It took a little while, but I finally got down to writing the epilogue. Which is funny considering that before I started writing the story, the first part of the epilogue was actually the first thing I had in mind. But that's life, I guess.
So here you go with the epilogue, hope you enjoy!
Epilogue - Lies
Even after the Burkovitz brothers left the hospital, I couldn't help but occasionally think about them, wondering where they were and what was happening to them now. And I had to admit that occasionally, when I found that I couldn't sleep, or when I had a few precious free moments on my hands, I logged on to the computer and researched things.
If I believed what Dean had told me during those moments in the hospital room, then these things that I had put off as horror stories for all my life were real. Of course I didn't know if all of these things were true, but Dean had been sincere in his words. It had been a wendigo that had killed all these people in our area. And if wendigos were real, I couldn't help but think and try to figure out what else was, too.
Not that I ever found proof of anything. Not on the internet, I was realistic enough to know that. But those occasional minutes and hours of browsing got me thinking, and trying to imagine which of these things had crossed the brothers' paths before.
But the biggest reminder of the Burkovitz brothers came in the small scandal that happened nearly two months after Dean was released from hospital.
The fact that during the quarterly billing his insurance turned out to be fake should have surprised me. But it didn't, not really. That was the only thing that did surprise me – the fact that when I got to know about it, it didn't feel like a surprise, or a blow to the gut. Much more it felt like something I should have expected.
And probably I should have been more angry about it than I was. Fake insurance meant that the hospital was left with all the bills, that the entire treatment, the surgery, the meds, the aftercare, it all went unpaid. The hospital was left with all the costs, and of course an investigation of the events followed.
Two months is a lot of time in an ER. Of course you don't forget the dramatic cases, but you quickly forget the details, you remember names and injuries but the faces quickly elude you. I was convinced that not even the most thorough investigation would be able to turn up Sam and Dean, wherever they were now.
And that was the one thing I was sure of – their names really were Sam and Dean. Even when it turned out that no Dean or Sam Burkovitz had ever existed, their first names were real. What convinced me was the way they had used them around one another, determined and without hesitation. And the way Dean had called his brother 'Sammy', as well as Sam's reaction to that nickname convinced me fully. It was a behavior that had grown over years, and not a play with fake names.
While not many people remembered any specifics about the brothers during the insurance investigation, someone must have remembered that I spent time with the brothers, or rather with Sam, and might remember more about them.
So one morning I found myself faced with an insurance investigator who tried to get me to remember as many details about the brothers as possible.
I consider myself an honest man. I teach my children that lies will always come back to haunt you, and I try to practice what I preach, try to set an example for them that they will want to follow. I don't like lies, and I don't think I'm a skilled liar, either.
It wasn't the first time that someone had tried to rip off an insurance, and that the insurance company was investigating the case trying to find the culprit. Working in my job for as long as I had, I had seen that happen more often than I can remember. I had always helped, had always volunteered information and I had never lied.
I don't know why this time was different, but it was.
This time, I lied.
If you ask me about it, I don't know if I could give a good answer as to why I did. A vague there was something about them is all I could ever come up with. Something about those brothers, about the glimpse of their life that I had been granted, had me convinced that they didn't rip off health insurance to get free treatment for the fun of it. Oh, they had committed the crime all right, and probably very deliberately. But I had the feeling that the only reason for that was that in their lifestyle, it could not be avoided.
When you got hurt hunting a wendigo, you needed to make sure that hospital treatment was a possibility.
It was the explanation I gave to myself to ease my conscience. I didn't like telling lies, but sometimes in life a lie serves a purpose. It doesn't make telling the lie any better. A lie will always be a lie. But this time I lied to protect someone, and while that didn't make it all right, it made it bearable.
So when the insurance investigator asked me for a description of the two men who had come to the hospital posing as brothers, I gave him one.
The younger one was tall, the older of average height.
Everyone at the hospital would have remembered how tall Sam was, the investigator already knew.
Was there anything else I remembered about them?
I did remember a lot, in fact. Sam had hazel eyes and was of muscular built, Dean had green eyes and was a bit more wiry than his brother. Both had fighter's physiques, and if someone had put me in front of a sketch artist, I'm sure I could have directed that artist into drawing two very life-like renderings of the brothers.
But I didn't tell the investigator any of that. I gave him generic descriptions, ones that could have fit practically anybody. What helped was that the tapes from the parking lot and ER surveillance tapes had long since been erased. At least I wasn't going to be caught in my lie.
No, I don't remember the older one's eye color. Never really paid attention to that. The younger? Brown maybe, but I'm not sure. No real distinguishing marks that I could think of.
