Episode Seven: Golgotha

By Kittsbud

Part One

 

Downtown Bar, Neenah, Wisconsin
10:45p.m.


Sam Winchester watched as his brother scrutinized the pool table as if his life, or at least the contents of his wallet, depended on his next move. Dean eyed every ball, calculating their positions in relation to the pockets and then let his fingers slide along the cue, resting its tip on the table as he made his choice.

“Left corner pocket,” he offered with a nod. “Ten bucks says I nudge that baby right in.”

Sam smiled. Dean had picked the hardest pocket on the table to sink the ball into. He was in one of his competitive, sarcastic moods, and Sam had already guessed why. Ever since he’d convinced Dean to take a job with Frank Taliean, a billionaire businessman and ex-hunter, Dean had taken every opportunity to rub the ‘I’m always right’ line in.

Right from the start of the gig, Dean had warned Sam that Taliean was not to be trusted, but no, Sam had still ploughed on blindly, and it had nearly cost them big time. Now, Sam was paying for that every chance Dean got, and Dean was very much enjoying it- almost as much as he’d enjoyed ribbing Sam over trashing the Impala back in Missouri.

“You know that’s an almost impossible shot, right?” Sam took a swig of his beer and waited for the reply he knew would come.

“Don’t you know you should always trust your big brother’s instincts, Sammy? But oh wait; you’d rather trust some guy you don’t know if he has money…” Dean smirked and took a quick drink from his own bottle. He looked at it, realizing the Budweiser was now quite empty, and then set it down on the edge of the nearby bar. “Twenty bucks, then.”

Dean leaned forward and let his gaze fall on the cue ball. He let the cue slip back in his grasp, and then with one fluid stroke brought it forward again, potting the eight ball as if it were the easiest shot in the world.

Sam groaned. He knew dang well Dean made half the money they lived on either playing poker or pool, but he still let his own brother ‘hustle’ him every time. “I am so not paying up twenty. I didn’t even agree to the ten bucks!”

“You’re just a sore loser, Geekboy.” Dean moved back to the bar and pulled out his wallet, intending to order a couple more beers. It was a warm night and with little else to do but play pool with Sam, he sensed he might need a whole keg of the stuff.

As he tugged out a crumpled twenty, he spotted a group of four young women settling into a small corner table. The bar wasn’t exactly rough, but it was still unusual to see a group of girls in such a place and it piqued his interest. Heck, pretty girls always piqued his interest.

Dean paid for the beers and tossed one over to Sam. “Want another game? It’s not as if there’s anything else to do around here. Maybe we should have headed back to Cali and taken a look at that suspected poltergeist…” All the time he spoke, Dean’s eyes remained on the women.

“I think I’ve had enough of giving you an excuse to empty my wallet.” Sam hunched forward, his expression changing to one of mirth as he noted his brother’s gaze. He’s not bothered about playing pool. He just wants an excuse to get the other side that table to flirt with those girls. “Maybe we should head back to the motel and head out early in the morning,” Sam teased, enjoying his brother’s sudden frown.

“Dude, will you work with me here?” Dean half-begged in a whispered tone. “Four hot chicks at ten o’clock. Tell me even you’re not that big a geek you haven’t noticed?” He jerked a thumb cautiously towards the corner. “Two each.” He beamed impishly.

Sam rolled his eyes, but caved to his brother’s wily charms. He would play one more game of pool, and when the women told Dean to go to hell, he’d be able to tell his brother ‘I told you so’ for a change. “One game,” he agreed. “Just no telling them we’re TV execs from some reality show again. That was stooping to a new low even for us.”

Dean nodded and grabbed the pool cue, making his way around to the other side of the table to set the game up again. “Ladies,” he nodded, flashing his ‘rogue grin’ as he passed by.

His attention caused only a cursory nod from the nearest young woman, and the four continued their heated discussion.

Whoa, a bunch of tough nuts. This should be fun. Dean rolled the balls back onto the top out of the pockets, making sure to turn and smile at the women who shouldn’t have been able to escape his charisma- at least not in his opinion. To his annoyance, all four seemed so deep in their own conversation they didn’t even appear to know he existed.

Sam’s smile broadened until his cheeks dimpled. “Shot down in flames,” he mouthed before chuckling at Dean’s irked expression. “Crashed and burned before take off…”

“Jerk!”

