Fanning the Flames
Author's Note: This was originally posted on LiveJournal for the Supernatural Crossover Big Bang. It's also archived on AO3.
x X X x
Albuquerque, New Mexico
"Look at this," said Sam Winchester, dropping a newspaper onto his brother's lap along with a breakfast burrito.
Dean eyed the headline while he opened his burrito. "'No leads on woman in backyard'. Sucks, but she was shot. Not exactly our thing."
"Look at the article underneath it."
"'Fourth victim of coyote attack'," said Dean, before stuffing half his burrito in his mouth.
"And check the dates," said Sam. He already knew that there were two last month, during the full moon. Another one on the first night of the full moon, when the woman found in her backyard was shot. And another one last night.
"So you're thinking werewolf?" said Dean.
"Werewolf," said Sam. "Plus a hunter who doesn't know what the hell he's doing."
Dean winced. "Do we really have to get involved in that?" Confronting a rookie hunter was never pleasant business. At best, the rookie hunter went back to his own life. The worst case scenarios were many and varied.
"It's the last night of the full moon," said Sam. "And we're only half an hour away."
Dean groaned. "What are the chances the dead woman's got nothing to do with it?" said Dean. "And we don't have to deal with a half-assed hunter?"
"I wouldn't make that bet," said Sam. "Either way, it means we've only got a day to find a werewolf."
Dean shoved the rest of his burrito in his mouth. "Let's go," he said, through his mouthful.
Sam grimaced, but didn't complain.
x x x
Garcia picked up the remote and addressed the conference room. JJ, Prentiss, Reid and Rossi were sitting around the table. Morgan was helping himself to a cup of coffee before taking his seat and Hotch was staring at the screen as though the victim would suddenly tell him why she'd been murdered. There were two pictures of her displayed: her employee ID which listed her as a consultant at an IT firm, and one of her headless body lying on the floor of her apartment.
"We have five victims," said Garcia. "All killed in different states, all killed in different ways. Martha van der Haven, 45, decapitated in Birmingham, Alabama last December." Garcia clicked through to the next set of photos. Another body lying on the floor of a forest, burnt beyond recognition, and a photo of a woman in her thirties smiling. "Two months later, Lana Roberts was set on fire in Pennyrile State Forest in Kentucky." Next was a young man lying motionless on the floor of his dorm. "A month and a half later, Ryan Johnson, 22, was electrocuted in his dorm at Missouri State College."
The rest of the team stared, puzzled by the differing victims, methods of murder and locations. Reid was quickly skimming through the entire file. It was thick.
"How do we know that these killings are related?" JJ asked.
"No one connected the deaths until the fourth victim." Hotch took the remote from Garcia and brought up the next victim. "Cynthia DeMille was bludgeoned to death last month, and burnt in a grave in the backyard of an abandoned house down the street from her home." It looked like an open grave, with the burnt remains of Cynthia DeMille and something else.
"What was burned with her?" asked Morgan taking a closer look at the photographs of the scene.
"This is where it starts to get really strange," said Garcia. "The first three victims had paraphernalia from a god-awful series of pulp novels stolen from their homes at the time of their murders. None of it has been located, but the fourth victim's stuff was burnt with her. The team working the case currently believe they'll find the missing things similarly disposed of." Garcia took the remote back and brought up the last victim. "Rhoda Vimes, shot two nights ago in Albuquerque. Her brother mentioned that a lot of her favourite things were missing, including all of her favourite books."
"So we have five very different victims, killed in five different states, and the only thing tying them and the murderer together is a series of books?" said JJ.
"A series of terrible books," said Garcia. "Called Supernatural and written by a man named Carver Edlund from 2005 to 2008. They have a very small fanbase for very good reason."
"Methinks you might be protesting too much," said Morgan. "Tell me the truth, baby girl. You love them, don't you?"
"Nothing could be further from the truth," said Garcia. "I wouldn't be surprised if the unsub is a fan himself, because every single one I've ever met online is crazy."
"It's likely we're dealing with a highly intelligent, organised killer," said Reid. "To commit several murders over state lines like this is almost unheard of. There's a level of sophistication inherent in the whole that isn't present when each case is taken individually."
"It could be that the unsub was hoping to avoid the connection being made," said Prentiss.
"Then why steal the same things from each victim?" said JJ.
"Could be a compulsion," said Reid. "But I think it's likely that the unsub's whole reason for committing these murders is tied up in the Supernatural books."
"Which is why we'll need to take a closer look at our victims," said Rossi. "Who's the lead agent?"
"Quincy Morris," said Hotch.
Prentiss looked up from her copy of the file. "Isn't he the one investigating the Winchesters?"
The Winchester case was one that the BAU team liked to toss around as a puzzle on their days off. Most of the time they were glad they had nothing to do with the Winchesters' strange crimes and their constantly changing MO. If their faces didn't show up so often, most of the team would be certain that their crimes had been committed by several disparate groups of unsubs.
"There are some similarities between the cases," said Reid. "Acts that appear random committed across state lines. A varying MO that doesn't follow a pattern of escalation."
"Let's all focus on the case we do have," said Hotch. "Garcia, I need you to look into anything else our victims had in common. The rest of us are flying out to Albuquerque. Morris' team is already waiting."
x x x
Somewhere over the Continental United States
"Has anyone else ever heard of these Supernatural books?" Prentiss asked. She, JJ, Morgan and Reid were sharing a table on the plane. Hotch and Rossi were sitting by themselves.
"I've only heard of them once before," said Reid. "And Garcia is right, they're not held in high esteem."
"So the unsub hates these books and is going after the fans?" said Morgan. "But they've been out of print for years and never had a large following. What's the stressor?"
"And if there aren't many of them," said Prentiss. "Then how does he find them?"
"The Internet," said Reid. "People with shared interests who wouldn't normally be able to meet can connect more easily than ever before."
JJ was staring at her copy of the file. "It says here that a modified taser was used on the college student and applied directly to his throat."
"To keep him quiet," said Prentiss. "There were boys up and down that hallway all afternoon."
"The unsub has no problem committing a crime in a high risk environment," said Reid.
"His roommate was out," said JJ. "He's not a partier, doesn't have much luck with girls so he's home every night. The unsub had to get to Ryan during the day if he wanted to kill him in his room."
"So he's stalking them," said Morgan.
"It explains why there are long periods of times between the murders," said JJ. "And we know he's organised. Not knowing where the roommate is doesn't fit with what we've got so far."
"But why did he need to do it in his dorm?" asked Reid. "The previous victim was lured out into the forest. And the next one was lured down the street. She lived alone with indifferent neighbours. He could have easily killed her at home but he chose not to."
"Those women were older than Ryan Johnson. Single women," said Prentiss. "A man about their age could easily have expressed a romantic interest and taken them out on a date. A twenty-two year old student is less likely to go anywhere with a man he doesn't know."
"Ryan was also physically fit," said JJ. "Far more likely to put up a fight in an abduction scenario."
"The unsub is smart," said Reid. "He would have considered the other options. Non-violent alternatives used to knock out his victims."
"But those are usually used by women," said Morgan. "So we are most likely looking for a male."
"We'll know more when we get there," said Hotch, stepping up. "Morgan and I will check out the crime scene." He looked at Prentiss. "You and Reid can see what the ME has to say. JJ and Dave, interview her brother."
x x x
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Hotch pulled up outside Rhoda Vimes' house in a black SUV. He and Morgan got out. The crime scene guys had already been and gone, but the house was still roped off. A black SUV identical to their own pulled up behind them. Agent Morris got out of the car and greeted them. He was alone.
"Aaron," said Morris as they shook hands.
"Quincy," said Hotch. "This is SSA Derek Morgan."
Morris nodded as they shook hands. "I've heard good things about you. Shame we couldn't meet under different circumstances."
"What can you tell us about the scene?" Hotch asked as they walked under the police tape and into the backyard where Rhoda was found.
Morris looked around. "It looked liked this, basically," he said. "Nothing was disturbed." He pointed to the fence adjoining the backyard behind the house. "They were having a party. A loud one, so even though there should have been witnesses, no one could be certain that they heard a shot. No one was expecting to."
Morgan looked at the photos of the crime scene in his file, trying to picture everything clearly in his mind. "She came outside of her own free will when she was shot," said Morgan. "Why?" Rhoda was another younger victim.
"Her brother told the local LEOs she liked to come outside to write. She was an aspiring novelist."
"In the middle of the night?" said Morgan. He looked back on the photo and could see where her notebook and pen had been found beside a deck chair.
"The moon was bright," said Morris. "And with the lights blazing from the party back there she probably wouldn't have even needed a flashlight."
Morgan walked over to the sliding door at the back of the house. "So she comes out here with her notebook." He walked over to the deck chair. "She sits here to write." He took three steps to the left and pointed to the ground. "But she died over here."
"Initial ballistics reports indicate the shot was fired from over there," said Morris, indicating the house next door. "But the CSI unit couldn't find anything over there."
"That's the direction she moved in," said Morgan. "Do you think she saw her attacker?"
"Did the neighbours see anything?" asked Hotch.
"They were at the party," said Morris. "They heard and saw what everyone else did. From the looks of things, the house was completely undisturbed."
"The unsub must have known they were going to the party," said Morgan. "So she gets up, sets down her book and walks toward him. And then he shoots her. But after that, he doesn't make his getaway."
"He goes back into the house, takes her things, and then leaves," said Hotch. "And the brother never heard a thing."
"He assumed it was her," said Morgan.
The three agents went inside the house. "No signs of forced entry," said Morris.
"She left the door unlocked," said Hotch.
"He's a man on a mission," said Morgan. "These kids don't exactly have much in the way of security and there are a bunch of high end electronics just lying around. He could have taken anything, but he doesn't."
They went upstairs and Morris pointed out the bedrooms. "The brother's room on the left. Our victim's on the right."
"If his door was open he would have seen the unsub go into the room," said Morgan.
Rhoda's bedroom looked sparse. There was an entire empty shelf on her bookshelf. Tell-tale discoloured spots on the walls where framed posters had hung until recently. The empty frames were propped against the wall. Absolutely nothing else looked disturbed.
"He was here a long time," said Hotch. "He wasn't afraid of getting caught."
"The door locks," said Morgan. "As long as the brother stayed in his room, there was no reason to fear. Could he have been drugged?"
Morris shook his head. "He was up past midnight playing some game on his computer. And there was nothing out of the ordinary about the morning after until he looked outside and saw his sister's body."
Morgan walked over to the laptop on the desk. "I'm going to have Garcia look over her browser history. Maybe it'll help narrow down the ways the victims could have met."
"I've been following the Winchester brothers for a year," said Morris. "I thought I knew crazy but this is just bizarre."
x x x
Rossi knocked on the front door of Rhoda's parents' house. The victim's brother, Joseph, had moved out of the house he shared with his sister at least temporarily.
The door was opened by a dishevelled looking woman. "Yes?"
"Mrs Vimes?" asked JJ.
"Yes," replied the woman.
"I'm Jennifer Jareau and this is David Rossi, we're with the FBI. We'd like to ask your son a few questions about what happened the other night."
Her forehead creased. "But we just spoke to the FBI," she said.
JJ and Rossi shared a look. Had Morris sent someone and neglected to mention it?
"We're with the Behavioural Analysis Unit," said JJ. "The agents you spoke with earlier don't have the same area of expertise. I know it's difficult answering the same questions again, but it would really help us if we could hear it directly from him."
"It was just the one man," said Mrs. Vimes. "Very polite." She looked at them one last time before taking a step back. "Come in."
