The brothers rushed back to their room. Dean stopped at the Impala, quickly keying and opening as Sam hurried by him and up the stairs. He slammed into the room and flipped open his laptop, drumming his fingers impatiently as he waited for the screen to show. By the time Dean entered with a duffle full of weapons, Sam was seated ready with information. "It's Grimmet."
"Yeah, here. Take a look." Sam swivelled the computer to face Dean, who glanced at it while checking his weapons.
But Dean shook his head. "Gimme the lowdown, Sammy, I'm kinda busy here."
Sam took a deep breath and retraced his sudden thought processes. "Everyone in the cast of that play who was injured, the one who was killed, what did they have in common?"
"Bad timing?" A chamber clicked into place.
"Funny. Come on, picture them in your mind."
Dean stared at the wall as he loaded the salt rifle by rote. "Well, they're all black… . . ."
Sam snapped his fingers.
Dean frowned at him. "What's that got to do with anything?"
"Dean, it's a six person play. Two of the actors are black."
"The two that were struck down."
"So, what, you're saying this is some kind of screwed-up prejudiced spirit?" Dean snorted.
"I don't know, Dean. Spirits have haunted for stranger reasons."
"Well, this one is plenty strange." He hesitated, and Sam watched his face light up with a theory. "I just had a thought."
"Yeah, I see that."
Dean winced at his attempt at humor, then headed for the door. "I'll be right back, don't go anywhere."
"Dean, wait, where. . ?"
But his brother was gone.
Dean took the stairs that led to the library two at a time, shouldering past several students as he entered. There was a young lady standing at the information terminal. Did even look up as he approached breathlessly. "Hi. You got a computer free?"
"Sign in, and I'll need your ID." She popped her pen on a clipboard.
Dean blinked, taken aback. "You didn't ask for that last time. No, wait, you weren't here last time."
The lady looked up pointedly. "School ID, please."
"Are you freakin' kidding me?" He turned away, calmed himself, then said to her, "Look, lady, I know that you're just trying to do your job, because I'm just trying to do mine. Now. Listen to me. Someone's gonna get real hurt if you don't let me at a terminal, and I don't think you want that on your hands when the cops get here, you got me?"
She stared him down. "I. D. Please."
Dean slammed his hands down on the desk in rage and leaned over her. "Good thing I'm in a crisis, ma'am, or I'd ask your belligerent ass out on a date." He cut her a look, and started to walk off. Instead, he spied a small young man, one all too easily intimidated away from the screen. He snuck a peek back to make sure the young librarian wasn't watching him, and hurried to the computer.
It took little persuasion (in the form of twenty bucks) to dislodge the student and convince him to go for a cola. Dean keyed in a search and leaned forward, his elbows propped and fingers threaded, his lips moving slightly around them as he read aloud. "First spotted in the nineteen-sixties, this ghost sighting has stimulated the imaginations of the locals for nearly forty years. The soldier is thought to have died in the hospital that used to sit where the college theater now stands." He read further, then pulled up a new window and looked up information on the hospital. "Built in . . .nineteen-twenty? Used for twenty-three years, abandoned, was rebuilt as a part of the college campus in the nineteen-fifties." He leaned back thoughtfully. "Civil War. . .there was no hospital there. Then it has something to do with the land. He has ties to the land."
"You looking up old Grimmet?" a voice behind him asked.
Dean turned to see a walking, living Ken doll, complete with preppy sweater slung over his shoulders. He stifled his initial reaction. "You know anything about him?"
"I know freshman always look him up. They think it's cool to be on a haunted campus." The man sat beside him with a cheeky grin.
Dean offered a half smile back, keeping his thoughts to himself. "So what do you know?"
"More than you'll find there." He reached across Dean and turned the screen off. "Man's haunted this place since it's been here. They say he wants revenge on some soldiers."
"Why? They kill him?"
"You could say that."
Dean waited, then raised his eyebrows and signaled impatiently for more information.
The student leaned in. "They say he's prejudiced against black people. Been tormenting them for decades, but only a few, and not every years. Almost like he's targeting his victims, you know?"
"How do you know this?"
"I was a freshman once. Did my share of research."
"You ever seen this thing?"
"Sure. Rotted soldier. Looks pissed as hell." He stood. "What's your name?"
