?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
16 July 2011 @ 10:05 am
the two faces of vengeance - part I  
Dean Winchester had an idea that he’d end up in a dump by taking this job, considering who he’s currently after, but he hadn’t imagined such a dump.

Then again, Alastair’s gang wouldn’t be worth a good twenty-five thousand dollars if they weren’t the kind of people to break a woman’s hand by stomping on it. Or if their leader wasn’t famous for leaving behind carved bodies belonging to whoever happens to cross his way.

That doesn’t really change the most urgent problem, which is that Dean needs that money, and needs it fast, so he can’t afford to worry about exactly how crazy the man he’s after is. Maybe this is the time he feels thankful that his dad taught him how to shoot when he was six. Still, fast doesn’t have to mean reckless. He has to lay low for now, ask questions, see how the situation lies and then decide how to act. Thankfully Alastair’s camp is some distance from town, so it’ll take a while for him to learn about his precious henchman. The girl said that the saloon was also a inn, so maybe he could ask for a room. He goes inside and notices that no one’s around – it’s only him and the man behind the bar. The man has to be around sixty and wears a dirty white apron while cleaning. Dean figures he has to be the owner.

“Hey, do you own this place?” he asks, moving closer.

“Sure as hell do. And you’re the guy who just dragged that son of a bitch into jail. What do you want?” the man answers, gruffly.

“I want a room, if you have one.”

“Hm, today’s a great day then. I get no lodgers months and then I get two in eight hours.”

“I can’t pay your bill for now though. I could’ve, but sheriff says they didn’t have money for the reward on that fucker’s head.”

“Sure he don’t – no one’s tried to bring him in for ages. Why would he keep money around? Listen, you seem like a nice kid and I guess I can give you somethin’ to eat on the house, but maybe you really should get outta town.”

“Thanks for the advice, Mr. –”

“Singer, but call me Bobby.”

“Well then, Bobby, thanks for that but I think that both you and my jailed friend are underestimating me because of my face, which ain’t really that flattering. So, you got that room or not?”

“Your funeral,” Bobby shrugs as he hands him a key for room two. “Upstairs, on your left.”

Dean moves towards the stair just as someone else is on the way down – it’s a preacher? Maybe? Though he looks pretty young, in comparison to most of the preachers Dean has run into. For a second his eyes meet a pair of icy blue ones, and then the other man nods at him and heads for the bar. Dean shrugs and goes upstairs to get rid of his bag.

He comes back down half an hour later and sees that by now the room is half-full, mostly with people playing cards. Bobby is at the bar talking to a black guy, and it looks like a pretty serious conversation.

Probably something Dean needs to know.

“Can I have a whiskey and ask you a couple questions?”

Bobby shrugs and gets him a glass. “You really are looking for trouble.”

“Yeah, maybe. So, let’s say hypothetically that other than the reward on the guy I brought in today, I might want to collect the rest of the people he… associates with. Where would you suggest I start?”

“You wanna go after Alastair?” the black guy gasps, then looks at Bobby and they share a glance that suggests to Dean that they’ve known each other for a while and are thinking the same thing.

“Listen, kid,” Bobby starts, “I’ll give you a run down of how things work in this town. Then I’ll tell you somethin’ else, which I hope will make you see reason. That Alastair you want to go after – he’s an insane son of a bitch who robs trains and banks and has once managed to kill an entire division of army men bringing gold to the local bank, but he’s not doing it all for himself. Or maybe he is, but there’s someone paying him to do half of what he does. This someone’s named Zachariah Adler, he calls himself a businessman and he’s bought most of the land around this town and a couple others. You wanna know how?”

Dean nods, and Bobby starts talking again. “There used to be four or five people selling guns and alcohol ‘round here, Adler included. Then at some point our friend Alastair started putting dynamite under their houses and blowing up their ranches, then he killed a couple of those men and left their bodies behind with entire fucking paintings carved on their backs, and everyone took off. So his employer was the only one left and got ‘nough money to buy up everything else. Right now the situation’s what it is, and if you go after your wanted men, you’re gonna go against Adler too, and he has his own men on top of all the crazies he pays to do the extra-dirty job. I guarantee that you don’t wanna do that on your own. Also, you ain’t the only one askin’ about this.”

