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xylodemon ([personal profile] xylodemon) wrote2016-06-28 11:03 am

spn fic: A Reasonable Amount of Trouble [Monday]

A Reasonable Amount of Trouble


Monday

This morning's weather report promised that the weekend storm would pass by early afternoon, but it starts raining again while Dean is driving back to his office. Water pours down from a steel-gray sky, hard enough that the Impala's wipers struggle to sluice it off the windshield. The brake lights up ahead are bright, bloody smears. Dean taps his fingers on the steering wheel through the stop-and-go traffic over the river. He hums along with the radio as he chokes down the cup of mud-thick coffee he picked up at a Gas & Sip on his way out of North Lawrence.

Dean's office sits on a corner guarded by a dented mailbox and three newspaper stands, one for the Lawrence Journal-World and two for sleazy personal ads. A week of rain has stained the old bricks a red so dirty it's almost brown, and a puddle has swallowed most of the tiled doorway. The street-front window is cut in half by a pinstriped café curtain that's seen better days. Winchester & Alastair Investigations is painted above it; the gold and black lettering is scratched in spots and peeling in others.

The street parking out front is full, so Dean swings around back and into the dinky lot his building shares with a tattoo parlor and a mallet-and-pliers dentist. The Impala jolts over the pothole in the driveway, spraying gravel and muddy water onto the dentist's dying hedge. The only spot is right beside the overflowing dumpster; the earthy smell of wet pavement barely makes a dent in the stench. Dean tucks his camera under his shirts so it won't get wet and heads inside. The building's ancient heater is chugging away at full blast. Dean is sweating by the time he reaches his office at the end of the hall.

"Maggie Stark called," Kevin says, before Dean is really through the door. He's hunched over his computer and typing a mile a minute. "She wanted to know if you got anything. She's meeting with her lawyer tomorrow."

"Yeah," Dean says, patting his camera through his shirts. "Don finally took the girlfriend out to eat instead of ordering in."

"Cool," Kevin says. He still hasn't stopped typing. "Where'd they go?"

"Applebee's."

Kevin snorts. "Are you kidding?"

"Nope."

"The guy's worth like a billion dollars, and he gets caught having well drinks and two-for-ten appetizers?"

"He was probably trying to lie low. All the ritzy places in town know him and Maggie by name." Dean is still sweating; he shrugs off his wet jacket and hangs it on the stand by the door. "Alastair been in yet?"

"Nope." Kevin pauses, hand frozen over his keyboard as he flips through one of the books stacked at his elbow. "He called about an hour ago. Said he was tying up a loose end on the Cartwright case."

"Right. That wonky contract thing." Alastair had spent fifteen years as a lawyer before boredom nearly killed him. If he wants to go back to drowning in paperwork all day – well. Better him than Dean. "Anything else?"

"Yeah. I emailed you a newspaper article. A couple of desecrated graves down in Oklahoma, if you're looking for a weekend job."

Shrugging, Dean says, "Maybe." He hasn't worked too many monster hunts recently. He hasn't really wanted to – not since Sam traded in his machete for a shiny badge. Hunting was always the family business. Without his brother, it just isn't the same. "Okay. I'm –"

"And Lisa stopped by."

Dean's jaw tics. He takes a breath and asks, "Yeah? What, um. What – what'd she want?"

"She found a box of your stuff when she was cleaning out her garage. I put it in your office."

"Okay," Dean says tightly. "Great. Thanks."

The box is waiting for him on the wooden chair just inside the door, but Dean gives it a wide berth as he heads for his desk. It's been eight months, long enough that the ache has finally dulled around the edges. But some days it still stings a little. Lisa had tossed him out within weeks of Sam joining the police force; he'd still been licking one wound when another opened up in the middle of his chest. Dean had deserved it with the way he'd been acting – drinking too much, coming home late, working a back-to-back string of solo monster gigs. If he could do it over again, he – fuck. He doesn't know.

He sinks into his desk chair, grumbling under his breath as it wobbles and creaks. He knows he should probably give Lisa a call. He should at least thank her for bringing his junk by when she could've just put it out with the garbage. But he also knows exactly how it'll go. She'll sigh when she hears his voice. Listen politely when he starts rambling about his latest job. Then she'll say, "Dean, you need to take better care of yourself," and make an excuse to hang up.

