CH 1: New Additions and Permanent Fixtures
Ash showed up in 2001. He introduced himself as Miles, never gave anyone his last name, and was intent on forgetting about his past. Within a week he convinced everyone to call him Ash; a name he came up with after his admiration for Bruce Campbell. He said he was just going to stay in Nebraska for a little while, a week maybe. Then that week turned into two and then three, and eventually, Ellen just decided he could stay for good as long as he helped out.
Ellen wasn't accustomed to taking people in. She helped out hunters here and there, but knew better than to put trust in strangers. But Ash was different.
The night he showed up, the Roadhouse was packed. There had just been an incident in McCook and it had all the hunters crowding together upstate to find shelter. While Jo was playing pool with some fifty year old regular, the front door swung open and a scraggly looking college boy entered. He looked way out of place with his MIT sweatshirt, messenger bag and barely-there stubble prickling out above his upper lip. Looking around nervously, he approached the bar and asked for a drink. Jo watched, amused as she could tell he had obviously never drank before.
“You twenty-one?” Ellen asked, leaning against the counter.
Swallowing heavily, the boy nodded his head. “Yeah.”
Ellen raised an eyebrow. “Don't lie to me boy. I don't serve liars.”
The boy looked down and averted his eyes. “I'm eighteen.” He said sheepishly.
Laughing to herself, Ellen nodded. “See, it ain't so hard. You just gotta tell the truth.” She smiled. “So what'll you be having?”
“Umm...” He looked at the shelf full of liquor behind the bar, his expression shifting into even more distress.
“Try the PBR.” Jo piped in from behind them at the billiard table.
The boy turned around quickly and Ellen chuckled.
“Uh, yeah, what she said.” He responded quickly, looking at Jo with relief. She smiled at him and continued her game of pool.
For the next two weeks, Ellen let Ash sleep on their sofa while he figured out where he was headed. He didn't say much, just that he couldn't go back to where he came from.
Ellen was a little suspicious. Lots of people came looking for shelter from demons and spirits and ended up being nothing but trouble, but Ash seemed completely clueless to the supernatural world that they lived in. He was just a regular boy who showed up at the Roadhouse needing a place to stay.
By the third week he had been there, Ash was in the corner of the bar one night, quietly on his laptop when a hunter came to Ellen asking for help tracking a shapeshifter. She shrugged her shoulders, knowing it would take weeks to track the creature as it usually did. The hunter seemed extremely upset. He said the monster had killed his wife and for all he knew it could be going around in her body terrorizing other people. That's when Ash butted in.
“You need help trackin' something?” He said quietly, raising his eyebrows as he stood from his seat and approached the hunters huddled together at the bar. Everyone stared at him, shocked that he had been listening, let alone had even said something.
“Why? What do you know about shapeshifters, boy?” The hunter crossed his arms at his chest.
Ash furrowed his brow, standing up straight.
“Well, I've only been here three weeks, and as much as you guys try to keep this creepy stuff you deal with to yourselves, you're not very good at it. I mean, just in the past hour I've overheard people talkin' about vengeful spirits, shapeshifters and some demon thing I can't even spell out, and I wanna be freaked...but for some reason, I'm not.” He nodded slowly to himself.
“And y'all have convinced me that either I'm in some sort of weird dream that's lasted way too long, or this is real life.”
“What'r you gettin' at?” The hunter grunted, still unsatisfied by the college boy's interruption.
“What I'm gettin' at is that even though I don't understand half the stuff you people are sayin', I think I might be able to help.” He picked his computer up from the table and spun it around to show them what was on the screen. Ellen leaned in and the other hunters squinted to try and make out what they were looking at.
“That's a location finder I've recently developed.” He smiled slightly at the other's expressions. “You said it would take weeks to find that shapeshifty-thingy,” he nodded at Ellen, “but I could probably locate it within a few days.”
Ellen cocked her head, still not buying it. “You gotta be joking.”
“Here, give me the name of a demon or whatever you people look for in your uh..line of work.”
“What? Why?” The tall hunter said, shaking his head.
“Come on, just give me a name.” Ash insisted, trying desperately to show them he was good enough.