“How’s that?”

“The guy you met who was going down the stairs.”

“He’s interested as well?”

“Asked me a couple questions before, yeah, same as you. And if he’s on that – you don’t wanna cross him.”

“You’re saying I should be afraid of a preacher?”

Rufus shakes his head and looks at Dean, straight. “Now, listen to me for a second. This morning I was in my workshop makin’ my coffins, and your preacher came into town on a mule. He ran into some of Adler’s people who were standin’ guard there. They shot at his mule so that he’d fall down, and you know what he did? He went back and killed the four of ‘em in two seconds flat. Couldn’t even see him drawing out the gun. Now, I’m sure you’re good, but I ain’t ever seen anyone shoot like that. And I’ve been around a lot. So –”

The door of the saloon opens and the preacher steps in, his coat a little dustier than it was when he went out.

“May I have a bottle of that?” he asks, nodding towards the whiskey Dean’s drinking. “At that table.”

“Comin’,” Bobby huffs, and the preacher goes to sit at a table in a corner.

“Well then,” Dean mutters under his breath, “guess it’s time I have a talk with him. Hey, put his whiskey on my tab. I’m gonna pay you as soon as I get that money.”

“Yeah, well, I got this idea that you ain’t ever gonna pay me for anything, but whatever you say,” Bobby grumbles as he brings the bottle over to the preacher’s table.

“Kid, you’re nine kinds of crazy,” Rufus says.

“So I’ve been told,” Dean answers, and when Bobby gets back to the bar, he waits for the preacher to take a couple of shots before moving towards his table. He doesn’t take a seat when he gets there though – he just stands until the preacher raises his head and meets Dean’s eyes.

“Did you pay for my drink?” the preacher asks, and damn but his voice sounds like steel. It almost clashes with how pretty his face is – even though Dean thinks no one would be so stupid to tell the preacher just that. He doesn’t seem like the sort of person who’d let you finish the sentence.

“I might’ve. Let’s say I thought I might want to ask you a couple questions and thought you might be more inclined to answer.”

“Then I doubt that your investment was a good one, but by all means, sit down. No one forbids you to ask questions.”

“Even inappropriate ones?”

“Only answers can be inappropriate,” the preacher says, taking another sip from his glass. Dean is starting to notice that he’s doing everything with his left hand – pouring, holding the glass, adjusting his coat. It strikes him as queer. Also, Dean wonders where he’s from. He talks – well. He talks like a preacher, but a well-read one – the preacher in Dean’s old hometown in Kansas never could speak as nicely.

“Fair enough. See, I like to be straight with people. So I’ll be straight with you. I’ve been hearin’ that we’ve been asking about the same person’s whereabouts.”

“Really,” the preacher replies, sounding unimpressed.

“Well, that we’re interested in the same group of people. Whose heads are worth a damn lot of money.”

The preacher’s eyes focus on him, and Dean swallows but doesn’t back down. The man does have an unnerving stare, but if he backs down because of that he might as well change his line of work.

“It might be possible. So?”

“So, I really need that money.”

“And I really need to kill those people. I’m afraid there’s no way around that.”

Dean can feel his face hardening as well – damn. He had hoped to convince the guy to back off. Dean can’t afford not to take this job. It’d take him years to find that much reward money all in the same place, and years is a span of time he just can’t afford. He’s already sick and tired of doing this – he can’t blow a chance to get out of the business on top of everything.

“Then I’m afraid we should settle this in the back alley,” Dean hisses, because like hell he’ll shoot someone in a saloon when he doesn’t want to attract attention, and like hell there’s another chance to solve this. The preacher looks at him for a second, then gives him a short nod, his face utterly expressionless, his eyes ice.

