He was dreaming. Sam knew that in a semi-conscious kind of way. The alarm clock by his and Jessica's bed went off way too early. It was still pitch dark. He reached across her sleeping body to hit the snooze button, but his hand got tangled in the sheets. He started tugging to get it free and Jess elbowed him in the ribs. It hurt! Sam's eyes snapped open.
The dream faded. Several stunned heartbeats later a giddy, shocking euphoria swept through him.
The daymare was gone! The smothering weight of it, the slimy touch on his mind, finally and completely gone. I'm clean! Oh God, for the first time in three friggin' weeks!
Laughter burbled up from his belly. The first physical sensation to edge out the bliss was the feel of the gag between his teeth. It made laughing out loud just a little awkward. Sobering, Sam took stock of his predicament and came to the reluctant conclusion that he was in a hell of a lot of trouble. He couldn't shake the grin.
Sam remembered the tug at the back of his neck and the collapse that followed the devastating loss of his crystals. He smiled around the gag again. No wards, no pendants and no daymare! Man, that's so great! Okay, I get five more seconds to revel in this then it's back to pain and terror.
Five seconds passed.
He hurt all over. It occurred to him that it was pretty damned unfair to feel numb with cold and hurt all over at the same time. The cold was manageable in the narrow confines of wherever he was, but annoying shivers sent continuous little stabs of pain through the cracked rib in his chest.
He was either in a very small trunk or a very big box and he'd either gone blind or it was pitch black and noisy as hell. They'd tied his hands behind his back, quite well. One of the priests must have started life as a sailor. After several minutes of struggling, all he'd gained were rope-burns. No chance of getting to the cell phone that he hoped was still in his pocket.
The rattling roar he'd woken to led him to guess he must be trapped in an army tank or a tractor. Neither made any sense. He didn't have a sense of high speed. The vehicle bumped laboriously along. He was pressed lightly against the downward side of the compartment so they were heading up; probably into the mountains. That thought wet-blanketed his last spark of giddiness. Sam knew where they were taking him.
He struggled onto his back and making use of some the adrenalin pumping into his system, kicked the roof of his cramped prison, screamed garbled curses through the gag. The effort warmed him up some, but didn't get him out. He lay back panting, his side throbbing in time with his pulse.
Sam concentrated on not letting his ribs expand quite so far with every breath. Just how well sealed was this coffin? Should he be conserving oxygen? Crap! He had no idea how long he'd been crammed in here. He squirmed back onto his side and lay there trying to decide if the black box was really getting smaller.
Sam's one consoling thought even as it squeezed a knot of panic from his belly was… Yes, he knew where the priests were taking him, but so did Dean.
Darkness fell early. The sky had dropped so low that as Abby pulled up behind the Impala at the curb in front of her house, she felt like she could reach up and grab a handful of the snow that weighed the clouds down. She leapt out of the car.
Dean slapped his phone shut with a frustrated snap. He'd tried Sam three times, gotten nothing. He stepped out, dropped the damned phone into his pocket and swore he wouldn't touch it again. Either Sam was out of range, or phone’s battery was dead. Dean wouldn't consider any other possibility.
He dove into the trunk of the Impala and hiked up his shirt to clip an eight inch hunting knife and sheath to the waist of his jeans. He slipped his 9mm Beretta into his right pocket, just didn't feel right hunting without it, even if bullets wouldn’t stop the priests. He rummaged for a moment more till he came up with the small, well-worn book that contained the exorcism.
As Dean slammed the trunk, Abby came out her front door at a trot. She wore a white parka; its fur trimmed hood lay across her shoulders. She'd changed her hiking shoes for knee-high snow boots and had a large, red ski patrol duffel hung over one shoulder. When she got close enough, she shoved a forest-green parka and a pair of boots at him.
"What size shoe do you wear?" she asked as she opened the Impala's back door and threw the duffel inside.
"Ten, ten and half. Abby, I have a coat."
"Perfect, put the boots on. There are wool socks inside them." Her motions like her words were clipped and efficient. "Your coat's not near warm enough for where we're going, Dean." She walked around to the passenger side door and waited.
He hesitated only a moment then tossed the book onto the front seat and took off his leather coat. "Whose stuff is this anyway?" He took the Beretta and the cell out of his coat pocket and laid them on the driver's seat.
