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SPN fic - Torch Song - Part 4 of 4

Title: Torch Song
Characters/Pairing: Sam and Dean, gen, mentions of Dean/various bar hookups
Rating: R for language, sexual situations, and violence
Warnings: Violence toward children. Dean finds some messed-up sex. Not a particularly happy tale.
Word Count: 19,199
Disclaimer: All the witty disclaimers are already taken. Sam and Dean belong to Kripke & Co., not me.

Summary:
Children are disappearing in Durango, Colorado. Dean starts to take the case a bit too personally. Set early second season, between “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things” and “Simon Said.”

Author's notes can be found in Part One.

Here goes nothin'...*clicks 'post'*...*ducks and runs*
 

***

Dean slotted a handful of quarters into the jukebox, made his selections, heavy on the Zeppelin, and found a seat at the end of the bar as the opening riff to “Whole Lotta Love” kicked in. Cigarette smoke hung heavy in the air. Underneath that, a riot of smells, including beer, nachos, and some girl’s too-strong perfume.

Underneath that, Dean could still smell fire.

Something altogether different from woodsmoke or cigarettes, from the billowing cloud at the grill. It held a hint of lighter fluid, of burning flesh. Usually, it didn’t bother him – usually it was a sign of a job well done. Tonight he’d had to get out of the room, away from the dirty laundry crammed into their bags. Maybe it was the way this job had worked out, a day late and a dollar short. Maybe it was just this time of the year.

Felt like he had ashes in his nose, his throat.

He worked methodically toward being completely trashed, from Jack and Coke to just plain Jack. The traffic of the bar flowed around him, laughter and conversations and propositions like a river over stones.

Eventually he wandered over to the pool tables. Got a friendly game going – just for drinks, no money – with some guy about his own age who taught freshman English at Fort Lewis College and turned out to be nearly as obsessive about music as Dean was. He was there with some friends, a guy who spent the whole night texting on his phone and a couple of girls who weren’t exactly hard to look at.

The night slid by with a liquid sense of time, slow and lazy, shots lined up with no particular urgency. After a few more drinks, the games were a bit more evenly matched. A discussion of the cultural and literary merits of Poison’s “Something to Believe In” signaled the group’s descent into inebriation; though Sam may have found it surprising, Dean was not among the song’s supporters. He cadged a cigarette from the lit prof – Wes, Dean recalled. Let a different kind of smoke sear his throat.

He spent his time between shots talking music with Wes, zeroing in on the hot Asian art instructor whose name he’d already forgotten. Before long, he realized he was actually flirting with both of them.

The girl kept brushing up against him by “accident,” totally buying into the outlandish tales of adventure he’d concocted to explain his injuries. Every time she leaned over to talk to him, he caught a hint of anise and paint thinner.

Wes kept cracking bad puns, made Dean snort beer up his nose. Dean sputtered, wiped his nose on his sleeve, still laughing. Wes grinned, sank his next shot with ease.

On the jukebox, the Yardbirds were doing “Smokestack Lightning.” Dean leaned back against the wall, cue held loosely in one hand. Took a drag from his smoke and watched Wes run the table, starting to think that maybe this guy had lost the first few games on purpose.

When it was Dean’s turn again, he leaned over the table to line up his break, feeling eyes on him and knowing damn well how he looked, posed over green felt, cigarette dangling from his lips.  He could imagine how Sam would react: that patented pissy little bitchface, maybe some comment about Dean’s shameless display.

But then, Sam wasn’t here right now.

--

Rain dumped down from the sky in cold sheets as Dean walked back to the motel, hands jammed deep in his coat pockets, soaked to the bone in less than a block. Tonight he hadn’t bothered to stick around for a sex-sated nap or rushed and silent shower, head too full of rough hands and slick skin, of being pressed facedown into sheets that smelled like cedar. Of what the fuck have you done?

