"What've we got this time, Sammy?" Dean asked, crumbs spraying from around the bagel in his mouth.
Sam gave him a dirty look for his rudeness. "Anybody ever tell you not to talk with your mouthful?"
Sam rolled his eyes before turning his laptop around to face Dean. "Bobby sent me an email. His cousin thinks there's a ghost haunting a department store in Scranton," he said. "Three employees have died in the past year."
"Why do they think it's haunted? How'd they die?" Dean asked, after making sure Sam saw him take another bite of his bagel.
"The deaths were attributed to heart attacks," Sam pointed out, motioning to the screen.
"They were all healthy, young employees. No previous history of health problems. Yet, three in one year? At the same place?"
"Okay," Dean nodded. He closed his eyes for a moment, hard memories coming back to him. "Think we got ourselves another reaper situation?"
"That's what we need to find out."
Several hours later, driving to the sounds of Metallica, had the brothers arriving at Boscov's, a fairly large department store in the heart of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Dean parked the Impala in the store's parking lot, a fair distance from the store, wary of his baby being dinged by other cars in the lot.
They entered the main entrance of the store and looked around. It was a fairly crowded for a weeknight, Sam thought. They had already talked about their best approach for getting information about what had been happening.
Sam pointed to a pretty female sales associate in the Juniors department. "Maybe she can help us."
"Only if she can change the radio station," Dean muttered. "Damn! Moldy Oldies," he added with a shudder, hearing something by the Mamas and the Papas.
Sam was immediately concerned for his brother. "Dean? You okay?" he asked, thinking back once again to Dean's torture at the hands of the witch in Charlotte.
"I'm fine, Sammy. See?" he said, holding out his hands. "Steady as can be."
They arrived at the sales counter and turned their attention to the woman, whose nametag read, "Nicole."
"Hi," Dean greeted her, turning on the charm. "We're hoping you could help us."
"Let me guess," Nicole replied flatly. "You're looking for gifts for your girlfriends."
Sam looked at Dean and shrugged. That had been the line they were going to use.
"He is," Dean said, pointing to Sam. "I don't have a girlfriend. I'm still available," he added, giving her a wink.
Sam tried not to roll his eyes.
"Actually," Sam cut in, "we're hoping you could tell us about the ghost. We heard it killed some people here."
It was Dean's turn to roll his eyes. Sam was just no fun. Always going straight to business. But he had to hand it to his brother, most of the time honesty worked. Just like now.
The woman shuddered. "It's really creepy, you know?" she told them. "I'm thinking of quitting."
"What's it been doing? How did it kill those people?" Sam asked, keeping control of the conversation.
Nicole looked around before whispering, "They were all scared to death." When Sam and Dean gave her only looks of confusion, she elaborated, "It's true. Daniel was afraid of heights. They found him on the catwalk in the warehouse. Wendy was afraid of water – she couldn't swim. They found her in one of the kiddie pools outside. And Suzy was claustrophobic. They found her in one of the changing rooms."
Sam looked at Dean, who raised an eyebrow in response.
"Has there ever been a problem before this year?" Sam asked.
"Any idea who the ghost is?" Dean asked.
The brothers turned around to see who had joined their conversation. The store manager, whose nametag read, "Jerry," stood before them.
"Joe Sternman?" Dean questioned.
"You're Bobby's friends, right?" Jerry asked.
"Sam," Sam said, introducing himself and holding out his hand.
Jerry shook it and turned to Dean. "So you must be Dean," he surmised. Dean nodded and shook his hand as well. "Joe was a disgruntled employee. He always complained about being worked too hard. And, in the end, maybe he was," Jerry went on.
"How's that?" Sam asked.
"He had a heart attack on the job," Jerry replied with a shrug.
"So how does he fit in with the other three?" Dean asked.
"Wendy was his supervisor. She was always asking him to do a little more work."
"And Daniel and Suzy?"
"So this Joe guy died from a heart attack on the job and is now seeking revenge," Dean reasoned.
"Joe's not dead," Nicole corrected them.
"He's not?" Sam asked, looking at Dean with a quizzical look on his face.
"No," Jerry replied.
"Oo-kay," Dean began. "So he's not a ghost. Why do you think he's haunting the place, which, by the way, is what ghosts, as in dead people, do?"
"He said he cursed the place," Jerry replied. "Said that this place tried to kill him, so he's exacting revenge."
