bird murder (birder? murdird?)

Remember last week when I got high on accident and locked myself in a bathroom so I could call Rook and cry about Julian not wanting to make out with me?

Guess who called us yesterday morning because they need help with a case YEP THAT’S RIGHT Knock and Daryl. Whyyyyyy do I have to be like this why can’t I be cool and reserved and never do anything dumb???

They knew we were nearby because they helped us with our case last week, so they called to see if we could help them with an angel problem.

Yes, angel problem.

They’re in this super small town in a state I won’t name obviously, but it’s pretty secluded. Kind of town that’s easy to miss on maps, and apparently a few months ago, people started turning up dead under mysterious circumstances. The classic story.

Well Knock, Daryl and Rook happened to be passing through, so they did a little poking around, and what did they find?

Spooky church.

Every day is a burden.

We pulled in on Sunday morning, which was perfect timing. Rolled right into the crowded church parking lot, and slipped in right as the pastor was starting. It was so crowded inside that we had to stand in the back — there weren’t enough pews.

I don’t really understand the church denominations. At this point I genuinely think I know more about witchcraft than Jesus hahahaha. But even I know what an evangelical is.

The pastor was wearing a black suit, with a black shirt and a black tie. He’s a big man, with a wide arm span, meaty hands, and a kind face.

“Welcome again,” he said. “It warms my heart, seeing you all here, filling these pews. Truly, the lord has blessed this town. We have seen our share of strife, but look around! We pull together and we pull through, proving every day that when we look to the heavens, the lord’s light looks down on us, too.”

Someone in the audience shouted “Amen!” and there was a tittering of laughter.

It was a weird, I’ve been to church sporadically over the years — growing up best friends with a catholic you end up going to church a lot if you want to have slumber parties on Saturday nights — and I’ve never felt energy like I felt in there.

I know that there are churches that are fun, loud, enjoyable experiences, churches that are full of righteous fury, churches that are casual, or formal or whatever. Just because I was raised in the Pacific Northwest where every public space would have all the characteristics of a library if we had the choice, doesn’t mean that many places in the world aren’t full of energetic worship spaces.

I’ve never seen a church with tons of energy. Maybe this is what they’re all like and I just haven’t seen it.

I doubt it very much.

It was taut as a wire in there. People were hanging on to the pastor’s words. It felt like we were waiting for Jesus himself to speak.

And listen, I’m not here to say that the pastor wasn’t good. I wouldn’t know a good pastor if they whacked me over the head with a bible, but as far as I could tell, he was a good speaker. He had a big, booming voice, but he used it gently. He said things like, “We must choose love, and compassion, at every opportunity. This is what Christ asked of us.”

Nothing groundbreaking, or offensive. And yeah, he mentioned sin. He even went so far as to say, “we must turn our backs on sin, so we might all walk safely in the light of God.” But like… that’s hardly fire and brimstone, you know?

The audience hung on his every word for the full hour, and when it was over and everyone had sung their songs — people had to huddle around hymnals to see the lyrics — there was no hurry to get out. Everyone was lingering.

“Can we get out of here?” Neal asked. I think churches make him nervous hahahaha, he was twitchy through the whole service.

“Not yet,” Knock said, glaring up at the stained glass window above the pulpit.

“Are we waiting for something?”

“You’ll see.”

And I’m sure the suspense was killing the Hawthornes but I was too busy not killing myself to give a shit about why everyone was lingering in church. Why? So glad you asked.

The moment the service ended, Rook slipped between people to stand with me, his shoulder bumping mine as he leaned against the wall, which is of course proof that hell exists and I am living in it.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey.”

“So,” he said, and he wasn’t outright laughing at me, but it was clear that we both remembered the last time we spoke, you know? “How’s it going?”

“Oh it’s going,” I said, which is white person for I’ve-been-held-down-too-long-in-the-mire-of-existence-and-my-bones-yearn-for-the-soil.

“Oh,” he said. And then it was just silence, an endless expanse of utter, humiliating silence that stretched on into eternity.

It was an absolute relief when a mysterious glowing shape brushed past the window outside. A gasp went through the crowd. Several people pointed. One woman, I swear to god, was openly weeping.

“See that?” Knock said.

“I saw it,” Neal said. “You know what it is?”

“Oh yeah,” Daryl said. “Come on, let’s get something to eat.”

Behold, the sacred diner breakfast, accompanied by the long explanation of some cryptid.

Took us a while to get there though, because we had to drive a half hour out of town to talk — and I don’t mean half hour in big city, where you spend most of that time sitting at lights and in traffic, I mean half hour in small town. By the time we made it to our location, we were at a truck stop diner in the middle of fucking nowhere.

“Sorry to make you drive,” Daryl said as we all squeezed into round corner booth. “Can’t risk talking in town. Might get us killed.”

“Holy fire?” Neal asked, potentially too enthusiastic.

“Something like that,” Knock replied.

“What are we dealing with?” Julian asked.

Daryl smiled. “We’ve got ourselves a Copelands dove.”

Neal, who’d been taking a drink of coffee, choked. “That’s impossible.”

“Nope,” Daryl said. “Saw it with my own eyes. Absolutely real.”

“Holy shit,” Julian said. He laughed disbelievingly, which didn’t really track with what he actually said: “Holy shit, we’re in real trouble out here.”

“Oh yeah,” Daryl said. “We’ve been on the straight and narrow for a few weeks now.”

“What’s a Copelands dove?” I asked.

“Big ass white psychic bird,” Neal said, mouth full of hashbrowns. “Kills you if it’s flock thinks you’re a threat.”

To which I said, “WHAT?”

“It’s not that simple,” Julian assured me. “They’re very big, very intelligent birds of prey. We’re not sure if they’re psychic or just very sensitive, but once befriended, they begin acting upon the group’s, sometimes unspoken, desires — which can make them very dangerous depending on the group.”

At which point I already had a suspicion about what the rest of the case layout was going to look like.

Sure enough, Knock and Daryl laid out the case, and guess who was dead. That’s right! A girl who got an abortion. A woman who was cheating on her husband. A guy who turned out to actually be a murderer. Knock and Daryl laid out the last four months of events very clearly, including the first time they sighted the bird they were hunting. They print everything out instead of having it all on their phones and tablets, which I find very charming.

“So what’s your plan?” Neal asked, peering at a photograph of a shadow in the corner of the church.

“Well, we’re hoping you can help us out on that,” Daryl said. “We could kill this thing. Knock’s a good shot. But the problem is —”

“We don’t want to,” Knock said.

“There’s a reason the whole town is calling this thing an angel,” Daryl agreed. “We were hoping you might be able to work out some kind of alternative.”

Neal beamed. “So you want me to tame your judgmental ass bird?”

“Hell yes we do,” Daryl said.

“As long as you’re okay with that,” Knock added, more hesitantly.

Neal laughed. “Fuck yeah I’m okay with that.”

And that’s how I ended up doomed to spending the next who knows how long with Rook, who had spent the whole breakfast carefully not looking at me.

I wonder how much sinning I gotta do before that bird decides I gotta die? The preacher had a cute daughter who looked about my age. Would kissing her get me a ticket to bird murder? Because listen — I could be interested in something like that (someone please put me out of my misery)

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