Monday, September 16, 2013
Jensen opened his eyes.
Across the room he saw that the IKEA dresser definitely did slant a little to the left. He moved his eyes to his bedside table. His alarm clock glowed a green 5:29 back at him. There was the barely audible click of the device turning on and the radio played a slow beat rock song softly. The morning radio host wouldn't be on for another twenty minutes with his braying hyena-donkey hybrid laugh. He moved his eyes back to the dresser.
Why hadn't he been able to see that it was slanted before now? She'd kept telling him it was. Why had he argued with her about it? Why had he picked on her packrat tendencies? Why had he not liked her cooking? Why had he asked her to move in with him after only six months? It had been too soon. Way too soon. And yet, the six months since she moved out had felt like an eternity. Was that because he really missed her? Or did he just miss the pretty decent, fairly regular sex? He felt like six months shouldn't seem like a long time to go without sex, but he hadn't had this kind of dry spell since—fuck, since before he lost his virginity. He might have considered himself a slut if it weren't for the fact that he'd realized a long time ago he didn't have one night stands but one year stands. He'd date people for prolonged periods, but never tried or even wanted to develop close relationships with any of them. So why had he tried with her?
The radio switched to a hard, driving Red Hot Chili Peppers song and Jensen rolled onto his back. He was not going to have another one of those maudlin self-reflection mornings. He realized the only reason he was tempted to was because of the phone call from his parents last night. His brothers were all happily married with children (his little sister was exempt since she was only twenty-four though their mother worried about her too), but apparently being thirty-two and having nothing to show for it except a successful career that he enjoyed and was damn good at was not enough to make him really happy. Only a spouse and children could give a person complete fulfillment in life. Jensen frowned. He wondered how many more centuries it would take before that bullshit philosophy was completely debunked. Well, that took care of the "What am I doing with my life?" portion of the day.
Jensen sought solace in his routine. Routine was his very best friend in the whole wide world. Coffee, brush teeth, shower, get dressed, clip handcuffs in holder to belt, check safety on service weapon, holster gun, holster Blackberry, recheck safety on weapon, re-holster gun, put credentials in left suit jacket pocket, put lanyard with work badge around neck, pour leftover coffee into travel mug, lock door, unlock door, retrieve gym bag since he had brought it home over the weekend to wash his smelly gym clothes, lock door, go to parking garage, go back upstairs, unlock door, check already turned off coffee machine, lock door, check that door is locked, back to parking garage, bang head on roof of car as realize forgot car keys upstairs.
If only he could say that this was just one of "those" days—this was every fucking day.
Jensen made the turn onto 3rd Street to access the garage on the backside of the Washington Field Office building. He smiled at the guards and waved his badge in front of the scanner to activate the barrier in front of the ramp to drop. He drove slowly down the ramp and around the sharp, blind corners having to go to the third level before finding a parking space that wouldn't require double parking. He still left the doors unlocked and the keys on the dash just in case.
By the time he was on the elevator on his way to the fourth floor, he'd mostly forgotten about the crappy start to his morning and was running down a mental list of the cases he needed to do progress checks on. He also needed to make a final attempt to contact a source that had been reluctant as of late to continue his duties.
The elevator stopped on the ground floor to pick up a rather bedraggled looking woman who was struggling to keep her hands on her badge, her bag, her coffee cup, and her dripping umbrella. The metro was only a short walk from the building, but if the rain was heavy enough it could seem like a much longer one, especially if one was wearing heels. The woman shuffled onto the elevator and cursed quietly as her coffee sloshed out of the broken plastic lid and onto her shirt. Jensen tried to stand as inconspicuously as possible in the back corner of the elevator and the woman punched the button for the seventh floor like it had murdered her entire family. She was probably an analyst and since only agents were allowed to park in the garage, that left poor creatures like her to juggle their possessions on the metro and combat the weather conditions with what looked like a very small, mostly bent out of shape purple polka dotted umbrella—and then keep the ungainly armfuls out of the way as she had to badge through three sets of doors. She didn't look like she was enjoying her morning exercises.
The elevator stopped on the fourth floor and Jensen scooted off quickly so as not to hold up the woman any longer on her harrowing journey to her desk. He took the exit out of the elevator bank to his left and walked past the cubicles of the other criminal squads before reaching the back corner where CR-2 made their home. He was the first to arrive and the overhead lights flickered on when the motion detectors picked him up. He set his gym bag on the floor next to his chair and bent over his desk to jiggle the mouse on his computer to wake it up. As he was typing in his password a chair rolled into his space and a voice said, "Morning, Jensen!"
Jensen started violently, his finger hitting the enter key too early and the computer beeped at him that he entered the wrong password. Jensen turned around and saw the newest agent on their squad grinning at him.
"Jared," Jensen said calmly. "Where the fuck did you come from?"
"I just got back from the gym."
Jensen noticed his wet hair for the first time. He probably should have noticed it earlier; it made it look longer than it was when it was dry—which was already on the longish side considering he was an agent, but appearance rules were rarely enforced. Jensen glanced at his watch: 6:51.
"What time did you get here this morning?"
Jared shrugged a shoulder. "Five-thirty."
Jensen blinked at him. "You know, fit time is built into our work schedules. You don't have to work out before or after hours."
"I know. And sometimes I do that too."
Jensen made a disgusted face and tuned back to try his password again. Even wearing a suit it was pretty obvious that Jared was built like every clichéd comparison to Greek gods that existed. And Jensen had seen him out of that suit and in his gym clothes—sweaty and extra toned from his workout. If he didn't have such a puppy-like personality Jensen might have been tempted to do something about it, but as it was the kid was just too much like a little brother. He was only four years younger, but he'd been in the Bureau for two years compared to Jensen's nine and that just made him seem like he was much younger. Plus Jared had only transferred to CR-2 from the Cyber Division three months ago. He was a total noob, not completely jaded yet, and still eager to please his seniors. Fortunately his intelligence wasn't limited to all things technical and Jensen was already impressed with his sharp intuition.
Jensen was so wrapped up in his warring inappropriate thoughts about someone he viewed more like a brother than a potential hook-up and typed in his old password. The computer beeped at him.
One more try and he'd be locked out and have to call stupid computer services to reset his password.
"Hush, hush, hush," Jensen murmured and concentrated on his password. Finally his desktop began to load. He turned back to Jared who was waiting patiently and not at all offended at being shushed. "Yes?"
"I've got requalification coming up next month, so I was wondering if you'd want to go to the range with me sometime this week."
Jensen took a moment to think about his completely open social calendar. "Yeah, I could do that. I'm free this weekend."
Jared grinned. "Great. Oh, yeah. After you left on Friday, we got an e-mail about the DNI briefing that's coming up—apparently it's our squad's turn or something. And the deadline for the threat assessment reports got pushed up a week."
Jensen frowned at Jared with all the displeasure he could muster. Not because he knew he was going to get stuck with preparing the briefing. And not because the IAs on his squad were going to kick his ass later if he didn't get them the info they needed to complete their reports on time. He frowned because this little shit had left after him on Friday and still showed up before him on Monday.
"Jared, you need a girlfriend."
Jared laughed. "Don't I know it, man. You know anyone you could set me up with?"
Jensen crossed his arms and looked up as he went through the list of females he knew. He was halfway through his never-slept-with-acquaintances when Jared cleared his throat.
"Is it really that in depth of a decision?"
"Yes. I know a lot of people. What are you looking for? Date material or a hook-up?"
"At this point? Either."
Jensen harrumphed and narrowed his eyes. "So, you're saying I shouldn't set you up with my sister?"
"Definitely not. Not that I would treat her poorly or disrespect her, but no way am I dating a colleague's sister. Let alone yours."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I've heard the rumors, Jensen."
"What rumor—" Jensen scoffed in annoyance. "I swear, you punch—are rumored to have punched—one SSA for ogling your baby sister and all of sudden you have a reputation as an overprotective big brother."
Jared laughed and used his feet to twist his chair back and forth. "Mm-hmm. Is that the reason you transferred to counterintelligence?"
Jensen's growing good mood dissipated just like that. He kept his smile in place though.
"No. I just transferred because I'd been in criminal for three years and thought I needed a change."
"What made you decide to come back?"
Jensen laughed softly. "Do you have any idea of how unsatisfying counterintelligence is? You can't arrest anybody. Most of your time is spent trying to figure out their little cat and mouse games and who're they're playing them with. At most you get a PNG, but then that country just PNG's one of our own in retaliation. I like criminal because I like getting the bad guys and making them go to jail."
"You didn't want to do counterterrorism?"
Jensen shrugged. "There weren't any openings when I decided to transfer out a couple years ago. I also prefer criminal to counterterrorism. Is that where you wanted to go?"
"Honestly I just took the first opening there was. Turns out I can't compartmentalize as well as I thought."
Jensen nodded sympathetically recalling which squad specifically Jared had come from.
"Well," Jared said, "I'll let you get caught up on your e-mails. Don't forget we've got a squad meeting at ten."
Jensen made a face. "Who schedules squad meetings for Mondays?"
"I do, Ackles," his SSA griped as he walked past him.
Their SSA disappeared behind his cubicle wall and Jared and Jensen grinned at each other.
"Whoops," Jensen mouthed silently.
Jared laughed and rolled his chair back to his own space.
"It is too early for giggling, ladies!" Bob snapped from his corner of grumpiness.
Jensen heard Jared's matching sniggering as he dropped his head to his desk to muffle his own laughs. He kept a hand over his mouth as he clicked on the Outlook icon in the Taskbar to access his e-mail. While that loaded he pushed the button on the switch that connected his monitor to both his classified and unclassified computers. The monitor flashed to the username prompt for the unclassified computer and Jensen entered his password. While that one loaded he shrugged off his suit jacket and hung it on the hanger he kept hooked on his cubicle wall.
The next three hours passed by quietly. His other squad members greeted him as they trickled in and Jensen worked on an EC he had promised their analyst, Osric, would be finished last Wednesday. He hadn't received any e-mails from his source, again, and he was about to compose one to him when Jared tapped his shoulder.
"It's ten," he said.
"Oh, crap," Jensen muttered as he checked the time and then locked his computer. He stood up and grinned at Jared. "You're like my very own OST, you know?"
"More like his secretary," Brad giggled as he passed them on his way to the conference room.
"That is an OST," Jared called after him in confusion.
"Shhh!" Jensen shushed him quickly and glanced around, making sure Loretta, CR-2's OST wasn't around. "Technically, yes, OST's are secretaries, but some object to that particular moniker. And if you ever want your ECs and mail to not get lost, I suggest you never mention that to Loretta, okay?"
Jared nodded, wide-eyed. He'd already been subjected to one of Loretta's verbal ribbings his first week on the squad and he was not eager for a repeat performance. Jensen patted him on the back in solidarity and picked up a notebook and pen to take to the squad meeting. They hadn't taken two steps when they saw SAC Kripke walking toward them. They both smiled and nodded in greeting, and only took two more steps before they realized the SAC was actually heading toward them. They stopped in their tracks and waited for Eric to get to them.
"Good morning, Jensen."
"Eric," Jensen replied with a genuine smile. Eric was one of the few executive level managers who wasn't a total dick. "Have you met Jared Padalecki? He just transferred to criminal from cyber about three months ago."
Eric and Jared shook hands.
"Yes, the name is familiar. I'm sorry I haven't had the chance to get around to having those one on squad meetings I keep claiming I'm going to do."
Jensen shrugged. "SACs are busy."
Eric repressed a grimace. "More than I realized actually."
Jensen smiled and looked at Jared who was standing almost at attention. He was so cute sometimes.
"Eric was my SSA when I first started working at the Bureau," he explained, hoping to convey to Jared that this meeting didn't need to be so formal.
"I still remember the first time I met you," Eric laughed. "I was genuinely wondering if the Bureau had changed its age requirements for special agents. I thought there was no way this kid was twenty-three."
Jensen's lips twitched down. "I was almost twenty-four."
Eric laughed and patted him on the shoulder. "I know, but you didn't look it. Seriously, Jared, is it? You should see some pictures of him back then. Total baby face."
Jared bit his lip to keep his smile in check, but his eyes were lit up like Christmas trees.
"Okay, thanks, Eric," Jensen grumbled. "Just don't be surprised when you're notified about an OPR complaint."
Eric just laughed at that empty threat. "You know, I'm still curious why you're not an ASAC yet. Or at least an SSA."
Jensen shifted his weight uncomfortably and cleared his throat. "Well, after I switched to counterintelligence, I just kept my head down for a few years. And I need to put the time in again now that I'm back in criminal. I'm probably not cut out for a supervisory role anyway."
"You are," Eric said assuredly, but he had also sobered considerably.
There was a moment of uneasy tension in the air. Jensen saw Jared take a breath as if to speak, but then decided to remain quiet.
"Actually, that's why I've come to see you today," Eric finally said.
