The morning was bright and sunny, a nice change from the rain that seemed to follow the Winchesters around the country. Dean sat on a fallen log, trying not to think too hard about the scratches on his back as he watched Sam pace back and forth.
Anita watched the brothers silently for a while before walking over to Dean's log. She gingerly sat down, but then sprang right back up again. She tried to cover the action by crossing her arms over her chest and looking away.
"Hey," Dean said, catching her attention. "How bad are you hurt?"
Anita shook her head. "I'll be fine," she said.
Dean rested his elbows on his knees. "Yeah, right," he muttered.
Anita turned to glare at him. Her jaw was set, fragility vanishing into determination. "What did you say?"
Dean knew that stance. She was spoiling for a fight, wanted to hurt something bad. Dean did the same thing some days.
He stayed where he was. "Do you need to go to the hospital?"
Anita dug her nails into the fabric of her sleeves. In the bright sunlight, Dean saw blood under her nails. My blood.
"I'll be fine," she repeated faintly. She tucked a strand of her wild hair behind her ear. "What about you?"
Dean ran his thumb over his split lip. "I'm fine."
Sam kicked a rock across the clearing. "What about him?" Anita asked. "Or are the two of you always this laconic?"
Dean shrugged. "What do you want us to say?"
"I don't know, how about ask what's going on?" Anita demanded. "Do you remember anything about last night? How we got here? Up those stairs?"
"I don't know what's going on!" Dean shouted, springing to his feet. "If I knew what was going on, I'd be doing something about it, rather than sitting around here listening to you!"
"I was asking you a question!" Anita yelled. "How hard is it to answer a simple question?"
"I told you, I don't know what's going on!"
Sam appeared at his side, pulling him back a few steps. "Cool it," Sam ordered. "Nothing's going to be solved by freaking out."
"I'm not freaking out!" Dean pushed Sam away. "She's the one who's freaking out!"
"Dean, I mean it." Sam stepped between Dean and Anita, facing his brother. "Just chill."
Chill. Dean wanted to laugh, or cry, or punch something. A whole night was gone from his memory, he was covered in this girl's blood, and he had no idea what kind of supernatural sonofabitch had done it.
It had to supernatural, it had to be. Because Dean didn't know if he could deal with having a monster buried deep in him, one who'd hurt a girl in bed like that.
"I just..." Anita's voice was almost softer than the rustling of the leaves around them. "I need to know if you remember feeling... coerced."
Sam pushed his hair back from his face in that weird two-handed thing he did when he was quietly freaking out. "Maybe whatever it was that was keeping us in that house wanted us there?" he suggested. "You said the house was keeping energy in."
"I... yeah, I did." Anita looked over her shoulder at the house. "Maybe that's it." She didn't sound convinced.
Up on the road, a car squealed to a halt in a hail of gravel. As soon as the vehicle stopped, a man jumped out of the driver's seat and stormed towards the trio.
Alarms went off in Dean's head, and he started to back up. Everything about the man screamed thug -- the wide shoulders, the muscles, the clenched fists, and especially the murderous glare in his eyes. "This must be Merle," Dean said weakly, wondering if he and Sammy could outrun this man.
"Merle, stop it!" Anita exclaimed. She caught his arm as he stormed past her, swung him around to look at her. "I'm fine!"
"I've been looking for you all night, and now I find you looking like this? I can smell your blood all over them!" Merle snarled. "How can you say you are fine?"
"Because it's more complicated than that!" Anita shouted. She shoved Merle away, and put herself between him and the boys. "You need to calm down, that's an order!"
Merle didn't take his eyes off the Winchesters. "They--"
"Merle, do you honestly believe that if I thought they'd drugged me or something, I wouldn't have done something about it?" Anita exclaimed. "Drugs won't work on me, you know that, and my mind can't be manipulated with most preternatural things. Now, unless you smelled a vampire around last night, I think there's something more going on!"
Drugs didn't work on her? Dean frowned. What the hell did that mean?
