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The Haunting of Lockwood Estates | Supernatural x Nancy Drew Crossover

Chapter Text

Historian’s Note


This story takes place between the third-season Supernatural episodes “Ghostfacers” and “Long Distance Call,” and four years after the Nancy Drew adventure “Midnight in Salem” (which for the purposes of this fic, took place in 2004).

Chapter Text

Prologue - Donovan Hughes


 

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Saturday 8 March 2008

 

The green skies are lit only by stars, the moon hidden either by hills or clouds. The road to get back here was just as winding and out of the way as promised. Seems no one wanted to live nearby. From what little information I gleaned from my source, I can’t say I blame them.

 

They should have called in a ghost hunter sooner than they did. Idiots.

 

I look out the driver window of my van. The icy gates of the property are locked tight by a thick chain, and a tacky “Danger: No Trespassing” sign has been screwed to the gate to keep out locals, as well as a few other signs declaring that the local sheriff’s office has forbidden entry. Some of them are rusting and have obviously been here awhile, but there are a few that look so new they could have very well been posted today.

 

Foot firmly on the brake, I pull the letter from my pocket, the one bidding me to come, to make sure that I am at the correct place. Seems I am.

 

According to the letter, some stupid twenty-something-year-old went into the house a couple weeks back, and got himself killed by the “ghost” while doing some research--research that I am getting paid a small fortune to finish. While I feel sorry for the poor bastard, not everyone is cut out for, or prepared for, real-life ghost-hunting.

 

All I need to do here is spend the night, collect data, and get out. I’ve been paid much less to do far more. It’s a good deal, what with the expenses going up.

 

Everyone in town seems to know the story of the Lockwood mansion. Haunted by hungry souls from centuries past, tormenting any living person who dares enter the grounds. According to the locals, all children in Blackridge learn to not dare set foot across the threshold of the Lockwood property, if they want to remain in the land of the living.

 

I am better than them. More alert, more prepared. Armed with professional, top-of-the-line ghost hunting equipment and even a glock, should the situation call for it. I will be the first person to spend the night in Lockwood mansion, and not drop dead from any “ghosts” that may or may not haunt the halls. I’ve been around the block. I know what to do.

 

I shift the gear into “park” on the side of the road next to the mansion, the van’s chassis slightly tilted. The bright headlights show the snowy, hilly road ahead for miles, and reveal a thick wall covered in frozen ivy, which seems to surround the property.

 

Time to go.

 

After grabbing a few things, I slam the back door of my van shut, checking my backpack straps and equipment once more before going over to the gates barring me from direct entry to the Lockwood Estates. I trace my fingers across the intricate metalwork. Though slightly rusted and choked with vines, one can still see the Victorian-era beauty, the prestigiousness of a family all but forgotten. 

 

After adjusting my headlamp, checking the camera clipped to my shirt pocket to make sure it’s turned on, and making sure my backpack is secure, I take a running jump and vault over the fence, smirking all the while.

 

Rumors abound from those who claim they have spent the night... and lived. They tell tales of moving floors, changing rooms, and of course, the ghosts. As far as anyone can tell, none have actually spent the night as they claimed. No one has, since the property was officially abandoned over a decade ago.

 

Those who go on the property during the day, whether by accident or curiosity, always come back in shock, muttering about voices in the forest, an unshakable chill (even during the hot and sticky summer months), and an intense feeling of being watched. Eventually, the ghost hunters began to show up, but not even they spent the night. A TV special was made, although later the producers admitted wishing they had never stepped foot in that house, as what they had seen and felt still haunted their sleepless nights.

 

But still, they come. Most come and go without much incident, scaring themselves silly before moving on to their next haunt. Others… do not.

 

Because they are fools.

 

I dust my hands off as I approach the front door, carefully stepping around weed-choked asphalt from where some skeptic tried and failed to make the place habitable a few years back.

 

The house itself was a marvel in its time, but has long-since aged out of its prime. Three stories, not including the attic, with a wrap-around porch, and a separate shed. But the paint is peeling off, and most windows are cracked or shattered if they even remain. The roof is even caved in on one side. There is a thin blanket of fresh snow where the trees didn’t block the house from the weather.

 

Cherry double doors, cracked and graying with decay, are all that stand between me and getting inside that house. So the rumors that the door had been padlocked, like the gate, were false. I pull the door open, wincing at the earsplitting creak. 

 

The interior is just as horrendous as I had imagined. The pair of wooden staircases leading upwards matched the front door, and were carpeted with a dusty, worn carpet that has long-since been bleached of its color. Directly ahead, is a fireplace lined with dusty marble. The furniture placed around the room must have once been handsome, but now look like sad thrift-store rejects. A moldy, tasseled rug has thinned to the point where you can see the outlines of the wood floorboards beneath it.

 

I blow out a puff of air as I cross the threshold, my breath a plume of steam. It is much colder in here than outside. Like breathable ice. The floorboards creak beneath my feet. A trickle of unease fills my chest. You shouldn’t be here , the voice in my head warns, conditioned from the warnings from town. 

 

I shake off the feeling.

 

Above the fireplace is a very large, and very old painting of a man, covered in cobwebs and years of caked dust. It draws my attention because of its prominence in the room. Cocking my head, I move closer. 

 

My headlamp flickers.

 

I need to replace the batteries , I think to myself, glad that I had the foresight to bring some extras, as well as an extra flashlight to work with. The fresh ones I put in right before I left must have been faulty.

 

Something creaks upstairs… no, skitters . The wind? Or mice perhaps. I take off my backpack, bending down to root through.

 

A light breeze seems to drift past me, as if someone is blowing on the back of my neck. I jerk around, only to see nothing. I stare for a couple more seconds, before slowly turning back to my bag.

 

It happens again, this time coming from my right, just as my hand finds the extra flashlight. I swing my arm out as I turn it on, just in case there is someone attempting to scare me.

 

Both my headlamp and flashlight flicker in unison. Something brushes against my leg. The floorboards creak behind me.

 

Shit .

 

I whirl around.

 

The lights go out.

Chapter Text

Chapter 1 - Dean (Get Case)


 

Rest E-Z Motel

Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

A terrible sound jolts me awake. I look over to the nightstand next to me, and my cell phone rings again. I sigh tiredly and stare up at the ceiling. It takes me a moment to remember where I am. The familiar chemical smell of all the motels Sam and I stay in reminds me of the latest one we have been staying in for the past week--a small place in Pennsylvania. My cell phone continues to ring, and Sam stirs in the bed next to mine.

 

I sigh and lurch over, glaring at the small LED screen as I pick it up. I don’t recognize the number but answer anyway. 

 

“Hello?” I say groggily. I sit up and run a hand over my face. Sam sits up in his bed and attempts to wipe the tangle of messy hair from his eyes. He shoots me a questioning look, and I shrug in response.

 

“Are you, uh, Dean?” a man’s voice asks.

 

A hundred thoughts run through my head. Sam and I are supposedly dead. The only ones who know otherwise--besides Bobby, Ellen, Jo, and the Ghostfacers (groan)--are the demons hunting us. Well, I suppose more accurately, hunting Sam.

 

Was I wrong to stop Ruby from doing that spell? I had to try to save everyone. I couldn’t just let her cut out some virgin’s heart, for Pete’s sake. But still, those deaths hang over my head, even weeks after the fact. 

 

I push away the feeling and force a smirk on my face. Sam would say I’m ignoring my “feelings” or whatever. So what if I am.

 

“Uh…” I say, thinking fast. My patience is running thin, I’m tired, and Sam and I have spent the past several weeks waiting for the other shoe to drop. The last thing I need right now is to have to deal with anyone else hunting us down.

 

“...Hello?” the man’s voice says. I blink and shake my head a little to bring myself back to the present. “Mr. Singer?”

 

Singer? What the hell?

 

“You’re looking for... ‘Dean Singer’?” I ask hesitantly.

 

“Yeah. I got the number from Bobby Singer? Your uncle?”

 

I give a genuine grin. Bobby, you son of a bitch. So he’s pimping us out for jobs now? 

 

I chuckle a little. Of course he would send a job our way. Sam and I need to do something instead of sitting around arguing about whose turn it is to pick up more quarters for the Magic Fingers bed.

 

“Yeah,” I say cheerfully, pinching the bridge of my nose to wipe away sleep, “This is Dean Singer. Who is this?” Sam gives me his classic “confused” look. I wink at him in response, suddenly feeling much more relaxed. Covering the mic with my hand, I whisper, “It’s not a demon.”

 

He rolls his eyes with a scoff and gets up. 

 

“You’ve...you’ve got to help me,” the man on the phone says, ignoring my question.

 

“...Help with what?” I ask, smile fading slightly, replaced with the familiar existential dread I face each morning, thanks to the clock in my head counting down each day until the hellhounds come.

 

“I think I’m being haunted!” he exclaims. He sounds desperate. 

 

Haunted, huh? Sometimes, when people get emotional, suddenly everything can be passed off as something supernatural. And this guy sounds pretty emotional. I swear, if this turns out to be nothing…

 

But surely Bobby wouldn’t have sent him our way without reason.

 

“Okay, well, have you seen anything weird lately?” I question. 

 

“I’m doing research on a mansion called the Lockwood Estates in Blackridge, New Hampshire and…” He trails off. 

 

“And?” I prompt impatiently. 

 

“The people who have been helping me with my research have all died! The local legends say the Estates are haunted, but I never believed--” His voice breaks. 

 

This doesn’t sound like he is being haunted. Surely a ghost isn’t following him around and uprooting his life. “So, are you being haunted, or is this mansion haunted?” I ask him. 

 

He takes in a shaky breath. He sounds more collected when he speaks, “I suppose it is the Lockwood Estates since everyone has died in there.”

 

“Alright. And you said there is some local lore on the place?” 

 

“Yes, that’s right. I don’t really believe in anything...paranormal, but I heard you were the one to call if there was trouble, and I really can’t see any other possibility at this point, and I just…” He trails off again. He breathes in deeply. “I’m sorry. It’s been a rough few weeks for me. I never imagined myself calling a ghost hunter for help, so I guess I don’t really know what to believe right now.” He sighs. “Will you come?” 

 

I don’t see why not. This job has enough substance to be something. Besides, I’ve investigated plenty of other jobs with less information. I glance at the alarm clock on the nightstand. It’s almost 7:30 in the morning now, and if this haunted mansion is in New Hampshire...then the drive should be like six or seven hours. “Yeah,” I answer. “I can be there by the afternoon. What’s your name?” 

 

He awkwardly clears his throat. “I don’t really feel comfortable giving it to you. The local population here is already superstitious as it is without their dislike for an outsider like me, so I don’t really want them to know I called in some...ghost hunters.”

 

I roll my eyes. For one, I’m not a “ghost hunter,” and two, no one cares. But whatever. “Yeah, okay,” I say. “Me and my brother will be there today.” 

 

“Oh, thank you!” Relief makes his tone lighter. 

 

I hang up. 

 

“What was that about?” Sam asks me. 

 

“We have a job,” I answer. 

 

“What is it?” 

 

“Some guy called saying this mansion--Lockwood Estates, I think--in Blackridge, New Hampshire is haunted,” I say.

 

“And you believe him?” my brother questions. 

 

“Yeah. He sounded pretty scared,” I say, then add, “He also said that Bobby recommended us.”

 

Sam nods thoughtfully. “Did the guy say who he was?” he asks. 

 

“No,” I answer. “He didn’t’ really want people to know he called some Hunters to investigate.”

 

“Huh,” Sam comments. “That’s kind of weird.”

 

“You don’t have to tell me,” I agree. “Think I’ll call Bobby once we get on the road, see if he knows anything more about this guy, or about this ‘Lockwood Estates.’”

 

“Good idea.” Sam runs a hand through his hair. “Either way, it does sound like it’s worth looking into. I can be ready in twenty minutes.” 

 

I grimace at the alarm clock as I get out of bed. “Why can’t we ever get jobs at normal hours of the day?”

 

Sam glances at the time. “7:30 isn’t that early.” 

 

“It is with daylight savings,” I grumble, dragging my hand down my face. I have been dreading it, so I know full-well that it starts today. Losing an hour in the morning sucks.

 

“Fine. 6:30 isn’t that early.”

 

I glare at him. “Don’t act like you’re not tired,” I retort as I walk towards the coffee machine. I frown at the coffee in the pot. Did I make this last night, or the night before? Probably tastes the same. 

 

“I didn’t say I wasn’t tired, Dean.” Sam crosses the room over to the bathroom.  

 

“Uh-huh,” I say unbelievingly, “ You just wanted to remind me that you used to wake up early for your college classes.” I grab a cup from the sink. Pretty sure there was just water in this before. No harm in reusing it then.

 

Really , Dean?” he answers with a glare as he slams the bathroom door shut. 

 

I make a face at the door before I take a sip of coffee. It’s cold and tastes like ham. When did we have ham? I cough as I force myself to swallow it before pouring the rest down the drain. 

 

----

 

Having finished checking out, I leave the front lobby of the motel and meet Sam outside. Our bags are piled around the Impala, and the back panel is propped open to display the array of weaponry ranging from shotguns to crucifixes filling the trunk. A small devil’s trap is spray-painted in white paint on the inside of the back panel. I pass Sam and grab my bags as I expectantly open the door to the backseat. 

 

“Where’s the cooler?” I ask as I scan the interior of the Impala.

 

“That demon from Chicago broke it, remember?” 

 

I frown and slump a little. “Oh, yeah.” 

 

“Why are you asking?” 

 

I hold up the six pack of beer in my hand. “I can’t let this go to waste.” 

 

Sam rolls his eyes. “You can just drink it at room temperature.” 

 

“I have some standards, Sammy.” 

 

“Sure you do.” He smirks as he gets inside the passenger seat. I place the beer in the back with our bags and get into the driver’s side. 

 

“So, New Hampshire then?” I start the car and turn up the music.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2 - Nancy


 

Montgomery Inn & Suites

Hartford, Connecticut

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

The phone rings. I pick it up without looking up from the letter I am writing to my boyfriend Ned, detailing my latest mystery. It is a tradition for me to do so, and he just recently showed me the album he made with all the ones I have ever sent him.

 

I flip the phone open and click the answer button. “Drew P.I. Firm,” I say, holding the phone between my ear and shoulder. “How may I help you?”

 

A gruff, male voice answers. “Hello, may I speak to Nancy Drew please?”

 

“Speaking,” I say, noticing that my pen is starting to run dry. I shake it a few times to get the blue ink flowing again.

 

“I got your number from Chief McGinnis in River Heights. Do you have a moment?”

 

I pause my writing, and check the caller ID. It’s a 603 area code. New England somewhere if I remember correctly… Vermont maybe?  

 

“I do,” I respond, pulling my notebook towards me. I write down the date--3/9/08--and hold my pen at the ready. “May I get your name please?”

 

“Sheriff Aaron Reeves. I am close friends with Chief McGinnis.”

 

I perk up. Chief McGinnis has mentioned Sheriff Reeves multiple times to me throughout my career. If I remember correctly, they graduated from the police academy at the same time, top of their class.

 

“Hello, Sheriff Reeves. How can I help you today?” I glance over at the clock on the nightstand. 11:43 a.m. I am cutting it close to the checkout time of noon. My bags are already packed and sitting by the door, but I did want to finish my letter to Ned, so I can drop it in the mail before heading out.

 

Pulling the letter towards me, I quickly write at the bottom of the stationary, “I’ll tell you more when I see you! Love, Nancy,” stuff it in the envelope, and seal it.

 

“I have a puzzling case for you…” the sheriff continues as I set the letter on my suitcase and pull on my sneakers and cardigan. “ A string of strange deaths at this manor, going back as far as the house has existed--over a hundred years. But someone seems to be using the house’s history to get away with murder. Second one of the month happened last night. Just reported.”

 

I sit down at the foot of the bed, listening intently.

 

“But the odd thing is,” he continues, “there seems to be no motive, and from what we can tell, no one was around at the time of deaths. Stranger still, the method of killing, the lack of evidence, matches the past deaths to a ‘T.’”

 

“That is strange,” I agree.

 

“We are at a complete loss, and no matter what I do, people keep ignoring the signs I put up and keep going onto the property and yammering on about ghosts. I just want to figure out what’s going on before anyone else gets hurt, and Mcginnis seems to think that this kind of thing is right up your alley.”

 

“The manor is supposedly haunted?” My interest is piqued.

 

“It’s just the local legend,” Reeves responds with a sad chuckle. “Everyone knows about it. Everyone has different stories about it.”

 

“Interesting…” I muse.

 

“How fast can you come to New Hampshire? Would you be able to fly out today by any chance? I’d cover the costs of course.”

 

So he’s calling from New Hampshire. My guess was close.

 

“As a matter of fact, I am currently in Hartford, Connecticut, and I just finished a case.” I finish tying my shoelaces, go to the hotel window, and peek out the curtains down a dozen stories to my classic, light blue convertible. It is already gassed-up and ready to go in anticipation of the long trip back to River Heights. “I can drive up today. What’s the address?” I quickly grab my new handheld GPS unit from my knapsack. Dad got it for me as an early birthday present.

 

“1223 Lockwood Circle, Blackridge. New Hampshire, of course. Do you need the zip?”

 

I type as fast as I can, squinting at the options that pop up on screen. “Nope, found it,” I say, pulling up the address. “I’ll be there in three hours.”

 

----

 

“So you’re on your way to New Hampshire now?” Dad asks, his voice connected to my car’s speakers, thanks to some bluetooth dashboard upgrades my friend George engineered for me. “Why shouldn’t classic cars get all the fun stuff?” she had said.

 

“Yes,” I say, eyeing the car behind me. They came up fast. “Do you remember Aaron Reeves?”

 

“The Chief’s friend, right?”

 

“Yes. He called for me personally.” Now that car is tailgating in a passing zone, with absolutely no oncoming cars. I am already going ten over. Can’t I just enjoy a nice mountain drive, please? I hit my brakes and slow down to exactly the speed limit just to annoy them. They back up a little in response, but then go right back to tailgating. I grit my teeth. Just pass me while you can!

 

“You’re sure it was him, right?” Dad always asks me to confirm identities with people I take cases from, ever since that incident in Scotland. That was the first and only time he had told me that I did not have his permission to be out of the country. He told me to come home the instant he found out, because I had been investigating the cause of my mother’s death. Ever since she died, he has been overprotective of me. And perhaps for good reason, based on what little I’ve found out.

 

“Yes. The Chief actually called right after Sheriff Reeves did to let me know that he would be calling. I told him he already had.” I chuckle. “The Chief did say that he seemed pretty desperate when he asked about me.”

 

“Well, please be careful. I don’t want you getting hurt. I wish Ned were there with you.”

 

“I know,” I say, slowing down a bit more as the car haphazardly passes me on a double-yellow line on a mountain curve. I shake my head at them, just glad that they aren’t tailgating anymore. Now it’s just me, the forest, and the bright blue sky. “Classes, remember?” I remind him. I smile at the thought of Ned and I working on cases together on a regular basis when he graduates.

 

“Or Bess. Or George.”

 

“Job, and internship,” I remind him.

 

He sighs. “Just do be careful, Nancy.”

 

“I will!” I say cheerfully.

 

“I know you are. You always are. I just… I just have a weird feeling about this case.”

 

“You say that about every out-of-town case, Dad.”

 

“Well, this time, I mean it a little extra. Do you want me to call ahead and arrange a nice hotel for you?”

 

“The Sheriff said he had one lined up for me. The Wattleworth Hotel.”

 

Dad scoffs. “I’ll make some calls and get you in a better one.”

 

“Dad,” I say with a slight chuckle.

 

“The Wattleworth chain is fine and all, but let’s get you in a proper hotel. I’ll call back in a bit.”

 

As usual, I know he won’t let this go. The business at Drew Law Offices has hit an all-time high, and his hotel standards have gone up with it. “Sounds good, Dad.” I smile. “Thanks.”

 

“Love you, kiddo. Talk to you soon. Keep me updated where you are, okay?”

 

“Love you too. And I will! Bye.”

 

He hangs up, and I take in a deep breath, gripping the steering wheel tighter. I miss him a lot. He’s been abroad for the past few weeks for an important trial. 

 

And then there’s Hannah and Togo back home, without either of us. Hannah has been dating though, so she should be okay.

 

I look around with a smile, allowing myself to soak in the beautiful New England scenery, relishing the bit of alone time I have left before diving into another case.

 

But this is what I enjoy. The chaos, the intrigue, the cases, the people…. I love solving mysteries.

 

And I am good at it.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3 - Dean


Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

Almost seven hours, one shitty motel room, and two uncomfortable suits later we pull up to Lockwood Estates. There is a ghost hunting van at the front of the property. I sigh. The last thing we need is more Ghostfacer-type douchebags.

 

Then my eyes land on the house.

 

“Are you serious,” I state grumpily as we pull into the property, parking next to an old police cruiser. This mansion could have been pulled straight out of a horror movie, with peeling paint, rotting wood, and overgrown plants covering the porch. If anywhere were to be haunted, it’d be here. 

 

From what Bobby told us en route, he doesn’t know much about the guy who called us in, only as much as he’d told me. But Bobby was able to dig up some info on the property. Apparently, the owner--Sherman Lockwood--hanged himself in his room a couple centuries back. Unexplainable deaths have been plaguing the property since, and it has been officially abandoned for over a decade. That’s all we have to go on, and it’s already enough to convince me that those who ignore the legend are idiots. I am reminded of our last job, at a place called the Monroe house. 

 

“What moron would want to spend the night here?” I ask.

 

“You’re telling me,” Sam agrees as we step out of the car. We head past the line of cars and crunch through the snow towards the building. I shiver. New England is always cold, especially this time of year, but is it usually this cold? Crime scene tape surrounds the entrance to the house, and cops are crawling over every inch of the place. 

 

I freeze, my sour mood dissipating. Several yards away from us stands one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. She is small, has soft round curves, and is impressively well put-together.

 

“Dean?” Sam asks, a few steps away from me. 

 

“Look at this car, Sammy!” 

 

“Yeah, that is a cool car, Dean, but—”

 

“You don’t get it, Sammy!” I say, smacking him on the arm with the back of my hand, “I haven’t seen a car this old in such good condition since, well, since my Baby .” I almost feel like I am cheating on my own car looking at this beauty.

 

It is a cobalt blue 1968 Chevy Camaro convertible, with a single, pristine white stripe running down the side and a clean fabric top. It must have either been painted recently--or very well-maintained over the years--to retain that metallic sheen, which is only dimmed by the dirt and ice splattered on the front. An occupational hazard of the season, as I very well know. 

 

What I would give to be able to drive her . I have to meet the owner of this car, I think to myself, giving a small audible moan.

 

Dean ,” Sam nags.

 

I look longingly at the car and purposely give a long sigh to show my annoyance. I’ll have to get a closer look later. “Fine.” He is always so serious. He needs to get laid. I follow him the rest of the way to the crime scene. We wave our badges in front of the cop guarding the entrance to the mansion grounds. “Agents Wood,” I gesture to myself, then look to Sam, “and McKellen,” I introduce. The cop glances at our badges and pulls the crime scene tape up for us to enter the grounds. I glance back just in time to see the driver door of the Camaro open. I can’t believe my eyes. 

 

My heart flutters, my breath catches, and something in my brain freezes. 

 

A young woman, with long, silky, red hair steps out. In her early twenties, if I have to guess. She shakes out her locks as she straightens her jacket’s collar, the strands catching seductively in the sunlight. Using her hip to knock the car door shut leaves her hands free as she pulls her hair back into a high ponytail. She looks to be shorter than me by almost a foot, but has a thin and curvy figure that more than makes up for it. She is wearing a pleated skirt to boot. This girl, paired with this car? I have never seen anything sexier in my entire life. “Dude,” I smack Sam again, a little harder than last time. 

 

He turns to see what I was looking at. “Seriously, Dean? You don’t have to get my attention every time you see a cute girl.” 

 

Is my brother even human? How can he not get how amazing it was to see this beautiful car with this beautiful woman? How can he possibly not get the allure? The magic of it all? It makes me want to shake some sense into him. 

 

I scoff. “No, Sammy, you don’t get it! She owns the car .”

 

“Most women do own cars, yes,” he says, surely messing with me by this point.

 

“No, she owns the car. And she’s cute.”

 

Sam glances over at her, then back at me. “No.”

 

“What do you mean ‘no?’ She is .” I grin.

 

“I meant ‘no, Dean, please focus for once.’”

 

“Pfft,” I scoff, rubbing my palms together in excitement. “A cute girl who just so happens to own a beautiful car? This day is getting better and better.” If she sees my car, and we get talking, maybe a nice dinner and booze… well, let’s just say I would be driving more than that car by tonight.

 

“Just try to focus on the job, Dean.” 

 

“I can multitask.” 

 

Sam just shakes his head as he practically drags me towards the house. The double-doors to the mansion open, and a cop steps out. He sees us and waves us over. As we get closer, I notice the sheriff badge pinned to his shirt. 

 

“Hello, gentlemen,” he greets. “Heard we had a couple of FBI agents at the scene. What brings you boys here? The FBI isn’t usually on cases like these.” 

 

“We’re just being thorough,” Sam explains. “Sheriff, are there any witnesses to the latest murder?”

 

“We have a couple here but, if you don’t mind waiting a moment?” 

 

Sam and I look at each other. We are both thinking the same thing: Waiting for what?

 

“I, ah, asked a professional to come help out with this case,” the sheriff explains.

 

“A professional?” Sam questions, cocking his head slightly. He looks like a puppy whenever he does that. “...You mean like a Private Investigator?”

 

The sheriff shrugs. 

 

Sam and I share a glance. Is there another Hunter here? 

 

“Here she is now.” The sheriff nods to someone behind us. We turn around. It’s the girl with the Camaro. I can tell instantly that she isn’t the Hunter type. I smile at her softly, giving her the eyes that usually get our waitresses. Her gaze is dismissive. 

 

“Great to finally meet you in person, Nancy,” the sheriff says, a much warmer greeting to her than to Sam and me. “Chief Mcginnis spoke very highly of you.”

 

“Nice to meet you as well,” Nancy says, shaking his hand with a grin. She had changed from her form-fitting jacket to a bulky sweater. Emerson College . Her alma mater?

 

“The Chief has told me a lot about you and your case record. Exceedingly impressive. How many years now?”

 

“Officially? Three. Opened the business at nineteen.” Who the hell is this chick?? “Before that,” she continues, “I spent years working on my skills and building relationships in the professional world.”

 

Twenty-two then. I wasn’t too far off. And she has her own P.I. business already? Goddamn. A small part of me wonders if this is the life Sam would have if he had stayed in Stanford...

 

Sheriff Reeves gives a low whistle, wiping his hand on his brow. He’s clearly impressed, as am I. The sheriff finally turns back to me and Sam. “Oh, Nancy, let me introduce you to Agents McKellen and Wood.”

 

“You can call me Dean,” I say, winking as we shake hands. Her eyes narrow. That... isn’t the response I was hoping for. I’ll just have to pull out all the tricks for this one.

 

“Ignore my partner,” Sam says, giving me a warning glance as he takes her hand to shake next. “Nancy, right?”

 

“Yes. Nancy Drew,” she says warmly. Sam freezes, his face paling. She doesn’t seem to notice.  “You’re Agent McKellen, right?”

 

“Y-yes. I’m... Agent McKellen.” He gulps.

 

I haven’t seen my brother so nervous since that case with the clowns.

 

“So… ‘ Drew ,’” Sam says cautiously, “Any relation to, um, Carson Drew?”

 

“Actually, he’s my father!” Nancy says brightly. “We work cases together sometimes. Do you know him?”

 

“Only by reputation.” Sam gives me an “oh, shit” look. I’ll have to ask about that later.

 

Nancy nods to the body bag as some poor saps roll it towards the coroner’s vehicle. “So what happened here?” She pulls a notebook and pen from her small backpack. She flips through to a fresh sheet, and I catch glimpses of dozens and dozens of pages that are completely filled with neat notes, diagrams, and God-knows-what-else, all written in blue ink. I frown. She’s definitely more on the geeky side. She might have more in common with Sam than me, but when has that ever stopped me?

 

The sheriff puts his thumbs in his pockets, squinting over at the body. ““The vic’s name was ‘Donovan Hughes,’ and it seems he was a ghost hunter from Whitefield. It’s the strangest thing. This is the second death in a month, but the list goes on if you expand the timeline. We have no leads, and can only do so much with the jurisdiction battle between us and the next county over. That’s why Mcginnis suggested calling you in.”

 

“Why is that?” Nancy asks before Sam or I can. She is scribbling away in her little notebook. I try to read what she is writing, but she angles the book so I can’t without being super obvious.

 

“This land sits right on the county line,” the sheriff answers, “Technically, it is in our jurisdiction but some of the bodies have been found in those woods.” He points past the house and into the dense forest. “That’s Coos County.”

 

I open my mouth to ask a question, but again, this Nancy girl beats me to it. “And the house is literally on the line?” She gestures with her pen.

 

“Yes. The main house and the front yard are here in Grafton County. The cemetery and back woods are in Coos.”

 

Interesting. A jurisdiction battle. This could work in our favor. I share a meaningful look with Sam.

 

“You don’t seem all that concerned about another death having happened, to be honest,” Nancy says bluntly.

 

Right to the point, I think to myself, raising my eyebrows. I like that in a woman.

 

“You see as much as I’ve seen, kid, you learn to keep it all boxed out.” He stuffs his hands in his pockets. “To be honest, I am almost certain that it’s suicides, just because of the lack of evidence. Maybe something about the place. The deaths are always here around the property, and never… never natural.”

 

Sam and I glance at each other.

 

Nancy once again beats us to the punch. “How do you mean, ‘never natural?’”

 

“Well, natural as in, how another human could possibly have done it. The deaths… see… they’re near-decapitations.”

 

That catches my attention. Sam jerks his head forward. “Decapitations?” he checks.

 

“Well, yeah,” the Sheriff says. “ Nearly decapitated. Like, ah, who is it? Nearly-Headless Nick from that movie. And it gets odder. The blood pattern never shows any obstructions--meaning no one has ever been in, um, spatter distance--and there’s no weapon.”

 

“That does qualify as, ah, weird,” Sam muses, giving me a significant look. Definitely something supernatural.

 

“Also, it gets weirder,” the sheriff continues, “Hughes had a video camera on him, but the tape’s gone. Either he forgot to load it--”

 

“Or someone took it,” I finish.

 

“Has anyone combed the woods?” Nancy continues.

 

“We have,” Reeves continues, looking over at Nancy, “at least on our side of the county line, and the Coos County fellas have done their part. But we haven’t found anything. That’s why… well, that’s why we need you.”

 

What are we? Chopped liver?

 

“I’ll do what I can,” Nancy says, closing her notebook. 

 

“Well, here’s the case file. I got everything together for you.” The sheriff pulls out a large yellow envelope and hands it to Nancy. “If there’s anything missing, let me know and I’ll do my best to help ya out.”

 

“Thank you!” Nancy replies gleefully, acting like she has just received the most wonderful Christmas present.

 

I force a smile on my face, a little irritated that we couldn’t ask any questions ourselves. “Can, uh, we get one of those?” I ask, gesturing to the case file.

 

“If you come down to the station after we’re through here, I can get a copy for you gentlemen,” the sheriff says with a smile. “...Well, I’ll leave you three to it. The witnesses inside were the ones who found the body. I’ve got to get back to the station.” He nods and walks away. Sam and I turn to Nancy, but she is already almost to the front doors.

 

I race after her. She’s completely out of my league, but what do I have to lose? I mean, I have two months left, so I might as well try. “Nancy, right?” I say as I catch up. 

 

She stops to look at me. 

 

“That’s your car over there,” I continue, “the convertible?” 

 

“...Yes, it is. Why?” 

 

“I’m somewhat of a car enthusiast myself. The Impala’s mine,” I state casually. “Maybe after we do all this,” I twirl my pointer-finger and look around before turning my attention back to her, “we could talk cars, maybe get some dinner, and drive each other’s?” I smirk and quickly look her over, hoping the innuendo isn’t lost on her. 

 

She smiles at me. A good sign. My heart beats a little faster as she gets closer, barely inches away.

 

“Even if I wasn’t taken,” she tells me, jabbing her finger into my shoulder, “I would say I was. Let’s keep it professional, shall we? Agent Wood?” 

 

My grin drops.

 

She turns away, walking at a clip pace towards the front door. My cheeks burn in embarrassment, but I can’t help but watch her rear. The sashaying, God, the sashaying. I swear she must be doing it on purpose just to taunt me. Am I drooling? Jesus Christ. I jerk myself out of my trance to wipe the edge of my mouth just in case.

 

Sam appears at my side, trying--and failing--to stifle a laugh. “Did I hear that right? Did my brother, the king of getting women, just get rejected?”

 

“Shut up,” I say quietly. “Let’s just focus on the job.”

 

“Like Nancy said, right?” Sam starts, a big grin on his face. “ ‘Let’s keep it professional, shall we?’ ” he says in a horrible, high-pitched impression of the P.I.

 

“Shut up .” I punch him in the shoulder to get him to stop. Sam simply laughs. I am never going to live this down. I start to go after her, but Sam grabs my arm. 

 

“Dude. In all seriousness though. Did you hear who her dad was ?”

 

“Something-something Drew, right?”

 

Carson Drew. As in the big-shot, internationally-known lawyer?”

 

I pause, wondering why he feels the need to tell me this.

 

“If we aren’t careful here,” Sam warns, voice getting lower with every syllable, “We are in some deep shit. We need to find a way to cut her off before anything happens.”

 

“We’re FBI agents, Sammy,” I whisper back, “She has to listen to us. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

 

Sam replies with a grimace. I glare at him before stalking into the house. We are going to be fine. We just have to do what we always do: act the part. 

 

In the foyer, there are two men in neon orange vests. They are holding hard hats, and are crammed uncomfortably on a couch that is clearly too small for both of them to be on.

 

Nancy is already talking to them. Would it kill her to take a breath? How many questions can a girl ask? I am ready to patiently wait for her to finish with her boring-ass questions, but Sam has other ideas.

 

“We would also like to ask you a few questions,” he interrupts, discreetly showing his badge. 

 

I wave my own badge at the witnesses' faces, while also slyly making sure Nancy is able to see it. That has to earn some points with her, being a man with a badge. Certainly can’t hurt.

 

She just raises an unimpressed eyebrow.

 

I am getting nowhere with her.

 

Sam continues, attention fully on the witnesses, “You didn’t happen to see anything weird that night, did you?” 

 

The men exchange a look. The one on the left speaks, “Weird?”

 

“Yeah,” Sam goes on, “flickering lights, cold spots, smell any sulfur?” 

