SUMMARY: Dean was right – they should have gone for steaks in Texas, because the hunt for a vengeful spirit in a Rhode Island lighthouse is taking a real toll on both Winchesters. Plenty of h/c and bro-mos.
RATED: T, for mild language
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Supernatural belong to Eric Kripke & Co. I am simply playing in their sandbox, for fun not profit.
A/N: This story was first published in the fanzine Blood Brothers 4 in Spring 2010 and has now been released for online publication. Congrats to editor Jeanne Gold and all the other authors as BB4 just won the Fan Q Best Zine Award at the 2011 MediaWest Con. Many thanks to Ann and Jeanne for the awesome support and editing throughout the creation of this story. It was crafted as a single piece but, since it's lengthy – it's me, you can't be surprised by that :-) - I've split it into two chapters, both of which are being published simultaneously. Hope you enjoy.
"Oh, you have got to be freaking kidding me." Even shouting, Dean's voice was barely audible over the howl of the wind and the thunder of the surf. He wiped the rain from his eyes as he looked over the edge of the cliff to the suspension bridge two hundred feet below. "That's how we get to the lighthouse?"
Sam squinted against the rain, taking in the swaying bridge and the churning Atlantic beneath it. "'Fraid so."
The brothers stood at the top of Mohegan Bluff on the southern tip of Block Island. The bridge spanned the narrow channel that separated the larger island from the rocky promontory on which the Southeast Point Lighthouse stood guard.
Dean's gaze stayed glued to the bridge. "Remind me again whose stupid idea this was."
"Um, yours. Sam grinned, pushing wind-whipped hair out of his face. "'Haunted lighthouse…should be fun.' Pretty sure that's what you said."
"Me and my big mouth," Dean muttered, still staring down at the suspension bridge. A massive wave broke on a boulder beneath it, water and foam shooting high into the air before smashing down on the span. Dean's stomach lurched as the bridge rocked and moaned with the impact. He leaned forward, studying the sheer drop between them and the link to the lighthouse. "So how the hell do we get down there?"
Sam pulled a crinkled, crudely drawn map from his pocket, checked it briefly, then moved off to the right. "This way."
Dean followed his brother, eyes widening when Sam's destination came into view. It was a smuggler's staircase, an almost vertical set of rock steps chiseled into the face of the cliff. They led from the top of the bluff to a jagged outcropping that served as the approach to the bridge. Thick nautical rope, knotted intermittently onto metal pegs driven into the rock face, served as a handrail on one side, but the other side was open to the twenty-story drop to the rocky shore and churning water below.
Dean swallowed. "Oh, this just keeps getting better."
Sam threaded both arms through his knapsack so it rested on his back, leaving his hands free, then glanced back at Dean. "Look, I know you're not big on heights but think of it like a ladder. Go-"
"Sam, I'm fine," Dean growled, gesturing at his brother to go. "And be careful. You fall, I am not hauling your heavy ass back up here."
Sam's grin returned as he crossed to the top of the rock staircase. "I'm touched. Really."
Still grinning, Sam stepped over the edge and began moving backward down the rock steps, right hand gripping the rope railing, his left holding the edge of the step at chest height to steady his descent.
Dean had just shifted his duffel onto his shoulder, preparing to follow his brother, when Sam slipped. His foot shot out from under him and he pitched forward, slamming chest-first into the sea-slicked steps before tobogganing feetfirst toward the bottom.
Sam's right hand tightened around the rope railing as he fell, jerking him to a stop as the railing pulled taut, momentum slamming him backward into the cliff.
Dean was already moving down the steps, fighting to keep his balance on the wet rock. "Hold on."
Sam barely had time to turn toward Dean's worried shout before a metal peg, straining under his weight, pulled loose. The slackened rope sent him skidding down three more steps, cracking his chin on the edge of one, before again pulling tight, abruptly stopping his fall.
"Sam?" Dean released his hold on the rope, afraid any more stress would yank loose another peg and send his brother tumbling down more steps or, worse, over the edge.
But the rope held. Sam looked up groggily, his fist still wrapped in a death grip on the railing. "Ow." He spat out blood, rolled onto his stomach and slowly pushed himself to his knees. "M'okay. Just…watch your step. The rock's kinda slippery."
Heart hammering against his ribs, Dean stood just a few steps above Sam. "Thank you, Captain Obvious. Which part of 'be careful' did you miss?"
Sam shot Dean a look, before guardedly climbing to his feet. He gave the railing a tentative tug. "Rest seems solid." Wiping rain and blood from his face, he took in the sheer drop to the ocean below. "That was…"
"Yeah." Dean started to glance down, thought better of it and motioned for Sam to go.
Sam adjusted his grip on the railing, exhaled audibly, then slowly began moving down the steps.
Dean followed closely behind, trying to watch both his brother and his step. The sleeves of his jacket flapped and billowed as the wind blasted in from the sea, heavy with salt and water.
Both brothers were shivering noticeably when they made it to the base of the steps, their faces red and chapped, their clothing soaked through. Winded by the harrowing descent, both were breathing heavily.
Dean scowled at the gash that ran across Sam's chin, gesturing at the blood trickling down his brother's throat. "Any major damage? You know our dental coverage sucks."
Sam shook his head, dragging the back of his hand across his chin and smearing fresh blood through that already caked around the wound. "Nah." He hissed as he looked down at his hand; an angry rope burn, courtesy of his involuntary swing from the railing, crossed his palm.
Dean's scowl deepened at the sight of the injury. "Damn..."
"It's fine." Sam pulled a bandanna from a pocket in his knapsack, quickly wrapped his hand, then turned toward the bridge. "Let's go."
Dean followed Sam across the rocky approach, his stomach flipping with his first close-up look at the span. It was nearly two hundred feet long, the deck about three feet wide. Supported by a mix of thick wire cable and heavy nautical rope, it sat about fifteen feet above the roiling sea at its lowest point in the center. The bridge shifted from side to side as the ocean winds ripped through it, the decking tipping with each blast, the guy wires creaking and groaning. Below it, the rising tide broke against the massive rocks that littered the shoreline, the occasional wave leaping high to smash over the bridge and send it tilting and swinging wildly.
Dean caught up to Sam who has paused at the end of the bridge to resettle his pack on his back. "This is high tide, right?"
Sam checked his watch. "Uh-uh. Tide's still coming in. Won't peak for more than four hours."
Dean watched the water churning below. "That means-"
"Yeah. It's gonna get a lot higher."
"Damn..." Dean shook his head. "We could've been in Texas, eating steaks the size of my duffel bag, but no, I had to pick the freaking lighthouse."
Sam offered a reassuring grin as he stepped toward the bridge. "It'll be fine."
"Says the guy who almost went ass over elbow down those steps." Dean grabbed Sam's sleeve, pulling him back as another wave slammed into the span. "This time I go first."
Exhaling slowly, Dean surveyed the crossing. The rain showed no signs of letting up and, over the open sea, the wind was blowing even harder. He dragged the back of his arm across his eyes, clearing the water from his lashes, then stepped onto the bridge. The deck tilted under the pressure and he quickly took a second step to restore the balance.
