An army of demons had broken loose from Hell.
This wasn’t just a war. It was the war. The final battle. The Apocalypse.
The house in Lawrence was gone. Mary and John were both believed dead. They could not go home, but they had nowhere else to go. They spent hours talking about what they could do before Bill reminded Mary about the old refuge her parents kept: an isolated house on the edge of what was now a huge industrial farm. Mary hadn’t even seen the house since her parents died, but it was freehold land and she owned it.
Bobby acquired fake IDs for them with the names Mary and John Campbell. Dean waited long enough to be sure no one in Lawrence suspected him of killing his parents, then he returned home. The plan was for Dean to salvage what he could of their possessions, including, if possible, their savings. It meant killing their business, but in the face of what they had all seen – Dean at Cold Oak, John in Wyoming – even John accepted the necessity. Once that was done, Dean would return to the hunt with Bobby.
Meanwhile, Bobby accompanied Mary and John to check out Sam Campbell’s old safe-house. Mary expected the place to be run-down: it had been abandoned for thirty years.
John looked up at the old house, his eyes taking in the broken windows and peeling paint. “Wow. Mary, it’s a real palace.”
“If you’re a rat,” Bobby added under his breath.
Unperturbed, Mary headed for the front door. “It needs work, but what did you expect? At least the roof is still on.” She knelt and ran her hands over the dirty tiles. The fourth from the right should have been loose, but wind and weather had covered the tiles with a layer of hard-packed dirt. Mary pulled out a penknife and used it to scrape the dirt away, then carefully pried the tile loose. Beneath it was the front-door key. It was made of brass, so it hadn’t rusted.
Mary unlocked the door, but didn’t go in. She turned to Bobby. “I know it doesn’t look like much, but my dad made this house as safe as he knew how. John and I can fix it up so it’s liveable.”
His look said rather you than me, but Bobby nodded. “I’ll go into town and get you some traps,” he offered. “You’re gonna need them.”
“And some firewood,” John suggested. He walked past Mary into the house.
Mary thanked Bobby and followed her husband.
The nearest town was the city of Wichita, thirty miles away, so Bobby would be gone for a while. They used the time to assess what needed to be done to the house.
It was a mess, but actually not as bad as Mary anticipated. The structure of the house was still strong. It had been built with an iron framework and fittings for protection and though there was some rust the framework and walls were intact. There were a few tiles missing from one corner of the roof, but otherwise the roof, too, appeared to be sound. Some of the floorboards were rotten and would have to be replaced and the wallpaper was peeling off the damp walls. The kitchen seemed in good shape. There was an old wood-burning oven and the cupboards were solid wood, worn but not damp. The floor was filthy and there was no mains water, but otherwise they had a working kitchen.
The rest of the ground floor was not so good. The house was fully furnished, but most of the soft furnishings were beyond saving. So were the rugs. Several of the windows had broken panes and debris had blown in from outside: twigs, leaves and other plant-matter as well as dirt.
Mary found a broom and began sweeping the floors clean of that debris while John went to check out the generator. Bobby was right about the rats: Mary didn’t see one, but she found rat droppings and other signs of their presence. She didn’t care. Vermin, she could handle.
John returned with the news that the generator was rusted solid. Useless.
Mary wasn’t surprised. “Well, we can make do with candles for a while. How do you feel about moving some of this furniture out?”
“Smells like most of it needs burning,” he suggested.
“Probably,” she agreed. “But for now let’s just get it outside.” She had swept the dirt and debris into a big pile in one corner. She wanted to give the floor a good scrubbing, but that would have to wait until she had the necessary cleaning materials. She went to examine the fireplace.
It was huge, an iron grate and surround with a solid stone plinth. The surround was dirty, but Mary saw no rust and she was sure it would be functional. She got down on her knees and peered into the chimney. She couldn’t see light above. There should be a chimney brush somewhere…
By the time it began to get dark, they were finished for the day. Bobby, who had stayed to help them for a while, was on his way to join Dean in Lawrence, so Mary and John were alone. There were rat traps all around the ground floor. The stove was working and clean enough that Mary managed to produce supper. It was only canned soup with bread and cheese, but she considered it a victory. They ate sitting on a pile of blankets in front of the fireplace, with an open fire burning merrily, casting dancing shadows on the walls.