“Very well,” he just says, standing up and brushing dust away from the coat. He takes his hat, puts it on his head. Then he looks at Bobby. “I’m not finished with that,” he says nodding at the whiskey, and he walks towards the door.

Dean follows.

--

At least the location is convenient. The alley is wide enough and calm enough, and there’s enough light to actually aim. They stand far apart, one at the front of the building and the other at the rear. And dammit, Dean doesn’t really want to kill the preacher. He doesn’t like killing people who aren’t criminals as a general rule – hell, it’s not like being a bounty hunter is the life he had dreamed about when he was a kid, but he can’t exactly go and bitch about it now. But maybe he can convince the preacher to back off. Apart from being freaky and staring so much, he doesn’t seem like a bad fellow, and as a rule, Dean doesn’t shoot for fun.

So he aims at the hat.

The bullet flies to the left of the hat, making it fall from the preacher’s head. The preacher stares at Dean and then moves, slowly, to pick it up. But as soon as his fingers are within reach, Dean aims and shoots in front of it again so that it moves farther to the left. Then he does it again, and a sudden bout of wind brings the hat closer to him. Enough that he can shoot at the front of it again and make it fly about five feet behind. The preacher still doesn’t say anything, even if for a second he looks at Dean like he’s impressed, and then all of a sudden he kneels down, draws a gun with his right hand and shoots at Dean’s hat.

It flies about six feet above him – but before it can fall back to the ground the preacher shoots at it again, still kneeling. The hat flies further up into the air, and then the preacher keeps aiming at it two, three, four times. Left first, then right, then higher up – every time the preacher shoots at it, it moves apparently the way he wants it. He shoots his last two bullets, and the hat falls in front of Dean’s feet. It’s still untouched – there isn’t a single scratch on it.

The preacher finally takes hold of his hat and stands up, brushing dust off it. Dean’s lips tighten, and he does the same.

They don’t move then, and their eyes lock and they stay like that for – well, way too long, but at some point Dean figures that he must have passed some kind of test because the preacher raises the gun along with both his hands.

“I think we should talk,” he says.

“Guess we should,” Dean answers, and he can’t help feeling relieved when he sees that the preacher has put the gun back in its holster again. He holsters his own too – damn, Rufus wasn’t lying when he said the man was good. Then again, Dean is at least as good – if he had been worse he would have lost, not tied. Still, he doesn’t want to be on the guy’s bad side. If there’s any way to solve this without coming to extreme consequences, he’ll take it.

“All right. So, here or inside?”

“I wish to talk here,” the preacher says, moving closer. “I wouldn’t want to risk anyone overhearing.”

“Fine. So, spill. You got an idea to get us out of our little problem?”

“First thing, I owe you an apology.”

“What?”

“I underestimated you. I thought that you were bluffing with me inside – but you aren’t. You do have good aim.”

“Likewise, Father, but –”

The preacher grimaces at that. “I’m not – I never was.”

“What – you ain’t a preacher? Then why are you –”

“People don’t ask questions and don’t suspect that it isn’t your real job. But I need to know something.”

“Well then, ask.”

“You are only after Alastair’s group and only after the money, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. Yeah I am.”

“May I ask why?”

Dean figures that if saying why is what it takes to get the guy off his back, then fine. He doesn’t look like a person who’d spread information around. “My brother. He’s back East. He wants to become a lawyer. We are – were from Kansas. My dad had a piece of land that earned good enough and we could have afforded law school for him. ,And it was fine with me – I don’t have any use for East coast law schools, myself. But, well – right after Sam left -- he was gonna stay with some relatives of my mom’s -- but then the day after he left I was out doing errands and here came this son of a bitch leading a gang pretty much like our friend Alastair’s. They raided our place and they – they killed my dad, stole everything and burned the rest down.”

“Were they ever caught?”

“My brother’s currently attending school with the money I made when I shot the five of ‘em,” Dean snaps back. The fake preacher looks at him with some weird respect now. Well, good.