Merle shook his head, very reluctantly. "No vampires," he muttered. "No anything. I've been trying to track you all night, but your scent just vanished."
Dean couldn't stand it any longer. He took a step forward. "Um, excuse me, how the hell is he tracking a scent?" he demanded.
Anita and Merle shared a glance, then she turned to face Sam and Dean. "Are we going to work together to find out what did this?" she asked. "Because if not, you two can just take off now."
"We're staying," Sam said before Dean could think of a response. "This might be our kind of problem, and it certainly is our problem, so we're staying."
Dean clenched his jaw. Later, when he got Sam alone, he was going to pop his brother one. Whatever happened to Winchester Rule #4? Keep your damned trap shut?
"Fine," Anita said. "Merle's a lycanthrope--"
She may have gone on, but Dean scrambled backwards, pulling Sam with him. "Are you fucking nuts?" he demanded.
"He's not going to hurt you!" Anita protested.
"Did you not see how Mr. Hyde he was a few minutes ago?"
"He's not--" Anita broke off and held up her hands. "Know what? Fuck this. I'm not going to defend everything I do. He's here, and he's not leaving, so suck it the fuck up!"
Dean straightened his shoulders, sending pain through his injured back. He went cold. "And you?" he stuttered. Sam made a protesting noise at how hard Dean had suddenly gripped his arm. "Are you a..."
He couldn't say it. He couldn't put voice to the idea that he may have been clawed up by a lycanthrope. Even in human form, sometimes the disease was infectious.
Dean couldn't become the kind of thing he hunted.
"I'm not a lycanthrope," Anita said. She must have understood what was going through his mind, because she took a step towards him, blood-covered hand extended. "I'm not."
Relief, intense knee-buckling relief, went through Dean. Sam pried Dean's hand off his arm. "We all just want to get to the bottom of this," Sam said to Anita. "We all agree something strange happened back in that house. And we can't let it happen to anyone else."
A shadow passed through Anita's eyes, but she nodded. "I agree. We work together."
"Good." Sam glanced around. "So now what?"~~~
To Dean's intense relief, the Impala was right where he had left it the previous night, in the parking lot of the bar. His baby looked none the worse for wear, just a little dusty from the road. He made a note to wash the car soon.
The Impala followed Merle's car to a motel on the outside of town. Sam hadn't said five words since they left the clearing, and the silence was oppressive.
"Glad Merle didn't run Anita over and kill us both," Dean said as a conversation starter. "Looks like he could break you in half without breaking a sweat."
Sam made a noise in his throat. "Use a fucking article, would you?" he demanded.
"I'm glad Merle didn't run Anita over. It looks like he could break me in half, you jerk."
Dean's hands tightened on the steering wheel. "Fine. Would you please tell me what the fuck is wrong with you, asshole?"
"What's wrong?" Sam exclaimed. "What the fuck do you think is wrong? You saw what we did to Anita, we--"
"Shut up," Dean interrupted. "We didn't do anything to Anita, that wasn't us. Whatever the hell happened, it wasn't us."
Sam shook his head, hair flying in his eyes. "Anita... She's even smaller than Jess," he muttered to the window.
Dean closed his mouth and concentrated on driving. ~~~
"Where's Anita?" Sam asked as Merle admitted them to the motel room. The room was empty of life, save for Merle, but the shower was going behind the closed bathroom door.
Merle didn't bother to respond, only let the boys into the room. He closed the door behind them, and leaned on it. Blocking the only real exit from the room.
Dean let his duffle, containing a change of clothes for both him and Sam, fall to the floor. He was very glad he had taken the chance to retrieve the handgun with the silver bullets from the trunk on the way in.
"Will she be long?" Sam pressed.
Merle glared for a full minute before responding. "Doubtful. She wants to get to work."
"Work," Dean repeated. "Sure, work is... good.
Sam elbowed him in the ribs, and Dean shut his mouth. Apparently Merle wasn't feeling particularly chatty.
