The Old Parkman School, Zolfo Springs, Florida. The Doctor stepped carefully through the hallway. The floor seemed stable enough, but the entire building gave off odd readings. Even the air tasted wrong.
The hall was empty, but footprints were layered all over the floor. He became very aware of the thumping of his heart; even after a year, the single heart thing still threw him.
Rose was suddenly at his elbow. "You hear that?"
He concentrated. "I can't make out what they're saying," he replied.
"Hold on," she replied. "American accents. Two men, sounds like."
"What're they saying?"
She squinted as she strained to hear. "One says, 'Haven't seen so many ghosts in one place since that asylum in Illinois...'"
He asked, "Can you tell where it's – "
"Shh," Rose cut him off. "There's more. 'Think about it, the Morton House, the Van Ness House, both had big bad beastie boy leaders.' I think he's being serious," she added. "Oi, there's more. Different voice... he's saying something like, 'That doesn't explain the doppelganger thing.'"
"Rose?" The Doctor prompted.
"Sorry, that's all I can make out," she said.
"Better then me," he replied. "I blame these things," he added, tugging on his left ear. "Human hearing is rubbish."
"Don't knock it," she said simply. "You ever think it's the Time Lord, not the human?"
For a moment, he considered it. "Nah! So, two Americans chatting about spirits?"
"And doppelgangers," Rose replied. "Does it mean anything to you?"
"Well..." The Doctor began. "Haven't the foggiest. I mean, two strange Americans? That's one thing. Two disembodied voices echoing around in a very off building? Could be anything. Literally. Isn't that fantastic?"
She smiled at his surge of enthusiasm. "I hear something else. From over here. Someone's talking in this room."
She knocked. There was no response. The door opened with a tiny pop!
As soon as they stepped inside, they spotted a tall tripod topped with a digital camera. It was difficult to tell, but the camera seemed to be playing something recorded in the very same room.
The Doctor gravitated to it. A young woman's face was haphazardly displayed on screen.
...in the Old Parkman School. We set out on April eighth two thousand fourteen. I'm not sure how long I've been here... the others went out while I was unconscious, and they're not back. Can't tell what time it is from the window.
The woman held up an analog pocket watch to show the time and date.
My watch says it's twenty-three past three o'clock in the afternoon, but it also says it's still April the eighth, and that can't be right. But it's still ticking, so add that to the pile of weird.
"Doctor," Rose whispered. "Look at this."
She held up her detector, which rapidly changed time and date, as if it couldn't decide. "What could be causing that?" she asked.
"But that takes energy," Rose pointed out, "and the only thing in this room is a camera run on double-A batteries."
"I don't know how," The Doctor replied. "Something to do with the geography amplifies whatever's happening here." He examined his own detector, which continued to change rapidly, as if the air composition was in constant fluctuation. "And let's just say, I'm very glad I'm only half Time Lord now."
"Never thought I'd hear you say that."
"Otherwise, I'd likely be unconscious or seizing. Or both."
A shout broke his thought; a familiar voice echoed from down the hall.
"Rose! JD! Help!"
The Doctor took Rose's hand, and together they ran out of the room.
The previous day, outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. Dean waited out by the Impala as Sam acquired the usual road food at easily one of the scruffiest gas stations they'd seen yet. Keeping off Dick Roman's radar became harder every day.
Dean examined Bobby's flask. The old man hadn't reappeared yet, which was no surprise given how the brothers had reacted to his ghostly disposition. Still, Dean could use Bobby's advice, no matter how dead he was. He popped it open, hoping Bobby would genie his way out, but no such luck.
His musing was interrupted by an odd ringtone. He scrambled through the various hideaways in the Impala. Finally, he yanked out an ancient burner phone he kept charged for Bobby's non-hunter contacts, which consisted almost exclusively of people he had saved. The phone read R. E. KOZLOWSKI. It was a recognized number. That couldn't be good.
