Nineteen: Behold A Pale Horse
2 weeks ago
the outsider, Friday night in the not-so-bustling town
of Paw Paw was no more exciting than any other night
of the week. Resembling nothing like its distant cousin
of Chicago, the small farming community’s only
choices for diversion were the high school football
game and the cold beer at the Latham Tap.
off the canvas of a Norman Rockwell painting, Paw Paw
prided itself on being a refuge from the rat race of
nearby Rockford or any of the Windy City suburbs. Residents
of the tiny rural village generally loved the peacefulness
of the place, and even the few teens that were looking
to escape it as fast as they could, oftentimes ended
right back there later on.
had been some brief controversy several years back when
the massive wind farm was built, the old-timers fighting
against the loss of precious acreage while the city
council insisted on dragging the sleepy little village
into the twenty-first century. But since that time,
the most exciting news in the local paper was either
the crop report or the rare occurrence of a brawl outside
one of the town’s two bars.
this Friday night was little exception to the monotonous
norm; the crickets chirped, a slight breeze blew the
crowd noise from the football field and a lone figure
stood at his post outside the Latham Tap.
Henner was an old man, by his standards as well as anyone
else’s. At nearly eighty, he’d lived enough
life to fill the biographies of at least three others,
experienced great joy and gut-wrenching loss, survived
a war and seen mankind land on the moon. And while many
would think he was lucky to have lived so long and still
have his mind intact, to Henner, it was more a curse
than a blessing.
could still hear the ear-shattering blast of bombs as
they rained down from the sky over France, the tortured
cries of his comrades as they prayed to God, called
out to loved ones or screamed for help. He could still
remember the angelic faces and sweet laughter of his
children, gone so many years following an influenza
outbreak that took thousands back in the fifties. He
could still feel the gentle caress of his beloved Carolyn,
taken from him in a violent collision of metal out on
the interstate in 1972.
memory wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and
neither was longevity.
still, Mathias Henner wasn’t a man to curse his
condition, quite the opposite in fact. He held firmly
to his faith that God was watching over him, that the
Lord had a master plan in which he still had some part
and raised in the church, Henner knew the Bible inside
and out. He was proud that he had actually read it cover
to cover, twice, in his life. He held sacred the words
contained within that promised salvation, peace and
eventual reunion with his loved ones. It was what he
clung to, his life raft in a world that threatened to
swallow up humanity in a wave of violence and degradation.
while he firmly believed in the promises contained inside
the ancient text, Mathias Henner also knew that they
came with responsibility as well.
ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every
was his duty to spread God’s word, his calling
to help save those condemned by their ignorance. While
others in the church were content to sit in the pews
and pay lip-service to words like duty, accountability
and faith, Henner knew their lukewarm dedication was
as dangerous as the path to Hell that non-believers
he took it upon himself to carry on the sacred mission,
exemplifying his great faith by works of a similar intensity.
He spent his days walking the sidewalks of Paw Paw,
the signboard slung across his chest extolling all he
passed to “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven
is near” and his evenings either in study
of the Word, or, like tonight, at his post outside the
was fast descending on the quiet town and the evening
breeze gently kissed the bare skin on Henner’s
arms. He scratched absently at the small sore near his
wrist, trying to avoid allowing his fingernails to tear
open the thinly scabbed lesion.
doctors called the “patches” melanoma, the
inevitable result of decades of farming underneath the
often harsh Midwestern sun, but to Henner, they were
nothing more than just another test of his faith. He
was certain the physicians didn’t know what they
were talking about, after all, how could he have skin
cancer on places that never saw the sun? Regardless,
let them call it whatever they wanted, Henner knew that
like Job, this condition was something to endure not
bemoan. Like all the other tragedies in his life, this
too would only make him stronger, would serve to reinforce
his devotion and in the long run, like the Old Testament
patriarch, he too would be rewarded greatly in the end.
he stood there, just off to the side of the bar’s
entrance, patiently waiting for the Friday night crowd.
he first took up his crusade, many around the town protested
his overt proselytizing, uncomfortable with the old
man’s “in your face” warnings about
the end of the world. Even within the church, Henner
was seen more as a nutjob than as a zealous believer.
And when he refused to cease his unsanctioned activity,
the good members of the New Life Church of God summarily
asked Mathias Henner to never step foot in their “proper”
would have been discouraged, others outraged, but Henner
took it in stride, convinced that he answered to a “Higher
calling.” He was assured the self-righteous congregation
would one day be in for a big surprise.
there, Mathias,” Sheriff Edward McFadden called
out as he pulled his squad car up along the sidewalk.
“What’s tonight’s message?”
smiled genuinely, a twinkle in his eye even though he
well knew the officer had no intention of listening
to his speech. Still, he wasn’t about to miss
end is coming, Sheriff. The signs are everywhere if
you just open your eyes,” he warned.
really?” McFadden replied with feigned interest.
“And what signs would those be? The Cubs haven’t
exactly won the World Series yet?”
ignored the humor. “It’s not wise to mock
the Lord, Sheriff. God will save his faithful from impending
doom and all he requires is your faith.”
faith?” McFadden replied with a huff of air. “Why
Mathias, I don’t believe I’ve had faith
in anything beyond death, taxes and the likelihood that
Junior Barlow will get rip-roaring drunk and run naked
through town later tonight in a very long time.”
shook his head sadly. “You’re a good man,
Edward, with good intentions. But there will be a lot
of good men in Hell. For by grace are ye saved through
faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of
God: Not of works, lest any man should boast…”
Yeah, Mathias. Look, you just be careful out here tonight.