Sorry that I can't help you any better, but it's been a long time ago.
What people had remembered was that the brothers had been driving an unusual car. Someone told the investigator I might be able to help. I was known around the hospital to have a soft spot for classic cars, and my uncle's infatuation with those had produced many a funny story I had shared in the cafeteria, or in a water cooler conversation. So I wasn't surprised when the investigator asked me if I remembered what car they had been driving.
Yes, of course I do. A classic car like theirs, in pristine condition? It was a beauty.
And of course the next question was what kind of car it had been. And it was the one question where it paid off that everybody in the hospital had me labeled the resident expert, and nobody was going to doubt that I was telling the truth.
A black '85 Mustang. A real beauty, I can tell you. They don't make cars like that anymore today. It's a shame, really.
And as much as I hate lying about anything, I couldn't even bring myself to feel bad after the investigator left again. I don't know why.
But maybe the reason was that I had the distinct feeling that these brothers had enough to deal with in their lives. I still vividly remembered Sam's despair when his brother's life had hung in the balance, and the look in Dean's eyes when he had told me that theirs was not the kind of life anyone would choose to lead.
I didn't like that the hospital got left with the bill, but I knew for a fact that it wasn't going to ruin anybody's life if it didn't get paid.
I wasn't too sure that the authorities locating the brothers and arresting them was going to leave other people's lives unaffected, though.
No, the brothers had enough on their plate as it was, dealing with all the things my nightmares were now made of. And if my lying to that insurance investigator in some, even the smallest possible way helped them to ease their life a little, I thought it justified the lies. Just this once.
Not thinking about two random strangers, no matter how intriguing they might be, isn't too hard when you have a fulltime job, a wife, and children to take care of. For months, my life took on a normal course. The investigation concerning Dean Burkovitz' insurance fraud died down without result, and life went back to ordinary.
A couple of months after I met the brothers, it must have been September of the same year, my family and I went to visit my in-laws in Wisconsin. It was there, in my mother-in-law's living room in a small suburb in Wisconsin, right in front of her TV, that I got a notion of how much life occasionally enjoys throwing you random curveball to remind you of things you thought long forgotten.
And it was a Breaking News broadcast, of all things, that was my curveball.
Breaking News broadcasts have a way of making you look up with their suspenseful music and dramatic voiceovers. But I was only half watching despite that, barely noticing that it was a bank robbery in Milwaukee the report was about. I was already about to look away and focus on my magazine again when I suddenly saw a face I knew.
My head jerked up so quickly that I nearly gave myself whiplash.
At first I wasn't sure, then I couldn't believe it. But what my eyes were telling me was real, though it took a few seconds for the message to sink in. The man showing on my mother-in-law's TV screen, in the middle of a bank robbery, with a security guard held in front of him and a dozen laser sights of sniper rifles focused on him, was Dean Burkovitz.
Or rather it wasn't, because Burkovitz wasn't his real name. But it was definitely Dean.
I couldn't quite wrap my mind around the question why Dean – and Sam, because I didn't have any doubt that the younger brother was close by – would get involved in a bank robbery, but I didn't even have time to contemplate.
"He's holding that poor guard hostage! The man is my age, probably trying to earn some money on the side, and those punks hold him at gunpoint because they need money? I really hope the police put an end to this, soon."
I really like my mother-in-law, even though that seems to be against some universal rule. But I do. She's a kind, sweet woman. And that was probably the only reason why I didn't start a discussion with her then, trying to defend the honor and motives of a man who, by all accounts, should be a total stranger to me. So I said nothing and silently watched the Breaking News report, even as my mother-in-law suggested that probably the bank was robbed because "those punks need money for drugs".
I watched until the special report ended, and stayed up till late in the night to learn how it all ended. And when I heard about the SWAT team storming the bank, saving most of the hostages, but the two hostages-turned-kidnappers-and-bank-robbers escaped, I couldn't help but be relieved.
Because I was sure that none of the people who had died in this bank had died at the hands of the brothers. In fact, I was convinced that if they hadn't been there, the body count would have been much higher.
And why I had that complete faith in two strangers, I don't know. But I had it.
The next day I dug through old newspaper articles in my mother-in-law's kitchen, trying to reconstruct what could have brought the brothers to Milwaukee. We weren't too far away from the city, and it was not difficult to find out what could have caught their attention.
A number of people who had robbed their long-term employers only to kill themselves later on. Crimes without reason and profit, all of them happening in banks or jewelry stores. I still didn't know much about all the things that were lurking out there. I had no idea what could have caused these things to happen. But I knew that if the brothers had intervened, it had been because something abnormal had been going on there, and they had tried to stop it.
