mizpah1931: Latin Exorcism - don't leave home without it (Default)

Title: The A to Z of Demonology
Season: 3 – immediately after the episode Bad Day at Black Rock
Category: General, Action, Humour
Warnings: Sam ouchies...
Tagline: After dealing with the YED and the Seven Deadly Sins, the boys thought they were getting a handle on demons  – but they’d never encountered anything quite like this before…
Total Word Count: 34,601
Total Chapters: 6
Chapter 3 Word Count: 5476
Beta: ziggyuk
Story Banner: Chasidern
Award Banner: hobbleit
Winner:  SN.TV 2008 Awards – Best Humour Fanfiction (Tied with Concussed – And Loving It)


 

Chapter 3

“’Scuse me – sorry – ‘scuse me…” Dean gritted his teeth as he tried to push through the milling crowd. He was rapidly losing patience. “’Scuse me – damn it – get out of the freakin’ way!”

The crowd parted, indignant glares drilling into the tall hunter as he finally made it to the doors. Dean turned, one hand on the wooden door, and gestured apologetically. “Sorry – gotta hurl…” He hitched his body, clapped a hand over his mouth and made a hasty exit as the expressions of the bar patrons turned from pissed off to sympathetic.

Dean paused outside the bar, listening to the night noises. Harry had already gotten a good minute’s head start, and the hunter didn’t want to make it worse by racing off in the wrong direction. A faint, pain-filled yell and a dull crack drifted from the alleyway running down the southern side of the building, and Dean grinned as he took off running, reaching for his silver flask of holy water as he sprinted toward the source of the commotion.

The alley was empty and silent, and Dean slowed his pace as he strained to hear any more noises.  The end of the building came in sight and the hunter hesitated, his eyes wide as he scanned the darkness. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, he moved rapidly toward the rear of the building. Dean failed to see the sprawled out shape in the darkness, and his foot caught on a long leg, causing him to stumble. Waving his arms to keep his balance, Dean staggered forward a few paces before turning to see what he had tripped on. His trained eyes picked out the lanky shape crumpled on the ground, and he dropped to his knees with a sinking heart.

“Sammy!” Dean pulled a lighter from his pocket and flicked the wheel with his thumb. The dancing orange flame revealed his brother slumped against the wall of the bar, his head at an awkward angle. Quickly Dean checked for a pulse, breathing a sigh of relief as he felt the strong, steady beat under his questing fingers. “Thank God. Okay, little brother, come on – nap time’s over.”

Sam groaned softly and tried to turn his head away from the annoying hand patting his cheek. He lifted his own hand and flailed blindly in the dark, hoping to make the person back off. The back of his hand connected with a hard muscled chest, and a familiar voice told him to quit dicking around. Sam peeled his eyes open, squinted against the blinding pain in his head, and blinked dazedly up at his blurry big brother. “Dean?”

“Yeah, it’s me.” Dean slid a hand under Sam’s shoulders and helped the younger man to sit up. “What the hell happened?”

The young hunter winced, holding his head in his hands as the world spun sickeningly. “Ohhhh, man…”

“Where’s Harry?”

“Dunno…” Sam cautiously felt the growing lump on the side of his head. His fingers came away damp, and he looked ruefully at the blood revealed in the faint glow cast by the cigarette lighter. “Hit my head.”

Dean shook his head and got to his feet. “Yeah, I can see that, Einstein. Come on, let’s get you up.”

Sam’s legs threatened to give way as he was lifted to his feet, and he sagged against the wall of the bar for a few moments. “I’m fine,” he protested faintly as his brother dragged his arm across his shoulders.

“Sure you are,” Dean murmured wryly, wrapping his other arm around Sam’s waist. “Let’s go, jinx.”

“Curse is lifted, Dean.”

“Sure it is.”

“Demon pushed me.”

“Yeah, okay. One foot in front of the other, dude – that’s it.”

“Not cursed…”

“Okay, we’re almost there. You’re doin’ fine.”

“Dean?”

“What?”

“I think I’m gonna puke…”

“Ah, crap!” Dean let his brother slide to his knees, and he held Sam’s shoulders as the younger man retched.

