A/N: My thanks go to my betas NongPradu, Numpty, and Beckydaspatz for their encouragement and amazing eagle-eyes.
Chapter 2: Two Good Men
February 10, 2007—Harvelle's Roadhouse
Ellen adjusted the cell phone, switching ears and cradling the receiver against her shoulder while she ran a wet rag over the countertop. "Now, Bobby Singer, slow down before you throw a clot. I can hear your veins poppin' from here. Who? Dean? No. Last I spoke to him was more'n a week ago when he was lookin' for Sam, but I haven't heard from either one of them boys since. Had to find out from Jo what went down." She paused in mid-wipe and gripped the phone with a sigh. "She's fine. Won't come back home, though. Stubborn as a damn mule." She closed her weary eyes, retreating into her personal pain for a moment. Bobby pulled her back abruptly. Her eyes snapped opened and widened. "Who called?" She leaned against the counter and switched ears again. "Sam's where? Where Oklahoma? Never heard of it. Is he gonna be all right? And they don't know who Dean is? No sign of him? Have you tried his cell?" Ellen rolled her eyes. "I know you ain't an 'idgit', Bobby. Well, you are, but I'm sure you called his cell." Her smoky voice crackled with humor. "I was just trying to cover all the bases." She spotted Ash sitting at a nearby table with his computer in front of him and moved his way. "How far out are you? Well, get your ass down here and pick me up. I'll ride along." She snapped Ash with her rag and motioned toward the bar. "I ain't takin' French leave, Singer. Ash will watch the Roadhouse for me while we're gone."
Ash rubbed his chest where Ellen's rag dinged him, drained the last of his PBR and burped. "Careful now. Ellen. This is prime rib you're damaging." He massaged his nipples in wounded indignation and clapped his laptop shut. "Where you goin'?"
"One sec, Bobby." She turned to Ash. "Boise City, Oklahoma. I need you to mind the bar. And don't be drinking all my stock, neither. I'll kick your ass, don't think I won't."
"Didn't someone, somewhere, sign some proclamation against slavery a while back?" Ash grabbed his laptop off the table.
"Yeah, same fellow as signed a proclamation against no-account moochers." Ellen pointed to the bar. "Now, move your ass." After Ash shuffled off, Ellen pushed in his vacated chair with her foot, lobbing the rag onto the bar.
"All right, Singer, I'll be ready by the time you get here." She stopped while Bobby spoke, putting her hand on her hip and dithering as she listened before going behind the bar again. "I know I don't have to. I want to. I care about them boys same as you." She ran her hand along the smooth, well-worn grain of the bar-top. "I know it wasn't Sam's fault. But I can't understand why in the hell they weren't warded before now, is all." She snatched a shot-glass, placed it right-side-up on the bar-top and grabbed a whiskey bottle.
"Well once we find Dean and sort this out, don't think for one moment I won't ink their asses myself if I have to." She tugged the collar of her shirt down, studying the anti-possession warding symbol tattooed above her heart. "Why John never took care of this before now is beyond me. He was one of the most obsessed, hard-assed sonsabitches I ever did know, but he was terrible reckless at times, especially with them boys. You'd think he'd 'a warded them years ago." She poured herself a double-shot and downed it, allowing the slow burn to spice her natural husk. "Well, they ain't getting a week older before them symbols are permanent once I get a hold of 'em," she said. "And it ain't just themselves the tatts will be protectin'."
She stood for a moment considering the whiskey bottle in her hand, shrugged and took a generous pull right from the bottle. "You just get here as quick as you can and let's help them boys."
February 10, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma
"Mama, why's his eyelashes so long?" Florabel sat on the old, post-rope bed next to the unconscious man and placed her forefinger on his eye, trying to gauge the length of the lashes. Her mother bustled around the room, arms full of strips of linen, towels, bedding and supplies. When Florabel didn't get an immediate response from the distracted adult, she asked again. "How come his eyelashes is so long, Mama?"
"Because God wanted them that a-way," Emma said, heedless as she dodged Slaid and Jeb who loitered around, not knowing where they needed to stand or what they should be doing. She set her burden down and took some ointment and medicine bottles from her apron pocket.