 

I try to ignore the questioning look Nancy gives us. But damn it, she is good at this, and we must seem like some real, well, oddballs asking these questions. If her opinion of me is already low, this can’t be helping.

 

“Uh,” the guy on the right begins, “Not that last one I don’t think, but we definitely saw some lights flickering. The dude’s flashlight for one. That might’ve been it. Not many lights around to judge by.”

 

“Yeah,” the other guy adds, “And it did get cold, really cold, right over by that staircase as we went outside to call 911.”

 

Sam nods. “Okay, good.” Looks like our mysterious benefactor was correct, we are working with a ghost. 

 

I glance at Sam, his expression mirrors mine. We are both thinking the same thing: We have to get Nancy off this job. And fast.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4 - Nancy


Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

A Half Hour Previously...

 

The entrance to the property is marked by an icy van, which is emblazoned with “Whitefield Ghost Hunters” in a red horror font on the side. The tires are all flat, and the body of the vehicle has sunk into a low drift of snow.

 

I make a mental note to check it out later.

 

The tires of my car bite into the gravel and dirt as I drive past the gates. The circular driveway is crammed with police cruisers, a coroner’s truck, as well as a collection of other emergency vehicles. The flashing lights mix with the bright sun above, and would give me a headache if I hadn’t trained my gaze over the years. 

 

I park right at the door. I am unsure if they were saving the space for someone else, or for perhaps foot traffic, but there is still plenty of room around my car. 

 

Before I even turn off the engine, I write my dad a text to let him know I have arrived safely and send it off, hoping it will alleviate any worries he has.

 

Although, he knows that I do this. I regularly keep information from him to keep him from worrying so much. I can’t blame him, but at the same time, I am almost twenty-two years old.

 

I turn my attention to the chaos surrounding the manor. I note that all of the officers are wearing heavy winter coats and are shrugged over for warmth.

 

My eyes catch on yet another car that is entering the property: a shiny black 1967 Chevy Impala. A truly beautiful contemporary car to mine. Two men in dark overcoats step out. The shorter one nudges the other and points at my car excitedly. That is the usual reaction to my car. My dad always warns me to be careful with it, and to treat it nice, and it will do the same.

 

I smile a little at how excited the guy seems to be. I love to elicit such a happy reaction from people. I remove the keys from the ignition and get out.

 

A sharp, chilled breeze hits me in the face, blowing my hair into my face. I spit hair out of my mouth and quickly pull it back into a high ponytail. And, deciding it is far too chilly for my hoodie, I grab a thick Emerson College sweater from my back seat. It’s the one I stole--er, borrowed --from Ned. I struggle for a moment pulling it on, hoping dearly that no one is watching me. My thick leggings are little help against the harsh temperatures, but there is nothing I can do about that now. The outfit was perfect for the upper thirties and forties of Hartford and all the gas stations I stopped at. What is the deal here?

 

The two men from the Impala are at the edge of the crime scene tape on the porch, irritably talking to who I assume to be the sheriff. Crossing my arms for warmth, and pulling the long sleeves over my hands, I crunch through snow as I go to investigate.

 

The sheriff glances at me, and then his face lights up in recognition. He must have been to my website. 

 

“Great to finally meet you in person, Nancy,” the sheriff tells me, seemingly relieved for an excuse to cut off his previous conversation. I quickly push my sleeve up to shake his hand. Short but firm. He gives a good first impression. He nods at me. “Chief Mcginnis spoke very highly of you.”

 

“Nice to meet you as well,” I say with a smile. I am dying to know who these two men in overcoats are, and why they are hovering so close to the sheriff and me, but one thing at a time.

 

“The Chief has told me a lot about you and your case record. Exceedingly impressive. How many years now?”

 

“Officially? Three. Opened the business at nineteen. Before that I spent years working on my skills and building relationships in the professional world.”

 

The sheriff whistles in amazement. He gestures to the overcoats. “Oh, Nancy, let me introduce you to Agents McKellen and Wood.”

 

Agents? Like FBI agents? Damn it. I have worked with the FBI before. It went okay then, but I do prefer to do my investigations without being held up by bureaucracy. However, this isn’t the end of the world. I’ll just have to find a way to shake them and keep the case.

 

I turn to the shorter one first, the one who was eyeing my car earlier. He is about six foot, has light brown hair, and green eyes crinkled in a smile. But it is a smile I recognize all too well. One that indicates he is interested in more than saying “hi.”

 

“Agent Wood. But you can call me Dean,” he says with a wink.

 

“Ignore my partner,” the other one says. He is even taller than “Dean,” and is slouched slightly to compensate. His long hair is tucked neatly behind his ears. “Nancy, right?”

 

“Yes,” I say with a smile as we shake hands, “Nancy Drew. You’re Agent McKellen, right?”

 

He looks suddenly very concerned. He must recognize my name, and know that I stop at nothing to not only keep cases, but solve them. I have been around the world more times than I can count, and have solved so many cold cases that Chief McGinnis actually calls me “Nancy Cold-Case Drew.” My reputation tends to precede me, making most people nervous.

 

“Y-yes. I’m... Agent McKellen.” He stutters out, chewing on his lip. “So… ‘ Drew ,’ Any relation to, um, Carson Drew?”

 

I smirk. If they haven’t heard of me, they’ve heard of Dad. International lawyer extraordinaire, working some of the biggest cases of today. “Actually, he’s my father!” I say innocently, hoping that this knowledge will make them leave me to my case. “We work cases together sometimes. Do you know him?”

 

McKellen looks over at Wood, face pale. “Only by reputation.”

 

Good.

 

I cock my head to see around him and watch as the body is rolled out of the house. “So what happened here?” I ask, pulling my notebook from my knapsack and holding my pen at the ready.

 

The Sheriff takes a step forward, thumbs in the belt loops of his pants, and jaw set. “The vic’s name was ‘Donovan Hughes,’ and it seems he was a ghost hunter from Whitefield.” He nods towards the van outside the gates that I noticed earlier. “It’s the strangest thing. This is the second death in a month, but the list goes on if you expand the timeline. We have no leads, and can only do so much with the jurisdiction battle between us and the next county over. That’s why Mcginnis suggested calling you in.”

 

“Why is that?” Out of the corner of my eye, I notice that Dean is trying to read what I am writing. I angle the notebook away, and he slumps, looking defeated.

 

“This land sits right on the county line. Technically, the house is in our jurisdiction but some of the bodies have been found in those woods.” He points past the house and into the dense forest. “That part of the property is in Coos County.”

 

“The property is literally on the line?” Both Overcoats keep trying to interject, but I don’t let them. I have my questions. They can ask theirs after me.

 

“Yes. The main house and the front yard are here in Grafton County. The cemetery and back woods are in Coos.”

 

The door slams shut on the coroner’s truck, jerking me away from thoughts of county development. “...You don’t seem all that concerned about another death having happened, to be honest,” I tell the sheriff, trying to keep any accusations out of my voice.

 

He gives a half-hearted chuckle. “You see as much as I’ve seen, kid, you learn to keep it all boxed out.” 

 

I nod thoughtfully.

 

He smirks sadly at me. “To be honest, I am almost certain that it’s suicides, just because of the lack of evidence. Maybe something about the place. The deaths are always here around the property, and never… never natural.”

 

“How do you mean, ‘never natural?’”

 

“Well, natural as in, how another human could possibly have done it. The deaths… see… they’re near-decapitations.”

 

I blink a couple of times.

 

McKellen tilts his head forward, his long hair coming untucked from behind his ear. “Decapitations?”

 

“Well, yeah,” the Sheriff says. “ Nearly decapitated. Like, ah, who is it? Nearly-Headless Nick from that movie. And it gets odder. The blood pattern never shows any obstructions--meaning no one has ever been in, um, spatter distance--and there’s no weapon.”

 

“That does qualify as unnatural,” McKellen muses, giving his partner a significant look.

 

“Also, it gets weirder. Hughes had a video camera on him, but the tape’s gone. Either he forgot to load it--”

 

“Or someone took it,” Wood finishes.

 

“Has anyone combed the woods?” I ask.

 

“We have, at least on our side of the county line, and the Coos County fellas have done their part. But we haven’t found anything. That’s why… well, that’s why we need you.”

 

“I’ll do what I can,” I assure him.

 

“Well, here’s the case file. I got everything together for you.” He hands me a thick manila envelope. “If there’s anything missing, let me know and I’ll do my best to help ya out.”

 

“Thank you!” I say with a smile, carefully stuffing the envelope into my knapsack to check out later.

 

“Can, uh, we get one of those?” Wood asks, pointing to the envelope, which is sticking partially outside of my bag. 

 

“If you come down to the station after we’re through here, I can get a copy for you gentlemen.” He claps his hands together. “Well, I’ll leave you three to it. We have a couple of people inside the building,” the sheriff jabs his thumb behind him, at the house, “They were the ones who found the body.” He looks right at me. “I’ve got to get back to the station. Let me know if you need anything.” He nods to me and walks away.

 

Time to get to work. I have to move fast if I want to keep ahead of these FBI cronies.

 

Before the Overcoats can even process that the sheriff has left, I rush towards the door. I want to talk to the witnesses before everything gets taken out of my grasp.

 

The quick crunches of gravel alerts me that one of the agents is running to catch up. I try very hard not to sigh aloud.

 

“Nancy, right?” It’s Agent Wood.

 

Trying not to roll my eyes, and to give him the benefit of the doubt, I slow just enough to face him. He seems to expect me to say something, but I don’t. I know enough about interviewing tactics to not say more than I intend to. 

 

“That was your car out there,” he asks, pointing, “the convertible?”

 

“Yes, it is,” I say cautiously, “...Why?”

 

“I’m, ah, somewhat of a car enthusiast myself,” he says with a seductive smirk. “The Impala’s mine.” 

 

I know. I saw you drive up in it.

 

“Maybe after we do all this,” he continues, gesturing to the crime scene, “we could talk cars, maybe get some dinner, and drive each other’s…?” he trails off, eyeing me up and down.

 

I blink, trying to remember the last time a guy was so blatantly obvious. I think fast, trying to determine a proper response to such a statement.

 

After a heartbeat, I give a wicked smile and approach him. “Even if I wasn’t taken,” I tell him, putting power into my voice and poking him sharply in the chest, “I would say I was . Let’s keep it professional, shall we? Agent Wood?”

 

His face comically drops, and I hope dearly he has learned his lesson. I whip around and walk at a quick pace to the door, leaving Dean standing where he was, looking lost. I smirk to myself.

 

The main room is filled with CSI. Dried blood stains surround the point of death like dirt from a meteor crater. Based on the white tape left behind, the body was found with the head pointing ninety degrees from where it should. A truly gruesome way to go.

 

In the hallway adjacent, wrapped in shock blankets and squashed together on a tiny loveseat, are two men in hard hats and reflective vests. The one on the left is skinny and young, barely my age, if that. He is staring at the crime scene with a haunted look. The other is much older, maybe my dad’s age. He has a fuller physique and a thick, brown beard.

 

“Hello, my name is Nancy Drew,” I say, extending my hand out to the man on the left.

 

“Gerald Marks,” he says, shaking my hand. His skin is like ice.

 

“Eric Hattingson,” the other says. His handshake is firmer.

 

I pull up a dusty chair, take a seat directly across from them, and pull out my notebook.  “Do you mind if I record this conversation?” I ask, pulling my voice recorder out of my bag and showing it to them. 

 

“Of course not,” Hattingson says, “Anything I can do to help.” 

 

“Same,” Marks says with a nod of agreement.

 

I nod with a smile, turning on the recorder and clipping it to my pocket. “I’m just here to get a quick statement from you two,” I say kindly, “I know you’ve already had to talk to the police. I’ll try and be quick.”

 

“‘Preciate it,” Marks says with a quick nod.

 

“You two were the ones who called 911?” I ask.

 

“Yes,” Hattingson tells me, “We come out to the area sometimes for powerline work. We saw the guy’s car out front on the road and decided to investigate.”

 

“The van?” I check.

 

“Yeah,” Hattingson says, “The ghost hunting one. From Whitefield maybe?”

 

“Whitefield?”

 

“It’s a town a little ways up north,” he explains, “Just far enough away to not know about Lockwood.”

 

“How do you mean?”

 

Hattingson sighs. “Everyone knows that, at night, this place is haunted as hell. No one survives the night. Very few are stupid enough to try.” He gestures at the crime scene.

 

“The gates were forced open, and we were worried,” Marks says, looking down at his hands.

 

“Forced open?” I say.

 

“The chain on the lock was cut,” Hattingson elaborates, “like someone came through with bolt cutters or something. Not sure. To be honest, we weren’t paying too much attention to that at that point. The front door of the manor was open and we could see a flashlight beam. When we went closer to investigate, well...” he gestures to the crime scene behind me.

 

“Did you notice anything out of the ordinary about the scene?” I ask.

 

“Besides the headless guy?” Marks exclaims shrilly.

 

“It’s always been cold here,” Hattingson says, taking off his hard hat and running a hand through his hair. “But when we showed up, it was below freezing. In town it was in the thirties, maybe forties, but as soon as we got near the property it dropped to below freezing. Almost subzero.” 

 

“Is that odd? For the area I mean?”

 

“It’s been pretty mild the past few days up here. It should have been the same temperature of the town. Or close.”

 

“All I know is it got cold ,” Marks says, rocking back and forth slightly.

 

“We checked the temp on the truck’s dash before we got out,” Hattingson continues, “And it wasn’t like we were showin’ up in the middle of the night or anything. This was just a few hours ago. At… what was it, Gery? About noon?”

 

Marks nods in agreement.

 

That’s about when the sheriff contacted me, I think to myself.

 

“Do you remember anything else?” I ask gently.

 

“Well,” Marks starts, swallowing hard, “the whole reason we came out here in the first place was because of the call,” Marks says.

 

“Call?” I ask, leaning forward. 

 

Very unfortunately, McKellen and Wood choose this exact moment to show up and butt in.

 

“We would also like to ask you a few questions,” McKellen interjects, pulling out his FBI badge and showing it to Hattingson and Marks. Both witnesses visibly tense. I catch a glimpse of Dean’s FBI badge as he also shows it off, and my heart skips. Every tip Dad has given me over the years about fake credentials comes to the surface in a momentary thrill of panic. That is not a real badge. 

 

I blink and look away, trying not to let on that I know. Wood is on my left, and McKellen is on my right, both standing and towering over me. I cannot just slip away. I snap my notebook shut to keep my notes private. 

 

What should I do?

 

I decide to wait it out a bit. If this whole thing was orchestrated by the sheriff, I don’t want to show all my cards at the beginning of the game. I will have to be careful how I play this.

 

Be careful who you trust , my dad has always said, Your mom slipped up once. Once. And I couldn’t do anything to save her.

 

I take a deep breath.

 

Stay calm.

 

“You didn’t happen to see anything weird that night, did you?” McKellen says importantly, putting his hands in his coat pockets.

 

I already asked them that.

 

“Weird…?” Marks asks uncertainly.

 

“Yeah. Flickering lights, cold spots… smell any sulfur?”

 

What? The witnesses and I share a very confused look.

 

“Uh…” Hattingson starts, “Not that last one I don’t think, but we definitely saw some lights flickering. The dude’s flashlight for one. That might’ve been it. Not many lights around to judge by.”

 

“Yeah,” Marks says, “And it did get cold, really cold, right over by that staircase as we went outside to call 911.”

 

“Okay, good,” McKellen says with a nod.

 

What on earth was that about? It sounds like the type of questions Savannah Woodham would ask while--

 

...ghost hunting.

 

Some officers appear, taking the witnesses outside. I stay seated as the frauds move away to talk in low voices. My mind whirs rapidly.

 

Who are these people?

 

I have seen plenty of characters in my line of work. From concerned family to friendly introverts to harmless jocks with chips on their shoulders. I have met and interacted with certifiably crazy (and some were indeed certified) people. Private investigators, detectives, cops, international crime forces, and lawyers. On the other end, thieves, arsonists, and even my fair share of murderers. 

 

But these two.

 

I have met ghost hunters before. Ones who truly believed in their work to the point where even I got a chill down my spine at their stories, such as Savannah. I respect them and their work, as their “ghost hunting” tips have helped me solve real cases. EVT has helped me eavesdrop on entire properties. Looking for “cold spots” has helped me find secret passages. Investigating “hauntings” has helped me find exactly where culprits don’t want me to be. How better to scare people away from a secret than to use a fake ghost to protect it?

 

But these two. Were they just trying to scare off the witnesses? Why would anyone dress up as FBI agents just to then be talking about flickering lights and cold spots? Do they think that the culprit is messing with the wiring of the house? Did they know the vic?

 

I slowly get up out of my seat as the fake agents whisper hurriedly to each other in the corner. What should I do? What should I do?

 

I can call the sheriff back immediately, I can get the attention of one of the officers still on-scene, I can just shout out the truth. But none of those options seem all too great. 

 

My hand bumps into the voice recorder on my belt, and a flash of inspiration hits me.

 

I glance over at the frauds, both of whom seem oddly interested in my actions. Innocently, I go over and pretend to examine the fireplace. I check to make sure the recorder is still running, and grip my pen and notebook while pretending to take notes.

 

Now I wait.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5 - Sam


 

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

Dean grabs my elbow and yanks me aside as soon as we finish questioning the witnesses. Or, rather, after Nancy and I questioned them and Dean brooded over striking out with her. “So, what are we going to do about her?” Dean hisses. I glance up at Nancy. She has started to look around the crime scene. 

 

“I don’t know,” I sigh. She seems pretty smart, and from the way she handled Dean, pretty determined, too. Persuading her to leave won’t be easy. “I think I’ll try and talk to her.” I open my jacket to show Dean the pocket with my badge. He raises his chin in acknowledgement. I let out a small cough. “You should, uh, probably not come with me. Don’t think you guys started out on the right foot.” I can’t help but smirk. 

 

He glares. “Yeah. Laugh it up, Sammy.” He pulls out the EMF meter from his inside pocket. “I’ll be upstairs.” 

 

I turn back to Nancy and walk towards her. She is inspecting the mantle of the fireplace for some reason, completely ignoring the much more interesting blood splatters on the other side of the room. I clear my throat. “Ms. Drew.”

 

She looks up at me. I am used to being much taller than people I meet, but sometimes it still takes me off-guard, such as now. Short people can have this… hellish fire in their eyes when they look up at me, and God help me, Nancy has it. “You can call me Nancy,” she says with a short bite. She is holding her journal and a pen with white knuckles, as if she is upset that I dared interrupt. I glance at the fireplace. Is she taking notes of something? I can’t see anything worth noticing, besides the solid inch of dust.

 

I swallow. Get a move on, Sam. “Look. Nancy...” I pull out my badge. “You’re going to have to leave this case to the feds.” 

 

A small smile appears on her face as she looks at my badge. That isn’t good. I quickly put it away. 

 

I swallow. “What we’re investigating—”

 

“What are you investigating?” She stares up at me pointedly. 

 

“Um, I can’t say exactly.” She looks unconvinced. “It’s classified,” I try. “And dangerous. You can’t be working on it with us.” I have her full attention now. But there is...something in her eyes. The fire has been replaced with determination. It’s as if telling her to get off the case has only made her more interested. “Sorry,” I add. I’m not completely sure why. 

 

“I saw you use those badges to get into the crime scene earlier,” she begins. “Impersonating an officer of the law is no small offense. Especially when you do it to get inside the crime scene of a murder.”

 

My heart skips. Shit. “...What are you talking about?” I try, smiling at her.

 

She just raises her eyebrows, unimpressed. “Please spare me the theatrics. You have fake badges, yes?”

 

“Of course not. Why would you even say that.”

 

She rolls her eyes.

 

I work my jaw, chewing on my lower lip. I feel my expression solidify into a fearful snarl. I lower my voice. “Fine. Yes, we have fake badges. How did you know?”

 

“My dad, the lawyer?” she prompts, as if I’d forgotten. “He’s taught me a few things.” 

 

This is bad. This is really bad. My mind is going 100 miles an hour. “What’s your angle here?” I ask through gritted teeth.

 

“What’s yours?” She crosses her arms, looking self-satisfied.

 

“Solve the case. Same as you.”

 

“Is that so?”

 

“It is .”

 

We stare at each other for several seconds. I am breathing heavily, trying not to panic.

 

Maybe we can still work this job. Try and sneak around Nancy. But what if she tells the police about us? It’s not like we’ve never been on the run from the law, especially nowadays, but it is something I would like to avoid if possible.

 

I mean, we could try and go behind the cops’ backs, but I am not sure how long we could pull that off. Even if we somehow managed to escape the police, her connection to her father alone damns us. If we get kicked from this job, we will have to get more hunters to work on it as soon as possible. But who knew how many more people this ghost would kill before then?

 

Thinking fast, I glance up the stairs, but Dean is nowhere in sight. I look back at Nancy. She has no proof that we aren’t Feds. That should give us enough time to get out should she decide to go blabbing. Until then, we just have to keep her happy.

 

I hold my hands out placatingly. “We don’t want to cause any trouble, okay?” She looks unconvinced. I take a deep breath. “We’re here to work on this case,” I say again, “Same as you.” 

 

She slowly and deliberately slides her knapsack from her shoulder and puts away her notebook and pen. “Who are you? Really?” She lets her now-free hand drift to her side. My immediate thought is that she is armed, and I instinctively place my own hand under my coat.

 

But I am wrong. She is unclipping a small device from her pocket.

 

“Uh…” I chuckle a little. My gaze slides from her face to her hand as I relax slightly. Thank God. The last thing we needed was another shootout incident. “What are you holding?”

 

She slowly raises her hand, without breaking eye contact or changing expression, revealing something I recognize instantly. My nervous smile drops in horror.

 

A voice recorder.

 

And it has been running this entire time.

 

...And I openly admitted that we are impersonating FBI Agents.

 

Dean and I are absolutely and unequivocally, fucked.

 

“I--” I start, hands turning to ice in growing panic. Honestly, I would be impressed if this wasn’t happening to me, but Dean and I aren’t exactly on good terms with the law. The only reason we are even free is because we were lucky enough Agent Henrikson was exposed to the supernatural and was basically forced to believe us. On top of that, Dean and I are officially dead. No one is searching for dead men, but if Nancy’s tape gets out, we’re screwed. I guess Dean wouldn’t be in trouble for long since… I force myself back to my current predicament.

 

I swallow, a thought having just occurred to me. Could she be a demon?

 

“Christo,” I mutter, scratching behind my ear.

 

Her eyes narrow in confusion. “...Wh--Did you just say ‘Christo?’ What is that, a cuss word?”

 

Okay, not a demon then. “Nothing, never mind,” I say awkwardly. “Look, can we, uh, come to some sort of agreement?”

 

Nancy quirks an eyebrow and angles the recorder so that the plastic casing catches the overhead light. “Well, I suppose I wouldn’t feel the need to show this to anyone, if you were to say, do something for me.”

 

“...And what would that be?” I ask hesitantly, a pit of ice forming in my stomach. What could she possibly want from us? She seems pretty capable by herself. Why does she need us? From her perspective, we would only get in the way. Besides, she seems to have the police on her side.

 

Where the fuck is Dean?

 

She cocks her head with a small smirk. “Tell me what you know. I can tell you know something the cops don’t.” She glances from between me and the recorder. “Those questions you were asking earlier. About the lights and the cold spots. Let me guess, you’re ghost hunters? But ghost hunters that are hiding behind fake FBI badges, meaning you’re pretty determined to keep others out of the picture. What’s the story, ‘McKellen?’”

 

Wow. Nothing gets past her. That is surprisingly and disturbingly accurate. Is she another Hunter? I had initially dismissed the thought when I met her, but now I’m not completely sure. She certainly knows enough about ghost hunting, but gives the impression of being far too prim and proper. A little dorky. We might even be friends under different circumstances. She doesn’t seem the cold-blooded Hunter type. Not nearly as hardened as me or Dean. 

 

“And… you aren’t… a Hunter?” I ask uncertainly.

 

She stiffens as if offended--maybe she is. “No,” she says shortly. “Now answer my question.”

 

I swallow nervously. I can’t take my eyes off the recorder, still running in her hand. Proof is Dean’s and my worst enemy when it comes to the supernatural and our escapades in hunting. We already have demons chasing after us, we don’t need to add cops to the list. Again. 

 

In the wrong hands, the results would be catastrophic. Hell, the results have been catastrophic. We can’t go through this again. Not to mention that this girl, this PI prodigy, with her lawyer of a father and connections with the police, could make things very difficult for us in the future. Well, very difficult for me.

 

If we get out of this, I’m definitely stealing this trick.

 

“Did you know that these new models can send clips of audio instantly to up to fifty recipients at a time?” Nancy says nonchalantly, looking down at the recorder, “I wonder how quickly the Sheriff will get back here when he knows that the two ‘FBI agents’ are frauds and are tromping around on his crime scene?”

 

Jesus Christ, can things get any fucking worse.

 

The stairs creak loudly as Dean walks down towards us. He nods at me, signaling we have EMF upstairs, but then realizes how tense I look. He hurries down the stairs.

 

Nancy glances between us. 

 

“You found something?” she asks as Dean reaches the end of the stairs and joins us. 

 

I grit my teeth. “Yeah, he found something,” I tell her. There is no point in lying now. She basically knows everything. Who knows? Maybe being honest with her is the key to getting out of this situation. I get the impression she doesn’t like being lied to. “EMF readings. Electro-magnetic frequencies. If there’s a high reading, it means there’s a ghost nearby. Or, there was a ghost nearby.”

 

“Yes, I know what EMF is. I also know EMF meters are affected by power lines.” She nods to the window where power lines stand outside the house.

 

I close my eyes and sigh. 

 

“...You’re a Hunter?” Dean asks her in disbelief. I get the assumption. Why else would I have explained what he found?

 

“No,” she restates firmly. 

 

Dean glances at me. I see the unsaid question: Are you okay? I subtly shake my head a fraction of an inch, glancing down at the recorder. “It’s a hypothetical funkytown down here, Dean,” I tell him, nodding my head at Nancy.

 

My brother’s eyes widen in comprehension, and he takes a step back. He lets his hand drift to the gun hidden at his side, sliding into a defensive position.

 

Nancy notices his sudden change in demeanor. “I’ve met my fair share of ghost hunters,” she explains, “Although they typically don’t use fake FBI badges.”

 

“You told her?” Dean accuses, eyes still wide.

 

“He didn’t tell me anything, I didn’t already know,” Nancy answers for me. “I can tell a fake badge when I see one.”

 

I blink slowly to clear my head. “Dean,” I tell him, “She has a recording.”

 

Dean’s brow wrinkles in confusion.

 

“That we have fake badges,” I explain. 

 

Dean’s gaze snaps to her. He flicks his coat back and wraps his hand around the handle of his gun, but a cop loudly creaks down the stairs just as he does so, reminding him of his surroundings. He slowly relaxes so as to not draw attention. I glare at him and shake my head. Really, Dean? I can’t believe he was about to just shoot some random girl, in a crime scene, surrounded by policemen.

 

Never mind. I can.

 

Nancy doesn’t even bat an eye at Dean. “What are your real names? Why are you here?”

 

I stare at the voice recorder in her hand. If that thing really does remotely transmit audio clips, Dean and I are in some serious trouble. We need to come up with something, and fast.

 

“Let’s uh, just calm down here,” I say placatingly, mind racing, “Can we just… explain? Recorder off?”

 

She stares at me for several long, painful seconds. Finally, she clicks the ‘off’ button and shoves the recorder in her pocket. She crosses her arms. “Fine. Explain away.”

 

“My real name is Sam Winchester,” I say, hoping to earn some trust from her by telling her my actual name. “And that’s my brother Dean.” I wave my hand in Dean’s direction. “We’re Hunters,” I say slowly, exchanging a glance with my brother. He gives an almost imperceptible nod. “My brother and I… we… travel the country, banishing ghosts and demons and… well, that… kind of stuff,” I finish lamely.

 

Nancy blinks, unimpressed.

 

Another officer saunters through the scene. All three of us automatically shut up and act natural, watching him. Nancy rolls her head to look back at me after he’s gone.

 

“Why the theatrics?” she asks, nodding at the suits and at the old EMF reader in Dean’s hand.

 

“We take our job very seriously,” I tell her, “We just want to keep people safe.”

 

“By hunting… ghosts.

 

She is definitely a skeptic.

 

“By doing what we need to do to make sure there are no ghosts,” I try, shrugging a little at Dean. “Something is killing these people. We are just doing what we need to do to make sure it stops.”

 

Nancy and I stare at each other for a long time. I try not to swallow nervously.

 

“...Did you know the ghost hunter who died?” she asks, nodding at the crime scene. “Donovan Hughes?”

 

Dean snorts. It’s his turn to be offended. “No,” he tells her, “That guy was in a whole different profession than we are. Trust me.”

 

Nancy raises her eyebrows in disbelief. “Alright fine,” she finally says, clicking her pen open. “Do what you ‘need to do’ and then go. But if I find out you aren’t who you say you are, or if I find out you messed with this investigation in any way, this recording goes public.”

 

She glares at each of us with that short-person-glare-of-fiery-death, and then stalks out of the room, taking more notes.

 

I catch Dean staring at her ass again. I smack him in the arm, giving him a disbelieving look.

 

“It was just… a reflex,” he explains lamely.

 

I drag my hand down my face, taking a deep breath. We need to do this job fast and get out before Nancy changes her mind. “Just… show me where the EMF was.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6 - Nancy


Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

The brothers are making a lot of noise up there. It would be impressive if it weren’t so annoying.

 

It’s funny. How many times that recording trick has worked for me. Thanks, Rentaro. 

 

I drum my pen against my notebook, trying to decide what to do now. Maybe I should search the property for clues. Or maybe I can run down to the sheriff’s office and get more information on past deaths. I flip through my notebook to the case’s task list I made, checking off things I’ve already done (which isn’t as much as I’d like, sadly).

 

Get to the crime scene. Check! Let Dad know I got here safe. That’s finished. Meet Sheriff Reeves. Check. Question any suspects/witnesses on-scene. Done.

 

The rest looms in front of me. Investigate past deaths. Look into manor history. Search the grounds. Search the house. Go down to the station for more information. Talk to the victim's peers. Do a background check on Sam and Dean. Etcetera, etcetera.

 

Not to mention that at some point I need to check into my hotel and get something to eat.

 

A loud thump, as if someone knocked over a dresser, echoes through the house, disturbing dust and making me jump. I glare up at the ceiling, wondering what the hell those two are doing up there. 

 

I check the time. Might as well do as much as I can at the estate while I’m here. Not to mention the fact that I am wary of leaving Sam and Dean here without some sort of supervision.

 

Plus, while they’re preoccupied upstairs, I can snoop in their car.

 

----

 

I nod to a few of the cops as they start to clear out, silently cursing their presence. Breaking into one’s car is generally viewed as a bad move.

 

While I wait for them to be gone, I lean against my own vehicle and grab the envelope containing the case file from my bag. 

 

What have we got here ,” I breathe to myself, pulling out the sheaf of papers.

 

There are names, dates, and locations of the deceased, along with full-color images. I wrinkle my nose, hoping dearly that these don’t haunt my dreams tonight.

 

Each vic’s information is stapled together for me, alleviating any worry that I will get things mixed up.

 

About half of them were found in the woods behind the house, based on a crude map of the property, which has x’s drawn on them in red marker, as well as exact coordinates.

 

“This will be helpful,” I say aloud to myself, drawing the attention of an officer. I smile embarrassedly at her as she walks away with a confused look on her face.

 

While I wait for the last patrol car to pull away, I start typing in waypoints on my GPS, while also noting my current location for reference.

 

Finally, right around the time I finish, the last car drives out the gates and vanishes down the road.

 

I saunter over to the Impala’s driver door, pulling on my cloth gloves and grabbing my lockpicking kit. I kneel down in the gravel to pick the door lock. It takes a good minute, but eventually I hear the click I’m looking for.

 

What else are you guys hiding ?” I muse to myself, climbing inside. There isn’t much in plain sight, besides some takeout cups and old receipts. I slide over on the bench seat to investigate the glove compartment, which only has the usual insurance papers--nothing else of interest.

 

I get out and walk around to the trunk, glancing around to make sure I am still alone, and pick the lock just as easily as the driver door.

 

The interior of the trunk seems normal enough, with a couple of limp duffel bags. I chew my lip, and on a hunch, pull up the bottom panel where usually, there would be a spare tire.

 

“Oh my God,” I can’t help but say as I open it. There are guns of all shapes and sizes, as well as various accelerants, salt cans, crucifixes, stakes, charms from all kinds of religions, an axe, extra ammo, etcetera.

 

There is a box near the front, which I cautiously open. Inside, are a plethora of IDs, badges, and everything in between. All the pictures have either Dean or Sam’s face on it, and most have their first name, but they all have different last names and occupations. Medical Doctors, Homeland Security Agents, Department of Wildlife Representatives, US Marshals, Student IDs from various colleges, Newspaper Reporters, Police Badges….

 

My throat catches, and I stuff them all back in the box.

 

I swallow. There’s normal ghost hunting, and then whatever this is.

 

Slowly, I close the trunk again, looking up at the house to make sure they haven’t been watching me, and then back up into the trees so I can examine the grounds. My feet crunch on icy snow and twigs.

 

I take a deep breath once I am out of eyesight of the front windows.

 

I need to call the Hardy brothers about this. 

 

I get them on speed dial and hold the phone to my ear.

 

“Hi, you’ve reached Frank--”

 

“And Joe!”

 

“We can’t come to the phone right now--”

 

“Because we’re probably doing something awesome.”

 

“But leave your name and number, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.”

 

“Stay frosty!”

 

The phone beeps. “Hey Frank, hey Joe. It’s Nancy. Call me back as soon as you get this. It’s important.”

 

I snap the phone shut. 

 

----

 

I check the GPS coordinates again, and then the case file. One of the bodies was found here, just a few yards from the back door of the house. It doesn’t make sense. None of these locations seem at all odd, or interesting. Each body was found at a different distance from the house, nowhere near any of the estate buildings or the private graveyard, and have nothing in common besides being on the property and nearly decapitated. No trace of a weapon or motive has ever been found.

 

“What the hell is happening here?” I mutter aloud to myself, slapping the case file against my thigh.

 

The faint trace of voices jerks me back to the present. I whirl around, taking a second to realize that it is just the Winchester brothers from the front yard. A flash of panicked realization hits me.

 

Wait a minute. I forgot to lock their car.

 

I dash back around to the front of the house, but I am too late. The brothers are already in the Impala. I dig my hands in my hair and turn around, mind racing. I know better than this. I should have immediately locked everything back up, but now they know someone was snooping around. 

