Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers including, but not limited to, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. This story is also based on characters and situations created and owned by Eric Kripke; various production elements including, but not limited to, Warner Brothers and the CW network. The title for this fic is a line from Get Out Alive (© Zomba Recording, LLC & Sony BMG Music Entertainment & Three Days Grace. Track 7 of the 'One-X' album) and the title for this chapter is a line from Touch of Grey (© The Grateful Dead & Artista Records. Off of the album 'In the Dark'). No money is being made from this intellectual exercise and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. This is a work of fiction; any resemblance to any person, internet persona, or other being, living or dead, is completely coincidental and unintentional unless otherwise noted.
A/N: I spent three hours sorting through census logs in order to find out which states had towns named 'Winchester' (or any variation thereof). I hope y'all appreciate it. Also, just a reminder that any opinions expressed by my characters aren't necessarily shared by myself.
Run for Your Life
Every Silver Lining's Got a Touch of Grey
January 3, 2003
Trina looked from Sam to Dean to Harry and back. All three were expecting something along the lines of 'you're crazy, there's no such thing as ghosts', and consequently were a little thrown when the first thing she did after they filled her in on the source of her lost time was to laugh. It was a desperate, hysterical sound, which she quickly managed to explain by addressing an imaginary resident of the room. "Oh, that's right, officer – it may have been this body who burned down those houses and killed those people, but it wasn't me." She rested her forehead on her palms, her elbows propped on her knees. "At least I'll get off by claiming insanity. Instead of spending the rest of my life in prison, I'll spend the rest of my life in a rubber room." Another irrational chuckle burbled out of her, "I wonder if that's a step up or a step down? All depends on what sort of shrinks I get, I suppose."
Sam and Harry exchanged a look while Dean said what was on their minds, "Okay…not quite the reaction we were expecting."
Trina let out another desperate huff of laughter and looked over at Dean, who was perched on the dresser. "Just what were you expecting? I mean…" she sighed. "I don't know what I mean."
"It's just," Sam said, "that normally, most people tend to think we're a little nuts when we say the source of their problem is a ghost."
Trina shrugged. "I've never believed that this life was all there was. I mean, I couldn't believe it, not when my life sucked so hard. You have any idea what it's like to grow up tied to an oxygen tank because your heart doesn't work properly? Or what it's like to have to be home-schooled because you spend more time in the hospital than you do at home?" She turned her attention to the tabletop, her fingers tracing meaningless patterns on its surface. "When we finally got word that there was a possible donor available, I cried for a full week, hoping for a comatose woman in New Jersey to die so I could finally see what this whole 'living' thing was supposed to be like."
The brothers exchanged uncomfortable glances. "I don't think the usual response to vengeful spirits is gonna work on this one," Harry said.
"No shit," Dean replied.
"What's the 'usual response'?" Trina asked, shifting her attention back to the guys.
Sam cleared his throat. "Well, in most cases, we figure out what the spirit's attached itself to and then said object gets treated with salt to purify it and then burned to remove the connection. Since the object in question this time isn't a lock of hair or a piece of jewelry or something like that, things just became immensely more complicated."
Trina paled drastically at the mental image of the three men she just met ripping out her heart to salt and burn it. Harry reached across the tiny table and squeezed her hand. "Don't fret. We'll figure out how to get rid of the ghost without resorting to drastic measures. We've got other options. The only real question is finding one that will work."
"Any way we can talk it over?" Dean directed his question at Sam. "That'd pro'ly be the safest option."
Sam's forehead scrunched in thought. "Maybe, but it depends on just why the spirit's sticking around. Based on the evidence of what she's been up to, I'd guess revenge. Revenge-oriented ghosts don't tend to be all that open to reason."
"Tell me about it," Dean grumbled, running a hand through his hair.
