The small town of Travers didn't boast anything better in motels. Sam always thought small towns should at least have nice motel rooms since they didn't have much of anything else. If they wanted the tourists to stay for more than a few hours before they ran away screaming from boredom, then they should do whatever they could to make them feel as comfortable as possible. As soon as Sam stepped into the motel room, he knew he wasn't going to get what he was hoping for.
The room, to simply put it, looked like crap. With it's drab cream (or what Sam imagined to be white so many years ago) walls, fading brown carpet, and window treatments he was sure came from the seventies, he'd stayed in much better. And those motel rooms were in towns that were way off the map, which made this one even worse. He supposed he shouldn't complain too much, because after all, he and Dean could be staying in a far worse place. At least the room had two decent beds, a dresser (though they never used it because their meager belongings remained in their bags), a small television, and what he hoped to be a decent bathroom.
Sam automatically put his bag on the bed furthest from the door, knowing Dean was never going to let him have the other. It was something Dean had always done, even when they were kids and they had to share a bed while their father got the other one. Dean had to sleep closest to the door because like he told Sam all those years ago, if something came into the room to get Sam, it would have to get through the older hunter first before it could get to him. Sam was grateful to have that barrier and protection and he wasn't sure if he'd ever thanked his brother for that.
Well, he wasn't about to do it now. There was no reason in the world to get sappy in the middle of the night—for one, Sam was too damn tired to put the energy into it and two, Dean would never let him live it down. Why even bother to give his brother ammunition to use against him?
Sam collapsed on the bed, exhausted. "You can have the shower first."
Dean smiled at his younger brother's sprawled form. "Good, I was going to take it anyway."
"You're welcome." He closed his eyes and heard the sound of running water after a couple of minutes. He didn't know how long Dean stayed in there before he felt the older man nudge his booted foot. Sam barely opened his eyes to see Dean standing at the foot of his bed, in nothing but a pair of boxers and a towel draped over his shoulders.
"You're up," Dean said as he ran a hand through his damp hair.
"Too tired," Sam murmured.
Dean shrugged. "Suit yourself." He threw the towel to the floor and grabbed the remote for the small television. He turned it on and began to run through the channels, seeing what the motel had to offer in the form of cable. "Where did you want to start tomorrow?"
This time Sam opened his eyes wider and let out a sigh. "I think we should go ahead and check out the Eclipse—run EMF and thermal scanner."
Dean glanced at Sam. "Wouldn't it be better if we did that at night?"
Sam threw up a hand, only to have it fall back to the bed. "I don't think it really matters. If this place is as haunted as everyone says, then it will be orbing like crazy no matter what time of day it is."
"Yeah, but it also makes it easier for someone to see what we're doing. With a town this small, you can be sure they'll recognize an outsider when they seen one and we really don't need the cops breathing down our necks."
Sam sighed in resignation. "Yeah, I guess you're right."
There was silence as in the room as Sam closed his eyes once more and Dean continued his channel surfing.
Dean chuckled a moment later. "That's what I'm talking about."
Praying it wasn't late-night porn, Sam opened an eye to see what had grabbed his brother's attention. "Oh, you've got to be kidding me," Sam groaned as he saw an old episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was airing.
Dean arched a brow. "What's wrong with this?"
"How can you watch this crap, Dean?"
The older Winchester nodded his head towards the television. "Dude, have you seen how hot this chick is?"
"It doesn't matter how hot she is, Dean. That show is so far from the truth, it's laughable. I mean, killing vampires by staking them through the heart with a piece of wood? One girl who is the only one who can save the world? It's ridiculous."
Dean turned up the volume. "You really are a killjoy, you know that?"
Sam smiled. "Yeah…I know I am."
Dean blinked his eyes rapidly as the morning light filtered in through the thinning, brown curtains. Groaning, he turned his head the other way while still maintaining a loose grip on his knife he kept under the pillow. It was the hunter's opinion that the sun was evil—what else could you call a big fiery ball of gas that had a nasty habit of waking you up way too early? If there was some way to banish the sun, Dean would have done it; but then again, that meant the end of the world and did he really want to deal with that on top of everything else?
