Season Four

Episode Twelve: Ut Victor Vado Spoilum

By JennyF

Part One

 


Julian Whittaker prided himself upon many things. He had worked his whole life for this moment, the pinnacle of his career. The hours of study in his youth had been a joy and the status he now enjoyed as one of the leading historians in San Francisco was, he felt, only right and proper. Yes, his home life had suffered but his wife leaving had been an inevitable outcome of his obsession with Ancient Rome. But it was worth it, he thought, as he cast his eye around his oak dining table, studying each of his children in turn.

Two children. Two beautiful, intelligent, artistic children who knew their own minds, he reflected as he watched them arguing good-naturedly, trying to decide who should take the dirty dishes through to the kitchen.

It didn’t surprise him that his daughter won and Antony, her junior by three years, huffed in surprised defeat as he gathered plates and cutlery to him. Portia smiled sweetly at him as she slid the gravy boat over to him.

Julian sat back contentedly. He’d given both children an education of which to be envious, Ivy League universities fighting over them just a few years ago. It hadn’t surprised him when Portia had decided to stay closer to home or that Antony had eschewed college altogether to pursue his dream of setting up his own business in town. Which he had done. Highly successfully as it turned out, his art gallery being one of the few to go from strength to strength over the last twelve months.

Portia had chosen to follow in his footsteps, bringing him companionship and solidarity in the face of his wife’s desertion. She lapped up the knowledge of ancient Rome he’d passed on to her with relish and sometimes he wondered who had the greater passion for the subject. It was mostly down to her persuasion that Antony had finally allowed them to stage an exhibition of Roman artifacts in his gallery at all. They had grown up to be close and Julian knew he was shameless at times in exploiting their relationship.

He listened to Antony clattering about in the kitchen, a sure sign of exaggerated suffering. Turning to his daughter he wondered again at her similarity to her mother. Black hair tumbling over her shoulders in waves, crystal clear brown eyes sparkling with humor at her brother’s endeavors in the kitchen, and full lips smiling with shared understanding with her father.

“He’ll get the hang of it one day,” she assured him. “And then he’ll make someone a great wife.”

They laughed together as Antony reappeared at the door, a tray with cafetiere, cream jug and china cups balancing precariously on top of each other.

“Laugh it up,” he retorted. “I’ll be married before you will. You spend too long in dusty rooms with dusty antiques!”

“They’re not that dusty,” Portia replied. “Not when I’m done with them, anyway.”

“And that’s why you’ll still be single when you’re thirty. Who in their right mind wants to be dusted off constantly?” and he put the coffee cups and accoutrements on the table. He sat himself down opposite Portia and smiled at her.

“Oh, I’m sure I can find someone,” she smirked, sobering quickly under her father’s raised eyebrows.

Julian watched the discourse benevolently as he accepted the black coffee from his son. He sighed, knowing the time had come to bring up the subject he’d been avoiding all night.

“Antony,” he began, his deep voice serious. “The exhibition’s going well, son. Better than we’d imagined.” He looked to Portia who had sunk back in her chair, cradling her own cup and watching her little brother keenly.

Antony straightened in his seat and glared at his father. “No.”

“Antony,” Portia interjected. “You don’t know what we’re going to say yet.”

“I don’t care,” he replied. “I said you could have the gallery for four weeks. That’s it. Four weeks, which ended yesterday.”

“We’ve sold over a hundred tickets more than we’d anticipated,” Julian continued, ignoring the interruption.

“No, Dad,” Antony repeated. “I agreed to let you have the gallery for four weeks. You said – no, you promised – you’d be out at the end of that. I have clients who need the space. Paying clients.”

“I put the deposit down on that place for you,” Julian stated bluntly.

“Which I repaid over two years ago. How long are you going to hold that over me?”

“Surely your clients can wait another week?”

“No. They can’t. And they shouldn’t have to. Why should your exhibition take priority over theirs? You always do this.”

“Antony,” Portia interjected soothingly, “be reasonable about this.”

“Reasonable? How can you sit there and talk about being reasonable? Reasonable is sticking to our agreement. I told you you could have the gallery and I also told you that if you weren’t out in four weeks I would pack it up for you. Craig MacTear booked the gallery over six months ago. Do you have any idea how influential he is? If it goes well I could be looking at another gallery by the end of the year. If I turn him away at this short notice I’ll probably not get another booking, from anyone, for years. It would ruin me.”

“Two more weeks, Antony. That’s all I’m asking, son. It’s not much.”

Antony pushed his chair back, gaining his feet in one swift, abrupt movement. “Yes, Dad,” he hissed. “It is. I’m running a business, not a family charity. Now, are you going to pack it all up or am I?”