“Loser!”

Dean ignored the last comment. No way was he letting Sammy go back to the motel to rib him about this all night. All he had to do was grab the gals’ attention and he’d show Sam a thing or two. First, he had to know what had gotten them so all fired up into a chatting frenzy, and why they’d chosen a downtown bar for their group meeting. It wasn’t exactly a girlie place to be.

Dean looked back to the pool table, but kept his ears on the women’s conversation. What he heard was far from what he had expected. They weren’t drinking buddies, but co-workers at a local children’s hospital.

Dean made the first break, letting Sam take over the game so that he could innocently stand back and watch from a vantage point a little closer to the girls. If it didn’t show them what a great Winchester catch they were missing, scars and all, it at least gave him the opportunity to eavesdrop more easily.

“Val, you just don’t get it. I was on the wing last night and I saw him again. I’m telling you it was the kid. Damn, he was beckoning to me. What if…what if…”

“Susan, you’re just getting worked up over nothing. I’m sure there’s some kind of explanation. There are no such things as ghosts. You’re a trained professional. Hell, you were there the night the kid died. You should know better than to think he could come back from the dead.”

“No, Val, Susan’s right. I’ve seen it too. You can’t expect us to believe we’re both seeing things! If it happens again I’m quitting!”

Dean raised a brow but let Sam continue to control the table. The thought crossed his mind to introduce himself to the women and for once admit his real profession. Hell, it would be the first honest ‘chat up’ line he’d ever used. Then again, the truth was rarely as fun as what he could invent.

“So, if you think this thing is real, just tell me one thing? Why would the kid come back and haunt the wing? He has no reason to…”

“What if he was murdered, Val? Or maybe someone made a mistake, maybe a mistake that cost him his life. The doctors hadn’t expected him to die the way he did and you know it! The kid wants revenge, and I don’t plan on sticking around for me to be the fall guy!”

Dean watched as the nurse on the far side hastily stood up, grabbed her purse and scurried from the dimly lit bar. She was obviously angry at not being taken seriously, and so were her colleagues.

Only one of the young nurses, Val, seemed to have a cool head about her. He liked that. From what brief snippets of the tale he’d heard, he guessed she was probably right, too. The nurses worked the night shift and were undoubtedly letting their imaginations run wild once they were alone in the stark white corridors. It didn’t sound like there was any real reason for the kid to come back, so it was probably all in their overactive minds. Horror movies had a lot to answer for.

Dean shrugged, but as an afterthought ambled back up to the bar as Sam watched, intrigued.

Nick, the two ton, resident bartender nodded as Dean approached. “Don’t tell me, two more beers?”

“Yeah, two beers and an address.” The young hunter turned and pointed to where Val now sat alone. It appeared her overwrought colleagues didn’t approve of her stance and had departed with their friend. “You wouldn’t happen to know where she works, would you?” Dean let an extra twenty drop onto the polished bar surface as an incentive.

Nick nodded and placed two ice cold bottles on the counter, quickly taking his customer’s cash and then wiping the counter with a cloth. “I’ve not seen her in here too often, not exactly her kind of place. I guess this is your lucky day, though, because Val over there happens to be a friend of my cousin. She works over at the Children’s’ Hospital on 130 2nd Street.” The bartender’s eyes narrowed as a sudden realization hit him. “You ain’t some kind of pervert, are you? I’d hate for me to have to deal with you…”

Dean shook his head, eyeing Nick’s muscular, tattooed arms with distaste. He had no doubt the man could grind beef with his fists, and probably had the mental capacity of a ten year old. Not someone he wanted to get on the wrong side of or give the wrong impression. “No need to worry, dude, I’m just after a story…” Without further explanation he left the bar, wondering why Nick had given up the information for so little as twenty bucks if he was really bothered about the girl’s welfare.

“Geez, Dean, are you getting so desperate you're trying your pick up line on the bar staff now?” Sam put down his pool cue and dodged a Bud bottle that was launched swiftly at his head. He caught the flying projectile easily with his right hand and noted it was full. “I guess those girls must have been discussing something earth-shattering to resist such a babe magnet as Dean Winchester…or maybe they need new glasses…”

“Or, maybe I was thinking with my upstairs brain, and was more interested in their conversation than getting laid.” Dean raised a brow cryptically and settled down into a seat across from his brother. He pulled a face that suggested he still had every intention of winning the little ‘snark competition’ they seemed to have fallen into.

