I have known the inexorable sadness
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper-weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places.
"You were lucky," Reed says. "You were really lucky."
The evidence is scattered all over the table, file after file of crime-scene photographs, evidence lists, a familiar face staring back from a booking photo. The other photographs are grimmer: wrecked houses, dead and mutilated bodies, charred skeletons. Kathleen clears her throat. "Yeah," she says. It's too much to take in, right now.
"But you got closer than anyone, Officer Hudak." Now it's Henriksen, leaning toward her across the table. "You spent more time with Winchester than anyone. Anyone still alive, anyway."
"Lucky," Reed says again.
"Anyone but Sam," Kathleen says.
"We need you," Henriksen says. "You can help us find him."
The table is full of bodies: stabbed, burned, strangled, ripped apart. A dizzying range of victims, scenes, crimes. None of it makes sense. "OK," Kathleen says. "I mean, yes, of course. I'll do it."
Henriksen gives her a list of places and names. A list of survivors. "They won't talk to me," he says. "Maybe they'll talk to you."
In Milwaukee, she buys Sherri Linderski a coffee and listens to her story: there isn't much more than what Henriksen already knows. "I don't have a sister," Sherri says. Kathleen starts to pull out the photograph, but Sherry waves it away. "I saw it already! I don't need to see it again. It's creepy. Anyway," she adds, "for all I know, it's a fake. That guy Henriksen might have made it all up, put that picture together on the computer or something. You guys lost the body."
She'd asked Henriksen about that; he'd said that the body literally melted away a few hours after they brought it to the morgue. "Winchester must have done something to it," Kathleen repeats. "Put some kind of chemical on the body."
"Maybe," Sherri says, but Kathleen can see the doubt in her eyes.
In Toledo a week later, Steven Shoemaker's daughters stare blankly at the photos of Dean and Sam Winchester. "Yeah," the elder girl says, "they were there."
"But it wasn't them," the younger one says. "It was--" Her sister looks at her, and she stops talking. It's the thing she finds strangest, the thing that sets every instinct she has alight, the way Dean and Sam keep coming back to their victims, to the families, the way they ask question after question. As if they don't already know what happened. The same pattern, over and over.
The younger daughter, Lily Shoemaker, catches her in the driveway. "It was Bloody Mary," she says. "My dad, Charlie's friend Jill. She killed them both. Charlie told me. She saw her, too."
"Bloody Mary's just a story," Kathleen says. She's seen the real monsters; she's not interested in stories.
She tracks down a girl named Charlotte Berman who went to high school with Donna Shoemaker, but she doesn't have anything to add, just insists that whatever happened, the Winchesters had nothing to do with it. "Lily Shoemaker says that Bloody Mary killed her father and your friend."
"Lily's just a kid," Charlie says, but she looks guilty as she says it. Kathleen recognizes that look.
Henriksen had recognized it too. "What does he have over them?" he'd asked her. "Why are they still afraid of him? I tell them we can protect them, and I get nothing." Kathleen is starting to suspect that they aren't afraid, not of the Winchesters. They're like her, and this girl Charlie: complicit. They're both guilty of something. That's Dean's talent, the way he implicates his victims in whatever it is he does.
Kathleen shivers, and goes on to the next survivor on her list.
She doesn't know how Henriksen managed to pull all this information together, but here she is in the archives of the Eastern Missourian reading James Anderson's obituary. It's long, since he was the editor of the paper. Kathleen looks up as the door opens, blinking at the change from reading microfilm. It's a black woman, slimmer and younger than she is; she holds out her hand for Kathleen to shake, and introduces herself: "Cassie Robinson."
Kathleen can't help herself; she looks down to the notebook by the microfilm reader.
"My father," the woman confirms.
Kathleen murmurs her condolences and introduces herself. "I'm tracking the man who killed your father," she says.
Robinson smiles. "Good luck. He's dead."
"Dean Winchester didn't really die in--" Kathleen starts automatically and then realizes that of course, St. Louis was almost two months before the men in Cape Girardeau were killed.
"Dean didn't kill anyone. Look, you want your killer?" Robinson gets another roll of microfilm from the shelf and switches Kathleen's out. Kathleen watches her skim through the roll; her hair is twisted back and held in place with a ball-point pen. She knows what she's looking for, too; it's not long before pushes the chair back and gestures to the screen. "There he is."
"Cyrus Dorian missing for more than a week," she reads. "So he came back? After being gone for more than forty years?"
"He came back after being dead for forty years," Robinson says. She's watching Kathleen's face carefully. "Come on," she says. "I'll buy you coffee."
They sit across from each other in the booth of a diner; it's past three, too late for lunch and too early for dinner, and the waitress leaves them alone with their coffee and Cassie Robinson's manila folders. "I did some checking on the Winchesters a few years ago." She looks like she's thinking about what to say next. "I found some interesting patterns. Here." She passes Kathleen a battered folder, full of newspapers clippings and xeroxes. "There are seven deaths connected with that house, over a twenty year period. There may be more, earlier. The Winchesters passed through in '99. There's a report of a fire in a graveyard outside town." It's typical of them, Kathleen thinks, even though she still doesn't know what it means. "After that, the deaths stop."