He glanced over his shoulder at Sam. "Stay close."
"Right behind you."
Moving slowly forward, Dean kept his steps centered on the deck to minimize rocking. He was about fifteen feet across when another wave crashed over the railing just ahead of him. His knees bent instinctively, absorbing the rocking as the impact of the wave traveled along the bridge, the span twisting and buckling beneath him.
Dean swallowed as the rocking stilled, knuckles whitening as he tightened his grip on the railings. "Sam? You good?"
His brother sounded a little less confident now. "Not the word I'd pick, but yeah."
"Okay." Dean blew out a breath, then resumed moving forward. He'd gone another twenty feet when the thunderous crash of a breaking swell below was followed immediately by a looming wall of water to his right.
He barely had time to turn his head before the wave hit, frigid sea water slamming into him, stealing his breath and ripping his hands from the railing. The impact threw Dean sideways, smashing him into the wire cables on the left side of the bridge then pulling his feet from under him. He pitched forward, landing facefirst and smacking his forehead against the deck before rolling to his left when the bridge tipped again.
A rope that served as a safety railing snapped, whipping Dean across the lower back, but sharp pain quickly faded behind rising panic when he found himself sliding into the gap created by the broken rope and off the bridge. Legs dangling in mid-air, Dean scrabbled frantically for something to hold on to. The bridge lurched and he slipped again, fingers scraping against wood as he fought to save himself. Gravity was winning the battle when a hand latched tightly onto his right wrist.
Dean looked up to see Sam staring back at him, eyes wide behind sodden hair. He was lying on his stomach, stretched diagonally across the bridge, one long leg hooked around a vertical rope support, anchoring him in place. His face reflected the strain of supporting all of Dean's weight with his right arm.
"Swing your legs up," Sam bit out, grabbing for Dean's jacket with his left hand.
The broken railing was to Dean's left, leaving nothing within reach of his free hand – nothing, except Sam. Dean fought against instinct to latch onto his brother, terrified he'd pull them both over the edge. Swinging his legs up was his only real option. He nodded at Sam.
Sam tightened his grip. "Okay…on three. One…"
"Two" was lost in a deafening crash from below, a split second before another wall of water smashed down on the brothers. The bridge rocked wildly, Dean swinging like a pendulum at the end of Sam's arm, Sam yelling out in pain as he fought to hold on. As the rocking stilled, Dean could hear Sam's harsh breathing even over the angry surf, could feel the muscles in his brother's arm tremble under the strain.
"…three." Sam spat out the word from behind clenched teeth, blinking against the salt water running down his face.
With a grunt, Dean swung his right leg up onto the deck as Sam heaved him up and rolled to the right. The coordinated momentum was enough to pull Dean back onto the deck.
Sam lay on his side, his pack wedged between his back and the bridge; Dean lay on his stomach, his hand still latched tightly around Sam's wrist. Both brothers were panting heavily as they waited for the bridge to stop swinging. They buried their faces as another wave washed over them, this one with far less force than the last two but still drenching them in icy water.
As the bridge stilled, Dean lifted his head, slowly peeling his fingers from Sam's arm. "Sammy?"
Sam coughed out a mouthful of water but nodded. "Y'okay?"
"Peachy." Dean gingerly pushed himself to his knees, then grabbed the secure rope railing on the left side of the bridge as the movement started the bridge swaying again. "But how 'bout we get the hell off this deathtrap?"
Sam coughed again. "Roger that."
The brothers shakily climbed to their feet, then cautiously moved along to the far side, Sam now leading the way. Three more waves washed over the span before they were clear, giving the bridge a good shake each time, but posing no real threat once the Winchesters had passed the center point.
Sam stumbled onto solid ground first. He'd taken just three steps before his legs buckled and he fell to his knees, cradling his right hand to his chest.
"Hey." Dean worriedly moved up beside him.
Sam retched, then sat back on his haunches, his eyes screwed closed. "Just…gimme a second."
Dean placed a hand on Sam's back, frowning at the tremors racking his brother and the noticeable shaking of his own hand. Shock, cold, and exertion were taking a toll on each of them as adrenaline dissipated. Dean shivered, the biting ocean winds cutting through his drenched clothes, sending goose bumps dancing up his arms and making his teeth chatter.
His gaze slid back to the bridge and to the sea smashing into the rocks beneath it – where he would have fallen if Sam hadn't… "You saved my ass that time, Sammy."
"That was…" Sam looked up, shaking his head, "way too close."
The truth in Sam's words made Dean feel sick, but outwardly, he offered a weak grin. "Nah. I knew you wouldn't drop me." He glanced up the bluff in front of them at the zigzag path that led to the top and the lighthouse, and offered his brother a hand. "Come on. We're losing light and we still have this goat path to climb."
Still favoring his right hand, Sam grabbed Dean's wrist with his left, hauling himself to his feet. "Two close calls even before the spirit shows up. That's some kind of record, even for us."
Dean snorted. "And I'm sure Mad Maggie can't wait to join the party." As he slid his duffel off his shoulder to pull out his sawed-off shotgun and a plastic bag filled with salt shells, a brilliant flash of lightning lit up the sky, followed almost immediately by a loud clap of thunder. "Damn. Could this day get any worse?"
Sam pulled his gun from his pack, glanced at the clifftop and froze. From the top of the bluff, silhouetted against the steel gray sky, her long skirt fluttering in the wind, a woman stared down at them. "Apparently, yes."
Dean shot a look at Sam, then followed his gaze to the brow of the cliff. He raised his shotgun reflexively, fingers curling tightly around the trigger. "Hello, Maggie."
The spirit seemed to be looking for something – or someone. "Gideon!" she screamed, her cry cutting eerily through the howling wind and pounding surf. "No..."
Distance and fading daylight made it hard to make out the spirit's features, but the manic edge to her voice said she was desperate, to the point of breaking. Her long, dark hair whipped wildly around her face as she looked down at the bridge, the shawl in her right hand flapping behind her in a frenzied dance.
Lightning flashed, and Maggie vanished. Sam scanned the cliff top, then the path that led up to the lighthouse, before glancing over at his brother.
Dean tightened his grip on his gun and started moving toward the path, answering Sam's unspoken question. "She'll be back. Stay close – and keep your eyes peeled."
The Winchesters had arrived on Block Island earlier in the day, after an hour's ferry ride from Point Judith, Rhode Island. Dean had reluctantly driven the Impala onboard the ferry, even more reluctantly leaving her below deck for the twelve-mile crossing, muttering something about cars on boats being "unnatural."
"Dean, chill. The car will be fine," Sam offered as they climbed the stairs from the ferry's parking level to the passenger lounge. "The lighthouse is on an island. How did you think we were gonna get there?"
Dean scowled as he pocketed the Impala's keys. "We didn't need a ferry to get to Rhode Island."
Sam shrugged. "Technically, most of Rhode Island's on the mainland."
"Then the state needs a new name," Dean grumbled, shoving open a door and walking from the lounge to the deck.
Sam just smiled, got them both a coffee from the snack bar, then followed Dean outside. The brothers claimed a bench mid-deck and Sam pulled out his notes on Block Island's most infamous resident.
