We were lying on the floor of a safe house in the mountains when Lana called.
The safe house has no electricity or running water, but it DOES have an outhouse, so that’s how life on the run is going. I’m starting to suspect that the phones have magic service though, because Lana came through loud and clear.
Technically Julian was teaching me how to play chess, but his heart wasn’t in it, neither was mine, and Neal was actively hindering progress by “accidentally” knocking over the pieces at every opportunity like a big dumb cat when Neal’s phone started ringing.
Something I’ve noticed about Neal’s phone ringing: either it’s Jasper, in which case it’s a Good and Fun call and nothing to worry about it, OR it’s someone we don’t want to talk to. See, everyone we WANT to talk knows to call Julian. Even the Emporium calls Julian, even though Julian just passes the call to Neal.
Everyone we don’t want to talk to thinks they’re supposed to call Neal for some reason. I don’t know this for certain, but I’m pretty sure everyone used to call Nolan, and without him, assume they should call Neal because he’s the next oldest. But everyone who knows the Hawthornes knows not to call Neal. HA no, call Julian.
Lana called Neal.
“This should be good,” Neal grumbled, and picked up.
“We’ve got a situation,” Lana said, and indeed, she sounded harried.
“When don’t we have a situation?”
“Neal, I’m very tired, will you just listen for three minutes before mouthing off.”
Neal rolled his eyes onto Julian, who serenely moved his knight and said, “checkmate.”
“It’s cult, boys, we’ve got a cult.”
“Boys and Shiloh,” Neal corrected. “And when don’t we have a cult?”
Lana skipped an octave: “Neal, listen to me please. There’s a cult in Northern REDACTED STATE and they have magic.”
Neal groaned. “It’s always a cult and they always have magic Lana, you’re gonna have to give us something better than that. Have you seen the news? We’re cannibals, we can’t even sit in a diner these days.”
“Yeah, we’ve got people on that,” Lana said.
“Oh well, if you’ve got people on it, I guess we’re good to go.”
“Neal, for fucks sake, just for today, can we not do the you’re-not-the-boss-of-me song and dance?”
“Sure, but you’re gonna have to call me back tomorrow.” See, this is why people call Julian.
Lana let out a slight groan of frustration: “Cara’s there.”
Neal hesitated. “What?”
“Cara. She’s been seen with the leaders of this cult. Five days ago they were just a bunch of rich weirdos doing bizarre google searches, and then Cara is photographed with them and suddenly they have magic.”
Neal and Julian were looking at each other. “Fuck,” Neal said.
“Yeah,” Lana agreed. “And that’s not the worst of it. A man at a local mental hospital overpowered and killed three orderlies yesterday. Witnesses said he was smoking from his mouth and nose.”
“Smoking?” Julian repeated.
“We’re not certain what that means,” Lana said. “Though it is remeniscent of what we witnessed at Fog Town.” (Obviously she didn’t call it Fog Town, she called it by it’s actual name, but we know it as Fog Town, so that’s what we’re calling it)
Neal pressed his fingers to his eyes as if hoping to push them deeper into his skull.
“This is a courtesy call,” Lana went on. “We’re treating this as a full-on emergency, but I’m giving you a head start because I’d like to be able sleep at night. So you do what you want with this time, and I’ll see you in a few days, or I won’t.”
And she hung up on us. We all sat there, stunned, staring at the phone.
Then we packed up our shit and got in the car.
We started doing research on the way. Apparently this is like, a proper, give it a year and there will be an HBO documentary on it cult. I mean, I’m pretty generous with the word cult, I confidently used it to describe the 5 lunatics that decided they were gonna start worshiping a unicorn in my home town last year, but this is like… I don’t know, it’s the real deal.
It’s called The Infirmament, which of course is the dumbest name of all time. It’s lead by a man named fucking Kelvin of all things, and he’s got two women… lieutenants or something, all with K names like they’re the damn Kardashians.
They’re living in of those green-living communities, and apparently the whole thing is owned by a few of the women in the cult, and they rent to all these other families. The community is like, 30 houses, and they’re all full of people that are in one way or another, in on this cult.
Last week, apparently, they performed an honest-to-god miracle.
“Holy shit,” Julian said. “They cured cancer. Look at this.”
Neal was driving, but he looked anyways, so you can imagine what it was like in the rabbit.
“I mean, their doctors are in the cult,” Neal said, tossing the phone back. “It’s a scam.”
“You didn’t read the whole thing,” Julian said. “They got second and third opinions. This woman was on her death bed and now she’s going skiing.”
“Could still be a scam.”
“Could be,” Julian said, passing the phone back to me, so I could get a look at it, too. “It’s not really what I’m most worried about though. Did you see the picture?”
“Yeah, I saw it,” Neal said.
It was a picture of Cara walking with two women, and a long-haired man who I assumed was Kelvin.
Neal blew out his breath. “Yeah, that doesn’t look particularly good for us.”
They’re being awfully quiet now. But I’m sure it’s going to be fine. So far the worst we’ve heard about them for sure is that they’re curing cancer. There’s no evidence that the smoking guy at the mental institution was connected to the Infirmament in anyway. Whatever Cara’s doing there, I’m sure it’s a misunderstanding.
(I hope very much)