Dean had recovered some of his composure by the time they approached the house. The Tweeds had a tight grip on his arms but he didn’t bother resisting. The knife wound in his side was hurting like hell, it was bleeding again and he really didn’t need any more pain.
Now he’d gotten a good view of the house he could appreciate the size of it. It was on three levels with wings running off to the left and right of the main building. The whole structure was made from a light, sandstone block and it was weathered and old. He was led along the gravel driveway and towards the main entrance. As they were going up the steps to the doors he noticed words engraved in the stone arch above them.
It wasn’t much to go on, seemed obvious considering the house stood right next to a pine forest but it was the first real clue to his whereabouts. They crossed the entrance lobby he’d seen earlier and the Tweeds escorted him down a plush hallway, stopping outside a door halfway along. One of them knocked, stuck his head into the room and exchanged a few words with somebody inside. He nodded at his buddy and Dean was pushed inside.
It looked like a high class office with panelled walls, expensive carpeting and polished wood furniture. Dennis Yates was sitting behind a mahogany desk, typing something on a laptop computer. He was wearing a fine, auburn-coloured suit and embroidered on the pocket of his blazer was the same symbol they all wore on their signet rings. He glanced up as Dean was shoved into a chair opposite the desk.
“You didn’t care for our hospitality? We went to enormous efforts…”
Dean shrugged. “What can I say? Bondage is over-rated.”
Yates arched an eyebrow. “That’s not the way I heard it.”
Dean coughed and squirmed, unable to hide his embarrassment. “That Destiny chick ain’t exactly reliable. Why do you keep her jacked up like that?”
“She prefers it that way.”
Yates sounded on the level and it took Dean by surprise. He pondered the implications for a moment before something more pressing occurred to him. “Why’d you stop doping me?”
Yates smiled enigmatically. “We need you alert. It’s more entertaining.”
One of the Tweeds sniggered. Dean didn’t like the way this was going and he tried to get up. Two heavy hands landed on his shoulders and slammed him back onto the chair. He eyed Yates cautiously.
“So you gonna connect the dots? Tell me what the hell I’m doing here?”
Yates gazed at him for a long moment. He seemed to be considering something. “Do you know today’s date?”
Dean shrugged. “I’ve been a little busy tripping the light fantastic.”
Yates continued as though he hadn’t spoken. “It’s September twenty first; the autumn equinox and Feast of Avalon. Once it was a time to give thanks to the harvest gods for good crops; seek their blessings for the planting year ahead. Now it’s an excuse for neo-hippies to celebrate Mabon and slide down greasy poles in their panties. Meanwhile in the lower forty eight, middle aged men open their wallets for Harvest Home; a worthy, Christian cause.”
Dean smirked. “I bet they’d rather watch the hippies.”
One of the Tweeds cuffed him round the head but Dean barely felt it; he was busy doing the math. He remembered getting to Rising Sun on September 18th which meant he’d been locked up here for three days. He couldn’t account for most of that time which was worrying enough, but why in hell hadn’t Sam found him yet?
Yates was watching him disapprovingly. “If you want answers I suggest you keep your mouth shut and listen. We prefer to do things the old fashioned way and our God, Dionysus, is going to get a proper tribute.”
Dean knew something about Dionysus from the lore books. “The god of good times, huh? He’s losing his touch because I’ve gotta tell you, pal; this party blows.”
That earned him a harder cuff and Yates frowned.
“This year our God was displeased with his devout followers and the grapes failed. We were compelled to ask ourselves not only how we disappointed him, but what we should do to appease him and earn his blessing.”
He smiled smugly. “We answered those questions as tradition dictates. Next year he’ll repay our devotion with bountiful harvests. He’ll reward us with gifts, favours and…”
Dean couldn’t believe he was hearing this bullshit. “Did you just read that off an idiot board?”
Yates was getting riled, which is what he was shooting for. “Watch your manners, boy. Didn’t your mother teach you anything?”
The mention of his mom made Dean smart but he wasn’t about to drag something so precious into this sorry conversation. Yates looked ready to pick up the tedious monologue again and he got in first.
“Enough with the never ending story; I get the picture. Suck up to the gay god of booze, claim a free butt plug, right?”
Yates jerked his head at the Tweeds and a fist landed in Dean’s guts. He wasn’t ready for it, which made it even worse. He doubled up in pain, struggling for breath and trying not to puke. Yates waited patiently for him to recover then continued as though nothing had happened.
