(The Mysterious Voyage of the Winchester Brothers)
Author: Regala Electra
Spoilers: S2, set after Playthings
Warnings: Violence, Sexual Content, Language
Word Count: 32,500
Summary: “The Sunshine State,” Sam intones, as though he’s reading an ancient accursed incantation and not a splashy billboard welcoming them to the state of orange groves, Disneyworld, and cheerfully corrupt election hijinks. Sam and Dean head down to Miami to investigate strange drownings that may be connected to an honest-to-God mermaid. But nothing's clear-cut and things get weirder and weirder as the murder count rises and one of the boys finds himself under the Siren's sway. Throw in some excellent Cuban food, investigations in the heart of Little Havana, and a stolen boat leading to a ride ending in bondage ("Are you ready, Odysseus?”). Welcome to Miami.
Artist credit: leatherteal's artwork for the story can be found here and aheartenflamed's arwork for the story can be found here.
Author’s Notes: Written for the spn_j2_bigbang ficathon. Massive thanks to my betas ignited and nekare for correcting my maddening grammatical errors, fixing the Spanish in the story so that it is no longer unintentionally bad, and generally just being very awesome. I also give great thanks to all who have listened to me ramble about my Evil Mermaid fic for many, many moons. ignited, bless you and one day you'll be sainted for all your excellent beta assistance and fantastic hand-holding, I can't thank you enough for everything you've done.
Further Story Notes: Stylistically some elements of the story were influenced by the Showtime series Dexter (at least all the macabre elements regarding the death), much of the mythology surrounding the Monster of the Story has been dramatically altered to suit the story purposes, and all references to Cuban mythology and practices cited under Santeria should be taken with a grain of salt. Massive influence from The Simpsons which includes the title and any reference to I. Ron Butterfly. No boats, Cubans, or Winchesters were harmed in the making of this story.
Part One: Bienvenido a Miami
Atlantic Ocean, miles away from Miami, Florida
Two Weeks Ago
The girl’s been seasick for so long that she doesn’t understand that when her stomach rumbles, it means that she must eat. But land grows closer with each wave, and for that, she must stay awake and wait.
Her cousins, her mother has told her so many times, even before this journey was dreamed of, have big homes and everything they want and even things they don’t want. Needs do not get pushed away because there’s no hope of getting those things that they long for, in America, everything is plentiful. They won’t have to fight for the last fresh tomato in the grocery ever again.
She practices English to ignore the hunger pangs that she believes to be another onslaught of sickness. Her mother compliments her on softening the word speak.
“You sound like one of them,” her mother whispers, a huge compliment as Mama can only make due with a handful of expressions. They will have to learn the strange rules of English when they are safe with the rest of their family. It is important that they blend in, that they do not get caught, deported, and sent back before making it to land. There is nothing to go back to, not anymore.
Their family in Florida has been careful to ensure safe passage – they had paid a coyote well to bring the girl and her mother to America – and her mother had given the last remaining family heirlooms (the ones they did not sell, the ones that have been in their family since the Spanish colonized Cuba) to the man who had smuggled them onto the boat after they had made it to the halfway point on their raft.
But the mysterious coyote, the one who was discussed in carefully censored phone conversations for the past month, did not accompany them on this journey. Instead he put an old man in charge: a man who had filmy eyes the color of runny cement.
When he had steered the boat (closer and closer to their new, permanent home, but never their country), he moved at a slow pace, keeping the motor from getting too noisy, often frowning at the many strange buttons and gadgets fitted on the dashboard. He would occasionally tap a fingertip to the glass casings.
He has not been at the helm for a long time.
His nails are bruised black and it makes her shudder. Now these blunt-edged fingers tap on the little counter space, making a dull rat-tat-tat that sounds disturbingly like gunfire.
They have been cooped up in the small cabin all day, the heat only eased by the open door and now, mercifully, by night air.
It has been two days of waiting. “Because Americans have tightened patrol,” he tells them, in a heavy accent. America has coarsened his native tongue.
The girl wonders if she will eventually find herself unable to converse with others in her natural rapid-fire pattern as she does now – if she will dream in English and find Spanish a burden to speak, as the old man seems to find when he bothers to speak to them.
There is a call on the man’s slim cellular phone, the sleek ghostly shine of well-polished silver, and he answers it in front of the girl and her mother. He doesn’t carry on much of a conversation, simply responding with yes and no noises, not even real words and he ends the call with a bitter laugh.
“On the deck.” He has to say it twice – they don’t understand him the first time.
Her mother has to hold her arm to steady the girl’s balance as she takes the few steps up onto the deck, slippery with droplets of water. As she stands there, seeing the waves hit the boat harder and harder, she realizes that she feels no need to empty her stomach into the ocean. Yes, she can feel the ache in her stomach loosen, watching the ocean as it undulates fiercer while she stares into the inscrutable depths. Perhaps she has finally grown accustomed to the ceaseless rocking and can attempt to eat food without fear of another attack of seasickness. For a fleeting moment she almost-glimpses a flicker of silvered gold skittering across the black waves.
She smiles, filled with the peaceable joy of a fast that can finally, mercifully, be broken. In this fragile moment, she does not see the shadow out of the corner of her peripheral vision, the leafy green rope in the old man’s hands, until he’s bound it tight around her neck. Twisting her around, he pulls her head up by yanking at her shoulder-length hair, not allowing her to move.
The tears that sting the corners of her eyes are salt, just like everything out here, including the warmed bottles of spring water stocked in a broken cooler in the cramped cabin. She can barely remember water that is not full of salt.
If she looks at her mother, she will cry, so she must be brave. They are so close. This can’t end like this.
He says a word, but it is not a word she recognizes as English or one that she has already come across in Spanish. It is something terrible and she makes her fatal mistake, stealing a glance at her mother, praying for this to be a waking delusion, a panic brought on by a surge of hunger-visions, such things must happen. A hallucination, yes, it must be it, for this cannot be her reality.
