on a camping chair
and watched Nathan Jones go through the pockets of his coat. His wallet,
switchblade and cell phone were tossed onto the table and Nathan grinned as he
removed the SIM card from the phone.
“Don’t need that pesky GPS tracking, do we?”
Sam answered flatly. “Eat me.”
The grin widened. “Smart mouth runs in the family, don’t it?”
He finished his search and tossed the coat aside. Sam frowned; he was certain Nathan had missed something. Realisation hit him like a freight train and he cursed silently. Where were the damned pills?
He worked it out in a heartbeat. Dean with all those friggin’ bags at the gas station, the quick dash to the men’s room… For all his glib assurances and easy promises, he was still using and he’d lifted that bottle like a conniving junkie. His brother was high as a kite, which explained his dumbass jibes towards Toby and lack of pain when he paid for them. God only knew what hole he was digging for himself next door.
Sam had seen a group of people waiting in the barn as Dean was shoved out, listened to voices coming through the closed door but couldn’t make out anything specific. He’d heard Dean shouting a minute ago, which meant he was at least conscious, then everything went quiet.
Nathan sat in the chair opposite and levelled the shotgun. Sam gazed at him coolly.
“What are we doing”
Sam cocked an eyebrow. “Hallowe’en or Thanksgiving?”
Nathan leaned forward and jabbed him with the gun’s muzzle.
“Speak when you’re spoken to.”
Sam shut up and waited. He didn’t wait long before Toby came back into the room accompanied by a young, dark haired woman. He craned his neck to see into the barn through the open door, but there was no sign of Dean or anybody else. The chick smiled.
“Don’t worry about your brother, Sammy. He’s doing fine.”
“It’s Sam.” He scowled at her. “If you hurt him I’ll rip your fucking lungs out.”
That only served to amuse her. “You Winchesters are so alike it’s downright scary.”
She motioned Nathan to vacate his seat, flopped down and scrutinised him closely.
“They say the camera never lies, but you’re so much finer in the flesh.”
Sam had no idea what she was talking about, since he spent most of his time actively avoiding cameras. She read his uncertainty.
“CCTV, Sam. Ring any bells?”
Sam’s stomach flipped. There was only one bell ringing in his head right now and it was deafening him. He played his best poker face.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
She grinned. “Come on, you knew you’d been papped. Why else would you total my old man’s computer?”
Sam stared at her, appalled, watching a smile play at her lips.
“That’s right, honey. I’m Suzie Wandell and it’s a real pleasure to meet the man who slit my daddy’s throat.”
This was worse than anything he could have imagined. Sam struggled to find the right words and failed miserably. “I can explain…”
She held up a finger to silence him. “No need. I saw what happened and I saw how you tried to cover it up.”
She dropped him a sly wink. “Word to the wise, Scooter, hard drives are tough little bastards. Next time you trash a computer, take a hammer to it, huh?”
Sam’s memories of the night in Steve Wandell’s house were sketchy at best. He’d been in shock after watching himself kill the hunter in cold blood, and Dean had done most of the cleaning up. He vaguely recalled his brother throwing the computer on the floor and putting his boot through it. If he’d been on his A game, rather than fighting dizziness and nausea, he’d have done the job properly. Not that he blamed Dean for any of it. Dean shouldn’t have been there, wouldn’t have been there if Sam hadn’t screwed up, run away and let his guard down.
Suzie picked up his switchblade, flicked it open and scratched at the scarred table top. Her voice was like treacle.
“Hunters cross each other all the time, it comes with the territory. We don’t play well together…”
She shot a glance from under her fringe.
“What did he do to piss you off, Sam? What was so bad you needed to ice an old man?”
Sam’s mouth was dry as dust. “It wasn’t me. I mean, it was me but I was possessed by a demon. She killed him for kicks.”
He shook his head, knew how lame that sounded. “She even had me…”
He pulled up sharply. She didn’t need to know what Meg had done to Dean, though Suzie didn’t seem bothered either way.
“I don’t especially care about the whys. You killed my daddy and now it’s time for payback.”
Sam’s heart was racing. “Fine. It’s me you wanted, you got me. Let Dean go, he had nothing to do with it.”
She laughed like he’d just made a killer joke. “You kidding me? Your brother’s the star turn in this show.”
Sam stared at her. “What the fuck?”
Suzie dug the switchblade harder into the table, scoring it deeply. She kept her eyes fixed on it as she spoke.
“The idea of watching your closest kin get butchered is bad enough, but to see it happen remotely, on a friggin’ computer screen is like hell. You want to do something, you need to protect them but all you get to do is watch. You feel helpless, powerless, responsible…”
Her voice tailed off as she struggled to contain her emotions. It came back hard and steady.
