Sam closed the last book they'd pulled – an old bible that had been checked out by someone with very neat handwriting – and stacked it atop the others in the reject pile.
"Well, that was a colossal waste of time," Dean said with a self-satisfied smile.
"You agreed it was a good idea," Sam said, standing. He slid the strap of his bag over his shoulder, making sure his computer was safely nestled inside. They crossed the main floor of the library, trying not to make too much noise. "Don't whine now because it didn't pan out."
The automatic doors parted for them and they stepped out into the evening heat. "I thought we should have left hours ago," Dean muttered. "Once we started on the different Bible editions, it was a wrap."
"Got any better ideas, Einstein? This couple's probably not going to know anything we can use, and we have nothing else to go on."
The Impala door screeched as Dean pulled it open. "We got to get into these kids' houses, man. At least one of them. This thing has to leave some kind of evidence behind."
Sam shook his head absently, rolling down his window as Dean backed out. "We'll have to clear one of the houses if we want that. The cops might be off our backs, but people have really pulled together. Last night at the bar they were talking about holding shifts at each other's houses in case the guy comes back." Sam rested his head against the back of the seat. "It'll be a challenge."
Dean joined Interstate 5, headed north. It was after rush hour, so there was little traffic, and their speed crept up to eighty. They didn't have far to go; the Medranos' employer lived only a few miles by from Via de la Mesa in a nearby suburb.
"What about during the daylight hours? These people work like sixteen hours a day; it shouldn't be that hard to get a few minutes to poke around."
"Extended family. We'll be seen, Dean. No two ways about it. Plus, we'll need time to search. The cops have been over the crime scenes a dozen times, and if they didn't find anything, we'll need at least an hour to pick up what they missed."
Way to keep the faith, Sam. "Welp," Dean said, pulling onto their exit ramp, "looks like we'll have to get creative."
Dean winked, rolling down his window. "All in good time, young Padawan."
Sam rolled his eyes but let it drop, looking out his window. It was amazing what a difference a few miles on a California freeway could make – ten minutes had taken them from south central to a real estate investor's wet dream, complete with store-bought lawns. As Dean parked the Impala in front of the house, Sam was struck by a slew of memories – he and Jess had visited countless friends at countless homes just like this one while he was at Stanford. It was good to think of her again.
"Earth to Sam." Dean was waving a hand in his face. "We're here."
He slapped it away. "I can see that."
"Whatcha thinking about?"
"None of your business."
"C'mon, don't be shy."
"Let's go in," Sam said, clipping his badge to his shirt. "Kids are dying."
They got out and headed up the concrete walk, ducking to avoid low-hanging palm fronds. They rang the bell and Dean put on a pair of glasses.
"Since when do you wear glasses?"
Dean grinned, shoving his hands in his pockets. "It looks news-y."
"It looks ridiculous."
"They're hot, Sam. These frames are Anne Klein, and not the ones on sale."
"How do you know?"
"Guy I swiped 'em off told me."
David Anderson answered the door before Sam got a chance to scold him. He was in his mid-fifties, balding, and had a friendly face.
"Can I help you?"
"Good evening, sir," Dean said. "We're with Weekly World News, and we're here to ask a few questions about the recent deaths of some local kids. Marisol Gutierrez mentioned you – "
His smile faded and a gentle sadness settled into his face. "Our housekeepers' son was one of the ones… taken," he said, nodding. "'Bout time someone from the media showed some goddam interest. C'mon in."
They followed him in and he shut the door behind them, gesturing at the sofa in the small living room. Dean stole a quick glance around the place, surprised by the low ceilings and close walls; it was much smaller than it looked from the outside, that was for sure. There was generic brownish furniture and tan carpeting, and the kitchen and dining rooms were nothing to write home to mother about. Apart from a cast-iron cat umbrella stand by the front door, there was nothing out of the ordinary that he could see.
David sat down in one of the chairs by the bay windows, sighing heavily. He looked tired, and as he ran a hand over his rather chubby face, Dean wondered what he did for a living. Couldn't be anything too strenuous if his hands were anything to go by; probably some office gig.
"Thanks for taking the time to do this," Sam said, doing a full force puppy-pout. "We really appreciate it."
