Chapter 11

Dean's mind raced as it had never done before, desperately trying to find a way to remove this new thorn in his side; a thorn named Steve Connor.

Option A: Pretend we're not at home? Naw, no good, he's seen our car in the drive. Option B: The truth? Yeah right.

Option C: Well, I guess it wouldn't be right to off the poor bastard right here and now…so it's lookin' like option a or b.

"Boys! I know you're in there! The police are on their way!" Steve's muffled shouts eliminated 'option a' completely and Dean groaned tiredly.

"Just a sec!" he called and scrubbed a hand through his hair. He hated this part of the job; the getting caught part. Crossing the room slowly and deliberately, Dean finally reached the door, unlocked it and opened it to reveal an enraged Steve Connor.

"Heeeey, Steve!" Dean lavished on the fake cheeriness. "What a surprise, won't you come in?"

"Unbelievable!" Steve quaked. "To think that you can just stand there…just…mocking me…I let you in my home…my apartment…my daughters…I can't…" Nothing he was saying could even begin to make sense, it was just infuriated babble. In the midst of his tirade he began waving around a fist full of crumpled papers, no doubt the lease agreement and bank statements informing him that the Hendrixes were two sisters living in L.A.

"Steve, why don't you just calm down and I'll explain everything," Dean dropped the fake smile and adopted a calm, reassuring tone.

A rather large vein began to surface down the side of Steve's temple. "No! I'm not going to calm down!" He raised a pointed finger at Dean's chest. "You're gonna get the hell out of my house!"

Dean sighed and squared his jaw. He hated to admit it, but Steve had every right to be more than a little upset. The man had no way of knowing that he and Sam were actually the heroic knights of the story garbed in flannel and denim. To Steve they were simple con-artists. And after all of the trauma the man had endured in the past couple of months, Dean couldn't really blame him for snapping.

"Did you not hear me!" Steve bellowed when Dean remained rooted to the floor, hand still resting on the doorjamb. "GET OUT!" Steve launched himself through the door at Dean, fully intending to pummel the younger man into the floor. Steve was just the tiniest bit taller than Dean, but much thinner and he lacked the younger man's strength, speed, and informal Marine combat training.

Dean easily side-stepped the other man's attack, catching one of his wrists and twisting the attached arm up over his head. Steve yelped in pain and suddenly found himself slammed face first into the wall; both of his hands now crossed behind his back and locked in an iron grip.

"Steve, dude, listen to me. Just take a deep breath and calm down, okay?" Dean said in a less than soothing tone.

Steve was hissing something furious and unintelligible, all the while struggling against his captor.

Dean put his elbow into the older man's back and pressed a little more forcefully. "All I'm trying to do is help you. If you'd quit trying to …"

He was cut off as Steve brought up a leg suddenly, kicking out at anything he could reach. Dean barely managed to avoid the blow and almost lost his hold on the psychopathic homeowner. "Knock it the hell off!" Dean regained his balance and slammed Steve against the wall again. "You're really starting to piss me off!"

Steve slumped against the wall, panting for breath and leaving himself at the mercy of the younger man.

Dean was slightly surprised, but wasted no time. "Look, I know that you have no reason to trust me or believe anything that I'm about to tell you." Oh how convincing he could be. "But I know that you know there's something going on in this house. Something bad. Something evil. Sam and I, we do this thing for a living, helping people. We know that this house had something to do with your wife's disappearance."

Steve turned his head marginally, revealing the corner of one wide, disbelieving eye.

"…And you know it too," Dean continued. "We're the good guys here, Steve. My brother says he can get Linda back, and I don't know whether he can or not. But he's risking his own ass to help your family; to save you from the real bad guys."

Dean's ears pricked at the faint sound of approaching sirens. He frowned. "This is it, Steve. You can have us arrested and we'll go quietly, I promise. But, if there's even the tiniest, microscopic part of you that shudders every time you set foot in this house because you know there's no explanation for what happened, you'll tell the cops to beat it. If you ever want to see Linda again, you'll let us go." Dean suddenly released Steve as the sirens drew closer and backed away, waiting for a response.

Steve's arms fell limply to his sides and he turned around, all the fight drained from his system. He was visibly shaking now, lip trembling beneath his skewed glasses. He straightened the frames awkwardly. "I…I…I don't…how can you…Linda?"

As Steve struggled to pull himself together, a blue and white state patrol cruiser rolled into view just beyond the glass-paned kitchen door. The older man followed Dean's gaze to the car, and the uniformed officer behind the wheel, and paled.

"So what's it gonna be Steve?" Dean asked sharply, training his twin hazel fires on the homeowner.

Steve gulped, Adam's apple sticking in his throat, and mopped his brow with the back of his sleeve. Dean could read the creases that had formed between his eyes, and knew the other man was weighing his options heavily. Finally, just as the cop levered his portly form from the cruiser, Steve nodded solemnly. "Okay."

Dean's face remained impassive.

"I don't know that I believe you," Steve went on ", but I don't think I can risk that you're wrong."

This time Dean smirked. "Good to know."

-O-

It was same as it was before. One minute Sam was lying quietly on his sleeping bag, the next he was struggling against an eternal inky blackness, gasping and pawing for air in a world he couldn't see. Then everything was still, the dark fog lifted and his eyes were filled with image of his own helpless form stretched across the floor. Again he was struck by the absolute absurdity of being upright and conscious while his body twitched and panted at his feet.

Gazing down at himself, Sam noticed the bags under his eyes and realized just how exhausting this gig had been for him, for Dean too. He resolved to suggest a break to Dean, just a day or two at a half way decent motel to catch up on their sleep.

Sounds from the kitchen drew his attention and he lifted his surreal gaze toward the doorway. He thought he could hear Dean's voice, and that of someone else. Whoever his brother was talking to was more than a little pissed off. But he couldn't afford the time to worry. He had one task at hand; find Linda Connor.

As if on cue, the multiplicity of female centers came sliding into place beside him, her dress cutting from a gown that brushed across his shoes to a shredded skirt over skinny, then muscled legs.

"You again," he said flatly, not sure whether to be glad or disturbed for the spirits' help.

"We knew you'd come," she purred with two dozen different voices, each carrying its own inflection to the words.

"Yeah," Sam folded his arms and turned to face the dynamic apparition. "In fact, I need your help again."