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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sands & the Wrangler (9)

By the time Scott woke up, it was midday. He couldn’t much tell you which day it was the mid of, they all seem to blur together when you hit the road as long as he has, but he did notice that a rain had swept by, and recently. It was too late and far too dark to tell what part of town he had reached so he pulled off the side of the road and made camp for the night. Inclement weather never seemed to faze him when he slept in the Tahoe. Scott had taken that thing hunting with him long after everyone else had figured he sold it, and as a result it had become as comfortable to him as his own bed. That is if his own bed was a reinforced death machine full of nasty surprises for any supernatural beast that tried to touch it, and it was almost completely untraceable by most law enforcement or baddie with an eye for these sorts of things.

An email waits in his private drop box. He keeps his fingers crossed for new leads on what he was chasing. The message comes from Nick, its straight to the point with a link to a crime in the local area and just below it a single incomplete sentence. “Oh dang…” The words seem innocuous but the fact of the matter is they are code. What it means to Scott is that he should continue on the heels of a group of monsters terrorizing New Mexico before making contact with the group. Something is wrong, this is certain, but it’s being handled for now. Until then the engines roar back to life and Scott drives for the nearest vacant motel. 

Dressed in a suit and wearing dark sunglasses he approaches the first officer he nears on the scene. Only a few police cars remained. They were ready to seal off the area when they got the call saying the FBI was en route. They cooperated amiably and a handful volunteered to stay behind to meet with an agent. Scott puts on his best poker face and shows his ID to which the police officer smiles while presenting his own. “Good morning Special Agent Winchester,” he says, “You’re brother was here just last week.” Scott grinds his teeth. “My brother, officer?” 

“Well, yes sir. Sam?” Scott rolls his eyes behind his shades; his brother Sean must have stopped through and used the alias a week ago. “No relation,” replies Scott, displaying an internal grin. “Sorry about that… So the body was found over here…” 

The police were not certain what to make of the grisly murder. Blood stained walls, trails of gore left behind with the victim’s innards being pulled from the still living body, and other such things dominated the small home. Room by room signs followed, the disaster seemed to be staged over the length of the entire house. What was most puzzling to them was the scraping of what looked like sharp blades up the cement walls which provided for privacy and ultimately blocked the sight of any potential witness. But even more so it was curious to Scott what kind of werewolf didn’t need the full moon to transform, and what it was doing working with a vampire. There were signs of a third party but Scott couldn’t focus on them while under the eye of the police. Something else fed on the body, and it took a very conservative amount for themselves. He had no solid evidence for it yet but it would explain a third resting place for the body where little damage was done, only enough to be visible to a person looking for it. He has no choice but to come back later. “Thank you gentlemen for your help,” says Scott on his way out the door. “Special Agent, what should we tell the boss?” Scott clears his throat, “Let him know this one is all yours. It’s not the guy we’re looking for.” The officer shakes his head saying, “Obviously not. This has gotta be some kind of wild animal.” They always think that, “You’re right. Good day.” 

These sorts of jobs are always trouble when you go solo; Scott knowing this took his time and put some effort into preparation. The attacks lead him west, the sporadic nature was troublesome. At first it looked like a nest of vampires, and then there would be wolf like attacks out of nowhere and out of sequence with the moon. Grant it not every werewolf that ever was had to transform on the moon, there were curses and other breeds, but there was something funny about these ones since they were coupled with other monsters. But the types of creature involved typically stuck within its own kind. Something was causing mortal enemies to work together. Whatever it was finally left a trail, that westward path led him to this moment where all would be revealed. Except that nothing of consequence, no revelation occurred that could shed any light on what the hell was behind it all. With the cryptic message from Nick still nagging at him, and the sun trudging along its course, the decision is made not to wait any longer. He had to hope that the only cops left behind were on watch and would let him in but not follow him around.

A silver knife, a wooden stake, and two handguns. This is a fraction of his arsenal but all he could afford to carry without drawing suspicion. Luck is on his side, only one officer is walking the grounds. Scott opens a false panel on the floor of his passenger seat, he leafs through a small stack of folders and is careful to remove from them the same badge and identification he used earlier. What a disaster it would be if he carried the wrong set. Something in the air has him apprehensive as he exits the car. Scott remains calm, walking authoritatively towards the house. The on duty officer slowly walks in his direction. He does not call out. Scott could not yet tell if this was one of the officers that were here when he first made his visit. The officer still says nothing. Slowly Scott removes his ID and presents it for the officer with a “Good afternoon. I was here earlier. I forget to check for a certain detail from my case notes on a similar accident. The folks upstairs would grill me if I didn’t make sure. You know how it goes.” The officer is nervous, clearly, but for all Scott knows this could be a rookie not attuned to dealing with federal officers. He nods before saying “Yes sir, of course sir.” Scott processes the manner of speech and posturing looking for hints of police training that wouldn’t disappear for the sake of nerves. Every trained cop even when nervous will demonstrate some form of discipline. “Thank you, and just as a formality, would you mind showing me your identification?” The policeman does so by pointing to his badge and then quickly drops his hand back to his side. Scott judges not to poke at the irregularities. He sees in his eyes that this man is about to break, and when he does so Scott will want some distance on him. Purposefully dropping his guard to adopt a friendly demeanor Scott says, “Thank you officer. Would you mind helping me with one more thing? I need to grab the file and some equipment from my car; will you give me a hand with that?” Set at ease for the moment by Scott’s change in attitude the officer agrees and walks with Scott towards the SUV. A few paces into a dirt lot away from the house’s driveway Scott pretends to almost trip on nothing. The officer twitches, but in a moment of recognition he doesn’t reach for the gun, this is clumsiness not an attack. “Damn,” says Scott before removing his shoe, “These things are new. Guess I shouldn’t break them in on the job.” He balances himself on his left foot while lowering his right on top of it to examine the damage. “Oh great, I think I got a pebble in the other one. Look officer, here, let me unlock the trunk so you can get at the red cardboard box marked Missouri on it. I’m going to be a minute.” Scott turns back to his other shoe, haphazardly returning his right foot to the warm ground. The officer watches for a moment while Scott stands there with both shoes off looking very vexed at his socks. There is no eminent danger from the Fed, he has an excuse to get over to the car and use it as cover. 