John set his empty bowl down and shifted toward Mary, putting an arm around her shoulders. “Remind you of anything?” he asked.
Mary wasn’t sure what he meant at first. But then she saw the open fire and remembered. “That time we went on vacation with Julie and Mike.” She smiled and leaned her head on her husband’s shoulder. She felt John kiss the top of her head.
“I hope all that work hasn’t left you too tired,” he murmured against her hair.
Mary looked up at him, surprised. “Why, John, that almost sounds like a proposition,” she teased.
“Almost?” he repeated. “Then I’m sayin’ it wrong.” John leaned down to kiss her lips. Mary kissed him back warmly and he laid her down on the blankets.
It was a while since they last made love. Like so many couples, that part of their relationship diminished over time. Neither of them was still young. It didn’t matter. Mary was still as in love with John as she ever was, and she knew he felt the same way about her. She didn’t need sex to prove it. But that night, Mary welcomed John’s passion and matched his with her own. Perhaps it was the losses of the past weeks. Perhaps it was because she finally felt safe. She wanted him; she needed him. And finally, she fell asleep in his arms in front of the open fire.
As the weeks passed, they began to get their lives into some semblance of order. John acquired an old Chevy truck. It was an ugly, boxy thing but it had a sturdy body. He started work reinforcing the frame and restoring the engine. When he was done, it would be the closest thing to a tank he could build.
Once the house was clean enough to live in, Mary divided her time between the house and the libraries of Wichita, an hour’s drive away. She was researching survival. Managing without mains electricity was one thing, but what about other essentials like food, clothing and medicine? When the infrastructure of civilised society was gone, how would they live? The library had internet access and she did much of her research online. How to live off the land. How to slaughter an animal for food, and how to preserve the meat with salt or smoke. How to tan leather without specialised equipment. Herbal medicine and how to distinguish helpful plants from poisonous ones. She bought notebooks made from acid-free paper and wrote down everything she learned.
“You’re very optimistic,” John commented one night, closing Mary’s notebook. He was sitting on their new – second-hand – bed while Mary sat in a nearby chair. The bed was in the main downstairs room, because it was warmer that way: the fireplace heated the room and provided light.
Mary looked up at his words, uncertain whether he meant that sarcastically. She met his eyes, confused.
“I mean,” John explained, “if you think the world is going to get so bad all this will be needed, Mary, do you really think we’ll be there to see it?”
Oh, John. Denial doesn’t look good on you. “I know we will,” Mary told him, “even if no one else is.”
John frowned. “Mary, these visions of yours…”
“I’m not saying this because of a vision, John.”
For a moment, he didn’t answer. “Because of…?” he began finally, but didn’t finish. He didn’t like to say Sam’s name since they last saw each other at the Devil’s Gate.
But Mary remembered that Sam saved her life before he vanished from the cemetery. She clung onto that, because she could not believe her son would willingly turn to evil.
“Why else is he doing this?” Mary asked quietly.
John opened her notebook again and flipped through the pages. “This is all good for where we are now, Mary, but if you’re serious about this, it’s not enough.”
“What do you mean?”
“If the world is going to end – God, just saying it, even now, sounds crazy! But, Mary, it’s not how we survive after the end. It’s how we survive what will come first. The breakdown of civilisation. In cities you’ll see riots, looting, maybe worse. Probably martial law at some point. We’ll need to be prepared for that, either fortify this house or have a place to go where the worst of that won’t touch us. Even here, we’re too close to the city. And that’s before we try to predict what the demons and whatever else is out there will do.”
“You’re talking about anarchy.”
“No, love. I’m talking about civil war.”
