Season Three

Episode Sixteen: One Way Ticket

By irismay42 & Kittsbud

Part One

New York Connecting Railroad
North Bound Train
April 30th 1955

The sound of the diesel engine’s roar was drowned out by the constant clattering of the carriages as they sped over the tracks. Metal on metal, pounding until every now and then sparks flew from the rails.

The rattle was monotonous, almost sleep-inducing, and yet, to one onboard, it was like the sound of a choir beckoning.

Except this was no heavenly chorus.

This was the song of the Dark One, calling, wanting, needing more souls to feed upon.

And tonight, the Master would be given what he craved.

A fleeting silhouette moved from the walkway into the cramped confines of a sleeper car and was lost in further gloom. The figure was hidden, protected by the raven blackness that his god provided.

The shadows were his friends – his familiars.

On the wall, a set of markings was barely discernable in the muted light until the interloper struck up a match, savoring his earlier work. Moving the tiny flame across the inscriptions, he inhaled, taking down the sulfurous aroma it gave off, as if he was inhaling the scent of Hell itself.

Satisfied his work was of his usual standard, he moved further into the room, using the still-flickering match to light a set of black candles that each marked the spot of an elemental point.

The obsidian wax burned brightly, illuminating the impromptu altar the worshipper had erected so brightly even the words on the walls could now be seen clearly.

Heathen words.

Words written in his own blood, but offering up another’s.

Something moved outside and the stranger slipped back into the shadows, tempted to snuff out the candles, but not daring to remain on view long enough.

The sliding door to the room jammed for a second, and then a patient hand teased it back allowing a figure to enter with a feminine sigh of frustration.

The intruder smiled as the young woman pulled away a light green scarf from her neck, and only too late noticed the flaming candles that now adorned her room.

He guessed in another life he may have thought her pretty, but beauty was unimportant now his new path had been defined.

Lithely stepping up behind the brunette, he slid a gloved hand around her waist, pulling her into him until he could smell the shampoo on her hair, the perfume on her skin…the fear in her scent.

As she tried to scream, he moved the hand calmly upwards until the glove that adorned it was stifling the young woman’s pleas.

She bit into the leather of his gauntlet, her teeth sinking until he could feel his flesh bruising – and he drank in the pain, relishing it like a goblet of fine wine.

Through the window, the stranger noted the train was approaching a bridge.

His bridge.

It was time.

Using his free hand, his pulled an ornamental dagger from his waistband, letting its tip waft through the smoke of each candle. As he made the almost serene moves with the blade, he began to chant something so quietly to the ordinary ear it would have been nothing but an inaudible mumble.

And yet it was so much more.

The gate was always here, waiting, but the gate didn’t open for just anyone.

The train hit the bridge line on schedule, pounding onwards relentlessly, and as it passed under the huge metal archways its lights began to waver as if their flow of electricity had been halved.

The main engine light cracked as sparks of electricity danced off the metal plates forming the driver’s cab.

And within a second, the locomotive had been engulfed in an unearthly darkness.

From within the gloom, one solitary scream cut through the blanket of death that had fallen, and then there was silence – silence, save for the familiar clatter of the loco’s motion.

Five minutes later, the north bound roared under the last arch of Hell Gate Bridge and continued on its way, the dampened lighting suddenly rejuvenated as if more fuel had been added to the imaginary fire.

In the sleeper car, the interloper still worked, placing his newly retrieved items carefully upon the altar. The heart was such a beautiful organ, and he handled its soft form with far more care than he had its previous owner’s life.

Placing the oozing heart between two of the candles, he turned back to the slumped form on the floor, needing yet more for his offering. Every sacrifice made to the master must be of both heart and soul.

Kneeling, the man almost slipped in the slimy trail of blood that pooled around the body and had begun leaking under the sliding door. He traced a gloved hand through the gloop, rubbing the fluid between thumb and forefinger like a child trying to resist the wonders of finger painting.

What wonderful inscriptions he could make with such perfect dye. But first, the offering must be completed.

Retrieving the dagger from the girl’s chest, he took the tip and deftly stuck the blade in just under the left eye socket of her skull. The staring orb popped from its home like a newly tapped golf ball and the killer shuddered with satisfaction.

Heart and soul.

Slicing through the optic nerve, he let the left eyeball drop into his awaiting hand and then repeated the procedure with the right.

Such pretty green eyes. The Master would enjoy this one.

The man pushed up from his crouched position and wiped the dripping blade on the scarf the girl had earlier discarded.

Green, just like her eyes…

He looked down at the two spheres in his hand and considered crushing them in his palm. There could be no greater sensation of pleasure than to feel the victim’s soul crushed into a pulp.

But not this time, this one was for the Master.

Turning, the killer returned to his altar and dutifully placed the piercing dead orbs next to their owner’s heart.

