The train whistle was still a faint background noise in the moonless night. Stacey chewed angrily at a piece of her dishwater blonde hair. I’ll show them, she thought. They think they can get away with messing up my life? I’ll totally destroy theirs, they’ll feel so guilty. I’ll be all they can think of.
A short burst of wind blew an empty soda can across the ground behind her, and she turned to watch it roll away. She pushed her glasses back up on her nose—why couldn’t I have that awesome surgery that Carol Williams in Algebra class had done? No, I’m stuck as the class ‘four-eyes.’ I’ll win in the end though. They’re going to be so sorry!
If she squinted—guess I need new glasses, and she laughed at the irony—she could just about see the bright white headlight shining from the powerful Amtrak engine. It was on time for once. All those stupid morons all they care about are their football games and cheerleading practice, she thought. Nobody gives a crap about brains anymore. Not even those stupid teachers. ‘I’m sure you’re misreading the situation, Stacey’, they said. ‘It’s your imagination, Stacey,’ said the dumb-ass Principal. Well, he’d be sorry, too. I win.
That’s a loud whistle, thought 13-year-old Stacey Anderson as she stepped onto the railroad tracks.
“Do you think those sprites are okay, and serious about being on our side?” Sam talked, but kept his gaze locked to the computer screen, not sure he wanted to see Dean’s reaction.
“What about what Bob said? That John was told to—” how was he going to even talk about this with his brother when they were, and always had been, at such odds over their parents?
Dean sighed dramatically. “I’m not entirely convinced Bob was really telling us the truth, or at least all of it.”
“Like just the version he wanted us to know?” Sam pursed his lips.
Sam ran his fingertips along the edge of his laptop. “I don’t want to fall in line and turn into some evil monster.”
“Sam,” Dean growled out a warning and flicked at the television with the remote, scrolling through channels too fast to be paying attention to what was actually on. “We’ve been through this, over and over, and I’m tired of it. You’re not going evil, you won’t turn into some monster and if anyone thinks you’ll get with the program and do what you’re told they haven’t been paying attention the last twenty-three years.”
Sam went back to surfing the net, looking for what he wasn’t exactly sure, but he had the feeling there was something he needed to see. Dean harummppffttted and settled back, snickering every now and again at something on TV.
“Here’s something.” Sam looked up from his laptop to where Dean was again quietly surfing channels. When the only acknowledgment was a shifting of Dean’s eyes in his direction, he continued, “a teacher, principal and two students from the same school in Ohio have all died within the same two week span.”
“Died how?” Dean switched off the TV and shifted on the lumpy bed till he was facing his brother.
“First one was a suicide, a 13-year-old walked in front of a train. The adults are iffy, one was shot and one took a bunch of pills. No suicide notes from either, so the cops aren’t completely writing them off that way, although the one who was shot had residue on his hands. The other kid was twelve, hit and run, no witnesses.”
“Anything linking them together? Other than the school? And maybe the type of death?”
“Not so far.” Sam continued reading. “Hmm.”
“Father of the first victim is psychic.”
“Dude’s psychic and he didn’t know his kid was about to step in front of a train?” Dean asked, face wrinkling in disgust. “Messy.”
Sam shrugged. He of all people knew things didn’t always work perfectly in the psychic world. “He’s helped the police and FBI—all over the state of Ohio—with missing persons cases. That’s all it says.”
“And is that all you’ve found for the rest of deaths?” Dean asked.
“Yeah. We’re not that far away, though, it’s a town called Fostoria.”
“Let’s go then, this place was getting boring.”
Getting to Ohio, more to the point, small-town Fostoria, Ohio wasn’t much of a chore. It wasn’t like Dean hadn’t spent his life driving all over the country. He liked to drive, it was peaceful and the car never complained about possibly going evil or wanted him to stop the Apocalypse.
The outside of the Fostoria Motel belied the wonders of mini-fridges in the rooms. That was about the only attribute, other than as far as Dean could tell the roof didn’t leak; he was a bit sick of water, deep, churning, infested water. He traded dry for noisy: the clatter of trains running nearby day and night certainly had to be a selling point for the motel.
“So, who do we start with? Father of the train girl or family members of one of the adults?” Sam asked as he shut down his laptop.
“Why don’t we work our way backwards? Start with the last victim.”
Sam flipped through his papers. “That would be the principal, Randy Kochinowski. Shot himself in the head.”
“Sounds like suicide to me,” Dean commented as they headed out to the car.
