Title: Curtain Author: Restive Nature Crossover: Angel and Supernatural Disclaimer: I own the rights to neither Angel the Series nor Supernatural. They belong respectively, to Whedon/ Greenwalt and Mutant Enemy and to Kripke and the CW. Rating: PG-13 for language Summary: When its time for a ghost to move on, a Winchester is there for the final curtain call. A/N- This title was taken from the Agatha Christie novel that was her detective, Hercules Poirot’s last case. I thought it fitting in some way. A/N2- This was written for the TtH FfA’s, pairing Phantom Dennis/ John Winchester. Curtain
“All right,” the slightly grizzled older man muttered to himself as he silently made his way down the well lit corridor. Just as he expected, from the reports he’d read and information he’d garnered, some muffled thumps made their way from the apartment at the end of the corridor to his alert ears.
John Winchester, demon hunter with over two decades of experience under his belt, paused to wonder what might be causing those noises. They weren’t the only ones that had been heard. There’d been reports from the neighbors about music paying at odd hours, appliances and cupboards banging open and shut, lights were flickering, water running and the television flipping rapidly through channels.
None of that would have been odd, but everyone agreed on one thing, the normal resident, one Cordelia Chase, was no longer in residence. She hadn’t been for a few months now, yet someone was still paying rent on the apartment. John had been able to wheedle out of the complex manager that the checks had originally come from a private investigator’s firm, but lately were coming from a law office.
John had done his homework and checked the places out. The investigator’s firm, which didn’t seem to actually have a license, claimed to deal with extraordinary cases. The connection had been easy once John discovered that Miss Chase was an employee there before it ended it operational run. It had sent a mild shiver up his neck, wondering just what kind of cases they dealt in. The law firm however, made a little more sense, knowing that Miss Chase had been hospitalized recently. She probably had some sort of living will or something to cover her unfortunate situation, in which the law firm had taken over with power of attorney.
The thumps soon quieted and John continued on his way. Instinct told him that there was something supernatural at work here. As soon as he’d left Palo Alto, checking in on Sam, he’d intended to meet up with Dean. But as he’d passed through L.A., he couldn’t resist checking things out and this case happened to be right up there on the top of the list.
John didn’t bother testing the door. From his chat with the manager, he knew that Miss Chase didn’t have any sort of security alarm installed, though that was quite the vogue thing to do these days. Glancing about the hallway once more, to make sure that the coast was clear, he knelt down, pulling his lock picks from his jacket in a smooth, swift motion. He selected the tools he needed from the worn leather pouch and quickly and efficiently had the door unlocked in twenty seconds.
The heavy door swung open, though John caught the handle before it could bang into any walls or haphazard furniture in the way. But as he stepped through into the darkened alcove that made up the doorway, the lights in the living room flashed on, momentarily blinding him. John instinctively shielded his eyes from the glare, enough to make out what looked like a party hat, bobbing in the air in front of him.
The shotgun loaded with rock salt rose from his side in an instant, aiming in the general direction of the floating party hat. But before John could get a shot off, his vision was obscured again. John pawed at his face with one hand and as he pulled it away, winced at the tooting noise of a party maker. He glanced at his open hand, gaping at the confetti pooling in his cupped palm.
“What the hell?” he growled softly.
At his growling, a sudden cold spot flashed over him and just as quickly faded. The party hat that had been floating in the air dropped to the ground, faster than the confetti could float down. Squinting, still under the pain of the sudden flash of light in his eyes, John could make out a festive banner strewn across the living room. ‘Welcome home Cordy!’
it read. John frowned. Obviously someone had been planning on a much different evening. Of course, it could have been left over from something else, maybe even months ago.
But glancing around the room, he wasn’t so sure. Usually when a person who lived alone had been hospitalized, their home acquired a certain amount of dust. Of course, the lawyer on her case may have hired someone to come in weekly to do some cleaning in the event that Miss Chase should wake up.
