When the Wolf and the Grey Wolf Meet

By Gil Hale – corbidae@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: All usual disclaimers apply.

Author’s Notes: Post series for The Sentinel, and early 3rd season for Supernatural.


Part 1

“Professor Sandburg?”

Blair Sandburg looked up from his untidy desk. After six years of being a full professor, his office was slightly larger and more central, but he still never managed to tame the paper work. He didn’t recognise the young man in the doorway, but everything about him said ‘student’; in fact with his worse than average haircut, tall, gangling build and earnest expression, it would probably say ‘geek’ to Jim.

“Come in,” Blair said, his door always open to students, whether they were his own or not. “What can I help you with?”

The young man came in, rather hesitantly. He was projecting perfectly the image of a shy, but keen, budding academic. If Blair hadn’t had all these years exposed to Cascade’s criminals and to Jim’s cynicism, he might even have bought it. As it was, he recognised it for the very good act it was, and notched his alertness up a level or two. However, fake or not, there was a genuine urgency in the man’s eyes, and in spite of Jim’s continuing conviction that all unexpected visitors were potential guide-nappers Blair thought there was no real danger from this one. Besides, as one of the world’s more talented obfuscators, he ought to be able to separate the real from the bull while he listened to whatever tale he was about to be spun.

“You want to come and get a coffee?” he asked, mentally conceding to Jim’s opinion on the advantage of public places in these circumstances. “I was about to take a break. What’s your name by the way? I don’t think I’ve seen you around campus.”

“Sam. Sam Murphy. I’m actually studying at Stanford, but I’m here for a few days to do some research and I was told you might be able to help me. Coffee would be great.”

Blair chatted to him idly as they walked, and decided he really was—or had been—a student at Stanford. He was fairly sure some of the rest of what Sam was saying was skilful invention, and wished he had his own personal Sentinel lie-detector handy. Or perhaps not, given the guide-napping paranoia.

“The psychology program I’m on allows for some individual research,” Sam said, still with that earnest ‘good student’ look that must have opened a lot of Rainier’s doors to him. “I’m particularly interested in parapsychology. Do you know Stanford was the first university in the US to have a research program in that, right back in 1911?”

“John Coover?” Blair said, and was pleased to see that Sam looked slightly taken aback by this level of knowledge.

“Of course, it’s very different now, and not a major area of research any more,” Sam said quickly. “In fact, anthropologists are probably better informed than the average psychology student.”

Flattery to cover a difficult moment. The kid was smoother than he looked. “I’ve read a certain amount in a variety of contexts,” Blair said. “Are you interested in a particular area or culture, or in something like the role of the shaman? Please tell me you’re not up here to study Bigfoot!”

That won an almost genuine smile from Sam. “No. Bigfoot’s off the agenda. Actually, I hadn’t realised that parapsychology was a real interest of yours, it was more to do with your personal experience I wanted to talk to you.”

They’d reached the front of the line by now, and Blair insisted on buying both their coffees. “I remember living on loans,” he said. “This is just in gratitude for all the people who helped keep up my caffeine intake in those days.”

It was sunny and they took their coffees out on the grass. Blair was waiting, rather warily, to find out if this conversation was going to come around to the Sentinel concept, or one of their past cases. He was almost sure that way back when Jim saw Molly’s ghost and solved her murder, the young man in the case, Dunlop, had given an interview to some tabloid. Was that coming back to—pause for groan—’haunt’ him?

Sam, though, seemed genuinely hesitant to come to the point now they’d gotten this far.

“Seriously, I’m open minded on this,” Blair said. “I’ve a very small amount of experience with the traditional paranormal, but I’ve read about the use of EMF and so on; I’ve done more research on topics like spirit walking and spirit guides.”

Sam’s hands clenched around his coffee cup, and his manner lost the plausible gloss. This was something that mattered to him, Blair realised, not part of the con.

“I heard that years ago when you were a graduate student you died, here, and a friend somehow brought you back,” he said. “I wondered if you’d be prepared to talk to me about what happened.”

It was the one thing Blair hadn’t anticipated. He managed not to drop his coffee, and tried to sound normal. “You’re researching near death experiences?”

“No. The guy I spoke to said you were actually dead. Long enough that they were prepared to call it and give up. He said that what happened after that…”

“Hold on. You spoke to one of the paramedics! Have you any idea how unethical…”

“Yes.” Sam was silent after that, perhaps sensing this was not the moment to push it. Blair’s sense of outrage struggled with the desperation he could see inadequately hidden in Sam’s eyes. He wasn’t being questioned out of ghoulish curiosity, or to fill out some student’s paper. There was some kind of real need here. Blair wasn’t sure whether that made it better or worse. What he was sure of was that he needed some time to think, and that he wasn’t the only one involved here.

“How long are you in Cascade for?” he asked abruptly.

Maybe Sam had expected outright refusal; he looked relieved and grateful that Blair was even considering talking to him. “I’m not sure. At least another couple of days.”

“If I do decide to talk to you about this, where will I find you?”

Sam took out his cell phone. “I’ll give you my number. I’ll probably be in the library, here or in town, but this is the most reliable way to reach me. I’m really grateful, Professor Sandburg.”

“Save it till I’ve made my mind up,” Blair said. “I’ll call you though, whatever I decide.”

He meant the promise, because whatever con Sam Murphy was running, he also seemed to be suffering. In the meantime, Blair thought he’d see if he could find out anything about the young man, at Stanford or elsewhere. He’d try to do it without enlisting Jim, though the sentinel had better resources. Jim was looking into some bizarre slash attacks that had been taking place in Cascade and was short on sleep and patience. It wouldn’t be a good time to hark back to what had happened at the fountain. Besides, if anyone was going to sell the paranormal to Jim, ‘geek’ research wasn’t the place to start.


Part 2

Jim Ellison stood in Cascade’s Maritime Park, not feeling remotely like the sentinel of the great city. He was just a tired, pissed off cop making no headway at all on a frustrating case. Nothing in it really seemed to call for him to use his senses, and apart from the fact that Blair was frantically busy as usual, Jim had a built-in preference for keeping him away from random and unpredictable violence, so he was here alone. Although the attacks were serious enough for Major Crime to have taken the case, no one had actually been killed yet, and Simon had a couple of other problematic investigations, so this one was all Jim’s. He was not impressing himself with his solve rate.

The attacks had begun nearly four months ago, and the frequency was escalating. That in itself was not so surprising, though it was a cause for concern. What really bothered Jim was the total lack of progress and the increasingly odd nature of the victim’s statements. There had been three reported attacks before the case landed on Simon Banks’ desk. Those accounts had not been so unusual. A dark night; a shadowy assailant; the two who had fled at the first cut had escaped with relatively minor injuries, but the other man, an armed gang member and by no means an easy victim, had fired several rounds to no effect and had narrowly escaped with his life after being pierced through the chest with some sort of blade.

“Looks like a curved sword,” the doctor told Jim, though he’d been slightly more cautious in his written report for the PD. “I’d say a cutlass—a naval sword, rather than the pirate style. Sailors liked cutlasses; they were more practicable for close fighting when they were boarding another ship.”

“Not a modern naval ceremonial sword?”

“No, definitely shorter and more curved. The sort of sword that might have been used by an officer on a privateer, way back.”

At the time, Jim had hoped this might make it much easier to narrow down the weapon and hence the man who was using it. How many cutlasses could there be around today? Too many, seemed to be the answer, but none bought or sold legally in the last year, online or from dealers, anywhere in Washington state. It could have been obtained illegally of course, but the advice Jim got was that it was too unusual a weapon to be a likely one for a street deal. If his perp really had a cutlass, he’d probably had it a while.

His second line of investigation had been the victims, and he soon had some more of those. Here, there was something of a pattern. The ‘chivalrous slasher’, the press had started to nickname the attacker. He’d never attacked a woman, or a kid. But although this was a start, Jim had originally found it difficult to find anything else the victims had in common. Some were from Cascade, some were visiting—more than you’d expect perhaps, but then tourists always seemed to provide a disproportionate number of victims of random attacks. The only consistent element was that the assaults had all been around the popular park area which held Cascade’s maritime museum.

That and the weapon had given Jim his one tentative approach to solving the crime. Could this be some kind of naval nut? In a mini breakthrough, he found that all the victims had actually been in the vicinity of the museum in the day or so before they were attacked, though not all had visited its galleries. And there he’d stuck. Last night, after a gap of only two nights this time, yet another man had been rushed to Cascade General with slash wounds to the arm and torso. Like the previous couple of victims, he’d not only seen a shadowy figure but claimed the guy had been playing some kind of battle sound effects.

“I swear I heard big guns of some sort. Hell, I thought I could even smell the smoke and the sea. I told your other detective, if I didn’t know better, and it hadn’t hurt so much, I’d have thought I’d walked into some weird film set up.”

“But you didn’t see the man who did this?”

“He was never really out of the shadows, and it was dark. I’ll tell you one thing though—I think he was hurt too, but not by me. When there was a bit of light on his face it looked like he had a cut down one cheek. I forgot to tell Detective Murphy that when he was here earlier.”

A quick call to Simon had assured Jim that not only were no other departments involved in this, but there was currently no Detective Murphy at Cascade PD. “Probably a reporter,” Simon said. “We’re getting a worse press on this one by the day.”

“We’re doing what we can. We had patrols out in the area.”

“I know. They were on the scene quickly enough, too, or that guy would have lost his arm. But it doesn’t look good for us that some crazed attacker with a sword can apparently appear and disappear as he chooses. You haven’t… picked up anything forensics might have missed?”

