The Little Things
I’ve never really thought of myself as a tough
guy – not in the grand scheme of things. I mean,
yeah, in the spook world I kick ass and take names,
but I’m no John McClane or Dirty Harry.
one thing I do kinda pride myself in is not letting
out the emotions. I mean, c’mon, it’s for
girls, right? Anyway, I can pretty much keep myself
in check in that department – well, almost.
only one person on this damn planet who can get to me
with that one look of his, and that’s Sam. Those
big, kiddy eyes take one friggin’ look at me and
he knows he can just about get anything he wants.
pretty much been that way since we were kids. We never
really had what you could call a ‘normal’
upbringing, and I guess that’s why Sammy sometimes
acts like a spoiled brat now – ‘cause hell,
it was me that let him get away with far too much when
we were young.
always remember those huge sad eyes lookin’ up
at me when dad tried to tell Sammy about the ‘family
business’ for the first time. Sam just didn’t
get it. Hunting spirits to Sammy meant Ghostbusters,
not demons that fry your mom while you’re snoozing
in your cot.
he even turned into geekboy at that age and started
looking up fictional shit we could go hunt. I can see
him now, sifting through crap on Pastor Jim’s
laptop until he found us all the ‘perfect gig.’
favorite was the tale of a ghost miner from western
days who got the nickname of ‘Drunken Tom.’
Dad and I were pretty sure ol’ Tom was a fabrication
to get visitors to the ghost town of Bodie over in Cali,
but Sam never would let go.
course, over time Sammy learned just what big bad things
were really out there, and I thought he’d
forgotten all about the freaky old miner’s spirit.
wrong I was….
Dec 24th 2007
Highway 395 Just outside Bridgeport, California
gotta be freakin’ kidding me right?” I looked
over to Sam, incredulous he might actually be suggesting
what I thought he was suggesting. “I thought we’d
weaned you off that crap years ago!”
shrugged and shot that hurt look of his right back at
me as I steered the Impala through a light snowfall
that was slowly but surely covering the highway.
c’mon dude, it’s Christmas, we’ve
no money, nothing better to do, and we’re only
about ten miles away…”
batted my eyelids, hoping the Sammy ‘I’m
a puppy please play’ look would vanish, but it
didn’t. Instead, he kept those huge orbs of his
latched onto me like a limpet. “You want to go
hunt the ghost of some cowboy miner on Christmas Eve?
Dude, he’s not even real…”
noted the sign for the nearest town of Bridgeport flash
by and slowed a little. Sammy might be in the mood to
go play, but my stomach was telling me it needed feeding
– and hey, I never argue with it – especially
not when there’s so much Christmas fair likely
to be on offer.
was real, Dean,” Sam pulled that exasperated look
of his and started huffing as he toyed with our laptop.
oh, Samantha’s been researching. So not a good
sign when I was hoping for a little food, a little beer
and a little hot action with the opposite sex to keep
me warm in this Godforsaken place …
this point I was probably fantasizing about some petite
blonde dropping down my chimney in a pretty skimpy Santa
outfit. Hey! I’m human. I need a little Yuletide
affection here, okay?
Sammy wasn’t about to let me loose in the local
he was real. That doesn’t mean we have to hunt
his ass tonight. It’s not like the dude goes around
hurting people or scaring their asses.” I tapped
my baby’s brakes and slowed just enough to take
the turn to Bridgeport as we argued. If Sam was all
hell bent on getting his ass all damp and dirty down
a mine, that didn’t mean I had to go along, did
is the one gig I’ve always wanted since we were
kids. Tom is one of the few ghosts out there that doesn’t
seem to have any malevolent intentions – even
after being in our world all this time instead of his
those eyes were getting more and more pleading…
because the state made him up to lure in sightseers,
dude…I’m telling you, all you’ll get
visiting that place is pneumonia.” I slowed further
as Bridgeport loomed ahead. The place looked pretty
quaint – almost the perfect place to stay over
the holiday – especially if you’re the nostalgic,
put up a tree and sing carols type.
yeah, I’m so not that type.
a couple of hours, Dean, then we can come back and sink
a few beers…”
sighed. Like I said, I never can say no to my brother
– well, rarely. “Just a couple of hours,”
I agreed reluctantly. “But first I’m gonna
get me some food. Can’t go out in the wilds without
a burger or two first huh?” I grinned at him,
knowing he’d pout.
hates my choice in food just about as much as he hates
my music. Of course, that’s why I pretty much
torment him with it more. Little brothers are awesome
to rib after all.
we just get some normal food?” Sam slid away the
laptop and began to survey the local shop fronts as
I crawled down Bridgeport’s Main Street. “How
about that place over there?” He pointed to a
small store with a hand-painted sign reading ‘High
Dude, so gonna get me some pie…” I sniffed
the air appreciatively just to make Sam scoff. He knows
I have this little pie fetish that goes right along
with my ‘extra onions’ one, but he still
hates it when I taunt him.
Sam’s eyes almost popped so wide I thought he
was gonna do the exploding eyeball deal from From
Dusk Till Dawn and I instantly realized he wasn’t
freakin’ over the delicacies I was about to consume
Sammy grabbed the Impala’s dash I hit the brakes
so hard I thought my CAT boot would slam through the
old girl’s floor. I don’t know if you have
any knowledge of sixties autos, but trust me they’re
heavy suckers, and I really didn’t think she was
gonna stop in time.
Chevy’s frame shuddered and groaned, and for a
split second I closed my eyes and prayed. I’m
not even sure if there is a God – and if there
is if he’d listen to such a skeptic as my sorry
ass, but at that moment I was hoping Sammy’s faith
would carry us both.
I heard my little brother let out a sigh of relief I
finally unscrewed my own eyes and hoped I didn’t
have road kill in the form of an eight-year-old kid
squished all over my hood. Let’s face it - that
would be so un-Christmassy.
didn’t, which was a good thing for both the kid
and the Impala’s paintwork.
swallowed hard and followed Sam from the car, my hands
shaking a little as I climbed from behind the wheel.
By the time we’d both gotten in front of the Chevy,
the kid’s mom had joined us and was cursing the
little sucker so hard I think I saw his ears start to
was kinda a cute kid – but don’t tell anyone
I said that – so don’t want ’em thinking
this hunter is going soft.
Sammy was busy fussing over the kid, trying to calm
his mom – you know, the usual Sam stuff.
on the other hand wasn’t giving the kid any breathing
space. Poor guy was probably gonna be deaf by the time
he reached nine if mom was this mouthy at home.
don’t you ever go off on your own like
that again! What were you thinking?” The tiny
brunette grabbed the kid’s collar and pretty much
shook him. “You could have gotten yourself killed
and someone else hurt in the bargain. Now apologize
right this minute to this gentleman…”
kinda took me half a minute to realize the chick was
talking about me. I get called lots of things in my
line of work, but trust me, gentleman isn’t usually
on the list of descriptions. “It’s okay,
just glad your son wasn’t hurt,” Sam chimed
in, looking and sounding for all the world like he could
dress up as Santa and actually get away with it. My
brother is just so friggin’ soft I swear he was
a girl in another life.
nodded, and knelt down until I was eye-level with little
Mike. He was a lean little guy with dark hair and soft,
gentle eyes that reminded me of Sam at that age so much
I almost had to look away.
was something missing though – a spark present
even in Sam’s eyes, despite all he’d been
through. I’m not exactly the greatest with kids,
and I’ll be the first to admit it, but I usually
have a connection with them – Sam insists it‘s
because I’ve never grown up myself – hell,
maybe he’s right.
bucko, you might wanna be more careful crossing the
road. Wouldn’t want you to miss out tonight when
the big fella pops down your chimney…” I
gave him my best smile and hoped I’d get at least
a little smirk back. Most kids just can’t resist
me. Actually, most kids’ moms can’t resist
me, but that’s a whole other story.