For Mary and John life settled into a simple routine. They continued work on the house, cleaning out the upstairs rooms one at a time. Furniture that was beyond saving John chopped up for firewood or added to a bonfire outside. Anything that could be restored, they fixed, painted and polished. Mary still spent her mornings in the library; John used that time to work on the truck and, when the truck was finished to his satisfaction, there was no shortage of other work to be done. He found a stash of weapons in the attic: everything from pocket knives to land mines and remarked to Mary that he was glad he hadn’t known who Samuel really was when they were dating.
Dean “inherited” what was left of their lives in Lawrence, legally. Evidently human remains were found in the wreckage of their home – the bodies of the demons, Mary assumed – and the police hadn’t been too conscientious about identifying the remains. Horrible as that was, it made it much easier for Dean to take possession of the land and their savings. He turned it into cash – selling the land to a local builder – and gave the money to Mary and John. Dean sold his share in the business, too, for much less than it was worth but it was enough to get him square with the bank. He then gave up his apartment and moved into Bobby’s place in South Dakota. Dean visited his parents as often as he could, bringing news of the demon army and occasional sightings of Sam.
None of the news was good, but in those first few weeks it wasn’t as bad as Mary feared, either. In fact, it was almost anticlimactic. She knew this was the calm before the storm, but she was grateful for it.
Their apparent deaths couldn’t have fooled the yellow-eyed demon. He had seen them at the Devil’s Gate, days after they supposedly perished. Mary was convinced he was the mastermind of all this, and she suspected that the attack on their home was intended to tie up loose ends: to kill them because they knew something about him. But either their disappearance had been successful or the demon no longer wanted them dead. As the weeks passed with no further attack, and as they reinforced the anti-demon protections around the house, Mary began to relax.
None of them, not even Bobby, saw it coming.
The first sign Mary recognised – though when she looked back, Mary knew there had been others they all missed – was a massacre. It happened in Austin, Texas. According to the story she and John heard on the radio, it began in a popular downtown nightclub. The killers – a youth gang, according to the police – blocked the doors and slaughtered everyone inside. One witness said the scene inside was worse than any horror movie. The “gang” then moved on through the streets, killing everyone unlucky enough to be on their route. By the time the police got involved, the number of the dead was already uncountable. Near dawn, local police and SWAT cornered the gang, fully prepared to gun them down thus ending one slaughter with another. Though several of the gang members were shot, not a single one of them was captured or killed. Yet several of the SWAT officers were injured in the confrontation, including one by friendly fire.
“Werewolves,” Mary concluded when John snapped the radio off, his expression sickened.
“Werewolves?” he repeated.
“It’s a guess, but last night was a full moon. They were very careful not to give details about the bodies in the nightclub. Werewolves rip out the hearts of their victims. It’s the kind of detail the police would hold back. And regular weapons couldn’t hurt them.”
“I guess SWAT don’t carry silver bullets,” John frowned.
“Even if they did, it takes a heart-shot. That’s not easy when you’ve got a moving target.” Mary shuddered. “But why such a blatant display? I don’t understand it.”
The following day Dean and Bobby arrived, en route to Austin. They had a supply of silver ammo and Dean insisted John keep some of it. They also brought news of other, smaller attacks in four other cities. Mary knew better than to ask Dean not to go. She knew hunters too well, and Dean had the hunt in his blood. Now he had discovered it, Dean was discovering himself, too. But she worried herself sick all the time he was gone.
They returned a few days later. Dean was badly affected by what he’d seen. The worst part, he said, sitting on the floor and drinking whiskey straight from the bottle, was knowing that the same thing would happen again next full moon.
“Were there demons?” Mary asked tensely.
“I couldn’t tell for sure,” Dean answered, frustration evident in his voice. “There were omens, but I didn’t find any sulphur.”
“Demons working with werewolves,” Bobby interjected. “You ever hear of anything like that, Mary?”
It felt strange to be consulted as if she were an expert, but she answered as seriously as she could. “Never. But the ones who escaped Hell could have powers we’ve never seen before.”
