"Sam, did you use the last of the holy water?"
Sam stuck his head round the bathroom door, rubbing his hair dry with a towel.
Dean looked up, his expression exasperated as he gestured towards the bed in front of him which was covered by an entire bag full of weapons and equipment.
"I said did you use the last of the holy water?"
"Me personally? As what, mouthwash?"
Dean counted to ten in his head and fixed Sam with a warning glare.
"Do I look like I'm in the mood for smart ass comments?"
Sam wisely didn't answer, instead going back to Dean's original question.
"No, I did not use the last of the holy water, Dean. We used the last of it in that exorcism last month. We were supposed to refill the bottles when we passed the next church."
"Great, that's perfect. Let's hope we don't come across any demons. Oh wait, I forgot – that's what we happen to do for a living."
Sam rolled his eyes.
"Hey, don't go yelling at me because we forgot to refill them."
"Why didn't you remind me?"
Sam raised his eyebrows.
"Because you're supposed to have a brain of your own? Course I use the word 'supposed' to."
"You're a riot, Sam. Lets see how funny you find it next time some possessed dude is coming at you and all you got to throw at him is your sharp wit."
Sam ducked back inside the bathroom, mumbling something about it not being his job to remind Dean of every little thing.
Dean regarded the empty bottles on the bed with an irritated look. Truth was he was as annoyed at himself as he was at Sam, since one of them should have remembered something as basic as that, but at this precise moment it was simply one more frustration on top of a tense few weeks.
He wasn't even sure he could pinpoint exactly what the problem was. The last couple of jobs had gone ok, barring a few minor surprises. Nothing they hadn't been able to handle. Neither of them had even been thrown around that much, which made a pleasant change.
All of which made the current bad mood they both seemed to be in even more mystifying.
Sure they got on each other's nerves at times – it was part of being brothers after all. But this was different. It was like everything they did or said lately seemed to drive the other crazy, and it was starting to wear on both of them.
Sam came out of the bathroom at that moment, his hair now almost dry, still annoyed Dean was blaming him for them running out of holy water.
He wasn't sure why it was irritating him quite so much. It was like lately everything Dean said or did jarred on his nerves, and if the snappy comments that had been coming his way were anything to go by the feeling was apparently mutual.
He couldn't help wondering if it was simply a result of finding out about what John had said before he died. Sam still couldn't believe Dean had kept that from him, something so important, but they hadn't really had a chance to discuss it properly, partly because Dean always refused point blank to discuss anything and partly because they hadn't really had time what with dealing with Gordon and then moving straight on to the next job.
Sam wasn't stupid – he knew Dean was hoping by avoiding mentioning the whole thing they could pretend it didn't exist. But it wasn't that simple, and in the meantime both of them being constantly on edge wasn't exactly making it rainbows and bunnies in their world right now.
Dean glanced up at him as he put on his jacket, shoving three medium sized bottles in his pockets.
"I'm gonna go find a church and fill these up again." he said and Sam shrugged.
Dean waited for something else but it looked like Sam was in the mood for one word answers today.
Which was fine by him.
"I won't be long."
Shaking his head Dean grabbed the car keys and left the room, shutting the door behind him a little harder than was really necessary.
Alone in the room Sam sighed and sat down on the chair next to the table. Since he had time on his hands till Dean came back he might as well do something useful.
Opening the laptop he waited for it to boot up and picked up a pile of papers that were sitting next to it. Scanning each page he put them in some sort of order and began reading through them properly, making notes on some of them as he went.
A few blocks away Dean pulled up in front of an imposing looking church. He switched off the engine and glanced round, taking in how many people were around and what they were doing. It was pretty quiet, which wasn't surprising considering it was fairly early for a Saturday, so he decided to risk it.
Getting out he locked the car, double checking since they were in the city, and casually walked up the steps to the main entrance. The door was unlocked and he walked in slowly, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the slightly darkened interior. The place looked empty, although there were candles burning brightly at the far end.
He frowned. Somehow, wherever you went, there always seemed to be candles burning in churches. He wondered if there was an actual job for that.
