One: Secrets Revealed
For Mary Winchester, it began when her hands were big enough to hold a shotgun.
For John Winchester, although he did not remember until more than thirty years later, it began in May 1973.
For Sam Winchester, it began on November 2nd, 1983. He was six months old at the time, and knew nothing of it.
For Dean Winchester, it began on May 3rd, 2006. That was the day his brother vanished off the face of the earth.
“Missing?” Dean repeated. “What do you mean, Sam’s missing?”
Mary shook her head, spreading her hands wide. “John’s on his way to Palo Alto. He’ll call as soon as he knows something new.”
Dean looked at her more closely, beginning to calm down. His mom was pale, her eyes pink and swollen from crying. Dean took her hand and led her gently to one of the kitchen chairs. “Mom, it’s okay. It’s Sam. He’s probably holed up in a motel cramming for finals with no clue anyone’s even looking for him.”
Mary smiled weakly and Dean knew she didn’t believe it any more than he did. Sam wouldn’t disappear without telling anyone. Especially not in the first week of his final exams. Sam had worked too hard for this to throw it away: he earned a full ride to Stanford and had managed straight A’s for three years. He was planning to apply to law school next year. But he still phoned home every week, and called Dean at least once every month. He called yesterday, to thank Dean for his birthday gift, and Dean was certain Sam would have called Mom and Dad, too. They were a close family.
“Why didn’t Dad wait for me?” Dean asked.
“He couldn’t wait. Besides, someone has to look after the garage.”
Dean muttered his opinion of that under his breath. Typical of Dad to leave him holding the bag. Dean paid for his share in the garage himself. Half of the money he’d saved from his own wages, and he got a bank loan for the rest. But Dad still treated him like he was an employee there, not one-third-owner. “I’m going to call him,” he announced.
“I’m fine, Dean. I’m just worried.”
“You’re not fine and we’re all worried,” Dean disagreed. He kissed his mom lightly on her forehead and went to fill the kettle. There was salt on the window sill again. His mom had done that for as long as he could remember. It was an OCD thing with her: when she got miserable or stressed she’d lay down salt on the windows. She claimed it was to keep insects out – an old wives’ insect repellent – but she did it in winter, too.
Dean set the kettle to boil and took a mug out of the cupboard. “Chamomile?” he suggested.
“Yes. Thank you.”
Dean made chamomile tea, gave the mug to his mom, then reached for the phone, hoping Dad had remembered to charge his cell phone.
In a few minutes, he had the full story as far as John knew it, though that was little enough. Sam spent the evening of his birthday with friends. They partied in one of the frat houses. Sam went home with one of the girls, fell asleep in bed with her, but was gone when she woke. He hadn’t returned home. He’d left his cell phone beside the bed. Most worrying of all, he was scheduled to take his first exam that day, and didn’t show up. That was what prompted Sam’s friend Darren to call his parents. Sam’s car was still where he always left it. Nothing of his was missing. He was just…gone. John hadn’t reached Palo Alto when Dean called, so that was all he knew. The rest of the call was John giving Dean instructions for the garage. Dean promised to keep the business going. But he wanted to be with John. He wanted to do something.
Where on earth was Sam?
Palo Alto, California
Jessica opened her apartment door, expecting to see Rachel and Brady. She stopped dead when she saw the man standing there.
“Mr Winchester!” she said in surprise. At once, she realised why he was at her door. She knew about Sam.
“Hello, Jessica. Could I talk to you for a moment?” Sam’s father – they met last Thanksgiving when Sam took her to meet his family in Lawrence – looked haggard. Jessica suspected he hadn’t slept.
She nodded. “Sure. Come in.” She walked into her living room ahead of him, grimacing a little at the mess. There were art supplies all over the table. “Can I get you anything?” she offered to cover her embarrassment. “A coffee?”
He considered. “A coffee would be good, if it’s no trouble.”
“It’s no trouble. Black, no sugar, right?”
He smiled, then, a sad and weary smile, but a real one. “Is that a guess or do you have a good memory?”
“Memory,” she answered, but didn’t explain. She had worked as a barrista during the summers in high school and remembering a coffee preference as simple as his was easy. “Make yourself at home, Mr Winchester. I’ll only be a moment.”
Jessica headed into her small kitchen, turned the kettle on and added ground coffee to the French press. Why was Sam’s father here? Because Sam was missing, of course, but why come to her? She made coffee quickly, poured two mugs and added cream to hers.
John Winchester had removed his battered leather coat and folded it over the arm of the chair he’d chosen. He was wearing oil-stained jeans and a flannel shirt: work clothes.
John accepted the mug from Jessica, murmuring thanks, but he held it in both hands and didn’t drink.
“I, uh,” Jessica sat down on the couch, “I heard about Sam. I guess that’s what you want to talk about?”
“Yes.” John’s eyes held gratitude, as if he’d expected her to avoid the subject. “The police won’t do anything until forty eight hours are up, but your friend Darren said Sam missed his exam this morning. And no one’s seen him since he left his birthday party.”
Jessica nodded. That was what she’d heard, too.
“I’m confused about something. I hope you can explain it.”