 

I dig my nails into my scalp, pacing back and forth. “ Maybe they didn’t notice ,” I breathe to myself, “ Maybe they’ll think they just left it unlocked .”

 

A desperate hope. But maybe it will all be okay.

 

My phone rings. I take a deep breath and pull it from my pocket. It’s the Hardy brothers.

 

“Hey Frank, hey Joe,” I say, shifting my weight foot to foot as I watch the Impala drive away. “I’ll get right to it. Do you still have those connections of yours?”

 

“Maaaaaybe,” Joe says. I can almost see his teasing smile. “What’s up?” he asks, “Digging up information on an ex? Looking into professional rivals? Did someone deny you admittance to a theme park and now you want to know why?” His voice gets faster with every syllable. 

 

I roll my eyes with a chuckle, trying to ignore my racing heart. “Oh I miss you, Joe.”

 

Frank jumps in. “You may think that was just Joe being Joe, but there’s a story there. It involves a girl Joe liked but she was a professional rival of ours. They dated, he broke it off because it turned out she was… crazy. Apparently, the girl had some friends at the pier, and used them to keep Joe out of the park when we went there last week, just to get back at him.”

 

“I don’t know how to respond to that,” I say honestly.

 

“I didn’t either, to be honest,” Frank replies.

 

“Let’s just move on, please,” Joe says, agitated.

 

“You brought it up, dude,” Frank points out.

 

“Anyway,” I say, “I’m on a case in New Hampshire. There’s a couple of guys here who were pretending to be FBI agents. Turns out they are not FBI and they claim to be, uh...” I grimace, “hunting ghosts.”

 

“Awesome,” Frank says sarcastically.

 

“Awesome!” Joe says, non-sarcastically.

 

Frank sighs at his brother. “So are you turning them in?” he asks me.

 

“Well, not yet. I kind of want to know more about who they are first. But I do have a recording of them admitting to the fake badges. Using that as leverage, I learned that their names are Sam and Dean Winchester, and they travel the country doing what they have to do to get to crime scenes so they can banish ghosts… or vampires, or whatever else.” I throw up my free arm, knowing how stupid it sounds.

 

“So they’re like your ghost-hunting friend, Savannah?” Joe asks.

 

“I’m pretty sure Savannah has never impersonated a federal agent,” I say, running a hand through my hair.

 

“And they just told you all this?” Frank asks, incredulous.

 

“Well, yeah. I think I freaked ‘em out. I also found a bunch of IDs in the trunk of their car. Along with a lot, and I mean a lot of aliases.”

 

“What makes you think Winchester is their actual name?”

 

“It was the only last name they both had IDs for. They mentioned that they’re brothers. Also, it was the only name that didn’t have something attached like, ‘Homeland Security,’ ‘FBI,’ ‘Department of Wildlife,’ etcetera.”

 

“Nice. We’ll look into them for you, Nance.”

 

“Thanks, Frank.”

 

“Be careful, though,” Joe adds, “Desperate people do funny things.”

 

“Will do,” I promise.

 

We hang up.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7 - Sam


 

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

The police begin to clear out of the mansion. They bag up the evidence and usher out the witnesses, leaving me and Dean alone. I can’t see Nancy now, but I can tell she isn’t completely onboard with Dean and I being “ghost hunters'' as she called us, but she is letting us stay on the job, and I’m not going to miss any opportunities to finish it. We need to check on the EMF Dean found before Nancy runs into the ghost. 

 

“Upstairs?” I ask Dean. 

 

“Yup,” he answers. I can tell he has more to say, but being Dean, he holds it in. We have begun to march up the steps when he suddenly spits it out, “I’m just gonna say it, this job blows. Being compared to ghost hunters? Ghost hunters ?!” 

 

There it is.

 

“No thanks to you,” I reply sharply. If Dean could see women as more than something to flirt with, we wouldn’t be in nearly as big of a mess. Nancy could actually be a huge help to us if we had her completely on our side. She is smart and witty, and clearly has a good track record at solving cases. Plus, having her dad as someone behind the law and on our side would really help us out. 

 

“Not helping, Sam.” 

 

I huff in annoyance but decide to change the subject, so we can actually get some work done. “Where did you find the EMF?” 

 

“The room at the end of the hallway.” 

 

We reach the top of the stairs, and I look down the hall. The threadbare rug barely covers the wood floor. Old paintings adorn the walls. One large painting hangs proudly at the end of the hall. As I follow Dean, I look at each painting. It’s a shame; these paintings probably cost a fortune, but they’ve been left to decay. They should be in a museum. We finally reach the room, and Dean ducks inside. I stare at the large painting I had seen from the top of the stairs. A stern man sitting elegantly and holding a Bible stares directly at me while a woman with soft features has her hands placed on his shoulders. They’re both wearing elaborate clothing, noting their high social standing. The bottom of the picture frame reads: 

 

Sherman and Edith Lockwood.

 

“Sammy!” Dean calls. “You coming?” 

 

“Yeah,” I say, still staring at the painting. Finally, I tear my gaze away and glance inside. It’s a fairly large room, a bit bigger than our motel room, but not anything special to today’s standards. Everything is coated in a thick blanket of dust, making my sinuses tingle before I even enter. A bed stands in the far left corner next to a nightstand. The nightstand is planted under a large window. I can see the Impala from here. Dean is sifting through a large wardrobe which takes up almost all of the right wall. A desk is against the wall on my left next to a small washing basin. I vaguely wonder where in the room Sherman killed himself. 

 

As soon as I step in the room, it gets even colder. I blow out an experimental puff of air. I can see my breath. “Dean,” I say.

 

He looks up from the wardrobe. “Something is definitely here,” he states. He pulls the EMF from his coat pocket and turns it on. It rings out as every light glows red. He pockets it again, and we begin to rifle through Sherman’s room. The silence is deafening. The cold makes me shiver as I move to the desk. Stationary is centered on its dark brown wood, and a dried up inkwell is placed just to the right of the paper. The wide legs holding up the desk are made up of drawers, and I open each one. I routinely sift through each drawer’s contents, but something nags me. Why are people getting decapitated if Sherman Lockwood died via noose?

 

“Hey, Dean?” I ask. 

 

“Did you find something?” He looks away from the wardrobe. 

 

“No, there’s just…something off about this job,” I say uncertainly. “The sheriff said these deaths are decapitations. Why decapitations? Why not stranglings?”

 

“Does it matter? We got EMF in Sherman’s room, so a ghost is clearly here, and clearly Sherman. Our job is just to get rid of him, not analyze how he’s icing people.”

 

“I know, but…something is just off about this whole thing.”

 

“Sammy. We for sure know there’s a ghost here, so let’s find it and get rid of it. The details will fix themselves.”

 

“I just…I don’t know, Dean.” I sigh as I turn my attention back to the desk. He is right that the little details didn’t matter, but I can’t shake the feeling that something is just...off. Pushing that aside, I continue to search the desk. I pull the chair out from underneath it to sit down when I notice something. There’s a small wooden box tucked under the right side of the desk. I grab it before placing it on top of the stationary. I try to open it, but it’s locked. The lock seems flimsy enough. I take my lockpick from my pocket and delicately place it into the keyhole, and adjust it as needed. I can tell I’m getting close to unlocking it. 

 

“Sam!” Dean yells. 

 

I spin around to see the stern face from the hallway painting staring directly at me. But unlike the painting, this face is pale with sunken eyes and stares at me with a blankness nothing alive can replicate. “Where’s my daughter?” he croaks dryly. 

 

I stare back. What is he talking about? “Uh…” 

 

Finding my response unsatisfactory, Sherman’s ghost swings an arm at me, and I go flying into the wardrobe, dropping my lockpick in the process. I hit the wardrobe hard and fall to the floor. I look up just in time to see Dean take a small salt shaker from his inside coat pocket and fling salt at the ghost. It flickers and disappears. 

 

Dean turns to me. “Are you okay?” 

 

I slowly stand up. I’ll have a few bruises later, but nothing unexpected. “Yeah, I’m fine.” 

 

Dean nods then looks at the desk. “What were you doing? Because he didn’t seem to like it.” 

 

I walk back over to the desk. “I was trying to unlock that,” I say while grabbing my lockpick from the floor.

 

Dean picks up the box and inspects it. “Maybe we should bring this back to the motel. We don’t want to be interrupted again.” 

 

I nod in agreement. “Good idea.” I follow him out the door and back down the hallway. We creak down the stairs. It’s empty. I guess Nancy left, I think as we reach the doors. The cold outside air blasts us as we step through the doors and make our way to the Impala. Nancy’s car is still parked next to ours. Where is she? I didn’t see her inside. We get to the car, and I automatically pull on the passenger door handle open as Dean gets out his keys. The door opens. I look up at him over the roof of the car. “Hey man, did you leave the door unlocked?”

 

He looks up, keys in hand, and then sees my door, hanging open. “No I did not .” We stare at each other for a split second, and both dash to the trunk. Dean yanks it open.

 

Everything still seems to be in place, but there is a knot in my stomach. “Are you sure you locked the car?” I check, box still in my hands.

 

“I swear to God, dude.”

 

I look around. Could Nancy have done it? But if she had, wouldn’t she have taken things?

 

With a loud sigh, Dean slams the trunk shut and runs a hand through his hair.

 

“Well, nothing’s missing, right?” I say cautiously, “And we still have this thing to look through, right?” I smile uncertainly, holding up the box.

 

Dean stands there for several seconds, hands splayed on the trunk. “Yeah,” he finally says, shoving himself upright and stalking to the driver door.

 

As we drive away, I see Nancy walking from the side of the mansion back to its entrance. She stops to watch us drive away. I swallow, as we turn out of the property and she vanishes from sight.

 

Clearly, we need to be more careful around her.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 8 - Nancy


 

Perennial Boulevard

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

I drum my fingers on my steering wheel as I crawl through rush-hour traffic. Driving is when I get my best ideas about a case, and I can use all the inspiration time I can get.

 

Who are Dean and Sam? How did they manage to show up at the same time as I did? Why did they pretend to be FBI agents? What was their intention behind hiding their ghost hunting background?

 

Speaking of ghost hunters, there are just as many questions about the victim. Was he there to investigate the first death, or was it merely a coincidence that he showed up so soon afterwards? Why were his van’s tires slashed? How did someone get the drop on someone who hunts spirits for a living?

 

I take a deep breath and adjust my sitting position.

 

Why is Lockwood such a “haunted” place? And why have the deaths started up again? Why are so many people sneaking onto the property? I would think that if a place is filling up with dead people, I’d stay away.

 

Of course I say that, yet here I am.

 

I sigh. There must be something I am missing. Some kind of lore, some kind of local “common knowledge” that I’m missing. Why else would a killer hang out on one property… and still not get caught? Why else would all these people feel drawn to the place? I remember what Hattingson said about the place being “haunted as hell.” Why? What am I missing?

 

I turn into the parking lot for a place called “Lucy's Diner.”

 

Time to gain some local knowledge.

 

----

 

“Can I get you anything else, Ms. Nancy?” the waitress asks kindly, setting down my ice water while my meal is being prepared. She is a plump, cheerful woman named “Dot.”

 

“Actually, I had a question,” I say, unwrapping a straw and putting it in the glass. I am sitting at the counter, the first open spot in the crowded, 50’s style diner. The smell of sizzling beef fills the air, and the chatter of customers is at a cheerful level. Hometown food and atmosphere at its finest.

 

“Name it dear,” she says, holding her notepad at the ready.

 

“It’s about something I heard in town… ‘Lockwood Estates?’” I watch her face for a reaction, and I get one.

 

Her smile fades, and her eyes glaze over. She slowly closes her notepad and puts it in her apron pocket, avoiding eye contact for a good five seconds. The man next to me gives me an odd look before quickly glancing away.

 

“‘Lockwood Estates,’ you say,” Dot says, crossing her arms.

 

“Yes,” I say, taking a sip of water, “I heard it was ‘haunted’ or something. Is that a local legend?”

 

The man next to me, still turned away, says, “More like local fact , missy. Stay away from that manor if you want to stay alive.”

 

Ah, right to the point. Thank you, Diner Guy .

 

“What does he mean by that?!” I ask Dot in a fake, alarmed tone. 

 

“It’s nothing dear. There’s been a lot of things happening up there lately. Police just got involved again, I heard. Stay away.”

 

“What Dot means to say is,” Diner Guy interjects, glaring at me, “That place is cursed, and has been since that maid o’ theirs was killed.”

 

“Maid?” I start. 

 

The woman to my left jumps in. “Bernie, you know that’s just a legend.”

 

“Isn’t all of this a legend?” Bernie declares, gesturing with his coffee and spilling some. “That maid, Caroline Walker, was killed by the owner of the manor, and her ghost has been haunting the place since.”

 

Dot hurriedly mops up the coffee spill and delivers someone else an order of steak fries, looking happy to leave the conversation.

 

“You heard wrong,” Diner Woman states, “It was the opposite. Maid killed owner, owner haunts maid until her dying day.”

 

“No I did not hear it wrong, Layla,” Bernie declares, angrily slurping coffee. “My facts are as straight as my spine after I went to the chiropractor last week!”

 

‘Straight as my spine after I went to the chiropractor.’ That’s a fun one I’ll have to remember.

 

Their voices rise high enough that we have garnered attention from most of the restaurant. Even one of the chefs pokes her head out of the window with a disgusted look on her face. “You two are both wrong. Sherman killed Caroline, and then himself because they were in a relationship and Caroline threatened to tell the missus.”

 

“What kind of crackpot story are you selling?” Layla exclaims. “That is not what happened!”

 

“Well, then explain how they both died the same day, hm?”

 

Layla splutters a moment before shamefully returning to her chicken-fried steak.

 

The chef points at me with a spatula and winks. “That’s the official legend, since you seemed to have wanted to know. May have gotten more than you bargained for though, hm?”

 

I give a little laugh. “Thank you.”

 

Bernie nods at me. “Caroline Walker’s ghost haunts the grounds and gets revenge on those who seek to further humiliate her. That’s how all those deaths have happened.”

 

“Or Sherman’s ghost,” Layla mutters darkly, taking a sip of her tea.

 

“Sherman’s the owner of the manor?” I check.

 

“He was ,” Bernie says, “Like two hundred years ago.”

 

“Caroline What’s-her-face was the maid,” Layla adds. “One of them, at least.”

 

“‘ Walker ,’” Bernie corrects.

 

“Is there somewhere I can find out more about this legend?” I ask, pulling out my notebook, “It’s… for school.”

 

“If you’re that interested, you might go to the local museum,” Bernie suggests. “It’s on Front Street.”

 

“Front Street, huh?”

 

“That’s right.”

 

Dot sets my platter of fish and chips in front of me. “An author also recently came into town,” she says lightly, “He’s writing a book on the estate. He might know more too.”

 

“Where can I find him?”

 

She pauses, and pulls out her notebook and scribbles down a number. “He came in about a month ago and annoyed us all to hell. Been planning out the book for a while but needed to be in town to gather more ‘knowledge’ or ‘evidence’ or what-have-you.” She slides the paper over to me, labeled with the name “Edward Velasquez.” “Give him a call.”

 

“Thank you, I will.” I smile up at her.

 

A month ago, huh?

 

Layla huffs. “You ask me, he’s the reason the ghost is killin’ again,” she mutters darkly.

 

“Why is that?” I ask, genuinely confused.

 

“Ask him why,” she says, smacking cash on the table and getting up. “If he’s got any spine left in him, he’ll tell ya.” She cocks an eyebrow before striding out of the diner.

 

I watch her for a few seconds, then turn back to my meal. Bernie and Dot are now determinedly avoiding my gaze.

 

The conversation has clearly run its course, so I pocket the number and pick up my fork.

 

----

 

I pull the number for Edward Velasquez out of my bag, caressing my thumb over the paper in thought. Sitting at the desk chair in my hotel, I dial, holding the phone between my shoulder and ear. I lean back, holding my notebook at the ready.

 

“Hello?” a man’s voice says on the other end.

 

“Hi, my name is Nancy Drew. Is this Edward Velasquez?” 

 

“It is indeed. What can I do for you, Ms. Drew?”

 

“I heard you were writing a book about Lockwood Estates in Blackridge, New Hampshire. I got your number from Dot at Lucy's Diner.”

 

His voice rises excitedly, “Do you have information for me?”

 

“That depends,” I say, thinking fast, “Do you have any information you can share with me ?”

 

There is a slight pause.

 

“What do you want to know?”

 

“Well, first off, what made you want to write about Lockwood?”

 

“...I am writing about notable manor owners of the 17-1800’s all up and down the coast. Sherman Lockwood was known far and wide, and did many notable achievements throughout his life. He was an excellent business owner and was well-respected in the community. Perfect candidate for my book.”

 

“I see.”

 

“My turn. What do you know about the hauntings?”

 

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” I tell him.

 

“Well, what’s your answer?”

 

“I know there was a scuffle between Sherman Lockwood and one of the maids, Caroline Walker I believe. One of them killed the other, or a murder-suicide, and then one of their ghosts haunts the grounds, killing all who dare try to spend the night.”

 

“...That is a generally-accepted legend, yes.”

 

“Your turn. What do you know of the legend?”

 

“I daresay that I know more than the general Blackridge resident because of my historical references, but not by much. You got pretty close.”

 

“So this Sherman and Caroline are the, ah, ‘ghosts?’”

 

“Well, the story goes that the two of them were in a relationship, but Caroline wanted more of the cake, so to speak. She wanted Sherman to leave Edith--his current wife--for her.”

 

“Oof,” I can’t help but say, writing furiously.

 

“...Yeah. They got into an argument. In those days it would have completely derailed his reputation if he were to leave his wife for one of ‘the help.’ Caroline threatened to bring their affair to light, and Sherman killed her, then himself after he realized what he had done.”

 

“And that’s the historical tidbit?” I question.

 

“Yes. As far as what we know--I mean, that’s what’s been recorded. Sad to say that history can be fabricated. But we do have proof that Caroline and Sherman were killed, and on the same day.”

 

“Is it possible that the wife found out about the affair and killed them both?” I ask.

 

“You’re sharp. She was indeed a major suspect way back when, but her alibi was confirmed by the town priest the night of the murders. She was doing church work in town with the priest’s daughter.”

 

“Ah,” I say. “So Sherman and Caroline were alone.”

 

“Except for some other housemaids and such. They all confirmed a couple of variations of the same story, so we are fairly certain about the events I just told you about.”

 

“Why only ‘fairly’ certain?” I ask.

 

“The time period. For example, if Edith Lockwood had killed them both, she would have had the help tell whatever version of the story she wanted.”

 

“But since Edith had an airtight alibi…”

 

“...We are back to being ‘pretty darn sure,’” Velasquez finishes. “Sure enough, in fact, that that’s the story going in my book. Doesn’t hurt that it’s a juicy twist. Most of the other men I’m writing about died of smallpox or some other mundane thing.”

 

“So that wraps up the facts, then,” I clarify.

 

“Yes, and that brings us to where the legend part kicks in. The story goes that Caroline felt so betrayed by her murder that she haunts the grounds, taking her anger and sadness out on anyone who tries to spend the night at the manor. Sherman is also said to roam the grounds, horrified at what he had done, and again, taking it out on unwary souls who wander onto the property.”

 

“So there are two convenient ‘ghosts’ that people can blame for deaths in and around Lockwood Manor.”

 

“Precisely.”

 

My mind whirs. Now that I have a better idea of the legend, all I can wonder is, who would want to use it to their own gain, and why?

 

“Did one of them die by decapitation, perchance?” I ask on a hunch.

 

“...Yes. The maid, Caroline. Sword to her neck. Wasn’t a complete decapitation, but it did the job.”

 

I straighten.

 

“What about Sherman?”

 

“Noose.”

 

“Ah.”

 

“...Can I ask what made you call me?” Velasquez asks, “Curiosity? Do you live in Blackridge?”

 

“I don’t live in Blackridge, but I am here on a case. The sheriff called me in to investigate the latest string of murders at the Lockwood Estate.”

 

“I see... I wish I could say I had nothing to do with it.”

 

I swallow. “But you did?” I ask tentatively.

 

“When I arrived in town last month, neither of those murders had happened yet. I mean, the Lockwood Estate was known to kill people. But not so many, so close together, and so recently.” He says it all in a rush, as if eager to get it off his chest. “I started asking questions about the estate,” he continues, “about Sherman Lockwood. It seemed to stir up a hornet’s nest among the townspeople. At first, everyone clamored around me to give me their two cents about the legend. Then, suddenly, everything changed after the Monroe kid died. No one would speak to me. I was shorned. It was like they thought I was the cause of the ghost ‘killing again’ and some even told me as much.”

 

Like Layla, the Diner Lady. “...Why did they think that?”

 

“They blamed me for that kid’s death. Apparently, he’d gone to the manor because of me. Because he wanted to be ‘helpful’ and get ‘more information.’ I never asked him to! I never would ask anyone to go by themselves. Especially in a place that is so well-known to be dangerous.”

 

“Did you tell them that?”

 

“Of course !” he declares. I can hear the agitation in his voice, and it sounds as though he has started pacing. “But no one would listen. I was even taken into the station for questioning. Thank God I had an alibi or else the town would have probably crucified me.”

 

“What was your alibi, if you don’t mind my asking?”

 

“Like I told the police, I was at an all-night coffee shop working on my book. The one on the corner of Main and Lakeside. Cameras put me there until four a.m., and the kid died around midnight.”

 

“Four a.m.?!”

 

“This is a different time zone than I was used to, you must understand. I thank God that I hadn’t adjusted yet.”

 

“Indeed,” I agree. I pause for a moment. “Did the death last night have anything to do with you or your book?”

 

“I’m honestly not sure. I’m worried that it is, and I’m worried that the legend is true. That’s why I called that ghost hunter guy in South Dakota.”

 

“What?”

 

“Never mind.” He pauses, and then gives a huffy sigh. “Look. I thought it might be ghosts, so I called a ghost hunter. He recommended his nephews. That’s it. I’m embarrassed to even admit it, okay? They don’t even know who called them.”

 

I blink. The Winchesters.

 

“Can you think of anyone who would do this to get back at you ?” I ask, “Do you have any enemies?”

 

“...Not that I can think of. But I suppose it’s possible. Although I don’t see why they would kill innocent people instead of going after me. If they are just trying to get back at me, and using other people to do it, then they are cowards .” His voice has a bite to it. “I would hate to think that I caused this. I have even considered calling my research a wash and leaving town.”

 

“What stopped you?” I ask curiously, “Why stay?”

 

“I… I guess I felt a responsibility to that first kid. I had met him, you know. We’d had a long talk, discussing my other books and how he wanted to follow in my footsteps. If I can even offer the slightest bit of information to help find his killer, then I want to. He didn’t deserve to die. I hope you find the culprit. For his sake. Just... stay away from that house at night. You know, uh, just in case.”

 

“I’ll do my best,” I promise.

 

He is quiet for a few seconds. “Do you have any other questions?” he finally asks.

 

“I think that’s it for now,” I reply, head swimming with all the new information.

 

“Well, feel free to call again if you need anything else. I’ll do my best to help.”

 

“Will do. Thank you, Mr. Velasquez.”

 

“No. Thank you , Nancy Drew. And please, call me Edward.”

 

“Thank you, Edward,” I say with a smile. “I’ll be in touch.”

 

“WAIT!”

 

I freeze, thumb milliseconds away from the “end call” button. I slowly put the phone back to my ear. “...Yes?”

 

“I have a collection of records for the family around that time. Would that be at all helpful to you?”

 

My mind races. The deaths do seem to have something to do with Edward’s book and the history of the estate itself. If I can crack the motive, and why the Lockwood Estate is so important, I’ll be that much closer to discovering the killer.

 

“That would be exceedingly helpful!” I tell him excitedly.

 

“Great! I have a fire safe with it all. I was going to give it to the ghost hunters but I have no idea how I would. I can bring it to say, that coffee shop I mentioned? Are you busy this evening? I can give it to you now.”

 

“As a matter of fact, I am not busy. Are you sure you don’t mind giving it to me?”

 

“Like I said, if there is anything I can do to help catch that killer, I want to do it. All I ask is that I get it all back at some point, if possible. But I do have photocopies of everything just in case. Maybe just share it with those ghost hunters, though, if you run into them?”

 

I bite my lip, not wanting to promise anything concerning the Winchesters. “Thank you so much, Edward,” I tell him sincerely. I check the clock. 6:34 p.m. “Meet you at seven?”

 

“Sounds good. I’ll make sure everything is gathered up. See you then.”

 

“See you.”

 

We hang up.

 

----

 

I have to park a ways away, but the coffee shop is thankfully easy to find. A well-lit chain store with at least three security cameras outside. I can see why Edward had such an airtight alibi, and why he would be keen to stick around it when possible. I feel bad for the guy.

 

I hope he doesn’t turn out to be evil or something. But this seems to be a safe meeting place.

 

I walk inside, the strong aroma of coffee hitting me in the face. There is a light babble, but the place isn’t too crowded. I gawk at the layout. Two-story tall floor-to-ceiling windows line the two outer walls, and the rest has exposed brick and hand-painted logos. The place is illuminated almost solely by Edison-style light bulbs, and is decorated with an array of different styles of tables, chairs, and rugs. Above the ordering counter is a loft, with a sweeping, dark oak staircase giving access.

 

“Wow,” I breathe, going up to the counter. “Uh, one decaf iced tea please,” I tell the barista.

 

“What size?” he asks with a chipper smile.

 

“...That one,” I say, pointing to the smallest cup in the display.

 

“One small, decaf iced tea, comin’ right up,” he says, expertly snatching a small cup and uncapping a permanent marker. “Name for the order?” 

 

“Nancy.”

 

While I finish ordering, I scan the shop for anyone sitting with a fire safe. No one on the first floor matches that description. He’s either on the second floor, or not here yet.

 

I should have asked him what he looks like.

 

Just as I have come to the brilliant conclusion that I should connect to the shop’s Wi-Fi and look him up, a man, perhaps in his thirties, and with a head full of dark curls and a mustache and beard to match, walks in wearing a smart, tan suit and shiny shoes. He is carrying a heavy-duty, plastic fire safe. 

 

He scans the room, seeming to have come to the realization that he should have asked for my description.

 

I start to wave to get his attention, but the barista gets it first. “Small decaf iced tea for Nancy!”

Edward jerks his attention over to the counter, and then to me. He smiles and gives a little wave as he comes over. “Nancy Drew, I presume?” he asks warmly.

 

“And you must be Edward Velasquez,” I reply with a smile, taking my drink and shaking Edward’s hand. “Pleasure to meet you.”

 

“You as well.” He looks over to the barista. “One medium mocha latte please. Hot.”

 

----

 

“So you’ve spent how long on this research?” I ask, taking a sip from my tea and carefully skimming through the crumbling papers contained in the fire safe. I am glad I had disposable gloves in my bag.

 

This particular research?” Edward starts, picking up the birth certificate of Edith Lockwood, “Not long, actually. Only about a year. I got all this ,” he gestures to the fire safe, “indirectly of course, from the estate sale of the manor when it was abandoned a decade ago. A local history buff had bought it. She sold it all to me when I came to town last month.”

 

“So the Lockwoods still lived in the estate up until ten years ago?”

 

“No. No one has actually lived there for about a hundred years. Only maintained by the owners, whether it was the Lockwoods--which it was for a while--or some other buyers. All of this was packed into a cardboard box, which was then put in a bin, and then buried in the attic with a bunch of other junk, apparently. The woman who sold it to me was the one who put it in the fire safe.”

 

“It’s a miracle this survived at all,” I comment.

 

Edward laughs. “Right? That’s what I told her !” He finishes off his drink and checks his watch. “I really ought to be heading out. But I do sincerely hope this will be helpful.”

 

“I can already tell it will be,” I tell him with a grin. “Thank you for taking the time to get this to me.”

 

“Of course.” He stands, but then hesitates. He stares towards the door. “...Nancy?”

 

“Yes?”

 

His face darkens. “Find that son of a bitch. And bring some justice to the kid.”

 

“I will.”

 

He nods at me, and then straightens his jacket with a yank and walks out.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9 - Sam


 

Freedom Motel

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

After grabbing some fast food for Dean, and a salad from the nearby gas station for me, we are back at our motel. Dean happily unwraps his cheeseburger while I set the box down on the table across from him, my salad untouched. I glance up at him as he takes a bite. I feel an ache in my chest. I’m going to miss this. The days where it’s just the two of us on a hunt, where Dean is truly happy and truly alive. Hell, I’m even going to miss the obnoxious way he eats cheeseburgers. 

 

The pain in my chest only gets worse, and I quickly look down, hoping Dean doesn’t notice the tears that suddenly spring up in my eyes. I force myself to swallow down my feelings and take out my lockpick again and begin fiddling with the lock. It eventually opens, and I curiously peer inside. 

 

“Anything good?” Dean asks through a mouthful of food. 

 

Emotions still running high, I glare. “Would it kill you to swallow before you speak?” 

 

“I wouldn’t know a whole lot about swallowing.” He grins at me. 

 

I glare at him again. “Grow up.” I look down into the box. All I can see is a stack of small papers. I gingerly grab the stack and take it out. They are letters all individually stuffed inside envelopes. I spread them out on the table. The envelopes all have the same message: “To Sherman Lockwood with love,” in small, swirling black ink. I take the one that had been at the bottom of the stack and open it. Then I start reading. 

 

----

 

“Hey, do you want any?” Dean’s voice jars me from the letter I’m reading. I look up to see him holding a box of fries. He is doing nothing but eating and getting distracted by his new “Busty Asian Beauties” magazine.

 

“Uh, no.” I go back to reading. 

 

“Did you find anything?” he interrupts again. 

 

“Yeah, actually,” I say without looking up. “I think Sherman was having an affair.” 

 

“Oh, really?” He contemplates the fries.

 

“All these letters seem to be from the same person. They’re all signed ‘A. W.’ at the end. She tells Sherman how,” I quickly grab one of the letters I had just finished reading from the table, “‘our forbidden love is stronger than any bond’ and,” I reached for another letter, “she’s ‘afraid of what my father will do to us if we are ever discovered.’” I look up at Dean. 

 

“Looks like Sherman wanted to make sure his little affair was kept a secret even after his death,” Dean comments as he pops a fry in his mouth. “I mean, the guy did seem pretty pissed when you found the thing.”

 

“It makes sense,” I add. “Extramarital affairs were even more taboo back then than they are today.” 

 

“So, you think maybe his paranoia about the scandal carried on after his death?” Dean asks. 

 

“I mean, it adds up,” I say, trailing off in thought. Something is nagging me. Sherman’s ghost had said something about his daughter, but none of these letters mention any family dynamics. Who was the daughter, and why wasn’t she in the painting with her parents? Had she died young? Maybe she was a product of the affair. That would explain why Sherman showed up when he did.

 

“What’s wrong?” Dean asks. 

 

“Nothing, just… I mean, you heard the ghost, right? He asked where his daughter was.”

 

“...And?” 

 

“There’s no mention of her anywhere in these letters,” I explain. 

 

Dean sighs, setting down the now-empty box of fries. “We’re going to have to research this, aren’t we?”

 

“Just to tie up any loose ends,” I promise. 

 

He sighs. “Fine. I think we passed a library on the way here.” He begins wrapping up the remainder of his food. 

 

I take a deep breath, pursing my lips slightly. Speaking of mysterious daughters, I can’t get Nancy Drew out of my head. I mean, I had heard of her father when I was in school, but I’ve never heard of his daughter. She completely blindsided us earlier today. And if she is anything like her legendary father, we need to know more about her. “Wait, Dean.”

 

He pauses and looks up at me, before wiping his hands on his jeans. “Yeah?”

 

“Maybe we should call Bobby. Have him dig up some stuff on Nancy?” 

 

“That’s not a bad idea. You do that, and I’ll get the car started.”

 

I nod and pull out my cell phone. I find Bobby’s number and press the call button. He answers after two rings. 

 

“Hello, Sam. You boys in trouble?”

 

I can’t help but smile. Such a typical Bobby greeting. “No, actually. But we do need your help on something.” 

 

“What a surprise. What do ya got for me?” 

 

“A person actually. Nancy Drew. Ever heard of her?”

 

“The name sounds vaguely familiar. Why? She a Hunter?”

 

“She’s a P.I., but her father, Carson Drew, is a famous lawyer.” 

 

“Oh, yeah. I’ve heard of him. One of those international big wigs. He’s a really big deal, you know. You boys in trouble with the law again?” 

 

“No, no,” I reassure. “We just met his daughter on this job.”

 

“And let me guess, she’s interfering with the hunt, and you can’t get rid of her.”

 

“Yeah, exactly.”

 

“And her name’s Nancy Drew?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I’ll see what I can dig up. I’ll call you as soon as I do.” 

 

“Thanks, Bobby.” 

 

----

 

I sigh in frustration. I swear, this library hasn’t been updated since 1992. I don’t even remember the last time I had to use microfilm. A stack of microfilms containing the newspaper content dating back to the town’s founding are laying next to me on the table while I struggle to figure out how to fit the microfilm under the microfilm reader. I just have to find out if Sherman Lockwood had a daughter. It would be nice to find out who A.W. is and where Sherman is buried too, but I don’t have high hopes. 

 

“Here.” 

 

I look up as Dean hands me a warm cup of coffee. I gratefully take it. 

 

“Want me to drive a little?” he asks and nods at the microfilm. 

 

I sigh. I could probably use a break. “Yeah.” I get out of my chair and into the one next to it while Dean takes my place. He takes a sip of his own coffee before adjusting the microfilm and getting it right his first try. How. I glare at him jealously as I sip my coffee, but it doesn’t last long as I stare at my brother. Not even three months from now we won’t be able to do this. Work together. Memories of the sixth months I had living as though Dean had died bubble up in the back of my mind. If we ever see that trickster again, I’m going to stab him myself and make sure he stays dead. I try to focus on the task in front of us, but the loneliness has already begun to take hold of me.

 

“What are we looking for again?” Dean asks. “Sherman Lockwood’s daughter?” 

 

“Yeah,” I confirm. “See anything?” 

 

“Not here,” he answers thoughtfully before switching the film. He gets it on his first try again. I take another angry sip of coffee. “Wait, I think I found something,” he says after a few moments. I scoot closer. “Sherman’s obit.” Dean starts reading, “‘Despite dying before his time, Sherman Lockwood was a pillar to the community and will be remembered for his great works.’”

 

Dying before his time, just like Dean . I shake my head a little to bring myself back to the present. Dean isn’t dead yet, and he will not die anytime soon. I need to get a grip. Dean is not going to hell. Not on my watch. I will make sure of it or die trying.

