Chapter 1: Prologue, Scenes 1 and 2
THE ROAD SO FAR:
Amanda Winchester is dead and John is possessed by the yellow-eyed demon. Their son Dean has abandoned his old life as a college student and musician and taken to the road with the mysterious hunter, Sam Campbell. Sam is teaching Dean about the supernatural and, together, they have embarked on a quest to find and rescue John, and avenge the deaths of their mothers. But Sam is harbouring secrets: about his dark past, about his strange prophetic dreams, and about his struggle against his powerful attraction to Dean.
Slough , Colorado
It had been raining earlier, but now the night was clear. The air was still and a heavy mist clung to the ground in the dark corners of the cemetery, while the grave itself was bathed in cold moonlight. It illuminated the dead leaves that lay sodden in the grass, and the newly dug earth was moist and glistening. It made it easy to work, shape, mold, and soon the rough clods began to take on form: first an oval the size of a human head, then an oblong barrel representing the torso; arms grew out from the trunk, legs, feet. Eventually a fully fashioned human figure lay stretched out over the grave, like the first lump of primordial clay, waiting to receive the spark of life.
The work done, the creator retreated into the shadows and was gone. Time passed. Clouds gathered once more and hid the face of the moon as the earthen chest began to rise and fall, and the creature took its first breath in darkness.
It felt wrong. It felt disrespectful, or insensitive or something. It shouldn't be sunny. The birds shouldn't be singing. And he shouldn't be able to smell someone cooking roast turkey somewhere. The world should have the common decency to acknowledge that his mother was dead and not just carry on with its usual business as if nothing unusual had happened. He wanted it to be raining when he reached the grave. He wanted it to be cold and grey and miserable, but it wasn't. Everything was bright, all the colors were too vivid, and it all felt so wrong.
He brought orchids, because Mom didn't like lilies; she said they made her think of funerals . . . and this wasn't a funeral. It should have been, but it wasn't. It was just him and a lame bunch of flowers.
The gravestone was inscribed "BELOVED WIFE AND MOTHER". Who had done that? It was a charitable gesture considering neither husband nor son had been present.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there, Mom. I'm sorry . . ." for so many things. There was no end to the sorry.
He knelt down and ran his hand over the granite stone. That, at least, was as it should be: cold, hard and gritty.
Then a shadow fell across the grave and Dean felt its chill touch as if it were something tangible. "You should have stayed gone," said a voice behind him.
Dean turned and gasped. "Dad!" he cried. But then he felt doubt; the face was wrong, the smile was mocking, and there was a strange yellow light in the cold eyes. Then Dean realized it was the reflected light from dancing yellow flames. Dean realized he was on fire.
Dean flailed wildly and a hand caught his wrist. He tried to pull away from it but the grip was too strong.
"Whoa! Dean! Steady! Whoa!" Sam's voice.
The over bright colours faded back to normal hues, Dean became aware of a dark frame around him, another presence sitting next to him, he was aware of his own frantically beating heart and unsteady breathing, he registered movement, then his vision began to focus on the road ahead, the central lines weaving a little unsteadily from side to side as Sam tried to steer with one hand and hold Dean's thrashing arm with the other. He willed himself to stillness and after a moment Sam let go.
They were in the Impala.
Sam threw him a concerned look. "Another nightmare?" he asked.
Dean cleared his throat hard but didn't answer.
"You wanna drive for a while?"
Dean scoffed. "Oh, you're gonna let me drive my own car? That's generous."
That just worried Sam even more, but it was a different kind of concern now. He studied Dean with a deep crease etched between his eyebrows.
Dean sighed. "I'm sorry, Sam. I'm tired." Sam was a control freak. It wasn't his fault. It was a natural consequence of his hunter training and his guerilla camp upbringing. He automatically took charge of everything if you let him, and Dean kept letting him because it was the line of least resistance. That was Dean's problem, not Sam's. He had no business getting cranky with Sam just because he was either too tired or too lazy or too fricking weak or something to take the wheel himself. It wasn't even his car; it was Dad's. Maybe that was part of the problem. Why did he keep talking as if Dad was . . . ?
"You should let me give you something to help you sleep."
Man, he did worry, though - like Dean was his personal responsibility - and he was getting worse, not better. He was getting as bad as Penny. The thought of his ex-girlfriend filled Dean's chest with an aching pang. Maybe that was another part of the problem. He missed Penny. He missed having someone to hold and cuddle up with. He missed having a warm body next to him in the bed at night. He was afraid to sleep, and afraid to wake up cold and alone. "I don't want any more of your witch-doctor potions, Sam."
"It isn't a potion; it's just a herbal sleep aid," Sam persisted. "I'm not suggesting you make a habit of it, but once in a while just so you can get a solid night's rest – "
"I've got my own methods, Sam."
"Yes, 'cause consuming large quantities of alcohol is so much more healthy!"
Sam's sarcasm was the last straw. "Damn it, Sam! Who died and made you my mother?"
Silence fell like a concrete block. Dean couldn't believe what he'd just said, and Sam was trying to pretend he hadn't heard it. "Stop the car," Dean snarled.
"Dean, try to calm – "
"I said stop the car!"
Sam pulled over and Dean got out. He stood leaning with his hands against the hood, at a loss for what to do with himself, then he realized that what he really needed was to shoot something. He went to the glove compartment and pulled out the Colt semi.
"Dean, what are you doing?" Sam demanded.
"I need the practice," Dean explained, reasonably he thought, but Sam was out of the car and round the front in moments.
"No, Dean, put the gun back. You don't pick up a weapon when you're upset and angry."
Now he sounded like Dad. Dean ignored him. He was about to turn and head into the woods when he found himself flat against the Impala with his wrist pinned to the roof. It wasn't the first time Sam had pulled this move on him and he wasn't any happier about it now than he had been then. He was angry and humiliated that Sam could just throw him around like a freakin' rag doll whenever he wanted to. Trouble was, that wasn't all he felt. There was a part of him that found it oddly comforting to feel the weight and the warmth of Sam's body against his, to feel Sam's powerful arms around him and hear his soothing voice speaking low in his ear, telling him to let go of the gun. A part of him could have stayed like that forever, except Sam was bound to notice any moment that Dean wasn't struggling and then it would just get freakin' weird.
He loosened his grip on the gun and let Sam take it out of his hand. With his object achieved Sam immediately stepped back leaving Dean feeling cold where he had previously felt Sam's warmth. He stood up and started striding down the road. He didn't know where he was going; he just knew he wanted to get away from Sam and away from his own shame and confusion.
Sam had other ideas. He followed Dean and tried to hold him back. "Combat training," he suggested.
Dean shook him off. "You've gotta be fricking kidding me!" he snapped.
"You need the practice," Sam mimicked. Was he trying to provoke Dean?
"If I fight you now I will break your nose!" Dean growled.
"You can try."
Dean spun round, aiming for Sam's gut, not his face, but he badly wanted to lay one on the smug bastard. He punched empty air. Sam easily dodged the blow and as Dean's momentum continued to take him forward Sam kicked him in the ass, he lost his balance and sprawled out on the grass. He was back on his feet in moments but his next two punches were equally ineffective.
"You're letting your anger dominate you, Dean. Channel it. Focus on what you're trying to achieve."
His next punch flew wide, too, but then he took a breath, let it out slowly and started to pick his targets more carefully, started to strategize, and Sam started having to block.
"Good, better. Watch your right flank. You're leaving it open."
Punch. Block. Counter.
"Drop your weight. Widen your stance. It'll give you more stability."
Block. Counter. And then he landed one, straight to the abs. It was like hitting a solid wall, but it was satisfying all the same.
"Good! Much better! Coordinate. Punch with the right, pull back with the left. It'll give your punches more power. Watch your right flank."
"Good. Follow up."
Another near miss. Then Sam rabbit punched him in the side.
Dean winced and doubled over. "Son of a bitch!" he gasped.
"Warned you about that right flank, Dean."
Dean glared at Sam as he tried to recover his breath. He was so fucking like Dad sometimes.
So Dean focused. He dropped his weight, widened his stance, covered his flank, coordinated, and socked Sam in the jaw.
"Oh, shit, Sam! I didn't mean to – Are you OK – ?"
Then Dean was on the ground again. Sam had him pinned down and he was grinning, all dimples, damn him.
"Good punch," he said. "But you didn't follow up."
"Get off me," Dean growled. Or not. Whatever.
"Are you done, Dean?"
Dean stared up into the bright hazel eyes. Swear to God. Sometimes it was like the dude knew him. "Yeah."
Sam stood up, held out his hand to Dean, helped him to his feet and waited while he recovered his breath.
"Are you gonna be OK?" he asked.
Dean shook his head. "Sam, I've gotta find Dad. I've gotta find Mom's killer. It's the only thing I can think about."
"Dean, we'll find him, I promise, and we'll find a way to fight the demon. But, listen to me. You've got to prepare yourself. This search could take a while, and all that anger, you can't keep it burning over the long haul. It's gonna kill you."
Dean expelled a breath that masqueraded as a mirthless chuckle. From what he'd seen of his hunting journal it didn't seem like Sam was the poster boy for anger management. Besides, in Dean's case, anger wasn't the problem, it was the symptom.
"But in the meantime, Sam, I don't know what's happening to Dad."
Sam nodded sympathetically. It was all he could do. "I know, Dean."
Did he, though? From Sam's description of his upbringing Dean didn't have the impression he'd ever been really close to anyone. Had he ever cared about anyone enough to know what it felt like to worry about them every second of the day?
"Sam," he breathed, "I need something to . . . you gotta find us a case."
As Sam gazed at Dean his forehead was etched with a frown of helpless concern. "I know," he said. "I'm looking."
Samantha Ford stood on the corner of a suburban street in Slough awaiting the arrival of the school bus.
"Did you remember to pack your lunch?" she asked her son.
"What about your worm farm for your science project?"
"Yes, Mom. Don't fuss."
His hair was rucked up and she reached out a hand to straighten it but he squirmed away from her attentions.
"Did you put in the extra cookies, Mom?" he asked her.
"You know I make those for you, Colby?" she pointed out, "Not all your friends."
"Yeah, but Michael really likes your cookies, Mom. And he's sad at the moment."
She sighed. "Yeah, yeah, I know," she acknowledged quietly, her stomach tightening with the same uncomfortable pang she had felt ever since she heard the news.
The bus arrived and she reached out to kiss her son goodbye but he wriggled out of her grasp again. "Mom!" he complained, irritably. Sadly he had reached the age when hugs and kisses from his mother were no longer cool. He jumped aboard the bus and as she watched it drive away she waved after it smiling wistfully. That probably wasn't cool either.
Once the bus had disappeared from view she turned and walked back home. She didn't notice movement among the trees opposite; the figure that followed her was barely discernible from the dark trunks it moved between.
She was putting away the breakfast dishes when she heard the crash. Hurrying into the next room she halted, shocked, when she saw the damage to the patio doors – frame splintered, broken and smeared with dirt, glass shards and earth all over the floor – then she shrieked in surprise and horror when she saw the thing lumbering toward her, caked from head to foot in mud.
But the real terror came when she began to discern features through the outer crust, began to recognize them. Her eyes widened as the monster closed on her and her mouth moved to form soundless words; her limbs had the leaden immobility of a nightmare. Powerful fingers clamped around her throat and, as she stared into the eyes of the woman she knew to be dead, her life ceased to make any sense.
And then it ceased.
Chapter 2: Scene 3
They booked into a motel just outside Grand Junction and ate at a nearby diner. Dean took his laptop with him and while Sam scanned the local papers for anything that might look like a case, Dean surfed for demon sign. He sat with his forehead leaning on the heel of his hand while he clicked disconsolately at the mouse through search after fruitless search. He knew what to look for now, but there was nothing. According to Sam the lack of even ordinary demonic activity was unusual and he regarded it with suspicion. He thought it was the lull before some kind of storm. Dean half welcomed that storm, even though he knew that when the demon finally made a move it was likely to be vicious and bloody, because how else were they going to get any new information? For all the years Sam's family had spent searching for this demon they still had very little to go on. Analyzing previous targets revealed no obvious patterns in geography or frequency, none that lasted for long anyway. Little was known about the demon itself beyond what Sam had gleaned from his brief encounter. As far as they knew, he was the first adult to survive a confrontation. It appeared that Sam still had a few contacts in the hunting community that he regarded with some degree of trust and he had passed on what he'd learned: that it was a powerful, high ranking demon with yellow eyes (as opposed to the more usual black or red), immune to several of the usual protective measures. All they could really do now was wait to see if these details struck a chord anywhere. They surfed, scoured through the closed stacks of university libraries whenever they had the opportunity, and waited for news from Sam's contacts of any relevant experience or piece of lore that might lead them to a clue to the demon's whereabouts or how to fight it. And they waited. Dean couldn't wait fast enough, and it was driving him crazy. He wiped his forehead on his hand and sat back.
"Anything?" he asked Sam who wrinkled his nose by way of a negative.
The waitress refilled their coffee cup, giving Dean a broad smile, and he returned a wink of acknowledgement. Sam caught the gesture and rolled his eyes. Sam apparently practiced some form of self-imposed asceticism and viewed anyone else who showed any sign of having genitalia with ill-disguised disapproval. Not that Dean was remotely in the mood for sex at the moment but if a woman paid attention to you it was only polite to appear appreciative, wasn't it?
He gazed around the diner, his eyes idly following the movement of other customers as they came and went. His attention was drawn when a woman stood up to greet another and they kissed full on the mouth and hugged each other before they sat down. There was nothing salacious about it. It was affection, plain and simple; they were probably just friends or perhaps sisters. Women did that sort of thing sometimes, because they could.
Dean envied women now and then. If a woman needed a hug she could say so, and she'd get it, no problem. If a girl wanted to have a good howl she could, any time, and no one would judge her for it. In fact all her girlfriends would gather round and sympathize, and feed her chocolate cake and ice cream. Or she could throw herself into the arms of the nearest broad-shouldered hero who'd be only too happy to comfort and console her.
Dean smirked to himself. If he were to try a stunt like that the nearest broad-shouldered hero was likely to full-on freak.
The waitress returned and did her best to fit some more coffee into the still mostly full cups.
"Is there anything else I can do for you?" she asked Dean.
Dean grinned and was about to respond with some flip joke but then he thought about it and realized that was probably the nearest offer he was going to get. He checked the girl's name tag, met her gaze and returned her smile. "Well, Mercedes, can I get back to you on that?" They held eye contact and shared a grin for a little longer then Mercedes returned to the counter.
Sam looked up from his newspaper and cast a suspicious glance between Dean and the counter.
"Are we done here?" Dean asked him. "Shall I go settle the bill?"
Sam fished out his wallet, rifled through his selection of dodgy plastic and tossed a card onto the table. Dean raised his eyebrows and smirked. "Pick another one," he said. "I'm not handing her a card with that name on it."
"What's wrong with Beaver?" Sam asked, apparently in all innocence.
Dean struggled to keep a straight face. "Nothing, Sam. I love beaver. I always have."
Dean waited and then Sam's features pruned into the now familiar bitch-face.
And, there it is.
Dean laughed and Sam snatched back the card exchanging it for another that Dean took to the counter, still chuckling.
Mercedes, it turned out, was just half an hour from the end of her shift. Dean arranged to meet her outside and paid the bill then returned to the table and sat down just as Sam was folding all the newspapers and returning them to the rack.
"Could you make your own way back to the motel?" Dean asked him. "I might need the car."
Sam frowned. "What for?"
Dean felt nettled at being asked to account for himself. Whose car, Dude? "I've got a date," he explained.
He'd expected a withering expression, maybe even some sarcastic jibe. What Dean wasn't prepared for was the look of outright shock that dropped onto Sam's face.
"But . . . you've only just dumped your girlfriend!" he stammered.
Dean bristled. He really didn't need censure from Sam on this point. He felt guilty enough without it. "What? Are you my moral guardian now?" he snapped.
"No . . . I . . ." a suggestion of pink rose to Sam's cheeks and he scratched the back of his head in confusion. "I just wouldn't have thought you'd want to get involved again so soon."
Dean sighed, exasperated by Sam's naiveté. He glanced back at the counter and was relieved to note that Mercedes was in the kitchen and out of earshot of this conversation. "I'm not getting involved, Sam. I'm hooking up. Now give me the damn keys, will you?"
Sam fumbled in his pocket and dropped the keys on the table. "Right, whatever," he mumbled, looking anywhere but at Dean. "I'll see you back at the motel."
"What?" Dean demanded.
"Nothing. Never mind."
Dean watched him leave and wondered what the fuck? This from the guy who'd once confessed to hooking up with a male prostitute? Where did he get off?
Sam took off his jacket. He held it in front of him for a moment picking distractedly at the collar before bundling it up and throwing it at the wall. It knocked one of the cheap prints askew then dropped to the floor and lay there in a disheveled heap. Sam dropped onto the bed nearest the door and sat staring unseeing at the carpet.
