I checked out the window for a third time, but still no full moon. So – what's up with this crew tonight? I looked through the statements. Harvey was insisting that something resembling Mothman attacked him. The kid only knew that the two big guys tied him up and the two bigger guys let him go. The old man ID'd Harvey and Dowd, they all three did, and he said a customer got taken hostage with them, and that this customer's brother rescued them. The girl said that Dowd threatened her and that Dean – the customer – kept pulling his attention onto himself, and that a guy who Dean said was his brother broke in the back door and took out both Dowd and Harvey single handedly.
Dowd apparently hadn't said much of anything but "Moron" since the responding officers found him and Harvey kissing the floor at the restaurant.
I'd been on Dowd's trail forever, so when I heard he was finally in custody, I asked to be part of the case and the Lieutenant asked me to interview everybody again to see if I could any more information out of them.
I started with Harvey.
"Okay, what – "
But I had no chance to finish before Harvey jumped right in with his tall tale.
"I swear, man. I swear, he just swooped in there, with these big huge wings and red eyes. BIG red GLOWING eyes. And wings." He spread his arms out like maybe I didn't know what wings might be. "One wing broke the back window and the other wing broke open the back door, both at the same time and he just swooped in -."
I stopped him before he could do his Mothman "wings" demonstration again and thought we should have him tested for drugs because he had to be on some really good ones.
Then I went to the kid, the waiter. He was the grandson of the owner's wife's Bingo partner. Eighteen at the most. Apparently he'd been practically in shock when he was rescued.
Apparently, he was over that shock.
"Dude, they were like HUGE. Like HUGE huge." Similarly to Harvey, Ryan supplemented his statement with exaggerated arm movements, miming what he was telling me. "Not even just linebacker huge, they were even more huge than that. And tall. HUGE tall. You know? It was all like just Bam! Bam! Bam! And then BAM! It was like – wow, dude. Wow."
Yeah. Wow. Totally.
Okay, next to the old man. He at least was calm, composed, sitting with his wife. She had her beads at the ready, gripped in one hand. Her other hand was gripped tight in both of her husband's.
"Mr. Book? Thanks for holding on, we're almost done here. Is there anything else you can tell me about the two other men who were there? Even the smallest thing could be important."
"His brother, he kept saying his brother was coming. His little brother. He said 'little' brother, he kept stressing that. Little. And then -." Mr. Book splayed out his fingers in a gesture of amused resignation. "Boy, was he little. 'Little' like that could get you someplace, know what I mean? But Dean – his name was Dean – the older brother – Dean kept stressing 'little' like it was a little little brother he was talking about and not the one man army that showed up."
"And did either one of them say anything about being a police officer?"
"No, they didn't. The little brother, he hardly said anything at all. It was the one guy, Dowd, he's the one who kept saying Dean had a partner. I mean – Dean never contradicted him, but he never agreed to it either. He was a real cool customer, know what I mean? He really kept things from going to hell on three wheels."
Okay, never heard that metaphor before. Whatever, on to the next.
The cashier was sipping a can of Sprite and tapping her sneaker heel against the leg of her chair.
"Is someone coming to get you?" I asked her.
"Yeah. Yeah. Mom and Dad. They'll be here any minute. My Dad's so gonna make me quit that job, y'know? He's gonna wanna rip their heads off, y'know? He's so totally over-protective of me. I'll be lucky if he even lets me outta the house again 'til I'm twenty-one. Y'know?"
"Hmm. Yeah." I really didn't care all that much. "So, Dean – he kept Dowd's attention away from you and Ryan and Mr. Book?"
"Oh, yeah. He was so cool, y'know? He could tell right away that someone was wrong, right? But he only just kept talking like we were so just shooting the breeze, y'know? And all the while he was using his fingers and pointing, asking me how many bad guys there were, and how many of us there were, y'know? Then he pulled out a really badass gun and he pointed to me and pointed to the front door, like I should run outta there, y'know? But only the big, ugly guy came out then, y'know? And he grabbed me, y'know?"
What I did know was that I really really really wanted to pound my head on the table. Y'know?
"So – um -." She twirled her hair around her finger and pulled one shoulder closer to her chin. "So – that other guy – Dowd? He said Dean is a cop. Is he? 'Cause if he wanted to take my statement, y'know, he could. I wouldn't mind."
