Summary: A New England town is in distress when a young girl goes missing, but the case is so mysterious it gains the attention of The Winchesters. The duo travel to Connecticut to lay this one to rest, but Dean soon finds himself barking up the wrong tree.
Katie Smith took her books from her locker and turned around to face her friend. "I don't think he's going to ask me out," she shrugged, "I'm probably not his type."
"Don't say that!" her friend said with a laugh. "He's just nervous; I'm sure he'll call you later."
"Sure" she said in an incredulous tone with a smirk of skepticism. She slammed her locker shut and picked up her backpack, which felt as though it contained concrete bricks, and lugged it over her shoulders.
"See ya tomorrow," they said to each other as they walked away from the school in opposite directions. Still facing her friend, Katie walked right into the hard torso of a tall woman. The heavy bag almost pulled her to the ground as she stumbled backwards.
She turned around to face the stranger. "I'm sorry, I didn't see you there," she stammered as she looked up, trying to see the woman's face. She squinted and raised a hand to shield her eyes from the late afternoon sun as it appeared over the shoulder of the unfamiliar figure.
The woman was four inches taller than Katie, who stands five feet eight inches, unladen. Still disoriented, Katie struggled to determine the physical features of the mysterious silhouette.
Remembering her manners, Katie stepped back and held out her hand. "I'm Katie Smith," she announced.
"Hi Katie, I'm Tabitha." She took Katie's hand in her own and flashed a dazzling smile revealing a nearly perfect set of pearly teeth. "I'm new to town," she confessed, "Can I walk with you? I think we're going the same way."
Reluctantly, Katie agreed. She uttered the last words anyone has heard from her, "Uh, sure."
The Impala sped down the rain slicked highway, hit a pothole, and hopped up. Dean grimaced, knowing that if he had a flat tire now, he was going to be livid. New Jersey had been rough on Baby's tires.
If they did have a flat, Sam was going to be the one to change the tire this time. "I'll be damned if I have to kneel in the mud soaked side of this highway," Dean exclaimed, "Hell no Sammy--not tonight!"
Sam shook his head at his brother. His hair was cold and wet from the rain. It was late, and they were in the middle of Connecticut. Dean accelerated swiftly through the intersections, avoiding having to stop, as he tried to make up for lost time.
Inside the car, a flashlight dimly illuminated a map that Sam was holding. He was trying to locate a motel close to the case. The radio was on low, barely squeaking out a song as Sam directed Dean to the Firehawk Inn, "Turn left after mile marker sixteen." Sam cleared his throat, "Dean?"
Dean was preoccupied, thinking about what may have happened to Katie Smith. He knows that she went missing on her way home from school. "Typical runaway teenage girl behavior, usually found within the day or so," the local police had said in a statement. Katie had been missing for weeks. It would seem as if she vanished without a trace, except for one small detail that was unnoticed by the professionals.
"She's missing! These morons would only stand a chance of finding Katie if she was glazed and covered in chocolate sprinkles," Dean thought to himself.
"Yes, dear," Dean said, in a mockingly saccharine tone, invoking an eye-roll—evidence he had gotten under his brother's skin. Dean smiled.
"So get this," Sam recalled to Dean, "Katie's friend said that she saw her leave the school with her books in her backpack. The police found the backpack in her locker, though." Sam began to watch the road as they wove through another intersection. The light turned red just as they crossed.
"That means she went back into the school," Dean says, thoughtfully as he looks over at Sam.
"Among her text books, the police dismissed a spot of blood and a small piece of a sticky skin-like substance stuck to a pencil box," Dean added. "They probably thought they dropped some jelly filling, or something!"
Sam and Dean had a hunch as to where it came from. "It's gotta be a shifter," Sam said, ignoring Dean.
Dean pulled into the motel parking lot, nodding, "Gotta be."
The brothers slid out of the car and into the lobby of the motel. Dean offered a smile to the teenager behind the counter. Sam stood awkwardly behind him, carrying a duffel and a laptop case tucked under one arm, and a brown paper bag of grease in his other hand. Dean asked for a room with two beds. The gawky, pimply faced teen handed him the keys and wished them a good night with the reminder that checkout is at noon.
Sam slipped out the door, waiting for Dean to guide him to the room.
Sam still wasn't used to this—riding around in a car and talking to people all day was exhausting. A few years have passed since the last time he's worked like this. Rusty and unsure of himself, Sam was just tagging along, hoping to discover what got Jess and Mom as well as finding where Dad is. He tries to remember that they are helping people.