Bobby nodded grimly. “He wasn’t there. I know you’re wondering.”
Mary hadn’t dared to ask. She felt relieved by Bobby’s reassurance. “What happens now?” she asked.
“We’re going to Harvelle’s. Maybe we can figure out where they’ll strike next month.”
“And do what?” Dean burst out. “There must have been twenty or more of them. Unless you’ve got enough silver bullets to fill an Uzi…”
“I don’t know, kid. Evacuate. Call in a bomb threat. Something.”
Mary was upstairs, scraping wallpaper off the wall of one of the bedrooms. It was beginning to get dark and she was thinking it was time she stopped work and got their supper ready. Outside, the sunset was gorgeous, its red-orange light streaming through the window to tint the room. Mary set her scraper down and pulled on one, stubborn piece with her fingers. It tore away from the wall as she tugged.
That was when she realised the light was all wrong. This window faced east, not west. She turned to the window, frightened.
The horizon as far as she could see was glowing. Above the horizon, the clouds reflected a light below that seemed bright as the sun. Mary hugged herself tightly, cold spreading through her body.
“John!” she called.
From below, she heard the truck’s engine rev again.
“John!” she screamed.
“Mary?” he sounded startled.
“Come up here!”
John appeared at a run, taking the stairs two at a time. As he burst through the door the stark terror on his face changed to relief. He gazed at Mary, catching his breath. Then he looked out of the window. Slowly, he walked toward her, his eyes taking in the view.
Mary moved into his arms. “What is it?” she asked.
“I don’t know.” John held her close. “It looks like…but that’s impossible.”
John’s evasion frightened her more than the burning sky. Mary had to try twice before her voice would work. “What, John. What does it look like?”
“Wichita.” John’s arm tightened around her shoulders. “I think it’s Wichita burning. Come on,” he urged.
Downstairs John turned the radio on but all they heard was static. He tried a different channel, then another with the same result. He turned the tuner slowly from one extreme to the other. There was nothing but white noise. They looked at each other.
“It’s starting,” Mary said.
“We’d better call Dean,” John agreed, but he sounded dubious. If there was no radio signal, there was a good chance the cell signal was down, too.
John tried anyway. Then he tried again. And a third time. Then he snapped the phone closed with an oath. “Damn it!”
“No signal?” Mary asked, unsurprised.
John offered the phone to her. “It’s showing three bars, but it won’t connect. No voice telling me it’s unavailable, either, it’s just silent.” As Mary took the phone from his hand, John looked toward the window. “Maybe we should hit the road.”
Mary understood his need to get moving. She wanted nothing more than to see her son. But she shook her head. “When Dean can’t get through to us, he’ll come here. If we leave, we might miss each other.”
“Maybe Dean will expect us to – ” John began to argue.
“If we were still in Lawrence, yes,” Mary interrupted. “But this house is demon-proofed and Bobby added protections against a lot of other things last time he was here. They expect this to be a safe-house for them.”
Neither of them slept that night. The strange glow in the sky remained, even after the sun went down. John tried every half hour to phone Dean but with the same result every time. The phone wouldn’t connect.
It was a little after 2:00am when Mary made her way upstairs once more. She wanted a better look at whatever was outside. From the upstairs window she could see the corn fields that stretched for miles in every direction, the tall corn swaying slightly in the breeze, lit by the glowing clouds. Mary shivered. She was raised a hunter, but nothing in her upbringing or training truly prepared her for this.
John moved quietly into the room and slid his arms around her waist from behind. He rested his chin lightly on her shoulder. “Are you okay?”
She was so far from okay, she’d forgotten what okay felt like. She was terrified. But she leaned back into his warm body and answered, “I’m just tired.”
“We can go to bed if you want to.”
“I’d just toss and turn.”
“Maybe if – ” John broke off suddenly and Mary felt his body tense. “What’s that?” he asked urgently.
“What? I don’t see anything.”
John pointed to the cornfield.
