After calling 911, an entourage of police cars arrived with an ambulance at the scene illuminating the night with flashes of red and blue lights. The first person to approach Sam and Dean was deputy Denholm who noticed that Sam had injured his elbow, the fresh blood soaked heavily into his jacket. He immediately sent him over to one of the ambulances where one of the medics got him to sit on the back and began to attend to the wound and bandaged it up.
A deluge of activity began all around them as the car wreckage was surveyed, and the coroner pulled up soon after a phone call had alerted him that there was a pick-up. Dean stayed close to his brother while his wound was dressed. Many thoughts were running through his mind, most of all, what in the hell were they going to tell everyone about what they saw happen? If they told them the truth about seeing the Thunder Express, they'd think they had gone as mad as Dolly.
"That should do it." the medic said to Sam after he had finished attending to him.
"Thank you." Sam smiled gratefully.
The medic then left Sam and Dean and wondered away to help everyone else at the scene. When he was safely out of ear shot, Sam sighed and looked at his brother with sorrowed eyes and a heavy heart. "I nearly got him out Dean." he said quietly, "Just a few more seconds. That's all I would have needed."
"Yeah well a few more seconds later and you would have been in a body bag too and I wasn't about to let that happen Sammy." Dean spoke in his serious 'I've gotta look out for my little brother' tone.
Sam sighed and rested his head against the inside of the door, "We really havn't gotten far with this. How many more people are gonna die because of this thing?"
Dean paused for a moment before giving his reply, "You know what? Nobody else is gonna die. I've had it up to here with this friggin' train and I'm gonna stop the damn thing!" he said this optimistically, but deep down he still had no idea how exactly he would be able to do that. The combined spirits of all the passengers were making this thing a strong sonofabitch.
"Fellas," said the familiar voice of the deputy as he approached them from out of the night, "I'm afraid we're gonna have to ask you some questions about what happened out here tonight."
Sam shot Dean a quick look, "Er...yeah, we understand."
"Well, Sheriff Branscombe would like to deal with this personally, so if you don't mind going up to the station, hes already there waitin'."
"Now?" Dean asked. He had hoped that they might get at least the rest of the night to concoct some version of the story that would actually be suitable to tell everyone.
"We think that would be best while the details are still fresh in your minds." Denholm continued.
"Then I guess we'll get going then." Dean said trying not to let the reluctance show in his tone as Sam slowly stood up and joined him.
"Right, well I'm sure you can find your way there then, so I'll be getting back to things here."
"Yeah. Thank you deputy."
As deputy Denholm walked off to rejoin the various activities that were being carried out around the accident scene, Sam and Dean made their way back to the Impala.
Once they were in, Dean rubbed his face in both hands, "Dude, this is crazy, what the friggin hell are we gonna tell this sheriff?"
"That we didn't see anything," Sam joked.
"Yeah like that would work!" with that, Dean slotted his key into the ignition and started up the engine, "Ahh baby! What would I do without your beautiful purr!"
Sheriff Harvey Branscombe paced up and down in the space between his desk and the back wall which made Sam and Dean fidget uncomfortably in their chairs as they watched him and waited for whatever questions he was getting ready to fire at them.
Branscombe was a fairly tall man who walked with a confident grace, his thumbs tucked into his belt. He wore his star with obvious pride, the achievement of his many years of law enforcement. His huge stetson hat left his face under it's shadow, only his huge bristly grey moustache standing out underneath it.
Just as Sam and Dean thought he'd never actually say anything, the sheriff finally spoke, coming to a standstill as he did so. "So you boys are from the paper?"
"Yes sir," Sam answered immediately.
"So can you tell me what it was that you were doing all the way out on that road tonight?"
Sam looked at Dean for help.
"Well," Dean began, "we hit a spot of car trouble. See my girl, she might still be pretty to look at, but shes gettin' old in years." he lied saying this with a grin. He could never help smiling when he thought of that car. Sometimes he still couldn't believe that his dad had actually gifted her to him.
The sheriff gave him a slightly weary look, "Okay. So what exactly did you see happen?" he started to pace again, though not so much this time.
"Well er, we pulled over to look under the hood, tryin' to figure out what was wrong with the car. Then, next thing we know, we hear this huge smash, so we turned around and saw that guys car in bits all over the place." Dean tried to sound as convincing as possible but the sheriff was eying him cautiously.
"You sayin' you didn't see what hit it?"
"Uh...no sir, it was dark."
The sheriff paused for a moment and looked through his window thoughtfully. "And did you hear another vehicle?"
"No." Sam said, though their answers were starting to sound ridiculous now.
"Well how could that possibly be?" sighed the sheriff, he walked away from the window, and sat behind his desk. He lifted his legs up to rest his feet upon the smooth mahogany surface and leaned back, staring accusingly at the brothers. "Seems we got ourselves one heck of a puzzle here, don't it boys?"
