didn’t feel his body tumble from the bench or
hit the floor. By the time he lay on the sidewalk trembling
convulsively, his mind had entered a totally different
was back in the abandoned motel, his senses heightened
until he saw every minute detail, every roach cross
the floor, every fly that buzzed around clots of blood
and tissue that spattered the walls.
young hunter saw everything just a little too clearly.
was outside a room, but this time it was not the room
he had envisioned before. This place was carefully locked
and barricaded as if it held some prehistoric monster.
Extra wooden planks had been hammered to every possible
exit save for one door, and that had three recently
fitted locks protruding from its edge.
Sam took in the new horror scene, someone began to approach
the secret room. The newcomer held the knife from his
earlier vision, and as the stranger neared Sam knew
it was the killer, even though his features were still
masked by darkness and some ungodly cloud.
killer fumbled in a pocket with his free hand and managed
to pluck out a jangling bunch of keys. Sam guessed correctly
that he was about to open the securely locked door.
the man struggled to find the right key for each lock,
Sam let his gaze fall further back into the adjoining
room. Something white and glistening had caught his
eye, and he couldn’t help but look at whatever
head spun momentarily as his eyes refocused as if he
were using binoculars. The white, glinting thing became
sharp and focused, and with it came the realization
that there was not one but many.
Sam hadn’t been simply a fly-on-the wall he would
have balked. The second room had a table propped against
its farthest wall, and the things garnishing it and
catching the sunlight from the window above were in
fact bony-white human skulls. They appeared to have
been bleached or worse to remove any last vestiges of
flesh, making them perfect trophies.
tried to count just how many people must have died to
make such an evil shrine, but in the end he turned away,
sickened by what he was being forced to see. Just
how long have the murders been going on here?
keys clattered down hard as the killer dropped them,
foul curse words coming from his mouth every two seconds,
and Sam returned his attention to the secret room the
murderer was now entering. Matthew Ismay had wanted
Sam here to see this. This was the end of the yellow
brick road he had been forced to walk, and Sam had no
illusions what might lay at the end of it.
door swung open laboriously, its hinges groaning as
rust rubbed on rust after years of not being used. Inside,
the room was dark, and the killer had to walk into its
center just to catch a glimpse of his special prisoner.
presence followed, his eyes narrowing to strain through
the dimness to see who or what was cowering in the gloom.
As his pupils adjusted to the dark, Sam finally caught
a glimmer of movement and almost gasped in surprise.
Ismay shook as he recoiled into the corner, shying from
the killer’s taunting blade. The young boy looked
pale, but not as white as he had appeared during his
‘manifestations’ to Sam.
me alone. You won’t get what you want from me.”
The eleven-year-old's voice was high-pitched and terrified,
but there was something in his delivery that told Sam
the fear was not of dying. He didn’t care if the
killer took his soul for some yellow-eyed demon, but
he did care what his death might mean.
pulled back, suddenly trying to escape what he was seeing.
It was too confusing for his assaulted brain to compute.
What are you afraid of? What does your death mean?
The words echoed in the hunter’s mind, but he
couldn’t ask them because this wasn’t real,
was it? Matthew was already dead, so that meant he was
seeing the past, wasn’t he?
images in Sam’s subconscious lurched and he felt
himself physically clutching his head in the real world.
Voices called to him, asking if he was alright, but
he couldn’t wake up to answer. The movie had one
last reel of film for him to see, and he couldn’t
leave the drive-in until it was over.
time, the visualization was of the outside of the motel.
The decaying structure sat ominously in the distance,
its wooden roof partially caved in on the whole left
wing of rooms. Outside the remaining intact parts stood
two trucks, one very old freightliner, and a more modern
Dodge Ram. In the back of the Ram, Sam sensed but could
not see yet more bodies…
* * * *
Dean slid the Impala on to East Wisconsin Avenue and
began to look for somewhere to park close to the library.