Realizing belatedly that the door was still open, John reached to shut it quietly. “Okay, you bastard,” he muttered, “let’s get this over with.” Reaching into another pocket on his jacket, he pulled out his EMF reader. He wasn’t sure that it would be much help, since obviously the electricity was still running in this place, but it might help identify some hot spots.
But on a complete circuit of the rooms, John found nothing. Disappointing, but not devastating. He could do this another way. Pulling a chair out from the dining table, he centered it in the living room. With salt in one hand and his loaded shotgun in the other, John sat down to wait. As he waited, he ran through a few Latin rituals in his mind, though he was still alert for possible attack. Since he had no idea who or what this ghost was, he wouldn’t be able to salt and burn the thing’s bones. In researching the history, he only knew that the deaths had started with the demise of the building’s original owner, who had been cut down by her son, who had then disappeared.
He was cut from his musings over the case by the sudden hum of noise coming from the radiator. He frowned, his eyebrows furrowing together. That shouldn’t be coming on. He glanced around until his keen eyes located the thermostat on the wall by the door. Even from the distance he was at, he could slowly see the indicator being moved. He was out of the chair in a second, the salt flashing in an arc towards where he hoped the ghost was.
That seemed to have worked as the indicator quit moving. John wondered if maybe he could trap the ghost in some sort of protective circle so that he could perform a banishing ritual. A ghostly exorcism. The radiator kicked off and John turned to return to his chair to puzzle this out. But the moment that he took one step, the radiator kicked on again.
Spinning around, he pushed the control back down. “I’m not cold,” he growled softly. He waited a few moments, and that activity seemed to stop. He returned to his chair. But the moment that he sat down, the television clicked on. With a roll of his eyes, he moved again to shut it off. And as soon as his hand left the set, it flicked back on.
“God damn it!” he roared softly, clicking it off again. That was a mistake. Caught unaware, a book hit him in the back of his head. “You bastard!” Another book flew towards him and John easily ducked it. His shotgun was now making a random sweep around the room, waiting to see what would come next. “Let’s speed this up you little fucker,” he taunted. Another book hurtled towards him and John ducked again. But this time, he felt the cold spot again and he could have sworn that he heard someone stamping a foot.
It was strange, but he suddenly understood where the spate of book throwing came from. “You don’t like me swearing? Is that it?” The cold spot moved away and John mulled it over. Okay, perhaps this ghost knew religious undertones, given the era that it had started its haunting. That wasn’t so unusual.
The moment was over so John returned to the chair. Waiting and wondering what the next attack would be, he set down the salt and began to rifle through his pockets again. Of course he wouldn’t set down his shotgun in the presence of a ghost. That was a rookie mistake, one that he’d made so many years ago. The rock-salt loaded lead hadn’t done more than hurt the hell out of his body. But it was one lesson that didn’t need to be repeated. Caleb still teased him about getting shot in the ass with his own gun.
Even as John pulled out his journal, the one where he kept all his notes, to search for the proper ritual for unknown ghosts, he noticed movement around the room again. Glancing up, he saw a blanket, folded over, and floating through the room. Beyond that, he saw that the bedroom door was open again. Almost cautious seeming, the blanket stopped and hovered a few feet away from him. And then, it shook out and was jounced up and down a few times.
John eyed the blanket warily a few moments. He wasn’t sure if the ghost was going to try and blind him with it, or suffocate him. But it just hung there. “I don’t want that,” he announced distinctly. And to his amazement, the blanket lowered and if John had been forced to say, the air in the room felt… dejected. And then it began to fold itself back up and was floated back to the bedroom, where the door was properly shut once more.
John finished rooting through his pockets and flipped through the pages of his journal. He knew that he had some more information on ghosts in there. If he couldn’t locate the ghost’s grave, maybe there was an object that it was attached to that he could destroy. And finally finding it, John recalled that Missouri had taught him a little trick when EMF wasn’t working.
Hands scrabbling through more pockets, he finally located the crystal that she had gifted him with many years ago.
