A/N: So this year, I decided to write a scary story in honor of Halloween, perhaps my favorite holiday of all time. I'll keep updating (and keep you on your toes) until Halloween. This particular inspiration came from a level in a game called "Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines" to which I claim no ownership. If you like having the pants scared off of you, and enjoy not being able to sleep due to watching every corner of your room until the sun rises, play the game. It's good for a great scare.
In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace-
Radiant palace- reared its head.
But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate.
(Ah, let us mourn!- for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate!)
-Edgar Allan Poe, "The Haunted Palace" (1839)
"Haunted hotel," Dean muttered, shaking his head. "Just keeps sounding stranger every time I hear it." Still, he leaned back against the Impala and took a good look at the place.
It was creepy looking. No two ways about it. It wasn't as bad as being attacked by a pretty Paris Hilton, but the broken down boards of the five story, condemned hotel still left Dean fighting off a shiver.
"Any idea why it was condemned?" Dean asked, glancing back into the car. Sam was sitting in the passenger seat frowning at his laptop, looking tempted to smack it if his hand motions were any indication. Dean gave a brief grin before turning back to the place. It felt good to have Sam doing the geek part of the job. Dean hadn't been very good at it. Sure, good enough to get the usual info, but he still wasn't as good as Sam.
Actually, it was just good to have Sam at all. The few weeks they'd been separated had seemed like months. Dean had been so weary, so ready to toss the towel in. Keeping away from his brother had seemed like such a good idea, to just give Dean some time to recuperate.
Then Zachariah had done his mind mojo and thrown Dean forward a few years, and when Dean had convinced Sam to return to the job, he'd wondered why the hell he hadn't done it sooner.
"A fire," Sam said, a frown prevalent in his voice. "I think."
It was Dean's turn to frown. "You think? You don't ever think with your research. You just know. Why think?"
Sam shrugged. "Half of the sources are claiming a fire of some kind, while others cite non-damage to the hotel and claim it was rats or mold."
Rats. Dean shivered for real this time. "I hate rats," he grumbled.
"I know," came the understanding reply. "If there were rats in there, though, they would've fled ages ago. No food, and the one thing every source agrees on is the decrepit state of the place. Rotted floors, broken windows."
That's what had gotten Gina Moreles killed, some ten years ago. She'd wandered into the house on a dare and had fallen through the rotted staircase, according to her friends and the authorities. Ever since, she'd been haunting the place, and last week some other stupid kid had died at her hands.
Dean pursed his lips and gave the hotel another glance over. It didn't look rotted and run down to him. It just looked empty, vacant, and old. Dirty. The paint was peeling, sure, and the door looked easy enough to open with just a breath of air. Cloth from the curtains inside waved in the slight breeze.
But he counted two windows broken, and both were on the ground floor, probably from teens trying to get in. Half of the sources were right at least: Dean didn't see any fire damage, either. And he didn't see how there were rotted floors inside.
"I'm starting to doubt that Gina went through the floor," Sam said from the car, and Dean grinned. He'd forgotten how good it felt to be in sync with a partner, with his brother.
"Me neither," Dean said, pushing off from the car. "We'll check it out tonight, though. Until then, we'll find a motel that's not haunted to stay in, maybe do a little bit more research, snag some food. Then we'll see how haunted the place really is."
"Library, if we can," Sam said when Dean slid into the driver's side. "My wi-fi connection's for crap."
Dean gave a nod, then spared the place one last glimpse. There was just something wrong about the place, something that made him uneasy. And Dean didn't feel that way about most things. Lucifer, sure, but Dean figured that was sort of the point. Angels and demons, definitely an uneasy feeling there, unless they were Cas.
A five story resort-like hotel that had been abandoned in the 60's? Wouldn't have been on Dean's list. Hell, it wouldn't have made their list at all if they hadn't decided to leave the angel thing to Cas and just take regular jobs for awhile.
In the passenger seat next to him, Sam was quiet, still trying to get his laptop to work. Unless Dean gave any serious indication towards a conversation, he highly doubted that Sam would say anything. Not unless it pertained to a job. Sam hadn't really spoken much since they'd gotten back together. Not completely silent, just...quieter than usual. Wasn't even really that awkward.
Still didn't mean Dean liked it, though. There was a sudden longing in his chest for the days when they'd just talked freely, without worrying about the eggshells to step on between them. Dean hated feeling like that, and hated it even more because it was with Sam. He'd never felt that way about Sam before. At least, not before Hell and Ruby and the dickish angels stepped in.
He cleared his throat. "You get a feeling for the house?" he asked, half to start a conversation, half to get Sam's thoughts on it.
Sam looked up from the laptop to glance at the hotel in the side mirror. "Yeah," he said finally. "There's something seriously wrong. It feels...cold." He turned to Dean. "You too, huh?"
