Shades of Gray
Disclaimer: Standard stuff. I don't own them, but I do enjoy letting them into my playground every once in a while.
A/N: There are some stories that write themselves. This one started out that way, but then it decided to let me finish it. Swell. I love batting clean-up, she said sarcastically. It takes place after Bloodlust and before Dean's deal. Thanks to Kelli for her ever-diligent hunt for the missing commas and to Marie who isn't afraid to tell me when something doesn't work.
I loves me some feedback, so don't be shy.
remember when the answers seemed so clear
We had never lived with doubt or tasted fear.
It was easy then to tell truth from lies
Selling out from compromise
Who to love and who to hate,
The foolish from the wise.
But today there is no day
Today there is no dark or light.
Today there is no black or white,
Only shades of gray.
Shades of Gray
Written by Barry Mann and Cyntha Weil
Performed by The Monkees
"Man, I am looking forward to some shut-eye." Dean Winchester tossed a shovel into the trunk of his car and glanced at his brother as Sam came up behind him.
"Me, too," Sam agreed as he dropped his own shovel into the trunk. "After a long, hot shower."
"You can have the first one; I think I just want to go to bed."
Sam nodded and dropped the duffle bag he was carrying into the trunk before moving to the passenger side of the car. Dean closed the trunk, took an unhappy look around and slipped behind the wheel.
Normally the Winchester brothers liked to leave town as soon as a job was over, but they had been in the cemetery for hours and needed to rest before hitting the road. Dean drove back to the motel where they'd been staying since getting into town a few days before. They didn't talk along the way; there wasn't really anything to say.
Once in their room, Sam headed straight to the bathroom while Dean flopped onto the bed closest to the door. He didn't take off his coat or his shoes; he just collapsed onto the bed and closed his eyes. He didn't see the blackness he'd wanted. Instead, Dean saw the anguish of the ghosts they'd spent the night getting rid of. He heard their tormented cries and felt their confusion.
Dean opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. After a moment, he sat up and leaned forward. He clasped his hands between his knees, but as tired as he was, he couldn't sit still. Dean stood up and paced in front of the bed before laying out salt in front of the door and the only window in the room. Finished with that task, he sat back down on the bed.
Normally, getting rid of a bunch of angry spirits didn't bother him. It's what he did; the spirits tended to hurt innocent people. Dean didn't often think about where they went after their bones were salted and burned. What's dead should stay dead – and that included their ghosts.
But this job had been different. It wasn't a run-of-the-mill haunting. And they'd tried….he and Sam had gone the Ghost Whisperer route. They'd tried to talk the ghosts into voluntarily crossing over – or whatever – but they hadn't listened. And it had gotten ugly.
Dean glanced behind him when he heard the water shut off behind the closed bathroom door. Maybe a shower would do him some good; it might relax him enough to sleep. Or maybe they should just get on the road. Sam could sleep while he drove….although the way he felt now, he was likely to drive them into a tree.
Sam looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror and lightly touched the cuts and scratches on his face. They'd heal; they always did. He pushed his wet hair back and sighed, leaning against the sink. He didn't feel any better about how things went down than Dean did.
His brother hadn't said anything, but Sam knew him well enough to know what he'd been thinking. Besides, he could see it in Dean's eyes. His brother was able to hide a lot behind the mask he almost nearly wore, but he could never keep pain out of his eyes.
They'd done all they could, but sometimes that just wasn't enough. Sometimes there weren't right answers or good paths to follow; instead there was only bad and worse.
Sam left the bathroom; Dean was sitting on the edge of his bed, his back to the room. His shoulders were slumped and his head hung low.
"I thought you were going to sleep," Sam said quietly as he sat on his own bed.
"Yeah, I think maybe I'll take a shower after all," Dean said, but he didn't move.
"We did all we could," Sam said.
"Sometimes it's not enough."
"Dean…." Sam watched, powerless to do anything else as Dean stood up and walked passed him.
It was a few weeks earlier that Sam and Dean had gotten wind of the weird happenings in and around Galesburg. Sam found a filler article in some online newspaper and filed it away for later follow up. There were a lot of stories like that; things that would catch their attention, but that weren't big enough to rush off to investigate.
Sam kept checking the area news for odd events that might indicate something supernatural was going on. It was a small town without a lot of activity and he only had a larger town's newspaper to depend on. He read about a hog-calling contest scheduled for a few months off that was already getting a lot of news coverage. From what Sam could gather, it was a pretty big event that would actually attract people from fairly far away.
He always wondered about things like that. What made hog-calling, for instance, so attractive that people would come from a hundred miles away just to watch? Was there really so little going on in the area, or was it a genuine interest in the activity? Different strokes, he figured.
So, Sam kept an eye on Galesburg, but didn't find a lot of evidence that anything out of the ordinary was going on. Then they got a call from Bobby Singer. The town was only a day and half drive from his South Dakota salvage yard and he'd gotten wind of some unusual activity. It was more than what had been reported in the news and he'd planned to check it out himself, but his expertise was needed with a demon possession in the opposite direction. Sam and Dean agreed to make the trek, instead.
It took a bit of research once they hit town, the brothers decided that it was just an average haunting. There were a few more ghosts than they generally ran across at one time, but still nothing particularly unusual about the job. The initial plan was the standard salting and burning of the bones, but first they had to find out who the ghosts had been before they died and where they were buried. It turned out to be a much more heart-wrenching situation than they usually encountered.
Dean stood under the shower head as the hot water poured over him. There was more water pressure than in a lot of the dumps they stayed in and the temperature held out longer than he'd expected. But even after the water had become tepid, he still stood under the steady stream. When it got cold, he lathered up and then quickly rinsed off the soap.
He didn't feel any better after the shower, though the blast of cold water probably hadn't helped. He quickly dried off and wrapped the towel around his waist before opening the bathroom door. The room beyond was dark, but enough light was coming in through the window to see most everything. Sam was stretched out on his bed, but his back was resting against the worn headboard.
"If you want to get on the road, that's okay with me," Sam said. "Maybe we should just put some miles between us and this town."
Dean dug through his duffle bag for clean clothes. "I'm not so sure that's going to help, Sammy."
Dean felt his brother's eyes on him, but he slipped into the clothes without another word then got under the covers of his bed and stared at the ceiling. He knew Sam could see him because he could see Sam.
"Find anything?" Dean asked Sam, joining him at the diner table. They'd been Galesburg for almost three days with only minor luck.
