Day 2 of being in pretend court. It was awful. I’m in hell.
I don’t know how real court works, but I’m pretty confident that this is not the way lmfao.
We arrived at like 9 am (ugh) to find the place already ready to go. Neal was waiting at his table already, and his guard wasn’t paying close attention so when I caught his eye on our way past to get to our bench, I darted sideways to hug him. He stood up to catch me.
“I’m okay,” he promised as Ace’s people all had a temper tantrum around us. “Julian?”
“He’s fine,” I said. Someone put a hand on my shoulder and yanked, and Cosima and Beverly both closed ranks between me and the guy who grabbed me, a skinny white guy with a holster strapped over his jeans.
It might have gotten ugly, but Judge Gutierrez spoke over the noise.
“Everyone relax, it’s alright,” and then to me specifically. “When this is over we’ll allow some visitation before the sentencing, but until then, I can’t have you touching the defendant, you understand?”
I must have looked about how I felt (which is to say, like spitting and clawing) because Neal said, “She understands. Right Shiloh?”
Beverly put a hand on my arm and I allowed myself to be steered into a seat.
Fuck them. Even prisons are supposed to have visitation.
Ace and his people must not have been particularly happy about how yesterday went because they had an actual plan today.
Judge Gutierrez stood up behind his bench and said, “As we established yesterday, this case will hinge on whether or not Merl Allen’s death at Neal Hawthorne’s hand was justified. To that end, each side will argue their case, and then the jury will vote.”
His tone suggested that he was explaining the rules of an activity that would end in a backyard barbecue.
“Well said,” prosecutor Heller said. “To that end, let me clarify our stance. I mean to prove over the course of the next few days that Nathaniel Hawthorne is a violent, unpredictable, irresponsible man who’s attack on Merl Allen is perfectly in line with his general behavior, who will not only kill again if allowed to go free, but who is incapable of making the hard decisions this lifestyle requires — the kind of hard decisions that Merl Allen made when he decided to hunt Julian Hawthorne.”
“Very well,” Cosima said, with a crisp little smile. “And I mean to prove that given the events leading to Merl Allen’s death, you’re all lucky Merl was the only casualty.”
This sent a ripple through the room.
The prosecution spent the morning calling witnesses.
They began with accounts of Neal’s character, which I’m sure were meant to give damning evidence about his heartlessness, but which were actually a delight tbh.
Like, there was one story where he and Jasper tricked a guy into flirting with a ghost. There was another where he and Cara trained a hailu dog to essentially give pony rides. Someone fell off from pretty high up and ended up with a bunch of broken bones, but like… I mean it was all pretty obviously stupid kid stuff. At one point during a story in which they impersonated catholic priests to investigate a haunting, Neal twisted in his seat to meet Jasper’s eye and the two of them shook silently with laughter until the Judge had to ask for order.
Cosima cleared up these questions by asking for Neal’s age, and a few extenuating circumstances. He came off looking mischievous but ultimately harmless.
But then, with some gentle guidance, a hunter I didn’t know described the events of the morning we found them digging Julian’s grave.
“It was an unpleasant job,” he said. “I didn’t like that the monster looked human. But Julian Hawthorne was a monster and he had to be put down.”
He described the blind rage he saw in Neal’s face when he pulled the trigger, and how Cooper had to intervene. He added, “I was making the world safer, and I thought I was going to die. It was the most afraid I’ve ever been on a hunt.”
Which to me says more about the dangerousness of this guys hunts than it does about Neal, because we were outnumbered like 3 to one, but whatever.
When Cosima was invited to cross examine, she took her time standing up and organizing her notes.
Then she said, “What did the monster Julian Hawthorne look like?”
He hesitated. “Tall,” he said. “Sorta long hair. Scruffy.”
“No,” Cosima said. “I mean, the monster version of Julian Hawthorne. What did that look like?”
He hesitated for a moment, and I saw him glance towards Rudy was sitting.
“Uh,” he said. “Big. Antlers. Sorta owl face, and then under that a huge mouth.”
“How big, exactly?” Cosima pressed. “Bigger than a car?”
“I don’t um.” He cleared his throat. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know,” Cosima repeated. “You didn’t get a good look?”
He glanced uncomfortably at Rudy, and then the judge.
“Not really,” he said.
“Did you see Julian’s monstrous form at all?”
“No,” he admitted.
“Why not?” Cosima asked.
There was a long, uncomfortable quiet, before he finally admitted, “he never changed.”
“Not even when you were killing him?”
There was a really long pause before he finally answered, “No.”
“So then how do you know that Julian was a monster?”
“Merl and Rudy Allen told me,” he said.
Cosima bowed her head just slightly. “No further questions.”
And with that we broke for lunch. We all felt pretty good about how we were looking. We got sandwiches and sat on the hoods of our cars to eat them. I mean the further we got into this case, the more ridiculous it looked.
But then the afternoon happened.
First they called Rudy Allen up to the stand, and look I honestly don’t even need to spell out how that went down, do I?
He went up and told everyone about the time he was murdering hailu puppies and Julian lost his grip, turned into a sick as beast, and chased them through the woods. Then he told the courtroom about how the moment they were able, they hunted Julian like any other case in order to keep the world safe. Blah blah blah. Same bullshit story.
Finally Heller asked, “Do you believe that killing Julian Hawthorne was the only way to prevent him from causing harm?”
Rudy nodded once. “I do.”
“And do you think that Neal Hawthorne would have ever been responsible enough, or selfless enough, to kill Julian himself?”
“I think today we’ve learned the level of responsibility Neal’s capable of taking,” Rudy said, and then when Heller raised an eyebrow, he added, “No, I do not think Neal would ever have been responsible enough to put down that threat himself.”
“No further questions,” he said.
