Saturday, February 26, 2011

Aunt Michelle

I haven't been around to post for a little while, and I suppose that's my fault. I've had kind of an eventful two weeks.

Firstly, Angel has finally flipped shit about me. A couple of days after my last post, a completely unrelated annoyance (and a completely ridiculous one; I may tell you if you ask nicely, but it's not important) set her off, and she just kept on going until she got to me.

The thing about Angel is that it's not just what she says; it's her tone, her movements, her entire body language that seems to scream a warning like a snake's rattle. I knew this was a long time coming; despite being all comfort and support on the outside, her passive-aggressive nature couldn't be hidden, and she was leaning less and less toward Oh, my stepdaughter has been severely traumatized, so I should back off, and more and more toward This little bitch needs to get over that shit.

I mean, she doesn't know about Christmas. Or about Zero or Ulryc. Or Zeke. And I don't want her to. I would never trust her with that information. And she grew up do I put this lightly? Oh, fuck it -- she's white trash. She was raised around drug dealers and criminals; she wouldn't even let Sheriff Thomson or Detective Goldman in the house if she didn't think it was useful to have a cop friend. She blames me for bringing the FBI around, and thinks that I've been lying and that Vi and I are involved in some sort of shady underground criminality.

So when she was through with me, she stormed right out the door and over to the neighbor's driveway, where the car with the Virginia tags was parked. She got the driver out of the car -- surprise, surprise, it was an agent after all, albeit a younger-looking one than Keaton or de Vries -- and proceeded to tear him a new one. He threatened to call the local police to have her arrested. She threatened to call her boot to go on an important mission in his ass.

Sometimes, having a crazy, cop-paranoid stepmother comes in handy; I don't think I'm going to be followed as closely now. I mean, they'll probably still keep tabs on me, but not car-in-neighbor's-driveway close.

When she got back from doing that, she opened up on me again for lying about Violet and my "online fucking psychopath boyfriend -- what, you think I haven't told that Keaton about all that time you spend on the computer?!" Honestly, I let that slide. Yes, I have been lying to them -- it's not what they think I'm lying about, but thinking I deal drugs with my partner-in-crime Vi and I'm obsessed with a felon isn't nearly as bad as knowing the truth. I don't think they'd be able to handle it.

On a sadder of the reasons I haven't posted is because of my Aunt Michelle.

Michelle Flynn is my aunt on my mother's side, and for a long time in my childhood, she was my favorite person in the world. She's my mom's youngest sister (Ma's the very middle of seven), and she's forty-seven years old now. Until recently, she had gingery, aurburny hair, just like me. I have her eyes, too, the ones that can't decide whether to be blue or green.

When I was going through my big bout of depression in the beginning of high school, she would call me every night just to talk and get things out. She knew how much I'd loved living by the ocean as a kid, and how I felt about boys and school and writing and theater. I say she'd call on the phone because more often than not, she was out jetsetting -- Aunt Michelle made a killing buying, fixing up, and selling houses, or sometimes, renting them out instead. It's a hard field, she'd always say to me. You have to be on your toes, or you'll go under faster than an anemic on Novocain. She could always turn a phrase when she wanted to.

And she wouldn't sell all of her houses; she kept the ones she truly loved. To my knowledge, she had houses in London, New York, Rome, and Los Angeles. But her favorite was her house in Paris; she spent most of her time there, she said, now that she'd established herself in the business and made enough to take breaks. She'd always tell me how I should come and see her there. We sort of grew apart in the last few years, just sort of calling each other every few months to check in, and she came to visit around the holidays a lot.

My Aunt Michelle is dying.

She didn't tell us when she'd first been diagnosed with ovarian cancer a year and a half ago. It took us a few months to find out, and when we did, I saw just how good Irish families can be at circling the wagons. She's been given six weeks to live for the last six months, but we all know that this can only keep up for so long. She came back to Baltimore last Monday and has been staying at her apartment here. Different members of the family have been in at different times, and I've tried to get down as much as I can, too.

Her hair is mostly gone, only withered strands sticking around, and she covers them with a hat that I got her for Christmas the year I turned fourteen. Her eyes are glazed and it looks like she's about to cry all the time. I feel bad for not calling her more over the past few years. She was so amazing to me, but I just got all caught up in my own life. I feel guilty for not pressuring her to spend this Christmas with us, but she seemed so sure that she'd be able to make it to next year that she refused. Now she says she's not feeling so sure, but that it's okay because she never liked Christmas much anyway. I feel guilty for being caught up in this shit and not even giving her a mention in this blog before now, when it's not going to make any difference. I feel guilty for living so selfishly when she's been selfless to her family her entire life, and she's dying.

