Seven: Crossroads Angel
When the long-anticipated “Big One” hit San Francisco, it was just one more disaster in an America increasingly convinced Armageddon was upon them. The epicentre of the earthquake was in San Francisco Bay and the resulting destruction, from the first quake, the relatively mild tsunami that followed and the series of aftershocks that seemed to spread northward along the San Andreas Fault, was worse than the most pessimistic projections anticipated. Thousands died in San Francisco alone. The full death toll was never fully enumerated.
Yet there was good news among all the horror. A small church building near the Golden Gate Bridge, which housed the Brotherhood of Enoch, an obscure Christian sect, was miraculously untouched in the earthquake, not even damaged when the bridge fell, though debris and burning vehicles scattered the surrounding area. Sect members had been holding a service at the time the quake hit and their charismatic pastor credited the Lord with their salvation. The Brotherhood of Enoch reformed in Oregon after their evacuation from the destroyed city, and stories of the miracle spread.
People needed hope and to many the miracle was proof that God was still with them, and he had a plan for The Faithful.
Many doomsday cults had sprung up across the USA in recent months; The Brotherhood of Enoch appeared no different on the surface. Yet there could be little doubt only a miracle from God could have saved them from the earthquake. In the weeks that followed the great miracle, new churches of the Brotherhood of Enoch appeared in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Colorado and even as far east as Iowa. Unlike many, the Brotherhood of Enoch did not actively recruit members; indeed, it proved difficult to join a congregation as new members were vetted carefully before being admitted to the secrets of the Brotherhood.
Further miracles followed. A congregation in Boise were the only survivors when the Seattle flu broke out in the town; not one member of the Brotherhood even showed symptoms. A flash flood swept through Davenport, Iowa, causing a great deal of damage yet the small chapel used by the Brotherhood of Enoch was untouched by the water.
The pastor and founder of the Brotherhood of Enoch called himself Ezekiel. He travelled between the churches, spreading his message of hope in all the fear and chaos. Only in Butte, Montana was there any negative news about the Brotherhood of Enoch, and that so minor it was ignored by almost everyone: a child fled from a congregation while Pastor Ezekiel preached, babbling to those who found her about a man with bright red eyes. The girl was obviously disturbed and few took her ravings seriously. A miracle, after all, was a miracle.
As soon as the sound of the Impala’s engine died away, Ellen rounded on Sam. “Come on, then. Out with it.”
Sam wasn’t surprised Ellen saw through the pretext. Dean and Jo were going in search of some ingredients for Sam to make hex bags. The need was real enough but the true reason for the errand was to give Sam a chance to talk to Ellen and Bobby about what happened on their way back from Miami. About Jo.
He leaned back against the window sill, meeting Ellen’s eyes briefly before he glanced at Bobby. “We stayed at a motel last night,” he began. “Jo snuck out in the middle of the night. I followed her, and…” he looked directly at Ellen, “I caught her doing drugs.”
Ellen showed no surprise. She nodded grimly. “I was afraid of that.”
Bobby rose from his seat, staring at her. “You knew?” he said incredulously.
“Of course I knew! She’s my daughter.” Ellen turned to Sam. “What happened? Do you know what set her off?”
It was an interesting assumption, Sam thought. “We, uh, ran into some demons. They forced us off the road. I’d guess that was it, but…” Sam frowned, seeing the flaw in that theory even as he said it. “Ellen, the only place she could have gotten hold of drugs was in Miami. But that was before the fight.”
“You boys promised me you wouldn’t let her out of your sight,” Ellen accused.
“We didn’t, much. A couple of bathroom breaks and Jo went for soda once. I didn’t think she was gone long enough…but I didn’t know she had a problem, Ellen. You should have told us.”
“She’s my daughter,” Ellen answered stubbornly.
Yeah. Sam understood. Ellen was protective of Jo, as much as Sam and Dean protected each other.
“Tell us,” Bobby said.
Ellen flinched. She stood abruptly and walked toward the library. She stopped. She turned to face them both. “You don’t have kids. Neither of you. When Jo went missing and then they found what was left of Nan…you have no idea what I went through.”
Sam nodded. He remembered hearing about Jo’s disappearance at the time. But when it happened, Dean was in Hell and Sam didn’t care about anything except finding a way to save his brother’s soul. He felt guilty about that now. Maybe if he’d been paying attention he could have helped.
“Sam, I thought she was dead, or worse,” Ellen said, giving Sam a meaningful look. “Maybe you know how that feels.”
“I do,” he agreed.
“Then, out of the blue, she called me. She said she’d escaped and she was okay, but she wouldn’t tell me where she was. She wouldn’t come home. So I knew she wasn’t okay.”
When Dean got out of Hell, the first thing he did was try to find Sam and Bobby. How would Sam have felt if Dean came back, but went into hiding and wouldn’t speak to him?
“How long was Jo…?” Sam asked cautiously. He wasn’t clear what happened to Jo when she disappeared. The most likely explanation was that she’d been possessed, but if that were the case how had she escaped? Sam knew from experience that it wasn’t easy to shake a demon once it took hold of you.
“Eight weeks,” Ellen answered. “Maybe more.”