Her mother is transfixed, starring not at her, but at a flash of something, from behind them, in the water, and the knife is raised and she can see it now, not with her eyes, but in her mind. Believe her, she sees it and with that awful vision, she knows the moment of her death and it is too soon.
The old man repeats the word and God save her, it is terrible. Before the terror grips her, before the knife slides in, before the rope chokes her, she is released, but it is not for salvation’s sake. She falls, over the railing, rope still around her neck, but it’s been slackened, like a mockery of a necklace.
Hitting the water is more painful that she expects. Sucking in air before impact does nothing to help and she struggles to break the surface, to steal a little air, because she must deny this, why would they kill her?
When she surfaces, a large dark thing sinks beside her, mere feet away, falling into the water, a splash that nearly sends the girl below the water once more. Balance is difficult to keep but she fights the ebb and flow, refuses to be dragged down. She sputters out water. Knows that it can only be one person, that this is real and not madness, and it is fortunate that tears can be unnoticed in water. She has been the strong one in the family ever since Papi’s death.
She grabs blindly but cannot reach the hand. Her mother’s hand.
Her mother screams for God, for forgiveness, pleading why to the old man as he watches, but there is no answer. The girl feels no need to cry out her lamentations.
It is quiet here, when the girl tries to focus on what else there is surrounding them, yet all she can make out are her mother’s broken cries. Beyond that, there is only the sound of the water hitting the boat. The sounds of the ocean, alive and unwilling to save her, it is up to her whether she lives or dies. She is a strong swimmer, but not strong enough.
Something pulls at her leg, a tug that feels nothing like a shark. It’s worse than that, cutting into her flesh, wrapping around, a tight grasp that holds her still. Her mother vanishes under the water first, cut off mid-scream.
The last thing she sees before the ocean swallows her whole is the old man, holding an old-fashioned lantern close to his face.
Her last thought is that her murderer had tears in his eyes.
Somewhere in Georgia
They’re ten miles from the border of Florida, cruising down Interstate 95 (okay, by cruising, that means Dean-style cruising, which translates to the kind of speeding violations that merits a person’s license getting shredded), when Dean announces, “Maybe it’s just Jaws and he’s out for another sequel. Jaws 18: Jaws Versus Crocazilla. You never know, dude. We don’t have a bigger boat and the car isn’t tricked out like in the spy movies. You know, amphibious.”
“Dean, we have to check this out,” Sam says, looks up from a small pile of papers, one leg jumping in impatience ever so slightly. “First a fishing boat gets ‘attacked’ and by that, they mean that four people wind up falling off the ship even though the weather conditions were fine during the middle of the night. The survivor, this twelve year old girl, insisted that something took them when the police filed their first report. They finally find two of the bodies and the eyes were missing, like they were plucked out but there’s no indication of it being a shark because there weren’t any bites. I mean, the bodies not being disturbed by anything else out there in the ocean? What are the chances of that?”
Sam doesn’t give Dean a moment to start in with talk of how this may or may not be their kind of thing, continuing, “Then there’s the story of two bodies washing up on shore, Cuban refugees, which yeah, Cubans trying to escape to America, winding up dead thanks to shady voyages, that does happen, but they died the same way. The coroner had reported that they had the same injuries before they drowned. They’re saying it’s a shark attack but they can’t even find any evidence of a shark.” A quick pause, to catch his breath lest Dean start making with the snappy jokes, he finishes by saying, “I’m thinking a water spirit. Or maybe it’s some kind of a creature. It could be something similar like back in Lake Manitoc.”
“Messed up three hour tours aside,” Dean says, nearly twitching when he realizes they’re now minutes from hitting the border, “it’s Florida.”
Like Sam doesn’t know that already.
“Yeah. I know. We just have to get in there and get out. And,” Sam hastily adds, seeing Dean’s lip curling into his trademark lecher’s smirk, “don’t even start—”
Eyebrows raise and Dean shoots him a wounded look. “Dude, that’s so an opening.” Clearing his throat, Dean carries on, “If you’re just getting in and getting out, you ain’t doing it right.”
“Thanks,” Sam replies, wanting to bang his head on the dashboard a couple of times to get the image out of his head. It brings up memories of Dean’s way too explicit sex advice to Sam when he was a teenager and didn’t know any better about keeping Dean from being allowed to converse in great detail about one of his very favorite topics. Sam decides against banging his head after weighing the pros and cons. First of all, it would hurt and secondly, he’s not about to waste any brain cells. One of them has to have a functioning head above the belt. “Really, thanks for that, Dean, we were running low on your normal lasciviousness.”
Dean chuckles at that, jerkitude in full force, while he fiddles with the radio, avoiding the pop station that’s trying to break on through. The mere idea of Top Forty being played in the Impala is an insult to everything Dean holds dear, as Dean had warned him the few times Sam’s been allowed to drive the car. “Oh yeah, whipping out the big vocab guns, huh? Twenty dollar words ain’t gonna help you now. Welcome to hell.”
“The Sunshine State,” Sam intones, as though he’s reading an ancient accursed incantation and not a splashy billboard welcoming them to the state of orange groves, Disneyworld, and cheerfully corrupt election hijinks. They’ve still got hours to go before they hit Miami, a pit stop is needed but not sleep, they’ve already had a merciful night’s sleep back in North Carolina.
Maybe Dean’s right and they should just hang a U-Turn and head on elsewhere.
Dean’s attempts to find a suitable station have failed spectacularly as an entirely unexpected song starts blasting – a mash up of heavy hip-hop being sung in Spanish.
“Dammit,” Dean grunts, irritably flicking off the radio and pushing in a well-worn, well-loved tape of AC/DC. He sighs in approval as Highway to Hell kicks on. It is appropriate considering where they’re going so Sam won’t bitch about having to listen to AC/DC in each state they’ve crossed since they left Connecticut. Another mile zooms by before Dean speaks again, asking Sam, “What the hell was that music?”
“Reggaeton?” It’s a bit of a blind scramble guess; Sam’s musical education may not be as questionable as Dean’s, but he doesn’t get a chance, particularly now, to follow up on current trends. Not when music released pre-C.D. becomes the background noise of your daily life.
