So here's the deal, I have been contemplating Whispers In the Dark for quite a while now, wanting to complete it yet needing to understand Charlie better...so, to move toward the ending, I needed to go back to the beginning. I'll probably regret posting this, but life is too short to worry about regrets. This story is mostly from Charlie's pov, and with that comes the knowledge that it will be a very dark story. thanks for reading, bambers;)
If there's one thing I've learned in my life, it's that people will stop talking in a heartbeat to hear the grisly details of a truly gruesome murder scene. It's human nature – sick and as twisted as all hell, but still human nature none the less. Like flies drawn to a pile of crap, people are that predictable. I, on the other hand, prefer the unpredictable . . . that's what really gets me where I live. That's where my grisly fantasies reside.
They don't see me, it's too dark in the auditorium and they're too drawn in by the pictures flashing across the screen behind my back. Decapitations. Brutally torn and mangled body parts. Blood splattered across the walls and pooling on the floor. It's enough to make the strongest person lose his stomach, and as I quietly watch with a sympathetic smile, many of them do.
The expansive room was cast into dead silence as lights came on, and a squirrelly looking man, who was graying at the temples, took center stage at the podium. His last name was Clarkson or maybe it was Larkson, not sure which it was as I wasn't really listening. But I was watching him – studying the twitch in the corner of his right eye. Watching the way he couldn't hold eye contact, and the way his eyes rose and looked off to the right when he fished for a response to a question posed to him. He was a liar, not a very good one, but a liar none the less.
"And now I would like to introduce a good friend of mine," squirrelly man said, extending an arm in my direction, "Doctor Thomas Charles Porter."
I was right – he was a pathetic liar . . . predictable, boring and not even worthy of my time, but I still managed to smile disarmingly at him as he shook my hand. I turned my regard to the audience, I was good at this. A master at the game – the consummate liar. Never keep your sights on one person overly long, but make sure to make eye contact, holding it just long enough so they believe you have nothing to hide. People are gullible at best, and will always believe even the most outlandish lies if you can boldly meet their inquisitive gaze without flinching.
"Thank you, Professor," I said, shaking his hand and then wiped my hand on my suit coat. Clearing my throat, I focused my attention on the audience. "As he said, my name's Thomas Porter and I work as a criminal profiler for the FBI." Hitching a thumb back over my shoulder, I chuckled to lessen the tension in the room caused by the slide show I had put together for my lecture. "I really probably should have waited to show the slides until I was finished expounding on how rewarding my job really is. I'll have to remember that for the next time."
Nervous laughter filtered through the room as several students shuffled uneasily in their seats. A young man in the third row caught my attention, and my smile faltered for the briefest of moments. There was nothing remarkable about his appearance, nothing that would make him stand out in the crowd. His face was impassive as he studied his peers, but the subtle interest in his gray eyes couldn't be denied.
"I'm not going to bore you with the statistics or try to convince you that they're a bunch of crap, you have your text books for that, but I would like everyone in this room to consider the vast amount of murders and missing persons reports that go unsolved yearly." I was on auto-pilot now, I had given this exact speech so many times in the past that I didn't even think about it anymore. Now I was free to give my full attention to learning everything I could about anyone who captured my attention.
"Unfortunately, as a criminal profiler, I can only study the picture after the fact. From the first murder scene to the subsequent ones that follow, it's my job to determine a pattern."
In the fifth row, a petite girl sunk down in her seat. Although she feigned interest in the lecture, she twirled her long, blond hair around her finger, and bit wistfully at her lower lip. Every now and again, her gaze would shift to a dark-haired boy in the front row. I glanced at the boy, sizing him up, and had to hide my sudden humor. For all his undeniable appeal to the opposite sex, he was looking for a little bump and grind action from the sandy-haired man sitting beside him. Unrequited love; the one thing that could twist a person and make a murderer out of even the most upstanding of citizens.