Mike, though, well he was a tough one. He just screwed
up his face as if I’d taken a swing at him. “There’s
no such thing as Santa,” he blurted out acerbically.
“If Santa existed he wouldn’t have taken
my dad last year…”
that the kid took off across the road and hopped into
what Sammy and I presumed was mom’s pretty beat
up Volkswagen Beetle. The thing was older than my Chevy,
and in way worse shape. I think the front fender was
actually hanging by a thread and the paintwork was at
least five different shades of blue.
looked at me and then to Sam diffidently.
I swear she has the hots for him already...I wonder
if she has a sister?
so sorry. Michael’s father was killed last Christmas
and it’s been a hard year for us…”
wanted to tell her I knew exactly how Mike was feeling,
hell both me and Sammy lost mom before we were even
this kid’s age, but well – I just don’t
open up that much in front of strangers. “He’ll
do okay,” I offered up instead, feeling pretty
damn awkward as the words left my mouth.
looked down at the concrete and I guessed he was feeling
shrugged. “Maybe.” she swallowed hard as
if she was suddenly choking back tears or possibly even
a small sob. “I…I really should be going…”
that the brunette was gone, paying just as little heed
to the oncoming traffic as her son had moments early.
still grieving.” Sam shook his head and I could
tell he was feeling sorry for the chick. He does that
a lot, even though there’s jack he can do about
do alright. We did.” I nodded to the cars building
up behind the Impala, indicating we should shag ass
before someone got impatient and started hooting their
horn at us. As I slid back behind the wheel the first
‘honk’ suggested we still hadn’t gotten
out of the way fast enough. “Alright, alright,
we’re moving already!”
me, if it hadn’t been Christmas and my hands weren’t
feeling like popsicles, the jackass in the truck behind
me would so have gotten the bird out of my
Sammy, I still didn’t get any freakin’ pie!”
I rolled my eyes and Sam started to chuckle.
think of your waistline…”
what?” I glowered suitably. “Do
I look like a girl? You’re the one who starts
bitchin’ when you break a nail!”
because I don’t chew mine down to stumps.”
Sam smirked. “So, are we heading out to Bodie
now, or what?”
cocked my head as if I had to think about it. If I was
gonna take one for the team – or rather to satisfy
my little brother’s morbid curiosity – that
didn’t mean I had to do it without tormenting
took down a long deep breath. “After what?”
I get me some of that!” I pointed appreciatively
at a piece of something that I assumed was cake in yet
another store window. The thing was bigger than Mount
Rushmore, I swear, and topped with so much cream I was
pretty sure if I ate it I’d be puking all the
way down Sammy’s mine.
that didn’t stop me pulling the car over and grinning
at my bro.
sighed again and without saying a word climbed outta
the car, taking long strides until he’d vanished
inside for my precious cake.
everything comes with a price, right?
7 Miles South of Bridgeport
wasn’t really until I’d gotten back out
onto the highway that I’d realized what I’d
let myself in for. The snow that had begun to fall earlier
had grown in intensity until the blacktop was covered
with a thick white sheen of the stuff.
Chevy is a heavy old bird – like I said, and I
didn’t really have any trouble driving through
the snow until we found the actual dirt track leading
to Sammy’s town. In the summer I’m guessing
a 4x4 is the better way to travel to Bodie, but in the
winter months nothing short of a snowmobile is gonna
imagines California to be the land of stars and sunshine,
but trust me, it ain’t that way everywhere. Bodie
has one of the most changeable climates around –
something Sam was only just telling me from the crap
he’d printed off earlier.
sits in over a thousand acres of land and because of
the high elevation it’s accessible only by over-snow
equipment during the winter months…” Sam
didn’t look at me as he was talking, and I can
a thousand acres? Just how the hell are we gonna find
your spook even if Santa just happens by and gives us
a sleigh ride into town?” I slipped the Impala
off what I guessed was the road, but to be fair, I couldn’t
see crap. Killing the ignition I winced, hoping Sam
would see the stupidity of his mission before we had
the worst Christmas in Winchester history.
what I’ve found, ‘Old Tom’ has been
way more active this past year. In fact, so much so
the state authorities have the main mine entrance boarded
up and deemed out of bounds to visitors…”
geekboy found another way in, right?” If there’s
one thing you can count on, it’s my brother to
come up with the goods when research is the name of
the game. Which in this case, meant I was outta luck.
Not to mention, out of any chances of getting a beer
and getting laid anytime soon.
nodded gleefully, pulling out another printed sheet.
“I found an old mine entrance a few miles south
of the actual town.”
we use your magic carpet to get there, Sinbad?”
I tend to get sarcastic when Sammy is backing me into
a corner, and this was no exception.
we use the two snowmobiles I rented…” Oh,
that sly grin of his appeared and I knew I’d been
had. Sam had booked ahead, which meant he’d been
planning this whole shebang way longer than he’d
should have been mad with him. Hell, I was mad with
him, but then I’d never driven a snowmobile before,
and as long as Samantha was paying with his
fake card, maybe I could have some fun. If I was really
lucky, geekboy’s mine map would be a fake and
I’d just get to mess around in the snow for a
few hours before retreating to the bottom of the nearest
whiskey bottle my hands could find.
damn cold hands could find.
looked around at the bleak landscape and realized just
how biting the wind was going to be as it rocked the
Impala’s heavy frame. Freezing was probably an
things I do for you, Sammy. You definitely owe me big
time for this.” I clambered from the car and the
temperature hit me like an icy back draft. I have a
coat in the Impala’s truck for winter weather,
but even that wasn’t going to meet my needs.
popped the lid anyway and slid on the jacket, followed
by a pair of gloves that used to be dad’s. Grabbing
two flashlights, I tossed one to Sammy along with his
favorite SKB. I prefer a Winchester myself, but hey,
it’s all in the name.
slid our weapons under our jackets along with some spare
shells and locked up the car.
assured me the snowmobile place was just over the ridge,
and as always he’d gotten his homework right on
the money. Hell, the smart Alec even paid the guy a
few bucks extra to wait for us with it being the holidays.
We weren’t supposed to have any money for beer
and more interesting festivities, but Sasquatch
had dug up some cashola from somewhere.
where the hell did you get the bucks to pay for all
this? I thought you said the moth pit that seconds as
your wallet was as dry as the Sahara?” I stopped
trudging through the snow and looked at him suspiciously.
continued walking, his rosy cheeks dimpling with glee.
“Man, it was easy! I just put that old bucket
of bolts you call a car on EBay…”
what?” Of course, I knew he was joking
– hell, hoped he was joking – but the jibe
still earned my towering sibling a huge freakin’
snowball right in that pretty boy face of his.
pretty much took it like a man, pitching his finest
back at me as we reached the snowmobile center.
it there bro, you’ll be making snowmen with the
rest of the girls before you know it…” I
dodged Sam’s attack and just managed to compose
myself before some old grey haired guy appeared in a
looked Sammy and me over disapprovingly and then jerked
a thumb at two late model Arctic Cats. “You the
two wildcats that paid upfront?”
returned to his ‘all business’ mode. “Yes
sir. I’m Sam and this is my brother Dean. We were
hoping to get a look at the old ghost town before nightfall.”
guy nodded and I could tell he thought we were a pair
of yahoos. “Well, strictly speaking Bodie never
closes, but you might want to mind yourselves up there.
The weather is damn changeable around these parts this
time of year.”
be careful,” Sammy offered, just a little too
subserviently for my liking. “It’s just
something I’ve wanted to see since being a kid…”
are in those two, and they’re all gassed up. Just
be sure you have ‘em back on time or your card
gets charged double.”
watched as the old man scuttled back into his shed and
turned up the meager heater he’d placed near a
busted up recliner. “Jeez, lovely new friend you
made there, Sammy…”
ignored me and climbed on the first Cat as if he knew
exactly what he was doing. I gotta admit, they looked
like overgrown motorbikes on skis to me, but I figured
they couldn’t be that hard to drive, right?
followed Sammy’s example and revved up the thing,
checking that the old timer really had fuelled us up.
