The suburban neighborhood was unusually quiet for a warm evening. The sun hadn’t gone down yet, but no kids were playing in the streets, not a soul walked down the street or a car passed by. But that’s why people loved the neighborhood besides the fresh air. It was peaceful, didn’t have the traffic of the downtown.
The Burman house stood out even among the other nice houses – ironically, because it looked so normal. It was not as fancy as the rest of the houses owned by people of the upper class, proving that sometimes, simplicity was the best. With its simple pastel coloring and dark roof, green lawn, fence and little decoration, the two story building looked nice among the too decorated houses, it was a picture of a perfect family house. The inside of the house matched the outside perfectly, the furniture and the decoration were fairly simple all over the house but it looked inviting. It fit for the children’s room too, the pink furniture went well with the white walls, which had cartoon figures decorating them.
The sounds of someone playing could be heard from the room. Claudia was busy playing with her doll, Molly. She was her favorite, even though she had Eve and Ann too. She had a tea party with them. She wanted to go outside, but her momma said she didn’t like it when she couldn’t see her and she was known for being a troublemaker.
As she was pouring some more ”tea” into the doll’s cup, she heard a noise, it sounded a lot like scratching. It could be a rat, she thought. There was one in the basement last week. She carried on chatting away with Molly, Eve and Ann.
”Claudia, dinner is ready!” her mother shouted from the kitchen. Claudia looked up.
”I have to go now, ladies, but you just have fun without me.” She excused herself from her dolls and got up to go to the kitchen. Then she froze. There was that noise again. It came from under her bed behind her. She turned around only to come face to face with something she had never seen before. It looked like a living statue, big, muddy and moving! The weirdest thing was the strange thing on its forehead. Claudia couldn’t place what it was. Claudia stood rooted to the ground until the statue reached out a hand towards her. Then she ran towards the door, but the monster yanked her back and clapped a hand over her mouth, silencing her screams as it picked her up and carried her away. She struggled, her small hands and feet kicking desperately at her attacker, but it was in vain. The thing carried her regardless and they were gone a few seconds later.
Just a few moments later the door to the room opened and Mrs. Burman came in, still muttering about daughters not listening.
"Claudia, are you sitting on your ear? Dinner is ready.”
But when she looked around, she didn’t see Claudia anywhere.
”Claudia?” she asked, but there was no answer and the room looked normal. Where could her daughter be then? Maybe she was in the bathroom? And what was that odd smell? It smelled like wood. She hurried out of the room shutting the door behind her.
The Impala stood waiting to be filled up in an otherwise empty gas station. The station looked filthy, but the Winchesters had been to worse places. The brothers were back on the road again after the gate opening. They decided to leave Bobby’s yard so they could go look for and hunt down the demons…and their dad. But they had yet to have a clue where the demons, or John, might be or what they wanted. Which is why Sam decided to call Bobby, who also kept an ear to the ground.
"So, no sign of him yet?” he asked hopefully.
"No, sorry kid, I wish I could help, but so far, nothing.” Bobby sounded regretful over the phone.
Sam sighted in frustration. "It’s like last year all over again.” And they all knew that year hadn’t been any better with the costant fear and worry for John who left them without so much as a word. It was for their safety then. Now, with their dad quite possibly being on the other side, it was much worse. Not knowing was much worse.
"Yeah, I know. Listen, I heard about a case. Kids going missing in Arizona. You’re close, and being that it’s kids involved, it’s worth a look at.” Sam raised an eyebrow.
”And how is that our case?” he asked, knowing that Bobby would not offer a case to them if he wasn’t sure. In that moment, the door on the driver side opened and Dean got in carrying two battles of water, some sandwiches and candy bars. He tossed them on the backseat and looked at Sam taking into the cellphone held to his ear.
Bobby? he mouthed. Sam nodded, while he continued to listen to their friend over the line.
”A girl, Claudia Burman, disappeared last week from her room, right under her mother’s nose and it was in the evening. There was nothing out of the ordinary in the room though. I didn’t have the time yet to look into it very far, but it did turn out she wasn’t the only one disappearing this way. It may be too early to tell, but I think it could be a rawhead. I know you want to find the demons and your daddy, but it’s worth looking into. The demons are not the only evil out there, you know that.”
”Yeah.” He sighed, he knew Dean wasn’t going to be that easy to convince. ”We can look into it. What did you say again, where was this?”
”Westlake, Ohio. And you two be careful.”
”You too, thanks Bobby.” Sam ended the call and put away his cell.
”So, did Bobby hear anything?” Dean asked expectantly.
”No, nothing of the demons, or Dad yet, but he did find us a new job,” Sam filled him in.
”Oh yeah, where?”
”He said Ohio, not far from here. He said something about kids disappearing. He thinks it’s a rawhead. But he didn’t have the time to do more research. I think we should look into it.”
”Sam, you know there are more serious things to worry about, like Dad and the horde of demons out there, and for all we know, it might not even be our kind of case.” And the old argument was back again. Sam knew he was in a losing situation, but that didn’t mean he would give up.
