Cas gets a lesson in self defense and the lead suspect in the case ends up not being what the Winchesters expected.
"I swear, if you even think the word 'Midol' I will end you."
Thursday 3 June 2010
Dean grunted and hauled Cas over his shoulder, watching as the ex-angel landed with a painful exhalation on his back. He blinked in surprise for a moment, as though waiting for his mortal reflexes to kick in, and then he rolled to the side before Dean could take another run at him.
They circled each other in the wide open living area, and Dean watched Cas's eyes flit calculatingly up and down Dean's body as he tried to locate an opening. Despite his ready position, Dean could tell Cas was still holding back. Whether it was because he still felt disconnected from his body or if he was having trouble looking at Dean as a target, Dean wasn't sure.
He hadn't even realized that that was a thing until he had suggested taking advantage of an hour's worth of down-time the day before.
Cas had been reluctant.
"It reminds me too much of my re-education by the Host," he had explained when Dean commented on that reluctance.
Cas had gotten what could only be described as an uncomfortable expression on his face, but before Dean could ask about it, Sam had jumped in, "You know, maybe we should give him a little more time to adapt before throwing him into Dad's training regimen."
Cas had offered Sam what Dean could only have interpreted as a grateful look.
"He's gotta learn sometime," Dean had pointed out, glancing from one to the other. Sam had had that air about him that he tended to get when he was trying to avoid talking about something; Dean had a suspicion that it had something to do with whatever he and Cas had been chatting about while he scoped out pies at the diner in Molline.
"Maybe we could enroll him in a self-defence class or something?"
"Uh, why spend the money when he's got two damn good fighters to learn from right here? Boobs or no," Dean had pointed out. "Actually, make that one. Pregnant prom queens throw better right hooks than you do."
"Real funny, Dean," Sam had responded sourly.
"It is not about the cost," Cas had interjected quietly, offering Sam a look that was both appreciative and pacifying. "It is simply that from my first moment, I have been expected to exploit my enemy's every weakness. To think of you – either of you – as targets, when you are the only comrades that I have, is…rather difficult."
"Yeah, I can see where that might be a bit of a disconnect," Sam had said, nodding sympathetically. He had fixed Dean with a meaningful look. "Angels aren't exactly great at compartmentalizing."
Dean had felt oddly touched by Cas's admission, but rather than lapse into a chick flick moment the way he knew Sam was dying to do, he had shrugged, "Yeah, fine, but he's not an angel anymore. And on the off chance that we end up in a town with a siren or a crazy ghost doctor playing with electroshock therapy and one of us goes Dark Side, it'd be nice to know he can beat some sense back into us."
For once his logic must have made some kind of sense, because it penetrated whatever reservations Cas was holding onto. Cas had agreed to light sparring bouts to start off with.
Which Dean decided was going to be as difficult and frustrating a process as any of Cas's humanity lessons. Despite Cas having observed human combat techniques for thousands of years, he had trouble adapting any of that knowledge to his new body. Apparently Jimmy hadn't been a physically active guy, and as Cas was already somewhat weakened from his two-week nap and lack of food, the former angel was having trouble making his body move the way he needed it to.
Still, he was a fast learner, and never made the same mistake twice, Dean observed as he dove at Cas with a flurry of jabs. Cas managed to dodge all but the last, which grazed him lightly across the jaw.
'Dude needs to shave,' Dean thought idly at the rough scrape across his knuckles when he pulled back, giving Cas a moment to recover. It was an allowance that an actual opponent would never have given, but Dean agreed with Sam's suggestion that they needed to take things slow. There was no point to hauling out the full-fledged John Winchester training regimen until Cas stopped tripping over himself like an inexperienced puppy.
Considering the guy was still having trouble putting his socks on in the morning, it would be a while. That didn't mean Dean was just going to lie down and take a beating to stroke the ex-angel's ego, though.
