Title: Sasquatches and Spider Webs
Disclaimer/Warnings: See Chapter One
A/N: Thanks again for all the reviews! You guys are awesome, and I really appreciate the continued support.
Chapter Six: Suspicious Behavior
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Dean scuffed his foot into the ground, tracing a groove of frustration into the earth, gravel skittering away in all directions until only the patch of dirt remained. He leaned back against the Impala's driver side fender, squinting against the morning sun as his gaze followed the quiet road back East toward the park.
Yeske's claims had been a bust, just as Bobby predicted, and they had spent several hours crouched in the weeds across and downwind from her spacious yard, with a clear view of nothing.
"Stupid ass, complete waste of time, and we haven't got shit." Dean grumbled out as he glanced back over his shoulder to the quiet gas pumps. He was trying to plot out their next move, but the worry gnawing at his gut was melding with anger over the time lost on his Sasquatch lead, so every possibility seemed just beyond reach. He couldn't afford to wander off into another misguided chase, not with Sam's life on the line.
Bobby's return to the car was greeted by the string of forceful curses. "Well, its not that we didn't get shit — breakfast was pretty tasty." He watched Dean jump and tense slightly before relaxing back against the panel; the kid was so lost in his own pessimistic thoughts, he hadn't heard the older hunter approach. Dean smiled, but the emotion never quite reached his eyes.
Bobby had goaded the younger hunter into sneaking up to Yeske's porch and ganking a couple muffins. He figured they could both use a tasty and filling breakfast to help get through the long day sure to follow. Although he doubted any emptiness Dean was feeling at this moment would be related to hunger — under duress the boy tended to ignore his basic needs — and at Bobby's ripe old age, he had seen this lead to the downfall of many skillful hunters. For this reason, Bobby had also insisted on the gas station detour to fill up on caffeine after what was obviously a sleepless night for both of them.
Bobby handed off one of the newly purchased, luke warm cups of coffee and used his freed hand to pull out the thin stack of newspaper folded under his arm. Dean took the offered warm beverage and looked at it hesitantly before asking, "You didn't slip any sedatives into this, did you?"
"I'd love for you to take a nap, but we don't have that kind of time. Now drink that before I force it down yer gullet." The older hunter responded, eyes glued to the tabloid in his hand and roving each news column.
"Man, someone's cranky this morning." Dean breathed through the soft words as he brought the cup up to his lips and took a few long gulps. "Didn't you have enough time to read through that crap in the weeds this morning?"
"New paper, more local than the ones I picked up on the outskirts of Garland — more county, less Dallas and national news." Bobby paused a moment before continuing, "And I think I just found us a lead. Read that." He practically shoved the crinkled paper into Dean's chest.
The picture at the at the corner of page showed a few trees that seemed to be coated in white. "So either the park is decorating early for Christmas or some rebellious kid used cotton-balls instead of TP." Dean shrugged off the article and started to hand the paper back to Bobby.
"Look at the article you stupid ass." Bobby growled back, then added, "and cut the defeatist attitude before it gets your brother killed." Dean gave the older hunter a hard, furious look. "You heard me, Boy. You got yer head so far up yer ass, you wouldn't notice a lead if you sat on it."
Dean visibly relaxed as he closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. Bobby was right. He'd always been the type to shoot first and ask questions later. A missing Sam was a strong catalyst to drive him to action, but the worry always made it hard to focus. He was so sure that the Big Foot story would pan out, he never really considered having to find an alternative. If he had just listened to Sam last night, they wouldn't have walked blindly into a dark forest, and the kid would still be with him. The guilt was weaving in with his other negative emotions and further clouding his judgement. He attempted to swallow the stress.
"Sorry, Bobby. What have we got?" He asked quietly and refocused on the article. The title read, Spiders Attempt World Domination, and Dean raised his eyebrows, glancing back at Bobby in disbelief over the title. "Do they even edit this thing?"
"Just stay open and observant." Bobby reassured. "Yes, the title is skeptical, but the picture was taken yesterday afternoon at the northeast edge of the park. Its like all the spiders in the area just up and moved to these couple trees. According to the reporter, no one has ever seen this type of behavior in any species of arachnid. I say we start here and see what else we can find before trekking out into the woods. This is likely to draw students, authorities, and probably some scientists in to the park. If the odd behavior ends up having some connections to the disappearances, we'll be closer to finding Sam."
Dean nodded in agreement and turned to open the Impala's door while Bobby walked around to the passenger side. As they sank into the seats, Dean commented, "Not only is it worth checking out, but I know just where to start for the interviews. Me and Sam bumped into this nerdy guy yesterday who happens to specialize in bugs — I'd put money on him being first in line to check the scene."
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Kelvin weaved his way through the pocket groups of tourists, attempting to avoid the flashing camera lights generating from all directions. He understood the fascination surrounding the phenomenon, the thrill of a new discovery. Everyone was out to take photos and form theories, be the first to get their name nationally recognized for explaining the occurrence.
He felt a pang of resentment that it wasn't his discovery getting the publicity, but he knew his genius was likely fueling the strange behavior in all the local insects. After all, you can't introduce a new predator into an ecosystem without some kind of ripple in the native species. As much as he wanted to step forward and accept all due credit for his amazing serum, he knew it had to be further tested and perfected. Revealing his research too soon could lead to someone else high-jacking his work and stealing his recognition.