This was ridiculous. This was pointless. It wasn't as if he was ever going to make a move, and it wasn't as if Dean would be interested if he did, so what business was it of Sam's what Dean did with his dick? The way Dean was wired at the moment if he got some relief from shooting his load into some random pick up why would Sam even begrudge him that? Why was he even shocked? Did he expect Dean to live like a monk when everywhere they went young women, hell, women of all ages (and guys too, though Dean rarely seemed to notice that) practically threw themselves into Dean's lap.
But with a complete stranger? With a woman he knew nothing whatever about and who had no more discrimination than to throw herself at some guy who'd walked into her diner off the street for no better reason than because he had a pretty face and a come-to-bed grin. How many other guys had she done that with? Dean was nothing to her. Dean must know, surely, that he could have anyone he wanted, anyone. Why wouldn't he raise the bar at least a little higher? Why would he let himself be nothing?
Dean Winchester was not nothing. In the short time Sam had known him he'd seen Dean take the worst punches fate could throw at a man and still come back into the ring fighting. When his world had gone up in flames overnight he'd looked the new one square in the face and dared it to give him its best shot. He'd whinge at a paper cut but then go on a hunt and take a real beating without a whimper. He was recklessly brave, he was smart and resourceful, but he was loyal and generous, too. He'd shrug off a personal insult but be ready to punch out anyone who dissed the people he cared about. And he cared deeply. Maybe too deeply. He was the kind of a man who'd give a friend the shirt off his back if they needed it. He was the kind of man who made you wish you were a better person yourself.
But she would never know all that. She didn't know about the small stuff either: the hundred odd annoying habits, or the gestures that made up for them, like the way he'd always offer you the last biscuit in the packet or, if you took a nap, he'd throw a cover over you to make sure you didn't wake up cold. He might tell her he used to have his own rock band; he wouldn't say that he couldn't hold a tune when he sang along to the radio but that, late at night, when he was alone with his guitar and his own songs his voice was soft and low and beautiful.
Sam sighed. Reaching over he picked up his jacket, folded it and draped it over a chair. He took off his watch and left it on the bedside table then pulled his gun out from the back of his jeans, checked the safety and slipped it under his pillow.
Would she even be perceptive enough to really see what was right in her face? Oh, she'd have noticed the eyes of course, and the soft curl of the implausibly long eye-lashes; you'd have to be myopic to miss those. But would she pay attention to all the different colours that danced in those bright irises: the green and gold flecks that caught the light when he laughed, or the smoky brown hues that gathered when he was serious or sad? Would she care about the arch of his eyebrows, or the little grooves tracked between them? Would she trace the curve of his nose with her finger and wonder how he'd acquired it? Would she run her tongue along the crevice in his chin? She'd probably admired his lips but she couldn't possibly appreciate them. It's not like she'd contemplated their fullness day in, day out, wondering what the plump pads would feel like to the touch, how soft they would be to kiss. Would she stop to savor how Dean's mouth tasted?
Sam's fingers dug into the bed covers. He swallowed the river of saliva that was running into his own mouth and shook his head. Pointless. Stupid, pointless thoughts. He undid his cuffs, unbuttoned his shirt and lifted it off of his shoulders.
The lines of Dean's neck and shoulders, the smoothness of his skin, the curve of muscles that were becoming firmer and more defined daily as he trained and worked out, the copper circle and delicate bud of his nipples, the hollow of his navel, and the gentle trough that ran down from it through the firm, flat plain of his tummy, the curve of his hips and the V of his hip bones . . . these were things that deserved the proper attention and respect.
Sam's jeans were becoming increasingly uncomfortable. He eased the belt through the buckle, undid the clasp, unzipping himself as he kicked off his boots and socks. He shucked off his pants and let them pool in a heap on the floor beside his shirt and footwear.
Dean had strong calves and firm thighs covered in a down of soft hair. His hips were almost voluptuously curved and his firm round buttocks pressed against the material of his boxers when he came out of the shower warm and damp.
Dropping back on the bed Sam let his hand wander down to his boxers and grasped his erection through the thin material. His lips curled back over his teeth and he hissed sharply as he squeezed the aching flesh.
He’d seen Dean naked — his dirty little secret — he’d seen Dean’s cock proud and erect, quivering and glistening with arousal. As Sam’s hand slipped beneath the waistband of his boxers he imagined what it would be like to feel Dean’s length beneath his fingers, to feel the velvety flesh sliding against the unyielding shaft beneath, to hear Dean gasp and pant the way he had that fateful night when Sam had been trapped behind the couch, only this time it would be Sam’s touch that would draw those tremulous groans from Dean’s lips. Sam longed to know what it would take to make Dean’s thighs quiver, make his hips buck and shudder the way Sam’s did now as his hand swept feverishly up and down his own swollen cock. He wanted to hear Dean crooning and whimpering, he wanted to hear him gasping Sam’s name between unfettered cries of pleasure and release, his back arching off the bed in bone deep ecstasy. Sam fisted himself urgently and imagined himself holding Dean’s shuddering body, slicing his fingers through Dean’s hair, rolling his own lips against Dean’s and plunging his tongue deep into Dean’s mouth, exploring and tasting every bit of it. He felt his own orgasm swelling, his cock leaping and convulsing in his hand as it erupted, and he moaned and keened through gritted teeth, humping the empty air to the rhythm of his trembling fingers as hot cum pumped into his shorts and flowed over his hand.
It was some time before his breathing and heart rate began to calm and by then the sticky mess in his shorts was beginning to turn cold. He lay with one arm draped across his eyes and forehead, filled with anger and frustration, and ashamed of himself for the way he kept allowing this senseless obsession to overwhelm him. He had to get past this. He was with Dean twenty-four/seven, cooped up in the Impala, spending night after night with him in seedy motel rooms. He couldn’t afford to keep thinking of Dean like this, and he couldn’t keep making an ass of himself every time Dean hooked up. He had to get over it. He shook his head and tried to clear his mind of foolish thoughts and images. Moments later he was punching the pillow, over and over.
Why, Dean? Why are you wasting yourself on someone who doesn't give a fuck?
Mercedes turned over and surveyed Dean with an expression that was half grinning, half a puzzled frown. "That was amazing," she told him. "Different, but amazing. You put on quite a show."
He ran his fingers through her hair and hoped that the heat he could feel in his cheeks wasn't visible in the muted lamplight.
"Yeah, I'm sorry I couldn't provide the . . . er . . ." he cleared his throat, "rousing finale."
"That's OK. You're really good with your hands . . . etcetera." She grinned again and he kissed her fingers as she brushed them across his lips and tongue. "I just wish I'd been able to return the favor." A little frown stole across her face again and it made Dean feel really guilty. He owed her some kind of explanation.
"It had nothing to do with you," he assured her. "It's just that . . . I just came out of a long term relationship . . . and I recently lost a close family member . . ." He cleared his throat again. Even to his own ears it sounded like he was feeding her some bullshit line and, even if she bought it, it wasn't fair. All she'd wanted was to have some fun. She didn't want to hear about Dean's problems. "I guess it was just too soon," he finished lamely.
She combed his hair back off his face with her fingers. She actually looked sympathetic. "I'm sorry," she said.
"It's OK. I'm dealing," he lied. He drew her closer to him, savoring the warmth of her body against his. "This helps," he said.
She smiled and laid her head against his shoulder.
"Is it OK if I stay for a little while?" he asked her.
"You can stay for as long as you like," she replied.
He wrapped his fingers around hers and drew her arm a little tighter around him. So this was what he was reduced to: exchanging cheap sex for hugs from strangers. It occurred to him to wonder if he was really any different from the hooker Sam had fucked.
And what was Sam doing right now, he wondered?
Sam was taking a cold shower. Afterwards he rinsed out his boxers, shirt and socks in the bathroom sink and hung them over the shower rail to dry, and then he sprayed round the bedroom with an air freshener just to be sure there'd be no lingering evidence of his behavior whenever Dean returned. Eventually he crawled into bed shivering and curled up under the covers.
He wasn't aware that he'd fallen asleep until he woke up in the middle of the night with a searing headache and a head full of a nightmarish assortment of violent and confusing images.
Chapter 3: Scenes 4 and 5
Sam was in full-on Robocop mode when Dean arrived back at the motel. He was waiting outside the room with their bags already packed, and he started loading them into the trunk even before Dean got out of the car to help him.
"Why the urgency?" Dean asked. He'd come back as soon as he'd got Sam's call. He hadn't even waited to say good-bye to Mercedes and he felt bad about that, but he didn't think she'd appreciate being woken so early. At least that was what he'd told himself. Maybe he'd just wanted to avoid the awkwardness and the questions.
"Because we're not dealing with a spirit this time," Sam responded. "It left fingerprints. So it's something physical – a creature – which means it could strike again at any time. We need to stop it before it kills again." He thrust a map into Dean's hands. "The town's called Slough. I've marked the route."
Dean felt annoyance rising inside him. "So . . . I'm navigating again, then?"
Sam paused with the driver door already half open and leaned against the Impala. He let out an exasperated sigh that seemed to say "I don't have time for this shit".
"Do you want to drive?" he asked, in a tone that said "I'll humour you if I must. There are lives at stake, here."
It was amazing how Sam could make Dean feel petty for wanting to drive his own car . . . Dad's car . . . whatever. He felt suddenly weary. What did it matter? He wasn't sure he could even be bothered. He certainly didn't have the mental energy to want to get on the wrong side of Sam when he was on a mission. He fished in his pocket and listlessly tossed the keys at Sam, who had to stretch awkwardly to catch them, and he pretended not to notice the way Sam jerked his jaw to the side as he climbed behind the wheel. Dean moved round to the other side of the car and dropped into the passenger seat. Where did he think he belonged, anyway? Did Robin ever get to drive the Bat Mobile?
He sat with his elbow against the door, head cradled in his palm, staring sightlessly out of the window. What did any of it matter? Sam was carrying him around like so much useless baggage, feeling obliged to protect his useless ass for some reason. From what? And for what? They were never gonna find Dad . . . and, if they did, what could they do? The days kept passing without them hearing anything or finding out anything new. And none of it was ever gonna bring Mom back, so what was the point? In anything? Dean was so sick of feeling . . . impotent.
After a few minutes of driving the tormenting throb of Sam's headache finally began to ease, but it was replaced with a nagging sense that something was off. At first Sam couldn't put his finger on what it was, but then he realized it was the silence. For the first time since he and Dean had taken to the road together they weren't accompanied by the pounding beat of any of the tracks from John's rock tape collection. Perhaps he should have been grateful for the respite, but somehow he wasn't.
Moreover, he'd expected Dean to start grilling him about the new case, and that wasn't happening either. Again, he should have been relieved. The murder was so fresh that there was little information available beyond what he'd gleaned from his vision, and he didn't know how he was going to fend off awkward questions. But it worried Sam that he wasn't having to. He'd expected the prospect of a new case to animate Dean; instead he was staring despondently out of the window showing no sign that he was absorbing what he was seeing, and giving no indication that anything was going on inside his head either. He looked almost as vacant as he had when Sam had picked him up from the police station the morning after his mother's death, but then he had been in shock. This was something different. Dean had moved through denial and anger and now, Sam supposed, he had moved into depression. Sam understood that Dean had to go through these stages, but where Dean's avoidance tactics and belligerence had seemed in keeping with his personality this apathy seemed utterly uncharacteristic and it made Sam uncomfortable. Sam actually preferred the anger and the belligerence.
He realized that while he'd been pre-occupied with his anxieties about his vision, and fighting off the residual headache it had left in its wake, he'd missed a crucial moment that might have made a difference. He should have let Dean drive. He should have insisted that Dean drive. It would have forced him to focus. But now it was too late. Frankly, in the mood Dean had shifted into now Sam wouldn't trust him behind the wheel. Besides, maybe it was better to let Dean wallow for a while. Maybe he needed that. Sam was sure that the nitty-gritty of the case would rouse Dean once they were into it. He sure hoped so because he couldn't afford for Dean to go AWOL for this one. As confusing as the images had been, Sam had seen enough to be sure of one thing: there were kids involved in some way.
San leaned forward and pushed the idle cassette tape into the waiting slot and as the strains of Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" filled the car, he hoped it would help rouse the spirit of the inert form sitting next to him. Come on, Dean. I need you on board for this.
Sam's hopes were raised when they stopped off at a dress hire shop to get suited up and Dean animated at least enough to get irritable. He tugged at his collar, looking thoroughly uncomfortable.
"Is this really necessary?" he complained. "We look like the Blues Brothers." Sam acknowledged to himself that, somehow, Dean really didn't look right in a suit. To Dean, however, he just explained "this is the County Coroner's office. We need to look the part." He handed Dean an I.D. badge. They were new, with names Dean had chosen. Sam hoped that would provoke some spark of response from Dean but, even when Sam introduced them to the coroner as Agents Geddy and Lee, it went unacknowledged.
It was Dean's first dead body . . . not counting Mom . . . and he tried not to count Mom because she hadn't looked dead when he'd last seen her. She'd been pinned to the ceiling and covered in blood . . . but her eyes were open. She'd looked afraid and in pain . . . and that was how she'd died . . . because, of course, she was dead . . . but she hadn't looked it. Not like this . . . corpse did: grey and mottled with its skin all dry and papery and sunken. It looked like a ghost, except it was solid. Sam was turning the head from side to side, examining the purplish-yellowish bruising around the throat.
"Samantha Ford, 36, single mother and part-time receptionist, living in the Bounden Vale area of Slough," the coroner was explaining. "Cause of death was strangulation."
Dean forced down the gob of bile that threatened to erupt from his stomach.
"And forensics were able to lift fingerprints from the body?"
Sam sounded so official, so . . . indifferent to the dead woman he was handling.
The coroner scoffed. "Not that they were a lot of help, unless you believe ghosts can commit murder."
Sam and Dean exchanged a knowing glance, but Sam had said he didn't think it was an angry spirit this time.
"Spectral figures are not often known to leave fingerprints," Sam observed dryly.
"Casper never did," Dean added.
Sam looked round in surprise. Dean had expected to get the bitch-face but Sam looked almost pleased with the comment. Nevertheless he continued hurriedly "but the fingerprints were those of . . ." he took out his fake notebook and faked searching through his fake notes.
"Sarah Kelly," the coroner supplied helpfully. "Committed suicide two weeks ago. As alibis go, that one's pretty air-tight."
"Any connection between Sarah Kelly and the victim?"
"You'd have to check with the PD but, as far as I know, none has been established."
Sam nodded. "Well, I think we have everything we need here. We'll be in touch." But before they left the office he added "Oh, do you happen to know what happened to the son?"
"He's with family friends, I believe. Check with social services."
Sam took out his cell-phone once they'd left the office and, with a few calls, managed to acquire the addresses of the crime scene, Samantha Ford's friends, and the family of Sarah Kelly.
"Where first?" Dean asked when Sam closed the last call.
"Crime scene. See if we can get a handle on what we're up against."
"You're sure it's not an angry spirit? Suicide's a violent death."
"They're all violent. There are other possibilities: zombie – "
". . . shape-shifter, ghoul . . . though the motive's unclear. Ghouls normally eat their victims."
Dean felt the bile rising again and growled it back down. "I suppose it could be any of those. You'd know I guess."
Sam frowned. "But you have your own idea?"
Dean shrugged. "There's another possibility: resurrection hoax. Somehow the killer got hold of Sarah Kelly's fingerprints and used them to make it look like she'd risen from her grave." Perhaps by now Dean should have known better than to hope for a rational explanation, but somehow just suggesting it made him feel better.
Sam looked unconvinced. "Well, we may have to dig up Sarah Kelly's body to be sure, but that'll have to wait until tonight."
"Wait . . ." Dean was caught between horror and the first vague intimation that he should have seen this coming. Even as he phrased the question he had an idea of what Sam's answer was going to be. "You're going to desecrate a grave?"
Sam had the grace to pause before he replied, but his response was pretty blunt when he did. "How did you think I usually did a salt and burn, Dean? Bones aren't typically conveniently hidden in plain sight above ground."
"But we're not dealing with bones here. We're talking about a woman who died two weeks ago."
Sam nodded. "That makes it more unpleasant."
"Oh, Jesus! Sam!" The man was so fucking soulless sometimes. He'd been weaned on death and gore and this was all just a job to him and Dean suddenly realized he wasn't cut out for it. Whatever steel it was that ran through Sam's blood that gave him the strength to keep facing this crap day in, day out, Dean didn't have it. It was all just too much.
"I can't do this, Sam." As the words left Dean's mouth they reminded him of something. What was it? Oh, yes. Now Sam would give him some shmoopy morale raising sermon about how they had to go on because there was still some good left in the world worth fighting for.
