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The Coven of Paimon

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Back in his motel room, Dean was staring at his laptop’s screen, trying to work out just what the hell was going on around here.  He’d gone over every last hunt he’d been on for witches and their covens, and scouted around for any rituals this might refer to on really old occult sites, but he hadn’t found much.  Only one ritual used those weird sigils, though the sacrifice pattern didn’t make much sense.

Even his old notes hadn’t been very helpful.  Though he wasn’t quite sure she’d meant for him to see the clue she’d picked up, Cas’ research had led him to the right answer, or the answer she wanted him to think was going on.  It was the only lead he really had, so he had to work with it.

The connections between the victims and the tattoo on Jenny’s wrist, which was Enochian, an archaic, dead language older than any others he’d seen, for ‘betrayal,’ pointed to a nasty demonic summoning ritual, done by a coven.  And not by a single witch; this was probably a coven killing.  He couldn’t find the exact ritual online, but he’d narrowed it down to a few seriously nasty sons of bitches because getting a demon out of the afterlife was apparently pretty difficult.  Bobby might have more info on it, but he needed to have enough for Bobby to work off of, first.

Castiel’s notes were detailed enough to convince Dean that she couldn’t possibly be a member of the coven, unless she was running from them.  Or maybe she was from a rival coven, and looking for him to take out her rivals, but somehow that seemed unlikely.  It was more likely she was either a real FBI agent, or something supernatural posing as one.  His cover had worked on her for now, but he’d had the feeling she wasn’t telling him everything.

Just one witch wouldn’t have enough power to pull this type of ritual off, even with selling her soul for power.  It revolved around the one doing it holding a grudge, too, which was just great.  And it was likely the whole coven had a grudge, from how nasty these deaths were.  Freakin’ awesome

Dean had been on three cases so far without his Dad checking in on him, and he really didn’t want to have to call for the old man’s help.  Not now.  His dad would just sweep in, take over and act like Dean had done nothing and Dean had done this—and besides, he didn’t want to see what might happen if his research turned out wrong.  Even the links through demonology hadn’t sent him very far, save through the Ars Goetia’s list of demons, which narrowed the list to about thirty-six demons, all of them nasty. 

And he’d found nothing on this shitty ritual. 

Since that turned into a dead end, Dean started checking for Jenny Davies’ files, trying to find her anywhere online.  She had a MySpace account, even though it looked like it hadn’t been updated in awhile, and had a few listed ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ but her bio was the most helpful.  Enrolled at the University of Colorado in Boulder, he noted, with her proudly displaying in her profile picture her colors—Go Buffalos!

She’d been a football fan, based on her photograph and the way she was grinning, holding up a football helmet in her profile picture.  It was pretty indicative of her; that, and the plant in one hand meant she was a fan of botany and football?  Hell, and she looked hot—really hot, football jersey off one shoulder and wide grin on her face.  Full of life.  Her MySpace also held a couple of other clues; her musical interests were…curious.  Her friends’ list was also public, including her sister Judith, who looked a lot like her, and the girls in the Davies’ family, as well as Emily.  Her music tastes were a lot closer to classic rock, too.

Damn.  He might’ve liked this chick if she didn’t turn out to be a witch.  She’d also quoted Einstein about ‘human stupidity’ in the inspirational quotes section, but there was something there in Latin, too.  He wrote it down, frowning at it.  It was archaic Latin, not the kind of stuff he was used to seeing, so it took him a while to translate it.

Something about loyalty being stronger than death, and going beyond the bounds of love and betrayal in an archaic dialect of Latin.  Maybe it was a ‘cool’ thing, but her major looked like it was botany, so why would she be interested in archaic Latin?  He opened her other interests, using one of his fake accounts, noting down the organizations she listed in her bio.  One of them, loosely translated from Greek, meant Gardeners of Eden.

That didn’t look good.  But why kill one of your own, if you’re a witch coven?  It didn’t make any sense.  Why kill off Jenny Davies if she was part of the coven? 

