Well, this is me back again. I've had my little break, so it's time to get back to work.
This was a surprise of a story - partly because it's set in Season 4, and I told myself early on in the piece that I would hold off doing any S4 stuff because I was having trouble getting a handle on the boys. But this little plot bunny wouldn't leave me alone, so here we are.
Lots of the story is still being tweaked, so let's see how we go with it.
The usual thanks to Chasidern and Ziggy, my awesome banner-maker and beta respectively. Thanks girls - I can't do this without you any more.
And the usual disclaimers apply: Don't own them - if I did, I'd give up work,stay home and play with them, and dress them in as few layers as I possibly could.
Oh, and this story has spoilers for Season 4, so if you haven't seen the episodes et and don't want to be spoiled, go no further, I beg you!
And one more little note - I know that the story starts with a poltergeist hunt, but the spirit actually only plays a minor part in the story, so that's why it's in this section and not Ghosts.
JulesRewound by Mizpah“You, my brother, are a figment of my imagination…”
A hunt for a poltergeist leaves Sam doubting his brother’s very existence
Set in Season 4, after the episode Heaven And Hell, and contains spoilers up to and including that episodeChapter 1
“Cindy, wait up!”
Cindy Reardon juggled the stack of despatch orders to one arm and thrust out her other hand to stop the elevator door closing. The young blonde smiled, withdrawing her hand as a tall, willowy brunette dashed inside. “Hey, Andie.”
“Going down?” Andrea Birch pressed a lacquered nail against the button for the ground floor.
The shorter woman grimaced, trying to suppress a shudder. “Yeah, unfortunately.”
Arching one finely shaped eyebrow at her companion, the attractive secretary gave a tentative smile. “Come on, Cin, you don’t believe that ghost crap, do you?”
“Ed Kowalski said –”
“Ed Kowalski is not what I’d call a reliable witness.” Andie cupped one elegant hand as if holding a glass, and brought the imaginary drinking receptacle to her mouth before winking knowingly.
“Third time this month. His supervisor’s trying to cover it up, but I think Mr Levine is getting suspicious. Too many orders have been screwed up or misplaced on his shift.” Patting the young accounts clerk’s shoulder, the secretary smiled in reassurance. “Don’t let the rumours get to you, honey.”
“It still kind of gives me the creeps, coming down here.” Cindy’s teeth worried her lower lip as the elevator pinged. The doors slid open to reveal the busy loading dock and despatch area, and she hesitated before stepping out onto the scuffed concrete floor. “Especially just after shift change.” She checked her watch and gave vent to an aggrieved sigh. “Which is in five minutes.”
“Don’t give it another thought. Hey, when you’re done, wait for me, okay? I’ll ride back up with you.” Striding confidently forward, the brunette was soon gone from sight, weaving her way with fluid grace past busy workers, stacks of cartons and loaded handcarts.
“Thanks, Andie,” Cindy called after her friend. A red-nailed hand popped into view over a pallet of sealed shipping cartons, waving briefly in acknowledgement before dropping again.
Taking a cautious look around the bustling dock, the young blonde clerk mentally mapped out her route before setting forth, dodging through the organised chaos until she reached the despatch clerk’s desk. “Hey, Olivia.”
“What brings you down to the pit, girl? Doncha know the place is haunted?” Letting out a hearty laugh at her own joke, the middle-aged African-American woman wiped a hand across her sweaty forehead and leaned back in her chair.
“Yeah, I – I know.” Cindy couldn’t help the involuntary flinch or the worried look she shot over her shoulder as she handed over the stack of orders.
“Aww, now honey, don’t you put any stock in what that old drunk Ed Kowalski says. “Ain’t nothin’ down here except us chickens.” Olivia gave a throaty chuckle, thumbed through the orders and began to sort them into piles. “Some of these can get packed tonight – I’ll give them to Henry when he clocks in.”
“Thanks, Olivia. I’ve got a few more that just came in over the fax, but I haven’t processed the paperwork yet. I’ll bring them down tomorrow.”
“No rush.” The elder woman waved a hand at the frantic activity just as a horn sounded, signalling the end of the day shift. “Not like we’re tryin’ to get this crap out to the stores before Christmas or anything.”
“Yeah.” Cindy laughed softly in genuine amusement.
