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The Devil You Know
, What and how did John know about Sam?
Group: Forum Moderator
Member No.: 2,741
Joined: 24-February 06
This story began in 2009 at the first Vancouver Con. Raven and I came up with a premise for a Supernatural film that we would like to see.
We wondered how John knew to warn Dean about Sam. How did John know that Sam might turn darkside? Or Did he? From the series it was obvious that John knew more than he was telling and we couldn't help speculating.
Many months later I decided I needed to write the story for myself and so after a few plotting sessions with Raven I came up with this.
With this in mind I would like to thank Raven for her support and her ability to think me out of the box when I got stuck. Also a big thanks to my daughter Bex who read and reviewed as I wrote.
I hope you enjoy.
The Devil You Know.
Whimpers from the small child disturbed the black silence of the cellar. Fright had long paralysed her will and she sat scrunched in a damp corner, knees up to her chest forehead pressed to the thin cotton of her Disney Princess night-dress. She snivelled again biting her lip against the sounds she made, sniffing up and swallowing trying to dislodge the lump in her throat.
Up above she could hear scraping, footsteps, muffled voices talking back and forth but she did not move.
They’d told her about strangers at school an’ the nice policewoman had given them a talk about staying safe, about who they talked to an’ about being careful when out. Since then she’d tried to be a good girl ‘cos only naughty girls got taken but nobody had told her that the bad man would come into her house, into her room, put his hand over her nose and mouth and hold her so tightly that she couldn’t breath or struggle.
She hadn’t known anymore until she’d woken up in the cellar. The dark place had terrified her more than the man and she’d screamed herself hoarse. Shouting and crying out for her mother but no one had come not even the black-clothed man who’d taken her from her bed. She was alone.
Eventually, exhausted, she had crawled into the corner where she now sat unable to stop her body shivering with the cold and fear the hope that someone would rescue her gone.
A bolt grating in its metal bed slid back. She shrank inward trying to make herself smaller, throat tight and her eyes screwed shut. If she couldn’t see… but a moan threatened and her breaths came harsh and shallow. In fearful panic she clamped her own small hand over her mouth; if she didn’t make a noise, if she could hide in the shadow...
The door creaked and footsteps sounded on the wooden treads then on the stone floor getting nearer and nearer. Terror clutched tightly at her heart, its painful pounding shaking her body and at that moment she knew that she must have been a really bad girl because the man was coming for her.
“In the name of the father, his fallen son and the spirits of hell.”
The black mantel flowed, its folds swishing together as the man genuflected touching his forehead, breastbone and then left and right shoulders in a mockery of the holy gestures.
“I believe in God the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Hell and in Satan his only true son…”
In his left hand he held the rosary a bead pressed between his finger and thumb the reversed cross dangling from the chain flashing obsidian as the stones swung in the flickering candlelight.
“…I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the restoration of the fallen son to life everlasting…”
The man had learnt the words by heart, repeating them over and over until they became part of him so that he didn’t have to struggle to remember the new order as he had the old. He moved to the next bead and began the ‘Our Father.’
His mother had given him the rosary for his first communion. Loving her religion more than him she had insisted on prayers three times a day, beaten him when he stumbled over his scripture and made him stand for hours in the cold back kitchen arms folded behind him, back arched painfully. He was supposed to be contemplating the Mysteries surround the Christ but as his body trembled with the stress of standing and his stomach growled with hunger all he could think of was his hatred for her.
He remembered the dark arousing joy when her spare tones reading from the leather-bound bible had stopped suddenly and how he’d stood over her as she’d died, her holy heart in its unloving piety abandoning life at his feet. He had done nothing to help her and it was then that she’d seen, she had realised what she’d created as he’d shown her his true self, curling his lips in a cruel triumphant smile as the light left her frightened eyes. She knew then that she was going to hell for the monster she’d created.
Hating her still and all those like her who professed a similar fervent sanctimonious faith the man had worked long and hard to get to the position where he could exact his revenge.
His fingers moved again, “I denounce Mary and damn her among women….” He raised his gaze from the chaplet to the young figure laid in front of him as he spoke. The girl seemed smaller than before as if the fear had somehow diminished what she was. Her immature body, naked now lay inert on the table. There were no restraints, he hadn’t needed any, the sedative he’d given her held her pliant but awake. Her face slack but her eyes, wide with terror, were sparkling with tears.
The ritual he was planning could be performed with conventional elements, with standard components but he had eschewed the mainstream a long time ago in pursuit of dominion and power. He didn’t regret the use of the child, of the children it would need because his Lord not only demanded excellence but deserved it.
“Glory be to the Father and to his son Lucifer and to the dark spirits released. As was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.”
The bead slipped through his fingers to be replaced with another.
“Oh my Lord Satan, forgive us our sins against you. Come forth from the fires of Hell and lead us into Heaven to your rightful place and let us take ours at your side.”
Another bead passed and he continued on, lost in the litany, in the power of its words and the glory of its meaning.
Six more times he spoke the devotions as the black candles burnt lower guttering in the molten wax pooling at the base of their wicks. Completing the circle of the rosary he laid the chain reverently aside and stepped forward looming over the frightened child.
“In the name of the father, his fallen son and the spirits of hell. Amen.”
The five acolytes around the table knelt as one and the man filled with the righteousness of hell picked up the double-sided knife, the Athame to claim the destiny that he believed was his.
The girl screamed only once, a long pitiful cry of pain and fear before it cut off abruptly her windpipe severed in one sure stroke.
“Dean come get your brother off me.”
John bent and attempted to prise open the fingers of his youngest from where they’d fastened around his leg.
He looked up and into the expressive green eyes of his firstborn. A myriad of conflicting feelings, love and pride, fear, anger and betrayal glowed in their depths. John had the decency to feel guilty and turned away from their soundless accusation.
It had only been four days since he’d returned from a particularly difficult hunt involving a poltergeist. He’d left the boys thinking he would only be gone two days but it had ended up being a week and now he was leaving them again.
“Take us with you Dad, we’ll be good, I promise, cross my heart.”
Sammy snivelled, his misery apparent. Tears smeared over his face, lips pouting, turned down as he tightened his grip around his father’s leg.
Softening slightly John bent ruffled Sam’s hair and cupped his little chin with his callused fingers bringing his young sons eyes up to meet his own.
“I can’t this time Sammy I don’t know where I’ll be and you like it here with Pastor Jim.”
“I hate Pastor Jim.”
“SAMMY!” There was a warning in John’s voice. He didn’t tolerate rudeness at anytime and especially not in front of other people. “You know better than that… apologise.”
Sam refused to look up at him and instead buried his head in his father’s thigh his too long hair falling forward partly obscuring is young pinched face. He gripped tighter and no apology came.
“Sam, you apologise NOW...”
John got no further because Dean appeared behind his brother bending and whispering, gently unwrapping the small tensed fingers from the material of his father’s dirt spattered jeans. The older boy pulled the younger back against his chest and a small wobbly voice punctuated with several sniffs apologised.
“I’s sorry Past’r Jim.”
There were no words for him but John was used to the boys excluding him. Dean rarely initiated conversation with his father or anyone except Sam and he certainly wasn’t the lively talkative child he’d been at four before Mary died. John swallowed quickly clamping down the emotions, which always arose unbidden when he thought of his wife. He lifted his bag from the driveway.
Usually John had no cause for complaint his two were good boys. It did concern him that they were on their own so much and John didn’t like leaving them but he felt he had no choice and they nearly always had a sitter. Besides he’d also made damned sure they could fend for themselves.
Dean especially was turning into a good little soldier, skilled with a knife and a he could handle a gun like a grown man. Sammy was a little more reluctant but he was young yet and with a little more discipline and training he would be fine.
John had debated leaving his sons on their own again but Jim’s place was on his way and he trusted the man to look out for his boys. He was one of the few men that John trusted completely, Caleb, Joshua, Bill Harville and Jim.
The Pastor had rescued John both physically and mentally and really he owed his life to the man. John had been hunting on his own for a year, obsessively researching, keeping notes and gathering together an arsenal of weapons that any Unit Commander would have been proud of. He wasn’t oblivious to the hazardous nature of the work and he didn’t disregard the danger but by focusing on the hunt and letting it fill his waking moments he’d kept himself going, kept himself away from the knife-edge of his grief.
John, leaving the boys with yet another sitter, had set out to exorcise a farmhouse inhabited by a bitter ghost who’d constantly hidden, moved and thrown objects. It had gone bad when he’d been caught in the shoulder by a kitchen knife launched by the angered spirit.
Jim had found John bleeding profusely and cursing fit to bust as he tried to unscrew the lid off a salt can with numb fingers. The hunter had dispatched the ghost quickly and efficiently, finding, salting and burning the bones while John had sat hand clutched against the wound, blood seeping between his fingers.
The Pastor, John had been surprised at that one, had taken the injured hunter back to the motel and on discovering Dean and baby Sam in the room had loaded them all into the car and driven them back to the mission. Putting the boys to bed in soft, clean white sheets the man retrieved a bottle of peroxide, some dental floss and a needle and stitched up John’s wound. He’d then spent the rest of the night talking with John, explaining and listening and then offering a haven.
He was the first hunter John had met. Missouri had hinted at such people but had not given him any more information so John had gone it alone. It surprised him at how extensive a network there was and that he’d never come across hunters before. Jim had introduced John to a few men, including Bill Harville who himself was a family man but part of John shied away from company and for the most he kept himself to himself.
John had stayed six months with Pastor Jim, learnt a tremendous amount and had his heart gladdened by the sound of his sons laughing. It was the closest John’d felt to anyone since the army and Mary. Eventually, with a lot of patience, Jim had got inside John’s defences. They’d talked for hours; nights of talking and drinking and more talking and eventually John had let his guard down to the point where he’d cried for the first time since Mary had died.
Jim had sat with him, not speaking or offering comfort, somehow he’d known that John wouldn’t accept that kind of help but it had helped and John was grateful to his new friend for understanding. It had assuaged but not banished the hollow feeling inside him and John had been able to continue hunting with a less frantic if not less obsessive frame of mind.
Since then he’d continued to hunt alone but now with the knowledge that he had someone at the end of a phone who would drop everything if he needed him to. Jim had also offered to find a foster home for the boys but John had given an implacable, “NO!”
He’d taken on board Jim’s arguments about stability and consistency and the difficulty and dangers of taking two young boys on the road but John had flatly refused to contemplate even a short placement.
Sam and Dean were his and the only place he could keep them safe was with him and now five years later he’d never regretted that decision. It didn’t mean that it hadn’t been difficult or that he’d deliberately put his sons in the way of danger. He hadn’t, didn’t mean to leave them on their own so much but it happened and that was why they were now both staring accusingly at him for leaving them with Jim. John was not above feeling guilty and it came out not in hugs and promises but in a gruff, tough love way.
“You mind Dean now Sammy, do as your brother says and Dean...”
John felt a lump forming in his throat as he stared down at the two figures the one tall for his age, shoulders broadening, arms draped protectively around his younger brother. The other wiping his face with his sleeve and trying to look brave despite his hiccupping distress.
“...Look out for Sammy and make sure he does his reading every night.”
Dean refused to look him in the eye and that annoyed John.
“Sam’s your responsibility Dean. I don’t want any slip-ups…”
Jim stepped into his sight-line, “They’ll be fine John, I’ll take care of them. Say goodbye to your Dad boys.”
“Bye Dad.” Sammy’s thin voice piped up but Dean remained stubbornly silent. John sighed threw his bag into the back seat of the Impala and creaked the door shut. He shook hands with Jim and both men nodded a silent understanding. John was placing his most precious things in Jim’s care.
