A/N: Takes place Halloween of season 3, so… I'm going to take liberties and say Bedtime Stories was early October, from the comment about the pumpkin, and this comes between that and the ever popular Red Sky at Morning.
Disclaimer: I do not own or lay claim to anything related to Supernatural.
Summary: Something is carving people up like jack-o-lanterns. When the boys take a case on Halloween, Dean revisits high school from a new perspective, Sam explores his hatred of the holiday, and they both learn that the past is haunting everyone.
"Have you seen Brian?"
The cluster of teenagers sprawled on the floor against the wall shook their heads, flapping their scripts with a shrug, and went back to discussing weekend plans.
Audrey felt her frustration tick up a notch, and she balled her hands into fists, digging the nails into her palms and relishing the sting until her temper evened out to a tolerable degree. She was going to kill him. The undeserving slacker. Stupid golden-boy who landed the role of Banquo without even batting an eye, couldn't care less about the theater department, couldn't care less about anything but his own inflated ego. And Mr. Lindaugh would totally let him skip out on rehearsal because he was probably going to end up winning an Oscar someday.
There was another group reading lines at the other end of the room. Audrey strode up to them and repeated her question.
Myron briefly looked up from his script. "I heard him say he was going to the bathroom, but that was, like, two hours ago."
"Not helpful," Audrey spat. "But thanks."
Marching to the doorway of the room, she flung it open and stormed into the hallway, trying to control her breathing. She was going to kill Brian. She really was.
In the auditorium, the three witches were working a scene onstage, Mr. Lindaugh standing on the floor observing. Audrey strode briskly up to him and announced without preamble, "I can't find him."
"What?" Mr. Lindaugh snapped, head twisting in her direction. "We need him for the banquet scene."
"I know," Audrey replied slowly, forcing herself not to shout. "But he's not here. He must have gone home."
Mr. Lindaugh shook his head. "Okay. We'll just finish up this scene and that'll be it for today. Tell everyone else they can leave."
Nodding, Audrey flashed a fake grin before walking away and rolling her eyes. Like hell she was going to tell everyone. She wasn't Mr. Lindaugh's messenger girl, much as he wanted her to be. They could figure it out for themselves. Snatching her backpack from the auditorium chair where she'd left it, she threw it over her shoulder and hurried into the hallway.
It was late. Much as Audrey loved acting, she hated the unbelievably long days it required her to put in at school. Eight hours of class straight into three or four hours of play rehearsal. The hall was quiet and empty. Deserted. Half the overhead lights were shut off, and only darkness and the occasional glow of moonlight drifted in through the windows, making the hallway look dim and shut-up like a tomb.
Her quick footsteps echoed on the floor. It was eerie, the change that took place in the school after hours. During the day it was bright, packed with students, and loud. At night it was dark, silent, and sinister. She didn't like it. But at the same time, she was parked in the student lot, which was all the way at the opposite end of the school from the theater wing.
She passed a line of gray lockers. An old trophy case. A girl's bathroom.
As she neared the boy's bathroom, the sound of running water met her ears: the only sound aside from her own lonely footfalls. She slowed her pace, coming up to the doorway. The water ran evenly, endlessly. But there was no other sound.
"Hello?" she called into the open doorway, caught between wanting to crane her neck around the corner of the entrance to see into the bathroom and wanting to keep walking. It sounded as if there was no one in there. Just a faucet that had been left on, running a continuous stream of water into the sink and down the drain. "Brian?" she called wryly, voice echoing off the walls of the bathroom. "You taking a two-hour piss to avoid memorizing your lines?"
There was no answer. The bathroom was empty.
Audrey looked back over her shoulder, gazing down one end of the long, dark hall, and then the other. The windows behind her revealed nothing about the black night.
At last she sighed angrily, annoyed with herself, and muttered, "So lazy you can't even turn off a faucet, now, can you? Unbelievable." Shaking her head, she marched confidently into the bathroom, found the sink that had been left on, and twisted the handle. The rush of water sputtered to a stop, dousing the room in silence. It dripped a couple of times, plunking softly in the sink, and then it stopped. Audrey was about to leave when the sound met her ears again, a quiet, unassuming plink! But the sink had stopped dripping. It was not coming from the faucet.
It came again, like a tiny drop of liquid falling into a bowl of water. Plink! Like a leaky ceiling during a rainstorm dripping into the buckets set out to catch the drops.
Plink! Audrey eyed the three other sinks to her left. None of them was leaking, and moreover, none of them was filled with water, which would have been necessary to create this particular sound.
Plink! It was coming from behind her.
She did not look up at the mirror, which would reveal the four stalls behind the four sinks. She kept her eyes on the white basin, the rusted silver faucet.
Plink! An overwhelming and inexplicable sense of dread welled warmly in her stomach.