Dean vaulted forward as soon as Cas recovered himself, using the forward momentum to give his diminished form some extra force. His arm hooked around Cas's neck as he swung his body around, pulling Cas into a combination of a headlock and chokehold. At the same time, he bent and nudged his knee inwards, trying to force Cas into a kneeling position.
He expected Cas to lean into his body and flip him over, as Dean and Sam had demonstrated at least twice. What he didn't expect was for Cas to curl into him, reaching one arm in and around Dean's left leg, and the other arm up behind his back. He bodily lifted him into the air and threw him down to the ground.
"Fuck!" Dean grunted in surprise as he belatedly curled his back and shoulders to keep from hitting his head on the barely carpeted floor.
As Cas continued to pin him down, a look of concentration on his face, Dean swept his free right leg upward. He knocked Cas upside the head, toppling the ex-angel over.
"Watch your balance, otherwise I can do this," he ordered as he crawled over, seized one of Cas's arms and twisted it behind his back, effectively pinning him face down into the carpet. Cas muttered something breathlessly, and Dean leaned closer. "What'd you say?"
Cas moved unexpectedly, pushing himself upwards and rolling them both over until he was holding Dean to the ground. He was panting. "I said, 'I am not the only one getting used to a new body'. Human or not, I remain stronger than you.'
"If that was an issue, I'd have stopped scrapping with Sammy fifteen years ago," he pointed out, scissoring his legs to reverse their position once again. "If you tell him that shit, though, I'll kick your ass." He took in their positions and grinned. "You know, more than I'm doing now."
Cas grimaced and shoved Dean backwards, forcing him to tuck and roll away. As Cas scrambled to his feet, Dean grabbed him around the neck and hauled him upwards in another chokehold. Before he could settle back into a more grounded position, though, Cas reached around and flipped him over his back.
This time, Dean head did hit the floor, and he saw stars as the air rushed out of his lunges. "Ow."
Cas immediately loomed into view, upside down from Dean and with a worried expression. "Dean? Are you alright?"
He was kneeling by Dean's head and brought his face down within inches of Dean's, so close that the latter felt the ex-angel's every breath on his own cheeks. In the dim light of the room, Dean could see how the blood had flushed his cheeks and how a drop of sweat was inching down the side of his neck. It was a far cry from the stoic angel that had beaten him bloody in an alley outside Cicero; even back then, Cas had moved like a statue come to life.
'No more of that, though,' Dean thought idly. 'Might actually be able to get him drunk the human way now. Or laid.'
Staring up at the breathless man above him, with his perpetually dishevelled hair and pupils dilated from the stress of their bout, Dean could almost imagine what the guy might look like during sex.
There was a weird quaver in his stomach, and about a second after that particular observation Dean experienced a very vague sense of disengagement. He could still feel his own heart rate responding to the fight and the warmth of his entire body, but neither fact seemed half as important as enjoying the sight of Cas looking ruffled and human for once.
Then his good sense caught up with him.
'Seriously, where the hell did that come from?' he wanted to know as he blinked up at Cas.
Cas, who was still entirely too close, seemed just as perturbed by the infinitesimally short lull in Dean's movements.
Rather than dwell on it, Dean spurred himself into action, rolling his hips and knees up over his head to clamp around Cas's neck and haul him forward
Castiel let out a surprised cry as Dean reached his arms up and used them to propel Cas up and over him, throwing him until it was the former angel lying on his back staring up at the ceiling while Dean landed in a crouch.
In an effort to recover himself, he put himself at a decent distance away from Cas and grinned down. "Just peachy."
Cas grimaced. "I was a warrior of God for hundreds of thousands of years. There should not be this amount of difficulty involved in learning to fight as a human."
"Yeah, well, no offense, but you chose a pretty wimpy vessel," Dean offered jokingly. "Jimmy wasn't exactly Hulk Hogan, if you know what I mean."
"I rarely do," Cas muttered.
Dean laughed, satisfied, and glanced around the farmhouse they were crashing in.
