More Accursed Than They
Predator becomes prey when something starts eating pedophiles. The thing is, the boys are stuck choosing between two types of evil. Once they find out what’s doing it, how much do the boys care, and which evil is lesser?
The plot bunny came from Red, and the excuse for going further came from Misha’s stranger danger vid. Horror, humor, and moral conundrums. Warnings: passing mention only of molestation and child rape (not involving the boys). PG-13, 4500 words.
Wet with thine own best blood shall drip
Thy gnashing tooth and haggard lip;
Then stalking to thy sullen grave, Go---and with Ghouls and Afrits rave;
Till these in horror shrink away
From Spectre more accursed than they!
Sam walked into their motel room in Wickenburg, Arizona and threw a couple of newspapers onto one of the beds. “Something’s eating people,” he said, making an announcement out of it while he set the laptop up on the small table by the single window.
Dean hmphed and kept cleaning his gun without looking up. “Again? Please. Dead or alive?”
“Uh…alive at first, then not so,” Sam said, flipping the laptop open and sitting down. “So, not a corpse-stealer.”
“Probably. I mean, not leaving much behind except intestines, most of the bones, and the teeth. Some bones have tooth marks. And get this, one of the corpses had traces of…barbecue sauce on it.”
They looked at each other with identical expressions that were a mix of nausea and interest. More nausea on Sam’s part and more interest on Dean’s.
“Benders,” Dean said with wary disgust. “Jesus, no more creepy cannibal families, please. Let it be a ghoul.” He paused and raised his eyebrows. “At least they know how to eat ribs right, either way.” He eyed Sam curiously. “What kind of sauce?”
“Jesus, Dean, no one knows what brand it was,” Sam said in exasperation, bracing his hands on either side of the laptop.
“A decent lab would,” Dean shot back.
“What difference does it make?”
“We could…have some kind of hint about the palate of our killer,” Dean said.
Sam sighed. “It’s been all men so far, all living alone.”
“Hot chick picks our guys up at a bar, goes home with them, turns out to be a monster, mugs them for more than their wallet?” Dean said. “That shtick is so old, man, I wish they’d try something new.”
“Then they’d just be harder to catch,” Sam said, frowning at the laptop. “I found the first death in the Phoenix paper, picked up a few more to see if there was anything else like it, found two more. Not much more online in each case except obituaries and short blurbs on suspected homicide. None of them mention the other two.”
“No newspaper said anything about barbecue sauce,” Dean said. “C’mon, the cops would never release that.”
“Okay,” Sam conceded. “I had to look further for some details. That…I hacked into the coroner’s files for. First guy was in Surprise, second was in Chandler, last so far was Casas Adobles. There were utensils in the kitchen sink in each case with the victim‘s blood on them, and the bones were actually left in piles on the counters.”
“Getting good at this hacking shit,” Dean said. “Both you and our killer.”
“People think firewalls actually work,” Sam said. “Did you just tell me I’m doing something right?”
Dean ignored him. “So we’ve got a roaming predator that gets close enough to eat people, and it’s using pretty much the whole corpse. Gross, but doable. Must be something else in common for our stiffs besides being guys that live alone.”
“Working on it,” Sam said.
“Dude, why didn’t you bring dinner back?”
Sam stopped what he was doing on the laptop to give Dean a baleful look that his brother didn’t even see. “I’ve been reading up on guys getting eaten. Food quit being a priority.”
“All I can think about now is ribs,” Dean said. “Lots of barbecue sauce.”
“Knock yourself out,” Sam sighed.
Dean left. Sam frowned and kept working.
He frowned harder when Dean came back half an hour later with takeout bags of ribs.
“Lighten up, Sam,” Dean said.
Sam shook his head. “Got some crime scene photos. I’m not discussing this with you while you’re eating ribs, though.”
Dean snorted, but he put the bags aside momentarily. “Big baby. What’ve you got?”
“The same little girl is in at least one photo from each crime scene,” Sam said, frowning. “Playing in the street, standing and staring…” He opened tab after tab, bringing up photos. “There she is again.” He pointed to a spot almost out of frame on one, of a small familiar face framed in white-blond hair, looking solemnly out from a hedge. “She’s like our own real-life Disaster Girl.”
“Some old internet prank that Photoshopped the same little girl onto the background of disasters and explosions,” Sam said. “It kind of made it look like she was a harbinger, or something.”
Dean shook his head. “You crazy kids and your little online worlds.”