“But our relatives want money for food and board and the whole thing costs a lot, and I can’t exactly afford it with the bounties on random outlaws here n’ there, right? Or well, I’ve managed until now, but it’s been two years and I can’t do this my whole stupid life. With all that reward money Sam would be set for good. And there might be ‘nough left for me to buy myself a small ranch and quit with this crap. ”

The preacher stares for another handful of seconds, then gives him a soft nod. “I misjudged you. I think that we would benefit from… a partnership.”

“A partnership?”

“Call it association, if you like it better. I don’t care about the money. I don’t care about Alastair either. I’m not after him, I’m after Adler.”

There’s a second of silence and Dean ponders. “Then you got it way tougher than I do. Why’re you after Adler?”

“Since you have been honest with me, I will be with you. I understand you’ve been informed about Adler’s business, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“Well, then you know this isn’t the only town where he has influence. He lives here, of course, but he has bought land in towns nearby as well. Four years ago he had just bought a mine in the place where my family used to live. After sealing the deal, his local band of thugs drove all the miners out of the village. Those groups are local ones, always following orders, exactly like your friend Alastair. Or I should say, they were local ones. I had a sister – our parents owned a small farm outside that town. They had both died of an illness about six years ago. I was studying to be a preacher then – I left town when my sister got engaged. She married a short while later – I wasn’t there for the wedding, but I was supposed to visit. I took a leave in order to do it. I came back to find –”

He stops talking then and takes a deep breath. Dean has the feeling that whatever the preacher found back home was pretty bad, if even thinking about it makes him uneasy. The preacher breathes in again, then resumes his story. “Two days before I arrived, Adler and his men were coming back from driving those miners out and saw our house and they figured they could all have some more fun.”

The last two words are spoken with venom, the tone suddenly not as even as before. Dean can imagine where this is going.

“When I arrived at the house – my brother in law had been shot in the back of his head. My sister – she was covered in her own blood. And someone had shot her in the head too, but from the front, at close range. She had been – her clothes were soaked with blood. I had to bury the both of them myself, because everyone in town knew who had done that and no one wanted to risk repercussions.”

“What did you do next?” Dean whispers, and the preacher snorts.

“I stopped being a preacher, even if I kept the collar. As I said, it makes you look less suspicious and people tend to assume you don’t mean harm. I taught myself how to shoot. And then I started searching for those people. It took me years to find someone who’d talk and then to hunt down everyone from that gang. And when I did find them, I can assure you that I gave that town’s undertaker a long-time job. I kept the one who did that to my sister for last. And he said – he said that our friend Mr. Adler was encouraging him. And watching the whole entire time.”

Dean thinks he might be sick. Mostly from the tone the stranger is using – it’s so calm and eerie that it’s almost scary. It would be scary, if Dean hadn’t seen him taking a moment before.

“Which is why I’m here now. So, this is my proposition for you. I wanted to kill Alastair and the others because if Adler pays them, then getting rid of them first means fewer problems later when I go after him. But if you want that money, you could help me get to Adler and I’ll help you with Alastair, and you can keep all the reward money. I don’t see why we should be enemies when we can help each other instead."

Dean thinks about it, but not for long. It makes perfect sense. Their shooting skills are even, and Dean knows that he’s pretty fucking good at it – it wouldn’t hurt to have someone as good on his side. And it means they might be done faster. Dean hadn’t had any intention of going up against Adler, but if the former preacher here wants to wipe him from the face of the earth, then Dean is more than happy to help after hearing that story. He hadn’t wanted to be a deputy for nothing when he was a kid – but that was a long time ago. Also if it means that he doesn’t lose any of that money, he can’t find a reason to say no.

“Works for me,” Dean says. “I get the money, you get your revenge, sounds smooth. Just one thing before gettin’ down to business though.”

“What?”

“I can’t really keep on callin’ you ‘guy who used to be a preacher’ in my head. You got a name?”