"Because they move on."
Robinson raises an eyebrow. "Twenty years of murders?"
"The father would have started it." Kathleen can imagine it: she can remember the Bender father, how he raised his children.
"Here's another one," Robinson says. "In Morehead, Kentucky, 1993. Some kind of animal attack, every month a couple deaths, in the week before the full moon. I tracked the Winchesters there through their school records," she adds. "The deaths stop in April; they finish out the school year and then move on."
"What about this one?" An autopsy report, a blond man in his early forties. "He was shot."
"I'm pretty sure that's your killer. Look at the forensics." She points at something halfway down the page.
"A silver bullet?"
"To kill a werewolf."
"A werewolf." Kathleen stands up. "Listen, Miss Robinson, I have a job to do and--"
"You sit back down." Robinson says, and Kathleen, surprised by the change in her voice, sits. "I am not going to sit back and let Dean Winchester be traduced" -- she rolls the word out -- "by people who have never met him."
"I have met him," Kathleen says.
"And you really think he murdered all these people?"
"I..." Kathleen pauses. "Anyone can become a killer."
"I can't swear to you that Dean's hands are clean," Robinson says. "But he's not what you think. Haven't you noticed anything strange about these cases, about the stories you've been hearing?"
"They're just stories."
"Sometimes," Cassie Robinson says, "the stories are true."
Folders don't have the smell, and the colors are never right in autopsy photos. The apartment smells like the bleach the Winchesters used to clean up the blood, but underneath it Kathleen thinks she can still smell it. Madison Engel's blood. They did their best to clean up after themselves -- surfaces wiped, bleach on the kitchen floor and walls, sheets washed -- but it's not enough. Forensics were careful, with Henriksen and the SFPD detective Serrano standing over them the whole time, found the traces of blood, the hairs in the bed, the claw marks that animal they'd brought left in the closet.
She keeps coming back to the closet, tracing the scratch marks with her fingers. Is this where you died, she wonders, trapped in the dark with an animal? The forensics people tell her, no, the murder happened in the kitchen, no one died in the closet, but she can't shake the feeling that Madison had been locked up in there, with whatever it was. Just the most recent in a series of attacks, people ripped apart, hearts missing. Animal control doesn't know what it is; the hearts, Kathleen thinks, that's a classic Winchester touch.
There are pictures scattered through the apartment: Madison and her friends, Madison and her family. There's nothing to explain why the Winchesters chose her -- not just her but her boss, her boyfriend, even the guy across the hall -- when they switched from the prostitutes at Hunter's Point. She tries to imagine them standing where she is, looking at these pictures. Would Sam have tried to persuade Dean not to kill her? Were they working together? She feels sick for ever listening to Cassie Robinson. The story had been so strange she couldn't shake it off: the weird cases, the ghosts and monsters, the notion that two brothers wandered the country fighting them off. It was a pretty story, and Kathleen could guess why Cassie wanted it to be true. But now, in Madison's apartment... if she hadn't read those files, if she had focused on the hunt, Madison might be alive now. That's the only thing that matters.
She jumps as her phone rings; it's Henriksen, saying they may have found Madison's body, with a string of instructions to lead her to Golden Gate Park. To the Rose Garden, of all places. It's beautiful: the flowers, the green grass, the crime-scene tape flapping in the wind. They must have hoped that the grave would be mistaken for a bed ready for planting.
The forensics people are still digging when she gets there, nearly four feet down. The Winchesters are good at digging graves: it's another foot before they find the body, wrapped in a sheet. Madison Engel's body is clean and dressed, her arms folded across her chest. No sign of animal attack, just a stain over her heart.
Henderson and Serrano go with the body to nag the ME; Kathleen heads back to their makeshift office and tries to figure out why they would have kept the animal in the apartment but not used it on Madison. Just to terrify her? It's one more thing that doesn't fit, like the gap between the Dean Winchester she finds in Henriksen's files and the man she remembers: how earnest he'd been, even when he was lying. How frightened for his brother. How disgusted by what they'd found at the Bender house. Had he just been mirroring her own emotions back at her?
Her phone rings again: Henriksen. "We got the report," he says. "Cause of death was a single bullet wound to the chest, right into the heart. But get this. The bullet was coated in silver."
Kathleen thinks of the case Cassie Robinson laid out: people ripped apart by an animal, and a final body with a silver bullet in the heart. It's crazy. "No evidence of the animal?"
"No," he says. "I really wish I knew what that crazy bastard was thinking."
Kathleen wishes she didn't, wishes she was confident that Dean Winchester really was crazy.
Another couple weeks of old cases and stories that don't quite add up, and then the last week of April finds them in Arkansas, after the break Henriksen has been waiting for. Dean and Sam Winchester, picked up in a burglary: Henriksen is practically drooling as they drive up at the prison. He keeps Kathleen out of the way, holding her involvement back, one more card to use against the Winchesters. It gives her a chance to look through the prison records, for the deaths she knows she'll find. They start three months back, the unexplained deaths in solitary. Well before the Winchesters got here.