“You’re going to feel everything I felt, Sam. You’re going to watch Dean suffering… You might even get to see him die but you won’t be able to do a damned thing about it.”
Sam lifted his chin defiantly. “Don’t be so sure.”
Her expression had been guarded but now it was feral. The shutters lifted from her eyes and they flashed with something he recognised immediately.
“How long you been off your meds, Suzie?”
She responded by pulling a plastic bottle from her pocket.
“Let’s trade secrets. How long’s Dean been on these?”
She held up the painkillers and Sam shrugged, playing it casual.
“We keep ‘em around for emergencies. He was hungover to hell this morning; guess he needed something for the road.”
“Nothing to do with the shoulder, huh?”
She tucked the bottle away and glanced at Toby. “How long before lover boy's begging for these babies, huh?”
Toby sniggered and Sam felt a rush of anger. He fought the urge to jump up and attack, which would be a pointless, painful exercise. Instead he put as much threat into his voice as he could muster.
“The worse you make it for us, the worse it’ll be for you. You should remember that; especially you, psycho bitch.”
She laughed. “That’s just what big bro said. You fellers must be telepathic.”
She nodded at her two cohorts. “Take him to the car. I’ll finish up here.”
Her cell phone rang and she glanced at the caller ID before flipping it open. Her face turned stony and her voice dropped to a growl.
“Where the hell are you? You were supposed to meet us…”
Toby and Nathan grabbed Sam’s arms and hauled him upright. Suzie was talking again and she sounded pissed.
“I don’t care what else is going on. Nothing’s more important than this…”
She listened for a moment, tense and irritable.
“That’s bullshit. When I make a plan I see it through, you should know that by now…”
She noticed Sam staring and jerked an impatient thumb at the door. As the two men dragged him out of the room he caught the tail end of the conversation.
“I’ll text you the address of the new place. Get in your car and start driving now. Don’t make me come get you.”
Sam couldn’t begin to guess who was on the other end of the line, but it really didn’t matter if an extra hunter was about to join them. Whichever way you looked at it, he and Dean were royally screwed.
He was taken outside to the SUV. Nathan kept the shotgun on him while Toby unlocked the cuffs and pushed him into the front seat. He threaded them through the armrest on the door then re-cuffed Sam’s wrists in front of him. It was a short chain and there wasn’t enough slack for him to move his hands any more than an inch. He couldn’t even scratch his ass. Toby pulled a heavy canvas bag over his head and slammed the door shut. He heard footsteps in the gravel outside, felt the SUV rock on its suspension as the two men got inside and something hard tapped the back of his head. Nathan’s voice came from behind him.
“Just in case you get any ideas, shotgun’s right here.”
Sam quickly lost track of time. He attempted to memorise the route they were taking but wasn’t familiar enough with the area. He knew when they’d reached the interstate as the SUV picked up speed, but it wasn’t enough to go on. The bag over his head muffled sound and made it hard to breathe. It was hot, smelly, scratchy and soon became torturous. He knew he should be working on a plan but he couldn’t concentrate. He felt sick to his stomach, his mind looping on what might be happening to Dean and he couldn’t handle the images his mind was offering him.
All this was his fault and guilt was eating at him like a disease. His head began to spin and he really needed to puke. He controlled his breathing and got the unpleasant sensations under control by focussing on the moment. After that he stayed in the moment; he needed to save his strength for when it was really needed.
Not long afterwards the SUV slowed. It rolled along a bumpy, uneven surface for about half a mile and then pulled up. The engine was switched off and Nathan tapped the gun against Sam’s head again.
“Play nice, sonny.”
The cuff on his left wrist was removed briefly then re-attached. The bag stayed over his head as he was guided across rough terrain. Sam felt mud squelch under his boots, smelled rain on the air and wished to God he’d never left Colorado.
He was led up some squeaking stairs, which flexed alarmingly under his weight, then held in place while the cuffing process was repeated. Finally the bag was tugged from his head and he clamped his eyes shut against the harsh intrusion of light.
“Enjoy the view.”
Nathan and Toby took off and Sam gulped in cool air, savouring the freshness until an acrid smell invaded his nostrils and he grimaced. What was that? It smelled like Bobby’s scrapyard and he opened his eyes cautiously.
He was looking into a circular concrete pit which stood twenty feet high and measured roughly thirty feet in diameter. It was dank, gloomy and he was handcuffed to the metal guard rail which ran round the top of it. The pit was covered a large wooden shack which had seen much better days. The walls had once been brightly coloured but now the paint was faded, peeling and completely gone in some places. There were holes in the roof and Sam felt a light spray of rain on his face. He looked behind and saw rickety stairs leading down to a set of swing doors. One of them was half open but all he could see outside was a flat expanse of mud. He turned back to the pit, picking some bleached-out words from the upper section of concrete.
