Actions

Work Header

Red Rabbits

Chapter Text

[ Piano. Sirens wailing ]

//In a heartbeat, a person can just be there and then gone.//

//Now we’d ask you to take a good look at your screen. Port St. Lucie Police need your help to find this missing mother and her 8 year old son.//

[ Run Little Rabbit Run, Run ]

//He hid behind... He thought he could hide behind a door. It was a nice door - expensive door.//

//The shocking part about a lot of these cases is how various circumstances and situations can result in somebody just completely vanishing. In a second they’re gone...with no trace of what happened to them.//

[ Orchestral music ]

//If you don’t want it found, you can take it somewhere. You could bury it. Put it in the trunk of a car and have it crushed.//

//At this point, Baltimore Police are fearing the worst.//

//We’re not talking about Runaways, we’re talking about situations where we know the people are in significant risk of harm.//

//Detectives are now working with authorities in Parkland* and no where there have they seen this pair.//

You’re listening to Red Rabbits. I’m your host, Andrew Minyard.

A little background in case some of you have been living under a rock for the past two decades:

On the night of June 12, 2004, Seattle PD arrested Nathan Wesninski, a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, with possession of illegal firearms. The FBI was quickly called when the ballistics of one of the guns matched a cold case investigators had given up on. That was the break the FBI had been waiting for during their long-term investigation on the mafia boss dubbed ‘The Butcher of Baltimore’. A warrant was issued to search the Wesninski’s quiet suburban home and a suspiciously well-timed anonymous call tipped the FBI to a hidden basement on the property. What the FBI found has been described as a “Murderer’s Playroom”.

-

“I mean, do you really blame the women? They’ve obviously got something fucked up in the brain, but they’re just so attention-starved that they want to fuck Ted Bundy in jail, you know?”

Unfortunately .

Neil didn’t want to be able to relate to the shit that came spewing out of Ashleigh’s mouth, but.

But .

He tried to ignore her - tried every trick in the book to block her out: earplugs, headphones, doing his actual work, glaring . One time he told her to shut up, but she looked so hurt that he took it back. Ever since then he let her blab for as long as she’d like about whatever she liked. He thought maybe not responding would deter her but alas.

Alas .

“I just find that kind of mindset so intriguing, both the men and women. I think I’d know if I were being manipulated like that because fuck . How could you not, you know?”

You know? You know? You know? She was worse than the actual broken record sputtering at the back of the shop. In fact, Neil should really keep a tally: How many times could Ashleigh ask him if he rhetorically knew whatever the fuck she was on about?

“But I’m not pining after Charles Manson.”

Says the girl wearing an H.H. Holmes tee.

This was the sixth time he rearranged the animal bookmarks on the counter and he could feel a headache brewing behind his eyes. The old analog clock on the wall behind Ashleigh’s head was eighteen minutes fast and they still had an hour until closing. He debated whether he could reorganize the sports section again, but he had just done it two hours ago. With all her true crime sleuthing she was bound to catch onto the excuse. Then again, she was the girl that asked him:

‘Jeffrey Dahmer was kinda hot. He looked like Ryan Seacrest, right?’

He didn’t know who the fuck Ryan Seacrest was, but after she pulled up pictures on her phone of two similar looking white guys - yeah, he guessed.

The Book Nook was nestled in a quiet corner of Phoenix, Arizona. This was his fifth job in the past two years and his forty-fourth name in fifteen. Sounds like a lot, but when you’re a man with a price on your head, it was wise to keep a frequent rotation. That’s why this place was perfect for a guy like him. Despite the fact that Ashleigh was an absolute lunatic with a fetish for all things true crime.

‘I’m a murderino, Neil. You know, SSDGM? No...? Stay sexy and don’t get murdered?’

It was perfect. Quiet, hidden, few people in and few people out. The business was less than booming and he wouldn’t be surprised if Gary, the owner, couldn’t make rent by the end of the month. Nonetheless he got paid, his face wasn’t on display to dozens of people a day, and when this business tanked he could disappear with little chance of leaving a footprint behind.

So far, so good.

-

Over the following six years, the FBI had convicted Wesninski of over twenty murders and another fifty assisted murders spanning over the past nineteen years, and the State of Maryland held no reservations about their oft-times controversial death penalty.

The case held the American people captive for months. Despite the disgustingly popular series, Mob Wives, the general belief over a home-grown mob boss had been a thing of the past. Al Capone and the Roaring 20’s had been laid bare as the - quote-unquote - ‘Butcher’s’ empire was ripped apart.

-

As empty as always, today boasted a whopping nine customers - which if Neil was frank, was a better turnout than usual. They couldn’t even blame the lack of business on location. Neil wasn’t very savvy in book retail, but considering the number of times Ashleigh bitched and whined about the store tanking, he deduced it had something to do with the other bookstore that opened somewhere uptown. It had a bar attached and apparently hosted themed nights where book lovers and alcoholics could get together and scream about whatever it was alcoholic book lovers screamed about.

All the Book Nook really had going for it was the fact that it had been there for over 30 years. The previous owner died and passed it down to Gary, his grandson. Apparently, it had been quite the hotspot in past decades, but Gary ran this place like he ran his life - he didn’t.

The bookcases were old, the register ancient, record player broken, and the bell at the front of the store stopped ringing ages ago. Honestly, Neil sometimes wondered how this place hadn’t been condemned. But again it was safe, it was money, and it was a place where he could disappear just as the store eventually would - without a trace.

Being one of the only two employees meant he worked long days. Most, he switched off with Ashleigh. Sometimes he’d close and others she would. When he was particularly unlucky, they got stuck doing it together.

Like tonight.

She stopped talking about whatever popular killer she was into about a half-hour ago and retreated to her side of the store. By her side, he meant the true crime, murders/mysteries, and horror section, all stationed by the break room at the back of the shop. It was probably the most organized part of this place, if not for the sports section where he went to escape her ‘who done it’ rants.

-

I want to preface before we move further. I will only refer to Nathan Wesninski by his name. Any time I use ‘the Butcher’, it is to emphasize the audacity that title entails.

It has been used as propaganda, a piece to either strike fear or sensationalize the masses. Do not be fooled. This playground name, this name popularized by the media, is only that - a name.