The spirit of Mad Maggie had haunted the Southeast Point lighthouse for more than a century. Her wails of grief were often heard, usually during high tide, but attacks had been rare. In the past four weeks, however, as a year-long architectural preservation project got under way at the lighthouse, Maggie had been blamed for two serious injuries to members of the work crew and one fatality. Fearful the ghost's attacks would escalate as the project continued, Alice Jespersen, the chairwoman of the Block Island Historical Board, reached out for help, ultimately connecting with the Winchesters through their dad's old phone.
Dean watched a gull dive into the sea for a scrap of hamburger bun thrown overboard by a young boy standing at the railing. "So, what's your best guess why Maggie is suddenly so pissed?"
Sam looked up from his research, squinting against the bright sun that briefly poked through the mass of gray clouds racing the ferry toward the island. "The historical board is starting to pack up stuff for safekeeping during the restoration. Maybe they moved something Maggie doesn't want moved."
Dean took a sip of his coffee. "Okay. What?"
"Not a clue, man." Sam tapped the sheaf of papers he held. "This is a complete inventory of everything in the lighthouse and keeper's cottage. I'm going through it now to see if anything jumps out."
Dean frowned at his brother's frustrated expression. "The inventory should tell us who each item belonged to, right?"
Sam snorted. "That'd be too easy. A flood back in the '40s destroyed most of the board's original records. A lot of the information they have now is based on educated guesswork-"
"…making the info suspect." Dean stared at the approaching island. "Well, something of Maggie's is on that island, otherwise she wouldn't be. Didn't Mrs. J give you any clue what it might be?"
Sam shuffled through the papers. "The only thing on the list that's clearly marked as belonging to Maggie is a photo of her and her husband, taken when he first took his post as lighthouse keeper."
Dean's frown returned. "That's not usually enough to keep a spirit around."
"I know." Sam exhaled in frustration. "So now I'm going through all the suspect items."
Dean drained the last of his coffee, crossed the deck to toss the paper cup into a trash can, turned back to Sam, then leaned against the railing. "So, recapping what we do know: Maggie is Margaret Westwood. Her hubby, Gideon, was the third keeper of the lighthouse, starting his post in 18…"
"…84." Sam looked up from his notes. "The two lived a pretty uneventful life until the winter of 1886 when the lighthouse went dark during a storm. A passing ship reported it, a couple of men from town rode over to investigate and discovered that the natural causeway that linked the promontory to Block Island had washed away, cutting off land access. They signaled with a lantern from the top of the bluffs but there was no response from the Westwoods."
Sam folded the papers and shoved them inside his jacket as the sun disappeared and fat drops of rain began to fall. "Because of rough seas, the locals couldn't get over to the lighthouse for a couple of days but, in the morning, the wreckage of a rowboat washed up on shore. It was the keeper's boat, so they assumed the Westwoods drowned trying to get off the island."
Dean stared over his shoulder across the water toward Block Island. "When they finally get to the lighthouse, there's no sign of either Maggie or Gideon, confirming those suspicions. The townsfolk hold a memorial service, and hire a new keeper. He arrives a month later, they take him to the island…"
"…and, surprise, surprise, there's Maggie." Sam pointed to the bluffs at the southern tip of the island. "Completely mad, wandering along those cliffs, screaming for Gideon."
Dean studied the cliffs in the distance. "Records suggest the locals did a thorough search of the island after the storm…so, where the hell was Maggie?"
Sam shrugged. "Maybe she washed up in a cave, maybe she was unconscious… Who knows? But she was alone for over a month. Blame shock, grief, isolation – maybe all three – but, by the time they found her, her mind was gone. She spent the rest of her life in an asylum but kept insisting, right up until she died, that she had to get back to the island to be with Gideon."
Dean scowled as he tried to fit all the pieces together. "Then, when she kicked the bucket, that's just what happened. Her spirit bungeed back here, still trying to find her hubby. But how? The state cremated looney tunes back then to save on funeral expenses, so her bones are toast. That means something on that list of yours has to be hers, something with a scrap of her DNA that pulled her spirit back."
"I know." Sam moved away from the railing to stand under the overhang of the wheelhouse as the rain began to fall more heavily. "I just need more time to figure out what."
Dean crossed the deck to stand beside Sam. "Okay, put aside the 'how' for now. What made Maggie raise her game?"
Staring out toward the southern tip of the island where the silhouette of the lighthouse was now visible, Sam shrugged. "Legend says she hates men and she doesn't like anyone messing with her home. If she heard engineers talking about knocking down walls or digging things up, maybe she saw them as a threat…"
"…to her home, to her chance at being reunited with Gideon, who knows?" Dean flipped up the collar of his jacket, shuddering at a cold blast of wind as the ferry made the final turn around the breakwater and into the harbor. "But all the attacks occurred in the same place, right?"
Sam nodded. "The three most recent ones happened over four days when the engineers were doing prep work near the base of the tower. I cross-checked that with the three older attacks in…" he checked a coiltop notebook in his pocket, "1927, 1943, and 1961. Because of the lost records, there isn't much information on the first two, but the last one states that a coast guard inspector was checking the tower's base in the wake of some flooding. He was pushed from behind, fell down the stairs and broke his back. Spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair."
Dean glanced from the island to his brother. "So…we start at the bottom. Figure out what set her off – and put a stop to these attacks for good."
Sam frowned as he watched Dean climb the path ahead of him. His brother was moving at a good pace, although his stride was less fluid than normal. Sam had caught him wincing more than once, although his attempts to find out what was wrong had been cut off with a terse, "I'm fine."
That Dean was hurting was no surprise, given that just minutes earlier he'd been hanging off the bridge at the end of Sam's arm. God knew, the muscles in his own shoulder were still protesting the strain.
Shuddering as a gust of wind blasted in from the ocean, Sam zipped up his jacket. Not that it did much good; every layer he wore was soaked through. He glanced down at the bridge. The sea beneath it was rising steadily as the tide came in, the span now under constant bombardment by angry waves. He checked his watch; high tide was still more than three hours off, which meant conditions were bound to get worse before they got better. Low tide, the safest time to cross the bridge, was about ten hours away. "Should be enough time to send Maggie on her way," he muttered as Dean disappeared over the crest of the bluff.
Sam's long strides quickly covered the last stretch of the path and, seconds after his brother, he stepped onto the cliff top. Without the protection of the bluff, the wind was fierce. Sam glanced around warily, holding a hand in front of his face to protect it from the driving rain, but there was no sign of Maggie – just the long, craggy path that wound its way through the shore grasses and rocks that littered the island. Dean had already started up the path when Sam got his first close-up view of the Southeast Point Lighthouse.
It soared 67 feet high, the red brick octagonal tower sitting on a granite base. The roof, the gallery that circled the light, and the lookout balcony one story below the beacon were all metal, painted glossy black. As daylight faded, the signature green light that flashed every five seconds, became increasingly visible.
