A/N This story originally published in Rooftop Confessions #3, edited by J. M. Griffin and Evesong.
"Take me home, country roads," the radio soothingly blared John Denver's classic in the tailor-made truck cab. "…to the place I belong . . ."
West Virginia was 700-some miles and four states east of his current location, but George Moffet agreed with the sentiment completely. Fortunately, he was much closer to home, only another hour and a half or so of driving. He was heading home to Kirksville after unloading the cattle on his regular Iowa City to Kansas City livestock run. The music in the well-insulated cab drowned out the rattle of the empty stockcar behind him. He'd had this cattle run for almost two decades, along with the route from Fayetteville to Kansas City, on alternate days. His son, Bill, had helped him plot the route, back when Billy was studying geometry in high school—before he'd gone away to college and married into that East Coast family and become William.
George abruptly brought his attention back to his driving, realizing that he was in the wrong lane to make the right turn that was part of his recently altered route. He checked his rear view mirror; although it was past midnight, a couple of cars and an SUV were trailing him. He didn't have enough time or distance to veer across the highway and safely negotiate the exit. Oh well, he could catch the next exit and take Pershing Road instead. It was familiar territory, and had been part of his route for years. He knew this road like he knew the back of his hand. Still . . .
The veteran trucker tightened his grip on the big rig's steering wheel, signaled, checked his mirrors, and eased his eighteen-wheeler into the right lane. From there, he took the next exit, driving down Pershing Road at the posted speed limit of 45 miles per hour. A few miles further, he was approaching the intersection with state highway 129. He could see the bright beam of car headlights off to his left in the distance, and he downshifted and applied his brakes, adjusting his speed for the upcoming left turn. The wind picked up; it was well-nigh howling as George watched his speedometer creep up . . . 45 . . . 50 . . . 55.
"What the hell?" He forcefully downshifted and applied the brakes in turn—jake brake, air break for the trailer, the last-resort cab brake, practically standing on them. His truck inexplicably continued to build up speed, heading down the road, straight for the intersection— and the dark car that was racing down the highway, its driver seemingly oblivious to the truck that was barreling toward it at right angles.
Desperate, George yanked his steering wheel hard right and hit the horn; driving into a field was a better alternative than colliding with the rapidly approaching car. But the steering wheel failed to alter the truck's course. The vehicle continued roaring down the road, slamming through the intersection like a runaway locomotive. Smashing solidly into the passenger door of the older-model black car, the truck propelled both vehicles through the intersection and further down Pershing. George had been thrown forward in his seat at the impact, now the cab shifted sideways, as if it were trying to make the hard turn that George had initiated less than a half-minute earlier. He noticed that the brakes abruptly kicked back in, slowing down the truck and its newly-acquired hood ornament. Eventually, the tangled vehicles came to a complete stop, still mostly on the road.
With a shaky hand, George turned the ignition off. He reached for the door handle with his left hand. A white-hot pain shot up his right leg, leaving him gasping and unable to exit the cab. He took a couple of deep breaths, trying to calm himself, and reached for the CB microphone. "Breaker… emergency... 9-1-1. My 18-wheeler's been in a two vehicle accident, on Pershing Road just past highway 129. Need ambulances . . . My leg's hurt and I can't get out and check on the people in the car. Please respond."
He eased off the mike's switch, waiting for an answer, two thoughts running over and over through his mind. How did this happen? Again!
* * * * *
Sam glanced up from his seat at the table, laptop already up and running, as the motel room's door opened and his brother walked in, brandishing a McDonald's bag and a drink carrier.
"I'm ba-ack!" Dean closed the motel door behind him, crossing over to the room's table. He dropped the food on the faux-oak tabletop and shed his jacket, placing it over one of the chairs. "Got two griddle cake combos and an Egg McMuffin with hash browns. If you'd rather have the Egg McMuffin, I don't mind seconds on the pancakes."
"How magnanimous of you," Sam muttered, hiding a grin and reaching into the bag to get his griddle cake combo. He also took one of the orange juices from the drink carrier and motioned behind him. "Coffee's in the bathroom. Should be ready by now."
Still on his feet, Dean nodded and crossed the room to retrieve the coffee cups. This was their third and last morning at the 4 Seasons Motel and Sam knew that Dean was getting heartily sick of their autumn-themed room. The bedspreads had a leafy gold, orange and red design. The drapes matched it, and extra-large pictures of single oak, maple and elm leaves dotted the golden walls. Sam heard Dean pour two steaming cups of coffee in the overly ostentatious but peeling gold leaf bathroom and then watched as his brother walked back to the table.
As Dean handed him a cup and sat down, Sam took a moment to study his brother's face.
"Do I pass inspection?" Dean asked.
"Yeah, you do—now."