She paused, twirling and tapping and batting her eyes-wide eyelashes at me.
"So? Is he? A cop?" She asked, brightly and hopefully.
Oh dear God in Heaven.
I didn't answer her, I took myself over to the last interview room.
"Dowd." I greeted him.
"Devon." He answered back, flat and uninterested. "I know you're not in charge of this case."
"Oh, no. But for the chance to finally put you behind bars, I'm volunteering my services."
He glared at me but didn't answer, so I kept going.
"So –." I sat down across from him and flipped open his file jacket. "Let's see what hijinks you've been up to tonight. Hmm – armed robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, menacing and – oh! – stupidity."
I gave him a minute to answer but he had nothing but glare. So I gave him some more good news.
"Speaking of stupid – Harvey filled us in on a lot of other jobs you pulled. Ones you pulled all on your own. Guess you shouldn't have bragged to him about how big the haul was all those times, hunh? The DA's got Harvey dealing like he's in Vegas. So just for you, tomorrow, Saturday, my day off, I'm making a day of it to compare notes with the boys in blue across the state line."
He only just kept staring at me, and I had to shake my head.
"All the thought and planning and finesse it took to pull off all these jobs – if you'd put even half that effort into anything legal, you'd own your bank by now. Instead, now, you're looking at seven to twenty – in this jurisdiction - while Harvey walks in three. So maybe you should start doing some talking yourself."
He glared, he glowered, he realized he hated Harvey more than he hated me.
"What is it you want me to talk about?"
"The two guys who schooled you – who were they?"
"Why? Why do you care? You want to congratulate the little brother for saving the day?" He asked. I was used to his sarcasm, so I let it pass and waited. Finally, he shook his head, thinning his lips in a way I knew meant he was telling the truth.
"I got no idea who they are. Harvey didn't lock the door, and Dean waltzed himself in, wanting his dinner he'd ordered. Harvey broke cover and then everything went to hell. Dean turned out to be the biggest pain in my ass that I've ever had." Dowd looked me up and down. "And that's saying something."
I checked the notes again.
"This says you had him tied up with the other hostages, you even walloped him a good one across the face. And still he got one over on you? You?"
Dowd huffed and shook his head again.
"Nothing scared him. I threatened to blow him to hell and he said he'd been there and while he was there, he ran it." He was still shaking his head. "I never should've answered his phone."
Oh, yes. The phone call.
"So – what exactly transpired in that phone call? You thought it was Dean's 'partner', but it turned out to just be his little brother?"
The glare I got that time should've set off the fire alarms.
"He said they were working on a case. Dean I already figured for a narc or undercover, so when he said on the phone that they were working a case, I figured it was his partner. Yeah, he kept saying it was his little brother, but I thought he was just goading me. When was the last time a little brother did anything nice for his big brother, after all?"
I didn't answer him and he shrugged and looked away.
"Harvey got on my nerves. I never should've brought him. This wouldn't have happened if I'd been by myself. I would've locked the front door. Then Dean wouldn't have gotten in and I would've gotten away. But no. The wife says I have to bring him. He's her little brother. Damn little brothers."
There was a lot I could've said on that subject, but I didn't. I shut his file and stood up.
"Well, I have to get ready for my little road trip tomorrow. Anything else you care to tell me?"
He thought about it a minute.
"Their car. I didn't see it, but almost as soon as they left, I heard a muscle car engine. I figure it had to be theirs."
It wasn't much, but no detail was too small and I marked it down in the notes.
"He said he was coming to rip my heart out." Dowd said while I was writing. I looked up at him; he almost sounded wistful. "On the phone, when I told him – the partner – Sam - the little brother – that I had a gun on Dean – I expected him to panic or to bargain or to go into cop-speak procedurals. He sounded like a rookie. But when I threatened Dean, his voice got deep, really deep and he only said that he was coming to rip my heart out and then he hung up. And then when he saw that I'd hit Dean and split his lip, I thought he was going to reach down my throat right then and do it. And when they were leaving, Dean actually stopped to tell me 'that's my little brother'. He sounded proud saying it. Proud of his little brother."
He held my gaze for a minute.
"How was I supposed to see that coming?"
