The Holly and the Ivories

Sam heard a familiar sounding thud – Dean crashing into a wall at top speed, tossed by an enraged spirit. How twisted was it that Sam could tell by the sound of impact how bad a blow Dean had taken?

It was unlikely Dean was still conscious, leaving him completely vulnerable unless Sam pulled off a miracle fast. At this point, setting the whole house on fire seemed like a reasonable option.

"I found it, Dean! I GOT it!" Sam yelled hoping that his ruse would draw the spirit his way. He twisted around in the tight den of boxes and prayed that he got an opportunity for a clean shot.


"Of course the damn thing had to live in the attic."

"Dean! Wait for me, okay? Just stay where you are…give me a minute…"

"Most of the time these sons-of-bitches go for the underground lair. Why did this one have to haunt our asses three stories above the ground? It's not even a real attic. It's a "turret". What the hell does that even mean?"

"Dean…" Sam tried to make his tone commanding as well as placating; it was a fine line to walk. Sam kept half an ear out for Dean's erratic movement and hoped that his brother stayed in the hastily drawn salt circle Sam laid down before he continued searching.

Dean paid Sam no mind but just continued with his grouchy rambling. But he shifted his voice to a different pitch as though mimicking one of those old black and white sitcoms. "I know, honey… it's time to put the Christmas decorations away. Let's pack the boxes and put them up in the turret."

Sam sat back on his haunches, struck by something Dean said. "Decorations… DECORATIONS!" He turned swiftly to exit the thin corridor of boxes he had wormed his way into while he was talking. "Didn't the newspaper say that Mrs. O'Riley was known for making unusual holiday decorations before she was thrown in the sanitarium?"

The article in the newspaper had included a pair of photos – Mrs. O'Riley with a delirious yet maniacal grin, proudly showing off a large, hand-made Christmas wreath, decorated with baubles of delicate ivory and wood carvings; and Mr. O'Riley's blood-stained piano, the site of his gruesome murder. The local legend alleged that the philandering piano player was found with his the fingers scattered around his body. In spite of rampant speculation Mrs. O'Riley was never charged with her husband's murder, it was her own crazy behavior that got her put away.

A less well known version of the legend that Sam had tracked down through the grandson of the town mortician stated that not only were Mr. O'Riley's fingers removed from his body, but that they couldn't be found. That small fact was supposedly covered up by the local police and mortician in order to prevent further scandal from falling up on the family. From what Sam could recall, there was a significant amount of time between Mr. O'Riley fingers going missing and Mrs. O'Riley's cheerfully creepy display of the Christmas wreath for her to have worked his bones into a twisted holiday decoration. Sam thought it was ironic that it seemed that the missing digits used to tickle the ivories were turned into actual ivory.

A quick conference after their visit to the mortuary made it clear that the reason Mr. O'Riley was still haunting the old place was that the lore about the missing fingers was true and that they hadn't burned all of his remains. That had led to a lengthy and unproductive search through decades of accumulated O'Riley family "keepsakes".

"Eww…" Dean's voice transmitted his disgust. "You think the 'polished ivory' was more like 'human bone fragments'?" Dean looked up blearily as Sam cleared the maze of clutter, but Sam was happy to see that he seemed to be lucid, at least for the moment.

Dean's face took on a look of determination as he leaned on the sawed-off shotgun to struggle to his feet. "So, let's find the Arts and Craft project with Mr. O'Riley's bones and light it up!"

Sam looked around warily. Although it was fantastic that they had narrowed down their search for Mr. O'Riley's bones from every box in the attic to Christmas boxes, it wasn't the best thing that Dean announced their plan with such relish considering that Mr. O'Riley's ghost was still a threat and now it knew what they were looking for. The angry and restless spirit was sure to do whatever he could to impede their progress. Of course it didn't help that Dean was already sporting a discolored lump on his temple, the result of their first encounter with Mr. O'Riley, and could hardly see straight as a result.

Dean wobbled on feet and Sam could see he was going to lose his battle with the nausea that went hand in hand with his concussion if he didn't stop moving. Sam reached Dean before he fell over. He grabbed Dean by the shoulders to steady him making sure to keep his feet clear of the salt line. "It's okay, Dean. I got this one. I know where I saw the boxes of Christmas decorations."

Dean began to protest weakly but Sam could see his heart wasn't really in it. The fact that Dean had stayed stationary so long in the salt circle was evidence in itself that he wasn't on top of his game.

"Keep an eye out for O'Riley," Sam ordered. "I'll be right back."

Dean blinked and tried to clear his vision, but he went back to one knee instead of trying to join Sam in his search. Sam turned quickly and threaded his way back into three generations of stored junk.

