Summary: When a highwayman returns to the scene of his betrayal the Winchesters become entangled in a web of lies stretching over two centuries, and they are caught in the middle as past and present collide. Takes place in S1, directly after Provenance.
A/N: This story is loosely based on Alfred Noyes' poem The Highwayman, which I fell in love with as a direct result of the Loreena McKennitt song of the same name. I hope you like it.
This story is set a couple of months after Hozho, although it is totally unnecessary to read that first. And to everyone who reviewed the end of Hozho, life became a bit nuts for a while giving me no chance to reply. Please know that I treasured each and every comment I received. And I cried over some of them. Yeah, I'm a sap like that. LOL And I am going to be sending out replies. They're just a leeeetle late. LOL
To Vanessa at SFTCOL(AR)S…was this kind of what you were looking for in that prompt? And Jenilee, once again thank you for letting me experiment on you.
Warning: The boys talk like men who live a tough life and were raised by a marine. In other words, they curse.
Disclaimer: I don't own them. The incredible fun of playing with them is the only profit I receive from the story.
The Highwayman Chapter 1
"Oh, Frank, look how pretty!" Rachel MacDougal leaned her head back against the padded headrest with a small sigh. Moonlight tipped the tall grass covering the field next to them in waves of silver as it rippled in a soft breeze. The moon itself had just cleared the dark line of trees edging the far end of the field, and it looked huge and luminous in comparison to those dark, earthbound forms.
Rachel's husband gave her a soft smile. "It'll be full in a couple of days. Should really be something to see then." The familiar warmth flooded through him when she returned his smile. After ten years of marriage, she still had that effect on him. He turned his attention back to the black ribbon of roadway in front of them as the field fell away and trees edged closer to the sides of the blacktop. They started into a series of curves, winding up and down gentle hills, and Frank slowed the car, flipping on the high beams.
"Watch the deer," Rachel warned calmly, pointing to the edge of the trees in front of them.
A large six point buck was perched with its front hoofs on the blacktop, its eyes reflecting the headlights back at them as they approached. Frank slowed the car to a crawl and then brought it to a complete stop when the deer walked gracefully onto the road, still watching them. It stopped near the center line and Rachel gave a delighted gasp when other deer came hesitantly out of the woods. They crossed the paved expanse with small mincing steps, keeping the buck between them and the car.
Frank reached out and covered his wife's small hand with his own. The last of the deer disappeared into the woods on the far side of the road and the buck's stance relaxed slightly. It lowered its head and followed its charges into the trees, moving slowly and majestically.
"Wow," he breathed out softly. He gave Rachel's hand one last squeeze before he returned his hand to the wheel and eased his foot down on the gas pedal. They had driven the road enough times over the last few days to know that it would soon straighten out and the woods would give way to fields on either side. He pressed a little harder on the gas as they came out of the last curve, eager now to get back to the inn. "How about a nice—What the Hell?!"
The figure in front of them had appeared in the blink of an eye. Frank twisted the wheel to the right as his foot slammed down on the brake pedal. The car began to skid, the acrid smell of burning rubber filling the night around them as the tires left harsh black streaks across the pavement. The front of the car hit a solid maple with a sickening crunch and Frank again grabbed for his wife's hand, enveloping it in his own just before the air bag exploded in front of his face and things went black.
Dean worked two fingers down into the space between his collar and the chafed skin on his neck and slid them back and forth, pulling at the offending material with a grimace.
The urge was strong, but Sam managed to restrain himself from slapping at Dean's hand, opting to jab him in the side with his elbow instead. "Dean! Cut it out!"
"Dude! This thing is strangling me!" Dean hissed. He gave his collar and the knot of his tie one last tug before dropping his hand to his side with a scowl.
Sam rolled his eyes and turned his attention to the door in front of him, ignoring the soft grumbles still emanating from his brother. It was already open a crack and swung the rest of the way at his gentle push. The brothers stepped into the hospital room, knocking on the door jamb to get the attention of the room's occupants. The room looked like it was ready for a party. Bunches of balloons bobbed in the corners and small plants and bouquets were lined up on the window sill. A huge fruit basket sitting on the table next to the bed dominated all of the other 'get well soon' displays.