Sam stared at Dean for a moment then he gazed off to the side, eyebrows creasing, nostrils flaring, jaw jutting. Obviously he was preparing for a big speech. He turned his face back to Dean and his eyes had that blue glaze that they always seemed to acquire whenever they got the light of zeal in them.
"It's fucked up, Dean. I know," he said. "But if we don't stop this thing, whatever it is, more people will die."
Dean looked down and his shoulders drooped. That was the bottom line. It was always the bottom line. And Sam was right, he knew that. They were saving people, hunting things. That was worthwhile. It was a reason to go on.
Somehow it wasn't enough.
"Is this it? The crime scene?"
Sam shook his head. "Next block. This is where Colby Ford's staying. I just wanted to check up on him." He reached into the glove compartment and pulled out his field glasses. A quick reconnaissance of the house established that it was currently occupied by several adults who were standing around in the kitchen talking to each other. A boy of about twelve was sitting alone in the next room watching TV. That was him, the boy Sam had seen in his vision – one of them, anyway. "Damn," he breathed. He hadn't actually seen the boy being attacked – the images had been confusing – but all the same . . .
Sam handed the glasses to Dean and indicated in the boy's direction. "Samantha Ford's son," he explained.
Dean pointed the glasses toward the house for a moment then gave Sam a questioning look. "Is he a target?" he asked.
Sam sucked a breath through his teeth. "Can't rule it out."
Dean stared at the house then back at Sam again. "Maybe one of us should stay here and keep an eye on him?"
Sam deliberated briefly then nodded. He got out of the car and started rifling in the trunk, returning presently with a duffel bag that he laid down on the front seat. "The body wasn't drained, there were no bite marks or scratches, and the heart hadn't been removed, so we can rule out vampires or werewolves. The field's still pretty much open but fire or decapitation'll usually get it done. There's a flare gun and a machete in there, a silver dagger in case it's a shape-shifter and holy water in case . . . Well, let's hope it doesn't come to that. Got your gun handy?"
Dean was suddenly wide eyed with shock and alarm. "Wait! When I said one of us, I didn't mean me!"
"One of us has to check out the crime scene, Dean," Sam reminded him.
"Great! I'll do that, then!"
"You wouldn't know what to look for. Look, I'll be less than a block away, Dean. If there's any sign of trouble call me and I'll get back straight away, but I'm sure you'll be fine. I'll be back as soon as I can, anyway. You'll be fine."
"It's just a watch detail, Dean. You can handle this."
And with that he was gone, leaving Dean with an adrenalin-pumped heart and a duffel bag full of weapons he felt ill-equipped to use. Sure, it was just a watch detail until some freaky monster showed up and then the kid's life would be in Dean's hands, and if Sam thought Dean could handle that he must have a damn sight more confidence in him than Dean did.
Dean swallowed and scanned the general area. No monsters so far that he could see. After a moment he shook himself, grabbed his gun out of the glove compartment and cradled it beside his thigh. He took out his cell phone and held it with his thumb hovering over the speed-dial for Sam. Another sweep of the general vicinity revealed no monsters to speak of. Perhaps he should check the house again.
At this point he discovered he had a hand shortage and made a mental note to put in a requisition for extra limbs. He made a decision to pocket the gun and reached for the field glasses. The bunch of gossiping adults in the kitchen didn't look like monsters, but who could tell? The kid in the next room watching TV . . . wasn't watching it, of course. Dean understood that mindless, vacant expression, knew what it meant, and he lowered the glasses for a second while he adjusted to the aching wave of empathy that had threatened to overcome him. He swept the suspect dampness away from his eyelashes then, after another cautionary sweep of the area, raised the glasses once more.
The kid reminded him of someone. Dean stared at him for long moments, puzzling over the way the boy's soft brown bangs flopped over his intense blue eyes, before the recollection came to him: Sammy. Sammy had been a lot younger, of course - just a baby, really - but the resemblance was striking; he had the same lost, haunted expression. Maybe it was that more than the incidental physical details that struck Dean so forcibly.
Dean lowered the glasses and scanned around the house for any signs of movement, anything suspicious or out of place, anything that might conceivably represent a threat or an indication of a potential threat. Almost unconsciously he returned the cell phone to his pocket and grasped the gun instead. He was so focused on his vigil that he was rather startled when his cell phone buzzed in his pocket some half an hour later.
"Are you OK?" Sam asked him.
"Yeah, it's been quiet here. What did you get from the crime scene?"
Sam described the wreckage he had witnessed at the Ford home: patio doors smashed, wood and glass smeared with mud, dirt all over the floors. The house had been ransacked, as if it had been searched in a blundering fashion, but the local police hadn't been able to establish that anything was missing. However, they had identified a link between Samantha Ford and Sarah Kelly; their sons attended the same school and were friends.
"Still, two boys living in the same area are likely to wind up at the same school," Dean pointed out. "Could be coincidence."
"I don't believe in coincidence," Sam replied flatly.
"Any clue what we're up against yet?"
"Well, we're narrowing down the field. I'm leaning towards zombie at the moment."
Dean shook his head, but didn't argue. "Great. So how do we kill it?"
"Depends on the kind and how it was raised. If we're lucky we can put it down with a head shot – failing that, beheading or fire . . ."
Dean sensed some hesitation from Sam. "And if we're not lucky?" he prompted him.
"Worst case scenario, we have to stake it back into its coffin."
"You are kidding me?"
"Believe me, I wouldn't. I broke a wrist last time I had to do that. Anyway, we should know more this afternoon. The good news is the PD are exhuming the grave. They're working on the same basic theory you suggested. Saves us some spade work. We should tag along for that."
"Terrific," Dean retorted insincerely, though he was relieved they weren't going to have to Burke and Hare the sucker.
"Will you be OK there for a little while longer?" Sam asked him. "I need to pick up some supplies."
"What, the milk and OJ can't wait?"
"For the case, Dean."
Dean sucked in a breath. He could feel a twinge of anxiety gathering once more, but another careful scan of the area reassured him that the status was still quo. "Yeah, I guess I'm good," he acknowledged. He closed his cell and found himself shaking his head again. Visions swam in his brain of himself and Sam in the bottom of a grave wrestling with an extra from Shaun of the Dead.
And then it dawned on him – the only rational explanation for all this – he was insane. Clearly he'd had a mental breakdown and this whole supernatural world was just a paranoid delusion. Sam, too, was probably no more than a projection of his own diseased psyche that he'd invented to help him deal with the shock of his mother's death.
Dean checked himself. Now that was insane. By what stretch of the imagination could this bizarro nightmare be said to be helping? He remembered what the guy back in Casper's Passage had said about the 'rational' explanation being more irrational than facing the facts. And the fact right now was that Dean had a job to do.
Chapter 4: Scenes 6 to 8
Dean lifted the field glasses then he frowned. "Crap!" He couldn't see Colby. The kid had moved out of the TV room. "Crap!"
Dean scanned with the glasses, saw the people in the kitchen still gossiping – they hadn't noticed Colby's disappearance – then he spotted the kid coming out of the front door. Relief quickly gave way to renewed anxiety and indecision as the kid moved quickly up the road and disappeared down an alley between the houses. What to do now?
Dean glanced down at Sam's dubious bag of treats. Most of its contents, carried openly in daylight hours on an average suburban street, would be apt to draw attention. After a moment's pause he transferred the Colt semi to the inside pocket of his jacket, grabbed the flare gun and thrust it into the back of his trousers, and shoved the dagger hurriedly down the inside of his boot, wincing and hissing as the point grazed a sharp furrow through the flesh of his ankle. He'd be more careful next time.
Armed as well as discretion would allow he jumped out of the car and took off in the direction he'd seen Colby take. By the time he got to the alley there was no sign of the kid and, at the other end, a glance up and down the street came up empty and Dean was cursing and beginning to sweat. Between the houses opposite Dean caught a glimmer of water. There was a small river running behind with a path alongside it. Hurrying across the road he ran between the houses, turned the corner and skidded to an ungraceful halt as he spotted Colby sitting on a bench opposite the river just a few feet away. The kid turned and stared as Dean stared awkwardly back, and a frown gathered on his brow.
Great, thought Dean. His first tailing job and he'd been made. Good job, Dean.
And now Colby was spooked. He stood up and made to hurry away, but Dean called after him.
The kid turned and surveyed Dean, surprised and puzzled.
"You had me worried there for a moment," Dean continued, trying to sound casual and friendly. "Thought I'd lost ya. You shouldn't go off on your own you know, Colby. It isn't safe."
"Who are you?" the kid demanded. "How do you know my name?"
"My name's Dean . . . ah . . ." – flash of inspiration – "social services sent me to check on how you're doing." He reached for his wallet and gave the kid a quick awkward flash of its contents before returning it to his pocket. "So – ah . . . How are you doing?" Dean swallowed. Damn stupid question, but he couldn't think of anything else to say. "Are you OK?" He hated being in this situation and he was going to punch Sam's ear when he got back.
"My mom's dead. How do you think I'm doing?" the kid snapped resentfully.
Right. Dean nodded. "Good call," Dean acknowledged. "People kept asking me that when my mom died and I thought it was fucked, too."
Colby's eyebrows shot up but he seemed to relax a little and regarded Dean with a little less suspicion and more curiosity, maybe because they had something in common, maybe because Dean's use of the word "fucked" had given him some cred in the boy's eyes.
"How did she die? Your mom?" Colby asked.
Straight to the point. No false politeness. Kids weren't gentle. They weren't discreet. They weren't hypocrites. Dean felt he owed the boy the same respect. He felt his stomach muscles tightening, but he was in this now, he just had to deal.
"Kinda like yours. Some evil son of a bitch killed her," he replied huskily.
"Did they get him?"
Dean swallowed. "Still looking. It was quite recent."
The boy sat down on the bench. His muscles were tight and his fists were clenched. "I wanna get him. I wanna kill him."
Dean winced. Twelve years old. But he sat down on the bench next to Colby and nodded. "Yeah, I know," he replied quietly. They sat in silence for a short while and then Dean asked carefully "do you have any ideas? Did your mom argue with anyone recently?"
Colby shook his head.
"You didn't notice anything different or unusual about her behaviour?"
Another shake. "No, she was normal. Everything was normal. She saw me off to school on the bus like every other day, and when I came home the house was smashed up and she was dead!" The boy's nostrils flared and he turned his head away from Dean to hide the tears that started in his eyes.
The bile in Dean's stomach boiled painfully as the picture unrolled before his eyes so vividly from Sam's description of scene, and with the body Dean had seen that morning in the middle of it. And that was what this child had found when he came home from school. Of course he had. Samantha Ford was a single mother raising her son alone. Who else would have discovered the body?
"She tried to kiss me."
Dean frowned. It was a bit of a non sequitur and he couldn't make sense of it at first.
"Before I went to school she tried to kiss me . . . and I wouldn't let her. I thought it was babyish . . ." his voice bubbled and choked and then he sat heaving with quiet sobs. Dean placed a hand on the boy's quivering shoulder and squeezed. "It's all right," he assured him quietly. "We all went through that. Mothers understand. She knew you loved her." When Colby didn't answer he continued. "There's always something. There's always crap you didn't do, or didn't say, or things you never got to ask – "
"That's what Michael says."
"My friend at school. His mother died, too . . ."
There was a lot of it about.
" . . . and he doesn't know why, and nobody will tell him, and he said he kept wishing he could just ask her."
Colby sniffed and Dean came to and handed him a handkerchief.
"I don't understand," the boy croaked. "Why does this stuff happen?"
Dean heaved a leaden breath up from the depths of his chest. "You got me there, kid," he admitted. He hesitated for a moment – he had to be careful; he didn't know how much the boy knew – "Is that your friend Michael Kelly you're talking about?"
"Yeah, how d'you know?"
Dean shrugged. "Ah, you know. It's all in the files." He grimaced to himself. "How did you meet him?"
"It was when I started at the Slough High. I was new in town and a couple of older boys were picking on me. He made them stop. He's pretty tough. He knows some judo and shit and he's been showing me how to take care of myself."
Dean laughed. "I think I know the guy."
"Michael's been like a big brother to me," Colby added. "I always wished I had a brother."
"Yeah, me too." Dean smiled. "When I was a kid I used to pretend I had one, like an imaginary friend, you know . . . ?" Dean stopped. He could tell from the look on Colby's face that he had just lost some cred. "When I was a little kid, I mean," he added, and stuck out his hand to indicate the height of a small child . . . and he kept lowering it until it represented an age that Colby seemed to think was acceptable.
Dean cleared his throat and an awkward silence followed, then Colby asked "have you come to take me away?"
Dean's eyebrows hooked upward. "What?"
"I heard them talking in there . . ." Colby nodded back toward the house he had come from. "They . . . they said I might have to go into foster care . . . ?"
Dean stared and his heart sank. Damn. "Well, that's not . . ." What the fuck could he say? "You don't have any other family you could go to? Grandparents? Aunts? Uncles?"
Colby shook his head.
"And your father wasn't ever . . ."
"I used to ask Mom where he was. She said she didn't know. Isn't this stuff in the files?"
Dean hesitated. "Different file," he said weakly.
"I'll have to go away, won't I? Some other place? Some other school?"
"I'm sorry, I don't know. That isn't my department." How fucking lame was that?
Colby's eyes welled again. "How do you . . . ?" His young voice cracked and he couldn't finish the sentence.
Dean knew what the boy was asking, but wasn't sure how to answer. Damned if he knew the answer himself. "Well . . . I've got a friend . . . like your friend, Michael. He's kinda kept me going. Made me keep busy. That helps. It's better than sitting around letting shit get into your head, anyway. Have you thought of going back to school?"
Colby shrugged. "I'm afraid of what the others'll say, all the questions they'll ask."
"Yeah, that sucks ass," Dean acknowledged. "You'll be in lessons most of the time, though, and won't Michael be there in the breaks?"
"Yeah, Michael looks out for me."
Dean nodded. "Well, you stick with him, then. The family you find's important, too, you know?"
Dean's cell buzzed. "Dean, where the hell?" demanded Sam's voice when he answered.
"Hello, yes, I'm with Colby Ford now," Dean replied in a tone that suggested he was talking to an office lackey. "I'll be on my way shortly," he added and closed the call. "You know, you should be getting back," he told the boy. "People will be looking for you."
Colby shrugged but he stood up with Dean and they started walking back to the house.
"Colby, we're – the police are going to find who did this," Dean assured him, "But until then you shouldn't go off by yourself like you did today. You should make sure there are people around you, just to be safe."
"You – you think I'm in danger?"
Dean swallowed. What was he supposed to do? Say "don't be afraid of the dark"? The kid was long past that. "Honestly? I don't know," Dean admitted. "But, until we know what happened, you should be careful." As they passed back down the alley and came out onto the street once more Dean saw the Impala in the distance and Sam standing beside it. Dean stopped and turned the boy around to look at him. "And another thing, Colby, you shouldn't be so trusting of strangers. In future, if a guy you don't know approaches you, don't ask questions, just run. I could have been anyone."
"You had I.D." Colby pointed out.
"You didn't check it," Dean admonished. "It could have been a Blockbuster loyalty card for all you knew."
Colby laughed and Dean responded with an uncomfortable chuckle. As the kid turned and headed back to the house Dean's face was etched with a sheepish grimace.
Dean watched Colby back to the house then hurried to join Sam back at the Impala. Sam greeted him with an anxiously enquiring expression.
"He took off," Dean explained. "Had to follow him."
"Did you take your gun?"
"And the flare, and the dagger."
Sam nodded, looking only somewhat reassured. "Did you get anything from him?" he asked after a beat.
Dean blinked. It took him a moment to respond then he asked, in a tone heavy with irony, "So how is Colby, Dean? How's he coping with his loss? Is he getting by? Do you think he'll be OK?"
Sam looked blankly at Dean as if he didn't know what he was getting at, then his cheeks pinked a little and he responded defensively, "Dean, the best way we can help Colby is to solve the case."
"Yeah, I know, Sam, but that wasn't the point I was . . . never mind." Dean shook his head. Dean was starting to think Colby wasn't the only one who needed help. He repeated the gist of the conversation back to Sam who stood absorbing the information thoughtfully while he worked on some bits of tech he was holding in his hands. He had changed back into jeans and he was wearing a Liberty Bell jacket.
"Where d'you get the costume?" Dean asked. "Please tell me you haven't left some innocent telecom engineer hog-tied in the back of his van with duct tape over his mouth."
Sam rolled his eyes. "I found the jacket in the back of a van. The engineer had gone to lunch."
"Well, OK. I just worry about you sometimes, Sam. You're a bit tunnel-visioned when you're on a mission, you know?"
Sam didn't respond, just continued adjusting the tech, but his jaw tightened a little. Dean had only been teasing, or half teasing, but it appeared he'd hit a nerve.
He gazed awkwardly at Sam, his focus eventually settling on the cuffs of the jacket which reached about four inches short of Sam's wrists.
"What? He didn't have one in your size?" Dean inquired
Sam ignored him pointedly, but seemed to move on from the tense moment.
