Lonely Is the Night

Rating: M

Summary: The hunt for the yellow-eyed demon continues as Sam tries to learn more about his gift. Meanwhile, Dean deals – or doesn't deal with John's death, Lynn uncovers a family secret, and Jayne makes some tough choices. Volume 2 of Who the Hell Are You.

Disclaimer: Supernatural is the property of Eric Kripke and the CW – i.e., not mine. Jayne Gibson, Lynn and Steve Juarez, the Hannigans… all mine. I write for pleasure, not profit – and I have no money, CW, so good luck suing me!

AN: Here it is, everybody! Volume two in the Who the Hell Are You series. Before we get started, I just want to thank everyone once again for all their awesome reviews and support! You all rock! Enjoy the first chapter!

"Lonely is the night, when you find yourself alone
Your demons come to light, and your mind is not your own
Lonely is the night, when there's no one left to call
You feel the time is right – the writing's on the wall.
It's a high time to fight, when the walls are closing in
Call it what you like – its time you got to win
Lonely, lonely, lonely – your spirits sinking down
You find you're not the only stranger in this town."

Lonely is the Night, Billy Squier

Chapter 1: Everybody Loves a Clown

Lynn Juarez stumbled awkwardly down the dark, squeaking staircase, a deep frown on her face as she studied the journal in her hands. It was midmorning, and the sun was bright, but the inside of aging hunter Bobby Singer's home was dim and depressing – and to be perfectly honest, kind of dusty. Actually, his house looked like it belonged on an episode of TLC's Hoarding: Buried Alive, but Lynn wasn't complaining – much. He'd been nothing but nice to her and her stepsister since they'd showed up on his doorstep one week ago.

She frowned, pulling on her black ponytail as she reached the bottom step. Taking a deep breath, she looked up briefly from the journal she'd been studying to check for stacks of books that might be in her way, and then slowly picked her way from the front hall to Bobby's kitchen.

One week ago, Lynn had had no idea who Bobby Singer was. The only reason she knew the hunter now was because Sam and Dean Winchester had introduced her to him. And when it came to the Winchester brothers – she hadn't exactly known them all her life either. In fact, when Lynn reflected on the past nine months, she had to admit that her connection to the Winchesters was a bit of a surprise. Nine months ago, she'd been traveling with her stepsister Jayne Gibson, searching for their runaway little brother and hoping to hunt down the demon that had killed Jayne's mother. Then Sam and Dean had entered their lives, and nothing had been the same since.

She was still mulling over these things as she ducked around the corner and into Bobby's tiny, blue, outdated kitchen. The radio was on, and she could just barely pick out the bluesy guitar music from the crackling static. Bobby Singer, a man in his late fifties at least, stood over the coffee pot on the counter. He had an old baseball cap pulled low over his graying hair, and his grease stained flannel shirt was stretched over his beer gut. The hunter looked up when she entered the room, raising his coffee cup to his bearded mouth, and gave her a nod.

"Morning, Bobby," she greeted him, plopping herself down at the small table. Sam was sitting there already, frowning at a cell phone in his hand. "Morning, Sam."

"Hey," he murmured distractedly, eyes focused on the phone. There was a mug of coffee next to him on the table, growing cold and stale where it sat.

Every morning, for the past week, it had always been the same. Lynn, Jayne and Sam would sit down in Bobby's kitchen and try to make sense of John Winchester's research. Dean, on the other hand, would disappear out into Bobby's junkyard and work on his totaled car.

One week ago, Lynn had been in Stamping Ground, Kentucky with her stepsister. They had reunited with their younger brother a few months earlier, and they'd met up with him again in Kentucky at Hannigan's Pub, the tavern where they had spent most of their childhood. Their father's old hunting buddy, Rufus Hannigan, had been missing, and the three of them had been helping his daughter Deedee track him down – except Deedee had been possessed by a demon, and was intent on killing them all. The supposedly missing Rufus had shown up in the nick of time and exorcised the bitch. Meanwhile, Sam and Dean, as well as their father, John, had been in Missouri, facing off with a very powerful, yellow-eyed demon that had killed both Sam and Dean's mother Mary, and Jayne and Steve's mother, Ana Gibson. The encounter had ended in a huge car crash, decimating Dean's Impala and nearly killing him as well. Dean and Sam's father had been fine at first, but things changed at the hospital.

John Winchester was dead now, and Lynn felt it was her duty to stick by his sons and help them deal. The two brothers had been good friends to Lynn and her stepsister, and they could not abandon them now. Not that she was anxious to bail. The brothers were still hunting that yellow-eyed son of a bitch, and Lynn wanted to kill that thing too.

"Where's Jayne?" Lynn asked, looking around the room.

"Outside," Bobby grunted from the counter.

"With Dean?" Lynn asked.

Bobby shrugged, and then plopped down at the table too. Lynn had to admit he'd been surprisingly helpful ever since they'd shown up at his door. She didn't know him well – or at all, really – but apparently he'd been a good friend of John's, and he had a soft spot for the boys.

Sam cursed, giving the phone in his hand a small shake. Lynn crinkled her nose, glancing at him, but he didn't look up. A couple days ago, Sam had given up on the research and started trying to crack his father's voicemail codes, hoping to find clues on the man's old cell phones. Lynn wished him luck – she couldn't imagine that John Winchester's voicemail codes would be easy to decipher. He seemed like the kind of guy who'd use random, meaningless numbers and letters.

She sighed harshly, laying the journal down on the table and tangling one of her hands in her ponytail. "Sam, no offense to your Dad, but… this journal was not written in English. Ancient cuneiform maybe, but definitely not English."

Sam nodded, a small smirk developing in the corner of his mouth. His eyes never left the cell phone. "Yeah, that was my Dad," he said. "As Dean likes to say, the guy writes like freaking Yoda."

She mustered up a small smile for him. "I hate to have to say this, but… we're not getting anywhere with your Dad's research. We're not getting anywhere with my Dad's research either."

Sam nodded again. "Right, which is why I'm working on the phones."

Lynn studied him hard, but he didn't look up at her. His dark blue eyes were still fixed on the cell phone in his hand. His forehead was puckered and his lower lip was jutting out in his concentration. She could see the strain in his jaw and his shoulders as he tried to ignore her stare. Sam really had changed over the past few months. His dark brown hair, once so neatly kept, was now a little too long and much too shaggy, hanging messily around his eyes. His face was marred in scratches and bruises from the car accident that had nearly killed his older brother.

She bit her bottom lip and lowered her eyes to the tabletop. A part of her wanted to argue with him, but she sensed this was one of those 'road to nowhere' type situations. She exchanged a look with Bobby instead, who was sitting beside her still nursing his coffee. He raised his eyebrows, looking as skeptical as she felt. Lynn shrugged, and pulled the journal closer to her, preparing herself to once again undertake a useless endeavor.

"Sam," Bobby spoke up. Lynn looked at him. "I'm not trying to say this whole cell phone thing is a bust, but – let's be realistic. Your daddy knew his way around a voicemail code. It's probably something completely random you'll never figure out – like 1-1-g-7-x-y-z-q-2-4-exclamation point."

Lynn looked over at Sam, hoping he'd see reason. Sam frowned harder at the cell phone. "Say that again?"

