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Loa in Las Vegas

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"Stay in the car," Dean ordered. He just held up a hand when Sam started to protest. "Look, I don't want to argue this, okay? In there might be one bad bokor and I'd like to know that the car is running if there's trouble."

Sam glared at him. "I guess I should be touched that you trust me enough to leave the keys."

"Damn straight. Esmee seemed convinced that our man Galtry would be out of the house tonight. I'll be twenty minutes, tops. Honk if anything happens."

"Scream like a girl if you need backup," Sam said as he shut the door.

"Jackass," Dean said as he approached the house. He wasn't keen on trying the front door - or any of the doors. If Galtry was a strong enough bokor to zap seven people and force them to kill themselves, he'd have covered the easy entrances with some nasty wards.

Fortunately, the chimney jutted out from the grey stucco ranch house just enough to provide him leverage up to a second floor window. "I knew I'd been living right," Dean said when he found that the window was unlocked. Seconds later, he rolled into the room with his gun ready.

Unfortunately, it looked like the bokor had gotten there first. Destin Galtry had already blown the back of his head out in the middle of his bedroom. At least Dean's luck had held and he'd avoided actually rolling into any of the gore.

Grimacing, he began to quickly look around the room. From the wetness of the blood, he guessed he and Sam would have heard the shots if they'd been ten minutes earlier. Which meant the cops would be arriving any minute if Galtry had any law-abiding neighbors.

In the hall outside of the bedroom, Dean found what he was looking for in a small alcove – Galtry's hand carved wooden altar. A white cloth protected the wood from the four rough rocks at each corner of the altar. On the altar rested a clear glass bowl of water and a lit candle in a glass candle holder full of what appeared to be sand. The walls above the altar were decorated with several pictures that Dean guessed would have born a striking resemblance to Destin Galtry before he ate a bullet. But nothing on the altar smacked of hoodoo or any of the darker sides of Vodun.

Back to square zero.

Out of the corner of his eye, Dean spotted a flash of red and blue coming through one of the windows at the front of the house. "Dammit, Sammy, I told you to honk," Dean said before carefully making his way back to the window he'd entered. Balancing, he struggled to pull the window shut from the outside. "Mother.." he bit out when he caught his left hand under the pane when it finally squeaked downward.

He dropped the rest of the way to the ground below and stuck to the shadows of the house as he edged to the front. "Fuck," Dean said when he saw the cop cars between him and the Impala. His cursing grew more colorful when the overweight detective cuffed Sam and pushed him into one of the cars.

Fortunately, the cops were distracted with dealing with both Sam and Galtry's house. Dean crouched low to the ground and ran as fast as he could to the east. He'd noticed a rusted Ford Focus when they'd entered the housing development. A chick car, but one he should be able to hotwire with no problem. Dean breathed a silent thank you when he found the car was unlocked.

Five minutes later, he was driving by Galtry's house just as the cruiser containing his brother pulled out. A second cruiser pulled out directly behind him and nixed his preferred plan for breaking Sam out.

Fine, he'd just have to follow the cops and find out which station house they took his brother to. Then he'd throw Esmee on this problem as he continued to track down the bokor that had now caused eight suicides.

The drive seemed endless, especially as Dean had to keep readjusting the seat. Whoever's car this was, they were short. And carried around a lot of kids with sharp playthings, he thought as he dug out another figurine with sword from beneath him.

"What the hell? Come on, Sammy, tell me you didn't try to fight five cops on your own," Dean said when he noticed the cruiser turning into St. Mary's Hospital.

He quickly drove the car past the emergency entrance and found a handicapped spot facing it. His gut roiled and he suddenly felt very alone when he saw his brother being physically pulled from the car and then arranged onto a stretcher. He was too far away to tell for sure, but Dean couldn't see any obvious blood. Worse, he couldn't see Sam fighting or helping the officers and ER attendants.


Sam looked out over the darkness, but he couldn't see much other than black and then the edge of the water in front of him. He seemed to be on a small sandy island of some sort, which didn't make any sense at all. The last thing he remembered, he'd been in Las Vegas in the Impala.

He shivered a bit. Being surrounded with water, the air was getting chilly. He wondered how long until the sun came up. And where Dean was. And how the hell he ended up alone in this place. He was definitely throwing this in his brother's face the next time Dean told him to stay in the car.

Sam sneezed. Oddly, the air smelled of cigar smoke. He couldn't see any light, and there wasn't any vegetation that could be burning anyway. He shook his head and sat down to wait.