Instead, he plugs his camera into his computer and grabs the office bottle from the bottom drawer of his desk. Sighing, he pours himself enough Devil's Cut to get through these pictures. He hates divorce work – he always feels like he's peeking in someone's underwear drawer – but divorce work covers the bills. Hunting monsters pays exactly squat, and other kinds of PI work have started drying up over the last few years. People don't need to hire a schlub like Dean for two hundred an hour plus expenses when the internet does title searches for free and background checks for five-ninety-nine.

Dean's father had hung out a shingle as a PI after his wife's death. After he found out she'd died in a werewolf attack and not a robbery gone wrong. John had wanted revenge; working for himself instead of punching a clock had given him the freedom to hunt monsters almost full-time. He'd sold the house Mary died in and used the money to buy an old brick building with an office on the ground floor and a two-bedroom loft upstairs. He'd drunk too much. He'd traveled a lot. He'd trained his sons at both jobs, teaching them how to kill monsters with one hand and how to snoop at keyholes with the other.

Out of two dozen pictures, about half are blurry or badly-lit. The rest are pretty decent for snaps Dean had taken half over his shoulder while pretending to eat. He finds five that are really incriminating – two of Stark and the girlfriend playing footsie, another of Stark holding the girlfriend's hand, and two more of them disappearing into a room at the Sleep-EZ off US 59. Dean fits some glossy photo paper into his ancient printer and prays for the best. As an afterthought, he emails the whole file to Maggie Stark's lawyer. Mister James Langston Roberts the Third, Esquire, might be willing to shell out for an expert to clean up the fuzzier shots.

Kevin knocks on his door just as the printer is wheezing its way to the finish line. Dean has a mouthful of bourbon, so he cough-grunts an invitation and hopes Kevin can translate. Kevin's shadow lurks behind the frosted glass for a second. Then he creeps inside one piece at a time – first his head, then his shoulder, then his arm, then everything else.

"Yeah?" Dean asks.

Kevin quirks an eyebrow at the bottle on Dean's desk. Then he says, "There's a guy here to see you."

"What's his name?"

"He didn't tell me."

"Dude," Dean says slowly. Kevin is a huge improvement over his last office assistant – a temp agency nightmare named Becky who'd let the phone ring forever and never remembered to write down important shit like court dates. He knows about the things that go bump in the night, so Dean can rope him into doing research. But he hates talking to the clients. "What am I paying you for?"

Kevin shrugs like he doesn't spend half his day Skyping his girlfriend and writing his thesis on Dean's dime. "I don't know. You're the boss."

"Whatever." Dean sighs and wipes his mouth with his sleeve. "What's he look like?"

Kevin shrugs again. "He's kinda your type. Sex hair, deep voice, perma-stubble. Remember that –"

"All right, all right," Dean grumbles. He doesn't need any smartass commentary about the bartender he picked up last week. Kevin had caught Donnie sneaking out of the loft on his way upstairs to wake Dean up, and he's been riding Dean about it ever since. "Just send him in. And here – " he hands Kevin the photos and a large envelope "– overnight these to Maggie Stark's lawyer."

Kevin lets himself out without a word. He also doesn't bother to close the door. Dean sighs again and shakes his head. He puts the office bottle back in the drawer and gets Don Stark's creepy pictures off his computer screen. The new client slouches into Dean's office a minute later, and – wow. Kevin hadn't been lying. This dude is fucking gorgeous.

He has blue eyes and dark hair and a strong jaw that's at least two days past its last shave. He's just about Dean's height. He doesn't say anything after he comes in; he just stands in the middle of Dean's office and stares. His tie is crooked. His dumpy trenchcoat is dry, even though it's still pissing down rain outside. A strange prickle sweeps up the back of Dean's neck. He feels like he knows this guy from somewhere, or that he's at least seen him before. But – looking like that – Dean also feels like he'd definitely remember.

Finally, Dean clears his throat and sticks out his hand. "Dean Winchester. How can I help you?"

The guy hesitates for a second. Then he shakes Dean's hand and says, "Castiel. My name is Castiel."

"Your parents stop there?"

"Castiel will... suffice for now."

Dean shrugs and says," Suit yourself." Gorgeous or not, he should probably tell this guy to take a hike. The cagey ones usually want Dean to fabricate them an alibi. Or they're looking for someone to deliver a shady package. But something about Castiel is – Dean doesn't know. Just something. He points at the tan and white armchair in front of his desk. "Have a seat and tell me your story."

