This story is set after the Origins movie, but before X-1, in that little uneventful gap in Logan's life. It's also assuming that he hasn't lost his memories, or has regained them somehow...I haven't decided that yet. Sam and Dean are on a hunt, of course, but it's going down before the apocalypse and during Sam's little demon blood addiction. Enjoy and please send me a review!
Update: I'm afraid all you first fifty-or-so readers that got to this found it before I had a chance to figure out the fine workings of FF.N's coding system. So now I've added italics for thought and some breaks to split the thing up. It should make it a bit easier to read.
The road was bright at night, the snow reflecting back from trees and pavement alike. The sky was black, though, not tinged with reddish gray where the moon might shine through clouds. The stars were clear. Though Dean was sure another storm would be coming along soon, he could appreciate the clarity for a while. This trip had been going fine up to this point, and he wasn't worried about the weather.
Sam sat in the passenger seat, dutifully ignoring George Thoroughgood's One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer blasting from the speakers. He had a wrinkled newspaper unfolded in front of him, a highlighter in one hand and a frown on his face. After a few minutes he folded up the paper and took out a worn black book, flipping it open and turning the pages with practiced hands, the same confused look on his face.
"Can't find anything?" Dean asked, glancing at him quickly before turning back to the road. When Sam shook his head, a frown slid onto Dean's face, the expression mirroring his brother's. They'd never had so much trouble finding a monster...even though it was damn obvious that whatever it was they'd run into wasn't human.
"Nothing new...it just doesn't fit," Sam said, his voice husky with exasperation. "I mean, it's not a demon or a werewolf, or a shapeshifter. Not a spirit either, as far as I can tell, and it's too strong to be anything else. I can't find a single thing that fits the pattern well enough to give us an identification."
"Is it a trickster?" Dean asked gruffly.
"Nah, I really doubt it." Sam huffed out a huge breath of air. "If we don't find anything in town, we might have to call Bobby."
"Well, let's look around some on our own first," Dean said with finality, turning up the music. They'd figure it out soon enough. They always did.
"Where is he?" a gruff voice cut through the darkness.
The man whimpered, partly out of pain and mostly out of fear. How did it feel to die?
"You sonofabitch," the voice snarled quietly at this response, and the soft whisper of a knife through skin accompanied the man's agonized cry. "I got all night, soldier."
The man whimpered again, sweat and blood smeared across his face. "Ask Bradley...I don't know a damn thing, just ask Bradley, please God..."
The owner of the first voice rolled his eyes, moonlight glinting off the wolfish amber irises as he did. "Jesus, boy, you're gettin' delirious." He leaned down and crouched on one knee so that he was shorter than his prisoner, who was collapsed in a cheap plastic chair. "I already talked to Bradley. He ain't got nothin' to say." The stranger leaned closer, one heavily muscled arm resting on his knee as his features wrinkled into a snarl. "He told me to come ta you."
The man's eyes widened and he cringed away from the stranger's cold gaze. If Logan really had talked to Bradley, it was a good bet that the other soldier was now dead. A very good bet. "I-I have no idea...I don't know where he is..." the man stammered, rolling his head back and forth in a panicked shake. "I don't know, I don't..." He kept muttering in a breathless voice, pleading silently for life and death at the same time. If it had to be the latter, he at least hoped it would be quick.
"I'm tired of chasin' my own tail, boy," Logan said in a cold voice. "An' I think you're lyin' through your teeth." He stood up, his expression shadowed by his heavy black brows and the shadows they cast. "I ain't got time for this shit." The man in the chair whimpered louder as he realized just what Logan was saying. No...no, no, no no no! What about his career, his money, his house? His reputation, for god's sake? But his life didn't even have time to flash before his eyes when the shadowy stranger whipped around and took his vitality away.
Logan didn't flinch as the weight of his victim slumped onto the knives in his hand. He just pulled the weapons out and walked away.
"Hello, sir," Dean said with a confident smile as he stood at the sheriff's front desk in Nevada City, California. "I'm Dean, and this is Sam...we're the U.S. Marshalls assigned to the Bradley case?" He and Sam flashed their phony badges before tucking the leather wallets back into their pants' pockets. Recognition dawned in the cop's eyes and he held out a hand to shake. "Yeah, sure," he said in an eager-to-please tone. "I'm Sheriff Brandt." The brothers shook the officer's hand, one after the other, and he continued. "The body was found in the Sergeant House, over on Broad Street. I could take you over there if you'd like."