“They don’t miss much these days, but no.”

“Sandburg might have some ideas.”

“I’ve talked to Sandburg about it. It’s not an obvious one for sentinel abilities unless I stake out the area. Now the attacks are getting more frequent, that might well be worth doing.” Though it would definitely be a ‘stay in the truck’ assignment as far as Blair was concerned; Jim had seen the savage slash wounds on the victims.

In the meantime, with no better lead, he’d decided to return to the park and the Maritime Museum this morning. The scene was peaceful enough. There had been no daytime attacks, and people were strolling around enjoying the rare glimpse of spring sunshine. Outside some of the nearby restaurants there were even a few drinking their coffee out of doors. It was behind these, and in the neighbouring streets that the most recent attacks had taken place; very few had actually been in the park. Yet there seemed to be this undefined connection with the museum.

Jim visited it again; the third time in a week, and although he could enjoy the different displays and the intricately modelled ships, he was not in a mood to enjoy the place. He’d already interviewed all the employees briefly. A surprising number were either young and female or men too elderly for the profile of the attacker, and he’d used his senses enough to be sure that none of them had lied to him. There was nothing to make anyone stand out as a suspect. On his last visit they’d promised to draw him up a list of their regular visitors, and he walked along to the office to collect that.

“Oh, I just sent you a copy with Detective Murphy,” the girl there told him. “I could print you another one off, but you should catch him up if you hurry, he only left a few minutes ago.”

“I’ll do that,” Jim said, trying to keep the grimness out of his voice. Whoever this was, he was annoying him and interfering with the case. “He went to the parking lot?”

“Yes. He has the coolest car, doesn’t he? I’m hoping for a ride in it when all this is over.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Detective Murphy’s car,” Jim said—entirely truthfully. “We haven’t been working that closely together.”

“No we guessed that—all the same questions! But we don’t mind if it helps catch this guy. I would so love to drive that Impala, though.”

Jim stared at her and then strode to the window. He could see the parking lot. Recklessly dialling up his sight he scanned the vehicles for what he was suddenly sure she meant. Black Chevy Impala, older than Sandburg. It suddenly came together in his mind with a whole host of things about this case he had been subliminally refusing to think about. He found the car before the glints of sun on metal could lure him in. The Impala gleamed there, exactly as he remembered it from several years before.

He left the office at a run, forgetting to thank her. Luckily what Sandburg didn’t know couldn’t destroy his illusions about how Jim’s people skills had improved. Jim half-expected to have to stop the Impala as it pulled out, but as he ran through the lot, he saw the trunk was open. “Winchester!” he yelled. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me you were in Cascade?”

The trunk slammed shut. Staring at Jim, poised almost perfectly between fight and flight, and looking as if he’d be equally good at both, was a young man who was nothing like the bearded ex-marine Jim had expected to see. Jim took in cool confident eyes, too old for the face they were in, the fit and trained stance, the amulet around the youngster’s neck; his other senses were telling him the trunk still held guns and garlic and lighter fluid. He remembered two slightly drunken conversations, years apart.

“John Winchester’s kid?” he asked, but he was sure of it without an answer.

“Dean,” the young man said briefly. “Guess you recognised the car?”

“I recognised the method—Detective Murphy.”

Dean shrugged, a half smile acknowledging the hit. He was still wary. “That makes you a genuine detective, huh?”

“Jim Ellison. Major Crime. Looking for a sane, ordinary explanation for these slash attacks.”

“Can’t oblige you there.” He hesitated, then said, “Never knew my dad had contacts in Cascade.”

His heart rate sped up as he said it, and Jim could sense the tension in him when he spoke of his father.

“I haven’t seen your dad in a long time. Is he okay?”

Dean’s negative gesture was almost casual and so were his words. “We’re in a dangerous line of work.” The pain in his eyes was fathoms deep.

“I’m sorry,” Jim said.

“But hey, the Winchester family’s still in business. My dad—he spoke of us? Me and my brother.”

“Yeah.”

With deep, inarticulate love; with frustration at how he’d screwed up; with pride in both of them. Jim was never going to be able to put it into words for this kid whose tough look couldn’t conceal his need. “He was proud of you,” he said inadequately.

Dean’s eyes lightened and he straightened slightly, though Jim would have bet he was unaware of doing it. “Yeah, well, he wouldn’t be too impressed with us on this one. It’s a ghost, almost certainly, but we can’t work out how it connects to the museum.”

“‘We’ as in…?”

“My brother Sam. He’s researching the background to the exhibits. My dad told you he was the geek, right?”

“He’d just gone to Stanford last time I saw your dad,” Jim said. Winchester had talked for hours about the kid’s remarkable intelligence, the mess their relationship was, the fears for him away from home that went so much further than a normal parent’s dreads.

“He’s on the road with me now,” Dean said, and Jim understood that that brief statement also covered a multitude of things that would take too long to explain.

He decided it was time he dropped this conversation with its potential pitfalls.

“These attacks…” he began

“This case…” Dean said simultaneously.

They stopped, but with mutual relief to be back on topic and off the treacherous ground of feelings and family.

“You can tell me what you’ve got over lunch,” Jim said. “They do a remarkably good burger over at Salty Sam’s.”

Dean’s expression showed he heard which way Jim planned the flow of information to go, but he didn’t protest, not yet anyway. Assuming that John Winchester hadn’t raised tofu-addicts, Jim ordered the triple bacon cheeseburger for both of them, and listened with some amusement to the groan of appreciation that accompanied Dean’s first bite. He notched up his own sense of taste to get the full benefit of the tender meat, crisp bacon and perfect cheese. He could eat salad virtuously for dinner.


Part 3

Blair had spent the time that might usefully have been employed on lesson preparation or marking on finding out that Sam Murphy wasn’t currently at Stanford. He found him where he said he would be though, in the library, hunched over a computer. Presumably he’d gotten in with a fake pass, but his interest in the research was genuine enough. Blair’s approach was quiet and oblique, but not so cautious that he’d have been able to watch the screen unnoticed if Sam hadn’t been totally absorbed. He stood there and watched the quickly changing pages and was puzzled. This had nothing to do with parapsychology that he could see; it seemed to be naval history.

The screen went from wrecks in the Puget Sound, to a site dealing with the war of 1812, lists that Blair couldn’t easily read from where he was standing, facsimile pages from old documents, ditto, and then to what he recognised as the website of the Cascade Maritime Museum. He must have made some slight noise or movement then. Jim had told him the previous day that he thought the slash attacks he was working on had some sort of link to the museum. At once Sam spun around, with a trained alertness that didn’t fit his student image. He stopped himself from any further reaction when he saw Blair, and they stared at one another for a moment.

“It’s not what you think,” Sam muttered hastily.

Blair hadn’t decided yet what he thought. He waited.

“I wasn’t lying to you. I mean, yes, I was, but not about the important stuff. And I do need to do this research.”

“Parapsychology?” Blair asked pointedly.

To his surprise, Sam nodded. “Look, you did say you were open minded. If I explain…”

He didn’t finish. Apparently, half suggesting a Rainier professor might connive at his illicit entry to the library and unauthorised presence on campus was better than asking outright. Blair, who had not developed a professorial respect for rules, was less worried about that than what Jim would say if his new acquaintance turned out to be a fully fledged psychopath researching an attack on his next victim. But Sam really didn’t seem the psychopath type, and Blair had met a few.

“We’re annoying the librarian,” he pointed out. He had to use the library again, even if Sam didn’t. “Shall we talk about this outside?”

In fact, he ended up having lunch with the kid, though Sam did insist on paying for his own tomato and alfalfa salad. And while they ate, he told Blair a story that ought to have seemed more bizarre than it did. Perhaps it was the matter of fact way Sam spoke of violent ghosts, or the fact that he had a startling amount of evidence. Perhaps it was the altogether more subtle thing, that Blair had spoken to many people from many cultures, and had learned to recognise when they were speaking from hearsay and when they had first hand experience.

“I don’t think this is a vengeful ghost in the traditional sense,” Sam said. “I might be wrong, but from the reports I think it’s someone who was fighting with such intensity in the last moments of life that he’s still trapped in the battle. What I don’t understand is why these manifestations appear only to have started in the last few months. And another problem is that very few items in the museum seem to date back far enough.”

“What date are we looking at?” Blair asked.

“Well, that’s hard to define, of course. Several of the victims have reported thinking they heard sounds of a naval battle. One guy, who’d been visiting the museum earlier on the day he was attacked, because he had an interest in naval history, swore there were muskets and cannon. A girl who was with another victim says she heard someone shouting, “Free trade and sailors’ rights!”

“1812?” Blair asked. He carefully didn’t ask how Sam had gotten these details.

Sam nodded. “It fits in lots of little ways. But that’s too early for this area. The only possible link is a few artefacts donated by locals over the years. The most likely one is a locket containing hair. But that’s been in the museum ever since it opened, and was on display before that. As far as I could make out—and I’d only just started looking—the locket, a diary and a few other items were brought to Seattle by the granddaughter of Luke Hunt, the sailor they’d belonged to. He’d been the third officer on a privateer that was captured off the Galapagos. The Marlin. 156 tons, though that doesn’t mean a lot to me. They’d been down there attacking British commercial vessels, and came off worst in a battle with a frigate sent to protect trading interests. Hunt was killed in the battle, and buried at sea.”

“So his body is somewhere at the bottom of the Pacific.”

“As far as we know. I was checking the dates the locket and other things had gone on display when you interrupted.”

