Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Sam tries not to think about how routine this has become: he can stomach the cheap motels, the diners and the long car rides, he did practically nothing else in that regard since he could remember before he went to Stanford. But instead of working on his law degree, he's killing monsters. Day in, day out; slay a banshee here, shank a windigo there, and then lather, rinse, repeat. Dean stuffs his face with, from what Sam can discern, bacon, bacon and coffee, with a side order of bacon.
"Here, check this out," Dean says and slides a newspaper over to him. The article in question has been circled, a small piece about a movie company running into problems shooting on site of the "Blue Devil" movie; small fires and an accident that killed the producer Marla Bloom.
"And the supernatural activity would be?" Sam asks. He hopes against hope that this is not one of Dean's "but it's a movie! Have you seen the actresses?" - schemes. Although the last one turned out to be a real hunt for a shapeshifter.
"Well, to get started, it's a movie about a devil, or demon. From what I've learned, the series this movie is based on, has lost in popularity over the years and basically, no one rembered those guys. Then, all of a sudden, a movie offer from Hollywood, a really, really, almost too good one, the main actor back in the spotlight before the movie has even started shooting, merchandise already and every news station only has positive things to say. Come on, when is the last time that happened? And then, a mysterious accident, freak electricity and someone dies. One of these things may be just a coincidence, but both? I reckon we have a job there."
"And it has nothing to do with the fact that this job is near Los Angeles and conveniently centered at the beach?"
"Of course not, Sammy." Dean grins and yeah, it is one of his schemes. But it seems a bit fishy and they are sort of in the vicinity. Vicinity for them meaning they are near a neighboring state, somewhere in Utah, after a nasty job with a vampire trying to get his own cult off the ground.
The Kansas tape in full-blast, back seat loaded with snacks and a whole pie, the Winchesters are on the road.
All is dulled, like behind a curtain. There's this infernal ringing in his ears and it doesn't go away. The team stands around him, waiting for his speech. And he feels so numb, so empty. Dan Cassidy, star of the Blue Devil franchise, the Blue Devil himself, runs a hand through his hair and despairs.
"We lost someone precious today. Marla is -" and he can't bring himself to speak of her in past tense, can't bring himself to admit, to believe that she is really dead - "my best friend and one of the best people I ever had the privilege of knowing. It's cruel that she had been taken away from us, and that she" his voice falters there" is gone. I ... I know what you want to hear, but... they say, that the show has to go on. Marla was the first person to tell me that and she hammered that point in. I have been with her since the very beginning, and she always dreamed of an opportunity like this: the big screen, a hollywood production and a breakthrough, for all of us. And...and although she isn't here with us, it remains her dream." He breaks off and breathes deeply for a few moments. And he ceases to fight the tears. Dan may be a great actor, but this is too much. His voice forsakes him, and he tries several times to finish his speech. "It is cliched, but Marla would have wanted us to finish this. And I, I don't know how we can do it without her, but I'm not giving up. Marla's a fighter, and so we do what she would have done. We fight, we don't abandon this movie, and we will make her proud." The team claps their hands, mumbles agreements. "But we are all human, and I...we need a break right now. The studio has called and filming doesn't start until next week. Let's take this break to remember her, to regain our strength and to keep it together."
They agree, and the crew goes their own ways. They give him a hug, a handshake, and offer their condolences. But Marla is dead and no amount of kind words is going to fix this.
Dan sits in his trailer, in his hand a framed photograph of him and Marla, taken at the end of the first episode. He wasstill half-way in his costume, clutching the trident, she still red in the face from shouting orders at the poor cameraman. But her smile was beautiful. It wasn't tiny or pretty, it was large and strong in a way he never understood. She's gone.
A knock on his door breaks him out of his stupor.
"What?" he calls roughly. He is in no mood to deal with anyone, not now.
"It's Robert on the phone," an assistant explains. Robert? He doesn't know any Robert. Except, of course, Marla's brother. God, not now. "Mr Cassidy, he asks to speak to you." He can hear her and he can even hear Robert yelling on the phone, even outside the trailer.
"Tell him I'm" - what? Busy? Preoccupied? Not here? All lies, and horrible ones at that.