Bobby frowned, exchanging another skeptical, mildly confused look with Lynn. "1-1-g-7-x-y-z-q-2-4-exclamation point?"

Sam typed furiously on the cell phone's keypad, and then his whole face lit up. "Ha!" he crowed triumphantly. "Broke it!"

Bobby raised his eyebrows again. Lynn gawked wide-eyed across the table. "Seriously?" she asked.

He waved at her to be quiet and held the phone up to his ear. Lynn's incredulous expression only deepened. She glanced at Bobby again, who shrugged, got up from the table, and headed back towards the coffee.

Lynn took a deep breath and tried to focus on the journal once again. That lasted all of three seconds. Sam suddenly put the phone down and frowned at her.

"What?" she asked.

"Some woman named Ellen left my Dad a voicemail. It's… it's like four months old."

Lynn frowned back at him. "Your dad kept a message saved on his phone for four months?"

Sam nodded, looking as confused as she felt. "She says she can help him."

There was a long pause. Lynn stared at Sam, and he frowned back at her, his eyes occasionally darting back towards the phone. "Ok," Lynn said eventually, taking a deep breath. "You have the number?"

He nodded. Lynn got up from the table and headed into the next room, where she'd left her laptop in its purple carrying case. Moments later, she was reseated at Bobby's kitchen table, booting up the computer, and then running a search on the phone number from John's cell.

It was relatively easy to find – apparently this Ellen woman had no need to cover her tracks. "I've got a landline in Mullen, Nebraska, located off 97," she announced.

Sam stared at her, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly ajar. "We should go," he said hesitantly. "To Nebraska. See what this Ellen woman has to say."

Lynn eyed him a moment, and then slowly nodded. "Sure," she agreed, although the hesitation was evident in her voice as well. "We should… we should go."

That was apparently all it took to make up Sam's mind. He got to his feet, pocketing the cell phone. "I'll tell Dean," he announced, and then disappeared out Bobby's back door.

Lynn looked up at Bobby, who'd taken up leaning on his kitchen counter. Bobby shrugged at her, taking another sip of coffee. "Have fun in Nebraska," he said wryly.

She narrowed her eyes at him, and then got to her feet as well, shutting down her computer. "Thanks," she retorted. "I will."

The sun was bright, and the temperature was already spiking. Jayne Gibson squinted against the light, her boots kicking up dust as she picked her way through Bobby Singer's junkyard. Set back from the aging hunter's rundown house was a small garage overlooking a sea of junked, rusted out, useless old cars that had come to meet their deaths in the Singer Salvage Yard. And parked directly in front of the small garage was the little that remained of Dean Winchester's beloved black 1967 Chevy Impala.

The car had been totaled when a demon had possessed a truck driver and slammed into the Impala with an eighteen-wheeler. It would have been easier to junk the thing and sell it for scrap, but there was no way in hell Dean would give up on his baby. That car accident had also left Dean comatose for nearly two days. When he woke up, everyone had been shocked – and roughly twenty minutes later, Dean's father had suddenly died.

She knew damn well that was no coincidence.

Jayne found Dean laying on the creeper, underneath the car, the clicking sound of his wrench just barely audible over the music playing on the radio he had tuned to the local classic rock station. His head was turned away from her, and he didn't seem to notice her coming. She crept up behind him and knelt beside the car, peering underneath.

"Want some help?"

He jumped, startled, and dropped his wrench, banging his head on one of the lines hanging down from the car. "Damn it!" he shouted.

She tried not to snicker, but failed. Dean glared at her over his shoulder, and then positioned himself flat on the creeper. "No thanks, I'm good," he sneered.

"Hey, you've been under this heap for a good week now," Jayne retorted, holding up her hands. "Just thought you could use an extra pair of hands."

"Not yours."

"Watch it. I can do some things."


"Well, maybe you could show me a thing or two."

He frowned at her. Jayne stared right back. Dean swung the creeper out from under the car and sat up straight. "You want me to teach you how to fix a car?" he asked incredulously.

She couldn't blame him for being skeptic. To be honest, the idea of Dean condescending to show her how to build a carburetor was sort of repulsive. Still, she tried to keep her face arranged in a pleasant, blank expression. She was pretty sure she was at least half-failing, but she tried anyway.

"Sure, why not?"

He snorted. "The last time we were under a hood together, you threw a flashlight at me."

"Well, you were being a dick," she replied smoothly.

He stared at her a moment longer, his dark green eyes narrowed suspiciously, as though he was trying to figure out her ulterior motive. Jayne stared back, raising her eyebrow expectantly. Finally, he shook his head, chuckling slightly. "If I agree to teach you some stuff, will you at least promise not to throw things at me?"

She made a face, pretending to think about it. "I don't know. Are you going to be a dick again?"

Dean smirked. "I'll try not to be."

"Oh. Well, in that case? I won't aim for your head."

He chuckled again. "All right, deal. Get under the car."

She grinned at him, and then got down in the dust, sliding under the car. Dean joined her, wrench in hand and started pulling on one of the pipes. "This is the exhaust pipe," he told her.

Jayne glared at him sideways. "I know."

"Hey, are you getting snippy with me? Because I can always call this whole thing off, right here and right now."

She rolled her eyes theatrically and retorted with great sarcasm, "I'm sorry, professor."

He smirked again. Jayne couldn't help the small smile that crossed her face. She had to admit – when she considered how long she'd been traveling with Dean and his younger brother Sam, it sort of freaked her out. Of course, it was all supposed to be a means to an end – she and her stepsister were hunting the same thing Sam and Dean were hunting, and it had seemed like a good idea to join forces. Still, the connection between the four hunters went far deeper than just some demon. Even Jayne could admit that. The connection even went deeper than two missing family members (John Winchester, Steve Juarez) who turned up whenever the mood suited them; it went deeper than two dead fathers (John Winchester, Russ Juarez) who had kept one too many secrets. Jayne was still traveling with Dean and Sam because she actually felt something for them – friendship, she supposed, and an ever-increasing sense of family.

Actually, what she felt for Dean went even deeper still, but at the moment, Jayne didn't want to think about that.

A large pair of brown shoes appeared beside the car just then, and Sam's voice sounded out, "How's the car coming along?"

Dean, having finally disconnected the pipe, tossed it violently onto the ground. "Slow."

Jayne frowned at his sudden shift in moods. "Yeah? Do you need any help?" Sam asked.

"What, you under a hood? I'll pass."

"Need anything else then?"

With that, Dean climbed out from under the car. "Stop it, Sam."

Jayne slid out from under the car too, watching him clamber to his feet and saunter over to the workbench. His jeans were covered in dirt, his shirt was smeared with oil, and his close cropped, light brown hair was slightly mussed.

Sam was standing off to the side, watching Dean too. "Stop what?" he asked.

"Stop asking if I need anything. Stop asking if I'm ok. I'm ok. Really. I promise."

Jayne frowned at his back, slowly getting to her feet and brushing off her jeans. The moment Sam had appeared, Dean's entire demeanor had changed. She didn't buy the 'I'm ok' act for a minute, but she wasn't about to push him. When it came to John Winchester, Dean had always been a powder keg, and it wasn't time to go looking for a fight – not yet, at least.