At first, Mary didn’t understand. All she saw was the swaying of the corn. Then it was as if the shadows shifted and she saw the movements of the corn in a whole new way. Something was moving through the field toward the house.
“I see six,” John said tensely.
That was two more than Mary saw. Were they people? They almost had to be, but all she saw was the tall corn waving as they moved through the field. They were coming for her and John.
Was there time to run? She moved closer to the window, straining to see around the corner. There were more of them, drifting through the corn, encircling the house, moving inexorably toward them. The house was surrounded.
John reached the same conclusion. “Downstairs,” he ordered curtly. “We need the guns.” Then he hesitated. “Are you…?”
“I’m a hunter’s daughter,” Mary reminded him.
While John went for the guns, Mary locked and barricaded the doors. She dragged a heavy box, kept there for the purpose, to block the rear door. There was a reinforced wooden beam that fitted across the front door. The windows were iron-framed and barred. If these creatures were coming in, it would be through the doors. Mary took the shotgun John thrust into her hands, automatically checked the load – two barrels, both loaded – and primed it to fire.
“We can’t watch all sides, so stay close to me,” John instructed.
Mary wasn’t sure that was the best strategy, but she accepted John’s leadership. She was the hunter, but he was the one with combat experience. For both of them, their respective experiences were the distant past. Mary moved to the window at John’s direction, pressed herself against the wall beside it and waited.
If these were werewolves…Mary bit her lip, remembering the reports that came out of Austin, but it wasn’t a full moon night. If they were demons, they would not be able to get inside the house. They shouldn’t be able to get on the property, even. Unfortunately, that left a long list of other options – including human predators – that could be surrounding them. No matter what, they were horribly outnumbered.
John knelt on the other side of the window, a position that allowed him to cover both the door and window. On the ground beside him was a second gun and a small pile of ammo. He was ready.
They moved like shadows in the red-tinged darkness. They appeared, one by one, black, human-like shapes surrounding the house. They were not demons, then. Mary expected them to attack at once, but for a long time they merely stood there, a silent circle, watching and waiting…but waiting for what?
“There are too many of them,” Mary said quietly.
“What are they waiting for?” John asked, speaking aloud, but to himself.
“I don’t know.” Mary answered him anyway.
“Mary.” John waited for her to meet his eyes. “I’ll make a path for you. Get to the truck. The keys are inside. Don’t wait for me.”
“I won’t leave you behind!”
“No!” If they were going to die, she wanted to die as she’d lived: with John.
He sighed. “Go for the truck,” John repeated. “I’ll be behind you.”
Mary knew he didn’t believe that, but she nodded.
Above them, glass shattered, followed by a thud. Mary gasped. Something came through the window! She raised her shotgun.
As if that were the signal they’d been waiting for, the shadows outside began to move. It was a blur of dark-clad bodies rushing the house as if they thought they could just barrel through the walls. A face appeared in the window beside Mary. Adrenaline flooded her and she fired, shattering the glass. The face vanished. But she’d seen the red-rimmed eyes and the flash of white fangs.
Knowing their guns were useless, Mary abandoned her shotgun as more glass shattered above. She ran for the weapons chest. Behind her, she heard John shooting, the rhythm of his gunfire steady and calm. Fire. Fire. A pause while he reloaded. Fire. Fire. Pause. A black-clad body blocked Mary’s way. She tried to go around him and the vampire caught her. Cold hands closed on her arm and dragged her to him. The momentum of her headlong rush made her trip and instantly the vampire was on top of her. Mary screamed, seeing fangs descend as it bent toward her.
The vampire’s head exploded in a rain of blood and bone. Revolted, Mary shoved the still-twitching body away and glimpsed John above them. He’d shot it, almost point-blank. Another vampire went for him and he fired again. Mary was unarmed; she could not help him. She scrambled for the chest and flung the lid open just as another one reached her. Desperately, she grabbed for the first weapon she could see. It was a hatchet. Decapitation was the only way to kill a vampire and the hatchet was too small for that. She whirled, aiming for the vampire’s head. The hatchet cleaved its skull. In the second of time that bought her, Mary pulled a machete from the chest and swung, screaming, with all her strength.