The despatch day personnel departed in a steady stream, to be replaced by a much smaller crew for the late shift. The young accounts clerk watched the day staff leave, a slight feeling of apprehension sending a shiver down her spine. The noise level dropped considerably, the evening staff conversing in low murmurs as they packed the orders and stacked the boxes onto pallets to be shipped out. It almost seemed to Cindy as though even the lighting had become a little more subdued after the change of shift. She shivered suddenly, wrapping her arms around her torso.
Olivia glanced up, a puzzled frown between her brows. “Honey, you all right?”
“I’m fine.” Cindy gave the woman a weak, reassuring smile. Hearing the sharp click of heels approaching, she spun around, her petite frame slumping in relief as a familiar figure appeared from between the racks of merchandise waiting to be packed. “Andie.”
“Hey.” The secretary’s wide smile encompassed both women. “Anything go bump or levitate off the floor yet?”
“The only thing that’s gonna levitate off this floor tonight will be Henry, with the help of my boot against his butt,” Olivia growled in reply, glancing at the clock on the wall behind her desk. “He’s late.”
“Maybe he’s upstairs with Mr Levine.” Andie shrugged one slim shoulder. “He hasn’t been happy with the evening shift’s quota lately.”
“Honey, if I had to sit down and make a list of all the things that make your boss unhappy, I’d be here for the rest of my days,” the despatch clerk shot back.
Andie rolled her eyes. “Tell me about it.”
A metallic ping, followed by a soft thump and a faint gasp reached the women’s ears and they glanced curiously towards the elevators. Just visible over the stacks of boxes was a balding head fringed by an untidy ring of thinning grey hair, heading steadily in their direction. Olivia snorted as she rose from behind the desk.
“Henry Wilkes, you better have a good explanation for why you’re so damned late.”
The man didn’t answer – didn’t even look up at the sound of the despatch clerk’s voice. Olivia frowned, an uneasy tingle running down her back. She stepped around the desk, her gaze on the top of Henry’s head as he came steadily closer.
Finally the rest of her fellow supervisor’s body came into view, and Olivia took a half step forward, her blood freezing in her veins.
“O-oliv-ia?” Cindy clutched at the older woman’s sleeve as Olivia moved protectively in front of the two younger employees. She heard Andie suck in a hitched gasp at her side. “H-henry – his – his feet…”
“…aren’t touching the floor,” Andie finished in a shocked whisper.
Henry Wilkes continued to move towards the despatch desk and the three scared woman; feet dangling a few inches off the floor, head inclined slightly downwards, terrified eyes wide and pleading. Blood ran in a ruby stream from his partly open mouth, over his chin and onto his dark grey shirt.
“Holy Mother of God…” Swallowing rapidly, Olivia spread her arms out from her sides. “S-stay behind me, girls.”
The evening shift supervisor’s suspended body came to a halt six feet away. Henry locked gazes with the older woman, his mouth opening and closing without a sound.
“Henry – my God…” Olivia stretched out a shaking hand. “My God…”
Suddenly the man’s body snapped into a rigid brace. His eyes bulged, and his bloody tongue protruded from his mouth as a wet, rasping breath gurgled from his throat. Henry sent one last pleading glance in his friend’s direction before his torso was wrenched backwards with incredible force. There was an audible crack as his spine was snapped completely in half, and then the broken body was released by whatever invisible bonds had held it captive; tumbling to the floor like a discarded rag doll.
Cindy Reardon put her hands over her ears, squeezed her eyes tightly closed to shut out the grisly sight, and screamed.
* * * * *
Dean Winchester sat in a corner booth of the almost deserted diner, his right shoulder pressed against the window as he moodily watched the rain bands streaking across the glass. He could hear the faint howl of the wind outside, blowing the freezing rain almost horizontal.
A handful of people braved the elements, making their way along the sidewalk in a hunched stagger or an awkward rearwards lean; depending on which direction they were headed in. Dean’s full lips twitched into a tiny smile as one business type had his black umbrella first blown inside out, and then torn completely from his hands. He watched the man chase the bouncing bundle of metal rods and rapidly shredding fabric down the street, shaking his head at the futility of the exercise.
The bell over the door rang suddenly, dragging the hunter’s attention away from the people on the rain-lashed street. A gust of wind preceded the appearance of the tall, broad-shouldered figure as he was practically blown inside. Hastily slamming the door closed behind him, Sam took a moment to brush his damp, wind-tossed hair out of his face before making his way to the booth where his brother waited in mild amusement.
Huffing a little as he shrugged out of his equally damp jacket, Sam sat down and tossed it onto the seat beside him. “You know, it would have been much warmer, not to mention drier, to stay back at the motel. They have a dining room.”