Jensen raised his eyebrows. "About my lack of ambition?"
Eric smiled wryly. "No, not that. About what maybe caused your lack of ambition."
Jensen swallowed and slowly curled his fingers up into his palms.
"What—" Jensen couldn't think of the rest of the question he wanted to ask, so just left it at that.
"I received some information regarding a mutilated body found in Elton, New Hampshire."
"New Hampshire? Why would that come to the attention of WFO? Shouldn't—who handles New Hampshire?"
"Shouldn't the Boston field office be handling it?"
Eric nodded. "They are sending a couple of agents from the Portsmouth RA to help out the local PD. It came to my attention because I've got a request for certain leads to be brought to my attention. Specifically, unique details regarding murder cases."
Jensen swallowed again. "What kind of details?"
"Well, this body in Elton was found in a coffin." Jensen felt a chill begin to settle on his skin. "The victim had been tortured and mutilated, both pre- and post-mortem." Jensen felt pain and only belatedly realized he was clenching his fists so hard his hands were shaking. "There was a word carved onto her chest: a word that looked like the name of an angel. A pretty obscure name though. They haven't figured out its significance yet." Jensen was actually feeling ill from the spread of cold dread that clashed with the wave of hot anticipation building in his gut.
"What was her crime?" he asked hoarsely.
"That we don't have," Eric said, holding Jensen's gaze steadily. "They didn't report it. So, maybe they didn't find it. Maybe it's a copycat who doesn't know." Eric shrugged. "Maybe it's a coincidence."
"It's not a coincidence," Jensen said with more force than he meant to.
"I don't think it is either. I thought you'd want to know about it. And I thought you wouldn't mind that I told the Portsmouth RA to be expecting you to come up to help with the investigation."
Jensen let out a rush of air he hadn't realized he'd been holding.
"Yes. I mean, no. I don't mind. Thank you, Eric, really. I'll be on a plane this afternoon."
Jensen turned to walk back to his desk, but Eric called him back.
"Settle down, Jensen. I understand how important this is to you, but the case is under federal jurisdiction. We've got a claim on it and the body isn't going anywhere. You've got a travel voucher to fill out and cases to brief to others to take over while you're gone. You can fly out first thing in the morning."
All three men jumped at the loud, irate shout from the man leaning out of the door of the conference room. "What's the hold up?"
When Bob saw their SAC he immediately switched to a neutral face and approached the group.
"Sir, good morning."
"Good morning, Bob," Eric said pleasantly. "I'm sorry for holding up your agents, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to co-opt your best agent for an indefinite amount of time. We've got an emergency TDY to New Hampshire that Jensen personally needs to attend to."
Bob raised his eyebrows but only said, "If that's where he is needed then that's where he'll go. Will he have back up?"
"Of course, the Boston field office is cooperating with our efforts."
Bob looked at Jensen. "Is this—about that case?"
Jensen nodded minutely.
"We're not sure yet," Eric answered. "It may not be him. That's why we're sending Jensen."
"Do they know this was our case first?"
"They're aware of the circumstances surrounding the request for Jensen's presence."
Bob frowned. "I don't want Jensen sidelined on this."
Jensen tried to keep his eyebrow from quirking too much in surprise. Bob was a good enough guy, but he never would have pegged him for being so defensive of his agents.
"I think they'll welcome his insight on this particular case."
"Maybe it would be better to send someone else with him. Someone else acquainted with the case."
"Mitch is retired," Jensen said softly. "Whitfield is an ASAC now. Brown is an SSA in Houston. And no one else knew the details. Not like we did."
"Jensen is very capable," Eric assured Bob, and maybe Jensen too. "Besides, this case could go on for quite some time; I don't know if we can spare two senior agents or keep an ASAC away from his duties for an indefinite amount of time."
Bob frowned harder. "I still don't like sending him alone. Not that I don't think he can't handle it, but it would be better to have a greater WFO presence so he won't be pushed aside."
Jensen opened his mouth to tell Bob he would be fine alone when Bob's eyes snapped to Jared like he'd just realized he was there.
"How would you like to go on a TDY to exotic New Hampshire?"
Jared's jaw dropped for a moment and then he nodded. "Yes, of course, I'd love to help Jensen with..." he trailed off as he realized he had no idea what case the other three were talking about.
"Great. It's settled. Not sure if this is a good case to break you in on, but I've always found the deep end is the best place to learn how to swim."
Jared gulped nervously.
"Jensen," Eric drew his attention. "Weekly updates, even if there's nothing to report."
"And make sure your travel voucher is turned in before you leave, okay?"
Eric shook hands with all of them and took his leave. Bob's face soured when he was gone.
"All right. I guess you're leaving tomorrow? You can start making arrangements after the squad meeting." Jensen started to protest but Bob cut him off. "You need to hand your cases off, so it's best to do it while we're all together and can figure out who can work on what."
Jensen conceded and the three of them walked to the conference room, but his mind was five hundred miles and eight years away.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Jared strummed his fingers on the desk of the Enterprise car rental counter and glanced back where Jensen stood by the sliding glass doors, fidgeting with the clasp on his expensive looking watch. Of course it could have been a knockoff from Chinatown for all Jared knew about brand name jewelry. He thought his Fossil watch was pretty fancy himself. He studied its slightly scratched face since he didn't have much of anything else to think about.
Yesterday had gone by faster than he could have imagined, mainly because trying to book travel arrangements to small towns while still staying within the government's requirements regarding lodging per diems and which airlines happened to be acceptable on any given day ate up four hours easily. And Jensen had left early using some comp time he had leftover from the last wiretap he worked helping out another squad. So, the most Jared had learned about the case was that it involved three unsolved murders that took place in the DC area back in the spring/summer of 2005 and that the murder in Elton had too many similarities to the cold case to be mere coincidence. They were either looking at a copycat or the killer that had eluded capture eight years ago. But that's all he knew. He had no details or any knowledge of exactly what Jensen's involvement in the case had been. It seemed unlikely he had been lead on the case since from the timing he wouldn't have even finished his one year probationary period as a new agent when the first murder happened. And Jared had had no chance today to ask more about it as the public venue of an airport was not the appropriate place for an in depth discussion regarding, from what little he'd heard, a very gruesome case. Plus he and Jensen had been seated four rows apart on the plane.
The flight had been uneventful and they'd both brought only hanging garment bags and a small backpack as luggage so they wouldn't have to check any bags. Jared had left Jensen behind when he went to check in for the rental car because Jensen had been grumbling non-stop about not being able to fly to a closer airport the moment they'd landed at Logan. Jared didn't want someone being grumpy to ruin their possible chance at getting a free upgrade on their car; the government only let them go as high as intermediate size. Neither he nor Jensen were intermediate sized.
Unfortunately most of their fleet was booked for that weekend (or so they claimed) and Jared was handed the paperwork for a Hyundai Accent. He grimaced, already feeling sorry for his legs, and walked over to Jensen.
"We set?" Jensen asked and walked out through the doors without waiting for an answer.
They traded their paperwork for a set of keys and Jensen loaded their luggage into the trunk while Jared went over the exterior inspection with the agent. At last they were on their way, trying their best to navigate the streets of Boston and figure out how to use the GPS device they'd paid an extra twelve dollars a day for.
"This is ridiculous," Jensen griped as they had to make a trip around a second traffic circle to the fourth main road they had to take before getting to I-95. "They should have let us fly somewhere closer than this. If not Laconia than at least Portsmouth. I mean, it's a freaking international airport. How is that not big enough to accommodate government approved carriers?"
Jared assumed the question was rhetorical, but answered him anyway. "It's not that far of a drive, actually. Only a couple of hours. And we could use the time."
"To do what?" Jensen groused.
"Well, you could fill me in on this case for one thing. I'd like to show up and have some inkling of what's going on."
When Jensen didn't answer Jared glanced at him. He was leaning an arm on the door's armrest and gnawing on his lower lip with a scowl furrowing his pretty face. No, better go with handsome. Jared wasn't the kind of man who couldn't own up to noticing another's man attractive qualities, but Jensen didn't seem like the type to be amenable to being called pretty.
Jared looked back to the road, a little peeved that he was being ignored. He was technically a junior agent, but he wasn't incompetent. And despite their SSA implying he was only being sent to take up space, he had no intention of watching this from the bleachers.
"When I first started in the Bureau," Jensen began, "they actually didn't have a place for me after I graduated. I spent the first six months kinda floating from squad to squad doing mostly OST work actually. Then I was sent permanently to the Criminal Division and was assigned to violent gangs. Then there was some internal shuffling and some internal bickering. You know how it goes," Jensen said dryly.
"Yeah," Jared huffed out a laugh. "Don't have to be long in the Bureau to see that nonsense."
"Yeah. So, I was finally assigned to CR-4 and had only been working there for a couple months, really finally settled down and learning the routine, when a case came in involving a priest that had been kidnapped in Maryland and driven into Virginia."
"It became a federal case."
"Yep. So, one of the senior agents, a really great agent named Mitch Pileggi, was going to help out the local PDs and said he'd take me along to help get my feet wet. It was just supposed to be—I mean, you know they teach us that there's no such thing as a routine investigation, but this was supposed to be—pretty routine."
“I take it that it didn’t turn out to be quite so routine.”
Jensen’s jaw clenched as the memory flashed in his mind as fresh as the day he first saw it. “We found the priest because the killer wanted us to find him.”
Jared waited for Jensen to speak again, but his eyes were looking out the front windshield, unseeing. At least, his eyes weren’t seeing anything that was currently in front of him. Jared was grateful he’d managed to convince Jensen to let him drive because Jensen simply was not there. He decided to wait Jensen out; he’d speak when he was ready. After ten minutes of silence and the urban gradually melting into the suburban, Jared wondered if Jensen had forgotten he was there. He adjusted his grip on the wheel, hearing the tacky sounds of his skin peeling off the leather. When had he gripped the wheel so tight?
“Jensen, I realize this—”
“He had hand carved a coffin.”
“Wh-what?” Jared was a little startled by Jensen’s sudden return to the vehicle.
“The killer,” Jensen said, the faraway look gone from his eyes as he glanced at Jared. “He’d been planning the killing for a while. He’d made a coffin out of white pine. It was beautifully crafted. Every piece fit perfectly together; it was perfectly level; perfectly smooth. But unlined, undecorated, no hardware. Just the pine. And the priest was in it. He was stripped except for his collar.” Jensen shook his head. “You couldn’t even see the color of his skin it was so mottled with bruising. I mean, literally, every inch of skin, front and back, had been beaten. The ME said it was probably a rubber mallet, among other things. All done while he was still alive. His wrists and hands were broken. His fingernails had been pulled off. Wooden splinters shoved under his toenails.”
Jared shifted in his seat as he felt that weird squirmy feeling in his stomach people got when thinking about having things shoved under their nails.
“His eardrums were punctured pre-mortem, his eyes carved out postmortem. He’d taken them out almost surgically and then placed them back in. When we were at the scene we had no idea. He had a brand burned into his skin pre-mortem. A word on his penis actually.”
Jared raised his eyebrows and glanced at Jensen before looking back to the road.
“Molester?” Jared sucked in a breath. “This story is probably going to get a whole lot greyer, huh?”
“I guess that depends on what you feel is cruel and unusual punishment. The violence perpetrated on the body was the result of uncontrolled anger: it was sloppy and wild and personal. And, I mean, I can understand that, in a way, if you know what I mean. But it was all the postmortem stuff. Not just the eyes, but there were cuts on the body: methodical, exploratory, curious. As much as I find it reprehensible, I can understand beating someone you feel wronged you. But. He was playing with the body, Jay. It became a game.” Jensen clenched his jaw again. Sometimes he found it difficult to reconcile that he was a member of the same species as some of the sick fucks out there.
Jared watched the emotions flicker across Jensen’s face: anger, repulsion, grief, a brief glimpse of fear, determination, and then despair. The despair lingered. Jared cleared his throat to draw his attention.
“So, I thought I heard Kripke say something about angels?”
“Oh, yeah. He’d carved the word ‘Gabrael’ onto his chest.”
“Close to it. At first we thought the killer had misspelled Gabriel, but after a little Googling we found there is an angel named Gabrael, spelled G-A-B-R-A-E-L. He’s associated with a few things, but predominantly he’s a protector of children.”
“Ah. So the, uh, accusation on his genitals…?”
“We were never able to get an official confirmation, but he had been moved from diocese to diocese over the years. We contacted some, heard the rumors. A grown man did tell us he was abused by Father Dolan. He was in his 40’s. We had decades worth of potential victims—and suspects. We made the mistake of assuming this was just a revenge killing. We should have known better—the joy he took mutilating the body should have clued us in that he was just getting warmed up. Or maybe he had inadvertently gotten a taste for it. I mean, we didn’t stop investigating—didn’t assume the priest got what he deserved and moved on to other cases.”