It fell, but now the house was full of them. Mary couldn’t hear gunfire any more. She couldn’t see John. Blind rage filled her and she started forward, ready to meet the next one.
Consciousness brought with it an awareness of pain and the smell of blood and death. Mary was lying on her back, with something soft beneath her. Her clothing was damp with blood. Was it her blood? Groggily, Mary struggled to sit up. Her head swam and she felt pain in several parts of her body. She remembered the vampires, but the battle was a blur in her memory. She recalled swinging the machete, falling, the pain of fangs sinking into the flesh of her shoulder. Her eyes flew open and she grabbed for her shoulder. She found the wound covered with a white bandage.
“It’s okay. You’re safe.” The voice, all the more frightening for being familiar, came from behind her. Mary whirled around.
Sam stood there, beside the iron fireplace, his arms folded across his face. There was blood on his clothing, too.
“Where’s John?” Mary demanded, not feeling safe at all.
“Dad’s fine.” Sam nodded toward the makeshift couch and she saw John lying there, apparently unconscious.
Relief allowed her to focus on Sam. “Sam? Why are you here?”
“Isn’t that obvious? You were in trouble.” He detached himself from the fireplace and moved toward her. “I was almost too late. You locked out my backup.”
Mary’s mind raced as she struggled to understand. She locked out…oh. He meant the demons. Suddenly she realised what Sam’s presence in the house could mean. Whatever hold the demons had on him, they couldn’t come here. Just like the devil’s trap in Wyoming.
Sam crouched beside the bed, his expression very serious. “I know what you’re thinking, Mom, but nothing’s changed.”
His words cut her deeply, destroying her moment of hope. “Everything has changed,” she corrected. Her eyes were drawn to John again. Was he really okay? She saw his chest rise as he took a breath and was grateful for it.
“Sam,” she tried again, “we can help you. I know how to fight them and Dean – ”
“You can’t fight him. If you could, mother, I would never have been born, would I?” His eyes narrowed as he leaned slightly toward her. “I know what you did.”
Mary felt herself blanch. “Sammy…” she began, but what could she say? I was just a kid. I was desperate. I didn’t understand what the demon wanted. It was all true, but no excuse could change the ultimate truth of her sin. She sold her unborn son to a demon.
“It doesn’t matter,” Sam said. “Not now.” He held a folded piece of paper in his hand. He held it out to her. “There’s a place in the north. If you leave soon, you can get there before…” he stopped, then went on, “…while it’s still safe to travel. In this place, you’ll be safe.”
“What place?” Mary asked, confused. “And, before what?” She didn’t take the piece of paper.
Sam shook his head. “It’s a place you and Dad will be safe,” he repeated.
“Just me and John? What about Dean?” What about everyone else?
Sam made a dismissive gesture. “Him, too. Anyone. But go soon.” He let the paper drop, stood and turned to go.
Sam turned back. “I don’t know if I can forgive you,” he said bleakly, “but that makes us even. I know you won’t forgive me.” He stepped over the body of a vampire and continued to walk away.
Mary couldn’t let him go like this. She scrambled up and pain shot through her as a wound she hadn’t been aware of ripped open. She ignored it and stumbled after him. “Sam! Please, Sam, wait!”
Outside, he turned back to her. The strange glow in the sky was still there, but faded now so she could barely see his face. Mary walked to him. She had to keep him here. Somehow, she had to get through to him.
“Sam, you don’t have to do this. You have a choice.”
“Not any more,” he answered.
“I know what he did to you in Cold Oak, Sam.”
“Cold Oak?” It seemed a genuine question.
“The ghost town where the demons held you. I know you were forced to kill…”
“Stop,” he ordered. “Stop talking like you understand. You don’t understand anything.”
“Then tell me,” Mary begged. “Sam, we can help you.”
Sam shook his head. “You had a choice. When you made your bargain with Azazel, you had a choice. Maybe not a good one, but it was something. Free will.”
