Season Three

Episode Seventeen: Work of Art

By Tree

Part One

 

University of Washington

Kelli Mattingly sat down on the edge of her bed with a loud sigh. She glanced around her dorm room as she tried to decide what to do with her free night. Under normal circumstances, the plain-looking brunette would have been content to bury her face in one of her textbooks. But tonight was different. Tonight, Kelly had finished all the required work, had studied for upcoming finals, and had even managed to finish doing some research for Mr. Brannock at the firm.

Besides, it was Friday night. Didn’t that mean it was time to kick back, hang out with her friends, have a few beers, and generally cut loose?

Kelli laughed at the thought. For her, Friday night was just another night in the week. She could count her friends on one hand, had no clue what it meant to “hang out” unless it involved a study group, and as for drinking … the one and only beer she’d ever had in her life had left her puking into a toilet for nearly an hour.

Still, despite the fact that her version of college life wasn’t exactly Animal House, didn’t mean she wasn’t happy or enjoying her life at school. Considering where she’d come from, how she’d grown up, her time at UW had been wonderful.

And next year, I’ll be a senior… she thought to herself, a smile spreading across her face as she remembered the letter reporting her LSAT score. At one seventy two, her academic advisor had all but guaranteed that she would have her pick of law schools.

Next year would be a breeze; finish some last undergraduate courses and sit back and decide where she wanted to go. Mr. Brannock had assured her that he would put in a good word for her at Columbia if she wanted, not to mention that she’d already spoken with a representative from UC Berkeley that was likewise encouraging. Yet, while it was tempting to think about escaping to New York or California, Seattle was her home. She knew she could stay at UW and be certain of a place at the law school here.

It made her happy to think about how well things were turning out for her. So what if she didn’t have a life? She studied hard, worked harder and it was all paying off. So what if she didn’t have a boyfriend or partied with the cool kids? She knew that someday when she was sitting on the Supreme Court bench, she’d have no skeletons in her closet to worry about.

Kelli looked at her watch. It was nearly eight. She could still go to a movie, maybe even see if Dana, her roommate, wanted to go out for some pizza and a Coke. Maybe they could even cruise by the Husky’s Den and listen to the live band that played there on the weekends.

She brushed that thought from her mind, knowing all too well that she didn’t fit in with the Husky’s Den crowd. While it was “the spot” for all the kids on campus, Kelli knew that she’d stick out like a sore thumb.

She wasn’t pretty enough, not fun enough, didn’t drink enough, and most certainly was too smart for the crowd that made the Den the most popular bar near campus. She was as effectively ostracized from the place as she had been as an entering freshman. Worse in fact, since even freshmen could eventually climb the social ladder to acceptance.

But brainiacs like her… well they were never really accepted among all the jocks, homecoming queens and rich kids. The only time any of those people even noticed her was if they were looking for a tutor to get them through some remedial class.

Disheartened, Kelli moved over toward the closet and was about to kick off her shoes and settle in with a good book when an itch in the center of her back made her pause. Lifting her shirt slightly, she started to scratch at her lower back just at the line of her waist. But even as her fingernails made contact with her skin, she jerked them away.

“Dammit,” she groaned. “Gotta remember not to scratch.”

She twisted around, lifting her shirt up further as she stared at the reflection of her skin in the mirror. Smiling again, she looked on with satisfaction and pride at the colorful butterfly tattoo that graced the small of her back.

She loved the tattoo, her one act of defiance, the one “in thing” that she’d ever done. The butterfly was truly beautiful, with vibrant reds, blues and yellows glowing out from her skin as though the insect was ready and able to take flight straight off her flesh. To say that the tattoo looked real was an understatement. In her opinion, it was hard to tell the difference between the ink and a real butterfly resting gently against her back.

“Worth every dime,” she admitted, even though the two hundred dollars had been a brutal sting to her checking account.

Still, to her it was more than just an impulsive act. The butterfly symbolized her own “rebirth,” the change that had occurred, taking her from her ugly childhood to this moment where she was finally living something more wonderful and free. To her, it was her family crest, and she wore it like a badge of honor just as she did the scar that ran from the side of her left eye and faded into her hairline.

People always said how painful it was to get a tattoo, but to Kelli, it was the finest pain she’d ever endured; and she certainly was no stranger to pain.

Moving away from the mirror, she walked into the shared bathroom and grabbed Dana’s lotion from the edge of the sink. Squirting some into her hand, she was just about to slather it over the healing part of the tattoo when a wave of vertigo stopped her dead in her tracks.

She reached out for the edge of the sink, steadying herself until the dizziness passed.

“Should have had more for dinner than an apple I guess,” she chastised herself.

