Season Two

Episode Three: Laura

By Kittsbud

Part One

Mason’s Meats
City of Big Bear Lake, California


The thick leather cord twisted on the hook, its rough edges digging into his skin until dark red welts covered his wrists. There was little pain, only a sickening numbness interspersed with tingling spears of heat that filled his hands and fingers – hanging from a meat hook for hours, arms locked above you tended to have that effect. The sensation of pins and needles sticking into his limbs had long been replaced by a nothingness he couldn’t even describe, but then, perhaps that was what his tormentor wanted. Nothingness.

The forty-eight-year-old exhaled, hearing the gurgling in his own throat as blood bubbled there. How much blood could he lose before he slipped into unconscious anyway?

Something sharp prodded him in the ribs, reminding him that there was still more meat on his body to cut, still more pain to inflict should the person before him so wish it. His frame convulsed, both from the jab and the frigid air in the meat locker.

“What have I ever done to you?” The words were raw, unclear, but the pleading in them was primal, as if the extremely well educated professional had forgotten all he’d been taught and slipped back to his most basic instinct – survival.

The black clad figure in front of him didn’t speak, didn’t move even, and he was forced to stare into eyes that held no depth, no compassion, no essence. Whoever was beyond the mask hated him, hated life itself to the point where anything was acceptable.

Julian Shepherd had seen those eyes before, had looked into the pits of despair they mirrored and had known what he had to do. Allowing this unspeakable evil to walk among innocents shouldn’t even have been considered, much less sanctioned, and yet, against his wishes it had happened.

“You!” Shepherd’s fractured tones echoed through the freezer room, his voice cracking with the agony of multiple knife wounds and the cold that bit into his near-naked body. “I told them…I warned them…”

The dark figure moved silently and swiftly, stuffing a greased-covered rag into Shepherd’s open mouth. He gagged, almost choking as the cloth was pushed just a little too far down his throat.

Wide-eyed, Shepherd watched as his kidnapper moved to the ice-covered inner wall of the chamber, dodging through dangling beef carcasses to reach the thermostat controls for the unit.

Long, spindly, gloved fingers reached out, twisting further and further until the minimum temperature possible was selected. Then, the wraith-like tormentor turned and crossed both arms, waiting, watching.

Soon it would be too cold in the room for a mere mortal. Soon, the thick coagulating globules of Shepherd’s blood, pooling beneath his slack form would turn into solid crimson stalagmites.

Shepherd squirmed, biting into the cloth in his mouth as he tried to let out a muffled cry. His hands feebly twisted, trying in desperation to pull free from the bonds that held him fast to the meat hook, but it was no use.

Fresh spatters of red adorned the floor like a newly laid ice-carpet with his every tussle for freedom – the unsightly liquid streaming from flaps of skin that had been neatly carved away from his side.

In the locker, the cold should have been his friend, the below zero temperature helping to constrict blood vessels and slow the hemorrhaging, but instead the extra exertion simply fuelled the bleeding, aiding his killer and providing perfect entertainment to a crazed psyche.

Eventually, Shepherd grew tired of the show, tired of the fight to live, and he succumbed, letting the cold embrace him. His glazed eyes locked on the figure that walked towards him, waiting patiently for the last cut of the knife that would end his days.

The large serrated blade whirled before his failing field of vision but then slid into a sheath on his executioner’s belt.

The raven-attired fiend ran a gloved finger down Shepherd’s chest, pausing at every wound that had been inflicted. As the digit reached the flails of tissue expertly carved earlier, it paused, circling in the fresh blood until Shepherd snorted down his nose in agony.

Pressing harder, the tormentor caused a fresh spurt of blood to spill onto the glove and then rubbed at it between thumb and forefinger, relishing its color, its potency as a life-giver.

Shepherd’s head lolled back and to the side in total exhaustion. He was finished. He would either bleed to death or freeze here, but either way his sentence had been passed.

As vague memories of a warning given too late came back to plague him, Shepherd’s failing eyes watched his killer walk to the closest wall and begin to write in his blood.

The message was not only for him, but for others too, because the killing would not end here. This was just the beginning. I warned them…I told them it wasn’t natural – not even human anymore…

The killer ignored his raspy breathing, ignored the drip, drip, drip of blood splashing onto the hard flooring and simply continued to scrawl until the bloody message was complete.