Azazel. Oh my god. Mary prayed he couldn’t see her face. She knew that name. Was that the yellow-eyed demon? Azazel?
She knew Sam was waiting for an answer, so she tried to speak. Her voice came out a whisper. “I chose John. I didn’t know…”
Sam interrupted. “I had a choice, too. I chose to break Jess’s heart because if I didn’t, she would be dead. In that place, I chose to live, knowing – knowing, Mom – that to live meant I would have to kill, over and over. And I chose to follow Azazel. I have my reasons for that, too.”
“What does he want from you?” she asked, more to keep him talking than from any real curiosity.
Sam gave a short, bitter laugh. “I’m not fool enough to think he’s told me what he really wants. I’m telling you I’ve made the choice. I can’t unmake it now.”
“Of course you can!”
“No. And now you have a choice, Mom. You can trust me, and go north, or you can stay. Your choice. I can’t do any more.” He looked back over his shoulder. “I have to go now.” Sam turned and began to walk away.
“Sam!” Mary ran after him, but before she could reach him, Sam whirled. He raised his hand and Mary found herself airborne, flying backward. Her back hit the wall, driving the breath from her body. When she was able to stand, she was alone.
Mary gazed around her home. All of the windows were broken. Part of the staircase had collapsed. The headless bodies of vampires lay everywhere: over the bannister, across the floors, in her kitchen. The iron scent of blood pervaded the air and Mary didn’t think any amount of cleaning would get it out. The fire still burned in the grate, providing light as well as warmth. On the couch, John was stirring.
She made her way to her husband’s side, her feet sliding on the bloody ground. She knelt beside the couch and reached out to brush the hair back from John’s face. A dark bruise above his left temple explained why he had lain unconscious for so long. “John?” she said quietly.
His eyes flew open at her touch, but he relaxed when he saw her. He sat up, started to say something, then saw the carnage all around them. He stared, speechless.
“Sam was here,” Mary said.
“Did he do this?” John asked the question, but his voice was oddly indifferent.
“I’m not sure. The last thing I remember is a vampire about to bite me. Uh, no. It did bite me. Then I woke up in bed.” She touched the bandage on her neck. “With this. And Sam was here. He was alone, so I suppose he must have…” She gestured, unable to put it into words. She had no idea how many vampires attacked them. It felt like hundreds at the time. She knew John had killed at least one, as had she, but there were many more of them strewn around the room. She couldn’t count them. Seven…ten…maybe more.
John nodded, absorbing the information. “He’s gone now?”
“And you’re okay?” He grabbed her arm suddenly, looking intently into her eyes.
“I’m fine. Bruised, but…”
John looked at the dressing on her neck. “You never told me about vampires. If you were bitten, does that mean…?”
Understanding, Mary shook her head. “No. A bite won’t infect me. You have to ingest their blood to turn into one.” She looked over John quickly. She knew he’d been hit on the head, but were there other injuries? “What about you? Any injuries I can’t see?”
He paused before answering, and she knew he was taking a mental inventory of his own body. John was nothing if not methodical. Finally, he answered, “Just my head, I think. Last thing I remember is something black flying at me.”
She would check him over later – and herself, too – but for now Mary accepted John’s answer. “What are we going to do?” she asked.
The question focussed John’s attention and he sat up straight. “Leave. Change your clothes, first, and wash if you want to. Then start packing. The kitchen is yours. Salvage what food you can, but nothing that won’t travel. There are water containers in the shed. Fill as many as you can.”
Mary nodded. She decided she needed to wash, as would John: they couldn’t travel looking like they’d been through a massacre. It would not be pleasant: the kitchen was as much a bloody mess as the rest of the house. Mary stripped off her shirt and used it as a rag to clean the sink before filling it with water to wash. At the same time, she filled a pot with water and set it on the fire to boil, intending to make a warm drink to take with them. She moved through the simple tasks mechanically, automatically. All the time, she was struggling to keep from vomiting as the smells of blood and death permeated everything around her. She had never become hardened to this, even when she went hunting with her Dad. Now, although she could hold it together in a crisis, the aftermath left her in shock.
