"Come clean, Case."
That line. In that voice. To that person. Its favorite memento from first wearing another human being, a memento that was studied and reflected upon and fidgeted with, like a worry bead. That, and the end, with her voice giddy with freedom, sailing out the door toward her happy ending.
It supposed it was her, at first, which was the attraction. The slim body with the cool, greyhound elegance as she slouched about the movie set. The cutting edge of her face, that in some light seemed equine in its aspect, and change in a half-second with a tilt of her chin to something cut from the stars. It watched her covetously, watched and wanted, but could not find the strength and motivation for the jump until he walked in. And she lit up like the western edge of the world at sunset.
That was the motivation that made it move, made it spread unseen wings and burrow into that graceful body like it was finally finding home. The motivation that was him, with the broad shoulders, set off so nicely in the clothing of the era, his dark eyes somehow all colors and none, the insouciance of his smile. And the current between them jumped, was almost visible to the others around them, and Cukor settled back with the unconscious assurance of directing electricity.
It settled into the new body easily, purring with the tension found in the arms and shoulders, gently comforting the soul suddenly shoved away to an unseen corner. It pirouetted, exulting in the slim line of its leg in the clunky sandals, turned and held its arms out for compliments. Then it was time, Cukor yelling for action, and it fed off the electricity in the air, the dynamic jumping back and forth between them, eyes and teeth flashing.
When it was time to leave, at the end of the movie, it tried to care, tried to take care in withdrawing from the body, coaxing the soul forward again. But it was still heady with left-over energy, and it had been too long since it had felt human compassion. It came free with a wrench, watched in detachment as the slender form tumbled to the ground, and then melted away.
If you had a million... which sister would you pick to spend it with?
Starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, directed by George Cukor.
The small white card had the embossed seal of the state of Kansas in one corner, and John's thumb rubbed it compulsively. His hand was shaking, making it hard to read the fine print; his other hand gripped the phone with white knuckles. When he blinked, he could still see red in the dark spaces behind his eyelids, and it was hard to breathe, let alone talk around the lump of rage in his throat.
"You ready to let go, John?"
He had been teetering on a knife's edge for months; holding on to normality with both hands with the intent for watchfulness, seeing supernatural tells everywhere that warned him normality was no longer safe. Casual obituaries in the newspaper hinted at darker things; headlines took on double meanings. But Missouri was talking about the other side, about normality that was safety and T-ball games and chocolate chip cookies. A normality that was lost to John.
"Should I?" The edges of the business card were cutting into the skin on his fingers. He heard Kate's voice murmuring in the back bedrooms and he had to bite back a growl.
"You know what's out there."
Not just out there, he thought, but in my nursery. It was in my fucking nursery. "Yeah," he said. He couldn't stand still any more, began to pace the worn kitchen linoleum.
"Murphy's a couple of hours away."
"What about the boys?"
The phone line whistled with silence. Missouri sighed. "It's not a place for children, John."
"Leave them? Fuck that. Kate called social services." He had to stop, grit his teeth to keep from howling. Kate fucking called social services. Her words to him, trying to explain herself, words like concern and best for the boys and neglect, pushed red into his vision. And Mike, sitting at the kitchen table with his head down, in silence that spoke volumes and John was breathing red. Their kindness over the last couple of years since the fire was erased by Kate's betrayal. John cleared his throat. "You siding with her?"
"Watch your language. You go hunting with children, John, then Kate's right."
John stilled himself, methodically loosened his fingers on the phone, reaching for a distance, a place to think. "You know what's out there." Turned it back on Missouri, trying to make her see. "Kate and Mike don't have a clue. Who would protect them?"
"I can't answer that. But it's not just the hunt, John. You'd be moving, on the road. Not a place for a family."
Hang on or let go. Let normality become normal again, forget (Mary on the ceiling) the fire, put it down to faulty wiring. It could be, John could see the trail that would lead to an acceptance of faulty wiring. Could see himself walking into Sam's room in a year or two, and find his son on the ceiling. Dean gone, nothing but a shell as the secret he kept ate him inside out.
Last month he had opened his first grave, finishing the spirit of a murderous prostitute that had been taking teenagers out at a local lovers' lane. The smell of gasoline and charred bones still lingered in his nostrils. And the adrenaline thrill that came with the arc of fire into an open grave, the savage glee at burning, at vengeance. Filling up on hunting, over his head in ghosts and demons and blood, and it was so much better then the hollowness that was his heart since Mary died.
His thumb touched the raised seal again, his fist threatened to crumple the card. "Give me Murphy's number."
For a long moment he thought she would refuse, hang up and topple him off the edge on the wrong side, the side with social workers and Dean ghost quiet and Sammy's endless night terrors. "God," she said at last, "May angels watch over you."
