Spare the Rod - EPILOGUE
"Please come in John," Miss Andrea opened the door for the nervous looking man.
"What's the matter with my boy? Bobby said you told him it was an emergency?" he scanned the front room of the woman's house noting the comfortable and well worn furniture, obviously used and abused by happy children. Our place would have looked like this by now... he took a shaky breath and forced dry the mist that wanted to cover his eyes, "Where are they?" he asked looking up the stairwell.
"They're upstairs sleeping... please, I'll take you to them in a minute okay?"
There was something in her voice, the same kind of something that Mary had that would make sure he kept his calm while she prepared to share with him whatever news was coming, be it good or bad. That's probably why I trust her with Sammy... he acknowledged wondering how she'd had the audacity to take his boys from their apartment, but again, looking around he recognized the signs. From the not just decorative silver star that hung in the front window, to the goldenseal, rosemary and burdock planted along the walkway, all things used to confuse, confound or deter evil spirits.
He suffered himself to be led into the kitchen where she poured a cup of coffee for them both.
"I lied to your boys. I promised them I wouldn't tell you, but only because it nearly drove Dean to hysterics until I did, and I don't think you should expect to hear it from Sam either. Dean made him pinkie swear not to tell you," she started.
Pinkie swear? That's the ultimate in the world of kids... "Not to tell me what!?" he demanded quietly feeling his heart race and his palms grow sweaty.
Slowly, carefully she began to tell the anxious man in front of her everything she'd been able to draw from his oldest boy. He hadn't wanted to tell her in front of Sam so he'd waited until Sam swore to stay in the living room until he was done, and to never, ever tell their dad about it. After she'd gotten everything she knew she was going to get from the boy himself, (though she knew for certain there were things he was still holding back), she'd called the school principal, convincing him to give her the rest of the details since the boys had been left in her care over the weekend while Mr. Webster was out of town.
When she was done, John pressed his handkerchief into her hand, both of their eyes tearing, hers overflowing and his threatening to. Trembling he whispered, "Do they need me to press charges?"
Miss Andrea shook her head, "No, the school board has the power to do that independently, now if you want to file charges on your own and stuff like that, then I'm sure you'll actually be encouraged to do so... Principal Lawrence told me Nurse Gamble took plenty of pictures of all of his wounds, the old ones included..."
"Old ones..." John breathed and wanted to scream, Why didn't he tell me!? All that sleeping? All those baths... oh my GOD it all makes sense now, why didn't I see?
Slowly she nodded, "Apparently this has been going on for about a month now... Dean swore that today was the worst, but he's got some pretty hefty bruises John..." she stopped, her eyes peering deep into his.
"Wh..." he cleared his throat knowing there was something else coming and wondering if he had the strength to hear it, "What?" he asked.
"From the depth and duration of some of them, and some of the places, it's possible there might have even been some fracturing involved," she nearly whispered.
"Fractures?" he breathed feeling the world spin fuzzily around his head. He bit his lips tightly together to keep his fathers' rage inside.
She nodded, "MAYBE. Either way, the ribs are such a vascular set of bones that if there had been anything like that, it's almost certainly healed by now, at least Nurse Gamble seemed pretty sure," she sighed and reached across the table, laying her hand gently atop his as his fingers clutched and wove together, trying to keep them from trembling.
I think I'm gonna throw up... my boy... my sweet baby boy... deep inside his stomach tossed and turned, filling with heat and bile.
Miss Andrea squeezed his hands, "I mean this woman... what she did is just evil!" she noted the man's eyes flicking around the room, lighting on various items and she KNEW he knew what they were for. "I don't know what kind of evil, but it doesn't really matter now does it? Not when it comes to kids," she sighed and rose.
"C'mon let's take you to your boys," she motioned him up from the chair, "I gave Dean an antihistamine, it conked him right out, but it'll give you a chance to look him over without him knowing," she explained, "I'm not in the habit of making then breaking promises, especially not to children."
Wordless John nodded. To his surprise she turned on the bedroom light, seeming to know that very little would wake Sam once he was out.
He smiled at the sight of his little one camping out on the floor, and sat gingerly on the edge of the bed.
The first thing he noticed was the small split in his boys' forehead. "Oh God..." he whispered shakily, pressing his lips first to his finger, then his finger lightly to the wound before drawing back with a trembling hand the covers from his first born.
He noticed the boy was wearing one of his t-shirts, swimming in it in fact, and as he pulled it up, he also noticed Dean was gently covered by a pair of his boxers too, oh man... he rolled his head and bit his lip raising the t-shirt carefully up, branding his vision with evidence of harm done to his flesh and blood.
