Their official title was the Special Situations Response Unit of the Detroit Police Department, the SSRU, but nobody ever called it that. It already had a nickname. Unless you were brand new or a politician, it was simply known as the spooky squad .
You didn’t talk about it too loudly but everyone knew that they were the crazy bin, the lunatics, the place where you either went and never came back or soon left for a career in professional drinking.
Every rookie got “the talk.” Usually it came on their first week of night shift; sitting in a black and white with their training officer around 2am. The older cop leans back and pours another cup of cold coffee, grimaces, and drinks it anyway.
“So you ever heard of spooky squad son?” He explains that sometime, if you stick with this job long enough and the coffee doesn’t kill you first, you’re gonna see something that makes no sense. The kind of thing that can only happen at two am on a night when even the moon is dark and you know that by tomorrow morning you are going to have convinced yourself it was all shadows or a bad dream. When you get that call you and you realize that you are out of your depth, that’s when you call it in as a “S39” and transfer it to them .
If the rooky is a real alpha male type they will laugh and bluster that they aren’t afraid of anything and what is with this ghost story crap? If they are a little more thoughtful, smart even, they might ask, “So how will I know when to call?”
The training officer will snort and gesture at nothing with his cup of coffee. “Don’t worry about that son, you will know. Believe me... you will know. Just call it in and get yourself a nice strong drink after your shift ends and you will do fine. Just fine.”
When Dean got “the talk” he had laughed it off too, but maybe a little less loudly than most. You don’t grow up in back alleys and driving on 3am highways without seeing a thing or two. He never made a big deal of it, never even really let himself think too hard about it, but he’d seen the shadows that move where no one is standing and felt the breath down his neck when no one was there. Mostly though his monsters had been of the firmly human variety.
He was five when his mother died. According to the official report she had died by her own hand. A suicide that the small town cops and coroner were more than happy to write off as a result of the grief of losing her parents in a hit-and-run the year before and the stress of two young sons. John Winchester never agreed. He swore that a man had killed her, “a man with yellow eyes” that he had seen lurking around the house the night before.
“Just be glad that we aren’t charging you.” The cops told John in increasingly annoyed, then outright hostile, tones. Ignored, John Winchester took his boys and hit the road: ostensibly looking for the murder himself, in reality meandering across the country getting by with petty crime and ever increasing amounts of booze.
By the time he was twelve he could hustle pool, drink a beer, and pick a lock (usually in that order.) He had spent more time out of school than in it, but he already had an advanced degree in the school of getting by. He knew how to read John; if it was the kind of day that called for earning enough money to get them a motel because his father was too drunk to care, or if he should pull out the case files (stolen from the police department before they left for good) and go over it once again in hopes of getting John interested in something other than the rapidly diminishing bottle of whiskey, or if it was time to send Sammy down to the vending machine and piss John off enough to get the bad part over before his little brother got back.
Sammy and John – it seemed like his whole life was a balancing act, trying to be what each needed him to be. For John the quick fingered, useful soldier. Making money, never questioning orders, and able to take a hit. For Sammy – brilliant, precocious, Sammy – who went to school doggedly, who refused to put down the books he always had his nose in, who back talked John and earned Dean far too many black eyes, he tried to be a mother and father. To be everything that Mary couldn’t and John wouldn’t. And if you had asked him about any of this he would have spit on the ground and said something cocky about not being a wuss that needed his hand held and to “knock off the chick-flick shit.”
When Sammy was twelve he ran away properly for the first time. Before it had just been kid stuff, Dean would find him curled up behind the ice machine or at the nearest library. Dean found him this time too, a week of sleepless nights and listening to John screaming about “how could you lose him? Sam is your responsibility you worthless idiot” later. He found Sammy in an old shed behind the school where he had been going this month. He had made a nest for himself and some mangy stray dog. He looked up when Dean walked in then squared his chin defiantly. “I’m not going back.”
Dean sat down next to him, suddenly too tired to argue (definitely not tired because he hadn’t eaten that day, not because he hadn’t slept in a week.) “I want to go to school. My teacher says I’m smart, that I could get a scholarship to college easy and do something great.” His voice cracks then, “I want to stop doing this.” Dean doesn’t have to ask what “this” is. He looks at his hands – John or Sammy? He had always known that it would come to this and he finds that it isn’t even a question in his mind.
“Two years Sam. I’ll be eighteen. We will get a place and you will go to school and we’ll get you into that college you want to go to. Just stick it out for two more years. For me, please?” He adds the last part as a question, hoping against hope that unlike their mother and father, Sammy will chose to stay; chose him over leaving.
“Ok. Two years.” That’s all either one says but it hangs there between them. A promise that they both hope will be strong enough to get them to the other side of where they are now.
They go back to the hotel room. They make up a story about Sammy finding a clue about the yellow eyed man. They drive away from that town and to another one that is no different and nothing has changed. But for Dean everything has changed. He works harder (even John notices, hands him a beer and one of his rare nods of approval), he starts skimming money here and there and keeping it in the lining of his jacket. He lets a truant officer catch him and convinces John that it would be easiest if he just gets his GED so he can be done with school.
His eighteenth birthday is a dark, overcast day. Full of rain clouds that haven’t made up their mind if they will drench you or not. He and Sammy haven’t talked about it, not really. They both pack up their things – Dean his clothes and lock pick set, the roll of money feeling much smaller than it had yesterday. His most precious possessions are already on him; his mother’s ring on his right hand and the necklace that Sammy had given him for Christmas when they were little. Sam packs his books and folds his change of clothes into his backpack. Dean walks over to John and shakes him awake, “We’re leaving Dad.”