"Hello?" Dean answered.
"Sorry, hi, I'm looking for Singer," a woman said. "Uh, Robert Singer."
"You mean Bobby?" Dean asked.
"Yeah," she replied.
"Sorry, he can't answer the phone, maybe I can help," Dean said.
"No, it needs to be Bobby Singer," she said. "He's never met me, but he knows my uncle, Randy Kozlowski, from about seven years ago."
"Bobby Singer died a few months ago," Dean replied harshly.
"No," she whispered quietly. "He was the only one – "
"He left me with his phone for a reason," Dean cut her off. "So try me."
"You know what? What the hell? Fine. Yesterday, a woman named Dawn Redding died in the hospital from a severe beating."
"And? You don't get it. I'm Dawn Redding, and I'm not dead," she replied simply. "The doctors are saying I have a long-lost twin, but I don't."
"We talking like a doppelganger?"
"I don't know, but there's something else," Dawn said. "A few days ago, in the Trine – "
"The what?" Dean interrupted.
"The Trine. Guess it's a local thing. Nickname, for a stretch of wilderness. It's always given me a bad feeling... anyway, that's not the point. I went with some friends to survey it for filming, and I saw... something."
"Care to elaborate?"
She hesitated. "Have you ever heard of a waff?"
"Uh, only in the context of a chick that's too skinny."
"It's a death omen. Your own ghost appears to you. That's what I saw. I saw myself, and – "
"Then your long-lost twin shows up dead a few days later," Dean completed. "Huh."
"There's more," Dawn offered quietly. "The woman who died? She had a digital camera on her. She recorded most of the day before she died. And it's weird."
"What kind of weird?"
"Weirder than seeing a waff," Dawn replied. "The kind of weird that got me to believe my crazy uncle's story about how he and some other man killed a shape shifter."
"Right, well," Dean said. "That sounds like us."
"Yeah, I don't work alone," Dean replied. "Where are you? We can head your way now."
The Old Parkman School, Zolfo Springs, Florida. Dean and Sam followed the main hallway, finally ending up in a large, lobby-like room. Dawn Redding had called this place "The Old Parkman School," but it had clearly been modified to work as a temporary inn shelter or camp center.
"See anything?" Dean asked.
"No, and I can't hear anything anymore either," Sam replied. "But I definitely heard someone from over here."
Dean started when a ripple of cold caught his chest. Distant voices rose as the temperature dropped.
"Best guess is they're overlapping, which is very not good," a male voice said. He had a British accent. "Well, could be okay. Well, not really. Well, in certain scenarios, controlled conditions, this could be considered a kind of laboratory, but in this case? Ehhhh..."
"Very bad," a woman said. She also had a British accent. "But it's gotta be more than that. I mean, temperature fluctuations, and look at this place."
"What about it?" the man asked.
"The walls and the doors," the woman said. "They're all wrong."
Dean glanced at Sam. The entire room was empty, so who was talking? The temperature plummeted dramatically, and dozens of translucent figures flickered in tune with the lights. Before either one of them could speak, everything returned to normal.
"Holy crap," Dean whispered. "What the hell was that?"
A kind of whistling interrupted Sam's reply. "That's coming from outside," Sam said.
Dean took the nearest door with Sam in his wake. The sound was coming from the other side of the building, so they rounded the perimeter.
Neither of them noticed the odd, square-shaped man who blundered into the lobby after them. His light, grey eyes swept the room.
"Hello?" the man said. "Hello?"
"Slade?" another voice asked. He recognized the voice. "Is that you?"
"Paramjeet?" Slade asked.
He spotted her as she stumbled into the lobby, her skin pale and her clothing covered in mud and blood. Slade helped her over to a large sofa near the center of the room.
"What happened?" he asked.
"I... where? I..." she began.
"Rose! JD!" Slade shouted to the building at large. "Rose! JD! Help!"
It only took them a hot minute to respond. Rose and The Doctor went straight to the sofa.