"Josh. Good meeting you. Maybe I'll see you around."
You should be so lucky, Dean thought, and shook the young man's hand. "Yeah, thanks for the intel."
Josh smiled and walked on. Dean dismissed him with a disturbed glance.
The clock on the wall behind him ticked off another minute. He snatched his jacket from the back of his seat and returned to the dorm.
But Sam wasn't in their dorm. A further hike down the quad showed he wasn't at Juba's.
Dean cursed and returned to the room they shared. Sam's laptop was closed. He opened it, cursing again as the light flickered and went off. "Damn battery power." He looked around for the plug, wondering why Sam didn't have the damn thing plugged in in the first place. There was a long black twist near the door, nearly in the corner. He slowly walked over to it, picked it up, looked at the knot that folded back and formed a noose.
The number of outraged thoughts that entered his mind were violently dismissed as he ran up the stairs and into the theater, then pounded down the hall to the staging area. He flung open the door, his duffle pulling at his shoulder uncomfortably. He pulled his gun from his belt. The heavy doors slammed behind him, echoing in the hall. "Juba! I know you're in here!" He waited, his gun poised and ready, his eyes wide and taking in everything. They narrowed at the form that slowly walked onto the stage and stood dead center. Dark eyes bored into his from a great distance, yet it felt as though they were standing face to face. Dean shifted his position, feeling a tug of regret, but his aim held true. "Where's Sam?"
Juba said nothing, just continued to stare, entranced.
"Juba. Let's talk about this, huh? Why are you doing this?"
"Dean?" Juba seemed to come back to himself and staggered underneath a stage light, his head bleeding, and Dean let down his guard slightly. "Sam's… . . ." Juba took a few steps toward the orchestra pit, and slumped down.
Dean blinked a few times and allowed himself to ease down the aisle, his gun holding a steady track right at Juba's head. He scuffed down the carpeted walkway, moving more slowly as he reached the pit. Times like this he wished he had two set of eyes. He darted glances at the man who now stood above him, then leaned over the rail and looked into the dim area below. There was nothing to see at first, then… . . . "Sam?"
Juba straightened, as did Dean, his gun fixed accusingly on the young man. "I didn't do it," Juba protested quietly. "I promise I didn't do it, I-I don't remember doing it."
Doing what? Fear gripped Dean's heart. It seemed pretty obvious that Juba wasn't going anywhere, and for a moment he didn't care if the man managed to creep off into the night. He clicked on the safety and stuck the gun in the back of his belt, grabbed hold of the railing, and flipped himself over. He landed hard, looking up at Juba to make sure he hadn't moved, then bent down beside his brother. "Sam!" He caught Sam's face in his hands, looking at the dried blood caking in his hair as he checked for a pulse. "Dammit," he said gently, smoothing sweat-matted hair back from Sam's forehead. "Can you hear me? Open your eyes."
"I found him like that. I think. Can't really remember."
Dean looked straight up. Juba's face was peering down at him, the stage lights creating an odd halo around his face, shadowing him. He seemed too large, like his head was the only thing towering above Dean. He had the uncomfortable feeling of being in a pit with a hungry lion over him.
Sam moaned. Dean instantly grabbed his brother by the shoulders, double-checking for other injuries. Sam seemed fine, in fact he groaned a little at the rough handling. Dean patted his chest thankfully and stood, looking at Juba. "You okay?" he asked carefully.
Juba winced, one hand wrapped around his ribs. "Yeah. I think so."
Dean still wasn't totally certain Juba wasn't the one behind all this. "What the hell happened? How did you two get here?"
"I don't know. I was in my room earlier. After that I don't remember anything.."
"Aw… . . .crap."
Dean heard the sound at his feet and quickly dipped down. "Sam? Easy, bro."
"– The hell'd you hit me with?"
"Wasn't me, buddy." Dean held Sam's head steady, checking his eyes. "You okay?"
He groaned. "I will be." Pained eyes rose, found Juba's, and narrowed.
"I swear to God, man," Juba insisted, raising his hand defensively.
Sam blinked at him, and Dean watched as he mentally retraced his steps. "No . . you were heading here. I followed you."
"Why the hell would I come here?" Juba asked.