“Okay, here's a hard one then.” The hunter smirked maliciously. “A Jikininki.” He laughed to himself.
Ellen frowned and elbowed the man in the side. “Come on, Tom, he's not a genius.”
Ash raised an eyebrow, turned his laptop to face himself and began clicking the keys rapidly.
“Japanese in origin...” He muttered to himself as everyone watched, certain he wouldn't be able to find what they were talking about. After a few minutes, Jo came over from behind the bar and leaned over her mom's shoulder curiously, trying to see what was going on.
“...ancient tomb of a priest...” Ash said again to himself, his fingers moving quickly. The hunters continued watching.
“Feeds off human flesh...” His forehead wrinkled in concentration and his computer made a few beeps and processing noises.
“Almost...there...” He said slowly, swirling his finger over the trackpad.
“Okay.” He said finally. “So I've plugged in the information of origin, without knowing direct hunting habits and only going by general basis given in locked databases, pinpointed five possible locations where this demon thing would be feeding.” He turned the computer around to face them again and their eyes widened at the detailed map on the screen with five red markers in different locations.
“You have got to be shitting me...” The tall hunter said, craning his neck closer to the laptop. “This ain't real. You woulda had to have known like Japanese or somethin' to get to the original texts for this demon.”
Ash chuckled to himself and shrugged. “It's one of the seven languages I'm fluent in.”
“Seven?” Ellen said in complete shock.
“Yeah...but I can only write in four...” He bit down on his bottom lip.
“So wait a minute. You're tellin' me that this map that you came up with in less than ten minutes , shows where the Jikininki's located?” The hunter said, completely baffled.
Ash nodded slowly. “Uh...yeah. I thought I made that clear...”
“I think I like you, kid.” Tom said finally, grinning and slapping Ash lightly on the shoulder. “How the hell did you do that?”
The other hunters started conversing amongst themselves, pointing at the screen, amazed at Ash's work.
“I dunno...it's just what I do. I make maps and look for things on the internet and stuff.” He smiled slightly.
“Ellen, you gotta keep this boy.” Tom smiled, leaning against the bar towards the Harvelles.
Ellen shrugged and cocked an eyebrow at Ash, who looked rather pleased with himself. “I thought he was just passin' through.”
Ash swallowed and looked down shyly.
“You know, we could clear out the storage room in the back.” Jo said, gesturing behind the bar.
Ellen stared at the college boy, contemplating what she was going to say.
“And he could have that spare bed we keep in the shed.” Jo nodded, smiling.
“He ain't some stray cat we're taking in, Joanna.” Ellen gave her daughter a look and Jo rolled her eyes.
“I know that.” Jo said sharply and nudged Ash in the arm. “You wanna stay?” She asked him and he picked his head up.
“Uh...well I ain't got any other place to go. And you guys seem like nice people...” He answered bashfully.
“Alright, fine.” Ellen said sighing, glaring at her daughter for instigating this situation. “But you gotta help out.” She said sternly.
He nodded quickly. “Yes, ma'am, I will.”
“And don't call me ma'am. If you're gonna be livin' here I don't wanna hear any of that kinda stuff.” She lowered her eyes at him.
“Oh...alright.” Ash's upper lip twitched into a smile.
“We could really use someone like you around.” Ellen pulled out a glass from below the bar and scooped some ice into it, then proceeded to fill it with beer.
Ash stared at the glass as Ellen set it on the counter in front of him.
“Have a drink,” she insisted, “and when you're done, Jo and Tom can help you move into the back.”
That was the night Ash became a permanent fixture to Harvelle's Roadhouse. He wasn't a hunter and he hadn't grown up in the world knowing about the supernatural. He was just a college dropout who needed a place to stay and happened to be pretty close to a genius, so he stuck around.
A week after Ash moved in for good, Jo turned sixteen. The night before, she had stayed up late trying to beat her high score on one of the bar's arcade games, becoming agitated when she couldn't get past her last winning score.
Wiggling the plastic joystick angrily and mumbling curse words at the virtual ducks as they flew by, the little title reading Game Over popped up on the screen. Jo flung her hands up and pinched her brow.