If he wanted to get any further, he had to get into her MySpace, not his fake account.  That meant guessing her password.  He tried a few variants, then remembered her profile picture was her laughing with her arm around Emily Smythe.  On a whim, he tried a variant on the girl’s name, and on his third try he got it.

Seriously, Em1lyI<3u1?  That was stupidly easy to guess, and apparently, meant she was in a relationship with the girl.  More of her private page was about the struggles of being not straight, of being a lesbian in the middle of Wyoming—hell, he didn’t want to be her, definitely not in that case!—and some angry poetry about a ‘dark mirror.’  Opening her friends list was a lot easier now that he was in her account.

Jenny was also pretty freakin’ popular.  Not a surprise, again, with how hot she was and how outgoing she looked, but it caught him by surprise because most witches he was aware of made pacts because they weren’t popular or friendly.  A few of the people didn’t really stand out to him, probably her RA or something at college, and then he started seeing the murder victims on her friends list…every single one, right down to Emily.  Flipping open his notebook to the page where Cas had marked out the relationships, from ex-boyfriend to childhood friend, he found to his amazement she was friends with all of them.

Digging further into the victims’ MySpace pages didn’t really reveal anything new.  The sacrifices were just that; sacrifices.  And there was absolutely nothing on Emily in her MySpace, and Emily had nothing to do with Judith in hers, though Judith’s MySpace was a network of information all by itself.  They shared the Einstein quote, but that was it.  Emily wasn’t even into biology!  She’d been majoring in chemical engineering, based on her interests list and the quotes she’d been posting.  A completely different field, of course, but there was also nothing on Emily’s MySpace to suggest anything untoward.  He went back to Jenny’s, clicking through her friends’ list past Tom, and onto the second page of her friends’ list, and then backed out—looking instead for the groups page, looking for the other members of the group, and someone he might recognize.

He didn’t really need to know her sign, but finding out it was Libra wasn’t—eh, it couldn’t hurt.  There weren’t many people outside of those connected on the friends list, aside from on the second page, and he was curious.  Several of them had been on the list of connections Cas had made.

There were some interesting faces there.  The first was a woman he didn’t recognize; at least, not at first.  Fayth Jameson was a pretty, dark-haired girl with tightly curled brown hair, ice-blue eyes and a sharp jaw line, and like Jenny, she was hot.  She looked very innocent in her profile picture, dressed in a fuzzy pink sweater and with her tongue between her teeth, smiling at the camera with a bit too much makeup applied, though there was…something off about her.  And she had a few pictures, but there wasn’t anything in particular useful on there—except that she was also part of Gardeners of Eden.

Interesting.  A common group like that, tying two of them together?  When Jenny might just be one of the coven he was looking for?  He looked through the members, noting down names; Felicity Black, Portia Stevens, Judith Davies, Danielle Stevenson, Fayth Jameson, Kristen Marks, and Lana Smythe.  No mention of Castiel.  In fact, when he did look her up, he found nothing on her; it was a dead end, which meant either supernatural, or…totally human. 

God, he had so many questions for Bobby.

Felicity Black didn’t have a profile picture.  Instead, there were a set of plants growing inside an upside-down pentagram; it turned Dean’s stomach to look at, especially with the other information her page.  He wrote down the Latin quotes again, noting the ritual-like chant they seemed to follow—it was like a follow-up to what Jenny had had on her page.  She also had a few similar bands to Jenny, but again, nothing remotely religious.  She also didn’t have any sexuality notes.

Portia didn’t have a photograph of herself, either.  Her listed likes and interests were similarly short, and her Zodiac Sign was “Take Your Best Guess,” which meant she wasn’t interested in sharing personal information.  Probably temperamental.  She, curiously, wasn’t friends with Jenny; she was friends with Judith, only.  Portia was also the only one so far with a blog; she’d been posting about plants, and plant growth, and what fertilizer worked best.  Most of her information was about different experiments she was doing and other nerdy stuff like that; but later, as he kept going through her pages, he found the more recent ones noting the expected addition of human bodies to soil and some arguments about no coffins allowing for natural decomposition.  And other nasty shit like that, as well as what molds grew fastest within the body. 