He didn't know how long he stayed that way before finally conceding to the sunlight. There was just no way he was getting back to sleep. Opening his eyes to slits, he looked over and saw Sam was still sleeping soundly. Lucky bastard…
Pushing himself up to a sitting position, Dean stretched his joints until he heard several satisfying pops. He then grabbed his watch from the small dresser between the two beds and peered at the time—seven-fifteen. Definitely way too early to be up…the sun is definitely going to die for this. Sighing heavily, he got up from his bed and grabbed some clothes from his duffel. Slipping into the bathroom, he quietly changed. He didn't want to wake Sam if he could help it—it was a welcome change to see Sam sleeping so peacefully.
Usually his kid brother was the one who was up at the crack of dawn, though from his vantage point, Dean didn't see what was so damn special about this time of morning. Then again, the older man was sure if he had to deal with the freaky dreams and constant visions, he'd be an early riser as well. Dean guessed waking up served as an escape for Sam—the sooner he woke up, the sooner he could get away from constant nightmares.
Dean emerged from the bathroom about ten minutes later and looked over to see Sam still hadn't moved. Figuring he'd feel more like a morning person after he got some caffeine in his system, Dean grabbed up the key to the room and softly made his way out, taking care to lock the door behind him.
He wasn't really sure where he would be able to find a decent cup of coffee since Sam and he came into town so late. He had to admit, he didn't really pay attention to the scenery on the drive in—he'd only been concerned with finding a place for them to crash for the night. Now, as he took in the sights around him, he saw Travers was like any other typical small town. On either side of the two-lane street were sidewalks and small shops. There was a large park across from the motel and even this time in the morning people were starting to mill around.
Hearing excited squeals, Dean turned his head to see a group of children with backpacks running down the sidewalk towards a school that was a little ways down the street. A traffic cop was doing her best to keep traffic flowing and as she glanced up at him, he gave a small wave. He continued on his way to the office and was surprised to see the clerk from last night was still there.
"You're still here?"
Robbie smiled eagerly at him. "I'm actually about to get off in a few minutes. I'm just waiting for Brenda to get here."
Dean nodded. "Hey, can you tell me where I can get a cup of coffee around here?"
"Moe's Diner has the best in town." He nodded to a small diner that was in between a shoe store and a bank. "It's right there." He nervously picked at a speck of paint on the counter. "Look, I really want to apologize for my comment last night. I never wanted to make you feel uncomfortable and I'm sorry if I did."
Dean shook his head. "Don't worry about it—it happens to us all the time. I guess people have a hard time believing brothers still stick together."
"So, ya'll are brothers?"
"Yeah, Sammy's my kid brother."
Robbie began to toy with a thread hanging off his shirt. "So, uh…what brings you fellas to Travers?"
Dean studied the kid in front of him. He sure was asking a lot of questions, but he blamed it on natural curiosity. With a town this small, people became suspicious about anyone new who showed up and became protective of their territory. Finally, Dean figured it couldn't hurt to answer his question—with a lie of course. "We're from the Arkansas Times. We're doing a follow-up on the story about our colleague that was killed."
"The one over at the Eclipse?"
"You know about it?"
Robbie nodded enthusiastically. "Everyone around here knows about the Eclipse. It's the only thing that's put us on the map." The young man leaned forward conspiratorially. "You know they say the place is haunted?"
Dean feigned surprise. "Really?"
Another nod. "Oh, yeah. Jason said that was why that reporter was here."
Dean arched a brow. "Jason? This Jason have a last name?"
"Any idea where I can find him?"
"His dad owns Stewart Construction—he should be there."
Dean nodded and tapped his fist on the counter. "Thanks, Robbie." Dean was about to leave when another thought hit him. "Hey, can you tell me where I can find the Eclipse Hotel?"
Robbie smiled. "I can do better than that—I can show you, if you want me to."
Dean heard the eagerness in the kid's voice. It was almost as if he were desperate to come along, almost as if this would be the best thing that's happened to him in months. Dean recognized that loneliness—the vibes Robbie was giving off was leading the hunter to believe he was a loner of sorts. Dean didn't know what it could hurt to let him tag along, besides the fact Sam may not be too happy about it. Oh, well…it might do Sam some good to shake him up a little bit. "We're not gonna head out there right now, but I'll let you know when we do."
