characters: Dean, Sam, OCs
rating: PG-13, gen
Written for the wonderful de_nugis !
Here's a case-fic based on another piece of folklore I grew up with that I always wished the boys would encounter.
“Say that again.” Dean said, blinking into the harsh halogen light above them.
“Heinz— Mr. Bremen said there was a kobold here,” the deli clerk repeated.
“What the hell is a kobold?”
Sam turned away from the huge assortment of cheeses on display in the counter next to them and looked back at Dean. “It’s the German version of a…house spirit, I think.”
James, the clerk, nodded. “Heinz used to leave food out for it every night. He said the potato salad was its favorite.”
“So, what happened — he left and you stopped?” Dean asked.
“No,” James said adamantly. “I kept going. I mean, it’s not like I believed the old guy, but…something was cleaning the aisles at night, you know? It sure wasn’t me.” He looked down at the floor uncomfortably. “Mr. Bremen didn’t leave, he was let go. Six months before his retirement would have kicked in. When ShopFresh bought us out, they replaced half of our crew in the first three weeks. They kept me on because I’m cheap. I wasn’t here long enough to get a raise.” He looked up at Sam. “I kept putting out the food. Just, you know—” He grabbed one of the small, plastic deli containers from the top of the glass case. “One of these, filled with whatever we had that was good that day.” He shrugged, “But then the new boss, Mr. Bradley, caught me doing it one night and gave me hell. Said I could kiss my job good-bye if I ever did it again, so…I stopped.”
"How long ago was that?" Sam asked.
"Little over a month ago," said James miserably.
"Right when the accidents started. Imagine that." Dean pulled out his pad of paper and reviewed the list. "The first one to have an 'accident' was Louis Kelvin. Got himself trapped in a meat locker and froze to death. Second was Anabelle Smith. Drowned in a — wait, seriously?" He looked at Sam and pointed at her cause of death.
Sam's eyebrows shot up. "How did she fall into the lobster tank?"
James shook his head. "I didn't think lobsters could pinch that hard. You should have seen her nose..." His voice trailed off and he stared blankly at the cheese slicer.
“Bruce McNally fell off a ladder, Shirley Walker crushed to death by an aisle sign.” Dean stopped reading and flipped his note pad shut. “Do you think these were all accidents, James?”
The clerk shook his head so violently, his floppy hair fell over his eyes. “It was the kobold. Had to be. And I started leaving stuff out for it again, you know? Right after what happened to Louis. I put the food where Mr. Bradley wouldn’t see, back in the employee locker rooms. But it didn’t stop.” He looked up at them. “I’d find somewhere else to work if I could.”
Sam looked down at him sympathetically, “Do you have any vacation days coming up?”
“I’ve got three left. Was gonna save them up for the holidays, though.”
“Sick days?” Dean asked.
“Nah. Had pink eye earlier in the year.”
Dean made a face.
“Take the vacation days. It’s for your own safety.” Sam looked past the deli counter towards the glass office near the front of the store. “Now could you tell us where we could find job applications?”
“This is a stupid idea. I mean even for us,” Dean muttered, paging through his copy of the ’National Enquirer.’ He pulled out his red pen and circled ’Chupacabra pack found in New Mexico,’ on page 6.
“How else are we gonna catch this thing? We need access to employee only areas, and it’s a 24-hour store,” Sam studied the price list some more, trying to memorize the codes for the five highest-selling cheeses.
Dean glared at Sam, and then at the liverwurst. Who the hell ate liverwurst? “We sneak in like we always do!”
“You can’t sneak around in an open store, Dean!” Sam said, exasperated.
Dean scoffed. “What, like they’re busy all night long, you really think people— Hi ma’am, how can I help you?”
After a surprisingly busy three hours they finally had a lull at around midnight. Sam finished wiping down the meat slicer and pulled out his notes. “Okay so kobolds are invisible unless you trap them in some kind of adhesive. It renders them visible and powerless. They’re about two feet tall, look kind of like beardless garden gnomes…” He trailed off and stared at Dean.
“You uh— remember that whole thing in Elwood?”
Dean furrowed his brow. “You mean when you were a soulless dick?”
“Yes, that.” Sam sighed. “And you got abducted by fairies. They took you to see Oberon. And then you could see them.”
“So…do you think you could see the kobolds?”
“Are they fairies?” Dean asked, tilting his head to the side.
“Seem like distant cousins, at the least, don’t you think?”
Dean shrugged. "Okay, so where do I look?"
Sam pointed towards the utility closet in the corner. "Well somebody has to mop the floors."
"Oh, come on." Dean took off his latex gloves and stomped off angrily.
Half an hour of mopping later, he finally saw something — or at least he thought he did. He was in the produce section, maneuvering around the pineapple display when suddenly the pile of honeydews across from him started to fall. The melons rolled off of the counter onto the floor, two of them cracking open with a wet thump.
Dean looked up and saw a tiny set of hands tugging on one of the bottom melons until it came free and the rest started to topple. There was a weird echoey giggle and a flash of blue hair, and then nothing.
“What thehell,” he muttered, dropping the mop. He walked closer to the display and tried to figure out where the kobold had gone. He'd seen something, so it was visible, at least to some degree.
Dean leaned down to look at the bottom of the display for a hole, when suddenly he heard the same echoey laugh. Then the rest of the fruit on top of the counter rolled down on top of him, pummeling his back. He yelled out in pain. “Son of a bitch!"