Nathan Wesninski is only a man. Still in the system, still breathing, a hitman, a serial murderer with over 35 known victims. The Butcher gives him power, it gives him recognition, it gives him joy, validation.

Do not let it.

-

Nine o’clock finally ticked around and he had never been happier to go home to his small, empty apartment. Neil didn’t even bother calling for Ashleigh to let her know it was time. Instead, he counted cash, organized receipts, and went about his usual business.

Ashleigh appeared somewhere between Neil putting down the boxes of three-month-old ‘New’ Releases that he was to shelve in the morning and locking up. She had a new book in her hand, nose planted in it’s bindings. Neil fully intended on slipping out the door and letting her do the rest, but she was engrossed.

Slinging his backpack over his shoulder, he twirled the keys around his finger and sighed, toeing Ashleigh’s bag by his foot.

“We’re done,” he spoke up.

She nodded and turned the page with a hum. Ashleigh was a short, waify girl. Her favorite colors seemed to be those you couldn’t decipher at night and she had a bobbed haircut that made her look like a flapper girl on one of Gary’s old records. Neil supposed she was fine to look at, but besides her proclivity for the macabre and some interesting fashion choices, she was just as ordinary as everyone else.  In fact, Neil didn’t really hate her. She talked a lot, sure, and sometimes she didn’t know when to stop, but he’d had worse coworkers in the past. Ashleigh let him be most of the time. She didn’t pry into his life and was decently pleasant when she wasn’t off on a tangent.

It was dark outside. Ashleigh was barely paying attention to what her hands and feet were doing as she grabbed her keys and bag from the floor. Hardly sparing Neil a glance and only just missing the glass door, she walked out and flipped another page.

The streets around them were quiet with stores and businesses closed for the night. Neil didn’t know where she lived, but he did know that she wasn’t putting that book down any time soon - especially since she had the flashlight on her keyring on, propped in her mouth, and hovering before the pages.

Neil pulled the glass door behind him and locked it with one of the two keys on his ring. Frowning, he stared at his hazy reflection in the dirty front window, listening to Ashleigh’s platformed footsteps tap tap tap in the opposite direction of his apartment. When he looked up, she was only but a receding spot in the distance, a glowing orb in the night, haloed in the dark and realized beneath the sparse streetlights. As unassuming and oblivious as ever, Neil’s flight instincts were pounding on the inside of his mind - not for his sake, but for hers. She looked like easy prey, a sign practically hovering over her head screaming TAKE ME!

Neil did not care about her. She was just his coworker and really, he owed her nothing. However, he would never forgive himself if something happened to her.

After all, Who else would bring me coffee in the morning?

No. The real issue was with how comfortable he was getting; both here in Arizona and in general. He should go home. It wasn’t his fault she was stupid - it wasn’t his fault if she got snatched in the night without a trace, her body left god knows where and... and .

-

Speaking of sensationalism and validation, this year’s hit, and in my opinion, fetishizers wet dream, The Butcher , produced by Edgar Allan Productions, already has several Oscar nominations including Best Documentary Feature . It also topped the box office for 7 consecutive weekends.

-

Neil caught up with her easily. She didn't even look over her shoulder, no sign or inclination that she’d known he’d approached from behind. In fact, her eyes were still glued to the pages of her book, small flashlight held between her teeth. Morality won out and he rolled his eyes both at himself and her oblivion. Neil was half tempted to grab her or do something to prove a point. Instead, he gripped the strap of his backpack and sidled up beside her.  

Ashleigh looked up at him with her doey brown eyes. Not an ounce of fear crossed her face, but instead halfway vacant confusion as she glanced over her shoulder and back at him. Removing the flashlight she asked, “Did I forget something?”

His mother must’ve been tossing in her sandy grave.

“No, it’s just... you’re doing a real shitty job at the whole DGM thing,” Neil said, eyes darting around to darkened corners and trees casting shapes of strangers. It was a habit ingrained in him from an early age. If only the rest of his survival instincts caught up.

Ashleigh’s own eyes were darting, but from between the pages of her book and Neil’s ruddy eyes. A smile pulled the sides of her lips as if Neil had just cracked a funny joke. “I’m fine. I’ve done this a million times before. I’ve got pepper spray.” She held up the flashlight and shook it. Hanging off a carabiner were keys and a pink bottle.

How could someone with a brain so big, be so fucking stupid?

Neil fought not to roll his eyes again as he nodded and glanced down at her ridiculous boots. “Cool. Pepper spray only buys you time. How the fuck would you run in those?” When he looked up, her eyes were amused and still wholly oblivious. This girl survived on true crime and horror flicks, how the hell she lasted this long, Neil didn’t know. He looked forward in the direction they were walking and gripped his backpack tighter. “You should really start taking an uber or something.”

Ashleigh laughed softly, “Okay, Neil. Whatever you say.” When he glanced out of the corner of his eye, she was giving him a small smile as they passed beneath a streetlight. Yellow coated her features in a sick hue.

When he made no indication of turning around to go his own way, she hummed a sound to herself and said, “I’m perfectly safe. You don’t have to walk me home. I swear, I’m not as stupid as I look.” Beg to differ. “I mean - that is... unless... you want to walk me home.”

Neil raised a confused brow and changed the subject. She was so fucking annoying.

“What book did you get today?”

Ashleigh’s small smile turned wider and just as Neil thought, she started on a long tangent about the book. He let her talk while they walked and didn’t hear a single word she said until they got to her apartment building.

“Well, this is me. Thanks for walking me home.” She reached out a hand with black painted nails and squeezed his arm. Neil flinched out of her grasp and started to back away.

“Um, sure. No problem. Just... take a fucking uber next time.”

Neil turned on his heel and left, cursing himself the entire way.

Connections, trails, relationships . He was an idiot for caring, an idiot for allowing himself to stay in Phoenix for so long and even dumber for getting comfortable. He could feel it in the pit of his stomach - one day, this was going to come back and bite him.

For now, he could rest a little easier knowing tomorrow there’d be a cup of coffee waiting for him.

Stupid .

