Season Two

Episode Eight: Scorn

By Tree

Part One

 

She ran; ignoring the sharp pain of the rocks and sticks as they pierced the soft flesh on the bottoms of her feet leaving behind bloody little splotches to mark her trail. She ran; despite the branches that seemed to have come alive and were reaching out to lash at her face, slashing open the flawless, creamy white skin that had been the envy of many of her friends, but now was battered, bleeding and tear-streaked. She ran; fear pumping adrenaline into her bloodstream, numbing her brain to all sensations of pain or discomfort and feeding that primal place that told her to keep moving if she wanted to survive. She ran; unsure of where she was or even where she was going, only knowing that where she had just been was not a place that she ever wanted to be again.

As the moonlight peeked through the light mix of clouds and the tall cover of the tree tops, she stopped running finally to catch her breath, winded and leaning against the bark of the nearest pine. She shivered violently, not so much from any nighttime breeze, although her being clad in only a thin t-shirt and a pair of shorts certainly wasn’t helping. The goose bumps on her skin were the result of terror and the memory of seeing her boyfriend lying in a pile of shredded flesh and jutting bones only moments before.

They had walked out into the woods just an hour earlier, blanket and cooler in hand, sneaking away from the bright lights of the main compound and the prying eyes of the other staff. Not that “extracurricular” activities were uncommon among the staff, but no way was she taking him back to her quarters and no way would she be caught dead in his. After all, as hot and hard-bodied as he was, she still had her standards.

They found a quiet place not too far from the facility, a thick bed of fallen pine needles providing a soft base for the blanket. Within minutes, they were on the ground, bottles of beer opened and any inhibitions that had existed being washed away with the alcohol. She kicked off her shoes, complaining about an offending stone, but really hoping he would take the hint and start rubbing her feet. Having her feet rubbed always turned her on. He quickly obliged and it wasn’t long before her fleece hoodie was lying in a pile near her shoes.

Already encouraged, he ripped the t-shirt up over his head, purposely flexing the muscles in his arms and upper chest for her to see as he hovered over her. She sucked in a sharp breath, appreciating the fine physique, knowing that while he would never be a prize to take home to Mom and Dad, he certainly would make do as a diversion for the remainder of the summer. Her eyes rolled back in her head as his mouth descended on her earlobe, nibbling hungrily before beginning a slow trek down the side of her throat.

She moaned softly, which only spurring him on more, his hand snaking up under the thin fabric of the staff t-shirt to grab at her while his other hand headed for the button on the waistband of her shorts. Despite the tingling that threatened to overtake her entire body, her heart pounding in time with her heaving chest, her mind screamed out and she suddenly rolled from underneath him. She knelt on all fours, facing him like a lioness, a coy smile on her face in response to the look of confusion that covered his.

Too fast, slow down! Her brain shouted above the rush of endorphins. Making out is one thing, going all the way on the first date, that’s another. Still, he is hot!

“I’ve got to pee!” She mumbled finally, the smile even more demure than before. “I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere,” she added over her shoulder, tossing blonde hair in a way that she knew was going to drive him mad.

She watched a moment longer as he sunk down onto the blanket, leaning against a fallen log, muscles and other things still bulging in the moonlight. He feigned dejection, but she blew him a kiss before trotting off and caught the sly upturned grin he offered as she turned away.

She hadn’t walked far, maybe several yards, just far enough that she could maintain a certain degree of modesty since she did in fact need to relieve herself. Finding a large tree, she was about to undo her shorts when she heard the first growl. A low rumble, it reminded her of the tabby cat she had as a child, only much louder.

She nearly had her shorts undone when she heard the first screech followed by the first blood-curdling scream. She knew instantly that it came from him; it was too close to be anyone else. Fear caused a moment of hesitation, but more screams followed by the loud sounds of tearing and the call of a wildcat spurred her into movement.

She crept slowly from tree to tree back the way she came, listening to the mixture of animal growls and weakening moans as she drew closer. Just as she reached the edge of the clearing, she caught sight of a blur of yellow fur blending back into the dark forest. Too large to be a mountain lion and definitely not a human, she shrunk back behind the closest tree for fear of being seen.

She hugged the pine, pressed close enough that the rough bark tore into her exposed skin. She wished she could blend right into it and hide until someone came and found her, certain that the pounding of her own heart would be heard and give away her location. Hovering there for several minutes, she waited until nothing more than the normal night time sounds of the forest returned.

With agonizing slowness, she peeked around the edge of the trunk, looking into the clearing, seeking some sign of the young man she had left just a few minutes before. Atop the fallen log, she spotted his muscular, tanned forearm dangling limply. Obscured by the deadfall, she could barely make out the rest of his unmoving form. She’d heard his screams and assumed he must have been injured by whatever had made the growling noises.