His brother walked past him, knocking his shoulder and tipping him off balance. Dean can be a real jerk sometimes. Sam shakes it off, still feeling the pressure trapped under his skin--strain starting from his shoulders and traveling down his spine. He really needs to find something comfortable and soft to sit on and something to lean his back up against.
His stomach growls and he tightens his grip on the bag of grease. He also needs to eat something. He's thankful when Dean swings the door to the room open and stifles a laugh at Dean offering to carry "his princess ass" over the threshold. Instead he rolls his eyes and tells Dean to cut it out as he shoves his way into the room.
As expected, it's a dismal and dark room with very dim lights. Worn out sheets that show their age have been stretched over cheap, wobbly beds. The window that overlooks the glistening blacktop is covered by a set of holey drapes, letting in the reflected light from a nearby flickering street post. Finally, a rickety table sits in a corner with two painful looking chairs tucked underneath.
After dropping the paper sack on the table, Sam picks the bed furthest from the door. He promptly drops the duffel and sprawls out on the bed. He can feel springs under his spine, poking him slightly. "At least it's a clean bed," he thought. Sam has slept in worse.
Dean starts rooting through the bag, ready to dole out the food. Sam closes his eyes for a second and inhales, the memories of being a kid on the road are coming back in short flashes. When Dean asks if "Samantha" is going to join him for dinner, he rolls onto his side just long enough shoot imaginary daggers with his eyes. He pulls himself up, leaning against the headboard. "Toss mine to me."
A wax paper wrapped burger hits him in the chest. "Thanks," Sam says to Dean half-sarcastically.
"You're welcome," a muffled response from Dean, whose mouth is so full that it's amazing any sound can escape.
Dean gets up from the table, the chair almost snapping, and grabs the remote from the nightstand drawer and flips on the ancient, dust covered TV.
"I wonder if this thing gets skin-a-max," Dean jokes, waggling his eyebrows at Sam, open mouthed, with a smile full of food.
"Aww, c'mon man, I'm eating," Sam responds.
After flipping through the motel's basic cable selection and finding nothing interesting, Dean leaves the TV tuned to the TV Guide Channel. He sets the remote onto the nightstand and leans forward. It takes Sam a moment before he figures out that Dean is now digging in the duffel. Dean's head pops up from the bag, "Hey Sammy, why don't ya get some ice from the machine out there. Fill up the bucket."
Sam unwinds himself from the bed, grabs the bucket and kicks Dean's foot, as if he tripped, on the way out. He returns to find Dean sitting back at the table with a deck of cards and his eyes glued to the TV. Sam looks and sees a scantily clad woman in a white bed.
"Dude! I was gone five minutes," He exclaimed.
"What?" Dean asked, looking to Sam and then the back to TV. The mild amusement registered on his face and he finished, "No man, it's not porn, come on."
"You can depend on Depends!" the lady on TV boasted. Dean started to laugh as Sam set the bucket of ice down.
"News 4 at midnight returns with breaking news," Dean said in sync with the anchorman, nodding at Sam.
Sam took the seat opposite Dean at the small table and focused on the developing scene on the screen.
Dean placed some ice cubes in a Solo cup as the anchorman continued, "A blue sweater matching the one Katie Smith had been wearing the day she went missing was recovered near the school. This small community is concerned about what that could mean for the teen."
"Do you think it means anything?" Sam asked Dean, watching his older brother unscrew the cap off a bottle of Jack.
Dean brought the bottle to his mouth and tipped it up. A small dribble poured down his chin. He exhaled with a whistle, exclaimed, "That was some good stuff", and began pouring Sam a drink.
"Yes and no," Dean finally responded, twisting the words out slowly as he formed them. "I think it means she, or someone like her, lost their sweater."
"Yeah, guess we'll have to wait and see," Sam said, taking a swig from his cup. He was anticipating the burn and relishing it; the drink was a refreshing reprieve from life and was allowing him to loosen the ever-so-tight knot in his back.
Dean nodded. It was dark out and they needed to wait for something bigger to come around, a bigger lead. They played a game of cards and listened to the news to see if any more details were released. After two hours and a half a bottle of Jack, when they were both starting to feel a bit restless, the news flashed on with another breaking update: Katie's ID had been found in the woods. The member of the search team who had found it had been attacked by and was in critical condition.
The brothers exchanged a look, the excitement of a lead thrumming through the air like electricity.
"We should go," Dean instructed as he stood up, grabbed his coat and keys and headed toward the door. He took two steps and smashed his face into the carpet.
"What the fuck," Dean growled into the muddy green floor.