Julian sighed. “Surely Craig MacTear can wait? I’ll call him myself if that helps.”

“How would that help?” Antony snorted. “He’s a highly respected artist and you’re a fusty Roman fanatic.” He threw his starched white napkin on the table and ran a hand through his short brown hair. “Thank you for dinner, Father. I have business to attend to back at the gallery.” He turned to his sister and nodded at her. “Goodnight Portia. I hope you can sleep well tonight.”

The two remaining members of the Whittaker family watched the youngest storm from the room, Portia flinching slightly at the crashing of the front door as it was slammed closed with a little more force than necessary. Silence reigned in the grand dining room for several minutes before Julian leant forward and reached for the coffee.

“Another cup, my dear?” he asked blithely, as though nothing had happened.

Portia nodded slowly and settled back in her seat. “He has a point you know, Dad. We did promise.”

Julian closed his eyes briefly before nodding solemnly. “I know. But you of all people understand how important this exhibition is. You know how hard I had to work on Milo to get him to agree to letting his collection out of Italy. We can’t stop now. The interest has been huge.”

“I know, Dad. And I agree with you. Maybe Antony just needs to sleep on it and he’ll come round to our way of thinking.” Even as she spoke the words though, Portia didn’t really believe them herself. She and Antony were too alike. Stubborn, determined and headstrong. She had no doubt he would carry out his threat to clear his gallery. She knew she would if their positions were reversed.

“I doubt it,” Julian muttered. “Too much like your mother.”

Portia fidgeted with her coffee cup before setting it down on the table in front of her. “Maybe I should go check on him,” she suggested, unable to shake the feeling Antony was about to destroy a millennia of antiquities all because of a family argument.

Julian nodded and rose from his seat. With impeccable manners he stood behind his daughter and drew her chair out, allowing her to rise to her feet like a princess, and gave her a kiss. “You do that,” he agreed. “Make sure he doesn’t do anything silly, my love.”

* * * *

Antony’s gallery was still illuminated when Portia drew up in her Chevy Corvette convertible. Her brother’s much simpler Toyota was in its customary place by the side entrance and Portia wondered how much damage he’d managed to do so far. She hurried to the front entrance, not bothering to lock her car, and pushed the door open, calling her brother’s name as she entered the gallery.

She knew something was wrong the minute she stepped through the doorway. The precious artifacts for which she and her father had spent so many months negotiating were strewn recklessly around the main room. It was obvious Antony had made a start on clearing the exhibition. Many of the antiques were in packing cases, nestled in straw and occasionally in bubble wrap, but there were many lying discarded on the floor. It was all Portia could do not to weep as she surveyed the damage to clay drinking vessels and armor which had been flung onto the hard marble floor causing irreparable damage.

But the most terrifying thing she saw was the pool of blood trailing from one of the display podiums, now bereft of its exhibit, to the door leading to the second, smaller room of the gallery. Heart in her throat, Portia slowly and hesitantly advanced to the doorway. By the time she reached the second room, she was wishing she had just called the police and been done with it.

Antony, her brother, her beloved brother despite their differences, lay on the floor below a cabinet of Roman weaponry. She could smell the tang of copper in the air, could see the trail of blood widening and pooling beneath his body. She couldn’t hold back the scream, even as she noticed the gash across his throat and the small Roman dagger lying abandoned by his head.

Antony was quite, quite dead.

*****

America’s roads, Dean decided, were disintegrating. That, or he needed to seriously look at the Impala’s suspension. He could have sworn the potholes were growing and the camber on that last bend? Definitely not natural. Or maybe it was just that he’d been driving for the last four hours and could do with a break. He cast his eyes to the right and relaxed when he confirmed Sam was sleeping. It might not be classified a restful sleep but it was better than nothing, and if anyone needed to relax, it was Sammy.

Reaching out, he flicked the switch on the Impala’s trusty stereo, Metallica blasting the peace and quiet of an early morning. Sam twitched and jerked awake with a scowl.

“Dude!” he exclaimed. “What the hell?”

Dean raised an eyebrow and looked innocently at his little brother. “Oh, I’m sorry. Were you sleeping?”

Sam huffed and slouched down in his seat, glaring at the older Winchester. “Where are we?” he grunted, shielding his eyes from the rising sun.

“Dunno,” Dean confessed. “But I could do with a break. What say we hit the next diner we come to?”

Sam couldn’t think of a single reason not to agree and within a couple of minutes they were pulling into the parking lot of Bob’s Diner, the sign promising the best breakfast they’d ever tasted. Feeling somewhat skeptical of the claim, Sam scrubbed a hand over his face and turned to Dean. Before he could mention his reservations about the promised feast his cell phone broke into life.