Frowning, Dean noted that down too.  Something like mold had been in Jenny’s blood, and it was something organic.  He’d done enough research to know it wasn’t supposed to be in human blood, even if he didn’t recognize it.  About a month ago, she’d posted a hypothesis about magic and how that could possibly relate to science.  Magic as a form of energy and how power could likely be neither created nor destroyed; it was a form of energy.  Cold, but not heartless observations.

Danielle also had a profile picture.  A woman with wavy dark hair, olive-toned skin and almond-shaped brilliant green eyes smiled flirtatiously at the camera in a skintight jersey.  Dean had to remind himself that she might be a witch, because she was exactly his type.  Her sign was Aries, and she’d said no smoking, and had her profile flagged as looking for a hot date.  Pity she was probably a witch; there was something cold in her eyes and her smile was razor-sharp, when he looked closer.  She played lacrosse, was a damn good shot on the field, and many of her pictures proved she was a bit of the partying type; low-cut halter tops and tight shorts.  Definitely his type…if he was looking to get his throat slit in the middle of the night, since she also had several photographs of ornate knives, more than one imbued with sigils.

Dean did his best to sketch a few of them and the visible sigils, knowing he’d have to get Bobby’s input, but Danielle looked dangerous, enough so that she was either a hunter or a witch.  Probably a witch, since Gardeners of Eden was a little on the nose as far as names went.  Maybe not, but it was looking more and more likely.

The fourth woman, Kristen Marks, was obsessed with chemistry.  So obsessed, in fact, that she’d put different research papers’ links and abstracts in what would have been a blog, as well as several posts about playing the violin.  Her linked chemical papers were all about the decomposition of the human body; how to use forensic science to catch a killer; and it looked, more and more, like she knew how to cover up DNA evidence at a crime scene.  That was a relatively recent thing, but it was enough to make him suspicious.  She also looked like a stone-cold bitch, from the way her interests leaned.  Obsessive enough to post photos of her violin, and none of herself; her photo for MySpace was actually a DNA helix, with a few…chemical compounds?  He wasn’t sure, not completely, but those looked like organic compounds from when he’d been doing chemical research.  Just to be sure of what he was up against on a hunt a few months back, of course.  He wasn’t a nerd like Sammy; he just needed to know how to recognize dangerous shit.

He did know how to recognize a witch, though, and the more he looked into these chicks the closer they seemed to get to being really…witchy.  Lana Smith was young; a recent person to join in the group, from what he could tell—added only three months back.  She was less…sharp somehow, and he recognized her as the town librarian.  Well; there went his idea to do research at the library.  He should probably warn Cas, come to think of it, if he didn’t want her to end up dead, or worse, because of him.  He wished he’d thought to give her his number, because if she wasn’t dead yet, she would be soon—if she didn’t do some serious watching her back, first.  Unless she was supernatural.

Lana was the only innocent one.

Judith Davies had no profile photograph; it was just a bunch of plants…all of them cleverly arranged in the form of an upside-down pentagram.  That was no coincidence.  She had several posts in Latin and Greek, including a few that praised the Paimon Dean had found by researching earlier, looking for the mysteries and how knowledge was important.  He couldn’t see any link, not a particularly strong link anyway, but there had to be one, right?  Why would she be in the group with her sister otherwise?  Based on her profile information, she was the person who’d started Gardeners of Eden, and from a bit more work, he deduced who she was.

She was Jenny’s twin sister, based on a few of the posts on her public profile.  She’d been teasing her twin, calling them ‘twin besties’ and ‘twinny friends’ a few times in her blog posts, and her interests were very different from Jenny’s—she was obsessed, or nearly, with politics and with gardening, and the natural world, and how they all intersected with each other.  Knowledge and arts, and how to figure out the mystery inherent in everything.  She tested her twin bond daily, and claimed to feel it when Jenny was hurt, and vice versa.  The thing that really tipped him off, though, was the anger threading through some of her blog posts, shared only with her friends.  All of whom were in the Gardeners group.