Standing back to admire the note as if it were an art form, the lithe figure nodded and then jogged from the meat freezer, leaving behind a legacy that had begun almost a decade earlier.

Feel The Death Chill…

* * * *

On The Road…


The incessant tapping of keyboard keys was almost as bad as the constant thrum of a hangover to Dean Winchester – in fact, given a choice, he’d take the hangover any day.

It wasn’t really the noise from his brother’s long fingers hammering away at the laptop that really bothered him, but more the why Sam was working like a madman scouring the net and every known source on demonology.

“You know, you’re gonna wear a hole right through those plastic keys if you don’t give that thing a break.” Dean looked over from behind the Impala’s wheel, his right brow raised questioningly.

The momentary blank stare he got back told him all he needed to know. Ever since hastily leaving Bobby’s, Sam had been different, on edge, and Dean knew why, even if it annoyed the hell out of him.

Sam was scared. Scared that the demon within his brother would ultimately take control, would turn Dean into some pawn for Haris while he helplessly stood by and watched.

The younger Winchester had yet to sleep and seldom stopped to eat or drink, he considered his task so important. To Dean, though, it was like being baby-sat twenty-four hours of the day, and it was beginning to wear his already jangling nerves to breaking point.

Having Haris’s kid in him was bad enough, feeling its constant attempts to push through, to force the ultimate power struggle - his mind and the amulet against the demonic creature. But for Sammy to even have the slightest doubt that he could control what was going on, well, that was just painful on a whole new level.

Dean squirmed in his seat and his eyes darted to the rear view mirror – not because there was any other traffic on the winding highway, but because he had to see his own reflection. The hunter had to see the comforting flash of hazel to reassure him that he was in control.

When his own cocky features glared back at him, eyes sparkling in all their human glory, he exhaled. Somehow, the amulet was still doing its job. The hunter had no idea of the hows, or the whys, but the tarnished bauble that hung around his neck was suppressing Haris’s kid, keeping it at bay.

Keeping one hand on the wheel of the Chevy, he used the other to unconsciously touch the amulet, his skin sensing the power from the cold metal as it met his fingertips. I swear it’s stronger somehow…I’ve never ‘felt’ anything when I’ve touched it before…at least not since the first time…

Sam’s gaze strayed to the almost mechanical action from his brother and his fingers finally gave the laptop respite. “Dean? Is something wrong?” He watched carefully, somehow expecting Dean’s eyes to cloud over to a black, oily haze.

“Dude, I swear if you don’t quit watching me I’m gonna let this friggin’ demon out to play!” The sentence was half quip, half vented frustration, and as his words trailed Dean realized he’d sounded snappy. Voice softening, he smirked. “You know, I can tap into this thing’s abilities, right? Man, I could make more money than David Copperfield…”

Dean reached out to click his fingers but Sam swatted his hand down, almost afraid to see what his brother might do. “So not funny, Dean. We need to find a way to get the damn thing out of you, not let it have any kind of control…”

“Dude just be thankful I’m not pukin’ pea soup and my head isn’t spinning around. Cos I tell you, driving would be a bitch if that happened…” The familiar grin appeared, a mask to appease his already nervous sibling. “Besides, isn’t possession nine tenths of the law? I own its ass, not the other way around.”

Sam opened his mouth to protest, to try and maybe knock some sense into his brother, but his cell phone began to warble, forcing the conversation to the back burner. He slipped a hand into his pocket, missing the horrified expression that crossed Dean’s face as Isaac Slade began to belt out How to Save a Life from the phone’s tiny speaker.

Sam hit the “talk” button and pressed the cell to his ear, his eyes closing for a second as he inwardly prayed for it to be their father with information on how to eradicate the demon safely.

When Bobby’s voice greeted him instead, he let out a low, disappointed breath. “Hey, Bobby, how’s it going?”

Dean watched as his brother’s face darkened. Sammy had a “tell” the size of Mount Rushmore that would surely get him slaughtered in a poker game someday. Right now, the expression told Dean their old friend had no good news to share.

The conversation was a short one, and when Sam closed his phone he took a moment before even looking at Dean. “Bobby didn’t find anything but dead ends. Nothing new since last time we spoke…”

“Yeah, well I heard something new with my super sharp demon hearing…” Dean pulled at the bottom of his earlobe mischievously.

