Previous Entry | Next Entry

cri de cœur | chapter two

  • Jun. 19th, 2016 at 6:35 PM
kelleigh: (sn [cri de cœur] oak avenue)



“Tallier wasn’t kidding when he said the place had a history.”

Sam’s knees are spread wide in the passenger seat to accommodate everything in his lap. Two books pulled from the Men of Letters’ library, a pad of white paper full of notes in Sam’s sharp, angled handwriting, a stack of printouts from various South Carolina newspapers and websites, and his tablet perched precariously on top of the pile.

The Impala roars as it passes the dented sign stating ‘Welcome to Oklahoma!’ Passing through Kansas City would’ve saved them a couple of hours over this circuitous route, but Dean can never bring himself to drive through Lawrence.

Sam never comments on the choice.

“That planation? What the hell was it called?”

“Nine Oaks,” Sam reads from the notepad. “Built in 1813, the house was rebuilt after burning down in 1855. Nothing strange until the early 1900’s when there were a couple of suspicious deaths. No names, though,” he continues, long finger running down his page of notes until he finds the information he wants. “The Men of Letters actually had a few entries concerning the estate.”

“You mean they knew about it?”

Sam hums, reading further. “I can’t really tell if they took action or not. Most likely they just took down information provided by hunters. Probably Jocelyn’s family.”

“The entries say anything specific about what they were dealing with?”

“They weren’t that thorough,” Sam says. “All I could find were dates and a few lines saying things like spectral activity and female figure followed by numbers. I’m not really sure what they mean. More codes, I’m guessing.”

What Sam can tell Dean is that Nine Oaks continued to be a working plantation up until the 1950’s when, without explanation, most of the farmable land was sold off to neighboring estates, or to the state as public land. Sam tags that as suspicious.

It’s not much to go on, but they’ve worked with less, and their best source of information—Edmond Tallier himself—awaits them in Charleston.



A truck speeds down the narrow highway, the rumbling of its engine pulling Dean back from the brink of sleep. The Impala’s leather seat fits the curve of his back like memory foam, if that piece of foam was forty years old and smelled like pine, old asphalt, and Winchester.

Dean likes it.

He can hear Sam’s breathing in the backseat, and he knows the rhythm well enough to determine that Sam is awake, too.

“You want to keep going?”

“This is fine, Dean,” Sam says quietly. He insisted they find a good place alongside the lonely highway to hunker down for a few hours’ sleep. Nothing they haven’t done a thousand nights before. Dean in the front, Sam in the back. Duffle bags and coats as pillows. Sam’s the one who thought to grab a couple of thin blankets from the bunker for pit stops like this. Spring nights can be chilly in the midwest.

“You remember being down in Charleston when we were teenagers?” Dean asks. He hasn’t been able to shake his dream all day, playing the images back on a loop while he drove, basking in that sweetness and using it as a balm for his shredded soul.

It’s an entire minute before Sam says anything. Dean wishes he could see his brother’s face. It would tell him everything Sam is thinking.

“I remember Dad stashing us at a motel by the beach while he went off to hunt ghost pirates, or something like that.”

“Ghost pirates,” Dean huffs, smiling to himself. “I forgot about that.”

“We stayed there for a while, didn’t we?” The texture of Sam’s voice is soft; it settles over Dean like a second blanket. “When Dad left us in that motel, it felt like a regular vacation. Having that beach to ourselves, drinking sweet tea, you taking me to the library.”

“‘Cause you’d dragged us into a case,” Dean reminds him.

“The boo-hag,” Sam whispers as the memory washes over him. “That was the first hunt where you let me take the lead. I remember getting attacked by the boo-hag in the house of the woman who summoned it. You salted the thing so it couldn’t get back to its skin, basically killing it.”

That hunt has always stood out from the others. The way Sam, at only fifteen, took charge and led Dean from clue to clue. That’s when Dean learned he could trust Sam’s instincts. The kid had guts, no matter what. He knew then that his baby brother could be a fearsome hunter. One of the best.

Back then, realizing that made Dean happy and sad at the same time.

Sam’s breathing has slipped into a slow cadence. At least one of them won’t be totally sleep-deprived tomorrow. Dean became used to running on half a tank a long time ago.

