Title: The Wayfarer
Supernatural belongs to the WB, its producers and creators, none of the characters including Dean and
Sam Winchester are mine; they are only borrowed for the purposes of the story.
One all but deserted stretch of road connects Chicago's rural areas with downtown as a nasty thunderstorm swept over the gravel road and brushed the tops of the evergreen trees. If there had been any passerby's they might have noticed how unnaturally chilly and silent the night had become.
However, there was no one to observe the figure in the long black duster coat emerging out onto the road, the coat trailing behind in bedraggled stripes,
He escorts another smaller, slighter figure by the hand. A girl with chestnut brown hair and a white satin dress, he walked with her to one of the miles post markings and stood, seemingly waiting for something to happen.
A ways back on that same lonely stretch of road, a black convertible barreled forward and the front headlights the only thing seen for miles.
Because the car belonged to Dean and he treated his car like it was his baby, Sam had not put up much of a protest when his brother insisted on doing the driving.
The only problem with that, in what had become a cross-country road trip in the ongoing quest to find their missing father, was that Dean was developing some significant black circles underneath his eyes. He was starting to remind Sam of a raccoon.
"Maybe we should have stopped and picked up coffee."
"I'm fine. So quit worrying," Dean replied.
"I'm not worried, I'm just expressing a legitimate concern."
"Yeah? Do you want to get out and run alongside?"
Sam sighed, and chose to ignore his brother's increasing surliness. He glanced down at the dashboard where the lit up display of the clock told him it was at least an hour past midnight. No wonder both of them were beginning to show signs of fatigue. His mind couldn't help cycle through all kinds of half-baked crazy ideas at this hour.
He needed something else to occupy himself, so he reached towards the glove compartment and took out the road map.
He had just opened it to the stretch of road they were driving down, when he was jolted from his seat.
Dean had slammed on the breaks, cursing under his breath, then putting the car into cruise control.
"What the hell did you do that for?"
"Maybe you should take the wheel," Dean replied, glancing over at his brother. " I know the mind plays tricks on you, especially when you're tired and on a night like this, but do you see anyone else on this road?"
"Not since we passed the motel three hours ago."
"Great, so I'm not going crazy, that's reassuring."
"I've got theories about that."
"You've always got theories, but you pick a rotten time to be arguing about this."
Coming towards their car, parallel to them on the left side of the road a man and a young girl were waiting, hitchhikers.
"I think we should stop the car." Sam said.
"I think we should keep moving," Dean replied, shaking his head, squirming around in the padded driver's seat, trying to get comfortable. He stared out the front window, trying to meet the gaze of the man in the black duster coat; the more he tried to lock eyes the more it seemed the man's kept slipping away from him.
It was an odd feeling; not evasive so much as slippery, it made Dean uncomfortable, angry and confused all at the same time. He didn't know what to make of the little girl; she seemed more lost and confused then he was at this moment.
"How many hitchhikers have you heard about that can pass right through a moving car without a scratch on them?" Dean muttered.
"You heard me. They walked right through us."
"I think we've found our phantom hitchhikers. I mean, we did get that tip from a local family living in the outskirts of Chicago. There must be some kind of connection," Sam said.
"That's our connection," Dean said as he reduced speed long enough to point out a red brick farmhouse with along, wide driveway. The metal mailbox on its post meant that they reached the residence of the Phillips family. At the end of the driveway the house looked well maintained and inviting.
"Oh ye of little faith," Dean added, "I've already got our cover story. That newspaper article said in addition to farming for their livelihood, these fine folks also dabble in local area history, which includes giving guided tours of a museum that specializes in the paranormal.
"Great, we're going to pretend to be tourists," Sam sighed, "I'd think I'd almost prefer our last cover story when we pretended to be U.S Marshals."
"Sam, we can't be official all the time. Let's go."
Dean stopped the car, turning the key in the ignition, parking in the middle of the driveway. Sam got out the passenger side door and walked up the house's front doorway waiting for his brother before knocking. Behind him the sky became streaked with light pink clouds as the sun rose to begin the new day. 'Good thing they're farm folk." Sam thought and shoved the thought to the back of his mind.
In response to Sam's knock on the door, an elderly man, perhaps in his late 50's or early 60's opened the door. "Yes," he sad in a thick Irish brogue.
"Hello, sorry about dropping in unannounced but it couldn't be helped. I'm Jeff Bridges, and this is Beau, and we heard about the museum you run,
ghost folklore and paranormal legends. And well call me crazy but I, that is we, think there might some truth to them." Dean darted a glance at Sam that said 'play along.'