“Yeah, especially since he had gunshot residue on his hand and the gun was in his lap.” Sam slid into the car and pulled the door closed. “Only reason they’re not closing the case is because of the other deaths.”
“Yeah, that would make me suspicious,” Dean said. He steered the car out of the parking lot and into the street. “What are the family members saying?”
“That their husband, or wife in the teacher’s case, would never kill themselves. They were happy, had lots to look forward to, the usual stuff. The Kochinowskis were actually leaving this week on a second honeymoon to Hawaii. I can certainly see why his wife would be fighting the suicide theory. Turn left at this next street.”
Sam rummaged around in the glove compartment, pulling out two badges. “FBI agents McCartney and Jones are on the case. It should be the third house from the corner.”
The Kochinowski residence was a small mid-50’s home in a quiet cul-de-sac. The lawn and garden were nicely manicured; it was obviously a well-maintained property. Dean pulled to a stop and parked across the street.
As they started to cross over an old Ford pickup truck slowly cruised by and Dean grabbed Sam’s arm to keep him from being hit.
“Stupid ass. Needs to learn how to drive.” Dean made sure the road was clear then gave Sam a shove. “And you need to remember to look both ways. I know I taught you better.”
Sam simply snorted and craned his neck to look in both directions before following his brother.
A young, red-eyed teenage girl opened the door to their knock.
“I’m Sam McCartney and this is my partner Dean Jones.” Sam flashed his FBI badge. “Is your mother in? We’d like to speak with her.”
Without saying anything the girl left them standing at the door and disappeared down the hallway. A few minutes later an older woman appeared.
“I’m Mrs Kochanowski. My daughter said you wanted to talk to me?” Her own eyes were red-tinged and the lines of grief on her face made her look years older than she probably was.
“Yes, ma’am,” Sam said softly. “We’re investigating the recent deaths from the Middle School. We’re very sorry for your loss.”
She raised her eyebrows. “You don’t think it was a suicide? The police—”
“We’re keeping an open mind, Mrs. Kochinowski. There’re a few too many coincidences,” Dean added. “Can we come in?”
“Yes, of course, I’m sorry.” She moved away from the entryway and led them into the living room.
“Food.” Dean smacked his lips. “That fancy GPS you have there find us a place?”
Sam fiddled with his phone.
“Never mind,” Dean said and made a sharp left hand turn onto Plaza Drive. “Here’s one.”
Sam looked up at the seedy looking corner café, aptly titled “Café”, and wrinkled his nose. “Yeah, looks…just your speed.”
“It’s food.” Dean parked the car and they crossed the street, Sam making exaggerated motions as he looked in both directions first. He wasn’t quick enough to dodge the smack to the back of his head, though.
The inside of the café wasn’t as bad as the outside had warned and the brothers were invited to “sit anywhere, I’ll be right with you” by an extremely chirpy lady with white hair and rosy, wrinkled cheeks.
“Think she was born the same time this place was built?” Dean whispered, then shrugged as Sam simply glared at him and slid into the booth across from him.
Chirpy lady turned out to be “Maude”—Dean did not snicker—who took their orders and brought their drinks over. The food was quick to follow and they were left in peace to quietly discuss the case.
“Okay, so what do we have? A girl stands and watches a train mow her down. The school principal, who by all accounts is happy, not depressed and has no reason to die blows his brains out. And Big Bird hatches an egg that Halle Berry pops out of and…?” Dean trailed off, waiting.
“Yeah.” Sam picked at the wrapping on his straw, but didn’t peel it off or use it.
“We need to take you to get that horn in the middle of your forehead shaved down.”
“Sure.” He’d moved on to playing with the food on his plate.
“What the hell’s wrong with you?” Dean finally asked, obviously tired of Sam’s monosyllabic grunts.
“Nothing, my ass.”
“What if I end up evil?” Sam toyed with a french fry.
“How do you know?”
“I know you, Sammy.”
“But nothing, Sam. I raised you. I changed your stinky diapers, warmed your bottles, taught you how to tie your shoes, wiped your snotty nose, cleaned up your puke—”
“Okay, Dean, I get the picture.”
“No, you don’t. I KNOW you. And I’m not going to say this again: there’s not an evil bone in your body. You don’t have it in you to be evil. So shut up about it. It isn’t going to happen.”
Sam opened his mouth, promptly shutting it at the glare Dean sent his way.
They finished eating in silence. Once the bill was paid they headed back out to the car.
“Ready for victim number two?” Sam asked.
“Yeah. The teacher?”