Dean's run-in with the trickster's super-strong babes had left him with a split lip and numerous bruises. They had peeled out of the Ohio campus after dropping Bobby off at his truck, and hadn't stopped until they'd crossed the state line into Indiana. They'd ended up in Bloomington, where Sam had insisted that they rest for a few days. He'd argued that Dean needed to look presentable before they started their next case, first impressions being important in the initial stages of a hunt. After a token protest, Dean had given in, surprising Sam, until he recalled their constant bickering at the King's Lair Hotel, egged on by that same trickster. Dean had used their imposed vacation time to raise a little money, hanging out at the closest pool hall, where his split lip only enhanced his reputation with the bar's denizens.
Taking a sip of his coffee, Dean asked, "Did you find anything?"
"Nothing local." Sam swallowed a bite of pancakes. "No ghosts or resident evil haunting Bloomington—or the entire Indianapolis area." He ate some more pancakes before continuing, "I was just gonna expand my search to Illinois when you got here."
"Don't stop on my account," Dean said between bites of syrup-soaked pancakes.
Sam was about to reply when the laptop chimed in with a you've got mail message. He dropped his fork, nudged his plate off to the side and pushed the laptop squarely in front of him. He quickly checked the source mailbox and frowned. This message was in the CBT box—Could Be Trouble. Sam had set up the filters to catch any news or article that covered their past cases, or the towns that their hunts had been conducted in. He especially kept an eye out for any news from Milwaukee or Baltimore. Scanning the fresh email, he noted with relief that it wasn't about either of those cities. It was about . . . "Shit."
Dean's head jerked up from his food. "Sam?"
"George Moffet was involved in another auto accident."
"Oh." Dean's voice softened. "Friend of yours?"
"No, he—" Sam cut off abruptly. "George Moffet is the driver of the semi that crashed into the Impala."
About to reach for the unopened Egg McMuffin, Dean halted.
"The accident was on Pershing Road, two nights ago. Just past Highway 129." Sam read the blankness on his brother's face. He sighed, and then continued gently, "That's the same intersection where Moffet's rig crashed into us."
"I never knew that," Dean said lowly. "How do you know—?"
"I saw the police report."
"Yeah, the cops must've talked to you, huh? Wait a minute, you saw the police report?" Dean asked suspiciously. "The actual report? When?"
Behind the laptop's monitor, Sam bit his lip. He really should have told Dean about this way before now, but things kept happening. Dean had told him he thought he should be dead, Sam had contracted and survived a demon virus, then he'd run away after Dean had let him in on Dad's last words. Then Sam had disappeared, after being hijacked by a demon. His omission seemed pretty small after all that. Still, Dean wasn't going to like this.
"It was a couple of days after you got released from the hospital. Someone had to bat clean-up." It was their code word for taking care of any left-over evidence from a hunt, usually stuff that had fallen into official hands. "I did what I could from the laptop; photo-manipped the license plate from the crash photos and tied up loose ends so no one would wonder why the McGillicuddys were driving a vehicle registered to a Winchester." While Dean was no slouch with computers, Sam was the better hacker, and they both knew it. "Then I took a field trip to the sheriff's department and swapped the original photos and accident report for the corrected ones."
"You did all that without bothering to tell me anything?"
Sam easily heard the bitterness and anger in Dean's voice.
"I had a lot of time on my hands. You—" weren't talking to me, about Dad or anything, Sam thought, but carefully refrained from saying out loud. "You had your hands full, fixing the Impala. I had backup; Bobby knew where I was and what I was doing."
"And that makes it all right? You had backup, so sneaking around behind my back was okay?"
"Dean—" Sam started, then bit back the defense he'd almost mounted. I wasn't sneaking around. Admit it, you didn't even notice I was gone, you were so wrapped up in your damn car . . ."I meant to tell you, but I kept putting it off, and things just snowballed. I'm sorry."
Dean looked at him for a long beat and then gazed aimlessly around the room. He sighed. "You're right, somebody needed to take care of it and I wasn't—"
Sam interrupted him. "That's all water under the bridge." He refocused their conversation on the present. "We need to see George Moffet. Two accidents in the same place? That can't be just a coincidence."
"Not with our luck," Dean agreed.
"Remember what Meg said?" Sam watched as Dean flinched, then quickly clarified, "the real Meg Masters, after we exorcised the demon from her? That she'd been possessed for a year. Maybe Moffet's still possessed—or re-possessed." They both knew that once you were possessed, you were more susceptible to repossession. Sam thought briefly about the anti-possession charm tucked safely into his wallet. Bobby had given it to him after he'd been possessed by 'Meg' and he knew Dean also kept his charm securely in his wallet.
"So," Dean cleared his throat, "where exactly is Pershing Road?"