Determined now to go out and at least grab a burger or some other fast food, Kelli moved back to the closet to retrieve her jacket. Her hand was on the handle when another surge of lightheadedness caused her to tilt into the door.

She gasped, one hand reaching out to grab anything to prevent her fall, while her other hand flew to her stomach. Suddenly feeling ill, she sucked in a deep breath and slowly stumbled over to her bed.

Must be a virus or something… she thought as she collapsed limply onto the mattress a sudden sweat washing over her body.

Her eyelids began to flutter as she fought to keep them open, her limbs also becoming heavy as though she was suffocating under a heavy blanket. She strained to reach for the cell phone on the nightstand to her right, panic filling her as she pushed back against the cloying fog that threatened to pull her down.

“Gotta… call… Dana,” she commanded herself. But her body refused.

Yet even as her vision faded and her senses began to fail her, Kelli heard a voice. Soft at first, it whispered in her ear like a sensuous lover.

Don’t be alone…

Kelli stirred to the noise, coming slightly more alert as she focused on the voice. At first she ignored it, convincing herself that it was nothing more than delirium brought on by whatever virus had chosen to invade her body. But as she lay there, the voice became louder, clearer, more insistent.

They hate you… they’ll never accept you…

She shook her head, weakly reaching up to run a trembling hand across her forehead. It silenced the voice for a moment but as quickly as her hand moved away, the whisper returned.

You’re nothing to them… invisible… less than worthless…

Kelli groaned. She rolled to her side, facing the nightstand, even more desperate to reach the cellular and call for help. Her body was shaking, as though her muscles were fighting against any movement even as she stretched toward the table.

Her fingers brushed the shining plastic, desperately seeking to close around the phone when a tearing sensation made Kelli cry out in pain. She recoiled, her hand flying to her back even as her breathing was reduced to a shallow panting. The skin over her spine was on fire, the agony of it feeling as though someone was flaying the flesh from her body.

The tattoo!

She probed carefully, half expecting her fingertips to come back bloody. Yet as she forced herself to look at her hands, they were clean and free of any red stain.

Why do you put up with them? You’re smarter… you’re better than they’ll ever be…

The pain abruptly stopped as the voice resumed. Dazed, her harsh respirations easing slightly, Kelli opened her eyes to follow the sound. At the foot of the bed, a butterfly fluttered lazily, its beautiful wings flashing vibrant reds and yellows as it hovered before her.

It was her butterfly!

Larger than the one that had been immortalized on her flesh, it was still an exact copy.

It’s just like with him… they think you’re worthless… something to be used and thrown away… garbage…

Kelli stared at the insect as it flitted closer, stopping just before her face. It spoke again, the tone and pitch of its voice hauntingly similar to her own. The young co-ed swatted at the butterfly, some portion of her mind telling her that it wasn’t real… it couldn’t be real.

“Drugged…Oh my God, someone’s slipped me something,” she groaned.

But how or even why? She had no enemies and as the voice had said, she was essentially invisible to everyone but a select few close friends and professors.

“I’m losing my mind,” Kelli then surmised.

They’re out there now… laughing at you…

“No, hold it together, Kelli,” she encouraged herself.

Laughing… can’t you hear them laughing at you?

Yet as the voice continued, the young woman slowly succumbed to the powerful suggestion. Her eyes began to glaze over as she numbly watched the butterfly’s feather-light dance.

You know what you must do…

She nodded, her face now blank and devoid of emotion. Mesmerized, Kelli sat up on the bed, swinging her feet over the side and planting them firmly on the floor.

Make them pay…

“Yes…” she murmured.

Purposefully, Kelli strode across the small dorm room, snagging the keys to her Jeep Wrangler from the desk near the door. Heading out, she walked the deserted hallway, taking the staircase down to the first floor and the main exit.

Passing through the lobby, Kelli walked as though she were a mindless zombie, ignoring the calls from her friend Dana who was seated at a table studying with other students. Even when her roommate darted over, reaching out to grab at her arm, Kelli pulled roughly away and continued out the double door and into the damp night air.

She reached the waiting Jeep, firing the engine and pushing the stick shift up into drive. On auto-pilot, Kelli pulled out onto Montlake Boulevard, heading away from the dorms and toward the edge of the campus and the nearby area referred to as The Village.

Zipping through traffic, she was doing well over seventy miles per hour by the time her Jeep reached the intersection at N.E. 45th Street. Blowing through a red light, the front of her car glanced off an approaching Chevy Caliber, the heavier Wrangler smashing the smaller vehicle and knocking it backward out of the intersection.

Kelli corrected for the impact, steering the Jeep back into the proper lane, ignoring the screams of metal from the collision or the angry honks of other motorists who swerved to avoid the oblivious young student.

