tied her kirtle green
a bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carterhaugh
as fast as go can she.
not pulled a double rose,
a rose but only two
When up then came young Tam Lin
says "Lady pull no more"
why come you to Carterhaugh
without command from me?"
"I'll come and go" young Janet said
"And ask no leave of thee".
Tam Lin – as sung by Fairport Convention –"Liege and Lief"
The world blazed in the autumnal glow of late October, as the black car rumbled down the main street of the small New England town. If anyone thought the appearance of such a car was strange, the people of the town didn't even turn their heads as the Impala glided through the village square, past the tall, white clapboard church and the impressive brick town hall, then past the glass fronted stores, cheerily decorated with pumpkins and black construction paper cutouts of witches and cats. The car passed over the old stone bridge and as it did, a loud and resounding pop echoed through the afternoon, causing the driver to pull over to the side of the bridge, so he could get out and inspect the damage. He was as much an anomaly in this sleepy town as his car, seemingly drawn in shades of charcoal grey, smudged around the edges a little against the crisp and vivid colors of the autumn afternoon. In short, the driver seemed to have stepped out of one reality into the one that the population of Carterton inhabited, and the oddest thing of all was that he didn't even notice. All he was concerned with were the thick black scraps that decorated the road behind his car, the burning stink of the overheated rubber filling the air.
"Great." Dean Winchester stared at the damage, shreds of rubber just barely hanging on to the insides of the tire. "Look at that. Poor baby." He patted the car's sleek black hood, crooning. "What happened, girl, huh?"
"It's a flat tire, Dean." Sam Winchester observed dryly, unfolding himself from the passenger seat to walk around to his brother's side of the car and inspect the ruined tire. "It's not exactly a disaster…well, Damn. Maybe it is…" Sam snickered a little. "Wow."
Dean shot his brother a dark glance and then smiled benevolently down at the car again. "It's okay, baby, Sammy just doesn't get it, does he?" He looked up at Sam again. "I can't just replace one tire, Sam. I'm going to put the spare on for now, but she needs to be balanced."
"Whatever." Sam shook his head, taking out his cell phone. Dean's attachment to the Impala was exasperating sometimes. "I'll find out where I can get two tires…" He dialed, and then frowned as he put the phone to his ear. "No signal. That's kind of strange, isn't it?" Sam looked around at the picturesque town, a bit skeptical. "Shouldn't there be a good signal here?"
Dean had walked around to the back of the car, popping the trunk for the jack and spare tire. "We're not exactly in the middle of a busy city, Sam." He took out what he needed and thumped the trunk shut again. "It's not Tomorrowland or anything." Dean snorted derisively at his brother's concern.
"Yeah, but it doesn't look like the town that cell towers forgot either." Sam frowned, shook his phone and then slid it into his pocket again. "I think I saw a tire place up the road. I'll walk up there to find out how long the wait will be."
"Good idea, Sammy." Dean nodded, setting the jack down next to the car. "See if you can find a place for us to stay, too." Sam started to walk away, and Dean called out again, "And, somewhere to eat…"
"Right." Sam nodded as he pushed his hands into his pockets, walking over the bridge toward the town's small commercial district. "Be right back."
Slightly annoyed that Dean hadn't managed to make his way back with the car, Sam walked back to the bridge, carrying a bag of food from the small diner he'd found near the garage. His irritation at Dean was replaced by concern at the sight of the Impala; still parked in exactly the same place, the jack and spare tire lying abandoned on the sidewalk next to the car. The car keys were neatly set on the hood of the car, with no sign of Dean anywhere.
"Dean!" Sam called out, letting the bag fall from his hand, his heart racing. "Dean!" From the top of the bridge, Sam looked down into the lazily flowing stream, and then spotted his brother under the wide, golden spread of an oak tree that still held most of it's leaves. Dean's eyes were closed, and seemed to be sleeping, of all things. "What the hell?" Sam loped down the bridge and around to the foot of the tree, kneeling beside Dean and shaking him. "Dean?"
Dean opened his eyes and blinked heavily. "Sammy? What's going on? Where is she?" He looked up at Sam and smiled. "Did you see her, man? Gorgeous…"
"She who?" Sam looked around, and spotted the only female near enough to qualify, an eighty year old woman walking her geriatric Pekinese along the leaf strewn path. "Her?" The dog chirped a bark in their direction and danced along beside his shuffling mistress, dismissing the Winchesters with a lofty sneeze.
"No." Dean sat up, rubbing his face, following his brother's eyes. "Oh, no freaking way. This was a tall chick, lots of dark hair, wild eyes and a funky accent," A sleepy grin crossed Dean's face and he chuckled. "Her accent was hot…"
"Oh-kay." Sam said, pulling Dean up with him as he stood. "How did you get down here?"