The keeper's cottage to the right of the lighthouse was a Victorian three-story, built of the same red brick as the lighthouse, and with a steep-pitched roof. The narrow porch that fronted the main door and the small windows on each floor were trimmed in white architectural scrollwork. From the maps Sam had studied, he knew there was also a maintenance shed behind the house and another outbuilding that housed the generators. Incongruously, the complex was framed by a low, well-maintained white picket fence.
Sam caught up to Dean as his brother paused at the front gate to check out the lighthouse. His gaze traveled from base to peak. "So they're gonna move the whole damn thing?"
Sam nodded, then gestured to the left side. "Erosion is eating away the cliff, threatening the structural integrity. They want to move both buildings back before they topple over the edge."
Dean glared at Sam. "You tell me this now, when we're about to go inside it."
Sam grinned. "It's not gonna happen today. But moving them and not causing any further damage is gonna take time and some pretty cool engineering. The sooner they start, the more time they've got to do it right."
Dean unlatched the gate. "So tell me something: given that Indiana Jones-worthy obstacle course we just went through, how do they plan to get construction equipment up here?"
Sam closed the gate after following Dean through. "The historical board is working with the Army Corps of Engineers. They're gonna bring a crane over on an inflatable barge, use a helicopter to hoist it up the cliff, then use the crane to haul up the rest of the equipment. Once they've-"
"Okay, you big geek. Now you're just showing off." Moving toward the cottage, Dean glanced up as another fork of lightning lit up the sky. "Let's get inside. We stand out here much longer, we're gonna get fried."
Sam smiled. "Relax. Lightning's gonna go after the tallest thing here."
Dean, ferreting through his duffel for the key to the cottage, grinned back at Sam. "Lucky for me, that would be you."
Sam pulled a face. "I meant the lighthouse, and it has a lightning rod on the top."
"No sense of humor," Dean muttered as he quickly climbed the cottage steps and crossed the porch. He turned the key in the lock and pushed down on the latch. The door swung open easily, only a slight groan revealing its age. He ran his hand down the wall inside, flipped the switch he found there, and smiled when the ceiling light came on. "Looks like the generators are working." He moved through the hall to the small parlor to the right. Sam followed him in, closing the door behind him.
Both brothers were struck by the sudden quiet, the constant howl of the wind, the crashing of the waves, and occasional rumble of thunder now muted by the solid brick walls of the cottage. Sam dug through his pack until he found the EMF meter, flicking it on. Other than the slight hum to show it was working, it stayed silent.
Dean glanced at the meter and nodded. "Good. Since Maggie seems to be out for her nightly stroll, I say we ghostproof this place, put on some dry clothes, then do a little recon."
Shivering, Sam pulled down the zipper of his drenched jacket, then gestured to the logs piled neatly beside the fireplace. "Wouldn't be a bad idea to get some heat in here, either."
"I can go for that." Sliding his duffel from his shoulder, Dean dropped it on the floor, then moved to the fireplace. With the help of kindling and newspaper stored in a fireside basket, he soon had a fire going. In that time, Sam had salted the doors and windows. He'd also found two ladder-back wooden chairs in the kitchen and dragged them in front of the fireplace to use as makeshift clotheshorses.
After hanging his sodden jacket on the back of one chair, Sam pulled a plastic bag containing a change of clothes from his pack. He grinned over at Dean. "Cold – but dry. Still think the waterproof bags were a dumb idea?"
Dean bit back a smile. "You've earned your badge, boy scout." He peeled off his wet jacket and shirt, then grimaced as he pulled at his t-shirt. "Crap, this is soaked, too." He grabbed the back of his collar and pulled off the shirt over his head, turning his back on Sam to lay it out over the seat of the chair to dry.
Sam's eyes widened as he caught sight of a foot-long welt that ran diagonally across Dean's lower back, the bruising in the center already turning to a mottled mix of blue, black, and red. "What the hell did that?"
Dean's eyebrows peaked questioningly. "What?"
"The big-ass bruise on your back."
Dean pulled a face as his fingers found the injury. "Oh. Think I got clipped when that rope railing snapped on the bridge. Any broken skin?"
Sam shook his head.
"Then it'll be fine."
"I'm good, Sammy. It's just a bruise. Now hurry up and change so we can get this hunt under way. The quicker we send Maggie packing, the quicker me and my baby get back to the mainland where we both belong. Neither of us is cut out for this Gilligan's Island crap."
Less than five minutes later, both brothers were dressed in dry clothes, their wet ones spread out in front of the now roaring fire. The old gas stove in the kitchen had been disconnected in preparation for the move, but Dean found a camping hotplate and a box containing everything they needed to make coffee.
A few minutes later, he carried two mugs of hastily brewed java back into the parlor. "Let's hope the coffee was left behind by this week's work crew, and not from the last time this place was occupied. Who knows what—?"
His smart-ass comment died out when he caught sight of his brother unwrapping the bandanna from his right hand. The rope burn across Sam's palm had torn open. Dried blood caked his hand and between his fingers, while the skin around the wound was angry and raw.
Dean crossed to the fireplace, set both mugs of coffee on the mantel, then gestured at Sam's hand. "So, does that still qualify as 'nothing'?"
Sam shot him a look. "Just need to clean it, that's all."
"Uh-huh." Dean rooted through his duffel, pulling out the first-aid kit before disappearing into the kitchen, then returning with a mug of recently boiled water. "Sit down. Last thing we need is it going septic."
Sam frowned but sat down in front of the fire. "It'll be fine."
"Yeah, it will – once we take care of it." Dean jabbed his finger in the cup of water, testing the temperature. "Stick out your hand."
Sam did as he was told, and Dean slowly poured the sterilized water over it, flushing out dirt and debris. After using tweezers to pull out a handful of stubborn rope fibers embedded in the wound, he covered it with salve and gauze, then rewrapped it in a fresh bandage.
Sam took the cup of coffee that Dean offered after packing away the first-aid supplies. "Thanks."
Dean shrugged. "Kinda pales next to you saving my ass back there. Think I still owe you one."
Sam offered a half-smile. "Let's hope you don't have to pay it back on this hunt."
"I'll drink to that." Dean took a sip of his coffee, then glanced down the hallway opposite the parlor. "We can get into the lighthouse without facing Mother Nature again, right?"
Sam nodded, putting down his mug and reaching for his pack. He pulled out another sealed plastic bag containing a folded sheaf of papers, then shuffled through them until he found the plans for the lighthouse and cottage. Showing them to Dean, he pointed to the lower right corner. "We're here in the front parlor. Down this hallway and to the left is a passageway to the lighthouse." He dragged his finger across the plans. "The passage connects to a landing, here. From there, the staircase spirals down to the base and up to the beacon."
"Good." Dean finished his coffee, leaving the tin mug on the hearth. "Since we don't know what's keeping Maggie here, I say we salt every opening, lock this place up tight so we can poke around in peace until we find it."
Sam nodded, folding up the papers.
Dean pushed himself to his feet, grabbed his duffel, and pulled a flashlight from it. "You still got salt?"
Sam stood up and stretched. "Used up three canisters sealing the house, so that leaves me with two."
"Good." Dean shifted his duffel to his shoulder and picked up his gun. "I've got five. Should be plenty."
