Dean glanced around as he mounted the steps to the classically designed old library, fighting a vague sense of unease. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he nevertheless took note of the people around him, knowing full well that some of the most dangerous monsters wore human faces.
A few even had human souls.
No stranger to libraries - he was, in fact, the one who had initiated Sam's fondness for them, spending hours perfecting his cartoon voices while reading to the giggling little boy - Dean located the periodicals section without having to approach any of the staff.
He settled at a table in a corner, his back to an emergency exit, sighing at the stack of newspapers under his hand. I hate research. Until someone started indexing local print media, there was no way to find what he needed quickly, but he had it down to an artform: front page, police reports, obits. He started with the most recent date and worked his way backwards, because oftentimes an entry in one of those locations - obituaries were gold - would send him back a few days, and he'd search the smaller articles for a gem that wasn't quite news-worthy enough for the front page.
Despite the level of concentration Dean devoted to his work, his level of disquiet continued to grow. He caught himself shifting in his chair even more frequently than was usual, and realized that he was scanning the area so often that he looked like he was casing the place.
Or suffered from paranoia.
He found reasons to scout his surroundings: trips to the bathroom, the drinking fountain, the vending machine. He'd return papers, carrying a smaller and smaller stack back to the table he had designated as his every time. He marked other visitors' faces and locations, paying attention to what they were reading and how fast they were getting through it.
By lunchtime Dean had acquired five pages of notes and what felt like one bitch of a stomach ulcer.
He winced as he stood, collecting the remnants of his research to return to its proper location: just one more way to keep what they did under the radar. He ran a hand down his chest and across his belly, unaware of the grimace that accompanied the motion.
He inhaled deeply as he exited the building, absorbing the increase in the bright afternoon's foot traffic with an unwelcome spike of anxiety. He jogged down the steps, shoulder blades drawn tight as if expecting a blow to the spine at any second.
He didn't exhale until he pulled away from the curb. I hate libraries.
John had brought back street-fare: hot dogs, chips, and sodas.
Dean raised an eyebrow. "Pickle relish?"
"You need some vegetables."
Dean chuckled as he crammed the end of an overloaded sandwich into his mouth. "Sammy would not approve," he mumbled around the partially masticated bite, "but I do."
"What did you find?" John was in full-on hunter mode, and Dean sighed to himself.
No time for humor. Or maybe I'm really just not funny. He thought of all of the giggling females he'd encountered in his life. Nah. I'm hilarious. Hunters are just sour-pusses.
Dean wiped his hand on his jeans before opening his notebook, turning it towards his father. "Pretty much what Bobby said. Got a list of locations, figured we'd map it out, see what we can come up with."
John flipped the pages while he ate. "Good work. I've got the exact locations of some of these. Checked out the bodies, and I can't be certain that any of them were vamp feedings. Either these guys are covering their tracks really well, or we've got more than one type of monster operating."
"Shit. Hadn't thought of that." Dean popped the last bite of dog into his mouth, brushing his palms together to dislodge any stray crumbs. "You thinkin' of anything in particular? Werewolves? Ghouls?"
John flipped a manila folder in front of his son. "Got some photos. Crime scene and autopsy."
Glad I already ate.
Dean scrutinized the photos, immune to the horror of mangled human flesh, searching for the types of injuries he had come to expect from certain supernatural beings.
"Lots of damage here."
John grunted. He was comparing Dean's notations to his own, combining information.
"They've all got punctures, though."
John shrugged. "Everything's got teeth. They were all outside, too. Animals got to them."
Dean's brow was furrowed, and he leafed back through the photos, choosing several to lay out side-by-side. "Yeah, but look: the areas with the most damage are right over big vessels: neck, inside of the elbow, on top of the femoral artery."
John looked where his son was pointing.
"There's punctures underneath the scratches. See?" Dean pointed, and John nodded in agreement. "Like they were trying to cover it up."
"So: vampires, but smart. Know how to throw hunters off."
Dean shrugged. "Or some other blood sucker. But we know there was a vamp nest here, so that makes the most sense."
John sighed, pushing back from the table. "Problem is how to find them. They got flushed out. No telling if they'll assume that Brian and Toby alerted other hunters and went to ground, or whether they know we're a bunch of independent assholes and figure they've eliminated the threat, and are back to business as usual."