The lights were out when he got back to the cabin, and he left it that way, skinning out of his clothes in the dark, feeling his way to the bathroom. He let the shower run until the water was as hot as he could stand, stayed under the spray till it began to cool off. In the silence after the pipes quieted down, he held his breath, waited for any noise that said Sam might be awake. Nothing.

He found some sweatpants by feel, burrowed under the covers. He waited for the room to stop spinning, still shivering, listening to the rain hammer down on the roof.

--

Sam shoved a coffee across the table to Dean. “Fresh pot down at the gas station,” he said. “Drink up while it’s still hot.”

Dean thanked him with a nod and a grunt, picked at a blueberry muffin, shading his eyes with one hand.

The sun was back out today, though the cold seemed to have settled in for good. Sam had slept till noon and given Dean a couple hours after that, which was how he’d ended up going out for “breakfast” at three o’clock in the afternoon.

Sam downed his own muffin in silence, dedicated to walking on eggshells. Dean looked like hell. His face was pale and puffy, the only color his fading bruises and the shadows underneath his eyes. He probably thought Sam had been asleep when he’d come in late last night, dripping rainwater on the floor and shivering even after he’d hit the shower. Probably thought Sam didn’t notice the ginormous hickeys along his collarbone or the bite mark on the back of his neck.

As disconcerting as Dean’s brief celibacy had been in the weeks following Dad’s death, this parade of drunken hookups and fetishes was far worse.

Part of Sam wanted to say something, try to figure out what was wrong, try to find a way to fix it. Then he’d remember their track record for heart-to-hearts, the cold fear in his own gut at seeing invincible Dean with tears in his eyes, the blank look on Dean’s face when he’d shut down at Sam’s non-reaction. Maybe they were better off with the strong-and-silent routine.

Maybe he shouldn’t ask questions when he wasn’t sure he wanted the answers.

Sam unfolded the newspaper, looking for a job, a distraction. When he saw the article, he almost considered not even showing Dean. Leaving the damn paper in the trash and putting as many miles between them and this town as they possibly could.

But in reality, that wasn’t even an option.

“Dean.” Sam pushed the paper across the table.

The headline read: Nine year old boy missing from township home. Noah Richards had last been seen the previous evening, around the time they’d gotten back to the motel.

“Fuck!” Dean shoved his cup away, swiped both hands over his face, through his hair. “What the fuck did we miss?”

Sam shook his head. “I dunno, man. Maybe the thing had a mate?” Or, god forbid, even a pack? “We didn’t see any sign of another one, though.”

“Goddamn it.” Dean held his head in his hands, absently rubbed at that thin scar. “We have to have missed something. There’s just too much about this case that doesn’t add up.”

“Like what?”

“Like how this thing goes unnoticed for probably hundreds of years and then all of a sudden goes on a binge.”

“Maybe its territory is being disrupted? You know, like when coyotes or mountain lions hit the suburbs because new construction is squeezing them out?”

“You saw those woods, Sam. That thing has thousands of acres with no people besides some crazy-ass hikers.” Dean rubbed a hand across his mouth. “Why now? It’s almost like this thing is escalating, like – ”

Dean stared into the middle distance, perfectly still.

“Dean? What is it?”

He dug his phone out of his pocket. “Sam, you still got the phone number for the Y?”

“Uh – yeah, I think so.” Sam dug through his bag, flipped through his legal pad till he came to the right page. He read off the number, watched as Dean punched it in. “Come on, man, almost like what?”

“Almost like a serial killer.”

Sam stared for a second. “You think a person’s behind this somehow?”

Dean held up a finger as someone picked up on the other end of the line. Sam listened as he asked again about the nature hikes, the volunteers who led them. He gestured at Sam for a pencil and paper, jotted down names. “Great. Thank you,” he finished. Hung up.

He turned the page around, pushed it across the table for Sam to read. Tapped the eraser on the third name down: Grant Chesley.