“My God,” Sam muttered under his breath.
“Possessed?” Bobby asked.
“Jo won’t say much about it, but I don’t think she was. They held her prisoner. They…hurt her.” Ellen’s voice broke and she swiped at her cheek with one hand.
Sam crossed the room in a few strides and reached out to her. He wasn’t sure she would accept it, but Ellen swayed toward him and Sam held her close, giving her what comfort he could. He wanted to say It’s okay, but that would be a lie. After a few moments Ellen pulled away from him, and Sam could see her struggling to pull herself together.
“Ellen,” Bobby said, “when she called you, are you sure Jo was really free? It could have been smoke.”
Ellen nodded. “You’re right, it could have been, but I don’t think so.” She took a deep breath, sank into a chair and resumed her story. “I know how to find people. But Jo knows how to disappear. It took me months to find her. When I did…” She took another deep breath. “Jo was in Chicago, strung out on drugs, selling herself to pay for that shit. She ran from me.” Ellen’s voice broke again.
“You took her to Kane,” Bobby said. His tone was harsh, and there was a look on his face like he had just figured something out, and didn’t approve.
Ellen nodded. “He helped me get her clean.”
Bobby snorted. “Help? Kane’s methods are – ”
“Brutal, yes. But she needed it, Bobby. You didn’t see her. She was…I don’t even have the words.”
Bobby looked at Sam. “I’ve seen it, Ellen.”
Sam swallowed, reluctant to speak. But they should have told Ellen sooner. “Jo’s not the only one with an addiction,” Sam confessed. “Bobby told you I’ve been sick. That’s why.”
Ellen shook her head. “I thought John raised you with more sense.”
He did, Sam thought. “Well, I wasn’t into crack or heroin, Ellen. I was…” he hesitated, but forced himself to continue, get it out in the open. “I was drinking demon blood.” Briefly, Sam explained what Azazel did to him as a baby and the powers it gave him. Power over demons. He could exorcise them with his mind, no need for devils traps or Latin rituals, and with enough demon blood, he could do more. He could kill them.
“I didn’t know it was addictive,” he explained, “not at first, and by the time I figured it out I didn’t care. I needed the power to stop Lilith.” Sam met Ellen’s eyes, needing her to believe him. “In the end, I screwed that up, too, and kicking the habit was… Fuck. There aren’t words. I should be dead. I’m clean now, Ellen, and I plan to stay that way. But it’s a struggle.”
“It would be,” Ellen agreed.
Sam expected her to ask what really happened in Ilchester; she had to realise Dean had been very selective with the truth when he told her his version of events. But the apocalypse, it seemed, was the last thing on Ellen’s mind.
“You’ll understand,” she said, narrowing her eyes, “that after hearing this, I don’t want Jo within a hundred miles of you boys.”
That was a bit harsh, especially including Dean in her prohibition. Dean wasn’t to blame for Sam’s mistakes.
Sam nodded, accepting his part in the blame. “I think Dean has been helping Jo, but I agree with you. She shouldn’t be around us.” He didn’t say it was because he was worried about Dean, not Jo. Dean already carried an unbearable weight on his shoulders. He didn’t need responsibility for two recovering addicts on top of that.
“I’ll find somewhere else we can stay,” Ellen said.
“No, you won’t,” Bobby insisted. “Ellen, you and Jo are welcome. The boys will be leaving tomorrow. If Jo fell off the wagon so easily, she’s in no state to be hunting, and she needs a place she feels safe.”
Dean looked down at the small collection of ancient coins, bones and herbs with distaste. He watched Sam drawing arcane symbols on the table with a piece of chalk.
Dean set out five candles in the places Sam indicated and lit them, one by one. “I thought you were through with the psychic crap,” he commented.
Sam was crouched down, examining the lines he had drawn. He glanced up at Dean. “This isn’t psychic ability. It’s just magic. They need the protection, Dean.”
“Dark magic,” Dean corrected, ignoring the last part of Sam’s statement because it was true. He and Sam still had the hex bags Ruby made for them, and though he hated to admit it, they were effective. But Jo, Ellen and Bobby had no such safety net, and they needed it.
“No darker than some of the rituals in Dad’s journal.” Sam straightened and laid a piece of black cloth, cut into a rough circle, in the centre of his sigils and carefully placed each of his ingredients inside. Then he spoke a few words in Latin. The candles flared briefly. He sealed the hex bag with a cord, set it aside and reached for the next circle of cloth.
“I told Ellen everything,” Sam reported as he worked. “About the demon blood, and Jo.”
“What did she say?”
“That she doesn’t want Jo anywhere near us. Meaning me.” Sam broke off to enspell the next hex bag. As he knotted the cord, he added, “It’s just as well. We’ll be back on the road soon, so – ”
Dean interrupted. “That’s Jo’s decision, don’t you think?”
Sam stared at him. “You want her with us? You’re the one who said…”
“I know what I said. But think about it, Sam. That girl’s been through Hell. It ain’t something you just bounce back from.” Sam should know that. They didn’t talk about it, but Dean’s brother wasn’t an idiot. Sam knew Dean still had nightmares. He knew Dean didn’t drink whiskey like soda because he liked the taste. Dean felt for Jo. Her Hell hadn’t been as literal as his, but what those demons did to her was damned close. Looking in her eyes felt like looking in a mirror sometimes. Sam wasn’t an idiot, but he didn’t get this.