“You actually have an upstairs brain? When did this happen?” Sam turned to look as Val finally stood and began walking towards the door. She was unmistakably drop-dead gorgeous, and for Dean not to have pursued her more, there had to actually be a serious reason. Blondes like that didn’t grow on trees, and Dean rarely let one escape his charms without much more of a fight.

“Dude, I guess your ‘Geekboy’ attitude is rubbing off on me. Do you think I could have it surgically removed?” Dean followed Sam’s gaze as Val finally exited the little bar.

“Dean,” Sam asked more seriously. “Why did you really let her walk out of here so easily? And what we’re you doing with that bartender? I saw you slip him an extra twenty, and you never flash cash around like that.”

Dean thought about it. He actually didn’t know why he was so intrigued by what he’d overheard. It was just girlie fear talking. There was probably no kid ghost or haunting, and yet somehow, the whole thing bothered him on some unknown level. He knew if he even mentioned it to Sam it would turn into their next gig, and he wasn’t sure he wanted that to happen, either.

Ever since Missouri he’d had a huge aversion to hospitals. Four weeks trapped in a room with nothing to do but watch TV and be assaulted by the caustic aromas of antiseptics, well, it had taken its toll. To Dean, hospitals were right up there along with prisons. They stifled his free will, his freedom, and even the suggestion of being a visitor tended to freak him out, even if it did mean he’d get to see the very lovely Val again.

“Those four girls, they’re all nurses at a local hospital,” Dean eventually admitted, swirling the dregs of beer in the bottom of his bottle in thought. “They weren’t interested in me because they’re scared, Sammy. Seems like a couple of them think they’ve seen a ghost.”

“And you think it’s the real deal?” Sam hunkered forward and set his hands on the table, his hunter’s sixth sense kicking in. “What kind of spirit do you think we’re dealing with?”

“Whoa, slow down there.” Dean eased back, leaving the bottle on the table to fix his gaze on his brother. “I’m not saying this is anything more than fear. It sounds like some kid died unexpectedly, and it could just be that the nurses are letting their subconscious play tricks on them…”

“But somehow you don’t think so, or you wouldn’t be telling me any of this,” Sam countered. “And you wouldn’t have slipped Nick over there a twenty. What did you find out?”

Dean sighed. The tables had just been turned and Sam had ‘hustled’ him into this gig. He might be the best bluffer and the best ladies man, but Sam was definitely the best at innocently manipulating a conversation to go the way he wanted. “I got the hospital’s address from Nick, but we don’t have to use it.”

Sam had other ideas. “What happened to the whole, ‘helping people, hunting things’ line? I think we should look into this. I mean, what if it is for real and the kid needs putting to rest?” When Dean didn’t try to argue he added, “How far away is it? Maybe we can just call on our way out of town, just to be sure…”

“It’s three blocks away. 130 2nd Street. It’s a kids’ hospital. I didn’t catch what wing, so we’re gonna have to do a little investigative reporting to find that one out, but…” Dean’s words petered out as he realized his brother had just turned a shade of chalky white.

Sam’s eager expression had been instantly extinguished and replaced by a look that said he was suddenly and inexplicably scared and excited at the same time. He gulped hard and his heart began to pound erratically in his chest.

Sam closed his eyes and waited for the feeling to pass before he pulled out his wallet and almost tore it open. He rifled through its contents until he found a crumpled and slightly torn piece of paper stuffed in the back. Sam tugged it out, offering it to Dean with a trembling hand.

“What’s this, little brother another IOU?” Dean quipped, but took the note almost apprehensively. He didn’t recall seeing it before, and yet instantly knew it was important to Sam.

Wishing he had another beer or something stronger, Dean unfolded the paper and instantly knew what he was looking at. Sam had once told him about it back when he’d been crawling St. Mary’s medical center’s walls, but this was the first time he’d actually set eyes upon it. In fact, he suspected Sam had long ago forgotten it even existed until tonight.

Sam

I wish we could have gotten to know one another better, but now is neither the place nor time. All I can tell you is that I believe our paths will cross again.

Before I left I needed to make sure you take this warning to heart. Trust nothing that you see or hear. There is a darkness rising among us, and those like you and I are in great peril.