"That would be great," Sam said earnestly. As he and Dean followed the police officer back out the door, they exchanged a skeptic look. Who gives their house a name?
"Do you men mind too much if we walk over there? It's just around the block," the sheriff asked.
Dean answered without hesitation. "Let's drive." No need to spend more time with the cop than absolutely necessary, even if he'd accepted their cover without hesitation.
"Ah, I guess you warm-weather folks aren't much for frost, are ya?" Brandt joked as they crunched across the snow. It was only a few inches thick over the street, nowhere near the deepest Dean had seen, but he nodded anyways. "I guess we aren't."
The drive really was short, but it spared the brothers from having to answer any awkward questions. The sheriff drove halfway around the block, Pine Street merging into Broad with as much grace as the rutted pavement would allow, and stopped in front of a large white mansion. The place could have been nice, a real special old thing in its day, but now it looked terribly dilapidated. The yard was overgrown, graying stems from dead flowers and the remnants of several rosebushes pushing their heads above the snow. The paint was cracking away from the walls of the house, revealing a gray undercoat, and the porch sagged dismally. A branch from the giant redwood in the yard leaned against the cast iron fence that surrounded the property; the branch had to be fifteen feet long, and as thick as a man's thigh. It was buried in snow and old pine needles, too, making it painfully obvious just how long it had been lying there.
The sheriff explained the mess with a wave of his hand. "The family that lived here got foreclosed on about six months ago," he said, then shook his head. "The city treasurer, his name was David North, he bought the place a couple of weeks ago. He wanted to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast-at least that's what I heard-but we found his body in the basement yesterday after a neighbor called the police." The cop was fumbling with a huge combination lock now, twisting the numbers until the sequence read '5206'. Sam was tall enough that he could see over the man's shoulder without being too suspicious; he committed the numbers to memory and looked quickly away when Brandt pulled the lock off and turned the handle, revealing the bare interior of the house.
"We found Dave's body in the basement, tied to a chair," the sheriff continued, leading the way through what had probably been a family room, and trotted down a steep old staircase. They passed a small, dark-paneled box set inside the wall and Dean realized with a snort that it was an elevator.
The body wasn't in the basement any more, but the rest of the evidence was, each piece carefully numbered with little paper cards. Dean took in the blood-soaked scene with a frown, sniffing obscurely for sulfur but catching only the odor of rotten flesh. Sam took more of an interest, listening to Brandt's descriptions and throwing in a few questions of his own. No doubt Dean would comment on that later when they were deciding who had to examine the body, but oh well. Someone had to remember the facts.
"The first body was tied to a chair, handcuffed, killed in the exact same way as the second one, but that's where the similarities end," Brand said. "That first man was just bruised up a bit, probably from a tussle, and a little raw where he'd been cuffed." He paused, gesturing at the location of the wound on his own head, and continued. "But the second victim was different...he was all cut up." The sheriff shook his head. "God, it's kinda unnerving when you knew the guy. Anyway, he had some real deep wounds on his arms and legs. I was thinking torture, but I'll leave that up to you. It looked real brutal."
The officer pointed outside. "There weren't any footprints with either death, or any sign of breaking and entering that we could find. We got some real heavy snow two nights ago so that's probably why we couldn't track the killer down that way after the second death, but you'd think we'd find some kind of clue after Bradley's body was found. There wasn't a thing. We did get some fingerprints with Dave's case here..." and Brandt's face crumpled into a confused frown, "...but when we checked them with the database, we got some real weird results."
"Three guys popped up, and at first we just thought the criminal was using some different names, 'cause all the results looked identical. But then...see, the guy looked like he was the same age in all of the shots, but the pictures were taken fifteen years apart. Which would mean that at least forty-five years had passed since that first picture was taken."
"He looked exactly the same in all the shots?" Sam confirmed, a frown wrinkling his brow.
"Yeah, identical. Same expression and everything...and I wouldn't put it past this bastard to kill someone. He looked like he was ready to murder the photographer. Which reminds me," Brandt stared off into space, remembering something. "None of the pictures were mugshots. All three were for the military. Our people searched exclusively for I.D. pictures, but nothing came up, which makes me think the guy just doesn't have one. But that's another guess."
"Did you get a full name for the first victim's face?" Dean asked, still staring at the black-stained carpet. Jesus, that was a lot of blood.