Without anything better to do, Dean looked around the room. It was tidy, higher-end than the normal places he stayed with Sam. A coffee pot stood in the corner, with a little pack of grounds on top of the machine.
Dean glanced at Merle, then the coffee pot. His head still hurt, and part of that was caffeine withdrawal, he knew. After weighing the possibility that Merle might kill him and Sam on principle if he moved, versus having some coffee to drink, Dean pushed off the wall and headed to the coffee machine.
The coffee was bubbling into the pot when Anita emerged from the bathroom, bruises hidden neatly underneath a turtleneck shirt and jeans. "That thing actually works?" she said, throwing her bundle of dirty clothes on top of the suitcase in the corner. "Thank god."
"Yeah," Dean said, feeling very out of place. Even from a few feet away, he could smell Anita's shampoo. She smelled so... clean.Unmarked skin, clean and fresh and woman taste under his tongue, strong legs around his hips, dark hair and grasping hands on the sheets.
He shook his head, wondering where the hell that had come from.
"Maybe you guys want to shower too?" Anita was saying. "There's plenty of clean towels."
"I don't know..." Sam looked at his brother. "Dean?"
Sam stared. "Shower?"
"Go ahead," he said. As much as Dean would rather the two of them could stick together, especially with someone as charming as Merle around, there was the practical side of things to consider. If Anita did freak out later on and called the cops, it would be best if Sam and Dean had washed away all trace evidence of the encounter. "I'll stay out here. Get to know Merle."
Sam looked at Dean for a long moment before grabbing the duffle and heading into the bathroom.
Anita cleared her throat. "Do you want some coffee?" she asked, reaching for the little cups beside the coffee maker. "There's some creamer, but no sugar."
"Black's fine," Dean muttered. He shouldn't be letting Anita pour him a cup, but what else could he do? Merle was watching him like a hawk. Dean had a feeling that if he so much as moved an inch in Anita's direction, Merle would rip his head off. Or rip something else off.
Anita poured a bit of coffee into a cup and set it on the table near Dean. As she moved, her wet curly hair swung down over her shoulder, exactly like Cassie's hair used to fall over her shoulder. Her hair was just like Cassie's hair, Dean suddenly realized, and with that realization came the urge to be violently sick.
He swallowed hard, bile burning in his throat. If he'd seen Cassie covered in bruises, blood on her thighs, he'd have killed the bastard who did it, no questions asked.
He walked over to the window and stared out at the parking lot, dusty in the morning sun. The gleam of the sun off the Impala's windshield hurt his eyes, but it stopped him thinking, and right then, he couldn't think.
"So, um, why are you guys in town?" Anita asked.
"We were just passing through," came his automatic answer. "Stopped at the bar on the highway east of town for some dinner, a little pool, a few drinks. Then... nothing, I guess."
"Nothing, you don't remember anything, or nothing else was planned?"
Dean turned around. "Then I don't remember anything. Not after leaving the bar. Sam said the same thing back at the house."
Anita took a long sip of coffee. "That's what happened to me," she said. "I was having dinner with Merle in a diner over on the north side of town. I left my cell phone in the car and went out to get it, and that's all I remember."
"What time was that?" Dean asked.
Anita looked at Merle. "Around eleven," Merle responded. "When she didn't come back in, I went out to look for her and she was gone. Her car keys were lying on the ground by the edge of the parking lot."
Merle was watching Anita very closely. If Dean had been in a better mood, and if he didn't think Merle might eviscerate him with a rusty spoon, he'd have made some crack comment about the bodyguard thing, because Merle didn't look detached at all from the situation. Watching Anita wasn't just a job to him. Was he an uncle? Family of some kind, or just friend?
The bathroom door opened and Sam finally emerged from the bathroom. "I left you a towel," he said.
"Great." Dean put his cup down a little too hard, sloshing coffee over his hand. "Anita dropped her keys before she vanished last night."