Been having an increase in calls recently of people
getting a bit rowdy, don’t know what’s been
possessing folks lately. But, if you need anything or
if you want a ride home later, just have Rich give me
a call,” the lawman offered.
you, Sheriff. But I have no fear, God will send his
angels to watch over and protect me,” Henner stalwartly
the same, Mathias. Maybe you ought to give your guardian
angel the night off. I don’t know what’s
gotten into folks, but between Helen Mills beating the
stuffin’ out of her husband with an iron skillet
the other night and then Doc Keller supposedly assaulting
that young girl in his office, I’m beginning to
wonder if maybe our little town here is growin’
up in all the bad ways.”
smiled knowingly. “See how the faithful city has
become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness
used to dwell in her— but now murderers…”
it what you will, but I just don’t care to hear
that some jackass has taken a pound of flesh outta some
crazy ol’ man that had more faith than brains,”
McFadden answered with a tinge of irritation.
appreciate your concern, Edward, but it’s the
Lord that directs my work here. He never said it would
be easy or that those who spoke his word would go forward
without persecution. Greater men than me have sacrificed
their lives to spread the Gospel. How then can I offer
Edward McFadden shook his head with a deep sigh. “Mathias,
please just be careful and don’t go pissing off
the Durham brothers if they show up tonight. You know
those two aren’t nothing more than a couple of
overgrown schoolyard bullies.”
nodded, hoping to appease the other man’s concern.
He watched McFadden’s squad car pull away from
the curb and turn down Flagg Street as the officer headed
to patrol the high school before the game ended.
old man turned back toward the entrance of the bar just
as a young couple strolled by, arms entwined, mouths
greedily seeking each out each other even as they walked
past. Henner frowned at the overt display.
these people know that they were playing with fire?
Hellfire to be precise? Didn’t they realize they
would eventually stand before God and account for their
the lips of a harlot drip honey, and her speech is smoother
than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp
as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave…” Henner
called out to the couple.
up, old man. Mind your own business,” the young
man shouted back. “Just 'cause your wrinkled ass
hasn’t got none in forever doesn’t mean
the rest of us have to miss out on a good time.”
ignored the comment, but even as the couple moved away,
he couldn’t help but think about Carolyn. Not
a day passed that he didn’t miss her smile, her
laughing eyes, her soft touch and her soothing voice.
He hadn’t slept in their bed since the night of
her death, unable to bring himself to ever return to
that place of joy, solace and comfort.
even as his heart ached violently for his lost wife,
Mathias Henner didn’t curse his condition or blame
he continued on his way, walking back and forth in front
of Latham Tap, calling out to the patrons as they came
and went. Most ignored him, other’s engaged him
with a verbal barrage of insults, but all in all, everyone
merely walked away, content in their sin.
night, like most others, dragged on slowly, and by midnight,
Henner couldn’t stifle the huge yawn that tore
through him. The Midwest weather was turning cooler
with autumn’s fast approach. Already, the sun
was setting earlier and the corn was slowly turning
brown as it waited the combine harvester.
glanced at his watch, straining to see it in the flashing
neon sign of the bar. He shivered as the cool evening
breeze embraced him like a frozen shawl. Surely God
would forgive him if he left his post early this one
no! His discomfort was a small fee for salvation.
the old man moved toward the alley, immediately appreciating
the reprieve from the slight wind as he tucked in between
two buildings. It was darker there, the light from the
streetlamp barely breaching the entrance much less the
far recesses of the long corridor. But this was Paw
Paw, and things didn’t generally linger in the
soft scratch of boots scuffing against the concrete
emanated from the darkness and instantly startled Henner.
He twisted around, his ears leading his eyes as he peered
into the blackness.
from the shadows, the silhouettes of two large forms
approached the self-appointed preacher. Towering hulks,
they easily dwarfed the old man, their loud, boisterous
laughter filling the alley like a couple of sailors
on shore leave as they staggered toward him.
what do we have here? If it isn’t St. Mathias
of Paw Paw,” the darker haired man mocked.
second man joined in, his laughter stopping abruptly
as he circled around Henner. “Ya know,”
he began. “I think ol’ Methuselah here needs
to learn to keep his goddamn preaching to himself.”
stood his ground, one hand holding his signboard while
the other tightly gripped the worn Bible. “Ray
Durham, what would your mother have said if she’d
ever heard you blaspheme the Lord?”
your mouth, old man. Our momma was a good woman, not
some crackpot like you,” the burly young man shouted
mother was a God-fearing woman. She raised you boys
better. I’m sure she’s sad to look down
from Heaven and see what you’ve become,”
Henner replied. “You especially, Louis. Your mother
counted on you to look after your brother, not walk
beside him down the path of the wicked.”
older sibling looked away nervously, but his younger
brother continued his slow movement, stalking Henner
like a tiger waiting for an antelope to bolt.
the younger Durham cried out with a deep laugh. “Mister,
this is the path to the bar and a good cold beer. Nothing
on, Ray. Let’s just get going. Leave ’im
alone,” Louis advised.
his brother ignored him, stepping in closer and pressing
his chest threateningly against Henner. “Nah,
I don’t think so. It’s early and I’ve
got all this extra energy. Besides, who does he think
he is to judge us?”
old man held firm, his eyes locking with the bloodshot
brown of Ray Durham even as the obnoxious smell of alcohol
you don’t want to do this,” Henner warned.
“But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior;
so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They
will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor
will never be forgotten.”
massive brute smiled, the corner of his lip curling
up even as his eyes narrowed. He turned slightly to
face his brother, seemingly ready to walk away from
the confrontation when in one fluid motion he whirled
back around, his left fist connecting solidly with the
older man’s jaw.
was a loud grunt as Henner was knocked to the pavement,
his frail-looking body colliding viciously with the
thick wood signboard as he fell.
gingerly wiped the trickle of blood from his split lip
as he looked up at the towering figure standing over
on, old man,” Ray Durham began, his hands raised
skyward as he peered up at the dark night sky. “Where’s
the bolt of lightning to strike me down?”
Henner remained silent. He knew what this was about.
The Scriptures were filled with accounts of the prophets
being taunted, baited into fights by unbelievers, beaten,
tortured and even killed.
Just another test… he assured himself, steeling
his body as a heavily-booted foot connected with his
left hip, lifting him and propelling him backwards.
rolled until he came to a stop against the outer brick
wall of Haney’s Pharmacy, breathing raggedly as
seventy-nine-year-old bones protested the abuse. Pain
ravaged his body as additional kicks rained in on him.
old man, where’s your smart-assed mouth now?”
