Part Two: The Guardian
Haven, Maine, 2011
John Winchester sat in his usual corner of the Grey Gull, enjoying the day’s special – seafood pie – and a beer. He wasn’t there for the food, though. As he ate, he was observing the other people in the room.
Something had changed in Haven. There was a tension in the air, even here in the bar. John knew about some of the triggers. The disappearance of Chief Wuornos under highly suspicious circumstances was an obvious one. He’d been lost at sea, the official story went. “Lost at sea” seemed to raise suspicions in Haven the way “mauled by an unknown animal” raised red flags for hunters everywhere else. Without the old chief of police, the conflict between his son – the new Chief of Police – and Reverend Driscoll had been kicked to a new level. The Rev hated the Troubled the way John hated demons, and unfortunately Nathan Wuornos’ affliction was well known.
But that couldn’t account for everything John sensed. He knew how to take the temperature of a community and something was very wrong in this town. John noticed that when someone entered the Gull alone, they tended to look around and join a group. No one said hello to a friend here and a friend there. No one – except John himself – drank alone.
He saw Audrey enter alone. She glanced around the room but went straight to the bar where Crocker served her a drink without waiting for her to ask. To John, it signalled clearly which faction each of them was allied with, whether they knew it or not. Audrey and Crocker exchanged conversation for a few moments before Audrey glanced toward John. He raised his beer glass in greeting and she smiled, but then turned back to Crocker. John assumed that meant she had no time for him tonight, but not long after she walked over to his table.
Audrey set a glass in front of him. Whiskey on the rocks. “Can I join you?”
“Of course.” John gestured to the whiskey glass. “Thanks for the drink.” He didn’t tell her he preferred it without ice.
Audrey sipped her martini, her eyes darting from side to side as if she feared being overheard. She looked worried, but that seemed her natural state lately.
John decided to speak first before she got everyone staring at them. “I read through the autopsy report you gave me,” he said, keeping his voice low.
She nodded, relaxing a little.
“There was nothing strange about it. The murder weapon was a long, double-edged blade. Two wounds, either of which could have been the death blow…but you know all this. You read the report.”
“You didn’t find anything?”
“Not in the autopsy. But you won’t find much about the Troubles in Haven police reports, either.” John knew that she wrote a lot of those reports herself, and they were very carefully worded to avoid all mention of the supernatural.
“What’s interesting to me,” John went on, “is the circumstances of the murder and the victim, not the way he died. Have you asked why he was called ‘The Colorado Kid’?”
“He was a John Doe. The only clue to his identity was a bus ticket which showed he came from Colorado.”
“Meaning he wasn’t a local,” John pointed out. “So it’s unlikely he was one of the Troubled and he hadn’t been in Haven for long, so it’s a good bet he didn’t even know about them.”
Audrey set her glass down with an audible thunk. “The Chief was convinced Max Hansen killed the Colorado Kid.”
John shook his head. “Come on, FBI. You know serial killers don’t change their MO that much.”
“Serial killer? What makes you think…?”
“Check Hansen out, damn it! The family he was jailed for killing wasn’t his first. You can tell from the case file. Hansen was experienced and organised. The murders were efficient and he set the fire to cover his tracks. The Colorado Kid murder was rushed. He was killed where the body was found, meaning it happened in a public place and the killer took off. Either it’s amateurish or the killer knew none of the witnesses would remember anything.”
He was suggesting the killer was Troubled, Audrey thought. Max Hansen was Troubled, but his affliction had nothing to do with affecting memory. “How did you get Hansen’s case file?”
John merely smiled.
Audrey looked at him for a moment, her annoyance plain. Then she shrugged. “Fine, keep your secrets. Do you have a theory?”
“I have…a suspicion. But I need to find the Colorado Kid’s identity to confirm it.”
“Well, that’s not possible.”
“Of course it is. It just takes time. Can you get me a list of every missing person case Colorado 1983 that is still unresolved?”
Her look became challenging. “You mean you can’t?”
John smiled. “Sure I could. But you can get it quicker and once I have that I think I can narrow down the suspects. If I can get you pictures of the ten or so most likely, you can ask around. There’s no photo of the Colorado Kid but there must be a few people in town who will remember him. The Teague brothers, maybe. Reverend Driscoll.”
She frowned when he mentioned the Rev. John knew that the bad blood there was only getting worse. He was beginning to have suspicions of his own about Driscoll, but he was a difficult man to check out. Maybe John should make more effort to get close to the man.