Once he worked the kinks out of his current project, the fame and wealth would come — he just had to be patient. Hopefully, the kid caught in the web last night would be the turning point, and Kel would return later this afternoon to find the venom had overtaken the boy's system. Then Betsey would be self-reliant, and he could start on his second test subject while monitoring the continued success of his first at a distance.
Kel was also very aware that the rangers he'd run into yesterday had given false identities — he'd spent hours online confirming there was no such government division and no results populated for their names, not even a Facebook page. He wasn't quite sure what to make of that. At least one of them would be out of the picture by the end of today. He was hoping the other one would just take off, but from their short, impromptu discussion yesterday, he didn't seem the type to just let something go — not when he sensed a threat to the public.
He wanted to know who the boys really were and exactly how much they knew about what was happening in the park. He couldn't afford to have his studies compromised at this stage. Maybe he could question the younger kid before letting Betsey finish her meal.
The droning hum of mosquitoes filled his ears as he drifted out of his mind and back to his current surroundings. The webs were thick with the pests, and the spiders were not quick enough to silence them. Speaking of pests…
While caught in his own musings, Kel had nearly walked straight into the other ranger and now stood a mere foot away from Dean's back. Kel quickly turned to hide his face should the guy look back, but did not move any further away. He strained to listen in on the whispered conversation the younger man was having with what appeared to be an old trucker.
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"Seriously, Bobby, the air is vibrating," Dean whispered over while glancing at the surrounding thick webs as though they were going to encase him at any second, "I just discovered a new fear. I'm outside, surrounded by fresh air, but still claustrophobic."
"Yea, it's very overwhelming. Try to focus on other things. You find that guy who ran into Sam yesterday?"
"Not yet — I really thought he'd be here for this. Even told us he specialized in bug-ology." Dean watched Bobby shake his head in disappointment and knew the gesture was a response to his vocabulary. "You find any clues while mingling?"
"Talked with a couple professors from Dallas Uni and an entomologist from Cornell who specializes in arachnids and paid bookoo bucks for a last minute flight to be here this morning. Rumor has it, by tomorrow, enough scientists to fill the entire park will be swarming in, so we need to figure out what the hell this thing is today or we're looking at a potential smorgasbord."
Dean scowled a little while he continued to scan the crowd, "This whole incident is making my skin crawl; all I can think about is creepy little monsters with eight legs raking across my skin."
"Yea, this display in itself is concerning even if it's not related to our monster. Sounds like there are a couple theories as to what this," he gestured around and above to the tightly stretched webs, "is about. I've heard spider orgy, global warming, and migration floating around. My personal favorite came from the entomologist, Dr. Edward Rand. He seems to think that this odd behavior indicates a new predator in the ecosystem. The spiders are moving to avoid a threat in their habitat."
"Makes sense, like when people move out of homes they discover are haunted. We already know there is something lurking in the shadows, picking off humans — fairly recent and escalating in activity." His expression turned thoughtful for a moment, "but why would bugs freak out over a predator that kills humans?"
"Maybe it didn't start with humans and just grew into consuming larger prey; you did say the number of victims is increasing monthly. Or maybe it's eating anything and everything it can get its hands on — no one would notice a few animals disappearing, and we never thought to check on an overall decrease of insect activity." Bobby was racking his brain, pulling at any connection that might involve their mystery monster.
Dean chose that moment to glance around the immediate area, including over his shoulder. He saw the spiked black hair sticking out above most of the crowd and instantly knew it was Kel. The taller, lanky man was several crowds away and looked to be retreating swiftly.
Dean reached out to Bobby's arm with a solid grip, and the older hunter turned to see what caught the kid's attention. "That's the bug guy from yesterday."
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Kel had overheard enough of the conversation to know the two men were in cahoots, and they had already guessed more than he was comfortable with about his precious Betsey. He need to retreat and regroup — figure out how to get these guys off the trail.
His mind was a mess of jumbled ideas. Should he move Betsey to a new location? Maybe he would get lucky, and she would kill them both before they could spread their knowledge to anyone else. Perhaps he could ransom the cocooned kid's life for their silence and cooperation? If he could make them understand what a milestone he was accomplishing, maybe they would just let him be and move on to another case.
Kel lost out to the overwhelming urge to check on Betsey and confirm her current victim was still subdued by the heavy dose of narcotics.
He shakily grabbed his worn backpack from where he stashed it in the bushes next to an unmarked trail and threw it over his shoulder. He was at the far edge of the webbed trees and just out of site from the crowd.
After taking one last glance back to make sure no one had noticed his hasty disappearance or decided to follow, Kel started down the trail at a quick pace.
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Dean and Bobby ducked behind a couple trees at Kel's back just as he pulled his pack up from the weeds. He was several shades paler than the punky nerd Dean had encountered yesterday; the guy was clearly rattled over something, and the hunter in him was confident it had nothing to do with the spider webs.
Bobby followed Dean's lead and remained silent as Kel took off into the woods. Even never having meant the guy, Bobby's warning instincts were going off — the jerky movements, slight shakiness, and the quickened breathes were all indications that this stranger was more than alarmed about something.
Once Kel was out of earshot, Dean whispered to Bobby. "I've got a feeling he knows exactly what's going on."
Bobby nodded in understanding and crept forward to the edge of the trail, with Dean right behind him. Kel disappeared around a bend, and they quietly hustled after him.
Dean glanced up at Bobby just as they started down the trail and grinned, "Let's hunt some dork!"
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