The posts where she waxed lyrical about the death penalty, and about how that was letting criminals off easily, and about Biblical punishments and plagues and wondering if they were heading toward an apocalypse.  The posts were darker than any of her other work.  He also came across a few posts about magic and using magic to improve one’s life, in genuine belief.  Like she really, truly believed that magic—borrowed magic, at that—would make her life better.  And there was also something else, posted in an archaic form of Latin in one of her inspirational quotes that he couldn’t really translate more than one word, king, from, but he copied it down anyway.

He’d need Bobby to translate that for him, but this was pretty damning evidence right here.  All of this was.

A little bit more snooping told him that Judith, Adrianna, and Jessie were all Jenny’s sisters.  It was odd that he’d not met the twin, the older twin if her posts weren’t lying, but maybe she spent a lot of time out of the house.  More so if she wasn’t supposed to be in town, or was trying to lay low.  She might even have just been out when her sister’s body was discovered, or sleeping with the other members of her coven.  Maybe she’d even killed Jenny.

God, he hated witches so much.  They were so freakin’ creepy.

After snooping around a bit more and finding nothing useful, other than the fact that Adrianna was actually their half-sister, Dean turned to his notebook.  The info on Frank and Tracey’s family wasn’t that helpful, but it might mean that Adrianna or Jessie might look up more to Judith or less, so they could be involved in the Gardeners, too.  Neither of them were publicly part of the group, though, so he wrote that off.

Flipping back to the page he’d written the snippets of Latin and Greek on, for the Gardeners of Eden, he started trying to translate them into some form of sense.

They seemed like nonsensical, jumbled words until he started shifting them around.  Puzzles had always come easily to him, as a kid—well, certain types of puzzles.  Sammy was better at wordplay, but he was better at rearranging the pieces until they made sense together.  Soon, he’d assembled something of a chant.  One that made his mouth go dry as he stared at it, because it wasn’t just a chant; it was a part of the directions for a ritual.  One that required fourteen sacrifices, an additional one of “your own” to give life, either a traitor or a loyalist—and the power (that was Latin for mysteries revealed) it would grant the summoner.

An old ritual and a witch coven?

Jesus, Dean hated witches.  That was it.  He was calling Bobby for information.

And maybe he’d get some answers.  He winced when he spotted what time it was; Bobby’d still be up for another hour, at least, but he didn’t relish the idea of bothering the older hunter.  Still, he dialed the number anyway—Bobby never turned him away, not when he needed help and he sure as hell needed it now.

Besides, if he learned Cas was on his side, that would make this whole thing a whole hell of a lot easier.

The phone rang several times, before an annoyed man answered “What the hell do ya want?”

He’d called the hunters’ number, one of the hotlines that Bobby had given him.  Not one of the FBI agents’ numbers or the other ones he’d give out during cases.  Dean cleared his throat, swallowing as he thought of what had to have been in the hex bags that killed these guys.

“Bobby, it’s Dean.  I got a problem,” he said, his voice rougher than usual as he got up, shutting the window and taking a quick look around. 

No hex bags so far as he could tell.  Still, it was better to be safe than sorry.

“Dean,” Bobby said, “Thought ya were goin’ on vacation.”

He had, in fact, been planning on taking a few weeks off and just taking a break.  Before he’d stumbled onto the headlines for the weird rash of deaths in Bear River and the shit going on here.  Dean couldn’t imagine leaving it alone after seeing it.  It was all too suspicious, too coincidental for it not to be the work of a witch or coven.

God, he needed a break.

“I was.  But now I’m workin’ a case in Bear River, Wyoming,” Dean said, and Bobby sucked in a breath, “You know it?”

“Yeah, I know the place,” Bobby said. “Weird rash of deaths, been showin’ up in the papers.  It’s one of—“ Bobby stopped “The hell’s happening’ down there?”

