It's right there on Dr. Shanks' syllabus: extra credit for attending weekly departmental lectures. So, even though he has no intention of needing any help to get an A at the end of the semester, Sam finds himself every Wednesday afternoon squeezing himself into a narrow chair in the back of a nondescript conference room in the new Archaeology Center.
When this week's guest lecturer arrives, Sam sighs quietly and slumps down a little farther in his chair. The guy is ancient-- ninety, maybe close to one hundred if that's even possible-- slowly making his way to the podium, plying his cane to support a halting limp, dressed in three-piece tweed and stiff bow tie. Sam's been to enough of these events to recognize an honorific speaker's invitation when he sees one. On the other hand, there's about three times as many people in the audience as usual-- practically the whole department's turned out-- so Sam bides his time and doesn't pull out the crossword puzzle under cover of his notebook just yet.
With careful motions, the speaker takes off his little round glasses and lays them precisely alongside his battered briefcase. He pulls out a set of thin plastic transparencies-- do people really still use those?-- and reaches one shaky hand out to flip on the overhead projector.
When he starts to speak, however, all impression of infirmity and obsolescence is swept away. His voice is gravelly, lower than it should be on a man his age. It doesn't exactly resonate through the room, but it doesn't need to. He's giving a detailed overview of the research on Native American Cahokia Mounds and the "artifacts of power" found within and the crowd is riveted.
Sam feels a prickle along the back of his neck and he shifts, perks up. He remembers visiting Collinsville, Illinois one summer when he was a kid, Dad and Dean making him stay put in the car when all he wanted to do was go "hiking" with them. Hiking. Yeah, right. For seven, he was pretty gullible.
The professor continues to lecture, blunt fingers stabbing at the projection screen for emphasis, taking frequent sips of water when his throat becomes dry. Finally, he finishes and elicits questions from the audience. Sam shoots a hand up into the air and he's as surprised as anyone when he's called on first.
"What is your opinion on the legends that say the Mounds have supernatural properties such as enhancing psychic abilities or producing visions?"
There's some quiet tittering from the audience, but the speaker looks squarely at him and replies, "Superstition. Rumor. Ghost stories. These aren't sources of information I can draw upon. In an academic setting."
Sam hears the emphasis on the last four words and wonders what it might mean. Before the speaker can move on Sam blurts out, "But most lore springs from some kernel of truth, right?"
"An investigator never ignores any possible line of pursuit, if the goal he is pursuing is valuable enough." He locks eyes with Sam for a long moment, then turns to the rest of the questioners.
Typically when these lectures are over, Sam slips out as soon as he can sign his name to the attendance sheet. Today, he leans against the wall by the door, waiting for the crowd around the speaker to thin out. At last, he approaches the podium.
"Hi, Professor. Sam Winchester. I thought the talk was really interesting." Crap. Interesting? He was smoother back when he was faking transfer credits to the counselors in high school.
The old man raises his hand up to his head and then aborts the gesture, as if realizing he has no hat on to adjust or pull the brim of or whatever. He smiles a sardonic, crooked smile that pulls down on one side and offers the hand to Sam to shake instead. The skin is cool and rice-paper thin, but the grip is firm and sharp blue eyes study him from underneath scraggly brows.
"Jones. Henry Jones. Glad to finally meet you, kid."