Sam looked up from the open laptop, his eyes sad. "Yeah."
Dean was suddenly on alert. He had always been very much in tune to Sam's moods, but this time it was obvious and needed no deductive reasoning on the older brother's part. "What?"
"The ghosts? They're probably four sisters." He turned the laptop around so that Dean could see the screen.
While Dean turned his attention to the news article, Sam motioned for the waitress and then asked for menus and coffee. She turned with a smile and headed back to the counter. When Sam looked at his brother, Dean's hand was over his mouth as he continued to read.
"You're sure?" Dean asked when he was done. He turned the computer back around.
"Pretty sure," Sam nodded and shut the machine down. He had just secured it in the case when the waitress came back with the coffee and menus. She left them with another smile.
"What happened to them is…."
"Horrible," Sam finished.
"But they're hurting people."
"Not innocent people."
Sam cocked an eyebrow. "No?"
Dean shook his head and pulled some folded pages from his coat pocket. He'd been at the library and courthouse doing his own research.
Sam unfolded and scanned the printed pages. "Dean, man, this is great work. How'd you figure it out?"
Dean shrugged as he swallowed some of the coffee.
"But we still can't let them do it. We have to salt and burn the bones," Sam said.
"Sometimes I think we should let the ghosts get their revenge," Dean grumbled.
He saw the surprised look on Sam's face and shrugged again, drinking down more of the bitter coffee. He didn't really taste it, though; more often than not coffee was for effect and not for pleasure. So little in his life was ever purely for pleasure, but Dean wasn't in the mood to go down that particular road at the moment. He turned his thoughts elsewhere.
"We can do it tonight," Sam said as he nonchalantly opened his menu.
Dean said nothing and went about perusing his own menu. Normally he didn't fret over salting and burning bones; it was the best way to get rid of restless spirits and keep innocent people from being hurt by them. He'd never thought about where the spirits go; at least not really. He'd always assumed they went where ever they'd originally been meant to go; Heaven or Hell.
Dean knew Hell existed because he'd seen demons, but belief in Heaven was more elusive. He wanted to believe in something good because he damn well knew that evil existed, but he hadn't seen much evidence of the good and he'd never been able to operate on pure faith. At least that's what he thought.
Sam prayed every day, though he'd not shared that with Dean until relatively recently. They'd talked about it once they'd finished a job and things had calmed down. Dean learned that Sam wasn't attracted to any particular religion, but thought it was obvious that if pure evil existed, then pure goodness must as well. Sam didn't necessarily pray to a specific supreme being, but more to the force of what he believed in. If there was a supreme being, Sam figured it knew what his intentions were.
Dean didn't know that Sam wondered about his brother's beliefs often. Sam thought a lot about many things, that's just the way he was, but it never occurred to Dean he was necessarily among those things. Sam had never been able to reconcile his brother's blind faith in their father with his lack of faith in practically everything else. Clearly Dean had had a different relationship with John Winchester than Sam had, but it still didn't make sense to Sam that disappointment after disappointment didn't shake Dean's belief.
"You know where the sisters are buried?" Dean asked once Sam had closed the menu. He didn't believe that Sam was as casual about this job as he was suddenly acting.
"Yeah; there might be a problem, though,"
"Oh good. A problem. That's different."
Sam half-smiled at the sarcasm, then turned his attention to the waitress as she approached. She took their orders, then left them alone again.
"Two of the sisters are buried at the cemetery here in town," Sam continued. "Two are buried in a town about 20 miles away."
"So not only do we have to dig four graves," Dean said with an intentionally low voice. "We have to do it in two separate cemeteries?"
"Why aren't they together?"
"The two younger girls had moved in with their maternal grandparents and were buried where they lived."
"Great," Dean grumbled. He thought for a few quiet moments. "I don't like it. We should call in back-up."
"Back-up, Kojak?" Sam almost grinned.
"Kojak?" Dean asked with raised eyebrows. "Come on, dude, it's dangerous enough digging graves of pissed off spirits. But four of them in one night? In two separate locations?"
"We can hit one tonight and one tomorrow."
"And run the risk of getting caught? Someone will see the first two graves and –"
"Dude, those cemeteries are 20 miles apart. No one will put it together so fast."
Dean shook his head. "I still don't like it."
"Okay, then, we'll call Bobby and see if he knows of anyone close by. In the meantime, we'll try to figure out who might be the next victim."
"Why?" Dean asked, seeing the troubled look on Sam's face.
"What do you mean why?" Sam asked. "We can't let anyone else get hurt, Dean."
"The people they're hurting don't deserve –"
"Dean, that's not our call. You know what Dad used to tell us. There are systems in place for dealing with people; it's our job to handle the supernatural."
Dean grunted. "I can't believe that you are quoting Dad."
"Come on, man, don't turn this into something it isn't." Sam looked at his brother for a moment. "What's going on with you?"
"What?" Dean asked, feeling uncomfortable.
"Why don't you want to handle these ghosts? It's not like you."
"I…" Dean stopped. He'd intended to lie to Sam; to tell him it had nothing to do with him not wanting to handle it. He knew Sam would see through him. He even knew that Sam would probably even let him skate on it for a while, but eventually the younger man would get the truth out of him. Dean didn't have the energy to play their usual game. His shoulders slumped and he wrapped his hands around the warm mug of coffee. "I just hate it when things happen to kids."
"I know," Sam said quietly. "I don't like it either, but –"
"Those girls didn't deserve what happened to them. And the people they're going after now are really, really bad people."
"But you know as well as I do that the longer it goes on, the less focus they'll have. You know what happens to restless spirits; they eventually become angry and unpredictable. There's no guarantee that they'll keep going after the bad guys. Besides –"
"It's not our call. Yeah, I get that." Dean was suddenly angry. He wasn't mad at Sam, but at the situation. "I can't help protect bastards, Sam. I won't."
Sam didn't respond.
Sam was on the phone, pacing, when Dean walked into their motel room. He'd been worried about his brother; Dean had barely eaten anything at the diner and had gone off alone wanting some time to himself. They both needed their time apart once in a while, but it wasn't like Dean not to eat.
Sam knew this job was taking a toll on Dean. He took kids in trouble very seriously, even if those kids happened to be restless spirits. Sam had initially been surprised by that, but it hadn't taken much thought to realize it made sense. There had been a time that Dean's world was black and white – it if was paranormal it had to be evil and all evil had to be destroyed. Simple. End of story.
