Not Your Kind of Trouble
The kid was fast, sneaky, and hyperaware. Dean would have bet the last of the gas money the kid was raised a Hunter. Of course Dean hadn't heard of any kiddy hunters running around. Ellen Harvelle had implied John Winchester's method of parenting was pretty rare. The few Hunters that had living children usually kept them away from the monsters until they were at least old enough to shave, instead pulling them out of summer camp too shoot Wendigos.
Dean considered the picture and the note he'd seen the kid write in the coffee shop. That was an unusual stroke of luck, and if the kid had paid any attention to Sam or him, he would have thought it was some sort of set up.
The Christmas picture had given the girl a name.
Cassie, the Doc and me, 2005
The note had named the kid, or at least given them something to call him.
Call me or go to the nearest Air Force Base and wait for things at HWS to die down.
-at least one Jack
He thought "Jack" might be some kind of Air Force slang, or maybe that was just "Ace". Dean didn't really keep up with things involving planes. The kid was the puzzle piece that fit the least into all of this. He supposed a military brat could probably learn to track as well as a Hunter could. He wondered what he would say to the kid if they did have to talk. Maybe he would make that Sam's job.
He looked over at Sam, plodding along slightly behind him. He knew this case was bugging Sam, but he was the one who found it in the first place. It seemed like a simple haunting on a college campus. Of course the last of time they thought it was a simple haunting on a college campus it turned out to be a Trickster with a mean sense of humor. They'd ganked that sucker so it couldn't be him again. But now things were starting to look equally screwy.
And to top it all off he probably wasn't going to get to see the cashier from the coffee shop naked.
"It's all your fault," Dean reminded his brother.
Sam rolled his eyes.
They followed the kid across an overpass into an industrial park. There were a few cars and a lot of eighteen wheelers, going in and out of lots with high fences. The kid had managed to get a couple of blocks ahead of them, and they couldn't close the gap without being obvious. The kid turned down the fenced in driveway to a…gravel factory. Dust poured over the fences and the sound of heavy machinery was deafening. Dean got to the corner and peered around.
He saw nothing.
Well, not technically nothing. There were fences on three sides and the dirt and the asphalt and the sky. There was no kid though. Dean supposed it was possible the kid jumped a twelve foot wooden fence. That was getting into their usual territory at least.
Dean muttered "son of a bitch" and gave the fence a kick. They could climb it, if Sam gave him a boost and then Dean pulled him up, but they could hear people shouting to each other on the other side. There was no way in hell they'd get over unseen.
"I don't hear anyone yelling at the kid," Sam said.
Dean nodded. So did that mean the kid hadn't jumped into one of the occupied yards? Or did it mean the workers just didn't see him. Dean took out the e.m.f. detector, but there was nothing going on. The kid hadn't ghosted through the fences at least.
"You want to loop around and see if he comes out the other side?" Dean said. "I'll wait here in case he doubles back."
"So I run some more and you stand here?" Sam asked.
Dean quirked and eyebrow and raised a fist. Sam raised his as well, holding it over the palm of his opposite hand. Three strikes later Sam's mouth dropped open in astonishment. For the first time in a decade, Dean chose paper and won.
"You always pick scissors," Sam said.
"I'm a strategic mastermind," Dean said.
Sam huffed. "Call me right away if anything comes up."
"Don't get all clingy," Dean said.
Sam jogged away. Dean stood watching the driveway. A truck rumbled past, but didn't turn. More dust blew and the fences creaked. Something wasn't right, but the part of his brain that knew what was wrong was keeping to itself. What Dean did know was that Sam was going to pick rock.
Dean walked the length of the drive again and pushed at the gate, but it didn't budge. As he turned back around, motion caught the corner of his eyes. It was gone before he could focus on it. His hand drifted toward his gun, but he thought better of it as another truck drove by. The sounds of construction might mask the noise, but the fence probably wasn't thick enough to stop the large caliber bullets Dean used.
He crept toward where he thought he'd seen movement. More dust and small rocks bounced in the breeze. He saw a dark spot in the dirt by the edge of the asphalt. There was a small hole, barely big enough for a gopher. Next to it was a small piece of glass…no a mirror.
He leaned down to pick it up. Even as he reached for it his brain screamed that putting his body off balance to collect a shiny object was a bad idea. He saw something move in the gopher-hole: human fingers.