Usually he’d leave the old girl anywhere without
giving it too much thought, but after Val’s threats
he wasn’t taking any chances.
cussed under his breath as he realized he was going
to have to pay to park, and was just about to consider
driving around the block when he spotted a crowd gathering
around a small roadside bench.
frowned and let the car come to a stop, suddenly forgetting
the chances of getting a ticket. He didn’t know
why, but somehow he knew he had to see what was going
on. Sliding the lever on the steering column into park,
Dean quickly clambered from the Chevy and jogged across
me, somthin’ going on here, ma’am?”
Dean tried to gently push through the small crowd as
he questioned a wiry framed woman who looked at least
young man collapsed on the side walk. Won’t let
anyone call an ambulance.” She shook her head,
Dean kicked into big brother mode before he knew for
sure it was Sam on the ground. “Sam?” He
called through the mob. “Sammy?”
was sitting up, but to Dean he looked like he should
by lying down- preferably in a hospital bed. He was
whiter than Ismay’s spirit, and a thick glob of
blood had trickled from his nose and was congealing
on his upper lip.
okay. I’ll take it from here.” Dean began
waving off the crowd. The last thing Sam needed was
an audience to one of his nightmarish revelations. “He’s
my brother. I can take care of him…”
onlookers took Dean’s explanation and began to
move away, some disappointed that they weren’t
going to get some excitement in their dreary lives-
even if it only was likely to be gossip to spread.
the last ‘gaper’ had vanished, Dean eased
Sam back up onto the bench and pulled an extremely creased
handkerchief from his pocket. “Dude, wipe that
blood off your face, you look like crap again.”
looked at his brother blearily but did as he was told.
“Thanks for reminding me how bad I look,”
he sighed.“At least this time I think it was worth
it? Sam, you’re gonna die in one of these fits
or whatever they are. Each one gets worse, and the kid
is a relentless lil’ S.O.B. He won’t stop
just because you’re hurting.” Dean spun
around so that his back was facing Sam. This was the
third time they’d had this conversation and it
wasn’t getting him anywhere. Maybe the Sat
Navigation wasn’t such a bad idea…
I think I finally know what the kid wants, and we have
to hurry!” Sam tried to get up and face Dean off,
but his knees refused the command to stand and he flopped
weakly back down. “Dean, I don’t think Matthew
Ismay is dead!”
abruptly turned back and looked at his brother as if
he had gone completely mad. “Are you nuts? What
was that we saw, a freakin’ mirage?”
Sam leaned forward, intent on being heard whether Dean
believed his theory or not, “This time I saw everything,
the motel, and more. There’s a room, it’s
locked, hell, barricaded, and the killer was there.
He has Matthew locked inside, cowering in a corner like
some animal.” Sam’s expression changed from
desperate to pleading. “Dean, we have to save
you can’t save someone who is already dead. I
know it was sad, but you were at the hospital. He’s
dead.” Dean finally gave in to his brother’s
puppy dog look and took a seat beside him on the bench.
“Whatever he’s showing you must be the past,”
shook his head, even though it still throbbed. “No,
you said it yourself; demons can make you believe anything.
What if Matthew is like me? What if he has gifts the
demon wants. It said it had plans, remember?”
did remember, although it was something he wished he
didn’t have to. He shot Sam a look, but didn’t
what if the demon had the kid abducted and made the
hospital staff think he died? Some kind of illusion
like the truck…” There was excitement in
Sam’s voice as he convinced himself what was happening.
“I think Matthew can somehow project himself and
he’s been trying to let someone know he’s
not dead. That’s why the E.M.F. showed zilch and
the rock salt didn’t hurt him. He’s not
me get this straight, you think an eleven year old kid
is somehow able to float around, forcing you to have
visions because he’s got some kind of psychic
gig going on,” Dean winced, “like you?”
He added grudgingly. “So how come he can do more
stuff than you or Max could and he’s so young?”
didn’t even blink. He’d already thought
that fact through and was ready with an answer. “Some
scientists think that psychic and psychokinetic abilities
are controlled by a part of the brain normal people
don’t use, but that people like me and Matthew
have tapped into. What if Matthew’s tumor is pressing
on that area accelerating the growth of his abilities?