--

The Impala took the corner on two wheels. Sam resisted the urge to pray. “You gotta explain, Dean. How the hell did we get from cannibal giants to a human serial killer? You telling me this guy’s been responsible for all these kids disappearing?”

“Not all of ’em.” Dean’s eyes never strayed from the road. “Probably only the older ones. These guys always have a type. That’s why the sudden spike in disappearances: the Siants was doing its thing like it always has, maybe taking a couple of kids a year, but never too many. Then Chesley shows up, starts taking some for himself.”

“What makes you so sure he’s our guy?”

“I dunno, man. He lived close to Jake Heffron. He’s had interactions with all the kids. He knows the woods, so he knows where to dump a body.”

Sam didn’t say a word.

Dean shot a glance at Sam, went on. “He’s a creepy motherfucker who likes to dress in uniform, likes to hang out with little kids, and was just a bit too eager to chat with the F.B.I.”

Silence.

“I don’t know, man!” Dean exploded. “I just know, all right?”

“Okay, man,” Sam said, hands held out in a placating gesture. “Just calm down, okay? We’ll figure it out.”

Dean gripped the wheel so tight he thought it would bend. Figure it out, my ass. More like humor the crazy while he’s still got a four-thousand-pound weapon in his hands.

Didn’t matter if Sam didn’t believe him. He knew.

Dean executed the perfect cop’s knock on Chesley’s front door, a banging like the apocalypse was at hand. No answer. The blinds were drawn; Chesley’s Crown Vic was not parked in the driveway. Dean jerked his head toward the side of the house and the hedge-lined path that led around to the back. Sam nodded and followed.

While Dean headed for the back door, Sam checked the windows of the detached garage, shook his head: no car there, either. Dean popped the lock. They went inside.

Same layout as the Heffrons’ across the street: living room, kitchen, two small bedrooms. The place smelled rank, like cigars and bleach. It had the empty silence that confirmed no one was home.

The furnishings spoke of a Spartan existence, everything plain and cheap, a Wal-Mart life. Couch and loveseat, older TV. The bed was neatly made, no dirty clothes heaped in a corner or draped over a chair. No secret stash of porn hidden under the bed, either. The second bedroom held a treadmill and Bowflex machine, perfect for a wannabe cop looking to get buff. The attic was empty but for a few dusty boxes – miscellaneous sports equipment, an unused quesadilla maker, old tax records.

“Basement,” Dean said. “It’s always the basement.”

He didn’t care if Sam looked at him like he was nuts. He knew he was right.

It wasn’t the dank root cellar he’d been expecting. Chesley’s basement had been done up into a nice little den or home office. Old plaid-patterned couch and matching recliner, probably inherited from the guy’s parents’. Nice new LCD TV. Laptop computer on the coffee table.

Dean pointed at the computer. “See what you can find,” he told Sam. Then he went to work searching under the couch cushions, in the collection of DVDs lined up alphabetically on the TV stand shelves. Nothing at first. Then he got creative. Poked at the acoustic ceiling tiles. There was just enough space above the tiles to secret something away. He stood on the end table, grabbed the nearest lamp. Just a few tiles away was a stash of stuff. Dean jumped down from the table, popped out the right tile.

Abracadabra. A whole pile of porn came raining down.

“Holy shit,” Sam said. He came over to stand next to Dean, toed at the pile. There were DVDs and VHS tapes, magazines, a spilled shoebox of Polaroids. All little boys. All looked to be in the eight-to-twelve age range.

Dean didn’t bother with an I-told-you-so. Sam’s face had gone chalk-white. If the bob of his Adam’s apple was any indication, he was trying hard not to lose his lunch. “There’s more of it on the computer,” he said. “Password protected, but he had a damn Word file of all his user names and passwords.”

“Any pictures of the missing kids?”

Sam shook his head. “I, uh, didn’t look through them all. But the files were named by the date, so I checked the more recent ones.”