“Huh?”

Dean nodded, feigning a look somewhere between disgust and despair. “Dude, since when did you have the freakin’ Fray as your ringtone? Man, that is such a wuss ass song…” The elder hunter slowed the Chevy as he approached an intersection. “I knew I shoulda disowned you at birth…”

Sam’s face dimpled despite his worry. While ever the snark flowed, he could be sure his brother was still himself. That didn’t mean, however, that he was going to give up his crusade, not for one second.

Dean had been his protector for so long, and now it was Sam’s chance to return that favor, even if it took him the rest of his life to succeed. “Dean, what about Kyle? Let’s face it, who better to know any obscure exorcism rites we might have missed than a priest? Besides, he’s fantastic at research…”

Dean glowered. “You want Moses in on this now too? Sheesh, if I’d known possession was going to make me this popular, I’d have tried it years ago.” He rubbed at the stubble on his chin he’d been too lazy to shave off that morning and pondered something. “Hey, you think it might make me an even bigger chick magnet? Maybe if I could do the whole glowing eyes deal when…”

“Dean!” Sarcasm was one thing, but Sam definitely did not want to know if being possessed made his brother any better in bed. That was something he’d rather not even think about, even if Dean already had. Doesn’t he think of anything else but beer and getting laid?

Sam scowled and flipped his cell back open, swiftly hitting speed dial for the church’s number where Kyle was still in hiding. After a minute, the answering machine kicked in. Puzzled, Sam tried again, this time dialing Kyle’s cell.

“I’m sorry; I’m not available right now. If you leave a message, I’ll get right back to you…”

Sam held his own phone away from his ear, his brow creasing in sudden concern. Kyle Williams was nothing if not predictable. “That’s odd. I can’t get a reply at the church or his cell…”

“Dude, this is Moses. He’s probably out parting a sea somewhere. You know what he’s like. Mr. Do Gooder, I gotta save every sinner that walks into my church this month touchy feely crap…” Dean made a gesture to say he thought the priest was a little short of a full deck, but he pulled the Chevy over off the road and cut the engine anyway. Kyle Williams might be the perfect material for the hunter’s humor, but when it came down to it, Dean actually liked the quirky little preacher. “Try Sarah…”

Sam nodded and thumbed through his address book until he found Sarah Blake. She’d been in hiding with Kyle since Haris’s cult had almost killed her, and if anyone had any inkling of the priest’s whereabouts, it would be her.

“Hey, Sarah, it’s Sam…can I speak to Kyle?” There was a pause. “And you don’t know where he’s gone?” Sam shook his head, obviously unnerved by what he was being told. “Okay, Sarah, Dean and I are on our way.” He twisted his wrist to glance at his watch. “We’re only a few hours away. Just sit tight…”

Sam closed his phone and bit his lip. They had enough issues already with the demon inside Dean and the fact that several hunters now saw them as targets. To add any more problems to their load would be dumb – especially for Dean. And yet, they couldn’t leave Kyle to whatever he was up to. He just wasn’t experienced enough.

“Okay, so are you gonna tell me what that was all about, or do I have to turn freakin’ psychic too?” Dean’s annoyed tone broke through Sam’s less than lucid moment and the younger brother started.

“Dean, something’s wrong. Kyle saw something on the internet two days ago that bothered him. Sarah doesn’t know what, but she says he was like a man poss…he was pretty upset. Anyway, he did some research and scooted off in his Ford with a bucket load of printouts and a forty-five…”

Dean baulked, ignoring his brother’s slip of the tongue and focusing more on the dysfunctional priest who had seemingly gone AWOL. “Are you kidding me? Moses with a gun? The guy will probably shoot his own foot off. What the hell does he think he’s doing?”

“He believes this is a gig he can handle, Dean. Sarah says she thinks he’s headed out for California – alone. We have to find out what he’s gone after before he finds himself in a fight he can’t win.” Sam waited on the elder hunter’s response, knowing the young priest may already be into something far more dangerous than he could handle.

Kyle had no real experience with the supernatural beyond demons. He had no weapons or hand to hand combat skills. Nothing save for his faith.

