The brothers find intolerance and worse while touring in Lousiana.
Third after (1) What goes Around, Comes Around, and (2) The Green & the Blue
"Dean, look at this."
The brothers had been driving aimlessly through Louisiana for several days. Having had a comforting and very relaxing couple of weeks in Florida, once the usual trauma and drama was over, they were a little lost at the moment. They were financially flush, which was a new and happy feeling, so they had no need to seek out a paying gig.
Dean swallowed a mouthful of waffle. "What?"
Sam handed him the paper, pointing to the relevant article. Dean scanned the report as he sipped his bitter black coffee absent-mindedly. "SECOND COUNSELOR FOUND DEAD IN A WEEK" The article described the discovery the previous day of a young man, dead, with no apparent foul play. It mirrored the death of another young man, some six days before, in identical circumstances. Both had been counselors at the Saving Word Summer Bible Camp, on Black Lake, Bethel County, LA. "So? People die...heart attacks, allergies, I dunno, brain tumours. The cops said they had no evidence of foul play."
"C'mon Dean, you don't think it's a little weird? Two young, healthy guys drop dead in a week, both work at the same place, both of unknown causes?"
"Mmm. I guess. So what do you want to do? Drive out there, ask some questions?"
"It's a start."
Dean slurped the dregs from his cup. "Hey, what the hell, nothing else to do."
Earlier, Sam and Dean had located a reputable coin dealer in Florida after their windfall of Spanish gold. The dealer was thrilled to see the coins, especially in such good condition. He'd dealt with similar coins before, but they had invariably been found in water, and had the wear and encrustation from centuries of exposure to the sea. These were nearly pristine. He purchased four of them, which allowed the brothers ample breathing room in their travels. Dean kept the last coin. He would sell it if necessary, but if he could keep it as a memento, he would love to set it into a frame and wear it on a chain. An expensive bauble, but for him, it had nothing to do with monetary value and everything to do with the positive experience that brought it to him. And besides, it was just so cool!
But the new-found freedom from worry was a worry in itself for two people who were more accustomed to walls than welcomes. They were bored, and worse, Dean was restless, a condition that usually ended with trouble. They needed to get back to what they did best. There had been enough of a buffer and it was time to get back to business. Bethel county was back in the direction they'd already traveled. They finished their breakfast and wandered back out to the car after purchasing some travel snacks and drinks.
"How do you want to do this?" Dean asked lazily. "Are we reporters? Insurance guys? What do you think?"
"I don't know yet. They just lost two of their staff, they might need to hire a couple of new people."
Dean groaned and made a face.
"What? Because it's a bible camp? Dean, don't have such a narrow mind. These camps are great for kids; on a lake, lots of fresh air, forest, summer activities. And yeah, some morality instruction too. What's wrong with that?"
"Whoa! Don't get bucked off your high horse there, Sammy! I don't have a problem with it. Just with the camping part."
"Oh. " Sam said sheepishly. He had forgotten Dean's aversion to any accommodation that didn't have orange shag carpet and a flashing neon vacancy sign. He remembered an early experience they'd had, hunting a wendigo on the west coast. That had been rough enough to sour both of them on the idea of sleeping in the woods for a good long time. "Well, this isn't wilderness camping anyway, Dean. Trust me, this'll be cabins and mowed grass. You can handle that, can't you...princess?"
Dean punched him hard on the arm in response.
Several hours later, they located the lake. During their travel, it was decided that they should split up. Sam would pursue the counselor job, since neither believed that Dean could successfully pull off the role of morality tutor. And Dean would find a place to stay and follow any other angles that presented themselves.
A suitably cheap and dated motel was found. Sam left his computer with Dean and he drove up to the camp. As he had thought, under the circumstances they were a little desperate to take on a new staff member. Sam was authentically engaging, obviously moral, and clearly athletic, and they didn't have time for their usual precautionary checks. He was perfect, and they needed someone like him. He was shown his accommodation, a cabin, shared with two other counselors. He had their agenda in hand, including all planned activities and a curriculum synopsis. And of course, a detailed code of conduct, and a bible.
Dean, meanwhile, settled in at the motel, spending some quality alone-time by watching some decidedly amoral movies and making a dinner of whatever came out of a cellophane bag. He fired up the laptop and started searching. He managed to get the names of the coroner and the funeral home that had dealt with both bodies. That would be a start for tomorrow. He did some searching for the camp itself. It had a well produced website, which featured enticing pictures of the cabins, the lake, and various candid shots of laughing kids doing summery things. There were a few testimonials. And a mission statement, of course, and plenty of scripture quotes. Seemed normal enough, for that sort of thing. The last frame had a list of thank-you's to its sponsors, and he read through the list. Bethel County Sheriff's Office. A half-dozen churches. Various businesses and individuals. It seemed to be highly regarded.
