Sam pulled the Impala's passenger side door closed behind him and dropped the plastic bag from the gas station into his brother's lap. "I come bearing gifts."
Dean picked up the bag to rifle through it. "As long as you didn't forget the pie." He snatched something and held up his mini plastic-wrapped trophy triumphantly. "Ah ha! Apple!"
"Uh huh. Get excited over fruit."
"We've been driving for almost twelve hours!"
"Which we do almost every day."
"Whatever. So why are we here again?" he asked, ripping off the plastic. "Something about your typical haunted house."
Sam shrugged and pulled out a packaged pie of his own to snack on. "That's what it looks like. The house is newer, and it's outside of town. It's only been abandoned for a few years, but it's already got a reputation in the area. It's rumored that whoever goes in doesn't come out, etc, etc—and that's about all we've got."
"What about deaths?"
"There were none, until the three in the past couple of months. That's why we're here now, and we never came before."
Dean took the folder Sam offered him and flipped it open to glance at the pictures and reports on the victims. "Right. So…maybe there's a spirit that was dormant before, but somebody ticked it off and now it's ganking people. Any motive? Anybody die there before it was abandoned?"
"Nobody knows for sure. They say the woman who owned the place killed herself, but the body was never found. She just disappeared, two years ago."
"That recent, huh? Nice. Maybe if we find her she won't look as freaky as some of the other ghosts we've put down."
"Oh yeah, and that's the whole reason we do what we do—for the hot ghosts."
Dean ignored him and tossed the folder back onto his brother's lap. "Address?" Sam handed him a single sheet of paper, which he grabbed and held against the steering wheel. "Let's go!" He paused for a moment, glanced around as if looking for something.
"We need Bon Jovi." With that, he dug out a tape to put in and. When the music was blaring loud enough to make the pedestrians on the corner cringe, Dean put the Impala in gear and pulled away from the mini mart perhaps a little more sharply than necessary.
Sam just rolled his eyes. "You're enthusiastic today."
"I just got out of It's a Wonderful Life world, man. Sure it was nice, but I'm telling you it was boring in there. I'm ready to kill something nasty."
The house was well out of the way of the small Mississippi town, and despite the minimal grime build-up it looked like it had just been built. The two-story farmhouse design was sided in yellow, with green shutters and a white porch framed by dying flower bushes.
"Sure doesn't really look haunted," Dean commented, as he parked behind some brush.
Sam pulled the EMF meter from the glove compartment. "I guess we'll find out."
With no one nearby, it was easier to pick the lock on the front door than to find another way in. Dean shoved the tools back in his pocket when he had finished and shouldered his sawed-off rock salt rifle. He went in first, gun ready, and Sam came in after him with the EMF meter. When nothing jumped out at them immediately, they both relaxed—a little. Dean still held the gun ready.
Sam shook his head. "Not right here. We'll have to do a sweep."
Dean waved him forward with the barrel of the rifle. "Knock yourself out."
"Such an appropriate statement."
What? Wait…Sam hadn't said that. The voice was…feminine?
Dean spun, staring down the barrel of the rifle. Instead of having a ghost to shoot, he felt a sudden sharp pain in his neck and the world never stopped spinning. The floor came up abruptly to meet him, and after a grunt and thump beside him he found himself staring blurrily at the blue plaid print of Sam's shirt.
He wasn't sure if the word even came out audibly, and then everything went black.
The world asserted itself slowly.
First was the awareness of consciousness, of discomfort. Soon the discomfort was more specific. He was sitting up somewhat, something tight around his wrists. His fingers brushed the smooth wood of the chair he was tied to.
Tied to a chair?
Sam's head jerked up immediately. He remembered Dean spinning and dropping, and remembered seeing the dart in his neck. Then he'd felt the sharp pain in his own neck, and…
"Dean?" he mumbled groggily. He tried to pry his eyes open, but for a moment it was no use.
"Hey…if it isn't sleeping beauty."
Sam smirked and finally managed to squint up at his brother, who happened to be tied to a chair a few feet away. The light sent a stab of pain back into his head and he grimaced.
"We were ambushed; that's what happened. Ghosts don't use friggin knock-out darts." Dean rolled his neck and grunted, then stamped a foot on the concrete floor beneath them and swore. "I knew something didn't feel right about this job!"
Sam wanted to roll his eyes, but decided that wouldn't be such a good idea just now. "Yeah. Sure you did."
"Shut up. You okay?"
"Do you want me to answer the question or shut up?"
"Oh shut up!" His voice dropped to a mutter. "The sarcasm is my territory."
Sam chose to ignore the last bit. "Thanks, Dean. I'm fine. What about you?"