The house was small, but clean and tidy. The kitchen seemed to be overflowing with food left by well-meaning neighbours. Two men were sitting at the table, both seemingly staring into space. They werefather and son by their age and resemblance.
"Joe, honey, these FBI agents would like to speak to you."
The younger man looked up. "Again? Do none of you compare notes?"
"You know how things can get a little lost in translation," said Rossi. "We wouldn't want that to be the case here."
"Let's just get this over with," said Joe, walking into the living room. They sat down.
"You were home the night your sister was murdered, is that correct?" asked Rossi.
"Yes," said Joe. Distaste was spat out with the word. "All night long. She was out there all night long and I was sleeping. Not a care in the world."
"The bullet went straight into her heart," said Rossi. "There was nothing you could have done for her."
Joe nodded. He'd obviously heard the words before but couldn't let himself believe them.
"Can you tell us what happened before you went to bed that night?"
"We ate dinner together," said Joe. "TV dinners. I had beef and she had chicken. I finished eating first." He took in a deep breath. "I threw the container in the trash. Washed my hands in the kitchen sink. I didn't even look at her when I left the room, and that was the last time I saw her alive. That son of a bitch was rooting around in her room, through her things, and I just thought it was her."
"Did you notice anything unusual before you went to bed that night?" asked Rossi.
"I didn't hear anything," said Joe, frustrated by his inability to recall anything useful. "Just the bass from the party. And maybe a coyote."
"Coyote?" asked JJ.
"There have been all those people attacked recently," said Joe. "I guess it could have been a dog. The music probably upset them."
"I heard they caught that coyote this morning," Mrs Vimes put in.
Rossi nodded and steered the talk away from animals. "Is there anything missing that might not be considered Supernatural paraphernalia?"
Joe shrugged. "I don't know. She didn't let me in her room much. It was her space."
The agents nodded in understanding.
"But," said Joe, thinking of something. "Her notebook. He left that behind."
"What was special about her notebook?"
"She called it her hunter's journal," said Joe. "It's where she wrote her fanfiction before she posted it on the internet. She was totally embarrassed about it, but I snuck onto her laptop one day and read some of it. Not my thing, but it wasn't awful."
"Rhoda posted it on the internet?" JJ asked for clarification.
"Do you know where?" asked Rossi.
"I could find it in her browser history," said Joe. "But Stella's the one who really knows about that part of her life."
"Stella?" asked Rossi.
"Stella Mercer," said Joe. "Her best friend."
They got Stella's contact details from Joe and thanked him for his time.
x x x
Prentiss greeted the assistant medical examiner at the morgue. Reid was on the phone with Morgan who was filling him in on everything they learned at the crime scene.
"I'm Dr Amber Gupta," the medical examiner introduced herself with a smile.
"I'm SSA Emily Prentiss," said Prentiss, shaking her hand. "And this is Dr Spencer Reid. We're with the FBI's Behavioural Analysis Unit."
"We don't have many profilers coming into the morgue," said Dr Gupta, looking at Reid.
"Analysis of the body left after a murder can tell us a lot about what sort of killer that person is," said Reid.
Dr Gupta nodded grimly and went to retrieve the body from its refrigerated compartment. "It's a single gun shot wound directly to the heart," she said. "It went right between the ribs. Whoever this was, he was quite the shot."
Reid nodded. He was the complete opposite of a good shot.
"We're still waiting for ballistics to come back on the bullet," said Dr Gupta. "But I can tell you one thing about it that I noticed straight away." She reached toward her clipboard and showed Prentiss and Reid a picture taken of the bullet. "It was made of silver."
Prentiss and Reid thanked Dr Gupta for her time. As they passed the entrance, they overheard a man in a suit asking the assistant medical examiner to let him see the bodies from the recent coyote attacks. That didn't have anything to do with their case, so Reid wasn't entirely sure what made him take a second look at the man. He knew exactly why he'd had to after that double take. Without pausing he unholstered his gun and aimed it straight at the man.
"Spence, what?" asked Prentiss, looking around for the threat.
"FBI," said Reid. "Put your hands where I can see them."
The assistant medical examiner threw her hands up quickly, obviously terrified. The other man raised his slowly, an easy smile sliding across his face. His hands never went higher than his shoulders.
"Whoa," he said. "I think you've got me confused with someone else."
"Dean Winchester," said Reid, and that was all it took for Prentiss to raise her own weapon. The assistant medical examiner began backing away slowly. "You're under arrest."
"I'm not Dean Winchester," said the man, not showing any signs that he recognised the name as his own. "As I was just telling this nice lady, my name is Jay Smith. I'm with the Department of Fish and Wildlife."
The morgue workers looked between the man and Reid, seeming to think there had been a misunderstanding. But Reid was sure, and Prentiss had faith in him.
"Hands on your head, Winchester," said Prentiss, before moving forward to cuff him, then pat him down. Though he was dressed neatly in a cheap suit, he was carrying a handgun unholstered, and more than one knife. There was no way he was working for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Reid saw it then, Winchester's resignation to the situation. But he didn't see the defeat an unsub typically showed when he was caught. Winchester was biding his time. And if Reid remembered anything about the way Dean Winchester worked, it was that wherever he was, his brother Sam was surely nearby. Reid and Prentiss were going to have to be triply vigilant until they got him into an interrogation room.
x x x
At the FBI field office, Hotch, Morgan and Morris were in the room the team was using at their temporary base. Several evidence boards were set up around the main conference table and piles of files lay atop it.
"Talk to us, baby girl," said Morgan into the speaker of the phone sat in the middle of the table.
From her office back in Quantico, Garcia answered. "Okay, so I had Morris' guys send me everything they had on the first four victims, and with the information from Rhoda Vimes' laptop that you sent me, I was able to figure out a few things."
"Well don't keep us in suspense," said Morgan.
"Cue dramatic music," said Garcia. "All five of them spent a lot of time on various Supernatural websites. They visited their favourites regularly. Since it's a smaller fandom, there are only a couple of dedicated websites that are updated frequently. The vast majority of the fanfiction and news they were getting was from sites servicing all areas of popular culture. I cannot find a single site that all of them visited in the last year. It'll take me another couple of hours to go farther back."
"So they aren't all online friends," said Hotch.
"No. The contact they'd have with each other is the online equivalent of a nod at someone you see every day whose name you don't know," said Garcia. "They do have a couple of contacts in common, but I think that's more due to the fact that those people are on every single site. I think they're more than a little obsessed."
"Send me that list," said Hotch, reflexively reaching for his phone.
"Already done," said Garcia, hitting return on her keyboard. "The other thing they all have in common is that they all wrote fanfiction. It's posted on different websites, and they each had their own specific genre that they liked to write in, but the general consensus by the commenters is that it's good."
"They had their own fans," said Morgan.
"They've each appeared on top ten lists of the best Supernatural fanfiction, but they don't all appear on the same lists."
"Guess it would be too easy if the unsub had posted a hitlist of all his victims," said Morgan.
"Thanks, Garcia," said Hotch.
"You so owe me for this," said Garcia. "A lot of the stuff on these sites... it's icky."
"Icky?" asked Morgan.
"Every kink, you name it, there's fanfiction written about it."
"Anything illegal?" asked Hotch.
"Uh, yes," said Garcia. "But I think it's all fiction. Over and out." Garcia ended the call.
"What did we miss?" asked JJ as she and Rossi joined them in the room.
"Further proof that we should be looking into the mental health of all Supernatural fans," said Morgan.
JJ nodded. "Rhoda wrote fanfiction in a journal the unsub didn't take with him."
"Could have been an oversight," said Morgan. "Sure he stalked them, but that doesn't mean he catalogued every item they owned."
JJ turned to Morris. "We hadn't realised one of your men had already visited the brother."
Morris frowned. "My guys haven't talked to him," he said. "After the locals, I specifically told them to leave him for you."
"When we got to the house Mrs Vimes mentioned a lone man from the FBI had spoken to them already," said Rossi.
"I'll ask my guys," Morris said. "Can't believe one of them went against my orders like that."
Morris' phone rang and he stood to answer it, turning his back on the room to give himself the illusion of privacy. "Where?" he asked. "Good work." Morris hung up his phone. He turned to face the BAU team. "My guys found the burn site. Ashes are still warm."
Hotch turned his unblinking eyes on the rest of the team. "Let's go."
But before they got farther than the door, Hotch's phone rang. "Reid?" He stopped in his tracks and motioned for the rest of the team to come back into the room. "I'll tell Morris. Just make sure he gets here."
"Problem?" JJ asked.
"Reid's just arrested Dean Winchester," said Hotch.
"The Dean Winchester I've spent the last year looking for?" asked Morris.
"It seems that way," said Hotch. "Considering he's in the area, it's likely that Sam is, too."
"I knew it," said Morris, clenching a first. "These freaking unbelievable murders. The lone FBI interviewer. Of course it was them. They've done them all before."
"Let's not jump to conclusions," said Hotch. "Morgan, JJ, Dave, you should go on to the scene. I'll wait here and send Prentiss your way when they get here." Hotch's team members nodded.
Morris looked torn between getting to gloat in one Winchester's face, and going out to catch the other one. "I'll leave when I see him locked up in here," said Morris, finally. "Houdini's got nothing on the Winchesters. Especially if you can only see one of them."
Hotch made a mental note to keep an eye on Morris. He was a good agent. He'd hate to see the man's personal issues with Winchesters ruin his career. He also hesitated to think they'd had a lucky break. The chances of a Winchester and the close of the case just falling into their laps seemed too simple. The Winchesters were masters at escaping and evading police custody. If Dean Winchester let himself be taken in, there must be something he wanted from them.
x x x
Winchester didn't bother to look up when the door to the interrogation room opened and Hotch and Reid walked in. He did, however, manage to smile at the FBI agents once they'd sat in front of him. He seemed relaxed, though a little irritated. The same way people off the street were when they realised a police interview might interrupt their busy schedule. He looked like he had every reason to expect that they'd unlock his cuffs, give him back his clothes, and allow him to leave in a second.
"Who are you?" Winchester asked Hotch. "I thought Morris would be in to see me."
"Believe it or not," said Hotch. "You aren't the only serial killer in this country. I'm SSA Aaron Hotchner."
Winchester scoffed. "I'm not a serial killer." Both Hotch and Reid were trained to know when people were lying. Neither of them could find a speck of evidence to support the idea that Winchester was lying. They'd been expecting that. Morgan's theory was that Dean was a pathological liar. Reid thought it was probably something more subtle than that.
"That's for the court to decide," said Hotch.
Winchester rolled his eyes. "So, what would you gentlemen like to talk about today? I hear the Indians are having a good season."
"Let's start with what you were trying to accomplish by impersonating a government agent in the morgue."
Winchester blinked at them. He seemed to be deciding whether to go with the truth, say nothing, or tell a lie. "What time is it?" he asked.
Reid looked at his watch. "One-fifteen."
Winchester seemed to make a decision. "What do you know about the woman who was shot two nights ago?" he asked.
Hotch was actually surprised. He'd counted on Winchester not having anything to do with his investigation. Now he was offering up Rhoda Vimes' death as though it meant something. "That's not the way this works," said Hotch. "You have to give something to get something."
"Oh, you got something," said Winchester. "I saw you blink."
Reid looked between Hotch and Winchester. They were both alpha males. Everything pointed to Dean being the dominant between the Winchester brothers. Hotch had won the initial stare-down simply by being the only participant. It looked like Winchester had stayed away to fight another day.
"One question, one answer," said Hotch.
Winchester made a spectacle out of going along with it. "All right, all right. I wanted to know about the latest animal attacks."
"Why?" asked Hotch.