Digging in his pocket he pulled it out, ignoring Dean’s puzzled gaze as he glanced at the caller display. A brief flare of panic skittered across his mind as he hit the answer button. “Sarah? You okay?”

Dean’s head shot round at the mention of Sarah's name and gave his brother a searching look. Sam however, subtly climbed out of the car and wandered away, out of earshot, waving a reassuring hand at Dean as he settled himself on a bench by the side of the road.

Satisfied he wasn’t needed as part of this conversation, Dean motioned to the diner, indicating he would be waiting inside for Sam. A distracted nod was the only response he got, so, shrugging his shoulders carelessly, Dean pushed open the door of the diner, stopping only briefly in the entrance to do a quick recon of the establishment.

The décor was dated, possibly pre-1970 Dean mused, but the waitress behind the counter more than made up for any crimes against style. She smiled at him as he slid into a booth in the corner, making sure he had the door in sight, along with a clear view of the kitchen and parking lot through the slightly grimy window. Old habits died hard and even though they were simply cruising for the next day or two, it never hurt to have all the exits covered. Dean couldn’t help but smile at the paranoia in his thoughts. If anyone cared to analyze him he would like to bet they’d end up in therapy themselves.

His train of thought was broken by the arrival of a plain white mug and the slosh of coffee in the pot carried by the waitress he’d noticed as he arrived.

“Fill you up?” she asked with a bright smile.

Several answers popped into Dean’s head, each more inappropriate than the one before, but he managed to restrain himself with a simple nod of the head and a return of that smile. She leaned over and poured the beverage carefully, watching Dean over her lashes the whole time.

“Anything else I can do for you?” she asked softly.

“Not right now, sugar,” Dean replied, “but I’ll be sure to give you a call if I think of something,” and he watched admiringly as she sashayed back to the counter.

Sighing at opportunities not taken, Dean raised the mug to his lips and turned his attention back to the window and the parking lot beyond. He could see Sam leaning against the trunk of the Impala, shoulders hunched, one hand thrust deep in his pocket while the other held his cell phone tightly to his ear. He seemed to be doing a lot of listening, occasionally nodding his head and glancing round to check if he was still alone. When he turned toward the diner, Dean could clearly see his expression was serious and he wondered what news Sarah had for his brother.

Sam and Sarah had always seemed a good match to Dean and he’d been a little surprised Sam hadn’t wanted to head straight out to San Francisco after the events in Lawrence. Admittedly, they’d had other things on their mind at the time, like Dad, but he was pretty certain the phone calls between the two had increased since then.

He sighed to himself and slouched back a little further into the seat. He watched as Sam snapped his cell phone shut and pushed himself off the Impala. The younger Winchester rolled his head around, working out the kinks in his neck, and strolled toward the diner and Dean.

Not wanting to be caught spying on his brother, Dean drained his coffee and waved to the waitress, indicating he wanted another mug and a refill for himself. She obliged happily and was just setting the second mug on the table when Sam slid into the seat opposite, thanking her with a silent nod.

They sat in silence for a few minutes before Dean could take the suspense no longer.

“So,” he started, “what did she want? Is she okay?”

“Yeah, she’s good.” Sam seemed distracted and Dean couldn’t help the unease that stole into his gut.

“But?” he pressed. “Demons aren’t back, are they?”

“What? No. No, nothing like that. She’s safe. She’s happy.”

“Soooo, why the long face?”

Sam took a deep breath and looked Dean in the eye. “One of her friends was murdered at the weekend.”

“Damn.” Understatement of the week, Dean chided himself. “What happened?”

“She wasn’t very clear on that bit,” Sam admitted. “She’s a bit shaken up by it all. Especially after…” he trailed off, leaving Dean to fill in the gaps.

“You wanna head up there?” Dean offered. “We’re not doing anything right now. Cali’s nice and warm this time of year.”

Sam hesitated. He felt guilty at not having been to check on Sarah but at the same time he wasn’t sure he was ready to see her either. The longer he left it, the harder it seemed to be. He shook his head.

“You sure?” Dean pressed.

“I don’t know,” Sam sighed eventually. “Maybe we should take a look at this death. She said the police couldn’t find evidence of a break in or any motive. Maybe… I don’t know, Dean. Should we go?”

Unused to the uncertainty in Sam’s voice, Dean set his mug on the tabletop and studied his brother closely. Resting his elbows on the table and leaning forward, he cocked his head to one side.