Castiel sits – gingerly, like he thinks the chair is going to collapse underneath him. He folds his hand in his lap and says, "I just arrived in town. I found your name in the local telephone book."

"Okay." Dean's mouth twitches. Out-of-towners don't usually stumble into his kind of trouble – at least not right away. "Where're you from?"

"Illinois. Pontiac, Illinois."

Another chill sweeps over Dean's skin. His dad died in Pontiac, Illinois. Castiel is staring at him again, so he clears his throat and says, "Nice place." He clenches his hands on his desk so he doesn't rub the burn scar on his shoulder. "What brings you to good old Lawrence, Kansas?"

"A month ago, my sister disappeared with a man named Ellsworth. Since then, she hasn't answered my calls. And that's very unlike her. Of all my siblings, Anna is the most conscientious." Castiel pauses for a moment. His throat bobs as he swallows. "I managed to trace their movements here – to a cheap motel near the airport. I've seen Ellsworth several times in the last three days, but I haven't seen Anna at all."

"How well d'you know this Ellsworth?" Dean asks.

"Only by reputation. He's dangerous. He –"

Castiel cuts off as the doorknob rattles and Alastair walks into the office. A wave of his cologne follows him inside. He looks like a drowned rat; his sparse hair is rain-slicked to his forehead and the jacket hanging over his arm is dripping on the carpet. When he sees Castiel, his mouth thins a little. Then he finds a smile and says, "Sorry. Kevin didn't tell me you were with someone."

Dean tells Castiel, "This is my partner, Mark Alastair." The back of his neck is itching again; he scratches it as he gets Alastair up to speed. "Castiel's sister skipped town with a piece of work about a month back. He wants us to track her down."

Alastair makes a noise in the back of his throat. "Interesting."

Dean turns back to Castiel as Alastair settles in at his – Sam's – desk. "Look, don't take this the wrong way – I mean, we're always up for a job. But this doesn't sound like our kinda deal. If she's a legal adult and left with this guy willingly, there ain't much we can do for you."

"And if he forced her to go, that's kidnapping," Alastair points out. His hair is drying into a pair of cowlicks that look like horns. "There's nothing we can do for you there, either. The police –"

Castiel shakes his head. "I don't want to call the police. Not unless I have to. My family is… important. Our father – we don't need a scandal." He sighs quietly. "Ellsworth is dangerous and possible a criminal, but if Anna is happy and safe, I – I'll let the matter drop."

"All right," Dean says, leaning back in his chair. "What can we do for you?"

"This morning, I slipped a note under the door of Ellsworth's motel room. I asked him to meet me in the parking lot at eight o'clock." Castiel sighs again and shifts in his chair. "I asked him to bring Anna – I just want to see her. He probably won't. In fact, I doubt he'll come at all. But I – I just –"

"You want backup in case he tries something cute."

"Yes."

"That's easy enough," Alastair says. He twirls his pen between his fingers. "I'll be at the motel by... let's say six. I'll be in a tan Lincoln Continental. Late model. It's parked out front if you want to get familiar with it on your way out."

"I will."

"Make sure you're facing it when Ellsworth approaches you. If you feel threatened at any point, or he says anything to suggest your sister is in danger, you –" Alastair frowns thoughtfully "– use your left hand to scratch your ear."

"Thank you," Castiel says gravely. "He's staying at the Bel-Aire Motel. It's located at –"

"Yeah, we know the place," Dean mutters. The Bel-Aire is pretty much a magnet for runaways and deadbeat husbands; he's knocked on every door that flop has at least twice in the last year alone. "What's this Ellsworth character look like?"

"Average height and build. He wears a mustache and a short beard. His hair –" Castiel touches the back of his neck "– he keeps it about this length. He always wears an oversized baseball cap."

"Don't worry, Castiel." Alastair smiles and taps his pen against his narrow chin. "We'll take care of it."

"Thank you," Castiel says again. He unfolds a crisp c-note and sets it on Dean's desk. After a brief hesitation, he adds another. Then he stands and turns toward the door. "I appreciate your assistance."

As soon as he's gone, Dean asks Alastair, "What d'you think?"

"A fool and his money," Alastair singsongs. A smile teases the corner of his mouth. "I think this is going to be the easiest five or six hundred bucks we ever make."

"Yeah." Outside, the wind is howling. Rain lashes against the windows. Dean doesn't want to spend three hours staking out a shitty no-tell in a downpour, but he makes himself ask, "Are you sure you wanna go?"