“Close now…” she whispered as the giant marquee for University Village Shopping Center loomed in the distance.

The hub of off-campus activity, the center was booming with students shopping, dining or hanging out at one of the several bars. Tonight being Friday, the place was even more packed as Husky undergraduates sought to celebrate the end to another week of classes.

Music spilled out from the clubs; live bands tuning as they prepared for their first sets, karaoke blaring out as wannabe singers tried their hand at Top Forty songs. But if Kelli heard anything, it didn’t show as her foot pressed even harder against the gas pedal.

Make them pay… they’ll never forget your name again… MAKE THEM PAY!

Focused, she drove the car through the parking lot like a spike being slammed through a rail. Shopping carts were tossed aside as though they were made of tinfoil, customers diving out of the way as the Wrangler careened through the lot, metal screeching in defiance as fenders and bumpers were crumpled and glass shattered.

Mere yards in front of the speeding Jeep, the Husky’s Den was filled with dozens of fun-seeking UW students all looking to put the academic rigors behind them for the weekend. Absorbed in their social life, the young men and women never saw the vehicle as it careened toward them. But as the glass and drywall blew inward, the screams of panic, fear and pain drowned out all other sounds of revelry.

It was over in just a few seconds as the Jeep came to a brutal stop up against an interior column, mere inches from the stage. As the engine finally died, smoke billowing up from the damaged front end, only the hiss of the fractured radiator could be heard within the settling dust and debris.

As the weak whimpers and groans of the injured began to rise, the cries of disbelief from those who were still able to move about began to echo among the rubble; Kelli lifted her head from where it had impacted the hard form of the steering wheel. Blood trailed down the bridge of her nose joining the flow that was pouring from the corner of her mouth.

Looking through the broken glass of the windshield the brunette took in the death and destruction she’d just caused. Her ears were assaulted with pleas for help but the determined voice from earlier was now gone.

Her brown eyes glazed over as her heart began to fade. But before her brain was deprived of life-sustaining oxygen, Kelli managed to focus on one last object.

Fluttering, its wings beating back and forth slowly as it came to rest on the crumpled dash, the butterfly – her butterfly – sat before her as though it was standing guard over Kelli’s dying form. She reached toward it weakly, even as her heart beat out its last contraction, but her fingers never made contact.

Kelli Mattingly died, her eyes closing one final time as the red and yellow wings before her simultaneously faded away.

 

Tuscarora, Nevada


Dean groaned loudly, on purpose, and tossed the April issue of Penthouse down on the bed beside him. To say that he was bored was an understatement. He was well beyond the Webster definition of boredom and had crossed over into the realm of restless desperation.

They’d only been in the northern Nevada town for two days, but it had been long enough to find out that the report of a black dog had been “slightly exaggerated." Not that Dean was totally disappointed in the lack of a substantial hunt, but if he had his choice of where to be stuck, surely Tuscarora wouldn’t have topped his list.

The town was a case-study in tedium; one store, one motel, one restaurant, one gas station, one bar. In Dean’s opinion, Tuscarora was a place whose only purpose since the end of the silver rush appeared to be the production of pottery and to be the butt of “my town is sooooo small” jokes. No wonder no self-respecting black dog would have gotten caught here, it simply didn’t warrant the attention or effort.

Wiping the back of his hand across his parched mouth, Dean glanced at his brother and then looked at his watch.

Sam sat across from him, his long legs propped up on the small motel room table as his lanky frame twisted at an odd angle. The laptop, and source of his brother’s strange physical position, rested on Sam’s legs, teetering precariously as the younger Winchester fought to maintain the signal on his broadband card.

That his brother was even trying to surf the web annoyed Dean. Technology was great and while it had its uses, sometimes there was nothing better than the direct approach. Certainly Dad had never relied on computers to find his next hunt. The Winchester patriarch always managed to zero in on whatever supernatural phenomenon required his attention simply by “old-fashioned” methods like newspapers, television and his myriads of contacts.

“Come on, Sammy. Let’s just pack it up and head out. We’ll come across something but this is a massive waste of our time here,” Dean pleaded.

“And where do you suggest we go?” Sam asked, looking up from the laptop in annoyance. “Not like we should be wasting gas just aimlessly cruising around the countryside. Or maybe you haven’t noticed that it’s over four dollars a gallon and the Impala chugs it like a man caught out in the desert?”

Dean groaned, his eyes rolling in exasperation. “Dude, have you taken a good look around this town? There’s nothing here and I’m not just talking about the supernatural. The closest thing to a black dog we’ve seen is the clerk’s Chihuahua and unless that damn thing suddenly grows horns and an extra head, I think the town is pretty safe. Hell, there’s only two cops in the whole place, I think that about sums up the threat matrix for Tuscarora.”