Ray hissed before leaning down and delivering a brutal
right to the side of the man’s face.
miniscule light barely illuminating the alley now threatened
to disappear completely as his consciousness succumbed
to the violence. Henner struggled to rise up on his
hands, blood streaming from his mouth and nose, his
body shaking as his respirations came in ragged gasps.
it, Ray,” the elder Durham called out. “Let’s
just get out of here.”
that, Louis,” the bigger sibling snarled, pulling
away from the restraining arm of his brother. “No
one talks to me that way.”
isn’t worth it.”
being a candy-ass. Give it a little kick. It feels good,”
the younger man tempted, continuing his own ferocious
dropped back to the concrete, protectively throwing
his hands over his head as the older brother joined
in with a menacing laugh.
Lord, the God who saves me… day and night I cry
out before you. May my prayer come before you…
turn your ear to my cry… for my soul… is
full of trouble… and my life draws near the grave…
Henner lifted the silent prayer up to Heaven, fervently
believing that the God in whom he had such unfailing
faith would see him through this. A soft cry escaped
his lips as he called out for celestial protection.
protect me…” Henner weakly called out.
Durham brothers laughed simultaneously with Ray launching
a thick glob of spittle down onto Henner’s prone
form. About to deliver another punch, the muscular man
stopped abruptly as a new voice sounded from the encroaching
we having fun, gentlemen?” it called out.
attack ceased, both brothers looking up as a tall blond
figure emerged from the darkness. Standing well over
six foot and clothed in dark biker’s leather and
boots, the new arrival strode forth purposefully, stopping
just shy of the group.
the hell are you?” Ray demanded, boldly moving
forward to close the slight gap. “Look, Louis,
pretty boy here must have gotten lost off the interstate.
Is that what happened mister?”
newcomer snickered, his head shaking slightly even as
he glanced down at the cowering Henner.
your angels to protect me, oh Lord…” Henner
pleaded, his eyes closed in prayer, unaware of the stranger.
Lord will provide…” the blond whispered
down toward the prostrate man.
don’t you just keep on walking, asshole? This
is an A and B conversation, so why don’t you see
your way out of it?”
is that the best you can do? Unoriginal snipes and beating
up a helpless old man that you outweigh by nearly a
hundred pounds. You must have serious self-esteem issues,”
the newcomer mocked.
maybe we were just waiting for some lame, piece of crap,
city boy like yourself to show so we can pick up where
we left off with the crazy old man,” Ray retorted,
smacking his clenched fist against his open palm.
blond looked at him dispassionately, neither reacting
nor wavering. He barely flinched when the younger Durham
brother launched himself forward, hands flashing as
his fists sought out the stranger’s face.
before the knuckles connected, the burly man’s
body veered off to the side, slamming into a nearby
row of trashcans with a loud clatter of metal. His brother
attacked immediately upon seeing his younger sibling
so effortlessly tossed aside. Charging the newcomer,
Louis Durham lowered his shoulder and barreled at the
his brother, the older man never made contact. Instead,
an invisible force stopped him cold, making his body
seize up and hold stiffly in place. Louis Durham struggled
futilely, his feet kicking back and forth while the
veins in his neck bulged.
Ray Durham saw his elder brother invisibly impaled and
struggling to breathe, and he charged at the stranger
from behind, striking the distracted man in the back
with a discarded piece of lumber. The two-by-four splintered
as it struck, shards of wood flying outward as the post
the hell are you?” the small-town bully cried
out as the tall blond turned to face him unfazed.
man smiled, a low growl ebbing from his throat. “Your
day of reckoning…” he answered mysteriously.
a nod of the stranger’s head, the two brothers
were thrown across the narrow width of the passageway,
their bodies impacting the nearby brick wall the sound
of bones fracturing echoing in the darkness.
returned to the alley as the smell of blood wafted on
the early autumn breeze. Mathias Henner pushed himself
up to a seated position and glanced around, his eyes
wide as he tried to comprehend what had happened.
blond eyed him curiously before reaching down to offer
his hand. Henner took it, not surprised by the warmth
and strength contained in the grip.
you an angel?” the old man asked.
taller man laughed gently as he steadied the frail,
are, aren’t you? God has sent you to protect me,
to help me,” Henner said with assurance.
stranger’s eyes narrowed slightly, his head cocked
to one side as though he were considering the man’s
statement and debating on how to respond.
am a messenger…” he answered finally.
knew it… I just knew it. The signs, they were
everywhere. I knew if I was faithful, God would provide,”
Henner exclaimed excitedly.
injuries forgotten, the old man dropped back down to
his knees, his head bowed in respectful submission.
“I am the Lord’s faithful servant,”
up,” the blond softly commanded, reaching down
to lift the man to his feet once again.
you are Gabriel, the messenger, right? Sent to help
me warn others that the End of Days is upon us,”
End of Days are surely upon humanity,”
the man agreed with a peculiar grin. “But why
don’t you just call me Don...”
Paw Paw, Illinois
5 days ago
Singer walked out of the hazy late afternoon sunshine
and into the small diner. Pulling his hand across his
forehead, he wiped at the thin bead of sweat that had
collected underneath the band of his ball cap as he
quickly took in the empty cafe.
a seat that allowed him to keep an eye on the door and
most of the shop, he dropped into the booth and nestled
into the corner. Grabbing the menu tucked behind the
salt and pepper shaker, he looked at the offerings with
ya have, mister?”
looked up, smiling as he spotted the heavy-set cook.
“Ah, I guess I’ll take the dinner special,”
he answered, pointing to the chalkboard mounted behind
the counter. “And a cup of coffee too.”
got it,” the man replied, heading back to the
watched as the big guy returned with a clean cup and
a steaming pot. “Pretty quiet around here,”
he casually observed.
guess people are spending more time at home. Afraid
to go out, what with folks coming down with that weird
sickness and all.”
been hearing some things about that. What’s going
on?” the hunter asked.
big man shrugged. “Damned if I know. People getting
sick with some sort of wasting disease. Just dropping
like flies, like they was starving to death or something.”