Dean stares at Sam, that patented look of irritation well achieved thanks to an annoying little brother, a look so honestly flustered that Sam almost cracks a smile. There’s no smiling in Florida. Especially not when Sam’s a ticking time-bomb apparently and he’s set to go darkside at any moment.
Especially when Sam’s gotten a promise out of Dean that he still isn’t sure will be kept. His brother had been too relieved when he’d witnessed Sam’s admittedly pathetic hangover and had assumed that Sam had blacked out what he’d said...okay, Sam has to stop thinking about this. He knows it’s impossible, no way to keep it from encroaching on all his thoughts, but they have something to investigate and now they’re arguing about music. Necessary distractions.
“Sam,” Dean says in a gentle voice, almost cajoling, “I know Reggae. Bob Marley. That was not Reggae. That was hip-hop crap gone retarded.”
“It’s a form of Spanish dance hall music,” Sam answers patiently, wondering how Dean has avoided hearing it. He’s pretty sure that, on those rare occasions when they’ve gone into slightly more trendy clubs for investigations, the DJs have had this type of music playing, but maybe Dean’s fine-tuned to ignoring anything recorded with a copyright date set after the second millennium. That would explain a lot of things. “Mostly it’s a mix of older genres like salsa, Spanish rock, and rap.”
“Oh.” Dean takes that in, perhaps weirded out that Sam’s suddenly more knowledgeable about music than Dean, because at the very least, Sam is certainly spooked by that. Glancing at the rear mirror, edging into another lane, getting out of Dean-patented cruising speed, Dean succinctly sums up a genre of music by saying, “It’s crap.”
“Yeah, uh, okay.” Sam lets out a breath that isn’t a laugh, but it’s not weary, a nice change of pace. “Maybe you should keep that opinion to yourself. Once we get to Miami I don’t think pissing off the local Cuban population will be in our best interest.”
“Cubans? In Miami? Oh Sam, pull the other one,” Dean says, smacking his right thigh. “Next you’ll tell me that New York’s smack full of Puerto Ricans.”
Dean raises a hand up, saying, “Cut the statistics and Cultural Anthropology 101, dude. We’re not spending any more time in Florida than we have to and I don’t care how many of whoever is wherever, got it?”
“Loud and clear,” Say says, laying the sarcasm thick, returning to the articles he’d printed off to analyze before they got to Miami.
“Dammit. I hate Florida.”
Truer words were never spoken.
Flores-Norwood Home, Miami, Florida
One Week Ago
“You called out her name again,” his lover informs him when Henry rouses from yet another night of restless sleep.
“What name? Who was it?”
But on that, Marcos would not say. It’s more troubling than the sleep loss: Marcos’s ability to discuss everything and anything to the minute details had been the very thing that Henry loved the best. There’s always an opinion, observation or joke guaranteed when you’re with Marcos.
It’s wonderful to be able to live in the background, allowing Marcos to be the voice of both of them, a salve to a life spent in the spotlight, to people having expectations of him. Now he’s merely expected to be there at the never-ending series of social events and to add a handful of words to the lively conversations – a sprinkle of pepper to Marcos’s infamous bouillabaisse of intrigues and political gossip.
His stomach rumbles and Marcos smiles, not unkindly. “When was the last time you ate? And don’t say last night, liar, you picked at risotto and let it dry so it looked like you’d eaten something.”
“Two days ago. Chicken and avocado on whole wheat.” It’s a bare recitation and still, it leaves his mouth dry. He doesn’t mention that it didn’t stay down, no need to worry Marcos. Henry can worry enough for the both of them.
“I can make you something simple.”
Henry wipes his sweaty palms on their 600-count cotton sheets before he lays a hand on Marcos’s face. “I’ll be fine.” He gets out of their bed, picking up his robe and tying the sash around his waist. He hesitates and then says, “I’ll be in the office.”
“Brooding?” Marcos is exhausted and he can only manage a half-hearted teasing frown.
“Plotting my next masterpiece.” The laugh is perfectly timed and Henry bends down to kiss the top of Marcos’s head, tousled messy from sleep and in desperate need of being cut. It’s so unlike Henry’s austere trimmed hair. Henry promises him the gentlest of lies, an apology, “I just have too many thoughts.”
“I know,” Marcos sleepily sing-songs. He tugs the sheets over his shoulders and Henry makes a note of raising the temperature on the central air unit so that Marcos doesn’t freeze tonight.
He waits until Marcos has resumed sleeping before he says quietly under his breath, “I’ll miss you.”
Then he walks out of the room, down the stairs, puts on the old boots he keeps in the mudroom. He decides, at the very last minute, not to get into their brand new motorboat, The Surefire Glide, the upgrade from their older boat. No, it must be the old ’88 27ft Scorpion, a clunker that breaks down whenever they try to push it past forty-five miles per hour.
Yes, for his purposes tonight, he has to take the old Afternoon Treader, so named in honor of one of Henry’s favorite childhood books. The books had even survived past his youth and into these autumn years. Marcos had gotten a rare books shop to rebind his first edition set of The Chronicles of Narnia as a special birthday present for Henry’s thirty-sixth. So deceptively elegant – a set of battered paperbacks resting between fine leather covers, the names stamped in antique gold lettering.
Things like that, he will miss.
He takes the keys out of the little cabinet, touching the news article taped on one of the cabinet doors: a yellowed copy of one of Marcos’s shining successes in immigrant rights. Henry knows that Marcos will survive the fallout, that he will continue doing what he does best, making the world a bit more interesting.
Leaves the house for the last time, making sure the security is enabled, he doesn’t look back.
Perhaps he should have left a note.
He unties the thick braided ropes not from the dock but from the boat itself, done up in Henry’s expert knots, throwing the ropes on the dock. There is no need for them anymore. The boat is noisy, they’ve replaced the motor several times but it hasn’t helped at all. Henry is thankful that during the last renovation of their home, they had opted for the highest grade of hurricane windows, the panes of glass thickened to deaden outside noise.
