Disclaimer etc, see Chapter 1
For a moment both brothers were silent as they contemplated all the ways that agreeing to blindly visit a stranger's home would be a very, very bad idea.
Finally Sam rolled his shoulders. "Anyway, it's probably all academic. I've only created the website to give us a source of legitimate income if we need it. I doubt it's going to generate more than a bit of gas money every month. I just wanted you to be aware of because the Internet Service Provider policy meant it went live at midnight."
"Works for me," Dean suddenly found himself yawning mightily. "And rest assured your King of the Nerds crown is safe, Sammy."
"Ha, ha –"
Beep, ping…beep, ping.
They both froze and looked at each other with wide eyes. Pulling his cell phone from his pocket, Dean found two messages identical to the one he'd just sent himself.
Leaning forward with an expression of fascination, Sam brought up the inbox Dean had minimised preparatory to shutting down the laptop and there were two email enquiry forms waiting to be read.
Dean blinked in that lazy way that meant his brain was actually whirling. "Dude…have we just made a hundred bucks in…ten seconds?"
"I think…" Sam admitted and clicked open the first email, which was from, would you believe it, a quarter horse stud-ranch owner in Kentucky.
His horses were being attacked at night by 'unidentifiable' winged pests the size of a small eagle. He'd had two mares miscarry, a foal had to be shot with a broken leg when it bolted in terror and three prize stud stallions were not doing their stud bit due to severe equine 'performance anxiety'. Attempts to shoot the nocturnal pests had proven futile as incredibly they seemed impervious to a 12-gauge, and all the ranch hands had found after such attempts were a few mysterious stone-chips in the grass which appeared to be granite.
The ranch owner had taken one look at 'Gargoyles, Stone, Winged' and knew what he was dealing with. He 'estimated' there were about half-a-dozen gargoyles terrorising his stock, and on top of the $50 enquiry fee, $250 consult fee and $200-per-gargoyle fee he would pay first-class airfare tickets for all 'three' Winchester men if they would get to Kentucky within the next 36 hours, as well as…
Dean shook his head as if to clear it. "Sammy, just read that last bit to me, wudya?"
Not believing his own eyes either, Sam nevertheless almost whispered, "As well as one thousand dollars cash on arrival, gratis."
"One thousand…two hundred per gargoyle…six gargoyles…" Dean muttered, "That's…$2,500!"
"And we haven't even checked the second email yet!" Sam gulped.
© 2006, Catherine D. Stewart
This story was actually my first ever in the fandom, though only posted now. I got the niggle in the 'credit card fraud' from the pilot but it really started to develop from Episode #4 of Season 1, Skin, basically because of my irritation that 'Dean dead in St Louis' was never "fixed" in a subsequent episode (even if just a throwaway line to the effect of Sammy hacking into the police files and adding some narrative.)
Without wishing to annoy McG, Eric & the scriptwriters (it's bad for your blood pressure, boys) that simply isn't plausible or believable. Leaving aside the dubious morality of presenting fraud, deception and dishonesty as 'cool', it is simply not practical. Plastic, whether real or fake, leaves a trail. If you really need to go Greta Garbo and just leave for a while, hoard those banknotes, because cash truly is invisible – tracking cash is the financial equivalent of trying to plait fog.
My other issue is that, unlike just a few years ago, nowadays (and particularly in the USA after 9/11) everyone's connected – and paranoid. We even saw an example in The Benders when a rural, presumably budget-poor deputy sheriff still had an in-car wireless broadband computer than blew Dean's phoney credentials apart in ten seconds flat. That doesn't take into account the myriad hospitals (even charity hospitals and clinics) across the USA who often use the same medical labs to test tissue samples and whose computer records can be compared with a few keystrokes.
That's when this story began to get going – the technology is getting better, authorities are getting smarter, banks are getting meaner with fraudsters. All The demon needed to do was tip off the appropriate authorities and then watch Dean, Sam and John hang themselves. Then, like 'Sam' I thought about the traffic police problem. You can't tell me a young, handsome guy like Dean driving a classy car he may not have looked able to afford wouldn't have attracted some officious state trooper? The instant that worthy insisted on a trunk check or to examine the inside of the car, it would be sayonara boys.
Finally, it occurred to me how vulnerable they always are – like in the pilot where the sheriff finds their 'mumbo jumbo' in a motel room. All it needs is a particularly smart, suspicious and astute person to look at the brothers and head for the nearest police officer. A brilliant example is the 'Beth' character in Chicks and Private Dicks, Chapter 2 of Degonda's Supernatural story Clowns and Helium.
