Chapter 19. Busted!
"I can't believe we didn't get ANYTHING out of him!" Dean grumbled in irritation as he and Sam walked out of the hospital. "That's an hour and a half I'll never get back, especially with squat to show for it!"
"The poor guy's scared Dean." Sam said patiently, though on the inside he was just as frustrated. "Not only because of what he saw, but with the cops making sure he stays quite about whatever it was, makes it that much worse. There was NO WAY we could of made him feel safe enough to talk to us. Not without getting him out of there...and that's out of the question."
"And what's up with that anyway? Why would the cops care about him freaking out about a spook?" Dean asked with a full on 'What The Fuck?' face.
"There must be something more to it." Sam agreed, frowning. "Though of course that would make it that much more difficult. Are you sure we should stay on the job?"
"I asked myself that same question." Dean answered reluctantly, as then got into the Impala.
"And?" Sam asked, once they both seated and their doors were shut.
Dean looked at Sam, shook his head, then sighed.
"We're already here Sam. It wouldn't feel right leaving the job before it's done. Not when there's people dying."
Dean started the Impala, his jaw working as he clenched his teeth.
"But if it looks as if things are about to go south, we'll have to get gone before the heat come down on us. 'Cause if they get us here, they may connect us to Colorado if those coroner cousins get to talking to each other again."
Family came first for Dean. And that was that.
"What are we going to do about Xander?" Sam asked, eyes shifting uncomfortably at Dean's sharp look. "We can't keep expecting him to stay in the motels while we're on the the job. You know how much we hated it when dad put us on lock-down."
"Not now Sam. One problem at a time." Dean said, his voice letting Sam know it was non-negotiable. " He stays on lock-down at the motel now, and we'll deal with things job by job later."
Dean could see that Sam was still feeling guilty about leaving the youngest Winchester brother behind the way they did. With a note, instead of face to face.
But Dean stood by his decision, and hoped that the kid had understood why he couldn't come this time.
"I'll give him a call when we get to The Triple Shooter. "Dean said. Then, before guilt could eat at his resolve to keep Xander out, he added. "And after this is over, we'll take a break from hunting, and do the tourist thing for awhile to make up for keeping him off this one."
Dean gave a look to Sam that asked.
'Is that gonna make you feel better and get you off my ass for awhile?'
"Even if he wants to see the largest ball of earwax? Or something gross or lame like that?" Sam asked doubtfully.
"First of all, who in their right mind would really WANT to see the largest ball of earwax?" Dean asked, so disgusted he looked as if he'd vomit.
"You know what I mean Dean. We aren't the touristy type. We had to practically hogtie and drag you to Mt. Rushmore. And THAT was when we were pretending to be just brothers on a road trip!" Sam reminded him.
"Well, this time we WON'T be pretending." Dean promised. "THIS time, we WILL be just brothers taking a road-trip."
"Until we come across something that needs killing?" Sam softly. Not at all judgmental, but more matter-of-fact.
"If we come across something that needs killing, of COURSE we kill it!" Dean said, as if he HAD said it judgmentally. " The difference is that we won't around looking for it."
"Especially since it appears that evil seems to have no problem finding the Winchesters whether we look for it or not." Sam said unhappily.
Dean sighed in frustration.
"I'm trying Sam. I really am."
"I know Dean, I'm sorry." Sam said, now looking out the window to avoid seeing the torn expression on his older brother's face.
It wasn't Dean's fault that the Winchester's couldn't seem to catch a break.
The nature of their family curse, as well as them being nurtured as soldiers, made it impossible to escape the endless fight.
Even when Sam fought to be 'normal', there were times where he ALMOST gave in and rejoined 'The Family Business' in Stanford. Times he felt like a fraud being 'Joe College'.
Especially when reading the newspaper, or watching the news on T.V. when a report sounded a little off. And the things they were reporting sounding more like what he and his family usually looked into.
Sam had to bury his guilt deep inside himself, and push forward with his desperate hope to live a normal life. But the guilt got to the point where he avoided the news as much as possible until his hunter reflexes went soft, and he no long saw monsters where others saw accidents and wild animal attacks.