-

New Clips Play:

// The Butcher is being credited a documentary game changer after its debut last night//

// The Butcher by Edgar Allan Productions already in talks for Oscar Nominations//

//Critics are calling The Butcher a documentary classic and comparing it to such favorites as Grey Gardens and Bowling for Columbine //

Just to put that in perspective: Remember that stretch of time where everyone was losing their *beep* over blue people Avatar ? Then after three or so months in theaters, it came back for the entire month of August or some *beep*? In the documentary world, The Butcher is not only on par with Avatar , but it’s just as - quote, unquote - ‘revolutionary’. So much so, that streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, as well as major television network HBO, are working on their own docuseries cataloguing Nathan Wesninski’s court case, his childhood, and other unnecessary bull*beep*.

-

9AM was ticking dangerously close as Neil made his way to the Book Nook. His shift was to start any minute, but he found himself relishing in the pleasant ache of his muscles and the occasional tap of the shopping bag hitting against his leg. The sun was rising high in the sky and the air had a gentle bite in the early spring. It had been colder a few hours before - refreshing to his foggy brain when he’d dragged himself from failed sleep and forced his legs to push away the thoughts that kept him awake all night.

His run didn't work, nor did it help. His mind was still abuzz with all the things he had done and had been doing wrong. Tossing and turning in his cheap sheets, intrusive thoughts dug into his head and made themselves a humble fucking home. Neil was in trouble and it was all his own doing.

The fact of the matter was, Neil was making mistakes. Last night was a huge one. He should’ve turned around and ignored whatever shred of moral fiber he had left. So what if Ashleigh didn’t show up the next morning? That was one less person to remember who he was, what he looked like, and the fact that he liked straight black, medium roast coffee.

Neil wasn’t stupid. Oblivious at times, yes, but he saw the way she looked at him - like he was a friend. Like he cared about her wellbeing. A bond had been forming by proximity alone, and now he had willingly stepped up to the plate and made her believe in something that wasn’t there. It was dangerous. Neil was playing a dangerous game and he knew it.

Which was why hanging from his fingertips was the shopping bag containing the coffee maker from his apartment. One of the few appliances he owned, he decided that he was going to ignore the fuck out of Ashleigh and her antics. No sense buying him coffee if they had a coffee maker at work. And if she wasn’t buying him coffee, then she really had no reason to talk to him and he had no reason to thank her or whatever else he did.

His lease was up next month. All he had to do was last three more weeks and some change before he could leave Neil Josten behind and finally move on. He’d outstayed his welcome and Phoenix was getting too close for comfort.

Speaking of: Ashleigh’s eyes were immediately on him as he pushed open the glass door bell-lessly.

“Hey! Whatchya got there?”

Her voice grated at Neil’s ears. He tried not to grimace as she peered over the counter at the bag in his hand and pushed forward his coffee cup on the counter.

“Coffee maker.” He acknowledged the cup on the counter because he felt bad if he didn’t and said a quick ‘thanks’ as he nodded towards it.

Ashleigh hummed and leaned her back against the bookshelves behind the register, arms crossed over her chest. “Why bring a coffee maker when there's a cafe across the street?”

Neil hadn’t thought of an answer to that. There was, in fact,  a cafe across the street. It was one of those hip and trendy places where everything was vastly overpriced and the entire place was decorated like a niche paradise. However, he was good at lying and thinking on his feet, so he said, “I feel bad you’re spending so much money.” He set the bag on the counter and swung his backpack in its spot beneath the register.

“Nah don’t. The guy in there likes me. I get ‘em for free.” She grinned and took a sip from her own cup.

Neil glanced at her from the corner of his eyes and mumbled ‘right’ because what else was he supposed to say? Checking to make sure his backpack was  safely hidden from view with considerably less anxiety than what he used to feel, Neil grabbed his coffee and motioned vaguely over towards the ‘New’ Releases waiting to be shelved.

Perhaps that was stupid too.

-

My point is, there’s blood in the water and the sharks are hungry. People fall in love with the glorification of an objectively attractive, charismatic killer. Ted Bundy, Andrew Cunanan, Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, Charles Schmid, must I go on?

No. Because there’s an elephant in the room that not only the critically acclaimed documentary failed to mention - but also the majority of this audience elected to ignore.

-

The day started quiet and Neil thought maybe he had gotten lucky. Coffee long gone and caffeine caches sustained, Neil finished organizing the ‘New’ Releases when a group of people walked in.

Since Neil was working the floor for the first half of his shift, it was technically his job to greet the customers and make sure they found whatever it was they were looking for. But because this was the Book Nook and the place was clearly handled with minimal care, Neil found himself picking up the collapsed boxes to bring them to the back room. They seemed to know where they were going anyway because Ashleigh hailed them down with an, “Ohmygod hey!”

He assumed they were friends because all five of them made a beeline for the register, already talking animatedly about something or other. Their voices faded into a blur of sound as Neil disappeared behind the dusty stacks.

Emerging from the back room moments later, he had full intentions of ignoring Ashleigh and her group in favor of triple checking the sports magazines he’d organized 3 times the day before. His luck seemed to still be running as he went unnoticed and no other customers entered for at least another hour.

Lounging between the magazine cases in an old bean bag chair with a tear threatening to burst beads with one wrong move, Neil flipped through an exy magazine - just waiting for the excited voices of twenty-something year olds to finally go away. Which, as luck would have it, they finally did. Unluckily, however, Ashleigh found him with quick steps and that ridiculous smile on her face that only showed her top row of teeth. Her eyes were sparkling in that way they did when she had learned something new or found something to sate her morbid interests. 

Internally, Neil groaned. 

Externally, Neil groaned.

“Did you hear?!” she asked, way too excited for anything really.

Neil turned a page in his magazine and dragged his eyes up to meet hers. His silence was answer enough.

Ashleigh rolled her eyes in exasperation and said, “The new podcast finally dropped!” She held up her phone. The screen looked like a music app with a song already pulled up. There was a black box in the form of album artwork with some... red blob that he couldn’t decipher from down there, with blue dots.  

“The fuck is a podcast?”

“ Neil! Remember? I told you about this last week. That guy finally dropped the podcast about -”

When Neil nodded slowly and looked back down at his magazine, clearly confused - she just groaned and said, “Whatever. Okay, I’m going to play it. Do you mind? Or will it disturb your... Exy? Really?”

Neil shrugged, “You’re fine.”

Ashleigh leaned her weight onto one foot and tapped her phone against her thigh. “Do you play? Exy that is?”