Sam offered him one of the hex bags. “It’s your call, dude. But if you ask Jo to come with us, you get to fight Ellen. Give this bag to Jo. She needs it either way.”
Dean took the bag. “I hate to ask, Sam, but are you sure this will work?”
Sam didn’t take offence. “I learned the spell from Ruby. She said it would keep both angels and demons from finding us. I’m sure it’ll work for demons. I never had a chance to test the ones I made myself on the angels.”
“Good enough.” Dean nodded. He watched Sam get another bag ready. “Sammy,” he said quietly.
Sam stopped. He looked at Dean and waited.
“She wants a chance at the demon who hurt her, Sam. We can both relate, can’t we? You got your shot at Lilith. Maybe it didn’t work out so well, but don’t tell me it didn’t feel good to whack the bitch.”
Sam grimaced. “For about two seconds, yeah.”
“Dad got to help us kill Yellow-Eyes. And I got my shot at Alastair. Jo deserves her chance, Sam, and she won’t get it under Ellen’s wing. So it’s Jo’s call, not mine. But I’m gonna back her play even if I do have to go through Ellen to do it.”
Sam nodded. “Even if taking her shot gets her killed?” he asked.
“Her call,” Dean repeated.
“Okay. I’m in.”
“Are you done talking about me behind my back?” Jo demanded before he was even through the iron door. Jo was dressed for bed in a loose-fitting t-shirt and, as far as Dean could tell, nothing else. She was sitting up on her bed in the panic room.
Dean pulled up one of the folding chairs. “We were talking about you, sure,” he admitted. “But I said nothin’ I wouldn’t say to your face and you could have joined us if you wanted to.” He held out the hex bag. “Here.”
She took it and turned it over in her hands. “It doesn’t look like much.”
“It doesn’t have to. Keep it with you. In a pocket or around your neck. It will hide you from demons.”
“Thanks.” She twisted around and tucked it beneath her pillow.
“We’ll be leaving at first light. If you think you’re ready, if you can handle it, you’re welcome to come with.”
“You want me with you?”
Dean sighed. “Listen, it won’t be easy. Me and Sam still aren’t used to hunting with a third. Well, except our Dad, but that’s…” He shrugged, knowing he didn’t have to say it. Jo Harvelle was no John Winchester.
“We made a good team in the wood,” Jo smiled.
“We did. In fact, I think you saved our asses on that one. But what we’re going into now is gonna make that stand off look like a walk in the park.”
Jo said firmly, “I’m coming with you.”
Dean admired her determination, but he had to be sure she understood. “If you come, you’d better stay off the drugs. What me and Sam are into – ”
“You’re into something huge. I know that.” She nodded, but then looked up at him defiantly. “But where do you get off telling me what I can do? You think I haven’t noticed how much you drink?”
Dean hadn’t thought she noticed. “Sweetheart, I don’t drink when I’m on a hunt. I ain’t worried about you getting high when we have some downtime. I’m worried about you being strung out in need of a hit when we need you. I already went through that with Sam.”
Jo took a deep breath. The look in her eyes warned Dean he wouldn’t like what she was about to say. “Dean, was I strung out in Miami? Or before? Did you have any clue?”
He answered honestly. “No, you weren’t strung out. Yes, I had a clue. You’ve got needle tracks on your arm, Jo.”
“Okay, yeah, I do. But I’m not an addict, Dean. You have no fucking clue what I went through. Sometimes I just…I need help to get through the night. And alcohol doesn’t help me. I hate the hangover.”
He didn’t believe her, but he’d made his point. That was all he could do. “Alright. If you can keep it to downtime, I’ll stay out of your business.”
Dean turned away from her, then, and as he looked around for a way to change the subject his eyes automatically went to the display on the panic room’s iron walls. He was reminded of hunting with his father, the collection of press-cuttings, pictures, handwritten notes, maps and diagrams was so much like the displays John always collected when he was hunting something. But there were differences. The press cuttings were computer printouts, not cut directly from newspapers. The handwritten notes were mostly post-its; Dad’s were always written on motel stationary or, frequently, on gas station receipts. Many of the maps were hand-drawn and lacked Dad’s precision. There was also a lot more information here than John ever displayed at one time. This wasn’t a hunt. It was an attempt to collate information on hundreds of incidents across the continental US; a way to search not for a creature, but for a pattern in all the chaos.
Jo moved up to his side as Dean examined parts of the display more closely. She said nothing at first, just observed what he was doing. Last year, everyone had been very clear about what was going to happen if Lucifer busted out of the cage. Hell on Earth. Literally. Well, what was happening was bad, but it wasn’t Hell. Dean knew the difference. Did that mean the angels were exaggerating? Or was Hell still to come? Lucifer was thousands of years old; perhaps he wasn’t in any hurry. But that didn’t feel right. Dean had nothing to go on but instinct, but his instinct told him that as bad as things were, it was supposed to be worse. The other side was being held up by something. Maybe Lucifer wasn’t as powerful as they all said. Maybe those dicks-with-wings had finally stepped up to the plate. Dean didn’t know. But something out there was helping.