"Yeah, it was, uh, Christopher Bradley? I think that's it. He and Dave didn't have a criminal record, and they were both military. But I'll tell you right now, Dave wasn't a good guy. He might not have committed a crime outright, but he...he conned people. His buying this house didn't go over the honest way. And maybe it's just rumors in a small town, but I heard it from a couple of people: they say he paid half-price for it, too. Friends with the judge or something." Brandt's expression was suspicious and very serious. "Maybe that's why he was killed."
"Anything else you noticed?" Sam asked. "Black smoke, the smell of rotten eggs, anything like that?"
"No, nothing like that," Brandt gave the hunter an odd look. "Why, should I have found something along those lines?"
"No, it's fine," Dean said in a voice that effectively cut off any more questioning. "You don't happen to have a copy of your search results for the killer, do you?"
"As a matter of fact, I do. They're in the car. I can drive you back to the station now, too, if you'd like."
"Thanks, that would be great," Dean said with a smile that didn't reach his eyes.
When he and Sam were getting in the Impala not five minutes later, he gave his brother a real grin and then started the car. "Looks like we got a mystery on our hands, Sammy!"
"Dean, you might want to come look at this," Sam said with a frown, pausing on the History Channel as he fiddled with the remote, looking for a game. Dean poked his head around the doorframe of the tiny bathroom the Queens Motel had given them. His hair was still sopping wet from his shower, and a toothbrush was sticking out from between his teeth. He pulled it out and joked, "What's up, finally discover the porn channels?"
Sam ignored the wisecrack. "Isn't this our guy?" The show was about espionage in World War II, and the camera was slowly zooming in on a snapshot of a man in uniform. Soldiers like this one were given special training for these situations at bases scattered across the country, the narrator said in an informative voice.
Sam snatched the packet Sheriff Brandt had given them off the pillow he'd set it on. A quick glance was all he got before the picture shifted, but he thought the photos and the snapshot on T.V. looked close enough. "I think that was him," he said in a confused voice, brows furrowing at the implications.
"See what you can find on him," Dean said, his own suspicions plain on his face. "What were the names that cop gave you...John Howlett and, uh, Logan, right?"
"James and Logan, yeah," Sam replied. He'd already pulled his computer out of its bag and was powering it up.
Three or four hours had passed. Sam hadn't had much luck, but he'd found one or two pictures that looked like their mysterious soldier and a website that listed a marriage license with a Logan Howlett and a woman named Kayla Silverfox. A little more searching found another site that claimed both the man and woman were deceased...at an accident about fifteen years ago, a nuclear reactor had collapsed; that in itself didn't sound like something that happened every day. Kayla's body had been found with a bullet wound that punctured her right lung; Sam guessed that she'd died of blood loss, too little oxygen, or a combination of the two. Logan had disappeared and his body was never found, so the authorities had assumed he'd been crushed under the rubble. A long list of people had gone missing as well, but that did nothing to alleviate Sam's suspicions.
Fifteen years ago. Wasn't that when the most recent military photo had been taken?
"Hey, I think I found something," Sam said in a concentrated voice. Dean was watching a hockey game by now; he flicked off the volume and looked over at Sam's computer. His brother tilted the screen so he could see better. "I think this is our guy," he said. Dean snorted. "That can't be true, it says right here that he's dead."
"Missing, not dead. They never found his body. And it was fifteen years ago that the most recent military snapshot was taken, right? It matches up with our timeline perfectly."
"So what're you thinking? Vengeful spirit? Maybe these guys got him killed." Dean was serious now, sarcasm no longer colouring his tone.
"Maybe. I'll start looking for a connection between the victims, why he might've wanted them dead," Sam said, already searching. "If they're all military...wow."
Dean glanced over at the computer screen. Sam was staring at the laptop like it had grown wings. "What is it?" the older hunter asked, not willing to wait for Sam to get around to explaining things.
"They were all in the same unit in Vietnam," Sam said, incredulous. "At least, that's what it says here. It also says that there were about ten guys, and seven are dead...including this Logan person. Two of the men it lists as alive are the two the police found murdered in that mansion...and that leaves one more." Sam shook his head, a worried expression replacing the confused one. "What if this man lives in town, too?"
"What's his name?" Dean asked, frowning at the computer screen. "We can always find out."