"Yeah," Dean said. "Me too." He felt better the minute he pulled back onto the main road, leaving the abandoned hotel behind. If the way Sam's shoulders dropped a full inch were any indication, he felt the same way.
Dennis, Massachusetts, was one of the few cities in Massachusetts that hadn't actually had an active haunting until the article the week before. Frankly, for Dean, he hadn't really been surprised. Almost every city on the coast of Massachusetts had a haunting of some kind. And he wasn't even going to get into Salem. They'd almost passed it up simply on that principle alone.
But for the most part, Dennis was a nice, small town place that had an ample coastline, small mom n' pop diners, rustic Cape Cod housing, and little libraries dotted here and there. In short, it was just a nice place to live.
So when Sam had pointed that out, Dean had agreed it was possibly something worth checking out. Generally, the main claims to a Massachusetts haunting involved history of some type. Something from when the country began, or the infamous witch trials that every hunter, beginner or tenured, had checked out for the sake of checking it out. (There'd been one spirit, but he'd supposedly been put to rest years ago by someone in the 1980's.) They didn't generally involve some condemned property from the 60's, and that had been the most deciding factor for the both of them. If there was going to be an honest to god haunt in Massachusetts, this place sounded like it'd be it.
The main drive, Dean was quickly learning, was very quiet. It didn't stretch for very long, but there were still copious amounts of restaurants and, more notably, bed and breakfasts. Off in the distance, Dean could make out a few sandy dunes, and the smell of the ocean drifted through the open window of the Impala. "You could've filmed Murder She Wrote here," Dean commented, frowning as he peered around. No cops anywhere to be seen. He'd bet good money that if they were around, they'd be talking with regulars at one of the home-cooked meal restaurants.
"I don't see a single motel that would fit in with what we usually pick," Sam warned, scanning his side of the road. "I honestly think the best we could do would be-"
"One of the B&B's," Dean finished for him. "Yeah, I was thinkin' the same thing." Plus, warm breakfast. In a town like this, it was bound to be good, no matter where they stayed. "Eh, we've got enough cash to cover it." They were only staying a night, anyways. Maybe two, max.
The usual green sign for a library caught Dean's eye, and he made the left down a side drive of Main Street. "Library first work okay for you, or are you hungry?" Dean asked.
Sam shrugged. "It's really either or for me, honestly. You pick."
Dean weighed the response in his head. Not the instant capitulation it'd been when Sam had first rejoined him, but it still wasn't his little brother asserting a choice. This was the middle, safe road, of noting Dean's offer and then letting Dean choose. Not anything Sammy would've done before. Living twenty-six odd years with someone tended to make you honor the decisions made by others and plenty okay with stating your own.
Unless you'd recently gone through some sort of brother break-up, complete with teary and desperate phone calls in the middle of the night, angels doing their best to further divide you, demons and Lucifer out to get you. The usual.
"Library it is, then," Dean said. It was a little late for lunch, but they'd been munching on random chips and candy for awhile. They'd be all right for food until dinner. More than an ample amount of time to get research done.
Sam was already wrapping up his laptop to put back into his bag. The library was just ahead, a small, quaint little building that stood alone in a very grassy, but well manicured area. A perfect example of the town of Dennis.
After waiting for traffic to pass, Dean turned in to find a parking spot.
"You're...really not going to eat that on the bed, are you?"
Finally. Dean inwardly smirked at the hesitant but outraged voice of his brother. He'd known that eventually Sam would cave and start speaking on his own if Dean did something crazy enough.
And eating chili fries on a beautiful white quilt that covered the bed was just the way to do it.
Outwardly Dean gave his brother an innocent look. "I won't make a mess," he protested. "C'mon, I wouldn't do that to the bed or Mrs. Pempshire." Mrs. Plumpshire Dean secretly thought, but it suited her. A little old woman who looked more like Santa Claus, Mrs. Pempshire had fussed over them both when they'd gotten there. So far, the librarian who had suggested the Shells and Sea Bed and Breakfast hadn't been wrong.
Sam gave out a small sigh. "You're making me nervous. Just...come sit over at the table with me? I won't touch your fries, promise."
"Better not," Dean muttered half-heartedly under his breath, but he stood and made his way over to the table, because it was one thing to draw Sam into a conversation, that was fine. Leading his brother to believe that he'd rather sit as far from him as possible was another.
Still. The chili fries were really good. The diner the librarian had also recommended was damn good as well.
Once he was seated, taking great pains to not get any chili on his brother's spread out papers, Dean leaned back in his seat. "Okay, Sparky. Go."
As if he'd been waiting for the order, Sam quickly began reading through everything he had. "The Ocean House Hotel was originally built in the 1920's by a man named Harold Lee. The hotel was apparently the place to go to be seen; a lot of locals went as well as tourists. Over the years several movie stars stayed, giving the hotel a five star rating, surprising given its size and its location."