Audrey nodded. “I can ask the Teagues. If they can’t help, they’ll know who can. But what’s your theory, John?”
He shook his head. “I’d rather not say until I know a bit more. I know you don’t like it, Parker, but this one will sound far fetched even by Haven’s standards.”
“Alright. For now.”
John nodded, accepting the compromise. “Your turn.” This was their deal: he checked things out for her, she returned the favour. Over the past year John had come to trust her. When Gabriel brought him to Haven, the angel told him someone would be coming to town whom John could help, if he were willing. John was certain now that Audrey was the one Gabriel meant.
Audrey sipped her drink. “Of the list you gave me, I can only find one man who is still alive. Bobby Singer, South Dakota.”
John drew in a slow breath. One. Just one of the old contacts. It didn’t mean they were all dead: hunters had reasons to live off the grid. But it was not good news. Still, Bobby was alive. And Bobby was a good friend to his boys. He would know how to find them.
“He’s still at the salvage yard?” John asked.
“It’s his address of record,” she answered carefully.
“Okay. That’s good.” John hesitated, not sure how to phrase his request.
“Come on, John. You could have found this out by picking up a phone. Why put me on the trail?”
“That’s my problem, Parker. I can’t just call the man. As far as he knows, I’ve been dead for four years. If I call, he’ll hang up on me.” Remembering his last conversation with Bobby, John snorted into his whiskey. “Come to that, he’d hang up on me regardless. Last time I saw him he ran me off with a shotgun. But if he’s the only one left, he’s my best hope.”
“Hope for what?”
“Finding my sons. This is hard to explain, but…what is it?”
Audrey said gently, “I was afraid that might be it. John, Dean and Sam Winchester are dead.”
For a moment, John’s heart stopped. His world stopped. The room around them, all the people, conversations, music, the clink of glasses, all of it fell silent. Nothing existed except Audrey’s words. Dean and Sam Winchester are dead…
She went on speaking, as if she couldn’t tell the whole universe had changed. “They died in a gas explosion – ”
The world snapped back into place and John started breathing again. “In Colorado. Sheriff’s department.” The words were matter-of-fact but his voice still shook. Damn, he should have been prepared for this. “I know that’s the story on record but it ain’t true. At least one of them was alive last May.”
“How can you be so sure?”
Because my Sammy is the only person born in the last thousand years who could have busted Lucifer out of his cage, and that’s when it happened, John thought, but he couldn’t give Audrey that answer. “I know, okay,” he growled. “I just know.” He waited for her to nod. “I need my boys to know I’m here.”
“So go and see this Bobby Singer in person,” she suggested.
“I would if I could, Parker. I’m chained to Haven. I can’t leave town.”
“What do you mean you can’t leave?”
John swore under his breath. “I mean what I said. Do you think I just showed up here and decided it’s a great place to live? I can’t leave. If I try to walk out of town under my own power, it’s like there’s an invisible wall around the town. If someone else gives me a ride, I’m so sick I can’t go on. I tried to charter a boat and somehow I just couldn’t make myself get aboard. I’m chained to Haven.”
Audrey frowned. “That sounds like an affliction.”
“I guess you could call it that, but it’s not the same as the Troubles. I…” he hesitated, but there was nothing stopping him from telling her. “I kind of agreed to this. I mean, I agreed to stay in town. I didn’t expect the deal to be enforced like this.”
“Deal with who?”
“With what,” John corrected, but did not supply the answer. “Are you gonna help me, or not?”
“…but first these WDLH headlines.” The radio signal in the church was poor and the voice was occasionally interrupted by static. “A family on a camping trip discovered what state police have confirmed as the remains of twenty-year-old Malia McClintock, a dental hygenist from Garby reported missing last week.”
John paused in his work to listen.
“The family of four, who asked not to be identified, found Ms McClintock’s dismembered body beneath a bed of leaves near the Scotts Lake camping area. Ms McClintock disappeared a few weeks ago…”
John stopped paying attention. Scotts Lake was thirty miles from Haven; well outside the range allowed by his leash. Whatever happened out there, he could do nothing about it. He listened for the end of the report – the most recent sighting of the suspect had been near Haven – but the reporter added nothing new.
The white paint was dry and John was atop a stepladder fixing the large wooden cross back into place when Reverend Driscoll approached him. John had taken as much time over the job as he could. Not for the money – he would be paid the same regardless – but because it gave him a reason to be in the Good Shepherd church and observe the Reverend.