"Uh, William Stryker. He's the head of the unit, so if Logan Howlett's looking for revenge then he'll probably be hunting for him."
"We can check it out in the morning. There's nothing we can do this late, anyways." Dean yawned, turning the television's volume back on.
Sam snapped the computer shut. "But what if that's not enough time? This guy killed two men in two nights, and if the third one's around then he's probably out there trying to find him right now." The younger hunter's eyes flashed with concern.
"How could we find him anyway?" Dean asked, a little irritated with his brother. He was trying to relax. It was just another hunt. They could do it the usual way and they wouldn't run into any problems. It really frustrated him that his brother was making sense, though...he just wanted to watch the hockey game long enough to fall asleep. Damn college student.
"We might not need to find this guy, Dean," Sam said in his I'm-just-so-sensible voice. "He'll probably just kill him in the same house he did the others."
"Fine, we'll check it out," Dean groused. "But we're coming back here if he doesn't show after we've waited for an hour."
The old house was completely silent. Occasionally, Logan would hear a car rushing down the street outside and he would back into the shadows behind the front door. Nevermind that no one would see him in the dark; it was always better to be invisible, just in case.
Especially now. A couple of guys were on his tail, and they sure as hell weren't cops like they'd claimed. He'd listened in on their conversation with the sherriff earlier, and they'd gotten a good bit of intel off of the guy before hightailing it back to the motel. Logan couldn't believe the officer was stupid enough to tell them all the crap he had, but then again, old Brandt couldn't smell their adrenaline like the Canuck could.
Logan could smell it from across the street.
Okay, maybe that was an exaggeration. His nose wasn't perfect. But he'd noticed enough to be able to see that the boys were full of shit.
He could have stopped them any time during the afternoon. Just broken into their room at the Queens and told them to haul their asses straight out of town. But he just had Stryker left and he'd be done; it didn't seem worth the trouble to chase them off. They could stay as long as they liked when he was finished. Six billion people in the world, and everybody had to care this fucking much for three of them. Three old criminals who'd wandered through life for too long and never done any good. Logan could have said the same thing about himself, but he didn't have a choice in the matter, and he wasn't the kind of man to get all weepy about shit he couldn't change. He'd just let the chips fall where they may, and if he died, what the hell? He'd already survived through a century and a half of war. That was more than enough for him.
So here he was. Stryker's car was rigged to fall apart practically on the doorstep, and there was a light on upstairs. Logan'd be damned if Stryker didn't come to the front door looking for a free room, the narcissistic bastard. William was in his seventies now, an old man, but Logan was still in his prime...and probably would be for a long time to come.
That was when he heard the voices. The first one was a whisper, but not a quiet one; the man talking like that didn't care if he was heard. The second guy just shushed the first one when he got too loud.
Fuck, the boys were back. Logan growled to himself and strode silently to the back of the house. He waited by the door for the intruders to pick the lock, their voices much too loud to be ignored. Shifting his weight, nervous energy barely contained, he waited, his instincts firing like pistons as they urged him to run or attack...anything to ensure that he lived. Jesus fucking Christ. At least he wouldn't have to wait long.
The first one to step through the entryway was the shorter kid; Logan grabbed him by the shoulders and threw him across the room. The guy's head left a dent in the wall, paint cracking and dust settling on him as he slid to the floor. The second one was ready by then, the bigger one, and he came in with his gun raised. As Logan turned back around the second kid fired his rifle straight at James' head...it didn't injure him permanently, but it hurt like hell. What was that thing loaded with, salt? James snarled and took the bastard down with a good, old-fashioned slug to the jaw. The kid was pretty big, six feet tall at the least with plenty of muscle all around, but in a hundred years of fighting Logan had learned to pack one helluva punch.
Another sound caught Logan's attention almost immediately after the second guy hit the floor. Someone's car was sputtering to a stop out front, clearly out of gas. A few quiet curses could be heard, and after a couple of seconds the driver's door opened, slammed shut, and a pair of dress shoes scraped through the snow. Good. It was about damn time William showed up.
Then another voice. "Honey, can't we just call AAA? It's too late for this."
What? Stryker remarried?
"It's fine, Julia, I'm just going to ask if someone here has a can of gasoline handy. Don't bother calling anyone, it'll take that damn company too long to get here anyway."
"Well, hurry up. I have a show taping at home."