SPN* SPN* SPN* SPN* SPN* SPN* SPN* SPN* SPN* SPN* SPN* SPN* SPN
Late the next afternoon found me one state and three counties away from home, sharing information on Dowd's activities that seemed to stretch back a decade with detectives from a couple of neighboring precincts. It was dinner time when I started back home and I pulled into a highway rest stop to grab a fast burger and get on the road again.
As I parked, I noticed a classic car one row up, an Impala, as it so proudly announced itself. I'm not as into cars as Dowd is, so I couldn't tell the year, but I figured late sixties or so. I didn't think anything else about it.
I went inside the rest stop, heading for the burger counter. I walked past a guy, standing at the newsstand, reading a magazine. I noticed him first because he was big. I noticed him more because of the bruise on his jaw and the split in his lip.
A fast look around showed me an even bigger guy walking toward the burger bar. He was limping, like maybe he'd wrecked his ankle.
Split lip, sprained ankle, classic car…
Dean and Sam.
They didn't quite fit my mental image of them. Yeah, they were big and bigger, but other than that, they looked like pretty much any other guy in the place. I know 'heroes' generally do look like everybody else, but after the descriptions I'd been graced with the night before, I don't know, after all the descriptions and hyperbole I'd had to endure about them, I guess I was expecting them to be lifting buildings off their foundations with their bare hands and rescuing kittens from trees without needing a ladder.
But Dean – if it was Dean – was just reading his magazine, and Sam – if it was Sam – was just standing in line for dinner.
Kind of anti-climactic, really.
I forgot about my own dinner for the moment and made my casual way over to Dean.
"That's quite a wallop you must've gotten there." I said. He gave me a smile over the top of his magazine.
"You should see the other guy." He said and went back to his magazine.
"I have seen the other guy." I told him. The look he answered me with was so mildly interested and so only slightly puzzled that I would've believed he had no idea what I was talking about, if I didn't already believe that he did know what I was talking about.
"Had any good fish fries lately?" I asked him.
"I don't know – asked any questions that made sense lately?" He answered me, still mildly, slightly interested and puzzled.
Okay, in for a penny, in for a pound. I pulled my badge and showed it to him.
"I'm Detective Devon Brennan, from up in Lakeside. I'm investigating the armed robbery of a Mom and Pop restaurant that happened there last night."
"Lakeside? Kind of far afield, aren't you?"
"I follow the leads where they take me." I told him. "So – I have reason to believe that you and your brother were there last night." I gestured to Sam waiting at the 'pick up your order here' spot at the burger counter.
Dean shook his head like he really had no clue what I was talking about, but he didn't say anything about whether they'd been there or not, or if they'd even been in Lakeside at all.
"What if I told you that witnesses saw your car outside the restaurant in question last night?" I asked.
"I'd say that statement would have a lot more weight behind it without the 'what if'." He answered, calm and casual and shooting the breeze.
"C'mon – Dean." Using his name got me no reaction either. "Couple of really tall guys, one got hit in the face, one kicked in a door – probably wrecking his ankle." I gestured to Sam again. "Taller one is the little brother. None of this sounds familiar?"
He shrugged and sounded honestly sincere when he answered,
"Wish I could help you, but – really – I don't go around robbing Mom and Pop restaurants."
He was good. He hadn't said definitively if they'd been in Lakeside or not, he hadn't said his name was Dean, he hadn't said that Sam was his brother, and while I hadn't even remotely suggested they weren't suspected of the robbery, neither had he.
"Hmm…" I considered my options. "Well, I'm just going to go have a word with Sam. Maybe he'll have a different story to tell."
And I still got no reaction other than a shrug, "Whatever," and he turned back to his magazine. I headed for Sam.
He was leaning his shoulder against the wall, it looked like he was keeping weight off of his right ankle. He was studying a menu and didn't look at all surprised when I addressed him.
"I'm Detective Brennan." I told him, showing him my badge and pointing over my shoulder back to Dean. "I was just talking to your brother about how the two of you were up in Lakeside last night."
Same as with Dean, I got the puzzled-but-not-concerned look from him.
"I can't see my brother saying I was in Lakeside last night."
"So – you weren't in Lakeside last night?" I asked him. That would get me a 'yes' or 'no' answer.
Except it only got me a shrug. I was getting tired of those.
"What is it you think I did, in Lakeside?" He asked instead of answering.