"If they're as smart as they seem, they had their old lair staked out, saw us come in, watched us salt and burn the bodies. Know we're hunters."
John rubbed his face, blowing out a breath. "So either they're laying low or they moved on."
"Or they're coming after us. Hunting us, or laying a trap."
John lifted his eyebrows, nodding thoughtfully. "I hope you're right, son. Make our job a helluva lot easier."
And get us back in time for Sammy's graduation, too.
Bobby could feel the excitement like static electricity coming off of his near-son. The boy drank in every word from the young woman assigned to show them around campus, while at the same time his eyes darted everywhere, trying to see everything at once.
Happiest I've ever seen him.
On the plane back home the kid was still so juiced Bobby was afraid the guy sitting next to Sam
]\was going to throttle the boy.
"Did you see the library, Bobby?" As if he could have missed the enormous edifice with its four story columns and vaulted ceilings. "And that's just one of them! She said there are more than twenty!"
Sam's eyes danced. "And the lecture halls. Man, you could just feel the wisdom there, you know?" He literally bounced in his seat, earning a glare from the man to his left. "And I'll have a roommate. Living in the same place for at least a year, with someone other than Dad!"
Bobby chuckled, knowing he didn't need to say a word, savoring this rare moment of unadulterated joy.
God knows we earned it.
He refused to let his mind drift to the Winchester patriarch. He would not let John sully his happiness. Not today.
John glanced at his ringing phone, then held a finger up to his son. "Agent Walker."
He picked up his pen, and Dean read as his father jotted notes.
"Suicide? And you called me...Uh huh."
"Yeah. I'm on my way. Thanks for calling."
Dean waited expectantly.
"Got a body on the ground. Young guy, in an alley behind some apartments. Thought it was a suicide but there wasn't as much blood as there shoulda been. One of the officers noticed that the knife marks on the wrists looked odd, and found a pair of punctures."
"Well, that answers a couple of our questions: they haven't left, and they haven't gone to ground."
John stood, shrugging into his suit coat and checking his pistol. "I'll go see what else I can find out. Get ahold of Bobby, see if he can round up some reinforcements."
Dean lifted an eyebrow. "Since when do Winchesters need reinforcements?"
"Since we have no idea how many are in this nest and they've already offed two hunters." He flipped his Fed ID case open, nodded to himself, and tucked it into his pocket. "Back in a bit."
Dean rubbed a hand absently over his chest as he watched the door close behind his father.
Dean carried his phone into the bathroom with him, frowning when his call to Bobby went immediately to voicemail.
He peeled his t-shirt off, wincing with the motion. He ran his hand over the discoloration on his chest while he dialed his brother's number.
His frown deepened. Right to voicemail. Why do they both have their phones off?
He set the phone on the edge of the sink and leaned forward. One of the punctures on his chest was more tender than the others, and although it was hard to tell against the background of purple-black, he thought it might be more red than the others, too.
He pressed it gently, pulling his fingers back with a sharp hiss as pain spiked through him, feeling like it drilled all the way into the underside of his shoulder blade. Son of a bitch. Damned thing's infected.
He glared at the lesion like a teenager addressing a facial pimple on Prom night. I should probably get the pellet out.
He gritted his teeth, palpating once more. Still can't feel the iron. He pressed the back of his hand to his forehead. Don't think I have a fever. Not feelin' too bad yet.
He decided to let the abscess mature, hoping his body would push the frustratingly small piece of metal closer to the surface.
Satisfied with his decision, Dean palmed his phone and turned away from the mirror to rest his hips on the sink. He texted both Sam and Bobby: Where the hel r u guys? Call me - then pulled up his 'contacts' list, scrolling through it until he found Pastor Jim.
He'd left two voicemails and five more texts before Bobby got back to him.
"Geez, Bobby, what the hell? Why'd you have your phone off?"
"I know this is gonna come as a shock to you, boy, but occasionally I do need to give my full attention to just one thing, and not be answerin' a phone every five seconds."
"Yeah, but Sam's went right to voicemail, too -"
"It's Monday. He's at school, ya idjit."