"What is that?" Dean asked, indicating the tech.
"Camera and motion sensor," Sam replied. "It'll enable us to watch Colby to some degree while we work the case."
Dean lifted his eyebrows. "O – kay," he breathed.
"Give me your cell."
Dean handed it over and Sam proceeded to perform some jiggery-pokery on it before handing it back. Sam was evidently well skilled in jiggery-pokery.
"Anything comes near the house, we'll both get an alert," he explained, then he headed toward the nearest telegraph pole and, as he started spidering up it, the reason for the jacket became apparent.
The sight of Sam at the top of the pole as he installed the camera equipment made Dean feel kind of queasy, even though Sam appeared to have a harness of some sort with him. Sam, however, was completely cool and unruffled when he returned so presumably climbing poles, scaling tall buildings and the like was routine for him.
"Holy human fly, Batman!" Dean remarked.
Sam returned another blank look.
"Oh surely . . ." Dean sighed. Apparently Classic Cult Fantasy and Advanced Jiggery-Pokery weren't on the same syllabus.
Slough Municipal Cemetery and Sam was back in his fed costume. Dean wondered if his friend was secretly harbouring a latent desire for the stage.
As the grunts opened the coffin Dean was introduced to the heady aroma of decomposing flesh and he found himself trying to master the technique of breathing without actually breathing in. He studied the corpse with reluctant, disgusted fascination. It had the dark, sunken sockets of the corpse he had viewed in the morning but the flesh was bloated and moist with putridity, livid colored and veiny. The shrunken lips were drawn back in a fixed leer revealing an incongruously fine set of teeth set in rotten gums. He noted that the hands and all their fingers were still attached.
"There goes my theory for how Sarah Kelly's fingerprints got on Samantha Ford's body," he murmured to Sam.
The local police captain snorted in exasperation and disgust. "Close her up," he spat, and walked away with the other members of his team.
"And there goes my zombie theory," Sam acknowledged.
Dean stared at him. "So what does that leave?"
Sam heaved a troubled shrug. "Shape-shifter, maybe, but that doesn't explain all the dirt at the crime scene. I was expecting to find the grave already disturbed."
"Broken out of."
"Oh." Of course.
Sam straightened suddenly. "Wait a minute," he told the workmen. He jumped down into the grave. "Dean, what do you make of this?" He lifted and examined one of the hands.
Oh, you have got to be fucking kidding me. Not to appear squeamish, Dean reluctantly joined Sam in the grave.
"Does that look like lettering to you?" Sam tilted the hand so Dean could examine some marks that were etched onto the flesh on the back of the hand.
"Could be," he agreed tightly.
Sam pulled out a small torch and handed it to Dean while he took out his prop notebook and pen. "Shine it on the hand."
Dean obeyed and Sam quickly sketched the markings into the notebook while Dean went fifteen rounds with his gag reflex. Then he noticed something. There appeared to be a corner of a book poking out from under the head of the corpse.
"What's that?" He reached down and lifted a small leather bound volume from under the tacky mane of hair. Opening it he found the pages filled with some kind of unfamiliar lettering that seemed similar in form to the marks on the hand. As he turned to show it to Sam the book suddenly, inexplicably burst into flames.
"YOW!" he squealed, tossing the burning volume into the dirt and sucking on his scorched finger tips.
He turned with raised eye-brows to Sam who stared at the book as it flared and sputtered in the mud, his own brow drawn back in an expression of perplexity.
"Huh!" he said.
Dean had gone behind a tree to answer a call of nature. That was what he was calling it, so that was what they were calling it. He absolutely had not upchucked his lunch in the SloughMunicipalCemetery.
He'd been OK, just about, until the fire. But then something about the combination of death and the smell of smoke, maybe even the smell of his own slightly cooked finger tips, had pushed past his defenses.
As Dean returned to the car Sam looked like he might be about to say something but Dean silenced him with a look before he could ask any stupid questions. Instead Sam focused his attention on the laptop that was sitting on his knees.
"I've been doing some background checking on the Kelly family," he informed Dean as he casually handed him a bottle of water. "Sarah's daughter, Andrea, is a postgraduate student at UC Boulder. Check out her dissertation title." He turned the screen toward Dean.
Dean took a swig of the water, swilled out his mouth and spat out of the door. He wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his suit and just caught a grimace of disapproval from Sam as he was turning back to study the screen.
"Dualism and the Supernatural in Kabbalah," he read. "What's Kabbalah?"
"A branch of Rabbinic Judaism concerned with mystic practices," Sam replied.
"Well, that can't be coincidence."
Sam nodded. "I'm betting that this will turn out to be a Hebraic text."
The smell of smoke reached Dean's nostrils as Sam lifted the book and flicked through the singed pages and he took another hasty swig from the water bottle. "So, the Kelly family next, then?" and he sighed when Sam gestured confirmation. "Great. More grieving relatives. And you've managed to find us a case with not one, but two dead mothers. Good job, Sam."
Sam fixed him with a searching stare and wound up asking the stupid question after all. "Are you OK, Dean?"
Maybe it wasn't so stupid. If they were about to conduct an interview Sam needed to know Dean was on the case. "Just drive," he growled.
Sam studied him a moment longer then dropped the laptop – Dean's laptop – on the back seat.
"You're welcome, by the way," Dean grumbled under his breath.
As luck would have it, both Andrea Kelly and her father, Jeffrey, were at home when they called. Even to Dean, they both seemed a little withholding. Perhaps it wasn't surprising since their last visit from the police had concluded with them being forced to agree to the exhumation of Sarah's body. They were resentful, particularly Andrea. She hovered protectively at her father's shoulder, arms crossed defensively across her body. Jeffrey looked tense and harassed. Doubtless Sam drew his own conclusions about their reticence but Dean didn't think either of them looked like the masterminds behind a homicidal monster rampage.
He had to admire Sam's interrogation method, though. Either that or he hated him a little for it. He wasn't sure which. Sam didn't bring up the subject of the book straight away. He began with the routine questions they'd have answered for the PD, lulling them both into a false sense of security before he started closing the traps. They couldn't explain the fingerprints. They knew of no motive for Samantha's murder. They acknowledged the friendship between Michael and Colby. The boys had been around each other's houses and Michael had met Colby's mother, naturally, but they denied that Sarah and Samantha had any contact.
"Can you be sure of that?" Sam pressed.
Jeffrey hesitated. "No. I suppose I can't be sure," he acknowledged. "But, to my knowledge, they never met."
"So you know of no reason why your wife might have harbored any ill will toward Samantha?"
"Isn't it academic?" Andrea snapped. "My mother's dead. To suggest she had anything to do with Samantha Ford's death is absolutely bizarre!"
"Someone seems to be suggesting it," Sam responded quietly. "We're just exploring who might have a motive for doing so. Do you know of anyone who bears a grudge against either of your families? Is there anyone, perhaps, who might want to see the boys separated?"
Andrea's eyebrows settled into a deeply perplexed frown.
"Why would you ask such a question?" Jeffrey asked.
"Just examining all the possibilities, sir," Sam replied. "I understand your wife took her own life," he continued.
Dean cleared his throat rather loudly and toyed with the hair behind his ear.
Sam ignored him. "Are you able to tell me the cause of her suicide?" he persisted.
Jeffrey hesitated again and swallowed hard before replying. "My wife was a deeply troubled woman. She had suffered from bouts of acute depression for many years. It's hard to say what single factor triggered her suicide. Possibly it was a combination of many things, but the illness itself would have been foremost among them."
Dean glanced from Jeffrey to Andrea then fixed on her face as he saw distinctly the marks of pain and anger etched on her features. Bullshit, he thought. He expected Sam to leap on that so he was surprised when, instead, Sam changed tacks completely.
"Ms Kelly, I understand you're a student of Kabbalah," he said.
The frown on Andrea's face evened out and was replaced by a look of surprise and puzzlement. "That's correct."
"I wonder if you'd be able to identify this book for me." He drew out the scorched volume and placed it on the table in front of father and daughter. The pair exchanged a mystified look then Andrea reached forward and, with understandable reluctance, picked up the sooty object and leafed through its pages. Her features instantly fell into an expression of shock.
"Where did you get this?" she demanded.
"You recognize the book?"
"Why, yes it's . . ." she hesitated then assumed an attitude of academic objectivity. "It's called the Sepher Yetzirah, The Book of Creation: it's the earliest known Hebrew text of man's mystical communion with the divine. It treats on various aspects of esoteric Judaism and mysticism."
"Is there anything special or unusual about the book?"
"In what way?"
"Have they ever been known to spontaneously combust?" Dean interjected.
Andrea glanced at Dean and regarded him with a slightly supercilious sneer. "No. It's a book on mysticism, not mysticism itself."
Sam shot Dean a tight glare of admonishment and continued with his questioning. "Can you think of any way it might have found its way into your mother's coffin?" he asked.
Her attention shot back to Sam. Her eyes were wide. "Is that where you found it? How is that even possible?"
"Did anyone other than the family have access to your mother's body prior to interment?"
Andrea and her father exchanged questioning looks. "Other than the undertakers, you mean? No."
"And how well do you know them?"
Her mouth opened and closed for a moment and, again father and daughter exchanged bewildered looks. "Well, hardly at all, but I wasn't suggesting . . ." Then she appeared to reach the end of her patience. "Look, I have no idea how the book got there or why anyone should want to put it there. What is all this about?"
"As I said, Ms Kelly, we're just exploring all the possibilities," Sam stood and picked up the book from the table, replacing it inside his jacket pocket. He waited to see if Andrea might say something more, but she remained silent. "I think we have everything we need for the present," Sam concluded.
He and Dean started to make their exit and Andrea escorted them to the door but on the threshold of the living room Sam paused and turned back to the father.
"Oh, just one other thing, sir . . ." he said, as if he were prefacing a casual afterthought, "What was your relationship to Samantha Ford?"
Jeffrey blanched and Andrea's mouth tightened into a hard line. Yahtzee.
"My – my relationship? I d-don't understand . . ."
"Did you ever meet her or have any contact with her?" Sam elaborated with apparent innocence.
"Er . . no." The man tucked a stray wisp of hair behind his ear. "No, I never did."
"I see. Well, thank you very much for your time, sir . . . ma'am."
"Well, get you, Columbo."
Another allusion whizzed over Sam's head but he chose to press on regardless. "So, what do you think?" he asked Dean.
"I think our Jeff was banging Samantha."
"And Andrea knew about it, which might give her a reason to want Samantha dead."
"Except she looked genuinely shocked when you showed her the book. I don't think she put it in the coffin."
"She wasn't telling us everything she knows, though, and she's not the only one in that family who might have been upset to learn Jeffrey was having an affair."
Dean felt his insides turn cold at Sam's bald suggestion. Not like he hadn't thought it himself, but his heart shunned the idea of a young teenage boy engineering murder. But then he recalled twelve year old Colby burning to avenge his mother's death, and it wasn't like Dean couldn't understand the feeling.
At that moment Dean's cell buzzed in his pocket and he could hear Sam's tone as well. Both men snatched at their cells and checked the images from the camera Sam had set up. It turned out that the little party was breaking up and several people were leaving. Two adults remained who were taking care of Colby, but both Sam and Dean shared a sense of unease.
"I think we should get back there," Sam said. "But we should come back here and talk to Michael when we can."
"Is it worth checking out the undertaker angle?" Dean asked, knowing that, in all probability, he was clutching at straws.
Sam held Dean with a steady gaze for a moment and Dean sensed he knew what he was thinking. "That, too," he agreed.
Andrea Kelly watched as the two agents got into their car and drove away.
"They know," said her father.
She didn't respond.
"Does it make any difference, really?" he persisted. "I'm tired of lying to these people."
After a moment she replied, quietly, "and yet, you found it so easy to lie to mother."
"Andrea, can't we get past this?" His voice was sad and exhausted. "It was so many years ago."
"The lies weren't years ago. The lies never stopped." She turned to confront her father. "It was the lies that killed her!" she spat. She hurried out of the room and up the stairs. Once in her own room she allowed hot, harsh tears to fall freely for a while but eventually she staunched the flow, and then she moved toward her desk and the book shelves that lined the wall above it. The draft of her latest dissertation chapter, a discussion of golem lore, sat on the top of the desk where it had lain neglected for weeks. Her focus moved upward and a chill washed over her flesh when she found the gap where the Sepher Yetzirah should have been. Perhaps even more disturbing was the discovery that the English translation was also out of place.
Outside the house, in the deepening shadows of the bitter winter evening, a figure waited. The moonlight picked out the pale glow of a woman's arm resting against a tree. Inscribed on the back of the begrimed hand were three characters from the Hebrew alphabet; the letters Aleph, Mem, and Tau.
Chapter 5: Scene 9
1.1. In two and thirty most occult and wonderful paths of wisdom did JAH the Lord of Hosts engrave his name: God of the armies of Israel, ever-living God, merciful and gracious, sublime, dwelling on high, who inhabiteth eternity. He created this universe by the three Sepharim, Number, Writing, and Speech . . .
2.1. The foundations are the twenty-two letters, three mothers, seven double, and twelve single letters. Three mothers, namely A, M, SH, these are Air, Water, and Fire: Mute as Water, Hissing as Fire, and Air of a spiritual type, is as the tongue of a balance standing erect between them pointing out the equilibrium which exists.
2.2. He hath formed, weighed, transmuted, composed, and created with these twenty-two letters every living being, and every soul yet uncreated.
That had to be significant. Creation from letters. Not a reanimated corpse but a new creation? A living being? Creation for the purpose of destruction. Would he have the knowledge, though?
"The Two Towers."
"He's reading The Two Towers," Dean repeated. "From Lord of the Rings, you know?"
Oo! Sam did know this one. "The movie about . . . hobbits, right?"
"And the books – "
"By J. R. Tolkien. I know."
Dean raised his eyebrows and gave Sam a little approving nod and handed over the field glasses. "Sam, these two are like that." He held up two crossed fingers. "I can't believe they'd still be so tight if Michael had anything to do with Samantha Ford's death. Could we be wrong about this?"
Sam lifted his gaze from the screen of the laptop and raised the field glasses. He studied the youth who was currently sitting with Colby Ford. A boy of about fifteen, tallish with short cropped hair, he was well built for his age but his face still retained boyish features. Michael had called on the house after school and had spent most of the evening trying to distract Colby with video games. Earlier Colby had broken down briefly and Michael had held him while he cried, and now the older boy was reading out loud while the younger lay with his head resting on his friend's knee. None of which seemed to fit the profile of a rage filled youth out for bloody revenge.
"We can't be certain of anything at this stage," Sam acknowledged. Yet the images in his dream had seemed to focus around these two, and the sense of threat gathered around the younger boy in particular. Why, though? Sam frowned. To attack the boy for what his mother had done seemed pointless. Was this just mindless violence for the sake of it? Perhaps that was the problem. If it was a mindless creature they were dealing with then trying to fathom its motivation was problematic at best.
"But you're still sure Colby's a target?" Dean asked.
"Call it a hunch."
"Based on what?"
Sam hesitated. Were the awkward questions starting? "Call it a bad feeling, then."
Dean frowned a little but shrugged and turned his gaze back to the house. Relieved, Sam returned his attention to his research.
He hath formed, weighed, transmuted, composed, and created with these twenty-two letters every living being.
Sam took out the notebook where he had recorded the marks from Sarah Kelly's body and studied the characters ruminatively. The evidence all pointed to a creature that had been made, with purpose. If that was the case then its actions weren't mindless; they were being directed.
He raised the field glasses and studied the boys for a few minutes, then he straightened in his seat as something occurred to him – something about the shape of their faces, the set of their jaws, the line of the eyebrows – They'd been assuming the affair was recent, but what if it wasn't? What if Jeffrey and Samantha had known each other before?
Sam laced his fingers together and flexed them over the keyboard. It took a while, and some delicate hacking, but eventually he found the information he was looking for. Thirteen years previously Jeffrey Kelly and Samantha Ford had both worked at the same company in Colorado Springs.
And that might make Colby a target.
"Dean, look at this." Sam turned the screen so Dean could read it, and watched as he skimmed the page and performed the mental arithmetic.
Dean lifted his gaze to Sam's face. He stared at him wide eyed, his mouth pursed into a silent 'wh'. He glanced back at the house then back to Sam.
"Do you think he knows?"
Sam frowned, trying to draw the threads of everything they'd learned together, but he still felt they were missing something.
Dean was studying his face, trying to gauge what he was thinking.
"Sam there's no way - no way Micahel would be behind anything that would hurt Colby. I don't believe it. I'll lay odds he never even knew about the adultery. Colby said Michael didn't know why his mother had killed herself." He paused. "My money's going back to the sister. She was angry enough."
And she had the knowledge . . .
Dean took the field glasses back and pointed them toward the house. "Sam, we need to talk to him."