"I'm investigating an armed robbery."
His eyebrows went up in surprise and he smiled.
"I might've snuck a Clark Bar out of a convenience store when I was five," he said. "But I've never committed armed robbery."
He was a good as his brother, not giving me any details I hadn't already given him. I was giving them rope and they were refusing to hang themselves with it.
"What if I told you that you and your brother were seen at the scene of the crime?" I tried.
He didn't lose the smile.
"Why don't you tell me that, then? If it's true."
I ignored that.
"How'd you hurt your ankle?" I asked instead.
"Who says I hurt my ankle?"
He shrugged again. I was getting even more tired of those.
"Doesn't mean it's my ankle. Could be plantar fasciitis, could be sciatica. Could even be a herniated disc I suppose. Why? Did the armed robber have a limp?" He sounded like he actually wanted to know.
"You and your brother aren't wanted for the robbery." I told him what I was sure he already knew. "You saved the hostages. You two are heroes."
I expected he might deny again that they had anything to do with it, or that he might finally admit they did have something to do with it. Instead, he gave a short, sharp, genuine laugh as he turned to pick up his carry-all of food and empty soda pop cups.
"Ha. You think I'm a hero? You really are talking to the wrong guy."
Well, if Sam wouldn't take the compliment for himself, surely he'd take it for the brother he'd risked his life to save.
"Your brother Dean kept the robbers pissed at him and kept them from harming the other hostages."
Sam thanked the clerk and turned toward the counter of napkins, ketchup, and soda pop dispensers. He was still limping.
"So what you're saying is that you think that a guy who risked his life for strangers is a guy who'd make me stand in line with a bum leg? Yeah, that's consistent."
He smiled when he said it and limped over to the soda dispensers. I followed him but I was beginning to wonder if I really had the wrong guys after all. Either that, or they were very, very experienced talking around the police.
"Well, there's a lot of people who think the two guys who thwarted that hold up are heroes. A lot of people would give them medals, me included – if we knew who they are."
He didn't look at me. He filled his two empty soda cups with ice.
"Maybe they just did what they had to do." He said. "There's nothing heroic about that."
Something in the way he said that made me think I wasn't wrong about them, after all. They'd faced down armed & dangerous men, because Dean couldn't not try to save the hostages, and Sam couldn't not try to save his brother. And to them it wasn't heroism or even out of the ordinary, it was just what they did.
"I disagree." I said. "Thank you for your time."
He gave me a 'yeah, sure, anytime' that was a little surprised but mostly polite and I walked back to Dean for one last comment. He was still with his magazine, at the last page it seemed like, judging from the back cover folded back, and he looked up as I got close.
"Find the bad guy yet?" He asked.
"Oh, I know who the bad guy is," I said, thinking of Dowd. "He's already behind bars, awaiting arraignment on Monday. I was looking for a couple of guys who cared more for the safety of others than they did for themselves."
He looked like he was thinking about it and then answered like he'd just thought of an answer and was very pleased with it.
"Try the fire department. I hear that's a basic quality of firefighters."
"Can I tell you something?" I asked, ignoring his remark, bracing myself for a 'can I stop you?' snide reply. But all I got was a sincere,
"I have a big brother who's the kind of guy who'd use a kid as shield to protect himself. He's hated me and envied me and been the bane of my existence pretty much since I was born. He's never once said of me 'that's my little brother' with anything other than scorn. And I'm pretty sure I'd never risk my life to save him from a splinter, much less armed men."
Dean kept his eyes on me, giving me his full attention. I kept going.
"You know why I really wanted to find those two guys who saved the hostages? Because I didn't believe there could be two brothers who cared that much about each other, or be that proud of one another. I wanted to meet brothers who are that close."
He thought about it a second or two and I wondered if I was finally going to get the truth out of him. But he only said,
"It's been my experience that that kind of brother is pretty much one in six billion."
"Yeah, that's pretty much what I thought." I said. I couldn't help sighing and I decided to head for home without getting dinner first. I wasn't feeling that hungry anymore anyway.
"So – you don't see your brother much anymore?" He asked. I sighed again and felt the familiar dread sitting like a stone in the back of my throat.
"His name's Dowd Brennan. I'll see him Monday at his arraignment." I told Dean and walked away before he could say anything else.