"And you came all this way to find what's what, is that it?" Mr. Phillips asked.
"I guess so. "Dean shrugged.
"I'm surprised anyone would come this far off the beaten path, for our little slice of Chicago history,"
Mr. Phillips remarked. "It's nice to see young people taking such a keen interest."
"Roger," a voice from behind, presumably his wife, said: "Don't just stand there at a half open door, invite them in already. She smiled,
"I've just put on a pot of coffee, you certainly look like you could use some, and I'll have breakfast on the table in a jiffy."
"That's very kind of you, Mrs. Phillips," Sam said, "but we wouldn't want to impose. We will take you up on that coffee offer though."
"Breakfast, did you say?" Dean added. "Oh, for breakfast we could impose."
On foot this time, Dean and Sam, led by Roger Phillips and his wife Sarah, walked out to the stretch of highway where, according to local legend,
an accident occurred, one which dated back to the 1800's, in the days of the horse and buggy.
"It's tragic, really, when you stop to think about." Sarah said, shook her head then scuffled her booted feet in the loose gravel of the road.
"How the wee lass perished." Her thick Irish accent more pronounced as she became more agitated, getting deeper into to the story of Mary and her legal guardian, Douglas Merrimack.
"If it weren't bad enough, what with losing her parents to the yellow fever, to have her go at the same time, well it's enough to just about melt your heart."
"What happened?" Dean pressed, anxious to move things along.
"Well, it seems that Merrimack had got mixed up in some rather shady business, or as some do tell it, he was being yanked around by folks claiming
a share in young Mary's inheritance after the death of her parents. " Sarah kept walking holding the hem of her dress balled up in her fists so it would not drag in the dirt and dust of the road.
Her husband picked up the tale. "One would think that in matters of inheritances the members of the deceased's family wouldn't squabble over the biggest pieces of the pie,"
Roger darted a significant glance at Dean obviously expecting some kind of response.
Dean paused, thought it over, and nodded, "One would think. So, what happened?"
"They had a falling out. And eventually no one in the family would speak to each other, or at best kept their distance."
"I suspect the poor thing's heart gave out. I heard tell Mary was always a bit on the frail side and, officially, they say the yellow fever did the rest. I always figured she just didn't want to go on alone"
"I guess you would know better than us," Dean said, "since you run the museum and all, but don't ghosts usually chose their place to haunt because
of some kind of unfinished business at the time of their death?"
"Good guess," Roger replied. "I think that's what happened to Mary and her guardian."
"How did the pair end up haunting this particular stretch of road," Sam asked, glancing around. "If I were a ghost, and mind you that's a big 'If, I think
I would pick a little bit nicer place to haunt."
Sarah chuckled. "Dearie, I think you are a long way from have to choose your place to haunt."
No sooner than Sarah mentioned that the growing early winter chill in air dropped by several degrees and the early morning ground fog rose up from the ground. In the back of his mind Sam thought it resembled the kind of fog that you'd see in the movies when they brought in the special effects people. 'Nice atmosphere,' he thought.
The phantoms Dean had seen earlier, solidified out of the fog, one dressed in the torn and bloody white gown; the taller and older phantom dressed in black duster coat and top hat. The older led them out to the edge of where road and tree line met and took up a waiting posture
"Do they know anyone is here?" Dean asked. "They look like they're waiting for a ride."
"Sometimes," Sarah replied, "With ghosts its difficult to know their exact intentions, but I don't believe they mean anyone any harm."
"I guess there are exceptions to every rule." Dean ignored the speculative look in Sarah's eyes when he said that.
"You've been watching too many horror movies," Roger said. "I suspect the legends of a phantom hitchhiker did have its origin in tales of lone motorists late at night encountering the phantoms and coming to grief. Mary is not that sort.
"I guess that ends the tour," Sam said watching the pair dissipate into the evaporating mist.
As Dean and Sam got into their car the next morning, waiting for the engine to turn over, a basket of baked goodies in the backseat; Dean turned to his brother.
"Amazing, isn't it, how that couple adopted a pair of phantom hitchhikers. Treat them almost like family. You've seen the movie Route 66, right?
"I'd rather not speculate on that right now," Sam replied. "Although, it would make for a fascinating paper, but I don't intend to write one."
Dean pulled out of the driveway and back onto the road, a few miles in Dean replied. "Who knows, you might yet get to write that thesis on the existence of the paranormal, we've certainly managed to amass quite a bit of practical evidence."
"You do manage to surprise me once in a while." Sam smiled. "Gotta find Dad first, right?"
"Of course," Dean replied. "I promise you that."