"Sure does." Dean responded, verging dangerously close to sarcasm.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
"Come on in." the sheriff shouted, and the door was immediately opened. Deputy Denholm walked in, a saddened expression on his face. As he approached the desk, he removed his hat and held it to his chest. His shoulders slumped down heavily as he met the sheriffs gaze. "What is it?" the sheriff asked.
"We just got an ID on the body." Denholm said quietly.
The sheriff straightened out, "Who was it?" he asked him carefully.
"I'm sorry Harv..." he began, "It was Adrian Cole..."
"Dear Lord!" the sheriff looked absolutely stunned, the pain of loss showing clearly on his leathery skin, "Damn it!" he suddenly cursed, jumping to his feet and kicking over the chair that he'd just been sat on, causing Sam, Dean and the deputy to jump out of their skins. For an older man, he was sure aggressive.
"Er...Sheriff," Denholm continued, "maybe we should let these boys go for now, we could finish up tomorrow..."
"Yeah, okay. For all the help they've been anyway..." he mumbled looking out of the window again.
Sam looked at Dean relieved they would not be questioned any further, at least for now anyway. The deputy nodded at them, and they stood up and quickly escaped the confines of the room. They marched out of the front door and got back into the Impala.
"Wait a minute..." Sam suddenly said.
"What?" asked Dean, putting his key in the ignition.
"The guy who died. Deputy Denholm said that it was Adrian Cole."
"So, don't you remember, the article we read. It mentioned him. He was a friend of the other victims, too."
"Huh..." Dean leaned back in his seat, "What the hell is going on in this town Sammy?"
"I don't know Dean. But like you said before, we're going to need more then a gun with rock salt pellets to put a stop to it. But what..."
Suddenly, Dean grinned.
Sam looked at him suspiciously, "What....?"
"Just an idea..." Dean said, "but y'know, I think we should be heading back to the guesthouse and get some sleep for now."
Dean's diversion away from what he was really thinking annoyed Sam, but it was late, well, early in the morning and they were both extremely tired now, so he decided sleep was indeed the best course of action.
As Sam woke up, he stretched with a yawn and looked over at the clock on the night stand. It was 10.30 am. Damn! he thought, how'd I sleep in so late, and why didn't Dean wake me? Sluggishly, he sat up and rubbed his eyes, stimulating some focus back into them.
After a few minutes, he made his way over to the bathroom and took a long relaxing shower. His tense muscles eased as the hot water soaked his skin and cascaded down his body. He ripped off the bandage that had been placed on his elbow the night before and let the water cleanse the wound with a slight sting.
Once he was done, he dressed into fresh clothes. Luckily before coming here, he'd managed to get a load of their clothes to a laundry. He hated it when on occasion, they'd have to re-wear stuff quite a few times first, especially if they had gotten covered with any kind of supernatural gunk.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
"Sam?" Dean shouted through the thick oak.
Sam made his way over to the door and unbolted it allowing his brother to enter. "Dude, why did you let me sleep in?" he asked, but was suddenly more interested in what Dean had carried into the room. It was a very odd sight.
In one hand Dean held a carrier bag stuffed full with bottles which were clanking against each other, liquid sloshing slightly inside some, and slung over his right shoulder ,was a huge net full of soccer balls.
Sam watched incredulously as Dean went over to the bed with his strange hoard, and sat on the edge putting everything next to him. "Soccer balls?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.
Dean grinned, "Yeah! While you were asleep, I did a little shopping!"
"Dude...what the hell...?"
"Well see, while you were off playing Joe College, I picked up a few little er...techniques." he started chuckling to himself as if he was remembering something highly funny.
"Yeah, I already know about you and your female conquests..." Sam started, thinking that Dean had gone off track and was talking about something else.
"No! I'm not talking about that! Wash out that filthy mind!" Dean snapped seriously, but then the grin reappeared, "Although your right, there was that too..."
"Dean! The soccer balls?" Sam glowered.
"Oh yeah!" Dean coughed, "Well, dad once showed me how to make a very special kind of..." he lowered his voice for the next words as if paranoid that someone would overhear the conversation, "explosive device."
"Out of soccer balls?"
"Yeah, can you believe it? Anyway, thought it might help us when we come up against that sonofabitch train again."
"Dean, bombs won't work against spirits..."
"These ones will, they'll be full of salt. As soon as the suckers go off, boom! An extra big load of salt. They will let off more then we can fire with the shot guns."
"Thats kinda crazy Dean, but...maybe. I don't imagine that it will be enough to disperse it completely though."
"Maybe not, but it might be enough to weaken it. Maybe buy us some time at the crucial moment."