“They’ll be fine John, Martha’s already baking a pie.” John grimaced a smile, Jim’s housekeeper was notorious for spoiling the boys whenever they visited and he quickly turned sliding into the worn driver’s seat before he changed his mind about leaving them. A little softness wouldn’t hurt and he would train them a little harder when he got back to make sure. He gunned the engine.
Gravel spurted as John pressed the accelerator and the car eased away from the driveway. Glancing into his rear view mirror John saw Dean was still standing his arm around Sam watching the car. He continued to watch as John turned the corner.
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Ah the weekend and yep an update
Kel - Yep finally got round to posting. Thanks for reading and commenting. I am nearing the end of writing it so I should be able to post regularly from now on till the end. I have enjoyed writing this its kind of like filling in the blanks and I do feel that it enriches the story if you know some of the history and what SN doesn't tell us I imagine.
Lorrie - Thank you I do work hard to get things to flow and it seems to take longer and longer the more I write lol. AND Dark yeah and it gets a bit darker too.
Robin - Your wish is my commend (See below for next update) glad you like it especially as you were there at the conception so to speak. I hope you think I have done our idea justice. Thanks for reading and the support while I was writing.
John killed the Impala’s engine with a quick flick of his wrist. He’d been driving for twelve hours straight, only stopping briefly for fuel after dropping the boys off at Jim’s. He’d not eaten since the day before and only drunk the stale brackish water left in his canteen from his previous hunt. He needed sleep but first he’d talk to Bill.
The car door creaked as he pushed it open. He made yet another mental note to oil it but somehow he never remembered until it creaked again. He loved the car, he’d bought it when he and Mary had been going steady and had spent many hours lovingly restoring it. Mary had joked that he loved that car more than her, which wasn’t true but it was a close second best until the boys came along.
Pulling himself from the driver’s seat John was stretching the stiffness from his shoulders when a piece of white paper fluttered to the muddy ground. He stooped slowly to retrieve it and smiled as he realised that it was the picture Sammy had drawn him as a present.
John loved his sons fiercely. Sometimes he caught himself watching them while they slept, Dean with his smattering of freckles and Sam with his cute little nose. He could see his wife in them both her delicacy and toughness and it brought a lump to his throat every time.
A picture of Dean’s reproachful face as he’d driven away came unbidden but he pushed it away. Since his wife’s death John had found it difficult to relate to his eldest. Dean was a changed child, silent and watchful. He wasn’t disobedient in fact the opposite. He did everything asked of him, obeyed John without question and looked after his little brother better than any sitter but sometimes in his darker moments John wished for the mischievous four year old bundle that he’d swung up into his arms for a cuddle.
Slamming the car door John, in an unconscious movement, checked that his gun was in place. Feeling its reassuringly solid presence lying snug up against his spine he adjusted the collar of his leather jacket and crossed the empty lot to the door of the Roadhouse.
Opening the screen John paused hand flat on the wooden panel. He hated the bar the very idea of a place for hunters made a mockery of the philosophy that Bill had drummed into him. ‘Rule number one, we do what we do and we shut up about it.’ The credo had suited John fine. He had no inclination to discuss his business outside of the few people he trusted and the rest of the hunting community he viewed with as deep a suspicion as the creatures that he hunted.
John wouldn’t have been here now if he hadn’t owed Bill Harville.
The bar was noisy; the jukebox blaring Country and the pinball game pinging maniacally as a massive beefcake of a man dwarfed the machine pressing the two buttons at the side with rapid violence. Paying no attention John crossed to the bar and received a big smile from Ellen, Bill’s wife.
“John, good to see ya. What’ll it be?”
He shook his head and Ellen immediately dropped the act.
“Bill’s out back.”
He nodded, followed the bar around to the glass-panelled door and exited from the main room. The Harville’s kitchen was two openings down and by the time John had turned into it the noise of the bar had receded to a minor buzz.
“Bill.” He nodded at the man sitting at the table.
“John.” Bill nodded back and indicated for John to sit.
Harville was not a big man but he exuded strength. With intelligent sharp features and clipped greying blonde hair he looked every inch a bank manger but his mild appearance belied the hard steel of the hunter underneath. John has seen the man take out a nest of vampires virtually single handily and he knew that Bill didn’t suffer fools gladly.
“What’s so bad that you couldn’t talk about it on the phone?”
John sat and Harville slid several photos across the table to him. John blanched and felt the bile rising in his throat. The first picture was of a small figure, a child of no more than Sammy’s age, six or seven.
“She was alive…” Bill’s voice was grim. “…they cut her windpipe so …she couldn’t scream.”
John’s hand shook as he viewed the picture again. It looked like the body had been skinned. Apart from the head, arms and legs it was red-raw and he could see the muscles, veins and organs.
A glass of whiskey slammed onto the table in front of him, John took it and swallowed the strong liquid down in one go.
“There are more…” Bill took a swig of his own whiskey and poured a double shot into his glass and then another into John’s.
Shuffling through each of the photos, six in all John took in the details, pushing aside his emotions to deal clinically with the facts. Each showed a child the windpipe cut, the skin peeled from their backs and chests and a stab wound to the heart.
“He didn’t need to have stabbed them the shock and blood loss alone would be enough to kill them.”
John steadied his breathing trying to bring his thoughts away from the atrocities and focus on the practicalities. “Where?”
“Nelson, New York State.”
“And what makes this one for us rather than some nut job serial killer?”
“It was a ritual.”
John looked up at his friend. There was a fine line between the observances of a disturbed mind and a satanic ritual but Bill was obviously sure.
“They found traces of Datura on the soles of their feet hence no sign of a struggle and the knife wounds are consistent with a Athame a double bladed dagger and gut feeling.”
John’s eyebrows raised at the mention of Datura.
The herb was better known as Devil’s Apple and was poisonous but used in spells and by rubbing on the skin to induce sleep or at least a state of calm lethargy. That was how the killer had kept the children quiet that and the slit…John didn’t want to think about it.
“Could be…” Bill rubbed his hand over his face eyes staring ahead lost in thought for a minute, “…but witches these days don’t usually go in for human sacrifices. Animals yes but humans …it causes too many complications.”
“Is that what you think this is? A Sacrifice?” John was surprised he’d only come across witches a couple of times in six years of hunting and they’d proved petty, self-serving and concerned with the mundane rather than the arcane.
“I don’t know John, things don’t add up. If it is witchcraft then it’s pretty hardcore.” The man pulled a hand across his tired face. “I’ve never come across anything like this before but I do know that six children are dead, killed in the same way and I can’t rest easy on this one.”
The theory was pretty thin but John was with Bill he had no qualms in investigating the deaths either way, nobody who did that to a child deserved to get away with it but if it was ritualistic then it must have a purpose.
“Why? What would they …skin them for? A knife through the heart yeah but the skinning…”
“Who knows John, who knows.” Bill sat again shaking his head then resting it wearily in his hands. “I’ve been trying to research what it could have been….and I’ve found sacrifices, yes but nothing…nothing…like this.” He took a breath visibly moved. “She…she was blonde…the first one.”
“DADDY, DADDY, SAY YES.” A small figure hurtled into the room and launched herself onto Bill’s lap. John immediately turned the photos over and shuffled them into some kind of pile.
“Daddy wanna story.”
Ellen appeared at the doorway a helpless look of apology on her face.
“Jobeth Harville Daddy’s busy.”
The child pouted and turned on John.
“Uncle John won’t mind will you Uncle John.” She gave him the full blast of her pleading eyes. It brought a smile to John’s lips. Bill scraped his chair back and stood the little girl clinging onto him like a monkey.
“No Uncle John won’t mind.” And without looking at John he carried his daughter from the room. Her blonde hair cascading in shining ripples as she snuggled into her father’s neck and then John understood why this case was affecting Bill so much.
John took another swig of whiskey. Jo was a year younger than Sammy but much more of a handful a firecracker of a blonde and the same age as the child in the photo, John could see now that for Bill this was personal.
“So where do you want to start?” John sat at the motel table rubbing an oiled cloth over the disassembled parts of his handgun. They’d left the roadhouse soon after first light John following Bill at a discrete distance; a necessary precaution to avoid arousing suspicion.
Bored hick cops with nothing better to do often targeted cars with out-of-state plates and two together would be too damned enticing; luring even the most indolent officer away from his coffee and donuts.
Both hunters had experienced the officiousness of the petty bureaucracy in small town law enforcement at one time or another and both were keen to avoid the time and cost it took to circumnavigate ‘Official Procedures’.
Bill had already signed them into Nelson’s only motel and mumbled something about food as he exited past the newly arrived hunter. John dumped his duffle onto the far bed and retrieved the half bottle of whisky from its depths.
That had been an hour and a half ago and he’d had begun to get anxious as well as hungry by the time Bill returned carrying a neon pink striped take-out bag from what John presumed was a local diner. ‘Bonker’s Burger Bar’ arced over a cartoon picture of a wide-mouthed boy biting into a giant Burger. John made a face, was it his imagination or did the kid look like Dean.
“Got talking to the waitress….” Bill placed a neatly wrapped burger on the table in front of John, “…seems she was a cousin to the mother of one of the children.” He sat heavily staring at the food in his hand but not eating. “She cried.”
Sliding and clicking the gun parts into place John was silent. What could he say? Nothing was going to ‘make it better’, he and Bill weren’t going to wave a magic wand and he knew that even if the relatives could find out what happened or understand why, nothing was going to fill that black hole inside them. He snapped the last piece into his gun, checked the mechanism and pushed the clip into place.
“Could start with the Coroner, see if they got any further forensics …” Setting the gun aside John ignored the burger and leafed through a series of papers which lay strewn over the table in front of him “or the Sheriff …a Sheriff Johansson…. “
“S’as good a place to start as any.” Bill didn’t sound enthusiastic but John reckoned that perhaps enthusiasm in this case was probably not what was required.
“…and Jim called.”
“Oh?” Bill’s face shifted from slack absorption to keen interest.
“Yeah… The closest ritual he found is that of the Virgin Parchment,”
The Pastor had an extensive occult library housed in the basement of his church. John wasn’t taking any bets on the fact that the Church Council had no idea it was there.
John pulled out another piece of paper and referred to his notes, “… The ritual requires that a new-born calf is killed by slitting its throat and letting the blood like preparing Kosher meat. Then the carcass is skinned and the skin is cured and prepared for use in a summoning ritual…they write on it apparently…”
Looking back up at his partner across the table John continued, “…but he couldn’t find any reference to human skin being used for it.” There was another moment’s silence as John scanned the page in his hand. “And there’s a ton of lore on shapeshifters and Skinwalkers using the skin of victims to transform but nothing about them only using part … ” here John frowned, tailing off, the image too disturbing to voice.
Bill grunted. “We can’t rule anything out.”
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Another week gone by already and so here is another update.
I do hope you people out there are enjoying reading.
There was an edge to the cold air the next morning as John sat on the end of his bed lacing his too tight dress shoes. He felt like crap, he’d only gotten a couple of hours sleep and that combined with all the driving in the last few days meant he was beat but the job especially this job couldn't wait.
Over a breakfast of cold pie left from the night before John and Bill decided in the end to call on the victims’ families first and tackle the Sheriff later. It would give them the chance to check out the locality in daylight and to get a feel for the case without being influenced by the police investigation.
Ryan Vincent, the second victim had lived along a wide leafy street in a small but pleasant two storey house. The tight collar of the button down shirt dug into John’s neck as they walked up to the front door. He ran a finger around between the skin and the stiff material but it didn’t help. He still felt like he was being strangled. On the other hand Bill looked like he’d been born in a collar and tie and the dark jacket sitting smartly on his shoulders hung crease free making him look every inch the agent he was impersonating.