"Agent Bindiya?" Rose asked.
"Told you, it's Jeet," she replied. "Didn't get far. It was too dark."
The Doctor draped Jeet with blankets for the shock. He did a quick once-over and spotted a head wound.
"I'm fine," she said. "Not injured."
"Then why are you covered in blood?" The Doctor asked.
Jeet was shaking, but she continued, "They're outside. You need to go, now. They're out front."
"Oi, Slade, Rose," The Doctor said. "You need to stay with her, make sure she's warm, right?"
As soon as The Doctor left, Rose nodded to Slade and followed after him.
One hour earlier in Zolfo Springs, Florida. Paramjeet Bindiya felt uneasy. Her entire body was on full alert, but she didn't know why. Part of her discomfort came from leaving the Torchwood agents alone, even for an hour, but there was something else bothering her. And that was before the car's electrical systems had crapped out and left them stranded on a dirt road.
The would-be search party in her backseat didn't hesitate to complain. Gwen, Molly, and Vince had only agreed to leave after Jeet threatened to arrest them. Twice. And now the car wouldn't start.
"Please tell me this is a bad joke," Gwen said. "I mean, car breaking down at night on a dirt road."
"It's four in the afternoon," Jeet objected.
Then she realized what had been bothering her. In the fifteen minutes since they left the Old Parkman School, it had gone from partially cloudy, afternoon sunlight to near-dusk darkness.
"I know some fancy government agency wants us to leave," Gwen began, "but there's clearly a storm blowing in out there. A bad one. It'll take us half a day to hike out to the main road in good weather. We should go back to the school till daylight."
"You're gonna kill me," a male voice said.
Jeet jolted. She immediately turned to the only male person in the car, Vince. The voice spoke again, "You. You're the one. You're gonna kill me."
But Vince's lips weren't moving. His blue eyes flitted from Molly to Jeet in confusion, and he ran his fingers through his dirty blond hair nervously.
"What?" Vince asked, finally put off by Jeet's staring.
"Sorry, thought you were gonna say something," Jeet said.
Molly squeezed Vince's hand and broke the awkward tension, "So, are we leaving?"
"Uh, yes," Jeet replied. "You're right, Gwen. We'll head back to the Old Parkman School till there's light to hike out."
Without another word, the four exited the car and unloaded their equipment. Vince and Molly suited up together, stepping out of the way to steal a few romantic moments before they trooped out.
Jeet glanced up to gauge how much time they had. "Can't be a storm. No clouds."
"Gotta be," Gwen said tentatively. "If there're no clouds, then where are all the stars? And it's suppose to be a Gibbous Moon tonight."
"I'll take that to mean you expect it to be in the sky?" Jeet asked.
"We should get moving," Jeet said firmly.
"Well, let's hurry this up, then," Gwen said. She raised her voice and added, "That means you two!"
Molly and Vince sheepishly broke apart from a kiss. Gwen handed off the flashlight to Jeet.
"You can get us back?" Gwen asked. Jeet nodded. "Then I'll take up the rear."
Everything Jeet had heard about the Trine seemed true. The air was fresh and clear, but apprehension settled over her. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine herself outside in a beautiful forest, but as soon as she opened them, all she saw was the dust and the mud and the shadows. The word 'haunted' didn't quite cover it; it was more like 'tainted' or 'permeated.'
But for all the faults of the day, the return hike was uneventful. They were in the school's clearing when Jeet noticed the odd, high-pitched whining issuing from somewhere nearby.
"What is that?" she asked, turning back to the others. "Where's Vince?" she added.
Molly looked down at her left hand, as if she thought she was still holding his. Her eyes glazed over. "I, uh," she said. "He was right here. He went a little to the left..."
Jeet prompted, "And?"
"You asked me where he was, and he wasn't here anymore," Molly finished lamely. Her confusion was palpable, like she couldn't shake it off.