"Yeah, but buy us time for what? We still have no idea why its come back haunting that road, or killed those people. We still can't stop it for good unless we can find out some more answers."
"I know, but I thought I'd make the bombs up first and we'll try to figure the mystery out some more later."
Dean then started to unpack the bomb components. Sam watched him make the first one curiously. After cutting a hole into one of the balls, Dean filled it three quarters full of salt, then he pulled a few of the bottles out of the bag. One of them was empty, and the others contained the various chemicals that were needed to make the explosive.
Once Dean had poured and mixed the right amount of chemicals into the empty bottle, he screwed the cap back on, so not to spill any from it, then pushed the bottom of the bottle through the hole that he'd made in the ball, pushing it gently into the salt filling. Once that was done, he pulled some duct tape from the inside pocket of his jacket, and used it to secure the bottle and ball together firmly.
Once complete, Dean held the bomb up proudly, "Ta dah!" The finished product looked to Sam like a very crude version of the TNT bombs from the Roadrunner cartoons.
"That's actually kinda clever." Sam said, suitably impressed.
"What? You thought you were the only one in the family who has brains?"
"No, It's just I never had you figured to be the MacGyver type."
"I have my moments of genius." Dean said smiling, "So anyways, we better get the rest of these things made up and into the car. We'll tear up some strips of rags ready too. We'll unscrew the bottles and put them in when we are ready to light 'em up."
Altogether there were a dozen soccer balls to prepare, but between the two of them, it didn't take long. Once they were finished, Sam and Dean sneaked them out of the guesthouse, and put them all carefully into the Impala's trunk.
Sam still silently wondered if these preparations would be enough to get them ready to face the Thunder Express, but figured that until anything better came up, it would have to do.
Planning to go and meet the Thunder Express face to face would mean that Sam and Dean would need to wait until nightfall to head out. It wasn't like they would be able to risk using the bombs in broad daylight, there was too much chance that someone would see them. Being in possession of bombs was a very difficult thing to explain away. They just desperately hoped that nobody else would get hurt before then.
At lunchtime, they decided to stay at the guesthouse to take advantage of Mrs. Harper's home cooked meals. They sat in a little dining room, which was more of a living room with mis-matched chairs and tables. There was a huge fireplace at one end, which they imagined would be quite inviting when it was lit in the winter months, and the walls were adorned with framed photographs of the town, some so old they were in faded sepia. Stories of the town's history was told throughout the miscellany of stills, the faces of those who once lived here, captured forever in time.
Mrs. Harper brought Sam and Dean chicken pot pies with steamed vegetables which smelled absolutely delicious, and tasted even better. It was a nice treat to eat something that wasn't either fried or from out of a carton. Sam had often wondered if this was the type of meal that mom would have cooked for them if she hadn't been killed, and himself, Dean and dad had never needed to become hunters. Would they have sat around the table together, talking about what type of days they had each had, smiling and laughing together in all the right places? Sadly, there would never be an answer to that question.
As they finished eating, Mrs. Harper entered the room again and headed in their direction. She was looking worried. Very worried. Someone followed her in. It was an angry looking sheriff Branscombe.
Sam and Dean quickly exchanged glances before turning their attention back onto the encroaching pair.
Mrs. Harper stepped nervously aside to make room for the sheriff. "Seems we've got ourselves a slight problem fellas." he boomed as he stepped in front of Sam and Dean's table assuming a pose full of authority, "You see, I took the liberty of calling the Tribune. They tell me they ain't never heard of you two and havn't even sent any reporters out here. So do you mind telling me exactly what it is that your playin' at lyin' to folks like that?" he glared at them with intimidating eyes.
"Er...it's just...we..." Dean stammered trying to find the rights words.
"We're students from out of state," Sam intercepted, "we were out here doing a study on the history of the town. We are sorry that we lied, but we thought that we would find out more if we said that we were reporters. In our experience, we students don't always get taken seriously, we really didn't mean any harm." he wore the most innocent expression that he could pull off under pressure.
"That don't explain it all!" the sheriff retaliated, "You were asking about those accidents! What in the blazes has that got to do with the town's history?" his face was starting to go so red with fury that Sam thought that the man might either burst or have a heart attack at any moment.
"Well, its just..." Dean began.
"Just what?" yelled the sheriff.
"We are particularly interested in the history of railroads and we had been told that there was an accident involving a train on that road many years ago...a train called the Thunder Express"
Sam sat there frozen. Why was Dean telling the sheriff this?
The sheriffs expression changed. A mixture of disgust and sadness radiated out. "You know what I want you two to do? I want you to get the hell outta my town before I throw you in the pen!" he punched the table, "In fact, I'm gonna wait right here for you to pack up your trash, and I'll see you out of town myself!" he was now shaking as the anger continued to simmer within him.