 

I drink my coffee, hoping it placates the paralyzing helplessness that begins to spread across my body. I force myself to focus on the job. “‘Dying before his time’,” I repeat wryly, “Funny how they don’t say suicide.”

 

“Yeah, well, probably not polite enough or whatever for back then. But look at this,” Dean continues. “‘Lockwood’s funeral service will be held by Priest Zephaniah Woodbury and his daughter Abitha,’” he reads.  

 

“A.W.!” I exclaim excitedly. Someone shushes me from across the room. Dean glares at them on my behalf. 

 

“Looks like Sherman here was banging the preacher’s daughter,” Dean says, laughing to himself a little too giddily.

 

“Any mention of Sherman having a daughter?” I ask. 

 

“‘Sherman Lockwood had no heirs. His belongings will be inherited by his wife and the estate staff,’” Dean reads.

 

“The estate staff?” I question. That doesn’t seem right. Didn’t the inheritance usually just go to the family? “Why would he give any of his belongings to them?” 

 

Dean shrugs. “Maybe he was a philanthropist.” 

 

“It’s still unusual, Dean.” 

 

“Who cares? We know who the ghost is and,” Dean points at the screen, “where he’s buried.” 

 

“‘Lockwood Estates,’” I read.

 

“Yep. There’s a private cemetery in the back.” Dean grins. “Let’s go fry ourselves a ghost.”

 

----

 

Almost an hour later, Dean and I are back at the motel, waiting for night to fall so we can go to the cemetery without any prying eyes. 

 

Dean sits on his bed and brainlessly surfs through the TV, snacking on a pre-packaged pie slice from the gas station. I’m sitting at the table re-reading Abitha’s letters to Sherman. The setting sunlight pours an orange light across the table. It still bothers me that we didn’t find anything about Sherman’s daughter at the library, or anything about Abitha, for that matter. Maybe there is something I missed in the letters. 

 

My cell phone rings. I glance down. It’s Bobby. I answer the call and put it on speaker. Dean turns off the tv and curiously walks over to the table and sits across from me. 

 

“Hey, Bobby,” I say cheerily. “It’s Sam. I’m with Dean. You’re on speaker.” 

 

“Hey, boys,” he greets. “How are you doing?” But his voice is tight with concern. I know the real question he’s trying to ask: How is Dean?

 

Dean notices. “We’re fine,” he replies shortly. “Why are you calling?”

 

There’s a slight pause as Bobby probably thinks over the decision to call Dean out on his bullshit. He doesn’t. “I dug up some stuff on your girl Nancy,” he finally answers.

 

“And?” I prompt.

 

“Well, I gotta say, you’re in deep now,” Bobby says. “Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Nancy Drew is the only child to Carson and Kate Drew. Her mother died when she was young--I’ll get to that later. She was raised by her father and her live-in nanny and housekeeper Hannah Gruen. Now, the rest is a bit complicated, so do you boys want the good news or the bad news first?”

 

I frown. His phrasing implies that neither news is all that great. “Bad news,” I say, looking over at Dean. He crosses his arms over his chest expectantly. 

 

“Little Miss Nancy Drew here has been all over the place. And I don’t mean like you boys. She’s a real global citizen. She’s been to Scotland, England, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Ireland, the Bahamas, Egypt, Greece, Iceland… need I go on?”

 

I sigh. 

 

“No, Bobby,” Dean says, “we get the picture. 

 

“Good. Because it’s only going to get better.” The sarcasm in his voice is evident. “Every single case she’s been on, both inside and out of the country, she’s solved. Every. Single. Case,” Bobby emphasizes. “She’s a real tough cookie, too. She’s been physically harmed, received death threats, and regularly places herself in near-death experiences. I’m surprised you three haven’t been getting along since you have so much in common."

 

Huh. Maybe she is the Hunter type.

 

Dean rolls his eyes. “Trust me, we couldn’t be more different.” 

 

I stifle back a laugh. He’s still upset about her rejecting him. 

 

“She’s also been to jail,” Bobby says. 

 

I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but I am. That doesn’t seem right. The young, smart woman we met earlier is the last person I expect to be in a prison. “What?” I ask. 

 

“Nancy’s streak of success has been noticed by a lot of people. Including the bad ones.” 

 

I suck in a breath. That’s bound to happen, but I can’t help but feel nervous for her. Monsters are monsters. Of course they’re bad. It’s the bad people that really scare me, and Nancy doesn’t seem like the type to shy away from any danger.

 

Bobby continues, “She was framed for arson a little while back and put in jail. She wasn’t held there for long since evidence popped up provin’ she wasn’t the arsonist, but this girl has tangled with some real dangerous people. But the framing doesn’t stop there.”

 

“What do you mean?” I say. 

 

“Someone was going around pretending to be Nancy and stealing jewelry. This impersonator accused Nancy of being an imposter, and said that the jewel thief was the real her.”

 

“A shifter?” Dean says automatically.

 

“Nope. Just a nutjob who happened to be good with makeup and wigs.”

 

Dean rolls his eyes. “What is wrong with people?” 

 

“You’re tellin’ me,” Bobby agrees. There’s a slight pause. “But this is where things get real interesting. She’s encountered ghosts before.”

 

“What?” Dean and I both ask in unison. 

 

“Yup. One on a private island in Georgia, and one in Salem, Massachusetts. Maybe more. This girl has been tanglin’ with the real deal, and she doesn’t even know it.” 

 

“And she’s still a skeptic,” Dean says almost as if it’s an accusation.

 

“Well, the official story was that the ghost in Georgia was a hallucination caused by a faulty heater in the basement. The one in Salem was attributed to spiked tea. But you can’t blame her for bein’ a skeptic. If you boys had never encountered the supernatural, I’m sure you’d believe in faulty heaters and spiked tea over ghosts. I know I would.”

 

Dean and I exchange a look. Would it be best to keep her in the dark? I know I’d rather not know about the supernatural. When I left Stanford to join Dean, I never thought I would be hunting for this long, and I don’t see an end to it any time soon. But, if it came down to a life or death situation, maybe bringing up her past ghost encounters could help Nancy believe. Or at least get her to consider the possibility that ghosts are real.

 

“Okay, so what else?” Dean says. “Who are her contacts?”

 

“You boys better hold on tight. This girl has connections. As Sam mentioned to me earlier, her daddy is a lawyer. And not just any lawyer. Carson Drew has been to as many places around the world as Nancy has. He has a lot of pull with local and international authorities. I’d advise you boys to stay away from him, or at least try to stay under Nancy’s radar enough for her not to mention you boys to her dear old dad. From what I found, Nancy got her first cases by helping Carson. Seems like all three of ya took after your fathers.”

 

I push down the regret bubbling up my throat. “And what about her mom? You said she died when Nancy was young?” I glance over at Dean. He stares at the phone intently. 

 

“Kate Drew died when Nancy was ten. Car accident in Scotland,” Bobby answers. “Now, this is where things get a little...weird.”

 

“They haven’t already?” I ask. 

 

“From what I dug up, Kate Drew was in Glasgow helping a local FBI-type organization called ‘Cathedral’.”

 

“Wait, wait, wait,” Dean says. “‘FBI-type organization’? Was Nancy’s mom a spy ?” 

 

“I couldn’t tell ya. All the reports I found were all nice and ambiguous.” 

 

Dean and I exchange a bewildered look. Nancy’s family is just as complicated as ours, it seems.

 

“Anyway, Kate’s death was ruled an accident, but when Nancy was eighteen, she went up to Scotland herself to investigate Kate’s death.”

 

I frown. “So Kate’s death wasn’t an accident?” 

 

“The most up-to-date theory I could find says that the terrorist cell Kate was investigating was behind the car accident. And when Nancy was up in Scotland, she helped Cathedral take down said terrorist cell.”

 

“So, the terrorists killed Kate?” I ask. 

 

“Hell if I know. It’s just a theory. I’m just telling you boys what the official reports are sayin’.”

 

“Okay,” Dean says. “So what has Nancy been up to now?” 

 

Papers shuffle over the phone before Bobby speaks, “She is the sole owner of ‘Drew P.I. Firm,’ which is a brick and mortar by her father’s law offices in her hometown of River Heights, which is in--”

 

“I mean why is she here ?” Dean clarifies. 

 

“...She and her father are good friends with the River Height’s Chief of Police, Chief McGinnis. McGinnis is good friends with Sheriff Reeves. See what I’m getting at?”

 

Dean clears his throat, “And, uh, what about boyfriends?”

 

“What?”

 

“Does she have a boyfriend?” 

 

“Please tell me you did not try and flirt with this girl.”

 

I grin. “Oh, he did.” 

 

“How bad did she shut you down?”

 

Dean seethes. “I’m trying to find out some real information here, guys.”

 

I chuckle. “Sure you are.” 

 

“She does, in fact, have a boyfriend, Dean. More respectable than you, too. His name is Ned Nickerson. They’ve been going out for a solid four years from what I gathered.”

 

Dean rolls his eyes and snorts. “He sounds boring.”

 

I ignore him. “So, what’s the good news you mentioned?” I ask Bobby.

 

“Well, you don’t become an internationally known sleuth by twiddlin’ your thumbs all day. This Nancy girl is smart, determined, and capable. But she adamantly refuses to believe in anything supernatural. Give her a single reason to not believe in a ghost, and she will take it and run. All you boys need to do is give her that reason.”

 

Dean and I exchange a worried look. “I don’t know, Bobby,” Dean says. “It seems risky.”

 

“More risky than her facing a ghost with no idea how to handle it? Trust me, I know that road all too well.”

 

I sigh. “And this is the good news?” 

 

“I’m giving you two a solution for getting this girl off the job. You better take it.”

 

“And if she doesn’t bite?” I ask.


“She has to, because the one thing I have learned from doing all this research on Nancy Drew is she won’t stop until the case is resolved. How it resolves is up to you.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 10 - Nancy


Cedarwood Resort & Spa

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

I park my car in the snowy hotel parking lot. The sun has just set behind the mountains, leaving the surrounding scenery with a pink sky that is quickly fading into navy blue. The first few stars have started to shine.

 

There is so much to determine about this case. Like Thornton Hall, there is a lot of familial history to sift through about the owners of the estate. Unlike Thornton Hall, there are no modern-day suspects to interview. Yet. To get anyone to talk to, I have to research the property history and see who owned it last, I have to see who would have something to gain from hurting the manor’s value or the reputation of Edward Velasquez. 

 

And all I have right now is a fireproof box.

 

I sigh, pulling the key from the ignition. No wonder Sheriff Reeves called me in. To an outsider such as myself, there’s no obvious motive, no obvious suspects, and no obvious evidence or clues.

 

Honestly, the strangest thing is that the place is supposedly haunted, and that two ghost hunters pretending to be FBI agents showed up the same time I did.

 

And somehow, Mr. Edward Velasquez is right in the middle of all this.

 

I stare at the hotel, holding my keys in my lap. My eyes unfocus. If I could just talk to someone, get an outside opinion.

 

Savannah .

 

The answer has been there all along.

 

I grab the safe and open the door to get out. A gust of cold air envelops me, and my teeth immediately start to chatter.

 

I have known Savannah Woodham, ghost hunter and author-turned-journalist, for four years now. I “met” her while I was staying at a haunted ryokan in Japan and found out she had written about the place. She helped me solve that case, as well as many others throughout my career. I have never officially met her in person, communicating only over phone or messages. She is a globetrotter, same as me, so it would be difficult to arrange a face-to-face meeting.

 

She, of all people, should know if Sam and Dean are real ghost hunters. And she might have some insight about why they would be pretending to be FBI agents.

 

The sliding doors to the hotel open, bathing me in a pleasant warmth. I get a few weird looks about the fire safe, but no one asks me about it.

 

I get to my room on the second floor and make sure, as usual, that it is empty before deadbolting the door behind me. Unlike Hartford and other places I have been, all the hotels here in Blackridge are one- or two-story, which reminds me more of home.

 

I hide the fire safe behind the hotel safe in the closet, and go to the small bathroom to freshen up. I am bundled up in multiple, clashing layers, including the Emerson sweater I have yet to take off. My shoes, socks, and ankles are muddy from trekking around the Lockwood property.

 

I really should have cleaned myself up before going to meet Edward.

 

Oh well.

 

After washing my face and leaving my shoes on the linoleum, I grab my phone.

 

“I hope I still have your number,” I mutter to myself, clicking through contacts. “Ah, there you are.” I press dial, hoping Savannah’s not somewhere in the world where it’s two a.m. or some other awful time to call.

 

“...Nancy Drew. Long time no hear! How are you, Hon?”

 

“Hey Savannah,” I say, “I’m good. How are you?” I pace around my hotel room while I talk. The painting above the nightstand is slightly unlevel. I go adjust it. “I hope this isn’t a bad time?”

 

“Hey darling,” she says, with her deep southern drawl. “I am doing quite fine, thank you. And this is indeed a good time. What can I do for you?”

 

“I wanted to ask you about ghost hunting.” 

 

“Come across another ghost case, have ya.” It isn’t a question. “Still a skeptic?”

 

“I am, I am,” I say quickly. Going back to walking back and forth. “But… I have come across a pair of believers here.” I have never met Savannah in person, but I do know a lot about her and her work, and need to know if these “Winchesters” are legitimate hunters or something else. They already lied about being FBI agents.

 

“Where is ‘here,’ Hon?”

 

“Blackridge, New Hampshire. I’m at the Lockwood Estate investigating a string of murders.”

 

The phone goes deathly silent.

 

“...Savannah?” I ask, checking to see if the call got dropped.

 

“Are you serious?” she asks, voice low.

 

“Yes. I’m here on a case. The Sheriff hired me.” I go to the window and look down at my car. It is already a good deal darker outside than it was fifteen minutes ago. 

 

More silence.

 

“Savannah. You’re scaring me,” I tell her, adjusting the HVAC temperature.

 

“Nancy, do you remember when I told you what stopped me from writing that second ghost book?”

 

“You didn’t . Not even your assistant knew what happened.”

 

“Exactly. I never spoke about it for fear that what had happened would catch up to me.”

 

“Okay…?” I grip the phone tighter and stop pacing.

 

“Nancy. I was at the Lockwood Estate.”

 

“You were?” I check, curling my free hand into a fist, nails biting into my palm.

 

“Yes. And what I saw made me quit my ghost hunting career and fly halfway across the world to outrun those memories.”

 

“What happened?”

 

Yet another long pause.

 

“I don’t remember.”

 

“What?”

 

“I only have flashes of it. I have tried very hard to forget what happened.”

 

“What do you remember?” I press.

 

“Nancy, do you recall Thornton Hall down in Georgia?”

 

“Of course,” I tell her, remembering the hallucinations I had seen. The girl in the red dress and the masquerade mask. The memory of it still haunts me sometimes. The “ghost” was really just a figment of my imagination spurred by carbon monoxide poisoning from the old furnace in the basement.

 

“I told you to never open the door to the spirit world.”

 

“I remember,” I say, recalling the spooky story Savannah had told me about, how she had gotten into ghost hunting. It still sends shivers down my spine.

 

“Well, this place? Lockwood? That ain’t no place for anyone who wants to stay in the land of the living. Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic. That place is in the grasp of the dead, victims of the horrors of past tragedies.”

 

“Didn’t you say the same thing about Thornton Hall?”

 

“Nancy. Listen to me. You are a skeptic. Stay that way. But there is something at the Lockwood Estate killing those people. That alone makes it worse than the Thornton place. I can’t make you realize how much danger you are in. I can’t make you believe what I saw when I was there.”

 

“I don’t believe in ghosts.”

 

“...And I know you won’t leave this case. As much as I wish you would.”

 

“You know me too well,” I quip. “I’m going to get to the bottom of these killings, just like I got to the bottom of the Thornton Hall hauntings, and how I got to the bottom of the Ryokan Hiei’s ‘yūrei.’”

 

“Keep in mind, Nancy. Are you really debunking hauntings? Or are you simply appeasing what was already there?”

 

My breath catches. Savannah does know how to creep me out, even if I don’t believe in what she does.

 

“...Like I said before, Hon. If it’s something a person could plausibly do, then it’s probably a person. But if it’s not… well then it’s time to make a choice.”

 

“Whether or not to believe in ghosts?” I ask wryly.

 

“No,” Savannah says, tone sharp. “Whether or not to run .”

 

----

 

I am sitting propped up on my bed with pillows, flipping through case file documents, and lost in thought.

 

No patterns.

 

No clues.

 

Nothing.

 

Honestly, all I am asking for at this point is some sort of explanation, no matter how far-fetched.

 

My phone rings. Without looking, I flip the phone open and click the answer button. “Hello?” I ask distractedly, holding the phone between my ear and shoulder. 

 

“Nancy, you’re in danger.”

 

“Hello to you too, Frank,” I say dryly, setting aside yet another piece of unhelpful paper. If I had a penny for every time someone told me I was in danger, I’d have enough money to buy my own house.

 

“He’s serious, Nance,” Joe adds. “You are in serious danger.”

 

Frank continues, “Remember in Greece when we told you about that guy in the mafia who had killed people before? What’s his name?”

 

“Thanos? Yeah I remember,” I say slowly.

 

“Well, remember how we told you to stay away from him?”

 

“I do, and I did,” I say. I pause, recalling that case. “Well...I did for the most part. I tried.”

 

“Well, take that warning we gave you from back then, multiply it by ten, and apply it to Sam and Dean Winchester.”

 

“Wait--what why?” I set down the rest of the papers and stand up.

 

“They’re wanted criminals, Nance,” Joe says, a frantic tone in his voice. “Like, wanted-by-the-FBI-crazy criminals.”

 

“Well, start from the beginning,” I suggest, heart racing. 

 

“The beginning is the very beginning. As in when Dean was a toddler and Sam was a baby.”

 

“Oh boy,” I say, taking a seat at the desk. I put the phone on speaker and start jotting down what they have already said in my notebook. “Hit me with your worst.”

 

“Their parents were John and Mary Winchester. John was an ex-marine--he fought in Vietnam. He and Mary got married in the late seventies and started a family in Lawrence, Kansas.”

 

“The whole ‘story’ part starts with Mary’s death,” Joe chimes in, “She died on…” there is a shuffle of paper, “November 2nd, 1983. Sam was exactly six months old. To the day.”

 

“Weird,” I comment, “Did you find out what happened?”

 

“We did indeed,” Joe says, “House fire. We looked into it. Like Frank said, this was in Lawrence, Kansas, where the boys had lived for their entire lives, and the Winchester family had lived for a decent amount of time. This is important.”

 

“Yeah, from the sources I found,” Frank continues, “According to his friends and colleagues, John went… ah, a little crazy after that night. He used to co-own an auto shop with a friend of his. This friend says that John was certain the fire wasn’t an accident. John took the boys and left town soon after that.”

 

“Oof,” I say, my heart aching with the memory of losing my own mother. “Why did he leave town?”

 

“We don’t know.”

 

“Did John say who he thought started the fire?” I press.

 

“No. The police report rules out arson, but John wasn’t convinced. He seemed hell-bent on avenging his wife’s death, and without regard to what he would have to do.”

 

Smart money would have had the killer be in Lawrence, Kansas. Did John know more than he told his friends? “So… he… left town…?” I say slowly, confused.

 

“Yep,” Frank says.

 

“Oh,” Joe interjects, “and tracking John after that wasn’t easy. He and the boys moved around a lot after that. And by ‘a lot’, I mean a lot . I don’t think they stayed in one place for more than two months. Finding those school records was a pain .” 

 

“Yeah. That definitely qualifies as strange behavior,” I say. What was John hoping to accomplish by this? Was he tracking someone? Dean and Sam’s upbringing sounds like it was hardly the picture-perfect childhood. “Tell me more.”

 

“Well, he followed this pattern until the boys were fully grown. He moved around like clockwork, popping on and off the grid… until his final disappearance.”

 

“His final disappearance?” I repeat.

 

“Yeah,” Frank says, “I mean, this guy was a hard guy to track. But he did pop up now and again, so Joe and I were able to get a rough timeline going. He took the boys all over the continental United States, almost, if not all, forty-eight states. But John Winchester knew how to cover his tracks. We still aren’t sure if we have the whole timeline.”

 

“Okay…” I start.

 

“But the thing is,” Joe pipes up, “There was always a pattern. He would always resurface. He might be off the grid for months, but unerringly, you could always count on him showing back up.”

 

“Okay,” I say again.

 

Frank clears his throat. “He disappeared in ‘06,” he says flatly, “For good. He hasn’t been seen since.”

 

A pit forms in my stomach. Missing for two years. Did he finally figure out how to stay off the grid for good, or did he perhaps catch up to his wife’s killer?

 

Or… something worse?

 

I swallow. “What about Sam and Dean?”

 

There’s a long pause on the other end. The knot in my stomach sours.

 

“Well…” Frank starts, hesitating, “Remember what I said about these guys being dangerous?”

 

“I do…” I reply. The quietness in Frank’s voice scares me.

 

“Well they didn’t start out that way,” Joe says. “Dean took after his father. He didn’t graduate high school, but he did get a GED. After that, he continued following his dad around the country. Eventually, they drifted apart, travelling solo.”

 

That doesn’t seem bad. Just a little odd maybe.

 

“What about Sam?” I ask.

 

“Sam,” Frank says, taking a breath. “Sam was different. Unlike his brother, he did graduate high school, and managed to--get this--go to Stanford on a full-ride scholarship to study pre-law.”

 

Stanford ?!” I exclaim in disbelief, “ The Stanford in California?”

 

“That’d be the one,” Joe confirms.

 

I realize my jaw is hanging open and clamp it shut. Sam must be crazy smart to have even gotten into the school, let alone having gotten a full-ride scholarship. There’s no wonder why he recognized Dad’s name. 

 

“So he has a law degree? Or at least pre-law?”

 

“He didn’t graduate. In his senior year at Stanford, his girlfriend died. Twenty-two years after his mom. Again, to the day. He left after that. Told his friends he needed to take a break and was going on a roadtrip with his brother. He never returned.”

 

“First his mom died, then his girlfriend?” I check, feeling a pang of sympathy. “What happened?”

 

“Same thing that happened to Mary,” Frank says, “Sam’s apartment caught on fire while she was inside.”

 

“Coincidence?” Joe asks, “You decide.”

 

“...So Sam just decides to give it all up to go on a roadtrip with his brother?” I ask. Doesn’t seem too far-fetched that he would want to take some time off. But something seems off about all this.

 

“Well, here’s the weird thing,” Joe says, “Sam wasn’t close to John or Dean. When he went to college he pretty much cut ties. But get this… Dean, out of the blue, showed up at Stanford a few days before Jess--the girlfriend--died. They went out of town for a few days. And then they got back, and, that same evening, fire.”

 

“That is definitely suspicious,” I concede, mind whirring. The strange timing, Sam’s sudden motivation to go travelling with Dean, the accidents themselves.

 

“And it only gets worse,” Frank says grimly. “After Sam and Dean left Stanford, they spiraled into a life of crime.”

 

It isn’t unheard of, for someone to lose a friend or family member and then descend into crime to cope or to lash out. But again, something doesn’t seem right. I’m only getting snapshots of events happening in the Winchesters’ lives, but not enough to string together the whole picture. Something big is missing. Was someone going after the Winchesters? Was John involved with people he shouldn’t have been, and they caused the fire that took Mary? And then, exactly twenty-two years later, force Sam back into that world by killing this “Jess?” Why else would Sam, a top-notch student, suddenly go back to the family business of endless road-tripping?

 

“What kind of crime?” I ask hesitantly.

 

Another pause.

 

“Well,” Joe says, taking a breath, “You ready for this?” he clears his throat before rattling off a list. “Breaking and entering, theft, grave desecration, grand theft auto, bank robbing, and…” he suddenly stops.

 

“...And?” I prompt.

 

“Dean was uh…” he clears his throat again. “He was wanted for murder.”

 

I blink. Dean doesn’t match the image I have of a cold-blooded murderer. And I have met plenty. Sam and Dean do not have the twisted criminal vibe. They just seem like guys who want to do the right thing.

 

Maybe I am too trusting.

 

“How do you go from digging up dead guys to bank robbing and murder?” I ask. I have had to exhume bodies and go into tombs more often than the average person, but never have I felt the need to rob a bank or kill someone.

 

“I don’t know,” Frank says, “But this is where things get really complicated.”

 

“Even more complicated than they are now?” I ask skeptically.

 

“Yeah,” Joe says, no uncertainty in his voice. “There’s damning evidence Dean killed a young woman in Saint Louis, Missouri in ‘05. But. The police found his dead body at another young woman’s house hours later.”

 

My chill runs down my spine.

 

“He’s dead?” I ask quietly, wondering who the heck I have been talking to for the past two days.

 

“It gets even more complicated!” Joe asserts, “Dean’s dead body was a fake. Because several months later, Sam and Dean are robbing a bank on national television.”

 

My head hurts. “Sheesh. You’re right, this is complicated.”

 

“That’s what we thought,” Frank confirms.

 

“Luckily,” Joe says, “we were able to find most of this all compiled in one place, or else we’d still be digging.”

 

“You did? Where? How?”

 

“Well…” Joe continues, “An FBI Special Agent named Victor Henrikson had put it all together. Files of all recorded crimes Sam and Dean ever committed.”

 

“But you can’t tell anyone about this,” Frank jumps in, “We had to, uh, bend the rules to get to it.”

 

I’ve heard them say this before. “Got it,” I assure them, “This is just between us.”

 

“There’s more,” Joe says.

 

“How can there possibly be more?!” I exclaim, throwing my arms up. I already have filled up four pages in my journal.

 

“The Winchesters are into some weird stuff,” Joe comments. “Like, Satanic, weird, occultish, spooky stuff. Apparently, their dad was, too.”

 

“I guess it makes sense, if they’re super hardcore ghost hunters.” I think back to all the stuff in their trunk. Maybe they believe that a ghost killed their mom. “...Anything else?”

 

“Aside from compiling the list of their crimes,” Frank begins, “Special Agent Henrikson was able to track them down. He got a tip on their location a few months ago and arrested them.”

 

“He did? How did they escape then?” I ask. 

 

“They... didn’t,” Joe says. 

 

“The jailhouse housing them,” Frank starts, “along with Agent Henrikson and some local cops, exploded. There were no survivors.”

 

Joe pipes up, his voice full of anxiety. “Nancy, what Frank is saying is... Sam and Dean Winchester are dead!”

 

“Whoever it is who’s there with you,” Frank says, “Either it’s the Winchesters back from the dead, or they are not who they say they are. In any case, they probably had something to do with the fires or explosion. Please , Nancy . Be careful .”

Chapter Text

Chapter 11 - Dean


Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

The night air is cold as we grab our shovels, salt, and accelerant from the Impala. I can see my breath as I heft the shovel over my shoulder. We are definitely in ghost territory--it’s way colder here than back at the motel. I click on my flashlight. The full moon has no effect against the overcast sky. The only reason we are both back here so late is so Nancy won’t find out what we are doing. She doesn’t seem like the type to approve of desecrating graves. She also isn’t convinced ghosts are real, so Sam and I both agreed it’d be best if we do this alone.

 

Plus, she’s kind of annoying.

 

“One thing I like about rich, dead people,” I begin, “private graveyards.” Sam and I walk back towards the mansion across the gravel and veer left. “And good thing, too,” I comment once we reach the grass. “Something is finally going our way in this case.”

 

“We haven’t found his grave yet, Dean,” Sam reminds me. 

 

“Yeah, but it’s bound to be here. It said so in the newspaper article.” We reach the black iron gate keeping us from getting behind the mansion. It’s locked, of course. Sam sets down his shovel, takes out his lockpick from his coat pocket, and goes to work. His movements are fast but delicate. Years of practice has made him into quite the expert, so he gets it unlocked in no time. 

 

The gate screeches loudly as I push it open. I shine my flashlight around. This cemetery is on the small side, and I can make out most of the graves from here. I step forward. The perfectly spaced gravestones are weathered and have moss growing around their edges and in the letters. It’s dead silent. It feels like the world is holding its breath. The only movement I can see is a light fog rolling in. 

 

Always a nice ambience to have while walking through a haunted graveyard.

 

Wordlessly, Sam and I separate and search for Sherman Lockwood’s grave. I scan each gravestone quickly so we can get out of here. In spite of them being in the Hunter job description, I hate cemeteries. 

 

“Found it!” Sam calls. I follow his voice and find him near the back of the cemetery. I read the gravestone. 

 

Sherman Lockwood

Husband and Good Man

 

What a cliche. I roll my eyes. So what if it’s a little insensitive? With the amount of stupid epitaphs that I’ve seen, I have the right to judge them. This guy’s ghost is killing people, so there is also that. I wonder what my epitaph would be. I won’t get a grave since Sam will burn my body, but if I could, I would want it right next to Mom’s. I glare back at Sherman’s headstone. Sammy would put something equally stupid on mine if he had the chance. 

 

I push my feelings down. We don’t have time for this. 

 

“I’ll take the first shift,” I volunteer and sink my shovel into the cold grass. Sam stands over the grave as I dig, illuminating the way with his flashlight. The methodical action warms me up, and I take off my coat once I am about knee-deep into the ground. I dig until it is about three feet down, and then I nod to Sam, switching places with him and watching him work. Sam is nearly finished digging when I hear something. A low rumble. I turn my head to the source of the sound. A car. It slowly parks in front of the mansion. I’d recognize that beauty anywhere. That’s Nancy’s car. 

 

Shit. 

 

Her car door slams, and a moment later, she starts walking towards us. 

 

“We got a problem,” I say to Sam.

 

He stops digging. “What?” 

 

“Nancy’s here.” 

 

Sam attempts to peer over the hole we dug. 

 

“I’ll handle it,” I tell him. 

 

“Wait! No, Dean!” 

 

I ignore him, grab my jacket, and walk towards her approaching figure. She reaches the gate just as I meet her. She opens it, and it squeals loudly. 

 

“Hey, Nancy,” I greet warmly, attempting to block her from viewing Sam. This definitely isn’t going to help me and Sam’s plan of giving Nancy some un-supernatural explanation to the case. 

 

“What... are you doing here?” She leans to look around me, and I quickly step in the way. She glares at me.

 

I shrug. “Just hanging out.” 

 

She tries to look around me in the other direction this time, but I step in her way again. Her eyes narrow. “You’re covered in dirt.” She pointedly looks up at me and raises an eyebrow.

 

“No, I’m not.” I smile, attempting to draw her attention away from the dirt.

 

She stands up on her toes, brushing against me so she can see over my shoulder. “Is that Sam?” 

 

“We’re just doing a little investigating,” I explain. She leans to her left, and I go to block her, but she quickly darts right and moves around me. Dammit. I follow her as she approaches the grave Sam is digging up. 

 

“What…” She looks down at my shovel, the big can of salt, the accelerant, and Sam’s flashlight pointed into the grave. “...are you guys doing ?” 

 

Sam stops digging and leans on his shovel to give her a little wave. Why is he always so awkward with women? I inwardly groan and sigh once I reach Nancy’s side. Sam shoots me a look as if to remind me this won’t be easy to explain. As if I’d forget. 

 

“Was the body buried with a clue?” Nancy asks and steps closer to inspect the grave. 

 

“Yes!” I say while pointing at her, eager to jump on that train. It’s a better explanation than why we are actually digging up this grave.

 

“How did you, um, get the hole to be so rectangular?” There is a pause. “This isn’t your first time doing this,” she realizes. 

 

“No, no,” I reassure and go to her side. “We, uh, work in construction. Dig a lot of koi ponds. You wouldn’t believe how many people have koi ponds.”

 

“Koi ponds.” She sees right through me. 

 

I smile, hoping it would do something to somehow make my lie more believable.

 

She rolls her eyes and walks around me, leaning against the headstone.

 

After looking bored for a few moments, Nancy peers down the hole. Looks like Sam finally dug far enough. The aging coffin stands in the center of the hole. “Here we go,” Sam says while he tosses his shovel up onto the ground. Nancy wanders past me again before jumping down into the grave. She dusts off the coffin, and she and Sam slide off the flimsy lid. She stares at the corpse for a few moments. For a second, I think we are going to have to deal with her freaking out over seeing a dead body, but then she glances up at the headstone, almost as if she is surprised by the contents of the coffin. What, like she recognizes the dead guy or something? She squats down next to the coffin, and...is she looking at the dead body even closer? This chick is weird. Sam looks up at me, his confused expression only solidifying how I feel. He climbs out of the hole and stands next to me.

 

“Scared of a dead guy, Sam?” Nancy teases. She quickly returns her attention back to the corpse. She cocks her head, takes off her small backpack, and grabs a couple items from inside it.

 

“More like, ‘wary of what’s been left behind,’” my brother answers. 

 

“Like a ghost ?” she continues as she inspects the corpse. I don’t know what she’s looking for, or why she cares so much. I look at Sam. He is staring down at her, a small frown on his face. Looks like he’s trying to figure out what she is doing too. “Why would a ghost haunt their dead body?” Nancy asks. “Must be boring in a coffin.” 

 

Sam and I share a look.

 

“I didn’t say it was haunting the coffin.”

 

She looks up at us. She clearly doesn’t believe anything we had told her about ghosts. Which is fine, Sam would even call it “ideal,” but she has us trapped on this job with her. She is in some serious danger, and she doesn’t even know it. 

 

“Are… you not going to examine the body?” she asks us. 

 

“Nope,” I say, walking over to our supplies and picking up the accelerant. Sam is right behind me and grabs the salt. “We’re going to burn it,” I tell her. 

 

“What?!” 

 

We don’t have time for this. That ghost is killing people, and we have to get rid of it. Now .

 

“To get rid of a ghost, you have to salt and burn the bones,” Sam says. He is a lot more patient than I am. I wasn’t even going to give her an explanation.

 

“You can’t be serious,” she says. Disbelief is written all over her face. “That’s not going to help anything! And you’ll be burning all the evidence!”

 

“Evidence? Of what?” I ask. This corpse is so old, any good pieces of evidence would have rotted away with it. We found the problem anyway, and it’s this ghost. It just needs to burn. We don’t need any “evidence” to solve this problem.

 

“You know, clues,” Nancy goes on. “Like what you said you were looking for. Remember? You said it like two minutes ago.”

 

Oh. Right. That. “Well, I stretched the truth, I guess,” I answer. I look down at her. She is furious. To be fair, we probably look crazy to her. I’d probably be annoyed if someone started burning parts of a job Sam and I were on. “We needed to get to the bones,” I explain. “And you have a habit of trying to stop us from protecting you.” Maybe she can see it our way. Which is why I’m trying to point out we at least have good intentions.

 

She glares up at both of us, but looks directly at me when she says, “I don’t need to be ‘protected,’ Dean. I am only trying to keep you two idiots from burning all of the damn evidence!”