She stripped off the rest of her clothing, laying it on the kitchen floor to stand on while she washed the worst of the blood and gore off her body. She found her hair was thick with it, and used soap to wash her hair, too. The thick, dark stuff rinsing off her hair brought a new wave of nausea and she swallowed back, hard, then lost her fight and retched over the sink. She cleaned that up, too.
Finally, she walked, nude, to the bed where her fresh clothing was stored. She found John shoving their clothing into a duffel. John was efficient at this: he rolled large items of clothing rather than fold them, stuffed socks and underwear into shoes and could fit far more into a bag than Mary could. When he was done, the duffel would probably be so heavy she could barely lift it, but it would be full. John had already laid out clean clothes for Mary to put on.
“Mary?” John asked, concerned, as she passed him.
She gave a weak smile. “I’m good,” she promised.
Mary sat on the bed to pull on the pants John selected for her and the folded piece of white paper on the ground caught her eye. Abruptly, she remembered Sam dropping it there when she refused to take it from him. She reached down to pick it up. Sam had said there was a safe place in the north. She expected to find a map or an address, but the paper held only numbers: 48.34-121.45. She recognised Sam’s handwriting, but didn’t understand.
“John,” she said, offering the paper to him. While she dressed, she recounted her conversation with Sam. “…But I don’t understand. Is it a phone number?”
John smiled. “Not enough numbers. No, I think it’s co-ordinates. A map reference. Wait here.” He zipped up the duffel and hauled it onto his shoulder before disappearing outside. He returned a few moments later with the road maps he kept in the truck.
John spread the road atlas out on the bed and turned pages until he reached the map of Washington State. “Here…looks like it’s in the mountains.” He put his finger on the map, indicating a point some distance from any major highway.
“How did you recognise that so fast?” Mary leaned over the map, examining it closely.
“I taught both the boys how to do it. You know,” John added thoughtfully, “it’s as good as a cipher. Anyone can read a map, but not everyone knows how to locate co-ordinates like this. Maybe Sam meant this as a secret message. One the demons wouldn’t understand.”
“You think we can trust him?” Mary said uncertainly. The area John indicated seemed very isolated.
“I don’t know. I think Sam’s motives are…suspect. But we know he wants to keep us both alive. We can trust that.”
When the sun came up, they were ready to leave. Everything they could salvage was packed into John’s re-fitted truck. He insisted Mary arm herself, so she was wearing a loaded semi-automatic in a shoulder holster and a knife in her boot, both well concealed by her clothing. She felt like Bonnie of Bonnie and Clyde. Or an elderly GI Jane. Or something.
She saw no reason to lock the ruined front door, but buried the key in its place under the tiles anyway. The house might be needed again, unlikely as it seemed in that moment. She lifted her bag containing the last of the food supplies and a flask of hot tea for the road and headed for the truck.
John nailed a piece of paper to the front door before he climbed into the truck’s cab. “For Dean,” he explained. “I gave the co-ordinates of Lexington. That’s where we’ll stay tonight, and another night if we don’t hear from Dean or Bobby. He’ll figure it out.”
“Maybe we should go to Bobby’s place first,” Mary suggested.
“Not a chance. If they’re looking for us, that’s where they’ll expect us to go. We’re going northwest, Mary. We can swing by Bill’s place if Dean doesn’t find us, but we can’t risk staying there, either. I don’t know if this thing of Sam’s is good, but we’ll see what’s there and then decide.”
Mary wanted to trust Sam, but she was worried. Sam had saved their lives twice. But every time she tried to give him a choice, he’d chosen the demons. Maybe he was sending them into a trap. Or maybe he wanted them in this place so he would know where they were. But she had no better suggestion to offer, so she acquiesced.
John started the engine, put the truck into gear and began their long drive north. Behind them, the house glowed red with the light of the rising sun.