John looks at the two of them for a long minute, opens his mouth to say something then closes it again. When he does speak his voice has the sneer that usually only comes out after half a bottle of whiskey, “Well enjoy then, when you ungrateful brats get sick of fending for yourselves don’t call me.” Dean nods and pushes Sammy toward the door. When they step outside Sammy reaches up and grabs his hand like he used to when he was little, and just for a minute Dean lets him.
The first year is very bad. They end up in Detroit of all places, with Dean trying desperately to find a job. They sleep rough a few times but by winter he has a small apartment for them. Some days he’s not sure if it’s actually any warmer inside than out but it’s theirs and Sammy is in all honors classes and it’s enough.
The second year isn’t so much easier so much as Dean is used to it. Used to working two jobs plus a few things that aren’t strictly legal in the evenings. Used to watching Sammy doing his homework and telling him, once again, that under no circumstances is he allowed to get a job – he needs to focus on getting that scholarship.
Just before his twenty first birthday (Sammy teases him asking how it will feel to drink legally for once) Dean sees a job posting for the police department. He’d never much liked cops but he likes a steady paycheck, he has experience with guns, and he knows how to talk his way into anything. He’s still kinda shocked when two months later he’s wearing a stiff blue uniform and some instructor guy who thinks he’s big and bad is shouting about how the recruits need toughening up.
Dean aces the physical parts – marching, shooting, obstacle course, and five mile run – but to his surprise it’s the mental aspects that he really enjoys. He already knows half the laws (being a good crook means knowing what rules you are breaking) and he has a knack for talking to people. One of his instructors suggests that he take extra classes in hostage negotiation and de-escalation. He graduates and gets assigned to a swing shift patrol. He finds himself actually enjoying protecting his little corner of a big city.
The first person from Spooky Squad that he runs into is Detective Pamela Barns. He’s working at his desk when he sees all six foot one of her striding across the bull pen and decides to see if he can swing a number.
“Good morning ma’am. Can I help you?” He stands tall working the uniform with his best “law-and-order-with-a-hint-of-danger” smile. She turns towards him and looks him over, taking her time. Dean has no problem with being stared at by a beautiful woman but he has the distinct feeling that she isn’t taking in his toned abs and nice ass. ( “How does she see with those contacts?” he wonders. They are milky white. He’d think she was blind except he can feel the weight of her stare.)
“You’ve got the eyes, the question is: are you going to use them or not?”
Dean wishes he could convince himself that she is flirting but his spider sense - the one that told him when John was moving from drunk to drunk-and-angry or when the kid that he is talking to is hiding more than a stick of gum in his pocket - is shouting that flirting is the last thing on her mind. She smiles and holds out her hand then, “Pamela Barns, DPD Detective working out of the Special Situations Response Unit. I’m the spooky squad.”
They shake and Dean kicks himself for not catching that she is a cop. She isn’t carrying though so he had dismissed the idea. Oh well, the pretty ones are always taken he supposes. (Never a good idea to go for a fellow officer, too many complications, too many ways for it to go wrong.)
“Oi! Spooky get your ass over here.” Someone shouts from across the room and Pamela turns to go, “See you around cowboy.” When he gets back to his desk Rogers starts needling him, going on and on about, “if you look at her too hard or you’ll end up in the lunatic bin too.” Rogers thinks he’s hilarious and buddies with everyone. He isn’t; mostly because he’s an unfunny asshole. Dean brushes it off and forgets about the whole thing, he has bigger fish to fry.
Captain Uriel is a pain in his ass. Generally speaking the Captain has a reputation for not liking anyone, but he’s had a hate-on for Dean ever since his second month on the force. It had started right about the time he’d walked in on Dean doing an impression of him in the locker room. It was a very an accurate impression.
At the time Dean hadn’t realized that he was the one who approved or denied all applications to take the detective's exam.
“Come on Lieu, just give me a chance. I have the best arrest rate of any new hire and if I fail the exam it’s no skin off your nose.”
“Everything you do is skin off my nose Winchester. And how exactly do you know what anyone else’s stats are?” Uriel raises an eyebrow and Dean mumbles something to the floor. It wasn’t his fault that they kept personnel records in a freaking filing cabinet that a two year old could pick.
“Good morning Sir.”
“Well you are in my office so it isn’t. Get out.”
“Captain Uriel, You can see that I have filled out form 23B – F and am formally requesting…”
“And I have filled out seventeen copies of forms 76 L – Z telling you to get the hell out of my office.”
Unfortunately for the good Captain after several months of this an inter-precinct memo was released urging patrol and beat cops to apply for detective positions as there was a shortage. Dean’s grin when he slapped down a print out of the memo and his application on his desk was enough to give him an instant migraine.
Uriel’s grin when he placed the “DENIED” stamped form back on Dean’s desk almost made up for all the aggravation that the rookie had caused him.
“You don’t have a college degree. Here at the DPD we have a certain standard to uphold. That includes not letting imbeciles who never even properly finished high school…” He drowned on and on but Dean had stopped listening.
Sam had just finished his first year at Stanford. There had been a tense summer when Sam had either been working on college applications or snapping at Dean because he hadn’t heard anything. The kid had the grades and every one of his teachers had offered to write letters of recommendation. Most of the colleges were happy to take him – if he could pay his own way. It was late in the summer, and anticipation was beginning to rot into despair when the large envelope from Stanford arrived.
Dean had eyed it resentfully, almost preferring to throw it out unopened then watch Sammy crumple in on himself, defeated once again. They never talked about it but he knew that Sammy felt guilty. Dean had tried to shield him from how bad things had been but Sammy was a smart kid. He wanted to get his degree and help support them both. He hated those stupid colleges who couldn’t see just how brilliant his little brother was.