"Yeah, especially when I told you to stay put!" Dean exclaimed, then froze. A chill filled the air. The overhead lights started to flicker.
Juba looked around. "Shit. It's starting, isn't it?"
Sam pulled at Dean's arm, and they stood slowly, then stumbled together to the stairs on the far side of the pit as a static sound filled the air. They joined Juba on stage, one standing to either side of him
Juba heard it too, and looked into the wings. "Oh my God," he muttered. "Oh Lord." He backed into Dean. Dean, in the meantime, was convinced his heart had stopped.
Eyes glowed at them from the shadows, small but just visible, just high enough to be in a man. The eyes shifted, and a shadow moved.
"Shit," Juba muttered, his breath catching. "Shit, shit, shit . . ."
The shadow deepend and became a shape. The static-like shuffling sound was now easily heard, and a figure pulled out of the wings and onto the stage.
The three of them stood frozen.
The soldier was wrapped in a heavy, military-style cloak. He moved with a grace that belied the shuffling sound, like an illusion that had nothing to do with the senses. The air froze around them. Dead eyes stared into theirs, skin flaked off on a partially revealed skull. Dark skin. Too dark.
Sam leaned in toward Dean behind Juba's shoulder. "He's black! Grimmet was a black Confederate soldier."
The soldier trudged on heavily, pressing the trio back slowly across the stage. It said nothing, reaching a rotted hand slowly out. Reaching for Dean.
"Dean," Sam cautioned, and he felt his brother's fingers tighten around his arm.
"I know, I know," Dean said, eyeing the duffle he'd left on the side of the stage. At that moment Juba screamed out in agony and fell to his knees.
The soldier smiled.
"Juba!" Dean pulled away from Sam and bent down, bracing the terrified man. Juba clawed at his face, screaming in fear, gashing at his skin. "Sam, get him out of here!"
Sam grabbed the wailing man. "What about you?" he yelled out.
"I got this, just go!"
He knew Sam wanted to argue. But as Juba screamed out again, he realized time wasn't on his side. He ushered the man out the back door.
Dean glanced again at his duffle. The soldier looked at him, and his eyes drifted to the duffle as well. Swallowing heavily, Dean didn't move; instead his eyes narrowed as he watched an almost curious expression pass over Grimmet's face. The face split open in a grotesque laugh.
Dean wasn't sure if he should he glad the spirit was amused, or grab his bag and take off. A dead laugh wasn't necessarily a good one. He hesitated, half-expecting to be flung into the orchestra pit by some psychic energy. Something fluttered down before his eyes and he batted it away quickly. Damn moths drawn to the hot lights. Another floated down, and Dean drew back his head and frowned at it, then looked up as more pieces sailed down at him.
Dean watched for a moment in wonder before snatching at a large piece, almost a full page. He glanced at it, reading quickly, then looked up in surprise as Grimmet suddenly yelled and dove at him. He just had time to turn his body away before his breath was knocked from him as the spirit pressed him to the boards.
Dean's face was mashed against the floor. He bucked in panic and tried to raise himself, then his eyes fell on something along the back of the stage. Bones. An old plastic skeleton lying on the floor, mostly hidden, the kind that hung in medical classrooms and obviously being used as a prop. The weight suddenly eased, and Dean flipped over to stare up into the rotted face of Grimmet, who stood right over him, staring back. The tortured face spoke volumes, and was easily read. "I'll be damned," he muttered. And he dove for his bag.
Sam limped across the quad, Juba's arm slung over his shoulder. Everyone seemed to be inside – there were a few people wandering around, but they were out of ear shot . . .either that, or he was being ignored. Sam adjusted his grip on the man and continued to walk him toward the Impala. Not that he had any intention of leaving Dean.
He cursed as he stumbled, and they both went down. Juba rolled to his back, his breath coming in pained gasps. He needed a hospital. Sam's hand snaked into Juba's pocket, and found his cell phone. He quickly viewed the menu. Joan. Thank God. He dialed quickly. "Joan? It's Sam. Yeah, look, I need your help. It's Juba. No, I mean he's . . .yeah, something happened. Where are you?" He hesitated, looking for the building she described. "I'm in front of . . ." he looked around frantically, "Kellerman Hall. Yeah, he needs a doctor. Okay." Sam hung up and put the phone back into Juba's pocket, then hauled the man to his feet, wrapping the arm over his shoulder once again. He headed towards Joan's building.