Dean cranked the Impala’s ignition and spun the steering wheel, turning the car in a one-eighty. “Don’t worry, Sammy, we’ll find Moses before anything happens.” He pushed down on the gas pedal, trying to hide his own concern. “I just hope he doesn’t try tossing holy water on my ass when we finally find him…”

* * * *

Local Church
South Dakota

The stone-built church was like something straight from a Dickens novel. The interior had an aura that oozed of both age and wisdom which Sam Winchester found familiar, and somehow comforting.

To add to the effect, two large stained glass windows reflected a myriad of colors off the long wooden pews, bathing the building’s interior in an almost holy effervescence. It was like stepping back in time to another era.

“Are you okay in here? I mean, with the …um…” Sam shot a look of uncertainty at his brother as he stuffed his hands in his pockets and took a seat on the nearest pew. It had felt awkward talking to Dean since the whole possession fiasco, but here, in a church, it seemed even stranger.

It was like the air was filled with some weird electrical charge, ready to strike like a lightning bolt at just one wrong word. Can he feel the thing inside him squirming because he’s on holy ground? Is it harder to control here? So much Sam wanted to ask, so many reassuring words he wanted to give, but couldn’t for fear he’d hurt Dean’s pride even more.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Dean shuffled onto the bench next to his brother and bounced down, finding the hard wood instantly uncomfortable. “Just don’t ask me to start praying anytime soon. Okay?”

Sam smiled slightly, finding his sibling’s “out of his depth” expression somewhat amusing. Dean had never been at ease in churches, not even before the demon had gotten onboard. He simply just couldn’t accept that there was any divine force in the world. Maybe one day that would change, but for now, Sam would have to be content with his own beliefs.

Focusing towards the altar and pulpit at the front of the church, Sam lowered his head a little and closed his eyes. It was so peaceful here, so devoid of anything supernatural that the young hunter suddenly felt like he could stay in the holy place forever. The silence was almost entrancing, lulling him into serenity.

This was how Sam should feel, not like he had back at the cabin. For Dean, just for a few hours, it had been like he’d become a completely different person – one who had slightly less morals than the usual Sam Winchester.

Sam didn’t like that person, and he hoped to God he never had to tap into that part of his psyche ever again. The visions he suffered were bad enough, but lately he’d had one or two genuine nightmares about his actions with Zack Murzak. It was all a front…I wouldn’t have really hurt him.

Sam prayed that was true. He prayed that the Winchester nightmare could be over. He prayed for Dean.

“Dude, tell me you’re not...?”

Sam broke from his reverie to find big brother grinning at him.

“So, what did you ask for, Pornmeister? Free skin channel for the rest of your days? A night with Sarah..?”

Sam’s voice was so low, so muted it was almost inaudible. “I didn’t ask for anything for myself…”

Dean took down a breath and found the church rafters were suddenly calling for his attention. It was better to look anywhere than at his brother right now. When he’d teased Sam about praying he hadn’t expected Sam to really be making any holy requests, but now that he thought about it, it wasn’t exactly hard to figure out just what Sam had asked for.

Sam wanted his brother back. He wanted Dean demon-free, and he was willing to put his trust in some unseen entity and ask for help to do it. In that instant, Dean realized there was one thing Sam had that he didn’t – faith in something beyond the Winchester family. Maybe that was a good thing, maybe it wasn’t. Dean just wasn’t ready for that kind of blind reverence yet.

“Sam?” Sarah Blake’s voice echoed through the church, reverberating on ancient stone until her gentle tones sounded angelic. “I’m so glad you made it...”

To Dean, the art dealer’s arrival was a good thing because he sure as hell didn’t want to have to discuss faith with his little brother anytime soon. Somehow, having a demon hitching a ride on his soul tended to dampen any trust in the divine being theories that so many relied on every day to get them through.

For Dean, there was only one thing he trusted outside his family and that was the silver forty-five tucked neatly into the back of his waistband.

* * * *


Kyle’s sparse quarters where at the back of the aging holy house, and as Sarah led the brothers inside, Sam couldn’t help but wonder how someone from such an affluent family could live in such meager conditions.

Kyle was rich beyond either Winchester’s wildest dreams, and yet still he dedicated his life to something with little payback – save perhaps death. “You said you thought Kyle took off for California?” Sam raised a brow, sifting through mounds of documents piled on a small teak desk. “Did he say why? Anything, even small clues could be important.”