Dean shrugged, the tiny smile fading from his face. Resuming his study of the rain bands slashing across the window, he picked up the saltshaker and idly turned it between his fingers. “Just needed to get out for a while.”
“You all right?”
The elder hunter rolled his eyes. “Don’t do that, Sam.”
“Don’t go giving me that sappy look with the puppy eyes. I’m fine. Quit worryin’.”
“Oh, God, not the puppy eyes.” Sam smirked in response to his brother’s amused snort. Picking up a menu from the table, he scanned the items listed on its laminated surface. “By the way, Bobby’s back.”
“Yeah?” Dean flicked his gaze briefly from the window. “What did he say?”
“Said he was glad we didn’t break anything.” The younger man shrugged. “Asked if we were okay. He got the whole story from Pamela.”
“Huh.” Becoming aware of a presence hovering at his shoulder, Dean glanced up, eyeing the pretty waitress with disinterest. He waved a hand at his brother, indicating that Sam should order for him, and went back to staring at the rain.
Drawing his brows together in a faint frown, Sam placed their orders before leaning back against the brown vinyl seat. The silence stretched on between the brothers, each man lost in his own thoughts until the waitress returned to the table with their coffee. Thanking the girl with a nod and a smile, Sam stretched out his leg and gently tapped the side of Dean’s boot, pointing to the steaming cup of coffee when the older hunter looked up. Dean quirked a faint grin, wrapped both hands around the mug and let his gaze stray to the window once more.
Deciding to leave Dean to his musings, Sam turned his attention to the rest of the diner. There wasn’t much to see – the usual collection of booths and tables dotted the rectangular room, interspersed with a few fake potted plants. The counter stretched across one end of the building, opposite the door. Advertisements for condiments and other foodstuffs dotted the dark cream walls. Spying a discarded newspaper on the next table, Sam reached out and snagged it, turning the pages until he came to the obituary section.
Vaguely aware of the faint rustling of the purloined newspaper, Dean continued his quiet contemplation, grateful that his brother wasn’t trying to push the point. Sam had been going out of his way to give him some much needed space after his revelation about his time in the Pit. Every now and then he would turn to find Sam quietly studying him with those worried puppy dog eyes, but the younger man hadn’t made any attempt to have another chick-flick chat.
It was oddly comforting to know that Sam was so concerned about him. Comforting that his brother didn’t hold what he’d done in Hell against him – that Sam didn’t suddenly see him as some kind of monster, or weak and pathetic. Hell, Dean thought to himself, Sam had even tried to justify what he’d done, in his own clumsy, stumbling way; telling him that he would have outlasted most other people down there. Trying to reassure him – trying to make things better. That was his Sam, he mused wryly – always wanting to fix things.
Dean gave a tiny shake of his head, his mouth twisting bitterly. Anna had told him that he had to forgive himself for what he’d done. Sam had forgiven him almost before he’d even gotten the whole horrible story out – he’d felt the waves of sympathy and grief rolling off his younger brother the whole time they’d sat there on the hood of the Impala, and for a good few hours after they’d finally hit the road. He just couldn’t seem to find it in him to forgive himself.
A soft clunk against the table tore the elder hunter’s gaze away from the inclement weather once again. He looked at the plate of food the waitress slid in front of him, gave a half-hearted smile in thanks and picked up his knife and fork. Waiting for her to serve Sam’s meal and leave before speaking, he eyed his brother’s equally well-heaped plate of chicken-fried steak, potatoes, carrots, beans and gravy. “No burgers, huh?”
Sam shook his head, indicating Dean’s steak dinner with a wave of his fork. “Think of it as comfort food.”
“Comfort steak.” The green-eyed hunter snorted out a soft laugh.
“And there’s comfort pie to follow,” Sam added with a grin, loading his fork with steak and creamy mashed potatoes.
“Comfort pie, too?” Dean shot his brother a brief look of gratitude for the gesture.
The Winchesters fell silent once again, concentrating on their food, which was surprisingly good, compared to some of the places they’d been through. Returning to the table in response to Sam’s raised hand when the empty plates were finally pushed aside, the waitress smiled at the handsome hunters, refilling their coffee cups before bringing out two servings of freshly baked cherry pie.
Dean toyed with his dessert for a few moments, watching his brother scan the pages of the newspaper. Finally he broke the self-imposed silence. “Sammy?”
Sam didn’t even raise his eyes from the paper. “Yeah?”