With shaking hands, Sam wiped his mouth and gazed owlishly up at his hovering sibling. “Not cursed, Dean.”

“Okay, Concussion Boy, let’s get you back to the motel.”

“Demon pushed me.”

“Yeah, I got that.” Dean steered his weaving brother toward the gleaming black Impala.

“Not cursed.”

“Okay.”

“Think I’m gonna puke.”

“You already hurled, Sammy.”

“I did?” Sam blinked in confusion as he was guided onto the passenger seat. His head pounded, the horizon kept switching positions, and he really needed to lie down. But there was something really important he had to tell his brother first. Sam eyed his sibling as Dean slid behind the wheel. “Dean?”

Dean shook his head as he headed the Chevy out of the parking lot. “What?”

“Curse is lifted.”

“Yeah, dude – I got that news flash already.”

“Demon pushed me.”

“So you’ve said.” The elder hunter wagged a finger in his brother’s face as Sam opened his mouth once again. “And no, you don’t need to hurl – you’ve already hurled.”

Sam’s body hitched, and he clapped a hand over his mouth as what little colour he had in his face drained away. Dean cursed a blue streak and slammed his booted foot down on the brake, bringing the Chevy to a rocking halt. He sped around to the passenger side of the car as Sam wrenched open the door and fell to his knees in the gutter. Dean grimaced as his brother vomited again. “Well, okay, maybe you do need to hurl…”

*     *     *     *     *

Al Grasky closed up his gas station, pocketed the day’s takings and headed to his car, his worn boots scuffing the pavement as he walked. The day had been long and busy, with a few out-of-towners coming in to investigate the furniture factory explosion. Today, life was good.

Hearing a soft rustling from the other side of his battered old Ford pickup as he fished his keys out of his pocket, the grizzled old mechanic froze, his faded grey eyes narrowing as he tried to peer into the darkness. His hand released the keys and reached for the whittled piece of wood fashioned in the shape of a police baton that he always kept handy, just in case some of the local hooligans decided he was fair game.

“Who the hell’s there?” Al demanded, his booming voice echoing slightly across the deserted street. “All right, show yourself, you little punk.”

The bushes at the side of the car rustled and then shook violently as a dark, stocky figure emerged. Al’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “Harry? What in the seven levels of hell are you doin’ hidin’ down there, man? I almost busted your chops.” The mechanic shook his head in annoyance. “You drunk again?”

Harry Peterson stumbled around the back of the pickup, coming to an unsteady halt about five feet from the grizzled mechanic. He coughed, thumped his chest and coughed again, bending almost double.

“Geez, Harry – that’s a bad cough.” Al took a step forward, reaching out a hand to his old friend.

Harry thumped his chest a few more times and slowly straightened up, his fuchsia eyes glowing in the dark like neon signs.

Al stumbled back in shock. “Geez – Harry – what the hell…”

The dishevelled businessman suddenly stiffened, throwing his head back as his mouth flew open. He let out a long, loud, drawn out belch, emitting a small black cloud that milled around his head for a moment before collecting itself and arrowing straight toward the stunned mechanic.

Pinned in place by a force he couldn’t see, Al Grasky could only watch in horror as his mouth was wrenched open, allowing the demonic cloud to flow down his gullet. He came abruptly to life, coughed raggedly and thumped his chest before straightening to his less than impressive height of five feet five. Shaking himself like a dog, he turned glowing fuchsia eyes on the businessman, watching as Harry crumpled to the pavement in a dead faint.

“Oh, hell, why don’t I just…no, I want to go this way…well, I got to take….I said,  I WANT TO GO THIS WAY, DAMN IT!”

Twitching and jerking, the possessed mechanic stumbled down the street, like a puppet with a rank amateur pulling the strings.

*     *     *     *     *

The motel room door opened and Dean slipped inside, his gaze zeroing in on the tall figure on the far bed as he shut the door behind him. “You okay?”

Sam slowly raised his hand and lifted the corner of the cool washcloth that was draped across his eyes. Blinking a few times to clear the spots from his vision, he glanced over at his sibling. “Yeah, I’m good. Was it still there?”