“I don’t know all of it,” Dean said, “But nothing good’s going on.  Ten deaths, all connected to plants except the last and the last looks like a sloppy death, meant to keep the chick from talking, instead of a sacrifice.  That death might be involved, or might not be; I really can’t tell.  Looks like a coven’s in operation here, Bobby, and they’re sacrificing people but it’s not random.”

“Balls,” Bobby replied with an audible grimace, and Dean bit his tongue, trying not to smile. “Right.  Can ya tell me anything—wait.  You run into a Castiel down there, by any chance?  She said she was gonna check the area out.”

Dean almost choked, flipping his pen around his fingers as he started trying to sit still “You know her?”

Bobby snorted “Oh yeah, I know her.  She called me two days ago asking if I’d seen anything weird around Bear River.” Dean breathed out a sigh of relief; Cas was a hunter.  Of course. “She’s a psychic, and a damn good hunter.  Tends to work alone; I got the feeling her power’s more of a curse than a gift, so she don’t like touching most people.  She’s whip-smart though and is better at lore ’n me,” that was not possible; Dean had never met another person as good at lore, but Bobby kept going before Dean could protest. “Ya ran into her, I take it.”

“She covered for me,” said Dean, surprised. “Calling herself Cassidy MacGuyver.  Something’ about stupid names—she outed herself to me when she ran into me on the street, though.” He frowned “And a psychic hunter?  How many of those are there?”

“She turned up on my doorstep six months ago with an anti-demon-possession ward on her chest and a helluva lot of scars,” said Bobby. “Got the feeling not all of ‘em were from hunting.  She don’t sleep much, and I’d not touch her back if’n ya want her not ta put ya down hard.  She nearly broke my arm for touchin’ her shoulder to get her attention.  I got the feelin’ somethin’ real bad happened ta her not all that long before she came ta find me.  I don’t know her family, but I do know they thought she was crazy, and she ain’t crazy.  At least, she’s no crazier than either of us.”

Dean swallowed “Jesus,” he whispered, trying to ignore the warm feeling low in his stomach. He loved badass chicks like that, but—that spoke of instinctive movement, and—most likely, getting hit.  Hard, and often. “She’s on the case?”

“Yeah, she is.  But if you two have run into a coven, ya might wanna warn her ‘fore she goes charging in like an idjit.  She’s more of an idjit than John is, tries to take on shit she can’t handle by herself,” that prompted a few sharp blinks from Dean, because he couldn’t imagine anyone else that headstrong. “She really don’t like casualties, either.  So, a coven, ya said?”

“Yeah,” and he was feeling a lot better than he had been about Cas.  A fellow hunter would make this case much easier. “Jesus, Bobby, I’m just glad I’m not doin’ this alone.  A coven might be the least of our worries.  What do ya know about Paimon?”

Bobby huffed “Not nearly enough.  Castiel would know more, she did a lotta demonology research as a kid, but basically, Paimon’s one of the seventy-two big archdemons.  Real big badass of Hell.” Dean’s insides went cold; that was not good. “Demon of vengeance, forbidden knowledge, mysteries, lore, and arts; very loyal to Satan, according to lore.  Some legends say it’s actually a fallen angel.  If the coven’s involved with Paimon, Dean, you two are in serious trouble.  You need ta find her, fast.”

Yeah, no shit.  They were in really, really deep shit if it had worked out that both of them were on the case, and why Cas was investigating, which he was willing to bet it had.  Jesus fucking christ, they were going to have one hard fight ahead of them if this was what they were summoning.

“Do you know how to disrupt a summoning ritual done by a coven?” he asked, and Bobby sighed.

“There’s more than one way ta do it, but mostly, ya need to break the circle—the physical one—and then use holy water to break the rest of it.  Dean, if you’re dealing’ with a coven, ya need to get help.  Break the ritual by stopping the sacrifices from happenin’,” said Bobby. “And remember, Castiel knows a lot more ‘bout the stuff than I do.  I’m not sure how, somethin’ about a family that insisted, but she sure as hell knows her lore.  Talk ta her, and ‘less you want her ta break your arm, don’t try and sleep with her.”

