This chapter has been revised and a prologue was added.
Shotgun shot to the head, dead ghoul.
Shotgun shot to the head, dead ghoul number two.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Three, four, and five down for the count. I wiped ghoul bits from my face and spat blood into the grass. They'd gotten in a few good hits.
"Rest in Purgatory, fuckers," I said.
I went to get a shovel from my truck. Winchesters didn't leave bodies behind unless they had no other choice.
The cemetery was out in the country, more than a mile from the nearest house, so I figured it was safe enough to dig a grave and burn the bodies. Maybe I'd even stick around to fill the hole in.
I didn't dig a deep grave. I was exhausted and they were ghouls who'd just spent an hour making my life difficult by trying to make me dinner. They could deal with a shallow grave. It wasn't like they'd ever know.
What I really wanted was to leave them there to rot. Let the local authorities scratch their heads over the mystery; I'd lost my last fuck to give when one of the bastards tried to knock my teeth out.
I dragged the bodies to the grave one by one and threw them in. Add some salt, strike a match, and up in flames they went. I took a few steps back and dropped on my ass in the grass, watching the flames spark and flicker.
There was still blood in the grass. Great big streaks of it.
That wasn't suspicious at all.
I went back to my truck and grabbed a case of unopened water bottles. I opened them one by one and dumped them over the blood streaks until most of it was soaked into the ground and the grass looked green again.
When the bodies were nothing but faint embers I refilled the grave and left.
I drove three towns over before I pulled into a motel and booked a room. No one batted an eye at my battered appearance. It was a large town and the motel was the cheap, seedy kind. I bet they saw all kinds of shady shit on daily basis.
The room smelled like lemon cleaner and cigarettes. The walls were yellowed from smoke. All of the furniture had a dated, almost antique look. I didn't see any cockroaches or mouse droppings and the water pressure was even decent, which was never a guarantee in motels like this.
Money well spent as far as I was concerned.
When I got out of the shower, I bundled up my dirty, bloodstained clothes and stuffed them in an empty Wal-Mart bag. I'd burn them the next time I was at Bobby's or the Roadhouse. Bloodstains were a bitch to get out and I couldn't be bothered. They were no great loss when I could afford to replace them.
I towel dried my hair and dug through my toiletries for my brush. It was purple, sparkly, and the number of times I'd almost died just to keep it were ridiculous. Dean gave it to me years ago when I'd grown my hair out in a stubborn effort to retain some femininity under Dad's influence.
These days I kept it around chin length. Sometimes shorter, sometimes longer, but never much. Dad would be proud.
I snorted. What a funny thought. Dad, proud.
You didn't kick a kid out if you were proud.
My phone rang before I could fall into morose thoughts. I answered it without looking at the caller I.D.
"You've got Sam; what's your name, problem, and how can I help?"
The last person I expected to hear was Dean. Since the big blow out (not to be confused with the Big Fight) we'd barely exchanged a handful of words outside of obligatory Christmas and Birthday wishes. I hated it.
"Dean?" My voice cracked on his name. I cleared my throat, embarrassed, and tried to play it off. "What's up? How've you uh, been?"
"I've been good," he said. "Real good. You?"
"Good, great, awesome," I said, while my stomach dropped at real good. "Saved a few people, hunted a few things, you know how it is."
He was silent a moment. My dumb brain filled the silence with a thousand horrible thoughts about what he might be thinking. I tapped my fingers against the table. My leg started bouncing. There was a black hole in my chest threatening to expand and swallow me whole.
"…yeah," he said finally. "Yeah, I do. That's why I called. I need your help Sammy."
My stomach dropped. The black hole sucked the breath from my lungs and replaced it with intense dread. I gripped the phone tighter and squeezed my eyes shut.
"Dad's on a hunting trip and he hasn't been home in a few days."
The words sent a shiver of dread down my spine. Goose bumps spread over my arms. I broke out in a cold sweat.
Here we go.
I was packed up and on the road within an hour.
California was a sauna compared to the bitter chill of northern Oregon. I rolled the windows down and turned the radio up. Miles of road passed under my tires as I headed towards Jericho and the beginning of the end. Of multiple ends, if I remembered right.
I dug my cell phone out and texted Brady.
Back in Cali; want to meet?
It took him a minute to text back.
When & where?
Got a job first, but after. I'll txt and bring drinks, you bring the people. Meet at your place?
Sounds good. C u then.
It would be nice to catch up. Awkward, because Dean might be there, but nice. I could see how Brady was in person and check the area for demon omens to make sure my nightmares were just nightmares.