Sam ignored him. “It’s almost like they didn’t even know she was there. Sure, there are other neighbors rubbernecking in the area in each case, but it seems like she’s going out of her way to be seen.”
“She ever with anybody else?” Dean said.
Sam shook his head.
“If she’s not human - and come on, she can’t be human - she had to have figured out that somebody would eventually see a pattern once all these guys started dying the same way and it all got more attention.”
“Maybe she doesn’t care,” Sam said. “Maybe she’s already moved on. The most that would happen is that her photo would be shown around each neighborhood these guys lived in, because they’d hope to find her parents and ask the kid what she saw. We’re the only ones sitting here thinking she’s our big eater.”
“There has to be something else to this,” Dean said. “Easier ways to get close to single guys than…” He trailed off. “Man, I don’t like this. Dig around a little more. Background checks, something.”
Sam had to admit he had a similar feeling, and found himself a little reluctant to find out what was bugging them both. Twenty minutes later, he knew.
“All registered sex offenders.”
“I really don’t give a rat’s ass about saving rapists and pedos,” Dean said flatly.
“Me neither, but it’s eating people, Dean,” Sam said just as flatly. “Where do we start drawing the line on who’s okay to eat and who isn’t?”
“When the Apocalypse is over, if there isn’t anything else around to hunt, I say we knock off a few of these guys ourselves,” Dean mumbled.
“We still need to figure out what’s going on here,” Sam said. “These are only the ones we know about. If it’s eating people…”
Dean waved him off. “Fine, Jesus. What now, we go look for it?”
“We’re already here.”
“I’m not driving through neighborhoods looking for a little kid. That’s creepy.” Dean gave a melodramatic shudder.
“Just the neighborhoods with single guys convicted of sex crimes,” Sam said.
“Why don’t we go ahead and get into clown makeup while we’re at it?” Dean said.
Clown makeup, no. Scoping of neighborhoods with registered sex offender list in hand…yes.
On the second day, almost as if by design rather than luck, they found her.
She was out in the middle of the street down a cul de sac in Sagewood, just south of the last kill, playing with a large red ball.
Right out front of a house belonging to a single guy on the offender registry. The only one on the list for miles.
They stared at her for a long moment, then looked at each other.
“Definitely the girl from the photos,” Sam said.
They stared at her a little longer.
“This is the creepiest thing we’ve ever done,” Dean said. “I’m gonna need a shower and a lot of alcohol when this is over. Maybe sooner.”
“What the hell do we do now?” Sam said. “Can’t just…I mean, we don’t have any real proof, yet, and even if we did…”
“Too much talking,” Dean said. “You go out there and talk to it, and I’ll stash the car and wait in the bushes. You bring it my way and we’ll solve this little problem.”
“Dean. Seriously? What the --”
“Out,” Dean said. “Figure it out. You’re less manly and badass than I am, so you can --”
“Got a better plan?” Dean said.
Sam looked horrified and betrayed.
Sam got out of the car and started walking. He kept to the sidewalk that bordered the south side of the street, trying to look like he was just waiting for someone. He tried hands in pockets to look casual, then worried that it might look forced, and in his quest to not look suspicious, he looked incredibly suspicious.
He cursed under his breath as the little girl kept bouncing the ball. She was purposely ignoring him.
He paced a little, hoping she would make eye contact. He was out of luck.
After several minutes of one of the most awkward times of Sam’s entire life, he gave up and called to her.
“Hey…little girl? Where are your parents?”
She paused in bouncing the ball, and gave him a withering look.
“Could you come back later?” she said in a small but clear voice. She rolled the ball again and followed without looking up at Sam again. “I would love to talk to you, but I’m hungry right now.”
Sam felt a genuine chill at the offhandedness and the dismissal. She wasn’t talking about running home for lunch.
“What are you, exactly?” he said, all pretense gone.
She picked the ball up and wrinkled her nose as if thinking very hard about his question. “I really don’t think you’re dumb enough to grab a little girl right off the street,“ she said. “I’ll scream and scream, and people will see you. Plus, I’ll probably bite you if you try, and I really don’t think you want that, Sam.”
It used his name casually enough to know how it would affect him. He had no problem changing his estimation from her to it in that flash of a second.
It finally looked up at him again with sparkling blue eyes and grinned, showing three missing baby teeth. Then it bounced the ball away and chased after it. “Come back later!” she sang.
Sam glanced back over his shoulder, hoping Dean was close enough by then to realize what was going on. He hadn’t really expected things to go well right off the bat, but, he hadn’t expected anything that weird.