He saw a post-it on which Jo had written angel? in red ink. Sam had crossed the word out and beneath it he had written X Demon. Dean wasn’t sure what the X meant.
He pointed to it. “What’s this one in Montana? You and Sam have a disagreement?”
Jo plucked the post-it from the wall and pulled down the article it covered. “It’s Ezekiel. The pastor of the Brotherhood of Enoch.”
Dean frowned, not sure she’d answered his question. The name sounded familiar. “That so-called miracle in San Francisco?”
“Yeah. We’ve been tracking the activities of the church. In the lore, most angels have names that end with E. L. Gabriel, Raphael…” she glanced at him slyly, “Castiel.”
So she’d figured that out. Dean gave her a grin, but said nothing, waiting for her to continue.
“There’s an angel Ezekiel, too. Given what happened in the earthquake – that really was a miracle – I thought this guy might be an angel. Until Sam found this.” Jo handed him the article.
Dean skimmed it quickly. At a gathering of the Brotherhood in Butte, Montana, a child fled the chapel in terror, babbling about a man with red eyes. Now Dean understood the post-it. X meant crossroads. A demon with red eyes meant a crossroads demon.
Then the implications crashed down on him. “The Brotherhood isn’t a church. It’s a demon cult. They’re selling their souls so the apocalypse won’t touch them.” Bad deal. Very, very bad deal.
“That’s what Sam thought. There’s other evidence of the Brotherhood surviving things no one else did. Ezekiel’s message is all about the chosen – meaning his people – who will be saved from the end of the world.”
“And they will be. Until they go to Hell.” Dean shuddered. It was diabolical. Demons playing on people’s fears, promising salvation, but only in exchange for damnation.
“He’ll be in Iowa next,” Jo volunteered. “It’s on our way to Maryland, isn’t it?”
It would be, but they didn’t have time to hunt if they were going to make their meeting with Castiel.
It was a long drive to Maryland from South Dakota, but Jo found travelling with the Winchesters a lot of fun. Unlike their earlier trips, they were expecting a hunt at the end of this journey and yet there was nothing serious about the brothers during the drive. They spent half of the time bickering about the music or whether to stop for a bathroom break, or Godzilla vs Gojira or whether the car they just passed was a Ford or a Chevy or some obscure memory from their childhoods. It could have been irritating, but after about two hours of it Jo realised that the constant bickering was both how they passed the time on what would otherwise be a boring journey and, in a strange way, it was how they showed they loved each other. Once she understood that, she enjoyed listening to the pointless arguments and even joining in when they let her.
The other half of the time, the conversation was serious. They talked about what they expected to find at the end of their journey and their plans for various contingencies. They discussed past hunts and in the brief moments they forgot Jo was also in the car, past loves. Occasionally they would seem to realise simultaneously that the conversation was heading toward something they didn’t want to say aloud and there would be an awkward pause. A minute later, they’d go back to bickering about inconsequentials. But mostly, the conversation flowed easily and constantly.
Jo learned a lot from listening to them. She had already known the broad outline of what happened the previous year – the broken seals, the angels and demons at war – but she hadn’t realised how much of it centred on the Winchester boys. Jo knew there were details the brothers were not revealing, but she didn’t mind. She knew enough.
She also learned how much their father meant to them, even now. She wondered if they even realised how much they talked about him. It was usually just a passing comment. Remember when Dad… Dad would agree with me… Dad always said… You sound just like Dad, dude. Usually, the comment was met with a roll of the eyes and a whatever from whichever brother hadn’t spoken, but both brothers did it. Had Jo not been a hunter, she would have said their father’s spirit must be with them in the car. But of course, that couldn’t be true.
Jo bent down to lean in the Impala’s window. “Ezekiel is in town,” she reported. “The deacon told me that services are only for members of the Brotherhood. Usually Ezekiel only speaks to the third circle, but tonight’s service is special. All Brotherhood members can come.”
“We’re not in the Brotherhood,” Sam pointed out. He offered her a Starbucks cup. “Cappuccino, as requested.”
“Thanks.” Jo accepted the coffee.
“We can go in as potential recruits,” Dean suggested.
“That won’t work,” Jo disagreed. “I asked. They do take in new members but it takes weeks to be accepted. The meeting is tonight.” She sipped the coffee.
Sam shrugged. “I guess we’ll need to go in through the back door. Or the roof.”
“Maybe,” Jo nodded, “but I don’t think we need to. Their security isn’t all that tight and there’ll be a crowd tonight. If two of us pretend to be a couple and the third creates a distraction, we could get inside.”
Sam nodded. “You think we’ve got time?” he asked Dean.
“Not for a hunt,” Dean answered, leaning over so he could see Jo, too. “We can stay for tonight’s meeting and check this guy out, but if he’s what you think we’ll have to plan the hunt on our way back from Maryland.”
Jo climbed into the back seat. “I think it’s important, Dean. We might not have another chance to get close to him.”
Dean fired up the engine. While he drove, they talked over their plans.