Sam, however, seemed to disagree. "All right, Dean, it's just… we've been at Bobby's for over a week now, and you haven't brought up Dad once."

It was true, but it also wasn't surprising. Jayne wouldn't be surprised if Dean never brought up John again. It wouldn't be a healthy course of action, but healthy and Dean rarely went hand in hand.

"You know what, you're right," Dean said, plopping his wrench down on the bench and turning around. "Come here. I'm going to lay my head gently on your shoulder and maybe we can cry, hug – maybe even slow dance."

"Don't patronize me, Dean!" Sam snapped. "Dad is dead! The Colt is gone! And it seems pretty damn likely that the demon is behind all this, and you're acting like nothing happened!"

"What do you want me to say?"

"Say something, all right! Hell, say anything! Aren't you angry? Don't you want revenge? But all you do is sit out here all day long, buried underneath this damn car!"

"All right you two, knock it off," Jayne cut in, taking a step away from the wrecked car. "Nobody needs to hear this crap. It ain't helping anything."

"Not talking about it isn't helping either!" Sam snapped at her.

Jayne stared at Sam, shaking her head and sucking in her cheek. He wasn't wrong, but that didn't mean she wanted to hear the two brothers yelling at one another. She opened her mouth to reply, but Dean beat her to the punch. "Revenge, huh?" he asked his brother in a low voice.


"Sounds good. You got any leads on where the demon is? Making heads or tails of any of Dad's research? Because I sure ain't. But you know, when we do finally find it… oh, no. Wait. Like you said, the Colt's gone. But I'm sure you figured out another way to kill it. We've got nothing, Sam. Nothing. So you know the only thing I can do, is I can work on the car!"

Jayne swallowed at Dean's final outburst, watching him kneel back down in the dust beside her shins and make a move for the car again. She looked up at Sam, who was fishing a cell phone out of his jeans. There was nothing to say, and what Jayne really wanted to do was walk off across the junkyard so she wouldn't have to deal with any of this crap.

"Actually, that's what I came out here to tell you," Sam said quietly. Jayne raised an eyebrow at him and Dean looked up from the car. Sam held out the cell. "It's one of Dad's old phones. It took me a while, but I cracked the voicemail code. Listen to this."

Dean stared at the phone for a moment, like he thought it might bite him. Then he stood up and took it from his brother, hitting speakerphone so they could all hear the message.

"John, it's Ellen. Again. Look, don't be stubborn. You know I can help you. Call me."

There was a loud beep, signaling the end of the message. Jayne frowned. Dean didn't look impressed. He shrugged, handing the phone back to his brother.

"That message is four months old," Sam informed them.

Dean looked slightly more interested by that information. "Dad saved that chick's message for four months?"


"Who's Ellen? Any mention of her in Dad's journal?"

"No. But Lynn ran a trace on the phone number and we got an address. It's a landline in Mullen, Nebraska."

She wouldn't call it a lead, Jayne mused quietly in her head, but it was better than the whole lot of nothing they had right now. She wanted to find this demon as badly as the boys did. The thing had killed her mother and messed with her brother, and right now she was pretty damn certain that the thing had nearly killed Dean and actually killed John. As far as she was concerned, that demon had lived long past its expiration date, and if this Ellen person could help them kill the damn thing, she was all on board for a road trip to Nebraska.

"We'll take my truck," she announced. Both boys swung their heads around to stare at her. "Be ready to leave in thirty, all right?"

Sam nodded. "Sounds good," he agreed.

Jayne nodded back and then walked away from both of them, headed back towards the house. She wasn't sure what Sam and Dean were still talking about back at the car, but she figured it was some sort of argument and she didn't want any part of it. She'd had enough arguing to last her a lifetime.

All she wanted to do was head out to Nebraska, get any answers Ellen might have, and then kill that damn demon.

Sam grunted as he collided with hard metal side of Jayne's truck bed when the vehicle swerved into the gravel parking lot. The gravel lot was surrounded by scrub brush, and overlooked by a large, rundown shack of a tavern with the name Harvelle Roadhouse on a large, light-up sign. On one end of the parking lot was a phone booth, and up by the tavern itself was an ancient gas pump.

Jayne parked the truck right up front and killed the engine. Sam rubbed his now bruised shoulder. The driver side door swung open. "Hey!" Dean barked from his side of the truck bed. "You do remember you got passengers back here, right?"

"Quit your bitching," Jayne retorted as she stepped down from the cab. "It was either Janis, or that ancient POS minivan Bobby had back at the yard."

"My problem isn't with Janis," Dean informed her, leaping down from the back. "My problem is with your driving."

"I'm a great driver."

"Tell that to my ass."

Sam rolled his eyes, hopping down from the truck bed. Jayne could have driven more cautiously, that was for certain, but it hadn't exactly been a terrifying ride. The real problem was that riding in the back of a pickup on the freeway was going to be uncomfortable no matter who was driving.

"Everyone shut up," he heard Lynn groan as she clambered down from the cab next. "Can we just head inside and talk to this Ellen lady?"

Sam smiled slightly. Dean jogged up to the door, but the place was locked up. As Dean peered in through the front window, Sam took a peek around the side of the building. "Hello?" he called. "Anyone here?"

"Hey," Dean said. "Did you bring the, uh…"

"Of course," Sam interrupted, rolling his eyes. He dug the lock picking kit out of his coat and tossed to Dean.

A few moments later, Dean had the door unlocked and all four of them were sneaking inside the apparently empty tavern. Sam quietly shut the door behind them. The place was as rundown inside as it was outside. The wooden walls and floors were unfinished, and the windows were dirty. A bug zapper hung on the wall by the door, and it was zapping flies even as they stood there. A few tables were scattered around the place, an ancient arcade game sat in the corner, and on the other side of the room, a man with a mullet was snoring soundly on top of the pool table.

"Wow," Lynn whispered, her eyes sweeping over the contents of the room. "Uh… this place… yeah, it's kind of a dump."

Sam smirked slightly. The four of them slowly made their way across the tavern. "Hey, buddy!" Sam called at the sleeping man on the pool table. The drunk didn't react. "I'm guessing that isn't Ellen," he concluded.

"Yeah," Dean agreed.

Sam looked around the tavern a little bit more. The bar was set up next to the entrance. On their right, a little ways back from the counter, was a swinging door that led into the back. He made his way over to the door, gently pushing his way into the next room.

It was a rundown little industrial kitchen, with aging copper pots hanging from the racks on the walls, and grease stains on the stovetop. Sam crinkled his nose, picking his way through the kitchen. Behind him, he heard the swinging door squeak and he turned to find Lynn sliding into the room too.

"No one home?" she asked quietly, her large, chocolaty brown eyes boring into his.

Sam shook his head. "Doesn't look like it."

Lynn nodded, glancing around the room. "Seriously, this place looks like one big health code violation."

Sam chuckled under his breath. She smiled at him, shrugging. "So, what do we think? Ellen's out, or Ellen doesn't live here anymore?"

He sighed, shaking his head again and leaning on the cracked countertop. "I don't know what to think."

