Sixteen: Graven Images
Miranda Baker swore she saw rainbows
when it took her grandmother.
Gramma, you promised!” the little blonde
kid’s voice was like nails on a chalkboard, midway
between whining and screaming as she stamped a sneakered
foot and screwed up her face into a thunderous frown.
Baker sighed for what felt like the millionth time that
day, an embarrassed apology on the tip of her tongue
as she glanced around at the store’s other shoppers,
most of whom either frowned and shook their heads or
merely smiled sympathetically.
Those who smiled, Lizzie noted, all
seemed to be accompanied by similarly-aged pre-teen
“Now honey,” Lizzie placed
a gentle hand on her granddaughter’s shoulder,
eyeing with obvious disdain the denim belt Miranda assured
her was actually a skirt. “You know what your
Mom said. Nothing that’ll make you look…”
she trailed off, trying not to use the same word her
“I think it was ‘slutty’,”
Miranda supplied, as if reading her thoughts.
“Well, you know,” Lizzie
said, smiling indulgently and gently stroking Miranda’s
intricately braided hair. “You can’t blame
her. Not after that whole belly-button piercing incident…”
little blonde sighed a little too loudly, turning and
fixing her grandmother with a look of utter disgust
before tossing the skirt to the floor, plastic hanger
clattering against the garish pink floor tiles. “It’s
not fair!” she whined. “Mom never lets me
Lizzie pushed an errant strand of grey-blonde
hair behind her ear as she bent to pick up the skirt,
suddenly understanding why her daughter-in-law had suggested
shopping as a way to keep Miranda occupied while she
and Lizzie’s son Martin spent the weekend in some
country retreat in Vermont.
Olivia had never liked Lizzie.
tomorrow,” Lizzie promised, smiling weakly as
she stood looking at the rail where the skirt had been
hanging. Deliberating for a moment, she replaced the
offending item of clothing exactly in the correct place
on the rail, perfectly in line, right in the spot from
where Miranda had taken it. Just so. “When
I’ve checked with your mom.”
She stood back and admired her handiwork,
smiling distractedly, so intent on straightening the
other garments on the rail that she never heard the
faint whirr of the store’s security camera as
it swept slowly in her direction.
Her expression faltered as she finally
looked up at the thundercloud that was her granddaughter.
“How about some nice jewelry?” she asked,
gesturing towards a display of hypnotically sparkling
plastic. “Maybe a bracelet? Or some earrings?
I’m sure your mom wouldn’t mind that.”
Miranda’s scowl softened slightly
as she followed her grandmother’s gaze to the
display of moderately-priced junk jewelry. She unfolded
her arms from across her chest, eye caught by a ridiculously
glittery butterfly pendant that scattered rainbows about
itself when the overhead lights caught its glass wings
Had Miranda not turned away from Lizzie
just then, intent on making her way over to the beckoning
pendant, she may have noticed the security camera tilt
ever-so-slightly, or heard the faint hum as its lens
carefully zoomed in to perfectly frame her grandmother.
But she neither saw nor heard these
things, attention completely consumed by the necklace
whose cool glass now rested between her fingers, little
rainbows playing across her face.
Turning back towards her grandmother,
a brief flash of bright light sent her vision suddenly
white. Blinking hard, it was a couple of seconds before
she could see again, and then all she could focus on
were the rainbows in Lizzie Baker’s surprised
blue eyes as her grandmother collapsed in a heap to
The gasp of the other shoppers briefly
drew Miranda’s attention before she suddenly found
herself racing over to her Gramma’s prone form,
oblivious to the concerned onlookers crowding about
Kneeling at Lizzie’s side, Miranda
gently took her grandmother’s hand, looking down
into eyes completely blank and uncomprehending, totally
devoid of rainbows or of any other color, irises grey
and lifeless, pupils huge and black as coal.
never heard the hum of the security camera as it gently
tilted back to its original position. Never saw the
barely noticeable flare of rainbow-colored light across
Never heard the man’s satisfied
voice as he watched the little blonde kid leaning over
the collapsed form of her grandmother on his monitor
screen, fingers gently teasing the camera’s zoom
“Welcome home, Gramma.”
who did you say she was?” Sam Winchester glanced
briefly over at his brother as he took a bend in the
road a little too fast, causing the ’67 Chevy
Impala to groan in protest and Dean’s foot to
instinctively jerk against an invisible brake. Straightening
up the car, Sam grinned at the whiteness of Dean’s
knuckles as he clutched at the roadmap. “And I
thought I was the control freak…!”