Robbie reached for a slip of paper and scribbled on it. Holding it out to Dean he said, "This is my number…you can call me anytime."
Dean took the paper and held it up. "Thanks."
Sam was just stepping out of the bathroom, a cloud of steam surrounding him, as Dean stepped into the room, a cup of coffee in each hand. "Hey, where have you been?"
Dean handed one of the paper cups to Sam. "I went out to get some coffee."
Sam seized the proffered beverage and took a tentative sip. "How long have you been up?"
Dean walked over to his bed and sat down on the edge. "About an hour, I guess."
"You couldn't sleep?"
"Sam, quit worrying—I'm fine." At Sam's raised eyebrows and pursed lips he added, "The sun woke me up. That's all, so drop it."
Sam held up a hand in mock surrender. "All right—whatever you say."
"Good." Dean took a long sip of his coffee. "So, I figured out what we could do until tonight."
Sam reached into his duffel and pulled out a plaid, buttoned-shirt. "What's that?"
"I talked to Robbie and he told me about the guy who was with the reporter when he was killed."
Sam frowned. "That's where you've been this entire time?"
Dean shrugged. "I went in there to ask where I could get some coffee. Since he's a local, I figured maybe he would know something. What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing." Sam couldn't tell Dean the clerk freaked him out just a bit. He didn't know what it was about him; something was a little off about the young man. He seemed a little too anxious when they showed up last night, but then again, maybe it was his imagination. That's what Dean would blame it on and Sam wasn't up for such a stupid argument so early in the morning. Sam decided to drop the subject. "So, what did he say?"
"He said the guy's name was Jason Stewart. We should be able to find him at his dad's construction office—Stewart Construction."
Sam buttoned up his shirt and nodded. "Let's get over there then."
It didn't take the Winchesters long to find the construction company, granted it was the only one in town. After getting directions from Brenda, the other motel clerk, Dean guided the car down the main street and turned left on Roberts Drive. Driving down a couple of blocks, an old red brick building with a sign reading STEWART CONSTRUCTION came into view. Dean glided smoothly into a parking space right in front of the door, and getting out as one, the brothers entered.
A woman with short, curly graying-brown hair stopped typing on a computer and looked at them through wire rimmed glasses. A plaque on her desk identified her as Carol Rivers. "Can I help you boys with something?" She smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes. If anything, she looked annoyed at being interrupted from her work.
Dean looked back at Sam and nodded. The psychic stepped forward, his most charming smile planted firmly on his face. Dean groaned inwardly as he saw Carol instantly warm to his brother.
"Hi, my name is Sam Stanley and this is my partner Dean Lewis. We're reporters from—"
The secretary became cold again. "Let me guess—the Arkansas Times?"
Sam raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Y—Yes," he faltered. "Is there something wrong?"
Carol sighed. "You're only about the third reporter from that newspaper this week. Don't you guys ever talk to each other?"
"It's a big newsroom," Dean said, smiling, but frowning as soon as Carol turned her glare onto him.
Sam smiled understandingly. "I want to apologize for all of the intrusions. I understand how incredibly busy you must be. We're just here to do a follow-up and we'll only need to speak to Jason for a few minutes."
"Young Mr. Stewart has answered all of your questions. He's troubled enough as it is about what happened the other night and you reporters and cops are only making it worse for him."
"Again, I apologize for that and I promise you we'll make this as quick as possible." Sam fixed her with an earnest gaze and smiled softly. "Please, this is our job—we're only doing what our editor is asking of us. I'm sure you can understand that."
Carol studied him for a moment longer and finally nodded. "I'll see if Jason will speak to you, but I can't promise anything."
Sam smiled brightly once again. "Thank you so much, Mrs. Rivers."
The older woman blushed. "Please, it's Carol." She rose from her desk. "I'll be right back. You two just have a seat over there."
The brothers nodded and took a seat on a couple of comfortable office chairs that were resting against a wall. Dean picked up an old auto magazine from the coffee table in front of them and nudged Sam. "I think she likes you, Sammy."
"Shut up," Sam muttered under his breath.