The wave of relief was stronger than the rage that burned over Kate, relief that Missouri had left him the choice. His knees went soft, and he leaned against the wall, pulling in deep breaths, not able to respond. "Thanks," he said finally, and she responded by reciting the number in a blank voice, and hanging up.
He could only breathe for a moment, and then he heard Kate call, "John? Sammy's ready for bed." And like that was nothing but red and rage again. He heard Mike's answer, soft and unintelligible, the whiny murmur of her response.
He looked down at the phone, pushed the disconnect button, and then turned it on again. Began to dial Murphy's number.
"John. Sammy needs you." Kate's aggrieved voice and Sammy giving his first verbal warning, a breathy huh huh huh that would soon turn into an outright tantrum.
He heard the line engage, the phone on the other end beginning to ring. It was answered immediately. "Jim Murphy."
Sammy's warnings were giving way to actual threats. John closed his eyes. "Murphy. I'm John Winchester. Missouri Mosely gave me your number."
Letting go, and suddenly the distance he had been reaching for arrived. He could see everything like it was a long crane shot on a movie, the point of view spiraling up and away. Sammy's crying was abruptly unimportant, as was Kate's footstep in the kitchen's doorway. John opened his eyes, his gaze brushing past Kate to Dean behind her, his son's face small and pinched, his usual quietness more pronounced.
"Yeah, she told me about you." Murphy's voice was curiously blank and free of inflection. "Are you coming then?"
"Give me the address." John found he couldn't look at Kate's face, could only take in parts of her; the fist on her hip, her lips compressed into a thin line, the tense line of her shoulder. John turned over the social services card, and wrote the address on the back as Murphy recited it for him.
Murphy said, "Wait a second." John heard a clunk at the phone was laid on a table, and the clear sounds of the TV in the background. A high, happy voice, giddy with freedom, and John couldn't quite place the voice, the movie it was from: Someone stop me; O someone please, just try and stop me!
Somehow the words angled into his head, found purchase in his brain. John closed his eyes again, rage turning cold white, purposeful, with control and caution. There was a brush of fingers at his knee, and he looked down at Dean, the six year old searching his face with intense concentration. Hi, Dean-O he mouthed, rage giving him a small spot for a grin to his oldest, his son, his Dean. There was no response from Dean beyond a slight rounding of his eyes; in Dean talk it was as extravagant as a bear hug.
"Winchester? Can you stop by a book store in Lawrence for me, pick up a book?" Murphy on the phone again, the music from whatever movie had been on soft behind his colorless words.
John was finally able to focus on Kate, take in her anger, and meet her gaze without trembling with the urge to violence. Sammy was still crying, laying out the roadmap for another night of endless soothing, endless terror, with Dean at his knee begging John to fix it. It was Sammy that did it, pushing John towards the jump, and it was Dean with him, small little-boy fingers warm on his knee, that put iron back in his joints, made him stand straighter.
"We'll be there in the morning." And that said to Kate, John tired of hiding, tired of walking the line. John chose, and pushed himself away from the cutting edge.
"You don't sleep much, you bathe even less and you'd have to eat things that you wouldn't want to look at while they were alive."
Over the years it found itself collecting lines from each movie, adding it to the first one, creating a sort of rosary with each memento. This one, in that voice, to that face, was special, a reminder of the first time it wore a human male body.
It had become easy, over the years, to jump from body to body, and it no longer had to drag together a huge amount of energy to make the leap. So it wasn't lack of skill that prevented it from making the jump, and it certainly wasn't lack of attraction. He moved with the ease of a hunting dog, face as open and as handsome, his eyes earnest. A smooth façade of honesty and integrity, overlaid with the direct sexuality of a boy-next-door, creating a heady mixture. It watched in amusement, waiting for something extra, that final spark that it would be able to take for itself. Which came when she walked in, and he lit up like the eastern edge of the world at sunrise.
The spark was her, hair as pure as angel's feathers, diamond edge cheekbones and a sensual mouth, a perfect counter-point to his forthright demeanor. The electricity between them jumped, a circuit completed, the glow of it nearly visible to those around them. And Hitchcock relaxed, leaned back in his chair with the confidence of directing passion.
Its wings spread with a smell like sulphur, and it hovered over him, a bit hesitant with his maleness, and then burrowed easily into his flesh. It stretched, rolling kinked shoulders, enjoying the breadth of his chest and leanness of his hips, flashing the familiar grin. Then it was time, Hitchcock calling for action in his understated way, and its eyes to hers, her gaze watching its mouth, its gaze trailing over her slender legs. It exulted in the dynamic, feeding off the energy, drunk with beauty and power.
It was over too soon, and it no longer cared, leaving the body with alacrity and not looking back as he gave a strangled cry, and crumpled to the floor. Hitchcock was there first, turning over the lean body and recoiling from the bloody froth on his lips.