Sam raised his eyebrows. "It grabbed her from the parking lot too?"
"Apparently." Dean strode past Sam into the humid bathroom. "You think you can solve this before I get out?" He closed the door on Sam's answer.
The steam fogged over the mirror, but Dean had to see the damage. He stripped as quickly as he could, then wiped the mirror with the edge of a wet towel.
Jesus Christ. Developing bruises and scattered nail marks covered his ribs and stomach, with what looked suspiciously like teeth marks on his left bicep. That didn't even start to take into consideration the blood on his lower body.
He ran his tongue over his split lip. He'd been hurt a lot worse in hunts, but this was different. He was supposed to solve the case, not be
the case. Same with Sammy.
Crap. Sammy. Dean turned away from the mirror and went to the shower. The hot water ran easily, always the sign of a high-end motel. Dean turned the water as hot as he could stand, then started scrubbing away at his skin. As the water pounded on his many cuts, he made himself think. As much as Dean was freaked at what happened, that was nothing compared with Sammy's reaction. Dean wondered what was going on in his freak brother's head.
What could have caused all this? Dean grabbed the shampoo bottle and squeezed the last of the liquid into his palm. Most spirits could only grab people in specific locals, but the house had been miles from the bar and the diner. Traveling spirits were very rare.
Adding to that the whole possession aspect. Dean supposed it was possible that the three of them had been possessed by demons, which made them-- Dean's mind stuttered on have violent sex
, and instead churned out do stuff
. But demons always acted with a purpose, with an end goal in sight, and just leaving the hosts in a room without any consequences didn't make a damned bit of sense.
The only kind of creature that would grab people for sex was a succubus or an incubus, but all of Dean's research on those indicated that they had to be involved in the act itself to feed properly. Not that he thought that information was totally right... most hunters were unsurprisingly tight-lipped on the subject of sex demons. Those who had been caught by succubae didn't talk about it, and those who'd been fed on by incubi really
didn't talk about it.
That brought him back to the idea of spirits. But what would a spirit have hoped to accomplish by pulling three people together into that house?
They'd need to know the history of the house, Dean decided. Also, it would help to know if this had happened to anyone else. He couldn't shake the feeling that whatever happened wasn't supposed to have happened. It was the same feeling he'd had when Anita had been looking for her gun that morning, a sense of falling, the moment before gravity kicked in. Up the stairs, pulling her along, ignoring her half-serious protests at this, at promised sin and depravity. She'd said she'd come, and here she would stay.
Dean let the soap fall from his hand. The little white bar hit the bottom of the tub with a clunk, sliding down the beige porcelain to rest in the drain. What the fuck was that? A memory of the previous night, or something else?
Fuck this. Dean quickly washed the remaining soap out of his hair and turned off the taps. He wanted to figure out what the hell had done this, so he could find it and kill its perverted ass.~~~
"It's a spirit," Dean and Sam said to each other at the same time, as soon as Dean exited the bathroom.
Dean shook his head. "It's probably pulling people in to reenact something," he continued.
"Which means that something happened in that house to make it focus on that," Sam put in.
"And reaching across town like that to get both us and Anita means it's got a monster fuck-load of power."
"Do you think it's done this before?"
"Maybe, especially if it's trapping power like Anita said. You want to check police records for rape complaints?"
Anita stood up. "Hey, Hardy Boys," she interrupted. "What makes you so certain that it's a spirit?"
"What else could it be?" Sam asked.
"I don't know," Anita said, crossing her arms over her chest. "Maybe some kind of creature? Like a succubus?"
"Anita," Merle interjected. He was giving her some serious eye contact.
"No, it's a valid question," Sam said, frowning. "But if a succubus was the reason this happened, where did she go? And what about you? She'd only need me and Dean, and from what I hear about succubae, they usually only feed on one victim at a time. They also can't erase memories."
Something eased in Anita's expression. "That's what I've heard, too," she admitted. "Not the one victim thing, but the memories."