Jessica sipped her coffee. “Well, I’ll help if I can, but I haven’t seen Sam for weeks.”
“That’s why I’m confused, Jessica. I thought you two were close.”
She swallowed. “Didn’t Sam tell you? He moved out a month ago.”
She could tell at once that this was news to him. John covered his surprise with a frown. “He didn’t say anything to us. Did you have a fight?”
“No. I…I don’t really understand what happened. I thought everything was fine, we were making plans for after we graduate. Then one day I came home and he was packing. He just said it was over. I…” Jessica stopped talking as a sob threatened. She blinked back tears, struggling to take a normal breath. It still hurt, so much. She swallowed hard and went on, her voice quieter. “I thought maybe there was someone else, but he hasn’t been with anyone.”
“That’s not my Sam,” John insisted. He looked down at his untouched coffee. “I’m sorry, Jessica, but Darren told me Sam left the party with a girl.”
Fortunately, she was prepared for that, but it still made her stomach twist. “I know. He told me, too. Sam’s a free man now, I guess.” Jessica turned her head away to hide her tears.
John sat in silence for a while, which let her get control of herself. He shook his head. “I don’t understand it, Jessica. At Thanksgiving, Sammy gave me the impression you’d be making wedding plans this summer.”
Jessica’s eyes widened. “He told you that?” She’d been hoping, but…well, it didn’t matter now, did it?
“Not directly, but I know my son. Jessica, before he left you, was there anything unusual going on? Anything at all?”
Jessica shook her head. “Everything was great. At least, I thought so.” She sighed. “There was…” she hesitated.
“Sam was having nightmares. The wake-up-screaming kind. For a couple of weeks before he left.”
“Did he tell you what they were about?”
“No. He said he couldn’t remember, but I didn’t believe him. Is it important?”
John shook his head. “I don’t know. When Sammy was a little boy, he had nightmares about a fire. Maybe they came back, but I don’t see why that would make him do this.”
“What did the police say?” Jessica asked.
John scowled. “He’s a legal adult and it hasn’t been forty eight hours. They wouldn’t even let me file a report.”
“Oh. But Sam missed an exam! He’d never do that.”
“I thought the same thing,” John agreed. “I’ve called every hospital and clinic: none of them has Sam or a John Doe matching his description. I called the morgue, too.”
Jessica had been about to take another sip of coffee; she set it down abruptly, feeling nauseous. She hadn’t even considered that. Oh, god, what if Sam was…
“But I don’t think,” John went on, “that Sam would have missed his exam unless something happened to him. Jessica, do you know anywhere Sam might have gone if…I don’t know. If he needed to get away, or to hide?”
“You think he did something…?” Jessica blurted, shocked.
John answered quickly, “I don’t. But I’m trying to cover all the bases before I go back to the police. Please, is there anywhere?”
Jessica thought about it, but truthfully, if Sam were in some kind of trouble she would expect him to head home, to Kansas. He loved his family. “We used to go to a beach about twenty miles south of here. If Sam wanted to be alone, he might have gone there.” She reached for her laptop. “Here, I’ll show you.” Jessica opened the laptop and called up a Google map of the Palo Alto area. She turned the laptop toward John, pointing out the place and the right road to take.
She was interrupted by the doorbell and stood to answer it. “I’m sorry. I’m expecting friends,” she explained.
John nodded. “It’s fine. I won’t impose on you any longer.” He followed her to the door. “Listen, this is my cell phone.” He offered her a business card. “If you remember anything…”
“I’ll call you. Of course,” she agreed, accepting the card.
It was Rachel and Brady at the door, as Jessica expected. She let them in and John out. He hesitated, as if he had something more to say, then turned to go.
“Mr Winchester!” Jessica called after him.
He turned back.
She was conscious of her friends listening, but made herself say it anyway. “I still love Sam. Please, if you find him…”
“I’ll let you know,” he promised, then smiled, “right after I kick his ass for leaving you like that.”
Though Dean had an apartment of his own these days, he moved back into the family home while John was away, both to be nearby if there was any news and so his mom wouldn’t be alone.
On the third night, Dean had trouble sleeping so he snuck downstairs to raid the refrigerator. He heard a noise from the living room and approached cautiously, hoping he wasn’t going to find a burglar. It was Mary. She sat at the computer in the living room, working with only the light of the screen illuminating the room. The sound that alerted him was the printer. Dean was reasonably familiar with the use of the internet, but he hadn’t known his mom was into late-night surfing. As far as he knew, they only had the PC for the garage accounts. But Mary had a stack of printouts on the desk, with more in the printer.
Dean spoke softly from the doorway. “Mom? What are you doing?”
She turned to him, and in the light of the screen he saw tears shining on her cheeks.
Dean ran to her side. He hadn’t heard the phone. Surely there couldn’t be worse news. Not in the middle of the night. He knelt beside her chair. “It’ll be okay, Mom.”
Mary shook her head. “No. It’s not okay.”
Dean felt cold. “Is…is Sam…?”
“No,” she answered quickly. “No news. I just…I know.” She took a sheet of paper from the desk. “It’s been so long, Dean, but I guess you never forget.”