Henriksen and Reed are already planning their testimony. The office doesn't feel big enough for the three of them, so Kathleen isn't there when everything starts to go belly up, some pigheaded public defender and another graveyard fire. Sam and Dean Winchester are long gone, and Henriksen is yelling a lot of long words at the defense lawyer; Kathleen starts with the grave, wonders why they chose this Glockner woman, how she connects to everything else. Two months ago she would never have thought it, that she'd be digging through files and checking long-dead people out on the internet. She's a cop, not a librarian. At least, she used to be a cop.
With the Winchesters gone, the prison isn't off limits; she turns up in the morning to get a sense of the place. She's starting to think it's no accident Sam and Dean ended up here, no matter how crazy it sounds. A hunch and a couple questions lead her to one of the guards, the one they got away from.
Deacon doesn't want to talk about it, that's clear enough. "They were on my block, that's all."
He shrugs. "You working with that Agent Henriksen?"
She doesn't know the answer to that today. "There've been a lot of deaths on your block."
"Heart attacks. Unless you think those boys broke in here to commit murder before they got arrested?"
"No," she says, "of course not."
"Well," he looks out through the fence to the yard, "sorry I can't be more help."
"Wait," she says as he walks off. "Dean Winchester was in solitary, right? And in the infirmary, when James Grayling died."
"Tiny," Deacon says. "Yeah. They were in separate cells."
It's just a hunch, a gamble. "Are you expecting any more natural deaths in those cells?" she asks.
She can see the answer on Deacon's unguarded face. "What was it?" she asks. "What did they do to it?"
But he's already collected himself. "I don't know what you're talking about, Officer Hudak," he says. "And I have a job to do." She lets him head back to the yard; she doesn't know what she'd ask him, anyway, or what would happen if she told him what she learned the day before. It wouldn't mean anything to him, she thinks, that the coarse animal hair they found in Madison's closet and her ex-boyfriend's apartment matches her DNA. Nothing like it on her corpse, but it has to be hers.
She thinks of Cassie Robinson, and her files. "Werewolf," she'd said, like it was the only thing that made sense. She thinks of Sam and Dean Winchester, shooting Madison Engel in the heart, saving lives or taking them. She doesn't know, not any more.
This time Cassie Robinson invites Kathleen home, makes her pale orange tea in fragile cups. Kathleen holds hers cautiously while Cassie looks over the papers she brought from San Francisco -- copies she shouldn't have made, certainly shouldn't have shared with a journalist in Missouri. But she needs to see the other woman's face as she reads it: the autopsy reports, the crime scene notes.
Her hands pause once or twice, at Madison's picture, at one of the dead prostitutes. When she's done, she lays the file for Madison next to her neighbor's. "Two of them," she says.
"Glen was more careful," Kathleen says. "Killing prostitutes, I mean, dumping the bodies in the Bay." The coarse hairs the police had found on three of them matched his DNA. "Madison wasn't -- attacking her boss, her boyfriend."
"So they killed her. Killed them both."
"It looks like it."
Cassie meets her eyes. "What do you want me to say? I'm not for the death penalty for anyone."
"What strikes me is that they know we're after them, and they keep doing it."
"Keep killing, you mean?"
Her tone is neutral, even if the question isn't. Kathleen looks across at the folders, all the victims; she thinks about that old man Bender, what it felt like to fire the gun, and wonders how much of her own doubt she's put onto Dean Winchester. "Keep killing," she says, because she won't lie about it, not in the face of the evidence. "Keep fighting. Keep doing whatever it is they do."
"And you?" Cassie asks. "What are you going to do?"
She could use this understanding, maybe, track the Winchesters through their cases. She could take on this work herself, maybe. "I have job to do," she says. "Back in Minnesota. That comes first."
"And when Henriksen catches them again?"
"If he does. I don't know what he sees in those files, but it's not the Winchesters. But if he does, I'll hear about it."
"So it won't be Dean Winchester versus the entire criminal justice system."
"Just most of it," Kathleen says. They smile at each other for a moment. "What about you?"
Cassie frowns. "I told Dean that I have my life, and he has his. I can't wait around for him. That doesn't mean I don't care what happens to him."
"I'll get in touch," Kathleen offers. "If I hear anything."
"I'd appreciate that," Cassie says.
Kathleen thinks of the files as she drives away: a set of lives, touched and altered, saved or ended. Like her, like Cassie, like Madison and Sherri's nameless twin, and all those girls in Toledo. Like her brother, and the prostitutes in San Francisco. She still isn't sure where the Winchesters belong, in that list of victims and monsters and survivors; she isn't sure where she belongs herself. What she knows is that their story isn't over, and neither is hers.
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Supernatural is the property of Eric Kripke and the people at CW. I make no claim to ownership of or profit from previously copyrighted material. All original elements my own. Written for the SPN_XX challenge on Livejournal. Many thanks to Rez for starting the challenge and beta reading most of this.