The Stanford application had been a long shot. One of his teachers had suggested it. It was a program that put students with “exceptional potential” through an accelerated pre-law / law course of study and it would let you graduate with a law degree in seven years rather than the traditional eight. It was also fully funded by scholarship.
“What’s that?” Sammy had walked into the kitchen.
“Just another stupid letter.”
“Well give it here” Sammy snapped and Dean had passed it over and walked away. He couldn’t watch again.
Then there was a noise behind him and Dean whirled around, hand automatically moving towards his belt, but there was only Sammy standing there with tears streaking down his cheeks.
“I, I’m in. I’m in. I’m going to Stanford.”
Sammy had gotten through his first year with flying colors. He stayed in California over the summer taking extra courses and working. (Dean teased him endlessly for working at a coffee place. “If you grow your hair out and start wearing it in a bun I’m going to come to Calli and shave it myself Bitch.” “Well that would require you get on a plane without crying, Jerk, so I’m not too worried.”)
Dean makes decent money and Sam’s scholarship covered books but there is still room and board to cover and even living off campus it doesn’t come cheap. Making detective means better pay and more room for promotion. It means that Sammy can worry less and focus on school. It also means getting one over that stick-up-his-ass Uriel who thinks he’s so much better than riff-raff like Dean Winchester.
Dean hadn’t gotten to where he was without learning a few tricks. The next time that big brass was around he straightened his uniform and knocked on the captain’s office door, then without waiting for an answer walked in. Three pairs of eyes turned to look at him in annoyance.
Dean made a show of saluting and looking properly embarrassed, “So sorry Chief, Captain, Captain, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“What do you want Winchester?” Uriel growled (secretly he was glad for the interruption as, he was getting his ass chewed for expense reports that weren’t even his fault.)
“I just wanted to confirm with you that the only issue keeping me from taking the detective’s exam is my lack of a college degree?”
“Well....” Uriel felt an uneasy dread begin to form in the pit of his ulcer.
“Good. Well then I just wanted you to know that I am enrolling classes to get my associate's degree so that won’t be an issue any longer.”
“Put a diploma on my desk Winchester and we will talk. In the meantime you aren’t being paid to stand here, get to work.” Dean saluted smartly and walked out.
“Good man Winchester. He has the best arrest rate of any of the patrol officers.” The chief though for a moment then added, “If he gets his degree make sure he gets a chance, we could use another solid detective.”
“Yes Sir.” Uriel agreed while hiding the flames of anger that could have melted lead in his stomach. Winchester had won this round but the war was still ongoing.
Dean never figured that he was a smart guy. He would have told you that it didn’t bother him. That he’d gotten along just fine without book learning thank-you-very-much. Besides it was Sammy who had the brains. It was Sammy who was determined to prove to the world that he was more than the names John had slurred at them. But Dean figured that as far as he went, he was exactly what John had called him – a loser whose only talents were for taking orders and fast talking.
He started night classes on an overcast day (somehow it reminded him of his birthday and walking out of that hotel room, although he couldn’t quite put his finger on why.) The class room was hot and the teacher didn’t appreciate his brand of humor.
He hadn’t told Sammy that he was trying to get a degree. It just seemed a bit stupid. His baby brother going to Sanford and here he was taking night classes at a community college – and about to fail out to boot.
It was his history professor who happened to walk by him in the hall while he waited for his math class to start (math and English on Mondays and Tuesdays. History and speech on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Speech was the only class he was passing.)
“What’ya reading Mr. Winchester?” Ms. Edwards had a thick accent that defied classification, wore combat boots with pants suites, and paced while lecturing on early world history. Dean, who had definitely not been so absorbed in his book that he startled, shrugged and held up While Mortals Sleep, a collection of short stories by Vonnegut. She’d grabbed the book and looked from it to Dean.
“That’s not assigned reading. I know every book Morcarski assigns and the old cow can’t stand anything that isn’t either drivel or at least two hundred years old.”
Dean shrugs again, “I like his style. Most people stop with Slaughterhouse Five but he had some good stuff to say in his other works.”
She nods, “When you hand in your paper next week it damn well better be an improvement over your first two. You might be content to play the fool but I won’t be insulted with getting six more pages of your shit and neither will Mr. Vonnegut.” She hands him back the book with a smart snap of her wrist, “If you wanted to pretend to be stupid you should have tried harder Mr. Winchester.”
He can hear her boots tap in time as she marches past him and down the hall.
It was late in his shift when the call came in for a “possible dead body, 15 th and West” Dean flicked on the lights and keyed his radio mic, “10-4. I’m four minutes out.” The first thing he noticed was the lack of onlookers. Usually there were at least a few kids gawking or a grandma who had been walking home with groceries who wanted to see what the fuss was about. It was silent.
The back ally had, like all alleys, the distinct smell of rotting chinese takeout and human urine. Several dumpsters were pushed haphazardly along the walls and there was more trash on the street than in said dumpsters. Adding to the smell was the first patrol officer to arrive who was emptying his stomach on the pavement, his back to the narrow opening at the mouth of the ally.
Attempting to let the other officer save some dignity he started to walk past him but the other man straightened up (Martinez, a few years older than him and always going on about how well his daughter was doing in school. A solid guy) and grabbed Dean by the sleeve. “Don’t go back there. I called it in. They’ll be here soon.” It took Dean a minute to understand what Martinez was saying. He pushed past him anyway and walked past the first dumpster and onto the cleared space behind the second.
She looked peaceful. When he shone his flashlight on the body that’s what his first thought was. The second though was how the hell was her arm bent at that angle? Then, like a camera that comes into focus as you twist the lens, everything snapped into clarity.
She looked like she had been thrown from a great height, most of her bones were broken and her appendages splayed at odd angles. That by itself was bad but sadly not unheard of, it was her head that turned the picture from a tragedy to a horror story.