Only ten minutes into my lecture, I had completely lost interest, but still managed to ramble on for well over forty minutes, giving my best stock answers to any questions posed. "In conclusion, I would like to thank the professor for asking me here today to speak on behalf of the FBI Criminology Department. It's my hope that I have somehow enlightened you as to how the mind of a serial killer works. I also hope that I've impressed upon you the knowledge that people have very intricate, sometimes devious minds. A serial killer could be right in the same room as you are, and you might never even know it until it's too late." The comment was a small flaunt on my part, but with a narrowing of my brows and a worried frown, I played it off as a concerned warning.
The professor tried to catch my attention as I swiftly strode from the stage, and he continued to follow as I made for the back exit. Some people just never seem to know when they should turn and run the other way, and professor dumb-ass couldn't have picked the worst possible moment to test his luck. He reached me as I grasped the door handle, and placed a hand on my shoulder to stop me from leaving. It was a mistake on his part. One I would let go for now, but not one I would forget.
"Doctor Porter, we're having a small reception at Kerrington Hall, and I thought you would be attending to greet the students and answer any personal questions they might have."
"Well, you apparently thought wrong, Professor Larkson."
"Clarkson," he quickly amended, giving me a look that was clearly meant to make me feel embarrassed for having forgotten his name. I don't embarrass that easily.
"Unfortunately, I've made other plans for the evening, but I do thank you for inviting me." The smile I gave him now was genuine as I recalled the bearded man 'd noticed two days prior. He had two younger boys with him; the older of the two looked to be about fifteen or sixteen, and the younger was probably about no more than twelve. The bearded man with dark, riveting eyes had watched the two younger ones with such fierce protectiveness that I couldn't help but be thoroughly intrigued.
Within an hour's time, I had run his license plate, found out his name, and had a complete background check on him. John Winchester. Ex-marine. Somehow that didn't really surprise me all that much, but did make the prospect of figuring out what made him tick all the more appealing.
His wife had died in a house fire, tragic, but not entirely remarkable. He had been left to care for his two sons; Dean, who had been four at the time of the fire, and Sam, who had been six months old. From what I could gather, he sold his home, worked odd jobs as a mechanic for a while, and then had fallen off the grid. Luckily for me, it seemed as if his boys were very accident prone, and I ran across numerous hospital and social services records. A flutter of anticipation surged in my heart.
If I had judged John correctly from my brief encounter, and there was no doubt in my mind that I had, he'd never laid a finger on either of his children. Yet, the extensive hospital reports didn't lie – someone was abusing both boys. But if it wasn't John who had hurt them, he obviously knew who had done it, and maybe that's what had kept him on the run.
The real cool thing about my job is all the little wire-tapping, listening and tracking devices, not to mention the miniature surveillance cameras I can get my hands on within a moment's notice. It was so easy, too damn easy, to break into their motel room and bug it, that the idea of watching them lost some of its original appeal. But gut instinct goes a long way, and my shaken faith was quickly restored after I'd rummaged through their duffel bags.
What kind of man traveled around with a complete arsenal at his disposal? A man who was afraid of something, but what? My curiosity was piqued, yet for all my interest, John could've just as easily been a traveling gun salesman. I doubted it, but it was always a possibility. But it wasn't until I had spied the white trails of salt running along the floor in front of the door and subsequent ones I'd found edging the window sills, that I knew in my heart that he was the one. The one I couldn't let go. The one I needed to get to know a whole helluva lot better.
It was a rare mistake on my part, but in those moments of thinking about John, I'd somehow managed to let Professor Clarkson see more in my eyes than I'd intended. Look too long into the eyes of any man, and there's a chance you'll find the monsters that lurk in the deepest niches of his mind. And by the way his breathing rapidly increased as he took a sudden backward step, I was certain he was afraid of what he saw.
With practiced ease, I dispelled his well-warranted fears with a winsome smile. "I'm sorry, I was thinking about my mother. She's very ill," I said with an awkward shyness meant to gain his sympathy, and it worked like a charm. "She's just so fragile that I'm always afraid something might happen to her while I'm away." Fragile, a term to evoke in one's mind the idea that something is easily breakable, and her bones did snap like brittle twigs, so I guess the word fit perfectly. "I really have to be going, I'm meeting an old friend for dinner, and it would be rude to be late."