 

I look at Sam, and he looks at me and grimaces. She isn’t seeing the truth. She isn’t trying either. Her version of clues and evidence will only get her so far on this case. She is so determined. And stubborn. Hunter stubborn. But she isn’t a Hunter, and this ghost is serious. She could get hurt. Or killed.

 

“You are not burning this body,” she declares. She moves in front of the coffin and crosses her arms. That’s it. I’ve lost my patience. We just have to burn these fucking bones, and then we’ll be done.

 

“Yes. We. Are,” I say firmly and stand over the grave, mirroring her pose. “Get out of the grave, Nancy.”

 

“Make me,” she challenges. 

 

“I will if I have to, but I don’t want to,” I answer.

 

She raises her eyebrows, daring me to.

 

I stare at her in return. I’m not going to back down. The longer we glare at each other, the angrier I get. We could be done by now. This is a textbook ghost hunt. It shouldn’t be as much trouble as it has been. Especially right now. I’m considering how much force I will have to use to get her out of the hole when Sam touches my shoulder. 

 

“Okay, guys, chill,” Sam says firmly and nods at me then Nancy. He squeezes my shoulder before letting go, telling me that he’s got this. “We do need to burn the bones to get rid of the ghost. But first, how about you make sure to look at all the ‘evidence’ or ‘clues’ or whatever that you need? Fair?” I see what he was doing. Playing both sides, or getting both sides what they want, or whatever other mind tricks he learned at college. 

 

Nancy hesitantly bites her lip before speaking, “Why are you so sure that it’s the ghost of ‘Sherman Lockwood’ anyway?” She uses air quotes when speaking Sherman’s name before crossing her arms again.

 

Because he is the fucking ghost that is haunting this place! “He’s--” I start angrily.

 

“Deduction and reasoning,” Sam interrupts. We both look down at her. C’mon, that has to work. Deduction and reasoning is her thing, isn’t it? I can see her mulling it over. It’s the same expression she wore when she scanned a room or looked at some small detail that I really couldn’t care less about that she somehow found meaning in. 

 

“Fine,” she relents. “I’ll find all the evidence I need, and when I say I’m done, and only when I say I’m done, can you ‘burn the bones’ or whatever.”

 

I huff in frustration. This job is taking waaay too long. But, whatever. I guess Sam convinced her to let us get rid of this ghost without having to hurt anyone. “Agreed.” I point a finger down at her and say, “As long as you do not, and I repeat, do not take any bones.” I pause. “Or any part of the corpse.” I glare, trying to make my point clear. The consequences would be deadly if she managed to keep that ghost around.

 

“Fine,” she says again. 

 

Fine ,” I answer back. I want her to understand that I don’t want her bringing the ghost with her. 

 

“Great!” Sam says to the both of us with a strained smile. “You go ahead and do your thing, Nancy.” He puts his hand back on my shoulder and guides me away from the hole. He glares at me. “Can you try to be a little patient?” 

 

“I am! She almost blew the job for us!” 

 

“No, Dean. You did. All I had to do was talk to her, and she agreed to let us keep going with the job. Being nice to people is actually useful.” 

 

I scoff and roll my eyes. “Easy for you to say. You get all puppy-eyed and people do whatever you want.” 

 

It’s his turn to glare. “I do not .” 

 

“Done,” Nancy says from behind us. 

 

We turn around as she brushes dirt off her jeans. I decide to ignore her as we walk past her towards the coffin. We jump down into the hole, and Sam pours the salt over the body. I pour the accelerant as soon as he’s finished. We climb out of the hole, I click on my lighter, and throw it into the coffin. It all erupts in flames, and I feel myself finally relax. 

 

This is the best part of a ghost hunt. Watching the flames lick up that fucker and knowing you finished the job and saved lives in the process. The heat from the flames is nice in this cold. I watch the smoke fade into the night sky. I’m going to miss this, I realize. The peaceful lull after a hunt, and Sam by my side. The worst part of all of this isn’t Hell. It’s going to be the part without Sam. My vision blurs, and it’s only then that I notice I’m about to cry. Come on, Winchester, man up.

 

“Do you guys do this often?” Nancy softly asks.

 

I blink back my tears and shove my hands in my pockets. “Often enough.”

Chapter Text

Cedarwood Resort & Spa

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

A Half Hour Previously...

 

There has to be something here. A connection, a reason, something !

 

My head is crammed full of information, and none of it is adding up. The Winchesters, ghost hunting, Sherman Lockwood, the estates, Caroline Walker, Edward Velasquez.

 

I examine the sheaf of papers spread out on the shiny desk in my hotel. Dust from decades past plooms into the air. Birth certificates, death records, news clippings of notable familial achievements. The past owners sure did do their part to keep track of their family history. But still. Something seems to be missing. Only noticeable if you are looking for a particular person, as I am. 

 

Did the previous owners leave out information on purpose? Or did they look at the carefully-documented notes they had and call it close enough? Or, perhaps, had information been buried (so to speak) with the death of Caroline Walker?

 

If you were to look solely at the contents of the fire safe, you would determine that Caroline Walker had done nothing in her life, and was my age when she died. But nothing here except a birth certificate, and a death certificate, both of which only gave dates. No mention of how she died, no mention of marriage, no mention of kids. No mention of if she lived at the manor her whole life, or if she had come from or gone elsewhere. The only evidence of what she did during her life is one single note saying she was a maid.

 

This wouldn’t necessarily be odd, as she died over two hundred years ago, if not for the fact that all of the Lockwoods and every single house worker, high- and low-ranking, have enough information in the safe to write extremely detailed biographies. Save for any mention of the infamous Caroline. I can’t even find a mention of her parents. Perhaps she was simply a lucky orphan who was able to find a job at a prestigious household.

 

I chew on the end of my pen in thought, staring down at the documents, and at the sketched out family trees and reference notes I have been working on.

 

I hate to admit it, but I am stuck.

 

Sighing, I pick up the family tree and stare intently at the dates, checking for what must be the twentieth time, who was alive at the same time as Caroline--besides Sherman and Edith Lockwood, of course. 

 

I wonder if the graveyard would be any help. If she was buried next to someone, that may indicate she was married. Or maybe the epitaph could give me some clue as to who this person was. I don’t know if she would have been buried in that graveyard on the property, but it is worth a shot.

 

Carefully, I sweep up the pile of papers and put them in a folder and into my knapsack, leaving the firesafe where it is on the floor. I would rather keep these on my person. I am still wary of these “Winchesters,” and wouldn’t put it past them to sneak in here and poke around.

 

I mean, that’s what I would do.

 

----

 

I pull into the property’s gates, my headlights immediately catching the sheen of the all-too-familiar Impala, parked quite obviously at the front of the property. I give a deep groan as I put my car into park. The whole reason I am here this late, instead of coming in the morning, was to avoid those two.

 

Grabbing my knapsack from the passenger seat, and then a heavy-duty flashlight from my glove compartment, I shove open my door. A wall of icy chill hits me in the face. “What the--?” I start, suddenly thinking that the pullover sweater I chose as I was running out of my room wasn’t quite enough. It must be a good twenty degrees colder here than it was by the hotel, if not more.

 

Teeth already chattering, I grab my emergency coat from the backseat and hastily throw it on.

 

A thick white fog has appeared on the ground, causing me to feel as though I am wading through it. I zip the coat up to my chin and pull my hood up.

 

The house is dark, without any hint of flashlights or any other form of handheld light being used. Where are the Winchesters? My eyes drift to the path to the graveyard. The lock has been undone, the chain hanging loosely from the open gates. Have they also made the Caroline Walker connection? I grit my teeth in annoyance, shove my hands into my pockets for warmth, and stalk down the path.

 

I am met at the gates by none other than Dean Winchester. My breath catches. Is this man really Dean Winchester, wanted murderer? Did he somehow escape that explosion, or is this an imposter?

 

I should have thought to ask Frank and Joe to text me pictures of the real brothers for comparison. In all honesty, I should just start bringing a laptop with me on cases so I can access the internet on something larger than my dinky phone.

 

“Hey, Nancy,” Dean drawls, with that stupid smile of his. I try not to roll my eyes. 

 

Frank and Joe’s warnings swirl through my mind, but something about Dean and Sam doesn’t seem to match the people the Hardys described.

 

“What… are you doing here?” I ask suspiciously, trying to see around him. He quickly sidesteps to block my vision. I glare at him.

 

Dean shrugs and says, in what he seems to think is a suave tone, “Just hanging out.” I try again to see around him, but he again blocks me.

 

I squint at his muddy jeans--where I catch a glimpse of his phone in his pocket--and then at his dark jacket and up at his smudged face. It looks like he took a tumble down a dirt hill. Either that or… are they digging up a grave?

 

Frank and Joe’s words ring through my mind, “grave desecration.”

 

“You’re covered in dirt,” I point out, raising an eyebrow.

 

“No, I’m not,” Dean says with a smile.

 

How dumb does he think I am? I can literally see the dirt.

 

I go up on tippy-toes to try and catch a glimpse behind him, sliding his phone out of his pocket and into mine. Sam’s head bobs in and out of sight as his shovel heaves up dirt.

 

“Is that Sam?” I ask innocently, knowing full-well the answer.

 

“We’re just… doing a little investigating,” Dean says nervously, now desperate.

 

I lean to my left to make him move to block me, and then quickly dart right, around him, and over to where the brothers are grave-robbing. Sam stops digging as I approach, gives a little wave in greeting, which I return with a close-lipped smile. In my coat pocket, I keep a firm grasp on Dean’s phone.

 

My smile immediately fades when I see the array of tools at the edge of the grave. I see shovels, a can of salt, and… gasoline ? “What...are guys doing ?” I ask, coming to a stop at the edge of the impressively-deep hole. They must have been here for hours. My concern for them rises. They seemed perfectly harmless, albeit being armed and wanted criminals, but now they look as though they’re going to have a corpse barbeque. Dean appears just behind me and sighs.

 

Sam shoots Dean a harsh look, but neither brother says anything. 

 

“Was the body buried with a clue?” I ask uncertainly. Why else would two grown men be digging up a body in the middle of the night? I suppose another reason would be to get to valuables, but there were plenty of valuables in the house. Much easier to steal than some dead dude’s jewelry.

 

Yes !” Dean says, a touch louder than necessary, pointing at me as though I’ve won the lottery.

 

I choose to believe him for now.

 

I examine the hole itself. “How did you, um, get the hole to be so rectangular?” I ask. It is almost perfectly rectangular, and shows precision and practice. “This isn’t your first time doing this.” How many graves have they exhumed?

 

“No, no,” Dean says, waving his hands and moving closer to me. “We, uh, work in construction. Dig a lot of koi ponds. You wouldn’t believe how many people have koi ponds.”

 

“Koi ponds.” I stare at him.

 

He smiles back at me in response. He stares at me for a little too long, as if he’s trying to prove to me that he’s innocent. 

 

I blink, and decide to pursue that issue later. ...Along with all the other ones. Carefully, I walk around Dean to stand next to the gravemarker, and angle my head so I can see the phone screen in my pocket without it being visible to either brother. I click “contacts” and scroll to find his own number, quickly memorizing it so the Hardys can check it out.

 

Looking down into the grave, I see that Sam has just unearthed the top of the coffin. “Here we go,” he says, tossing his shovel out of the hole.

 

Meanwhile, I casually stroll past Dean, sliding the phone back in his pocket. I jump straight into the hole, which Dean responds with a whine of protest. I brush off remaining dirt from the top of the coffin and expectantly slide off the edge of the lid with Sam.

 

This… does not look like a Caroline Walker. The skeleton, grayed with time and decay, is clad in a decaying suit and, although withered, seems to have a man’s build. Confused, I straighten and look up at the headstone.

 

It reads “Sherman Lockwood - Husband and Good Man.” 

 

Ah, the infamous manor owner. Maybe Sam and Dean figured out that he killed Caroline and there is a clue as to how it relates to today’s issue. I haven’t given those two enough credit.

 

Excitedly, I squat down next to the coffin and examine the body. What kind of clues would someone have buried with Mr. Sherman Lockwood?

 

A chill runs down my spine from the cold, and I rub my arms for warmth as I inspect the body. Sam, meanwhile, uneasily clambers out of the grave.

 

“Scared of a dead guy, Sam?” I quip, noting that something is tucked into the corpse’s suit pocket. I carefully take off my knapsack and take out a pair of rubber-tipped tweezers and a baggie.

 

“More like, ‘wary of what’s been left behind,’” he says evenly, turning to his brother, who is looking anywhere but at me.

 

“Like a ghost ?” I inquire teasingly, pulling what turns out to be a crumbling note from the pocket and putting it in the baggie. “Why would a ghost haunt their dead body? Must be boring in a coffin.”

 

“I didn’t say it was haunting the coffin.”

 

I look up at him as I zip up the baggie. He and Dean are looking very concerned.

 

“Are… you not going to examine the body?” I ask.

 

“Nope,” Dean says, walking over and grabbing the gasoline. Sam is right behind him and picks up the salt. “We’re going to burn it.”

 

“What?!” I exclaim. So they are going to have a corpse barbeque?

 

“To get rid of a ghost, you have to salt and burn the bones,” Sam explains.

 

“You can’t be serious,” I say, horrified. In all my years of detective work, I have never heard of anyone burning a body to chase away spirits. “That’s not going to help anything! And you’ll be burning all the evidence!”

 

“Evidence? Of what?” Dean asks.

 

“You know, clues. Like what you said you were looking for. Remember? You said it like two minutes ago.” I knew he was lying.

 

“Well, I stretched the truth I guess,” Dean says, having the decency to look guilty at his actions. “We needed to get to the bones and you have a habit of trying to stop us from protecting you.”

 

I grit my teeth. “I don’t need to be ‘ protected ,’ Dean. I am only trying to keep you two idiots from burning all of the damn evidence!”

 

He and Sam share a knowing look. I’ve seen it a lot in my career. I’m too young , too naive , too optimistic , to have this job. No matter how much I have proved that I can handle myself, someone else always shows up to make me do it again.

 

Even my family and friends worry too much about me.

 

“You are not burning this body,” I say harshly, stepping to stand in between them and the corpse. One foot on each side of the open coffin. I cross my arms and glare up at them.

 

“Yes. We. Are,” Dean says, striking a similar pose. “Get out of the grave, Nancy.”

 

That’s another one for the “weird things people have said to me on a case” log.

 

“Make me,” I tell him.

 

“I will if I have to, but I don’t want to.”

 

I raise my eyebrows.

 

Several seconds pass, each more tense than the last. Dean looks pissed . He seems to have moved past the “shoot the annoying sleuth” phase but I am still rather concerned by what he meant by “I will if I have to.”

 

Sam finally puts a hand on his brother’s shoulder and steps between us, holding out a placating arm towards me. “Okay, guys, chill.” He nods at both me and Dean. Looking back down at me, he says, “We do need to burn the bones to get rid of the ghost. But first, how about you make sure to look at all the ‘evidence’ or ‘clues’ or whatever that you need? Fair?”

 

I bite my lip. “Why are you so sure that it’s the ghost of ‘Sherman Lockwood’ anyway?” I say, using finger quotes before going back to crossing my arms.

 

Dean starts to say something, but then Sam cuts him off and says simply, “Deduction and reasoning.”

 

We stare at each other for a long time.

 

“Fine,” I finally say. “I’ll find all the evidence I need, and when I say I’m done, and only when I say I’m done, can you ‘burn the bones’ or whatever.”

 

Dean huffs. “Agreed.” He jabs his finger at my face. “As long as you do not, and I repeat, do not take any bones.” A second passes before he adds, “Or any part of the corpse.”

 

“Fine.”

 

Fine .”

 

“Great!” Sam says cheerfully, smiling tensely. “You go ahead and do your thing, Nancy!” He guides his brother a little ways away. I hear that they are whispering angrily at each other, but not what they are actually saying.

 

Upon closer inspection, there doesn’t seem to be any more clues on the body or in the coffin, but I refuse to leave the grave for several minutes out of spite. Just in case there is anything else, I use the tweezers to examine between the layers of clothing, snapping pictures with my phone.

 

Nothing.

 

Finally, I climb out of the grave, phone in hand. “Done,” I tell the brothers, brushing dirt off my jeans.

 

Dean pointedly ignores me as he and Sam climb back into the hole. They douse the body generously with salt and gasoline. They quickly climb back out, and Dean lights a small pack of matches before tossing it straight into the casket. The result is something morbidly beautiful.

 

We stand there in silence for a while, watching the flames. My mind is whirring, trying desperately to solve what is going on in these guys’ heads. “Do you guys do this often?” I ask softly.

 

Dean shifts his weight uncomfortably, hands in his pockets, and eyes reflecting the orange flames. “Often enough.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 13 - Sam


 

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

Nancy stands there for a long while, watching the flames. Eventually she pulls a small baggie out of her knapsack, and uses the firelight to examine it. After finding this fruitless, she pulls out her phone and, using the flash, takes a picture of it. This catches Dean’s attention. He is already in a sour mood from having to let her examine the body.

 

“Hey, hey!” Dean exclaims, pointing angrily at Nancy, who is squinting at her phone screen. “What is that?!”

 

She looks concerned and confused. I don’t blame her. “Dean, calm down,” I hiss, putting a hand on his chest. He’s having none of it.

 

“Where did you get that?” he demands, stalking over to Nancy. To her credit, she stands her ground. She glares up at Dean, who is easily a full head taller than her, if not more.

 

“Get what ?” She retorts, snapping her phone shut. “ This ?” She shakes the baggie in his face. “I found it in the dead guy’s pocket!” she gestures at the fire.

 

Oh no.

 

“I told you not to take any part of the body!” Dean shouts.

 

“I didn’t ! Last I checked, paper is not a body part!”

 

Dean shares a knowing look with me. Depending on what that paper contains, and if it has any of dear old Sherman’s DNA, it could render the burning of the bones useless.

 

He pinches his nose and puts his other hand to his waist. “Did you uh, take a picture of that? Can you see what it says?”

 

Yes , but I haven’t read it yet. What I really need to do is--HEY!”

 

Dean snatches the baggie from her hand, and in one clean motion, spins around and pitches it into the burning grave. It lasts for mere moments before it burns right before my eyes.

 

Nancy looks as though she hasn’t quite processed what happened. Her mouth is agape and her eyes wide.

 

I take this opportunity to take a step back before shit hits the fan.

 

“What, in the hell , did you do that for?!” Nancy yells, clenching her fists and getting in a defensive stance.

 

“Every part of that coffin has to burn!” Dean shouts back, gesturing back at the hole, “Otherwise the ghost will still be bound to earth!”

 

“You’re in sane !” Nancy shouts, “First you dig up a grave in the middle of the night, and then you burn all the evidence! What’s keeping me from thinking you two are the murderers?! You’ve already gotten away with murder once!”

 

“What the hell are you talking about?!” Dean exclaims, throwing his arms up.

 

“Saint Louis, Missouri, fall 2005,” Nancy bites out, taking a step forward and gripping her flashlight tightly. “They found your body, but it was a fake.”

 

Dean shares a look with me. The shapeshifter.

 

“That wasn’t me,” Dean says quickly. “Someone impersonated me, and tried to kill Sam. I did shoot him , but that was only in self-defense! That’s why they found ‘my’ body.”

 

“The DNA evidence was all there!” Nancy yells, taking another step back.

 

“DNA evidence can be fabricated,” I say quickly, taking a step towards her. “You of all people should know that.”

 

“Oh yeah?! What about Monument, Colorado? The police station explosion?! Explain that!”

 

Dean and I share a fearful look. Nancy knows too much. How did she get this information? Oh I hope to God that her father wasn’t involved.

 

“How did you know about that?!” Dean says angrily.

 

Nancy crosses her arms. “I know people. Remember Victor Henriksen ?”

 

“You knew Henrikson?” Dean sputters.

 

She sets her jaw. “I have connections .”

 

I take a breath. Screw it. “Don’t act like you haven’t been arrested too!” I accuse, “The River Heights town hall arson case? And what about the jewel thieves investigation?”

 

Her eyes widen in surprise. “How did you know about that ?”

 

“We know people too, Nancy Drew,” Dean says.

 

“That was different ,” she insists. She takes a step towards me, pointing angrily. “Someone was specifically framing me for those.”

 

Dean extends his arms out and raises his eyebrows. “Same here, sweetheart!”

 

I nod and gesture at Dean. “We’ve made a lot of enemies in our line of work, same as you.”

 

“I can’t imagine why ,” she snaps, crossing her arms. 

 

Hey , I made sure you had a picture of that paper,” Dean points out.

 

“Oh how will I ever repay you,” she retorts sarcastically.

 

“You should count yourself lucky! I could have just taken it from you without you having any record of it!”

 

Oh Dean. I sigh, and approach Nancy, hands out placatingly. “Look Nancy, I am very sorry about that. It wasn’t our best moment.” Dean scoffs as he gathers our stuff. I ignore him and continue. “I sincerely apologize on both mine and Dean’s behalf.”

 

Nancy glares at me for several seconds. “You two know you are crazy , right?”

 

I bite my lip, remembering what Bobby said about trying to convince Nancy that there is nothing supernatural going on. But on the other hand, we just finished the job. “...We just wanted to stop the murders,” I tell her, shoulders slumping.

 

“And we have,” Dean asserts, punching me lightly in the shoulder as he strides past us to the car, carrying the shovel and the duffel bag of salt and accelerant. “You’re welcome.”

 

I groan at my brother’s lack of tact. Does he not realize the scope of the situation? All it takes is pissing Nancy off just a little bit more and she will go public with her proof that he and I are not only alive, but are impersonating federal agents. We don’t need that. Not again.

 

“I take it that you two are leaving town now?” Nancy says calmly through gritted teeth. She is still staring at the fire.

 

I have heard this phrase more times than I can count. It is less of a question than it is a thinly-veiled warning.

 

“Don’t worry,” I tell her with a nod, “We have no plans of hindering your investigation further. We’ll get out of your hair.”

 

I pause a moment, and then take off after Dean.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14 - Nancy


 

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Sunday 9 March 2008

 

How dare he. How dare he? 

 

But what can I do about it now? It’s gone. Burned into ashes.

 

“...We just wanted to stop the murders,” Sam says softly, shoulders slumping. 

 

“And we have!” Dean says cheerfully, shouldering his shovel and brushing past Sam and me. He winks at me. “You’re welcome.”

 

A pit of rage almost causes me to smack him in the face, but I somehow restrain myself. Instead, I glare at the dying flames. 

 

“I take it that you two are leaving town now?” I calmly ask Sam, hoping that the unsaid threat isn’t lost.

 

“Don’t worry,” Sam says, waving his hands and nodding quickly. Good, he got the message. “We have no plans of hindering your investigation further. We’ll get out of your hair.”

 

He rushes after his brother.

 

I stay there a moment, before letting out a loud growl of frustration. I kick the dirt, spin around, and stalk back to my car.

 

Unfortunately, Sam and Dean are still here. They are packing up the trunk and having a conversation like this is an everyday activity. Maybe it is for them. 

 

I get into my car and slam the door behind me so hard that the whole chassis rocks. I slowly buckle my seatbelt and then grip the wheel, before gently pressing my forehead against it, careful not to activate the horn. The muffled noise of two more doors slamming shut alerts me to the fact that the Winchesters have gotten into their car. Without looking, I put the key in the ignition and turn on the engine, before slowly straightening. I glare over at Dean, who is in the driver’s seat of the Impala. He turns on his engine. 

 

We lock eyes from our respective cars, each silently daring the other to hit the gas.

 

We do at the same time, gravel flying and wheels spinning as we whip around to get to the gates of the property. Dean somehow manages to pull just ahead of me, forcing me to slam on the brakes to keep from colliding with them. He gives a mocking wave as he leaves. Sam shrinks down as much as he can in the passenger seat, looking mortified.

 

I suck in air through my nose and grit my teeth as I watch the taillights of that stupid Impala go over the hill and behind the trees. After a few moments of controlled breathing, I slowly pull out of the gates and start down the road to town. They are already well out of sight. I shake my head, jaw clenched.

 

I’m glad to be rid of them.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15 - Dean


 

Freedom Motel

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Monday 10 March 2008

 

I open my eyes, and give a sigh of content. The sun shines through the crack in the crappy motel curtains, bathing the room in a soft, morning glow. Something poetic about it, the last scene in a movie, the final wrap-up before the heroes move on to their next gig. 

 

This is the life. The life that we strive for. The momentary calm in between work, where you can bask in the glory of saving the day.

 

I glance over at Sam, reveling in the fact that I somehow managed to wake up before him today. He is asleep on his stomach, his long hair tangled around his face and his feet hanging off the edge of the bed. I smile. I am in a good mood. A damn good mood. We finished the job without any further problems, and I don’t have to deal with too-smart-for-her-own-good Drew anymore. I’m calling that a win.

 

With a smirk, I roll upright and grab some fresh clothes from my bag. After quickly changing, I glance at Sam one more time before grabbing my keys and heading to the Impala. I go through the drive through at the nearby coffee shop and am back at the motel just as Sleeping Beauty is waking up. 

 

“Good morning, Sammy!” I greet as I walk in the door. 

 

He sits up and blinks in confusion. “Where have you been?” His voice is soft from sleep. 

 

“I got us coffee.” I hold up the cups to show him. 

 

He scowls as I hand him his coffee. “You’re in a good mood.” 

 

“Yeah, I am. We finished the job! You know what that means? No more New Hampshire, no more old, dusty mansions,” I close my eyes and smile, “and no more Nancy Drew.”

 

“You really didn’t like her that much?” Sam raises an eyebrow then sips his coffee. 

 

I shrug. “I guess she wasn’t that bad.” 

 

Sam smirks at my confession.

 

Don’t tell her I said that.” I don’t want her thinking I had gone soft on her or anything. Even if I kinda did. It’s not like I am going to see her again anyway. Practically Hunters’ Law.

 

“Whatever, Dean,” Sam says while setting his coffee cup down on the table. “I’ll get dressed and we can leave.”

 

“Awesome,” I answer. I grab my bags from the table and bring them down to the car. I get in the driver’s seat, turn on the car, and crank up the music. A few moments later Sam sits next to me on the passenger’s side. He glares at the music, and I expect him to turn it down like he usually does, but he doesn’t. He’s only being nice because my time is almost up. It annoys me. I wish he would just treat me the same as he used to.

 

But…

 

If he isn’t going to turn it down, then what’s stopping me from turning it up ? I crank the volume dial, giving Sam a devilish grin.

 

Sam glares at me. “Dean!” 

 

“What? I can’t hear you!” I say over the music, feigning innocence. Sam just rolls his eyes and looks out his window. Bitch, I think, willing him to hear it. He doesn’t move. I slump a little. Whatever. At least we’re leaving this dump. 

 

We are back on the road to a new place with hopefully less pestering--but cute--P.I.’s. We quickly leave the motel but are met with heavy traffic. That’s weird. We haven’t encountered traffic here before. It only seems to get worse as we drive on. And then I see why. As we approach Lockwood Estates I see red and blue flashing lights. When we get closer, I see a body being pulled away into the coroner’s van. 

 

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I say.

 

----

 

Facing Nancy is going to be intolerable. I park the Impala next to her car. Sam hands me my fake badge and gives me a meaningful look. He is just as disappointed as I am. We get out of the car and trudge back to the mansion. It’s still cold, but not as cold as it was yesterday. We flash our badges again to get inside, and I know it’s only going to be a matter of time before someone comments on our outfits. I’m beginning to think we missed Nancy somehow until we step inside the mansion.

 

She is standing over the body. Her shoulders are tense, and she has that notebook of hers open again. She hears us getting close and glances in our direction. Nancy quickly closes her notebook and pockets her pen. 

 

“Didn’t think I’d see you two here,” she addresses. “Thought you killed the ‘ ghost .’” Her words are teasing, but there’s a venom behind them. She’s upset about this latest murder. And I am, too. I thought we iced the son of bitch. 

 

I ignore her and focus my attention on the body. Again, mostly decapitated, with neck fluids spread out in a grim halo around the body.

 

“Who was this guy,” I say half-heartedly, unable to push down the guilt weighing on my shoulders.

 

“Martin Brackton,” Nancy tells us. “Thirty-five years old.”

 

“So,” Sam states grimly, “the killer is still out there.”

 

“Well, obviously,” I say to him. “We took out Sherman, so there must be something else doing this.” 

 

Sam glares at me. Oh, right. We were supposed to be giving Nancy a reason not to think this is something supernatural. I kind of thought we were past that after last night. But I guess there is a new body now. This complicates things. 

 

Nancy sighs in frustration. “I get you guys are trying to help here, but there are no ghosts,” she states firmly while glaring at us. “If you’re going to help, at least help me find a killer that is real .”  

 

I know we are pressing our luck even being here. All Nancy has to do is tell us to leave or she’ll release that tape of Sam admitting we have fake badges. I need to play along. Besides, Sam and I have to give her some sort of non-ghostly reason for these murders, so she can leave this job unharmed. Plus, she’s pretty smart. I’m sure she’s picked up something useful to us during her investigations.

 

“Alright, fine,” I say. “What have you found?” 

 

“His phone shows that he got a call from a restricted number at around the same time we were out back,” she says meaningfully, nodding towards the window. “My best guess is that someone saw we were on the property and called him over.”

 

“Do you know why he showed up?” Sam asks.

 

With a flick of paper and plastic, she holds up a business card in an evidence bag, still staring down at the body.

 

Sam cocks his head and narrows his eyes. “He was a crisis manager.”

 

“Blackridge Church of Christ suicide hotline,” Nancy confirms, her teeth gritted. “Whoever did this…” she trails off. She lowers the card, examining it with a haunted look in her eye. 

 

My blood is boiling.

 

“Anything else?” I say with a low voice.

 

“Not yet. I--”

 

“Sorry to interrupt,” the sheriff interrupts, “but I have a few more pieces of evidence back at the station from the previous murders.” He turns to Nancy. “I know you asked to see them. I’m going back now if you’d like to tag along.” 

 

“Yes, I would like that,” she replies. 

 

“Great! We’ll be on our way. See you later, agents,” he says with a nod of his head. I try not to wince at his use of the word “agents,” especially when Nancy locks eyes with me.

 

The sheriff walks outside, saying goodbye to some of the officers as he goes. 

 

Nancy hesitates before following him. She leans over to us, and I brace myself for whatever she is about to say.

 

“Oh, by the way,” she tells me, raising an eyebrow, “One of the sharp-eyed cops saw that someone had been in the cemetery and had dug up a grave. I didn’t feel like explaining what actually happened, so I told them that you two did it as part of your,” she uses air quotes, “‘official FBI investigation.’ Play that how you want.” 

 

I raise my eyebrows in surprise.

 

She responds by giving us a warning glare before trailing after the sheriff.

 

I turn to Sam, who sighs in relief. “If I didn’t know better,” I say with a forced smirk, eyes glazing over in thought, “I’d think she was starting to like us.” But it doesn’t make any sense. From her point of view, all we’ve done is show up to this case, burn some random dead guy, rip a piece of evidence out of her hands and destroy it, claim to have fixed everything, and then turn out to be completely wrong. I remember how frustrated and annoyed I was when those guys--the dumbass Ghostfacers --kept throwing a wrench into me and Sam’s jobs. For all her hard facts and evidence, Nancy sure is tolerating us a whole lot. Is there something she isn’t telling us? Does she know something about us? She already blackmailed us once. Can it get worse?

 

Sam rolls his eyes at my quip. “To be honest,” he says seriously, “I was expecting hellfire.”

 

“Yeah, me too.”

 

“Nancy told us what she knows about this death,” he says, changing the topic. He nods at the corpse on the floor. “Which... is not much. I think we should look more into Abitha Woodbury.” 

 

I frown. “Sherman’s mistress?” I ask. 

 

“Yeah. Remember how she mentioned a daughter in her letters, and we couldn’t find her?” 

 

“Yeah…” Why is that important? Then I remember Sherman’s words. Where’s my daughter? Is that why he stayed behind after his death? To find his daughter? But I can’t be sure. There are so many times when a poor soul will stay behind for something that no longer exists. 

 

“I think the daughter is the key to all this.” 

 

I rub a hand over my face and sigh. Sam is probably right, as usual. “More research then?” 

 

“C’mon, Dean. It’s not that bad.” 

 

“I know, I’m just sick of reading books when I could be out wasting whatever is killing these people!” One person has already died because I was wrong. How many more people are going to die because I can’t get my shit together? I know my impatience isn’t helpful, but I never feel like I’m doing something useful by reading a book. 

 

“We research Abitha, find out about this supposed daughter, and I'm sure it will lead us right to the ghost or whatever is doing these murders,” Sam says.

 

“Yeah, fine.” I look down at the body one more time before turning and walking out the door. We already failed one person. How many more are going to die? The cold air hits me as we leave. It shouldn’t be this cold. Even for spring in New England. There is something very wrong with this place. I hope this was the last time I ever have to step foot inside that mansion. 

 

I am really starting to get sick of it. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 16 - Nancy


Grafton County Sheriff’s Office

Haverhill, New Hampshire

Monday 10 March 2008

 

“Interesting,” I muse, “And you found these where?”

 

“Actually, the family of the first deceased--James Monroe--found them in his room,” Sheriff Reeves responds, “What do you make of it?”

 

“I don’t know,” I say, trailing off. I lean forward.

 

“We also found this,” Reeves says, gesturing to another evidence bag, “on Donovan Hughe’s body yesterday. Would have told you if I’d known, but the evidence got misfiled. Anyway. We are searching the house of the third vic, Martin Brackton, to see if there are any more of these notes. In this case, this is the smoking gun we’ve been looking for.”

 

I chew on my cheek, not knowing what else to say.

 

The sheriff’s phone rings. “Excuse me just a moment, Nancy,” he says, running to take it.

 

I watch him leave, the door swinging shut behind him. There is always something about evidence storage rooms that makes me anxious. The bright lights? The chemical smell? The evil objects?

 

Swallowing down my unease, I carefully hold up one of the evidence baggies so I can take a better look at the contents. They are all notes, written with a typewriter on plain copy paper.

 

“‘I enjoyed meeting you today, James,’” I mutter, reading one of the notes aloud, “‘A local’s perspective would greatly help my research. With your help, people will finally know the truth about the Lockwood Estates. Sincerely, Edward V.’”

 

I pick up another.

 

“‘This seems to be the beginning of a wonderful correspondence. I appreciate you not mentioning these notes to me in public, and hope that you will continue to heed my warning. No one can know that you are helping me. Sincerely, Edward V.’”

 

I grab a third.

 

“‘ James. I need your help again . I would greatly appreciate it if you could meet me at the Lockwood Estate tonight at eleven o’ clock tonight to help me with research. I could use a local’s eyes. Bring a flashlight. Sincerely, Edward V.’”

