers,” he said. “They run a fake insurance company, as well as a fake credit card company. They make all our IDs, provide all our money, make sure we’re covered if we end up in the hospital. Mostly the use their services for hunters, but sometimes for criminals too, if they deserve it. Most of what they do is just run of the mill illegal, but they use magic to make it completely undetectable.”

So apparently, this is where all their money comes from. It’s fake. It’s fake money that comes from nowhere. Fraud. Hahahahaha are we stealing from people who are we stealing from???