Though he could have shaved several hours off his driving time by taking the interstate, John stuck to the winding two-lane highways on his trip from Luther's place in southeastern Montana to a town about fifty miles northeast of Durango, Colorado. He couldn't help but smile as he passed a sign for Winchester, Wyoming. There were far too many photos back in that box at Bobby's place where on one trip or another the boys insisted he stop at yet another town named 'Winchester'. Until the boys started helping out on simple hunts, John'd had no idea how popular a town name that was. If memory served, the boys had started claiming particular towns as 'theirs'. Dean had claimed the towns in California, Arkansas, Idaho, and Illinois, while the ones in Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, and Massachusetts had all been claimed by Sam. Both boys had consented to 'give' Harry the towns in Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Tennessee, since, to borrow Sam's reasoning from when he was twelve, 'Harry's a Winchester, it's just that his spelling's not all that great'. The three of them had agreed to 'share' the towns in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Oregon. According to the boys, John 'owned' the town in Virginia, simply by virtue of having been the only one among them to have ever visited that particular town – he had passed through it way back when he was still in the earliest days of his military career.
He glanced at his gas gauge as the town itself came into view and smirked to himself. Half an hour, a cup of coffee, and nearly fifty bucks in gas later, and his disposable camera sported one more photo for that box back home. Hey, I've got two now. I'm starting to catch up.
Thoughts of the boys as kids invariably turned to thoughts of how they were handling the pile o'shit he left for them back in Silver City. He wondered if Remus and Bobby had called them yet, and if so, whether or not they decided to take the case. Ah, who am I kidding? Those three actually turn down a hunt? After that whole thing three years ago where they took turns going to class, just so they could finish tracking down that cursed pendant? Yeah, no way in hell. So, they definitely will take the hunt, once Bobby and Remus call them. Have to wonder just how they'll fix it, though. Ain't like they can just kill that kid.
John shook his head a little to derail the train of thought. No sense in wondering. I'll find out when they're done, I'm sure. He forced himself back to his current self-appointed task. So Elkins has a gun that can kill anything. I'm almost positive I won't be able to get him to part with it – not that I'd blame him any – but maybe he'll let me get some photos of the damn thing. Wonder if he knows how it was made? If he does, then maybe, just maybe we can make another one. Well, not 'we'. Bobby and Dean. Between those two, there isn't much I'd say was beyond their ability to build. Just like how if it's some obscure tidbit of intel I need, Sam and Remus will find it.
Vincent pulled himself up out of the depths of sleep to the smell of coffee. Glancing at the clock on the DVD player told him it was a little past nine in the morning. Coffee? Already? Oh, Friday. Yeah. Janie works on Fridays 'til noon. C'm on brain, shift into go. Fuck. Need coffee. Resigning himself to caffeine before rational thought, he made his way to the kitchen and the half-full coffee pot next to the sink. By the time he drained the last of it from the pot, he was feeling more like himself.
After a quick stop by the bathroom, Vince returned to the room o'kickass. He only spent a few minutes grinning at the collection displayed before sighing a little. Looking isn't going to win me that bet. Starting with the stacks of drawers and shelves under the horseshoe-shaped table, he set to work. He located innumerable little charms in one drawer, separated out into ziplock baggies. A particularly large drawer held dozens of boxes of white shotgun shells. On the shelves under the shortest end of the table, Vince found two reusable five-gallon water jugs made of clear blue plastic – inside both were strings of beads. Vince peered a little closer, sure his eyes were playing tricks on him, but no…Those are rosaries, aren't they? The shelf just under the water sported several bags of Morton Ice Melt. Another drawer yielded a cache of assorted lighter fluids, and the drawer just above that one held literally hundreds of paper matchbooks.
"Okay, this is some seriously fucked-up shit. What the hell do the guys get up to? Or are they a bit more OCD than we thought?" Vincent didn't notice himself talking out loud. "I mean…fuck. I don't know what I mean. But I do know that Janie ain't gonna take this as further proof that something's not fuckin' right." To Vince's credit, he did remember to turn out the light on his way out the room.