Dean didn’t even dignify that
with a response. “You roll my car into a ditch,
I roll your ass into a coffin,” he replied sullenly,
returning to his scrutiny of the map as Sam reached
over and retuned the radio to some chick rock station.
Dean scowled harder, knowing Sammy was just trying to
push his buttons.
“Driver picks the music…”
Sam began to quote with a smirk.
not to like about this song?” Sam demanded, as
the Goo Goo Dolls’ Slide
jangled out of the speakers. “Apart from the fact
that it’s not thirty years old.”
grimaced, burying his head back in the map. “It’s
not called Classic Rock just ’cause it’s
old, Sammy,” he groused.
“Yeah, okay,” Sam deferred,
knowing that any criticism of Dean’s taste in
music was likely to get him banned from driving the
Impala for the next thousand miles at least. Sighing,
he repeated his original question. “So, the woman
Dean looked up at him. “Yeah,”
he said distractedly. “Said we came recommended.”
the hell would recommend us?” Sam asked,
glancing at the road sign streaking past the window
that cordially welcomed them to Pennsylvania.
to do what exactly?”
Dean shrugged again.
Dean mimicked his brother’s irritated tone perfectly.
“How the hell do I know? You’re the spoon
am not a…”
she said she had a job for us. Said we’d come
recommended. Said she’d pay us. Pay us,
Sammy! Like, with money. You remember that,
right? That green stuff that buys food and gas and…”
“And isn’t illegal, yeah
I get it,” Sam replied, vaguely relieved that
at least a paying gig meant Dean wouldn’t have
to go getting himself involved in something that could
land him in jail one of these days. No poker, no pool,
no less-than-legitimate credit cards… “And
her name’s Kim?”
Gregory,” Dean confirmed. “Manager of East
Nottingham, Pennsylvania’s brightest new shopping
“I thought you hated malls?”
ever there was a Hell on Earth,” Dean muttered.
Sam snorted. “Paying gig though,
Dean shook his head. “The things
I do for money…”
The Major Oak Mall was not quite the
Hellhole Dean had envisioned.
But pretty damn close.
Turning into the parking lot that he
was fairly sure was bigger than half the actual town
surrounding it, Sam guided the Impala to a gentle stop
not too far from the mall’s main entrance, careful
to park near a security camera. Just in case.
Dean noticed and appreciated the gesture,
although this was verbalized by a grunted, “Hey,
you actually managed to park straight this time!”
filtering his brother’s remark via the First Rule
of Winchester-ese, namely, Never say what you actually
mean, particularly if an insult will do just as well,
Sam justified his response of “You’re welcome,”
in relation to the Second Rule of Winchester-ese: Don’t
pay any attention to what’s actually being said.
It’s what’s not being said that’s
Although of the three surviving Winchesters,
Dean probably spoke the most, Sam was certain he actually
said the least of all of them.
Stepping through the mall’s main
entrance, Sam found himself gazing up at four stories
of glass, metal and consumer opulence, as garishly-colored
shop fronts stretched out as far as the eye could see,
connected by curving glass escalators with fake palm
trees clustered every few feet.
He could feel Dean hesitating behind
him, hovering uncomfortably in the automatic doors as
way too many bad mall experiences as a kid, and particularly
as a teenager, came back to haunt him. Malls were where
“normal” kids hung out, Sam remembered Dean
telling him once. They weren’t for people like
For his part, Sam had always had an
easier time of making friends at school than Dean had
and didn’t share in his brother’s antisocial
aversion to these temples of consumerism.
Sam glanced back, fixing Dean with
one of his “well?” stares, until his brother
finally made eye contact, shrugged his shoulders like
it didn’t bother him, and started to make his
way over to the adjacent Information Desk.
The guy behind the counter raked a
practiced eye over Dean as he approached, before turning
to Sam and performing the same threat assessment. When
Dean just stared back at him, deliberately trying to
provoke some kind of reaction on the man’s carefully
blank face, Sam decided to step into the breach before
his brother wound up getting thrown out on his ass.
Gregory?” he said affably, the information guy
merely blinking and raising an eyebrow. “She’s
expecting us,” Sam added with his best conciliatory
“Name?” the man demanded
mechanically, lifting a telephone receiver to his ear
as his fingers poised over the keypad.
