Dean gripped the steering wheel so tight his knuckles were pure white. He gripped out of fear and because he couldn't get the phone call he had recently gotten out of his mind.
The damn phone had woken him up from the first real sleep he had been able to get since he and Sam had split up. He reached for his cell that was laying on the night stand beside his hotel bed. He didn't even bother looking at the caller id. It was either Sam (unlikely since they hadn't spoken since their split-up) or a client.
"Hello," he said sharply, hating the person for waking him up.
"Hello, this is Officer Trent from the Los Angeles Police Department. Who may I ask is speaking?" the voice on the other end said.
Incredulity passed quickly through Dean but when he heard police, he immediately sat up.
"This is Dean Williams. Why the hell did you call me if you didn't even know who I was?" Dean demanded.
"Well, sir I am calling you about a cell phone that was found earlier this evening. Your number was the last number ever dialed. So we called you to see whose phone this might be," the officer informed him.
Dean was suddenly very suspicious. "Since when do the police do lost-and-found?" he grumbled trying to figure out whose phone it was. Since Sam was never without his, then it must be Dad's he thought. Unless it was a client's.
"Well, sir it was located next to a murder victim so it stands to reason that whoever was on the victims phone may know the victim, since we have no other way to determine his identity. His wallet was missing when he was found. Do you have any idea who would have you on their phone?" the officer asked. It took Dean a minute to process everything. He was almost fearful of the answer when he asked "What does this person look like?" Not sure what he was hoping or expecting for.
"White male. Early twenties maybe. Brown hair. 6 feet maybe," the officer checked off physical characteristics that matched his little brother too well.
"I'm… sure. It sounds a little like my brother. But I can't be sure," Dean said with dread growing in the pit of his stomach.
"Do you think you'd be able to come and take a look at the body?" the officer asked. The words "the body" had an ominous tone to Dean as he imagined his little brother, his Sammy lying cold on a table. The officer's voice brought him out of his reverie.
"Mr. Winchester?... Mr. Winchester?" the officer asked, wondering what happened to the man on the other side of the conversation. The voice that finally responded sounded nothing like the one he had been talking.
"I'll be there as soon as I can. I will call you when I get to L.A." Dean replied in a flat monotone voice and hung up before the officer could reply. Luckily he had just finished a job in Colorado. He packed his things and checked out of the motel and was off in less than 10 minutes. That had to be a record.
That was ……… hours ago and he had just reached the California border. Thoughts were racing through his head. Guilt clouded his reasoning. I shouldn't have let him go off. He was right. I'm just a good little soldier, one voice in his head said. Another argued back, you couldn't know. He's the one who left. Again. Dean shook his head, trying to get the thoughts out of his head. Instead he focused on his driving.
Finally he reached Los Angeles. He looked around for a place to pull over to call Officer Trent. He saw am old hotel building that looked like it had been recently reopened for something other than a hotel. There was an empty space in front of the hotel. In fact the only car around seemed to be an old vintage black car, not unlike his own. Mine's better he thought as he dialed the number that had shown up on his caller id when Officer Trent had called. The phone rang a couple times and then picked up.
"Los Angeles Police Department, how may I help you?" the haggard sounding secretary said.
"Ah, yes I need to speak to an Officer Trent," he said.
"Hold please," came her reply and then silence. He had waited a couple minutes when a knock came on his window. He saw a pretty brunette looking in, so he rolled the window down.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"Huh?" he was confused, did he know her?
"You've been parked in front here for like ten minutes. I thought you may be lost," she explained, giving him a glance over. But, for once he didn't feel like flirting with the beauty in front of him. He was too worried about Sam.
"No I'm good. Just makin' a phone call. Where'd you come from anyways?" he asked. He couldn't believe that he hadn't notice someone come up to him. He had been trained to do that.
"I was in the building you're parked next to. I had a long night so I came out for fresh air and saw you sitting there," the girl prattled on. Then she seemed to really see him for once. "Is everything okay? You look kind of ragged," she asked. Dean was about to reply when a voice came over the phone.
"Officer Trent speaking," he said. Dean held up his hand to signal the girl to hold on a second. She crossed her arms and leaned against his car and eavesdropped on his conversation, purposely or not, Dean couldn't tell.
"Yes, Officer. This is Dean Winchester. We spoke on the phone. I said I would call when I got to L. A. Well, here I am. Where do I need to go? Or has the body been identified already?" he asked, almost hopeful. At the mention, the girl leaning against his car stiffened but didn't move.