In deadly danger...because they saw too much!
Rear Window – 1954
Starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
The car ticked and cooled in the crisp fall air after John cut the engine, the afternoon sun spreading golden over the black hood. Leaves swirled down gently, rustling along the gutter and into the road. John sat for a moment, collecting his thoughts, grimly keeping his gaze away from the house across the street. He twisted the Chevy's wheel idly in the palm of his hand, listening absently to the sound of raised voices, his face turned down to the empty journal page on the passenger seat next to him.
One of the voices abruptly came clear, echoing the chill air. "I don't care how you do it, just shut him up!"
John thought of Dean, of his quiet presence and the ridiculous snoring in the middle of the night. This time of day, he knew Dean would be at the kitchen table, watching Jim Murphy like a hawk, waiting for spaghetti. Trusting Jim with his kids was an itch he couldn't scratch, something that he couldn't think about, turning his mind to the job at hand.
He had been watching the house for a month now, after finding an ideal spot in the ally behind the Miller's that gave him a clear view across the backyard and into their kitchen. He had staked out Jim Miller's favorite bar, had become a regular there himself, talked with Miller, teasing out bits of information under the guise of drunkenness.
He had determined Miller was a fucktard the first time the man had mentioned his onerous job of keeping the little woman in line. And the boy.
The faraway sound of a toddler crying carried through the Impala's open window, and John turned his gaze to confront the Miller's house. He watched for a moment, catching the occasional form of Jim passing by the sliding glass door, or that of his wife.
"… he's only two, Jim, he didn't… "
John yearned for the heavy solidness of Sammy's body in his arms. Sammy, who had been awestruck by the original idea Jim Murphy had introduced him to; that of filing, grouping certain items together for the ease of finding them later.
John thought of Dean's solemn green eyes watching him trustfully. Dean, who found a comfortable spot in Jim Murphy's quiet conversations, soaking up stillness like a sponge.
"… just shut it up …"
One shadow abruptly raised its arm, another shrinking back, stumbling into the filmy curtain covering the glass door, lifting it a bit. For a brief second John had a clear look at a small boy exactly Sammy's age, wearing a too-small shirt and a diaper, huddled against a wall and wailing.
He almost left then, his hand on the keys in the Impala's ignition, longing for Sammy so bad he was nearly weeping, wanting to scoop Dean up and smell Johnson's in his hair. He stopped himself, steeled himself, cut himself off from the too vivid memory of the smell of Sammy's neck, and stepped out of the car. He didn't flinch at the sound of slap as he crossed to the house.
Jim Murphy put another beer on the table, took the empty one out of John's lax hold and lobbed it gently into the garbage can an arm's length away. "Two points." His tone was laconic, his grey eyes watching John mildly.
John smiled, chugging his beer, dark eyes everywhere but looking at Jim. There was a long silence at the table, Jim's gaze light on John's face, the grey eyes always assessing, taking stock, but never reaching any revealed judgment. Both swigged from their bottles, and finally Jim pushed away from the table, stretching out long legs. "So?"
John considered, turning the dark bottle in his hand. "Yes." An admission and Jim raised one eyebrow at this rare concession.
"On the ceiling?"
John nodded. "Took nearly a six pack and fifth of whisky, but – yes. On his boy's six month birthday."
John finally raised his eyes, met Jim's cool gaze. "He said he looked the thing full in the face. Said it had yellow eyes."
"Yellow eyes?" Jim looked taken aback, turning his head to regard the oven blankly. "Yellow eyes. Huh." He took another swig, then underhanded the bottle into the garbage.
"Two points," John said, but Jim was gone, rising out of his chair and striding out of the kitchen. John rose quickly, chugged the last of his beer and followed.
It was nearly midnight, but John was not surprised to find Sammy under Jim's desk in the study, carefully scribbling on a yellow legal pad. Dean was on his belly with a box of crayons, and his glad smile at John was nearly a shout. Sam looked up from his writing with a fierce frown and regarded John seriously. "Daddy," he intoned, as if reciting a ritual, and returned to his studies.
"Bed time," John said, but he was watching Jim thumb through an old book at his desk and did not follow through on his threat. "So?"
Jim glanced up quickly, then back at the book. Again, the long silence that allowed the two men space, time to sort through a minefield of emotion to choose words carefully. It was a habit they had settled into quickly during the four months the two of them had been working together, a habit that soothed Dean and boosted Sam's confidence, his being the only voice heard for hours on end.
"Daddy, I'm writing about a case. It has a ghost in it, and I'm trying to find the ghost, and Dean will help me, and then we'll finish the case." Dean looked at his brother in surprise, giving Sam all the motivation he needed to continue. "Then we'll do some research and write it all down and then --" he leaned forward eagerly. "We'll file it."