“Look Dean, if you want to go out to the bar or something, don’t let me stop you,”

“Yeah, right,” the elder brother answered grumpily. “Even if I could stand the endless cry-in-your-beer, my woman left me for another man, county music, there’s no one there that I can hustle in pool. I’m tellin’ ya Sammy, if we don’t get out of here soon, not only will I not be able to restock our cash reserves, but I’m gonna turn into one helluva restless spirit.”

“That’s not even funny, Dean,” Sam chastised him, the memory of seeing his brother lying deathly still underneath the bloody remains of Luke Fraser was an all-too-fresh memory.

“Seriously, Sam, Let’s just hit the road. We can head down towards Vegas or something. I can win us some more cash and you’ll at least have a better internet connection,” Dean tempted.

Dean’s eyebrows knitted as Sam’s sudden outburst of laughter boomed across the small room.

“Need I remind you what happened the last time we were in Vegas, Dean? I mean, dude, some ghost nearly made you his bitch,” Sam teased

“Laugh it up, Samantha. At least I never got a supernatural swirly. Besides, it wasn’t all that bad. The bottomless glass of tequila was pretty awesome, dude.”

He watched Sam’s head shake and then drop back down to stare at the computer screen. Dean shook his own head and settled back against the headboard. He briefly considered suffering through the atmosphere at the nearby Jimmy’s Place, but decided that he wasn’t desperate enough, bored enough or dry enough to want a beer at that bar ever again.

Quickly flipping through the meager offerings of the four channels that actually came through the television, Dean snapped the set back off and flung the remote across the room, sending it into the wall with a soft crack of plastic against drywall. Staring at Sam, it annoyed him even more that his brother didn’t even look up at the disturbance.

“That’s it…” Dean huffed, rising up and crossing the space between the bed and his brother in two wide strides. “Gimme the laptop, Sammy.”

His brother recoiled, pulling the computer away even as Dean approached.

“Back off, Dean,” Sam yelled.

In an instant, they were wrestling, hands scrabbling to take possession of the laptop while arms and elbows flew about wildly. It wasn’t a true fight, more the type of childish scraps the brothers had engaged in when they were younger.

Still, even though it was classic juvenile behavior, neither was about to submit.

“Get off, Dean…” Sam grunted, hugging the computer protectively against his chest even as he threw his left arm back toward his brother’s head.

“Come on, I just want to pull up the shortest route to Vegas or even Reno, dude. Anywhere where the women are hot and the beer is cold will do. Don’t be such a selfish jackass,” Dean snapped back, his own hands clawing at his brother’s arm.

They struggled on the threadbare carpeting, Sam’s longer body an equal match to Dean’s compact muscular form as they fought over the laptop. Legs kicked and fists flew, none of them causing any real damage during their immature game of “keep-away.”

“It’s mine…” Sam whined.

“My God, can you sound any more like a four-year-old? Give it to me,” Dean threw back as he tugged on Sam’s arm.

“Look who’s talking…”

In the end, it was Sam that halted the almost comical tussle as he inadvertently reared back, his elbow catching Dean solidly in the eye. The older sibling cried out, slumping backwards into the wall, his hand flying up to his injured face.

“Dean?” Sam called out, spinning around to check on his brother, concern flashing across his face.

"…'m fine, Sam,” Dean snapped, the heel of his hand pressed hard against his left eye.

He knew his baby brother wouldn’t take that as a final answer, but as he fought to reopen the burning and tearing eye, he knew he’d never escape Sam’s guilt-driven concern.

“Let me look, you big baby,” Sam teased as he tugged at Dean’s interfering hand.

Having it pried away, Dean could tell from the look on his brother’s face that the result of Sam’s inadvertent elbow must not have been good.

“Damn, dude. I got you really good,” Sam chuckled. “It’s already turning colors.”

The comment spurred Dean to his feet. Ignoring the blurred vision in his injured orb, he quickly darted off to the bathroom. Once inside, he stared at his reflection, grimacing as the area just above his cheekbone blossomed with reds and blues.

“Sonofabitch, Sam,” he exclaimed, tentatively touching the discolored skin with the tips of his fingers.

“Sorry dude, but you started it. I just ended it. Guess you won’t have to worry about attracting any hot women now,” Sam mocked from the other room. “Maybe we ought to stay here where you’ll have a better chance with the less-discerning locals?”

“Funny, Sam. Real friggin’ funny. Let’s see how much you’re laughing when you wake up with a Mohawk tomorrow morning,” Dean threatened. “We’ll see if the ladies still fall for you when that shaggy mop of yours is history.”

“Don’t start, Dean,” Sam warned. “Remember who won last time?”