While Sam dozes, Dean’s mind wanders to memories of those sun-soaked weeks they spent on the South Carolina coast. He pictures Sam at fifteen, arms and legs long and lean after shooting up four inches since the summer before. His hair taking on a bronzed sheen from the hours he spent out on the small stretch of sand behind the motel, in the water jumping through wave after wave while Dean watched, content, from the shadows of the palmetto trees that lined the grassy dunes.

Hunting with Sam felt so natural, so easy. It was different than working alongside Dad. Sam was his partner; they worked together. They balanced the scales. Dean was savvy, Sam was smart.

He knew it couldn’t last.

Dean remembers that fear. Waiting for Sam to turn his back on his family and leave the life behind. Leave Dean behind. The memory doesn’t cut as deeply anymore—he’s mostly left that fear behind. If nothing else, by this point both Winchesters are too wrecked for a normal life. Given current circumstances, that’s especially true for Dean.

In a strange way, it’s a comforting thought.

Dean has known that Sam was his other half since he was a teenager. Despite the chaos between then and now, between the heartbreaks and the reunions, between life and death, Dean still feels it.

Some things never change.

He hears Sam shuffling in the backseat, unconsciously making himself comfortable in the limited amount of space. Dean remembers the days, weeks, months when being together meant having Sam’s body alongside his, making the most of every night Dad left them on their own. Feeling no shame even though Sam was his brother. What they had went beyond the simple definition of family; they were more.

Unfortunately, as Dean found out, some things do change.



They hit Charleston early the next afternoon. Dean skirts the crowded downtown streets and heads south, crossing more than one river and cruising until neighborhoods and businesses give way to sparkling marshland and groves of trees. Traffic thins until the Impala is roaring along the four lane highway by itself, passing unmarked gravel roads and roadside stands selling everything from local fruits and vegetables to boiled peanuts and fireworks.

Meanwhile, Sam is on the lookout for the turn mentioned in Edmond Tallier’s directions.

“It’s gotta be up ahead. Probably just around the next curve.” He points ahead to the next unpaved driveway. “I think this is it.”

Dean turns, the Impala’s tires crunching on the mix of gravel and packed dirt, and stares through the windshield at the gate standing open in front of them.

“Pretty sure you’re right about that.”

The gate is old but solid, dark lines of wrought iron crisscrossing over a maze of symbols. Most are recognizable but a few are beyond even Sam’s massive mental inventory. As if they needed further confirmation that they’ve found Jocelyn Campbell’s property, an intricate pentagram tops one of the gates.

“A freaking Devil’s Trap,” Sam mutters. “What do you bet the whole place is surrounded by iron and more gates like this?”

“A true hunter’s compound.” Dean thinks back to Samuel’s makeshift base and wonders if his grandfather had property like this when he was alive the first time.

He waits for Sam to look over, then smiles. “Don’t say I never took you anywhere nice, Sammy.”

A quarter-mile up the drive, a man is waiting on the wide front porch of a modest, two storey house. The white paint is badly faded, mildew growing up bannisters and along the trim, which isn’t surprising in such a humid climate. Oak trees loom over the house, thick branches twisting wide, Spanish moss draped here and there like soft stalactites hanging down.

The grass is overgrown, windows cloudy, and yet Dean can tell with just a look that the bones of the house are solid and unshakeable. If this was truly a base of operations for the Campbells, there’s no doubt the house has seen its fair share of trouble and stood to tell the tale.

He appreciates it already.

The man watches the Impala pull up. In his late fifties, his skin is the color of dark toffee and his black hair has been pulled back into a proper knot. The frames of his glasses are thick, his tie is thin, and he moves comfortably down the stairs to meet them.

“I could hear the car coming up the drive,” he says. “She’s quite a beauty.”

Dean decides that he likes Edmond Tallier on the spot.

“Please, call me Edmond,” Tallier says once introductions are made. “I can’t tell you how relieved I am that you’ve come all this way.” He doesn’t sound as nervous as he did on the phone, Dean notes. “Anyone in Jocelyn’s family who could deal with this sort of thing has either left or passed away. I wouldn’t know what to do.”

“You found us,” Sam says, stepping forward. “We can handle it from here if you help us get started.”

Edmond nods. “Of course, whatever you need. That’s why I had you meet me here, at Jocelyn’s old house.”