Making sure that it was properly attached to its cord; John rose from the chair and began a careful sweep around the room. There was some activity, though he couldn’t be sure if that was because of ghostly remnants of activity with certain objects, or from the unavoidable movement from his hand. But as he approached the front hall closet, the crystal began to vibrate wildly. John gave a half-smile. He’d hit some pay dirt.
Carefully opening the closet, he was dismayed by the sheer amount of… junk crammed in there. With a sigh, he tucked the crystal back in his pocket. Time to do some sorting. But it actually took less time than he thought when he pulled out a box and was stunned by the cursory glance through.
In it were a wooden stake, several bottles of what looked to be holy water, some papers with scribbling on them and other various paraphernalia that marked a hunter, rather than an amateur. Had this Cordelia Chase been in the business? Well, maybe it was possible that the outfit she’d worked for was the real deal. Carefully setting the box on the floor, John reached into the closet again. Dislodging a long faux fur lined coat, John drew in a sharp breath when he saw a lightweight axe. It was slim, sleek, but carried enough weight to make it a threat. Picking it up, he noticed that someone had roughly carved in some Latin on the wooden handle. He didn’t quite recognize all of it, but enough to see that someone had wanted to bless or protect the user.
How strange it all was. A hunter being plagued with her own ghost. But then again, it was very possible that Miss Chase was just holding these for a friend. Suddenly hearing another sound, John looped the axe handle through his belt. Another weapon he wasn’t going to leave lying around, that was for sure.
He headed to where the noise originated from. Pushing open the swinging door between the dining area and the kitchen, he could see what caused the noise. The refrigerator door was swing shut and food was floating through the air. An apple, a bottle of caramel sauce and some ice cream. It landed on a wooden serving tray. Next, a cupboard flashed open and a bowl floated out. What really puzzled John though, was that the food seemed fresh. The apple was crisply green, with no spots or bruises on it. The container of sauce looked as if the seal hadn’t been broken yet and the ice cream container didn’t have any crystallization on it that would indicate it had been in the freezer for a while.
Remembering back to the party hat and confetti, John wondered if the ghost believed that Miss Chase would be returning soon. Maybe somehow, someone had made mention of the erroneous belief that Miss Chase would be waking up from her coma soon.
“I’m not hungry,” he spoke gently, somehow feeling sorry for this poor entity. The spoon that was being lifted out of the drawer paused and then danced waveringly around. John couldn’t help the smile gracing his face. “I’m sure.” Defeated, the spoon fell back in the drawer and it shut with a soft click. John watched as the food was then returned to the refrigerator.
Wondering if maybe the ghost was more comfortable in the kitchen for some purpose, he made to remove the crystal again. But just when he thought the ghost had given up, John saw the carafe from the coffeepot rattle. And then a canister with what was probably coffee grounds slid forward on the counter. “I don’t need any coffee,” he hurried to say. Again, that momentary whisper of defeat hung in the air. And then the canister slid back. “Uh, thank you though,” he felt compelled to add. And then he chuckled under his breath. Who in their right minds would have ever thought that John would be thanking a ghost?
Suddenly though, he felt something push lightly at his back. He shuddered and brought the shotgun up. “What the he-!” he bit off, remembering that this ghost didn’t like swearing. No need to agitate it further. Another nudge and John took a step forward. It stopped and then the swinging door opened towards the living room. “Oh, you want me to leave.” He walked through to the living room again and this time, felt a nudge on his right shoulder. The ghost seemed to be guiding him away from the chair he had placed. It was herding him over to the sofa.
“The chair’s fine,” he told the ghost, but it continued to nudge him along. Finally, wondering what it could possibly want, John gave in and took a seat on the sofa, careful to angle the axe handle away from his body. It was surprisingly comfortable. The nudging stopped once he was seated and it wasn’t long before the bedroom door opened again. Okay, so maybe the bedroom was the nucleus of the ghosts haunting. But before he could rise to his feet to check it out, something appeared in the doorway. John frowned and watched as a book floated towards him.