Sam and Dean were backed into a corner. They had no choice but to do as the sheriff said. They got up leaving him waiting, and returned to their rooms and got their belongings together. It didn't take long and they were soon making their way back down the stairs, the sheriff waiting at the bottom.
"They all settled up Maria?" he called to Mrs. Harper.
"Yes. Fortunately they paid for a few days in advance Harvey." she answered from the other side of her counter.
"Now that we're gonna be leaving early, do we get a refund on the rest?" Dean asked sarcastically.
"Shut the hell up and get outside punk!" the sheriff yelled.
"I guess not..." Dean muttered under his breath as they made their way outside.
Much to the relief of Sam and Dean, Sheriff Branscombe didn't go near the Impala. For a moment Sam was sure that he'd want to check the trunk, which would have been a disaster for them. If he'd seen the bombs and weapons that were stashed away in there, they would have been totally screwed.
As it was, the sheriff climbed into his cruiser and started the engine. He idled there until Dean had driven ahead of him slightly, then followed closely behind.
"Now what?" Sam sighed as they drove through the town. He kept glancing in the wing mirror as the sheriff trailed them.
"We come back later, just like we planned. I'm not about to let Sheriff Chuckles out there, get in our way." Dean was focused on the road ahead, but his expression reflected the determination that he felt to deal with this thing once and for all.
"Yeah well lets just hope that he doesn't catch us out here." as Sam said this, he noticed that they were fast approaching said stretch of road. They passed by Dolly's house which is when he looked in the mirror again.
As Dean was concentrating on the road, he didn't notice the same thing that Sam had. Sheriff Branscombe slowed his cruiser right down before passing Dolly's. In fact, he braked too quickly then, and proceeded to make an extremely sharp U-turn and headed back into town.
Sam slouched back into his seat, "Huh, that's strange." he said feeling puzzled.
"What?" Dean asked.
"The sheriff. Hes stopped following us. The way he braked and turned before Dolly's house..."
"Well I'm glad hes not up our ass any more." Dean said happily.
A couple of moments passed by, but something was really beginning to nag away at Sam.
Then it came to him, an epiphany of sorts.
"Dean! Stop the car!" he shouted.
Dean slowed down and pulled into the side of the road, "What is it?" he asked.
"He knows Dean! Hes known all along!"
"Who and what?" Dean asked, confused.
"The sheriff. He knows the truth about the Thunder Express! He knows that's what killed the others and I'm betting that means he knows why!"
"Woah! Wait a minute! How do you figure that Einstein?"
"He was supposed to be running us out of town but stopped just before he got to Dolly's and turned around. They way he did it...real quick, erratic even. And it didn't come to me until now, but did you notice, that he never went to the scene of the killings? A little strange for the towns sheriff not to be involved in something that big. He stayed away....because he knew he'd get killed if he strayed onto that area of road..."
"And," said Dean as he came to realise his brother was right, "hes about the same age as the other victims..."
"Oh my god, Dean! We have to go back and talk to him."
"Dude, hes not exactly going to appreciate us going back there...you heard him, hes got it in for us big time. Besides, he obviously knows he can't leave town, so he won't. He'll stay there, live happily ever after, blah, blah, blah. No biggie."
"Dean, something might happen one day, a situation where he can't avoid trying to leave town...he can't stay there forever." Sam sighed, "Besides, the people who died...their spirits would be stuck there waiting for him. They deserve to move on and be put to rest." he looked at his brother, eyes begging him to do the sensible thing.
"Oh okay already!" Dean gave in, "But I still say we wait until later, give the guy time to cool off a little first..."
Sam smiled. He knew Dean couldn't resist playing the role of hero. Again.
Just after it had begun to get dark, Sam and Dean were headed back towards Jasper. They had spent the rest of that afternoon in a seedy little bar they'd found a few miles away, and chugged back a couple of beers to pass the time.
As usual, the two inevitable things had both happened whilst they were there. Dean had won a nice little bundle cheating at pool, then had some randy little blonde entertain him for a while; until her boyfriend showed up. That's when they had had to leave. Quickly. Sam was wondering if the guy was still trying to follow them even now.
As they neared the haunted strip of road, they could see Dolly's house growing bigger and bigger the closer they got. The moon was shining bright overhead, lighting the surroundings slightly. It was the only way that they even noticed the lone figure walking down the middle of the road just by the house.
Sam squinted, trying to see who it was, "Dean! Its the sheriff!"
Dean accelerated. If they didn't reach the man in time, if he took too many steps further...
Once they were close enough, Dean slammed on the brake and skidded to a halt just inches away from the dazed sheriff.
Sam opened the door and leapt out of the car, "Sheriff! Don't come any further, the Thunder Express, it'll kill you!" Sam spluttered as he rushed towards him.