The lights on the boat are poor and Henry did not bring additional flashlights but it does not matter, he knows the way. He has dreamt it so many times. Away and out, out of the waterway, into the ocean, a song he has been chasing since his deadline for perfection was cut drastically short. Knows it’s dangerous now, it’s too dark, and his boat wasn’t meant to go out this far.
But his dreams have been calling him here and he has already disobeyed her long enough, it is time now, though the time is still too late. She will be greatly displeased.
The motor dies a choking death as soon as he reaches where he needs to be and he almost laughs in relief. Of course it would last just until this final moment. Now is the time for all the promises to be fulfilled.
“Are you there?” he asks, searching across the black waters, seeking that which has always been there, waiting just for him. The voice that has offered him a hope that for all he will undoubtedly lose, he will find the symphony which has eluded him his entire life.
Bubbles rise to the surface as a light suddenly appears from below, revealing a distorted silver-gold shape struck with impossible greens in the stark black depths. It is impossible to make out the exact shape. Henry takes off his robe, kicks off his boots, taking careful steps down the three-step ladder into the water. His pajama pants get heavy with water, as though he is being dragged down. Not yet, that will come later.
A moment’s hesitation – the thought that has been lingering on his mind for too long, that he doesn’t want to die, yet he knows that this is the only way this can end – but it passes and he lets go of the ladder, the weight of his clothes a hindrance to his ability to stay afloat.
He needn’t stay above the surface for too long.
He can hear the singing start, the voice that has haunted him these past nights, the sweet surrender of security, the promise that he will not feel any pain again. She expects nothing from him save himself.
It is not arms that wrap around his chest so tight that he can feel his ribs creaking. It is not a woman that pulls him underneath before he can scream in pain. He doesn’t try to steal a little air, instead he lets his lungs burn out the little oxygen he has left and there is a faint glimmer of light now and he can see.
She is every bit as horrifying as he has imagined.
His spirit is willing but his body is not. But then, that has always been the problem. He struggles to fight the strong grip until he hears her voice, singing the song he has been chasing for all his life. The song that came into shape since the doctor offered the grim diagnosis, an early onset case that couldn’t have been anticipated, not even with his family’s medical history. The promise of life, even in death.
He surrenders to her gladly.
Five days later, his corpse will wash up on the beach, disturbing beachgoers looking to burn off hours by soaking in the rays and playing in the water. Before the Miami P.D. closes the crime scene, photographs of Henry Norwood, cherished pianist and composer, are released over the internet. Of particular interest is the photo of Henry’s face, contorted into a disfigured scream, the flesh bloated with water and the empty sockets grotesquely forced to stare directly into the camera. The skin is one good slough away from revealing the skull underneath.
His boat is never recovered.
Rest Stop, Orange County, Florida,
“All right, spill it.”
“Spill what?” Sam’s still got his eyes glued to the laptop screen, moving damn quick, making fast work of whatever he’s reading.
Dean puts down his questionable breakfast burrito, licking his fingers, enjoying Sam’s disgusted look. He doesn’t really enjoy the gassy roll of his stomach as it attempts to digest the food but he ain’t about to let Sam realize that maybe Dean shouldn’t have eaten that. “Spill whatever’s got your panties in a twist, ‘cause I didn’t put any itching powder in ‘em and I know it ain’t a case of crotch rot. You think wearing the same pair of boxers two days in a row is a freakin’ sin. Spill, dude.”
Huffing, Sam says, “So now there’s been another death, same details – eyes, the marks, only his rib cage wasn’t just broken, the article has it as ‘shattered,’ in fact, like he was squeezed to death.”
“They exist,” Sam replies, ignoring that Dean’s throwing it out there as a joke. “But no one’s ever seen a living Giant squid. But, uh, they interviewed his life partner—”
“This really a life partner or did they mistake a pair of brothers for being gay?” Yep, Dean’s still a little sore about that.
Sam clears his throat, affecting a damn near prissy tone, “I doubt Henry Norwood and Marcos Flores were related, Dean.”
“Well, but they did know each other biblically, huh? So they’re related like that,” he says, finishing with a shrug as he pokes the cooling remains of his breakfast. He shoulda gone for some muffins like Sam did, eyeing the few crumbs left on Sam’s battered plastic tray. Man, even the remains of the banana nut muffins looked a damn sight better than the slightly oozing leftovers of his own meal.
Sam presses his lips together, cursory scanning of the article before he softly says, “You seem to be kind of okay with that.” There’s a question at the end of it – genuine surprise.
“Dude, I’ve been getting hit on since before I realized what the hell was going on. That whole deal with guys being into other guys. Whatever, love comes in all forms, you know?” Dean’s never been much for having a philosophy when it comes to relationship crap, but he’s figured out that much at least. “Now hot lesbians? I know you approve, Sam.”
“There’s the brother I remember,” Sam says, defeated. “So Marcos Flores has given a couple of interviews saying how Henry would’ve never killed himself and that he’d been having strange nightmares. Maybe this creature has some kind of telepathic powers. It could explain why in the first attack the twelve year old didn’t hear a thing when the rest of the people in her boat were taken. She didn’t wake up until another fisherman came across the boat. The first thing the fisherman reported was that the boat’s deck was splattered all over in blood. It could be something corporeal if it’s dragging people into the ocean.”
“Wait a second. Where the hell did you get that detail from? That wasn’t in the original article about the first set of victims.”
Sam taps on several keys before answering. His fingers have been itchy ever since he got the cast off back in New York, a quick stop off at a clinic to finally remove the stupid cast, Sam’s memento of getting tripped up by a freakin’ zombie. He’s still not quite used to not having the cast hindering his wrist movements. But when he flexes his fingers just like that, quick bend-snap, oh that ain’t just him adjusting to being cast-free.