“Of course not.”
Jensen chuckled humorlessly and he looked out his window. There was nothing but forest on both sides of the highway.
“We were actually surprised when the next body turned up. Two months later, another pine coffin showed up with a woman's body. Jeannine Tirro. She was tortured before she was killed. I mean, Spanish Inquisition shit, man. She was sodomized with… ME's best guess, a wooden spatula.”
Jared winced and made a face.
“She'd been branded on the back of her neck with the word 'abuser.' And had the word 'Kael' carved onto her chest. Another obscure angel name. And then he killed her by suffocating her with chloroform. And then he really started to play with her."
"What did Kael represent?" Jared asked, trying to pull Jensen away from that memory.
"Another guardian of children. But, she had no connection with the Catholic Church. Or any church for that matter. She was just a woman who drove a city bus for a living. And only had grown children. When we called her children in to tell them about her death, neither of them were particularly upset by it. In fact, the daughter just walked out as soon as we told her we had nothing else. The son admitted their mother used to abuse them when she was frustrated. She'd fill the bathtub with scalding water and hold them in it. It wasn't hot enough to scar them, so there was never any evidence that other people saw—but it was enough to cause second degree burns.
"Anyway, we thought we’d really get him now. The crossover of people who know the priest and this woman, it couldn’t be that many. We even investigated Tirro’s son because he used to date a girl who attended Dolan’s church, but it didn’t pan out. He had an alibi for Dolan. We were baffled. Every lead was a dead end and we weren’t getting any new ones. Then two months later, right on schedule actually, Walter Feldman showed up in a box. And we were scrambling now. It’s so rare for a serial killer to kill that often. I mean, twice a year is kind of considered frequent, you know?”
Jared nodded. He did know. He’d loved the behavioral science unit of their classes and the case studies they’d reviewed at the academy, but he didn’t interrupt to share that tidbit of information about himself.
“Three bodies in less than six months. All of them violently abused and tortured and then played with after death. Feldman was sodomized so brutally his colon was ruptured and leaked into his body cavity. The ME actually thinks he got lucky with that.”
“Lucky?!” Jared blurted out, shocked.
“It killed him. Slowly yes, but probably quicker than the killer intended. Most of his damage was done postmortem. Including the angel name carved on his chest: Raguel. The brand was pre-mortem. We think it’s the first thing the killer does: brand the victim with their ‘crime.’ Feldman’s was the word ‘depraved’ across his lips.”
“What’d he do? Does Raguel protect children too?”
“Raguel is associated with justice. Feldman was a lawyer who apparently specialized in finding technicalities that kept pedophiles out of prison.”
“Hn. I get that that’s despicable, but he didn’t abuse anyone himself?”
“Not that we could find.”
“Seems like the killer was just looking for an excuse at that point to satisfy his own twisted desires.”
“Yeah, pretty much,” the words escaped on a tired sigh. “And we couldn’t access the list of the victims of the people he’d gotten off to cross reference them with our previous pitiful list of suspects. Sometimes client privilege really is a bitch.”
“Yeah,” Jared laughed softly. “Until you want it yourself.”
“Exactly,” Jensen groused.
Jared smiled at his pout. “So, what happened then?”
Jensen grunted. “Nothing. We panicked as the next two month time limit seemed to tick down, but there was no body. Not then, and never again. We poured over and over our three vics and re-interviewed witnesses and followed any leads we had ignored before because we thought they weren’t leads at all—and as it turns out, they weren’t. There was no new evidence. What we had told us nothing.”
“What about the forensics?”
“Zilch. The crime scenes were spotless. The wood of the coffins was untraceable to a specific store or lumber yard. Or, hell, even a forest. We got ‘white pine is common in the northeast.’ We found one hair at one scene, but it was a dog hair. The victim didn’t own a dog, but we had no way of knowing if it was brought in by the victim or the killer.”
“What kind of dog?”
Jensen gave Jared a look. “A brown one.”
“What? Can’t they do DNA analysis on dogs too?”
“Come on, Jay. You know that hair itself can’t be tested for DNA. There needs to be a follicle with cells attached to it. It was just a hair.”
“Okay, okay,” Jared replied, chastised by his own sense of I-should-have-known-better and oddly pleased with the nickname Jensen seemed to have assigned him. “So what happened with the case?”
"It went cold. Frigid actually. He didn’t kill again. We couldn’t progress any further with what we had. Poor Mitch stayed past his scheduled retirement an entire year. But…just…nothing. I don’t know if he ever really let it go, but he eventually retired. And I passed the case on to others on my squad to see if fresh eyes would help. I mean, they had helped all along of course, but maybe if someone else took point they might take a different approach. But it got buried under more pressing cases, and I transferred to CI to take a break. That case was all I had worked on the criminal side and I was ready for something completely different. So I followed around Chinese IOs for the next five years.”
Jared nodded thoughtfully. He knew Jensen had transferred from criminal to counterintelligence and back again, but he hadn't known any of the reasons for the transfers. It wasn’t uncommon for agents to change divisions every now and then; his own transfer from the Cyber Division hadn't been a shock to anyone.
Jensen shifted in the bucket seat. They both had their seats pushed all the way back, but leg room was still a little scarce for Jensen’s 6’1” and Jared’s 6’4” frames in their little Hyundai. They drove in companionable silence for a few miles and crossed the state border from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. There was a sign that said they were two miles from Seabrook. Jared smiled at the name.
“Seabrook,” he said.
“Hm?” Jensen murmured the half-question.
“Seabrook. It’s just such a New England town kind of name, isn’t it?” he chuckled.
Jensen just frowned. Jared was worried for a moment that he had offended him or something, but he was pretty sure Jensen had been born and raised in the DC area.
“It is,” Jensen said. “I can’t believe we’re going to work a case in some tiny New England town. It has like five thousand people. And it’s on a lake. I’m sure it’s quaint and positively charming.”
His scowl deepened and Jared laughed at him.
“Do you have a problem with quaint and charming New England towns?”
“They’re creepy! The weirdest shit always happens there. There are psychotic groundskeepers and murderous little children and ghosts and demon possessions.”
Jared laughed harder and had to refocus on his driving quickly. “Please don’t tell me you believe in the last two. Or all four, really.”
“You’ve seen the movies. All these small towns have secrets. And they don’t like outsiders. One of us isn’t going to make it out of this alive. Mark my words.”
Jared shook his head, still smiling. “As long as it’s not me.”
Jensen made a face and Jared checked the GPS on the dash.
“So, we’re going to be passing Portsmouth soon. Do you want to swing by the RA and get in contact with the ASAC first?”
“What time is it now?” Jensen asked, answering his own question by looking at the car’s dashboard clock: 1:31pm. “Nah. Let’s head straight to Elton. I want to get checked into the motel and get over to see the police chief as soon as possible. I want to be able to see the body today if possible. I’ll call and let them know our plan and they can meet us there.”
Jensen pulled his Blackberry out of the holster on his hip (enviously eyeing Jared’s new issue Android phone) and began to search through the directory for Jim Beaver’s phone number. Jensen chuckled to himself. Beaver.
“Do you think it’s him?”
Jensen stopped his search and repressed a sigh as he looked out the windshield at the oncoming road.
“I don’t know. The coffin wasn’t handmade. And they haven’t found a brand. Both of those facts were kept from the press. So, a copycat wouldn’t know to do them.”
Jared nodded. “That’s what your head is telling you. What’s your gut say?”
Jensen gnawed on his lower lip for a long minute. Then he said quietly, “I think it’s him.”
Jared looked around the motel room. There weren’t a whole lot of options in Elton, especially when the government rate was factored in. They were at the Lakeside Motor Lodge, and it wasn’t actually as fancy as it sounded. They’d gotten rooms next door to each other, but where Jensen had a king size bed, Jared had a room with two queens. If anyone needed more room to stretch out it was him, but the mattresses were soft so at least he wouldn’t need a chiropractor by the end of the week. He took in the dull maroon carpet, worn paisley bedspread, chipped furniture, and sad, drab artwork on the walls. He wondered how long they would be here for. They had filled out their travel vouchers for the maximum thirty days allowed, and he had a feeling they would be filling out an extension. There were no extended stay hotels in Elton proper and Jensen hadn’t wanted to stay even a short drive away. Jared supposed he understood, but not having a kitchenette or even a mini fridge for the foreseeable future was not exciting.
Jared had just finished hanging up his other two suits in the closet when there was a knock at the door.
“It’s open!” Jared called, still marveling at the concept of a motel in the modern age that still used actual metal keys and locks instead of a card key system. Jensen opened the door but didn’t enter.
“You ready to go?” he asked.
Jared didn’t think they’d been in their rooms a full ten minutes. He hadn’t even put his toiletries in the bathroom yet. Jared wondered if Jensen had unpacked anything or had just dropped his luggage on the bed, taken a leak, and come to get him. He really didn’t want his dress shirts to wrinkle in the too small garment bag they were currently squished in, but he supposed there was a semi-functioning iron hidden away in the closet.
“Yeah, I’m ready,” Jared replied as he quickly dug out the lockbox from his backpack that had housed his firearm during the flight. He worked the combination open and then attached the holster to his right hip, hiding it under his suit jacket. He considered taking his overcoat, but even this far north mid-September was still balmy and pleasant. Which was a departure from the hot and humid miasma that was currently smothering DC; it was enough to give anyone a wicked case of swamp ass if they weren’t vigilant with their hygiene.
Jared hurried outside as Jensen had already walked to the car, but had to turn back when he remembered he had to actually lock the motel room door. Jensen was waiting patiently by the passenger side door. He wondered if Jensen was trying to be nice by letting him drive or if he just didn’t want to be seen driving an Accent. Of course, it wasn’t like their Bu cars were anything to brag about, and he didn’t know what Jensen’s personal vehicle might be.
The drive to the police station was short, only about ten minutes, but by the time they got there Jared’s nerves were on edge. They hadn’t spoken a word, but he could feel the tension build in Jensen and saw his shoulders stiffen in increments. He also chewed on a thumb and bounced a leg all the way there.
The police station was pretty small, even for a small town in Jared’s opinion, but he supposed the Elton Police Department probably didn’t have that high of a crime rate to battle. The parking lot was empty except for a couple of unmarked cars and a marked SUV that touted the K9 unit. Well, maybe the Elton PD was not as small town as he’d thought. Jared had to drive past several spots before he found one that wasn’t marked as reserved. He’d barely put the car in park before Jensen whipped his seatbelt off and was out the door. He wondered if Jensen realized all those empty spaces, including the one marked for the police chief, meant that there probably wasn’t anyone to talk to inside.
Jared got out of the car and locked it (at least the Accent had a key fob), and then buttoned his suit coat as he walked down the sidewalk to the station entrance. Inside it was quiet like a library: no people milling or rushing around, no rumble of conversations, no ringing phones. Jared found Jensen being mostly politely informed by the receptionist of what Jared already knew: no one was there.
“Do you have a way of contacting the police chief?” Jensen asked the woman.
According to the name plate on her desk, the woman’s name was Rachel. She was a pretty brunette with a smile that made Jared wonder what exactly it was she knew that they didn’t because there had to be something with that smirk. She returned her attention to the paint job she was applying to her blood red nails.
“Yes, of course,” she replied, “but he won’t come back unless it’s an emergency. And you, even being a fed, is not an emergency.”
“He’s expecting me though,” Jensen insisted.
“I’m sure he is. He told me to expect you. And that if you arrived while he was out that I should tell you to go have lunch at Nell’s Diner, and he’ll finish with his call as soon as he can. So, go have lunch at Nell’s Diner. His wife runs it, so he’ll be expecting your rave reviews when he gets back.” She smiled prettily, but Jared was glad that it wasn’t directed at him. Even still he shivered a little at her expression.
Jensen seemed unfazed by it. “Would it be a problem if I waited here?”
"No," Rachel said slowly, though clearly she did think it would be a problem. "But Nell's is literally a five minute walk from here, a ninety second drive. If you leave your number, I'll let you know the second he's back. And you know, the body's not going to wander off." She blew daintily on her drying nails.
"I still think—"
Jared’s traitorous stomach took the opportunity to grumble loudly in the relative silence of the station. Jensen turned to look at him and Jared smiled embarrassedly and waved a hand.
“I’m fine. Let’s wait here.”
He thought he saw a small smile quirk the edges of Jensen’s mouth, but then he turned to look at Rachel with a grim expression.
“Let me leave you my contact information; please call as soon as the chief gets back.”
“Good decision,” Rachel said, her voice drawling and smoky. “You won’t regret it. They have great pie.”
Jensen raised an eyebrow. “Pie you say?”
“I prefer cake,” he deadpanned back. He handed her one of his business cards and she pinched it carefully between her fingers.
“In that case I recommend the devil’s food cake. It’s very… moist.” She gave him a wink.