“Doesn’t seem to be anything for us there,” he started, pausing when Sam’s face fell a little. “These things happen all the time, especially in big cities. No real reason for us to head out there, unless you’re just looking for an excuse to see Sarah without feeling guilty? ’Cause, y’know, I don’t think she blames you for the whole demon hostage thing and Jess wouldn’t want you to mope about for the rest of your life. It’s okay to want to get together with her, Sammy.”

Sam closed his eyes briefly and then turned his head away from Dean’s prying eyes, gazing out of the window instead. “It’s not about being with her, Dean,” he protested, knowing even as he said it Dean would see it for the lie it was. “She thought it important enough to mention, knowing what we do. I just think we shouldn’t pass on it so readily.”

“What else did she tell you about this murder, then?”

“Not a lot, to be honest. The guy was killed in his gallery...”

“Oh God,” Dean interrupted. “Is this going be some high culture thing?”

“…after an argument with his dad and sister,” Sam continued, ignoring Dean’s outburst. “The cops don’t figure the family for the murder though. But Sarah wouldn’t have mentioned it if she didn’t think something was hinky.”

“Hinky?”

“You know what I mean,” Sam continued, calmly. “Anyway, don’t you want to know what the argument was about?”

“Not really,” Dean admitted, “but I’m sure you’re gonna tell me.”

“The exhibition this guy was staging was a favor for his dad. Roman artifacts. Ancient Roman artifacts.”

“So?”

“So, he was killed with an ancient Roman dagger.” He sat back and watched for a reaction from his brother. “And Sarah did ask us to come,” he concluded sheepishly.

“Fine, Sam. You wanna go? We’ll go.” Dean slid out of his seat and threw a couple of bills down on the table. “I still think you just wanna see Sarah, though,” he muttered under his breath with a smirk.

*****

Antony Whittaker, Dean decided, may have been on the artistic side but his imagination clearly failed him when he named his studio. Whittaker’s Gallery turned out to be a smart, almost clinical, gallery conveniently located in the heart of a thriving bohemian neighborhood. The remains of police tape fluttered in the evening breeze and the front window of the gallery was bereft of any display other than a couple of somber black and white photographs of the deceased owner. A few tourists and students still milled around but the area was generally quiet and peaceful, studios, galleries and boutiques all closed for the night.

Stepping out of the Impala into the balmy evening air, Sam stretched his arms, waiting for Dean to join him on the sidewalk. He watched the aimless wanderings of the few pedestrians still around and finally turned to Dean who was now resting his arms on the roof of the Chevy.

“That’s the place,” he commented, pointing to the gallery rather needlessly.

Dean gave a careless glance round. “Really?” he asked. “What gave it away?”

“Jerk,” Sam muttered, then stepped to the front of the car. “So, we should check out round the side. There might be a way in out back.”

“Woah,” Dean exclaimed. “We just got here. I’ve been driving for hours. Can’t we at least get something to eat first? Or drink?”

“It’s gonna be night soon,” Sam pointed out. “We’re not going to see much in the dark.”

“This place will still be here in a couple of hours, Sam. We don’t know what we’re walking into here. Let’s find a bar, get some food and take it from there.” Dean stopped and waved his hand in Sam’s general direction. “Why don’t you give Sarah a call? Let her know we’re here.”

Sam ducked his head, kicking himself for not thinking of calling Sarah first. He ignored the grin Dean was trying, and failing, to hide and pulled his phone out of his pocket.

The call connected on the second ring and Sarah’s delight at hearing Sam’s voice, and the news they were in town, lightened Sam’s mood considerably. He turned his back on his brother after the third suggestive eyebrow raise and continued the conversation in muted tones, much to Dean’s amusement. Although he strained to hear what Sam was saying, he could only catch the odd word, predominant among which was the phrase “you’re sure you’re okay though?”

By the time Sam had finished, Dean had lost interest and had wandered over the road to Whittaker’s Gallery where he was studying the photographs of the deceased owner. He looked up briefly when he felt Sam at his shoulder.

“So?” he asked.

“She’ll meet us at…” he trailed off and looked at a piece of scrap paper he’d obviously found in the recesses of a pocket, “Rocky’s Tavern. It’s not far from here. She said we could walk it easily enough.”

Dean glanced up and down the street at the mention of walking, more out of concern for the security of his baby than the thought of actually walking. Deciding it was safe enough, he nodded his head.

“Lead on, then,” he commanded, not once questioning his brother’s orienteering skills. He was pretty sure Sarah would have given him comprehensive directions.

He wasn’t wrong as the bar loomed into view after just five minutes and two blocks. It looked a step up from their normal seedy haunts and part of him secretly longed to just sink into a cushioned seat, down a few beers and forget the woes of the world for an hour or two.