 

I swallow and set the bags back down. I press my palms into the cool, metal table and screw my eyes shut. Edward Velasquez was working with James Monroe the entire time. It even looks as though he was the reason the guy went to Lockwood Estates that fateful night.

 

Is that why he was so guilty about James’ death? Because he was, in reality, much more responsible for it than he originally let on?

 

Sighing deeply, I straighten. Edward Velasquez didn’t seem like a cold-blooded killer to me. But these letters…

 

I pick up the last one, the one found on Hughe’s body.

 

“‘Mr. Hughes. Your skillset has come to my attention. I am doing research on the Lockwood Estates. Research that will make you rather richer than you are now, should you help me to complete it. I’ll get right down to it. I had a young assistant named James Monroe. He said he was up to the task. He was wrong. But you are capable where he was not. Attached is the address and details I need you to record, as well as specifics considering your compensation. It must be an overnight visit, and it must be done without telling anyone. I will contact you afterwards to finish the transaction. Sincerely, Edward Velasquez.’”

 

I drag a hand down my face. That son of a bitch. Was he going to try to get me to the house next?

 

My stomach drops with the realization that, if the Winchesters were not there last night, that last body could very well have been mine instead of that other guy.

 

“Nancy.”

 

I turn around. Sheriff Reeves is poking his head into the evidence room.

 

“We just brought Edward Velasquez back in. He’s in interrogation room one.”

 

----

 

“I didn’t write those notes!”

 

“You do use a typewriter though, correct?”

 

“Yes, I do use a typewriter for my writing. But I had nothing to do with those notes, or with James’ death! With any of those deaths!”

 

I chew on my lip, arms crossed. I am standing in the room adjacent to interrogation, watching through the one-way mirror. 

 

“What d’you think, Nancy?” Sheriff Reeves asks.

 

“I don’t know,” I say honestly. “Something just doesn’t seem right about this. If he wanted that research for his book, why would he kill the people he hired to help him? I mean, I’d believe that he was the reason they all went to Lockwood, but I just… I just don’t see the motive for killing them.”

 

“Mm,” he says, shifting his weight. “He coulda snapped,” he suggests, “Maybe he thought his book would get more publicity because of this ‘haunting’.”

 

“True,” I admit, pinching my chin. “I just feel like there’s something missing.”

 

“Is there a way to test like the signature of a typewriter?” Edward exclaims, “Because I did not write those and I will even give you my typewriter to check!”

 

“There is, isn’t there?” I ask the sheriff.

 

He nods. “Yeah. I’ll get my guys on that ASAP.” He walks away, talking into his radio to arrange it all.

 

----

 

“The typewriter isn’t his.” Sheriff Reeves slaps down a folder on the table in front of me, jerking me from my slight doze. I blink several times and pull myself upright. I have been hanging out in the breakroom waiting for results for a good two hours, trying to find healthy snacks in the vending machines and stay awake.

 

“It isn’t?” I ask, hearing the sleepiness in my voice. I clear my throat. “It isn’t?” I say again, much clearer.

 

He takes a seat and flicks open the folder. “No. The typewriter used to write the notes… well, in layman’s terms, the lowercase ‘e’ has a slight deviation. Makes it slightly tilted compared to the other letters. Edward Velasquez’ typewriter does not have that issue.”

 

I lean my temple against my fist in thought. “So he was framed.”

 

“Unless he has another typewriter stashed away...” he closes the folder, clasps his hands together, and locks gazes with me, “...yes. He was framed.”

 

“By who?”

 

“That, Ms. Drew, is the million dollar question. But now we know that the motive was to get Mr. Velasquez framed for murder.”

 

“Enough so as to go so far to kill three people trying to do it.”

 

“We are looking at a serial killer, Nancy.” He sighs, and puts a hand to his forehead. “Look. You’re young. I can’t in good conscience keep you on this case.”

 

“With all due respect, sir, but I am not going anywhere.” I lean forward. “I can solve this thing.”

 

“I don’t doubt you can. But… you’re just a kid.”

 

I straighten. “Sheriff Reeves, I may be just a kid, but you know my case record. I can, and I will , solve this.”

 

“McGinnis warned me that you get like this. Determined. Stubborn.”

 

“I’m not leaving this case, Sheriff,” I say bluntly.

 

There is a long silence. I don’t break eye contact.

 

He blinks first, lowering his head.

 

I set my jaw. “Sheriff.” He looks back up at me. “I’m not leaving this case. But I do still need your help.”

 

Reeves sighs in defeat. “What do you need.”

 

“I need the addresses of all the vics’ family and friends. Workplaces too. Oh! Can I also get some photocopies of those notes from Evidence?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 17 - Dean


 

Ashwood Parkway

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Monday 10 March 2008

 

“Thank you, Sheriff Reeves,” Sam says into his cell phone. “You’ve been a great help,” he concludes before ending the call. 

 

I drive down a narrow stretch of road and glance at Sam. “What did he say?” I ask. “Are there any Woodburys left?”

 

“Just one,” Sam informs. “Nora Woodbury.”

 

“Great. Where is she?”

 

He doesn’t reply. 

 

“Sam?” 

 

“Blackridge Senior Living,” he finally answers.

 

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. The only thing worse than a cemetery is a nursing home.” I glare at the road. There is nothing worse than seeing old people wasting their last years alone and confused. They are basically walking corpses, already left behind and forgotten by their family. No one wants to deal with them, so they’re just stuffed somewhere nice until they finally keel over and die. I guess one upside about being dragged to Hell in a couple months is knowing I’ll never live in a place like that.

 

“It’s not that far from here,” Sam says, ignoring my complaints. “Just take this road until we get downtown. The sheriff said the signs are pretty obvious, so it will be easy to find.”

 

“Yeah, okay,” I say bitterly. I glare at each perfectly blanketed lawn and nice car we pass. I didn’t want to go into a nursing home. I reach the end of the neighborhood and see a sign pointing towards downtown and follow it left. 

 

The downtown area is crammed with short, aged buildings. The architecture is old with a couple modern buildings thrown into the mix. But it’s easy to see this place is the usual tourist trap. Most buildings are shops selling antiques and souvenirs with a few local restaurants thrown in between. A pie shop catches my eye. We’ll have to stop by later. 

 

“Dean!” Sam nags me.

 

I turn my attention back to the road and slam on my brakes. “Son of a bitch!” I exclaim. A small car is inches in front of us. It crawls at the slow twenty-five mile per hour speed limit. I think maybe he’s trying to turn, but he keeps going. At twenty-five miles per hour. I grip the steering wheel angrily and inwardly curse this one-laned road. I’m about to really start tailgating this guy when I see the glowing sign “Blackridge Senior Living” off to my right. Following Speedy here, we slowly pull into the small parking lot and easily find a spot near the entrance. The little snow that got past the thick ceiling of trees has been cleanly shoveled, with salt spread for extra security. There are only five other cars here, no doubt belonging to the staff. I glare at the building in front of us. It’s in great condition, but I knew it was only a facade for the depression and death on the inside. 

 

“Here,” Sam says in his soft, reassuring voice, handing me my FBI badge. I take it and put it into my inside suit pocket. “Just let me do most of the talking, and then we’ll be out before you know it.” 

 

“Yeah, okay,” I say with a sigh. I get out of the car, expecting more cool air but don’t get it. The sunshine is nice and warm as we make our way inside. I open the door and am immediately bombarded with the smell of cleaning chemicals. Great. A younger guy is sitting at the front desk, looking at a computer screen. He glances up as we get closer. 

 

“Hi.” He flashes us a small smile. He glances over our suits, and his smile falters. “How can I help you guys today?” 

 

We both pull out our badges. 

 

“We’re looking for a Nora Woodbury?” Sam says. “You know where we can find her?” 

 

The receptionist stares at Sam’s badge before pulling his eyes away. “Uh, yeah. Let me just check her schedule real quick. Is she in trouble?” 

 

“No,” I answer. “She’s fine. We just need to ask her a couple questions.”

 

The receptionist nods as he clicks his mouse a few times. “She’s in art class right now.” Art class? I thought this was a nursing home, not a preschool. He looks back up at us. “It’s down there,” he says while pointing to our left. “Keep going until you reach the big room at the end of the hallway.” 

 

“Thanks,” Sam says. 

 

“Let me know if I can help you guys any more,” the receptionist calls to us as I lead us down the hall. 

 

The fluorescent lights give everything a harsh yellow tint. The chemical smell isn’t any weaker down here either. I hate nursing homes. There’s something about nondescript hallways that bug me, too. Despite living in motels the majority of my life, something about these types of hallways and their uniformity and tight corridors has never sat right with me. Is this what Hell will be like? Maybe not for me. After everything I’ve done, I’ll probably end up someplace much, much worse. 

 

A muffled voice jars me out of my gruesome thoughts. “No! I don’t need these pills. Where are my old ones?” an old woman cries from within her closed room. 

 

An equally muffled voice replies, “Mrs. Sparrow, please just--” But then we are out of hearing range. 

 

I hate this place. How can people work here? It would take me five minutes to lose my shit. We finally reach the end of the hallway. The double doors are propped open, and Sam and I step off of the carpeted floor onto linoleum. It’s a wide room, and a bunch of plastic tables are stacked on the back wall. On the left wall several yards away, there is a small door next to a sign labeled “Kitchen.” So this is a cafeteria. 

 

One of the plastic tables is set up in the center of the room. A group of about ten people sitting at the table each with an easel and canvas watch a woman demonstrate how to paint some sort of old sword. Her back is to them, so they can see how she is painting. She’s putting the finishing touches to the blade’s elaborate handle. We approach the group. They notice us and stare.

 

“Um, hello, gentlemen,” the instructor says to us cheerfully, setting her paintbrush down. She’s in her thirties with brown hair tied up in a messy bun. She’s dressed in a light-colored blouse and slacks. “How can I help you?”

 

“Hi,” Sam says. “We’re looking for Nora Woodbury.” 

 

The instructor frowns. “And who are you?” 

 

We both pull out our badges. Her expression falls, and she swallows nervously. She squints at the badges for a good moment before she shakily glances at a woman sitting in a wheelchair at the edge of the table. The old woman has short white hair, and round, black-framed glasses. 

 

“It’s FBI,” the instructor says to her. 

 

The glasses-wearing woman chuckles. “Looks like they finally caught me,” she jokes. “Well, don’t wait up.” She sets her paint supplies down and wheels over to us. The instructor eyes us with worry, but continues with her lesson.

 

“Nora Woodbury, I presume,” Sam says once she’s reached us. 

 

“Yes, that’s me. Why don’t we go talk in my room?” Nora suggests, wheeling past us.

 

We follow her back down the hall we just came from. The buzzing from the lights is driving me nuts. We eventually reach an elevator, and Nora taps the up button. 

 

“So what is this all about?” she asks. 

 

“We just have a few questions about some of your ancestors,” Sam says as the elevator dings open. We all step inside, and the doors whoosh closed.

 

“Oh?” Nora says while pushing the button to the third floor. “Who, specifically?”

 

“Zephaniah and Abitha,” I tell her. 

 

She chuckles. “Oh, yes, those are some old names.”

 

“You’re familiar with them?” Sam asks. 

 

“I have a few of their belongings,” Nora confirms. “Haven’t really had a chance to look through them, you know? Their stuff has been passed down in my family for years. Their belongings just became a few old items stuck in a box. I’ve never even looked at them.” 

 

The elevator opens, and we follow Nora out. We’re in a hallway identical to the one downstairs with the exception of the room numbers. We reach room 317, and Nora opens the door and wheels inside. The cleaner smell only seems to intensify as we step inside. The room is small and reminiscent to a motel, but much cleaner and newer. A door to a small bathroom is to our right, and Nora leads us in deeper. Her bed is up against the back wall on the right next to a window. She rolls to the left and opens up a small closet. Light-colored clothes hang inside. Above the clothing rack, there’s a small shelf with several boxes and a light green typewriter on it. 

 

“It’s the box on the far left,” she says pointing to the shelf. Sam walks to her side and easily lifts the box from the shelf. I can see it’s a decaying cardboard box. The writing on the lid is faded, and I can’t make out what it says. “Do you need to take it with you?” Nora asks. 

 

I look up at Sam. He nods slightly. 

 

I turn to her. “Yeah, but we’ll get it back to you as soon as we can,” I promise. 

 

“May I ask why you need to know about Zephaniah and Abitha?” Nora questions.

 

“It’s for an investigation,” Sam explains. 

 

“I know that,” she says with a laugh, raising her eyebrows. “But how could these two possibly be relevant to you?” 

 

“It’s classified,” I say, hoping that stops her. “You, uh, wouldn’t happen to know where they’re buried by chance?” If there is any possibility Zephaniah and Abitha are near Lockwood Estates, we need to know.

 

“Yes,” Nora answers with a thoughtful frown. “All of us Woodbury’s are buried upstate in Brightfield Cemetery. Why?” 

 

Sam smiles. “Just curious.”

 

Hmmm, so not near the Estates. That probably eliminates Zephaniah and Abitha as being ghosts.

 

Nora narrows her eyes and looks between us. “Is this about what’s been going on at the Lockwood Estates?” 

 

Sam and I exchange a surprised glance. So the Woodburys are connected to the property. 

 

“Why would Zephaniah and Abitha have anything to do with the Lockwoods?” Sam asks. 

 

“Oh, supposedly they were once friends. That’s what my grandmother told me at least,” Nora supplies. “I could never figure out the connection, though. Zephaniah was the priest. Everyone knew him. Not sure what made him special friends with Sherman and Edith Lockwood. I suppose social standing. But my family always told me about stories...”

 

“What kind of stories?” Sam asks.

 

“Well, about how much Zephaniah hated Sherman. Some of my family used to think that Zephaniah’s ghost would haunt the Lockwoods and their descendants for their sins against God.”

 

I raise my eyebrows. “Wow. Why?”

 

She shrugs, looking sad. “I just know that his threats were so intense, that my ancestors took measures to make sure his spirit would not remain behind. He was cremated, his ashes buried in a cemetery with an iron fence… old superstitions, you know.”

 

I force a laugh. “Yeah, those old superstitions…” I cough. So Zephaniah is definitely off the list. Sounds like he had a classic Hunters’ funeral. Hell, maybe there were Hunters around at the time making sure old Zephy stayed dead.

 

“Is there anything else?” Nora asks. “I wish I knew more about them.”

 

“This has been extremely helpful,” I reassure her. She just seems like a really sweet old lady who got the short end of the ancestry stick.

 

“Do you by chance have any other family?” Sam asks softly.

 

She swallows hard, and blinks. “It’s just me.” She takes a deep breath. “But it’s not all bad, I have made friends here. And that’s the family that matters, right?”

 

Sam smiles at her and nods.

 

“Let me know if I can be of any more help, I suppose,” Nora says, “Don’t know if I know much more, but this is kind of a bucket list thing, helping the police solve a case.” She smirks up at us, the sparkle back in her eye.

 

“Well, you’ve already been a big help,” Sam says, lifting the box a little. “Thanks again for your time.” 

 

“Of course, of course,” Nora replies, then adds, “You two be careful now. There’s something amiss about the Lockwood Estates. I know there’s a whole lot of nonsense mixed in about the ghost stories running around, but there is something truly wrong with that place. Some sort of evil that refuses to rest.” 

 

I give Sam a weary look. Oh, we know. We’ve already seen one ghost there. But I don’t tell her that. I just nod and say, “We appreciate the warning.”

 

---

 

I tiredly sit back down at the table in our shitty motel room. Sam sets the cardboard box down between us and opens it. We both lean forward and look inside. 

 

“More letters?” I ask in disappointment. A pile of yellowed envelopes is messily stacked within the box. “Can’t we get something exciting?” I reluctantly scoop up about half of the pile. The paper is brittle and dry. I bring the letters closer and inspect them. I glance up to see Sam carefully unfolding one of the letters. I look down at my pile. Like I’m going to read all these, I think angrily. I spread the letters out on the table and study them. I squint at the cursive. What do these even say? As I look across the letters, they become easier to read. But none of the names are familiar. This one is from an Evelyn Nightshade, Destiny Herald, Faith Thinbull… I sigh in frustration. Then I see a blank envelope and gingerly pick it up. Unlike the rest, it has never been sealed. I carefully pull out the letter inside, so the brittle material doesn’t tear. I squint at the curly handwriting as I try to make out what it says. 

 

My Dearest Edith,

 

I frown. It isn’t addressed to Abitha. Is this a letter she wrote but never sent? If that’s the case, then the unmarked and unsealed envelope would make sense. I continue reading.

 

I feel a prelude to this letter would be inappropriate, so I am going to skip the pleasantries and tell you outright. I had an affair with your husband. It had been going on for years before I ended it. I never meant for it to happen, but it did. I suppose that’s how it always is. I finally broke it off with him last week. Earning your trust over the years and being an ear to your troubles has not made what I have done any easier. When you mentioned you questioned Sherman’s loyalty to your marriage last Thursday, I knew I could not continue to hurt you. I do not expect you to ever forgive me. If I were you, I could not. I know I cannot lie to you any more. I must tell you the entirety of my scandal.

 

I had a child with Sherman. It was over a decade ago now. It was during the period when I claimed I had Scarlet Fever and couldn’t be seen for nearly a year. She was born on a cold winter’s eve. My father made me give up the child. I don’t know what has become of her. Perhaps that is for the best. I just pray the Lord will see fit to forgive me for bringing a child into the world this way and treating her as if she was a plague. 

 

You did not deserve this. I know there is nothing I can say to make this hurt any less, so I will not say anything more. 

 

Abitha Woodbury

 

So, Sherman Lockwood did have a child, and it was with the Woodbury chick and not his wife. I mean, this isn’t any new information, but at least it casts all the doubt away. I chuckle. The man just couldn’t keep it in his pants, could he? I know I’m one to talk, but I’m not married . I frown as I pick up the envelope the letter had been inside. Why didn’t Abitha send this? This letter is important. Did she change her mind on letting Edith know about the affair and the kid? It really doesn’t seem like it; she seemed determined to tell Edith the truth in the letter. Maybe she told her in person.

 

Brave bastard.

 

“Hey, Sammy,” I say. He looks up. “Check this out.” I slide the letter over to him. He furrows his brow thoughtfully and grabs the paper. I see him quickly read the letter, frown, then read it again. 

 

“I mean,” he starts, “this just confirms what we already know. Sherman was sleeping with the priest’s daughter.” 

 

“Zephy’s the priest, right?” 

 

Sam rolls his eyes at my nickname. “Yes, ‘ Zephy ,’ the guy who did Sherman’s funeral, and who was both Sherman’s friend and enemy.”

 

Frenemies .”

 

Sam sighs. “But…” he muses to himself, “Why would he have done the funeral if he hated him so much?”

 

“Maybe to make sure the bastard was dead? Hunters’ funeral.”

 

“But Sherman wasn’t torched.”

 

“Maybe he didn’t know how to do it properly? Did some ritual that didn’t work?”

 

Sam shrugs. “It’s possible. In a lot of Christian lore there are all these rituals to make sure that the spirit is at peace and won’t come back to haunt. Most work, as far as I know, but he could’ve botched one.”

 

“Anyway,” I point at the letter in Sam’s hands. “Back to that. The weirdest part is I don’t think Abitha sent the letter.” I hand Sam the blank envelope. 

 

He frowns and inspects it. “Huh, that is weird,” Sam agrees. 

 

“Yeah, but who’s the ghost then?” I ask in frustration. “Abitha?” 

 

“How? She isn’t buried in Lockwood Estates.” 

 

“I don’t know. Maye some of her DNA is still here?” I try. 

 

Sam sighs. “Maybe. I just feel like we’re missing a huge part of this story. I mean, we still don’t know who the daughter is.” 

 

That’s true. We hardly know anything. Is it true Abitha gave the child up for adoption? If not, then where did she end up? Surely Sherman knew about the pregnancy, and that’s why his ghost asked about her. Maybe lingering regret? I sigh. How are we ever going to find this information?

 

“I’m sure there’s someone else in this town who knows more about the Lockwoods and Woodburys who’d know more about this,” I say.

 

“What about the vics?” Sam asks.

 

The victims? Like, the murder victims? “Huh?”

 

“All the people who have been killed by the ghost. They probably know more about the ghost and Lockwood Estates than we do. Maybe the victims knew something about them before going to the mansion.”

 

I see what he’s getting at. Every one of the victims so far had been on the property when they were killed. They had to be there for a reason, right? “So, what? You saying we summon the dead murder victims?”

 

Sam rolls his eyes. “No, Dean, I’m saying maybe we should interview the victims’ families and friends.”

 

But there are a lot of victims. “Okay...where should we start?”

 

He shrugs. “There was a murder today. Why don’t we start there?”

 

“Yeah, I guess the fresher the better,” I agree with a smirk. That earns me another eye roll.

Chapter Text

Chapter 18 - Nancy


 

938 Richardson Drive

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Monday 10 March 2008

 

I smooth back my hair and put on a smile, holding my notebook to my chest with one hand. I ring the doorbell and straighten my posture.

 

There is a long silence, then a scuffling noise. The curtains behind the warbled window in the door part slightly, revealing a wild-looking face.

 

“What do you want?!” the person exclaims.

 

I chew on my lip, forcing my smile to remain intact. “Hello, my name is Nancy Drew and I am investigating the death of James Monroe. Are you Carter? His father?”

 

The door slowly opens. The man is middle-aged, and is wearing stained boxers and a t-shirt underneath a ratty robe. He stinks strongly of booze.

 

“Yes. I was his father. What’s it to you?”

 

“Like I said, I am investigating the cause of James’ death.”

 

“You with the police?”

 

“In a sense. I was hired to--”

 

“If you’re with the police let me see your badge.”

 

“I don’t have one, I’m a private investiga--”

 

He slams the door shut in my face with enough force to move my hair. I instinctively take a step back in shock.

 

“If the police want so badly to talk to my family again, they will have to come back with a badge and a warrant! I am through!”

 

“Sir, Sheriff Reeves hired me to help!”

 

“Stick it up your ass! I already gave the police everything I know, along with a box full of my deceased son’s ‘effects’. All that’s happened is my wife and I have less and less closure. Go screw yourselves!”

 

I nod with a tight-lipped grimace, spinning on my heel to go back to my car.

 

----

 

I look up at the sign, and then back at my notebook. I sigh a little, and then step through the doors of “Lucky Lad’s Bar & Grill.”

 

Inside, there is a strong smell of beer and bar food, but it is classier than the name implies. No strippers, at least.

 

“Can I help you?” The hostess asks with a white smile. She wears a short skirt and a button-up that is tied in the front to show off her stomach and bosom.

 

“Hello,” I say professionally, “My name is Nancy Drew. I’m looking for people who knew James Monroe?”

 

Her smile fades. “You mean Jamie?” She bites her lip and looks off to the side. “We all knew him. It was devastating when he died. Are… are you investigating his death?”

 

“Yes,” I tell her, “I’m trying to get an idea of who he was and why he would have been at Lockwood that night.”

 

“You know, we all already talked to the police.”

 

“Just being thorough,” I say, “I was hired by the police to do some more digging.”

 

She nods. “That’s good to hear. We all thought they’d given up.” She takes a deep breath. “Well, none of us knew Jamie as well as Rick did. I would start there.” She points. “He’s working the bar today.”

 

“Thank you,” I smile at her and walk over to where she pointed. I smile at the guy, and he looks a little wary. “Hi, my name’s Nancy Drew. Are you Rick?”

 

He nods hesitantly.

 

“I’m told you worked with James Monroe?” I ask, taking a seat at one of the stools across from him.

 

Rick raises his eyebrows, throwing a towel over his shoulders. “Jamie?” His eyes gloss over for a brief moment, before he blinks and returns his focus to the present. “Yeah we worked together. But we’ve been best friends since elementary school. I mean, we were best friends since elementary school.”

 

“I’m investigating his murder. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

 

“Yeah, of course,” he says intently, full attention now on me. “Whatever you need! What do you want to know?”

 

First things first. “Do you know why he went to Lockwood that night?”

 

“None of us know for sure. But I do know that like, his favorite author of all time was--or is --in town. Jamie was following him around like a puppy for weeks, asking if he could do anything to help the dude with his research. I just assumed he went to Lockwood to help him out.”

 

“So he never mentioned whether or not Edward ever did ask him for help?” I ask.

 

“Edward? The author, right?” Rick blows out a puff of air in thought. “No. Jamie kind of cut contact for the week or so before he died. I’d ask him what was up whenever he came to work, but he just would say something like ‘you would never understand’ and then go to the other side of the bar and sulk for his entire shift.”

 

“Was that odd behavior for him?”

 

“Extremely! We used to hang out after work, help each other pick up chicks, you know.” He looks up to see my expression, and falters. “You know, be each other’s wingman. We were good friends.”

 

“So what happened?”

 

“I wish I knew. He cut himself off from all of us.”

 

“Did he ever mention getting any notes from Edward, or from anyone else for that matter?” I ask.

 

“Like texts?” 

 

“Texts, voicemails, letters ...?”

 

“Not that I know of,” he says with a thoughtful shake of the head, “but he could have, and just not told us. Why?”

 

“I’m just trying to determine who could have been in contact with him before he died. Did James have any enemies?”

 

Rick chuckles. “No one who would do this . I mean, he had his fair share of jilted ex-lovers. But as far as I know, they’ve all moved on by now.”

 

“Did any of them know about James’ interest in Edward Velasquez’ works? Or that Edward was in town?”

 

“I don’t think so. Most of his exes live out of state. He met them when he went to college a few years back.”

 

“College?” My eyebrows twitch in surprise.

 

Rick chuckles. “He got bored. Dropped out and moved back to Blackridge last year. I got him a job here.” He sighs and shakes his head. “But when that author came to town… I think he wished he could be more like him. Maybe regretted some of his life choices?” Rick shrugs. “I wish I could have helped him more.”

 

“How was his relationship with his parents?” I ask, remembering the encounter I had with Carver.

 

Rick shakes his head, a smile on his face. “His parents? They’re a piece of work. Have you met them yet?”

 

“I had a… brief encounter.”

 

“Carver or Margaret?”

 

“Carver.”

 

Rick laughs. “At least you didn’t get Margaret. Believe me. She’s worse.”

 

I grimace. “So James didn’t get along with them?”

 

“More like they didn’t get along with him . He used up thousands of dollars from their savings to go to college, only to drop out and move back in with them. Jamie didn’t give a shit about what they thought of him. He was sort of a ‘free spirit.’ I got him the job here so he could start earning some real money and get his own place before his parents booted him to the curb. I used to tell him that maybe he should care a little about what his parents thought, but he always laughed it off. He could be a little douchey sometimes, but we all still loved him.”

 

“Is there a chance at all that they could have had something to do with this?” I ask carefully.

 

Rick freezes. “Wh--are you serious? Jamie didn’t have a great relationship with them, sure, but he was still their son . Besides, they knew I was helping him find a place of his own. There would be no reason--...” He shakes his head. “No. No way.”

 

Fair enough.

 

“...Is there anything else you remember that could be helpful?”

 

He looks up at me. “I’m sorry. I wish I knew something. I wish I had made him tell me what was going on. I should have done more.”

 

“This isn’t your fault.”

 

He grimaces, swinging the towel off his shoulder and snapping it into the counter. “Maybe, maybe not.” He sucks in air through his nose, and locks gazes with me. “But my best friend is dead.” He points at me. “Tell me you wouldn’t feel the same way .”

 

“I can’t,” I say honestly. I get up and hold my hand out to shake his hand. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

 

He hesitates, but then takes it. He gives a brief nod. “Please find who did this.”

 

----

 

Having hit a dead end with James Monroe, I have moved on to investigating Donovan Hughes up in Whitefield.

 

The parking lot of “Whitefield Ghost Hunters” has not been cleared since before the last snowfall, nor has it been walked through. Instead, there is a pristine blanket of white covering the pavement and icy mounds of previous plows. I park on the street, looking at the place. It is a small rectangular building, with chipping paint, but bearing a new sign panel over the door. Clearly, no one has been here yet. There is something deathly sad about the lack of investigation here.

 

There are light flurries now, coming from the patchy clouds in the bluish-gray sky. The drain next to my car is filled with running water from half-melted road slush.

 

Carefully, I wade through the snow, guessing where the walkway is to get to the front door. There is an iron gate door in front of the regular glass door. There is a “closed” sign in the window, with the hours of operation scrawled in black marker.

 

With a deep breath, I grab my lockpicks from my bag and get to work, soon getting past both doors.

 

The inside is warm. Donovan Hughes must have left the heat on. I flick the light switch, and after a few seconds, fluorescent bulbs flicker to life, revealing a modest yet clean space. There are a couple of couches, as well as a reception desk. It looks eerily similar to my P.I. storefront back home. A pang of something near fear hits me. Is this what my friends and family would find back home if I were to not return one day?

 

I shiver.

 

Taking a deep breath, I go over to the desk. There are papers out, but it’s all bills and similar. Nothing ghost-related. There is a cash box. The drawers are empty except for some office supplies. I am a little startled, having been expecting a bizarro version of my front desk back home, with appointment books, a computer, and notes galore.

 

This man was not me, I remind myself, closing the drawers.

 

I wander into the back office. There is another desk, this time crammed with junk. Full bookshelves line one of the walls, and on the right is a mod podge of cork boards, whiteboards, papers, and string. This is more like it.

 

Cocking my head, I examine the case wall. Surprisingly, only about half of it is about Lockwood, labeled as such, and it seems he knew about the same amount as I currently do. The other half is… about his mother.

 

I narrow my eyes to read better. There are hospital bills pinned, as well as insurance information, and ways to earn money. Some are legitimate, others are about plans to go to Vegas and similar. Pinned squarely in the middle of the wall, is a post-it with the words: “3x cash from Lockwood job.”

 

His mom is sick, and he was trying to get her the care she needs.

 

I feel sick to my stomach. Someone took advantage of Donovan’s desperation about his mom to kill him. How horrible.

 

Gritting my teeth, I stalk out of the back office and out the front door, slamming things behind me.

 

I need to talk to his mother. If nothing else, I owe him that.

 

----

 

The next stop is Donovan Hughe’s mother’s place. A small cottage on the south side of Whitefield.

 

Lots of driving today.

 

Lots of driving.

 

But I almost don’t even care. I am seeing red. Someone killed a guy trying to get his life back on track, a guy trying to do a good deed, and a guy trying to pay for his mother’s medical bills. 

 

After a good half hour, I finally find the place. It’s a regular suburban-home with fresh snow and frosted trees. There is a car without snow parked in the driveway, dark red. Someone has dug out a path from the road to the front door, which surprises me, given the mother’s situation.

 

Nevertheless, I am glad to not have to wade through more snow.

 

I knock on the door, trying to have a pleasant expression in spite of everything.

 

A young man wearing nursing garb opens the door. He can’t be much older than I am. It must be his car in the driveway, and he must have cleared the path.

 

“Hello, can I help you?” he asks with a white-toothed grin.

 

“I’m here to see Cindy Hughes?” I say, catching a glimpse of his name tag, “...Timothy?”

 

“I’m sorry, but you can’t,” he says sympathetically, “She has been in bad shape the past couple of days.”

 

“That’s actually why I’m here,” I tell him, “I was hired by Sheriff Reeves to investigate the murder of Donovan Hughes, her son. I just have a few questions.”

 

“I can’t let you in, I’m sorry,” he says regretfully, “I really am. It just isn’t in her best interests to be doing that right now. Perhaps check back after the funeral?”

 

He smiles sadly and slowly closes the door.

 

“Wait! Please! I need her help--!”

 

The latch clicks shut.

 

I grit my teeth, pulling out the paper with addresses again. The third vic lived alone and is currently being investigated by police.

 

“Great,” I breathe, going back to my car. There is only one more viable option right now, and I hate it.

 

To stall, I pull up Savannah’s number as I plop into the driver’s seat.

 

“Hello, Nancy. What can I do for you, Hon?”

 

“Have you ever… burned bones?” I ask uncertainly, looking out the passenger window to Cindy Hughes’ house.

 

“Have I what , Hon?”

 

“The ghost hunters here? They dug up a grave, doused it in salt and gasoline, and then burned it. Right in the coffin, in a six foot deep hole, in the middle of the night.”

 

“...Who did you say these two were again?”

 

“Dean and Sam Winchester. I take it that you have not ever burned a body before?”

 

“I am not going to dignify that with a response, dear.”

 

“I didn’t mean to offend,” I clarify, settling into a more comfortable position in my car. “They just said it was a ghost hunting thing. I had never heard of it before, so I wanted to ask.”

 

“What, exactly, were they hoping to accomplish by ‘burning bones?’”

 

I pull out my notebook. “They said, and I quote, ‘To get rid of a ghost, you have to salt and burn the bones.’ I think they said something about how it purifies something or other, and severs the connection between the ghost and the world.” I can’t keep the disbelieving disgust out of my voice. I respect Savannah and what she does, because there is logic to it, even if it does include spirits and ghosts and whatever else. These Winchesters though… I don’t know.

 

“I hunt ghosts, Hon, but not in the way they seem to. I listen to the spirits, discover who they are and why they haunt. I do not exhume bodies in the middle of the night. I told you back in Japan, I’m no medium or psychic or whatnot. I simply believe that there is more to this world than the physical, and I do my best to bridge that gap between reality and the supernatural. By listening . I am a mere observer of fact , and am open to where it leads. These Winchesters are not like me.”

 

“Can you tell me anything more about them?” I ask.

 

“I assume you’ve looked them up. They had arrest warrants in multiple states you know, before I guess they faked their deaths. They always seem to be in the midst of trouble. From what I can tell though, if there is an odd case that points to ghosts or similar, they’re there.” She chuckles. “I’m surprised I never met them before. They go after cases very similar to mine.”

 

“I saw that they have arrest warrants. But I’m wary of turning them in.”

 

“Why, Hon?”

 

I pause. Savannah would understand . “When… when I was in Thornton Hall, I… felt something.”

 

She is quiet.

 

“I just…” I take a breath and run a hand through my hair. “When I was there, I had other people around. Wade, Clara, Colten, and even Harper. Even when I was wandering around, I knew that people were in earshot. I don’t usually like people around when I’m, ah, snooping, but it was a comfort. I feel that same weight when I’m at Lockwood. Knowing that someone would be there to look for me if I went missing.... Not that I believe in the ghosts, but--”

 

“Maybe you should.”

 

“What?”

 

“Nancy. You are in a place that will kill you if you do not believe. If even you feel it, if even you , Nancy Skeptic Drew, want to keep around FBI-wanted fugitives just in case you go missing, maybe you ought to question what is keeping you from believing.”