I only hoped that it was gone now, that the brothers had been able to get rid of it even with the police surrounding the bank. And I hoped that this involuntary publicity stunt didn't make their lives any harder than necessary.
But no matter how much I tried to keep my eyes open for any sign of them on the news or in the papers over the following weeks, that one Breaking News report was the only trace of them I saw in a long time.
So long that I have to admit, I nearly forgot all about them.
In my defense, my real life took a turn for the worse over the course of the next months, the next two years even.
My job got busier and busier, my work hours bordering on obscene when the hospital decided to downsize its staff and make us work longer hours for the same pay. It didn't take long until my marriage and family life began to suffer from that as well, and after a few months I realized that I had to make a decision.
So I found a new job.
In a new city.
And making such a big break with two pre-teenage children who don't exactly grasp your reasons for tearing them out of their environment tends to distract you from watching out for two people you barely notice. I don't think I spent a single thought on Sam and Dean during that entire time, and in the months that it took my family and me to settle afterwards.
In fact, I didn't think about them at all until about a week ago, when the words strange deaths caught my eye while reading the newspaper. I refilled my coffee cup and read the article more closely.
There was an old hotel complex just outside of town that had been standing empty for the past thirty years. The paper gave no reason why it had been closed down back then, but it mentioned dreadful circumstances and a family tragedy. Now the property had been sold, and the new owner wanted to restore the old building to its original glory. It was in a beautiful location and would do well for tourism in the area. But according to the newspaper, the project was cursed.
Two land developers had met a grisly end there since the property had been sold. One had died in the breakdown of a staircase that a structural engineer had declared safe only two days previously. The other had fallen out of a second storey window for no apparent reason. A third worker had been hit over the head by a chandelier, but he had escaped with a bad concussion and a large bump on his head. He had later on told that he had seen a shadow on the ceiling, moving towards the chandelier just moments before it had dropped on him. Or, as he put it, before whatever it was had thrown the chandelier at him.
The owners of the hotel, the police, even the reporter who had written the article, put that statement off as confused ramblings and didn't pay much mind to it. But it gave the story about the deserted hotel an eerie feeling. And it got me thinking.
I was anything but sure about it, let me tell you. But I had read about these things before, during those first months after Dean had been brought to the hospital, when I had first researched all these legends and myths. I had read about haunted places before, houses here the spirits of dead people allegedly caused mayhem and havoc, even going as far as killing people who entered the house.
If there were things like wendigos, who was I to assume that there weren't ghosts, or poltergeists?
Nevertheless, I hesitated for a long while before I made the call. I deliberated for nearly two days, and only during a moment when my wife and children weren't at home did I finally dare to pick up the phone and dial Dean's number.
Even though I had all but forgotten about the brothers as time passed by, I had kept that small scrap of newspaper onto which Dean had written two phone numbers. And I still knew where I had put it, despite the months that it had been lying there forgotten, and despite all the chaos that moving from one city to the other implied. The scrap of paper was still stuck in the back of my desktop calendar from last year that I kept in the top drawer of my desk because I was notoriously lazy about transferring all the phone numbers and addresses with the start of a new year.
Now I pulled out the yellowed piece of newspaper, and for a few seconds just stared down at the numbers written down on it. Dean hadn't written any names, but the one he had identified as his number was a cell phone, the other one a landline.
I took a deep breath, picked up the phone and dialed the cell phone number.
I don't know what I had expected, but the automated beep, and the message stating that the number I had called was disconnected hadn't been it. A strange numbness settled in the pit of my stomach, something that might have been disappointment, and just to make sure that I hadn't misdialed, I hung up and dialed the number again. This time I checked each number as I punched it in, but the result was the same.
The number you have called has been disconnected.
I put the phone down with a sigh, contemplating what to do next. But really, there was no other choice but to call the landline, the number Dean had identified as belonging to a friend of his who could help. Which I guess meant it was a friend who did the same things that Sam and Dean did. I dialed that number and put the scrap of paper down on my desk as I leaned back in the chair.
This time, the phone rang three times before it was picked up.
It was a gruff voice, that of an older man, and the tone suggested that whoever he was wasn't too excited about being interrupted by my call. It was neither Sam nor Dean, that I was sure of, but then again that much I had known. Now, how to tell the man what I was calling about.
"Hello. I'm sorry to disturb you. My name is Ben Taylor, and…"
"I don't know no Ben Taylor, son. How did you get this number?"
Defensive, and also a slight bit impatient. I suppressed a sigh.
