Two strange phone calls we got this weekend:
1. Lana called us first thing Saturday morning, and she was absolutely frantic.
“I just got off the phone with Silas, what the fuck is going on?”
We were in a motel room. I’m gonna go ahead and go back to not telling you where we are just in case —we’re essentially on the run again I think. I’m not entirely certain what we’re running from — none of us wants to be anywhere near Billy Ace or his expansive new crew. We’re not sure exactly what they’d do, but I can tell you with confidence that none of us wants to find out.
Anyways the phone: Julian explained everything we knew about Billy Ace to Lana from the beginning, starting with his dead son, and the Infirmament murders, right on through to those hunters making him their leader.
“Why didn’t you call me?” Lana gasped and listen I’m surprised we picked up her call at ALL because I don’t know if you remember this but literally three weeks ago SHE RIFTED CARA THISTLE.
“They’re using Cara’s rifting as a rallying point,” Julian said.
Lana was quiet for a long moment, and I could feel the full injustice of that blooming under my feet. Like I don’t have to have any sympathy for her to recognize that it is total bullshit that we just carried out a horrible sentencing in order to prevent this exact thing, and it happened anyways.
I think I expected there to be more of a discussion, but Lana just said, “Alright. What else?”
“They want to be ‘free and independent of magic and those that use it,’ whatever the fuck that means,” Neal said, flopping onto one of the beds.
Lana laughed humorlessly at that. “That’s awfully short sighted of them,” she said. “But it can be arranged.”
There was quiet on the line for a moment, and then Julian said, “You need to stay out of this.”
“Excuse me?” Lana said.
“You can’t get involved,” Neal said more loudly.
“They’re looking for someone to fight,” Julian said. “It’s better we don’t give them anyone. Let the Walthers handle this.”
Lana laughed again, disbelieving and humorless, but she didn’t argue with him. Instead she said, “About Cara —”
“Don’t,” Neal interrupted. “Don’t say anything to me about Cara.” Then he took the phone out of Julian’s hand, ended the call, and tossed it on the bed. “Come on,” he said. “We need to keep moving.”
It looked like Julian might have had something to say, but he didn’t. Instead he just began gathering the last of his things. We were back on the road within 20 minutes.
2. The second call came hours later, when we were back on the road, and it was NOT from someone I was expecting.
For starters, it wasn’t a number any of us recognized. And then when Julian picked up, the man on the phone asked for me.
“This is Special Agent Mulligan,” he added when we all hesitated, frowning at each other. And then, hilariously, we were all relieved. Imagine, being relieved that it’s the guy who killed me. Wild world we’re living in.
He skipped the niceties and preamble, which I honestly appreciate. “As I’m sure you guessed, we’ve been keeping an eye on your home town in this last year,” he said.
I glanced at Neal and Julian.
“Yeah, we sorta figured something like that,” Julian said.
“Well, we sort of let those contacts relax in the last few weeks,” Mulligan went on. “What with — well, what we know now.”
It was literally only a few weeks ago that the FBI were still hunting us. It feels like centuries ago that we tracked that bone snake.
“We asked a few nurses last year to keep an ear to the ground and let us know should anyone come around asking about you,” Mulligan said. “And there have been people asking — but until now they’ve all been journalists or site-seers, you know, nothing that’s rung any real bells.”
Neal and Julian caught on faster than me.
“A private investigator flew into town yesterday and began asking questions about the case around the hospital. A very expensive private investigator — he’s very good.”
“Someone you know?” Julian asked.
“Hector Sanchez,” Mulligan said. “One of the best in the business — worth every penny, if you can pay his fees. I don’t know who hired him, but you definitely drew someone’s attention, and that person likely has money.” He hesitated, before adding awkwardly, “and given your ah… well, given the situation, I thought you’d like to know that.”
He is entirely correct, I would like to know that, thank you. And given what’s happened, I think I already know who’s asking around for me. What I didn’t understand was why.
I probably should have known lmfao, I mean it’s actually pretty obvious when you think about it, but my immediate response was like… what the fuck does Billy Ace give a shit about me, a 19 year old with a panic disorder and undiagnosed PTSD?
When I expressed this confusion/frustration Neal and Julian glanced at each other, then at me, and for a moment weren’t sure what to say. Finally Neal said, “What do you think a man with a dead son would find interesting about your story, Shiloh?”
And after that, I got the nice seeping feeling of dread and horror imagining Billy Ace in my terrible forest, walking towards the clearing in his clean, expensive new hiking boots. Is my forest the place that ruined my life? Yeah, sorta. But it’s MY terrifying woods and I don’t want him in there.
Is there a part of me that thinks that like… if the creature is willing to bring Billy’s son back to life, that maybe I shouldn’t try to stop that? Yes. But at the same time, like… I mean you feel it, right? You can sort of feel like that’s a bad idea? I don’t know how that would go wrong, but it just seems like… a bad call.
I don’t know what we’re going to do, but I’ve already called my mom and we’re on our way back to Black Lake right now.