Shivering, he hoped he wouldn't have to wait long.


Dean pulled up in front of Esmee's house in the borrowed Ford Focus. His skin itched at the ugliness of the car. At least, that's what he told himself. It wouldn't have anything to do with the nagging feeling in his gut that his brother had just been turned into a zombie.

They'd gotten the call from Esmee shortly after she'd found out about her father's death. As the houngon for Las Vegas's Vodun community, he'd been worried when there were three suicides within his congregation. Three suicides of successful, happy people with no outward problems. He'd expressed his concerns to Esmee, his only remaining family, but at that time, he'd still been in denial that someone within the tight knit Vodun community of Las Vegas would be targeting their brethren.

After two more deaths, her father had told her that he'd put in a call to a John Winchester who had helped a mambo in New Orleans many years back. Unfortunately, he kept getting a voice mail. Still, it was enough information that when Esmee heard of her father's death she was able to call John Winchester. And then his son, Dean.

It had taken Dean and Sam three days to reach Las Vegas after leaving Minnesota, which had landed them smack dab in the middle of the houngon's funeral wake. After getting a list of the dead from Esmee, Sam had hit the public records while Dean attempted to talk to relatives and friends. The results had been the same, time after time. The deceased had been fine until they withdrew a little bit and stopped talking to friends and family. Everyone assumed it was just a bad week and ignored it. Four days later, the victim committed suicide in some fashion. Driving their car into the Grand Canyon, hanging, slit wrists - all very intentional suicides.

Then Esmee had told Dean about Galtry. About how he kept asking people if they were sure they didn't want to sell their house. How all the houses were in the same area and surrounded the home of Esmee's father. He'd been their only lead and now the investigation was as dead as Galtry.

The sky was just pinking on the east horizon. Time was moving too fast and he had a lot to do. There's no telling how long he had to get back to the motel room before the cops started poking around. But first, he had a bone to pick with Esmee.

He banged loudly on the side door of the plain brick building. The first floor was a Creole restaurant that Esmee's father had operated, but the upstairs contained a bedroom off to the side of one of Las Vegas's larger Vodun temples. Yesterday had been the denye priye, the last day of the nine-day wake for her father. He knew that Esmee hadn't slept much during the ceremonies and long gathering. Many of the mourners wanted to catch up with the dead houngon's daughter who had left her family behind for New York City and law school.

Several minutes later, when the horizon was turning red and yellow, the door opened to reveal Esmee. Her robe and lack of wig over her short black curls proved that he'd woken her. Dean clamped down on his frustration. He needed her; he didn't know anyone else in Las Vegas. He couldn't help but wish that she'd been more familiar with the members of the temple or that the people at the funeral hadn't been so suspicious of him and Sam. Then again, he supposed he'd be suspicious of strangers if it had been the seventh funeral in two months that he'd attended.

"Did you stop him?" Esmee demanded as she opened the door.

Dean shook his head. "Gatlry wasn't behind it. In fact, Galtry's dead."

Esmee's dusky skin paled at the news.

"Oh, but wait, it gets worse. The cops have Sam. And they've taken him to the hospital. I'm pretty sure that whatever happened to the others is happening to him. So you know, if a light bulb has come on and you suddenly know who the fuck is behind this, I'd love to hear it right now!" She backed away at his outburst and he immediately felt guilty. "Look, I'm sorry. I've had four hours sleep in the past forty eight and most of our research just got impounded. I just need-" he stopped when his phone vibrated. He pulled it out and swallowed when he saw Sam's name as the caller.

He knew what the call was; he just really hadn't expected it quite so soon. ICE, in case of emergency. He'd thought his brother was such a dork to have that listed on his phone while he was nice and safe in college. But now, he was eternally grateful. He turned away from Esmee and prepared to lay on the bullshit as thick as he could. An idea had come to him on the drive over from the hospital.

"Sammy, it's about damn time," Dean said, careful to sound relieved.

"I'm sorry, to whom am I speaking?" a woman's voice asked.

"David," Dean lied. "Wait, don't tell me, Sam lost his phone at the casino again. The kid would lose his head if it wasn't tied on."

"Not quite," the woman replied. Her accent was Californian, but for once, Dean was too worried about his brother to wonder if she was cute or not. "What's your relationship to Samuel Winchester?"