He stared at the paper in confusion. It was a map of California, with weather information marked. There was a lightning storm over Palo Alto. The date was May 2nd. What on earth did the weather have to do with anything? “Mom…what?”
She was silent for a long moment. “Dean, would you get me a drink, please?”
Dean rose to his feet. “Sure. Tea?”
“No, I think I need something stronger. John has a bottle of Glenlivet 12 in the bureau. Get one for yourself, too.”
Truly worried now, Dean did as she asked. The Glenlivet was Dad’s special drink; shared only at Christmas and on birthdays. Dean poured a single measure for Mom because she rarely drank anything stronger than wine, and a double for himself because he had a suspicion he was going to need it. He added ice to both glasses, then carried them both to Mary.
Mary sipped her whiskey. “When I first met John,” she began, “I knew he would be the father of my children. And when I first knew I loved him, I made a promise to myself. I swore I would never let our children know the things I have to tell you now.” She finished her drink in a single gulp. “I’m so sorry I have to bring you into this, Dean.”
“Into what? You’re not making sense.”
Her attempt at a smile was merely a stretching of her lips, a grimace. “I know. And I know you won’t believe me. Maybe you’ll think I’m crazy. But this is the truth, baby. I promise it’s the truth.”
Dean took the glass from her hand, set it down, and enclosed her hand in his. “Mom, you’re exhausted. Whatever it is, you can tell me in the morning, okay?”
Mary shook her head. “No, Dean. It has to be now. For Sam’s sake, it has to be now.”
“Okay.” Dean didn’t understand, but he would go along. “Okay, I’m listening.”
“My father – your grandfather – died in 1973,” she began.
“I know this story, Mom,” Dean said patiently. “Grandpappy had some kind of psychotic break and killed your mom, then he came after you…”
“No, Dean. That’s the story I told everyone. Even John. But it’s not what happened.”
Dean listened, but he wished he hadn’t. He didn’t know what to make of it at all.
According to Mom, a demon (seriously, a freaking demon) with yellow eyes murdered the grandparents he had never known. The same demon made some kind of deal with his mother, a deal she thought had something to do with Sam’s disappearance. If she hadn’t been his mother, Dean would have dismissed the whole thing out of hand, or called the men in white coats. But her story made him think of some things in a new light. The odd trinkets she collected, her habit of putting salt on the windows…it made a weird kind of sense. Dean remembered seeing an episode of The X-Files in which they said salt could be used to ward off vampires. He’d even teased Mom about it, asking if that was why she was always laying down salt.
But this couldn’t possibly be true. Demons weren’t real.
“Why do you think this is connected to Sam?” Dean asked finally.
“There was an electrical storm in Palo Alto the night Sam disappeared.” She handed him the weather report again. “And this, the same night.” Mary gave Dean another printout, this one from a newspaper website. It was a report of two people murdered behind a bar in Palo Alto. It was horrible – a man and a girl stabbed to death – but it was nowhere near the Stanford campus or Sam’s apartment and Dean didn’t see what it could have to do with his brother.
He shrugged. “So?”
“They are demonic omens.”
“Wait. Are you saying you think demons kidnapped Sammy? Mom, that’s…” He couldn’t say crazy. Not to her. But it was the word he wanted to use.
Mary laughed, but there was no humour in it. She sounded a little hysterical. “Oh, Dean. I wanted you to grow up ignorant of all this. I should be happy that you’re sceptical. It means I raised you right.”
“Have you told Dad any of this?” Dean wondered how his practical father would react to her story.
“Not yet. This isn’t something I can tell John on the phone.”
That was a relief. But it wasn’t a help. Dean didn’t know how to respond. It was clear that Mary believed every word she was saying. He understood that losing her parents the way she had must have been horribly traumatic, and maybe she’d invented this stuff about demons as a way to cope with that. Her story was consistent, but Dean didn’t believe it. He couldn’t. He had some great horror movies in his DVD collection, but demons weren’t real.
Mary seemed to know what he was thinking. “You need proof, don’t you?”
“I believe you, Mom. I just don’t believe…I mean, demons?”
Mary nodded. “Most of my father’s old contacts are dead. It’s been over thirty years; that’s not really a surprise. But there is someone who might help us. My cousin, William. Can you leave the garage for a few days?”
“No!” Dean protested instantly. “With Dad gone, too?” He frowned, automatically going over the work schedule in his mind. Actually, there were only two big jobs outstanding and Eric could probably handle them. If he called Mike to cover for him, it might work out. Mike used to be Dad’s partner in the business; he still owned a share but he was retired now because he suffered from arthritis, making it tough for him to work as a mechanic. But he was a good supervisor.
“Mike’s a father,” Mary said, echoing Dean’s thought. “I think he’ll help out if we tell him it’s about Sam. Please, Dean?”
He nodded, reluctantly.
“Okay. If Mike will cover for me, we’ll go find Cousin Bill.”
“This is the place,” Mary said at last, although this stretch of dark road looked no different from the last hundred miles. “See the lights up ahead?”
Dean saw, but the sight wasn’t very encouraging. The lights were a business sign of some sort, yellow bulbs surrounding a painted sign. The lights were uneven, some faded or flickering, others broken, a few very bright. That the lights were on at all suggested the place was open, but it didn’t seem inviting.