He tried so hard not to remember that evil can't truly win as long as there were good people out there trying to stop it. Something he was sure Dean wouldn't even TRY to forget.
Sam snapped out of his guilt filled reflection as they pulled into 'The Triple Shooter' parking lot.
It seemed as if 'Happy Hour' started early in this small town, because it wasn't but 2:30 p.m., and yet Dean had to circle around twice before he was able to get a parking spot.
He and Sam shared a look before getting out of the Impala.
This was one weird town.
As Dean had promised, he got out his phone to call Xander.
He really dreaded the conversation ahead.
To steel his resolve, and to stamp out any smidgen of guilt before calling him, Dean allowed his brain to go where Dean had desperately tried to erase. He let himself remember seeing Xander laying dead on the floor. He let himself feel the desperate panic and grief he felt as he tried to revive him.
There was NO WAY Dean could let that happen again. No way in hell!
Dean clenched his jaw as he dialed the VIP #3 on his phone as he opened the bar door. He was hoping to use the 'I can't hear you, the bar's too loud excuse to him if Xander bitched too much about being left behind.
He and Sam stopped a couple of steps into the bar so that their eyes could adjust from the cheerful sunshine, to the dimly lit, smoke filled room.
It was when Dean had started to walk forward again that Xander answered the phone with a jumpy sounding.
The guilty greeting wasn't the thing that had Dean stopping again so fast that it had Sam running smack dab into him.
It was that the jukebox Dean had bypassed in order to talk to Xander was playing Lynard Skynard's 'Sweet Home Alabama', and Dean could ALSO hear the SAME classic country/rock song in the background on the phone.
"Where are you?" Dean demanded sharply, his eyes searching the dimly lit bar in case his suspicions were correct.
Dean hoped for the kid's sake that SOMEHOW it was nothing but pure coincidence that both of them were hearing the same song at the same time.
But since Dean wasn't that naive, or stupid, he was getting angrier with every second. Not only because Xander went against a direct order, but was putting his life in danger AGAIN without proper back-up!
"Where else would I be? You told me to stay at the motel." Xander squeaked.
Dean noticed that Xander hadn't said that he was actually THERE. Just that he was SUPPOSED to be there.
Dean said nothing, as he had just spotted his prey.
There Xander was, a few feet away sitting at a corner table at the rear of the bar.
His back was currently him, so Xander didn't see Dean take his long, angry strides forward to reach him. The kid was in full on babble mode, totally unaware that he was busted, and that Dean's eyes, like heated daggers, were targeting the back of his head.
In fact, it was the thinly built, factory worker type who sat across from Xander that spotted Dean and Sam first, as they strode purposely towards them.
The man said something , then pointed in their direction. Xander's back stiffened, and he cut himself off, mid-babble.
Xander stood and turned around so fast that his chair clattered backwards onto the floor, only catching a couple curious glances. Xander's face paled so much, so fast, Dean wouldn't of been surprised f the young man fainted.
Dean allowed no sympathy, and he could tell that Xander could see it.
"I can explain." Xander said, still so surprised and panicky that he was still talking into his phone.
"Time to go. NOW." Dean said, his voice as steely cold, and hard as his now darkened blue grey eyes.
"Hi. I'm Craig Miller." the older man said, holding out his hand to Dean to get his attention away from the young man he had been speaking to.
Craig instantly regretted it as the newcomer's death glare aimed itself at him. He almost expected the younger man's eyes to turn red, like 'The Terminator'. He had to dig deep down inside himself not to back away, and high tale out of his way. He forced himself to man up and defend the kid.
"Don't be too mad at the kid fella. It's normal for kids his age to be curious about alcohol. I myself used to sneak into bars at his age, didn't you?" Craig asked with a nervous laugh. His throat was SO dry, it came out sounding like a dry cough.
"And as you can see, we just got our drinks, so he hasn't even drunk anything yet." he added, indicating the untouched drinks on the table.
Xander's face brightened considerably as he snatched the unopened bottle, and nearly shoved it towards Dean.
"It's your favorite!" Xander squeaked when Dean had made no move to take it. "And look! Chicken wings!" He added, his voice rising with his panic.
