“Oh, this has got to be a joke.” Dean grinned as he laid the latest issue of The Weekly World News down on Pastor Jim’s kitchen table.
“What?” Caleb closed the refrigerator door, balancing two slices of cold pizza, one atop the other, in his hand.
Dean pointed to a quarter-page article in the upper corner of one sheet. “The News. Ya know, it’s usually the most accurate source for us to find cases, but this one… check it out.”
Caleb leaned over his friend’s shoulder, eating as he read. He managed two paragraphs before a laugh threatened to spray half-chewed crust and pepperoni across the newspaper. Forcing himself to swallow, he read aloud a sentence from the article.
“ ‘He claims to have been born in
“155,” Sam answered. The fifteen-year-old walked into the kitchen in time to hear Caleb speak. “Somebody is saying they’re 155?”
“Not somebody,” Dean said with a grin, “something.”
Sam pulled a glass from the cupboard. “Some thing?” He shot his brother a confused look while filling the glass with water from the tap.
Dean pushed the open paper toward his brother. “A talking mongoose.”
“Mongoose? Like Rikki-Tikki-Tavi?” Sam moved to look at the grainy photo that accompanied the article. A weasel-like animal with a long, slender body, pointed face, and bushy tail lay curled on a huge pillow.
Sam still looked puzzled and Dean and Caleb listened as he read.
“ ‘He claims to have been born in
Sam paused and looked up; his expression covered a range of emotions.
“Keep reading,” Dean said. A wide grin was plastered across his face. “It gets better.”
Sam continued. “Wilson Wallace, 64, carnival employee and Jeff’s caretaker says the mongoose is friendly with kids who come to see him but has gotten surly in regards to some members of the press.
“Wallace said there was one reporter that the mongoose especially had issue with. ‘Jeff became angry and shouted, "Tell him not to come. He doesn't believe. I won't speak if he does come. I'll blow his brains out with a thrupenny cartridge!"’ ”
Dean’s brow furrowed despite his laughter. “What the hell is a thrupenny cartridge?”
“I dunno,” Caleb said, also laughing. “But, you have to admit, if ever there was an argument for gun control, it's an irate, talking mongoose with an itchy trigger finger.”
Dean pulled the paper back toward himself to read more. “Get this - it’s been quoting Citizen Cane and Gone with the Wind.”
Caleb talked through a mouthful of pizza. “It’s like that old Warner Brothers cartoon with the frog who sings but only to the guy who found him, and the guy ends up going broke and insane trying to prove it sings. Then, like, a hundred years later it’s found again and starts singing.”
Caleb dropped his voice to a nasally timbre and began singing. “Hullo, mah huhney - hullo, mah baby…”
Sam grinned and shook his head. The look on his face indicated he had no idea what Caleb was talking about. “You are so weird.”
“Oh my god, Damien is right,” Dean said. “Listen to this part… ‘He’s also developed a flair for singing and knows the words to a good many popular songs.’ ”
The three boys were still laughing when Jim, John and Mackland entered the house. John eyed them suspiciously. Pranks often followed when the boys got together. John asked the question the other two men were thinking.
“And what exactly are you three up to?”
Dean struggled to put on a mask of seriousness. “I think I have our next hunt.”
Caleb interrupted with his own somber attempt. “Could be a poltergeist in physical form.”
Dean nodded. “Or a demon. It has shown hostility.”
Sam piped in with his own theory, but couldn’t hold a straight face. “A unique cryptid, maybe. An unexplained, anomalous animal.”
Dean tapped the newspaper article with the tip of his index finger. “A talking mongoose.”
“His name is Jeff,” Sam said, and the boys began laughing in earnest again.
Jim, John and Mac said nothing. Had the boys been paying attention, they may have noticed the taut expression shared by The Triad. Caleb looked at his father in time to see a jittery smile spread across the man’s face.
“Talking mongoose?” Mac managed a weak laugh and looked at Jim and John, as if encouraging them to follow suit. “Where, uh, where did you see that?”