Cautiously, she approached the clearing. “Matt?” She called out, her voice a mere whisper. Two more steps and she was nearly around the fallen tree.

“Matt, are you okay?” she called out again.

Fully past the obstruction, her scream ripped through the silence of the mountain air as she came face to face with the carnage. What had been a tall, well built and handsome young man was now reduced to a mass of torn flesh, exposed organs and glistening white bones bared beneath raw muscle.

As the echo of her scream faded, she emptied her stomach of the remnants of the evening’s meal as well as the small amount of beer she had drunk just before. Heaving until she could barely breathe, she forced her eyes away from the bloody remains, her brain unable to process the sheer horror of what was laying before her.

Her mind shut down, she was glued in position, seemingly unable to make herself turn away from the place of the slaughter. Somewhere in her head, she knew she needed to go for help or at the very least, run for safety, but she couldn’t seem to compel the muscles in her legs to budge. The sudden scream of the wildcat in the woods behind her managed to do what her central nervous system could not and in immediate panic, she fled in the opposite direction.

Cold air on barely clothed skin, blood seeping from dozens of cuts, lungs heaving from exertion and fear, all ignored as she paused now only briefly to catch her breath. She strained to listen for sounds of the creature pursuing her and when she heard the sharp crack of a snapping branch, she did the only thing possible; she ran.

Behind her, she heard the beast crashing through the underbrush as it matched her every move. She stumbled over a raised root, falling forward and avulsing the skin on her right knee. She cried out sharply but struggled back to her feet just as the rancid smell of the creature filled the air around her.

She spun quickly around and found herself looking up into glowing yellow eyes set into a fur-covered, feline head. Standing nearly a foot taller than her, the creature looked like a mountain lion reared upright on its hind legs. She knew it wasn’t possible, but there it was in front of her, long fangs bared, dried blood from the earlier slaughter covering its muzzle.

In a move that seemed like slow-motion, she twisted away and was nearly about to break into another panic-driven run when the bizarre cat lashed out with an arm-like appendage, its claws grazing her shoulder and opening four long wounds there.

To her credit, she cried out in pain, but managed to continue forward, her legs churning as she tried to escape the creature. She dodged back and forth around trees, jumping over fallen logs or larger rocks that blocked her path, ever conscious of the thing that stalked her. Another loud snarl to her right distracted her and she tripped over another concealed root, this time face-planting directly into the night-cooled earth.

She lay there unmoving, barely breathing, waiting for the painful death she felt was surely coming for her in the form of sharp claws and hungry teeth. When seconds finally turned into a minute and her heart continued to beat signaling the continuance of life, she slowly raised her head up and chanced a look at her surroundings.

She sucked in a sharp breath of excitement as her eyes caught the bright shimmer of lights coming from the camp not far in the distance. More than just a beacon in the darkness, the camp meant safety and escape from whatever the thing was that had butchered her young date.

Struggling once more to her feet, her abused body sluggishly responding to her brain’s commands, she pushed forward. Fifty yards and she sighed in relief as the forest cleared and the trail became apparent once again. She could almost see the main hall in the distance, but the support staff’s quarters were nearly within reach.

“Funny,” she thought to herself. “Had I only swallowed my pride and gone back with Matt to his room, how different this night might have turned out.”

A haggard smile crossed her bruised and bloodied face as she limped painfully ahead toward the buildings. Almost within reach of the maintenance shed, she was about to call out for help when something slammed into her back, knocking her to the ground and squeezing the air from her lungs before words could be formed.

The ribbons of pain flaring across her spine were nothing compared to the absolute agony as claws impaled her calf and she felt herself being dragged backwards towards the forest once again. She managed a scream this time but it was drowned out by the louder cry of the creature.

Her fingers frantically dug into the soil, perfectly manicured nails and soft cuticles ripping apart as she fought to slow her movement. Still screaming, she heard the sounds of activity back at the compound and clutched at the briefest hope of rescue. Kicking out with her free leg, she felt her other limb suddenly drop and despite the weakness from exhaustion and blood loss, she forced herself to her feet one final time.

She managed two steps; a few of the staff awoken by her screams were now searching the camp perimeter and she was almost close enough to recognize their faces. Limping as fast as she could, one hand reaching out toward her would-be rescuers, she was about to shout out to the group when the low growl sounded in her ear and warm fetid breath bathed the back of her neck.

Her mouth opened in a silent scream as the strange beast’s claws tore through the carotid artery on the right side of her neck, ripping out her throat and nearly decapitating her.

As the voices from the camp grew louder, flashlights piercing the darkness of the mountain woodland, her lifeless body fell silently to the ground, warm blood still pulsating from the torn artery as her heart completed its final beats.

The creature looked down at the body lying on the ground; red blood, nearly black in the darkness of the late night, covered the ground and most of the cat’s torso and claws. It cried out once more, a victorious roar offered up to the heavens, then turned and sauntered back into the thick cover, disappearing like a golden mist within the trees.