Jensen cleared his throat and turned on his heel. Jared followed, repressing his chuckle.
“Take a left out of the parking lot,” Rachel called after them. “You can’t miss it.”
True to her word, Nell’s was a ninety second drive away and Jensen insisted they take the car. Bells jangled lightly as they entered the diner, and only one patron who sat at the counter glanced up at them, gave them a once over, and then returned to his bowl of white—Jensen was going to assume chowder. Other than him they were the only customers at 3:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, which he supposed made sense since they were in between the lunch and dinner crowds. Or maybe in a town as small as Elton, there were no crowds.
He and Jared stood awkwardly at the vacant hostess stand since there was no “seat yourself” sign. They looked around for a moment and Jensen considered opening the door to trigger the bells again. Before he could enact his plan, a very nice pair of legs strode through a swinging door that he presumed lead to the kitchen. Jensen forced his eyes up and saw the short pink dress and white apron next and noted the distinct hourglass shape under the dress.
Further up he chided himself.
Eventually he saw a face that was more cute than pretty, but hey, redhead. The waitress beamed at them.
“Hi,” she said cheerfully as she approached them. “Two?”
“Yes,” Jared responded, grinning.
Jensen side-eyed him, but refrained from commenting with either words or facial expression.
“Follow me,” she said, turning with a wink for them both.
“Gladly,” Jared murmured and this time Jensen did raise an amused eyebrow at him.
The pink skirt—waitress—led them to a booth by a window. They sat down across from each other and placed their folded hands on the table. They looked up at the waitress. She smiled brightly back at them.
“Um,” Jensen started, “do you have menus?”
“Oh!” The waitress laughed and looked a little embarrassed. “I’m sorry about that. Most people who come in here already know what they want. Heck, most people who come in here I already know what they want. We don’t get many strangers.”
“I guess that’s why you don’t have a nametag?” Jared asked. “Everybody knows everybody.”
“Pretty much,” the waitress agreed as she rocked on her heels.
Jared waited and then glanced at Jensen who was biting the inside of his cheek to keep from grinning. Jared returned his attention to the waitress. He opened his mouth to speak, but then the waitress started so violently she startled the both of them.
“Oh! The menus!” She started to turn away, but Jared called out, “I’m Jared…”
“Oh. Well, hi, Jared.” She smiled, and then realization finally dawned over her features. “Feliciaday! I’m Feliciaday.”
She stuck out her hand and Jared shook it. They smiled at each other and Jensen wondered if he should excuse himself to the bathroom or something. Then the waitress pulled her hand from Jared’s grasp and thrust it at Jensen. He started slightly, but then shook her hand.
“Jensen? That’s a unique name.”
“No more so than Feliciaday.”
She looked confused a moment, and then amused, and then flushed pink with embarrassment. “Oh, no. It’s just Felicia. My name is Felicia. Day.”
Jensen smiled, letting her know he was teasing her. She playfully narrowed her eyes at him and then turned on her heel and walked away, presumably to get their menus. Jared and Jensen leaned forward a little to get a better view of her departure. Then they sat up and smiled at each other, acknowledging their mutual pathetic male stereotype.
“Wow,” Jared said. “That is nice.”
Jensen gave a half-shrug. “I do like redheads.”
“Oh, come on.” Jared dropped his voice and leaned forward. “Do not tell me you wouldn’t hit that.”
“Not under these circumstances.”
Jared immediately sobered and sat up straight. “Right. Sorry. I mean, we’re here on business. Terrible business and it would be—really inappropriate?”
Jensen smiled, easing some of Jared’s discomfort. “It’s not like that. I just meant I wouldn’t cockblock my adorable little protégé.” He gave him a shit-eating grin.
Jared sat back with a huff and a laugh saying, “Oh, fuck you, Ackles.”
Felicia returned a moment later with two glasses of water and set them on the table.
“So, what can I get for you?”
Jensen and Jared exchanged a look and then smiled up at Felicia. Her smile disappeared and she used a hand to partially hide her face.
“Oh my God. Menus.” She fled and returned very quickly with two single sheet laminated menus. “I’ll give you a couple of minutes to look them over.”
She turned and walked away, still looking embarrassed. Jared smiled after her.
“She’s so cute.”
“Mm,” Jensen agreed mildly, checking his watch as he eyed the pretty limited menu. His Blackberry buzzed and he answered with half his mind still deciding between “chicken sandwich” and “hamburger.” That was literally all the description the menu gave. “This is Ackles.”
“Agent Jensen Ackles?” The voice was gruff with a slight accent that Jensen couldn’t place right away.
“Yes, sir?” Jensen responded to the authoritative tone.
“This is Beaver. I got your message. I guess you’re in Elton by now?”
“Yes, sir. We’re waiting on the police chief to return from a call. I wanted to take a look at the body today if possible.”
“Hn. Well, we won’t make it out today. We’ll come tomorrow, but you go ahead and look at the body if you can.”
“Yes, sir. Pardon, sir, you said we? I thought an agent named Cortese was coming out.”
“That a problem, son?”
“We should be in Elton around nine a.m. tomorrow.”
“I look forward to meeting you both, sir. But if you don’t mind me asking, are you coming because…this case is so high profile?”
“Ah, I know you boys at your big field offices are used to your ASACs just running around holding their dicks, but out here we still do real work.”
Jensen swallowed a laugh and said, “Glad to hear it, sir.”
Beaver grunted and hung up. Jensen raised his eyebrows. Well, tomorrow should be interesting.
“Who’s the 'she?'” Jared asked.
“Agent Cortese. She and Beaver are coming tomorrow around nine.”
“The ASAC is coming?”
“Well, that should be interesting,” Jared echoed his thoughts.
Felicia returned and took their orders, the “chicken sandwich” for Jensen and the “hamburger” for Jared. After she left, Jensen gave Jared hell for ordering a Diet Coke.
“Well, hell, I guess if you’re going to ruin your own chances with her then I’ll step in.”
“Shut-up, man. There’s nothing wrong with a man ordering a Diet Coke. In fact, I’d say a man very secure with his masculinity can order a Diet Coke with no shame.”
“Yeah. You keep telling yourself that.”
After a short wait Felicia returned with their sandwiches (and Jared’s Diet Coke) and flirted with both of them for a couple of minutes before being called away by Chowder Guy.
Jared made a slightly frustrated face. “She can only be into one of us, right? How can we tell which?”
“Who says a person can only like one person at a time? Besides, it doesn’t matter. Just ask her out.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Why not? I thought you had balls made of Diet Coke.”
Jared made a face at him. “But seriously though. It she’s interested in you, you don’t have to step aside for me or anything.”
Jensen laughed. “Jared, we’ve been here for half a day. How much sex are you used to getting that you’re already staking out your TDY booty call?”
Jared flushed. “I’m not—I don’t—I am taking this job seriously.”
Jensen let his smile fade a little. He could tell Jared probably wasn’t as ready for a case this gruesome as he pretended to be and Felicia was a welcome distraction. “I know, Jay,” he said, using the nickname that for some reason he already felt comfortable using. “I think I’m just a jealous old man.”
Jared rolled his eyes. “Oh, yes, I should’ve known better. Never trust anyone over thirty.”
Jensen smiled. “You’ll be there soon though, won’t you?”
“The better part of two years,” Jared sniffed haughtily. “What’s it like on the other side?”
“Sore joints and enlarged prostates.”
“Shut-up.” Jared took a bite of his hamburger. “Ohmuhgahd,” he managed around the large bite.
“What? What? Is it bad?”
“Nuh. If’s gud.”
Jensen eyed his own plain looking sandwich. He took a bite and flavor exploded in his mouth. He moaned and chewed slowly not able to identify the seasoning as anything other than “yum.”
“This is awesome. ‘Chicken sandwich’ indeed.”
“I know, right? Wanna try a bite of mine?”
“That’s okay. I’ll just order it tomorrow.”
Jensen nodded in tacit agreement to the plan of Eat-Every-Meal-At-Nell’s since his mouth was full again.
“As much as I’d like to pocket some of our per diem by buying some groceries,” Jared said, “I really wouldn’t mind eating every meal here.”
“And not just for the scenery,” Jensen managed to get out around another bite as the two of them watched Felicia lean over the counter, her skirt riding higher.
“Mm-hm. Hey, though. You really don’t mind if I take a shot at that?”
“Nah. I’m sure I’ll have other opportunities.”
“In a town full of nothing but psychotic groundskeepers, murderous children, and ghosts?”
“Hn.” Jensen paused in his chewing to make a concerned face. Then he swallowed. “You forgot the demons.”
Jared took a sip of his Diet Coke. Through a straw. Geez. “Well, maybe you can find an angel then.”
Jensen put his sandwich down and sat back into the stiff cushion of the booth.
“The only angels we’re going to find here are dead ones.”
Jared paused in his eating as well, and they sat in a silence that was only broken by the sound of clanging bells as the door to the diner opened. Felicia turned around and smiled softly at the new customer.
“You’re late,” she said gently.
“Yeah. I forgot,” the man replied.
Jensen couldn’t see his face as he leaned against the counter, but he could tell that he had a lithe figure under the police blues that showcased him better than most police officers looked in uniform. Felicia patted his clasped hands and then disappeared into the kitchen. Jensen took a few more moments to take in the man’s dark hair, tan skin, and heck—couldn’t deny it was there—nice ass. He took a sideways bite of his sandwich as he allowed his eyes to linger, hoping it might improve his mood. He also couldn’t help but to wonder if the guy’s face matched that ass. Or wait… that didn’t come out right.
Jared made a choking sound and that finally drew his attention away. Jared’s hazel eyes were wide with surprise.
“What?” Jensen asked.
Jared glanced at the officer and then back at him. “Really?”
Jensen shrugged. “I take my EEO training to heart.”
Jared laughed. “And to bed apparently.”
Jensen just chewed, nonplused.
Felicia returned from the kitchen with a brown paper bag and handed it to the officer. He pulled out his wallet to pay.
“How are you doing?” Felicia asked concernedly.
“I’m fine. Thanks, Fee.”
The officer didn’t wait for change and turned to leave. He glanced briefly at Jared and Jensen, but Jensen couldn’t even see if his face was as pretty as his ass. All he saw was blue eyes. And then they were gone. Before he could dwell on the hard look he caught in those eyes, Felicia was in front of them.
“How is everything here, gentlemen?”
Jared and Jensen couldn’t answer; their mouths were once again full and their cheeks were doing fairly decent impressions of hamsters.
“Excellent. So. Pie or cake?”
Even after a lengthy debate of pie versus cake, Jared and Jensen still made it back to the police station before the police chief. They sat on hard plastic chairs in the moderately noisier room watching Rachel put a top coat on her nails. At least Jensen was watching her (or glaring at her), Jared was playing World Champion Poker on his cell phone. He was up nearly twenty thousand dollars, which was the highest he'd ever gotten, but his thumb was hurting and he wished they'd stayed longer at the diner.
Jared looked up as the front door to the police station opened, but it was only a uniformed officer. The guy was the scrawniest thing Jared had ever seen in his life and was surprised his utility belt wasn't unbalancing him and sending him swaying into walls. He spotted the agents and grinned at them, giving them a little salute that on anyone else would have seemed mocking, but coming from him was just kind of cute. Jared turned to see what scathing expression Jensen was giving this officer, as he had done to every single person who had walked in and out of the front office who wasn't the police chief, but Jensen didn't see the newest arrival. His eyes were tracking the dark haired officer they'd seen in the diner as he disappeared around a corner. Even from only two brief glimpses, the man had made an impression on Jared. He was attractive, in an odd way really, but attractive nonetheless. But what stood out was the barely controlled rage that tightened his shoulders, his lips, his eyes. There was a lot of anger in that man and Jared hoped they'd be able to avoid working with him if at all possible.
Jensen pushed back in his chair, a grating screech invading the quiet of the room as the metal feet caught on the tile. The back hit the wall, and Jensen grunted and scooted forward again. Then he settled heavily back in the chair, thumping the plastic back against the plaster. Jared watched him and Jensen, feeling eyes on him, glanced at Jared. He frowned and looked away, but stopped fussing with his seat. Jared returned to his game. They had another maybe fifteen seconds of calm silence before the front doors of the station burst open with clomping boots and shouting voices. At first Jared wasn't sure if the voices were angry or just excited or if any of the people coming in were in custody. It seemed with that amount of noise, someone should be under arrest, but everyone appeared to be free of handcuffs. Two were uniformed officers, two appeared to be plain clothes detectives, and one just looked like he'd rolled off a two week hangover on the beach.
After some more raucous yelling of insults and jokes, the Beachcomber peeled off from the group as they disappeared into the bullpen. Beachcomber approached Rachel and spoke with a drawl that wasn't southern in origin, nor anywhere else Jared could identify.
