Set season three.

CW: mild language and (very) mild adult innuendo.

"And this is the fourth?"


Sam tried not to make a face as the detective lit a cigarette and blew smoke their way. He was tall, round, and a ginger-streaked mustache covered his top lip and some of the bottom. "Ross here and Edmund McLaughlin were brothers. The other two were city folk, didn't know the brothers."

The body was laid out in the grass like a rag doll, limbs akimbo. Leaves were strewn about the crime scene and more blew past, covering what was left of Ross McLaughlin's face momentarily before moving on. The park was quiet and empty, the low temperature and macabre scene having driven away the few visitors that had gathered before the crime scene had been discovered.

Dean walked around the body, checking for sulfur or a hex bag, Sam knew. They'd had more than their fill of witches and demons lately; it seemed like every case they caught involved one or the other. They'd been holding their own as well as they ever had, but this sudden frequency of demons and their servants, especially in light of recent events, unsettled him.

"Funny." Dean stopped moving and caught the eye of the detective. "Looks right as rain, except for the chunks missing from his face. Like the brother, right? Coroner know what killed Eddie?"

"Officially, blunt force trauma to the head."

"And unofficially?"

The detective lowered his voice, though nobody was around to hear. "It's nothing like any blunt force trauma he's ever seen, he told me. Looks like someone took a spiked ball to his face, but the depressions don't match any weapon he's ever heard of."

"Still, there have to be thousands of weapons that could have done this," Sam pointed out. "He can't possibly have checked them all, can he?"

He stroked his mustache and looked uneasy.

"What is it?" Dean walked over and stood beside Sam, and together they looked directly into the detective's eyes. It was one of the most powerful – and painless – interrogation techniques they had, and one of the oldest ones in the book. Double up and stare 'em down until they talk.

"You won't believe it. It's preposterous."

"We can do preposterous."

He hesitated some more, then sighed. "What the hell. There were nails in his face, alright?"

"Nails?" Dean shifted his weight. "What, like from a nail gun?"

"No, not that kind. Fingernails."

"Human fingernails? Was there DNA?"

He shook his head, and Sam thought he looked rather green.

"An animal, then?" Dean asked. "A bear, or a wolf maybe…"

He shook his head harder, glancing around again for people who might be listening. "No. These were no wolf nails, boys. We don't know what the hell they were."

"Well, where are they? Can we take a look at them?"

"They're at the crime lab down in Corrina," he said. "Dr. Herbert – he's the coroner – sent them down there. It's why they called me; they think they might have a serial killer or something. After Ross was found, they invited the FBI here to investigate all this. Although," he said, looking them over, "when they said they were sending an elite task force, I assumed it included more than two men."

Sam and Dean exchanged glances.

"We're great at what we do," Dean said, smiling. He extended his hand, and the Detective took it. "Thanks for your help, Detective. We're gonna get to the bottom of this."

He smiled wanly, letting go of Dean's hand. "I hope so," he said. "I don't know what the hell we're gonna do if you can't." He put on his hat and gloves. "Coroner will be by in a few. I'm gonna go grab a bite." He gestured at his car, which was parked a few yards away.

Sam nodded at him while Dean strolled back over to the body, kneeling again.

"So what are you thinking?" Sam stood above him, rubbing his hands together. It had to be at least five below out, and thought he sun shone brightly, it provided no warmth than Sam could feel. "Gotta be a flesh and blood monster, right?"

"Well done, Sammy." Dean lifted Ross' arm, peering under it. "Five points to Gryffindor."

"Rakshasa? We haven't seen one of those in a while."

"What about the nails? Don't remember them being a part of the deal."

"Could be a vengeful spirit, I guess."

"Tied to what?" Dean stood, spreading his arms. "A garbage truck? We got one guy dead in a swimming pool at the lodge, another one on a freeway thirty miles from here, one ate it in at her house, and this guy in a park. All bludgeoned with a mystery weapon."

"Then there's the matter of where they were killed," Sam added. "Cause it wasn't here."

"Monster's probably got a bachelor pad," Dean said. "Rent's cheap enough around here."

Sam shrugged. "Witch? Demon?"

Dean shook his head. "No sulfur, no hex bag. Definitely a monster."

Sam pulled his phone from his pocket and checked the time. "I'll get the vics' histories, see how they're connected. You wanna head into the city and take a look at the nails and the other bodies? I know you don't like to split up, but I think we're gonna need to move fast on this one. This is the fourth killing in nine days."

"Yeah, no sense in us both looking at claws we won't recognize. I'll get in touch with Bobby. Must be some kind of encyclopedia of creature parts he can crack open."


Sam said it without thinking, and they stood there in uncomfortable silence, until he opened his mouth to apologize.

"And I think it's best if we steer clear of the five-o after today," Dean cut him off. "FBI might send that 'elite task force' The Lorax over there mentioned."

He considered saying something encouraging, but the moment was gone. He tightened his coat around him as Dean looked pointedly away from him, pretending to once-over the body again.

"Detective's coming back," Sam said, gesturing at the lumbering frame headed toward them. "Better go with him when he heads out of town. Follow his lead. Sometimes the locals stop cooperating if they think the feds are trying to take over a case."

"This ain't my first time riding in the front seat, Sam. I know what I'm doing, thanks."

"I was just trying to be helpful, man."

Dean chuckled darkly. "Save your help for someone who can use it."

