Riley left Miss Hasselbrook’s house knowing that his next step would be a trip to Lawrence, Kansas. That was where John’s post office box was, so maybe that was where his birth parents lived now. At the very least, maybe he could find some people that knew them, and could tell him where they were now.
He got home and found his mother in the living room with Patrick. She was cooing at him and making funny faces, and Patrick was smiling. Riley stood in the doorway and watched them. It all looked so safe and normal. Riley wished it was, wished that Sam was just in the kitchen or bathroom and would rejoin them.
It was a few minutes before Riley’s mom noticed he was standing there. When she finally looked up, she said, “Oh, Riley, good, you’re home. There was a man from the military here to see you.”
Riley stiffened. He hadn’t been surprised when no one from his and Sam’s old unit had showed up to her funeral. He hadn’t been expecting them to, although of course they had been notified. Riley and Sam had been discharged nearly a year ago, deciding not to re-up when they had discovered that Sam was pregnant. Their commanding officer had not taken it particularly well, and Riley’s only friend left from the Initiative, Graham Miller, had seemed to regard it as a virtual betrayal.
“Did he give you a name?” Riley asked, trying to say it casually and not give away how nervous her news made him.
“Oh, he did, but you know how bad I am with names,” she told him. “He gave me his card, though. It’s on the kitchen table.”
Without a word, Riley spun on his heel and went to the kitchen to retrieve the card. It was Graham’s, and there was a hotel name and room number written on the back. Nothing else, no request for him to call or visit, but Riley knew that Graham would expect to hear from him. The hotel was the same Holiday Inn that Willow had stayed at when she was here, and Riley resigned himself to driving back to Ames. He went back into the living room to tell his mother where he was going and to hold Patrick for a little bit. He still hated to let his son out of his sight, especially since he didn’t know what the demon had wanted, but he told himself that even if the demon returned, it wouldn’t be in the middle of the day.
Half an hour later, he was knocking Graham’s hotel room door. Graham opened it, looking the same as the last time Riley had seen him nearly a year ago.
“Riley,” Graham said, by way of greeting.
“Graham. What do you want?” Riley was not in the mood for pleasantries.
“Is that any way to greet an old friend?” Graham said.
“What do you want?” Riley repeated, his tone harsher.
Graham’s eyes dropped. “Look, Riley, I’m sorry about Sam,” he began.
“Yes, I’m sure you were. That’s why you made it to her funeral.”
“We were in the middle of an operation,” Graham said. “You know I would have been here if I could have.”
“No, Graham, I don’t know that,” Riley said. “You didn’t seem to like Sam very much.”
“I was jealous,” Graham said. “I’m not proud of it. But that doesn’t mean I’m not sorry she’s dead. I was hoping we were still friends.”
“Well, that depends,” Riley said. “Why are you really here?”
“We could really use you back on the squad,” Graham said.
“Graham, I have a son now,” Riley said. “He needs me, more than ever now that his mother is gone.”
“Don’t even think about finishing that sentence,” Riley said. “I’m out. For good, this time. Don’t ask me again.”
He turned to leave, but Graham stopped him. “There’s something major going down, Riley. Something big. Maybe apocalyptic. We could use your help.”
“If the world’s going to end, I’m not the one you need,” Riley said. “Call Buffy. She’s pretty good at keeping the world from ending.”
He turned and walked away, leaving Graham standing in the hallway staring after him.
When he got home, the house was quiet. Too quiet. Riley tried not to panic, but he raced through the house, searching. His parents and Patrick were nowhere to be found. Then he found a note on the kitchen table. His parents had taken Patrick to Riley’s grandparents’ farm. The knowledge of their whereabouts should have calmed Riley’s nerves, but it didn’t, so he called them.
His answered her cell phone and invited him to come over for dinner. His grandma was making fried chicken, usually one of Riley’s favorites, but he didn’t feel like eating. He told his mother he could use some time alone, and although it was clear she didn’t agree, she accepted his refusal and told him that they would be home by nine.
Riley tried to push Graham out of his mind. A small part of him was tempted by Graham’s offer. He missed the action. When he had decided to leave the military, Riley had been planning on finishing the graduate degree in psychology that he had been working on as part of his Sunnydale cover. The credits were real, though, and he had been planning on transferring them to Drake or Iowa State. In the meantime they had been living on their savings. Not much opportunity to spend their paychecks in the jungle, so they’d had a considerable nest egg. It would keep Riley going for quite some time, if he decided to postpone finishing his degree until he tracked this demon down.
He fired up the computer and got online, looking for a phone listing for John Winchester in Kansas. There were two, but neither had Lawrence addresses. Riley took down the addresses and phone numbers anyway, and then tried Mary Winchester. No results. Then he tried Mary O’Reilly. There was one M. O’Reilly, also not in Lawrence. Riley wrote this address and phone number down, too, but he didn’t call any of the numbers. What would he say? Are you my mommy? Sighing, Riley closed down the computer. He would have to go to Lawrence.
He told his parents he just needed to get away from Iowa for awhile. He could see that they were worried about him, but they didn’t try to stop him from going. His mother did suggest that he leave Patrick with them, but she said she understood when he told her he couldn’t bear to have Patrick out of his sight for that long. That was certainly part of it, but the other part was fear that the demon would return. Riley hoped that keeping Patrick with him would keep both his parents and Patrick safe.