 

----

 

I snap my phone shut, and stare off into space. From what I can tell, Savannah finds out where ghosts are, and the Winchesters take them out. Would Savannah accept their help if she were here? Seems like Savannah could use some help with the actual “getting rid of ghosts” part.

 

I chuckle a little to myself. Am I starting to actually take all this stuff seriously?

 

Swallowing hard, I take a deep breath. All I need to do is take the ghost stories seriously enough to lead me to the human motive. All I need is to get to the information I need, and it seems Cindy has it. If I need to bend the rules to get to it, so be it.

 

I punch in the number. It rings several times before someone picks up. I take a deep breath, hating that it’s come to this.

 

“Hello? Who is this?”

 

I bite my cheek hard enough that I worry I’m going to draw blood. I close my eyes and hang my head.

 

“Dean. It’s Nancy Drew. I need your help.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 19 - Sam


 

Freedom Motel

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Monday 10 March 2008

 

I follow Dean to our motel room, my hands full with fast food. Talking with Martin Brackton’s family, friends, and co-workers has done nothing to answer any questions we had. Martin knew the vague legend of Lockwood Estates, didn’t believe in said legend, and was sure that the dark forces there were demons--hence why he was willing to go there and help the caller “break free of the bond,” as Father Thomas said. So basically, we are back at square one.

 

The sun is close to setting, and slick ice has begun to freeze over again. It’s cold, but not as cold as it has been every time we’ve visited the Lockwood Estates. The place is such a cliche for hauntings.

 

Dean unlocks the door, and we step inside. He takes his bag from me and sits down at the table. I lock the door behind us and place my bag across from him and wait for him to take a bite from his cheeseburger. He’s not going to like what I’m about to say, so I’m waiting until he’s in the best mood possible. He slowly unwraps his bacon cheeseburger and takes a bite. I sit down. 

 

“Dean,” I say softly. 

 

He looks up. “Yeah?” 

 

“I think we should call Nancy.” 

 

He frowns and sets his burger down. Dammit. Looks like my tactic isn’t working. His eyes stare into mine. “And why would we do that?” 

 

“Because we’re a little stuck,” I admit.

 

“Stuck? What are you talking about?” 

 

“We have no idea who this ghost is!” We haven’t been able to find who Sherman’s daughter is after hours of searching, and we have no lead on who the ghost might be. We’ve looked basically everywhere for clues, and we’ve hardly come up with anything.

 

He glares at me, angrily slurping his soda.

 

I sigh. “Nancy has solved every single case she’s been on. I’m sure she’s picked up some bit of information that we haven’t found yet that would be worth looking into.” I try to keep my tone light but firm. I need Dean to understand.

 

“No,” Dean says picking his burger back up. 

 

“C’mon, Dean. We’ll just ask her a few questions,” I plead. Seriously, why does he have to be so difficult? 

 

“And let her win? I don’t think so. We can do this by ourselves.” 

 

“Win? Dean, this isn’t a competition. People are dying . It won’t hurt to call Nancy.” I glare at him. My patience is running thin. 

 

Dean glares at me. “Let’s at least finish questioning the victims’ families first.” 

 

That can work. I’d rather call Nancy now, but based on past experience, I know better than to press my luck. “Fine,” I concede.

 

Suddenly, Dean’s phone rings. We share a quizzical look before he answers. 

 

“Hello?” he says. “Who is this?” He pauses as the person answers. “Nancy?” The disbelief in his voice makes me smile. It’s sort of eerie how she managed to get Dean’s number, but it’s worth it for the shock on Dean’s face right now. “How the fuck did you get my number?” He rolls his eyes at whatever her response is. “Nancy, it’s best if you just stay out of--”

 

I snatch the phone from him.

 

“What the hell, Sam!” he exclaims.

 

I ignore him, and put the phone to my ear. I’m not going to let him ruin our chance of getting her help. “Nancy?” 

 

“Sam?” 

 

“Sorry about Dean,” I apologize. “What did you want to tell us?”

 

She sucks in a breath as if her next words are going to be difficult to say. “I need your help.” 

 

“With what?” I ask. Dean crosses his arms and glares at me but doesn’t move to take the phone back. 

 

“I need to question someone that knew the victim, and being a P.I. can only get me so far,” she explains. 

 

“And why call us?” I ask. 

 

“You still have your FBI badges, right?”

 

I smirk. The irony of her giving us shit earlier for having fake FBI badges, and now calling us to use them isn’t lost on me. “Yeah, we do.” 

 

“I was thinking we could go question her while using your badges. I’m up here in Whitefield glaring at this house. It’s being guarded by a nurse who doesn’t seem to understand the concept of a murder investigation.” 

 

I don’t think I have heard Nancy be so grumpy. When it isn’t being directed at us, at least.

 

“And that won’t bother you?” I ask, “Using fake badges to get past this guy?” I need to make sure she’s completely on board with this. The worst thing that could happen is she gets us caught or exposed. 

 

“It does bother me,” she admits. “But the police aren’t much help with the whole jurisdiction thing, and we need to solve this mystery before someone else gets hurt.” 

 

This could definitely work. “We’ll do it only if you help us in return,” I say. 

 

“What do you need help with? And don’t say burning another corpse, because I won’t do it.”

 

I can’t help but smile. “We just want to see the information you’ve gathered about this case.” 

 

There’s a pause, and I think she ended the call when she finally asks, “Why?”

 

I clear my throat awkwardly. “We, uh, need to find who the ghost is.” 

 

She sighs heavily. “Yeah, that’s fine.”

 

“Thanks, Nancy. When do you want to meet?” I ask. 

 

“How about around seven or seven-thirty tonight?” I glance up at the microwave. If it’s six-thirty now, we should be able to make it. “I have the address I want to visit written down. Do you have a preferred cell phone number I can text it to?” 

 

“Uh, yeah,” I say as I pull my phone out of my pocket to check the number before telling it to her. 

 

“Okay,” she answers. “I texted you the address.”

 

I glance down at my phone and skim the message. “I got it. I’ll let you know when we’re close. See you.”

 

“Bye, Sam.”

 

“Bye.” I hang up. 

 

Dean scowls at me. “What was that about?” 

 

“We’re meeting Nancy in an hour to go question someone who knew one of the vics,” I explain, handing his phone back.

 

“We don’t need her help,” Dean protests. 

 

“We need each other’s help,” I answer. 

 

“What?” 

 

“She needs our help to question people, and she’ll tell us everything she knows about the killings,” I explain. 

 

“...I guess that’s fine,” Dean relents.

 

I roll my eyes and watch as he returns his attention back to his food. “So...how did she get your number?”

 

He glares at me but doesn’t answer before taking another bite of his cheeseburger. 

 

----

 

“So, what exactly are we hoping Nancy knows, or that this person we’re interviewing knows?” Dean asks as he drives us onto the highway. We are both back in our suits, making for a less-than-comfortable ride out of town. The sun has finally set, leaving the roads in a glittering, icy twilight.

 

“Anything,” I say with a shrug. “It would be helpful to find out any information about the Lockwoods and Woodburys--especially Sherman’s illegitimate daughter--but like I said, anything at this point will be helpful.” 

 

“Awesome,” Dean answers sarcastically. “And what if this daughter isn’t important?” 

 

I frown. “You mean, what if she’s not the ghost?” 

 

“Yeah,” Dean says. “What if we’re following a lead that goes nowhere.” 

 

“Then we keep asking,” I supply. “I’m sure we’ll find some sort of hint as to what to do next. Besides, Nancy told me she’d help us. If all else fails, we go back to the mansion and scour the place for anything a ghost could be tied to. I mean, for all we know it could still be Sherman, and he has a lock of hair or a fingernail still tied to the property.” 

 

Dean sighs in frustration. “This is just great. Why couldn’t we get an easy job?” 

 

I chuckle. “This has nothing to do with having a hard time impressing the cute P.I., right?” 

 

He glances over to glare at me. “Shut up.” 

 

I laugh. “You’re really still hung up on how hard she rejected you.” 

 

“Am not!” 

 

I laugh again. “Oh my god, you are!” 

 

He glares at me again, but I can see the sparkle in his eyes. He isn’t really mad. He hasn’t been this happy since Christmas. The thought kills my mood, and I look out the window hoping Dean doesn’t notice. Seeing the difference between how he’s been acting lately to how he is when he’s happy made me realize just how upset he really is. He always shoves his emotions away, but I’m realizing how suppressed he’s been making them. He hasn’t smiled like that in months. He should know by now that he can be open with me. I look over at him as he lightly taps the wheel to the beat of the song, silently mouthing the words. Tears spring up in my eyes, and I look away again. I already miss him. I’m quiet for the rest of the way there, barely remembering to give Nancy a heads up that we are nearly there. 

 

When we get there, our headlights illuminate Nancy, who is leaning against her car, bundled up in a coat and eating a wrap. We park behind her outside of an idealistic suburban home. It has a nice, big and snowy front yard and a three car garage all topped off with an icy rose garden near the door. Dean and I are back in our suits, and I quickly hand him his badge. Nancy gets out of her car and waits for us by the driveway. She’s wearing the backpack from the cemetery. I open the door and step out, heading to her. Dean follows me. 

 

“Looks like you need our help after all,” Dean says smugly as we reach her.

 

“And you need my help,” Nancy retorts, finishing her wrap and tossing the trash into her car.

 

I sigh. This is off to a great start. “Can we focus on the job, guys?” I turn to Nancy. “You said we’re going to interview someone who knew one of the victims, right?” 

 

Nancy nods. “Yes. We’re at yesterday’s victim’s house. Donovan Hughes. His mother lives here,” she explains. She leads us up the driveway. “Her name is Cindy.”

 

We walk up to the porch, and Dean nods at me and knocks. We hear footsteps slowly approach the door. There’s a beat of silence as the person, Cindy probably, looks at us through the peephole. The door opens. It’s definitely not Cindy. The person before is a young man, a couple years younger than I am and is wearing nursing scrubs. “Timothy” is inscribed on his nametag. 

 

I suddenly remember what Nancy had said about some nurse barring her entry. This must be him.

 

His eyes fall on Nancy and he frowns. “I’m sorry, but as I said earlier--”

 

Dean pulls out his badge, and I do the same. “It doesn’t matter what you said earlier,” Dean says sharply. “We need to see Cindy Hughes.” 

 

“Oh. Uh...” Timothy starts softly, suddenly much less sure of himself. “Come in.” 

 

He opens the door for us to follow him inside. The house is cramped and dusty. The windows are all covered, but there is an uncovered skylight on the ceiling. The only light comes from old sconces on the walls. We all crowd into the narrow hallway as we wait for Timothy to close and lock the door. 

 

“She’s in the back room,” he informs while sliding in between us, momentarily brushing up against me. We follow him across the stained carpet to a pale, pink door at the very end of the hall. 

 

Timothy turns and says, “I’ll let her know you’re here, and then I’ll let you in.” He quickly steps through the door. I hear the low hum of voices before Timothy opens the door again. He walks out into the hallway. “She’s ready for you now.” 

 

All three of us enter the room. The same stained carpet that stretches the hallway continues into this room. Old pictures hang over almost every inch of the wall. There’s a cabinet in the back corner surrounded by stacks of miscellaneous items. I see old blankets and a soccer ball among them. 

 

There’s a rug in the middle of the carpet, and an elderly woman in a robe and slippers sits on a rocking chair across from a couch. A knitted hat is resting snugly on her head.

 

“Hi,” I say softly. “Mrs. Hughes?”

 

She glances up at me and smiles tiredly. 

 

“I’m Agent Wood,” I explain as I take out my badge and present it to her, “and this is Agent McKellen.” I put my badge back. “And this is our associate Nancy Drew. We’re here to ask you a few questions about your son, Donovan Hughes.” 

 

She frowns and the small light that had been in her eyes a second before is gone. “I suppose I should’ve expected you to come.” 

 

Expected us to come? I glance at Dean. The police haven’t interviewed this woman yet? Good thing we’re here. 

 

“Well, take a seat here.” Cindy gestures to the couch and winces, trying to hold it back with a grimace. She’s in pain. That’s when I realize she must be sick. The hat on her head is too tight for there to be any room for hair. Cancer, maybe? 

 

I take a seat. Dean and Nancy sit beside me, Dean being squished in the middle. He uncomfortably leans into me, so he touches Nancy as little as possible. It’s fucking hilarious, and I bite back a grin. 

 

“The officer who called me, he told me Donovan’s injuries...” Cindy begins. “This isn’t a natural death, is it?” She swallows hard and blinks back tears. 

 

“I’m afraid not,” I answer, wondering just how much information has been kept from this woman. Dean shifts awkwardly next to me, our elbows bumping as he tries to get comfortable. I glare at him.  

 

“Mrs. Hughes,” Nancy says. “Did Donovan ever mention the Lockwood Estates?” 

 

Cindy smiles sadly. “Ever mention the Estates? Honey, he was obsessed.”

 

Looks like I wasn’t completely off with my theory that at least some of the victims knew stuff about the mansion. “Obsessed?” I ask. “What do you mean?”

 

“Well, he’s always been fascinated with ghosts ever since he was a teenager,” Cindy explains. “Once he got a taste of the local legends… Well, he never stopped. A few weeks back, he became obsessed with the secrets of that mansion.” 

 

“What secrets?” Dean and I ask in unison. 

 

“Oh, you know,” Cindy said. “Why the owner, Mr. Lockwood, hanged himself. Or how that maid died. Donovan found it especially strange that they both died on the same day. Although he could never find a clear answer on how the maid died or who she was exactly. Every story said something different.” Cindy sighs. “Anyway, I’m getting off topic.”

 

Maid? What maid? This was the first time I’m hearing anything about a maid. Was this Sherman’s illegitimate daughter? In her letter, Abitha herself said she didn’t know what happened to her daughter. I mean, this would also explain why Sherman gave some of his will to the estate staff when he died. But something happened. Why did he hang himself? How did the maid die? Was she murdered? If so, who killed her? It doesn’t make sense for Sherman to kill her after he put her in his will if his daughter really is the maid. None of this makes sense! Again, I am still missing something important from this story. 

 

“In the past couple weeks,” Cindy continues, “Donovan changed. But it was a good change. He was excited about life again. Something had sparked his interest in the mansion. He kept bringing home library books about it, and I would find him looking up its history on his laptop. It worried me a little, but he was so happy that I didn’t want to put a stop to it.” She sniffles. “He never mentioned to me that he was going to visit the mansion, but I’m not surprised he did. I just never--” Her voice breaks and she wipes away a tear. “Sorry.” 

 

“You don’t need to apologize,” I reassure. 

 

“Can you tell us anything else about Donovan?” Nancy asks gently. 

 

She takes a tissue out of one of her robe pockets and wipes her nose before explaining more about him. She tells us about his general interests and where he worked--a small ghost hunting business he owned, but nothing really stands out to me. Donovan was just a normal guy living in Whitefield, who also happened to be a run-of-the-mill ghost hunter. The only thing that seems to set him apart was his fascination with the Lockwood Estates. 

 

“Thank you for your time,” I tell her once she finishes. 

 

She nods. “You’re welcome. Just...please find who did this. Donovan took such good care of me. He worked hard to pay for my treatments, but it was never enough. It really took a toll on him. It was nice to see him happy again, even if it was just for a short while.” There’s a beat of silence as none of us know what to say. 

 

“May I ask what your illness is?” Nancy finally says. 

 

Cindy slowly rises from her chair. “Pancreatic cancer.” 

 

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I say, hoping to ease the awkwardness. 

 

“It is what it is,” Cindy states. “Timothy will see you out.” 

 

We all get up and leave the room. Timothy leads us back down the narrow hallway. We reach the door, and he unlocks it and opens it for us. I give him a tight smile as I step outside. I hear the door close behind us and turn to Dean and Nancy.

 

Now what?

Chapter Text

Chapter 20 - Nancy


 

Sidewalk in front of 1346 Earl Drive

Whitefield, New Hampshire

Monday 10 March 2008

 

“Well, this has been a bust,” I tell Sam and Dean, grasping one of the straps of my knapsack. “The way I see it, the only way we are going to figure out who is doing the killings is to lure them out.”

 

“What, exactly, do you mean by that?” Dean asks. 

 

I cock my head. “I need to stake out the manor tonight. See if whoever it is shows up.”

 

“You shouldn’t do that, Nancy,” Sam says quickly, “Anyone who tries to spend the night at the manor gets killed.”

 

“I think I can handle myself,” I tell them, walking to my car.

 

Sam runs to block me. “We’re serious, Nancy. It’s too dangerous.”

 

I raise my eyebrows. “Well, do you have any better ideas? More people are going to wander into that house, and die. If we don’t do something about it, how many more people will get killed?”

 

“There’s got to be another way to go about this,” Sam says desperately.

 

“If you don’t want to come, fine,” I say, crossing my arms, “But I’m going.”

 

Dean rolls his eyes. “Do you even have a gun, Nancy? Any sort of actual weapons to defend yourself? What makes you think that you can survive a night out there where full-grown, armed men have not?”

 

“I have my ways,” I say coldly, though knowing that he has a point.

 

Sam sighs. “What he’s trying to say is that you are vastly unprepared for whomever or whatever you may find there.”

 

I grit my teeth, knowing they’re right. All I have is a half-baked idea and some determination. I’m being foolhardy.

 

But I need to figure out what’s going on.

 

“Then what, exactly, do you suggest?” I hiss. 

 

The brothers look at each other. Dean sighs heavily.

 

“We’ll come,” Sam assures me, drooping his shoulders. “We can all drive over now?”

 

----

 

“Wait a minute. Before we go inside--” Sam strides over to the front double-doors and throws them open. 

 

“What are you doing?” I ask in confusion.

 

He yanks at one of the doors, looking like he’s trying to pull it from its hinges. “I’m not planning on getting stuck in here, are you?”

 

Dean gives a look of approval and goes to help him. I just silently shake my head.

 

With a loud crunch, the brothers manage to yank it down, leaving a rectangle hole where the door used to be. 

 

“There,” Sam says, dusting his hands off, “Now we have an exit plan should things go south.”

 

“What exactly did you think was going to happen?” I ask, stepping into the house.

 

“Spirits like locking people inside places,” Dean explains with a wink. “The last job we had was similar to this one. ‘Stay overnight, you die,’ that sorta thing. The spirit locked us all in and someone got killed because of it. We aren’t taking that chance again.” He rolls up his plaid sleeves. “Now, what exactly were you hoping to accomplish by hanging out here?”

 

“Lure out the killer, stop them, maybe have tea with the ghost afterwards?”

 

Dean glares at me. “You’re a smartass, you know that?”

 

“Takes one to know one,” I respond with a smile.

 

Sam sighs. “Guys, come on.”

 

There is a long pause.

 

“Well,” Dean says, “We might as well poke around a little while we’re here.”

 

“Great,” I say, pointing over my shoulder, “I’m going over here.”

 

“Like hell you are. You stick with us.”

 

I bite my lip, feeling the hint of a snarl on my face. “Then you follow me if you want to be a group.”

 

“No. We do a clockwise loop around the house. Basement, then first floor, then second.”

 

I cross my arms. There is a long pause. I roll my eyes. “ Fine.

 

“Alright then,” Dean says, pointing with his flashlight, “Basement it is.”

 

“Do you know where the basement is ?” I ask with a bite.

 

Dean doesn’t answer, and leads the way into the dining room. “Now, since you are stupid enough to come here at night, I don’t know if you are smart enough to know to stick together,” Dean says shortly, jabbing a finger in my direction. “Absolutely no wandering off, you got it?”

 

I just sigh and raise my eyebrows.

 

“Just stay near us, okay?” Sam says placatingly, giving his brother a warning look. “Please.”

 

With another sigh, I half-heartedly saunter along behind the brothers, gripping my flashlight angrily. The whole reason I wanted to come here at night was to find evidence, and these two won’t even let me do that.

 

“So if it’s still good ol’ Sherman...” Dean muses, “I mean, it’s gotta be, yeah?”

 

“Same M.O. as the other murders,” Sam agrees. “I just don’t know what he’d be attached to. No bloody murder weapon, no weird locks of hair hanging around as far as I can tell…”

 

I roll my eyes and cross my arms. 

 

“Heeelppp…” 

 

My ears perk up, and I whirl around, trying to figure out where the sound came from.

 

Dean chuckles a little behind me, still wrapped up in the conversation. “So no creepy-ass doll this time?”

 

“Don’t think so, no. But it could be hair. I just don’t know where it would be. It would probably be, you know, a big chunk of it.”

 

“Maybe he was a nut who saved his own toenails.”

 

“Do you see any jars of toenails, Dean?”

 

I blink a couple times and take a breath. I probably imagined the voice, or else Sam and Dean would have heard it too.

 

“Heeelpp meee…”

 

I straighten, and point my flashlight through one of the doorways, and into the hallway leading to the back of the house. I could have sworn all the doors were closed. “Did you guys hear that?”

 

After a moment of no response, I glance back at them. Now they seem to be arguing over candlesticks.

 

I chew on my lip, hesitating.

 

“Heeelp… please…”

 

With a small groan, I launch myself into the hallway, trying to keep as quiet as possible to find the voice. 

 

“Anyone… please…”

 

I slide into the kitchen, heart racing. I dart my light around, looking for any sign of life. The beam hits a door, hanging slightly ajar. It’s the back staircase. I pause, cocking my ear, hardly daring to breathe. It’s coming from upstairs .

 

As quietly as I can, I creep up the steps, wincing at every creak.

 

I peek my head out into the second-floor hallway, checking left and right. There is no sign of anyone else around. 

 

I hear whimpering from my left. I whip my flashlight around to see nothing but dust in the air. Swallowing hard, I carefully sneak down the corridor, past closed doors, towards the sound. My breathing is barely audible, and my heart is jumping out of my chest.

 

“Hello?” I say quietly, voice cracking.

 

My flashlight lands on an open door at the end of the hallway. Swallowing again, I approach. 

 

“Hello?” I ask for the second time, carefully stepping over the threshold. The whimpering stops immediately. The sudden silence startles me, and I straighten. I glance behind me. I am still alone, as far as I can tell. Where is the person who was calling out to me? And how did I manage to hear it from the dining room while the boys could not?

 

The room is practically empty. There’s a desk, a small bed, and a dresser. It’s a servant’s room. There’s nowhere for someone to hide. But I could have sworn the sound was coming from here…

 

I scratch my head, going over to the desk. There’s a dried bottle of ink with a crusty feather sticking out of it, and some blank paper covered in a healthy blanket of dust. With a dejected sigh, I pull out the drawers. Nothing much of interest. Besides the ink pot, this room looks like it was unoccupied back in the day.

 

“Hm,” I say, shoving the drawers shut. I should probably get back to the boys and tell them about the voice. Although to be honest, I probably imagined it.

 

The light flickers. 

 

I pause a moment, and hit my flashlight to get it working again.

 

C’mon ,” I hiss, shaking it as hard as I can. The floor creaks behind me. Stupid old houses and their stupid wood floors. Sounds like there’s mice in the walls too.

 

The flashlight goes out, dunking me in darkness. I sigh irritably and unscrew the casing to make sure the batteries are secured correctly. They seem to be, best as I can tell in the dark.

 

Still no light.

 

An icy breeze tickles my neck as I shove the flashlight in the pocket of my hoodie. I flip both layers of hoods up against the chill. Goosebumps run down my arms. The Winchesters’ ghost stories are starting to get to me . I give a halfhearted chuckle and pull out my phone out of my back pocket and slide it open to turn it on. The low brightness of the home screen will have to suffice until I get back downstairs. I angle the phone towards the door.

 

The gaunt face of a young woman catches the light.

 

I scream and drop the phone.

Chapter Text

Chapter 21 - Sam


 

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

 

“Maybe he was a nut who saved his own toenails.”

 

“Do you see any jars of toenails, Dean?” I ask in disgust. “I mean honestly, we scoured this whole fucking place yesterday.”

 

“Sammy, I’m surprised at you,” he says with a shit-eating grin, “Cussing like that.”

 

“Pfft. Like you’re so mature.” I sigh, dragging a hand down my face. “I mean honestly.” I throw my arms up. “There is nothing here that could bind a ghost. Sherman or otherwise.”

 

“Then that means we missed something,” he says, looking me in the eye. He wanders over to the china cabinet on the far wall, which holds an array of candlesticks.

 

“You really want to be wandering around the mansion at night?” I ask. “You didn’t even want to come.”

 

“Well, if we have to be here, Sammy, might as well get some work done !” he says the last two words slightly louder for Nancy’s benefit, not even bothering to look back at her.

 

I grit my teeth. “Dean, I want to find what this ghost is attached to, but shouldn’t we be more focused on making sure we all survive the night?”

 

That’s what I’m doing !” he says in his classic I-Know-Better-Than-Thou voice. “I mean honestly.” He drags a finger across the china cabinet, revealing that the dust was a good inch thick. He snorts. “Why…” Dean starts with a mocking tone, “does this feel familiar?” He picks up a cobwebby candlestick in mock interest, and waves it in my face.

 

I know he doesn’t mean the candlestick. “Dean.” I change my stance and cross my arms.

 

“How do we always end up protecting people who are just so stupid ?” He sets down the candlestick with a thud. “Dude.” He lowers his voice to a hiss. “I got less than two months left, and we end up in the exact same situation twice, twice ,” he holds up two fingers, “in the last few weeks. First it was those ‘Ghostfacers’ at the stupid Monroe house like what, a week ago? Week and a half? And now it’s this ‘Nancy’ chick. What is it with these people and defying spirits?”

 

I roll my eyes at him and turn around to apologize to Nancy for my brother’s lack of tact. 

 

All I see is an empty dining room. 

 

My face falls. I work my jaw and dart the flashlight’s beam around. The hot-tempered red-head is nowhere to be seen. “Where’s Nancy? I thought she was right behind us.”

 

“Oh.” Dean glances back. “I thought so too.”

 

“You were just talking smack about her.”

 

“Yeah. I was hoping she was listening for once.”

 

“You were hoping that she was listening to you talk about her right in front of her?”

 

He pauses. “...Well, yeah.”

 

“You are unbelievable,” I tell him.

 

He just shrugs.

 

I check my watch. “Dean. It’s four after midnight. If legend says that anyone who spends the night…” I trail off.

 

“I told you, man! It’s the freakin’ Monroe place all over again!”

 

The only door open is the one we came through, leading to the front of the house. And these doors are far too creaky for Nancy to have gone out any other way without us noticing. “C’mon,” I say with a sideways nod of the head, jogging back into the main room. There is a chilly breeze coming from where the front door used to be, but that’s not what catches my attention.

 

There is a roaring fire in the fireplace, bathing the room in a disturbing, flickering glow.

 

I squint at it a little in confusion. Just five minutes ago, there was only ashes from who-knows-when. There wasn’t even any firewood around to build a fire.

 

“Nancy...?” I say hesitantly, checking the room. She’s nowhere to be found. I look back at my brother. “Dean, did you start a fire?”

 

“I didn’t. Billy Joel sure didn’t either.”

 

I give him a confused look.

 

“You know…” he says, looking flustered, “That song?”

 

I just stare at him.

 

“Whatever. Never mind.” He scoffs and crosses his arms. “I’ve been with you the whole time, man. Maybe Nancy lit it?”

 

Our flashlights flicker.

 

I slowly look over at my brother, and notice that I can now suddenly see my breath. Oh no. 

 

“Dean.”

 

“I see it.” He shakes his head and shouts, “ NANCY!

 

I spin around in a circle, listening for any sign of the P.I. For a moment, I almost think I can hear a scream, but the sound fades away so quickly that I can’t be sure it wasn’t the haunted fireplace.

 

She can’t die. Not on my watch. No one else. “Do you think she went upstairs?” I ask desperately, setting my jaw.

 

Dean gives me a bewildered shrug, cocking the shotgun. “Only one way to find out.” He runs for the staircase. “ NANCY! Are you upstairs?!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 22 - Nancy


 

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Tuesday 11 March 2008

 

The face vanishes as rapidly as it appeared. Heart pounding like a battering ram against my chest, I drop to my knees to grab the phone, furiously aiming it around the empty room. The low light is hardly enough to see anything, but it is enough to determine that I am alone.

 

My heart is thundering against my rib cage. What was that? I suck in air, trying to calm my breathing. 

 

Another chill tickles my neck. I snap my free hand up to cover it. Both hoods are covering my neck where the cool air came from. How ? My hands turn to ice in fear.

 

Something brushes against my leg. I leap away, but again, nothing is there.

 

I spin around several times, an uneasy feeling in my gut. No one here. No one here. It’s okay.

 

But something keeps me from believing it. Someone has to be here. The killer must be here, pulling some fake ghost stuff. That has to be it. They lured me in here with that voice.

 

Breathing heavily, I slowly walk backwards towards the hallway, constantly scanning the room around me with the dinky light. I’m alone here. I’m okay. It’s fine.

 

My footsteps creak on the wood, breaking the complete silence of the room.

 

“Nancy! Are you upstairs?!” Dean’s voice echoes through the house.

 

Something catches at the edge of my vision. Movement, in the corner, behind the bed. Just a trick of the eye, just a trick of the eye, just a trick of the eye.

 

My breathing gets louder. Just a few more steps into the hallway.

 

“NANCY! Get down here! Get out of that room!” They are getting closer, their footsteps like thunder.

 

Did that chair just move?

 

“NANCY!”

 

One of them grabs my wrist, and I am thankful that someone else is here to make sure I am okay.

 

Wait.

 

Why didn’t they bring flashlights? And their footsteps are still well down the hallway...

 

I slowly use the phone’s light to look over my shoulder. 

 

It’s the woman. 

 

I try to scream, but all the air seems to have vanished from my lungs. This woman… she’s not… human . Something undead radiates off of her bloodless skin. But what gets me is her eyes. Unfocused and milky white.

 

I see the dancing beams of flashlights in the hallway outside.

 

I drop the phone and yank myself free from the woman’s grasp, running for the door, but it slams shut in my face. “DEAN!” I shout, yanking at the handle. It refuses to budge. I hammer at the wood. “DEAN!”

 

Panicking, I look behind me. The woman is just standing there in the middle of the room, lit only by the slight ambient glow of the phone. 

 

A slice of warm light appears under the door from the boys’ flashlights. They pound on their side of the door as I press my back against it in fear.

 

“NANCY! NANCY, can you hear us?!” 

 

“NANCY! Answer us!”

 

I can’t say a single thing. I open my mouth, but no words come out.

 

The phone light starts flickering, and the woman… teleports forward with every flash, like the fake ghost in the mirror at the Ryokan Hiei in Japan. This just has to be a trick right? Right? 

 

I scream and dive to the side as she slams into the door.

 

“NANCY! IF YOU CAN HEAR ME, GET AWAY FROM THE DOOR!”

 

I roll on the floor out of the way as she swipes her arm and the dresser falls right where I was a moment ago. That had to be rigged, right??? I yank myself to my feet using a bed post.

 

One of the brothers kicks at the door. Please, please, please! Get in here!

 

“Stop! Please!” I shout at the woman, holding out a placating hand, “Is this revenge for something? What is it you want? Are you an enemy of Edward Velasquez?”

 

The woman cocks her head and gives an inhuman smile. Her neck… is severed. Just like the vics. My eyes widen, and I stumble backwards into the bookcase and fall to the floor.

 

Dean kicks open the door as the woman rushes at me. He aims his shotgun and pulls the trigger in one fluid motion. I scream and duck my head. The sound of the shot makes my ears ring.

 

The woman disappears in a shattered wall of smoke.

 

I blink several times, breathing rapidly. Dean cocks the shotgun again and aims it around the room. “Was that the only one?” he barks.

 

“Wh-wha--?”

 

Was that the only one ?”

 

“Y-yes.” I clutch my chest. My heart hurts from effort. Ice floods my body, and I am shaking. I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand. There must be a gash on my temple, based on the sticky warmth.

 

Sam rushes in and kneels down next to me, putting a hand on my knee. “You okay?”

 

I nod slowly, pain spreading through my body as the initial adrenaline fades. Fighting it, I push myself up into a proper sitting position. “What… what… what just…?” I can’t find the words. They have all flown from my head, leaving nothing but a hollow sense of fear and terror.

 

“Let’s get you up.” He offers his hand. I gratefully take it.

 

He pulls me up easily as Dean is poking around furniture with his shotgun.

 

“Let’s go,” Dean says moments later with a sideways nod of his head. Sam guides me out of the room, picking up my phone in the process, and Dean takes up the rear. 

 

“What did you do to it?” I ask shakily as I carefully go down the stairs, phone back in my hand. “What made it vanish like that?”

 

“Salt,” Dean says matter-of-factly. “Instead of buckshot or something it’s, well, rock salt.”

 

“So you mean that was a…” I can’t even make myself finish the sentence.

 

“Ghost? Yep.”

 

We reach the main room. One of the brothers started a fire in the fireplace, and it is all-around cozy. But I can’t think of anything but that word.

 

Ghost.

 

Ghost.

 

Ghost .

 

I gag, and push past Sam and out the front door to some bushes.

 

----

 

“Ghosts are real.” I suck in a breath, feeling my body shake. “Ghosts are real, Ned. They’re real.”

 

“Woah, woah. Slow down Nance. What?”

 

My eyes are hot, I try desperately to blink away tears. “Ghosts are real. I saw one. It almost k-killed me.” I am now shaking uncontrollably. I crank up the heat in my car and angle the vents to blow directly on me. 

 

“What?! Are you sure it wasn’t a fake ghost? Someone dressed up? A trick with smoke and mirrors?”

 

“It was not a trick,” I say slowly and carefully, feeling the warble in my voice. “It came at me. If Dean hadn’t shot it with rock salt, then I would be dead. Another victim of the Lockwood Estate.” My voice cracks, the image of the nearly-decapitated woman imprinted on my eyelids.

 

The sheriff’s words swirl through my head. “...These attacks are never… natural…” “...near decapitations...”

 

How many other haunted places have I been in my life? Recklessly solid in my disbelief of the supernatural? 

 

Savannah’s voice echoes through my mind. “...Are you really debunking hauntings? Or are you simply appeasing what was already there?...”

 

I bury my face in my free hand. My forehead feels clammy, and the gash on my temple has dried, leaving flakes of blood. Not hardly the worst injury I have gotten on a job, but it always hurts.

 

San Francisco, Moon Lake, Blackmoor Manor, that bridge on that golf course, Castle Malloy, that showboat, the Turnbull Mansion, Blackwood Hall, Castle Malloy, Ryokan Hiei, Thornton Hall… every spooky location I have ever been to streams through my mind. How many ghosts were real? How many have I seen in my life but discounted as some sort of “natural phenomenon” or a trick?