The sheriff looked different now. The stern hard look from earlier on that day had long vanished, replaced by a defeated expression, "H...how...did you know?" he stammered softly, his eyes deep with sadness. He stopped still in front of Sam.
"I guess you could say that its our job to know." Sam said softly.
"Look," Dean said as he joined them, "how we know about all of this isn't the issue right now. What's important, is that we stop this thing for good, before it kills you."
"Well I was thinkin' that lettin' it get me might be the easier option." the sheriff said quietly.
"No! We were too late to save the others, we ain't gonna lose you to this friggin thing too!" Dean shouted, "Besides, we got to let the spirits of all the people who died on the train pass over..."
Sam looked at his brother, proud that he was doing the right thing even though he'd thought that the sheriff was a complete pain in the ass.
Sheriff Branscombe looked from Dean to Sam, then back to Dean, "This is crazy...how can it even be possible? This time a few weeks ago, I was completely unaware that this kind of thing really existed. Ghosts ain't supposed to be real..."
"Oh their real all right, and this train, the people who died in it, they are seriously pissed off." Dean continued.
The sheriff shook his head in amazement, "So you two, you can get rid of ghosts?" he asked for one last confirmation.
"Yeah." Sam answered.
"You mean like the Ghostbusters?" the sheriff asked
"Kind of," said Dean amused, "only without the dodgy outfits and crappy theme tune. Oh, and we drive a more classy car..."
"And what the hells gonna get rid of this train?" the sheriff asked.
"Well, that kinda depends on you," said Sam carefully, "You need to tell us everything you know about the Thunder Express. If we could figure out why it killed the others and..."
"I know why it killed them!" the sheriff snapped, "And I know why it wants me too!"
"You need to tell us, please." Sam looked imploringly at the broken man who stood before him.
The sheriff sighed heavily, walked over to the Impala and leaned on it's hood for support. "We didn't mean for it to happen...we were just kids who made a dumb mistake..."
"It's okay, you can tell us," said Sam sensing that there was still some reluctance on the sheriffs part to tell the story.
Sheriff Branscombe took in a big breathe before continuing, Sam and Dean listening intently, "We were all friends, me, Larry, Adrian, Steven and Ray. Lived here all our lives. This one day back in '57, a new kid moved into town with his family, Mark Livingston.
"See Mark, he wanted to hang out with us, be our friend, but we used to tease him seeing that he was an outsider and all. His daddy had brought one of the warehouses the other side of town and was a making himself a pretty penny. We dfidn't take to well to rich folk.
"Anyway, Mark was hell bent at tryin' to impress us and sometimes we'd let him keep on tryin' just for the sake of it. This one day he came up to us all excited, said he'd took somethin' from the warehouse. Next thing we knew, he showed us what was in this big bag that he'd had slung over his shoulder. See it turns out that his daddy made and distributed fireworks. Mark had taken this one huge rocket..."
Sam and Dean looked at each other quickly.
"We all sneaked out here this one day to let it off. We were gonna scare Dolly Hancock with it. Anyway, Mark set it up over there," he pointed to a spot on the ground just up ahead, "but the ground was uneven, so he put it down between the tracks so it'd sit straight..." he was starting to struggle with the words now, "H...he lit the fuse and we, we went and hid by the Hancocks fence, and waited...but...but we heard the train whistle...we'd forgotten that it was due to come through.
"It was too late to go back to the rocket, the fuse was burning so fast, we'd have never made it...so we just stayed where we were, hoping...praying that it would go up before the Express got here, but...it didn't. Instead, it went off just as the engine passed over. Then...t..there was this huge explosion. The train it...it was in flames. It spread so quickly. There wasn't anything we could do..." tears started to streak down his cheeks, glittering in the moonlight, "We decided to run...like the cowards we were. But before we got away, another small explosion rang out from one of the carriages and somthin' flew through the air and landed by our feet...it was the blackened remains of a little girls dolly...we killed a child, we killed them all..."
It was a few moments until he could compose himself enough to continue sharing the painful memories.
"We ran home then...and we made a pact," he sobbed," that we'd never tell a living soul about what we'd done, that it'd be our secret, forever..." he looked Sam in the eye, "And it came back for us, to get revenge."
Sam felt emotional at the tragic story, "It was an accident. You wern't to know that was going to happen."
"Yeah well apparently everyone aboard thought otherwise, that's why its here now, right?"
"Sometimes spirits don't always see things black and white," Sam began, "they can't always distinguish between accidents and..."
"I should just let it, let them finish me off! I deserve it!" the sheriff interrupted, shouting like his old self. He was extremely angry with himself now. "Or maybe...maybe Mark had the right idea..."
