Protecting the Dead

Chapter 3

Disclaimer: See chapter 1

A/N: Thanks to everyone who has read up to this point, and especially to those kind enough to leave a comment. I appreciate knowing how the stories work for you. Or not, LOL. I hope you enjoy the final chapter.

I want to say that no disrespect to the Hindu people is intended. I did some research, but also took some creative license. I hope no one minds.

oooOOOooo

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us most - Jules Maryanne Williamson

oooOOOooo

Neither of the brothers slept well that night. Sam went from thinking about the case to their father and back to the case. Dean thought about Sam, their father and the secret he shared before he died.

Finally, just before 5:00, Sam sat up in bed. "I know you're awake."

"Back at ya, Sammy."

"You wanna talk about it?"

"Nope."

"I do."

"I know," Dean threw off the blankets and headed to the bathroom. "Make coffee; I gotta pee."

After Sam took his turn in the bathroom, they settled at the table with coffee. Their posture was similar; slumped over just a bit, their hands wrapped around their mugs. Their eyes were cast downward.

"I want to find the person who died, Dean. I want to give him – or her – a proper funeral. Every parent deserves that."

"It won't help Dad, Sam. And we did right by him. We did what we had to do to keep him safe. As safe as we could, anyway."

"I know," Sam responded quietly.

Dean took a long sip of coffee and looked at his brother. Sam seemed to feel his gaze and looked up to meet Dean's eyes.

"Dad knows you didn't hate him, Sammy."

Tears sprang into the younger man's eyes and he looked away again.

"You gotta get past this, man. You can't let every job get personal."

"I just wish I could have told him...I wish I would have told him."

"He knew."

Sam nodded, still facing away from Dean.

The older man sighed and sat back in his chair. "I told you that when you were at Stanford, Dad and I would swing by to check up on you."

Sam nodded again.

"Yeah, well, he used to talk about you, too. Not so much to me, but to Jim or Caleb….sometimes Bobby," Dean smirked. "When they weren't threatening to shoot each other."

"How do you know?" Sam asked, his voice quiet.

"I'd overhear sometimes; intentionally listen other times. Pastor Jim told him you were just like him – pigheaded and determined to do things your own way. Dad laughed and agreed with him."

Sam smiled, but there was still sadness in his eyes. "I never should have left."

Dean shrugged. "I don't know about that."

"What do you mean?"

"You did what you had to do. You knew what you wanted and you went for it."

"Yeah, and look what that got me."

"Would you rather have never met Jessica? Never loved her? Never been loved by her?"

"She'd still be alive."

"Maybe," Dean shrugged. "Maybe not. Look, if you hadn't left, you'd have just been angry and bitter. The fights between you and Dad would have gotten worse. He wanted you to stay because he was worried about you, but it looked more like he was trying to control you. If he'd handled things differently, everything might have been different. Better."

Sam looked at his brother, surprise evident on his face.

"Look, Sam, you just gotta trust me on this. Dad knows you didn't hate him."

The younger man nodded.

Dean leaned forward and wrapped his hands around his mug again. "You okay?"

"Yeah. Better, anyway." He looked at his brother. "What about you?"

"Sam, I'm not like you. I don't feel better after talking about stuff."

"You might if you let yourself."

"Sam…." Dean rubbed his face. "I'm okay. I miss Dad, but I'm okay."

"Then why are you so angry all the time now?"

"Because…." Dean saw the expectant look on his brother's face. "Just because I miss Dad."

Sam refilled their coffee cups. Dean hated lying to his brother; especially about something so big, but he had promised their father he wouldn't say anything. He missed their father and it made him sick that their dad probably made a deal with the same demon that took their mother, but what was really making him angry was the damn secret and what it might mean for both of them. He couldn't even comprehend his brother turning evil, but maybe having to kill him was just unthinkable.

oooOOOooo

Raahi , the man Bobby was sending to help the brothers, called Dean just before 9:00 and arrived in town two hours later. They all sat in a corner of the diner that was located near their motel and discussed their options in hushed tones. In addition to being an expert in Hindu rituals, he was well versed in folklore and knew about vetalas.

"When the vetala inhabits a body, it ceases to decay. If it takes over a recently dead body, conceivably it can move about without being discovered," Raahi explained. "But they don't tend to move too far from their homes. The vetala can be appeased with gifts or mantras, but the only way to really get rid of one is to perform the proper funeral and that requires cremating the body."

"Why do those without the correct funerals turn into vetalas?" Dean asked.

"Not all do, of course, but Hindus believe in reincarnation and without the proper rituals, the deceased will not go onto their next life."