“Find us a hunt.” The elder hunter stabbed his fork into the pie. “Something easy, you know? Something that doesn’t involve demons, or angels, or the damned end of the world.” Dean sighed vexedly, twisting the fork around and around in the dessert. “Just like the good old days.” Back when hunting was simple – before you died – before I got ripped to shreds by hellhounds – before I went to the Pit – before I got dragged out and put back together, only to get thrown into the middle of a freakin’ holy war…
“All right.” Sam folded the newspaper in half and tossed it down in front of his brother. One long forefinger tapped the page, indicating the picture of a balding, grey-haired man and the accompanying article. “How about a vengeful spirit?”
Dean blinked in surprise, the fork halfway to his mouth. “You found something already?” Putting down the utensil, he studied the man’s picture. “Give me the details.”
“Guy’s name is Henry Wilkes. He was the evening shift foreman for a model factory.”
“Model factory?” Dean’s curiosity was roused. “As in mannequins?”
“As in model kits – cars, fighter planes, Star Wars spaceships – that kind of stuff. He died at the start of his shift two days ago. Witnesses say he was raised from the floor and broken in half.”
“Yeah.” Sam raised one eyebrow as he took a sip of coffee. He’d been worried sick about his brother ever since Dean had finally broken down and told him about the torture sessions in the Pit. Maybe a nice, simple ghost hunt would help ease Dean out of the depression he’d been steadily sliding into. Sam was willing to try anything at this point. No matter how many hours he’d lain awake wracking his brain, he couldn’t come up with a single thing to say that would take away the pain and the horror of what Dean had gone through. Dean had been right – there were no words. Not for this. “Sound like our kinda gig?”
“Definitely sounds like our kinda gig.” The green-eyed Winchester attacked his pie with renewed enthusiasm. “I’ll just finish my comfort pie, and then we can hit the road.” Great.
With hope in his heart, Sam turned his attention to his dessert.
* * * * *
The gleaming black Chevy pulled up outside a modest apartment block, the rumbling engine idling for a moment before being turned off. Her driver glanced up at the modest brick edifice for a long moment, deep in thought.
Finally Dean turned to address his brother. “What’s the name of the first witness again?”
Shuffling through the papers in his lap, Sam plucked out one of the pages and studied it before passing it to his brother. “Andrea Birch – personal secretary to a Mr Ira Levine, the owner of the company.”
Dean’s gaze roamed from the front of the building to the picture on the sheet of paper. Andie’s smiling face stared up from the page, and he felt a small spark of interest. “And she’s definitely home.”
“Yeah. Officially on stress leave. She’s expecting us.” Sam caught his brother’s curious glance. “I called her first.”
“Huh. Well, let’s not keep the lady waiting.”
Together the brothers ascended the stairs leading up to Andie’s apartment. Sam pressed the buzzer and stepped back a pace, listening to the click of heels approaching from within the dwelling. Feeling a nudge against his arm, he glanced down, and then up at his brother’s face.
“Dude, I got this one.” Tapping the secretary’s printed picture from her personnel file with one finger, Dean arched his eyebrows and nodded.
A grin tugged at the corners of Sam’s mouth. Gesturing with a sweep of his hand as the door opened, he edged subtly back as his sibling stepped forward.
“Andrea Birch? I’m Agent Rodgers, and this is my partner, Agent Kirke.” Dean flashed his fake I.D., giving the tall, attractive brunette a quick once-over. He definitely liked what he saw, and a tiny smile curled his lips. “I know it must be hard for you to keep going through this, but…”
Andie waved an elegant hand and stepped aside to allow the hunters into the apartment. “No, it’s fine.” Leading the way into the living area, she indicated the young blonde girl sitting on the couch and the middle-aged African-American woman standing in the kitchen. “Hope you don’t mind – I called the others, too.”
Sam’s gaze flicked between the three women while he rapidly assessed the value of interviewing all three at once. Darting a quick look at his brother, he received a subtle nod in reply. “That’s fine, Andrea. Not the usual way we do things,” he added. “But I guess we can make an exception this time.”
“We’re not gonna change our stories, young man,” Olivia interjected testily. “The cops already interviewed us separately and took down our statements.”
Arching his eyebrows in surprise, Dean turned to face the dark-skinned woman. “That’s not what he meant –”
“Anyway,” the despatch clerk continued belligerently. “The cops didn’t believe it, so why should you? And why should we go through the whole thing again on our own? The first time was bad enough. We’re stickin’ together.”