John checked the notes. The boy’s body had been found on the edge of a protected swamp area to the north of the town two days after he’d been reported missing by his father.
Mr Vincent opened the door; he looked the same as the photo John had seen except that the man standing before him looked wretchedly tired and John felt a deep sympathy for him, father to father. Loss was hard but to lose a child in this way must be unbearable.
Bill flipped out his badge.
“FBI…I wonder if we could ask you a few questions.”
The man looked bewildered as if Bill’s words didn’t make sense. He glanced behind him as if looking for some kind of affirmation but then he nodded and backed away holding the door open for them.
“Oh…yes, yes come in.”
Mr Vincent led them into a large comfortable living room with two chairs and a sofa, a TV and in the corner a chest of toys spilling its contents haphazardly over the floor. A large yellow dump-truck lay on its side next to several cars and a ragged looking rabbit.
John blanched a lump forming in constricting his throat. Sammy had been pestering him for a truck exactly like the one he was now staring at. It was like a blow to his stomach and John had to forcibly wrench his attention away pushing back the picture of Sam’s hopeful hazel eyes before he could regain his composure.
A thin but attractive woman joined them, Mrs Vincent, the mother John presumed.
“Are you up to answering a few questions.” Bill was sympathetic but there was a firmness that implied that they didn’t really have a choice.
“We told the police all we know.” Mr. Vincent looked at his wife but she kept her eyes down fingers entwined in a tissue.
When was the last time you saw Ryan?”
“It was about four,” It was Mrs Vincent that answered in a wavering thin voice, “He’d not long got home from school and I was…” she dabbed at her eyes with the scrunched tissue and swallowed hard before continuing, “I was in the kitchen. I saw him riding his bike, it was red, he got it for his birthday last month.” She swallowed again. “We told him he could ride it in the yard but he was not to go on the sidewalk with it.”
“He’s a…” Mr Vincent stopped himself, “ …was a good boy, he wouldn’t have gone through the yard gate…not without telling us…he wouldn’t.”
“And you saw no one else?” Bill turned his attention back to the mother. She shook her head. “Not in the yard. Mr Forester came home from work, I think I saw his car. He’s our next door neighbour.”
“And there’s no reason or anybody you can think of that might have wanted to hurt Ryan.”
Again the boy’s mother shook her head, shoulders shaking, as she pushed the tissue up under her nose.
“No.” Mr Vincent put his arm around his wife and John caught Bill’s eye communicating that it was probably time to leave.
“Before we go Mr Vincent, I wonder if my partner and I might take a look around your yard.”
Leaving his wife Mr. Vincent rose and showed them through the kitchen to the back door. Bringing up the rear John glanced around. It felt to him like the life had gone from the house. It looked like a home, all the component parts were present but they lay discarded, discontinued and John doubted if they would ever be taken up again.
Yellow tape was threaded across the entrance gate, torn now and flapping in the light breeze. It was the only indicator that anything untoward had happened in the tidy, worn garden. John descended the three steps from the porch to the grass, eyes scanning for details, any small anomaly, which might give them a clue as to what had happened to the boy. A soccer ball lay abandoned to one side and a bike, presumably Ryan’s was propped up against the chain fence abandoned, front wheel bent at an awkward angle.
John found nothing, the ground was too dry and too disturbed to decipher any prints and anyway a dozen fat cops had probably trampled it with size 14 boots. Satisfied that he’d missed nothing he turned back to find Bill alone on the porch.
Shaking his head John joined his partner and rather than go back through the house they rounded the corner and followed a narrow paved path between the houses back to the car.
Opening the passenger door John paused noticing a green Ford parked in the driveway of the next door house. “Maybe we should go see Mr Forester, the neighbour.” It seemed prudent to talk to the only other person who could have seen Ryan before his abduction. Bill nodded his assent and John let the car door swing shut.
The owner of the Ford turned out to be a very personable widower, his house was immaculate and he offered them tea. Bill declined for both of them getting right to the point asking if the neighbour had seen anything on the day Ryan went missing.
“No not really.” The man sat on the very edge of the chair as if he was afraid to crease the cushioned seat.
“How do you mean, not really?” John wanted qualification, ‘not really’ in his book meant the man had seen something. “Mr. Forester what did you see?”
“Only the Patrol Car but that’s always cruising past. Its part of Sheriff Johansson’s initiative to ‘Stop Crime before It Starts’.” He emphasised the last phrase and John got the impression that it was a slogan that the residents of Nelson heard a lot.
“How often do they drive by?”
“Couple of times a day but they don’t always come down the street.”
Mr. Forester had nothing else to add and declining the cake offered they left him straightening the cushions where they’d sat and drove back into town.
They faired no better interviewing the other victims’ families. No one had heard or seen anything untoward, no strangers had been seen, either on the day or in the days or weeks previous to the abductions and none of the children had expressed any fears or worries.
John came away thoroughly depressed how the hell were they going to find who or what killed these kids without even the sniff of a clue.
“Follow my lead.” Bill lowered his voice as they approached the heavy glass doors of the Sheriff’s department past two large posters showing a cheerful, grinning Sheriff, no doubt Johansson, shaking hands with a young girl and declaring that he was ‘The man for the job.’
Looking up John noted that the structure was large, old, maybe turn of the century and brick built. At some point, probably in the 60’s, it had been modernised with new toughened glass windows and an entrance, which lent itself more to a shopping mall than a municipal building.
Shivering in the air conditioned coolness of the interior John waited impatiently for the receptionist to look up, he was already fingering the small leather case which held his fake FBI badge. He’d impersonated officials before but had always pulled up short at being a G-man. Earlier he’d been fine, in front of civilians, but here in the ‘Lion’s Den’ he felt uncomfortable. Bill it seemed had no such qualms and confidently announced himself and John as Agents Stengal and Mantle respectively; John prayed that no one was a baseball fanatic.
Apparently Sheriff Johansson was busy. The middle-aged woman behind the desk informed them of the fact, although she barely acknowledge their presence, only looking up from her computer monitor when Bill declared that he would wait.
Ignoring her irritated protests Bill strode across to the row of leatherette covered chairs and sat. John followed sinking down next to his hunting partner scanning the immediate area checking the entrances and exits in case they needed to make a swift escape.
The main access through which he and Bill had come was to his right and on the far wall facing him in marked contrast to the bright modernist main entrance were two dark old-fashioned doors. One had a brass plaque announcing it was a ‘Conference Room’ and the other was ominously blank. Two other, similar doors to his left, flanked the grand staircase which flourished its way upwards, separating into two after the initial rise and continuing higher in opposing branches. It was all very impressive for such a small town.
The receptionist had been busy and John had barely had time to make a mental map of the Foyer when a broad, red-faced Deputy, as his badge declared, approached them.
“Agents Stengal, Mantle?” Both John and Bill rose.
“Deputy Moines.” They shook hands each in turn. “Sheriff Johansson is busy right now.”
“So we were told.” Giving nothing-away Bill stood his ground.
“I’m here to see if I can facilitate you in some way.”
The Deputy said the word ‘facilitate’ as if it was something unsanitary. John wanted to punch the man’s damned depreciating face in. His hand curled but Bill carried on as if the officer hadn’t given the word any emphasis.
“You can by letting us talk to the organ grinder.”
Bill’s face remained expressionless as if he hadn’t insulted the man. Face to face the Deputy and the seasoned hunter remained locked until John saw that discretion reminded the local official that his remit was not to aggravate the visitors but to placate them.
“As I said the Sheriff is busy, dealing with a rather pressing matter…”
Bill interrupted. “Six dead children is rather more than a pressing matter don’t you think?”
There was no answer to that and the Deputy admitted defeat with a “I’ll tell the Sheriff you’re waiting,” as he walked away.
Five minutes later they were in the Sheriff’s office facing the man himself over an ornate and clutter free desk.
“FBI, Agents Stengal and Mantle.” Both John and Bill showed their fake ID’s, flipping them open and closed with practised dexterity.
Sheriff Johansson didn’t offer his hand or offer a seat to the two hunters but he did rise from his leather chair. He was slender with light brown hair greying at the temples. The almost handsome face was pleasant but devoid of expression, however the slight press of the lips gave away that the Sheriff was far from happy. John put him in his late forties and despite being smaller than Bill and John he radiated authority. It filled the room intimidating the silence before he spoke.
“What can I do for you gentlemen?”
It was an innocent enough phrase, a pleasantry which no doubt tripped off his tongue as easily as ‘good morning’ but there was a guarded look in his eye and John decided that Sheriff Johansson was not as outgoing or friendly as the election posters outside the building declared.
Bill came straight to the point. “I want to see all the documentation pertaining to the Child Homicides. Then I want you to brief me on any developments.”
For a moment the Sheriff’s poise was ruffled. He’d obviously been expecting Bill to ask a few desultory questions before honing in on the details. The hunter’s demand to see the actual files wrong footed him. Recovering quickly Johansson leaned forward and pressed a button on the intercom panel.
“Yes Sheriff.” The sound was tinny but clear.
“Can you bring all the doc….”
“With copies.” Bill interjected.
The Sheriff eyed the implacable hunter. “…the documents, with copies on case 49…in to my office asap.”
“Yes Sheriff.” The voice at the other end, unmistakably Deputy Moines, was full of question and twenty minutes later when he brought in two folders both neatly labelled he was unable to stop himself glancing furtively at John and Bill. John enjoyed the man’s predicament. The Deputy obviously liked to ‘be in the know’ and it was killing him to be excluded.
All parties waited for Deputy Moines to leave and then following Bill’s lead John settled himself into one of the stiff upright chairs arranged in front of the imposing desk. Johansson had re-seated himself leaning back, hands clasped in front of his lean body, composure restored.
Bill thumbed through the folder stopping to read at several points before looking up directly at the Sheriff.
“Is there any indication of a link between the victims besides the …way they died?”
“Were there any similarities in the way they were abducted.
“No, One was taken from her bed. One was on the way to school as far as we can make out she was walking with her friends and one of the mothers. One minute she was there and the next gone, no one saw anything. One was playing in his back yard on his bike.”
The Sheriff was confident, almost smug John thought as Johansson continued list the disappearances.
“Another was also in the back yard but it was a different time of day and we know for a fact that he regularly squeezed his way out through a gap in the fence. I’d talked to his mother only the day before after one of my officers found him wandering down by the lake. The other two disappeared on different days in different parts of the town. One was shopping downtown with her mother and the other was at the park with a sitter. So no I’d say there were no links.”
“How can you be so sure.”
“Because Agent Stengal I know how to do my job.”
Bill refused to be intimidated.
“There must be some common elements in a community this small.”
“Well there are the obvious connections. They all went to the same school but then so do 614 other elementary kids.”
“Were any of them particular friends?”
“Sally Kemble and Naomi Richards were. They did the usual rounds, went to each other’s houses, the park … but there’s no indication that the three boys and the other girl were anything more than acquaintances but as you said it’s a small town, everybody knows everybody.”
“What about their parents?”
“The parents are distraught.” Indignation blazed in the Sheriff’s eyes.
John bit his lip knowing that at least to be true having spent the morning experiencing the painful distress of the grieving parents but then again someone clever enough to kidnap six children and not be seen could easily lie their way through a simple interview. You don’t need to be an Oscar Winner to squeeze a few tears and look sad.
“I’ve no doubt they are.” Bill said evenly. “But we have to consider the possibility that any of them...”