A slightly plump woman with a mass of frizzy blonde curls was propped up in the bed. Her casted leg was resting on a pillow in front of her and a spectacular bruise spread beyond the edges of a white bandage on the side of her forehead. She pushed her glasses higher up on her nose and sat up a little straighter, smiling a welcome as they moved to the foot of her bed.
The large man sitting in the chair next to her rose at their entrance. He was built like an ex-football player, beefy arms and shoulders just starting to soften. The image was completed by his neat blonde crewcut. His left arm was secured in a navy blue sling and slight burns still graced his face from the airbag.
"Frank and Rachel MacDougal?" Sam asked politely. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Dean reaching into his jacket, ready to pull out an impressively legitimate looking and completely bogus police badge and ID.
Frank scowled at them and plopped back into the chair, deliberately out of reach of a handshake should either brother extend their hand. "I don't know why you two are here. It's like we told the other officers, our statements aren't going to change. Like it or not, we saw what we saw."
Sam reached his hand sideways and stilled Dean's movements before the badge case could clear the edge of the jacket. "We're not with the police," Sam said evenly. His eyes rested on the closed book on Rachel's lap and he smiled slightly. "My name is Sam Collins, and this is my brother Dean. We're both with the New England Paranormal Investigations Institute."
Rachel's eyes went wide. "I told you someone would listen to us," she directed at her husband. She turned back to the brothers with a smile. "He said everybody would think we were nuts and we should just tell them we swerved to avoid a deer."
Frank raised his eyes to the ceiling and then gave his wife a triumphant grin. "But she insisted we tell the truth. And now…everyone thinks we're nuts, and that we really just swerved to avoid a deer." The husband and wife looked at each other and began to laugh in unison. Frank pushed himself stiffly to his feet and reached his hand over the end of the bed, offering a belated handshake.
"You're not the first person to see something unusual along that stretch of road," Dean told them, shaking his head at the folly of the local authorities.
"See? I told you!" Rachel said, swatting at her husband's leg. She tapped the title of the book on her lap, Haunted Massachusetts. "Spirits don't just appear once. There's usually a pattern or something, right?" She looked to the two 'experts' at the foot of her bed for support.
"Usually," Sam agreed. "Can you tell us exactly what you saw before the accident?"
"There was a man on a horse, right in the middle of the road. One second he WASN'T there…and then…" Rachel gave a dramatic shiver.
"And then he WAS there," her husband finished.
"There's a lot of farms in the area. You're sure it wasn't just somebody out for a ride?" Dean questioned.
"Only if he was on his way to a costume party," Frank snorted. "He was dressed like some guy in colonial times, but kinda fancy. You know what I mean?"
"Maybe you could describe him to us," Sam prompted. "Any details you could give us would be helpful."
Frank eased himself back down in the chair. "He had on one of those triangle hats—"
"A tri-corner hat," Rachel chimed in. "And a red coat, not like a British soldier…this was a fancy coat, dark red, with lace coming out of the sleeves and lace at his throat." Her hand stroked the collar of her pajama top showing the placement of the lace. "And he had these tall boots, up to like…here." She made a chopping motion with the side of her hand, placing the top of the boots mid thigh. Her forehead wrinkled and she trailed off, looking at her husband. "What else?"
"The horse was a big bay," Frank added. "Silver on the bridle."
"That's a lot of detail," Sam said with a little nod. "There are no lights along that section of the road, are there?" He already knew there were no lights. He and Dean had scoped the scene of the accident out before coming to the hospital.
"We caught him full on with our headlights…and we were pretty close. The sight's kind of stuck in my brain. It was so real that the headlights actually reflected off of something silvery, like the top of a sword, around here." He pointed to his waist and Sam had to stifle a small laugh at how similar the couple's mannerisms were after years of marriage. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Dean's nose wrinkle. 'Cute' married couples tended to trigger his brother's gag reflex.