* * * *

Interstate 41 – Outside Monteagle, Tennessee

Dean rode in silent anger for the first two hundred miles so it wasn’t surprising that he had now escalated to a seething rage while driving the past three hundred or so more . For the first time in his life, the Impala felt small, the interior choking him and the nearness of his younger brother creating a feeling of claustrophobia that was usually reserved only for flying. His hands held the steering wheel with a white-knuckled grip that threatened to cut off circulation to the ends of his fingers. In fact, he had held his arms so stiff, elbows locked for so long, that sometime during the past fifty miles spasms had turned to pain and now both extremities were nearly numb from remaining so rigid.

Still, he remained as unrelenting on his own body as he had chosen to be with Sam. To say that Dean Winchester was pissed was to say that the Grand Canyon was a hole in the ground: huge understatement. To be honest, he was more than just angry with Sam, he felt betrayed. How could Sam so casually bargain his life away and without even considering talking to him first?

His mind flipped back and forth between anger and guilt. This whole mess was ultimately his fault and Dean knew that the real anger was aimed internally. Maybe if he’d only been more careful and not fallen for Zack’s trap? Maybe if they would have continued with the exorcism back at Bobby’s? Maybe if he had tried to control the damn demon just a little harder and resisted tapping into the thing’s power? Maybe… maybe… maybe…? The truth of the matter was that maybe if he would have just done his damn job and protected his brother the way he was supposed to he wouldn’t be having this conversation with himself right now. In the only religion to which Dean Winchester subscribed, he had just broken the cardinal commandment, and burning in hell for his transgression was the least of his concerns.

Yet, as he stole a quick look at Sam out of the corner of his eye, a part of him wanted to pin his brother to the ground and beat him senseless while an equal part of him smiled just a little at how well his sibling had orchestrated the whole deception. It was a plot that Dean had to admire on some level even if he was still angry about Sam’s choice of slipping a "ruffie" into his beer.

“Note to self: From now on, switch beers with Sam when he’s not looking,” Dean thought to himself, a soft grin forming at the corners of his mouth for the first time in the past twenty-four hours.

The grin was short-lived as Dean glanced up catching sight of the “Welcome to Monteagle” sign on the side of the highway. Taking off on a hunt, even if it was their Dad that was doing the sending, was the last thing he wanted to do right now. There had to be some way to get Sam out of this deal and spending precious time solving somebody else’s problems certainly wasn’t going to help with theirs.

Angry and irritated once more, he turned the Impala sharply into the motel parking lot, making no effort to reduce his speed and getting a certain amount of satisfaction at watching his oversized brother scramble to hold on as his long legs and knees slammed into the dash.

At the last possible minute Dean slammed on the breaks propelling Sam forward towards the windshield and then sharply back against the dark leather seats. He killed the engine as a large cloud of dust settled on the black metal and turned to look at his brother, doing nothing to hide the utter look of contempt on his face, almost daring his younger brother to complain about his driving.

For his part, Sam opened his mouth slightly but bit back the protest after seeing the flash of green glaring out from above the rim of Dean’s sunglasses. For a brief instant, Sam thought he might have even seen the hazel turn black, but he knew it was simply a trick of his imagination coupled by the antagonism that was seeping out of every pore of his older brother.

He had tried to talk to Dean, had tried to explain why he’d done what he’d done, tried to make him understand that had he not bargained for Dean’s freedom, in the end they might both have been lost. But his pleas for understanding had been met with a hardened exterior, three times more reinforced than any other wall he’d ever seen his brother erect in his entire life. He knew how stubborn Dean could be, he even knew how vengeful his brother could be too, had seen it often enough when Dean had his mind set on “righting” some injustice he perceived to have taken place. Getting Dean to listen to reason was not going to be easy let alone getting him to accept that for the first time in Sam’s life, he was able to give back something to repay his older brother for all the sacrifices Dean had made for him.

Sam was worried. He knew Dean was smoldering, like a dry forest just waiting for the wind to sweep a spark up into a raging firestorm that would engulf everything, it was only a matter of time before his brother’s rage found a focus. Sam could only pray that he was well out of the kill-zone when that happened.

“So, we staying here?” Sam asked as the Impala’s driver’s side door creaked.

Dean paused, one leg already out on the ground as he turned back around to face his brother. He did nothing to hide the annoyance in his face or the irritation in his tone as he answered.

“Ya know, for someone supposedly smart enough to go to Stanford, you sure can be a dumbass sometimes.”

Sam considered replying, but he knew that the comment was directed toward more than the obviously rhetorical question he had just asked.

“I’ll get our gear while you check us in, okay?” he offered.

"Yeah, whatever, do what you want,” Dean shot back over his shoulder as he stormed off toward the motel office.

