i’m a creep

Remember when Julian said he might make an exception in his anti-capitol punishment stance for Pernidia? Well, he’s not the only one it turns out.

This courtroom is PACKED, and everyone in there is out for blood. I mean, I don’t know that for certain, but there’s just an energy in the room. They’re a bunch of hungry wolves, I can tell.

On first glance Pernidia is a totally normal-looking dude. Dark hair, but balding. Tan complexion, maybe Italian background. But the longer I’ve watched him, the more skeeved out I become.

Or maybe I’ve just spent the day learning all about what he did.

We missed opening arguments yesterday, but that’s okay. I’ve got a crystal clear idea of what happened. I’ve spent all day listening to the prosecutor presenting her case, and all her witnesses.

It’s nauseating. I was not prepared. I should have known when the Hawthornes said we might have to take matters into our own hands.

The prosecutor is super young. She’s tall, taut as a whip, and she wears her long hair down, straight and sleek. She’s good, I can tell. She’s got a whole air of efficiency, and just when you think she’s ice cold, she gives a witness a moment of softness, just enough. The jury is in the palm of her sensibly manicured hand.

“She’s going to lose,” Neal said when she went to sit down after questioning a witness.

The witness was a young woman, one of a victim’s sisters. She was doing an amazing job up there, especially considering the nature of her testimony. I had no idea why Neal reached that conclusion until he pointed at the row of people behind the defendant.

There were three of them, and they were all deeply focused on something. I was confused at first, but then the defendant’s lawyer stood, and said, “Melissa,” that was the girl’s name, “are you lying to us?”

I glanced at Neal, because obviously he would know if she was lying. He shook his head.

“Objection,” the prosecutor said, but at the exact same time Melissa said, “Yes,” with absolute confidence. “Everything I said isn’t true. I’ve never seen that man in my life.”

There was a rustle of confusion through the courtroom.

“You never saw Samson Pernidia saw off your sister’s arm?”

Yeah, that’s the kind of day we’ve been having.

“No,” Melissa said. “I didn’t see anyone do it. I slept through the whole thing.”

“Then why did you just tell us this story about what you saw?”

“Because —” she hesitated, and I noticed she was blinking rapidly. “Because I was told that if I didn’t say that, they’d do the same to me.”

“Who told you that?”

“I don’t—” she broke off, covered her forehead with her palms as if in great pain. “I don’t know, please, I can’t um —”

“No further questions,” Pernidia’s lawyer said.

“What the fuck,” I hissed at Neal.

“I’ve seen enough,” Julian said. I followed them out the back of the courtroom in the weird chaos that followed.

“What just happened?” I demanded.

“Pernidia’s got sorcerers with him,” Neal said, and then cursed loudly enough that several passing lawyers shot him dirty looks.

“You mean they… forced her to say that?” I asked, not so much because I wasn’t following but because that is TOO fucked up. “That can’t be allowed.”

“How are we supposed to stop it?” Neal asked. He sat heavily on a creaky old bench against the wall. “Tell everyone that they’re using magical abilities to manipulate the witness?”

“Don’t we have our own sorcerers?” I asked.

“We do,” Julian said. “Didn’t you see them? They were in the back corner.”

Let that sink in: key witness confesses to lying about her entire statement is what we’ve got with magical intervention.

“Why are they better than us?” I demanded, fucking outraged, which is exactly what you should be after listening to the entire menu of fucked up bullshit this guy did to those poor people, and then watching him start to get away with it.

“Because they’re willing to create their own ghosts,” Neal told me. “Weren’t you listening?”

Take a minute to be aghast, it’s okay, I did.

“What are we going to do?”

Neal scrubbed his face. “I don’t know,” he said. “But we’re gonna start by talking to the prosecutor.”

Her name is Cosima Caro.

We waited for the day to be over, and followed her out of the courtroom.

There were reporters outside, and she said a few clipped words about her only goal being justice for the victim and then clicked right past them in her high shoes.

We followed her. We’re so damn creepy lmfao here we are again, following a woman home from her job. Not that she went home. She went to a restaurant. In her car she took off her blazer to reveal a sleek little sheath dress, switched out practical pumps for sky-high stilettos, unpinned her hair and shook it out, and swiped on a coat of red lipstick in her rear-view. Presto chango.

“Date night?” Neal murmured.

“Maybe,” Julian said. “Should we go in?”

I ENTHUSIASTICALLY agreed to do that, even though there was a lot of dry shampoo between me and a nice restaurant.

You know what’s super unfair? The Hawthornes are both, somehow, badass monster hunters, and social chameleons. They’re James and Bond and I’m their sidekick, the disheveled possum: skills include playing dead and eating trash.

For example, if we’re going into a restaurant and I’m wildly, hilariously underdressed, I’m going to need you to say more than, “you look great, but are you sure you’ll be comfortable in that?”

Like, yeah, I’m comfortable Neal, that’s the point of the black hoodie. The fanciest restaurant in my town was an Olive Garden. I don’t know what to fucking wear. And the Hawthornes were already suited up because we’d been in court all day, how was I supposed to know I should change?

Madelyn would have taken one look at me and flat refused to let me leave the house, and that’s the kind of energy I need, okay, I’m not going to understand your subtle hinting.

Anyways, sorry, not to derail this with yet another story of my failing to like… adequately fly under the radar.

Cosima was at the bar. She was sitting there alone, sipping a martini. Which was convenient, because we could sit across the bar from her and watch.

“Alright, how do you want to handle this?” Neal asked.

“She’s on alert,” Julian replied. “I’m sure journalists have been approaching her shamelessly for days.”

