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Hunting Witches

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The first time Gwen had ever battled a witch on her own she was fourteen. Rebecca Morris was a sophomore and rising star of the cheerleading squad. She had silky blond hair and was perfect in a Barbie doll sort of way which, in hindsight, was probably the first clue. What fifteen year old girl doesn't have something awkward about her?

Gwen, on the other hand, was bottom of the high school food chain. A freshman, she didn't wear makeup and the way her mom cut her hair at home seemed designed to highlight every cowlick the Campbell genes buried in her scalp. Oh, and while she had developed pimples and acne, she hadn't developed breasts yet. Yeah, she was pretty miserable.

Then one day, Gwen discovered Rebecca was a witch. Rebecca had entered the girl's room near the gym during the middle of third period and had almost caught Gwen lighting up a cigarette. She'd dropped her backpack and Gwen had merely thought to help her pick it up - intending to be nice so Rebecca wouldn't report her. That's when she saw the hex bag and the look in Rebecca's eyes said she knew exactly what it was. Rebecca wasn't the victim here, she was using.

The resulting hair pulling and stall slamming, shin kicking and finger biting landed Gwen in detention. She refused to explain to her parents what had happened, and was unsurprisingly grounded for a week.

That night she snuck out of the house with her hunter's bag, an army surplus backpack with canvas straps, and hiked the three miles to Rebecca's house. Gwen scoffed when she discovered the girl's bedroom window open, talk about making it easy. She crawled inside and quietly eased a soft hemp rope around the sleeping figure on the bed before searching for the hex bag. She spotted Rebecca's backpack and pulled out the hex back using a pair of tongs she'd lifted from her mom's kitchen.

Rebecca woke up when Gwen dumped the trash out of a small metal wastebasket, but when she tried to sit up, she found she couldn't move nor could she speak. Gwen was pleased that she'd remembered Grandpa Samuel's comment about hemp rope soaked in holy water. Rebecca's eyes widened as Gwen incanted in Latin as she burned the hex bag.

"Don't fool with things you don't understand," Gwen told her as she cut the rope free and darted out the window.

Rebecca wasn't in school the following day, nor the day after that. When Gwen finally spotted her walking out of the same bathroom near the gym, she was delighted to see red blotches on her face, her dull hair tied into a messy pony tail and a length of toilet paper stuck out of the top of her skirt.

Oh how the mighty have fallen, Gwen thought.

++++

The second time Gwen encountered a witch was prom night. Gwen stood in the gym and toyed with her wrist corsage as she watched her classmates milling about on the dance floor. Her date was making his way back from the punch bowl, carefully balancing the flimsy paper cups.

"Wanna get out of here?" she asked as he approached.

Stunned for a moment, the boy stood with one hand awkwardly paused halfway to offering her one of the cups. "Uh… sure."

She turned and walked towards the exit, not bothering to see what the boy did with the cups of punch.

In the parking lot, they encountered Ms. Evanston, the chemistry teacher, and Mr. Floyd, the custodian, spray painting symbols on the ground and burning some sort of feathers.

Black magic, Gwen thought. Mr. Floyd screeched at her as she began chanting in Latin and she shot him with the small 22-caliber handgun she kept loaded with salt pellets.

On one hand, her date never spoke to her again. On the other hand, her parents weren't upset with her. Considering that she'd ruined her dress, was suspended for carrying a concealed weapon on school grounds, and failed chemistry - she didn't think it ended too badly.

++++

The third witch was actually rather helpful, although Gwen didn't trust her enough to give out her real name.

Stalking the supernatural was both easier and more difficult in a metropolitan area. Easier because it was less likely that locals would notice a few strangers poking into things, more difficult because strangers didn't always stand out in a crowd. Gwen had been hunting with Mark and Johnny for a few years now, and they had a system down for jobs like this.

Mark would set up a base of operations and insure they had their supplies and weaponry in order, Johnny would comb some seedier neighborhoods and gather information while Gwen would interview victims and confirm whatever stories had been reported. They would sometimes switch up jobs depending on the circumstances, but it was typically understood that Mark was not a people person and Johnny looked like a thug.

After her second day of canvasing the neighborhood and searching for more witnesses, Gwen stopped in a run-down looking Dunkin Donuts for a cup of coffee. A young woman followed her into the store and stood nervously by the counter as Gwen placed her order.

Gwen didn't want to pull out her gun in the store, but she rested her hand on the butt of the weapon and made sure the woman noticed. The woman looked around nervously, but eventually mustered her courage and walked up to Gwen.

"You're looking into those accidents?"

Gwen nodded, "You know something?"

"You're not a cop." It wasn't a question, so Gwen didn't answer. The woman continued, "are you a private investigator or something?"

"Something." Gwen replied.

The woman seemed to consider that for a moment, or perhaps she was still trying to come to a decision. Eventually, she took a deep breath and spilled out the story about her coven. Gwen wasn't surprised that witches were behind the bizarre accidents they were working, but she was surprised one of them ratted the others out.

By the end of her tale, the woman's hands shook and she was near tears. "No one was supposed to get hurt."

++++

The fourth cursed Gwen in French, which was a first. An entire coven from Ottawa that had tried to expand their influence into New York State and Gwen needed stitches after the encounter. A lot of stitches. Her and her cousin hadn't even gotten all the members, three of them fled back to Canada. At the time, Gwen hadn't been in any shape to pursue them and Christian decided it was just as well they spend time laying low and let her recuperate.

Christian never did explain how he'd lifted the hex from Gwen, allowing her to heal. At the time, she'd not cared and had only been grateful she wasn't dead.

Gwen wonders now if that's not when Christian became possessed. It wasn't like a Campbell to let something escape.

++++

The last witch she went up against had been the same as the third. It was when they were hunting with Samuel Campbell and they were looking for leads to finding the alphas. She'd been partnered up with Sam Winchester, not her first choice, and told to go to a nearby town and follow-up on a lead.

Gwen wasn't entirely comfortable with Winchester, he seemed very hardened. Mark said it was because he'd been a hunter all his life but she thought that was rubbish. Hadn't they also been raised in the life? No, something more was off about Winchester. He was more than hardened, he was downright cold.

The lead turned out to be the witch from the donut shop, no longer scared and no longer such a good person. While back then the woman had been upset over her coven hurting people, now she herself was involved in at least four deaths. Rivals, Gwen suspected, encroaching on her territory as a solo practitioner.

In any case, for all her promises and declarations of being a white witch, the woman had been unable to resist the pull of black magic after all. Gwen was both angry and relieved when Winchester killed her. Angry at the girl for turning dark, angry at herself for not killing her when they'd wiped out her coven years before, angry that Winchester killed her before Gwen could draw her weapon.

Mostly, Gwen was relieved that she didn't have to do it. She tried telling herself that it wasn't that she was growing soft, it's just that the woman had been a good person at one time and such things still mattered. Didn't they?

 

~end