Abruptly Jim closed the book, set it back in its place on the book shelf gently. "Yellow eyes." He looked at John, and John suddenly saw a conclusion reached, judgment about to be passed, as if all the evaluating Jim had done over the past summer had suddenly being completed.
"Which means?" John tired of awaiting judgment, wanting to hear his sentence and move on. Dean, on the floor, was suddenly still, green eyes watching the two men looming over him.
"With this description, paired with what Missouri reported feeling…" Murphy spread his hands. "I don't know much about demonology, John."
It was named. Judgment passed. Time to deal with the sentence. John rubbed his face, the feel of two days growth on his chin irritating. "A demon?" And he couldn't control it any more, had to move with the hurt, putting his hands on top of his head and turning away from Murphy. "Oh, God, Jim, a demon? A fucking demon?"
Dean said, "Daddy?" and Sammy was moving away from John, scooting backwards on his butt until his back was against the book shelves.
"Look at it like any other hunt, John. What's next?"
He had been looking at it like any other hunt, and the objectivity was nearly killing him, because suddenly he would see Mary again, not just an anonymous victim like Jim Miller's first wife, but Mary, and the hollow spot in his chest would thud with phantom pain. He had done the research, had found a rash of nursery fires, had hunted down and interviewed that bastard Jim Miller. What's next -- what's next would be researching Mary, and Mary was his wife and not a fucking research project.
And demons weren't some random spirit, something in a house that an innocent family stumbled into when they moved in. Demons shifted the blame a bit, brought those they victimized into the grey area of not so innocent. Demons were playing with fire, flirting with disaster, and a hundred other clichés that cast doubt on those doing the playing, doing the flirting. Suddenly Mary was more than a mother trying to protect her son, or maybe less than that, maybe someone being called to repay a debt.
He turned back to Jim, who was a good three inches taller than him, a fact that annoyed him at random moments, like now. "Can I borrow that book?" Holding on to himself tightly, choosing Jim's height to focus on, to be angry at.
Jim glanced at the book, then back at John, a slight look of distrust narrowing his eyes.
John sighed. "I'll take care of it."
Jim looked way, then back, at John, at the book. Silently he slid the book off the shelf; put it in John's hand. Staring down at the cover, John was not surprised to see it was the book he had picked up for Murphy in Lawrence.
"It will be two years in a month." He didn't look up, preferring to navigate the minefield blind, rubbing one finger on the book's spine. In his peripheral vision he saw Dean sit up, saw Sammy stand.
Jim nodded, one hand on the book shelf next to him, his head bent as he watched Dean on the floor.
"Demons, Jim? Mary wasn't – She didn't --"
"You're right." The voice as cool and soothing as Jim's steady grey gaze. "Mary wasn't and she didn't. She's still Mary, your wife, their mother." He paused; deliberate in his words, aware of the knife's edge that John was poised on. "And if she was, if she did, she's still the same person."
There was a touch on the back of John's thigh, slight and hesitant. John blinked quickly, and looked down into Dean's face. Found a small place within his hurt to smile, and mouthed Hi, Dean-O to his oldest. He heard Sam give a small hiccough of distress, and he turned, fluidly plucking Sammy up into his arms, the book knocking lightly against the child's back. He mocked groaned with the weight, still furiously blinking. "Gees, kid, did Jim feed you rocks for dinner?"
His boys smiled, Dean guardedly, but Sam with his whole heart, always at odds with his broken family, Sammy always willing to try. That place in John, free from hurt and rage, seemed to expand a bit under the grin. "What now?" He watched Jim over Sammy's head.
Jim turned away, running fingers lovingly over the spines of his books. "Like I said, I'm no expert." He paused, considering, head cocked with thought. "I may know someone who can help you, though." An odd inflection in his voice, a stressor on the word you.
John bounced Sam lightly against his shoulder as the three year old yawned, his jaw cracking. "Hold on, buddy," he murmured, his eyes on Jim. "Me?"
Jim picked up an envelope off of his desk, long fingers handling it carefully. "Got a letter from a steering committee in Blue Earth, Minnesota. They're looking for a pastor. Their lay leader used to be a hunter, knows what's out there, wants to tailor a church specifically for that kind of--" the barest pause, a whisper of hesitation "—evil."
Sammy rubbed his face, rested his head on John's shoulder, watching Jim. "Pastor?" A question, demanding a definition for this new word.
John felt a slight tilt, a whisper of vertigo, and he was horrified at the sudden sense of sharp incline yawning at his feet. Jim never reaching any kind of judgment, watching and assessing and not blinking an eye at the flotsam of a family that had drifted to the door of his small house. Open to rambling theories about poltergeists, equally open to drunken anger at normal turned hazardous, chocolate chip cookies laced with arsenic, nurseries into funeral pyres. "So I'm on my own." A trace of bitterness, though it galled John that even that much was shown.