Like his brother, Sam grabbed his gun and flashlight, shouldered his pack, then led the way down the hall.
The door to the passageway opened with a slight groan. Sam flicked on a light and crossed the hall, pulling open the door at the far end that led into the lighthouse. Inside, ceiling-mounted lights lit up the semicircular landing and the stairs at each end.
Sam jogged down the flight of stairs to the left, while Dean crossed the landing to the small window on the far side, pulling out a canister of salt to line the sill.
Sam frowned when he reached the base of the lighthouse; other than the heavy wooden door to outside, the small entrance hall was a dead end. It featured the same plaster-covered brick walls as the rest of the tower, a stone floor, and the only furnishings were a small, oak chest, a faded floral print on the wall, and a rickety wooden coat tree.
Dean's voice carried easily down the stairs. "You see anything?"
Sam quickly salted the threshold. "There's nothing here but old furniture and the door to outside."
"No trapdoor or anything?"
Sam clicked on his flashlight, playing the beam along the base of the walls, then across the stone floor. "If there's a hidden door, it's, um, well hidden."
Exhaling in frustration, he turned around and came face-to-face with Maggie. Before Sam could raise his gun or call out to Dean, he was thrown backward, slammed into the wall, and pinned there, the impact driving the air from his lungs.
Maggie flickered, disappeared, then reappeared right in front of Sam. Her scowl morphed suddenly into a knowing smile. "I knew you couldn't leave."
Sam fought to catch his breath. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Maggie's eyes burned into him. Up close, her skin was gray, her clothing wet. Loose tendrils of hair hung over her face but couldn't hide the dark-shadowed eyes. She raised a bony hand, tracing a skeletal finger down the side of Sam's face. "You belong here."
Sam's stomach turned as he pulled away from her touch. "No, I don't. You-"
Maggie pressed a finger onto his lips to silence him. "We each said things we shouldn't have, but…this is how it should be." Her smile was unsettling. "You belong here – with me. We-"
Her words disappeared inside the blast from Dean's gun. As the spirit dissipated, so did her hold on Sam, and he crumpled to the floor.
Dean stepped off the stairs and crossed quickly to his brother's side. "You hurt?"
Sam grimaced but shook his head, holding out his unbandaged hand.
Dean grabbed his brother's wrist and hauled him to his feet. "Damn it, Sam, I leave you alone for, like, ten seconds…" He scanned the space around them. "How the hell did she get in? The door's salted down here, and I just salted the window, the doorway, and the top of the stairs. That should make this stretch of the lighthouse spook-proof."
Sam bent down to pick up the gun he'd dropped. "That's not the only thing that's weird. I…I think she thinks I'm, um, Gideon."
Dean's eyes widened. "'Scuze me?"
Sam shrugged. "She seemed pissed at first, then, when she looked at me, she smiled and said she knew I wouldn't leave her, that 'We belong here – together.'"
Dean rolled his eyes. "What is it with you and crazy chicks, huh? It's like moths to a flame."
"Whatever, Sam. They call her Mad Maggie for a reason – she's one cherry shy of a fruitcake. I've told you a thousand times, you don't reason with ghosts – just shoot 'em." Dean glanced around the entrance hall. "Right now, I'm more interested in how the hell she got in."
A groan escaped as Sam stretched, his collision with the wall adding fresh bruises to those already forming from his fall down the cliff steps. "This lighthouse is built into the cliff itself. There's no cellar, no basement…"
"But there are caves at the base of the cliffs, right?" Dean ran his hand down the aged whitewashed plaster wall. It had cracked and flaked away in places, revealing the red brick beneath. "The ones where they think Maggie washed up."
Dean pulled a salt shell from his pocket, reloading the shotgun. "And those caves supposedly connect to a series of tunnels that snake up to the lighthouse, the ones used by those pirates we read about."
Sam nodded at the suggestion. "You think Maggie's getting in through the mooncusser tunnels."
Dean scowled. "The what?"
Sam stashed his flashlight in his pack. "Moon…land-based pirates were called mooncussers."
Dean rolled his eyes. "No wonder you get headaches, all the useless crap you carry around up there." He rapped his knuckles along the wall. "Whatever you wanna call them, the pirates used the tunnels to come and go, unseen, after luring passing ships onto the rocks. What if Maggie found one of those tunnels after their boat wrecked? What if that's how she got back here? What if that's where she was hurt or hiding when the locals couldn't find her?"
"That's a lot of what ifs, but it's possible." Sam rehashed his research into the history of Block Island. "But the mooncusser tunnels were all filled in during the construction of the lighthouse to ensure structural stability."
Dean turned to look back at Sam. "I'll bet you a month's worth of laundry duty they missed one."
"No bet." Sam recalled another piece of the lighthouse's colorful past. "The first keeper of the lighthouse was suspected of smuggling booze onto the island, selling it to the bars in the town and undercutting the official suppliers. They put him under surveillance but never saw him leave the lighthouse, never saw him bring the booze ashore. He disappeared before authorities could pin anything on him, so the case was dropped. If your theory's right, I'd say he found a tunnel, connected it up to the lighthouse and put it to good use…"
"…until the cops turned up the heat, and he took off." Dean ran his hand down the wall. "Years later, Maggie and Gideon try to escape the island in a storm but their boat capsizes. Gideon drowns, but Maggie washes ashore, finds the tunnel and hangs out there, thinking Gideon will show up, too. When he doesn't, she goes wandering, but keeps returning to the tunnel in search of him." He shrugged. "Might explain why she freaks out when people start messing around down here. Maybe she thinks they'll block off the tunnel like they did with the others, cut off Gideon's only way back. She's -"
The spirit materialized suddenly, right behind Dean, eyes wild, face livid. Dean dropped instinctively as Sam raised his shotgun and fired. Flinching at the sound of his brother's gun going off, Dean threw his hand over his head as salt rained down on him. As the blast died away, he looked up hesitantly. "Maggie, I take it?"
"Uh-huh." Sam's jaw clenched. "Shoot 'em, don't talk to 'em. That's what you said, right?"
"You always were a quick study." Dean pushed himself up, glaring over his shoulder. "But, at the risk of repeating myself, how the hell is she getting in?"
"Looks like there might be something to this tunnel theory of yours." Sam looked around the small entrance hall again. "But since we don't have a clue how to find it, I say we focus on what's keeping her here."
Dean nodded. "Fine. Where do we start?"
Sam shrugged. "The photo of Maggie and Gideon is still on display in the watch room at the top of the tower. Even if the photo itself is not what's keeping Maggie here, it might give us a clue to what is."
Dean turned toward the stairs. "And if it doesn't, we split up that inventory list, go through it line by line."
The brothers moved quickly up the stairs, pausing only to salt any windows they passed. Like in the lower part of the tower, the plaster walls were cracked with age. Ceiling-mounted lights illuminated the spiral stairwell, but the oil lamps that were used before electric generators were brought to the island still adorned the walls.
Sam tapped the base of an oil lamp – it was empty. That and dusty glass suggested they hadn't been used in some time.
Dean, leading the way, looked back over his shoulder to see Sam staring at the old lamp. "What?"