Nevertheless, he looked for the turn-off and steered the Impala toward the building under the lights. There were other cars parked around the building but there was no parking lot – just a field. Dean winced as his car bounced on the uneven ground, slid her into a space and shut off the engine.
“Are you sure about this, Mom?”
“It’s the right place.” Mary turned to him, her expression serious. “Dean, I need you to trust me. It’s been a long time, but I can handle myself around these people. Just follow my lead, okay?”
“Sure, Mom,” Dean answered, though he didn’t understand her worry. What did she think he was going to do?
Mary nodded and climbed out of the car.
Dean’s apprehension only increased when he walked into the saloon at Mary’s side. The first thing that hit him was the smell: cigarette smoke, alcohol, unwashed bodies, gasoline and more he couldn’t immediately identify. The interior was dimly lit and smoky. The patrons, mostly men, sat in groups of two or three and as Dean and Mary walked in someone from every single group looked their way. Dean had the impression that he was examined, assessed and judged to be insignificant as each man’s gaze returned to his companions. He didn’t like it.
Mary made a beeline for the bar. Dean, following, tried to study the men around them without seeming obvious about it. Men in jeans or military surplus clothing with heavy boots. He saw several guns in evidence: high-calibre handguns in belt-holsters, sawn-off shotguns laid on the floor beneath tables and even a high-powered rifle leaning against the wall beside a group of men and one woman playing cards. What the hell kind of place was this?
Behind the bar, a woman was serving drinks. After a moment she turned to Mary. “What’ll it be?”
“Two beers,” Mary answered and laid some money on the bar. When the woman returned with two open bottles, Mary added, “I’m looking for William Harvelle.”
The bartender’s smile froze. “Are you a cop?” she asked bluntly.
“No, I – ”
“He get you pregnant? Or your daughter, maybe?”
Mary laughed. “Goodness, no. Does that happen frequently? William is family.”
The bartender’s look was sceptical. “Really?”
“We haven’t seen each other for a long time. My name is Mary Winchester. My family name is Campbell. My mother was Deanna Harvelle.”
The woman leaned over the bar. “I’m Ellen Harvelle, Bill’s wife. And if you’re telling the truth, you can tell me his mother’s name.”
Mary glanced at Dean, beckoning him forward. “This is Dean, my son. I only met Uncle George’s wife once; she died when William and I were both very young. It was pneumonia, and her name was some variation of Alice. I think it was Alicia.”
Ellen’s expression softened. “Okay, you pass. The way I heard it, you’re not a part of this any more.”
“I quit hunting when I lost my parents. I still remember the life. Please, is William here? It’s important.”
Ellen nodded. “He’s in the back. A piece of advice: don’t call him that or he won’t even hear you out. It’s Bill.” She looked around, then bellowed, “Jo!”
Dean glanced the way Ellen was looking as a blonde girl at the table of card players twisted round in her seat, a hand of cards cradled against her chest. “Not now, Mom!” she complained.
“Now,” Ellen returned implacably. “Watch the bar.”
The blonde muttered under her breath, but threw down her cards and rose to obey.
Ellen lifted a section of the bar to admit Jo. “Come with me,” she said to Mary. Mary followed. Though he hadn’t been invited, Dean followed, too. He wasn’t going to let Mary out of his sight in a place like this.
William Harvelle was Mary’s first hunting partner: they hunted an imaginary wendigo through the cornfields of Nebraska when Mary’s parents brought her on a visit. She was six years old. When she was eight it was vampires in Lawrence, the intrepid pair sneaking out of the house after dark to pursue their imaginary prey. When she was twelve, the spirit wasn’t imaginary at all, and Mary steadfastly refused to make a game of hunting on William’s next visit.
In their teens, their friendship became somewhat awkward, in part because Mary began to plan a future for herself that didn’t involve hunting. The family visits became less frequent, and Mary chose not to go along when her father travelled to Nebraska. Since she met John, she had seen William only once.
Mary knew hunters and she should have been ready for anything, but nothing in Ellen’s voice or demeanour suggested there was anything untoward happening.
Ellen led them through a narrow hallway to a room that looked a little like a doctor’s surgery. There was a glass-fronted cabinet that took up the whole of one wall and contained medical supplies: not only bandages and bottles of pills, but things you don’t usually see outside a hospital, including a gas tank with a face mask, and what looked like a portable defibrillator.
At the table, two men were seated at right-angles to each other. One of them – it had to be Bill, Mary thought – was bent over the other’s arm, carefully sewing a wound closed. A bowl on the table contained a lot of blood-soaked cloth.
“Jesus,” Dean muttered, and Mary shot him a shut up! look. Too late.
Bill’s head jerked up. “This ain’t a spectator sport,” he growled.
“Need you, Bill,” Ellen said shortly.
He returned to his task, drawing the dark thread slowly through the other man’s flesh. “Talk fast,” he ordered.
Mary stepped forward. “I’m Mary Campbell. Do you remember me, Bill?”
“Faster than that, babe,” he snapped.
He’d grown up to be a real charmer, she thought, but answered quickly. “My son is missing. I believe a demon took him.”