Sam smiled faintly. "A spirit makes the most sense."
Dean walked across the room, giving Merle a wide berth, and picked up his now-cold coffee. Now that they had an idea of what was going on, and it was looking like it wasn't his fault at all, the pressure in his chest had eased slightly. If it was a thing, he could kill it and make sure this never happened again. ~~~
"What?" Anita asked Dean as they walked up the steps to the town sheriff's office.
"Nothing." He had stopped by the Impala to get his fake IDs, but how was he going to use them with this chick hanging around him? He'd tried to get Sammy to come with him to the police station, but his genius younger brother had a brilliant idea to go to the town library and look at past newspaper archives. Once Anita volunteered to go along to the sheriff's office, Merle had reluctantly said he'd help Sam.
Dean would have been happier if he didn't know Merle was making sure that neither of them ran off before they solved this. Although he should have been comforted, he supposed, that Merle had let Anita out of his sight.
"No, what's your plan to get the information from the sheriff?" Anita pressed.
Dean shrugged. "I had a couple of ideas," he admitted.
"Uh huh." Anita narrowed her eyes at him. "How's this. I talk, you stay quiet."
Dean snorted. "Sorry, lady, but how often do you need to get information from the police? Let me handle this."
Anita hopped up two more steps so she could look Dean in the eye. "The next time you call me 'lady', I'm going to hurt you," she said coldly. "Second, we're going to do this my way, because I don't have the time or the energy to spend letting you blunder around, okay?"
She whirled and ran up the rest of the steps. Dean had to run to catch up with her, but by the time he had wrestled his way through the heavy door, Anita was already at the front counter.
"Can I help you?" the secretary asked, looking up from her filing.
Anita smiled a smile that gave Dean chills. "I need to speak with the Sheriff."
The woman was unimpressed. "And who are you?"
Anita reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out what looked like a wallet... right until she flipped it open and the shiny gold star caught the light. "Federal Marshal Anita Blake."
Dean's heart sank into his boots. She was impersonating a federal officer in a freaking sheriff's office, with their internet connections and ready access to the federal database, and he was standing right beside her. He was so screwed. ~~~
"Let me get this straight," Sheriff Springer said. "You want to see all records of any assaults or disappearances or murders or attempted murders in the county limits, since we started keeping records?"
"Yes," Anita said, nonplussed.
"Because you are following up on a cold case out of St. Louis that might have a connection to my town."
"And you're not going to tell me why."
Anita didn't even blink. "At this time, the investigation is in preliminary stages, I'm not even sure I'm in the right place."
The sheriff set his elbows on his desk. "Try me."
Dean resisted the urge to slouch in his chair. Damn, he wanted to be the hell out of here. The last thing he needed was the sheriff to be looking at the FBI's wanted list and seeing his smiling mug. He wished he knew what had possessed Anita to pretend to be a federal marshal.
Anita blinked at the sheriff. "Fine," she said, and Dean's heart sank a little lower. "The situation is this. We had an incident where a trio stumbled into the ER claiming they'd done a whole variety of things under the influence of some sort of drug. Their blood tests came back clean, no drugs or alcohol. But during our investigation, something twigged on our radar that a similar situation might have occurred out in this end of the state."
The sheriff looked down at his desk, shuffled some papers. "Two men and a woman?" he asked.
Dean's heart skipped a beat. "Yes," Anita said smoothly. "That sounds like what happened."
The sheriff snorted. "And all three came out alive? That's not what we've got."
"What do you mean?" Dean interjected before Anita could speak.
The sheriff sat back in his chair. "What did you say your name was?"
"Dean Forrester," Anita said, making up a name on the spot. "He's working with me on this."
"Civilian?" the sheriff asked, his tone making his opinion on civilians very clear.
"Yes. What did you mean about all three coming out alive?" Anita said.
"Whatever it was that got your people, can't have been what happened here."
Standing up, the sheriff beckoned them out of the office. "Because, what happened here was over a hundred years ago. Come on."