I'd also get to see Jess again, but I tried not to focus on that. Some things were better left alone and the weird unspoken thing between us was one of them.
(I refused to be the cause of her death.)
I texted Dean when I hit the county line.
Half an hour out. Where are you?
He called. I turned the radio down and answered.
"You know it's easier to just call me, right?"
"I was enjoying my music," I said. "Where're you at?"
"A bridge just outside the town. The cops are all over an abandoned car. Might have to do with whatever Dad was hunting so I'm gonna go check it out."
"What're you going to do, play cop?"
He was silent. I groaned. "Dean!"
"What? I've got the I.D's for a Federal Marshall. It'll be fine."
I pressed my foot down on the gas. "No, it won't be fine, you're going to get yourself arrested. You're too young to be a Federal Marshall. Just head into town and I'll swing buy and question them."
"And what're you gonna do that I can't?"
"Be way less suspicious, for one thing, Mr. Twenty-six year old Federal Marshall. Also, I have three different credible I.D.'s with respectable, airtight backgrounds."
"What d'you need three credible backgrounds for?"
"In our line of work? A lot. You and Dad have three each, too. They cost a pretty penny so be grateful."
"What're we gonna do with credible I.D.'s?"
"Legal things. All the legal things. Every legal thing ever."
"Legal things cost money, Sammy."
"Be glad I'm an excellent investor then," I said. "Bobby's been helping me with that for years. All three I.D.'s for each of us have access to decent nest eggs."
Not to mention well stocked and warded safe houses and storage units, none of them with the tiniest connections to us Winchesters or any of our allies.
None of them were as good as the Men of Letters bunker, but it was a bitch of a time finding that place. I knew it was in Lebanon, Kansas, but I also knew it was locked and as of yet I had no way of getting my hands on a key.
"…you've been busy the last couple of years, haven't you?"
"Well, I had to fill my time with something besides hunting once I dropped out," I said. "Perfecting aliases seemed like a sensible thing to do with all the trouble we get in."
"…fine. I'll head into town and see what I can scope out there. Call me when you're done."
The line clicked. I tossed my phone in the passenger seat and turned the radio back up.
"…read between the lines, what's fucked up when everything's alright. Check my vital signs…"
I reached the bridge in fifteen minutes.
The cops were still there exploring the surrounding area and examining the car. I pulled over and put it in park. My stomach felt twisted up in knots. I rested my forehead on the steering wheel and took a couple deep breaths.
It reminded me of being four again and about to start school for the first time (in this life).
"Breathe, Sammy. In…and out. In…and out. School can't be scarier than the monsters under the bed, right?"
"Shows – what – you know," I gasped out, clutching his wrists with my tiny hands. My heart raced. My palms sweat. Everything was spiraling and I didn't know how to stop it.
The room was spinning.
"I'm the oldest. I know loads more than you, baby girl. Which is how I know you'll be fine."
I closed my eyes to stop the spinning and leaned my forehead against Dean's chest. I let go of his wrists and latched onto his shirt, trying to match my breaths to his. He caught on and took slow, deep breaths until I was breathing with him.
"'m not a baby," I mumbled when I could breathe again. "Jerk."
"You'll always be baby girl Sammy to me," Dean said and laughed.
Dean wasn't here. I couldn't match my breaths to his. But I didn't need to. I let the anxiety build to make my breaths gaspy and my hands shaky. My eyes burned.
Here we go.
I shoved out of the truck and bolted across the street towards the abandoned car. A police officer caught me before I could actually reach it.
"Ma'am, you can't be here – "
"That's my cousin's car!" I said. "That's his car, I know it is! Where is he? Is he okay? Let me go! I have to find him!"
I sounded just a step away from tears. I struggled in the cop's hold and tried to look stricken. I had enough acting experience to at least make a passable attempt.
"Is that blood?" I shrieked. "Oh my god, where is he, is he okay?!"
"Officer Davis, get her out of here," someone snapped.
"Ma'am, I need you to leave," Officer Davis said, herding me back towards my truck.
"But my cousin – "
"If we find Troy, you'll be the first to know," he promised. "Now please, go."
I dug in my pockets for a scrap of paper and pen and scribbled my number down with one of my fake (but credible) I.D.'s. I shoved it into his hand. "You'll call if you find him, right?"
"Yes, I promise," he said.
I gave an absentminded nod and hurried back to my truck, making a show of wiping my eyes. I pretended to call someone back in the car and hunched over the steering wheel, shaking my shoulders in a mimicry of sobbing, before I straightened, wiped my dry eyes, and drove towards Jericho.