God, Dean has to get Sam to stop it with those obvious tells, it’s why he had to be the freakin’ breadwinner when it comes to hustling, Sam’s crap at hiding body language. “Well, there’s this website dedicated to unsolved mysteries in Florida—”
“Being that there are so many,” Dean interrupts, while in his head he mentally adds that to his List of Why Florida Is So Fucking Weird. He’s been keeping count for a long-ass time.
“So yeah, the newspapers were covering up that one grisly detail in the hope that they didn’t have a kid serial killer on their hands and now that there’s three more bodies with similar wounds, dying almost the same way, it looks like that girl just got lucky and won’t have to deal with the Miami P.D. anymore.” Sam closes up his laptop, shaking his head. “It’s really messed up that we have to call that lucky.”
“Sometimes we gotta take what we can get,” Dean offers, trying not to let the conversation veer back to their rinse-repeat struggles with what Dad had told Dean. It’s just not something he can deal with right now, not that he’d ever want to deal with it. The case, that’s what they’ve got to keep their eyes on. Eyes on the prize and all that shit. “Now, you want to back up about the telepathy? Because you’re working on a theory and I want to hear it.”
“There’s a lot of myths about one type of creature that would want to drag people off into the water and would be able to lure people from great distances.” Sam drums his fingers on the table, shifting in the uncomfortable fast food restaurant seat that’s never been able to accommodate him just right ever since he shot up his current height. Dean may not be all that cozy but he doesn’t look like he’s developing a hunchback, the way his brother sits. Sam coughs, mumbling, “Something like a Siren.”
“You’re shitting me.”
It is, after all, one of the oldest seafaring legends, men going so crazy for women that they just have to make up women not of flesh and blood, not human at all, to explain their madness – why they’d crash into the rocks that should have been so clear before the fatal collision. Sea creatures that get their jollies sending people to their watery deaths. Only good that’s come out of it are some pretty awesome movies, not like he’d say that to Sam, ‘cause he’d probably get a lecture about how that’s Not Funny.
Exasperated, Sam says, “No, Dean. Do you think I’d throw that out there just to mess with you?”
Dean blinks. “Well—”
“I’m not,” Sam says fiercely. “But if this pans out, if it’s attacking in the same place, it might be a spirit, even an elemental, but if Marcos Flores can confirm what Henry Norwood was dreaming about, he might have been lured by a siren. The way the victims are dying with such specific wounds make sense when you compare them to the legends.”
“Okay, but why now? Why those people? If Henry Norwood’s another victim, why was he lured, ‘cause the others just sound like poor bastards at the wrong place and wrong time.”
“I think that’s going to be one of those answers that’s going to suck,” Sam offers, draining the last of his coffee, tossing the empty container in a nearby trash bin. He gets up to use the men’s room and Dean makes sure to remind him to wash his hands after, earning a well-deserved eye-roll.
Dean’s already finished his coffee and he’s not angling to pick up another overpriced cup of Joe. He’s still working on his orange juice. It’s actually pretty good, he’d gotten no pulp, had insisted for it because he does not believe in surprise lumpy liquid going down his throat, no matter what Sam might bitch about his eating habits.
Unfortunately, it’s so freaking sweet, he’s sure that he’s gonna be pissing sugar later on. He’s been trying to control his jittery sugar rush and he can’t wait to get back into the car, a little high speed adrenaline and sugar will get them to Miami in no time.
In fact, it would be a great idea to stand right outside the men’s room and wait until Sam opens the door and jump in front of the door just as it swings open, that unpleasant smell of rest stop bathrooms wafting out at the same moment.
Sam’s surprised twist of a mouth, nearly forming a goddamn perfect o of surprise is pretty fucking funny. The punch to Dean’s arm isn’t funny at all.
“Ow, man. Okay, let’s go, let’s go. Back in the pool,” Dean says too fast, nearly bouncing with impatience, even though it’s still Fucking Florida and they’re going deeper into this cursed place and why the hell hasn’t anyone ever confirmed that Florida’s a hotbed of weird supernatural crap and closed this place down? “C’mon, Sammy, we’ve gotta go.”
A nearly beatific smile lights up Sam’s face and Dean twitches in response to Sam’s obvious enjoyment of Dean’s behavior. ‘You’re riding a sugar high, aren’t you?”
Yep, Dean’s awesome with the comebacks when he’s riding that first sweet unbridled wave of sugar kicking all his systems into overdrive.
Miami Beach, Florida
Three Days Ago
Yvette leaves the major throng of the party, hoping to sneak away for a quiet smoke (she’s publicly anti-drugs, for the kids, you know), wading into the water to her knees. Her dress will be ruined. It’s made of delicate silk and something-or-other (her stylist had insisted on it despite the fact that Yvette had to drop five pounds just to keep her belly looking nice and flat in the unforgiving silhouette) and she doesn’t care.
It’s the standard useless Ocean Drive party – she shows up, they snap her photo and her publicist makes damn sure it winds up in the right papers and magazines. Oh, and Nikki Style better use a picture favoring her left side this time, or there will be hell to pay.
Her purse is useless for most things that she should be carrying, like a wallet, but no one needs to see her I.D. (and they haven’t carded her since she turned twenty-five, four years later, and she’s got thirty looming with all the implications of failure if she doesn’t break out and make it onto a national show now). A couple of joints and a thin matchbook with three matches remaining, that’s all she needs, safe and secure in the trick lining she’s always required for all her bags.
It’s a costly habit, buying these bags. She can’t afford to be caught photographed with the same pair of shoes – to go around with the same old purse would simply be unheard of.
The lights of the party have dimmed, to blues and greens that glitter over the water – constant disruptive flickers of the colors dancing over the waves. Time slows down and she throws her purse as far as she can manage (her aim’s never been fantastic) when she removes the last joint of the hiding place. The splash is incredibly satisfying, a beautiful almost surprised noise as it hits the water and maybe it’ll be the luxurious new home of a hermit crab. A crab in a designer purse. Stranger things have happened.
God, she’s purchased some great pot this time around, she really has to thank her dealer. She watches a giant wave of black (it’s not water, not the dark, dark glitter of a wall of water tumbling into the black-black night sky) coming towards her, all rippling and wrong and she feels her body prickling all over. Goosebumps rising on her skin despite this night being unseasonably warm.