Two weeks ago I began having nightmares- visions if that's what you like to call them- of a black car and its passengers. The car was hit by a truck, and I could see no more. I came here tonight to try and save your family from the rig, but as you and I now know there never was a truck to be saved from. It’s my belief that somehow because of our unique abilities I was able to see what you were seeing, even though it was not real. In essence, I saw my vision through your eyes- and it was misleading. I fear intentionally so.

Take care, Sam, for there are those who would and can manipulate even us.

The Priest


P.S. When you eventually leave this place, you may want to look up this address. I think you will find some of what you seek there.

All I’ve been able to see is 130 2nd Street, Neenah, Wisconsin. I always see a building. It appears to be a hospital. Go there and see what answers are given to you.

“The address the priest wrote on the note is the hospital’s isn’t it?” Sam asked the question, even though he knew the answer. “Dean, we’re meant to be here. The priest was like me, he saw things. We’re not here by accident, we’re bound to this place somehow and we have to know why. What if we’re meant to save someone like the priest saved us? What if that’s what my gifts are ultimately for, to foresee and change the future?”

“Yeah right, you’re a regular Sam Beckett. You see something, leap in and save the day and then leap out again. Sammy, you know it’s not like that.” Dean hated telling it like it was, but lately all Sam thought of was killing the demon and using his gifts for the greater good, because well, that’s what he was sure he’d been given them for. But what if one day he found out otherwise? What if..?

Dean pushed the shadowy thought to one side and instead offered up more logic. “Sam, the kid is dead. It’s too late to save him. Even if you’re priest friend really did foretell this, we’re too late to be of any use.”

Sam shook his head, his long hair almost dangling in his eyes. “Not if it wasn’t the kid we’re meant to save.” He looked almost pleadingly to his brother. “Will you at least come with me to the hospital tomorrow and check it out?”

Dean inhaled but nodded. No matter what, he would always do anything for Sammy, even if it meant confronting his own fears.


* * * *


Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Neenah, Wisconsin
1:47p.m.


Dean pushed through the central glass doors of the hospital and instantly wished he hadn’t. Being in the hospital, heck, any hospital brought back more memories than he cared to have.

The sterile, perfect environment just bothered him on so many levels, as did the odors that assaulted his nostrils on every turn of the corridor. Part of him suspected it wasn’t the hospitals he feared at all, but more likely the possibility of death that they foreshadowed.

Not that Dean was scared of dying. He’d been close often enough already. No, what Dean feared was leaving the world of the living before his own mission was complete. He had to make sure Sammy was safe. He had to finish the Winchester crusade against darkness and make sure his brother got some semblance of a life.

“Dean?” Sam shot a glance at the elder hunter as they headed towards a small reception desk. “You okay?” It was obvious from the lack of acerbic banter that Dean was bothered by something. It hadn’t really taken Sam long to guess what.

Dean shrugged it off. “Yeah, just thinking about that blonde.” He winked and flicked two plastic ID tags from his pocket, offering one up to Sam.

Sam quickly checked the text, making sure Dean hadn’t given him a title even remotely embarrassing. To his relief, they were apparently both reporters from the local newspaper. That, at least made sense.

“Hi, we’re with the Neenah Tribune. I was wondering if you could help us out?” Dean leaned forward on the counter, smiling at the nurse on duty so broadly she couldn’t help but smile back. “We’re looking for a young nurse named Val? Small, blonde, no-nonsense kinda attitude?”

The nurse nodded. Everybody knew Val. She tended to ‘tell it like it was’ just a little too much for some people's liking, and had gotten in trouble for it on many occasions. “You mean Val Harper. She’s on the neurology wing. In fact, you’re in luck, she’s on duty this morning.” She passed over a small, folded pamphlet detailing the hospital’s work. On the back was a small map giving directions to each department. “Neurology is here,” she tapped an area to the right of where they were now standing.

“Thanks,” Dean stuffed the pamphlet into his jacket pocket and was tempted to offer up his cell number. Heck, the nurse on duty was kind of cute, but then, all nurses were kind of cute to Dean. Only the mildly irritated look from Sam stopped him.

As they walked away he shot his brother a look of despair. “Fun, Sammy, when are you going to understand that girls equal fun?”

Sam just shook his head and followed the directions they’d been given, smiling all the way at his brother’s pained expression.