Sarah shook her head and pointed to a computer in the corner of the room. The monitor flashed every few minutes with a church screensaver, signaling the machine was already booted. “He kept saying something about how could he have missed it, and that there would be more if he didn’t go. When I asked him what was wrong he shrugged it off, saying it was a gig he could handle without troubling you two.”

“Great, just great! Moses can’t handle any kind of gig period. The guy might be a wonderful priest, but trust me he sucks out loud as a hunter.” Dean ran a hand through his hair disconsolately. “Sam, can you pull anything off that thing?”

“I can try…” Sam eased onto the small leather chair Kyle used at his computer and brought up the desktop. Hitting the documents folder he swiftly scanned through several files only to find them full of schedules for the next two weeks’ sermons. “He hasn’t saved anything to file.” Sam clicked on the internet icon. “Maybe I can trace what he’s been viewing through the history tab. Let’s see…”

Dean and Sarah watched as Sam hit key after key, rapidly moving the mouse pointer every few seconds until he had four windows open at once.

“So, what do you see, geekboy?” Dean leaned over his brother’s shoulder, trying to read the top window as Sam scrolled.

“It looks like Kyle has been looking into a spate of recent murders. The last two were pretty gruesome.” Sam hit enter and another square popped up with crime scene photos that made Sarah cringe and back away. “Sorry,” he apologized, tapping another key. “According to this newspaper report, the second victim was a psychiatrist named Julian Shepherd. He was hung in a meat locker, cut up pretty badly and then left to freeze to death. The third guy was a research scientist who also froze to death after a canister of liquid nitrogen spilled in his lab…”

Dean’s face contorted uncertainly and he shook his head. “So, if the third guy was an unfortunate spill, why was Moses looking at him as a possible victim? And even if he was a victim, this is still just a murder case…”

Sam whirled around on the chair like a businessman addressing a stock meeting, twirling a pencil between his fingers absently. “Because the cops investigating the case soon found evidence the spill was no accident. And get this: at the scene of every crime the killer uses the victim’s blood to leave a message.”

Dean perched himself on the edge of the desk and poked a finger at a lone piece of pizza sitting idly in an open tray. There was no telling how long it had sat there collecting dust, but Dean dared to pick it up and take a bite anyway. “Okay, you got me, what’s the message? You say buy two get one free I’m gonna kick your college boy ass…” He munched on the double cheese and pepperoni, stuffing in a second mouthful after deciding it was still very edible – at least by his standards.

“The killer always daubs ‘Feel the Death Chill’ on a nearby wall.” Sam shrugged, returning his attention to the computer after cringing at his brother’s distasteful habit of eating copious amounts of outdated food. “Why Kyle thought this was something we should look at, I don’t know yet. Both the latest fatalities were pretty prominent in their fields, though. Maybe I can dig up a connection…”

Dean swallowed down the last of the pizza and looked at his watch with a sigh. Sammy digging up a connection often meant sitting around for hours while his brother surfed the net. It was boring as hell.

The hunter looked to Sarah hopefully, needing something wet to lubricate his throat after ramming so much over-dry crust in. “I don’t suppose preachers keep beer handy, huh?”

Sarah laughed but turned, heading for the door. “I’ll see what I can dig up.”

“Dean…you better look at this…” Sam’s eyes were fixated on another article on the screen, but this time the color seemed to have drained from his features seconds after the item had popped up. His voice caught in his throat as he explained the reason for his new ashen complexion. “Dean…both dead men worked on the Laura Mitchell case…”

“Laura who?” Dean’s look of confusion lasted two seconds. “Miss freakin’ Ice Cube? You gotta be kidding me? I thought she was still popsicle pie?”

“No, don’t you remember? We caused a coolant leak the night we fought her. The next day it was on the radio the local hospital had no choice but to try and revive some of the patients because they’d begun to thaw…”

Dean rubbed at his brow. “Okay, so I need that drink right about now…” He scowled, recalling the frigid floating outline of Laura Mitchell as she’d appeared to them in her ethereal form. “Can you pull up what happened to her? I mean, she has to have died right? There’s been nothing on the news and something that big woulda been major league.”

Sam cleared the screen and brought up a new search with Laura’s name and several keywords. At first, there was nothing beyond the initial report of the CryoGen leak. “This is way too low key, Dean. I can’t find anything…” The young hunter tried again, focusing this time on the actual cryogenics facility rather than Laura.