"Why's his shirt all tore up?" She took the man's hand, trying to situate it comfortably on his chest for him. "Look Mama, he's got a ring! See?"
"Mm hmm," Emma said, too busy to pay attention. She bumped into Jeb again as she tried to remove the man's boots. "You boys git out from under foot and make yourselves useful. Jeb, I want you to help me git him down past his union suit. Slaid, take the bucket and fetch some water and set it to boiling. Florabel, hop down from there and keep your dirty hands off him until you've washed up. Why don't you go on out with Slaid for that water? You don't need to be seein' him until he's settled under the covers."
"Ya, me and the little one will fetch the water." Slaid smiled and winked at the child. He stretched out his hand and wiggled his fingers. Florabel went frigid, seeing the long, bony digits. She twisted her fists in her mother's dress.
"No mama! I wanna stay here." Florabel's voice pitched sharply as panic set in. "I'll stand in the corner. I won't even look at his skivvies. He needs me to stay, 'cause you's a-gonna scare him. He don't know you, yet. He 'members me from the barn. He needs me." The young girl ran to the corner of the room and put her back to the action. "I'm not peekin', Mama. See? I'm not peekin'!"
Emma's lips tightened, confused by her daughter's behavior. "Florabel, you do as I say and go git the water. He ain't a-gonna wake up yet. Now go on with Slaid."
Florabel's teeth chattered as she skittered away from Slaid. "Mama. Mama, no." Her breaths came in puffs. "Mama, I'll go make a bread and milk poultice for his shoulder. Like you done for me when I cut my arm. You want me to do that instead?"
Emma relented, too harried to argue. "All right, make sure you put plenty of milk in it and wrap it up good in cheesecloth and knock before you come a-bargin' back in." Florabel scurried from the room.
Slaid watched her run and shrugged. He turned toward the man in the bed, scoffing. "Drifter gets good treatment, ya? Pup with no home? Fought the Devil in the barn," he said with a sneer. "Maybe didn't fight. Maybe he called the Devil or the Devil came with him, hmm? Ördög Friend." He knocked three times on the doorway and turned to spit.
Emma put up her hand before he could finish. "Don't you dare think about spittin' in this house. Now quit standin' around jabberin' your nonsense. I need water boiled. You git enough to fill the big black pot to full." She shooed him off and shut the door.
Jeb chuckled and ran his hand over his hollow, old cheeks. "Land, Emma, that girl sure don't like Slaid all of a sudden. She's as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs whenever he's around." He grinned as he unbuttoned the fevered man's shirt. "She tol' me how Slaid had growled at her one time, said he turned into a right monster."
Emma shook her head. "Well, you know how Florabel is with them silly notions of hers. If I remember correctly she also said they was a leprechaun sleepin' in Penny's stall last spring." She clicked her tongue, exasperated. "She's got a powerful imagination an' she's just a-scared of the way Slaid talks." She gingerly removed the man's bad arm from his sleeve as Jeb pulled the rest of the tattered shirt loose. "That and he's just plain sour and coarse," she said with a snort. "He probably did growl at her if she done something annoying; you know how the child can jabber on non-stop. But Slaid done many a good turn, too. They's no denyin' it. He took care of Florabel after…" She broke off with a pained glance at the old man. "When I couldn't." Silence filled the space between them.
She focused her attention on the man before speaking again. "Florabel needs to grow out of it." She walked to the foot of the bed to remove the man's trousers. Undoing the first button, she raised an eyebrow. "He sure ain't from nowhere around here. Look at this." Jeb came close and watched as she worked the zipper up and down. "How handy is that?" She examined the fly with awe.
"Well, he just don't make a lick of sense a'tall. It's like he fell out'a nowhere. An' what about all them planks and pieces of wood in the barn? Hope he wakes up, 'cause I sure as shootin' want to hear his story." Jeb helped her tug off his pants.
