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  1. This story is a work of fiction and falsehood. Only a fucking moron would believe otherwise.
  2.  
  3. All names have been changed (mine) to protect the guilty (me).
  4.  
  5. Chapter One
  6. Last time I ever do family a favor, I swear to god.
  7.  
  8. Right, so I need to have some actual composition, because if I don't make it out of this mess, this is going to need to be fit for publishing before those cultist toolboxes can do something to stop it. I've already had to go over this sentence three times to get the swearing out and read legibly, that's just poor form. Foul-mouthed journalists stopped being cool when they made books about them, and since this is exactly what this is, I've got to distinguish myself.
  9.  
  10. As far as any of you care, my name's Autumn Redgate. I'm an investigative journalist on contract with City Word. This is the first lesson you learn as a professional muckraker: If you release any informaiton people care about, someone's going to get shot because of it. Using your real name just makes it more likely to be you, which means you can't cover who got shot. And that's easy money right there. "Vicious cycle" is the daytime talk show phrase. I think. I'm lucky if I'm awake before 2:00 PM, most days. Enough about me. This is the story that's going to sell my biography. If I keep talking about myself and not the story, I may as well be writing it myself
  11.  
  12. I woke up in the early afternoon, the usual time for me, in my crappy Center City, Philadelphia apartment; as usual. Not as usual, I woke up to the crash of shattered glass, courtesy of my father throwing a brick through my window. Evidently, I slept through his first five e-mails, phone calls, voice mails, and angry notes pasted to my door. This was right after I wrote my expose on police brutality, and I was stupid enough to run a red light. Being tased and beaten senseless with your own taillight to a chorus of "Next time, you go home in a bag!" takes a lot out of you. Unfortunately, Dad wasn't in a mood to give up quite so easily, and the next course of action was, obviously, vandalism. I never said the man was subtle.
  13.  
  14. I snapped my eyes open and promptly fell out of the bed onto a coffee-stained carpet floor. Not because I was caught by surprise, that's just how I liked to wake myself up. When I realized what happened, I grabbed for my phone, trying to work through who would think this was a good idea. If it were the police, they'd just break the door down, and I hadn't offended any of the local criminals in recent memory, which leaves my friends. My beloved father saved me the trouble of having to figure out who the offendor is by leaning on the window and making some bizarre yelping noise to get my attention.
  15.  
  16. "Oi, miss too-good-to-write-a-letter! Wake up, y'lazy dockrat!" If you can place Papa Redgate's accent, you deserve a cash prize. He claims to be Russian, but it sounds like a drunken mixture of cockney, Boston, and New Jersey broiled in Texas sauce over an Australian flame. I smacked my glasses onto my face and stared out the newly-broken first story window.
  17.  
  18. "I don't think I even have a mailbox anymore. Hi, Dad." I pulled a worn military jacket over my tanktop and found some jeans that maybe could use a few rounds with a pressure washer, and asked for a minute using a finger other than my index. Dad's jaw dropped and he was at a loss for words. He was blindsided by with the unexpected profanity long enough for me to slip off for a dustpan and brush for the broken glass, then have a proper journalist's breakfast (an energy shot and a smack to the face).
  19.  
  20. It didn't take Dad long to recover, but the kitchen and dining room are in the sort of main part of my apartment, which is to say the only part of it that's not my bedroom or the bathroom, and takes up most of my living space. The point I'm trying to make is It's a ways down the hall, so while I could still hear dad clearly, it was dulled enough that I could ignore him until I was good and ready. To my surprise, I came back to find he hadn't said 'screw it and left. As we spoke, I cleaned up the glass to dump it into my bedroom trashcan
  21.  
  22. "What do you need now? If you wanted money, you wouldn't have broken my window."
  23.  
  24. "Ah, yer ma' and me lived without a roof before we had you! That's not what I need, anyway. It's yer sister. I think she might be in trouble." That was new information. I hadn't heard from Emily in six years; I understood that we were happy to keep it that way. She'd gone to some kind of Seminary to my best recollection.
  25.  
  26. "What did she do now? Get wasted on Communion wine and crash a hearse?" That wasn't my best comeback ever, but screw you, I was tired. My younger sister and I didn't have the best time growing up, and dealt with it in different ways. In entirely opposite directions, too.
  27.  
  28. "Naw, worse'n that. She didn't come to Sunday dinner. I want ya to find 'er for me." I covered my face and braced for even more ridiculous leaps in logic.
  29.  
  30. "Objection one: I'm a reporter, not a detective."
  31.  
  32. "Same damn job! Just you don't get paid as well!"
  33.  
  34. "Objection two: Shut up. Objection three: How do you get 'missing' from 'no dinner'? I know you're close, but," I didn't actually have an end to that sentence; I was banking on him to interrupt me. There was enough of an awkward silence to make me look up, and for the first time in my life, he looked seriously worried.
  35.  
  36. "Look, kiddo. I didn't want ta say anythin', but we haven't been talkin' in a shark's age. Em'ly said somethin' about new friends taking her to a new church, and I got a letter from the seminary sayin' she hadn't been to class in a long time. I thought ah could handle it, but I'm no good at none a' this thinkin' crap. 'M just a dumb ol' truck driver. Can ya do this? For yer old man?" Hell, she might actually be in trouble
  37.  
  38. "...Sure. I can't promise it'll be soon; I'm not getting paid, but I'll see what I can find out. Where was she the last time you heard from her?"
  39.  
  40. Dad practically started jumping down, and wiped some glass off the windowsill with his jacket sleeve. Once you do what Dad wants, he's like a kid on his birthday. "Oh, thank ya! I'll send a guy to fix yer window. Don't ask too many questions where it's from." I wasn't sure glass could fall off a truck, but knowing Dad, that was a reasonable guess. "She was upstate, near Clarke's Peak. I think she said her friends were Adam and Lily. Brother an' sister. If I think of anythin' else, I'll send ya a text! I got meself a Smartphone!" He looked very proud of himself, and waved back to his car laughing happily. "Look out, ya weirdoes! Autumn Redgate's on the case!"
  41.  
  42. A shower and a proper change of clothes later, I got to work.
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