"Dude," Sam pointed to Dean's feet, laughing. "You tripped on your boots."
Dean looked down at his feet. His boot laces were tied together. "Son of a bitch! When did you do that?" He pulled himself up using the nearby bed.
Sam smiled as he walked past Dean and out the door.
Dean has many talents, but he has a natural skill for deception. It is his favorite method for obtaining information, and he can fool almost anyone. Learning this skill from his father is what allows him to be so integral in his hunt for the supernatural.
Although Sam spent so much time away, he never lost his cunning ways. He can always be counted on by Dean to instill trust and confidence in others and help promote and maintain their disguises. Since he's teamed back up with Dean, Sam has proven to be a good partner.
Work takes its toll on the brothers' physical and mental health. This night was no different. They have donned themselves in ranger gear, looking for some big animal—one that gashed an officer and escaped without a trace after twice being shot. The only things in their stomachs is the kind of food that is available this late, and a few drinks of whiskey. Maybe the job doesn't make them drink, but they felt they had earned it.
Dean and Sam had arrived to the crime scene half-cocked and a bit wasted. As if that wasn't already careless, they had posed as Wildlife Rangers. Dean, as always, had justified the stupidity of his actions to saving lives.
As they approached the local cops who were gathered nearby, Dean took the lead. "Who's in charge here?" he called out. He pulled out his badge, knowing Sam would already have his displayed.
"Who sent the animal control rejects?" joked a voice from the crowd. A man began walking towards Dean. "I'm just kidding. I'm Sergeant Gibbons. What brings you--," Gibbons paused as he leaned in to read the badges, "wild-life-rangers-- here this evening?"
A little offended, and still feeling the effects from Mr. Daniel's visit earlier that evening, Dean barked, "Look! We heard about the missing kid and we heard about the animal attacks. Due to the bizarre nature of the attack, we were dispatched here a day early!"
"Take it easy! Nobody wants to be out this late." Mr. Gibbons calmly said in an effort to prevent another outburst, "Try to relax!"
Sam walked around to the other side of the crowd to get a closer look at the scene. Dean continued distracting the lead officer. "What have you guys found out so far? Any tracks? Fur? What are the claw patterns on the victim from?" Dean quizzed the sergeant.
Sam began to walk back to the car, but only after nodding to Dean. His signals are always slight and discreet. He had discovered some clues and it was time to move on.
"The victim was too focused on his discovery to notice who or what lashed out at him. We've found no evidence yet to lead us." Sergeant Gibbons responded, while trying to remain confident.
Dean, having caught the signal from Sam, wrapped things up with the officer. "If this is an animal, it's either rabid or nocturnal; you guys should be careful," Dean advised. The search team dispersed, giving Dean the opportunity to catch up to Sam, and Sam the chance to discuss his findings with Dean.
Sam lead his brother near the woods, sweeping his flashlight through the trees and near the ground. Dean, looking puzzled at Sam, asked, "Whatcha got for me?" Dean suggested, "Shapeshifter?"
"Nah, they prefer sewers," Sam recalled. "What about a skinwalker?" he asked.
"Maybe, there's no evidence it's not." Dean agreed, "but it could be a werewolf." Dean proposed.
"Timing's not right for that. Maybe it's a Wendigo," Sam offered with a cringe.
Dean quickly snapped back, "Yeah, a Wendigo. I think I've had enough of those to last a lifetime."
"Hey man, I just said it could be," Sam responded defensively.
They lulled into a silence, watching as the emergency search team piled into their vehicles, strobes still flashing. Everyone was leaving. The brothers decided to retreat as well. They were confident there was no immediate danger. At least they could still grab a few hours of sleep before dawn.
Sam woke up first, surprised he'd been able to sleep at all. Sleep wasn't easy to come by lately and he didn't like wasting time. He pulled himself up, rubbed the crust from his eyes and looked at the clock on the nightstand. The blurry red numbers slowly came into focus and he was able to make out the time: 7:00 AM.
Because Dean was still asleep, and Sam knew that he would be for at least another half-hour, he decided that he should get a jumpstart on the work. He does not like to waste time, and he wouldn't be able to go back to sleep.
Although it's early, Sam ventured out to Katie's house to ask some questions. He planned enough time to do this, and be back to join up with Dean in the woods.
Sam arrived at a ranch-style home where he understood Katie to have lived before her disappearance. He looked around for clues as he approached the single step to the landing by the front door. He was met by Katie's mom at the door before he had a chance to ring the bell.
"I'll talk to you because you seem nice and genuine," the woman said, "but this had better be the last time you guys come around here until you can tell me what the hell happened!"