There was nothing there to dig at. He looked at his watch. It was nearly time. He'd made sure to note the locations of several promising night spots in town as they drove through. Sam might be happy in his little cabin in the woods, reading his bible to the kiddies, but Dean had other ideas on what constituted entertainment.
He showered and chose some of his less wrinkly attire, including his lucky tan long-sleeved tee-shirt. He brushed his teeth, spit in his hand and roughed his hair up with it and voila, —ready for action.
He gave Sam a quick call. "Hey Father Samuel. All tucked in with your bible stories?"
"Shut-up, Dean. The kids are great, really into the summer camp thing.. What are you doing?"
"Going out. I found out the coroner and funeral home for both. I'll check it out tomorrow. Anything interesting over there?"
"Yeah, actually. They're missing three staff here, not just the two who died. Another guy disappeared a month ago. It's a bit weird, it's like there's open weeping over the other two, but the first one...people seem a bit skittish when talking about it. Might be something, I dunno. So, I guess you're checking out the bars in town?"
"Damn straight. Gonna find me a good time."
"Well...be careful. Don't piss anybody off."
"Yes Dad. 'Nitey-nite. Call you tomorrow."
Dean grabbed his leather coat and out of habit, he searched the pockets for his keys. He frowned, remembering that Sam had the car at the camp. He was going to have to walk. Not as impressive as touring around in the Impala. Chicks always liked that car.
It wasn't far anyway. He strolled for about ten minutes, ending up at little place called Harry's. He sat at the bar, ordered a draught and took in the surroundings. He was a bit out of place, he realized, the décor was solid country, and the music twanged with a similar bent. It was really not his thing. The barkeep was a friendly looking type, with a big ungainly moustache that made it look like he was trying to inhale a squirrel.
"So what do you think of our little corner of the world, here..?" he asked Dean, handing him the beer.
Dean laughed. "Is it that obvious I'm not local?"
The barkeep shrugged, smiling. "Most people in here are regulars. Country types. Younger, hipper folks end up at McGuire's up the road. Now don't go thinking we're unfriendly, not sending you away or nothing. Always happy for your business here…"
Dean raised his glass to him.
"What're you in town for anyway? Visiting family or such?"
Dean had already planned his scenario. "Nah, just my job. I'm with the national center for disease control. I get sent all over the place to investigate when there are unexplained deaths happening in groups."
"You must be here about those camp counselor deaths, then. Yeah, that was strange. Sad too, good people, I hear, from upstanding families."
-Good Christian people, you mean- Dean thought. Not that he had anything against that, it just seemed that some of the worst things were done by people who wore that label loudly.
Dean nodded. "I need to speak with the coroner tomorrow. These usually turn out to be nothing, I don't wanna panic anybody. Just routine investigation."
Bill the bartender poured him another draught.
Dean thought he'd test the waters a little. "I heard there was an earlier death, another camp staff member...'bout a month ago?"
Bill frowned a little. "Not a death. Disappearance. Nice kid, too. His name was Daniel Williams. His sister waitresses here. She's due in at nine if you need to ask her about it. Name's Margaret...well, Maggie. Take it easy on her though, ok bud? She's still real broken up about it all."
Dean thanked him for his candor, and promised he'd tread gently. Nine...that was in about twenty minutes. He sighed. So much for an evening of fun. He'd managed to turn it into work in record time.
Sam had settled in to his allotted space. His duties were done for the day, it was his own time now. He'd met his cabin-mates earlier. Jeff was a perfect Aryan specimen, tall, blond and athletic. And arrogantly confident. The other one, Randy—he was a weasely type. Friendly if he thought it was in his own best interest. And he was clearly a follower of Jeff. As a matter of fact, Jeff seemed to be the alpha of all the male counselors. The girls camp was a few miles up on the lake, they operated separately except for joining the boys on bonfire nights. Sam planned to stay on Jeff's good side, otherwise he knew that he'd remain an outsider and would learn nothing useful.
The camp director was a silver haired gentleman, a Mr. Beauforte. He was charming, and had a strong character, firm and fair. It was he who had hired Sam and given him a brief training session in the camp's schedules and lessons. Unlike the counselors, he did not stay at the camp, but went back to his home at the end of each day. Jeff was the one in charge of the boys until morning. He was in the office now, with his lackey no doubt by his side. Sam decided to stroll around the facilities, perhaps to meet the other staff, check out the lake. It really was a beautiful area. He smirked to himself...Dean would have hated it.
Dean waited for the arrival of Maggie Williams. In the meantime he chatted lightly with Bill and annoyed himself by tapping his foot to the country tunes that played relentlessly. He snacked on some fries and wings since the earlier potato-chip dinner hadn't really satisfied.