There’s a flash of silver and ivory and she doesn’t scream, not even when the breath of rotten meat and briny sea hits her. Then there’s nothing left.
Save a pair of Jimmy Choo sandals at the water’s edge, the unlaced straps gently moving when the lapping water slowly rises as the tide gets higher. Then, the shoes disappear in the dark depths and there is nothing left of Yvette García.
Tower Hotel, Miami, Florida
They find a motel distressingly lacking in the usual kitsch – no mildly offensive décor clearly picked out by someone in the midst of a major hallucination. There isn’t a theme to the room beyond the clinging desperation of being down and out.
The harsh colors have faded over time: no longer brassy yellow wallpapered walls, instead it’s become vague beige, nicked and dented so much it looks like some people were counting off the days by marking up the cheap wallpaper. Sam drops his bags on the bed: dull white pillows and bed sheets with a thin duvet tucked over the sheets haphazardly. The duvet was, at a time, allegedly green but it’s now on its way to the color of dead celery, threadbare white showing in some places.
No other option to clear out that familiar motel scent but opening up the gritty windows. Dean sneezes at the dust let loose from the curtains. “Son of a bitch.”
“Cursing at dust really does wonders,” Sam says, ignoring the itchy sensation in his nostrils.
The windows barely do a damn thing to clear out the dour antiseptic smell battling with the phantom cigarette smoke of previous occupants.
“Non-smoking,” Dean says, disgusted, kicking up the air conditioning unit. He bangs on the top of it when it fails to get any colder and Sam files that away, to be used at a later date. Next time Dean mocks Sam’s lack of mechanical skills, Sam will have an arsenal of examples of Dean’s supposed tech prowess at the ready.
Dean sits down on his bed (his bed because it’s closer to the door and that’s always the way it’s been), tentatively bouncing on it for a minute and just when he goes to make his pervy comment, Sam cuts him off at the pass.
“Great, you’ve got another sex bed. I don’t want to hear it, okay?”
“Always raining on my parade.” Shaking his head, Dean rifles through the bedside table, a hand brushing over the included bible, pulling out a bookmark better kept between the pages of a fantasy novel. It’s all dragons and wizards on an inky-purple background. He flicks it on Sam’s bed, not bothering to make a crack about Sam being a nerd. Tracing a finger on the battered dark wood surface, tapping when he finds a cigarette burn etched deep in the wood. “This right here is why asking for non-smoking is useless. At least smoking rooms are honest.”
Sam shakes off the weird image of a room being honest, choosing instead to flick the bookmark onto Dean’s bed. “So, are we really going to use those fake identities to interview Marcos Flores? Because I don’t think he’ll let us in through the front door.”
“I thought you said he was known to be a man of the people and all that. He’s giving tons of interviews,” Dean says, pointedly turning on the TV and flicking around until he comes across a news show, the screen currently focusing on a picture of Henry Norwood, audio of a previously taped conversation between Flores and a journalist being aired over alternating photographs and some fuzzy video footage. “Like that. Huh. I didn’t expect that to work.”
Sam won’t ask why Dean bothered to turn on the television because that way only lies to another insufferable smart-ass answer.
“Marcos Flores is involved in the campaign to secure rights for gay and lesbian families in Florida.” Off Dean’s look, he adds, “They’re not allowed to adopt here although some families do act as foster parents. And there’s the marriage issue.”
“You know what? I’m starting to think you’re the one that makes everyone think we’re gay.”
“You should try stand up,” Sam mutters. He’s more interested in checking to make sure there aren’t any visible stains on his bed sheets and praise whatever twisted angel’s looking out for them, because the sheets appear to be within the spectrum of adequately clean.
“They pay cash money?” Dean clicks off the television, leaving the battered remote on his bed, because wherever there’s Dean and a TV, he assumes control unless he’s been knocked unconscious. Sam is grateful for torrents for this very reason.
Dean takes his wallet out, pointing at the handful of twenties he’s got left, as though Sam is to blame for taking Dean’s hard-earned ill-gotten gains. “I can’t believe we’re staying at a joint that won’t take credit cards and we had to pay for the entire week upfront. Yeah, this place reeks of trust. Or is that dust?”
Dean’s a fully body sneezer and when he goes off, with a loud sneeze and one of his damn near seizures, it could be mistaken as an over-exaggeration, that huge ungainly spasm, in the eyes of someone who hasn’t had the pleasure of being sneezed on by Dean on several unpleasant occasions. Which is why Sam knows to stand back as far as possible, there’s no way he’s getting himself covered in Dean’s snot.
Once the fit’s over, Dean pulls a couple of pilfered paper napkins, ragged recycled brown, from the rest stop, out of his pocket, wiping at his nose. It does leave Dean’s nostrils looking particularly charming, all irritated and red-rimmed.
Sam says, “Yeah, well, you know we still need to find out what’s killing these people and so far, all we know for certain is that the victims were connected to Cuban community. If it’s random, then it’s probably a pissed off spirit or some kind of nasty creature, but if it’s not—”
“It’s a start,” Dean interrupts, punctuating his statement with a yawn. He runs his hands through his hair, leaving a spiky mess that makes Dean almost look not like Sam’s jackass older brother. Someone younger is sitting there on Dean’s bed, a person with sleepy eyes and an irritated nose and it’s like they’re kids again, only Sam doesn’t feel awkward at all, just has a bit of a tingle to his new-freed arm. “I’m gonna catch a few zzz’s, you mind ironing my suit?”
“No problem,” Sam says, wishing that sarcasm was as effective as actual dripping venom. “Then I can shine your boots. Oh wait, I’m not your freaking butler—”
“That’s what we’re missing. We got to get ourselves an Alfred. Think we can get one that’ll take a pay cut from the usual perks of workin’ for a Boy Billionaire?”