Bill stopped what he was doing and looked up at her. “Possessed?”
“I don’t know. There were omens.”
“Fine. We’ll talk when I’m done. Now anyone in this room who ain’t a doctor, get out.” To his patient, he added, “Except you.”
Good enough, Mary thought. She said, quietly, to Dean, “Let’s go.” As they left the room, she said to Ellen, “We would have waited.”
Ellen shook her head. “If I made you wait, Bill would have given me hell for that, too.”
“He was such a sweet boy when we were kids,” Mary said, wondering what turned William into such a bastard.
“He still is,” Ellen smiled, “when it suits him.” She gestured to another door. “You can wait in there if you don’t want to go back to the bar.”
“The bar is fine.”
“Mom, maybe – ” Dean began.
She smiled at him. “This isn’t your world, I know. But it used to be mine.” She could see Dean’s eyes, a storm of conflicting emotions. She knew she was asking a lot of him. Maybe she was asking too much. She had already told him about the demons, but she hadn’t meant to repeat her suspicions until Dean was a bit more comfortable and she certainly hadn’t wanted to speak as bluntly as Bill forced her to say it.
She could only pray Dean would have the courage to stay the course…for Sam’s sake if not for hers.
They found a table in a relatively quiet corner of the bar and sat down to wait.
Mary tried to make conversation at first, but Dean drank his beer in silence and barely responded to her feeble small talk. She gave up. Perhaps it was better to let him process all this. She let her thoughts drift a little while they waited, idly watching Ellen working behind the bar. The silver bracelet Mary wore jingled a little as she raised the beer bottle to her lips. It was the charm bracelet her mother made for her so many years ago. Not just jewellery: the charms were protective symbols from different world religions, including an anti-possession charm and a tiny bottle that could be filled with holy water – just enough for a test. She hadn’t worn the bracelet since she married John.
She wondered about Bill. That back room clinic was too well equipped to be anything but a long-term fixture. Was Bill really a doctor? That took time and training. She’d expected him to be a hunter. Yet this place, Harvelle’s Roadhouse, was a hunters’ meeting place, so Bill and his family were clearly still a part of that world.
Eventually, the man Bill had been sewing up emerged, spoke briefly with Ellen, then joined three other men at a table. Bill appeared shortly afterwards. He was walking with a cane and as he came out from behind the bar Mary understood why he’d chosen to become a medic: one of Bill’s legs was missing below the knee. He wore a prosthetic with no attempt to hide or disguise it. It didn’t appear to slow him down, though; he walked across the saloon with a confident stride.
Bill sat down opposite Mary, leaning the cane against the table. He looked older than his years, deep lines around his eyes and mouth, but his hair was the same bright blond Mary remembered, and his eyes sparkled blue when he smiled, giving Mary a glimpse of the boy she once knew.
“Cousin Mary,” he said, all sign of irritability gone from his voice. “I haven’t seen you since…”
“My parents’ funeral,” Mary supplied. “Bill, I’m sorry we butted in – ”
He made a dismissive gesture. “I ain’t mad at you, cuz. I’m tired of patching up that jerk.”
“Not a friend of yours?”
Bill grunted. “You know how it is. Hunters get hurt. But a hunter who gets hurt every time out oughta get the message.” He leaned forward, meeting her eyes. “What’s happened to your son?”
Straight to business. Mary summarised what she knew of Sam’s disappearance: the breaking off of a relationship with a girl he’d hoped to marry, followed by his going missing the day he was due to take the first of the final exams so essential to the future he wanted. Police had no leads. She explained the omens she’d found: a couple murdered on the night of Sam’s disappearance, and the brief electrical storm the same night, but she did not add the connections she had made to her own past. She would confess all later, if Bill agreed to help.
Bill listened, his expression turning grim with each new piece of information. “Sounds like our kind of thing,” he agreed when she finished. “Mary, I wish I could go and search for your boy, but…” He tapped his leg, the prosthetic giving a hollow sound.
“I understand,” Mary told him.
“I can still help. I’ll track things online, and I can keep an eye on the police investigation, just in case they turn anything up. But you need a demon expert and that’s not me. I always hunted creatures.” He grimaced. “Until one of ’em hunted me.”
“You zigged when you should have zagged, huh?” Mary teased lightly.
“Something like that.”
Dean looked shocked by the conversation. Her son carried injuries of his own, and was very self-conscious about it, careful to cover his scars even in the hottest days of summer. Mary would never have made light of Dean’s scars or how he earned them, but Bill’s obvious display of his disability clued her in. Besides, he lived among hunters. If it didn’t kill you, it wasn’t significant.
“I do know someone,” Bill volunteered, “but I don’t know if he’ll be willing. Do you have a place to stay?”
“We came straight here.”
Bill nodded as if he’d expected that. “Thirty, thirty-five miles if you drive east from here, there’s a motel. It’s cheap, but clean and the desk is open twenty-four-seven. Come back tomorrow – any time after ten – and I’ll have a better idea how I can help.” Bill reached across the table for Mary’s hand, surprising her. “I think about you a lot, you know? Have you been happy, Mary?”