Heart and soul…

He began to chant anew, this time louder as he watched the candles flicker, their flames billowing unnaturally as he began to rock back and forth on his heels.

And behind him, the room’s door slid open with the same creak that had almost stopped it moving for the girl.

The man spun, all thoughts of his work forgotten. What good was he to the Dark One if he were to be caught?

In the doorway, a young porter stared at him blankly. Perhaps the railroad worker was in shock, perhaps he was a coward, or perhaps, it had been the girl’s one forlorn scream that had brought him here.

Not a coward then…

The killer reaffirmed his grip on the dagger’s hilt and took a step forward. There was always room to make two offerings – he would just need a little more time.

Expecting the porter to retreat, he frowned when the young man instead moved closer, his face flushing as adrenalin urged him onwards.

The porter held out both arms, effectively blocking the killer’s exit. “I’m sorry, sir, but I’m afraid the game is up. Wouldn’t it be better to go quietly? Other people on this train heard the girl yell…you won’t get far…”

The clattering of the train on the tracks seemed to grow louder, intensifying until it filled the killer’s brain. It was the Master’s chorus, and it wanted him to finish the game.

With a feral growl, he dived at the porter, swinging the dagger in the hopes of damaging flesh. Throats were always a favorite, but the chest or even an arm would do for starters.

The blade bit into something soft and he leered.

And then, just as they had before, the lights shimmered and were gone, plunging both men into a never-ending gloom that only one would survive.


Present Day
The Dive Bar, Roanoke VA

Dean twirled the beer bottle around with his fingertips, wondering just how many of its brethren he could sink without getting drunk. Usually, it was an unknown total that would probably put the bar owner out of business for the night, but today, Dean was considering staying just that little bit sober.

The ordinary little bar he was sitting in had turned out to hold an extraordinary amount of talent when it came down to beings of the female persuasion, and right now, Dean was feeling the need for some of that talent to work its magic on him.

Not that he wasn’t still wary of anything in a skirt – especially after Mia and the cat-woman in Philadelphia, but they couldn’t all be the same, could they? Knowing my friggin’ luck…

Dean twisted the empty Coors bottle in his hand just a little bit more and let his eyes stray to a blonde in the corner. She seemed to notice his wayward gaze and smiled back, eventually offering a small wave.

Whoa, is that an invitation? Dude, so gotta get out more… Dean pushed up from the bar, leaving the bottle behind as he began to saunter across the room. Now all he had to do was think of a suitable lie to impress the chick in the next forty seconds and he was home and dry.

Although whose home he’d actually be home and dry in remained to be seen. Jeez, you don’t even know her name and you’re figuring out if it’s my room or hers…

“Dean!”

The voice was evil, it was beckoning, and worst still it was about to stop him getting laid.

Dean whirled to see Sam flipping his cellphone closed, the distinctive arch of his brother’s brow telling him that Sam was more than just a little worried about something he’d just heard. Dammit, Sammy, not now…

Dean took another look at the blonde, desire giving in to commonsense, and he sighed painfully before changing direction to make a beeline for his brother.

“Sammy, I’m telling you, this better be good. Me and miss May Queen were about to find a nice quiet place and…”

“Ugh,” Sam interrupted, face scrunching into an even deeper scowl. “Spare me the details…”

“I was gonna say have a drink,” Dean retorted, attempting more of an innocent expression than he truly felt. Or go bump uglies, depending on which she preferred, he admitted silently, his face contorting into a grin at the thought.

“Yeah, well, maybe this will put you off the idea of flirting with just anybody. We need to watch our backs, dude.” Sam took a swig of his own beer, swallowing hard before continuing. “Bobby has heard someone killed a couple of hunters out West. He can’t be sure, but he thinks it might be Mia, Dean.”

Dean took in the news with a small grunt of disapproval. Mia was bad news – just the thought of her brought bile up into his throat, the hatred he felt for her welling in the pit of his stomach almost as much as it once had for the demon Haris. He gestured for the bartender to hit him with another beer and then slumped down onto the stool next to his brother dejectedly.

“Maybe it was something else,” he suggested, wanting to stifle any further talk of the girl who had stolen his heart – and ultimately nearly his life.

“What about Anderson?” Sam offered, his idea getting another scowl from his brother.

“The guy’s a Guardian, Sam. Why would he be killing hunters?”

Sam shrugged, but let the subject die. “Bobby has a friend e-mailing us some information on a possible gig,” he redirected, opening his backpack and pulling out their laptop a little too eagerly.

“Dude, we just finished putting all that amulet hoodoo to bed. Can’t we just hang out and have some fun for a few days?” Dean let his eyes stray back to the blonde, despite Sam’s earlier warning.