But then Sam had developed psychic abilities that might have been given to him by a demon. Even if they weren't a gift from Yellow Eyes, they certainly had something to do with the demon's plan. And the vampires…..Lenore and her friends made the conscious decision not to feed off of people. They wanted to coexist and just be left alone. Dean's world had begun to develop shades of gray that he was still learning how to accept.
Sam glanced at Dean and nodded as the older man slipped out of his coat before sitting down on the edge of the bed. His slumped posture indicated he still hadn't come to terms with their duty, but Sam hoped he had a solution that would solve both problems.
"Thanks, Bobby. I'll talk to you later," he said and saw Dean look toward him. Sam put his cell phone on the bedside table and sat down across from his brother.
"Bobby okay?" Dean asked.
"Yeah. I wanted to talk to him about this job; I had an idea and hoped he'd know someone who could help."
"He usually does," Sam said with a small smile. "You okay?"
"So, what was your idea?" Dean asked, ignoring Sam's question.
Sam cleared his throat quietly. "Well, I thought it might be worth a shot to see if we could communicate with the girls; get them to take off voluntarily and go where ever people are supposed to go after we die."
"I thought you weren't competing with Jennifer Love Hewitt in the psychic department any more."
Sam leveled a stare at him.
"Okay, so how does Bobby come into this?" Dean asked, not missing a beat.
"Well, I figured we could screw around with a Ouija board and really screw things up, or get the help of someone who knows how to do this kind of thing."
"And," Sam said. "He knows a medium who he thinks will help. He's gonna call him now and pass along my number."
"Him? Doesn't he know any chick psychics?"
Sam smiled. At least Dean wasn't completely out of sorts.
Alan Lincoln, Bobby's contact, called Sam just fifteen minutes later and based on the small amount of information Bobby had given him, was already willing to help. After hearing more from Sam, he was even more interested.
"How far away is he?" Dean asked after the call ended.
"Six hours or so. He'll be here tomorrow."
Dean nodded. Despite his objections, he'd been helping Sam try to figure out who might be the ghosts' next victim. There was a pattern to who the ghosts had chosen, a pattern Dean managed to spot, but that didn't mean it would be easy to find out who they would target next. Besides, they didn't go after someone every night; there were often weeks or even months between attacks. Dean suspected there might be a pattern to the timing as well, but he hadn't wanted to put any effort into finding it.
"You know there's no point in looking for the next victim tonight," Dean sad. "Not with the medium coming tomorrow. Let's go find something to eat and maybe a couple of beers."
Sam knew his brother was right, but he hated the idea that someone else might get hurt while he and Dean were out having a good time; even if it was someone who did horrible things. They could spend the next few hours researching, following the pattern, but there was no guarantee they would find anything. And if they did, it would likely be too late to save anyone.
He nodded with a sigh. "Yeah, okay."
The next morning, Sam checked the few online sources available for news reports in the area, but there was nothing reported from the night before. Dean went to the diner for coffee and paid close attention to the conversations going on amongst the regular customers, but the discussions were about a storm that was expected to come in and what it might do to the crops. Apparently nothing unusual had caught their attention.
"Anything?" Dean asked when he walked back into the motel room.
"No." Dean set a cup of coffee on the table in front of his brother. "Why are you so worried about these people?"
"Because they're people, Dean."
"They're human monsters, "Dean said with disgust.
Sam looked at his brother, then turned his attention to the coffee. Dean sat on the edge of his bed and turned the television on. He flipped through stations before landing on one showing an old sit-com. Sam noticed that he didn't turn up the volume loud enough to actually hear the dialog.
The older man grunted.
Sam fidgeted with the coffee cup, then turned around so he could see his brother. "This job –"
"Do we really have to have this conversation again?" Dean asked. His eyes darted to Sam for a moment before seeming to focus on the television.
"No," Sam sighed. "But….Look, I don't like what these men have done any more than you do, but –"
"I know. We can't let the ghosts keep doing it." Dean's voice was gruff.
Sam hesitated. He wasn't really sure why he'd brought this up again. Dean had agreed with him, no matter how grudgingly, and he should just leave it at that. He knew what the problem was – Dean didn't like bad people any more than he liked evil spirits. Of course, the particular ghosts they were after weren't evil and that was Dean's major sticking point.
"Where do you think they're gonna go?" Dean asked quietly.
Sam looked at him, confused. "Who?"
"I don't know," Sam answered truthfully. "I didn't know you thought about stuff like that."
Dean shrugged. "Sometimes. More lately, I guess."
"Why more lately?"
Dean shrugged again. "Seems like this used to be easier, Sammy."
Sam moved across the room and sat on the edge of his own bed.
"I don't know. I mean, we were kids, right? Kids don't think about that kind of stuff. And it's not like Dad ever taught us to –" He stopped seeing the expression on Dean's face. "Look, I didn't mean…."
"Whatever, Sam. I know how you feel about Dad."
"No, you don't. Not really. Besides, this isn't about Dad."
Dean rubbed his face with one hand before taking a sip of the coffee. "It's just….I'd hate for those girls to be punished for what they've done."
"Me, too," Sam admitted. "Do you really think they've never made a mistake? They've only gone after people who have hurt kids?"
"From what I found; yeah, that's what I think."
"I guess it's possible. Ghosts can see what we can't. But they've been doing this for 16 years. And they're getting more aggressive."
"Yeah," Dean sighed and set the coffee cup on the floor. "I just…..I'd like for this one to be over, ya know?"
"I know," Sam agreed quietly.
Alan Lincoln arrived in Galesburg just after 1:30 in the afternoon. He called Sam's cell phone as he hit the town limits and Sam directed him to their motel, even though it wasn't hard to find.
"Okay, I know the basics of what's going on," Alan said as they all settled around the round table in the brothers' room. "Would you mind starting at the beginning, though? The more I know about the situation, the easier it will be to contact the spirits."
Sam glanced at his brother, noticing that he didn't seem interested in speaking. Sam cleared his throat before beginning. "There are four sisters who all died about 16 years ago. They…."
"Their father killed them," Dean finished. "He used to beat them and then one night he went nuts and killed all four of them."
Sam looked at Dean and saw anguish that he didn't normally see on his brother's face.
"Two of them were living with their grandparents; we're not quite sure how that happened, but on the night of the murders, they were at their father's house." Dean's voice was deep and filled with anger.