She squeezed his hand, then let go. “I’ve been very happy, Bill.”
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Two days later, they were in South Dakota.
The house looked very familiar, Mary thought, though she had never been there before. She looked around as Dean steered the Impala through the junkyard: rusting hulks of cars piled high like barricades. Which, she supposed, was exactly what they were: a wall of rusting iron protecting a hunter’s home. She directed Dean to park some distance from the house and they both got out of the car.
Dean was looking around warily. “I don’t know about this, Mom. If this guy is anything like the characters in that bar…”
Mary smiled. “He will be. Don’t worry, Dean.”
He frowned. “I’m supposed to protect you – ”
“I don’t need that kind of protection. Just remember what I told you and let me do the talking.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Dean responded, but he didn’t look happy, and he hovered really close to her as she approached the door.
It opened swiftly to her knock. Bobby Singer was grey-haired and grey-bearded, but the lines around his eyes were not deep. He was younger than he appeared at first glance.
“You’re Mrs Winchester?” he asked, his tone challenging.
Mary smiled nervously. “I’m Mary Winchester,” she confirmed. “This is my son, Dean.”
Singer barely glanced at Dean. “I told Harvelle I’ll hear you out, but don’t expect more’n that. Come in.” He turned away from the door.
Mary followed him into the house. Singer obviously lived alone and he made no attempt to make the place look normal. There were books, some of them ancient books, stacked haphazardly on shelves. Dust lay thickly in neglected corners. She saw salt at the windows but not on the threshold. There was no sign of guns or other weapons, but Mary could see the places they would be: the same kind of hiding places her Dad used.
“Can I get you something?” Singer offered. “Coffee? Beer?”
“Just water for me, please,” Mary answered. She glanced at her son, silently reminding him of her instructions. If Singer wanted to test them with holy water he was entitled, and they should pretend not to know he was doing it.
“I could use a beer,” Dean agreed.
Singer vanished into his kitchen and returned with a glass of water and two bottles of beer, already opened. He handed a bottle to Dean and the glass to Mary, then nodded toward the table. “Have a seat.”
Mary sipped her water and sat down. “My mother – and Bill Harvelle’s aunt – was a hunter,” she began without preamble. “Deanna Campbell. She and my father, Sam Campbell, were killed by a demon with yellow eyes in 1973.”
“Sam Campbell,” Singer repeated. “Before my time, but I’ve heard the name.”
“He raised me to be a hunter. I know the life and I’ve got the skills. But it wasn’t the life I wanted for my children. So when I married, I left hunting behind me. My husband, my boys, they don’t know anything about it.”
Singer grunted. “No one in their right mind ever chooses this, so I can’t blame you there. But why drag your son into this now?” Again, he barely glanced at Dean.
“Because sometimes this life chooses you.” Mary extracted her research from her pocket. If Bobby Singer was as good as Bill said, he would make the connections. “After my parents were killed, I found this.” She slid the first printout across the table.
Singer picked it up and read it. “This happened in ’72.”
“Six months before he killed my parents.”
“You made a connection?”
Singer scowled. “Then there’s something you ain’t telling me. Spit it out, lady, or I can’t help you.”
Mary took a deep breath. She wished she didn’t have to repeat this story in front of Dean. She wished she didn’t have to bring Dean into this at all. She had told him a little, but not enough for him to understand, truly, what she had done. “It was the night John meant to propose to me. We were in his car, down by the river, when the demon came. It was possessing my father…” As briefly as she dared, Mary related the story again. The demon killed John – snapped his neck like a twig – and then offered to restore John’s life in exchange for what it wanted. Not her soul: it wanted something more nebulous. But in exchange it promised her the normal life she craved: John to be her husband, a home, children. Safety. All it wanted was her consent.
“Consent for what?” Dean demanded.
Mary addressed her words to him. “I still don’t know, exactly. He was vague. But I think we can guess now.”
Dean got it at once. “Sam? You think this demon wanted Sam? Ten years before he was even born?”
“When Sam was six months old, he woke up screaming one night. Nothing I could do would settle him down. For days, he did nothing but cry. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with him, but I found one clue. I found sulphur in his nursery.”
“And you didn’t do anything about it?” Bobby growled.
“I couldn’t think why a demon would possess a baby, but I did check. He was my baby – of course I checked! Sammy seemed fine, except for the crying. I started laying down salt around the house. I almost told John everything but…more than anything I wanted my children to feel safe. So in the end I kept it to myself.”
Singer nodded. He glanced down at the article again. “Where is Sam now?” he asked.
“He’s missing,” Dean said.
“And you think this yellow-eyed demon is responsible.”
Mary offered the rest of her paperwork. “The omens around Palo Alto when my son vanished match the omens my father found around Lawrence just before he was killed.”
Bobby looked through the papers. Then he turned to her, his slate-blue eyes boring into hers. “Do you know what you’re doing, coming to me with this?”
Mary swallowed. She didn’t know what kind of man Bobby Singer was. It was possible she was putting her son’s name on a death list. It was also possible she was talking to the only man who could save him. “I think I do,” she answered eventually.
“Then I’ll ask you again. Why’d you drag your son into this?”
