Oh my god, I thought I was on the run before, but Jesus Christ. I was not on the run before. I was on the skip. On the casual saunter. NOW I’m on the run.
We can’t even stay in shitty motels right now because it’s too much of a risk. We can’t even really stay in camp grounds. We’ve all been sleeping in the car and bathing in rivers since Friday. It is not bathing in rivers season. It is so cold.
Neal is so pissed. He’s been in a foul mood all weekend. Julian is like annoyingly at peace with the whole thing. Neal and I are like huddled in the river in our underwear, shivering and crying, and Julian’s striding out into the current like a fuckin river god… shaking out his hair… water droplets sparkling in the frigid, morning sunshine like this is a lumberjack porn intro.
It’s an outrage.
Lana and the Scelerats have been in touch. They’re gonna do their best to run interference and get us out of the news cycle, but that isn’t gonna kick in for a minute. And it’s not like they can force people to forget what’s already been on the news. So. We’re just sorta boned.
Meanwhile, we’ve still got our water bottle full of goo.
When it’s not doing it’s best to lodge itself inside someone’s brain stem, it’s super interesting. It emanates a soft, pulsing light, and when it’s in its jug — we stopped at a Target and got it a 2 gallon drink dispenser with lemons all over it — it just sorta floats around amorphously, looking pretty, like an impossible lava lamp. 10/10 would use to decorate a hypothetical dorm room. According to Paul at the Emporium jellies are perfectly happy eating about a jar a day of fish food, so as long as we don’t let it out it should be perfectly safe in the back seat of our car.
Which is good, because we’re on our way back to that one unnamed Windy City. Officer Cooper called us yesterday.
We were in a Wendy’s drive through when Julian’s phone buzzed. I could tell by his frown that it was someone unexpected.
He answered on speaker phone.
“Hi, uh…” I didn’t recognize his voice at first. “Is this Julian Hawthorne?”
“Yeah,” Julian said, going through a bag and pulling out my french fries. “What’s going on?”
“It’s Jon,” he said, and then after a moment of hesitation, he added, “Cooper. Officer Cooper.”
“Yeah, we know who it is,” Neal said. “What’s up?”
Officer Cooper took a long moment before he finally spit it out: “I think… oh fuck, I think I’ve got something. Something that’s… your business.”
Here’s the story, and buckle in because it’s AWESOME:
So apparently, Cooper has been investigating an uptick in mafia violence in the city. And by mafia, I don’t mean impoverished people turning to illegal methods of making money because they’re struggling against a system that intentionally excludes them. I mean families with generations of wealth built on crime, manipulating the system for their own gain, with plants in the police force and a lot of cocaine. Like crime families. That kind of mafia.
Apparently, someone’s killing off the members of a known, established crime family. Apparently, it’s been all over the news. We of course haven’t been watching the news, what with our faces being all over it, but APPARENTLY this is drawing national attention because this crime family is all dying of heart attacks.
“We’ve done thorough medical examinations,” Cooper told us on the phone. “I mean they’ve tested for everything, and found nothing. NOTHING. The last girl who died was 23, and there was nothing in her system, not even birth control. Everyone’s stumped. So…” He trailed off.
“So you called us?” Neal said, smug as shit. And you know what, Neal loves to be smug, and we’ve had a rough week, he deserves it today.
“I’ve got an entire extended family dropping dead! They’re starting to say these assholes are dying of fear!” Cooper said and Julian looked up.
“Dying of fear?” he said. “That’s what they said?”
“Apparently,” Cooper said. “No drugs, but lots adrenaline and uh —”
“Calcium,” Julian finished for him. “If you’re scared enough your heart can calcify. And they all died alone, right? No witnesses?”
“Yeah,” Cooper said. “How did you know that?”
“Yeah, it’s an us thing,” Neal said. “We’re on our way.”
I waited .3 seconds after they hung up before asking what we were dealing with.
“You’re going to love this,” Neal said. “They’re called fawns.”
Now, my mind went immediately to like.. Pan’s Labyrinth style creatures, but apparently they meant closer to a baby deer.
“They’re small creatures at the bottom of the food chain,” Julian said. “And their only form of defense, is that when they’re scared, they emit some kind of… pheromone or something, and it triggers huge fear response in pretty much anything around them. We suspect that in their world it serves as a moderate deterrent from predators, but here, the strength of that pheromone is —”
“WAY too much,” Neal took over, with maybe too much enthusiasm. “Absolute cardiac arrest. Apoplectic terror. And those adorable little fuckers are scared of everything.”
“… so what do we do?” I asked, expecting hazmat suits.
Neal just grinned his sparkliest grin. “We don’t scare them.”