"I'm his brother-in-law. And you better tell him that his new wife is pretty upset with him. She doesn't enjoy being left for the craps table on the first night of her honeymoon."

"Actually, Mr. Winchester is currently at St. Mary's Hospital."

"Sammy's been hurt? What happened?" Esmee was now standing beside him. He shrugged her hand off his shoulder.

"We're uncertain. It would be helpful if we could talk to you and his wife."

Dean ran a hand through his hair. It would take him time to prepare the documents. And Esmee had sure as hell better agree to the plan. "Umm, yeah, sure. We'll be there when visiting hours start," he answered before thumbing the phone off. He couldn't handle any probing questions right this second.

Esmee apparently couldn't tell that. "What happened to him? What's going on?" she demanded.

Dean closed his eyes and leaned against the door for a second. He'd like to rest, but he didn't have time. "I don't know; you're going to have to find out. Where's your computer?"


Sam could feel her. He swore he could almost smell her perfume. He rose and started to walk toward the source of the smell, but suddenly a man in a black top hat stood in front of him with his hand on Sam's chest. Sam knocked it away and went to go around him, but the thin black man matched him step for step.

"No, man, you don't want to go that way," the figure said, his words a thick Creole patois.

Cigar smoke choked out the sweet smell of perfume, flowers, and cookies causing Sam to look at the man more closely. Initially, the man had seemed bigger than life, but he was actually several inches shorter than Sam. The hat and its purple feathers simply made up the difference. The cigar hung from a pleasant smile and Sam couldn't help but think the man was familiar.

"Yeah, man, you know me. You just don't want to. No worries though. You won't be going anywhere without my say so."

Sam remembered Dean, Las Vegas, and Esmee. "Wait a second, where are we? Who are you?"

"Just think of me as the Baron and this as my land. Some people got a little over excited and you got lost. But you do what old Ghede says, and you won't get any more lost. Smoke?" Ghede asked.

Sam knew he was missing something. Something important. But he was tired and it was nice to have some company. "No, thanks. I don't smoke," he answered as he sank back down onto the sand.

His eyes were heavy and as he drifted off to sleep, he heard woman's voice speaking with an Irish accent. "Yeah, Mama, I'll keep a watch over the boyo. You just keep the bed warm for me," he heard Ghede reply.


Esmee went down to the restaurant to gather some food for a semblance of a meal while Dean worked on producing a fake marriage certificate. The past week had been difficult and the lack of oversight of the restaurant showed in the meager offerings still available. Another item to add to her list of things she still needed to attend to for her father. She'd ignored matters of the estate and business in favor of her religious obligations and trying to find the person who killed her father. Because no matter what the coroner said, she knew her father would never commit suicide. And if he did, hanging would not be how it happened.

No, if he truly wanted to die, all he had to do was ask Ghede to take him.

As she cooked a simple breakfast of eggs and toast, she was surprised by how distracted she was by Dean's plan. He'd already trapped himself in the lie that Sam was married so he was preparing a certificate to say that on the day after her father was buried, Esmee had married his brother.


But she had a feeling that that word aptly described most of the Winchester family.

Carefully, she climbed the stairs back to the apartment and found Dean staring at the laser printer as the paper slowly emerged. "Over-easy, as you ordered," she said as she handed him his plate. He blinked as if the smell of the food had woken him.

"Thanks," he said before ignoring her in favor of the food.

Esmee let him eat in silence for a few minutes before interrupting. "I still think it would be better if you came to the hospital with me. It will ease your worry if you see that he's fine with your own eyes." She worried they'd find that wasn't the case. She worried what it would do to Dean if he couldn't help his brother.

He answered without looking up. "I can't, Esmee. I wish I could, but I can't. Besides, the bokor's still out there."

The bokor. She knew that. She didn't need him to remind her.

In a way, Dean reminded her a little of her father even though she'd seen nothing to make her believe he was religious in any way. But both men threw themselves into their calling, everything else be damned. She still remembered as a child that the ceremonies came first before everything else, even after her mom died. So she wasn't surprised that Dean was choosing the hunt over sitting at his brother's side.

When the forged certificate finished printing, Dean set his plate aside to put the finishing touches on it. "And what do I tell the police when they inquire about my non-existent brother?" Esmee asked. She knew he'd been speaking off the cuff when he'd received the call, but he'd made things a lot more difficult for her.