There was a brief silence. Lynn stood awkwardly by the swinging door, and Sam folded his arms over his chest, still leaning on the counter. This hadn't been what he'd expected when they'd decided to come out here and find the mysterious Ellen. He'd thought there'd be a house, and that Ellen would answer the door right away, and that… oh, hell, Sam didn't know. He just wanted answers. He wanted the Colt back. He wanted to find the demon, he wanted to kill the demon…

He wanted his father to be alive again. Really, bottom line; that was what he wanted. Everything was so messed up now. Dad was gone, Dean was dealing poorly, the demon was still out there, and Sam had some crazy psychic powers that the demon wanted to use. Seeing the future on rare occasions, however, wasn't exactly world-domination material, but there were other people out there like Sam, people like Lynn's younger brother Steve, who could start a fire with a thought.

Lynn slowly moved away from the door, coming towards him. "I'm sure she's around somewhere," she murmured.

Sam nodded. Lynn leaned on the counter beside him. "Are you holding up all right, Sam?"

The question startled him. He'd been so busy, reviewing his father's research, cracking voicemail codes and accusing Dean of dodging, that he hadn't really given himself time to consider how he felt. Lynn was the first person to really ask. Not that it surprised him – Lynn was usually the first person to ask anything.

He didn't answer the question, though. At that moment, the cocking of a pistol echoed in the tiny kitchen. Sam jumped, pushing himself off the counter. Lynn too whirled around at the noise.

The woman standing at the back door was in her late forties, early fifties. She had long brown hair and large brown eyes, and she was steadily pointing a pistol at the both of them.

"All right, hands up," she ordered. "You make a wrong move, I won't hesitate to shoot."

Sam swallowed. He had no doubt she meant every word she said. He slowly raised his hands, and Lynn did the same. The woman at the back of the kitchen jerked her chin towards the tavern.

"Go on," she smirked. "March."

Once Sam and Lynn had left the tavern, Dean gave up on figuring out the guy sleeping on the pool table. He glanced at Jayne, who was moving even further back in the bar, and then he shrugged, ambling away from the table and back towards the bar.

A second glance towards Jayne proved she'd vanished. Dean rolled his eyes, and then looked back towards the swinging door that Sam had disappeared through. Before he could make a decision regarding which way to turn, he was stopped in his tracks by the feeling of a round, cold barrel pressing against his lower back.

"Oh, god," he quipped. "Please let that be a rifle."

The sound of said rifle being cocked echoed through the tiny tavern. "Nah," a woman's voice retorted. "I'm just real happy to see you. Don't move."

He raised his hands slightly, in surrender. "Not moving, copy that," he agreed. "You know, you should know something, Miss. When you put a rifle on somebody, you don't want to put it right against their back, because it makes it real easy to do…"

Dean turned around suddenly, grabbing the rifle from her hands. The woman behind him looked startled at the sudden move. She was young, he noted, blonde and petite. Dean un-cocked the rifle.

"That," he finished.

His triumph was followed immediately by blinding pain when the blonde's tiny fist slammed into his nose. His eyes tearing up, Dean's hands flew to his face as he tried to blink his eyes open and clear his vision. In doing so, he dropped the gun. The blonde must have caught it, because he heard the rifle being cocked again. He nearly hollered for back up, but then he heard the cock of a second gun.

"Nice right hook," Jayne drawled from behind the other woman.

Dean blinked, still nursing his nose, and managed to make out Jayne standing behind the tiny blonde, her pistol pointed at the back of the girl's head. The rifle-wielding blonde froze, slowly raising an eyebrow. "Thanks," she said uncertainly.

"You're welcome. Now drop the gun, because I really don't want to spray my friend with your brain."

The blonde looked over her shoulder at Jayne, who had not repeated the other woman's first mistake. She stood just far back enough to prevent the other woman from grabbing at her gun. The blonde must have decided she'd been beat, because next a loud clatter echoed through the tavern as her rifle hit the floor.

Then Dean heard the squeak of the swinging door. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Sam walking into the tavern, his hands on his head. Behind him, Lynn walked with her hands up, looking annoyed about her situation. An older brunette woman followed them, a pistol pointed at their backs.

"Oh, that's just great," Dean said, his voice slightly nasal due the assault on his sinuses.

The brunette woman took one look at Jayne holding the younger girl at gunpoint, and her brown eyes immediately turned murderous. Dean glanced back at the two blondes behind him. Jayne's gray eyes swept the three newcomers, but her pistol never wavered from the blonde woman's head.

Lynn sighed harshly. "This is ridiculous," she announced, hands still in the air. "Is someone here named Ellen?"

The pissed-off looking brunette woman directed her gaze to Lynn. "Yeah, that's me. Who the hell wants to know?"

Lynn jerked her head towards Sam. "Sam Winchester." Then she jerked her head towards Dean. "Dean Winchester. You called their father a few months back?"

To Dean's great surprise, the woman's eyes lit up. "Sam and Dean?" she repeated. "Son of a bitch."

"Wait," the blonde girl said. "You know these guys?"

"Sure. I think they're John's boys."

Dean frowned at Ellen, and then glanced at Sam, who shrugged awkwardly, with his hands still on his head. Suddenly, Ellen laughed and lowered her gun.

"Well, I'm Ellen," she introduced herself again. "That's my daughter Jo."

Dean glanced at Jo. Behind her, Jayne glanced warily at Ellen, and then slowly lowered her pistol. Jo relaxed slightly, and then offered a confused, not-so-enthusiastic, "Hey."

"You're not going to hit me again, are you?" Dean retorted.

"I'm Lynn Juarez," Lynn spoke up, addressing Ellen. "That's my stepsister Jayne. Um… sorry we broke into your place?"

"Nah, don't worry about it," Ellen shrugged, heading for the bar. Dean gawked after her. "Juarez, huh? You wouldn't be Russ's girl by any chance?"

Lynn blinked, looking surprised and slightly suspicious. "You knew my Dad?"

"Sure. Not as well as I knew John, but he was known to swing by here every now and then. What are you all waiting for, anyway, an engraved invitation? Jackets off; sit your asses down."

Dean wasn't going to lie – he was confused as hell. This Ellen woman had gone from waving a gun at the four of them to suddenly friendly and hospitable. He watched Sam shrug out of his coat and take a seat at the table nearest the bar. Lynn was watching Ellen's back with as much skepticism as Dean felt, but she too removed her jacket and took a seat.

He exchanged a look with Jayne. Jo had walked away by now, heading towards the bar to join her mother. Jayne looked confused too, and when she met his eyes, all she offered him was a shrug. The two of them made their way over to the table and took seats too. Ellen left Jo leaning on the bar as she wet a dishcloth and wrapped it around a chunk of ice. Dean raised an eyebrow, surprised once again, when Ellen came back around the counter and handed him the ice for his nose. "Here you go."

"Thanks," he replied, raising the ice to his face. Ellen and her daughter leaned up against the counter and surveyed their guests. "You called our Dad and said you could help," he pressed. "Help with what?"

Ellen tilted her head to the side and gave him a strange look. "Well… with the demon, of course."

They had come to see Ellen specifically because Sam had hoped she could help them with the demon, but that didn't make Dean any less surprised to hear her mention the thing. He glanced at the other three hunters, and then frowned at Ellen.