Dean had no intention of sleeping with anyone who didn’t want to, and bit back the angry retort when he thought that through.  Most hunters slept with chicks and occasionally hunting partners without thinking about it.  Castiel was different—she’d covered for him, helped him out, and even let him take the lead.  And if she wasn’t interested, he’d back off.  He wasn’t that kind of asshole.

“Can I have her burner phone number?” he asked, and Bobby rustled a few papers in hte background, as he waited.

“Yeah.  Listen up, here it is,” and then Bobby rattled off a quick string of ten numbers, “Don’t call her without warning.  Go find her in person,” cautioned the older hunter. “She tends ta break phones if she gets calls on a hunt.  ’S cost her three so far.  Don’ startle her, and ya won’t end up hurt.”

That, he could believe—even getting clipped by her was painful.  And she’d slammed into him full force.  Imagining that kind of force hitting him—

“Bobby, what can she do?” he asked, and Bobby paused.

“She can always tell if somethin’s possessed.  Or someone.  Usually pretty good at identifyin’ what it is, even if it’s a shapeshifter, which is pretty weird.  She’s got some sorta weird thing with ghosts—not sure what, exactly, but I know the few she’s dealt with tend ta move on without havin’ ta burn their bones.  She can make holy water, too, so I’d say she’s probably ordained, I dunno what doctrine though.  And demons have ta use a bit more effort ta toss her around, according to her.  She said something about opposing forces, whatever that meant.”

Dean wasn’t really sure he wanted to know.

He whistled “Damn.  Sounds like a good ally to have,” he said, “Thanks, Bobby.  I’ll check in at the front desk, see if I can find her.” He grimaced, cracking his shoulders. “It’s late, I should see if she wants dinner or something.  I’ll tell her you sent me to find her.” He sighed “Think ya can make sense of the pictures I send ya?”

“I can try, but you’re better off askin’ her,” Bobby said, and Dean made a sound of assent. “Night, boy.  Don’t get yourself killed out there.”

Dean chuckled “Thanks, Bobby.  Talk to you later,” he said, and hung up.

So, Castiel was a hunter.  That was a really good thing.  Except it probably also meant he’d be working with her.  And he’d have to do that while treating her as a hunter, not a civilian—and it wasn’t like girls couldn’t be good hunters; there were just fewer of them, because hunters tended to be a bit more macho, and less accepting.  He’d only run into two female hunters over the years, though he knew there were more.  Castiel was the third. 

He’d never met a hunter that dressed in suits, but he’d met weirder.  Maybe she had some kind of metal woven into the suits or something, making them more protective.  And she didn’t seem angry at life—maybe it was a holdover from her family.  Most hunters he knew dressed in jeans and some kind of leather, layers for protection, not suits and trench coats.

Could’ve been a cover, he supposed, as he changed out of his ‘feds’ suit and into something more comfortable.  Besides, he was officially off the clock.  Time to go hunt down a hunter, because what he’d discovered was pretty damning, and he didn’t want to risk it getting her killed, too.  He looked at his phone, remembering Bobby’s words, and took a deep breath.

It was time to ask for help, even if he didn’t want help.

He dialed her number and it rang three times before she picked up. “If you are another phone marketer,” the woman’s voice said, deep and throaty as he’d heard it earlier, but significantly more annoyed. “Hang up. I’m not buying your product.”

“Wait, I’m not—it’s Dean.  Dean Lancaster, from earlier,” he rushed out, looking around  “I’m callin’ you because Bobby put me onto it.  He said we’d need to work together.  You’re in town hunting a coven, right?”

There was a pause.

“Robert Singer?” inquired Cas, and Dean breathed a sigh of relief.

Come to think of it, the full name was a little weird.  Maybe she was in public and didn’t want to be overheard.