Dean patted the leather satchel hanging from one broad shoulder. “Yeah, it was. The waitress, whose name by the way, is Gypsy – can you believe that – she packed it up and took it out to the kitchen to keep it safe.” He held up the paper bag dangling from his other hand, before placing the bag on the table. “She kept our pie, too.”

As Sam gingerly sat up to lean against the headboard, Dean pulled the rescued laptop from its satchel and laid it across Sam’s knees. He returned to the paper bag and pulled out two square foam containers, handing one to his brother with a flourish. Sam opened the lid, to find two small slices of pie in the container – half of Dean’s apple, and half of his blueberry.

“I got her to split them up for us – I wasn’t sure which one you ordered for yourself,” Dean explained as he got two forks from the tiny kitchenette drawer.

“Thanks.” Sam smiled softly, touched by the gesture. “I got the apple pie for you.”

“Ahh – that’s okay. Blueberry’s good, too.” Dean shrugged as he settled cross-legged onto his bed. He forked up a huge mouthful of pie, and eyed his brother speculatively as he chewed. In deference to the way his sibling was feeling, he swallowed the mouthful before asking the question that was practically burning his tongue. “So – the demon…”

“Yeah.” Sam put a hand up to lightly touch the gauze pad near his temple. “Well, you saw it, too – it was just like your eyewitness lady said. He really did have fuchsia eyes.” The young hunter frowned as he tried to recall all the details of his encounter with the demon-possessed man. “You know – there was somethin’ weird about that demon, Dean.”

“You mean weirder than him having electric pink eyes?” Dean shook his head. “Man, I have never seen demonic eyes like that.”

“Yeah – way weirder than his eyes.” Sam frowned, rubbing at his temple. He laid the laptop aside. “Did you notice that he wasn’t all that powerful?”

“Dude – he knocked you out!”

Sam shifted uneasily on the bed, his gaze anywhere but on his sibling. “Uh – not – not exactly. He kinda – pushed me, and I tripped over a rock – and I kinda…”

Dean’s face was a study in disbelief. “You tripped? And you just what – fell down?”

The young hunter scowled, and stabbed the fork into his pie. “He shoved me again while I was trying to get my balance – and yeah, I fell down, all right?”

“So – this all powerful demon – he just shoved you – and you fell and hit your head and – knocked yourself out? You sure that curse is lifted?” Dean held up a placating hand as Sam shot a brief, sizzling glare in his direction. “Okay, all right – chill before you hurt yourself. Well, before you hurt yourself more than you have already.”

“Hilarious.” Sam moodily stirred the remains of his pie with his fork. “And there was somethin’ else, too.”

“Don’t tell me – he was immune to holy water.” Dean rolled his eyes. “That’s all I need to hear for my night to be complete.”

“No – but he didn’t react as badly to it as all the other demons we’ve come across. It was more like a bad sting than a burn.” Sam chewed pensively on his lower lip. “It just doesn’t add up, Dean.”

Dean nodded, and got up to make a pot of coffee. “Yeah, I hear you. You know, now that you mention it, it was weird that he didn’t just toss us across the room when he sensed we were hunters. It was more of a shove, wasn’t it?” The tall hunter pursed his lips as he waited for the water to boil, thinking back to the encounter at the bar. “Wonder what the hell that means?”

“I don’t know – a low-power demon, maybe?”

“And he recognised you, which is so never a good thing.” Dean turned around, leaned back against the kitchenette cupboard and folded his arms across his chest. “Boy prodigy? What the hell did he mean by that?”

Sam tensed, his face a stony mask. “Maybe something the Yellow-eyed demon said – how the hell should I know? The demon Pride called me the boy king – just before he tried to twist my head off my shoulders.”

“Huh.” Dean fell silent as the coffee maker gurgled. He backed off from that line of questioning, knowing Sam was notoriously touchy these days when it came to his status – real or implied – among the demon community. Going back a few steps in the conversation, he mulled over Sam’s suggestion about the current demon. “Low power – kinda like a really minor league demon?”