Maybe that’s why the demon took him first?”
let a low whistle out through his teeth. “Whoa,
you’ve been looking this whole psychic boy stuff
up? You’re getting way out there into the twilight
zone, you know that right?”
what if I’m right? What if the kid isn’t
dead and we do nothing? He doesn’t have long before
the tumor is inoperable. We have to at least check this
out.” Sam pressed hard, knowing that no matter
how much Dean thought Sam was losing it, his brother
would never risk a child’s life.
make you a deal.” Dean watched Sam for a reaction.
He still suspected Sam was letting the kid and the visions
get the better of him, and he wanted to be sure they
made the right move for everyone’s sake. “I
vote we find Ismay’s grave, and if the body’s
not there, maybe, just maybe I’ll buy this whole
projection deal. If the body is there, we salt and burn
the bones, job done.” He shrugged. “The
way I see it it’s a win, win situation.”
inhaled and took the time to glance up to the library
clock face. How many hours did Matthew Ismay have left
before there was nothing the doctors could do for him?
How many hours before the demon put its plan into motion?
“Let’s do it…” Sam pushed up
from the bench and this time forced his knees to lock.
If his theory was right, they had a kid to find, and
not very much time to do it in.
* * * *
The earth was dry and hard, its clay content and lack
of rain making any kind of excavation difficult. Digging
into the cement-style soil was like ramming a spade
into steel. The motion jarred every muscle in Dean’s
body, but actually only got him a few measly inches
further into the ground with every lunge.
poured from the elder Winchester until he gave in and
dropped his spade for a second to tear off his t-shirt.
He tossed the soaked tee on top of the neighboring tombstone
and then began to dig again, cursing under his breath
for once again getting the short straw.
if he knew how his little brother did it, but whenever
there was a body to unearth Dean got the digging, and
Sammy got the babysitting or lookout duty. “I
am so gonna get me a one-sided coin for times like these…”
Dean took out his frustration on the ground, using his
upper body strength to take out another few inches of
earth until his spade clanked against something solid.
pulled back and took a long, deep breath before mopping
his drenched brow with his forearm. The motion left
a swatch of dirt across his forehead but Dean never
noticed. He glanced warily around the empty cemetery,
searching for mourners who might see his totally illegal
act and call the police.
was a risky business exhuming a body at the best of
times, but in broad daylight like this, it was plain
buckets of crazy. That was why Sam had been strategically
placed to look out for possible trouble.
legs are better for climbing my ass,” Dean grouched
as he took a peek at the tree Sam had concealed himself
in. “Next time I get to play monkey; Sammy boy
definitely gets to be the ghoul with the spade.”
He brought the tool up over his shoulder and plunged
the sharp edge into the top of the casket.
Matthew Ismay had no relatives and his burial had been
a simple one. The cheap, thin-lined coffin gave way
with ease to the ghost hunter’s spade and Dean
leaned back, expecting to be overwhelmed by the sight
of Ismay’s bloating body.
eyes widened. “Well I’ll be damned, little
brother.” He raised a brow and then kneeled down,
brushing away loose dirt to check if there was anything
at all in the casket. A few rocks lay at one end, and
Dean guessed they’d rolled there because the coffin
had probably been lowered at an angle. “Guess
we got ourselves a motel to find, and fast.”
dropped the spade and reached out to grab the solid
earth walls that surrounded him. Digging down to a casket
was hard work, but clambering up the hole was a bitch
with no one to give you a hand back out.
cursed as the dry soil crumbled in his hands. “Where’s
college boy when you need him…” As if in
answer, an outstretched palm appeared over the earthy
ledge and Dean grabbed it appreciatively. “About
time you made your sorry ass useful…”
paused as he was tugged from the grave not by Sam, but
a tall, bearded old man with beady, mischievous eyes
that danced in the sunlight.
one of those college kids who think it’s funny
to come dig up my cemetery, boy?” The man’s
brow crinkled questioningly and he gestured to the mess
Dean had made. He appeared neither angry nor reproachful,
but simply curious as to Dean’s motives.
to go, Sammy. Not only do you get to sit out of the
sun, but you get my ass canned too! “No,
sir,” Dean began with the truth, carefully spinning
a lie to follow. “I’m with the police department.
We’re investigating Matthew Ismay’s death.”