"He could've just gone to take a leak," Gwen said. "Vince is an experienced hiker. He knows what he's doing. Once he's done he'll make his way back to us."
"You were bringing up the rear," Jeet said to Gwen. "Didn't you see him go?"
But Gwen wasn't listening. "That noise, it's like ringing in the ears," she said. "It's very distracting."
"You mean annoying," Jeet said.
"Or creepy," Molly said.
For a few moments, they waited under the too-black sky as the whine ramped up.
"It's coming from over there," Gwen said. "By the school."
"We should wait for Vince," Molly said.
"Molly," Gwen warned. "He's fine. He knew where we were going, and we've got flashlights. Hell, he might've just gone ahead after he took care of business."
"But, he just..." Molly started weakly.
Jeet took control. "Okay, we can check it out. Stay close. I mean within an arm's length, you understand?"
They made their way to the east side of the school. The whine was now more of a screech vibrating through the air. They followed it to the old garden, which was little more than a few odd trees that lined the front of the school.
The aura of disquiet had gotten to all of them, but they kept close together till they couldn't follow the noise anymore.
After a few moments of stillness, Molly began twisting and turning, searching for any sign of Vince.
Finally, she yelled, "Vince! Come on! Where are you? Vince! Vince! Come on! Where are you?"
"He's probably already inside," Gwen said tersely.
Molly lost her nerve. She moved away blindly, only to be grabbed by Gwen. A brief but furious struggle ensued, ending with Molly crashing into Jeet and throwing her bodily into a tree. Sap coated her face, hands, pants, and shirt.
Gwen helped Jeet get back to her feet. "Sorry, sorry, this place, it's just – "
"Vince!" Molly yelled over and over again.
"Don't worry about it," Jeet said to Gwen. "They been together long?"
"Best friends since childhood, got together a few years ago," Gwen replied discreetly. "Still attached at the hip. Actually, that's one of the reasons Vince and Molly are the best search and rescue team I've – Jeet, is that yours?"
"My what?" Jeet asked.
"No," she said, realizing it wasn't sap that she had gotten on her. "Uh, no."
Gwen swallowed hard as she considered the worse case scenario. "Vince," she whispered.
"Don't jump to conclusions," Jeet said. She indicated Molly, who was still yelling for Vince. "Especially not with her."
"Then what?" Gwen asked.
"We should get inside," Jeet said. "The others that were with me? We find them. They can help us find Vince."
Gwen approached Molly to wrangle her. Jeet wanted to join them, but her legs felt heavy and her heart raced, causing her face to flush. Then she felt clammy and weak. Maybe she'd hit her head when she fell. Her gaze drifted up, and she spotted a pack similar to Molly's, torn and frayed, dangling off a short limb.
"You two!" Jeet shouted. "Get inside!"
Neither responded, and Jeet couldn't wait any longer. Her entire body felt unstable and weak. They needed help. She stumbled as she made her way into the school.
Just outside the Old Parkman School in Zolfo Springs, Florida. Sam and Dean Winchester rounded on the garden and spotted two women.
"Didn't you talk to those two?" Sam asked Dean.
"Told them to haul ass outa here," Dean replied.
Sam made his way over to them with a friendly demeanor. "Hello," he said. "You two need some help?"
"Our friend is missing," Gwen said. "We – "
"What's that noise?" Dean asked. "I've got nada on EMF, and I don't hear anything moving."
Sam had already pieced a scenario together, and it wasn't good. He turned to his brother, "Why don't you take these two inside?"
The Doctor and Rose ran out of the school, yelling "Gwen! Molly!"
"Who the hell are you?" Dean asked.
Before The Doctor could reply, his detector went into high alert, reporting drastic shifts in time and matter. "This isn't good," he said to Rose. "Very not good."
"Wow, that's really helpful," Dean said sarcastically. "Anything more specific than 'not good'?"