It was backwards. Not the kind of twisted that happens when the spine is snapped. In fact, from the shoulders up, she looked untouched. No bruising, no cuts, no damage. It was as if her head had simply grown backwards on her body. You don’t think about it much but your brain has a built in filing system. It takes what you see and fits it into pre-made categories. This way you can quickly and efficiently process the millions of things you see in a given day – car, tree, sandwich, human. But this was wrong . It messed with the mental boxes. Your mind wanted to say “human, female” but it couldn’t because it also wanted to insist that this did not, could not, fit in what could be human.
Dean was still staring at the body when a large hand grasped his shoulder, “Come on brother, staring at her won’t make it any better.” Dean turned, angry with himself that someone had gotten so close without his realizing it (that was the first thing they taught you as a trainee. Stay alert or die.) The man wasn’t quite as tall as him but he was solid. He had a boxer’s build and the fluid movements of the sort of man who never started a fight but always ended it. His accent was a thick drawl that elongated his vowels and dragged at the ends of his words. He looked more like a tv spy than a cop - short beard, black sweater, and a cap pulled low over his eyes. No badge or uniform but a standard issue gun and radio – detective then.
Dean let himself be pushed out of the ally, away from the body. Martinez was gone and in his place was another man, probably this detective’s partner (did detectives work in pairs on the spooky squad? Dean realized that he had no idea.) The other man was tall and lithe, he wore a tan trench coat that billowed behind him and eyes so blue that they almost seemed to give off their own light rather than reflect it. Dean’s appraisal was cut short there because their gazes collided then locked - and all the air fled his lungs. Without consciously processing what the threat was Dean found his hand sliding toward his holster. Shadows and light danced in the corners of his vision and he swore he smelt ozone and rain.
“Get him out of here we don’t need civilians messing up the trail.” The voice was a deep rumble and just as suddenly as they had found him the eyes flicked away, dismissing him and full of – what? Contempt? Boredom? Regret?
Whatever it was it pissed Dean off. “Hey, police here! Not civilian. What the fuck are you two clowns doing here anyway?” The blue eyes rolled in an expression of annoyance and focused back on him. “This is our case now, I’m quite sure you don’t want it. Go back to your car and forget you saw anything. That’s what you people always do anyway.”
“Now, be nice.” The man behind Dean sounded amused, “besides at least he’s not puking.” The tall one didn’t respond, just pushed past them towards the body. The street light flickered as he walked by and his shadow lengthened. Twisting until they looked almost like wings spread behind him. Remembering the searing intensity of that gaze Dean shivered.
“You were a right ass to the patrol man back there.” It’s four am and Benny is driving back to the office. Kevin had come out and loaded the body into his van, mumbling about tests and how acid affects decomposition rates (what that had with anything he had no earthly clue, there wasn’t any acid that Benny had been able to see.) Cas stilled and looked away but his voice was cutting when he spoke,
“Which one are you talking about? The one who couldn’t stop puking or the one who just had to look and then froze?” Cas’ gaze flicked over to Benny in the dim light, “They’re getting better you know. No visible cuts this time.”
Now it was the shorter detective who winced. “Better” isn’t a word I much want to associate with this mess.”
“Pamela has had her eye on him for over a year now.” His friend’s voice was hard to read at the best of times but today it had an extra layer that he couldn’t quite place. Benny twisted around and looked at Cas, trying to parse the meaning behind his words.
“You mean the patrol guy, Winchester?”
Another pause, “She got a feeling or something?” Moments tick by, “Usually Pam knows what she’s on about.”
“But you didn’t like him?”
“He’s reckless. He’s loud. He’ll never accept…” Cas shifts, “He would be ill suited to our world I think.”
“It’s Cap’s choice. He’ll make the right call.”
“Perhaps.” They lapse back into silence for the rest of the drive.
Sam flew back from California for Dean’s graduation. Dean hadn’t meant to tell him and he certainly hadn’t planned on going to the lame-ass graduation ceremony that was held in the gym of the nearest high school (the college “campus” consisted of one building that had no rooms big enough to fit more than twenty people at a time) but Ms. Edwards had overruled him on both counts. They had struck up a tentative friendship over the last year and a half. She hectored him on his papers, refusing to accept them until they were “fine as I damn well know you can do, Mr. Winchester” and debated Vonnegut verses Asimov. Somehow Dean found himself pushing through his last semester and about to graduate with a degree. It was only an associate’s but still, it was enough to get him what he wanted.
When he told Sammy there was a pause over the phone and then his brother was talking a mile a minute and making plans to fly back.
Sammy had mentioned Jess a few times but it was still a shock when he saw the beautiful blond girl hanging on to his baby brother’s arm. “You must be Dean. Sam just won’t stop talking about his big brother. I’m so glad to get to meet you.”
Later than night, after pizza and too many beers Sammy and Dean were sitting side by side on the hood of his patrol car with yet another six-pack between them and Jess asleep on the sofa inside. “Remind you of the times we’d sneak whatever dad had and camp out in the car after he fell asleep?”
Dean laughs, “I remember you puking every time you tried whisky.”
“Still can’t drink the damn stuff.” Sam has gotten taller the past three years, broader too. He looks… grown up.
“I have it on good authority that you aren’t doing college right if you aren’t puking every Friday night” Dean retorts with a grin.
Sam looked away, rolling the bottle between his hands “I haven’t got time for that you know. I have too much…”
“You do know you don’t owe me a damn thing, right Sammy? I...” Shit he’s bad with this stuff, “You’re going to be the best lawyer in the whole damn country. Always knew you were, you take after mom.”
They were quiet for a long time, listening to the sounds of the block around them. Feeling the first hints of fall in the air. It was Sammy who broke the silence, “You don’t mind I brought Jess with me?”