Sam didn’t appear impressed, and as the Windows Vista logo appeared on the laptop he shook his head in frustration. “If you wanted a little fun, Dean, why the hell’d you drag us half way across the country to this place? There isn’t even a gig here!”

Dean blinked as if his feelings were hurt and he chugged down a mouthful of beer. Damn, this stuff is warm! “Are you kidding me?” He groused. “Lost colony of Roanoke, dude! I thought you’d appreciate the town’s historical value...”

“You mean you thought you’d appreciate the town’s apparent abundance of girls,” Sam countered as he began to read the information in the message he’d received. “Now will you at least just listen?”

“Yes, Mommy…” Dean rolled his eyes and threw a note on the counter for his last warm drink.

“It says here there has been a spate of killings on a Boston-bound long haul train. The killings are despicably gruesome – possibly involving rituals of a satanic nature.”

Dean huffed as if the information was less-than-intriguing. Now the girl, I bet me and her could unravel a mystery or two…“Sounds like a serial killer, dude. Much as I hate to suggest it, it’s a job for the cops, not a couple of hunters.”

“Maybe, but get this – the killings are carbon copies of ones that went down in the fifties.”

“Great, an octogenarian serial killer.” Dean smiled just a little too roguishly, knowing his brother was getting irked at his lack of interest. If he couldn’t have the girl, then why the heck should Sammy have all the fun of a new hunt without getting ribbed first?

“Dean, will you let me finish?” Sam turned the laptop on the bar and pointed to the Word document he had open. “The original murderer was caught in the act back in 1955 by a train attendant and was arrested. He was sent to the electric chair the following year. And, get this – the details of the killings were considered too gruesome to ever make public. I know it’s possible someone could have gotten the information, but we could also have a serial-killing spook on our hands…”

Dean shrugged, wondering whether it was worth risking another Coors considering it tasted like it had been boiled rather than chilled. “Okay, so it’s possible,” he conceded. “But why now? Why wait all these years to manifest again? This freak been waiting on a cheap return ticket or somethin’?”

Sam’s shoulders slouched and he took on a defeated look that suggested he didn’t have the answers. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “But given the original dates of the murders, and the two new ones, there could be another killing within forty-eight hours if we don’t find out. The next train leaves from Richmond at 3.55pm tomorrow. Service 66…”

Dean’s brow arched. “Service 66? You’re kidding me, right?”

“Well, it’s not quite the number of the Beast, but they’re already calling the killer the Service 66 Slayer…”

Dean looked longingly at the blonde, then at the plethora of alcoholic beverages behind the bar, knowing both were going to be denied him. He grimaced, contorting face muscles he didn’t know he had in an attempt to gain his brother’s empathy. “You’re so not suggesting we get on that friggin’ train, right?”

Sam’s boyish smirk in response told him al he needed to know.


Amtrak 66
Staples Mill Station
Richmond VA

Sam watched in surprise as throngs of passengers pushed past him, filing across the busy platform as if they’d already reached New York. While he’d expected Staples Mill to be active, he hadn’t been prepared for hectic.

As yet another speeding commuter bumped into him in their haste to board the nearest train, Sam sighed, happy that he wasn’t part of the business world most of these people belonged to.

“They’re like freakin’ ants, dude.” Dean noted as more and more of the black-attired company men appeared for their ride, gripping briefcases as if they contained a national secret. “I didn’t expect this many monkey suits here…”

Sam shrugged. Rail travel was definitely on the decline, but he guessed there were still enough out of town workers who needed rides to make it worth running the line, or why else would Amtrak keep it going? So the killer can make another hit, he reflected glumly as a train began to chug sluggishly from the platform.

“So, Sasquatch, tell me again why we’re mixing with the pen pushers?” Dean continued to walk, but he set his attention on his brother as if he definitely wanted to be somewhere else.

“I did some more digging and this is looking more and more like our kind of gig, Dean. I managed to get into some locked files about the original court case and get this, the killer’s name was Elliot Butcher.” Sam rubbed at the top of his leg absently as he followed his brother, his still-healing thigh beginning to twinge as the walking pulled at his stitches.

Dean paused, frowning. If he’d noticed Sam’s pain, he didn’t mention it – probably because he still felt to blame for his brother’s injury. “Seriously?” He asked. “Butcher?”

“They even gave him one of those cute serial killer nicknames – The Hell Gate Butcher. Not exactly original but…”

Dean’s brow furrowed even more and he huffed as if the name had started ringing unpleasant bells in his subconscious. “Hell Gate..?”

Sam stuffed his hands in the pockets of his tan jacket and began walking again. “Yeah, Butcher would board a long haul train and spend several hours choosing his victim and setting up an altar. Only when he was over New York’s Hell Gate Bridge would he finally carry out the murder. The freak believed the bridge was a conduit to the dark side.”