Bobby commented absently. “I heard that folks
were covered with strange sores too.”
that too. Saw Ellen Waters in here yesterday. She looked
like a raw piece of meat that had been left out in the
sun too long or something.”
cringed at the visual. He’d already seen one of
the “victims,” the man’s skin covered
with rupturing, pus-filled blisters.
seen rotten hamburger that looked better than Ellen
did,” the cook continued as he walked away.
hunter’s throat bobbed as he swallowed hard and
forced himself to ignore the odor of cooking meat from
the grill. He lifted the cup of coffee, relishing the
strong smell as the steam wafted toward his nostrils.
head was pounding and the hot beverage seemed to offer
a false sense of clarity. Arriving back in the small
Midwestern village just a couple of days ago, Bobby
had dug right back into the case following his brief
detour down to Springfield. He hadn’t minded seeing
the Winchester men again, considering the circumstances,
and he’d even considered filling them in on the
happenings in this tiny rural community.
once the emergency was over, and God how he still got
a chuckle when he thought about John getting taken down
by a mosquito, it just seemed more appropriate to leave
the family to their own privacy. Bobby knew that John
and his boys spent most of their time apart, both physically
and emotionally, seeming to only come together when
a life-threatening crisis forced them to. It was ridiculous
behavior and he rarely missed an opportunity to remind
them that family was everything.
it from me, he added silently.
if there were three people that he cared most about
on the planet, then Dean, Sam and John were at the top
of the list. And while he often pretended that he'd
sooner be alone, there were times when the antic-laden
company of the brothers was a welcome relief to the
solitude of his South Dakota salvage yard.
there was no point in dragging the hunting clan into
this. He still wasn’t one-hundred percent sure
what was going on here. At best, it might have been
some sort of demonic activity; certainly the strange
electrical storms and crop failures might indicate that.
But even more likely, what was happening in Paw Paw
might be nothing more than some freakish epidemic. Not
like that wasn’t in the news with increasing regularity;
Ebola, Avian flu, even West Nile Virus had all been
leaving high body counts in their wake.
or plagues… peanut butter and jelly,” Bobby
grumbled aloud. “Not like all of this couldn’t
be part of some demonic master plan.”
never considered himself a highly educated man, but
if there was one thing he well knew, it was signs, more
specifically, supernatural signs. He’d
spent most of his adult life devouring every tome and
scrap of information about the supernatural that he
could get his hands on. His house was laden nearly floor
to ceiling with volumes from every corner of the world.
It was like a library gone amuck, yet the older hunter
rarely had a problem putting his fingers on whatever
reference he needed.
despite the semblance of clutter, regardless of the
appearance that he knew little about anything other
than evil and engines, Bobby was also no stranger to
the word of God.
well knew the Bible, could nearly quote verbatim the
books of Daniel and Revelation. It was that knowledge
that had drawn him to Paw Paw. Plagues, pestilence,
death. If anything screamed "demonic" more
than that, Bobby didn’t know what it was.
a storm comin’…
ya go, mister.”
startled, his head jerking upward as the cook broke
him from his thoughts. The man placed the plate before
him and quickly turned away, disappearing into the back
of the diner and leaving the hunter alone once more.
toyed with the offering, stabbing his fork into the
gravy-covered meatloaf and stuffing a large piece into
his mouth. The flavor wasn’t bad and Bobby knew
the slight sourness in his stomach had more to do with
the strangeness of the hunt than the quality of the
food. He was about to scoop up a bite of mashed potatoes
when the jingle of a bell hung above the diner’s
door brought his head up.
the hunter replied eagerly. “How you been? I’ve
been looking all over town for you.”
did you get back?” Henner asked as he dropped
into the seat opposite the hunter.
of days back.”
your friend? I’ve been praying for him.”
laughed. “He’s fine. Came down with West
Nile fever from a stupid mosquito. Can you believe that?”
nodded thoughtfully. “God watches over all his
children,” the older man replied.
how’s God been doin’ watching over Paw Paw?”
Bobby sniped. “Seems like things around here have
gone from bad to worse.”
hunter watched as his old friend’s face broke
into a wide, excited smile.
Bobby, God hasn’t forgotten us, quite the contrary.
He’s sent his messenger to guide his children
through the trials and tribulations of the end of times,”
Henner exclaimed with a bright gleam in his eyes.
I admire your faith, but honestly, taking a look around
here I’d have to put my money on it being something
a little south of heaven that’s responsible for
everything that’s going on.”
I agree. These are definitely signs of the times, strange
storms, bizarre illnesses, crops that are healthy one
day and rotten the next, but it’s nothing that
we weren’t warned about,” the weathered
old man insisted.
I know, I know; famine, pestilence, war and death, I’ve
read Revelation too,” Bobby grumbled.
salvage man scratched at the dark scruff of his beard,
his head shaking slowly. “Mathias, I’m not
saying I don’t believe, but I just haven’t
seen Death riding in on horseback.”
not exactly. See that’s the problem, people think
God’s word is literal, but it’s filled with
imagery and symbolism. Come on, Bobby, you know as well
as I do that all of this fits together,” Henner
let out a long breath of air. He liked Mathias Henner,
no doubt. The old man was as passionate about serving
God as Bobby was about sending demons straight back
to the hellfire that spawned them. But sometimes arguing
with a religious zealot required more energy than the
seasoned hunter was willing to expend.
just don’t think God picked Paw Paw, Illinois
as his launchpad for the end of the world. But, I will
agree with you on one thing,” he acceded. “There’s
definitely something suspicious going on around here.”
smiled and Bobby felt the man’s callused and worn
hand reach out to touch the bare skin on his forearm.
Bobby. Fear not… for he sends angels to watch
over his faithful in their time of distress.”
eyes narrowed. “Mathias, what in the hell are
you talking about?”
is what I’ve been trying to tell you. It’s
the most wonderful miracle,” Henner continued,
his voice rising with excitement.
hunter nodded the man on, his eyes glancing down at
the meal that was quickly growing cold. Still, he liked
Henner, the least he could do was let the lonely old
listening,” Bobby muttered.
angel, an honest to goodness angel came to me a week
ago, saved me from the Durham boys and seriously kicked
their butts,” Henner began.
swear, Bobby. The Durhams caught me outside the Latham
as I was wrapping up Friday night. I honestly thought
they were gonna kill me, kicked me around something
fierce. I’m on the ground, bleeding and barely
conscious, just waiting for the Lord to take me home,
when all of a sudden this tall young man appears in
the alley. Before I know it, he tosses Ray across the
alley and has Louis dangling in the air.”
then what?” Bobby asked, his forehead creased
the two brothers just go sailing through the air, crashing
into the outside of Haney’s.”
but hurt them real bad, not that they likely didn’t
his name is Don.”
angel’s name is DON?” Bobby could not restrict
the humor from his voice, barely containing the snicker
that was threatening at the back of his throat.
that’s what he said,” Henner repeated with
I swear on all that’s holy, he’s an angel.
