Martin Ellroy glared right back at the insolent snot of a hunter when the guy and the taller kid following him came back into the roadhouse. This was far better than he'd expected. He knew hunters were unstable and paranoid, but to have them all turn on one another like rats in a cage, it was all he could do to keep from rubbing his hands together in glee.
The best part was the dark-haired boy who seemed to have a clue about what was going on was the one they were blaming. Well, except for the guy with him, Winchester. Ellroy knew the name, of course. Anyone who'd studied hunters and their prey knew that name, along with a few of the others here tonight. He really had no idea why the others hated the two Winchesters so much, nor did he care.
What he did know was it was poetic justice. He'd only met the other Winchester once, briefly for a few minutes. The man hadn't said a word to him, simply nodded, letting his partner do all the talking. Harvelle was the other hunter's name, and he'd done the talking, made the promises both he and Winchester broke. Ellroy figured these two boys were Winchester's sons.
"We'll keep your family safe. We'll get that monster, make sure no one gets hurt ever again by it, send it back to Hell where it belongs." That's what Harvelle had said.
That's not what Harvelle and Winchester had done. Ellroy had spent a month in a hospital recuperating. When he was released from the hospital, he faced the task of burying his wife, son and daughter. All because two hunters promised to protect them and failed. Two men who were supposed to keep his family safe and alive and had let them die.
Ellroy learned years later Harvelle also died, but that was of little consequence. The fact that Winchester's sons were here was dumb luck and a huge bonus. Frankly, Ellroy didn't care what hunters he killed, or who he hurt killing them, as long as they paid and paid big.
He'd lived his life seeking out knowledge and putting together huge amounts of research for various projects. Finding a way to slaughter a bunch of hick hunters using one of the very things they hunted was child's play. The fact he'd dabbled in the black arts of witchcraft for many years didn't hurt his cause either.
The only kink in his plan was the taller of the two Winchesters. He was barely more than a boy, but he seemed to know things he shouldn't. Maybe the talk from these other hunters was true. Ellroy had no idea and didn't actually care beyond the fact the kid might be able to finger him as the daeva master.
Ellroy had sipped his beer and watched the entertainment as his pet pulled the loud, very drunken, very obnoxious Sears to bits. It was a thing of beauty and joy. Another hunter dead was another form of payment.
The woman, Harvelle's wife, slipped through the parking lot and Ellroy watched as she searched the car, swearing softly when he saw her pull his hex bag from under the seat. She disappeared to the back of the building, where Ellroy knew there were rooms hunters stayed in and rented from her.
She and the two Winchester brats were back a short time later. The dark-haired kid, Sam, he kept shooting odd glances at Ellroy. The other one, the mean one, Dean, he did the same, but Ellroy could tell they were doing so for different reasons. He had the definite impression Dean was simply curious as to why he was here, maybe a bit suspicious, but nothing like the others. Of the entire lot he'd seen, Dean Winchester seemed to be the least paranoid and most reasonable.
His brother, however, was another matter entirely. The kid was freaked to hell and back, which delighted Ellroy to no end. There was something else, some awareness from the kid that he didn't get from anyone else. His gaze slipped to Ellroy a few times, and the words Ellroy caught were unsettling…daeva, hexbag, someone in control…each time Sam Winchester heard or spoke one of those words, his gaze would flick around the room and invariably land on Ellroy for a few seconds longer than anywhere else.
When Sam snagged his brother's sleeve in two fingers and pulled him close enough to whisper in his ear, the other Winchester's head tipped around far enough that Ellroy realized they were talking about him.
Pretending to stagger slightly, Ellroy completely ignored them as he left the bar and headed back to his own room. These insignificant bugs were no cause for concern. By daybreak, they'd all be nothing but a pile of blood, bones and tissue for scavengers to dine upon.
The car wasn't the only place there was a hexbag, nor was it the only weapon at his disposal. A short rest, a snack and a few more cleverly placed objects and these hunters would all be toast.