Breaking himself out of his reverie on candles he spotted the font on his left and quickly headed towards it. Keeping a constant eye and ear out for anyone else entering the church he dug out the bottles and refilled them hurriedly. He'd just put the last one back in his pocket when he heard a door open and he turned to face it, adopting a casual air.
The priest looked up as he sensed company and smiled at Dean.
"Good morning. Can I help with you with something?"
Dean gave him a polite smile.
"No, thank you. I was just leaving."
The priest nodded, apparently deciding Dean looked innocent enough, and headed for the altar where he genuflected before going to check the candles that had been so fascinating.
Dean walked slowly back out, making a point to appear as if he was in no hurry. Outside he kept up the same casual pace all the way to the Impala, relieved to see the priest hadn't followed him. He pulled out into the traffic and headed for the motel room, trying to ignore the tension that was settling on his shoulders already at the thought of being back in the same room as his brother again.
Sam was deeply engrossed in whatever he was reading and it was a couple of seconds before he actually looked up to acknowledge Dean's return. He watched as Dean took the now full bottles out of his pockets and dumped them on the bed next to the other weapons.
"Any problems?" he said and Dean shook his head.
"Nah, place was deserted."
Shrugging off his jacket Dean dropped it onto his bed – the one not currently covered with weapons – and walked over to stand behind Sam.
"So you going through the reports on this guy?" he said and Sam leant back in his chair.
"Yeah. If you go back far enough there's been someone using his name as long ago as 1912. There's no pictures but the MO's the same – he shows up, sets up a business as a 'hypnotist', everything's fine for a while and then people suddenly start turning into cold blooded killers. Every one of them, right the way through, all claimed they were innocent on the basis of not being able to remember committing the murder. Thing is there was always witnesses, or unquestionable evidence – most of them either ended up in jail for the rest of their lives or were executed, depending on which state they were in. Each time there was a spate of these deaths Munro would simply disappear, usually after the eighth murder."
"Eight's a mystical number, right?"
"Yeah, in some cultures they believe it has special significance. I'm not sure why it should be important in this case but it must be, since Munro has followed that pattern for the last 90 odd years."
"Ok, so this guy should be over 100 years old at least, yet in that last photograph he looks no older than about fifty – that's weird, right?"
"Yeah. Could be he's not human. Or could be he's using something, some sort of ritual or a deal he's made. We'd need to get closer to see if there's any evidence of how he's doing it. Course it could also be linked to why he makes these people commit murders, and only eight of them each time. There's gotta be a reason for it."
"You mean other than the fact he must have the world's greatest skin routine?"
Sam actually grinned at that, the first sign of humour in weeks.
"Yes, Dean, apart from that."
Dean found himself grinning back, if only because it was nice to feel a break in the tension.
"Ok, so what angle do you wanna play?" he said and Sam looked up at him, pleasantly surprised to be consulted.
"One of us could make an appointment to see him? Act like we need his help. It'd be an easy way to get into his office and talk to him face to face."
"Yeah, but that's no good if he goes and hypnotises us into committing murder, is it? We really don't need to go down that route, specially with the cops on our tail enough as it is."
"I wasn't suggesting letting him actually hypnotise one of us. We can stop short of that part for now, simply say we want a consultation to start with."
"You think he'll go for that?"
"It's worth a shot. Gets us in the door, right?"
"Ok. We're keeping it simple though, first sign of hypnotism and we're out of there. I'll call his office and make an appointment."
Sam put his hand on Dean's arm.
"Actually I think it would be better if I go."
Dean raised an eyebrow.
"Because, you're not exactly into all this therapy stuff and I really can't see you managing to be convincing enough not to set off this guy's radar. If he's survived this long he must be pretty smart and he'll see straight through you in a second."
"Hey, I can be convincing." said Dean indignantly and Sam shook his head.
"At this? I don't think so. Better if I do it."
"I don't know."
Sam looked annoyed.
"I can take care of myself, and I know what I'm doing. I don't need you to hold my hand every time, Dean."
"Don't start getting defensive, I never offered to hold your hand. I'm just saying I'm not comfortable with the idea of you going in there with this guy alone. We still don't know how he's doing this."
"And we won't if one of us doesn't get in there to see him! If you think I can't do this..."