"Yes, Mr. Winchester. I'm sorry but the body has not been i.d'd yet. You can come to the L. A. morgue. Do you know where it is?" Trent replied, feeling bad for the man on the phone.
"No I can probably find it. Can we meet there now? I want to get this over with," Dean said defeatedly. The officer took pity on him and agreed to meet him there in two hours.
The girl had heard Dean's side of the conversation and drew the correct conclusions from there. Dean sat there dejectedly after hanging up with the policeman. He had momentarily forgotten about the woman standing by his car until she spoke up.
"Are you okay?" she asked with true concern in her voice. She looked at the man in the car who looked close to shattering. She saw pools of tears in his eyes, but as quickly as they were there, they left. He cleared his throat, not wanting to sound upset as he answered her.
"I'm fine,' he said, a little gruffer than he wanted. He cleared his throat again before speaking again. "Do you know where the L. A. morgue is?" Try as hard as he could he couldn't keep his voice from breaking a little. The woman acted as though she hadn't heard him but instead went on.
"Not exactly. But I could look it up for you. Why don't you come in and have a cup of coffee while I do that, okay?" she said.
Dean wasn't one for trusting people. Hell, he barely let his brother in most of the time. But for some reason he trusted this woman, not completely. Hell, he wasn't that dumb. He nodded to the woman and got out of his car. He followed her inside but stopped when he entered the double doors. The lobby was huge. It was a lot better than the motels that he and Sam were prone to stop in. The thought of Sam brought him back to reality. He sobered up and followed the woman to the check-in counter. His curiosity was peaked however.
"So is this an up and running hotel?" he asked.
"Nope. It's actually a private detective agency. Welcome to Angel Investigations. By the way I'm Cordelia," she said. He turned to look at her questioningly.
"You're a P. I.?" he asked, a hint of incredulity in his voice.
"Hey! It's possible. But no I'm not," she said. A voice came from behind them.
"I am. Welcome to Angel Investigations. How can I help you?"
Dean looked around to see where it came from, cursing himself for not noticing someone coming up again. I must be letting my worry for Sammy cloud my head. I need to focus I can't fail him again he thought, his shoulders visually slumping before catching myself, berating himself for being weak. The man in front of him looked like he was waiting for an answer. The dude was wearing all black and his hair was everywhere. Dude. I've never heard of a gothic P. I. before.
Angel watched the swarm of emotions fly across the face of the man before him. Sadness to anger to humor and finally to stoicism. He waited for the man to tell him what was the what when Cordelia spoke up. "He's not a client Angel," she replied with an almost warning tone to her voice, which made Dean a little suspicious. "I invited him in for a cup of coffee so I can look up a location for him."
"Oh, okay. Well it's nice to meet you…" Angel said holding his hand out to the still quiet man before him.
"Dean. Dean Williams," he said, still not fully trusting these people with his real name at least. He shook Angel's hand; it was cold. Well, no wonder with all of these rooms. Must have one heck of a heating bill.
"Oh, and Cordy?" Angel addressed the woman who had just sat a cup of coffee in front of him. "Can I speak with you a moment?"
The two of them walked off a little ways. Dean pretended to drink his coffee as he listened in on the conversation going on between the two strangers, ready to bolt or fight, whichever was needed. Years of training and hunting had given him hearing above average.
"What are you doing Cordy? Letting someone we don't know in that isn't a client, especially with what is going on upstairs," Angel practically hissed.
"Angel! He was sitting out in his car probably freezing and when I was talking to him he got a phone call. He said somethin' about a body and asked me where the morgue is!" she hissed right back. "I couldn't just let him drive off. Cant you see how upset he is?"
"Look, Cordy with…" Angel noticed Dean almost watching them. So he turned away and spoke even softer. "With the person upstairs, the situation is delicate…" This time he was interrupted by three people coming down the stairs. "Uh, guys? Who is staying with... upstairs?"
Dean looked to see who Angel had just addressed. He saw an assortment of people walking down the stairs. There was a black guy who looked like he'd been around the block a time or two. With the black guy was a somewhat uptight looking white guy and a mousey-lookin', yet pretty, girl. The white guy responded to the question.
"Don't worry Angel. Lorne is still up there with him," he replied exasperatedly but was silenced with a look from the man.