Sam pressed his tongue against the back of his teeth. He's just as terrified as you are, he reminded himself. Don't let him get to you.

He smiled at the approaching Detective and turned back to Dean with a sigh.

"Drop me in town before you head into Corrina?"

The case file rested on Sam's lap, open.

Ross and Edmund McLaughlin had owned a pretty successful chain of hardware stores in the area and had left a sizable inheritance to their families. Both were married with adult children, and Ross had been a grandfather twice over. Neither of them had any explicit enemies, and both had grown up here in Platsworth. Neither had gone to college, and they appeared to get on well with each other, if the business' success was any indication.

Gotta see if there's any bad blood there, Sam noted to himself. If they really had been killed by a monster, it wasn't likely to be relevant, but one never knew where these things would lead; both of them had been killed within a week of each other, and considering the manner of their deaths, foul play was as likely as not.

And he knew too well how things could get between brothers, even when they were as close as it was possible to be.

Sam closed the file on the McLaughlins, pocketing a small slip of paper with their home addresses on it. He set the folder on the bench beside him and looked out over the river, pressing his lips together against the cold.

He'd tried to stay in the library where it was warm, but in the end the space had felt too cramped and he wandered out here. The cold was bitter, but it made him feel sharp, focused, determined. Feelings he had had less and less with every passing day.

Dean's deal was falling due. And there was nothing he could do to stop it.

Dean's forceful resignation, if there was such a thing, in the face of his fate had at first struck Sam as fear and obstinacy, business as usual for his brother. After all, Dean had become quite the cynic since their father had died, and Sam had grown accustomed to and accepted his stormy outlook, mostly because he knew it was bullshit. Dean was the kind of skeptic who doubted loudly and hoped quietly, and Sam could rest assured that no matter how dark his words, he looked for the light at the end of the tunnel like everyone else. And, their unique circumstances aside, some semblance of light had always been there, beckoning them, and Sam's belief that things would work out had been vindicated.

But now, when he most needed a spark of hope, it seemed that his brother's attitude was finally the right one. There was no hope. There was no way out. The day would not be saved. The very cosmos prevented deals like the one Dean had made from being broken. No exceptions.

There has to be some way, he thought. There is no deal that can't be renegotiated, no magic that can't be undone. Our father climbed out of hell, for fuck's sake. If that's possible, why isn't this?

He wouldn't quit. He would never quit. But his optimism was waning faster than he'd ever thought it could, and here he was, sitting on a park bench in subzero temperatures, nursing the terror that his bother would die and burn for eternity.

For him.

"Looking for something?"

Sam started, looking in the direction of the voice. A girl stood there in a fur-collared coat and lace-up boots, her white blond hair blowing in the frozen wind.

"Nah, I just…" Sam struggled to find the words.

"A Kansas boy," she said, sitting beside him. Sam hurried to move the papers so she'd have more space. "Well, I never."

Sam was surprised.

"You spent some time somewhere else, so the drawl's a little muted, but I can still hear it under there." He eyes sparkled, and in the bright light, they seemed to have no color.

He nodded, impressed. "You're good."

"So what's a handsome Kansas fed like you doing sitting out here in the cold?"

Sam chuckled, his breath visible. "Nothing gets past you, does it?"

She touched his forearm and held his gaze, a slow smile creeping onto her face.

"Nothing," she said.

They sat there, eyes glued to one another's, until she turned away, facing the river.

"You here about the brothers?"

"Yeah," he said quickly, grateful she had changed the subject. The last thing he needed was a distraction like her right now. "We're still gathering information. Did you know either of them?"

She snorted. "Who didn't? The McLaughlins are an institution around here. Have been since the turn of the century."

"Which century?"

She laughed. "They do slip by, don't they? The twentieth. They came in from the west in 1905, '07, I forget. The patriarch started a gun shop, was rich almost overnight. People from all over came to buy his guns. They were…really something special."

Loose lips. "Sounds like they had a good start."

"Didn't stop there. His son was some kind of war hero, then came home and made it big in the stock market. They ate well during the depression, had another son or two come home with honors from the second World War, owned some factories in the sixties and seventies, did something or other in the eighties, and then Ross and Edmund opened the first store in 1998."

And well informed. "You the town historian?"

"Oh no," she said. "Anyone in town could tell you anything I just said. They make sure everyone knows their story."

"They seem like a proud family," he said, hoping to get more out of her. He couldn't work out how she felt about the McLaughlins personally, so he was careful to tread lightly. "Any juicy scandals?"

"It's the strangest thing," she mused, putting her hair behind her ear. "No."

"None? In all this time?"

"Not a single one in a hundred and twenty or so years. They're clean as a whistle."


"Huh, indeed."

Sam laughed again. "You came over here just to tell me that, didn't you?"

"See?" She grinned and stood, rubbing her gloved hands together. "I'm not so much sharper that you after all."

Sam stood with her. "I'm headed back into town; got some work to do."

"Need an escort?"

She stepped ahead of him, and he took the time to notice how well her jeans fit her, how nicely the boots molded to her legs. She looked back over her shoulder at him, beckoning.

She's a distraction, he told himself, his feet carrying him toward her. Don't get involved. Nothing can come of it.

Except maybe you, a baser part of him replied.

He sighed, holding out his elbow and grinning down at her. She rested her hand in the crook of it.

"Now," she said, as they walked across the bridge, "what should I call you?"

Hope you had a Happy Halloween, everybody, even though it's way too late to say that.

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