This case actually started last week. One of the mornings before making our way to the courthouse we were eating breakfast and Julian, scrolling through his phone, made a face.
“What is it?” Neal asked. I swear he doesn’t even look up, he can just hear Julian making faces.
Lmao a thought that just occurred to me: maybe it’s not a sweet, brothers thing that they’re always so in tune with each other. I mean if my sibling slash best friend occasionally turned into a monster that uncontrollably attacked people, I’d probably get in the habit of keeping an eye on their state of being.
Sorry, back to our continental breakfast:
“Probably nothing,” Julian said. Neal gestured for the phone and Julian hesitated. “It’s bad.”
Neal made a face and gestured more insistently, so Julian passed it to him.
Neal had the phone for like ten seconds before he made a Big Frown face and handed Julian back his phone.
“I told you it was bad,” Julian said, taking it back.
“You didn’t say cannibalism bad,” Neal replied, so obviously I also had to see the article.
I couldn’t read the whole thing, it was too awful. I don’t even want to write it down it was so awful.
“This can’t be real,” I said.
“I hope you’re right,” Julian replied.
And then we didn’t hear anything else about it until this morning.
We were in the car. It’s been a fraught weekend.
First of all, convincing Cosima that it’s a good idea to speak to a psychic has been a damn process. And it’s not like I don’t get it, the existence of psychics is an adjustment. But you’d think that, what with her ability to kill people with the power of her brain, she’d be willing to consider the possibility of reality beyond that which she can directly see. It wasn’t until we got Jon Cooper on the phone to talk her that she finally agreed to meet Jade at all.
So do we know that Cosima’s a Dog Saint? Technically, no. But since this isn’t a secret anymore, we called Professor Protsman at Palefish, and according to him, the ability to kill people with the power of their mind is one of the possible Dog Saint powers. It’s certainly more likely that she’s a Dog Saint than some other, forgotten chosen one spell.
Which means Cosima’s got a whole reckoning to deal with, where she has to learn about like… the existence of monsters and magic etc. We’re pretty much gonna let Jon handle it, since they’re old friends or whatever.
All this to say, it took us a while to get out of town, but finally we got on the road again. It was nice to be out and about officially again — no responsibilities, no cases, nowhere we need to be. Just us and the open road.
Neal was driving. I’ve gotten used to Neal driving like a bat out of hell at this point, but you know what I’m not used to? Listening to his music so loud it’s like he thinks he’s a whale wailing through the ocean looking for his whale friends. And listen, we all know at this point that I’m a little in love with the dumb idiot bastard, which obviously means that I’m obsessed with his music taste, right? Like, chemically, even if he had bad taste in music, I’d probably like it anyways. Which, to be clear, he doesn’t have bad taste in music. He has, annoyingly, very cool taste in music — early thousands emo notwithstanding, which, as much as I do love it, is potentially not cool. But sometimes a girl wants to put on Carly Rae Jepson and float away into an ethereal, synth-filled heaven. Marina and the Diamonds isn’t gonna play itself. I’m sick of your cool, cool music Neal, I want to listen to GLITTERY GIRL MUSIC.
“Sorry, kiddo,” he said. I hate it when he calls me kiddo (read: love it so much). “Driver picks the music. That’s the rule.”
“So change the rule.”
“Not my rule,” Neal said. “It’s Nolan’s rule. You can take it up with him.” And then he grinned a big sparkly grin, because there’s no arguing with a dead brother, and he knows it.
So I said, “Then teach me to drive.”
And I really thought there’d be push back for some reason, though in retrospect, I probably should have known that wouldn’t be the case. Like, the car is death proof. What am I gonna do, kill us in it?
Neal literally pulled over right there. “Great,” he said. “Come on then.”
So yeah, I was a little bit bluffing.
Neal got out and patted my door. “Come along little Shiloh.”
“Julian?” I squeaked.
“You dug this grave yourself, sorry,” Julian replied, not looking up from his phone. But when I still hesitated, he added, “you can’t be worse than Neal is.”
Which is a pretty good point, so I got out. Neal climbed into the back and leaned up onto the center console where he could keep an eye on me.
“Alright that pedal is go, that one’s stop. Wheel makes it turn. Use your turn signals. Go ahead.”
I of course was frozen in my seat. Like, there was no one around, but we were still on the highway. “Aren’t we supposed to like… start in a parking lot or something?”
“We started in a graveyard,” Julian replied, still without looking up from his phone.
Neal considered this. “Everyone there is already dead,” he admitted. “We can go to a graveyard if you want.”
So I said, yes please, and he said, “oh, oh did you need me to find directions,” and I realized he was going to make me drive to it, at which point I truly understood that I’d fucked up hahaha and sat there frozen behind the steering wheel.
“Okay,” Neal said, settling into the back seat. “Well you let me know when we’re ready to get moving.”
So I snapped, “I don’t know how!”
And Neal said, “back to Buzzcocks then?”
And I said, “when I learn to drive, we’re listening to nothing but Kate Bush.”
And he said, “don’t threaten me with a good time.”
So I said, “Bjork then!”
And he said, “I know you’re just picking cool bands so I won’t tease you, if you want to listen to Taylor Swift, I’ll go on that journey with you.”
So I said, “you don’t deserve Taylor Swift.”
And he said, sagely, “none of us deserve Taylor Swift,” and it was at that point that Julian finally interrupted us.
“Look at this.” He passed it across the car to Neal.
“Again?” Neal said, and then passed it to me. “More cannibals? Why is it never something nice? Oh look, a strange alien cryptid has been adopted into a loving family. Of course not. Cannibals.”
The case had a handful of similar characteristics as the last one: two people in a house, one murdered and partially eaten by the other, no drugs or alcohol found in either case. The only difference was —
“This isn’t the same place as last time,” I said. “It’s a whole state over.”
“What’s that suggest to you?” Julian asked, and he was using teacher voice, and then Neal peeked up in the mirror, grinning, because he loves it when I’m on the spot.
“It’s not a trick question,” Julian added when I floundered. “Just guess.”
My guesses, in order:
1. Whatever it was travelled and struck again
2. The second cannibal heard about the first one and decided to give it the ol college try
“Come on, keep going,” Julian said. “We don’t know what it is. Get creative.”
“If you get to ten, you don’t have to drive,” Neal added.
So you bet your ass I kept guessing.
3. A disease?
4. A spell?
5. A venom/poison?
6. Covert government cannibalism brainwashing?
7. It’s staged to cover the real threat, which is, of course, political?
8. Traveling cannibals hit the road, frame innocent locals
9. Terrible new meme