The final time Rick met Dean Osbourne was twenty minutes past midnight on November first. He’d just locked the street door on the last customer, a middle aged banker who’d not only lingered over his final beer, but also managed to leave his cell phone behind. To say Rick was pissed was an understatement. He was scheduled to finish at eight but another employee crying off sick meant he’d pulled a double shift. Unable to shake the unease he’d felt when Dean and the Gibbous kids faced off earlier, he’d consequently been irritable and jittery all night. To cap it all, he’d been saddled with the task of closing up when all he wanted to do was go home, grab a brew and try to relax.
He flipped off the overhead lights and took a moment to appreciate the ambience of the room, lit only by candles and the beer pumps on the bar. He was reaching down to unplug the Wurlitzer when a sharp rap on the street door made him nearly jump out of his skin. He turned, cursing, expecting to find the drunk banker and was surprised to see Dean Osbourne outside. He’d left the bar around five thirty in good shape but even at a distance, it was clear something very bad had gone down since then. Dean was way too pale, livid bruising mottled the left side of his face and his nose was bleeding. As he hurried to unlock the door, Rick was thinking he’d most likely been jumped. He had a pretty good idea who was responsible…
Dean practically fell into the room but when Rick reached out to steady him he flinched and pulled away, clamping his left arm across his ribs. With a shock, Rick noticed blood dripping from his hand and dark, wet patches glistening on his coat. The left sleeve and back of the garment was all ripped to hell.
“Jesus Christ, what happened to you?”
“I’m good, just need to sit for a minute. Do you mind?”
Dean’s voice was rough as gravel and he was wheezing like an old man. Rick tried to steer him to a nearby table but Dean wove an unsteady path to the far corner, well away from the windows. Rick began following, ready to help if necessary but paused when it occurred to him whoever did this might be nearby. He glanced nervously into the street, still foggy but nowhere near as bad as earlier in the day. It all looked calm but he was taking no chances. He double locked and bolted the street door for good measure.
He found Dean collapsed in a chair and reached for his cell phone.
“I’m calling the cops and medics. Do I tell ‘em you’ve been shot? Stabbed?
Dean’s right hand whipped out and grabbed his wrist with surprising strength.
“No medics and definitely no cops. Just give me a minute, okay?”
Rick shook his head. “No way. You’re not bleeding out in my bar.”
Dean blinked a few times, like he was having trouble processing the words.
“Maybe you could find something to slow it down a little?”
Rick hesitated, staring at the phone in his hand and debating whether he should just punch 911 and call the professionals.
“Please, man. No cop’s gonna believe what happened.”
It was the desperation in Dean’s voice which made Rick pocket the phone and head to the storeroom for some towels. On the way back he grabbed a bottle of whisky and two glasses from the bar. He’d only been gone a minute but Dean was slumped further in the chair. It looked like he’d passed out but Rick could see candle light reflecting in his eyes. He uncapped the bottle and poured double shots for them both.
“It’s the only medicine we keep here.”
Dean might have smiled but the state of his face turned it into a grimace.
“It’s the only kind I like.”
He drained the glass in two gulps and set it back on the table, his hand shaking like a leaf in a storm. Rick followed his lead in an attempt to calm his shattered nerves, watching anxiously as Dean tried to get his coat off. He was unsuccessful, mainly because his left arm didn’t seem to be working and the effort turned his face chalk white. He cursed, gritted his teeth and got ready to try again.
Rick moved closer. “You need help with that?
Dean grunted his consent. “Go easy, huh? My shoulder’s dislocated.”
Rick stared at him, open mouthed. He’d dislocated his wrist while skateboarding a few years back and still remembered the pain. It had been excruciating.
“That’s not going to pop itself back.”
Dean nodded morosely. “You know any first aid?”
I took Rick a moment to realise he wasn’t joking. “That needs more than first aid. Why don’t you let me call the medics?”
Dean’s response was to renew his struggle with the coat. Rick hurried to assist and his stomach rolled ominously when they finally got it off. The Henley was shredded and soaked with blood. Beneath were long, ragged gashes which started at Dean’s upper arm and ran down his back and shoulder. Rick watched him reach for a towel and press it tentatively to his arm. Blood began spotting it immediately.
“What the hell did that to you, man?”
Dean shot him that half smile, half grimace again. “You don’t want to know.”
Rick was fairly certain where to point the finger, despite Dean’s evasive manoeuvres.
“If those Gibbous kids were involved then the cops need to know before...”
“They’re not around anymore.” Dean sounded amused.
“They left town?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
Rick was about to pursue it when the sound of sirens pulled his attention towards the street. Two police cars howled past the bar, flashing lights diffused by the mist. An ambulance followed twenty seconds later, burning some serious rubber. Whatever was happening downtown, Rick was glad he wasn’t part of it. Or maybe he was closer to it then he cared to admit…
Dean was fumbling in the pocket of his ruined coat. He found his beat-up cell phone, flipped it open and squinted at the display. He rubbed his eyes, shook his head then squinted again, like he was having trouble focussing. That was definitely not a good sign.