He looked at Blair hopefully, and Blair wondered exactly who Sam had learned to persuade with that expression. All the same, everything Sam had said made sense. How he would ever sell it to Jim he couldn’t imagine, but this line on the slash attacks really did seem worth following up.

“I want to see everything you’ve already got,” he said to Sam as they headed back to carry on with the research together.

“Sure. No problem,” Sam said, with such an innocent smile that Blair felt almost guilty for suspecting he would only share whatever he felt was in his own interests. Of course, on Blair’s side he hadn’t mentioned a very close acquaintance with the detective handling the case. He wondered if Sam, who had somehow found out enough about his past and Alex’s murder attempt to track down one of the paramedics who’d tried to resuscitate him, had also found out about the Sentinel. Probably not, he guessed. The way Sam had said ‘friend’ had almost held a query, as if he wanted to know what closeness could possibly explain what had happened. Blair guessed he’d be warier than this if he saw any potential contact with the forces of law and order.

He looked at the facts Sam had already put together, and the material he’d accessed, and was reluctantly impressed. “What are you hoping to do with all this data?” he asked. “You’re not planning to go to the authorities and suggest they exorcise the museum?”

“It’s a ghost, not a demon,” Sam said, missing the humour. “Normally, we’d look to salt and burn the corpse, but it doesn’t look as if there’s any hope of that. Next best, to salt and burn whatever is anchoring it here—and my guess would be the locket. But I don’t understand why these attacks have only just started happening.”

“We?” Blair said. The whole salt and burn idea was interesting, but not as gripping as the concept of another one like Sam loose in Cascade. “You came with another student?”

Sam grinned. “No student. My brother. He sent me here to do the ‘geek stuff’ while he had a look at the scenes of the attacks.”

Well, that sounded familiar.

“And to keep me out of the slasher’s range,” Sam added, not sounding grateful. “I… was involved in a knifing a little while back, and he says he’s sick of seeing me sliced up.”

Yes, that sounded familiar too. Blair still wasn’t sure he had this clear, though. “You and your brother don’t just research these manifestations, you actually…”

“Eliminate them? Kick their asses? Yeah.”

“That’s an unusual career choice.”

“Long story,” Sam said briefly, his fingers moving fast over the keyboard. “Look—this is the Cascade Times from 1958 when the museum was opened. There’s a list of the galleries, and this collection was here then. Given with several others that had been housed somewhere at the Port of Seattle. No slash attacks in Seattle that I can find in the last 150 years; none in Cascade till these recent ones.”

“Maybe there was a catalyst,” Blair said, thinking aloud. “Some other event a few months ago that somehow triggered something latent.” To himself he sounded vague, but Sam glanced at him and nodded.

“That’s what I’m going to look for now. I already checked out the museums ‘what’s new’ section, and all the new displays are either from the twentieth century or relate to the native coastal tribes. It’ll be more difficult to search for individual items, especially if they’re stored and waiting to be catalogued.”

Blair frowned, some elusive memory teasing at his mind. Sometimes he worried that his former speed of thought was receding as fast as Jim’s hairline. “Let me look for something,” he said, taking Sam’s place in front of the screen. “I’m sure I remember… it probably was in the Cascade Times, wasn’t the Herald’s sort of story… I’ll start five months back; that’s around six weeks before the first attack… if I work forward from there…”

He clicked through the editions, skimming across the pages rapidly. At his side Sam waited without asking questions.

Blair found it exactly two weeks before the first reported assault. “Yes!” he said too loudly. The librarian, who was fonder of library regulations than unruly professors, glared at him. Blair shifted slightly, so Sam could see the page, and was pleased to glimpse surprised respect on his face.

“War to Peace” the headline read, and beneath it a photo of a pair of ships’ guns, standing on two plinths at the beginning of the gravel path that led from the main part of the park to the Maritime Museum. He scanned the details. A group from the English port town of Shemstone, visiting as part of a scheme to develop civic ties with Cascade, had presented the Mayor with these two brass nine pounders from an English frigate of the Napoleonic Wars. The Mayor, accepting gratefully, had invited the group to see them installed in their new surroundings.

“I need to look at those guns,” Sam said.

We need to look,” Blair corrected. “Hey—you owe me a chance to see how you approach this. Are you going to use an EMF meter on them?”

Sam looked harassed. Blair sympathised, but had no intention of letting him off the hook. It was a long time since he’d had a chance to observe anything truly new.

“My brother has the meter,” Sam temporised. “And the car. I’ll have to call him…”

The brother who’d preferred to keep Sam out of slash range and who was probably less friendly to inquiring strangers. “I can run you to the park,” Blair offered. “I think I can even borrow an EMF meter from the Physics department.”

Sam hesitated, but the chance of making his own observations at the site without a protective sibling hovering must have proved irresistible. He smiled suddenly, and Blair realised how shadowed his face had looked until then. “Why not? I need to see this place first hand.”

As Blair borrowed the meter and led the way to his Volvo, it crossed his mind that if this did turn out to be the best lead to the slasher, explaining it to Jim would be the challenge of the century. He refused to let it cross his mind that if he called Jim and Jim by some miracle believed him, the next thing the sentinel would do would be to tell him to stay as far away as possible from the Maritime Museum and surrounding park.


Part 4

Jim enjoyed watching Dean Winchester eat. He treated him to a second burger, then a slice of butterscotch pie and had some pie himself so the kid wouldn’t be embarrassed—that was his excuse anyway. This didn’t stop him noticing things about his companion though, details that took him back to long before his days at the Cascade PD. There were fine lines of stress on Dean’s face, lines that might be barely visible to someone without sentinel sight but which to Jim were deeply, painfully etched there. There was a strain to the fit body even when Dean relaxed, as if he was carrying some heavy burden he couldn’t put down. Most of all, there was a depth of weariness in his eyes—he’d seen too much, fought too much, probably killed too much, and however good the cause, he’d done it without the support of any sheltering organisation. Maybe Jim recognised the look from his own face when he’d been special ops; he’d certainly seen it in others then.

But whatever the weight Dean carried, he wasn’t going under. He ate as if there was no tomorrow, flirted with the girl who brought their pie and set out his findings for Jim like a professional. John Winchester was damn well right to have been proud of him.

“The thing I don’t have yet is adequate information on the artefacts,” Dean said, spooning sugar into his coffee. “My bro will get everything there is to get; he’s on it now. I did take a quick tour of the museum with an EMF meter, though what with the metal frames and cases and the lighting of the displays it probably wasn’t too reliable. I’ve interviewed some of the victims…” He had the grace to look slightly embarrassed, so Jim didn’t comment. “… the guy from Plymouth, history buff, he seemed to know what he was talking about when he said he heard musket fire and so on. He’s still thinking it was some weird set up with a tape playing or something, but I asked him what sort of date he’d put to sound effects like that, and he reckoned way back—before this coast was even settled. There’s not much in the museum that goes back that far. Sam’s narrowed it down to just one likely piece.”

Jim took the list of victims out and glanced through the notes he’d jotted. Counting the guy he’d just interviewed in Cascade General, three had specifically referred to hearing battle noises. Added to that, a girlfriend of a fourth victim had claimed to see the attacker clearly for a moment and said he’d been ‘dressed up, kind of like Pirates of the Caribbean’. If Dean was as much like his old man as he seemed, it might be worth taking him along and re-interviewing these people. Jim had long ago decided that if the paranormal tried to infringe on his life, it would get treated like any other perp and kicked out of Cascade but he was open minded enough to accept a bit of expert help in achieving that. It wasn’t, after all, as bad as calling in the Feds.

Dean was pleased enough about this promotion to semi-official status to accept leaving the Impala at the museum lot and to refrain from any comment on Jim’s truck. Jim didn’t push it by playing Santana.

After he’d given Jim a quick update on his brother’s findings, Dean flipped through some of the interviews. “I never got to talk to this one,” he said, selecting a sheet. “Paul Newington. Older Brit guy, right? When I tried he said he’d already given a statement, and asked me for my badge number.”

“He was the only one who didn’t talk to you?”

Dean’s smirk answered in place of words. Sometimes Jim wondered how the world went on functioning given the lack of common sense of most of its citizens.

“We’ll take him first, then,” he said. “I was thinking of it anyway; most of them were just panicked and happy to tell us anything they remembered, but I thought he was keeping something back. Maybe made him even less inclined to talk to you.”

“Not losing my touch then; works for me.” Dean turned the page. “What’s SBS?”

“Special Boat Service. British equivalent of the Seals more or less. I researched this guy, partly because he was holding back, and also he’d tried to disarm the attacker. I wouldn’t have expected it given his age. He’d served quite a stretch in their special forces when he was younger. He’s something diplomatic now.”

Which meant Simon had ordered Jim to be diplomatic too, pointing out very firmly that Newington was a victim not a suspect.

Dean nodded, taking that in. “How do you want to handle it?”

“I think he saw something that shook him,” Jim said slowly. “He was the first victim to mention sound-effects or whatever. He was really playing that down when I spoke to him. I think he regretted it had ever been in his statement.”

“Getting to an age where he worries they’ll label him senile, maybe.”

“He wasn’t that old,” Jim said. Hell, the diplomat was probably only a decade or so older than he was. “But he’s not the type to listen if he thinks we’re…”

“… shitting him?”

“Obfuscating,” Jim said, and was pleased to see the kid blink. “No, I’m going to tell him some of the truth, especially about the recent victims—ones who’ve testified in more detail than he did to battle sounds and so on.”

If he hadn’t been a sentinel, he would never have known that their arrival at his hotel suite disturbed Mr Newington. The speeding heartbeat that betrayed him to Jim’s sensitive hearing wasn’t matched by any hint of tension in his stance or expression.