Slowly, Audrey steeled herself and turned around, prepared to mentally berate herself for her foolishness when it was revealed that there was some sort of leak in the ceiling, in a pipe, somewhere, that was dripping.
But instead her breath caught in her throat, lungs on fire, heart clenched in a tight fist, body shocked with the electrical current of adrenaline as her eyes widened and her mouth fell open.
In the open stall, leaning against the side, legs splayed out on the floor, was Brian. His body was slumped forward over the toilet, one arm stretched across the seat, head tilted to the side over the basin and facing outward.
His eyes were gone. In their place someone had carved triangles into his skin and scooped out the flesh, leaving a mangled mess of red behind.
His nose had been cut off, leaving the bloody outline of an upside-down triangle.
His lips had been cut away, leaving jagged flaps of skin, the cuts extending the corners of his mouth well out into his cheeks, curving up in an insane grin. His crimson stained teeth stood out under exposed gums. Blood dribbled from the wounds, red rivers down his cheeks like tears, leaking from the corner of his enlarged mouth and down his chin. Drops fell in a steady rhythm into the toilet bowl, whose water was now dyed red.
Audrey couldn't breathe.
Brian stared at her through eyeless, triangle-shaped sockets.
Gray tombstones were scattered across the tall grass, jutting crookedly from the earth. They were inscribed with various sentiments, decorated with intricate designs, and sporting the weathered appearance of crumbling, age-worn stone. Sam stood before these tombstones, hands in his pockets, head bowed, intently reading the inscriptions with a furrowed brow. The wind blew dark hair in front of his eyes, and Sam shook his head to clear it away as he huffed out a humorless snort.
"Here lies the body of Christopher Blake," he read aloud, raising his voice and tilting his head so that the sound carried over his shoulder. "He stepped on the gas instead of the brake." Turning away from the Styrofoam gravestone, Sam glanced up at Dean, who was sitting at a picnic table on the library lawn, newspaper splayed out on the table in front of him, pen stuck horizontally between his teeth. He chuckled around the pen. "It's not funny," Sam pointed out petulantly. "People die in car accidents all the time."
Plucking the pen out of his mouth and tapping it against the tabletop, Dean replied without looking up, "But their deaths aren't described in rhyme."
Sam rolled his eyes and turned back to the fake tombstones. "Okay, how about this one? Here lies Lester Moore; Four slugs from a .44; No Les No More." Dean wasn't laughing behind him, but Sam couldn't tell if that was because he was too engrossed in the newspaper to pay attention, deliberately ignoring Sam, or simply grinning in amusement. "Or the one next to it: RIP Barry M. Deep." Again no response. "Well, I mean, you kind of have to… see how that's ones spelled… to get the joke I guess… not that it's funny, because it's not…"
Once again turning away from the Halloween decorations littering the library lawn, Sam looked over at Dean, who was now hunched over his paper, eyes focused, pen back in his mouth but dangling precariously out the side of his slack lips. A sinking sensation formed in the pit of Sam's stomach. "Found something?" he asked, trudging to the table.
"Sixteen-year-old boy mutilated and murdered at school," Dean explained, pen slipping out of his mouth and landing on the table. Frowning, he snatched it up and replaced the cap. "Found in the bathroom by another student during a late play rehearsal. He was, uh," Dean grinned darkly, eyes flicking up to Sam, "carved up like a jack-o-lantern."
Sam couldn't rein in the exasperated sigh that escaped his lips. "So? I mean, that sucks, but, a pumpkin-themed killer two weeks before Halloween? Not that surprising."
Dean shrugged. "They're sayin' it's some kinda copycat killer from some murders that happened way back when it used to be a little schoolhouse over a hundred years ago. Same thing back then. Bunch of school kids had their faces sliced and diced into porch decorations. I mean, it could be a copycat killer, but what these local yokels don't realize is that—"
"—it could be the original killer," Sam cut him off, finishing the thought with grudging agreement. He gave another dry snort. "Seriously. I was all in favor of holing up for a few weeks with a bucket of popcorn and motel cable, but no. You said we needed a case. Two weeks before Halloween."
"And?" Dean challenged, folding up the newspaper and raising his eyebrows belligerently at Sam.
"And," Sam sniped, "it's Halloween. When all the freaks come out to play. If it's not ghosts going overboard in celebration of their favorite holiday, it's idiot people who try to trick others into thinking their haunted house is the real deal. It's like running through a house of mirrors for us. Way too complicated. For all we know, this could be some kind of, of Halloween prank gone awry," Sam stammered indignantly, gesturing towards the folded newspaper on the picnic table. "October only makes our job harder because it's harder to spot the real thing. Remember that Halloween when we were kids, and we thought there was that coven of witches killing animals, but we ended up freaking out a bunch of old ladies at a costume party who were discussing the coyote that was running around maiming their dogs? Or, or that time we thought there were zombies in that cemetery in Nevada, and it turned out to be a group of, of teenage vandals daring each other to dig up a grave?"
