A/N: So, this is written for the Big Bang challenge over at LJ, and it's been polished again before I posted it here. It's finished – thankfully – so I'll be posting a chapter a day, editing again as I post. There are five chapters altogether.
I've thanked a whole lot of people at the main post, so I'll not repeat it here, but just so you know, I didn't do this by myself. :)
Disclaimer: Yes, I own them. The original characters, I mean. I own neither Dean nor Sam Winchester, however much I want to!
This can't be happening.
She screamed as burning horizontal lines of scarlet appeared on her stomach and blood soaked through her nightgown. Fear and adrenaline helped her propel herself out of the bed, but before she reached the door, an invisible hand suddenly pulled her back. She fell to the floor, her injured arm underneath her body, and the acute pain took her breath away for a second. She kicked at her captor, flailing limbs meeting nothing but air.
She screamed again as two more long gashes appeared, the midsection of her gown now completely drenched with blood. Rolling to her side, she tried to crawl back towards the bed, but it wasn't done with her. She found herself on her back as before, exposed and at its mercy. This time she could feel her stomach muscles pulling apart, as though her guts were going to be spilled. She screamed for a third time, louder than ever.
The part of her that wasn't consumed with pain, could hear someone yelling her name from the other side of the door, but at the moment energy and survival instinct deserted her and she couldn't do anything else but break into exhausted, frightened tears and gasping breaths. The pressure on her chest increased and she felt herself enveloped, suffocated by the weight on top of her.
Please God, don't let me die. Not like this.
The Impala screeched to a stop in front of a gate.
The big, black, wrought-iron gate, with bars and spikes at the top, was a definite warning for those who might be thinking of climbing it; they would be risking important appendages and organs. Dark and forbidding, with the words "cogito ergo sum" in capital letters etched on the top arc of the gothic-looking iron. Walls of granite extended from both sides of the monstrosity.
Sam mouthed the words silently, and then translated them out loud. "I think, therefore I am."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Awesome. He has to remind himself that he exists. Are we sure that this guy is on the level?"
Sam shrugged. "Donna did say that he's a good guy. Can you just press the button on the intercom to let them know we are here?"
Dean rolled the window down and pressed the buzzer on the granite pillar flanking the gate.
The voice in the other end was low, with a hint of anxiety lacing the crisp word. "Yes?"
"Hi. This is Dean and Sam Winchester. Donna sent us to talk to a Mr. Frances?"
"Oh, right. That's me. I'm going to send you the pin for the gate through your phone right now. Enter it on the keypad and the gate will open. Just follow the road, it'll lead you to the house. I'll be there to meet you at the front door."
Dean turned to face the younger Winchester, raising an eyebrow. "I'm surprised he doesn't have a housekeeper or a guard to answer. And why would he bother to give us the pin? He could just unlock it for us from inside his house."
Sam shrugged. "So he's a little weird, it's not like we can throw stones. He probably wants to verify that it's really us at the gate. An impostor won't be getting the pin through the phone."
"But who would want to pretend to be a couple of brothers who hunt ghosts just so they could get into the house? There's a hundred other people with normal jobs they can impersonate."
Sam frowned, apparently thinking through the question.
Dean rolled his eyes. Christ, Sam, I was just being sarcastic.
Sam's phone beeped, signaling a text message. Dean leaned over to check out the digits, and then pressed the appropriate numbers on the keypad below the intercom.
The gate swung open noiselessly. Dean was expecting a creaking sound at the very least, the silent movement only made it more ominous.
"Huh. That's not creepy or anything."
Both brothers stared for a beat at the long two-lane road flanked by trees stretched in front of them, before Dean revved up the Impala and she glided along the asphalt. On both sides, green grass stretched out indefinitely, with the occasional tree dotting the landscape. Dean was reminded of golf courses that he had seen on TV.
"Is this our usual pro-bono rate, or are we actually getting something out of this?" Dean asked hopefully as he maneuvered the winding road. Their cash flow was drying up and they could use the extra money.
"He did say he's willing to pay us."
"Let me guess, he hasn't said how much." Dean let his voice slide into sarcasm, "Awesome. Have you printed out whatever research that you found from that town hall?"
Sam nodded. "I'll go through it with you later."
"Super. I can't wait."
Sam gave him an eyeroll at that.
After five minutes, both of them sighted a rust-red building situated at the end of the road. What looked like a moderately-sized building grew larger the nearer they got to it. By the time the car arrived at what looked like the foyer of the building, the house – looks more like a castle really, Dean thought – loomed over them like a shadow from a giant odd-shaped creature.