“You don’t live here?” Dean asks, following Sam up the stairs when Edmond beckons them along. He leads them across the porch and through the front door. Out of the corner of his eye, Dean spies various carvings in the wood frame and along the baseboards. More protective sigils.

“I thought about moving in after Jocelyn’s death. I spent quite a lot of time here when I was growing up, you know. My mother died when I was very young and my father worked, leaving me here with his sister and Jocelyn.”

A piece of the puzzle slots into place. They hadn’t been able to figure out how Edmond related to Jocelyn Campbell. Her two brothers both had children, but they were all accounted for.

Sam asks what Dean is thinking. “Your aunt and Jocelyn were partners?”

Edmond nods. “As good as married, in my eyes. For more than fifty years, actually. My aunt—her name was Roberta, but she always went by Robbie—met Jocelyn in high school.”

Roberta Tallier passed away five years ago. Given the softness of Edmond’s voice, that pain has faded to fond memory in the intervening years. Jocelyn had been a part of his life from the beginning, welcoming her partner’s nephew into their home after his mother’s death.

As far back as he can remember, Jocelyn was always telling stories. As Edmond grew up, he came to realize that some of her tales were true. In reality, with no children of her own, she was entrusting him with an abridged version of the Campbell family history.

The house they’re standing in now served as the family estate. It was where they did their research, restocked their arsenal, and mourned their losses. They didn’t roam the country endlessly; they always had a place to which they could return. When Edmond was young, Jocelyn would lead him around the house, pointing out the protective markings and explaining their significance. Most of that, of course, fell into the deep chasm of childhood memory, never to resurface.

As he listens, Dean wonders what his life would look like if Dad kept them in one place. If they had a base like this, a home to usher them through their formative years. Would they have gone to the same school for more than a year? Made friends? Been normal?

Then again, normal has never been Dean’s favorite word. If the Winchesters had never made the back roads their home, hunting in the dark and existing in the shadows, there’s a good chance Dean and Sam wouldn’t have grown up the way they did. Grown close they way they had. And Dean wouldn’t trade his experiences with Sam for anything.

Maybe that life wouldn’t have been so ideal after all. Not for the Winchesters, anyway.

Their host offers Sam and Dean each a glass of iced lemonade and invites them to sit at the kitchen table.

“Regrettably I had to sell quite a bit of the furniture to cover final expenses,” Edmond tells them in a somber tone, the corners of his mouth turning down. Dean noticed that the table and chairs were some of the few pieces that remained, at least from what he’s seen so far. “The larger pieces fetched a high enough price at auction that I didn’t have to go much further. My aunt had exquisite taste.”

The recollection has Edmond smiling again. “The rest I put away as best I could in case I decided to sell the property at some point.”

Sam gets right to business. “If Jocelyn asked you to keep an eye on Nine Oaks, she must’ve had some idea what was going on there. Did she have any notes or journals?”

“Many,” Edmond says after a moment’s consideration. “Most are in the study upstairs. She used it as a library of sorts, as well. I moved some of her things in the process of trying to see what’s here. Some of Jocelyn’s possessions were willed away to other families. Nothing I could do about that, you understand. Various trunks and lockboxes.” Edmond shudders. “I’m certain I never want to know their contents.”

Dean leans forward, elbows on the table. “What exactly did she tell you about Nine Oaks?”

“She insisted the plantation was haunted,” Edmond tells them. “The house, specifically. Most of the land got sold off before I was born. As much as Jocelyn liked to tell stories, she never went into detail about what was haunting the property. Not to me, anyway. That’s if she even knew. You might have more luck with her things. I imagine a lot of it would be indecipherable to me.”

Sam will be all over those as soon as he gets the chance, Dean thinks.

“I do know that, because of her family’s history, Jocelyn had considerable influence in the area.” Edmond’s cheeks flush with pride. If not a Campbell in name, he certainly considered them family. “Her father somehow kept the Nine Oaks manor from being sold or leased to anyone for years. Then her uncle did the same thing. After he passed away, Jocelyn made sure it stayed that way.”

He sighs, finally showing a hint of his age as his shoulders slump. “That all changed when she died. There were no more Campbells to block the sale.”