One thing I didn’t want was to get stranded out
in No-Man’s-Land when I had not one single beer
on my person, and only half a bag of peanut M&M’s
in my pocket as provisions.
tapped the map in his hand and pointed across the snow-covered
landscape. “We need to head south for a couple
of miles. Follow me…”
any more explanation geekboy’s Arctic Cat spurted
forward and he was leaving my sorry ass behind. Not
to be outdone, I hit the gas and gave chase even though
I hadn’t a damn clue where I was going, or how
the hell I was supposed to drive the mechanical pony
my butt was planted on.
hey, if Bruce Willis could pull it off in Die Hard
2, it had to be easy, right? (Yeah, so I’m
a movie nut, bite me – especially if you’re
cute, young, and of the female persuasion…)
if Bruce and Sammy could drive a snowmobile, I was gonna
be just awesome on one.
Look out Bodie, ‘cause Dean Winchester’s
about to ride into town and he’s packin’
Abandoned Mine Shaft
Somewhere in Bodie State Historic Park
don’t really know how long we’d been traveling,
but it felt like hours. The ‘fun’ of driving
the snowmobile and chasing Sam’s butt soon wore
off as the wind chill factor set in and I realized neither
of us were dressed for the weather we were enduring.
hands were so cold I could barely feel my fingers, and
I swear I had icy stalactites stuck on my face. Okay,
so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but, dude,
it was freezing.
Sam was feeling the effects of the weather, he wasn’t
showing it. After we’d ran parallel with a small
stream for maybe fifteen minutes, my bro finally pulled
his Cat to a halt and pointed up towards a slightly
be honest, I couldn’t see a damn thing, but at
that point I was just looking at Sammy anyway and wondering
if he really was related to the Abominable Snowman.
He was totally covered in a white sheen of frost –
and let’s face it, he has the height and shoe
size to be called Bigfoot…
you coulda so stunt doubled for Harry and the Hendersons…”
turned and flipped me the bird, which I guess was his
way of saying ‘Merry Christmas.’ I chuckled
and clambered from my own snowmobile, eager to get the
gig over with, or at least get down the mine shaft were
there would be no icy tendrils biting at me from the
gusting north wind.
tell me again, Sasquatch, just why the hell is this
old coot’s spook worth getting turned into Frosty
the friggin’ Snowman for?” I pushed through
the drifts with my boots, trying to follow in Sam’s
footprints to minimize the effort required. Hey, little
brothers with big feet gotta have some uses!
he’s the only spirit we’ve encountered that
doesn’t seem to have turned bitter over time.
I want – no need to know why…”
Sam paused at a small opening I could barely make out
as an entrance.
mineshaft instantly reminded me of the place where I’d
once been imprisoned by a pretty hungry Wendigo. I shuddered
at the memory. Sammy might not know this, but I don’t
like tight spaces. That’s why I hate to fly. Being
cooped up like a chicken in a henhouse is just so not
are just so not natural.
my own misgivings aside, I think I was finally starting
to understand why Sam wanted to meet ‘Drunken
Tom.’ If one spirit could co-exist with us all
that time and never turn malevolent, then maybe there
was a chance we could meet mom or dad again someday
through the veil, or whatever you want to call it.
I cut my words short. It was Christmas. If doing this
made my little brother feel better, hell, then I was
cool with it. Sammy hasn’t exactly had many fun
yuletide experiences. Come to think of it, neither have
am I saying? How the hell can barging down an abandoned
mine, freezing your asses of be fun?
only for the Winchesters…
took my sudden silence for surrender and he flicked
on his flashlight, eager to dive into the catacombs
mine entrance was low-hanging, and we both ducked under
the decaying support timbers to clamber inside.
don’t think anyone had been down the shaft for
years – not even siteseers. Rusting tools and
several old oil lamps lay scattered on the ground, and
in front of us there was a warning sign that had almost
faded to nothing.
flipped on my own light and wafted it over the washed
out lettering. “Says here this place is dangerous.”
I raised a brow and smirked just a little too smugly.
“You don’t say…” I swung my
beam into the darker tunnel ahead, but it was so bottomless
little light reflected back. “You sure you still
want to play ‘moleboy’ for the afternoon?”
saw a glint of hesitation in Sam’s soft eyes as
he tracked the muted ray emitted by my flashlight. He
pulled that uncomfortable expression of his that means
he’s really wanting to get out of a situation,
but needs to follow it through to the end. It’s
kind of an internal power struggle between hunter and
geek, and let me tell you, at best, it’s hilarious
now, though, I was hoping the geek won and we could
haul ass back to town. No way did I want to spend one
minute longer in the musty, damp, sour smelling mine
than I had to.
rather skinny rat skittered by, its tiny claws scratching
just enough to bring Sam to his senses and make a decision.
He took a breath, swallowed hard and then pressed forward
deeper into the shaft.
So not the decision I was hoping for!
course, being such an awesome big brother I tagged along
after Sam, trying desperately not to think about how
the walls seemed to be getting closer and closer as
we moved ahead. It was like being in an Indiana Jones
movie where the room starts to shrink after you move
an artifact. Yeah, I’m sure it was all in my mind,
but it didn’t stop my heart rate elevating a notch
all the same.
about a minute of walking I turned and wafted my flashlight
back the way we had come. There was already no sign
of light behind us anymore – like our lights were
two lone stars in a black velvet night sky.
I paused, and thankfully so did Sam, but not for the
same reason as me. He’d heard something, maybe
even felt it.
held up a hand. “Listen?”
strained my ears, finally picking up on a low rumbling
growl seeming to come from somewhere above us. As the
noise increased to a crescendo, the ground beneath my
boots began to vibrate.
the pulsing tore tiny rocks from the ceiling above us
and Sam and I realized what was happening. As the roof
started to crumble and pelt us with hundreds of tiny
fragments, we turned tail as fast as our legs could
carry us and bolted for the mine entrance.
and fresh falling rubble added to the blinding darkness,
making a thick smog that filled our lungs and smarted
our eyes until our flashlights were all but useless.
I could hear Sam hacking as he ran ahead of me, but
I couldn’t see shit.
was about to tell him I really loved his plan for Christmas
Eve after all, because, hey, who wouldn’t want
to play ‘buried alive,’ but before I could
do any smart-mouthing there was another huge rumbling
sound accompanied by the sound of wood cracking and
a freakin’ earthquake erupting in front of us.
next thing I knew I was flat on my ass, my flashlight
torn from my hand right along with what felt like several
layers of skin. There was weight on me too, although
thankfully not the ‘half a mountain’ kind.
blinked, brushing away the still falling loose earth
from my eyes enough to squint into the darkness.
you better not be dead, ‘cause I’m so gonna
kill you if we get outta this mess…”
was a groan of disapproval somewhere ahead in the gloom,
and I thought I saw the shadowy movement of my bro struggling
to pat the ground until he found his lost flashlight
– at least, I hoped it was Sam – otherwise
I was stuck in a cave in with a very pissy spirit.
seconds later Sam managed to tap his Maglite back to
life and swung it around to what was left of the mine
entrance. The air was still swimming with dust and the
odd sod of tumbling debris, but the worst seemed to
come down off the mountain and caused a cave in,”
Sammy explained helpfully. “Maybe we made too
you made too much noise,” I spat back,
annoyed I was now trapped, dirty, and already very hungry.
“So, now what?” I brushed the soil along
with a long-dead rat’s corpse from my jacket and
pushed up to stand beside Sasquatch. “You do know
another way out of this hellhole, right?”