“Afternoon, Rachel. Anything interesting to report?”
Rachel carefully screwed the top back on her nail polish and set the bottle down next to the impressive set of manicure tools that took up a large portion of her desk.
“Not especially. There was another drunken domestic dispute between the Fieldings about an hour ago, but I sent Bradley out on that. And… oh yes! I finally got a hold of the cable guy and he says he’ll come replace the box in the bullpen tomorrow.”
“Well, thank God for small favors.”
Rachel smirked at the mention of God. Jared suspected she somehow knew for a fact whether He existed or not.
“And, of course, you-know-who has been slamming doors all day.”
Beachcomber’s pleasantly mellow face dissolved into the kind of blankness people get when they try not to let their feelings show.
“Well. I think it’s still recent enough that we can put up with it,” he replied sharply, coolly.
Rachel lost her smirk. “I just meant, he’s not okay. And maybe we should start being concerned that he’s not.”
“It hasn’t even been a week yet, Rachel.”
“I know. But he’s not even trying to deal with it.”
“Look, you don’t know him as well as you think you do. He’s going to need some time to process before he can even begin to deal with it.”
Rachel put her hands up in a displeased surrender. “I’m only saying it because I’m worried and contrary to popular belief, I do care about someone other than myself.”
Jared dropped his eyes back to his phone. He didn’t want to get caught listening in on this conversation. Jensen didn’t appear to have that qualm as he stared at them.
“I know, Rachel. I didn’t mean it like that. Look. I’ll talk to him. Eventually. Maybe we should sic Traci on him or something.”
Rachel made a face. “I don’t think it’s that bad yet.”
Beachcomber let out an honest to God guffaw. “Yeah, does seem like it might be cruel and unusual. Especially for him.” He rapped his knuckles on her desk twice. “Keep up the good work.”
Beachcomber started to walk away and Rachel’s eyes landed on Jared and Jensen.
“Oh, right. One more thing,” she called out getting Beachcomber’s attention. “The feds are here,” she indicated with a tilt of her head in their direction.
Beachcomber turned and spotted them as they shifted awkwardly on their plastic chairs. He let out another loud laugh.
“How on earth did I miss these two? Stick out more than a virgin in a whorehouse.” Beachcomber walked up to them and Jared and Jensen stood on autopilot. “Gentlemen.” He offered a hand to both in turn. “I’m Ty Olsson.”
Out of habit, Jensen pulled out his credentials and flashed them briefly after shaking the police chief’s hand. Then he introduced himself and Jared.
“I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow though.”
“Clearly,” Jensen said shortly.
His tone wasn’t lost on the otherwise jovial police chief and he turned fully to face Jensen.
“Now I hope we don’t get off to the wrong foot here, Agent. I’ve got a whole town that needs protecting, and that means I can’t just sit around guarding a corpse all day. I know that this case is going to wind our nut sacks up and then just let ‘em fly—” Jared and Jensen blinked at the analogy. “—and it’ll only get worse if it turns into what you boys think it is. That’s why I’m prepared to work this thing 24/7 with you until we get it solved and the motherfucker who did it is put in the clink. Or the ground. I’m not picky which. But I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow, today was my day off, and I still got called in to pull in some crazy squirrel-licker who was threatening to shoot a pickerel in the head for looking at his girlfriend funny. And just so you know—‘squirrel-licker’ is not some crazy colloquialism.”
Jared wanted to glance at Jensen, just to get some guidance on what kind of response to give to that burst of information, but he didn’t want to appear to be the junior agent that he technically was. He saw Jensen shift in his peripheral vision.
“Please excuse my brusque tone,” Jensen said, sounding like he was sorry, but with no less brusqueness is his tone. “It has been a long day for us, and I’m afraid this case has brought back some very bad memories.”
“Understandable,” Chief Olsson said and gave Jensen’s shoulder a manly, commiserating slap, which almost knocked him into Jared. “Now, follow me. I’ll drop you off at the morgue and Dr. Rhodes can show you the body and discuss her findings with you. I’ll change, take care of few other things, and then we can discuss what you think about the case before we call it day. Sound like a plan?”
“Yes, thank you, Chief,” Jensen replied.
“Ty. Call me Ty. I might punch you if you call me chief again.”
The man laughed and walked away from them down a corridor to the left. Jared and Jensen exchanged looks before hurrying after the man. Jared was fairly certain the police chief—Ty—actually would punch one of them if they didn’t call him by his given name. The man led them to a stairwell and went down a long flight of stairs and into the basement. The place was windowless and lit by fluorescents, casting the dreary grey concrete walls and floor in sickly green light. They passed by the evidence locker, where a uniformed officer dozed in his chair, and came to a set of double doors at the end of the hall. Ty pushed them open and when they stepped inside they were hit with the smell of a morgue.
Morgues were peculiar things. They didn’t smell like rotting bodies or death—but they did have a chemical and alcohol smell that was altered into a completely unique smell by the decaying organic matter, excrement, and fungal growth that was just masked underneath it. It wasn’t the smell of death, but it was a smell one learned to associate with death. And Jared had on occasion gotten a whiff of this strange odor in places like grocery stores—and that was disturbing in ways he didn’t let himself think about.
“Dr. Rhodes?” Ty called out.
The space was neither small nor large, but serviceable with two examination tables attached to large sinks in one corner with a small section of refrigerated storage directly across. On the other side of the room was a desk with a computer and pile of folders, and across from that was a lab bench with a light microscope and what looked like a comparison microscope. The walls were lined with glass front cabinets and all of them were stuffed to capacity with various tools of the medical examiner’s trade. Jared wondered if Dr. Rhodes was a true medical examiner or just a coroner. Based on the title, he was probably the former.
Ty crossed the room and stuck his head through a door and bellowed, “Dr. Rhodes!”
“Jesus, Ty. I’m right here.”
Jared and Jensen started and spun around, hands instinctively going to their waists for their service weapons, but not drawing them when they saw the woman who had entered the door at their backs.
She was tall, with short brown hair, and wore a tight pair of jeans and an even tighter T-shirt that rode up high enough to reveal an intricate tattoo across her midriff. She smiled at them, her eyes flicking back and forth (and up and down Jared didn’t fail to notice) before sticking out her hand.
“Hi. I’m Dr. Rhodes. You can call me Kim. I take it you’re the ones from the FBI?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jensen responded, giving her a firm handshake.
Jared did the same as Ty approached them. “Well, I’ll leave you two in her very capable hands. Just come upstairs when you’re ready and Rachel can direct you to my office.”
“Dr. Rhodes,” Ty said with a bit of snark in his voice as he departed.
“Chief,” Kim responded in kind.
Once again, Jared and Jensen exchanged glances. Maybe Jensen was right about small New England towns. This whole thing was going to turn into some freaky Twin Peaks shit before too long.
Kim walked over to her desk and Jared could feel his eyes lingering on her ass and just couldn’t do anything about it. Jensen elbowed him hard and his eyes snapped up just in time for Kim to turn around and only see hard eye contact from the two agents. She had a folder in her hand and brought it over to them, handing it to Jensen as he had stuck out his hand first. Jensen opened the folder to the page that contained a line drawing of a female body. These were used to quickly reference where any injuries or marks on the bodies were. The page was covered in ink.
“Tell me your impressions,” Jensen said, not looking up. “And anything you found of note.”
“Well, of note, I noticed that this woman was abused. Terribly. Both before and after death. She was raped with a foreign object, but I’m not sure what. Probably something made out of rubber, or even glass, as I didn’t find any trace evidence left behind in the vagina or anus like I would have if it had been made of wood, and no tearing like if it had been metal.”
Jensen frowned at this information.
“There was a lot of bruising and cuts. Of note, a piece of her thigh was cut out and then sewed back in. Upside down.”
Jensen glanced up at Kim with a raised eyebrow. She shrugged and pointed to the left thigh on the picture.
“The most prominent thing was the word carved on her chest, of course. 'Akael.' We’re not sure what it means. We’re consulting the local clergy, but we might have better luck just Googling the damn thing.”
“It might not be a bad idea to do that,” Jensen said. “Killers have access to the same Internet research we do. Now, the coffin she was found in—it was commercial? Not handmade?”
“No, not handmade for sure. Definitely something mass produced. It actually came from Costco.”
“Costco?” Jared finally joined the conversation. “Were you able to track the purchase?”
“Sort of. It was sold to a funeral home in Missouri, and they can’t find any record of it going missing. We’ve requested a list of employee names who have access to the inventory, but the owner is fighting it. Says he wants a warrant, and we have to go through the court system here to request a judge in Missouri to grant us access. That will probably take a few weeks to be honest.”
“Yeah, not like it’s important or anything,” Jensen grumbled as he flipped through the report, reading Kim’s notes.
Jared cleared his throat, “Dr. Rhodes—”
“Kim, please.” She smiled warmly and Jared blushed. She was probably only ten years or so older than him, but she reminded him a little bit of a maternal figure. Though a super-hot crazy one with tattoos on her abdomen. Her self-assuredness was a little intimidating.
“K-Kim. Were there any other strange, surgical-like injuries, or…” Jared trailed off, feeling a little stupid. He’d never done this before, but Jensen wasn’t giving him funny looks so he assumed his question was okay.
“Well, there were some deep cuts made to her throat. I’m not sure if they were surgical, but it did seem like he was trying to, I don’t know, get to something inside. Of course, that’s all speculation on my part.”
“Did you do a tox screen on her?”
“Of course. Negative for alcohol or narcotics or recreational drugs. But, she had been missing for several days, so it’s possible if the attacker did use something to incapacitate her it would have been flushed from her system by then.”
“Dr. Rhodes,” Jensen spoke, looking up. “Did you find a brand? We were told one wasn’t reported, but did you find one? A word, burned onto her body anywhere?”
Kim looked like she was going to respond immediately, but then stopped to think. Finally she said, “No, there were definitely no burn marks of any kind. The only word I found was the angel name on her chest. I did a very thorough examination of her entire body, but I didn’t see anything like that.”
“It may have been hidden,” Jensen pressed. “On her scalp under her hair. Armpits. Toe pits. On the inside of her labia…”
Kim shook her head. “I promise you, Agent Ackles. I was very thorough and I found nothing like that.”
“I absolutely do believe you were thorough in your examination. Your notes prove as much. But, I hope you’ll understand and not be offended by my desire to check for myself.”
“I’m not offended at all. But, I’m afraid you can’t.”
Jensen snapped the folder closed in one hand, anger darkening his face. “I was told we would have the full cooperation of the Elton Police Department.”
Kim put up her hands soothingly. “Whoa, hey. I’m not telling you ‘no.' I’m telling you, ‘you can’t.’ The body isn’t here anymore. I had finished with my examination and collected and recorded and photographed all the evidence. So, I released the body to the family to be cremated.”
Kim started at Jensen’s outburst. “I can give you full access to the pictures and lab reports—”
“I was told they were going to hold the body for us!”
“I—I wasn’t aware of your need to see the body in person. Besides, this—”
Jensen spun on his heel and stormed out through the double doors. Jared turned to follow him, but Kim grabbed his elbow.
“Look, I’m getting that this case is kind of personal for him, but you’ve got to rein him in. This was in-house.”
Jared tilted his head for a moment in confusion, and then it hit him. This woman had either been a cop or the family member of a cop.
“Shit,” Jared breathed and took off running after Jensen.
Jensen took the stairs two at a time, seething in the closest thing he’d felt to fury since he was twenty-one years old. What the fuck was wrong with these people? You didn’t burn fucking evidence. Of course you couldn’t keep the bodies around forever and families deserved some closure, but not before people had the chance to find out what happened. Before he had the chance. He had to know if this was him. Everything in his body screamed that it was despite the missing pieces. But he had to know for sure. He had to see for himself.
Jensen burst into the front office.
“Where is he?” Jensen yelled, louder than he meant to, but he was just grateful he wasn’t shaking Rachel at this point.
Rachel immediately dropped her smarmy, apathetic routine when she saw him. Smart girl.
“Who?” she asked carefully.
“The police chief. Ty,” Jensen spat.
Rachel pointed toward the bullpen. “In the back, last door on the left.”
Jensen stormed past her desk and pushed at the swinging panel that connected the two counters that separated the bullpen from the front office. He spotted Ty, not yet changed, and laughing with a bunch of stereotypes who were actually munching on donuts and drinking coffee out of Styrofoam cups. Ty spotted him, and peeled away from the group, concern on his face.
“Is there a problem, agent?”
“Is there a problem?! You fucking burned the body?!”
The noise in the bullpen died immediately and all focus was on them.
Jensen heard Jared call him as he entered the room, but didn’t acknowledge him.
“You didn’t think it was worth mentioning that you’d already gotten rid of the only evidence we have against this guy?!”
Ty kept his voice calm, but Jensen could see he was furious. “We didn’t throw out any evidence. I’m not sure what you’re referring to.”