Dean pushed the paper toward the three men. “Hey, you guys told us that since things were quiet me and Caleb should research leads on potential hunts, that’s what we were doing. I found this one in The News.”
John leaned forward to scan the article; however, he seemed unwilling to look at the photo. He coughed out a laugh and a stiff smile found its way to his lips. “Well, ya know, boys, you, uh, can’t believe everything you read….”
“C’mon, dad,” said Dean, again trying to play a somber role, “we all know The Weekly World News has the most accurate info for hunters. I think this could be a hot one.”
Caleb glanced at John, sensing an underlying seriousness in his mentor. However, the opportunity to analyze it slipped away when Bobby burst through the door, panting and wide-eyed. He slammed the door and pressed his back against it with his arms splayed out as if the hounds of Hell followed.
Jim stepped forward. “What's wrong? You okay?”
Still breathing hard, Bobby inhaled deeply through his nose in an effort to regain control. He pulled a rolled newspaper from the back pocket of his jeans. “It's back!”
He thrust the paper at his three associates. John snatched it away and unrolled it to reveal the same edition of The Weekly World News that lay on the kitchen table. The page they looked at showed a picture of a staid mongoose sitting on a large pillow. Jim and Mac scanned the article over John's shoulder.
“It can't be,” Jim whispered. He seemed to finally be acknowledging a horrible truth.
“That was over 200 miles away,” Mac said, as he more thoroughly read the article.
John shook his head. “It’s gotta be dead by now!”
“How long does a mongoose live?!” Bobby asked. A rising panic pushed his voice out at a higher pitch.
“The average lifespan of a mongoose is about 10 years,” Sam answered. “And there was an American Box Turtle in captivity that lived to be 123.” The fifteen-year-old crossed his arms, proud of his knowledge.
Caleb gave the youngest
Sam shrugged his shoulders. “I’m just sayin’.”
There was only a momentary lull in the conversation between the four older hunters. John closed the newspaper. “It can’t be the same one.”
Bobby ripped the paper away from his friend and shook it. “ ‘Gone With the Wind’, man! How many mongooses do you know that can quote classic movies?!”
Several seconds passed as the others in the room stared at Bobby, processing the absurdity of his question.
Caleb spoke slowly, as if trying to communicate with a young child. “I’m not sure I know a mongoose that can quote any kind of movie. Do you, Bobby?”
The four older men stared with blank expressions at their wards. Bobby suddenly shifted focus to The Triad, wholly ignoring the presence of the younger hunters.
“The article says it belonged to an elderly deaf woman who died, and then it ended up with this carnie.” Bobby related the article's information from memory. “An elderly deaf woman!” He slammed the newspaper down on the table, not noticing the current issue already there. His voice dropped to almost a whisper. “Now fellas, there’s coincidence, and then there’s just unholy design.”
Jim’s lips pressed together in a tight line and he looked at the older hunters. He gave Bobby a nod. “You have to go check it out.”
“Hold up,” Dean said, still smiling, “you guys are serious about this?”
None of the adults acknowledged him. Bobby took a step back, looking in disbelief at his associates. “I got stuck with it the first time the last time this happened! Hell no! I ain’t going. I’ll give the ring back before I go!” He grabbed at the finger of his right hand that bore the ring and attempted to pull off the silver band.
“You’re the one who brought it home!" Jim exclaimed. The boys shared speculative, wide-eyed glances. There was definitely an undercurrent of unholy design if the kind minister was raising his voice to a fellow hunter.
Mac interrupted. “Now let’s just wait a minute, we’re logical men.” He folded his arms across his chest and stroked one hand along his chin in contemplation.
Caleb and Dean stepped forward, with Dean pulling Sam along too. “We’ll go,” the older boys said in unison.
“No!” blurted Mac, Jim and John.
Bobby, however, nodded before looking at The Triad. “These boys gotta face the real world sometime.”