Sam eased onto one of the stools, still feeling shaky and uncertain. It didn't matter what Dean said, these other hunters were going to believe he was behind the killings. If they did manage to convince the pack of bozos there was a daeva afoot—and half these men probably had never dealt with one before—they'd surely blame Sam for being the master.
He glanced over at the door when three of the hunters stalked into the roadhouse. Dean immediately puffed up like a pissed off cat and walked forward to greet them.
"Larry, how's things?" Dean looked around the man to the two men behind him. "And how is your brother Daryl and your other brother Daryl?"
One of the Daryls, Sam wasn't sure which one, spit at the floor, missing Dean's boot by a good foot or more. Dropping his gaze to the floor, Dean shrugged and shook his head. "Hope you pee with better aim than that."
Ellen leaned over the bar and tapped against Sam's shoulder, "This is his idea of diffusing the situation?"
Nodding, Sam sighed, "Yeah, actually, it is."
"Listen, Winchester," Larry stepped forward and jabbed at Dean's shoulder with two fingers, making Sam wince. "No beef with you." He shifted his gaze to Sam. "But we all know what we've heard about your brother here. Not your fault, no one blames you, nothing you could have done, but he's dangerous and he needs to go."
Dean rocked back and forth a few times before settling his weight on his heels. He took a deep breath and blew out a fake groan. "You, or any of your…friends, touch my brother and you'll be dead before you have time to move."
Even Sam shivered at Dean's tone. It was low, lethal and serious. Larry and the Daryls backed up a few steps, making Sam's lips curl to a small smile.
"Sam didn't do a damn thing wrong. We were all in this room. That thing is a Daeva, look it up if you don't know about them. Someone is controlling it. Go search our room. Nothing in there can be used as an altar or to control a Daeva."
"We should do that." One of the Daryls reached out and jostled Larry's elbow.
Glancing back at his buddy, Larry nodded. Holding out his hand, he turned his attention to Ellen. "Gimme the key."
Wordlessly, Ellen reached under the bar, retrieved the extra key and tossed it to Larry who snatched it out of the air. Turning on his heel, his friends parted and he strode between them.
"I think that priest is involved somehow. The energy radiated from near him, or from the part of the room he was sitting in."
Twisting around to look at Sam, Dean pointed to the table the priest recently vacated. "You two check around in here. I'm going to keep an eye on the peanut gallery."
"Sammy, it'll be fine, but they need to look around our room without you in it. I don't want them planting anything. Just go with me on this and stay put for a few, okay, please?"
Sam opened his mouth, but Ellen's hand on his bicep stopped him. "He's right, honey. They need to see this isn't you."
Meeting Dean's gaze, Sam nodded once and swallowed down his apprehension. He wasn't at all confident about staying behind here while Dean followed the other hunters. Dean's face softened and he dipped his chin in response to Sam, making it perfectly clear he'd be back soon and things would work out. He wore his very definite don't worry expression.
Sam was going to worry anyway.
Watching Dean walk out the door and waiting until it swung shut behind him, Sam started when Ellen moved away from the bar and toward the table the priest had occupied all night. He slid off the stool and followed her.
"What are we looking for?" She bent down and checked under the table.
"Another hexbag, anything that could be used in an altar or to hold the Daeva in it, any sort of religious relic. When we dealt with them before Meg used a bowl of blood and an athame. They're considered false gods, so anything that can be used in worship can be used to hold them and give the person control over them."
Ellen stopped and straightened. "Great."
"Hey," Sam shrugged and crossed the room to check along the wall behind the table, "I don't make this stuff up, I just look it up."
Snorting, Ellen tipped over the chairs and checked their undersides while Sam felt along the walls then knelt and ran his fingers over the baseboards. "Something was taped to the bottom." She flicked at the small piece of clear packaging tape hanging loose.
"What's that?" Sam pointed to the tape as he stepped closer. Tiny bits of silver flecked the tape.
"Something metallic." Using her fingernail Ellen picked at one of the larger bits. "I think it's just paint."
Sam traced the indent left by the object with his thumb. "It's shaped like a knife. The athame, that has to be what he had here."
"Sort of chintzy for a thousands-year-old relic, don't you think?"