“Dean’s been very supportive, but I know he thinks his Mom has lost her mind. If I’m right about this, I need Dean to believe because it’s going to take both of us to convince my husband.”
“You ever face down a demon before?”
“I’ve fought one, and I’ve been with my father when he did an exorcism.”
Singer was silent, watching them both. Finally, he nodded. “Happens I’ve got a job to do. Could be risky, but if you and your boy want to come along and you can keep him out of my way, I can show him the real world.”
“Mom, this is crazy!” Dean protested, his voice just above a whisper. He glanced back to where Bobby was loading up his car.
Mary moved closer to him. “I realise it seems that way, but – ”
“No. Mom, this is too much! He’s a complete nutjob and he’s gonna make us both accessories to…god knows what!” Dean turned to her. “Someone’s going to get hurt. I can’t just go along with this and let that happen.”
“Good. That’s the right attitude.” Mary took the gun from her belt. It was her father’s revolver, old but cleaned, oiled…and loaded. “Dean, I promised you proof. Please, just trust me for a few more hours. If you’re not convinced, we’ll go home.” She offered him the gun.
Dean wouldn’t take it. “No way! What do you take me for?”
Bobby walked toward them. “Have you ever used a gun, boy?”
“I’m not a boy!” Dean bristled. “I’m 26 years old.”
“You look younger. And you act like a kid. Answer the question.”
“I can use a shotgun. And I shoot rifles at the range, or I used to. I don’t play with handguns.”
Bobby turned to Mary. “Keep your pistol, lady. He’ll only hurt himself with it.” He patted the Impala’s roof. “You both ready for this?”
“No,” Dean answered firmly. “Not until you explain exactly what we’re going to do.”
“Hopefully, we’re going to save a girl’s life. Get in the car if you’re coming. My car.” Bobby turned away.
Mary looked to her son. “Please, Dean.”
He sighed and headed for Bobby’s car.
As he drove, Bobby talked. “Your mother’s right about one thing. Something real nasty is coming and it looks like your family is caught up in it.”
“What do you mean, something nasty?” Mary asked.
“In a normal year, I hear about two demonic possessions. Three at most. This year, I’ve come across fifteen. And it’s only May.”
“Something’s building,” Mary said thoughtfully.
“There’s more,” Bobby added. “Signs. Nothing that adds up yet. If your son is part of it, do you know why? Is he…more than human?”
“That’s ridiculous!” Dean burst out.
Mary let his answer stand, though she had another one. She thought Sam might be different. He’d inherited that from her and she went to a lot of trouble to keep her own gift a secret. Being raised a hunter, Mary knew that any psychic ability put a target on your back.
“Sam’s a normal kid,” Dean went on hotly. “He’s a brain, he’s straight, he doesn’t do drugs and he doesn’t do monsters! What the hell, man?”
Bobby shot a grin at him. “Just a question. So does this saint have any faults? Odd habits?”
“You want to find him, don’t you?”
Mary spoke up. “Sam’s a good boy. He’s ambitious. He wants to be a hot-shot lawyer.”
“We’ll talk about him later,” Bobby nodded. He turned the car onto a dirt track. “Amelia called me this morning. I’ve had my eye on things here for a few days.”
“What’s happening here?” Mary asked. It was strange how familiar all this felt. Bobby could almost be her father.
“A farm hand died in a freak accident. One of the children is in hospital. She swallowed six razor blades.”
“Jesus,” Dean muttered.
“Witchcraft,” Mary said.
“That’s what I thought. I thought it was over. But Amelia called, begged me to come back. Wouldn’t say why. Sounds like a trap to me.”
Mary frowned. “And you’re walking into it?”
Bobby smiled at Mary. “Yep. Can you draw a devil’s trap?”
“In my sleep,” she answered confidently.
“Good. That’s your job, then.”
“And what’s mine?” Dean asked. Mary could hear the wariness in his voice.
Bobby shrugged. “Stay out of the way and try not to piss yourself. Think you can manage that, boy?”
A few hours later
Dean sat on the hood of Bobby’s car, trying to take slow breaths and trying very, very hard not to think. He saw his mother coming toward him and his first impulse was to start running. It took an effort for him to stay put and wait for her.
Mary brushed her blonde hair back and wiped sweat from her brow. “Are you okay?” She tilted her head to one side.
“No! A world of no.” Dean shook his head. “What the fuck was that? Her eyes…and all that smoke…”
“It’s not like the movies, is it?” she suggested gently.
“Mom, just tell me.”
She nodded. “It was a demon. Or, more precisely, a person possessed by a demon. The eyes – that’s how you can tell. The smoke is the demon’s true form in this world. You see it when the demon is exorcised…”
“Stop!” Dean begged. “Mom, this is crazy!”
“You saw it with your own eyes, Dean.”
“But…” he began, then let out a long breath. “How do other people not know about this?”
Mary smiled. “People are good at ignoring things they don’t want to see. Just listen to yourself, Dean. You saw it, all the proof you need, with your own eyes. And you still don’t believe.”
Dean took a moment to consider that. Finally, he nodded. “So…what do we do about it?”
“We go home. We talk to John. Then we find Sammy.”