I can prove it too!”
that?” Bobby asked.
can introduce you!”
Bobby walked cautiously into the Latham Tap. The place
was dead, even for a Tuesday night. The quietness of
the bar only served to make it a more peculiar place
to meet an angel.
whoever or whatever Mathias Henner wanted to introduce
to him, Bobby felt obligated, even curious to find out.
Part of him wanted to believe that the old man had actually
met an angel, but the hardcore hunter in him just somehow
the unexpectedly spry old man, Bobby strode toward the
long bar, noting the absence of a bartender but also
spotting another patron at the far end.
lone figure leaned against the counter, standing out
amidst the small, dark pub. His long flowing blond hair
and black leather pants and jacket screamed big city,
or biker bar, not to mention the midnight black boots
with gleaming silver buckles adorning the sides. His
face was lowered, his features obscured by the yellow
locks, and Bobby raised an eyebrow when he spotted the
amber-filled shotglass nestled protectively within his
Henner greeted enthusiastically. “I’ve brought
him to meet you.”
smiled tentatively, his hand moving slowly forward toward
blond turned to face him and the hunter’s hand
recoiled instinctively at the flash of reddish-orange
orbs set amid the man’s handsome face.
a friggin’ demon,” Bobby shouted, stepping
backwards, his hands reflexively reaching for the flask
of Holy Water within his jacket pocket.
over to Henner, the hunter saw that the devout old man
had fallen to his knees, his head bowed in submission
or prayer as he kneeled before the demon.
look at him. He’s no angel!”
Mr. Singer, isn’t that the pot calling the kettle
black? I seem to recall that you have innocent blood
on your hands,” the demon growled, stepping around
the end of the bar.
Bobby pleaded. “Look at him!”
won’t do any good. He sees what he wants
are you?” Bobby sneered, torn between bolting
for the door and attempting to rescue the otherwise
oblivious man from the hellspawn.
Mathias tell you? My name is Don,” the demon replied
with a broad smile.
You gotta be kidding me. What demon goes by the name
I must confess, it’s actually short for something
eyes narrowed in suspicion even as the tall demon closed
the gap between them. Secretly, he unscrewed the cap
from the flask, prepared to fling the contents at the
blond once he was within striking distance.
what would that be?” the hunter snapped. “You
assholes pretty much are all one and the same when it
comes to being evil.”
demon laughed, shaking his head. “You couldn’t
be more wrong. Some of us are so much worse.”
you’re one of the worst?”
just say that next to the Big Guy, I’m the nastiest
thing out there.”
flinched, his heart hammering in his chest as the demon’s
eyes swirled a brilliant red-orange once again.
see you’ve heard of me.”
that moment, Bobby’s hand flew out from underneath
his jacket, the contents of the flask spraying out and
soaking the tall demon on the face and chest.
was a brief hiss, steam rising off Abaddon’s body
like a runner having exercised out in the cold. But
if the sacred liquid had any effect, it wasn’t
demon laughed, hands wiping off the remaining droplets
from his face.
bathed this morning, thanks!”
began backing off, his feet scuffing across the worn
wood floor of the bar. Nervously, he glanced around,
knowing the main door was well behind him and scoping
out any other means of escape.
for it… I dare you,” Abaddon taunted, eyes
following Bobby’s sideways glance. “You
might even make it.”
like that wouldn’t you?” Bobby sneered back.
will only prolong the inevitable. Actually, I’m
sorta impressed. I didn’t expect to attract the
attention of a hunter so soon. Still, sooner or later,
I’m gonna be bathing in your blood.”
what are you waiting for?”
shrugged, moving closer to the trapped hunter. “Maybe
I just want an audience. You know, it’s just no
fun if you work so hard on a project and no ones left
to admire the end product.”
lunged, his fist lashing out in an effort to attack
the larger form the demon was assuming. His knuckles
stopped scant inches from the blond’s jaw, his
body suddenly frozen in place by Abaddon’s unseen
roughly upward as his feet elevated off the floor, he
could feel an increasing pressure crushing inward on
his torso, an invisible vice tightening and restricting
his ability to breathe.
do… you… want?” Bobby gasped.
me, nothing. But the Master demands everything…”
next to the older hunter’s ear, the demon’s
hot breath assailed Bobby.
you like a taste of what I’ve been doing here?
A small sample of what’s to come for humanity.”
groaned, his lungs absent of enough air to form any
take that as a yes.” Abaddon sneered.
hunter could only stare as the demon ripped open the
thinning fabric of his button-down and underlying t-shirt.
His chest exposed, Bobby could feel the bile rising
in his throat as Abaddon’s fingers skimmed down
the center of his sternum, leaving a numbing sensation
in their wake.
dropped to his knees, the invisible restraint holding
him up suddenly gone. His entire body felt as though
every muscle had been turned to wet mush. His mind was
foggy, as though he was suffocating under the effects
of a heavy head cold.
had no idea what the demon had done to him, but deep
down inside, he knew he was dying. Watching as Abaddon
casually strode back to the bar and tilted back the
glass of whiskey, Bobby struggled to crawl towards the
away, old hunter,” the demon called out. “Tell
the others what you’ve found here. Let them know
that the end is near.”
threw the pamphlet into the trashcan, kicking the small
metal container to punctuate his disdain. He continued
across the room, stretching and grimacing as he rolled
his right shoulder and making no effort to hide the
discomfort from his face.
works… he thought.
on, Dean. It’ll be cool. It’s like going
to the White House,” Sam pleaded, trailing behind
and stooping to retrieve the discarded brochure.
said no,” Dean repeated. “And besides, it’s
nothing like visiting the White House.”
you would know that how?”
because it’s just some stupid mansion with a bunch
of stupid furniture and second, because the president
doesn’t live there.”
and you have the audacity to call me Captain Obvious?”
be boring, Sam. There’s nothing really there to
see,” the elder Winchester whined.
history, rock and roll history. I’d think you
of all people would be interested.”
that’s not rock. Yeah, granted I can respect what
Elvis did in his day, but Sammy, I just can’t
get the image of an overweight, sequined, sweaty Elvis
out of my head. Besides, not like he’s gonna be
there…” Dean grumbled.
