Sam released the choke hold when he felt Dean go limp. He was sweating, short of breath and his body was throbbing in the dozen or so places his brother’s elbows and fists had connected with blunt force. He rolled Dean onto his back, felt for a heartbeat and found it immediately; strong and way too fast. Dean wasn’t far under; Sam could see his eyes moving rapidly beneath his lids; the drugs messing with him even in unconsciousness. It wouldn’t take long for him to come round and Sam took the brief opportunity to collect his scrambled thoughts, try to formulate a plan of action.
He came up empty. The only way to subdue Dean was keep doing what he’d just done and it wouldn’t be nearly as easy next time. Dean was going to wake up confused, ferocious, mad as hell and Sam’s guts quaked at the prospect. He couldn’t keep this up for an half an hour or more and the only solace his panicked mind could find was Bobby and his crew. They might be close but was that really good enough? Neither Winchester had the luxury of time any more.
He tried to assess Dean’s condition as he considered their limited options. It wasn’t just his brother’s leg bleeding now; the ferocity of the recent struggle had torn the stitches in his side and the gash was leaking again. As Sam watched blood drip into the dirt, the bleakness of their situation hit him hard. Even if they got out of this mess, Dean would need professional medical care and weeks to mend. Overcoming the psychological effects of the drugs could take a damned sight longer, if he recovered at all. As he contemplated what that meant for them both, Sam felt the stirrings of an unnatural yet familiar anger.
Something slammed his skull with force enough to send him sprawling in the dirt and he clamped his hands to his head, writhing in agony. The vision started a moment later; shaky at first, like a movie projector cranking up to speed before popping into full HD. He’d experienced enough of the damned things to know what was coming next, though anticipating the pain didn’t lessen it any.
He watched three beat-up trucks skid to a halt inside the carnival ground, tyres spinning and sliding in the mud. A swarm of men jumped out and Sam recognised Bobby, Tim, Brody, a few of Bobby’s buddies and a couple of faces from Harvelle’s. There were nine in total and they split into three groups. Tim Matthews had a cell phone clamped to his ear and he hurried towards the storehouse on his own. Brody, Jack Saunders and Red Keenan headed for the carousel at a run while Bobby led the remaining four men towards the Wall of Death. They were all carrying pump action shotguns and the precise, organised way they were moving implied this was a careful plan in the process of execution. They climbed the rickety stairs single file, Bobby taking point, fanned out when they reached the gallery and trained their weapons on the gang.
The gang, however, were one step ahead. Nathan, Toby and Ed were spaced round the circumference of the gallery, watchful and tense; their guns were all pointed into the pit. Suzie was beside a tall, weasel-faced man and didn’t seem fazed by the invasion at all.
“I knew there was a rat on board. Who sold us out?”
“Does it matter?” Bobby’s tone was contemptuous but she ignored him. She was eyeing the other men curiously.
“Friends of the Winchesters? Looks like they need a few more buddies.”
“This is the advance party and the only way out is through us.” Bobby jerked his head towards the stairs. “You’ll find more artillery at the bottom.”
“You mean it’s a trap?” Suzie’s voice practically dripped sarcasm. “Call me slow off the mark, but who gave you controlling stakes?”
Bobby responded by hefting his pump action. “Eight rounds of lead shot makes me a majority shareholder, sweetheart. You really want this to turn into a free for all?”
“All you’ve got is hot air, gramps. Why don’t you take a peek into the pit and see what’s what.”
Bobby hesitated, eying her warily before stepping forward and peering over the guard rail. His face went tight with anger as he took in the scene below and Suzie’s voice carried a hint of triumph.
“Stand down or those boys don’t see another sunrise.”
Nathan shouted from across the gallery. “Play ball, Singer; I’ve got ‘em right in my sights.”
Bobby scowled; a tick working in his jaw as he weighed the situation. Finally he shook his head. “Kill ‘em and your only bargaining chip’s down the crapper. We’ve got superior firepower and we ain’t taking prisoners.”
“Neither are we, old man.” Suzie nodded at Nathan. “Shoot Dean.”
“My fucking pleasure.”
The blast of the shotgun echoed round the pit. Nathan’s ruthless expression didn’t falter as he shucked the weapon again; neither did his aim. As the final echoes died away, Suzie spoke into the stunned silence.
“If you want Sam alive, drop your guns.”
Sam jolted back into the real world, wondering if he’d screamed or not. The vision had been so real, so damned close a part of him was convinced it had really happened. He sat up fast, looking round in panic for his brother and found Dean where he’d left him; pale, unconscious but definitely alive.