"I mean, at first I thought it was somebody just playing a trick on us, it looked so solid. That's why I swerved. But…he wasn't a real person." The big man reached for his wife's hand and Sam saw the muscles in his forearm bunch as he squeezed it. If Rachel's white knuckles were any indication, she was squeezing back…hard.
He exchanged a look with Dean and knew his brother had picked up on the same thing. "There's more, isn't there?" Dean asked.
Frank gave a little laugh that was devoid of humor. "I think this is the part that really makes us sound crazy. We didn't tell this to the police." He cleared his throat and continued in a softer voice. "We were too close by the time we saw him. I hit the brakes, but we skidded. We went right through where he and the horse were standing. If he was real it would have been bad. Real bad. But he just kind of blinked away. Know what I mean?" He waited for the boys to nod. "And there was just like this little puff of mist, or fog, or something, left." He glanced at Rachel and she gave a quick nod. Frank sighed but then continued.
"When we went through that spot it got real cold in the car. And then we both heard it. Heard him. Just a whisper, but crystal clear. He said 'Bess'."
"Well, you are very very lucky indeed," the man behind the counter enthused as he accepted the charge card from Dean's hand.
"I don't think the MacDougal's would agree," Sam muttered into Dean's ear as the man turned away from them.
"Oh, goodness gracious! No, I certainly didn't mean to imply that that lovely couple's misfortune could be considered a good thing!" the man gasped as he twirled back towards them, his hands fluttering in the air.
Dean couldn't help smirking as he watched his brother turn an interesting shade of red. "No, sir, I didn't think that's what you meant," Sam said quickly.
"My, no! They are a lovely, lovely couple! I would never…I just meant that us having any room available right now is normally unheard of…" The man's eyes went wide and Dean swore they started to fill with tears. Dean had to run his hand over his face to hide a smile when Sam began to stammer apologies, trying to remove his foot from his mouth.
"I know that sir…I just meant…"
The man waved his hand through the air in front of his face, biting at his lip as he composed himself. "No, no, I understand." He gave Sam a tremulous smile. "No harm, no foul, as they say. Now let me just take care of this for you." He waved the card at them and then turned away with a sniff.
As soon as the man disappeared through the multi-paned office door behind the front desk Sam nudged Dean harshly with his shoulder. "Thanks for the help!" he hissed.
Dean turned to him, not bothering to hide his huge smile anymore. "Oh, you were doing pretty good on your own," he laughed. "And besides, YOU were the one who hurt his feelings."
Sam's glare softened and he shook his head, starting to laugh. "Bob there has watched a few too many episodes of Newhart," he said, referring to the man's bright blue cardigan and carefully coiffed high hairline. "The reports said ALL of the accident victims were guests here, right?" he finally asked.
"Yep," Dean confirmed. "The tavern can get busy, so there are other people going back and forth on that stretch of road at night, but the victims were all actually staying here."
Bob returned from the office and daintily place two old fashioned keys on the polished wooden surface between them. "Here we go. As I explained, the MacDougal's room was taken over by two charming gentlemen and it is their two singles that are available. They were positively thrilled when the MacDougal's double opened up." Bob leaned over the counter and lowered his voice to a whisper. "I believe they were hoping the trip would be a type of second honeymoon for them. So romantic!" Bob straightened back up and eyed the two hunters, his eyes going wide at a sudden thought. "Oh dear, I hope it's not too much of a disappointment that you two will be separated."
Dean felt his own face getting warm and it was his brother's turn to choke back a laugh. "No, I'm happy to get a break from my BROTHER. He snores like a banshee," Dean said quickly.
The man just smiled at him and Dean bit back a curse when his 'brother' leaned into him affectionately and graced the innkeeper with a shy smile. Bob's smile widened and he gave Dean a little wink. "Okay…brothers." He laid his hand on top off the keys. "6E is the last room upstairs in the east wing. 3 C is the back room upstairs in this original section of the inn."