“Detective Ellison,” Newington said. “Should I assume I have the pleasure of your company because you’re here to tell me my attacker has been apprehended?” The hint of irony in his tone was unmistakeable. It annoyed Jim enough that he didn’t mind the mutter of ‘wiseass’ that he picked up from behind him.

Dean stepped forward, so that he was beside Jim in the doorway. “Remember me, Mr Newington?”

“Indeed I do,” Newington said, that ironic note still in his voice. “Better, it appears, than your superiors at Cascade PD who all seem to be suffering from collective amnesia on the subject of a Detective Murphy.”

“Mr Murphy overstepped the bounds in describing himself as a detective,” Jim said quickly. “However, he is acting as a consultant to the department on this case. We’d very much like to come in to talk to you, Mr Newington. I think details of some of the most recent attacks may prompt your memory.”

Newington looked for a long, thoughtful minute at him and at Dean, then rather reluctantly invited them in. A litter of papers and an open laptop stood on the table. He pushed the papers to one side and swung the laptop so that Jim could see the screen. It held the online edition of the Cascade Times, the slasher story on the front page.

“The frequency of the attacks is escalating,” he said. “But not, perhaps, the violence?”

“It’s certainly not a typical pattern,” Jim agreed. “What is escalating is the intensity of the…”

He searched for the right word. “Weird? Whacko?” Dean offered.

“… bizarre elements,” Jim went on. “I’d like you to hear some extracts from the statement I took from last night’s victim.”

He nodded to Dean, who put on a solemnly professional expression that really didn’t suit him.

“I heard this noise—sounded like some film or TV programme—this was before I saw the guy,” Dean read out. “It sounded like guns—big guns and handguns, and I could smell gunpowder. Before this lunatic jumped me I thought they must be doing an enactment at the museum…”

Mr Newington’s face remained impassive. His heartbeat raced.

Dean continued with snippets from the statement: “… Then this guy with a sword seemed to come out of nowhere. He wasn’t trying to mug me or anything, he wanted to kill me. When I saw him I grabbed a piece of metal pipe from a dumpster and took a swing at him. He moved really fast though—it was weird… I felt cold all over. Then he slashed my arm and I was sure I was going to die. I fell over, I was yelling ‘help’ and asking him not to kill me, saying I’d do whatever he wanted, and then he was just… gone.”

Jim let the silence last for longer than he thought Newington would be comfortable with, then asked, “I wondered if you might be able to corroborate any of those impressions?”

More silence.

“Several witnesses have mentioned feeling cold, sir,” Dean lied. “Maybe you noticed something like that, an unusual chill?”

“What exactly are you a consultant in, ‘Mr Murphy’ or whoever you are?” Newington asked.

“I’m an expert in this MO,” Dean said, unabashed. “Um… perhaps you also saw some sort of interruption to the local electric supply. Street lights flickering say?”

The diplomat picked up the phone. “Detective Ellison, my contacts tell me you’re well respected in Cascade PD and have an outstanding solve rate. I was warned you frequently have a Professor of Anthropology as a consultant. It seems surprising to me that my information which has been very accurate in every other respect, would not mention another consultant, Mr Murphy. Perhaps it would be appropriate for me to call Captain Banks and check his credentials.”

“Bluffing,” Dean mouthed, hopefully out of the man’s sight.

Jim wasn’t so sure. He’d had a feeling from the start that ‘diplomat’ meant ‘spook’. The guy probably had good reason to be suspicious of unaccredited strangers.

“I can vouch for Mr Murphy,” he said.

“Personally?”

Jim nodded. “And I do believe he has expertise that will help solve this case.”

He sensed some indefinable change in Newington, subliminal details of breath and heartbeat and movement, and knew the man was close to deciding to speak to them. Dean moved slightly, caught Jim’s eye and was still.

“At my age,” Newington said abruptly, “one fears giving any impression of encroaching senility.”

Jim wasn’t even looking at Dean but he could sense that smirk. “Believe me, Mr Newington,” he said. “We’re not about to suggest you’re imagining things.”

“Takes a brave man to admit he’s come across something he doesn’t understand,” Dean put in.

“And you do understand it?”

“Getting there,” Dean said. He glanced at Jim, who nodded his permission. “Manifestation of a sailor,” Dean went on. “Probably from a privateer called the Marlin, still fighting an old war. He doesn’t attack women, kids, anyone who’s surrendered. Our best guess is he’s not vengeful, he’s just never realised the battle’s over.”

Even on Newington’s guarded face, Jim could read relief.

“Interesting,” the diplomat said. “Have you dated this… manifestation? More to the point, do you know what to do about it?”

“I spoke to my bro… researcher earlier today. He thinks 1813, and he’s got an idea of who. If it is this guy, a sailor by the name of Luke Hunt from a privateer called The Marlin, he died fighting your Royal Navy. But if that’s so, we don’t understand why this has all started so recently or why it should happen in Cascade. Hardly anything in the museum dates that far back, and what does has been there for years. That affects what we’d do—first choice would be salt and burn whatever is linking it to this place. There’s not a lot to do that with.”

“So any further information you can give us will be a big help,” Jim finished.

“I doubt if it will do more than confirm your deductions,” Newington said. There was still an edge of stiffness to him, but he seemed ready to talk. “Yes, I noticed a drop in the ambient temperature and some disturbance in the street lights; yes, what I saw and heard was entirely consistent with the hostilities of the war of 1812. I hadn’t been inside the museum as I already knew it well from previous visits to Cascade.” He stopped abruptly. “There is something new in the park that might be relevant. It fits the time frame, and the context. I might have thought of it earlier if I hadn’t been too busy refusing to accept the reality of what I saw. Sometime in the last year two British naval cannon have been given to Cascade. Brass nine pounders. They’re on plinths at the head of the path down to the museum.”

Jim realised he’d seen them, without really paying attention to them. Now that he thought about it, they were quite new.

“Might be worth calling your brother and asking him to look into those,” he said to Dean. “If he’s at Rainier, it should be easy for him to find out where the guns came from and when they were put up in the park.”

Dean pressed speed dial. Jim automatically focused his hearing so that he could listen to both sides of the conversation, and as soon as the connection was made he knew one thing: the younger Winchester wasn’t out at the university, he was somewhere children and seabirds could be heard.

Dean didn’t miss these cues, frowning as he realised where his brother almost certainly was. “Sammy? Where the hell are you, and don’t give me it’s a library, because I can hear kids and frickin’ gulls!”

Sam Winchester came on, sounding like any kid brother caught out by an older sibling, defending himself, pointing out Dean wasn’t his mother and saying he’d had no choice but to go to the park to see the guns. Obviously his research had brought him to the same point. Jim might have been amused at the bickering that ensued, except that behind Sam’s voice he could hear a familiar heartbeat that echoed to him louder than anything in the foreground.

He snatched the phone from Dean, cutting off his ‘what were you thinking, dude’ and said sharply into it, “Jim Ellison here. Tell Professor Sandburg I want to speak to him!”

There was a blurred flurry of conversation at the other end; stares from Dean and from Newington. He ignored them. “Blair? You want to tell me why I don’t know about you investigating my case? More to the point, maybe you can promise me you didn’t just make yourself a target for our phantom slasher!”

Blair was for once lost for words. Jim tried to tell himself that Blair being exactly where he shouldn’t be wasn’t, unfortunately, very unusual and they’d always survived it before. It didn’t make him feel any less exasperated.

“Jim?” Blair managed, in a voice that might have been described as a squeak if it hadn’t belonged to a (relatively) mature professor. “Jim? What are you doing?”

“I’m trying to put a stop to these slash attacks,” Jim said irritably, but making room for Dean who’d pressed close to listen. “And this isn’t helping. What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m… we’re taking EMF readings around the guns… I had no idea you’d… look, Jim, it’s broad daylight. All the attacks have been at night. I don’t think we’re in any danger just now.”

“The attacks have been escalating,” Jim said, though he knew Blair had a point. “Stay exactly where you are. We’ll be with you in thirty minutes at the outside. And stay away from those damned guns.”

“Same goes for you, Sammy,” Dean said hastily as Jim ended the call.

Newington was watching them both as though they’d amused him, but he seemed to have lost his lingering distrust. “Mind if I come along with you, Detective Ellison?”

“Why not,” Jim muttered. “They haven’t written the book I could do this by. Let’s go.”


Part 5

Blair stared at the now-silent phone in mingled disbelief and irritation. He couldn’t remember the last time Jim had surprised him quite as much as this. It was distinctly annoying that while he’d been racking his brains for a way to coax the sentinel into considering a less-than-natural cause for these attacks, Jim had apparently been hurling himself into ghost-hunting with gusto. And it really did nothing for his professorial image to be told to stay put like… well, like Jim’s kid brother. He met the equally irritated and rather sulky gaze of the real kid brother in this situation.

“Looks like we’re busted,” he said.

“Well, I’m going to finish taking these readings,” Sam said, as if that mildly defiant gesture made him feel better. “Who’s this Jim Ellison anyway? You’re not hunters?”

Blair had no idea what he meant except that it probably didn’t include stabbing fish with a Cree spear. He thought he’d better break the truth to Sam.

“He’s a detective with Cascade PD. I ride along with him sometimes as a consultant.”

“Dean’s with a cop?”

“It can’t be any more unlikely than Jim with a ghostbuster.” He paused and asked the question he’d wanted to ask earlier. “Your… er… research into that whole back from the dead thing—you didn’t find out he was a cop?”