"Who's your friend, Angel?" the girl piped up, causing the two other strangers to look Dean's way. They both looked at him suspiciously; a look which Dean was sure mirrored his own. Instead of Angel answering though, Cordelia took over. She walked over to Dean and introduced him to the others.
"Guys this is Dean Williams. He just stopped in from is normal trip to get directions," she said, seeming to stress the word normal, for some reason unknown to Dean. Yea normal. That's me Dean thought. I'm so normal I just came from a "hunting" trip to see if a dead body lying on a slab is my baby brother. Okay stop this thinking Dean.
"Hey there," he said lamely, cursing his tongue-tiedness.
"Dean," Cordelia said, interrupting his thoughts, "This is Gunn." The black man nodded.
"Hello there," greeted the Englishman.
"And Fred," Cordelia finished. The young woman waved.
"Hi There!" said Fred with a VERY obvious Texan accent. "Welcome to Angel Investigations! Why are you in L. A. I mean, you don't have to answer, obviously, but I was just wonderin' 'cause I don't too well with uncomfortable silences. I mean stick me in a lab and I'm right as rain. "Right as rain." I wonder what that really means…"
Dean thought that the girl would have prattled on if Angel hadn't interrupted her.
"Fred!" he exclaimed. "I think that'll do."
"Sorry," she said quietly. Dean felt like he had to break the silence.
"It's okay. I don't like silences either. I usually just pick on my brother when that happens," Dean said to the girl trying to make her feel better but ended up making himself feel worse at the mention of Sam. He looked down feeling the build-up of pressure behind his eyes. His father's voice came back to haunt him though.
Crying is for weak people. Are you weak? I can't let a weak person look after Sammy, his dad said to him when he was young. The thought of having Sammy taken away from him had straightened Dean up faster than anything else could. Sammy was his to protect and no one else's. He had never cried since, always afraid that his dad would take Sammy away. But Sam had gone away anyways. But he came back. He always came back.
Except this time he might not. This thought brought him back to the present, still determined not to cry. Once he felt he had everything under control, he looked back up, only to see five very curious people staring at him. He suddenly became very uncomfortable and cleared his throat.
"So Cordelia, do you have those directions for me?" he asked, suddenly wanting to get out of there before he lost it.
"Uh, yea," she replied and walked over to the computer and got the printed directions out. But before she handed them to him, she looked at him, really looked at him. She could tell he was barely holding it together.
"Okay, here they are. But once you're done there come back here. I'll bet you don't have a place to sleep and you look like you need it," she said. The look on her face silenced both Dean's and Angel's protest. Dean wasn't one to argue with a pretty woman and he wasn't one to pass up free room and board.
"Ok thanks," he replied before heading out, unsure what to expect. As he walked out the door conversation erupted behind him but he paid it no heed. He walked to his car and drove off.
"Cordelia!" Angel exclaimed. "How could you? With all the shit going on you invite some guy to stay here. Some normal guy. He could get pretty suspicious pretty fast, especially with everything going on!"
"Did you not see him Angel?" she asked. "Could you not feel the grief pouring off him? He looks like he can be as stoic as you but he came close to tears! And he's heading to the morgue for God-knows-what reason!" The questioning looks on the rest of her friends' faces led her to explain what had happened while they were upstairs.
"Fine," Angel finally agreed. "But he stays far away from…"
"ANGEL!" came a yell from the stairs. He looked up to see a green horned demon addressing him. "You'd better come quickly. Things just got worse!"
With his tome Angel didn't doubt it. The whole gang raced up the stairs to see what had happened.
As Dean pulled up to the morgue, he saw a police car already in one of the parking spots. As he walked in the entrance he took a quick look around. He was sharper than ever, even though he had been somewhat rattled with what had just been going on. He saw an older gentleman get up walk toward him. He was a little older than John Winchester, but was already graying some. He held his hand out to Dean, introducing himself.
"Lee Trent. I assume you are Dean Williams." Dean took the man's hand and nodded his affirmation.
"I don't want to be rude but can we do this?" he asked. The officer looked at him and sadly nodded his head. Dean didn't remember the walk to the room. The room where he would find out if Sam, his Sammy was laying dead on a slab, failed by his big brother, his protector. He barely heard the officer ask him if he was ready. He slowly nodded his head, not sure if he'd ever be ready. He took a deep breath as the sheet was moved from the person's face. But what was underneath took his breath away.