Rather than spend their limited funds on another motel, Dean had made the executive call to squat in an abandoned home that was about half an hour outside of the city. The small structure was built off one of the side roads of the one-lane highway and had no sign of recent habitations. The only clue to why it was so far from the town lay in the long since abandoned fields and a decrepit, falling-down structure that had probably been a barn once.
The house itself wasn't much better; the front door hung off one hinge and many of the windows had been reduced to nothing but shards of glass clinging to the wooden frames. The grey walls beneath peeling red paint seemed to lean away from the wind, as though it always blew in the same direction here, and the roof was caved in on one side of the structure.
The interior was just as dismal, although the main living area where they had set up their things was closed off from the elements. There were water stains on the walls and the distinct smell of mildew. Patches of concrete showed through gaping holes in the worn wall-to-wall carpeting, and the beaten furniture had been pushed all to one side by whoever had occupied the house before them. The wide open concept of the room had been especially useful once Dean suggested they do some sparring.
The sound of a door slamming caused Dean and Cas to glance over to the entrance of the living room.
"I've tracked down D. Wood," Sam announced, in the exact moment that Dean suddenly felt his legs fold out from beneath him. Cas had used the distraction as an opportunity to sweep his foot out and send Dean over on his ass. "Whoa. Nice one, Cas."
"Cheap shot," Dean grunted, leaning up on his elbows to glower at the ex-angel on the floor. "You're lucky this body has extra padding."
"I would apologize, but as this was the entire point of the exercise, I feel justified in my actions," Cas replied, trying and failing to not look smug.
Dean rolled his eyes. "Dude, you could just say, 'Owned'. Takes a lot less time."
"You're just mad he got you," Sam pointed out. "It's a good thing he's such a quick study."
"Faster than you are, at any rate. It took you how long to be able to pin me?"
"You used to cheat."
"Had to compensate for your mutant growth spurts somehow, Gigantor."
"Anyway," Sam drawled, ignoring the attempt to bait him. "It took me a while to catch up with this guy – he might have visited Nicki's shop as D. Wood, but he's been living in a motel off the main highway under a different name – motel owner said it was David Shelley."
"Well, you said he was a writer, maybe it's a penname," Dean shrugged, but he was already getting up off the floor and reaching down to offer Cas a hand. The former angel accepted it without complaint, his grip strong. When Dean pulled away, he thought he saw a glimmer of reluctance in his friend's eyes, but it could have been the dim lighting. "Either way, it's a bit suspicious – this writer shows up in town the same time as the first murder? Come on."
"Have you found anything else on him?"
"Nope. Whoever he is, he hasn't been sharing his real name with anyone."
"So he's just jumped to the top of the list," Dean decided. "Well, if he's not completely human, he could be one of the serial monster types, like a shtriga or a siren. Any other towns going through a sudden wave of dead brides?"
"Just here as far as I can tell, but I haven't searched every city over the past hundred years," Sam replied. "We've kinds of been on a schedule."
"If you wish to speak to this witness today, I can continue your investigation," Cas offered. "I am tired after our training exercise. I can spend the time researching as you taught me. Besides, it is probably best if I learn how to better use that infernal contraption." At Sam and Dean's identical looks of incredulity, he added, "The laptop."
"Sure, Cas," Sam said after a moment, sounding vaguely amused. "Just…don't break it. And if you go on the Internet, don't download anything, okay? I haven't put a new antivirus in there yet – and call me if there's anything that looks useful –"
"Yeah, yeah," Dean rolled his eyes, ushering his brother out of the room. "He's not going to break your toy, you giant girl." He turned and pointed a finger at Cas, parting with a joking admonition, "And stay away from the porn."
Beside him, Sam turned red and spluttered, "Dean!"
The drive to the motel where Sam had tracked down the elusive D. Wood was mostly spent in their usual back and forth bickering over whether or not Dean was corrupting the former angel or not. As usual, Dean brushed off Sam's complaints like they were nothing.
