The drive over is tense, neither speaking to each other, and Dean leaves the radio on low. Once they're ensconced in Castiel's office, however, the man's eyes light up with that slightly manic, conspiratorial look he gets when he's gonna tell Dean something he's sure will impress. Considering how much he seems to relish these moments of smuggery, his reasons for keeping schtum must be pretty big.
"When you were talking to her parents," Castiel begins, kneeling down and noisily tugging at something under his desk, "I had a look around her room."
"Rachel," he says over a tearing noise, before springing back up and laying a thin silver case on the desk with aplomb. Dean can see the jagged edges of duct tape on either side. The man must've taped it to the underside of his desk, and if that didn't scream paranoid he didn't know what did.
Castiel gestures to the case, indicating for Dean to open it, before he continues. "She had it tucked under her bed. Thought it might be a note, but it's far more significant."
It doesn't escape Dean's notice that Castiel is essentially stating that the last words of a deal girl are meaningless, and he has half a mind to chastise him, but for the minute curiosity has a firm grip on him; he pries the case open carefully, as though something might jump out at him.
Inside, sitting perfectly innocuously, are what looks like several slim booklets, separated by the neon paperclips he remembers spilt on Rachel's desk.
"So she sorted them like this?"
Castiel gives him an almost pleased smile. "Well spotted," he confirms. "Likely, she received the case from someone in disarray, and took it upon herself to separate out the targets."
"Multiple, huh." Flicking through the first booklet, he notes it's covered in chicken-scratch writing. "These your notes?"
"No," Castiel says, affront obvious in his tone, "it's hers. She was matching up the surveillance log with her diary. Look," he leans over, tapping a line that says MET SAH 12.40, "she's written the names next to any initials."
Even from a cursory look, Dean can see just how detailed the surveillance was. Practically every minute of this girl's day was accounted for, and had been for several months.
"From about a month after she accepted her position," Castiel remarks, as though reading his mind. "Whether it only started then because of her settling in, or because something else changed, I'm not sure yet."
"I am," Dean states darkly. "This is when she started dating whatisname. Jeff?"
Castiel actually manages to look taken aback. Strike one for Dean. "What makes you say that?"
"While you were busy lifting stuff from a girls bedroom - which, I have to note, is incredibly skeevy - I was actually listening to her parents. Girl had hooked up with someone a month in, seemed real happy, but never brought 'im home. Her folks were kinda worried he might not even know she was dead, since her phone went missing. None of her friends ever met him either. Thought it sounded kinda fishy."
Castiel hums thoughtfully. "She meets someone, doesn't introduce him to her friends or family. That's odd, isn't it?"
"Considering how close she was to the rents? Hell yeah, it's odd."
Castiel peers at him curiously, like he's not sure if he's impressed or not. "Someone they wouldn't approve of, then?"
"Nah, she'd keep the whole thing secret if that were the case. They knew his name, knew a ton about him, she'd just never brought him home."
The man nearly looks impressed. "That certainly puts things in a clearer context."
Dean can't help the grin that breaks out. "That's why you got me on this, right? To offer a little human perspective?"
Castiel either ignores or doesn't hear the casual insult, as he frowns down at the papers. "And while it narrows the options down, it still doesn't point us in a direction."
"So, what, she was either seeing someone super-paranoid who started watching her, or her new bo was already being watched? It all comes down to the boyfriend."
"Or, her romantic relationship was a cover for something else. Selling secrets. She was watched to make sure she was doing as asked."
It sounded kinda possible. It would tie a few things together - seemingly happy girl offs herself; either she does it because someone found out what she was doing, or it was murder because she found out she was being watched. But the way her parents had talked about it...
He had a closer look through. If she was being watched, there had to be something saying who she was seeing.
"Hey, how do you know this is the start of the logs and that we're not just missing something?"
Castiel leans over again, flicking it back to the first page and tapping to a couple names. "The vernacular. Everyone she interacts with regularly are named in full the first few times, and abbreviated later on. The only ones who are already abbreviated are the other people being watched." He indicates to the other booklets. "She was smart to work it out, add up who was who. But she didn't come to the police."