Dean returned several minutes later, room key in hand to find Sam standing patiently beside the car with both their duffels, his backpack and Dean’s weapon bag equally distributed over both shoulders. He tried to look sufficiently apologetic, but if it was having any effect on Dean it wasn’t showing. Instead, Dean grumbled “Number 5,” motioning with his head toward the room just to the right of the car. He made no offer to assist Sam with any of the bags, content in allowing his brother whatever form of self-flagellation he chose. After all, it was so much easier to let his brother think he was truly angry with him when actually Dean was really fuming at himself.

He unlocked the motel room door, flinging it open with enough force that it smacked into the interior wall and swung back, nearly closing before Sam could enter. Dean flopped down on the nearest bed, crossing his arms over his face and pretending to ignore Sam’s huffs of exertion as he struggled through the doorway. He continued to lay there as Sam dropped the gear bags to the floor at the foot of the second bed and then returned to close the door.

Sam wasted no time in unpacking the laptop and powering it on. Within a few minutes, he was on-line and surfing the local news trying to pick up on some clue to why their dad had sent them coordinates to this place. It didn’t take long before he found several articles about the brutal killing of two local summer camp workers near Savage Bluffs. The report described the deaths as appearing to have resulted from some sort of wild animal attack but so far the regional game warden had yet to identify the likely culprit.

As peculiar as the deaths seemed, Sam didn’t think that they warranted the attention of John Winchester. Surely, there must be something more insidious that had spurred his dad into sending them here. Sam considered mentioning his preliminary findings to Dean, but a quick glance over at his brother revealed the same rigid posture, the same arm thrown across his face, the same tense vibe emanating that warned him off like the low growl of a pit bull.

Still, Sam was never one to let his older brother sit and stew about things, especially when Sam had a deep need to resolve the conflict between them. His mind raced as he considered starting another verbal war with Dean.

“So, how long are you going to continue the silent treatment with me?” he asked finally. “We got a job to do and we can’t do it if you’re gonna act this way!”

Dean sprung up from the bed so fast that Sam could not help but flinch.

“How am I acting Sam? Better yet, you got all the answers, tell me, how do you want me to act?” he shouted back. “Am I supposed to be like you? Act like nothing happened, act like you never made that damn deal and life is just gonna go on like always? 'Cause dammit Sam, you didn’t drug me nearly enough to make me forget that!”

“Dean, please,” Sam begged, reaching an arm out to grab his brother as he saw the car keys appear in Dean’s hand. “Can’t you understand that there was no other choice?”

“No other choice, Sam? Who said you get to make that decision? Who said you got to make that choice? What the hell makes my life more important than yours?” Dean yelled back, his voice betraying him, cracking with emotion.

“I had no right?” Sam shouted back, no longer content to be the silent target of his brother’s wrath. ‘You’ve been making decisions for me for most of my life, deciding where we go, what we do. How many times have you sacrificed for me, risked your life for me? Who said YOU had the right to make those choices? Who ever said that my life was more important than yours?”

“Dad did.” Softly spoken. Dad did the night he put you in my arms and told me to take you outside. I’ve been in charge of protecting you ever since Sammy! Dean finished the reply to himself.

The answer was a mere whisper and Sam wasn’t even sure that he heard Dean say those two syllables, so when he replied with the standard “huh” it was all the escape that Dean needed.

Twisting past his brother, he had the door partially open before he turned back towards Sam. In the time it took for him to reach the exit the impenetrable wall was back in place, emotions back in check.

“You stopped me from getting acquainted with a six-pack yesterday,” Dean began. “I’m going to catch up. You go do what you do best and figure out why Dad sent us here.”

“When are you coming back?” Sam asked worriedly.

“When I’m good and numb,” Dean replied as the door slammed shut behind him.

* * * *

Despite his anger and his threat, Dean returned just a few hours later and not in the least bit intoxicated. Even though he wanted to drink himself into oblivion, they were on a hunt; no way would he jeopardize that.

He had passed by several bars but instead followed the main road through town until he spotted a turnoff that ran down toward the local river. Shutting off the car, he climbed out and walked down to the bank. His mind swirled in much the same way as the fast moving current.

Picking up a rock, he tossed it into the water. In his head, he could hear his Dad telling him over and over to watch out for Sam, keep him safe, and protect him. How was he ever going to tell his Dad that he had failed? What punishment could his father possibly dole out that would be fitting for this botched duty? That Sam was now going to die all because he hadn’t been strong enough to battle the demon inside him.

Picking up another rock he threw it even harder, his shoulder protesting at the strain. He remembered Haris’ taunts, telling him that he had killed Sam, had sacrificed his brother on the ceremonial altar. Maybe not true back at the compound, but in a strange sort of way, he had just as effectively signed Sam’s death warrant just the same.