As soon as he spotted Sarah’s face from the doorway, he knew his plans were destined to be thwarted. Nudging Sam in the ribs, he pointed to where she was hovering by the bar. Sam broke into a slow smile and elbowed his way through the early evening crowd, not bothering to check if Dean was following.

Sarah looked just as he remembered her. Her recent ordeal at the hands of Mia’s minions had left no visible trace although he didn’t doubt for one minute her sleep was plagued by nightmares at times. She was scanning the bar discreetly and Sam had to admire the tact with which she appeared to reject the attentions of the local barfly.

He managed to make it half way across the room before she noticed him. Her reaction was immediate. She hopped off the stool she was perched on and opened her arms to him. Giving him a quick once over, she proceeded to give him a hug.

“You’re actually here,” she exclaimed, nodding at Dean who was hovering just behind Sam.

“Well, yeah,” Sam agreed. “Here we are.”

“I got a couple of beers in,” she continued, waving at two bottles waiting to be drunk and Dean could have kissed her on the spot. Instead, he murmured his thanks and, picking both up, wandered over to a free table at the edge of the room, settling himself in prime position for people watching. Sam and Sarah followed and made themselves comfortable.

“So,” Sam began, hesitantly, “how’ve you been?”

“Good,” she replied, looking only at Sam. “I’ve been good, Sam. I can’t say it’s all been easy, or fun, but I’m okay.”

“How did you end up here?” the younger Winchester continued, watching the art dealer and deciding that yes, she really was okay.

“Long story short? I came here about eighteen months, two years ago. Dad thought it about time I struck out on my own, lent me some cash and I decided to head West. This is where I ended up and this is where I stayed.” She paused and took a sip of her drink. “I wasn’t sure you’d come,” she confessed.

“Why?” Sam sounded genuinely surprised and Dean couldn’t help echo the sentiment.

“I just thought, after…” she stopped and glanced from one brother to another, struggling to find the right words.

“After what happened?” Sam prompted gently, reaching out and resting his hand over hers, ignoring the knowing look he just knew Dean was throwing his way.

Sarah swallowed, memories still fresh in her mind. “Yes. I just thought maybe you had more important things to worry about.” She met Sam’s gaze and held it.

“Well,” Dean finally huffed, “this is all very touching and I hate to break up the party, but why do you think this is our kind of problem?”

Sarah started. She’d almost forgotten the older hunter was there. Extricating her hand from Sam’s hold she turned to Dean. “It might not be,” she admitted, “but Portia – that’s the sister – she’s got it into her head that Antony was killed by a Roman.”

Dean snorted. “A killer Italian? In San Francisco?” he laughed. “Like the Mafia?” He knew he was being facetious but he couldn’t help himself. The opportunity was far too good to pass on.

Sam glared and a well aimed kick under the table put an end to Dean’s humor. Sarah looked serious and it reminded Sam how long it was since they’d seen her. She’d obviously forgotten his brother’s dubious sense of humor.

“No,” she told the boys. “An Ancient Roman. A warrior, not a tourist.”

“You’re gonna have to explain that one to me.” Dean sobered up quickly and leant forward, elbows propped on the table and his head resting in his hands.

“Antony was killed by a puglio. It’s a Roman dagger that formed part of the exhibition.”

“Not that surprising then, really,” Dean observed. “Any opportunist could have been responsible.”

“But you say there was no break-in?” Sam double-checked.

“No, nothing to indicate anything out of the ordinary.”

“Other than a dead body,” Dean muttered, more to himself than to be heard.

“So why is your friend so convinced there’s something supernatural going on?” Sam asked.

Sarah laughed soundlessly and raised her eyebrows. “The whole family’s open to the existence of other-worldly things,” she explained. “They always have been. It surprised me when I first met them but now…” She paused for effect before continuing. “That, and there was a footprint next to Antony’s body.”

“So there was something out of the ordinary.” Dean picked up on the inconsistency immediately.

“Well, yes and no,” Sarah agreed. “There was no sign of forced entry and whoever left the footprint had been wearing sandals.”

“It’s warm out there,” Dean pointed out. “Everyone’s wearing them.”

“Thing is, this sandal? The print looked like it was a Roman sandal. That and the puglio and the lack of evidence for a break-in… Portia doesn’t know what else to think.”

“I think it was some freak dressed up as a Roman,” Dean stated bluntly. “Most likely someone obsessed with the Romans. Like the family.”

“No!” Sarah exclaimed forcibly. “It couldn’t have been the family. They’re devoted to each other. And who goes around killing their own son or brother anyway?”

“Expression ‘still waters’ mean anything to you?” the older brother asked.

