Episode Nine: Let Go

By irismay42

Part One

 

Clifton, Connecticut

“I hate you!” Ashleigh Newton threw the framed photograph at her younger sister’s head with such venom that when Caitlin ducked out of the way it flew right through the open door and into her bedroom, smashing into the far wall and raining down onto her bed in twenty jagged shards.

“Now look what you did!” Caitlin whined. “Mom – !”

“She’s not here, remember?” Ashleigh spat, anger, hatred and every other emotion a teenager ever feels at one time or another towards an annoying younger sibling boiling like hot lava behind her pale blue eyes. “She’s never here! She’s never been here! And I’m tired of it! I’m tired of taking care of you!”

Caitlin backed into her bedroom sullenly, glancing at the pieces of broken glass on her bed. “I’m thirteen,” she asserted quietly. “I can take care of myself.”

Ashleigh stared at her, before tossing her long blonde hair over one shoulder. "Yeah, well tell that to Mom, geek!” she spat. “Take care of your little sister while I’m at work, Ashleigh!” she mimicked her parent sullenly. “Do you know how many years I’ve been hearing that? Well I’m sick of it! And I’m going to that party tonight, I don’t care what Mom says!”

“You’ll get in trouble.”

Ashleigh narrowed her eyes. “Only if you tell, freak.” It was a warning, and Caitlin recognized that only too well. Ashleigh took a breath, closing her eyes dramatically, before adding, “Do you know who’s going to be at that party?”

“Justin Ross?” Caitlin hazarded an informed guess. That was, after all, the only name she’d heard out of her sister’s mouth for the last two weeks. And Justin said this to me in English class… And Justin has the coolest car… And Justin says he’s getting a tattoo – maybe I should get a tattoo… Caitlin shook her head in exasperation.

Ashleigh nodded, not picking up on her little sister’s sardonic tone. “Yes he is,” she confirmed, hands on hips, lips pouting. “And I’m going to be there. Bad enough I’ve got a geeky little sister following me around everywhere I go, ruining my credibility.” She set her jaw, and through gritted teeth added, “And if I don’t get Justin to ask me out tonight, it’ll be all your fault!”

She turned on her heel in that dramatic daytime soap style she’d perfected and started to head for the stairs, before suddenly stopping and turning back to face her sister. “You know what?” she said, eyes narrowed.

“What?” Caitlin was almost afraid to ask.

Ashleigh’s overly lip-glossed pouting lips had compressed into a thin line. “I wish you’d never been born. Then I wouldn’t have had my life ruined having to look after you all the time!”

Caitlin stared after her big sister for a long moment as she stormed off down the stairs, wincing as she heard the front door slam shut behind her and secretly wishing that there had been some sign in Ashleigh’s eyes that she hadn’t meant what she’d just said.

But there hadn’t been. And she had meant it. Every word. Caitlin just knew it.

Fighting back the tears stinging her eyes, Caitlin quietly closed her bedroom door, turning to look at the pieces of shattered picture frame strewn across her bed.

Reaching between the shards of broken glass, she carefully withdrew the photograph, staring at it through the tears blurring her vision.

She and Ashleigh when Mom had taken them to Disneyworld.

Ashleigh had been twelve, Caitlin eight. Ashleigh had her arm around her little sister’s shoulders, and a big toothy Mickey Mouse smile lit up both their faces.

Caitlin had adored her big sister so much at that moment.

She’d been holding a balloon nearly as big as she was, but had fumbled the string when Mom had presented her with an ice cream cone, too klutzy even at that age to be able to handle two different operations at the same time. “Don’t let go!” Mom had cried too late, the balloon already having started to drift away.

But then Ashleigh had chased after it, all the way back to the ice cream stand and beyond, until finally she’d jumped up and caught the string, proudly returning the balloon to her sobbing kid sister’s clumsy fingers.

’Cause that’s what big sisters did.