Andie shot the hunters an apologetic look. “Safety in numbers.”
“Right.” Sam nodded solemnly, drawing a notebook from his pocket. Suddenly finding himself confronted by the irate older woman, he took a step back in surprise.
“Coffee?” Olivia barked, brandishing the empty pot like a weapon.
The younger hunter swallowed. “Uh – sure, yeah. Thanks, ma’am.”
“It’s Olivia.” The feisty clerk studied the tall, hazel-eyed stranger, and decided he wasn’t going to be a threat to her girls. She wasn’t too sure about the other one just yet, but time would tell. Giving a brief nod of satisfaction in Sam’s direction, Olivia shot Dean a warning glare and bustled back to the kitchen.
Biting her lip to keep from laughing out loud, the brunette shared an amused glance with the blonde, and indicated the sofa and twin recliners with a wave of her hand. “Please, Agents – have a seat.”
Sam settled on the couch beside the young accounts clerk. She gave him a tentative smile, twisting her hands together in her lap. Smiling back in reassurance, he cleared his throat before getting down to business. “So…”
Dean took his cue, perching on the recliner closest to the kitchen while Andie sat on the other one. “So, Anna…”
The shaggy-haired hunter looked up, his eyes widening in amazement. Catching his brother’s attention with a subtle tilt of his head, he frowned, flicking his gaze to the piece of paper still clutched in Dean’s hand.
Glancing down at the secretary’s name on the printout, Dean felt his cheeks flame with embarrassment at his slip-up.
“Um, it’s Andrea.” Andie supplied helpfully. “You can call me Andie – everyone does.”
Dean ran a hand across his face. “Sorry. Long day – uh – so, Ann – Andie – why don’t you start? Tell us in your own words what happened that afternoon.”
Andie laced her hands together in her lap and sighed. “Well, it was almost the end of the day shift. Mr Levine – that’s my boss – he asked me to go down to the Despatch supervisor and see if the Christmas rosters had been completed.” At Dean’s enquiring look, she explained, “In the last few weeks before Christmas, we put on an extra shift to help process the orders.”
“Okay.” Dean gestured for the pretty brunette to continue.
“So, I was heading for the elevator, when I saw Cindy.” Andie smiled at her friend sitting nervously by Sam’s side. “We went down in the elevator together, and I went to see Max – that’s the Despatch supervisor.”
“And I was delivering a heap of orders to Olivia,” Cindy chimed in; watching Sam’s hands while the hunter took notes. “Andie said to wait for her and we’d go back up together, ‘cos…” She trailed to an uneasy halt, dropping her gaze to stare at the floor.
“’Cos?” Sam prompted gently.
The blonde girl fidgeted on the couch. “’Cos…”
“’Cos some old drunk filled her head with ghost stories and made her scared to go down there on her own.” Olivia banged a laden tray onto the coffee table, causing the cups to rattle in their saucers. Straightening up, she rested her hands on her hips and glared defiantly at the elder hunter. “That Ed Kowalski would get drunk and go around sayin’ that some of the boxes were floatin’ around the dock by themselves.”
“Floatin’ around by themselves, huh?” Dean gazed steadily back, grim humour in his wide eyes. “Kinda like Henry Wilkes?”
Deflated, Olivia sagged onto the arm of the couch and ran a trembling hand across her face. “Yeah. Just like poor Henry, God rest his soul.”
Sam leaned forward. “Olivia – what happened to Henry?”
The elder woman poured the coffee and handed out the cups before squeezing onto the couch beside Cindy. “We heard the elevator door open, and then this kinda funny little noise.”
“Like a gasp of air,” Andie interjected softly.
“Yeah. And we looked up…”
“So – so, you were all standing where, exactly?” Sam queried.
“We were all at my desk. Andie had joined us by that time, and I was just sayin’ that Henry was late for his shift, when we heard the elevator. We looked up, and we could see the top of Henry’s head over the boxes waiting to be shipped out.”
The willowy secretary shivered. “He was moving – strangely. Like – like he was floating.”
Olivia nodded in agreement. “Yeah, and when he finally came in sight, we found out why. He was suspended in the air. Something was just – carryin’ him along, like a life-size doll.”
Sam’s forehead wrinkled in a frown of concentration. “You didn’t see anything, or feel anything?”
Shaking her head slowly, the woman rubbed her hands up her arms. “I felt a little cold, but I just thought it was because of Henry – you know. Seein’ him like that, with blood runnin’ down his chin, and just hangin’ there like a slab of meat, only there wasn’t any hook.”
