There was no way he could have heard correctly, John thought, blinking in stunned disbelief. No way in hell. He offered Sam’s principal a hard, tight smile of apology.
“I’m sorry,” John said, slowly shaking his head, trying hard to wrap his mind around it. “Come again? Sammy did what?”
Principal Marsh leveled her somber gaze on John, pushing her wire-frame glasses up the bridge of her thin nose with one perfectly manicured finger. “While on his class trip to the Natural History Museum today, your son somehow managed to slip away from his group during lunchtime and break into the Native American exhibit on the second floor where he then attempted to set fire to the priceless and historically significant remains of a famous Paiute Indian shaman that was on display.”
John glanced over at his ten-year-old son, sitting in the plastic office chair across from him. Sam sat rigidly in the chair, staring straight ahead, arms crossed, jaw jutting out in stolid defiance. John felt a surge of anger wash over him and took a deep, steadying breath. He was going to kill Sam.
“May I remind you, Mr. Winchester,” Principal Marsh continued, her haughty inflection grating on John’s already shredded nerves, “that it is against school policy for any of our students to bring matches, lighters or any other potentially harmful items to school, much less on a class trip.” She offered John a dour smile. “Nor do I think a lock pick set an appropriate birthday gift for a ten-year-old. Samuel, of course, argued otherwise to the security guards at the museum who confiscated the tools from him”
John choked slightly, neck flushing. His dark eyes bored into Sam’s. Sam hastily looked away, focusing on the opposite wall and a poster announcing the school’s “Spring Fling Carnival”. John literally saw red. He couldn’t wait to get Sam alone. He flicked his gaze back to the principal, and managed to barely recover his composure when he realized the woman was still prattling on about Sam.
“He has refused to explain why he tried to set fire to the display, claiming it to be a ‘super secret thing’ that only certain special people in the world are privy to. I am hoping that you, Mr. Winchester, are one of those special people, because I must say, I am quite curious to know the significance of covering a centuries-old Indian mummy with several dozen tiny packets of salt - stolen from the museum cafeteria by the way - and then trying to set the whole thing ablaze.” Principal Marsh stared at John, a deceptively bland look on her face. “Are you one of those special people Samuel spoke of, Mr. Winchester?”
A muscle twitched in John’s jaw. He hated how she emphasized the word special, as if she meant something that was undesirable rather than unique. His hand balled into a fist, and he had to make an effort to unclench it and keep it at his side.
“I’m sorry to say, I’m not one of those special folks, Ms. Marsh,” John replied politely, keeping his tone calm and even, despite the simmering anger building in him. Sammy wouldn’t be sitting down easy for the next week and half by the time he got done with him. He smiled gently at the principal, turning on the old Winchester charm. “Sammy tends to read a lot and well, sometimes he lets his creativity get the better of him. I’m guessing he probably read some fantasy story or something and got it in his mind to try out something he’d read in a book.”
“I did not,” Sam protested, frowning. “You told me-”
“Sam,” John barked, and Sam instantly clamped his mouth shut, the familiar warning tone evident in his father’s voice all the incentive Sam needed to keep his opinion to himself.
John turned back to Ms. Marsh. “Can I take him home now?”
Ms. Marsh nodded curtly. “Certainly. The Museum decided not to press charges, thank God, since he’s only a minor and there really wasn’t any damage. Luckily, Samuel was caught before he actually started the fire.” She smiled grimly at Sam. “Your son will be suspended from school for a week, though, Mr. Winchester. You can pick up his homework from my secretary before you leave.”
“I’ll do that,” John gritted out between clenched teeth, as he grabbed Sam up from the chair and headed for the door.
“I suggest Sam spend the next few days thinking about what he did and why it was inappropriate and dangerous.”
John just nodded stiffly in the woman’s direction, too angry to offer up some condescending reply.
Sam trotted alongside his father at a hurried pace, running every couple steps in order to keep up. John, his hand firmly clamped around the boy’s upper arm, propelled Sam out the door of the school and headed them towards the parking lot and the Impala. He remained silent, fuming, trying to get his anger under control before speaking to his son.
John finally stopped halfway to the car, bringing Sam up short and giving him a firm shake. “Just what the hell were you thinking?” he snapped. “What’ve I told you and Dean about my job, Sam? Hm?”