"He's been around for a few millennia – he's probably seen more weird shit than anything you or me could show him," Dean insisted once again as they pulled into the dilapidated motel on the other side of the city.
"Yeah, well, he's never seen your taste in entertainment," Sam retorted as they climbed out of the car in the back corner of the parking lot. They were obscured from most of the motel windows, and started gearing up their weapons and supplies. "What story are we going with today?"
"Reporters again?" Dean quirked an eyebrow. "Dude, I knew you've been surfing my porn."
"I don't surf anything – you just never delete your browser history," Sam replied. "I was thinking something more personal. Friends of the family?"
"If he's really writing some kind of book and he's been here five months, he probably knows them all. And it's okay, Sam, there's nothing to be ashamed of. Porn is a natural –"
"I swear to God, if you don't stop talking about porn I will beat you," Sam hissed, shoving Dean roughly.
Dean made an inviting gesture. "Bring it."
Sam rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Family from out of town, then?"
"Yeah, okay," Dean snorted. "Wuss."
A quick cash bribe to the motel management later, and they stood outside of the room where David Shelley had apparently ensconced himself.
The person who answered Sam's knock was a swarthy, unshaven man with grey eyes and a square face. He was slightly out of breath, but that seemed to be due to the rather large suitcase he was lugging in one hand as he glanced out at them suspiciously. Sam noticed that the guy's gaze rested on him a little longer than was usual when meeting someone for the first time, but instead of commenting on it, filed the information away until later.
"Mr. Wood?" he ventured.
"Can I help you?" the man asked in gruff, insincere voice. His speech was a rough, accented rasp that reminded Sam a little of how Crowley spoke, only with a more polished diction.
"I'm Jane, this is Erica – we're Stephanie Hindley's cousins," Sam introduced.
"I see," Wood said, his tone trailing upwards in a question.
Dean picked up the inquiry. "We're in town for the funeral and heard you were sort of investigating what happened to her…unofficially. That you might have more of an idea or some theories about it than the police did."
"And who gave you that idea?"
"A few people in town mentioned you were a writer and that you had interviewed a bunch of families like ours…families of people who died. Women," Sam explained. "We thought maybe you had another angle on what happened to Stephanie."
"I'm afraid I know as little about it as the police do," Wood said, striding past them with his bag and heading toward his car.
He didn't even offer any type of condolences, which was odd, for an investigative writer; they usually had to be able to feign some kind of human emotion in their work. Sam was actually having a hard time seeing this guy as a sympathetic person at all.
Beside him, Dean nodded meaningfully at the suitcase; it seemed like Wood was getting ready to skip town or something. Sam agreed with a barely-there nod that it was suspicious.
"As it is," the man continued on brusquely, "I have been asked to cease and desist in my continued research, and I am inclined to do exactly that."
"But you've been here for months," Dean protested, following Wood after he tossed his suitcase into the back of a beat-up pick up and started back to his motel room. "I heard the police have been after you to stop for months now, and you didn't. Now you're suddenly going to? Did you find something and they're paying your off, or what?"
It was a weak attempt at wheedling, but Sam knew Dean was just trying to keep the guy talking to them. They needed to figure out his angle before he left town.
Wood snorted. "It has nothing to do with that. My…creative spark seems to have burned out. I require a change of scenery."
Sam frowned at the lie.
"It kind of looks like you're running away," he pointed out. "People only really do that when they think they're going to get into trouble or if they think they're in danger."
Wood leveled a long look at him, and out of nowhere asked, "Have we met before?"
Sam blinked, nonplussed, and his eyes flicked to Dean. His brother appeared calm, but Sam could sense him trying not to tense up. "Uh, no. Why?"
"You remind me of someone," Wood said unhelpfully. He headed back through the door and turned to face them. "Ladies, I am sorry I cannot help you, but I am hoping to get out of here before the traffic picks up. Now, if you would excuse me –"
He started to close the door in their faces.
Dean, in his usual impulsive way, barged forward.