"You're not good with the guilt trips, John." Jim gestured to the books around him. "I'm a scholar, research, dusty old books that I worry about when someone else has them. Consider me--" he smiled suddenly, mouth curving at one corner. "—home base."
John's nerves tightened. He didn't trust home, didn't trust a place that lulled and soothed, hid demons in the flicker of a hallway light. "Boys need to go home, get to bed." He turned to the door, dismayed at the sudden chore he had set for himself, getting over-tired kids into the car and home on his own. It was scary, the sudden understanding he had of Jim Miller's rage.
"Kids are dead on their feet, John. Put them in the hide-a-bed."
"What's a pastor?" Sam again, voice whiny with tiredness and the incessant need to know. Dean's arm around John's leg was tight with a sudden fear of being left.
John gave in silently, and Sam fell asleep in the middle of Jim's rambling essay on the definition of a pastor.
"I know a guy in California." The clink of beer bottles, John eyeing the nearly empty fifth of Cuervo on the table in front of them.
"Yeah?" Alcohol buzzing along his nerves soothed him, dulled away the unrecognized sense of abandonment.
"He's forgotten more about demons than I've ever learned." Jim considered the ceiling, tipped back in his chair, the beer forgotten in a half-raised arm.
"What's he know?"
"Their names, banishing, rituals, exorcisms that would turn your hair white." He thunked down, the jerk tipping him forward against the table. He blinked owlishly, slowly pushed himself up.
"Don't want white hair."
Jim grinned. "You want to know your demon, right?"
John considered that, the sudden chill of owning a demon, being up close and personal with a demon. He wasn't sure he wanted to know it, just wanted to kill it. "Yeah," he conceded finally. "I want to know this demon."
"Bobby's the one to tell you."
The tequila shivered with golden light as John lifted it, tilted a shot down his throat, the burn quick and hard. For some reason he thought of Katherine Hepburn, her sharp face soft with adoration looking up at Cary Grant. Jim had been watching old movies non-stop lately, Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, Holiday. Sam had enjoyed the cougar. "California," he said to Jim, who was purposefully studying the ceiling again. "I can do California."
I've got to do something about the way I look. I mean a girl just can't go to Sing Sing with a green face.
Interesting that the only two jobs you think I am qualified for are a secretary and a prostitute.
You son of a bitch. You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn't you? You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the head stones. You only moved the head stones. Why? Why?
Occasionally rest called to it more than the thrill of energy between two souls, and it would find itself in the old house up in the hills. The house it remembered, the same way homo sapiens recalled the millennia-old drawings found in French caves, a house echoing with voices long forgotten and discarded. The house was a gateway of sorts, an aftereffect from when it had first been created, and the opening called to spirits just crossed.
So it was when she came, still herself, still with a name and a hold on her name like a vise. It was floating, aimlessly, recalling Holly Golightly's dark eyes, recalling Jane on the toilet in a perverted twist of sexuality, when abruptly the air around it thinned and chilled and burst into white light.
A petite girl, stepping from foot to foot, dark hair wavy in the wind, bruises sore and angry looking on her throat. She looked around herself, taking in the old house and grimy windows, and it watched, expecting the moment when she would disappear, find the way over and be gone. But she hesitated, looking over her shoulder, and the vulnerable line of her throat made it speak.
"Don't go." It hadn't spoken in decades. Its voice was the sound of scarab beetles in a sarcophagus.
She looked at it, a nameless being that only existed for the energy in other's souls, and it was rocked from the passion remaining in her eyes. The hunger rose, the insatiable need to fill something bottomless, and it reached out a hand, grasping.
She looked, saw what it was, saw the greedy reach, and she ran, screaming.
So it began, years of hide and seek, of undead tag. It cajoled and beguiled, threatened and warned, whined and pleaded. "Don't go," whispered every day, interweaving its need into the sound of the Santa Ana winds stalking the dried out husk of a house. And she, weeping constantly, calling for her mother, turning to it for comfort, running from it when the hunger was overwhelming.
Never had it felt so full of energy, despite shriveling from the lack of it.
The most hilarious heroine who ever rumpled the pages of a best-seller, Holly Golightly is serving wild oats and wonderful fun!
Breakfast at Tiffany's – 1961
Starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, directed by Blake Edwards.
Bonnie and Clyde they ain't!
Fun with Dick and Jane – 1977
Starring George Segal and Jane Fonda, directed by Ted Choteff.
John moved through a blackness so absolute it had heft and texture, like heavy velvet on his face and dragging at his shoulders. He had failed to take into account the detritus that collects in abandoned houses, and a stumble over a concrete cinder block had sent the flash skidding across the floor, banging into the wall and going out. Now he put his back to the wall and slid carefully along, one foot out to test the way clear before he took a step.