There's another voice and then it's almost silent. Dan peeks out of the tiny window and sees the assistant - first-year film school student, not even in her twenties - retreating towards the headquarter of their set. He looks towards the door where she was just now, and sees James, their special effects man, talk on the phone. His voice is smooth, soft and although Dan cannot understand individual words, the message of comfort and solace rings through to him. It's a strange thing to intrigue him, but it does. Not only is James a master of special effects and thus very good at making things blow up spectacularly, the man itself is anything but quiet. His clothes are an eyesore and his laugh usually infects the whole room he's in. This side - calm and collected in the face of a tragedy - is new and unusual. James eventually ceases talking and cancels the call.
Dan slumps back into his chair. This is too much. He hears rustling and James is in his trailer.
"I did lock the door."
"You know that's not going to hold me off for long. So, how are you?"
And Dan hates him suddenly. He is too calm, too normal and his face looks like a mask. He knows that James and Marla hadn't been the best of friends - she kept questioning his work ethic, hated his pranks and accused him of being a bad influence on her nephew; which James definetely was, and he seemed to thrive on annoying her more - but he should be feeling something, showing something. He deals entirely too well and something in Dan lights up with rage. "How can you do this? How can you be okay? Marla's gone! She's dead! Why don't you care?"
"Dan, what's going on? Of course I care! I liked Marla."
"Did you? Did you?!
"Dan, you're not talking sense. I know you're hurting and lashing out. That's how people deal with pain. You're not ready to accept it yet, but I'm here for you, okay?"
"Get out!" And before the vase he grabbed can hit him, James is already gone.
Dan sinks back into the chair. What is wrong with him? He saw James and something went wrong. Dan doesn't know what it was - face, demeanor, eyes - but something was there in his mind.
Something is wrong here.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Sam flips through fake IDs from a small metal box. Homeland Security? FBI? Reporters? He goes with insurance agents. Seems solid enough. Dean comes round the car with an astonishingly big cup of milkshake and a huge smile. "Dude, Sharon Scott is the lead actress!"
"Contain your excitement, Dean, this is serious."
"Yes, freak accident, but dude, Sharon Scott."
Sam adjusts his tie and pockets the ID. "Here's yours, and remember: insurance agents. Not film fans."
"Got it, Sammy."
They come to the entrance of the movie site. A girl, under 20, with a blond ponytail and a headset, greets them. "The site's closed, filming doesn't resume until next week."
"We understand that, Miss"
"Liz, we get that, but we're from the insurance, Mr Doughty and Gratzer here- " they both show her the IDs which seem to convince her - "and we were hired to investigate the tragic accident of Miss Bloom. We know that this must be a rough time for you, but I'm afraid we can't wait."
"Yeah, sure, I totally get that. If you could just wait here, I'll have to inform Mr Schwartz from the studio first."
Liz turns to go, wipes her eyes briefly and leaves for a building
"What do you think so far?" Sam asks and looks around.
"Not many people around, my guess is that they're leaving for this break from filming. Do you think she knows-"
"If the next two words out of your mouth are 'Sharon Scott', I will punch you."
"Alright, alright. What do you say, you stay here with Liz and do the talking, I'll have a look around with the EMF, and we meet up at lunch time at the snack joint over there."
It is one of his schemes and although he knows this perfectly well, Sam lets Dean go on with it. Liz returns after a minute or so. Sam takes a good look at her and she appears shaken, but she's holding it together. While they talk and he goes over the stuff a genuine insurance agent would ask, and sneaks in a few questions of his own now and then, they get coffee from a stand nearby.
"How are you holding up?" he asks, "this can't be easy, especially since it's the producer who was involved in that incident."
"I'm okay, but it's just so sad. I've been a fan of the show since it went on the air five years ago. I was heartbroken when it was cancelled. Ms Bloom was one of my inspirations, one of the reasons I'm going to film school in the first place. She was ridiculed in the beginning, but she was tough as nails and fought her way through the business. When I heard that a Blue Devil movie was going to be shot, I immediately applied for a job here. And it has been fantastic. But now this - god, poor Miss Bloom. This was her big dream - seeing Blue Devil on the big screen, making a Hollywood blockbuster - and she was so close, only for an accident to take it all away. And such a tragic one - the electricity was supposed to be off for the whole site. No one knows how it got turned back on."
"Why would the electricity be off?"
"I don't know, some technicians wanting to check equipment and didn't want to risk any live wires. They announced the thing, had a proper countdown and everything. Everyone knew that the power was out, and it still happened. At least her nephew wasn't here to see it, he was supposed to fly out here next weekend." She sniffed once, then snapped to attention. She had gotten a call on her headset and was talking to someone, a superior by the tone of it.