She met him about a hundred yards out, exclaiming in fear, taking her boyfriend from Sam. Juba was pretty much holding his own by then, but was still very disoriented, complaining of a headache. "I'll take him to the – what is that?" Joan straightened from bending over her boyfriend, staring into the distance. Sam noticed the change in light, saw it play across her face, and felt a sense of dread even before he turned. "Wait, is that the theater?" she asked.
Sam tore across the quad.
People were gathering outside the burning building, watching, yelling out, cursing, laughing if they were drunk enough. The flames licked out from a few windows. Smoke billowed from the roof, forcing its way out through the cracks it could find. It looked like the fire was spreading rapidly.
Sam pushed past the few students that stood closest and ran up the front stairs. The door wouldn't budge. He jumped off the side and darted around to the back. The door stayed firm. "No. NO! Dean!" He slammed himself against the door, then ran to one of the back windows. He braced himself, then charged it, wrapping his arms around his head as he dived through. He landed hard and rolled, glass sprinkling over him in a diamond rain. His face stung, his hands were bleeding, but he pushed to his feet, shielding his face from the growing smoke that suddenly billowed towards the window, and hurried to the theater hall.
The doors were hot to the touch. He drew back his heavy boot and kicked them open, and jumped back as flames leaped at him. He coughed and barreled inside, quickly making his way around the perimeter of the room. "Dean!" he bellowed, and coughed again. He forced himself through the furnace to the stage where he'd last seen his brother. "Dean! Can you hear me? DEAN?" His eyes watered. He winced through the tears, batting at the flames uselessly. Dean wasn't on the stage. Neither was the duffle.
So, he got out? Sam coughed again, this time doubling over from the effort of merely taking in a breath. The back door . . .he started up the side stairs that led to the wings when he noticed a hand, and saw the glint of a ring.
Dean had been heading out, when whatever happened, happened.. Sam didn't even remember moving. He hoisted Dean's limp body up and over his shoulder, grabbed the duffle, and carefully yet quickly made his way up the stairs. He kicked the back door open and ran outside. It wasn't until he was a hundred yards from the burning building that he let himself collapse, dumping his brother's body to the ground, barely managing not to land on it.
He lay still except for racking coughs, and once they started to subside, he rolled over and put his hand on Dean's chest. It rose and fell in a gentle rhythm, shallow, but there. Sam shook him gently, then pulled himself to his knees and leaned over him. "Dean. Wake up, man." Tell me that thing didn't hurt you. He looked up quickly as a loud roar filled the air, and the back side of the building was completely engulfed in red flames.
Dean shifted slightly with a short, muffled groan, pulling Sam's attention back to the ground. "Hey!" Sam smiled in relief, and found he couldn't stop. "What the hell was that stunt?"
Dean squinted and winced at him. He raised his head slowly, and Sam put a hand to his back, helped him to sit up, and found himself being scrutinized. "What happened to you?" Dean asked in a raspy voice, taking in the cuts on Sam's face.
Typical Dean. Thank god. "I saved your ass!"
"Hm. Dude, you look like shit." Dean's voice was hoarse, and he coughed painfully, tipping
"Hey! Easy." Sam braced him, then reached out and touched the back of Dean's head. His fingers came away bloody. He grabbed Dean's chin and tilted his head up, looking into his eyes.
His hand was slapped away. " – the hell are you doing?"
"Your eyes are dilated. Dean, what happened? Did Grimmet attack you back there?"
"What? No." Dean grimaced and pushed at Sam again, sitting up on his own accord. He caught sight of the burning building for the first time. "Wow." His eyes widened, reflecting the orange glow. "Didn't know it would go up that fast."
"What are you talking about?" Sam watched in confusion as Dean reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. Newsprint.
Old yellowed newsprint, in fact, with no date that Sam could see, but it was very fragile and he was reluctant to hold it. Still, it survived Dean's pocket. . .he took it carefully and angled it to the firelight. "What's this?"
"The answer, I think. I didn't get to look at it too long, read it to me." Dean's knees rose towards his chest, and he propped his head on them groggily.
