Okay, so it’s Friday morning and there’s been a change of plans.
Neal and I were out picking up food when Beverly called.
“Are you busy?” she asked, and she sounded frantic.
Neal said we were and she cursed.
“What’s wrong?” Neal asked.
“I sent the Kellihers on a case, and I lost contact. They were supposed to call me yesterday but they missed their check-in.”
“Look at you, sending people on cases,” Neal said.
“Neal I’m serious, they would have called me if they could have.” There was a long pause. “Listen, I think they’re hunting a lemniscate.”
Neal said nothing.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“I can try to send someone else,” Beverly said.
“No we’ll do it,” Neal said tightly. “But we’re going to need recovery, we’ve got a goat man we’re trying to rehabilitate.”
“Shit,” Beverly sighed. “Where am I gonna find a damn babysitter?” She took a deep breath. “Okay, I’m gonna send you the information. I need you to get moving as quickly as you can, okay? I’ll find someone to watch your guy, but it might take a couple days to get them out there, will that be okay?”
“It’ll have to be,” Neal replied. He swore. “Okay, send me what you’ve got. We’ll come as quickly as we can.”
Julian wasn’t thrilled about the change of plans though.
“What are we going to do, just leave him here? Unsupervised?”
“No,” Neal said. “We’ll have Marcus stay with him.”
Remember Marcus? The brother with the museum?
“Oh yeah,” Greg the Goat Man said. “Marcus will love that, he loves the goat man!”
Julian was definitely not convinced. “Neal —”
“Yeah, I know,” Neal snapped. “Bev is sending another hunter to keep an eye on things until we get back. Until then, that’s the best we can do.”
So we’re gonna call Marcus. I mean personally that seems like as good a plan as any. There’s no reason Marcus shouldn’t be able to keep Goat Man Greg under control for the 48 hours tops this is going to take for another hunter to get out here. This seems like the best state of affairs.
Alrighty, we’re on our way.
Marcus was happy to help Greg out. They’re both holed up in Greg’s apartment, Marcus understands how the restraints all work, and they’re set to sit tight for a few days until the babysitter gets here.
I’m in the car right now, waiting for Julian who somehow misplaced his phone, and then we’re off to rescue the Kellihers from whatever nightmare they walked into.
So we were maybe two hours out of town when we got a call from Chelsea’s dad:
“Hi there, we just made it home.”
“Excuse me?” Julian said, holding the speaker end of the phone closer to his ear to hear him.
“I got a call from you maybe three hours ago saying to come home,” Jeff said. “We were under the impression that you’d meet us at the house.”
Neal let up on the gas. I didn’t know how it was bad yet, but I could already tell that something had gone very wrong.
“We didn’t call you,” Julian said.
“We got a call from your phone number,” Jeff said. “Saying you found the problem and wanted to talk through some things with us.”
“With all of you?” Neal said, but his tone said he wasn’t expecting a good answer.
“No,” Jeff said. “We left Chelsea at the cabin.” When we didn’t answer right away Jeff said. “That’s what you said to do!”
“We need to know where that cabin is,” Julian said.
I was already pulling out my phone and plugged the address into maps.
“We’re an hour out,” I said.
Neal stomped on the gas.
“We didn’t call you,” Julian said.
“What do you mean you didn’t call us,” Jeff said, mounting panic in his voice.
“Greg must have snagged our phone,” Neal replied. “When you spoke to us, did you tell us where the cabin was?”
Jeff hesitated. “You wanted to know how far out we were just in case you were on your way out of town.”
There was a long, horrified pause.
“We’re going to get there,” Julian said, and though he was wearing his soothing voice he hadn’t bothered with the whole picture — he was tense as all hell. He hung up before Jeff could even respond.
I leaned up over his shoulder to watch as he scrolled through his call history and sure enough — an outgoing call to Chelsea’s father.
Julian swore loudly, and then asked, “How far from town is the cabin?”
It was maybe three hours out. We were either going to make it just in time, or just too late.
Neal’s never driven that fast, and that’s saying something.
There was a car parked on the unpaved road leading up to the cabin. I think I knew what it meant when we passed it, but we didn’t slow down.
The cabin door was open. The car hadn’t even stopped before Julian was out of it running, and Neal didn’t even bother with the keys, he just slammed the car into park and went after him.
I followed on his heels, but when I was close enough to see the way the light slanted across the floor just inside the door I stopped. I know what that specific, off-kilter light means by now.
It means a lamp has been knocked over, and not picked up.
I didn’t want to see what was inside. My treacherous legs threatened to lock up right there.
Only two more steps and I could see the blood on the carpet. Only two steps after that and I could see Julian and Neal, frozen, blocking my view of the double bed. All I could see of Chelsea was her hand and her curtain of dark hair, hanging over the side of the bed. Both dripped blood. She wasn’t moving.