Sam shrugged, my heart sank.
was gonna die.
by the hand of a demon.
by a pissed off spirit’s stranglehold.
no, I was gonna die freezing my butt off down a hundred
year old mine on Christmas Eve because Geekboy hadn’t
done his homework.
didn’t see the panicked look on my face –
well, if he did, he didn’t mention it –
maybe he does know I don’t like confined spaces
after all. Anyway, he nodded towards me. “You
got your favorite Zippo on you?”
grinned. “Does rock salt bite spook ass?”
I stuck a somewhat grazed hand in my pocket and tugged
out my lighter. Dad had given it to me on my first hunt,
and I’d had the thing ever since. I flicked it
with my thumb until a small, and very appreciated flame
watched as the glowing light danced, casting bizarre
shadows on the collapsing earth walls around us. “There’s
air down here, and its coming from that shaft.”
He pointed his Maglite back down the tunnel we’d
just run from. “You might want to see if there’s
any oil in those lamps over there seeing as you’ve
lost your flashlight…”
shot me that smarmy look of his and I pulled a face
that said ‘bite me’ right back
at him. Hell, he was usually the clumsy one. I was allowed
a little ham-fisted behavior when a mine was falling
on top of me, right?
I took Mr. Gangly’s advice and sifted through
the rubble until I found a lamp that was half full of
oil. It was red rust and a thin film of grime dulled
the glass cover, but it was better than walking around
with a red hot Zippo stinging my fingers.
lit the thing up, adjusted the wick and then took a
long glance at our surroundings. Instantly, I wished
I hadn’t. Have I mentioned I hate being cooped
up? Yeah? Well, let me tell you that feeling was getting
worse by the second.
Samantha, it’s time we find the yellow brick road
outta this joint before we end up being the ghosts of
Christmas past…” I took point this time.
I think it was some inner part of me screaming that
I needed daylight. I needed food. I needed my Impala
and a nice, warm motel room bed.
always knew you were a secret Wizard of Oz
didn’t grace Sammy with an answer to that one.
Trust me, I’ve sat and watched some stuff in my
time, but that schmaltzy crap? Besides, that movie just
gives me the creeps.
we’d been walking for what seemed like the entire
length of Route 66 when I thought I saw something ahead.
At first, my brain was convinced it was an opening of
sorts – maybe even a second entrance, but as we
grew closer still I realized it was something way more
or something was in the shaft right along with
us, and I really had my doubts it was anything human
or living for that matter.
paused behind me and used his more powerful Maglite
to search the gloom. While he poured the beam over the
tunnel, I set my oil lamp down and tugged my sawed off
from under my jacket.
might have a freaky sixth sense, but trust me, I can
recognize spook butt like I got a freakin’ crystal
ball up my ass. I’ve been in the job too long
not to know when there’s something ‘off’
about a situation.
Sammy stayed put with his flashlight trained ahead,
I slowly moved forward, my twelve gauge held tight against
my body ready to fire. Whatever you might see in the
movies – those things have a hell of a kick when
you don’t fire ‘em from the shoulder or
you try it one handed. I know, I’ve done it way
too many times to count.
wafting shadow, a dark wraith that definitely had human
form, but no solid presence.
think ‘Drunken Tom’ isn’t playing
Mr. Nice Guy anymore, Sam.” I glanced back over
my shoulder just for a second. “Ten to one this
thing brought the mountain down on us because it knew
we’re hunting its ass!”
don’t know that…”
could hear that uncertain whine in my little brother’s
voice that meant he was gonna argue with me, but damned
if I had time to listen.
thing playing hide-and-seek in the shaft made another
move and my attention was back on its semi-visible shape.
“You ruined my Christmas, you know that?”
I spoke to the thing, ’cause yeah, I was pissed.
“Come and get it! A little present, Winchester
style, you freaky bastard!”
so I hadn’t exactly thought the thing would take
me up on my offer so literally. One minute I was poised
for action, the next I had the looming figure of a guy
charging at me like a bull.
don’t know if Sam could see any better from his
perspective, but all I got was a black, shifting mass
that in life must have been about six feet tall and
pretty burly. Not having seen any pictures of the resident
spook, I had no clue if this was really ‘Tom’
but the sonofabitch was making a full frontal at me
so I pulled my trigger anyway and let the sucker have
great, Sam decides to remind me not to fire weapons
in a collapsing mine after I’ve done
guess I should have known better, but it was pretty
much too late now. The same distinct rumbling from earlier
returned with a vehemence and the lamp I’d placed
on the ground began to dance and shake in some weird
tango as the earth literally shook.
shiiiiiiiiit!” I think Sammy and I echoed the
sentiment in unison and then everything once again turned
At least this time it was the lumbering geek who'd dropped
his light. Mine had already been out of my reach and
been instantly covered with loose earth as the cave
in buried us.
it turned out, I was the one playing corpse for a day
while Sasquatch got to be the grave digger – except
he was trying to pull me out, not put me in.
your pantyhose on, Samantha. I’m right here…”
except when I tried to move, right here turned
out to be under several tons of soggy, damp smelling
crap. I tried to move an arm or a leg, but nothing was
budging. Maybe I should have been thankful my mouth
and nose weren’t also stuffed full of the ancient
soil, but I can tell you that small mercy wasn’t
making me feel one bit better.
course, I couldn’t let Sam know that. Rule number
one is never let Sammy know just how shit scared you
squinted, and even though I had no form of light at
all, I swear I could make out some kind of metal roof
support and the beam it was fastened to pinning my legs
down. The thing was just about as rusted as the lamp
I’d grabbed earlier – except this thing
had the most ugly-ass jagged edge that was happily gnawing
into the top of my left thigh.
that point I couldn’t feel it – maybe it
was the cold, hell maybe it was shock – but in
any case it didn’t look anything more
than a flesh would. Of course, the bad news was if the
mountain shifted again, just a little, the decaying
brace would most likely take my friggin’ leg off.
you with me?” I could hear Sam moving rocks and
generally trying to dig with his bare hands. And hey,
I know those are two huge paws my bro has, but he ain’t
I’m with you. Merry freakin’ Christmas,
dude…” I don’t really know where it
came from, but I just couldn’t stifle a chuckle
right there. I mean, so not natural when you’re
about to die or become wheelchair bound, but I couldn’t
stop. The chuckle turned into song about two seconds
later and I found myself crooning Weird Al Yankovic’s
The Night Santa Went Crazy – much to
I thought it was apt at the time…
did you bang your head?” Sam was frantic, that
much I could tell with the furious digging noises and
his obviously freaked out questioning. “Are you
losing blood? DEAN!”
so I stopped my singing. It was kinda rude given the
situation, but heck, it calmed my nerves a hell of a
lot more than sitting on my butt panicking. “No,
neither,” I answered truthfully. “I’m
pinned down, dude.” I took another look at the
brace gnawing into me. “Although if you don’t
get my ass out of here pretty soon you’re gonna
have Long John Silver for a brother…”
seemed to freak Sammy even more, but hell, if I was
freaked then he deserved to be too.
tried to move again and realized if my big ox of a brother
had actually been my side of the cave in he might have
been able to just drag me out. Damn Winchester luck
blinked, trying to dislodge particles of soil stuck
to my eyelashes, but they just wouldn’t come away.
Guess it serves me right for being born with huge lashes
in the first place. But hey, the gals seem to love ‘em,
so I ain’t complaining.
can you move at all?” There was worry and doubt
in Sam’s tone and I knew he could see something
I’m just laying here taking in the sights, jerk!”
about then I felt the fabric of my jeans start to get
colder – colder, but also with the freaky sensation
of becoming damp – no, not damp, totally wet.
first instinct told me I was hurt way worse than my
brain was allowing me to know, and the sopping feeling
was my blood oozing out all over my legs. Then I calmed
is warm and sticky, not cold and icy – well, unless
you’re a damn zombie – which I may look
like after a few beers, but I sure ain’t become
is there something you’re not telling me?”