Sam paused, catching his breath after the rant, feeling hot and annoyed despite the cold bite of the October wind. Dean continued to stare at him with that same vaguely challenging look. "You done?"
Having nothing else to say, Sam shrugged.
"Good, 'cause this is right in the next town over, it'll take us maybe an hour to get there. And on our way, you can explain to me what it is you have against Halloween." Dean planted his hands on his knees and stood up, grabbing the newspaper and brushing past Sam on his way to the parking lot.
Sam sighed again, glancing at the row of Styrofoam and cardboard tombstones.
Here lies Clyde
Whose life was full
Until he tried
To milk a bull.
Stuffing his chilled hands back into the pockets of his windbreaker, Sam hurried off after Dean, angry and annoyed and frustrated.
Halloween. He shook his head. He hated Halloween.
After checking into the motel, which, in an apparent fit of desired fanciness, had decorated the entire room with lace, the Winchesters headed for Fair Hill High School. It was a Friday afternoon at 2:30, which meant that the students were all still trapped inside the building. Like a prison. Dean bet the windows didn't even open. High school architects were just that evil, probably in cahoots with the sadistic principles and power-tripping teachers. After four years of transferring around, Dean had come to the conclusion that all high schools were the same.
He turned the key in the ignition, cutting the engine as well as the Black Sabbath that was blaring from the speakers. He and Sam both cocked their heads to the left, peering out Sam's window at the tall, gray building. Yep, sure looked like a prison to Dean. Actually, Dean had been to prison, too, and he thought that might even be a bit better than high school. At least in prison you didn't have to pretend to pay attention and you got free meals.
"Paper wouldn't give the name of the kid who found him. We've gotta find some way of getting in there and talkin' to the students without looking like a couple of freakin' pedophiles," Dean murmured, eyes locked on the intimidating three-story building.
"I've got an idea." Sam's face was turned away, still gazing meditatively out the window. "Leave me here. Go research the history of this place—the first murders. I'll call you when I need you to pick me up."
Sam was already halfway out his now-open door when Dean called out, "What are you gonna do?"
"Try to find a way in." Sam stood, looking around to see if anyone was watching them. "Which we might not even need if you find the right information." He raised his eyebrows at Dean before he slammed the door shut.
Shaking his head, Dean watched him walk off to a bench and sit down, pulling out the newspaper he'd grabbed and opening it so that it concealed him entirely. "Research," Dean spat disgustedly as he turned the car back on and a guitar solo screamed in his ears. He spun the wheel, gunned the gas, and peeled out of the parking lot. "Go do research, Dean. Go sit in a library for five hours. Go stick a pencil through your eye. Sure, Sam, I'll do all the work," he grumbled as he cranked up the volume of the speakers and cut around a slow-moving Volvo that honked its horn obnoxiously at him.
He had to drive around for a while to get his bearings, get a layout of the town, and find the nearest library. No Halloween decorations at this one. Boring. Dean got out of the car and walked inside, hoping that the town records would not be bore-you-to-tears dull like all other town records were.
He had a feeling they would be and looked forward to reading about some hacked-up bodies.
Darkness had fallen. The sky was overcast, dark gray clouds drifting sluggishly through the night. Sam rubbed his hands together in the evening chill and pulled fruitlessly on the door handle; the door, predictably, did not budge. It was locked.
He continued his trek around the school, peering through the windows, trying the doors, looking for signs of life within. Once the final bell had rung, Sam had watched all the students emerge from the building, trying to spot unusual behavior, trying to hear snatches of conversation that might be about the murder. He'd gotten nothing, had been unable to get into the building around the swarms of students, and had settled for waiting anyway. Now the doors were all locked, he was still out here, and no one appeared to be coming out.
Dumb idea. Sam was just pulling his phone out of his jacket pocket to call Dean and tell him to come pick him up when a door about ten yards in front of him swung open. A tall, dark-haired man with an beer belly emerged, clad in a gray uniform and dirty white sneakers. As Sam walked swiftly forward, he heard the distinct jingle of keys in the man's pocket.
They were at the edge of the parking lot when Sam caught up to the man and came up beside him, grabbing his attention by pulling out a twenty-dollar bill.
"How would you like to keep making your paycheck, plus a little extra, without having to do a single thing next week?" Sam offered, holding up the bill in front of the man's face.
The custodian narrowed his eyes. "What do you want?" he asked in a husky baritone.
"Your uniform, your keys, and for you to take a nice, well-deserved vacation," Sam said simply.
The man frowned at him. "Just 'cause I clean a school for a living, doesn't mean I'm stupid. I could get fired."
"Or you could go to the racetrack and multiply this by ten." Sam pulled out a second twenty, smoothed the two bills out, placed one on top of the other, and tucked them into the man's coat pocket.
The custodian's frown curled up into a grin. "I got an extra change of clothes in my car."