gen, words:- 1,700 circa.
They strolled onto the crime scene as they'd done countless times before, the elder with a cocky swagger and the younger a step behind, hovering at his shoulder.
A well oiled double act.
Brothers, but rarely did anyone outside of their two-man team get an insight into the true identities of the handsome duo that confidently approached the officer in charge of the investigation.
Strange deaths were all part of their ongoing business of trying to save people from supernatural evil. This time though, they'd been far too late to save the poor dismembered corpse scattered across the bloodied grass.
Dean pulled out his ID, flashing it quickly under the officer's nose.
"Agent Hunter. This is my partner Agent Archer," he offered, nodding at his brother who'd already composed his features into the sympathetically competent expression he'd used with success many times in the past when fishing for information.
"Sheriff Kearns," the officer answered shaking their hands. "You boys sure showed up quick. Didn't think the FBI would be interested in a local murder."
"Well, we were in the area and thought we'd take a look. Something similar happened to a young girl a few weeks back a county over, so when we heard…." Dean shrugged.
"Terrible thing," Sam said glancing over at the body, attempting to draw Kearns' attention and stop him from coming up with any more questions.
The sheriff passed a hand over his face,
"Yeah. You think you've seen it all, then along comes somethin' like this. That poor girl torn to shreds, and no-one heard a thing, not even the next door neighbours. It's like she was killed with a mute button on. No-one could get hacked up like that without screaming their heads off."
"Could be she was drugged," Dean shrugged. "Then chopped to pieces with all the calm in the world. But," he added. "Why would they do it on the front lawn of a suburban house in a quiet family area when the killer could have dragged her off to a more secluded location? "
"I doubt any psycho who slaughtered a girl as if she was an animal is gonna have logical reasons for what he does," the sheriff replied.
"Yeah, well if it's okay we'd like to take a look," Dean added, taking a step towards the mangled body where the pathologist was making her initial examination.
The sheriff waved a hand in permission.
"How many's that now Sammy?" Dean whispered to his little brother.
"All in all six girls have been chopped into dog food, one each in six different counties. "
"Yeah, well from the research, whatever this thing is, it feeds and rests on cycles of seven so we've got one more chance to kill the son of a bitch before it disappears on another seven-year interval."
"Don't worry Dean, I'm practically certain where he's gonna take out his last victim and we'll get him then," Sam assured him.
Dean huffed as he took in the mangled cadaver of the victim. "If we'd gotten here sooner, maybe we could've saved her."
Sam clapped a hand on his sibling's shoulder in silent sympathy.
Strange to think it was once he who felt overwhelming pity for the victims, and to a certain extent he still did, but something inside Sam had dried up, the spark of empathy he used to have was no longer as strong.
Maybe he'd just seen too much, been witness to such suffering that he'd developed a shell through which very little now filtered.
Dean's compassion for the victims on the other hand seemed to have increased over the years, especially where kids were concerned.
Sam sighed, their lives were a mess. They weren't getting any younger, their bodies bore the scars of many years of hunting and he wondered what would come first, an incapacitating wound or their death, for he couldn't imagine he and Dean would live out a happy old age.
He pushed the melancholy thoughts aside and bent down to take a better look at the victim.
"Poor kid," Dean whispered. Something had effectively ripped the body to pieces, parts of which were missing. But this time the monster must have been disturbed, for with previous victims the grisly remains had been even less.
"The body been identified yet?" Sam asked the sergeant who had come over to stand beside them.
"Yeah. We've got a name. Marie Evans. Sixteen years old."
Sam raised an eye-brow. "Quick work. There wasn't much to go on for an ID."
"She lived here. Didn't come home last night from a friend's house. Her mom discovered her lying on the grass when she came out in the early hours to look for her. Recognised her tattoo."
He pointed to a snippet of skin hanging off a bone where the little design of a stylized rose could just be made out.
"Poor woman…" The sheriff shook his head sadly.
His mood changed abruptly at the sight of a van breaking to a screeching stop on the other side of the police line..
"That's all we needed, the local press showing up. I'd better go deal with them," the sheriff grunted, making a bee-line for the duo exiting the vehicle, one brandishing a camera and the other a microphone.
At his side, Sam felt his brother unexpectedly tense up.
"Don't look now, Sammy but there's someone there who can blow our aliases. Time to go."
"Dean?" Sam frowned looking back, but he only had time to get a glimpse of a young woman with dark curly hair who was edging forward towards the sheriff, before Dean practically bundled him around the corner of the house.
"Dude, What the hell!" Sam complained at his brother's manhandling. "We're supposed to be FBI, not kids playing hide and seek!"
"We'll show up later when the press has moved out," Dean answered making his way cautiously around to the Impala.
Sam's curiosity made him want to stop and get Dean to explain but he went along with his sibling's need to get away. Dean would spill later in the car.
Once the Impala had left the crime scene at its back, Sam turned waiting eyes on his brother.
"So, what was all that about?"
"Didn't want to run into the reporter," Dean huffed.
"She was some-one I used to know, Sam. It's no big deal. Just didn't want to bump into her again."
"Why not? Knowing your one night stands, she probably knows jack about who you really are anyway."
"Oh, she knows all right. Anyway, we can FBI our way down to the station later; see if pathology has come up with anything useful."
Sam reverted to silence but being Sam he could never let anything go.
He frowned. He'd only caught a glimpse of the young woman but there had definitely been something familiar about her.
Then Dean would never have been spooked by some girl he'd had a mindless fling with. No, she had to be someone his big brother knew well.
For a moment, Lisa's face flashed before his eyes, but it definitely hadn't been her. Yet…..."
"Cassie!" he mouthed, turning to his brother. "It was her, wasn't it?"
The fact that Dean didn't answer assured Sam his guess was correct.
"Dude. She knows who you are and what you do. There would have been nothing wrong with saying hi!"
"That's not the way it works Sammy. We said 'ciao' the day we kicked the possessed truck's ass. I... we .. didn't need to say any more good-byes."
"Why not? You could have taken her to dinner, gone over old times," Sam continued. "Remember how you were always bugging me to go visit Sarah."
"That's different. "
"How's it different, Dean?"
"Were you in love with Sarah? I mean really in love, the way you were with Jess?"
"Were you, Sam. Be honest."
"No," Sam admitted. "Not like Jess. Maybe... one day, but I was never gonna get the chance."
Dean glanced over at him. Even after all this time, Jess' name still had the power to hurt his little brother.
"What you're saying is that you loved Cassie like I loved Jess?" Sam said eventually.
"Maybe," was all Dean admitted, but Sam didn't need to hear his brother say the words to know they were true.
"I get it," Sam sighed. " If Jess were to walk by me right now, alive and beautiful as she was back then, I wouldn't have the courage to show myself to her to her either. I'd just hope she'd found someone else and was happy."
"Yeah, " Dean mouthed. He felt the same way.
Jess had died because of the Winchesters. Cassie was still alive, but Dean knew the best thing you could do for those the Winchesters had loved was to stay as far away from them as possible.
He'd obeyed Sam's last wish before he'd thrown himself into the Cage, and gone to Lisa .
Well, look how that had turned out. He'd had her and Ben's memories wiped, yet even now they weren't completely safe. Demons and angels could still use the little family against him. Dean could only hope they never would!
He could feel the sadness leaching off his little brother at the memory of his tragic lover.
Not that the sight of Cassie had brightened up Dean's own day. Too many memories; but it was better this way. At least she hadn't burned on the ceiling.
"What you say we go eat, Sasquatch?"
Sam gave him a watery smile.
No-one understood a Winchester like his brother, for sure as hell, no-one else could.