We were all frozen for a moment, and then, on the floor, something moved.
It was Greg. He sat up with a groan. He looked like he’d poured chunky tomato soup into his mouth, had spilled it all down his chest and belly. His belly, which was swollen and distended.
“Where am I?”
“Julian, go,” Neal said quietly and for a moment I thought he was going to, but instead he just turned his back and took some deep breaths.
Neal rounded on Greg. He pointed his hand gun right between Greg’s eyes, which were wide with terror as he took in the scene.
Neal’s rage face is terrifying.
“I didn’t mean to,” Greg spluttered.
Neal released the safety. “Liar,” he said.
Greg sobbed, but this time I felt no pity for him at all.
“It was Marcus,” Greg sobbed. “He said the only way to stop me from turning was to kill the girl.”
“What the fuck does Marcus —” Neal began.
“It’s history!” Greg cried. “The Devil always gets the whole group, no matter what!!! And then it goes away for fifty years!”
“I can’t help it,” Greg wailed. He scrambled up onto his knees, pawed at the hem of Neal’s shirt. “It’s not my fault, there’s a monster inside me.” He was becoming incoherent. “I can’t help it.”
“We were teaching you to help it,” Neal said.
“You don’t know what it’s like,” Greg moaned. “You don’t know what it’s like to have a hunger inside you —”
Which made my stomach roll with horror, because if you remember, that’s almost exactly what the fucking Sludge said to me just a few months ago. But I didn’t have time to react because Julian suddenly whirled and any revulsion I’d felt shriveled up in the face of his rage. I’ve never seen rage like that. He was rigid and seething, a rage that seemed to roll off him. I took a step back.
Greg hadn’t noticed the way Julian was looking at him. He was too busy pleading with Neal, whimpering, clutching his hands together, begging: “I’m sorry, I didn’t want to hurt anyone.” And then, “Marcus said it would be only one girl, that I’d wake up at home again, and wouldn’t even remember. It would be only one girl and then I’d be okay forever, I’d never have to hurt anyone ever again. Just one girl.”
Neal recoiled. I really thought he was going to shoot the son of a bitch. I wanted him to, even.
Instead Neal lowered the gun. His disgust was all over his face. “He’s right,” he said. “You won’t turn back into the goat. This is what you are now.”
He pulled handcuffs out of one of the inner pockets of his jacket, slid it around Greg’s wrist. “Good luck explaining this to the police,” Neal said. “I’m going to make sure they check the contents of your stomach.” He cuffed Greg to the radiator behind him.
“Thank you,” Greg sobbed. “I don’t want to die, thank you.”
Neal spat on the floor before him.
“Come on,” he said to us.
I wanted to go, I wanted to get as far from that cabin as I could as fast as I could but I couldn’t move. It felt wrong to just leave Chelsea there like that, all exposed.
“Jude,” Neal said, very clearly and slowly, and something in my gut spooked. I looked up at Julian’s face and the rage there made him a stranger. “Jude. Let’s go.” Something in Julian’s expression twitched.
“Shiloh,” Neal said slowly. “Go to the car.”
But I couldn’t move.
“Julian, look at him. He’s powerless now. We’ll leave him for the police.” Neal reached an arm. “Let’s go.”
I watched Julian’s chest slowly expand and contract.
“Come on, Jude,” Neal said, and started walking slowly and smoothly towards the door. “Come on, let’s just leave.”
Very slowly Julian began to turn to follow and I saw Neal begin to relax slightly.
“A judge will handle it,” Neal said again and Julian froze in the doorway.
“Not this time,” he growled, and in one fluid movement too fast to stop, he had crossed the room, stooped just a little and with a practiced precision, turned Greg’s head around a full 180 degrees. Greg barely had time to scream.
Julian stood, lit strangely by that slanted lamp-light. A shiver ran through him and he breathed into it. Greg stared up at nothing with dead fish eyes.
I ran out of the cabin and puked under the window.
Neal just stood there, stunned.
None of us said anything for a long time before Neal finally got it together.
“Shiloh, the car,” he said.
I didn’t argue, I just did it.
As they were wiping their fingerprints off the door knob and retrieving the handcuffs, Marcus came up the driveway, hair all messy and yawning hugely. He was holding his camera.
I got back out of the car again.
I’m not super sure what happened, but I pretty much ran at him shrieking like a harpy, and then I was being scooped up by Julian and dumped into the front seat. I’m pretty sure I was screaming and scratching for a second before the car door slammed on me.
Julian got into the back seat, and sat breathing deeply into his hands.
I twisted in time to see Neal storm across the driveway, deck Marcus cleanly in the face, drag him across the parking lot and handcuff him to the parking sign.
Then he slammed into the drivers seat and shouted FUCK at the top of his lungs, which about summed up my feelings on the matter.
Finally, he pulled out of the parking spot and he drove. We still have to find the Kellihers.