Dean flinched, his hand involuntarily creeping to his side as he remembered Alistair’s hooks tearing into his flesh. “So,” he ventured gruffly, avoiding his brother’s concerned glance. “What happened then?”
“Then?” Olivia felt the tremors shaking Cindy’s body, and put an arm around the girl’s shoulders, drawing her close. “Then, whatever it was just broke poor Henry in half and dropped him to the floor. And that’s when it all went crazy.”
“Crazy?” both brothers chorused, exchanging swift, puzzled glances. This was something new.
“Yeah, crazy. Like the movie Poltergeist kinda crazy. Things spinnin’ and flyin’ around by themselves, just like that old drunk said. Only…” Olivia shuddered.
“Only this time you saw it for yourselves,” Sam finished for her, sympathy in his direct gaze.
“Yeah, we did.” Andie’s cup rattled in its saucer as she set it back down on the tray. “It was the most horrific thing I have ever seen.”
Cindy took a quick peek at the tall hunter by her side. “So, do you believe us?”
Flipping the notebook closed, Sam stuffed it into the inside pocket of his suit jacket and got to his feet. “We believe you’ve given us an accurate description of what you saw,” he hedged. “I’m afraid that’s all I can say at this time. But as soon as we have anything concrete, we’ll let you know.”
“Ladies.” Nodding to the group of women, Dean headed for the door, his brother falling into step behind him. Pursing his lips, he got halfway down the stairs before shooting a cautious look over his shoulder. Satisfied that they were far enough away from the apartment that they wouldn’t be overheard, he cleared his throat. “So, poltergeist?”
“Sounds like it.” Sam drew level with his sibling as they walked across the lawn to the waiting Impala. “Hey – that Olivia.”
“That was one tough old gal. I thought she was gonna clock you with that coffee pot. Was all set to pull my gun and shoot her in the ass.”
“Right, and that would have gone down so well with the whole federal agents disguise.” Resting a hand on the Chevy’s roof while Dean unlocked the doors, Sam glanced back up at the apartment. “She kinda reminded me of Missouri.”
“Missouri Mosely?” Dean considered the thought for a moment. “Yeah, kinda.”
The hazel-eyed hunter opened the passenger door and slid onto the seat, loosening his tie as his brother put the key into the ignition. “So, you okay?”
“I’m fine. Why?”
“It’s just that you kinda slipped up a little back there, you know?”
“What, I get pulled out of hell by an angel, and now I’m supposed to be perfect?” Dean flashed a weak grin to take the sting out of his words.
“No, no, no, not at all. It’s just that it’s not like you to screw up the name of a pretty girl, especially when she’s a witness in a case.”
“Yeah, well, it’s just one little mistake. Not like I’m getting soft in the head or anything.” Pulling away from the kerb, the elder hunter steered for the motel they’d booked into earlier that day.
“Good to hear.” Sam settled comfortably against the seat, draping one arm across the back, his fingertips a few inches from his brother’s shoulder. “’Cos I’d hate to have to start training a new partner.”
“Ha, ha. You just want to get your hands on my baby again.”
“Yeah, that must be the reason. I kinda miss driving the old girl,” Sam teased back.
Dean ran a hand possessively over the dashboard, favouring his brother with a mock scowl. “She doesn’t like you. You douched her up.”
“I didn’t hear her complaining.”
“That’s because she only talks to me.”
“Right.” Pulling out his notes, Sam quickly scanned them, his tolerant smile slowly fading. “So, I found out the place is closed for a week or two pending the investigation. If we want a shot at this thing, we’ve got some time – I don’t think the cops will be in there through the night.”
“A week or two, huh? Let’s try and cut down that time a little. I say we go in tonight loaded for bear...”
“…and send this sucker packing.”
“Sounds like a plan. I’ll need some stuff for the gris-gris bags.”
“Already on it. There’s a herbalist in town, about two blocks from the drugstore. They should have what we need.”
Sam nodded in satisfaction. This was one of the many things he’d missed – working in tandem with someone who knew him as well as he knew himself. He and Dean had trained together all their lives – they fit like two connecting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Sam had felt like half a man the whole time Dean had been in the Pit. When he’d finally been convinced that his brother really had come back from the dead, something loose inside had clicked back into place. He’d gone back to hunting with his brother so smoothly, sometimes it seemed as though Dean had never left.
A slap across his leg brought the shaggy-haired hunter’s thoughts back to the present. “What?”