He handed her the paper as he answered, "Explain that I'm just a close family friend who was at the ceremony. I was even a witness, see?" The name David Shaw was on the witness line. "Just find out what's wrong with him and set up some wards around his room, okay?"

He smiled when she nodded. She let him leave without mentioning the bad feeling she had. So far, nothing had gone according to the Winchester's plans since they'd arrived in Las Vegas. Somehow, she didn't think it was about to start happening now.


Dean was disappointed when he arrived at the dive motel that he and Sam had been staying at. An unmarked cop car was sitting next to a CSI van, both preventing him from recovering Sam's research as well as his clothing.

He pulled back on to the street and started to drive in circles as he tried to cobble together a plan. Dean's frustration made him hit the steering wheel when he realized that he'd gotten too used to bouncing ideas off of his brother. It was like Burkitsville all over again. Unconsciously, his hand ghosted over his cell phone as he tried to will Esmee to call him with news about Sam.

Okay, sentimentality wasn't getting him anywhere. Time to get back to the basics. Their only lead had been Galtry, who had been asking and demanding that relatives of the victims sell him their property. Sam had mentioned that it was weird that the week that Esmee's dad died, Galtry had quit his job as a paralegal at a well known law firm in town.

It wasn't much, but it was better than driving around aimlessly and counting how many opossums he could hit with his car.

At a stop light, he happened to look in the rear-view mirror. His hair was a mess and he had serious bags under his eyes. No way he was going to get to talk to anyone important at the law firm looking like this and dressed in jeans and a bloody shirt. Except he had no spare clothes and one maxed out credit card.

That was fine though. Dean thrived under these conditions. He turned the wheel and started back down the strip towards the red light district where he remembered seeing a YMCA. Always keep up the Y membership, Deano. Sometimes the local Y is the only place that won't bat an eye at how messed up you look when you ask for a free shower.

First, he had to get clean. Then, lift a wallet so he could buy a cheap suit. Then pay Mr. Galtry's former employers a visit and see if he couldn't find a solid lead on this damn bokor.


After Dean left, Esmee took some time to gather a few supplies before leaving for the hospital. Ordinarily, she'd say no on principle to setting wards and other protective spells, but life had been anything but ordinary since she'd returned to Las Vegas for the funeral. Growing up, she'd done everything she could to make it absolutely clear that she wouldn't become a maman, hounsi, or even a serviteur. She wanted her own life, her own choices, not one that was lived in accordance to the whims of the various loa.

Apparently the loa had ideas of their own. Zaka, Ghede's course younger brother, was probably sitting in his fields laughing his ass off at her.

Salt, candles, and Bible gathered, Esmee quickly drove across town to St. Mary's. Dean didn't have any evidence to prove that the bokor had targeted Sam, but something (or someone) told her that his suspicion was right. She'd never married her loa – had refused the ceremony when her father had begged her to do it before she left for New York. But she could still hear when Loko and the others yelled at her.

Unsurprisingly, the police were waiting for her when the nurse led her to Sam's room.

"Mrs. Winchester, my name is Detective Brass and this is Sara Sidle from our crime lab," the heavy set one greeted her.

She looked at them and then into the room. Sam is sitting on the bed in a semi-reclined state. He's staring, just staring, with no expression or indication that he's heard anything the cop has said.

"I'd really like to see my husband now," she said.

"Funny, that. I didn't know that marriages were part of the denye priye. There's not even been a marriage certificate filed with the city yet," the woman, Sara, said.

Esmee ignored Sara's implied insult of how Esmee had behaved during the Vodun ceremony to honor her father's passing. "We just hadn't had time to finish the paperwork yet. I have it with me, if you need to see it." Sara's hand immediately jumped for the document and Esmee handed it over with a small bit of dread. "Now, can I see my husband?" Brass nodded and stepped aside for her. He stopped her though when she went to close the door.

Esmee just sighed and went to Sam's bedside instead. "Sam, Sam. Samuel Winchester!" she whispered. Pinching him resulted in no response either. She'd told the brothers that everything that had happened went against her knowledge of the left-handed ways. Granted, she didn't know a lot, but it still didn't make sense.

Having confirmed that what had happened to Galtry, her father, and the others had most likely happened to Sam, Esmee turned her attention to the supplies she'd brought. She quickly sprinkled salt on the bed itself and slipped Dean's leather necklace around Sam's left wrist. She was just about to light the candles when Brass entered the room.

"Fire's a bad idea in a hospital," he said, pointing at the oxygen sign above the bed. "Now then, if you don't mind."