“I don’t need anything to read,” he growled softly. “Hopefully I’m not going to be here much longer.” But the book continued to float towards him.
John stared at the book in consternation. It wasn’t a novel; it looked more like one of those dainty, flowery diaries that young girls kept. Suspicion floated through his mind and hesitatingly, he reached for it.
It was deposited in his free hand and the coolness surrounding him seemed to warm slightly. Laying his rifle in the crook of his right elbow, he balanced the book in that hand and flipped open the cover. As he’d suspected Miss Chase’s name was written in the front cover in surprisingly strong handwriting.
“This is an invasion of her privacy, you know,” John warned, slightly amused. A gentle nudge pushed the book momentarily closer to his body. “All right,” he muttered. He flipped open the first page and began to skim through it. There were entries that started in the summer of ’99. It appeared that Miss Chase had left behind a small town called Sunnydale to come to the bright lights of LA to make it big on the screen, small or large it didn’t seem to matter to her at that point.
Interesting, but he couldn’t see the relevance.
The ghost seemed aware of that and suddenly, the pages flipped rapidly, until it seemed to find the entry that it wanted. I can’t believe
(he read) Doyle found such an amazing apartment. And at such a great price. There’s probably something really wrong with it. But I don’t care. I can call a repairman to fix whatever it is. Now if we could only get some paying clients to afford those repairs.
Before he finished reading the entire entry, the page flipped again. John glanced up in annoyance, but figured there must be some purpose to it. I was right!
(He continued reading) There is definitely something wigsome here. Flickering lights, strange noises. Stuff flying around the room all night. Did the curse of Sunnydale follow me? It doesn’t matter. I’m staying put. No matter what! I mean, the view alone is worth it. Not to mention the rent control.
That was the end of that entry. And the next one was dated a few days later. We finally put the spirits to rest. I can’t believe I almost let that bitch convince me to hang myself. We finally know the true story about this apartment. Something that Angel and Doyle couldn’t figure out without me of course. I swear those males are such babies. It feels like I always have to hold their hands. It turns out the old bitch was psycho.
John cocked his head to the side. Now this was interesting. And it might explain to him what the hell he was dealing with here. She couldn’t stand
(he continued on reading) that her son was in love and going to leave her. So she tied him up and stuck him in the archway between the kitchen and living room. Then she bricked it up, and all the while Dennis was pleading with her to let him go. And as soon as the bitch finished, she died of a heart attack. Ever since then, it seems that she’s been running off the people living here, acting like they were that poor girl whose only crime was to love her son. Thank God I had the presence of mind to destroy that stupid wall. I knew there was a reason I hated it. And of course once we get all the debris cleared away, it’ll look fantastic.
John glanced up at the only area of the apartment that was feasible to what she had written. He couldn’t care less how it looked, but he noticed that it did enlarge the room somewhat. So when I smashed that wall, Dennis was freed. He destroyed his mother’s spirit. Vengeance is a bitch. So odd Maude is gone, Angel convinced someone to put poor Phantom Dennis’ bones to rest properly at the cemetery. Didn’t seem to work since he’s still hovering around, but I don’t mind. I have my apartment back and an absolutely fantabulous roomie! Too bad he can’t kick in on the rent.
John flipped the book shut, one finger holding his page in the diary. He glanced around. “So I assume you’d be Dennis,” he smirked. The lights flickered once. “Would that be a yes?” They flickered again. Not sure what to do now, John was torn between reading on about this woman’s life and finding out where Dennis’ bones were laid to rest. But so far as he could tell at this point, Phantom Dennis, as Cordelia called him, was just a run of the mill spook. An honest to goodness Casper.
Figuring that Dennis apparently wasn’t going anywhere and John still needed a little more info about where he was buried, he decided to read on.
And he was right. It was an interesting read. This woman and her friends at the investigation agency encountered some things that had never occurred to John. The mentions, frequent amounts of mentions about Vampires did worry him though. According to his sources, they were all but extinct.