Exasperated, Sam heaves a great dramatic sigh, getting up from his bed and shutting the windows so the A/C will actually work that way. “I’m taking a shower first.”
“Great, you can wipe out the slime if there’s some stuck on the tiles. And don’t use one of my damn shirts,” Dean says, bringing up an incident that happened when Sam was fourteen for God’s sake, can Dean ever let it go?
“Night, Dean,” Sam responds, undercutting it with enough saccharine that could kill a Brady brother, never mind the gung-ho hyper-testosterone breed known as Winchester.
“Shut up, Sam.”
Dean’s annoyed face is almost cute when he’s got a stuffy nose.
Undisclosed Location, Somewhere in Miami, Florida
The price of a man’s soul is going cheap these days, God knows, but that doesn’t mean that a better bargain can be struck when there’s more on the line than banishment to heaven or hell. Look, here’s a deal that’s all surface (get it? Because eventually it’ll make all too much sense): he’s been hearing her for years, the faint echo of sound bouncing off water. It’s a weak frequency and the only thing he’s got to do is say yes and bring more to her and then, oh yeah, he’s golden.
She’s all sounds and vibrations, deep in his belly and lower than that, too. He doesn’t talk about that part. Might not make it sound all honorable, what he does, convincing everyone to go along, and that’s almost what’s at stake. Honor. It’s all a form of will, isn’t it?
Get them on boat with a double negative of hope. One of those simple plans that unfolds beautifully, like a model’s legs as she gets up from her seat at a trendy outdoor café, all smooth movements and easy deceptions. The flaws are never noticed, it’s what perfection should be, but isn’t. It’s better than a double-edge sword at any rate, swearing that it’ll be worth it, that’s all that he can say.
They’d call him crazy if he told them the truth. And then they’d struggle.
Ah, he’s lying there. Only one is supposed to struggle and in the end, he struggles so beautifully, it’s almost a sin to open his gut and watch his blood coat the deck.
Sinning hasn’t been a problem for a long time. He’d smiled his coyote’s grin, the one that fools believed in, the one that’s granted him a steady income that the government will never touch, and they listened to him, so devout, so faithful, and followed the instructions of the voice carried on the wind.
They don’t take the ride because they dream of America, they’re already natural citizens, what he offers is a taste of their faith, the proof, that yes, they are righteous for all the right reasons.
The reports are going to be wrong, when it comes down to it. The initial investigators, the Coast Guard, the Miami P.D., they are told it was a family of five who started on that doomed voyage and why anyone lie about that?
Why say five when the answer is six?
Maybe because the “only” survivor knows to keep her fucking mouth shut or she’ll be gutted as well.
Oh no, that’s merely a joke. Don’t worry about it, instead picture a girl made for the evening news, big doe eyes that get all shiny and glossy when the tears fill up, her trembling little chin warbling with each word, and her pretty hair the color of sun-burnt straw, in the right light, it’s like a waving field of wheat. It’s the perfect cover, because once the kid watches her parents, aunt and big sister take the plunge into the angry ocean, she knows how to lie to save her own life.
The sleeping pills helped too, admittedly.
Hey, it isn’t every day you watch dear old Mommy toss Daddy overboard. With a little help from Big Sis and Auntie as they pinned down Daddy Dearest, ignoring his screams for help, it’s the kind of damage that’ll shatter a kid’s psyche. An unfortunate aftereffect that’ll keep future psychiatrists in business for years.
Did he mention that this precious girl is now an orphan? No other family to take her in, stranded all alone and miserable, it’ll churn Human Interest story after story on the local news and maybe even get a spot on the cable news. These evil sharks, won’t someone put a stop to them?
Ignore the blood on the deck, the police report that notes an unidentified odor that smelled sharply of something (briny and ancient and wrong) and that there is the strange insistence of the girl in her early account that her family had been taken. By doing that, the journalists have themselves a tragic accident, one they can lament about while showing the photogenic adorable little survivor, their very own mascot of emotional context.
It’s the best kind of trick to play - to have gotten away with murder on a jaunty inflatable boat. He remembers how his outboard motor had cut a wide swath into the ocean’s surface much like how the knife had opened up the father. Yes, his soul in exchange for real power, for eternal power, it’s a fine deal to make.
Tower Hotel, Miami Florida
Dean opens his eyes to the lazy dance of silvered white dust motes. There’s a slant of sunlight poking around the edges of the print curtains. It’s not a pleasant sight to wake up to: the faded yellow of cheap mustard and the stomach-turning green that reminds Dean faintly of Sam’s hangover pallor back in Cornwall. Only it’s not as disgusting, just palm trees stuck in a mustard wasteland, yep, that’s exactly what it is.
Welcome to Goddamn Miami.
“Bienvenido a Miami,” chirps the local news station, the shot focusing on an amateur anchorwoman (with damn nice assets). It’s a kid’s style show, he realizes soon enough, what with the pan to her co-anchor, a bad knockoff of some kind of Sesame Street-style critter. Poor bastard, having to wear that godawful getup. “Bueno dìas, Eduardo.”
“It’s too early in the morning for freaking Muppets,” he declares and if it’s half-choked with a groggy why the hell am I awake at this hour whine, Sam better not comment on it because it’s way too fucking early to get riled up. He doesn’t ever whine, okay?
Damn, he needs to brush his teeth. Runs his tongue over his incisors and nearly gags at the gross fuzzy film taking up occupancy.
Hell of a way to wake up for another bright and sunny day in freaking Florida. At least, Dean assumes it’s warm out there because he’s fucking freezing to death, the air conditioner set to “ice box” which’ll do a number on ya when you’ve dropped off to sleep in just a t-shirt and boxer-briefs.
Unlike Sam apparently, who’s looking pretty goddamn chipper, as chipper as a person can look when scrolling for more information about freakin’ murders on the wonderful world wide web. He’s layered up already with his hooded sweatshirt zipped all the way up, his feet clad in his thickest pair of socks.
“Christ, Sam,” he moans, and shit, he needs an injection or ten of coffee directly in his bloodstream. “Are you trying to kill me?”