Read the chapter and you'll see instantly what I mean – she nearly manages to get Sam arrested when he asks her questions pretending to be an FBI agent and she clocks all the info he has on dead children and starts yelling for the cops. What's more Sam and Dean have to stick around in Degonda's story to find out how and why the clowns are killing the children, so what do you think the reaction would be of Beth – or say a more law enforcement type character – to seeing these guys hanging around seeming to ogle children every day? Pretty soon they'd be in the frame for every unsolved murder back to Jack the Ripper.
Any story should be believable within its genre, like Buffy was, or the Stargate SG-1 episode Wormhole Xtreme where the SGC knew they had a perfect cover of 'plausible deniability' if they wanted it because Stargate could plausibly be real life not just reel life. Take the example of Something Wicked…America is by and large a very family oriented society, with close-knit families and strong community attitudes. Yet in that episode, where children were mysteriously ill and dying nobody, but nobody, comes over for a little Q&A with the two definitely-not-GQ strangers who have spent a good ten minutes eyeballing a children's playground? I don't think so.
The boys also spend a lot of time in diners and cafés, where Dean has the journal or a newspaper and Sam has the laptop open and firing. All it would need for disaster would be a doctor (e.g., Gregory House) or an off duty sheriff in civilian clothing or a vacationing FBI/ATF/DEA/ Homeland Security agent sat at the next table think Max Bhagat/Jules Cassidy or Jimmy Nash/Sam Starratt from Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooter series who overheard a few words or caught a glimpse of Sam's laptop to start eavesdropping in earnest. After about two minutes the eavesdropper would probably be convinced the pair were psychopathic drifters serial-killing their way across the U.S. Indeed, all you'd really need was an observant librarian, county courthouse clerk or just conscientious citizen concerned over two rather casually dressed young drifters showing a suspicious amount of interest in children, or local women murder victims or whatever.
That's not counting all the other stuff that could go wrong. What if Sam and Dean go on a hunt from a dingy motel complex for a few days only for the fire alarm to get pulled? The staff and/or firemen decide to do a room-by-room check and they open the door to freak-o-rama? Or maybe the ATF/DEA raid the place looking for drugs or guns, or NCIS raid looking for an AWOL sailor? They round up the staff and guests then do a room by room search to see what they turn up and it's hello, freak-out time. Or if the pair pull into a hotel that, though they don't know it, is under surveillance by the FBI anti-terrorism unit. A few telescopic camera shots of Dean and Sam hauling blessed/cursed ritual daggers, silver bullets, wood crosses with 'Mr Pointy' ends and Holy Water out of the trunk would soon redirect attention.
And finally there is fingerprints and DNA samples. In more episodes than I count, the boys have left their fingerprints and dandruff. Remember them wiping down the railings in Nightmare? How many times must they have inadvertently left a thumbprint on something?
What really brought these fragmented realisations together though, and turned this story coherent, was the death of my granddad. Unlike the death of my other granddad, which was totally unexpected from a massive heart attack at work, we knew my granddad would not make it, though he rallied a couple of times. We were prepared, and had already gathered the appropriate paperwork and were ready to inform officialdom, which was done for all interested parties within two hours of my granddad passing away. Now, four months later, we are still mired in bureaucratic incompetence, ineptitude, inefficiency, indifference and ignorance. It is indeed terrifying to contemplate the absolute and utter mess they would have made of the situation had my granddad Chic's death been as unexpected as my granddad Dick's. One thing we have learned is that you are on databases you didn't know about or think you were on in a million years, even if most of what is recorded is so hopelessly wrong that a three-year-old could spot the gaffe. Sam and Dean would, in 'real life' be likewise enmeshed in this idiocy and doubtless the situation would deteriorate from there.
Supernatural is a great show and obviously they only have 40 minutes to tell a story, so a lot of underpinning detail has to be jettisoned for more important things. That means certain things have to be cut and left to the viewers imaginations. We never see Dean/Sam working out at the gym or sparring because there isn't time, but we know they have to have a daily workout routine to be as fast and resilient as they are (as well as so Jensen and Jared look any good without wearing shirts!).
Obviously 'credit card fraud' was dreamt up as a quick fix, but if you really want to stay below the radar, card fraud lays a false trail, but cash leaves no trail at all. And since you can find psychics in the phone book, why not Winchester Paranormal Exterminators? In what I like to think of as great minds but is certainly nothing more than sheer coincidence, Eric Kripke has confirmed that one of the episodes in Season 2 actually covers all the points I've made in this story/note – apparently the brothers don't manage to depart one step ahead of the authorities/law enforcement types like they normally do. I'll be watching that episode eagerly!