"How old is the inn?" Sam asked.
"The original structure was built in 1760, and the two additions were added about fifty years later when the stagecoach line began to run by here. I think you'll be very pleased with your room in the east wing. Every room in that wing was recently renovated and they are just wonderful." 'Wonderful' came out as a sigh. "And this original portion of the building where 3C is…many of our guests just love how rustic…how positively authentic those rooms feel."
"Sam likes 'authentic', I wouldn't want to deprive him," Dean said as his hand shot out, snagging the key to 6E. "You said the east wing was recently renovated? How long ago was that? Is any work still being done in the building?" Dean leaned towards the wooden divide. "It doesn't bother me, but this one…" Dean hooked his thumb at Sam and rolled his eyes "positively has hissy fits if there's the least bit of uproar around him." He held in a grunt when Sam's foot stomped down on his own. The kid had managed to put some weight into it. Luckily Sam was in sneakers and they couldn't put much of a dent in Dean's boots.
Bob leaned forward. "Oh, I had a friend just like that once!" He waved his hand in front of his face. "SUCH a drama queen!"
This time Dean couldn't hold in a wince. Okay, he was wrong. When Sam stomped hard enough it hurt, no matter who was wearing what.
Bob frowned, his forehead creasing in thought. "The interior renovations were completed a couple of years ago, so no worries there. I am afraid the tavern can get a bit raucous at times, however, and 3 C is above the tavern." He looked at Sam, his face drawn into a worried pout. "These old walls are very thick, and we've never had any complaints about the noise…but if you're afraid it would be too upsetting…"
Sam reached out and picked up the key to 3 C. "I'm sure I'll be fine," he said through gritted teeth.
A large smile lit Bob's face and he scurried around to join them on their side of the front desk. "In that case, who's ready for the grand tour?" He stood between the brothers and looped his arms through theirs, swinging his head back and forth to look up at them with a smile that crinkled the skin around his eyes warmly. He only came up to their shoulders, but for some reason he seemed much bigger.
God help him, Dean would never admit it to Sam…but he was starting to kinda like the little guy.
Bob chattered constantly during their brief tour, explaining different renovations that had taken place over the past two hundred years. The two-story 'east wing' had added sleeping quarters, supplementing the small number of rooms already available on the original tavern's second floor. The addition on the western end of the building was only a single story and contained just a few rooms, including a cozy library and a breakfast room. He glowed with pleasure when Sam asked him questions that showed he was not only interested in Bob's mini history lesson, but also had some rudimentary knowledge of the area's history and architecture.
Sam would have happily explored the floor to ceiling bookshelves in the library, but found his progress through the doorway blocked by Dean's wide shoulders.
"Dude! You can have your geek fest later. Right now let's just finish checking this place out," Dean whispered while Bob exchanged pleasantries with an elderly couple who appeared to have been swallowed whole by one of the room's luxuriously overstuffed couches.
Bob escorted them back into the front room where couches and a love seat were arranged in a generous sitting area in front of a large fireplace. Sam was willing to bet it shared the same chimney as the fireplace he had noticed in the library. He glanced over to the other side of the large front room. Another seating area was arrayed around a matching fireplace on that wall. The chimneys to both fireplaces were probably part of the original Georgian structure and would help the brothers to mark the building's original footprint.
The MacDougals' description of the 'spirit' causing accidents out on the rural road placed him in the 1700s. Whatever his connection to the inn was, it most likely involved the oldest sections of the building.
The front desk where the brothers had received their keys was centered along the back wall of the room. It was bracketed by a wooden stairway on the left and the mouth of a wide hallway on the right.
Bob nodded at the stairway and looked up at Sam. "Your room is up those stairs. There are two other rooms up there with you, including the MacDougal's suite."