Sam’s silence let me know he was standing the
other side the cave-in chewing his bottom lip while
that big brain of his hit overdrive.
course, he really didn’t need to say anything
for me to guess anyway. I may not be as academic as
Sasquatch, but I ain’t exactly dumb, either. “Dude,
the freakin’ mine is flooding, right?”
get you out. Just hang in there…”
never quits, you know that? Even when he knows a situation
is hopeless he always looks for a solution. That attitude
right there is gonna get his ass canned one day –
and I wasn’t allowing that day to be Christmas
Eve on account of my recklessness.
I want you out of here. NOW!” I began yanking
hard under the soil, even though I knew it might bring
more of the crap down on me. “Sammy, go! Find
a way out before you get that gawky ass of yours trapped
guess I knew he wouldn’t go, but hey, I had to
worst thing was he must have been able to see the water
rising and feel the icy chill as it slowly rose above
his own feet, knowing that somewhere just ahead I was
most likely gonna get drowned by the stuff or succumb
to the temperature and there was jack he could do about
shivered as the water’s freezing tendrils seemed
to start to soak through to my bones. It was so dark,
so damn enclosed.
don’t know how long I lay there not saying anything,
eyes closed as my body shook violently from the cold,
but I swear out of the blue I heard a soft voice praying.
Now I know Sammy still has faith, but the strong Bronx
accent was kinda a big clue it was not my little brother
doing the begging to the big guy in the sky.
be the cold. I’m hearing things…
the mumbling continued I felt the water rising, wetting
my jacket, my sweater everything.
in the darkness I heard Sam calling me again, but I
was getting tired. It’s funny how the cold can
do that to you when you can’t make an effort to
something changed – something moved – and
I realized with surprise it was me.
felt hands grabbing under my arms and pulling at me,
yanking me from my early grave.
metal brace dug into my leg more until I yelped out,
but hey, pain was better than death. I tried to kick
with my feet to aid my rescuer, forcing my body from
the earthy tomb even though my clothes were heavy with
soil above me began to fall further and I sensed the
brace and timber it was attached to shift seconds after
my soaking form was pulled free from its grasp.
lay panting, choking, hell gasping there for longer
than I care to remember. I was curled into a ball, not
even knowing where I was or who was my savior.
the clammy feel of my clothes and the knowledge I was
gonna succumb to the cold if I didn’t haul ass
made me move.
I thought…I thought…”
could tell Sam was pretty much choking on his emotions.
I hadn’t answered him in forever and he must have
stood watching as the earth I was under collapsed in
you should know I don’t squish that easy.”
I limped over to the wall of mud, hearing, but barely
seeing the trickle of water still seeping through it
Sammy was the other side it.
we were separated by half a friggin’ mountain.
we have to keep moving. We have to find higher ground
or we’re both gonna be wishing we were fishes
come sundown." I hated suggesting we split further
– especially as I had no source of light to find
my way, but it was really the only option.
I can still dig through…I have the only flashlight…”
Sammy the optimist was off again, but even when he said
it, it was half-heartedly. He knew big bro was right.
Hell – I’m always right – except for
shooting sawed-offs down mine shafts, obviously.
now you listen to me. Haul your ass as far away from
that water as you can. Don’t worry about me. I
got eyes like a friggin’ bat…”
heard him chuckle at that. “You mean ears, Dean.
Bats are pretty much blind…”
you,” I shot back. “And yeah, I’m
pretty much blind this side, but hell it didn’t
stop Rutger kicking ass, and it won’t stop me
getting my butt outta this dive way before you, geekboy!”
there goes my fascination for cheesy movies again. I’m
a sucker for an action flick – even if I coulda
written the plot on the back of my M&M’s bag.
Now there was a thought. I patted my pocket and retrieved
one soggy packet of my favorite confectionary. Digging
a hand in I dug out a palmful of the little buggers
and began to drop them as I stumbled around in the darkness.
movin’ your ass, Sammy? ‘'Cause I’m
already halfway down the nearest tunnel this side, dude…”
heard a disgruntled and somewhat muffled reply that
said Sasquatch had given in and was at last doing as
he was told. That was the good news. Now I just had
to do my best Blind Fury impression and maybe
we’d both survive the mine and the holidays.
walked on, bumping into the shaft walls every few seconds
until a dull light ahead made me increase my pace. At
first I thought I was gonna win my bet and get out of
the hellhole first, but I soon realized the illumination
was nothing more than the flickering glimmer from yet
another oil lamp.
It had to be, right?
have I ever been glad to see your sorry, lanky, friggin’
dimply cheeked…” I stopped as I stepped
into the chamber, realizing I hadn’t found my
brother after all.
don’t know what the area had originally been used
for by the miners, but it was wider than the shaft behind
me and I sighed with relief at the small semblance of
respite it gave me from my claustrophobia.
bigger question was who the hell had lit the lamp, though?
hobbled up to the shimmering light and let my tired
body drop down beside it, feeling the tiny warmth it
emitted and savoring it.
looked down then, finally able to see how badly my leg
had been cut by the metal brace. As I’d originally
suspected it wasn’t all that serious – it
definitely wouldn’t require any of Samantha’s
needlework – which is a good thing, believe me.
There was still a little blood, but for the most part
it had already started to clot.
the leg wound wouldn’t be a problem, but the cold
might. I was still soaked to the bone, and still freezing
my ass off until my muscles spasmed occasionally in
an effort to warm my aching body.
rubbed at my arms, wishing like hell I had something
warm to eat or drink.
lick of whiskey…
heart skipped a beat as the same Bronx accent from before
whispered through the gloomy chamber. Maybe Sam had
been right after all. Maybe the original avalanche had
been an act of Mother Nature. Maybe Tom was a good guy.
Tom had just hauled my ass out of the cave-in and saved
me, even though I hunted his kind.
winced, unsure of just what I should do. I’ve
been in some situations, but I’m a hunter, I’m
not supposed to parlay with the enemy.
I finally asked, feeling pretty foolish.
was no reply, but the flaming wick in the lamp at my
side seemed to shimmer brighter and then fade back to
its normal intensity.
a sip to take the chill from your bones…
time I was pretty freaked out and I glanced around the
hollow I sat in, eyes desperately seeking out the voice.
There was no strange shadow like before, no dark shape
in the darkness, but there was something else.
clambered forward and grabbed the dusty container, whirling
around its contents as I checked the label. It was a
brand of liquor from one of the local breweries, so
yeah, this was one hundred-year-old gut rot that could
probably serve as paint stripper.
pulled out the stopper and took a long swig, letting
the whiskey’s warmth burn its way down my throat
and beyond. It was coarse, hell, worse than coarse,
but to me right then it tasted better than Scotland’s
raised the bottle in my hand. “Cheers, Tom!”
But the lamp didn’t flicker again. Maybe the old
timer was wishing he’d partaken of the bottle
picked up the lamp, keeping the bottle in my other hand.
The area I was in seemed to branch into yet another,
bigger chamber beyond, and maybe, just maybe there would
be a way out in there.
held up my meager light and was about to limp ahead
when I heard footsteps behind me. I dropped the whiskey,
my hand reaching for the Winchester I no longer had
under my jacket. If ‘Drunken Tom’ had gotten
pissy, I was about to be in a world of hurt.
me tell you, Sasquatch’s soft tones have never
been so welcome, not ever. I spun around and almost
wanted to bear hug the big lug – almost.
I snarked. “Reports of my ass being grass are
greatly exaggerated. Told you I could see in the dark.”
I winked mischievously, my eyes looking Sam over to
make sure he was in one piece.
was – and considerably dryer than me.
own gaze appraised me, pausing as he noticed the tear
in my jeans and the red that had soaked through it.