* * * *

Valerie Harper sat at a small duty station on the west wing flicking through her daily pile of charts and paperwork. As she sifted through various patients’ files, she paused, thinking of the previous evening’s conversation with her friends.

It was almost impossible for her to believe in ghosts or spirits. They were things to watch in the movies or on television, but they just didn’t exist in reality.

Valerie had to believe that and take some solace from it, because it was the only form of comfort she could find after her husband had died in a car accident. If there was any way of coming back, Tony would have been there for her wouldn’t he? On every cold and lonely night she had spent since her loss, he’d have been there watching over her, wouldn’t he? No, ghosts didn’t exist, or Tony would have come back. He’d never leave her if there was any chance, any form he could return in, their bond had been that strong.

“Valerie Harper? We’re with the Neenah Tribune. I was wondering if we could ask you a few questions?”

Val looked up to see two young men peering down at her. The shorter of the two flashed a press card and then smiled broadly. She nodded, acknowledging her name, and then frowned as she realized she recognized the man doing the talking. “Weren’t you in Nick’s bar last night?”

Sam glanced at Dean and stifled the urge to wince. Apparently, his brother’s flirting hadn’t gone totally unnoticed after all. “We kind of overheard your conversation about a ghost…” He hoped the truth would win the nurse over.

“And you thought, hey, haunting at local hospital, great way to make a front page story and a quick buck?” Val wasn’t impressed. If it was one thing she hated it was guys out to make money from others' misfortune. She still recalled the reporters who had hounded her for days after Tony’s death, begging her for the gory details.

“We’re not here for a front page story,” Sam soothed, sensing the woman’s hostility. “We’re here because we believed you.”

Val scoffed, her top lip puckering in disgust. “Kid, you’re full of it. I know a gold digger when I see one, and your partner here just oozes crap. Do you want to get off my wing before I call security?”

“Go ahead and call them if it makes you feel any better.” Dean moved between Val and Sam, fully intent on going head-to-head with the sassy nurse if he had to. “You know you don’t want to. Hell, I bet you were gonna go right back to Nick’s tonight in the hopes of bumping into me again anyway…” He raised a brow, expecting a retort.

Val grimaced. “Go to hell!”

Dean’s eyes twinkled. “I’ve been close already,” he admitted a little too truthfully. “How about we come to a compromise and you tell us why your friends are so upset, then we’ll be right back outta that door.” He turned and pointed to the entrance they’d just passed through.

Val eyed him warily. She didn’t want to cause any kind of stir for the hospital, and she hated reporters. On the other hand, they wouldn’t be interested if they didn’t think there was a story. She was sure there was no ghost, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a guilty conscience somewhere. The kid had died in strange circumstances. Maybe she owed it to him to let these men find the truth. For once, maybe she could use a reporter for a good cause, even if it meant playing along with the flirt before her.

“I’ll tell you what I know, but if anything hits the front page I’ll deny every word. I’m just in this for the truth. You double cross me, I’ll make sure you pay.”

“Don’t tell me, you have mafia connections, and I’ll wake up in a concrete coffin Godfather style if I squeal?” Dean couldn’t help but taunt the nurse.

“No concrete,” she conceded. “But my brother works traffic. You might just find that classic of yours impounded and crushed before you even have chance to pay your fine.”

Dean’s color visibly drained. He had totally underestimated Miss. Harper right from the get go; they both had, and now it was biting them in the butt. In all likelihood, Nick had blabbed about Dean questioning him, but still this girl was smarter than the average fabric softener bear.

“Look,” Sam offered apologetically as he pulled Dean ungraciously out of the way. “We just want to find the truth. Will you help us? All we need to know is what happened to the kid your friends think they saw.”

Val checked the corridor to make sure they were alone and nodded. “The kid’s name was Matthew Ismay. He was brought in about a week ago and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He had a fifty/fifty chance if he got surgery right away; at least that’s what the doctors said. It was a sad case, eleven years old and no family to be with him at a time like that.”

“So, he died during the surgery?” Dean pushed.

“No, that’s what my friends can’t get over. He died suddenly the night of his admission. He never even made it to surgery. It was unexpected, but these things happen. Medicine isn’t an exact science.” Val shrugged, unsure what she believed about the case anymore.

“Do you think there could be any kind of foul play?” Sam asked the question carefully, not wanting to anger the already irked nurse more. “I mean, could some kind of hospital mistake have attributed to his death?”