The younger hunter relaxed as the discussion veered away from him and his demonic connection. “Maybe. Point is, do we go look for Harry tonight, or wait till the morning?”

Dean shook his head and poured out the coffee into two mugs. “I went by his house on the way back from the bar – he wasn’t there. We’d have a better chance in daylight, I guess. I just hope he doesn’t blow anything else up tonight.”

Sighing heavily, Sam put aside his empty pie container, and accepted the steaming cup of coffee from his sibling. “We better go look for him tonight, then.”

 *     *     *     *      *

Three hours later, the Winchester brothers staggered back into the motel room. Tired, footsore, and in Dean’s case hungry, they sank gratefully down onto the hard backed chairs flanking the small table, cupped their chins in their hands and blew out twin gusty sighs.

Dean reached into his jacket pocket with his free hand and pulled out his refilled hip flask of whiskey. He worked the top off with one hand, took a swig and handed the flask to his brother. Dean let his head fall back, blinking at the ceiling as he eased the stiffness in his neck and shoulders. “Man, what a night.”

Sam blew his wispy bangs from his eyes as he recapped the whiskey flask and passed it back. “Yeah. Guess Harry’s gone to ground somewhere.”

“Looks like.” The elder Winchester let his hands dangle loosely by his sides. “We might have better luck in the daylight.”

“Hope so.” Sam watched as his brother got up and ambled into the bathroom. Ten minutes later Dean emerged, clad in a tee shirt and boxers, and headed for the bed closest to the door after checking the salt lines. Sam got to his feet, grabbed a pair of sweatpants from his duffle, and disappeared into the bathroom to get ready for bed.

Dean slid his favourite knife under his pillow, flicked on the bedside lamp, turned off the main light, and settled down beneath the covers. The bathroom door opened, and he listened to his brother’s soft footfalls heading toward the other bed. The lamp clicked off, the bed frame creaked slightly, and Dean heard a soft sigh as Sam slid under the covers. He let his eyes drift closed, and was soon fast asleep.

Sam lay awake, staring at the ceiling. He mulled over the events of the night, and the decidedly off behaviour of the demon. Slowly, his eyes grew heavy, and he rolled onto his right side facing his brother. Closing his eyes, he made a mental note to pick up the research in the morning and relaxed, letting the soft arms of sleep finally claim him.

Soon the only sounds in the darkened room were the deep, steady respirations of the two brothers.

Until a dull boom rattled the windows and set off a dozen car alarms.

“What the…” Dean threw himself from the bed, his hand reaching for his knife. His feet tangled in the blankets and he toppled onto the carpet, his breath forced from his lungs by the impact. “Uhhh…”

“Holy crap!” Sam rolled off his bed, landing on the floor on his knees. He peered over the bed, hearing his sibling curse breathlessly. “Dean?”

“What!”

“What the hell?” Springing to his feet, Sam lunged for the door. He slammed to a halt as he spotted his brother trying to untangle himself from his bedclothes. “What the hell are you doing down there?”

“What does it freakin’ look like I’m doing?” Finally freeing his legs from the ensnaring blankets, Dean clambered to his feet, shot a glare at his brother and reached for the door handle. “You freakin’ jinxed me or somethin’?”

Sam glared back. “So not funny, Dean.” He glanced down at his brother’s outstretched hand and groaned silently.

Dean glanced impatiently at his taller sibling as Sam clamped a hand on his arm. “What already?”

“Uh – Dean – the knife?” Sam gestured to the razor sharp Bowie knife gripped in his brother’s hand.

Dean glanced down, muttered a curse and tossed the knife onto his bed. He wrenched the door open and sprang out into the darkness with Sam on his heels, to join the small crowd of motel guests milling around in various states of undress. His gaze was drawn to the bright glow of a nearby fire blazing brightly against the night sky, and he cursed again. Dean judged from the look of the flames that the fire was a couple of streets away from the motel, toward the centre of town. “Damn it, Sammy!”

Sam sighed heavily, and ran a hand through his unruly dark locks. “Harry. It’s got to be.”

“Son of a bitch!”