Mom had taken a photo then, as soon as Ashleigh had wiped the tears from Caitlin’s cheeks, and the younger girl had treasured it ever since: a moment caught in time that she would never get back, but a memory that transported her to happier days whenever the world got to be too much for her.

She might not have been pretty; she might not have been popular; she might not have had lots of friends and a cool dad who took her camping.

But she had Ashleigh. She’d always have Ashleigh.

“She hates you, you know,” a small voice said from behind her.

Caitlin ran her fingers over the photograph, for once ignoring the voice.

“She’s always hated you. You’re a burden to her. You’re ruining her life.”

Caitlin spared a tearful glance for the young girl standing behind the door. She was unnaturally pale, long lank blonde hair hanging down in tangles to her waist, long black dress down to her ankles that made no sound as she glided towards the bed.

“Were you there all the time?” Caitlin asked quietly.

The girl nodded, dark, dark eyes as black and as hard as coal glinting as they swept the scene before them. “She wishes you were dead,” she said, her voice as cold and as dead as her black-rimmed eyes. “You’re ruining her life.”

Caitlin nodded, tears slipping down her cheeks and landing on the photograph she still clutched in her trembling hands.

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed something glinting.

“She wishes you were dead,” the little girl repeated, holding up a piece of the broken glass, sharp edges grasped between long, thin fingers. “You’re such a burden.”

She held out the glass towards Caitlin, jet black gaze boring into the young girl’s eyes.

Caitlin stared at the glass in the deathly white hand, sobbing silently, but knowing deep down what she needed to do.

“Ease her burden, Caitlin,” the child in black said. “Show your sister how much you love her. Let her go…”

Caitlin nodded. “I do,” she whispered through the salty tears dripping from her lips. “I’ll always love her.”

“Ease her burden. Let go.”

Caitlin reached out and took the piece of glass.

* * * *

“Ash? Catie? I’m home!”

Gina Newton tossed her house keys into the pot she kept by the front door. Ugly little brown ceramic thing Vince had given her as a present from the girls on the last Mother’s Day before the accident.

“Catie? Where are you?”

She shrugged off her jacket, absently smoothing down the blue nurse’s uniform she wore underneath.

“Ashleigh?”

She climbed the stairs tiredly, aching limbs yearning for the imminent bathtub.

“Catie?”

Caitlin’s door was closed, which wasn’t unusual in itself: Catie had become quite withdrawn over the past year or so, which Gina put down to puberty. She’d get over it. Ashleigh had been a handful at that age too. Still was, in fact.

“Caitlin?”

She pushed open the door, her attention drawn to a piece of broken glass lying incongruously on the fluffy pink carpet. “Honey, you break something?”

She looked up from the piece of glass, frowning. There was something dark staining the candy pink quilt cover. Something running down the lace frill and dripping onto the carpet.

Her eyes followed the stain up onto the bed.

To where her youngest daughter lay, ashen face staring sightlessly up at the ceiling, blue lips wet with tears. She held a photograph of herself and her sister clutched to her chest, as the gashes to her wrists oozed her lifeblood away like cheap red wine.

The scream never made it to Gina’s lips before she collapsed to the floor, her baby girl’s name trapped in her throat as her world shattered around her like the shards of a broken picture frame.

The young girl in the black dress emerged from behind the door, smiled at her handiwork, and moved on to the next house.

* * * *

“Daddy, the baby’s crying!”

Daddy wasn’t listening. Daddy was clutching the picture and staring out the window.
He did that a lot now.

“Daddy? Daddy, the baby’s crying!”

But Daddy was crying too.


“The baby’s crying.”

Dean Winchester glanced sideways at his kid brother, head lolled back against the car seat, eyes closed shut, long gangly limbs twitching.

Dean had heard Sam talk in his sleep before. Hell, Sam was always talking in his sleep. Especially when the nightmares took hold of him, creeping into his head and exploding behind his eyes when he least expected them.

But usually, he cried out for Jessica. Or for Mom. Occasionally for Dad, although that was rare these days. More often than not, Sam cried out for Dean himself, like he used to when they were kids.