Val laughed. She knew anything was possible, had even considered the scenario herself, but when it all boiled down, the kid had probably died of natural causes. It was most likely her friends were just getting spooked by the impossible. “Seriously,” she admitted, “I think my friends imagined it. The corridors can get lonely at night. I’ve got faith in the staff here. They’re not killers, and I doubt there was any kind of negligence.” Val shot a look pointedly at Dean. “Let’s face it, there are no such things as ghosts, right?”

Dean flinched, his cocky exterior melting for just a second. He glanced over to Sam and then nodded. “Right,” he lied, quite convincingly.

* * * *


Outside the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Neenah, Wisconsin
3:47p.m.

Dean quickened his stride at the sight of his midnight black ‘baby’ and let a hand caress the trunk as he passed it by. The Impala was precious, and Val had struck a nerve the moment she had threatened it. The car was like an extension of his own personality, and to threaten it, was to threaten Dean.

Sam noted his brother’s silence and the loving, if brief touch of the metalwork. “She really got to you in there, didn’t she?” He laughed, knowing it was rare for Dean to ever be left speechless by a girl.

“Shut up, Sammy.” Dean didn’t look at his brother but quickly clambered behind the Impala’s wheel. Once settled, he felt instantly calmer. The car would be fine, and so would he now he was out of the claustrophobic confines of the hospital. She wouldn’t…

Sam slid into the passenger seat and pulled his bag from the rear seat. Without looking at Dean, he dragged out their laptop and pulled the screen into the open position. It was time for some real work instead of teasing his already tormented brother.

“So, I’ll start with a search on the kid’s name. Maybe we can find out what happened to his parents.” Sam began tapping at the keyboard, glad of the new wireless network card he’d invested in a few weeks previously.

“Yeah well, seeing is believing, little brother.” Dean flicked out his home made E.M.F. meter from his pocket and waved it under Sam’s nose. He’d apparently scanned the wing while they’d been chatting with the nurse and come up with nothing. “I’d like to see this kid before we actually assume he’s haunting the place. I think we should come back tonight and scope out the west wing.”

“Right, because ghost’s prefer to manifest themselves in the dark.” Sam nodded, continuing to keep his head down as he scrutinized the laptop’s screen. Accessing the local news wasn’t proving too difficult, but finding anything related to the kid’s name was apparently a lot harder. “There’s nothing here with the name Ismay, at least not recently.” Sam shook his head and scowled. “You know, the name seems pretty familiar. I’m sure I should know it…”

Dean stowed the E.M.F. in the glove box and shrugged. “Ismay was one of the dudes on the Titanic; even I know that, Geekboy. You’re confusing this kid with history 101.” He let his lips curl into a smile at finally upstaging his normally intellectually gifted brother. “You’re not the only one who watches Discovery Channel.” He raised a brow and shot Sam his usual sardonic grin.

“Dude, you so didn’t find that on Discovery. I doubt you even know how to find that channel.” Sam shook his head accusingly, and hit the touchpad lightly with his forefinger, widening his news search. “And you so didn’t read it in a book…”

Dean frowned. Sammy always caught him out when he tried to be the smartass. “I saw the movie,” he admitted somewhat painfully.

This time, Sam just had to look up to see his brother’s aggrieved expression. “You watched a chick flick? Man, that is a new low even for you.” A deep chuckle escaped Sam’s throat and he couldn’t stifle it no matter how hard he tried.

“It was not a chick flick,” Dean defended. “Besides, it was strictly research.” He shrugged, knowing he’d lost the battle. “Anyway, you’d resort to it too if you were assaulted by freakin’ Snuggles the bear for four weeks in that hospital. Man, whoever invented daytime TV ought to be forced to watch that crap.”

Sam nodded. He knew being around a hospital again had brought back bad memories for Dean. Maybe it was time to stop the ribbing, at least for an hour or two. He looked back to the laptop instead and his brow furrowed. At last they had a lead, even if it was a vague one. “Looks like we’ve got something,” he pointed to an article from the previous year. “Matthew Ismay was involved in a fire at the local kids’ home. It says here he’s been there since his parents died when he was a baby. Doesn’t go into detail on what happened to them.”

“What about the fire?” Dean leaned across, checking out the story whilst rummaging through a box of CD’s he’d downloaded from the net.