“Oh I remember, Samantha. I remember that I seriously owe you for the damage you caused to my shooting hand. Now this? Dude, you better start sleeping with one eye open and check your shampoo.”

Silence consumed the small motel room as Dean gently probed at his injury. He muttered several epithets directed at his brother stopping only when he noticed that Sam had not responded to his last comment.

Peeking out around the bathroom’s doorjamb, he saw that his brother had once again assumed his contorted position and was busily working the built-in mousepad on the laptop. Completely engrossed, Dean well knew the look on Sam’s face.

“Found something?” he asked.

“Yeah, I think I have. Listen to this,” Sam started. “A University of Washington student walks out of her dorm room last Friday night, gets in her Jeep and drives it down to the local campus hangout where she plows the thing into the building, killing herself and a half dozen others.”

“Yeah? So what? Not like that doesn’t happen all the time. She was probably gunning for some two-timing boyfriend or something,” Dean answered shrugging.

“No, it doesn’t sound like it was a cheating boyfriend,” Sam offered.

“Ewww, cheating girlfriend?” Dean asked, wrinkling his nose and wincing as the motion pulled against the swelling skin on his cheekbone.

“Dean… this is more likely possession than Penthouse Forum,” Sam chastised him.

“Possession? Why do you think that?”

“Bystanders that tried to rescue her said she was muttering something about hearing voices right before she died.”

“And again I say, so what? She’s dead, end of possession, end of story,” Dean replied dismissing his brother’s “find” with a wave of his hand.

“Yeah, I might agree except this is the third report of a student going nuts on the campus in the past month. Two weeks ago, a tight-end from the football team walked into a liquor store, robbed it at gunpoint, shot the clerk and then just went back to the frat house. When they caught him a few hours later, he was still sitting there, covered in the clerk’s blood, but claiming he couldn’t remember a thing about it.”

“Steroids, dude. You juice up and it cooks the brain. All those anger management issues come boiling to the surface and before you know it, you’re making a beer run with a 9mm,” the older man joked.

Sam threw him a look of annoyance. “Okay then, how about this? Laurel Burlinson, a twenty-three year old elementary ed major is student teaching at a local school when the kids come screaming out of the classroom, yelling that their teacher has gone crazy. They go in and find that Laurel has some of the students locked in a closet, others tied to their chairs and she’s standing on top of her desk throwing books, pencils, crayons, whatever, at anyone that comes close. Oh and she’s screaming that the ‘monsters’ are trying to kill her.”

“Monsters? Oh you’re right, Sam. She was definitely possessed. I mean how could anyone possibly think of a room full of snot-nosed brats as monsters?” Dean mocked. “Come on, Jeep Girl might have just lost control of the car, Frat Boy might have just been on the ragged-edge and Teacher Wannabe, hell maybe she finally realized she picked the wrong major?”

“Do you really believe any of that crap, Dean?” Sam challenged, not swayed by his brother’s casual dismissal of the evidence.

Dean remained silent for a minute, staring at Sam through one open and one slightly squinted eye. He knew his brother had enough hunter’s instincts to feel out when something supernatural was going down. He just hated to admit that Sam was finally on to something. Still, anywhere was better than here in Nowhere, Nevada.

“Come on, Dean. Seattle isn’t that far away and they say it’s beautiful this time of year,” Sam tempted as though he was reading his sibling’s mind.

“Seattle, huh? Capital of rain, grunge music and suicides? Sounds lovely,” Dean groused.

“Seattle, home of Starbucks, Dean…”

“That foofoo crap? Dude, that’s your girlie coffee. Give me strong and black any day over that latte and venti nonsense. I mean really, what demon spawned from hell comes up with coffee you have to order in a foreign language?” he mused as he moved over to the side of his bed and grabbed his duffle to begin packing.

He didn’t look back to see Sam’s face, knowing full well his baby brother would be sitting there with a smug smile of satisfaction at having won this particular battle.

Laugh it up, Sammy. Seven hundred miles is a long way to stay awake… Dean thought to himself, a devilish smile creasing his face as his mind began to plot.

 

Seattle


It was late afternoon by the time the Impala passed the downtown portion of the city on its way up toward the University of Washington campus. The drive, much to Sam’s chagrin, had been far too long; starting with Dean mixing liquid soap in his Coke at the first convenience store and cumulating with his brother’s laughter when he doused Sam with a super large cup of icewater over the top of a restroom stall door.

Sam was angry, to be sure, but as they reached the bustling northwest metropolis, he found himself more interested in the fresh smelling sea breeze and the beautiful skyline set against the stunning backdrop of Mt. Rainier.

It was a stark contrast to the landscape in Nevada, not to mention significantly cooler and Sam found himself rolling up the window to block the penetrating chill.