“Dionysus demands we offer something special in return for his blessing. We’re honoured to be giving it to him.”
Dean knew what was coming. Last time he’d wound up as an offering to some insignificant god was six years ago. That was in Indiana as well.
“We’re talking sacrifice, right?” He sighed heavily. “Not this crap again. Tell me it doesn’t involve friggin’ apples?”
Yates looked at him with pity. “Tell me you know the difference between wine and cider?”
Dean just shook his head, incredulous. “Don’t you morons ever get tired of spreading ‘em for gods who can’t get it up anymore?”
Yates held up a finger to silence him. “You’re astute, Dean, I give you that. I suppose everybody’s got one redeeming feature and you’re quite correct, tonight we’ll be making a blood sacrifice. Unfortunately for you it’s going to be… you.”
“Gee, I never saw that coming.”
Yates ignored the sarcasm. “We don’t enjoy taking life, even one as miserable as yours, which is why we tried to make your final days on earth enjoyable.”
Dean snorted. “Bullshit. You were fattening me up for the kill.”
“Think whatever you like, Dean; but our God is very specific. It has to be you.”
“Because I’m special?” Dean didn’t get it. “How am I special?”
Yates smiled. “You’ve been to Hell, son. As sacrifices go that carries one hell of a kick.”
Dean was stunned. He hadn’t seen that one coming. “You know about that?”
Yates shrugged. “Doesn’t everybody?”
Dean stared at him. None of this made any sense. “It wasn’t your Hell.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Dean was shaken. How did this bastard know about Hell? Who had he been talking to, who was he working with? He tried not to let on how rattled he felt but Yates read him like a dime novel.
“You’re wondering how we know so much about it? You happen to be sitting in the headquarters of an exclusive, well-connected wine club and we have fingers in every pie.”
“Only in the pie?” Dean smirked. “You’re telling me there’s no freaky rituals, secret hazing dungeons, grown dudes dressed in diapers…?”
Yates looked seriously pissed now. Dean knew he was going to regret it but he was on a roll. “This ain’t no wine club, buddy; it’s a minor league cult.”
This time he was punched in the mouth, hard enough to knock him off the chair. The Tweeds scraped him off the carpet and shoved him back into his seat. Yates watched impassively.
“Do yourself a favour, Dean. Shut up.”
Dean wiped blood off his chin. “It won’t work.”
Yates seemed amused now. “Really?”
“I’ve crossed paths with your so-called gods. They were total douche nozzles but you know what else? They were weak. Nothing but pathetic, bickering assholes; swinging their dicks and jonesing for the good old days.”
Yates nodded sagely, completely unaffected by his words. Dean laid it on thicker.
“There’s a bigger game in town and that’s where the real action’s going down. Your bitch Dionysus ain’t got enough juice even for the buy in.”
“You’re the juice, son.” Yates sounded bored and had the audacity to look at his watch. Dean glowered at him.
“Which part of won’t work are you having trouble with, numb nuts?”
Yates waved his hand dismissively. “Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt, shall we? You’re top of the bill tonight, Dean and I don’t intend to disappoint the crowd. Doors are at midnight.”
Dean smirked. “Dionysus is big on cheesy clichés, huh?”
Yates nodded at the Tweeds and they yanked him to his feet. The blow to his right kidney was hard enough to drop him and he landed on his knees, incapacitated by pain. He heard Yates’ voice from somewhere above him.
“Take him to the green room.”
He was deHe dragged from the office. Most of Dean’s attention was occupied with the screaming agony in his lower back, but he was aware of being pulled through a maze of halls, passages and finally down a stone flight of stairs. They wound up in a cavernous, subterranean room with a high ceiling. Wooden barrels and racks of bottles stretched in all directions and there was a distinctive smell of booze. Apparently they’d reached Pine House’s well stocked wine cellar.
There was a pair of dark oak doors at the far end of the room and both had the familiar symbol carved into them. Based on his new intel, Dean figured it was some kind of logo for Dionysus. He was dragged close enough to see intricate texts adorning the ancient wood but then the Tweeds peeled off to the right. There was a small door set into the wall and they opened it and shoved Dean through with so much force he nearly fell over.
A powerful light was switched on revealing a tiny, bare room. The walls and floor were made of stone, there was no window, it smelled musty and it was damned cold. It reminded Dean of a tomb. A second later the door slammed closed and he heard bolts being shot into place. The light was switched off, plunging him into total darkness.
He slumped against the wall, feeling like death warmed over.