The new player was great, and it had helped increase his library of mullet rock considerably. That being said, he sometimes still preferred the grainy quality of his old cassette deck. He squinted at his own spidery writing on the label and finally chose Metallica’s ‘Invisible Kid,’ his face cracking into a huge grin.

Sam cringed at his brother’s musical selection, but continued narrating the rather concise article before him. “It says Matthew saved all the other kids in his dorm by alerting the staff to the fire. The weird thing was he seemed to know about it before it actually started. For awhile, he was even a suspect until one of his tutors was able to give him an alibi.”

Dean whistled. “Are you thinking this kid could be like you? I mean, could have been?”

Sam licked his lips. The possibility was becoming more and more likely. Maybe that was why the priest had somehow latched on to the orphan in the first place. He did seem to have a knack of seeing others like himself. “I don’t know, but we have to find out.” He twisted his wrist to check on the time. “It’s too late to make the library and newspaper archives today. We’ll check out the west wing tonight and I’ll hit the research in the morning.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Dean cranked the Impala and turned up the volume on the CD player. It was time to head back to the motel to shower before their nighttime vigil, and he had every intention of enjoying some kick-ass music on the way.

* * * *


Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
West Wing
12.01a.m.


Sam poked his head around the corridor wall and sighed. He hated skulking about as if he were a criminal, but there was little else they could do because Dean had refused point blank to wear the cleaners uniforms he’d found for them. Now, they had to try to stealthily avoid every security camera on the wing whilst they searched for the spirit of Matthew Ismay.

“I told you we should have used those uniforms,” Sam grouched, looking over Dean’s shoulder at the E.M.F. meter's readings.

“Dude, cleaners don’t hang around hospitals at this time of night. Besides, you know I hate uniforms, especially after Taliean…” Dean pulled a face and Sam instantly felt guilty.

On their last gig Frank Taliean had given Sam a pretty cushy job while Dean had been stuck masquerading as a security guard. He’d been pissed about it ever since. “A cleaner’s uniform worked for Richard Kimble,” he offered innocently.

“Yeah, well I’m not ‘The Fugitive’ and I don’t plan on being anytime soon. So, can we get back to spook hunting?” Dean swung the E.M.F. around in another sweep, but the needle still remained static. It was picking up a big fat zilch no matter where they looked. “I’m thinking our ghost boy might be a wild goose chase here, Sammy.”

Sam frowned. The priest had wanted them here. There had to be something to the nurses story, they were just missing the connection. He looked up at a small white-faced clock hanging from the hallway wall and noted it was just past midnight. Traditionally, the witching hour had begun.

“Maybe we should find out which room Matthew was in and check it out?” Sam gestured in the direction of the nurse’s station and was about to suggest they approach her and ask a few questions.

He didn’t get chance to even finish his sentence.

A shrill, high-pitched scream echoed down the white-walled corridor like a banshee wail. The scream repeated as both brothers spun around and realized it was the nurse on duty doing the shrieking.

“Spook ass kickin’ time, little brother.” Dean broke into a fast jog and quickened the pace further when he saw the terrified nurse up ahead. She seemed focused on an adjoining corridor, and at the sight of Dean began to point frantically down the gloomy passageway.

Dean slowed and sensed Sam at his side as they approached the duty station. Neither brother spoke, but put their attention where the ashen-faced nurse was still pointing.

Dean saw it first. Just a few feet down the dimly lit corridor, the apparition of a small boy hovered over the freshly cleaned linoleum floor. His features looked like a masque of pain and insecurity, and as he beckoned with his outstretched hand it was obvious he was tormented by some unknown predicament.

“Crap!” Dean tapped the E.M.F. with the flat of his hand, but it still registered nothing. Either his meter was broken, or the kid was a new kind of weird. “Sammy, I’m getting a big fat nothing here…”

Sam didn’t seem to hear his brother. Instead, he moved forward as the white-faced specter called to him.

The more Matthew beckoned, the more Sam felt bound to follow his appeal for help. The sallow-faced kid was an enigma, a spirit he had to face and help if he were to find the truth about so many things.

“Sammy, stay back…”

Sam heard Dean’s words, but they meant nothing. Matthew needed him, and his mind, his body, every muscle and sinew couldn’t refuse the request. He was mesmerized just as if some mystical hypnotist had entranced him.