It's not fair. It's not fair that people like Angel and Keaton and Practical fucking Cat can do so much harm, and they're alive and well, but Michelle Flynn -- who probably never even dreamed of anything as evil as what we're trying to fight -- isn't able to make it to fifty.

It's just. Not. Fair.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Just checked the comments on my last post. It looks like we've lost Ulryc.

I just...I just can't put into words. He was a great advocate in our cause, and a good friend.

And if we're going by what Vi has decreed, it looks like it's just you and me now, Zeke. Personally, I like to think we're not alone; we've still got Lucien and Baibre, and Jacky and Allie, and Branwen and Distilled. I try to remember it like a mantra, even as more of us get picked off. We're not alone.

I'm not alone.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How to Lose Fear and Completely Run Away from All Social Connection

When I was a kid, I was terrified of guns.

I hated loud noises -- they reminded me of my father yelling at something I'd done wrong -- so they aleady had that against them. But I was also one of the earliest of the children to grasp that even a tiny .22 pistol could kill someone in the blink of an eye, even in the hands of the most unskilled individual. Even in the hands of a child who doesn't know any better.

As I got older, and wiser, I eventually found out that it was the person behind the gun who made all the difference. For instance: if one of those Slender-puppets had a gun in my presence, it would make me feel very differently than I would if it was, say, Zeke with the gun. And eventually guns became a smaller worry; war, poverty, corruption, evil men -- there were much bigger things to be scared of.

When I was fourteen, my dad brought me to the local shooting range for the first time. I still didn't really like guns, but he got one in my hands only for both of us to find that I was an excellent natural shot, with both a handgun and a rifle. He's also a bow hunter and had taught me to shoot a bow and arrow before then, so we'd had an idea, but I'd never even picked up a firearm before. As I practiced, and he taught me how to properly handle, take apart, and examine a weapon, I became less and less afraid, because what you know is so much less frightening than what you don't.

Come to think of it, that's still a really good memory I have with my dad. And promptly on the heels of that comes the thought that we haven't been back there in quite some time. The closest I've gotten were airsoft matches with my friends, and I've shied away from those kinds of outings since this business began. But more on that later.

Getting to the point, I think it's this same principle that I feel toward those FBI agents, that allows me to snark them up with no problem. I don't know the Slender Man -- don't know his motives, his origins, and even theories can only come close -- but I know men. And I know how to deal with men. And we can all be assured here that in this instance, there are just much bigger things to worry about.

On that note, actually, a lot of you commenters were talking about, not the Department of SCP, but The SCP; I think we might be talking about two different organizations. I've never heard of a diffinitive "SCP" group, but there are plenty of organizations with the same initials. For now, let's stick with talking about the Department of Specialized Containment Protocol, or NAMBLA.

Sorry. That inappropriate humor coming through again.

But I have to get it out somewhere. Most of my socialization these days comes from Facebook and World of Warcraft -- or, come to think of it, this blog. The vast majority of my friends have given me up for a recluse. A lot of them just don't know what to say to me.

But with the FBI and one whatever-the-fuck-Practical-Cat-is following me around, I need to start doing more normal teenager things. If not just to keep them off my trail, then just to keep me sane. I feel like I'll be hitting full-on cabin fever any day now.

So, when Cara, a friend of mine, posted a call for friends to help her with her Photography project on the Facebook, I merrily replied. We'll be having our own little photo shoot, I guess. Some of the photos may even make it here.

Oh, and I almost forgot; today is Valentine's Day, isn't it? And I'm caught without a valentine. Ah, well. Worse things have happened.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Trouble On the Home Front

Keaton came to my house again. Only, get this, internet -- I was home alone.

Saturday was a busy day for my family, but not so much for me. Dad and Angel were at a bull roast for their volunteer group at Eden Mill, my stepbrothers were at their father's house, and Milo and Nikki were running errands in town. I would've gone with them, but I really had some talking to do with some of the other people in my life.

I started with Detective Goldman. Before last week, we'd been planning for as many martial arts lessons as we could both fit into our schedule, but the last week has been kind of trying for both of us. He answered after two rings of the phone.


"Detective. Hi, it's Celie."