His next stop was the garage. With the previous exception of the room o'kickass, the garage was the only other 'room' of the house he'd never before entered. If he had been expecting something out-of-the-ordinary, however, he was disappointed. There was a second- or third-hand (to judge from the rust) lawnmower just inside and to the right of the door that opened to the walkway between the house and garage. Along the short wall to the left of the door were several tool-chests of varying heights and a battered desk with Dean's computer sitting on it. Though it was covered with a clear plastic cover, it was obvious that Dean had either built it or had decided to make several 'adjustments' to it – Vince wouldn't put either past the eldest Winchester. Dean may hide it better than Harry and Sam do, but damn he's a geek. And a tinker. Just can't seem to help himself from tryin' to make things work better. Like that time he 'fixed' my camcorder. Fucking thing has night-vision now. Didn't when I bought it.
Sam's tall, yet seriously underpowered motorcycle took up the majority of the floor space. During a thunderstorm the month before, a pretty hefty tree branch had landed on the bike, causing all sorts of damage. From the looks of things, it appeared as though Dean had managed to straighten out the frame, but was still working on the engine itself. Had Vince any sort of knowledge as to the components of a traditional internal-combustion engine, he could have spotted several things that weren't quite right with the motor, but his only knowledge of engines was limited to knowing that they ran on gas and needed oil.
Along the wall furthest from the door through which he'd entered the rectangular building was a lengthy workbench. Tools of every possible description littered its surface and hung from pegs on the wall. Interspersed with the pegs were a couple of schematic drawings. At least, that's what Vince assumed they were. They had a bunch of lines and symbols on them, along with math equations that made his brain hurt to look at for too long. If he had paid more attention to the other things his grandfather kept on hand, other than the man's extensive weapons collection, Vincent could have probably identified the miscellaneous tools on the bench which were used in manufacturing bullets and shotgun shells, but as it stood, his brain just glossed over them.
Figuring he washed out in the garage, he decided to give up for the moment and headed back into the house. Though he was tempted to go back to the room o'kickass and oogle the weapons some more, he figured he might as well buckle down and get that report for his advanced music theory class finished – Um…'Started' might actually be a better fit there – especially since he'd begged to have until the end of winter break to hand it in.
Knowing Sam wouldn't care, Vincent hurriedly made a new pot of coffee and settled himself at Sam's desk. While waiting for the computer to boot, he dug his notes out of his bag and flipped though them to the page where he'd copied down the requirements for the paper he had yet to do. When Windows finally started up, he opened Word and got to work.
Three hours later, with a knot growing ever larger between his shoulders, Vince decided a break was in order. Particularly since lunchtime had come and gone unnoticed as he tried to come up with a new way of comparing and contrasting the musical stylings of Bach and Beethoven. While waiting for a microwave pizza to finish nuking, his cell phone rang. It was Janie, letting him know that she was covering the afternoon shift, too, and wouldn't be back until six. The microwave dinged just as he was returning the cell to his pocket.
He picked a pepperoni off the top of the pizza and popped it in his mouth as he returned to the study. He stared at the blinking cursor as he sat back at the desk. It was currently halfway down page six and seemed to be mocking him. I hate writing. Really. I do. He sighed and kicked back in the chair, settling his feet on the edge of the desk, and started gnawing his way through his lunch. As he was finishing the last few bites, his eyes drifted from the computer screen to the wall of bookshelves that stood across from the futon. From where he sat, he could read most of the titles on the spines of the books. Though he'd been in the study more times than he could count, he'd never really paid any attention to the books before, other than simply noting their existence.
Most of the books were pretty much what he'd expected – texts from classes the younger Winchester had taken, or books on the same topics – but there were a few titles that had him making WTF-faces. And then he saw it. A large book, shelved almost precisely in the exact middle of the wall, its title done in gold leaf down a dark leather spine.