“Sammy!”

This time, Dean’s words were spoken with such fear that Sam turned, breaking the bizarre psychic connection that had held him fast before. As he turned, he realized why he had been allowed to break the link. Dean was slipping a hand under his jacket to retrieve the rock salt-filled SKB he’d brought along for good measure.

As the shortened barrel emerged in his brother’s grasp, Sam reached out a hand and tugged it down, stopping Dean taking aim on the manifestation before them. “No, Dean, he’s not here to hurt anyone.”

Dean felt his grip tighten on the shotgun and he flashed a skeptical look at his brother. Sometimes Sam had been known to be a little too soft where spirits were concerned and he wasn’t taking any risks. For now, he nodded that he would hold back, but he still let the SKB line up on the kid’s shimmering, incandescent form. “Watch your ass, bro,” he offered, keeping a wary eye on his target.

Sam didn’t answer, but felt himself biting into his lip as he moved closer to the kid.

Matthew beckoned again, his thin, bony hand willing the young hunter to follow. The kid appeared almost desperate, and his beseeching pleas were obviously now aimed singularly at Sam.

As the boy backed up, his frail form hit a wall and dissipated into the nether region beyond it.

Dean exhaled, relieved that the spirit had vanished. He may not be the visionary of the family, but the thing had obviously latched onto his brother, and he wasn’t happy about it. Sam had enough to deal with facing the demon without being a spirit magnet.

Just as Dean began to let his guard down, a hand re-emerged from the wall, followed by the kid’s entire ethereal form. “Guess I spoke too soon,” Dean mumbled under his breath, taking aim once again with the SKB.

Sam held out a hand. “How can we help you? What is it you want here?”

Matthew cocked his head, his pallid façade visibly frowning in disillusionment. Sam didn’t understand his pleas. Sam didn’t grasp what he was trying to show. In despair, Matthew dipped his head and appeared to concentrate. He appeared to focus on the floor, and as his brows furrowed, Sam began to clutch his head.

It wasn’t pain exactly, it was far worse.

Sam had had visions before, frightening, gory visions he’d rather forget, but this was different. The agony came first, like some huge ball in his skull pressing to get out. As the pressure increased, so did the amount of clarity to his revelation- like someone adjusting a badly tuned TV set.

Sam blinked, stumbling forward as the intensity of his vision took a hold on his body. This was no ordinary foretelling, and he had no control over his own muscles anymore.

He reached out a hand, desperate to grab the wall for support, but he was too far away, his judgment clouded by the imagery filling his beleaguered brain.

“Sam!” Dean saw his brother try to steady himself and fail, tumbling to the floor like a toddler trying to walk for the first time.

The sight was enough to spur the elder hunter into action and he raced forward, tugging back the SKB’s trigger as hard and fast as his reflexes allowed.

The shotgun kicked back in his grasp, but he never even noticed. Dean’s attention lay on both Sam, and the still very apparent apparition before him.

“What the..?” Dean’s eyes widened in disbelief, and he began to shakily reload the shotgun.

As the rock salt had hit, Matthew’s form hadn’t even been shaken. He was as visible now as he had been ten seconds earlier. Only now, he appeared even more distraught.

“What are you, a freakin’ tulpa?” The only thing Dean had ever fought that had been impervious to rock salt had been Mordecai Murdock, and he hadn’t exactly been a real spirit. Then again, if the nurses believed it enough, had they summoned Matt back from the grave too?

Right now, Dean didn’t care. All he was concerned with was his brother, and at this point, Sammy wasn’t looking too good.

Once he’d hit the linoleum, Sam had curled into a ball and begun to almost convulse. He was in agony, both mentally and physically, of that Dean was sure. As he watched, terrified, Sam began to shake uncontrollably, his eyes rolling back in his skull as if he were having some kind of seizure.

The image was too much for the elder hunter to take, and he raced forward, unafraid of the ghost, but very afraid for his brother. He yanked back on the trigger of his shotgun for a second time, almost at point-blank range, filling the corridor with a powdery white mist.

Still, Matthew Ismay’s flickering form refused to falter. His eyes filled with tears and he shook his head, not comprehending why Dean would try to force him away until he was ready to leave.

No matter what, he refused to release his hold on his captive until he was ready, little realizing he may be putting Sam’s life at risk.


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