"It's was just us three girls here. My youngest daughter was only three months old and Katie had just turned seven when her father left." she explained, "Katie has always looked out for Hannah since I have been busy with work lately." She brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. "I have to be, you know, to pay the bills," she assured herself. "Katie never seemed unhappy, and nobody was fighting. She couldn't have run away, if that's what you're thinking," she accused.
"Thank you for your time, Ms. Smith," Sam interjected, "We will continue the search today."
Sam began down the walkway toward the driveway. He noticed Hannah was sitting near the garage door playing with a kitten. As he neared, he noticed she had a gash across her face, a pattern that was frequently caused by quick moving claws.
"Hi Mister," she cheerily greeted him, showing Sam the charcoal colored feline. "This is my kitten. I found her." she continued.
"What's her name?" Sam asked, kneeling down "Where did you find her?"
"I'm going to call her Smoke, because she's gray like smoke," she replied, smiling. "I found her under the stairs, where Katie lives. She was lonely and thirsty so I brought her home."
Where Katie lives. These words reverberated in Sam's head, a possible clue burning into his memory.
"Can you show me where you found her?" Sam asked while gently holding the kitten.
Hannah narrowed her eyes and shook her head. "I'm not allowed to go back there. It's in the forest, by the school, but my mom said I'm not allowed to go alone anymore."
"That's okay, Hannah." Sam handed the kitten back to her. "Take care of Smoke."
Sam wasted no time getting to the woods. He wanted to get this information to Dean as quick as possible. Katie wasn't dead, or was at least still corporeal enough for her sister to recognize her. She was in the woods near the school. He pulled his cell phone out, trying to call Dean, but there was no signal.
Katie stood in the clearing and felt the sun on her skin. It was the first time she'd been free to roam in a couple of weeks, but she wasn't allowed to be out for long. Her new family told her that a few hours in the early morning as her human form was fine, as long as she stayed away from anyone that knew her.
She recalled the first time she turned back human. Her sister was walking to school and saw her. Katie had tried to explain that although she loved her family, she couldn't come home anymore. This memory still upsets her. She hasn't seen Hannah since.
She tried not to dwell on the things of her past. She felt free, at least for a short time this morning.
Her ears pricked up at the sound of crunching leaves. She turned quickly around snarling at the scent. "Was this a hunter or predator," she wondered. This was an enemy to her kind, and she didn't feel safe.
"Katie?" a young man's voice called out.
The sound of her name sent a jolt of a confusing emotion throughout her body. Who she was, what she was, didn't connect to that name anymore. Words and names had little to no meaning. She wasn't used to words for communication any more. Since the change, she's learned to communicate with movements and growls.
Dean heard the grunting and was able to decipher the clues. Katie wasn't a shape shifter or a werewolf. She wasn't human either. She was a skinwalker.
Like werewolves, skinwalkers travel and dwell in packs. Skinwalkers have the ability to control their transformations, and the lunar cycle has no effect on them. Skinwalkers are still monsters though. They could coexist with humans, and some do, but most choose to give in to instinct. These abominations tear into flesh like a frenzied werewolf, consuming hearts and stealing lives. Dean killed monsters.
Dean noticed three more distinct growls coming from around him. "Son of a bitch," he groaned, cocking his gun. "I don't have any silver bullets, I'm not going to hurt you, so back off!"
He looked at Katie, gesturing with his gun. "I just wanna talk."
"Then talk," demanded another woman. She walked out of the bushes and positioned herself casually in front of Katie. Dean identified this one as the leader.
"Her family's worried about her," Dean gestured around with his gun. "They have search and rescue teams. They think you're dead. They're not gonna stop looking until they have a body."
"She is dead, to them," the leader said. "She is reborn a part of my pack now."
"Yeah. I can see that, " Dean intoned, raising his gun.
Dean knew that he was outnumbered and had run out of options. Katie, Tabitha, and the two others began closing in.
Dean could hear the kids from the school yard in the distance. Suddenly, Hannah ran into the clearing, chasing after the gray kitten. Tabitha and the other two members of her pack launched toward Hannah, turning into dogs mid jump, growling and barking. Katie quickly sprung to protect Hannah, slashing at her pack members throats.
Sam came jogging up next to Dean. "Skinwalkers," he said, nearly out of breath.
"Yep," Dean said, taking the gun Sam held out for him. He was sure it was filled with silver bullets. He squeezed the trigger; it took four steady shots. "Saving people, hunting things, the family business." That's what Dean always said.