"Hey, Celie. What's going on?"

His tone was ambiguous; was he asking what was going on in a general "What's up?" sense, or what was going on in the sense that he'd been interrogated by a dude who looked like R. Lee Ermey and talked like that guy from Fallout 3.

"Um...well, I really need to talk to you about some stuff."

"Did those FBI agents come to see you, too?" he asked.


I heard him draw a deep breath on the phone.

"This has landed me in a bit of hot water," he said.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. It's nothing I can't handle. But just tell me one thing, Celie, and be honest; has Violet done anything wrong? Are we defending her innocence, or protecting her guilt?"

"She hasn't done anything. These guys are...they're not normal FBI."

"I know."


"I know. FBI has no reason to be chasing an eighteen-year-old art student across the country."

Or a twenty-seven-year-old detective, I thought. Who knows how many others they've chased and caught without reason?

We were silent for a moment.

"They played me part of your interrogation when they were here."

"They what?"

"Is that even legal?"

"It's...that's...questionable," he said. It sounded like he was holding in a lot of frustration. "But rest assured it's frowned upon as hell."

"You were great, Michael," I said.

"Yeah, well," he said. "Have you talked to Father Kelly?"

"Not yet. I think he might be angry with me."

"Nobody's angry with you."

"This is all my fault."

"It's not," he said, much calmer now. "You didn't ask those men to come. I can't speak for the others, but I'm not angry at you. I'm still here, Celie."

Somehow that made me feel worse. Like when I was sick in elementary school and the nurse would call my mom, and she'd hand the phone to me and Ma would say something like it's all right, sweetie, I'll be there to get you soon. The fact that she cared somehow always came as a surprise to me.

After my talk with Detective Goldman, I called Riley. He'd gotten a visit, too, but Vi had told him that she thought they were after her so he was more or less ready for it.

Father Kelly was next. He was calm and cool, as usual, and knew all the right things to say. He said that I need to be more open with him from now on. I told him I'd try.

Finally, I called Violet.

"Hey, you."

"Hey, you."

"Watcha doin'?" she said. It sounded like her mouth was full.

"Nothing. You?"

"Nommin'." I could hear the smile in her voice. "Haven't had my chocolate fix in the last couple of days. The new drop things from Hershey are freaking godly."

I laughed. "Addict."

"Don't judge, fool."

I walked over to my computer, which was already on, and clicked the World of Warcraft icon. The sound was turned all the way up, so the sound of the startup reached Vi.

"What are you doing over there?"

"Starting up WoW," I said.


"Don't judge. Today's my day off. I can sit around naked and play World of Warcraft if I damn well please."

"Which you do."

"Which I do."

We laughed.

Vi said, "...You're not really naked, are you?"


"Then what are you wearing?"

I blinked. "Socks."

"Are they business socks?"

We laughed again.

"Be careful, though," she said. "Creepers could hack your computer and turn on your webcam and shit."

"My webcam only covers my head at this level. If creepers hacked my computer, all they'd get is a shot of my dirty, scandalous shoulders."

"Oooh, sexy."

"Aw, yeah, girl."

My doorbell rang.

"What was that?" Vi said.

"My doorbell."

"You have a doorbell?"

"I have to call you back."

"Okay," she said. Her voice was suddenly very worried. "Stay safe. Keep alert."

"You, too," I said. "Bye."

I threw on a pair of jeans and an xkcd T-shirt I had lying around and went downstairs. Our door doesn't have a peephole, only windows on the sides, so in order to look out and see who's there, you kind of have to show whoever it is that you're home, thus obligating you to open the door. Sometimes I wish that we didn't have a system so functionally retarded.

Especially when behind the door is an FBI agent and here with me is, you know, no one.

I opened the door.

"SSA Keaton," I said, by way of greeting.

"Miss McLachlan, so nice to see you again," he said. "May I come in? I've called your father and he said it was quite all right."

Great. Now if I didn't let him in, he'd call my father and I'd get bitched out for having no hospitality when he came home.

"Certainly," I said.

We moved into the kitchen.

"To what do I owe the pleasure, Special Agent?" I asked sardonically. Even his presence was starting to make me angry.

"Miss McLachlan, the FBI has reason to believe that you've been having correspondence with a fugitive."

I blinked. "Excuse me?"

"Have you ever spoken to Ezekiel Strahm?" he asked.

"If I have, that's not illegal."

"It is if he has divulged information about his whereabouts."