”I know, but the demons are not the only monsters out there and we have no idea where they are or what they want, much less where Dad is. But we can’t ignore people in need of help just because we’re busy.” Dean looked unsure, but he had to admit, Sam was right. They didn’t know anything and they had no clue where to start looking either. And they sure couldn’t ignore people in need of help. Besides, they had looked into less before.
”All right, but if it’s a bust, you do the laundry for the month,” he said finally. Sam grinned, enjoying the little victory for the moment. Dean started up the car and the brothers drove off towards their new destination.
A few hours later they walked up to the door of the Burman house. They wanted to start on the case as soon as possible. Dean loked around from the door while Sam knocked.
”Nice neigborhood, would be going stir crazy here though.” Dean remarked looking at the street and the fancy houses. The idea of staying in one place, especially in a place like this, didn’t appeal to him. He just wasn’t the type to settle down. He had a taste of what it was like when he had been attacked by that djinn, but it wasn’t his life.
The door opened and they were faced with a very desperate Mrs. Burman, dark circles were under her eyes and her hair was pulled in a messy ponytail. She looked at the brothers suspicously before asking, ”Can I help you?”
"Actually, we are from the FBI, I am Agent Gillan and this is my partner, Agent May,” Dean said introducing them.
”Oh, come in.” Mrs. Burman stepped to the side, allowing them to enter. ”What is the FBI doing here? I already talked to your agents,” she asked them, while she led the brothers into the living room, a little confused since she already talked to the FBI about her daughter’s case. The brothers shared a look.
”Well, We have new leads on your daughter’s disappearance, it turns out she was not the only one in this town to go missing,” Dean said cutting straight to the point.
The woman looked shocked. ”What do you mean, she is not the only one missing?”
”We mean that several kids went missing in the past few weeks,” Sam interjected. ”Can you tell us about Claudia’s disappearance?”
”I can only tell the same thing I told the police and even they hardly believed me. They never said anything about kidnapping, they thought Claudia just ran away, but everyone who knows her knows better then that. She was a troublemaker sometimes, like all kids, but she would never do anything like that. And now the FBI shows up,” she said with a frown on her face.
”We just have to check all the facts, Ma’am, so could you tell us what exatly happened?”
Mrs. Burman sighed. ”There is not much to tell. Claudia wanted to go outside and play, but I don’t like her being where I can’t see her, so I told her to play in her room instead. I called for her when dinner was ready, but she didn’t come down. After awhile I went up to her room to tell her to come down, but she was nowhere to be found and the room looked the same as always, only there was a weird smell, like wet or burning wood, but there was none of it in the room.”
”Was there anything out of the ordinary? Besides the smell of wood I mean, did you notice anything strange? In Claudia’s behavior or around the house?”
”No, I haven’t noticed anything.”
”Can we see Claudia’s room?” Sam asked finally. There really wasn’t much to go on. No description or anything that would give them a clue as to what took Claudia.
”Sure, if that helps. It’s upstairs, second door to your left.” Mrs. Burman stood up from the couch to show them to the room.
Claudia’s room was undisturbed, just as Mrs. Burman said. There was nothing out of the ordinary, no reason for the police to be suspicious. But the brothers didn’t look for the same things as the police. So far neither of them found anything, no traces of sulfur or EMF. Until Sam looked under the bed. There, hardly visible in the dim light was a muddy footprint.
”Hey Dean, check this out.” He motioned his brother over.
”Well that fits Bobby’s idea of a rawhead,” Dean said looking at it.
”Yeah, but this is an upscale neighborhood, not the usual place for a rawhead. And we have no clear description whatever it is.” Sam looked thoughtful, they had never seen anything like this before, it could be a rawhead, but he felt like they were missing something.
”Right, but it happened before and we have seen stranger things,” Dean contradicted.
”Yeah, but we need to know more,” Sam said. He didn’t want to go in guns blazing when they weren’t sure what to kill and how to kill it.
”All right, we will hit up the library then,” Dean concluded as they left the room.
Meanwhile, in a dark and wet underground cave the sounds of a small child crying could be heard. The place was ominous. There was hardly any illumination provided by the lights sitting on the ground and it was full of bones. There was a camera in one corner and a cage in the other.
Claudia had been there for days, she was scared and alone. She wanted to go home. She was dirty and bloody and her clothes were torn, she was cold, hungry and in pain. She had been locked in a cage ever since she got here with nothing but herself to keep her company. She wished at least she would have been allowed to take one of her dolls. She didn’t know why she was brought here or what the monster was that brought her here, nor did she care. She just wanted to go home. This place was scary and she hated the cage. But the keys were too far for her to reach . Her sobs and hiccups grew louder, but no one seemed to hear her.
”Somebody, Mommy help me!” she whispered between hiccups. She tried shouting, but her throat was already raw and she couldn’t do anything more than whisper now.