“Well maybe you shouldn’t have been chasing squirrel-licking, fish-threatening lunatics and been here guarding the body after all.”
“Agent Ackles, you need to calm the fuck down, right the fuck now, and explain to me why you think it’s okay to disrespect me in my house.” Ty’s voice hadn’t gotten much louder, but the threat was clear and it gave Jensen pause. Which was all the time Jared needed to clamp a firm hand onto his shoulder and speak first.
“We were expecting to be able to examine the body for ourselves,” Jared said calmly. “We were told it was being held for us. And K-k-Dr. Rhodes just informed us that it has already been released to the family for cremation.”
Jensen shook Jared’s hand off, and then forced in a deep breath. He felt his anger subside from the boiling point. From Ty’s raised eyebrows, he clearly knew nothing about this. And with the red gone from his vision, Jensen was able to acknowledge that he had made a serious misstep. Not only had he misrepresented the Bureau, but he might very well have destroyed any cooperation between the two law enforcement entities before it had even begun.
Ty’s eyes traveled to the front of the room. “Dr. Rhodes. Care to explain what happened to the body?”
Jared and Jensen turned to see Kim standing at the entrance to the bullpen, looking pale and her face drawn tight.
“He asked if I was finished. I told him I was. He just wanted to give her—some peace. He said he had your permission,” she finished miserably.
Ty let out a soft grunt and turned slightly away from Jensen and Jared. And then he roared, “COLLINS!”
The others in the room broke into hushed whisperings and shuffled things around on their desks, but no one returned to work. A dark head stood up from the back of the room and slowly, almost casually, approached the trio. It was the officer from the diner but the last thing on Jensen’s mind was finally checking out his face. This asshole was the one responsible for this clusterfuck. However, even with his thoughts mostly preoccupied with anger, embarrassment, and some despair at losing evidence, he still noticed the grace with which the man walked. And fuck him, those blue eyes.
“Yes, Chief Olsson?” the officer addressed Ty formally, but kept his cold eyes on Jensen.
“I’m quite certain you knew the FBI was coming to look into this case. You knew we were holding the body. And you went behind my back. Lied to Kim. What is going on in your head?”
The man finally looked away from Jensen to Ty. Jensen felt like a weight had been removed from his chest with that glare gone.
“I have a right to bury my family, Ty. She’d already been down on that slab for a week. Kim is excellent at her job. A professional. She didn’t miss anything. Everything had been recorded. She deserves to not just be some naked refrigerated corpse in the basement!”
“She didn’t find everything!” Jensen cut in, grabbing the officer’s attention again. “She didn’t find the brand. I need to see for myself.”
“She didn’t find it because it’s not there! I know what case you’re working, Agent, they informed us. This isn’t the same guy. Too many details are different. You just want it to be. And there’s no reason why my sister has to suffer because you want to poke and prod at her some more! She’s been through enough!”
“You don’t—” Jensen took a step forward and checked himself sharply when he heard the growl. He looked down and Jensen started back a step at the ferocious snarl being directed at him by a very large, very unhappy dog. How had he not seen that monster before now? Probably because he couldn’t remember seeing much other than the bluest eyes he’d ever seen in his life for the last few minutes. What he saw now was a dog that was big even for a German Shepherd, and had a shiny link chain around its neck. Attached to the chain was a gold police shield. Jensen wasn’t terribly familiar with police badge designs, but he was fairly certain this dog outranked some of its human counterparts. He kept a wary eye on the dog but returned his attention to the uniformed cop who was quickly ruining his whole life.
“You don’t know that that’s true. You can’t. And if it is him, this is the fourth kill we know of. And it won’t be the last! Catching this guy has got to take priority! Hell, catching this guy has got to take priority to a funeral even if it isn’t him!”
The dog barked and snapped its teeth at his tone, growl getting louder.
“Collins,” Ty snapped. “Get that mutt under control. Now.”
The officer, Collins, reached a hand down to brush his fingers against the back of its head. It stopped bristling and licked its lips, but a low rumble still spilled from its throat.
“Down, Bunny,” Collins said softly, and at last the dog sat back on its haunches and ceased its growling.
Jensen opened his mouth to speak again, but then glanced from the officer to the fearsome dog, and back to those eyes.
“Its name is Bunny?” he heard himself asking before he could stop himself.
The question caught the officer off guard and the hard lines of his face softened just a touch, and if Jensen wasn’t mistaken, the corners of his lips twitched up just slightly. They eyed each other for a long moment. Probably longer than was socially acceptable, and then Collins’ face was a mask of stone again though some of the anger was gone.
“I’ll accept any discipline, sir,” he said addressing Ty but still locked eyes with Jensen. “But there’s nothing to be done about it now.”
“Actually, there is. You are going to take Agent Ackles and Agent Pasa-Palla—”
“Padalecki,” Jared murmured softly.
“—to the funeral home and you are going to tell Andrew that he’s going to stay open late tonight and let these two do their examination.”
Jensen felt a spark of hope. Was the body not destroyed yet?
Collins opened his mouth but was cut off by Ty.
“And don’t even try to tell me she’s already been cremated. I know the body didn’t leave here until today and Andrew is the slowest fuck with paperwork I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with.”
Jensen could tell that Collins was biting the inside of his cheek painfully hard, but it kept him from saying anything stupid and possibly from letting the glassy look that was now in his eyes turn into full blown tears.
“Fine. They can go do whatever they want to do. But there’s no reason for me to—”
“There’s every reason, Collins, not the least of which you are the only one who can give permission for them to see the body. And believe me. You and I will have a conversation about this tomorrow. Right now, you are taking these agents to the funeral home. And when I say ‘right now’ I mean ‘right the fuck now.’ Are we clear?”
The man swallowed thickly. “Yes, sir.”
Collins spun on his heel and walked stiffly back to his desk to collect a set of keys. Ty looked Jensen square in the eye.
“I apologize for the misunderstanding, Agent Ackles. I hope you will find this resolution acceptable.”
Jensen swallowed uneasily at the police chief’s cool tone. “Y-yes. It’s fine.”
“Good. And you and I will also have a conversation tomorrow.”
Jensen felt a wave of heated mortification roll through his body. The sensation almost made him physically ill.
“I think that would be best,” he replied. He needed to get this business sorted out before the ASAC from Portsmouth arrived. The last thing he needed was this incident getting back to his SSA or Kripke or anyone else at WFO. Though it probably would. That’s how the Bureau worked. It was a vicious gossip mill hidden under the guise of chain of command.
Collins strode past them without a word, Bunny hard on his heels. Jensen considered shaking Ty’s hand again, but now probably wasn’t the time. He nodded to Jared and they started to leave the bullpen, following the quickly disappearing back of the officer. Jensen kept his eyes down; he didn’t want to see the looks he was sure to be getting from the other officers and detectives. He did glance up to make sure he wouldn’t walk into anything on his way out and saw a plain clothes detective leaning on one of the counters. One hand clasped his wrist, keeping his other hand in front of his groin. The curve of his hand made it seem like he was cupping an erection. He looked to the man’s face, finding it unremarkable with a sharply trimmed beard, but with glittering brown eyes. The detective wasn’t smiling, but he was on the edge of one. Jensen looked away.
Outside the sun was still fairly high in the sky even though it was after five o’clock. Collins was opening the backseat to the police vehicle marked K9 and Bunny hopped right in. He shut the door after her and got into the driver’s seat without so much as a glance at the agents and only a muttered, “Follow me.”
Jensen heard the SUV start up and he uttered a curse under his breath as he jogged over to their stupid Accent. Jared was right behind him and they managed to turn out of the parking lot only a few seconds after Collins. The funeral home was a fifteen minute drive away, which meant it was on the complete opposite side of town. DC and Elton actually had pretty much the same square mileage, but the thought of getting across DC in fifteen minutes was laughable.
When they parked and got out, Collins and Bunny were already halfway inside the door, and allowed it to slam shut behind them. Jensen slammed his car door in his aggravation. He realized the guy was going through some shit—knowing what had been done to his sister couldn’t be easy—but for fuck’s sake they were all on the same side here.
“At least since he’s personally involved we won’t have to work with him on this case,” Jensen muttered as they approached the door.
Jared glanced at him but didn’t respond. Jensen wasn’t sure if it was because he had nothing to say or because he thought Jensen’s sentiment was a little callous. He couldn’t be bothered to care at the moment.
Inside there was the quiet murmur of voices going back and forth. The few words he caught made it clear that Andrew was not thrilled about staying late and Collins was not thrilled with the FBI’s presence in general. Jared and Jensen entered the room and Collins glanced back at them before returning his attention to Andrew. Bunny kept her sharp focus on Jensen.
“Look, you don’t have to stay. I can lock up for you.”
“No way, Misha. You can’t stay here while they—you can’t see her. Not like that.”
“I’ve already seen the reports. And I’m not going to watch them do the exam. I’ll just sit out here and wait. It’s my fault anyway. I didn’t have permission to release the body. You shouldn’t have to miss your shows because of my—my mistake.”
Andrew snorted. “Miss my shows? It’s September. And those bastard studios keep pushing back the fall premiere dates every year. I swear, one year, they’ll debut the week before they go on holiday hiatus after Thanksgiving.”
Collins gave the smallest of smiles, but it was enough for Jensen to see how beautiful he could be.
“What?” Jared asked.
Jensen started. Had he said that out loud? He looked at Jared and shook his head. “Nothing.”
“I guess you two are the agents?” the funeral director called out. He was short, stocky, redheaded, and covered in freckles. He felt bad for thinking it, but Jensen was pretty sure this guy’s high school life hadn’t been the easiest. “Come with me. I’ll get—her—out and show you where you can work. You stay here,” he added with a pointed finger at Bunny.
Bunny tilted her head at him like he was saying something funny. When Collins gave her a hand signal, she lay down and put her chin on her paws dejectedly and watched the humans move down a dimly lit hallway. Jared followed the funeral director toward a white door, and Jensen paused to catch Collins’ eye and say, “Misha?”
Collins’ lips did that twitch again like he was fighting a smile. “Jensen?” he replied in the same tone.
This wasn’t the first time Jensen had been touché-ed for making fun of someone else’s name, so he followed Jared without further comment. Though he did wonder when Collins—Misha—Collins, fuck—had learned his name.
Once again they were led downstairs into a basement. Jensen thought that maybe they should put morgues in big open rooms above ground with a lot of windows for natural sunlight. If a person had to work with death all day, at least they would still be able to see life around them. The same smell from the police department’s morgue wafted up the stairs as they descended, but once they hit the main floor the sharp mixture of embalming chemicals hit them full on. Jensen parted his lips to breathe through his mouth for a minute until his nose got used to the malodorous intrusion.
“You haven’t embalmed her yet, have you?” Jensen asked.
“No,” Andrew replied, short and clipped. “We don’t embalm those slated for cremation. Do you really think it would be a good idea to send all those chemical into the air? Not to mention about forty percent of my mixture is ethanol. It would as likely explode.”
Jensen ran his tongue over his teeth to keep from commenting. One, no, ethanol would not cause a corpse to explode, just burn quicker. And two, he got that the dude was defending his fellow town person or whatever (or maybe they were friends), but Jensen was fed up with the population of Elton and didn’t want to deal with anyone else’s snarky bullshit.
“If you would just get the body set up for us and tell us where we can find some gloves, we’ll handle it from there.”
Andrew gave him a playground stink eye, but walked over to the stacked storage unit that presumably held any number of dead bodies. Misha—Collins—Misha, fuck—was leaning against the wall next to the door, not speaking, just watching. He closed his eyes when Andrew pulled out the tray that held his sister. She was covered in a white cloth and Jensen helped lift the tray and place it on one of the work tables.
Andrew spoke softly so Jensen could barely hear him, and for certain Misha couldn’t, “She’s been with only refrigeration for close to six days now, so she’s actually in pretty bad shape. They also used an antifungal disinfectant on her with mixed results. Be careful not to get any on your skin or in your eyes. And try not to breathe it in.”
Jensen nodded in acknowledgement and Andrew showed them where the heavy duty aprons and gloves were, along with some simple tools that might help them. He went into great detail about the locking mechanism on the refrigerated storage unit and made sure both Jensen and Jared could do it themselves before he was willing to leave. He surveyed his space for a moment with hands on hips and a nervous eye. Jensen was worried the guy might elect to stay, but he checked his watch and turned to Misha.
“Come on, Misha. Walk me out so I can show you how to lock the front door.”
“No,” Misha murmured, eyes on the white cloth-covered figure. “I’ll stay here.”
“Misha, I don’t think—”
“No, you’re not,” Jensen said firmly. “Go upstairs.”
Misha’s cold blue eyes turned to him. “I’m not leaving her al—Relax, Agent, I’m not saying I don’t trust you and think you will plant evidence. But I’m going to stay down here as witness. Chain of custody and all that.”