He kept standing around feeling awkward and wondering if anyone was watching, because the little whatever-it-was was right, he wasn’t about to grab anything that looked like a little girl. It kept playing up and down the street right in front of the same house.
Sam called Dean. “Look, it knows who I am, and says it wants to talk, but it’s busy hunting right now,” he said. “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?”
“Find a way, Sam,” Dean growled.
“Any suggestions you have on how to deal with a little girl that’s actually a hungry monster are welcome,” Sam said. “Right now, I look like the pedophile.”
“Talk to it like you would any other monster,” Dean said. “You do real well with that, since you’ve slept with at least two that I know about.”
“Jesus Christ, Dean!”
“Use that crazy Sammy charm of yours or the puppy dog eyes or whatever the fuck it takes, and get it back here,” Dean said, then hung up on him.
Sam huffed in annoyance, tucked his phone away, and walked up to the little pigtailed monster. “Look,” he said, “…this isn’t up for debate. No one’s gonna stand around and watch you attack anybody else, and you goddamn know it, so quit screwing around. If you know who I am, then you know what I’m here for, and you can either come with me now or we’ll just gun you down from the bushes, little girl or no little girl.”
The monster looked up at him, ball held paused in small hands.
Sam held his breath, waiting to see whether it would see reason or start screaming. His money was on the latter.
“Oh, all right.”
The little monster threw the ball in a way that suggested it was the precursor to a tantrum. It pouted openly, lower lip beginning to protrude. “Meanie,” it said, then headed for the opposite side of the street, feet stomping.
Sam had to admit there were few things he’d hunted in his life that had disconcerted him more.
It jumped into the beauty bark and headed up an incline, into the beginnings of a greenbelt that would afford some privacy. Had he not known Dean was lurking in there close by, Sam realized he’d have had second thoughts about following it into close quarters. He kept his hand on his gun all the same.
When he reached the top of the incline and got into the bushes, though, the little girl was gone, and the person his brother had drawn his gun on was tall, slender, and male, with dark strawberry-blond hair and a grin that was completely out of place.
“What the hell took you guys so long? C’mon, drinks are on me.”
“I don’t think so, asshole,” Dean said, leveling his gun on the stranger with both hands, eyes as severe as Sam had ever seen them. “End of the line.”
The grin didn’t falter. “That’s it? Not even curious, just gonna plug me out here in the urban jungle and move on? I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks!”
Dean shot Sam a glance, and Sam realized that despite the fact that they were the ones pointing the guns, the ghoul still had the upper hand, in a way.
“I thought you douchebags took on the face of the last poor bastard you ate,” Dean said gruffly, and Sam felt a moment of surprise because suddenly there was conversation.
The grin widened and the ghoul leaned forward a little, conspiratorially. “That’s what the lore says, I guess. Little girls aren’t my thing.” He jerked a thumb behind himself, indicating the house they’d left behind across the way. “They’re his, though. We’re on the same side, here, guys.”
“Not buying it,” Dean said.
“Look, I understand the prejudice,” the ghoul said. “There’s some rough history between my clan and yours, but I think we can come to some kind of --”
Sam couldn’t take any more. “Rough history? You ate our brother!”
“Okay, that wasn’t me, and the idiots who did it were taken care of,” he said. “Geez. I’m trying to offer you guys a deal, here, if you’ll just hear me out. There’s an apocalypse on, if you didn’t notice, and things have to change a little. I’m not like the vamps in the kinder, gentler movement, so I’m not going to settle for farm animals. But we can help each other out. I’m telling you.”
Dean shared another glance with Sam. Sam shrugged.
“I’m not going for the ones who just did a little touching, creepy as they are.” The ghoul gestured over his shoulder with a thumb. “This tidbit I just had to pass up because of you knuckleheads? Five years in prison for raping a four year old. Pretty light sentence, huh? Good lawyer, plea deal, gave up part of a child porn ring.”
“That still doesn’t make you the good guy, here,” Dean said around a wince, voice gruff with annoyance. Beside him, he heard Sam swallowing convulsively like he was trying not to gag.
“Sooner or later the locals will find out anyway, and there’ll probably be a little vigilante justice,” the ghoul said. “Then he’s just wasted meat. My way, I get a good meal, and the neighborhood gets safer for a little while, and no well-meaning, terrified father has to end up in jail for murder. Win-win situation, Winchesters. I’m the ghoul of the future. All you can do is hope my idea catches on and we become the plecostomus factor in the human aquarium instead of the sharks.” He leaned forward a little, eyes far too knowing. “Come on, now, and tell me that, knowing what you know, you don’t want to go on back there and have a crack at that guy. And you’re not even fathers.” He squinted and wagged a finger at Dean. “On second thought, you have to have some illegitimate spawn by now, catting around the country all these years.”