Seconds later, Sam came running up the aisle, concern written all over his face. He looked down at Dean, covered in honeydews, surveying the damage.
"Well that sucked." Dean grunted, pushing himself up.
Sam helped him to his feet. "I thought you loved being buried in melons."
Dean glared at him. "I saw it. And then I went to see how it got away and it dropped 90lbs of honeydew on top of me."
"You saw it?" Sam's eyebrows shot up. "What's it look like?"
"I don't know — tiny hands, blue hair — I didn't get a real good look because I was busy being buried alive by fruit!" He picked a chunk of green melon flesh off his jeans.
"So you think it had a reason to attack you? Did you do something to offend it?"
"Man, how should I know?" Dean shrugged. "Doubt it. Unless it’s offended by mopped floors."
"What are you — a goblin expert now?"
"Same friggin’ thing.”
Sam pushed Dean to the floor just in time to avoid the pineapple that had been hurled right at his head. “Clearly, he doesn’t think so.”
“You don’t just throw pineapples at people!” Dean yelled, standing back up. “You think I’m scared of produce, you blue-haired troll?”
“Dean!” Sam snapped. “Don’t taunt the kobold!”
A grapefruit flew through the air with unnatural speed, and Dean dodged to the left, getting angrier. “Citrus huh? Why don’t you take a lemon and jam it up your—”
“Duck!” Sam yelled as a dozen watermelons hurtled towards them. “It’s telekinetic!”
“Awesome. Any idea how to stop it?” Dean crawled along the floor, pulling himself along with his forearms until he was safely hidden beneath the banana stand.
“Actually yeah. But we have to get him into aisle 3.” Sam stood up, dodged a volley of tangerines, and ran for it.
Dean crawled as far as he could to the end of the aisle and ran after his brother. Sam was midway down aisle 3, crouched down on the floor. He reached far back into the bottom shelf and pulled out a 5 gallon bucket of…something. ”What is that?” Dean whispered when he got close.
“Urethane adhesive,” Sam said as he popped the lid and emptied the whole container, spilling it down the aisle just as the kobold’s laugh came echoing around the bend. It let out a yelp and then an angry growl as it ran right into the trail of glue.
Dean laughed as he watched the blue-haired spirit pulling angrily at his feet. He stood up and walked towards it.
“Whoa,” Sam said, staring at the kobold in disbelief. He followed Dean down the aisle.
The kobold yelled at them in a language neither of them could speak, but he made his point clear enough.
“That’s nice,” Dean said, squatting down until he was eye-level with the kobold. “But here’s the thing. You can call us whatever you want, doesn’t change the fact that you’re trapped.” Dean jabbed at its nose. “So how about this? You be quiet, while my brother and I figure out what to do with you.”
The kobold yelled even louder until Sam pulled out a small bottle of wood glue. The kobold’s mouth slammed shut and he glared at Sam with big purple eyes. This close they could see more details. His skin looked thick, textured almost like bark. He looked ancient, inhuman and frightened.
“We can’t kill him,” Sam said.
“Because they can’t be killed. They’re immortal, and they're not even fully corporeal most of the time. Best we can do is try to figure out a way to banish him.”
“That won’t work,” said a heavily accented voice behind them. An old man was standing at the end of the aisle, watching them. “Unless you have a Hackbrett handy?” He walked closer to them looking down at the large puddle of adhesive. “Do you have a Hackbrett?”
“What’s a Hackbrett?” Dean asked.
“An instrument— who are you?” Sam asked the old German man.
“Oh. Apologies. My name is Heinz.” He tilted his head and looked at the kobold. “Wenn ich Dich frei lasse — kommst Du mit mir nach Hause? Mein Kartoffelsalat ist fast so gut wie der hier.”
The kobold blinked and started nodding vehemently.
“What did you say to him?” Sam asked.
“I asked him to come with me.”
Dean started to say, “Are you ins—” but the old man held up his hand and continued.
“My wife died ten years ago. I have no children. I have no one. Neither does he. At least, not here.”
“Mr. Bremen,” Sam said gently. “He’s killed people. Inviting something like that into your home is—”
“I understand. But we need to get him out of this store, ja?” He lowered his voice slightly, “And I happen to have a Hackbrett at home. If need be, I can send him back to the mountain. Get the solvent.” He turned back around to head out of the aisle.
Sam grabbed another bucket from the bottom shelf, and followed the man down the aisle. He slipped him a business card as they turned the corner.
Dean stayed where he was, watching as his brother and the old man freed the kobold. He made an effort not to laugh when it lost a chunk of blue hair during the process, but failed.
A few hours later, after cleaning up the adhesive and formally announcing their resignation to Benny, the night manager (who’d somehow missed the whole thing, possibly because he’d been busy watching tv), they headed back out on the road, in search of a motel.
Dean took a bite of his sandwich, and munched happily. “This is really, really good.”
“That ham cost $8.99 a pound. It better be good.”
Dean raised an eyebrow. “You paid for these?”
“Well, no — I mean, technically we never got paid, so…” He unwrapped his own sandwich. “I guess it all works out.” He took a bite of his own sandwich. “Damn, this is good.”
“So kobolds, huh?” Dean mused.
Sam nodded. “Kobolds who like potato salad.”
A while later when they pulled into the motel, Sam asked, “Any idea where we’re heading tomorrow?”
“I’m thinking New Mexico.”