Sam agreed. "But not while he's with Colby. We'll wait until tomorrow. I need to speak to Andrea again, anyway."
Dean dropped his eyes back to the screen, but his eyes weren't focused on it and after a moment Sam turned it back and returned to his research on the Sepher Yetzirah. Dean continued to stare thoughtfully into space but presently a frown settled on his features. "Sam, where did you get that information?" he asked.
Sam was about to explain but Dean cut him off.
"Have you been using my laptop to make illegal searches?" he demanded.
"I covered my ass, Dean," Sam assured him. "It won't trace back to you."
Dean stared at him for several seconds then just shook his head and returned, with an impatient hiss, to his vigil. A few minutes later he straightened up in the seat. "I think he's leaving," he said, and handed Sam the glasses once more.
Sam watched as Michael carefully slid out from under the now sleeping Colby, substituted a pillow where his leg had been and covered the boy with a blanket before leaving the room. Some minutes later he reappeared at the front door and Sam and Dean watched as he climbed onto a bicycle.
"Should one of us follow him?"
Sam sucked in a hesitant breath. "No, we'll stick together," he said after a moment's indecision.
Dean gave him a sidelong look. "Look, if I screwed the pooch this afternoon – "
"You didn't," Sam insisted quickly. "It just worried me when I got back and you weren't here is all."
"Uh-huh." Dean gazed at Sam for a moment then wiped a weary hand over his face and went back to watching Michael as he got on his bike and rode away. Then the question was moot anyway, but it had left an awkward atmosphere in its wake.
For the first time since he'd left the Campbells Sam was starting to feel his isolation from them. At first all he'd felt was the sense of freedom and independence that walking away had given him, but that was before he'd started hunting again. Now he was just conscious of the vulnerability and limitations of being alone. In the past he had been used to always having back up; he had always had access to the resources of the whole family. Now there was just the two of them, him and Dean, and it wasn't enough. It wasn't Dean's fault, he was acquitting himself admirably for a civilian, but he was still little more than that, and Sam knew he expected too much of him sometimes. It wasn't fair. It was downright dangerous. And, truth be told, Sam wasn't as confident of his own decisions as he had been in the past.
Sam glanced sideways at Dean who had returned his attention to their research now. He had the journal on his lap and was searching through old lore for anything that matched their present situation. He looked tired and drained. He was nodding a little over the book and Sam couldn't blame him; it wasn't like Dean had slept much, or well, lately. If only Sam could think of someone they could turn to for help, someone he knew they could really trust.
He sighed. His gaze drifted back down to the notebook and presently he focused his attention back on the characters and frowned. Reaching into the back where he'd left his back-pack he pulled out his sketch pad and started drawing, trying to give form to the confused images from his dream, trying to bring them into sharper focus. After a while Michael and Colby were depicted there, Samantha Ford's body outlined with dirt and broken glass, the half formed portrait of an ill-formed figure – a dark, vague shape with a woman's eye – and a slender hand, grubby and smudged. Sam picked up the pad and studied the marks more closely, comparing the smudges with the lettering he had copied from the corpse. Possibly there was a similarity in the shapes, but was he combobulating his dream with the information he'd received since? After a while it was hard to tell the difference. His gaze hovered between the portrait of the monster and the sketch of Samantha's body.
The dirt was significant . . . A creation formed from clay, like Adam . . .
Something stirred in Sam's memory. "Dean, let me see the journal."
Dean handed over the binder and Sam started sifting through it, his expression filled with purpose. Dean felt irritable, redundant and taken for granted. Out of mere idleness he picked up the sketch pad and gazed at the images depicted there: more of Sam's scary pictures. It occurred to Dean that the boy had some talent, though, in a macabre Scarfe meets Dali kind of way. Curiosity had him leafing through the pages. On the whole they appeared to be filled with case related material, images from the present case being most recent, behind that a sketch of the road and gully outside Castor's Passage. But there were sketches of other things that Dean didn't recognize – some monstrous, some more innocuous like trees, houses, faces – some were plainly just elaborate doodles, the artistic venting of a troubled mind. Dean glanced at the young man by his side, currently poring so intently through that oddly schizoid journal of his, and wondered whether he should be afraid for Sam or of him.
Dean turned another couple of pages and felt a sudden chill as he came upon a familiar scene. In the centre of the page was a sketch of the top corridor of his own home . . . that was. He recognized the lines, the proportions, the picture on the wall . . . it awoke in him an awful, hopeless longing and homesickness . . . together with an odd sense of dissociation. With everything that had happened since it was strange to think that he and his family had once been just another case to Sam. But then he found himself wondering if that was what he was still . . . just the leftover baggage from a case Sam hadn't solved yet.
His fingers hovered over the corner of the sheet and twitched nervously; he was afraid of what he would find when he turned the page yet, somehow, he had to know. He did it quickly, like he was pulling off a plaster, and then his head rocked back in stunned amazement. It wasn't just that he wasn't expecting to find his own portrait; the difference in style was like a dash of water in the face after everything else he'd seen in this collection. Gone were the hard lines, the sharp angry edges, the dark shading. The touch here was light, sensitive, sensual. It might have been drawn by a different person altogether. Compared with everything else in this book it was like a beacon of light. Dean stared at the portrait wide eyed and all he could think was . . . what the hell?
Dean wondered when Sam had even had the opportunity to take his portrait. Dean had never caught him in the act. He'd either done it very secretly or he had a damn good memory!
"What are you doing?"
Dean glanced sideways at Sam, then again when the awkwardness of the moment occurred to him. Oops. In the brief instant he had to decide the best way of handling this he decided to go with as obnoxiously as possible.
"Hey, Sammy!" he said cheerily. "Just admiring your artistic talent. I think this is your best yet." He held up the portrait. "You were obviously inspired by the subject matter."
Sam glowered his bitchiest bitch-face yet and made a grab for the pad but Dean snatched it back from his fingers.
"It isn't what it looks like," Sam snapped.
Dean held the pad up next to his own face. "Oh, really, Sammy? 'Cause I was thinking it looked like me." He glanced sideways at the portrait and smirked. "Quite a good likeness, I thought."
Sam grabbed Dean's jacket, pulled him forward, yanked the pad out of his grasp and shoved him back again. "Stay out of my stuff, Dean!" he snarled.
Dean was momentarily stunned then, in an instant, his mood turned from humor to anger.
"Pardon me?" he growled. "You're sitting there with my laptop on your knees, at the wheel of my car, with my keys in your pocket and all your freaky crap in my trunk, and you have the nerve to tell me to stay out of your stuff? You've just been using my laptop for fricking illegal hacking, Sam!"
Sam blinked. "For research, Dean."
"Oh, and that makes it OK, does it?"
Sam's eyes widened and his mouth opened into a half smile of incredulity. Clearly he thought it did. Dean changed tacks.
"You don't even ask, Sam."
"What? You want me to ask permission every time I borrow the laptop for research?"
Dean pulled his head back and stared at Sam. Was that really unreasonable? "You've never even asked once!" he pointed out.
Sam stared back for a beat then asked "is it OK if I use the laptop for research, Dean?"
'The laptop' Dean noticed, not 'your laptop'. "Yes, it's OK!" he snapped. "Of course it's OK. That's not the point here!"
"Then what is, Dean?"
Dean sighed and wiped an exasperated hand over his face. "I dunno. Never mind." It was like they were from two different worlds. And maybe they were.
They sat in frosty silence for a few moments then Dean threw open the door and got out.
"Dean, wait! Where – "
"Getting something!" Dean snapped, closing the door and shutting Sam off. He went to the trunk and pulled out his guitar: the one thing he still had that Sam never laid his hands on, didn't have a use for. Climbing into the back, he held it on his lap like it was a defensive wall, and sat strumming the chords to Cracker's "Get Out of My Head."
Sam gazed unseeingly out of the window nodding his head the way he did when he was tense, occasionally giving it a slight shake and letting out a breath that was almost, not really, a laugh. "Dean, should we be talking about this?" he asked at length.
Silence continued to pervade the car, accentuated rather than alleviated by the stringy metallic jangling. After a while Dean looked up and found Sam still regarding him with a troubled expression. He wasn't letting it drop.
Dean sighed. "It's just . . . It's like you've taken over everything – the laptop, the car, you've filled the trunk with all your stuff and – yeah, I know it's all for the cause, and it's important. I get that. But it's like I've got nothing left of my life that's mine, and I almost feel like I have to ask permission to use my stuff . . . and then, on top of all that, you get on my case because I picked up your sketch pad? Well, screw you!" Dean snapped and returned to strumming.
Sam stared into space for a few moments then stretched his jaw. He lifted the field glasses and surveyed the house for a while before lowering them again and resting them thoughtfully against his chin. "Dean, this is what hunting's like," he said presently. "It does take over your life. It is your whole life. It isn't just a job."
It was on Dean's tongue to say "I know that", but he kept silent.
"I never had much that was my own, either. Things like vehicles, computers, even some of the weapons, were kind of communal. We never thought of them as really belonging to anyone in particular; they were resources we all used. I guess, I didn't think . . ." He paused and shook his head. "I guess I didn't think," he finished with an apologetic shrug. He turned to Dean and gave him his earnest, puppy dog look. "I'd never deliberately intrude on anything of yours that was personal, though, Dean."
Dean didn't answer straight away but the chords started to soften.
"Trouble is, Sam, I think you and I have different ideas about what's personal."
Sam's lips pursed with the characteristic tug of acknowledgement.
Dean combed a thumb across his eyebrow. "Maybe it's an 'only child' thing." He uttered a soft, uneasy laugh. "I guess I'm just not used to sharing."
A slow frown settled on Sam's face and he gazed quizzically at Dean for a few moments but said nothing.
"Actually, Sam, when I picked up that pad I didn't really appreciate it was personal, exactly. It kinda just looked like a sort of pictorial notebook at first."
Sam chewed on that for a bit. "It's kind of both, I guess."
Dean went back to strumming chords. He guessed now wasn't a good time to ask questions about the portrait. He wasn't even sure what he wanted to ask. He just felt, somehow, that the portrait and a couple of great big question marks were keeping close company.
Sam returned his attention to the journal and appeared to be absorbed with his reading. For a while Dean's humming, the soft twang of the strings, and the occasional rustle of turning pages were the only sounds in the car, but then Sam caught Dean's attention with a sudden sharp breath. "Damn!" he hissed.
"I know what we're dealing with, Dean. It's a golem."
Sam handed the journal over to Dean but started summarizing the gist of what was written on its pages. "It's a creature from Jewish folklore. Traditionally it's raised by a righteous man, formed from the earth and animated by mystical incantation to do its master's bidding."
"Which explains all the dirt at the crime scene." Dean looked up. "So it's acting under orders, then?"
"One would presume so."
"But a righteous man, Sam? There's nothing righteous about murder."
"Unless it was done to protect someone. Maybe you're right that Michael never knew about the affair. Maybe someone wanted to make sure he never found out."
"That's a pretty twisted interpretation of righteousness, Sam."
Dean returned his attention to the journal and noted grimly that the creature was described as "virtually indestructible".
"Great!" He took out his pistol from the back of his jeans. "Well, then this is useless."
Sam nodded. "If you shoot this thing, you're just gonna make it mad." He took the journal back and closed it. "First thing tomorrow we go back and have another word with Andrea. I'm guessing she knows more about the golem than she's letting on. Let's hope she knows a way to stop it."
"And maybe we need to have another chat with Jeffrey, too," Dean added significantly, and Sam nodded his acknowledgement.
The sound of the key in the latch brought Andrea to the door with her father not far behind her.
"You're late, Michael! What happened? We called your cell, there was no answer."
"Nothing happened. I'm fine," the boy snapped, but his filthy, dishevelled appearance belied him.
Andrea took his arm and lifted it to point out the mud that was encrusted on the sleeve of his jacket, then she tried to wipe his face but he pulled away from her attentions. "I came off my bike," he told her. "Got a puncture and had to walk the rest of the way."
"Are you sure you're all right – "
"I'm fine. Leave me alone." He started up the stairs but his father called to him.
"How's Colby?" he asked.
"He's still really cut up," Michael replied. "And he's scared. They're talking about him having to go into care." Michael hesitated then leaned over the banister. "Dad, couldn't he come live with us? He could stay in my room. I don't mind sharing."
Andrea shot her father a warning look.
"I – I don't know, son. It isn't that simple. There are official channels . . ." He glanced uneasily at Andrea. "We'll talk about this another time," he concluded evasively and watched as his son ascended the rest of the flight of stairs.
"Andrea, won't you reconsider?" he asked quietly when the bedroom door closed. "The boy is all alone. He has no one else. And they get on so well together."
"Do you think they still would if Michael knew who Colby was?" Andrea demanded. "Michael lost his mother. Let him at least keep the illusion that she was loved."
"I did love her!"
Andrea shook her head and began to climb the stairs but her father held her with a restraining hand.
"Andrea, I feel responsible," he persisted.
She shook him off and folded her arms across her body. "You are responsible," she replied, without looking at him, and continued up the stairs. Stopping at her brother's bedroom she knocked gently at the door.
Michael heard the knock and hastily pushed a grubby bundle of envelopes back inside his jacket. "What?" he snapped.
The door opened and his sister walked into the room. "I just wanted to make sure you're all right. You looked shaken when you came in."
"I'm fine," he insisted. "Will you stop worrying over me? You're not Mom!"
Andrea's lips contracted into a tight line and she was silent for a few moments but she didn't leave. "Have you been in my room recently?" she asked presently.
Michael's eyes narrowed defensively. "Wh – why? No!"
"One of my books is missing. I just wondered if you'd borrowed it."
"Well, I haven't."
She waited, studying him a little longer. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, of course! Why would I?"
Still she hesitated but eventually she heaved in a deep breath and turned to leave. "All right, then. Goodnight, Michael."
As the door closed Michael moved close to it and listened until he heard his sister retire to her own room, then he locked his door and reached into his jacket once more. He withdrew the packet of letters with a shaking hand, brushing dirt from the envelopes as he took them to the bed and sat down. For a while he did nothing but stare at the writing on the front, afraid to take the next step. The deepest of forebodings gripped his chest as he recognized his father's hand on letters addressed to Samantha Ford. Minutes passed before he finally reached trembling fingers into the opening of the first envelope, drew out the sheets within, unfolded the pages and began to read.
Nothing could have prepared him for the rock-fall of emotions that battered him in succession as he absorbed the contents of the letters. After the initial shock came the pain, renewed grief and a sense of betrayal; hot tears began to course down his face as rage, hate and blame followed shortly after. But then there were more shocks, fresh revelations and all was confusion and dismay. In the end it was just the pain and bewilderment that remained as he sat on the bed, his body quaking with the effort of trying to contain the sudden intense and contradictory mass of feelings within the limits of his young frame.
But after a while other emotions began to steal upon him: suspicion warred with disbelief; he was haunted by doubt and fear . . . and the dread of responsibility.
Chapter 6: Scene 10
It was barely dawn when Sam began to see signs of stirring in the house. He and Dean had slept in shifts through the night and Dean was now curled up in the blanket at one end of the bench seat while Sam sat hunched at the other, slowly blowing into the hollow of his cupped hands in an attempt to defrost his fingers, and trying not to shiver too loudly.
Dean had said no more about the portrait and Sam was trying to decide whether or not that was a relief. He had to be wondering what the portrait was doing in the sketch pad and, in a way, not knowing what he was thinking was worse than if he'd questioned Sam outright. But Sam didn't know how he'd respond if he was quizzed on the subject. There were a limited number of explanations he could give and, if Dean pressed him on the matter, he supposed he'd either have to tell him the truth . . . or tell him the truth. And it was a toss up which truth was likely to make their relationship more uncomfortable and awkward: that Sam was a freak or that he was a creep.
It wasn't going away. He could reason with himself, distract himself, try to stop the thoughts dead in their tracks, but the source of them, the feeling – call it attraction, infatuation, obsession . . . whatever it was – was always there underneath everything and waiting to pounce. It had become the norm, the default setting that Sam's thoughts and feelings returned to the moment his attention ceased to be focused elsewhere, and he had no control over it. None. He glanced sideways at Dean, looked away again, rolled his shoulders and stretched his jaw.
They were together practically 24/7, caged up in this car together for hours on end, eating together, sleeping feet from each other, sharing the same bathrooms . . . Maybe Dean already suspected something was going on, Sam would be surprised if he didn't, but if he actually knew how much time Sam spent thinking about him . . . Sam could imagine him constantly checking over his shoulder to see if Sam was watching him when he changed, or when he came out of the shower . . . and it wouldn't be long before he caught Sam in the act. Just the thought of it made Sam cringe with humiliation.
But the alternative? Explaining about the dreams, the visions? He supposed he would have to eventually, and perhaps it just got worse the longer he put it off. He might tell himself that Dean had enough to deal with at the moment without Sam laying his own issues on him, or that Dean needed more time to adjust to this new view of the world, but the more time Dean spent fighting and killing supernatural creatures the harder it was going to be to explain that the trusted partner at his side was one of them.
