Dean's not a huge fan of the Northwest. For years it was nothing but rain and hippies, and the only difference now as far as he can tell is the explosion of overpriced coffee joints.
But one thing he does like, which he's worked hard to keep a secret, is the smoked salmon. He also likes regular salmon on rare occasions (though not on burgers or anything weird like that), but it's not one of the three main meats and it doesn't really match his reputation, even within the family. He feels kind of weird, sneaking off to buy it and eating it on the sly, but it could be worse. He's sure Sam keeps a secret stash once in awhile of something froofy like chocolate truffles. So the challenge is to find some here in Seattle, where the prices are good, without Sam knowing about it. At worst, they probably sell it at gas stations and mini-marts…
He and Sam arrive in Seattle around noon, sun overhead in a bright blue autumn sky. The trees are a mixture of green, gold and red on the way to Queen Anne Hill, where he and Sam are headed. The hill has been the site of several recent outdoor hangings, but the hunter hotline (which consists of online newspapers, Google, and Bobby) says these aren't suicides even though there's no evidence of how the perpetrator got his victims up where they died.
Dean and Sam have a pretty good guess. Things like height and weight and gravity don't matter much when it's supernatural powers doing the heavy lifting. So they'll plan on the usual: silver knives and rock salt and holy water. They'll talk to the victims' friends and families and then come back after dark and see exactly what shows up.
"Insurance agents?" Sam suggests.
"Yeah—the last guy was only a few days ago. There's a gas station after the light—we can change our clothes in there."
But after three hours of using sympathetic smiles and persuasion to disguise their questions, they're forced to admit that it's not going particularly well.
"These people had nothing in common," Dean says, "except how they died and where they lived."
"I say we bring the Latin phrasebook when we come back later," Sam comments. "Though I don't know how we'll be able to guess where this thing's going to strike next."
"This random shit sucks the worst," Dean agrees. He starts the engine, and they drive off in search of a motel.
On they way there, which consists of Sam pestering him about where he crosses the water—as if they whole city isn't broken up by chunks of water anyway—they drive past a big, blue warehouse store called The Work Bench.
"We should get more rock salt," Dean points out. "Maybe a few other supplies too."
"No night goggles—we can't afford them."
"All right, you don't have to say it every time, Sam. Jeez."
Dean finds a serrated hunting knife that is very necessary, though, in addition to more M&Ms and Cheetos. As usual, he never thinks about how it all looks until the cashier starts ringing things up.
"That's a lot of salt," the kid says—some blue-eyed slacker with a friendly smile and the kind of sincerity that would put Sam to shame. Which is also the kid's name, and maybe that's kind of weird.
Dean's Sam speaks up: "We get too much snow near the lodge where we like to ski."
"In business suits, sure, of course. Probably have a lot of bears up there too." The kid hands them their receipt (Peter Vincent's receipt, this time) and smiles them on their way.
As they leave the store, Dean nearly collides with a chubby guy dressed as an ear of corn. The corn has really exciting hair, though, and Dean wonders briefly if he's been keeping his own too short. He hasn't bought hair gel in almost two years, and for this kind of effect it'd be worth it. But it's a slippery slope from that to sporting emo-hair on the days he wouldn't have time to bother, which would be often. So, no dice—the brush cut stays.
He's almost disappointed.
Darkness comes quickly this time of year, especially this far north. Dean and Sam have changed and eaten and driven back to the hill by eight-o-clock, and already it's pitch-black. People are still out and about, though— he and Sam get stuck behind some green eco-mobile near the top of the hill.
The green car creeps along, which is exactly the kind of granny-driving that makes Dean itch to pull around. Suddenly, a car coming from the other direction casts enough light to create silhouettes of the people ahead of him.
He'd know it anywhere—it's only been a couple of hours since he saw it the first time.
"These people are from the store—at least, one of them is."
"What, you think they're behind all of this?" Sam asks.
"Probably not. But maybe they know something about it."
Dean drops the car back so he can see what the kids ahead of them are up to. They pull over and stop just down from the crest of the hill, and Dean kills the headlights and moves over to park on the other side of the street. Then he and Sam settle in to watch and wait.
After half an hour of watching the inhabitants of the other car watch and wait, Dean's so bored he's starting to wonder how Sam would look with crazy hair. Crazier hair, considering. That freaky villain in The Incredibles movie, with the flame-shaped hair—Dean's pretty sure that's well within reach. Too bad Sam's such a light sleeper…
The driver's-side door on the green car opens, followed by the passenger-side doors. The other Sam and the crazy-hair corn-guy get out, and someone else from the back. Dean nudges his brother and nods toward the action, and then the two of them slip out of their own car and gather supplies from the trunk. They approach the group quietly, ready to help if needed.
"C'mon," crazy-hair's yelling at something they can't see, "the courtesy shuttle's right here!"