"What? I told you, that chick…" Dean looked around, trying to get his bearings. He spotted the car, still parked at the top of the bridge. "Oh man…" He shrugged off Sam's grip and stalked away from the tree. "It's all just like I left it…how could she have just left everything here?"
"Dean," Sam followed his brother, concerned. "Of course it's all just like you left it. I was only gone an hour, two tops."
"It was longer…." Dean said, inspecting the Impala for any new damage. "She told me that she'd take care of the car…"
"The mystery woman." Sam said flatly, as Dean knelt beside the car to replace the ruined tire with the spare. "If you were tired, you could have just said so, Dean. We did a lot of driving…"
"Dude, it happened." Dean snapped irritably as he loosened the lug nuts holding the tire onto the axle. "I don't know why. I was here fixing the tire, and then this chick shows up, took me to this huge old house at the end of this road for a party…" A bemused expression crossed his face as Dean looked away from his work and down the tree lined street. After a minute, Sam noticed that his brother suddenly seemed clearer, less distracted. "Maybe you're right about this place, Sammy." He looked up at Sam. "We should check it out."
"Yeah, maybe." Sam nodded, the tingle of precognition making the hair on the back of his neck crawl unpleasantly. "I'll make some calls and see what Bobby and Ellen might know about this place."
Dean nodded, pulling the old tire away from the car. "I'm going to take a walk around, see what I can see, maybe something from the dream will jump out at me. I can't shake the feeling that I've been here for a long time." He shoved the spare on to the bolts with a grunt and then shook his head. "A really long time."
"How long is really long?" Sam asked, and Dean shrugged as he finished his task. "A week, a month?"
"Longer than that." Dean replied, standing. "Like years."
Sam looked at his watch. "Well, our cell phones are useless here, so we'll have to meet up…" He looked up at his brother, who was staring down Main Street, as if he could see past the brilliant leaves and dark tree trunks. "Dean?"
"Yeah.." Dean nodded absently, listening to something that Sam couldn't begin to hear. "meet up…" He clapped his younger brother on the shoulder. "Later." Before Sam could say anything, the Impala's keys were in his hand, and Dean was walking down the street.
"You're giving me the car?" Sam spluttered, nearly speechless with shock. Dean turned and shrugged with a grin, walking backwards.
"Take care of her, Sammy. I trust you." Dean's careless, dreamy grin widened. "See you later."
Sam frowned and climbed into the driver's seat of the Impala. "This is all too weird…even for us." He muttered to himself, putting the car in gear. Sam drove down the bridge and turned, heading back toward the town Library. Maybe they'd have a pay phone there, Sam hoped, and the sooner he figured out what was happening to Dean, the better.
The history of Carterton wasn't really much different than that of many New England factory towns on the surface. Founded 1820 by a Scottish mill owner, the town itself had sprung up around the mill, like clapboard mushrooms, with the fieldstone manor house regally watching over all from the end of Main Street like a benevolent queen. Eventually, the factory closed down and what saved Carterton from the fate of it's Industrial Revolution contemporaries was it's idyllic setting, and timeless feeling, luring tourists from Boston and New York, thriving in spite of neither being close to the ocean or near enough to the mountains to make skiing possible. Instead, it was as if people were drawn to the little village 'just because', and as a result, the town's inn and two bed and breakfasts were always full. It was a kind of miracle, and the townspeople took their good fortune with the pleasantly dour attitude that it wouldn't last much longer. The last descendants of the Carter family also still lived in the town, although even they didn't own much more than their homes and cars, just like anyone else. Edward Carter, the mayor of Carterton, had returned to his hometown after going to college out of state, and had chosen his hometown to raise his children in. The ancestral home had fallen into desperate disrepair, and like his grandfather and father before him, Mayor Carter really had no interest in restoring or selling the old place. Instead, he reposted the warnings, made sure that trespassers were strongly warned for wandering the grounds and slept soundly at night, thinking that he'd managed to keep a new generation of the town's young folks from getting into the trouble in the old wreck of a house.
His own children, Jamie and Jenna, had also both returned to Carterton after college and graduate school – Jamie opening his own law practice in the fancy new office park near the highway and Jenna working on projects for her architecture degree, restoring one Queen Anne or saltbox farmhouse one at a time. Jenna's dream project, the restoration of the dilapidated Carter Hall, had been vetoed time and again by her otherwise doting father, both for political reasons and for personal ones that never extended past a tired, "Just stay away from the damn place, girl. Town's got enough history without messing about with that wreck." Her father's admonition would keep Jenna away briefly, but somehow, she'd always find herself standing at the wooden gate, looking through it at the expanse of grass and dreaming how beautiful the house could be in the right hands.