"Mr Doughty, Mr Schwartz was arranged for the lead teachnician to take you to the site. Is there something else I can do for you?"
"No, thank you, Liz, you have been very helpful." He adds "Good luck on your film career then" when a man comes up to him. He's in his 30s and has the stature of a linebacker.
"You the insurance guy?" is the first question. The tone is a bit hostile, but Sam knows he won't get any better from a technician. From their perspective, he's probably here to prove that this was caused by human error and to make sure that the insurance company doesn't end up paying anything.
"Mr Doughty, Mr. -?" He waits for an answer.
"Mr Freeman, if you could lead me to the site where the incident occurred, please?"
Mr Freeman scowls, but leads the way.
Smile on his lips and the EMF in his hand, Dean goes around the site, trying not to be too impressed. He has been to movie sets in his line of work, but none of them were as nice as this. Someone put serious money and effort into this. So far, the EMF shows absolutely nothing. It could have been just an accident, maybe there is nothing to detect after all. It would be a shame, really. Dean is thinking about whether Sharon Scott's trailer will be somewhere around here, and doesn't pay as much attention to his other surroundings as he should. A tall guy comes round a corner and almost runs into him.
"Whoa there, big guy." And this guy could give Sam a run for his money. Hey, isn't that- "Mr Cassidy!"
"Yes? I mean, sorry, been lost in my thoughts."
Dean is a straight-forward person and usually has no qualms about saying out loud what he thinks, but "Geez, you look like crap." may be taking it too far. That giant is Dan Cassidy, star of the Blue Devil series. And Dean always thought it were the special effects and mask making him look tall, but no, that man is genuinely that big. And ginger, apparently.
"Are you from the police? I did talk to your lot already, no offense, but-"
"No, I'm from the insurance company. We're having a look into this incident."
And that was apparently the wrong thing to say.
"Marla has barely been gone and already the vultures descend. Can't you leave this alone?! Can't you give her rest?!"
"We don't mean to be disrespectful, Mr Cassidy, we're only doing our job."
"Isn't that how it always is? It's no one's fault, it's always the job, always someone else!" Cassidy is getting angry, and downright scary.
"Mr Cassidy!" a voice calls. Without meaning to, Dean's standing to attention like a soldier. This voice is a commander's voice, full of authority and a strength you can't just hear, but feel; it should belong to a general, to a leader. But it belong to a man in a dark suit, blond hair slicked back. His outfit screams "manager" or something.
"Mr Schwartz, " Cassidy greets him and hunches his shoulders, seemingly shrinking. "I didn't mean to, I didn't want to-"
"There there, Mr Cassidy. You've had a rough couple of days, the hardest of all of us here. Don't you think it would be best if you used your days off? Get to a retreat, take your mind off things. I'm sure the company has a few places for such purpose. You don't have to be here, Mr Cassidy." His voice is smooth and has a calming effect that extends even to Dean. But Cassidy shakes his head.
"No, I'm staying. I have to work to do. Marla would have wanted this movie to be perfect, and I need to do my part, for her."
"I see, Mr Cassidy, very well. But please, lie down for a bit. She wouldn't have wanted you to exhaust yourself and suffer. Try to relax."
That seems to do the trick as Cassidy walks off in the direction of what is either his trailer or a bar. Dean knows where he would have gone to in that situation.
"Mr Schwartz, I'm from the insurance, my name's"
"Gratzer, isn't it? Liz told me about your arrival. I must say, I'm surprised to see you here and not at the actual site."
"Witness interviews. Well, not witnesses, I just wanted to talk to the people here."
"I see." Mr Schwartz sounds sincere, but doesn't look like it. Typical Hollywood shark.
"Very well, carry on, then. I would avoid Mr Cassidy though, Miss Bloom has been a dear friend to him, and I'm afraid it has hit him rather hard." Again, Schwartz sounds like he cares about Cassidy, but his face looks rather blank. Dean almost wants to categorize him as a monster for that, but then he remembers that this is L.A. and it could be just Botox. The more he thinks about it, the more probable it becomes. It's that kind of world.
A cellphone buzzes and Schwartz fished it out of his pocket and answers it. Dean can only catch every second word or so, but it's film lingo.
"No, no, no, no, the promotional pictures, then the tv interview, then we start on the documentaries. Not pictures, documentaries, interviews, am I working with morons?! Get me the press, we need to supervise the obituaries. Get in contact with Murray about doing a tv piece and - no, no no!"
