It’s been a quiet few days.
Julian’s not really speaking to us. Which isn’t to say he’s giving us the silent treatment or anything, he’s being perfectly polite. He smiles at the right moments, answers questions when asked, and even apologized for acting rashly and without considering our input when he “closed our last case,” and we both accepted his apology whole heartedly.
Like, I’m not mad that Greg is dead, okay. He knew what he was going to do and he did it anyways. They lured Chelsea’s family away so they could kill her more easily. I don’t believe in the death penalty, but I also saw the state he left Chelsea in, and I promise, his death was a lot faster and more dignified than hers.
On the other hand, his face isn’t a welcome addition to my nightmares.
We made it to the Kelliher’s motel room pretty early this morning. We could tell it’s theirs because it has the case information pinned up on the wall behind a sheet.
“Why don’t we ever do big info walls?” I said, dumping my bag on the bed.
Neal scoffed. “You should have seen the one we had for your case,” he said. “It was huge. We just haven’t had a case this difficult to crack in a while.”
There were only two beds and Julian didn’t even try to claim one, he just dumped his things on the ground. In order to ignore this, Neal went to examine the wall.
“Yeah,” he said. “It certainly looks like a lemniscate. Shit.”
Case walls are a joy aesthetically, who doesn’t love a big ass murder collage, but I think we as a culture tend to forget that the close up is usually pretty gruesome. In this case, it was not only gruesome, it was bizarre.
The crime scene photos showed people slumped in chairs in an empty old warehouse. They weren’t bound, and there was no sign of a struggle, or any injury at all. They were just dead, their heads dropped on their chest, their eyes closed.
“What’s a lemniscate?” I asked.
“Parasites,” Neal said. “Really big, dangerous parasites.” He pointed at one of the pictures, a zoomed in photograph of the back of one of the victims neck. “Do you see that?”
There was a small, swollen little puncture wound at the base of her neck.
“They inject you with hallucinogenic venom,” Neal said. “It tricks your brain into thinking it’s dying and then it eats — ” he hesitated.
I was expecting it to eat something so grotesque that Neal didn’t want to tell me.
“Julian help me out here,” Neal said.
Julian made a face. “Okay, so remember when we were dealing with that haunted house? When you learned what a ghost is?”
Oh, that. Not grotesque then, just metaphysical and confusing.
“The popular conception is that a person is made up of their physical body, and their consciousness,” Julian went on. “Or sometimes a mind/body/spirit situation. Or if you’re religious, maybe throw a soul in there.”
His tone suggested he was about to debunk this, so I said, “So what do we actually have?”
Julian hesitated. “No idea,” he said. “Not sure that’s for us to know, really. But what we do know, is that there is something in us that isn’t strictly physical which… makes us alive. Like a life force.”
“A life force,” I repeated, skeptically.
“Yeah,” Julian said. “Something that makes us alive, that isn’t literally physical, and isn’t attached to our consciousness.”
“The only reason we know it exists,” Julian continued, “is that some creatures from other worlds seem to feed on this pure life force. Lemniscate are one of those creatures.”
“Which is why,” Neal added, tapping a photo of a victim, “doctors are stumped. These people are totally healthy, no reason for them to be dead, except that they are.”
“I mean,” I said, meaning to be a smart ass. “Obviously there’s a reason for them to be dead. Like. Their heart isn’t beating, right?”
Julian passed me one of the pages from off the Kelliher’s wall. I read the part that was circled in red, which essentially said that some of the victims were in strange comas — bodies fully functional, brains apparently still firing on all cylinders, but just… gone. Until finally, inexplicably, they died.
“The emporium has done lots of research,” Julian said. “With inconclusive findings. All we really know for certain is that Lemniscates eat something vital to your survival, that isn’t physical.”
So what do we do about them?
Well step one is to find the Kellihers.
Their car wasn’t at the motel, so Neal is driving by the canneries where the other bodies were found right now, and Julian is calling all the police stations looking for them. I’m calling all the hospitals. We’ve already been in touch with Beverly, and she still hasn’t heard from them.
Neal and Julian don’t seem worried yet, so I’m not worrying either.