"Jesus," Alan breathed. "What happened to the father?"
"He was probably their first victim," Sam answered quickly. "He died in a jail cell. The autopsy came back with inconclusive results. There wasn't a huge amount of investigation done."
"Not surprising since he was in prison for killing his daughters."
Sam looked at his brother as Dean almost spat out the words. He glanced at Alan, noticing he seemed a little uncomfortable.
"The girls' spirits haven't moved on," Sam said. "They've been around for 16 years, going after other abusive parents. They're killing them, but it's spread out pretty far and the police haven't put it together. In the last few months they seem to have stepped up their game, which is one of the reasons we came across them. Dean figured out the connection."
"Um," Alan paused. "Don't you normally just salt and burn the bodies to get rid of angry spirits?"
"Yeah," Sam confirmed, glancing again at Dean. "But we wanted to give them the opportunity to move on themselves. We don't really know where spirits go when their remains are burned and after what happened to them while they were alive…."
Alan nodded. "So you want me to try to contact them; see if I can convince them to go to the light, as it were?"
"Think it will work?" Sam asked.
"They've been here a long time. It won't be easy, but it's possible. Do you have any information about them as people? What they liked or disliked? Anything that might help me connect?"
"Not much, but you're welcome to look at what we have. There was a long newspaper article about them after they died; that might help. Most of the people who knew them have either died or moved away. Their mother died when the youngest girl was two. It was a car accident."
Alan nodded as he flipped through the folder Sam had passed to him. "Any pattern to when they attack?"
"Nothing specific we've been able to find. We'd like to do this as soon as possible, though."
"Of course," Alan agreed, still looking through the folder. "Do they ever go back to their old house?"
"There are rumors about sightings," Sam confirmed. "Nothing we were able to prove. They lived out in the middle of nowhere on a small farm. The house is still there, unoccupied. It's pretty much fallen into ruin; the land is all overgrown."
"That might be the best place to try to contact them. How far away is it?"
"Not far; twenty minute drive."
"Can I keep this for a while?" Alan motioned toward the folder.
"I'm going to get a room, clean up and start preparing. I'll meet you back here in two hours and we can head to their house."
Sam glanced at Dean, who had fallen silent, and nodded. "Two hours."
Sam walked to the door with Alan and once he was gone, turned back to his brother. "You okay?"
Dean looked at him, a hint of apology on his face. "I just hope this works."
Sam tried to engage his brother in conversation, but Dean refused to participate. Sam worried when Dean got like this, but there was nothing to do but wait until he worked himself out of the mood. Nothing Sam said or did would make a difference and he risked pissing Dean off.
Dean had a few ways to relax. He enjoyed driving and listening to music, he liked working on his car, going to bars or watching television. But the one thing that was always guaranteed to make him feel better was cleaning their weapons. With only a muttered word to Sam, Dean went out to the car and came back a few minutes later with every gun they owned. He spread everything out on his bed and sat on Sam's as he got started. Sam watched him from table where he was with the laptop.
"You want some help?" he asked.
Generally, Dean handled this task himself. It wasn't that Sam didn't know how or that he wasn't proficient at it, but Dean liked doing it so Sam left him to it. But he knew how upset Dean was; how worried he was about what would happen to the ghosts. Sam wanted to do more than sit across the room from him.
The answer surprised Sam almost as much as the tone in which it was delivered. Dean's voice was quiet, but there was something about it that seemed much younger and much more unsure than usual. Sam didn't hesitate before moving to his side. They still didn't speak, but the atmosphere in the room gradually lightened and by the time Alan came back, Dean seemed more at ease.
Dean drove to the dilapidated house where the girls had lived with their father. Sam had folded his long legs into the back seat of the Impala and noted that Dean didn't just turn the volume of the radio down, he turned it off completely. He couldn't remember the last time Dean had done that; even when he and Sam talked on the road, the music always played in the background.
No one spoke along the way and Sam's mind wandered back to what they knew about the girls. At the time of their deaths, their ages ranged from 8-16. The two younger ones, Melissa and Rebecca, had lived with their mothers' parents, but Sam had not been able to find out how or why. Jennifer and Emily had lived with their father; he had a rather extensive police record, but generally his arrests had been for getting into bar fights and public drunkenness. He'd never been brought up on charges of child abuse even though his daughters had been treated for numerous injuries.
Melissa had had a broken arm before the age of three that was explained by having fallen out of a tree house. Emily had walked with a limp since the age of four, though the news article had not pinpointed a cause of it. Teachers and neighbors admitted to suspecting abuse, but unbelievably, there hadn't seemed to be any kind of official investigation. The reporter had not been able to find any public records of such an investigation and the county sheriff had refused to give him an interview; he man retired only a few months after the murders and had left town without a forwarding address.
Similarly, the grandparents had refused an interview, but they'd been more vocal around the time of the trial. They'd told anyone who would listen about their suspicion of their deceased daughter's husband having hurt the girls for years, but had no explanation for not doing more to get the girls away from him.
The girls had gone to public school, but apparently had not participated in any extracurricular activities. Their grades were good, though not spectacular, and none of their classmates admitted to really being friends.
Despite all the details in the article, there were a lot of unknowns and Sam hoped they wouldn't end up being a problem.
The brothers weren't entirely sure the building was structurally sound, so when Alan suggested they try to contact the girls on one of their bedrooms, they insisted on staying on the first floor. Finding no table in the kitchen, they settled in what had been the living room. There was a thick layer of dust over everything, the fabric on the couch had begun to rot years before, wallpaper was peeling and there were huge holes in the carpet. The entire place stunk of decay.
"Okay," Alan glanced around. "I think we'll just try a simple séance."
He set the duffle he'd been carrying over his shoulder onto the ruin of a recliner. He pulled out a few large candles and handed them to Sam. "We can use the coffee table, I guess. Put one in the middle and the others around the room; it doesn't matter where. The purpose is to create a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere. We're not using them for light."
Dean moved the coffee table to the center of the room and Sam set out the candles, lighting them as he went.
"I have a spirit board, but I'd prefer not to use that if we don't have to," Alan said. He took a portable DVD player from the bag and turned it on; soft instrumental music came from the speaker and he set it on the floor near the coffee table. "A spirit board can be somewhat unpredictable."
Dean put a shotgun on the floor within reach of where he would be sitting. He handed one to Sam who did the same thing. They were both filled with rock salt in case the spirits weren't in a cooperative mood.