“Chain of custody is already shot to hell, Officer. Even if we find anything here, it won’t be admissible in court. At best we’re going to try to confirm it’s the same guy who killed in DC eight years ago.”
“My being here won’t hinder you in that goal.”
“You’re not staying here.”
“You have no authority—”
Jensen took two steps which put him squarely in Misha’s personal space and effectively trapped him between Jensen’s body and the wall. Misha was only a couple of inches shorter, but Jensen was broader through both the shoulders and hips, making him appear much larger than the other man. But Misha didn't flinch or seem the least intimidated.
Emotional manipulation it is then, Jensen thought.
“You’re not staying here—while we search through every crevice of your sister’s body.”
Misha inhaled sharply and kept his glare going as best he could, but clearly Jensen’s words had affected him. Perhaps the mental image was enough to convince him to go before he saw something he couldn’t un-see.
“Misha,” Andrew said softly.
Misha moved forward, and rationally Jensen knew he was simply moving to shoulder him out of the way, but for a moment all Jensen could see was a sea of blue and lips so pink and full they were just begging to be abused. Then Misha was roughly shoving past him and marching up the stairs. Andrew gave the agents one last hard look before following him up.
Jensen took a couple of short breaths and licked his lips. He kind of hoped he never saw Misha Collins again. Even if that meant the guy left right now and locked him and Jared in a funeral home overnight.
Jensen turned around and saw that Jared had already put on a thick apron and had just barely managed to squeeze his giant paws into a pair of XL size latex gloves. Jensen put on an apron as well and had a bitch of a time trying to squeeze his hands into size medium gloves. Medium was the only size Andrew had in nitrile. Jensen was allergic to latex and that was an allergy that made shopping for condoms unpleasant and expensive.
Jared stood on one side of the body and looked at him. Jensen could see the discomfort and mounting anxiousness in his eyes.
“You ever worked with a body before?”
Jared shook his head.
“You ever seen a body before?”
“Just the ones at The Farm.”
“Well, this should be worse than TV, but better than The Farm.”
Jared nodded. Jensen gingerly grasped the top of the sheet and pulled it all the way down to the corpse’s feet. They froze for a moment, staring at the killer’s handiwork.
The body was misshapen from a lot more than just decay. The eyes were sunk into the skull, the skin pulled back from the hairline and the fingernails. There was a general sense of flatness that came from gravity’s pull on the remains that had lost its vitality. But that was common at six days out. Even with the blood removed from the body, and the large hole stitched up in her chest with a large gauge needle that housed the plastic bag that held her internal organs, it was clear that the body had been absolutely mutilated. Bruises, cuts, tears, rips…Jensen shuddered and looked away from one gash in her right arm. Dr. Rhodes hadn’t lied: her throat had been cut into ribbons, still connected on either end to the body. Everywhere he looked there was some violation, some sadistic experiment, some sick curiosity satisfied.
Jensen forced his brain to stop seeing the whole. To only focus on one part at a time. He looked up at Jared.
“Heads or tails?”
Jared gulped and looked down at the body. He looked at her feet, and then her head.
“Heads, I guess.”
“Check everywhere. Scalp. Inside her ears. Inside her mouth. Look in her throat; see if he branded her inside. Those cuts he made are something new.”
Jared nodded, visibly steeled his resolve, and moved to stand at the top of the table. He tentatively began to comb through her once blonde hair. Jensen moved to her feet and picked one up. He carefully looked over the bruised skin, making sure nothing was hidden in the discoloration. Then he pulled her toes apart one by one to check the skin hidden in between. Finding nothing, he began the slow process of inspecting the splotchy skin of the tops of her feet, her soles, her ankles, her shins and calves. Jensen had reached her knees and had counted no less than three hundred individual cuts and slices into her body. He stood up, wincing as his back protested the movement and twisted gently side to side to stretch out the cramp that had formed over the last half hour. Jared stopped his work on her throat when he saw Jensen stand and stretched out his kinks as well.
"Anything?" Jensen asked, already knowing the answer.
"Did you check her mouth?"
"Yeah. I looked at her tongue and the insides of her cheeks, but I didn't see anything." Jared chewed on the corner of his lip, but didn't speak again.
"What, Jay?" Jensen hoped the nickname would soften his question since his exhaustion was coloring his tone.
"Do you really think if it were him, he would hide the brand so carefully?"
No, Jensen's internal voice told him. "I don't know," he said aloud. "I mean, he did blatantly display their crimes as a way of proving they deserved his punishment. It doesn't make sense that he would hide the crime—unless he was trying to mask that it was him. But this guy is a narcissist. He wants to be noticed. He'd love nothing more than for everyone to know that he is killing again. If he ever stopped. I wonder if we should comb through the unsolved murders in whatever town in Missouri that coffin went missing from."
"But, why would he switch to premade coffins? The care he took in the original three—it just doesn't—" Jared trailed off, not finishing his thought.
So Jensen finished it for him, "Seem like this is our guy."
Jared started to speak, perhaps to refute what they were both thinking, but then decided not to bother.
"Alright," Jensen said, "let's just finish checking over the body and maybe we can get a flight back to DC in the morning."
They continued their search in less detail, and it was with great reservation that Jensen pushed the corpse's thighs apart and began to inspect the labia. It seemed kind of disrespectful to do this to her if he wasn't really expecting to find anything.
"You think it's possible to even get something to settle flatly on the roof of the mouth?" Jared muttered, Jensen assumed, to himself.
Jensen heard the disturbing resistance of the stiff jaw as Jared pried it open again. The body shifted a little as he tilted the head back and Jensen leaned down to inspect the flesh in between the opening to the vagina and the anus. He should probably turn the body completely over to inspect the skin around the anus. He looked up to tell Jared to help him flip the body—and froze. Jared was pulling the tongue up and out of the mouth to look at the skin of the mouth underneath. On the underside of the tongue were sharp black marks. Jensen walked forward, not taking his eyes from the marks.
"I don't see anything under here," Jared said, disappointment evident in his voice as he released the tongue. Jensen's hand darted out and grabbed the muscle and Jared started in surprise, not having noticed Jensen's approach. Jensen pulled the tongue out as far as he could and bent it back.
There, burned into the graying flesh, was the word WITCH.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Jensen was pacing the small room with his Blackberry to his ear and his personal cell phone in his other hand, thumb roving the touch screen. Jared couldn’t tell which cell phone was causing him to make such an annoyed face; possibly it was both. It was only mid-morning but Jensen’s coat was already discarded in a chair, his tie loosened, and shirt sleeves rolled up. Jared wanted to feel excited for his first real field case, but he was just nervous. With the discovery of the brand last night, shit suddenly got real.
He decided not to think about the stormy scene that had taken place between Jensen and Officer Collins after they’d come barreling up the stairs with their news. Jensen hadn’t been the most tactful in explaining what he’d found and Collins had looked to be about three seconds away from punching him in the face. Instead he considered how impressive and efficient the Elton Police Department was. The next morning a room had been cleared for the FBI’s use. Two desks had been placed against one wall, leaving space for both Jensen and Jared to work and to set up the field laptops the agents from the Portsmouth RA were bringing. Three whiteboards had been crammed against the opposite wall, and one was set up with the DC victims.
Father Isaac Dolan, Jeanine Tirro, and Walter Feldman. Each had a headshot as they appeared in life taped to the board and underneath were written the facts of their individual cases. Next to Feldman's, Jensen had left a space and written “Missouri?” in blue marker. The second whiteboard had a single picture on it: a stunningly beautiful blonde with the name Natalia Smith. The details of her case were listed beneath her picture. Jared looked at the empty space to the right of her picture. And the completely blank third board. He prayed to God that those boards wouldn’t fill up with more pictures and that they could solve this with the information they already had.
Jensen passed in front of him one more time and it cleared Jared’s blurred vision. He focused on the victims again. Above each photo was written a pair of words: Molester: Gabrael, Abuser: Kael, Depraved: Raguel, Witch: Akael. They were still waiting to hear back from the local clergy and religious scholars if there was any significance to these names individually or in combination. Jared had gone ahead and conducted a Google search on Akael, but so far had only turned up Facebook and blog pages and a user name on YouTube with no videos associated with the account. He’d done a Bing search afterwards just to compare, but all Bing had done was provide him pages that had information on things that were spelled similarly, but not the same. He’d dig a little deeper later, but right now he was rereading the case notes from the three DC murders so he’d appear knowledgeable when the Portsmouth agents showed up.
After another half hour, Jensen had stopped pacing and was sitting at his new desk away from home. His Blackberry was set aside and he was poking at his personal phone’s screen. Jared leaned forward in his chair just a bit to see if he was playing a game or something.
Jared jumped to his feet and could see Jensen’s face go from surprise at his swift action, to unhidden amusement at his puppy-like nature. Jared hated to acknowledge other people’s assessment of his personality being doglike, but there it was.
They turned to face the entrance to the room and Ty stood in the door with two people in dark suits. Feds. There were a lot of incorrect stereotypes about the FBI and the suits were kind of one of them. A lot of agents took advantage of the “business casual” policy most field offices had if they were expecting to be riding the desk all day with paperwork. But out in public: ugly, ill-fitting suits and bland ties were almost a required uniform.
“I found these two out wandering the halls,” Ty said pleasantly, “thought they might belong to you.”
The man and woman behind him sent glares at the back of his head.
“I’ll see if I can get a hold of our IT guy and send him over here to hookup your equipment. I’ll let you all get acquainted, but then I’d like to have a joint meeting so we can discuss how you would like to proceed with the case and what resources you’ll need from us.”
“That sounds about right,” said the male agent who was average height with a small bald spot, but with beard enough to make up for it. “Probably aim for after lunch.”
Ty nodded. “It’s a date. If you’ll excuse me now, I’ve got a squirrel-licker to book.”
Ty looked at Jensen and Jared thought he might have flushed a little at the reminder of the disturbance from yesterday. When they’d arrived that morning Jensen had been shanghaied into the chief’s office with a closed door for a solid hour. Jared had worried the entire time. He wasn’t that familiar with Jensen yet even though he felt they’d clicked pretty instantly in terms of personality, but he did think Jensen had a bit of temper and had a hard time keeping it to himself. Fortunately he’d had the distraction of setting up the whiteboards per Jensen’s instructions, and a thoughtful officer had stopped by with coffee for both of them. The officer had been friendly, though Jared sensed he was a little disappointed he didn’t get to meet Jensen as well. He even stayed and talked for a good thirty minutes, but eventually had to return to his duties before Jensen came back from his meeting with Ty. When he did come back, he didn’t seem to be upset or embarrassed, so Jared assumed it had been a good talk and had wisely decided not to ask about specifics.
Ty gave Jared a nod as well and then left the new agents. The man stepped forward and introduced himself as ASAC Jim Beaver. From knowing him for all of thirty seconds Jared could tell he was gruff and a man of few words. He was also clearly someone who wouldn’t put up with anyone's shit. The woman was pretty with long dark hair in a high ponytail and a petite figure displayed rather nicely in a well tailored black pantsuit. These thoughts zipped in and right out of Jared’s head as she stepped forward and gave them both a strong, confident handshake. She introduced herself as SA Genevieve Cortese, and the intelligent glint in her eye and no-nonsense attitude immediately incurred respect.
“I read over the cases in the database,” she began, “but of course I’d like to hear your impressions as the original investigator. Also, I haven’t seen any of the material for the case that happened here. Do you have copies?”
“Well, I have a copy,” Jensen answered. “The locals haven’t been too interested in making copies for us, but you’re welcome to read over all the notes I have. Also, I would like to ask if you, or ASAC Beaver, are taking point on the case. I have no problem with that since this is your jurisdiction.”
His face and voice were calm and professional, but Jared saw the way his fingers were twitching at his side. He would not be okay if he was reduced to a secondary on this case.
“No,” Cortese responded. “This is your case. I’m here to assist you in any way I can. Jim is here to get the lay of the land and a firsthand account of the case, but I’ll be your primary liaison to the Portsmouth RA.”
Beaver had meandered over to the whiteboards and was looking over the victim summaries.
“So, tell me again what it was that made you so sure this is the same guy? Aside from the obvious?”
Jensen, Jared, and Cortese moved to stand in a small semi-circle near Beaver.
“I’ll start with the least important reason first, sir,” Jensen began, “but quite frankly it’s because—I just knew it was him.”
Beaver raised an eyebrow but made no comment. If anything, he looked a little pleased with that reason.
“Secondly, the violence and the torture and the exploration of the corpse have similar signatures. I’ve spoken with some of the people in Martinsburg and asked if handwriting similarities are restricted to what a person does with pen and paper, and they said no. So, I’ve sent pictures of the angel name carvings down to them for a comparison, but they look identical to me. What really clinched it for me was the brand we found on the latest victim. The fact that the killer was carving angel names into the victims’ chests was released to the public—”
“I guess that’s why the ridiculous moniker ‘Angel Slayer’ was adopted,” Beaver grunted.