Neil’s eyes flicked up at her again. She had that weird look on her face that she’d had last night and Neil had the knee jerk reaction to avoid answering entirely. “Your podcast, remember?”

She gasped, “Ohmygod you’re right! You should listen too! I’ll play it loud.”

Great. That, he considered, to be his cue. Standing from the bean bag, he put the magazine away and followed Ashleigh to the register. There was an old iHome that she’d brought from her place docked beside the register. Grabbing his backpack from beneath the counter, he swung it over his shoulder, glanced at the clock, and said, “I’m taking my break.”

She just whined and said, “Suit yourself!” just as an eerie piano filled the store with the sound of sirens that he could still hear as he made it to the back room.

Just as he closed the door, the voice of a woman rose from the music:

// In a heartbeat, a person can just be there and then gone.//

-

The real reason Nathan Wesninski was arrested in Seattle Washington on the night of June 12, 2004, was due to eyewitness accounts of a fire fight against what was described as a middle-aged woman and boy.

-

Neil could abuse his lunch breaks. No one was there to check him and there weren’t customers to tend to. But the more he sat in silence brewing over his mistakes and what his life had turned out to be, the more he felt like he was suffocating.

The back room wasn’t big. Stacks of boxes rested on either side of a beat up couch that was long past its prime. There was a pile of used cardboard boxes in the corner, an inventory list tacked to the wall, as well as a schedule for the only two employees employed. Neil stared at that list now, hearing the faint hum of the podcast through the door.

Neil had been working there for little more than five months. His previous job was on the other side of the city, working in a warehouse for a glass company. It was a good job, but too risky. There was some sort of business happening out the back - something quiet and most certainly illegal - and things were getting too close for comfort. Impending doom had felt like it was hanging over his head, so he relocated. That feeling was finally creeping back, just as he knew it eventually would.

He’d broken nearly every rule his mother had set in one way or another.

‘Don’t stay in one place for more than absolutely necessary.’

He should have left the moment the warehouse went south. Lease be damned, it was the smart thing to do.

‘Things start turning, you run.’

Instead, he was sitting in the back room of a beaten up bookstore with a self-proclaimed Murderino as his coworker.

“One more month...” he whispered to himself, crumbling up the saran wrap between his hands and tossing it in the bin.

Because that was what he thought was best. Neil Josten couldn’t just disappear into the ether. All the names he and his mother had used that poofed into nothing - with no excuse to cover their tracks - all came back to bite them.

Bite her.

Because the last time they tried to evaporate as fast as they had been realized, he found them. 

And she didn’t make it out alive.

Neil zipped his backpack and swung it over his shoulder. He’d let himself steep in solitude for long enough and used his shoulder to push the door open and get back to work.

The noise from the podcast had been reduced to mumbles from inside the back room. Now, it was so loud he felt as though the monotone voice could shake the stacks. It was deep and it was accusatory. There was quiet music drifting through his syllables in the background, but Neil did his best to block it out entirely.

-

The trial never clarified who these two individuals actually were, but investigators suspected - and suspect - they could be Mary and Nathaniel Wesninski, the wife and son of your Butcher .

-

“What?”

Ashleigh was lost in her own world and part of Neil wished he were lost somewhere too. Instead, he stood at the foot of the register, eyes glued onto the docked phone as if he could see whatever bastard was speaking his name from the speakers.

“Hm?” She turned in a flurry, a tack sticking out of her mouth from where she had been pinning up a poster on the empty wall beside a bookcase.

“What did he just say-” Neil pointed at the dock, then looked to Ashleigh’s confused face. Unfortunately, catching his attention from behind her head was a pair of cold eyes he had seen hundreds of times around the city.

They were icy. Sneering. Blue. And his own.

Mine.

Neil had tried his best to ignore any and all Butcher propaganda in the past few months. His father's face plastered across billboards, taxis, buses, and movie theaters. He avoided television entirely when picking up dinner in diners and restaurants in case a trailer played and fear took hold. He put up with Ashleigh’s fangirling about how... Intriguing the documentary was, despite the fact that it seemed to play in favor of the man of the hour. Magazines ordered with any mention of the documentary and all parties involved ended up in the dumpster out back - money be damned - and questions as to where they’d gone were quickly avoided with dozens of, ‘ I don't know’’s .

But he always found a way back into Neil’s life. Whether it be years ago in the form of flying bullets, slicing knives, and burning cars; or now with the media frenzy, court cases, and speculation. Nathan Wesninski just wouldn’t fucking die...

He was immortalized right there in front of him - tacked to a dirty wall, in a dirty store, with a dirty fucking -

“Neil...?”

It was nearly silent but for the pound of rushing blood in his ears. That deep voice had stopped droning and the eerie music left a hollow space in this cursed place. Ashleigh had paused the podcast, her eyes watching him with a level of concern that would’ve had him running if he were not already ready.

“Rewind it.” His throat felt like his voice was being dragged over rough gravel. His head felt light and it was becoming hard to swallow. His lunch was turning to lead in his stomach, weighing him down to this spot, this floor, and he felt too heavy to move.

When Ashleigh stepped around the counter slowly, her hand reaching out to his arm, he flinched away from her grasp. Tearing his eyes from his father’s smiling face, the bold letters of The Butcher below and all the praise acting as a red backdrop to his father's morbidity, he looked to Ashleigh sharply.

“What are you listening to?” he asked, voice grating rougher and either he couldn’t hear himself over the pounding in his ears or he spoke just above a whisper.

Ashleigh looked at him weird, her chin pulling back as she looked to the phone in her hand, thumb hovering over the pause and back to him.

“Red Rabbits...remember? Neil are you okay? You’re not looking so good. What did you have for lunch...?”

He didn't feel good either. The lead in his stomach was growing heavier while his head only felt lighter. He fought not to wooz on the spot and swallowed down the bile rising in his throat.

“Yeah... must be something I ate. Could you just rewind that back? I missed the last part.”

Breathe in.

Ashleigh gave him a cursory look, her eyes absorbing every detail of him that made Neil feel as though he was being stripped raw.

Run now.

He couldn’t. Not as she regarded her phone and did as he asked.

