The group filled Alex in on what they knew, and she described what she had seen and heard when Nick disappeared. They had to agree, when it came to research and physical hunting so far, she and Ladona had done the heavy lifting and gotten nothing. Clearly, they weren’t making much progress.
“I really wish we had Lizzie and Bobby here,” John said at one point, getting up to pace the living room. “We could use even more hands. This makes no sense and we don’t have enough of those skills. More hunters and a psychic. That’s what we need.”
Dean, looking oddly pugnacious, said, “We can handle this.”
“I know Alex and I can certainly take care of ourselves and we’re probably the only unknowns,” Christian said.
John nodded, but his eyes drifted to Alex, who looked slight and small. Anna, who knew him so well, knew what he was thinking.
So did Dean.
“She’s tough enough, Dad,” he said, clenching his jaw.
Ladona sure didn’t know what had gotten into Dean, but something had. He was stubborn and sullen. And he was not only avoiding talking to her, he was avoiding looking at her if at all possible – or at least as far as she could tell. Sam had no such concerns; if anything, he was more talkative and chipper than usual, and Ladona was starting to suspect why. If she was right, it would partially explain Dean’s bad behavior…
But it made sense that John, not knowing Alex or having seen her in action, might question her ability. He was always practical, pragmatic. And he unflinchingly surveyed a situation, putting aside emotion to handle it with logic. Ladona understood that, and Sam and Dean should too. He wasn’t saying Alex was incapable, he just wasn’t sure. And being unsure could mean somebody got killed.
“I can take care of myself in the field, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Alex was saying, her voice still hoarse but her eyes flashing a little. That was a good sign, a sign of life, even if it was defensiveness.
“I sure hope so,” John said with a snort at her tone of voice.
“Dad, we vouch for her,” Sam said. “Me and Dean.” Dean nodded.
“Okay then,” John said, putting up his hands. “But I hope you’re right, especially if we encounter trouble. We’re dealing with a lot of unknowns, and one of them is whether or not your friend is even still alive.”
He didn’t mean to be harsh, but Alex’s eyes filled.
“Honey,” Anna said in the silence; she could see Alex coming up with a retort, and she knew it might only make things worse.
John sighed, realizing now what he’d said; he tended to be blunt but he was well aware now he was outnumbered when it came to being realistic versus optimistic. All those years without women around – he was still learning to watch his words.
“I’m sorry, that came out wrong,” he said to the blonde, who nodded, accepting his apology. “We will find him, don’t worry.” And he meant it.
“I know we will,” Alex said. “Look – I may not seem like I can handle much, but you have to understand how hard this has been. I -“ she stopped, trying to formulate what to say next.
“You might not believe this,” John said in a light tone, “but I do understand.” He shared a look with his wife.
“Thank you,” Alex said. Her reporter’s instinct wanted to ask what he’d been through, but she also understood it must be deeply personal, and did not ask. But she did believe him, without question.
“Guys, I might have something,” Sam said.
Anna had been half-watching him during this discussion, working his hacking magic on the computer. She’d suspected from talking to John that Sam might be able to slip past firewalls and other defenses as easily as a virus, but it had never been said outright. Now she could see his nimble fingers working as quickly as his mind. John had learned, over the last few years, to be proud of Sam’s skills, instead of trying to push him to be someone he wasn’t. It had taken him a while to appreciate what Sam brought to the table as a different type of hunter – still skilled with weapons, but also a cerebral advantage – but now he fully touted his youngest son’s skills, just as he touted Dean’s superior street smarts and tactical skills. She’d pushed him a little to see beyond the practicalities of surviving and to stop and smell the proverbial roses. Now that she was back, he seemed more inclined to do that.
“What did you find?” John asked, getting up to stand behind Sam’s chair, as the others clustered around. Alex pulled up a footstool next to the chair and leaned onto the arm of the chair so she could see, her eyes bright with hope, not tears.
“I did a little digging in some – uh – unauthorized locations,” Sam said, giving Alex a quick conspiratorial grin. “And I found some blueprints.”
“Of what?” Dean asked.
“Well, I’m not really sure,” Sam said. “It looks so far like it might be an old military installation.”
“In the park?” Alex said disbelievingly. “But it’s almost completely wild.”
“Oh, it would be 40 or 50 years ago, probably,” Sam said. “Maybe even WWII. If it’s as overgrown as you say, that takes time.”
“That’s assuming the ground was ever cleared completely when they were building,” Anna reminded him and Sam nodded. “They could have built something in a copse of trees and it could be hidden until you literally stumbled upon it.”
“So what are we looking at, exactly?” Ladona asked, making sure there was at least one person between her and Dean. No need for more snide comments under his breath.
“Well, it might be the floor plan for a building or a bunker,” Sam said. “Humor me, but I think this part over here looks like a maze. Doesn’t it?”
“It does,” Alex said, leaning in a little bit. She was a little awed and certainly mystified. What had Sam uncovered? And how did it fit in with all of the other details she’d dug up? She tried to sort them all in her mind, but she still felt a little groggy.
“There’s nothing still standing structurally on the site,” she said; she’d studied the map and seen the site so many times she could traverse it in her sleep. “Except a few small restrooms and the park office, which is the size of a
“True,” John said. “But if this is underground, that would mean something. See these stairs? They might not go up like I first assumed. They might actually go down.”
“Oh wow,” Ladona said.
“So any idea where this is located in the confines of the park?” Alex asked. “I mean, that park’s pretty big, and I can’t read blueprints enough to know how big this building would be.”
“If it’s underground, it could be huge,” Sam said, looking up at Dean, who nodded.
“Then let’s go look for it,” Alex suggested.
“We can’t go yet, and here’s why,” Dean said, speaking carefully when she looked about ready to interrupt. “It’s the middle of the day. The park is going to be full of people and probably police. Some of these disappearances have happened during the day when the park is actually open. So if the bunch of us goes in there snooping around we’re going to call a lot of attention to ourselves.”
“I agree,” John said. “Let’s go at dusk.”
“Fine,” Alex said. “I’ll dress warmly.”
“Not you,” Christian said, pointing a finger at Alex. “You’ve eaten next to nothing for a week and hardly had any sleep. You’re staying put. They can do recon without you.”
“Christian, dammit-“ she started to explode, but he made a syringe-pressing gesture at her, and glowering, she subsided. But no one who knew her thought the argument was over.