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Authors: Alice Henderson

Supernatural Fresh Meat (9 page)

BOOK: Supernatural Fresh Meat
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ELEVEN

The Winchesters made fast time, arriving in Truckee in the late afternoon. Bobby was waiting at the Java Joint Cafe, an old 1930s diner. He’d arrived in town earlier and posed as an F.B.I. agent to get access to the police reports.

Sam and Dean slid into the booth opposite him. Bobby was eating the biggest chicken pot pie Sam had ever seen. He slid a topographic map over to them.

“I’ve marked the spot where the hunters found their friend’s rifle and the pool of blood,” he said in a quiet voice.

The waitress came over, all cheer. “Anything to drink?”

They placed their orders and Bobby continued when she left. “I say we hike out near this spot, stake it out. Something doesn’t feel right to me. My gut’s got more to say than the town gossip at a church bingo night.”

Dean slid the map over to Sam. He studied it for a few minutes. “This area isn’t far from the Donner Lake camp where the emigrants over-wintered. You really think it’s another wendigo?”

“It would be odd,” Bobby said, “them being so close. From everything I’ve read, wendigos are solitary.”

“Should we call Jason?” Sam asked.

Bobby shook his head. “You saw that guy limping. He was this close to collapsing the whole time we were out.”

Dean nodded. “Dude needs time to recover.”

Sam eyed him. “You’re not doing so hot, either.”

“A little pale’s a lot different from broken ribs and a messed up leg.” Dean regarded his brother with waning patience.

“A little pale? Dean, you almost died.”

“I’m fine.” He brushed off Sam’s concern, shifting his weight in the seat and staring out the far window.

“When you boys are done holding each other’s hand, we need to find out some more information. You got your suits?”

Sam nodded. They had the customary black suits and ties tucked away in the car’s trunk.

“Head over to Fish and Game and see if any other big puddles of blood have turned up in the last year or so. Maybe we can figure out where this thing hangs out.”

“Maybe the wendigos were related in life, and that’s why they occupy the same territory,” Sam suggested, thinking about the Donner Party.

“What do you mean?” Dean asked.

“Well, maybe they were part of the same family, people who stuck together through the whole Donner Party ordeal.”

“And they’re still sticking together?” Bobby said with distaste.

“The family who slays together stays together,” Dean said, grinning and picking a French fry off his plate.

At the morgue, dressed in their best suits, Sam and Dean flashed F.B.I. credentials and were referred to the ranger service for reports of hunting mishaps. The chief ranger’s office was full of maps and books, and he cleared off two chairs for them. Chief Ranger Willis McGovern was a tall, red-faced man with an impressive beard that rivaled Grizzly Adams’ and a bit of a gut starting above his belt. He smoothed back his balding brown hair and motioned for them to sit down.

“We don’t get a lot of F.B.I. visits,” McGovern told them.

“Our superiors believe this warrants a visit,” Dean told him in his best authoritative voice.

Sam pulled out a little black notebook he kept for just such occasions. “We understand a man went missing this morning, and a large pool of blood was found, but no body.”

McGovern nodded. “U-yep. Yep. That’s right. But you probably want to talk to the sheriff, not the Forest Service.”

Dean leaned forward in his seat. “We’ve been there already. What we want to know from you, Chief Ranger McGovern, is if there have been similar animal attacks in the past.”

McGovern fiddled with an imaginary speck of dust on his desk blotter. “Well, actually, yes. Some people think there might be a rogue bear out there.”

Sam jotted down an imaginary note. “I see. And how many attacks have there been?”

“Well, quite a few, going back a ways. I only took over last year. But I don’t take much stock in the bear theory. You ask me, some nut job’s out there.”

“Why not a bear?” Dean asked.

“Well, black bears are pretty shy. It’s rare for one to become predaceous on humans. They’re mostly vegetarians. Only about two percent of their diet is meat. When they do kill something big, they like to cache their meat and protect it aggressively. But a bear’s never been spotted around these… well… blood pools we’ve found. There have never even been bear tracks.”

“So you think human, then?”

“That’s my theory. Course no one takes me seriously. People hear ‘mauled hiker’ and they instantly think bear or mountain lion.” He leaned forward. “Let me tell you, humans do a hell of a lot more mauling of each other than those predators do.”

“Can you show us where these blood traces have been found?” Sam asked.

The ranger dug around in his desk drawer and pulled out a file folder. “I’ll do you one better. Let me make a copy of the reports.”

He left the room and returned a minute later with a second folder. “Here you go.” He handed it to Dean.

Dean stood up. “Well, thank you for your time.”

Sam tucked his notebook into his inside jacket pocket and stood up. “Yes. Thank you.”

They both shook his hand and left the office.

“We have to hike out there again.” Sam took the folder, opening it to thumb through the files. “We just need to figure out the range of this thing’s hunting grounds.”

Pooling the information from the police reports Bobby obtained and the Department of Fish and Game animal attack reports, they were able to pinpoint several areas of high activity.

Bright and early next morning, Bobby geared up once again and headed into the Tahoe National Forest with Sam and Dean. It was getting colder every day, and his breath frosted in the air. They made fast time, hiking without stopping once. In less than an hour, they reached the site where the deer hunters had found their buddy’s rifle. A game trail wending through the area had been sealed off with tape where the pool of blood had been. Most of it had seeped into the ground. Located along the edge of a clearing, the spot offered a lot of places where a predator could sneak up on a man.