“No. I was kind of rushed. Dean doesn’t know about it—because he’s a stupid, stoic, selfless jerk and he won’t face the fact he’s only got a year.” The words spilled out from the heart, and he clearly didn’t care how little sense they made to Blair. “I had no idea you rode along with a cop. The paramedic guy, he told me someone said the guy who brought you back was your partner, but I guess he took that the wrong way.” He flushed slightly.

Blair made a don’t-worry-about-it gesture. “Unfortunately, even on the happy occasions when we both have a hot date in tow, we get that a lot.”

“But you’re close,” Sam said, following his own thoughts. “He spoke to you as if you were family or something.” He looked at Blair and there was nothing but need in his eyes now. “There must have been something, some sort of bond…?”

“There’s a bond,” Blair said softly, “and if Jim agrees I’ll tell you what I understand about it. But I don’t follow what you’re saying about your brother. You believe he’s going to die? I think you need to tell me a bit more.”

And he thought Sam would have done, but at that moment a pleasant girl, whose Maritime Museum badge said Sarah—and had a smiley face drawn in the corner—came and asked them to move away from the guns. “I’m so sorry,” she added. “We just had a call from Cascade PD asking us to keep the public away from them for the time being.” She was struggling under the weight of several folding notice boards. They gallantly relieved her of them and helped set them up. The boards already had ‘please don’t touch this exhibit’ signs attached. “We use them for displays inside,” she said, “But I think they’ll do for now. Have you handled the guns? If so, you’d probably better stay and talk to Detective Ellison.”

“We were planning on that anyway.”

“Oh do you know him? You’re not detectives are you?”

“Consultants,” Blair said.

“You’re not here to do the fingerprints?” She saw his blank look. “Apparently he and Detective Murphy want to take fingerprints from the guns. To do with these horrible attacks.”

Jim’s ability to spin a story had really improved over the years…

“I’ll bring some coffee out when they get here,” she went on brightly. “Poor Detective Murphy has been working night and day to solve this case!”

She hurried away. Sam muttered something that it was probably fortunate was inaudible. You really didn’t need to be a trained investigator or anthropological student of human interactions to see that Sarah had liked Detective Murphy. It puzzled Blair, though, that Jim was still working with Sam’s brother when he must know he was masquerading as a detective. It puzzled him even more when Jim turned up not only with Dean but also with a tall, military-looking British man in his fifties who seemed the last person on earth—other than Jim—to give credence to the idea of a ghost attack.

Blair looked with interest at Sam’s older brother and thought that it wasn’t just his build and colouring that made him look so different from Sam. He wouldn’t have believed in Dean as a student; he could see him passing as a cop—or a soldier. As either, he’d obviously decided Jim was the officer in charge, and there was an easiness between them that could be added to the many things that Blair had every intention of understanding more about before the day was over.

Jim arrived still slightly pissed off and absurdly over-protective. Blair marshalled his excuses, but the need for them was postponed by the fact that Sarah had evidently been watching for the detectives. Before Jim could even start with the rhetoric on why it was a lousy idea for Blair to be within ten miles of the park, she came towards them carrying a tray of coffee and a plate piled high with cookies.

“You’re working so hard to catch this man,” she said appreciatively. “I do hope the fingerprints will help. I know you can’t tell me anything, but if there’s any other crime involved, I saw two very suspicious looking men hanging around here this morning—I came in early to avoid the traffic works. Do you think they could have anything to do with the attacks?”

“Mmmfffbe,” Dean said.

Sarah apparently found something attractive in the way he could cram two cookies into his mouth at once. “I’d be really happy to give you a statement,” she said.

Jim, who clearly wanted to be rid of her, said, “Dean—detective Murphy—perhaps you could go and take it inside. We don’t want to keep Sarah away from the museum.”

“We could use the staff room,” Sarah agreed. “Apart from my colleague on the desk I’m the only one here this afternoon.”

Dripping crumbs, Dean gave her what was clearly intended to be a charming smile—Blair would have called it an enthusiastic leer—and followed her to whatever tryst she had in mind among the artefacts.

“I just don’t believe him,” Sam muttered.

Jim ignored this and turned to Blair. “First things first. We want to get you and Sam well away from here before dusk.”

This was not on Blair’s list of acceptable suggestions, but he knew better than to put it in those words. “But you’ve said things are escalating, Jim. What if it’s reached a point where it can break away from this location?” He had no idea if this was likely, or even possible, but the suggestion seemed his best strategy for staying where he belonged—partnering Jim. “If you and Dean are here and the attack happens somewhere completely different, we’ve really got problems.”

Jim’s jaw clenched as he took in this idea. He glared at the guns, which shone back at him with brassy indifference in the late afternoon sunshine.

“You’ll need us anyway,” Sam said.

“I’ll decide that,” Jim told him, in his most hard-ass cop-in-charge tone.

Sam responded like any free-thinking student, with a moment of outraged disbelief followed by sullen silence.

“We’ll see what Dean has to say,” Jim added. He almost certainly meant it as a concession, not insult added to injury.

“We were talking about possible strategies for dealing with the ghost,” Blair said quickly. “Sam says they haven’t come across a situation quite like this before.”

“Can’t salt and burn a gun,” Newington put in unexpectedly. “We had that explained to us on the way over here.”

“And the mayor might not understand a request to remove and smelt them,” Blair agreed. “But they’re definitely involved.” He nodded to Sam to show Jim the EMF readings around the guns. He wondered if Jim could feel anything, but he had no idea how acutely the sentinel was maintaining his senses and no chance of asking.

“We think the other link is a locket in the museum,” Blair went on when they’d finished. “That could be burned. That and maybe a handful of other items with it.”

Jim glanced over to the museum steps and the hard line of his jaw eased. Dean, hurrying back looking pleased with himself, had his shirt buttoned askew and lipstick on his ear. “Hey… hey… no making plans without me. I had to question her properly!”

“Did you get her statement?” Jim asked, deadpan.

“Absolutely.” Dean took out a notebook with a flourish. “Two Spanish or Middle eastern-looking guys, hanging around the park this morning, looking closely at the guns. She hadn’t thought anything of it till you called her with that fingerprint story, then she decided she’d better do her duty and support her local police.”

“It doesn’t sound as if it’s anything to do with the ghost,” Sam said. “If it happened at all.”

“Sammy, I’m surprised at you. So cynical about a nice girl.” A reminiscent smile flickered. “Very nice, as a matter of fact. And I don’t think she was making it up, but I agree with you, it doesn’t seem relevant to us. Unless they were hunters.”

Blair noticed the term again; how many more like Sam and Dean were there?

“I called Bobby this morning; he doesn’t know of anyone but us in the area or even in Washington State at the moment,” Sam said. “They were probably history buffs wanting to look at these while there weren’t kids and tourists all over them.”

Dean thought about it, nodded and dismissed it. He took a scrap of paper from his pocket and handed it to Jim. “The museum door code. They pin it on their staff board! We’ll need to get in there later on.”

“Good,” Jim said. He looked around them. Most of the families had headed home now, but the park was still busy and it was several hours till full dark. “So far, the attacks have happened late evening or in the early hours of the morning. Can we rely on that continuing?”

Dean and Sam both started to speak at once. Dean shrugged and waved his brother to carry on. “Guess you might as well have the extended edition.”

“There’s been a lot of research into why manifestations are more common at night,” Sam started.

“That’s the edition with footnotes,” Dean muttered.

“Shut up, Dean.” Sam launched into a genuinely scholarly assessment of why the pattern might have arisen and how likely it was to be maintained. Blair found it fascinating. He suspected he was in a minority.

Jim waited a moment after Sam wound up, maybe to be sure he was finished. “We could go for ‘probably’ then?” he said politely.

Dean laughed so much it looked as if fratricide might be on the agenda. Ignoring the scuffle breaking out in the ranks, Jim looked at his watch. “It’s five o’clock now. The earliest recorded attack was after eleven, and there’s a limit to what we can do while the park is so busy and the museum is still open. Let’s get a coffee and something to eat and plan out how we’re going to handle this.”

Blair was surprised they didn’t head for Salty Sam’s; he hadn’t thought Jim would be able to resist the lure of a burger. Maybe the Sentinel was finally appreciating the importance of healthy eating. Instead, they sat outside a pleasant little cafŽ with a good view of the park and the fenced-off guns and ordered a mix of sandwiches and salads.

“Okay, you’re the experts,” Jim said to Dean. “Did your old man ever deal with anything like the guns?”

Jim knew their father? Blair was definitely going to get a full story out of him the minute they were alone.

Sam pulled out a battered leather notebook he’d looked into a couple of times since Blair had been with him. He passed it to Dean. “I can’t find an exact equivalent. There was that school bell in Wyoming…”

“Where Dad burned the school room down? Yeah I remember that one. But the ghosts went when the building burned; he never had to melt the bell down.”

“It was the same sort of situation though—a direct link to some remains, and additional one to the bell.”

“So maybe the fire was enough?”

“Purifies it?” Sam said doubtfully. “With the Hookman we had to melt the silver down completely.”

“Yeah, but that was personal to him, the hook had been what he killed with. Here the guns are more like…”

“A catalyst?” Blair put in helpfully.

“Uh huh. I say we burn the hair from the locket, and maybe the diary and other bits. The bones are somewhere on the sea bed, so we can’t do anything about that. My guess is that once the hair burns, the ghost will appear near the guns, so we need to coordinate salting the guns and setting a blaze under them.”

“We can’t be more than five minutes from the nearest fire services,” Blair pointed out.

“I can deal with that,” Jim said. “Anything else?”