“Naw, she’s good. I like her.”
“She grew up rough too, foster care and shit. I told her about stuff and, well I don’t think she really understands all of it. She never had anyone like I did but we – I think we’re good together.” Shit, Dean thinks, this is serious; the kid is in love.
“She’s on scholarship too, that’s how we met. We both had to drop off paperwork and we bumped into each other – literally. After that, I don’t know, we just hit it off. She’s studying to be a doctor.”
Dean twists the silver ring on his hand, “She reminds me of mom.”
Later after the beers were finished and Sam had gone to bed Dean stayed outside, leaned back against the windshield and watching the darkness play hide-and-seek with the light from the street lamps.
Captain Uriel made less of a stink about his promotion to detective than Dean had expected. After he passed the paper tests he spent six months on probationary status working with a detective named Philip Evans. The idea was that new detectives get the chance to learn from a veteran before they were given permanent assignments.
Detective Evans was a tall, gaunt, man who had done the job for longer than anyone could remember and quite caring a couple decades ago. He was more than happy for Dean to work the cases while he watched the calendar countdown the days to retirement and occasionally offered an insight that was equal parts caustic and enlightening. Dean liked the work; it took smarts, hard work, a little luck, and a lot of willingness to do the boring parts but he found he wasn’t half bad at it - and his solved rate backed him up. He even had his eye on the top assignment, the homicide squad.
As his six months wound to a close Captain Uriel called him into his office. The man was smiling.
“Here are your official transfer orders.”
Dean looked at the papers. “Dean Winchester… permanent assignment… Special Situations Response Unit... beginning imidiantly“
“I’ve doing good work. You know I have. Why?”
“Because I can.” If the old bastard smiled any wider his face might split in half.
The SSRU – his new home in the lunatic bin – was housed in an old municipal annex one block from the main station. Captain Uriel’s directions had been condescendingly precise and he found himself in front of an old building so nondescript that he had passed it a thousand times without ever registering what it was. Dean took a deep breath and jammed his fists deeper into the pockets of his old leather jacket (He’d been happy to trade the stiff patrol blues for wearing his own clothes again six months ago. Now he wondered if he hadn’t made the biggest mistake of his life.)
The front door led to a hall which he followed down to where it split into a T. He paused unsure where to go and disconcerted by the complete lack of people, until the sound of raised voices made the choice for him. To the left there was an office door. It was propped open by a stack of, where those fireplace pokers? Angry voices poured out of the room.
“I understand that you don’t want to suspect him – Christ I don’t want to any more than you do – but we can’t just close our eyes because he’s…”
“I’m not closing my eyes to anything! I’m telling you that something is not possible and that in the interest of finding out what is happening we can’t afford to waste time on dead ends!” The voice was deep and rich even when the words were being spit out in barely controlled fury. Dean suppressed a shiver at the memory of cutting blue eyes and messy dark hair.
“Cas, come on son, if you can’t stay objective on this I can have Garth take a look. It’s not like are planning on hauling Gabe in and cuffing him to a chair. But we have to look into it. Hopefully we can clear him, god knows he’d be more trouble that a nest of vamps and a shifter put together to hold, but we cannot just ignore him.” The other voice was male and sounded older, older and very tired.
The other detective – Cas apparently, it was an odd name and Dean wondered if it was short for something – sounded even angrier than a moment before, “Oh come off if Captain we both know that first hint that he’s involved its salt rounds and an iron stake.”
“And what do you suggest Detective? People are dying, brass wants my balls, and whether any of us want to talk about the elephant in the room HE HAS THE ABILITY. You know how many people in this city can pull off what we are seeing, scratch that, the country? So I’m not about to ignore the fact that a goddam Fey is running around the city without at least taking a very hard look at where your goddam brother has been for the last two days!”
There was a long pause and the sound of cloth scraping cloth as someone stood up. Dean instinctively stepped back, embarrassed to be caught eavesdropping, then paused as he heard Cas begin to speak again. His voice was quieter, less overtly angry, but harder – like granite being ground into pebbles. “You stay up there on your high horse Captain. Maybe Gabriel is a suspect just because he could, but then again maybe so am I. Hell, who’s to say it wasn’t Pamela or Benny? What do we know about Kevin? Maybe Garth knows a trick or two. If just being us is enough to be suspected of what you want to accuse Gabriel of – well I hope you enjoy the view up there but I think you are going to find it’s a lonely one.”
Cas did come out of the office then, walking fast and nearly colliding into Dean. For one long moment Dean would swear that time stilled; he took in the long coat, the rumpled hair sharply contrasted with a neatly pressed white dress shirt, and the haggard face of someone who hadn’t slept in a week. The detective scowled at him then recognition dawned and his grimace darkened further. The moment stretched and Dean was about to open his mouth to say something, anything, when Cas turned heel and stomped off. Taking a deep breath Dean was trying to decide what to do next when the other man poked his head out of the office.
“Well come in then, figures you’d have turned up in time to hear that. I suppose you’re the fool that pissed of Uriel?” The man was older and stocky but still had the fluid movement of someone who did more than sit behind a desk. His beard was salt and pepper and an ancient looking baseball cap sat on his head. Dean followed him and took in his new boss’s office.
The room was a chaotic jumble – books, paper, boxes, jars, various weapons, and other assorted items that weren’t so easily classified sat in piles. Bookshelves lined a full wall and the desk sat facing the one window in the room. Unlike most offices where the only seating was across from the desk, here there were a couple of folding chairs that were pulled to one side of the desk leaving plenty of room for the massive stuffed bear that took up the rest of the office.