Schwartz completely ignores Dean as he walks off, seemingly glued to the phone.
What a dick.
Sam forces a polite smile on his face as Mr Freeman leads him around the accident site. Brick building, massive hall with high ceiling, safety standards high and it's reasonably clean. Ms Bloom died in the right corner of the building, clear from the cables, clear from anything that could have killed her. It's beginning to seem more and more like something not quite human is responsible.
So far, everything elde checks out. Well, in that regard that there was no human error and no faulty equipment. That makes the accident less likely to be just that - an unfortunate accident. Someone must have had a hand in this. As casually as he can muster, he asks who was present on the night when the accident occurred. Ah, accident seems to be the right word for Mr Freeman. "That was a day when there was little to shoot here, most of the crew were at the location for the villain's lair thing at the studio, that's why we decided to do the checks there and then. Let me see...well, I think from the techies, it was just Carl, Simon and me, then Marla, poor dear, um...oh yes, Liz was there - poor girl, the boss is a monster, really- and the boss himself, Mr Schwartz. I think none of the actors were there, except for poor Dan. It hit him hard, man. The one day where the main actor gets off and that's when...well."
Then there's a noise above and Sam instincts scream at him to fight or run when something drops from the steel girders in the ceiling. If he was alone here at night, he'd probably take a shot at it, but something lets him hesitate to attack. It's too colorful. He has fought many, many, many monsters in his time, some more looking like beasts, some more looking like humans and somethings beyond that, but none of them were this ...cheery. Sam gets a clear look and instead of like a monster, it looks like a man, only upside down and dressing like he opened his closet that day and asked himself what would make him look like a parrot on crack. A man in a harness who just dropped down from the ceiling. Hollywood's weird.
"Where have you been, man? I haven't seen you since Dan's speech, I thought you left like the rest."
"Someone here has to keep an eye on Big D. No offense, but your speciality is working with the equipment, mine is working with people."
"I thought your speciality was blowing things up?"
"Yeah, well, that too. Kinda."
Sam watches the exchange with disbelief and the jaded realization that he has seen worse this week already. There's a man hanging upside down in a harness after he jumped down from the ceiling, and he's chatting with a co-worker. Hollywood is weird.
"Hi there," he interrupts, "excuse me, I'm Mr Doughty working for-"
"Insurance! Yes, I heard from Liz." The man, James, spins around to face him. Sam is not one who looks for that usually, but James is handsome with a gorgeous smile. Seriously, wow. And upside down. Okay, focus.
"And you are?"
"James Jesse, special effects man extraordinaire."
"And the reason you're hanging from the ceiling is..."
"Testing the harness. And it works!"
Mr Jesse beams, then lets out a "hey!" after Mr Freeman pushes him and he swings around. "That's not funny!"
"It is. Can I leave Mr Insurance here with you? Some of us have actual work to do."
"Okay, Paul, seeya ."
Sam feels like a package, carelessly handed over.
Mr Jesse turns rightside up and pulls on a latch, releasing him.
"Sorry, that must have seemed rude, but I'm not doing anything important, and I know pretty much everything about everyone, even if they don't know that I know that."
"So, what do you want to know?"
"Umm...where were you at the night when the accident occurred?"
"Is that a police investigation? And trust me, mispent youth, I have witnessed several of those."
"No, no, no, this is just a question for the insurance company."
"Yeah, it is, and I'm moonlighting as the pope on weekends."
"Whatever you are, and I'm sure you're no policeman either, you're not from insurance."
And suddenly the smile turns predatory.
"And don't try lying to me, I am the kind of liars."
Yes, the alisases are names from a band. Can you guess which one?
Chapter 3: 3
Sam likes to pretend that he doesn't sweat, but he does, and he is nervous. Careful now, or he might gets busted, they get thrown out and have to sneak in at night, in the best of cases. He takes on one of Dean's mottoes: in case of doubt, bullshit your way through.
“Look, I'm sorry if this came out wrong. I'm-”
“Just stop, you're embarrassing yourself. I've been conning people since I could talk and you're not fooling me. So, better tell me the truth before I call security. Or worse.”