His business demeanor fell away when she entered. Maggie was a stunner. She had reddish brown hair, simply styled in a way that perfectly framed her gently smiling face. Her eyes were green. Or brown. It depended on the angle. Even, white teeth flashed frequently with her kind teasing of the regulars. Her jeans hugged comfortably on her lean frame. No wonder they all loved her here. Dean was ready to drive that bandwagon himself. The job was all but forgotten as he watched her approach.
Bill introduced them. Dean realized he'd been grinning stupidly, but he managed to slip back into form and save at least a little of his dignity. Bill had already told her why he was there, so Dean invited her to a table to talk.
"So...you're investigating for some sort of epidemic?" she asked.
"Well no, not exactly. I just get sent out when there are multiple unexplained deaths in a defined area and in a short period of time. It's really routine, I haven't found any thing unusual yet on my watch. No plagues, no alien bugs. Nothing to worry about." he smiled.
She smiled back, leaning forward on the table. She thought he was damn cute. "That must drive your wife nuts, losing you to all the travel."
This time his smile reached his eyes. "No, she appreciates her moments of peace." He watched and was satisfied at seeing her brief look of disappointment, and he quickly assured her he was kidding. "Nope, no wife, no kids, and unattached at the moment. You?"
She laughed. "Oh, well, I couldn't go breaking the hearts of all the regulars here. Just me and my dog, Ivan."
"Ivan...so what is he, one of those little furry purse-dogs that has to wear a jacket in winter and a sun-hat in summer? " he teased.
"Holy! Those are kinda big, aren't they?"
"Oh yeah. I had to build his run over 8 feet high. He's jumped everything else. Are you afraid of big doggies, Dean?" Her eyes were twinkling.
He blushed. "No. I've met and tamed bigger dogs. As long as I'm guaranteed to leave with the same number of arms and legs as I came with, we'd get along fine."
"Well, don't worry Dean. Ivan-the-Terrible loves everybody. So, why do you want to talk to me?"
He regretted having to get back to business. "Bill told me about your brother's disappearance. I'm sorry to hear that. I'd asked him about it because we had it classed as another death in this series, so I was supposed to include it in my report. But I see that info was wrong, so I'll just be looking into the other two."
He felt bad, she seemed to wither a little at the mention of it.
"I...don't know if it's related to those others or not. Dan and I are close, he would never have left without telling me, or phoning me later. Something happened to him, I know it. I mean, I wish to god it hasn't, but…" She trailed off. "Do you have any siblings, Dean?"
"Younger brother. He's a pain in the ass, but yeah—if he ever left with no contact I'd be thinking the same as you."
She nodded. He understood. "Danny...he was nothing like those holier-than-thou bastards at that camp. I don't know why he ever took that damn job, they made his life miserable." She stopped, embarrassed. This person had his job. He wasn't a cop, he couldn't help with Dan.
Dean's smile faded, and he asked earnestly, "Maggie, can we go somewhere else and talk? I'm not feeding you a line here, I just think you might want to tell this to an outsider...maybe get some different perspective."
She looked at him for a moment. His expression was genuine concern. She decided she could trust him. "Uh...well, I am on shift." She turned around on her chair and looked at Bill, who understood. "You might as well, girl. It's pretty quiet tonight. I'll re-schedule you if you want. And you, Dean-of-the-national-centre-for-disease-control, you behave yourself. You seem like a nice lad, you don't wanna change my mind about that, you hear?"
Dean respected the implied threat. "No sir. You can trust me. And thanks."
Bill nodded solemnly and winked at Maggie.
Out in the fresh evening air, Maggie asked, "So where are you staying?"
"The Highway 9 Motor Inn."
"Oh, gross! Poor you. Well, sorry to be a princess, but I'd rather go back to my place, if you don't mind. And pardon the expression, don't get any funny ideas!"
He laughed, trying to hide the fact that he was getting funny ideas. "I hear you. Besides, I heard you have a really huge dog!"
Maggie's house was walking distance to the bar, she'd left her truck at home. They walked and chatted about lighter things, until they reached her front door. As she turned the lock, a single deep, rumbling "woof" came from behind it.
Dean raised his eyebrows. "How big is this dog?"
"Oh, you'll see." She opened the door and a wiry coated behemoth flew through it. His big lumpy feet hit Dean's shoulders, knocking him back onto his butt. Ivan stood on his chest and licked the entire surface of Dean's head like it was a big fuzzy lollipop as he twisted back and forth and struggled to push the monster off.
Maggie was beside herself with laughter and when she found her voice, she ordered Ivan off and he sat, his tail sweeping the porch happily. Dean got up, grabbed the sleeve of Maggie's jacket and wiped the slobber off his face.
"Nice dog." he managed, but he was smiling.
"Sorry, Dean. He's not very bright. But I warned you, he loves everybody!"