Dean flicks through to confirm - most the people in the first few days of surveillance are obviously colleagues of hers, and all named. The first abbreviation without prelude - JAJ - has, weirdly, 'Detective Novak' noted next to it, and Dean gets a horrible sinking feeling.
"Hey, you're in here."
"Yes. I visited Michael's office three times in the past eight months, each occasion is noted."
"No," Dean grinds out, knowing Castiel is being difficult, "you're in here."
"Maybe should've waited to give me the tip-off about the names, idiot."
Castiel leans heavily against the desk, and fixes him with that famously caustic stare. "Look at the third booklet, idiot."
He does. The sinking feeling worsens. Flicking through, he can see it goes back the eight months Rachel's log does, but almost every name he spots is abbreviated.
Either every person Castiel sees regularly is being watched, or this has been going on a long, long while.
Something stands out, though. "Hey, there are huge gaps compared to the other one in here. What the hell?"
Castiel gives him that sly look once more. "I'm rather good at avoiding a tail."
"Wait, so you knew about this? And you never once went to the police about it? For god's sake dude, you are the police!"
"Not in the way you're thinking," he says, after a long pause, pushing up off the desk to walk to it's other side. "You must have noticed, Dean, that I'm rather good at what I do. Occasionally, a high-profile case attracts enemies. In those instances, I tend to assume I'm being watched."
"Jesus, I've met dealers less paranoid than you."
"Most likely, everyone you've met is less paranoid than me."
Dean could believe that. "And despite that, you didn't notice you were being watched for god knows how long? Didn't do anything about it?"
"You're putting words to my mouth. I did plenty about it." Castiel grabs the booklet out of his hands before Dean can so much as raise an objection, rolling it up and tapping the one on Rachel sharply. "This is not a new or interesting discovery. You're losing focus on what's important here."
"This is important! You can't just exclude yourself when this could all be connected. Come on, Castiel, why would someone be watching both our victim and you?"
Castiel made a vague gesture, looking around the office in what came across as a calculatedly absent way. "Michael. I speak with him often enough and he has done me a number of favours. To anyone seeking to tarnish him, I look a reasonable weak link." He lays a hand on the other booklets. "A preliminary look suggests all of these people had a connection to the mayor's office; Rachel managed to work out who they were, probably using the appointments book."
Dean grabs one of the other four booklets, flicking through. Rachel had made pretty extensive notes about the subject, and a quick look at the others showed she'd done the same for each.
He was tugged by a sudden, deep sadness. She'd obviously been an intelligent woman, putting all this together when anyone else might've been running scared; she would've had a bright future ahead of her, and instead...
"She was murdered," he says, the words weighing on him.
"Yes," Castiel agrees easily. "That much is obvious."
"We have to use this." He stands up abruptly, staring Castiel down at eye-level. "We have to. A woman was killed for something, and this proves it. Why the hell haven't you passed this up already? Gotten the case officially reopened?"
Castiel stares back at him, and there's a measure of regret on his face as he shakes his head slowly. "Can't. Not yet."
"Not yet?" He stalks around the desk, resisting the urge to shake Castiel by his borrowed shirt. "Not yet? Her family deserve to know the truth, now, and you're worried about timing?"
To his credit, Castiel holds his ground, eyes gone dark and cold. "This is why I didn't tell you. You want to shout on the roof with this because it fits your idea of fairness." He leans in, voice low. "We cannot. This is a far more dangerous game then you are accounting for."
"This is someone's life. It's not a game!"
"It's my life, Dean."
At that, Dean does grab him by the shirt. "So that's what it boils down to, huh? You protecting your own back? What happened to your high-and-mighty attitude?"
Castiel grasps his wrists, but makes no effort to actually move Dean's hands. "You're misunderstanding."
He nods, and lifts Dean's hands away slowly and without force, more a suggestion than anything. "You will have to submit all of these to back up your conclusions. The least that happens is I am taken off the case and put on watch to catch out the surveiller. They notice the police, fall back, and we miss any chance of catching them out." He leans in further, voice dropped to a rough whisper, his expression as dark as Dean's ever seen it. "The most, they hear straight away that someone may be on their tail, and we die in 'accidents'."