Sam's eyes fluttered over the print. "Dean, this is about Grimmet. It says he was killed by veterans of the confederate army, for whom he had fought. His legs were broken, and he was. . .hanged, then his body burned." Sam settled beside Dean, who had raised his head. "Those who captured and killed him were black, like he was. Apparently these veterans were among those responsible for creating the KKK."
Dean coughed. "You serious?"
"Apparently they thought having the soldier's own race kill him would demoralize them. These black men who acted in the interest of the KKK were rewarded."
"Rewarded? Not slaughtered?" Sam shrugged in response, eliciting a huff from Dean. "That's insane," he said softly.
"But not unheard of," Sam said. "It wasn't unusual during the early years of the organization for black men to be used to hunt out other black men."
Dean nodded slowly. "And this used to be a place for them to meet. Out back, in the field, back in the sixites."
"That's when Grimmet was first seen."
"And get this." Dean coughed again, and shifted on the ground. He swallowed hard before talking. "It isn't the first time this has happened. There is a history of unsolved deaths on this campus, dating back to the nineteen-sixties, every victim a young black man."
"So, you think he was looking for his killers? He was taking revenge." Sam stared at the burning building.
"Not just that. If it was just cold revenge, he'd kill every dark-skinned person that walked into this place, and I mean African or not. I bet if you trace the roots of the victims, every ancestor would trace back here. He's killing the descendants. He's particular."
"He didn't kill Juba."
"Yet." Dean wiped the beading sweat from his forehead. "Maybe he knew his great-great-great grandfather Juba or something. I don't think wanted to kill Juba. I think he was trying to communicate with him."
Dean shrugged. "Old Grimmet was killed violently by the people he fought with, and fought for. I know I'd be pissed, and want it to end."
Behind them, the back of the building collapsed.
Juba was released from the hospital the next day with strict orders of bed rest. Joan was there to insure he obeyed the instructions to the letter. "Five minutes, guys, that it," she said to Sam and Dean. "I mean it. I'll come in here and drag you out."
"Yes, ma'am," Dean said, entering Juba's room. Sam gave her a knowing smile.
Juba grinned at them from his bed. "Hey, it's the Ghost Busters!"
"Dude, I will so do you an injury," Dean said, and clapped the man on the leg. "How you feeling?"
Juba shrugged slightly. "I'm alive."
Sam sat beside him. "That's good to see."
"Better than some." His face darkened. "What was that thing?"
Dean glanced at Sam, then gave Juba a small smile. "Nothing you need to worry about. Theater's gone, and the spirit's gone with it."
"So it's over?"
"Yeah, it's over."
Juba nodded, his face clouded. "Don't make no sense," he muttered. "Those were my friends."
"I know," Sam said quietly.
Juba's lips pressed tight. "Well. Move on, I guess. Still got a show to do, eventually, unless they take pity on us and give us funding anyway."
"Sorry about the theater," Sam said.
"May can show the play at Grace's Theater House, if I do it," Juba said.
"Hey," Dean said sternly, and Juba glanced at him in surprise. "You'll get this. You'll do this play. Don't let that thing win, okay?"
Juba huffed, but his face lightened. "If it works out, man, I'll be knocking on old man Grace's door begging him to use his theater. No reason we can't use it for the drama department, provided we keep one. It ain't that far, and nothing gets thrown around, you know what I'm sayin'?"
Dean chuckled. "Yeah, I got it." He held up a fist, and bumped it to Juba's lightly. "You take care of yourself, okay?"
"Not sticking around, huh?"
"Nah. Things to do, demons to kill, all that."
"Yeah. Tell Buffy I said hi."
"Jackass." Dean smiled and stood.
"No, seriously, look." Juba's face sobered. "Thanks. I mean it."
Dean's mouth twitched into another smile. "Keep in touch," he said, and gave a small wave as he and Sam walked out.
They parked in front of the ruined building and climbed out. Burnt timbers lay askew on the ground. The brick foundation that remained was as black and burned as the spirit of Grimmet had been. "So that's where the flames kept coming from," Sam said, kicking around the debris, "when we were in there and thought it was burning . . ."
Dean pointed at him. "Don't forget the leg thing. You couldn't move yours, remember?"
"So he was telling us what happened to him." Sam opened the door to the Impala, his eyes still on the toasted mess. He tried not to think what would have happened if he'd been a few minutes later getting to the fire. If Dean had. . ."Wonder why he didn't burn the theater before now?"