They got out of the car, doors thudding shut in tandem, and surveyed their surroundings and the house.
Dean was pretty impressed. "Dude, I've seen smaller hotels than this."
"Dude, have you stayed in an actual hotel before?" Sam asked, his face skeptical.
Dean was indignant."Hey, I've stayed in a hotel before. Once of those high-class, five-star hotels, as you call it."
Sam looked interested. "Really? When?"
"Once, when you were in Stanford, Dad and I did a gig in New York City, and the guy who called us for help sprung for a room in a hotel in the middle of Times Square, this place called Casablanca Hotel, real posh, with a café and all the trimmings. It's still a hell lot smaller than this."
"You went to New York City for a gig with Dad? You told me that you avoided the bigger cities."
Dean cracked a grin. "We were like two hours away. He was drunk when we got the call from Caleb. I took the call, and since we were the nearest and Caleb said the job was an urgent one, I took it. By the time he was properly sober, we'd already reached the Big Apple. We met up with the guy, he showed us the grave of his former tenant, I did the actual salt and burn by myself. Dad was standing by, managed to shoot the spirit when she appeared. The guy was so grateful he insisted on paying for the room. That was before Dad got the truck."
"So you basically got him there against his will."
"He calmed down, eventually. The soft beds and the fact the guy was willing to pick up the mini bar tab helped."
Sam laughed. His dimples appeared, and for a second, Dean wished he had something to record the moment. It was getting rarer by the day.
A soft cough caught their attention and Dean and Sam turned their heads towards the front door. A blonde man of average height stood by the doorway with a small smile, holding out his hand.
"You must be Dean and Sam Winchester. I'm George Frances. Thank you so much for coming."
Sam shook the extended hand. "I'm Sam, this is my brother Dean. You have a lovely home, Mr. Frances."
"George please, and thank you. I designed most of the house myself. Come in, please, and I can show you to your rooms. I'm running late on a project, so perhaps you can make yourselves comfortable after the long drive and we can talk more tonight after dinner?"
Sam answered for both of them, while Dean opened the trunk, handing out Sam's duffel to him and shouldering his own. He debated for a second about getting the bag of weapons, then shrugged and took it anyway. He slammed the trunk shut and wondered if he could just leave the car at the spot or if George preferred to have him park it away from the entrance, out of sight.
Before he could open his mouth to ask, George volunteered. "The garage is at the side of the house. I'll show it to you later on. Or you can just leave it here, I don't mind. I'll inform my security not to touch it without permission."
Dean nodded and followed the other men into the house.
Sam hoped that they would have enough time to explore the house before tackling the job. Inside, the place was a maze, with twists and turns and dark corners and winding staircases going up and down at different places. He had been in the house for less than five minutes and he had counted three doors, one large winding staircase going up, two staircases going down to who knew where, and had made two lefts and a right. At this rate he might even need to ask for a map.
George broke the silence as they walked. "How is Donna? How's her daughter Katie? Is she well?"
There was an underlying question that Sam could sense hovering in the air. Did she say anything to you about me?
Sam answered for both of them. "They're good, we spoke to them just before we set off. Donna mentioned that she worked for you before, and that you needed help for a similar situation, but that's about it, really."
"She used to be my personal assistant. I'm an architect, mostly retired now, and I set up my own company with a friend. She was with me for five years, and we were all sorry when she left to move to Massachusetts with her family. I still send her the occasional email."
Dean spoke up. "Is that how you found out what happened to her daughter?"
George nodded. "I called her a few weeks ago. We got to talking, and she told me about her daughter, how you, erm, solved the problem. I was hoping you could do the same here."
They made a left into a long corridor. "You told us on the phone that something supernatural was going on in the house. How do you know it's not just some prank gone wrong?"
George stopped somewhere in the middle of the corridor, right in front of the only two doors along the area. The heavy oak doors were facing each other. He gestured at them, a small smile gracing his face.
"I'll let my daughter tell you the whole story. She'll be back in about an hour. In the meantime, these are your rooms. Please, make yourselves at home, and I'll come and fetch both of you for dinner at around seven, is that all right?"
Dean nodded and Sam mirrored his actions. George nodded back, a strange glint in his eyes, and Sam had to wonder about that for a second, before George turned and retraced his steps, leaving the Winchesters standing by the doors staring at his departing back.