She looked to Sam for support and the silence that followed, although brief, was uncomfortable. He glared at Dean and despite his gut feeling that Dean was merely playing devil’s advocate, he had to admit his brother’s version of events was making more sense than the alternative offered by Portia Whittaker.

But when he looked back at Sarah, he couldn’t bring himself to be the bearer of bad news, not after all she’d been through because of him. “It wouldn’t hurt to look into it,” he offered, passing a meaningful glance at Dean who picked up on it with an imperceptible tilt of his head and shrug of his shoulders. “Can you get us into the gallery?”

The relief on Sarah’s face was palpable and seeped through into her voice. “Yes. Portia’s got the keys and I’m sure I won’t have much trouble getting her to let me have a look around.” Her face dropped slightly as she continued, “Antony was my friend too. I’ll just tell her I want to say goodbye to him properly.”

*****

Finding a reasonable motel in San Francisco proved to be a pleasantly enjoyable experience. Sarah had given Sam a couple of suggestions but the first was more than adequate, especially by Winchester standards. Located on the riverfront, the Kingfisher Motel was clean and unassuming. The desk clerk hadn’t batted an eyelid at their late arrival, nor had he seemed in the least concerned at their request that no cleaning be done till they’d checked out.

The room itself was surprisingly spacious and within five minutes of opening the door, Sam was seated at the small table by the window, laptop out and connected to the web.

“What’cha looking for, Sammy?” Dean enquired, scrubbing a hand over his face.

“Roman customs,” he replied briefly. “It might help to know what we’re up against.”

“We’re up against a family argument.” Dean hovered over his brother’s shoulder, squinting at the site he’d brought up. “If you wanna research anything, research that!”

“Dean, why are you so determined to make the family the bad guys here?”

“Why are you so determined not to? It’s obvious, Sam. They had an agreement, Dad broke it, they argued, Antony's dead. Where’s the mystery?”

“Were you at the same bar as me?” Sam pushed his laptop away from him and turned in his chair to study his brother. “Did you listen to a word Sarah said?”

“Yes, I listened. And what I heard was a classic case of a domestic incident. Whatever Sarah thinks, I’ve seen too many families turn on each other. We’ve not met these people, Sam. They might be the perfect family Sarah says, or they might be the family from hell.”

“Families argue all the time, Dean,” Sam interjected quietly. “They don’t all go around killing each other.”

“But sometimes they do. I just need more proof than the word of a pretty girl.”

“Sarah’s not just a pretty girl. She’s an art dealer. She knows what she’s talking about.”

“No, Sammy. You just said it yourself. She’s an art dealer, not a Roman historian or family therapist.” He let out a long sigh and dropped down on the nearest bed. “I just need to be sure, dude.”

“Fine,” Sam huffed, pushing himself up from his seat, not caring when it fell backwards to the floor. “You’re so bothered about this family, you look them up!” Not taking a backward glance, he stormed into the small bathroom, slamming the door behind him with enough force to rattle the picture hanging on the wall.

Dean dropped his head into his hands. He hadn’t meant this to turn into a fight. He was fully aware of the turmoil Sam had suffered recently, the memory of Jessica fresh in his mind again after the incident in Georgia. They were both tired, although that felt like a permanent state to Dean over the last couple of years.

Pushing himself wearily up and slouching over to where his brother had abandoned the laptop, Dean settled down to see what he could find about the Whittakers. Entering the name Julian Whittaker into the search engine turned up over three hundred thousand results and it took Dean a good fifteen minutes to narrow the search down sufficiently before he found a website devoted to Roman research and one particular historian, detailing not only his theories and research but also a comprehensive biography of the man.

Dean became so engrossed in his work he didn’t realize Sam had emerged from the bathroom in a cloud of steam until he felt his brother’s presence at his back. He could feel the tension in the air and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that Sam still felt a little pissed at Dean. The older brother rolled his shoulders and, taking a deep breath, turned to face his sibling.

“I found him,” he stated, pointlessly, as Sam was studying the computer screen to the exclusion of all else.

“So I see,” Sam observed. “And what revelations did you find?”

“Sam…” It was a feeble attempt at an apology but the look on Sam’s face didn’t encourage him to proceed down that road. Instead he licked his lower lip and began to outline what he’d discovered. “Julian Whittaker, born 1958, happy childhood, married his high school sweetheart and had two kids with her. She left when she realized she’d always come second to his studies and research. Couldn’t take being at the bottom of the pile…”

“I know the feeling,” Sam muttered, darkly.

“…so she upped sticks and left him with the kids. Portia was eight, Antony was five. His obsession seems to have rubbed off on Portia but not Antony. Reading between the lines, he set up the art gallery as a way to get away from his father.” Dean stopped and gave Sam a loaded look. “I still think he’s the most likely culprit here, Sammy, but if you wanna hang around for a few days, check it out properly, then we can do that.”