Getting to his feet, Vincent crossed the room in a few short steps, and pulled the book from its place and tucked it under his arm. Curious, he checked to see if any of the books in which it was mentioned were on the shelves, but none were. So Rowling made it up, huh, Janie? He smirked and sat the book on the desk, under his notes. He managed to force out a single sentence over the course of the following ten minutes before he gave up and called the college switchboard. Once the bored-sounding student worker had answered, he asked for the number for Kim Shandry – his freshman roommate's ex girlfriend.
The phone rang three times before the voicemail picked up, "You've reached Kim and Lisa's. We went home for the holidays and will be back the Saturday before classes start back up. If this is Jordan, we got a hold of Chris to housesit for us, so you can still drop by anytime to grab your stuff. Otherwise, leave us a message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can!"
Vince sighed and hung up as the voicemail beeped. "So much for that idea," he muttered. Returning to his paper, he managed another couple of sentences before he stopped and literally smacked himself on his forehead. Dense much, Price? There's a reason why the internet exists, you know.
He minimized his paper and pulled up Firefox. After checking both Amazon and the Barnes and Noble websites, he found that his hunch had been right. The book currently residing under his pile of notes wasn't a tie-in for Rowling's books – which now numbered fifteen. How anyone can possibly enjoy those is beyond me. Sure, I like a good murder-mystery, and I like fantasy, but those read like kid's lit. If you're paying attention to the first two chapters, you can always figure out whodunit way ahead of that whachamacallit-detective of hers.
Setting his notes aside, he picked up the book and just stared at it for a fair few minutes. The cover was like the spine, gold leaf on dark leather. Hogwarts, A History took up the majority of the space, along with a small coat of arms, and no author was credited. The edges of the pages were likewise lined with gold leaf. It really was a very pretty book, and either it hadn't been read all that much or it had been obsessively cared-for. Knowing Sam like he did, Vincent figured it was probably the latter. The one and only book he'd ever seen Sam mistreat had been when he was taking a philosophy class and had to read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged – Sam'd used the book to start the end-of-the-year barbecue at the start of the summer between sophomore and junior years.
Idly, he flipped the book open to a random page, and looked down. The text was separated into two columns, and a small photograph sat in the center of the right page. It showed a large, rather ominous-looking forest. Vince looked at it for a moment before blinking slowly. Are the trees moving? Figuring it had to be an optical illusion, he flipped several pages and stopped when another photo presented itself, this one of a painting of an old man sitting at a desk. The man in the painting blinked and then waived cheerily at Vince. Vincent yelped and dropped the book.
"No way that was real. I imagined it. Had to." He bent down and picked up the book, which had landed in such a way that it had closed itself. He stared at the cover again, not sure if he really wanted to open it. Sighing a little and mentally calling himself a pussy, he opened the book again, this time starting at the beginning.
Inside the front cover was a hand-written note, For Remus, from Lily – now you can stop borrowing my copy! Under that, in a distinctly different style of penmanship, was Please take good care of this, Sam. – Uncle Remus. The title page was simply a black-ink reproduction of the cover itself, and still no author was credited. A table of contents followed, and then an introduction. Between the introduction and the start of chapter one was a two-page, full-color photograph of a large castle on a cliff, overlooking a lake and surrounded by mountains and forest. Ripples moved across the surface of the lake and the trees of the forest, as well as the colorful pennants on the castle, waived back and forth in the wind. It took almost a full minute for Vince to convince himself that it wasn't just an optical illusion – elements of the photo were actually moving.
He smirked a little and turned the page, his paper forgotten. I think I've got that bet in the bag.
Sam and Trina were alone in the motel room – Dean and Harry had taken off to see just what sort of evidence the local cops had that might lead them back to Trina as the source of the recent fires and subsequent deaths in the area. Trina was stretched out on Harry's bed, staring at the ceiling, while Sam alternated between scribbling something in a spiral-bound notebook and looking through information stored on the laptop computer. Eventually, he sighed and picked up the telephone. He dialed in his calling-card number and pin, followed by the house number for the place back in South Dakota.