“Castiel,” comes for an answer, and damn, with a name like that you’re doomed to be a preacher. “And I understand that you’re Dean.”

“How the hell –”

“I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t learned the hard way how to be quick at catching useful information, would I?”

Well, Dean can’t say anything against that. In order to track down the people who killed his family without any witnesses, Castiel here must be quite good at discovering information.

“Nothin’ to say against that. Well then, I think that we should sit down and make a plan. But possibly not here or in the saloon. Too many people around, I reckon.”

Castiel nods, but doesn’t come up with any alternative, so Dean figures that he’ll have to be the one taking a leap of faith here.

“Right, right. I’m in room number two, we can go there. But if you want to keep it a secret that you’re in room number one, then you can put your mind at rest.”

Castiel raises an eyebrow, his head just slightly tilting. “How did you know?”

“Well, you might be good at overhearing shit, but the owner there told me that I was his second customer and he got me room number two. If you’re the first, stands to reason you’d be in number one. I know, you’re impressed, aren’t you?”

Castiel doesn’t dignify that with an answer, but he does crack a hint of a hint of a smile before heading inside.

Maybe the guy isn’t as expressionless as Dean had figured.

He follows Castiel inside and up the stairs.

--

Rufus follows them with his eyes, then turns towards Bobby.

“This is insane.”

“What ‘bout it?” Bobby replies as he hands Rufus a drink.

“Bobby. You saw the preacher comin’ in, right?”

“Not really. What was up with ‘im?”

“He had an expression on his stupid face.”

“So what? Most of us do,” Bobby shrugs, and Rufus drops it there. It isn’t – Bobby can’t understand. He still remembers the man’s eyes from that morning – Rufus has seen that stare enough times to recognize it. It’s the stare of someone who’s as good as dead except for the fact that their heart still beats. People with that expression on their face usually don’t come into saloons smiling, especially not after a shootout.

He wishes he knew what to make outta those two. He figures he’ll have occasion to try very soon.


--

Dean opens the room and lets Castiel inside. He doesn’t take off his coat as he sits down on the bed. Dean shrugs and grabs a chair, then shrugs off his poncho and takes a seat as well.

“I guess we wanna get going soon, right?”

“Right.”

“So we need a plan. And I guess we gotta be careful.”

“That we must. I think we should each state where we are. How much attention did you manage to attract?”

“I, uh, well, I might have knocked out this guy of Alastair’s and taken him to jail. But hey, he was hitting a woman, what was I supposed to do? And I was hoping to get the reward money for that one at least, since I can’t even pay for this fucking room. I guess people saw me and the sheriff knows my face, but it’s not like I my name’s gotten around much. The girl knows it, and the sheriff. And the saloon owner.”

“Too many already, but then again I didn’t do better than you.”

“Yeah, you killed four of Adler’s men, didn’t you?”

“How do you know that?”

“I know how to get information as well,” Dean answers, giving Castiel his best smirk. Castiel doesn’t look too impressed, but Dean figures he was allowed a small revenge. “But then again only the undertaker saw you, so I guess you’re better off than me on that. Still, if you killed four of Adler’s guys, they won’t be too keen on lettin’ you anywhere near him.”

“I suppose that’s a problem, yes,” Castiel concedes. “But they were particularly unnerving.”

“Amen to that.”

“By the way, while you slept this afternoon, I got a closer look around this town.” Castiel pauses, and Dean doesn’t ask how Castiel knew he spent the afternoon catching up on sleep. “I wanted to know who exactly I need to be careful around. And the contrary.”

“Have you established anything other than the fact that the guy who owns this place is pretty much all right, and the undertaker as well?”

“There is a newspaper. It’s not what you would call revolutionary, but they don’t seem to write much about Adler either way. I talked to one of the two people working there – he’s a rather peculiar fellow, but he shared some interesting facts with me. Like your stunt this afternoon.”

“What, he saw me?”

“The emporium is in front of his office.”

“Well, damn.”