He stood there by the river’s edge, picking up and casting stones until his shoulder screamed at him to stop and until the voices in his head were shouting over top each other and he couldn’t hear any of them clearly. Physically exhausted and emotionally drained, he sunk down to the dirt and simply sat there staring off at the water. Lost, confused and true to his word, numb, except for the agonizing pain in his chest and the accusatory voice in his head.

Returning to the room, he found Sam in much the same place as he left him, huddled over the laptop, one hand making notes on a small tablet while the other floated across the built-in mousepad. Dean merely nodded as Sam looked up, still unable to force himself into making small talk with his brother. He swooped down, grabbing his duffle before dropping onto the bed and immediately set to sharpening his Bowie.

Sam frowned. Seeing Dean back so soon and with not a hint of alcohol on board was surprising to say the least. He briefly wondered if Dean couldn’t find an open bar, but then admitted that Dean not finding a bar was about as likely as a cop not finding a donut shop. So then, where had his brother been for the past couple of hours if not socializing with Jim, Jack or Jose'? Lost in his thoughts he didn’t realize he was staring until the mesmerizing whoosh of the blade against the whetstone was absent and he blinked feeling Dean’s eyes glaring back at his own.

“What?” Dean asked annoyed.

“Huh?” Sam stammered back.

“You’re staring at me. What? Have I got something on my face or something?”

“Um, no, sorry. I, uh, found something. Probably why Dad sent us here,” Sam continued, his head going back down to the computer.

“Oh? What is it?” Dean questioned as he continued sharpening the long knife, seemingly disinterested.

“Yeah, well at first I didn’t think it was much, just two college kids getting murdered at a local summer camp, slaughtered actually. Kinda like some wild animal tore them apart.” Sam explained.

“So, you thinking wendigo or even werewolf?”

“Nah, the lunar cycle is wrong for a werewolf and a wendigo would have taken its kill back and stored it for later. These were left behind, all torn up but not fed on, just outside the property of Ridgecrest Youth Resort where they worked,” the younger man informed.

“Youth resort?” Dean questioned.

“Yeah, that’s what they call summer camp when your parents have more money than most third world countries,” Sam answered. “Besides, this isn’t the first time it’s happened which is why Dad probably sent us here. There’s a report of two deaths at another camp last year and then again at a different camp a year before that. Each time, the bodies were mauled like by a wild animal.”

“So how do we know it wasn’t a wild animal or a serial killer or something? I mean, come on, I saw all the Friday the 13th movies, Jason Voorhies with a machete, always catches the camp counselors when they’re half naked getting it on! Am I right?” Dean asked, his eyebrows waggling suggestively, a playful smile creeping onto his face.

Sam wanted to be irritated at his brother’s lack of seriousness, but considering that this was the first crack in the hardened exterior of antagonism that he had seen in his older sibling for the past twenty four hours, he shrugged it off and simply smiled back.

“Well, here’s the weird part then. Near each of the bodies, there have been tracks, big cat tracks like a mountain lion or cougar. Normal enough for the area, but dude, the tracks were never four at a time, only ever two side by side. It’s like the cat walks upright. They’ve tried tracking the thing, but the tracks just disappear into thin air, no scat, no lair, like the thing just kills and vanishes,” Sam explained.

He watched as his brother absorbed the information, Dean’s hand returning to work the blade’s edge along the stone, while his mind was working the details of Sam’s findings. Neither brother spoke for a long moment; only the rhythmic cadence of the knife broke the silence.

Sam waited patiently, knowing full well that he needed Dean to buy into this hunt for more than just the hunt’s sake. He needed Dean to focus on something other than the futility of Sam’s predicament and he desperately needed Dean to not be angry with him any longer. It was hard enough being faced with the countdown to his own mortality, but it had been an easy decision to live with when he could wake up every day and see the clear, hazel eyes of his brother. But having those same hazel eyes glare at him in anger made everything much more difficult to bear. Still, he wouldn’t have changed his mind even if Dean never spoke to him again. Luckily, that wasn’t to be the case.

“So, what are you thinking? What do we do next?” Dean asked, finally looking up from his task and running a careful thumb down the edge of the blade.

Sam smiled, this was all working out nicely.

“We need to get up to that camp,” he stated matter-of-factly.

“Okay, as what? F.B.I.? Forest Rangers? Game Wardens?” Dean ventured, but grew suspicious as he noticed the grin spreading widely across his brother’s face.

“Nope, I got us something even better than any of those.”

Dean cocked his head, warily waiting for Sam to divulge his plan. “Well?” he asked impatiently.

“I got us jobs as camp counselors,” Sam revealed, before protectively ducking behind the laptop just as the Bowie impaled itself well above his head into the motel room wall.

“Bitch!”

* * * *

Ridgecrest Youth Resort – Later the next day.


Dean pulled the Impala up to the front of the building marked Cumberland Hall and below that “admin.” It was the largest of a dozen buildings on the property and according to Sam was where they were to report for their new jobs.