"Salisbury, Missouri. But that's not where Moffet is—he's in the hospital, broken leg and assorted cuts and bruises." Sam quit hiding behind the monitor and raised his eyes to meet Dean's squarely. "He was life-flighted to Shiloh County General in Columbia, the same hospital we were at, after the accident."
"This just gets better and better," Dean said sourly, tossing the still-wrapped Egg McMuffin into the wastebasket. "Pack up your bags, we're heading for Columbia."
* * * * *
Drive time from Bloomington, Indiana to Columbia, Missouri was listed as just under six hours. It was pretty much a straight shot west on Interstate 70 and Dean made it in less than five hours. Once in Columbia, they stopped for a late lunch, found a motel, and changed into business attire. Their cover was a no-brainer; they were auto insurance investigators.
Dean smoothly pulled the Impala into Shiloh County General Hospital's visitor garage and parked on the second level. Sam fiddled with his tie while Dean pocketed the keys. Their eyes met and Sam caught a trace of worry in his big brother's eyes.
"Are you sure you're okay with this?" Dean gestured toward the four-story hospital. "I can do the interview alone, no sweat."
"I'm fine." You've had to do too much alone already. I can handle this. Sam added, "It's just another hospital." Where Dad died and I almost lost you . . . yeah, right. Just another hospital. He winced. "Okay, poor choice of words, but we need to interview this guy."
"If he's possessed—"
"Dean. I of all people know you have to separate the demon's actions from the person being possessed. If he's possessed, we'll find a way to exorcise him."
"In the middle of a hospital? That oughta be fun," Dean muttered, opening his door and exiting the car. Sam did likewise and they headed for the staircase. They checked in at the reception area, discovering that George Moffet was on the second floor.
Sam knocked on the door of Room 259A/B, glad that it was in a different wing entirely than the rooms that Dean and Dad had occupied months ago. He still felt uneasy, being back here, and he kept a concerned eye on both Dean and the hospital staff. Thankfully, no one seemed to remember them, and he started breathing easier. His long-held belief that the staff saw patients as completely separate entities from healthy people seemed to be holding true. Maybe if Dean had been dressed in hospital pajama bottoms and a white t-shirt, his forehead still marred by that jagged scar, someone would have remembered him. But Dean's brown suit and striped tie rendered him almost invisible, just another visitor in the bustling hospital.
"Come in," a voice called from behind the door, and Sam swung it open. Dean trailed him into the room.
"Mr. Moffet, George Moffet?" Dean asked politely. Only one bed was occupied, but it never hurt to check.
"Yes?" the patient answered, a half-smile on his face.
Sam recognized the general age and build of the trucker: early sixties, average height and weight. The man was lying on the hospital bed, his right leg completely casted from mid-thigh down to the ankle. He had short gray hair that stood at attention and friendly brown eyes. Sam remembered a blue jean jacket exposing a red and tan plaid shirt, two red stripes running down the chest like thick streaks of blood, and pitch-black eyes. Hell, maybe I'm not as ready for this as I thought. He shook his head slightly, trying to rub out the image of this man looming toward the Impala, dark eyes glowing, reaching for the driver's door and ripping it off . . .
Dean bumped Sam's arm. "I'm Al Jardine and this is Brian Johnston. We're insurance adjustors."
"Oh." Moffet's smile vanished and he sighed. "You're not who I've been dealing with on the phone."
"The home office felt your case deserved in-person attention, considering the circumstances," Sam said. "You understand, I'm sure."
"I guess so." Moffet's voice was flat. "What do you want to know?"
"Why don't you tell us what happened, in your own words," Dean suggested as Sam pulled a mini-cassette recorder from his suit pocket.
"You don't mind if we record this, Mr. Moffet?" Sam asked, preparatory to engaging the machine.
Sam spoke into the activated mike, "Interview with George Moffet, Case 376291. Shiloh County Hospital, February 15, 2007. Al Jardine and myself, Brian Johnston, conducting the interview.
"Now, then, Mr. Moffet, you were driving home, after you completed your cattle run?"
"Yes. I pulled into Kansas City just after lunchtime, got the cattle unloaded and squared away. Then I grabbed an early dinner and snoozed in my cab for a couple of hours."
"Is that normal?" Dean asked.
"I like driving the empty stockcar at night, less traffic. And the cattle company has no problem with me sacking out on their premises—been doing it for years. I've got a super-cab, room for a real full-sized mattress in back, quite comfortable."
"Okay, so you left Kansas City at what time?"
"Just after 9:30. Don't worry, I was well-rested. The drive was perfectly normal. I was approaching Salisbury right around midnight, looking forward to spending Valentine's Day with my wife, for a change." Moffet hesitated, and then calmly described the accident. His clear and detailed accounting made it obvious he had recited the information many times before.