"Uh-uh," said Winchester, wagging his index finger back and forth. "It's your turn to answer my question."
The vein in Hotch's temple bulged. "You'll have to be more specific."
"So it is your case," said Winchester. "Why? One woman getting shot in her backyard doesn't need the FBI all over it."
"We believe it's connected to a series of other murders committed over the last few months."
Winchester shook his head. "Dumb bastard."
"Do you know who killed Rhoda Vimes?" asked Hotch.
"I've got no idea," said Winchester.
"I find that hard to believe."
"I don't know who did it," said Winchester. "I was hoping to find out before you picked me up."
"By looking at the bodies of people killed by coyotes?"
"If it was coyotes that killed them," said Dean. "Have you had a look at the bodies? Are you sure they aren't more in line with a wolf."
"You mean a werewolf?" asked Hotch.
Reid opened his bag and slid out the folders he'd gotten from the ME's office. He set them on the table between himself and Hotch.
"What are you?" Dean asked Reid. "His personal assistant?"
"Dr Reid is a valuable member of our team," said Hotch.
"Dude," said Winchester to Reid. "He just called you his personal assistant. Are you an agent or aren't you?"
"Do you want to see the files from the coyote attacks or not?" asked Reid.
Winchester shut up.
Hotch looked each file over quickly before showing the pictures of the corpses to Winchester. "Does that look like a werewolf to you?"
Winchester looked at each picture slowly and carefully. His face didn't betray his emotions. There was no pleasure in seeing the kill. No sympathy for the victims. Just clinical detachment. It could have been an indicator that he was a psychopath. Reid didn't think that was the case.
"The hearts weren't taken?" asked Winchester.
Reid had been expecting him to come out with an odd question but he hadn't been expecting that.
Hotch pushed the files to Winchester's side of the table, one by one. "Hearts were intact. DNA found in the earlier victims was consistent with that of a coyote." He set down a piece of paper. "That coyote was found and put down humanely by animal control at ten o'clock this morning."
Winchester let a few emotions slide across his face then. Relief, and then concern of some other kind. "Then the woman who was shot," he said. "She wasn't killed with a silver bullet?"
That detail hadn't been released to the press. If Dean Winchester had nothing to do with the murder, how could he possibly know that?
"What makes you think that?" asked Hotch.
Winchester looked up from the files. "She was? Shit."
"You said you didn't know who killed her," said Reid. "But you have an idea, don't you?"
Winchester's lips pressed tighter together.
"Someone you know," said Reid. "Someone you're protecting."
Winchester rolled his eyes. "It wasn't Sam."
Hotch and Reid saw only truth in that statement, too. Reid took the folders back and put them into his bag. If Winchester didn't have anything to do with Rhoda's death, they had no reason to speak to him any longer. No matter how interesting Reid's brain thought the conversation would be.
But there was one last question Hotch needed an answer to, to rule Winchester out. "How did you know she'd been shot with a silver bullet."
"I overheard you talking in the autopsy room."
Reid didn't think that was true. But his eidetic memory admitted it was possible, depending on Winchester's hearing ability.
Hotch looked at Reid for confirmation of the truth in that statement. Reid raised an eyebrow at him. "We're done here," said Hotch, standing.
Reid picked up his bag and started to move to his feet, too.
"Wait," said Winchester.
Now that they didn't need anything from Winchester, they didn't need to give him anything.
"I can help you," he said, when Hotch and Reid continued on their way to the door. "With the other murders."
It was probably a bad idea to listen to him, but this was a weird case and they didn't have any leads.
Neither FBI agent said anything, but waited for Winchester to continue.
"I think the guy doing this might be like me and Sam. But, you know..." Winchester made a gesture with his hands that would have translated better had they not been cuffed to the table. "Not as good at it."
Hotch continued to fix his unblinking stare on Winchester.
"Look, he's probably not a bad guy. He just thinks he's ridding the world of a few monsters."
"Define monsters," said Hotch.
"Werewolves for one," said Dean. "I'd have to see the rest to know for sure."
From werewolves, one's mind usually went to- "Vampires?" asked Reid.
"It's a possibility," said Dean. "If you've got someone who was beheaded."
Hotch and Reid didn't have to look at each other to know that they were wondering the same thing. If Dean Winchester had nothing to do with their crimes, how could he know the strange circumstances of the deaths?
The team hadn't considered that the strange methods had something to do with the supernatural element. That would indicate that their unsub was a fan of the Supernatural books, rather than the opposite. Unless the unsub got his information from wherever Dean Winchester had. Reid really needed to get his hands on those books.
"What do you know about the Supernatural books?" Hotch asked.
The strangest expression crossed Winchester's face. A mixture of disbelief and disgust, with a little concern mixed in. There was something personal about those books. "I read them once," he said.
That was enough for Hotch. They were flying blind where the books were concerned and if they had to get their information from a suspected serial killer, then so be it. He sat back down. Reid followed.
Winchester looked at them as though he couldn't understand this new dynamic.
"There's more to it, isn't there?" said Reid. "You've more than just read the books."
"And neither of you have read the books," said Winchester. It wasn't a question. The agents didn't like being read so easily.
"It won't take me long once I've gotten my hands on them," said Reid.
Winchester laughed. "They're out of print, thank God." He seemed to think back on his statement. "Actually, God probably wanted a few more of them printed. His fault they exist in the first place."
Reid filed that tidbit of information away to think about later.
"What can you tell us about the type of people who read these books?" asked Hotch.
"Batshit crazy," said Winchester.
"Would you count yourself among them?" asked Reid, out of curiosity more than anything else.
"I'm a whole different sort of crazy," said Winchester, with a grin that would make anyone believe him. "The people who read the books... they know they aren't real but at the same time it's like they believe they are. Which puts them on another level of disturbing."
"You've mentioned werewolves and vampires," said Hotch. "What other supernatural creatures are there?"
"In the books?" asked Winchester.
"Ghosts, wendigos, demons, shapeshifters, pagan gods, rawheads, strigas, rakshasas, zombies, djinn, witches, rugarus... and those are just the ones that aren't unique."
It was unlikely that that specific list could have been rattled off by someone who was lying about having read the books.
"If I told you how someone died, you could tell me what kind of supernatural creature they were?" asked Hotch.
"Burned to death," said Hotch, thinking of the second victim.
"Burned how?" asked Winchester. "Gasoline? Flame-thrower?"
"Autopsy reports indicate some kind of flare gun was used," said Reid.
"In a forest?" asked Winchester. "A wendigo."
"Electrocuted with a taser," said Hotch.
Winchester winced. "Rawhead."
"And bashed to death," said Hotch.
"Bashed to death? I don't know of any supernatural creature that would just take a beating."
"Is that where you draw the line?" asked Reid. "Between creature and animal?"
"Never really thought about it," said Dean. "I guess it's just between what science can explain, and what it can't."
"'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic'," said Reid.
"Arthur C Clarke. But I don't think science is ever going to explain why a vampire has to survive on blood and has to be taken down by decapitation," said Winchester. "Are you sure they were beaten to death?"
"This is purely hypothetical," said Hotch. He couldn't actually discuss an open case with someone unrelated to it.
Winchester rolled his eyes. "Of course. Hypothetically, was there anything else weird about the death?"
"The unsub dug a grave and burned her corpse in it," said Reid.
"Oh," said Winchester. "Then I guess it was a ghost. She was probably hit with something made of iron. A crowbar or a fireplace poker or something."
That was something the forensic team might have been able to figure out if the corpse hadn't been burnt afterward.
"Thank you for your help," said Reid, already thinking about how this new information fit in the profile.
"If you were really grateful you'd let me out of these cuffs," said Winchester.
"They'll be removed once you're placed in a cell," said Hotch.
Winchester rolled his eyes. "What about a snack?" he asked. "Or do you think I'm going to manufacture an escape with some french fries? Your faith in my ability to escape your custody is really rather flattering."
"We'll see," said Hotch.
Winchester smiled his most charming smile at them. Hotch frowned. That had to be the reason why so many of his victims would later sing his praises when interviewed.
Hotch and Reid stood to leave again. "If you ever get your hands on those books," said Winchester. "Don't let Morris read them."
x x x
As places to burn evidence went, Morgan thought this one had a lot to be desired. For one thing, it was completely enclosed. The unsub must have been wearing a gas mask or something. The members of Morris' team who'd found the site had immediately called the fire department because the garden shed was completely filled with smoke.
The smoke had been cleared, the ashes had been picked through, and the rest of the FBI had been called.
Rossi and JJ were interviewing the neighbours. Morris was coordinating the search of the surrounding area, but despite the ashes being warm, the unsub was long gone, and had left as little evidence behind as at the other scenes.
Prentiss arrived, looking all business. Morgan filled her in on the lack of a situation, saving his questions about Dean Winchester for later. They went into the shed together, to see if they could find more clues for their behaviour analysis.
"Do we know whose house this is?" asked Prentiss.
"It's a foreclosure," said Morgan. "The owners moved out four or five months ago. Half the block's been foreclosed. Including all of this house's immediate neighbours."
"Think our unsub might have lived here?" asked Prentiss.
"I doubt it," said Morgan. "More likely he's done his research. There are enough trees to disguise the smoke, and the lack of windows deals with the light."
"The only thing left is the smell," said Prentiss.
"I hate to say it," said Morgan. "But when I got here, it honestly smelt like someone was barbecuing something. And in the middle of summer, that's not unlikely even later at night."
"Did he throw meat on the fire? To disguise the smell?"
"That's something for forensics to find out," said Morgan.
"But if the ashes were still warm," said Prentiss. "That means he was burning last night, or this morning. But Rhoda Vimes was murdered the night before. Why stick around? He could have burned this stuff in any town miles from here." Prentiss looked up at the smoke blackened ceiling of the garden shed. "What is so special about this place?"
"If we figure it out," said Morgan. "I think we'll have this case closed."
Prentiss took another step into the shed. "If the other belongings were burned in sheds like this one it explains why they haven't been found."
"Which was probably his aim in the first place," said Morgan.
"So how did Morris' guys find this place?" asked Prentiss.
"Neighbour said he saw a car leaving, but didn't see the driver," said Morgan. "I guess he thought it was some kind of meth lab, since he knew they'd foreclosed." The driveway led straight to the back of the house, so it would be easy to park a car behind the house where no one would see it from the street.
"Did they find the car?" asked Prentiss.
"Two blocks away," said Morgan. "Wiped clean of course, and no one saw anything."
Prentiss sighed. "Any sign of Sam Winchester?"
Morgan shook his head. "Do you think he did it?"
"His brother was at the morgue looking at the wrong bodies," said Prentiss. "Whatever reasons the Winchesters have for coming here, I doubt it has anything to do with this case."
x x x
Morris was in a foul mood when everyone reconvened in the conference room. The lack of a Winchester sighting was irritating him, and everyone could see that he would rather be stringing Dean Winchester up than listening to them espouse theories on their current unsub. He was well-behaved, considering his personal grudge against the Winchesters.
"We might get lucky with forensics on the car," said Morgan, figuring the best place to start was with their most promising lead.
"And I suppose he'll also drop from the sky like manna from heaven," said Morris. None of the BAU pointed out the fact that Dean Winchester had basically fallen into their laps.
"Dean Winchester gave us a few clues on why the unsub's MO is what it is," said Reid. He wilted a little under the force of Morris' stare.
"And you don't think he did it?"
"He genuinely seemed to be looking at the case from a different angle."
"He's a psychopath," said Morris. "You wouldn't be the first people a Winchester pulled in through sheer force of charisma."
"Are you saying that my team's been compromised?" asked Hotch.
"No, of course not," said Morris.