Dean looked at Sam and smirked. "So, come over to my digs after you check out yours?"
Sam rolled his eyes and grunted his acquiescence. He turned and opened the door to his room.
The room was decorated tastefully, a two layer set of curtains framing the large glass windows, and on their right was a desk and an office chair. Plain dark blue sheets with a matching bedspread covered a king-sized bed complete with at least four pillows. The bed was neatly made up.
Wow, the bed is really huge. I bet my feet won't go over the edge.
A set of white towels was stacked neatly on the bedside table. To the left from where Sam was standing, a large flat screen television dominated the area. Several shelves stacked with books and knick knacks were nailed at the furthermost corner of the room, and Sam noticed a door, most likely a closet, taking up more than half of the wall adjacent to the door, and another door right beside it.
Sam dropped his duffel on the bed and sneaked a peek inside the enormous walk-in closet, then went over to check out what was behind the second door.
It turned out to be an adjoining bathroom, this time in a blue-green color scheme to complement the bedroom. The bathroom was equipped with a toilet, a shower area and a bathtub – it's big enough to fit all of me – and on the sink, some bottles of shampoo and soap, along with a new toothbrush and shaving kit.
Wow, this bathroom is as big as some of the rooms that we've stayed in. And it looks so much cleaner too.
Sam closed the door to the bathroom and made his way back to the bed. He parked his butt on the edge and almost toppled back, it was so soft and inviting and Sam was aching from eight hours straight in the car. But he was afraid that he couldn't – or wouldn't – get up from the bed once he laid on it. So, with a regretful sigh and a mental note to turn in early, Sam pulled his duffel towards him, extracted a file full of research materials that he had printed out from the town hall and spent a minute to make sure everything was there before standing up to trudge to his brother's room.
He rapped twice on the door, and receiving no answer, turned the knob and stepped into the room, promptly stopping in his tracks.
Dean was still fully dressed, his socks still on his feet, curled up on his side, on the bed, sound asleep. His boots were carelessly lying on their sides by the foot of the bed, laces undone.
He must be exhausted from driving non-stop to reach here, thought Sam.
An in-depth discussion about his findings would have to wait until Dean woke up, and Sam was in no hurry to wake his brother. He took a cursory glance at the room, almost identical to his own albeit with a brown color scheme. He found the weapons bag and Dean's duffel on the floor next to the bed. Taking extra care not to disturb Dean's sleep, he heaved himself up to the other side of the bed – a carbon copy of the one in his own room – and leaned his head against the headboard, intending to further his reading of the papers that he had gathered. That way, he could summarize his findings to Dean and they could start gathering further physical clues to the current haunting as soon as they could.
Feeling pleased with himself, he started reading.
Images of black and red and pain and is that blood on his hands and oh my god can the screaming stop already…
Dean sat up on the bed, panting, the remnants of a nightmare already fading away even as he tried to stay awake. For a moment he forgot where he was, until he turned and saw Sam sleeping sitting up beside him, papers strewn over his lap and head tilted up and to the left. His mouth was slightly open and there was a tiny sound of huffing as he breathed out. He looked peaceful, for once.
Should I wake him up? Nah. He'll wake up on his own soon enough.
The drive must have taken more of a toll on him than he'd thought; he had meant to rest his eyes for just a second. He checked the time on the digital clock on the desk beside the bed, and noted he had lost an hour sleeping. Another hour before they were 'summoned' to dinner. Dean was looking forward to that. He was curious to know if the rich ate the same type of food as they did.
"What time is it?" The voice behind his back was rough, heavy with sleep still.
"Almost six. Did you know you have your own bed? Or your own room, for that matter."
Sam yawned and set about straightening his long joints. He looked like a cat after a nap.
Dean smiled at the comparison. His brother did have slanted eyes. Or was it puppy-dog eyes?
"I didn't mean to fall asleep when I came in here. And anyway, you were asleep too." Sam sounded chastised and chiding at the same time.
Dean swung out of bed and reached down to pick both bags from the floor. He tossed the weapons bag onto the bed and unzipped his own duffel.
"So don't keep me in suspense. What do you have?"
He could hear the rustling of papers. "Okay, from what I could find in the town hall, there's nothing on the land itself. The Miccosukee tribes were the first people here, but there's nothing to suggest that this particular land was sacred or dangerous. The land history is clean, dates back to the 1800's. It was just mostly swamps and nothing else, before construction set in and all these houses were built."
"Any legends about spirits, or any war or fights in this area, like that one in Oklahoma?"