“Well, we know he’s a worthless piece of shit, but that’s about all.” Dean looked around the room one more time. “I don’t think he’s ever brought any kids here. Too many nosy neighbors around. I think he’s got some other place where he does the dirty work. Let’s get the hell out of here. See what we can dig up.”

Sam glanced down at the heap of porn. “Think we oughta clean this up?”

Dean was already at the bottom of the stairs. He looked back, eyes too cool for what they’d just seen. “Let the fucker be scared,” he said. “I want him to know I’m comin’.”

--

Back at the cabin, the bear head watched Dean pace and Sam click through search engines. So far they’d found that Grant A. Chesley had moved to Colorado from Texas seven months before, the timing just right for the start of the Durango disappearances, and, Sam noted, the end of a similar string in San Antonio. So far, no clues to his current whereabouts, though. “Try the county auditor’s site,” Dean said. “Maybe he’s got more property.”

“Already on it,” Sam said. Behind him, the shadow that was Dean moved in and out of his peripheral vision. He tried a property search for Grant Chesley but found only the house they already knew about. “No second property. Any other ideas?”

Dean stopped pacing. “Can you find his parents’ names?”

Ten minutes later, they had it: a six-hundred square-foot cabin outside of town. The deed was in the name of Chesley’s elderly mother, who currently resided in an area nursing home. While Sam checked their map, Dean pawed through their weapons bag. Came up with his Desert Eagle. Fucking majestic hand cannon. The perfect thing to scare the living shit out of someone. He looked it over with a feral grin.

“We should let the cops handle this, Dean.” Sam stood on the other side of the bed, checked the clip in his Taurus. “People aren’t part of our job description.”

Dean didn’t answer. He’d make sure that Chesley was their guy. He’d maybe give the asshole a chance to turn himself in. But he was gonna handle this tonight, one way or another.

Sam shook his head, yanked open the door. Dean followed, slipping the gun into his waistband, adjusting his jacket and shirt. As he pulled the door shut behind him, he huffed a laugh. The last time he’d used this gun, he recalled, had been the shtriga.

--

Chesley’s cabin, oddly enough, was less than a mile from the one they’d used as a parking spot during their search of the woods. Dean parked again at that empty cabin, for symmetry’s sake. They walked in the rest of the way.

The lights were on in Chesley’s cabin. There were two windows and a door in the front, same in the back. Dean nodded for Sam to take the front. As he circled around to the back, he pulled his gun, flicked the safety off.

They’d agreed to take a look in the windows if they could, not go in guns blazing, play it cool. Dean edged up to the side of a window. The checkered curtains were drawn, but he got a glimpse of the room: a rough-hewn pine table, a camping lantern, a man’s hands. A man’s hands holding a buck knife, reverently cleaning blood from its blade.

Dean didn’t think. Kicked in the door.

He went in screaming cop-speak: hands where I can see ’em, don’t move. Chesley froze, hands up, eyes wide – wider still when Sam busted in the front, gun drawn.

“Where is he?” Dean yelled.

Chesley’s hands went up a little higher. “Whoa, guys, I don’t know what you’re talking about. What’s going on?”

“You know goddamn well what this is about, Chesley. Where the fuck is he?”

Dean’s eyes flicked toward the table, the blood-smeared knife, the red-spattered rag Chesley had been using to clean it. The digital camera.

“Get up,” he said through clenched teeth.

Chesley just sat there. Sam took a step forward. “Dean – ” he started.

“Get the fuck up. Now!

Chesley stood so fast his chair tumbled over. He scrabbled back against the wall. Dean followed, stalking slowly, gun held straight, till Chesley didn’t have anywhere else to go and the barrel was flush against the guy’s forehead. “The kid you took.” Dean’s voice started out under control, rose with each word. “Where the fuck is he, Chesley?” Red faced and spitting now, so far gone he couldn’t even remember the kid’s name.

“Dean,” Sam said, a warning note in his tone.

“Bedroom,” Chesley whispered. “In the bedroom.”