"Singer Salvage, Bobby here."
"Hey, Bobby. It's Sam. Is Remus handy?"
"Sorry, kiddo. He ran into town not five minutes ago. Whaddaya need?"
"This case…" Sam trailed off, not really sure how to say what he needed.
"Yeah. You boys find out what happened to John yet?"
"Sort of. We found his logbook – or rather, his logbook found us."
"Come again? How 'bout you start over, and this time, make some sense."
Sam chuckled a little. "Sorry. Dad left his journal with this girl, along with a letter letting us know what we're dealing with here."
"So what're ya dealin' with?"
Bobby interrupted Sam before he could get any further, "Simple salt-and-burn, then?"
"If only," Sam's voice clearly showed just how irritated he was getting with his research and its lack of useful results. "What do you know of spirits haunting the recipient of an organ transplant?"
Bobby let out a low whistle, "Damn. That's what you're dealing with?"
"In a nutshell."
"Hmm… Can't say as though I know too much about it. From what I recall, I've only heard about it happening once before, but it resolved itself. The spirit had just wanted to make sure his kids would be okay and crossed over on his own after seeing that they were."
"I don't think that's going to happen here. From what we've found and that intel that sent Dad down here to begin with, this spook's nowhere near so altruistic. My take on it is vengeful."
"Hell, had to happen sometime. You know who it is you're dealing with? Maybe you'll be able to talk it over."
"No clue, but that is next on my list. What do we do if we can't talk it over, though? Most vengeful spirits aren't all that open to chitchat."
"Don't I know it. Couldn't hurt to try, though. I'll see what I can dig up, and when Remus gets back, I let him know the problem."
"No problem, kiddo. Just out of curiosity, what organ was it?"
"No shit? Damn, that must suck. The victim know what's going on?"
"Yeah. Took it pretty well, too. Didn't call us nuts, at least."
"First time for everything. I'll call you back if we find anything useful."
Sam smiled a little. "Thanks again. Talk to you later." He set the receiver back on the phone and sighed.
"Who was that?"
Sam turned around in his chair and looked at Trina. She was still staring at the ceiling. "Our uncle. I'm not really getting anywhere with the information I've got available, so he and Uncle Remus are going to see if they can find something to help us with this little problem." He took a moment to stretch his arms. "For now, when Dean and Harry get back, we're going to see if maybe we can talk the spirit into moving on. I'll be honest, though, it hardly ever works with this type of ghost. We might have a bit more success if we knew the name of the person it used to be."
Trina dragged her gaze over to Sam. "Sorry, I don't know who it used to be. It's up to the family of the donor if they want the identity to be kept secret."
"Figures," Sam muttered. "Wouldn't it be in your records at the hospital?"
Trina shrugged, "Might be, but I doubt it."
"Yeah, with the way our luck's running, I doubt it, too." Sam fell silent for a moment before letting out a little 'hmm' noise.
"Maybe there's another way."
"If we can't find out who it was by starting with you, let's start with them and see what we find."
"What?" Trina sat up. "You're confusing me."
Sam shook his head, and started speaking quickly. "No, look, you said before that you'd spent a week waiting for a woman in New Jersey to die, right? And organs have to be harvested immediately, right?"
Trina nodded to confirm both questions. "How does this help you find out who it is, though?"
Sam grinned and grabbed his pen and notebook. "Because now we've got a place to start looking. What was the date of your operation?"
"First of January, 2001," Trina replied, crossing the short distance to join Sam at the rickety table. "You really think you can find out who this was?"
Sam nodded, "I think so. Do you remember anything else that might help me out here?"