That completely throws Dean for a loop. Where the hell is he even meant to start with that? "What the hell are you on about?"
"I understand your frustration, Dean, but I am deadly serious in this. I fear passing this on to anyone will result in the surveiller hearing about it, and I don't think they have compunctions about killing anyone to keep their job under a wrap."
"It is really hard to take you seriously when you misuse phrases like that," he muttered, rubbing a hand over his face. He really hated messy cases. "Let me get one - no, two - things straight here. One, you're trying to use yourself as bait, and two, you think someone who works here is mixed up in this. Yes?"
"Yes," he nods. "We are on the same page."
"Can I tell you how monumentally stupid it is to try and draw out someone who might be a killer without backup?"
"You can," he says brusquely, "but I hardly see the point. I won't allow you to decide what risks are acceptable for me to take." And wasn't that a loaded statement?
"And the station being compromised, where are you getting that from?"
At this, Castiel finally drops his eyes, staring contest over. "Much as I hate saying such things, it is a... gut feeling. One that I can't dredge up firm evidence of. The way that we are having to investigate these cases could be proof of it, but not enough that it can be held to rigor."
"You think our finding a connection between Andy and Rachel means there's some big cover-up going on here? Because I gotta tell you man, it's pure luck we stumbled on it, but it wasn't exactly hidden."
"No, Dean, the fact that I had to beg help from your father to investigate at all proves it. The fact that the samples I took produced a different result to the official coroners report proves it. I do not ask for help, and I do not make mistakes in gathering forensic evidence. The fact that you are the one to assist proves it."
"Woah, wait, what the hell does that mean?"
Castiel shoots him an unimpressed look. "I asked you because your father assured me you would be an asset. It was allowed because you don't like me."
Dean shrugged. It wasn't like he'd been particularly vocal about not liking the guy, but it wasn't something he'd exactly kept to himself.
"You understand why I want to hold onto this for now? There will likely come a time we can use it, but right now we'd be endangering the investigation."
"So it's a straight yes/no to you? We use it now or we don't use it now? There's gotta be a way to game the system, Cas, you've spent practically your whole career doing it."
Castiel looks at him with an entirely confused expression, before frowning down at his desk again. "That's an interesting way to put it, but, no. We have to find a way to prove she was being watched without these, and finding the ones responsible for doing it is the easiest route. If we need to use them later, we will."
Dean nodded absently, his mind suddenly awhirr. There was a way to game the system, one that might just get the proof Castiel needed for his conspiracy theory.
He could swap the reports.
All he'd have to do was knock up a couple of fake logs on some prominent vice cops, leave the one on Castiel in and keep the others back, pass it up to Adler and say the kid had died for having it. It'd look like the gangland killing he was so clearly pushing for it to be, and they'd have more room for manoeuvring in an investigating.
It could work. It could totally work, he'd just have to play it right.
"All right," he said eventually, with a nod. "We use them only if the timing is right, and we find other evidence first."
Castiel bowed his head slightly, something like a smile crossing his mouth. "Thank you for trusting me."
"Think that trust can work both ways? You've obviously had a chance to go over these with a fine tooth comb, you gonna let me do the same?"
"Yes," he replies, with surprise colouring his tone. "Yes, you can do that."
"Well then, no offence, but I'm gonna go do that my own desk. I think we could probably do with a few hours away from each other. I won't let anyone else catch wind of this, scouts honour."
Castiel nods again, and sits at his desk heavily."I have a few things I want to look over that are fairly tedious. This seems like a good time to split our energies. We'll discuss what you find tomorrow?"
"Sure thing." Dean gathers all the booklets into the metal case, taking obvious care to make sure each booklet stays paperclipped. "Listen," he adds, as he's leaving. "I didn't like you, that much is true. But I'm starting to. You're not who I thought you were."
Castiel doesn't look up, but Dean can still see the abashed smile that slips into place. "And you're exactly who I hoped you were, Dean. See you tomorrow."
He waves, knowing that tomorrow the man is either going to slap or kiss him.