"So it's a curse," Sam surmised, letting out a sigh. He hated curses.
"Where was Joe when he had his heart attack?" Dean asked.
"Up in Sporting Goods," Nicole replied. "Why?"
"No reason," Sam cut in. They didn't need to let this Nicole girl know what and who they really were.
Turning to Jerry, Dean asked, "Mind if we look around a bit?"
"No, go right ahead," Jerry replied.
"We've got, what, about half an hour until closing?" Sam asked. When Jerry nodded, Sam looked to Dean. "You check the place out. I'm gonna talk to Jerry and Nicole some more and then get a few things from the car."
Dean made a quick look between Sam and Nicole, gave Sam a wink, and headed off toward the lingerie department.
Sam turned back to Jerry, took him a few steps away from Nicole and quietly said, "It would be best if we handled this after hours; without too many witnesses, if you know what I mean."
Jerry nodded in agreement, but he had a worried look on his face.
Dean strolled through the lingerie department, occasionally reaching out to feel the silk and lace undergarments he passed, smiling widely when a leopard print teddy caught his eye.
When the elderly sales clerk started giving him the eye, though, he sighed loudly and decided to head for the Sporting Goods department, instead.
Reading the store directory next to the elevator, Dean saw that he needed to head up to the fourth floor. Shortly after he pushed the call button, the doors slid open and Dean entered. Dean pushed the button for the fourth floor and as soon as the doors closed, he grimaced.
"Damn music is even louder in here," he groused. "Shoulda taken the stairs."
No sooner were the words out of Dean's mouth did the elevator shut down – all movement stopped, the lights went out, and, unfortunately for Dean, the music got louder.
"Fuck!" he swore, pulling out his cell phone.
The light from the small screen was not bright enough to light up the elevator car, but it did reassure Dean somewhat. He dialed Sam's number and paced while he waited for his brother to answer.
"Sam, I'm stuck in the elevator," he said immediately, not giving Sam a chance to say anything more. "Is the rest of the store without power, too?"
"No, Dean. Just you. Hang on, we'll get you out of there," Sam told him. The song on the elevator changed and Sam heard the words, "Hey Mister Tambourine Man," being sung. He heard Dean let out a groan, and only had to say, "Dean…" to let Dean know he heard what was happening, what his brother was going to go through.
"Just hurry, Sammy," Dean replied, and closed his phone. He didn't want Sam hear him punch and kick the elevator car's walls and door.
"Your brother have a thing about elevators?" Jerry asked as he led Sam through the store and toward the elevator.
"No. Elevator music," Sam replied flatly.
Dean continued his pacing around the small elevator, fingers in his ears, humming Metallica's Die, Die My Darling as loudly as he could to try to block out the bad elevator music currently torturing him.
"I can't fucking believe this," he said aloud. "I can not fucking believe this."
He tried prying the elevator doors open once more before kicking them again.
When Sam and Jerry reached the elevator, Sam was horrified hear the racket going on. Between Dean's pounding on the doors and cursing at his failure to escape, and the loud easy listening music being forced upon them all, he knew it was imperative he get Dean out as soon as possible. He shuddered to think he'd have to "detox" Dean all over again, let alone worry about whatever physical injuries he was inflicting upon himself. He took out his cell phone and called his brother.
"Dean!" he yelled into the phone. "Dean, you've got to calm down!"
"Sammy, you gotta shut this crap off!" Dean replied. "I don't know how much I'm gonna be able to take!"
Sam looked to Jerry. "Look, I can't really explain it, but is there any way to shut off the music, at least to the elevator?"
"I'll try," Jerry said with a shrug, adding, "but if he said the power is shut down to the elevator, then the speaker in there shouldn't be working, either."
Half an hour later, as the third chorus of The Morning After played, Dean found himself sitting on the floor of the elevator, knees up against his chest, fingers in his ears again, eyes shut tight, and rocking gently back and forth. "Come on, Sammy. Come on, Sammy. Come on, Sammy…" his current mantra.
He paid no attention to his bruised and bloodied hands and forearms, his swollen right knee or the broken toes within his sneakers.
"Come on, Sammy. Come on, Sammy. Come on, Sammy…"
Sam and Jerry had been doing everything they possibly could to get the elevator opened up, the music shut off, or both. Even after actually cutting power to the elevator's speaker, they still heard the music playing inside.
