Before I go into what happened after, I should finish up my arrival in the hospital room.
We sat in silence for a few moments. She knew what I wanted to ask, and I knew she was going to resist, but I had to see for myself. Not just to judge the damage, but needed to see the proof that things had really escalated this far.
“Let me see,” I said.
She shook her head.
“Celeste,” I said again, “let me see.”
Violet interrupted in order to give Celeste back her rosary, but it didn't make me lose my resolve. I had to see it for myself. She was in pain, I realized that, but I just had to see.
She saw that I wasn't going to give in.
“Zeke, don't make me,” she begged, and I think that made me soften a bit, hearing how tired she sounded, how defeated.
“I'm sorry.” And I was. But the sooner I saw it, the sooner I could get to work.
She finally showed me, and when she did I made sure to be as gentle as I could be with her. But there it was, that large fucking scar on the back of her neck, his mark like a god damn target sign. I cursed under my breath as I touched it as gently as I could.
Not gentle enough. She screamed and pushed her face into the pillow. Violet gave me that look that Lizzie used to give me whenever I had screwed up big time, so I put my hand on her back to try and comfort her. I dunno if it worked or not. I like to think it did.
Then I went into the interrogation. What happened, how she was attacked, was there anyone else involved, that sort of deal. What she gave me was what I already knew, but double-checking always helped. Practical Cat was by himself, as far as we knew, and he was strong enough to at least take control over her long enough to do...whatever he wanted. No one really knew what else he had done. I certainly was okay not knowing.
This was a big job. Not only was I going against Practical Cat, but Keaton and whomever else the FBI had sent out here were still around. Sorry, folks, but if I'm really gonna do this, I need to call help.
I went outside to make the call; I didn't want them hearing it. He picked up on the second ring.
“Welcome to Movie Phone,” he answered with.
“Wren, I need you down in Maryland for a little while.”
“Oooh, we going cat hunting?”
“Just keeping an eye on things for now.”
“Aw, that's no fun.”
“Alright, well, I'm in Philly right now, gimme a couple hours, and I'll be right down. Meet you at the hospital?”
“I'll be here. See you then.”
During those couple of hours I decided to take a walk around town and see what there was. During my walks, I was able to deduce two things: one, nothing of importance ever seemed to happen here, and two, none of the people seemed to emulate suspicion like the people in Indiana did. None of them looked at me funny or treated me differently; if anything, they treated me as just another speck among the many specks of town. If there was a cult in America that worshiped Slender Man, it had not reached this town; of which I was particularly grateful for.
After a cup of coffee and a bagel, I went back to the hospital to wait. Wren finally arrived about forty minutes after that, and hopped out of the car acting as if he was right on time instead of a half an hour late. He looked perky and chipper given the situation, which would have been odd for anyone who didn't know him. Wren never lost his cool, ever. He was always calm, cool, and in control of himself.
“Alright, so where's the patient, doctor?” was the first thing out of his mouth.
I led him inside, keeping an eye on him and wondering how I was possibly going to explain this one to Celeste, who absolutely hated his guts. He's not exactly Mr. Popular these days, even by me, who knows him. But hey, this was desperate times. And even though the proxies wouldn't be scared off by him, the FBI would be a little weary before touching this one.
“What were you doing in Philadelphia?” I decided to ask him.
“Working on that favor you asked of me.”
He sighed. “She was there for three weeks in March, then took off. I don't think she went far, though. She leaves a bit of a trail wherever she goes, Philly's just the third town since we split ways. I think she wants to be found, Zee.”
“Well, hopefully we won't keep her waiting too long.”
We were outside her door when I told him to wait outside; knowing Celeste, I wanted her to hear it from me before he just waltzed in. He didn't complain, just shrugged and leaned against the wall. At least he's not the kind of guy to bombard you with protests when you tell him to do/don't do something.
When I went inside, Celeste and Violet were still inside and they both looked up at me as I closed the door behind me. I have no idea why- maybe it was Ava's warning, maybe it was these two girls' personalities, or maybe it was a disturbance in the force that is my life- but I was very, very nervous as I told her that I had called in someone to help me out.
She knew without me even telling her who it was.
“It's just for a little while, until you're better-”
“Really, Zeke? Really?” Violet's look on her face was one of absolute loathing. It was a losing battle, for sure, but me being me, I wasn't going to step down, and her being her, neither was she.
"Zeke," Celeste glared at me and for a fleeting moment I felt like I was back in grade school. "He is a CRIMINAL. I don't know what he did, and I don't CARE what he did, he is not being around me."
"I understand you don't like him, but he's the only help I have right now. He's a SWAT officer-"
"EX-SWAT, I would hope."
"Yes, ex, but still SWAT, and that training doesn't go away. And right now, that's good enough for me. Look, I don't trust him, not completely, but I need the help, Celeste."
She wasn't budging, and I knew it was going to take some time. And then Wren decided to step in and make everything worse.
“Yo, can I come in now, because the nurse is giving me weird looks-”
“Get out of my room!”
“Woooah, easy there, chica, I'm just here on Zeke's invite-”
“Will you get him out of here, Zeke, please?”
“Will everyone just calm down!”
“Why are we even yelling? I didn't do anything yet.”
“She doesn't want you in here, asshole!”
“Yeah, and I can think of a hundred better places to be in than a hospital in some tumbleweed town in the middle of nowhere, but seeing as how she's been fucked up by a social retard controlled by a medieval woodcut come to life, it looks to me as though you could use all the help you can get-”
“WILL SOMEBODY GET HIM OUT OF HE-OW!”
She suddenly clasped the back of her neck as smalls drops of blood hit her pillowcase. In all the commotion, her stitches has ripped open, and right then she was doing her damnedest not to break down and cry right in front of us. Violet held her and tried to calm her down while I forefully shoved Wren out the door and called for the doctor, while inwardly cursing up a storm and keeping myself from strangling all of them.
Needless to say, things have not been going very well.