Shaking his head, Sam looked over at her. "It doesn't have to be a relic. Hell, it's probably a cheap store-bought piece of crap, but if he's blessed it properly and uses it properly it won't matter."
"So, he's keeping a Daeva in it?" Ellen sounded more than a little skeptical.
"We need to find out." Sam took the chair and set it down before heading to the door, Ellen running to catch up. They left the main part of the roadhouse and broke into a sprint when they heard Dean and the other three men arguing…again.
Just as Sam rounded the corner, Dean stormed away from the door to their room, throwing his hands in the air.
"That doesn't prove a damn thing, we've all got those. I've got one, Sam has one, hell you probably have two!"
Larry was marching after Dean, one of the Daryls right behind him. To Sam's utter surprise—and from the expression on Dean's face, his too—he grabbed Larry's arm, stopping him. "Larry, man, I have one, too, he's right. There wasn't anything in there to prove anything."
Turning and wiping one hand over his face, Larry looked his friend up and down and nodded. "Yeah, yeah, okay, yeah, you got me on that one." He turned back to Dean. "Look, Winchester, just 'cause Sal here has one too still doesn't prove to me your demon spawn brother is innocent. Or that he doesn't need putting down and putting down now."
Dean's face went from shock to deadly anger in less than a second. "You stupid—" his words stopped when every outdoor light exploded in a rain of ozone and glass.
Even though they were outside, the entire world seemed to close in on Sam, pressing against him from all sides until he wanted to scream and claw his way out. Tingling shot up and down his spine until all he could do was figure out how to continue breathing.
Dark descended, far darker than what a moonless night with no lights should have provided. He heard Dean jerk to one side and felt his brother bump into him, shoving him a few steps farther from Larry and Sal.
Dean's fingers wound around Sam's wrist and he hissed, "Sam," right next to Sam's ear.
Sam shook his head, and managed to stammer out, "I don't know."
Sal screamed. The dark receded enough that they all got a good view of his feet and hands flapping in the wake of his body as he was lifted from behind and hauled backwards. One of the other doors opened, and Sal was dragged through and it slammed shut.
"What's in there?" Larry turned and shouted at Ellen, pointing to the door Sal had been thrown behind.
Color dropped from Ellen's face. She turned to Sam, ignoring Sal and his other friend who'd come running from Dean and Sam's room. "That priest."
"Who I'm betting is no priest." Dean sprinted at the door, Sam right behind him. Barely slowing down, Dean did exactly as Sam expected, kicking at the door.
Larry shoved Sam aside and followed Dean into the priest's room. Ellen, Sam and the other Daryl came to a stop near the door. Sal, or more to the point, what was left of Sal, was scattered over the floor and walls. Bits of blood, bone and tissue fanned out in a half circle.
The priest stood behind a folding table at one end of the massacre, giggling. "You." He pointed to Ellen. "You bring them all here."
"What?" She took a few steps toward him, carefully avoiding the carnage on the floor.
"You have no idea what you're messing with there." Dean moved so he blocked Ellen from getting any closer to the crazy priest.
"Oh, that's where you're wrong. See, I do. I've spent years studying this stuff, so really, I do." He picked up a knife and moved the tip around a stone slab sitting on top the folding table. It looked almost as if he were doodling. "You hunters think you're so great. Want to know what hunters did for me?" He spat the word hunters out as if it were a vile taste in his mouth. "Promised to keep my family safe, and get rid of the thing inside my boy. They got rid of it alright, it and my boy, my wife, my girl."
"Look, Mr—?" Sam took a step forward.
"Ellroy. Name mean anything to any of you?"
They all stood there silently. Fortunately Larry and his friend had the good sense to not respond, as did Dean, Ellen and Sam.
"Mr. Ellroy," Sam kept his voice soft and low, "whatever happened, it was an accident."
"An accident that cost me everything!" Ellroy screamed. "See, these two guys show up after my son, my nine year old son, had been acting strange for a while. We took him to doctor after doctor, but not one did any good. Then these two show up, claim it's a demon." He made larger doodles with the knife and mumbled a few words under his breath.