“No, I’m going to cryogenically freeze you,” Sam answers. He doesn’t give Dean any time to consider a situation where Dean wakes up in a distant future after being frozen. Where he’s the last living human male in a post-Apocalypse world, where chicks’ll line up just to have a hell of time, and where it rains doughnuts every night (just like on The Simpsons that one time). Nope, because he’s Sam, annoying little brother extraordinaire, he says with infinite patience not teeming in his voice, “The A/C temperature control broke at some point in the night. I know better not to wake you when you’re muttering about...okay, I still don’t want to think about what you were mumbling in your sleep because your headspace is a scary place. It’s the air conditioner or the humidity outside, pick your poison.”
“Option number two sucks that much?”
“Dean, you should put your hand to the window.”
Lumbering out of bed, Dean makes his way to the window. Dean looks out of the window first, not an easy task when the window’s still so damn dusty and streaked so bad it looks like the last time it’d been cleaned was in the eighties, pastel colors galore and freaking Miami Vice giving the illusion that this place wasn’t some kind of hellhole. The glass has a look to it like it’s one bad storm away from shattering.
Out there is Miami, and even with the crappy view, he can still pick out the vibe of the city. Places are funny that way, always showing off their mettle with facades done up and run down over time.
Miami’s a people-less city, Dean can tell that much.
The well-to-do’s, those snobby bastards, make it a point of getting the fuck out of the heart of Miami to the friendlier neighborhoods of Coral Gables or the better parts of Miami Beach. The city’s been left to developers, but it’s too much construction and just too many damn buildings.
Its’ the emptiness more than anything that’s letting Miami go bad with a quickness. Not surprising when all the shiny buildings are only thirty percent occupied; too few people to keep the city alive with anything more than surface survival – pretty faces and a steaming underbelly. But it’s nothing like a dreamland detective backdrop. Nope, out here, where it’s freaking reality, it’s nothing like the movies. The real stuff, oh that’s always the bitch. It’s a city in need of a cure.
Still, there ain’t no place in Florida that’s free from the crazy, from the Scientologist stronghold in Clearwater (it had been the only time Dad refused to go on a hunt was when Caleb had brought up some nasty Spring-Heeled Jacks making their stomping grounds in Clearwater), to the towns teeming full of carnies or Irish travelers, to even freaking Orlando and the always expanding Disney empire, and finally, to anywhere and everywhere senior citizens have landed, snowbirds or not, waiting to die under the sun if the hurricanes don’t get ‘em. Not to mention the Everglades and the fact that Florida’s set to get swallowed by the ocean give or take a couple of generations.
Yeah, Dean ain’t fond of Florida by a long shot.
“Yeah, coffee would be a great idea.”
“That’s called a hint.” Dean puts his hand to the window pane and almost recoils in shock. “Fuck, it’s hot.”
“The weather’s supposed to be ninety-five today and it’s crazy humid. Strange weather patterns,” Sam hmms.
A minute ticks by; Dean’s brain needs a fucking jumpstart like crazy. “You thinking it’s a part of what we’re hunting?”
“Wow, you really need that coffee, huh?”
Dean convinces himself that whapping Sam across the head won’t do any good beyond boosting his spirits for a brief moment. It’s the caffeine withdrawal. Or it’s the creepy-crawlies working under his skin that Dean ain’t mentioning to Sam, the ones that have gnawed in him ever since he fucking woke up with that breathing tube shoved down his throat, knowing it had been wrong. He’s trying to make his peace with it, at least for Sammy’s sake.
“I’m gonna take a shower. If some coffee magically appears in the time it takes for me to shower and shave, I’ll get you the thing you’ve wanted all your life.”
“And what’s that?” Sam asks, disbelieving, closing his laptop.
“Your very own pony. It’ll be a huge fucking Clydesdale pony, but it’ll be all for you, Sammy.” It’s a pretty hilarious mental picture so Dean can’t help it when he full out laughs.
“Dude, you’re losing it. Coffee it is.” Sam picks up the keys from the table, pausing for a moment before he takes off his sweatshirt and pulls on his sneakers.
“I don’t want anything ending in a ‘chino, ‘esso, or ‘atte.” Sam’s hand is on the doorknob when Dean stresses, “Offee as in coffee. That’s all I need.”
Sam’s shoulders slouch down, an irritated sigh, as though he’s really being tested today. He says as he turns around, “I forget to say no shot of hazelnut syrup once.”
“Yeah, it sucks. Deal.” Dean wags a finger at Sam, easier said than done as he’s still tearing through his duffel for some clean(ish) clothes. “I’m not getting whammied with that crap ever again.”
“Black coffee. I’ll write it down on my hand so I don’t forget.” Waves his right hand at Dean, palm so freakin’ clean, Dean thinks that Sam must’ve picked up antibacterial soap at a convenience store.
Or the freak’s been getting freaky with his hand all over again. But before Dean can make his awesome masturbation joke, Sam’s gone, locking the door behind him.
It’s rare to catch a break and yeah, it’s a small favor, but that don’t mean that Dean doesn’t mutter thank you under his breath when the water’s mercifully hot but doesn’t scald his back. There’s no complimentary bottles of shampoo so Dean makes due with Sam’s stuff that he left on the inset soap deck, after a cursory sniff of the stuff because if it winds up smelling like flowers or Nair, he’d rather just wash off with the sliver thin pieces of complimentary soap.
He shaves after the shower, making quick work of it so it’ll be a five o’clock shadow by midday. They do have to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for their jobs today, after all.
Sam’s back with the coffee just when Dean’s set to start shorting Sam’s sheets. Evil mission forgotten, he says, sincerely, “Bless you, Sam,” pulling off the lid and taking a sip of the blessed black coffee.
“Your communion wafer,” Sam replies, handing Dean some sort of pastry twisted into a pretzel shape.
“Okay,” Dean manages, his mouth full of pastry, thickly swallowing, “I’m ready to take on my man Harrison’s famous Agent role. You ready to take on his breakout starring role?”
continued in part two