you never know…” the younger sibling joked.
glared at him. “If you think I’m dumb enough
to go to Graceland with you on the premise of a hunt,
then I want to know who cheated for you on your entrance
exams to Stanford.”
dropped to the bed as he waited for his brother’s
inevitable reply, absently rubbing his right shoulder
damn shoulder that got messed up in York…
he reminded himself. But this time, the joint wasn’t
dislocated and even if it was, no way was Dean going
to end up in an ER mainlining Demerol again. He’d
sooner have the damn thing rot and fall off first, considering
how that particular injury turned out.
bothering you?” Sam asked, breaking into Dean’s
dark reverie. “You slammed into that bar pretty
need to remind me, I was there, dumbass,” Dean
replied. “It’s all right, just a little
tender. Not like it was the first time some pissed off
poltergeist decided to use me for a tetherball.”
but if you’ve dislocated it again or something,
maybe you ought to get it checked out.”
fine, Sam! It’s not dislocated and it doesn’t
need checked out. What it needs… what I need…
is some peace and quiet… and maybe a stiff belt,”
Dean snapped back.
some R&R would be nice,” Sam agreed, barely
concealing a mischievous grin. “You know, go do
something fun, something that doesn’t involve
ghost or demons or saltguns.”
looked up at Sam from underneath narrowed eyebrows.
“Nice try, but I’m still not going on a
tour of Graceland, Sam. If you want to go so bad, then
go. I’m just gonna snuggle in here with a cold
six-pack and some AC/DC so I can wash the vile taste
of country out of my mouth. Scoping out that stupid
bar for nearly a week, being subjected to all that whiny-assed,
cry-in-your-beer crap nearly burned out my eardrums.”
’cause you blasting that crap you call
classis rock hasn’t already ruined your hearing,”
sorry, did you say something? I think all the music
has ruined my hearing,” Dean mocked with a smirk,
immediately jamming the earbuds to his cell phone into
vaguely heard Sam’s voice above the din of Pink
Floyd's Comfortably Numb, absently waving off
his brother’s offer to go for food as he closed
his eyes and sunk down into the lumpy mattress.
face creased into a broad smile when the motel room
door slammed shut and while Dean knew he’d pay
for his obstinate behavior, tonight he seriously didn’t
care how much of a tantrum Sam threw. He was tired,
sore, and for once, he didn’t want anything more
than to kick back and sleep. It had been a long couple
of weeks, between worry over his father and then immediately
taking on this hunt, Dean was emotionally and physically
between Dream Police and Warrant's Cherry
Pie, Dean drifted off, the familiar rock as soothing
as a mother’s lullaby to the hunter’s worn
psyche. Jani Lane’s voice was interrupted as the
annoying beep of an incoming call disrupted the music-induced
dream of a hot blonde delivering him a warm slice.
Dean opened his eyes and glared at the screen. Expecting
the incoming call to be from Sam, he instantly became
more alert when Bobby’s name appeared on the caller
ID. Considering the last time the older hunter had called
him, Dean couldn’t help but feel his heart begin
to hammer within his chest.
he answered eagerly.
weakness in his friend’s voice did nothing to
reduce the anxiety coursing through the short-haired
hunter. Sitting up in bed, he called out once again.
are you all right?”
that answer, Dean was on his feet in an instant, one
hand holding the cell to his ear while the other began
tugging on his boots.
going on? Are you hurt?”
need help… things bad… demon… sick….”
where are you? What’s going on? Dude, you aren’t
making any sense,” he nearly screamed across the
it’s bad… really bad…”
you okay? Where are you? Dammit, Bobby, get it together
and talk to me,” Dean pleaded.
silence on the other end of the cellular scared the
young hunter worse than the incoherent babbling that
came before. He knew, honestly relied on, the competency
and steadfastness that Bobby Singer represented. More
than just a trusted friend and comrade in arms, the
older man was something akin to a family member, something
Dean cherished and fiercely protected more than life
he called out again. “I’m coming, but where
are you? Please… tell me where you are.”
crackled across the receiver followed by a low moan
that made Dean’s stomach twist in knots.
Paw…” the feeble answer ghosted faintly
from the phone.
paw? What the hell is paw paw?” Dean demanded.
“Bobby, what does paw paw mean?”
static returned, screeching so loudly that Dean had
to pull the phone away from his ear. When the noise
ceased, so had the call, the line going dead and leaving
the young man staring blankly at the dark screen.
Bobby. What’s going on?” he mumbled at the
quickly redialed the older hunter, but wasn’t
surprised when the call went to voicemail. Simultaneously
rummaging through the room, quickly tossing his belongings
into his duffle, he punched up the number to Sam’s
the mellow notes of whatever emo-pop song Sam currently
had as his ringtone, Dean looked up in surprise when
his brother walked through the door.
go, Sammy,” he ordered as he continued his desperate
going on?” Sam queried.
wrong with Bobby,” Dean answered shortly, relieved
when his brother joined in collecting his belongings
without further question.
he okay?” Sam asked as he dropped the paper bag
he’d carried in with him and began putting away
don’t know… don’t think so. Hey, keep
that out,” Dean stated, pointing at the computer.
you to look up ‘paw paw.’ That’s the
last thing Bobby said and I don’t know what the
hell it means.”
took the initial load out to the Impala as Sam dropped
into the nearby chair and began typing on the keyboard
at a frenetic pace.
he asked, returning inside for the last of their belongings.
Illinois. Paw Paw is a small town just off I-39, about
an hour south of Rockford,” Sam replied, closing
the lid on the laptop.