“Son of a bitch!” She shouted at the game, glaring at the flashing words announcing her defeat while the hunters at the bar gave her strange looks from nearby tables.
Suddenly a quiet, “hey” came from behind her and Jo turned around quickly, still fuming.
Ash stepped back quickly, his eyes widening fearfully.
“Uhh, sorry.” He said, afraid to say anything more.
“What? What do you want?” Jo said sharply.
“Hey, calm down, okay, it's just a game.” Ash loosened up a little.
Jo glared at him, folding her arms at her chest without saying anything.
“I mean, you already have all the highest scores...” He continued, even though she didn't seem to care about anything he was saying. “I'm just sayin'...” He looked away, feeling embarrassed for interrupting her and not having anything good to say to calm her down.
Jo sighed and diverted her eyes away from him as well. “Sorry.” She said as if she were a child apologizing for stealing a cookie from her parent's cookie jar.
“It's okay.” Ash smiled gingerly, glancing up.
“Nah it's my bad, I just get so into the game and I forget how to talk to people.” She laughed awkwardly, trying to relax more.
Ash nodded in response. “I know what you mean. I get that way with my computer. Hell, sometimes I forget that the real world exists.” He chuckled.
Jo finally looked up and smiled back. Pressing the big red button on the arcade machine to power it off, Jo leaned against it. “It's just there's not much to do around here. It's either work the bar, play games, shoot targets out back, or listen to the jukebox.”
Ash raised an eyebrow. “Ain't you in high school?”
Jo narrowed her eyes at him and nodded. “Well, yeah.”
“So don't you do your homework?”
Jo laughed out loud. “No, not really. School and I don't get along that well.”
“And what about your friends, don't you hang out with them?”
Jo rolled her eyes. “Don't have any. I don't really get along with people either.” She shrugged and glanced at the floor.
Ash smiled sympathetically. “Well you seem to be gettin' along with me and I never really had any friends either...we could be friends...” He clenched his teeth, hoping he wasn't stepping out of bounds, but Jo giggled.
“Yeah, we can be friends.”
They stood there silently for a minute or so before Jo piped in again.
“So where you from, Miles?”
Ash lowered his eyes at her. “I ain't going by that name anymore. It's Ash now.” He reiterated, nodding for her to agree.
Jo shook her head. “I dunno, I like Miles.” She grinned.
“Yeah, well I don't, so call me Ash.” He put a hand on his waist.
“Okay, Miles.” Jo laughed, copying him by putting her hand on her waist too.
“See this is why you don't have friends.” He chuckled jokingly, but she leaned forward and jabbed him in the side.
“Hey!” She furrowed her brow sarcastically.
Ash rubbed his side. “It's true.”
She shook her head and leaned back against the arcade game again.
“So where you from? You never answered me.” She changed the subject and Ash sighed.
“Born in Tennessee, grew up in Lafollette.” He nodded, trying to think back.
“And then for some reason you decided to go to some college in Massachusetts?” Jo asked lucratively.
Ash raised an eyebrow at her. “It ain't just any college. MIT is a real prestigious school. I got in there on a scholarship.”
Jo looked at him blankly, not phased at all by this information. “And then you wound up here after not even a whole year there?”
Ash sighed. “Listen, it's a long story I'd not like to get into right now.” He bit his lip and she nodded, shrugging her shoulders.
“Whatever. As long as you didn't kill anyone while you were there, I'm cool with not knowing.”
Ash chuckled. “Nah, didn't kill anyone, I promise.”
“Okay.” Jo smiled. “So listen, my birthday is in...” She looked up at the clock on the far wall. “In one hour and there's a late showing of Jeepers Creepers still playing at the drive-in. Wanna come with me?”
Ash looked at her uncertainly. “Won't your mom be upset?” He asked.
Jo craned her neck and cupped her hands on the outside of her mouth. “Hey mom!” She shouted across the bar. Ellen turned around quickly.
“I'm goin' out to the drive-in.” She stated and Ellen frowned.
“No you ain't.”
“Mom, come on, it's my birthday.” Jo protested, slumping her shoulders and whining. “And plus, Miles is gonna come with me.”
Ash gave her a look, still not sure if he was okay with her calling him by his real name.