"I heard he was closing in on it," she added.

It was official: Dean was confused, Dean was suspicious, and Dean was pissed. "What, is there an article in Demon Hunters Quarterly that I missed?" he snapped. "I mean, who are you? How do you know about all this?"

"Hey, I just run a saloon," Ellen replied calmly, holing up her hands. "But hunters have been known to pass through now and again. Including your Dad, a long time ago. John was like family once."

"Oh, yeah?" Dean retorted. "How come he's never mentioned you before?"

He almost regretted the question. Ellen cast her eyes down briefly, looking slightly hurt. "You'd have to ask him that."

If John was still around to ask, Dean would certainly be asking. He'd be demanding to know what the hell was up with this Roadhouse place, and this Ellen chick, and with everyone knowing everything about the Winchester family drama. But asking his father wasn't an option.

"Why exactly do we need your help?" he demanded.

"Hey, don't do me any favors," Ellen returned, apparently getting just as annoyed with him as he was with everything else. "Look, if you don't want my help, fine. Don't let the door smack your ass on the way out. But John wouldn't have sent you if…"

The truth must have been obvious on Dean's face – Sam's face too, all of their faces, because Ellen trailed off and stared at them. "He didn't send you," she murmured.

Dean looked down. "He's all right, isn't he?" Ellen asked.

He couldn't answer that question. Dean stared down at the table top, clutching the ice back to his nose. He could feel eyes on him, and he didn't know if they were Sam's, or Jayne's, or even Ellen's, but he wanted them to stop staring.

"No," Sam replied. "No, he isn't. It was the demon, we think. It just… got him before he got it, I guess."

"I'm so sorry," Ellen murmured. Dean reacted quickly, but he didn't react well. He was so tired of hearing that line, and it didn't help that Ellen's eyes were directed straight at him.

"It's ok," he said. "We're all right."

"Really," she insisted. "I know how close you were with your father…"

"Really, lady," Dean snapped. "I'm fine."

Silence followed. Ellen looked taken aback, and he suspected the only thing stopping her from snapping at him was sympathy about his dead father – which further pissed him off, because Dean didn't want anyone's sympathy.

Jayne was staring at him across the table, and he nearly snapped at her too. But Sam spoke up just then, taking the heat off Dean and his dead father.

"So look," Sam said. "If you can help… we could use all the help we can get."

Which wasn't true. All right, it was true, but Sam didn't have to be telling people that. Dean glared at him over his shoulder.

"Well, we can't," Ellen admitted. "But Ash will."

Sam frowned. "Who's Ash?"

"Hey, Ash!" Ellen hollered in the direction of the pool table.

There was a lot of clattering from the back of the bar, and Dean whirled around to stare. The man with the mullet who'd been sleeping on the pool table woke suddenly, kicking his legs and whipping his hair around. "What?" he called out, twisting on the table. "Closing time?"

Dean raised an eyebrow. Sam looked skeptically back at Ellen and Jo. "That's Ash?"

"Mm-hmm," Jo nodded. "He's a genius."

Jayne did not believe for one minute that Ash was really a genius.

After waking up on the pool table, the guy had practically fallen to the ground, and then limped over to the counter, nursing his neck. He'd flat out refused to do anything until Ellen had poured him a cup of coffee laced with Jack.

His dirt-blonde mullet was mussed, and he'd ripped the sleeves off his flannel shirt. There was a small silver stud in his left ear. He flopped down on the barstool and threw back his coffee. Then he smirked up at the four of them, who had all migrated to the bar and were now staring at him. Ellen and Jo were behind the counter, and neither of them seemed the least bit perturbed at Ash's behavior.

"Whoa," Ash said. "There are girls in here."

Jo rolled her eyes, putting out glasses on the counter. "Mom and I are in here every day, Ash."

Ash scoffed, waving her off. "I'm talking, like… real girls."

Jo rolled her eyes again.

He smirked, and then he winked – at Jayne. Surely this was some alternate universe. She felt his eyes sweep over her, from her long blonde hair to her eyes to the crystal stud in her nose, and then over her chest, stopping only when they landed on the bar.

"Hey good-looking," he said. "I'm Ash."

Sam had the nerve to laugh. Jayne blinked and then looked at Lynn, who was perched on the stool beside her. "I don't know what to say to that," she told her sister.

Lynn smirked. "I'm pretty sure you're supposed to tell him your name."

"Yeah… that's not going to happen."

"Sitting right here," Ash announced, his voice unnecessarily loud.

"You've got to be kidding me," Dean spoke up. Jayne looked over her shoulder, finding him standing between her and Sam with his arms folded over his chest. "This guy's no genius. He's a Lynyrd Skynyrd roadie."

Ash smirked at him. "I like you."

Now she really couldn't figure this guy out.

"Thanks," Dean retorted. Ash adjusted his flannel shirt.

"Just give him a chance," Jo spoke up from behind the counter. Jayne frowned at her, but the smaller blonde woman didn't look her way. She just filled the glasses on the counter with water.

Dean made a face, but then he shrugged and flopped down on the stool next to Sam. He waved a folder at Ash. "All right. This stuff is about a year's worth of our Dad's work." Then he smirked and slid the folder towards Ash. "So, uh… let's see what you're made of."

She wasn't going to lie; Dean looked and sounded like a smug, smirking bastard. Still, she had plenty of her own doubts about Ash the so-called genius. For one thing – he really did look like a Lynyrd Skynyrd roadie.

Ash surprised her, however. He flipped open the folder, rifled through the pages, and mere seconds later announced, "Come on. This crap ain't real. Ain't nobody can track a demon like this."

Jayne raised her eyebrow. Dean and Sam exchanged a look. "Our Dad could," Sam replied.

Ash looked at them, and then eyed the folder in his hand. "These are nonparametric statistical overviews and cross spectrum correlations. Day-um!"

She was still staring at him, her eyebrow raised, as he turned the papers around in his hands, squinting at them in admiration. "They're signs," he explained. "Omens. If you can track them, you can track this demon. You know, like crop failures, electrical storms… you ever been struck by lightning? It ain't fun."

There was something seriously wrong with this guy, Jayne concluded. But Jo was right; Ash was a genius.

"Can you track it or not?" Sam asked.

"Yeah, with this I think so. But it's gonna take some time. Uh… give me… fifty-one hours."

Fifty-one hours? Jayne stared at him incredulously. So did her three companions. Ash didn't seem to notice. He simply gathered up John Winchester's research and hopped off his bar stool. Then he pointed at her and winked again. "I'll see you later."

Jayne gawked at him some more. "Look… glad you're helping us and all, but… come on, man. You're seriously creepy."

The comment didn't seem to bother him at all. Ash smirked and headed for the back. Jayne shook her head, watching him leave. "Hey, Ash!" Dean called after him.

He turned around.

"By the way, I dig the haircut," Dean said.

Ash ran his hand through his hair. "All business up front, party in the back."

Then he turned back around and swaggered into the back of the bar.

Jayne shook her head, watching him vanish down the back hall. When she turned back to the bar, taking a drink of the water Jo had provided, she found the girl swaggering out from behind the bar, a rag hanging from her hand. Jo's dark brown eyes traveled over Dean as she walked away, and Jayne tightened her grasp on the water glass.