Just great! I have so many wonderful memories of Illinois,”
Dean grumbled as he glanced around the motel room once
more, waited for Sam to exit before him and disheartened
shut the door.
slowed the Impala as they entered the village limits
of Paw Paw, Illinois. Surrounded by gently waving cornfields
as far as the eye could see, the only other remarkable
structures were the distant wind turbines, the sun gleaming
off the blades as they spun lazily in the afternoon
main street through town was devoid of any traffic and
the lone pedestrian that slowly strolled the sidewalk
took only a moment to look up at the new arrivals and
cast a disdaining glare.
are you sure they didn’t film Children of
the Corn here?” Dean snarked as he tossed
a half-hearted wave in the direction of the hostile-looking
just a small town, Dean. People are bound to be wary
of strangers, especially ones driving up in a jet black
muscle car,” Sam answered, looking up from the
screen of the laptop.
whatever. So have you found anything suspicious about
the place? Other than the fact it looks like a carbon
copy of Gatlin, Nebraska,” Dean asked, noting
the vacant businesses and frequent “closed”
signs hanging in the store windows.
nothing,” Sam answered, confused by his brother’s
strange reference. “But I was thinking. Didn’t
Bobby say he’d been checking out some demonic
omens or something nearby when he was down in Springfield
with us and Dad?”
guess so. He never really elaborated and I was a little
… distracted,” the elder sibling replied.
whatever he was checking out, I can’t find anything
worse than some mention about a few fields of corn going
work, Sam. Good to know the research has paid off and
we know exactly what we’re walking into here,”
brother shot him a dirty look and Dean feeling bad for
snapping was about to apologize when something else
caught his attention. Just ahead of the dark Chevy,
a nondescript white church stood out in stark contrast
to the other buildings in town. Its lot full of vehicles,
it seemed to be the one place showing any sign of life.
a church, so?”
Tuesday, dude. Kinda odd for everyone to be in church
don’t ya think?”
maybe?” Sam offered. “I s’pose that
might explain why everything was closed back there.”
Dean reluctantly agreed. But silently, he couldn’t
ignore the strange prickling at his spine.
continued on, stopping two blocks later as Dean pulled
the Impala up to the curb in front of the Lucky Diner.
He killed the engine and reached for the door.
don’t you think your stomach can wait till we
find Bobby?” Sam called out from inside the car.
around and leaning down to peer inside the window, Dean’s
eyes narrowed with irritation.
let’s see, smartass. We have no idea where Bobby
is, hell he might not even be here for all we know.
The town appears to be empty, except for the church,
and oh… have you seen a motel in this bustling
waiting for his brother to reply, Dean continued. “So,
considering that the diner appears to be the only thing
open in town, maybe, just maybe, we might find some
info that will help us.”
heard Sam’s grunt, knew he was grating on his
brother’s nerves, but couldn’t help that
his worry for Bobby was manifested in his short temper
and equally snide conversation.
dude,” he offered as Sam exited the car. “I’m
brother waved him off with a flash of his hand and sad
smile, indicating that he too, was just as fearful for
the well-being of their old friend.
they took a seat at the counter, unable to avoid staring
at the massive man that stood behind it at the grill.
Well over three hundred pounds, the man was clothed
in a grease-stained white t-shirt and an equally dingy
looking pair of denim overalls.
can I ge’ you boys?” he asked, leaning down
heavily on the countertop and stuffing the remnants
of a thick burger into his mouth.
the special please,” Dean answered, pointing to
the chalkboard just over the man’s shoulder. “And
cheese sandwich,” Sam added. “And coffee.”
got it,” the cook answered, turning back to the
grill and gathering the food.
brothers watched in disgusted fascination as the huge
man continued to cram pieces of bread and cheese into
his mouth. It appeared that he was eating as fast as
he was cooking, soft grunts escaping him as he tried
to chew and breathe at the same time.
behavior was so repulsive that Dean considered canceling
his order. Renowned for being able to eat anything,
anytime, anywhere and under any conditions, the hunter
thought he might actually puke if he had to sit there
and watch this grotesque behavior.
his throat and sucking in a deep breath to settle his
churning stomach, Dean looked away and stared out the
large plate glass window.
where’s everybody at today? Kinda quiet for lunchtime
isn’t it?” he asked. Or maybe everyone
loses their appetite once they’re here…
over at the church,” the cook replied between
bites of mashed potatoes.
we saw that. What’s going on? Somebody die?”
tell you boys are from out of town. Everybody around
here is convinced the world is coming to an end,”
the obese man answered sarcastically. “Simple
fools. Spending night and day over there praying that
God will save them.”
would they think that?” Sam interjected, sourly
looking at the sandwich as the man casually tossed it
down on the counter.
the hell should I know? Nutjobs, all of them. Once in
a while someone comes over and gets some food to take
back, but otherwise they’ve been locked up in
there for nearly three days now. Praying, singing, listening
to the damn preacher going on and on about repenting
take it you don’t subscribe to any of that?”
Dean asked as his plate was delivered.
mumbo-jumbo, people thinking they can wipe out all the
bad things they’ve done all their life just by
saying some prayer. Think that God’s just gonna
wipe the slate clean.”
getting back to the end of the world stuff, why are
people freaking out?”
cause folks been taking sick, sudden like. Others have
just gone out of their minds, attacking family, friends,
whoever gets close, usually decent people just going
mad. And then of course there’ve been the crop
failures and weird storms. Guess folks are just spooked
and looking for anything to explain it all,” the
man answered before turning back to the grill and shoving
a large piece of deep-fried chicken into his mouth.
so we’re looking for a friend of ours,”
Sam stated, pushing away his grilled cheese in disgust.
“An older guy, dark beard, was probably wearing
a baseball cap of some sort.”
he was in here,” the cook answered between the
sound of bones crunching between his jaws. “Haven’t
seen him a few days though.”
you know where he was staying?” Dean asked anxiously.
But Henner there probably does,” the man answered,
pointing toward the door and the frail-looking old man
that was just entering.
there, Ben,” the newcomer called out. “You
feeling any better?”
a damn bit,” the cook responded, grabbing another
piece of chicken. “What can I get you, Mathias?”
some coffee. How are you boys doing? What brings you
sir,” Sam answered respectfully. “We’re
looking for a friend of ours. Ben here said you might
know where he’s staying.”
know most everyone around here,” Henner replied.
“Who you looking for?”
older man. Dark beard, would have been driving an old
Charger,” Dean offered.
You boys are looking for Bobby Singer?”
both brothers answered simultaneously.
was about to answer when a loud crash distracted the
three men. Behind the counter the large cook dropped
to the floor in a clatter of metal pots and utensils.
strange gurgling sound emitted from the huge man just
before he went ominously silent.
vaulted the counter in a single leap with Sam just behind
him. Rolling the cook onto his back, the elder Winchester
pried away several layers of sweaty flesh in an attempt
to feel for a carotid pulse.