Dean merely took a sip of his soda and waited. As much as he didn't like the historical background, anything about the place would be better known then not. Especially as things tended to go wrong.
Besides, there was something off about the hotel. They'd seen the article in the paper about the funeral for a Thomas Becker who'd died in a supposed haunted house. Haunted by a teenager who'd died there years before in a condemned resort that had shut its doors for mysterious reasons in 1963. The entire thing had something dark and wrong about it.
"So what went wrong?" he couldn't help but ask. "Place is doing fine, then all of a sudden, woosh? It's done?"
"It was outdated, Dean," Sam said. "More motels for less were cropping up all over the place in bigger towns, and while Dennis had never really been a town built on tourists, the Ocean House Hotel had needed it.
"In 1963, it looks like the hotel declared bankruptcy. Coupled with a rat infestation and a fire that supposedly destroyed one of the floors, the owners at the time decided it was time to shut the place down."
"'Supposedly'?" Dean asked, frowning. "Seriously, nobody knows what the hell happened?"
Sam shrugged. "Fifth and top floor, apparently. I can look up to see if the owners had any sort of insurance policy on the place, and if they did, maybe see if they claimed fire damage. But so far, none of the sources, not even the books written on the history of the town, give me anything concrete. Just that it was there one day and then shut down the next."
Dean shifted uneasily in his chair. Over the top of his computer, Sam was grimacing and biting his lip. Mysterious fires never boded well with the Winchesters. "Okay, give me the ghost," Dean said instead.
Sam nodded eagerly, all too happy to stop looking at the possibility of a fire. "Gina Moreles, died in 1976. She was back on college break and went up to the house with a small group of friends. The group was playing 'truth or dare' and dared Gina to go inside and see if the fifth floor was really burned out."
Apparently the lack of information regarding the place wasn't just weird to them, either. If a group of college kids could see it was shoddy reporter work...
"Gina never made it past the first floor. From what the kids say, Gina fell through the rotten stairs leading up to the second floor and died instantly. None of the kids were charged, and the death was ruled an accident." Sam glanced up at him. "I've got names, if you want them," he added.
"Of the lame-ass reporters from the 60's?" Dean said. Sam rolled his eyes but didn't say anything. "Seriously, either it's burned out or it's not. This smells like a secret."
"Yeah, I know," Sam murmured. "At any rate, ever since then, Gina's reported to haunt the lobby. People report hearing her scream when they approach the hotel at night."
Dean ate another chili fry while he contemplated. His eyes caught one of the papers Sam had printed off, and he carefully wiped his fingers before pulling it out. The photo on the page showed two young people, a man and a woman, both smiling. The girl's photo looked dated, and her hairstyle was a dead giveaway to the 70's. The boy's, on the other hand, looked much more recent. "Thomas Becker?" he asked.
Sam nodded. "And Gina Moreles. Two teens dead in the same hotel...people in this town apparently can put two and two together."
Dean snorted but said nothing. The reporters from the 60's were completely incompetent. Reading over the page, Dean began to frown. Thomas hadn't fallen to his death like Gina; they'd found him wedged in underneath the front desk. "Woah," was all he said. "That's a little...harsh."
"And weird," Sam agreed. "Wouldn't you think that Gina would've dropped him like she'd been dropped?"
God this whole job just kept getting weirder and weirder. "None of this makes sense," Dean said with a sigh, tossing the paper back onto the pile. "Where's Gina buried?"
"She's not; she was claustrophobic, so in honor of that, her parents had her cremated instead."
Which meant heading into the house.
Dean glanced over at the clock hanging on the wall and sighed. It was almost eight; they'd spent more time in the library then he'd thought. "Only person we could talk to at this point would be Mrs. Pempshire. She said her family's owned the B&B her entire life."
"Worth a shot. I highly doubt the investigative reports of the 60's are going to get us very far."
The derisive tone of Sam's voice only made Dean grin. If there was anything Sam hated, it was shoddy research. Granted, that was because anything hidden meant they could get killed on the job, but Dean knew a lot of it stemmed from Sam's own ability to find pretty much anything on everything. He simply assumed that everyone else could do the same.
"Let's go talk to Mrs. Pempshire, then," Dean said, cleaning the last of the chili fries off the plate. God they were good. "Away from the other guests."
Sam gave him a pointed look. "Might want to change your shirt first, unless you think chili stain is the new in look."
Dean immediately whipped his head down to look at his shirt, only to see it perfectly clean, not a drop of precious chili anywhere near it. Slowly he raised his head to glare at his brother, who was innocently turning away to grab his jacket. "You little bitch," he breathed.
He didn't get a direct answer, but Dean knew he caught a glimpse of Sam's lips turning upwards. If the kid could still tease, if the kid could still smile, then maybe they weren't as screwed as he'd thought. They could still get past things and move on.
And Dean would always take that, no matter whether his shirt's cleanliness or his own careful eating habits were caught in the crossfire.