Guys, we have noticeable progress. Julian has been seen LAUGHING. He was casually singing along to the playlist earlier. He’s back to eating like 40 lbs of food every day.

Neal… is also slightly better. A ten mile hike through the mountains was NOT what he needed last week. But at least he’s been letting one of us help him check the wounds on his back so he’s not gonna develop an infection and die of gangrene.

And I am… fine? It’s so funny, the way the Hawthornes keep checking in with me I would expect terrifying monster Julian to come join me on my nightly trauma slideshow, but he really hasn’t. Being lost in the woods overnight was way scarier than the 13 seconds of danger I was in from Julian before Neal intervened. Like, I’m good.

We do have a new case, which Julian was NOT thrilled about, but we sort of couldn’t resist.

Yesterday one of the phones rang and Neal froze before he answered, staring at the caller ID.

“What is it?” Julian asked and when Neal tipped the phone screen towards him, I leaned up between the seats to get a better look. The ID just said THIEF.

“Who that?” I asked, and instead of answering me, Neal just picked up.

“Hi Cara,” he said.

“Oh good, you’re there,” she said. “I have a case for you.”

Neal grinned and twisted sideways so he was leaning back against car door.

“So you need our help?”

“If that’s how you want to think of it, sure,” Cara said, wholly unbothered. “I’ve procured a haunted painting, and I think I have a buyer lined up, but it’s turning out to be a bit nastier than I imagined. Thought you might help an old friend out.”

Neal looked absolutely gleeful, and even Julian was reluctantly smiling.

“What’s the case?” Neal asked.

“That’s it?” Cara said. “You’ve got nothing else to say?”

“I’ll give you shit later, I promise,” Neal said.

“You certainly don’t have to,” Cara replied. “I completely understand if you just miss me, you don’t have to pretend to be —”

“What’s the painting, Cara,” Neal interrupted

Cara laughed. “Nothing too fancy. Painted in 1864 by a little known painter called Ernest Gailord. He only painted one piece in his whole life, and this is it.”

“He made one painting, huh,” Neal said. “Can’t be much of a painter then can he?”

“Oh no, it’s a beautiful peace. You’re misunderstanding me. He painted this one piece for his entire life. He was of a certain class and didn’t have to work, so he decided to be a painter. Problem was he could never move on from that one painting. He was never happy with it.”

“And I suppose it’s valuable,” Neal said, smirking.

“Obviously,” Cara said. “It’s a beautiful piece with a quirky history. But it also has a certain reputation.”

“What sort of reputation Cara, don’t be coy.”

“Well,” she said, slightly awkwardly. “Whatever energy has taken up residence inside the painting makes the owner… behave a bit differently.”

“It affects human behavior?” Julian asked, finally interested.

“Yes,” Cara said, somewhat tightly. “More than I anticipated.”

Neal understood first and began to grin. “What’s it doing to you?” he asked and Cara finally burst:

“I can’t sell the damn thing!!! I keep thinking there will be a better buyer!!!”

The Hawthornes evidently thought this was hilarious.

“Alright, alright,” Cara said, over their cackling. “Yes, I know, very funny, I’m in over my head. Are you done?”

They were not done. They were laughing harder, even.

Cara groaned. “Fine, alright, I’ll call someone else. You’re not the only medium in my phone, Neal Hawthorne.”

“No, Cara, no, we’ll do it, we’ll do it,” Neal said. “Where are you?”

And we turned right around and started heading east.

Also Cara called Neal a medium? When I asked the boys what a medium is, Neal rolled his eyes,

“You know when I swallow the ghosts and spit them out outside?”

LOL. Yeah, that’s essentially what that looks like.

“That’s being a medium,” Neal said. “There’s a false connotation between being a medium and being a psychic. Psychics make great mediums, but anyone can learn the trade. It’s not even hard, it’s just sort of risky.”

I’m starting to feel like I should make some charts. How to hunt cheat sheets, if you will. There are too many complicated aspects, and I get confused.

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