Jensen made a face acknowledging how stupid he thought the name was too, and then continued, “But the branding of the victims ‘crimes’ was kept out of the paper. So we had something to identify copycats with and to make sure any confessions we got were real ones.
“The brands appear to be carved out of a single piece of metal specifically for use on each victim depending on their crime. It’s speculation mostly, but we thought at the time that the brand is the first thing he does to the victims. He lets them know what crime they are guilty of and that is why they are being punished. He sees himself as punishing the wicked and giving them what they deserve.
“Now, we were never able to prove it definitively, but I believe that all three DC victims were somehow linked. That they knew each other or had some common connection amongst them. The second victim’s son’s girlfriend attended the same church that Father Dolan preached at. I just can’t accept that that’s a coincidence.”
Cortese shrugged a dubious shoulder. “Seems like a stretch to be honest.”
“I know it is. And unfortunately we couldn’t find a link with either of them to the third victim, but we also never got access to the list of people who were victims of his clients. But I feel that since they all somehow involved children that there was one common link, or a chain, that led him to his new victims. He identifies his targets by whatever their sin is. And if we can figure how he’s determining or finding out what these people’s crimes are, we might—”
“Stop saying that!” someone shouted from behind them. The small group turned to see Officer Collins fuming in the doorway. “She didn’t commit a crime! She’s not guilty of anything! She didn’t deserve this!”
Jared saw Jensen’s eye twitch in annoyance and he almost reached out a hand to stop him from approaching the other man. The last thing they needed was to cause another scene.
“I’m not saying she did,” Jensen said sharply, “all I’m saying is that he thinks she did. And there has to be some reason why he does.”
“Yeah, he’s a crazy fucking serial killer!”
“He doesn’t pick his targets arbitrarily! Something draws them to him. He has a God complex; he thinks he’s doing God’s work. He’s punishing the wicked. He can’t just punish innocent people. He has to believe there’s something that they did—”
“And I’m telling you, you shit, Natalia has done nothing to draw this killer’s eye! I can’t believe you’re fucking blaming the victim!”
Collins started to turn like he was going to leave them with that as his last words, but Jensen’s hand shot out and clamped tightly around his wrist. Jared raised his eyebrows. He could have gone for the shoulder or upper arm, and if there was anything his lessons at the Behavioral Science Unit had taught him about body language, it was that touching another person’s wrist was an oddly intimate way of getting their attention. Whatever his reasons for reaching for Collins’ wrist, he then used his grip to drag Collins across the room. Jensen stood him in front of the DC board.
“Look at this,” Jensen said, voice a little softer, a little calmer. “Molester. A priest who abused children. He was wildly beaten. A lot of the damage was done before death and it was sloppy.” Jensen pulled Collins slightly to the right.
“This woman abused her children. She was tortured while she was still alive, and only after death were precision cuts made.” Once more to the right. “This one helped set pedophiles back loose on the streets. He died too fast, so everything was more carefully done; his body became a playground.” Jensen pointed to the word Missouri.
“He disappeared for over eight years, but he didn’t stop killing. He couldn’t have. In these eight years he’s learned to enjoy his kills. He takes more pleasure in them.” Jensen stepped to his right again, placing himself in front of Natalia’s picture and description so Collins couldn’t see it and was forced to meet Jensen’s eyes. “Now…now he’s truly found his niche. He…was experimenting on her. Enjoying his handiwork. Able to conduct it calmly while they’re still alive. Something he hadn’t done previously. The torture is the thrill now…not the punishment. But he can’t just torture for fun. In his head they have to deserve it. He has to have some reason, no matter how big a pile of bullshit it may be, to do what he does. So he finds them ‘guilty’ of a crime. And he may grasp at straws to do it, but there has to be something that makes him see it.”
Jensen drew breath to speak again, but then stopped, and just looked at Collins. They stared for a moment, and then Collins dropped his eyes to the corner of the whiteboard’s marker ledge. Jensen dropped his eyes too, but not to the floor. Jared could have sworn he was staring at Collins’ lips. Which, that was both good and bad. Good in that he clearly didn’t have competition for Felicia’s attention now, and very, very bad because Jared couldn’t think of a worse person for Jensen to crush on than an angry, volatile cop who was the brother of one of the victims of the case they were working.
“Misha,” Jensen said softly, and their eyes met again. “It would help us catch him if we could figure out how he’s choosing his victims. There has to be…something…”
He trailed off and Collins’ jaw muscles ticked in anger, annoyance, grief—it was hard to tell. Then his features softened as a realization washed over him.
“She—she was into that new age crap. Crystals and oils and incense and little tiny gongs. She was a huge environmental advocate. An almost literal tree-hugger.”
Jensen nodded thoughtfully. “And new age crap and nature is often associated with the Wiccan religion. And by extension, witches and witchcraft.”
The room was quiet for a moment. And then Collins let out a soft, bitter laugh.
“Well, glad I could be of help,” he said harshly before walking out of the room abruptly.
Jensen raised a hand and opened his mouth, but didn’t go after him and didn’t speak. He shook his head slightly and looked at the small group of agents.
“Well, that does help. Someone who does new age practices was enough to trigger his sense of heavenly justice, so—”
“Do you really think that’s what it is?” Beaver interrupted. “I mean, do you really think this angel fruitcake believes he’s doing God’s work?”
“I don’t think he thinks he’s talking to God or anything, but I think he truly feels righteous.”
“As if he wasn’t dangerous enough,” Cortese said dryly.
“Exactly,” Jensen agreed with a brisk nod. “In fact, I think the best way we can deal with this is not to release to the public that this in fact the—” Jensen let out a small annoyed sigh “—Angel Slayer. Right now he’s trying to keep a low profile. I think he has for over eight years now. If he finds out the police, or the FBI, are onto him again, he’ll escalate. Quickly.”
Jared chuckled as he had a Ron Burgundy flashback. Beaver, Cortese, and Jensen glanced at him. Jared cleared his throat and tried to look pensive as he crossed his arms and asked what he hoped was an intelligent enough question to distract them from his lapse in professionalism.
“So, do you think he’s been traveling around the country this whole time? Do you think he’s already left the area?”
Jensen made a face. “I’ve been trying not to consider that possibility. We don’t have an extended pattern, but maybe he kills in threes. But this is such a small town; it wouldn’t make sense to stay here where a stranger would stick out like a sore thumb. Especially if the locals keep turning up dead.”
Cortese tilted her head slightly. “Maybe he’s not a stranger. Have you talked to the police chief about new people in town? And I mean, I know it’s a small town, but it still has a population of five thousand. I wouldn’t expect for everyone to literally know everyone else.”
Jensen looked hard at Cortese, but Jared didn’t think he was really seeing her. “Not a stranger…” he mused softly. Then he gave a slight shake of his head. “We shouldn’t rule it out, but I’m disinclined to believe that he’s from here. Or any of the places where he’s killed.”
“How about the town where that priest had his first assignment?” Beaver suggested.
“Springdale, Arkansas. Maybe. But I don’t think he was personally abused by the priest.”
“But I thought you said these beatings and torturing were personal,” Cortese said. “Why would he do that to a priest that didn’t personally hurt him or at least someone he knew?”
Jensen deflated a little. “I’ll be honest; we just don’t understand this guy’s motivations well enough yet. It could be that he finds their crimes personally offensive. Could just be he’s a sick fuck.”
“I think that’s the one thing we can declare to be fact in this case,” Beaver said crustily.
Jensen’s eyes flicked to Beaver, but he didn’t say anything. Cortese stepped around them and began examining the whiteboards.
“I think you’re right, Agent Ackles.”
“Jensen,” Jensen said softly.
“Jensen. I think he really is constrained by finding victims that have—to his mind—done something wrong. He needs victims that are deserving of their punishment. I think it’s the crime that he’s fixating on. The victim—who they are as a person—is not really important at all.” She turned around, ponytail swishing. “This will make it so much harder to catch him if we can’t identify his victims. Not without knowing his thought process. Is there a common thread to the crimes at all?”
“Well, the first three involved children. This last one?” He shrugged a shoulder. “If new age crystal crap makes her a witch, I don’t see how that could really affect children.”
Jared twitched as he had an epiphany. Everyone caught the movement and looked at him.
“She’s a teacher,” Jared said, turning away to grab her file from Jensen’s desk. He thumbed through it until he found the page recording her personal details including her occupation. “She was an elementary school teacher. Maybe he thought she was teaching her new age stuff to them. Corrupting the children with witchcraft.”
Jensen snapped a finger and then pointed it at Jared. “Yes, Jay! Good catch.”
Jensen walked over to the third whiteboard and on the far right side wrote “children” in green marker. Then under it in black he wrote smaller “failed protector” followed by two question marks.
“I think we should—”
“Before we get too embroiled in all that,” Beaver interrupted, “is there anywhere around here I can get some decent lunch?”
“Nell’s,” Jensen and Jared said in unison.
They shared a smile. Then Jensen told Beaver and Cortese they would take them to a local place for lunch while he rolled down his shirt sleeves and collected his suit jacket. Jared organized the files neatly on the trays on Jensen’s desk. The man had a system and he already dreaded what would happen to him if he messed it up.
The four of them had lunch at Nell’s, and Jared decided to branch out and try the “chowder” though there was no indication if it was clam, crab, or other. It was delicious, but he couldn’t taste out the source of the meat either. He kept his flirting with Felicia to a minimum since ASAC Beaver was present, but he did hand her one of his cards with his Blackberry number on it when he covered the bill on his government credit card.
Back at the station they had a lengthy meeting with Chief Olsson and Detective Russell Little who had been assigned the case before the feds were called in. He was average height, average looks, with brown hair and eyes, and a neatly trimmed beard. Jared recognized him as the detective who had brought him and Jensen coffee that morning. Now it made sense why he’d been interested in meeting them—they were the federal dicks that had snaked his case. Jared didn’t think Jensen was particularly thrilled about it, but he had agreed to Little working the case with them.
A large portion of their planning session was discussing whether the Elton PD forensic team would handle any future crime scenes or if the FBI’s ERT should be brought in. Jensen had stopped the unending circle of the argument by saying they shouldn’t anticipate another crime scene. They should be working with what they had now to catch the guy before another crime scene could be made. They all agreed with this point, though none of them spoke aloud what they were all thinking: they had no suspects and no evidence that pointed to one. They actually needed another crime scene.
It was after six o’clock when they finally called it a day; Beaver and Cortese had to drive an hour back to Portsmouth and Jared and Jensen had been at the station since seven in the morning. They still agreed to meet back in Elton at seven thirty the next morning. Beaver said more than likely he wouldn’t return the rest of the week as he had meetings to attend, but he’d try to get out next week. Cortese shook their hands firmly and Jared found that he really liked her. She was smart, unafraid to jump into a case feet first, and thus far unflappable; those were traits he admired in an agent and aspired to himself.
He and Jensen were leaving their appointed office space when he remembered his overcoat was hanging in the corner. He thought it was supposed to be colder today. It wasn’t.
“Oh, hey, Jensen, hold up. I need to get my coat. I’ll lock the door. Here.” Jared tossed him the keys to the Accent.
Jensen frowned at them and Jared just smiled at his utter distaste for their rental car. He said goodnight to the swing shift crew in the bull pen and was less than a minute behind Jensen as he exited the building, so he saw him change his direction abruptly.
“Misha!” Jensen called out and approached Collins as he was unlocking the K9 vehicle's backdoor for Bunny. Jensen jogged up to him and then, good for him, didn’t stand too awkwardly beside him. “Hey. Look, I really am sorry about this afternoon. I hope you know that I understand how difficult—”
“Agent Ackles,” Collins cut him off sharply. “I don’t think you really understand anything of what I’m feeling, to be honest. And I don’t think we’ve reached a level of intimacy in our relationship that warrants us being on a first name basis.”
Jared sucked some air through his teeth. Ouch. Jensen looked just as taken aback.
“Apologies, Officer Collins,” Jensen said completely blandly. That was even worse than if he’d been cold or angry about it.
Jensen turned and walked to their rental car. Jared saw the mental kick Collins gave himself as he watched Jensen walk away. Bunny let out a soft, grunting whine and the officer looked down at her. Based on Collins’ abashed reaction to her, Jared didn’t feel crazy for thinking Bunny was disappointed with him.
“I know, I know,” Collins muttered and opened the backdoor for Bunny to hop in.
Jared walked across the parking lot, acting like he hadn’t witnessed anything. Because he hadn’t, right? That certainly hadn’t been proof that K9 Officer Misha Collins may very well reciprocate Jensen’s interest. Right? Because, while cerebrally interesting, that could be the worst possible thing to happen.