“Just what are you implying…”
“That.” Bill stared the man straight down. “Should be obvious….even to you.”
John studied the Sheriff carefully while Bill continued to throw questions. There was something about the man that set his hackles rising. Johansson was lying, he was sure but John couldn’t pin down about exactly what. The answers the Sheriff gave were what John expected, straightforward and truthful to the facts but the Sheriff was giving no more. He was being deliberately circumspect.
It was that caution that John found strange. He’d come across inter-departmental rivalry before, where certain sections of the Law Enforcement community withheld information from what they saw as outside interference it wasn’t uncommon but in cases like these where children were involved, usually the barriers came down and jurisdiction wasn’t a problem. It could be that Johansson couldn’t get past the FBI ‘muscling in’ on his case but John wasn’t convinced.
He still wasn’t convinced when Deputy Moines still oozing charm and political correctness showed them out.
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Okay a nice little Easter present for you
John slammed the door shut behind him rattling the metal rings on the motel’s thin hideously patterned curtains. Two hours they’d spent in that cheerless office and they’d got precisely nowhere. On the surface Sheriff Johansson had been co-operation itself but in real terms he’d given them nothing, no speculation, no theories, no leads.
Thumping the thick case file onto the cracked tabletop John pulled at his tie. “I need a coffee. Then a shower…no a shower first,” he shuddered. “I’ve got a little too much dirt on me…”
Bill barked out a laugh. “Yeah that bullsh**t’ll get ya every time.”
When John returned to the main room, towelling himself dry, the smell of coffee was bitter and strong. He poured himself a large mug full and sipped it. He’d taken his coffee black since Mary died, not by choice but because there never seemed to be any milk left once Dean stopped using formula for Sam. It either, when he remembered to buy some, went on the boy’s breakfast cereal or shakes or anything that wasn’t his coffee. He nodded over at the pile of paper Bill was sifting through.
“Not much more than we already knew.” Sighing Bill turned another sheet. “You get some shut-eye John, I’m going to go through this lot one more time.”
“John…” His name penetrated the layers of sleep and John stirred not really ready to be pulled fully from his slumber, “JOHN, pass the map.” Running his hand through his tousled hair the younger hunter blinked momentarily disorientated. “John, I think I got something.” That woke John fully.
Bill by this time had retrieved the map for himself, spread it over the table and was searching for a pen under the strewn papers.
“It’s just a hunch…I was reading over the evidence about the Datura…if this is witchcraft then maybe…” He left the sentence hanging as he concentrated on the map.
“Maybe….maybe WHAT.” John pushed himself from the bed straightening his rumpled clothes.
“Read out the map references for me.” Bill shoved his spider-written notes at his partner, “I wanna mark where the bodies were found.”
“You think that’s significant?”
Bill didn’t answer.
John read and Bill carefully ran his fingers over colours and folds of the chart until he pinpointed the reference and noted it with a cross. Once all six were marked he stood stretching the crick in his spine rubbing his hand on the back of his neck as he stared at the black crosses.
“Well?” John was still at a loss as to what his partner was thinking. Had the hunter seen some kind of pattern?
Suddenly Bill started forward and grabbed a folder. He laid it across the map lining up two of the crosses. Swiftly he drew a line from cross to cross. Then he moved the folder and joined two others. When he’d finished it was obvious to both men what they were looking at.
“It’s a six pointed star.” John turned to Bill. “A Star of David?”
“Kinda, but I think, if I’m right, in this context it’s a Seal of Solomon. King Solomon is supposed to have had a seal-ring which had the name of God engraved onto it. It gave him power over spirits and other evil creatures. According to Arab writers the seal was in the shape of a six-pointed star.”
“You don’t say.” John turned back to gaze at the black lines scored across the map. “So how does that help us?”
“Because if you burn certain oils and incense in the centre they say you can attract spirits and those spirits can manifest by using the smoke from the fire.”
“A summoning, the sonofabitch is doing a summoning.”
Bill nodded his confirmation. “That would be my guess and he’s using the skin…”
“…to write the ritual.” John finished his friend’s sentence. “But why human skin?”
Bill shrugged, “My best guess is that he’s not going for you’re average spirit but for some heavy duty badass.”
“Then we gotta stop him.”
“And now we know where.” Bill indicated, finger pointing at the centre of the drawn seal, at the Sheriff’s Office. He looked up at John,
“Why lay the bodies out in the pattern of a summoning circle, if you not going to use it.”
Bill was right. The Sheriff’s Department was dead centre and there wasn’t much else around it apart from retail outlets, diners and a park. Plenty of comings and going during the day for cover and no one to see or hear weird noises at night, apart from the duty cops and the drunks in the cells making strange noises of their own.
John went cold the blood draining from his face as his brain made connections. “Sonofabitch.” His hands went up to push his hair back.
“What?” Bill turned on him.
“It’s the Sheriff.”
John knew there’d been something off about the man. Both he and Bill had surmised that Johansson was lying but there was nothing concrete and his partner had put it down to an innate officiousness but what if the Sheriff was hiding something and that something was the murder of six children.
“He told us nothing and all these case notes tell is that the inquiry is going nowhere.” Bill was nodding his agreement. “The guy’s in a prime position to stall any investigation ‘cause,” John swallowed. “…who’s gonna suspect the Sheriff.”
The more John thought about it the more it felt right, he had a gut instinct for these things and who knew how many other cops were in the coven. Crap.
“The damned Patrol Car. That’s how he got them away.”
The utter simplicity of it stunned John but the horror of how easy it had been for the Sheriff to snatch the six children made him sick to his stomach.
“Okay so we know who, why and where but we still don’t know the hell when.” John shoved the wooden chair in frustration sending it scraping and skidding across the floor.
The seat rocked on its back but even though Bill was staring at its swaying legs he wasn’t seeing it. John not wanting to break his partner’s train of thought held his tongue although his mind was a whirlwind of questions.
At last Bill spoke.
“Do you have that personnel data.”
“What?” That surprised John.
“Those records your friend at the Police Department got. Is there one on Johansson?”
The hunter strode to his duffle, hauled it up yanking on the handles and extracted a blue pocket file. This he handed over to his partner.
“What’s the date today?” Bill glanced up at John waiting for the answer.
“Well…” Bill grinned, “…I think we have when.”
John stared at Bill now thoroughly puzzled. “What?…how?”
“If he is the leader, the high priest of a Coven then his birthday is a significant date, a date when important rituals other than those already on the Satanic Calendar are performed. If the Sheriff’s birthday is sometime this month then I’d say it’s more than a good bet that’s when its gonna happen.”
Rifling through the records Bill scanned page after page. John’s heart beat hard in his chest but he reigned in his excitement. If his friend was right about this then they might have a chance to stop the ritual, and rip the murdering sonofabitch’s lungs out.
“Yatzi “ Bill brandished a sheet in triumph. “ Johansson’s birthday is the 17th. If I’m right then its more than probably that the sonofabitch is gonna perform the summoning tomorrow.”
Crouched John was aware that Bill was right behind him keeping watch. He’d already disabled the alarm surprised at how unsophisticated the system was and relieved that he didn’t have to spend precious time tracing a secondary network.
John twisted his wrist as the lock pick met resistance, pushed and then grinned with satisfaction when the tumblers clicked into position and the rear exit door of the Sheriff’s Department sprang open.
Johansson had spent the day in his office. John had shadowed the man closely from the moment he’d left his pristine weather-boarded house to the time he’d entered the municipal building having observed a morning coffee pick-up ritual at May’s Diner and collected a newspaper at the stand.
It had all seemed very leisurely and frighteningly ordinary and by the time John had waited outside the mini-mart and watched the Sheriff buy fresh vegetables, a steak and a quart of milk on his way home, he was beginning to think he might have got it wrong.
John’s doubts, however, had been dispelled when at ten thirty the upstairs light had snapped off and a few moments later Johansson had emerged carrying a large holdall. Able to keep a good distance between them John had followed Sheriff back to the Offices and watched as the man had parked and disappeared inside. No lights had come on but he’d seen three others enter while he’d waited for Bill.
His partner had been glued to the police scanner all day monitoring the movements of the patrol cars. There had always been the horrific possibility that the Sheriff would require another victim for sacrifice, black rituals could be greatly enhanced by fresh blood but fortunately everything had been quiet. Now, together, he and Bill were about to enter the ‘lions den’.
Not wanting to cause a temperature change inside the building John hadn’t opened the door wide but checked the immediate area inside was clear and then eased himself through the narrowest gap possible. He took care not to scrape his duffle on the frame as he passed through. The coven was bound to have a guard of some sort and he didn’t want to alert anyone to their presence not until he and Bill were ready.
It was not totally dark in the corridor and John pressed against the wall had a good view through an open doorway into the foyer. The soft glow of a desk lamp spilled across the floor from the main desk running over the marble tiles to where John was standing. He stepped back from its brightness and keeping to the shadows he slid further along the passageway. The Deputy on duty remained oblivious to their presence and only the tinny noise of his TV disturbed the quiet surroundings as John and Bill searched for the basement doors.
The previous night, after their brainstorming session, two beers in the Liberty Bar had bought Bill the information, amongst other juicy titbits, that Talbot and Sons had carried out a rewiring job on the building several years ago. Bill had paid a surreptitious visit to the local electrician’s, rifling through their records and finding a plan of the building.
Underneath the main building’s ground floor were two separate areas. One contained the cells and custody suite and the other was a fall-out shelter, hollowed out in the hysteria of the 1950’s, when the threat of immanent nuclear destruction was a constant presence in the populous mind. Most of these types of bunker had been abandoned in the mid 60’s and filled in or used for storage this one was serving another purpose. It was an ideal space for a coven to use; one heavy security door and feet thick concrete walls.
Various doors led off the passageway’s length and John knew from the plans that each section of the basement had its own individual staircase. To the right was the cellblock area and to the left no doubt behind a locked door was the bunker entrance. He gripped his lock pick ready to step in but when Bill tried the door it swung open on well oiled hinges.
Glancing at his partner John pushed his head forward indicating with a wry grin for Bill to go first. The older hunter rolled his eyes and shrugged before holding his handgun ready and stepping from the polished wooden floor onto the concrete steps.
Their footfalls sounded on the stone treads echoing loudly in the stark bare brick space. Bill paused and John held his breath but, after a few moments of heart hammering apprehension, when no one came to investigate they resumed their descent.
The mood was sombre as Johansson slowly slid the heavy material of his robes over his head. These were special, unspoiled, beautiful and perfect. He smoothed his hands over their rich deep purple folds lost in the sensual feel of the silk. They made him feel strong, forceful and he savoured the feeling drawing in a deep breath closing his eyes against the banality of his surroundings. The bunker afforded the coven with a certain amount of privacy but was not ideal. It had none of the aura or the natural harmony required for a ritual of this magnitude but he would change that, he and he alone would create the resonance that would call forth his future.
Moines and Kingsley were already setting up the altar and preparing the protection circle, he trusted them but he would perform the purification ceremony himself. Tonight was too important, he couldn’t afford for there to be even the smallest mistake; a word spoken out of place or mispronounced could destroy all that he’d worked for.
The smell of incense filled the void as the two acolytes intoned the verses required for the Circle of Protection. Four pillar candles were lit, to the North one representing Earth, the West, Water, the South, Fire and to the East, Air. Finally the men’s voices lifted calling on the four Archangels; Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Lucifer to give freely and provide protection to their servants.
These last sonorous tones fled into the darkened arena of the bunker as Johansson watched Beaks, Mendes and Horton step into the circle’s confines. These men were not full initiates like Moines and Kingsley but they were a necessity. Later during the height of the summoning he would draw on their energies adding to his own purpose as he called out for the spirit to actualise.