"Maybe we just need to expand our search area," Sam said hopefully.

Raahi nodded. "But there is the possibility that the original body will never be found. In that case, we will have to settle for appeasing it."

Dean glanced at his brother and immediately suspected what was going through his head. Sam was thinking about their father again.

A few minutes later, the three left the diner to start on an expanded search. Raahi used his contacts in the Hindu community while Sam checked death records for neighboring towns online. Dean went back over the information they'd already gathered, hoping to spot something they'd missed before.

A couple of hours later, Sam groaned and pushed the computer away. Dean looked at him.

"What's wrong?"

"I haven't found anything helpful and it's just really frustrating."

"Yeah, I know."

"I hope Raahi has better luck."

Dean moved his eyes over the piles of paper around him and happened to notice a small headline in one of the newspapers. He picked it up and scanned the article.

"Shit."

"What?" Sam asked.

"We've been looking for someone who died. Maybe we should have been looking for someone who was missing."

"What do you mean?"

Dean showed him the newspaper. "Maybe our dead person is missing and no one knows he's dead."

"Damnit," Sam muttered as he read the article. A moment later he had accessed a law enforcement database and began to search through the missing person reports while Dean called Raahi.

The article that had caught Dean's eye was about a woman who had been found trapped in her car at the bottom of a ravine for three days before she was found. Miraculously, she only had minor injuries and was expected to recover fully.

"This might be it," Sam said as Dean ended his call to Raahi. "Hardik Bachchan. His son reported him missing just before the first kid was found killed. The family owns an Indian restaurant in Clearmont, about 45 miles from here."

"You have the police report?"

"I'm printing it now," Sam said as he scanned the information on his screen. "This has got to be it, Dean. He was reportedly coming to a restaurant supplier near here. His car was found on the side of the highway between the two towns, but no sign of him."

Dean took the pages from the small printer and began to read. "There was some blood found in the car; the cops assume it was his. There was no apparent damage to the car."

Sam nodded. "He wasn't seen at the restaurant supply place and his car was facing this way on the road. So, it looks like he never made it here."

"Let's start by talking to the restaurant supply employees since we're here and then we'll head off to Clearmont."

Sam nodded in agreement. "I can't believe I didn't think of this before."

"Don't do that," Dean warned as they started to clean up. "Don't blame yourself for not thinking of every possibility the second we hit town."

Sam said nothing.

---

Posing as FBI agents, the brothers confirmed that Hardik missed his appointment with the restaurant supply salesman. He'd been doing business with the supplier for years and the salesman had called Hardik's cell phone number when he was an hour overdue. There had been no answer. Hardik's wife called a few hours later and the police came the next morning to take a report.

With Raahi with them, the brothers next went to Clearmont to speak with Hardik's wife. They kept their cover as FBI agents, but Raahi did most of the talking. The family basically confirmed everything that had been in the police report.

Their next stop was the police station. They explained away their involvement with a vague story about a similar case in Wisconsin and were glad the sheriff wasn't overly suspicious of them.

"It's routine to investigate the family," the sheriff explained. "The restaurant started losing money a couple of years ago when Hardik began having some health problems and his brother took over the daily operations."

"Do you suspect the brother?" Sam asked.

"He has an alibi for the entire day that Hardik disappeared, but his life insurance would certainly help out the business. The wife and kids are beneficiaries of the insurance policy, but the business is also protected." The sheriff shrugged. "But the brother looks clean."

"What about the rest of the family?"

"It's just the wife and two sons. They're both in college out of state."

"What kind of health problem was Mr. Bachchan having?" Raahi asked.

"He was diagnosed with colon cancer. He underwent treatment and had improved enough recently to take back over some of the restaurant duties."

"Well," Sam said. "I don't think this is related to our case after all, but we may have a few more questions before we leave town."

The sheriff walked them to the door. "You know how to get in touch with me."

Over coffee at a restaurant down the street from the sheriff's office, the three men discussed their new information. It seemed the most likely suspect was Harkik's brother and they decided to focus their investigation on him. Before leaving town, they went to the Bachchan restaurant and spoke to Hardik's brother, Nirad.

Dean had a tendency to make snap judgments and had already made up his mind that Nirad was guilty. Nothing the man said during their meeting did anything to dissuade Dean's opinion, but Sam and Raahi also suspected he was somehow involved.

"We don't need to solve the case," Sam said on their way back to Ridgeville. "We need to find the body."

"That's true," Dean agreed. "But we might have to do one to do the other."

"Raahi," Sam asked from the back seat of the Impala. "Can the vetala communicate?"