Sam sighed and finally straightened, pushing his eyes open the rest of the way. "Basement?"
Dean nodded. "Seems to be." He tugged at his arms to no avail. "I don't know who it is yet; they haven't been down here. But whoever it used zip ties and rope," he complained.
Sam frowned and tugged at his own restraints. After a moment he recognized the rope around his wrists and the zip ties binding each arm to a side of the chair. "Fantastic."
"Apparently there is not a job here," Dean snorted. Then he raised his voice to yell up the stairs to a closed door that must lead into the house. "Just some crazy bitch who shot us with friggin knock-out darts!"
"Yeah, Dean, make them mad."
"I am gonna make them mad! I'm gonna kill them! I think that would make them a little mad." He shook the chair pulling on his bindings. "I did not need this today! Today was a good day!"
Sam sighed. "Yeah. I know. What now?"
Dean stopped moving. "Quiet."
"I think I hear something," he snapped.
Sam glanced up the stairs and listened. Sharp, light footsteps crossed the floor above them, heading for the door at the top of the stairs. "A woman?" he muttered incredulously.
Dean scowled. "I will be seriously pissed off if we got shot by a chick—especially if it's a hot chick."
"I think we did," he answered grimly. "It sounded like a woman—whatever it was she said before she fired."
The door swung open, and a slender figure cast a shadow down the wooden basement stairs. "Well well well. Welcome back to the land of the conscious, boys," an amused voice snarked.
Definitely a woman. Sam heard Dean groan.
"Could this day get any more ridiculous?"
The dark form moved nonchalantly down the steps. "What's wrong, Dean? Beaten by a girl?"
Dean's head shot up again from where he'd rolled it back in exasperation.
"Yes. I know who you are. You too, Sam. I've heard so much about you Winchester boys."
"Oh yeah?" Dean challenged.
Sam squinted. "From who?"
She stepped off of the stairs and into the light of the group of naked bulbs dangling from the ceiling. She was a little more than decent-looking, but what threw Sam off was the long dark cargo jacket she wore over her jeans and tank top. It made him think of—
"A fellow hunter," she smirked, sweeping her long dark hair from her face.
They stared at her.
"You're a hunter," Dean said skeptically.
"Is that surprising?"
"You shot us with darts!"
The woman's eyebrows went up. "Whatever works on a hunt."
"We're hunters too, thank you very much," Dean seethed. "So just what are you tying us up for?"
The woman strolled forward and leaned against a support pole a few feet away, crossing her arms. "You might remember a friend of mine? Gordon?"
"Oh no," Sam groaned.
"I suppose that means you do."
"Yeah, cause we put him in the slammer," Dean smirked. He looked her up and down. "Don't tell me you two were actually friends."
She shrugged. "Perhaps I over exaggerated the 'friend' part just a bit, but I know Gordon well enough to believe him when he told me about Sam here."
"And just what did he tell you?" Sam sighed.
The woman looked straight at him, pulled a pistol from her belt and aimed at his head. "That you have to die."
Sam jerked back instinctively, though that wouldn't really help in this case.
"Whoa, whoa, easy!" Dean was shouting. "Nobody's killing anybody here."
She smirked again and glanced back at him. "Don't worry; your brother's not going to die—yet. He may be useful, and unlike Gordon I'm willing to explore that possibility."
"Useful?" Sam echoed apprehensively.
"Your powers, of course."
He swallowed. "Look, lady, if you know about the visions then you know I can't control th—"
"I know you say you can't control them, and you say that you only see deaths. That doesn't make it true."
"You calling him a liar?" Dean challenged. "If that's all he can do, that's all he can do—and personally I'm not too super thrilled about any of it in the first place." Sam shot him a look, and he shrugged.
The woman, meanwhile, turned the gun on Dean as she focused her attention on Sam again. "That's not important. What is important, Sam, is that you come with me."
"Over my dead body," Dean snarled.
"It's just for a little while. We need to have a little bit of talk. He'll be back. And if he doesn't come quietly, I'll shoot you."
Sam glared. "It's a little hard to go anywhere tied to a chair."
"True." The edge of her mouth quirked, but that was all. She pulled a knife from a sheath on her leg and snapped Sam's ropes and plastic ties, keeping the gun trained on Dean with her other hand. "Get up slowly and start up the stairs. Stay in sight. Turn on me or try to run, and Dean dies."
Jaw clenched, Sam did as he was told. He didn't look at Dean; he knew his brother wouldn't be happy.
"Sam, sit your ass back in that chair; you're not going anywhere with her."
Nope. Not happy.