He turned to point to the said poultry product, not only to try to placate his seething oldest brother whose appetite equaled his own, but so he would have an excuse to not look at Dean's heated, angry glare.
Again, Dean made no move towards the offered olive branch.
Xander wrung his hands around the cold, wet bottle, almost dropping it. He was SO nervous he wasn't sure if the temperature and moisture of his hands were just from the bottle, or from fear as well.
"Craig was just telling me who he thinks might be the ghost's next targets." Xander said desperately.
"Oh I'm sure they have better things to do than listening to ramblings from an old drunk." the mid-forties man dismissed in embarrassment.
Getting a kid to listen and believe him was one thing, but the thought of telling complete strangers who were grown men was different. ESPECIALLY when one of those men looked as he could kill him with just one more glance at him!
"They really don't." Xander insisted, keeping the older man from leaving with a hand on his arm. Then he looked at the silent Sam with pleading, panicked stricken brown eyes. "Do you?"
Maybe if they could get enough relevant information that saved lives from Craig, they would forgive him.
"Yeah, we'd really be interested to hear what you've got to say." Sam cleared his throat, and gave Xander a 'you SO owe me' look as he shook Craig's hand.
"Sam." Dean said through clenched teeth as Sam sat down at the table, clearly not wanting to stay.
"Dean." Sam answered back calmly, giving him a pointed look that reminded Dean that they had come here to speak to people about the 'accidents', and that someone not only wanted to speak to them, but seemed aware that it wasn't accidents, but murder done by a spirit.
It wasn't very often at all that that happened.
When that wasn't enough, Sam gave him another look that reminded Dean that they hadn't gotten anything at the sanitarium.
The brothers warred with each other wordlessly for a full minute before Dean let out an angry, frustrated growl, and yanked the last remaining chair back and sat down heavily.
"This isn't over." Dean almost snarled at Xander, then snatched the cold beer and basket of chicken wings from him.
Dean looked to the nervous man next to Sam, surprised and a little impressed that he was still there.
"So spill." Dean said in a not unfriendly, yet not warm tone, then took a vicious bite from one of the wings.
"Like I was telling Johnny here-" the man started, before cutting himself off at the sharp look from Dean.
"Johnny?" Dean asked with a WTF look on his face.
"Yeah. The kid said his name was Johnny cash. I told him I knew it was bullshit, but he stuck to it." Craig laughed loudly.
"Johnny Cash? Seriously?" Dean asked, shaking his head in disbelieving disgust, then took another huge bite.
"Go on." Sam said to Craig, though he did give Xander a quick disbelieving look himself, before giving the older man his full attention.
Craig looked at the two men warily. They did indeed seemed interested in what he had to say....maybe a little TOO interested. Maybe being taken seriously wasn't the best thing after all.
Especially if he told the men what he was about to tell the boy.
He could end up in jail, or end up sharing a rubber room with poor Robert........or even worse!
Sharing conspiracy theories with his best friend, or even with this strange, but likable kid was one thing. But these two had a smell of authority to them (especially with their fancy suits compared to his working stiff, factory overalls).
"We were just bull shittin', that's all." Craig laughed nervously. "You know, drunk talk."
"But you hadn't even started drinking yet." Dean reminded him, sounding annoyed that the first lead they had was trying to weasel out.
"Oh....Right. I forgot." Craig swallowed hard, finding his throat was suddenly dry.
Craig took a long drink from his glass of dark draft. He wished he had ordered a bottle so he could pretend to still be drinking when he had downed the last of it. Or would of ordered the pitcher he and Randy usually drank together.
"Speaking of forgetting.....another thing I forgot was that I need to get back to work soon." Craig said, face brightening.
In his twenty-five years working at the tractor factory, Craig NEVER thought he'd EVER WANT for his lunch break to be over!
He actually had a little more than half an hour, but these guys didn't have to know that!
"Even more of a reason not to dick us around." Dean growled, the hard glare stopping the man attempting to leave.