"Yes. Yes, I'm sorry I kept you," he said, sounding flustered and more than just a little embarrassed for assuming the worst of me. "I hope your mother feels better soon." He made a hasty retreat, which was probably for the best as I was starting to lose my patience and self-control.
He would've begged – would've bawled like a baby. I chuckled, comforting myself with the knowledge that I would have found it less than satisfying. For as cliché as it may have sounded, I had found a bigger fish to fry and refused to settle for an unappetizing guppy.
John Winchester was predictable only as far as where he would choose to take his boys to dinner. The three times I had followed him, he'd always picked some small out of the way diner, and always sat in the far back to have a complete view of his immediate surroundings. Until tonight, I had never gone inside, only taking the time to glance in the window before I settled back in my car to wait for him to exit the building.
The strange thing is that most people won't notice you in a small crowd, even if you happen to show up everywhere they happen to be at the time. They're too completely self-absorbed in their own little world, only concerned about the people they are trying to impress with their witty banter, to realize someone is watching them. John wasn't such a man. He took in everything, analyzed it, and determined if it was a threat to his sons or himself. His unguarded conversations with his sons when he thought no one else was listening attested to this, and I couldn't help but feel the slightest bit smug that I'd already outmaneuvered him when I'd bugged his room.
Sam was smart, inquisitive, and questioned his father's authority on more than one occasion since I'd started to listen in on their conversations. But from what I could gather, Dean was the peace keeper of the family, setting himself between his father and brother whenever the arguments became overly heated.
They'd spoken of the salt trails I'd seen in their room, and some thing John was supposedly there to hunt. He'd called it a Wendigo, and from research I'd discovered it was some sort of creature that at one time had been human. Apparently it had a taste for human flesh, and was nearly unstoppable in its quest to attain it. From all accounts it was said to be a myth, but John seemed so certain that it was real, I momentarily found myself wanting to follow him on his hunt. Not that I would, I had already determined what I really wanted. Still, there was a certain appeal to the idea of seeing how brutal John would be with a weapon.
I arrived at the diner a few minutes after they had already entered, and took a seat at the counter. A long mirror spanned the length behind the counter above the food pick up station, and I found that if I rested my chin on interlaced hands, I could glance up into it without giving away the fact that I was staring into the reflective glass at all.
As it had been the past few times I'd watched them eat dinner, both younger boys had their backs to the door while John kept watch for any signs of danger. Dean fidgeted restlessly in his seat, obviously uncomfortable with the feeling of vulnerability of having his back to the crowd in the restaurant. If his father lowered his head for a moment to take bite to eat, Dean would take up the slack, glancing over his shoulder to make certain no threat would catch them unaware. Biting pensively at my lower lip, I wondered if John was even aware of this odd little quirk his eldest son had developed or was he as oblivious to it as he was to his youngest son's thirst for answers.
"What can I get ya, hon?" asked a middle-aged waitress, startling me out of my thoughts. Her gum snapped in rapid fire succession as she stretched it through her teeth and popped each tiny bubble it created. If there was ever one thing that would ruffle my calm outward facade, it's the horse chewing of gum by irritatingly bored waitresses.
"Coffee, black." Keep it simple, that's a rule I've always followed. Even the ditsiest of waitresses will recall the details of a man when he's overly particular about the way his food is served.
"Anything else?" she said as she poured me a cup of steamy, hot liquid.
"No, just the check."
The moment she walked away, I returned my attention to observing the Winchesters. Although I couldn't see Sam's face in the mirror, the telltale slump of his shoulders and lowered head told me he was sulking about something.
There's a helluva lot you can tell about a person just by studying their body language. A subtle lift of a brow, the rigidness of his posture, a quiver of his hand, these all tell something about a person that they may not readily want you to know about themselves. But these can only tell you so much, and then you have to listen. I've always been a real good listener. Luckily for me, I'm also very good at planting bugs on people, and even luckier for me that Dean chose to wear the leather jacket I'd planted a listening device on when I'd broken into their motel room.