"Absolutely. The wife wants to go to some ballet thing tonight. This gets me out of it."

+

Alastair heads out about fifteen after five, waving at Dean over his shoulder as he mumbles lame excuses into his phone. Over the hum of the heater, Dean can just pick out the angry rise and fall of his wife's voice. The rain has finally let up a little – putting the Bel-Air twenty minutes from the office instead of forty – but Alastair wouldn't be Alastair if he didn't try to chisel the clients for an extra fifty or seventy-five bucks. Dean figures it's a leftover lawyer habit. If Castiel complains, Dean will smooth it over. If he doesn't – well. The building's property taxes are due at the end of the month.

At five-thirty, Kevin comes in with a postal receipt for the overnight delivery and a sauerkraut-and-mustard footlong from the Wiener Hut next door to the tattoo place. Silently, he sets both things on Dean's desk. Then he flops into the client chair and stares at Dean like he's trying to see Dean's soul.

"What's this?" Dean asks, poking the hotdog. Kevin's a broke college student and won't let Dean forget it; he can count on one hand the number of times Kevin has bought dinner.

"A bribe," Kevin says flatly. "I need to leave early. My mother got tickets to a book reading in Kansas City. It's Sumerian mythology, and –"

"Yeah, yeah. Your thesis is on Sumerian mythology."

"Not exactly. It's –"

Dean waves him off; he doesn't really care. "How early?"

"Like now early."

Dean snorts out a laugh. "Go on, kid. Get outta here."

"Sweet."

"Tell your mom I said hi."

Kevin's mouth twitches as he turns toward the door. About two years ago, Dean had tracked a demon through three meatsuits into the local Hy-Vee. In the meat department, it had hopped into Linda Tran. Dean had dragged her into the stockroom and exorcised her right up against a box of canned beans. Afterward, she'd thanked him for saving her. Then she'd slapped his face for leaving bruises on her arm.

Post-possession, Linda had junked her stuffy accountant set-up and opened a new age shop in the south end of North Lawrence. She sells crystals and incense and tarot cards and dowsing rods. She also sells hunting supplies to people with the right password. If someone comes in with a monster problem, she quietly points them in Dean's direction. She keeps a machete and a rock-salt shotgun next to her cash register. Dean is terrified of her – all five-feet-two-inches of her – and he isn't ashamed to admit it.

Kevin says, "Yeah, I will," then slips out of the office. Dean snorts out another laugh as he goes.

Sauerkraut dogs taste better when they've sat for a few minutes, so Dean checks his email after he stashes the postal receipt in Maggie Stark's file. He deletes a handful of spam and an E-Vite for a Neighborhood Watch potluck. After that, there's a reply from James Langston Roberts the Third, Esquire, thanking Dean's "establishment" for the "serviceable" photos.

There's also the article Kevin sent about the possible hunt. It's a blurb from the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise that takes a full minute to load. Dean skims it, but doesn't tell him much more that Kevin had when he'd said "desecrated graves in Oklahoma." He mapquests the distance between Lawrence and Bartlesville just for kicks.

His stomach growls. Carefully, he unwraps his hotdog. It has extra sauerkraut – enough extra sauerkraut that the rye bun is soggy in spots and starting to tear. It's a mess waiting to happen, so Dean stands and sets his wastebasket on his desk and takes his first bite hunched over it like a gargoyle. It almost tastes like heaven. It could use a little more mustard, but Dean isn't about to walk half a block in the rain to get it.

Through the window, the sky is purple-black and starless. Water is running down the dusty pane in thin, crooked streams. The fire escape ladder is cutting a jagged shadow across the shit on Alastair's desk – a book on contract law, the mahogany-and-gold clock his firm gave him as a retirement gift, a silver-framed picture of the wife he never goes home to. His faded green Mr. Rogers sweater is hanging over the back of his chair. A fingerprint of his cologne itches Dean's nose.

The building's heater works double-time downstairs but only pushes the air around upstairs. The loft is probably colder than hell, and Dean's already staring down the barrel of a long, boring night. He could always pop across the street to McGinty's. Grab some nachos and beer before happy hour ends. But McGinty's is kind of a downer on Mondays; the crows is too thin for a decent pool hustle and the weeknight bartender doesn't like Dean all that much. About three months ago, a schmuck on the wrong side of a divorce job paid Dean back with a right hook to the jaw. Now, Casey cuts Dean off early. If he tries to flirt his way to another shot, she just rolls her eyes and walks away.