Esmee nodded and left the room. As soon as they were in the hallway, he stopped. "Turn around and put your hands behind your back."

"What? What are you talking about? That's my husband in there sick and you want to arrest me?"

Sara walked up beside her and looked down at the certificate. "No, he's not. Granted, it's a good forgery, but you aren't married to him."

"And forgery of a legal document is still a crime," Brass said. "So we're going to go have a chat about your husband at the station."

Esmee turned and let them cuff her without any more protest.


A sharp tug on his wrist woke Sam from his dreamless sleep. Looking around, he could see that he was still on the island, yet something felt a little different this time. The sounds, feel, and smell of the sand, water, and air were all a little bit duller. He was hungry, very hungry, but he had no clue how long it had been since he'd eaten. So far as he could tell from the sky, he'd either slept an entire twenty-four hours or…no time had passed at all.

He rubbed his left wrist. It didn't hurt; rather there was an itch that he couldn't quite locate.

Sam stood and looked around. He recalled an old man from before – Ghede. The man and the name had both seemed familiar, but now he began to wonder if it hadn't just been a dream or hallucination. Either way, he wasn't here right now and Sam had more immediate problems to take care of – hunger and thirst. He searched his pockets, but his wallet and knife were both missing. Great, so much for catching food, he thought. Still, an island in the middle of a lake, at least he could get some water. And he could hope that his brother found him before Montezuma's revenge set in.

Sam walked over to the edge of the island where the water ebbed up and down against the sand. He was leaning over to scoop up water to drink when a hand clutched down hard on his shoulder and pulled him away from water.

"No, no, boy! You don't want to do that," Ghede accented voice said.

Sam recovered from his backwards sprawl and stood up. "Why not? And where the hell did you come from? Why didn't I hear you?"

Ghede shook his head and stooped down to pick up his top hat. Sam assumed that it had fallen off when the man had dragged him away from the water's edge. A loud, lilting whistle sounded from the small cluster of trees at the center of the island and Ghede looked toward them with a tilted head. After a moment, he nodded and looked back at Sam. "You're good at forgetting, no? Would think that of all of them, you'd remember the most. No worries."

Ghede walked over to a large stone and sat down. When he started to twirl his cane, Sam went to join him. "What do you mean? What should I remember?"

Ghedes black lips opened wide in a smile, white teeth sparkling behind them. "That's not the way it works, boyo. Just stay away from the water lest you tempt Simba. He's still not quite forgiven us for making him give you up early."

Sam's brow furrowed as he took in the crazy talk the old man was giving him. Simba, Ghede…suddenly it clicked. Both were loa – Ghede was the loa of eroticism, but also of the crossroads of life and death. From his Introduction to World Religions class that he'd had to take his freshman year of college, Sam remembered that among other things, Ghede was the one who decided whether an ill person died or recovered.

"Ghede…the Baron Samedi," Sam said.

Ghede smirked at him and lit another cigar. "Took you long enough. And here your ma's been telling me that you were the smarter of the two."

"Mom?" Sam asked, then he shook his head. Ghede was trying to distract him. "Never mind. Why am I here? Why are you here? Am I dying?"

Ghede closed his eyes and took a long drag from his cigar before puckering his mouth and blowing the smoke out. Sam's eyes followed the smoke as it formed the shapes of animals and trees that became animated. He looked back at Ghede when the man, no, the loa spoke again. "She tried to tell me you'd figure it out soon enough. No, Sammy, you aren't dead, but you aren't alive. Petro's been playing some pranks, but he saw the mark on you and had the good sense to leave things to his betters for once. So you're in between unless your brother manages to find the one behind this. I'd take care of it myself, but the bokor has been careful to hide from my sight."

"But how could he? I mean, one of you have to know…"

Ghede glared at him and Sam automatically mumbled an apology. "I don't. If others do, they aren't talking."

"Could it be because he's not really Vodun?"

Ghede's eyes widened in surprise. "Maybe, maybe. Hoodoo, but enough knowledge to harness Petro and some of his ilk. Your ma's right, boyo, you are smart."

With that, Ghede disappeared in a elaborate puff of smoke leaving Sam alone to rub his irritated wrist and look with longing at the water.


Esmee looked up from the tabletop when she heard the door open. "Don't I get a phone call?" she asked as Brass and Sara entered.

"In a bit. We have a lot of things we'd like to clear up first," Brass said. "Unless you want a lawyer?"