Sam shook his head, looking troubled. "Nothing at all. There're no fights or any type of war, no blood spilled. The Miccosukee tribe owned the land but their main camps weren't placed anywhere near here. It was mainly used for hunting or washing or gathering water and food, I think. The tribe used a spring nearby for the washing and collecting water."
Dean began spilling out his clothes from the bag and onto the bed. "Uh-huh. Anything about the previous owners of the land before George took over, or the house itself?"
"Nope. The land was just left as it was until the developer decided to raze the entire area and divide the land up to sell for private property. George Frances bought the area about twenty-five years ago and built everything from ground up. He was the first and current owner. Nothing ghastly or ghostly had happened so far."
Sam nodded. "Until now."
Finally, Dean unearthed a white button-down shirt from the bottom of the bag. He sniffed at it. It didn't smell bad, so he figured that he could use that for dinner later on.
"What are you doing, Dean?" Sam's forehead wrinkled, looking puzzled.
"I'm doing the smell test. I don't really want to come down to dinner with a smelly shirt."
"Since when are you bothered enough to make a good impression for dinner?"
"I'm not going out of my way, dude. It's just good courtesy."
Sam was still looking puzzled, but now he was smiling, in the 'I think you are adorable and I am just humoring you' kind of way. Dean usually hated that smile, but at that moment the smile warmed his heart.
"You know what'll be more impressive? If you don't eat like you've been starved for a week."
Dean wasn't even insulted by the slur on his table manners, but he made the appropriate face and smacked Sam's leg that was nearest. "Whatever, man. What did you find about the family?"
Sam started going through the papers on the bed.
"Not much, I didn't have time to go deeper. George Frances is an architect, like he said. He has a company that he started up with a Damian Trent. From what I got, their company, HouseArt, is pretty well-respected, and has won several design awards. His wife, Sharon Frances, died about three years ago due to a stroke. She was a nurse at Saint Mary Medical Center before marrying George. She continued working after their marriage, but she stopped working right after the son was born. I haven't got hold of any medical records or a death certificate, but there wasn't any reason to suggest the death wasn't natural. Trinity, the eldest one, is nineteen, studying journalism in at the University of Georgia. Skylar's fourteen, studying at Berkeley Prep School."
"Can't you get anything through Facebook? I thought you can find out all kinds of things from that site if you know how to look."
"Just basic information and photos, at least the daughter has posted a lot of pictures. The son isn't too much into that I think, but that's about it. Trinity's profile has a link to her blog though. I'll take a look at it later, maybe it can tell us more."
Sam sounded frustrated, and Dean felt his amusement rise. His younger brother was personally affronted by the fact that his limited research had yielded nothing to help them.
"Trinity and Skylar? What happens to normal, simple names like Angela and Daniel, or Jane and Joe?" Dean said to distract his brother.
He could see amusement replacing Sam's indignation. "Rich people, man."
"Huh. So I suppose that's a license to go nuts on your children's names."
Sam teased. "I'm just glad that I wasn't named after a woman."
"Hey, Grandma was a badass, okay? She could kick Granddad's butt anytime."
"Sure, if you say so."
"But seriously, Trinity and Skylar? I feel sorry for the little guy already. Skylar sounds like a girl's name."
Sam grimaced and said, "Please don't make that kind of remark over dinner."
Dean snickered. "I'll be tactful. This would be one of the very few times that I'm going to be eating a rich man's food, so I'm going to savor that experience." He paused. "I wonder if they will serve caviar."
"You don't eat fish eggs, Dean."
"Tonight I will."
Sam just shook his head without replying. He started gathering the papers on the bed, to be put away until they could go through them again later on. Dean shook his own head this time upon seeing Sam meticulously arranging the papers in some mysterious order only known to him.
"I'm gonna go to my room now. To prepare to, you know, make a good impression."
Dean just flipped him off and turned back to collect his shaving kit.
"Oh, Dean. Are you going to let Castiel know where we are?"
The question was a valid one, but for some reason, Dean hesitated before replying. Ever since the whole fiasco with Jo and Ellen, he could feel Castiel's faith and zest giving way to something else, something much deeper and darker. If he didn't know any better, he would say that the fallen angel was giving in bit by bit to rage and despair. He hadn't asked, and truth be told, he was afraid of the answer.
"I'll let him know after dinner, just a precaution, but I'm pretty sure that's unnecessary. He isn't needed here anyway. We can handle some pansy spirits by ourselves."