Sam realized that there was only one way to end his brother's misery. He'd have to go about breaking the curse himself.
He pulled out his cell phone and dialed Dean's number.
"Sammy?" came Dean's desperate, tired voice.
"Dean, just hang in, man. I'm gonna try and break the curse. Just a little while longer, okay?"
"Hurry, Sammy," Dean begged.
Sam was about to say more, when Dean suddenly screamed, "NOOOOOOOOOO!"
"Dean! Dean!" Sam shouted into his phone. "Dean!" But all he heard were the melodious sounds of a ukulele playing, and Don Ho's voice singing, Tiny Bubbles.
Sam cursed Dean for parking so far away from the store's entrance. Just once it would have been nice to park close by. But Sam had more important things to worry about, like actually removing a curse, to save his brother. He grabbed the small backpack filled with supplies they used for removing curses, his dad's journal and ran back to the store.
He headed right for the escalator, skipping half the steps as he made his way up to the fourth floor and the Sporting Goods department. Jerry was there waiting for him.
"It happened right over here," Jerry told him, pointing to the bowling ball aisle. "He'd been stocking the shelves."
Sam nodded and set out his supplies: candles, feathers, holy water, sage and his father's journal.
Jerry just stood back and watched and listened as Sam went through the ritual. It all just looked like some mumbo jumbo stuff kids played at during summer camp, like telling ghost stories around the campfire. He never really believed his cousin when he said he could help. But when the merchandise started flying off the shelves, and he had bowling balls heading his way, Jerry turned into a believer.
As soon as the music stopped and the store was silent, Sam ran for the elevator and frantically began pushing the call button.
"Come on, come on," he quietly pled, pushing the buttons some more.
When the doors finally opened, Sam saw Dean's unconscious figure lying on the floor of the car. "Dean?" he called, fear that he'd come to late at the fore of his mind.
He reached down and felt Dean's neck for a pulse and was relieved to find it. Not taking any chances that the ritual he used to remove the curse would fail, or only be temporary, he grabbed his brother under his armpits and dragged him out of the elevator, laying him on floor outside it.
"Dean? Come on, Big Brother, time to wake up," he called gently, putting his hand on Dean's forehead.
"Sammy?" Dean whispered, slowly opening his eyes.
Sam smiled. "Hey," he greeted Dean, helping him to sit up and lean against the wall.
"So it's done?" Jerry asked, interrupting the brothers' reunion.
"Should be," Sam replied. "Unless Joe comes into the store again, he shouldn't be able to set another curse here."
"He gonna be okay? Never saw anybody react that way to music before," Jerry remarked, looking at Dean.
Sam looked at Dean and then at Jerry. Not finding the words to explain his brother's severe aversion to certain music, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Eventually."
"Oh, well," Jerry said. Obviously uncomfortable, he changed the subject and asked, "So what do I owe you boys, anyway?"
Sam sat at the motel's desk, his laptop computer open in front of him. Behind him, on one of the beds, Dean slept quietly, the 'soothing' sounds of Black Sabbath playing quietly on the radio next to the bed. Sam looked at his brother and sighed. It had been a close one for his brother, once again.
After Jerry had asked about payment, Sam told him to wait a little bit – that he'd be back in the store in a few minutes. He'd proceeded to get Dean to the Impala, got some heavy metal playing on the car's cassette deck, and made sure none of Dean's injuries needed any immediate medical attention.
When he returned to the store, he told Jerry that, honestly, they usually didn't charge monetary fees for their services. But Jerry had insisted upon some sort of payment and suggested Sam go on a "shopping spree" in lieu of money. After a few seconds' thought, and knowing that Dean would go ballistic when he heard, Sam agreed.
On the bed Dean wasn't occupying was an assortment of clothing and camping equipment that he had picked out during his "shopping spree." Dean, upon seeing Sam leave the store with a couple of shopping carts, had just nodded.
Sam looked back at his computer and the small object hooked up to it. The first place he'd gone to in the store had been the music and electronics department. He picked out an MP3 player and was now downloading it with as much heavy metal as he could. Dean would never be without his music again.
A/N: Thanks to November's Guest for the look-see. I wasn't sure if this chapter would fit - it was vastly different from the first two chapters - but then, I figured, you knew what was coming in this one...