Sam rolled the stretcher under the lamp and pulled away the sheet that covered the body.
"Could be a daeva," Dean said. "We're both thinkin' it was Tommy, right? He summoned somethin' to dish some back on his fucked-up family, or maybe he just meant it for the old man and it got outta his control, and daeva's have been known to do that. Whatever it is didn't like bein' leashed. Figure it might've done him in with his own knife."
"You brought us back here so you could air that theory?" Sam tried to modulate his tone to little-brother-peevish, still with an undercurrent of interest in what more Dean might have to say. "If he's summoned and been controlling a daeva up till yesterday, we would've found at least the remnants of his altar and we didn't."
Dean shrugged, an irritating ripple in the corner of Sam's eye.
"House barely looked liked he'd even been squatting in it. Maybe he had himself a manwitch cave he could get away to, God knows, if we'd inherited a place like that I'd be less than enthusiastic about setting up shop on the premises, and that's not even talking about that closet out of A Child Called It."
Eric Huntsman. a fisherman, had been a big man in life: just under six feet but broad, sturdy bones and the thick musculature of someone whose job involved a lot of reeling and hauling. Sandy brown hair and white skin so different from the chapped red of the pre-mortem photos. In other words, the precise opposite of his brother, the maybe magic priest.
Dean's warm breath brushed Sam's face when he leaned in for a closer look. The gash that picked up Dean's attention was the middle one of a set of three across his chest and shoulders, so deep that the white plate of the shoulder blade gleamed through the wound. The body'd been drained and washed and the meat and bones had that inhumanly sterile look, a true empty shell.
Dean rolled the body to its side so he could look at its back. When he let the body roll back to its face-up position, it fell against the metal with a dull thud. Sam glanced at the door, concerned for a second that they were about to be discovered, that someone would be listening in on them, would have overheard too much. He had the feeling that he was being watched, a keen and reasonable instinct that he trusted, but what was to be done about it?
Sam took a step back from the gurney, away from the circle of light the lamp cast. He watched as Dean cupped a hand over his nose and mouth, presumably because the smells of formaldehyde and death were starting to get to him. Sam imitated him, breathing in his own moist breath, which smelled sourly of stale coffee.
"This is a waste of time," Sam said and shrugged at Dean's raised eyebrow. "Okay. Say you're right? The priest summoned one of a thousand different monsters to get revenge for whatever shit his family had it coming for, but his great white slipped the leash and ate his heart out. Poetic justice. But if so we should forget the bodies, practically anything could've shredded them this way. What we need is to find what our black magic priest used in his summoning spell, which means we should be spending all our time tracking down his sanctum sanctorum. We don't need to know another thing about his victims. It's too late for them. If there's another attack, it's gonna be random, it'll only be because when you invite evil into your world it doesn't just slither back down its hole when it's gotten the job done."
Grudgingly, Dean nodded, said, "You could be right." He stepped closer to the gurney, lowered the lamp so that it cast its light right above the guy's chest."C'mere."
They both bent over the body. Sam scrunched up his face, because he still had the muscle-memory of flinching when he got within inches of dead bodies.
"What are you looking for?" Sam asked, and he couldn't keep the challenge out of his tone..
"Just look, would you," Dean said, sharp. Sam let himself roll his eyes in exasperation and perhaps just a little too much disdain, but Dean wasn't looking. He kept looking at the skin, instead, and Sam did the same. Dean calling the shots again, and he had a wary itch at that, a keen awareness of how easily it could become routine and habit and hard to break out of.
The dead man's skin was a bluish hue, maroon with broken vessels where the bruising was, around the pectorals – probably when whatever had attacked him had thrown him against the shore's big rocks or the hull of his boat and he hadn't entirely bled out yet. Broken nails with splintered wood and sand buried underneath, probably in a vain attempt to crawl away from the attacker. Other than the claw marks and the Y incision from the coroner's scalpel, those were the corpse's only distinguishing features.
Dean had rolled the body back over and was inspecting the back again, his gaze travelling lower and lower down its spine, latex finger tracing the indent and Sam was tempted to make a crack about him feeling up a dead guy, but resisted, and then Dean's finger was swirling around a birthmark, no, a cluster of moles, no, a slick black tattoo, no, nothing so natural.
"Here," he said, and Sam bent to look closer. The mark was was made of two mirroring crescent shapes, pointed at the tips. "Usually revenge curses will leave a brand on their victims," he said.
"There was nothing about a brand in the coroner's reports, not for any of the other victims."
"Well, it's real subtle, maybe could've been mistaken for the kinda mole he really should've gotten checked out, maybe didn't really seem worth documenting in detail next to the obvious cause of death. I just had this feeling, y'know, that we might've overlooked something."