“Why am I getting the feeling this whackjob knew his urban legends a little too well?”

“Because he did,” Sam agreed, impatiently restarting his interrupted diatribe. “Local legends say if someone stops on the bridge and then turns around, the road behind them will look like the fiery gates of Hell. Another myth says a couple were killed on the bridge years ago, and on a dark night, if you stop on the bridge and turn out your lights, one of the lost lovers will get into your car and leave a wet spot on the seat.”

“Dude, no spook is leaving any kind of wet spot on my baby’s seats.” Dean’s eyes sparked with mirth, and just for a second Sam expected a suitably lewd comment to follow.

When none came, he continued his story before they ran out of platform. “Other reports say ghost trains haunt the tracks filled with the lost souls of Spanish and Dutch explorers whose boats sank in the turbulent currents under the bridge.” He took a breath. “Then there’s the story of a child molesting rapist who would grab kids and drag them into some kind of hidden chamber in the base of the bridge. Reports say when the police finally figured out where he was they stormed the place and found wall to wall photos of his victims…”

Dean dragged down air as if it hurt to even think about the implications. “Man, if even half this crap is true we could be dealing with some seriously pissed off spirits. With this much activity no wonder our dead guy picked this spot.”

“It gets worse, Dean. The place has also been a dumping ground for victims of the Mafia over the decades – which, given the place’s implied connections to Hell…” Sam sighed. He hated having to bring up an old nemesis, but the evidence was just too hard to ignore. “And our bad guy did think he was serving Lucifer…”

“You think maybe Butcher was working for our old friend Ferinacci?” The displeasure in Dean’s voice told Sam he’d hit the nerve he’d been hoping to avoid.

They’d almost made a house call to Lucifer’s pit once, and it wasn’t an experience either of the brothers would care to repeat.

Still, just because a madman had believed he was working for Lucifer didn’t mean he actually had been. At least, Sam hoped it didn’t. “Butcher believed he was sending his Master the souls of those who most deserved to go to Hell.”

Dean ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “Yeah, but was the guy a full-on whackjob or really a servant of Ferinacci? Given our past experiences in New York and New Jersey we know that fiery-eyed bastard kind of has a thing for the area.” He stopped again, remembering Sam wanted them to take a trip on the loco to Hell. “And you think we should take a friggin’ train right back into Lucifer’s pit? Are you nuts?”

“Dean, Butcher was probably just another freak hoping to get a name for himself. Our biggest worry will be finding why he’s come back after all this time.” Sam watched his brother’s expression, knowing the next challenge would reel him in. “And of course destroying him won’t be a picnic. It’s not like we’re likely to find the guy’s bones on Amtrak 66.”

Dean considered it, he face changing from uncertainty, to annoyance, to cogitation in the blink of an eye. “You hope Butcher is a nutjob,” he eventually concluded. “But I’m telling you, mess with Ferinacci and any more poisoned bullets and I’ll end you myself.”

Sam could tell his brother wasn’t joking. The time Ferinacci had had one of his hitmen shoot Sam with a poisoned round had been almost unbearable for Dean. In fact, Sam often suspected that if Gudrun hadn’t healed him, Dean would himself have eaten a bullet within a couple of months and joined him on the other side.

Gudrun – another one of Ferinacci’s victims.

Sam felt a cold pain like an ice pick digging into his spine, and only his brother’s voice brought him away from the moment.

“So you think this Butcher boy will kill again tonight, huh?”

“Today is April 30th – to devil worshippers its Walpurgis Night – a traditional day of celebration and sacrifice. It’s perfect for a killing, Dean.” Sam tried to forget about Lucifer and the deaths and destruction they’d already seen perpetrated by his hands. This had to be just another gig. It had to be. “Today is also the day Butcher was caught back in ’55 after murdering his final victim. All the other murder dates, both past and present, have been in March and December. I’m figuring because the Solstice and Equinox are important satanic dates.”

“So we gotta ride the Hell train and look for a spook we don’t even have a description of? I mean, this thing is either gonna be a spirit we might not be able to even see half the freakin’ time, or it’s gonna have possessed some poor schmuck. Either way we’re pretty screwed, Smartboy.”

Sam shook his head and pointed a short distance ahead to the waiting Amtrak 66. Beside the train, wearing a pristine uniform and cap, stood a tall black man whose features looked like he’d been etched from stone by a harsh winter wind.

To the young hunter, the conductor could easily have passed as a double for Morgan Freeman, right down to his graying hair and infectious smile.

Striding towards the elder man, Sam slid a hand from his pocket and flashed one of the infamous Winchester IDs. “Levi Warwick?” Sam asked, checking over his shoulder to make sure Dean was still in tow. “I’m Detective Henley and this is my partner Detective Frey. We’re here to ask a few questions about the recent murders…”

Warwick let his eyes stray over the brothers as if he were appraising them, but his warm smile never faltered. “We’ve had a lot of cops around the past few days. How can I help you gentlemen?”