Newington, who had been a silent observer most of the time, said, “My impression is that anyone who surrenders is being spared—would at the time have been taken as a prisoner of war, I suppose.”

“Good point. Okay—if attacked, hitting back probably isn’t the best strategy. Sam?”

“I’m wondering if the ghost could be convinced the war is over.”

“There was a treaty ending the war of 1812,” Blair said, following his thoughts.

“Exactly. If one of us reads that out…”

“Find it. Download a copy,” Jim said. “Then it’s a question of where we position ourselves. Sam and Blair are out of it; they made themselves targets when they handled the guns.”

“Like you won’t be a target when you start setting light to things!” Blair protested.

“You haven’t enough people without us,” Sam said.

“No arguments, Sammy. Can’t risk the ghost appearing before we’re ready for him.”

“Can’t risk you doing this without some sort of back-up.”

Jim looked at him.

“Back up that’s experienced with the supernatural.”

Dean silently pushed the notebook back to him, his thumb on the page it was opened to. Blair managed a glimpse, but the jottings were too random and packed to take in quickly. There was a sketch in the centre that made him wonder, though: a native American, poised very much like Burton’s sentinel. Had their father known or guessed about Jim? The way Sam glanced at him maybe confirmed it.

Seizing the moment, Dean went on, “You can stay in the Impala. You’ll be able to see enough from there, and it’s well warded. We can add a ring of salt once you’re inside.”

Jim grinned. “There you go Sandburg. I’m not going to ask you to wait in the truck—you can upgrade! I know you want to be part of this, but timing’s going to be crucial. We don’t want anything to provoke the ghost to manifest before we’re ready.”

“How are you going to coordinate things, then?” Blair asked.

“I’ll have to get the locket and diary first,” Jim said. “That’s a job I’m doing on my own. We’ll try to deal with the CCTV, but if anything goes wrong I can think of some sort of justification for my presence, whereas three of us would be hard to explain.”

“I can do the lock, though,” Dean said. “The lock on the display case. What were you thinking of doing? Breaking it?”

Jim looked over to the museum. Blair could see him extend the range of his hearing. “Sarah’s probably still in there,” Jim said, though Blair guessed he’d heard her and it was a certainty. “Why don’t you go in quickly now, before she finishes up, and leave the case unlocked for me. You can do that?”

“Nothing to it. I’ll let her back me up against the case and…”

“Now, Dean!”

Dean jumped to it, grinning, presumably at the thought of Sarah, as Blair couldn’t imagine why he should be cheered up by Jim’s peremptory way with orders.

“I’ll get my laptop while he’s gone,” Blair said. “We need to find the text of that treaty.”

He came back to find Jim discussing with Mr Newington the most satisfactory ways of disabling security systems. It was interesting what British diplomats had in their qualifications. The treaty was easier to find than he expected, and Newington had a handy little gadget Blair could transfer the text to so they could all read at once. They were looking at it and deciding the opening was the most appropriate part when Dean came back.

“The case is unlocked,” he said. “And Sarah’s just leaving, so we’re good to go once it’s dark.”

“I’ll come with you,” Newington said, in a tone as unused to compromise as Jim’s. “I’m familiar with this treaty now. If nothing else, I can do that part for you.”

Jim looked at him doubtfully. “You’ve handled the guns as well.”

“It was almost a month ago, and in a sense, dealt with.”

“Probably worth the risk,” Dean said. “If we all three have shot guns, we can cover a good area even when one of us is setting the fires.”

“Shot guns?” Blair asked, alarmed.

“Loaded with rock salt,” Dean said. “It won’t finish a ghost, but it’ll buy us some time.”

Blair went and fetched another round of coffee while Dean explained rock salt cartridges in more detail, and while the day slid into dusk they went over details until there was little more to be said. Sam and Dean started to bicker in an undertone about why Sam wasn’t going to leave the Impala, no matter what was happening in the park.

“Oh, yes,” Sam said, getting louder. “Like I’m going to sit there while you get your ass kicked by a ghost who’s put seven people in hospital, to say nothing of the walking wounded.”

“I won’t get my ass kicked if I’m not worrying about what you might be doing. So just obey orders for once. Oh, and Sammy—go potty now, it could be a long wait.”

“Dean!” Sam snapped indignantly

“What? Remember the time you were in the back seat and that gremlin —”

“Dean, I was eight years old!”

“And had just had a litre of cola. Well now you’re a bit older and just had a litre of coffee.”

“That’s enough,” Jim said, before Sam could get any redder.

“Sorry, sir.”

Jim looked across at the emptying park and deepening shadows. “Sandburg, I don’t care whether you and Sam organise your bathroom break here or take an empty coffee cup with you for emergencies, but we’re heading for the Impala in five minutes.”

“It’s nice to see someone challenge the assumption that our culture’s inhibited about discussing bodily functions,” Blair said, making the first move towards the facilities. Sam followed him with as much dignity as he could muster in the circumstances.

Once they had privacy—assuming Jim wasn’t listening in—Blair said quietly, “I always see ‘stay in the truck’ as a judgment call—my judgment.”

“I’m not sitting inside a salt circle while Dean gets hurt.”

“Exactly.”


Part 6

There were a number of things Jim had chosen to forget he’d seen over his years in Cascade PD. The sight of the arsenal in the trunk of the Impala was going to be a major addition to that list.

Dean had parked where he could open up without being overlooked by passers by. Flashlights, shotguns loaded with salt, accelerants, lighters—and a host of other objects that Jim could see Blair practically drooling with curiosity over.

Newington handled his shotgun with practised competence. It was hard to assess a man on the level of acquaintance they had, but Jim’s first impression, backed by what he knew of the guy’s background, suggested he’d be reliable.

Dean handed his brother a pair of night vision binoculars, Cobras Jim thought.

“Just… don’t do anything stupid,” Sam said.

“As if. Anyway, I don’t think this one’s evil.”

“That won’t make any difference if his cutlass goes through you.”

“Yeah, well, that’s not going to happen.” He shut the door firmly on his brother.

Jim, still leaning on the open one on the passenger side suggested to Blair, “Maybe you could see what else you can find out about The Marlin and the ship who sank her. If things don’t go smoothly we might need the extra info.”

“And idle hands don’t get ideas about jumping out of trucks,” Blair muttered. “Though maybe that’s a metaphor too far, but you know what I mean.”

“It could be useful,” Jim defended himself.

“Yeah, yeah. Go have fun without me. Don’t burn the museum down.”

It was the danger of that, or more so of the risk of smoke alarms and sprinkler systems, that had made Jim and Dean decide the locket should be burned alongside the guns.

“It’s not ideal,” Dean said. “Bringing the locket to the guns might spark off an appearance before we’re ready. But at least we’ll all be in one place, and with the burning coordinated.” He paused, and glanced around to check that Newington was several paces behind them. In a lower voice, he said, “Any chance that you can act as an early warning system on its appearance. Even a few seconds would make a lot of difference.”

Must have been in the notebook. Jim had talked to John after he’d seen Molly’s ghost. John wouldn’t have named him, or written anything directly related, but Dean was a bright kid.

“What did your dad actually put in that notebook?”

“Nothing to link to you,” Dean said hastily. “I just… I’ve read it a lot since he… you know… guess I wish I’d asked him more about some of the stuff while he was still alive. Anyway, this page on ‘the watchman’ never made a whole lot of sense to me, not with the stuff about genetics and heightened senses, but then this afternoon I saw you’d heard a lot more than I could down that phone and a few other details fitted. Dad had jotted down that the watchman seemed to be able to sense or see spirits before they were visible to anyone else.” He grinned. “Mind you, he’d added that a good EMF meter was as much use in most situations.”

“And he was probably right. I haven’t a lot of experience with ghosts.”

Newington caught up with them, and they had to let the conversation drop. A little later though, after they’d dealt with the CCTV and Jim was inside the museum, he let his senses become hyper alert to see if he could perceive anything.

Perhaps he did, at a level below conscious thought, but if so, he didn’t think it was from Luke Hunt of the Marlin, or not only from him. Somewhere at the edge of reality there was a murmur of lost voices and a scent of pine wood and the echo of all the men who’d fought and fished the sea along this coast…

He shook himself and cautiously opened the case Dean had unlocked. Nothing in it was of value except to historians, but he was still relieved when no hidden alarm sounded. Once he’d taken what he wanted, he’d move the display around a little so the gap wasn’t obvious.

The small locket which Hunt’s young wife had treasured after she was widowed, and had handed down to her granddaughter, seemed far too light to anchor a ghost to the world. Jim slipped the diary and a handful of other items from the Hunt family into his pocket, but decided he’d keep the locket in his hand.

It proved a wise choice, because when he was almost back to Dean and Newington at the other end of the path, the locket suddenly felt so cold to him he almost dropped it.

“He’s coming!” he said urgently.

There was a shimmer that trembled reality just in front of him and then a young man appeared, face bloodied and clearly in the middle of a desperate fight. Before Jim had even taken it in, Dean’s shotgun roared and the image disappeared.

So far so good, but now a danger Jim had never even thought of struck from the direction of the parking lot. A handgun fired. Dean yelped, went over backwards and stayed down. Jim and Newington were ready to return fire even as they dived for cover, but before they could do anything they realised that the two men coming towards them were not only armed, they had hostages. Two very familiar hostages, motioned along at gunpoint.

Jim had barely seen and understood this, when he was aware again of that preliminary shimmer, that sense of a rip in the way the world should work. “Blair! Sam!” he yelled. “He’s here! Go flat—surrender! Now!”