"Honestly," said Reid. "I don't think Dean Winchester is a psychopath. The man I spoke to genuinely wanted to help us with the case. I think he has a delusional disorder of some kind."
"He could have been injecting himself into the investigation," said Morgan. "Maybe that's why he turned up at the morgue. Interviews have always suggested that the Winchesters impersonate law enforcement to access details of cases they wouldn't normally be able to."
"He seemed surprised to discover the coyote attacks in the area were coyote attacks," said Hotch.
"What did he think they were?" asked Prentiss.
"Werewolves," said Hotch.
"He thinks he has something better to do than sit around in an interview room with us," said Reid. "But he's not getting frustrated. He knows a lot about the sort of person who would commit our crimes. He claims it's someone like him and his brother."
"Like in what way?" asked Rossi.
"I don't know," said Reid. "But definitely someone who's read the books. I can't know for sure without having read them, but it seems like you need more than a passing interest in them to carry out the murders, and to make the connection between them."
"And Winchester has this interest?" asked Morris.
"It's strange," said Reid. "He obviously knows them inside and out. He was able to list the main monsters the protagonists encounter without thinking for more than a second. But I don't think he liked them at all. It's almost as though he was forced to read them."
"Could be he used to be a fan," said Prentiss. "Something happened to make him hate them, but it doesn't stop him from knowing things."
"Is it possible that reading the books is what set him on the supernatural monster hunting path in the first place?" asked JJ. She of all the team was the one who most believed that the Winchesters weren't talking out of their asses when they mentioned monsters. She thought that they genuinely believed in a supernatural threat. Morgan was more inclined to believe that they were planting the seeds for an insanity plea the second they got caught.
"The books came out at about the same time that he and his brother started turning up on the FBI's radar," said Reid. "But Dean and his father started twigging the local police forces' radars years before that."
"Reid," said Hotch. "I think you need to get your hands on those books. Morgan, see if Garcia can find us an expert."
"I think it's time I spoke to Mr Winchester," said Morris. "You may have ruled him out as a suspect, but unless I have an airtight alibi or forensic evidence, I can't rule him out."
"May I sit in with you?" asked Rossi. "I get the feeling profiling him will be the key to creating an accurate profile of our unsub."
"You're welcome to, Agent Rossi," said Morris.
"Emily and JJ," said Hotch. "I'll see what Winchester said can add to the profile. I think you two should interview Rhoda's friend."
x x x
"So, Mr Winchester," said Morris as he and Rossi walked into the interrogation room where Dean Winchester was once again handcuffed to the table. "We meet again."
"Agent Morris," said Winchester, not sounding disrespectful. "Who's your friend?"
"This is SSA David Rossi," said Morris. "He thinks you're a fascinating criminal specimen and can't stay away."
"That true?" Winchester asked.
Rossi made a show of shrugging. "I can't say your motives don't have me interested." He and Morris took their seats.
"There's nothing interesting about them," said Winchester. "If you were the only person who knew about monsters, the only one who could stop them, wouldn't you go around killing them?"
"I might try convincing other people that they existed," said Rossi.
"That only gets you sent to the loony bin," said Winchester. "You can never tell."
"Sounds like you're speaking from personal experience," said Rossi.
"You think I'm crazy, don't you?" said Winchester, looking right at Rossi. Then his eyes slid over to Morris. "I know Agent Morris does."
"I think you're dangerous," said Morris. "And I'm glad you're locked up."
"I think there are a lot of different shades of crazy," said Rossi. "And most people aren't pure white."
"Is anyone?" asked Winchester.
"Alright Mr Winchester," said Morgan. "Enough chit-chat. Did you kill Rhoda Vimes?"
"No," said Winchester.
"Where were you two nights ago?"
"Nebraska," said Winchester.
"Why was that?" asked Morris.
"Black dog," said Winchester.
"Do you have any reliable witness who can verify that?"
"Well the black dog can't tell anyone," said Winchester.
"No one?" asked Rossi.
"Sam and I have been a little anti-social lately," said Winchester. "Mostly thanks to Agent Morris' excellent detective work."
"When did you get to New Mexico?" asked Morris.
"Last night," said Winchester. "The guy who checked us in probably remembers. He was one of the ones who think my brother and I are sleeping together."
"Are you sleeping together?" asked Morris.
"No!" Winchester's response was exactly the right level of outrage: not too much. It was more frustration because the topic came up a lot. Then he looked up with a smug smile on his face. "Does that disturb you? The idea of two brothers having a sexual relationship?"
"Every state has a law against incest," said Morris. "It would be something else to add to your list of charges."
"I think it's safe to say I've broken a lot of laws in my time," said Winchester. "That's not one of them." Winchester looked at Rossi who had been trying to act as though he wasn't disturbed by the idea.
"Let's go back to a month ago," said Morris. "Where were you on the night of the sixteenth?"
"Seriously?" asked Winchester. "You do realise how much travelling I do, don't you? And how little attention I pay to the rest of the world and their picket fence lives. You'd have to ask Sam."
"I'll do that," said Morris. "As soon as you tell me where he is."
"You know I can't do that for you, Agent Morris," said Winchester. "It's bad enough that I am stuck in here for the time being."
"So you are planning a break out," said Morris. "Do you have a contingency plan everywhere you go?"
Winchester just smiled at them.
Rossi could see they weren't going to get anything from Winchester this way. "The unsub was sloppy at that last crime scene," said Rossi. "Left something behind he should have taken with him."
"Unsub?" asked Winchester, ignoring the part about evidence left behind.
"Unknown subject," said Rossi. "It's the term we use to refer to the perpetrator of a crime before we identify him or her. It helps us remain unbiased."
"I like it," said Winchester. "Think I'll use that one next time Sam and I have no idea what the hell we're hunting."
"You don't want to know what he left behind?" asked Morris.
"Well it wasn't me," said Winchester. "So I don't need to know. But good for you if it helps identify him. And it doesn't surprise me that he was sloppy."
"Why not?" asked Rossi. "He's been meticulous about everything else. Never leaving a scrap of evidence behind. Stalking his victims to find out where they're going to be, patiently waiting for the right opportunity. Always prepared."
Dean scoffed. "Sounds like you idolise him."
"No," said Rossi. "I've just gotten inside his head."
"I doubt that," said Dean. "He left something behind because he's the kind of guy who does the bare minimum of research, and makes stupid mistakes that land people like you on his tail."
"They always say serial killers make the best profilers," said Morris. He looked at Dean. "I don't buy it."
"Again, Agent Morris," said Dean. "I am not a serial killer."
"How would you define what you do?" asked Rossi.
"I save people," said Winchester. "You know my brother saved the entire world, and none of you will ever believe that. And I don't mean the kind of saving the world that you do. Literally the whole world. It was going to be the Apocalypse. But here everyone is, still living their lives. Thanks, but no thanks, to him."
"Your brother killed a federal agent," said Morris.
"My brother didn't kill your partner," said Winchester. "My brother and I never met your partner. He was dead long before we ever ran into the thing that looked like him."
"The shapeshifter story again?" said Morris. "And you expect me to believe it?"
"No, not again," said Winchester. "I mean yes, he was the kind of monster who could change shape. But he wasn't a shifter. A shifter you can gank with a silver bullet to the heart. If you'd shot the thing masquerading as your partner with a silver bullet it would have bled black and probably laughed at you before it ate you."
"And what do you call a thing like that?" asked Morris, obviously not caring about the answer.
"A leviathan," said Winchester.
"I thought a leviathan was a sea monster," said Rossi.
"I wouldn't rule that out," said Winchester. "But these ones weren't." He turned back to Morris. "What was the first thing you did after Ankeny, when you heard reports that my brother and I were still alive?"
Morris didn't say anything.
"You went back there, didn't you? To confront the sheriff about how that could be possible."
"But you'd gotten to him first," said Morris.
"Sam and I never spoke to him after we agreed that he'd tell you that we were dead," said Winchester. "The first we heard of his death was when Sam called to give him the heads up that you'd be looking into ours."
"And you want me to believe that my partner killed him?"
"No," said Winchester. "I want you to believe that a monster that looked like your partner murdered the sheriff. Hell, he probably ate the sheriff."
"What can you tell me about the Supernatural books?" asked Rossi, cutting that off before it went on forever. Morris was not going to be convinced and Winchester looked like he was in the mood to press it. Whether or not Morris could be persuaded to believe in the supernatural wasn't the issue at the moment. It was the implication that his partner could have been replaced and that Morris wouldn't have noticed. It was an affront to both Morris' deductive skills and his emotional connection to his partner. It was the implication that it was essentially his fault that the sheriff was dead. Morris wasn't the kind of guy who could take that sort of criticism well.
"Still on those books?" asked Dean. "They're not all that interesting."
"And yet you've read them," said Rossi.
"Not because I wanted to," said Dean.
"Then why did you?" asked Rossi.
Winchester paused. While Rossi believed that the majority of what Winchester said was the truth as he saw it, there were some truths he still kept to himself even if he thought the other party was not likely to believe him. "You know what?" he said. "Why don't you get back to me after you've read them." Then he turned to Morris. "I don't think you should read them, Agent Morris. They might fry your brain."
Morris frowned at him. "I happen to like supernatural horror novels."
"And I'm guessing you also like your sanity intact," said Winchester.
"I'll take it into consideration," said Morris. You didn't have to be a behavioural analyst or a serial killer to realise that Morris was going to read them just to find out what Winchester didn't want him to know.
"Dude," said Winchester to Rossi as though they were suddenly friends. "If you value his sanity at all, stop him."
"Perhaps he won't have to read the books if you would tell us more about them."
Winchester actually rolled his eyes. "You do realise I could be pulling this crap from my ass and you wouldn't know the difference."
"Everything you tell us will be verified," said Rossi. "But it's much easier to research if you have a starting point."
"Why don't you just talk to Chuck?" asked Winchester. "He used to make money talking about the damn books."
"Chuck?" asked Rossi.
"Man, you haven't done any research on this case, have you?" said Winchester. "Pro-tip: Carver Edlund's a pseudonym."
"And his real name is what exactly Mr Winchester?" asked Morris.
"Chuck Shurley," said Dean. "Though I suppose it could be Charles. And that's Shurley with a 'U'." He looked at Morris' unmoving fingers. "Aren't you going to write that down, Agent Morris?"
"I think I'll remember it," said Morris. "Charles Shurley."
Winchester rolled his shoulders to loosen them, then started looking around the room.
Rossi had the unsettling feeling that they were soon going to discover that Winchester had made another of his miraculous escapes. The strangest part of his previous encounters with law enforcement was that he seemed to be able to be able to talk even his arresting officers into releasing him. The sheriff in Ankeny, Iowa was only the latest. Rossi had once crossed paths with Detective Diana Ballard, when he prepared a profile for a case she was working on. She didn't seem like the type to be swayed by pretty boy charm, but she swore up and down that her partner was dirty and had helped the Winchesters escape.
Rossi wondered who of his fellow FBI agents would be the one to succumb to the Dean Winchester charm this time. He liked to think that they were professionals. Never before had Dean Winchester been locked inside an FBI building. It had much greater security than any local cell. But Dean and his brother had both escaped from a high security prison. Though they had never been able to prove it, the FBI were almost certain that the warden himself had helped the brothers escape. Rossi wondered if Morris had his team running background checks on everyone in the building. They couldn't chance someone with even the thinnest thread to Winchester helping him out.
"Don't bother looking," said Morris. "Everyone on site knows you're not to be let out. You're not going anywhere."
Winchester didn't look as though he had a plan of any kind. But he did look as though he knew his stay wasn't going to last much longer. "I wouldn't count on it," he said, the closest to bragging about an escape he'd come.