Emma surveyed the situation. "All right, we'll leave him as he is for now. Might be able to find him one of Red's old nightshirts later for him to wear. Hand me that blanket and we'll git him respectable." Once covered to his waist, Emma sat on the side of the bed and peeled back the bandage with a hiss. "This is bad, Jeb." She examined the weeping, deeply infected bullet hole. "It had to have been festerin' for a while. But it seems like he was tryin' to take care of it, somewhat." She inspected the dirty bandage and set it aside. Checking his temperature with the back of her hand, she tsked in dismay. "He's just ate up with fever."
"What do you s'pose he done to git shot up?" Jeb fished the man's billfold from his pants pocket. "Maybe he's a bank robber. But he don't got no money." He fingered through its contents. "All he gots is these." He removed a few small rectangular cards, exhibiting them. The old man squinted, holding the card at a comfortable distance and read. "Says 'Dean Hetfield—OSHA Inspector'. Now what in hell's blazes do you 'spose that is? 'OSHA'," he repeated, bending the card and biting on it. He flipped it over, reading the back.
"Language, Jeb." Emma arched an eyebrow at the old man.
"It's got a photograph of the feller right on this gizmo! I ain't never seen nothin' like this in all my life. Look here." Jeb pointed. "It says 'Occupational Safety and Health Administration'. You ever hear of any such beast? You think he's a G-man of some sort? And what is this card made of, anyhow?"
"You put those back, Jeb. Ain't ours to pry at. Leastwise until he wakes and can speak for hisself. We know what his name is, now. That's good enough for us, for the time being, anyhow."
"You think he's a spy?" Jeb asked, wide-eyed as he put the items back into the billfold.
"Cain't imagine a spy breakin' my barn and then just curlin' up for a rest. Let's see if'n we cain't pull him back from death's door and worry about the rest later."
A tentative knock on the door interrupted them. "Mama, I knocked like you said. Can I come in?" Jeb moved to the door and opened it when Emma nodded her okay. "I brought the poultice. It's good 'n wet," Florabel said. "Slaid brung the water, but I had him set it on the porch and tol' him to go on back to the bunkhouse, thank you very much. We don't need him for nothin' else, Mama. You and me an' Old Jeb, we can take care of him. I drug in the water all by myself and put it to boilin'. It'll be ready soon." She set the poultice down on the nightstand. Hands on her hips, Florabel made an authoritative sweep of the room, taking stock of what needed doing.
Emma drew her daughter to her and rubbed her back. "Good work, baby girl. Although, you need not be so rude to Slaid. I don't know what gits into you sometimes."
Florabel's confidence shriveled away. "I'm sorry, Mama."
Jeb came over and patted her head. "Slaid just don't know our ways very well, is all. He come from a family who still keep to their strange, foreign ways. He don't mean nothin' by it."
Florabel gave a contrite nod, staring down as she toed the floorboards. "I don't like strange ways from foreign parts." She contorted her hands into maniacal 'monster-claws' and wiggled them. "Grar! Rawr!" She roared like a beast at the floor. Dropping her play, she turned to Jeb. "I don't like foreign ways, Old Jeb."
The old man grinned. "And if we was to go to foreign parts, I reckon they wouldn't like our ways much neither," he said without scolding. Florabel shrugged, idly pursing her lips and swaying as she studied the floor. Jeb chuckled and gave her braid a tug. "I'll go watch and see the water don't boil over and bring it in straight away so's you can git this feller cleaned up and his wound tended." He left the two women to their nursing duties.
Florabel leaned against the side of the bed and watched the sick stranger. "He sure does have a lot of scars, Mama. What happened there?" She pointed to a scar below his gunshot wound, a puckered burn mark that'd healed over.
"I'm not sure. Looks like he got near branded somehow," Emma said. Florabel hooted with laughter.
"You don't brand people, silly! Only cows!" She instructed her mother and then sobered, her face pinched with worry. "You think he's gonna wake up soon, Mama?"
"I don't know." Emma cupped her daughter's chin, forcing the child to face her. "But you listen to me, now. He's hurt real bad, Florabel. He may just fade away, and we cain't fuss if that happens, you hear me? We'll do what's right and Christian, but we cain't latch onto what Jesus claims as his, so don't you go gittin' your hopes up, now. I know you kinda cottoned to him because you was the one who found him, but I don't want you hollerin' and a-carryin' on if he goes to Jesus. We don't even know him. We'll be sorry and proper respectful if he passes, but that's it." Emma gave her daughter a tugging hug.