Then she heard something, like talking or muttering, but she couldn’t make out what was beeing said. Then, the muttering stopped and she heard footsteps. Was someone coming for her? Or was it the monster again? This couldn’t be good. Claudia scrambled back against the wall. She was scared. She drew her bloody knees up and hid her face. But what if it was someone who finally found her to save her? The prospect of someone coming to her aid and taking her home was enough to have her peeking up fearfully.
She could see the lights illuminating the place and the camera standing in the corner. She frowned in confusion, then she saw the monster coming in. She drew her knees up and hid her face, fresh tears rolling down her face again. She could hear it coming closer and closer and she curled up further agains the wall, if it was possible, even more. Finally, she could hear the creaking sound of her door beeing opened and felt heat. She looked up, curious and afraid at the same time. What she saw was the last thing she ever saw.
The monster leaned in close with its hands oustretched and glowing. Apparently that’s where the heat came from, because it burned. Unable to hold back, despite her raw throat, she let out a blood curdling scream that echoed through the walls and tunnels underground. She was still scrambling back, trying to escape, only to find no way out. And there was no one else to hear it, except for her and her captor in the abandoned area.
Hours after their visit to Mrs. Burman, the brothers were at the library trying to look up information on the remaining missing children and their disappearances – the latest, a boy named Jerimiah Riger, had vanished only a day ago. They had visited the other parents as well, only to get the same tale. Parents found no one in the room where the kids were supposed to be, as if they dropped off the face of the earth. The rooms were not disturbed and the only common thing was the smell of burning or wet wood and the muddy footprint. There was no description of a corpse turning up, which was weird. Sam sighed, running a hand through his hair. He had notes and books spread out in front of him and he was coming up with little. They found out more about the kids but there was nothing so far to connect them. We’re missing something. They needed more information and fast.
Dean was bored. He didn’t like libraries. It wasn’t that he couldn’t do research, but he didn’t like it. All libraries were the same. Tons of old books and computers, middle aged and ugly librarians. He glanced over at the librarian, who smiled at him in what Dean assumed was her version of a seductive manner. Dean shuddered, he was so not going to flirt with her. He didn’t get why Sam loved this place so much. But Sam was in his element here, it was his kind of place. He looked over at Sam, who had his nose buried in a book and was writing down something. But Dean couldn’t ignore his stomach any longer.
"Sam, we have been here for hours. I’m starving,” he said. As if on cue, his stomach chose to let out a loud growl. Sam chuckled. ”I’m serious, I’m hungry,” Dean said again.
Sam sighed. "Dean, I just want to make sure, we go in prepared,” he said. He knew they were missing something and it was driving him nuts. And the last thing he wanted was to go in under prepared and get himself or someone else, or worst, his brother, killed.
"What, you don’t trust Bobby?” Dean looked incredulous.
Sam looked him in the eye. "I do, but, Dean, I can’t find a good description anywhere and I just feel that something is off. Three kids missing with no witnesses, and no clues as to who took them? And no bodies? A rawhead would leave something behind after a day or so, Dean. You know that.” He knew he was arguing, but he couldn’t help it. He was taught to trust his instincts and they said something was missing and maybe they were in the wrong.
"Yeah, but it doesn’t have to have left it on the family doorstep. Sam, the MO fits – big, muddy monster taking little kids. It’s most likely dragging them up into the woods. That’s where we’ll find the remains. So let’s stop with the Nancy Drew routine and go kick its ass,” Dean said still not convinced. He was sure it’s a rawhead, it fit despite the odd, un-rawhead like stuff and that meant they could go out instead of sitting in this hole.
Sam sighted a long suffering sigh. "Dean I am telling you, we are missing something. And going in guns blazing and not one hundred percent sure is dangerous, you know that.” That was the best argument he had. He was sure they were off and it was going to bite them in the butt. He needed to know more.
Dean rolled his eyes at his brother, but he had to admit he was right, they didn’t have a lot to go on. "All right, if makes you feel better geekboy, you can search for more, but I’m getting some food.” Dean stood up. He was hungry and hated libraries, especially ones with ugly librarians who wanted to flirt with him, so it was no competition, food or boring library with an ugly librarian. If Sam wanted to do more research, fine, but he was out of here. Preferably someplace with good food and maybe a cute waitress.
Sam shook his head, amused, when the door closed. He was impressed Dean stayed this long. He knew Dean hated libraries and research, preferring to leave it up to Sam. And he knew Dean’s stomach, too. But that still didn’t quell the irritating feeling of something missing. They had too little to go on and Sam knew better then to go into a hunt ill-prepared. And knowing what happened the last time they hunted a rawhead was not making things easier. In fact he would be happy if he never hunted one again.
The image of his brother unconsious in that basement and the fear of losing him was burned in his mind forever. Or the fact that they should be looking for the demons that got out and their dad and they didn’t have a clue on their plans either. Yep, definitely too much like last year, he thought as he again picked up the papers and the book he was reading with a troubled sigh. He had a feeling this case was not going to be a cakewalk.