“I said, were you planning on spending the night in the Impala? You know, since you miss her and all.” Dean’s amused chuckle filled the car.
Sam blinked in surprise – they had arrived back at the motel, and he hadn’t even been aware of the cessation of forward motion. “Huh.”
Clambering from the car, Sam palmed the room key and unlocked the door, shedding his suit as he strode to the beds. Quickly donning his street clothes, he sat down at the small table in the corner of the room and fired up his laptop, searching for the list of gris-gris bag ingredients that he had on file on the hard drive. A few fast keystrokes later, he had the list printed out. Stowing the folded piece of paper carefully in his jacket pocket, Sam turned to his brother as Dean tugged on a pair of jeans.
“Bring me back a burger. If we’re gonna work this afternoon, I need food.” Waiting for his brother’s confirming nod, Dean took Sam’s place at the computer as the younger man slipped out the door. He flexed his fingers before calling up an internet search engine, and started his research into the history of the building they were hoping to cleanse.
* * * * *
The Impala pulled up in the loading bay, her lights already switched off before Dean steered her off the street. The motor died, the tick of cooling metal and the familiar creak of the opening doors sounding loud in the hushed darkness. Making his way to the trunk, Dean popped the lid and stepped back as Sam grabbed the weapons duffle they’d packed back at the motel room.
Stepping back, Dean started to pocket the keys when he hesitated, eyeing them in speculation for a moment. He suddenly tossed them to his brother and closed the trunk.
Sam caught the keys one-handed, looking at his sibling in surprise. “What’s that for?”
“You can drive her back.” Dean shrugged, grinning in the dark. “Wouldn’t want you to get out of practice.”
“Wow, you’re letting me drive twice in one day. I’m touched.” Shaking his head in fond amusement, the shaggy-haired hunter shoved the keys in his jeans pocket and swung the khaki green duffle onto his shoulder. “Promise I won’t run off with her.”
Dean rolled his eyes before striding to the staff entrance door, bending to pick the lock while Sam stood guard. Within a few seconds he had the door open and they slipped inside. Dean turned to unzip the bag hanging from Sam’s shoulder, pulling out the two salt-filled shotguns and two short handled axes nestled inside.
Using hand signals, the elder hunter split them up to search the despatch area. He had barely gotten three feet from the door when the EMF meter in Sam’s pocket started screaming. Turning back to face his brother, Dean gestured to the elevator and the stairs beside it, indicating that they should start with the upper floors and work their way down.
Moving swiftly through the deserted building, the hunters planted the gris-gris bags in the north, south, east and west corners of the top two floors before meeting up again near the elevator on the ground floor.
“So far, so good,” Dean muttered, hefting two of the last four bags and taking a quick look around. “This is just what I needed – a nice, simple ghost hunt.”
Sam’s mouth twitched as he stuffed the other two bags into his jacket pocket. “Be careful what you wish for, Dean,” he cautioned softly. “It’s not over yet.”
“Yeah, well – let’s shag ass so this son of a bitch doesn’t get the drop on us. I’ll take east and south, you take north and west.”
Nodding his assent, Sam moved off through the racks of model kits. Dean watched his brother’s back until the tall figure was swallowed up by the deeper shadows. Running a hand across his mouth, he turned to face the far wall, took a deep breath and headed past the stacked pallets awaiting despatch.
Quickly threading his way to the north wall, Sam hefted the axe he’d been using and carved a neat hole in the corner, pushing the cloth-covered bag inside as soon as the gap was big enough. He listened for a moment, detecting a series of faint thumps coming from the opposite side of the loading bay. Surmising that the thumps were coming from Dean’s axe, Sam got his bearings and headed rapidly for the west wall to plant his last bag.
Sam had a feeling that the last bag was going to be the clincher. Unconsciously raising a hand to his throat as he recalled the poltergeist at their old house in Lawrence, he swallowed and picked up his pace, hoping to get finished before his brother so that he could head over to cover Dean’s back. The last thing his big brother needed right now was a jacked hunt. Dean was already carrying enough pain and guilt for more than one lifetime.
A shudder ran through Sam’s body at the thought of how much Dean had suffered in Hell. His brother hadn’t deserved any of it. If only I’d killed Jake when I had the chance – or if I’d taken Ruby up on her offer instead of listening to Dean when he begged me not to – I could have saved him from all that. I should have saved him…
Gritting his teeth, Sam reached his goal and slammed the blade of the axe against the wall with savage force.
