They mused on it all the way into the center of town, but were no closer to a conclusion when they pulled up to the
The woman at the Historical Society wasn't about to let them rummage around in her files, regardless of how much tin they flashed at her. So they cooled their heels and drank warmed-over coffee and waited for her to make photocopies.
"This is everything we have on the kidnappings in the twenties and thirties, Agents," she told them as she handed over a manila folder. "Sadly, the cases went cold very quickly, because there were no real clues and never any ransom demands or anything like that. They didn't have the forensics knowledge police do now."
She gave a sheepish half-smile. "Of course, you know that."
"Crime scene investigation has come a long way," Sam smiled as he took the files. "Even we have a hard time keeping up with all the new developments."
"There was never anything found in these cases? No unidentified bodies turned up, or belongings, things like that?" Dean asked.
The woman shook her head. "Not as far as I know. Those cases cast a long shadow over this whole county. Even when I was growing up, my mother wouldn't let me sleep with my bedroom windows open." She sighed. "I pray you catch this horrible person. I can't even imagine how it must feel to have a child simply—vanish—never to be seen again."
"We'll do our best to answer that prayer," Dean assured her. "So the Bruners, at least, won't have to find out how that feels."
soon as they checked in and did their usual precautionary sweep of their new temporary digs, Dean shed his tie and jacket, tossed them on one of the beds, and tugged his shirt tails out. Sam draped his jacket over one of the dinette chairs, loosened his tie and spread the photocopies out over the scarred table-top.
Dean leaned over them with him and picked up one of the pages that held muddy, grainy copies of old photographs of the long-missing children and the crime scenes. Sam was absorbed in reading the smeary copies of antique newsprint, a frown of concentration creasing his forehead.
"Sam!" he blurted, tapping his brother on the shoulder with the back of his hand. "Look at this!" Dean laid a photocopy down beside the bright, heartbreaking photograph of Ethan. "Notice anything?"
Sam peered at the murky copy. "Is that the same rocking horse?"
"Hard to tell, it's so far in the background and turned away at an angle, but it looks similar to me."
Sam dug in his bag and brought out a magnifying glass. "Look! The carving on the end of the rocker bows, and the pattern of the dappling spots on the horse's hip—"
Dean focused the lens Sam handed over. "Man… I am not believing this." He looked up at Sam. "Cursed object?"
"I've never heard of anything operating like this thing seems to, but yeah. That's the best explanation so far."
Dean tucked his shirt back in. "I say we go ask the Bruners where they got their nag."
Less than an hour later, they were knocking on the door of one Edward Silva. He came to the door blinking like an owl at noon. "Can't 'cha read, y'idiots? Sez DAY SLEEPER on the damn door." He started to slam it.
Sam stuck his size thirteen wingtip over the threshold as he and Dean flipped open their badges. Silva experienced an instantaneous attitude adjustment.
"Oh, hey, I'm sorry, officers," Silva blurted, his words stumbling over one another. "I didn't know you were Feds, y'know? I thought you was some of them Bible-thumpers or somethin'."
"We get that a lot," Sam dead-panned.
"Must be the suits," Dean agreed. "And it's not Officer, it's Agent. Perry," he jabbed a thumb at his chest, and then nodded to Sam, "And Tyler."
Silva nodded through that like one of those dashboard dogs. "Ok, ok, Agents. What can I do for ya?"
"We want to ask you some questions about an object you sold at a recent yard sale," Sam informed him, and pulled Ethan's photo out of his suit pocket. "This rocking horse."
It required no honed powers of deduction to interpret the expression of nervous recognition on Silva's face. "Yeah, sure. I guess it's the same one. Looks like it. See that chip in the ear? I broke the sonuvabitch off when I was hauling it home in my Pinto."
Sam and Dean exchanged a glance at that revelation. Not only did they have a possible cursed object, but Eddie Silva might well be a magical manipulator of space-time if he'd crammed that unwieldy an object into a subcompact Ford hatchback.
"It was a 'wagon," Silva added.
So, mind-reader and inter-dimensional magician?
"When and where did you get the rocking horse, Mr. Silva?" Sam asked.
Silva scratched at a day's growth of grizzled beard. "Lemme think, it was a long time ago. I'd just got that rusted out ol' POS wagon. My first car. Talk about rollin' birth control… anyhow…. Had to be '84, maybe '85? I was cruisin' around late one night, nothin' better to do, and saw the thing sittin' by them dumpsters out on one of the county roads. Y'know how they used to have three or four of 'em set out like that every few miles, before everybody got regular garbage service? I don't know why I even gave the thing a second look, but heck, maybe I was flashin' back to playin' cowboy as a kid, y'know?"
Silva gave them a sheepish grin. "I managed to stuff the thing in the back of the 'wagon. Damn near herniated myself, more than once, between that and gettin' it in the house. I wasn't real keen on movin' the sucker again, so he hung around the living room. Got remarried this year and the new wife, she thought he was ugly and took up way too much room. Guess he did. Anyhow, I dragged him out when she had a yard sale couple of weeks ago. This nice couple, well-off, drivin' a Lexus SUV, they stopped cold-dead in the road and backed up when they seen him. I wasn't too keen on sellin' him, even then, but they didn't turn a hair when I told 'em I wanted two hundred bucks. Just asked me to hold onto him till they could get to the bank and back."