He stepped back, reaching for his gun. The ground exploded upward and a hand clamped onto his pant leg and pulled. Dean's arms shot out to break his fall, but he still landed on his ass. Pain shot from his tail bone up to his neck.
The kid stood up, shedding a tan sheet of plastic and layers of dirt. He yanked on Dean's leg again, but was forced to let go as Dean kicked his hand with his free foot.
Dean went for his gun again, but the kid whipped the plastic sheet around, and tossed it over Dean like a net. Dean swung his arm to bat it aside, belatedly realizing it was one of those $1.00 rain ponchos they sold at camping stores. It still fell over him and covered his face. A second later a knee came down on his stomach.
He fought down the urge to vomit and grabbed at where he thought the kid would be. He got a hold of him and rolled over, trying to pin him down. For a second Dean thought he had him but the kid kept them rolling and Dean felt rope digging into his biceps and back.
The kid slipped from his grasp and the rope chinked tight, pinning his upper arms to his sides, and securing the poncho over his head, leaving him blind and choking on the dust that was trapped under it. He coughed as he scrabbled for the rope with his forearms, trying to get free.
Dean expected the blows to rain down, now that he was mostly incapacitated, but they didn't come. He paused for second straining his ears, wondering if the kid had just run off. Then there was a tug at the small of his back, and Dean realized the kid was trying to grab the gun out of his waistband. Dean planted his feet and flung himself backwards.
He slammed into the kid, who let out an "uffff!" as Dean squashed all the air out of his lungs. He wasn't so deluded that he believed he was winning, but Dean thought he was pretty close to getting the rope loose when a big-rig blasted its horn. Dean tried to roll toward the fence, hoping he wasn't about to get crushed into paste.
"Hey you! What the hell are ya doin'?" a woman called. "Get away from him!"
Dean heard a door clank open and running feet.
"Yeah, you better run you little punk!" the woman shouted. "I got my belt halfway off!"
Dean was jerked around as the rope was pulled loose. The poncho was yanked up over his head and he came face to face with a female version of Bobby Singer. Bobby was an old Hunter. He was slightly overweight and wore plaid shirts, worn jeans, an old baseball cap, and a scowl on his gray-bearded face. Bobby and the woman could have been twins if Bobby shaved a little better…and had boobs.
"What the hell's going on here boy?" she asked, pulling Dean to his feet and slapping at his arms and back, to punish him or to get dust off, he wasn't sure.
Dean saw no sign of the kid. He stepped away from the woman before she noticed the gun that was about ready to fall out of the back of his pants. He really needed to get a holster.
"I got jumped by a fricken' Boy Scout is what," Dean said kicking the poncho. "He threw that over my head and started going through my pockets."
"You want me to call the cops?" the woman asked.
Dean tried to look like he was thinking hard about it. "Naw," he said finally. "That kid was half my size. I'd never live it down. I'm late for work anyway."
The woman shrugged. "Suit yourself."
Dean muttered thanks again as the woman walked back to the road and climbed into her truck. The rig coughed to life and rolled onward. Dean kicked at the poncho again, but it didn't turn into smoke or do anything besides flutter back to the ground. Dean looked at the depression the kid had been hiding in. He didn't see any goo, shed skin, or sulfur. There was just a hole and a sinking feeling that this kid was better than they were, at least when it came to hide and seek.
Dean looked at the boot prints that hadn't been obliterated in the short struggle. He and Sam had been inches away from stepping right on the kid and he hadn't twitched. The kid just buried himself alive and waited.
Dean's phone buzzed and he pulled it from his pocket.
"Anything yet?" Sam's voice called. "It doesn't look like there's anywhere to go from here."
"The kid was still here," Dean said. "He ran off."
"What? You said you'd call!" Sam complained.
"Just get back over to this side," Dean said.
His younger brother came jogging up the driveway a few minutes later.
"What happened?" Sam demanded, his face scrunched up and worried. He looked like he might be considering trying to brush more of the dirt off Dean's clothes. Dean gave him a warning glare.
"The kid didn't get over the fence. He was hiding," Dean said, kicking the poncho again and pointing his foot towards the hole.
Sam inspected it for a moment, probably coming to the same conclusion as Dean. Or maybe not.
"So the kid just popped up out of the ground and kicked your ass?" Sam asked all traces of worry gone, and a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
"He surprised me," Dean said.
