Title: Consumed Memories
Characters: Sam, Dean, John
Genre: Gen, hurt/comfort
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural except in my dreams where schmoop abounds.
Warnings: Rated for show level violence and language. Spoilers for Season 1.
Word Count: ~4,200
Summary: After a seemingly sucessful hunt, Dean begins acting strangly and it gets progessively worse. Will Sam be able to solve the mystery and fix the problem in time to save him? hurt!Dean caring!Sam
Chapter 2 How to Manipulate Your Older Brother
Ellen Salter's husband, Neal, opened the door to their knock. He looked at their badges with sorrow filled eyes, but invited them in with a slight nod when they explained that they were investigating the circumstances surrounding his wife's death.
Sam's throat clenched with compassion as he took in the man's broken appearance. Neal was obviously not coping well. He sported a three day's growth of facial hair and his clothes were wrinkled like they'd been slept in. The house was cluttered with children's toys strewn around the floor in the living room and dishes piled up in the sink. There were several casserole dishes on the counters and Sam recognized them as sympathetic offerings from friends and neighbors.
"You have kids?" Dean asked, indicating the toys.
"Yes, two boys, they're upstairs right now." Neal smiled and his expression softened.
"Mr. Salter, we're sorry to have to bother you at such a terrible time, but can you tell us anything that might help explain what happened to your wife?" Sam asked gently.
"It doesn't make any sense." Neal's voice came out as a strangled whisper. "Ellen had been working long hours, her job was stressful and she was tired, but other than that she was perfectly healthy."
"Was it common for her to stay at the office late?"
"She often told me she was one of the last people to leave in the evening. It made me nervous for her to be there alone at night, but she was never the kind of person to let things like that stand in her way. She was just finishing up a project and was looking forward to some down time. We were planning a family vacation to Florida." Neal looked away, but not before Sam saw the unshed tears glistening in his eyes.
"Did she mention seeing anything out of the ordinary? Can you remember her acting strangely?"
"No, nothing like that."
"OK, if you think of anything, anything at all, will you give us a call?" Sam handed Neal a piece of paper with his cell phone number on it.
"All right." Neal absently put the paper on a cluttered table where it would probably stay untouched.
As they were leaving, Sam looked up the stairwell and saw two boys sitting side by side on the top stair. They were close in age, maybe a couple of years apart. Sam guessed their ages to be 11 and 9. The younger boy had blond curly hair and the older boy had straight sandy brown hair. As he watched the older boy put an arm protectively around his brother's shoulders. The sight made Sam feel sad and nostalgic for his own childhood at the same time.
He left the house with a heavy heart. Damn, that just never gets any easier. I'd rather face an angry wendigo than have to intrude on another family's grief. He felt even worse knowing they hadn't gotten any information that would help them in solving the mystery of Ellen's death and keep it from happening to someone else.
Dean came alongside him and jostled his shoulder as they walked. "Hey, don't think about it so hard. We're going to figure it out."
Sam just nodded, not sure why, but finding consolation in the gesture and words.
Scott Old had been single, but his sister, Nancy, lived in the bordering city of Virginia Beach. Nancy was reluctant to let two strangers into her house, even after they flashed their CDC badges, but after peering hesitantly at Sam's empathetic, sincere expression, she relented and stood away from the door, indicating that they could come in.
Even though Nancy'd had a few more days to deal with her loss she was obviously still struggling. Her eyes were red-rimmed and puffy. She answered all their questions with a tone of bewilderment. She couldn't think of anything that would explain what had happened to Scott. He often worked late, was driven to the point of obsession when he was working on a case. She had seen him on the weekend before his death and he had been fine. He hadn't mentioned seeing anything strange and he hadn't acted abnormally.
It was another dead end.
"So, all we know it that whatever this is strikes in the evening and its shy, only attacks people who are in the building alone." Sam summarized as they drove back to the downtown area. He was frustrated at the lack of progress and waste of time.
"Dude, you're slipping. We know a lot more that that." Dean clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth and gave Sam a mock disappointed look.
"How do you figure?"