"Keep writing," he snarled as she stopped for a moment to shake the cramp out of her hand, "Keep it neat..." he ordered double checking the four sheets of paper in front of him, each one filled front and back with the following, "Forgive me father for I have sinned, I have betrayed trust and harmed the innocent. I do not deserve to be forgiven."
The instant he crept into her house his hackles had stood on end. The walls were covered with class photos filled with faces that for the plastic smiles stretching their mouths looked more like they wanted to cry. Years worth of emotionless eyes staring at him, all the spirits she'd managed to break through the decades while still being lauded as the teacher with the most well behaved class, year after year after year, and not a single authority had thought to question how or why.
His research had turned up a few early complaints which always seemed to be easily explained by the child recanting their story and proclaiming irresponsibility on their own part.
John could have kicked himself. He should have recognized the signs, he should have known, he just couldn't understand why his son didn't come to him and he doubted his right to be their father. Have I made it so hard for him to come to me? I thought after last year, after all that with Sam... I was sure he knew he could come to me with ANYTHING! He's got to know they're the most important things in my life!
"Now I see where that boy gets his ill behavior and his horrible manners!" she spat noticing that her captor had gone somewhere inside his own head, "...poor stock, I knew it."
John cocked his head to the side, "Lady? And believe me I'm using the term loosely here..." he stipulated much to her surprise, "Are you STUPID?" he asked pointing her own gun at her, "Get t'writin' you fugly bitch," he frowned.
When she finished the current sheet he rose and stood behind her, two gloved fingers pressing into just the right spots under her chin held her immobile and gagging slightly as his other hand, also gloved, forced her fingers to wrap around the grip of her pistol.
"What do you think you're doing you sad pathetic excuse for a human being! People like you never understand! I am building a better world generation by generation! Child by child! Children need a stern hand! They need discipline! They cannot be allowed to run amok... Without someone like me your children would grow into a world of chaos! They will suffer...your children will..."
A blast thundered through the otherwise empty house and John let go, stepping back to let the body fall as it would.
"You first bitch," he spat making sure to lock the door after letting himself out into the night.
"Before I forget, I'll need Dean's homework for the weekend, he wasn't feeling well this morning so I left him over at Miss Andrea's for the day," John smiled awkwardly as he lowered himself into the seat across from Principal Lawrence.
"I'll have one of his classmates drop it over there on the way home from school..." the thin wisp-ish looking man nodded, "Mr. Webster I'm afraid there's been a terrible happening here that involves your son... and I assure that had anyone had any idea what was going on..." he shook his head.
John shook his head playing this the way he'd rehearsed it all night, "What do you mean? I thought this was about getting Dean a tutor or something..."
The only thing that wasn't rehearsed by the time the principal finished explaining everything to John; then handed over the photos of his little boy standing in his blood soaked underwear, his body marred, welted, bruised and bloodied; was the horrified father's waxy pallor.
"I'm afraid there's more though... I'm afraid we won't be able to press charges..." Mr. Lawrence explained lastly.
"Why the hell not! That bitch deserves to rot in hell! Who the FUCK touches a child like that!" he screamed, his cracked voice carrying through the thick wooden door loudly enough to bring a blush to the cheeks of the secretarial staff.
"Authorities found Miss McKetridge in her home this morning... it seems she couldn't live with what she'd done..."
"What?!" John gasped flopping back into the chair, his exhaustion genuine.
John felt his heart pick up the pace once he heard Dean's key slide into the apartment door, just be cool John, so far so good... let's just get them out of here... he told himself yet again.
Funny it was easier to be cool in a room full of cops than it's gonna be in front of my own kids... he thought remembering this morning when the local Sheriff had asked him to come down to the station as a formality. He was also pretty sure the only reason they'd let him go was because he'd played his part so convincingly on Friday. Something he never would have been able to do without Miss Andrea's collusion.
"Dad!" Sam squealed running across the living room and into John's arms as he stooped to scoop him up and kiss his head, "You're here!"
"Heya kiddo," he grinned moving toward his eldest, unable to keep the mist from his eyes.
"Hey dad," he watched his firstborn smile wearily, though he did notice that some of the weight he hadn't even seen creeping onto the boys' shoulders, was now gone.
Never touch my children! he nodded to himself, I think it's time to start teaching them a little hand to hand. Bobby's place'll be perfect.