With commendable speed, Sam and Blair dropped to the ground looking as submissive as humanly possible, just as the young privateer became visible in front of the gunmen.

These guys must be the men Sarah had seen, Jim realised. With what could only be described as Cascade luck, they’d chosen tonight for whatever they were doing in the park. They had no idea what this had laid them open to.

The first gunman fired, but the ordinary bullet had no effect on the ghost. Hunt’s cutlass whipped out, slicing through jacket and skin and breaking the bone in his arm. The gunman screamed and reeled back, but fired again, and this time the cutlass pierced his chest. Then Newington’s shotgun nearly deafened Jim and once more the ghost dispersed.

The second gunman reacted immediately, firing at Newington, then turning his gun towards the prone hostages, somehow assuming they had a connection with what had just happened. Jim’s shot took him though the chest as his finger began to tighten on the trigger. The silence that followed seemed tangible.

Blair broke it, his voice shaken but clear. “We’re okay, Jim.”

Sam was already up and running towards his brother.

Jim followed him, grabbing up the locket he’d dropped when he started shooting. Dean still hadn’t moved and that was more urgent than ghosts—but the young privateer had just shown how deadly he could be.


Part 7

Blair had really intended to stay in the Impala. He’d decided that only a seriously disastrous chain of circumstances could make him go against Jim’s orders this time. He should have listened to the cynical whisper of experience telling him disastrous was their norm.

He and Sam had watched the others leave, had taken it in turn to follow their movements with the binoculars and had begun to talk a little, beyond the immediate situation, to the things they’d both edged around earlier in the day.

While Jim and Newington were doing something illegal to the museum’s security system, Sam showed him the page in his father’s journal, ‘the watchman’. Blair hesitated a moment, but he had seen Jim accept these two.

“I call him a sentinel,” he said, and explained Burton’s research and just how acute Jim’s senses were.

“So how do you fit in?”

“Every sentinel needed a helper—a guide, you might say—to help them focus, to protect them from becoming lost in their own intense perceptions. I thought at first it would just be an academic thing, that I’d teach Jim and use my findings in my research, but I was wrong.”

“It’s closer,” Sam said, understanding.

“It’s a bond. A bond on more levels than I’d ever imagined.”

Sam had stared into the darkness, not seeing anything. Blair had the binoculars but nothing was happening anyway.

“Dean’s my brother,” he’d said at last. “I care about him more than anything else, even when he’s a total jerk.”

Blair had been silent.

“But it’s not the same,” Sam said, miserable and angry. “If it was, maybe I’d have a chance of saving him or maybe he could have brought me back without…”

And Sam had started to tell him a story that went way beyond Blair’s understanding of the supernatural, but was full of a pain and impending loss that he could understand only too well. Blair had been gripped, groping desperately for anything he could say, and Sam had been lost in the story. It was at that point that both doors of the Impala had been wrenched open at once.

Blair stared in disbelief at the guy looming over him—the archetype of ‘thug with gun’. It transcended racial boundaries: Blair had been threatened by Caucasian thugs, African, Asian… He thought this one might be middle-eastern but it really made no difference; the mind set was always the same. If he’d read a media expose about some fascist factory cloning them, he’d have found it all too believable.

“Out!” his own clone ordered. “Hands on your head. Walk in front of me into the park. Hurry up!”

“You’re making a mistake,” Blair tried. “We’re not here for anything to do with whatever your business is.”

“And you are watching the park through military-standard night glasses in case some whore strips in the bushes in the dark?”

Even Blair had to think for a minute about a plausible was to talk them out of this one, and a minute proved too long. Sam was also out of the car now, tense but aware of the gun covering him. They started to walk slowly into the park.

That was the moment when the ghost of Luke Hunt had first briefly appeared, though Blair hardly had time to realise what was happening before one of the shotguns went off.

His captor immediately began firing, at the point where the gun had flashed and the surrounding area. Someone sounded as if they’d been hit, and he heard a small sound of suppressed shock from Sam, and guessed it had been Dean’s voice. Then Jim shouted his warning, and they’d flattened themselves on the path and tried to look non-combatant.

He looked up as Sam gripped his arm, and saw the unmistakeable form of the nineteenth century seaman; to his utter fascination, he heard the faint sounds of sea battle. And behind him all hell had broken loose.

He tried to move to one side, to find some shelter, without dropping his position of surrender, and things happened fast while he was doing it. He turned and saw the first gunman firing desperately into the ghost, and shut his eyes as the cutlass scythed into him. There was more shooting, and then another shotgun blast and a sudden break in the violence.

“Dean!” Sam said, jumping to his feet.

Blair saw the two gunman were down, but Newington was already moving to check on them. Jim was kneeling beside Dean and was making room for Sam.

Blair moved to pick up Jim’s shotgun and hurried to join them.

“Going by the past attacks, the ghost will be gone awhile now he’s dealt his enemy, but we don’t know, so stay alert,” Jim ordered.

Blair saw with huge relief that Dean’s eyes were open. A bloody gouge along the side of his head marked a desperately near escape.

“‘m fine,” Dean muttered, trying to escape all the concern, but Jim had a firm grip of his chin. Dean couldn’t pull away until the sentinel was satisfied.

“You’ll do for now,” Jim said.

Sam, his face strained with concern and relief, slid an arm around his brother and propped him up. Newington had finished his examination of the two gunmen, and stood up with an unmistakeable negative gesture.

It was the first time the ghost had actually killed, Blair thought.

“We need to finish this,” Jim said.

He set the locket down on the gravel on top of what Blair realised was an old diary. He hated the thought of losing the memories in it, but he couldn’t see any choice. Jim sprinkled salt on the pile. Blair looked at the guns and saw they’d already been salted as far as practicable—Dean and Newington must have done it while Jim was getting the locket. Under each was a stack of accelerant-soaked rags and paper rubbish.

“Shotgun, Sammy,” Dean ordered.

“I know.” Sam reluctantly eased his arm away. Dean was still barely able to sit up on his own but his voice was stronger.

“Dude, I’m okay—you heard the man.”

“For now, he said.”

“Well it’s still ‘now’, so let’s get this over.”

Blair crouched ready to light the rags under one gun; Newington waited calmly next to the other.

“On three,” Jim said, pouring lighter fluid on the pile he’d just salted.

In spite of the countdown, or maybe because of it, Blair jumped when Jim reached three and set light to hair, locket and diary. Blair touched his own flame to the pile under the gun, and jumped back from the instant blaze and heat. Newington’s bonfire had gone up simultaneously.

And Hunt was back.

“Sam!”

The shotgun fired. The privateer fragmented and was gone, but only for seconds. The fires blazed brighter, the hair must have already shrivelled and the ghost seemed more solid than ever. He spun around, looking for his new enemy. Blair could hear the battle again. Behind him he heard Sam say, ‘Shit’ and Dean shout, ‘The treaty! Who’s got the frickin’ treaty?”

All of that paled into background though compared with what Blair was looking at. Jim still knelt beside the small smouldering collection of museum items but his face was rapt. What was the sentinel seeing, beyond the rest of their perception? And was he trapped in it, like he would be when he zoned on his other five senses?


Part 8

Jim had blinked his eyes against the sudden brightness of the flames, and when he opened them he was in the middle of a sea battle. The part of his mind that still had a grip on Cascade’s reality, thought for a moment that their bonfires had somehow exploded the park’s brass guns, but the noise came from the frigate battling with the heaving ship he stood on.

Events streamed by him: fire and smoke and chaos, and suddenly the rattle of muskets and the attack of the British boarding party, led by an officer who looked like a blond Viking, his long hair clubbed back.

Jim saw pikes and swords and pistols, saw the blood pooling on the deck, and Hunt rallying his sailors. He heard a man scream and smelt gunpowder and the stench of bodies opened up.

Cascade was gone until a voice broke through the battle. “Jim! Jim, what can you see?”

He realised that some of the noise was neither cannon nor muskets, but their own shotguns firing unavailingly.

Blair’s hand gripped his arm and he shuddered and was almost home. Newington’s voice rose above everything else:

His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, desirous of terminating the war which has unhappily subsisted between the two countries, and of restoring, upon principles of perfect reciprocity, peace, friendship, and good understanding between them, have…

He saw an American sailor run full into the flash and smoke of a pistol, and a British seaman fall clutching his arm as Hunt’s cutlass nearly severed it at the shoulder, but he could see the park now as well and Blair’s worried face. The words of the treaty echoed more loudly than the battle:

There shall be a firm and universal peace between His Britannic Majesty and the United States, and between their respective countries, territories, cities, towns, and people, of every degree, without exception of places or persons. All hostilities, both by sea and land, shall cease as soon as this treaty shall have been ratified…

The sound of the fighting was fading. He could no longer hear the guns, but he saw Luke Hunt slip in a patch of blood as he fought the English officer—and watched him fall to a cut from the man’s sword. The ships both faded too.

Immediately after the ratifications of this treaty by both parties, as hereinafter mentioned, orders shall be sent to the armies, squadrons, officers, subjects and citizens of the two Powers to cease from all hostilities.

Newington paused a moment and then repeated the last words. “Cease from all hostilities!”

Jim wondered what the others could see now. Did they just see Hunt? Or did they see what Jim saw—the big Englishman, the captain perhaps he was, step forward with his hand held out. Hunt’s cutlass had already fallen; the captain lowered his naval sword. Their hands met and gripped.

And then there was nothing but Cascade Maritime Park in the darkness and the sound of approaching sirens.

With a huge effort, Jim pushed what he had just seen away to some other part of his mind, and realised that he had two dead bodies, a guy who he was now certain was in British intelligence and the Winchesters who might well be on someone’s ‘wanted’ list.