It was a pathetic attempt at reconciliation but Sam recognized it for the olive branch it was. Dean was trying to make amends for the earlier argument, smooth over troubled waters. He smiled gratefully and nodded.

“Let’s do that,” he said.

*****

The following morning was damp and foggy. The mist rolled in off the bay and swept down the streets, almost hiding the Impala from view. Dean sauntered out of their room, eyes darting everywhere, though if pressed he couldn’t say what he was looking for. Grabbing a paper from a newsstand conveniently located just outside the motel office, he casually tossed the keys to the Impala to Sam.

Sam eyed the gift suspiciously, wondering what he’d done to warrant such a rare occurrence.

“I’m driving?” he queried. Dean simply nodded and waved the paper at him.

“You complaining?”

“No. No, just curious as to what brought this on.”

“Fine,” Dean huffed. “You don’t wanna drive, I’ll do it.” He stretched his hand out to grab the keys back off Sam.

Sam laughed at the petulance in his brother’s voice and jerked his arm out of Dean’s reach, closing his fist round the keys, jogging round to the driver’s door before Dean could muster up much of a reaction.

Pulling out of the motel parking lot, Sam concentrated hard on the traffic while Dean immersed himself in the paper. Other than the occasional grunt or interested “huh” from Dean, the journey passed in amiable silence as Sam negotiated the twists and turns of San Francisco’s avenues.

Just as they were pulling into the arts area where Antony’s gallery was located, Dean suddenly pulled the paper closer to his face and from where Sam was sitting it looked as though he was studying a section with great interest.

“What’ve you got?” Sam enquired.

“Seems the news isn’t done with Antony yet. They’ve picked up on the murder weapon.”

“Well that’s hardly surprising considering what it was. It’s an unusual thing. It’s bound to attract attention, especially from the press.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Dean agreed. “There’s nothing about the footprint here.”

“Sarah said that information hadn’t been released so it’s hardly surprising.” Sam pulled the Impala neatly into a parking spot about three doors down from Whittaker’s Gallery and nodded. “There’s Sarah,” he announced.

Throwing the paper down on the seat next to him, Dean exited the car with equal grace and turned his head in the direction Sam indicated. Sarah was leaning against the doorway of the gallery, dressed simply in jeans and a black jacket. Opposite her stood another woman, tall and dark, the epitome of elegance and high class style.

The brothers exchanged puzzled glances but any chance of discussing this development was scuppered when Sarah waved at them and pushed herself away from the studio. The woman with her followed, confidence oozing from every pore.

“Sam, Dean, this is Portia,” Sarah introduced the girl with her, slipping Sam an almost apologetic smile as she spoke. “She wanted to meet you guys.”

“Sarah told me so much about you I just had to meet you,” the girl acknowledged. “I know you won’t laugh at me.”

“Oh, honey. I’d never do that,” Dean returned, a totally inappropriate smirk on his face. He gave her a long, appraising stare, taking in her long black hair, perfectly manicured nails, and wondered where she hid her grief.

Portia, in her turn, took her time surveying the two men in front of her. Turning her gaze from Dean to Sam, she made no attempt to hide the fact she liked what she saw.

Scrutiny over, she turned abruptly away from the boys and strode over to the gallery. “I assume you’ll be wanting to take a look around?” she suggested.

“Dude, she’s so not what I was expecting,” Dean hissed to Sam as they watched Portia fish around in her expensive-looking handbag, pulling out a set of keys that looked like they would be more at home in Alcatraz.

She turned back to them, door swinging slowly open up her hand, beckoning to them all, but eyes only on Sam. It was a little disconcerting, Sam decided, and unconsciously found himself stepping slightly behind Dean with Sarah to his side.

“You’re not scared of a girl, are you?” Dean chortled, enjoying Sam’s discomfort a little too much for the younger brother’s liking.

Entering the gallery was like stepping through the threshold to another world as far as Dean was concerned. The floor and surfaces had been sanitized by the City and the brothers weren’t sure anything of import could possibly have been left behind. There had been an attempt to clear the artifacts and Sam wondered who had been responsible for the effort. Whoever had tried, had apparently lost interest in a very short time and there were several display items scattered across the tiled floor.

Portia had stopped by a glass cabinet displaying an array of gold jewelry and was watching Sam and Dean with undisguised curiosity.

“Sarah told you what happened, didn’t she?” she finally asked and for the first time, Dean detected a little hesitancy in her whole demeanor.

“Yeah.”

“I’m not crazy, you know,” she continued, hesitancy having given way to defensiveness, and Sam could feel the tension rising in the room.