“Well go ahead and sit down, neither of us are getting any younger standing here starring.” Dean sat on the chair that was free of papers. “I’m Bobby Singer, Captain if you must, Robert only if you want to end up in a shallow grave somewhere.” He thrust his hand out and his shake was firm and warm.
“Detective Dean Winchester, I, uh mean no disrespect but I think there has been a mistake. I…” Captain Singer’s laugh wasn’t malicious. “No, no mistake you done screwed up good boy, whatever it was you did to piss off the old lemon sucker. But hey, anyone who is a thorn in Uriel’s side has a head start in my book. So welcome to the spooky squad.” The man reminded Dean of a bartender who had caught him pickpocketing in Arkansas. The old geezer had told him he’d better not catch Dean back in his bar till he could actually steal properly and gave him a beer and a wink on his way out.
“Look here is how this goes. I get you don’t want to be here, you’ve probably been hearing tales about us since you joined on, and usually I don’t take too kindly to being used as the dumping grounds for every stick-up-their-ass over at headquarters to shove their rejects off on, but in your case I think there are mitigating circumstances. What was your cleared percentage on probation?”
“87 percent Sir.”
“Good, but drop the Sir crap. Starting from today your rate is going to be 100%. It’s different over here. We don’t get cases we get problems and we are expected to make those problems go away. You aren’t a detective so much as a psychologist, priest, researcher, miracle worker, and on some days a hunter. The lines are a lot greyer over here and I expect my men to have darn good eyesight.
Like I said I know you don’t want to be here but you give us a year and if you still want out I’ll get you a transfer to a new precinct with a year undercover on your official records. Sound fair to you?”
Dean’s mind whirred at that possibility. One year and a chance to get out and start fresh? It wasn’t homicide squad but it was a heck of a lot more than he’d had this morning. “Sounds good Sir… um Captain.” Bobby rolled his eyes but let it slide.
“Ok I guess it’s time for you to meet the troops. I’d have introduced you to Cas but as you heard he’s less than happy with me today. But there should be most of the others around here somewhere.”
Head swimming Dean followed Captain Singer ( no way I’m ever going to call him Bobby ) out of his office, down the other side of the hall and into an open bullpen area. It was a pretty standard setup. There were desk set haphazardly around the room and a rolling white board was pushed next to a conference table in the middle. Doors across the room probably lead to interrogation rooms and such. That was where the normalcy ended.
By one desk there was a huge mound of colorful pillows, as well as what appeared to be a taxidermied chicken (he didn’t even want to hazard a guess as to why ) on the desk. Someone had spray painted graffiti on most of the walls (at least the wall that could be seen under the layers of maps, post it notes, and in one corner a full size diagram of the human nervous system that was covered in pins and taped to the wall.) To one side of the room, in a clear spot, a circular rug with a black pentagram on it graced the floor. In the middle of the star sat several candles and a tape recorder.
The only spot of order in the whole place was the desk in the farthest right hand corner. The desk had no computer on it and instead was covered in neat piles of books and papers. The only splash of color was a blue tie that hung crookedly over the back of the chair. Behind the desk a large bookshelf that positively groaned under the weight of the books (many of them looked to be old and leather bound) lined up on its shelves.
As they walked in all activity ground to a halt and everyone in the room turned their way with interest. Singer grumbled something under his breath about people with nothing better to do than gawk and settled the hat (it had a logo for a Singer’s Junkyard, Dean wondered if it belonged to one of the Captain's relations?) more firmly and gestured Dean forward with a jerk of his chin.
“Alright let me introduce you to the crew.”
The people were as colorful as the room.
“I think you have met Detective Barns.” Dean nodded in her direction and tried to suppress the shiver her weird eyes ( how on earth does she see? ) gave him. “She’s darn good on interrogation and if you have any frightened kids or something of the like.”
“That’s sexist Cap!” The lady in question shot back, then turning to Dean, “You will find I’m also quite good with handsome men if you evvver need help in that direction.” She winked and made her way past them toward the door.
Bobby rolled his eyes and continued, “And the desk with the chicken belongs to Garth. Also a detective. Tracking is his specialty. Along with being a general pain in my ass and forgetting to turn in his paperwork.” The last bit was stated with a pointed look and the man in question shrugged and winked at Dean.
“I’m too good to waste my time writing things down. Besides Benny actually likes typing up reports.” The guy was younger, skinny as a rail, and had a grin that invited you to smile back. He was perched on top of the desk that Pamela had just vacated, sitting cross-legged and reading something out of a thick notebook. Dean was quickly coming to the conclusion that the rank meant very little in this outfit. Other than Captain Uriel most of the brass hadn’t been terribly hard-ass but you certainly didn’t get away with this level of backtalk – or general weirdness.
“Benny has his own paperwork to do and I expect a full report on last week’s haunting, both official and internal, by tonight. Don’t make me sic Ellen on you.”
Garth jumped off the desk and dramatically clutched his chest. “You wound me Cap. I’d never want to disappoint a lady.” He nodded to Dean, “Nice to meet you man. Seriously though, if you have any questions don’t worry about looking like a fool we all did our first few weeks.” And with that he ambled off to the desk with the chicken and started pecking out something with only two fingers on the computer.
Bobby walked past the desks and toward the back wall where a there was a doorway with no door in it. Over the door a sign in red ink stated, “Here be dragons” and a post-it stuck to the door frame announced, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” Bobby poked his head in the dark room, “Charlie you in there?” Dean got the distinct impression that he was nervous to step any further.
“Give me a second, I’m trying to get Pam’s computer debugged. Why can’t everyone just use Lenox?” Various tapping, whirring, and cursing sounds later, there was a triumphant snap and a woman emerged out of the gloom with a bubblegum pink laptop in her hands.