"Hold on a sec!" he cried, sticking a steel-toed boot into the door to keep it from closing. He brought the other one up and nudged the door back open, taking a step into the small room. "We just want to know –"
Several things happened at once.
Sam heard the familiar ratcheting sound of a gun's safety mechanism being undone and found himself staring down the barrel of an MK23; at the same time, he felt his brother move beside him and out of the periphery noticed that Dean was aiming his .45 directly at Wood's forehead.
For a long, tense moment, there was silence. Sam remained still and Wood didn't even flinch at the firearm pointed at his head.
"Who are you," he asked coldly, attention shifting from Dean to Sam but without any suggestion that he was paying either of them less attention than the other.
"I think we could ask you the same thing," Dean returned, keeping his own voice steady. From his position behind Dean, it would be difficult for Sam to disarm Wood if he decided to pull the trigger; while Sam was sure Dean could move before that became an issue, he knew better than to rely on something that could backfire that badly.
He cast his gaze around the motel room for something that could be used to help him, and his eyes fell on the window sill. A familiar looking white substance lined the ledge, and as he glanced down at the door, he saw that the same line was there, broken only by Dean's clumsy feet.
"D – Erica, look," Sam said, trying to call attention to his discovery. His brother continued to stare down the other man with his usual stubborn determination, searching for the right moment to act. "Hey, moron, put down the gun. The guy's a hunter."
Wood blinked in an approximation of surprise, but didn't lower his weapon. Dean didn't relax either, which given their current relationship with the hunter community was understandable, but which also wasn't something they really needed to worry about with their current disguises.
Sam grumbled softly and then sought out Wood's gaze, holding it and nodding at his empty hands. Wood's head moved incrementally, as though giving him the go ahead, and he continued to watch Sam warily as he moved closer to Dean and got his brother to lower the gun. "Put it down, man, we're on the same side."
"Maybe," Dean said through gritted teeth. "Maybe not. Could be another murdering asshole like Gordon, for all we know. 'Scuse me if I don't wanna take that chance."
This time Wood's expression did lose some of its tension. "Gordon? Are you talking about Gordon Walker?" He finally began to lower his weapon, glancing from one to the other as his jaw clenched. "I hope your next words are that the depraved lunatic has shuffled off his mortal coil."
"Yeah, guy got turned by a vampire and had to be put down," Dean said, and then added, "Or so I've heard."
"A more fitting end I can't imagine," Wood remarked frostily.
There were several more seconds of a stand-off, before Sam let out an exasperated noise and hauled down the collar of his shirt and then his brother's. "Look, we're not demons."
Wood raised an eyebrow. "That's a clever idea there. I'm afraid I lost my taste for tattoos several years ago, however –" He completely lowered his weapon and dug a chain out from under his shirt; charms of many different religions and belief systems decorated it, "– you can see that I am also demon-free."
Dean finally lowered his gun as well, and they both clicked the safety back on.
The other hunter held out a hand. "Daniel Ryder."
"Jane Campbell," Sam reintroduced them, accepting his hand when Dean didn't. "This is my sister, Erica." The man formerly known as Daniel Wood continued to study him carefully as he took his hand. When he didn't give it back, Sam shifted uncomfortably.
"Unless you're planning on going steady, maybe you should let go there?" Dean suggested, irritated. Sam wanted to roll his eyes at his brother's overprotective routine and remind him that he was a grown man – current female body notwithstanding – but he didn't get the chance.
"Campbell, you say?" Daniel Ryder asked, finally releasing Sam's hand and glancing at Dean like he still expected an attack. Knowing Dean, it wasn't a bad judgement call. "I met a few Campbells up in Michigan. They were good hunters. You look an awful lot like the youngest one."
Which was kind of the last thing that Sam had expected to hear; judging from Dean's blank expression, he wasn't the only one.