He was nearing the end of the journal, wondering if perhaps there was another one or few, since the entries he was at only dated up to 2001. She’d only been in a coma this past year. But before he could get up to go check, or shudder at the thought, ask the ghost, the phone began to ring. While it startled John, it seemed to have a similar effect on Phantom Dennis. Things flickered everywhere momentarily until the ghost recovered.
Naturally, John wasn’t going to answer that phone. It was none of his business. But then the answering machine kicked on. He listened as the perky voice of Cordelia Chase informed whoever was calling that she wasn’t at home and to leave her a message, unless it was one of those yucky telemarketers. Those people could go to Hades. Literally.
He smirked at her cheerfully telling off annoying people remotely. That sounded kind of like a message that Dean would have. But the smile faded from his face when he heard the hesitant voice of a young woman, a heavy dose of Texas drawl in her voice.
“Dennis?” she asked. “It’s me, Fred. Um, Winifred Burkle. I know that it’s been a while since I came to see you. We’ve been, well, we’ve been busy here at work. But the reason I’m calling-!” She broke off and John heard her mumble and a deeper voice answering her. “Dennis, something has happened. To Cordy. Charles and I, we’re on our way over. I’ll… we’ll see you soon.” The call ended, there was a pause and the machine beeped and the little red light began to blink steadily.
John had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. The tone of that woman’s voice made it especially clear that whatever had happened to Cordelia Chase was not good. As he watched, the button depressed on the answering machine and the message replayed. John sighed. It wasn’t the place or the objects around the house that kept Phantom Dennis here, he understood suddenly. It was the person.
After the message played yet again, Phantom Dennis apparently had enough. The Delete button was depressed and after another long beep, the machine announced that all messages had been deleted.
John didn’t know what he should do. The temperature in the room had just dropped about ten degrees. He was running options through his mind, still standing in the middle of the living room when he noticed that the sign, welcoming Cordelia home had dropped on one end. Then the other came down. Almost mechanically, it was folded up by the Phantom. John watched as it was carefully inserted into a drawer under the television. Next a broom and dustpan appeared and swept up the stray confetti. He didn’t quite know what to make of this behavior. But when the bedroom door opened and then he saw a set of black sheets appeared floating in mid-air, he began to suspect.
Just as he thought, the sheets were set down on the coffee table. One was lifted up and floated, spread out towards the large window with the, as Cordelia had put it, fantabulous view. He followed after the ghost as next all the mirrored surfaces in the apartment were covered by dark cloth. At last, that accomplished, the lights dimmed and the door to Cordelia’s bedroom shut once more.
Let the mourning begin.
“You know, that’s my personal property!”
The sudden voice, decidedly female and decidedly amused, scared the living crap out of John, taking at least ten years off his life. He jumped, higher than he thought imaginable and spun around. A young woman stood before him, familiar, with a crooked grin on her face.
Cordelia Chase resembled the picture that he’d found of her, except her hair was longer and darker, no longer the sleekly accented bob she’d had. But the eyes, the beauty mark, it was all the same.
“Jesus Christ!” John couldn’t help the instinctive, reactive curse this time. But luckily, no books slammed into him unawares.
No,” the woman smiled. “Cordelia Chase,” she introduced herself, though it really wasn’t necessary. She glanced down at her hands. “I’d shake hands with you but,” she waved her hand forward and it passed through the top of the book he was holding. “ooh, scary. I’m going non-corporeal.”
“You’re a ghost!” John blurted out, feeling the urge to slap himself in the forehead. He was acting like a kid on his first hunt.
“For today,” Cordelia shrugged. “Who knows about tomorrow?”
“You know you’re a ghost?” John questioned, his interest in the supernatural reasserting itself. “Because in my experience, most ghosts don’t realize that they’re dead.”
“Yeah,” Cordelia shrugged again. “But I’m definitely not most ghosts.” There was quiet for a moment before she continued. “So, I’d ask what you’re doing here, but what with the shotgun and hey! My axe! It’s pretty obvious.”