"Poppa's," she answered from inside the car. "He'd be happy you're hunting with it."
The parka was still warm from the house. It felt like armor when he zipped himself into it. As Dean reached into the car and picked up the Beretta with his right hand, Abby grabbed his other wrist and slapped a perfume bottle into his palm.
"Be careful where you point that thing," she said.
He knew she wasn't just talking about the sleeping potion. Dean nodded. "No worries."
As he dropped on to the edge of the seat Abby whisked the old book out from under him just in time. She leafed through it while he kicked off his shoes and dug the thick wool socks out of the boots. "Boots are a little loose."
"That's good." She didn't lift her eyes from the book. "Better too loose than too tight. You gotta have good circulation."
He finished the last knot and wiggled his toes. Dean grimaced. Sam hadn't been wearing boots or wool socks. Stop!
Dean put the key in the ignition. It felt good to be back in his car. Part of him wanted to give his baby a chance to prove herself on the high mountain roads. But not tonight, he wouldn't take even the slightest risk. He turned the key. The car roared to life, unoffended by his prudence.
Liz met them at the front entrance to her building on the run. "Come on. We've got the Explorer all hitched up. A giant stepped out of the doorway behind her.
The man was about Dean's age, as tall as Sam, but at least 40 pounds of solid muscle heavier. He looked carved from marble with ebony skin and a still, focused demeanor that made him seem both formidable and gentle at the same time. He caught up to Liz in two giant steps and slowed her down with a hand laid gently on her shoulder.
"No need to run, girl." His voice rumbled out smooth and mellow as a drum roll.
"I wasn't runnin', I was just walkin' fast," Liz sniffed. She turned much like she had up in the apartment this morning and marched off expecting them to follow. Liz's husband, had to be, gestured Dean to step ahead of him.
Dean felt his shoulders tighten. He'd gotten a good look at the lettering on the blue duffel the big man carried, "CSPD", Colorado Springs Police Department? A cop. Married to a witch. Made about as much sense as everything else had in the past couple days. He tried to put a leash on his habitual hostility toward authority figures carrying guns. He was guilty of ten things in ten states for which Liz's husband could arrest him. Suddenly the weight of the Beretta dragged at his pocket.
Abby belatedly made introductions. "Dean, this is Liz's husband Daryl."
"Yeah, I figured that out." He looked back over his shoulder and the two men gave each other measuring looks.
At the back side of the building they stopped beside a huge black Ford Explorer. Muscle on wheels, V8 engine, all-wheel drive. Dean approved.
"This our ride into the mountains?" he asked.
Daryl tossed him the keys. "It'll get you there. You ever driven a snow mobile?"
"Nope. It anything like a jet ski?"
Dean had ridden one of those years ago. The memories were tangled up with a midnight lake party, an eighteen-year-old brunette, and losing his virginity, but he thought he could remember handling the jet ski too.
Daryl was a man of few words. A good thing; being married to Liz, he probably didn't need to talk much. She and Abby had a map spread out on the hood.
"…this trail? Ten miles up Gold Camp Road?" Liz pointed to a barely visible dotted red line.
"Right,” Abby said. “There aren't any signs, but if it's not snowing too bad up there, you'll be able to pick out the trail head. Follow us with the cavalry as soon as you get everybody together.”
"I'll follow," Daryl said firmly.
Liz spun on him, looking shocked as if this wasn't the second time today she'd been reminded that she couldn't come along. She turned back to Abby pouting and engulfed her in a hug.
"You're gonna be fine, girl."
"I know," Abby said.
Liz gave Dean a hard look. A momma bear glower fleeting across her face. "You two watch each other's backs. Just kick some butt and come home safe."
"We will," they chorused; obedient soldiers.
"And Sam's gonna be fine too. He has to be. He owes us a baby-shower gift." With that parting shot and a nod from Daryl, Liz stepped back to lean into her husband's solid frame.
"Do you know how to handle a car in the snow?" Abby asked leaning in the window after Dean beat her to the SUV’s driver's seat and slammed the door.
"Are you kidding? Kansas boy." He jabbed a thumb at his chest. Her scowl told him that she wasn't convinced. "Have you ever driven across Kansas at night in a blizzard?"
"No," she admitted.
"Well I have; more than once. In this monster a sixteen-year-old girl could do it. Now get in and navigate. Please."
They were on their way.