* * *
He takes the day to get everything in place; calls in a couple favours owed, allows Jo and Rufus to rip into him for their help, avoids looking in on Castiel for fear of giving the game away. If he can play at secretive plots then hell, Dean can too, as far as he's concerned.
All he needs now is a little drama.
He sets a meeting up with Adler in the least subtle way possible, knowing it'll make it's way back to Castiel at what he hopes is the right time. Castiel is no great actor; while he's a great obfuscator, he hates lying and looks obvious and awkward doing so, so the plan rests on him coming in after Dean's laid the false case to his boss. Dean, meanwhile, is pretty damn good at lying and wheedling and acting; it's the reason he's good at his job. He already knows what it is Adler wants to hear; he's just got to say it convincingly enough.
"Dean Winchester!" Adler says loudly, rising from his desk and giving him an open-armed welcome and a smile that rubs him the wrong way. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"I think we've made a breakthrough on this case, sir, and figured it'd be a good time to come to you."
Adler's smile drops a tic, even as he gestures for Dean to take a seat, taking one himself and leaning back. The pose is so obviously meant to be casual that it comes across as anything but, and Dean has a baaaad feeling. "So, what's this big breakthrough? Novak find whatever 'proof' he was sure existed?"
That sounded faintly ominous. "I'm not sure what you mean, sir?"
Adler gave a wave, adopting a smug and indulgent smile. "He's a good detective, don't get me wrong, but he gets all wrapped up in these theories of his. Some poor kid gets mixed up with drugs and gangs and whatnot, and he sees something 'bigger' behind it." Adler leans in a little conspiratorially, obviously pretty into bad-mouthing Castiel. "Higher-up's have been trying to get him desked for god knows how long."
Dean is fairly sure it's probably Adler leading the charge on that, but he nods slowly in understanding. "Actually, what he's found ties the case up pretty neatly, but he didn't want to submit it. That's why I'm here."
"Oh," he says, carefully neutral tone not exactly covering the look of glee threatening to break out on his face. Dude must really have a bone to pick with Castiel if he got this excited about what could be fairly negligible stuff. "Why, pray tell, does he want to keep it to himself?"
Dean lays the metal case with the fake reports on the desk, which Adler almost snatches straight out his hand in his haste. "He dug this up when we were investigating Gallagher's apartment, but didn't tell me until yesterday. It's a bunch of surveillance logs, and it's probably what got him killed."
Adler pauses abruptly with that description, smile tense as he says, "Go on,"
"They're of a couple vice and OC cops I know have been a pain in the ass to a few of our more illustrious gangs," and Dean can see the tension leak out of Adler's posture as he starts to actually flick through the booklets, "And of Novak himself. To me it looks a lot like Gallagher found this by getting mixed up with the wrong people, and once they knew he had it..." Dean makes a vague gesture. "It's a damned shame. By all accounts he was a good kid."
Adler nods vaguely, scrutinising the logs for god knows what. "So that's a wrap. Good job, Winchester."
"Well, not quite, sir," he says, leaning in a little. "We don't know exactly who's responsible for killing him, and there's still the matter of Novak being watched. The other guys I'm not to worried about, but with his involvement in the case-"
"I'm sure Detective Novak can take care of himself, not to worry," Adler says, the reassurance in his tone fake and grating. "Unless you have some suggestions?"
"It might be best if he takes a step back from this for a little while," Dean says, painting his words with a touch of uncertainty. "Not taken off the case, just not frontline. And if it's all right with you, I thought it might be worth sticking with him to make sure he doesn't get into any... trouble."
He lets the word hang there for a while, sure of what must be running through Adler's head. Doing what Dean asked would bench the guy, giving an excuse to stopping him taking on any other cases that might wind up a pain in the ass. And having him watched by the guy who'd come running straight to the boss the minute he'd done something a little fishy? If Adler went for it, Dean was pretty sure he either just really hated Castiel, or was pointedly working against him.
There was a sharp knock on the door before Castiel let himself in the office, ignoring Adler's shouted 'I'm busy!' and proving himself a master of timing.