"In the articles," Alan said, his expression turning sad. "They, uh, said the girls were killed in four separate locations."
"Probably because they were trying to get away from the bastard," Dean said.
Alan nodded in agreement. "God, I can't even imagine what it must have been like for them."
"They had to be scared out of their minds," Dean said. "Evidence showed the youngest one died first; shot in one of the upstairs bedrooms. She was wearing Cinderella pajamas."
Sam looked at his brother.
"There's a trail of blood upstairs," Dean continued. "The oldest girl was shot and the cops think she was either trying to get away or trying to get to her sisters. They found her body where the blood ended."
"The youngest one," Dean shook his head in disgust. "They found her in a closet with her head bashed in."
"Dean," Sam took a step forward, but stopped when Dean shook his head.
"The last one? She was found outside with two broken legs. She was still alive, but died before the ambulance could get out here."
Sam moved forward again; this time not allowing himself to be stopped by his brother's expression. He didn't lay a hand on Dean's shoulder or touch him in any way. Sam just stood close to him and a moment later, he heard Dean sigh and saw him relax somewhat.
Alan made an excuse to go back out to the car. Alone with his brother, Dean sighed again.
"Sorry I lost it."
"You didn't lose it," Sam countered. "Look, man, this is a hard one. It's okay."
"Yeah," Sam agreed. "That, too."
The first half an hour of the séance was uneventful. Alan had warned the brothers that things could go that way. Even séances that ended successfully often started out very slow. Dean trusted Alan's abilities only because Bobby did. Bobby never would have recommended someone who couldn't get the job done and Dean desperately wanted this to work. He didn't want to salt and burn the bones of girls who had suffered so much through their lives.
Despite wanting so badly for something to happen, Dean was losing patience. He was tired of sitting on the rotting carpet; his legs were beginning to ache from the inactivity. He was also tired of holding Sam and Alan's hands and the soft instrumental music was enough to make him run screaming from the room.
He could tell the other men were also getting antsy. Dean glanced at his brother; Sam's legs were even longer than his own and discomfort was visible on Sam's face. Sam wouldn't complain. Dean knew that if he asked, Sam would sit in that same spot for days. He was about to suggest they end the séance, when he felt Alan tense.
A moment later, Dean felt a change in the room. The temperature dropped and the flames from the candles were disturbed by a breeze that seemingly came from nowhere. Dean looked around the room and from the corner of his eye, saw Sam do the same thing.
"Remain calm," Alan said quietly. "Someone is here."
The brothers exchanged a look, then turned back toward the medium. Dean had felt Alan relax again and knew Sam had felt it, too. Dean tried to reign in his sudden discomfort as Alan seemed to fall into a trance. Sam squeezed Dean's hand and when he looked toward his brother, Sam nodded toward the back of the room. Behind Alan's back, a spirit had begun to materialize, but it wasn't clear enough for identification.
"Emily," Alan said in a soft tone. "Thank you for coming to speak with us."
The shadowy figure across the room didn't move, but it did seem to shimmer for a moment. Dean glanced at Sam who only shrugged.
"We've come to ask you to stop hurting people," Alan said. "We know you mean well, but –"
Before anyone could react, the spirit rushed forward and Alan was moved away from the coffee table. The brothers didn't hesitate to react; they each grabbed a gun and maneuvered onto their knees.
"Wait!" Alan exclaimed as he worked his way to a sitting position. "Emily, please, we just want to help you."
The candle flames grew brighter and a strong wind raced through the room.
"Emily, you've been here a long time. You and your sisters deserve to cross over. Let us help you. Please."
Emily moved forward again. Dean found himself hesitating, but Sam leveled the shotgun at her and fired. The rock salt didn't make contact with the spirit and she turned to face the brothers as her figure became more defined. A sneer formed on her lips as a loud and angry hiss escaped her lips. This time Dean didn't hesitate, but the spirit disappeared before the salt could reach her.
The brothers stood on unsteady legs, both ignoring the stiffness of having sat on the floor for so long. A crash was heard from the direction of the kitchen and Dean left to check it out while Sam moved toward Alan.
"So much anger," Sam heard Alan whisper. "I can't….she won't….We need to get out of here."
Another crash came from the kitchen and Sam heard the unmistakable sound of his brother's yell and what Sam hoped wasn't Dean being thrown into something. He helped Alan to his feet as random objects in the living room were hurled toward them.
"Go," Sam instructed. "Get to the car."
Alan nodded and headed to the door, dodging the flying debris. Sam rushed toward the kitchen; hit on the side of the face with something he didn't stop to examine. He felt the trickle of blood, but ignored it as he heard another loud thump and what could only be Dean's grunt.
"Dean!" Sam called as he rounded the corner. He hesitated only briefly when he saw Dean on the floor, his eyes closed and blood pooling under his head. "No!"
There were flying objects in the kitchen as well, but Sam paid them only limited attention as he made his way to Dean. He took only a few moments to check for injury and decided that there was nothing to loose by taking him out of the house. He stood, tossing Dean over his shoulder and dodging the projectiles. He was grateful that there weren't any flying knives or other cutlery.
Sam saw Alan standing by the side of the Impala when he ran out of the house. Sam yelled for him to open the back door. It took him only a few long strides to reach the car and he laid Dean gently into the back seat. Sam took off his own coat and laid it under Dean's head. He hadn't found the source of the bleeding, but it seemed to be slowing and decided it was more important to get away from the house. Glass from the windows had started to fly outward and the howl of the ghost was getting closer.
"Get in!" Sam yelled to Alan as he slid behind the wheel. He barely waited for Alan to close the car door before speeding off.
"Is he hurt bad?" Alan asked.
"I don't know," Sam said tensely. "You think she'll follow us?"
"I don't sense her."
Sam had just pulled onto the highway when Dean moaned from the backseat.
"Dean?" Sam chanced a glance over his shoulder.
"Headache. There's blood."
"I know. Can you tell where it's coming from or how bad it is?"
Dean grunted again. "I think it stopped. You okay?"
"Yeah," Sam eased to the side of the road and once the car was out of gear, he turned toward his brother. "Look at me."
"Just give me a second, okay? Follow my finger."
Sam gave Dean a more thorough examination than he had in the house and once he was satisfied that there was no major head injury, he looked forward again. "You're gonna have a bump, but I think you're okay. We'll get you some ice back at the motel. Don't sit up."