*     *     *     *     *

“So, there are no leads on this fire either – same as the one at the furniture factory.” Sam shook his head as he slid his notebook into the inside pocket of his suit jacket. Pulling off his tie with an impatient jerk of his wrist, he tossed the strip of silk in the general direction of his unmade bed and sank down onto one of the hard backed chairs.

Dean threw his suit jacket onto the end of his bed, and scrubbed his hands across his face. “And Harry hasn’t shown up for work, or at home, for the last day and a half.” Striding to the coffee pot in the tiny kitchenette, he filled it with coffee grounds and hot water. Moodily he leaned against the sink and watched the water slowly come to the boil. “What went up this time?”

“Would you believe a diner?”

The elder hunter blinked slowly in astonishment. “What – did someone get a bad burger? Anyone hurt?”

“No victims. Just like last time. Cops found evidence of a forced entry. The investigators think the fire started in the deep fryers, and spread to the gas lines. But they can’t be sure – there’s not much left. It was a pretty good blaze.”

“Dude, this is too weird.”

Sam nodded in agreement. “Tell me about it. Hey, have you heard from Bobby yet?”

“Nope, not yet.”

The hazel-eyed hunter opened up the laptop and logged into the search engine. Faint frown lines formed between his brows as he searched the lists of minor demons, hoping for a clue to what they were dealing with. The green-eyed hunter poured out two cups of coffee, added milk and sugar to one, and brought both to the table. Both their heads snapped around as a sudden, loud knocking rattled the motel room door.

Gesturing for his brother to take the left side, Dean slid his .45 from the waistband of his pants and softly flicked the safety catch off. The knocking came again, the door vibrating faintly with the force of the blows. Gliding forward on silent feet, Dean held the gun close to his torso, the muzzle pointing toward the door at chest height, and waited for his sibling to get into position between the other side of the door and the window. One last heavy thump rattled the door in its frame, and then silence fell outside the room.

Dean slid his fingers around the door handle, nodded once to Sam, and wrenched the door open. A dishevelled, stocky figure crashed heavily against his chest, toppling the startled hunter to the floor. The breath gushed from Dean’s lungs as the man landed on his ribcage, and he gasped like a fish out of water for a few seconds, pushing futilely at the unmoving figure sprawled across his torso.

Sam stared at the unconscious businessman, his jaw dropping in surprise. “Holy crap – it’s Harry!”

“Great,” Dean wheezed. “Now – will you – get him – the hell – off me?”

*     *     *     *     *

Harry Peterson stared at the floor, a hot cup of coffee cradled between his shaking hands. Slowly he lifted his head to stare at the two tall young men standing side by side a few feet in front of him. He made eye contact with the taller of the two. “Possessed?”

“Yeah,” Sam murmured softly.

The businessman transferred his gaze to the shorter hunter. “Possessed?”

“Yeah,” Dean muttered testily.

“Like – like that girl in that movie?”

Dean pursed his lips. “Yeah, but without the whole barfing pea soup deal.”

“Oh my God…”

“So – so, Harry – why did you come here?” Sam elbowed his brother in the ribs as he saw Dean’s mouth begin to open. Giving his snarky sibling a quick warning shake of his head, Sam turned his attention to the distressed man sitting at the table.

“I – I don’t – don’t really know. But – that thing – that thing that was…” Harry fisted a hand against his chest. “…that was in me – it knew you both – thought you were…dangerous to it.”

“Got that right,” Dean muttered, dodging nimbly out of the way of another jab in the side. “So why did you come to us?”

Harry stared down into his coffee. “I thought – if you were a threat to that – thing, then you might – be able to help me.”

Sam plucked a chair from the table and placed it in front of the elder man. He settled on its hard seat, leaned his elbows on his knees and gazed sympathetically at the demon’s former host. “Harry – can you tell us what happened? How did it possess you?”

“And why did you blow up the furniture factory?” Dean added, spreading his hands in a gesture of innocence as his brother shot a warning glare in his direction.

The elder man frowned and rubbed again at his chest. “I don’t remember much – I was on my way home from – from…”

“The bar,” Dean supplied helpfully, ignoring another quelling glare from his sibling. “Then what? What happened after you talked to Chester?”