Ellen rolled her eyes and nodded. “Fine, fine. Just be careful and don't stay out too late, Joanna Beth.” She wagged a finger at her but Jo ignored it.
Grabbing her green jacket from where it was laying over a chair nearby, Jo turned to Ash and smiled up at him. “Come on, it's not that far away. We can walk.”
Walking for about fifteen minutes along the side of the road, Jo swung her arms back and forth and asked Ash more about college to pass the time on their way to the movie. He still refused to tell her that much about his time there, but told her about how he learned to speak Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Japanese, Mandarin, and Italian all in less than one semester. She told him to say something to her in each of the languages and he did, but wouldn't say what he said in English.
“You just swore at me.” Jo laughed after Ash had just spoken to her in Mandarin.
He smiled and shook his head. “Nope. Unfortunately, slang is kinda hard to pick up when you learn a new language or else I would do nothin' but swear at people and they wouldn't understand a damn thing I'd be sayin'.”
They laughed as they approached an open field with a few cars spread out by the front of the screen as it projected what seemed like the middle of Jeepers Creepers . Bypassing the ticket stand, Jo gestured for Ash to follow her through some high weeds and towards the middle of the freshly mown field.
“You don't pay?” He asked, looking back at the booth at the entrance.
“Not usually.” Jo shrugged. “But my mom doesn't know that, so keep it to yourself.”
“Okay, here's good.” Jo plopped down on the grass and straightened her legs out in front of her, leaning on her hands behind her back. Ash stared down at her blankly before getting the idea and sitting down next to her, folding his legs and setting his hands in his lap.
“I think we're late.” He said after a minute of watching what was going on on the huge screen.
“It's okay. I've seen it three times.” She smiled and leaned back.
They sat together the whole time as the movie went on. Jo kept talking to the screen, saying lines and telling the characters not to go into that room or that they should have brought a weapon to keep themselves safe. When the credits began to roll, Jo closed her eyes and sighed.
Ash glanced over at her and cocked his head to the side.
She nodded but kept her eyes closed.
“What time is it, Miles?”
Ash glanced at his silver watch. “Almost one o' clock.”
Jo nodded again.
“Happy Birthday.” He said, smiling.
She opened her eyes and smiled back at him. “Thanks.”
“You sure you're alright? I'm sorry to pry and everything...” Ash swallowed nervously.
“Yeah, it's cool.” She said firmly. “It's just my dad and I used to come here and watch horror movies when I was younger.”
Ash took in a deep breath. “Oh.” He answered, not knowing what else to say.
“Another birthday without him.” She stood to her feet and brushed bits of grass from her jeans.
Getting to his feet as well, Ash looked away, not sure if she was actually okay sharing this with him or not.
Jo nudged him in the arm. “It's fine, I promise.” She was able to tell that he felt uncomfortable. “He died a while ago on a hunt. I was real close with him, but everything's alright now.” She smiled as she gestured for him to follow her back towards the Roadhouse.
“I'm sorry.” Ash said quietly.
“Don't worry about it. I had a fun night, Miles, let's not spoil it now.” She looked out onto the open road as they walked onto the gravel highway.
They walked quietly along the shoulder, not saying anything until they could see the front porch of the Roadhouse ahead. Ash cleared his throat as they got closer and Jo looked up at him startled by the noise.
“It was for fighting.” He said bluntly, nodding slightly to himself.
Jo wrinkled her brow in confusion. “What?”
“I didn't drop out of college, I got kicked out for fighting.”
Jo didn't say anything and Ash looked away, taking that as an indication that he shouldn't have said anything.
“I woulda done the same thing.” She said after a few moments.
Ash turned to see her smiling at him. He smiled back and laughed softly to himself as they walked up the steps to the bar and he opened the screen door which screeched on its hinges.
Ellen was standing behind the counter washing glasses and there were only a couple people still left, sitting at tables quietly minding their own business.
“I'm gonna turn in.” Ash said, sighing and walking behind the counter towards his back room.
“Night, Miles.” Jo said, waving after him and hoisting herself up onto the bar counter facing her mom. It was another birthday and she felt just the same as she had the day before. Just now she had a friend.