The shotgun's bang echoed across the damp forest.
"Dean!" Sam turned back just as the seething spirit dispersed within his brother's salt blast.
"Just find the last hole!" Dean shouted, cocking his shotgun for another round, his hair flattened by the drizzling rain."I'll hold Jeffries off."
"You heard him." Without hesitation, Bobby sprinted toward the lone dilapidated cabin. They'd already uncovered two of the holes the demented teacher liked to store his victims in, there was only one more. Sam hated this hunt, just wanted it done with. Jeffries had been a sick bastard. Soft-spoken mathematics teacher by day, freakin psychopath by night.
Liked to build little hidey holes in the ground, stick people in them, and just wait up top listening until they withered away. Sick way to get his jollies, Sam thought until he discovered the same thing had been done to Jeffries as a child.
His father dug a special hole for punishment, leaving Jeffries in the cold darkness for days. Sam almost felt sorry for him until they pulled his last victim Tammy Jones out of the ground behind Jeffries's home. They got her out alive, but the poor girl would be traumatized for the rest of her life.
It was actually Tammy who gave them their real lead on how to get rid of the ghost, since salt and burning Jeffries's corpse hadn't done squat. While she was in the hole, Jeffries's taunted her about the other victims, explaining how long each lasted, how they screamed and pleaded, how many came before her.
"We're gonna need to find and torch all seven, aren't we?" Dean had rubbed a tired hand down his jaw.
"Yep," Bobby frowned. "For whatever reason, Jeffrie's spirit is attached to them. Could be one of them fought hard enough to get his tissue beneath their nails, or maybe in watching them die like that he got too attached, believes they're part of him now. Either way . . ."
Dean blanched. "That's just whacked."
They found three more holes, three bodies, on Jeffries's property. Another one a few blocks away at the house Jeffries grew up in. It took several more days for Sam to piece together that Jeffries's grandfather owned an out-of-the-way cabin, a cabin Jeffries's father used to bring the kid to.
Near the cabin, they'd found two hidey-holes and torched and salted the very old skeletons within when Jeffries's ghost decided to make his appearance.
A second blast rang out behind them and Sam flinched. He knew his brother was fully capable of distracting a ghost while he and Bobby looked for the last victim, but that didn't mean he had to like it.
He also knew that once they found the hole, that was also a two man job. Bobby guarding, while Sam dug and torched.
His boots sank in the soggy ground, making sucking noises with each step. The hidey-holes were simple holes dug out of the ground about four feet deep and five feet wide. Each had been reinforced with a few wood slats and covered with a larger wooden board that Jeffries then covered with dirt to keep hidden. When they'd uncovered and then wrenched the buried boards up, the hole inside had been dry enough even in this downpour to burn. Hopefully the last would go as easily, that is, if they could find it.
"Any ideas?" Bobby ran his flashlight beam along the muddy ground.
Shovel in hand, Sam shook his head. The other holes had been relatively easy to find. They'd just had to look for unnatural patterns where the dirt over the boards had settled over time, making shallow squarish depressions in the ground. But this last one . . .
Sam jerked his gaze toward the cabin, a thought suddenly occurring to him at the same time more salt round blasts banged out.
Bobby's head whipped around toward where they'd left Dean. "If ya got something, spit it out."
"If this is where Jeffries's made his first kill, why would he need to dig a new hole?"
Bobby's eyes narrowed. "You're thinkin he'd use the same hole his daddy put him in? Kay. And where d'ya figure that'd be?"
Sam wiped at the rain running down his cheeks. "Not here in front with the others. He'd want to make his own mark after. Back of the cabin?"
"Good as any place to look."
They ran around the cabin to the back, sliding on the slick ground that rose up in a gentle slope. Rain water trickled down the hill in flowing little rivers, shiny in the moonlight. They spotted what they were looking for almost immediately. Directly behind the cabin's back wall, water and erosion had partially uncovered a slab of rusted metal.
Sam's stomach curdled. He couldn't begin to imagine being locked up beneath that. Grimacing, he dug, pushing heavy mud off the thick metal, while he tried to hold more mud from sliding down and recovering what he'd just uncovered. Finally he had enough off to slide it. Or at least try. Damn metal was heavy. Bobby leaned down to lend a hand and together they got the slab tilted off the hole. Rain water immediately began drizzling down the straight walls of the dank pit.