Dean made a sour face.
“I’m your biggest fan!” the ghoul said. “C’mon!”
Dean gestured to his left with his gun. “Start walking,” he said. “You make any kind of move I don’t like, all bets are off.”
The ghoul held out a hand. “I’m Riley, by the way. So you guys can stop referring to me in your heads as ‘the ghoul‘ or whatever.”
Dean looked at the hand and decided not to shake it. “No thanks.”
They took him to a diner because it seemed like a good idea to keep the thing out in public where it was harder to get away if it pulled something. The downside was, no one could open fire if they wanted to.
“Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Two hunters and a ghoul walk into a diner…”
“Shut up,” Dean said. The thing hadn’t been quiet in the car for a moment.
They chose a booth in a back corner, well away from any other diners. Dean sat across from Sam, who hemmed their willing captive in against the window.
They were essentially having lunch with a ghoul.
When the waitress came over, Sam and Dean stuck with coffee. Eating in front of the thing was just too much.
“Can I just get some water?” Riley said with a smile. “I’m on a very specific diet.”
When the waitress was back out of earshot, the brothers stared at him expectantly.
“Look, we all have to eat,” he said. “I just happen to have discriminatory tastes, because the hunting’s good and no one’s all that sorry to be missing any of these guys. Hunting drug dealers was a little too dangerous, and I don’t like the taste of most homeless folks. I mean, diet is important, and I prefer the nutritionally sound. I’m staying under the moral radar and doing the world a service, boys, while it’s on its way to ending. Aren’t your plates full enough as it is?” He ducked his head a little, chin meeting chest in a self-deprecating motion. “No pun intended.”
“We’ll always have time for side trips to take care of stuff like you,” Sam said softly.
“Uh huh. By the way, ‘ghoul’ is such an offensive, politically incorrect term,” Riley said. “Let’s go with ‘alternative epicurean’.”
The brothers frowned at him.
“Ambiguous gourmet? C’mon, you guys. Throw me a bone, here.” He started to laugh. “Get it? Bone?”
“Are you actually using barbecue sauce?” Dean said suddenly. Then he looked shocked that he’d even spoken.
Riley looked at him in a mixture of open shock and approval before he started to laugh. “Dude, have you tried the Jack Daniels brand? Their sauce is the shit. I love that stuff. It makes anything better.”
Dean didn’t want to, he really didn’t want to, but he started to laugh. Riley laughed along with him.
Sam froze in horror.
“I mean, everything has its own great taste, and sure, I’ve had some really flavorful people,” Riley said through his laughter. “But man, sometimes you need a little kick. It all gets old.”
“You realize we’re gonna have to kill you,” Dean said, laughing harder.
“Oh, I’d be disappointed if you didn’t try,” Riley said. “You’re the Winchesters. Even if you guys do manage to off me, that makes me so famous in the family. Like, rock star famous. It’s an honor to get you two all up in my business.”
Dean’s laughter tapered off, and he wiped at his eyes. “That’s great. We’re not giving you autographs.”
Riley leaned back in the booth and eyed Dean speculatively. “All I do is stand around and mind my own business until someone tries to get me to come in their house for candy, or get in the car to help them find their lost puppy. They always make the first move. What is it you think would happen to a real little girl, after that? Which evil, exactly, is lesser to you?”
Dean turned his coffee cup between his hands, staring into the murky surface within.
“See, I’m trying to do things right, do a service instead of just enjoying myself,” Riley said. “Right now I’m eating them alive because it’s pretty much what they deserve. Do you want me to knock them out first? Would that make it better? Soothe the hunter conscience a little?”
“How…are you finding them?” Sam asked. “Are you just hitting the registry?”
“Yep,” Riley said, grinning at Sam and cocking a thumb and index finger at him. “There it is, in every town and city, a whole list of people to choose from. Addresses, pictures, everything. Shit, it’s a menu. I can’t believe I’m the only one doing this.”
“See, it’s when you decide to start shopping off the list that we’ll have a problem,” Dean said.
“No,” Sam said, shooting Dean a hard look. “We have a problem now.” He looked at Riley. “Okay, I get it, I see what you’re trying to do. But when someone’s already paid their debt to society --”
Riley held up a hand. “I’ll have to respectfully disagree with you there, Samster. There’s debt, and then there’s debt. Some jail time and probation and maybe even the right therapy - like that ever happens in the right order, with the justice system the way it is - doesn’t necessarily mean all’s even. Some damage has been done.”