John’s eyes flitted to his sons. “There’re plenty of other things in the world they can deal with first.”
Caleb cocked his head. “Okay, what are you guys trying to hide? Oh so well, I might add.”
“Nothing!” the older hunters answered.
Sam gave each man a serious look. “You guys know what this is,” he said.
Jim and Mac flinched under the boy's scrutiny. John and Bobby just looked away.
Dean began to laugh. “You’re telling us you’ve dealt with a talking mongoose?” His amusement increased as he pressed the adults further. “Was it a hunt… or an interview?!” He spoke through his laughter and nudged Caleb. “I can’t believe they kept this a secret. This is classic.”
Caleb grinned and crossed his arms. “They’re good at keeping secrets.”
Sam interrupted Caleb with a question for the adults. “What’s so scary about a talking mongoose?”
The query was sincere and Jim opened his mouth to answer, but closed it after a few seconds. John looked trapped on the parental line between explaining, and simply telling his son never he mind and go do some chores.
Mac tried to reply. “You see, Sam, it’s… I mean… you have to understand-”
Bobby gazed at the youngest hunter and spoke in a low tone. “It’s what it said, son. It’s what it said.”
Sam’s eyes widened with honest curiosity. His mentors seemed genuinely rattled. “What? Did it predict the future? Could it read minds?”
Dean nudged Caleb. “Better watch out, Damien, your job may be in danger.”
Caleb returned the push and looked to the older men. “So, ignoring the fact that you still have to tell us the rest of the story – if it spooked you so bad, why didn’t you just kill it?”
John felt all eyes on him. The boys saw him as the former Marine, and The Knight. The adults, however, seemed to be looking at him in a different way.
“We posed the same question to him,” said Mac, shooting John a sideways glance.
John’s eyes narrowed and he stared at his associates. “You guys sayin’ you’re so quick to forget?” He let the question hang in the air before adding two words. “Old. Yeller.”
Like dogs being challenged by an alpha leader, the three other men looked away.
Dean frowned. “The movie with the dog? I don’t get it….”
John pointed a finger at his son. “You don't need to get it, Dean. Got that?”
Dean nodded, gauging his father's mood as serious.
Caleb shook his head; he was still having trouble wrapping his mind around the perceived threat. He picked up the wrinkled newspaper that Bobby had dropped on the table. “Talking mongoose, okay. I can see where that could freak a man out. But Dad, you’re always saying face your fears. Let’s find this carnival, let’s go up there.”
Mac pulled himself up to his full height. A shift in his stance moved him a bit closer to the rest of The Triad. “I am not afraid of a talking mongoose, Caleb.”
Bobby gave the three hunters a sidelong glance. “I am,” he muttered. “And I’m happy to let the mighty Triad deal with that damned thing. ‘sides, we all won't fit in one car. I'll just stay behind--”
Jim cleared his throat. “We are going.” He gave Bobby a pointed look. “All of us. We can take the church van.”
The older men had the self control to keep themselves in check. The boys, however, groaned audibly. None of them liked the church van. They questioned how a religious institution could own something that was so clearly spat up from Hell.
Both sides of the white van displayed a neon-colored rainbow. The paint shades were exceptionally bright and the thick black lines separating the colors were drawn with a jagged freehand. Bouncing along on worn suspension, the van’s rainbows could induce motion sickness on select passersby.
The vinyl-covered chairs and bench seats were avocado green with white stripes and had hardened and cracked due to years of exposure to extreme temperatures. Small tears in the edges of the upholstery had wounded many a passenger with tiny scratches that lingered and stung like paper cuts. It was as if the van was determined to deliver little, personal injuries that parishioners could bear as remembrances that Jesus withstood crucifixion for them.
As far as the boys were concerned, just because the church van could fit a total of eight people, didn’t mean eight people should ever be forced to ride in it.