“You want me to call someone for you?”
“Huh?” Dean glanced up, didn’t seem to recognise Rick for a moment.
“Someone who can maybe come pick you up?”
“Yeah…” Dean stared blankly at the phone for a good half minute before visibly pulling his shit together.
“Bobby Singer. He’s my uh… uncle. Driving in from Indiana to help with, uh…”
His words were slurred and Rick squatted in front of him, right in his field of vision for whatever that was worth.
“Listen to me, you pass out and I’m calling 911. You understand?”
Dean didn’t respond. Rick needed to keep him talking, keep him engaged.
“What’s your name, man? You remember your name?”
“Sure I do.” He seemed mildly affronted. “Dean Winchester. Like a badass fuckin’ rifle.”
Rick frowned. “Osbourne. Your name’s Dean Osbourne.”
Dean snorted. “That was for Ozzy. Everyone needs a little Sabbath in their lives, right? Last time I was Dean Simmons and one time I was Dean Van Halen. No-one ever called me on it, not even once.”
He chuckled. He might be talking garbage but at least he wasn’t slurring anymore. Rick took the phone from his hand and scrolled through the contacts.
“Bobby Singer, right?”
Dean helped himself to another glass of whisky, spilled half of it on the table. “He’s terrific at first aid.”
Rick found the name and punched dial. The call was picked up on the first ring.
“Where the hell you at, boy? You ever heard of answering your goddamned phone?”
The voice contained irritation and concern in roughly equal measures. This didn’t sound like the kind of customer you’d want to screw with and Rick swallowed hard.
“It’s not Dean, but…”
“How the hell did you get that phone?” The voice dropped in register and now all it contained was menace.
“Dean asked me to call because…”
“Where is he?” The concern was back but it was mostly masked by the threat of actual bodily harm.
“He’s right here, but…”
“Put him on the line.”
Rick glanced at Dean, watching with a faint smile pulling at his lips. He held out his hand and Rick passed him the cell.
He grimaced and held the handset away as the man called Bobby delivered a tirade in a tone which could curdle milk. Rick couldn’t hear the words, but the sentiment came through loud and clear. On the upside, Dean seemed properly alert now.
Eventually he put the phone back to his ear and wedged it in place with his right shoulder. “I told you I’d take care of it. I swear you sound just like Dad sometimes.”
He sounded pissed and scowled as he reached for his glass. “They were fucking turning. If I’d waited for you a whole bar full of people would have been wolf chow.”
He sipped whisky while he listened. The expression on his face didn’t change.
“… then maybe you shouldn’t have gotten side tracked to Indiana by a friggin’ ghost. Werewolf trumps poltergeist, you taught me that.”
He seemed to have forgotten Rick was standing there. He also seemed unaware how crazy he sounded, discussing non-existent supernatural entities like they were the real deal. Rick could overlook that though; he’d lost a lot of blood and was more than likely delirious. Bobby, on the other hand, had seemed entirely compos mentis…
“Listen man, you still got that med kit?”
Dean was trying so hard to sound cool even Rick could hear it. He peeled the soggy towel from his arm, gazed at it balefully then tossed it to the floor.
“…One of the bastards got its claws in, scratched me up some.”
He pulled a clean towel from the pile and pressed it back in place. With some relief, Rick saw the bleeding was slowing.
“… regular shit; dislocated shoulder, maybe a concussion...”
Rick gawped at him. If Dean considered this level of injury to be normal, he’d sure hate to witness something serious.
“… Yeah, same town… Some bar called Murphy’s on Redmond Drive. There’s a bunch of pumpkins in the windows, you can’t miss it…. Thirty minutes… Sure.”
Dean snapped the phone closed, threw it on the table and let out a long breath.
Rick was glad to hear it but until the cavalry actually got here, Dean was his responsibility. His main priority was to keep him conscious so he sat in the chair opposite and poured himself another glass.
“You going to pretend I didn’t hear that thing about werewolves?”
“I’ll play it anyway you want, man.”
Rick felt a pang of irritation. “You don’t think you owe me some kind of explanation?”
Dean shrugged then winced. “You’ll think I’m nuts.”
“You’re nuts? Who was it let a bleeding, beat up stranger into their boss’s bar after closing?”
Dean considered for a moment then appeared to reach a decision. “You felt something earlier, right? When those Jibber kids acted up?”
Rick was unnerved by the fact he’d even noticed. “I felt kind of threatened; still can’t figure out why...”
“They had your scent and your lizard brain knew it. “Dean tapped the back of his head. “It’s primal, man. It recognises the shit four thousand years of civilising ourselves programmed out.”
Unease pricked up Rick’s spine and the temperature in the room seemed to drop a few degrees.
“What do you mean they had my scent?”