Sam shook his head a little, eyes worried. “I’m not saying some people don’t deserve whatever they get,” he said. “It’s just…it doesn’t feel right.”
“Not every right feels right,” Dean said. “We’ve seen that plenty of times. My vote’s for letting him keep it up as long as he’s only eating scumbags.”
“Justice is being served, here, Sam,” Riley said. “And I mean served, with barbecue sauce.”
Dean snorted like he couldn’t help it.
“I’d be more inclined to look the other way if you’d quit making jokes about it,” Sam said.
“It’s completely understandable to be a little squeamish about your own species being eaten,” Riley said. “Just think of it the way PETA does - everything has the same parts. Ribs, flank, shoulder, all the same. You guys kill sentient beings all the time because they don’t behave in ways that fit your worldview.”
“It’s called evil,” Dean said.
Riley shrugged. “Relative. Antelope would think lions are evil.”
“I don’t do anything until they make a play for me first, Sam,” Riley said, tone finally serious. “Little, helpless, adorable me. They bring it on themselves. And here you guys are, still listening rather than shooting, so you know some of it appeals to you.”
Sam rubbed at his forehead for a moment. “Knock them out first,” he said.
“Done,” Riley said, visibly perking up. “Wanna shake on it now?”
“No,” Sam said quickly. “No thanks.”
Riley smirked, but it had the slightest hint of fondness to it, all the way to his clear, blue-green eyes. It sent a chill through Sam.
“You really should see their faces when they realize they’re about to be chewed up by a little kid. One fainted.”
Dean nodded. “Yeah, I bet. You stay out of trouble, and we’ll try not to crack your skull into four or more pieces. Deal?”
“Gotcha,” Riley said. “You guys just go ahead and stop the end of the world, and we’ll all be happy.” He scribbled on a napkin, then slid it across the table to Dean. “You guys give me a call if there’s ever anyone you need to see less of. Yeah?”
Dean looked at the napkin for a moment, then made a face that said he’d consider it. He tucked the napkin away.
Sam was quiet and very, very still.
They let the ghoul leave first.
“Holy shit, this has been the weirdest day,” Dean said. “Maybe ever.”
Sam held his silence.
“The monsters have started in on each other,” Dean said. “Seems too easy.”
“Makes good business sense, in this case,” Sam said, sounding subdued. “He was happy to have us catch up to him so he could pitch it to us.”
“That’s a first,” Dean said. “Usually they kidnap you first.”
“We’ll have to check back on him,” Sam said. He wasn’t happy about it.
“I know. I know it’s weird, realizing that guy he was stalking earlier is probably gonna buy it in the next day or so, and we’re letting it happen. But nothing’ll happen if he stays put and doesn’t try to grab that ‘little girl’. Minute he does that? He doesn’t deserve to be top of the food chain anymore.” He paused. “Shit, if the ghoul was telling the truth, guy’s already earned a double tap to the nads. I hope he’s delicious.”
“The same can be said for anyone who can no longer control their urges where other people are concerned,” Sam said. “That’s the point I was trying to make. Slippery slope, Dean.”
“Then let it get slippery,” Dean said. Then he smirked.
“You’re turning that into something dirty in your head, aren’t you,” Sam said wearily.
“Didn’t say it out loud, though,” Dean said. “See? Restraint.”
They checked the papers occasionally over the next few months, and nothing jumped out at them again about rashes of dead or missing convicted pedophiles. Maybe the ghoul was being more careful, or had finally met his match. In any case, he wasn’t getting their attention anymore. He was relegated to the back burner.
They saw him once more, in Bedford, Indiana at a Walmart when they stopped for supplies. It was the same little girl they’d seen before, wandering the aisles, looking almost creepily content. She wasn’t doing anything to get attention.
Sam pointed her out to Dean.
Dean snorted and headed for her, but Sam pulled him back. “He’s hunting. Leave him…her…it…alone.”
Dean shrugged. “Yeah. We’ll look like pedos if we walk up to her…or someone’ll think she’s with us. No one’ll touch a kid if they think she’s with us.”
Sam clapped a hand against Dean‘s back. “Plus, if we say hi as if we know her, then walk out? There’s no way that turns out well.”
Dean had to agree. They finished up and cleared out.
No point interfering in another hunter’s business.
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