Sam has faced monsters on sometimes a daily basis, he can deal with a nutty special effect guy. Now, better be safe than sorry. This man doesn't look like a monster in disguise, no obvious signs, so Sam coughs and mutters a quick “Christo”. It would be just his luck to find a demon in L.A. Aside from James lifting an eyebrow, nothing happens. So at least there's that. Just a regular, smart guy then.
“Okay, okay... it's true, I'm not from insurance or anything. This may sound weird, but I'm here to take a look at the accident. I don't believe that it was an accident after all, I think someone is responsible for it. And I want to find out who.”
James gives him a long, long look. “Okay.”
“Do you really want to complain?”
“No, no, I mean, thank you.”
“I've had my suspicions. There was no reason for Marla to be where she died and as far as I'm concerned, that was no accident.” James looks thoughtful. “But I have no idea why. She was responsible for the movie and for everyone here even having a job. She was going to create a Blue Devil revival. Who would have motive to stop her?”
“I have no idea. Yet.” Sam takes a look at his watch. He should better meet up with Dean.
“Do you have a minute? I have an appointment with my partner”
“He's my brother, okay. Are you coming or not?”
“Can we grab lunch on the way? I work better on a full stomach.”
“We are actually meeting at the snack-”
Already from afar, Dean can spot Sam – it would be hard to miss him, really – and some guy tagging along. He'd guess 'clown' if he didn't know that Sammy's afraid of them. In front of him is a fantastic cheeseburger and a big milkshake. At times like these, with the sun shining warm on his back, the sky a magnificent blue and everything so peaceful, it's hard to imagine that there's a monster hiding somewhere. Dean had continued his investigation, making a wide berth around what a tech guy – Simon who was short and half the width of the other tech guy who had picked him up, Carl – had told him was Dan Cassidy's trailer. To his joy, he found Sharon Scott's trailer, but it was empty, the actress had left almost immediately after the filming went on hiatus. There was actually almost no one around; he just saw one more person, another tech guy who was carrying around an impressively huge tool box. He had headphones on and had startled, and almost squished his foot with the box. He explained that the tests they were running on the day of the accident were perfectly safe, monitored and fool-proof. Not only had he no clue how Marla could have been electrocuted, he had no idea why she was even in the building. Dean thanked him and went back to where he came from. After that, he bought lunch and waited for Sam and if he had found anything.
“Dean, this is James, and”
“You're busted, basically.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “He didn't buy our cover story, but he is willing to help us anyway.”
After Sam bought a salad and James got seemingly all the candy they had, the three exchanged intel and discussed.
“I'm beginning to think,” Dean started, and after a pointed look of Sam, finished chewing, “that this was a murder. Someone made Marla go to the building and then electrocuted her. Perfect location and perfect timing, no one was around and the people who were, were focused on other things. There's the tecchies who were working,”
“And unless they all worked together to give each other alibis, and wanted the person who wrote their paychecks dead, they are innocent” James said and popped another lemon drop in his mouth.
“That leaves Liz and Mr Schwartz. I talked to Liz and she's a big fan of Marla and seemed pretty devastated.”
“I met Mr Schwartz, he calmed Dan Cassidy down. That guy's a mess. Schwartz seems sinister enough, but to me he seems like a typical Hollywood shark,” he turned to James and gestured vaguely at his own face, “does the guy use botox or anything? His face is off.”
“I don't know, I never met the guy. He doesn't talk to us lowly helpers. There was a get-together at the beginning of filming, but I kinda got lost on the way, didn't arrive until the second day.”
“You got lost?”
“I'm from Kansas and driving out here by car was a stupid idea. Beach looks remarkably the same, you know. Sand on the one end, sea on the other, and before I knew, I was 100 miles north and stopped overnight at a motel.”
“Oh please, like you never were too sure of the way and didn't ask for directions because you're way too macho.”
Sam laughed at that.
“Oh come on, that was once. Twice, at best.”
“So that leaves... Marla herself,” James contemplated.
“And Dan Cassidy,” Sam added.
“No, no, no, just no. Dan would never – she was his best friend! Together from the start, they created the series. He was so ecstatic when they announced the movie, he was overjoyed. He'd never do anything like that.”
“Okay, okay. We just need to look at this objectively. We have 7 people present – three tecchies, Liz, Schwartz, Dan and then Marla herself. Ruling out Marla, that leaves six. Three of those are either criminal crazy masterminds, or have alibis. That leaves three people.”
“All of which had no reason to hurt Marla; the guy who financed the movie, an assistant who is her fan, and the star. That makes no sense.”