Sam’s head felt like it was splitting in two, his heart was pumping fit to burst and his guts were rolling ominously. He felt disjointed and disoriented; the way he always did after a vision and it was a mammoth effort to pull his wits together and stumble to his feet. A second after that he was doubled up, trying not to puke as mocking laughter came from above. He stared into the gallery through watering eyes.
They were all there; Nathan, Toby, Ed, Suzie, the skinny guy but the guns were out of sight. For the moment at least, all they cared about was their warped entertainment.
“Clever tactic, Sam.” Suzie’s voice held grudging respect. “Looks like you took some damage, though. Think you can hold your brother off for another half hour?”
Sam scowled. “Screw you, bitch.”
“Sticks and stones, honey; we’ve got all the time in the world.”
That’s what you think.
Sam smirked but it died on his face as he recalled the shocking finale of his vision. The tainted anger he’d felt right before it was still present though and now it was intensifying, consolidating and he worked at coaxing it from the darkness of his subconscious. Suzie wasn’t getting the last word here; she didn’t get to shoot his brother and walk away; not after everything she’d done…
There was something off with Sam’s perception; everything felt musty and decayed; yellow round the edges like age worn newspaper. There was a stench of sulphur in his nostrils and his ears were ringing. He could feel the psychic power pricking across the surface of his skin like static aftershock and it resonated in time with his heart. He understood this force was a part of him, his to nurture and control. Right now he only needed someplace to focus it.
He eyed the door to the pit. He could open it in an instant, charge up the stairs and confront the gang head on. Or he could simply make a run for it… Both options meant leaving Dean alone and vulnerable, which made both of them untenable.
Like he was synchronised with Sam’s conflict, Dean chose that moment to stir and moan; fragments of gibberish spilling from his lips. Sam knelt beside him, murmuring soothing words which he could neither hear nor understand. A third option was employ this power to subdue his brother, but he’d only learned enough to use it as a mono-directional force. While he was focussed on Dean, he couldn’t prevent everything else going down just as he’d seen in the vision...
Sam cursed with frustration and Dean growled in unison. What they needed was Bobby; right here and now and he looked into the gallery desperately, wondering what kind of time lag he was dealing with.
As though he’d willed it, and maybe he had, the ringing in his ears stopped abruptly. Now he could hear everything with super clarity: tyres spinning in mud, the rumble of engines, doors closing and voices conferring. Finally he heard the quiet tread of feet on rickety stairs.
This wasn’t another vision; this was happening in real time. He realised that when the gang started moving. They may not have heard Bobby’s arrival with Sam’s dog ears, but they knew something was wrong. There was frenetic activity as Nathan, Toby and Ed spread themselves round the gallery, standing exactly where Sam had seen them in the vision. Three guns swung over the guard rail, all aimed at himself and Dean.
He could hear Bobby talking with Suzie, heard his brusque threat and her smug rejoinder then Bobby appeared at the rail, face tightening as he got a look at Dean. Sam stood up fast, his mind clearing rapidly. Finally he knew what he had to do and how to do it. He turned to face Nathan.
As Nathan ordered Bobby to disarm the supernatural energy spiked sharply. He squeezed the trigger, the shotgun discharged with a roar but it didn’t ravage Dean’s body. Instead the whole rig backfired, sending shot and shards of red hot metal into Nathan’s face. He staggered backwards, screaming. Sam didn’t care if he was dead or not. He hoped he was.
He sensed, rather than saw Toby’s shock and quick recovery. The energy spiked again as Toby took his shot and the gun jammed with a dull click. Sam felt another threat and swung round, seeking Ed and finding him quickly. Ed had his gun propped awkwardly on the guard rail; he was trying to aim one handed and the sight would have been comical in better circumstances. As the energy pulsed a third time, the metal of Ed’s gun burned red. He dropped it into the pit with a yelp as all hell broke loose in the gallery.
There was yelling, shooting and several bullets ricocheted round the pit. Sam knew he was safe; the power would protect him but Dean was a sitting target. He threw himself on top of his brother, using body and mind to shield them as the scene above played out. He was so focussed on keeping the force where he needed it that he lost track of everything else. When it ebbed and finally dissipated he was too exhausted to move. He lay still, listening to the pounding of Dean’s heart, the eerie silence in the pit and nearly jumped out of his skin when Bobby’s gruff voice sounded right beside his ear.
“Now ain’t the time to be napping, boy.”
Sam rolled over in a hurry. Bobby still had his shotgun but he was holding it loose and casual now. There was a gash across his forehead, he’d lost his baseball cap in the fray and his hair was sticking out in all directions. It was one of the best sights Sam had ever seen.