I was sort of expecting Cosima to really lay into Rudy, but she didn’t.
She said, “That night in the woods when you and your brother were hunting, and you witnessed Julian change — did he hurt anyone?”
Rudy hesitated and shifted uncomfortably in his seat before finally saying, “not to my knowledge.”
“No further questions,” Cosima said and went to sit down.
That was the testimony I’d been worried about all day, so after it was over I thought we were in the clear.
And then the doozy.
Prosecutor Heller got to the front of the room, and said, clearly, “the prosecution calls Shiloh Tamblyn to the stand.”
And I choked on my soda.
“What?” I said.
The whole room had turned to look at me.
“It’s okay, Shiloh,” Beverly murmured, leaning close to me. “Just tell the truth, you’ll be fine.”
My heart was beating so fucking fast. Like I’m sorry, after everything I’ve been through this year, you’re giving me PUBLIC SPEAKING?
Neal twisted in his seat to look at me. “You don’t have to do this,” he said.
“She does, actually,” Heller said. “We agreed that all testimonies were fair game.”
Which unfortunately was true. It seemed like a good idea yesterday. I even thought I might end up saying a few things in their defense. We didn’t think the prosecution would decide to call ME.
I got up and walked on shaky little colt knees up to the front of the room where the rest of the witnesses had stood in front of everyone.
“Hello Shiloh,” Heller said, and he was using his nice-guy voice. “Can you tell us how old you are?”
I swallowed hard. “Nineteen,” I said.
“And how did you end up hunting with the Hawthornes?”
“They helped me solve a case, and it went uhhhh bad, so they offered to take me with them. For my protection.”
“And you’ve been hunting with them for a year, correct?”
I nodded, and then when no one went on I remembered that I was supposed to say stuff aloud. “A little longer.”
“How would you describe the Hawthorne brothers hunting style?”
I hesitated. “Uh… thorough? Skilled?”
“No,” I said at once. Because they’re not reckless.
“So you’ve never seen the Hawthorne brothers play fast and loose with people’s lives?”
“No,” I growled.
“Not even that night in the woods?”
I said, “Julian hadn’t had any incidents in years before that.”
“So you knew, when you went into the woods that day, that Julian Hawthorne might turn into a monster at any moment and threaten your life?”
My throat closed. I glanced at Neal sitting at the table and he forced a warm smile. He nodded encouragingly.
I wanted to lie. I didn’t. “No,” I admitted.
“Would you not consider that a little reckless?”
“No,” I said, but I just sounded childish and everyone knew it.
“Okay,” Heller said indulgently. And then: “Apart from that night, have you ever seen anything while hunting with the Hawthornes that would suggest that they would allow a dangerous creature to survive, despite the fact that it had killed before and would likely kill again?”
“No,” I said at once, and I really thought it was true.
Heller made a face and I could tell by his expression that he had me, I just didn’t know how yet. I wanted to throw something at his stupid head.
“Have you ever hunted a creature called a siren?” he asked slowly and my stomach plunged right down into my bowls.
I glanced at Neal just in time to see his eyes close in resignation.
“Yes,” I managed. My voice came out all strangled.
“And what happened on that case?”
I swallowed against the little pattering fingertips of panic running up my throat.
“There was a case where people were falling off cliffs or drowning,” I said.
“Speak up Ms Tamblyn,” Heller said and I cleared my throat.
“We found there was a siren singing on the cliffs in the morning,” I said. “People can’t resist siren song so they were walking off the cliffs and into the ocean and hurting themselves.”
“And how did the Hawthornes resolve that case?”
I cannot even begin to tell you how much I didn’t want to tell that room how that cases ended.
“She’d been separated from her pod,” I explained. “She didn’t mean to hurt anyone, but sirens can’t help but sing at dawn and dusk.”
“What did the Hawthornes do to save the people that siren was putting in danger?”
“They made her move on,” I said.
“They didn’t want to kill her?” he asked.
“No,” I said through gritted teeth.
“And do you know what happened to her next?”
“No,” I managed, staring firmly at my shoes.
“She killed three more people before Ray Steward found her and put her down. Three people who might have lived if the Hawthornes had made the hard choice and killed her when they had the chance. But the Hawthornes don’t make hard choices. They believed all creatures are equally worth protecting — even when they heartlessly lead innocent people, people with families, to slaughter.”
I managed a look at our few little tables, but the only person who was looking at me was Neal.
He mouthed, it’s okay, and I wanted to scream.
When it was Cosima’s turn to talk to me, she asked if I ever once felt unsafe because of either of the Hawthorne brothers and I said, “Absolutely not.”
“Do you trust Neal Hawthorne?”
“Completely,” I said, without a moment of hesitation and I saw Neal smile at the force of that truth.
“Do you believe that Neal Hawthorne means to hurt anyone?” Cosima asked.
“Neal would save everyone if he could,” I said firmly.
“No further questions,” Cosima said.
But the damage is done.
Literally, fuck me dude. I forgot about the siren.
To those idiot hunters Neal looks exactly like the kind of irresponsible, monster-saving, person killing traitor the fucking Allens want him to be.
I’m back at the motel room. Julian was all excited to hear how the day went — after yesterday when we came home all hopeful, I’m sure he was sorta hoping this whole thing to be a wash.
I let Beverly explain what happened. He’s giving me space I think. I’m writing this in the motel bathroom, pretending I’m showering.
I should post this and go out there.
Hey, super brief update, it’s been fifteen minutes but when I came out of the bathroom, Julian patted the mattress next to him. The Creature from the Black Lagoon is on TV.
“Whatever happens in there, we’re not gonna let anything happen to Neal,” Julian reminded me when I climbed up next to him to watch. “Don’t worry.”
Don’t worry HA it’s like he doesn’t even know me