* * * * *
Dean heard a series of faint thumps coming from the other side of the loading dock as he approached the south wall. Guessing that the sounds were being generated by Sam’s axe, he hefted his own and hacked a ragged hole in the drywall. He shoved the bag inside, dusted his hand against his jeans and set off for the eastern end of the building.
It took a little longer than he anticipated weaving his way through the maze of stacked pallets, cartons and other supplies. The wall was in sight when he detected the sharp crack of Sam’s axe against the far wall. Heaving an aggravated sigh, the hunter began to drag the supplies out of the way to clear a path to the corner. He was sweating by the time he had made enough space to wriggle through.
Footsteps approached from behind, and Dean cast a quick glance over his shoulder, his hand tightening around the axe handle. A familiar broad-shouldered figure appeared out of the gloom and the hunter slumped in relief.
“Getting a little slow, there, brother.” Taking hold of a stack of pallets, Sam helped his sibling drag them away from the wall.
Dean wormed his way past the last stack. “Yeah, well, you didn’t have to rearrange the furniture.” He raised the axe.
The attack came almost without warning. The EMF nestled in Sam’s jacket pocket screamed as the temperature suddenly dropped. Dean barely had time to turn around before he heard his brother’s startled grunt, followed by a crash. Shooting a look over his shoulder as he drove the blade of the axe into the wall, he was just in time to see Sam being slammed into a nearby rack loaded with merchandise. The taller hunter crumpled to the floor amid a shower of broken boxes and plastic model parts.
One of the empty pallets lifted off the pile and hovered in mid-air for a moment before arrowing straight for the green-eyed Winchester.
“Holy crap!” Diving to the floor, Dean flung his free arm over his eyes as the pallet shattered to pieces barely a foot over his head. Splinters and chunks of wood rained down on him as he raised the axe and drove it against the wall with all the force he could muster. The drywall split under the assault, and Dean quickly reached into his pocket for the final gris-gris bag as another pallet rose from the stack.
“Come on, come on!” Frantically shoving the bag into the small hole, Dean grunted with satisfaction when it finally slid through. Knowing what to expect, he covered his head with both arms and crouched low as the spirit roared in rage.
White light and energy exploded from the location of the last bag, knocking the elder hunter into the stack of pallets. His head connected with a sharp corner and he slumped to the floor between the pallets and the wall, bright lights dancing before his eyes before fading rapidly to black. A sudden wind howled through the building, whipping papers and other loose objects into a mad dance.
Finally the tempest died down, and the debris rained onto the floor. Sam let out a soft moan, rolling weakly onto his side. Peeling his eyelids open, he blinked rapidly and raised a hand to his spinning head.
“Ohh, gah…” Slowly, the battered hunter pushed himself into a sitting position and gazed blearily around the deserted dock area. He glanced down, and dusted bits of plastic from his tall frame, frowning in confusion. Using the nearby racks to pull himself upright, Sam hissed in pain, clutching his head with one hand while hanging onto the solid metal framework with the other.
“Friggin’ demon,” he muttered darkly as he slowly straightened up. “Thanks for the heads-up, Ruby. Thought you said this one would be easy.”
Sam slowly and carefully shook his head, vowing to have a little talk with his teacher next time she showed up. He searched the floor, picking up his dropped shotgun and axe and studying them with a puzzled frown. “Why the hell would I go after a demon with an axe and a salt gun?”
Glancing around to get his bearings, the shaggy-haired hunter felt his confusion grow. There was nothing he recognised about this place. He had no memory of even coming in. “Huh. Guess Ruby’s right – maybe I do have to start sobering up.”
With a weary sigh, Sam patted his pockets until he located the Impala’s keys. Studying his surroundings, he quickly spotted the exit signs and made his way to the door, his steps uneven. The cold night air cleared his foggy brain enough for him to spot the black Chevy nosed up against the loading bay door. Practically falling into the driver’s seat once he got the Impala’s door open, Sam heaved a sigh, slumping against the steering wheel until the worst of the head-spins stopped.
Finally, Sam pushed the key into the ignition, turned it and listened for a moment to the rumbling of the V8 engine. “Then again,” he muttered as he put the car into gear. “This is one mother of a headache. Maybe I’ll start sobering up tomorrow.”
The Impala’s tyres squealed as she shot out of the loading bay and onto the road, her taillights flaring briefly before she turned the corner.
* * * * *See you next week, and we'll find out what happens when Dean wakes up....