"He hasn't."

"What is your relationship to Ezekiel Strahm?"

"Come again?"

"Your parents tell me that you haven't had any romantic interests in quite some time."

"I don't see how that's any of your business."

"And reports have shown that he's been very fond of you --"

"Oh, yeah, you're right. Females can't possibly feel anything for the opposite sex that isn't puppy love. Please make your point," I said. Suddenly my voice didn't sound like my own. It had taken on a quality similar to that of razorblades.

"I'm only pointing out that it isn't unusual for a seasoned sociopath like Strahm to gain the attention and support of a loyal follower."

"Well, you know what they say about detectives from New England," I said with a snort. He gave me a question-mark look; he obviously didn't know. I sighed. "Besides, I'm not Zeke's follower."

"Then what are you?"

My eyes narrowed. "What I am is an emotionally grown woman who doesn't need a boyfriend to make my life complete."

"But you are friendly with Strahm?"

"How are you certain it's him?" I asked. "You could be thinking I'm somehow 'madly in love' with the real Zeke Strahm...or, you could be getting trolled by a clever nerd who thought it'd be funny to change his screen name. Either way, you look like a damn idiot, so I'm going to ask you again: What are you doing here, Special Agent?"

"You were in direct contact with Strahm when some of his crimes were committed."

"I thought this was about Violet."

He ignored me. "Technically, that makes you a witness."

"Oh, I'm a witness, all right."

We stood in silence for a moment.

"Can I ask you something?" I said.

"Of course."

"What's your unit name?"

"Excuse me?"

"You are part of a department," I said. "What is its name?"

"We're a very unique branch."

"The name, Special Agent."

He blinked. "The Department of Specialized Containment Protocol."

"Oh, my," I said. "A whole department just for protocol?"

"It is very extensive."

"Oh, I bet."

I looked at the clock. "I hate to be rude, but I have a prior engagement. If you'd be so kind."

"Of course. Have a nice afternoon, Miss McLachlan," he said as I half-walked, half-shepherded him out the door. "Do try to stay out of trouble."

"It what I do," I said. Then I closed the door.

I turned my back to it and leaned against the heavy dark wood, right in the blind spot of the two windows. My knees gave out and I sunk down. The reality of what just happened sunk into me and suddenly my heart started to race. My breathing quickened. I tried to slow it; I was nearly in panic mode, when there wasn't anything left to panic about.

The past two days have been quiet, though. Almost nice. I'll try not to get too excited about it this time.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Makeshift Interrogation?

First of all, I’m okay. You know, more or less. But I wish I could’ve taken your advice and gotten out; more on that later.

To put it shortly, that could have gone better. At least there's no legal penalty for pissing off an FBI agent.

Oh, I'm sorry. Special agent.

Let's begin at the beginning, then.

Today, I was out on assignment when I got that message I showed you from Vi. When I got home, there was a strange car in the driveway, a black SUV of some kind. I went inside and immediately felt sick; the first thing I saw was my father and stepmother sitting at our kitchen table. The second thing I saw was the two men in suits sitting with them. When they saw me, they rose.

"Celie --" my father began.

"Is this your daughter, Mr. McLachlan?" the first man spoke with a heavy Virginian accent.

"Yes," he said.

"Miss McLachlan," the second man sounded vaguely Pennsylvania Dutch. They both reached into their jacket pockets and took out their ID badges. "I'm Special Agent Neil de Vries, this is Supervisory Special Agent Leslie Keaton. We're with the FBI."

I barely had time to see the big "FBI" print on the badges before they had them away again.

"If you don't mind, we'd like to ask you a few questions," said Keaton.

"Questions about what?" I asked.

"Don't argue, Celie," Angel said. I wondered whether I was the only one in the room who heard the warning in her voice.

"I'm not arguing," I said. "I'm just asking."

"Nothing to worry about," Keaton said. "Just a few things concerning some friends of yours."

"Can I go upstairs and change first?" I asked. "I just got home from work. It'll only take a minute."

"Of course. We'll wait for you here."

I went straight over to the hallway and up the stairs to my room. At the top of the stairs, I saw Milo standing at the door to his bedroom.

"What's going on?" he whispered. I told him I didn't know, then went into my room and shut the door.

That's when I jotted down that last post, so that I wouldn't forget that Vi may have warned me about the agents in my kitchen. Then I changed and went back downstairs.

"Please, sit."