“Yeah, that’s him.  I called him because I found some weird shit on the newest victim’s MySpace, and I needed some help with translations.  He said you’re good at Latin,” Dean said, “And this is pretty archaic.  I can translate normal Latin, but I’ve never seen this before.”

“I do have some skill with languages.  We should compare notes,” was he wrong, or was that a note of relief in Castiel’s voice, too? “I would appreciate the help.  I thought I recognized you earlier, but I wasn’t sure.”

Her voice was low, and guarded somehow, like she was in public.  It didn’t sound like she was lying, exactly, but she was keeping something back, too.  It wasn’t really his business, whatever it was.  Seeing as he was alone, and she maybe wasn’t, that actually made sense.  His plan suddenly sounded pretty stupid, but what else could he do?

People had to eat and he was hungry, so he figured meeting for coffee at the diner down the road wasn’t that suspicious.  Still, he had to work pretty hard to keep his voice from cracking or going high because of nerves when he talked to her next.  She was listening to him, yeah, but who was to say she’d listen instead of muscling her way in and keeping him out of the hunt?

“There’s a small diner a block away from where I’m staying,” Dean gave the name of the diner, remembering the small mom-and-pop place. “Pretty sure it’s unconnected to all this.  You wanna meet there and get some coffee?  Most of these people seem the type to avoid a tiny little diner.”

He didn’t know why he tacked on the last sentence.  His hand was getting sweaty from where he was holding the phone, which didn’t make any sense; he was Dean Winchester, ladies’ man and hunter.  He shouldn’t have any trouble working with a girl, hunter or no hunter.  He shouldn’t be nervous asking another hunter to meet him for a cup of coffee to trade notes.

He heard Castiel closing what sounded like a thick, heavy book.  Maybe she was in the library?  That would explain why she was so quiet.  He was about to ask a different question when she responded.

“I am currently at the library doing research, and can be there in about fifteen minutes.  Though I…think it might be easier if we,” her voice lowered to a whisper, “Pretend we are colleagues and old friends meeting for coffee.  I don’t want our food to be targeted.”

Nor did he.  Damn, that was a good thought.

“Good point.  Fifteen minutes, diner, old friends, coffee,” he said, “I can do that.  I’ll see you then.”

“See you then.” She hung up the phone before he could say anything else, and Dean lowered the phone, breathing a little harder than he expected.

He’d never once considered that a witch or one of their friends might be working at the diner, but given how big the coven could be—and had to be, if he was right about who was being summoned—they were going to have to be really, really careful what they said and did in public.  He wasn’t that careful on most hunts, because no one really paid attention to him, or he could easily take the attention off him, but this was a whole new level of bad.  Compared to Castiel, he probably sounded like a rookie; an eager rookie, but a rookie nonetheless.  Or he was just being stupid.

He’d never once considered checking his food.  That a witch could be working there, and easily slip a hex bag under his table or something.  In comparison, Castiel thought of that instantly

He could see how she’d survived this long hunting on her own, if she was this paranoid.  And in this instance it was probably right for her to be paranoid.

“Damn,” whispered Dean, looking out at the seemingly-quiet town.

It had seemed so simple when he got here; investigate the weird deaths, kill whatever was responsible, and get out.  He’d be done in about three or four days, maximum, and could go back to his vacation.  This was a lot more complicated than he’d expected though.  He was gonna be watching his back for at least a month after this, just to be sure no one was trying to kill him. 

From here on out, Dean promised himself he would be more careful.  Sammy needed him alive, and so did Dad.  And if he was going to be any use on this hunt, he had to get his ass in gear, stop acting stupid, and think about who might be part of the coven.  He’d keep an eye out for any of the obvious members of the Gardeners, but if the Davies girl had been part of the coven, that meant her sister probably was, and the whole family might be suspects.  And that completely ignored the people who were part of the Gardeners who weren’t listed on MySpace.  Witches were never that stupid, at least not the crafty ones.

One thing was for sure.  He was never going to look at a witch hunt as a simple thing ever again.