Two weeks later
She’d been expecting the knock, but Mary pulled the curtain aside to see the visitor before she went to the door. She smiled a greeting when she recognised Bobby Singer.
Two weeks had changed her family completely. Dean had acquired several guns and applied for a carry permit for a sidearm. He’d bug her every chance he got, asking about demons and what else was out there. He wanted to know how to protect them all. John was still angry that Mary concealed so much from him. Like Dean, he’d begun to think in terms of weapons and protection. It was the life she’d prayed her children would never have to live.
Mary opened the door and invited Bobby inside. He was carrying a large plastic box. “Got somewhere I can put this?”
“Anywhere you like. It’s good to see you again, Bobby.”
“I have some news for you, about your missing boy.”
Mary couldn’t tell from his tone, so she asked, “Good news or bad?”
“Depends on how you look at it. It ain’t real bad.”
She relaxed a little. “John and Dean are at work. They’ll be home in an hour. Would you like a drink or a snack while we wait?”
“I’m fine. But if there’s time, would you have a wall where I can pin some of this stuff up? It’ll be easier to show what I’ve learned that way.”
“The kitchen,” she suggested.
The box turned out to be full of Bobby’s research. Mary helped him pin about half of it to the kitchen wall, following his directions. She could see it was about much more than Sam’s disappearance. He had a USA map and push-pins to indicate locations. One of them was Palo Alto, but there were many others.
“Bobby, what is all this?” she asked.
“Connections,” he answered. “I’d rather wait. Explain it to everyone at once.”
Mary agreed, but it wasn’t easy to wait. She had home-made soup simmering and bread in the oven, so when John and Dean got home the meal would be ready to go. The one good thing about all this was having Dean home again. She understood why he moved out; a young man needed his independence, but she was glad to have him home again.
She hugged her husband as he came through the door. John smelled of oil and gasoline, but she didn’t ask him to shower and change as she normally would have.
“Bobby’s here,” was all she said.
John nodded to the man standing behind her. “I guessed,” he said dryly. He offered his hand to Bobby. “John Winchester.”
“Bobby Singer. Thank you for letting me into your home.”
“If you can help find our son, you’re more than welcome. The police in Palo Alto have been useless.”
As she served dinner, Mary couldn’t wait any longer. “Bobby, can you tell us your news? What do you know about Sam?”
Bobby nodded. “What I know is it ain’t just Sam. I’ve found eighteen kids across the USA who have vanished in the past four months. All of them Sam’s age: 22 or 23. All of them just gone without a trace.”
“Why haven’t the cops, or the authorities, found out about this?” John asked.
“Cops know about the disappearances. They just haven’t connected them. No reason to.”
“But you have.”
“Hunters make different links, John. Sam’s disappearance was my starting point. I set out to prove it was an isolated incident, because that would give me an easy starting point. But it’s not isolated at all.” Bobby tore his bread, dipped it in the soup and ate. “This is really good, Mary,” he smiled, then resumed his story. “What Mary told me suggested this was set in motion a long time ago, so I checked into the histories of all the missing kids. Found something…curious.”
“What did you find?”
“Mostly there’s no connection between the kids. Nothing they’ve all got in common except their ages. They’re different ethnicities, background, educations. The disappearances, though, they’re near carbon copies. In each case, there was a bloody murder in the vicinity when they disappeared. The kids are all the same age. They all vanished off the streets or from their own homes, no witnesses. But there’s one more thing. Three of them have the same odd incident in their past. A fire killed their mothers. And all three fires happened when the kid was six months old. Exactly six months.”
Mary shivered. Bobby’s discovery touched one of her most frightening memories. When she was pregnant with Sam, she was haunted by a recurring nightmare of a terrible fire. It was horribly vivid: she felt the flames, smelled her own flesh and hair burning before she woke, screaming, in John’s arms. She believed at the time that it was a true vision of her own death. But when weeks, then years passed with no fire, she relaxed a little. Still, Mary remained certain that someday, when her time came, it would be fire. Was the fire she dreamed fated to happen when Sam was six months old? If so, what had prevented it?
Sam was six months old on November 2nd, 1983.
November 2nd 1983. Why did that date mean something to her?
Then she remembered and felt the blood drain from her face.
“Mary,” John said sharply. “Mary, what is it?”
“When…when my parents died, there was a man. Another hunter.” She frowned, struggling to remember. “I think he was a psychic or something. He said the weirdest thing to me.” She had the attention of all three men now. “On November 2nd 1983, don’t get out of bed. That’s what he told me.”
“He told you this in 1973?” John said sceptically.
“That’s why I forgot about it. But that date is the night Sam was six months old.” Then the other connection fell into place. “It’s also the night Sammy got sick, remember, John?” She turned to Bobby. “And I found sulphur in the nursery.”
Bobby nodded grimly. “That fits. A demon marked these kids as babies. And now they’re disappearing.”
“Why?” Dean asked. “You think they’re possessed?”
“That’s one possibility. Seems a lot of trouble to go to for a meat suit. There are six billion of ‘em to choose from.”
“Well, what else could it be?”
“I don’t know yet.” Bobby turned to Dean. “But I’m goin’ to find out.”