Dean looked at Anita, who shrugged. They followed the sheriff down the hall to a large door marked 'Storage'. The sheriff opened the door with some difficulty, and waded into the room. After a few minutes of shifting boxes, the man emerged from the mess with an old cardboard box in his hands. He retraced his steps, past his office to an open room near the secretary's desk.
"This here is what I was talking about," Sheriff Springer said, dumping the box on the table. "Happened in..." he squinted at the box. "In 1903."
"May I?" Anita asked, indicating the box.
"Be my guest," the sheriff said. "Weird case. Most people chalked it up to Wilkins being crazy as a loon, but I don't know."
"What's the Cliff's Notes version?" Dean asked, sneezing as Anita flipped open the dusty box.
The sheriff perched on the edge of the table. "One morning in the middle of March, 1903, William Wilkins stumbles into the local detachment, covered in blood and babbling about how he had killed his best friend, Marcus Adams, and some girl named Mary. The sheriff of the day thought Wilkins was crazy on drink, but he got a few men together and went out to Wilkins' house. Want to guess what they found?"
"What?" Anita asked absently, digging through crumbling papers.
Anita paused. "No bodies?"
"No bodies. A bit of blood on the bed upstairs, but no signs of a struggle. They scoured the property, looked in the well and the cellar and those places, but there wasn't a body to be found."
"What about this Adams guy?" Dean asked. "Ever find him?"
"No, but Adams was apparently the town scoundrel. He'd blow whatever money he had on booze or the roadhouse girls, then leave for a while, come back with some spare cash. The sheriff thought he was out stealing horses or something, but never had any proof, and believe me when I say he was looking."
"So it's possible that Adams ran off?" Anita suggested.
"And never came back, yes."
"What about Mary?"
"There's no indication that Mary ever existed."
"You sounds doubtful."
The sheriff reached into the box and pulled out a small piece of paper. He held it up. "A year or so after this happened, a man named Johnson came through town, looking for his daughter Madeline. She'd run away a year and a half before, and he'd heard word that she might have come through here."
Dean reached for the paper. It was a missing poster, with a rough sketch of a girl with curly dark hair. "How old was she?" he had to ask.
"Fourteen," the sheriff said. "She never showed up, as far as we can tell. But when Wilkins stumbled into town, no one local knew she existed, see?"
Anita paced across the room. "So at the time, the sheriff thought Wilkins was nuts?"
"From the reports, it looked like that was the case. But all the same, he put Wilkins in the newly completed brick holding cells attached to the sheriff's office, in case he was going to be a danger to himself or others. Too bad it didn't work.
Dean looked up sharply. "What happened?"
The sheriff met Dean's gaze steadily. "The next night, Wilkins vanished, from a locked cell, through brick walls. He was never heard from again."
Dean let out a low whistle. "Neat trick."
"I don't supposed Adams helped him out?" Anita suggested.
"Not unless he could squeeze into a cell through a two-inch opening in the window bars." The sheriff indicated the box. "The whole thing was sketched out. The sheriff of the day said it was because of an escaped prisoner, but there was never any real search for the man. They never looked for Adams, and when Madeline Johnson's father came through town, the sheriff treated it as a closed case. And tell you what -- not hide nor hair was seen from Wilkins or Adams ever again, and no one ever found that girl."
"So you think the sheriff knew something about this case that's not in the files?" Anita frowned at the box, as if she was willing it to talk.
"I do." Sheriff Springer rubbed the back of his neck. "I'll be honest, this case has always bugged me. My great-grandfather was a kid when this whole thing hit town, but he always said that things went weird after that. Like there was an air of malevolence in Wilkins' house. No one goes there anymore."
"Where was that?" Dean asked, trying to sound casual.
"Out on the old highway," the sheriff said, pulling out an old map. "It's about five miles from Springfield."
The exact location that Dean and Sam and Anita had found themselves, bright and early this morning.
Fucking perfect.to be continued...