Jo was hot; there was no denying it. She had long bouncy blond hair and a rocking body, and her low riding jeans and tiny tank top made that obvious. Dean's eyes followed the bartender, and Jayne couldn't fault him for it. There was denying that whatever Jayne might have with Dean, an exclusive relationship was not it.

There was also no denying that it hurt when Dean got up from his stool and followed Jo to the other side of the bar.

Ok, maybe she'd claimed to be in love with the man. But a bedside confession to a comatose friend that was only made out of fear that he was dying – was that sort of confession really reliable? Could she honestly say that looking back now she one hundred percent meant it? And did it really matter, since he didn't know, and – let's face it – wouldn't have said it back?

"Hey, Ellen? What is that?" Sam asked suddenly, snapping Jayne out of her thoughts.

Sam was leaning on the counter, pointing at something against the wall. Ellen looked up from where she was filling salt shakers, glancing at Sam, and then looking in the direction he was pointing. "Oh, that?" she asked. "It's a police scanner. We, uh… we keep tabs on things…"

"No, no, no," Sam interrupted. "The, um… the folder."

Ellen stared at him for a moment, but then shrugged and grabbed the folder, making her way toward the three hunters seated at her bar. "I was going to give this to a friend of mine," she said, sliding the folder onto the counter. "But… take a look."

Jayne raised her eyebrow, watching as Sam took the folder from Ellen and flipped it open. "Thanks," he said.

Ellen went back to filling salt shakers. Sam frowned over the papers within the folder. Lynn leaned into him, trying to read over his shoulder, but Jayne just slumped against the counter and took a sip of water.

Her eyes traveled over to the other side of the bar. Dean was sitting by the window, talking to Jo while she pretended to wipe down tables. Jayne narrowed her eyes at the pair of them, and then turned away, staring at the liquor shelf behind the counter.

"Killer clowns?" Lynn asked suddenly.

Jayne frowned at her. Sam nodded slowly. "Looks like. You guys up for it?"

"Up for what?" Jayne grunted.

"A case," Sam replied. "We've got fifty one hours to kill, remember?"

Lynn crinkled her nose, sliding the folder away from Sam to give the case a good look. "Well… fifty-one hours is a long time…"

She was right, Jayne concluded. Fifty-one hours was a long time, and it was going to feel even longer if she had to spend it here, at the Roadhouse, watching Dean chat up Jo.

"Sounds good," she said. "I say we take it. Let's head out."

"All right," Sam agreed. "I'll get Dean."

Jayne watched Sam get to his feet and cross the tavern, headed straight for Dean and Jo. Lynn leaned into her arm and smirked. "Somebody has a crush on you," she sang into Jayne's ear.

She turned to frown at her sister. "What?"

"Ash," Lynn returned. "He likes you."

"Are we in middle school?" Jayne retorted. "Although – seriously? What was that all about? Wasn't he supposed to be hitting on you? You're the hot one. That's always been our dynamic. I like our dynamic. I want to go back to our dynamic."

"Jaynie, he has a mullet and he lost his shirt sleeves," Lynn pointed out. "I think you might be more his type."

She frowned at that. "What are you trying to say?"

Lynn just smirked again, and then headed for the door.

"Hey!" Jayne barked after her. "Don't you walk away from me!"

All she got in response was Lynn's laughter.

Dean followed Jo to the other side of the roadhouse, his drink hanging from his fingertips. The young, tiny blonde was bent over a table, wiping it down with a rag, giving him an excellent view of her ass. He wouldn't deny that the bartender was hot. Plus, she was making the eyes at him, and Dean never had been one to ignore the eyes.

He slid into a chair at the table she was cleaning. "How did your Mom get into this stuff anyway?" he asked her.

Jo stopped cleaning and smiled slightly. "My Dad," she replied. "He was a hunter."

Dean could hear a note of pride in her voice as she spoke about her Dad, and then her eyes got sad and she ducked her head. "He passed away," she explained.

He took a beat. "I'm sorry."

She shrugged. "It was a long time ago. I was just a kid."

Dean nodded, trying to smile at her. "Sorry to hear about your Dad," she changed the subject.

"Yeah," he muttered, and then he changed the subject too. "So, uh… I guess I got fifty-one hours to waste. Maybe tonight we should…"

It was on the tip of his tongue to toss her one of his usual cheap pickup lines. She was hot, and he kind of thought she was into him. At the same time, the moment he tried to make his brain go there, it resisted. He could try to push it away, try to forget, but his father's death was still fresh in his mind, and it definitely didn't help that they'd just been talking about dead fathers.

"You know what, never mind," he said. The thoughts were all there now, and he knew he wouldn't be able to get in the mood. If he were being totally honest, a one-nighter with Jo Harvelle was not going to make him feel any better – and if he were being really, really honest, the last thing he needed was yet another hot blonde with dead daddy issues mucking everything up.

"What?" Jo asked.

"Nothing, just… wrong place, wrong time."

Jo tilted her head. "You know, I thought you were going to toss me some cheap pickup line."

He laughed.

"Most hunters come through that door, think they can get in my pants with some pizza, a six-pack, and side one of Zeppelin IV."

The comment hit so close to home that Dean's laugh came out strangled. "What a bunch of scumbags."

Jo studied him. "But not you."

If she only knew. "Guess not," he shrugged.

"Dean," Sam's voice sounded in his ear. "Check this out."

He looked up and found his brother standing over him with a folder in his hand. Jo smirked at him, and then headed back for the bar. "Yeah?" Dean asked.

"A few murders not far from here that Ellen caught wind of," Sam explained. "It looks to me like there might be a hunt."

"Yeah?" Dean said again. "So?"

"So, I told Ellen we'd check it out."

Dean frowned – first at Sam, then at the folder, and then at Jayne and Lynn, still seated at the bar. "You run that by them?"

"They're on board. Come on; we've got fifty-one hours to kill."

Dean shrugged. "Yeah, ok. Whatever."

Sam nodded, and then headed for the door, calling a goodbye to Ellen. Dean stood up and grabbed his coat, nodding at Ellen and Jo as he followed Sam out. Lynn and Jayne grabbed their jackets too and jogged after them.

Jayne hopped into the driver's seat of her old, rusty gray pickup. Lynn slid into the cab as well, and Dean found himself crammed into the bed with Sam all over again. The engine turned over and Jayne wheeled out of the parking lot.

The past week had been slow, and had served to emphasize that Dean's life was a wreck. Dad was gone. His car was totaled. And he was severely dodging the issue that was him and Jayne Gibson.

After all, Jo Harvelle was far from the first blonde chick with daddy issues to catch his eye.

It was dark out now, and pouring down rain. By the time they would finally reach Mishicot, Wisconsin, it would be morning again. Lynn sighed and eyed her sister, who was steering her truck down the highway, her eyes never wavering from the road.

"It's raining," Lynn pointed out.

Jayne raised her eyebrow. "So?"

"So Sam and Dean are riding bitch in the back, Jaynie."

Her sister shrugged. "They got a tarp."


She rolled her eyes at Lynn's scolding and heaved a long suffering sigh before pulling over on the shoulder. "Fine."