All the information they had gathered about Ezekiel and the Brotherhood of Enoch supported their belief that Ezekiel was not human. But there were no photographs of the mysterious cult leader. There were few reports of what it was like inside the Brotherhood. It was possible, if unlikely, that this was just one of those weird cults that spring up from time to time, with a leader who was weird and twisted, but not actually demonic.
But how do you test for possession without revealing yourself to the demon? Salt and holy water were not exactly subtle and there was no possibility of sneaking into the church before the service to plant a few devil’s traps.
“I could do it,” Sam said as Dean pulled in to the side of the road so they could continue the conversation without shouting over the engine.
Dean’s response was predictable. “Sam, no.”
“Do you have a better idea?” Sam challenged.
“Sam, it nearly killed you. I’m not gonna let you – ”
“I don’t need demon blood for this, Dean. Just me. Ruby…” he broke off, still unable to say her name without mixed emotions. “If I can get close enough, I’ll know.”
“I don’t like your psychic thing, Sam.”
“Neither do I, but I’m stuck with it. So let’s use it.”
Jo leaned forward, resting her arms on the back of their seat. “You’ve got a demon-detector in your head?” She grinned at Sam.
Sam returned her smile. “Technically, it’s in my blood.”
“Cool. Well, it’s got my vote.”
“Fine,” Dean agreed reluctantly. “Now, how are we going to get you both inside?”
Dean pushed his way through the crowd, shouldering people aside as he moved. The Brotherhood members waited in an orderly line to get into the church; this crowd was outsiders hoping to get a glimpse of the famous miracle-worker. Some of them cast looks of annoyance in his direction as he pushed by. That was okay; Dean was supposed to attract attention.
Jo was right about the security here. There were two Brotherhood deacons on the door, but as far as Dean could tell they were just ticking off names on a list as the members entered. Occasionally they asked for ID, but not often. Dean made his way toward them.
By the time he reached the front of the crowd, both deacons were watching him. As he approached the door, one of them moved to block his way.
“Whoever you are…” he began.
Dean pulled out his fake FBI ID. “Special Agent Mosely,” he announced.
“I don’t care if you’re the President. You can’t enter. This is a sacred space.”
“I’m not interested in going inside,” Dean said. “I need to talk to you both.” He gestured to the side, indicating he wanted to talk in private. “Please. It won’t take a moment.”
“We’re a little busy,” the second man protested, but he moved aside as Dean asked.
“I can see that.” Dean reached into his jacket and withdrew a photograph from his pocket. “Have either of you seen her?” he asked quietly.
Both men looked at the picture.
“Her name is Alex Jefferson. She ran away from home a few days ago,” Dean went on. “We believe she’s coming here.”
“Haven’t seen her,” the second man said.
Dean glanced around as if to make sure no one could overhear. People were still filing into the church even with the deacons distracted. Sam and Jo were almost at the front of the line.
“Listen, the FBI has no interest in stepping on the civil rights of the Brotherhood.” Dean gave them his best trust-me smile. “This girl is under-age and she’s very confused. You sure she hasn’t been here?”
Both men were certain, which wasn’t a surprise, since Dean’s story wasn’t even slightly true. The photograph was one they downloaded from the internet; the name was made up.
Dean returned the photo to his pocket. “Okay.” He offered the first man a business card. “If she shows up, you be sure to give me a call. This kid needs help. She was seeing visions of angels, for God’s sake.” He laughed.
The man nodded. “No problem. She shows, we’ll call.”
“Thank you. You’re both patriots,” Dean said with a final grin. He turned away from them as Sam and Jo disappeared into the church.
Job done. Now it was up to Sam.
The church was a meeting hall with a stage up front and seating laid out in neat rows. There were no religious symbols at all. The podium on the stage was decorated with a plain, blue cloth.
Sam led Jo to a seat near the front of the room, on the opposite side from the podium. He wanted to be close to the stage, but he didn’t want to be in Ezekiel’s line of sight. And he very much wanted to be within reach of the exit; there was a fire door on this side. Jo sat on the aisle.
While they waited, Sam watched the front of the room. He could see people moving around another room behind the stage; was Ezekiel among them? He couldn’t tell. If Ezekiel was going to speak from the podium, he would be close enough for Sam. Most demons pricked at his senses, with or without the demon blood. It had always been true, but he hadn’t really been aware of it until Ruby began teaching him. Now he could usually tell when a demon was close. There were a few exceptions; oddly, Ruby herself had been one of them. If she wasn’t in a body he recognised, Sam could never tell it was her. There was a chance Ezekiel would be an exception, too. If that happened, Sam would use his power. Without the demon blood, it would give him a hell of a migraine, and he wouldn’t be able to do much. All he needed, though, was to grasp the demon, just a little, with his mind. Enough to prove it really was a demon in there. It was possible Ezekiel would feel him doing it, but Sam thought that, especially without the demon blood to power him up, he would be able to keep his touch feather-light.
Just in case he couldn’t, there was holy water in his pocket and in Jo’s purse. But Sam’s real worry wasn’t the demons. The Brotherhood of Enoch functioned like a cult. The people would defend their prophet, false or not, and there were about three hundred people in this room. So far, Sam couldn’t sense any demons among them.