The process might cause them a little pain but what the hell they came into this with their eyes wide open, the promise of money and sex saw to that. Johansson despised the pettiness of the human psyche. It disgusted him that they couldn’t see beyond their own greedy egos but he could turn that to his advantage. So what if they were consumed and left empty, they were nothing, mere maggots wallowing in the filth of humankind.
The irony of his righteousness did not deter him; his was a purer, higher design and so far above his mother’s pathetic attempts at atonement and salvation that he would be able to crush her God with the flick of his wrist.
Closing his eyes, anticipating that moment, the Sheriff took a deep breath and reigned in his excitement, directing it, using it to fuel the power growing in his body. His skin pricked the hairs rising as he felt the pressure building in the confined space. Gone was the dank sense of abandonment, the deadened dusty taste, now the air around him was charge laden and heavy with heat and tension.
Johansson struck a match. The phosphorous flared burning its image onto his retina. Deftly he threw the blazing stick onto the brazier, standing ready outside the circle of protection. For long moments nothing happened then with a crack a flame rose, blue and orange flickering, spitting, sending a steady drift of smoke curling upwards.
Crossing into the protected area Johansson raised his hand; the same ornate athame he’d used for the sacrifices gleamed reflecting the candle flame as he swung the knife down, point to the floor. Sparks arced from the blade as he drew it across the concrete scribing, following the nine foot circumference drawn around the altar. Behind him the five men chanted following Johansson’s litany exactly their voices rising and falling in practiced concord as he closed the circle with a prayer.
"O Lord Lucifer, we know that You are everywhere, And nothing happens that You cannot see, But even so, we pray that You will come and join with us directly at this time as we seek our communion now with You.”
Turning the Sheriff lifted a small bowl from the altar. Raising it high above the bowed heads of the kneeling Deputies in acceptance of their obsecration he took up the lighted taper from its holder and fired the herbs resting in the curved hollow; cedar for banishing, mint for cleansing and rosemary for purification
“We give ourselves to You and now we now pray that You will give us your protection during this ceremony and purify us your willing servants so that we may call upon the spirits under your control to do our bidding.”
Head bowed, heart pounding, Johansson finished the supplication.
“In the name of Lucifer’s holy name we pray, Amen."
He was trembling not with fear but with exhilaration this was what he’d been working towards, the culmination of all his aspirations, this was his time, his future. He stood for a moment in silence relishing the potency of the moment.
John’s trained ear heard voices up ahead and he grabbed onto Bill’s arm but the seasoned hunter had already come to a standstill having heard the sounds himself. Flicking off their flashlights both men froze straining to hear, to distinguish words from the general hum but frustratingly nothing was clear only a jumble of deep rumbles, rising and falling. The rhythm was steady and the even tone belied a conversation. To John it sounded more like a prayer; he shivered could it be that the Sheriff had already begun the summoning.
Sliding the flashlight switch to on once again but holding the beam down John shook his head indicating to Bill that he’d caught nothing then he motioned his partner to move on but to take it slowly. John had seen four men enter but there could be more and he didn’t want any nasty surprises.
Rounding a bend the velvet blackness gave way to a golden light haemorrhaging through the slight gap in a doorway. Someone had failed to close the reinforced door properly and the candlelight beyond spun across the floor dancing gleaming fingers out into the passage. Squinting through the crack John couldn’t help but breath in the heady incense which cloyed the air. Retching slightly at the overpowering perfume he leaned forward to see a tall shadow silhouetted against a glowing brazier raise its arms; Johansson he could tell by the build of his body. Beyond that he could see very little.
Scooting backwards he let Bill close the gap between them.
The edge to the elder hunter’s voice showed that he was impatient but he held himself in check as John leant forward lips to his friend’s ear.
“I can’t see a damn thing. Johansson’s there but I’m not sure how many oth… “ The scented smoke escaping through the aperture suddenly caught at the back of his throat and his body convulsed as he tried to suppress the developing cough. He gulped in air but only that made things worse. Tears streamed down his face and he clutched onto his friend, fisting the plaid shirt in his fingers.
Eventually, with the cloth of his shirt pressed to his mouth and nose, the irritation subsided and John was able to calm his rapid breathing. Bill mouthed ‘You okay’ at him and receiving a nod pulled back.
Wiping his face with the back of his hand John pressed himself to the wall enjoying the coolness through his sweat soaked clothes before once again turning to the metal door. Thankfully there was no light in the corridor save their flashlights and praying that someone had oiled the hinges he splayed his fingers out, pushed slightly and swung the door back. It was heavy and he could feel it shuddering beneath his fingertips but the hinges moved smoothly widening the gap enough for Bill and then himself to slip into the bunker unnoticed.
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And now from Sunny Poland where I managed to get an internet connection her is the next exciting installment.
Thanks Robin....and yeah things are about to get a whole lot more tense
The adherents had taken up their places, still within the circle of protection but each now knelt at the apex of five of the six points on the Seal of Solomon that Johansson had etched onto the floor. Hoods shadowed their faces and sleeves hung from flexed wrists as hands were joined palms together. An expectant hush had fallen over the gathering as the Sheriff stood silently at the sixth point of the star next to the altar.
Johansson centred his thoughts, pulling in his senses shutting out the room and its occupants to concentrate on the small orb of power which had gathered inside him. In front of him, placed carefully on the unholy altar, lay the scroll of skin parchment, which had been so carefully collected. On it was written, in his own blood, the ritual words of the summoning.
Breathing in slowly, filling his lungs with the incense the Sheriff let the fragrant fumes fill his purified body, let it cleanse the day and the ordinary from him as he reached out and unfurled delicate vellum.
He didn’t need to read, he knew each syllable by heart yet he looked down considering the dirty red lettering spidering over the yellow parchment, savouring every curl and flourish as he recited. Each of the ritual words had been imbued with power as he’d written and now as he spoke every phrase took on a life of its own, threading from his mouth their sound interlacing with the tendrils of smoke swirling above them.“I conjure thee O spirit Eblis strengthened by the power of the Almighty Satan. I conjure and command thee come forth to me who speaks the most unholy petition. Appear forthwith and show thyself to me here outside this circle in fair and human shape, without horror or deformity and without delay.
Come I conjure thee by Him to whom all creatures owe obedience, by whose name the elements are overthrown, the air is shaken, the sea is turned back, the fire quenched and the earth shudders. Speak to me Eblis and obey my will.
I command thee to be ruled by whom thou owest obedience and abide and accept his name the one who has dominion over thee. Come answer my calling, do whatever I desire for thou are conjured by the Name of our Lord Lucifer the true God.”
A hiss of escaping steam from the brazier broke into Johansson’s concentration. Irritated by its disturbance he re-focused drawing on his followers, pulling in their strength as he spoke the words again, louder this time, throwing more of his power, their power, into the meaning.
More smoke curled dark and massive from the smouldering fire. He commanded again, feeling it echo through the emptiness of the bunker as he raised the timber of his voice laying more emphasis and significance into its portent.
Power crackled, sparking in the air and the black vapour billowed but still the spirit did not manifest. Johansson swallowed back the disappointment knowing that he must not let doubt enter his mind.
Taking up the athame he pulled back the sleeve on his left arm and ran the sharp edge the full length of his forearm, from elbow to wrist. Blood welled from the deep gash, glossy and rich red its rivulets snaking across his white flesh, dripping onto the missive beneath.“By the four beasts, by the fire, by the unholy Angels of heaven and the Mighty Wisdom of Lucifer answer my demands and perform all that I desire or be cursed and flung into the very depths of the bottomless pit. There to remain in unquenchable fire and brimstone lost even to memory.”
Using the blood, writing, Johansson scribed the name of Eblis and his magical symbol onto a small piece of the vellum, rolled it and placed it in a black box. After sealing the wooden container he wrapped it in iron wire then placing tip of his knife in one of the coils he held it over the flame of a candle. “As thy name is sealed within this box, choked by a sulphurous, stinking substance and burned in the fire. So shall ye be sealed in the pit and suffer the flames of Hell.”
The rumbling took Johansson by surprise and he staggered as the ground shook. Around the circle the supplicants cried out in fear as the very air around them seemed to explode sucking the oxygen from the atmosphere as it rushed past pulled in by the swirling, boiling, vortex of smoke hovering over the brazier.
Concerned only with halting the ceremony John aimed and the bullet deliberately missed Johansson’s heart by six inches clipping the Sheriff’s upper arm ripping a hole right through fabric and muscle but the man remained standing.
For a moment as the sound of the shot echoed through the chamber nothing seemed to move save for the billowing, thickening gaseous cloud. It shivered expanding outward for microseconds then collapsed inward rising sharply, elongating as it ascended high above the frozen figures in the circle.
Cursing John fired again this time aiming to kill but the robed figure was moving now, backwards away from the hunter spun by the force of the first impact and by his desire to escape the attack. The second bullet went wide smacking into the far wall.
John saw Johansson, clutching his bleeding arm, land heavily and squirm onto his hands and knees trying to scrabble away but the robes hampered the Sheriff’s progress snagging his legs wrapping them in swathes of purple. The man ferociously wrenched at the vestments, grabbing handfuls of material from around his thighs and knees but John got the impression Johansson was not a man in panic. He was furious, incensed his eyes flashing with unsullied hatred even as he pulled free and continued to crawl.
John hurled himself across the space determined that the sonofabitch wasn’t going to escape.
The pain in Johansson’s arm was nothing to the indignant hatred burning in his heart. How dare these men desecrate his ritual, they had no place, no right. He’d worked so long and so hard, taken so many risks to get even this close to fulfilling his plans. To add further injury the spirit had been manifesting, its form taking shape over the brazier and these damned fools had barged in and destroyed everything but he would get his revenge, these blasphemers would not turn him from his purpose.
Pulling at his tangled vestments in vexation he crawled towards his fallen knife but before he could reach it a black boiling cloud filled his vision. Spiralling, twisting and spinning it speared towards him. Shock opened Johansson’s mouth in an echo of his mother’s dying expression and the arm of smoke forced itself down his throat.
Pain seared across John’s chest ricocheting down his arm and leg as he hit the ground pushed from the path to his prey by a tackle from the left. John hadn’t stood a chance the momentum of the driving attack from the heavy set figure carrying him to the floor, the weight of his assailant pinning him down by an arm. Grappling, rolling John fisted his fingers the man’s clothes pulling his enemy over his own supine body and crashing him into the hard concrete floor. He heard a groan whoosh from the man as he launched himself upward in one flowing movement to straddle the semi-conscious figure.
The fist smacking into the man’s temple was instinctive, self preservation and John was raising his clenched fingers again even before he felt the jarring blow vibrate all the way up his arm. Blood gushed from his assailant’s broken nose pouring over the lips and chin. John’s knuckles contacted again slamming into the already damaged tissue forcing the head back and to the side. He drew back his arm a third time but was aware enough to rein in his response as he felt the conscious tension leave the body beneath him.
Breathing heavily John dropped his arm, his gaze immediately raking the semi-darkness for his foe. Bill was holding his own against two of the Sheriff’s followers, two were down and he assumed that the other had fled but where the hell was Johansson.
Cursing under his breath, fearing that the Sheriff had hightailed it along with his acolytes John pushed himself up and off the unconscious body. Readying himself he swung round searching. In that instant he caught a movement in his peripheral vision.