"It's not working," the other Sam says frantically, "Nothing's happening!"
The third guy steps closer. "Try squeezing it or shaking it—my little sister had one of those."
"Okay." Store-Sam holds out a clump of something and shakes it until mechanical laughter spills out of it.
"What the hell—" Dean starts.
"Ha-HAH! Sucker!" crazy-hair shouts, as smoke and lightning stream into whatever the Sam guy's holding. The flow stops with a jolt and the hill grows dark again. "Yeah—success!"
"Finally." "Yeah." The other two join in more quietly, but no less happily.
Looks like the job's already done.
Dean and Sam walk up to them, scanning the ground and shadows but finding no clues. "Nice work," Dean says.
"Aaah!" the third guy startles, and all three of them back away.
The glare of the streetlight hits the mysterious object, which—
"Jesus Christ, you brought a toy? Where the hell are your weapons?" Dean can't see a hint of anything other than the stuffed Elmo doll, and these can't be hunters—they're way too unprofessional. They wouldn't survive a week.
"Weapons?" the Sam kid asks. "We only get what shows up in the box. This is it." He waves the Elmo half-heartedly.
"My god, who trained you?" Dean asks, and his brother butts in: "What Dean means is, this isn't something to get into without really knowing what you're doing. It's way too dangerous—more than you might think."
"What the hell are you talking about?" the other Sam says. "I didn't choose any of this. But I already got the preview of what happens if I try to back out."
"Seriously, man?" the crazy-haired guy puts in. "You never told me that."
"It wouldn't have helped, and you and Benji have been so great already."
"You know we're there for you, Sam, anything you need," Benji reassures him.
Dean looks at his Sam and rolls his eyes. "I hate to break up this love-in, but you guys are clearly amateurs. Walk away before you get yourselves killed, or a vengeful spirit will be the least of your worries."
"Vengeful what?" the other Sam asks. "These are escaped souls—we capture them and send them back to Hell."
"Huh?" Dean says eloquently. "How does that work?" his brother adds.
"We don't really know the logistics. There's paperwork and stuff. But the Devil shows up when there's a new job, and he tells me what kind of problems the soul's causing. Eventually the demon box appears, with the vessel in it."
"Who?" Sam asks. "The Devil?"
"That's the deal," the other Sam answers. "I'm his bounty hunter. It's kind of a pay-now-die-later thing, but the pay-now-die-now choice was worse. My parents sold my soul before I was born."
"I never got offered anything remotely like that," Dean whispers fiercely to his brother. "All I got was the year, and it's already half-over."
"I don't want to talk about this again, Dean, especially right now," Sam mutters back.
Dean straightens abruptly. "So why the Elmo doll?" he asks more loudly. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Crazy-hair speaks up: "The Devil's toying with us. Mocking us."
"Sock! Shhhh!" Benji scolds him. "He might be listening."
"Oh-kay…" Dean begins. "I can see you've got this covered. So we'll just be going."
"Wait, what was that thing you were talking about earlier?" the crazy-haired guy asks. "With the weapons and stuff? I'd like to score some of that, if you know what I'm talking about." He elbows his friends and grins.
"Uh, fraternity initiation," Sam suggests. "Secret code. But you were the wrong guys."
The other Sam looks from him to Dean. "Aren't you kind of—"
"— too cool to be in a fraternity?" Dean tugs on the bottom of his leather jacket. "Yes, we are. We're only doing it for—"
"—the business connections down the road," Sam finishes for him.
The other three stare at them blankly, a bunch of stooges with nothing but slacker jobs and a furry red Muppet. And a ridiculous car. Then Benji says slowly, "You know, I've heard of that. The whole career thing."
"Yeah." "Uh-huh." His friends nod sagely, like the planners anyone can see that they are.
"C'mon, Sam," Dean says, turning to go.
Sam falls into step beside him, tossing out "Good luck" as they head back toward the Impala.
"Oh, guys?" the other Sam calls from behind them. "Don't sign any contracts without reading them first… and if someone offers a trade for your soul, say No. Seriously, it's important."
"Too fucking late," Sam mutters.
"Hey!" Dean jabs him indignantly. "It's not like I traded it for fame and fortune, after all."
"I know, I know," Sam says, like he's sorry he brought it up.
They reach the car, and Dean unlocks the driver's-side door and slides into the seat. "Well, our work here is done. Want to go back to the motel and check out what's on TV?"
"Nah. Let's get some coffee and go down to the wharf instead, watch the ocean in the dark. As long as we're here."
"You can have coffee—I've got my flask." Dean taps his inside pocket. "So, those kids… you think maybe they were nuts?"
Sam's smile flashes in the dark, with an innocence Dean hasn't seen since sometime last year.
"I doubt it," Sam laughs. "And I'll bet they're asking themselves the same question about us right now."
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