Sam just hummed in agreement and closed the door behind him.
There wasn't any caviar at dinner, not that Dean looked too disappointed, and Sam wasn't sorry for him.
Sam did feel slightly sorry for Skylar when they were introduced, though. He was a short, skinny boy who had his father's features but none of his friendliness. Smartly dressed in black pants and a pale blue collared shirt, he seemed quiet and didn't speak until directly spoken to, and even then his voice was soft and uncertain. He had his entire head down almost throughout the entire meal, although Sam caught him peeking at Dean a couple of times from under his bangs. Sam wasn't sure if Dean realized that he was being watched, but Sam wouldn't put it past him to be aware. Skylar might have thought he was being discreet, but Sam had plenty of practice himself stealing glances through his mop of hair, and getting caught for it.
Trinity was a little more talkative than her brother, which wasn't saying much. She must had gotten her looks from her mother, dark hair coupled with blue eyes and a gaze that, for some reason, reminded him strongly of Castiel. She was wearing a dark blue dress and was doing her best to give more interesting answers than her younger brother, but more often than not she would trail off into awkward silence. Sam noticed her smiling once at one of her father's weak jokes, and it transformed her whole face from solemn to charming.
If the Frances siblings were color coordinated, so were the Winchester brothers, although not by any deliberate means. Black slacks and white buttoned-down shirts were the only things that they had that went in the category of 'formal casual".
There was another guest at their dinner that evening, a British professor by the name of Susanna Lewis. She looked to be about forty years of age, prim and attractive in a bookish sort of way. Her speech was really stiff and formal, even with the Frances family, and more so with the brothers. She was wearing a knee-length flower-printed dress with ruffles by her neckline. Looking at her, Sam was reminded of a quieter, less charming Mary Poppins.
The dining room was more than what Sam expected. He wasn't surprised by the size of it; it made sense that a house that big would have a correspondingly large dining area. What he didn't expect was how homey the room felt. He'd expected the room to be big, and unfriendly and formal. Instead, he was greeted with a dining table that seated eight people comfortably, recipes of desserts framed along the wall, display shelves housing a collection of shot glasses from around the world. The fireplace burned merrily, casting a soft orange glow to the room. Their food was brought from the kitchen by the cook and her helper and he was certain he had never had such a meal before.
Dean initially looked impressed at the sight of the appetizers. Pepperoni and Asiago cheese pinwheels, George announced to everyone on the table as it was brought in. The servings were small but numerous, and they were delicious. Sam caught Dean trying to stuff two of them at one go and had to hide his smile.
However, his older brother didn't look as happy at the butternut-squash soup and Sam noticed that his enthusiasm deflated further when they brought in the main course of Veal scaloppini with leeks and wild mushroom cream sauce; "My favorite," George informed them happily. Sam managed to step on Dean's toes in an unspoken warning when he saw his brother opening his mouth to make a comment. Dean glared at him but Sam just smiled pointedly at the meal in front of him. Silently warned, Dean subsided and even managed a grimace and nod when George urged him to taste the veal. Sam had let out a laugh that turned promptly into a pained cough when it was his toes' turn to get stepped onto.
Sam gave him an approving nod when he saw that Dean had managed to consume the food without outward gagging or making a face.
Dessert was a slice of chocolate silk pie, which delighted Dean to no end. The room had subsided into silence as they enjoyed the pie, and seeing Dean almost making out with his own dessert brought a wistful smile on Sam's face, thinking that it had been a while that he'd Dean taking a vested interest and enjoyment in his pie.
"So, Sam, Dean, you mentioned that you were family friends with George?" Dr. Lewis' crisp accent brought him back from his mental observation.
Sam forced a smile. "Yes, our parents are friends, but we lost touch when we moved. We met a couple of months back, and when he found out we're doing some history research for this area, for our work, he invited us to come visit. So here we are."
George came up with the cover story on the way to dinner, right after he showed Dean where to park the car. He confessed that he hadn't told Trinity or Skylar the real reason they were there, although he had told his daughter he'd found help for her. Dr. Lewis – Susanna – was unaware of what had been happening, so any discussion of the strange occurrences would have to wait until after dinner.
Sam and Dean agreed, the fewer people who knew why they were there, the better. Besides, they didn't think a professor of Biology would believe them if they started talking about poltergeists or spirits or anything relating to the supernatural. Scientists rarely did.
Anyway, what he had just told her had been true. Technically.