John glanced down at the axe that was still looped through his belt and glanced sheepishly up at the woman. “Oops. Sorry. I uh, thought your friend there might use it against me.” Her amused look told him clearly how off base she thought that idea to be. She waved her hand dismissively.
“You can keep it,” she offered magnanimously. “I was going to leave it to Gunn, but I didn’t really get the chance to make out that last will.”
“Maybe I should ask you what you’re doing here,” John offered quietly. Her face grew serene.
“One last favor from the powers that be,” she sighed. Her gaze slid past his face, to a point over his shoulder. “Are you ready Dennis?” she asked softly. John half-turned and was kind of surprised to see the grainy flickering image of a young man. As soon as he realized that John could see him, he disappeared again. “Don’t mind him,” Cordelia chuckled. “Dennis has always been shy. And helpful,” she tacked on. It was John’s turn to grin.
“I noticed that,” he murmured. “He tried to entertain me, keep me warm, and feed me.” As if on cue, his stomach rumbled. “Too bad I didn’t have the sense to take him up on his offer.”
“Yeah,” Cordelia sighed along with him. “You need to learn to take what life has to offer John.” He was startled that she knew his name. He would have asked how, but could see by the enigmatic grin on her face that she expected it. So he didn’t. John knew how to play this game well.
“Well, since that ship has sailed,” he began as politely as he could. “I’ll take up your offer to let me keep the axe. Can always use a good axe.” But then a thought occurred to him. “You know, I found this diary of yours really interesting too. I was wondering…?”
Cordelia grinned. “Yeah, take, use, maybe someday down the road, something in there will save your life.”
“I’m mighty appreciative ma’am,” John thanked her, his unconscious charm brimming over in appreciation. He was startled to see a faint blush over the young woman’s cheeks. He didn’t think he was that charming. But apparently it was something else occurring to her.
“Um, when you take the diaries,” she began, “which are in a box in my bedroom closet by the way, can you um… just ignore the stuff I wrote about Angel? And Connor? I can’t remember if I wrote about him. But just…please don’t judge me.”
“I won’t even read the personal parts,” John assured her with a small twinkle in his eye. Cordelia grinned back, and then glanced at the window. Even though it was swathed with dark material, they were sheer enough that you could see the edges of dawn rising up.
“It’s time to go Dennis,” Cordelia told her friend softly. John watched as the young man’s ghost rematerialized, though it was still faded in comparison to Cordelia’s. They moved as one towards the window where faint light was trying to peep through. But at the edge of the sofa, Dennis turned back.
His voice was rusty, as if it had been little used over the past many decades. “I’m real glad that you were here. I hated being lonely.” John felt his heart constrict a little. Loneliness wasn’t something he enjoyed either. “And I’m real glad that you didn’t shoot me. I think that would have hurt a lot. So, thank you.”
This was a new turn for John. He gave a little nod of his head. “You’re welcome.” He would have said more, if he knew what he could possibly say to make this easier, and if he hadn’t caught sight of Cordelia quickly swiping at her eyes with her free hand. But then a brilliant light bathed the room in its white fire. Cordelia turned, looped her arm through Dennis’ and they stepped away.
When the light faded, both specters were gone. John blinked his eyes a few times. Wondering if he’d just dreamt or imagined the whole thing. But no, the added weight of his newest axe still hung at his hip. His finger was still inserted in the diary.
He pulled his finger loose from the pages and carefully tapped the book against the palm of his hand. Remembering the phone call from earlier, he realized that if he wanted to avoid trouble, he didn’t have much time. He shook off the feeling of invading the dead woman’s inner sanctuary and located as fast as he could, the books she had spoken of. He carried them to the front closet and found the box full of supplies that he’d found earlier. He settled the books in there, replaced the lid and hoisted it up onto his hip. He shut the closet door and was about to take his leave, but a whisper of scent seemed to linger in the air.
He’d have to eat it on the run, but suddenly, a fresh tart green apple sliced into some ice cream, with caramel topping drizzled over it, sounded like a really good breakfast.