"So, I guess the gentle approach isn't going to work," Dean said, sounding miserable.
"I guess not," Sam said as he pulled back onto the highway and drove to the motel. Alan filled Dean in on the few minutes he couldn't remember.
"I've never felt the amount of anger that was coming from Emily," Alan said after he recounted the events. "It was so intense; powerful."
"Were her sisters there?" Dean asked.
"No, I don't believe so."
"Any idea why she was so pissed at us?"
"I don't think it was us necessarily; just in general."
"We need to end this, Dean. Soon," Sam said.
"Yeah," he sighed.
"I can help dig the graves," Alan offered.
Sam glanced at him. "Thanks. It could be dangerous."
"It has to be done. I don't know about the other girls, but I don't think Emily is particularly stable any more. That's probably why the attacks have become more frequent. You say all of the victims have been abusive parents?"
"The last few," Dean confirmed. "I didn't go all the way back to the beginning, though, but until recently there weren't that many."
"Amazing so many people in so small an area beat their kids."
"There's nothing wrong with my research," Dean said defensively.
"I'm not doubting you," Alan said quickly. "It's just very sad."
"Sammy, pull over," Dean said after a moment.
"Just pull over!" He sounded distressed.
Sam had barely gotten the car to a stop when Dean opened the door and crawled out to throw up.
Sam got out of the car and opened the trunk. He got a bottle of water and continued around to where Dean lay on the ground. Sam helped him to a sitting position, more concerned that Dean was accepting his help than anything else. Leaning against his brother, Dean took the water. He swished some in his mouth and then spit it out.
"You might need a doctor."
"No. I've had plenty of concussions and this isn't one. Just a little nausea."
"Uh-huh. Well, I'm still gonna keep a close eye on you tonight."
"We've got to take care of the bones."
"You're in no shape to do that tonight, Dean."
"Just listen to me for a change, okay? You're not Superman, Dean. You need to rest and we need to make sure you're not really hurt. You're not digging up any graves tonight, okay?"
Dean looked at him and nodded once, wincing as he did. He well enough a few minutes later to get back in the car; though he still let Sam help him. There were no more incidents on the way to the motel and Dean didn't argue when Sam told him to go into the bathroom so he could check out the source of the bleeding. With the harsh light of the room, Sam was able to examine Dean more closely. He washed off the blood and cleaned the wound on the back of his head. It wasn't deep, but it was long. Dean didn't know what he'd gotten hit with; it didn't really matter anyway.
For safety, Sam suggested they all stay together and after Alan had gotten his things from the room he'd rented earlier and come back with ice for Dean's head, Sam laid salt lines in front of the door and windows.
"I'm sorry things got so out of control," Alan said. He sat down in what had been an easy chair in its newer days.
"It's not your fault," Sam told him.
"Sam's right," Dean said as he sat on his bed, ice bag against the lump on his head. "We tried to do this the nice way; it's not your fault she wouldn't go for it."
"Yeah," Sam agreed. "We're probably just a couple years too late."
"Well, if you want, I could try to contact one of the other girls with the spirit board."
Sam glanced toward his brother, who only shook his head sadly.
"There's no guarantee that they're any less affected than Emily," Sam said. "And you said the spirit board was unpredictable."
Alan nodded. "You can't necessarily control who will come through."
"We've got enough trouble without inviting more," Dean said.
Sam didn't like the defeat he heard in Dean's voice, but he felt the same way. They'd both hoped to be able to convince the girls to go on and to stop hurting people and Sam was as disappointed as Dean that it hadn't worked. He still felt bad that they'd had to go through all the violence in their lives, but it was hard to feel too sorry for someone who'd hurt Dean. Intellectually he understood that the longer a spirit stayed the angrier and more erratic it tended to become, but the thing had attacked them when they were only trying to help and despite what Dean said, he probably did have a concussion.
Dean was still a little wobbly the next day, but after food and coffee he felt better. After breakfast, the group drove to the closer of the two cemeteries where the girls had been buried. It was located behind a church on the edge of town; all in all it was a fairly remote location. The graves were in a back corner which would give them more privacy, but the fire they set had the potential of being seen from the house that sat near the church. The brothers strategized for a few minutes before taking off for the second cemetery.
Dean was still insistent that they would have to hit the two cemeteries in the same night. Once the first desecration was discovered, he didn't think it would be that big a leap for authorities to make that the other sisters' graves would be attacked as well. Sam couldn't disagree, but still hadn't convinced his brother they would need help to do it all in one night.
The other cemetery was much more secluded. It wasn't actively used any more and appeared to be getting only marginal upkeep. It was several miles from the closest building; a small mall that would no doubt be closed at the time they'd be doing their work. There were graves situated close to the highway, but they found the girls' remains on the opposite side, behind a large mausoleum that would provide additional cover.
"It's pretty secluded here," Sam said.
Dean nodded in agreement as he continued to survey the area.
"How do you want to do this?"
Sam hesitated. He knew that Dean respected his opinion, but this kind of planning was what Dean did best. He was good with research and spotting patterns, but not as good as Sam. Sam could plan an attack, but Dean was better at it. That's one reason they worked so well as a team. He wasn't sure what Dean's question meant, other than his heart still wasn't in it.
"Well," he looked around. "It would probably be better if we could do them at the same time, but with this place being so out-of-the-way, we could start here and get the other one done bef—"
"Too dangerous," Dean said. "How about you and Alan doing this one while I –"
"No way. Dean, even at full capacity you'd have a hell of a time digging up two graves by yourself. And you're not at full capacity."
"So, you guys will get done here and come back there."
"And if the spirits decide to attack you while you're there alone?"
Dean opened his mouth to answer, but closed it without saying anything.
"We should get at least one more person out here to help or take our chances and hit them one at a time," Sam said after a moment.
"You think our luck is good enough to take chances with?" Dean asked.
"Look, there's an easy solution, Dean. You just don't want to admit it. Why?"
Dean said nothing as he stared into the distance.
"Look, man, we tried the psychic approach. It didn't work. We don't have a choice here, Dean."
"I am so sick of never having a choice," Dean said, his voice low and angry.
