Who was at the door?
It was five men.
I do not know all their names, but I know the leader’s name was Stan because when he opened the door, he said, “My name is Deputy Stan Bogan, and I’m here to arrest Nathaniel Hawthorne for the murder of Merl Allen.”
So I said, because I was confused by this dudes fuckin audacity: “Are you a cop?”
And he said, “I’m an officer of the United States Hunter Organization.”
And I tried to slam the door in their faces.
Unfortunately, one of them caught the door and all five pushed into the room.
Julian had successfully made it into the bathroom so he was out of sight, but Neal was right there in the main room, both of us caught entirely off-guard.
“Nathaniel Hawthorne,” Stan Bogan said when he saw him.
“Neal,” Neal corrected, but no one was listening. Two of them surged forward and seized him by the arms, as Stan Bogan raised his voice to continue: “Under the jurisdiction of USHO, you are under arrest for the murder of Merl Allen. You will be held in custody until the time of your trial, at which point you will face sentencing by a jury of your peers. No harm will come to you in our care, but your compliance is not optional.”
I went fucking FERAL.
I mean you can imagine. Last time these fuckers took a Hawthorne brother from me I literally had to bring him back from beyond the grave, in a deeply humiliating, painful, and traumatic way that I have no plan to — or like, idea how to — repeat.
It took the other two dudes to keep me from gouging out that guys fucking eyes out, despite Neal’s shouted reassurances. Maybe he was actually shouting at Julian to stay hidden. Either way, I didn’t stop clawing at people until Neal finally elbowed a guy in the nose, stomped another guy’s foot and escaped them long enough to look me in the face.
“SHILOH,” he said, grabbing my shoulders, and speaking VERY LOUDLY, presumably so that Julian could hear him in the bathroom over my yowling like a pissed cat, “Shiloh, stop, no one is hurting us, and they’re not lying. They’re not gonna hurt me.”
“We’re not gonna hurt you,” Stan Bogan agreed. “You’re only under arrest. The Organization gave you ample opportunity to turn yourself in, or to be turned in by your peers, but that was a courtesy we did not owe you. You will be afforded a fair trial, and justice will be served.” This all sounded very scripted, but when Stan Bogan saw that I was in genuine full on melt-down mode — and I was in melt-down mode, darkness was pressing in on the edges of my vision, my hands were starting to tingle, my throat felt like it was clenching like a fist — his tone changed: “Don’t worry, miss. This’ll be a fair trial, we’re not in the business of lying or cheating. We’re just looking for justice.”
He said this in a discordant combination of gentleness and smugness that enraged, but also reached me.
“He’s telling the truth,” Neal said. “I’m gonna be fine.”
“You promised not to lie to me,” I reminded him.
“I’m not,” he promised, and then he was being shepherded out the door. “Call Beverly!” he called as they jostled him from the room. “Don’t panic, don’t come for me, don’t do anything stupid — we’ll work this out! It’s going to be fine!”
And then he was gone and the room was silent and empty.
I sank onto the dirty carpet and stared at the beige bedspread on unmade corner of the bed.
Julian opened the bathroom door, and I looked up at him, and we shared a wide-eyed, terrified look.
Then we mobilized. Julian had Beverly on the phone immediately, and I called Cooper.
He was surprised to hear from me.
“Shiloh?” he asked when he realized it was me. He knew immediately that something had gone wrong. “What happened?”
As I explained I heard him say something to someone in the room with him and when I was finished, it was Cosima that responded:
“I mean there’s absolutely nothing legal about that. They have to know that, right? Any real court would —”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to explain,” Cooper said to her, as if continuing an argument they’d been having. “We don’t have a real court. We don’t have real laws. We’re not prepared fr literally anything — and you know that’s a vacuum begging to be filled. We need to be the ones who decide who fills it. We need your help.”
Now, at that point I was firmly in the fuck justice, we need the guy with super strength and some ammunition it’s time to storm the gates.
And bitch I STILL think that’s our best option, I’m sick of playing with these fucking people.
By now I’ve grudgingly accepted that’s not the direction we’re going, but Friday night, I was NOT THERE.
I don’t think Cooper even realized I was calling him in because I wanted him to come in fists blazing. I genuinely think it didn’t even cross his mind. He agreed to come back ASAP, hopefully with Cosima, who’s not only a lawyer, but also has the power to instantly unalive anyone she deems deserving of it, so probably a solid addition to the team regardless of whether we were going to court or to storm the gates.
Not that that was entirely off the table yet.
Julian’s phone call was much shorter than mine. He got Beverly on the phone, said, “They took Neal,” and then hung up. Which is way more dramatic than Julian’s usual style. But when he’d hung up it became clear that he couldn’t talk long because he needed to really focus on keeping his shit together.
When he sat on the floor and closed his eyes and started taking deep breaths, he couldn’t stop his knee bouncing and I noticed that he was clenching and unclenching his fists around the edges of his sweater.