The room behind him started to darken, small tendrils of a shadow began forming. They slithered down the walls and began meeting and coalescing into a larger shadow.
"The one guy, Harvelle, he says him and his buddy, they'll get rid of the demon, make sure my family is safe."
Dean's shoulders sagged. He turned far enough to meet Sam's eyes, "Oh crap."
Sam knew as well as Dean and Ellen where this story was going. Their father and Ellen's husband had gone on a hunt together, Harvelle had died, the demon escaped.
"So, see I find out about this place that lots of hunters go to," he giggled manically again. "Lady, what you've got here is boxed lunch for my little pet. I'm going to get rid of as many of you as I can."
"None of us were even there!" Larry shouted. "Enrique!"
The other Daryl—Enrique—was pulled past Sam and into the room, pinned to the floor, squirming and struggling, being covered with what was left of Sal.
The blackness flowed forward, threatening to smother out Enrique. Larry was moving fast toward him, bending down, arms outstretched.
"No!" Sam shouted and darted after him.
"You can't do this!" Larry's pleas were ignored by Ellroy and mingled with Enrique's screams when the Daeva curled around his arms and legs, pulling them in different directions.
Holding the athame in both hands and raising them high over his head, Ellroy glared at them. "Yes, I can."
Despite all of them yelling out warnings, Ellroy slammed the blade onto the stone slab. When cheap metal met hard stone, it shattered.
"Oh crap," Ellen exhaled.
"Shit," Dean spat.
"We're so screwed. You moron," Larry growled, still struggling to get Enrique on his feet and out of the shadow.
Enrique's feet slipped over the floor as he tried pushing away from the thing, his fingers scrabbled along the wooden planks. Dean was closest to them. He gasped and lurched sideways when the dark shadow stretched away from the men on the floor and at him.
Sam didn't think or consider his actions, he simply moved. Crossing the room, he got between Larry, Enrique and Dean and the shadow. "Stop it," he snarled out, throwing both hands out in front of him. The sharp tingle sitting at the base of his spine spread through out his back and torso until he felt as if he were encased in a bubble of energy. Every nerve ending snapped and popped.
The shadow pulled back, rearing so it flowed along the ceiling and screeched then narrowed to an arrow thin streak of black and shot straight at Sam's chest.
Closing his eyes and steeling himself for whatever impact with this thing would do, Sam let go of the energy. The Daeva hit him hard in his solar plexus. Sam was thrown backwards, the Daeva literally bounced off him and was slung in the opposite direction. It hit Ellroy, throwing him up and back into the wall behind him. Ellroy screamed and thrashed as the Daeva whirled around him, stripping his bones clean.
Whipping into a vortex, the Daeva skimmed one way then the other, back and forth across the room. Everything launched into the air: papers, clothes and bed linens were flung in all directions.
Pressure built in Sam's ears. He was barely aware of Dean beside him, shouting something, tugging then pulling hard on his arms. Feeling as if his breath was being squeezed from his chest, Sam fought desperately to fill his lungs and balance the force of pressure within him.
This thing was horrifying and terrified him beyond what he'd ever imagined. The only thought Sam could form and keep in his head was he wanted it away from him, from Dean, from all of them and he wanted it to go away now. He had a vague awareness of his lips moving, but he didn't know what he was saying.
With no warning, everything stopped. The vile darkness vanished, replaced by a normal dark, perforated here and there by wisps of light from somewhere outside. Dean was jerking him backwards, putting one arm across his chest and pushing Sam so he was completely behind Dean. Handgun out, Dean stared down Larry.
"You back the hell off now!" Dean shouted, stepping away from Larry and closer to the door, shoving at Sam as he did so.
Sam had no choice but to go. His head felt fuzzy, the world slippingd into and out of focus. Ellen's fingers wound around his forearm, giving Dean assistance in forcing him out of the room. Sam stumbled along blindly, vision graying in and out along with his hearing. One second everything was clear and sharp, easily heard, and the next, the world was blurry and muffled.
Stumbling, he tripped over his own feet and would have hit the ground face first had Dean not gotten a good hold on him and steadied him.