“You were onboard when the most recent deaths occurred?” Sam questioned, eyes locking with the conductor as he flipped open a small notebook and began to recite. “And you were also a porter back in the fifties when the original murders happened. In fact, you knew the attendant Ed Fraser, who finally caught Butcher?”

Warwick bobbed his head, his eyes abruptly dropping to the platform as he recalled earlier, unhappy events in his life. “I knew Ed, yes.” He finally admitted. “He was a very good friend. Everyone was so proud of the way he tackled that guy Butcher. Of course, Butcher had cut up a fair few victims before that happened.”

“Did you see the earlier victims?” Dean raised a brow.

“Some,” Warwick answered, his nose wrinkling at the grotesque memory. “Their eyes – he always gouged out the eyes and placed them on the altar. I remember the first time I saw them. It was like they were still alive, watching me, mocking me.” The conductor shuddered. “I went to church that Sunday, I can tell you.”

“And now?” Sam pressed. “The victims are all cut up in the same way? The exact same way?”

Warwick nodded. “Exactly,” he agreed. “But then shouldn’t you boys know that from the autopsy reports?”

Dean coughed. “Just checking the facts,” he lied, redirecting the conversation before the conductor became more suspicious. “Did you ever see Butcher? I mean, could you describe him?”

“Sure I saw him. I’ll never forget the wild look in his eyes as they strapped him into the electric chair that day.” Warwick shuddered in distaste at the memory.

Dean blinked, surprised that the elder man had been at the execution. “What, you were actually there?” he asked, voice raising slightly.

“I was there.” Warwick answered, a tinge of sadness seeping into his voice. “Butcher was one crazy sonofabitch, and he requested Ed Fraser be present at his execution. Ed and I were close enough friends that I wasn’t about to let him face that alone. Maybe in retrospect it was a mistake.”

“Death is never pleasant,” Sam agreed, his voice softening as he recalled some of the wanton deaths he’d witnessed.

“Oh, but you don’t understand. It wasn’t seeing that creep fry that bothered me. It was the look on his face as they strapped him into the chair. He was wild, like a creature gone mad more than a man. He knew we were watching through the glass, and all he kept saying was that he’d come back from the dead to get his revenge on Fraser if he had to…” Warwick shook his head. “Of course, Butcher was cheated even of that because Ed died not six months later with rapid cancer.”

Sam scribbled down everything the conductor was saying, making careful note not to miss even the tiniest detail that might be relevant. In the end, his pencil tip snapped with the rapid movement and increasing pressure that was being put upon it. He sighed, looking at Warwick as if time, like the pencil, was about out for them. “Is there anyone else who knew Butcher or Ed Fraser that might know more?”

“Sonny, Amtrak didn’t even exist back then. It’s too long ago for anyone much to be left.” Warwick paused, his aging facial skin creasing as he seemed to consider something.

Behind them, another Amtrak employee shouted, distracting the conductor, and Warwick turned, his last thought forgotten. Checking his watch, he sighed. “Sorry fellas, but it’s departure time for the 66. Time I got to working instead of chatting.”

Sam nodded, holding out a hand and shaking the conductor’s. “Thank you for your time, sir. We’ll most likely see you on the train.”

“You’re taking the 66?” Warwick looked surprised, his eyes widening just a touch as he warned, “Better watch your backs over Hell Gate…” He turned then, straightening his cap before ushering an aging couple aboard their car.

“Jeez, ain’t he the life and soul of the party,” Dean snarked, eying the nearby loco with as much enthusiasm as a Boeing 747. “I mean, fat lot of good that got us.”

Sam tucked his notepad and badge back in his pocket, pulling out two white tickets in their place. “That,” he replied with a little too much fervor, “is why we have these…”


Amtrak 66
Outside Fredericksburg, VA

Dean wasn’t sure he liked the motion of the train one damn bit. In fact, if he hadn’t had too much on his mind to think about it, the constant clattering would probably have made him feel nauseous. So need some Metallica to drown out the freakin’ noise…

Not that the current passengers on view looked like the kind of people that would enjoy hard rock. No, they were more Sammy’s kind of people. Probably listening to wuss ass music on their iPods right this minute…

As the hunter deliberated on other people’s bizarre musical tastes, his brother scanned over the people in the snack car as if he were viewing a group of suspects through a one-way mirror. “I think we’ll reach Hell Gate Bridge around 3.30am – that gives us a nine hour window until someone dies…”

Dean grunted. “Dude, someone is gonna die way sooner than that if I have to spend nine hours on this tin cigar with wheels.” He looked at the abundance of snacks he’d collected in front of him, but even the wonders of chocolate weren’t luring him in. “So, tell me, Miss Marple, which one of these bozos do you think is our killer?”