Sam glanced back, just for a moment, and that was all it took for the woman to glower at him and tighten her finger on the trigger. Dean's eyes slid warily toward the firearm, and the brothers exchanged glances. Dean backed off; they didn't have a choice.
He went up the steps slowly, taking in every detail of the stairwell to store away for later use. He paused at the top to wait for her, wondering if he could do anything now. He didn't step through the door at the top until she told him too, but he did it quickly. When she came after him to complain he slammed the door back in her face and smiled just a little when he heard her cry out and fall back down the stairs.
"Good one, Sammy!" he heard Dean call up. Sam hurried in and back down to get to her before she could recover, but halfway down—
He jerked to a stop and grimaced, realizing that he hadn't been fast enough. The woman had landed near Dean and somehow kept hold of her gun. She had already rolled up onto her knees and pressed the business end of the barrel to his brother's temple. Dean had frozen, a furious expression masking the fear that Sam could see immediately.
She smirked and slowly came to her feet, keeping the gun at Dean's head. "I really should. Then you would understand how serious I am. But we haven't even gotten started. It wouldn't be any fun to dispatch him now, now would it." She swung the gun down toward one of his feet. "However, that doesn't mean I can't hurt him—"
Sam jolted down another few steps. "No, wait! I'll come! Leave him alone!"
She paused for a long moment, and finally gave an exaggerated sigh. "All right. I suppose I can give the both of you a break, just this once. Try anything else, and someone gets hurt." By the expression on her face, she seemed to almost relish the idea.
Dean snorted. "Bitch."
The woman rammed an elbow back into his face.
"Ah! For cryin out—that's my face, woman!"
"Hey!" He started to take the rest of the stairs back down, but she turned the gun on him again.
"Back up. Now."
Sam glared fiercely and stomped back up the steps to the top to wait for her, nearly shaking. This wasn't going to be easy. They were going to have to play this one safe if they were both going to get out alive; he could see that right now. From the look on Dean's face he saw when he looked back…his brother knew it, too.
The woman took no chances this time. She gave no order to leave the stairwell until she had the barrel of the gun shoved firmly in his back, and she slammed the door behind them.
"Good boy. This way."
With her free hand she gripped his shoulder and steered him away from the basement door and into the next room—what must have once been a bedroom or den. Now it was all but empty, and the only window was heavily boarded up from the inside. There was no way out but through the door, just like in the basement.
Sam swallowed. "Ah, so….you know our names, but…"
"Don't play that game with me."
He shrugged. "Okay, or you could leave us without a name and Dean'll just call you bitch. I'll probably go along with that."
She snorted. "It's Leah." She leaned close to his ear from behind, pinching his skin with the pressure of the gun against his back. "And I know what I'm doing. Don't mess with me."
Sam winced. "Sure."
Leah, if that was really her name, shoved him toward the window, where what looked like a metal table without its legs was propped up with one end on the high window sill. The end that slanted to the floor was secured there, propped in front of a row of thick iron stakes driven into the floor there. It wasn't going anywhere. Chains wrapped around the top and bottom of the slab, and he assumed that was where she wanted him.
But that didn't mean he liked the looks of it.
"Get a move-on, unless you want Dean to need new knee-caps."
Sam hesitated, and she shoved again, with the gun this time.
"Or I could take out yours."
He grimaced. "Calm down, I'm…I'm going." He moved to the end of the table, and she pointed to the gaps between the stakes where he could stand to lean back on it. With her free hand she snapped the end of one of the chains around his right wrist, and then finally lowered the gun to clamp another over his other wrist and loop one of the lengths of chain at the bottom over his ankles.
Sam didn't move; he had no doubt that she would hurt Dean if he didn't cooperate. But while he wasn't moving, he was scanning room, looking for anything he could use later. His chest contracted a little, worried of what she might do to him now, before he had a chance to take her out…but he didn't move.
"What do you want?" he asked finally, when she was done.
"That is simple. Tell me what you can really do, agree to use it to my advantage, and I'll let your brother go."
"You know what I can do. It's not even me doing it; the visions just come. I don't control that."
She smiled sweetly. "Ah, but I'm sure you could—if you can't already, if there really isn't anything else you can do now. I'm still not so sure you're not lying."
"Even if I was, what you do about it?"
Leah chuckled and crossed to the other side of the table—the one he couldn't see from the door. Sam followed her with his eyes, head snapping around to see what it was she bent over then. She flicked a tarp out of the way to reveal a heap of car batteries, wires, cables, and clamps underneath.
Sam felt his face go slack. "You have got to be kidding me."
Leah picked up two of the clamps, which he realized were already connected to one of the batteries. "This is no joke."