The stand-off at the police station was the last straw. People died, people who could have been saved. Driscoll’s hatred of the Troubled was irrational, but to instigate something so reckless was unlike him.
John had suspected for some time that Driscoll was not what he seemed. The repair work at the Good Shepherd Church gave John an opportunity to run some subtle tests. It was a simple matter to switch the holy water in the church for water John had blessed himself. Salt was more tricky, as was testing the Rev with certain herbs. Silver, though, was simplest of all: the cross and chalice Driscoll handled every day were both pure silver; John only had to double check that they hadn’t been altered or replaced. Thus far, however, none of his tests gained any reaction at all.
John knew he was running out of time. Neutrality was no longer an option for him. He could not act until he had chosen a side, but that decision was not as easy as it would have been once. The code behind his entire career as a hunter – if it’s supernatural, we kill it – could not make the choice for him when the supernatural ran on both sides. The Troubled of Haven were supernatural by blood, not by choice.
“John,” Driscoll called.
John answered without looking down. “Almost done.” He gave the nail a last few taps with his hammer and smoothed the tiny chips away with a fingertip. Satisfied, he held out the hammer. “Catch this for me, would you, Reverend?”
Driscoll raised his hands and John dropped the hammer into them, head first. Driscoll caught it by the head and winced as if it were hot. He let it fall through his hands a little way, deftly grabbed the wooden handle instead and set it down in the open toolbox.
John climbed down the stepladder. “That should hold another fifty years,” he promised.
“I’m glad to hear it. May I offer you some coffee, John? We need to talk.”
John had been expecting it. “Sure, Reverend. Just let me tidy this up.” He gathered up his tools and sealed the box, then put the stepladder away. He was almost sure…
In his office, Driscoll came straight to the point. “I hear you’ve been spending time with Audrey Parker,” he said, his voice deceptively mild. He had his back to John as he spoke, his hands busy making coffee.
John had been spending time with Audrey for months; he’d had plenty of time to devise a story that would satisfy Driscoll. “Not by choice,” he lied smoothly.
Driscoll set a mug of coffee in front of him. “Explain,” he ordered.
Driscoll gave the answer John intended to provoke. “That’s not good enough.” His eyes remained flint-hard but his tone softened a little. “John, if you are having difficulties with Haven police, maybe I can help.”
John sighed heavily. “Alright, I’ll tell you. But I hope I can rely on your discretion, Reverend.” He reached into his jacket and took out his battered leather wallet. He deliberately fumbled a little as he opened it and drew out a folded piece of paper. He unfolded the sheet to reveal a photocopied article from a St Louis newspaper, together with a police artist’s drawing of a murder suspect: his son, Dean. John knew the truth of the story, that a ’shifter killed those women, but it was a useful prop to him now. He slid it across the table. “That’s my boy. Dean.”
Driscoll scanned the article quickly. His stern expression changed. “I’m very sorry, John. I know how painful it is when our children disappoint us.” He seemed sincere.
“I’ve been out of touch with my boys for a long time. Dean…he’s gone now. There was a fire in the jail.”
“I’m sorry,” Driscoll said again. John almost believed him.
“I don’t know where my youngest is. Sammy’s a good boy. He let his brother lead him astray, but he wouldn’t do anything like this.” He tapped the article. “Parker is FBI. She has access to…” He broke off with another sigh. “I just want to find my son, Reverend. If I have to deal with the devil to find him…” He shrugged helplessly, avoiding Driscoll’s eyes. Would the man buy it?
Driscoll carefully folded the article, his long fingers smoothing the creases in the paper. “Surely there are other authorities you can go to.”
“Not in Haven. Anyway, she came to me first, Reverend. I guess my name is in a file somewhere because I’m their father.” And for a lot of other reasons. John’s record was almost as colourful as his sons’, but Driscoll couldn’t know that.
Driscoll nodded, apparently satisfied. He offered the folded paper back to John.
As John took the article from his fingers, he caught a glimpse of Driscoll’s palm. The skin was red and swollen, like a burn. It was the final confirmation John needed. He tucked the article back into his wallet, satisfied on both counts.
“There was an incident today. A man was hurt in the wood.”
John stiffened. “Hurt how?”
“Mauled. Bitten. But not by any wolf.”
“Bear?” John suggested, thinking: Skinwalker. Maybe Rugaru.
“No,” Driscoll said grimly. “Something else. It took a local boy, Rory Campbell. Some of us will be going after him. I hear you’re a good man with a rifle.”