Bobby knelt, looking for footprints, broken sticks, anything that would give them a clue.

As he bent over, a thick red strand of viscous liquid dripped onto the shoulder of his shirt. He looked up into the trees. Some of the needles there had a rusty hue, others dripped with slowly drying bits of something.

“It took him up into the trees,” Bobby said. He studied the trunk of the pine tree. It was untouched. “And it didn’t climb, either.”

They stood staring up and suddenly a man’s scream rent the silence.

“This way!” Dean shouted, taking off through the trees. Sam and Bobby followed. A strangled cry sounded from somewhere in front of them. They bounded around boulders and manzanita bushes, tearing through the trees toward the sound.

Bobby felt a wild rush, not sure if they were running toward a living victim or straight into another wendigo’s trap.

They heard a thump and branches breaking, and at the next set of boulders, Bobby saw blood spatter on the grey of granite. “Here!”

They stopped. The directionality of the spray pattern showed that whatever had the man was traveling fast to the south. Bobby scanned the horizon in that direction, seeing a blur of movement in the trees some two hundred feet in the distance. “This way!”

He ran, Sam and Dean just behind him, and another pitiful cry reached them through the trees. Sam brought out his flamethrower, and Dean pulled his .45.

Bobby followed the blood spray, thick drops of it coating the brush and soil. A syrupy drool of it dribbled down the trunk of a ponderosa in front of them. Bobby scanned the branches above, but didn’t see any movement. They spread out a little, not going too far from each other, but enough that they could scan different parts of the forest.

“Anything?” Sam called to Bobby.

“Nothing.”

“Me, either,” Dean called.

They met back together and stood for a long time, straining to hear anything in the distance. Somewhere a woodpecker thrummed against a tree trunk. A raven flew by, its wing noise making Bobby start. It landed near the blood, gurgling in the weird way ravens do.

Bobby moved outward in concentric circles, hoping to pick up the blood trail again, but it seemed to stop suddenly. If the thing had been leaping from tree to tree, the blood would have been visible. It was as if the victim had simply vanished.

“Maybe I missed something,” he said. “Let’s go back to where the blood trail started.”

They started back.

A sudden rustling in the brush made them all pull out their guns and point them toward the sound.

Ranger Grace Cumberlin appeared, the same gigantic pack on her back. Instantly they lowered their guns. She stopped. “You boys make more of a ruckus than an explosion in a fireworks factory. I could hear you a quarter mile away.” She glanced around, studying the forest. “What are you doing out here?”

“We told you,” Sam said. “Hunting deer.”

She eyed Dean’s gleaming, stainless handgun. “You’re hunting deer with a .45?”

He gave her his best nonchalant smile and put the gun away.

She glanced nervously at each of them, her hand on the butt of her service pistol. “Something about you boys isn’t right.” She spotted the flamethrowers strapped on Sam and Dean’s backs. “I think it’s time you leveled with me. You’re not deer hunters. You’re no more deer hunters than my aunt Lulu who collects
Bambi
figurines.”

Bobby stepped forward. Grace clutched the butt of her revolver, and he held his hands up to indicate he meant no harm. “I’m going to reach into my jacket to get my I.D.”

“Do it slow.”

Carefully he fished out his F.B.I. credentials and held them out for her. “I’m Special Agent Cash, and these are Agents Plant and Young.” He nodded his head toward Dean and Sam respectively. “We’re out here investigating the recent rash of deaths. We don’t think it’s a rogue bear.”

She studied his I.D. and then took her hand away from her gun. “Oh, you don’t, do you?”

“No ma’am,” Dean said. “What can you tell us about these disappearances?”

“First tell me why you need a flamethrower to take down this guy.”

“It’s for intimidation,” Dean said awkwardly. “And back to my question? What can you tell us?”

She shrugged. “Not much. I don’t really follow the case.”

“How can that be? You patrol these woods.”

“Lots of people go missing every year, Agent Plant, and it’s not due to bears or serial killers. They’re just stupid. Not enough water. No backcountry experience. No proper clothing in case of a storm. You boys got proper clothing? Rain gear? Emergency blankets?”

“We’re prepared,” Dean told her.

“Besides, we’re just out here to look around today, not make camp,” Bobby told her.

“That’s just what I mean. The weather in the Sierra Nevadas can change on a dime. The day can start out sunny and warm and end up in the teens with snow. Then you’d go missing, or turn up dead in some ravine.”

“That’s a… cheerful thought,” Dean said.

Sam had been quiet, studying her. Finally he said, “So you haven’t heard anything about the attacks? Not even the couple who were escorted out of here recently? The ones with the kid?”

“They didn’t tell me anything about it when I last radioed in. That’s really not my department. I mainly check permits, give people directions, do first aid if it’s needed.”

Branches broke behind them and they all spun, Bobby ready to blow the source of the sound away. But it wasn’t a wendigo. A man, completely naked and covered with blood, marched out of the bushes, staring straight ahead.

TWELVE

The naked man marched right past, taking no notice of them, eyes glassy and staring. Bobby automatically stepped out of the way as he continued in a straight line toward the south.

“What in the world?” Bobby breathed.

As he passed the ranger, she lit out after him. “Sir?” she asked.

He didn’t respond, just kept walking. Sam saw that his body was covered with strange marks, like stab wounds that had closed up. He hurried to catch up with Grace, Bobby and Dean following.

BOOK: Supernatural Fresh Meat
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