Jo leaned in to whisper, “There are more people here than I thought.”
Sam whispered back, “I know. Three hundred souls. I really hope this guy turns out to be an angel.” If Ezekiel turned out to be a demon, all three hundred of these people were going to Hell.
Jo nodded unhappily. “It’s possible, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know. Most of the angels I’ve met are total dicks. I don’t really see them helping people.” Lucifer was an angel, too. Sam knew that Uriel had been trying to recruit other angels to Lucifer’s side; he didn’t know if Uriel succeeded, but he had to assume at least some of them saw humans the way Uriel did. If Ezekiel was an angel, it didn’t mean these people were in any less danger.
The service began like a traditional Christian worship. They sang a hymn, one Sam remembered from childhood weekends spent with Pastor Jim in Minnesota. Then a man rose from the front row of seats to lead an opening prayer. The prayer took a long time and the congregation responded with spontaneously murmured words: Hallelujah, praise Jesus, amen but it was respectful and quiet. The crowd didn’t get worked up. Sam found it unusual, but not disturbing.
The next speaker acted as a kind of warm up act. He called the congregation his brothers and sisters. He spoke of the miracles they had all witnessed and promised they would see more, though he was vague about the when. Sam had known about some of the miracles he mentioned: the church spared from the earthquake in San Francisco and the group spared from the deadly Seattle Flu. But there were others that were new to him. A member of this congregation had been blind and could now see. Another was dying of cancer and had been healed. A child born with a congenital heart condition was now healthy and sound.
The blind see and the lame walk, Sam thought. No wonder these people were so easily taken in. Most Americans were raised on such stories from the Bible. To see them literally come to life, while the world around them was ending…who could Ezekiel be but Christ, returned at last? Sam almost hoped it were true.
The speaker reminded them all they were living in the last days, but the Brotherhood had nothing to fear. It went on for at least twenty minutes but finally he got to the point and introduced their leader, the great prophet, Ezekiel.
Ezekiel was greeted by thunderous applause from the congregation and shouts of Praise Jesus and He is with us!
He was an ordinary looking man. His dark hair and eyes suggested some Hispanic blood, but his skin was white, even pale. He wore a plain suit and a tie. He could have been any small-town businessman.
The noise from the congregation was distracting. Sam couldn’t tell what Ezekiel was. He tried to stay calm. There was plenty of time. He and Jo would have to sit through the entire service anyway; leaving early would attract the attention they were trying to avoid.
Ezekiel opened a leather-bound book and began to read. Immediately, Sam understood how he had attracted so many followers. Ezekiel didn’t look like anything special, but his voice was mesmerising. A rich baritone that filled the room like an opera singer’s command performance. Whenever he paused, the silence in the room was complete. You could hear every shuffle, every breath.
The book he read from looked like a Bible, but the verses were nothing Sam recognised. He described signs of the end of the world, many of which seemed awfully familiar. Then he closed his book and spoke to them directly. He talked about the ones who would be saved. It sounded a lot like the kind of Rapture theology preached in tents to crowds of ignorant racists, but Ezekiel wasn’t promising the “chosen” Heaven. He was promising they would survive to inherit paradise on Earth.
It was a powerful message. Sam could feel the congregation responding. But the message was a lie. Ezekiel’s demonic nature tugged at the demon blood in Sam’s veins. He could almost smell the sulphur. Sam wished for the power he had the previous year, to send this son of a bitch to Hell before he could entrap more souls. But those powers were gone.
“We were right,” he whispered to Jo when it seemed safe.
“I know,” she hissed back.
Something in her voice made Sam look at Jo. She was watching Ezekiel as if hypnotised, but she was shaking with fear. Sam had forgotten she had good reason to be afraid of demons. He reached for her hand and she let him take it. Her skin felt cold to the touch.
Sam had lost the drift of Ezekiel’s sermon. He was saying something about fear.
“…and won’t we do anything for it? No matter how depraved, how disgusting, for those false promises, we do it! Fear makes us build our own prisons. Don’t you know it? You live in a tiny little box, only coming out after dark. Well, I am here to tell you there is nothing to fear! You can be free of worries for the future, free from fear…”
Beside him, Jo made an odd, choking sound. Sam saw tears in her eyes. He squeezed her hand. “Jo, are you okay?”
She shook her head, evidently not trusting herself to speak.
Sam was at a loss. He couldn’t have a conversation with Jo without being overheard. But if Jo was going to melt down, they were going to attract a lot of attention. He had to get her out of here. Then he realised there was one thing he could do. He slid his free hand into his pocket. He closed his eyes, trying to tune out Ezekiel’s voice and concentrate. By touch, he sent a text message to Dean: 911. At least, he hoped that was what he’d done. He didn’t dare pull the phone out to check. But Dean would understand any message at this point meant trouble.
Jo met his eyes silently, her cheeks wet.
Ezekiel was still talking. “But you, my brothers and sisters, you are chosen!” On the last word, he seemed to look directly at Sam. “Through you, when the bright star of morning rises, we come to paradise on Earth!”