John shrugged. “I was a marine in ’Nam. You never lose that.” But now he was worried. He was now sure that this was not the man he’d known as Reverend Driscoll. Who or what it really was were questions John had no time to answer. If he – it – was taking a hunting party into the wood, he must have convinced others there was a Troubled person behind this not-a-wolf attack. But was he right? If there was some creature in the wood, the Reverend’s hunters would be the ones in danger.
Which side was John on?
He was a hunter. His job was to protect people. Humans. The man he was talking to was not the real Reverend Driscoll, so there was a good chance it knew what a hunter was. It might even know his name, though that wasn’t likely. John had never hunted much in Maine. John saw a chance, then. It was a risk, because he couldn’t be sure which way the Reverend would go, but it was a better option than joining the Rev’s hunting party.
He leaned forward. “Reverend Driscoll, I have some experience as a hunter. Not wolves or bears. I hunted things most men don’t believe in.”
The fanatic light in Driscoll’s eyes made John regret speaking, but he was committed now.
“Such as?” Driscoll asked eagerly.
Such as you, you son of a bitch, John thought, but he shrugged. He had to convince Driscoll he had no idea what he was…yet. “You name it. Demons. Vampires. Werewolves. Spirits. There ain’t much I haven’t run into over the years.”
“Then you’ll join us for the hunt?”
Only if I’m the one leading it, and you’ll never let me do that. “Depends,” John answered. “What do you think is in the wood?”
“Wendigo,” Driscoll said.
John snorted. “No.” An instant later, he wanted to kick himself. He should have played along, but the idea was so preposterous he couldn’t help himself.
Driscoll looked disappointed. “I’m sorry to hear – ”
“I mean,” John interrupted hoping to save the conversation, “it’s not a wendigo. Can’t be.”
“I assure you, I know about these ungodly creatures.”
Ungodly was Driscoll’s word for the Troubled. “You don’t know enough, Reverend. You said the man in the woods was hurt, not killed. So it’s not a wendigo. A real wendigo is unbelievably fast and strong. They don’t attack and run. They eat or store their prey. If the man survived the attack, what’s out there is something else.”
“These things are different in Haven.”
John stood. “Not that different. Trust me, Driscoll. If a bullet can kill it, it’s not a wendigo. And if your bullets won’t hurt it, your hunters are gonna die.” He turned to go.
“No. Someone will die today, but it will not be those who stand with me,” Driscoll declared.
Driscoll was talking about cold-blooded murder. He was going to take a hunting party into the wood knowing it was a person, not a monster they were going to kill. Had John been armed, he would have killed the Reverend right there in his own church. But he was not armed. It would be better to plan this carefully. John headed for the door.
“Wait!” Driscoll commanded. “What kills them if not bullets?”
John turned back. If he told Driscoll you kill a wendigo with fire, he would burn someone alive today. Someone who could be innocent. John would not have that on his conscience. First, he would warn Parker about the Rev. Then, John was going hunting, too.
“I do,” he said firmly, and walked out of the Good Shepherd church.
It was the last time he saw Driscoll alive.
Audrey opened her door reluctantly, not in the mood for visitors. It had been a horrible two days and she was ready to tell whoever was in the doorway to go to Hell. Nathan had promised to leave her alone and she wasn’t going to welcome Duke after seeing him cosy up with the Rev.
But the man in her doorway was neither of them. It was John Winchester.
Audrey was surprised. John had never sought her out before; they only met downstairs in the Grey Gull.
“I know it’s not a good time,” John said apologetically, “but…” he held up a bottle of whiskey.
Audrey managed a smile. “Thanks, but I’ve had enough to drink tonight.”
He nodded, grimly. “Can we talk?”
Audrey knew John Winchester well enough to expect he would insist, so she opened the door wider, letting him in. Though John had never been in her apartment before he did not look around, or give any sign of curiosity. He simply sat where she indicated and set the whiskey bottle down on the table in front of him.
“You’ve heard,” Audrey said flatly.
“All of Haven has heard by now,” John answered.
“I killed a man today.” Audrey needed to say it out loud. To face the truth of it.
“That’s partly why I came. Driscoll wasn’t exactly a man, Parker.”
Audrey’s knees felt suddenly weak. She sat down on the couch beside John. “What?”
“When you get a chance to examine the body, take a look at his right hand. There’s a burn on his palm.”
“What does that prove?”