“We know you’re not,” he soothed, moving smoothly to where she was standing. “We deal with this stuff every day and, trust me, we’ve heard crazy. This? This isn’t it.”

Portia relaxed and nodded slowly. “So, you believe me?” she asked, tilting her head and eyeing Sam seductively from lowered lashes.

“Yes, we do.” Sam glared at Dean before his brother could get out a sarcastic response, or reveal what he really thought about the whole affair. “Why do you think a Roman would kill your brother, though?”

The girl sniffed, and casually wiped her eye. “I don’t know,” she confessed. “Antony wasn’t interested in Rome, or any history, come to that. He was an art dealer, nothing more.”

Dean raised his eyebrows and mouthed “Nothing more?” to Sam in disbelief. The more Portia opened her mouth, the less he liked her. Yes, she was beautiful, elegant and poised, but the way she talked about her family and her brother in particular grated on his nerves.

“Maybe your dad could help us?” he suggested, trying to keep the hard edge out of his voice.

“I doubt it,” she replied. “He and Antony had their differences but he’s been devastated by this. He’s pretty much good for nothing at the moment. I’m having to handle everything myself right now.” She turned to Sam, and Dean could have sworn she batted her eyelids at him. “It’s tough, you know? Suddenly I have no one to turn to.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine, Portia,” Sarah suddenly cut in. “You always manage somehow,” and she smiled sweetly at her friend.

Portia started slightly, almost as if she’d forgotten the other woman’s presence. “Thank you, Sarah. You always make things seem a little more bearable.”

“So,” Sam interjected, “where might this Roman have gone?”

“I have no idea. I don’t know what he was doing here in the first place, let alone where he might be now.”

“The best thing is if we can have a look around then?” Sam gestured vaguely at Dean, including him in the statement.

“I can wait,” Portia offered and this time Dean knew he hadn’t imagined the glare Sarah cast at her. He idly wondered if there was about to be a catfight for his brother’s attentions and decided he would happily hang around to see that. He could see it in his head now…

“Dean!” Sam snapped, possibly for the second or third time, and Dean suddenly realized the two girls had left and he and Sam had the run of the gallery. “Stay with it, dude,” Sam commanded.

“Sorry. What are we looking for?”

Sam sighed. “Don’t know yet. Just…look around. There might be something in here to indicate why this Roman is still here.”

“Or it might be a colossal waste of time.”

“Maybe,” Sam shrugged. “We won’t know till we look.” He turned away from Dean and scanned the studio with a skilled eye.

The gallery was littered with artfully placed display cabinets and stands, designed to aid the free flow of visitors round the exhibition. Most of the enclosed cases were still as they had been before the murder. Of the other artifacts, most were either intact or on the floor.

Dean watched Sam become quickly engrossed in the labels describing each exhibit and wondered if this is what his brother was like at college. His geekiness seemed to be rearing its head and he was lost in Ancient Rome.

Heaving a weary sigh, wishing there was some other way to do this – museums really didn’t do it for him – Dean turned his attention to the door and windows. Sammy could study the artifacts to his heart’s content but Dean was still of the opinion whatever they were dealing with wasn’t supernatural. And if it wasn’t supernatural, it probably came in in the traditional way.

He was just concluding his examination of the main window, blowing away the residual fingerprint dust applied by the local cops, when Sam let out a little exclamation of triumph.

“Sam?” he prompted, when nothing further was forthcoming, and he twisted his head to see what the root of Sam’s outburst was.

Sam was only just visible, crouching down by an open display stand. Dean couldn’t be entirely sure but from where he was standing it looked like Sam was scrutinizing an array of daggers.

“What’cha got?” he asked again and took a step forward, halting almost immediately when the stand behind which Sam was in rapt concentration began to rattle and vibrate ominously.

Sam’s head popped up almost comically at the disruption and he eyed the display warily, gaze darting to where Dean was frozen to the spot. Later, Sam was never quite able to say in what order events took place over the next few seconds. One minute he was studying some exquisite jewelry, reading its provenance, next the daggers in the stand above him rose out of their housing and, one by one, began to fly across the open space of the gallery.

He saw Dean’s eyes widen in shocked surprise, watched him raise his arms in self defense even as he scoured the room for suitable cover, averted his own eyes as he scrabbled in his pocket for the sachet of salt he always carried. And just as his fingers scraped the top of the plastic bag he heard the sound that always put his stomach in his throat, no matter how many times he heard it.

As he flung the salt in an arc at the hovering daggers, all he could focus on was the pained grunt from his brother, accompanied by the sound of a body hitting the floor.

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The Winchester Chronicles

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