Dean quirked a little half smile. "Sammy, I'm surprised at you. First of all, this thing thrives in an urban setting. How many creatures have we come across that pick off their victims from inside an office building? Not many." Dean answered his own question. "Second, it hides during the day when the building's crawling with people and no one even suspects it's there. That means it's intelligent. Third, when it strikes, it's completely deadly and leaves behind no trace. I'll be interested to talk to the coworkers tomorrow to see if they noticed anything unusual or if there was any sign of a struggle. I'm betting there wasn't 'cause I think whatever this is has some type of camouflage or is invisible. That certainly narrows down out list of possible suspects, doncha think?"
As he finished his assessment, Dean glanced over at Sam from the driver's side and arched one eyebrow, a completely smug look on his face.
"Not bad, Sherlock." Sam admitted grudgingly. "But how do you know it's a creature and not a spirit?"
"Don't know for sure, but spirits aren't generally this stealthy. There are usually sightings from people who live to tell the tale. We shouldn't rule out the possibility yet, but, my gut tells me we aren't dealing with a spirit this time."
Sam had learned long ago to respect Dean's hunches. He was rarely wrong about these types of things.
They pulled up to the office building half an hour later. It was twelve stories high and surrounded by other buildings on all sides, some of which were much taller. Many of the windows were dark, but even at this late hour, several windows were brightly lit, indicating that despite the recent deaths a few hardy souls continued to work well past normal business hours. The street lights all around the building were on and there were lights on the outside of the building illuminating the surrounding area. They wouldn't be able to sneak around undetected, so they walked purposefully up to the front door of the building as though they had every right to be there. It was locked and there were no doormen or security personnel in sight. Upon walking around the building, they discovered a back service door, also locked up tight.
"So, this creature must stay in the building all the time. It lives in there 'cause it can't sneak in after business hours." Sam conjectured.
"That's my guess, too, Sammy Boy." Dean stuffed his hands in his pockets and nodded towards the Impala, indicating that they were done with the evenings surveillance and should take off back to the motel.
The motel was a welcome sight after the day's activities. They hadn't done anything all that rigorous, but still, they had gotten a lot accomplished what with the drive, the interviews and the casing of the office building. Sam wanted to eat the sub and chips they had picked up for dinner, take a shower, and do a little more research before going to bed.
Dean changed into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt as soon as he got into the room, muttering something about not wanting to have to wear the damn suit any more than absolutely necessary. He then turned on the TV and sat with his back against the headboard of his bed, his sub and chips in his lap. Apparently, he didn't find anything worth watching because as soon as he was done eating he left the room and appeared a few minutes later with a canister of salt and his silver knife. Ever the protector, Dean salted the window and door and tested the knife's sharp edge before placing it under his pillow.
"What's the plan for tomorrow? Sam asked as he finished his own sub.
"We need to interview the office workers during the daytime and then we'll stake out the office building from the inside during the evening. It would be good if we had some idea of what we were up against before we spend the night in that building, that's where your geek skills come into play."
Sam rolled his eyes but then his expression became hopeful. "Interviewing the coworkers won't take very long and then we'll have some free time before have to go back to the building in the evening, right?"
"Yup, what do you have in mind? Don't tell me there's a museum or bookstore you want to scope out, please." Dean groaned.
"It wouldn't hurt you to spend a little time in a museum, but no, that's not what I had in mind."
"I saw some brochures in the lobby of the motel. There are harbor cruises that leave from the dock right downtown. The cruise only takes a couple of hours and the guide explains some of the naval history of the area. It would be something different. We haven't spent much time on a boat. But if you don't want to, I could go alone...or maybe we should just find something else to do…" Sam trailed off looking down at the floor.
Dean watched Sam with a bemused expression and the edges of his lips twitched up in a slim smile. "We should go on one of those cruises, sounds interesting."
"Great, I'll make reservations for tomorrow."
Sam kept his face carefully hidden until he reached the bathroom where he broke out in a huge dimpled grin as soon as his brother couldn't see. I should definitely write a book on how to manipulate older brothers. Dean is just too easy sometimes. The best part is, this cruise is something he'll love, but not anything he would have thought to do for himself.