Sam caught his breath. Bright star of morning was one of Lucifer’s names. The cult leader’s eyes were fixed on Sam and Sam knew he had been recognised. The muscles in his back and shoulders tightened. Now he wanted to get out every bit as badly as Jo did. But more powerful than the desire to run was his desire to rip out the demon’s throat and gorge on his blood.
As Ezekiel’s eyes met Sam’s, the demon froze for an instant. Sam knew he had been recognised, but the recognition went two ways. This wasn’t just a demon. It was a demon Sam knew: one he’d exorcised before. Sam could almost hear the rush of blood in his veins. He could do it right this time. He could kill him and save all these people. All he needed was a taste… Sam began to move.
An alarm blared through the church. Fire!
Dean, Sam thought with mingled resentment and relief. People around them rose and looked around in confusion. Sam stood, too, pulled Jo up and headed for the nearest fire exit. He had to get out before he gave in to his hunger. They were not alone in running, but they were ahead of the crowd. Sam shoved the fire door open and they were outside in the dark street.
Immediately, Sam felt better, the craving for demon blood receding. It was still there, but he could control it now. He checked on Jo with a glance; she was keeping up. Together, they ran for the Impala.
They stopped at a truck-stop diner just after sunset. Over a meal of cheeseburgers and fries they debated whether or not they should keep driving through the night. Jo volunteered to do some of the driving but Dean instantly vetoed the idea. They had another day to reach Ilchester; they could afford to stop for a night’s rest.
Sam was pretty sure Dean just didn’t want to risk letting Jo drive his baby.
The found a motel and paid for two adjoining rooms, as before. They laid down salt, as they always did, but Sam didn’t create any further protection.
“Aren’t you going to draw devil’s traps?” Jo asked. She seemed nervous since they fled the church.
“Do you still have the hex bag I made for you?” Sam checked.
“Yes, but – ”
“Then don’t worry. The demons won’t be able to find us. Salt is good enough to keep out random supernatural things.”
“Well…okay. Goodnight.” Jo seemed unconvinced.
Sam waited for her to close the connecting door between the rooms, then sat down on the bed. “Dean.”
Dean nodded as if this was something he expected. “What happened?”
“You know what happened. But there’s something I haven’t told you. I didn’t want to scare Jo; she’s freaked out enough as it is.”
“You jonesing for another hit of bitch-blood?”
Sam grimaced. “I was, but that’s not it. Ezekiel, the demon…I, uh…”
“Spit it out, Sammy.”
“I recognised him. He’s one we’ve met before. And, Dean, he’s not a crossroads demon. That story about a man with red eyes…maybe I’m being paranoid but I think it was meant to draw us in.”
“How could you recognised him in a new meat suit?”
“My psychic thing. I know the ones I’ve exorcised.”
Dean stared at him. “Alastair?”
Sam heard the fear in Dean’s voice. “No! God, no. Alastair’s dead; he’s never coming back. But you’re close. It was Samhain.”
“I thought you sent him to Hell.”
“I did! Hardest exorcism I’ve ever done. I guess I didn’t bury him deep enough. He…he’ll be coming after me, Dean.”
Dean nodded. “I guess he will.”
“And it gets worse. Right now, he’s collecting souls. But when he’s done collecting…you know what he can do.” Everything they hunted: zombies, werewolves, vampires, ghouls…Samhain had the power to summon all of them. He could make the world a horror movie. Come to think of it, what was he waiting for?
Dean was frowning. “Playing pastor isn’t exactly Samhain’s MO, Sam. Are you sure about this?”
“I was just thinking the same thing. I’m as sure as I can be, but…you’re right. It is weird.”
“Well, either way, I guess he’s next hunt on the list. Are you okay, Sam?”
Honestly, Sam knew he was in for a bad night. But he hadn’t given in to the hunger. This was the second time, and he hadn’t given in. So he simply shrugged. “Yeah. I could really use a drink, though.”
Dean tossed Sam his hip flask.
After Jo said goodnight to the brothers she spent time laying down protections of her own around her room: a devil’s trap beneath the window, holy water stashed in strategic places around the room and a ring of salt around the bed as well as the door and window. No matter what Sam said, without it, she would never be able to sleep.
Finally, Jo crawled into bed, closed her eyes and did her best to relax.
She woke screaming!
It was her recurring nightmare, but Jo woke in an irrational terror. She struck out in the darkness and her flailing hands hit something. She heard a grunt.
Jo drew in a breath to scream and grabbed for the knife she slept with. Before her fingers found the hilt, a hand closed around her wrist.
“Jo. Jo, settle down. It’s just a dream.”
She was in too much panic to recognise the voice. She only registered it was male and therefore a threat.
“No! Not again!” she tried to scream the words but terror closed her throat, reducing her voice to a whisper. Her hand closed over the knife.
“Jo, it’s Dean. You’re safe. You’re safe.”
She had enough sense to let go of the knife instead of stabbing him somewhere painful, but she shoved him away with both hands. “Get off me, you jerk! What the hell are you doing?”
Instantly, his weight was gone from the bed. She heard his voice from further away, calm and reasonable. “You were screaming for help, Jo. I thought something was in here.” He snapped on the overhead light.
