Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers including, but not limited to, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. This story is also based on characters and situations created and owned by the writers, producers, et al of the television show 'Supernatural'. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, internet persona, or other being, living or dead, is completely coincidental and unintentional unless otherwise noted.
A/N: Though the motel mentioned in this chapter is real enough – and they do, indeed, rent cabins – I made up the cabin in which our favorite characters stay (so if you ever go there and find that cabin 12 either doesn't exist or isn't at all like I've described, you'll know why).
Three Times is Enemy Action
7:13 pm, May 12, 2008
Devil's Tower National Monument
After Harry resized his motorcycle and left the Winchesters with a promise to locate Frank for them, it had been a relatively simple process to bullshit their way past the lingering remnants of the group of law enforcement (and whoever else tagged along with them out on the ass-end of nowhere) in order to take a closer look at the area Frank had described. It probably helped that the locals were thinking it was an animal attack; one of the remaining officers had even mentioned that they were bringing in a tracking expert to hunt down the animal responsible.
Less than five minutes after leaving the parking lot and visitor's center behind, they found the location on the path circling the base of the mountain. It would have been a little hard to miss; even with the off-and-on rain, there was still enough blood smeared around that it was quite patiently obvious that something bad had happened there. The spot looked a little like someone had set off an explosion in a sausage factory; neither Winchester wanted to think too hard on just what the little chunky bits strewn here and there might have been.
Taking care not to trample things any more than the site already was, Dean and Sam split up to look around a little more closely. Sam easily located the boys' clothes right where Frank had said they'd be, stuck way up in a tall pine tree. While nosing around, Dean flicked on the EMF reader. Immediately, it let out a high-pitched squeal and all the lights lit up. The shriek went on for several seconds before the little red LEDs literally exploded. The squeal died slowly as a thin trail of acrid smoke curled up from the circuitry.
"Damn," Dean's tone was one of disbelief.
"Whacha got?" Sam called over from where he was looking at something near a boulder.
"I think the EMF overloaded."
Sam looked up. "What?"
"The EMF overloaded."
"Is that even possible?"
Dean just held the reader up. "Looks like."
7:45 pm, May 12, 2008
The Hulett Motel
Frank was working on her third pack of cigarettes since seeing the carnage that had once been Jimmy and Sean Burton of Oologah, Oklahoma. Not even most of a bottle of cheap whiskey could erase the images enough for her to sleep. After staring up at the ceiling of the living area of cabin twelve for several hours – she wasn't entirely sure just how long it had been, only that the room didn't spin at all when she stood up again – Frank had given up sleep as a lost cause and went for a walk. The town of Hulett wasn't quite large enough to allow her sufficient room to roam, but it beat sitting around and doing nothing; besides, the bar had closed at one. When her watch said it was a reasonable hour, she used her cell – which sported a whole two antenna-bars more signal than the zero at the national park – to call Dean and let him know she'd gotten a cabin at The Hulett Motel. She was pretty sure she had managed to wake him up, but decided after only a moment's hesitation in which to ponder it, that she didn't care if she had. After contacting Dean, Frank had headed back to the motel and ended up spending most of the day, intermittent light rain ignored, sitting on a park bench just outside the office, smoking and trying desperately not to think.
"Frank?" The voice startled her badly enough to make her drop her half-empty pack of Camel menthols and the cheap plastic Bic she'd been absently toying with. "Easy there," the voice said, even as she leaned over to pick them up. When she looked up, she saw a guy she didn't know; he was only a couple of inches taller than she was, and wore a pair of khakis and a hooded, grey sweatshirt under a leather motorcycle jacket. His helmet was tucked under his arm.
"Yeah," she nodded, "I'm Frank. Who're you?"
"I'm a friend of Dean's." The man smiled disarmingly and offered his hand, "Harry Potter." Frank shook his hand and stood. "He and Sam wanted to swing by the park and take a look out there before coming this way. We would've called, but cell service in this part of the country is hit-and-miss at best. I volunteered to come this way and let you know what was going on."
"Thanks. Yeah, the cell service out here could do with another dozen towers or so." After a minute or so of awkward silence, Frank sighed and lit another cigarette before sinking back to her position on the park bench.
"Care if I join you?" Harry asked. When Frank shook her head, he sat next to her, pulling a silver cigarette case from his jacket pocket as he did so. "Can I borrow your lighter?"
Frank handed over the green Bic. "Isn't that the chemical map for caffeine?" she asked, gesturing to the design engraved on the surface of Harry's silver case.
Harry chuckled, "Yeah. Friend of mine gave it to me a couple of years ago. Told me that if they ever made caffeinated cigarettes, I'd be in seventh heaven."
For the first time in what felt like forever, Frank smiled a little. "I suppose, if they ever did, I'd be right there with you. As it stands, the closest we can get are coffee-flavored mini-cigars. Don't care much for cigars, though. They make my mouth numb."
"Oh, I don't know. A cigar every now and then, especially if there's something worth celebrating, isn't half bad."