“What’s the matter, Samantha? Too cold for your delicate skin?” Dean taunted with a snicker as he purposely rolled his own window down further and allowed the brisk air to sweep into the old Chevy.

“All right, enough dude. We’re here and we’re on a case. No more screwing around? Agreed?” Sam demanded, offering his most serious, no-nonsense look.

Dean sighed and rolled up the window. “Yeah, okay,” he acquiesced. “So, where to first?”

Sam lifted some papers that he’d earlier tossed on the dash. Scanning through them, he found the address of Kelli Mattingly’s shocking attack on the other UW students.

“The Husky’s Den, 2631 Northeast University Village Street. It’s just out from the campus,” he stated.

“Do you really think we’ll find anything there now?” Dean asked as he expertly steered the Impala across four lanes of traffic and onto the off-ramp for Northeast Forty-Fifth Street that lead into the heart of the campus.

“I dunno,” Sam shrugged. “But it might be worth hitting the area for EMF or see if there’s any residual sulfur.”

“You’re still thinking possession?”

“I guess. I mean something had to have set these kids off. From everything I’ve dug up, the were all fairly model students. Even Steve Washburn, the football player, wasn’t the stereotypical bad-boy jock. He was studying economics, not exactly a ‘blow-off’ major,” Sam explained.

“I still think these are all just random, unrelated occurrences. You know, the academic version of Girl’s Gone Wild? You’re always saying how hard you worked when you were at Stanford. Maybe these kids just couldn’t hack it and snapped?”

“Yeah, maybe. But that’s just not the vibe I’m getting here, Dean. There’s something going on, I can just feel it,” Sam insisted with an imploring look at his brother.

“Okay, okay, John Edward. I’m not saying there’s nothing here, I’m just thinking it sounds kinda weak is all,” Dean threw back.

“Hey, it’s not Tuscarora,” Sam reminded him with a grin.

“Good point,” his brother admitted. “And I’m supposed to assume that this whole ‘college scene’ had nothing to do with grabbing your interest?”

Sam remained silent as he considered his sibling’s remark. Did he miss school? In all honesty, he hadn’t really thought about Stanford or law school in nearly a year. Not since his near brush with death in New Jersey and then their entanglement with the vampires in Pennsylvania, had he even thought about finishing his education, much less returning to the California university.

But as they approached the sprawling campus, Sam had to admit that it stirred warm memories for him. While he couldn’t avoid thinking about Jess, the sting of her violent death slightly paled next to the wonderful life they had shared at Stanford. Times spent together at the library, not all of it studying. Texting each other while in class and trying not to get caught when the messages leaned toward the risqué. And even though they had only ever shared one class together, both readily jumped in to help the other prep for upcoming tests. But the best times of all were when they simply relaxed together. Thinking about it, some of Sam’s favorite moments with the beautiful blonde were when he and Jessica would curl up on the couch to watch Saturday morning cartoons.

Yet, despite being nearly glued at the hip to Jess, Sam also managed to make other friends as well. And while he’d never consider himself to be one of the most popular students on campus, he was never at a loss for people to hang out with.

Sam's smile faded when he realized that like Jess, most of his Stanford friends had now slipped away. Even Rebecca and Zach hadn’t stayed in touch following the incident in St. Louis. And who could blame them really? Like Dean had said, once they found out the “real” Sam Winchester, they had freaked.

“Sam?” Dean’s voice broke through Sam’s silent reverie.

“Yeah, sorry, what’s up?” he stammered.

“Husky’s Den at twelve o’clock,” Dean replied jabbing a finger ahead of him even as the Impala slowed.

The remnants of the bar loomed at the end of the shopping center, freshly hung boards covering the open hole of the front window like a wooden bandage. But like putting a BandAid on an amputation, the boards couldn’t cover the wound that the Jeep left behind. Broken glass littered the sidewalk and the dark brown stain of dried blood was dabbled on the concrete outside the building.

As his brother pulled the black car into a nearby parking slot, Sam spotted the crowd of students gathering around the site. Their demeanor was quiet and solemn and he could see that each carried a small taper as they prepared for some sort of candlelit vigil.

It wasn’t a foreign concept to Sam, he and Jess had attended one once for a professor who had died in a car accident. This tragedy somehow seemed ten times worse by comparison.

Following Dean out of the car, they strode up to the assembled group, his brother singling out a pretty, petite blonde who was placing flowers on a makeshift memorial in front of the boarded up building. The remnants of the police tape fluttered in the evening breeze while small offerings of flowers and stuffed Huskies adorned the ground below.

Sam rushed ahead, hoping to intervene before Dean tried hitting on the girl. She was just Dean’s type; young, well-endowed and - well - breathing.