If only Sam knew himself what it all meant. If only he could be certain he wasn't going to go the same way as so many of the others. If only he was sure that the hunters who thought all the psychic children should be wiped out before they got the chance to start dropping bodies weren't right.
Dean shifted in his sleep and gave a snuffling grunt and a snort. His face was pressed against the upholstery, his lips squashed partly open. Sam couldn't suppress a smile; Dean looked so much like a little boy when he was sleeping. Dean started to slide down the seat to where their research materials - notebooks, journal, laptop – had gathered between them. Sam picked up the pile and lifted it out of his way and Dean snuffled and squirmed as he settled down onto the seat. "No such thing as monsters" he murmured. Sam looked anxiously down at the sleeping figure. He hoped that didn't indicate the start of another nightmare.
Without warning, Dean's arm suddenly reached up and almost knocked the laptop out of Sam's hands. Sam lifted the computer up out of harm's way and the next moment Dean had shuffled across the seat and dropped his head onto Sam's lap. The warmth of Dean's face against his thigh was acutely disturbing in complex and contradictory ways, and Sam had to fight an instinctive urge to open the door and leap out of the car. To make matters worse, Dean snaked his arm around Sam's shins and his hand curled intimately and affectionately around Sam's knee. Oh, shit. Was he dreaming about his ex-girlfriend? Sam's whole body was rigid with tension and he pressed himself into the back of his seat, and he squirmed as he felt the warmth from Dean's hand seeping through the denim of his jeans.
"'Snothing in closet, Sammy. Dad looked."
Sam's eyes widened and his heart-rate quickened. What?
"Don't be scared. 'll look after you. 'll always look after you, Sammy."
Sam didn't know why, but listening to this one-sided conversation was filling his chest with an acute and palpable ache. He didn't know who Dean was talking to in his dream but he recognized now that it wasn't him. There was something childlike in the tone of Dean's low murmurs that led Sam to the conclusion that Dean was remembering something from his childhood. So who was Sammy?
"'K 'll get salt."
Salt? Did Dean know about salt back then, or was he confusing his memories?
"Dad!" Dean sat up suddenly, bleary and disoriented. His face was too close to Sam's and Sam arched his neck back trying to create some distance between them. Slowly Dean's eyes focused and then his body snapped backwards. "Dude! What's going on?" he demanded.
"What? Nothing!" Sam yelped, feeling irrationally defensive and flustered. He could feel himself starting to blush as if he had something to feel guilty about.
"Why was I on your lap?" Dean persisted.
"Wh – because you – you put yourself there!" Sam stammered. In his mind he was half way out of the car again.
"And you let me?"
"I didn't want to wake you!" This was ridiculous. Why was he even dignifying this by acting like he needed to defend himself.
Dean pointed an imperious finger at him. "Well, next time, you wake me!" he insisted.
Sam's nostrils flared. "There'd better not be a next time, Dean!" he snapped back, on the premise that the best defense is attack.
"Oh, there won't be!"
Sam turned away glowering. "Jerk," he muttered.
"Bitch," Dean returned, smirking, and Sam realized he'd just fallen into the trap of letting Dean wind him up as usual. He rolled his eyes and picked up the field glasses to cover his discomposure.
"What time is it?" Dean asked.
"Anything happening over there?"
Sam watched for a while, interpreting the activity he could observe. "Looks like Colby took your suggestion to heart. I think he's getting ready for school. We'll see him there safely then we should get some breakfast and find somewhere to change back into our fed suits."
Sam glanced at Dean. He had the laptop on his knees and was performing his habitual searches for demon sign. His expression never changed the whole time, and if Sam had been less observant he might have missed the slight bob of the Adam's apple when Dean eventually closed the laptop and turned his gaze toward the house once more.
That was Dean's default setting, and by the side of his grief and anxiety Sam's issues seemed to pale into insignificance. In fact, it occurred to Sam that perhaps the reason Dean hadn't pursued the matter of the portrait was simply that he didn't care. Sam's preoccupations just weren't high on his list of priorities. And why should they be?
They weren't a priority right now. Sam shook himself and fixed his attention back on the job in hand.
Colby's guardians drove him to school. Sam and Dean trailed at a discreet distance and watched until the boy was inside the building among all his teachers and classmates. Afterward they changed their clothes at the back of a gas station and as they drew up outside the Kelly residence Dean was still wiping grease from their hasty breakfast off of his face.
"You missed a bit, Dude," Sam pointed out as they reached the door.
"Bleaaagh!" Dean pulled out a handkerchief that was so grubby it was barely helping to complete the clean up. "Just once, I'd like to sit down and eat something that hasn't been micro-waved at a mini mart," he complained, and Sam felt the full weight of everything Dean was missing behind that careless seeming comment. He pressed the door chimes and waited for a response.
The pause protracted and he tried again.
He and Dean shared a glance.
"Maybe they're out," Dean suggested, but then they heard the sound of a crash from the back of the house and, the next moment, a woman shrieking. Without another moment's hesitation Sam kicked in the door. Dean was first through it with Sam directly following and they quickly made their way in the direction of the sounds.
The screams were Andrea's. They found her in a back room struggling with a woman who had Jeffrey pinned to the wall by his throat . . . at least, it looked like a woman but Sam immediately noted the marks on the back of the creature's hand, and its superhuman strength was apparent as Jeffrey dangled several inches above the floor. Blood flowed from a gash on his head and his eyelids fluttered closed as he started to lose consciousness.
Slightly ahead of Sam, Dean rushed forward and was trying to help Andrea pull the creature off of her father. Their combined efforts were a sufficient distraction and Jeffrey's limp body dropped to the floor as the creature grabbed Dean instead, lifted him bodily and hurled him clear across the room. He fetched up hard against a bureau, venting a sharp cry of pain as he crumpled to his hands and knees. And it wasn't done with him yet; it lumbered toward him as Dean lifted eyes wide with fear . . .
. . . and Sam fired three shots into the creature's back. With a snarl of rage, it turned and made for Sam instead. Then it was Sam who was pinned to the wall and dangling, staring into eyes that looked like a woman's, but were threaded through with blood red veins and the frenzy of a wild animal. He felt the pressure on his wind pipe and gasped for air as the world began to darken around him . . . and a recollection came back to him of the upper hallway in the Winchester home, the demon's taunts and the smell of sulfur, and he thought he could feel the heat of the flames once more. Then he could hear inhuman shrieking and the pressure on his throat suddenly released. As he sucked in a lungful of air his vision cleared and the first thing he saw was Dean standing in front of him holding the flare gun. Next moment a crash drew his attention to the window and he saw the creature, bathed in flame, smashing through the patio doors and out into the yard. He followed on instinct but by the time he reached the window the creature was already some distance away and he knew there was nothing he could do anyway. He saw it was making for the woods behind the property and, as he watched, the flames extinguished and the creature reverted to a featureless earthen form before disappearing into the trees.
"Did we kill it?" Dean demanded.
Sam turned and shook his head. "Just scared it away . . . for now."
He turned to where Andrea was kneeling beside her father's inert body, white-faced and shaking. "Oh no," she was crying, "oh no no no!" Sam knelt beside her, checked Jeffrey's pulse and felt his chest. "Is he . . . ?" she whispered through ashen, trembling lips.
Sam responded with a quick shake of the head. "He's still breathing," he assured her. "Dean, call 911."
Dean handed Andrea a cup of tea and she received it with shaking hands. Jeffrey had concussion and some blood loss, and his laryngeal injuries had been serious enough to require surgery. Now he was in recovery and the doctors were confident of the prognosis, but Andrea was badly shaken and had been treated for shock herself before she was released into a private waiting area while they waited for Jeffrey to recover consciousness.
"Where's Michael? At school?" Dean asked. "Do you want us to get him for you?"
She was silent for a few moments as she stared down into the tea she held cupped between the palms of her hands, but then she shook her head.
"He doesn't have to know about this," she whispered. "Not yet . . . not yet."
Dean raised a crooked eyebrow. It struck him that the boy would probably figure out something was up when he got home from school and found the back windows smashed to hell, but he said nothing. Protecting her baby brother was clearly an ingrained habit with Andrea, and Dean could kinda get that, but Michael was fifteen. Maybe it was time Andrea realized he wasn't a baby any more.
Moments passed and Andrea continued to stare down into her tea, then she whispered "I don't understand."
Sam and Dean exchanged a glance and Sam moved forward while Dean retreated to lean against the back wall.
"That was my mother . . . I don't understand . . ."
"You know it wasn't your mother, Andrea," Sam said.
"I don't understand," she repeated.
"I think you do."
A tiny throaty noise caught Sam's attention and he looked up to find Dean giving him a meaningful look from under the handlebars of his eyebrows. Sam looked awkwardly between Dean and Andrea for a moment then he took a deep breath before stepping out from behind the security of his fed persona. Dropping down onto the seat beside her he continued in a softer tone. "There's something you didn't tell us . . . about the contents of the Sepher Yetzirah."
Andrea looked up, her eyes filled with anxiety. Sam tried to return sensitivity, compassion. "What is it you want to know?" Andrea asked, her voice hoarse and trembling.
"I want to know about the myth of the golem."
She shook her head. "The Sepher Yetzirah is a mystical text. Its pages are filled with golems and vivics and demons of every size and shape."
"It's the golem that I'm interested in," Sam persisted.
A little of Andrea's former defensiveness returned. "And why would an FBI agent be interested in such a thing?"
Sam sucked in another breath and bit down on the bullet. "We're not feds, Andrea."
Her eyes widened and her lips parted as she began to react.
"We're private investigators," he added quickly with a glance at Dean. "We specialize in . . . cases like this one."
"Are there many cases like this one?" she demanded skeptically.
Sam stared down at his knees for a moment then held her gaze with his own. "More than you'd want to believe," he told her.
She stared at him with an expression somewhere between incredulity and fear.
"Andrea, we're here to help. Please." He reached inside his jacket and took out the scorched book. "Tell us about this book, Andrea. Tell us about the golem."
"It's a myth," she insisted, but her voice was laced with doubt.
"What we witnessed this morning wasn't a myth," Sam pointed out.
Andrea's eyes began to swim with tears. She swallowed and took a sip from her tea. "The early Cabalists . . ." she cleared her throat and tried to assume her academic mask once more. "They believed that a righteous man could actually create a living being from the earth itself. Fashioned from mud or clay, this creature could only be brought to life by the power of the word: in practical terms, by the direct application of certain secret letter combinations."
"Combinations found in this book?"
She nodded "These pages are basically instructions for animating the inanimate," she explained, taking the book and turning its pages. "And this . . ." she indicated with her forefinger. "This passage talks about inscribing a single word on the golem itself."
"On the back of the hand?"
They exchanged a look of confirmation. Andrea had seen it, too.
"And what is the secret word?" Sam asked.
"Emet. Here . . ." She pointed to three symbols in the text. "Aleph, Mem and Tau create the word, Emet."
"I don't speak Hebrew," Sam admitted. "I don't know what that means."
"Truth. Emet means truth." She looked down and was silent for a few moments. When she continued her academic pose was faltering. "The danger of the truth is contained in the word golem itself, which means matter without form, body without soul."
Sam looked up at Dean then just as quickly looked away again. A cold shiver ran down his spine. The danger of the truth. Hadn't he been thinking of that just that morning? He swallowed before continuing his questions.
"So the golem is an imperfect creation?" he prompted.
"It's a monster," Andrea agreed. "unable to speak, or feel anything but the most primitive of emotions. In the myths it runs amok and has to be destroyed by its creator."
"By erasing the first letter, Aleph." With her finger she covered the first symbol "Emet becomes met... which means dead. Again . . .the power of letters, not just to create, but to kill." Her voice cracked on the last words and she held her hand to her mouth as tears began to swim in her eyes.
Sam could feel that they were getting close to the heart of the matter, and the clinical hunter in him wanted to close in, cut to the bone, but Dean's presence withheld him as tangibly as a restraining hand.
"Tell me about your mother, Andrea?" he asked gently.
She looked up. "What?"
"The golem was created in the image of your mother, to exact her vengeance. Why your mother?"
She remained silent.
"Andrea, this creature killed Samantha Ford; it tried to kill your father. It's going to keep trying. You've gotta help us stop it."
She sat shaking her head and he knew he had to push.
"We know about the affair, Andrea . . . about Colby."
Her eyes widened then she broke down and started crying. Sam fished in his pocket and gave her his handkerchief. He cast a nervous glance at Dean but Dean wasn't looking at them; his eyes were cast down to the floor and he was hugging himself and chewing at his lower lip, and Sam just hoped he could keep it together a little longer. He couldn't worry about Dean right now.
"Did your mother know about it?"
Andrea spent a few moments staring down at the hand that clutched the handkerchief then she admitted "sh – she found out years ago. There were arguments . . . terrible arguments . . . their marriage never recovered from it . . . but she didn't know about C – Colby . . . not until Michael brought him home from school with him one day. And then she knew. We both knew. We could see it. Then she started searching. She found letters that confirmed he was father's. They'd been corresponding since just after the boys met. He'd been sending money . . ." Her lips twitched with residual anger, but she shook her head and continued. "Mother sh – showed me the letters . . . a week later she was dead." Sam waited while she recovered from a renewed bout of weeping.
"What happened to the letters?" he asked as the sobs abated.
"I burned them," she whispered. "I d – didn't want Michael to find out. He was just a baby when it started. He was too young to remember the fights. He doesn't know." She looked up at Sam and stared hard at him as if she was daring him to go there. "He doesn't know," she repeated.
Behind him Sam felt rather than saw Dean straighten up and lift himself away from the wall, suddenly attentive.
One set of letters were burned, but there'd have been others: the replies. Sam thought of the ransacked house; the creature had been searching for something. "Are you sure?" he demanded.
Sam brushed off the interruption. "Does Michael know what you're studying? Has he seen your research? Could he have read your dissertation?"
"No!" she cried, but he could tell it was what she wished, not what she believed.
Sam turned impatiently to Dean then gasped as he saw his friend's eyes were swimming with unshed tears.
"Sam, he didn't know!"
Fuck, Dean, not now! Keep it together, man!
"But he wanted to know! Colby said! Michael wanted to know why his mother died; he wished he could ask her."
Sam opened his mouth, closed it again. He suddenly saw where Dean was going with this.
"A righteous man, Sam! His motive had to be righteous!" Dean stepped forward and Sam's heart nearly broke as he saw a single tear sliding down the man's cheek. Dean's lips trembled as he continued. "It wasn't hate that created this thing, Sam. It was love." And then his voice crumbled over his last words. "The kid just wanted to talk to his mom!"
Chapter 7: Scenes 11 and 12
"Give me the car keys, Sam. Me and Andrea are gonna go have a little talk with Michael. You'd better stay here and make sure the zombie apocalypse doesn't come back and take another poke at Jeffrey."
"I – I can't leave my father now – " Andrea protested.
Dean slid his hand under Andrea's arm and lifted her to her feet. "He's fine. Sam'll watch out for him. Your brother's the one who needs you now." Turning, he snapped his fingers and held out his hand. "Sam! The keys!"
. . . right . . . yes, because that was the right call . . . Dean was the best one to talk to Michael; he could identify . . . and Sam was the best one to . . . it was just seeing Dean suddenly so animated and decisive that had taken Sam off guard. He fished in his pocket and handed the keys over.
"Call us when Jeffrey comes round," Dean added.
Sam nodded. "And if Michael knows where the golem is . . ."
"I'll call you. Right." He guided Andrea out of the room and down the corridor toward the parking lot, and she allowed herself to be carried along in his wake.
Sam watched after them wearing a slightly perplexed frown. What had just happened?
"OK, I'll let her know . . . oh, this doesn't look good." Andrea was crossing the parking lot from the school. She had an anxious expression on her face.
"What? What's happening?" Dean could hear an edge of stress in Sam's voice; he didn't like being out of the loop.
"Michael isn't with her."
As Andrea opened the passenger door and got into the car Dean could still hear Sam's voice demanding answers Dean didn't have yet. For the present, Dean ignored him. "Your father's conscious. He's going to be fine." Good news first, he thought. "Where's Michael?"
She acknowledged the news with some measure of relief but her anxiety for Michael was still evident. "He's not in school. No one's seen him since before lunch. And he's not answering his cell phone."
"Well, let's not panic yet," Dean responded, trying to conceal his own growing unease, "he's probably at home."
"Dean? Dean!" Sam was snapping at the other end of the phone.
"Gotta drive now, Sam," Dean told him. "I'll call you when I know more," and he closed his cell. "Did you speak to Colby?" he asked Andrea as they reached the road.
"He saw Michael in the morning. He said he was behaving oddly – uncommunicative . . . He was quiet at home this morning, too," she recalled.
"How did Colby seem to you?"