"We'll find your brother soon enough," said Morris. "He won't be coming to help you."
"Sammy'd be stupid to come himself," said Winchester. "Besides, you've still got to get me from here to my bed for the night. Plenty of time for something to go wrong."
Winchester was obviously fishing for more information. Neither agent was stupid enough to give him more. They'd given him too much information on the case they were currently working as it was.
"Well I think we're done here," said Morris. "Enjoy your cell."
Winchester smiled his most obnoxious smile yet. "Oh, I plan to."
As he and Morris left the room, Rossi wondered if that was a threat of some kind. Did Winchester want them to remove protection from somewhere else and put it on his cell?
"I'm going to keep an eye on him myself tonight," said Morris. "Can't let him pull a fast one on me."
x x x
Prentiss knocked on Stella Mercer's door. A petite young woman answered the door. "Yes?"
"I'm Agent Prentiss and this is Agent Jareau," said Prentiss. "We're with the FBI. Would we be able to speak with you about your friend Rhoda?"
Stella bit her lip, but let them in.
"When was the last time you saw Rhoda?" Prentiss asked, once they were settled in Stella's living room.
"About a week ago," she said. "But we spoke on the phone the night she..." She didn't finish her sentence.
"When you last saw her," said Prentiss. "Do you remember seeing anyone unusual around? Did anyone try to speak to her? Someone who might have mentioned the Supernatural books."
Stella frowned. "Rhoda had this button she always wore. It's the pattern of the brothers' anti-possession tattoo. It's kind of an in-joke. People who've read the books get it. And people who don't usually think it's some sort of devil worshipping thing."
"And she wore it everywhere?" asked Prentiss.
"A lot," said Stella. "Um, when I was talking to her that night. She mentioned there was this man who was both."
"Both?" asked JJ.
"He knew it was a Supernatural thing," said Stella. "But he started going on about like she was worshipping false idols or whatever. You know, really religious?"
"Did she say anything about what he looked like?"
"No," said Stella, shaking her head. "I mean, I asked her if she called the cops or anything, but she thought he was just some like Morman or something."
"When and where was this?" asked Prentiss. "It's possible that the man who spoke to her might have been the one who murdered her."
"Oh my god," said Stella, her hand coming up to cover her mouth. "If I'd known..."
"Hey," said JJ, moving closer to Stella. "This wasn't your fault. It wasn't Rhoda's fault, and there is nothing you could have done that would have prevented it."
"I know," said Stella. "I mean, I guess I know that. I just... I can't believe she's really gone."
"Is there anything you can tell us about the man?" asked Prentiss, hating to ask the question while Stella was still emotionally vulnerable. But the faster they got the questions out of the way, the faster Stella could begin healing.
"Uh," said Stella. "It was on campus somewhere. I think she said she was late to her psych class because of it... on Tuesday."
"Thank you," said Prentiss. "You've been very helpful."
Stella pressed her knuckles to her thighs. "I just wish I could do more."
x x x
"There isn't a single book in this entire city," said Reid walking into the conference room at the field office. "They're out of print and they're horrid and the unsub's probably been burning them with the victims' things."
The rest of the BAU and Morris were gathered around the phone in the centre of the table.
"Did you hear that, baby girl?" asked Morgan. "Reid's here."
"I did indeed," said Garcia.
"Sorry," said Reid, looking at Hotch. He sat down quietly.
"As I was saying before our friend Dr Reid kindly made himself known," said Garcia. "One of the links between our victims could very well turn out to be our expert. Rebecca Rosen, 29, lives in Delaware and runs the biggest Supernatural fan site out there. Each of our victims visited the website, though only one visited it recently. She's actually the person who organises the conventions each year."
Morris looked up. "Rebecca Rosen? As in Becky Rosen from Delaware?"
"I believe so," said Garcia.
Morris stood up, his nostrils flaring. "Winchester," he said. "Samuel Winchester's wife."
"Are you sure it's-?" asked Garcia as she typed a query into her keyboard. "Oh, never mind. The marriage certificate is right here. Rebecca Rosen and Samuel Winchester were married in November of last year. In Vegas."
"Sam Winchester had a Vegas wedding?" said Prentiss, almost sounding impressed.
"Imagine my surprise when that popped up after I thought they'd been shot dead in Iowa," said Morris. "Ms Rosen was far from helpful. I tried to charge her with aiding and abetting but it didn't stick. I think you should look for another expert in the field. She's not going to help us."
"I've already prepared a list," said Garcia. "Though I do believe she's the most qualified."
"Nothing about this is a coincidence," said Morris. "I'm going to have another chat with the Winchester we do have."
Morris left the room and Hotch followed him. The rest were left to mull over this new information.
"I would have thought Dean was more the Vegas wedding type," said JJ.
"I don't care what Morris says," said Garcia, sounding inordinately excited. "I want to meet this girl."
"Icky Supernatural fan and all?" asked Morgan.
"Well there are certain topics I wouldn't want to discuss with her," said Garcia. "Her website is called 'More than Brothers' and mostly explores an incestuous relationship between the two main characters."
"And that's the biggest fan site out there?" said Prentiss.
"It has branched out since it was first created," said Garcia. "But its origins were in posting fanfiction and other fanworks about that relationship."
"Morris is right about one thing," said Reid. "This is too much of a coincidence."
x x x
The first thing that Morris noticed when he went to interrogate Winchester was that he was not in his cell. He told himself that although there was obviously some gross incompetence in the system somewhere, it didn't necessarily mean that Winchester had escaped. But calls throughout the building and putting the whole place into lockdown didn't help.
Dean Winchester was gone.
Nobody could say when and nobody could say how. His cell was locked. The video surveillance footage had cut out before Winchester had even made it to his cell after their last interview. That was on Morris himself. He should have checked it. He should have made sure.
But everyone said that Winchester had been taken to his cell. They all recalled seeing him and it became clear that he'd only made his escape in the last hour. No one could tell Morris how, even once the course of their investigation had been run. There was a legitimate fault in the video monitoring system caused by faulty programming, which could not have been tampered with by either of the Winchester brothers.
A fluke, a coincidence and somehow the FBI lost a Winchester brother. Morris had never been one to buy into the Winchesters' press, but even he started to wonder if there was something supernatural at play here. No. It was a random fault that the Winchesters, with their regular human abilities, managed to exploit. When he caught up with them again (and he was sure that he would), they would never again see the light of day.
x x x
With all possible suspects impossible to find, the BAU had one last thing to do before leaving the New Mexico field office. They gathered the local FBI agents and Morris' team, and Hotch started the profile briefing.
"The person we're looking for is most likely a male in his late-thirties to late-forties. He's intelligent, most likely educated, and is not the sort of man you would immediately suspect is a murderer. If you went to his neighbours, his family members, they would be surprised to hear he'd been involved in something like this."
Morgan continued where Hotch left off. "It's likely that he's had some kind of trauma occur to him recently. It could have been emotional like the loss of a loved one, or physical like a head injury. That would be the stressor for him beginning this series of killings."
"The unsub is highly mobile and will cover his tracks well," said Prentiss. "He's highly resourceful, and doesn't draw attention to himself."
"The unsub also has a high level of familiarity with a series of short novels referred to as the Supernatural series," said Reid. "Now he's not necessarily a fan, but he's certainly read them, and is familiar enough with the material that he could be perceived as a fan. Because of this, there is often a supernatural element to his crimes, without the indication that he has any belief in mysticism."
"What about the Winchesters?" someone in the audience asked.
Rossi fielded the question. "The Winchesters are not considered suspects in this case. However I'm sure you're aware that they are among the FBI's most wanted."
"Given our unsub's previous MO, it's unlikely he'll return here," said JJ. "But there are a few details you should be aware of when investigating suspicious deaths of varying methodology. The victims vary in age, race, gender, and occupation. The only thing tying them together that we can see is that they are all fans of the Supernatural series. The unsub is known to steal anything related to the books belonging to the victims and burn it at a separate site."
"We have reason to believe the unsub is moving west across the country," said Hotch. "It's a general pattern, and not necessarily one he will stick to."
Condensed into so few words, it was clear their unsub could be just about anyone.
x x x
Between working on time sensitive cases, Reid tried to get his hands on the Supernatural books but as they were out of print it was difficult. He'd been trying to buy them off internet auctions but could never seem to get the highest bid in. He half wondered if it was because the unsub himself was purchasing them to destroy them. But despite the unsub's inclination for committing murders across the country, he hadn't shown signs of unlimited resources, or the computer savvy that would enable him to circumvent the billing process.
In the process of reading book summaries, Reid discovered that the two protagonists were named Sam and Dean. Though it seemed ridiculous that a friend of the Winchesters would use their names in a book, it was another thing that didn't sit right as a coincidence.
Garcia was their lifesaver. She found out that Carver Edlund's real name was Chuck Shurley as Dean had said, and that he lived in Kripke's Hollow. Or at least, he had up until three years ago when he'd vanished off the face of the planet. When the team had a moment between chasing a kidnapper and another serial murderer, Hotch sent Reid and Morgan to see what was going on with the case.
Garcia was also the one who had to track Supernatural fans, to see if they'd missed any suspicious deaths. While she couldn't track all of them, she started with those who'd written popular fanfiction and couldn't find any who had recently been murdered or otherwise died suspiciously. They did, however, find one who was currently missing. When they had a spare moment, Hotch sent Prentiss and JJ to speak with his parents.
Morris had decided to go with his own Supernatural expert (an English professor who once wrote an article on the series published in a peer-reviewed journal), but Garcia was still certain that her original choice of Rebecca Rosen was the way to go. They just needed to work out how to handle the situation correctly. In a move that surprised Garcia, Hotch decided that she and Rossi should be the ones to interview Ms Rosen. It would take a delicate touch to have her help them if she thought they were after her husband.
x x x
Pike Creek, Delaware
"Thank you for agreeing to meet with us, Ms Rosen," said Rossi, when Rebecca Rosen opened her door for him and Garcia.
She grimaced at them. "It's Mrs Rosen-Winchester, actually," she said. "But you can call me Becky." She looked over Garcia's shoulder. "My lawyer's running late."
"I can assure you we have no intention of prosecuting you," said Rossi. "We don't even believe you're a witness."
"All the same," said Becky. "I'd rather if she were here."
Becky fetched the FBI agents mugs of instant coffee, and Rossi took the time to look around the room. It was bright and almost exactly how you'd expect a single twenty-something to furnish her apartment. There was no indication that Sam Winchester ever lived here.
Garcia was drawn to a poster on the wall. It was one of the Supernatural book covers, two Fabio-esque men with hair blowing in the wind. It was half the reason why she didn't like the books. There was a wedding photo beside it. A smiling Becky and Sam had their arms around each other while Dean stood to the side looking disgruntled and more ill at ease than in his mugshots. If Garcia hadn't believed that it was the Sam Winchester whom Becky had married, she did now.
Becky returned with brightly coloured mugs of coffee. Rossi sipped his out of politeness.
Becky's phone rang. She went into her bedroom to take the call.
"This isn't awkward at all," said Garcia.
"Are you regretting coming?" asked Rossi.
Garcia's eyes sparkled with laughter. "Not at all."
Becky returned with a frown on her face. "My lawyer won't be able to make it," she said. "Would we be able to do this another time?"
"Are you sure we won't be able to speak to you without your lawyer present?" asked Rossi, standing up. "We'd actually like to enlist your expertise on the Supernatural books. This has nothing to do with your husband."
Becky pursed her lips. "Oh," she said, looking past them. "You're here about the murders." She dropped into an armchair.