"Thats why he killed himself, isn't it?" Dean asked.
"Yeah. He always blamed himself, more so then the rest of us. Said if he'd never took the damn rocket..." some fresh tears dripped from his eyes and he wiped at them with his sleeve, "He couldn't handle knowin' the truth no more it'd drivin' him insane, so he got his ticket out of here..." he sighed, "As for me, I got into law enforcement, thought that if I could save some lives, it might make up for what I did. Didn't even marry for fear I'd might get so close enough to someone that I might let the truth slip...its been so lonely livin' like this."
"Look, I'm sorry that you've lost your friends sheriff, but letting it kill you isn't the right thing to do. If you feel guilty, then maybe you could tell everyone what really happened that day. Back then, you chose to run away from it, but now, you have the chance to do the brave thing." Sam said, "You have lived with this for long enough."
"Yeah, and look where its gotten you. It caught up with you anyway." added Dean.
"How'd we stop it then?" the sheriff asked.
Sam looked at Dean, "We er, havn't quite figured that out yet."
"We've kinda come to a dead end with this at the mo..." Dean suddenly paused, and Sam noticed his expression change.
"What is it Dean?" Sam asked.
"Dead end..." Dean repeated, though more to himself.
The sheriff and Sam shared a look as they waited for Dean to let them in on whatever it was that he was thinking.
"Sam, do you remember the story that Bobby told us once about the phantom hitchhiker in Kentucky?"
"Yeah, so?" Sam asked confused.
"Phantom hitchhiker?" the sheriff asked bewildered.
"Yeah. You see this guy was murdered out on a highway there, and every year after, he haunted it. See he never caused any harm to anyone, but frightened anyone who passed through. One year Bobby went down there hopin' to try and help this guy to move on. Turns out all he'd wanted was to get to the next town, which is where he'd been headin' to on the night when he was murdered. So Bobby gave him a ride...soon as they got to the town, the hitchhiker passed over. No one ever saw him again."
"That's great Dean, but what's that got to do with any of this?" Sam asked.
"Well I figure those people who where on the Thunder Express are pissed for a couple of reasons, one, they didn't appreciate the sheriff here and his friends putting an end to their journey, and two, they never made it to to their final stop."
"So....?" Sam muttered.
"So, I think maybe its about time that they did. Its just a couple of miles away. Originally it was the end of the line."
Sam thought about this for a moment, "Dean, you really think that could work, I mean, they are out for revenge..."
"I don't know, but it's the best idea I've got, unless of course you can think of anything better..."
"Saying that we actually tried this, how would we even get the train to go there?"
"We drive there, get it to follow us."
"But Dean, it won't follow you and me."
"I know. That's why we're gonna use bait to draw it out." Dean looked at the sheriff when he said this.
"Dean!" Sam snapped, "We were trying to save his life, not put him in the firing line, remember?"
The sheriff looked at Sam, "Hes right kid, it's the only way. Hell, I was about to let it kill me before you two showed up tonight anyway. And like you said, Its about time that I did the brave thing."
Sam was having serious doubts about this new plan, but Dean had had a point, there was really nothing else left to try, though that didn't make him feel any better about putting the sheriff's life at risk. There was also something else that was troubling him slightly. "Dean, just one thing that I've been wondering about. When we saw Adrian Cole get killed, his car froze up first. What if the same happens to us?" he asked.
"I've been giving that some thought. If we throw the salt bombs at regular intervals, I reckon that it wont have the power to do that to us, even though it will still be completely visible. It wont take us long to get to where we are heading, so as long as we can keep it up until then."
"I just hope that you are right about this Dean, if it goes wrong, it will kill us too. Its not gonna stop going after the sheriff just because we are in the same car..."
"Yeah well, thats a risk we're gonna have to take Sammy. It wouldn't be the first time that we've been in danger tryin' to save someone else."
"I guess, but it makes me wonder when our luck will finally run out, and that if next time, will be the last time."
Dean looked at Sam seriously, "Sam, if I didn't think that we would make it through all this stuff, I wouldn't do it, and I definitely wouldn't put you in danger if I didn't think that we had half a chance." he slapped Sam playfully across the back, "Just have a little faith bro. It's gonna be a long time before anything happens to us." he smiled quickly.
"I hope so," said Sam.
"You know so!" Dean coughed, "Anyway, enough of this mushy crap, we've got a job to do." with that he opened the trunk of the Impala and started to take out the homemade bombs one by one.
"Its a good thing that you two are helpin' me out otherwise I'd have to arrest you for all that." the sheriff said as he gawked in astonishment at the arsenal.
"Hey sheriff, your cruiser got a sun roof?" Dean asked ignoring the last comment.
"It would be better if we drove that. Sam could throw the bombs out as we go, plus we'd be better off with the four wheeled drive. Might hit some bumpy spots driving over the field."