Before he could start to go mother hen on me, I waved
nothing. Just a scratch,” I admitted honestly.
“So, how’d you find me?”
opened one of his big paws and revealed a handful of
M&M’s. “I don’t think these are
Tom’s.” He grinned, cheeks dimpling. “I
found them at an intersection in the tunnel and knew
you couldn’t be far away.”
well, you had light to see where you were going.”
I saw Sam’s eyes drop to the oil lamp I held.
“This was a Christmas gift,” I explained,
waving the thing in front of my brother as if he’d
understand. When his brow furrowed I pointed down at
the bottle at my feet. “That bottle and the lamp
were just here, dude, waiting for me. The thing was
even lit! I think maybe you were right…”
forehead remained creased. “Right?”
I think maybe Tom saved my ass back there.” I
jerked a thumb back towards the cave-in. “Someone
with a Bronx accent pulled me out just before the mountain
came down on me. Guess maybe the old coot really is
the good guy you pegged him for.”
ghost gave you whiskey?” Sam shook his head, still
smiling. “He must have heard about your reputation…”
yeah, now let’s hope he shows us a way out of
this joint, ’cause it ain’t getting any
warmer down here.” I shuddered, wishing our friendly
neighborhood spirit had left me his jacket instead of
his bottle. “C’mon, I saw another chamber
over here. Maybe there’s another way out…”
nodded, leading the way with his flashlight into the
secondary cavity. All I can say is it was not
what we were expecting – not by a long shot.
area was definitely part of the original mine, but someone
had been here recently – at the very least within
the last year. There was a tarp in one corner covering
something about waist high, and beyond that something
looking like a bundle of loose grey material.
I lifted my lamp and took a few long strides towards
the new mystery. Sammy with those huge freakin’
legs of his still beat me to the treasure. And when
I say treasure, I’m so not kidding.
used his free hand to gently pry at the canvas until
it fell away from the booty, revealing a huge mound
of Eastern Sierra Community Bank endorsed money bags.
You know, the kinda thing you usually expect to be in
the back of an armored truck with a couple of guards?
whistled. “Gee, Samantha, I think we just found
Scooby a new case…”
seemed enthralled by the bags. Huh?” he mumbled
as he dug into one, pulling out a wad of hundred dollar
know, ghost haunts mine to keep out unwanted tourists
and all that crap? It’s classic Hanna Barbera.
Hell, you even got the ‘Shaggy’ hair, dude…”
I kneeled, eyeing the money myself. I’ve never
seen so much cash – not ever, and I think I must
have grinned pretty goofily because Sam quickly stuffed
the notes back where they’d come from.
Dean,” He chastised in that ‘I’m gonna
have a hissy fit’ way of his.
alright!” I held up a hand in submission. “But
you gotta admit I was right. ‘Drunken Tom’
so ain’t real, dude.”
took down a long breath and that brain of his was definitely
in overdrive. “If Tom’s spirit is just a
ruse to keep people away from the money until things
cool down, then what pulled you out of the cave-in and
gave you the whiskey?”
opened my mouth, but then realized I had no friggin’
clue. I turned around in the gloom, remembering the
other pile of grey material. Maybe that would shed some
light on what the hell was going on.
shifted the oil lamp in my grasp, trying to get its
inadequate glow to illuminate the corner. What I saw
wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but it did
answer Sam’s question.
think I found my rescuer, Sam…”
joined me, and with the added brightness from his flashlight
we could see that the grey cloth was actually a uniform
– a security guard’s uniform to be precise
– and this particular one just happened to have
the remnants of a body in it.
corpse had been in the mine a good while and what nature
hadn’t let decay naturally, rats finished off
until all that really remained was a little hair and
‘gnawed on’ bone.
hunkered down again, noting the massive hole in the
poor man’s skull. “Somebody ventilated this
guy, big time. I guess he wasn’t part of the equation,
huh?” I raised a brow and looked up to see Sam
brother’s not squeamish, but he’s not quite
as de-sensitized to wanton and unnecessary death as
me. Right then, he was feeling sorry for whoever the
remains once were, and he was wishing we hadn’t
found ‘em on Christmas Eve. Me, I think the guy
deserved to get found and put to rest, ya know? Especially
if he was the one who’d saved my sorry butt.
placed my lamp down and reached forward, slipping a
hand into the guy’s jacket to search for any I.D.
or paperwork to give us a clue exactly what had gone
down. If there had ever been any official documents
on his person, they’d been removed, but I did
find a pretty beat up wallet.
pulled the leather slip from the guard’s top pocket
and offered it up to Sammy while I struggled back up
to my feet. My injured leg was aching from the awkward
angle I’d been squatting, and I figured cramp
was gonna set in if I didn’t move.
I think we know this guy…” Sam had opened
up the wallet and was staring at something inside like
he’d ugh…seen a ghost.
well maybe not him, but…” Sam flipped the
open wallet over so I could see what he was looking
at. “That’s Michael, the kid you almost
squinted at the picture, but I could already see Sam
was right. Little Mike, his mom, and the guy I presumed
was the stiff were all standing together smiling outside
a house with a ‘sold’ sign in front of it.
“I guess now we know what happened to the kid’s
shook his head. “No, all we know is he was some
kind of security guard that got involved in a robbery.
We don’t know if he was in on the deal and got
greedy, or he just saw too much.”
shrugged. Playing detective was all good and well when
you were out in the real world, but right now I wanted
out of the mine so bad I didn’t much care how
it happened. The guy was dead and it would be up to
the cops to figure out the where and why. That probably
sounds a little callous, but hey, I was starting to
feel the walls closing in again, and it wasn’t
a nice sensation, trust me.
you think maybe we can find a way out before we worry
about the dead guy?” I looked at Sam, hoping he
actually had a plan.
name was Richard Bowman,” He offered matter-of-factly,
tapping the wallet. “He had a family, Dean. You
know, cute kid, not a lot of road sense?”
you know I hate it when he starts with that do-gooder
crap? Mostly because I know he’s right. “Okay,
okay. We’ll figure it out. Once we get out
of this joint.” I lifted my lamp again and looked
around the enclosure, but there was no other exit -
not unless Sammy really did intend turning into ‘Moleboy.’
cocked his head, indicating he was not the least bit
amused by my humor. I expected a retort, but instead
he took the lamp from my grasp and removed the cover
from the wick. I guess he was looking for a draft to
guide us safely out, but putting it bluntly, the Winchesters
were once again shit outta luck.
draft? Great, just great.” I think I rolled my
eyes at that point, rubbing a hand across the stubble
that was beginning to form on my chin in worry. “Getting
a little stuffy in here too, Sammy.”
brother nodded, and I could tell he had no clue what
to do next. Me, I usually make crap up as I go along,
but when geekboy is stumped, that’s when I start
freakin’ out inside. We’d gone from being
buried alive down a mine, to drowned down a mine, to
suffocated down a mine.
many ways were there to die in one day, for crying out
will you stop that?” Sam glanced up from the lamp
and I could tell something had confused him. He looked
at me, unsure of what was going on. “You have
no idea how annoying that is right now.”
Stop what? I haven’t moved since you stole my
were humming The Eagles…”
gawked. “Dude, do I look like I’m about
to be humming anything? We’re running
outta air, I’m not about to be wasting it on anything
less than Metallica!”
whispering the twenty-third Psalm
Dusty rifle in his trembling hands
Somebody trying just to stay alive
He got promises to keep …
so now I was hearing it too, and it was more than humming.
Someone was actually singing the words, but it was damn
muted. I flinched, straining to hear more. “It’s
coming from the shaft.” I grabbed my lamp back
from Sam and quickly stuck the glass back on. The flame
danced a little, but for now it continued to burn. I
guess there was air left yet.
the light almost as high as my head I followed the sound
of singing, realizing the words had a lilt to them.