"I know, Mama. But I'm real good at doctorin', so we'll just make Jesus wait an extra few years for him."
Emma smiled. "Come on, let's git washed up and git ready. We gotta hang some wet sheets over the windows in here to keep the dust away from him and git to work. It's gonna be a long day."
February 10, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma
"Thanks for meeting us so late. We broke almost every speed limit gettin' here as fast as we could. Our nephew means the world to us. We were worried sick. How is he?" Bobby put his arm around Ellen to complete their performance as worried relatives. The being relatives part may have been a sham, but the worry wasn't.
Doc gave his stubble a tired once-over. "Well, he's stable. He's suffered a couple of broken ribs. Those'll take some time to heal. And he took some lumps, but most of 'em all superficial. On those two counts, he should be just fine."
"There are other 'counts'? What else is wrong with him?" Ellen asked.
The doctor bobbled and scratched his neck. "Medically speaking? Nothing else is wrong as far as we can see. But he ain't entirely right. Truth is, you see, he's been unconscious since he arrived. Still hasn't cracked an eye. But there's no concussion or head trauma of any kind. We ran tox screens to see if he had taken something, but everything came back negative."
Bobby and Ellen looked questions at each other. After a pause, Bobby spoke. "And his partner, Dean? He hasn't been in here asking after Sam?"
"Okay, well, Gerry said he talked with both boys yesterday at the construction site. But as far as I know that's the last time anyone saw the other man."
"Gerry?" Bobby asked.
"Gerry Burnett. He's the foreman at the construction site up by the airport this boy was inspecting. Gerry said OSHA sent these boys over to see what all happened to Matt and a couple of the others—work accidents and such."
"Work accidents? I know it's late and all, but we're coming into a story half told. Can y'start at page one for us?" Bobby adjusted his baseball cap peevishly.
The doctor took a breath and waited a couple of beats. "Yeah, okay. Um, more'n a month ago, when ground was first broke on the new mall, men began having some odd mishaps. Bret Hammond snapped a collarbone and three ribs. Jesse Coulter busted his kneecap and bruised a kidney. Matt Crawford was the last one, he fell more'n 12-15 foot from the top of some scaffolding. Busted his leg in three places. After he come to, he squawked to the Boise City News about what happened or what he thought happened. It was crazy nonsense if you ask me." Ellen and Bobby made eye-contact and turned back to the doctor as he continued. "A couple days later, your nephew showed up with his partner from OSHA lookin' into the accidents. Gerry says he had a chat with them yesterday. Then this morning a couple of workers found your nephew lyin' senseless at the site. That's about as close to page one as I can get you. You can ask Gerry what he knows tomorrow."
"All right, so Sam hasn't regained consciousness? You have no idea why?" Ellen asked.
"He's still out like a light. Just like them other three were."
Bobby shook his head. "Wait. What? You lost me again. Like the others?"
"Weeeeeell, see, all three of them other boys also came in here insensible. They were out for close to a day. When they came to, at first they were catatonic, eyes fixated far off and didn't react to nothing. That lasted a day or so, and then when they finally started speakin', they…" He waffled from foot to foot. "They didn't have a memory in their heads."
Bobby's jaw dropped. "Amnesia?"
Doc glanced away. "Uh, yeah. Well, in a manner of speaking, yeah. Didn't last too long, though. Well, leastwise it didn't last too long for Matt or Jesse. Matt, see, he had family huddled around him that were able to talk him back to his senses. Jesse went home and the moment he saw his house and little girl, well, the lights flipped right back on for him. Bret didn't remember for a few weeks. Both his parents are dead, y'see, and it took his sister a few weeks to be able to get here from out'a state. After a few days with her, he finally remembered who he was." The doctor shuffled and adjusted his lab coat. "There was no medical basis for the amnesia. I don't know what happened to those boys, whether it was some crazy PTSD or whatever, but there was no brain injury present in any of them. CT's, MRI's, X-rays came back clear. After the families gathered 'round and started talking to these boys, they slowly came to. Took some time to jar their memories, sure, but they're all fine now, broken bones notwithstanding."