Sam cringed. “Dude, Miss Marple? Since when did you read Christie? In fact, since when did you read, period?”

Dean tore off the end of a Twinkie wrapper and then thought better of it, tossing it back down in favor of his staple M&M diet. “What?” He answered innocently. “I saw that Oriental Express movie when I was a kid. So sue me…”

Sam smirked. “It’s The Orient Express,” he corrected. “And that was Poirot not Marple.”

Dean huffed. “Yeah, well only someone who liked chick movies would know that crap.” He slipped another handful of chocolate into his mouth and carefully pointed to a young blonde that had taken a seat by the nearest window.

The girl looked to be about twenty-five and was very pretty. In fact, Dean suddenly felt his attention drawn away from food and across to her insanely alluring figure. And what was more, she was alone.

“Dean, can you keep your mind on the gig, not the gutter…”

“I was actually thinking she could be the one we’re looking for,” the elder hunter suggested, eyes still glued to the girl as she took a drink from her recently opened can of Coke.

“Yeah, right, you were thinking she could be the one you’re after,” Sam teased. “There goes that downstairs brain again. Gonna have to get an elevator installed that goes all the way to the bottom just to talk to you soon…”

Dean finally glanced away from the blonde, clear annoyance splattered across his features. “I’m serious here, Sammy.” He leaned over the table interlocking his fingers in front of him as he became almost staid. “Think about it, every pretty girl we meet lately is a whackjob. Why not add one more to the growing pile of skanks? Mia, Selfi…”

“Do you realize just how paranoid you sound? Not to mention none of this seemed to be bothering you back at that bar in Roanoke.”

“Yeah, well, I was looking to get laid back there, not looking for a killer who rips out hearts and uses eyeballs as Satan bait.”

Sam let his gaze fall to the girl and then back around the snack car. “I’ll add her to the list and we can check out her room later, okay?” He paused his scan of the car as his eyes fell on an overweight man devouring a sandwich. “What about him, he’s alone too, does that make him a killer?”

Dean huffed, looking over his shoulder to see the man ramming in the foot long B.L.T. as if his life depended on it. “Dude, that guy is too fat to move his ass fast enough to kill anyone…”

Sam’s face crinkled until each cheek was one huge dimple and he looked down at the mountain of food in front of his brother. “Wait till you’re his age…you’ll be twice his size at this rate…”

“Hey! I work this crap off with my extra nocturnal activities!”

“Yeah, and you don’t mean hunting.” Sam’s eyes shot back to the blonde from earlier and Dean was about to protest when a shadow from above suggested they had company.

Dean looked up first to see a young, and obviously very inexperienced, attendant hovering over them. The youngster’s nametag announced they were being tended by “Luke”, but by the looks of his skinny arms and thinning hair, Dean was pretty sure this was no Skywalker.

“Excuse me, but is everything all right?” The attendant looked almost scared as he glanced from brother to brother.

“We’re fine thanks,” Sam pointed to the empty confectionary wrappers and then Dean. “Although we may need a trash can for the wrappers the size of a house.”

The young man laughed, but his voice said he was still nervous to the point of stammering. He blinked, clearing his throat before finally admitting he had another motive for approaching them. “I…I don’t mean to be rude, but I…well, I couldn’t help but notice you two were kinda checking people out…”

Sam’s expression softened and he pulled out his fake police badge. “My partner and I are investigating the recent murders. We could have a suspect onboard.”

“I’m Luke,” the attendant offered, his edginess vanishing somewhat. “Maybe I can help you out? I know some of the passengers. Some are pretty regular on this route.”

“Regulars huh?” Dean’s brow arched and unspoken words told Sam he was thinking that their bad guy could be a “regular.” The killer returning to the scene of the crime certainly fits this freak’s M.O….

Luke nodded helpfully, not even noticing the interaction between the brothers. Sliding onto the seat next to Sam, he carefully pointed out the blonde. “That lady over there? Her name is Kim Robinson and she works for some big city corporation. She uses the 66 all the time, but she’s a bit of a loner. Fact is, I’ve never heard her speak to other passengers or staff unless she had to. Except this one guy…” His attention drifted for a second, before he suddenly shivered. “Kinda creepy if you ask me…”

“Do you know her room number?” Dean kept his voice low, but it was still audible enough to earn him a look from Sam that said he was using that big ol’ elevator downstairs again. “For research purposes, dude! You wanna check out their rooms, right?”

Sam didn’t bother to reply and focused back on Luke. “What about the overweight guy in the corner? Is he a regular too?”