Wall of Death.
Now he knew where he was, understood why the smell of oil and gasoline was so ingrained in the place. This was an old carnival attraction. Once upon a time, men had ridden motorcycles round that pit, centripetal force holding them steady as the machines climbed high up the wall. An eager crowd at the top would cheer them, kids staring in wonder as though it were some kind of magic…
All magic had deserted this place long ago. Now it was just Sam, an over-ripe imagination and a belly full of dread. He yanked at the cuffs but the rail was solid as rock. He twisted his wrist enough to see his watch and discovered it was close to 4pm. It meant this place was approximately two and a half hours from North Platte but the information was of no use whatever. Sam had no clue where he was.
He gave up trying to escape after ten minutes then waited another twenty before feet tramped up the creaky stairs. Nathan had swapped his shotgun for a low calibre rifle and Toby was carrying something in a black leather case. Sam wasn’t sure he wanted to know what it was. Suzie was close behind them and a younger guy brought up the rear. He was about Dean’s age and build and Sam recognised him as a hunter called Tim Matthews. He was sure Dean worked a case with this dude a couple of years back.
The presence of so many hunters confused Sam. He understood Suzie’s animosity, it was her daddy got killed after all, but he couldn’t figure what axe the rest of them were grinding. He nodded at Tim and got a blank stare in return. Suzie sniggered.
“You’re not exactly flavour of the month round here.”
Tim was decidedly unhappy. “Suzie showed us what you done; I seen it with my own two eyes. Hunters ganking other hunters is plain wrong.”
There was a southern twang to his voice and Sam recalled he came from some hick town in Kentucky. He opened his mouth to contest the statement but Tim wasn’t done.
“You’ve gotta pay for what you did, man. It’s kinda sad because Dean, he’s a decent guy. He shouldn’t be suffering on your account.”
This time Sam embraced the white hot anger which swept through him like a flash flood. He yanked at the handcuffs viciously, trying to pull the guard rail from its moorings.
“Dean’s got nothing to do with this you son of a bitch. You got a problem with me, we’ll settle it man to man.”
Tim shook his head. “Don’t work like that.”
Sam snarled at him. “Fucking coward.”
Suzie was watching with keen interest. “You Winchester boys sure got some anger management issues.”
He glared at her. “You don’t know the half of it.”
She patted his shoulder. “Just simmer down, big guy; the fun’s about to start.”
Nathan cocked his rifle and held the weapon casually, but its barrel was pointing into the pit. Toby unzipped the case he was carrying and pulled out a video camera. That was pointed the same way and Sam stared in horror. Were the sick bastards about to shoot Dean and film it for kicks? The rifle looked like a .22, maybe not powerful enough to kill him outright at this range, but it would do plenty damage. Suzie’s eyes flashed with relish.
“You feeling it yet, Sammy?”
His attention was drawn back to the pit as a door in the wall banged open and Dean was shoved inside. His hands were cuffed behind his back and there were some new bruises on his face. Two men followed him in; hunters for sure. They were tough, grizzled customers with a distinct weight advantage. Tim scooted downstairs and moments later the door was pulled shut and locked, trapping all three inside.
Dean was looking around. He seemed nothing more than curious but when Sam shouted his name his head whipped up.
“Sammy? You okay? Did those fuckers hurt you?”
“I’m fine, Dean. They’ve got a rifle on you up here, looks like a .22.”
"Girl Scout gun." Dean snorted dismissively. “Who’s packing? I’m guessing it's that pussy Nathan.”
The butt of the rifle rammed into Sam’s ribs and there was nothing Girl Scout about it. Nathan’s voice was cool and business like.
“Open your trap again and I’ll shoot your brother in the leg. Got it?”
Sam nodded, all the wind knocked out of him. Nathan glanced at Suzie.
“We still waiting on someone?”
Suzie shook her head. “Screw her. The bitch can watch on playback.”
She called down into the pit.
“This is a warm up for you, Dean. See how you do in a fair fight.”
Sam stared at her, incredulous. “This is fair to you?”
She shrugged. “It’s the best odds he’s getting.”
Sam couldn’t even guess at the outcome of this contest. Dean was one of the best close combat fighters he’d ever seen; if this was him against two regular guys there would be no doubt in his mind. But Dean was jacked up on pills and hunters knew every dirty trick in the book. The odds weren’t looking good…
Suzie clapped her hands briskly. “Let’s get this party started.”
One of the hunters unlocked Dean’s handcuffs and dropped them to the floor. Dean rubbed his wrists as he sized up his opponents and began circling slowly. He took off his shirt, pulled his belt from its loops and coiled it tightly round his right hand. Finally he flashed them an insolent smile.
“Bring it on.”