Turning to look at him, Dean wished he hadn't come in at all. The look of abject betrayal on Castiel's face makes his stomach drop out, and when Dean expects him to cover it with his ever-present pokerface, he instead glares at him furiously.
"Ah, just the man! We were just talking about you, detective." Adler waves one of the booklets at him, voice solidly sarcastic. "Great work as always! Just a shame your colleague had to tell me about it instead of you.
Castiel says nothing, and Dean is worried the desk is about to catch fire from the heat in eyes.
Adler keeps on grinning, clearly gleeful to press his advantage. "We were just discussing what to do with you, what with these nasty men stalking you. I'm surprised you didn't notice!"
Castiel's hand twitches, but he doesn't rise to the jibe otherwise, still staring Dean down. "Well?"
Dean glances back at Adler, who gestures for him to say it himself. Just to dig the dagger right in, he guesses. "For your own safety," he says slowly, knowing it's exactly those words that are likely to rankle the most, "I'm going to take over on the case for a little while, and set up a watch detail. Just until the danger's passed," he adds quickly, when it looks like Castiel is about to shout him down.
His hands twitch again, the way Dean's noticed they do when he's resisting the urge to pace or shout in frustration. "And I have no say in this?"
"Nope," Adler chimes in smugly.
It's obviously taking a huge effort for Castiel to not start flipping out - which, hey, kind of what he was aiming for - so Dean wraps it up quick. "Since he's here now, sir, I thought it might be worth popping by his apartment now to make sure there's no surveillance equipment there?"
Castiel looks fit to explode when Adler nods his consent, smug smile firmly in place as he shrugs at the guy. "Hey, can't argue with facts!"
Dean nods back, leaving the paper booklets with the man, and leaves with a 'Later, chief' that's almost drowned out by the angry stomping of Castiel following him. The guy doesn't even let the office door swing shut before he's all but screaming at Dean.
"How could you? I trust you like you ask, and this is how you repay me?"
Dean doesn't face him, doesn't move forward. He can almost feel the weight of Zach's ears on them. Let him listen.
"It's for your own good," he says. "Cas--"
"Don't even start that with me! I decide what's safe for me, you had no right-"
"Castiel, just- trust me on this, this is for the best."
"No," he says, and storms straight past Dean.
They sit in the car for twenty minutes, Castiel silently fuming, Dean prodding him at intervals for his address. Dean's never known himself to be patient, but he's pretty sure he's about two minutes away from being sainted for this, because seriously, it is taking every iota of his nerve not to rock up to records and have Chuck dig the guy's personnel file out.
Better yet, he could threaten to ask his dad.
It's the smallest of sounds - a hitch of breath, the kind that comes with a sudden alertness - that tells him he won't have to, because Castiel is suddenly staring at him, sullen pose forgotten, eyes wide, expression like the penny that just dropped weighed a hundred tonnes and hit him at terminal velocity.
"The paperclips," he says, and tells Dean where to drive.
* * *
Considering the weird altar to neatfreakery his office is, Dean's half-expecting to walk into an apartment pristine enough to make even him jealous.
He trips as soon as he's in the door, only saved from a painful face-vault by a timely arm on his elbow. Dick doesn't even apologise for the state of the place.
And it is a state. Dean's fairly sure his room at college doesn't even match up, and he and Ash turned that place into a dive.
"Is that your bed?"
"Don't like enclosed spaces," is the only response he gets as Castiel divests himself of his coat and throws it at a chair. No wonder the guy always looks so rumpled. And here was Dean thinking it was all the late hours.
"What's in the bedroom?"
At this, his eyes light up, like a much younger Sam about to expound on dinosaurs or egyptians or whatever nerdygeek thing he'd been reading up on that week. He doesn't say anything, but there's a slight jerk of his head that's a clear beckoning gesture, and Dean picks his way around the books and shoes and other detritus to see what could get the guy so excited.
There are four computer screens set up in an array above a long desk, and Dean can only wonder what the hell anyone would want with that many, along with a little laptop and some beast of a machine whirring underneath. What really catches Dean's attention is the wall to floor shelving across one side of the room.