"I didn't say that." said Dean, interrupting, and Sam looked at him, a horrible realisation dawning suddenly.
"You think it's gonna happen again, don't you?"
Dean looked at him questioningly.
"Think what's gonna happen?"
Sam looked away.
"You think it's gonna be like with Ellicott."
Dean flinched and then tried to hide it but it was too late – Sam had seen and immediately got a closed off look on his face.
"Fine, you do it then. It's probably for the best."
Dean grabbed hold of Sam's arm, shaking him until his brother reluctantly looked at him.
"I do not think this is gonna be like with Ellicott, Sam! The thought never even occurred to me, you understand?"
Sam gave a bitter smile.
"Maybe it should. I could've killed you that time and now with what Dad said,"
Dean cut him off, standing up straight and running a hand through his hair.
"What Dad said is a bunch of crap! That has nothing to do with this, nor does what happened before. If you think this is the best way to get in with Munro then that's what we'll do. You meet him and I'll back you up."
Sam shook his head.
"No, you're right. You do it."
Sam looked at him.
"Great, that's mature, Dean. One of us has to do this."
"Yeah, I know, and it's gonna be you. Now will you just call him so we can get on with this?"
Dean held out the cell phone to Sam but his brother hesitated, not convinced by Dean's words.
He looked up at the quietly spoken word and saw Dean watching him.
"I trust you. Now make the call."
Sam swallowed but took the phone. He wanted to say something, to ask how Dean could be so sure that it wouldn't happen again or that John was wrong, but Dean had already moved away and was turning his attention to the weapons.
Looking at the phone as if it was a ticking bomb, Sam visibly pulled himself together and looked up Munro's number on the papers next to him. Dialling, he forced himself to relax and took a few deep breaths to calm his nerves.
Dean started to take apart one of the shotguns to check it, deliberately looking as if he wasn't paying attention to what Sam was doing, even though he was.
When he'd objected to Sam being the one to meet with Munro it had been simple big brother prerogative, it hadn't even occurred to him to put two and two together and come up with five the way Sam had. The memory of what happened with Ellicott still stung when he thought about it, but mostly he just didn't think about it. Sam had apologised a million times, they'd even gone so far as talk it through – despite Dean's reluctance – and as far as he was concerned, it was done with. What he'd said before was true, he did trust Sam.
Even with what their father had said to him about this so called destiny.
Course now he had to actually let Sam go ahead with taking the lead on this case, or his brother was gonna think it was because he didn't trust him. He sighed.
Sometimes all this deep emotional stuff really was more trouble than it was worth.
He jumped a little, not aware that Sam had finished his call and had apparently been trying to get his attention for the last few minutes. Trying to look like he'd just been engrossed in what he was doing, he looked up.
"You get through to him?"
"Yeah. I got an appointment tomorrow afternoon, 3:15."
Sam didn't look as happy.
Dean put the now thoroughly checked shotgun back into the bag and picked up his handgun.
"Sam, come on. I told you, this is not gonna be like before, ok? Honestly, I never even thought about that till you brought it up."
"Doesn't mean I'm not right though. Maybe there's something about me that's easy to manipulate, maybe that's part of this whole destiny thing Dad told you about. If Munro manages to do to me what he did to those other people then..."
He tailed off.
"Look, you are definitely not easy to manipulate, Sammy. Do you think if that was the case I wouldn't have taken advantage by now? Believe me, I can think of more than one time when it would have made my life a hell of a lot easier if I could have just manipulated you into doing what I wanted you to."
"I'm being serious."
"So am I. You're the least easy to manipulate person I know, so just quit thinking like that ok? Now, we should talk to the relatives of some of these latest victims. If we split up we'll cover more ground, so you take the last two and I'll take the first one, since they're all the way over the other side of the city."
What Dean didn't mention was that the space would do both of them some good, especially given Sam was now even more on edge than he had been before.
Sam watched Dean packing away their stuff for a few moments before reluctantly standing and grabbing the car keys. As he headed outside to get their suits out of the Impala's trunk he shivered, like someone had just walked over his grave. He tried to put aside the sense of foreboding but he really did have a bad feeling about this job.
He just hoped he was wrong.