Twisting, side-stepping the dark shape advancing on him the hunter brought his arm up to ward off the attack but the knife was already arcing inside his defences. John jerked back instinctively but the blade grazed his cheek splitting the skin along the cheekbone. It stung like fury and John found himself inhaling the warm metallic tang of his own blood but that didn’t stop him grabbing for the forearm before his assailant could return and strike again. Jabbing his finger ends into the dips on either side of the wrist bones, digging into the sensitive tissue he squeezed until nerveless fingers opened and the athame clattered to the floor.
Keeping his hold John yanked on the arm twisting it up his assailant’s back pulling the attacker forward, chest to chest, locking their bodies together to prevent further attack. Hot breath raked over the bare skin of his neck and he shuddered at the sudden, overwhelming feeling of depravity.
“Good to see ya again John. How’s Mary?” The voice whispered insinuating its timbre into his ear. “Oh I forgot, she died.”
He’d called him John. It took several seconds for John to realise the portent of what the man had said. Neither he nor Bill had used their real names or even their Christian names as part of their alias. How could it know about him, about Mary? He tightened his grip but the captive held so close flexed, pulled back and John found himself face to face with Johansson’s sneering smirk.
“How are those boys of yours, Dean and little Sammy?”
John blinked stupidly at the Sheriff.
“ They must be growing fast. I hope you’re taking good care of them for me.”
Heart clenching painfully in his chest John couldn’t breath, his muscles tensed painfully, locking his limbs. He couldn’t take in, sort out, make sense of the words. What was this man saying?
Finally after an agony of irresolution he moved. Whatever…this was one child murder that was never going to see a trial.
Maintaining his grip on the wrist pulling to keep his opponent wrong footed John ducked, corkscrewing his body, free hand reaching back seeking his own knife. His fingers closed around the hilt and he dragged it from its sheath but before he could deploy the weapon Johansson had borne downward wrenching his arm from John’s grasp.
John was falling, thrown off balance by the Sheriff’s actions and he tensed waiting for the jarring contact with the floor but it never came. He was airborne, rushing above the blurring concrete surface of the chamber, helpless, unable to halt his progress. He slammed into the wall, bones crunching together painfully and then like a marionette whose strings had been cut he slumped hard to the ground beneath.
Struggling to drag in breath John fought against the rising pain but everything around him faded, greying out. His last conscious view was of Johansson’s grinning features above him and the man’s burning yellow eyes.
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Sorry guys I know, I know, I missed last week. I remembered on Sunday afternoon and then it went right out of my head. So this week I'll give you and extra bit.
Thank you to all those who are reading I hope you are enjoying.
“My best guess…? It was a demon.” Bill laid another ice cold damp cloth over John’s swollen cheek. “The bastard fool summoned a Goddamned demon.”
John tried to shift away from Bill’s fingers as they trailed down his chest and pressed lightly on his ribcage.
Pain lanced through John’s torso, front to back and he couldn’t help sucking in a sharp breath. The inflating lungs pushed against his broken ribs from underneath and the aching pain became sharper and more intense.
His friend grinned, “Johansson sure did a number on you.” Bill applied a light pressure stopping John’s movements. “Keep still. You got at least two broken ribs and a couple more cracked but the rest I reckon is superficial”
It didn’t feel superficial, the cut on John’s cheek smarted, his eye was closing with the swelling and his whole body throbbed painfully with each heartbeat. Thankfully Bill stopped pressing the damaged area but remained gazing down at the mottled bruising spreading across his friend’s chest.
“What?” John was ungraciously irritable he hated being an invalid but he hated being treated like one even more.
“Gonna have to strap you up real good ‘n tight. It’ll hurt like heck but at least you’ll be able to sit up and it’ll minimise the danger of you puncturing a lung. ” Bill grinned again as if it was a great joke before lightly smacking his friend on the thigh. “Can’t have you lyin’ around all day.”
“Was Johansson a Demon all along?” It wasn’t like John had never heard of demons. He’d come across stories, mythology. Christian, Hindu, Jewish there were numerous mentions in the books he’d read but nothing about them walking the earth as actual beings. “I mean…how…When?”
“Strictly speaking he’s not a demon he’s possessed by one.” Bill was still sitting by the bed. “Goddamn it he practically invited the thing in. You can’t mess with that sort of thing without consequences.”
“You mean he wanted to be possessed?” Why would Johansson open himself up like that John couldn’t see the advantage?
“No, I don’t think he meant that to happen, I don’t think he was possessed when he…he killed those kids, that was pure Johansson but the b*****d summoned it...a demon! Idiot probably thought he could control it for whatever reason but you can’t control something like that…” Bill rose and ran his hand through his hair, “…from what I saw it had manifested in the smoke, then when we broke the protection circle it went after Johansson, jammed itself down his gullet and hey presto one possessed lunatic.”
“We have to find him.”
Snorting his derision Bill crossed to the table and began re-packing the First Aid kit. “Yeah you and whose army… There’s no point John. Johansson’s dead meat already, I never heard of anyone surviving possession intact… There won’t be much left.” Bill tapped his temple to illustrate his point. “…that’s if his body survives…and as for a demon how do you capture something that’s all smoke and mirrors.”
Anxiety tumbled in John’s gut tying it in tight knots. It disturbed him that his friend wasn’t going to follow up on the hunt. He’d always looked up to the more experienced hunter, respected his friend’s knowledge and skill but Bill seemed ready to dismiss Johansson as if the man was already dead. John couldn’t leave it up in the air he needed to know and he couldn’t ignore what the thing had said to him.
“Bill…” He tried to sit up but fell back with a groan.
“…need some painkillers?” The elder hunter was already re-opening and rummaging in the First Aid box.
“…it knew me.”
The silence which followed quickly became unbearable. Bill stood unmoving staring down at his hands holding the pill packet.
“…It called me John.”
“You must have miss-heard it couldn’t possibly know. There was a lot going on.” Popping two capsules from the foil sheet Bill reached for a glass.
“It knew about Dean and Sam…” John’s throat tightened. “How did it know about my sons, Bill?”
Sighing Bill sat heavily, slumping onto the hard wooden chair behind him and rubbed his face with callused fingers. “Honestly?” He looked tired and John noticed that his friend’s hand trembled. “I have no idea. This is way beyond my expertise.” He shook his head. “Who knows what Demons can do? Maybe they can read minds.”
“Do you think my boys are in danger?” Fear threaded through John’s anxiety.
“No…John…there’s no reason, why would it…” Bill faltered he obviously couldn’t give his friend the reassurance he wanted.
John struggled to sit this time managing with gritted teeth to get himself up and leaning, back to wall. “I need to call Jim.”
“John it’s…” The protestation burst from Bill but John already had the phone in his hand and was dialling.
“Hello…” Jim’s voice was thick with sleep, blurred and unfocused.
“John? What is it? Are you all right?” The Pastor was fully awake now and his worried concern enveloped John as the hunter struggled to find the words he needed.
“Its four in the morning John…what’s wrong?”
“The..the boys they okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, they’re fine. Sleeping…” Relief flooded through John he’d suddenly been so afraid, “…I’d have called if anything was wrong.”
“I know you would” Hesitating for a moment John quickly made up his mind. He couldn’t take any risks. “I’ll be back to pick them up as soon as I can…”
“John? What is it?”
“You keep my boys safe Jim.” John disconnected. He’d wanted to say something more, to ask his mentor, let Jim make him feel better. Yet he couldn’t explain not when he didn’t know himself what he was scared of but there had been something in the yellow eyes of the demon which had frightened John, frightened him to his very core.
Dean was a meanie. When Dad was gone he got all bossy an’… an’… just like Dad. Sam kicked at a stone and sent it skittering across the driveway. He’d wanted to go to the park. There was a great park down the road from the Pastor’s and they’d gone there lots of times but today Dean had said ‘No’.
Sam kicked another stone aiming this time towards the large gatepost at the entrance to the Mission. His brother had told him he had a job to do for Pastor Jim and that Sammy could help if he wanted. Most of the time Sam loved helping his brother watching him clean Dad’s gun, passing him the oiled cloth or cooking because Dean always let him press the buttons on the microwave but today Sam didn’t feel like doing a job, he wanted to go to the park.
Shrugging his shoulders, Dean had turned and walked away and Sam had stuck his tongue out at his brother’s retreating back but it hadn’t made him feel any better. He hated being the youngest; no one had any time for him.
This wasn’t strictly true and he felt a small twinge of guilt about his ungrateful thoughts because Dean nearly always made time to be with Sam despite Dad making him train and stuff. It had been Dean that had taught Sam to read and do his numbers, Dean that bathed him and cleaned up his skinned knees and Dean who laid with him at night until he fell asleep.
Bored Sam found himself wandering, through Pastor Jim’s high panelled hallway to the big old-fashioned kitchen. Martha, the Pastor’s housekeeper was busy preparing the evening meal for the ‘guests’ that were staying and Sam drawn in by the smells watched her mixing and rolling the pastry. Her pies were the best Sam knew ‘cause Dean had told him as he munched his way through seconds and thirds and his brother always knew about things like that.
Humming to herself and unaware of her young observer Martha had nearly tripped over Sam stepping backwards into him but on seeing him she had smiled broadly, slipped him a couple of cookies and a tall glass of milk with a conspiratorial wink before shooing him out into the yard. She didn’t have time for him either.
Leaning on the gatepost Sam gazed down the road in the direction of the park. It wasn’t fair other kids got to go, an’ everyday. He could hear them shouting and squealing. It sounded like they were having fun. Finishing his milk he set the glass down and slid around the post, still leaning on it but now outside the boundary of the Mission’s grounds. If he bent forward he could see the swings and some dark haired boy laughing as he seesawed higher and higher.
Gradually Sam, scraping his back along the fence, worked his way nearer so he could see the merry-go-round and the monkey bars and the ice cream truck. From where he was now he could see a Dad messing around, throwing and catching a ball with his two boys. Sam’s Dad played catch but it wasn’t for fun he said it was to quicken their reflexes, make them faster but it made Sam cry. Unconsciously he rubbed his chest remembering the thudding hurt of a hard ball thrown with full strength.
A particularly high screech followed by howls of laughter had Sam straining to see and he stepped further down the sidewalk neck craning.
“Sounds like they’re having fun huh.”
Sam started surprised at the person being so close without him having heard or felt the presence. He turned regarding the owner of the voice with silent suspicion. Dad didn’t like him talking to people. He’d drilled it into him and Dean again and again that people were bad news, that you didn’t talk to anyone, not motel maids, not clerks, not waitresses, not cops, not nobody. He barely gave Sam permission to speak to his teachers.
“Hi I’m Pieter.”
The name sounded like Peter but the way the man said it sounded weird.
Sam shifted uncomfortable with the stranger’s close proximity and his heart took a lurch as his eyes slid past the slender figure to the gateway beyond and he realised that the man was between him and the safety of the Mission building. Sam’s eyes flicked nervously to the gateway and back to the man. His mind raced. What would his brother do?
“I …I gotta go. My Dad’s inside.” Sam tried to edge around the stranger but the man caught him by the arm slamming the small body up against the fence. Sam pulled but the grip was firm, digging into the fleshy part of the muscle on his upper arms.
“Now Sammy we both know that’s not true, don’t we.” The grinning, threatening face was now only inches from Sam’s own.
Panic set in and Sam struggled trying desperately to dislodge the strangers grasp. He didn’t like this man, didn’t like him being so close or touching or …or anything.
“L..L..Lea…ve me alone.”
“Awe come on Sam that’s not very friendly not when we’re practically blood relatives, family.”
What did the man mean? He’d never seen him before and Dad had said they had no family. Deep down Sam had such a bad, bad feeling. Something was wrong, really rotten an’ nasty.