Sam decided not to respond. There was really nothing he could add that would make Dean feel any better about the situation. The truth was, neither one of them had ever had a real chance to make their own choices about anything. They'd been dragged into the hunting lifestyle by their father, who had, for all intents and purposes, been dragged into it himself. Dean's desire to please their dad led him to blindly follow in his footsteps. And even Sam, who had gone off to college, was unwillingly pulled back in to the life. The only real decisions they seemed to be able to make involved which jobs to pursue.
Dean walked back to the Impala, Sam close behind him. Instead of getting behind the wheel, though, Dean leaned against the hood. Sam took up a similar position next to him.
"There's another way to think about this," he said carefully.
"Well….maybe burning the remains is like releasing them from some kind of torment. Maybe they didn't know how to cross over, or whatever you want to call it, and just got stuck here."
"You really think there's a good place to go once we're dead?" Dean asked quietly, facing forward.
"I hope there is. We know Hell exists. It seems only fair that the opposite would, too."
"When has life ever been fair, Sam?"
"I mean it. Was it fair that Yellow Eyes killed our mother? Was it fair that instead of making a home for us, that Dad dragged us all over the country? Nothing is fair, Sam."
"I still think Heaven, or something like it, exists," Sam said quietly. "And I think if these girls were meant to go there, they still will."
Dean sighed, then stood up and straightened his shoulders. "Let's get some help out here and just take care of it."
Sam suspected that his brother had more to say, but knew that he wouldn't until he was ready. Sometimes things came up during a job that they'd talk about later. It often happened in the car as they rolled along sparsely-traveled back roads where Dean didn't have to concentrate so much on his driving. Occasionally it would be in some motel room when the lights had been turned off. Sam figured Dean felt more comfortable opening up when his face was hidden in the darkness.
Of course, there was a lot they never talked about, too.
Sam arranged for a hunter they'd met through Bobby to help them; he was close enough that he could get there within a few hours. Alan had no objections to working with the other hunter, so it was decided that the brothers would stay together and take care of the local cemetery while the others handled the one that was more remote.
Alan was well aquatinted with spirits, but not very familiar with firearms. He and Dean found a secluded spot well away from town so he could practice with a shotgun in case he needed to defend himself at the cemetery. There wasn't time to make him an expert, but as long as he could aim fairly well, he had a good chance of surviving if things turned violent.
Dean kept a slight headache as the day progressed, but he was usually pretty good at ignoring his own pain. He was doing everything he could to keep Sam from worrying about him, but it was all proving useless. He didn't blame Sam. If roles were reversed and it had been Sam who got hit on the head by ghost-thrown crap, Dean would be concerned about him.
After their contact, Bradley Driscoll, arrived in town, the four men went to a restaurant outside of town for dinner and last-minute planning. Dean wasn't really hungry, but he'd not eaten in hours and digging graves was hard enough without adding lack of energy to it. Besides, if he didn't eat, it would only give Sam something else to worry about.
After eating and at least attempting to get some sleep, the men got ready to go. Dean made a final check of the weapons after watching Bradley and Alan drive off in their cars. Dean didn't want to do this. He really, really didn't.
He couldn't ever remember feeling so ineffective over a job before; at least not one where they had an actual solution. There was the occasional job that had no real resolution because they sometimes just couldn't find the cause of the paranormal activity. Once in a while they knew what the underlying problem was, but there was nothing to be done about it. Of course, there was the 20-plus year mystery of what happened to their mother that had really taught them patience when dealing with a supernatural situation.
But this job had a definite cause and they did have a sure-fire method of stopping it. But still, Dean didn't want to do it. He didn't want to be what sent the spirits to the other side and into some horrible fate. They'd suffered enough as humans and Dean just wasn't as sure as Sam was that there was a place opposite Hell.
Sam had been right, though. They didn't have a choice. They couldn't knowingly let the spirits stay when they were hurting people – even if Dean felt that those people deserved to be hurt. It was obvious during the séance that Emily was at least becoming erratic; if she hadn't already begun to lash out at innocent people, she probably soon would. Dean didn't want that on his conscience any more than he wanted the girls' potential punishment on his conscience.
He sighed to himself and closed the trunk as Sam came up behind him.
Dean nodded. "Let's go."
The drive to the cemetery was quiet. Dean parked as close as he could to the graves, while keeping the car as hidden as possible. They'd done this so many times before that there was no need to discuss it. Without a word, Dean opened the trunk and Sam reached in for the bag of weapons while Dean took out the shovels. The grass was slightly wet from a light rain that had fallen earlier and clouds still darkened the sky. That would work to their advantage, until Dean lit the match that would send the remains up in flames. No amount of cloud cover would hide that.
The girls were buried side by side; their graves marked with small headstones that proclaimed them beloved granddaughters. Dean looked at the markers briefly before he started to dig. He and Sam each worked on one of the plots with the weapons handy in case of trouble. If attacked, the guns wouldn't get rid of the spirits completely, but would temporarily dispel them.
They hadn't talked about it, but both brothers expected trouble. In addition to this being the cemetery that was more open to them being discovered, it was the one where Emily was buried. She had been angry enough at the house and if she realized what Sam and Dean were up to, she might well try to stop them. They dug while keeping an eye out for anything unusual and listening for sounds other than those made by their shovels.
Sam's additional height over his brother was an advantage in many situations, but not grave-digging. Still worried that the head injury was worse than Dean was letting on, Sam was slightly concerned when he'd reached the coffin he'd been digging toward before Dean got to his. Sam didn't make a big show of moving to the opposite side of the hole that Dean was digging and Dean didn't say anything to dissuade him.
Once both coffins were exposed, they took a moment to catch their breath. Sam got their things together while Dean doused the first set of bones with lighter fluid. He moved to the second, but before he could do anything, the can flew from his hand. Sam didn't have time to react; he saw Dean flail and fall to the side as if he'd been pushed.
Emily's spirit materialized in front of Dean. He'd gotten to his knees, but didn't seem to be able to move any further. Sam took hold of the nearest shotgun and aimed, but Dean yelled for him to wait. A moment later, he heard his brother speaking to Emily. Dean's back was to him and he wasn't quite close enough to hear his words anyway, but Sam saw the expression on Emily's face soften and he relaxed just a bit. It didn't last long.
A horrible howl came from Emily and with a wave of her hand, she sent Dean flying backward. Sam didn't have enough time to react and fell over as his brother collided with him. Though he recovered quickly, Sam had lost hold of the shotgun and found it just out of reach as Emily lurched forward.
"Dean!" Sam shouted as he crawled toward the gun.