“Waxing Gibbous. The clue was their name but it took me a week to figure it out.” Dean chewed at his lip and smiled ruefully. “Sam would have got it in a second…
“They were werewolves; turn on the full moon and what better cover than a travelling band? They move round a lot, never spend any time in one place and nobody questions it.”
Rick tried to convince himself he was listening to the words of a madman until he remembered tonight was the final night of the full moon cycle. Then he remembered what happened in the neighbouring town yesterday. He broke out in goose bumps and his hands began to shake.
Dean’s eyes glittered over the rim of his glass. “What’s your lizard brain telling you?”
Rick reached for his own glass, downed it in one and immediately poured another.
“So if werewolves are out there, does it mean…”
He couldn’t bring himself to continue. It sounded utterly insane. Dean’s expression was inscrutable.
“It’s all real. Ghosts, shifters, wendigos, ghouls… All that stuff you read about; the folklore, myths and legends, even the freaky stories in high school, where do you think it all comes from?”
Rick was having trouble processing what he was hearing. His rational brain was in meltdown, screaming at him to not get suckered by a lunatic. His lizard brain was calmly enquiring why the hell he hadn’t realised any of this before. Dean was still watching him, contemplative now.
“Look man, my family hunts things that go bump in the night, and we put them down. It’s just me and Dad since Sammy bailed for Stanford but...”
Rick’s stomach clenched up as the penny dropped. “Those Gibbous kids. You what, you killed them?”
Dean reached into the back of his pants, moving slow and careful. He placed a semi-automatic pistol onto the table and Rick smelled cordite. It had been recently fired.
“Solid silver rounds. I took out three of ‘em clean but the last one gave me some trouble.”
Rick raised an eyebrow. “You took them on alone? You got some kind of death wish?”
Dean smiled sheepishly. “That’s what Bobby said.”
Rick recalled the convoy of emergency vehicles cars racing into town. “I’m guessing you left a mess backstage?”
“Nothing compared to the mess out front if those dogs had gotten loose.”
“Will the cops come after you?”
“Only if you call them...”
Rick thought about it for all of a second. “Don’t you feel bad about killing? I mean, it says in the Bible…”
“Bible my ass.” Dean snorted contemptuously. “My mom got killed by something bad when I was four. Dad raised me and Sam to fight evil and that’s all I know how to do. I don’t question the ethics, man. Saving people, hunting things… it’s the family business.”
He took a gulp of whisky. “You think I’m crazy, right?”
Rick knew he should be thinking that but everything Dean was telling him resonated on a subliminal level he just couldn’t argue with.
“I guess my lizard brain thinks otherwise.”
Dean grinned. “Alright then.”
Rick kept him talking for another thirty minutes. Dean had plenty more to offer about his family, the supernatural and the kind of world they all operated in. Rick fluctuated between being scared shitless and utterly spellbound. It was surreal, outlandish, thrilling and incredible in equal measures. He was certain he’d wake up tomorrow morning and put this whole episode down to some kind of acid dream, but right now he couldn’t get enough of it.
He was almost disappointed when the surly, grizzled, baseball-hatted Bobby Singer showed up. He popped Dean’s shoulder back into place, examined his wounds with military efficiency and told him to gear up for a butt load of stitches. Dean didn’t seem fazed by any of it. Incredibly, he also managed to get to his feet and leave the bar under his own power.
Before he went he shook Rick’s hand and thanked him for his time and concern. He left twenty dollars for the booze; he also left a cell number. He assured Rick the town of Toledo was currently clean but if were ever to catch scent of something weird, he needed to drop the dime. After that he got into Bobby’s beat up truck and it vanished into the mist.
Rick cleaned up the blood from the bar floor, gathered the towels and took them home. He put them in his apartment building’s incinerator. It was 1.30 by the time he got indoors but he was way too wired to sleep. He considered calling the cops and reporting the night’s events, because that’s what normal people did. His rational brain reminded him he’d just burned evidence and harboured a killer; his lizard brain gibbered about full moons, age-old predators and how people like Dean Osbourne were necessary to maintain balance.
So he didn’t call the cops. He went through to the back room and turned on his computer. He spent twenty minutes scouring local news sites but little had been reported so far. There had been an incident at Ronson’s Music Bar, the whole block was cordoned off and police were investigating. Watch that space…
Rick shut down the browser, opened the word processor and drummed his fingers gently on the keyboard.
This evening had been game changing. He felt energised, inspired and it was all down to a cool, crazy customer named Dean Osbourne. Or was it Winchester? That dude had casually handed Rick the thing he’d been seeking for years; a compelling, original idea. Who cared if nobody believed it; it was a work of fiction, right? Rick knew what lurked in the shadows now; Dean and his family were out there protecting the innocent, the blissfully ignorant and for that he was profoundly thankful.
He fetched a bottle of beer from the kitchen and uncapped it. He had no clue where this thing might go, but his muse was champing at the bit. His lizard brain promised him his bar tending days were numbered and Rick had become inclined to trust what it said.
He took a contemplative sip of beer and typed out the header page.
BY ERIC KRIPKE