"Yes. They've been known to enchant with their stories."

"What if we go to the cemetery tonight and try to communicate with it?"

"You mean just ask it who the killer is?" Dean asked.

"What's the harm?"

"It can drive a person mad," Raahi said. "It's very dangerous or I would have suggested it earlier."

"We have to do something," Sam insisted. "Before more people die."

Raahi sighed. "There are incantations involved. Gifts might be necessary. I'll make the arrangements."

oooOOOooo

The Winchesters and Raahi went to the cemetery after midnight. Raahi had gathered the items necessary for the ritual and they set up near the trees where the gardener had seen the bat-like creature. They set up as Raahi explained what he would be doing and how best to protect themselves.

As Raahi started the ceremony, the brothers were on high alert. They knew what to expect, but even so, it was a shock when the high-pitched screeching began and the vetala showed itself to them. Hanging upside down in a tree, it looked like a demonic elf, complete with pointed ears and its small eyes glowed red.

Dean positioned himself slightly in front of Sam and glanced at Raahi as he placed the symbol that would temporarily bind the vetala to its tree. Even though Hardik spoke English, communication with the creature could only be done in Sanskrit, the liturgical language of Hindu.

Although Raahi appeared calm, Dean felt himself getting more nervous as the ritual progressed and wished he could understand what was being said. At one point, the vetala seemed to become angry and Dean tensed. Through the creature's high-pitched speech, Dean could hear Sam's breathing behind him. He signaled to his brother, hoping to calm his nerves.

A moment later, there was a flash of light and the vetala freed itself from the tree; its movement too fast to track.

"What happened?" Dean demanded.

"I told you that the binding was only temporary," Raahi said as he quickly gathered his belongings. "We have to go."

The brothers helped him carry the items to the car and, as they planned, Dean drove away quickly.

"The vetala told me where to find Hardik's body, but didn't confirm that Nirad was the killer."

"So now what?" Sam asked.

"Let's make sure the body is where the vetala said it would be. Then we'll make an anonymous call to the sheriff's office," Dean said.

"Will it kill more people?" Sam asked, leaning forward in the backseat.

"I don't think so. It knows there are people trying to get Hardik to his family for a proper funeral. Hopefully the police will not wait very long before turning it over, though."

oooOOOooo

After the police found Hardik's body, they were able to build a case against Nirad and he was arrested a few days later. The following week, with no new child deaths or miscarriages, the Bachchan family had Hardik's body cremated in a traditional ceremony at a Hindu temple in Chicago. The brothers stood outside, looking through a large window, as Hardik's oldest son began the cremation. Though it had little similarity to the pyre that consumed John Winchester's body, Dean turned away.

"Dean…."

"I'll meet you back at the car."

Sam followed his brother to the parking lot and watched as he reached for the car door, then changed his mind and leaned against the car instead.

"What is it?" Sam asked as he stood close to Dean.

"I've been so pissed since Dad died…." Dean shook his head. "And I've been pushing you away."

"I'm still here. I'm not going anywhere, Dean."

The older man nodded. "I know. Even if you decided to go back to school…."

"We're still brothers. Nothing is going to get in the way of that again."

"I don't know what to do anymore, Sammy. I…."

"You what?"

Dean closed his eyes. "I just don't know what to do."

"You're doing it, Dean. We're helping people and trying to find the demon. That's all we can do."

"I guess."

"You know, I didn't know Dad as well as you did, but I bet he'd be proud of you."

"Sammy…." Dean whispered.

"I mean it, man."

"You think it ever stops hurting?" Dean asked after a moment.

Sam looked off into the distance. "Maybe not completely, but it gets better. It has to."

Dean stood straight and wiped a hand over his face. He looked at his brother. "You been taking care of that cut?"

Sam absently moved a hand to his face. "It's okay."

"It looks a little red."

"It's healing, Dean. Don't worry."

Dean nodded. "Let's get out of here. How about we head to Bobby's for a few days?"

"Sure."

There was a certain familiarity and comfort when they were with Bobby; he was one of the few people who could reminisce about their father with them and tell them stories about him that they didn't know.

They got into the car and Dean cranked up a Metallica tape before roaring out of the parking lot. Sam settled back in his seat and let his thoughts begin to wander. He wondered about Dean's question – would the pain of their father's death ever stop?

"Hey, Dean?"

"Yeah?"

"You know one good thing about Dad dying is that he's probably with Mom."

"I don't know, Sammy. After everything, though, they deserve to be together."

Sam looked at his brother, happy to see a hopeful look on his face for the first time in a very long time.

Fin