A.N. The other half downloaded S8 Ep16 for us and, as usual, checked a bit at random to make sure it had downloaded properly, then as we settled to watch, warned me I might end up swearing. The reason? Artemis - in some mythologies AKA Hecate! Fortunately, any similarities were extremely minor.
Also, to let you in on the thing with Ruth & the dog: Hecate was believed to have an affinity with dogs and is often depicted with a hunting dog at her side. There was apparently an "old wive's tale" that said if your dog became excited and was barking at night for no good reason, it was because Hecate was passing by, but only the dogs could hear her. For those who have seen Ep16, yes, one of Hecate's many given attributes was, indeed, the Goddess of Hunters. So now you know :D
Ruth's question seemed to throw Barbara and she didn't answer immediately; instead there was a clear hesitancy about her as she looked to Sam for help. Ruth looked concerned.
"Barbara dear? Is something wrong? You did say that you were expecting two visitors, I hope nothing untoward has happened?"
Sam quickly came to the rescue.
"I'm afraid there is, in a way. Dean, my brother, wasn't feeling so good when we got here and he's got worse through the day. He's upstairs, in bed, trying to sleep it off."
"Possibly flu. His temperature's up and he said he ached everywhere. I've given him some anti flu tablets, they always knock him for six, so it's bed and plenty of fluids. He asked me to give his apologies to you."
Ruth's look of concern increased.
"Oh, the poor dear. Maybe I should go pop my head around his door? I could introduce myself and see if he needs anything at the same time. I hate to think of the boy being left all alone."
Barbara moved quickly to place the wine and glasses down on a glass topped coffee table. Pouring a generous measure into one glass, she held it out to Ruth, hoping to distract the woman.
"Stop worrying Ruth. I looked in on him just before you arrived. He's sound asleep. So...when did you decide to become a doggy person? You've never been keen before. Sam, help yourself to wine or, if you prefer, you know where I keep things. Ruth?"
Ruth smiled at Barbara, but the smile didn't quite reach her eyes as she accepted the wine and moved to sit herself gracefully down on one of the two sofas.
"Oh, I think I've simply become used to your dog now my dear, he's such a well mannered animal and quite the handsome gentleman. But really, it isn't him I've come to see today, is it? Now then, Samuel, you must tell me all about yourself."
"It's Sam, and I'm afraid there's not much to tell. My father is Aunt Barbara's cousin. The last time Dean and I saw her we were just children. We're spending our holiday taking a road trip. When we realised we were going to be close by, we rang our Aunt out of the blue really and then arranged to stop off and visit."
"Marvellous! And how long will you and your poor brother be staying? Will I have the opportunity to meet him do you think? I would so love to."
"Probably a few days. We don't really have a strict timetable."
Satisfied that there was no one nearby to show any interest in him, Dean began to make his way up the drive to the first bend. From there, he finally saw Ruth's house. Surrounded on three sides by mature, woodland style gardens, the house itself was gracefully designed, a classic depiction of the Art Deco era which it represented. Built in a sand coloured stone, it had three floors and what appeared to be a further attic level. To the front of the house was a plain lawn, in the centre of which stood a magnificent and ancient looking willow tree. The gardens themselves were enclosed by a tall, dense yew hedge, which effectively served to block the house from public view. And whilst the house was stylish and expensive looking, there was nothing which appeared to be either creepy or supernatural about it.
Dean casually strolled up the rest of the driveway toward the covered entrance of the front door. Once there, he paused to pull an ID card from his jacket pocket before pressing the doorbell. Garnering no response, he tried knocking firmly against the wood and stained glass door. After knocking a second time without any answer, Dean settled himself down to the business of picking the lock. It didn't take him too long and he finally pushed open the door. Dean stepped over the threshold to find himself in a reasonably sized, black and white floor tiled entrance hall. Closing the door quietly behind himself, he stood, listening intently for any sounds that would indicate there was someone else here after all. Finally, he felt satisfied that he was the only current occupant. Dean felt himself relax and he glanced around, taking in the stairs leading up from the entrance hall to the next level, and then the closed doors set into the walls surrounding him. He decided to head upward and start by searching the top floor, before working his way gradually back down.
The stairs which lead up to the attic level were much narrower than the others. A low, windowless, corridor lead off from the top of the stairway. Flicking on his torch, up ahead Dean could see two doors, one either side of the narrow hallway, almost opposite each other. He walked down to them, coming to a halt in front of the right hand door. Reaching out, he clasped the door knob. As he turned it, he instantly became aware of two things. First, the door was unlocked and second, the air around him had suddenly turned cold enough for him to see the mist of his own breath.
Sam was soon left feeling that he was on the receiving end of an interrogation. Whereabouts in Canada did he and his brother come from? What did they do for a living? Why hadn't they seen Barbara for such a long time? Why didn't they attend their uncle's funeral? Sam kept all his answers as neutral as he could, but Ruth's next question caused him a flash of anxiety and he wondered whether something he said had made Ruth suspicious.
"So, Sam my dear. Tell me, do either you or your brother believe in the supernatural?"
Sam glanced at Barbara then back to Ruth who gazed steadily back at him, a small smile curving her lips as she waited for his reply. Sod this you bitch. Fine...let's play.
"Erm...Wow...Weird question! Do you?"
Barbara tried stepping in.
Ruth patted Barbara's leg, but her eyes stayed on Sam.
"Oh Barbara, it's just a bit of fun. Sammy doesn't mind, do you?"
"Sam...Please. And no, I guess I don't mind, I just think it's a very odd question to ask someone you've only just met, really. I'm assuming you do? Believe that is?"
Ruth's smile grew and she leaned forward, bringing herself closer to Sam as she whispered conspiratorially,
"Your Aunt here has a little secret that maybe she hasn't told you. You'd be surprised at some of the things she gets up to."
Sam's eyes narrowed,
"Or maybe I wouldn't. Really it's none of my business. Any secrets that Aunt Barbara has are hers to keep, don't you think? Anyway, what about you Ruth? Are you a believer? You didn't really say. I'd lay money that you've got plenty of little secrets, and maybe some that aren't so little...Should I ask Aunt Barbara to tell me all about those? I'm guessing that would definitely be fascinating."
As if sensing an undercurrent, Bryn whined and moved to sit upright at Sam's feet, lifting one paw he rested it on Sam's knee and turned his brown eyes up to Sam's face.
Barbara tried to intercede again, keeping her tone light hearted.
"For goodness' sake, stop it you two, you're upsetting Bryn...Anyone want topping up? Sam, would you prefer a beer? I've got some savouries warming in the kitchen. Ruth? Be a pet and help me bring them through? Please?"
Ruth flashed Sam a half smile that seemed to say we're not done here, before she allowed her smile to broaden as she turned to face Barbara .
"Of course dear. I could do with a nibble, I'd hate for the wine to go straight to my head, you know how giggly I get when that happens! Lead on dear heart."
Following Barbara as she headed out of the lounge, Ruth paused in the doorway. Turning to look over her shoulder back at Sam, she gave him a slow and deliberate wink. Sam maintained his steady gaze, keeping his expression neutral, until Ruth turned away again and wandered after her hostess.
Once Ruth was out of sight, Sam sighed and slouched back into his chair, his hand absently stroking Bryn's head. He couldn't be sure whether Ruth was playing him, testing him out, or whether she'd already picked up something about him in that odd moment when they first shook hands. He was now much more certain, however, that Ruth was under the influence of something. All his Hunter's instincts were screaming it at him, and he couldn't shake the feeling deep in his gut that danger was near. He reached for his cell and hit his brother's number.
A.N. Thanks for hanging in there! See you soon.