The manager swiveled his head from side to side, checking to make sure no one else was in the area before tapping Sam's arm and crooking his finger until Sam leaned down closer. "I'll deny it if you repeat this to anyone, but I think you've got the nicest room up there. It's a tad smaller…okay, it's a lot smaller, but the ambience…" The man rolled his eyes and a small shiver of pleasure coursed through him. "All of the original woodwork…and the view! Dear Lord in heaven, what a view!" He held his finger to his lips, urging Sam to silence. "And such a steal!" he whispered. "They are paying an ungodly amount of money for those suites."
Sam could see Dean over the top of Bob's head, and his expression sent chills down Sam's spine. This entire afternoon was easily going to translate into a month of new material for what his brother considered comedy. "What about Dean's room?" he asked quietly. "He can be such high maintenance sometimes. Just soooo picky."
"No worries, dear. He has a marvelous single." Bob glanced over his shoulder and exchanged a brief smile with Dean before looking back at Sam. "His view isn't as nice as yours," he mouthed silently.
Sam started to laugh and the smirk faded from Dean's face, his eyes narrowing as he looked back and forth between the two men.
Bob stepped away from Sam and nodded at the stairway again. "There's a doorway that leads to the east wing at the top of the main staircase, so you, Dino, can get to your room this way, or by using the stairway at the far end of the wing."
He headed for the hallway that led from the right side of the front desk towards the back of the building, setting a brisk pace. "Follow me boys," he called over his shoulder.
Sam looked at Dean with his eyebrows raised. "Dino?"
Dean put his hand up, palm out. "Don't even go there, dude," he said in a tone that promised violence.
Sam grabbed Dean's arm as he began to walk past, following Bob. "Do you think all the guests get this royal treatment…Dino?" he muttered.
"Only the ones I like!" Bob's voice trailed back from the hallway and Sam dropped his chin onto his chest, squeezing his eyes shut to block out his brother's renewed smile. He was going to have to remember that the diminutive innkeeper had ears like a freakin' jackrabbit.
The paneled wainscoting and wide plank floors of the front room extended the length of the hallway that Bob led them down. Heavy wooden molding encased the edges of an open doorway on the right side of the hall. "The breakfast room," Bob announced. The spacious room was tucked into the west wing and shared a wall with the library. Bob pointed past the tables and chairs spaced throughout the room, indicating a large sideboard on the far wall. "You can almost always find fresh coffee in the urn, and Delores usually keeps some of her wonderful pastries on there for guests who'd like a little snack. They're scrumptious!"
Dean's face lit up and he made a beeline for the promised land of caffeine and sugar while Bob and Sam continued down the hallway. The small man stopped in front of a set of French doors at the end of the hall and looked up at Sam, his face glowing. He grabbed the door handles and dramatically pulled both doors open. "The Benjamin Tavern!"
He stepped aside with a flourish and allowed Sam to enter the room before him. Sam's curiosity was definitely piqued and he stepped deliberately over the threshold, his eyes running slowly over the room.
Wood paneled wainscoting reached partway up the walls, much like the other rooms they had toured, but in here the wood was darker. It looked smoother, more worn than in the other rooms. As though thousands of hands had brushed against it over the past two hundred and fifty years, as though long dresses had once skimmed along it, and pant legs—from rough woolen breeches to designer jeans—had leaned against it.
The surfaces above the wainscoting were a simple rough plaster, occasionally broken up by imposing floor to ceiling beams. The beams were a heavy dark wood, their surfaces bearing almost two and a half centuries of history. Additional wooden beams, stained by centuries of smoke, ran across the ceiling. The wide plank flooring was also darker and more worn in this room than in any of the others, especially in front of the large brick fireplace centered on the outside wall.
Bob pulled a wooden chair out from one of the tables along the edge of the room and perched on the edge of it, his eyes following Sam as the hunter walked slowly around the room. He was grinning as though he had just given the young man a wonderful gift and was eagerly watching him unwrap it.
Sam couldn't resist running his hands lightly over the old battered wood of the bar. It was dark with age but gleamed with polish. He paused and lightly touched small gouges in the wood with his fingertip. Once rough and splintered, they had been worn smooth by time. Each mark, each stain in the wood had a story to tell. Warmth wrapped around him and he sank down onto a wooden stool in front of the bar, his eyes still taking in every detail of the room.