“He got it from touching cold iron. I’ve been wondering about Driscoll for a while. Watching him. Not many things would masquerade as a priest, but I tried all the usual tests. Until today, I got no result.”
Audrey frowned, not sure she was following. “What happened today?”
“I found a way to test him with cold iron. It burned him. Which means he’s not human. I tried to call you as soon as I knew but you were already in the wood.”
No. No, that didn’t make any sense. John had told her before that what he called the usual tests didn’t always work in Haven because the people were partly supernatural, not non-human. Cursing the amount of alcohol in her bloodstream, she struggled to concentrate. “John, I don’t – I didn’t – like the Rev, but he’s been in Haven for decades. How could he be some sort of creature?”
“I didn’t say he always has been. My guess is you shot a changeling. If I’m right, it killed the real Reverend Driscoll and replaced him months ago. But, Parker, I didn’t come here to make you feel better about it. I came because of what this means.”
Audrey shook her head helplessly. She didn’t understand and wasn’t sure she cared. She had killed, and it didn’t matter whether he was a man or not. It only mattered that all of Haven knew that she shot and killed Reverend Driscoll. The factions that had slowly been forming in Haven were about to fracture. And she still did not understand who she was or why she was here.
“I give up, John. What does it mean?”
“Driscoll led hunters into the wood to keep the Troubled from living there. He – it – is protecting something. Something you missed because you were focussed on saving those wendigo kids.”
Audrey stared at him, dumbfounded. No, she couldn’t make it fit. Whatever leap of logic he had made, her brain couldn’t follow. She sighed. “So?”
“So I’m going after it. Parker, if I don’t make it back…”
Instantly sober, Audrey interrupted. “What do you mean?”
“If I don’t make it back,” John persisted, “would you see to it my sons get this?” He held out something wrapped in brown paper. “You’re the only one who knows, Parker. Please.”
She accepted the package. “I’ll see to it. But you’re not going alone if you think you could get killed.”
“I’m not takin’ anyone with me into danger.”
“No. You’re a civilian.”
“I’m a cop.”
“In this, that means nothing. You ain’t a hunter, Parker. Not my kind of hunter.”
“I can shoot. You need someone to watch your back.”
Audrey thrust the paper-wrapped package back at him. “Then do your own dirty work. Or do you expect me to tell your children I’m the one who let you get killed?”
They weren’t children, and John was not oblivious to the manipulation in her choice of that word. But it worked anyway. He did not take the package from her. He met her eyes. “I’m in charge. You follow orders.”
Audrey let out her breath. “Alright.”
“Meet me at the Hunt Club at dawn. Dress for a hike and don’t forget to come armed. I’ve got something else I have to do first.”
John stood and gave a strange smile. “I know he was your enemy, but I liked Reverend Driscoll. I’m gonna break into the morgue and make sure the bastard that killed him doesn’t rise again.”
Before Audrey could process that, he was gone.
When John left her, Audrey made coffee as strong as she could stand it and sat, watching the paper-wrapped package as if it were a ticking bomb, while she drank three mugs, black with too much sugar. Finally, she made a decision and picked up the package. It wasn’t sealed; the paper was just folded over like an envelope to keep it closed. She unwrapped it carefully, so she would be able to re-wrap it when she was done. The small leather-bound notebook was full, cover-to-cover, the words written in black ink in an even hand that occasionally degenerated into a barely-legible scrawl.
Son, if you are reading this… the first page began. Audrey hesitated to read something so intensely personal, but her eyes were drawn back to the page by more than mere curiosity. She had to read. She had to know.
When she reached the last page, the book fell from her fingers. Audrey felt as if she had been kicked in the stomach. She knew John had secrets, but if any of this were true… No, not if. It was true. Somehow, deep down, she knew it. Something inside her recognised his story.
She re-wrapped the notebook, placed it in a box and wrote a quick note of her own before drinking the rest of the coffee – cold, but it was caffeine – and packing what she needed for a hike in the woods. While she changed her clothes, she thought about who she could trust with the box and its contents. Nathan came to mind first, but though she trusted him more than anyone else in Haven, if she went to him now, he would insist on accompanying her. Duke’s boat was closer than Nathan’s home, and if not entirely trustworthy, she thought Duke would agree to do her this one favour.
Duke was not happy to be woken before dawn. Audrey let him complain for a while before she explained what she needed and gave him the box. She even said please, which caused Duke to ask her if she were dying. But he agreed to store the box for her.