Dean laughed and turned his attention to the magazine. It was almost ten minutes before Carol came back out into the waiting area, accompanied by a young man with spiky brown hair.
"I'm Jason Stewart. Can I help you guys?"
Sam stood up and after setting his magazine down, Dean did the same. "Yeah, we're from the Arkansas Times. We'd like to ask you some questions if you don't mind," Dean said.
Jason looked at his watch and sighed. "Look, guys, I really don't have a lot of time. Is there any way we can make this as quick as possible?"
"That's no problem at all," Dean acquiesced. "Is there somewhere we can talk privately?" He looked pointedly at Carol and bit back a smile as her saw her bristle. He didn't care too much about hurting her feelings. If she wanted to be bitchy, then he couldn't help but return the favor. Besides, he'd been running behind in his quota for pissing people off and he needed to catch up.
Jason nodded at the brothers. "We can go into my office." He turned to the still-flustered secretary. "Carol, will you hold my calls?"
Carol nodded tightly. "Sure, Mr. Stewart." With one final scathing look at Dean, she returned to her desk and resumed her work at the computer.
As the Winchesters followed Jason down a long carpeted hallway, Sam nudged Dean in the side with his elbow. "Dude, what the hell was that back there?" he whispered.
Dean shrugged a shoulder. "What? I didn't think Sally Sunshine needed to be in on the conversation."
"Did you have to be such a dick about it?"
"Oh, don't be such a pansy, Sammy." At Sam's glare, Dean added, "Yes, I could have been nicer about it, okay? But why should I? She wasn't exactly brimming with happiness when she saw us."
"She's just doing her job, Dean."
"And another thing—I thought a secretary was supposed to be a people person."
Sam was about to argue when Jason came to a stop in front of a wooden door. "Here we go," the young contractor said.
Walking into the office, Dean wanted to say he was impressed, but it only reminded of how much he hated the upper class. The office was tastefully decorated with bright cream walls and oak crown molding. The desk was rather large and appeared to be made of maple, while wooden bookshelves lined the back wall with architectural and design books lining every shelf. On the opposite wall was a large entertainment center, housing a large Plasma television along with a DVD player and a top-of-the-line stereo system. A couple of paintings hung on the walls and the plush carpeting was a deep burgundy.
"Nice office," Dean said.
"It's my dad's. He's out of town right now, so I'm using it." Jason closed the door and walked around to his desk while holding out his hand to two cushioned chairs seated in front of it. "Please have a seat."
Dean exchanged a look with Sam and the hunters took their seat.
Jason leaned back in his leather chair and laced his fingers together, resting them on his chest. "So, what can I do for you?"
Sam pulled out a small notepad from his jacket pocket along with a pen. "We understand you were the last person with Nick Douglas before he died."
Jason nodded. "I was."
"How did you meet him?"
"I was at One Shots." At the Winchesters' confused look he added, "It's the only bar in town. I was there last Tuesday night, trying to wind down and Nick was in there. He was asking questions about the old Eclipse Hotel but no one was really paying him any attention, except for me. He asked if I could take him over there and offered me some money. I didn't have anything else to do, so I agreed."
"About what time was this?"
"I don't know…I guess around midnight."
"What happened when you got there?" Dean asked.
"Nothing at first. We just kind of walked around and Nick told me a little about this history of the place."
"Isn't it supposed to be haunted?"
Jason chuckled wryly. "That's what the locals around here say."
"And you didn't know about the history?" Sam asked.
The young man gave a half-shrug. "I never really cared to know about it. You have to understand, it's just talk."
"You don't believe any of it?"
"Can you tell us what happened to Nick?"
Jason let out a tired sigh. "We went up to the next floor and then our flashlights went out. I called out to Nick, but I didn't get any answer. Then I heard this terrified scream."
"Was it Nick?" Dean asked.
"It sounded like him, so I called for him again. I was starting to get freaked and I seriously considered hauling ass out of there, but Nick screamed again. I started walking down the hallway, and I heard a strange sound coming from one of the rooms."
"What kind of strange sound?"
"Someone was gurgling…like they were choking or something."
"What happened next?"
"I went into the room and that's when I found Nick." Jason pointed at his neck. "His throat was slit wide open and…there was blood all around him. I freaked, man. I got out of there as fast as I could."