Bob hopped to his feet and clapped his hands together in delight. "I knew it! I knew you'd feel it! I could just sense that about you!" He walked over and leaned against the bar next to Sam, talking more quietly. "Can't you just see them?" he said with a sigh. "Farmers and drovers and teamsters, travelers on the road, gathered in John Benjamin's Tavern on a cold autumn night…with their ale and their hard cider and their mead…talking about the state of the road or discussing their crops…" He pointed to the side of the fireplace. "Maybe at a table there, sitting and playing checkers, and over there," he pointed at the side wall "wagering on a game of darts."
He gave Sam a small smile and then turned to face the bar, running both hands over the top of it. He pitched his voice low, a whisper almost swallowed in the weighted silence of the old tavern. "And huddled together, right here, with their pewter tankards in their fists, whispering about the injustice of the King's taxes and their outrage over British regiments in Boston… Can't you just see them, Sam? Can't you just hear them?"
Sam's eyes floated around the room and he could see them, milling around the room, some in rough homespun clothes and others in period finery…he could hear their whispers, feel their growing discontent and desire for self rule…
"Hey! What am I missing?"
Dean's voice from the tavern doorway was loud and jarring in the hush of the room and Sam jumped, almost losing his seat on the wooden stool. He put his hand on his chest and looked over at Bob who was mirroring his gesture, looking equally startled. Laughter burst from both of them and Dean crossed the room to stand in front of them, a delicate coffee cup in one hand and a flaky pastry in the other, his expression wondering if they'd both lost their minds as he took another bite and chewed slowly.
"Bob was just telling me a little about the history of the tavern," Sam said, his laughter settling down to a small chuckle.
"Dear boy, you are getting the bill from my stylist when he has to dye the gray hair you just gave me!" Bob said, wiping tears from under his eyes. "I was telling Sam about the ghosts that fill this room, and I believe we both got a little caught up in their spell."
"Ghosts, huh?" Dean looked at Sam, his eyebrows lifting in silent question as he sipped his coffee.
Sam subtly shook his head. "The ghosts of history," he explained.
"Many a colorful character has passed through that door, and swilled a beer at this bar!" Bob said, slapping his hand down on top of the old wood. "Politicians and soldiers, British spies and highwaymen, traveling musicians and wealthy merchants. These walls could tell many a story, gentlemen. Many a story."
Dean pulled the doors of the armoire open slowly, almost afraid to look inside. A huge smile lit his face when he got a glimpse through the widening crack between them and he flung the doors the rest of the way open. "Sweet!"
He turned to where his brother was hovering in the doorway and brandished a remote control like it was the prize from a Cracker Jack box. "Bobby boy was getting me nervous with all his talk about how 'authentic' everything was. If this is authentic…thank god the colonists had flat screen TVs!"
Sam dropped the computer bag and his duffel by the door and stepped into the room. "No, Bob told us yours is the renovated room," he said, running his hands over an antique writing desk under the window before turning to glare at this brother. "You made sure I got the authentic room. Which means I'll be lucky if I get indoor plumbing."
"Age has its privileges," Dean smirked. He flopped down on the bed and scooted backwards until he was leaning against the large wooden headboard. "So…what do you think Sarah's doing for Thanksgiving?"
He ignored Sam's silence and continued with a little smirk. "It's only a couple of weeks from now, and Massachusetts isn't that far from the Hudson Valley. I mean, it would break Bob's heart, but Sarah would probably like this place."
Sam unconsciously rubbed at the impressive collection of bruises on his hip caused by a recent encounter with a heavy secretary desk in New York. A slight smile played at the corner of his lips at the memory. It had been a nice feeling to 'save the girl'…especially when the girl was someone he genuinely liked. He mentally kicked himself when he looked up to see Dean's eyes on him. He forced the smile off of his face and fixed his brother with his best impression of their dad's 'evil eye'.