"Sure, whatever you thinks best." the sheriff said as he tossed Dean his keys. Dean then ran to the cruiser and drove it closer. As soon as he was parked, he and Sam began loading the bombs into the back seat.
"Okay. Sheriff, you sit shot gun. I'll drive." Dean said this with a worrying grin, but they all piled into the cruiser as directed.
Once in the back, Sam opened up the sun roof. Luckily it opened up wide, and he was able to get the top half of his body out of it comfortably. He dropped back inside and began to unscrew the bottle lids from the bombs, and stuff the rags into the top so that they were all ready to go. Then holding one of the bombs, he pushed his upper half through the sun roof again, getting ready.
"Sam? you all set?" Dean called to him.
"Yeah." Sam said un-confidently.
Dean started the cruiser and drove very slowly toward the danger zone but turned to face across the field just before. "Okay, here goes..." he mumbled as he started to drive directly where the tracks would have originally been before applying the brake.
All three of them waited, ears listening carefully, eyes darting across the dark field to the back of the cruiser. A cold breeze whipped Sam's hair around his face, when at the same moment, the first whistle sounded out. "Its here!" he yelled.
Dean held his foot ready at the gas pedal. Let it get a little closer...
Sam had a magnificent view off the Thunder Express as it materialised on the invisible track a few miles behind the cruiser. The steam spew out angrily as it rushed urgently towards them. He pulled a lighter from his jacket and held it to the rag ready. "Dean! Step on it!" he yelled, but he could hear the engine start to splutter slightly. He lit the rag and threw the bomb towards the approaching train. It fell to the ground ahead of it, but blew as the train passed over. Millions of salt particles were sent off like a volcano eruption, the train seemed to slow slightly, but the engine of the cruiser suddenly grew strong.
Without another moments hesitation, Dean stepped onto the gas pedal and they sped off at top speed, the train hot on their heels. Sam reached down for another bomb, lit it, and chucked it at the train. It went off as the fuse burned down, the salt yet again weakening the metal monster slightly.
Dean drove carefully across the baron but lumpy field, the sheriff nervously directing him towards the location of what was once the next station. Sam yet again reached for another of the bombs, lit it and threw it. He repeated this every so often along the short journey, until there was only one left. Before he lit it, he looked around and saw that they were approaching an old platform, overgrown with weeds and wildflowers. They had nearly made it. He turned and lit the last bomb, again throwing it at the train which had almost caught them up.
He watched as that one also showered the train with the salt within, then turned his attention to where they were headed. The platform was suddenly rushing by the left side of the cruiser, and Dean had picked up extra speed bringing them further ahead of the Express.
But suddenly, Dean hit the brakes hard. Sam held on with all his might, but was nearly thrown out of the top with the force. "Dean!" he yelled as they skidded to a halt. "Dean its still coming!" sure enough, the Express was on course, and was gaining speed now.
Sam dropped into the cruiser realising that the overgrowth ahead was blocking the rest of the way, all three of them reached for the handles. But the doors wern't opening. Desperately, they banged at the windows and tried the handles again and again, but it was no good.
"Damn it!" Dean yelled.
"Dean how the hell are we..." Sam turned to look out of the back window when he heard the train screeching to a stop on the non-existing track. It rolled for a short distance before it gave in to it's brakes.
"What the hell...?" Dean said turning in his seat to get a look at what was going on outside behind them, the sheriff doing the same.
As they looked at the suddenly still train, they couldn't believe their eyes. Right there inches in front of it, stood Dolly Hancock in her long white night gown and slippers. The steam whirled around her peacefully.
"What on earth is Dolly doin' out here?" the sheriff asked in utter astonishment.
Sam tried the door handle again. This time it opened and he got out of the cruiser, and began to walk slowly around the back. Dean and the sheriff had soon joined him, and they watched amazed as the driver of the ghostly train stepped down from the engine and greeted Dolly with a smile.
"Its her father..." Sam said softly.
"We should go get her..." the sheriff said as he began to walk towards Dolly, but Dean reached an arm out, stopping him from going any further. "But we have to take her home..."
"Shes not going home." Dean said quietly.
"I don't understand..." said the sheriff confused. He looked at Sam hoping that he'd shed some light on the situation.
"Dolly must have died...that's her spirit." Sam said emotionally.
All three men stood and watched as the ghost of Dolly Hancock was reunited with her father after all of the long years that had passed since she had last seen him. Mr. Hancock was tall, he towered over Dolly as he gently cupped her face in both hands and beamed proudly at her. From the windows of the carriages, faces looked out to see their driver and his daughter, some began to step out onto the shabby platform, each disappearing completely after a few steps.