His eyes were closing, darkness slowly sliding over his vision as he listened to the voice come back. Not as loud as before, but loud enough to set his teeth on edge and rattle his bones.

// - trial never clarified who these two individuals actually were, but investigators suspected - and still suspect - they could be Mary and Nathaniel Wesninski...//

Mary and Nathaniel Wesninski

Mary -

And Nathaniel -

-

They’ve been missing for the past 15 years.

-

Nothing mattered but the slap of his shoes against the pavement.

Slap, slap, slap.

Faster, faster, faster.

His feet listened to whatever voice could be heard over the blood in his ears.

Perhaps it was his own. Perhaps it was his mothers. All he knew was that it was telling him to push harder, push faster, push further.

Get away, away, away.

But he wasn’t fast enough, at least Neil didn’t think. Life slowed and sped, raced and dragged by. People were a blur, buildings obscured like a window wiper swiped over Phoenix.

Ashleigh had called after him. Her eyes wide as she followed to the end of the block, her voice worried with concern. “Neil!” She had called, “I’m sorry! What’s happened? Are you-”

He didn't bother looking to see if she was still there. Ashleigh was responsible, she wouldn’t have left the shop unattended. He couldn’t hear anyone chasing him, but then again, he couldn’t really hear anything at all.

-

No missing persons report was ever submitted, but FBI investigators assigned to Nathan noted the sudden disappearance of wife, Mary and son, Nathaniel. Let me repeat: FBI investigators assigned to Nathan noted the sudden disappearance of Mary and Nathaniel . That note was left unanswered - unsearched. From what I understand, they accepted this disappearance as if it were expected.

-

He ran so hard he thought his heart would give out. Part of him wished it would. The past few months had been so unreasonably hard . His past was being shoved in his face, exploited and played like it was nothing but a grab for money - like the shit his father had done was something to be celebrated and revered.

Neil didn’t even realize he’d been running in circles. When he stopped, his stomach felt like it was lodged in his throat, his hands wrung his backpack straps and he found himself muttering incoherent nothings. Whomever might be watching would probably think he was insane - Ashleigh likely did too. He didn’t care. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t breathe .

How did he let this happen? How did he let himself get so fucking settled and comfortable - especially now? With his father's face plastered on every fucking billboard, played on every goddamned commercial, talked about by anyone with lips to spit - how had he not fled somewhere else? The Butcher was a worldwide sensation, according to the Entertainment Weekly magazines he’d chucked last week, but there had to be one place Nathan Wesninski hadn’t touched. Right?

“No,” he heard himself whisper and shook his head quickly as if to expel any hope he tried to muster.

Don't you dare give up.

Did her voice even matter anymore? It wasn’t like he’d been listening. He ignored his mother so thoroughly, that he’d gotten used to his environment - his apartment with its too small windows and loud radiator, the market where he shopped, Mark - his grumpy landlord who thought his name was Stephan. Even stupid fucking Ashleigh. With her stupid fucking black nails and serial killer obsession... All for what? For the coffee she brought him every day? For the way Gary let her do the ordering, but she let him get the sports magazines he wanted?

Neil stopped and took a deep breath before he puked.

He did anyway.

-

So that leaves me here. With a million questions and even more rumors on the whereabouts of this mother and son.

Some say they’ve been dead for over 20 years. Others claim they ran, but died that night. Still more suspect that Mrs. Wesninski had ties to another crime family - which may bear fruit - or that she was the anon who tipped the authorities to the hidden basement.

All but death lead to the real possibility that Mary and Nathaniel very well may have been in witness protection this entire time.

If you want my opinion, I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think you will either.

-

Jittery and clammy, hot and cold, dizzy and every fucking sensation at once.

Neil wiped his mouth with a shaky hand and leaned backpack first against the brick wall in... whatever alley he was. Sliding down slowly, he pulled his knees to his chest, hung his head between his knees, and took a deep breath.

Think. You know how to do this. You’ve been here too long. Think.

First things first:

Get the fuck out of here. Now. There’s no time to go back to the apartment.

Everything important was strapped to his back and kept on him at all times for this exact reason. ID, passport, cash, binder. Normally, he had at least one extra set of clothes, a few protein bars, and bottles of water.

But again.

He had grown comfortable here. He’d let himself slack and now he was paying the price.

Neil’s breaths were only just starting to slow as he saw a plan form in his mind. Shutting his eyes tightly, he ground his teeth together and inhaled deeply three times.

Get the fuck out. Now.

He could hotwire a car, drive a few states over...

What if you’re stopped? What if a cop pulls you over in a stolen car and you end up in some county jail? Too risky. Be smart Nathaniel.

Plane.

Arizona’s a border state. You look like a fucking mad man right now Nathaniel. You’re shaking, you’re pale. They’ll grab you from security the moment you try to go through. It’s not worth the risk.

Bus.

Taking another deep breath, he pulled out his phone and checked the local greyhound schedule.

‘Panic is the mother of failure.’

He could do this. This would be fine. No problem. He’d done this a million times before.

He swallowed whatever was left in his stomach back down.

There was a bus leaving in an hour to St. Louis. Perfect. But was St. Louis where he wanted to stop?

No, this person, whoever he was, was creating his podcast around him and his mother specifically. The Butcher was a botchery of actual events and Neil felt like that was the point. While that propaganda surrounded him, and though every time he saw or heard anything having to do with the documentary made his feet want to take flight - he’d learned to live with it.

But this? This was different. This was someone looking for him . He was perfectly happy keeping Nathaniel ‘dead’ and then this fucker comes around and decides to dig him out? Put him in the public eye? Forget about fear, Neil was fucking pissed. His nails dug into his palms and he lifted his head back against the wall.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

He had half a mind to contact whoever that monotoned ass was and let him know how he could end up dead in the trunk of a car with the shit he was messing with.

Don’t engage. Leave.

No. St. Louis wasn’t it. Neil was going to have to leave the country. If this person was serious and this podcast was ongoing with a search into what actually happened to him and his mother, he couldn’t be here. He had to be where no one could find him.

So. He’d take the bus to St. Louis. From there, the train to Chicago (one he’d rode before, another major ‘no no’ in his mother's handbook), a plane to New York with a short layover, before he caught another flight the fuck out of the States.

You have a contact in New York. Get a new ID, passport, and documentation. Chris is a good name.