But it had been fucked up from the beginning, when somehow he had failed to meet up with Bobby Singer and had chased Singer's phone messages from Disneyland to Tijuana. Three days, before giving Singer a mental fuck you and running to ground in a tiny bed and breakfast just north of Hollywood, off the Pacific Coast Highway. And that first night when he was finally allowed to breathe, and missing his boys like a chasm that cracked his chest open. The phone dialed Jim's place without any conscious thought on John's part.
"He ain't here, Jim, I've been all over this state and he ain't fucking here."
"He called. He's in Nevada. Something to do with the silver mines there."
Irritation ratcheted up a notch, and John's grip tightened on the phone. "Nevada? So what the fuck am I supposed to do now?"
"Calm down. He gave me an address, wants you to finish a job for him."
He cupped his forehead with the palm of his hand, could feel a vein throbbing in his temple. "Demons, Jim, remember? I'm here for demons, not to tidy up after some idiot who can't be bothered … "
"It is a demon."
And it still sobered him, dashed into his face like cold water, searching for intimate knowledge of a particular demon. Like tonguing a sore place in his mouth, wincing at the pain but unable to leave it alone. In the hum of the phone line he could hear Sammy laughing in the background, a sound like a bell being rung. "Give me the address."
His foot kicked a bottle, rolling it across the floor and into the wall, ricocheting off into the blackness. He paused again, senses straining, considering going to his knees and searching for the flash. But the position was too vulnerable, John thinking of Velma losing her glasses and groping in the dark while the monster of the week runs past her.
He had slipped his journal inside his shirt, secure against his stomach, and shifted his clutch on the shotgun. He eased a foot ahead of him, slowly, and froze as chill air abruptly bit where denim had lifted away from his ankle. The darkness seemed to thin, giving him vision, able to determine walls and ceiling. He didn't have to time to wonder why, to pinpoint the new light source; suddenly a young woman with dark hair was at his shoulder, and she wasn't breathing.
He met her gaze, lifting the shotgun, and she said, "Run."
The address Jim had given him was a modest motel facing the beach in Torrance, and it was an easy matter for John to pick the lock of the room farthest from the office, stepping into shadows. He brought a small breeze with him, smelling of salt and corn dogs from the boardwalk, and the room echoed with susurration, like the sea. There was light switch next to the door John found after some fumbling, and flicked it on.
The room was covered in paper, tacked up on the walls, taped down to the table, lifting slightly off the bed spread. As John stepped further into the room he determined that most of the paper was covered in a tight cramped scrawl that was hard to make out, and some sheets were photocopies of newspaper articles. The papers tacked to the walls were copies of photos, and John saw Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, Jane Fonda. An 8 x 10 glossy had the place of precedence over the bed, Katherine Hepburn with the slight, come-hither smile, and John stepped closer to study it. He remembered Mary crying over The Holiday, and her lament that Hepburn had died so young.
Next to the picture of Katherine Hepburn was a photocopied picture of a flapper with an enigmatic smile, and written at the bottom in Bobby Singer's writing was the name Jewel Carmen.
It took him the rest of the day, nearly six hours, to absorb all of Singer's information, and while this faceless hunter had left everything plainly mapped and extensively footnoted, his cramped writing was beginning to wriggle and crawl in John's strained vision. He had turned out the overhead lights and placed the lamp on the floor when night fell, trying to maintain a low profile, and his back was cramped from sitting cross-legged on the floor, bent over pages and pages of information.
But when all was said and done, when it came time to mark the moment when Jewel Carmen took a step away from her humanity, it began with the ritual: Ater atra atrum tyrannus aeterno appetitus acroama…
There was a small moment of hesitation, John and the girl staring at each other, when suddenly whatever light she emanated cut out. Only his breathing, in the dark, then something huge and black rose up over him, radiating its own kind of black light, and he stumbled back.
He thought of Jewel Carmen, the darling of silent films, but always second, always the best friend and never the heroine. With the exotic tilted eyes and the spit curls, and somehow her inability to let go had changed her into this; sexless, faceless, nothing more than a shadow with an insatiable hunger. Somehow the shadow had a mouth, and it was when it opened that John ran.
Something snagged his shirt as he turned, a claw or hand, he couldn't tell, but the yank made him stumble, lurching out of the hallway into the wider space of the living room. His shirt came out of his jeans, and his journal tumbled to the floor. From the sound John guessed it had hit the floor on the unbound side, sending loose-leaf and clippings rustling across the floor.
He could feel it following him like an itch between his shoulder blades, but he kept a line on the front door, leading it on, letting the itch become unbearable before he finally whirled, the shotgun up, and shot it full in the face with rock salt.
The thing shrieked and fell back, and John's heart sank with disappointment.
In his front pocket was holy water, unused. The thing had reacted to the salt, had been injured by the salt, as it was writhing on the floor. The thing was not a demon.