"How did you do that?" Enrique and Larry were running out of the room right behind them.
"How'd I do—?" Sam looked at Dean who was moving fast to put himself between Sam and the two men.
Dean snarled a warning to Larry and Enrique again. "You stay away from him. You're not hurting him. He saved your sorry asses. The person you accused of killing those others was the one who kept you from being demon chum." Dean had Sam by the collar and was leading him farther away from the two men and the row of rooms. "C'mon, Sammy, we've got to get you taken care of."
"Huh?" Sam realized he was staring at his feet and looked up at his brother.
"You're bleeding, sweetie," Ellen said softly. She slipped one arm around Sam's waist and turned him, and Dean, toward the roadhouse.
Sam let himself be led to the roadhouse and inside. Dean gently pushed him onto a bar stool while Ellen ran behind the bar, grabbed a rag, drenched it in water and wrung it out. "Here." She handed the rag to Dean and Sam wondered absently if Dean was hurt. He tried to make his eyes focus and his brain work long enough to take stock of Dean's condition.
"Thanks." Dean took the rag with one hand and cupped the back of Sam's head with the other, pressing the rag to his face. "Can you hold that there?"
"Why?" When Sam didn't do anything, simply sat there with his hands in his lap, Dean moved his hand from the back of Sam's head to his chin and tilted it up, forcing him to meet Dean's very worried gaze.
"Sammy? C'mon, kiddo, stick with me, okay?" Dean dabbed at Sam's face, pulled the rag away long enough for him to see it was spotted with blood. "Thanks." Dean reached over the bar when Ellen held out another rag. "Sam, what did you do?"
"Do? I-I'm not sure. I wanted it to go away. It was hurting everyone, and was going after you. The thing scared me and I wanted it gone."
Dean, very much to Sam's surprise, cracked a grin. "It's gone alright. So is the back wall of that room." His hand left Sam's chin, throwing Sam off balance for a few seconds until Dean rubbed the top of Sam's head.
"They saw me?"
Nodding, Dean took the rag and set it on the bar. "You've stopped bleeding. You had a nosebleed. You saved them, Sammy. You sort of did the same thing you did at Cold Oak and you stopped the Daeva from killing those assholes. You stopped it, Sammy, and you saved them. That's a good thing. You did good, Sam."
Sam blinked at him, trying to concentrate on Dean's words and face. "It's okay I used it?"
Face softening to a smile, Dean nodded. "It was more than okay." His hand dropped to Sam's shoulder giving a squeeze. Hand sliding under Sam's shoulder, Dean nudged him to his feet.
Sliding his feet until he could stand, Sam swayed a bit, leaning against Dean's grip for a few seconds until the room stopped its seesawing and he could navigate by himself. Nodding at Dean, "I'm good now."
"You boys should go."
"Now she agrees with me." Dean rubbed thumb and forefinger under his eyes and shook his head. "You sure you're good?"
"I'll be better in about a hundred miles." Sam smiled weakly and turned to Ellen. "No offence. Sorry about all the trouble."
"It wasn't your fault, either of you. I'll get everything cleaned up here. I think Larry and Enrique will help me with any other hunters who have stupid ideas."
"Thanks, Ellen." Dean turned Sam toward the door and gave him a gentle shove.
It didn't take them long to pack their belongings and load the Impala. Sam sank gratefully into the passenger seat while Dean finished stowing away their duffels and slammed the trunk closed. Sliding down until his head rested against the seatback, Sam rolled it to the side when Dean slid into the driver's seat. He reached out and patted Sam's arm.
"Hey, you sure you're okay?"
Nodding, Sam blinked lazily and yawned. "Yeah, I am. Things are sort of hazy and I feel a few seconds behind the rest of the world, if that makes sense."
"Oddly enough, it does." Dean started the car and drove down the long, dirt drive to the highway.
The whole last day had been one disaster after another, but Sam could only focus on one thing. He'd done good. That's what Dean had said, that's what Dean thought; Sam had done good. As long as Dean thought so, it was more than enough for Sam.