"And you're saying Sam has the same issue?" Ellen asked.
"I'm not sayin' anything. I'm only answering your questions," Doc said. "All I know right now is that Sam remains unresponsive, with no conclusive diagnosis. I'm sorry, but that's all I can tell you right now. We're gonna have to wait until he wakes up to see if he remembers anything."
Bobby sighed. "Can we see him? We'd like to sit with him if you don't mind."
Doc nodded and moved toward the only nurse's station in the small hospital. "Carrie, will you show these folks to Mr. Ulrich's room?" The doctor regarded the couple. "I think Sam will be stable until the morning. You can sit with him as long as you like. I'm going over to the Doctor's lounge. Carrie will call me if I'm needed." He shook their hands and turned to leave.
"Wait." Bobby stopped him. "You mentioned that Matt told the papers a strange account of how he got hurt. What did he say happened?"
Doc chuckled. "That goofy lunatic swore he was attacked by a ghost." He laughed again. "When I said he eventually came back to his senses, I meant relatively speaking. But Matt always was an odd stick, so you have to keep that in mind. Carrie should have a copy of the article around here you can look at if you've a mind." He gave a wave of his hand and left Bobby and Ellen staring at each other.
"Y'all don't be so worried," Carrie said. "All these boys have come around sooner or later. And now that he's got family here, he'll remember everything in no time. You'll see." She smiled and guided them into the Sam's room.
Bobby and Ellen came up on either side of Sam's bed and watched his young, slack face. Ellen ran her fingers through his hair. "Sam honey. It's Ellen. Can you open your eyes for me?" She sighed at the lack of response.
"What's all this?" Bobby asked, nodding toward the machinery surrounding Sam. "I thought the doctor said he was stable."
"He is. The heart monitor is just a precaution because he's unconscious. We've been monitoring him all day and his vitals are fine. Really." She checked Sam's blood pressure again and made some minor adjustment to his IV. "I'll let you folks settle in."
"Say, Carrie," Bobby turned to the woman, trying to sound casual, "could you bring me the copy of that newspaper article? I could use a laugh right about now."
"Sure thing," she said and shut the door behind her.
They were quiet for a moment while Ellen smoothed Sam's hair back, and cupped his hand in hers. Her fingers traced the binding-link still healing on his arm, a discomfiting reminder of the demon that had stolen Sam's body, tortured Jo, and shot Dean not much more than a week ago. "Now, Sam honey, you need to open your eyes, y'hear me? It's Ellen. Bobby 'n me are here and you're safe."
"Sam? That you?" Bobby lifted a flask from his shirt pocket and splashed it on the unconscious man. He shrugged at Ellen as she gaped at him. "What? Just checkin'. We gotta be sure, Ellen." Satisfied Sam wasn't possessed, he relaxed and bent down toward the boy's ear. "Hey Sam, it's Bobby. Open your damn-fool eyes."
"Smooth, Singer." Ellen's voice crackled and popped with fatigue and humor. "You want him to wake up or not? Boy's more'n likely to stay put just to spite your grumpy ass." She sat down and sighed. "Well, shit. It's gonna be a long night."
February 10, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma
"Ow, Mama, it's a good thing he ain't awake. He'd be a-hootin' and a-hollerin' right about now!" Florabel's blue eyes widened as her mother fished out another steaming hot towel from the pot of water with a stick. "Ouchie!" She gasped as Emma draped it over the bullet hole. The man's breathing remained steady and he didn't so much as flinch against the scalding water. The steaming fluid combined with the pus and dried blood. It ran down his chest in a rivulet, leaving a milky-pink trail behind that Florabel swabbed with a towel.