She hesitated. "Upset. Confused."
Damn. He would be. He'd be feeling real isolated at school right now without his accustomed protector around to look out for him. It had been a bad call on Dean's part encouraging him to go back. "Did you tell him anything?" he asked Andrea.
"No, I – I didn't know what to . . ." She trailed off and stared out of the window for a few moments, then "that poor boy . . ." she whispered. She swallowed. "I wished Father had never met his mother; I wished he'd never been born . . . but I never – " She covered her mouth with her hand and closed her eyes as tears glistened at the corners of her eye-lashes. Then she lifted her head and gave Dean a searching look. "What are you going to say to Michael?" she demanded.
Dean glanced at her then returned his eyes to the road. "What are you going to say to him, Andrea?" he shot back. "There's a woman dead here and a kid without a home, your father's in hospital and Michael's in pain, and all because he needed answers his own family wasn't giving him. I'm not the one he needs to talk to. Nothing I can say that's gonna make things any better for him."
She was wide-eyed but she was absorbing what he was saying.
"How about it, Andrea? Have you got it in you to bury the past and find some words of healing for your brother?"
"I loved my wife . . ." Jeffrey whispered, and swallowed.
"You probably shouldn't talk," Sam urged.
"But it was hard . . . living with her illness . . . there were days, weeks sometimes, when she didn't dress, didn't get out of bed . . . and Samantha seemed so full of – . . . . . full of life . . ."
Tears glistened in the man's eyes, and Sam tried to return an expression of sympathy and understanding. Somehow he'd been landed with the role of confessor. He didn't know how that had happened. He couldn't even understand why someone would want to unburden their soul to a complete stranger.
"I thought I was in love with her . . . maybe I was . . ."
It wasn't Sam's forte. It wasn't in his skills base. He was used to doing his job, ganking the monsters and moving on. But it was getting that he could hear Dean clearing his throat even when he wasn't in the room. Apparently it wasn't enough to save lives. Apparently they had to mop brows and hold hands now as well.
"I thought . . . what Sarah didn't know wouldn't hurt her . . ." Tears were trickling down the man's face now. "She wasn't supposed to find out . . . but she did . . ."
Was that what Dean would do? Would he take the man's hand? Was that what was required here? Sam didn't know. He started to make a move to reach out, but his hands wound up under his own armpits. He wished Dean would call and let him know what was happening his end.
"I didn't know about the boy. Didn't know where Samantha was until Michael came home from school one day with Colby . . . and it was the same surname, and the same eyes . . ."
He wished the golem would attack. Fighting monsters he could cope with. That was what he did.
"And Sarah saw it too . . ." Jeffrey choked and his body started to quake with silent sobs. "No one was supposed to get hurt," he croaked.
What was he supposed to say? No one was ever supposed to get hurt. But you make mistakes, and people get hurt and people die and there's no coming back from that, no restoration you can make. There's no way of redeeming a life that's been lost. The dead stay dead and your penance is to live with that, because that's all you can do for them. Sam reached for the water jug, poured the man a glass of water and held it to his lips while he drank. He didn't know what else to do. What else could he offer the man?
You shouldn't seek absolution from the damned.
"There he is!"
They could see the house as they turned into the road and Michael was just going through the front door. Dean drove to the house and parked the car and they entered the house in time to hear the boy's exclamations of shock and anxiety, and the crunch of broken glass underfoot coming from the back room. As they joined him he turned to them white faced and wide eyed.
"What happened?" he gasped.
Dean and Andrea glanced at each other and Andrea's mouth opened but no sound came out.
"Think you can guess," Dean supplied. "Your pet creature's running amok. It attacked your father. He's in hospital."
"He's all right!" Andrea added hurriedly as Michael's ashen face turned from one to the other of them. "He's going to be fine," she assured him, "but this has to stop, Michael. This thing . . . has to be stopped. It's hurting people. It's killing people."
Michael shook his head slowly, mechanically. "No," he whispered. "No, she wouldn't. She wouldn't. I know she was hurt, she was angry, but Mom wouldn't hurt anyone!"
"Oh, Michael, sweetheart . . ." Andrea stepped forward and placed her hand against her brother's face. "You don't understand. . . . this thing you've brought back . . . it isn't our mother. It's a creature . . . a monster. It has no place among the living."
He stared blankly into space. "I didn't even think it would work," he murmured. "It was just a wish. They were just . . . words . . ." He looked up. "I just couldn't understand . . . how she could leave us. I wanted to ask . . . but she couldn't even speak . . ." He swallowed then, reaching into his jacket, he pulled out a bundle of letters and held them in trembling hands. "Sh – she brought me these." He turned pained eyes to his sister. "Are these why she died?"
As Andrea absorbed the handwriting on the envelopes her hand went to her mouth. She glanced at Dean then took the pile from Michael's hands, placed them on the bureau and drew her brother to the couch and sat down with him.
"Michael, you have to understand, our mother wasn't well. She had been ill for a very long time; long before . . ." her eyes strayed to the letters on the bureau then returned to her brother's face. "It was an illness that robbed her of her faith, all her hope and her joy. Michael, she loved us – all of us, and she wouldn't have done what she did if she'd been well . . . but the world can seem such a very dark place to someone who has lost their ability to believe . . ."
He stared searchingly at his sister and his lips trembled as he asked "she stopped believing in us?"
Andrea's eyes widened and filled with tears. "Oh no, sweetheart! No!" she assured him as she embraced him and held him in her arms. "She stopped believing in herself."
Dean left Andrea and Michael talking while he was bringing Sam up to date.
"Does he know where the golem is, or how to summon it?" Sam asked. "Does Andrea?"
"No, apparently the thing just turned up with the letters."
Sam uttered a click of frustration. "Well, you'd better bring them both here. Have Andrea bring her research. I'll keep looking this end."
Dean's cell-phone buzzed. "Hang on, Sam." He switched to the app showing the image from the house where Colby was staying, and he swore softly as he saw Colby had followed Michael's example and ducked out of school early. Doubtless he'd been upset by Michael's behavior and Andrea's appearance, but now he was alone in an unsupervised house and Dean had a bad feeling about it. He switched back to the call.
"Sam – "
"Yeah, I saw. Look, the hospital's a few blocks from the house. I can be there in a few minutes."
"Yeah, but that would leave Jeffrey open. I can get there just as quickly, Sam. I'll take Michael and Andrea, and bring them all to you. I figure they all need to talk to each other, anyway."
"Is now the best time?"
"Tell me when there's gonna be a good time, Sam?"
There was a moment of silence at the other end then Sam asked "have you still got your flare gun?"
"Well, stay sharp, Dean."
Dean closed the call and returned to Andrea and Michael. He didn't like to interrupt their conversation but he had no choice. He explained the arrangement to them and sent Andrea to get her work as he made for the car with Michael behind him, then he stopped as he realized the kid was hanging back.
"Come on, Michael," he chivvied.
Michael stood uncertain in the hallway. "Who are you? A cop?"
"No, I'm a hunter – " Dean responded, a little rashly he realized, and tried to qualify the statement more delicately, " . . . kind of . . . me and my friend . . . we track things that hurt people . . . and try to stop them."
"And you've been hunting my mom?"
"It's not your mom, Michael!" Dean insisted. The kid needed to be clear on that point.
Still he hesitated. "What am I gonna say to . . . to Colby?" he half whispered.
Dean drew a quick deep breath. "Tell him the truth."
"But it's . . . everything . . . it's all my fault." His lips trembled as he spoke. "He's never gonna talk to me again!"
Dean's heart ached for the kid, but a woman was dead; he couldn't make light of it.
"You gotta face that possibility, Michael. You made a mistake: you fucked with stuff you shouldn't have fucked with. And when you screw up, you come clean, you put right what you can, and you take the consequences. It's called being a man." He reached out a hand and placed it on Michael's shoulder, guiding him toward the front door as Andrea came down the stairs. Michael turned anxious eyes back to his sister.
She nodded. "Go out to the car, Michael. We'll be there in a moment."
Dean paused to check the flare gun and cartridges as Andrea waited until Michael was outside.
"What is it you're expecting him to do? Do you think he can stop this creature?"
"He's the only one who can; isn't that right, Andrea?"
"He's just a boy!"
Dean held her with his intent gaze as he replaced the gun in the back of his trousers. "Andrea, his boyhood's in the grave with Samantha Ford."
They were a block from the house when Dean's cell buzzed again. He lifted it from his pocket with one hand, keeping the other on the wheel, and glanced down hoping to see Sam's number but an alert from the video feed confirmed his misgivings. He checked the image and his insides chilled as he saw the figure stealing along the alley Colby had taken the day before.
"Fuck!" he gasped and stamped down on the gas as his thumb punched the speed dial for Sam.
Sam answered before he'd lifted the phone to his ear and Dean just caught his breathless "on my way!" before the call dropped out.
"What's happening?" Andrea demanded.
"Looks like Colby's got an unwanted visitor," Dean responded through teeth gritted with tension. "Michael, do you know how to stop this thing? Do you know what to do?"
"Sh – she wouldn't hurt him . . ." Michael stammered, color draining from his face.
"Michael, it's NOT your mother!" Dean yelled as the car screeched to a halt outside the house. "Do you know what to do?"
Michael nodded dumbly.
"Right. Come with me."
"Wait!" Andrea cried. "What if he can't – "
"I'll take care of him." Dean drew out the flare gun. "You wait here!"
He moved toward the house, keeping Michael behind him, feeling the hard steel of the gun against his palm as he gripped it tight, heart pounding with the dread of what he was going to find inside the house. He swore under his breath when he saw the front door ajar, wood splintered at the lock and jamb. "Stay here!" he ordered and glanced back at Michael to find Andrea just a few feet behind them. "Both of you!" he snapped.
Suddenly he was startled by the report of gunfire and his attention whipped back to the house. "What the – ?" He glanced hurriedly at Andrea. "Keep hold of him!" he yelled before bursting into the house, following the sound of the shot. As he hurried down the entryway he caught the smell of scorched earth, then a glimpse of flame and smoke from the room at the far end. He kicked open the door and was stunned to see Sam already there, hurriedly reloading his own flare gun as the blazing creature bore down on him. Even as he watched, momentarily transfixed, the flames doused and the thing became a lumbering earthen figure that began to take on human appearance again as it moved, just before Dean emptied another fiery cartridge into its back.
The creature roared and turned toward Dean instead, but before it reached him Sam aimed a headshot at it. The cartridge exploded in its temple showering the room with smoldering mud and leaving the creature headless – briefly. Immediately the dirt began to rebuild and shape itself, resuming its ghastly mimicry of Sarah Kelly's face, and Dean realized with horror that there was no way to subdue or restrain this thing. How could they possibly let a fifteen year old boy anywhere near it?
"Dean, cover Colby!" Sam yelled. ""I'll draw it outside!"
Colby? His attention shifted in the direction Sam indicated and he felt the plummet of his senses as he saw the boy's still, crumpled form in a corner. Dean put himself between the monster and the boy's body as Sam started backing out of the patio doors with the creature in pursuit. As he loaded his last cartridge Dean tried to think what to do. He couldn't draw it back toward Colby, he couldn't let it get Sam either. And when their last cartridges were spent, what then? Anxious and uncertain, Dean raised the gun.
"NO!" Michael stood framed in the doorway between Sam and Dean, with the creature in front of him and Andrea behind, trying to pull him back. He pulled himself out of her grasp and took a step toward the creature. Pale and trembling, he nevertheless seemed set and determined. "Mom! Stop!"
Dean opened his mouth to shout but nothing came out and the room seemed to be caught in frozen motion as the golem slowly turned to face its creator.
"Stop," Michael repeated in a voice hoarse with fear.
It waited, and he moved toward it.
"Michael, be careful!" Andrea cried, stepping after him and trying to pull him back. As she moved the creature snarled with rage and reached for her throat.
"No!" Michael restrained the golem with an outstretched hand and, in the same moment, Sam moved swiftly forward and swept Andrea back out of the way, preventing her interference and placing a silencing hand over her mouth.
Dean's rapid heart was loud in his ears as he watched the boy move forward and place his arms round the simulacrum of his dead mother. He held her for a few silent moments before reaching down and taking her arm, then he lifted it and rubbed his thumb across the back of her hand, erasing one letter from the characters etched there.
It began at the hand, with the appearance of flesh giving way to dry earth then, all over the body, the human image melted into dirt. Then form itself began to dissolve and, slowly, the golem crumbled back to its original clay until, in the end, there was nothing left of it but dust. And Michael stood over it, inert, head bowed, arms limp at his sides. All was still in the room. Then Michael uttered a choking sob.
Dean was the first to react, moving on instinct to hug the boy as he wept, and feeling presently the hot course of tears down his own face. Sam recollected himself and released Andrea then hastened to the corner where Colby lay, and Dean handed Michael into his sister's arms as he turned to join Sam.
"Colby!" Michael gasped, running to the young boy and dropping to his knees by his side.
Colby was conscious but pale and wide-eyed and drawing pained, shallow breaths. Sam examined him with careful experienced hands.
"Cracked rib," he concluded. "Maybe broken."
Dean nodded and reached for his cell. As he called 911 he saw Michael reach out and grasp the younger boy's hand.
Chapter 8: Final scene and closing credits
This chapter contains the final scene of "Golem" followed by a look ahead to next episode and closing credits.
So, they'd called the emergency services. They'd stomped out potential fires where smoldering mud had caught the carpet. They'd seen Colby into an ambulance and they'd driven Michael and Andrea to the hospital, and Sam had adapted scripts from his stock list of BS explanations for the benefit of the local authorities and the people who'd been taking care of Colby. They were done here. There was nothing left but the awkward conversations, confessions, rationalizations and appeals of the grief ravaged family, all of which had nothing to do with Sam and Dean. That was personal stuff between the victims; it was none of their business.
So why were they still here? Why were they still haunting the corridors of the hospital, hovering at the periphery of these sad rooms and the tragedy within? What was Dean waiting for?
Dean took a sip of coffee, watching the room where Andrea and Michael sat with their father. "How did you get to the house so quickly?" he asked Sam as an idle aside.
Sam hesitated. "I was already on my way when you called," he admitted.
Dean raised questioning eyebrows.
"I had a bad feeling about Colby," Sam explained.
"So – what? You're psychic now?"
Sam chose to ignore the question. "We should go, Dean," he urged . . . again.
"I just want to make sure they're OK before we leave," Dean insisted.
OK how? How were any of them going to be OK again after all that had happened? They were alive. They were as OK as they were ever going to be.
Sam breathed a quiet, frustrated sigh. "Are all families this fucked up?" he wondered out loud. "Two women dead, two boys without mothers, friends find out they're brothers and, now, who knows if they'll ever even be able to talk to each other again . . . and all because one guy couldn't keep his dick in his pants!"
Dean turned his head to survey Sam for a few moments then returned his attention to the far room and took another sip of his coffee. After another beat he responded quietly, "you break rules, you know, Sam. You break laws. You do it all the time."
Sam opened his mouth to speak but Dean forestalled him.
"I know. You do it for righteous reasons, and that's fine. But you think that gives you the right to be self-righteous about the rules other people break. People are human, Sam. They have feelings, and feelings are complicated. People make mistakes. You should have more compassion for those of us who aren't as perfect as you are."
Sam turned and stared at the honest face of this man who had never done anything irredeemable in his life, and wondered in what reality he imagined he was less perfect than Sam.
Dean presently became aware that Sam was staring at him and returned a questioning look.
"I'm not perfect," Sam told him. "If I was, I wouldn't need rules." He turned and walked away.
Dean didn't have much time to reflect on Sam's comment as Andrea and Michael came out of their father's room at that moment, Michael turning up the corridor toward Colby's room and Andrea heading toward Dean. He nodded to her as she approached.
"Is your father feeling better?" he asked.
"The doctors say he'll make a full recovery," she acknowledged. "Colby, too. They're going to be fine. Thanks to you and Sam"
"Hey. It's what we do." As he said the words they kind of echoed in his head: this is what we do.
She took a deep breath. "We've asked Colby to come and live with us. We've talked about it, and we all agree we want him to stay with us . . ." She hesitated. "Colby's thinking about it."
"Oh . . . right."
"Well, it's . . . he has a lot to process at the moment."
Dean nodded. It would take Colby a while to absorb everything that had happened . . . but once he'd had time to reflect . . . after all, the alternative . . . "I'm sure he'll come round."
She returned a hopeful nod, thanked Dean again and they parted company. And maybe Sam was right and it was time to leave now. Maybe this was as good as it got. Dean finished his coffee and tossed the cup into a waste bin then he headed up the corridor Sam had taken toward the parking lot, but half way along he spotted Michael sitting on a bench outside Colby's room. The kid was staring dejectedly at a book he was holding limply in his hands. As he drew nearer Dean recognized it as a copy of The Two Towers, the volume Michael had been reading to Colby before.