“Who owns it now?” Sam says, hazel eyes sharp.

“Some investment group,” Edmond says with a dismissive wave of his hand. “I have the name somewhere, but they’ve done little more than renovate the main house, turning the place around and renting it out as quickly as they could.”

“Do you know who rented it?”

“A doctor and his wife,” Edmond says. “A good friend of mine was hired to landscape the place, and he got real friendly with the agent who showed the place and wrote the lease.” There’s a twinkle in the Southerner’s eyes. “The doctor’s name is Max Benbow.”

Sam quickly types the information into his phone for later research.

Edmond’s hesitance resurfaces when Dean asks him about the ghost.

“I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forget,” he says shakily, fingers fiddling with his pale green necktie. “I thought that since I couldn’t prevent anyone from living in the house, I needed to keep a closer eye on it.”

According to Tallier, he’s been driving past the property for months, several times a week. As time went on and he saw nothing out of the ordinary, he thought perhaps Jocelyn was wrong, that whatever haunted Nine Oaks had moved on or been laid to rest.

Edmond shakes his head slowly. “Jocelyn was rarely mistaken.”

On the night in question, he knew something was wrong the moment he approached the oak-lined drive which led to the main house.

“My heart seized in my chest. I remember the night was warm, but suddenly I was freezing. That’s when I recalled Jocelyn’s stories.” He sighs. “Now they seem more like lessons she was trying to pass on, just in case.”

“Keeping her family’s legacy alive,” Sam offers.

The word legacy strikes a strange chord within Dean. He’s more than aware that there won’t be anyone left to survive them, to carry on the Winchester name. So many have died for their cause. Perhaps they’ve done enough, however, saved enough people, to be remembered when they’re both gone. Maybe that’s the only legacy that really matters.

Dean steers the conversation back on track. “Where was the ghost?”

“At the edge of the drive, closer to the house. I thought it was a trick of the moon at first, maybe a statue caught in the light. Deep down I knew, though. It was something that didn’t belong.”

“Did it do anything?” Dean asks.

“I couldn’t move,” Edmond confesses. “I’d stopped my car at the drive, helpless to do anything but watch. It didn’t…” Here he struggles for words, as if the memory is strong enough to cause a physical response. “I don’t think it moved. It just...looked at the house. Like it was waiting?”

Brown eyes brimming with confusion meet Sam and Dean’s across the table.

“It sounds worse now that I’m saying it out loud. I wish I could tell you more.”

“Trust me,” Dean assures him, “it’s more than we usually get.”

Edmond listens closely while Sam explains what he’s learned since they received his message. It’s not much, but it’s enough for the Southerner to lean back in his chair, impressed. When he asks about the Men of Letters, Dean fills him in on the basics.

“I had no idea I’d be summoning experts,” Edmond says, a grin splitting his dark lips. “Come to think on it, y’all remind me a bit of Jocelyn. She was smart and confident, too.”

Dean sees Sam blush, ducking his own head at the compliment. Judging by how much Edmond loved and respected his aunt, it’s a big one.

“You’re welcome to use anything you find here,” Edmond offers, effectively wrapping up the discussion for now. “So many of my aunt’s things...I just don’t know what to do with them.”

“We’ll check her study,” Sam says. Though his voice is even, Dean can tell he’s jumping at the chance to read the Campbell family journals. “Do you mind if we take a few things with us for research?”

Edmond shakes his head. “No need to take them. You boys are welcome to stay here.”

Dean and Sam trade looks, skeptical meeting hopeful. There was a motel a few miles back on Savannah Highway that looked outdated and a little rundown. Nothing the Winchesters couldn’t handle. It reminded Dean of the motor court he and Sam called home for a summer all those years ago.

Sam speaks up tentatively. “Why would you let us do that? We’re basically strangers.”

“Strangers who came a long way to help when you could’ve ignored my message. This is just good Southern hospitality.” Tallier stands and rolls his shoulders. “Besides, I don’t think Jocelyn would mind. You’re cut from the same cloth. She would’ve liked the two of you.”



Dean shuts the lid of the cooler with his foot. Stepping onto the front porch of Jocelyn Campbell’s house, he hands Sam one of the beer bottles, a local microbrew he couldn’t resist splurging on, and sits down beside him. Not that Sam left him much space between his own books and what he’s brought down from the hunter’s study.