"Better get this lit quick." The old hunter pulled his little bottle of lighter fluid out of his jacket and began pouring it onto the bones down in the shallow pit while Sam shook out some salt. "Well, whoever you are," Bobby held out his lighter. "Rest in pea—"
Jeffries materialized and Bobby was flung back into the wall of the cabin.
"Bobby!" Sam swung the head of the shovel through the ghost, dispersing him like water shooting out in the rain, and ran to the downed hunter. "Bobby?"
"Sam, look out!"
Dean rounded the corner of the cabin, shotgun pointed in their direction. Sam swiveled around and felt himself lifted off the ground, flying backwards to crash down hard inside the hole. His breath came out in a whoosh as the metal slab slammed over the top and the world swept away into blackness.
Cold water lapped beneath Sam's cheek. Moaning, he pushed himself upward, squinting against the dull pain in his head, even though he couldn't see anything in the dark hole. Did he hit his head? Sam wondered, assessing the points of pain for injury, except there wasn't any focus points, just all around pain. The fumes. Had to be it. It was noxious in here. Lighter fluid. Great. Breathing that in would give anyone a headache.
Kay. Jeffries had flung him in the hole and slammed the lid down. His knees were bent up because there wasn't any room in here, but other than the headache and being in the dark on top of the bones of some dead guy, nothing hurt. The floor had a few inches of water, but that was actually good news. If water was getting in, then air had to be getting in as well. He hoped. The fumes were a concern, but Dean and Bobby would get him out, right?
Anytime now, guys.
Which come to think of it, how long had he been out and why didn't he hear any movement up top?
Reaching a hand up, he banged on the metal lid and it slipped inward. Several plops of mud falling splashed him.
Sam went very still.
Swallowing, he reached up again to feel along the metal. Rust dragged across the pads of his fingers the same way fear started dragging into his chest. The metal slab was slanted, tipping precariously into the hole and from what he could feel, dirt walls were the only thing holding the higher end up. Dirt walls that were quickly turning into mud and sliding inward. Gently, Sam pushed up on the metal, just a little bit, only to see if he could, but . . . he had to get out of here now. Thing wasn't budging. Best guess, it was already holding up a ton of fallen mud on top and with how rapidly the rain was crumbling these walls . . . Forget breathing in lighter fluid, that piece of metal was going to come down and crush him.
Dean groaned, blinking as he came to.
"Dean? Dean? You with me, boy?" Bobby's scruffy face blurred into view.
"Yeah. What happened?"
"Apparently Jeffries tossed you through the wall."
Wincing, Dean glanced around. Sure enough he was laying on the cabin floor amid broken boards and dirt, a man-sized hole busted through the wall. Last thing he remembered was running around the corner and seeing the ghost throw Sam into that open hole.
Dean sat up. "Sam!"
"Haven't seen him." Bobby braced Dean's back as he wobbled. "Just came to myself and found you here."
"In the hole." Dean pulled to his feet, clenching around the throbbing in his spine. "Jeffries tossed Sam into the hole."
Dean climbed through the broken boards in the wall and froze.
"Oh my God," Bobby murmured beside him. Rain and mud slid in continuous rivulets across the slanted metal top that looked like it was going to cave in at any moment. Jeffries sat at the edge, rocking back and forth, head close to the ground as though he could hear everything going on inside that hole.
Dean's hands curled into fists. "You get the shovel. I'll get the gun."
In two strides, he picked the shotgun off the soggy ground and shot Jeffries point blank in the head.
Sam's fingers clawed at the dirt-packed wall. He couldn't go up. He'd just have to go to the side. He'd have to dig three or four feet straight out before attempting to dig upwards or he'd just weaken the walls faster and they'd collapse before he could get clear. Steve McQueen did it in The Great Escape. Pushed the dirt back behind him as he went. Like a mole. McQueen's Virgil Hilt character had sixty or so feet to dig. Sam only had to get four feet sideways and three feet up. He could do it.
Except, even with the rain soaking the dirt, his fingers weren't making much of a dent. And the water level around him was rising. He had to get in deeper, pull larger chunks out faster. Sam felt around for any kind of tool, coming up with a femur bone that he rammed into the dirt and felt it crumble. Great.
His knife was missing from its sheath. No help there. All he had was . . . wait . . . His hands scrambled to his belt, began unbuckling, and slid the leather free. Using the thin end of the buckle, he gouged into the dirt, pushing it in farther. It was working! The sharp end was able to slice through the dirt like the tip of a shovel. Using his hands to scoop what he'd loosened, Sam was able to pull a sizeable chunk of dirt out where it splashed to the hard-packed floor. And the soil beyond was soft. He could do this! He had to do this.