He let his eyes fall to the kid’s tombstone and
waited for the old timer’s next move.
don’t you think I know you have to get a court
order to exhume a body?” He smirked playfully,
looking over into the grave, his eyes twinkling with
some bizarre form of mirth. “And of course, the
police wouldn’t send one half naked and very scruffy
young man. They have professionals for this kind of
just say we’re in a hurry. We have reason to believe
the kid isn’t dead, at least not yet.” Dean
knew the man, whoever he was, wasn’t buying his
story, but he had to try. What he needed right now was
some Sammy intervention to save the day or he might
just be getting arrested for grave robbing.
bearded stranger’s upper lip twitched and he crossed
his arms. “But of course you’re in a hurry.
You’re looking for somewhere, aren’t you?”
took a step back, and his eyes narrowed in both surprise
and suspicion. The guy before him should be demanding
I.D. and getting ready to call the cops, but instead
he was being all-too helpful. In fact, he seemed to
know just a little too much for his presence at Ismay’s
graveside to be random.
the other hand, with no body in the casket, and no real
clue where the elusive motel was, Dean was prepared
to take the risk of dancing with the devil if it saved
a kid’s life.
have reason to believe the kid,” he pointed at
the tombstone again, “is being held captive in
an old motel. Someplace off the beaten track that hasn’t
been used in years. We know part of the roof is caved
in. Anything like that ring any bells?”
old man pondered the question. “I think you mean
the old Melrose place. I used to play there as a kid.
It hasn’t been used since the fifties. Too far
out to get any business, you see.”
winced, uncertain how to take the new information. Things
were coming together just a little too easily, and the
more he thought about it the more he was convinced he
and Sam where being set up. And where the hell is
Sam, anyway? The thought, coupled with the stranger’s
openness, brought worry to the young hunter’s
heart and he whirled, sudden concern flushing his face.
Sam’s long, gangly legs appeared on cue and he
jumped from the lowest branch of his hideout, Dean let
out a sigh and turned back to quiz the old man more.
Dean, though, there would be no more playing quizmaster.
The stranger with the white beard and thinning hair
had vanished. The cemetery was once again the empty,
solitary place it had been before.
are you staring at so intently?” Sam scooted over
to Dean’s side and glanced around, uncertain what
had turned his brother into a wide-eyed gawker instead
of his usual cocky self.
gaze strayed from the plethora of granite monuments
around them just long enough to shoot his brother a
perplexed look. “You didn’t see the old
guy? Hell, my ass could have been on the line if he’d
have been security or a cop.”
confused expression matched Dean’s and he shook
his head lightly. “Dean, nobody has passed me.
I haven’t seen anyone since you started digging.
There was nobody here.”
I’m not the one who sees things, remember?”
The aggravation in the elder Winchester’s tone
made it quite clear he thought Sam had missed the old
timer. After all, what other answer could there possibly
be? “He was over six feet, grey thinning hair
and a beard.”
walked, floated, or drove by that tree, Dean.”
grabbed his t-shirt from the tombstone and pointed down
into the grave. There was really no point in arguing,
but something very weird had just happened. “You
were right about the kid. No body, no nothing. What’s
more, the guy who ‘was never here’ just
happened to know where to find your mystery motel. In
fact, he offered up the information without me really
having to say anything…”
inhaled and leaned against the cool exterior wall of
the vault behind Ismay’s grave. Either he really
had missed the old guy, or maybe they were being led
into another trap by the demon. The thing had toyed
with them like this before and it could certainly be
doing so again. “If we find the motel we could
be walking straight into a demonic ambush.”
nodded, slipping his t-shirt back on. “Yeah, but
if we don’t, your kid is as good as dead…”
* * * *
Just South of Neenah, Wisconsin
pulled the Impala to a halt and reluctantly shut off
the engine. It hadn’t taken much for the brothers
to find out where the "old Melrose place"
was actually situated, but that didn’t mean he
liked the idea of actually visiting the dilapidated
dive- there was just too much of a chance that the demon
might be here.
Not that Dean didn’t want to
send its yellow-eyed ass back to hell, because he wanted
nothing more. But still, even at the thought of the
thing he tended to see his father’s face after
the events in Missouri.