The cop stands at the trunk of the Tahoe, opening it very carefully. There are quite a few boxes of case files, but then that’s not really important, he never planned on fetching the item requested of him. He was however quite satisfied with the condition of the vehicle, and he knew that there would be quite a few surprises in there if this FBI agent wasn’t really an agent as he had suspected. Scott calls out, “Officer, what’s your name?” He didn’t move for a second. He realized that while he was admiring the car the man posing as a federal officer had not made another move towards him. He answered slowly, “Uh, Collin,” then removed his firearm. Relieved that it would be this easy he quickly lifts the weapon, obscured from Scott’s full visibility, and fires three shots. Each one slams into Scott’s chest. Collin is furious that he hadn’t considered he might be wearing body armor, and now his only play was moving full speed ahead. “Hey Collin, you can’t be a vampire. I mean the sun alone, but still vamps can’t open the trunk of my car. The wolf from last night didn’t need to wait for the full moon so you’re not him either. What kind of monster hangs out with that crowd?” The only response was another volley of bullets, this time fired high and low, looking to connect for an exposed part of his body. Still Scott does not move, but that isn’t what shocks Collin the most. He had just realized that a round that should have pierced skin sailed off Scott’s forearm. Under the torn fabric barely within Collin’s sight was a mark not even able to call itself a bruise. “Yeah man, that’s not going to work. You don’t really have an offensive power do you, Collin?” It happens in an instant; that look in their eyes when they know they’re done. Collin made the beginnings of a motion intended to turn him around and start his all-out sprint to safety. At that same moment the exhaust from the car fired without warning, transforming the remainder of his escape into a hodgepodge of arm movements and a half grunt before he collapsed on himself from the gust of smoke. While Scott was still mad at the dealership for how much the charged to add an unassigned button to his remote, he couldn’t help but smile every time he got to press it.

Collin’s head was not spinning in the traditional sense. It felt as if it was in an uncontrolled free fall and he was witnessing it in reverse. He had not regained control of his lower extremities when the sounds he thought were thunder turned out to be human voices. The nearest to him was speaking, “Yeah so I don’t know what it is yet.” As his eyes began to function he understood the other voice to come from a phone on the dashboard. He was in a moving car. “So is he still unconscious?” Scott punched Collin in the face. He yelped and hit his head on the passenger seat window. “No, I think he’s awake. You want to talk to him Eliot?”

“Sure, hi Collin. We would like to know what you are. Do you understand the question?” When Collin failed to respond, Scott offered another encouraging fist to the face. “Collin, I can’t see what’s going on there but it sounds like you have a case of foot in mouth. Please understand the faster you get it out the better things will get for you.” Collin was slowly able to recall how his mouth worked, he hoped his speech made sense or else he feared he might run into that wall again. “There’s no, no na-o-am…” 

“Uh, Eliot. I think I broke it.”

“No it’s the after affects. We made that cocktail especially to knockout monster we didn’t already have a countermeasure for. It’s not supposed to be a pleasant recovery. Something is coming to mind though. I think he’s saying ‘there is no name’ like there isn’t a name for what he is.”

“Right, so we’re looking for a monster we haven’t heard of before? Do I get to name it since I discovered it?”

“Sure, I mean you would except I’m not sure it was you who found it first. I just pulled up an old email from a friend of ours in Los Alamos. Same story, they were tailing a thing that was partying up with a banshee and a gecko.”

“I think you made that second one up.”
“That’s what they called it; the thing was a giant lizard. You know what forget it; they call this one a wrangler. They don’t know how but it pins monsters down and controls them for a minute. The monsters go out for the kill and then the wrangler feeds on the scraps to draw attention away from itself. We look for the bigger badder monster meanwhile there is this flesh eater hiding in everyone else’s skirts.”

“Why are monsters wearing skirts?” Scott could hear Eliot’s annoyed tone hidden in the moments of silence following the comment.

“Well congratulation. You did catch our first live one. We’ll be able to know what he does to control them.”

Scott was just about to ask what was going on back home that Nick would use a duress code when Collin started to hiss through his teeth. “What is that,” asks Eliot. Scott punches Collin again, “Not sure, but that stopped it.” There is a bump in the road, no one is quite certain if that or the punch is the trigger but Collin jumps in his seat. He is wide eyed and sweating bullets. “I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you.” Scott has trouble focusing on the road; the highway is mostly empty as he steals a glance back at the wrangler every so often. “Uh, Eliot. What do?” Eliot on the other line presses the phone tightly to his ear. He has no visual cue to lead him he has to focus hard on hearing Collin’s rant through the background noise of the engine and the open road. “Years past, I didn’t know what they wanted but they always lurked in the shadow. I know what you’re after, I understand now. It was me. Me, you need me so don’t kill me, please!” Both Scott and Eliot remain silent. Finally Scott asks, “What did you do?” Collin turns to him than back to the road, and even over his shoulder. He relaxes only slightly when he figures he is safe in this moving car. “They told me where to find her, they told me where to find him too. I knew when it was time and I sent it. I sent the mare to her.” Scott didn’t follow him; it had been years since he heard the story. But for Eliot it had not been that long. His thoughts immediately fell on a single name. The speakerphone rang out, “Rebecca…”

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