IN VINO VERITAS

Chapter 10

Dean’s reality had shrunk to the size of a bed; things happened to him and around him but they were hazy and unreal. Destiny brought him food and water but no more wine. She revved him up and rode him hard whenever he was alert enough to respond, which wasn’t helping his recovery any, but Dean couldn’t tell the difference between wakefulness and sleep anymore. Day and night blurred into one but he was too doped up to do anything about it. One time he became aware of men in the room, discussing him while a doctor checked him over and tried to stick a needle in his arm. He realised that’s how they were drugging him when he resisted; he was pinned down and the injection administered forcibly.

When he finally woke with a relatively clear head Dean thought he was still dreaming. Everything seemed sharp, intense and super-real though he was still in the same room, alone and shackled to the bed. He prodded at the bandage on his side, to get a perspective on reality and the pain proved too real for any of this to be a delusion. The wound was still fresh and raw enough to inform him he probably hadn’t been here as long as it might have seemed.

Outside it was daytime, the sky its customary shade of gunmetal grey and it was raining. No surprises there, but it all added to Dean’s uncertainty and he shook his head in irritation. It didn’t matter how long he’d been here, what mattered was getting out. One of his many waking dreams filtered back and he seemed to recall lifting a hairpin from Destiny. He felt under the mattress, certain he’d imagined it and was surprised to find it tucked securely in the fabric.

Now he was getting somewhere. Dean sat up; riding the rush of vertigo then picked the lock on the cuff in a minute flat. He got out of bed gingerly, conscious of his various injuries and stood slowly, testing his legs. They seemed to be working okay and he crossed to the windows. His view from the bed had been limited and all he’d seen was trees; now he could see a long lawn stretching towards a pine forest and that’s where he needed to be. He was certain he could lose any pursuers in the trees, easy as that, once he found a way down there.

He was still clad only in boxers but they’d changed colour on him. An abstract memory involving a bed bath crept up and he forced it away; he didn’t want to think about that, ever. He found his clothes on a chair by the fire; washed and pressed but ripped and bearing faint bloodstains. When he went through his pockets there was nothing in them; he’d been totally cleaned out. He dressed quickly; welcoming the feeling of empowerment it gave him, then discovered the en-suite bathroom.

He stared at himself in the mirror for a while before admitting he looked like shit. There were bruises all over his face, a bandage taped across his forehead and his skin was way too pale. His eyes were bloodshot and his pupils were the size of friggin’ quarters. Whatever drug they’d been using was still in his bloodstream and he promptly stuck his head under the cold faucet. He gasped as icy water shocked his system awake but stayed under until his ears went numb. It seemed to do the trick though; chasing the last remnants of fog from his brain.

Dean approached the bedroom door cautiously. He knew it was kept locked and listened intently for sounds of anybody standing guard outside. He couldn’t be certain he was alone but had to take the risk. He turned to his trusty hairpin, quietly picked the lock then pulled the door open fast, ready to attack. There was nobody out there and he peered up and down a broad, panelled hall, as plush and ornate as the bedroom. If Dean didn’t know better he’d be putting this down as a seriously high class yoga retreat. Sam would love it.

He crept down the hall, grateful for the deep pile carpet which absorbed the sound of his footsteps, every sense straining for signs of threat or danger. He came to the top of a vast oak staircase which overlooked an extravagant entrance lobby and stood for a while, listening hard. All he could hear was the tick of the grandfather clock beside him and its face showed him the time was just after 4.15. A couple of minutes later he made his move, going down the stairs fast and bent almost double. At the bottom he took cover below the staircase and surveyed the lobby. Two huge doors opened onto a gravel driveway, clearly the main entrance to the house but instinct told Dean that wasn’t the way to go. There were a couple of expensive cars out there, which might mean drivers and he needed to find someplace less obvious to make his break.

A chance presented itself when he heard a bang somewhere in the depths of the house. Shortly after a man in chef’s whites opened a door into the lobby, walked briskly across it and vanished down a hallway. Dean was tempted to follow, try and find out exactly where he was being held but he could do that from the safety of a computer in a different state. Right now he had to focus on getting the hell out.