If anyone bothered to look close enough, they might have assumed I was wearing a hearing aide, which I guess is technically the truth as it helped me hear everything the Winchesters had to say. From a causal glance, they looked as if they were having a pleasant dinner, voices lowered as to not draw attention to themselves, yet their dinner was anything but pleasant. John tipped the meter on the anger scale. Sam, on the other hand was defiant and rebellious – maybe due to his age or maybe due to being shuffled around from town to town. Dean . . . well, he was trying to hold them both back from saying something that they would later regret – and the more I watched him the more fascinated I became.
"You promised, Dad," Sam said in a hushed tone, yet I could feel the venom behind his words. "You said we'd stay until the end of the school year, but just like every other promise you've ever made, this one was a lie, too."
"I didn't make any promises, Sam, I said we'd try, but we couldn't very well stay with the DSS breathing down our necks, could we?" John glanced up, looked around the diner to see if anyone was paying any particular attention to their heated exchange, and satisfied that no one was, he lowered his head again. "Hell, I'm surprised they even let me bring Dean home from the hospital."
Dean shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but only I seemed to notice how he'd grown uneasy with the present direction of their conversation. "It was only a couple of cracked ribs an' a few cuts . . . you shouldn't have brought me to the hospital."
"You were unconscious for longer than I was comfortable with," John replied, piquing my curiosity as to how long was too long to be unconscious for a Winchester. Most parents would've hightailed it to the hospital if their child was out cold for more than a few moments, but I had a feeling that this rule did not apply to them. "I knew I shouldn't have taken you both with me on that last hunt. It was way too dangerous, an' I knew you weren't ready."
Dean's shoulders drooped ever-so-slightly, not that John noticed, and even to my ears his fatherly concern sounded more like genuine disappointment. God, I wish I could've seen his face at that moment – wanting to see how hard he would struggle to act as if his father hadn't just cut deeply into his pride.
"I'm sorry, Dad," Dean mumbled the apology so low that if the listening device hadn't been planted on him, I probably wouldn't have heard it. "I should've been paying better attention."
"I know you were trying, Dean, but we can't afford any mistakes."
"It wasn't his fault, Dad," Sam was quick to defend, and moved closer to Dean as if forming a silent alliance against a mutual enemy. "I slipped an' he was just trying to protect me."
"No, Sammy," Dean said with a slow shake of his head. "Dad's right, I messed up, an' you could've gotten killed because of it."
There's no doubt in my mind that Sam told the truth, and from the inflection of Dean's tone, I could tell he was uncomfortable lying to his father. My eyes narrowed, trying to determine if there was any change in his posture as he lied, and noticed a slight rigidness in his back as if he were trying to restrain himself from blurting out the truth. I'm not sure why, but this puzzled me. He'd gotten away with it, his father believed that he'd made a mistake that could have caused Sam his life, so why was there a need to come clean on the matter? It wasn't that I didn't understand Dean's desire to appear strong in his father's eyes – it's human nature to want to emulate those traits a person admires in others, and from what I could gather, Dean had some seriously sick hero worshiping issues regarding his father. But for some damn reason his desire to protect Sam, even from their own father, far outranked his own personal wants or needs. For as much as Dean loved his little brother, Sam was his weakness – a weakness that could be exploited if I so chose.
Surprisingly, or maybe not surprising at all, some of the most brutal murders scenes I've attended in my career have been perpetrated by those who've had a fierce, undeniable love for the victim. They've been referred to as crimes of passion which I'd always found rather humorous when staring at the gory remains of some woman who'd been hacked apart by an ax because she'd slept with her husband's best friend. As I contemplated this, I began to wonder if Dean had any deep seeded resentment of his little brother – something I could play upon to tear them apart.
There had to be a darker side to Dean – something I was missing, and that bothered the hell out of me. Carl Jung, a famous Swiss psychiatrist once wrote, 'Everyone carries a Shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is', and I had no doubt that this even applied to the middle, peacekeeping Winchester.
Oddly, I'd never felt so connected to someone who'd caught my interest before, and the sudden surge of adrenaline that raged through my entire body in anticipation was fiercer and more deadly than any firestorm could ever hope to be. I wanted to be the one to release his Shadow. I wanted to push him until his mind snapped. But more than anything I wanted to see the fear in his eyes when I took the one thing from him that would rip his heart and soul to shreds – and then perhaps I would be merciful . . . but I doubt it.