Dolly turned her head and looked directly at Sam, Dean and the sheriff, giving them a smile and a wink. Then she followed her father up into the engine, the whole train began to flicker and shimmer, it became more translucent as the remaining passengers vanished from sight, then the train itself was gone.
"Phew! That was a close one!" said Dean relieved.
The sheriff was frozen to the spot still staring at the now empty platform, his jaw wide open.
"Well, she told us that her father had promised her a ride on the train..." Sam said thoughtfully, smiling at the happy ending.
Thanks to the sheriff sweet talking Mrs. Harper for them, Sam and Dean had been allowed to stay at The Oak Tree until the following morning when it became time for them to leave Jasper. They drove slowly through the town. It was already turning into another beautiful day, the early sun golden upon everything that it touched. There was clearly a lighter atmosphere today, the weight of angry spirits finally lifted and released.
As they approached the road that had brought them to the town in the first place, they spotted sheriff Branscombe's cruiser parked outside the late Dolly Hancock's house.
Dean pulled the Impala over just as the sheriff and deputy Denholm were coming out of the front door, and were greeted by smiles from both of them. The deputy was walking Mr. Charles on his leash.
"Hey there fellas!" the sheriff called out as he walked over to the Impala. Dean wound his window down so that they could talk to him, "You on your way out now?"
"Yeah, we don't tend to hang around once our job has been done." said Dean.
"Look, I'm glad you two stopped by," the sheriff said quietly so that the deputy wouldn't be able to hear, "I just wanted to thank you again for what you did last night. This afternoon I'm gonna be tellin' the authorities about what really happened with the Thunder Express all them years ago. To be honest, I'll be glad to get it all out into the open once and for all." he sighed, "I'll be turnin' in my badge too. Figure it's about time an old fogey like me should retire, let the deputy step up. It seems like the right thing to do now."
"Well good luck with everything sheriff." Sam smiled.
"Yeah, hope they don't give you too much of a hard time." Dean added.
"Oh! I almost forgot!" the sheriff said excitedly, changing the subject, "Seems old Dolly took an instant shine to you boys! Must have realised she didn't have long left, we found a note which was a bit like a livin' will." he turned to look at the deputy, "Hey Joe! Wanna bring him over!"
Dean suddenly had a really horrible feeling.
"Left you the dog!" the sheriff chuckled, he bent down to pick Mr. Charles up and stroked him affectionately on the head.
"Er...you know, we travel too much to keep a pet." said Dean his expression horrified as he remembered the last time that he'd seen the frisky canine.
Sam was sniggering, but managed to turn serious, "You know sheriff, maybe you could keep him for us. He'll give you some company, you won't be so alone any more."
"Why...thank you boys..." he said, eyes sparkling with joy as he gave his new friend a pat on the head. Mr. Charles licked his face in appreciation. It was a match made in heaven.
"So er, we'd better get goin' then..." Dean said, now in an obvious hurry to get as far away from the dog as possible.
The sheriff looked back at the brothers smiling, "You two take care now, y'hear."
"We'll try to!" Dean assured him. With that he started the Impala up again and drove out of town.
"Dean, can I ask you something?" Sam said after a long silence.
"Yup, what's wrong?" he looked quickly from the road to Sam and noticed that he looked upset.
"Its just...I was thinking about when Dolly died. She was reunited with her father's spirit, and it makes me wonder if, when it's our time..." he trailed off.
"Do you think we'll be reunited with mom and dad? Will we see them again?"
Dean felt a surge of emotions slap at him hard. He glanced once more at Sam who was staring back at him, waiting for an answer, an answer that would comfort him. It was the same way that he'd looked at him the day that he was told that monsters existed, but Santa didn't. A plea for reassurance from his big brother, some sure sign that there was still a glint of hope in this evil desperate world.
Blinking back tears that were threatening to appear, Dean turned to focus back on the road, "I...I don't know Sammy." he said gently, "But y'know, if there was a way that they could be there for us...waitin'...I know they'd try. That's something that we can hold on to, something that we can believe in. Something to keep fighting for..."
"I...I guess." Sam mumbled, struggling to keep his own emotions at bay.
"Anyway!" Dean added, slapping Sam on the knee trying to change the mood, "It's gonna be a long while before we get to find out. If we die too early, dad will kick our butts!"
Sam chuckled, "Yeah, he would!"
We're gonna make 'em proud Sam!" Dean smiled as he pictured mom and dad's faces, that alone was heaven.
"Thanks Dean." Sam said after a few moments.
"For always knowing exactly what to say."
"Yeah well just don't tell anyone. I've got a reputation to uphold." and with that, he pressed play on the out-dated cassette deck, and as Boston's Peace Of Mind flowed out of the speakers, he cranked up the volume.
Then it was on to the next hunt.