He worked like a man on a deadline. Sam grimaced. Bad choice of words. He scooped dirt out harder and faster, plowing through soil, making a space wide enough to accommodate his shoulders. His entire upper body was inside the hole, arms stretched ahead, so he figured he had enough of a clearance from the hole to start digging up.
The first upward punch with the buckle brought a huge pile of dirt pouring down on him. Shaking it off, he pushed it out behind him and kept on going, shifting upward, squeezing his long body up as he went. Soon he was angled tight in a sitting position, earth closing in around him. It was getting hard to breathe. Had to dig faster. It'd sure be nice to have one of those stick-like straws McQueen had to poke through the surface and get some air.
Sam dug faster, letting the dirt fall around his hips as he pulled upward, kicking it behind him. He couldn't tell how far he'd gone, or if his feet had even cleared the hidey-hole yet. Everything was dark and closing around him. He kept his eyes squeezed tight, not liking the gritty feel. He was taking fewer and fewer breaths. A strange lightheadedness washed over him and he wanted to stop, just rest for a while.
He bore down, knowing if he stopped now, he'd die. He had no idea why Dean and Bobby weren't coming for him. Maybe they didn't know where he was. Maybe Jeffries had gotten to them. Sam pulled more dirt down, pushed it down. He had to get out, help Bobby and Dean.
Sam rammed the belt buckle upward and . . . pierced through. Water immediately flowed over him. Sam punched his fingers through and the earth broke loose, shifting, sliding. Mud and soil poured over him, filling in every crevice, packing around Sam in a mini-landslide.
He couldn't stop it. Couldn't stop the heavy continual flow. Tucking his head down, Sam tried to preserve as much of an air pocket as he could. Would probably work better if his hands weren't stuck. As his mind went hazy, Sam's last thoughts were of Dean. Sam smiled. Dean loved The Great Escape. He'd be impressed.
"Go careful," Bobby warned. "Everything's collapsing."
Dean was digging as carefully as he could, which was damn hard with panic riding up his spine, certain he wouldn't get to Sam in time. He lifted another shovelful of mud off the precarious metal lid and tossed it back behind him where it couldn't slide back on. Bobby was on his knees, scooping mud away with his arms.
Though one of them should be on the lookout for Jeffries to appear, it was vital that they get Sam out of there before the whole thing caved . . . or the kid suffocated . . . if he hadn't already. Throat tight, Dean shifted the shovel carefully beneath another layer of mud. Damn it all to hell. More mud slid over the metal slab. This was impossible.
"I'm gonna wedge the shovel under the top, see if I can pry it up." Dean positioned himself over the higher point of the metal lid. Bobby came around, ready to grab the top with his arms. This was going to be tricky. "Ready?"
Dean shoved the tip of the shovel between the dirt and the metal, his pulse thudding wildly in his ears. Rain water sluiced down his arms, down the length of the shovel, making it slippery in his grasp.
He took a calming breath. And Jeffries shoved him from behind.
Dean landed sprawled over the metal slab. It groaned and the whole thing dropped into the hole. Mud sluiced up like a fountain. More fell on him, heavy and cold. A shotgun blasted above. Jeffries shrieked. Salt rock rained over Dean.
"Dean!" Bobby shouted.
But Dean's brain couldn't make sense of it. The slab fell on Sam. The slab fell. The fucking slab crushed his brother. "Saaaamm!"
Scrambling as far to the side as he could get, boots sinking into piles of mud, panicked, Dean dug his hands beneath the metal, trying to pull it up. "Sammmy!"
Sliding down into the hole, bringing half the collapsing wall with him, Bobby got to Dean's side, gouging his own hands beneath the slippery metal. "On my mark, lift!"
"Arrggggh!" Both men heaved, veins straining in their arms, in their necks and foreheads, terrified at what they'd find beneath, but not willing to give up.
It was a difficult lift, but somehow they got the fucking piece of metal up on its side and tilting the other way.
"Sammy!" Dean screeched, digging through the water and mud. "Sammy! Sam!" Bobby dug right beside him, scooping huge globs up. On his knees, Dean was up to his elbows in muck. My God, how deep could this crap have sucked Sam under? "Sammy!"
"Dean, Dean, stop." Gasping, Bobby leaned back on his heels, devastation deepening the creases in his face. "Son." Head shaking, the old hunter stumbled up, twisting toward the dripping dirt wall where he pressed his forehead to the mud, shoulders shaking, eyes squeezing tight as he gave into despair.