Lynn shook her head in annoyance as the truck jerked to a stop. Jayne glared out the windshield, drumming her fingers impatiently on the steering wheel. She didn't understand what Jayne's problem was. Ever since they'd left the roadhouse, she'd been quiet and moody.

She swung open the passenger side door and hopped down into the downpour. Sam and Dean were already scrambling down from the bed. "Thanks!" Sam called over the loud, pounding sound of the rain.

Lynn shrugged at him. Dean slid into the cab first, and then Sam clambered in behind him. There wasn't going to be enough room for all of them, which meant by the time they were all done shoving each other, rearranging the front of the truck, and complaining about everything, Dean ended up wedged between Jayne and Sam, and Lynn found herself sitting on Sam's lap.

Just freaking fantastic.

"You two are fucking up my upholstery," Jayne grumbled.

Dean snorted. "Your upholstery was fucked long before we came along."

She was uncomfortable, to say the least. Sam was sopping wet, and the water in his clothes was seeping into her jeans. Lynn shifted on his lap, trying to find a better, drier position. It wasn't until he made an odd grunt in the back of his throat that she realized what all that movement was probably doing to him. Flushing, she stopped moving around and glared determinedly out the passenger window.

Jayne was already back on the highway and driving too fast through the storm. "So… someone want to fill me in on this case?" Dean asked.

Lynn sighed in annoyance and dug the folder out from under the bench seat. "Two people were murdered after attending a carnival," she explained, switching on the overhead light in the cab. "Their daughter was the only survivor – and witness. She said a clown did it."

Dean snorted. "You have got to be kidding me. A killer clown?"

"Yep," Sam spoke up. "Ripped the parents to pieces."

"What was the name of the carnival?"

"The Cooper Carnival," Lynn replied, studying the folder.

Dean rolled his eyes. "So how do we know we're not dealing with some psycho carnie in a clown suit?"

"Well," Sam started. "The cops have no viable leads."

"And all the employees were tearing down the carnival," Lynn chimed in, reading her way through the papers in her hand. "So everyone had an alibi."

"Also the little girl said the clown vanished into thin air," Sam added. "Cops are saying trauma, of course…"

"I know what you're thinking, Sam," Dean interrupted, smirking. "Why did it have to be clowns?"

Lynn frowned, looking up from the folder and twisting around to see Sam's face. He looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Oh, come on," he retorted.

Dean laughed. "You didn't think I remembered, did you?"

Sam glowered at the dashboard.

"Come on," Dean pushed. "You still bust out crying whenever you see Ronald McDonald on the television."

Lynn wrinkled her nose, glancing at Sam again for confirmation. He looked pissed. "At least I'm not afraid of flying!" he snapped.

"Planes crash!"

"Yeah, and apparently clowns kill!"

"Both of you knock it off," Jayne drawled, eyes fixed on the road. "Or I swear I'll put you back out in the rain."

Lynn swallowed, looking around the cab. Jayne looked annoyed, and Sam looked uncomfortable. Dean frowned at Jayne. "What's got you so grumpy, Goldilocks?"

"Well, I got your elbow in my ribs," Jayne retorted. "Not to mention you and your brother are leaking all over my truck. Give me something to smile about."

"Killer clown?"

"Are you really afraid of clowns?" Lynn asked suddenly, frowning over her shoulder at Sam.

He sighed, looking harassed. Lynn shifted on his lap, and he winced, making that odd noise again. She crinkled her nose in apology. "Can we just get back to the job?" Sam demanded irritably.

Dean looked annoyed again. "Did it ever happen before?"

"Yeah, uh… the Bunker Brothers circus," Sam replied, taking the folder from Lynn's hand and frowning at the papers inside. He sounded breathless, and Lynn bit her lip, suddenly stupidly embarrassed. She turned away and stared at the dashboard. Sam kept reading. "In 1981. Same MO, it happened three different times, three different locales…"

"It's weird though," Dean pointed out. "I mean, if it is a spirit, it's usually bound to a specific locale – you know, a house or a town."

Sam nodded. "So how's this one moving from city to city, carnival to carnival?"

"Cursed object, maybe," Dean suggested. "Spirit attaches itself to something and the carnival carries it around with them."

"Great," Sam grumbled. "Paranormal scavenger hunt."

"Maybe it's not an object," Lynn spoke up. "Spirits sometimes attach themselves to people… is there anyone from both carnivals named in the investigation?"

Sam shook his head. "Not that it says here."

Dean grunted from the middle of the bench seat. "Whatever. Just remember, this case was your idea, Sam. By the way, why is that? You were awfully quick to jump on this job."

Lynn didn't like Dean's tone of voice. It sounded strangely confrontational – but then again, if she were being honest, Dean's tone had often been confrontational over the past week. Ever since John…

"So?" Sam asked, and already he sounded on the defensive. Lynn squeezed her eyes shut, steeling herself against the inevitable.

"It's just not like you, that's all. I thought you were hell bent for leather on the demon hunt."

Sam stared at Dean for a moment, and then shrugged. "I don't know. I just think… taking this job… it's what Dad would have wanted us to do."

Dean scoffed. "What Dad would have wanted?"

And there it was. Lynn flinched, staring determinedly at the floor of the truck.

"Yeah," Sam replied. "So?"

There was a long, painful silence. Lynn sat too still, tense and on edge, waiting for the inevitable explosion. It never came.

Dean shrugged, settling back against the seat. "Nothing."

The cab lapsed into silence again. Lynn shifted uncomfortably on Sam's lap again, and Sam cleared his throat awkwardly. She wanted to put her fist through the window, but closed her eyes and gave her head a little shake instead. Then she glanced across the cab at Jayne, who was staring straight out the windshield, her knuckles white on the wheel, the inside of her cheek sucked in between her jaws.

This was going to be a long hunt.

The sun was up and shining brightly as Jayne wheeled her beat up old truck into the parking lot of the Mishicot, Wisconsin fairgrounds. Her tires kicked up dust as she rolled to a stop, and Sam sneezed from the bed of the pickup.

As soon as it had stopped raining, he and Dean had quickly climbed out of the truck cab and taken their places once again in the back. The bed-liner had been damp, but the slight discomfort was worth the breathing space. It had been too cramped in the cab, with three tall people shoved together on a bench seat and the only short person perched on Sam's lap. The only short person was Lynn, of course, and having her squeezed into his lap was definitely not helping anything. All it did was make him seriously uncomfortable.

Not so long ago, he and Lynn had had an arrangement that could have solved all that discomfort, but she had ended that. He couldn't deny that the ending was for the best – he wasn't ready for anything serious, and he'd been using their hookups as distractions from all the things he didn't want to think about, as well as a band-aid for anything that went wrong. It wasn't healthy, and it definitely wasn't fair to Lynn, who by her own admission had been growing too attached to him for a simple friends-with-benefits arrangement. At any rate, what he had been doing with Lynn really wasn't his style. But with Lynn, things had been different. There was just something about her that made him do lots of things he'd never thought were his style.

Dean was next to him in the back of the truck. When Jayne finally parked, Sam's older brother got up on his knees and leaned his elbow on the roof of the truck cab, frowning at the carnival. Tents and trailers had been set up directly in front of them, and in the background Sam could see the fair rides. A couple of clowns stood nearby, talking to two men in suits.