“Sad isn’t it?” Dean offered pulling up beside the young co-ed.

“Excuse… me?” she asked looking up, sobs wracking her slight frame.

“Such a horrible tragedy, I mean. What a sad waste of life,” the elder Winchester commented.

“Yeah…” the blonde cried as tears began streaming down her face.

Sam watched Dean’s reaction as the waterworks began. He smiled, the corner of his mouth curling up as he saw his brother try to hide his discomfort in dealing with the crying young woman. She might have been pretty, but the minute she became emotional, she was an instant “turn-off” to his sibling. Dean might love women, and he undoubtedly knew his fair share of them, but when it came to investing himself in comforting the distraught, Dean ran full force in the opposite direction.

Stepping in, Sam rescued his brother. “Did you know any of the victims?” he asked, reaching out to place a gentle hand on her shoulder.

She sobbed louder and nodded.”My best friend, Gayle, and her boyfriend were in there.”

“I’m really sorry,” Sam sympathized.

“I had just left to go back to the dorm. Otherwise, I would have been sitting… right… there… too,” she answered, her voice cracking as she cried even harder.

Sam slid an arm further around her shoulders. “And the girl that was driving, did you know her?”

“No. I mean, I heard her name, but I didn’t really know her. She was pre-law or something. I don’t know, it’s a big campus and I don’t normally hang out with her type,” the blonde replied.

Sam unconsciously flinched at the young woman’s blatant comment. He was all-too-familiar with the social structure in college and the resulting cliques that developed.

“They said she was crazy,” the girl continued. “How could she do something like that? I saw her face as she drove past me. She looked normal enough.”

“Do you think she had some motive for doing this? Like maybe she was out for revenge on some ex-boyfriend or something?” Dean interrupted.

Sam glared at his brother’s stark question.

“How do I know?” the blonde snapped. “She killed a lot of decent people. She never even slowed down ya know? She actually sped up and plowed right into the building. What would make her do that?”

Sam shrugged. He really had no explanation to offer the blonde, certainly not one that wouldn’t seem completely insane itself. Thanking her, he led Dean towards the destroyed bar even as the young co-ed returned to the group of students.

“Did you hear what she said?” he asked as they snuck around to the back entrance.

“Yeah, Sam, I did. Did you? She didn’t exactly tell us anything to make it seem like your pre-law chick was possessed,” Dean answered.

The younger Winchester couldn’t miss his brother’s inflection as he said “pre-law” and if Sam had wondered whether Dean had picked up on that little tidbit of information, he now knew for sure. He’d read that Kelli was a Poli-Sci student headed for law school, but contrary to what his brother was probably thinking, it hadn’t had any bearing on why he decided to come and investigate.

A half hour of them sifting through the scene revealed nothing more than the expected debris and cast off bloody bandages from the rescue squads. Even EMF didn’t turn up anything more than a random blip.

“Satisfied now?” Dean asked sarcastically.

Sam sighed, tossing down a piece of plastic from the Jeep’s headlights as he looked around the destruction.

“I didn’t really expect to find anything here anyway,” he admitted. “But I think we need to check out Kelli’s dorm room. Maybe talk to her roommate. She might be able to tell us if Kelli was acting normally before this all happened.”

Dean groaned loudly and even in the dim light of the bar, Sam knew his brother was rolling his eyes in derision.

“Dude, look. I’m not saying there isn’t a hunt here, but it’s not looking real encouraging right now. And let’s face it, this whole college scene, it’s your gig more than mine,” he admitted.

When Sam didn’t immediately respond, Dean continued. “So, why don’t you go check out Jeep Girls digs and I’m gonna go talk to the folks at the liquor store that our jock held up. That’s more my style anyway.”

Sam nodded, knowing that his brother was right. While he hated splitting up, he likewise knew that it was probably the best use of their time and talents. He was more cut out for the role of sympathetic, caring grief counselor whereas Dean would be right at home pretending to be a detective investigating the brutal crime. In the end, getting to the bottom of whatever was going on here was what was most important.

“All right,” Sam agreed. “I’ll call you when I’m done and you can come pick me back up. Do you know where you’re going?”

Dean loosed a loud laugh simultaneously shaking his head in mock disbelief. “Sammy, Sammy, Sammy… when have I ever had a hard time finding the beer?

Sam joined him with a quick chuckle. “Just be careful and don’t go asking for samples.”

State Liquor Store # 182
2307 East Union Street


Dean was regretting the cocky assurance he’d given to his brother. But then, who would have thought that every liquor store in the city of Seattle was known by nothing more than their state regulated number?