Lawrence, Kansas was only a three hour drive from Huxley. Riley probably could have made it a day trip, but he wanted to be able to stay long enough to find out whatever he could. He didn’t even know for sure that his birth parents had ever lived in Lawrence; the only reason he was there was the P.O. Box.
He would have liked to start his investigation there, but he knew the post office wouldn’t give him any information unless he could impersonate someone official. That would be easy enough if he was alone, but no police officer or FBI agent would bring an infant to work with them. So, his first stop was the Lawrence Public Library. The building was not what he expected. Riley was used to public libraries being housed in boxy, institutional buildings with few windows. The Lawrence library was more like some of the university libraries he had been in, large and airy and open, with plenty of windows.
The reference section had what Riley was looking for: old telephone directories. John and Mary Winchester were first listed in the Lawrence phone book in 1977, and Riley found them in each subsequent directory through 1983. However, they were absent from the 1984 directory, and Riley didn’t find them in any other directory through the present, either. Riley wrote down the address listed in the 1983 directory, although he wasn’t sure what he would do with the information. If they’d sold the house more than twenty years ago, it was unlikely that he’d find many people in the neighborhood who remembered them, much less knew where they were now.
Next, he moved to the newspaper index. The library only had the last ten years or so indexed digitally; for the years Riley was interested in, he would have to use the printed indexes. He started with 1977, but he didn’t find anything until he reached the 1979 index. On January 24, 1979, a son was born to John and Mary Winchester. His name was Dean. Somewhere out there, Riley had a brother. Maybe more than one, he realized. Maybe he had all kinds of brothers and sisters that he didn’t know about. He wrote down Dean’s name and birth date, and continued searching the indexes. He didn’t find anything more until 1983, but in 1983 there were three entries. Riley started with the earliest one. It was the announcement of the birth of Samuel Winchester on May 2, 1983. Two brothers. He wondered if the younger one went by Sam. Even if he did, Riley knew he would never be able to call him that.
He sat for a moment and thought about his brothers. Dean would be 26 now, Riley calculated, and Samuel 22. They probably didn’t still live with their parents. Riley checked the most recent phone directory again, but no Dean or Sam Winchester was listed in Lawrence either. Riley hadn’t really expected them to be, but he felt the need to look.
He went back to the last two news articles from 1983 involving the Winchesters. Riley wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t what he found when he looked at the earlier of the two articles.Local Woman Dies in House Fire
was the title of the article. Riley read the whole thing twice. Mary Winchester had died in a house fire that began in her infant son Sammy’s room. Although John Winchester had managed to get both of his sons out of the burning house, he hadn’t been able to save his wife. The article didn’t say that she had burnt to death on the ceiling, of course, but to Riley it might as well have. And then something John had said came back to him. You knew it was a demon? It took me twenty-two years to figure that out.
Had John Winchester been hunting the demon all this time?
The final article was Mary Winchester’s obituary. The only new information Riley was able to glean from it was where his birth mother was buried, and her uncle’s name. Jacob Rothschilde. Another quick check of the phone directory revealed no listing of anyone by that name in Lawrence, even when he went back to the years when John and Mary were listed. Miss Hasselbrook made it sound like Mary had returned to her hometown after graduating from college, but maybe that wasn’t the case. He wasn’t sure the uncle was a relevant lead anyway. With Mary gone, he might not be in touch with the family anymore.
Patrick had been sleeping in his carrier the whole time Riley was researching, but he was beginning to show signs of stirring. Riley hoped he had time to check the directories one more time before they had to leave. He checked the 1983 directory under Automobile Repair, and to his surprise he found a listing. Guenther & Winchester. The next directory listed it as Guenther Automotive, but it was the same address. A check of the most current directory showed it still there. Riley wrote the address down, then gathered up his notes and hurried out of the library before his son started to cry.
He fed and changed Patrick in the car, cramped as it was, and then found a hotel for the night. It took three trips to get all of their things in the room, since Riley had to carry Patrick back and forth with him. It took a lot of stuff to travel with a baby. He set up Patrick’s playpen in between the two double beds and lined it with blankets and dropped in a few toys. He settled Patrick in, and then organized his notes. He would have liked to try searching for his brothers online. The hotel had free wireless internet access, but that did Riley little good since he didn’t have a computer. He decided it might be a good idea if he bought himself a laptop. He hated the thought of taking Patrick back out tonight, but it was only early evening and if he had to sit in this hotel room all night doing nothing he’d go crazy. So he bundled up his son and headed to the nearest Best Buy. He bought a cheap laptop and took it back to the hotel room. Once Patrick was happily playing in his playpen, Riley got out the laptop and established an internet connection.
He wasn’t sure why he decided to Google Sam Winchester first. Normally he would have gone by age, and started with Dean. Maybe it was the name. In any case, it didn’t take him long to find the article. Sam Winchester’s girlfriend, Jessica Moore, had been killed in a fire that started in the couple’s bedroom in the apartment they shared. There was no infant involved, but Riley thought the possibility that his brother’s girlfriend’s death in a fire was just a coincidence highly unlikely.
Was this demon stalking the bloodline? Riley had to consider it a possibility, although he’d never heard of such a thing before. But it hadn’t killed any of the related men; only their wives or girlfriends. Riley wanted to call Willow, but he knew there was one more thing he should check first.
He had been prepared to find another account of a house fire. He was not prepared to find an article declaring that Dean Winchester was a serial killer.