Neil stood, hitched his backpack higher on his shoulders, let his stomach decide to throw up one more time for good measure, then made his way to the bus station.

-

It doesn't take long when searching this case on any web forum to find sightings of Mary and Nathaniel Wesninski - some as recent as 2 years. Many describe a mother and son with different combinations of hair and eye color, but who still bear a striking resemblance to the Wesninski’s.

Speaking of which, a family photograph, likely dating sometime around 2000, can be seen on our website.

-

Neil was good at pretending, so he pretended he belonged at the Phoenix Greyhound station.

He didn’t.

He cursed himself again for not having a spare set of clothes and cursed even more for Arizona’s stupid climate. He was sweating through his shirt with surprising speed and only had a sweater to put over it. Not helpful.

Neil quickly bought his ticket while avoiding any wandering eyes and sat as far away from the general population as he could. He crossed his arms over his stomach and bounced his knee quickly. The bottom edge of his jean shorts were threading and he wrapped a longer piece around his pointer finger. His backpack, his lifeline, was wedged tightly between his feet.

A man in a black suit walked by with a cursory glance at him. The hair on the back of his neck didn’t raise, but maybe it was because it was too heavily slicked down with sweat. Then again, the man could have looked at him because Neil was sweating - he didn’t know. Neil narrowed at his eyes and let his mind wander with possibilities.

The fuck is a guy in a suit doing at a bus station in the middle of the day?

Don’t suited men work?

Why aren’t you at work, sir?

Neil grabbed his backpack and hid in the bathroom until boarding was called.

He was the last one on. Standing at the back of the line, he watched every single person that boarded, letting his eyes weigh and gauge the legitimacy of their ticket. Black Suit never got on.

Picking a seat at the very back, Neil pulled his backpack into his lap and clutched it against his chest. The airconditioning was loud, but nice, blowing cool air against his heated skin and calming the nerves ticking at his edges.

Black Suit could’ve just been passing by. Everything is fine.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

St. Louis, Chicago, New York, meet with contact, Europe.

He’d be in Chicago in little more than a day, out of the country in less than 36 hours. No one would remember he was here and hopefully, he’d forget, too.

-

This pair, on several accounts, have been reported as acting skittish, as if they suspected they were being watched. Even more claim what is assumed to be the mother, holding onto a boy of varying ages tightly with one hand, while the other grips onto some sort of bag. This isn’t me confirming said eyewitnesses, but rather what several Reddit and Websleuth users repeatedly allege.

-

The bus to St. Louis was over 24 hours long, with a million stops in between. He spent most of that time worrying about every person getting on and off the bus, overanalyzing the looks sent his way, and agonizing over how tight he could clutch his backpack without looking suspicious. Several times, Neil seriously considered getting off and hitching it with a truck driver. He’d done it a million times before, it wasn’t a big deal. But the likelihood of someone willing to take him and the probability of getting enough drivers to fall for his bag of tricks wasn’t worth it.

With whatever time was left, he turned his back to the public and pulled out his binder. Inside were his remaining trusts from what his mother had left him, pages of contacts long since dried up, notes of old ID’s he’d burned once they were finished, and whatever else it took for him to survive all these years. This binder and it’s contents were his lifeline. He searched through the names of whatever contacts his mother had that were left and jotted a few things down in the margins.

By the time they made it to St. Louis, Neil had narrowed down who to call once he had privacy, purchased the train ticket to Chicago, and checked flights out of the country, too aware of his dwindling battery life.

That was another thing he’d forgotten to pack - a charger. He made that a number one priority at the train station in addition to granola bars, water, and coffee.

-

// News Clip Plays:

Interviewer: So you claim to have spotted Mary and Nathaniel Wesninski?

Subject: I don’t claim. It was definitely them. They were at a laundromat in Toronto in January of 2001. It was 24 hour and I was there around midnight. They were sitting in a corner huddled together and Mary was whispering something to Nathaniel - Really harsh like, you know? Poor kid looked so defeated.

Interviewer: How could you be so sure it was them?

Subject: [ Sigh ] Are you kidding? I’m obsessed with the Wesninski’s. I followed that case so closely, just like everyone else. Nathan was a psycho, but he was hot to my teenage mind, you know?

Subject: [ Whisper ]  Please don’t put that in.

Subject: Anyway. They were trying to hide behind bad dye jobs, but I have no doubt. It was them. //

-

The train was nice and luckily, he had a car nearly to himself. He charged his phone as he finalized his decision to fly from Chicago to New York, and then after some deliberation, to Stuttgart instead of Berlin. After getting the email confirmation from his flight (and unfortunately, ‘his’ bank) - he went about going through the list of remaining contacts in the New York area.

The only one that answered was an old man named Frankie, who Neil remembered had three gold teeth and an uncomfortable looking beard. He answered on the fourth ring, right when Neil was ready to give in.

Who’s this?’

The voice was exactly as Neil had remembered, if anything, a good deal rougher from years of smoking.

“Frankie. This is Alexander, Jane Benits son. Do you remember me?”

There was a long pause at the end of the line, followed by muttered, ‘Jane, Jane Jane...’ Another stretch of silence followed, before Frankie wheezed and whispered, ‘I’ll be goddamned...you still kickin’ it?’

Neil always liked Frankie. ‘Alexander’ was 13 when they visited him on an off trip to Manhattan. From the brief period they sat in his office, he showed ‘Alexander’ how to ignite a lighter and light a cigarette. When his mother walked into the room and saw ‘Alexander’ blowing smoke out of his mouth, she boxed his ears.

He flinched with the memory and cleared his throat. “Yeah.”

Holy shit! How you doin’ after everything? Your pops really kickin' up a storm from the box.’ Neil assumed he meant the documentary. ‘ You still here?’

“Not for long.” He didn’t want to be on the phone for too long. “Listen, Frankie-”

God, couldn’t believe that shit when I heard it. Real balls he’s got. You too. Where you 'bouts now?’

“Hopefully out of here. I need your help and I need it fast. Can you do that for me?”

Frankie sighed on the other end. There was a clicking sound and lips blown together. ‘ Fuck, I dunno kid... been out of that business for a while. On the straight and narrow as they say.’