Esmee just shook her head. Better to save that option for when she needed it. In the meantime, she could learn what they knew about Sam and his condition.

"So who's David? Does he have a last name?" Sara asked. "There's no record of you having a brother."

Esmee blushed and smiled uncomfortably. "No, he's not really my brother. Just a very good friend that I've known for a long time that likes to get in the face of guys I date."

"And Samuel Winchester was one of those guys?"

Esmee shook her head. "No, Sam and David get along great."

Brass slid a photograph forward. "What about him? How did he and Sam get along?"

Esmee looked down to see Dean's face. Except it was too pale and the eyes were lifeless. Everything about it made her skin crawl. Dean had mentioned that he had a history with the cops and that was why he couldn't go to the hospital, but he'd not gone into the details. Now, Esmee wished that she'd pressed him on it a little bit more.

"I don't know. You'll have to ask Sam. Speaking of which, no one's explained what's wrong with him."

Brass and Sara shared a look. "The doctors can't tell. His tox screens are normal and the CT scan didn't show any evidence of a blow to the head. I don't suppose that you have anything that would shed light on his condition?" Sara asked.

At that point, a tap on the window caused both investigators to look away. Brass got up and left the room.

"What about Sam? How did you two meet?" Sara asked after the door closed.

Esmee fidgeted with her necklace. "A friend of a friend from New York. I called him again when I found out about my dad. It was just a little overwhelming to deal with. The next thing I know, he was here and everything was better."

"So you decided to marry him? With a fake marriage license?"

Esmee sighed. "It's Las Vegas. I was mourning, we got drunk and stupid, and I remember an Elvis dressed in robes. We woke up in bed with hangovers and that was on floor next to us."

"But you don't remember where this drive-by chapel was?"

"How many times do I have to say that I was drunk?"

"I bet David had some fun with that," Sara said with a wry smile. "I don't suppose he might have been jealous?"

Esmee was saved from answering when Brass reentered and slammed the door. "She's playing us. Not only is it a fake, but apparently it was prepared by a dead man."

"I assume you don't mean Elvis," Sara replied.

"No, not Elvis. Prints on it are a perfect match with the dead body of Dean Winchester. Who, if anyone cares, was buried six months ago in St. Louis," Brass explained.

Esmee briefly closed her eyes while clamping her mouth shut. French, English, and Spanish swear words flew through her mind and she had the distinct urge to kill Dean the next time she saw him. She still didn't understand what the hell was going on, and she really didn't like where the conversation was headed.

"You know, I think that maybe we have this all wrong," Sara said. "Maybe this David doesn't exist at all. Maybe you resurrected this Dean and are now sending your zombie to force people to kill themselves. Sam found out about it and got hurt."

Esmee shook her head. "I wasn't anywhere near St. Louis when you say this Dean died. I can give you the names of professors and friends, all of whom will tell you that I didn't leave New York during that time."

Sara shrugged. "Whose to say you'd have to leave New York? Maybe you met Dean and Sam earlier, and marked them so that you could use them when you needed."

Brass laughed. "Come on, Sidle, zombies? More likely, she and this David killed Sam's brother and then hurt him when he confronted them about it."

"We don't have any other explanation for how a dead man's fingerprints were found in a house and motel that we have no record of him ever being in," Sara responded. "Not to mention the marriage license."

"Wait a second, marked? What are you talking about?" Esmee interrupted.

Sara opened a folder and pulled out polaroids showing a well-muscled chest with faint scars. "Marks like these. They're old, I'll give you that, but they look ritualistic. I bet his brother's corpse has the same marks."

Esmee stared, transfixed. Sara was right. It was a pattern. More importantly, it suddenly explained why Sam was in the hospital instead of acting like the other victims of the bokor.

Her hand reached out and she traced the pattern. "Do you recognize it?" Brass asked. He sounded surprised.

"It's a symbol of protection. Judging from the lightness of the scars and the fashion in which it is used, it's old, very old. It would have been done when he was a child, anytime from the age of three to maybe nine if he was desirable enough," Esmee explained.

"And what does it mean?" Sara asked.

"I told you, protection," Esmee answered. "It marks him as one Simba's chosen. It means his spirit is safe as long as his body is."

Brass raised his eyebrows and looked at Sara. "Did that make any sense to you?" Sara shook her head.

Esmee pulled her hand back and looked up. "I'd like to call my lawyer now."

Part 2