But this was new.

“Daddy, the baby’s crying,” Sam repeated, his voice high-pitched, almost frightened, eyes bouncing around beneath tightly closed eyelids.

Something pulled at the back of Dean’s mind, something painful and almost familiar, and his stomach lurched for some reason he couldn’t seem to put his finger on.

“Sam?” he reached over, tugging gently at Sam’s jacket.

“The baby’s crying,” Sam repeated, stubbornly refusing to wake up.

Stop saying that… Please, Sam…

“Sam!” Dean barked his brother’s name a little louder than he’d intended, and Sam sat bolt upright, eyes wild and unfocused.

He glanced about himself uncertainly, Bambi caught in the headlights of a semi, taking in the details of his surroundings piece by piece until the pieces started to fit together.

Road. Car. Dean.

All as it should be.

Sam took a deep breath, releasing it slowly as he drew a tired hand across his sweat-sheened forehead.

Dean spared him a brief "you okay?" look before that practiced air of being more interested in the road than his brother’s freaky nightmares quickly fell across his features.

“Nightmare?” he asked, trying not to sound overly concerned. He knew if Sam got wind of just how much his nightmare visions freaked his big brother out, then he himself would be ten times more freaked out than he already was.

And Dean couldn’t have that.

Sam shook his head, forehead crumpling into an uncertain frown. “I don’t think so,” he said quietly.

Dean spared him another sidelong glance. “Sure looked like it from over here,” he commented. “You were doing that whole demented windmill thing.”

The corners of Sam’s mouth lifted in a grudging smile. “I do not ‘windmill’,” he protested, the smile reaching his eyes and pushing away some of the ache.

“Oh yeah you do,” Dean insisted, trying to keep a straight face. “Like a giraffe on roller skates.”

“You’re getting dangerously close to a mixed metaphor there, dude,” Sam admonished, turning back to the road as a large sign reading “Connecticut’s finest apple pie” drifted past, closely followed by another that simply read “Hungry?” and a third directing the famished traveler to Ma Baker’s Pantry, next right.

Sam ignored the growling in his stomach, not for the first time wondering how Dean survived on a diet of M&Ms and coffee.

“Pardon me, Mr. Shakespeare,” Dean muttered, for once forgetting to play the dumb card. “But I’m telling you, you kick the crap outta my car one more time and I’m tying you up next time you go to sleep in here.”

Sam raised an eyebrow, pseudo-psychic panic almost forgotten. “Never had you down as the kinky type,” he said, grinning.

Dean shrugged, object of the exercise successfully achieved: Sam’s hands had stopped shaking and the color had returned to his pale cheeks. “It was just that one time,” he protested, flashing that naughty schoolboy grin of his. “And she was possessed by the spirit of a psycho machete-wielding mass murderer…”

Sam sniggered, and it was Dean’s turn to take a deep breath.

Generally speaking, talking was Sam’s thing, but Dean figured some talking was probably called for right now. “So…” he said, Serious Face returning with an almost audible clunk. “Not a nightmare?”

Sam shook his head. “Just words,” he said enigmatically, as if that made any more sense.

It took all of Dean’s self-control to keep his eyes on the road. “So you were just talking in your sleep?” he clarified tentatively. “Like regular folks?”

Sam looked a little fazed. “I guess,” he said. Then, glancing uncertainly at Dean out of the corner of his eye, he asked, “What did I say, anyway?”

Dean’s fingers tensed on the steering wheel. “You don’t remember?” he asked.

Sam shook his head.

Dean shrugged, trying to lighten his tone. “Something about a baby crying,” he said, deliberately vague.

Sam raised an eyebrow. “Huh,” he said. “Pretty weird.”

Dean nodded. “Yeah,” he agreed. “Seems to be a lot of that going around these parts: Clifton Connecticut, Capital of Weird.”

Sam shrugged, picking up a sheaf of motel notepaper he’d discarded on the seat next to him and frowning thoughtfully. “This month’s Capital of Weird, at any rate,” he agreed.

