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?”
“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???