Sam shook his head. "Nothing, just thinking about the keepers carrying a candle up these stairs every night to light these lamps. They…" He frowned. "A candle. We can use a candle."
Dean matched his frown. "For what?"
Sam fished his lighter out of his pocket. "Or this'll work – you know, hold the flame against the wall. If there's a hidden door to a tunnel, chances are it's not airtight. Any draft will cause the flame to flicker so…"
Dean smirked down at Sam. "You've been watching Scooby Doo again, haven't you?"
"Oh, bite me." Sam gave his brother a shove to get him moving again. "Let's take care of the photo first."
Dean grinned, then resumed climbing the stairs. "There's no shame in it, Sammy. Daphne was hot – definitely your type, too. She-" Dean's train of thought trailed off as he reached the watch room. He raised his gun and used the barrel to push open the door.
The groan of ancient hinges broke the silence before a wave of heat from the giant beacon washed over the brothers as they stepped into the room.
Like the tower, the room was octagonal, a series of windows wrapping around six of the eight sides and offering a panoramic view of Block Island Sound. In the center, the ceiling was open to the lighthouse beacon one story above. A large column ran from the floor up through that opening, supporting the beacon itself. Metal steps spiraled around the column leading up to a catwalk that circled the massive light.
The dull, yellow cast of the watch room wall lamps disappeared every five seconds behind the beacon's brilliant green pulsating light.
Dean walked over to the spiral staircase and kicked the bottom step, the metallic clang echoing through the room. "These aren't the original iron steps are they?"
"No." Sam salted the entrance they'd just passed through, then crossed the room and began doing the same with the windowsills. "Most of the iron in the lighthouse has been replaced over time with steel. Iron and salt air – not a good combination."
"No, but it would've stopped Maggie in her tracks." Dean, drawing a circle of salt around the base of the stairs, glanced up. "Guess that means we salt the top, too."
Sam walked over to the door leading to the balcony that wrapped around the outside of the tower. Once the entrance was sealed, he surveyed the room. A wooden desk sat under the windows; it held large coastal maps – some paper, some laminated – and a ship-to-shore radio. Beside it, a canvas cot was shoved against the wall, topped with a folded army blanket. To the right of the door they had entered through, five rows of framed photos covered the wall. He crossed the floor, quickly reading through the names and dates handwritten across the bottom of each.
Dean tracked his brother's movement. "Are those—?"
"Yeah. All the keepers since this lighthouse was built." Sam reached up and pulled one down from the top row. "This is Maggie and Gideon." The faded sepia photo showed the young couple, likely in their late-twenties, standing in front of the lighthouse. Gideon wore his keeper's uniform: a dark, single-breasted, fly-fronted coat over a white shirt and dark pants, and a Navy-style cap, with a silver lighthouse surrounded by a wreath centered over the peak. Maggie wore a high-necked white blouse, topped by a dark fitted jacket, and a long dark skirt. She held onto Gideon's arm, and each wore the dour expression common to photos of the day. Their names and years of service were handwritten underneath the photo in an elaborate script.
Sam glanced from the photo in his hand to those on the wall. "The handwriting on each photo is different. Maybe this is Maggie's handwriting…maybe that's the link."
"It's a stretch." Dean crossed the room to stand beside Sam. His eyes slid between the photo and his brother. "But, damn, Sammy, Gideon's your evil twin."
Sam scowled at Dean. "What?"
"I can see why Maggie's fixated on you." Dean tapped the glass on the photo. "Give Gideon a good shave, and that could be you."
"No way…" Sam stared again at the photo. Gideon was tall, standing a full head and shoulders above his wife. His hair was long, dark and wavy, not quite hiding heavy sideburns, and he sported a neatly-trimmed beard and moustache. His nose was sharp and, in the sepia tones of the photograph, it was hard to tell if his eyes were dark or light. "Passing resemblance, maybe, but-"
A smile teased the corners of Dean's mouth. "Dude had way more facial hair than you'll ever manage but," he patted Sam's cheek. "these freaky sideburns of yours could be muttonchops if they ever grow up."
Sam batted away Dean's hand in annoyance. "Don't you have a lens room to salt?"
Dean grinned, then moved quickly up the spiral stairs toward the beacon. His grin faded as he reached the top. "Son of a bitch."
Sam looked up from the photo. "What?"
"The catwalk that surrounds the light up here, it's metal mesh. It's not gonna hold a salt line. I can salt the top step but that gives Maggie plenty of room on either side to wriggle through." He shielded his eyes against the beacon. "Guess that means we salt the windows. We-"
Sam flinched as his brother's gun went off. "Do I have to ask?"
"No." Dean lowered his gun, glaring down at Sam. "Chick doesn't know when to quit."
"Damn it." Sam slammed the photo of the Westwoods into the side of the metal steps, shattering the glass. Pulling out the photo, he discarded the frame, scrabbled in his pocket for his lighter, and set the picture alight. The old image blackened and curled at the edges before bursting into green and blue flames. Sam dropped the still-burning photo into a metal bucket near the base of the stairs.
From the top of the stairs, Dean reloaded his gun as he watched Sam destroy the image. "But until we know that's what's keeping her here…"
"…we salt everything." Sam grabbed the last canister of salt from his pack and climbed the stairs into the lens room.
Squinting against the light, he saw Dean gesture with his hand. "You take right, I'll take left. We'll meet in the middle."
Keeping his back to the lens, Sam quickly poured the salt at the base of each of the large panes of glass in the octagonal room. He'd salted three of them when a shiver chased after the sweat running down his spine.
His head snapped up to see Maggie's livid face staring back at him from the other side of the glass. Dark eyes, wild with rage, glittered in the eerie green glow of the lighthouse beacon. She stood on the metal balcony that surrounded the lens room, ignoring the wind and rain that howled around her. Long, bony fingers pressed against the glass as she stared at Sam.
He kept pouring salt. "Dean," he shouted. "She's back."
Then, as the lighthouse beacon blinked off, Maggie vanished.
Sam heard Dean's footsteps on the metal walkway behind him. He whirled around to face him and Maggie flickered into sight between them, right in front of the one pane of glass the brothers had yet to salt. But this time her attention was on Dean.
"You won't take him from me. No one will." The spirit's words were cold and deadly.
Dean raised his gun but Maggie hurled him backward before he had a chance to pull the trigger. The attack lifted him off his feet, yanked the gun from his hands, and threw him into one of the large panes.
Sam's shotgun blast hit Maggie square in the back, the spirit vanishing in a shower of rock salt. But the sound of the shot was easily drowned out by the explosion of glass as the window shattered under the force of Dean's weight. Shards rained down as he hit the railing of the balcony outside the lens room, tumbled backward over the edge, and disappeared from sight.
For a moment, Sam's legs wouldn't work, the sheer terror of watching his brother fall from the lighthouse balcony freezing him in place. Then he was running, his feet pounding around the metal catwalk. He ignored the broken glass slicing into his hands as he pulled himself through the shattered window and onto the gallery outside.