A boy named Troy, missing. It fit the pattern of the case Dad was working from what information Dean had. I called Dean.
Dean had found Dad's motel room. By pure coincidence, apparently, which made me paranoid about supernatural interference. How involved was the winged brigade with our lives pre-apocalypse? By what I remembered we weren't due an angelic encounter until the Trickster and the Day of Eternal Tuesdays.
But that didn't mean they weren't interfering behind the scenes.
Dean opened the motel door when I pulled up beside the Impala. He still wore Dad's old leather jacket and the amulet I'd given him years ago. I grabbed him in a brief hug (no chick flick moments, please) and stepped past him into the room.
It was, in typical Dad fashion, a disaster area. A salt line around the door and a pile of cat's eye shells on a suitcase caught my eye. Newspaper clippings were tacked to the wall. A half eaten hamburger laid under a lamp on a pile of books and clothes were scattered all over the bed.
"Dad figured it out," Dean said, pointing to an article on the far wall. "It's a Woman in White. Lady named Constance Welch jumped off Sylvania bridge in 1981 after she killed her kids. It looks like a normal salt-n-burn."
"That doesn't add up with what you said was in his message," I said. I gestured at the various protections on the room. "Or all of this. Let me hear the message?"
"Yeah, here." He passed her his phone. "Pretty sure the EVP is this Welch lady, not whatever Dad's after."
The message was cryptic as hell.
"Dean. Something is starting to happen. I think it's serious. I need to try and find out what's going on. It may be – looking. Be very careful, Dean. We're all in danger."
My heart gave a heavy thump. I swallowed and licked my lips, nervous. Azazel. Dad was talking about Azazel. He had to be. It matched up with what I remembered.
Something is starting to happen.
Fuck. The dreams – were they actually visions? I was so used to vivid nightmares. So used to twisted versions of that night.
The fire. The taste of bitter copper ambrosia on my tongue. Oily piss yellow eyes that glittered with malice. Screaming. God, I kept hearing the screaming.
" – am? Sammy! Hey, Sammy, snap out of it!"
Dean's hands were on my shoulders. He was shaking me. Worried. I shook my head sharply and blinked. He was standing in front of me. When did he get there?
"What was that?" Dean asked. "You zoned out."
The room seemed a little wobbly. Was it spinning? It felt like it was spinning.
I could taste demon blood.
Or was it my blood?
Dean put a hand against my forehead. "Are you sick? You don't have a fever. How many fingers am I holding up?"
I smacked at his hand. "Quit it. I'm fine." I didn't feel fine. If the nightmares were visions…we needed to finish this. Right now.
"We've gotta finish this," I said. "Right now, Dean."
"What's the sudden rush?"
"We've gotta stop her before she kills someone else, right?" I scanned the article on the wall and picked out the husband's name. "I'll go talk to the husband and find out where she's buried."
"I'll call you!" I said over my shoulder, barely pausing to open the door and fish out my car keys. I needed to be on the road. Tomorrow was November 2. The anniversary of Mary's death.
Wouldn't it be poetic if it was also the day my friends died?
I unlocked my truck and was about to get in when I noticed the cop across the parking lot. It was the same one from before, Officer Davis, talking to someone. A hotel employee. They looked in my direction, the officer talking and the other guy nodding, gesturing towards me – or the room behind me.
I dropped my keys, grabbed my phone and hit speed dial.
"Sam? What the hell – "
"Five-0, Dean, get out of there," I hissed.
"What about you?"
I looked over my shoulder and they were headed my way. "They spotted me."
"Sammy – "
"Go finish the case, Dean," I said and hung up. I tried to look harried and concerned as Officer Davis reached me. "Officer! Did you find Troy? Is he – "
"Cut the act, ma'am," Officer Davis said, holding up a hand. "Troy Squire doesn't have any cousins. And it's funny; I asked his dad about a Felicity Thompson, but he didn't have any idea who you were. Neither did Troy's girlfriend."
I wish I could say this was the first time I'd been in police custody.
It really, really wasn't.
If my past self ever saw my police record, she'd shit a brick, honest to Chuck. It wasn't anything serious; petty theft, vandalism, maybe a charge or two of B&E, and possible one minor assault charge. Small time compared to things like grave desecration and murder, both of which I'd (technically) committed. Dad and Dean would say the murder didn't count since monsters weren't human, but I disagreed.
(A life was a life, human or not.)