"So you've heard of them," said Rossi.
"Martha was a good friend of mine," said Becky. "We never met in person, but we really connected."
Garcia was nodding along.
"I never read much of her fanfiction, though. She was always so much of a Dean girl."
"A Dean girl?" asked Rossi.
"She likes the older brother more, but I'm a Sam girl at heart. He's the more sensitive one. But he's bigger and stronger, too."
"Are you talking about your husband or Sam from the books?" asked Garcia.
Becky's eyes grew wide and she didn't answer the question. "What exactly did you want to know?" she asked.
"Who do you think committed the murders?" asked Rossi.
Becky's eyes widened. "You want to know what I think?"
"I think it could be helpful."
Becky looked at Rossi and Garcia thoughtfully for a moment. "You're sure I'm not a suspect?"
"Yes," said Rossi, though the fact that she was concerned indicated she was feeling guilt of some sort.
Becky stood and walked over to her desk, sliding out a manilla folder. It was about half an inch thick with pages. She set it down on the coffee table in front of Rossi. "I've been trying to get a hold of Sam for a few weeks now," she said. "But I guess he changed his cell number again." She looked at the two FBI agents accusingly. "I didn't want to talk to Chuck after we broke up, but people are dying and that's important but I can't reach him either." She spat this out as though they were meant to know exactly what she was talking about.
"Chuck Shurley?" asked Garcia. "The author?"
Becky's eyes widened and Rossi wondered how much trouble her lawyer had had with her when Morris was trying to charge her with accessory to murder. Then Becky nodded.
"We have agents looking into his disappearance," said Rossi.
"He's disappeared?" Becky seemed excited by the idea, rather than worried. Rossi supposed the break-up hadn't been amicable. "Off the face of the Earth without a trace?"
"We're looking into it," said Rossi.
"You're not going to find anything," said Becky with a smile.
"Do you think his disappearance has anything to do with the murders?" asked Rossi.
Becky shook her head quickly. "No way," she said, catching on to the implication that Chuck might have committed them. "Never. That's ridiculous."
"So what do you think happened to Chuck?" asked Rossi.
"I'm not supposed to talk about it."
"Who told you not to talk about it?"
"No one had to tell me," said Becky. "I read the books. I know what happens when you tell people."
"Tell people what?" asked Rossi. "That monsters are real?"
"Among other things," said Becky. "Everything I know about everyone who was killed is in that folder."
Rossi opened the folder. It looked like a high school project of some kind. All the headings were in bright blue, and the diagrams were generically made in Microsoft Word. But there was real information here. Details about conventions each attended, the web forums they used. Sites they used for research. All their known internet aliases. It was the sort of stuff Garcia could pull from anyone's hard drive, but Becky hadn't done that. She'd gotten this information just from talking to people. Rossi passed the folder to Garcia to take a look at.
It was useful for their case, but Becky hadn't prepared this for the FBI. She'd wanted to show this to Sam Winchester. "Why would you show this to Sam? Why wouldn't you take this to the police?"
"Well," said Becky. "Aside from my frosty relationship with Agent Morris, I thought it might have been something the boys would be interested in. But now I can see that it's not."
"Interested in?" Even though she hadn't been charged, it was sounding like she really was an accessory to murder. It was no wonder Morris had had a problem with her.
Becky looked at Rossi. "You know," she said. "The family business."
"I suppose you're part of it now," said Rossi.
"Sam tries to keep me out of it, but when you know... you've got a duty to help people. And there are different ways of doing that."
"Wait," said Garcia. "It says here that Rhonda Vimes' most popular work of fanfiction was a story about a werewolf?"
"Yes," said Becky. "Though I preferred the crack story she wrote about Dean and the can of shaving cream that spat out something different every time."
Garcia flicked through the folder, double-checking the previous victims. Some of the details of the murders hadn't made their way to the press, so Becky couldn't have them. But it was clear that each had been murdered in a way exactly depicted in their fanfiction. Thankfully they had one more clue to add to their profile.
"Well thank you for this," said Rossi, picking up the folder. "You've been more than helpful."
Becky nodded. "I hope you catch the guy," she said. "It's starting to affect my site. People are starting to pull their stories because they're worried they're next. My advertising revenue's gone way down. Aside from organising conventions, it's my only source of income."
"If you could tell your friends to be on the lookout for anyone suspicious," said Rossi. "That would be helpful for us and for their own safety." He ran Becky through their meagre profile quickly. "Make sure that if any stranger makes any threats toward them regarding the Supernatural books they go straight to the police." He pulled out a card. "Call me if anyone hears anything suspicious."
"I hope you don't mind if we call to ask you about anything else," said Garcia.
"Sure," said Becky, nodding as she led Garcia and Rossi back to the door. "By the way, I love your skirt."
Garcia smiled. "I love your barrette."
The door shut behind her.
"What did you think?" asked Rossi.
"Weird, creepy," said Garcia. Then she grinned. "I liked her. And kudos to her for landing a hottie like Sam Winchester."
"He's a wanted felon," said Rossi.
"But his body and oh, that hair," said Garcia with a theatrical sigh.
x x x
The FBI team on Chuck Shurley's case didn't have anything to offer beyond the fact that he'd disappeared in May of 2010. He'd been missing for about a monnthbefore the neighbours noticed. He was reclusive and they didn't know much about him. Hearing from Garcia that he'd dated Becky Rosen was more than the locals had. It appeared that no one cared that the man was missing. His books were already out of print and he'd had a falling out with his publisher after he'd reneged on the publishing of another series of books.
Chuck's landlord however proved to be a little more helpful. Although he'd had to lease the house to someone else after Chuck went missing, he'd kept most of Chuck's belongings. Reid supposed it was out of guilt. Morgan suspected it had more to do with the fact that Chuck was a famous author, and he'd be able to make some money from selling the man's things. When they actually went to see what the landlord had stored, 'most of Chuck's belongings' seemed like an overstatement.
Reid went through everything quickly, mentally cataloguing it while Morgan watched. "He's got copies of every single one of the Supernatural books, thank god. If I had to comb one more internet auction... Manuscripts, his computer. Notes. Coffee mugs and glasses. Random stationery. Half-empty bottles of alcohol. Why would his landlord keep those?"
"In case he needs a drink," said Morgan, eyeing the labels and trying to create a victim profile.
"He's got a lot of books," said Reid. "All fiction. None of it horror stories, or even fantasy of another kind." Reid frowned. "These are mostly romance novels."
"Explains the covers of his books," said Morgan.
The rest of the last box was the usual knick-knacks a human being seemed to attract if he stood still long enough: random souvenirs and fridge magnets. "But no photos," said Reid. "I guess he took the reclusive author stereotype seriously."
"Where would he go?" wondered Morgan.
"I have no idea," said Reid. "But at least I can finally read these books."
x x x
"You know what's strange?" asked Garcia as they all sat around the conference table discussing the case. "I've been through Chuck Shurley's computer and his notes and I can't find anything that indicates he ever did any kind of research before he wrote his books. Going through his phone records and his emails there's no record that he spent a long time talking to anyone besides his publisher. He was born, lived in, and disappeared from Kripke's Hollow. He doesn't even have a map of the United States and all the brothers do is drive from one state to another. You'd think he'd want to keep track of that. It's like he just woke up one day and decided to write."
"I think he must have been better friends with the Winchesters than Dean indicated," said Reid. "I've read the entire first volume of books and it mentions Dean and Sam's encounter with a shapeshifter in St Louis in great detail."
"St Louis?" said Prentiss. "Isn't that when he skinned people?"
"And when he was caught in Baltimore," said Morgan. "He said that it was a shapeshifter."
"Exactly," said Reid. "It's like Chuck Shurley was their official biographer."
"Except with wall to wall weird," said Garcia.
"Which is what they'd have to be," said JJ. "Given the nature of the Winchesters' delusions."
"Told from this perspective, it's clear that the brothers, and Chuck, really do think they've been travelling the country destroying monsters."
"How many of the books can you trace to actual sightings of the Winchester brothers?" asked Hotch.
"Most of them," said Reid. "About eighty-five percent of the books I've read so far."
"Would you say it was a fair assumption to make that if we were to dig deeper we'd find that they had visited these other places as well?"
Reid nodded. "The first books especially. We had no knowledge of the Winchesters being in Jericho, California until they massacred everyone in that bank last year. And then we discovered that the locals had actually caught Dean Winchester back in 2005. The first book describes how Dean got out by stealing a paper clip while Sam called in a distraction. Every town they hit from then, right up until Agent Morris caught up to them in Iowa, was from the first seven books."
"They started again?" questioned Rossi.
"It's like they were deliberately trying to call attention to themselves for some reason," said Reid. "Or to the pattern of the books."
"Maybe they wanted us on their tails again," said Prentiss. "Got tired of playing dead."
"Unfortunately," said Hotch. "This doesn't help us with the current case." The time for small talk had passed. They had to get back to work.
x x x
Gardenwood, South Carolina
"What do you think?" Prentiss asked JJ as they walked up to the missing Supernatural fan's parents' house. "Do you think this might be the first victim?"
"The location fits," said JJ. "This is farther east than all the previous victims."
Prentiss rang the doorbell. A woman perhaps ten years older than herself opened the door. "Mrs Grenshaw, my name is Emily Prentiss. This is Jennifer Jareau. We're with the FBI."
Mrs Grenshaw nodded at them and allowed them in. She had that tired look about her that family members got when they'd been questioned by the police too many times with no results to show for it.
When they were settled, Prentiss began asking the questions. "How long has your son been missing?" she asked.
"I'm not sure," said Mrs Grenshaw. "I know," she said, looking at Prentiss and JJ's expressions. "It makes me sound like the worst mother alive. Paul went to college in Connecticut. We were so proud of him. But by the end of his freshman year he'd dropped out. Went on a road trip, he said. You can imagine what my husband and I thought of that. So he'd call every now and then just to let us know he was alive, but we didn't really talk." She took a breath. "About a year and a half ago, he stopped. We waited a month, then we filed the missing person's report. He never talked about his friends so we had no idea who he was with. There was nothing we could do. But Charlie, my husband, he couldn't accept that."
"Where is your husband?" asked JJ, wondering if she was stepping onto an emotional minefield. People reacted to grief differently and that could drive them apart.
"Looking for our son," said Mrs Grenshaw. "He has been for the past year. Until we know... I don't know how to make him come home."
"Has he been back since he first went looking?" asked Prentiss.
"Every few months," said Mrs Grenshaw. "But I haven't seen him since Christmas. He was angrier than he had been the time before that. I thought as time passed maybe he'd make peace with it, but... he didn't come back for New Years, or Easter or any other holiday. I'm just trying to keep everything together here."
JJ and Prentiss shared a look.
"Were you aware that your son had an interest in a series of books about the supernatural?" asked Prentiss.
Mrs Grenshaw nodded. "He never used to read in high school. I used to read to him when he was little but it wasn't something he took to himself. But one of his college friends got him into the books and he turned into a different person. Started talking about monsters and ghosts as though they were real. He never mentioned it, but lately I've been wondering if he didn't go on his road trip to see if he could find some."
"And how did your husband feel about that?"
"Charlie?" Mrs Grenshaw looked at them, surprised by the question. "We were both raised Christian, but I think Charlie's more serious about it than I am. Thinks witches and demons are real because they're in the bible. Paul was so different when he came home after his first semester at college. And it couldn't have been the books, but I think Charlie thought they were pagan trash. Paul got him to read them, thought that it might turn him around. But Charlie got angrier. Banned every mention of them. Then when that didn't work, he burned all of Paul's copies."
"How did he burn them?" asked Prentiss.