It was like John now personified the
thing that he and Sam hated so much. In Dean’s
eyes, entering the decaying motel was like walking into
the cabin all over again.
is as close as we can get with the car.” Dean
raised a finger towards their target and pulled out
his forty-five, checking to see that he had a full clip.
“Looks like there’s more than one bad guy
in there,” he noted, wincing at the sight of both
trucks parked outside.
Sam nodded. He hadn’t seen anyone
but the killer, but he clearly recalled the Freightliner
and Dodge from his vision. “The kid’s important
to the demon. They wouldn’t risk leaving him with
just one guard.”
stuffed his favourite silver automatic back under his
jacket and his head tilted slightly as he asked, “I
don’t suppose you can see through walls as well
as minds?” A grin appeared.“Because it would
be real helpful to know how many of the demon’s
goons we’re dealing with.”
even I have my limits.” Sam grinned back before
exiting the car and heading for the trunk.
The younger Winchester already had
his Glock stuffed in the back of his jeans, but selected
a rock-salt filled shotgun and holy water to add to
his arsenal. He might not be dealing with spirits, but
the rock salt provided an alternative to actually shooting
someone if Ismay’s guards turned out to be human
tossed Dean a similar weapon and his brother began sliding
shells in until the pump action Remington was full.
“So, any ideas on how we get into this place without
Mr. Slice and Dice and his buds seeing us? I mean they
gotta have lookouts, right? Did you see anything that
might help while under projection boy’s influence?”
Sam lightly closed the Chevy’s
trunk to avoid making undue noise and took a fleeting
glance in the distance at the motel. All he kept thinking
about were the white glistening skulls that had glared
at him so malevolently in the last vision. Then, he
realized the garish items just might have shown him
a way in.
“I think there’s a window
around back we might be able to get through. It’s
close enough to where they’re keeping Matthew
and we can use the tree line for cover most of the way
over.” Sam licked his lips. “Just be careful
what you tread on when you climb through…”
tell me, there’s a toilet on the other side?”
Dean rested the Remington on his shoulder and his face
puckered at an old and unpleasant memory. He’d
once climbed through a window and planted his boot right
down a rather unkempt toilet bowl. Sam had ribbed him
about that for weeks.
time, Sam wasn’t laughing. “No. Nothing
shrugged but didn’t ask his brother to elaborate.
They’d both seen enough bad things in their time
to know when a subject was "off limits" like
now. “Okay, so let’s play cavalry, dude,”
he offered instead, jogging into the undergrowth to
their left as if he were tracking some wild animal.
Sam followed, keeping close to his
big brother, shotgun at the ready.
they grew closer to the rear of the motel, Dean’s
gait slowed and he began scanning the ground for any
kind of booby trap. There could be hidden snares or
alarm wires anywhere and he didn’t intend to walk
the Winchesters right into one.
before they reached the edge of the tree line, Dean
paused and dropped down to his knees. He didn’t
speak, but instead pointed downwards with his finger
to something near his toe cap.
recognized the trip wire instantly. It had been placed
at just the right height to catch an unsuspecting visitor.
Too bad for the bad guys that John had been a marine.
Dean and Sam had been trained to look for such devices
from childhood. It wasn’t exactly something kindergarteners
should have been taught, but it had saved their lives
many times. “Snare, or something worse?”
Sam whispered, watching as his brother skilfully traced
the wire to its final destination.
gently brushed away a section of "fake" undergrowth
to reveal sharpened spikes nailed to a lattice section
of wood. It didn’t take much imagination to realize
what kind of damage the booby trap could do to a human
body. “Ouch.” The elder brother winced.“I’m
thinking definitely something worse.”
stepped over the wire and then tugged his hunting knife
out, disarming the grotesque and archaic weapon. When
it was safe to proceed, both brothers slid down the
small earthy embankment to their target.
stowed his shotgun under his jacket and tugged out the
Glock, taking position on one side of the filthy motel
window while Dean waited poised on the other with his
a quick nod, Dean made the first move, swinging his
arms outward and spinning around to point his weapon
through the window. When he thought it was all clear
on the other side, he lowered his weapon a touch and
held it in a one-handed pose while he jerked open the
tipped his head forward, checking again for bad guys
before clambering over the ledge. “Here’s
Johnny!” The elder hunter couldn’t resist
the ‘Shining’ quip as he dropped
down onto the skull-filled table.
he became aware of what he was trampling he turned his
head, repulsed at what one human could do to another.