Dean pursed his lips a little. "Well. He didn't exactly burn the theater. I did."
Sam turned, incredulous. "What?"
"What? Come on, Sam, it's not like we've never burned a building before. Remember that old abandoned house with the hookman?"
Sam sputtered, unable to believe his ears. "Dean, it was abandoned! This is a whole other level of arson! What the hell were you thinking?"
"I was thinking of getting rid of that thing, all right? And if his bones were anywhere near that theater, or under it, they're gone too. Salted and toasted. The land is purified, the spirit is freed."
"Yeah, and you were nearly freed with it, Dean!"
"It's what he wanted."
Sam raised his brows in disbelief. "So . . . he told you to do this?"
Dean looked uncomfortable. "Maybe. Not in so many words." Sam stared at him until he sighed and relented. "I think he was tired of the killing, Sam. I think he realized over time that it was getting him nowhere, and he wanted peace. Spirits do that, you know, act out years and years and, hell, decades of rage, only to realize what they really want is peace. And the only way to get that kind of peace is to die. Completely. So I killed him. I killed him, and I destroyed the land he felt bound to, and I'm not sorry for it. Not a bit."
"You don't have to be," Sam responded softly, and saw Dean's shoulder's ease. "But if you burned the theater, why didn't you get out of there?"
He looked more uncomfortable, and rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. "I, uh, might of . . .slipped when I was running out, hit my head. . ."
Sam stared. "Are you serious?"
"Shut up, Sam."
"I said shut up."
Sam shook his head in disbelief. He slipped. He slipped and fell while trying to escape. This was a Dean Winchester first. Dean was in the car, and cranked the engine. It rumbled to life as Sam climbed in beside his brother, who was pointedly not looking at him.
Juba turned in his bed. He frowned as he dreamed, and in his dreams a healed soldier bent over him, soothed his brow, and vanished.
The creature stood before him, looming like a dark shadow, yet there was no shadow, no sense of anything or anybody. But he knew the thing was there before him, listening, waiting. "Answer me!" Dean yelled. "Is this the one?" There was no response, not even a movement of breath in the air. It chilled him, clenching every nerve in his body. His muscles cramped. "Dammit, you came here for a reason, now tell me! Is this it?"
The thing before him suddenly seemed to move, only it had no form, so he couldn't be certain. He took a step back, just in case. "What do you think," it whispered in a voice of fog.
Dean shook his head minutely, his largeeyes trying to dart around a space that didn't exist. "I don't know. That's why I'm asking you."
"Everything has a time, and there is a time for everything."
"Oh, come on, now!"
"You passed your time. Others are not so lucky."
Dean's expression tightened. "For once, just for once, give me a straight answer!"
The thing shimmered. "That is up to you." And it yawned into a black, freezing gulf, and came at him.
Dean gasped awake and sat up, flinging aside the bed sheets. His head roared as he fought for breath, his heart pounded, his ears rang. His vision slowly focused, and he noticed his brother in the bed beside his, only this time he was awake and sitting up, his eyes fixed on Dean's, one hand ready to throw back the blanket and come to his aid. "Dean? You okay?"
Dean caught his breath and swallowed, running a hand through his short hair. "Yeah, Sammy," he forced out, "it was just a dream. Go back to sleep."
"You dream you were in that building? Caught in the fire?"
No, this was a different kind of fire. "I'm fine, Sam. Go back to sleep." Dean fell back onto his pillow, aware that Sam watched him for several moments before carefully lying back himself. He could feel the questions coming, and cut them short with an angry glance to the side. Sam looked displeased and buried himself beneath the covers, facing Dean, eyes still on his. Dean stared at the ceiling until his brother's gaze disappeared behind heavy lids, and gentle snores eased him back into a fitful slumber.
Waiting for the next one.
Thanks so much to everyone for the reviews and emails! I hope you enjoyed this story. I had fun tweaking it a bit, it was nice to go over and re-read it. I'd love to do more to it, but I have a list of other things that need to be written and it's hard enough to get to them, and seeing as how this is an older story anyway, I'm letting it go. HA! Feel free to drop me a line, and again, thank you so much for your time! ((((((HUGS))))))