Rose glowered at Dean. "We came out here to find three people," she said. She turned to Gwen and Molly. "Where's Vince?"
"We're not sure," Gwen replied.
"It's not like him to wander off. He should've been back by now. He's probably injured or his vision's been compromised – " Molly began.
"Please, just, calm down," Sam interrupted gently. "We can help you find your friend."
The Doctor scanned Gwen and Molly for vitals. Then he went to the tree, first analyzing it with the detector, then running his sonic screwdriver over it.
"I thought it didn't work on wood," Rose whispered to him.
"It's not the wood I'm interested in," The Doctor replied.
"Jeet had blood on her," Rose said. "But it wasn't hers. Do you know where it came from?"
"We had a bit of a tussle," Molly admitted. "She fell into that tree that he's... uh, what is your friend doing to that tree?"
"Right," The Doctor said dramatically. "Shall we get these people inside? Eh, Rose?"
"Yeah," Sam added. "Dean, why don't you and Rose here take, uh, sorry, what were your names again?"
"Gwen and Molly," Gwen replied.
"Take Gwen and Molly here inside," Sam completed. "While me and – "
"JD, he's called," Rose said.
"Okay, JD and I will look for Vince," Sam finished.
Dean leaned into his brother. "Dude? What the hell?"
"Trust me," Sam whispered back. "Besides, who would you rather deal with? Blue pinstripe suit here, or – "
"The hot blond," Dean cut his brother off. "No contest."
Luckily, Rose had closed in on The Doctor, so neither of them could hear the Winchesters.
"I'm not leaving you out here alone," Rose said.
"I won't be alone, that tall guy will be with me," The Doctor said, indicating the wrong FBI agent.
"It's Sam," Sam said.
Rose bit her lip. "Fine, but be careful," she said to The Doctor. She turned to the Winchesters. "Dean, is it?" she asked.
Dean nodded and flashed her a smile. Gwen and Molly went ahead, and Dean and Rose followed them into the school.
As soon as the others were out of an earshot, Sam pointed up. "I'm guessing you saw that."
"That gear," Sam said. "About fifteen feet up."
"That explains it," The Doctor said as he moved around quickly, taking readings from the other trees.
The Doctor hesitated. "You really want to know?"
"People's lives are at stake."
"This tree wasn't here when we came in. That was, ohh, less than an hour ago."
"So, you're saying this tree, what, moved here?" Sam asked incredulously.
"That would be ridiculous," The Doctor dismissed. "I'm saying this tree germinated and grew to this size in, oh, about ten or fifteen minutes."
"Right, that's not ridiculous at all."
"Not with this amount of temporal distortion."
Sam changed the topic. "The blood. The pack. I think it's fair to say, whatever's going on with this tree, we can add Vince being dragged up to a high branch to that list."
The Doctor spotted another blip on his scanner. "You're half right."
"I can climb up and try to get him. You spot me – I've got a gun that – "
"No guns," The Doctor interrupted.
"They're just salt rounds," Sam replied.
"No guns, and no one's climbing up that tree," The Doctor asserted. "No one should even touch it. And anyone that has needs to be checked."
"He could still be alive."
"I'm sorry, he's not."
"What makes you say that?" Sam asked.
"That noise," The Doctor said. "Do you know what it is?"
"No, maybe birds?"
"'Fraid not. It's a scream. Vince's scream, to be precise. He got caught in a particularly powerful temporal distortion. One which even sound can't escape properly. Not for lack of trying, obviously. That man's scream is leaking through from about two hundred years ago. Well, two hundred years ago in a time-distorted field around this tree. Well, one hundred seventy-seven, judging by the degradation of the acoustic oscillations."
Sam said, "So what you're saying is that Vince died two centuries ago, even though the blood right here, which is his, is still warm."
"'Course his blood is still warm," The Doctor replied mildly. "After all, he was here less than ten minutes ago. What's more disturbing is he died almost two centuries past, and we can still hear him screaming."