He paid no mind to the icy wind and rain that slammed into him, and the crushing pressure in his chest as he leaned over the railing and looked down. Sam's breath hitched as, in the flashing green light of the beacon, he caught sight of Dean's crumpled form. His brother lay on his back, unmoving, but on the metal balcony that circled the watch room ten feet below, not on the ground, another fifty feet below that.
There was no answer to his shout, his deep voice muted by the howl of the wind and the distant crashing of the surf. Sam hauled himself back through the broken window just in time to see Maggie flicker into sight right in front of him.
"He wanted to take you away." She shook her head slowly. "You belong with me."
"I'm not Gideon." Sam never stopped moving. He raised his gun, blasted Maggie full of salt, then ran down the steps toward his brother. He darted across the watch room, hauled open the balcony door and stepped outside. Seconds later, he was at his brother's side.
He knelt down slowly, placing his gun on the ground. "Dean?" One of Dean's legs was bent under the other, one arm folded over his chest while the other flopped limply at his side. His eyes were closed, his face and neck littered with cuts. Blood smeared across his forehead and temple appeared black in the green-tinged light.
Hands shaking, Sam pressed his fingers into the side of Dean's neck. His stomach lurched at the sticky feel of blood beneath them, but they found a steady pulse. The breath he didn't know he was holding rushed out audibly. "Thank God..."
Relief allowed training to take over and he efficiently began assessing his brother's injuries. Surprisingly, he found no evidence of broken bones, no obvious signs of internal injuries. There was a large welt on the side of Dean's head, and Sam's hand came away covered in blood after finding it. There was also a deep gash on his brother's right shoulder where glass had sliced through shirts and skin. The biggest immediate concern was the head injury, since Dean had still shown no signs of regaining consciousness.
Sam ducked his head and curled protectively over his brother as a gust of wind turned rain into stinging needles against any exposed skin. When the wind died down, he brushed the water from Dean's face, shivering as his clothes quickly turned from damp to wet. "So much for being dry, huh?" Sam grabbed his gun and moved behind his brother. "Look, I hate moving you before you wake up and tell me what hurts, but Maggie's around here somewhere and this cold rain isn't doing you any good. I gotta get you inside."
Threading his arms under Dean's, Sam gently hoisted up his brother so his back and head rested against Sam's chest, then pulled him toward to the door of the watch room. Sam gritted his teeth, moving slowly to jostle Dean as little as possible. "You know, if you wanna wake up, tell me how many first-aid rules I'm breaking right now, that's fine by me."
But Dean didn't stir, even as Sam dragged him into the lighthouse and settled him on the old cot. Sam quickly rechecked his pulse; it was slow but steady.
He frowned at the blood that caked the right side of Dean's head, staining his hair and the collar of his shirt. Turned his brother's head to the left, Sam quickly found the culprit: a jagged cut about three inches long running above and behind his ear. "Damn it…"
The better lighting inside the room also revealed that the dark patch near the top of Dean's arm was growing in size, meaning the cut beneath it was still bleeding. Sam rolled his brother onto his side. His blue flannel shirt was slashed from below his shoulder to just above his ribs. Sam shrugged off his own shirt, wadded it and pressed it against the wound before rolling Dean onto his back, trapping the shirt between his brother and the cot to help staunch the bleeding.
A gust of wind blasted in through the open balcony door, reminding Sam that they were open to another attack from Maggie. He scrambled to his feet and slammed the door shut, then scowled at the salt line. It had been broken when he'd dragged Dean through it and the blowing rain had melted much of it, rendering it useless. He glanced over to the spiral staircase. There were also undefended windows in the lens room, making them vulnerable on two fronts.
There was still salt in Dean's pack, but how could he seal the broken window upstairs against Maggie? Without some kind of shield against the rain, the salt would quickly become a soggy mess and worthless as protection.
"Think, think…" Sam glanced around the room, his gaze landing on the pile of maps on the desk. "That'll work." He grabbed one of the large laminated maps and then ran up the stairs to the light room. Dean's duffel sat abandoned on the metal catwalk that circled the beacon. His gun lay against the glass where it had been pulled from his grasp during Maggie's attack. Sam picked up the gun, pushed it inside Dean's duffel, then pulled out a salt canister. He laid down a salt line along the sill of the window Maggie had first gained access through, then turned his attention to the broken window.
The rain was falling even harder now, the steady downpour turning the black painted steel of the balcony into glistening obsidian. Gusts of icy wind blasted in through the broken glass, bringing the rain with it.
Blinking against the rain blowing in his face, Sam took the laminated map, folded it in half lengthwise and wedged it on end, folded side up, into the window. Once jammed in, he lifted the top layer until it was at a ninety-degree angle. It formed a canopy over the sill, protecting the layer of salt he then laid down under it.
He'd just finished when a shudder ran through him. He looked up to see Maggie staring back at him through the broken window. Her white blouse was soaked through, revealing the lace of her camisole beneath. Her long dark skirt, heavy with water, clung to her ankles. Loose strands of wet hair stuck to her face and raindrops ran like tears down her cheek.
Sam knew he was safe, that the room was sealed, but his chest still tightened at the sight of the spirit standing less than three feet from him. He shivered, and not just from the icy wind.
Maggie's dark eyes held a mix of sorrow and fury as she stared at Sam. "Why would you do this?"
Sam's eyes widened. "Why? To stop you from hurting people, that's why. You don't belong here."
The sadness in Maggie's expression quickly disappeared behind anger. "We belong here. This is our home."
Sam tried to keep his voice level. "I told you: I'm not your husband. I-"
"Don't you say that." Now the spirit was livid. "You belong here with me." She glanced downward, then glared up at Sam. "It's him, isn't it? He's trying to make you leave. Poisoning you against me." Her anger dissipated suddenly, replaced by a smile. "If it's just the two of us, we'll be fine."
Sam shook his head. "Maggie, you need to move on. You-"
"Never." The spirit was furious again. "You and I will always be together. Always." With that threat, she flickered and disappeared.
Sam's heart skipped a beat. "Dean." He whirled around and ran down the stairs, the clang of each booted footstep on the metal treads echoing through the room. He froze halfway down; Maggie was standing at the side of the cot, next to his brother.
Sam raised his gun. "Get the hell away from him."
At the sound of his shout, Maggie turned around, eyes locked in an icy glare. "I won't let him take you."
Sam's expression hardened. "You don't get a say." He pulled the trigger, and Maggie disappeared in the shower of rock salt. Sam was moving down the stairs again even before the report died away. He darted across the room, kicked away the wet salt that had allowed the spirit to enter, and laid a fresh line across the threshold, sealing the room.
Turning back to Dean, Sam's shoulders slumped. His brother hadn't moved from where he left him. He crossed back to the side of the cot, dropping to his knees and placing the gun on the floor.
Dean was shivering; whether from blood loss-fuelled shock or lying outside in the icy rain, Sam wasn't sure. Neither was good news. He pulled up the heavy blanket from the base of the bunk and unfolded it over his brother.
"Dean?" There was no response. Sam grabbed his pack, riffled through it, then glanced worriedly at his brother. "You know, I'll bet you'd be more comfortable downstairs – nice cozy fire, coffee in the kitchen. Look, I'll make you a deal: you wake up, I'll have you down there in no time. I'll even make the coffee."