"Getting your ass kicked by a kid half your size would be surprising," Sam said, smirking.
"My ass was not kicked," Dean growled. "He momentarily got the upper hand, and then a civilian came along and he bolted."
"Did you see which way he went?" Sam asked.
"Did he say anything?" Sam pressed.
"We were fighting, not talking."
"So…what now?" Sam asked.
Dean growled again. "Shit, I don't know. I'm gonna go back for the car. That kid runs too fricken fast."
Sam nodded, he was red faced and sweating too. He shifted his shoulder bag. "You want me to go with you or do you think he'll come back through here?"
"He might, but I don't want you trying to take him by yourself. Seriously, who fights with a poncho and rope?" Dean demanded.
Sam shrugged, still smirking a little. "At least he doesn't have a gun…yet."
Dean glared again.
"There were a couple of fast food places by the highway. See if you can find an internet antenna thing there and start looking for information on those kids in the University records," Dean said.
"Alright. If I find a wireless network and get any information I'll give you a call," Sam said.
Dean made a face. He would've thought of the right word if he'd cared to. This whole case was getting weird fast, and if the Fed's were hanging around it might be better to leave this…whatever to a Hunter less wanted for felonies in multiple states. No one had been killed yet, or even seriously hurt. Maybe it would be ok to let this one go for a while until the heat was off.
You don't abandon a hunt. You stay 'til it's done. His father's gruff voice growled in his ear. Dean shook himself and set off. It was a half hour jog back to where they'd started. He was sweating and the dirt that had gotten down the back of his shirt and pants in the fight, was making him itch like crazy.
The Impala had been assaulted by birds while they were away. Dean eyed a half dozen pigeons lounging on the awning of a café across the street, no doubt waiting to see his reaction. Dean controlled the urge to take the gun out of his waistband and shoot their smug little heads off. He grabbed a water bottle out of the back seat and some old takeout napkins and did a quick spot clean. He gave the birds a final death glare before getting into the driver's seat and peeling out.
It was only a few minutes' drive back to the industrial park. He circled the area where they had lost the kid, but he didn't see anything new. He saw the female trucker again, idling outside a lumber yard. It inspired him to give the real Bobby Singer a call.
Dean typed Bobby's number into his phone, but nothing happened. He looked at the little screen, which said "call lost". Its signal strength was down to no bars. He grabbed another one from the glove box, and found it equally dead. He was digging for a third throw-away phone when a blaring car horn forced him to focus on the road. He jerked the wheel to the right and avoided a collision with a convoy of black SUVs. They looked like cop cars, but none of them bothered to pull him over for reckless driving.
He watched them in the rearview as the convoy of vehicles pulled to a halt in front of the driveway where he and the kid had mixed it up. As if they'd practiced the choreography for months, the doors of the SUVs all swung open and a dozen guys in suits and wrap-around sunglasses stepped out.
Dean wasn't entirely sure, since they all had similar haircuts, coloring, and build, but he thought Agent Ernest was among them.
When he was sure they weren't going to jump back in their cars and follow him, Dean headed back to the strip of fast food places. He would never admit out loud how relieved he was to see Sam sitting outside on the curb with a takeout bag and a cardboard caddy with two drinks in it. Instead he said "That better be my food."
Sam threw him the bag and climbed in. "No one around here had Wifi, but I talked the girl at the Burger Bar into letting me plug into her router."
Dean raised an eyebrow and smirked at Sam's word choice.
"Dude, shut up," Sam snapped.
"Didn't say anything," Dean said. "You were careful right, with all your antivirus protection?"
"That was lame," Sam huffed. "Anyway, I found the girl's info. That name you saw on the back of that photo panned out. 'Cassie' is Cassandra Frasier. She's 19 and an undeclared sophomore. She lives in the dorm where the key cards all broke, and there are a couple of work orders in for her room. Apparently the circuit breakers keep tripping and all the light bulbs keep blowing out."
Dean took a look in the bag. "You got me a fricken veggie burger?"
"No that's mine," Sam said. "You've got the fat pig special with extra lard. Look under it."
"Being kind of a Bitch aren't you?" Dean asked, tossing the hippie burger at Sam.