“Hi there! Did you break your computer looking up porn too?” She was tall, only a little shorter than Dean himself, with hair so red it would put a stop sign to shame. She was wearing equally bright red combat boots, a blue plaid kilt, and shirt that proclaimed “One does not simply fix a printer.” A replica One Ring hung on a chain around her neck and the computer she had been holding was unceremoniously shoved into Singer’s hands.
“Charlie - Dean. Dean - Charlie. She sacrifices goats and small children keeps our tech running.” He turns to the woman, “Charlie, Dean will need a computer setup and access to the files. Today or tomorrow if you can. Please try not to scare him too badly. I don’t need another Crowley incident on my hands.”
“To be fair Robert, the man did deserve it.” Dean whirled around, inches from a heart attack, only to find the bearded man from the crime scene behind him. The man might as well be a cat for how silently he moved!
“If a gentleman can’t take a lady at her word when she declines his attentions then I think that finding his personal correspondence printed out and taped to the wall is fair comeuppance.” Dean racked his brain for the origin of his accent. It had the drawl of Creole Louisiana with an added lilt that sounded european, and hints of something entirely unique.
Singer’s sigh managed to communicate both longsuffering aggrievement and amusement all at once. “True as that may be Benny I don’t think the powers-that-be needed to be quite so involved in the situation.” a pause and then, “besides I could have skinned him myself and saved her the trouble.”
“Aww thanks Cap, but I can fight my own battles.” She pats Singer on the shoulder and adds, “But don’t worry, if I ever need a knight in shining armor you're my first call.” Charlie’s smirk hinted at quite a story but before he could ask a large hand was thrust at him.
“I’m Benny Lafferty. Well Benjaman but nobody calls me that but my mother and she’s been gone since the winter of 1705.”
“Just like no one calls me Robert” Singer interjected.
“But Benny calls you Robert” Charlie’s expression was entirely too angelic; Dean barely suppressed a snort. Singer turned and pins him with a glare anyway.
“Well Benjamin can you find the time to show Dean around? Or are you too busy making a nuisance of yourself and, apparently, doing Garth’s paperwork again?”
At that comment Benny shifted uneasily from foot to foot and shot a glance toward Charlie - who shrugged and mouthed “wasn’t me.”
“Should I even ask what you bet this time?” When no answer was forthcoming the Captain rolled his eyes and ambled off towards the door.
“So who haven’t you meet yet Winchester?”
The rest of the day sped by. It turns out that there wasn’t too many more people to meet. Kevin Tran was a quiet boy ( Was he even old enough to work? He looked like he should still be in high school getting straight A’s and trying to avoid gym class. ) He apparently did “lab work for our unique needs.” Whatever that means. The elusive Cas was still missing.
Charlie helped him set up an email account and login to a secondary database. She wouldn’t explain what it was for other than cryptically telling him that “he would be filing his internal reports here from now on.” Since Dean had been using DPD database since his second week working he was mystified but he already had a headache and decided it was best to let it go and hope things would become more clear with time. She also installed a couple of apps on his phone and did something that made his computer screech and whirr in protest.
“Don’t worry, the hard drive will get used to it soon.” Was her somewhat unhelpful explanation.
It was almost five pm when a Benny’s cell phone started blaring Bad to the Bone . They were still sitting in Charlie’s cave (there was a detailed map of middle earth that spanned one wall, the other three were painted with blackboard paint and covered in what may have been computer code or ancient hieroglyphics. Possibly both. Dean wasn’t really sure of anything at this point.)
Garth had joined them and the three of them were explaining that the use of the pentagram-looking rug was for trapping demon possession victims and that tape recorder was a pre-recorded exorcism. Dean was opening his mouth to laugh, haha having fun with the new guy, very funny, when Charlie launched into some latin sounding words. Then Garth started teasing her for her pronunciation and Benny reminded Garth how he messed up his first exorcism and somehow Dean never got a word in edgewise.
Sounds of shouting came streaming from the speaker. Benny listened then calmly assured whoever was calling that “they would be down there immediately, just keep a perimeter and do not approach.” No sooner had he hung up then his phone started blaring again.
“Already on it Castiel. We’ll be there in ten.” The relaxed, jovial, mood had evaporated. In its place was a calm intensity; a coiled spring ready for a battle. Dean had seen cops with that switch before, hell he’d seen it in his father before John had drunk whatever the U.S. Marines had taught him out of his skull. The ability to go from relaxed to a ready for action within the space of a heartbeat. It wasn’t a thing you learned sitting behind a desk. Even more interesting was the fact that not only Benny but skinny, hardly looked like he’s old enough to be out of school, Garth also had the same intensity about him. Dean wondered where they had served.
Benny jerked his chin toward Dean, “Come on brother, we’ve got a call. Cas will meet us here.” To the rest of the room he added, “Possible vamp activity. Dispatch thinks they have a live victim. Gods help them if they’ve stumbled onto a nest.” He was already halfway across the room when he twisted back to Charlie, “Lass could you possibly part with your cross for the evening? I’d feel better if he had one.” While Dean was still trying to work out what Benny meant Charlie nodded, pulled something from under her shirt, and tossed it towards him. Dean caught it reflexively and stared at the pendant.
It was silver and it looked old. Like antique old. The cross was Celtic in design, beautifully worked, and hanging on a sturdy chain. Was it just his imagination or did Benny just flinch away from him?
“Oi put that on and for the good Lord’s sake tuck it under your shirt.” Benny was almost through the door now so Dean shot Charlie a confused smile and hurries to follow the other detective.
It was closer to five minutes later when they pulled up to a dimly lit storage unit lot. It appeared empty except for the agitated man yelling at Cas. Benny jumped out to of the car and headed towards the to pair. The only other police presence was a single cop car sitting outside the fenced off lot. Dean wondered where the hell her shift partner was. He started to jog over to check on the younger cop and see what had happened when Benny's voice distracted him.