The truth was he had mixed feelings about what had happened in New York. Part of him was uncomfortable with how easy it had been to kiss Sarah. He recognized that it was the part of him that never wanted to let Jess go. He also recognized that trying to hold on to something that was lost to him might not be the healthiest way to handle things. "Dude, we've got a job to do here. How about if we concentrate on that?" he asked quietly.
Something in his expression must have warned Dean off because the smirk faded. "So, the renovations were done a couple of years ago," Dean started, his demeanor all business.
"And the figure started appearing out on the road just a couple of months ago," Sam finished. "So what triggered it?"
"We know he's not a recent death, unless, like MacDougal said, he was on his way to a costume party…on horseback." Dean's mouth twisted at the unlikelihood of that possibility.
Sam lowered himself onto a wing chair across from the bed, leaning back with his long legs stretched in front of him as he pulled open the front of his jacket. "I think we have to find out if there have been any other recent changes in the area."
"That's a place to start. I also think we're gonna have to chat up the locals, see what kind of local ghost stories are floating around. Didn't you say there were some online about this place?"
"Yeah, a couple." Sam raised his index finger as he began to count them off. "There have been sightings of a little boy out on the road…" He shook his head when Dean raised his eyebrows. "A little boy, dude. Like nine or ten years old. Supposed to be the spirit of a local child killed by the stagecoach in the early 1800's."
"And he's not causing car crashes, I take it?"
The side of Sam's mouth turned up in a lopsided grin. "No, but a Mr. Dooley ran his bike into a tree at the sight. Of course the fact that he was just leaving the tavern might have had something to do with it." He held up a second finger. "And then there are the stories of a woman in a nightgown wandering around the rooms at night—"
"I think every self-respecting historic inn has one of them," Dean interrupted and Sam nodded his head.
Sam's thumb joined the two raised fingers. "And then there was the sound of crying out by the old barn. Legend pegged that as a woman whose lover was killed during the Civil War. That ended when the barn was torn down about fifty years ago." Sam leaned over and grabbed the wooden chair tucked under the desk, dragging it to a spot in front of him. He propped his feet on it and slouched down even farther in the wing chair. "But no men on horseback," he finished.
Dean's eyebrows had been climbing farther up his forehead with every second his little brother took to get himself settled. "Dude! Don't you have your own room to check out? And drop your stuff in? So we can get the hell out of here and go get something to eat?" His voice got progressively louder with each word.
He laughed at Sam's wide eyed expression. "You forgot you had your own room for a minute there, didn't you?" Dean began to shake his head when Sam's feet hit the ground with a thump and he hastily stood up heading for the door. "I know it's tough leaving the nest, but you can't hang onto my coattails forever Sammy," Dean said solemnly from his place on the bed. "Time to spread those wings…" He began to laugh again when Sam flashed him a one fingered salute on his way out of the room.
Sam opened the door at the end of Dean's hall and emerged into his own hallway. Dean was right. He was so used to them sharing a room that he'd acted on auto pilot, settling into Dean's room. It would be nice to have some privacy…but he still felt like something was missing.
Whoa. He and Dean were spending a little too much time together when a brief separation felt weird.
They had used the stairway at the far end of the east wing to reach Dean's room, so this was the first time Sam was seeing the second floor of the original structure. The large staircase that Bob had pointed out earlier turned at some point during its ascent. It started on the left side of the room downstairs, but emerged in the center of the second floor.
A wide hallway extended towards the back of the building, and he was willing to bet that the door at the far end of it was his room. The two other suites were on either side of the center hall. If the length of the hallway was any indication, Bob wasn't exaggerating when he said they were large.
Bob had neglected to mention the fourth suite. The door bore a small plaque etched with the word 'Private' as well as a deadbolt, and its placement mirrored Sam's. This suite seemed to encompass the entire front of the original building, however, making it the biggest on the floor.