"It's ridiculous," he said sharply. "There are seven dead children in as many days, and the police are closing the cases, can you believe it? The CDC was here a few days ago, but they didn't find anything they could identify, so they went back to Atlanta. And the news? Far as they're concerned, none of this is even happening."
"We're here to remedy that," Dean said.
"I'll help you out in any way I can, believe me. Can't imagine what I'd do if it was my kid, I tell you that."
Sam nodded, jotting something in his notebook. "You heard about the story through the Medranos, right?"
David nodded. "They both called off work the morning after, no notice, and they never do that unless something's really wrong. So my wife went over to see if she needed anything, or if she was sick, you know, and the whole place is overflowing with cops. Turns out, the kid's dead, and Lourdes – that's Mrs. Medrano – is a complete mess. She actually tries to apologize to my wife for not coming to work, but Char wouldn't hear any of it, of course."
"And the police didn't find anything?"
"No indication of foul play, is what they said. So they do the autopsy, and find nothing, but I was chatting with the M. E. at church – he knows the Medranos through friends of theirs – and he says that there have been six other kids died the same way and nobody knows a thing! I say, I never heard anything about that, and he says, yeah, there's nothing to tell, except they're dead and nobody knows why."
Sam leaned forward. "So the M. E. didn't notice anything weird about eh bodies, then? No wounds, no marks, nothing like that?"
"If he did, he's keeping quiet about it."
So it waits until after the autopsies to mark the bodies, he thought. That's crafty of him. Maybe this really is a poisoned-candy-and-rickety-van situation.
Sam scribbled something more in his notebook and Dean picked up the conversation. "You said to spoke to him at church. Which church was this?"
"St. Mary's of the Valley," he said. "We don't attend mass there usually, but they were having a special service for little Freddie, and we went for support. I've worked with St. Mary's on occasion as well, so we're no strangers."
"What sort of work?"
"I sell children's prayer books for a local Christian publisher. St. Mary's parishioners wanted Spanish versions in addition to English, and the Medranos asked if I'd be able to get those, since they know what I do for a living."
Dean nodded, thinking. There was something there to follow, he could feel it, but it was too vague to grasp.
"The night Freddie passed away, do you remember anything out of the ordinary? Were his parents worried, did he seem strange…"
David shook his head. "They're off on Sundays, so we didn't see them. Saturday they were fine, nothing strange."
"Thank you for your time, Mr. Anderson. Is there any time we could come by when you're wife would be home? We'd like to get some more personal details about all this for the story." Sam closed his notebook.
"You could come back Thursday," he said, looking a bit surprised. Join the club, Dean thought. "Around noon. Char gets off work at eleven on Thursdays and she'll be home by then."
"Sounds great." Sam stood and shook Mr. Anderson's hand. "It was great meeting you. I look forward to seeing you again to wrap things up."
"You don't have any more questions?"
"Not just now, no," Sam explained. "We're trying to gather what we can about what happened to the kids, and after that we'll talk more about the article."
David frowned but accepted the answer, walking them to the door. "All right, then. Don't hesitate to call. I'd hate to think a child killer's on the loose out there because I knew something and didn't get a chance to say it."
"Thanks. We'll call you," Sam said, starting for the car. David closed the door and Dean hurried after him, dropping into the driver's seat.
"What the hell was that?"
"We have to get back to the motel. I have to see if the other vics bought any of this guy's prayer books."
Dean started the car, shaking his head in disbelief. "You think Reading Rainbow in there's behind this? C'mon, Sam."
"Maybe not, but we don't know what the prayers say. Whatever this monster is kills these kids in their sleep, and always right after bible study. Half of them went to St. Mary's, and I'd bet the all hot water in the motel that the other kids went to churches that did business with this guy."
Dean pulled away from the curb. "Yeah, but he must have sold thousands of the thing over the years – this neighborhood's not exactly starter-home territory. Why did it pick these kids, and why now? We did our homework, and there haven't been any deaths like this. Ever."
Sam shook his head. "I don't know. But I do know that there's no way it's a coincidence."
"There's got to be more to it. We have to get into their houses to look around."
"You said you had an idea about that. We can go tomorrow. Tonight, I'm tracking down every prayer book Mr. Rogers sold."