Fuck, he thought bitterly, while stepping forward and letting loose with another round of rock salt. Carmen's picture came to mind again, as he stared down at the thing on the floor, and the absolute destruction she had undergone to live forever.
The strange shadow thing she had become shook and stuttered at his feet, mewling strangely. Bits of shadow extended toward him weakly, to break off and become nothing more than a shadow cast by light. He still wasn't sure where the light was coming from; the girl who had first appeared to warn him was nowhere to be seen.
The ritual she had used he had written down in his journal, had read so many times on the way to her home in the Hollywood Hills that he knew it by heart. Jim had started him on Latin, so he was able to recite the banishing ritual easily. The exorcisms he had been promised, white hair and all, were lost.
"Abiuro aeterno appetitus acroama, abiuro, Jewel Carmen. Abiuro. Abiuro ater atra atrum tyrannus. Abiuro, Jewel Carmen." He broke the shotgun, ejected the spent shells and reloaded. The muzzle went to where the head would be, and he whispered, "Abiuro, Jewel Carmen." And shot it again.
The shadow rippled, like a wind was moving across a sheet, and abruptly disappeared. Whatever strange light it had went with it, wrapping John in velvet again.
He took a moment, throwing lungfuls of oxygen into his brain, reaching for calm and trying to still the shake in his fingers. There was still no sign of the other spirit, but John was so pissed with Singer's wrong information that he didn't bother to search for it. He moved jerkily, adrenaline giving way to anger, wanting to get out of the goddamned house and get to a phone, get in touch with Singer and rip him a new one.
Nothing else mattered except the demon, finding it and sidestepping a hard look at Mary's life, at the reasons why a demon had come to their house. Other than Mary back alive, John had never wanted something so badly.
He cursed as he groped wildly in the darkness for the flash, his butt in the air, Velma forefront in his brain again. But he thought of Sammy's joy with the art of filing as he hunted for the paper spilled across the sandy floor, and Dean's grin that was louder than a shout. The thought of his boys calmed the angry and hurried him, and he wasn't sure he had gathered up every sheet of paper even as the door banged shut behind him.
Poltergeist – 1982
Starring Craig T Nelson and JoBeth Williams, directed by Tobe Hooper
"This is crazy."
"No crazier than breaking out of a prison."
"But my idea worked."
"And mine won't?"
"Nope. 'Cause I didn't think of it."
The two paused, dim shadows in a house hollowed out by years and Santa Ana winds, the only light from the setting sun sneaking in through chinks and cracks in the boarded up windows. Dust coated the floors and walls, sifted gently through the air in response to their movements, dancing in the small spots of light. Ahead of them, the hallway leading back to the bedrooms was dark, sepia and watered ink, and the two eyed it with misgivings.
Sam turned on the flash, aimed the beam down the hall. Water stains and cobwebs painted the corners, brought to vivid life by the white light of the flash.
The cock of a gun was loud in the silence, and Sam huffed with impatience.
Dean quirked an eyebrow as he double-checked the shells in the sawed off shotgun. "Depending on your goofy psychic shit is only a good idea with an awesome back up plan. Lead on, MacDuff."
Sam, already cat footing down the hall, shot an incredulous look over his shoulder.
"What. I heard it on TV."
Sam mumbled something, but Dean only heard Shakespeare and didn't bite.
The master bedroom was at the end of the hall, its door firmly shut, and the knob oddly shiny in the dusty atmosphere. Sam, armed only with the flash and whatever unnamed skill he depended on in his head, took point, flattening against the wall as they drew near. Dean mirrored him on the opposite side, the shotgun's muzzle aimed at the floor, his other hand trailing along the plaster wall.
They were silent, the only sound the wind purring and whining around the doors and windows, and the almost silent noise of dust motes dancing in the air. Dean sneezed.
The sound was deafening, more felt than heard, and Sam winced and fell back, ducking into the shelter of Dean's arm. Dean fisted one hand in Sam's shirt, the other gripping the shotgun as he looked desperately for something to shoot. A wind, as relentless and cruel as the Santa Ana, shrieked out the bedroom and down the hall, shredding cobwebs and creating ripples in the dust on the walls.
Images, feelings, emotions rode the wind, slipping easily past Dean, but lodging firmly in Sam's mind.
Real terror, but with a catch in it, like something frightening but expected. A house collapsing into itself. A small girl with curtains of platinum blond hair.
It was the girl that brought Sam out of the overwhelming onslaught of pain, the girl triggering the memory in his mind. He stood, pulling violently out of Dean's grasp, and faced the wind. "Dominique! DOMINIQUE!"
The wind abruptly died, was suddenly gone, and Sam stumbled as he found himself braced against nothing. He went to his knees in the open doorway, and behind him Dean's knee brushed his shoulder, the shotgun above him, pointing into the bedroom. The flash had rolled away into a corner, its beam caught in the small space. "Wait," Sam panted.