It's half full of books on stuff he has no understanding of - textbooks and manuals on what sounds like computer stuff - but the other half seems entirely dedicated to crime fiction.
Back when he was in college, Dean had used to consume thriller and crime novels like twinkies, everything from cerebral Atkinson to Cornwall's pulp and everything in between. But he had loved one series most of all, and if the entire shelf dedicated to various prints of it indicated anything, it was a love Castiel shared.
"How many versions of Sherlock Holmes is that?"
Castiel practically glows. "Enough," he says simply, and Dean can only agree.
"I have to know, which is your favourite? Mine's a tie between the guy with the thumb and the one with the fake banker who pretends to be two brothers."
The nod he gives, as though he knows exactly what Dean's talking about, is very gratifying. "I like the Adventure of the Yellow Face best. Even Holmes could be wrong."
"I suddenly understand a lot of why you work the way you do."
That small smile Dean liked seeing crept across his face. "His methodology is a sound one, even if it's impossible for me to spot things as quickly as he could."
"So," Dean begins, capitalising on the good mood, "Forgiven?"
Castiel nods easily. "That was very clever of you."
"Yeah, well, I figured we could get a kick in early there. Adler thinks I'll tattle on you on a moment's notice, whoever cocked up in letting those logs loose gets to look like they covered their tracks well, and you get to stay on the case. Everyone wins, sort of."
He sits on his desk chair - and the thing is enormous, and looks entirely too comfortable to be at any desk - and motions for Dean to take a look at his screen set-up. "Since you're here to see about surveillance," he says as way of preamble, clicking a few buttons before six camera views show up on one of the screens.
It's all views in the apartment. Dean even spots the back of his own head, but looking up he can't see a camera anywhere.
"You are definitely the most paranoid person I've ever met."
"Thank you." He points at each screen in turn, naming the rooms, and then points to a spot on the edge of one of the living room cameras. "This is the only blackspot. I engineered this so there would be a small gap. Useful if anyone else were to take control of it."
"Like a hidey hole?"
Castiel looks a little put off, like the cutesy phrasing bothers him. "Essentially," he agrees after a moment. "I like to put important things there. There's a box under the floorboard."
Dean has to be impressed at the level of trust the man levels at the world. Making a hiding spot in a hiding spot from his own surveillance? Really? "I gotta admit, I'm kinda surprised you're telling me this."
"Dean, you just risked your job to keep me on a case. I think you've proven yourself trustworthy."
"I try, he says with a smile. "Think that fulsome praise can extend to you fixing me a coffee?"
* * *
"So," Dean starts, trying not to glance at the piles of stuff everywhere. It wouldn't take him all that long to sort it out, make this place look like an apartment and not a dive, even with the bed in the living room, but Castiel would probably pile-drive him through the wall if he touched anything. "Now that we're not having a shouting match over it, can we go over the logs again? I spent all that time with them making the fake ones, so I honestly got no idea where to start with them."
"As it stands, the only obvious link between each target is Michael's office. Rachel worked there, and the others had all visited a number of times. Unfortunately, that doesn't give us much scope."
"Really? I woulda thought that would narrow things down a lot. I mean, he's the mayor, there's only so many reasons someone's gonna want to talk to him, right?"
"Do you remember our own visit?"
Dean's pretty happy to remember it. Word-slapping the dumb mayor of your own city is kind of a once in a blue moon gig, but he's fairly sure that's not what Cas is getting at.
Castiel stares at him for a long moment, but Dean can't for the life of him think about anything particularly out of the ordinary about it, asides from the conversation topic.
"Dean, how many people were there?"
Oh. Come to think of it, it had been a fairly bustling place, all things considered, but he'd reckoned on that being related to the re-election campaign the guy had to be organising. Those things took at least a year to put together, didn't they? "Dude, that was the first time I've ever been there, spell it out for me?"
"It was busy."
"Not quite spelling it out for me there, Cas."
"That was a normal day. Each time I've had cause to be there, it's been like that. Michael meets with dozens of people every day regarding dozens of issues, so unfortunately, being there at all doesn't narrow it down by a wide margin."