Neil highly doubted that. Frankie had been notorious for his clean work in the underground. It was a lucrative business despite the risk, and besides his raggy appearance, Neil remembered his crisply tailored blue suit.

“I know it’s a lot to ask. But I need this Frankie. You said it yourself. He’s kicking up a storm and I need to get out.”

Well-

-

// News Clip Plays:

Interviewer: Can you tell us what you saw and why you believe it was the Wesninski’s?

Subject: Okay, so it was this lady and this kid. And she was like, yankin’ him by the wrist. He was just followin’ with his head down - but it draws the eye, seein’ a lady yankin’ a kid like that.

[ Pause ]

Subject: Anyway, you could tell they were tryin’ to be incognito, but I watched ‘em the whole time.

Interviewer: Where was this?

Subject: Gas station.

Interviewer: In what state? City? Town?

Subject: [ Redacted ] if I know. I drive trucks. I go alotta places - but, as I was sayin’. The lady kept callin’ him Chris , but I got a really good look at the kids face when I dropped somethin’. He looked up at me and it was definitely that kid from the picture. You know the one? With the whole family and everyone but the Butcher looks ready to jump off a bridge? //

-

Neil got off the phone with a promise of documentation waiting for him when he got to JFK airport. Frankie had been hesitant at first and originally requested $200k for everything with a three day delay.

I can’t wait that long. I need this ASAP. By tomorrow night - the next morning, latest.’

‘ It’s gonna cost you, kid.’

No fucking kidding. After a back and forth, Neil wired him $300k with a swear he wouldn’t let ‘the kid of that cast iron bitch’ down. That was most of the remaining cash he had left, if he was being honest. But, so long as everything went well, he knew places in Europe his mother had kept stashes. He could replenish when he got there.  

There was a three hour layover according to his flight itinerary before the plane would leave for Germany. So, once he got off from Chicago, he’d have to run out of the airport, board the LIRR at Jamaica to Penn Station, and catch whatever subway line would get him to the Upper East Side fastest. Everything would be okay. He’d pick up his shit, then get the fuck out of the states.

You’re fine .

Neil felt like he could finally breathe. He had a solid plan set in motion and everything would be just that. 

Fine .

Settling into his seat, he looked around at his surroundings and realized more people had boarded and were now sitting with him in the car than he’d realized. Swallowing hard, he pulled his backpack into his lap, locked the screen on his phone, and lifted his eyes arbitrarily. They locked with a guy sitting across the aisle. He was about his age, with tattoo sleeves on both arms, and gauge things in his ears that would have made Ashleigh swoon. The guy smiled at him and raised a brow.

What the fuck? Who the fuck are you?

Neil looked back at his phone and tried to ignore his neighbor. The screen was black and his hand slightly shook because really, what the fuck was he looking at?

Black Suit and now this guy? Tattoo Sleeves? Someone is following you, Nathaniel. They’re onto you.

That was stupid. Black suit didn’t show up again and Tattoo Sleeves clearly had a screw or two loose, right?

He’s listening to something.

He was. There was a red wire gathered in his lap. What if he was listening to the podcast? What if he knew? What if he knows Ashleigh? Do all Tattoo Sleeves know each other?

What if he’s the Monotoned Ass? What if he’s working for him and Black Suit? Oh god, what if Monotoned Ass was working for someone higher up and this is all some big plan to get me murdered.  

That’s fucking stupid, Nathaniel.

Tattoo Sleeves cleared his throat and Neil glanced at him sideways.

“Hey. I’m Charlie,” he said, holding out a hand towards Neil.

Neil stared at the hand in confusion. Did hitmen usually introduce themselves? He’d only dealt with a few, but he didn’t remember any formal introductions.

“Charlie?”

“Yeah... Charlie Daniels. This is a long train ride.”

Long enough to murder someone. 

Neil grunted non-committedly.

“You can come sit with me, if you want,” Charlie offered. Neil felt like he was trying very hard to speak carefully and he couldn’t figure out why. “I even have a blanket we could use... together. To... cover us.”

Right

Neil unplugged his charger, stood, shouldered his backpack, and moved to find another car instead. There were about 4 hours left and he wasn’t spending it with potential hitman: Tattoo Sleeves.

“You could’ve just said no!” Charlie called from the back. “You have a great ass, though!”

Neil bit down onto his tongue so the venom didn’t start spitting. Responding was the exact kind of attention he didn’t need to attract.

Blend in. Don’t. You’re nothing worth remembering.

He found a suitable seat three cars down, no one around to bother him and everyone looked pleasantly distracted. Neil slumped against the window, put his earbuds in, and drowned out everything until his next destination.

-

This is what one might call ‘chasing a white rabbit’. And if you’re unaware of that term or confuse it with a once popular slang for chasing a high, a white rabbit is information or a lead in a criminal investigation that leads you down a rabbit hole to nowhere.

Nathan Wesninski is serving several life sentences and has been in prison for past 17 years. Additionally, if authorities have notified us correctly, whatever contacts or associates Nathan had been working with have been successfully snuffed out as well.

Assuming these reports are to be believed, then why haven't Mary or Nathaniel resurfaced in the past two years? What could these two rabbits still be running from? Do they have skeletons of their own to hide? Do they believe there are still people out to get them? Are they in witness protection? Or have they really just been dead all this time?

-

No one spared him a second glance. Moving through O’Hare International Airport was a breeze and Neil put that down to the nerves he’d clamped down after his second call with Frankie. Apparently, his $300-fucking-k papers were going along well. His new name, Chris Prescott, was in the process of becoming realized and should be completed by the time he got off this plane.

It was only a two hour flight, but he felt like time was taking its own, dragging by.

Under the seat in front of him, tucked away was his backpack. Unfortunately, with how late he had bought this ticket, he was squeezed into a middle seat - both passengers looking as happy as he felt. Curling in his shoulders, Neil - Or Chris, he supposed - was used to making himself as small as possible. In his lap was his phone, around him was the voice of the flight attendant going through protocol, and there was a nagging thing at the back of his head.

It wasn’t the fear that someone was watching him, not right now. He couldn’t see any Black Suits or Tattoo Sleeves around, nor did he feel the need to be on high alert.

Like you should be, Nathaniel.

Rather, the nagging came from his phone in his lap and the tangled headphones wrapped around it. He stared at the blank screen and refused the urge to do what his mother would likely advise against.