Fetid breath brushed over Sam’s face. “Come on Sammy we can be real good friends if you’ll let me...” The stranger pressed closer.
Sam breath became rapid as his fright heightened. “Let me go, let me go...” Blindly, desperately he fought hitting and thumping the thin unyielding body in front of him with his small fists but the iron grip held him fast against the wooden fence. A hand clasped his jaw forcing his head round, forcing him to look into the cruel face that was inches from his own, to look into the eyes of the stranger.
With a sob of fear Sam wrenched himself away and fell hard to the ground. Limbs flailing he scrambled backwards scraping the skin on his back as he gained his feet. Then not waiting and with no thought other than to get away from the horrible man Sam ran.
“WHERE IS HE?” John towered over Dean.
“John …” Pastor Jim stepped forward but John ignored him. He couldn’t believe that Dean had let Sam go off on his own, that he’d…”WHY DID….” He couldn’t finish the words. “I LEFT YOU IN CHARGE…”
“JOHN STOP IT.” The Pastor’s raised a placating hand as well as his voice. “It’s not Dean’s fault. I asked him to do a job for me and…”
Rage boiled inside John, hot and urgent as he turned on his friend. “So your job was more important than my son.”
“No…that’s not what I said.”
“He’s six years old Jim.” A desperate hurt was building inside John a wild feeling of helplessness. He’d spent so long protecting, safeguarding his children and now it was all unravelling and he couldn’t stop it. He’d been so afraid for so long and now is fears were coming true. Sam was missing.
Trying to keep the tremor from his voice, keep it even he crouched down in front of his eldest. “Dean when did you last see your brother?”
The boy hung his head refusing to look at his father. It was pure defiance in John’s eyes and his frustration at his son’s stubborn surliness made the fury flare again. Grabbing Dean, gripping his eldest tightly by the shoulders he shook the boy. He needed answers.
“JOHN THAT’S ENOUGH.” Jim put his hands over John’s on Dean’s shoulders protectively. “Dean go ask Martha when she last saw Sam.”
The boy squirmed and suddenly John’s anger dissipated leaving only utter exhaustion and the crushing pain in his side. He released Dean and watched wearily as his ten-year-old scooted back into the Mission without a backward glance. Straightening, rubbing his face John took as deep breath a breath as he could and look up at the concerned kindly face of his mentor.
“Where is he Jim? It’s not like him to go off…he knows not to…Something’s happened.”
“John we don’t know that. He could be off playing somewhere…Come on in and sit down. You look like crap.”
John shook his head. “I can’t Jim not when Sam’s out there. I gotta go look for him.”
“I got people out looking.” The Pastor reached out to John. “You’ve been driving for forty-eight hours straight, you’re injured by the look of it, in pain and you need to stop and rest, you’re not going to help Sam by collapsing with exhaustion.”
“But what if he’s in trouble.”
“He’s strong and intelligent and for a six year old kid amazingly resourceful.”
“And that makes it better?”
Pastor Jim shook his head, “No but it makes it less likely he’ll come to harm.”
“No Jim I can’t ...I have to ....” At that point John’s knees gave way and he would have hit the deck if the Pastor hadn’t caught him. There was no need for words Jim’s face said everything, sighing and against every instinct raging inside him John leant heavily on his friend and allowed himself to be guided into the big house’s warm kitchen.
Martha fussed insisting on not only giving John a large mug of strong black coffee but on making him a thick sandwich placing it on a plate in front of John with a ‘You don’t get up from this table till it’s all eaten’ look. John took a bite but it felt like ashes in his mouth.
It seemed like a lifetime ago that he and Bill had given up trying to sleep and started the journey back from Nelson. They had driven in convoy. John staring at the road ahead and the red taillights of Bill’s truck as the darkness gave way to dawn.
Seven hours later John was on his own having watched Bill climb wearily from the car and into the arms of a waiting Ellen. It left an ache in his heart as he’d driven away leaving them to their reunion. Mary had loved him like that, had been waiting for him when he returned from work, hugged him, made him laugh over dinner and taken him to bed where he forgot the cares of day.
Sometimes when he tired of being strong and carrying on regardless he let himself remember Mary, her soft, silky warmth and always the screwed up feeling in his belly tightened, hardened reinforcing his resolve to find what killed her and destroyed his life.
Now all he was feeling was a cold trepidation. He’d arrived back after two days of non-stop driving already worried about his sons to find his youngest missing. Jim’s reassurances that Sammy had only been gone an hour did nothing to assuage neither his anger nor his fear.
He knew he’d taken his feelings out on Dean but the boy’s silence made him crazy. He’d drummed into his eldest that he was to look out for his brother that Sam was his responsibility. John couldn’t do what he did if he had to split his attention from the Job. Sam was missing on Dean’s watch and however John tried to view it and whatever Jim said his eldest had let him down, badly.
Sam collapsed onto the grass rasping breath into his aching lungs. He’d run and run legs punching the hard ground each pounding step jarring his whole body but he didn’t stop, couldn’t stop, his fear driving him on beyond anything his Dad had made him do. Now he could go no further, his muscles had seized landing him wheezing on a small patch of grass between two driveways.
Rolling onto his back arms straight out as his chest heaved Sam stared up into the interlacing tree branches above. He had no idea where he was, the leafy tree-lined streets barely registering as he’d fled from the horror that was the man.
Gradually his rapid breathing abated and with shaky arms Sam pushed up fear still hammering his heart knowing that he didn’t want to be caught and that he couldn’t stay still for long. He scanned the area. Had the man followed him? Sam’s urge to flight was still uppermost but he could see no one and although he kept alert like Dad taught him he slowly allowed his alarm to lessen and his tired limbs to relax
Swallowed hard he tried not to cry. Dean had told him that only babies cried but even though he tried he couldn’t prevent the tears leaking and trailing down his overheated sweat soaked skin. His lip trembled Dad was gonna be so mad.
If he’d been in the centre of town there’d have been call boxes or even a store where he could have asked to use the phone. He knew the number of the Mission off by heart, Dad had made him repeat it nearly every hour everyday for a week and then had showed him and Dean how to put the money in and talk to the operator, ‘cause it wasn’t safe to use phones in peoples houses.’ Dad’d then given them both a quarter to keep in their pants pocket.
Sam didn’t have the quarter; that morning Pastor Jim had brought some new clothes, well new to Sam, into his room saying that they’d been left and that Sam might well make use of them. Sam’d delved into the pile with enthusiasm picking out a really cool Fraggles Rock Sprocket T-Shirt and a pair of jeans that didn’t have holes in the knees. So pleased with his new acquisitions and desperate to show Dean Sam had discarded his old outfit with the quarter in the pocket without a second thought and rushed downstairs.
Sniffing Sam dragged the back of his hand across his face wiping away the moisture. More than anything, ever, he wanted to see Dean walking towards him sporting a cheesy grin and calling him a big girl for cutting and running. Dean wouldn’t have run off scared, his big brother could fight anything he’d have slugged the stranger right on the nose and then kept on punching and punching and punching until the man was dead.
Reassured a little by this image Sam pulled up the hem of his T-shirt and rubbed his face. His nose was all blocked and his eyes felt itchy but he’d stopped hiccupping breath and the shaking in his legs had lessened. Checking around again Sam looked at the houses. He knew he needed to find the Mission but although he’d visited Pastor Jim many times Dad had never allowed him to go beyond the grounds, except to the park and that was always with Dean. He sniffed again nothing seemed familiar or looked even remotely like anywhere he’d seen before.
The enormity of his situation nearly brought back the tears. He was alone in a strange town, no money, no way to call his brother and even if he could he didn’t know where to say he was. Pressing his lips together to stop the wobble Sam squinting up it must be a good hour or two since he’d gone outside with his cookie then it had early afternoon and now the sun was lower in the sky.
Sniffing several times Sam sat more miserable now than scared. Teachers at school said that you should find a cop if you were lost but Sam knew better. Dad had told him that the cops were bad news and would take him and Dean away if either of them got into trouble. Sam chewed on his lip till it hurt blinking back more tears. Everything seemed so big, the fences, the houses, the road and it would be getting dark soon. Rising to his feet Sam gave himself the pep talk Dean would have. ‘Come on Sam, you can’t be that far from the Mission, even you can’t have run that fast or that far. You gotta get up and think it through.’ He wished Dean were here for real.
Sam’s legs trembled and he stood thinking twisting his fingers in his damp shirt trying to decide what to do. Dean and Pastor Jim had to have missed him by now. His throat constricted and he fought hard to stop more tears as he thought of how worried his brother had to be. Dean always looked out for him; at school and when Dad left them for days at a time and when Sam woke shouting and scared all to hell about the bad things Dad hunted. His big brother was always there.
Down the street to his left a man was working on his car but haunted by his encounter with the stranger and his Dad’s ominous words Sam was too frightened to ask for help. Avoiding the busy figure he crossed the road walking in the opposite direction, glancing apprehensively behind him to see if the man had noticed but nobody shouted after him and he saw no one else as he hurried down the street.
Reaching the corner Sam stopped. The road running across the intersection was far busier than the one he had left with cars passing frequently in both directions. There were people too. A group of women chatting at the bottom of a driveway, kids playing on bikes and others doing the stuff that people did in houses.
His only chance to avoid awkward questions was to act confident and look like he knew where he was going but that was the trouble, Sam hesitated, he had no idea which way to go.
“Any news?” John looked up as Jim entered the study. The Pastor insisted that John rest on the couch when the hunter had refused to go upstairs to one of the bedrooms. John had laid himself down but sleep was beyond him. His mind kept going over and over possibilities. Round and round winding in ever darkening circles ending with the image of a small body crumpled in a heap or worse.
The silence from his friend answered his question and wearily John swung his legs down and sat head in hands trying to rub the exhaustion from his face.
“We’ve covered the nearest streets and the park and now we’re gonna spread out in a grid pattern.” Jim sat on the chair dragging it round from the untidy desk. “What would he do John, where would he go if he found himself on his own?”
Shaking his head John rose pacing the threadbare carpet.
“Would he go to the cops?”
“NO. Not the cops he knows not to involve them.”
“Then what John?”
Again the hunter shook his head he didn’t know and it was beginning to dawn on him that he knew very little about his youngest son that he had no idea what Sam would do or think or anything. The person that would know was Dean.
“Upstairs in his room I think. He wanted to go out with one of the search parties but I convinced him he’d be better waiting here….John!”
John took the stairs two at a time and pushed open the door so hard that it banged loudly. “Dean?” His gaze swung around the room, it was empty. “DEAN!” Running back past the surprised Pastor panic rising into his throat John burst through the outside door. “DEAN!”
Several men turned but nowhere could John see his ten year old.
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I know Robin Sammy is in a bad situation but he's a Winchester so we shall see. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Okay are you ready for an update ....here it is.
Dean felt guilty, guilty as hell. He’d brushed Sam off, said ‘No’ to taking his little brother to the park because Pastor Jim had asked him to wash his car and was gonna pay him real money to do it. Now Sammy was missing and it was all Dean’s fault, Dad had said so and Dean totally believed him.
Dodging into a bush Dean watched as a small group of men paced up the drive and disappeared into the Mission. Sammy had been missing for two hours now and although Pastor Jim had said to stay in the house Dean knew that Sam in ordinary circumstances would never talk to strangers. Dad had drilled it into them often enough so it was unlikely that any of these volunteers were going to get close to his brother. No it was up to him to find Sam.