“Oh joy!” Dean groused out loud, meaning to keep the comment to himself but unable to restrain yet another in a long litany of complaints since checking out of the motel.

Sam ignored yet another grumble, content that his brother was at least communicating on some level albeit not exactly the most civil. Stepping out of the car, Sam stretched, inhaling deeply, actually relishing the fresh mountain air. Dean, by comparison, was ready to launch into another tirade when two blonde twenty-somethings flounced by in tight fitting t-shirts with "Ridgecrest Staff" emblazoned across their chests. Both smiled demurely at Dean, before turning back to each other and exchanging a knowing giggle. His head nearly swiveled on his neck as he followed their path from the admin hall, leering at their firm derrières as they walked past.

“You know Sam, I could definitely get into some nature hikes with those two. Ooh, the things about my nature I could teach them,” Dean lewdly suggested staring after the two young women.

Sam grabbed his brother by the arm and tugged him around, guiding him up the sidewalk and the entrance to the main hall.

“Focus on the job, Dean!” he admonished.

“Dude, you drag me up here to where the local flower is poison ivy, the local bird is the mosquito, there’s no cable TV, no cell service, and god knows no nightlife. I gotta find something to do to pass my time,” Dean protested.

As they entered the main doors, the elder hunter’s argument was cut short as the brothers took in the interior of the spacious lodge. Instantly awestruck by cathedral ceilings, vaulted by rough-hewn timbers, a towering stone fireplace and décor that looked to belong in Aspen rather than the backwoods of Tennessee, Sam and Dean could only stare at the opulence of the place.

Dean was already fervently hoping that the rest of the place, including the food, would measure up to what they were seeing now. Sam, on the other hand, was impressed, but just praying that his brother wouldn’t end up acting like Bo Duke cut loose in the Hamptons.

“Sam Winfield?” Sam spun around, startled by the woman’s voice. Standing before him was a middle-aged woman, wearing a red cashmere sweater with the Ridgecrest logo embroidered tastefully on the upper edge. There was no mistaking it, everything about her screamed class, refinement, breeding and money. She eyed Sam’s tattered jeans suspiciously, making no effort to hide her distaste of his poor clothing. She cast an equally disparaging glance at Dean’s appearance as well, but the elder Winchester matched her stare, his body remaining rigid under her scrutiny.

“I’m Elizabeth Rhodes. My husband, Roderick, and I own Ridgecrest. We’re so happy that you and your brother could join our staff with such short notice,” she greeted congenially. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to meet Roderick.”

She moved off toward a short hallway, leading the brothers to an office that was nearly as large as the foyer they had just been standing in. The office was just as lavish as everything else they’d seen so far with numerous stuffed wild game heads surrounding the room. A tall, dark-haired man rose from behind a gigantic oak desk, his hand offered out in greeting.

“Roderick Rhodes. Thank you both for coming up so quickly.”

“Well, good to meet ya Rod. My name’s Dean and this is my brother Sam,” Dean introduced, enthusiastically pumping the older man’s hand.

Rhodes sneered in displeasure. “The staff here at the resort refers to me as Director Rhodes. I would appreciate you doing the same. We expect a certain level of decorum here at Ridgecrest and I expect you both to adhere to those rules.”

Sam stepped in front of Dean, intervening and diffusing the situation before his brother’s dislike for all things snobbish or cultured turned into a pissing contest between him and their new employer.

“Thank-you, Mr. Rhodes. We’re just glad that we could find positions so close to the season beginning,” Sam stated back, offering his hand out to the older man.

“Actually, it is we who are grateful. Considering the last minute vacancies, I was skeptical that we would be able to fill those positions on such short notice. I truly appreciate that you and your brother were so readily available, however, please do not mistake our need for desperation. I do still expect that our rules will be adhered to. We operate a facility that caters only to the most privileged children. Crass behavior in our staff simply will not be tolerated. Is that understood gentlemen?” he asked, looking intently at Dean during the last statement.

“Yes sir!” Sam replied, while Dean nodded submissively.

“Mr. Rhodes, what happened to the staff members that we’re replacing?” Sam asked innocently.

The older man glanced up nervously, a flash of fear briefly appearing on his face. He quickly regained his composure and cleared his voice before speaking.

“They were caught in a somewhat compromising position, if you understand my meaning. We had to let them go,” Rhodes explained, even as the first trickle of sweat beaded at the edge of his brow betraying the lie.

“Oh really?” Dean pounced, sensing the man’s discomfort on the subject. “We heard in town that they were mauled by some wild animal or something, not far from the camp.”

Rhodes fumbled nervously with a letter opener on his desk, twirling the item around, the sweat now collecting at the side of his face although the office was air-conditioned.