Frank made a face that clearly communicated what she thought of that. Taking a drag, she turned her face up to the sky for a moment before returning her attention to Harry. "So, um… Do you… I mean, are you…"
Harry snorted in amusement. "At least I know why you're just a photographer and not a journalist. Are you always this articulate?"
"Hey! I am too a journalist! Just because I do my reporting with a camera lens and not a WP program –"
Harry held his hands up in the universal signal for surrender, "Okay, I give. Just teasing, anyway." Frank glared at him. "But, to answer the question for which you were struggling so valiantly to find the words – yes, I'm in the same line of work as Dean."
"How do you know what I wanted to ask?"
Harry finished his smoke. "Trade secret, luv," he smirked. "Trade secret."
"Are you naturally this frustrating or do you have to work at it?"
Harry's smirk broadened into a true smile, "Only when I need to be. When I got here, you were obviously on the verge of freaking out – I've seen it often enough to know what it looks like, so you can quit scowling at me. Besides, it worked."
Frank really wanted to dispute Harry's words, but found that he was right – she didn't feel so much like the world was spiraling out of control anymore. Besides, Frank was pretty sure Harry could talk anyone into anything if he put his mind to it. She sighed a little and climbed to her feet. "Well, then. The cabin is back this way."
The small cabin Frank had rented for the week was cheerily quaint; it had yellow-checked curtains in the living room and over the sink of the kitchenette, sported a hand-woven rag rug in front of the stone fireplace, and had several mediocre landscapes on the walls. The upstairs portion was divided into two rooms – a bedroom and a bath. When she'd signed in, the clerk had told her that the cabins were designed to sleep as many as six people; the bedroom sported two queen-size beds with heavy homestyle quilts and the sofa in the living area folded out. The closet in the bathroom held a massive assortment of towels and blankets; that fact alone was enough to make Frank happy that they weren't visiting in the middle of winter. Among the usual amenities, the cabin also had a small stacked washer/dryer in a closet between the living area and the small kitchen. She apologized for the lack of Wi-Fi, but the motel did offer internet access through a LAN connection.
While Frank saw about getting herself a shower, Harry plugged his computer into the LAN and settled in to see what he could learn about what happened at the park. He didn't find much online and resorted to calling the local sheriff's department. All they told him was the same head-in-the-sand story they'd managed to convince themselves was what had to have happened; a simple animal attack, probably due to rabies. Hopefully, Dean and Sam found out something more useful at the park. He didn't have to wait long.
About the same time that Frank was finishing up with her shower, the distinctive sound of the Impala pulled to a stop just outside the cabin. Squinting through the rapidly-failing daylight, he saw that Dean had parked between Frank's beat-up truck (complete with camper-shell over the bed) and his bike. He watched as the brothers grabbed their things from the trunk of the car; they were talking, but Harry couldn't hear what they were saying.
"What did you find out at the park?" Harry asked when Dean entered the cabin.
"Not much," Dean replied, setting his tool box on the table in the kitchen area. "Just a whole bunch of gore. Oh, and my EMF burned out." He removed the piece of equipment from his jacket and sat it next to the tool box.
Harry looked up from his perusal of the local businesses, "What?"
Sam entered the cabin with the last few things from the Impala. "What what?" he asked, tossing the duffels on the sofa and setting his computer case on the table next to Harry's. Dean replied by holding up the reader.
Harry let out a low whistle. "Damn. What the hell could have caused that?"
"Just guessing, but I'd say it was probably whatever it was that killed those kids." Sam pulled out his computer as he spoke. "Though 'liquefied' might be a better term."
Dean set about pulling tools out of the box. "Maybe…"
"What?" Harry scooted his own laptop closer to him to make a little more room on the cramped table.
Selecting a screwdriver, Dean began taking apart the EMF reader. "It's just that there's a whole crapload of lore out there about that mountain. Some of it's stupid – it's a beacon for UFOs and shit like that – but some of it might have some bearing on the truth. Hey, Sammy? We know anyone who ever had a hunt out this way?"
"Huh…I'm not sure." He waited for the computer to finish booting. "I'll start looking into that side. Harry, why don't you see what there is to find out about the lore?"
"I can do that."
Ten minutes later, after realizing that there was only one Ethernet jack in the cabin, Sam and Harry networked the laptops so they could research simultaneously while Dean reduced the EMF to a pile of parts. While they were working, Frank emerged from the bathroom and took a seat on the sofa, almost completely unnoticed by the guys.
8:10 pm, May 12, 2008
The Bonnet Farm
Halfway between Alzada, MT and Hulett, WY
Wyatt Bonnet climbed reluctantly up off of the sofa after the knocking at the door failed to disappear after nearly a full ten minutes. His shin barked against the coffee table, sending a collection of empty beer cans clattering to the floor where they joined the assortment of dirty dishes, magazines, and balled-up socks. His head still reeling somewhat from the vodka he'd used to get to sleep, Wyatt stumbled towards the door. "Keep your fuckin' shirt on, you bastard," he shouted, reaching into the breast pocket of his tattered red-and-yellow-checked flannel shirt. He came up with a battered pack of Marlboros and managed to light one just as he flung the front door open. "What?"