There was still no response as Sam pulled the first-aid kit from the duffel. "Okay then, but don't start bitching there's no java when you do decide to wake up."
Thirty minutes later, Sam had cleaned all Dean's cuts with antiseptic wipes, used three neat stitches to close the head wound and twelve more to pull together the gash in his shoulder.
Dean stirred as Sam was packing away the first-aid supplies.
"Hey." Sam slid across the floor to the side of the cot. "How you doing in there?"
Unfocused eyes briefly stared back at him before Dean screwed them shut again. "I feel terrible."
Sam's worried expression relaxed slightly. "If you're quoting Han Solo, you're in better shape than I thought."
Dean's eyes stayed closed. "Maggie did this, right?"
"Yeah." Sam quickly checked Dean's pulse, nodding in approval when he found it steady. "She's still convinced I'm Gideon, and sees you as some kind of threat – that you're gonna take me away."
Dean peeled open one eye. "Maggie thinks Gideon's gonna leave her for another dude?"
Sam bit back a smile. "I don't think she meant it like that, but she does seem terrified she's gonna lose her husband." He frowned at Dean's grimace as his brother reached for his injured shoulder. "Leave that alone." He grabbed Dean's arm and pushed it gently back to his side. "What if Gideon wanted out of the marriage? Maybe a friend or a relative encouraged him to leave. That could have been what pushed Maggie over the edge, emotionally speaking."
Dean rolled toward Sam. "That fits with all the 'We belong here' bull she's been spouting." He ran his fingers along the side of his head, frowning at the bandage he found there. "I'm a little fuzzy on things, Sammy. Did she…throw me through a window?"
"Yeah." Sam's stomach lurched as his mind's eye replayed looking over the edge of the lighthouse balcony, expecting to see his brother on the ground.
Dean's frown deepened. "Then how—?"
"You were lucky. Damn lucky. You fell onto the watch room balcony, not all the way…"
Dean's eyes were locked on Sam. "I wondered why I'm in one piece." He bit back a groan as he tried to sit up. "Except I feel like I'm in about fifty-seven."
Sam again pushed him back down. "Yeah, about that. I need you tell me what hurts – and no 'I'm fine' bull, either."
"Everything hurts, Sammy," Dean snapped, frustration fraying his always short temper. "But 'killer hangover' hurt, not 'I'm gonna die' hurt." He screwed his eyes closed again. "I just need…a minute."
Sam shook his head. "What you need is a CAT scan."
"I'm good. Quit worrying."
"You're so not good." Sam's frustration was quickly outpacing his brother's. "You know how long you were out?"
Dean's eyes stayed closed. "I got thrown off a lighthouse. That earns me a nap."
"It earned you a concussion – or worse. Open your eyes. I need to check your pupils."
Dean peered up at Sam. As the green light of the beacon filled the room, the pupils constricted, the right a little slower than the left, but enough to ease Sam's worry a little.
He nodded. "Good. Now follow my finger."
A tired smirk tugged at the corners of Dean's mouth. "Your middle finger?"
Dean mumbled something rude, but complied.
Sam sat back, nodding again. "Like you said, you'll live. But I'll be happier once a doc checks you over." He dumped out three pills from the painkiller bottle he'd kept out of the first-aid kit and pressed them into Dean's hand. "Take these. They'll help."
Dean shoved the pills in his mouth. "Thanks."
Sam lifted Dean's head, supporting him while he drank some water, then lowering him back down when he was done. "On top of the concussion, you've got some nasty gashes, but I stitched the worst ones back together."
Dean's eyes widened. "I slept through your stitches?" When Sam nodded, he snorted weakly. "It's worse than I thought."
"Laughing on the inside." Sam screwed the lid back on the water bottle. "Look, just chill. Let those pills take effect. I've got some research to do."
Dean scrubbed a hand down his face, looking tiredly up at Sam. "Into Maggie's marital woes or what's keeping her here?"
"Right now, I only care about sending her on her way so you and I can get the hell off this island. The photo's toast so we know it's not the handwriting." Sam turned to grab his own pack. "I'll go through the inventory. If I can't put my finger on something in an hour, we're torching everything on the suspect provenance list."
Dean's eyes closed again. "Fine, but I'm telling Mrs. J I was concussed at the time…had nothing to do with it."
"Nice." Sam reached inside the backpack, pulling out the sheaf of papers containing the inventory list, then froze at the sight of the shattered remains of the frame that had held Maggie and Gideon's photo. A small square of card lay amidst the broken glass and wood. He leaned over, pulled it free and flipped it over; it was a second sepia photograph.
Dean, fighting to keep his eyes open, frowned up at Sam. "I know that look. What did you find, Sherlock?"
Sam stared at the image. "It's another photo of Maggie and Gideon. Must have been tucked in behind the official portrait."
In the picture, the couple stood in front of a fireplace and Gideon was dressed in a suit rather than his uniform.
"Burn it," Dean mumbled, his eyes sliding shut.
A soft smile crept across Sam's face. "It's not the photo that's keeping Maggie around. But I think I know what is." He tapped the photo. "I've seen this. Look, right here on the mantel. It's like the Cassidy case in Atlanta, remember? We couldn't-"
He turned the photo toward Dean but his brother's eyes were closed, his breathing even. "Dean?" Dean's eyes opened, but quickly slid shut again. Sam again pressed his fingers against Dean's neck. He nodded at the steady pulse, then rested his hand briefly on Dean's chest, closing his eyes as he felt the steady beat of his brother's heart. "Like you said, dude, you've earned a nap."
Sam pushed himself to his feet, pacing beside his brother. If he was right about the object in the photo, all it would take to get rid of Maggie was a quick trip downstairs, and an even quicker salt and burn. Then he could concentrate on getting Dean back across the bridge, without worrying if the spirit was going to show up and push them off a cliff en route.
Damn. The bridge. Sam stopped pacing, staring down at Dean and taking in the pallid complexion, the cuts, and the bruises. His brother had been lucid but he wasn't upright or moving around. That would be the real test. Then there was getting him down the lighthouse steps, down the cliff path, across the suspension bridge and up the smuggler's staircase before they could even think about getting him medical care.
Screw that. Once the storm passed, he could call for help, hope like hell the island had some kind of air ambulance service and that the winds died down enough for a chopper to land at the lighthouse.
"One problem at a time, Sam," he muttered to himself, grabbing his shotgun and fresh shells from his pack. "Send Maggie packing first."
He crouched down next to his brother. "Dean?"
Dean groaned softly, rolling his head across the pillow, but his eyes didn't open.
Sam sighed. "I think I know how to get rid of Maggie. I just need to go downstairs. I should be gone five…ten minutes, tops. You're safe here. Maggie's not getting in." He stared down at Dean, then grabbed his pack, yanked a sheet of paper from the inventory list and scrawled a quick note on the back. "I doubt you'll need this. I'll be back before you wake up, but…" He placed the paper on Dean's chest, then loaded his gun, shoved his lighter in his pocket, and picked up the last container of salt.
He crossed the room, looked back at Dean, then disappeared down the stairs.
Continued in Chapter 2…