Sam felt Dean start to fidget next
to him, and didn’t need to look at him to know
he’d got that “I’m going to ram that
phone down your throat, pal” look on his face
“Winchester,” Sam said
quickly. “Sam and Dean Win – ”
“You made it!” a voice
in Dean’s ear startled him enough to spin suddenly,
eyes coming to rest on a rather stunning-looking black
woman in an expensively-tailored dark blue suit and
heels that made her almost as tall as he was. Her hair
was pulled back into a long, straight ponytail that
dangled halfway down her back, and her flawless skin
made her seem somehow ageless.
whistled mentally. Almost old enough to be his mom,
sure. But damn…
“Kim Gregory,” the woman
said, smiling broadly to reveal perfect white teeth
as she held out a hand towards Dean.
He hesitated for a fraction of a second,
barely suppressing his most rakish grin, before taking
the outstretched hand. “Dean,” he replied,
reluctantly releasing Kim’s incredibly firm grip
as Sam nudged him out of the way.
“Sam,” Sam introduced himself,
an equally bright smile lighting up his face as he took
the woman’s hand.
Dean found himself thinking. Here come the dimples…
Kim released Sam’s hand, a wry
smile on her own face as she took a step back from them
both, almost as if she was appraising them in return.
“Boy,” she said, hands on hips. “Haley
wasn’t kidding. You two really do look like you
could have been made in a lab!” She nodded approvingly,
and Sam raised his eyebrows, uncertain whether that
was meant to be an insult or a compliment.
merely snorted. “Haley?” he echoed with
a grin. “Haley Collins? She recommended
us to you?”
“Uh-huh,” Kim nodded. “She
said you guys helped her and her brothers out with a
little – uh – problem they had.”
so little,” Sam replied, shuddering at the thought
of the wendigo that had dragged Haley’s brother
Tommy off to hang in his larder. That thing had made
even Sam look short.
“How d’you know Haley?”
Dean asked carefully. He’d kept in sporadic contact
with the girl since their untimely encounter with tall,
dark and disgusting, but she’d not mentioned having
recommended them to anyone.
Kim’s smile faltered a little.
“I went to school with her mom,” she replied,
before adding a little sadly, “After she and her
husband passed, I kind of kept in touch with Haley and
the boys. Just to make sure they were okay.”
Dean nodded his understanding.
“She was pretty taken with you
though,” Kim added, brightening, looking Dean
up and down with a wicked glint in her eye. “And
that doesn’t happen very often, let me tell you.”
thought he caught a brief glimmer of embarrassment in
his brother’s eyes – something else that
didn’t happen very often. Huh. Maybe
Dean had liked Haley a little more than he’d let
on at the time.
Dean regained his composure quickly,
easily finding his trademark immodest grin. “Hey,
what’s not to like?” he said, spreading
his arms wide.
Sam snickered, an evil grin spreading
across his face. “That must be because you nearly
are thirty years old,” he muttered, echoing their
earlier discussion of Dean’s musical tastes.
Dean tossed him a venomous glare. “Who
rattled your playpen, junior?” he snapped. “Go
back to your crayons, kid, the grown-ups are talking.”
Kim cleared her throat then, as if
to remind her guests of her presence, and Sam just smiled
at her sheepishly like a naughty schoolboy, while Dean
recovered his grin.
“So,” he said, taking a
step towards Kim and lowering his voice. “I guess
Haley told you what we – uh – do? So what
exactly can we help you out with?”
brows drew together pensively. “Not here,”
she said, glancing briefly over Dean’s shoulder
to the automaton behind the Information Desk. “Let’s
go for a walk.”
She led them back out into the parking
lot, long strides almost making it hard for the Winchesters
to keep up with her. Once out into the fresh air, she
slowed, eventually coming to a halt next to one of the
tall lampposts dotted about the lot, leaning against
it as if she suddenly needed the support.
At the look of concern from her guests,
she waved them away with a smile. “Don’t
worry,” she said lightly. “It’s stress,
apparently.” She shook her head. “Like I
have anything to be stressed about. Could lose my job
by the end of the week if I don’t get this straightened
out, but – no pressure, boys.” Her smile
didn’t quite make it to her eyes this time.
“Kim – ” Sam began.
“You see this parking lot?”
Kim cut him off with a wave of her hand, indicating
the vast expanse of asphalt surrounding her. “We’ve
been open three months now. This lot should be pretty
damn full of enthusiastic shoppers by now.”
Sam took another look around the parking
lot. The almost empty parking lot. Come to think of
it, they’d gotten a pretty sweet spot considering
it was a Saturday. “Is it a security problem?”
he asked. “Because I noticed you’ve not
got many cameras around – maybe people don’t
Kim laughed mirthlessly. “Oh,
people don’t feel safe alright,” she agreed.
“But not because we don’t have much security.”