“Shiloh,” he said, and his voice was carefully even. “It might be best if you go for a little bit. Beverly will be here soon.”
So I went and sat across from him.
“Do you want me to go?” I asked.
He shook his head.
“You gonna lose it?”
He smiled fleetingly. “Any moment.”
But here’s the thing — I hung out with that boy’s corpse for a week so like literally he cannot scare me.
“If they want a fight, they’ll have one,” Julian said and took a deep breath. “If not from me, than from Jasper.”
We were still on the floor taking deep breaths when Beverly, Jasper and Celeste arrived. The Kellihers literally waited at the door, and it took me a moment to realize that they were literally door guards. We’ve officially graduated to needing protection.
Jasper was so pissed.
“Can we fucking go in there now?” he demanded. “Can we burn the place down yet?”
“How did they even find you?” Beverly asked Julian, ignoring Jasper entirely. “How did they even know you were here?”
My heart sank as I realized what must have happened.
Ace must have recognized me. They must have had a suspicion. They must have followed us. All because I wanted to see what Lana said to them.
Julian must have realized at the same time that I did, because he quickly changed the subject.
“Neal said they were telling the truth,” he said, and now that we were in company again he’d fully pulled himself together. “They mean to try him in… court. Some kind of court.”
Celeste laughed mirthlessly. “You think they mean to run a fair court?” she said. “You don’t really need a witch to tell you why that’s not likely to happen, right?”
Beverly closed her eyes and took a long deep breath.
“We can go take him back by force,” she said. “We could do that. I’m not even opposed to it.”
I felt a storm of relief. For a second I really thought I’d get to see those sons of bitches actually get what they fucking DESERVE.
But then Beverly said, “But —” and Jasper let out a gust of frustration. “I’m sorry!” she said. “But we have to think about this! We want them to work with us. Magic is busting our world open like a damn coconut, and we need bodies to help protect it. We CAN go in there guns blazing, rescue Neal, and burn their club house to the ground. But is that the move that best serves us all long term?”
And then Julian said, in a clear voice, “It may be, Bev.” He looked up from where he was still seated on the floor. “We need to be prepared to acknowledge that the life of one dog saint may indeed be worth the war our intervention inevitably would cause.”
I full spun to stare at him. We all did.
Julian of two months ago would have never admitted that the dog saints were worth anything different than any other person. But Julian’s literally died since then.
“I know,” he said in response to our collective surprise. “And don’t expect this to be a total ideology shift okay I still think we shouldn’t give given political power unelected. But the facts are that if the five of us had stood up and taken some responsibility sooner, we might not be in this situation at all. And Neal’s power enables us to make the kinds of judgments we’re going to need in the future.”
Beverly took a long, slow breath.
“Okay,” she said. “It will be a short war. We’ll keep it as non-violent as we can. We’ll call in all our reinforcements, and I’ll bring Lana in as well.”
“There will be witches willing to take our side,” Celeste said. “We won’t need many.”
“Ace is trying to provoke us,” Beverly said. “We need to keep this as quick and painless as possible.”
And listen, my heart was soaring. It was racing ahead, full of a wild, delicious glee. Finally, FINALLY they were going to get what was coming to them. FINALLY.
We were literally hip deep in what I can only describe as battle strategy — which witches we’d have guarding our flanks, who we’d send into the building as a show of force — when Cooper called.
“Hey,” he said when Julian answered on speaker. “I did it, I convinced Cosima to come. We’re boarding a flight any minute, we’ll be there in just a few hours.” He sounded so relieved. I could hear his smile over the phone. “Have you made contact with Ace yet?”
We all exchanged a slightly awkward look.
“Cooper,” Beverly said. “A whole group of us can hear you right now.”
“Oh, hey,” he said. “What’s the update? We know when they’re charging him yet?”
I glanced around the circle and saw the various shades of shame or frustration cross everyone’s face.
“We um,” Beverly said. “We decided to go and take Neal back.”
There was a moment of quiet on the phone. I could hear airport announcements in the background.
Finally Cooper said, “I thought we agreed that we wanted to bring everyone together.”
Beverly closed her eyes. “We do,” she said. “But they assembled a damn police force and kidnapped someone — things are out of control.”
“But —” he broke off to exhale a breathy, frustrated laugh. “We’re right! We have every advantage on our side!”
“Not every advantage,” Jasper growled. “They have numbers. And they’re totally unscrupulous, unlike us for some reason.”
“Come on,” Cooper said. “Ace has them wrapped around their finger because he’s promising his followers a sense of justice and control. They want a system that supports justice and control? Fine. Let’s give them one. It won’t take long to expose him for the manipulative, power-hungry, sack of worms he is.”
And then I sealed our fate. I’m such an idiot.
I could feel myself realizing he was right, and all of a sudden I was in full rage tears mode and I said, “But I want him back now,” and we all heard how childish that sounded. I covered my face with my hands.