Luke shrugged, showing little interest in the man. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him before. Of course, I don’t get to see every passenger. It’s a busy job after all…”

Dean considered saying it couldn’t be that busy if he had time to sit around and chat, but bit back the words. The kid wanted to play cop – and if that helped them, then maybe they’d have to put up with him a little while longer. “Are there any more…?”

The hunter didn’t get chance to finish his question.

From somewhere in the next car, someone screamed – the yell promptly followed by the carriage door bursting open and a throng of passengers pushing through as if they’d been in line for the Thanksgiving sale all night.

The sudden mass of activity seemed to center around one huge black man, although he was so totally smothered by the crowd that it was hard to see why.

“What the He…” Dean moved to jump into the fray, only realizing at the last moment that the man wasn’t actually being attacked – he was being worshipped.

“Oh, that’s Jay Stringer. He travels with us a lot because he’s afraid to fly,” Luke offered up helpfully.

“Yeah, well I can relate to that,” Dean mouthed, only taking in the man’s name after several seconds of deliberation. “Jay Stringer who plays defense for the NY Giants?” He asked incredulously.

Luke nodded knowingly, a smile spreading across his face so wide Dean had to stifle the urge to be a smartass. “Mr. Stringer uses Amtrak a lot. He’s a very friendly guy, chats with all the passengers, signs autographs, that kinda thing.”

Sam took in the information. “Dean, a guy like Stringer – people would approach him, they wouldn’t be scared if he was around. I mean, someone with his build could snap a neck in seconds, and there’s no real proof he’s really scared of flying…”

Dean leaned back in his seat, appraising the footballer. He was a fan of Stringer’s. Hell, if they weren’t working a gig, he’d probably be getting the guy’s autograph with the rest of the crowd. The man was a legend, for sure.

But was he, could he be a killer?

“I still think the killer is a woman, Sammy.”

“Are you serious?” Sam asked in disbelief. “Have you one shred of evidence?”

“Because it’s just what you never expect!” Dean countered half-heartedly. “C’mon, Mia, Selfi…” he warned just a little obsessively.

“They’re gone, Dean.” Sam pushed up from the table and nodded to Luke. “Thanks for your help, but we need to go interview a few other staff members now, don’t we, Dean?”

“We do?” Dean shook away latent mental images of the two women who had almost killed him and stood to join his brother. “Yeah, right. We do.” Stuffing the remaining foodstuffs in the pockets of his leather jacket, he waited until Luke took the hint and sidled away before raising a brow. “So now what, Marple?”

Sam jerked a thumb to the corridor and began to make a beeline for it across the snack car. “We each take a list and search the rooms,” he suggested, keeping his voice low as they moved by other passengers.

“Dude, I so get the girl…”

“You so don’t,” Sam asserted both brows dipping. “The mood you’re in, you’d probably rock salt her first, ask questions later.”

“If she’s innocent, I can think of something much better than questions for later…”

“Yeah, well, my money is still on the overweight guy. I think we need to check him out first.” Sam tapped the paper he’d noted room numbers on.

“What little fat guy..?” The voice was deeper than either Winchester’s and seemed almost amused as their bickering.

Sam and Dean looked up to see Warwick standing in front of them. He was smiling, arms behind his back like some strange sentinel who had crept up on them without making one single sound.

Dean took a second to take in the conductor’s almost magical appearance and then turned back towards the snack car, pointing towards where their quarry was still sitting, gorging on junk food. “Little fat guy, likes his food a lot. Been sitting in the corner of the snack car feeding his face since he got on, I’m betting.”

Warwick’s face changed from a smile to a wary frown and he moved his shoulders just enough to give the impression the fat man made his spine tingle. “I know who he is. He’s a cop, and not the best kind.” The conductor’s left brow ticked up until he reminded Dean of a very curious Spock. “Funny, if you’re cops and you don’t know the man…”

“What, ’cause we’re cops, we’re all supposed to know each other?” Dean countered without even thinking.

Warwick’s stern gaze bored into the hunter until the elder man detected a slight glint in Dean’s hazel eyes. A glint that brought the wry smile back to the conductor’s grizzled facade. “I like you. You’re a funny guy.”

“Yes I am.”

Sam cleared his throat, clearly growing tired of the game. “So – err – the fat guy?”

“Sherman Wozniak,” Warwick responded without missing a beat. “He has friends in low places…”

Dean licked his lips, the skin on them becoming suddenly dry as he realized he might be in a tighter spot than he’d ever imagined. Being in the confines of a train was one thing, but being cooped up with a bad cop when he was a wanted man wasn’t the best way to spend the evening in his book. “How low?” he eventually dared to ask.

“You heard of a New Jersey mobster named Ferinacci?” Warwick’s nose wrinkled in disgust as he said the name, and Dean suspected had the conductor been alone and outside, he may have spat on the floor for good measure.