A young woman, pretty, with wide brown eyes and wavy hair, appeared in the soft darkness of the bedroom, her gaze hesitant and unsure. For a moment the three of them stared at each other, and the woman's gaze went from brother to brother to shotgun. "What's happening?" she whispered, the sound nearly lost in the whine of the wind.
Sam held out a hand, palm up, approaching a wild thing. "It's okay, we won't hurt you, it's okay. We're here to help you." He nudged Dean's thigh with his elbow, caught Dean's downward glance, and cut his eyes firmly to the shotgun. With a soundless sigh, Dean lowered it slightly, the muzzle pointing at the woman's feet.
"Help me? I don't need – She said she would – I don't like her." The woman bowed her head, hunched her shoulders, and began to weep.
"It's okay. You're Dominique, right?"
The woman seemed to take strength from the sound of her name; her head came up, the eyes more alert, the shoulders rolled back. "Yeah. I'm an actress."
Dean's snort became a muffled cough.
"Yeah, Dominique Dunne, I've heard of you." Sam tried a smile, put on his best fanboy expression. "Loved Poltergeist."
Dean's cough became a choke, turned into a real cough.
Dominique's glance at Dean was cold, and Sam went for a distraction. "Who else wants to help you, Dominique? Who else is here?"
Her face threatened to crumble again, her eyes wet. "Jewel. Said she would help me become immor--" she paused, her eyes flickered. "Famous. The next Katherine Hepburn. But she – she left." She raised her hands, turned her head to take in the degradation of the house around her. "No one's here now. Just me."
Sam had come to his feet gently, softly, Dean stepping back to give him room, give the shotgun room if it became necessary. The notebook, a little bent from Sam's fall, was rifled through, flipped open to Sam's research. "Did she want you to say a ritual, Dominique? A spell?"
"You mean like a wizard or something?"
"Kinda. Started out with Ater atra atrum tyrannus aeterno appetitus acroama–"
"Don't say it." Her voice hushed, fearful. "Don't say it unless you mean it."
There was a small silence, cold in the dry heat, Sam's eyes cutting to Dean's face, back to the ghost in front of them. "Do you mean it, Dominique? Do you want to say it?"
She began to nod, then shook her head violently. "I want my mom. I want to go home."
"I can help you with that."
Dean staved off a snort, but Sam could feel the scornful glance on the back of his head.
"You can help me go home? Jewel said she could, but she never did."
"Yeah, home." Sam's eyebrows curved, his brown eyes compassionate on Dominique's face. "Dominique, you do know you're dead?"
Tears that had threatened began to fall silently, the girl's heart breaking as she accepted the truth she had known all along. When she spoke, she had lost the overdramatic inflection, her voice blank and small. "I remember looking up at John, wondering why he was doing this to me, wanting my dad, or my brothers, someone to come stop this. Everything kinda went black, and then I was here. With Jewel. I never wanted to come here. Can I go now? I want to go now."
"You can, Dominique. You can go." Dean's shoulder rubbed Sam's slightly, and Sam risked a glance at Dean's solemn face.
It was permission she had been waiting for all these years, since Jewel had forbidden her home, parents, freedom. A small shaft of setting sun had worked through the boarded up window, bisecting her face, her eyes lit up with the giddiness of freedom, of having her happy ending. Her form seemed to shimmer, become nothing more than dust motes floating lazily through the light of a California sunset.
The muzzle of the shotgun thunked loudly on the floor as Dean seemed to lose a couple of inches, relaxing as the spirit disappeared. "Fuck. Getting too old for this namby pamby shit."
Sam's smile was smug. "It worked."
"What? Oh, c'mon. All you did was tell her not to let the door hit her in ass on the way out. Nothing psychic about that, Alison."
Sam turned, stooping to grab up the flash in the corner, wincing at the dust. "You're just all frustrated you didn't get to shoot something." He paused, glanced wickedly at Dean over his shoulder. "You're gonna get blue balls from not shooting something, aren't you!"
Dean's answer was nothing more than a growl, and he pushed past his brother to lead the way of the mummified house. Sam lingered, looking back down the hall into the warm darkness of the bedroom, at the dust motes that seemed to sing with light and freedom. His lips curved slightly, an almost smile, Sam recalling from a white faded memory sitting between his father and Pastor Jim, watching Katherine Hepburn, lit up with the fierce joy of freedom: Someone stop me; O someone please, just try and stop me! He gripped the flash and notebook, the wire spine digging into his palm, and followed Dean.
"This house is clean." A high falsetto.
"Shut up, Dean."
There was a stir of air in the bedroom, ruffling a piece of paper out into the center of the room, a page torn from a journal, yellow with age.