She smiled indulgently at Sam’s frown, voice softening.
“That’s the main road through to Lancaster,”
she said, indicating the highway which ran the length
of one side of the lot. “We don’t put cameras
on that side. A lot of Amish use that road.”
“Amish?” Dean echoed.
Sam nodded, suddenly understanding.
“Oh, right,” he said. “They have that
whole ‘cameras can steal your soul’ thing
Kim shrugged. “It’s partly
that,” she agreed. “Although it has more
to do with the worship of idols, graven images, that
sort of thing.”
“Graven images?” Dean wasn’t
sure he was following this conversation.
“Like false gods?” Sam
“Yeah, sort of,” Kim said.
“But I think it has more to do with pride. As
a sin, I mean. The Amish believe that a photograph –
or any image in which a person can be recognized –
could lead to that person becoming prideful, admiring
their own appearance. Essentially, worshiping something
other than God – self-worship I guess. Or that’s
how it was explained to me. So we try to keep the cameras
away from the highway – you know, we don’t
want to offend the locals. Even if they don’t
Sam nodded. “So if its not security,”
he asked. “What’s the problem?”
Kim sighed resignedly, as if talking
about it would somehow make it more real. “C’mon,”
she said. “I’ll show you.”
The first place Kim took them was the
food court. “This is where it started,”
she said, hand sweeping in an aimless arc around her,
indicating various food outlets standing virtually empty
and a smattering of customers occupying the tables clustered
in the middle of the huge eating area. “We’d
been open two days,” she continued to explain,
“when a couple of kids – a brother and sister
– just collapsed for no reason, right at the table
where they were sitting eating donuts with their folks.”
cast Dean a wary glance. “‘Collapsed’?”
Kim nodded. “The only outward
sign that there was anything wrong with them was their
eyes,” she added, gesturing to her own dark brown
orbs. “It was like something sucked the color
right out of them…”
Sam’s own color drained visibly.
“Black?” he asked quickly, immediately wary
of demonic possession.
“No,” Kim shook her head.
“Grey. Like – like the irises were all washed
is weird,” Dean muttered.
“That’s why Haley suggested
I give you guys a call,” she said.
Sam glanced over at Dean. “Yeah,
weird’s pretty much our business,” he agreed.
Then, “So what did the doctors have to say?”
“Some form of catatonia,”
Kim explained. “They were able to move –
to walk, to eat, to sleep. But it was as if –
well, as if no one was home.” She tapped her temple.
“Up here. Like they were totally unaware of their
“And the doctors didn’t
find a cause?” Sam asked.
“No,” Kim replied. “They
checked the mall for the usual things – contaminants,
problems with the ventilation and air conditioning –
but came up empty. Three days later, four more people
went down with it.”
“All here?” Dean asked,
gesturing towards the food court.
Kim shook her head. “No. In different
places all over the mall. At different times of the
day. By the end of the week, eight people had been affected.”
She sighed, dropping into one of the metal chairs surrounding
a blue café-style table that wobbled when she
leaned on it. She indicated for the Winchesters to sit,
which they did, before she continued. “That’s
when the CDC were called in. Closed us down for a week.
Last day they were here, one of their own people went
down with the thing, and she was wearing a full Hazmat
suit at the time.”
Dean whistled. “And they didn’t
“No virus? No pathogens?”
“Not a thing,” Kim confirmed.
“The whole place is as clean as a whistle. Could
eat your dinner off the floor. Although I wouldn’t
recommend it.” She sighed again, an occurrence
which she seemed more than accustomed to of late. “Our
owners petitioned for us to be re-opened, and within
a day, another – another – ” she glanced
down at her fingernails, taking a breath before continuing.
“Another man was struck down. Off-duty cop.”
“How many?” Sam asked slowly,
not entirely sure he wanted to know the answer.
Kim met his questioning gaze across
the table, eyes watery. “Thirty-seven,”
she said, shaking her head.
eyebrows almost made it all the way up to his hairline.
“Thirty-seven?” he echoed incredulously.
Kim nodded. “They’re going
to shut us down if we don’t figure out what’s
going on,” she told them. “I’ve been
given until next Friday.” Another sigh, and she
spread her hands across the tabletop absently. “But
in the meantime, there are almost forty people languishing
away in waking comas. Some of them are in the hospital,
others were taken home by their families. The doctors
can’t really do anything for them anyway, so they
figured at least if they were somewhere familiar, it
might help… But that’s almost forty families
that have… that have lost someone…”
She trailed off, rubbing her hand across her forehead.