I reflected on the oddness of him asking me to sit in my own house as I went over and, reluctantly, placed myself at the end of the table closest to the door from which I'd just entered. SA de Vries looked to my father.

"If you'll excuse us, sir, it's sometimes easier for young teenagers to answer questions about their friends when their parents are not present."

"I'm nineteen," I said. They ignored me. These guys were already starting to rub me the wrong way.

Dad and Angel exchanged a look before they both sort of nodded and left the room. Milo, who I hadn't even heard follow me down to lurk in the hallway, looked at me searchingly. I gave him a nod -- I didn't want him to see anything or hear anything that he shouldn't -- and he left with them.

Keaton sat in the chair directly across the rectangular table from me, the farthest possible place. De Vries took the place in the middle. At this point, all I can think of is Zeke; he's the only person I know who's got the FBI after them. My heart rate increased and I committed to watch what I said; one wrong word, and they could get to him, and Ulryc and Jeff and Baibre and Jacky, and everybody else who's even tried to help him or me. At the time, I didn't really think about them getting to me, too, but now I'm sure I had a sense of it.

Keaton leaned forward. I felt myself tense. What kind of things would he ask me about Zeke? I didn't know any more than anyone else who knew his story.

"Miss McLachlan, are you aquainted with a young lady by the name of Violet Marshall?"

I blinked. What did they want with Vi?

"Yes," I said before I could stop myself to think.

"From what your parents tell us -- "

"Angel isn't my parent -- "

"-- we understand you two are quite close."

I paused. "Yes," I said.

"It came as a shock, no doubt, when she left a few weeks ago," he said.

"Not really."


"She'd been talking for a long while about leaving."

"Did she say why?"

I paused again. Were they setting me up?

"She didn't like it around here. Said everything had started to give her the creeps. She needed a change of scenery."

"Is that all?" de Vries asked.

"More or less."

"Exactly what had started to give her 'the creeps?'" Keaton said.

"She's an artist. Who knows what kinds of things she can dream up to fill shadows?"

They stared at me as if to say, Oh, we have an idea.

"We have reason to believe," Keaton said, "that Miss Marshall was, or still is, involved in criminal activity."

"Why do you believe that?"

"That's not important."

"Yes, it is."

He ignored me.

"Do you have any idea where she might be?"

"She's in Ohio with her aunt."

"According to her aunt, she left sometime last week."

"Then I don't know."

"She didn't tell you where she was headed?"

"No. Why don't you guys trace her yourself?"

"Excuse me?"

"Use her bank card records."

"Miss Marshall has not made any purchases with her bank card since a considerable ATM withdrawal on the eighteenth of this month."

So she knew someone was after her. Oh, Vi, why didn't you tell me?

"Then trace her phone. Hell, ask her parents where she is. Have you even talked to them? What are you really here for?"

"Miss McLachlan," he said. "We know that you know where your friend is going. Now, are you going to tell us willingly? If not, we're just as content to report you for obstruction of justice."

Something in me clicked.


"Excuse me?"

"You can't do that." I sat up a bit straighter.

"You see, unlike most hillbillies who use the phrase, I don't get all my legal information from Law & Order, so I actually do know my rights. And the Fifth Amendment isn't just a celebrity cop out; it protects me from being coerced into being a witness against myself. You're asking me questions about Violet, but I can't be sure that I'm not a suspect in whatever you're investigating. I have no obligation to speak to you. I haven't since I walked in the door."

That shook them. They exchanged a look before de Vries pulled something out from his jacket pocket and put it in the middle of the table. It was a tape recorder. He hit play.

"-- sn't your jurisdiction," a voice came from the tape. An angry voice. A familiar voice.

"It became our jurisdiction the minute Violet Marshall crossed state lines." I recognized the second voice as Keaton's.

"She's of age and hasn't been in trouble a day in her life. She has every right to travel."

"We would greatly appreciate a little more cooperation on your part."

"Maybe I would be more willing to cooperate if you would tell me exactly what Marshall is being charged with! She's a teenage girl, for god's sakes, how bad can it be?"

"That's classified."


A long pause, and then a vague shifting sound on the tape.

"How familiar are you with Miss Celeste McLachlan?"

"She has nothing to do with this."

"We believe she may know where Marshall is hiding."

"You can't be sure of that."

"Why not?"

"Their relationship has been rocky within the past few months."

"Because of the disappearance of Rosephanye Powell?"