You can’t usually pick out an accent when someone
is crooning, but I swear I heard a Bronx inflection
to the voice.
a long road out of Eden...
the sound grew louder I increased my pace, and behind
I could hear Sam’s footfalls matching my own.
think he’s showing us the way out, don’t
turned just enough to shoot my brother a look of uncertainty.
I had no clue who or what the hell I was following.
And the scary part was the spook was singing a song
that probably hadn’t even been released when he’d
died. Talk about taste in music from beyond the grave.
I got no idea,” I admitted honestly. “All
I know is I think our guy trapped us down here just
long enough to find his remains and the money. I doubt
we’re much good to him if we end up right alongside
him as rat chow.”
shrugged. “Makes sense,” he agreed, keeping
his Maglite pointed ahead far beyond where my oil lamp
a long road out of Eden...
you call this Eden? I’d hate to see your
version of hell!” I teased the voice of the specter.
Don’t ask me why, but I just thought maybe Richard
might see the fun side. Do ghosts have a sense of humor?
Not usually, but then they don’t usually haul
your ass out of trouble either, so I was just going
with the flow.
listen.” Sam grabbed my forearm and stopped me
dead in my tracks. His eyes were darting all over the
shaft, and I guess the big lug’s ears were tuning
into something too.
stopped.” I shrugged. “Shame - the guy could
hold a tune…”
that," Sam snapped, annoyed I was still snarking.
“I can hear something above us. “ He shifted
the beam of his flashlight until it was almost totally
vertical. “I think there was once another shaft
up to the surface here.”
followed the light upwards, but all I could see was
a hole in the wooden boards that held the mountain off
of us. “Dude, there’s nothing up there…”
ignored me and whirled around. I thought he was going
to start running back towards the mini chamber, but
instead he retrieved the remains of an extremely corroded
spade and began poking the earthy ceiling where the
timber was missing.
soil and loose rocks began to shower down on us, and
I dropped the lamp in favor of shielding my face and
my amazement, Sasquatch continued to prod like a freakin’
cattle farmer until snow began to tumble into the shaft
right along with the soil.
a couple of minutes, the deluge from above began to
slow and I uncovered my face enough to look out at a
cloud-filled December sky. And lemme tell you, that
was the most beautiful sky I have ever seen.
watched my expression and that damn kooky grin of his
appeared. “Merry Christmas, Dean!”
scowled back, wanting so much to tell him I was gonna
kick his ass for dragging us down the mine in the first
place, but one look at those eyes and I surrendered.
“Next time, buy me socks, slippers, aftershave
– hell, anything but no hunts!”
didn’t grace him with an answer. I just grinned
back, picked up the biggest sod of earth and snow and
just slapped it straight at him.
you think we’re bad now, can you imagine what
we were like as kids?
took his usual defeat gracefully and used that extra
height of his to quickly haul ass outta the shaft. I
had to wait for a hand out.
Sammy pulled me free of the mine, I took one last look
down into the darkness and my smile disappeared. “Merry
Christmas, Richard,” I quietly muttered, just
low enough that Sam didn’t hear me and think I
was turning into a wuss.
Mono County Sheriff’s Office
2 hours later
back from where Sammy literally poked a hole in the
mine took awhile. It turned out the snowmobiles weren’t
exactly close by, and we had to haul our butts across
thick snow to get to them. I was cussing all the way,
by the time I reached town I felt like I was half frozen
solid – and I’d changed out of some of my
clothes back at the Impala at that! Getting warm when
you’ve been stuck in freezing water seems to take
forever, I can tell you.
walking iceberg or not, Sam and I had to brave yet another
danger to deal with our friendly spook’s revelations
– we had to contact the cops. Now, I don’t
know how much you know about me and my brother, but
let’s just say my pretty striking mug is probably
at the top of America’s most wanted list.
for me, not too many law enforcement officers can remember
every wanted poster out there.
is going to devastate Mary…even though she pretty
much knew Richard wasn’t coming home again, she
always held out hope because of the lack of a body…”
The balding Sheriff shook his head. “I‘ve
called her over, she’ll need to look at the remains
once my boys get them to the coroner’s office
saw Sam shift in his seat. “Is that really necessary,
Sheriff?” He squirmed. “I mean, there’s
not much left…and on Christmas Eve…”
Caldwell sighed. “You boys don’t know Mary.
She’s a stubborn woman. She’ll want to see
flinched every time the cop used the name ‘Mary.’
It was freaky, but I guess he was thinking about mom
with it being Christmas and all. “Can I ask if
you know what happened yet?”
he went again – little brother on a mission to
find the truth.
Sheriff pushed back in his chair, twirling a pen absently
in his fingers. I don’t know why, but he kinda
reminded me of Bellick from Prison Break –
although, I liked this guy way better.
guessing you don’t know about the robbery we had
here in Bridgeport last Christmas, you all being from
and I shook our heads. We’d spun our usual lies
and handed out our customary fake I.D.s and apparently,
rocked forwards, cupping his hands in front of him on
the desk as if he were truly sorry about what he had
to say next. “Some bozos robbed a shipment of
cash from the bank on Christmas Eve. The truck, the
money and Richard Bowman were never found. The second
guard on the run claimed he’d been knocked out
and dumped out on 395. Personally, I always thought
he was involved, right along with the bank manager.”
not Mr. Bowman?” Sam pried.
I’d known Richard all his life. He was a good
soul. Trouble was, when him and the money vanished the
rest of the folks in town were quick to judge –
as was the bank. You know how gossip spreads. It was
soon all over Bridgeport that Richard had taken off
with the cash. Mary and her boy were treated like criminals
– hell, even the insurance company found a way
to get out of paying up to her. Mary and Mike were left
pretty destitute when it was all said and done.”
the real bad guys got away with hiding the money down
the mine until things cooled off,” I concluded.
“Well, that full-on sucks.”
smiled at my bluntness. “It did, until you found
the evidence I needed.” He pointed outside to
where a rather plump dispatcher sat at her desk, oblivious
to our gaze. “When Mindy passed along your call
I sent a couple of deputies over to pick up Rich’s
partner from the armored truck, and don’t you
know he ran like a scared rabbit! Hell, he all but admitted
killing Bowman once my boys hauled his ass into their
and stuffed, huh?” I couldn’t help the Dukes
pun, but Caldwell surprised me by taking it good-naturedly.
he smirked right on back. “I’m thinking
he’ll squeal on the manager to save his own butt.
‘Course, I couldn’t have done squat if you
boys hadn’t found Rich’s body. What were
you doing in Bodie this time of year?”
jerked a thumb at me before I had time to respond. “My
brother, he’s had this fixation with visiting
the ghost town since he was a kid. Pretty much obsessed
about it when we were younger…”
thinking my eyes widened right about at that point,
but at least Sammy was lucky we were in front of a cop,
or my fist might have been flying in his direction too!
Me? Obsessed? Hell, it was his hunt, not mine, the jerk!
right about then the Sheriff’s intercom buzzed
and Mindy informed him Mary and little Mike had arrived.
if you boys are done here I’ll catch up with you
later for a formal statement.”
I think I squirmed at that idea. I liked the Sheriff,
I really did, but I knew when I was pushing my luck,
and getting close to the man again after he’d
run our fake info through his police database was not
a good idea.
course, I’ll need some more details for the reward
was halfway across the room making a fast getaway when
the word ‘reward’ stopped me in my tracks.
All kinds of crazy thoughts hit me right then and there.
A new suspension kit for the Impala, a mini-vacation
with lots of girls, beer, gambling – and did I
mention LOTS of girls?
Sam turned as the cop grinned at us.