Sam stared at the blacktop beneath his sneakers, his voice accusatory. “But Dad, you and Uncle Bobby always salt and burn the corpses-”
“Sammy, Uncle Bobby and I do that to ensure that nothing evil is left to come back and to send the person’s spirit on to where it belongs,” John explained sternly. “We’re experienced hunters, son. You’re not.” He fixed Sam with a hard look. “What I do is not something you discuss or show to anyone outside our family. Ever.”
“Well, maybe that shaman was a real bad guy,” Sam hedged, squirming.
John’s face darkened. “Then you should’ve come and told me and I would have taken care of it,” John argued. “You know better than to try to go after anything by yourself! And how do you know he was a bad guy?” John asked.
Sam shrugged. “He just looked like one, I guess.” He glared up at his father, lip jutting out. “And I didn’t’ say anything about it to anyone, Dad! I even told Ms. Marsh it was super secret!”
John growled low in his throat, exasperation setting in. “That’s not the same thing, and you know it!” he shot back, moving them towards the Impala once again. “Where did you get the lighter and the lock picks from?” he demanded.
“One,” John counted, voice dangerously low.
“I took ‘em off your dresser,” Sam muttered unhappily.
John stopped in his tracks, hauling Sam up onto his toes by his captured arm. He turned the boy sideways and proceeded to land a dozen heated smacks onto Sam’s butt.
“Ow!” Sam howled, dancing in place.
“That was for going into my room and taking something without permission,” John stated. “You know better than to touch anything of mine that I use on jobs. And have you already forgotten what happened the last time you and Dean decided to play with matches?”
“Nossir,” Sam pouted, trying to rub the sting out of his backside.
He remembered very clearly the painful hairbrush paddling he and Dean had both received for accidentally setting fire to Uncle Bobby’s tool shed a few years back. Sam paled at the thought of another session with the ‘hairbrush of doom’, as Dean had aptly labeled the implement.
Upon reaching the car, John led Sam around to the passenger side, but instead of opening the front door, he swung open the rear one and folded himself into the back seat, earning a confused look from Sam.
“Sam, come here,” John said, motioning his son over to him and patting his lap.
The puzzlement in Sam’s eyes quickly disappeared to be replaced by one of shocked horror. “Dad!” Sam pleaded, glancing quickly around in embarrassment. “Not here!”
“Yes, here, Samuel,” John retorted, his anger bubbling up again. “Now, move.”
With a small whine of protest, Sam trudged obediently over to his father and crawled over his lap facedown, thankful that at least no one was around to see or hear the spanking he was about to get.
Dennis Rogers paused in his scheduled walk about the school grounds and tilted his graying head to one side, a puzzled frown forming on his face. He’d been a security guard at Plainview Elementary School for the past 18 years, and over that time period, Dennis had become attuned to the various sounds and voices one attributed to any normal elementary school full of bouncy, exuberant children. And that was why he had stopped when he thought he’d heard an odd sound followed by a child’s cry.
Dennis stood a minute longer, listening intently and chewing on his lip, not able to make any sense of the popping sounds and funny squawks he’d heard. He scanned the grounds, but his perusal came up empty. There appeared to be no else around. With an absent shrug, Dennis turned and started off on his way once again, heading for the deserted playground where he knew he could sneak a quick smoke break.
Two rows back and one over in the parking lot behind the security guard, a red-faced, sniffling boy slid out of the backseat of what appeared to be an older model Chevy. The serious pout on the kid’s face pretty much gave away the fact that he wasn’t too happy; the way he was gingerly rubbing the seat of his pants and grimacing told the rest of the story. As the young boy stood there, a tall, dark-haired man also appeared from the backseat of the same car. He went around the boy and opened the front passenger side door of the impeccably kept vehicle, motioning for the child to get in. The boy’s shoulders slumped visibly but he complied, climbing very carefully and very slowly into the front seat as the man shut the door and stalked around the hood of the car to the driver’s side.
Dennis glanced back at the parking lot when the throaty rumble of a big block engine roared to life. He whistled, grinning, as a late model Impala rolled past him, a rough-looking guy and shaggy-haired little boy sitting in the front seat of the shiny black Chevy. He watched as the muscle car picked up speed and with a loud squeal of tires, spun out of the parking lot and onto the main road.
“Beautiful car,” Dennis murmured, snagging his cigarettes and a lighter from his pants pocket. “They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”