They had never known very much about their family. It had always just been John and Mary, and after Mary died it had just been John. He'd never talked about his parents very much while Sam and Dean were young – all they knew was that John's family was from Indiana and that his father had been a mechanic; Mary's family had never been talked about at all. Sam and Dean had known about an uncle who had died not long after Mary, and a great-uncle they had never met but who had paid for their mother's headstone. In fact, they had learned more about Mary Winchester when the angels stuck their noses into their lives than their father had ever told them.
Thanks to Dean's first trip to the past, they had learned all about the Campbells and the family business. Their grandparents and their mother had been hunters, and after Sam had done a little digging, he had learned that there had been Campbells associated with strange happenings since the time of the Mayflower. He and Dean had even encountered an old case of their grandfather's in San Francisco a few years back.
Given how much they still didn't know about their family history, though, it was entirely possible they had relatives somewhere – relatives who were hunters.
"We don't know a lot about our folks," Sam said when it became clear Dean wasn't going to step up to the plate this time. "Our family's all dead so far as we know. Dad raised us and sort of fell into hunting by accident. Passed it on to us."
"That's a rather unusual undertaking," Ryder observed. "I've known a few women in my time who hunted, but they usually fell into the life by accident. I've never heard of a man intentionally teaching his daughters. Your father must have had immense confidence in you both."
He sounded surprised and Sam felt insulted by that, despite the fact he wasn't actually a woman. Dean also looked like he had a thing or two to say about it, but wasn't sure where to start.
Ryder turned away and began to move around the room, moving empty take-out cartons out of the way and tossing a bag of weapons aside. "I assume you're here working the Greenwood Bride case, then?"
"Yeah – but we didn't know there was someone here already," Sam said. "We'd heard that you've been here since the first death?"
"A coincidence, really," Ryder sighed. "I was passing through here on my way to Louisiana and the day I was here, the first murder took place. I stayed to see if I could suss out the cause – and that was five months ago."
"And you didn't find anything? For five months?" Dean snorted. "Maybe you're in the wrong line of work."
"And perhaps there is nothing to be found," Ryder retorted icily. "But, by all means, if you think you will have better luck than I have." He made an accommodating gesture and nodded to a box of papers and pictures. "I've been over this entire town and found nothing. None of the victims' families have had anything helpful to say and none of the leads have panned out. The police are adamant that nothing is going on and they've even been so kind as to allow me to see the evidence."
He gathered together his things and nodded at Sam and Dean.
"I would suggest finding another job to work that has the possibility of resolution.
"Wait – you're leaving?" Sam asked, incredulous. "In the middle of a job?"
"This case isn't going anywhere, and I have expounded enough energy on it when I could be doing something else," Ryder shrugged. "Besides, I'm needed elsewhere."
"What could be more important than stopping innocent people from being killed?" Sam demanded.
Ryder leveled an unimpressed glare at him. "A colleague of mine needs help with a demon infested town three states over. Perhaps you haven't noticed, Miss Campbell, but the natives of Hell have been acting out quite a bit in the past two weeks."
"We've been out of commission the last few weeks," Dean lied shortly. "Came off a job with a nest of kappas kinda badly. What's goin' on? Demons havin' a party or something?"
"I have no idea," Ryder shrugged. "But it's not just the demons. Another contact of mine told me about a town in Oregon that had every man, woman and child turned to salt. The authorities are calling it a major nuclear reactor disaster, but we're pretty sure the cause is of a more…divine nature."
Sam stiffened. "You think angels are involved."
"Have you ever read the Bible, young lady?" Ryder asked. "There's a specific story about Lot in Genesis that you might consider examining."
"We've been a bit more concerned with Revelations lately," Dean said through gritted teeth.
"But why would angels…?" Sam began, and then shut his mouth. After all, he, more than any other person in the world except for Dean, knew that there was nothing angels wouldn't stoop to. And if Raphael was really in charge, the archangel wouldn't care how many innocents he hurt in his quest to restart the Apocalypse or whatever he was trying to accomplish.
'Which is an argument for why Cas shouldn't have brought me back,' Sam thought sadly. 'Humanity could have used an angel like him in their corner.'