Neal shrugged. “I could hit on her.”

Across the bar, another dude evidentially had a similar idea. The string quartet (yeah, string quartet, and there I am, in jeans, literally why) was just loud enough that we couldn’t hear exactly what was said, but as we watched, she let him buy her a drink and then turned right away from him as if he didn’t exist. He stuck around for a few moments, hoping she might decide to engage, and then walked away looking lost.

“She’s definitely your type,” Julian admitted.

“Is she meeting someone?” Neal said. “She sits up straighter every time the door opens.” But then, after a pause, he added, “She’s got eyes on both exits.”

Julian looked harder and frowned. “She knows the bartender,” he said. “He replaces her drinks without her asking.” And then, after a minute, “Does she seem to be getting through those drinks a bit fast? And look at her hands.” They were fiddling, with her glass, with her phone, her fingernails, with the little chain around her neck.

But it wasn’t until the bar tender dropped a shaker and she startled so bad she spilled her drink down her front that Neal was certain enough to say, “she’s scared.”

They watched her for a beat longer before Julian said, “but what is she afraid of?”

“No way of knowing.” Neal paused a beat. “Unless—”

“We can’t just approach her,” Julian said.

Neal shrugged. “I don’t see what kind of options we have. Short of hoping that whatever she’s so afraid of turns up so we can save her.”

I snorted into my drink. “Does that work?”

“Worked on you,” Neal pointed out, and LISTEN, that’s a VAST oversimplification of what happened, and if I’d KNOWN the trouble these two were going to be, I’d have gone ahead and died in that clearing last Halloween.

In the end, we just went and sat beside her. The boys had this whole plan to engage the bartender in some conversation about the law, in the hopes that he’d drag her into the conversation. But in the end we didn’t need to.

“Listen,” she said, turning to face us. “I saw you in court today, okay? If you’re looking for a scoop, I’m not going to help you.”

It might have scared off an actual journalist. But Julian’s scarier than she is. “We’re not journalists,” he said, dropping all pretense.

“Well then —”

“What are you afraid of?” Neal asked.

She looked up at him, startled, dark eyes wide. “What?”

Neal shrugged and leaned against the bar. “You’ve got your back to the wall, an eye on both exits. You had a hard day in court, and tomorrows bound to be worse. You could have gone to one of the more casual restaurants closer to court, where your colleagues ended up, but you brought a change of clothes so you could come here.”

Her eyes narrowed minutely. “Maybe I’m meeting someone.”

“Maybe,” Julian agreed, but he was unconvinced and she knew it.

“Who are you hiding from?” Neal asked.

“Maybe you,” she said, and I wasn’t sure if she was kidding.

We sat in silence for a moment, and then Neal said, “You don’t seem like a woman who scares easily.”

Which was true, objectively. If she scared easily she wouldn’t be prosecuting fucking Pernidia.

“There are things about Pernidia’s case that don’t make sense, aren’t there?” Julian said.

She laughed humorlessly. “You mean like, how even my rock solid witnesses are falling apart on the stand? Well observed.”

“No,” Neal said. “That’s not what I mean.” He hesitated, and then, before Julian could intervene: “Is there someone following you?”

Her eyes snapped onto him. “How did you know that?” She began to stand up.

The bartender intervened at that point. “Cosi?” he said. “Everything okay?”

Which explained why she’d come to this little bar instead of going home. She was tight with the bartender, and she was afraid.

“I think they’re with the press,” she said.

The bartender’s expression hardened. “I’m gonna have to ask you to leave.”

Julian reached into the inside of his jacket and pulled out his FBI ID, and I thought, why the fuck didn’t we lead with that? “We’re not with the press,” he said. “But we are very invested in seeing Pernidia put in prison.”

Cosima Caro stared at the ID, and then back up at Julian. “Oh my god,” she said. “You’re them. You’re the fake agents.” She glared at us. “You three almost got this case thrown out before it even started.”

Neal rolled his eyes. “Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, don’t you think?”

“What the fuck are you? Vigilantes? No, you know what, no. You being here can only fuck my case up further.”

Neal smirked. “To be honest, seems like it can’t get all that much worse.”

Rage flashed across her face for a moment, but only a moment. “Do you have any idea,” she said, “how suspicious it sounds to a jury when there are obvious, unfillable holes in the police’s investigation? The cops have no idea how you solved this case. There is a hole in the middle of my case, and it’s shaped like you three.” She stopped and looked at me. “I thought there was a third man.”

“There was,” Julian said. “Our brother Nolan died.”

She hesitated. “I’m sorry.”

“This was one of the last big cases we worked together,” Julian added. “It means a lot to us that he’s convicted.”

“Well,” she said. “Can you take the stand?”

Neal laughed. “No. And even if we could, who knows what we’d say once we got up there.”

“Then why are you here?” Cosima said. “And more importantly, why shouldn’t I call the police?”

“Because the police can’t help you,” Neal said. “You’ve already called them this week, haven’t you.”

Something in her expression flickered. “No.”

“Yes you have,” Neal said. “And they couldn’t help you, because what’s coming after you now is impossible.”

She stared at us, face by face.

“We’re not the problem,” Julian said, taking a card out of his wallet and sliding it across the bar for her. “But we can help you solve it. If you’re in danger, call us.”

And then we left.

“Could have gone worse,” Neal said.

“Could have gone a whole hell of a lot better,” Julian replied.

But to be honest, could it have? If I was Cosima Caro I’d have run for the hills if two strange men approached me. Especially considering the fact that we literally followed her from the courthouse, and then, hours later, we followed her home. Just to be on hand if something went wrong.ur job makes us so damn creepy lmfao.

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