“You thinking some kind of cover up?”

Sam didn’t answer at first, seemingly mesmerized by his task to the point where Dean had to wave a hand in front of his face to get him to look up. “Huh?” He squirmed apologetically. “Right…from what I can find, Laura Mitchell was the only cryo-patient to undergo surgery and be successfully revived. Despite the transplant working, Laura remained in a coma for months. The doctors gave up hope that she’d ever wake up…”

“Yeah, but she did, the Ice Bitch part deux, right?” Dean spotted a rubber band on Kyle’s desk and began flicking safety clips at his brother with it until Sam shot an annoyed scowl in his direction.

“When Laura awoke the hospital psychiatrist considered her mentally unstable. It was thought there was most likely brain damage due to the experimental freezing process. He advised Laura be kept in an institution and CryoGen agreed. I’m guessing they kept their first retrieval pretty hush hush because of Laura’s mental state.” Sam picked up one of the paperclip projectiles and propelled it back across the desk with the edge of a hastily located ruler.

“So, Laura is still in some whacko hospital?” Dean dodged the clip with a smirk.

Sam shook his head, giving up on the desktop warfare to bring up another piece of classified CryoGen data he’d managed to illegally retrieve. “It says here Laura’s parents managed to get her released recently. Money talks, man. She lives in some expensive but secluded cabin up near Big Bear Lake.

Dean whistled. “Didn’t one of those newspaper articles you brought up say one of the dead guys died out there?”

Sam bobbed his head, the pieces of the conundrum all falling into place. “Julian Shepherd, the meat locker guy was the shrink who tried to stop Laura being released. The last guy, the scientist? He was former CryoGen too. Was one of the top guys on Laura’s case at the time of her body’s preservation.”

“So our old friend the freeze queen is back for a little revenge and Kyle worked it out.” Dean kinked his head to one side, raising a brow in admiration. Maybe the priest wasn’t a great hunter, but he really was good at puzzles.

Sam’s expression was much dourer than his sibling’s. Kyle was in danger because of them. Men had died, because of them. “Dean, this is all our fault. When we banished Laura’s spirit it didn’t come back when her body was revived.” His brows knitted in dejection. “We caused this!”

Dean wrinkled his nose in disbelief and plucked the Chevy’s keys from his pocket, tossing them in the air and then catching them backhanded. “Dude, you read the report. Laura is most probably not firing on all cylinders because of being frozen, not our gris gris bag attack. You can’t do your guilt trip thing on this one.” He pointed to the door. “The only thing we can be sure of is the bitch is back, and Kyle might be the next one to get his butt frozen if we don’t shag ass.”

Sam nodded, but inside the blame had already settled. The very thing he had been worried about all those months ago had come true, and now they had to deal with Laura in her human form. If it hadn’t been for Kyle, maybe he could have walked away and let the police handle it.

After all, what they were dealing with was murder pure and simple. No shades of grey. But she wouldn’t have been soulless if we hadn’t exorcized her spirit…

“C’mon, Sammy, it’s not exactly a short trip to Big Bear Lake from here…”

Sam scooped up any loose relevant paperwork he could find and quickly stuffed the sheets into a folder from Kyle’s filing cabinet. Slipping the folder under his arm he scurried after Dean who was already halfway across the church’s small parking area.

“Hey, guys, what about your beer?”

Sam and Dean both turned at the same instant to see Sarah Blake in the church doorway holding two Coors.

“Sorry, sweetheart, duty calls.” Dean winked and then stole a glance to Sam, wondering if his brother would go back across the yard and kiss the girl goodbye.

When Sam simply climbed into the Impala instead, deep in thought, Dean followed him and cranked the growling Chevy to life.

Sarah watched as the car grumbled down the potholed driveway and rolled her eyes. After a brief moment of thought, she took a swig from one of the bottles. “What the hell.” She shrugged. “Men…”


* * * *

Laura’s Cabin
Somewhere in the Big Bear Lake Area


Dean brought the Impala to a stop about a mile down the dirt track and quietly slipped out his automatic. His face reflected in the sheen from its perfect silver surface and he looked quickly away, afraid of the two black voids he might see. It was hard to keep up the charade, hard to not let Sammy see his fear, his weakness.

‘Hold on, stay strong!’