"Hey Dean...wow what happened here?" he asked putting his squirming Sammy down while his finger reached out and gently touched his boys' forehead.
Dean smirked, "Just a stupid accident."
"He tripped getting out of the tub last week," Sam shot over his shoulder while looking around at the few boxes on the kitchen table that were packed with non perishables. "We're leaving?" Sam asked with an unmistakable sadness in his voice.
"Yeah, we're heading out west, toward Uncle Bobby's... might even stop and see him along the way," he smiled while his hand lingered on his big boys' head, "Hey?" he asked crouching before his son, "You okay kiddo?"
Wordless, the boy's eyes flicked to his little brother, who John noticed opened his mouth as if to say something then quickly shut it again with a look from his brother.
"Something I should know about?" John asked looking between his boys.
Dean shook his head, raised up half his mouth and pulled away from his father, "I'll go get us packed..."
John watched him move stiltedly toward the bedroom and knew he was still hurting. Those rips in his skin were going to take some time to heal and considering the depths of those bruises he'd seen in the photos, it was likely that many of them went all the way down into the bone, Damn that bitch straight to hell! "Already done Dean," he tried to make his voice sound light, "I got home early, and believe it or not, for once we're not in a hurry."
Dean turned at the bedroom door, noticing a pair of pajamas laid out on each of their beds, and their suitcases packed, standing one at the foot of each bed. His brows furrowed, "We're staying another night?" he asked.
"Might as well, it's a little late to be getting on the road," John nodded drawing close to his son again, "You look tired boy, is everything okay?" he asked.
The eldest nodded, watching his little brother grab a pudding snack out of one of the boxes and with his eyes downcast, turn on the TV and sit cross legged on the floor, his eyes dancing between the TV and his big brother.
"Haven't slept too good the last couple nights," he nodded, "So I'm a little tired."
John nodded, "Why don't you go take a nap..." he held up his hand preemptively, "I know I know you're not a little kid anymore, but hear me out. Why don't you go lay down, take a nap then when you get up we'll get some Chinese takeout, maybe even go rent a movie or something... we'll make a real guys night of it what'd you think?" he suggested.
Sam's head snapped up and his bright eyes bounced back and forth between John and Dean, "Can we? Can I stay up too? I'll go take a nap too if I can stay up and have a guys night out... can we? C'Mon Dean? Please?" he asked.
With a strange smile tilting his mouth Dean nodded, "Sounds great," he reached into the bedroom and grabbed his t-shirt and sweats from the bed, "Anyone need to get in? I'm gonna take a bath first."
Once the water was running John looked at his littlest one, torn between wanting him to spill the beans to him, and wanting him to honor the oath he made to his big brother.
"So Sammy... did you find out what was bugging your brother?" he asked trying to keep his voice casual while watching his youngest carefully.
"Yeah," he sighed stuffing a finger full of pudding into his mouth.
"And?" John prodded.
"Somebody was pickin' on him, but they went away and we're going away just like Dean said we would so it's okay now," he shrugged pointing to the TV, "Bumblebee! I love bumblebee! Except for the real ones cause they sting, but this one's a autobot! That's a good guy," he explained turning his attention fully to the television set and effectively ending the conversation.
With a sniff of pride in his boy, and a sad smile for himself, John returned to the kitchen to finish packing their dry goods.
Two Weeks Later:
"Why are you doing this?" he asked looking up from the bottom of the grave.
"I come from a long line of Allegheny Seer's John, but you already figured it was something like that didn't you?" she asked handing down a pouch full of herbs that he opened and sprinkled onto Elise McKetridge's rotting corpse.
"Something like that," he admitted accepting her hand as he climbed out of the hole.
"There are some things I see better than most, some things I don't see as well," she smiled softly, "I have a need to make sure the job is done right... I won't be party to something angry rising and hurting folks if I can help it, and we both know as evil as she was in life... Lord help anyone who gets in her way after death if we don't do our job right," she smiled pouring salt from the canister over the corpse while John soaked it with lighter fluid. "How's Dean doing? He's healing alright?"
John struck the matches and dropped them into the grave, feeling something closing in his chest as he nodded smiling proudly, "He actually played with Sammy at the park the other day instead of just sitting on the swings. And the night before last..." he breathed shakily, "He laughed," he turned looking into the womans' eyes, his own hazed with water, "I didn't realize it'd been so long since I heard that sound... and I've missed it," he nodded.
She wrapped her hands around his upper arm, "Hold tight to it every chance you get John, there's rough roads ahead for folks like us... it's in the distance for now, but mark my words...dark times are coming."