This post is one of a series in the ongoing Juniper Campaign posts. If you’re new to the blog, you may want to consider starting from the beginning, or reading the summary to get caught up on events up to this point.
While John is still at the hospital and Felix is watching people say nasty things about him on the news, Shannon is elbow-deep in research material. She hasn’t head from John or Felix yet, after all, and her studio is still closed in the wake of Bella and Louisa’s deaths, so she takes the opportunity to learn more about the creatures that killed her coworkers.
Eventually, she finds some credible-looking information on creatures called Tuscany Tonguebeasts, who seem to be a match for what we faced, and sends it to John. In reply, John texts her his address and asks if she would mind checking on “Duke” (for the benefit of any listening wiretaps, of course).
The only response she gets when she knocks on John’s door is Duke barking, but when she makes a point of greeting the dog, Felix recognizes her voice and lets her in. “Thanks. Now I don’t have to hide in this closet.”
“You know, if we folded you in half, you’d probably just about fit. Hi.”
“Yeah, I am pretty little,” Felix says, unfazed by her teasing. “On the downside, remember that whole blood murders thing?”
“Yeah, the police found some of my spooky-shit research materials at my apartment and, uh, they kind of think I did it.”
Shannon sighs. “Of course they do.”
“And John saving that woman’s life has magically transmogrified into my accomplices trying to kill her. On the plus side, the photo they have of me kind of looks like a 60-year-old black man.”
“Thank God for small miracles, I guess. Where is John, by the way?”
There’s not much to say on learning about John’s grandmother, so Shannon returns to the subject of the Tonguebeasts, summarizing what she’s learned: some think they’re related to vampires, mostly because they drink blood; their skeletal structure is a series of ladders and tubes rather than bones, which explains the prehensile tongues; and they usually have preferred feeding grounds, but tend to flee when discovered or attacked–which means we’ve likely missed our chance at them. Unless, of course, they decide to come after us instead. “Apparently they sometimes run away, but I’m not going to assume that they’ll just forget about us and everything will be wonderful and good. ”
“I’m pretty sure everything won’t be wonderful and good.”
She hands him a prepaid phone. “So… now what?”
“I don’t know,” Felix says. “I don’t know how to be on the run.”
John arrives a short while later. “Still in a coma,” he replies when Shannon asks about his grandmother. “The doctors don’t know if she’ll wake, but I know my grandma. She’s strong.” Just then, Felix emerges from the hallway where he’d hidden upon hearing John’s car pull up. “Oh. How’s it going with day one on the run?”
“Uhhh… like shit?” Felix says. “I don’t know what to do.” He pauses. “But you have other problems right now.”
In fact, John wants to head to Shady Acres right away, and asks if Shannon and Felix would mind providing a second opinion. They agree, nervous though Felix is about going out in public.
The party pulls up in front of Shady Acres to find a large, well-maintained building, decorated with Phoenician runes and occupying an equally well-maintained property. The group enters, and John introduces himself to the staff at the security desk, who ask all three of us to sign the visitors’ log. Felix signs himself in as Steve Gomez.
As he’s doing that, a sharp-faced woman steps out of the office just behind the desk. “Hello. And which of you is John Porter?”
“Hi, I’m John.”
The woman introduces herself as Karla Patrick, the facility’s director, and invites John into the office. She’s unimpressed when John waves Shannon and Felix to follow, suggesting that their business would be best resolved in private. John, however, replies that they’re close friends whom he’s asked to help him make the best decision, and Patrick doesn’t argue any further.
Sympathetic but businesslike, Patrick describes the facility’s features, focusing particularly on its hospital wards and ER-trained medical staff. John asks a few questions about the staff and their availability, and accepts Patrick’s offer of a tour.
Patrick shows the whole group around the first floor, which is split between administrative and low-level (e.g. clinic) medical functions. However, she politely insists that the other floors are intended for (prospective) residents and family members only. Shannon and Felix promise to wait, and Patrick accompanies John through the next two floors.
The second floor is for retirees, consisting mostly of apartments and a small shop. The third floor, where John’s grandmother will be staying, is a fully-equipped hospital with a ward dedicated specifically to comatose patients. The fourth and fifth floors are strictly off-limits; the fourth floor is open only to immediate family members, being dedicated to patients with dangerously compromised immune systems. Of the fifth floor, Patrick says only that it’s for more affluent residents who value their privacy.
Once they’ve completed the tour, John indicates that he’s prepared to start the paperwork. Patrick escorts him back down to her office, where they spend a half hour filling out forms.
Shannon and Felix, meanwhile, are enjoying a spectacularly uneventful wait in the lobby when Felix, who’s idly been watching the soap opera playing on the TV, abruptly says, “I thought she was sleeping with the other one. The one with the teeth.”
Shannon stares. “What?”
Felix ignores her. “The settings on this television aren’t right. Young man! Young man!”
The staff member that Felix is talking to looks more than a little confused. “Yes, sir?”
“This plant here just won’t do, it’s … where are we? Where is this?”
“Steve,” Shannon says. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Steve? Yes, where is he?”
“Um,” Shannon says, trying to decide whether she should be frustrated or alarmed.
This response doesn’t seem to be good enough for Felix. “Where is he? Are you deaf? Because I’m not deaf and I’m ninety-four!”
“Maybe we should go outside for a couple minutes,” Shannon says, since Felix is–to put it mildly–causing a bit of a scene. “You know, get some air?”
Felix looks out the window. “I’m not going outside, wherever this is. There are hoodlums! Like that young man with his pants halfway off his–Ugh! That’s repulsive! I’d like to die. They’re absolutely repulsive! They’ve gotten uglier!” He looks back towards the thoroughly baffled employee. “Young man! Is this a public building?”
“This is a private building, sir.”
“Are they allowed to be here? I have half a mind to go out there and tell them to stop loitering!” Felix places his hands on the arms of his chair and pushes himself mightily to his feet, looking surprised when he gets up quite easily. Thoughtfully, he raises a hand to rub his chin, then looks surprised all over again. “There’s hair there now.”
Shannon decides it’s better just to humour him until she can get him out of there. “Yeah, that happens when you get old. Look, do you want to go for a walk or something?”
“I’ve gotten hair in other places,” Felix says, ignoring her, “but I’ve never had hair there.”
“That’s … really more than I needed to know.”
Felix seems to have just noticed her again. “Why are you–no, I don’t want to go for a walk, there are vagrants out there. Who are you?”
“My name’s Shannon.”
“Mary-Lou. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.” While Shannon is repeating the polite nice-to-meet-you nonsense, his attention wanders back to their surroundings, and he starts complaining about the plant again. Then, before Shannon can make another attempt to herd him out of the lobby, he collapses unconscious to the floor. She hurries over to him, but one of the building’s security people has also approached and is, none too gently, trying to shake Felix awake.
“… Why do all lobbies have these plants in them?” Felix asks, sounding dazed, but like himself. And then, “Why am I on the floor?
“You fell over after talking crazy,” the security guard says before Shannon can answer. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“What? I talked crazy?”
Shannon offers him a hand up. “Let’s just go outside, okay?”
“Okay,” Felix says. “Sorry to have inconvenienced you, security guy…”
“Let’s just go,” Shannon repeats, and shepherds Felix towards the door.