"So George, I've been dying to know, what's with the creepy gate at the front?" Dean asked around a mouthful of pie.
George barked out a laugh. "It's cool right? I went to England a few years ago on a business trip and I visited one of the soccer stadiums and right there was this enormous gate that said 'You'll never walk alone", and it was creepy seeing that in the winter evening with hardly anyone around, let me tell you that. But it was also beautifully haunting, the whole setup, and as soon as I reached back here, I got on the phone with one of my contractors who got me in touch with a specialist that could make one like that, with my own saying."
Dean grinned. "It was creepy all right, especially when you put decided to use Latin instead of English. It gives off the Dr. Frankenstein vibe. Sam here was urging me to just drive away as soon as humanly possible from there."
"Hey!" Sam couldn't believe his brother. "Stop making things up. You were the one who could barely wait for the gate to open before zooming out of there."
Trinity piped in with a shy smile. "Do you know Latin too, Sam?"
Sam's smile was more genuine now. "Both of us do, but only a few phrases."
"The motto above the gate was coined by Rene Descartes in 1637. He was a respected mathematician and a philosopher, hardly a fictional madman like Frankenstein." Dr. Lewis sounded livid about Dean cheerfully lumping both men together in the same category.
Actually, now that Sam thought about it, she sounded more bitchy than angry, possibly thinking that Dean was a moron who didn't know anything. It was a veiled insult to Dean, and Sam wouldn't stand for it.
Sam opened his mouth to dispute the statement, in a diplomatic way hopefully, but Dean beat him to it.
"I'm not going to argue the fictional part, but Descartes was also interested in how the mind and body works as a whole and separately, and practiced vivisection on live animals to test his theories. Sounds like Frankenstein to me."
Wow, where and how did Dean get the info from, and why am I not really surprised that he knows that?
Dr. Lewis closed her mouth abruptly, her mouth set in a thin line and her head nodded, which Sam took as a sign of grudging respect. He shot a quick grin at Dean even as he saw George choking in his napkin, presumably hiding his laughter. It was entirely plausible that very few people had the cheek to argue with her, but then, she hadn't met Dean before.
Dean grinned back and switched his attentions to Skylar.
"Sky, my man, have you read Frankenstein yet?"
The boy widened his eyes and nodded and then went back to staring at his pie, his face flushing slightly.
"I'm curious, are both of you historians? And why have you focused on this area for your research? I don't recall anything of note happening around here," Dr. Lewis switched directions, her tone curious.
George cut in with a nervous laugh. "Come on, Sue, they're not specimens for you to study and catalog. Why are you asking so many questions?"
"No, no, it's okay. We're not historians, more like researchers. We research all kinds of stuff. At the moment we're looking into the history of the Native American tribes that once lived in this area."
Susanna narrowed her eyes, and Sam could see that she didn't quite believe him. He geared himself for another probing question, when Skylar cut into the conversation.
"Dad, I'm done with dessert. Can I show Dean my Star Wars collection now?"
Earlier during dinner, George had revealed that his son had an impressive collection of Star Wars figurines. Dean had responded with real enthusiasm, saying it was a cool hobby for a boy his age. Skylar had blushed, splotchy red, pleased at the compliment.
George smiled fondly at his son. "Sure, if Dean has finished his dessert, and doesn't mind."
"I don't mind!" exclaimed Dean. "I love Star Wars."
Sam turned to see his brother stuffing the last piece of pie into his mouth, wiping his mouth with his napkin, and standing up, pushing his chair back. He met Sam's eyes, and the younger Winchester could see that his response was calculated.
"Come on, Sky, show me this collection of yours. See you later, Sammy."
Sam rolled his eyes at the nickname and heard a small giggle coming from Trinity. He nodded to his brother, who was already walking with Skylar at his side, out of the dining room. That meant that he was stuck with getting information out of the rest of the family, but honestly Sam didn't mind. He knew that Dean could get more out of the boy than he could.
Turning back to the group still at the table, Sam gave a shrug. "Older brothers."
"That was fast. The pie was served only five minutes ago," Dr. Lewis remarked.
"Dean has magical powers when it comes to pie. Two minutes in front of one and it disappears like magic."
George chuckled in understanding, Trinity giggled once more and the even Dr. Lewis cracked a faint smile.
Time to do some actual work. Sam turned to his host. "So, George, your house has such a great view. How did you manage to get such a great location?"