“Bobby? Is everything… I mean, are we…?”
“You’re safe, son.” Bobby offered a hand and hauled Sam to his feet, scrutinising him closely. “You okay? Looks like you went five rounds with Ali.”
“I’m fine, but Dean…”
They both gazed at the bloody figure on the ground and Bobby’s breath hitched sharply. “What happened to him? Those assholes upstairs weren’t exactly forthcoming.”
Where in the name of God did he start? Sam gazed round the pit helplessly, scanning the men who’d come in with Bobby. Jack Saunders was there, three hunters he didn’t know by name and every eye was on Dean; expressions ranging from concern to outrage. Like he was picking up on all the attention, Dean’s eyes fluttered open. They were bleary, bloodshot and his pupils were wide as a camera lens on full exposure. He sat up slowly, stared round belligerently and a string of drool trickled down his chin.
“What’s wrong with him, Sam? Talk fast.” There was a note of foreboding in Bobby’s voice and Sam obliged.
“They shot him full of drugs and all he can see right now is demons. We need rope, cuffs, anything to restrain him…”
“Jesus Christ.” Bobby sounded appalled. “He’s hurt; bleeding… He’s your goddamned brother.”
“You think I don’t know that?” Anger and guilt turned Sam’s words harsh. They got Dean’s attention and his face split into a malicious grin.
“Still here, you yellow eyed bastard? Should’ve run when you had the chance.”
He tried to get up but his injured leg gave way and he landed back in the dirt, snarling. He tried again and Sam threw a desperate look at Bobby.
“He’s jacked up on PCP. He took a bullet in that leg eight hours ago and he can’t even feel it. We leave him like this and he’ll cripple himself.”
That piece of information convinced Bobby and he motioned at the other hunters. “Do it, and for Christ’s sakes go easy.”
The hunters had come prepared and everything they needed was at hand. Even with Dean’s drugged-up super strength, it didn’t take the four men long to cuff his hands behind his back and bind his arms and legs with rope. They stood back, giving him space and Sam flinched as his brother writhed on the ground. He was growling, cursing but he’d been expertly hog-tied and could barely move. Sam’s eyes were on his wounds, bleeding freely and Dean’s struggles weren’t helping any. Just as he’d decided to take his chances, get in close and attempt some field surgery, the drug-induced aggression passed.
Dean’s guttural threats gave way to silence, then to whimpers and moans. He was begging for mercy now, pleading with Sam to save him and his voice was raw with panic. God only knew what reality the drugs were inflicting, but it was scaring him shitless. Every instinct urged Sam to go to him, try to reassure him but as he moved forward he felt Bobby’s hand on his arm.
“How about we step outside?”
“I’m not leaving him like this, Bobby.”
“Then for his sake keep your distance; he won’t appreciate your ugly mug in his face.”
It was sound advice. Anybody approaching Dean would only distress him further, if they didn’t get their fingers bitten off, but they couldn’t stand round with their thumbs up their asses either. Bobby was tense and gnawing his lower lip.
“Do we risk the hospital?”
“Uh, let’s see…” Sam couldn’t keep the sarcasm from his voice. “He’s been shot twice, he’s hopped up on illegal drugs; he’s been starved and beaten half to death... Got a cover story for all that?”
Bobby shook his head wearily. “So we wait it out and let the drugs run their course? I don’t think he’s got that much time, Sam.”
Sam’s stomach twisted violently. It was one thing to have the suspicion roaming the badlands of his mind, another entirely to have a third party state it so bluntly.
“Tell me that bitch Suzie is still alive.”
“She’s outside with the string bean.” Bobby eyed him warily. “What are you thinking?”
Sam wrenched the shotgun from his grip and headed for the door. “You watch Dean and call me if anything changes. I’m counting on you, Bobby.”
He found the captives right outside the pit. Red Keenan had a .45 on them and Brody was hefting a rifle in a way which meant business. Another hunter was standing at the foot of the stairs, guarding the only way out of the building. Suzie’s expression was calm, defiant but her buddy looked about to piss himself. Sam jabbed the muzzle of his shotgun against her breast bone.
“Give me the antidote, bitch.”
She smirked at him. “Big bro not enjoying the ride so much?”
Sam shucked the gun and she jerked her head to one side. “Highball’s the chemist; ask him.”
Sam turned the gun on the man called Highball. “You did that? You pumped my brother full of crap and set him loose? What kind of sick bastard are you?”
Highball really did piss himself now and Sam caught the acrid whiff of ammonia. He wrinkled his nose and backed up a few steps.