“Okay, it is true that the two staff members were attacked and killed by some wild animal, but I will not tolerate public discussion or conjecture about the matter. The publicity so far has already resulted in several cancellations. Besides, I’ve hired two of the area’s best hunters to track and destroy whatever killed the two staff members, so everyone will be quite safe I assure you,” Rhodes asserted.

Dean looked over to Sam and mouthed “hunters” before smiling. Rhodes meanwhile pressed the intercom on his phone and called out to someone named Angela. Within seconds a petite redhead appeared in the office door, clad in typical Ridgecrest apparel.

“Angela, would you please show Sam to his room in the lodge and Dean to his quarters with the rest of the support staff,” Rhodes instructed. “Gentlemen, you can get settled in and acquainted with the facilities. The first group of attendees will arrive tomorrow morning. Dean, Angela will give you a list of your duties and Sam, you can coordinate with Marcus Hathaway, our head counselor, to see what groups you’ll be leading this week.”

Rhodes did not leave open any chance for reply or comment as he immediately picked up the phone and began another conversation. Dismissed, the brothers obediently followed Angela out of the office. As the secretary began droning on about Dean’s very obvious maintenance related duties which included but were not limited to emptying the camps dozens of trash cans, Dean very quickly realized how short the end of the stick was that he had just gotten stuck with.

Leaning in towards Sam, he whispered in the harshest voice he could muster and still be discrete, “I’m outta here Sam. No way I’m playing servant, picking up shit after a bunch of spoiled rich kids all day. Let 'em all get eaten for all I care. Besides, how’d you get the nice cushy job?”

Sam smiled deviously. “ 'Cause I told them that I attended Stanford, whereas you on the other hand, I told them got your GED from a correspondence school,” he stated, breaking into laughter as he saw the look of utter fury return on his brother’s face.

Reaching out, Dean punched Sam as hard as he could in the arm so quickly that Sam couldn’t stifle the yelp of pain. Angela stopped her dissertation of responsibilities and turned to check on the disturbance. She was understandably perplexed when she saw one brother grimacing and holding his upper arm in pain while the other brother muttered a staccato “bitch” under his breath.

 


* * * *


Dean entered the dining hall several hours later. He was more than ready for something to eat having spent the better part of the afternoon emptying trashcans and picking up litter. Not that he minded the manual labor, but he felt quite certain that several of the “Counselor” staff were purposely dropping things on the ground just to see him have to come along behind them and pick it up.

He quickly scanned the large room and found Sam seated next to a couple of young ladies. By the laughter and the batting eyelashes of one of the young women, Dean was fairly certain that his baby brother wasn’t asking her anything about the recent deaths. He smoothly slid into the nearest empty chair and flashed his best come-hither smile.

“Hello ladies,” he greeted enthusiastically. “I’m Dean.”

Both women looked over at him smiling, but simultaneously frowned, their noses wrinkling upward, hands rushing to their faces. Without a word, both quickly got up and scurried away from the table.

Dean sat there looking dumbfounded as the two young women hurried off. It wasn’t until he turned back towards Sam that he noticed that his brother also mimicked the same look of distaste.

“What?” Dean whined.

“Couldn’t you have showered or something before dinner?” Sam asked, one hand covering his mouth and nose.

Dean bent his head down towards his chest and sniffed.

“Hmm, yeah, well Angela wanted me to get rid of this dead raccoon over by one of the lodges,” he answered. “Must be from that.”

“Did you roll in it or something? 'Cause dude, you reek!”

“Yeah well, sorry Mr. My Ass Gets the Cushy Job While My Brother Works His Ass Off In the Sun. Next gig, you get to do the stinky crap, the down in the hole with the rotting corpse kinda crap,” Dean retorted.

Sam smiled. “Oh dude, you oughta see my room. Bigger than any motel room we’ve ever stayed in, I swear. Satellite TV, internet access in the main lodge, which is good. But the bed dude, oh god, the bed. So freaking soft.”

Dean glared back at his brother. By comparison, his room was only slightly larger than the average closet. Tucked in behind the facility’s garages, certainly well away from the “paying customers'” eyes, the support staff were given just enough space to sleep, shower and store their clothes. Not much more.

Tired of listening to Sam go on about his wonderful accommodations, and focused on the remnants of food scattered about the tray in front of his brother, Dean rose and sauntered off to the food line, his stomach growling in anticipation. Support staff or not, Ridgecrest certainly put out a nice spread.

He worked his way down the line, first grabbing an assortment of fruit and pastries until he reached the hot entrées. Focused on the steaming potatoes and thick slab of roast beef, he nearly missed the doe-eyed brunette standing behind the counter.

She smiled at him shyly before asking him if he’d like some of the beef, but he was so caught up in her rich brown eyes, the question didn’t register in Dean’s ears. When she repeated it a second time, a broad knowing smile on her face, Dean finally stammered out a “yes”.