Sam crossed his arms. It was a Friday night and he had homework to do over that weekend. He certainly didn't want to waste a Saturday for a silly mongoose. “Pastor Jim, you said we shouldn't use the van unless it was church business.”
Jim narrowed his eyes, quickly rising to the challenge. “This is holy business, Samuel.”
Sam looked to his brother but Dean just shrugged. It was rare to hear a stern tone from Pastor Jim, especially directed at Sam. The young boy nodded. “Yes, sir.”
saw the crew of hunters loaded into Pastor Jim’s church van. John had secured a duffle bag in the back but no one asked what was in it, and he didn’t offer information. The boys did little talking thanks to the early hour, and the men each seemed lost in their own thoughts.
Forty-five miles blurred past the van’s large, rectangular windows before a coffee break infused the dull group with a few degrees of life. With hot caffeine in hand, Jim and John reclaimed their positions in the front while Caleb and Dean settled in the rear.
Sam hopped in the side door with a cup of coffee; wanting the drink not for the energy but for the feeling of maturity and adult bonding it gave him.
“Bobby and Mac should be back in a minute,” Sam said. Rather than taking his seat in the back, he slipped an arm between Jim and John to reach the radio.
His dad gave him a serious look. “No.”
“The radio stays off.” John was already looking straight ahead; it indicated the end of the discussion.
Sam held off from rolling his eyes until he shuffled back to the rear bench seat and dropped down next to his brother.
Caleb yawned as he pulled his long hair back and secured it into a ponytail. Leaning forward, he caught Sam’s eye. “You could sing… I know you like The Partridge Family.” He bobbed his head in an overtly happy fashion and imitated David Cassidy. “I think I love you, so what am I so afraid of--”
Dean interrupted. “The Partridge Family?”
“Yeah,” Caleb said, “I caught the runt watching it on reruns last night. He thinks Mrs. Partridge is hot.”
Sam glared at Caleb. “I do not. I was flipping through the channels, stupid.” He reached around Dean’s shoulder and pulled Caleb’s ponytail.
“Ow!” Caleb also stretched an arm behind Dean and smacked Sam on the back of the head.
Mac and Bobby returned to the van in time to be caught between a deadly look from Jim toward the boys. Dean spoke up quickly, hoping to allay vocalized irritation.
“Hey Sammy, didn’t you do some research last night on those crypt animals you were talking about yesterday?”
“Cryptid,” Mac corrected.
Jim got the van back on the road as Sam spoke. “I found a bunch of
mongooses and UMA’s. Did you know they’re illegal to bring into the
Dean’s brow wrinkled with confusion. “The government regulates unidentified mysterious animals? Oh, you meant the… never mind.”
“Duh,” Caleb said, punching Dean lightly on the arm. Dean returned the hit as Sam continued.
“There were a few reported cases of animals, like dogs and cats, that were supposed to be able to speak – but those aren’t really UMA’s because they’re… well, dogs and cats, and everybody knows what those are. Charles Fort and Ken Gerhard have theories about poltergeists or demons being responsible for animal vocalizations.”
“It wasn’t anything like that,” Jim said.
“Yeah,” muttered John, “no evil spirit could handle that much holy water.”
“What did dad say?” Sam asked Dean.
His brother shrugged. “I dunno, I couldn’t hear him.”
Caleb peeled the thin plastic lid off the Styrofoam cup in his hand and blew on the hot coffee. “So how did this all start?
The boys noticed the attention of The Triad shift to Bobby, but it was Jim who spoke.
“I’d say the trouble started when it was let loose in the church. Bobby.” Jim shook his head and glanced in the rearview mirror at Bobby. “A church, a place of worship. The House of God.”
The preacher’s tone rose, as if he was building up for a fire and brimstone sermon. Sam, Dean and Caleb exchanged looks. This was a side of Pastor Jim they never recalled seeing.
Bobby quickly spoke up. “Oh, no you don’t. If this story is gonna be told – it’s gonna be told right.”
Uploaded by: Etta
Uploaded by: Etta