Dean bobbed his head, his own face matching the Amtrak worker’s. “Can’t get much lower than that…” he agreed, his mind racing at the possibility that there really might be a Devil’s disciple onboard.

“So, bad cop aside, we still have a suspect to find,” Sam interrupted, hoping to deflect any more questions about why they didn’t know Wozniak was on the train. He looked to his notepad and then Warwick. “We’re going to need the sleeper car room numbers for Kim Robinson and Jay Stringer.”

Warwick eased back on his heels, eyes once again examining the brothers before he responded. Eventually, he silently took Sam’s pad and jotted down two sets of numbers. Without speaking further he turned tail and headed towards the snack car.

As he moved away, he wagged his forefinger in the air and both Winchesters heard his familiar deep tones mutter, “Don’t let me find out you boys have been up to no good on my train…”

And with that, the indefinable conductor was gone.

“I’m not sure who is creepier, our bad guy or Warwick,” Dean grumbled, craning his neck to see if the conductor was really out of earshot.

“Ah c’mon, he’s just been around so long he’s like the wise old owl of the line.” Sam defended. “And besides, he’s not the one we need to worry about.”

“Yeah, well, like we know who is?” Dean countered, beginning to make his way along the corridor again. “I mean, we have no freakin’ idea what’s going on here, Sammy. All we got is a bad cop, and he may only be onboard this time to support the real bad guy now there’s some heat comin’ down.”

“And that’s if we really are dealing with Lucifer again rather than just some whacko,” Sam pointed out. “For all we know, Wozniak might just be scoping out the real killer, either for work or for Ferinacci. Killing in the Devil’s name like that is bound to get Lucifer’s attention eventually.”

“Well, we need to find out and fast, dude, before some poor schmuck ends up minus a few body parts.” Dean glanced at the pad still open in his brother’s hand. “I’ll take the cornerback’s room, you can take the girl’s…just to show you how serious I am. “ He winked.

Sam opened his mouth to comment, but then clamped it shut again.

Sometimes, there was just no fathoming the inner workings of Dean Winchester’s mind.


* * * *


Dean felt the train juddering beneath his feet again and wanted to curse – except cursing while he was picking the door lock to a passenger’s room wasn’t exactly acting covertly. Sonofabitch, he mouthed silently as the door to Jay Stringer’s room finally slid open.

Looking first to the left, then the right, he scooted inside and closed the door behind him.

The room was tiny, even by his standards. How anyone the size of Stringer managed to get a good night’s sleep in the bunk defied belief. Unless he doesn’t actually sleep here. Maybe he’s busy someplace else tearing out eyeballs…

The hunter tried to push the images of ragged fleshy orbs from his head, but they lingered, taunting him as if the killer was already in his mind, playing tricks with his emotions.

Dean didn’t like emotions anymore. Not after Mia.

Kneeling beside the football player’s bunk he pulled out a small canvas travel bag and unzipped the top. At first, the contents seemed innocent enough.

Running shoes, a sweater, jeans.

But then something like photo paper caught his attention.

Dean slid his hand into the bag and tugged at the image until it came free. Turning it over, he realized that the image had once been that of a young brunette. Now though, the girl’s picture had been defaced – two holes removing the places where her eyes should have been.

Just like the killer’s M.O.

Crap! I could be looking at the next target and I don’t even have a clue who she freakin’ is!

Dropping the photo onto Stringer’s bunk, Dean turned to the player’s larger case that had been stowed overhead. Roughly pulling it free, the hunter let the heavy baggage drop to the floor and then began to awkwardly rifle through its contents.

Like everything else in the tiny space, it was hard to maneuver around.

This time, Dean discovered Stringer’s football garb, but like before, it was not alone in the case. Beneath the colors of the NY Giants was another shade – a shade formed by the scarlet taint of human blood.

Careful not to touch the bloodied dagger with his hands, Dean used one of Stringer’s socks to pick up the sullied blade. It wasn’t exactly the kind of thing a mugger from the Big Apple would use to assault their next victim. No, this thing was ornate, almost beautiful in design.

This was the kind of tool used in satanic rituals.

Sacrifices, even.

Under the dagger were more items to add to the satanic tally, including black candles, spray paint, and a small human skull that could only have ever belonged to a child.

Forgetting the dagger, he picked up the yellowing cranium and examined it. This was no prop, it was real bone, from a real kid.

And what was more, there was a crack and jagged puncture hole just above the right eye socket that could only mean one thing.

This person had been a murder victim too.

Maybe one of the kids from under the bridge Sammy talked about…

Dean’s face contorted in disgust and anger. It didn’t matter who was behind this now, some whacko, or Lucifer himself.

They were going to pay.

Placing the skull down, he picked up a second sock and began rummaging further into Stringer’s case, his mind so distracted that he didn’t hear the door click behind him until it was too late….

 

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The Winchester Chronicles

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