Trina started to shake her head, but then nodded. "Well, I don't know if it will help, but the reason I had to wait so long was because I'm a mirror. A couple of times, we thought we had a possible donor – tissue matched and all that – but it wouldn't have worked because they were normal."
"A mirror – all my organs are mirrored from where they're supposed to be. Liver's on the left, heart's on the right, and so on. It's technical name is dextrocardia situs inversus totalis."
"That's a mouthful."
"I know. It's why I generally use the 'mirror' thing."
"Anyway," Sam turned his attention to the computer, "I don't see how it can hurt. At this point, any information is a good thing."
Voldemort was currently enjoying having full control of himself for a change. That demon had disappeared nearly three hours earlier without so much as a word of explanation. Voldemort knew the demon was a little frustrated at not being able to locate whoever it was that he was looking for, but that didn't much matter to the wizard – he knew from listening to the demon interacting with the Death Eaters that Potter was somewhere in the area. I'll get him yet. And so, when the demon disappeared, the first thing Voldemort did was to call those followers who had accompanied the demon to the US to him. Once they were all assembled, he split the ten into two unequal groups. The larger group had eight people in it, and he assigned Eric Kriegel to lead it. The smaller group of two was to locate Potter. Kriegel's group was to research power-amplification rituals which needed the use of a demon.
After dismissing them to their respective tasks, one of the masked Death Eaters lingered. He could tell it was Narcissa Malfoy, just by how she stood. "Narcissa?" his voice was honey-smooth.
"Milord…it has occurred to me that perhaps you might want to see about contacting the Hei-Luong while we are here. They have expressed interest in our goals in the past and would be a powerful set of allies for you."
Voldemort smiled, the expression somehow malformed on his face, even though his features were barely beginning to skew from the dark magics he wielded – at this point, since regaining the body of his sixteen year-old self, he was still a handsome man. "Come here, Narcissa."
Knowing it wasn't a good idea, but doing so anyway, Narcissa approached the wingback chair behind the heavy wooden desk of her husband's seldom-used office (she had often wanted to redecorate it to something more suited to a vacation home). "Yes, milord?"
"I am well aware of how the Hei-Luong and Los Chacales could possibly benefit our grand design for the wizarding world. However, now is not the time." His wand was in his hand before Narcissa could even blink. Even through the pain of the Cruciatus, she saw that his smile never faltered.
Azazel, though he knew they were his best bet for getting to Sam Winchester, hated the fact that he had to deal with wizards. Not a one of them has any sense. All the power and ambition in the world isn't going to do them a bit of good if they can't execute a simple plan. It would help if they could get it through their heads that magic isn't the be-all, end-all of power, too. Tom's been searching for this Potter kid for years, but hasn't made any headway at all. It's like they've decided that anything the normals have come up with aren't worth their time just because it isn't magic. Amateurs.
The gas station clerk he was currently riding had a decent working knowledge of how to find someone, and so after a measly fifteen minutes, the demon had the address he needed (courtesy of that non-magical bit of innovation called a phonebook) and to celebrate, he decided to torture a few normals. The clerk's family ought to do for a start.
A/N2: In this 'verse, the Harry Potter novels don't exist (of course), but I figured that it'd be fun to have Rowling exist. So, I have her writing a series of detective novels based in a 'fictional' version of the wizarding world (surely they've got their own fiction). They were interesting enough that the novels leaked out to the muggle world and became something of a cult smash, and so everyone's heard of them (though not everyone enjoys them – much like the Potter books in our own world).
Oh, is anyone else having trouble uploading here? I keep getting an error message that says they can't convert my file (which is, as always, a dot-doc or dot-rtf file). I got sick of it, and know that contacting support takes forever, so I just opened one of the docs I've got in my manager and copied and pasted the new chapter over. There wasn't anything on the upload manager being down for repairs on the main page, so I'm a little lost. Hopefully, this issue won't still be an issue when I go to post another chapter.
Reviews are shiny, you know.