Sierra Community Bank offered up $250,000 for any information
leading to an arrest. I think you just about filled
that criteria today and then some.” Caldwell sauntered
across his office and opened the door for us. I guess
he could see we were both pretty much in shock.
we crossed into the main office area I noticed Mary
and little Mike waiting anxiously by the double glass
doors. I’m no expert, but Mary had definitely
been crying. I swallowed hard. I’m not really
a chick flick guy – anyone who knows me even a
little knows that – but ugh, this gal had been
through too much already, and I truly felt for her and
was huddled into his mom’s jacket, and even though
I’m not sure he was aware of what was going on,
his expression said it all. It was Christmas Eve, and
the poor little guy was upset – hell, no, he was
more than upset – he was terrified.
see, I know just how Mike was feeling. I’d been
there the night mom died, except it was dad’s
arms I’d huddled in, Sammy wrapped up in a blanket
pulled tight to my chest.
that moment I turned to look at my brother and I swear
to God it’s the closet I’ve ever come to
having a tear in my eye. (Tell anyone that and I’ll
kick your ass) It was like re-living a piece of my own
past, and it burned so very deep I couldn’t extinguish
the heat of the memory.
reward money…” Sam’s most persuasive
look pleaded with me. “It’s Christmas, Dean.
We don’t need the money, not like Mike and his
mom.” He smiled at me then. “It’s
the little things that matter, bro, not money…”
thought about the bags full of cash in the mine, and
what greed for them had caused. Without even taking
a second to consider, I nodded in agreement.
were lots of things Sam and I needed – but nothing
as much as Mary and Mike did.
and I walked over to where the Sheriff was talking with
Mrs. Bowman and her kid. I guess it was kinda rude to
interrupt, but hey, it was for the right reason, right?
I’m none too good with the sappy, girly stuff,
so I left that to my bro.
Bowman, the Sheriff told us about the reward we’re
due to and we’d like you and your son to have
it.” Sam looked to Caldwell. “If that’s
blinked as if he was hearing things, but then nodded.
“I’ll speak to the bank as soon as they’re
office is open and make sure it’s taken care of.”
you…thank you so much…” Mary looked
at us, realizing we’d met before. “You’re
the driver Mike ran out in front of, aren’t you?”
smiled. I guess I do have a pretty unforgettable face,
huh? “Yes, ma’am, just passing through over
seemed to deliberate something and then put her attention
back on Sam.
I knew she liked Sasquatch.
you have anywhere to stay? You’re welcome to stop
with Michael and me for the night. Christmas dinner
can get pretty lonely these days…”
damn! She was offering food and I hadn’t
eaten in hours. If Sammy didn’t take her up on
the offer I might just have to leave him to sleep in
the Impala for the night while I did!
we were going to stop at the motel…” Sam
glanced back at me and I kicked him lightly in the shins.
grunted and I found the sound greatly satisfying. I
hadn’t forgotten about the SpongeBob
slippers remark yet, let alone getting our asses trapped
down the mine. Payback was going to be sweet.
It’s the least I can do after you give up all
the reward money.” Mary ruffled Mike’s hair
as she spoke, and I saw the kid pull away. He was definitely
going to be my kinda kick ass and take names dude as
he grew up.
pushed Sammy sideways a little. “We’d love
to.” I grinned brightly.
what was I thinking? I’d just volunteered us to
spend Christmas with an eight-year-old who obviously
had attitude issues almost as bad as mine.
hey, as Sammy said, it’s the little things that
matter, right? And one thing my brother and I can still
relate to is family. ‘Cause hell, me and him,
we’re all that’s left of the Winchester
The Bowman Residence
December 24th 2007
didn’t really occur to me until I reached Mary
and Mike’s home that I’m not exactly your
regular social butterfly. I mean yeah, I can interact
with people pretty well – but outside of hunting
if I’m not picking up a gal for the night, then
I’m quite happy to kick back in a motel with just
me and Sammy and a whole crate of Coors.
was realizing that right about now as I sat across from
the kid while his mom fixed up my leg. Now, not that
I’m complaining, ‘cause I’d much rather
some pretty chick tend me than my ham-fisted bro, but
I just never know what to say to ordinary folks, ya
my stomach growled loud enough for the Dalai Lama to
hear it the all the way over in Tibet, saving me further
was the last time you ate?” Mary’s unreadable
expression turned to concern and I shrugged. She taped
down the remains of a small dressing on my thigh and
then rose looking over to Sam as she moved towards the
kitchen. “Is a chicken sandwich okay for you both?
You’re not vegetarian or anything, right?”
beamed. “Sweetheart, I so don’t do vegetarian.”
smiled back – mostly at Sammy again – and
then vanished from view.
Mike was in the room or I’d have had a few choice
words with my brother. Not that he was egging the widow
on or anything, but I could torment him over it all
it was, I was forced to sit and look at the kid’s
glum expression instead. I flinched, wishing Sam had
gotten this prize seat and not me. I mean what the heck
do you say to a kid like this? “So, what would
you like for Christmas?”
shrugged. I don’t think he actually gave a damn.
“I can’t have what I want,” he huffed.
“I want my dad back. I want people here
to stop hating him and calling him a thief…”
will soon know the truth now, Michael,” Sam chimed
in, looking to me with a nod.
they won’t. People don’t care about the
truth. They’d rather believe the bad things…”
could see the kid’s bottom lip starting to quiver
and his chin dropped to rest on his chest, but he was
fighting it. He’d learned to control his emotions
the hard way – hell, the Winchester way. I hunkered
forward, impressed with his bravado at such a young
age. “I know the truth, Mike.”
looked up at me, eyes glistening with tears. “How
I met your dad, once,” I answered honestly. Okay,
well, semi honestly – I mean his ghost counts,
right? “Matter of fact, your dad saved my life.”
eyed me suspiciously and looked over to Sam who nodded
could he have? You don’t even live around here…”
give the kid some credit, he’s a smart one. Got
a keen eye for the details, the little cuss. “Your
dad wasn’t from California originally, was he?
He was from New York…”
head shot up at that, and I knew I’d got him hook
line and sinker. Damned if I wasn’t going to cheer
this kid up for Christmas. He slowly bobbed his head
at me and then glanced over to a picture I hadn’t
noticed on a nearby dresser. It was a larger version
of the one in Richard’s wallet. “He really
saved you?” He asked incredulously.
I smiled back. “He really did. Your dad was one
of the good guys.” I ruffled Mike’s hair
and scared myself – Hell, I was starting to act
like I was half civilized! Even Sammy gawked at me like
I was doing a bad impersonation of him.
it was Christmas, right? It’s only once a year.
I tugged at the kid’s jacket. “Your dad
wouldn’t want you sitting here like this. Whatdya
say we go watch some TV and dig into some of your mom’s
Mike finally smiled. It wasn’t exactly an ear-to-ear
grin, but I was working on him. Maybe I’d even
get a chuckle outta the kid before Santa paid a visit.
And yeah, Santa was going to pay a visit, Sammy’s
credit card had made a last minute shopping diversion
to make sure of that. Not that Sam actually realized
he’d shelled out just yet…
you I’d get my payback!
Mike switched on the TV and Sam and I joined him on
the sofa. Three big kids with nothing better to do.
Mike grabbed the remote and began flipping channels,
settling on a cartoon I instantly recognized.
groaned. “Aww, you gotta be kidding me, dude!
Anything but this!”
chortled as Scooby and Shaggy ran across the screen
down what looked like, yeah you’ve guessed it,
an old mine.
grimaced and looked to Sam for support, but instead
he began to join the kid, laughing his ass off at me.
“Hey!” I cuffed him playfully around the
ear. “What the hell is so funny, dorkbutt?”
pointed at the screen. “You know, watching this
got me to thinking,” he explained through stifled
laughter. “We never did find ‘Drunken Tom.’
Maybe we should come back next year and finish the gig…”
right, Merry Christmas to you too, Sammy!
I mention we’re spending the holidays in Maui