Sam marveled, not for the first time, about the contradiction that was his brother. He had many layers and no one, not even Sam or their Dad, had ever managed to peel away all of them. Dad…Dad had the best chance of anyone, but he never paid attention to the emotional well-being of his kids. Sam suspected that no one had ever managed to get to the core. The thing was that even when he managed to peel back several layers and catch a glimpse, Dean always managed to create new ones. It was a defense mechanism, Sam knew that, he'd been studying Dean his whole life. When he was young he had studied his older brother out of a sense of hero worship and a desire to be more like him. As he got older, he just wanted to know who his brother really was. The outer shell, the image he portrayed to the outside world, was tough, competent, cocky, and self-assured. And he was all those things, but on the inside he was also sentimental, caring, and self-deprecating. His penchant for throwing himself into the line of fire might seem reckless to an outsider, but Sam knew that Dean simply felt other people's suffering keenly and would rather suffer himself than see anyone else in pain, especially his family. In spite of the strict 'no chick-flick moments' rule, Sam had learned, after years of careful watching, that sometimes Dean craved comfort. He just rarely allowed himself to receive any.
After his shower, Sam came out of the bathroom dressed in sweatpants, his normal sleeping attire. He booted up his laptop and began researching the history of the building they would be spending the evening in tomorrow. Nothing popped out at him as being pertinent to the job, no one had died in the building before the two recent deaths, there were no articles describing unusual events occurring on the site, and there were no reported missing persons' cases involving the area. Not a spirit then.
Just then Dean finished up his shower and got into his bed wearing only his boxers and a t-shirt. "You ready to wrap it up? We need to get some sleep tonight just in case we end up in that building all night tomorrow."
"Yeah, I'm just finishing up. You were right, I couldn't find any evidence of spirit activity."
"Heh, of course I was right, Sammy."
Breakfast was a simple affair of coffee and breakfast sandwiches from the 7-11 within walking distance of their motel. Sam had gone online to get them reservations for the noon harbor cruise and lunch would be served on board. They decided to talk to the office workers first thing in the morning, come back to the motel to do some more research based on any information they received, and change into casual clothes for the cruise.
They met with no resistance when entering the office building during working hours dressed in their nondescript suits. There was no security guard and no metal detector. They easily found their way up the elevator to the tenth floor where the offices of Wright & Sheppard, Attorneys at Law were located. The receptionist carefully considered the CDC badges before paging Laurie Haskins, the paralegal who had discovered Scott Old's body.
"Would you show us the office where you found Mr. Old, please?" Sam requested once introductions had been made.
"Certainly, right this way." The attractive twenty-something answered before preceding them down the hallway and indicating a large corner office. "He was in his chair, slumped over his desk. At first I thought he had just fallen asleep. I knew he was planning to stay late the evening before, but I was still shocked. I mean, I'd never seen the man sleep at his desk before. Of course, then it turns out he wasn't asleep." Laurie glanced at first Sam and then Dean, letting her gaze linger.
"Did it look like there had been a struggle of any kind? Anything knocked off the desk, papers pushed out of place?" Dean's question was accompanied by a charming smile.
Laurie flushed prettily, "No, everything was just as he always left it."
"Has anyone noticed anything strange going on in the office?"
"Strange in what way?"
"You know, objects misplaced, something seen out of the corner of your eye that's not there when you turn to look, a person no one knows wandering around the floor? Anything really."
"Not that I've heard. What would any of that have to do with Mr. Old's death?"
"We're just trying to investigate every possibility." Dean gave Sam a knowing glance, a slight wink and Sam heard loud and clear, 'See Dude, I told ya this thing's sneaky.' without Dean having to say a word.
They made their way slowly around the office, stopping to pick up a knick-knack here, a piece of paper there, but they found no clues of the supernatural variety. Sam even pulled the EMF meter out when no one was watching, just to be sure, and scanned the office, not getting a single blip. Satisfied that they hadn't missed anything important, they took their leave of the attorney's office and headed to the elevators.
Next stop was the 4th floor and the Certified Public Accounting firm of Sebastian Young & Associates. The reception area was well appointed, the furniture's dark satin finish gleamed as if it was carefully polished daily. Trade publications were strategically placed on the two tables flanking the receptionist's desk. As they walked towards her, the receptionist smiled a greeting.
"Can I help you."
"Yes please, we're here to investigate Ellen Salter's death. We're with the Center for Disease Control. Can we talk to whoever found her?" Sam spoke up as they both flashed their badges.