"Dean gave it to me."
For a moment I thought that maybe I had dialed the wrong number, but then I considered the fact that Sam and Dean were hunted criminals since that event in Milwaukee. Surely a friend of theirs would try to protect them from people randomly inquiring about the brothers. The problem was, I had no idea what their real last name was.
"To be honest, I don't know. The only thing I can tell you is that his last name definitely isn't Burkovitz."
A sound came through the line that sounded suspiciously like a bark, but that probably had been a laugh.
"So, why did he give you my number then?"
"I…it's hard to explain, sir."
"Doesn't get any easier if you don't start."
He had a point there, I guessed.
"I was working in the ER of a hospital Dean was brought in a while ago. About two years ago now, I think."
I was still babbling, I realized, not really saying what I was calling about. Screw this, I thought. If the man who yet had to tell me his name thought I was crazy, he would simply hang up. I had nothing to lose.
"He got hurt by a wendigo."
I listened into the receiver with bated breath, but those words caused no reaction. Well, no real reaction. There was no laugh, no startled outcry, no telling me I was crazy, nothing. Just silence for a few seconds, until he realized that I wasn't going to tell him more.
"And? That still doesn't tell me why he gave you my number, or why you are calling me right now."
"Dean said to call if there ever was a similar problem again. That's why he gave me his number and yours. I tried to reach him, but his number was disconnected."
And I have to admit that I was a little worried that during those months that I had heard nothing of the brothers something had happened to either of them.
"You think that wendigo is back?" The man's voice tore me out of my silent musings. "I don't think that's likely."
"No. I…since I met Sam and Dean, I moved. And…I know it sounds crazy, okay? But there's this old hotel around here that they're trying to rebuilt, and people keep dying on the premises for no apparent reason. I don't know what to think of the whole thing. To be honest, I still don't know if I entirely believe this wendigo story. But I thought, maybe someone could check it out, see if I'm just imagining things or not. There's plenty of news coverage about it and…"
"All right, all right," he interrupted me. "You don't need to sell me something. Just give me the city and the name of the hotel, and I'll make sure that someone takes a look at it."
I relayed the information and gave him my phone number. He was about to end the conversation with the promise to call back and tell me what he had found out. The words just tumbled out then, even though I had no intention to actually say them.
"How are Sam and Dean?"
He laughed again, then, another resounding bark. "The boys have never been known for staying in touch. I wouldn't take it personally."
That was all he had to say on the matter, but judged by the fond way he talked about them I guessed that they had to be all right. Whatever that meant in their world. There was only one thing I had to ask before he hung up.
"And what's your name?"
"Singer. I'm Bobby Singer."
And then he hung up.
I didn't hear anything for a couple of days afterwards.
If I was honest with myself, I had been hoping that maybe Sam and Dean would drop by. I don't know why. They didn't owe me anything, definitely not dropping by for a friendly visit. Yet I caught myself looking up when I caught a black car drive by on the road. I couldn't explain it, not really.
But no black Chevy Impala drove up to the house, and I didn't see or hear anything else about them, either.
Instead, only this morning, my phone rang again.
And again, it was Bobby Singer, calling to tell me that the hotel was clean now, as he put it.
"A restless spirit," he said. "Another soul that didn't know how to let go."
"It let go now?"
"Yeah. So whatever they're going to do with that hotel, the spirit shouldn't give them any trouble anymore."
I had a lot of questions still, like how such an angry spirit was put to rest, and who had done it, but before I could even start to form any words in my mind, I heard steps through the line, then the sound of a door opening, adding outside sounds to the background noise that came over the line. Bobby Singer's voice interrupted me before I could bring another word out.
"Listen, I've got to hang up. I just wanted to let you know that the problem has been taken care of."
"Okay," I found myself saying. "Thanks for the call. I appreciate it."
"Yeah, no problem." He grunted something that sounded like a goodbye, then the line went dead. And I might have been offended at the abrupt end of the conversation, but I wasn't. In fact, after that call I felt strangely relaxed. And not only because I hadn't been paranoid about the hotel, and neither because nobody else was going to be attacked there.
No, the reason why that abrupt termination of the phone call didn't disturb me was what I had heard while Bobby Singer had been saying his goodbyes. The last thing that had come through the line before the older man had hung up had been a car driving up.
I'm not a real expert on cars, but there's one engine sound that thanks to my uncle and his passion for these cars I'll recognize everywhere. And what I had heard during those last seconds before the phone call had ended had been the sweet purr of a well-kept classic Chevy engine.
Thanks for reading. For the last time, please let me know what you think. Thanks a lot.