The trip to the Collection Room was short, a simple left from the dining room and a right, and there they were. The room itself was full of toys, mini plastic furniture meant for children, Barbies still in their plastic casings, remote control cars in various stages of assembly, and Dean even spotted several stuffed toys.
Skylar's Star Wars collection was impressive indeed. Most of them were collectors' items, still in their individual boxes and plastic wraps. The majority of them were the figures of the characters, different versions of Luke Skywalker, Yoda, Han Solo and the likes. All of them were neatly lined in tall display cases lining two walls of the room, and there was no dust on them. Dean particularly admired a Yoda with a light saber. That little dude looked cool.
"Sweet, but where are the ones that you played with? We could have an intergalactic battle right now!"
Skylar shook his head. "I don't play with them. They are collectors' items. You are supposed to keep them in mint condition so that they could be sold and then you can make money off them."
That's cold, logical sense, but one of the saddest things he'd ever heard. And he guessed it explained some of the Barbies, which must have been Trinity's collection.
Dean soldiered on. "Okay, so where are the ones that you do play with?"
Skylar shrugged his shoulders. "I don't have any. Just these ones."
"And you've never played with them? Ever?"
Another shake of the head.
"Oh. Huh. Okay. So, what do you do play with? Light sabers? We could spar against each other."
Skylar's face lit up, and he rushed over to an honest to goodness wooden toy chest at the corner of the room and lifted the lid up to rummage in it,. Dean could see several wooden swords and a motorcycle helmet before Skylar straightened up with two light sabers, one for each of them. Dean grinned at the sight of the two toy weapons.
Fifteen minutes later they collapsed on the couch, out of breath from sparring with each other non-stop. Dean had been impressed with the skills that the boy had displayed. Granted, Dean was much better than he was when he was fourteen, but he was glad to know that despite the girlish name and the shy demeanor, Skylar wasn't a total introvert like he'd feared.
"Dad doesn't play much with me anymore." Sklyar's quiet confession was out of left field. Dean could hear an unconscious accusation laced with sadness and resignation within the words.
An echo of the same words in Sam's young voice, resonated Dean's mind, so long ago, when he was still young enough to enjoy his playtime and not have the weight of the world on his shoulders. He closed his eyes for a second and he could see Sam's innocent face behind his eyelids. He opened his eyes and shook his head to dispel the vision.
"Well, he has to work. Sometimes he might forget. You should remind him that all work and no play make Daddy a dull boy."
Skylar laughed softly at the paraphrase, and then his face grew solemn again.
"Sometimes Trin plays with me, but now that she's gone to school so far away we rarely talk anymore. Especially now, since the…" he stopped abruptly.
That was the opening that Dean needed.
"I heard that some things had been happening recently. Some scary things." Dean left the statement wide open for Skylar and waited.
The boy's eyes widened and his next words were just above a whisper. "How did you know about that?" There was a pause, and Dean could practically see the lightbulb moment. "Is that why you are here? To help us?"
Dean nodded, a silent invitation for the boy to continue. Skylar didn't disappoint.
"I don't really know much, since Trin doesn't say anything much to me. She thinks I need to be protected from the scary stuff. She doesn't talk much at all anymore."
Dean nodded. Skylar was very close to his sister, if the sadness on his face was anything to go by.
"The first time something happened, it was about a month ago. It was after dinner, around eight or nine? I was in my room and she was in hers. Dad was in his study, I think, on the other side of the house. I heard some thumping, but I didn't think too much about it, she's always doing some room makeover whenever she's home. The noise stopped after about five minutes and it was quiet. Then Trin started screaming. It was so loud I rushed out of my room and went to her door and knocked but she wasn't opening it and she kept on screaming.
Skylar looked miserable. Dean watched him shake off the memory and he continued.
"The door was locked and I couldn't open it. I had my cell with me so I called my Dad and he rushed over. Then he tried opening it, but he couldn't. Trin was still screaming and I was so scared. Dad finally managed to kick the door down, and he told me to stay out of the room. He came back out carrying Trin and she was hysterical. There were these long scratch marks on her arms. Dad then drove all of us to the hospital."
Skylar stopped and took a deep breath. Dean noticed that he looked pale, and when the boy tilted his head up to meet Dean's eyes, he could see fear clouding the blue irises. Dean nodded at Skylar, indicating that he had heard the boy's words, and that he should continue on the rest of the story. Skylar must have recognized the unspoken prompt, because he swallowed hard and continued with the story.