"Oh my." The older lady exclaimed. "That would be Brandon Wells and Chris Petrovich. Mr. Petrovich is out of the office today, but Mr. Wells is here. Just a moment and I'll see if he's available."
She pressed a few buttons and breathily began speaking into her headset. "Mr. Wells, some men from the Center for Disease Control are here to talk to you about Ms. Salter."
Brandon appeared within moments. "Hey, what's all this about? Was Ellen sick? She wasn't contagious was she?"
"Not that we're aware of, but we need to ask you a few questions." Sam interceded in his best 'calming the hysterical civilians' voice. "Where was Ellen when you found her?"
"She was by the elevator. We have a client going through a merger so Chris, Ellen, and I were staying late to get the documents filed. We decided to call it a night at around 9 o'clock. Ellen left the office about 20 minutes ahead of us. When we got to the elevator she was on the floor. It was uncanny, I mean, she was fine in the office, and then, just like that, dead."
"Besides Ms. Salter, did anything else catch your attention?"
Brandon cocked his head to the side and pondered the question. His gaze subconsciously flickered to the wall just outside of the reception area and he flinched slightly. For someone used to reading people it was obvious that Brandon hadn't told them everything he knew. Not yet anyway. It was up to Sam to get the man to open up.
"What did you see? This could be really important." Sam was all eyes and earnestness.
"It was nothing." Brandon hedged. "It couldn't have been." He mumbled to himself.
Dean exuded an air of calm nonchalance as he crossed his arms and planted his feet in a gesture that clearly said 'we aren't going anywhere until you spill you guts.'
With a huff of breath Brandon admitted, "Ok, this is impossible, I know, but there was a dark shape moving along the wall, pulsing before it disappeared. It may have been a trick of the lights. Sometimes the fluorescents can play tricks on your eyes, you know? Especially if you've been putting in some long hours."
Jackpot! Sam kept his features schooled into mild interest, but he caught Dean's upraised eyebrows over the top of Brandon's head. This might be the piece of information they needed.
Hopeful that they had enough information to solve the mystery, Sam's fingers flew over the keyboard back at the motel. He knew just which websites would be the most promising. And…voila. "Found it!" He exclaimed.
Dean paused his brisk pacing. "Whatcha got?"
"It's a Stalker. All the pieces fit. Stalkers are extremely rare, but the ones that have been found live in cities, usually apartment buildings, but an office building would probably work too. They're small, only about three feet high, and coal black when they're visible at all. You'll like this part, they're corporeal."
"Awesome! What kills'em?"
"Let's see…consecrated iron rounds should do the trick."
As Sam continued to scan for additional information, Dean crouched by the weapons' bag sorting the weapons into two piles. Sam surmised that one pile was for weapons Dean thought would be useful for this hunt and the other pile was for weapons that could safely be left behind as they wouldn't be necessary. The pistols and consecrated iron rounds went into the 'take' pile, the shotguns and salt cartridges went into the 'leave' pile. The never-leave-home-without-it salt canister, matches, and holy water joined the pistols in the 'take' pile. Dean hesitated while regarding an axe before it too landed in the 'take' pile. Always be prepared, Dean was a regular Boy Scout.
"What does it do to its victims? How does it kill them?"
"There's not a lot of information to go on there. I can only find one instance of a survivor. That person was alive, but seems like his head was pretty messed up. He couldn't remember much of anything regarding the attack and insisted he was 24 years old when his actual age was 27. All of his memories from those three years were gone."
"Wait a minute, Sammy. Did you just say the survivor was alive? Isn't that a little bit redundant?" Dean was all wide eyed innocence.
"You think you're funny, huh?"
"Oh come on, Sammy, it was a little bit funny."
"Do you want to hear this or not?" It was best not to encourage Dean when he got into one of these moods.
"I do, I really, truly do."
"OK then. The theory goes that the Stalker feeds on the memories of its victims starting with the most recent memories and working backwards. At the very end the person forgets how to breathe and then its lights out. If the Stalker can be killed quickly enough, the consumed memories are released, but like I said, there's ever only been the one survivor and all of this is just a theory."
"The one survivor who was found alive, you mean." Dean grinned, unwilling to let his joke go.
"Yes you jerk, the one survivor who was found alive."
On to ( Chapter 3 )
Back to ( Chapter 1 )