“I know,” Cooper said, very gently. “But this might be the perfect opportunity to expose this son of a bitch.” And then after a brief pause: “We just gotta play their game a little bit. Then we can rebuild this thing for real.”
I felt how right he was crushing down on top of me. I wanted to throw something.
“He’s right,” I said and then stormed into the bathroom and slammed the door behind me.
So we’re not storming the castle.
Instead, we’re going to have a fucking TRIAL. It’s such bullshit.
Beverly called Ace that night. I wasn’t there for that conversation, but according to Julian, she was not gentle. She told him, straight up and down, that we would participate in this rouse — but the MOMENT harm came to Neal, the MOMENT we got wind of any kind of mistreatment, we would resort to plan b, which was a scorched earth approach.
Cooper and Cosima arrived back in town in the middle of Friday night, and by Saturday morning we were trying to explain to Cosima that yes, we know there’s absolutely no legal precedence for any of this bullshit, and yes we KNOW it’s nonsense, but we’re playing along anyways in an effort to placate those of Ace’s company who aren’t literal nightmare people.
All of this is happening in our motel room because Julian isn’t allowed to leave it under any circumstances. There’s no evidence thus far that any of Ace’s people got wind of Julian being alive, and we’d very much like to keep it that way.
Which means that Cosima Caro arrived at our dark, dingy motel room on Saturday morning, wearing a sleek, understated outfit more expensive than the entire contents of the room. She took one look around and sniffed. Then she put her briefcase down on the rickety little table by the window, and said, “Alright, what’s the case.”
What’s the case indeed, Cosima.
Step one was to meet with Billy Ace, which wasn’t actually that difficult. He was expecting us. He wasn’t expecting us as we came though.
Beverly was the one who called. He picked up on the second ring.
“This is Billy Ace,” he said, so smug. Just the sound of his voice made me want to start stabbing.
“Hello Mr. Ace, this is Beverly Oshmar,” Bev said. “I’m calling to arrange legal representation for a man you arrested yesterday?”
This seemed to take him off guard.
“Legal representation,” he repeated.
“That’s right,” Beverly said. “People accused of crimes have the right to legal council, is that correct?”
He hesitated. Because, he can’t say no and continue to look like reasonable one. But also, lmfao hiring a lawyer sure does put into perspective that IF YOU’RE NOT USING THE LAWS ESTABLISHED BY THE US GOVERNMENT — WHICH YOU’RE NOT IF YOU’VE PUT TOGETHER YOUR OWN POLICE FORCE — THERE LITERALLY ARE NO LAWS. SO WHAT’S A LAWYER GOING TO DO?
SHOULD WE MAYBE ADMIT THIS IS ALL A HUGE SHAM? MAYBE? SHOULD WE ADMIT THAT BILLY BOY?
No, obviously he couldn’t admit that. So after an awkward pause on the phone, he said, “That of course seems fair.”
“Excellent,” Cosima said, crisply taking over. “Then I need to set up a meeting with my client. I’ll also have some basic questions — for example, what specifically is my client being charged with, when is the arraignment, who will be prosecuting the case, and when will the preliminary hearing be, because we will not be taking a plea.” And then, after a brief pause, “also who will be judging this little charade because I’ve never met a judge willing to hear out cases in which magic plays a role.”
I had to bite my knuckle to keep from cackling it was so excellent to listen as Billy Ace beginning to get frustrated. It’s become increasingly clear that he was expecting us to react by force, and had not prepared for this alternative.
Also — listen, you have to hand it to Cosima. Like, initially yeah, I was furious that we’d backed off a full-scale raid and rescue mission. But honestly watching Cosima eviscerate them “legally” might be almost as good.
I don’t have a ton more to say about anything at this point and I’m honestly really tired. What I will tell you is that — and this fear did cross my mind — Neal wasn’t lying to protect us when he said they have no intention of harming him until after the whole trial part of this little event.
I haven’t seen Neal, but Cosima has and she says that he’s totally fine. Not even bruised.
The arraignment was earlier today. Beverly suggested I stay with Julian in the motel room and I didn’t argue with her on account of me being the whole reason they figured out that Neal was in town in the first place.
According to Jasper — who is still absolutely fuming that we’re not just raiding the place — it wasn’t much to see.
“I mean apparently this whole trial is taking place in the bar, so you can imagine the atmosphere,” Jasper told us earlier while we ate our burgers. “They’ve got some random guy as judge. Apparently he used to be a fire fighter or something. He read off a little list of accusations, Neal pleaded not guilty, even though he technically is, and then we all left.”
Cosima, who picking at a diner salad that was mostly iceberg lettuce, said, “their prosecutor is a real lawyer though. Alvin Haller. He’s Ace’s personal attorney. He’s got chops.”
Hearings start tomorrow. I might actually do an extra blog post about it tomorrow? Since I have nothing better to do?
Remember when this blog was about the monsters we hunted every week? Man. Those were sure the days.