He could drive up to the Bel-Air and see what's cooking with Alastair. But that feels like a waste – it's not like Castiel is going to pay them twice for the same bullshit stakeout. Castiel's case is junk anyway. There's nothing there. He'd said his family was important – whatever that's supposed to mean – but his suit was cheap and his trenchcoat fit him like a potato sack. Dean pegs him as solid middle-class – probably religious and definitely repressed. Families like that raise their daughters for white weddings. Castiel is just horrified that his sister ran off to live in sin with a blue-collar stiff.

There's always Bartlesville. On paper, Dean's office is open until seven, but closing early isn't going to cost anything. Not on a night like this. It's too cold and wet for an eleventh-hour client. Bartlesville is less than two hours away; if Dean leaves now, he could be there by nine or nine-thirty. Desecrated graves mean ghouls, and ghouls are amateur hour. And they only cracked open two coffins, so there can't be more than three of them. Probably just two.

For a split-second he flirts with the idea of texting Sam, but he crams the last of his hotdog in his mouth and grabs his keys before he follows through on that thought. Detectives are on call one week out of every month, but Dean never knows which week is Sam's. Even if Sam's off tonight, there's zero chance he'll say yes. He's only hunted once since he started with the police force, and that had been a changeling infestation with a pretty high body-count. Dean had been desperate to get it wrapped up before anyone else died, and Sam has always had a soft spot for kids.

"Fuck it," Dean says, snatching his still-damp jacket off the stand.

He gets why Sam hung up his spurs. Sam had never liked either job. He'd shipped out to Stanford at eighteen to get away from their dad, and he only came back after their dad died because Dean hadn't wanted to hunt alone. Worse, Sam blames himself for his girlfriend's death. The vamp that killed Jess had been a straggler from a nest they cleared out in Topeka; it tracked Sam back to his apartment by scent and caught Jess home alone. She'd never had a chance. The vamp had drained her dry and then ripped out her throat for shits and giggles.

Dean hadn't been there when Sam found her, but he had been there when their dad found their mom. Thirty-three years later he still remembers every detail – the stench of blood in the air, the rust-brown handprints smeared on the windowsill, the the ragged wound splitting Mary's chest, the hitch in John's voice when he'd told Dean to get Sam out of his crib and take him outside.

The rain has slowed to a drizzle. The parking lot is jaundiced by the ancient sodium light sagging against the dentist's office. The tarmac is dotted with oily puddles. The flies that usually haunt the dumpster have taken the night off. As the Impala rumbles out onto the street, it treats the dentist's hedge with another fountain of gravel and mud. Dean heads for US 59, stopping at the Fuel & Go crouched alongside the on-ramp. He buys a few Slim Jims for the road and a cup of coffee so thick that chewing it will make his jaw ache before he hits the Oklahoma line.

+

Dean rolls into Bartlesville just after nine. He pulls off US 75 at the north end of town and heads straight for the bright-white flare of a Gas & Sip. He parks beside the shell of a phone booth, putting the Impala's nose whisper-close to the propane cage. The engine pings a little as he gets out, cranky because the night air is forcing it to cool faster than it wants. He buys another cup of coffee. It doesn't taste much better than the one he just choked down, but at least he doesn't need a knife and fork to drink it.

It's nice enough out – Dean left the rain behind somewhere between Cherryvale and Drum Creek – so he spends a few minutes leaning against the Impala's trunk. Without the storm fighting them, a handful of stars have managed to burn through the cloud cover. A lazy wind tugs at Dean's collar as he nurses his coffee and searches White Rose Cemetery on his phone. After a quick loading pause, Google Maps coughs up a point southwest of the Gas & Sip, just a block or two below US 60.

White Rose is an older joint, the kind of place that closes at dusk and doesn't bother with a security guard. Its rusty chain-link fence is barely hip-high, and it's drooping in spots from years of people scaling it. A narrow gravel track lines one side of the property. The streets skirting the other three are scattered with houses, but most are showing the cemetery their backs. Just in case, Dean parks at the church a short walk up Virginia Avenue so the Impala doesn't attract unwanted attention.