“When was the last victim…
affected?” Sam asked then, fighting the sudden
urge to touch the hand Kim still had spread across the
table. He knew he was a sucker for a damsel in distress,
but this was more than that. This was a strong woman
in trouble, real trouble, not some little chick with
a cat stuck up a tree. There were lives at stake here,
and, Sam sensed, maybe something else. Something personal.
Like Kim had more than just her job on the line.
This was a woman who really needed
Kim looked up at him slowly. “Yesterday,”
she replied. “Fifty-six-year-old grandmother taking
her twelve-year-old granddaughter shopping.”
Dean glanced briefly at Sam. “Can
we see where it happened?”
glanced around Little Princesses, the girls’
clothing store where Lizzie Baker had met – whatever
it was she’d met, not entirely sure what Dean
thought they might be able to find here that the cops
or mall security had missed.
“And she was standing right here?”
Dean was asking the perky little red-headed sales girl
who had been following them around the store for the
last five minutes like an over-excited puppy.
“Uh-huh, right where you’re
standing,” she confirmed, auburn curls springing
up and down as she fairly bounced on the balls of her
feet. “It was the little kid I felt kinda sorry
for,” she added. “I mean, sure, she was
a little pain in the a…in the tushie,” she
giggled nervously, “but aren’t they all
at that age? Poor kid. Went on and on about seeing rainbows…”
“Was that recording?” Dean
interrupted, pointing to the security camera in the
corner of the store.
“Twenty four hours a day,”
Kim replied. “It’s all recorded straight
onto hard disk. The cops viewed it yesterday though…”
“Can we take a look?” Sam
Kim shrugged. “Sure. But I don’t
think you’ll find anything. Not if the cops didn’t.”
Dean cast Sam a knowing glance. “Cops
aren’t looking for the sort of thing we’re
Kim looked between the two of them
uncertainly, chewing her lip. “Look,” she
said eventually. “You know I wouldn’t have
called you guys if I wasn’t desperate. I don’t
really believe in…” she trailed off, eyes
darting nervously to the red-head, who was still hanging
on their every word.
know, if you’re trying to flatter us,” Dean
said with a lopsided smile, “you really need to
work on your sales pitch. Bad enough we’re the
first thing that comes to mind when you mention the
word “weird” to Haley, and now it’s
‘don’t call them unless you’re really
desperate…’?” He shook his head. “Weird
and Desperate. They ever turn the story of our
lives into a Movie of the Week, I think we got a title
Kim smiled grudgingly at Dean’s
attempt to lighten the mood. “Okay, point taken,”
she said. “Come on. I’ll show you the CCTV
whistled appreciatively as he and Sam followed Kim into
a moderately-sized office crammed wall to wall with
They were in the bowels of the mall
now, having been led down to the CCTV Control Room via
a maze of identically-painted grey corridors that were
a murky contrast to the bright airy malls above them.
The room they now found themselves
in held only three chairs, two of which were occupied
by men dressed in uniforms barely distinguishable in
color from the walls around them. Both stared intently
at the monitors stacked up in front of them, occasionally
zooming in, or re-focusing one of the camera angles.
The man farther away, a big bulky bear
of a man whose thick black hair seemed barely contained
by the regulation grey ball cap perched on top of his
head, gently caressed a slider control with the fingers
of one hand. The picture on the monitor nearest to him
zoomed in on a couple of kids ineffectually attempting
to tag the wall outside of an electronics store.
the button on the side of a desk-mounted radio, the
camera operator muttered, “Joe, Mall Three, east
corridor. Outside Gadgets and Gizmos. Couple
of taggers. Both Caucasian males, aged approximately
fourteen to sixteen. The first one’s wearing a
Green Day t-shirt, the other a Phillies shirt. You copy?”
“Copy that, Control,” a
disembodied voice crackled out of the radio, and within
seconds a burly security guy appeared on the monitor,
the two would-be taggers easily dealt with.
The CCTV guy followed their progress
across several of the monitors, as the two kids were
unceremoniously dumped out into the parking lot, while
Joe the security guard headed hurriedly back inside,
having caught sight of the buxom blonde leaning suggestively
over the smoothie stand by the door.
“Quite an operation you got here,”
Dean commented, eyes roving over the bank of monitors,
trying not to stare at the smoothie girl as he scrutinized
the various views of what appeared to be every corner
of the mall.
Kim didn’t reply at first, merely
shook her head dejectedly. “Supposed to keep everyone
safe,” she muttered at length. As if mentally
shaking herself, she indicated the two security guys.