Or encourage. 

Someone is after us Nathaniel. You need to know what we’re up against. What does he know?

It would be the smart thing to do - might raise his blood pressure and send him into cardiac arrest, but he should listen.

After all,

What does he know ?

The plane was taking off. It was too late to listen now. Maybe on the way to Stuttgart.

Maybe.

-

That’s what I plan to find out. We have an objective and I’ve been following this case for longer than I’d like to admit.

Because of that, I pitched it to the team here at The Foxhole Network. I had planned on walking in and out with a commission check for my notes and ideas. Instead, I got roped into doing all the hard work. For that, blame them for my amazingly dulcet tone.  

I suppose there’s a person or two behind the scenes. Namely, Renee Walker, my co-producer, who is fortunate enough to do all the grunt work I don’t want to do myself.

The Foxhole put it’s misguided trust in me to get this *beep* out - so, I’m going to do it the way I want to do it.

-

Neil/Chris got off at JFK with a purpose. Backpack strapped to his back, he raced down the long terminals, into the shuttle, and then past the metro-pass point.

Jamaica Station was just as he remembered it, but somehow cleaner (which was shocking for New York). He stopped at one of the kiosks lined before the train terminals and glanced at the large clock standing in the center of the station. Night was creeping upon the city and it started to blanket the station despite it’s bright floodlights. The station was busy enough to allow him to disappear - which was imperative being back on the east coast. Neil/Chris felt comfort in at least that, as he purchased a ticket on the LIRR to Penn Station and a metrocard with it.

Ticket in hand, Neil/Chris heard a train coming in.

-

With all that being said, for however long this takes, I will find out what happened to Mary and Nathaniel Wesnisnki. I don’t expect it to be safe, I don’t expect it to be cheap, nor do I expect it to be easy . Considering various reports put these two in the middle of gang fights, I’m going to be chasing two very bloody rabbits.

Red Rabbits, you could say.

It’s fitting to be back at Palmetto State. I’m a fox again. I’ll chase these rabbits down holes and I won't stop until my tongue tastes blood.

-

If Jamaica was clean, Penn was disgusting. Neil/Chris’s phone read 7:22PM and though he was making good time, he had somehow gotten caught in an unexpected home rush. Black Suits stood around, staring everywhere but him as he looked down at the map on his phone to find the quickest subway station to E 81st and 2nd. The fastest route was the Q. Unfortunately, as he followed the directions stationed on the upper walls of the station, there was a false, bright blue wall blocking entrance.

“What the fuck ?!” Neil/Chris cursed under his breath and stepped back to look around. He hadn’t been in Manhattan for years, but the city still seemed to be inconveniently under construction.

Referring to his map, he quickly found another station as anxiety finally caught back up with him. His hands shook so violently that he nearly dropped his phone as he found another station, memorized the street/avenue.

If he didn’t make it to the contact within the next hour, he was going to be late for his flight. From what he remembered, it took at least an hour to get through JFK on a good day. And though it was conveniently night time and travel was usually sparse, he needed to plan for mishaps like this. Unfortunately, Neil/Chris didn’t have much of a choice.

Running through Penn Station, past the Black Suits, up one set of stairs, and through crowds of equally panicked and exhausted people, he took the last flight 3 stairs at a time before he burst into the cool, mucky, disgusting night air.

-

When this podcast airs, you’ll be able to visit our website, at redrabbitspod.tumblr.com, and social medias, all of which will be listed in the description of this episode. Additionally, if anyone listening has legitimate information or have sighted Mary and Nathaniel, let us know. You can post on our Reddit, at RedRabbitsPod; tweet us at RedRabbitsPod; make use of the ask box on our website, or email me directly at aminyard.foxhole@gmail.com . I’ll be combing through every legitimate lead to piece together a timeline of where and when Mary and Nathaniel have been spotted.

Renee and I will be going cross country and perhaps international if some of these foreign leads prove worthy of following.

-

There was a station somewhere around here. New York City may have a grid, but it wasn’t nearly as organized as people will have you believe. Not to mention, it was too fucking crowded.

You can do this. Pick up the speed. Don’t run, people will look. Walk like you belong, Chris .

He didn’t feel like he was disappearing here. His stomach was back in his throat and his blood was pounding ferociously in his ears as he weaved through clusters of people to the crosswalk right at the end of the block. His eyes were peeled for the two glowing orbs that signified the Q.

A throng of people cleared before him and there it was, like a beacon in the night, Neil/Chris ran - anonymity be damned. Pulling his phone out of his pocket, he checked the time to see how much time he’d wasted rerouting himself, and found a missed call from Frankie's number.

“Shit-” He cursed to himself and skid before the subway stop to see that it said Downtown , not Uptown.

Breathe in, Breathe out. Calm down Chris . Don't draw attention. You’re fine.

Okay.

He held the phone up to his ear and looked around him. People passed and the phone rang.

“Alexander?” Frankie's voice was rough in his ear just as his eyes caught on the connecting subway.

“I’m on my way,” Neil/Chris replied gruffly and without thinking, ran across the street. No cars were coming anyway, the coast was clear.

“No, Alex-”

-

So that’s it. A quick overview on the *beep* we’ll be diving in. Now you know what you’re getting yourselves into and can make a decision whether or not you want to keep up. I don’t want to see in our inbox how morbid this *beep* is. Trust me, we know.

The next episode will be posted bi-weekly. That’s subject to change since Renee and I will be traveling. If we don’t find any leads, we may update, but I don’t want to post if we have nothing real to say. Again, keep an eye on our website and twitter for updates. I’ll be posting any evidence we find.

Tomorrow, we’ll have a full transcript posted - keep an eye out for that, too.

-

Pain flared on Neil’s right side and he felt the ground against his cheek.

His ears were ringing, sirens were wailing, something was trickling into his eye. It was hot and it stung.

A haze fell over his vision and Neil tried to blink through it, tried to see . The only thing he could make out were bright lights, blue paint, and the shape of -

Who the fuck drives a truck in New York?

-

Oh. Mary and Nathaniel? If you happen to be listening, drop me a line. I’m always open to information - direct from the source.

I’m your host, Andrew Minyard.

Keep searching.

[ Outro ]