Why the hell would anyone worship a demon that asked
for that kind of allegiance? Dean shrugged off
the word demon purposefully and as Sam followed
him inside put his attention back on finding Matthew
door to the heavily locked room lay ahead, just as Sam
had described it. Dean inhaled, brushing a sweating
hand across his mouth in thought. This is still
too easy. He brought the automatic back up to chest
height and his finger tickled the trigger expectantly.
“Wanna do the honors, Sammy?” he mouthed,
nodding towards the three heavy duty locks they had
to get through.
eased past his brother, ducking his towering frame until
he was level with the locks. He licked his lips and
then pulled his lock-picking tools from his jacket pocket.
Each lock gave way to his tinkering within just one
minute. Before he opened the door, Sam looked back to
Dean, apprehension, fear, anticipation all apparent
on his boyish features.
Dean nodded stoically and held his
weapon ready, just in case this really was an ambush.
Sam pushed gently on the wood, and
when it didn’t yield right away he struggled with
the urge to kick at it. Instead, he eventually put his
shoulder to the door and bounced on it with his weight
behind the move.
corroded hinges gave way, and finally the door surrendered.
Sam moved forward cautiously, his brother only a short
distance behind playing bodyguard, automatic swinging
in wide, protective arcs.
“Sam…” The voice
was hollow, weak, dying. It was more than Sam could
any caution he had once had, the younger Winchester
dived into the shadows, into the gloom he knew held
the frail and shivering form of Matthew Ismay. “It’s
all right. I finally understood your message. We’re
here for you…”
let his lanky legs bend into a crouch, and as his eyes
adjusted to the gloom he at last met Matthew face to
face. The boy had dark rings under each eye and his
sorrowful expression showed the pain he felt every waking
moment. Dried blood pock-marked his features where it
had dribbled from his nose while he slept on the concrete
have to hurry. They know you’re coming.”
Matt’s voice sounded nasal and thick, his throat
and nose clogged with yet more clotting blood. “You
have to know…” he struggled to even form
words. Each effort to breathe or make coherent sentences
cost him vital energy.
whatever it is you can tell me later.” Sam slid
an arm under Matthew’s perilously thin body and
quickly picked up the eleven-year-old, clutching his
head close to his chest to stop his neck lolling backwards.
The kid was so light it was difficult for Sam to believe
he wasn’t younger. But then, the tumor was eating
away at him, and maybe even now they were too late to
Sam stood from his squat position and
turned to face Dean. He didn’t have to say any
words. Just the look of gratitude was enough. Dean had
trusted Sam’s instincts even when it looked like
they were waltzing right into a trap. He had walked
into a demonic lair to save this kid, facing his own
fears about the demon along the way. To Sam, even though
it was his gifts that had brought them here, Dean was
the real hero. Dean the protector, the fighter, the
big brother who would always be there.
Dean's eyes twinkled and Sam realized
his brother had probably guessed his thoughts. He might
not have real mind-reading abilities, but it was just
uncanny how close Dean got when it came to what Sam
was thinking sometimes.
small show of amusement was short-lived. When Sam moved
into the light and Dean saw Matthew for the first time
his brow creased and he immediately turned into big
brother for not one, but two very special people. “I’ll
take point,” he offered, fully intending getting
in the way of anyone or anything that dared to cross
wanted to argue but knew he couldn’t. He probably
now cradled the life of the most important of all the
kids the demon was hunting. He now had to be "big
brother" protector too, just like Dean.
“Can you make it through the
window carrying him?” Dean queried, sweeping the
room with his weapon without looking back.
Sam was about to give an affirmative
when he stole a glance towards their escape route. Things
had suddenly changed. “Err…Dean, I think
we might need a plan B.”
At the sound of uncertainty in his
brother’s voice, Dean whirled and immediately
spotted the reason. Standing outside the window was
a goon that looked like someone right out of a Hell
the episode here