“Tony Lozano,” she said, the big guy sitting
farther away curtly bobbing his head. “Howard
The guard sitting closer didn’t
look up, eyes resolutely fixed to the screens in front
of him. He was a mousy kind of man, small and slightly
built, with a pointed face and beady dark eyes that
reflected the light from the monitors so eerily it was
all Sam could do not to shudder. Reminded him too much
“This is Sam and Dean Winchester,”
Kim continued, not batting an eye at the second guard’s
lack of response. “They’re – uh –
“Consultants,” Sam supplied
helpfully, tearing his gaze away from Grumnik to smile
The bigger guard raised a thick eyebrow.
“Oh yeah?” he said. “What do you consult
The Winchesters exchanged a look.
“Depends who’s paying,”
Dean replied shortly, grinning before turning his attention
back to the monitors.
snorted, before Kim cut in, “Howie, you wanna
bring up the Little Princesses footage?”
eyes slid sideways, but he didn’t look at Kim,
fingers playing deftly with the controls in front of
him. “Cops already looked at it,” he commented,
the monitor in front of him splitting into four images,
one of the inside of the store, while the others showed
the doorway and the mall outside. “I can de-multiplex
the images if you’d like…” he added,
clearly hoping to impress the new arrivals with his
command of technical lingo.
Dean merely nodded. “Yeah, just
display the in-store feed,” he instructed absently,
leaning over Grumnik’s shoulder as Sam stared
at him pointedly. Feeling his brother’s eyes on
him, Dean met Sam’s inquisitive gaze with a shrug.
“What?” he asked.
just shook his head. “Nothing.” So Dean
apparently had been paying attention all the
times he’d grumbled about Sam watching Law
Grumnik’s beady eyes had settled
on Dean while the young man’s attention was elsewhere,
but as Dean glanced back at him, he abruptly averted
his gaze to the control board. “Here,” he
said quietly, as three of the images on the monitor
disappeared, while the view of the inside of the store
expanded to fill the screen.
Sam and Dean watched as the camera
honed in on a middle-aged lady who was standing with
her back to the lens, obviously chatting to the little
blonde girl hovering over the jewelry display.
“This is in real-time?”
Dean asked, eyeing the time stamp at the bottom of the
Grumnik’s head bobbed just once.
The little girl turned then, just as
the picture flared and the whole screen went completely
white for a second before the image of the store came
slowly back into focus. The woman was now collapsed
on the floor, a crowd of anxious shoppers almost obscuring
her from the camera’s view.
“What was that?” Sam asked,
“We think it’s a camera
malfunction,” Kim replied. “Happened every
time someone collapsed, which was why we thought at
first that all of this was being caused by some kind
of electro-magnetic interference…”
“An EMP would affect the camera,”
Dean agreed. “But it shouldn’t affect the
person. Not to this degree.” He cocked his head
and frowned at the camera feed, as Sam threw him another
surprised look. “Can you play it again?”
he asked Grumnik, oblivious to his brother’s scrutiny.
“Frame by frame this time?”
Grumnik frowned. “Ms. Gregory
– ” he began to whine.
“C’mon, Howie,” Lozano
put in suddenly. “We talked about sharing your
didn’t even look at his colleague, instead pushing
a few buttons much harder than Dean thought was strictly
necessary while grumbling, “It’s Howard.”
just managed to catch himself before a whiney It’s
Sam! escaped his lips, the look on his brother’s
face convincing him it might not be such a great idea
to be mimicking him in present company.
“Here,” Grumnik said grudgingly,
bottom lip stuck out like a petulant six-year-old, as
the picture returned to its original time stamp.
Howie,” Dean said, unable to resist getting
a rise out of the little security guard.
Sam frowned at the sudden tautness
in Grumnik’s shoulders and the grimace on his
face. One of these days, Dean was going to get a little
too sarcastic with the wrong person…
The image moved jerkily on the security
monitor, as Dean watched the frame by frame replay intently.
As the white flare began to dissipate, Dean suddenly
jabbed his finger at the screen. “There,”
he said. “Can you freeze that?”
The image stopped accordingly, and
Sam squinted, trying to see what Dean was so interested
“The little girl kept talking
about rainbows, right?” Dean said, glancing at
Kim for confirmation.
“Uh – yeah,” she
agreed. “I guess.”
“Look at that.” Dean indicated
a tiny sliver of light arcing across the very bottom
of the screen. Light that looked as if it had been shone
through a prism.
Sam moved closer to the monitor. “Part
of the camera flare?” he suggested.
“Not if the kid saw it too,”
Kim also moved closer to the screen.