Dean's rigid stance told Sam his brother was thinking along the same wavelength of at least half that idea.
"Everyone has been, ever since this Winchester business," Ryder was saying, causing the brothers to look up at the sound of their name. "None of this would have happened if it weren't for them."
Sam and Dean exchanged glances. It was possible they could continue to play the dumb card, but that might be too unbelievable. Dean's eyes narrowed slightly in an encouragement Sam doubted anyone but him (and maybe Cas) would be able to notice, and hesitantly said, "Winchester…You mean those brothers, right?" He glanced at Dean again, before going on, "We'd heard rumours that something happened lately, but we never heard what exactly."
"Those damned fools started the End of Days," Ryder said angrily. "The way the story's being told, Sam Winchester opened the Gates to Hell and let out the Devil. And his coward of a brother didn't have the strength in him to stop him. Dean Winchester would have let the world burn because he couldn't do what needed to be done."
"I heard they were trying to stop it," Dean said, unable to keep the tense note from his voice. "I heard they did."
"And who are you getting your news from, Bobby Singer?" Ryder inquired coldly. "The man practically raised those boys, if I've got my facts right – of course he'd be telling tales about them that show them in a better light. From the way things are looking right now, though, I would say they didn't stop anything. They just delayed it, then up and disappeared like the guttersnipe they are."
Sam had to nonchalantly grab hold of Dean's arm to keep his brother from flying across the room at the older hunter. As it was, Ryder took their silence as thoughtfulness.
"Things are a lot more serious right now than a few dead brides. If you wish to continue here, I wish you luck – you may even make use of what research I've done. But you would be advised to go somewhere where your help is truly needed," he said. And then, he gave a short little bow which would have seemed ridiculous on anyone else, and then disappeared from the motel room.
Sam and Dean watched him go, and then turned to each other.
"Do you think…do you think he's maybe right?" Sam asked, hesitant. "We do have more important things to do right now."
"Yeah, we do, but we've never up and quit a job before because there was something better we could be doing," Dean grumbled. "So I say, we stick it out. These deaths are going to keep happening if we don't do something about them. Unlike some douchebags." Sam chuckled, earning a raised eyebrow from his brother. "What?"
"Look at you, going all 'Righteous Man'," Sam teased. "Next you'll be donning a pair of tights and fighting for truth, justice and soccer-moms."
Dean snorted and shoved Sam aside on his way to Ryder's box of research. "Shut up and help me lug this shit to the car."
After deciding that the FBI cover story was the best and most believable angle to work after all, Sam had made another quick shopping trip for clothes that looked more professional than what they had. He had left Dean to talk Cas through the process of working a job again. As Dean was going to be off trolling the town graveyards looking for evidence of the Greenwood Bride, Sam had hoped that their chat would be a little more comprehensive than an admonition of 'shut up and let Sam do all the talking'.
Not for the first time did he regret agreeing to Aggie's genderswap; it made something as precarious as posing as federal agents all the more complicated.
Dean must have done something right, though, because Castiel hadn't made any major blunders as yet. They had spoken with three of the five families of victims that morning, and although Sam had done most of the actual talking, Castiel had occasionally added one or two questions of his own. They were asked in a stilted, neutral way which suggested that Dean had forced him to memorize a list of acceptable questions to ask, but which enhanced the detached FBI image they were aiming for.
Their last stop of the day was the former fiancé of the first victim.
"Well, it took you long enough," Joe Cooper said flatly, frowning across the threshold at Sam and Castiel. Cooper was in his twenties, blond and with a swimmer's build, and dressed in an electrician's coveralls. He had been on his way into his house when they approached him. "This nutcase has been killing people for months now and you guys didn't even look into it. Even that sleazy writer was doing more. Maybe if you'd looked into this sooner…"
He trailed off, grief obviously still fresh.