The hallway looked much like the one downstairs except that it was darker. When all of the doors along it were closed the only natural light it received was whatever reflected up the stairway. Wall sconces threw a soft light over the expanse, and Sam wondered what it had been like when the sconces held candles and the shadows in the corners had leapt and swayed with false life. The wide floorboards squeaked softly under his light footsteps as he moved towards his door.
An oval plaque in the center of the heavy six panel door identified it as '3 C'. He wasn't sure why he did it, but he laid his palm against the polished wood of the door for a second before he inserted the key into the lock. He'd somehow known that the wood would feel almost warm under his hand.
The door swung open easily with a quiet invitation to enter. He stepped into the room and took a deep breath, feeling strangely at home in a room he had never entered before. Feeling welcomed.
The room itself reminded him of the tavern. It had the same atmosphere of a rich history lived within its walls. The wooden floor was just a little lighter than the one in the public room, a little less worn, but it glowed with the same soft patina of age. A floor cloth painted in a black and white diamond pattern broke up the expanse of wood. It was a reproduction of a style appropriate to the era, much like the whole cloth quilt on the oversized single bed. He was almost surprised that there was no wainscoting, but instead a tall baseboard ran around the edges of the floor. The walls were the same rough plaster as the tavern, and the heavy wooden beams spaced along two of the walls and the ceiling bore the same marks of age.
The room wasn't large, but it easily fit a chest of drawers, wing chair, and colonial writing desk in addition to the bed. An open door in the side wall confirmed that while much of the room was in its original form, the practicalities of a working inn in today's world had been considered. Renovations had supplied the room with a private partial bath.
Unlike his brother, he wasn't disappointed at the room's lack of a TV. They had long ago supplied themselves with a wireless card that gave them access to the internet anywhere that cell towers could reach. It would definitely be easier to concentrate on his research without the constant chatter of the TV in the background.
He dropped his duffel and the computer bag on the end of his bed and walked toward the casement windows without turning the room lights on. The window panes were smaller and more numerous than modern windows and he had to stand close to get an unobstructed view of the outside.
The glass was thick and a little wavy. It might not be the original, but it was old. A light cloak of darkness lay over Bob's exalted view as the sun dropped past the edge of the earth to the west. Lights on the front of the tavern painted the cobblestone courtyard under Sam's window with golden highlights. The parking area for the tavern was tucked out of sight to the right, closer to the black ribbon of road that was visible from Sam's window. A newer barn stood on the site that had once held the old haunted structure. It was mainly used for storage, but housed a small gift shop in the front. Beyond the barn a dark line meandered over the fields, marking the path of a stream. The stream and the black roadway bracketed rolling fields and stands of trees set against the backdrop of taller hills. The details were lost to dusk, but from what Sam could see, Bob was right about the view.
Sam leaned against the edge of the window, lost in the peace of the scenery. It was quiet in his room, the air hushed and still. He closed his eyes and allowed his muscles to relax and his mind to drift, enjoying the calm silence.
The sound coming from beyond the window was just a hint at the edge of his consciousness. So subtle he was barely aware of it and his mind could hardly be troubled to pay attention. It came slowly closer, but was still just a whisper. It drifted in on the back of a soft breeze that must have slid past the small cracks around the casement. A soft breeze that stirred the room's warmth into a breath that caressed his cheek and ran soft fingers over the back of his neck.
It took a moment for Sam's hazy mind to tentatively identify the rhythmic beat as the soft fall of a horse's hoofs against cobblestone. His head had shifted when he relaxed next to the window, and the glass in front of him when he opened his eyes was thick, wavy and clouded with age.
He could barely see the shadowy figure on the far edge of the cobblestones, couldn't tell if it was a shadow in the glass or a trick of the light outside. He blinked and straightened up, finding a clear pane as the elusive sound faded away. The cobblestones were bare except for leaves blowing across them, pushed by the autumn breeze. The autumn breeze that for some reason no longer stirred the air of the room around him.
A/N Things will be heating up in the next chapter. This is going to be another long fic…but not nearly as long a Hozho. I'm still figuring out this 'writing thing', so I hope you like the story as it goes along.