"Gaddamn it, Sam!" Bobby punched a fist into the muddy wall, startling Dean. He punched again.
Tears and rain trickled down Dean's cheeks. A low tremor passed through him. He didn't know what to do anymore. Lethargically, he pulled more mud from the soupy dirt he kneeled in, watching the old man loosing it, until Bobby suddenly sucked in a gasp. Stepping back, his spine straightened, and then all at once the old hunter was attacking the wall, pawing through huge chunks he let fall into the hole.
"Sam, Sam!" Bobby shouted. "Dean, help me! Your brother's in here!" Even as he said it, Bobby pulled a glob away, uncovering a large boot, an ankle.
Dean didn't think to question how the hell his brother got embedded in the wall. All he knew was Sammy hadn't been crushed and he had to get him out. Dean didn't even know how he got to his feet next to Bobby and was clawing through the dirt.
"Get up top!" Bobby yelled, even though Dean was right next to him. "Gotta clear his head!"
Not wasting time, Dean scrambled up, sliding on the slick goo, and began frantically pulling up clumps of ground in a three foot radius around where he guessed Sam's head would be. Finally he found Sam's belt buckle a few inches down, Sam's fingers wrapped tightly around it. Digging faster with his hands, Dean uncovered the kid's arm, his elbow. Holding on tight to his brother's wrist, Dean started kicking at the dirt, letting the mud slide into the hidey-hole, using the momentum the collapsing wall already afforded them. Bobby didn't so much as complain at the blobs falling over him.
"Wall's givin!" Bobby called out what Dean already knew, because as the ground gave way, crumbling beneath him, Dean kept hold of Sam and let the tiny mud slide sweep them both down back into the hole.
Sam slurped loose in a boneless heap of limp gangly limbs, completely coated in a thick layer of mud. It was in his eyelashes, covering every strand of hair, to the wrinkles in his clothes. Let him dry and they'd have a Sammy statue.
Sitting waist deep in mud themselves, Dean and Bobby pulled Sam over to them, sluicing him through the muck, one arm dragging limply.
"Is he . . .?" Bobby asked.
Dean pressed a hand over Sam's chest, waited for the pull of air. When it came, slight though it was, a grayness at the edges of his sanity nearly pulled Dean under. "He's breathing," Dean rasped. "I don't know how, but he's breathing."
"Thank God." Bobby's hand curled over Sam's arm. "Thank God."
Dean pulled Sam up against his chest, guiding the floppy head to settle on his shoulder, and echoed Bobby's sentiment. "Thank God, Sammy."
Which was when Jeffries decided to make another reappearance.
Sam woke to screeching and the crackling of fire. He tried to open his eyes, but his lashes were somehow glued together. The patter of rain sounded above on the roof. Trying again, he managed to flutter his eyes open.
"Hey there, Virgil." Dean's voice floated to him. "You're just in time for the big show."
Sam tracked his gaze around, completely disoriented. "What's going on?" He was on his back on the floorboards inside Jeffrie's granddad's cabin, a large ring of salt circling himself, Dean and Bobby who bent over a little campfire, blowing it to flame while the ghost of the insane math teacher raged and shrieked just outside of the salt circle.
"Well, let's see." Dean patted Sam's chest. "After we pulled you out of the mud. Nice Hilt's move by the way. Jeffrie's showed again, but being the awesome brother I am, I dove into him."
"What?" Sam's brows scrunched.
"Well I already had salt all over me from Bobby's last round over my head." Dean shrugged. "Anyway, we dragged your ass in here. That was the hard part, got you protected with salt, then me and Bobby went digging for bones. Been drying them out for the last hour, while you, my brother, have been sleeping like an infant . . ." Sam would take exception to that if it wasn't for the genuine worry in Dean's eyes.
Sam smiled. "You're sure you got all the bones?"
"Well, we'll know in a minute. Bobby? Wanna do the honors?"
"With pleasure." Grinning, Bobby lifted the dried bones, salted them, and dropped them one by one into the fire, staring straight at the ghost who screeched louder and louder as each bone caught in the flames until finally he burst apart, rolling into an explosion of light and was gone.
"Well." Bobby slapped his hands together. "I'm starved." He looked down at his muddy clothes and shrugged. "Guess when we're back at the motel, we oughta just order in."
Dean threw his head back and laughed. "Ya think?"
Typical disclaimers apply. I own nothing related to Supernatural except my complete adoration for everyone involved.