“Sam, watch this fuck.”

Dean left Chesley under Sam’s guard, backed toward the other side of the cabin and the lone interior door, not overly eager to take his gun off this piece of shit. He turned the knob, let the door swing open.

The boy was bound on the bed, belly down, spread-eagle, his pale skin smeared with blood. His face was turned toward the door, sightless dark eyes already filming over. Dean pressed a hand to the boy’s neck though he knew he wouldn’t find a pulse. The body was still warm. The room smelled of blood and sex and shit.

For the next few seconds, he was only aware of the gun in his hand. Heavy. Solid. Then the gun was pointed at Chesley’s head again. “How many kids have you killed?”

Chesley licked his lips. “Okay, I know you guys are going for good cop, bad cop here, but I know my rights! F.B.I. or not, I’m not saying another word till I talk to a lawyer!”

“Just one problem.” Dean grinned, rammed the gun against Chesley’s cheekbone. “We’re not F.B.I.”

A hint of contempt in those pale eyes. “Who the fuck are you, then?”

“Your worst fuckin’ nightmare.” Dean slammed the butt of his gun into Chesley’s face. Blood and teeth sprayed out; the guy went down hard, cupping his mouth. Dean lifted his hand. Looked at the blood smeared there. Crouched down to wipe it off on Chesley’s shirt.

He pointed the gun. Looked down at Chesley. “How many?”

Chesley shook his head, stayed silent.

Dean’s boot slammed the guy’s ribs. “Try again.”

Chesley doubled over, gasped for air. Dean waited. Finally the answer ground out, “Four.”

“Bullshit.” Another kick. “That’s why you moved from San Antonio, isn’t it – the cops were getting too close. How many?”

“Okay, okay!” Chesley held up both hands. “Nine!”

“You sure?” Another kick. Dean sure was getting his money out of these steel toed boots.

“Yes! Jesus! Nine, I swear!” Blood sprayed out with the words. Chesley’s eyes squeezed shut; he dragged in a ragged breath.

“Dean.” Sam grabbed at his arm, kept his voice low. “That’s enough, man. We can tie him up, call the cops when we’re long gone from here.”

“Go look in that bedroom, Sam.” Dean pointed with his gun. “It’ll never be enough.”

They stared each other down for a moment. Then Sam turned, went to the other room to look.

Curiosity, Sammy. Dean heard gagging from the other room. He didn’t want his brother to see that. But he wanted him to understand.

Without a gun aimed at his head, Chesley seemed to regain some composure. He pushed himself up to sit against the wall, arms wrapped around his stomach. Blood still trickled from his mouth. “So you guys, you’re what – vigilantes? Righting the wrongs of the world?”

“Something like that.”

“You just don’t get it, do you? None of you get it.”

Dean stepped closer, the gun held loosely at his side. “You’re raping and murdering children. What else is there to get?”

Chesley rasped a laugh. “Oh, so you’re one of those. Probably, what, got monkeyed around with when you were a kid, so now you take it out on everyone else?”

“Shut up,” Dean muttered. He didn’t even know why he was listening. Should’ve just kicked the rest of the guy’s teeth out, made it a little harder for the fucker to talk.

“Who was it?” Chesley asked. “Daddy? Uncle? Gym coach?”

Dean’s hand tightened on the grips of his gun; he paced the small room. His rage was a buzz in the back of his skull, getting louder by the minute.

Chesley spat and grinned, showing off a bloody mouthful of jagged teeth. “I bet you were beautiful back then. Those long eyelashes. Pretty mouth. Cocksucking lips. But I’m sure you’ve heard that before – ”

The first shot blew out the back of Chesley’s head in a spray of blood and bone, brought Sam running. The second got the guy’s throat, spurting arterial blood. The next seven shots were pure overkill but felt goddamn good.

The trigger clicked on the empty chamber. Dean’s ears were ringing. Bluish smoke hung in the lantern’s light, the scent of cordite heavy in the air. Dean sucked in a deep breath of it. Better than the other smells.