The familiar message played in his subconscious, and he took comfort from it. The inner voice had yet to fail him. It kept him in control. It kept him human.

“You sure this is it, Groucho?” Dean asked with a fake impish grin, looking to his brother as he cocked a brow and checked his weapon’s clip.

“Dude, I didn’t stick that damn moustache back on my face to come away empty handed! Laura’s parents were pretty quick to hand over her address. They remembered ‘Detective Sergeant Jagger’ from his visit last year…” A small smile crept across the younger Winchester’s features.

The moustache was pretty damned uncomfortable, and he hated being called Groucho, but he could at least see the funny side of it. It had been a disguise that had worked well on the original Mitchell case, and right now, anything that got his mind away from the word “demon” for more than two seconds had to earn extra points.

Dean nodded. “Okay, so if we hike a few hundred yards through those trees Laura’s cabin should be down the embankment the other side. As long as dear mommy and daddy haven’t forewarned her, we should be okay…”

“Should be,” Sam stated doubtfully as he climbed from the car and began to head for the tree-line, Glock held carefully under his tan jacket. “What if she’s not home? In fact, what if she is home, Dean? It’s not like she’s just a spirit we can fill full of rock salt anymore.”

Dean dodged through three tightly grouped shrubs and hunkered down as he hit open space. Below him, smoke spiraled from a newly built cabin’s tiny chimney. He pointed silently with his forefinger to the rear of the structure, where a battered blue Ford had been hastily parked knocking down several planters. “That’s Kyle’s car…”

Sam’s grip increased on his weapon and his pulse picked up speed, racing through his veins until he could hear the thrum in his ears. “Back window?” He asked, scanning the property for possible entry points.

Dean bobbed his head in agreement and carefully began to clamber down the slope, his forty-five kept as close to his upper body as he could manage. Never once did he attempt to answer Sam’s earlier question about how to handle their prey. Maybe there was only one true choice this time.

Once at the bottom of the incline, he quickly forced his back up against the cabin’s rear wall and gestured for Sam to join him.

From inside the wooden structure, the hunter could already hear voices, or was it just one voice? He strained his ears, trying to push away all other sounds and concentrate on the words.

“You love your job, priest? Maybe you should think about it more. Think about how futile your prayers are…you know, he doesn’t really care about you? If he did, he wouldn’t have let me have you, now would he? Maybe you love him so much you’d like to join him? I can arrange that too…”

Sam stumbled as his boot caught on a protruding vine and he thrust out a hand, catching himself on the cabin and steadying his balance as he joined his brother. “See anything?” he whispered, eyes darting to the surrounding wilderness as his father’s training kicked in.

Dean shook his head but pointed to the rear door of the log chalet. “She’s in there with Kyle. I heard her taunting him. I don’t think we have time to make a plan. It’s full frontal assault time, Sammy.” The hunter didn’t say more, but positioned his body ready to kick out at the heavy wooden door.

Sam moved to the other side, gun poised for action the minute he had access. “On three…” He nodded.

The brothers silently mouthed the numbers in unison, and as they hit one, Dean’s heavy CAT boot impacted on the door with his full weight behind it. The timber frame cracked, almost allowing the hinges to break away along with the heavy duty lock.

As the door burst inwards, Dean and Sam followed, racing through the cabin corridor and clearing each room they came to until a muted cry made them both falter and look around.

“This way!” Dean snapped out the order as he shouldered an inner door, ramming it open with more rage than Sam had ever seen. Again, the force of the wood being slammed back almost tore it from its housing, and again Dean ignored his own strength.

Instead, the barrel of the hunter’s silver automatic spun around the room, locking on a figure kneeling over a bloodied mass that had once been a friend.

Even for Dean, the horrific sight made him baulk, just for an instant.

Laura was sitting on her knees, her body hunkered forward over Kyle Williams’ splayed out form. From what Dean could tell, the girl had subdued and tied the priest somehow before using him as some kind of human slicing board.

The priest’s chest and upper body had been intricately carved into with the tip of a blade as if the girl had been whittling with a human subject. Each cut had made a specific shape or mark in his flesh – some were clearly crosses and other religious symbols, while others appeared more satanic in nature. Trickling blood from the wounds had coalesced together until Kyle appeared one huge mass of scarlet.

But the horror didn’t end there.