The afternoon had taken on it's golden light, leaning close to sunset, and the breeze had grown a bit chilly. Jenna Carter knotted the sleeves of her green sweater around her shoulders, and pulled her blonde hair up into a hasty pony tail as she got out of her Jeep, preparing a new attack on her father's resistance to her proposal. Stubbornness had pretty much been a genetic heritage, and Jenna wasn't one to squander resources if she could help it. She liked to walk the grounds of the house and think about what she could do with the place, if given the go ahead. All the same, Jenna could feel a coldness pouring from the house, as if forbidding her to even cross the threshold. It was the cumulative effect of the neglect the place had suffered, that much Jenna was sure of.
"You're just a house, you know, that's it." Jenna said, eyeing the heavy door of the house defiantly. "You belong to me…"
She walked under the rose covered trellises that sheltered the footpath to the front door of the old house. Some of the vines held late bloomers, and Jenna reached up to pick one of the fragrant, post frost roses for herself, a double bloom, kind of a prize, given the lateness of the season. The October roses were always Jenna's favorites, always seeming slightly sweeter than their summer counterparts. These, being an antique variety, were blood red and almost hypnotically fragrant. Jenna lifted the bloom to her nose to breathe in the scent, letting her mind drift to the dream of the restored house, grand and elegantly poised on the emerald grass…
"Hey, you shouldn't be picking those..." A male voice asked ripping her from her thoughts, and Jenna turned, clutching the rose tightly enough to feel the thorns cut into her fingers. "They don't belong to you." The young man who had spoken was looking at her with a very grim expression and he looked at the posted "NO TRESPASSING" sign significantly. "You got a reason to be here?" His tone was that of someone who didn't expect to be questioned, and Jenna felt herself bristle defiantly.
"It's you that doesn't belong here. The house belongs to my family." Jenna replied, walking toward the newcomer. "How can I help you?"
"You own this house?" The young man asked, genuinely surprised, "But I.."
"So, want to tell me why you're so interested in how and when I pick my own roses?" Jenna asked, and the young man blinked, and then looked at her again, as if seeing her for the first time. His whole demeanor seemed to change, and Jenna decided she liked this attitude even less than his earlier way.
"Look, baby, pick whatever you want when you want. This house," He eyed it cautiously. "My brother and I were interested in learning more about the town, and the house…name's Dean."
"No one in town likes to talk about this house…" Jenna replied with an amused smile, relaxing her grip on the flower a little. "I'm Jenna Carter. Don't think I've met anyone who is that interested in Carterton. You sure you don't want to head over to Mystic or New Haven? More to do in either of those places than here, that's for sure." Jenna tucked the rose behind her ear, more to free her hands from holding the flower anymore than anything else. "That, and quite frankly, you don't look like the type that usually are 'very interested' in Carterton. They usually like the town square and the antiques mall in the old factory."
"Yeah, well, shopping isn't exactly my thing." Dean said, his eyes still studying the stone walls of the house. "How long has this house been here?"
"I'm probably the only member of the Carter family that will talk to you about it. Carter Hall was built by my great, great, great grandfather back in 1820." Jenna said, feeling his eyes studying her as intently as he had the house. "My family hasn't lived in the place in years, probably almost as long as it has been standing. I think the house is just unloved." She turned to look over her shoulder at the glowering doorway. "Grandpa Hugh used to say that the place was haunted."
"Haunted by what?" Dean asked, and Jenna shrugged, uncomfortable with Dean's intense stare. He seemed to be intrigued by the double bloomed rose, as if he'd never seen one before. "Those roses always grow like that here?"
"I really don't know." She replied, reaching up to pull the flower from her hair, twirling it between her fingers again, watching Dean's eyes follow it. "They've been here as long as I can remember. My Grandfather was more concerned about keeping my brother and I away from the place. He'd say it was haunted, and then ask me to always keep an iron penny in my pocket."
Dean looked up at the roof again, and then nodded, pulling his cell phone from his pocket. He pressed two numbers and then swore under his breath. "Listen, Jenna, I hate to ask this, because it's going to sound all wrong, but would you come with me up to the town center? My brother should be at the library and I know he'd really want to talk to you."
"Sure." Jenna nodded, and walked with Dean, still talking about the house with him, never noticing the neighbors watching her. By dinnertime, the population of Carterton knew that there were new people in town, and by dessert that Jenna Carter had gone off with one of them without so much as a by your leave.
End of Part One…..