He started picking up shell casings. The first one he touched was still hot, burned his hand. Sam never said a word, just wiped his sleeve across his mouth, tucked his gun back in his pants, and bent to help find all the brass.

When they were done, Dean found Chesley’s can of kerosene while Sam salted the bodies. He doused the main room thoroughly. Paused in the doorway of that six-by-nine bedroom before splashing fuel over the red-and-white checked curtains, the soiled sheets, the body still tied to the bed. He took one last look at the frozen expression of terror, at the boy’s empty eyes, before smashing the lamp against the floor, watching it all go up in flames.

His name was Noah Richards.

--

The desert rolled by at eighty miles an hour, roadside sagebrush caught in the headlights’ glare, towering mesas just shadows in the night. Dean stared straight ahead, hands tight on the wheel. Durango was almost two hundred miles in the rearview and he hadn’t touched the radio once.

The silence was getting to Sam. He and Dean had exchanged maybe ten words since Chesley’s cabin, most of which concerned packing up and getting the hell out of Dodge. Not like he really knew what to say. He was still busy replaying the night in his mind: the boy’s bound body, lifeless and bloody, the blank look on Dean’s face as he pulled the trigger again and again.

Sam still wasn’t sure what bothered him more – the things Chesley had said, or Dean’s reaction to them.

Another mile flashed by. Sam couldn’t take the silence anymore. “What kind of person can do that to a kid?” he asked. Who did it to you, Dean?

Dean was quiet for a long moment, breathing in the stink of arson on his clothes: kerosene and smoke. He didn’t quite trust himself to form a sane answer. He watched the dotted yellow lines slip by, let the Impala’s low rumble soak into his bones. Finally he just said, “I dunno, man. Sick fucks.” Even that wasn’t exactly what he meant: to say they were sick implied there was a cure.

Dean’s hands ached from gripping the wheel; he forced himself to breathe deep, unclench his jaw, loosen his grasp. He couldn’t look at Sam. Didn’t want to see what might be in his brother’s eyes – doubt. Fear. Pity.

He rolled the window down a crack, letting in a rush of cold wind. Flipped on the radio, scanned the dial till he found a station playing the Allman Brothers, “Midnight Rider.” He could do this. Durango was behind them. The job was done. He’d keep heading south through the night, hit Flagstaff, maybe keep going toward Phoenix. He knew a couple of decent bars in each town, good to make some money or just toss back a few beers. Maybe he’d find a fight or a fuck. Maybe it didn’t matter which.

Along the way, he’d look for desolate spots, deep gullies, gas station dumpsters, places to start getting rid of the Desert Eagle, piece by piece.

He’d hate to see it go. But it had damn sure done its job.

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A/N #2: On monster sources: I originally found mention of the creature in this story in the book Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth by Carol Rose. According to the short entry therein, this creature was known as “Siats,” and the females of the race (breed? Whatever.) were known as bapets. I could find very little on “Siats,” until I came across the book Ute Tales by Anne M. Smith, which listed several versions of legends about a creature called “Siants.” Smith was an ethnologist who collected Ute legends while living among the tribe in 1936-37. Whether the discrepancy between “Siats” and “Siants” is a typo or a difference in translation, I can’t say. I went with “Siants” since the tales in Smith’s book were straight from the tellers, rather than cited from another book.

On the time frame: According to a close-up of zombie-chick’s phone, the events of “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things” begin on August 22. In Supernatural: The Official Companion, Season 2, however, the temporary marker on her grave says she was buried on October 16. Things like this drive me nuts. So I pretty much split the difference and set this vaguely sometime in the fall.

The original title of this story was “A Call for Blood,” from the Hatebreed song of the same name. If you read the lyrics, I imagine you’ll understand why.

So…anybody reading this going to Media West? Anybody who doesn’t want my head on a pike after this chapter, that is? Drop me a line…

 

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