Irritation that he had missed this, had missed looking for something like this, swelled in Sam's skull like a blood pustule. That and the unsettling reminder that Dean did have his uses, that there was a concrete practical reason that he had relied on Dean so often and for so long.
"Take a picture," Dean told him.
Sam didn't say anything. He turned to the lamp, arranged it at an angle that pleased him, and took a picture with his cell.
They left the morgue the same way they'd entered: through a small window in the basement. The lock had been ridiculously easy to pick considering the facility was in a government building. Sam went first, crawled through it and onto the sidewalk and then turned to help Dean. But Dean was already halfway out and he ignored Sam's outstretched hand, maybe carelessly, maybe because Sam had pissed him off, hadn't played his part quite well enough. On the way back to the car, Sam paced his steps to Dean's, even more closely than usual.
The fog was thick as ever, driving to the motel, wrapping up the Impala thick and cottony as a cocoon, and it was too white and bright as true pearls for a night with no moon. Soundgarden in the tape deck, singing, "Seize the day, pull the trigger. Drop the blade and watch the rolling heads."
Sam was thinking about his need for a principle around which he could organize his life, because he had no intention of being an animal, a debased thing enslaved to appetite and impulse, as so many people seemed to be when they lost their souls. He had no desire to follow the dictates of what Dean would do or what Fred Rogers would do, or the tenets of Kant or Kierkegaard or Seneca, but he did recognize the need for an interior voice that could act as critic and monitor, the need for a double self.
In their motel room Dean spent maybe fifteen minutes checking on the laptop screen over Sam's shoulder while Sam scrolled through an extensive index of magical killings that had left a signature mark on their victims, and then Dean's mood took an abrupt downturn and he turned on the TV to some stupid game show with celebrity contestants engaged in ritualistic public humiliation for charity or some shit, and he was drinking, finally, but far too slowly; at this rate it could take him till 1:00 am to pass out. Sam's research was also going nowhere fast: the mark at the dip of the man's spine was small and indistinct and easily mistakable for all the other signatures and symbols it almost resembled--a pair of scythes, a pair of crescent moons, open arms. He shut his laptop and dredged up a decent rendition of a weight-of-the-world sigh. He got up and he got Dean's bottle of Jack and he poured himself a finger.
"Man, I just can't stop it racing through my head," he said. "That whole family's been wiped out now. Just gone...in what, a week and a half? We couldn't save even one of 'em. But hell, maybe that's lucky. 'Cause you can imagine what'd it be like for the only one to make it out alive,all that survivor's guilt eating him alive for the rest of his life. Especially if it was their own son--brother, nephew, cousin, whatever--that did 'em all in. Do you really think he could've meant to do it? I dunno. Sick abusive bastards, obviously, what with, y'know, the way so many people we've talked to seem in a hurry to forget them. And whichever of their kids had to claw their nails bloody in that closet. But still. His brothers, his sister. Did he really get satisfaction out of them getting torn apart?"
"Maybe," was all Dean said, his mouth twisting downward, a muscle in his jaw ticking, and then he was drinking with single-minded purpose and satisfaction was burning bright in Sam at how smoothly he'd played his part, had gotten under Dean's skin. Maybe it wouldn't be as difficult to keep Dean in check as he'd thought.
He pulled out the knife and laid it on a newspaper on the kitchenette table, ran a cleaning rag under the tap, washed the blood off the blade. The ivory handle was smooth and cylindrical and unmarked, the blade a shiny silver sickle, the image inscribed on it so finely traced he had to turn the blade at just the right angle from the overhead LED to study it. An angel--no, a woman with butterfly wings. Psyche, he thought, the goddess or personification of the soul. He turned the blade over and read the goddess' name in Greek letters on the other side, ψυχή, which was derived from the verb 'to blow' and could mean soul or breath of life or mind. So there was a goddess involved, potentially, and a Greek one, at that, which was less than welcome news as Greek gifts rather famously were the kind of horse you really ought to look in the mouth.
"Whatcha got there?" Dean said, slurring.
"Nothin,' just a fancy pigsticker," Sam said, shrugging. This was where his real interest lay. He was mildly divertingly curious about the cause of death for the other members of the Huntsman family; he did not like a puzzle to go unsolved but it would have to take a back seat to the far more pressing case he was working, which was about saving his own, well, his psyche he supposed, in the modern usage. That was why he had to find the workshop of whoever had enchanted that mirror and had to learn their secrets concerning how and why and whether it was permanent.
He drew out the second item he had collected that day, the card with the address of the Widdlesworth Seminary printed on it. And on the back, dashed off in smudgy blue ink--
I am willing to cooperate.