Harry blinked rapidly. “I thought it was a cat – the garbage cans were rattling, like there was a cat or something inside. Then I – I couldn’t move, and this – this thing…”

Sam leaned forward, sympathy brimming in his soulful eyes. “What did it look like?”

“Like a cloud – a little black cloud. Thicker than a fog.”

“Little?” Dean raised his brows in surprise. “How little?”

“About – this size.” Harry extended his left hand palm down, to a height of around two feet off the floor. He shuddered, and pulled his hand back to scrub at his lined, bristled face. “It came at me – and then I remember arguing with someone – I don’t know who. I wanted to go home, and he – it – wanted to go…to go…”

“Go where? Harry, go where?” Sam shot a lightning glance at his brother as Dean edged closer. “Harry, where did it want you to go?”

“To the – the furniture factory – oh God – oh God – I – I blew up Mike’s factory!” Harry’s face crumpled in horror.

Dean pursed his lips, and narrowed his eyes as he gazed at the stricken man. “So, did it tell you why it wanted to blow up that factory? Or the diner?”

Harry looked up at the tall young man in shock. “The what?”

“The diner got blown sky-high last night. Guess you wanted your burger really well done. Want to tell me what the hell the demon’s plans are?”

“I don’t know anything about a diner.”

“Where’s the demon now?” Sam inquired softly.

”I don’t know. I don’t remember anything about last night. I think I must have passed out or something. I woke up near Al’s Garage early this morning.”

“How early?” Sam asked pointedly.

“Uh – around four am. Why?”

Sam glanced at his brother. “It was just after four-thirty that we heard the explosion. The demon’s jumped into someone else.”

“Great,” Dean muttered, rolling his eyes. He pinned the dishevelled businessman with a stern glare. “Any ideas who your little pink-eyed friend is possessing now?”

Harry frowned. I – I’m not sure.” He rubbed at his temple, and took a long swallow of his coffee. “It’s all a blur.”

Throwing his hands up in frustration, Dean paced away from the elder man. Sam sighed softly. “So – the demon. Can you tell me what its plans are? Did it tell you anything? Its name – why it wanted to blow up the furniture factory?”

“Ignite.” Harry looked at the puzzled young hunter. “Ignite – that’s all I can remember.”

“Ignite.” Sam’s face scrunched in confusion as he pulled the laptop from the table beside his elbow. Balancing it on his lap, he added the new information into his previous search parameters.

“So – we’re looking for a really short demon who likes to blow up things? Man, that’s too weird, even for us.” Dean turned, lifting his hand to scratch the back of his head, when a dull boom stopped him in his tracks. As one, the three men sprinted for the door, Dean beating Sam to it by half a step. Pulling the door open, the elder hunter leapt outside, his gaze searching the horizon for a telltale sign of smoke. Sam found it first, nudging his brother’s shoulder and pointing toward the northeast.

A thin plume of sooty smoke stood out starkly against the blue sky, winding its way into the atmosphere about a mile away, just on the outskirts of town. Sirens wailed, gradually fading away as the county fire department responded to the latest disaster. Dean turned to his brother, exasperation tightening the skin around his eyes as he shook his head. “What the hell was it this time?”

Sam shrugged as he chewed on his lower lip. He flipped out his cell phone, and his lean face paled a little as he stared at the screen. He turned it toward his brother. “No signal.”

“Son of a bitch!” Dean thrust a hand into his pocket as his sibling hurried inside to check the laptop. He gritted his teeth at the total absence of signal bars on his own cell, and shoved it back into his trousers pocket as Sam reappeared in the doorway. “Let me guess – no internet connection on the laptop?”

The younger hunter shook his head, his eyes darkening with worry as his gaze tracked to the slowly thickening column of smoke.

Dean heaved a deep sigh. “Well, at least we know what the hell spawn son of a bitch blew up – a communications tower.”

Sam shivered involuntarily. “Just like River Grove, Oregon. He’s cutting communication.”

“We gotta find this son of a bitch – fast!”