The door opened behind me and the local sheriff entered, carrying an evidence box.
"You wanna give us your real name?"
"Felicity Thompson is my real name," I said. "I told you, I'm a journalist. I work for an online news source – "
He dropped the box on the table. I shut up.
"I'm not sure you realize how much trouble you're in here," he said, bracing his hands on the box. "You've got the faces of ten missing persons taped to your wall along with a whole lot of satanic mumbo jumbo. Girl, you are officially a suspect."
"The first one went missing before I was even born," I said.
"I know you've got partners," he said. "One of 'em's an older guy. Maybe he started the whole thing." He reached in the box and pulled out a familiar leather bound journal. "So tell me Samantha; is this his?"
I tried to school my expression. Less shock, more indifference, but honestly? I'm sure the shock was pretty damn apparent.
(I'd always been a crap actor.)
"I thought that might be your name," he said. "See, I leafed through this. There's a picture of you in the front pocket. Graduation, right? The rest of it's nine kinds of crazy. But I found this too."
35 – 111
Coordinates from Dad, written and circled in black sharpie.
"Now I figure Dean's your partner, the young guy the motel manager mentioned," he continued. "But what I want to know, and what you're going to tell me, is exactly what the hell those numbers mean. Understand?"
"Samantha's my middle name," I said. "Dean's my brother. He's a PI; sometimes he lets me tag along on his cases. That's the combination for the safe he keeps case files in."
The best lies had a grain of truth in them. The sheriff could question me all he wanted. My story was solid. One of Dean's fake I.D.'s was Dean Thompson, Private Investigator. It was a valid I.D. with valid records, same as Felicity Samantha Thompson.
He kept questioning me. I got antsy, bouncing my legs and tapping my fingers. I wanted it done and over with so I could get to Stanford and make sure my friends were safe.
Please let them be safe.
And then another officer stuck his head in the interrogation room and said, "We just got a 911, shots fired over at Whiteford road."
The sheriff asked if I had to go to the bathroom and cuffed me to the table when I said no. Shut and locked the door behind him, too.
He didn't move Dad's journal out of reach. There was a paper clip stuck to one of the pages.
Sometimes they made it too easy.
It took fifteen minutes to get out of the station and to the nearest payphone.
Dean answered with "How was the hoosegow?"
"The hospitality was shit," I said. "Thanks for the save, big brother."
"Yeah, no problem. Sorry it took so long. Look, I found out where the lady was buried. I'm headed there now."
He rattled off the address.
"I'll get my truck and meet you. And Dean?"
"I've got Dad's journal. He left coordinates."
"Shit. He doesn't go anywhere without that, Sam."
"He did this time."
"Man, what the hell is going on? It's not like him to – SHIT!"
Tires screeched. I heard Dean swear again.
"…take me home…"
A woman's voice echoed eerily down the line. I swore; two victims in as many days and one of them Dean. Why the hell did Dad have to pick this case to go AWOL on? Couldn't he have finished the job before he skipped town?
I ran the entire way back to the motel. My keys, in a stroke of luck, were still on the ground where I'd dropped them, hidden in the shadow of the front tire. I thanked whoever was listening and drove like a bat out of hell, pedal to the floorboard.
Baby was outside the old Welch house. I saw Dean's silhouette in the front seat and someone, a woman dressed in white, leaning over him.
I screeched to a halt beside him, grabbed a shotgun from the bag on the floor behind me and shout out Dean's window and Constance Welch all in one go. Dean gasped and coughed. I slammed out of my truck, cocking the gun for another shot.
Constance reappeared, but I didn't get the chance to shoot her again. Dean put Baby in drive, said "I'm taking you home, bitch," and drove straight through the front door.
I ran after him, stumbling over broken wood and old furniture. He groaned from the front seat.
"Dean? You alright?"
"Fine, I'm fine. Help me out, would you?"
I swore at him and reached with my free hand to grab his. Together we got him out without too many mishaps while Constance was distracted with an old picture. I raised my shotgun again with Dean free.
Constance looked up, expression dark. My finger twitched on the trigger, about to pull it…and then the lights flickered on.
Water spilled down the stairs. Constance looked at it in confusion and then flickered in front of the stairs. Her expression morphed into something heartbroken and guilty.
"You've come home to us, Mommy."
Two children flickered into existence behind her and latched onto her. She screamed as they dragged her down.
All they left behind was a puddle of water on the floor.
"What the fuck," I said, lowering my gun. "Fucking ghosts, I swear."