"Did you see who did it?"
Jason opened his mouth to say something, but shut it just as quickly. He did this a few times, as if he wasn't sure his mouth could actually form the words he was thinking.
"What is it?" Sam asked softly.
"I need to have your word that this will be completely off the record."
"Yeah, that's no problem at all."
The contractor reached into his father's desk and pulled out a small video camera. Wordlessly, he walked over to the entertainment center and after hooking up the camera to the television, he looked back at the brothers. "What I saw, there's no way I can explain it. It's better if I just show you guys."
He pressed play on the camera and a picture appeared on the large screen. Sam and Dean watched in silence as the scene played out in front of them. A hallway appeared and the person behind the camera began to walk. He came to a stop at the door and all of a sudden the beam of a flashlight faded out and there was nothing but darkness.
"This shows us nothing," Dean said.
"Wait for it." Jason pointed at the screen as the night-vision option came on and the scene before them was displayed in a dull green. Nick opened the door and was met by the figure of a man dressed in a white suit and tie. He was yanked into the room and his scream echoed in the office. The camera fell from his grasp onto the floor and though the picture jumped, luckily the camera still recorded what was happening.
"Don't worry…I'm going to take good care of you," the man said.
"What the hell?" Nick asked, softly. "You're him, aren't you?" The reporter's feet came into view as he slowly backed away. "You stay away from me, you hear me? Stay away from me!"
"Nick!" Jason's frantic yell was heard in the background.
The man said nothing and Nick was pushed roughly onto a gurney lying in the middle of the trashed room. The man in the white suit smiled maliciously and a thin silver blade glinted in the moonlight. Nick's terrified scream was cut short as the blade swooped down and slashed the reporter's throat. Nick's body convulsed and a soft gurgling sound emanated from his throat. The sound of a door softly opening was heard, but the killer's gaze was riveted on the blood dripping to the floor.
Footsteps were heard shuffling away and the camera was picked up from the floor. Suddenly, there was a loud thud as the person holding the camera fell to the floor. The lens somehow remained focused on the killer as a sadistic smile once again crept onto his face.
"Looks like we have our next patient."
The man on the floor scrambled to his feet and ran out the room, the camera still recording the events. The picture jumped and blurred in and out of focus as the man sprinted out of the hotel and into his car.
Jason reached over and shut the camera off. He looked over at the Winchesters, his eyes almost pleading. "Tell me that wasn't real. There can't be any such thing as ghosts."
Sam and Dean exchanged a look, but didn't answer the young man's question.
"You didn't give this to the police?" Dean asked.
Jason scoffed. "Are you kidding me? The police never would have believed this and there was no way I was about to be turned into the town loon." He pointed at the screen. "I mean, that was a friggin' ghost!"
"Your secretary said several reporters have been by to interview you. Did you show them this tape?"
Jason shook his head.
"Then why are you showing it to us?"
Jason shrugged. "I'm not really sure of that myself."
"Is there any way we can have a copy of this tape?" Sam asked.
"A copy? Hell, I'll do better than that." He unhooked the camera from the television and handed it over to Sam. "You can have the whole damn thing!"
"Thanks." Sam took the camera from the frazzled man.
"Are you kidding? You're doing me a big favor." He ran a hand over the back of his neck. "The sooner I can I get rid of that, the sooner I can put this whole thing behind me."
The brothers rose from their chairs. "Well, I think we have all we need," Dean said holding out his hand. Jason shook it quickly and did the same with Sam.
"You're not going to print my name with that ghost nonsense, are you? I mean, it's the last thing I need…my dad's business needs."
Sam shook his head as they walked towards the door. "Your secret's safe with us."
A smile of relief appeared on Jason's face. "If you guys need anything else, let me know."
Sam and Dean didn't say anything as they made their way out of the building. They slid into the car and Dean brought the classic to life. "So, what do you think?"
Sam frowned. "That's definitely a spirit on that tape."
Dean nodded. "I agree. Looks like Dad was right."
Sam nodded but didn't say anything.
"We'll go out to the hotel tonight and see if we can find anything." He pulled out onto the street and started towards their motel. "With luck, this will be a quick salt and burn."