"Hey," Dean greeted the kid as he reached the bench.
Michael didn't look up.
"You brought that to read to Colby?" Dean asked as a conversation starter.
"Good choice. Lord of the Rings: my favorite of all time!"
Still no response..
"You're not going in there?" Dean asked, nodding toward Colby's room.
"He won't talk to me," Michael whispered. "Don't blame him. I'm the reason his mom's dead."
Dean sucked his lower lip through his teeth and deliberated for a few moments then he laid a consoling hand on Michael's shoulder as he turned decisively into the room.
Colby was as monosyllabic as his brother. Dean found him propped up in bed, red-eyed, staring out of the window.
"How are you feeling? Still sore?" he asked, thumbing idly through a few of the books and comics that lay neglected around the room.
"Michael's outside," Dean ventured, but he wasn't really surprised when he didn't get an answer. Instead the boy turned accusing eyes on him.
"You're not from social services," he stated.
"No," Dean acknowledged. "That was BS. You really should have checked my ID." He grinned sheepishly. "It was a Blockbuster's card."
The kid wasn't amused. "What about all that stuff about your mother? Was that BS, too?"
The grin dropped from Dean's face. "No, that was true." There was a silent pause and then Dean started in again. "I hear the Kellys want you to go live with them," he said.
Colby turned his face toward the window once more.
"You were worried you'd have to go into care," Dean persisted. "Going to live with them would be better, wouldn't it?" When the boy didn't answer he added "they're your family, Colby."
"Mom was my family!" the boy snapped, "and he made the thing that killed her! He made it!"
"He didn't know, Colby. He didn't mean for any of this to happen. He just wanted his own mom back." Dean carefully cleared a space at the bottom of the bed and sat down on the edge. "If you thought there was any way you could bring your mom back, wouldn't you want to try? I know I would."
Colby continued to stare out of the window.
"So . . . what? You're never going to talk to him again? You don't want to see him again? Ever? Is that really what you want?"
Colby's lips trembled. His nostrils flared and tears started in his eyes.
Thought not. "You've gotta forgive him, Colby."
At last the boy turned and looked at Dean as tears trickled down his cheeks. "I don't . . . I don't know how . . ."
"A tiny, tiny bit at a time. But you don't do that by avoiding him. You have to see him, talk to him. It'll be hard at first, but it'll get easier." Dean assured him. "Look, you're mad at him. I get that. He gets that. So be mad. Just, don't be a bitch about it." Dean stood up and handed Colby a box of tissues, and as the kid blew his nose Dean combed a sympathetic hand through the boy's unruly mop of hair. Colby glanced up and they shared a moment of understanding, then Dean turned and left the room.
As he passed the bench outside Dean caught Michael's attention and directed a significant nod back toward Colby. Michael stared at Dean then half stood, glancing doubtfully between Dean and the room but after another encouraging nod from Dean, he picked up the book and went to join his brother.
Dean didn't listen to the ensuing conversation but he watched from a discreet distance as they exchanged a few sentences and, at length, Michael took a seat next to the younger boy's bed, opened the volume and began to read. And Dean's lips twitched into a relieved and satisfied smile as he turned and headed out to the parking lot.
Sam was waiting for him outside, leaning against the driver side door of the Impala. He directed a questioning look at Dean as he approached.
"I think they're gonna be OK," Dean told him.
"Well, at least they're all talking to each other. That's a start."
Sam nodded. He was studying Dean very carefully. "Are you gonna be OK, Dean?"
Dean actually thought about it, and he was surprised at his answer. "Yeah, I think so," he said. "I mean . . . I'm still . . . you know . . ." He grimaced. "But I think I kind of get it now . . . why we're doing this. I mean, I figure our families are screwed to hell, but maybe we can help some others. Makes things a little bit more bearable. You know?"
Sam nodded thoughtfully. He seemed to be absorbing what Dean was saying, as if he hadn't thought about it before. Then he looked up and looked very seriously into Dean's eyes. "Dean . . ." he began and, for a moment, Dean thought he was on the point of some stunning revelation, but then he looked away and when he looked back he just said "you know we're gonna find your dad, right?"
Dean nodded. "Yeah, I know," he agreed quietly then, more briskly, he added "But in the meantime . . ." he fished into his pocket for the car keys, tossed them in the air and caught them again. "I'm driving." He gave Sam a meaningful look and waited. After the briefest hesitation Sam straightened up and moved around to the passenger side of the car, and Dean opened the door and dropped into the driver seat sporting a slightly self-satisfied smirk. As he gunned the engine he pushed the waiting tape into the slot of the cassette player, and Brian Johnson's familiar dulcet tones accompanied him as he took the Impala out onto the road:
Back in black I
hit the sack
I've been too long I'm glad to be back.
Yes, I'm let loose from the noose
That's kept me hanging about.
I keep looking at the sky 'cause it's gettin' me high.
Forget the hearse 'cause I'll never die.
I got nine lives, cat's eyes.
Usin' every one of them and running wild
'Cause I'm back
Yes, I'm back.
Well, I'm back, yes, I'm back.
Well, I'm back, back.
(Well) I'm back in black.
Yes, I'm back in black.
STILL TO COME
Thank you for reading Golem, episode 2 in the series THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME. Other episodes in this series include the double pilot episode, I Can Never Go Home (part 1 “Visions and Revisions”, and part 2 “The Never Ending Road”). A preview of the next episode will follow shortly.
EPISODE 3: PRANK'D
Dean Winchester is adjusting to his mother's death and his father's disappearance. Sam Campbell is adjusting to Dean Winchester. Sam continues to train the former music student, and while the boys investigate an invisible monster plaguing a reality TV show, Dean hones the hunting skills that will help him survive . . . always assuming Sam doesn't kill him first . . .
This is an episode that isn't afraid to ask the tough questions, like:
How many stomach crunches can Sam do in one session?
How long can Dean gargle?
What's the best cure for hunt damaged hair?
Exactly how many inches does Sam have on Dean?
And just what would Dean do if Sam made a pass at him?
These questions and more will be asked next episode.
Some of them may even be answered. :P
It has become a tradition of the serial to include a “closing credits” chapter for the benefit of readers who enjoy spotting all my in-jokes, pop culture references and allusions to other fandoms. Quotes and paraphrases from original SPN episodes are too numerous to list individually. For more information on these, please refer to your Supernatural DVD box sets.
Most of the external allusions in this episode are to the X-Files episode “Kaddish” and regular viewers will doubtless recognize several places where I have robbed from its imagery and dialog to pay its fans. (Just call me the Robin Hood of fanfiction! :P ) For those who are not so familiar with The X-Files, here is a synopsis of the plot of “Kaddish”:
Mulder and Skully are called in to investigate when the perpetrators of an anti-Semitic hate crime are murdered and the evidence suggests they were executed by their dead victim, Isaac Luria. The Agents discover that Isaac was killed days before he was to be maaried, and it transpires that his fiancée, Ariel Weiss, raised a golem of her dead lover, not for the purposes of revenge, but simply so she could complete the marriage ceremony. After reciting her vows and bidding farewell to Isaac she puts the golem to rest.
For the most part I have followed the golem lore from “Kaddish” mixed with some general research and stuff I just made up. A list of specific homages to “Kaddish” follows, along with allusions to other fandoms etc.
Please insert your Supernatural soundtrack CD now and click on track 18.
From the Prologue
The name of the town is an allusion to the slough of despond from The Pilgrim’s Progress, not the English town of the same name :P
Much of the description in the prologue is an homage to the opening scenes of "Kaddish".
From Scene 4
The references to Robocop, Batman and Robin and The Blues Brothers were overt, but here are some that were (a little) more subtle:
Agents Geddy and Lee – Geddy Lee was the lead vocalist from Rush, (the band whose track “Fly By Night” played at the end of “Wendigo”)
"Spectral figures are not often known to leave fingerprints," Sam observed dryly.
"Casper never did," Dean added.
. . .
Sam frowned. "But you have your own idea?"
Dean shrugged. "There's another possibility: resurrection hoax. Somehow the killer got hold of Sarah Kelly's fingerprints and used them to make it look like she'd risen from her grave."
X-Files fans may recognize parts of the above dialog adapted from Agents Mulder and Skully’s early conversation about Isaac Luria in the episode “Kaddish”.
"I can't do this, Sam."
Lord of the Rings fans may recall this line spoken by Frodo in Peter Jackson’s “The Two Towers”. Sam Gamgee responds with the following “shmoopy morale raising sermon”:
It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. . .Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something. . .There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
Sam Campbell reduces this message to “it’s fucked up, Dean”. No wonder Dean’s depressed.
From Scene 5
he was relieved they weren't going to have to Burke and Hare the sucker.
Burke and Hare were notorious 19th century Scottish serial killers and grave robbers.
Visions swam in his brain of himself and Sam in the bottom of a grave wrestling with an extra from Shaun of the Dead
Shaun of the Dead was a British spoof horror zombie movie.
From Scene 7
"Holy human fly, Batman!"
Surely only Sam could miss this allusion to the 60s Batman TV series.
Apparently Classic Cult Fantasy and Advanced Jiggery-Pokery weren't on the same syllabus.
Somewhat alluding to the following exchange from Doctor Who, “The End of the World”:
Rose: Is that a technical term, "jiggery-pokery"? The Doctor: Yeah. I came first in jiggery-pokery. What about you? Rose: No. I failed hullabaloo.
In the graveyard scene, the lettering on the back of the hand and the burning book device have been shamelessly stolen from The X-Files, “Kaddish”
From Scene 8
"It's called the Sepher Yetzirah, The Book of Creation: it's the earliest known Hebrew text of man's mystical communion with the divine. It treats on various aspects of esoteric Judaism and mysticism."
"Is there anything special or unusual about the book?"
"In what way?"
"Have they ever been known to spontaneously combust?" Dean interjected.
Andrea glanced at Dean and regarded him with a slightly supercilious sneer. "No. It's a book on mysticism, not mysticism itself."
X-Files fans may recognize this exchange from Mulder and Skully’s interview with a Hebrew scholar at the Judaic Library in “Kaddish”
"Well, get you, Columbo."
In the 70s TV Series it was Detective Columbo’s stock interrogation method to finish an interview and then ask the most searching question, apparently as an afterthought, after the interviewee had relaxed.
Outside the house, in the deepening shadows of the bitter winter evening, a figure waited. The moonlight picked out the pale glow of a woman's arm resting against a tree. Inscribed on the back of the begrimed hand were three characters from the Hebrew alphabet; the letters Aleph, Mem, and Tau.
Another allusion to “Kaddish”, a brief scene where the audience were shown a shot of Isaac Luria’s arm against a telegraph pole as he waited outside Ariel’s apartment building.
From Scene 9
The text at the head of this scene is quoted from Sacred-texts.com - Judaism Kabbalah. SEPHER YETZIRAH. OR. THE BOOK OF CREATION. W.W. Wescott, tr. (1887).
Climbing into the back, he held it on his lap like it was a defensive wall, and sat strumming the chords to Cracker's "Get Out of My Head."
Readers who are unfamiliar with this song might be amused to learn that the line continues “or into my bed”. There may be something unconsciously Freudian about Dean’s choice of song . . . :P
Andrea took his arm and lifted it to point out the mud that was encrusted on the sleeve of his jacket
Another Kaddish allusion. Mulder does this to Jacob Weiss, Ariel’s father.
From Scene 10
"There's something you didn't tell us . . . about the contents of the Sepher Yetzirah."
The conversation about the golem is littered with echoes of Mulder’s second interview with the Hebrew scholar in “Kaddish”
"It wasn't hate that created this thing, Sam. It was love."
This echoes Mulder’s statement to Skully just prior to their final interview with Ariel Weiss and confrontation with the golem.
"You don't understand. . . . this thing you've brought back . . . it isn't our mother. It's a creature . . . a monster. It has no place among the living."
He stared blankly into space. "I didn't even think it would work," he murmured. "It was just a wish. They were just . . . words . . . "
This exchange is an adaptation of dialog between Jacob and Ariel Weiss.
From the Final scene
"I'm not perfect," Sam told him. "If I was, I wouldn't need rules."
Doctor Who fans may recognize this as a nod toward sentiments expressed by the Doctor in the episode “Demon’s Run”: ‘Good men don't need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many’.
AC/DC “Back in Black”
Chapter 9: Preview of episode 3, "Prank'd"
Dean Winchester is adjusting to his mother's death and his father's disappearance. Sam Campbell is adjusting to Dean Winchester. Sam continues to train the former music student, and while the boys investigate an invisible monster plaguing a reality TV show, Dean hones the hunting skills that will help him survive . . . always assuming Sam doesn't kill him first . . .
Episode 3: Prank'd
Upper Creek , Texas .
As he descended the stairs his torchlight fell on an assortment of jars arranged on the dust laden, cob-webbed shelves that lined the room. His expression reflected a sense of morbid fascination with their brackish contents and the nameless shapes festering within.
"We should leave," urged his athletic, blonde companion. "Trust me. No good can come of this," she insisted. "I've faced this thing before. Once it sees you, it never lets go."
As he turned, the light from her torch picked out the sweep of his dark hair and accentuated the determined cut of his jaw, the glitter of his darkly intense eyes. His voice was deep and gruff as he told her "I'm not leaving. We have to find my brother."
He moved cautiously into the depths of the dank cellar and began to revolve slowly while training the torch beam around the room. As he completed his circuit the beam rested once more on the face of his companion. He noted her slack jaw and wide-eyed shock at the same instant that he felt something cold brush against the back of his neck. Hesitantly he turned and raised fearful eyes upward, toward the body hanging from the rafter above him, its head twisted at an unnatural and grotesque angle, purple swollen tongue lolling in a face frozen into a gruesome death-masque. Then, opening his mouth to yell, he emitted a long, high-pitched girly wail.
There was a moment of stunned silence before he and his co-star caught each other's eyes and both erupted into a fit of helpless giggling.
"Cut!" yelled the director.
"Sasha! What was that?" Sarah demanded, recovering slightly as she wiped tears of laughter from her eyes. Frank was laughing so much he was starting to choke for real, and a crewman had to help him extricate himself from the halter that secured him to the rafter.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Sasha gasped. He chewed at the insides of his cheeks, trying to regain composure, but it was no use. He was gone.
The sight of Fran Spires heading his way sobered him a little. He wouldn't say he was afraid of the writer/director of Grudge Holder II, but she was influential in her own sphere. It was rumored she could get anyone in Hollywood into her flicks and have them do anything she wanted. And Sasha didn't want to open a script and find himself hanging from a rafter in the next scene.
"That's great, Sasha. It's all good," she assured him. "Love your work." She paused. "We'll go again. And this time, do you think you can make the scream a little more . . . um . . . macho? I mean, I know it's your brother but . . ."
"I know. I know. I'm sorry. I think maybe I'm a bit . . ." he grimaced ". . . off balance . . . you know, after this morning?" She couldn't blame him for that. She'd approved it. Of course, that didn't necessarily mean she approved of it. "I'll find it," he promised.
Fran nodded. "I know you will, angel."
"Going again, everybody!" yelled a set worker. "Ten-minute reload for camera and sound!"
Sarah had wandered off to get a drink so Sasha decided to take a little walk to settle himself. Pulling out his cell phone he started to compose a message. "Ciao, sashamores!" he tweeted. "Still not recovered from my brush with the prank'd team. Those guys got me good. Plotting my revenge on the tall guy! Rotflmao!"
Sasha's attention was suddenly arrested by a horrendous rending and crashing noise coming from behind the cabin. As he moved toward the back of the set he witnessed trees and scenery being hurled hither and thither, seemingly by some invisible source. It was an impressive sight, and he wondered how it was being achieved without the benefit of C.G.I. He also wondered why he hadn't been informed an FX scene was being filmed today. Perhaps the new guy had slipped up. He shrugged and turned away from the commotion, but hadn't moved more than a few feet when he started to notice a whole bunch of NC17 shiz-nickel: swathes of red splashed across the set or glistening in wet pools, severed limbs with ragged, bloody ends. The techies on this movie really knew their stuff; he'd never seen such realistic work. As he stepped back to avoid compromising the scene he felt something warm and wet drip onto his head and trickle over his ear. He wiped it off and stared at the red stain on his fingers.
It was then that he noticed the growing stench: rich, pervasive and visceral. He looked up. Hanging from a lighting rig above him was what remained of a man Sasha vaguely recognized as a member of the Prank'd team: a bloody head hanging broken and twisted over a limbless torso that swayed gently backwards and forwards trailing streamers of intestine.
Sasha vented a hoarse and guttural scream of horror. Absurdly, it occurred to him that Fran would have been pleased with it. Unable to move, he was rocking slightly with a sense of disconnection and unreality. He was half conscious of people running up behind and beside him, and presently he recognized the two nearest him as the new P.A. and his tall friend. The young man traded glances with his friend.
"Son of a bitch!" he snarled.