"I discovered my leg was broken when I tried to get out of the cab to check on the people in the car. I think there were three of them. Couldn't move, so I used the CB and called for help." He gestured to the surrounding hospital room. "Got life-flighted to this place—people in the car did, too." Moffet swallowed again and sighed. "The hospital staff hasn't told me much about them, other than they're gonna be okay. Their injuries were numerous, but not life-threatening, thank God."
Sam and Dean exchanged glances, and Sam turned the recorder off. Then Sam's eyes flicked to the rolling bed tray and the empty water glass on top of it. "I think you could stand a break; you look a little parched. Would you like a glass of water?"
"Yes, that'd be good," Moffet answered gratefully.
"It's empty." Sam reached for the individual pitcher. "I'll fill it up and get you some ice, too. Be right back." As he walked toward the door, he heard Dean ask, "So how did you get into the trucking business?"
Sam checked at the nurse's station down the hall and was directed to an ice machine tucked into a bay in a neighboring corridor. He found the ice machine, along with three other vending machines and a water fountain. Sam filled the pitcher half-way with ice, then added water from the fountain. Casually reconnoitering the hallway, he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a small flask, quickly adding a dash of holy water to the pitcher. He capped the pitcher and then walked back to the room.
Entering the room, Sam crossed to the bed, picked up the glass and poured the fresh water into it. "Here you go." Handing the glass back to Moffet, he stepped back.
Moffet took a swig of water and paused to lick his lips. "That hit the spot, thanks." He took another sip and Sam and Dean exchanged fleeting 'now what?' looks as nothing untoward happened. Clearly Moffet wasn't possessed—at least not now. "Are we done?"
"Not yet," Sam said. He grabbed the recorder and turned it back on, preparing to wing the next part. "Mr. Moffet, you've given us a very detailed account of what happened. You didn't lose consciousness after, or, uh, before the accident?"
"If that's your polite way of asking if I was asleep at the wheel, then the answer is no."
"You do know that there were no skid marks found at the scene until well after the intersection?" Sam questioned carefully.
"Weren't you listening to what I said?" Moffet asked aggressively. "The brakes didn't work until after I collided with the car. Of course there wouldn't be skid marks before the intersection."
Dean intervened. "Mr. Moffet, I'm sorry for bringing this up, but this wasn't your first accident on Pershing Road, correct?"
"I knew you'd get around to that." Moffet sounded resigned.
"Same road, same intersection, you even crashed into the same part of both cars. Hell of a coincidence, wouldn't you say?" Sam asked.
"Coincidence?" Moffet's eyes bore into Sam, and Sam started worrying that Moffet would see past his business suit and phony name and recognize him from the accident. "I guess so." Moffet shifted in his bed. "Funny thing is, I wasn't even supposed to be there."
"What?" Dean asked, startled. "I thought this was your regular route, a milk run for you."
"We truckers tend to be a superstitious lot," Moffet explained. "After the accident—the first one—I altered my route to bypass the crash site. But I wasn't paying super-close attention to the road, and I missed the new turn off, had to take the next one, Pershing Road. Friday night was the first time I'd been back on that road since the crash." He paused a moment, reflecting. "How does that country song go? If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. What do you want to know about the first crash? Not that I can tell you much."
"Just . . . whatever you remember," Sam prompted.
Moffet frowned. "I remember making the turn off from the highway, heading down Pershing. Then—nothing, next thing I knew, I was on the ground, on my hands and knees. I looked up and this big black car was T-boned across my rig, the driver's side door lying on the ground. I heard the driver—not much older than a kid, screaming "Dean!" —every five minutes, like clockwork, until the EMTs and the helicopter showed up. Don't think I'll ever forget that scream—it was haunting."
Sam felt his brother's eyes on him as he woodenly turned the recorder off, trying to come up with something to say to change the conversation. "So, you were asleep that time?" No, he was possessed, but that's not what an insurance guy was gonna tell him.
"I don't remember, but I must've been, right?"
Dean nodded, clearing his throat. "Thanks again for talking to us. We'll file our report, and you'll be hearing from your regular agent from now on."
"You don't have to sugarcoat the news, guys. I've already decided to retire. Lizzie and I discussed it after the first accident, but my clients both urged me to keep driving. I'd had a clean record until then, no accidents, no speeding tickets, and no incidents of any kind.
"But now . . . my clients aren't going to feel the same way, after it's happened twice, and I can't blame them for that. Lizzie's been after me to retire for awhile now, anyway. I'll sell the rig after it's been repaired, and we'll get by."
"That's a remarkably well-adjusted attitude, Mr. Moffet," Sam said.
"What choice do I have?" Moffet asked, yawning. "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That was a poster in my son's room, years ago. Now, if you gentlemen are through, I'm feeling a little tired."
Sam and Dean took the hint and quietly departed.
I used Shiloh County General as the name of the hospital because that's what it sounded like the nurse said when she answered the phone in IMTOD. Thank you for reading, please let me know what you think so far.