“Elaine Ramsey, taught physical education.” Sam soberly directed Dean to the house and in minutes they were parked in front of another 50’s style, well-kept up house.
Muttering something about Stepford homes Dean knocked on the front door. It was opened by a young, twenty-something male with a squirming toddler in his arms.
Sam started to show his FBI badge. “I’m Sam McCartney --”
“Sorry, can you hang on a minute? I was just about to call…I need to get Emma’s bottle…Um…Jesus. Come in. Sorry.” He nudged the screen door with his knee and Sam pulled it open the rest of the way. “This way.”
Sam and Dean followed him into the kitchen where a baby bottle was sitting on the stove in a pan of boiling water. They waited while the man they assumed was Paul Ramsey grabbed the bottle, tested the contents and settled himself and the little girl in a chair. Once she was quietly sucking away at her lunch, he spoke.
“You’re, what? FBI?” The bags under his eyes matched the exhausted tone of his voice.
“Yes, I’m Agent McCartney and this is my partner Agent Jones.” Sam quickly explained why they were there and quietly offered their sympathy.
“There was no reason…the police think it was suicide, but there was no reason for it.” Paul’s voice was shaking despite his obvious attempts to keep his emotions at bay. “She loves, loved her job, Emma and I, our new house…we’re just your normal, boring, happy family.”
“There wasn’t anything she was upset about?” Sam asked. “Maybe something going on at school?”
Paul thought for several minutes. “She was upset about one of her students committing suicide. Little girl walked in front of a train. ”
“Stacey Anderson,” Sam said. “Did your wife have any thoughts on why a thirteen-year-old girl would kill herself?”
“She was being bullied by her classmates, but I don’t know if that’s enough to kill yourself over. Kids are bullied every day; it’s a normal part of childhood. And it’s certainly not a reason for Elaine to commit suicide. The girl was in her PE class, but she was just a student, one of many. They weren’t close.”
“Was she home alone when she died?” Dean asked.
“Just her and our daughter. I had to work late that day and didn’t get home till close to 10 pm and by then…” his voice broke.
“Thank you for your help. We’re very sorry,” Sam reiterated as he and Dean stood.
Again there wasn’t much they learned, other than the person committing suicide had no symptoms, no reason and no history of drugs, drinking or depression.
“Victim number three is 12-year-old Paul Mullie,” Sam said as they headed back to the car and piled in. “Hit and run on the way home from school.”
“Any witnesses?” Dean started to pull away from the curb, then slammed on the breaks, his arm automatically reaching out to keep Sam from going through the windshield. “What the hell?
“Isn’t that the asshole that almost hit me this morning?” Sam asked, pealing Dean’s arm away from his chest. “And I’m not four-years-old anymore, dude, your hand isn’t gonna be much help now.”
“Shuddup,” Dean muttered as the Ford pick-up disappeared around the corner. “Think it’s following us?”
“Could be. Small town, though, maybe it’s a coincidence.”
Dean just grunted and steered the car on its way.
“You need to turn left up here. Kid’s parents live down that street.” Sam flapped his hand around Dean’s head.
The house Paul Mullie had lived in—and they soon found out was born and grew up in—was more modern than the others, a seventies split-level. Dean wondered when he’d managed to collect so much useless information about small town architecture. The drive was a steep one, so they parked on the street and hiked up.
Mark and Mary Mullie—that had to be some sort of joke—were exactly what Dean expected and from the look Sam wore, what he expected, too. They were the picture of suburbia. Neat, clean pressed jeans—the woman probably ironed them and her underwear—she wore a short sleeved pink blouse, he had on a nice, ironed and neat button down shirt.
Mark held his wife’s hand while they talked and did most the talking. Paul had been quite popular in school, more friends than his parents could keep count of. Honor Roll, drama club, golf club and he was taking advanced classes at the high school. A bright young boy with loving parents and an unlimited future.
Until he was found dead in a ditch along a road he often walked down on his way to the golf course.
“We realize the police have no leads, Mr. Mullie, but we find it a little alarming that there have been so many suspicious deaths associated with your son’s school,” Sam said quietly. “Is there any reason you can think of that someone might want to murder Paul?”
“Murder my son? He was 12 years old!” Mr. Mullie protested.
“People kill babies, age has nothing to do with anything,” Dean said bluntly.
“What? It’s true.”
“It’s okay,” Mrs. Mullie said softly and took a deep breath. “He’s right. And if we want the person who killed our son caught, then we have to think of these things and answer questions like this. Unfortunately, the answer’s no.”
“Did he know the girl who killed herself?” Sam asked.