Harry clutched at Dean’s sleeve, his bloodshot eyes wide with shock. “Al!”

“What?”

“Al! Oh my God! It’s Al!”

Dean stared blankly at the distressed businessman. “The demon’s name is Al?”

Shaking his head, Harry tugged at Dean’s arm, earning himself a fierce scowl for his troubles. “No – it’s possessed Al. I remember now. It got him as he was heading to his car – it left me, and it…” Harry swallowed convulsively. “It – went inside Al.”

Dean rolled his eyes as he snapped his arm out of the elder man’s grip. “So who’s Al?”

“Al – as in Al’s Garage Al?” Sam’s eyebrows arched as he stepped to Dean’s side. “We stopped there for gas when we got into town yesterday morning.”

“So you think this Al blew up the diner?” Dean blew out a sigh as he headed back inside the motel room. “What’s he look like, Harry?”

“Well, he’s a little shorter than me – skinny guy, about my age. Short grey hair, clean-shaved, grey eyes.”

“Huh.” Grabbing his duffle, Dean upended it onto his bed and plucked out a clean shirt, tee shirt and pair of jeans before disappearing into the bathroom. He was back in a few moments, dressed in his usual garb, and he pursed his lips as he threw his suit on top of the pile of clothes. “Okay – here’s the deal. I’ll go see if I can track down this Al dude before he and his half-size demon can blow anything else up. I’ll start at the communications tower – or what’s left of it anyway, and work my way back from there. You go find out what the hell we’re dealing with.”

Sam scratched his jaw, casting a glance at the now useless laptop. “Dean – I don’t think that’s a good idea. If we stick together…”

“We cover less ground than if we split up.”

“It’s too dangerous to go after the demon on your own, Dean.”

Dean rolled his eyes at his mother hen sibling. “Dude, come on! Give me some credit, here.” He spread his hands as he grinned cockily. “Sam, it’s a minor demon – seriously. What can a two feet tall demon do to me?”

Sam scowled at his overconfident sibling. He had the distinct feeling that he was about to lose this argument. “It knocked me out, Dean.”

The elder Winchester wagged a finger in his brother’s face and bent to grab his jacket from the back of one of the chairs. “I believe you said you tripped and fell, dude. You knocked yourself out.” Dean tossed the Impala keys into the air and caught them again as he headed for the door. He paused with one hand on the doorframe for a parting shot. “Keep an eye on Happy Harry.”

“Dean…” Sam stretched out a hand toward his sibling, but Dean had already slipped out the door. Sighing heavily, Sam turned around, raked his fingers through his tousled hair and eyed the thoroughly confused businessman. “So – how are you at research?”

*     *     *     *     *

Dean stood near the back of the small crowd, leaning against the Impala with his arms folded as he watched the fire crew sift through the still smouldering rubble of the communications tower. He listened to the speculation bouncing back and forth, and mentally shook his head at some of the crazy theories being put forward by various people as to who would blow up the tower and why.

Seeing movement from the corner of his eye, he turned his head slightly, to see a small, wizened man of about middle age staring at him with an almost fixed intensity. The man glanced around, and then waved his hand in a brief, beckoning gesture before melting away through the crowd. His curiosity piqued, Dean casually made his way toward the man’s last position.

Glancing around as he came to the edge of the crowd, Dean noticed a narrow walking path meandering off down the side of the slope where the tower had once stood. He took another quick look around and started down the path, every sense on full alert. The man he was following fitted the description of the elusive Al that Harry had given him, but then so had two other men in the crowd. But the guy’s actions hadn’t been those of a demon-possessed human facing a hunter.

Coming to a bend in the path, Dean slowed his pace. He reached back, his fingers brushing the reassuring bulge of his favourite pistol tucked into his waistband. Squaring his shoulders, Dean stepped around the bend, picking up his pace again when he saw his quarry a few feet ahead. “Hey!”

The man glanced over his shoulder, and smiled as he turned around to face the tall hunter. He raised his head, his fuchsia eyes glowing brightly under the shady canopy of the trees overhead.

Dean came to a halt as the demon advanced. “Ah, crap…”

*     *     *     *     *

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