The call came over the CB radio just as they were pulling into Greenwood, Michigan. And John owed Edgar Beaumont, wouldn't have survived his first werewolf without the man.
Still, it was past eleven p.m. by the time the headlights picked out Eddie, hunched beside his truck on the side of the road. John pulled over, got out to help the older hunter into the Impala. "Thought you were gonna wait 'til I got to town."
"Thought I wouldn't find anything tonight," Eddie panted. "Thought wrong." He had a bloody slash down the right leg, thigh to knee.
At the car doors closing, Sammy asked sleepily, "Are we there yet?"
"S'okay, Sammy," Dean answered before John could. "We're almost to the motel. Right, Dad?"
"Half an hour," John said.
"Your boys?" Eddie asked, turning as much as his leg allowed to look into the backseat.
"Didn't have time to drop them off," John said, hands tightening around the steering wheel.
Eddie didn't pass judgment, though, just said, voice only a little strained for all he was clutching his jacket over his leg, "Evening, boys. Your daddy's told me about you. Says you're good kids."
"Yes, sir," Dean said. "I'm Dean, and this is Sammy. He's almost four." This was a point of pride, but in the rearview mirror, Dean was wide-eyed. He could recognize the smell of blood. "Say hi, Sammy."
"Hi," Sammy said shyly.
"Thanks for the lift," Eddie said. "Didn't mean to trouble your family, but..."
"It's no trouble," John said. Eddie nodded jerkily, breathing shallow through his nose.
In back, Sammy was whispering; Dean finally muttered, "Fine, squirt, one story. What do you want?"
It was pretty much all the kid had been asking for this past month, but John still had to hide the flinch, when Sammy said, "Tell me about Mom?"
"You know all that already," Dean said, same as John used to tell him.
"No I don't," Sammy denied.
"Yeah you do—what's Mom's name?"
"Mary Campbell Winchester," Sammy said, soft and clear.
"Where was she born?"
"Phoenix, Arizona. But she moved to Lawrence with her mom and dad..."
Eddie's eyes were shut, but he was listening. Painful as it was, it also warmed something in John, to know Mary was remembered, that Sammy and Dean had that much of their mother. And Sammy only knew the good parts, not the nightmares. But those were for her family; he didn't owe Eddie that much. "Hey, boys," John said, "why don't you keep it down, let Mr. Beaumont rest."
By the time they reached the motel, the boys had dozed off. Dean snapped awake when John opened the rear door, sitting up in time to avoid falling out of the car while not disturbing Sammy, curled up asleep with his head on Dean's knee.
John gave Dean the key, told him, "Room 130, put Sammy to bed. I'll be with Mr. Beaumont in 145." He went around to help Eddie, keeping one ear tuned to Dean saying his brother's name and Sammy's drowsy grumbling. He preferred to sleep in the car; they compromised with a piggyback ride that Dean was just big enough to give, Sammy still being small for his age.
In the light, Eddie's leg was torn up pretty good. "I could take you to the hospital," John offered. "This'll scar."
Eddie shook his head. "Can't have a bear mauling hit the news, bring in the wrong kind of hunters from all over. I got one of the bastards, but there's another out there."
John cleaned the wound, had just started stitching him up when Dean knocked on the door. John let him in, asked, "Your brother?"
"Sammy's asleep in bed," Dean said. "I—whoa," as he spotted Eddie's leg, dripping red on the bathroom's beige linoleum.
He didn't cringe back, though. "Come here," John said, waving him over. "You'll need to learn this," and he showed Dean how to draw a needle through flesh, while Eddie sweated and bit down on his belt. He'd finished off John's flask and some of his own, but the whiskey hadn't all kicked in yet.
"What did it, Mr. Beaumont?" Dean asked, watching John work, a little green at the gills but not turning away.
Eddie glanced at John, who confirmed, "Dean knows what we do."
"Skinwalker," Eddie said.
Dean frowned. "Like a werewolf?"
"Except they turn all the way into beasts," Eddie explained. "Grizzly bears, with these."
"Werebears?" Dean said. "Cool..."
"They killed three people," John said sharply. "More, if we don't take out the second one." He tied off the stiches, disinfected with what was left of the alcohol. Let Dean help him put the instruments away in Eddie's kit, then told him, "It's late, Dean—you go get yourself to bed with your brother."
"Yes, sir," Dean said. "Good night, Dad. Good night, Mr. Beaumont."
Eddie gave him a grimaced smile, waited until the boy was out the door before slumping against the bathtub. He was still dripping sweat, but his eyes were going foggy. "Good kids you got there."
"Yeah," John said.
"Mary Campbell's children," Eddie said. "Explains something."
John had hunted rugarous, wendigos, poltergeists—but he'd never felt a chill go down his spine like this one. "How's that?"
"Only met Samuel Campbell the once, must've been twenty-five years ago." Eddie was starting to slur, head falling back. "Wouldn't be here now without him. Now there was a hunter. Sammy's named after him, huh? So did Mary bring you into the business, or were you already hunting?"
"Not before Mary," John said through frozen lips.
"Thought you were nuts, hauling those boys around with you—but you're not gonna keep Campbell kids away from the hunt, I reckon."
"Guess not," John said.
Eddie didn't mumble much more before he passed out. John didn't bother moving him to the bed. But he sat in the man's room for a while, listening to make sure his snoring stayed even.
Thinking of all those things Mary had never liked to talk about. Her childhood, her family. How she'd loved her parents, but had almost no keepsakes from them. At least not any she'd ever shown John.
How she'd disappeared—up and vanished for a couple days, coming back moving stiff and vague about where she'd been. Three times, that John could recall. Once after Dean was born, four days she'd left them both, just saying she had an errand.
How she'd died.
With no whiskey left, John didn't get any sleep that night, even after he got back to his boys.
Eddie stuck around the three days it took John to get the other skinwalker. John didn't ask the other hunter to watch the boys. Dean was old enough to keep an eye on Sammy for a few hours.
"Now I owe you one," Eddie said when the job was done. John didn't tell him he'd never be calling in that marker.
After a few days in a motel room, Sammy was restless in the car, poking his brother's arm. "Dean, tell me a story about Mom—"
"No," John said, before Dean could. "He's heard that one enough, Dean."
"But, Dean," Sammy whined. "I want—"
"You heard Dad," Dean said. "How about—uh, King Arthur? I got this comic book, it's cool, there's knights and a quest."
"I like knights," Sammy said, grudgingly. He slid over the seat to nestle against Dean, listening to his brother read as John drove them out of town.