“Blair—can you and Sam get Dean into the museum—it’s C1874X for the door. I’ll come for you when I’ve dealt with things out here. Newington?”

“I have some connections with your Homeland Security,” Newington admitted.

“Okay. You can lie to them and I’ll lie to the rest.”

Blair and Sam had helped Dean to his feet the moment Jim spoke—Sam’s alacrity suggesting to Jim that he’d been all too correct about their relationship with law and order. They were inside the museum and out of sight by the time police cars and a fire truck pulled up.

Newington was on his cell phone; Jim had his badge out and ready for the uniforms; a call for an ambulance was quickly made, though it was clearly too late, and Jim tried to think what the hell he was going to say that could explain this. Luckily, before he had a chance to speak, inaccurate conclusions were being drawn.

“You nailed the slasher!” the first man on the scene exclaimed.

“Not in time for this guy,” his partner muttered, looking at the privateer’s last victim.

“Nobody could have reacted faster than Detective Ellison,” Newington said quickly, flashing an ID that immediately gained him wary respect. “And I’m confident that you will find both the victim and the man whom detective Ellison shot are on your terrorism watch list. They may have both been involved originally in these attacks, or the ‘slasher’ as you call him may have been a rogue and the other man sent to deal with him. We’ll probably never know. However, I’d ask you to leave the scene untouched until Homeland Security arrive.”

The uniforms looked at Jim who was at least one of their own. Jim nodded. “Looks like there may have been more behind these attacks than we understood,” he said. So this was why Newington had been in the park in the first place… Well, he could take over the explanation, then. Jim had realised while Newington was talking that there was a major problem with the story—namely the lack of a cutlass at the scene. If Homeland Security really did want these two men, they would be happier to overlook this than the PD could ever be.

Whoever Newington had contacted was efficient. Four agents arrived simultaneously with the ambulance. The fire service had already made sure the scene was safe, and weren’t reluctant to be relieved of the further investigation of who’d set the fires. The uniformed police left Jim to maintain Cascade PD’s involvement, which for some while consisted simply of standing on the edge of things and using his hearing to monitor what Newington was telling the agents.

Newington’s presence in the park a month ago had definitely not been accidental. He’d expected to encounter the dead men then. The British had arrested two of their home-grown terrorists as they caught a flight to Washington State; one had been a genuine fanatic and refused to talk, but the other was young, misled and frightened. He’d admitted to this planned meeting with ‘American brothers’—only for some reason he’d gotten the date a month wrong.

“I think I know why, now,” Newington said to the leading agent. “Our prisoner gave the date to us in words—the seventh of June. He was neither well-travelled nor particularly well-educated. I suspect he’d seen it noted in numbers, and translated that inaccurately into words, going by the British system. When we note down 7/6 we mean the seventh of June. You, of course, would use it for the sixth of July—today’s date. We should have thought of that possibility.”

The men from Homeland Security didn’t seem too worried by that, or by any discrepancies in the scene. The two terrorists were dead; no-one else was. One of them did ask Newington if the PD were safe to assume there would be no more slash attacks.

“I think I can guarantee that,” Newington said. “I also think some commendation of Detective Ellison would be in order.”

Jim stopped listening. In his book, the people who deserved commending were the young Winchester brothers, and all they had for their troubles was a near-miss from a serious injury and an uncomfortable night of hiding out from people who should be grateful for their efforts. He waited impatiently now for the scene to clear so that he could go to check on Dean and make it clear that at least one cop thought they’d done a good job.

Luckily, no-one else seemed keen on a prolonged investigation of the scene either. The bodies were removed, if anyone had questions about the fires under the guns they didn’t ask them. Newington strolled back to Jim leaving the agents to do their work. He slipped something into Jim’s hand, and the sentinel realised it was the charred locket.

“Maybe you’d better ask that boy if it should be melted down,” he murmured.

“I think it’s over, but I’ll ask him,” Jim said.

“I doubt very much whether they’ll ever be on my side of the Atlantic, but perhaps you could give Dean this card and tell him that if by some strange chain of circumstances he runs into trouble in the UK, he can call this number and they’ll find me.”

It was more a gesture than likely to be of practical use, but Jim thought the Winchesters would appreciate the intent. “Thanks,” he said.

“If you want to go and check inside the museum, no-one’s going to query it. I’ll say you wanted to make sure there hadn’t been any break in or damage there. These agents are grateful you’re being so cooperative.”

Jim winced, but at least it gave him the opportunity to go and check on Dean. Rather to his own surprise, he realised he trusted Newington to cover his back on this. He listened behind him as he walked up to the museum door, but the only interest the agents had was the terrorism case and going through the dead men’s papers and phones. By the sound of it, they were already despatching teams to one address.

“Okay; it’s me,” he said to the darkened entrance as he opened the door. Three heartbeats were off to one side, in what his dialled up sight soon identified as a staff lounge. Dean was sprawled across a couple of chairs, Sam cross-legged on the floor next to him. Blair had been using a key ring torch to go through the cupboards.

“Jim,” he said with relief. “The first-aid box here is a joke. I can’t even find Tylenol.”

Jim, who’d started the day many hours ago with a headache, took out his own supply, and Sam hurried to fetch some water. “Are we clear?” he asked as he went.

Jim explained while he checked Dean over. “I’ve left it to Newington now,” he said. “What they’ll do about the lack of a sword of any sort I don’t know, but it’s not as if they’re trying to bring a prosecution, and I’m pretty sure the ghost’s gone for good.”

“What did you see?” Blair asked softly.

Jim told them, while his fingers lightly probed Dean’s skull and checked the other bruising from when Dean fell. “They were two brave men, even if they did come from opposite sides of a battle,” he finished. “I think they made their peace.”

Sam squatted next to him, watching him feel the heat of the bruises on Dean’s arm and ribs. His eyes were dark and anxious to Jim’s enhanced sight.

“He’s okay,” Jim said quickly. “Sore, but nothing’s cracked. He’ll have a splitting headache, but I can’t sense any serious damage. He’s got a hard head.”

“Rock solid,” Sam said, relief warming his voice.

“You can say what you like about me—just hand over the Tylenol,” Dean muttered. “And you’ve got a scrape on your chin, Sammy, that’s going to make you even less of a hot date if you don’t do something about it.”

Jim had already noticed the various minor injuries that Sam and Blair had from being hauled roughly out of the car then flinging themselves flat on a gravel path. It would all keep until he had his own decent supply of Neosporin in the loft. “I’ll see to them when we get home,” he said.

Both Winchesters looked at him blankly.

“You’ll come back to the loft with us,” Jim said.

“We ought to be on our way.” Dean didn’t sound very convinced about it though.

“Not with a head injury,” Jim said firmly.

“Rainier’s as good as anywhere for the research you need to do,” Blair said quietly to Sam. Jim wasn’t sure what that was about, but the argument seemed to convince Sam—or maybe his concern for his brother had already convinced him.

Jim looked at Dean. ‘A hell of a lot better at giving than taking’ John Winchester had said about his oldest. Even now, Jim could see that Dean was trying to fight off a blinding headache enough to work out whether this was safe for Sam and was an acceptable hiatus in their war on evil.

“You’ll be back in action quicker for a day’s rest,” Jim said. “Anyway, I owe your dad, and I’d like to have the chance to tell you about the times I met him.”

It was true. It was also the one persuasion he thought was sure to cut through Dean’s defences.

“We’re not highly rated as house guests,” Dean said. “You don’t want to see a shower room after Sam’s been in there.”

“Years of living with Professor Slob here have toughened me up,” Jim promised.

“Have cured him of obsessive tidiness,” Blair corrected, and started to tell Sam the tale of the Tupperware.

Jim strolled to the door, ignoring this, and checked out the park. No agents. No-one else. None of the proper paraphernalia of a crime scene. They wouldn’t get a better opportunity to make their exit.

“We’re clear,” he told the others. “Probably best if I take Dean in the truck and Blair travels with you, Sam, then if I lose you he can direct you to the loft. Blair—we can pick up the Volvo tomorrow.”

He’d have to come back tomorrow and at least make a gesture towards a proper report.

Sam looked at Dean. Dean shrugged. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he said to Jim, and nothing in his voice gave away how much he had to be hurting and longing to lie down on a decent bed. “Hey—if you come back here tomorrow, can we pick up another of those burgers? Sammy, you missed the best burger experience…”

“Jim!”

Busted. He’d seen Blair’s beam of approval when they didn’t head for the burger outlet earlier. Well, that was a discussion that could wait for another day. At the moment he and Blair were on exactly the same page—these kids needed some TLC even if it was sentinel-style. He lifted Dean to his feet as gently as he could, Sam lending a hand from the other side. Dean’s gasp was probably too soft for anyone but Jim to catch, but Sam was tuned in to his brother’s pain anyway.

“We’ve got you, Dean,” he whispered. “Let us help.”

“You’re not helping my ribs!” Dean muttered back ungratefully, but he leaned into his brother all the same.

It was a slow, awkward walk to the truck, but at least it was without interruption. The park was silent even to Jim’s hearing, hushed and still with the silence that hung before dawn. He could feel the minute tremble of Dean’s legs, sense Sam’s effort to hold him as gently as he could while still steadying him. Blair, a step or two to the side, watched with concern, ready to give whatever support was needed. His eyes met Jim’s in spite of the dark, and the feelings in them mirrored Jim’s own.

Jim hoped that wherever John Winchester was now, he might somehow know that tonight they going to take care of his boys.

~ End ~