“I only did what she wanted.” Highball’s voice was strained with terror. “She got the dope; I just mixed it. I swear to God…”
Suzie sneered. “That’s right, big man. Blame it on the chick.”
Sam jabbed the gun into Highball’s sternum. “Start talking. How do I help my brother?”
Highball shrugged. “Take him to the hospital?”
Sam stepped forward and smacked him in the face, hard enough to dislodge his glasses and rattle his teeth. “Wrong answer, asshole.”
Highball whimpered and his voice went up an octave. “That cocktail lasts an hour at most. It’ll take longer to find the drugs to bring him down.”
Suzie sniggered. “Best get back in there and enjoy the show, Sam.”
Sam turned away before he did something he’d regret. His finger was itching to pull the trigger, put Suzie out of her misery but then he’d be no better than her; a rabid dog acting on base instinct. He heard footsteps and saw Tim Matthews and Kate approaching. Tim was holding a pistol and his face was hard as rock. He brushed past Sam without a word and went into the pit. Kate stopped in front of her sister, studying her with a mix of pity and sadness.
“Enjoy the nut house, Suzie. They’ll like you there; it’s a whole new level of crazy.”
Suzie eyed her defiantly. “Selling me down the river? What happened to family ties?”
Kate laughed sourly. “Just so you know; it was me made the call to Singer. I chose the Winchesters over you so think on that in your padded cell.”
Suzie snorted. “The only thing you chose was Dean Winchester’s dick.”
“And when I get it, I’ll be sure and send a photo.”
Sam couldn’t believe they were discussing this. He was also certain nobody named Wandell would ever grace his brother’s bed. He grabbed Kate’s shoulder and pulled her away from Suzie.
“We need to clean up. The cops can’t find any evidence of us being here.”
Kate raised an eyebrow. “You’re calling the cops?”
“You got a better idea?”
Kate bit her lip but didn’t speak.
“We’ll tell them we heard shooting and… ” Sam glanced at Red Keenan. “Do we need an ambulance?”
Red shook his head. “Make it a meat wagon.”
He jerked his head towards the gallery and Sam got the message loud and clear. Nathan, Toby and Ed hadn’t made it but he couldn’t feel bad about that. Even if he was partly responsible for their deaths, the fuckers deserved it. They were the worst kind of sadistic scumbags and though killing humans didn’t usually sit easy with Sam, he could make exceptions where necessary. Something else which didn’t sit right was the bitch who’d engineered it all, cool as a friggin’ cucumber and wearing a sardonic grin.
“Nice plan, Sammy; let the cops deal with the fallout. That’s real brave of you.”
Sam ignored the jibe. “They’ll find you and Pissball here in the pit, along with a truckload of evidence. Neither of you will see daylight for a long time.”
“That ain’t happening.”
The new voice was hard, commanding and Sam turned in surprise. Tim was behind him, a pistol aimed at Suzie’s head and she was sneering at him.
“What say, Tim? Feel like a man with that junk in your hand?”
Tim scowled. “You don’t get to live, bitch. You don’t get to sweet talk some asshole judge and walk free. You need putting down.”
“And you’re the one to do that?”
Suzie sounded amused, like she thought Tim was bluffing but Sam felt his righteous rage with unexpected clarity. The psychic force had left some kind of afterglow because now he could sense emotions with precision. He felt Tim’s underlying guilt, Kate’s confusion, Dean’s terror, Bobby’s anxiety and more. There were levels and layers of it but closest and most chilling was the whirling black hole of Suzie’s mind. It was cold, crazy, disturbing and he pulled away quickly; afraid of being sucked into the vortex. He snapped back to reality with an effort.
“You don’t need to do this, Tim.”
Tim stared at him. “After everything she did to Dean?”
“He’s my brother and if there’s vengeance on the table it belongs to me.”
Tim shook his head. “You haven’t got the balls. Dean saved my ass and I owe him this.”
“Dean wouldn’t want this…” Sam moved forward but Tim got between himself and Suzie. She watched him without fear.
“We’re all going to Hell, dumbass. Guess I’ll see you there.”
“Don’t bet on it.” Tim thumbed back the trigger. “You’re headed for the deepest level; full ninth circle. Say howdy to Lucifer.”
The bullet hit her right between the eyes, knocked her backwards in a spray of blood and bone. She was dead before she hit the ground but the only person who screamed was Highball. Tim spat on the floor.
“That’s for Dean Winchester, bitch.”
Red Keenan eyed Suzie’s body and sniffed.
“Think you just picked up a few Jesus points there, Matthews.”