There wasn't anyone there. At least, that's what he thought before a small cough drew his attention downwards. A little girl in a frothy green Easter dress smiled up at him. "You a fuckin' Girl Scout or somethin'?" It was probably his hangover that kept him from noticing that there wasn't a car in the driveway.
The girl's smile brightened, "No." She looked him over in a manner that was somewhat creepy, considering she couldn't have been older than ten. "You'll do."
He took a drag off his smoke. "I'll do what?"
The girl's expression didn't change at all as she made a motion with her hand. A brain-shatteringly dizzy moment later and Wyatt found himself pinned to the wall separating the living room from the kitchen. The girl stepped into the foyer, holding the door open as a thick, roiling mass of black drifted through. Wyatt tried to say something – anything – but the words just wouldn't come. The last thing Wyatt saw before everything went black was the little girl stomping on the smoldering cigarette, her expression fleetingly one of disgust.
11:45 pm, May 12, 2008
The Hulett Motel, Cabin 12
Had anyone ever asked Frank for her speculations on what life was like for the guy who'd managed to make her realize that her suspicions on some of what she'd seen were really real, she probably wouldn't have come up with what she was seeing. It wasn't that she was seeing anything really out of the ordinary, and that was probably why it just made her feel more and more disassociated from her surroundings. Dean was soldering a couple of wires down while Harry and Sam traded off research on their computers with several phone calls to people with ever-odder names. She was almost completely positive that the guys had forgotten she was even there, so it surprised her when, after ducking out onto the cabin's tiny front stoop for a smoke, Dean followed her.
"You should probably get some sleep," he said.
She nodded, her face partially lit by the weak streetlights at the end of the parking lot. "I know. I've got another story to chase down. Fuck, I shoulda been outta here yesterday. S'posed to meet up with a couple of other journalists in Dallas come the fifteenth before flying down to Venezuela for the next two months." She tore her gaze from the Impala and turned to face Dean. "But I can't get it out of my head. I mean," she drew on her cigarette, "it's one thing to have something weird show up in a picture, but…this?"
"Hey, I tried to tell you."
Frank nodded again. "I know. It's just… What the hell do I do now?"
She snickered a little, "Didn't I just ask that?" Tossing her half-smoked cigarette into a puddle by the bottom of the steps, she clarified, "Now that it's more than just pictures, I mean."
Dean shrugged, "Hell if I know."
"Aren't you supposed to be the expert here?"
"Yeah, I know this shit. But there's a big difference between you and me – I've never known anything else. How do you deal with the world being a helluva lot more fucked up than you thought? I really don't know."
Frank pulled her denim jacket a little tighter around herself and looked back out at the parking lot. When the sun went down, it felt like the land forgot how to be reasonably warm. "But…"
"Look, Frank," Dean reached out and laid a hand on her shoulder. When she met his eyes, he continued, "There's not a whole lot you can do. It's like if you come up on a car accident. You call the experts and hope that everything winds up okay, maybe drive a little more carefully from then on."
"I guess I can see that." She sighed. "Okay, Mr. Expert. How?"
"What you said – how do I 'drive more carefully' from here on out?"
Dean grinned at her.
"No, really. What?"
"Just…you're taking this a whole lot better than most."
"Not from where I'm standing. I feel like reality's about to fly apart at the seams."
"Then you hide it well," the smirk had yet to fade from Dean's face. "Anyway, there's not a whole lot to it – salt, holy water, iron, silver, some Latin. Why don't you go upstairs and get some sleep? If you're going to make your flight on the fifteenth, you've got a helluva long drive ahead of you."
"That's it? That's all you're going to leave me with?"
Dean let out a huff of amused air, "No, not all. I'll give you a list before you head out. It'll be something for you to read on the plane."
"I'm gonna hold you to that, you know."
Dean's only reply was to hold the door open for her.
A few minutes later, after rejoining Sam and Harry at the table, Sam smirked at his brother. Dean caught the sidelong glance as he set about recalibrating the newly-repaired EMF reader. "Shuddup, Sammy."
"I didn't say anything," he replied, refocusing on the computer screen.
Dean could hear his brother's smug tone and only barely managed to keep from rolling his eyes. "It's not like that. She's got a girlfriend."
Sam slumped a little in his chair, hoping that the computer screen would be enough to hide his grin. It wasn't. The grin evaporated as Dean's boot connected with his shin. "What was that for?"
Dean just glared lightly at him. "So, what did you two find out?"
"Not a whole lot," Harry replied, picking up a small notebook. "There's a couple of small museums in the area that might have some more information available. Much as we may wish it were so, the internet doesn't yet hold everything." He handed the notebook to Dean.
Dean scanned the page of chicken-scratch. "Okay, so tomorrow, you see what you can find out at the county records office. Sam, you can check the museum at the park and the one here in town."
"What about you?" Harry asked.
"I'll see if that family is still in the area. See if any of them saw anything weird."
A/N2: Sorry this took so long to get out, but I was having issues getting the disparate bits of the story to behave. Hopefully, there won't be any more lengthy waits for this story.
Just a friendly reminder – I don't write romance well or often, so my preceding assertion stands: Frank is not a romantic interest.
Review and let me know what you think.