Look, 16 people hanged is an ugly situation to deal with, and I know how insensitive I am for saying this, but it’s such a relief to have something to do. And I mean relief in that I have something to focus on that isn’t rage and helplessness about Cara being rifted.

Initially, I expected us to just start calling people on the inside — I think I’ve assumed there were hunters involved, because obviously I think hunters were involved. Who else would feel strongly enough about not just Kelvin himself, but also his followers, to track them down, drug them, bring them back to the rubble that is now Infirmament, and hang them in a full on gallows?

That’s not disgruntled family member of a cultist behavior. It’s maybe disgruntled family member of a cultist who inhaled a bunch of fog and then died behavior — maybe. But it would have to be a disgruntled family member of a cultist with lots of resources, skill, and sadism. SEVENTEEN people HUNG. In a GALLOWS. I just don’t see a civilian having that in them, not on their own.

A hunter had to be involved, and if there was a hunter involved, most likely someone knows what happened. So, I assumed we were going to begin this investigation by asking around.

Instead, we watched traffic cams.

It took a bit of doing. We had to pretend we wanted footage of an accident, and they still wouldn’t give it to us, so we had to fake a subpoena. Julian handled it.

Even with the (fake) paperwork, the people on the phone were pretty suspicious. They said they’d have the footage for us in 5-10 business days, which obviously isn’t gonna work for us, so we said we’d come look through it ourselves. They gave us a straight up no to that, so we waited until the day shift left, and came in to ask the evening crew. Luckily the guy at the office — a hapless 30-something with a coffee splatter on his shirt — couldn’t have cared less.

“Hi,” Julian said with a big warm smile. “We’re here to look through some highway footage from the 13th.”

He hesitated for a moment, but when Julian went on to explain that the manager, Lisa, had told us to come in, he shrugged. “Alright,” he said. “Here, I’ll bring you back.”

His name was Mike and he set us up in a little cubical, leaned over the desk while he searched for the right days, and with a few clicks brought up somewhat blurry highway footage.

“This is some popular film,” he said. “Cops were here for a copy of this just a few days ago. We think it’s about that Infirmament cult situation, did you hear about that?”

“Nope,” Julian said, as Neal sat down to start going through the footage.

“Oh it’s the craziest story,” Mike said, leaning against the desk. “Brainwashing and all sorts of crazy shit — I heard they had underground tunnels or something. Totally insane.”

“Oh yeah I think I did hear about that on the news,” Julian said, pointedly vague, leaning over the desk to watch the footage, too, and Mike got the hint.

“Alright, well… if you need anything,” he said.

We settled in to watch the whole night of footage, but didn’t need to. We got what we needed within an hour.

At around 1 am that morning, what was unmistakably a caravan drove down the highway. In the lead was a nice SUV, then a beat up truck, then two huge white vans, and after that a second truck, and surrounding it all, a bunch of guys on big ass bikes.

“What the fuck,” Neal said, leaning closer to the computer screen. “Who the fuck are all of these?”

But there was no telling from footage, it was too blurry, so instead we pulled plates. Julian was already looking them up by the time we got to the car.

“These are all fake,” he said. “Except —” he turned his iPad to show us. “This SUV.”

The SUV belonged to a man named William Ace.

“I don’t know him,” Neal said, frowning.

“Me neither,” Julian replied, already typing. It was as simple as searching for William Ace news in google. “…Oh, shit,” Julian said. “His son died of fog exposure.”

I didn’t want to hear that. The thing about dying of the fog is that unless you take special care to make sure that all the fog is being removed from your body, at a certain point you turn into one of those floating fog blimps and everything about that is so horrifying.

“Before we got the cure out?” Neal asked.

“No, earlier than that,” Julian said. “Remember when the Infirmament was claiming they cured cancer?”

“Oh, fuck,” Neal said.

“Yeah,” Julian said. “The article doesn’t say much more, but my guess, if I had to guess, is that they injected him with fog.” He kept reading for a while, then added, “He’s a tech guy. Super wealthy silicone valley type.” He paused a long time before adding, “maybe we should stay out of this one.”

“Yeah,” Neal said, and then made a soft sound of disgust and frustration. “God damn it.”

We were all thinking the same thing, I think. None of us want to go to bat over fucking Kelvin Rademaker. But Kelvin’s not the only one who hanged.

I did some of my own research to see who the other 15 hanged people were, and from what I can tell, they just hung anyone they could think of that was involved, without any notice for who was actually responsible, and who was a victim. Our contact Katie was among the dead, and she wasn’t guilty of anything. How many more were like her?

And that’s not even taking into account that literally just last week Cara went through a rift in order to stop this exact thing from happening. Hunters don’t kill people. They let civilian law handle that. So if William Ace was involved with any cryptid hunters, anyone who was connected with Lana or the Walthers in any way, how could we drop it? Even over someone as fucking awful as Kelvin?

Julian called the Scelerats to run the fake plates, and sure enough, at least two of them are hunters — Tracy and Devon Munroe, set up with Scelerat insurance and bank accounts.

“There a reason you’re looking for them?” Veronica Scelerat asked, and I don’t want to say she sounded suspicious, and maybe I’m just feeling paranoid, but there was definitely a TONE in her voice.

“Their plates came up in a case we’re researching,” Julian answered totally casually.

And then, after a moment of awkward quiet, Veronica added, “I was sorry to hear about Cara. It’s bad business.”

I saw Neal’s knuckles whiten on the steering wheel, but Julian was very calm. “Yeah, it’s not how we wanted it to turn out.”

It as quiet for a while when Julian got off the phone. “What do we do?”

“They killed at least one innocent person,” Neal said, which wasn’t exactly an answer, but it was enough of one.

All it took to guess where they’d gone was a phone call to Beverly.

“Hey, what do you know about Tracy and Devon Munroe?” Julian asked.

“Couple of hunters out of Reno,” she said (because I can sorta tell you locations now that we’re not being actively tracked! Or maybe that’s still a bad idea) “Been in the game a few years, ever since Tracy’s sister was killed by a river maw. Kinda rough around the edges, but they get the job done.”

“Do you trust them?” Neal asked.

Beverly hesitated. “What’s this about?” And when neither of them answered: “is it about the Infirmament case?”

“What do you know about it?” Neal asked.

“Not much,” she said. “I’m not mourning them.”

“No,” Julian agreed. “Not mourning them.”

“…but?” Beverly asked, and she sounded exhausted.

“Is Jasper with you?” Julian asked and I heard Beverly hesitate.

“No,” she said. “Is it bad?”

Neal looked like he was going to answer, but Julian shot him a look to shut him up. “There were hunters there. Tracy and Devon for sure, but they had a whole crew.”

Beverly was quiet for a really long time, so long that Julian said, “Bev?”

“I’m here,” she said. “Shit. God damn it. What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” Julian answered. “Maybe nothing.”

“You’re going to have a hard time convincing anyone that they did anything wrong,” Beverly said.

“There was at least one innocent person strung up,” Neal said. “Likely more.”

“You could call the Walthers,” Beverly said. “Let them deal with it. Or Lana.”

“They’ll protect their own asses,” Neal said. “You heard the Allens — people are already pushing for executions over rifting again.”

Beverly let out a long hiss of breath. Then she said, “The Monroes hunt out of a little bar, the Red Eye, outside of Reno. If you’re looking for them, that’s where I’d start.” But before she hung up, she added, “Be fucking careful on this one, alright?

I’m not convinced careful is really in our plans though, because the moment we had that address we were driving.

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