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Supernatural: Witch's Canyon
Cedar Wells, Arizona
December 4, 2006
"That's a big hole."
"A big hole," Sam repeated.
"That's what I said. It's a big freakin' hole. And somehow that river got stuck inside it."
Sam shook his head sadly. His brother leaned casually on a railing, peering into the canyon. Across the way, the lowering sun's rays slanted in from the west, dripping gold paint across horizontal layers of pale rose, buff, and salmon strata of shale, limestone, and sandstone. Sometimes Sam had to wonder if Dad had destroyed Dean's soul altogether. "Dean, nature worked miracles for millions of years to create the Grand Canyon—the Colorado River's the reason it's there."
Dean turned slowly, fixing Sam with a steady glare. From the way his mouth curled into a mischievous grin, Sam knew he'd been had. "Just because I didn't go to Stanford doesn't mean I'm an idiot, college boy," Dean said.
"I didn't say . . ." Sam paused, stuck. Dean loved to give him crap about having attended Stanford—and almost graduating prelaw—while Dean carried on the family business.
"Look, Sam, I know what made the Grand Canyon. I know about erosion. I even get why you wanted to stop here while we—"
"We were just passing so close."
"What did I just say? Dude, are you even listening to me?"
When Dean got in this kind of mood, there was no winning. After his years at college, away from his big brother, Sam had to learn Dean's habits and quirks all over again. These last months, riding around the country in Dean's precious Impala, he believed hehad reacquainted himself with most of those traits, good and bad.
Didn't stop him from stepping right into it from time to time.
"It is pretty spectacular," Sam said, hoping to change the subject. Another glance at the opposite wall showed that in just minutes shifting light and shadow had altered the view as surely as if the Winchester brothers had moved to a different vantage point. Hints of pine and sage tickled Sam's nose on a whispered breeze from below; the same wind shushed through the branches of the firs and the gnarled junipers surrounding the overlook. "I'm glad we made the side trip."
"Me too," Dean said. He scratched his head, mussing his short brown hair. His leather jacket was zipped against the cold; the snow around his boots was hard-packed, a week old or more. "It's kinda cool."
"For a big hole."
"Am I wrong?"
"More like . . . incomplete," Sam said.
"You can give me detention. Oh, wait, that's right . . . you aren't the boss of me. So I guess you can just bite me."
"That's not happening," Sam said. "Maybe we should get on into town." Even as he said it, he recognized that Dean might take it as giving orders again. That was something he and Dean struggled with. Dean was older, and had stayed on the road with their dad while Sam turned his back on the family—at least, that was Dean's take on it. Sam's was that, having announced his intention to go to college, Dad had thrown him out, essentially disowning him. Dad's words, "Don't come back," had seemed plenty specific.
But now that Sam had rejoined the family business—and the brothers were left to run it themselves since their father's death—there had been friction between the two of them. Dean loved his little brother, and vice versa. But he didn't like being dictated to, and he had made that abundantly clear.
Which didn't mean it was easy for Sam to knock it off. He had been on his own for a long time, and he was used to doing things his own way. Dean, having worked with Dad longer, was used to taking orders. More than that, he seemed to thrive on it, as if Dad had crushed the independent spirit he'd been born with. What was left behind was a Dean who Sam bossed around whether he meant to or not. Maybe it wasn't the natural order of things, but sometimes it felt that way to him.
Dean shot him a dark glance but didn't say anything. He pushed off the railing. "Let's hit it."
When they arrived, one other car had been parked on the gravel semicircle at the trailhead, but they hadn't seen its occupant anywhere. As they hiked back toward the parking area, not talking, Sam thought he heard something out of place. He stopped short, put a hand out to halt Dean. "Shh!"
"What?" Dean whispered.
"Listen." Not just wind through the pine needles, Sam was certain. "Someone's crying."
"Let's get out of here, then," Dean said. "That's not going to be any of our business."
"We don't know that."
"Yes we do," Dean argued. "We came here to go to Cedar Wells and stop people from getting killed. There aren't many things in life I am more positive about. I'm sorry for whoever's crying, but it's not what we're here for."
"What if it's a kid? Someone who got lost? How long can it take to check out?"
Dean rolled his eyes. In that instant, Sam could still see Dean as he'd been at twelve, when that had been his response to almost every situation. He hadn't caught up to his older brother in height then—that hadn't come until Sam's sixteenth year—but he'd been closing in even then. Still, he had looked up to Dean, practically worshipping him, and Dean could cut him deep with one of those eye rolls. "Famous last words."
Without comment, Dean pointed at the Please Stay on Path sign that Sam had stepped over. The crying was full-throated sobs now, as if the person—a woman, Sam thought, no child weeps like that—had stopped trying to hold back and decided to let it all go. It was coming from through the trees, not on the path, and Sam was only following the sound.Supernatural: Witch's Canyon. Copyright © by Jeff Mariotte. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.