Ghouls usually go for family vaults because the privacy lets them wine and dine in peace. White Rose doesn't have any; it's all single, in-ground plots. A few have uprights, but most are marked with flat stones. Dean starts on the gravel track since that side of the cemetery is the least inhabited and the worst lit. The crunch of his footsteps slices the silence like a knife. Eventually, he spots the opened graves at the southeast corner of the property – two uneven, rounded shadows poking up near the back fence. The staff covered them with dirt over the weekend, but they didn't stamp it down or lay new sod.

An owl hoots over Dean's head. He can't see much of anything, but this end of the cemetery is so dark that his flashlight would light the place up like a signal fire. He looks at the graves again. They're completely out in the open, and a ghoul needs a couple of days to pick a corpse clean. Without a mausoleum to hide in, they would've dragged the bodies somewhere else. Somewhere close.

The owl hoots again. The police tape hanging on the fence flutters with the wind. Dean hears a noise to his left – something like a murmur. Cautiously, he inches toward it. Ghouls have good eyesight, but their hearing is average and they have no sense of smell. Dean hears the noise again. After a few more steps, he sees the outline of an old shed behind a thick, overgrown hedge. The shed is sagging to pieces; the wood is rotted and the roof is ready to collapse. The hedge is probably the only thing holding it up. A dull, yellowish light winks at him through a gap in the boards.

Inside, two ghouls are crouched on the dirt floor and working on a pair of corpses. An old hurricane lamp is guttering between them. They're both reanimated as women in their eighties or nineties; they have prim pearl necklaces at their throats and their white hair is swept into bubs. Bloodstains darken the front of their flowered church dresses.

A car rattles down the road at the cemetery's north end. Dean freezes, but the ghouls don't look up. Don't stop eating. Once it's quiet again, Dean fits his shotgun into the gap. He takes a breath and clips the closest one right behind the ear.

Her head explodes. The rest of her drops to the dirt like a stone. The other ghoul looks up with a hiss; she has blood on her face and hands, and she shows Dean a mouthful of teeth. He levels his shotgun, but she reels back onto the floor and scrambles into the shadows. He kicks at the space in the boards, trying to widen it without bringing the roof down on his head. The whole place creaks and sways as he squeezes inside. His jeans snag on a nail. Once his eyes adjust, he finds her cowering against the back wall. Blood is running down her chin.

Just as he's lining her up, a cold-hot jolt of something spears through the scar on his shoulder. It winds him worse than a punch to the gut. He doubles over and whines behind his teeth. His shotgun drags in the dirt as he tries to force some air into his lungs.

The ghoul lunges while Dean is still wheezing. She snarls and wraps a waxy hand around his throat. The pressure makes him gasp; his knees buckle and his feet scrabble in the dirt. He grabs her bony wrist to steady himself and jabs his shotgun at her chest. The shot doesn't kill her, but she stumbles back a few paces and that gives Dean enough time to reload. He's shaking too hard for a clean shot. He gets her in the temple instead of between the eyes.

The pain in Dean's shoulder starts to dull. He leans his shotgun against the wall and rubs at his scar. He can't feel the shape of it through his jacket and shirts, but he knows it's there – a perfect handprint. It's a souvenir from the night his father died. The only injury he suffered in a fire that gutted a warehouse and burned his father alive.

Rougarous are solitary creatures; John and Dean hadn't expected to find five of them living in the same den. Shocked and outnumbered, they'd been careless with their flamethrowers. By the time the rougarous were dead, the entire building had been blazing. The roof had caved in as they were making their way out, separating them in a wave of heat and sparks and ash. Dean had hit the floor to escape the smoke, but he'd passed out before he found the door or his dad. He woke up the next morning in an alley two blocks from the warehouse. Except for the handprint, he didn't have a scratch.

Dean rubs his scar again. In the last eight years, it's never ached or hurt or itched. Most of the time, he almost forgets that it's there. Almost. He doesn't like things he can't explain.

He burns the bodies in the shed, banking the fire with shovels of dirt so it doesn't start licking up along the walls. The smell is enough to make him gag and the heat has him sweating through his shirts. It's nearly one by the time they finish roasting. Dean briefly considers grabbing a motel, but that's sixty bucks he can't spare. And he wants a shower too badly to crash in the car.

He packs his gear into duffel and walks up Virginia Avenue. He starts the Impala and cuts northeast through Bartlesville until he's back at the Gas & Sip. He buys four more Slim Jims and another cup of coffee. Then he heads north on US 59. The pain in his shoulder is almost gone. If he makes it back to Lawrence by three, he can get four hours of sleep before Kevin pounds on his door.


+


Tuesday »»»

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