"Dean. Why don't you get us some more beers." Sam suggested, seeing as how Dean was still too upset about Xander to be patient with the older man. And seeing as how Craig was already ready to rabbit, Dean wasn't helping anything.
"Fine. I will." Dean said grumpily, knowing why he was being sent away & not caring. Then seeing Xander eye the chicken wings, he added. "And I'm taking the wings."
Xander's stomach growled, reminding him that he hadn't ate yet. He had been looking forward to those wings the whole time he had spoken to Craig!
Of course he knew it was HIS fault for giving them to Dean in the first place. He hoped that it, and the beer (that he hadn't really wanted in the first place, but was Dean's favorite) would earn him at least a LITTLE bit of brownie points in Xander's favor.
Xander snapped his attention back from the chocolate goodness, to watch Dean walk away. He could tell by the tension in his back that he was still very much pissed.
"He's mad, isn't he?" Xander winced. "As in grrr.. 'Hulk Smash' kind of mad."
"Uh..yeah." Sam said. If he was the kind of guy who said 'duh', he would of. "He told you to stay in the motel, didn't he?"
"In that he had wrote the one word sentence that said 'Stay'." Xander confirmed, then tried something that he didn't think that would work, but thought was worth trying.
"But he didn't say WHERE he wanted me to stay. For all I knew, he COULD of meant to stay at the bar!"
Sam looked at Xander for almost a full minute, not believing that he would even THINK of trying THAT.
"If I were you, I would NOT try that with Dean. Not if you want to stay with us." Sam warned.
"I can see I'm in the middle of some sort of family squabble that's none of my business....so I'll be going now." Craig cleared his throat, and again stood to leave.
"Please Mr. Miller. We'd really like to talk to you about what's happening here in your town." Sam said in an apologetic tone, then added urgently. "Lives could depend on it."
"See, now that's the kind of thing that makes a guy WANT to split." Craig said, slumping back in his chair in defeat. He was wishing that he would have snuck away when the two were talking.. though he had a feeling that if he would of tried, the angry one would of tackled him. Maybe that was the real reason the extra tall one had sent him ahead. To block off his escape.
Sam waited patiently for the older man to go on. If he pushed him too far, he knew he wouldn't be able to stop the man from leaving again short from pulling out his fake badge (and hope the guy doesn't noticed that the badge doesn't have the name Sam on it), or physically restraining him against his will.
Because Sam could see it in the man's eyes that it was getting too real for him. Maybe if Xander could have had a bit more time with the guy before they had gotten there, he could have gotten everything they needed to stop the killings.
He hated to think that, as he himself was upset that Xander had went behind their backs and disobeyed.
"I assure you, that any information we obtain from you will not be used against you in any way. No one will know it was you who had told us. We aren't here to get anyone arrested, just here to stop the 'accidents'." Sam said seriously.
Sam watched the man visibly relax, then letting out a long breath that the guy probably hadn't known he was holding.
"The kid asked me if there was anyone actin' funny or suspicious lately."
"And are there?" Sam prompted, leaning forward, when Craig paused.
"You didn't hear it from me?" Craig asked, nervously.
Sam nodded, trying and succeeding in not spooking the guy by losing his patience. Sometimes it was easier to keep his cool when Dean was there, since his older brother tended to be the 'bad cop', to his 'good cop'.
"One of the most popular waitresses here, Mandy, married our Sheriff a couple of weeks ago." At Sam's unimpressed look, Craig continued, looking around to make sure no one was listening, even though what he was going to say was common knowledge, he didn't want witnesses hearing that it was HIM telling the strangers it. "Mandy HATES the Sheriff! He's been obsessed with her for years, comin' in every day, and stayin' her whole shift unless there's a call that needs him specifically. She always said that if he weren't the Sheriff, she would have put a restraining order on him."
"And now they're married?" Xander asked, making a WTF face."When did THAT happen?"
"A week after the accident that killed Margie and her baby the Sheriff came in to announce their engagement and had a whole party. Even paid for a round of drinks for everyone...it was the cheap stuff, mind you...but still...With him being such a penny pincher, that's unusual for him too."
"only a week? That's not at all suspicious." He said sarcastically.