"We're very sorry for your loss," Sam said, leaning forward and trying to meet the man's eye. He knew exactly what Cooper was feeling right now, and tried to convey that with his body language. "I can assure you, though, catching this killer is priority one for us. I know it won't bring Caitlin back, but if you could help us in any way, we can bring whoever did this to justice."
Cooper shifted angrily, but in the end nodded and ushered them into his home.
"Was there anyone who would have a grudge against Caitlin?" Castiel asked flatly.
"No," Cooper said with a sigh. "Everyone liked her. She was a veterinarian…who doesn't like a veterinarian?"
"People who do not like animals, I imagine," Castiel commented. Sam made a mental note to add 'sensitivity training' to Castiel's list of need-to-know human accomplishments.
He sighed inwardly, discouraged; none of the other victims' families had been able to come up with a possible enemy either, which closed yet another avenue to investigate. He was beginning to think that Ryder had been right, that this case was just a waste of time –
"Actually," Cooper said after a moment, as though remembering something from long ago. "That's not entirely true. There was someone who was on the outs with Cait…but there's no possible way she could have had anything to do with it."
"She?" Sam inquired.
Cooper nodded, hesitant; like he wasn't sure he should be saying this. "Yeah. Uh, see, Caitlin had this best friend growing up and…they weren't really talking to each other when we were…getting ready to get married."
"This person got a name?"
"Well, yeah, but…see, it couldn't have been her because she wasn't there and even if she had been, she couldn't have done it –"
He sighed. "Nicole Tobin. Though Caitlin always called her Nicki."
Sam blinked. The same was familiar…
"The woman who owns that bookstore in town?" Sam asked, searching his memory. "The one in the – ?"
"Wheelchair?" Cooper finished. "Yeah, that's her."
Knowing that being handicapped didn't necessarily mean someone was innocent, Sam pressed on, "Why would Ms. Tobin have a grudge against your fiancée?"
This time, Cooper shifted more in discomfort than in anger. "That's…a long story."
Sam didn't say anything, simply raised an eyebrow. Sometimes, silence was the best way to get someone to open up.
Cooper sighed again and looked away. "A few years ago, Nicki…Nicki and I used to date. More than date. We were going to get married, but…" Now he looked up, guilt clouding his expression. "Look, it's my fault she is the way she is. We were at the rehearsal dinner and…I don't know, we were having problems and there was all this stress at work, and Caitlin was there and – Nicki sort of caught us going at it in the bathroom. She got pissed off and then ran out of the building and got hit by a car."
"Paralyzing her from the waist down," Sam finished, careful to keep the judgement out of his voice.
"I tried apologizing. I tried giving her space. But she broke everything off and we stopped talking after that. She wouldn't talk to me, or Caitlin. And we both tried not to see each other after what happened, but…we couldn't help it. I loved Cait in a way I never loved Nicki. So I asked her to marry me. And then…"
"She was killed."
"Yeah. But there's no way Nicki could have done it. Even if she wasn't home the night it happened – which the police told us a while back – Nicki wouldn't have done something like that. She was always the most Zen person I know – she did yoga, meditated – she's a freaking vegetarian."
Sam exchanged glances with Castiel.
After another few questions which didn't reveal very much, Sam and Castiel thanked the man and left.
"It is possible for someone who has been offered so confining a fate to perhaps seek occult solutions to their problems," Castiel remarked as they left.
"I'm surprised Ryder didn't mention it, though," Sam mused.
"Perhaps he just didn't find any evidence to support his suspicion."
Sam thought back to something Nicki had said the previous day. "When I was in her shop, she did mention he spent a few weeks just hanging out in the bookstore. You think maybe he was watching to see if she was involved in the murders?"
"It is likely."
"Well, we should still look into the history of all the other victims to see if Nicki's connected to any of them – maybe she's not doing anything. She could have a poltergeist attached to her," Sam said, digging his phone out of his pocket, "In the meantime, I'll get Dean to put the graveyard search on hold. This is sounding less like an angry spirit and more like a 'woman spurned'."