Laura now had her weapon of choice buried in the priest’s gut, and Dean could hear a tearing noise like hide being sliced as she oh-so-slowly tugged it upwards through the pale skin of Kyle’s abdomen. “Hey! Don’t move another inch or I’ll blow your damn head off, you freaky bitch!” The forty-five jerked up a touch until it was aimed perfectly at Laura’s skull.

In the same instant, Laura pulled back on her knife, forgetting her intended task in favor of using the blade as a distraction. With a controlled flick of her wrist the perfectly balanced weapon flew threw the air and bounced from Dean’s forearm just as he pulled back on his trigger.

The blow from the knife’s hilt jarred a muscle, making it reflexively relax, and his automatic slipped from his fingers and bounced to the floor, the discharged bullet boring into the wall harmlessly.

Using the respite for her escape, Laura dived for an open window and tossed her body head first through it.

“Jesus, Sammy, shoot the bitch!” Dean dropped to his knees, retrieving his weapon and spinning it in an arc around the room, but Laura was already free from the confines of the cabin. “Shit!”

Dean jogged to the window and briefly looked out, his eyes locking on Laura’s fleeing figure. She was damn fast, but he knew he could catch her. Kyle…

Dean spun around and dropped back to his knees, suddenly realizing the priest was still conscious. Dropping his weapon again and pulling his own knife from his ankle holster, he cut the injured man’s bonds. “It’s okay, buddy, we’re here now. She’s gone.” He looked down, knowing what he would see before his gaze met the garish hole in Kyle’s stomach.

Laura’s knife had made a clean slice and thanks to the brother’s intervention the hole she’d made wasn’t that wide. That didn’t mean that she hadn’t done enough damage to have almost gutted the priest like a wild animal.

Dean cringed as he realized he was looking at a good two inches of Kyle’s intestines pushing through his flesh. Blood, intermixed with a pungent odor, the hunter guessed was bile made him want to look away, pressing the back of his hand to his mouth.

Kyle caught the reaction, his wide, panicked eyes desperate to see what damage had been inflicted on his body. He could feel the pain, the immeasurable pain, but his mind simply hadn’t assimilated what had caused it yet.

“Hey, no!” Dean gently stopped the priest dropping his chin enough to see the wound. “C’mon, don’t look at that, look at me, Moses. We got you, you’re gonna be okay now…”

Kyle shook his head, his hand suddenly gripping Dean’s tightly. “No…I’m dying. I’m…not stupid…” He paused, taking a long breath. “Leave me…find Laura…before she does this again…” His pupils fixed on the man who he had once saved, pleading, beseeching Dean to give his word. “Promise…me…you’ll stop her..?”

Dean squeezed back, sensing the tension in the priest’s grip begin to fade. “You know me, Moses, but you gotta promise me something back…”

Kyle took another long breath and closed his eyes, a small smile spreading at last over his agonized features. “I can’t make that promise…”

Dean felt Kyle’s hand go limp in his own, the shy priest’s fingers sliding from his palm and gently thudding onto the kitchen’s pine floor – a floor awash with blood until very little of its true surface remained on view.

Inside, the hunter burned until his stomach churned. His muscles tensed with a temper he’d never felt before, aching, wanting, needing revenge. What kind of God let’s one of his emissaries die this way?

‘Stay strong..!’

Dean clenched his fists, breathing hard, but the more he tried to control the rage, to listen to his protecting inner voice, the more the darkness seemed to envelop him. He reached out, fingers grabbing his forty-five so hard his knuckles drained of color. “You should have fired, Sam…”

The words were cold, angry, and even though part of Sam felt the same way he shook his head. This wasn’t his brother talking. “She’s still a human being, Dean, I can’t just…” He shrugged, words failing him.

Dean clicked the safety back on his weapon and slid it back in his waistband. His hands shook and his muscles screamed from pent up aggression as he pushed up from where he’d squatted on the floor. “Tell that to Kyle…” Even Dean’s voice sounded different, on edge, strained.

Sam wanted to answer. He wanted to justify not pulling the trigger, but then, he needn’t have used a kill shot just to drop the girl, need he? I let her go. I hesitated and now she could kill again. Realizing his own worries about the demon within his brother may have clouded his judgement, he looked up, but all that his eyes met was the cold, hard stare of two abyss-like black orbs instead of the familiar hazel glint.

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The Winchester Chronicles

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