“Break time, Sammy. You’ve been going at those old journals for hours.”

“It’s incredible,” Sam tells him, handing Dean a well-cared for journal bound in soft leather. “This one belonged to Thomas Campbell, Jocelyn’s father.”

“The one who died young? Probably killed by a werewolf?”

Sam nods and sets his bottle aside, unopened. “Still, he started hunting when he was barely a teenager. Saw a lot before he died.”

Unfortunately, that two-sentence obituary could be applied to many of the hunters the Winchesters have known.

Dean pops the cap on his own beer and takes a long swig. Sam stares, a furrow forming between his eyebrows. He silently dares his brother to say something.

“Anything in there on Nine Oaks?”

“Not yet,” Sam says. “But I’m still looking. There’s so much to go through.”

He’s been looking since Tallier left them at his aunt’s home, dropping a set of keys on the table before he said goodbye. Sam has his phone number, and Edmond insisted they not hesitate to call.

“Don’t know how I’d be able to help,” Edmond said on his way out, “but I’m willing to try if it puts this thing to rest.”

While Sam began searching through Jocelyn’s study, Dean unloaded the Impala. He wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of staying in a dead woman’s house, but Sam’s in his element and it’s better than squatting in a condemned building or an empty foreclosure without power or water, both of which Edmond kept turned on even after canceling the other utilities. No credit card fraud either—another plus.

In the study, Sam found the old rotary phone Edmond had mentioned using. He yelled down to Dean, and together they dialed the code Edmond left, standing side by side as they listened to the odd, electronic static followed by the monotone command.

“He wasn’t kidding,” Sam said after Dean replaced the teal phone in its cradle. “I wonder how many hunters had codes like that. I’m surprised we haven’t heard other messages like Edmond’s.”

Dean hummed, considering, before he shook his head. “If no one picks up the phone, eventually you stop trying.”

Sam met Dean’s gaze and frowned.

After that, Dean headed out for supplies, hitting a convenience store ten minutes up the road towards Charleston. By the time he made it back to the house, the sun was setting, casting the whole place in a warm, golden glow.

He pulled the Impala around and saw Sam sitting up on the raised porch, the same glow softening his edges as he read from the journal on his lap. Dean carried in the bags, loaded the cooler with ice and drinks, before joining him.

“There’s a table inside,” Dean says. “Couch, too. You don’t have to sit on the porch.”

“Piazza.”

Dean frowns. “Gesundheit?”

“That’s what it’s called down here,” Sam mutters. “It’s a piazza, not a porch.”

“Whatever, Southern Living.”

Sam’s shoulders shake as he tries to conceal his laugh. Dean grins and takes another swig.

The setting sun works her magic in this golden hour. In Dean’s eyes, the warm light seems to erase some of the trials from Sam’s face, softening the lines from all he’s endured. Here, it’s as if the aura of those who came before them is somehow able to ease the weight from Sam’s shoulders, making him more at ease.

It’s good to see him smile. The sight reminds Dean that he wasn’t the only one left reeling after they got rid of the Darkness. Though most of Sam’s wounds were physical in nature, her attacks inscribed on his skin, he also carried the burden of Dean’s incapacitation. Sam did this massive thing for him, for them, and Dean thought that by remaining in the bunker, shielding them both from whatever would come for them next, he was giving Sam time to heal, too. At the very least, it was time Dean could use to figure out a way to thank him, to apologize for what the Darkness put him through.

Watching Sam as the sun goes down, Dean feels something spark deep within the void. He feels the heat but doesn’t dare touch, afraid it will flicker out into nothing.

A sharp twinge in the middle of Dean’s back reminds him that sitting on the wooden steps isn’t ideal. Groaning, he stands and stretches until most of the aches have faded to a dull throb. Easy to ignore. Other pains, like the tightness in his right hip and the creak in his elbow, will never go away.

“You’re wasting good beer,” Dean says, picking up Sam’s bottle while trying not to dissect the way Sam’s staring up at him. Careful, considering. Too much in his eyes for Dean to work out.

He drops the beer back in the cooler, fingers going numb as he searches for a certain plastic bottle beneath the ice. Several cold drops fall on Sam’s jeans before he notices Dean holding the bottle over his shoulder.