“Tell patrol that they can head out. Then get your ass back over here, we need to go through every unit.”
“That’s not protocol.” This was so many kinds of wrong. There should be uniforms to keep a perimeter. There should be SWAT to search for any active threats. There should be… but this was the spooky squad. Whatever that meant, Dean was starting to understand that they didn’t have backup - because they were the backup.
Shaking his head he knocked on the patrol car window.
“How’s it going Ross? Can you fill me in?” Yesterday he would have said that he knew the woman sitting in that car pretty well. They had worked swing shift together for eight months before he had been promoted to detective. Tonight she wouldn’t even meet his eyes.
“Can I leave detective?” Her voice was professional, too professional. Was that how he had sounded when he met Benny and Cas? ( No, he internally winces as he remembers, you were too busy picking a fight with tall-dark-and-angry.) He nods to her. “Go ahead.”
She starts her car and reaches to pull the window up, hesitates.
“If that’s the kind of stuff you have to see… I’m sorry.” She rolled up the window and pulled out of the lot. It’s only just beginning to get dark out but it suddenly feels cold. Dean shakes his head and walks over to Benny and Cas (the irate man has apparently been dealt with and is now nowhere to be seen.)
The crime scene is dripping in blood. Shootings have spray pattern and a pool of blood around the body. Stabbings have a smaller area but more blood. This looked more like a really, really, bad car accident - only the the destruction covered the entirety of the storage unit and spilled out onto the pavement as well.
He doesn't have long to stare at the gore. There is a survivor. She’s young, covered in blood, but not visibly injured except for the way she keeps rubbing the side of her neck.
“You must think I’m crazy! I think I’m crazy! They… they’re so strong… I kicked and screamed…” Benny is shushing her, pulling her off to the side and motioning for Cas to go ahead.
“We are going to need to check the units. I doubt we will catch them but better safe than sorry.” Cas eyes him then jerks his chin to the left and begins walking. “Stay behind me, keep tight, and for god’s sake don’t spook and start shooting at shadows.”
It takes over an hour to clear the storage complex. They can’t open every single unit (both because of time and their lack of warrants) but they check for open units, anything out of place, anyone hiding, anyone who has say - a bloody machete or a car with another victim. They came up with nothing.
When they return to where Benny and the kid from the office, Kent? Conner? Kevin? are processing the initial crime scene.
Cas shakes his head. “You knew they were already gone.”
Benny shrugs, “Still needed to check. The girl is on her way to the hospital. Poor thing. Already has herself half-way convinced that this was just some asshole with a really bad party drug and a thing for blood.”
“But it wasn’t was it?” Dean hears his voice and doesn't recognize it. “This isn’t normal. This isn’t even possible . I look at this and I’m thinking Jack the Ripper and b-grade movie effects, but clearly it’s not. So, I’m not going to take one more step until you explain what the HELL happened here.” His voice cracks and he squares his jaw and glares between Benny and Cas.
“Vampire nest. I believe there were only two of them and they had, shall we say, a falling out. Fortuitously for the woman.” For the first time that day Cas didn’t sound completely dismissive - just vaguely patronising.
“Vampires.” Dean can’t say that Cas seems like the joking type.
“As I said.” Definitely not joking… what did that leave? Crazy?
“Oh for god’s sake! Did no one bother to tell you anything. Yes, vampires! This. This is what we do! Monsters are real, you’re mother lied when she said there was nothing under your bed, and we catch them.”
“ Don’t talk about my mother .” Cas actually winses at the harshness of his tone, and his next words almost sound apologetic.
“Metaphorically speaking. Vampires, ghosts, shifters, witches. That is what we deal with. Pamela is clairvoyant, and a witch. How did you think she gets around when she’s blind?”
“Blind? I though she just had weird contacts…”
Benny cleared his throat warningly and glared at Cas, who pointedly ignored him, “Garth is a lycanthrope and Benny will you tell him or shall I?”
“Castel that is quite enough.” Benny’s tone booked no argument. He ran his hands through his hair and turned to face Dean. “This was not the way that I had hoped you would learn of the… more difficult aspects of this job but what’s done is done. In any case, Cas is correct. We are a group of people who have unique skills and experiences and we use these skills to protect and serve. It’s the same oath you swore when you first took the badge… simply a bit more outside the normal channels.”
They weren’t joking or lying. Whatever else they were, they believed what they were telling him. And… he believed them. It was crazy, he was crazy, but Dean had never put much stock in ignoring what was staring him straight in the face. And this was staring him right in his pretty face.
“You’re a vampire aren’t you?”
He wasn’t sure if he expected to be laughed at or attacked but Benny just beamed and clapped him on the shoulder.
“See Cass I told you he was a smart one!”
It was early the next morning before the lab guy ( “Kevin, his name is Kevin, why can’t you remember that? ”) gave Dean a ride back to the main precinct where his car was still parked. Twenty minutes later Dean was sitting on his bed with four hours before he had to be back at the office and way too keyed up to sleep. Without any particular conscious thought on his part his fingers began typing in Sam’s number.
It was only as he heard Sam’s voice, ragged from a combination of sleep and concern, that Dean remembered the three hour time difference. It was past midnight in California.
“Dean, what…. are you ok? What’s the matter?”
Suddenly it hit Dean with the impact of a freight train. The victim, the blood, the truth, his new job.
“Nothing’s the matter Sammy. I just…” The words clog in his throat, “I just wanted to make sure you hadn’t gotten yourself into any trouble.”
“I was fine until you woke us up Jerk.”
Dean felt the knot of tension ease away from his throat. “Bitch.”