"He just threw them in the fireplace. And when Paul caught him at it... I don't know what he was thinking. All he said was that if he really wanted to purify their evil he should have salted them first. Salt. It was so strange."
"Do you think it was that rift between him and his father that caused Paul to leave?" asked Prentiss.
"I wouldn't call it a rift, exactly," said Mrs Grenshaw. "Paul was quieter, perhaps. But he stopped talking about monsters, and Charlie was content to believe that that was that."
"But you weren't?"
"Like I said, Paul was different. He wasn't going to turn into his old self overnight. But he could set it aside to save his relationship with his father." She raised a hand to her face and both agents felt they'd gotten everything they could from her, without pushing her beyond the brink.
Prentiss and JJ thanked Mrs Grenshaw for her time and left.
Prentiss dialled Hotch as they walked away from the house. "I think we may have just found our unsub."
x x x
"Charles Grenshaw," said JJ, bringing the man's face up on the screen. "Forty-eight. Lived in Greenwood, South Carolina but now travels the country searching for his son."
"I tracked his money," said Garcia. "He's digging into his savings and making large withdrawals. He's kept them away from the states the murders were committed in but there is the general western flow to them. Before December, he made smaller withdrawals more frequently. I can't seem to trace a pattern to his locations, though."
"Agent Morris is tracking his car," said Hotch. "So far it's been spotted near three of the crime scenes. And we have Grenshaw purchasing a gun from a shop in Texas before Rhoda Vimes' death. The calibre matches the bullet taken from her body."
"If it's him," said Morgan. "Why isn't he changing his vehicle? He's changed everything else but his victims."
"That's true," said Reid. "But aside from the murders, I don't suspect Grenshaw is breaking any laws. He's using his savings. He's driving around in the car he bought legally. He has a licence for that gun he bought. Unless it's absolutely necessary for the sake of the murder, he's doing everything by the book."
"Trying not to get caught," said Prentiss. "Something his wife said worries me. Do you think he might be doing it to try to exorcise the demons from these people? The fact that he spoke with them before they died sounded to me like he was giving them the chance to repent."
"The road to hell," said Garcia. "God help all people who are trying to help people."
x x x
It was about a month after Rhoda Vimes' death when the team got what they'd been pretending they hadn't been waiting for: another body.
"Raoul Barnes," said Garcia. "From Burbank, California. Reported missing by his husband, then dropped off at the local hospital. But he was already dead."
"He was dropped off at the hospital?" said JJ.
"Remorse?" asked Morgan.
"No," said Garcia. "I pulled up his fanfiction. Sam and Dean drop him off at the hospital but he doesn't make it. It's a demon possession in a warehouse. The locals are looking into possible sites for the actual murder."
"Any sign of Grenshaw?" asked Prentiss.
"None so far," said Garcia.
"We got close to him in Albuquerque," said Morgan. "He might have ditched the car as a precaution."
"We can talk about this on the plane," said Hotch. "We need to get going. His husband fits the victim profile," said Hotch. "Our unsub's timeframe is decreasing and California is the coast. He can't keep going west."
The others couldn't argue with Hotch's logic. It might prove to be an unfounded fear, but they had someone to protect and possibly, the means to finally catch up with their killer.
x x x
Hotch pulled up to the Barnes residence with Morgan and JJ. Prentiss and Rossi were setting up with Morris at the LA field office. Reid had finished reading the Supernatural books and had started reading the unpublished manuscripts. At this point it was no longer a necessity that he read them, but Reid found himself sucked in despite the laboured writing and the often formulaic and trite storylines. Since it could still conceivably be useful if it turned out that their unsub wasn't Charles Grenshaw, Hotch didn't mind Reid's split focus. But if Reid had been with Hotch at the Barnes residence, Reid would probably have mentioned that the brothers in the Supernatural books drive a 1967 Chevy Impala and that it wouldn't be infeasible that a pair of hardcore fans would drive one, too.
Morgan took one look at the black 1967 Chevy Impala parked in front of the Barnes house and drew his SIG. "The Winchesters are here," he said.
Hotch nodded, and JJ followed. But after storming through the front door, they only found one person home: Demian Barnes, the husband of the deceased and potential victim. It wasn't exactly the best first impression the team could make.
"Is that your car parked out the front?" Hotch asked once they'd determined that the house was clear.
"Yeah," said Demian, gulping nervously.
"Are you aware that it's the known vehicle of a pair of serial killers?" asked Morgan.
"Uh, yeah," said Demian. "But I also know that I'm not one of them." He looked at the agents. "Dean and Sam Winchester, right? Are those their real names?"
Hotch and Morgan exchanged glances.
"Yes," said JJ. "As far as we know."
Demian's eyes widened. "The real Dean and Sam."
Hotch looked at him. "Have you met the Winchesters?"
"I think so," said Demian. "Years ago. At a Supernatural convention. The first one."
"I'm sorry about the confusion," said JJ. "Would we be able talk to you about your husband now?"
Demian gestured vaguely toward the couches in his living room. The team went through the usual questions. Asking when he'd last seen Barnes. If they'd met anyone unusual recently. They didn't learn anything that would help them identify the unsub. But the fact that he hadn't been approached by a stranger indicated that there was still time if he was the next victim.
Hotch got a call from Prentiss. Morris' team had found the site of the murder, but couldn't find any burnt paraphernalia.
"Have you noticed anything missing?" asked Hotch.
"Missing?" said Demian. "From the house? You don't think the guy was here, do you?"
"The previous victims had much of their Supernatural collections stolen," said Hotch.
Demian scanned the room. "I didn't notice anything," he said.
Hotch and Morgan shared a look. Since part of the ritual hadn't been completed, it was more than likely that the unsub would be back for Demian.
"We have reason to believe you may also be a target," said Hotch.
"Holy Sam and Dean." Demian buried his face in his hands.
"We'll be leaving agents here for your protection," said Hotch.
"I don't need protection," said Demian. "I need my husband."
"I know it's difficult," said JJ. "But if you cooperate with us, there's a good chance we'll be able to stop this man once and for all. We can't spare your loss, but maybe we can spare others the same."
Demian nodded. "I know," he said. "It's just... I can't..."
"Is there anyone I can call for you?" JJ asked.
"No," Demian shook his head. "My friends should be over in a minute. My mother's flying in." He looked up. "You've been tracking this guy for a while now?"
"Yes," said Hotch.
"And you're sure it's a guy?"
"It's unlikely to be a woman," said Hotch.
"No," said Demian. "Are you sure whatever killed Barnes was human?" He looked up at them. "What am I saying? I'm going crazy. Of course it was human."
"It's natural for grief to make us think things we wouldn't normally consider," said JJ. "Especially the possibility of the supernatural."
Demian laughed humourlessly. "Barnes is dead. Anything's possible."
"We need to talk about any fanfiction you've written," said Hotch.
Demian paled. "It's not like, illegal is it?"
"Everyone who has died so far has died in a manner depicted in their stories," said Hotch. "The more we know about what you wrote about, the more likely we will be able to stop it from playing out in real life."
"The only story I ever posted was about the Trickster," said Demian.
"Trickster?" asked JJ.
"It's a pagan god. It can only be killed by a stake dipped in the blood of one of its victims."
"Does it have to be a specific stake?" asked Hotch. "Or could anything work?"
"Any stake," said Demian.
That didn't narrow it down much. Hotch turned to Morgan anyway. "Have Garcia look into it."
"What about the blood of the victim?" asked Demian, not looking like he actually wanted an answer to that question.
"It seems likely that the killer will use blood taken from one of his previous victims," said Hotch.
"Someone like Barnes," said Demian.
"I'm sorry," said JJ, not knowing what else to say.
"Did you mention a timeframe?" Hotch asked Demian. "Between the Trickster's last victim and its death?"
Demian shook his head. "I always imagined it took place the next day, though."
Hotch left JJ and Morgan to watch Demian, while he went back to check in with the rest of the team.
x x x
That night, Prentiss and Reid were watching over Demian in the Barnes house. Their charge had gone upstairs to bed and the agents were alert downstairs, waiting for any sign of their unsub.
Prentiss looked up when she heard the sound of something moving upstairs. "Demian?" she called, making her way up the stairs. "Are you alright?"
Reid followed her. They both drew their weapons.
"I'm fine," Demian called back. But his voice hitched a little. "Just had a nightmare."
Prentiss and Reid continued on their way up the stairs. Demian's bedroom door was closed, but lamplight could be seen filtering underneath. Prentiss and Reid looked at each other to make sure they were both on the same page then Prentiss opened the door.
Prentiss was pulled into the room, and her gun taken from her. Strong arms held her tight and there was little she could do. She realised she was being held by Sam Winchester.
Reid appeared in the doorway with his weapon drawn. Dean Winchester mirrored his posture with a gun of his own.
Demian was sitting on his bed. "Nobody shoot anybody," he said.
Though Prentiss could kick out, nothing she did could move Sam.
"I think you'd better put your gun down, Dr Reid," said Dean. "You don't want your partner getting hurt."
With slow movements, Reid holstered his weapon.
"Come in," said Dean. "And shut the door."
Reid did as he was told. Dean went over and took his gun and cell phone from him and made him sit on the bed beside Demian.
"What do you want?" asked Prentiss.
"We were in the neighbourhood," said Dean. "Thought we'd come check on our friend Demian."
"You knew we were here," said Reid. "Why would you risk getting arrested again?"
The Winchester brothers looked at each other.
"Barnes didn't deserve to die," said Dean.
"We honestly just wanted to make sure that Demian wasn't next," said Sam.
"That's really nice of you guys," said Demian. "We hardly know each other."
"You helped us gank a ghost," said Dean. "Thought we'd return the favour."
"It was a real ghost," said Demian. "You're really Dean and Sam. Demons are real. So crossroads-"
"Don't even think about it," said Dean. "I can guarantee you that Heaven isn't the worst place to be. Ten years isn't worth Hell."
"You went to Hell," said Demian. "How'd you get out?"
"The angel Castiel," said Reid.
Dean and Sam both looked at him.
"You've done your homework," said Dean. "Did you keep them away from Morris the way I told you to?"
Reid hadn't actually given it any thought and Morris hadn't asked for copies.
"Angels are real?" asked Demian.
"I was just as surprised as you are," said Dean.
"What are you all talking about?" asked Prentiss.
"Never mind," said Sam. "Do you know who killed Barnes?"
"We have a suspect," said Reid. "I don't think he's a hunter."
"Why not?" asked Dean. But that didn't seem to be the right question.
"His son was a fan of the books. He went missing almost two years ago."
"We never did rule out pissed off spirit," said Dean to Sam.
"Just because he's missing doesn't mean he's dead," said Prentiss. "Chuck Shurley's been missing for longer."
That statement surprised Sam into loosening his grip on Prentiss. She pulled away and tried to grab her gun, but Sam recovered quickly and caught her again.
"Can't we have a civil conversation?" asked Sam.
"Sure," said Prentiss. "Once you're in cuffs."
Sam grabbed Prentiss' cuffs from her belt and locked them around her wrists. "How about now?"
"What happened to Chuck?" Dean asked Reid.
"Nobody knows," said Reid. "He just vanished off the face of the planet."
"His work was done," said Sam.
Dean rolled his eyes. "God, I hate God."
"You don't seem worried," said Reid.
"We didn't kill him if that's what you think," said Sam.
"Frankly," said Dean. "I'm surprised he got to go before we did."
"Technically that's not true," said Sam. "We just kept coming back."
"Your wife wasn't worried either," said Reid. "What do you know that we don't?"
"Whose wife?" asked Dean, looking at Demian and Sam.