He spread his hands. "That's all I know about it, honest. What's this about?"
"A kidnapping," Dean said. "The child in the photograph. Was he with the couple that day?
Silva blanched. "Oh lord! No, no it was just the man an' woman, 'least that I seen. Look, Agents, I swear that's all I know about that horse. I don't know nothin' about no kidnappin'. I'll take a lie detector test, anything you want. You can talk to my wife, too. She gets off work in a couple hours."
Dean shook his head. "That won't be necessary, Mr. Silva. You're not under suspicion. At this time."
"We have to check out every lead in a case like this, you understand," Sam added with a reassuring smile. "If you think of anything else, please don't hesitate to call."
He handed Silva one of their cards printed with a number that would ring one of the pre-paid cells they kept in the glove box.
"Sure, sure." Silva gave the piece of card a quick glance. "I'll ask Angie about it too, make sure there ain't nothing I forgot."
"You do that," Dean nodded.
"Thank you for your time, Mr. Silva."
"Yeah, yeah. Hope you find that little boy safe and sound, real quick." He closed the door on the last word.
Neither of them spoke till they were back on the sidewalk. "You think he was tellin' us the truth?" Dean asked.
"I think if he was any more intimidated, he would have rolled belly up and wet himself, so yeah—he's telling the truth," Sam answered with a wry twist to his lips.
"Maybe that horse was ticked over being sold off like a worn-out futon?" Dean mused as he opened his door.
"Maybe it was something else." Sam hurried back over the sidewalk and up Silva's front steps. He rapped sharply on the door.
Silva poked his head out like a cuckoo from a clock. "Yeah? Didja forget somethin', Agent?"
"One last question," Sam said. "Do you have any children?"
"None I know of," Silva blurted. "Aw hell, I didn't mean that like it come out. Sorry."
"No problem. No children have lived with you while you owned that rocking horse?"
"Nuh uh. Ain't even had a dog, much less kids."
"Thank you, sir. That's all we need to know at this time."
Silva made his escape again, this time locking the door. Sam hustled back down the walk.
Dean straightened from his lean against the Impala. "No kids, huh? That explains the gap between '85 and now. That horse has been cooped up in Fast Eddie's skuzzy living room for a quarter of a century."
"No wonder it's pissed off," Sam muttered. "The smell alone…."
"Yeah, I damn near got a contact high just off what was drifting out the door," Dean chuckled and pulled out.
Forty-eight hours later….
Sam leaned back in the rickety dining chair and rubbed his eyes. "I'm certain," he said, his voice flat, "That I can recite all the police reports from memory."
"Same here." Dean tossed the sheaf of photocopies he'd been studying for the umpteenth time back onto the table. Some slid off onto the floor, but by this point he didn't care enough to retrieve them.
"We know it's the damn rocking horse, we know it's taken Ethan and those other kids, but I can't come up with a single thread to help us unravel the where or how." Sam's voice sharpened with frustrated anger.
"Yeah, and the longer this drags on, the less chance of finding that little boy alive," Dean gritted. "Hell, we don't even know if that horse is still around anywhere. For all we know it can dematerialize between snatches."
"At this point, I'm ready to consider just about any possibility," Sam nodded.
The possibilities were endless, and no way to follow through on any of them. Neither of them felt like saying much the rest of the evening. Dean was finishing off a therapeutic dose of blueberry pie while Sam picked through the last of his salad like he was searching for gold nuggets instead of crumbs of cheese. The TV on the dresser droned with the local news, nothing more than white noise in the background until two words grabbed their attention with magnetic force.
Sam made a dive for the remote, knocking over his chair, and turned the volume up. When the story cut to commercial, Dean flung his fork across the table and swore. The horse had spirited away another kid, a little girl named Sophie this time, barely four.
"Where the heck is Warriors Mark?" Dean scowled.
Sam righted his chair and shoved the debris aside enough for his laptop. "About seventy-eight miles southwest."
Dean cocked his head, speculation in his eyes. "Sam? How fast can the average horse gallop? Assuming this thing is any kind of average."
"Best guess via Google?" Sam said after a few seconds of searching, "Twenty to thirty miles an hour, depending on the size and breed of the horse."
"And the kids, they all disappeared between what, nine at night and six in the morning?"
Sam nodded. "That'd give a range of about a hundred-eighty miles in a night."
"Say two-sixty, two-seventy max, if this thing was galloping top speed all the way. It's wood, it's not gonna need to stop and catch its breath," Dean added.
Sam printed out a map as Dean spoke and they put their heads together over it. "Assuming somewhere here in Goldwood is home base, and the thing makes an express trip every time," Sam murmured as he dotted the map with the locations of all the abductions.
"Then every kidnapping was within a night's run of Goldwood," Dean finished for him.
"Ok Joe, up for a trip to beautiful downtown Warriors Mark?" Sam disconnected his laptop and closed it.
Dean started stripping down as he headed to the closet to grab his suit. "Waitin' on you, Steven."