911, Sammy,” he ordered, trying to find purchase
on the rotund chest in order to start compressions.
worked on the downed cook until Sam came back to relieve
him, both of them sweating profusely and breathing hard
by the time the first EMTs arrived. They moved out of
the way so the rescue squad could work and joined the
old man outside the diner. The threesome stood by silently
as the cook’s body was removed from the little
restaurant and hauled away in a blare of sirens and
flashing strobe lights.
in the hell just happened in there?” Sam mused.
guess is that the big guy’s heart just couldn’t
keep up with his mouth,” Dean snarked.
was God’s will…”
brothers spun to face the old man, slightly surprised
by his off-handed comment.
willed that man to eat himself to death?” Dean
didn’t force him to do anything. This is simply
His master plan being carried out. If Ben would have
only heeded His warnings,” Henner answered mysteriously.
great, we’ve officially entered the Holy friggin’
Twilight Zone,” the elder sibling grumbled.
should not mock the Lord,” Henner warned.
started to reply when Sam’s strong hand closed
on his arm, stilling him to silence.
Mister, we know there’s something strange going
on here, but we’re just trying to find our friend.
You said earlier that you knew where Bobby Singer was?”
Sam asked softly.
old man nodded, pushing up his sleeve as he absently
scratched at one of the many sores covering his upper
body. Dean took a step back, repelled by the red, weeping
wounds that covered Henner.
tried to save Bobby, you know. He would have been all
right if he would have only believed.”
what?” Dean demanded, his worry increasing by
the way Henner spoke of Bobby in the past tense.
in God’s messenger, sent to save those would repent
and show their faith. Don would have saved Bobby from
the pestilence, if only he would have believed,”
the old man informed them.
Dean repeated. “Who the hell is Don?”
angel, sent from God to protect His faithful from His
angel’s name is Don?” the young hunter asked,
making no effort to hide the humor from his voice.
Sam’s low voice warned.
come on, Sam. I may not have read the Bible from cover
to cover, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t
any angels by the name of Don mentioned in it.”
seem like a nice young man, but your lack of faith will
be your downfall,” the self-appointed preacher
Henner, please. My brother means well, he just doesn’t
always readily embrace spiritual things. Now can you
tell us where we can find Bobby?” Sam pleaded,
shooting a look at Dean that cautioned him to remain
smiled warmly and nodded. “Of course. He’s
staying out at the old Wahlstrom farm, three or four
miles outside of town. I haven’t seen him in a
couple of days, but that’s where he was.”
you, thank you so much,” Sam replied gratefully
as he turned to follow an already moving Dean toward
you find Bobby, please tell him that it’s not
too late to repent. The same goes for you boys too.
I’d be happy to take you to meet Don as well,”
Henner called out behind them. “Take care boys
and make sure your souls are right with God. It’s
not too late….”
watched as Sam waved his acknowledgement, shaking his
head at the man’s crazy dialogue. Turning the
key in the ignition, he quietly murmured, “Stupid
fool… it’s been too late for a long time…”
Both brothers remained quiet during the short ride out
to the deserted farm, each lost in their own thoughts.
Had it not been for the mysterious phone call and the
strange behavior of the residents of the small agricultural
community, the drive would have likely been accentuated
by booming rock streaming from the Impala’s speakers.
But as it was, only the rush of the wind and the soft
chirp of cicadas broke the afternoon stillness.
as he approached the overgrown driveway, Dean grimaced
as the Chevy’s undercarriage scraped on the gravel
road. Still, his thoughts were centered more on finding
Bobby than any potential damage to his precious car
and he continued up the short lane.
the top of the slight grade, the rundown two-story loomed
above the landscape, weathered siding and broken shutters
adorning the frame like tattered clothes on a beggar.
The house had likely been beautiful in its day, but
now, abandoned and left to decay, Dean feared it was
an ominous portent of what they would find inside.
Bobby’s car,” Sam announced, pointing towards
the Dodge parked just to the side of a nearby barn.
stopped the Impala, forcing himself to slowly exit the
car. Part of him wanted to rush the rotting house, screaming
Bobby’s name, but the hunter inside demanded caution.
Drawing his .45, he approached warily, his eyes scanning
the immediate area and beyond into the tall rows of
check his car. I’m going inside,” the elder
sibling ordered as he continued toward the back door.
open the screen, he entered the house, cringing as the
smell of decay assailed his nostrils. It wasn’t
the odor of death, but it sent a shiver down his spine
he called out tentatively. “Bobby…you here?”
soft groan emanated from the next room and Dean charged
through the kitchen doorway toward the noise. Rushing
to the fallen hunter’s side, Dean slid to his
knees quickly lifting Bobby up into the crook of his
Come on, please, open your eyes,” he begged.
older man shifted slightly, his eyes flickered open
yet remaining glazed and unfocused. He reached a shaking
hand up toward Dean’s face, fingers barely skimming
the thin shade of stubble.
Bobby called out weakly.
here, I’m here. What happened. Are you hurt?”
Bobby. Its me.”
old friend shuddered within his grasp, muscles tensing
then relaxing even as Bobby sucked in a gasping breath.
bad here… not…”
listened intently, his heart pounding within his chest
as he willed his own strength to transfer through the
slight physical connection.
Not what?” he encouraged.
of the world… angel… careful…”
entered the room, instantly taking in the scene. Dean
looked up, unable to mask the mixture of concern and
fear on his face.
he?” the younger Winchester asked hesitantly.
get a blanket and water from the car,” Dean ordered.
his brother dashed off, Dean turned back to his injured
friend. Bobby was feebly trying to speak, his mouth
moving even as his hand strained to grasp the edge of
come on man, just stay awake, stay with me. What happened
strained to hear the words, but Bobby couldn’t
manage more than a whisper.
slow syllables and Bobby’s eyes rolled back in
his head as his body went limp in Dean’s arms.
The young hunter grabbed the still form tightly, his
heart refusing to admit what his brain was telling him.
his fingers sought out the thick artery at Bobby’s
neck. Finding no pulse, he gently lowered the man’s
torso to the dust covered floor.
Dean screamed out, barely able to pull the next breath
into his lungs as he fought back the tears that were
threatening his eyes.
the episode here