Chapter 20

The sunlight burned through Dean's eyelid until he was finally forced to crack open his eye. The room around him was better than most he was used to waking up in and didn't look one lick familiar. That was nothing new though. Nothing had been for a while.

His left arm hung off the end of the bed, feeling like a dead weight. Thinking hard at it, the arm slowly rose and his hand moved to block the sun from his face. A low grunt vibrated in his throat. His tongue sat like a dead weight inside his mouth tasting of cardboard. He tried hard to remember how late he'd stayed out the night before and came up blank.

With another grunt, he forced his head to move. He turned his face the other way and wasn't surprised to see the bed had another occupant. The brunette's sleeping face seemed slightly familiar and the name Sandy, Mandy, Candy echoed somewhere in the depths of consciousness.

He turned back around, dropping his arm back to the floor, the effort of holding it up to block the light more than he wanted to expend at the moment. The horns on the amulet he wore around his neck were digging into his chest but he couldn't summon the energy to do something about it.

Taking a more careful look at the room, he took in the deep blue curtains, the French style of the new looking dresser across the way, and the plush carpet. Destroying the illusion of class were loose pieces of clothing seemingly discarded at random, which hung from the mirror, curtain rod, and were also spread here and there over the floor.

Looked like he'd bagged him one with money this time. Maybe she'd be willing to keep him around as a boy-toy for a day or two.

The thought brought a half smile to his lips. That would be the life.

A rattling buzz up past his head vied for his attention. Dean tilted his head toward the nightstand and spotted his phone. Seems he had a message. Sammy? He squelched the stab in his chest at the thought before it went somewhere it shouldn't. He hadn't heard from his brother in two years, he wouldn't be hearing from him now. And Cassie…well, she wouldn't be calling him if he were the last man on earth. She'd made that perfectly clear.

He was tempted to ignore the phone, to wait until his head quit feeling quite so full of mush before going to the trouble, but reached for it anyway. He almost dropped it off the end of the nightstand, but somehow managed to keep hold of it despite his dented coordination. He flipped the phone open to view the missed calls and had to work to focus his eyes to manage to read the display. It said 'Dad'.

The word was like a jolt to his system, driving him to prop himself up on his elbow. Dean hit the button to recall his messages.

He dragged his body up into a sitting position, keeping the phone close to his ear. A stream of static greeted him first then his father's voice.

"Dean, something's starting to happen. I think it's serious. I need to try to figure out what's going on." The static rose in volume drowning out whatever his father said next then lowered again. "Be very careful, Dean. We're all in danger."

He pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it. We're all in danger? What the hell was that about? Cryptic much? He hit the speed dial for his father's number. It rang and rang then went to voice mail.

"Dad?" Dean's voice cracked and he was forced to swallow and try again. "Hey, Dad. Got your message. What the hell's going on? There was a lot of static on the line. Call me back?"

He hung up and sat still for a moment, his expression clouded.

"Lover…?"

Dean glanced over his shoulder, catching a glimpse of the brunette's exposed breast as she turned over in the sheets. A pity he didn't much remember what they'd done last night. He was sure they had fun. "Sorry." Sandy, Mandy, Candy? "I gotta go. Had a blast."

Dragging himself off the bed, he started scavenging for his clothes so he could get dressed and get the heck out. Something weird was going on.

It took Dean over a day to get the equipment he needed so he could record the voicemail onto something he deemed sensitive enough to pick up the message without adding in too much distortion.

He put the file on a rented computer and tweaked at it for hours with the Goldwave software to filter out and see what might be hidden in the static. Soda cans and empty bags of chips littered the bed he wasn't using, not wanting to leave the room any longer than necessary until he had this worked out.

EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomena, had been around since possibly the 1920's, and was felt by many to be communications from the dead. Dean knew they were, the family having run into the phenomena too many times before to doubt it. He thought they might have a case of it here.

Dean checked his cell phone for the umpteenth time, still waiting for a call back from his father that never came. He'd left more messages for him in between excursions to the bathroom or snack machines, but got nothing. What had started as a kernel of worry was quickly growing into a whole lot more than that.

He stared at the colored readout of the voice file on the computer screen and hit play.

I can never go home.

As the female voiced words came out of the speaker, Dean felt his dread shoot into the stratosphere. The five words rang in places in his soul he'd forbidden himself from going to a long time ago. Home was a place he and his could never go back to. A place defiled by his mother's murderer. Dean long ago promised himself he would never return to Lawrence, Kansas ever again. That awful night would be ingrained into his skull until he died. The mere thought of making such a journey broke him out in a sweat.

He pushed the unrelated thoughts aside, knowing his home couldn't be what the ghost's message was about. It was time to get serious.

He dredged up in his mind as much info on the dossier his father had shown him before leaving almost three weeks ago that he could remember then set out to reconstruct it. Sometime later, he stared at the news reports of a disappearance about a month ago, the one which had originally twitched his father's interest. Going back through the records, he found the same things his father had, that there had been people disappearing from a particular stretch of road near Jericho, California for almost twenty years.

It appeared like a simple enough job. What the hell could have gone wrong?

Dean stared at the screen trying to weigh his options. He called up Google maps. Jericho was almost parallel to San Francisco going in toward Nevada. As he looked at the major roads in the area of the state, his gaze ran across US 101.

Without meaning to, he followed the road until it crossed with Palo Alto. Stanford University. Sammy.

The horrid familiar emptiness hit him like a punch in gut. Sammy. Aside from that fleeting glimpse three and a half years ago, he'd not laid eyes on his brother since his father drove him away. He'd not even heard his voice for the last two. And now Dad was missing. Dean was alone, utterly, and completely alone.

He stared at the screen, trying not to give in to the clawing despair.

His eyes slowly grew wide as a thought struck him. Maybe, just maybe, he didn't have to be alone after all.

It would be a gamble, and there'd be no guarantees. But what else did he have to lose?

Dean printed out instructions on how to get to Jericho from his location, adding in more instructions for directions for a slight detour he would make along the way. Fate had given him a gift, and he meant to use it. And if life had any kindness left in it at all, maybe he would be able to make some roads meet up again.

The End