Sam shoved the rest of his gear haphazardly into the duffel bag, and then took a last look around the room. He could only imagine the poor maid’s face the day they forgot to take down all the hand-drawn pictures of demons taped haphazardly on the walls, or left a tablet scribbled with incantations and glyphs on the table when they left. But the room was clear, with not even so much as a crumpled note in the trashcan, and he finally turned off the light and stepped out of the dingy hotel room.
Outside, the noon sun was almost blinding in its intensity, and he could hear birds singing. Sam couldn’t help smiling, in spite of the headache left over from the job the day before and lingering exhaustion from yet another night cut short by nightmares; as well as the sound of Dean tripping over the chair Sam had shoved in front of the motel door at 2 a.m. Slinging the duffel over his shoulder, he pulled the door closed behind him and turned towards the Impala. And kept turning, because there was only one car in the parking lot; and while it was a black muscle car, it wasn’t the familiar one he’d parked his ass in for the last seven months.
“Sam!” Dean leaned out the window of the car. “Move your butt, we’re burning daylight!”
“What? Come on, already. We need to get moving if we’re going to reach the state line before midnight.”
“What are you doing?”
“Waiting for you, dumbass. What do you think?”
“Where’s the car?”
“I’m sitting in it. Are you sure you don’t need to go to the ER? That last poltergeist was a mean sonovabitch, throwing you through the window like that. Maybe you have a concussion.”
Sam ignored him, staring at the sleek curves and gleaming black paint of the unfamiliar two-door sports car in disbelief. “Let me rephrase that— where’s our car?”
“Probably halfway to Redmond by now.” Dean flashed him an impatient look, then got out and grabbed the duffel bag away from Sam and tossed it through the open sunroof into the back seat. “She’s a beauty, huh? ‘71 Hemi ‘cuda, rebuilt 426 engine, everything vintage…”
“Why would the Impala be halfway to Redmond by now?” Sam inched closer to the car; half expecting it to vanish like a mirage when he touched it. Instead, his fingers slipped over smooth black paint warmed by the sun to something just approaching molten steel.
“I’m just guessing, but Reggie mentioned they were heading north this morning.”
“The guy I was playing pool with last night, at the bar.”
“You lost the car in a pool game?”
“Of course not. What kind of idiot do you take me for?”
Sam ignored the easy answer to that one as well, forcing himself to focus on the situation at hand. “So—where is it?”
“I told you, probably halfway to Redmond. I really think we might need to take you to the ER. Short term memory loss is never a good thing.”
“Fine, fine. Don’t blow a gasket, dude. Reggie and I swapped cars last night. It’s only for a few weeks, a month tops. No big deal.”
“Dean—you barely let me drive that car, when you’re in it. You let a complete stranger borrow it for a month for no reason?”
“No. Of course not.” Dean rolled his eyes. “I had a perfectly good reason. Several, in fact.”
Sam waited for several minutes before prompting him impatiently. “Have you thought of one yet?”
“What about the fact that we’ve gotten pulled over by six different cops in two states for driving a car belonging to a dead serial killer?”
“And if you’d sleep somewhere other than behind the wheel or drive somewhere within twenty miles of the speed limit… that wouldn’t really be an issue, would it?”
“Well, I suppose when you put it that way—”
“Uh-huh. Did you at least empty out the weapons cache before you let him take your baby for a joy ride? Cause I’m sure finding that would guarantee you would be getting her back from impound, if at all.”
“We switched out gear last night.” Dean glared at him. “You really do think I’m a moron, don’t you?”
“The jury is still out on that one, if you let someone else see you taking a shitload of weapons out of the trunk.”
“Don’t worry, Reggie was doing the same thing. I doubt he was paying that much attention. And Mike was working on rigging a rack for the chainsaws anyway.”
“Oh, hey, you gotta see this. It’s actually pretty cool.” Dean flipped down the driver’s seat to point out an odd rack fastened just below the window on each side. “They’ve got two more built into the trunk, all custom. Pretty nice cache of their own, come to think of it.”
“You. ER. Now.” Dean threw him a worried look. “You’re starting to sound like a stuck record.”
“Shut up!” Sam shook his head, and winced when it hurt. “Where were these guys from, Texas?”
“No, someplace called Sunnyside… Morningdale…”
“In California?” Please don’t say on the Hellmouth, please don’t say the Hellmouth…
“No, in Oregon. Morningside, that was it.”
“Maybe you ought to tell me why these guys were so willing to switch cars with you, seeing as how they have their car fitted out with custom chainsaw racks.”
“Well, see, that’s the beauty of the thing. They’ve been working the West Coast, from northern California to Washington and back for a couple a years now. This car is getting a little too traceable. We’ve been covering the Midwest, and as I pointed out earlier, driving it into Missouri again is probably a bad idea, all around. So we switch out cars for a few weeks, this guy they’re after doesn’t see them coming, we get a smooth ride through to Tennessee and we meet back up in Spokane in a month.”
“And you believe they are actually going to show in a month?”
“If they’re still alive, they’ll show.”
“And how do you know that?”
“Because the ‘cuda belonged to Mike’s brother. He’s not going to part with it, not for long anyway. And if they try to keep the Impala, I’ll hunt them down and help the tall dude hunting them slaughter their asses. Now are you getting in or what?”
“Uh…yeah.” Sam slipped gingerly into the car, and then smiled appreciatively. The interior was as carefully maintained as the exterior, which lent a little credence to Dean’s claim that the car was a treasured memorial that the other man would be wanting back. “It is a nice car.”
Dean just threw him a smug look, and peeled out of the parking lot with a grin.
Sam sighed and rested his head against the seat back as they headed out of the small town, barely noticing the scenery around them; until the unnerving feeling of being stared at caught his attention. He rolled his head to the side, and found himself looking at an older man standing motionless on the sidewalk next to a parked hearse. He was tall, even more-so than Sam was, with stringy grey hair and angry, piercing eyes. His head turned as they passed, keeping their eyes locked together.
“Who’d you say was after these guys again?” Sam asked hoarsely as they turned the corner and the man vanished.
“Some tall dude in a hearse.”
“Oh. Good.” Sam closed his eyes, letting the headache take him down into the darkness. “Cause I think he just figured out they switched cars on him.”
* * *
When Sam opened his eyes again, the interior of the car had been replaced with an IV stand and a monitor. He blinked at it, then turned his head to see Dean watching him from the shadows, his green eyes worried.
“Sammy? You okay? You scared the crap out of me, dude.”
“Did he find us?”
“Did who find us?” Dean moved to his side and patted his shoulder tentatively. It was, he realized a moment later, about the only part of his body not bandaged at the moment.
“The Tall Man. He didn’t look like he’d care too much that we switched out cars with Reggie and Mike.”
Dean blinked. “Who? Never mind. The morphine will be wearing off soon, I promise.”
“Yeah. The morphine. They must have given you a stronger dose than I thought, for you to be this stoned.”
“You are.” Dean grinned at him. “Or the doctor was wrong about no brain damage. ‘Cause if you think I would ever let complete strangers borrow my Impala for a month, even for the chance to drive a vintage Hemi ‘Cuda…”
“That was pretty hard to believe.” Sam grinned back, then winced as the headache ambushed him around the drugs and everything started to fade again.
Dean’s voice chased him into the darkness. “But the chainsaw racks, those were pretty darn cool.”