“I convinced him not to share that bit of information. He said that if we happen to shoot a number of people around, he’d be more than happy to comply.”

Dean lets out a breath of relief. Sounds good enough. “And?”

“Adler owns the bank, so I didn’t bother checking there. And there is only one other place that might turn out to be of interest to us – apparently it’s where your friend Alastair likes to spend his free time.”

“Really. Let me guess, it provides girls, doesn’t it?”

“Yes. It’s owned by this Crowley person – he comes from England, I believe, as does the man from the newspaper . Crowley, I think he’s the kind of person who likes to mind his own business. In the sense that he’s not above anything, if it means to expand that business, if you know what I mean.”

“Sure. Well, I think I have an idea.”

“Which would be?”

“You obviously can’t go and show up at Adler’s place – with the noise you made shootin’ those four guys, someone must have seen you from inside one of the houses, even if we can’t know for sure. And you ain’t got clothes that one forgets easily. I reckon no one’s gonna try to kill you while you’re in town, they aren’t suicidal, but out there? I don’t doubt it. And I can’t go looking for Alastair, since they’re probably on the look-out for me. So, I might have an idea here. I go to Adler’s – they’re probably searchin’ for replacements right now - and tell ‘em that I need a job. If they realize I’ve knocked out that other guy I can just say that I was new in town and had no idea he was with ‘em. So, I get a job there, I can see how things are and report to you. At the same time, you go to that brothel one evening, talk a bit with my friend Alastair, convince him that you’d like a job with ‘em, and let him show you where the hell he’s hiding. Then you come tell me that, and we have inside information from both sides. Which would make killing the whole lot of them a lot easier. What do you say?”

Castiel raises his eyes and stares at him again, turning the hat between his hands, probably considering, and damn but that stare does make you feel like someone is trying to look into your soul. Dean is starting to feel unnerved, but after all, Castiel has been staring a lot, so he just figures it’s a thing of his.

“It seems like a sound plan, if you don’t count the fact that I’ve never been inside a brothel and therefore might give myself away.”

Dean is sure he hasn’t heard right.

“You what?

Castiel shrugs. “Why, is that so uncommon? I was to be a preacher. And after not being one anymore, I wasn’t too interested in matters of flesh.”

He sounds just a tiny bit irritated. Which kind of makes Dean feel good, since until half an hour ago he’d have bet that the guy couldn’t have sounded anything other than unflappable if he tried.

“Seriously? Well. Okay, I guess – it’s just, you wouldn’t exactly have much of a problem getting laid, y’know.”

“That’s not my main interest, thank you. But you’re right about what we should do – considering that there isn’t any other place where one is sure to find Alastair, I’ll do it.”

“Yeah, but that ain’t gonna fly if you look like you don’t know what to do with yourself.”

Castiel rewards him with an icy glare. “I would not.”

“You know what, I think that you and me should go tomorrow evening. If Alastair’s there, I’ll just leave and you can talk to him directly – you wouldn’t even need to act. If he’s not there, I could just show you how not to look like a fish out of water. Unless you’re sure you can pull it off.”

Castiel’s eyes narrow into slits, and Dean can’t help looking at his right hand – he’s half sure that Castiel is about to shoot him for his insolence.

“Very well,” Castiel replies, “we’ll go tomorrow.”

And with that he stands up, puts his hat back on his head and leaves the room.

Well, fuck. All of a sudden it seems like the room has just been freed from some seriously thick tension, and Dean can’t help sighing with relief. But at least he got a pretty good deal out of this day. He has someone to work with, he’ll get his money faster, and if he can get his money faster it means he can finally buy himself that small ranch he’s been dreaming about for a while. Maybe not here – closer to somewhere he can catch a train when he wants to visit Sam. Or for Sam to visit him. If it means dealing with excessive staring or thick tension coming from nowhere, he’ll deal with it. He’s this close, he can almost taste it; when he goes to sleep, it’s dreamless.

part II
 
 
feeling: determineddetermined