Jo recoiled from the sudden glare, but the light did help. It grounded her in reality, in the present. She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself down and hugged herself tightly. Finally, she looked up at Dean. He was half-dressed, wearing an old t-shirt and boxer shorts. There were socks on his feet, but no shoes. He watched her warily.
Taking a deep breath, Jo pulled up the comforter to cover herself. “Sorry. I…I’m okay.”
Dean raised both of his hands, demonstrating that he was unarmed. “Can I sit?”
There was nowhere for him to sit except the bed, but Jo nodded.
Dean walked around the bed and sat down beside her. He was quite close to her, but not so close they were touching. “Jo, you’re not okay. I want to help, if I can.”
No one could help. Jo shrugged. “I have bad dreams. About what they did to me.”
Dean nodded, his expression serious. “Yeah. Me, too.”
“I’m scared,” she confessed. “The demons are everywhere, Dean, and they’re getting stronger. Ezekiel knew me, he’ll… I can’t go back.”
He frowned. “Back? Jo, why would you be worried about that? You…” He broke off abruptly. Did she imagine he was a little pale? “Jo, you didn’t make a deal, did you? Sell your soul?”
Jo’s stomach felt hollow as she realised he had been assuming that for some time. “No,” she answered, “I didn’t sell my soul.” It was the truth, but it felt like a lie.
“But…?” he prompted, his eyes narrowed.
Jo shook her head. “You don’t understand.”
“Not if you won’t tell me.”
She felt cornered. She had to tell him something. In a way, she wanted to. Dean might understand, and she needed that. Her mom sure didn’t get it. Any of it.
“I never knew why they took me,” Jo said. She spoke very quietly, almost hoping he wouldn’t hear. “They killed Nan. Why didn’t they kill me, too?”
“Hard to know with demons,” Dean commented.
“At first, they kept me in a box. Like a coffin. Like the place you found me when that ghost in Philadelphia took me underground. They’d pull me out when they wanted to…to hurt me, then shove me back in. I was stuck there, in the dark, in my own stink, couldn’t move or see…”
Dean shifted closer to her. “That’s a new level of nasty.” He offered her his arm and after a moment’s hesitation Jo allowed him to hold her. She laid her head on his shoulder.
“I don’t know how long I was in there. When they finally let me out I was so weak, and hurting, I was ready to do anything they asked. If they wanted my soul, they could have had it, Dean. But they didn’t want that.”
“What did they want?”
Jo swallowed the lump in her throat. “I can’t…I can’t talk about that. It was…too much. When I got stronger, I tried to say no and they locked me back in the box. Only this time it was worse. I hate what I did, Dean, but – ”
His arm tightened around her shoulders. “I told you before, it wasn’t your fault, Jo. You did what you had to do. You survived.”
“I’m not sure I did,” Jo whispered.
Dean shifted a little, tucked his fingers under her chin and tilted her face up, meeting her eyes. “You survived,” he repeated.
His face was very close to hers. Dean’s breath was warm on her skin. Jo thought he was going to kiss her, but he made no attempt to close that last centimetre of distance. Jo squirmed under his intense gaze. What was he waiting for?
The moment her mind formed the question, Jo knew he was waiting for her. It was weird; she didn’t remember Dean showing this kind of sensitivity before. In fact, he’d been kind of an ass. But now he was careful never to touch her without her consent, never to push her too far. Maybe that was why she felt safe with him.
Jo stretched her neck and touched her lips to his. It was easy, far easier than she expected. Dean drew her closer to him and kissed her lips, but his kiss was light, almost brotherly. He drew back, questioning, then smiled and kissed her again. This time there was nothing brotherly about it. Dean probed gently with his tongue and Jo responded, opening her mouth to him. Her mind was tense as she struggled to concentrate on Dean and not remember a demon’s hands on her, but her body had not forgotten desire and she felt warmth pooling in her centre.
Jo moaned softly as Dean’s lips left hers. He kissed a path along her jawline, nibbled on her ear then ran his tongue down her neck. Jo trembled, her body tingling, anticipating where he would touch her next. But when his warm hand cupped her breast, suddenly it wasn’t Dean’s hand any more. It felt different, and when she opened her eyes, it wasn’t Dean she saw. He had tricked her, and now she was lost.
“No,” she whimpered, pushing at him weakly. “Please, please stop.” It was hopeless. She was trapped again. Tears of despair filled her eyes and spilled down her cheeks, but the hands touching her were gone.
“Okay,” Dean’s voice said softly. “Okay, Jo. I’m sorry.”
“Dean?” Jo moved away from him and pressed her back against the headboard. “Oh, God, I’m sorry.”
He shook his head. “I’m bein’ a jerk. You’re not ready and you don’t need my issues. D’you want me to go?”
On her side of the bed, Jo could see the bag she had shoved half-beneath it. She had three hits left. If she took some now, she’d be coming down by morning and could sleep it off in the car; they wouldn’t be in Maryland for hours.
“You know what I’ll do if you leave,” she warned him.
Evidently he’d reached the same conclusion, because he said, “Not my business. This time.”
“Will you stay? Please.”
Dean nodded. “Okay.”