So he set off looking for store number one-eighty-two, finding the location east of the downtown area. The neighborhood wasn’t seedy, but then it was exactly Medina with Bill Gates’ “shack” either.

The store itself was well-lit and open as Dean pulled up to the curb in front. He could see movement within the establishment as a couple of customers scanned the aisles of alcoholic offerings.

Fishing for the fake badge and ID out of the box in the glove compartment, Dean tucked the smaller wallet into the back pocket of his jeans. Completing the disguise and more importantly because he wanted the familiar comfort of the weapon tucked against his back, he stuffed the .45 behind his waistband.

Strolling into the store, the veteran hunter quickly took in the entire interior, checking for security cameras as well as assessing the current occupants. Other than the clerk, an older Asian woman, the two other patrons seemed to be nothing more than the local winos looking to get their evening started.

Keeping a nonchalant eye from the first aisle, Dean casually perused a rack of Scotch, his mouth watering slightly when he spotted a bottle of Glenlivet sitting alone on the shelf. Normally a whiskey man, the rare occasion that he splurged for something of quality, he had to admit that twelve year old Scotch had few equals. Tempted to purchase the import, he reluctantly moved his hand away and forced himself to turn his attention back to the job.

Watching as the last of the two customers walked to the checkout to pay for their purchases, Dean noted that the counter was new as was the freshly painted drywall behind it. Obviously when Frat Boy had shot the clerk, he must have sprayed a few extra rounds into the décor. While there was no sign of blood, having read the newspaper’s account Dean could only imagine what the place probably looked like following the robbery.

Sauntering up toward the counter, Dean spotted another security camera mounted overtly above the cash register. Concerned, but not overly, he felt confident the false badge and ID would cover him. It always had before.

“Hey there,” he began, moving closer and reaching for the wallet tucked into the back pocket of his jeans.

The slightly built woman behind the counter looked up and smiled but then just as quickly a look of fear overtook her previously pleasant expression.

Unbeknownst to Dean, his reach for the badge had lifted the tail of his jacket, briefly exposing the shining metal of the .45’s stainless steel muzzle.

A shout from behind him made Dean whirl around instantly on guard. Unseen before, now a older-looking Asian man stood several feet away, a shotgun leveled at the hunter even as a string of unintelligible words were flung at the elder Winchester.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Dean said quietly, his hands held empty before him. “Settle down there Jet Li. Just ease your finger off that trigger.”

More foreign words were shouted from behind the counter and Dean’s head swiveled around to spot the clerk aiming a monstrous-looking .357 Magnum directly at him.

Both the woman and the newcomer, most likely the clerk’s husband, continued to yell at him in a language he had no way of understanding. Caught between the two, Dean fought to hold down the fear that was prickling into his spine as he lowered his voice and tried to calm the two panicked shopkeepers.

“Listen,” he pleaded. “I’m a detective with the King County Sheriff’s Department. Just chill out and lower your weapons.”

The woman wavered slightly, but the older man remained determined, his hand shaking slightly as he held the shotgun. His eyes were wide as he stared back at the perceived robber.

Dean knew that look. Fear, panic and obviously the history of what had happened here were combiningg into a dangerous emotional mix. People did irrational things when confronting their fears, something Dean knew firsthand.

Crap, after what happened, they think I’m here to rob them again… he thought to himself as his mind raced for some way out of the precarious situation.

“Calm down, calm down. I’m not here to hurt anyone. I just wanted to ask a few questions. Police… do you understand?” he asked, speaking as slowly and gently as he could.

“We call police… you not move…” the man hissed back, his English broken and with a heavy accent.

Dammit… Dean thought to himself. The last thing I need is for the cops to show up. Where the hell is Sammy when I need him the most? He’d just flash those freaking puppy eyes and these two would probably hand him the keys to the store.

“No call police…me police,” Dean replied, tapping his chest.

I’ve gotta get out of here…

With his left hand still held out in front of him, he slowly reached for the fake ID in his back pocket. “Police ID, police badge, don’t shoot…” he pleaded.

His eyes darting back and forth between the couple, Dean saw that the woman had lowered the long-barreled Smith and Wesson, but the older man held his position.

The leather case was in his hand, he had only to pull it around to the front, flip it open and display the counterfeit identification and badge. So close… just one more second…

Dean held the thin, dark wallet before him, his hand slowly preparing to open it when he felt more than saw the man’s movement. The blast from the shotgun reverberated throughout the shop, and Dean was pretty sure he could see the brief flash of flame as the gunpowder ignited.

Vaguely, he heard the woman scream, could still hear the man yelling in that foreign language, he could even hear the sound of his own heartbeat hammering in his ears.

Then, as his body slammed into a nearby rack, Dean heard nothing more.

 

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The Winchester Chronicles

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