“What the hell is that?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Dean
replied honestly, biting his lip. “But it might
help if I could see the rest of the footage…Of
the other victims?”
Kim, still staring at the little rainbow
at the bottom of the screen in front of her, nodded
slowly. “Sure,” she agreed. “Howie…?”
“I have maintenance rounds,”
Grumnik replied shortly, before Kim could even ask.
“And my shift ends at five.”
Lozano snorted again. “Sure,
Howie,” he said. “Like you ever go home…”
He glanced over at Dean then, not expanding on what
he meant by his last comment, merely meeting Grumnik’s
narrow-eyed glance innocently. “It’s okay,
kid,” he said, ignoring his colleague. “I’ll
get you the footage.”
nodded his thanks.
the meantime,” Sam said, stuffing his hands into
his pockets as he watched Grumnik scuttle off out of
the room, over-sized toolkit in hand. “I think
I’m gonna head to the local library – check
out the history of the area.” He shrugged. “You
know. Just in case.”
Dean raised an eyebrow. “Just
like old times,” he observed, slipping into Grumnik’s
frowned. “How so?”
“You heading off to the library
while I sit and watch TV,” Dean replied with an
shook his head, aiming his next comment at Lozano. “Don’t
let him near the shopping channels.”
Two incredibly tedious hours later,
Dean was so fed up of staring at CCTV monitors that
he figured calling Sam and pretending to be interested
in his geek research might actually be a welcome diversion.
“So, are we sitting on an ancient
Native American burial ground or what?” he asked
in response to Sam’s initial, “Hello?”
Sam’s frustrated sigh seemed
to make Dean’s cell phone vibrate. “Not
that I can see,” he replied deflatedly, his faith
in the Power of the Library for once seemingly misplaced.
“Okay,” Dean replied, nodding
to Lozano as he re-entered the room with two cups of
As the Control Room door swung to a
close behind the big security guard, Dean’s eyes
traveled idly to the corridor outside, where Howie Grumnik
was hurriedly scuttling past – in the opposite
direction to the exit and an hour after his shift was
supposed to have ended.
“So,” Dean continued his
conversation with Sam, mentally filing away his observation
for future investigation. “The mall’s built
on the site of a grizzly mass murder…”
“Fire? Flood? Pet cemetery?”
“Nope. Nope. And nope.”
“Dean, from what I can tell,
the site of the Major Oak Mall has been nothing more
exciting than a poultry farm.”
“Pissed off chicken spirits out
for bloody revenge?”
“Dean – ”
“They’re gonna peck us
all to death!”
“Look out, Colonel Sanders!”
“I know,” Dean sighed,
boredom obvious in his tone. “Alright. So I’m
almost done here. How about you come pick me up in –
say – twenty minutes?”
“Yeah, okay,” Sam agreed.
“The library’s about to close anyway.”
There was a pause, before he added, “So you think
maybe Haley was wrong to recommend us for this one?”
dunno,” Dean replied slowly, eyeing one of the
monitors as Howie Grumnik’s retreating form came
shuffling into the frame. “Maybe. But I did find
weird color flares – rainbows – on all of
the security footage just as the victims did –
whatever they did…” He sat up straighter,
watching as Grumnik glanced around furtively before
entering a door just out of the security camera’s
range. “Sam, listen,” he muttered into the
phone. “I gotta call you back. Something I need
to check out…” He didn’t even wait
for Sam’s puzzled reply before slowly closing
his cell phone and glancing over at Lozano.
The security guy was absently thumbing
through the sports section as he sipped at his coffee,
and the thought entered Dean’s head that maybe
that’s what Grumnik had been counting on as he
snuck past the last of the security cameras and into
– wherever he’d gone.
“So Tony,” Dean said, picking
up his own coffee and taking a sip. “You take
your break at this time every day?”
Lozano glanced up at him quizzically.
“Well – yeah,” he said. “When
I’m on this shift. Why?”
Dean shook his head and shrugged. “No
reason,” he replied, feigning innocence. “You
always work with Howie?”
shrugged. “Let’s just say our orbits collide
more often than not,” he said. “No-one actually
works with Howie… He’s kind of
a law unto himself.”
Dean nodded, keeping his tone deliberately
neutral. “So what you said before. About him never
Lozano actually laughed at that. “Standing
joke around here,” he explained. “Always
hours early for his shift…Like he’s been
here all night or something.”
“Right,” Dean said, matching
Lozano’s laugh with a casual one of his own, before
taking another sip of his coffee and smoothly changing
topic. “Listen, I’m done here. Just got
a couple more things to check out, then I’m calling
it a day.”