"Check it out," Dean spoke up. "Five-O."

The cab doors swung open just then, and Jayne and Lynn hopped out of the truck. Lynn gently pushed her door shut and took a step forward, her eyes scanning their surroundings. Jayne slammed her door unceremoniously and glared up at Sam and his brother.

"Anyone got a plan?" she asked, raising her eyebrow.

"I do," Dean returned, hopping down from the bed. "I'm going to go talk to those nice detectives over there and find out what's going on. You three, uh… watch out for the clowns."

Sam glared at his brother, who smirked back. "Hilarious," he retorted.

Dean cackled and then swaggered off towards the police detectives. Sam shook his head, glaring after him, and then hopped down from the truck. Lynn leaned on the hood, frowning at Dean's back. "Question," she said. "Why are we sending Dean to talk to the cops? Seeing as he's Dean, and he doesn't have a good track record with cops?"

Sam chuckled slightly. Jayne shrugged, hooking her thumbs in the belt loops of her jeans. "Don't know, don't care," she replied. "If you're so fired up concerned about it, you could just go over there with him."

Lynn shot a look at her sister through narrowed eyes. "So… what the hell is your problem?" she asked.

Jayne shrugged again. "Nothing."

She was so obviously full of crap, but Sam didn't want to call her on it. He didn't want to fight just then, and he had a feeling pushing Jayne would lead to a fight. Apparently, Lynn had drawn the same conclusion, because she fell silent, leaning against the truck's front bumper. The three of the stood around for a few long minutes, sharing an awkward silence.

Sam leaned against the back of the truck, staring at the rides along the skyline. It was their first hunt since his father had died, and he had to admit, things were starting to feel even weirder than usual. He knew Dean was thinking it too – that the way their Dad had gone, so soon after Dean had woken up… he had to wonder if maybe the two were connected.

"So," Jayne spoke up suddenly, turning her hard gray eyes on Sam. He looked up, startled from his thoughts, and nearly flinched at the flinty quality of her gaze. "Clowns, huh? Really?"

He looked away, feeling acutely embarrassed. "Shut up."

Jayne smirked. Lynn crinkled her nose apologetically, even though he could see a hint of a smile playing around her lips. Rolling his eyes in annoyance, Sam walked away, stepping over the yellow gate by the truck and leaning against it, his back turned on the two women.

"Aw, Sam, come on," Jayne called after him. "Don't be a bad sport!"

He ignored her. Another long silence followed. As he stood there, leaning on the gate, he heard soft footsteps approaching along the dusty ground. Looking up, he found a dwarfed carnival worker, wearing clown clothes but no makeup, coming his way. Instinctively, he shifted on the gate, frowning at the worker.

She stopped directly in front of him and glared. Sam frowned back, shifting around uncomfortably again. After a while, the clown moved on, and Sam relaxed – but only slightly.

Dean of course chose that moment to return. He jogged over from where he'd been talking to the cops and smirked at his younger brother. "Did you get her number?" he asked.

Sam glared at him and said nothing. Dean shrugged, and then waved at the other two hunters. Jayne and Lynn joined them a few seconds later, looking impatient to hear what Dean had to say.

"More murders?" Sam prompted him.

"Two more last night," Dean replied, leaning beside him on the bright yellow gate. "Apparently they were ripped to shreds. And they had a little boy with them."

Sam snorted. "Who fingered a clown."

Dean frowned, and then raised his eyebrow at him. Sam frowned back. "What?"

He could swear he heard Jayne snickering, but he tried to ignore it. Dean just looked at him weird again, and then carried on discussing the hunt. "Yes, a clown, who apparently vanished into thin air."

There was short pause. Sam shook his head. "You know, looking for a cursed object is like trying to find a needle in a stack of needles," he said. "It could be anything."

"Well, it's bound to give off EMF," Dean pointed out. "So… we'll just have to scan everything."

Sam snorted again, and then chuckled bitterly. "Oh, good! That's nice and conspicuous."

Dean shrugged, his eyes wandering towards a tent full of carnival workers. "I guess we'll just have to blend in," he replied.

Sam frowned, following his gaze. Jayne looked over at the tent too, and Sam guessed her eyes must have landed on the same "Help wanted" sign that Sam and his brother had discovered tacked to a nearby pole. "Seriously?" she asked. "You want to work at the fucking carnival?"

Dean shrugged. "Got any better ideas, Goldilocks?"

She raised her eyebrow at him, but didn't say anything for a moment. Finally, she rolled her eyes and huffed. "No."

"Great," Dean said. "Then we're working at the carnival. Let's go find Mr. Cooper."

He marched off towards the tent in question. Sam sighed, and then glanced at the other two. Jayne rolled her eyes and followed Dean. Lynn shrugged at Sam, who shrugged back, and then the two of them headed for the large, red and white striped tent.

Inside they found an old man in a suit, wearing a pair of dark glasses and throwing knives at a large, wooden target. Sam was impressed to see each and every knife landing dead center in the middle of the bulls-eye.

"Excuse me," Dean spoke up. "We're looking for Mr. Cooper. Have you seen him around?"

The old man scoffed. "What is that, some kind of a joke?" He pulled off his glasses, and Sam was shocked to see his eyes were a milky white. Clearly, the old knife-thrower was blind.

"Oh," Dean tried to backtrack. "God… I'm… I'm sorry…"

"You think I wouldn't give my eyeteeth to see Mr. Cooper, or a sunset, or anything at all?"

Sam couldn't help smirking at his brother's predicament. Dean looked from him, to Jayne, to Lynn. "You want to give me a little help here?" he asked.

"Not really," Sam replied.

"Hey, Barry!"

Sam whirled around to see a very short man standing at the entrance to the tent, decked out in carnival gear, complete with a sequined cape and a porn-star moustache. He frowned at the small group huddled in the tent. "Is there a problem?"

"Yeah," Barry the blind knife-thrower replied. "This guy hates blind people!"

Dean chuckled nervously. "No, I don't!"

"Hey, buddy, what's your problem?" the little person exclaimed, waving around a stick.

"No problem – just a little misunderstanding…"

"Little? You son of a bitch!"

Sam laughed out loud. He couldn't help it.

"No, no, no, no!" Dean shouted. "I… could someone just tell me where Mr. Cooper is? Please?"

Sam snorted. Lynn stepped in. "Um… I'm really sorry about him," she spoke up. "He… he was just… uh… this was all a misunderstanding."

"That's what I said!" Dean added.

Lynn waved at him to be quiet. "Look, we just wanted to talk to Mr. Cooper real quick," she went on. "So if either of you gentlemen knows where he is...?"

"Mr. Cooper's in his trailer," the little man in the cape replied. "I can show you."

She smiled at him. "Thanks."

Dean gawked at her. Sam stifled another laugh. The man led Lynn out of the tent, and Jayne followed after her, smirking over her shoulder at Dean as they left. Dean turned to Sam, shaking his head.

"What the hell?" he demanded.

Sam shrugged, still grinning, and then he too left the tent. Dean followed, all the while grumbling under his breath.

As far as Sam was concerned, already this hunt was looking up.