Reid looked at Sam. "Becky Rosen."
Sam's eyes widened. "I signed the annulment papers!"
Dean laughed. "I told you you should have filed them yourself," he said.
"Excuse me for wanting to get away from the woman who drugged me as fast as possible," said Sam. His brother was still laughing. "This isn't funny!"
"At the time, no," said Dean. "But now it's hilarious."
"So," said Reid. "How much of the story is based on your life?"
"All of it," the brothers said together.
"It's true," said Demian. "You even talk at the same time. Barnes and I did that too."
With the reminder that a man had recently died, everyone in the room sobered.
"Tell us about the guy who did it," said Dean.
"We can't tell you that," said Reid. "It's an open investigation."
"How sure are you that he did it?" asked Dean.
Reid looked at Prentiss.
"He went missing at the time the murders began," she said. "He's read the books so he has the knowledge required to carry out the murders."
"And his son's missing so he has a reason," said Sam. "Is he really missing? Is he a hunter?"
"I don't know," said Prentiss.
"It's possible," said Reid. "His mother mentioned he might have been looking for monsters and ghosts on a road trip."
"When did he go missing?" asked Sam.
"A little over a year and a half ago," said Reid.
Dean looked at his brother. "Do we know anyone?"
"Do you remember that banshee?" said Sam. "There were a couple of guys already after it who took off almost as soon as we showed up."
"Dopey and Sleepy," said Dean.
"I don't think they were as bad as all that," said Sam. "Remember they said the last time they tried to work with another hunter he got himself killed."
"The pagan god in the garden shed," said Dean.
"Garden shed?" said Prentiss, looking up and exchanging a glance with Reid. Reid shook his head at her. It wasn't something they had told Dean Winchester.
"I don't think the owners intended to build it a shrine," said Sam. "But apparently it really liked flowerpots and they had quite the collection."
"So if someone died there, what happened to him?"
"Hunter's pyre," said Sam. "Salted and burned until he becomes ash."
"That's how Barnes wanted to go," said Demian.
"I'd recommend it. He died in a nasty way," said Dean. He looked at Sam. "Do you think Dopey and Sleepy bothered?"
"I assumed they had," said Sam. "But maybe they didn't and he's latched onto his father somehow."
"Okay," said Prentiss. "I think that's enough speculation. You've got two FBI agents and a civilian hostage, what are you going to do now?"
Sam looked at Dean.
"It really depends on what you're going to do," said Dean. "If we say, leave you cuffed in this room, slide out the window and leave your weapons on the grass, do you think you could refrain from trying to kill us while we do so?"
"I can't say that I'm looking forward to telling Morris that we lost you again," said Prentiss.
"How did you get out?" asked Reid.
Dean shrugged. "Someone left a door open. You mean you didn't get it all on camera?"
"There was a programming fault," said Prentiss. "The cameras cut out before you even made it to your cell."
Dean looked at Sam.
"It wasn't me," said Sam. "I told you I was waiting until they transferred you."
"Thanks for that, Sam," said Dean.
"You were fine," said Sam. "No leviathans."
"But I had to face Morris by myself and it's you he's pissed at."
"Again, not my fault," said Sam.
Prentiss cleared her throat to cut through the brothers' bickering. "You've only got an hour before we get relieved."
"Dr Reid," said Dean. "Where are your cuffs?"
"Downstairs," said Reid.
"Well, that's not going to do," said Dean. He looked at Demian. "Demian?"
"What makes you think..." Dean raised his eyebrows and Demian blushed. "Nightstand. Bottom drawer."
Dean went to get them, but was distracted by the framed photo sitting on the top of the nightstand. "Tell me this isn't a wedding photo."
Prentiss was too far away to get a good look, but Reid could see it was a picture of Demian and his husband with their arms around each other. They were dressed fairly casually in shirts, jeans and boots.
"It is," said Demian.
"You got married in costume," said Dean. "You got married while dressed as Dean and Sam."
Reid didn't know how Dean could have been so sure. Although Demian was wearing an amulet that looked like the one described in the books, he was wearing it today. It wasn't part of a costume.
"What?" said Sam.
"We didn't know," said Demian.
"Check this out," said Dean, throwing the photo to Sam. "It's creepy as hell. He's wearing your favourite shirt."
Prentiss looked at the photo. Barnes was wearing a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up revealing a pattern on the underside.
"That's not my favourite shirt," said Sam.
"You own the same shirt?" asked Prentiss. "It's a very unique shirt."
"Where the hell did you even find it?" asked Dean.
"My sister made it," said Demian. "We couldn't find the right one anywhere. I thought it had been invented for the books."
"Nah, it's in Sam's duffel," said Dean. "You'd think we would have chucked it ages ago since it's white, but it's still hanging around."
"It doesn't bother you that you were pretending to be brothers when you got married?" said Sam.
"We were celebrating the thing that brought us together," said Demian.
Dean shook his head, then pulled a pair of handcuffs from the bottom drawer. They were not fluffy or pink. Dean locked Reid's wrists to the headboard of the bed. Sam threw him the key to Prentiss' handcuffs.
"I'm going to give you these," said Dean, showing the keys to Demian. "Ten minutes, then you can unlock them. Saves us an anonymous tip."
Demian held his hand out to take them.
"Is that my ring?" Dean asked Demian, grabbing his hand and examining his wedding ring.
"Barnes found it in a pawn shop and had it resized for me," said Demian. "Thought it looked exactly like the one Dean was supposed to have." He looked at Dean's bare finger.
"I lost mine," said Dean. "Not long after we met you." He looked closer. "That is my ring. I can see where I chipped it with a bottle cap and never bothered to get it fixed because you can use it to check for shifters. They've tried to smooth it over but it's still there."
"This is your ring?" said Demian looking down at it. "Uh..."
"Keep it," said Dean. "It was just a ring to me."
Demian clenched his fist as though to stop the ring from slipping off his finger.
Dean handed him the keys. "Ten minutes," he repeated. Then he and Sam slipped out of the window and melded into the darkness.
"Unlock us now," said Prentiss.
"But-" said Demian.
"We're federal agents and they're known criminals," said Prentiss. "Do you really want to get in the way?"
Demian sighed, and unlocked them, starting with Reid. He fumbled with the keys a few times and it was obvious he wasn't really trying to help them. But he hadn't stalled longer than two minutes before both agents were free.
Prentiss went out the window without another word.
"Emily!" Reid called after her. He watched her descend to the ground and pick up her gun from the lawn where the Winchesters had said they'd leave it. "Lock yourself in the bathroom," said Reid. He left the bedroom and went down the stairs.
It was the wrong move, Reid realised. As soon as he'd grabbed his gun and cell phone, he heard Demian scream. Reid called for back up.
"Prentiss?" Reid looked around but couldn't see her. "Emily?"
Reid heard a sound from the bottom of the garden and saw Prentiss making her way toward him. He waited for her.
"I didn't see anything," he said. "Told Demian to lock himself in the bathroom. Back up's on its way."
Prentiss nodded, and they made their way back inside the house together, covering each other as they cleared the ground floor.
The spare room upstairs was clear, and they could hear voices coming from Demian's bedroom. The door was open a crack and the two agents took a moment to get their bearings. An unfamiliar man was speaking. Probably Grenshaw and definitely their unsub. Demian was whimpering and had obviously been hurt. But he wasn't the one carrying the conversation. Dean Winchester's familiar cocky tones came through clearly. Both agents realised that they'd failed to notice the Winchesters doubling back. It was the only way they could have gotten to this room before them.
Prentiss and Reid shared a look, remembering what had happened the last time they'd stormed through this door together.
"FBI! Put your hands in the air," said Prentiss as she went in first. Dean and Sam Winchester and Demian all complied this time. Neither Winchester dropped the rifle he was holding.
Their unsub, Grenshaw, was holding a bloody stake in his hand and had his arm around Demian's neck.
"He has to die," he said. "You can't stop me. I am doing God's work."
Though Grenshaw had a tight grip on Demian, the situation wasn't life or death yet, so Prentiss and Reid decided to see how it would play out.
Dean scoffed. "I thought you were playing the part of the hunter. That's exactly what the Trickster thought he was doing."
"I am not a hunter," said Grenshaw. "And I am not a pagan."
"I can see that," said Dean.
"You're not a hunter," said Sam. "But your son was, wasn't he? He wanted to follow in Sam and Dean's footsteps."
"A demon possessed him," said Grenshaw. "He wasn't my son anymore."
"He wasn't possessed," said Sam. "He was trying to help people who were."
"And look where it got him! Burned alive in a shed! The people who lived there hadn't even noticed! But I saw him. I saw him."
"I'm sorry about him," said Sam. "But Demian hasn't done anything wrong."
"He will not repent," said Grenshaw.
"You're a religious man, right?" said Dean. "You believe in God, and demons. What about angels?"
"Yes," said Grenshaw.
"The Trickster in the books? He was actually the archangel Gabriel," said Sam.
Reid and Demian looked at Sam with wide eyes.
"Blasphemy," said Grenshaw. "You must die too."
"Unfortunately," said Dean. "It's true."
"Lies," said Grenshaw.
"I'm Sam Winchester," said Sam. "This is my brother Dean. We're the Sam and Dean in the books."
Grenshaw lowered the stake and Prentiss took the opportunity to take a step closer to him.
"You're crazy," said Grenshaw.
"A little bit," said Dean. "But that doesn't mean I wasn't born on January twenty-fourth. Doesn't mean my mother didn't die six months after Sam was born, burned on the ceiling above his crib. It doesn't mean I didn't go to Hell for him. It doesn't mean we didn't help stop an apocalypse." With each statement he took a step closer to Grenshaw.
"If you believe in the bible," said Sam. "Why can't you believe that the Supernatural books are real?"
"You know what it means if they're real?" said Dean. "It means that your son died saving someone else's life. It means he was a hero. It means he's gone to Heaven."
"The books were written by a drunk," said Grenshaw. "I looked him up."
"That drunk," said Sam. "Was the prophet Chuck. And he was taken into heaven, body and soul, because he'd fulfilled his duty and written the Winchester Gospels."
"You can't believe in them, though, can you?" said Dean, stopping a yard from Grenshaw. A distance he could easily cover in a step. "Because that would mean that you're going to Hell." In one single movement, Dean pulled the stake from Grenshaw's hand and knocked the man out with a punch.
That broke the atmosphere and Prentiss and Reid moved forward. As Prentiss arrested Grenshaw, and Reid checked on Demian, the Winchesters slipped away, just as their back up arrived.
x x x
"I take full responsibility for everything that happened tonight," Prentiss said to Hotch outside the house. "The Winchesters got under my skin and I shouldn't have let them."
Hotch took his head. "You're on my team. It's my responsibility." He looked out into the night with his unblinking eyes, wondering if the Winchesters were merely lurking at the edge of his field of vision. "I'm not sure I would have done anything differently. We have a killer in custody, and no one died tonight."
Prentiss eyed Morris, whose hands were curled into tight fists. "Unfortunately Morris still has two at large."
x x x
Somewhere over the Continental United States
On the plane ride back to Virginia, Prentiss asked Reid the question she'd been holding onto since the night she'd met Sam Winchester. Reid was still engrossed in Chuck Shurley's manuscripts. "Do you believe it?" she asked.
"Believe what?" asked Reid.
"That Sam and Dean Winchester are really Sam and Dean from the books."
"Are you asking if I believe in the supernatural?"
"I guess so," said Prentiss.
Reid looked down at the page he was reading. "I think the possibility exists," said Reid. "But I'm not convinced."
"Yeah," said Prentiss, looking out the window. "Me neither."
x X X x
A/N: The end.