"People 'round here learn not to second guess the Sheriff boy." Craig said, giving the boy a stern look.
"So you think that Mandy killed Margie and her baby. And that the Sheriff found out and blackmailed her into marrying him?" Sam asked, relieved that they seemed finally getting somewhere, but not liking that they might have some more uncomfortable encounters with the law than they were fearing.
"It sure sounds like something he'd do." Craig affirmed after another quick, paranoid glance. "Everyone in town knows he always looks the other way if the price is right, or it serves him in some way. But again, you DIDN'T hear it from ME. I just figured you ought to know about how the law works around here, if your plannin' on stayin'. Though I can't imagine ANYONE stayin' on purpose." the last almost under his breath, then got back onto what he was saying. "You gotta be more careful on who you talk to when your askin' things he don't want answered. There's quite a few people that might squeal to keep on his good side." Craig warned.
"Thank you for all your help Mr. Miller. We'll defiantly take that under advisement." Sam smiled, standing up and holding out his hand.
This time it was Craig who stopped Sam from leaving by holding onto his hand after shaking it.
"I know it was wrong...Mandy's accident... But it WAS an accident. I know Mandy. She don't ever hurt anybody."
"Tell that to the mother and baby that she killed." Xander said under his breath, though Craig appeared to of heard.
"It's not all her fault." Craig defended his favorite waitress loyally. "Most everyone in her section, and even some NOT in her section buy her drinks all the time. That night even more since it was 'Triple Shot Friday'!
She don't ever ask for them, but fools like me sometimes like to show off and flirt with her. She's real nice about it."
"I'll bet." Xander said, thinking about how Tracy laid it on thick to them earlier. This time, Craig either didn't hear, or decided not to address Xander's skepticism.
"if she did do it, which she may NOT of, she didn't mean it!" Craig said, almost desperately. "But if she DID, I beg that you'll still stop whatever it is, from getting her."
"Are you one of the customers that bought her drinks?" Xander asked suddenly, after Sam promised to do everything they could do to save Mandy.
"Yeah. All the time." Craig admitted, his face reddening with embarrassment.
"Were you one of the ones buying her drinks that night?" Sam asked urgently, seeing what Xander was getting at.
"Yeah." Craig confirmed sheepishly, his face tinging red even more. This time in shame. "Me and Randy was takin' turns buyin' her drinks, all the while making a bet on who could get the most smiles and who'd she'd flirt with more." Craig said miserably. "We're both old, divorced, and have dead-end jobs. These here girls' flirting are the best action we old farts can hope for anymore."
"I'm sure that's not true." Sam said kindly.
Craig made a face. He should have known that these young, good looking boys wouldn't understand. So he went on to defend Mandy the best he could.
"Mandy's one of the good ones though. She's not only a knock-out, but a sweety as well."
Xander snorted, and Craig frowned at the young man, then continued.
"She don't let us spend too much if she knows we're hard up on cash, unlike the others. She'll even sneak a free beer or two to me and Randy, or her most loyal regulars sometimes if they're havin' a real hard day if no ones watchin'."
Sam promised again that They would do everything they could to save her, and Craig thanked them gratefully.
"You might want to think about being like Randy, and staying away from here until this is over. If it IS Margie, it seems as if she's getting everyone that she thinks is responsible. She could have got the deputies 'cause they helped cover up who did it. So she might decide to get anyone that she knew supplied Mandy with alcohol too." Xander advised, not wanting the old guy to get hurt.
"I'm starting to agree." Craig nodded, looking pale as he quickly stood up and placed the money for his drink, and tip, on the table .
"And remember to avoid the road that the accident happened on. We've noticed there were a few of the deaths that happened mile from the bar, but on the same street." Sam added.
"Will do." Craig nodded again, looking even more pale, then walked quickly away.
Xander watched the older man practically run out the door, then caught Dean's eye at the counter.
Xander's heart sank as Dean mouthed the words. 'Car. NOW.'
Xander sighed, then laid down his own bills on the table, hanging his head down.
This was NOT gonna be fun.
He almost hoped that Margie would be out there waiting for them, so he wouldn't have to face Dean right now.