Bingo! Dean thought. Subject successfully changed… “So,” he continued aloud. “How many folks have offed themselves in this little burg?” He knew the answer, but was eager to keep Sam’s mind occupied.

“Eight,” Sam replied instantly, eyeing his notes carefully. “In two months.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “That’s a pretty high suicide rate for a town this size,” he observed, frowning as the brake lights of the car ahead of them suddenly lit up red. “What…?” He slowed to match the Camry’s deceleration, as both cars found themselves joining the back of a line of slowly moving vehicles.

“Yeah,” Sam agreed absently, craning his long neck to try and see what was causing the snarl-up.

A truck was skewed at an odd angle on the opposite side of the road, a big burly guy in a red checkered shirt and ball cap leaning heavily against the cab door. A lady traffic cop put her hand on his arm as he leaned over and threw up all over the tarmac.

Sam frowned, not for the first time reflecting that if he had Spidey Senses, they’d be tingling the hell out of him right now.

Dean slowly pulled the car up level with the truck, matching the tortoise-like crawl of the line of traffic. The big trucker seemed to have lost all sense of composure – probably at the same time as he lost his breakfast all over the black top – and was trying desperately to look anywhere but at the yellow tarpaulin stretched across something caught between his front and rear axles.

Dean was used to the sight of blood. But even he clenched his jaw and tried not to look at the dark stains oozing out from beneath the tarpaulin, or the glistening substance that he was pretty sure was brain matter adorning the truck’s front grille.

“I don’t understand! I don’t understand!” A middle-aged black lady sat sideways in the back seat of the police cruiser which was parked to the rear of the truck, leaning against the open door as she tugged hysterically at her hair. Another woman, of similar build and features to the first, leaned into the car, trying to pull the older woman’s hands away from her thick curls.

“Lily – ” the younger woman began, but got no further as the older woman’s wailing increased in volume.

“Our baby brother, Connie!” she cried, grabbing one of the younger woman’s hands and pressing it to her own cheek. “Our baby brother! Why? Why?”

Dean averted his gaze awkwardly as the younger woman suddenly turned to stare blankly in his direction, a look so empty in her dark brown eyes that he almost felt like he hadn’t the heart to take another breath.

“…Opened the passenger door and rolled right out, right in front of the truck,” one of the traffic cops was telling a guy in oily blue overalls who had just jumped out of a nearby orange tow truck. The mechanic turned his attention to a dark red Chrysler which was parked astride the lines in the middle of the road, three doors standing open, as if it had been hurriedly abandoned. He shook his head sadly, running a hand over the rear driver’s side passenger door.

“No damage here,” he announced with a sigh, almost as if he wished there had been. “Definitely not a fault with the door mechanism.” He drew himself up to his full height and sighed again. “Marvyn Hayes. Jeez, I known him since he was ten years old…”

The tow truck guy’s voice faded into the distance as Dean and Sam passed out of earshot, moving alongside two more police cruisers blocking the opposite side of the road, as various officers milled about, eyes downcast and voices subdued.

Dean squinted into his driver’s side mirror, where he saw the two women seeming to collapse in on each other, the younger one falling to her knees on the tarmac as she clutched her sister’s hands to her face.

He swallowed hard before muttering, “Victim number nine?”

Sam glanced away from the morbid scene, eyes straying to the sign at the side of the road: Welcome to Clifton, Connecticut!

“Maybe,” he said quietly.

* * * *

The clerk at the Clifton Motor Lodge was kind of pretty in an undemanding way, Dean thought idly, as he and Sam approached the front desk. She was a little tall for his tastes – probably only a couple of inches shorter than he was – unless she was standing on a box back there. Her gingery-blonde hair was scraped back into country-girl pigtails, and her big blue eyes were magnified to owlish proportions by pink wire-rimmed spectacles.

She glanced at Dean briefly before her eyes shifted to Sam and practically lit up like a pink-rimmed blue neon sign.