“Stacey? They were in the same PE class, but they didn’t hang out together. She had her friends and he had his,” Mrs. Mullie answered.
“Was he upset about her death?”
Mr. and Mrs. Mullie glanced at each other. “He didn’t really say much about it,” Mr. Mullie said. “It was just something that happened to a girl in his class and that was it. I don’t think he knew her, really.”
“Could we have the names of some of your son’s friends? A lot of times kids know things parents don’t,” Sam pointed out.
“I’ll try, but there were so many, he was so well liked among the other young people of this town.” They waited quietly as Mrs. Mullie jotted down some names and addresses, then took their leave. They’d barely stepped off the porch when they saw the tail end of the Ford Pick-up disappear around the corner.
“Okay,” Dean said. “Twice might be a coincidence, but three times? We’re being followed.”
“Or is he second-guessing us? Let’s see if he shows up again. He isn’t going to know which of the kids on this list we’re going to see first.” Sam slid into the car.
“That makes two of us.” Dean pointed out as he started the Impala and pulled away from the curb.
“The closest one is…” Sam fiddled with his phone GPS. “Chris Riddle. Turn right on Front Street. It’s number 446.”
They pulled to a stop in front of an old Victorian house, desperately in need of paint and a good lawn job.
“Stepford-less, thank God,” said Dean as they walked up the path to the front door, dodging a slew of toys and roller skates.
Sam ignored his brother and knocked on the door. It was opened by a little girl of about three who stared at Dean, then up and up at Sam. Her eyes widened and she ran away screaming something about a beanstalk and a giant at the front door.
Dean exploded in laughter while Sam glared at him. “Shame on you, Sammy, scaring little girls like that,” he spit out between guffaws. “Innocent little thing, never hurt you…”
“Shuddup, asshole,” Sam muttered as middle-aged woman came to the door. “Mrs. Riddle?”
“Ha. No wonder you scared my daughter, you are a big boy.” Her tone of voice insinuated the “big” entailed more than just Sam’s height and Dean stopped laughing.
“We’re from the FBI, agents Jones and McCartney. We need to speak with your son Chris.” Dean stepped slightly in front of his brother. “Is he home?”
“Yeah. What does the FBI want with a 13-year-old kid?” Mrs. Riddle didn’t budge from the doorway.
“We need to talk to him about his friend’s death. He was a witness to the hit-and-run, correct?” Sam asked.
She glanced from one brother to the other, then finally stepped back to let them in. “Chris! Get down here, some people to see you,” she hollered, before adding, at a slightly lower decibel, “I’m going to be here while you question him. I watch Law and Order and know my rights.”
Sam managed not to roll his eyes at her comment. He was grateful when Dean kept his mouth shut.
Chris was brat and a bully, Sam recognized the type before the kid had even opened his obnoxious mouth. Once the latter happened it was all Sam could do to keep Dean from smearing the over-weight snot across the floor, kid or not. It was hard to believe this kid was a friend to the oh-so-perfect Paul Mullie.
Said kid was completely oblivious to the reaction he was receiving from the Winchester brothers as he rambled on about Stacey and what fun it was to pick on her. Something she totally deserved, according to him and his friends.
“So did Paul bully Stacey, also?” Sam asked, making a concerted effort to keep his voice even.
“Yeah. We all did. She thought she was better than us, always sucking up to the teachers and getting in our way. It’s fittin’ she ended up a smear on the railroad tracks.”
Sam could almost see the quotes hanging around that last sentence and wondered what adult had said it in his hearing. He glanced over at Mrs. Riddle, whose face was slowly turning red. Ah, that’s where.
“So you didn’t see any cars near your friend that day after school?” Dean tried to get things back on track.
“Nope, no cars,” Chris said blithely.
Sam wondered if he even cared that his friend had been killed. Then the way the kid had said “no cars” hit him. “Any motorcycles? Trucks? Vehicles of any kind?”
“Just a dirty old truck going around the corner.”
“And you didn’t think to let the police know about this truck?” Dean asked, jaw clenched.
“What kind of truck?” Sam quickly inserted before Dean could say anything else.
“Just a dirty one. Maybe reddish. Old.” Chris looked up at the clock. “Are you done now? My show’s coming on.”
“Yeah, we’re done. Come on, Sam.” Dean was up and out the door almost before he finished speaking. Sam jumped up and followed. Neither said a word to the Riddles as they let the front door slam behind them.
When they pulled away from the curb, both looked around for the Ford pick-up. It wasn’t any where in sight.