"And you couldn't wait until he was home before turning yours off? I mean, I couldn't get him and I wasn't too worried, but then yours was off, too, and - " Realization hit. Sam at school, Bobby not wanting to be interrupted. Got it. "Brushing up on your Japanese bondage techniques?" he suggested around a smirk.
"Watch your mouth, boy."
Dean sobered. "Seriously, though: Dad asked me to see if you could find us some back up."
Bobby was unfazed. "Yeah, I figured that as soon as I heard about Toby and Brian. I put some calls out already, but most everybody's in the middle of a hunt. Martin's on his way, but he's still at least a day out. Caleb's still laid up from that rugaru he tangled with last week, and Pastor Jim's runnin' some couples' retreat or some such this week. I still got some feelers out, but so far I'm comin' up dry."
Dean rubbed his chest distractedly. "They dropped another body."
"Already?" Bobby swore. "They're baitin' you."
"Me an' Sam -"
"No." Dean looked around the room as if confirming that his father was not present. "Sammy's got plans. He needs to finish and graduate and alla that." He leafed through the crime scene photographs absently. "We'll be alright. I was surprised he even asked me to call you."
"You tread careful, boy. This is a whole nest, smart enough to stay off our radar for what looks to be decades, and they already took two of our'n. Don't underestimate them."
Dean heard the familiar tone of his father's big diesel engine as the truck pulled up outside the door. "Dad's back. Call ya back in a bit."
He opened the door, smiling when his father dropped a heavy paper bag in his arms. "How'd it go?" He reached into the bag, expecting to pull out a fifth of Jack, and frowned at the jar of blood he held. "What's this?"
"The kill was fresh."
John sat down at the table, opening up his laptop. "Looks like the vamp got interrupted. Kid wasn't bled out: he had his neck broken."
Dean set the jar down on table. "Damn."
"Yeah." John had his eyes on the computer screen, fingers working laboriously to force the machine to his will. "Body was still warm. Got the coroner's assistant to pull that for me. Told him I was lookin' for a new date rape drug that disappeared from the blood within hours."
"Hey, I'm a Fed. I get whatever I want."
Dean chuckled. "So what are you lookin' for?"
"Detective on the case is pretty sharp. Said this kid was in college, but earning his tuition on his back."
"Is that...you mean like a prostitute?"
John's brow was furrowed, eyes flicking from the keyboard to the screen and back again. "Yeah. Guess they call themselves 'escorts'. They gave me a website to go to, said it's how the escorts find...uh...customers."
Dean pulled up a chair, intrigued. "Isn't that illegal?"
"Yeah, sort of. The guys get paid for their time, supposedly, not sex, so they get away with it."
John shot him a glance. "Don't even think about it."
Dean's face colored, shame flooding him.
"Okay, I got it." John's fingers stilled. He squinted at the image in front of him. "The kid's profile is under something called 'Twinks'."
Dean smiled a little.
"You know what that is?"
Dean cleared his throat, shifting a little on his chair. "Young guys, slender, not a lot of body hair."
John's eyebrows shot up, and Dean shrugged. "It's a porn thing."
"Ah." He rolled his eyes, then turned his attention back to the screen. "Jesus Christ."
"What?" Dean leaned over, trying to see what had caught his father's attention.
"This was just posted an hour ago." He squinted, reading from the webpage. "You: six foot, brown/green, athletic. Me: Bear, similar build, nice teeth. Let me be your daddy. Interest in hunting and muscle cars a plus."
Dean concentrated on not letting his heart race. "Cheeky bastards, huh? 'Nice teeth'." He forced a chuckle.
"They're sure as shit callin' us out. What does 'Bear' mean?"
"Older guy, hairy, probably heavy-set."
John sat back, wiping a hand down his face. "They took this kid during the day. I don't remember any of the other victims being in the sex trade."
"So they wanted to get a message to us, get our attention, and knew this was a good way to do it. Why not just drop in on us?"
"They must not know where we are."
Dean looked skeptical, but did not voice his doubts. "So...what now?"
"Well, the ad's got a number. I say we call it, get this ball rollin'."
"What about back up? Bobby's still tryin' to drum somethin' up. Martin can be here tomorrow, I think."
"Since when do Winchesters need reinforcements?" John threw Dean's words back at him with a wolfish grin.
Let me be your daddy. Dean's chest felt tight.