"Catch that water, Florabel. Don't let it hit the bed. We'll let this set for a spell while it loosens the infection." She bent over the nightstand and lit the kerosene lamp. It wasn't noon yet, but between the blowing dust outside and Jeb blocking the window with wet sheets, the room was shaded and dim. Shadows bobbed and flickered on the walls while Emma situated the lamp as close as possible to their work area.
"This should keep out the worst of it, Em." Jeb anchored the wet sheet to the wall and stepped away. "Last thing we need is for this boy to come up with Dust Pneumonia on top of everything else."
"That's real good, Jeb." Emma discarded the rag and replaced it with a steaming, fresh one. Florabel scurried to dam the new spring that trickled down his chest.
"If you don't need me for anything else, I reckon I'll go check the jackrabbit traps. Varmits is like a dadgum plague. I ain't never seen so many. Dust killed everything that kills them, I reckon. Folks in town is talkin' about organizin' big ol' jackrabbit drives this spring and trappin' 'em by the truckloads and do away with 'em that a-way. Might be a fun way to spend some Sunday."
"Can I come, Old Jeb?" Florabel bounced her bottom on the bed in excitement. Emma put out a hand to stop her.
"If'n your mama say's it's okay, we'll go sometime this spring," Jeb said. "Anyway, I best git to gittin'. I need to milk Penny, too. She ain't been touched yet today. I reckon the eggs still need fetchin', seeing as Florabel was tendin' our guest in the barn. After that I'll come and heat up some cornbread and beans for us, since we missed breakfast."
"Oh Jeb, I'm sorry." Emma cast a fretful eye at the man.
"Ain't no trouble, Em. You got your hands full and then some. I'll see to it and let you know when it's ready. Florabel you gittin' hungry, doll?"
"I been hungry since last night! My tummy's growlin' like a monster!"
"All right, then," Jeb said. "Gotta keep your strength up, little nurse, or you won't have nothin' left to give your patient."
"I ain't a nurse, Old Jeb! I'm a doctor!" Florabel straightened her posture and wiped the blood and pus from the sick man's chest with professional, polished strokes.
"A girl doctor? Why, I never did hear of such nonsense." Jeb winked at her. "But I'll fix y'up some lunch just the same."
"Why cain't girls be doctors, Mama?" Florabel asked after Jeb left.
"Hush, now. Don't be askin' so many questions." Emma scooted to the other side of the bed and dipped another cloth in cold water this time. "C'mere Florabel, let Mama show you. We need to keep his shoulder warm, but we have to cool the rest of him down to help his fever. So while I clean his shoulder I want you to take this cloth and keep wiping his face, arms and chest. He could wake up and be no more'n an idiot for the rest of his life because his fever got too high. You never want a fever to go on too long or too hot. So we gotta keep him wiped down."
"Okay, Mama." Florabel set to work while her mother irrigated the wound, squeezing out the infection and saturating it first with whiskey and then with iodine. Florabel remained quiet for some time, wiping the man down until she ventured, "I ain't never seen a man with such fine muscles before. Have you noticed 'em, Mama?"
Emma stifled a choke of surprise and flushed. Despite herself and her Christian intentions, she had most definitely noticed. She bit her lip to kill the girlish smile that threatened to overtake her face. "Don't matter how big a man's muscles is, just how hard and how honest he works with 'em." She poured some more iodine into the bullet hole and pressed a cloth against it.
"Well, I s'pose, but I like his muscles, Mama. I betcha a nickel he could pick up Penny and toss her over his shoulder, if he'd a mind to."
"You think so?" Emma chuckled.
"Uh huh." Florabel watched her mother with keen interest. Emma took some small scraps of fabric she'd boiled and packed the bullet hole with them, pouring more iodine over the wound and placing the bread and milk poultice on top. She overlaid one more hot cloth on top of everything and let it sit there.
"That was a mighty well put together poultice, Florabel." Emma complimented her daughter. "Now we'll leave this here and replace the cloth as often as we can to keep this nice and warm so the poultice works faster. We'll keep the rest of him cool and then with time, prayer and patience he might just pull through."
"He'll pull through, Mama. You'll see."