He darted across the lobby and ducked through the same door the chef had used. He followed a narrow corridor which finished at a set of metal swing doors. He looked through one of the portholes and discovered a kitchen on the other side, though it wasn’t a regular one. This looked like something you’d find in a successful restaurant; all stainless steel and white tiles, so clean you could eat dinner off the floor. There were pots and pans bubbling on top of industrial ranges and a variety of exotic smells reached Dean’s nose. His mouth watered; whatever was cooking in there smelled fantastic. There was also enough of it to feed a football stadium.

The place seemed empty but Dean was aware the chef might be back at any time. He spotted a glass door on the other side of the room; it opened into the yard and seemed like the perfect exit route. He was halfway towards it when a man’s voice stopped him in his tracks.

“What are you doing here?”

He didn’t sound hostile, only curious and Dean turned slowly. He found himself looking at a short, chubby guy in a chequered apron and hat. He was holding a frying pan and Dean was uncomfortably aware of the damage something like that could do. He forced a smile onto his face.

“I followed my nose. This stuff smells pretty good.”

“This is the commercial kitchen; staff don’t come here to eat.” The man’s brow furrowed. “Do I know you?”

Dean approached him casually, still smiling. “I’m new. Still haven’t gotten my head round all the rules, you know?”

The man’s eyes flickered across his face and up to the bandage on his head. His suspicion was obvious but also far too late. Dean punched him right on the jaw and he staggered and went down hard. The frying pan hit the deck with an echoing crash and Dean cursed. Everybody would have heard that.

He ran for the kitchen door and threw back the bolts. There was a few hundred yards of lawn between the house and the treeline and he’d need to be damned quick if he went that way. As he was contemplating sneaking round the edge of the house, trying for a less exposed route into the forest he heard voices approaching. Now he had no choice.

He yanked the door open and nearly jumped out of his skin as an alarm went off; so friggin’ loud he was sure they’d hear it in the next state. The approaching voices started shouting and Dean took off.

He sprinted across the lawn, taking the shortest line towards the forest. His legs were willing but they weren’t moving as quickly as he needed. The grass was wet and slippery; hindering his progress and heavy rain was lashing into his face, almost blinding him on occasion. Pain lanced his side every time he brought his left foot down and he could still hear men yelling. That helped spur him onwards but he was slowing down and struggling for breath. His heart was pounding and his lungs burning; he was getting dizzy but to hell with it. Sheer, bloody determination would get him where he needed to be.

He was approaching the trees when he heard barking. Since his stint in Hell, Dean had grown to hate that sound and he threw a panicky glance over his shoulder. The two Rottweilers chasing him down definitely weren’t hellhounds; they were visible for a start, but the sight terrified him. Whatever residual drug was still in his system sharpened the dread and for a moment he was flat on his back in New Harmony, clinging to the last dregs of life as razor sharp teeth and vicious jaws ripped him apart.

Dean forced the memory back into the hole where he kept it locked. It wasn’t real, not this time but the moment’s distraction was enough to make him loose his footing. He slipped, went down hard and seconds later the dogs were on him. They growled and circled but didn’t attack, which was a small mercy. Dean saw two men approaching and as they got close, he recognised them as The Tweeds. Dennis Yates’ personal thugs. He tried to get up and one of the dogs seized his lower leg in its jaws. It didn’t bite, but applied enough pressure to let him know this was a first and final warning. The bastard was well trained.

The Tweeds arrived, panting hard and for a surreal moment Dean found himself scrutinised by four faces. Two human, two canine. It was beyond comic and he couldn’t help himself.

“You know something? You’re all ugly sons of bitches.”

One of the Tweeds kicked him in the ribs. “Shut the fuck up, Winchester. I’ve got better things to do than chase you down in the rain.”

Dean sneered. “Like pressing flowers with your ugly sister here? Sorry Cinders, I ain’t sitting round like a dick while you jack me up and crank your shank.”

That earned him another kick. This one connected with the wound in his side and Dean knew it wasn’t accidental. He felt some of the stiches tear and he grimaced and swore. The other Tweed squatted low and punched him in the mouth.

“You’re one dumb son of a bitch. We tried to make it easy, but you still had to do things your way.”

A second blow connected with Dean’s cheekbone. “Got anything else to say, wise ass?”

Dean squinted through watering eyes and it was a real effort to speak. “You thought I was gonna roll over and play dead?”

The Tweed laughed. “No sweet cheeks. That comes later.”

They yanked him to his feet and dragged him back to the house.



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