"Read the box. That's what it's called," Sam said. "Cassandra Frasier has been orphaned a couple of times. Her birth parents were killed in a car wreck in Canada, but the accident reports and records from that all look a little fake. Her adopted mother, Dr. Janet Frasier was K.I.A. two years ago, and the file on that is still sealed. Her guardianship was then transferred to a Colonel Samantha Carter, an Air Force physicist who is still her emergency contact, and if the Colonel can't be reached, the school is supposed to contact a Major Davis, in Washington."
Dean was looking at his burger box. It did say Fat Pig Special, with extra bacon, but nowhere did it mention lard. "So maybe the girl just had a jammer or some other high-tech junk."
"An emf generator strong enough to blow out light bulbs would be pretty big," Sam said. "She didn't even have purse with her."
"Maybe she had it strapped on under her shirt," Dean said, turning on the engine and throwing it into reverse while juggling the burger between his hands.
"Her shirt was pretty form fitting," Sam said. "I don't think she had any kind of machine on her."
"Her pants were pretty form fitting too," Dean said, his expression getting a little vacant.
"Would you stop already!" Sam said. "Watch the road!"
"So if she's not a hacker anarchist, what is she?" Dean asked. "You don't think it could just be some kind of machine, some weapon she stole or something? Because that would explain all the government goons who drove past me."
"I think she might be a gremlin," Sam said.
"Whu?" Dean asked around a mouthful of bacon.
"A gremlin, a creature that hates and destroys technology," Sam said.
Dean snorted and managed to move the half chewed bacon to one side of his mouth so he could talk. "You mean a "there's something on the wing" bad Shatner gremlin? An Amish ghost is way more likely. Gremlins aren't even real. Remember the plane crash case? That was a demon."
Sam huffed. "You said she didn't react like a demon. I think she's something new."
"Did you find anything on the other kid?" Dean asked.
Sam shook his head. "All you got off that note was that he signed it "Jack" right? That's not much to work with."
"So nothing?" Dean asked.
"I know he's not a student here. I looked through all the Jacks and all the Johns and Jonathans too. He seemed too young for the university anyway," Sam said. "Also she and the boy are not friends on any of the major social networking sites."
"You had time to buy lunch, hack the school files, and hack her spacebook page?" Dean said.
"That's not what it's called," Sam said. "And yes. But what I really wanted to get into were the files for her guardian, Colonel Carter. Unfortunately the Air Force has much better firewalls than the FBI."
"What? You think some Air Force chick saw a monster on the wing of her plane and decided to take it home and pay its college tuition?" Dean asked.
"I don't know," Sam said. "Maybe. Maybe we can get Ash to get the info."
They already owed the mullet sporting hacker like 10 cases of PBR, but Dean shrugged. There were worse things to buy with fake credit cards. "If you've got a phone that works I'd say call him."
Sam checked his own phone, and his huff let Dean know it was dead too. Dean mentioned how his phones had crapped out as the SUV's drove by.
"No phone calls then," Sam said. "You think she's doing it?"
"No," Dean said. "The phones worked when we were tracking the kid. Maybe the Fed's shut down the cell towers."
"They can't just shut down cell towers like that," Sam said. "They'd need court orders and the local P.D. would be involved. No agency has that kind of authority."
"Oh yeah, I forgot that cops always follow the rules," Dean said.
"So what do you suggest?" Sam asked. "Do we stake out her dorm?"
"Maybe later. Get your e.m.f. detector out. We'll drive around and see if we find any spikes," Dean said.
"What if we don't?" Sam asked.
"We follow those SUV's and wait for them to find something." Dean said.
"I don't like that plan," Sam said. "That's a bad plan."
"You're a bad plan."
"That doesn't even make sense!"
"Eat your hippie burger," Dean growled.
Sam made loud cow noises as he munched away at his lunch. Chomp, smack, Chomp, smack. Dean tried to chew at a matching volume, but couldn't pull it off. Sam did notice his attempt, and chewed louder. They both had their faces stuffed to an unreasonable degree when Sam started shouting.
"Hurph!" Sam said suddenly. "Ook!"
"Muh?" Dean asked.
Sam gulped and choked down the last bite of his burger. "Look!" he said, pointing to the rearview.
One of the SUVs was cruising along about a block behind them.
"Uck!" Dean said.
Sam nodded in agreement.
Author's Notes: I'm not happy with the ending of this chapter, but if I pick at it anymore I'll never post. Review if you dare.