"It gives us something to work with, though. Asides from you, I'm guessing they all had to be politically active somehow."
Castiel's expression is the least impressed Dean has seen it yet, by a wide margin. Good to know there are still new lows to sink to. "Asides from me."
"Well, yeah, he's your brother, I'd guess the family connection is what's got you in the loop?"
"The fact that we are half-brothers isn't something either of us are keen to broadcast too loudly, Dean. My meetings with him are strictly business."
"That's pretty cold, dude."
Castiel gives a prim little smile. "Exactly as we like it."
"The hell do you talk about if it's not family stuff? Police business?"
Castiel gives him a considering look, before nodding to himself. "He does me 'favours'. Zachariah Adler does not like me, and I find myself making 'trouble' a lot. Michael smoothes things over."
"Uh, I hate to break this to you, but that sounds suspiciously like a family thing."
"Not in the way you're thinking." Castiel gives a vague wave, as though to convey a whole lot Dean just isn't going to understand. "Michael entertains this because he likes giving Adler the run-about. The man's a sycophant, and Michael's only use for that kind of person is to see how far along he can string them."
Dean suppresses the urge to correct the misphrases. "He seriously only does you a solid because he hates that guy?"
"Cold." But entirely off the point. "You think he does those other guys favours too? I mean, Rachel's parents said she got the gig because of a family connection."
"Michael does deeds for many people," he agrees, "but that again might not make them stand out. He has his fingers in lots of pies."
The correct use of a phrase almost makes Dean cheer. "Shouldn't we just ask him if he knows anything about these guys? I mean, he might not be our biggest fan right now, but-"
"Would you like to know what Michael will tell you about those people?"
"Uh, duh, that's why I suggested it?"
Castiel gives him a look that all but demands silence. "He will tell you that they are upstanding members of their community, that he has met with them a few times, and while they have had their disagreements, they were generally able to work together. He will tell you that he cannot remember the exact details of meetings had with them, but that his diary shall illuminate. He will, essentially, tell you nothing, but you will come away feeling as though you've gotten somewhere by looking at the diary, and will have missed the glaring flaw in what he says."
"Hate to break this to you, dude, but that isn't exactly sinister-sounding. You already mentioned how many people are down there seeing him every day, that just sounds like the kinda bull any politician would spout of about some guy he doesn't remember all that well."
Castiel is, once again, practically glowing with conspiracy. "That's the flaw, Dean."
Dean is completely nonplussed. "The flaw is that a busy guy can't remember someone he spoke to a couple times?"
"The flaw is that anyone believes that."
"Okay, you completely lost me."
"I think I've told you before that he is a shrewd man, but that isn't the half of it. I have no doubt that he knew exactly who every person was at his office that day, and every day. He knows their names, who they work for, what they want." He does his patented, conspirator lean-in here. "It's a good strategy. Everyone who speaks to him sees how many others he deals with on a daily basis; they feel special when he remembers details about them. None realise he does the same for everyone."
"So we're just gonna have to dig something up on our own?"
He nods, with something close to a sly smile. "Paper trails are your favourite, aren't they?"
* * *
It takes hours of plain hard slog through everything they can gather on these guys backgrounds, when Dean suddenly perks up. "Hey," he calls to Castiel, who has since retreated to his giant desk. "I've got a hit."
Castiel pokes his head out on a wheely chair, which is such a weird image he nearly double-takes. "Ditto."
He's tempted to say 'you first' just to find out what the hell the guy decided he essentially needed to sequester himself for, but he's spent so long staring at paper that he wants to just put this thoughts out there so the guy can say 'no dice' and he can take a nap or something. "They've all got a connection to this one charity, and get this -"
"-it's the one Gallhager recently volunteered at?" He looks considering for a moment, and then nods. "Good work. Is it obvious they're involved?"
"Nah, took a bit of digging. And dude, I don't want to know how you could get hold of all this info so fast."
"Public accounts," he waves off. "Men in their position don't tend to expect anyone to look too deeply into them. Not quite important enough for proper scrutiny, not unimportant enough to keep their business to themselves."
"You know anything more about it?"