The noisy enjoyment of the park had not abated and Dean scanned the faces of the children as he hurried along its perimeter but none were Sam and he felt his spark of hope die. He’d had to check and he hadn’t really expected his brother to be there but some small part of him had held onto the belief that it had all been a mistake and Sam would come running to him grinning widely. However Sam wasn’t stupid and Dean knew deep down that there was no way his little brother would sneak off to the park and leave them all worrying for this long even if he had forgotten the time. No something had happened and Sammy had run off or…or… Dean didn’t want to think about the ‘or’ he couldn’t.
Doubling back past the park anxiety squeezing his heart Dean tried to reason what might have happened. It made sense that Sam had been watching the children on the swings and he might have pushed the limitation on the rule about not going outside the mission grounds by standing by the gatepost so he could see better. Dean’s gaze raked over the post and then the fence beyond and he saw them, about half way along, small pieces of blue thread caught on the rough surface of the wood. Sammy had been wearing a new blue Fraggle T-shirt the one that Pastor Jim had given him. Dean felt a lurch Sammy had been leaning on the fence right there.
Pulling at the threads Dean rubbed them through his fingers. “Where are you Sammy?” The whispered words seemed to echo in the empty space around him. Dean shivered it felt weird Sam not being there. They were in separate classes at school but all the other times it was him and Sammy. Even when they were with Dad it was still the two of them; Dean in front and Sam tagging onto the back of his shirt asking his darn questions.
Glancing back at the Mission Dean made up his mind. He knew that his Dad would tear into him when he found out Dean had gone after Sam but at least it would deflect some of his father’s anger away from his brother.
Dean checked up and down the street before he continued following the fence’s progress keeping his left hand on the wood as he rounded the corner. Here he stopped once again unsure of the way to go but across the street a shower of leaves spread under a bush caught his eye. It was too early in the year for leaves to be dropping in this number and several broken twigs on the bush itself indicated that someone had either collided with the overhanging branches or rushed past at speed.
Crossing the metalled road Dean continued stopping every few feet to examine the ground and surrounding gardens but he saw no more signs of his brother. He passed several grown-ups but didn’t approach them even though he wanted to. ‘You mustn’t talk to strangers’ His Dad’s voice went round and round inside his head round and round tightening Dean’s anxiety until he couldn’t speak. All he could do was look for his brother and hope against hope that he found him.
Sam’s legs ached it seemed like he’d been walking for hours, turning down one road, then another until they all blurred into the same house-lined, lawn-trimmed tree-edged, street. Lights had come on in windows glowing out into the darkening suburb and bathing the interiors in a comforting yellow glow.
It looked warm and safe in those houses and not at all like Dad said but Sammy knew that his house had once been like that. Dean had told him, not in so many words ‘cause Dean didn’t talk much about it not that Dean talked much anyway but Sammy saw how his brother looked into those places when they passed by and how he would look sad and kinda lost. Sam knew that his mother had died in a house like that and so not trusting the promised comfort, tucking his head down, he turned away.
Continuing straight Sam trudged, dragging his feet with every step until the paving underfoot changed to grass. He stopped and glanced up. He’d reached yet another intersection, the roads reaching out into the dusky twilight. His chin quivered and he swallowed as he found he couldn’t make a decision. He’d made so many, each with the hope he would find somewhere he knew somewhere that would at least give him some idea of where he might be but every time he’d been disheartened to find himself once again in a strange place. .
Sam collapsed down onto the damp verge he was truly lost. A sob broke through his resolve. More followed shaking his body in silent aching anguish as arms crossed he hugged his thin chest. Tears coursed down his face gathering under his chin, dripping but Sam paid no heed so lost was he in his misery.
Eventually dread tired, the adrenalin from the heightened emotion having run its course and the hours of walking taking their toll, Sam could do no more than crawl under the protection of a low wall and close his eyes.
Dean had quickened his pace, jogging down each wide path checking around him. It was getting dark but at least being in a town the streetlights would kick in giving him a chance of spotting Sam. He turned yet another corner as he worked a zigzag route down alternate streets. He was conscious that he was hunting his brother and the hours of training his Dad had put him through were paying off but something in him, some stubborn resentment wouldn’t let him acknowledge that fact.
It might be his Dean’s fault that Sam had gone missing but it was Dad’s restrictive hold on them both that had made Sam want to push against the prohibitive, confining commands and go to the park on his own. Dean admired Sam’s rebelliousness. Even at the age of six his brother pushed the boundaries his Dad set but Dean had gone the other way deflecting his Dads attention from his brother by being extra good at things and by making a superhuman effort to please his father.
Sometimes, rarely he felt that he’d got through to his Dad but the praise Dean sought never came he was never good enough and he couldn’t help the silent resentment that irked his father rise within him. The silences that followed were never easy and were never discussed. Only Sammy’s small hand in his assuaged the hurt.
Halting Dean checked the time Sam had been missing for five hours. He set off again slowing his pace to a brisk walk as he crossed the next intersection, walking diagonally across the space.
A crossroad was special, he’d heard the things that Pastor Jim had said about them but he was a bit vague on how they actually worked but stopping suddenly at the centre he closed his eyes and made a wish. Dean put his whole being into the wish, holding his breath, willing the words in his head to be so.
‘I want to find Sammy…I want to find Sammy.’
When he opened his eyes he felt foolish. Standing in the middle of the road praying, ‘cause that’s what it felt like, was stupid. He knew people that prayed, Pastor Jim prayed but never in Dean’s experience had a prayer been answered. The Pastor said folks had to have faith but Dean wasn’t sure what that was. He thought it was believing in something but he didn’t know what he believed in. His Mom had believed in Angels but that hadn’t helped her none when she needed it.
A heavy despondency settled over him and all of a sudden he found it hard to see. He blinked rapidly and wiping his sleeve over his eyes, sniffed berating himself for crying like a kid ‘cause that wasn’t gonna help find Sammy.
The lights of a car turning into the street brought Dean back to the realisation that he was still standing in the middle of the crossroads. He got out of the way, rushing as the Chevrolet accelerated past showing no awareness of the boy in the road. Backing up, stepping up the kerb Dean in his haste caught his foot on something, tripped and fell backwards.
Dean landed hard the breath knocked out of him but he had enough air left to gasp.
“Dean?” And suddenly his lap was full of his little brother, arms went round his neck and he was hugged. “I got lost.” Sam’s voice was all trembly and Dean hugged his brother back.
“S’okay Sammy, s’okay, I gotcha.”
“WHAT DID I TELL YOU?” John yelled. “YOU NEVER, EVER LEAVE THE COMPOUND. What possessed you…” John stopped at his own words and was tempted for a moment to say ‘Christo’ but something made him hold his tongue. Sam was a mess, snivelling, shoulders bowed in misery as he stood staring down at his shabby trainers. He’d obviously had a scare. John’s anger evaporated and he pulled his youngest into a fierce hug relieved that Sam had come to no harm. His son was living and breathing and safe.
John held the small form for a long time his large hand cupping Sam’s head fingers entwined in the ridiculously long brown strands. How many times had John told Dean to cut his brother’s hair.
Sam’s arms tightened about John’s hips as he buried his face in the material of his father’s shirt. John allowed him the comfort for now but running off was a serious offence and he was not going to let Sam off lightly. He’d cautioned his boys countless times about staying put, about the dangers that lurked outside the protection he’d laid down and as for Dean he definitely should have known better than to let Sammy wander off on his own.
John looked up at his eldest who stood behind his brother and despite his mere ten years of life was glaring at his parent with all the belligerent intenseness of an adolescent. He opened his mouth to reprimand Dean not only for leaving his brother to his own devices but for going out alone to search. He knew he put a lot of responsibility on Dean’s ten year old shoulders but it was for his and Sammy’s own good. John didn’t like playing the heavy handed father but he had to know that they would obey his orders without question, that his boys would safe. Dumb, stupid antics like this could get them killed. Abruptly John’s throat went tight and he could feel the tears pricking at his eyes. The last five hours had been almost as bad as those first days after Mary died. If he’d lost …
He looked down again. He’d been so worried, frightened for his boy, for both his boys especially after the job in Nelson. A vision of his own children superimposed over the gruesome photos Bill had shown him made him swallow. He squeezed Sam tighter in his arms and held him close whilst at the same time reaching for Dean. The boy resisted at first but then leaned in awkwardly hugging his younger brother as much as his Dad.
“M’sorry Dad.” Sam mumbled into John’s stomach wetting his shirt with more tears. “But the man scareded me.”
Ice gripped John’s heart. “Man?” He pulled Sam away from him and crouched. Softly he asked again. “What man Sammy?”
Hiccupping breath Sam sucked in his bottom lip, mouth curled downwards as he avoided his father’s eyes. Afraid to ask John steeled himself then forced out the words.
“Sammy…did the man…do anything to you?”
“He h.h…hurt my arm.” Sam pulled up the sleeve of his t-shirt to reveal four bruise marks in a row and one further round almost underneath the bicep. John’s anger boiled again at the obvious finger prints on his son’s pale skin but tainted with the relief that nothing more sinister had happened.
Sam shifted, fidgeting, twisting his fingers in the cloth of his shirt, “’an he scraped my back on the fence when he pushed me.” Sam trembling slightly chewed his lip, “M’ s..s…orry Dad I didn’t mean to r..run away.” He hiccupped his breath again, “ I g..got l..lost.” Finally Sam raised his head and looked up into his father’s eyes.
John gazed at Sam’s innocent tear streaked face and gathered him in for another hug.
“It’s okay son.” Sammy felt so small and skinny in his arms and John couldn’t help the fear that rose up at how vulnerable both Sam and Dean were to the horrors that abounded their world.
“Sammy,” Dean, barely audible to John, was kneeling down beside his brother, “Did the man say anything.”
There was silence for a beat and then Sam turned to his brother, “Yeah.” Sam’s head went down to stare at his trainers again. “He said we were blood… something …’an …’an I didn’ know what to do Dean. He wouldn’t let me go ‘an I pulled and pulled.” The tears returned streaming down Sam’s already blotchy face. “I didn’t mean ‘an…he…’an....’an.”
“You got away that’s what matters.” Dean leant in for his own hug his hand rubbing Sam’s back in a comforting gesture. Sam gave a small nod gulping in air.
John was kneeling now in front of his son, hands clasping the thin shoulders he drew Sam away from his brother. “A blood what Sammy…its important.?” Sam nodded sniffing repeatedly his forlorn expression making John want to hug him tight and never let him go but he needed information. His hands gripped harder on the thin shoulders. “Can you remember exactly what he said Sam?”
“He said we were pract practi something… blood rel…relatimes… ’an that I wasn’t being friendly” There was silence Sam searching John’s face.
“Was it blood relatives?”
Sam’s whole face brightened. “Yeah... what does it mean Dad?”
John’s skin crawled at his son’s words and he had no answer to Sam’s question. They had no blood relatives, well none on his side and if Mary had any family left they had not attempted to contact her since she’d married John. He gazed at Sam intently. “Did he say anything else Sammy. Think carefully because it’s important.
Sam squirmed in John’s grip but John held him firm any information could be crucial in finding who had assaulted his son.
“H..h..he told me his name…it was weird like Peter but not Peter.”
“Pieter?” A ball of suspicion knotted in John’s stomach as Sam blinked and his bottom lip quivered. He took his son’s silence as assent.
“Sammy what did the man look like?”
Sammy rubbed his nose with his sleeve, normally John would have grumbled but now was not the time.
“H..he was old…older’an you Dad ‘an not as tall.” Screwing up his face Sam thought, “he had grey and brown hair…’an he was funny looking.”
Nodding Sam answered. “Yeah…his eyes were creepy…kinda yellowy.”
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