"That contributed to it, but Marshall also felt that Cel -- that Miss McLachlan -- was keeping secrets from her."

"How did you aquire that information?"

There is a long silence.

"We understand that you have grown quite close with Miss McLachlan in recent months."

"My relationship with McLachlan is not -- "

"We never suggested it was. How did you two meet?"

"She was a witness in a case."

"The Annie's Playground case?"


"She was the one who made first contact with Mary-Ann Compton, wasn't she?"


A shuffling sound.

"Since then, Miss McLachlan has reported to you a suspicion that she is being followed?"


"Did she say what was following her?"


"Excuse me?"

"You mean who was following her."

"Of course."


"But she was convinced that they meant her harm?"

"She seemed so, yes."

Another shuffling, like of papers.

"You encouraged Miss McLachlan to seek the help of a psychiatrist, did you not?"

He stammered.

"Detective, do you believe that Celeste McLachlan is mentally unstable?"

"She's been through a lot."

"You mean the disappearance of Rosephanye Powell?"

"Well, yes, and the experience involved in the case."

"You believe that she's suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?"

"She has displayed some symptoms."

"And what did she say when you suggested seeking help?"

"She said she already had people to talk to who she could trust."

"What did she mean by that?"

"I assumed she meant myself and her priest, Father Gabriel Kelly."

"And which church is he with?"

A pause.

"Saint Ignatius in Forest Hill."

SA de Vries pushed the stop button on the tape recorder. For a long moment we all sat in silence.

"Why did you show me this?" I asked.

"Detective Goldman is very protective of you," de Vries said.

"Why did you show me this?"

"To put things in perspective," Keaton said.

I glared at them coldly. I'd been getting angrier and angrier since the tape had started, and now I'd reached a boiling point. It didn't matter what they did now; no way was I helping them. I was in full-on crouching-nerd-hidden-badass mode.

Keaton pulled a thick file from his briefcase and flipped through it for a moment. Not looking up, he said, "Miss McLachlan, are you aware of the case of Ezekiel Strahm?"

My heart nearly lunged out of my chest.

"I think that this is the end of our time here."

"What about one Robert Sage?"

"Please leave."

"And you certainly know nothing of a young man who, until recently, called himself 'Zero?'"

"We. Are. Finished. Here."

I stood up and walked out of the room and up the stairs. Not the most mature act, I'll be the first to admit. But I needed out of that situation. My father and Angel came out of their bedroom as I rounded the top of the stairs and they went back down. I could hear them apologizing for my behavior. They said that I was just traumatized and stressed. Even from upstairs, I could hear that Angel didn't believe what she was saying.

I spent the next few hours explaining to my father and stepmother that no, I didn't do anything that would warrant an FBI visit and for the last time no, Vi hasn't done anything wrong.

At around midnight, I called Vi.

"Hey," she said on the line.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"I'm sorry," she said.

"They came to my house! They talked to my dad! Milo was scared to death!"

"I had to make them think I tricked you too."

"You did!"

"How does it feel?"

There was a long, silent pause.

"So where are you?"

"Around Chicago. I'd wanted to head south, but I couldn't resist. I'll be going down after I leave here."

I almost smiled. "How is it?"

"Amazing. It's my kind of town, Cee. I wish you were here."

"Me too, after what just happened."

We shared something like a laugh.

I certainly wanted to get out of the house, but I knew I wouldn't be able to pull it off. Today, after work, I went to Allie's house, and I'm still there now. I know I can't stay here forever; they're probably watching my house, so they'll notice if I don't come home.

Of course, it doesn't help that this morning when I left for work, I saw something odd sticking out of our mailbox. I stopped the car and went over to see what it was. It looked like a scarf partially hanging out. I opened the mailbox to find that I was right -- but it wasn't just any scarf. It was a certain color, a mixed pink-and-orange, like coral, covered in lace. It smelled like Noir perfume. It was Rose's scarf. It was wrapped around a note that said:

"Little Mouse,

i'm so terribly sorry for the bad manners of my friends. please, take this token as a gesture of apology.

best regards,
Practical Cat"

This scarf still smells like her. Jesus. Where did he get this?

I know it may be too late for this, but...I now fully admit that I may be in over my head here. I'm scared. Vi was right, I can't do this alone. I'm sorry that I fought you guys on this. I promise I'll trust you more now.

Especially Zeke and Ulryc. Despite your...flaws, you guys have never led me wrong before. And I have a feeling I may be needing you all quite soon.