“Sweet tea?” Sam looks perplexed for a second before his expression clears. “I can’t believe you remembered that.”

Dean shrugs and hands Sam the bottle. “Hard not to. You drank gallons of the stuff.”

“The woman who ran the motel, she used to bring it to me.”

Dean may not remember the woman, but he remembers what Sam’s lips tasted like after he finished a glass. Cool and sweet, a hint of tart citrus from the squeezed lemon. Dean loved to chase that taste around Sam’s pliant mouth. When Sam finished drinking, Dean would drag an ice cube over his lips, down his shoulders to soothe Sam’s mild sunburn.

When Dean saw the bottles of brewed sweet tea in the mini-mart, he couldn’t help but revisit those memories. Now he has to shake them off before he gets too distracted.

“You want to hit up Nine Oaks tonight?” Dean asks. “Get ourselves a look at this ghost?”

“Might as well.” Sam’s gaze sweeps over his collection of notes and lore. “We need something more to go on if any of this stuff is gonna be useful.”



The jarring crunch of car tires on gravel hurts Sayuri’s ears. Max wastes no time pulling out, turning down the main drive on his way downtown. The hospital needs him to rub elbows at a fundraiser, so instead of a rare family dinner, Sayuri is left alone, encouraged to ‘take time for herself.’

Time to herself. The one thing Max and Anna insist on giving her; the one thing of which she sees too much.

She thought she might spend time with the baby, but Anna scooped her up as soon as Max got off the phone, ready with a sweet smile and and even more sugary excuse as to why Sayuri shouldn’t worry herself. The words are a thin veil over the truth.

Her own baby cries when she’s close. The noise gives Sayuri a headache that doesn’t abate for hours. She used to find it comforting to hold her, to inhale that soft, powder scent. Now, her baby squirms to get away from her, reaching for Anna. When that happens, Sayuri feels like she could scream and cry all at once.

With nothing else, Sayuri returns to her office. Ironic how this is the only room in which her moods feel less suffocating.

If it weren’t for the wallpaper, she might enjoy it.

Even as she stares at her computer screen, the dizzying design presses in from all sides, sickening saffron swirls that appear more chaotic the closer she looks. She tries to focus on the things she used to love, things she’s supposed to love, but when she’s in this room, her mind stops being her own.

And yet she keeps coming back.

Up here, hours tick by without Sayuri noticing. Max once found her kneeling on the floor, fingers outstretched. She thought she’d seen a pair of glowing eyes watching her, and she felt compelled to find them again. Always hidden, though.

She ought to be familiar with every thorn and wilted flower within the yellow maze, yet not a day goes by that she doesn’t find new patterns that make her stomach turn. Thick branches with joints like human limbs, naked and sallow. Tangled vines like hair caught in the briars.

It’s more alarming at night. The patterns change, the vines grow teeth. Snapping at her when she walks by. The moonlight creates new shadows, the amber thicket appears deeper. Sayuri swears she can see it move, but she can’t feel so much as a breeze in the musty room.

The deep rumble of an unusual engine breaks into her subconscious. She blinks and finds herself standing away from her desk, close enough to the balcony to feel the muggy air sticking to her skin. She catches a brief flash of low headlights breaking through the line of trees at the end of the main drive as the noisy car passes the house.

She misses regular sounds. City streets, neighbors, dogs. Nine Oaks is too quiet. Sayuri doesn’t like to hear the sound of her own heart beating; it’s louder than she can bear. At times it feels like the walls are closing in, the air thicker as it pushes against her chest. The silence is equally heavy, her shoulders ache whenever she tries to sleep.

The lights disappear and Sayuri is alone again. If she doesn’t at least try to work, produce something to show for the hours she wiles away up in this room, Max will try something else to bring her around. To help her adjust.

She sits back down at her desk, taking one last look at the section of wallpaper to which she’d been unconsciously drawn. There the pattern appears deeper, more complex. Like a whirlpool drawing her down.

Or perhaps she’s being fanciful again. That’s what Max would tell her.

Blocking out the wallpaper as much as possible, Sayuri musters enough energy to begin typing.


On to chapter three.

Latest Month

April 2017
S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30      

Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios
Designed by [personal profile] chasethestars