"It'll only take a minute, dear." Sigh. Crunch, crunch, crunch went the shoes. Logan quickly strode through the empty house to the front door, unlocking the thing with a quiet click. He'd gotten rid of the sheriff's padlock earlier, stuck it in an envelope with the police station's address written on the outside and mailed it. Normally he wouldn't waste his time on something so childish, but that cop was really pissing him off.
Jesus, this was too easy. Stryker came right up to the stoop and knocked, waited patiently for the half-second it took Logan to open the door and stood relatively still as James dragged him inside. Logan held one hand over the man's mouth and the other fisted against his back; the threat was just as dangerous without words. As James herded William towards the stairs down to the basement he heard the Colonel's wife gasp, and then-dear god, no--let out a scream that would wake the dead. Goddamnit, she was a fucking grandmother! Didn't she have an oxygen tank or something to shut her up?
He'd have to go faster than this.
In that instant, his fist against Stryker's back became more than just a threat. The Colonel's muffled cry of agony joined his wife's terrified howling as Logan shoved the knives in his forearm out between his knuckles and through William's kidneys. Three more blades exploded out of his other hand and he sent them through his victim's skull, slicing downwards with a violent twist. This was one man he didn't want surviving.
Two heartbeats quickened almost simultaneously behind him...the boys were waking up. A loud pounding echoed from the front door. "William!" the Colonel's wife screamed. "Whoever has my husband in there, let him go! Let him go, let him out, he just wanted some gas for the car, let him go!"
Logan sheathed his claws and strode over to the door, opening it just enough to poke his head out. "Ma'am, that man o' yours has tried to kill me more times than one. His life for what he done is one helluva fucked up trade." Hatred laced every word. "Ya might wanna call th' cops now, but I'll be damned if them idiots c'n catch me." He slammed the door in her face just as the smaller of the boys rolled to his feet; he looked like hell but seemed ready enough for a fight. "Jesus christ," he muttered when he saw the body on the floor.
"Little bloody, ain't it?" Logan snarled, grabbing the kid's collar and dragging the boy towards the back door with him. 'Little bloody' was the understatement of the day; the all-too-familiar red liquid was pooling quickly in the foyer, coagulating in the cracks between the floorboards. The smell of iron was overwhelming.
The kid seemed to come to his senses when they were halfway out the back door. He grabbed onto the doorframe with his left hand and punched Logan with his right, earning himself little more than a broken wrist. "What the hell?" he cursed under his breath as his fist crumpled against Logan's metal-coated skull. "Idiot," James growled and kept on walking, quickly making his way out the back gate of the property and onto a sidestreet before he stopped. He swung the kid around to face him, yanking the guy down to his height...the boy was at least a foot taller, but Logan had stopped noticing shit like that a long time ago. "Where's yer car?" he snarled, giving the kid a hard shake as he did. Wonder of wonders, the boy didn't smell too scared, but then again he went around posing as a U.S. Marshall for fun. Go figure.
"Why the hell would I tell you where my friggin' car is?" the kid blared. Fuck, he was loud.
"'Cause I need a ride," Logan growled, "An' I ain't got too many options! So tell me where the damn car is!"
"I'm not helping some psycho killer get away from a crime scene!" the boy snapped back, "And even if I was, my brother's still in that house, and I am not leaving him here!"
A growl rippled through Logan's chest, impossible to contain. In any case, he wasn't in the mood to try holding it back. "You want ta get yer brother out? Fine! I'll get yer fuckin' brother for ya, an' you c'n go get the car while I do! S'at good enough for ya?" He whipped around and stalked back onto the Sergeant property, all too aware that his new friend was catching him up.
"I'm not leaving you with my brother," the kid growled in a tone that Logan was pretty sure he'd meant to be intimidating.
"Ya get how close we are to that sheriff you boys love so much?" James hissed, as the kid sucked in a shocked breath. Yeah, I saw you three talkin' it up, Logan thought to himself. Out loud, he continued his tirade as he yanked the back door of the house open. "That bastard probably heard the scream himself. The faster we get outta here, the better off we'll be." He took a second to listen inside before deciding William's wife was still out front. The tall kid was on his feet by now, and he didn't look happy. That was made all too obvious when James stepped through the entryway and got another round to the head.
"Goddamnit, boy, quit firin' that fool gun!" Logan roared, striding over and dragging the kid outside by his collar. He yanked the gun away and held it up to the shorter brother's head.
"Now, boy, you're gonna show me where that car is."