"We stayed in the hospital for three days, didn't even go home at all. The doctor stitched the scratches on her arms, and because she was still sobbing and screaming, decided to keep her sedated and in the hospital. Dad got Dr. Lewis to bring clothes to the hospital, for all three of us, and me and Dad stayed with Trin in the room the whole time. Three days later, we came home."
"Did anything unusual happen while you were in the hospital?"
Skylar shook his head. "Nothing happened that wasn't hospital stuff. That was weird."
"Did your sister say anything about what happened in her room? Or your Dad, did he say anything?"
Again, Skylar shook his head, his face troubled. Dean winced internally, knowing it wasn't the kid's fault but thinking that he could've been more attentive so that they could solve the case quickly and move on.
"So, did anything else happen after she came back home from the hospital?"
"Trin didn't want to set foot inside her room, so she slept in the guest room and had her things moved there. The guest room had two beds so both of us slept in the same room for the first week because she was scared to sleep alone. Nothing happened, but after a week she wanted to go back, saying that she didn't want to be scared out of her own room. Nothing happened for about a week after that, so everyone just relaxed, and even Trin was convinced she must have hurt herself.
"The second time round, I heard the screams right after 1 a.m, when I was about to drop off to sleep. It was the same thing. The door was locked, and I couldn't get it open. My dad came over much faster this time, because he could hear her over the monitor that he installed in her room. It took him three tries to get the door open, and this time, both of us went in. Trin was at lying near the bathroom door, gasping for breath. Dad picked her up and carried her out."
"Was it as bad as the first time?"
Skylar shook his head. At the rate he was going, his head was going to drop off from shaking it so much.
"It was worse. We stayed at the hospital for a week this time, since it was summer holidays and neither of us had to go back to school. I think both Dad and the doctor got worried that she might be harming herself, they even scheduled a psychiatrist session for her when she was there. But Trin got into a shouting match with Dad when the doctor left after the first session, and he decided not to continue with it. There's nothing that either of them could do to make her change her mind, since legally, she's eighteen now. I just stayed out of it."
Skylar stopped his monologue and stared at Dean, then dropped his voice to a whisper. "Can I tell you something that I haven't told my Dad yet?"
Dean nodded, intrigued.
"Dad doesn't know this, but Trin showed me the marks on her stomach recently. They were even longer and jagged than the marks on her arms, and they looked like they were made by something with claws. You can barely see them anymore, the marks on her arms have faded somewhat, but the claw marks on her stomach went deeper and they are still there."
Dean flashed back to the times when he got 'scratched' by some supernatural creatures. There were those shadow gods with Meg, the yellow-eyed demon in Dad's body, the chicks that the Trickster, or more accurately, the archangel Gabriel, conjured up during the stint near the campus. More recently, Sam had left little grazes along Dean's neck when he tried to choke him when they fought in the hotel room.
Those were not fun times.
He turned his attention back to the fourteen year old and asked a follow-up question for clarification.
"So, your sister was attacked twice in her old room, but not anywhere else?"
Skylar pondered that question for a while, hand playing absently with the light saber in his right hand.
After about a minute, he nodded his head slowly.
"I think there were a couple of other things that happened before the attacks began, but they were minor, not like the other two. She mentioned to me that one morning she must have rolled over and hit her body on her nightstand or her bed post or something, because she woke up with black and blue marks all over her body. Another time she came over to my room in the middle of the night because she couldn't sleep. She said that she kept hearing whistling in her own room, but she couldn't find anything that made the noise. Are those attacks as well?"
Dean concurred with the idea, tilting his head to Skylar as a sign of agreement. He was about to suggest they go back to the dining room, but then Skylar opened his mouth, apparently not finished with the story.
"Dad made us move closer to his room after the attacks, and he hired Lela, the assistant housekeeper, and she sleeps in the dressing room in Trin's bedroom. There's been no attack ever since."
Dean thought through that information. The attacks might be tied to the place, Trin's bedroom, since all the attacks took place at one location. He and Sam might be able to do some recon of the place, and maybe use the newly-repaired EMF detector to determine what might be the cause of all the mayhem. He changed his mind about heading back to the dining area.
"Can you show me where your old bedrooms were, Skylar?" It was better than wandering the hallways by themselves. They most probably would find themselves going in circles and losing precious time.
The boy in question looked at him a little strangely.
"Didn't Dad tell you? He converted both our rooms into guest rooms about five days ago. You and Sam are staying in them now."
So, is it suspenseful enough? :)
Thanks for reading! Next chapter will be up tomorrow.