Lozano nodded. “Okay,”
he said, obviously struggling with how to phrase what
he wanted to say next. “Well,” he managed
eventually. “I hope you guys have more luck figuring
out what’s going on here than we did.”
Dean glanced sideways at the monitor
where Grumnik had briefly appeared before agreeing,
“Yeah, me too.”
Taking a last sip of his coffee, Dean
exited the Control Room, hovering on the other side
of the door for a couple of seconds, until, like Grumnik,
he was pretty sure he could count on Lozano having gone
back to scrutinizing his newspaper before he headed
down the dingy corridor in the direction the mousy security
guard had taken.
Most of the heavy metal doors at the
far end of the hall were festooned with yellow and black
tape, and big notices declaring, “This area under
construction. No unauthorized entry.” The door
Grumnik had entered was no exception, and Dean vaguely
remembered Kim having mentioned something about the
finishing touches of construction work having been put
on hold until Major Oak Mall’s little “problem”
had been resolved.
Pushing the door gingerly, Dean wasn’t
a bit surprised when it didn’t yield to his touch,
pulling out his lock picking kit with a sigh and a nervous
glance at the security camera.
Although Dean had always been better
at handcuffs, Sam was faster with locks, so he silently
prayed Lozano’s interest in the Phillies held
out a little longer.
Eventually, the lock made a satisfying
“click” and the door swung invitingly open,
revealing beyond it another grey corridor complete with
eerie yellow construction lights and partially completed
ceiling panels, some of which dangled dangerously from
the metal air conditioning conduits above.
Although this section of the mall was
clearly not finished, Dean got the distinct impression
that no construction had gone on here in a while, the
thick layer of dust covering the floor barely disturbed,
save for what appeared to be a well-trodden path to
the door on his right, the first in a series which were
all covered with the same black and yellow tape.
Following the dusty pathway, Dean pushed
against the nearest door, surprised when it offered
no resistance. Instinctively reaching for the handgun
tucked in the back of his jeans, he cautiously passed
through the doorway and into a room of similar size
to the CCTV Control Room.
And of almost identical appearance.
Dean fought the urge to whistle again,
acutely aware that the room’s single chair was
empty, which meant Grumnik could be anywhere.
Laid out in front of the chair, exactly
as in the Control Room, was a bank of about thirty TV
monitors. But unlike the professional, uniform layout
of that equipment, these were all different sizes, shapes,
brands and colors, an odd mish-mash of salvaged hardware
strung together with sheaves of dangling, multicolored
wires, like some freakish avant-garde sculpture. Some
of the monitors were tipped at crazy angles, the wiring
clearly amateurish and, Dean thought, probably nowhere
near up to safety code, while the control panel set
out in front looked like something copied from a low
budget sci-fi movie, the front of a coffee maker clearly
visible next to the slider switches purloined from an
ancient eight-track tape recorder.
While the would-be gadget geek in him
could only admire the builder’s ingenuity, Dean’s
main focus was drawn to the images flickering on the
Taking a step closer, he squinted at
one of the screens, not entirely sure he believed what
he was seeing.
It wasn’t the ridiculously bright
sunshine filtering through the rose-tinted windows of
the chocolate-box-perfect flower shop that drew Dean’s
attention. It was the woman standing behind the counter.
Alive and well and apparently going
about her everyday business.
Blinking, Dean reminded himself that
Lizzie Baker was, in fact, lingering in a waking coma
in the home of her son in West Nottingham.
But on the monitor in front of him,
Lizzie Baker was clearly selling flowers to a young
woman who looked suspiciously like Lisa Flynn, the CDC
tech who had collapsed whilst wearing full Hazmat gear.
Eyes slowly roaming the other monitors,
Dean came to the conclusion that either he was completely
delusional, or he’d spent way too much time staring
at CCTV monitors today.
Because if neither of those options
were the case, he had absolutely no plausible explanation
for what he was looking at.
Ranged before him, on every TV monitor
in the whole rickety structure, was a different image
of a town so picture perfect Dean was pretty sure he
was getting cavities just looking at it; a town where
people waved to each other on the street, smiled at
each other, sat on sunny benches in the town square
eating lunch out of brown paper bags.
A town which seemed to have a security
camera in every store, every house, every building,
and on every street corner.
A town exclusively inhabited by the
people who had collapsed at Major Oak Mall.
shouldn’t have seen that.”
Dean turned sharply at the sound of
the low, threatening voice.
all he saw were rainbows.
the episode here!