February 11, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma
Bobby yawned and put down the newspaper, Cimarron County's finest, and only, periodical. It was past 2:00am and Sam hadn't stirred or made a sound. Ellen sat half asleep, holding the boy's hand. "Well, sounds like those boys came lookin' for a vengeful spirit." Bobby rubbed his sleepy eyes.
Ellen jolted awake and repositioned herself. "You ever see a vengeful spirit wipe folks' memories?"
"No. But this Matt fellow wasn't just talkin' about a flickering spirit. He said he saw a ghostly image of someone, but it was a spinning black cloud that attacked and knocked him off the scaffold."
"So we're talkin', what, some kind of elemental, maybe? Elementals can have a crazy, unpredictable effect on people if they get too close."
"Could be," Bobby said. "But where Dean got to in all this is beyond me. Something big happened. He'd 'a called or gotten to Sam if he could. No way he'd let Sam go to the hospital without him. So he's gotta be in the same state as Sam, I'm bettin', but why they ain't found him I'll never know." He stood and put on his jacket. "I'm gonna go take a look at the site and see if I can't spot Dean and get his senseless ass in here. You stay with Sam in case he wakes up. If this is the same thing as the others, I dunno if we'll be enough to get him to remember who the hell he is. From what Doc said it sounds like you need prodding from folks who are especially close."
"Bobby Singer, you be careful, now. Don't go in there half-cocked. These boys are good hunters and see what happened to them. I ain't got time to be rompin' down memory lane with your sorry ass, trying to get you to remember all the stupid shit you'n me have done over the years. So stay safe." She patted Sam's hand. "I swear, I dunno how these boys get into such messes all the time."
"They're just experiencin' some of that famous 'Winchester Luck'…"
They both nodded. "Shitty," they said at the same time.
February 10, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma
The wind shore through Slaid's greasy locks, tossing his hair about in mad, angry waves—a heartless imitation of the graceful, wind-blown wheat fields that had once blanketed the land. He stared into the mid-day sun. Strong, high winds had sucked the dust into the atmosphere where it acted as a gritty filter between the sun and the plains, causing the light to shine pale and vague despite the cloudless sky.
Slaid leaned against the broken barn door, cleaning dirt from under his fingernails. A trace of a wry, self-satisfied smile skimmed his face as he looked back at the farmhouse. Jeb had already come and gone after milking the cow. No one else would bother him today, he was certain of that. He pushed himself away from the barn door. Penny lowed mournfully when she saw him, twitching her ears and shifting her heavy hooves. She cast her soft, liquid eyes to the ground in search of hay.
Standing inside the shattered entryway, he examined the damage and ran his fingers over the cracked support beams and collapsed walls. He ambled over to the back of the barn where the stranger had appeared and swished his foot around, moving hay and the strange pieces of wood away, revealing the trapdoor. Scurrying down the ladder, he lit the small kerosene lamp he'd left there the night before.
The room had been a root cellar until dust, wind and drought stripped the fertility from the land, leaving the Livingstons with nothing left to store. Sawdust coated the earthen floor. Slaid walked past a few empty crates and barrels, stopping at the grizzly, makeshift altar where offerings of herbs and grain alcohol lay in bowls. These, along with decomposed animal parts and candles, sat amidst unintelligible symbols painted in chicken blood. A dead chicken hung from a metal hook over the offerings, entrails dangling like a macabre festoon. The blood, long drained, lay in a crusting puddle on the altar below. The pungent smell of the decaying corpse lingered in the small, enclosed space. Slaid breathed deep and smiled.
All in all he was quite pleased with himself. "Hala!" he said. "Power." He raised his arms and flexed his thin, stringy muscles. "It worked. You came. Soon I learn to control." He waggled a bony finger as he tutted. "You will work for Slaid, ya? Make lady and little one mine? Make them love Slaid and obey?"
He rubbed his greedy hands together. The wind demon would soon bless him ten-fold. Everything had worked as promised. The only unexpected and inexplicable complication had been the man showing up when Slaid performed the summoning ritual, manifested by the wind-demon itself, no doubt. He hadn't prepared for that, but he wouldn't worry about him. If the fever didn't take him, he'd find something that would.
To Be Continued…