No accounting for taste, Dean thought to himself, chalking this one up to another chick into tall, dark and geeky.

“Hey,” the girl said, more to Sam than Dean, a big smile lighting up her features as she leant much further across the counter than was strictly necessary. “Welcome to Clifton Motor Lodge.”

Sam smiled weakly, before suddenly glancing behind him, a frown creasing his brow. He stared briefly at the candy machine propped up against the rear wall of the office, before shaking his head and returning his attention to the desk clerk. “Hi – ” he squinted at the girl’s name tag. “ – Cindy,” he finished, trying to put a bit of effort into his words.

“Hi yourself,” the girl was still grinning at Sam inanely, which Dean would have found amusing if he wasn’t still puzzling over what Sam had just turned to look at.

“We’d like a room,” Sam managed, trying not to act all cold and standoffish. The locals, after all, were going to be the key to their cracking this whole thing.

“Um – ” Cindy faltered. “Two singles?” she asked tentatively, briefly eyeing Dean, who, rather than roll his eyes at the all-too-familiar insinuation, merely flashed her his broadest grin.

Sam nudged him, shooting him a “play nice” look before nodding. “Please.”

The girl relaxed visibly, smile broadening as she readied the paperwork.

It was Dean’s turn to nudge Sam, inclining his head in Cindy’s direction and mouthing the words, “Go on!” insistently.

Sam glared at him for a second, before sighing and turning back to Cindy. “So…” he began, never much good at this part of the job.

The girl returned his gaze enthusiastically as she slid a piece of paper and a pen across the counter at him. “Sign please,” she said brightly.

Sam nodded, for a second at a loss as to what name was printed on the credit card he’d placed on the desk. Remembering, he scrawled "Sam Williams" on the bottom of the form before continuing, “So what was going on out on the highway when we came in? Bad accident?”

Cindy’s big smile died a little. “Just been on the news,” she said, nodding towards a beat-up old radio on the window sill. “Marvyn Hayes,” she confirmed sadly, eyes downcast for a second. “He and his sisters run the hardware store in town.” She shook her head. “Such a nice guy…”

Sam glanced sideways at Dean. “Been a few – uh – incidents round here lately, huh?” he said.

Cindy looked at him carefully as she swiped his card. “Yeah,” she said at length. “Too many.”

When she didn’t add anything else, Dean gave Sam another "what are you waiting for?" look. Sam scowled at him. “Anyone have any idea what’s going on?” he asked tentatively, turning his attention back to the desk clerk.

The girl just looked at him before shaking her head. After a beat, she returned her smile to its rightful place, shrugged her shoulders and handed him back his credit card. “But hey,” she said resignedly. “Life goes on, huh?”

Sam smiled as engagingly as he was able. “I guess,” he agreed, as Cindy slid him a couple of room keys.

“Room four,” she said, pointing towards the office door. “Turn right, next to the soda machine.”

Sam smiled again. “Thanks, Cindy,” he said, turning to leave as quickly as possible.

“Have a nice stay, Sam,” Cindy returned, staring after him dreamily.

It took Dean’s entire reserve of self-control not to laugh out loud as he followed Sam back out into the courtyard. “Have a nice stay, Sam,” he mimicked Cindy cruelly, gazing up at Sam and batting his eyelashes adoringly.

“Shut up,” Sam returned, squinting back at him with stormy eyes. He jammed his hands into his pockets and scowled menacingly as Dean breezed past him with a derisive snort. “And I’ve told you before about trying to pimp me out,” he added, matching his brother’s stride angrily.

“Worked out okay with Sarah though, right?” Dean pointed out, grinning. He stopped suddenly, causing Sam to pull up short behind him. Turning and putting a hand on his kid brother’s shoulder, an earnest expression on his face that had absolutely no business being there, he added, “Dude, sometimes you just gotta take one for the team.”

Dean’s grin widened as Sam shot him a disgruntled scowl, and he turned and slid his key into the lock of the door next to which he found himself standing, pushing it open and surveying the room beyond thoughtfully.