Just as she was about to spear the last thick piece and place it on Dean’s plate, a tall figure clad in a Ridgecrest polo pushed in front of the hunter and slid his plate ahead of Dean’s demanding the last slab of meat. Nearly as tall as Sam, the young man glared at Dean, defying him to make a comment or better still, dare to make a move.

As Dean watched, three other young men joined the first, backing him up just beyond his shoulder. Still, outweighed and outnumbered really meant nothing to him as he placed his tray down on the counter, his body tensing, fists clenching open and closed.

“It’s a shame that some people just don’t know their place in the scheme of things,” the young man stated to his friends who all laughed in agreement.

Dean coiled. He was ready to punch the cocky S.O. B. so hard that he’d have to suck the roast beef through a straw when Dean got done hitting him. But a split second before he struck, the brunette behind the serving line placed the portion on the young man’s plate.

“Go on Nathan,” she commanded. “Take you food and your goons and leave him alone.”

Defused, the four young men moved on, but Dean maintained his glare with the one named Nathan until the latter finally turned away. Dean then looked back at the brunette who simply shrugged and smiled apologetically. He wanted to be angry, but he realized that she was just hired help like him, not one of the “beautiful people” like the rest of the counselors or the guests that would be arriving in the morning. She finished serving him and he returned dejectedly back to the table where Sam still sat.

He ate mostly in silence while his brother laid out a plan for investigating the recent deaths. Sam suggested that Dean scout the facility grounds tonight while he interviewed as many of the other staff about the deceased. They agreed to meet back at Dean’s quarters after dark and would pool their findings then. Dean watched, a glimmer of jealousy tingling in his head as Sam trotted off with a group of other staff. He dug ferociously into the remainder of his meatless meal, shoveling the food in angrily as he thought about just how unfair life was treating him lately.

After a healthy dose of self pity, he realized that he was the lone person in the dining hall, the silence of the cavernous place now catching his attention. Finishing off the last of the cookies, he rose and took his tray to the wash line and headed for the exit.

His mind was caught once again in a miasma of thoughts. Sam’s birthday was a short time away, there just had to be some way to get his brother out of the deal he’d made with Haris. Maybe he should call his Dad. Any extra help in solving this problem couldn’t hurt? Right? But he had gotten Sam into this mess, wasn’t it his responsibility to get him out? So many questions, he couldn’t think straight anymore. And what the hell was he looking for here at Ridgecrest anyway? Tracks? A mountain lion? A creature? Who the hell knew?

Lost in the jumble, he ran head first into the brunette as he left the dining hall, knocking her down onto the sidewalk. She let out a muffled yelp of pain that instantly snapped Dean out of his introspection. Quickly, he knelt down and offered her his hand back up.

Standing, she was just a little shorter than him, but minus the hair net and protective apron, he might not have recognized her. Standing before him now, her hair fell in waves just past her shoulders and her petite form curved just nicely from waist to hips.

She smiled at him again shyly as he mumbled out another quick apology. She took a quick step back from him and he remembered that he was still pretty ripe from the afternoon’s activity, so he apologized once more for the smell. She smiled yet again and thrust out a brown paper bag. He took the bag from her hand and as he opened it to look inside, she darted off like a scared wild animal, never once uttering a word.

Inside, Dean found two sandwiches and a piece of apple pie. Never one to turn down food, he glanced back up in the direction that the girl had charged off and shouted “Thanks!”, hoping that she might hear.

Continuing on, he began to walk the perimeter of the facility grounds. Immaculately kept, there didn’t seem to be a stick or stone out of place. As the evening gave way to night, the sun setting slowly behind the western edge of the bluffs, Dean finished his circuit of the camp coming finally to the maintenance shed near to the support staff quarters.

He entered the shed and fumbled for a second until he found the switch by the door and turned on the interior lights. The inside was lined with various tools and implements and as Dean walked along the walls a blood-stained shovel caught his attention.

Pulling the tool from the hook holding it, he held it up to the light examining the brownish-red blot that covered the lower third of the blade. Suddenly, Dean was thinking that maybe the creature really did walk on two legs as he found a bloody fingerprint on the wood handle of the shovel.

Eager to go and show Sam his findings, Dean startled when an unearthly screech from outside the shed sounded. Weaponless except for the shovel in his hand and the small knife in his boot, Dean moved warily from the building. Stepping out into the darkness, the night was moonless with only the limited light from the single bulb inside the shed illuminating a small patch outside.

Another growl sounded just beyond him in the forest as Dean moved cautiously forward. He considered going for Sam, thought about getting a flashlight or a more useful weapon, but as he breached the edge of the tree line, a dry twig snapped behind him and he spun around. Instantly, the night lit up in a multitude of brilliant lights, searing his eyes and blinding him as pain filled his head and he collapsed in a heap onto the cool earth.

 

 

 

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