"She must've drowned her kids here," Dean said. "She couldn't face them, so she could never go home." He grinned. "Looks like I found her weakness! Am I a genius or what?"
I shot him a very skeptical look. "You drove Baby into a house."
He glared. "You shot out her window."
"A house, Dean."
"Saved your ass, didn't it?"
"So did my idea. And it wasn't a temporary fix."
We grinned at each other. It was nice to be home.
"These coordinates are to Blackwater Ridge, Colorado," I said awhile later, map spread out over the hood of my truck. "It is – was – a hunt."
Dean looked up from taping up Baby's window. "Was?"
"I was in the area six months ago and dealt with it," I said. I'd been following a lead on the Colt, actually, when I caught wind of the case. It turned out a wendigo had taken up residence in the woods, picking off hikers and campers. "It was a wendigo."
"Did you take care of it?"
"Of course I did," I said, offended. "I don't leave a job unfinished, Dean."
I got four scars down one side for my trouble.
Dean held his hands up, placating. "Sorry, just checking. You think he's there?"
"We can check, but I doubt it." Dad was hunting demons, not wendigos. "But before we go anywhere else, I've got plans in Palo Alto."
"I thought you dropped out?"
"I dropped college, not my friends, Dean. I still keep in touch with Dirk and Barry, too."
Dean was silent. I looked at his expression and laughed. "You too, huh?"
"How is the lovely Amanda Heckerling?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said. "You ready to go?"
"Got her taped up?"
"She'll hold until I can get a new window." He turned a narrow eyed gaze on me. "And Sammy?"
"If you ever shoot my baby again, I'll kill you."
I spent the drive to Palo Alto imagining worst case scenarios that grew worse and worse the more I thought on them. I tried listening to music, but every song playing grated on my taught nerves like nails down a chalkboard. I slammed my finger into the off button, pulled over, put it in park, and laid my forehead on the steering wheel. A few seconds later the door opened.
"Code A?" Dean asked.
I nodded and gripped the steering wheel tighter. What if I got there and they were already dead? What if one of them were possessed? What if I got there just in time to see them go up in flames?
Please be a nightmare. Not a vision. Please.
"How long's it been since you saw your friends?"
I took a deep breath. Pushed it out. Repeated. "My birthday," I said. "Right after the wendigo case."
Literally right after. I'd sewn myself up and drove straight to Brady's apartment, where I'd collapsed on his couch and spent the next two weeks recovering. He'd freaked when he saw the claw marks and called Jess in for reinforcements. Making up excuses to the nurse-to-be had been the most stressful part of that entire week.
"When's the last time you talked to them?"
"I texted Brady when I crossed the state line."
I texted him. I didn't call. What if someone managed to possess him? He had a charm, but would that be enough? What if he was already dead and someone was using his phone? What if I was walking into a trap?
What if, what if, what if…
"Wanna tell me what you're stressing about?"
I let out an incoherent noise of distress because I couldn't explain it to him. Just thinking about it ramped my anxiety levels up to ridiculous heights, made my chest feel tight and my heart rate jump up. It got hard to breathe.
"Hey. Hey, hey, hey, hey, Sammy, breathe." He put a hand on my back and rubbed in soothing circles. "C'mon baby girl, breathe with me. In…and out. In…and out."
I squeezed my eyes shut and breathed. In…and out. In…and out. Dean coached me through it until my chest loosened and my breath didn't come out in harsh, sharp pants. I let go of the steering wheel and flexed my aching fingers, sitting up so slow my joints creaked like I was an old lady.
Dean watched me with a small frown and a worried pinch between his eye brows.
The urge to apologize welled up, but I swallowed it back. I didn't need to apologize for having a minor break down. Dean wouldn't expect an apology and would wave it off if I did give one.
"You gonna be okay to drive?"
"I've been managing on my own for four years, Dean," I said, the words coming out sharp and defensive.
"I know that," Dean said, just as sharp, and then took a deep breath and repeated, "I know. But will you?"
How was I supposed to know? It wasn't like these things came with a manual. The best I could do was hope for the best.
And despite my rampant anxiety, I was good at hoping.
(My headspace was a messy, confusing, contradictory place.)
"I'll be fine," I said. My stomach rolled. I wasn't half as certain as I appeared, but Dean didn't need to know that.
I would be fine, because I couldn't be anything else. One breakdown was more than enough, thanks very much. Time to woman up and get my ass to Palo Alto.
(They'd better be okay.)
Dean didn't look to convinced, but he went back to his car. Five minutes later we were back on the road.
Palo Alto, here we come.