"Surprisingly, yes. My brother set the charity up when he was 'turning new leaves', shall we say? It's a local organisation, and he is still a board member, but hasn't played an active role in decades."
"Luke," he says, standing and moving to the kitchenette to put his well-abused looking coffee machine on. "The only one who fits the term 'brother'." Leaning against the counter, Castiel doesn't smile, but there's a certain fondness in his expression. "He left the city after-- when I was young. But he wrote until I was adult enough to leave the house and change my name."
"You changed your name?" Dean asks, perking up. Was he finally gonna dig a little deeper into the master of cagey-ness' past?
"In so many words. Only to make official what I was already using."
Well, that answers exactly no questions, but it does remind him of something. "That got anything to do with you being 'JAJ' on the reports?"
He nods, somehow managing to convey an awful lot of distain in a small motion. "Both my names are from my mother now, as it should be."
"I'm guessing you've got other brothers, then?"
"Gabriel Svaha. I believe you've met."
"I'd ask how the hell you knew that, but it's you. He was my Crim professor, still hangs out with Sam, which frankly disturbs me."
"Yes," Castiel says, with an expression that spoke volumes. "He is a nuisance, but I didn't see much of him growing. He took his wife's surname to distance himself from them, much like me." He turns to glare at the machine, as though willing it to work faster, as a way to end the conversation.
Fair enough. From the little he'd managed to glean, life in the Areli household didn't sound like the kind of thing you'd want to stay wrapped up in. He filed the information away for later. "What about your hit?"
"Ah," he says, with a put-upon mystery. "Mine is very good. Gideon, the deceased one, died of digitalis poisoning. Was ruled an accidental overdose from heart medication. Would you put money on who did the pathology?"
"That was your hunch? That can't've taken that long to come up with?"
He pours two cups, stirs slowly, and Dean knows he's just trying to drag the drama out. "No. I was digging. It's very difficult to try and go through the database of a regional lab that's been active for nearly 30 years."
"I can imagine," he says, rubbing his eyes in sympathy. How the guy isn't squinting from eyestrain after a long time staring at a screen is beyond him. "So what's the verdict?"
He hands a cup over to Dean, and sits beside him, casting an eye over the neat stacks of paper Dean's rocking on the table. "Why are you so neat here, when your desk is usually so awful?"
"I could ask you the same question, dude. Now spill."
Taking a sip, Castiel sets the cup down, and this time he does smile; a small, sly thing. "You'll like this. It's a regional lab, so as you know, it handles forensics and pathology for smaller PDs without their own facilities, and occasionally the overshoot from bigger PDs during busy times. There are thousands and thousands of reports in their database."
"And you sifted through all of them? What the hell?"
"No, Dean, as much as I enjoy a thorough approach, there is such a thing as going overboard." Dean snorts at that; he's pretty sure the guy has no idea what 'overboard' means. "Targeted anything sent over from our PD first. Narrowed it down to over 200 cases, which, while feasible, would take longer than I'd like to go through. Then, narrowed it down further by looking at date clumping."
"Okay, what the hell does that mean?"
"If cases are being sent over from another PD, there tend to be several within a period of a month or two; that would indicate our own lab was boggin up. Looked at the outliers instead, cases where it seemed there was no reason not to use our own lab. Less than 20 hits. Spread over 30 years, it's not something anyone would even be looking for, until now." He takes another sip, pensive. "Bar one, they all look as though any anomalies could be chalked up to a botched test, slight negligence, never anything purposeful or malicious."
"But you reckon it is?"
"Wait, bar one?"
Castiel looks troubled at this. "A case in 1987. It's sealed by court-order, so the reports aren't on their database - since it's so long ago, it'll be paper-copy only. Considering what we're looking at, it's not important to view every report." There is an entirely out-of-character sullenness creeping over his face, though, and he breathes out heavily. "Frankly, I am not sure I'd want to look at it, either."
Castiel Novak, weirdly meticulously thorough detective extraordinaire , doesn't want to read a report? What the hell? "Any particular reason?"
He nods, but says nothing for a moment, looking conflicted. Eventually, he nods to himself. "Yes. It's my case."