"I'm okay!" Dean assured him as he tried to get to his feet.
The wind began to blow fiercely, forcing the fall leaves from the trees and swirling around the brothers. It was disconcerting, but they kept their focus. Sam grabbed his weapon and in one smooth movement, he rolled onto his back and shot a round of rock salt at the spirit. She dissipated immediately, but reappeared just as quickly.
Dean had almost reached his own gun, but was again thrown backward before he could touch it. Sam fired another round, but Emily managed to get out of the way.
"She's strong!" Sam bellowed over the wind. "Get to the graves! I'll hold her off!"
Dean glanced over his shoulder to where Sam stood. He'd gotten to his feet and was using a large tree as a brace against the strong wind. Dean didn't waste the energy on acknowledging him. Instead, he snagged the container of lighter fluid from the canvas bag. He sprayed it into the second grave while at the same time reaching into his coat pocket for the book of water-proof matches. He heard Emily scream behind him, followed by the crack of the shotgun.
Before he could drop a lit match into the grave, Dean saw a slightly younger-looking version of Emily appear across from him. Her eyes were softer and she looked very sad.
Please, Dean heard her whisper. Please, don't.
The sound of her voice seemed to be coming from inside his head as she continued to plead with him. He tried to ignore her; he needed to ignore her, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from her. She seemed much more solid than any ghost he'd ever encountered before. He saw her bright blue eyes, the porcelain quality of her skin, and even the subtle auburn highlights in her dark blonde hair. He realized this must be Jennifer, the second oldest sister.
He hurt her so bad. She's only trying to protect the rest of us. It was always so much worse for her.
"None of you belong here any more," Dean told the spirit.
I know that. I understand. But Emily has always refused to go and the rest of us stay with her. We always stick together; no matter what
Dean understood because felt the same way about Sam. But Emily wasn't stable and this had to end. Dean heard Sam yell, but he couldn't make out the words. He heard the gun go off again and knew he was running out of time.
"I'm sorry," Dean said as he quickly lit another match, protecting it from the wind. "I'm sorry."
He dropped it into the lighter-fluid soaked coffin, pulling a second match from the book as the contents of the box ignited. He heard a shriek from behind him and knew that Sam would be safe from further assault. Dean knew he shouldn't, but he glanced at Jennifer. The expression on her face was heart-breaking and his hand trembled as he lit the second match in the suddenly still air.
Dean looked through the flames and saw tears streaming down Jennifer's face.
"I'm sorry," he said again.
A few moments later Dean sensed Sam behind him, but he couldn't move as he watched Jennifer's ghost slowly fade away. He'd never felt as worthless as he did right now and he silently begged Sam not to say anything.
Sam knew his brother well enough to remain quiet. He stood close enough to him that Dean knew he was there, but not close enough to make him uncomfortable. He'd seen the ghost and heard Dean's apology; he didn't know what else might have taken place, but he could tell that Dean was shaken.
"Let's grab the stuff," Dean said a moment later; his voice gruff.
Sam had spoken with Alan while Dean was in the shower. He and Bradley had finished their chore without drama. The ghosts of the two younger girls never materialized and they'd been able to get away undetected, deciding to head to their homes rather than come back to the motel. Dean had listened without reaction when Sam told him about the call, but was relieved they'd had an easier time of it.
Dean had declined Sam's offer to leave, hoping they could both get some sleep, but he was still awake an hour after they turned in. He desperately wanted to sleep if only to keep from thinking about what had happened and where the girls were now. Though there was less light in the room than before, he could tell that Sam was also awake.
Dean heard Sam shift in his bed.
"Sam?" he called softly after a moment.
"Yeah?" Sam's reply was almost immediate, as if he'd been waiting for Dean to start the conversation.
"How do you do it?"
"Keep believing that there's somewhere good for us to go after we die."
"You didn't like what I said before; about it not being fair if there wasn't."
"You got anything else?" Dean asked, trying to keep a light tone despite the topic. He heard Sam shift again.
"Well….what do you think happens to good people?"
"I don't know."
"Do you think they go to Hell?" Sam asked, his tone patient and free of condescension.
"Me neither. And it doesn't make sense to me that they'd just cease to exist because it doesn't make sense that there's a place for evil and not for good. I don't believe it's like the Heaven talked about in the Bible, but –"
"Have you read the Bible?"
"Yeah. Not that long after I found out the truth about what Dad did when he left us alone."
"You never told me."
"No," Sam agreed. "I spent a lot of time trying to figure things out after that. I read a lot. None of the religion stuff worked for me, but the basic concept of good and evil….that made sense."
"What Dad taught us," Dean hesitated. "That supernatural things are evil and have to be destroyed…"
"I've thought about that a lot since we met Lenore," Sam said. "She and her friends were vampires, but they'd chosen not to prey on humans. I don't think Dad ever considered that there was something other than good and bad; right and wrong. After what happened to Mom and the world he found….I doubt he even thought about it."
Dean didn't say anything. There were too many thoughts going through his head to focus on just one and for a moment it even felt like the room had started to spin. He took a deep breath and got his bearings again, but still didn't know what to day.
"We did the right thing, Dean," Sam said quietly.
"Why don't we ever see the good?" Dean asked after a moment. "Where are the angels or whatever the opposite of demon is?"
"Maybe there are rules. If they're the good guys, they'd follow rules."
"That really sucks for the good guys."
Sam chuckled in agreement. After a moment, he continued. "I think that we do see the good sometimes; it's just not as flashy as evil."
"Maybe," Dean agreed.
"The woman with the brain tumor?"
"Yeah; she was trying to get help from that so-called faith-healer," Sam said. "It's people like her, people who are so selfless, that make it easier for me to believe there's something opposite Hell. And maybe…."
"Maybe what?" Dean asked, turning his eyes to Sam's side of the room. He could barely make out Sam's form on the bed.
"Maybe there's hope for me."
"Sam, you're not evil," Dean said with conviction.
"What happened at the cemetery?" Sam asked after a moment. "I saw Jennifer's spirit for a second before the disappeared."
"She talked to me. She said she knew they should go, but it was Emily who wouldn't. Jennifer and the younger ones stayed with her because they always stick together. And she said something about their father being harder on Emily than the rest of them," Dean paused. "I didn't want to do it, Sam. Not when I wasn't sure where they'd go. I just can't stand thinking they might be punished."
"I don't think they will be, for what that's worth."
"It's worth a lot, Sammy."