His only concern was that the beds were a little too close together. Sam had a habit of starfishing in bed which tended to transform him into a mass of dangling arms and legs, and this, coupled with his Pete Townsend-style nightmare windmilling, could more than likely prove hazardous to Dean’s health if there wasn’t at least a three feet gap between him and his brother’s gangly limbs.

Other than that, the room was virtually identical to a million others they’d stayed in over the years, and Dean merely shrugged and dumped his duffel bag down on the bed closest to the door.

Sam sighed loudly as he pushed the door closed behind him. “Just our luck,” he said resignedly, shuffling over to the far bed and sitting down heavily, hands massaging his temples.

Dean glanced over at him. “Huh?”

Sam looked up, inclining his head towards the adjoining wall. “Next door to that,” he said, as if that were an adequate explanation.

Dean frowned at him, cocking his head to one side as he listened out for whatever it was Sam was referring to. He shook his head after a couple of seconds of listening to nothing but the distant roar of cars on the nearby highway. “I don’t hear anything,” he admitted finally, his frown turning into that look of big brotherly concern that always irritated the hell out of Sam.

It was the younger brother’s turn to frown. “What, you don’t hear that?” he asked incredulously.

Dean just looked at him. “I don’t know,” he said carefully. “What do you hear, Sammy?”

Sam raised his eyebrows as if it was patently obvious. “Baby crying,” he said blankly, blinking hard as he tried to fathom his brother’s darkening expression.

“Like in the car?” Dean asked at length.

It was Sam’s turn to look blank. “Huh?”

Dean kept his expression purposefully neutral. “When you were talking in your sleep,” he prodded gently. “You said something about a baby crying, remember?”

Sam put a weary hand to his forehead. “God, is that kid never going to shut up?” he muttered, as if Dean hadn’t even spoken.

Dean bit his lip anxiously, caught between two conflicting responses: concern for Little Brother Sammy and fear for – of? – Freaky Psychic Sam. “What did you see back there?” he demanded suddenly, the question eliciting a raised eyebrow from his brother. “In the office,” he clarified.

Sam just looked up at him, that blank look still seemingly nailed to his face. “Huh? I didn’t – ”

“Don’t give me that whole ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, Dean’ crap, Sam,” Dean snapped. “’Cause I don’t wanna hear it, not this time.”

Dean’s expression was enough to convince Sam that his big brother wasn’t kidding. “I don’t know if it was anything,” he managed with a resigned shrug. “I just – ” he stumbled over the words, the noise of the screaming baby making it hard for him to concentrate. “I just felt like someone was standing behind me, that’s all.”

Dean raised an eyebrow noncommittally. “That’s all?”

“Yeah,” Sam confirmed, resisting the urge to put his hands over his ears. “Listen, I need to get out of here. I think I saw a diner across the street…” Although he’d suddenly lost his appetite, Sam needed to get the hell out of the motel room and this was the only excuse he thought Dean might actually buy.

Dean, however, didn’t seem completely convinced, but was also vaguely aware that they hadn’t eaten in a while. “All right,” he agreed slowly. “Maybe a good helping of cholesterol and caffeine is what you need.”

Sam smiled weakly, following his brother from the room gratefully…only to have the noise of the baby’s wailing stop abruptly the instant he stepped over the threshold.

“Huh,” he muttered, glancing behind him, back into the motel room, before returning his attention to Dean, who had stopped and was just standing there watching him. He had that expression on his face that he used to get when they were kids and Sam was getting picked on by the school bully.

It always ended in tears.

And they were never Dean’s.

“What?” Dean asked carefully, shuffling his feet and trying not to look too worried.

“Baby’s stopped,” Sam said shortly, closing the motel room door and shrugging mentally as he headed off across the parking lot. Dean paused for a second, before turning and following.

Behind them, a deathly pale little girl emerged silently from behind the soda machine, thin fingers twisting at the ribbons adorning her long black dress as a satisfied smile played lopsidedly across her lips.

 

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