Now that Sam had a direction, he knew exactly what he was looking for. If Sam's hunch was right he needed to find the large Christmas wreath that housed Mr. O'Riley's bones and light that sucker up. Most of the boxes stacked haphazardly in the dusty turret weren't big enough to hold the oversized wreath. Sam quickly and methodically moved the boxes that were too small and searched through the boxes that were big enough to hold the prize.

Dean's cry of "SAM!" and the blast of his shotgun warned Sam that O'Riley was making his presence known once again. Sam knew that Dean was causing a ruckus in order to keep the spirit's attention, but the angry ghost wouldn't be distracted for long. The sound of crashing boxes and a stream of inventive curses from Dean indicated that for the moment the spirit's attention was elsewhere.

"I'm amazed you can manage to throw anything at me, you fingerless freak!" Dean taunted. Another shotgun blast split the air. "Look what I can do with opposable thumbs you son of a bitch!"

A crash that was louder than the rest followed by heavy thud and groan from Dean didn't bode well. Sam knew without looking that Dean had been knocked out of the protective circle and playtime was over. Sam fought down his panic trying to override thoughts of simply setting the house ablaze in order to get back to Dean while he frantically continued searching.

Sam heard a familiar sounding thud – Dean crashing into a wall at top speed, tossed by an enraged spirit. How twisted was it that he could tell by the sound of impact how bad a blow Dean had taken?

It was unlikely Dean was still conscious, meaning he was now completely vulnerable unless Sam pulled off a miracle fast. At this point, setting the whole house on fire seemed like a reasonable option.

"I found it, Dean! I GOT it!" Sam yelled hoping that his ruse would draw the spirit his way. He twisted around in the tight den of boxes and prayed that he got an opportunity for a clean shot.

Apparently God looked out for hunters and fools because O'Riley manifested directly in front of Sam. A well directed blast of salt from Sam's shotgun caused the ghost to scatter, but not before he managed to knock a few boxes down and trap Sam in the mix. Sam frenetically started hurling boxes aside and his hand landed on a very large, nondescript box neatly labeled "Mr. Riley's Wreath". It was almost too good to be true.

Kicking his way through the clutter, Sam dragged the box along behind him as he fought his way out of the mess back to Dean. O'Riley hadn't remanifested by the time Sam spotted Dean, but Sam knew it could happen at any time. He set his shotgun aside knowing it was a risky move, but the need confirm it was the right wreath was more important. The cardboard gave way easily and Sam extracted the wreath that had been displayed in the newspaper photograph.

Thinking quickly, Sam rushed over to the wall of stone where the massive chimney for the old house rose up through the turret on a shared wall from the great parlor down below. He threw aside other items as he hung the ancient wreath on the face of the irregular stones. An enraged shriek announced the return of Mr. O'Riley. Sam hastily threw a handful of salt on the wreath and lit it with his lighter. The dusty, fragile wreath was extremely flammable; its quick ignition turned what would've been a might blow from the spirit into the passing of a weak wind.

Though it had been Sam's intention to minimize the impact of the fiery wreath by placing it on the stone wall, Mr. O'Riley's breezy passing sent embers flying throughout the room quickly turning it into a firetrap. Sam rushed back to Dean's side. Dean had regained consciousness but was having trouble focusing.

"Didja get 'im, Sammy?" Dean slurred.

"Yeah." Sam reported. "Can you walk?"

"M'ribs are broken, not my legs…" Dean's eyes rolled back into his head and Sam knew the conversation was over. Sam hoisted Dean onto his shoulders in a fireman carry. It was no good for his ribs, but if Dean had already passed out the pain it would cause wouldn't make a difference.

The fire was rapidly spreading, but Sam quickly outran it. Navigating the spiral stairs of the turret was tricky carrying Dean, but once Sam hit the second floor it was smooth sailing on straight staircases. Sam couldn't shake the itch between his shoulder blades anticipating that O'Riley would strike again, but by the time he made it to the Impala he felt satisfied that the job was finally done and O'Riley was put to rest.

Sam awkwardly juggled the passenger side door and managed to get Dean into semi-seated position. He quickly assessed his brother's injuries as much as he could in the dark and through layers of clothing. It was definitely worth a trip to the ER to have Dean's ribs x-rayed, but it looked like "bar fight" would be a totally plausible excuse for his injuries.

Satisfied that Dean's breathing was okay and he was in no immediate danger, Sam lifted Dena's legs into the well of the passenger seat was about to close the door when Dean started mumbling. "Then next time we hunt in a turret we damn well better find a dragon…or at least a princess."

"Whatever you say, Luigi."

"Dude, I'm totally Mario…Luigi is the freakishly tall one. And Mario's the one that gets the girl."

Sam chuckled as he closed the door hearing Dean start to sing in "beeps" and "boops" the theme music to Super Mario Bros. It was going to be an interesting ride to the hospital.