 

My breathing becomes rapid.

 

“Nancy!” Ned says, voice now frantic. I have never broken down in front of him. Nancy, calm down. Breathe. Listen to my voice. Just breathe.”

 

I try my best. I do what I can to even my breathing, sucking in air, holding it for a second, and then releasing it. I wipe the moisture from my face. I’m okay. I’m okay.

 

“I’m booking a flight now.”

 

“You don’t have to do that,” I say automatically, basking in the warmth of the heater.

 

“You will not be convincing me otherwise.”

 

A long pause. 

 

“Thank you,” I say quietly, feeling like I’m going to throw up again.

 

Another long pause, where I hear clicking on the keyboard. He curses. “All the flights are booked! What the hell? The soonest I can get there is next week.”

 

“Seriously?” I ask, although it is just my luck. If it has something to do with me and an airline, it goes awry. I can’t count the amount of times my planes have been rerouted or plans got canceled or my luggage got lost. That’s why nowadays, if it’s even a semi-reasonable distance to drive, I take my car.

 

I close my eyes, knowing what Ned is going to say, and what I have to do in response. I force my mind to click over to “rational Nancy.”

 

“I’ll drive out,” Ned says, “If I leave now, I can be there by morning.”

 

“Ned.” I sniff, and wipe my nose. Get it together, Nancy . “You do not have to do that. You have school, and it’s what, a seven hour drive without stops?”

 

“Screw school. You need me.”

 

“I’ll be fine, Ned.”

 

“You just had a panic attack because now you believe ghosts are real.”

 

I take another deep breath. He can’t miss any of those classes, and I don’t want him to drive all night just because I almost died. I didn’t die, and all I have are maybe a few bruises and the scratch on my forehead. If it hadn’t been a ghost, I probably wouldn’t have even told him about it. 

 

So what if ghosts are real?

 

I can’t believe I just thought that.

 

“You know what? It was probably an aftereffect of a dream I had,” I quickly lie, spotting Sam and Dean in the front room, peering out at me. I give them a little wave and a “just a moment” gesture.

 

“Nancy--”

 

“I’m fully awake now,” I insist, “It was just a dream.”

 

“Nancy.”

 

“I’ll let you know if I need you to drive out, okay?”

 

“But--”

 

“I love you. Talk to you soon.”

 

“I love you too, but Nan--”

 

“I’m fine, Ned,” I insist, cutting him off, “Trust me.”

 

I hang up, wipe my nose, and get out of the car as the Winchesters come out of the house, carrying their stuff.

 

“We shouldn’t stay here,” Dean says, “Now that we know for sure that there’s another ghost running around.”

 

He seems to expect me to protest, but I just cross my arms against the cold and nod. 

 

“We should, however, spend some time figuring out what the deal is with this ghost,” Dean says, popping open the trunk of the Impala. “That wasn’t who we originally thought it was.”

 

“You mean it wasn’t Sherman.”

 

“Yeah,” Sam says.

 

“We need to find out more about this thing,” Dean says, slamming the trunk shut, “So we can destroy it before it kills again.”

 

“Didn’t you destroy it already?” I ask, gesturing to the house, “With your rock salt cannon?”

 

Sam smiles grimly. “That only slows it down, it doesn’t destroy it. Which is why we need to leave now .”

 

----

 

Sam drives me out to their motel, trailing after Dean, who is driving the Impala. I didn’t feel much like driving, and I didn’t feel much like being alone at my hotel. This way, we can compile information in one, non-haunted place. 

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Sam asks. 

 

I shrug. “Is there anything really to talk about? I am still half-convinced I’m dreaming.”

 

“Yeah.” He turns his gaze back to the taillights of the Impala. “I get that.”

 

There is a long pause.

 

“How did you get into all this?” I finally ask, “All this ghost hunting, I mean?”

 

He chews on his cheek, thinking intently for several moments. “...Our mom. She was killed by... something supernatural. A demon. So our dad started Hunting, and taught Dean and I. It’s the ‘family business,’ so to speak. It’s more than just ghosts too. Poltergeists, vampires, werewolves… nowadays there’s a lot more demons than I would care to admit.”

 

Everything is finally starting to make sense about these two.

 

“Do you think that thing was a demon?” I ask, jabbing my thumb backwards to the house.

 

He shakes his head. “Nah. Demons possess people. Flesh and blood people. That was certainly a ghost.”

 

“So everything you said, about burning bones, about hunting things for a living, it was all true?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

I nod and swallow. “Why didn’t it get rid of the ghost then? The grave-robbing?”

 

“Well, that ghost was a woman, right? No Sherman Lockwood. Did you get a good look at her? See what she looked like?”

 

I nod. “Long dark hair, pale skin, and around my age, except...dead.”

 

“And you didn’t see a man? At all?”

 

“No. Just her.”

 

“Huh.” He grips the steering wheel in thought. “...See, the first day we were here, when we went upstairs to investigate--”

 

“When you were being loud enough to drive me out of the house, you mean.”

 

He breathes out a chuckle. “Yeah. When we were up there, we saw the ghost of Sherman. He got a hold of me, but Dean chased him off.”

 

“But I didn’t see any Sherman inside. Just that girl.”

 

“Exactly.”

 

“So what you’re saying is that burning the bones worked ?”

 

“...Apparently so. I mean, probably . And that means that there was more than one ghost in that house.”

 

I turn my gaze to the road, and settle back into my seat. “So you just need to burn Caroline’s bones.”

 

He cocks his head a little. “Caroline?”

 

“That girl. The maid.”

 

“What?”

 

“You know, the legend. Sherman Lockwood and the maid were having an affair and then the maid--Caroline--was going to go public, and then Sherman killed her, and then himself once he realized what he had done. People around here say that one, or both of their ghosts haunt the grounds. I’m assuming that girl was Caroline. Especially since...” I draw an invisible line across my neck, “the murders match the way she was killed.”

 

Sam’s eyes widen. “Wait, how was she killed?”

 

“Sword swing to the neck.”

 

“Nancy. Nancy. You just solved it!”

 

“What?”

 

“Nancy, Sherman wasn’t having an affair with Caroline !” He pounds the wheel in excitement. “Caroline,” he breathes, “ She’s the key to all of this! We have to tell Dean.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 23 - Sam


 

Freedom Motel

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Tuesday 11 March 2008

 

We pull into the motel parking lot, and I park right next to the Impala. Nancy still seems uncertain about the importance of what she told me. But my mind is racing at a hundred miles an hour. I toss her keys back to her and jump out of the car.

 

“Dean, Dean ,” I say with a huge grin, running over to my brother. He seems extremely apprehensive at my excitement. I grab his shoulders. “ Dean . I found out who the daughter is.”

 

Nancy appears behind me, arms crossed. She has a confused look on her face.

 

“You did?” Dean asks, his interest now piqued. “How? Who is she?”

 

“Nancy figured it out,” I say breathlessly, gesturing to her. Her look of confusion intensifies. “She figured out the legend.”

 

“The...legend of the maid and Sherman…?” she asks. “Did you guys not know about it?”

 

“What’s the legend, Nancy?” Dean asks.

 

“Well, the first part is known historical fact,” Nancy says uncertainly, “I learned it from the author writing about the house.”

 

Author ? What author?” Dean takes a step forward. 

 

How did neither of us find out this information, but she did? It boggles the mind.

 

“Edward Velasquez. He came into town just a few days before the first murder of the month.” Nancy gestures with one hand, her other arm wrapped around her torso. She is looking at the ground as she speaks. “He was… uh…” she snaps her fingers, “ writing about notable households up and down the coast. The first person who died went to the house to get information for him. Edward didn’t know they were going, and was extremely upset. He’s still in town because he feels responsible. I think he’s the one who called you guys here, by the way. He said your uncle recommended you two?”

 

Dean and I share a look. Dean is flabbergasted.

 

“Tell us more,” my brother prods.

 

“Well, no one seems to agree on the legend,” Nancy says, rubbing her arms and shrugging slightly, “But evidence points to Sherman Lockwood and the maid, Caroline Walker, were having an affair. Caroline was going to go public. Sherman killed her, then himself. Murder-suicide.”

 

“So first off,” I say, picking up the story, “Caroline and Sherman weren’t having an affair. But there was a secret. Remember what Sherman said when we first saw him? Remember who we’ve been looking for?”

 

“The illegitimate daughter,” Dean answers, comprehension dawning on his features.

 

“What?” Nancy looks lost.

 

I turn to her. “Sherman was having an affair, but with the priest’s daughter, Abitha Woodbury . The two of them had a child, who seems to be the key to all of this. When we ran into Sherman’s ghost upstairs, he said ‘where’s my daughter.’”

 

Her eyes widen. “Caroline was the daughter.” She shakes her head and touches the gash on her temple. She winces in either pain or disgust. “Well, that changes things.”

 

“But why would Sherman kill her?” Dean asks, “He left money to the wait staff as well as family members. Doesn’t seem the type to go killing people.”

 

“He must have already known who she was,” I say, “To leave money for her and her fellow employees.”

 

“That doesn’t answer my question though. Why would Sherman kill her?”

 

Nancy blinks. “He didn’t,” she says softly. She looks up at us. “There must have been someone who knew about Sherman and the priest’s daughter, and about Caroline, and would kill to keep the secret. The wait staff said that Sherman did it, but Edward gave me another possible answer. In those days, the witnesses would have to tell whatever story their boss--or someone else in a position of power--said. But the wife was in town with the priest’s daughter on the night of the killings, which is why I guess they both had a rock-solid alibi.”

 

There is a long pause.

 

“In the morning, we should go have a chat with this ‘Edward Velasquez,’” Dean says, flipping his keys in the air and grabbing them one-handed, “See if he knows anything else.” He points at Nancy with the keys. “...But for now, let’s get that cut of yours cleaned up and try to get some rest.”

 

----

 

I wake up first. Sunlight is streaming through the crappy motel curtains, revealing the true amount of dust in the air.

 

I scratch my head, wondering how the hell I managed to fall asleep.

 

Dean is slumped in one of the cupped chairs, empty mug in his hand, and the smallest bit of drool on the corner of his mouth. He is snoring slightly. I smile at him and wonder how much trouble I would get in if I snapped a photo. 

 

I take my phone and click the camera button, laughing to myself.

 

I’ll have to find a way to innocently show him the picture later.

 

Putting the phone back in my pocket, I push myself to my feet. My joints ache and my muscles are sore from sleeping on the floor, and I have a crick in my neck now. But when was the last time I actually did get a good night’s sleep anyway?

 

I almost forgot about Nancy being here. She is curled up against the side of one of the beds. She is using her coat as a blanket, covering her head with the hood. The bandage on her forehead is just barely visible. 

 

A bunch of notes are spread out on the floor in front of her, and she limply holds a pencil in one hand and her heavy-duty flashlight in the other. She is all tucked in on herself. Whether or not she realizes it, she was making herself smaller to protect herself. A pang of sympathy hits me in the gut, and I realize I feel the sort of love for her that I do for Dean. A sibling to protect.

 

This girl, this girl, prodigy of her time and adamantly spending her life debunking the supernatural, was almost killed by a ghost last night. I wish I could tell her that it was all just a dream.

 

But we are well past that now.

 

I carefully squat down and click off the flashlight. I stare at Nancy for a few seconds, wishing I could give her a hug.

 

Instead, I stand, and gently drape one of the motel’s blankets over her.

 

Outside, the birds are chirping, and the barely-risen sun is already starting to warm the air, causing plumes of steam against the snow. I lean back against the wall next to our room’s door, and stuff my hands in my pockets. It was an awfully long night, mostly because I was up worrying about Nancy. 

 

Once you know, it changes you.

 

As soon as you lose that childhood innocence, it’s gone. You spend your life looking at every shadow, wondering if it hides the supernatural.

 

I don’t know how long I am standing out here before Dean slouches out, closing the door behind him as quietly as he can. His hair is sticking up at an odd angle and he has rings under his eyes. He is carrying the now-full mug. The dude already made coffee.

 

“I hate waking up early,” he croaks out before taking a sip, voice filled with sleep, “But that damn chair is so uncomfortable. Couldn’t take it anymore. The floor would’ve been better.”

 

“Wanna bet?” I ask, stretching my arms above my head. My back pops audibly in several places. “Agh.”

 

Dean raises an eyebrow. “Fair.” He takes a noisy swig.

 

We stand there in silence, staring out into the parking lot. 

 

“She’ll be okay, you know,” Dean finally says, crossing his arms in such a way that the coffee doesn’t spill.

 

“Huh?” I look over at him.

 

“Nancy.” He shrugs a little. “She’ll be okay.”

 

I sigh, and scratch the top of my head. “I’m just glad we were there.”

 

“Me too.” He drinks the rest of the coffee in one, loud, long slurp. “Ah,” he says, a smile on his face. He cradles the empty mug in his hands.

 

I shake my head.

 

“We should make plans,” I say. “Do we come at Edward saying we’re the guys he called in, that we’re FBI, or that we’re friends of Nancy?”

 

“I dunno.” He chews on his lip. “D’you think Nancy will be a little more approving of our methods now?”

 

“Probably. But we shouldn’t push it more than we have to.”

 

“Yeah, yeah.” He rolls his eyes at me before opening the door. He holds his mug up with an overly-cheerful smile. “I’m getting more coffee.”

 

Nancy is stirring as we walk inside. The smell of crappy motel coffee is unmistakable. Dean made a whole pot, presumably all for himself. The coffee maker gurgles a bit.

 

“I suppose we can grab breakfast at a drive-thru,” I comment, grabbing a clean outfit from my bag. “Nancy, we can swing by your hotel so you can freshen up if you want.”

 

Nancy sits up and runs a hand through her hair. “That’d be nice,” she admits. “Funnily enough, going ghost hunting and getting thrown around a dusty old house, and then sleeping on a cheap motel floor, does not leave one’s outfit laundry fresh.”

 

I chuckle. 

 

Meanwhile, Dean refills his mug with coffee, leaving enough room to pour in some unknown liquid from his flask. Oh for the love of God, Dean.

 

Nancy stares.

 

Dean raises his eyebrows, still holding the flask.

 

“Do… you want some?” he asks her, holding it out to her.

 

I scoff on Nancy’s behalf, and push past him to the bathroom to get dressed.

 

What ?” Dean asks me, as I close the door in his face, “I was just being polite!”

 

----

 

“We should probably carpool,” Dean muses, “Makes the most sense.”

 

“Why? Because you drank liquor for breakfast and can’t drive?” I ask him with a glare.

 

He shrugs.

 

“Well,” Nancy says, patting the Impala, “Your car has the mobile armory.”

 

“That is true,” Dean says with a smirk.

 

“Hey Nancy,” I say, staring straight at Dean, knowing full-well how he feels about other people driving his “Baby.” I dangle the Impala’s keys, “Why don’t you drive?” I toss them over to Nancy, and she deftly catches them mid-air.

 

“Sure!” She says.

 

Dean’s face comically drops.

 

“She knows the way to her hotel,” I remind him, patting him on the shoulder. “And by the way? I call shotgun.”

 

----

 

“How come she gets the freaking nice hotel why we’re stuck in the crappy ones?” Dean grouches, leaning his elbows against the back of the bench seat and peering out the front window with a frown.

 

I cock my head to see better. Nancy certainly got the nicest place in town, from what I have seen around. The place is only two stories, but the greenery is well-maintained, the signs are fresh and clean, and the place has been painted recently. Even the parking lot is nice, neatly plowed and filled with lighting for safety. There is an indoor pool, a brand new exercise room, as well as a free continental breakfast, if the advertisements on the side of the building are to be believed.

 

My stomach growls. We still need to grab food at some point.

 

“There she is,” I say, pointing. Nancy has changed into boots, fresh jeans, a t-shirt, and a sensible hoodie. She has also pulled her hair up out of the way in a tight, but messy, bun. I smirk a little at the difference in fashion choice. This is a girl ready to go Hunting.

 

She also has a plastic bag hanging from her elbow, and keeps looking back and forth as if to see if anyone is following her, although her face is neutral.

 

“Hey guys,” she says in greeting, getting back into the driver’s seat. She hands me the large bag. “I, uh, got you some food.”

 

I peer into the bag, where there are two takeout containers, a pile of napkins, and two packages of plastic utensils. The salivating smell of eggs, bacon, and toast hits me. “How’d you manage to get all this?” I ask, pulling one of the boxes out and grabbing a fork.

 

She purses her lips, looking straight ahead as she starts the car. “I stole it from the kitchen.”

 

Dean laughs.

 

“I also, um,” she clears her throat, “got myself a big can of salt.”

 

“Attagirl,” my brother says. He pats me on the shoulder. “She’s a Hunter now!”

 

I give a single nose laugh.

 

“Where to?” Nancy asks. “I tried calling Edward but he won’t pick up, and I don’t know where he’s staying. I can call the sheriff in a bit to ask him, but he’s not in the office yet.”

 

“We can look for Caroline’s grave,” Dean suggests, “Salt and burn, ask questions later.”

 

I expect Nancy to protest, but all she does is start the car.

Chapter Text

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Tuesday 11 March 2008

 

“I don’t see any ‘Caroline Walker’ over here!” I shout, examining each tombstone on the east side of the cemetery.

 

“Same for over here!” Sam responds from the west side.

 

“This might be a bust,” Dean says irritably, walking up to me, examining each headstone as he goes. He holds the handle of his shovel, which rests on his shoulder. “It seems like the only people buried here are Lockwoods and Lockwood relatives. No wait staff or servants.”

 

I sigh, hands in pockets. “Oh well. It was worth a shot.”

 

Sam lopes over to us. “What now? County records?”

 

Dean shrugs. “Unless you want to search every boneyard in Blackridge.”

 

“...You’re sure that it didn’t say anything in the papers from Edward?” Sam asks me.

 

“Nothing. Didn’t even say how she died. Had to get that from him. You can check if you want.”

 

“Nah, I trust you did your part,” he says, squinting out over the property. “And Edward still hasn’t responded?”

 

“I’ve called him like five times,” I tell him, “Nothing.” I remember when Edward told me he was up until four a.m. that one time. And it is only seven in the morning. “He might just not be awake yet. He seems to be a night owl.”

 

“Most writers are,” Dean concurs irritably, turning back to the gates. “Oh well. County Records it is. We can check in on Edward later.”

 

“How are we going to get in?” I ask, genuinely curious, and running to keep up. 

 

Sam chuckles. “How would you get in?”

 

I purse my lips in thought. “Um… sneak in. Find some keys, stay out of sight. That sort of thing.”

 

Nancy Drew ,” Sam says in a fake judgmental voice, wearing a toothy grin, “Why I never .”

 

“So what are we going to do?” I ask.

 

Dean smirks at me over his shoulder. “Fake IDs and lockpicks, young padawan. But if you want to come with us, we need to stop by a copy place to make you an ID.”

 

I chew on my cheek, part of me wanting to go all-in, and part of me not wanting to get caught with that sort of thing.

 

“Maybe I ought to wait in the car this time,” I say, “If Sheriff Reeves finds out I used a fake ID to get information…” I trail off, imagining my entire P.I. business crumbling in one fell swoop.

 

“Got it,” Sam says.

 

“Next time, then,” Dean says with a smile and a wink.

 

----

 

“Hey, Savannah,” I say, “I need your help.”

 

“I don’t doubt you do. What can I help you with, Hon?”

 

“I…” I look out at the county records office building, in front of which we found a streetside parking spot. “I… believe.”

 

“...What?”

 

“I saw one of the ghosts last night. It almost killed me, but the Winchesters saved my life.”

 

“Is that right.”

 

“Yes. It is.” I sigh. “I didn’t know who else to talk to.”

 

“Because your friends all back home are just as big of skeptics as you were.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I told you not to open that door, Nancy.”

 

I close my eyes. I knew this was coming.

 

“I know,” I tell her, “I didn’t mean to open it. I never would have purposefully.”

 

“...Nancy.” She takes a deep breath. “The only people I know who’ve met spirits... are ones who were actively looking for ‘em.”

 

“I wasn’t,” I say honestly, “I was looking for the truth behind the killings.”

 

“And if the truth behind the killings were to say, involve a ghost?”

 

“Are you saying that…” I swallow, “Are you saying that in the ghost’s eyes, I was looking for… the ghost?”

 

“No. I’m saying that in your eyes, you were looking for the truth. And you found it.”

 

I blink. “What do you mean by that, exactly?”

 

“You are a special kind of skeptic, Nancy. Or should I say, you were .” She chuckles. “Nancy, most skeptics just say, ‘there’s no such thing,’ and move on with their lives. You , however, make a living outta finding trouble. Sooner or later, you were bound to find something unexplainable.”

 

“But you said to never open the door--”

 

“...Wishful thinking on my part, I’m afraid. I didn’t want you to have to know. I didn’t want you to have to see what I’ve seen, felt what I’ve felt, known what I’ve known. I…” she laughs a little, “I wanted to protect you, Nancy. I actually have wished that I could be like you. Blissfully innocent to what’s behind the curtain of what people can see and understand. Perfectly solid in what they believe and why. Isn’t it so much safer that way? Once you know, though, it’s like… it’s like you are on this… slippery slope.”

 

“...Not knowing what is real, and what is made up,” I finish.

 

“Exactly. See, before this, you were able to march straight into the most haunted place on the planet, and figure out that there wasn’t actually a haunting, it was just someone playin’ pretend. Can you honestly say that you could still do that?”

 

I hesitate.

 

“Thought so. You used to be protected by your lack of faith in the supernatural, Hon. Now, you need to figure out how to keep yourself safe from those souls looking to talk.”

 

“How? How do you do it?”

 

“Well, if you’re like me, you can quit your job and become a tech journalist, staying far away from anything remotely spooky.”

 

“I can’t do that.”

 

She chuckles. “Well, you’re stronger than me.”

 

“But seriously, what do I do?”

 

“You said that the Winchesters saved you last night. Can you tell me what they did? D’you remember?”

 

“Dean shot it with a shotgun shell filled with rock salt.”

 

“Rock salt? And the ghost just… disappeared?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Interesting.”

 

“Yeah. Apparently salt repels ghosts. They can’t cross lines of it, and if you throw it at them, they vanish for the time being, giving you enough time to get away.”

 

“It really works?”

 

“I saw it with my own eyes,” I tell her.

 

“Well there’s your answer, Hon. Carry salt around with you.” She pauses, and adds in a thoughtful tone, “Maybe I should do that too.”

 

“I got a can,” I say, pulling it from my knapsack. It’s full, sealed, and heavy.

 

“Then why are you asking me what to do? You seem to have it figured out.”

 

“I don’t know.” I shrug. “I guess I… I guess I…”

 

“Needed someone to talk it through with?” Savannah suggests.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I get that. Having your entire worldview change overnight can’t be easy.”

 

“No,” I agree.

 

“And also, is it perhaps that you are starting to trust these boys? These Winchesters?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Savannah snorts at my responses. “I did do some more digging. I am starting to wonder about them. They seem to be the real deal--hardcore Hunters. And not just looking around for ghosts. Other stuff too. Monsters, ghouls, vampires, demons even.”

 

I nod, even though she can’t see me.

 

“How did you find this out?” I ask, thinking back to Frank and Joe, and how they got their information.

 

“Rumors, mostly. When you come at all the stories from the perspective of a believer, things suddenly start making sense.”

 

“Ah. So you think these guys are stand-up? I mean, relatively.”

 

“I mean… Nancy. Yesterday, I told you to be careful around these boys. I still think you ought to be cautious, but if they saved your life… I don’t know. You’re the one who’s there with them. Trust your gut.”

 

The doors to the office open, and the brothers walk out, looking to be deep in a discussion. “Well,” I say, sitting up a little straighter, “I’m working with them now.”

 

“What?”

 

“I mean, we’re working together to figure out what this ghost is bound to so we can burn it.”

 

Savannah laughs. “Girl. You go from being the most hardcore skeptic I have ever met in my entire life... to goin’ around hunting for some object the ghost is bound to so you can do some sort of salt burning ritual. Should I be concerned about mind control or brainwashing?”

 

I smirk. “I can’t explain it, Savannah. A week ago I would have thought today-me was insane. Now? Now I might as well try and get rid of the ghost. Seems logical.”

 

“Odd how that happens, isn’t it. One day something seems ludicrous…”

 

“...And the next, not so much.” I give a tight-lipped smile.

 

“Are they around right now? The Winchester boys?”

 

“They’re walking back. I’m driving their car today, and we stopped at the county records office so we could find out where Caroline Walker’s bones are so we can burn them.” It seems important for Savannah to know that I am the driver, and am in charge of where we go.

 

“Well, when they get back in the car, put me on speaker. I want to talk to them.”

 

“Okay…”

 

Sam carefully gets into the passenger seat as Dean plops in the back. “You know I kinda hate you right now, right?” Dean declares, repositioning himself and straightening his jacket. “Riding in the backseat of my own damn car....” He uncaps his flask and takes a hearty swig. “Ah…”

 

“Who are you talking to, Nancy?” Sam says suspiciously, catching a glimpse of my phone. He holds a hand out to stop Dean from talking any more.

 

“...Savannah Woodham. She’s a ghost hunter I know.”

 

Sam raises his eyebrows.

 

“Actually, she’d like to talk to all of us,” I say with a grimace, feeling like I’m tattling on them to a mom, who’s about to rip them a new one. “...Can I put it on speaker?”

 

The brothers share a look.

 

“...Go ahead,” Dean says slowly, putting the lid back on the flask and pocketing it.

 

I tap the speaker button and hold the phone out. “Hey Savannah, you’re on speaker!”

 

“Thank you, Hon. Hey boys. Sam and Dean, right?”

 

Neither of them says anything for several seconds. Finally, Sam pipes up. “...Yes. And you’re Savannah?”

 

“That’d be me. I suppose you have realized that Nancy was quite the skeptic, correct?”

 

“We may have caught on to that,” Dean says with a little smirk, leaning forward.

 

“And you have also realized that she is no longer a skeptic, correct?”

 

Sam grimaces. “We have.”

 

“You listen here,” Savannah snaps, “If either of y’all hurt Nancy or let her get hurt, I will personally hunt you down and whoop your asses so hard y’all ain’t never going to be able to sit down again. You hear?!”

 

“Yes ma’am!” Sam says quickly, looking at his brother with wide eyes.

 

Dean clears his throat. “Yes ma’am,” he repeats.

 

“That was it,” Savannah says matter-of-factly, “Happy hunting, and do let me know if you need anything.”

 

“Bye, Savannah,” I tell her.

 

“Goodbye, Nancy.”

 

We hang up, and I bite my cheek. “Sorry,” I say lamely, “I, uh, she insisted I put it on speaker.”

 

Sam laughs. “Well, you seem to have people looking out for you.”

 

Dean rolls his eyes and settles back. “She reminds me of Ellen.”

 

Sam lets out a loud snort.

 

“Anyway,” I say awkwardly, “What did you guys find out?”

 

“Well--” Sam starts.

 

“Cremated,” Dean interjects, leaning forward again and resting his crossed arms on the back of the front seat. “She was cremated. Nothing to burn.”

 

“Great,” I reply.

 

“This happens a lot,” Sam says, “Now we have to look around for anything with the person’s DNA. Lock of hair, a fingernail…”

 

I grimace. “Ew.” Last night’s discussion suddenly makes so much more sense. “Ghosts can really be bound to stuff like that?”

 

Sam nods. “For example, there was this one case we had where the body had been cremated, but this doll had the girl’s hair, and that’s what the ghost was bound to.”

 

I grimace. “Creepy…”

 

Dean smiles at me, “So now guess what we get to do?”

 

“Search the mansion again?” I ask with a groan, leaning my head back dramatically. “I really, really don’t want to go back in there.”

 

“We’re safe during the day,” he insists. “None of the deaths have happened while the sun’s out. Plus, now we all have salt.”

 

“That’s comforting,” I say dryly, starting the car.

 

“Hey,” Sam says, “On another subject, did you ever hear back from Edward?”

 

I hesitate, glancing at the clock. It’s past ten now.

 

“No,” I say, shifting the car into gear. “No, I haven’t.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 25 - Dean


 

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Tuesday 11 March 2008

 

We park, I mean, Nancy parks my Baby in front of the mansion. That fucking mansion. We are back. Again. Dark storm clouds block out the sun, and wind visibly shakes the surrounding trees. A storm is blowing in. And a big one by the look of how dark the clouds are. 

 

I glare at the mansion before I pull my flask out from my inside coat pocket and take a long drink. The liquid feels warm and inviting as I feel it pass down my throat. The warmth spreads out to the rest of my body. I take another drink. I know I need to stop being so obvious with the drinking or else Sam is going to lecture me, but fuck it. I barely have any time left before I am literally dragged into Hell. Why can’t I drink a bit to feel temporarily better? 

 

I open the car door and step outside. It’s freezing. Why am I surprised? The sky gives a low rumble, and we all look up at it. 

 

“Looks like a storm is coming,” Sam comments. He opens the trunk and grabs some flashlights. He holds them out to us, and I take one. I hurriedly walk to the mansion, inwardly cursing the cold. I hear Sam and Nancy’s footsteps behind me. 

 

The darkened sky casts the mansion in a dreary light, and I have to use my flashlight to even see in the main room. 

 

“It’ll be most effective if we split up,” Sam says. 

 

I nod and am about to agree when I see Nancy standing next to him. She looks so small next to my brother’s hulking form. She has her coat zipped up and her arms crossed for warmth. Her eyes are quickly moving around the room as if something is going to jump out of nowhere (which I guess is possible). She bites her lip and turns on her flashlight, pointing at something across the room. 

 

She’s scared, and I know she won’t admit it. Nancy has faced a lot in her time, this much I know. She isn’t about to admit to being spooked by an empty room. But this whole ghost thing is new to her, and I can’t help but feel a surge of protectiveness shoot through me, looking at her staring wide-eyed and small next to Sam. 

 

“For you maybe,” I answer Sam. “I’m taking Nancy with me.” I shoot him a look: I need to stay with her.

 

Nancy’s face immediately relaxes at my words.

 

He understands and nods. “I’ll take the basement.”

 

“We got upstairs,” I answer. “Meet back on this level when we’re done?” 

 

“Works for me,” Sam says. “See you guys then.” He walks off towards the basement.

 

“You’re really letting your brother go into the basement of a haunted mansion. Alone?” Nancy teases, but I can tell it’s nervous energy. 

 

I shrug. “He’s faced worse.” I head towards the stairs, and Nancy follows close behind. 

 

We creak upstairs, and I stare at the long hallway. I have no idea where to start, but Nancy immediately enters the room across from us. Maybe it was a good plan for me to tag along with her regardless of ghosts. We might even find something before Sam. I grin at the idea. 

 

----

 

We search every room upstairs. Then we do it again, because Nancy insists. And I know Sam is done at this point, probably wondering where the heck we are. We’re taking a long time, and we have nothing to show for it. After finding absolutely nothing, we make our way downstairs, Nancy leading us this time.

 

Sam is looking at a painting above the fireplace. He turns when he hears us coming. “Please tell me you guys found something,” Sam says. 

 

I shake my head. “Nope. Nothing upstairs. Why? Was the basement empty?” 

 

“Not completely,” Sam says. He takes a small box out from his coat pocket. 

 

Nancy and I step closer to inspect it. It’s a small wooden box. There are some square knob things on the front, and a colorful grid pattern on the top. 

 

“It’s a jewelry box,” Nancy states and grabs it from Sam.

 

“Yeah,” Sam says. “I can’t open it. There isn’t a lock on it. It looks like you have to open it by matching those little buttons to the colors on the top.” He points to the top of the box.

 

I frown, trying to figure out what it means and if I should care.

 

“Oh,” Nancy says. “A puzzle.” She abruptly sits down, placing the box in her lap while fiddling with the buttons. 

 

Sam sighs. “I tried that. It won’t be easy to open.” 

 

“Really?” I say skeptically. “It’s a wooden box, Sammy. We can just shoot it.” 

 

Nancy’s head whips up. “And risk breaking what’s inside?” 

 

I shrug. 

 

She scoffs and shakes her head. “Unbelievable. I’ll figure it out.” 

 

I share a doubtful look with Sam.

 

“Guess Sammy and I will look around for clues on this level all by ourselves then?” I say pointedly to Nancy. 

 

Nancy nods. “Mmmm,” she affirms absent-mindedly as she continues messing with the box. 

 

I roll my eyes. Our best person is now distracted. Awesome. I walk over to the other side of the room, trying to see if there is any sort of hidden... anything in the room. After looking and re-looking for any speck of DNA, I turn back to Sam. He shakes his head. He hasn’t found anything either. Awesome.

 

“Got it!” Nancy suddenly exclaims. 

 

Sam and I rush over. 

 

“How did you do that?” Sam asks, the awe evident in his voice. He has the excitement of a child. I roll my eyes. 

 

“It’s a puzzle, and I solved it,” Nancy explains unhelpfully. She eagerly opens the box. 

 

It’s filled to the brim with shiny jewelry. 

 

“Oooh!” I exclaim. This could fetch us a pretty penny. 

 

Nancy makes a pile on the floor as she digs through the box. I quickly grab the jewelry and start stuffing the shiny metal into my pockets. 

 

Sam glares at me. 

 

“What?” I ask innocently. “We need the money.” 

 

“It’s just jewelry?” Nancy says in disappointment, flipping the empty box upside down. 

 

Just jewelry?” I reply. “This stuff is the real deal. We can get some good money from this!”

 

She finally looks up at me as I grab the last bit of the pile and put it into my jacket pocket. “Really?” she asks me in disbelief. 

 

I grin back at her. 

 

She rolls her eyes, but I can see a faint smile on her lips. It makes me feel better. She’s been through a lot. Getting her to smile is something at least. 

 

“So,” Sam begins, “we don’t have anything substantial, do we?” 

 

Nancy sighs. “No. I’ll try and call Edward to see if he knows anything more about the mansion, or Caroline, or anything, really.” She pulls out her phone. 

 

“And I’ll call the sheriff,” Sam says stepping towards the staircase. 

 

“You guys are so boring,” I comment. 

 

It’s Nancy’s turn to grin at me. 

 

I roll my eyes and follow Sam to the stairs. He goes up a few steps before sitting. I sit down a few steps below him. He takes out his cell phone and dials the Sheriff’s Station. 

 

“Hello? It’s Agent McKellen. Can I speak to Sheriff Reeves, please?” he asks. There’s a pause as Sam is transferred to the sheriff. “Hello, Sheriff Reeves. It’s Agent McKellen. I just have a few questions for you.” 

 

And I’m already bored. I stand back up and head down to Nancy. She’s still talking on the phone, and I groan. We get a new friend, and she’s just as nerdy as Sam. Just my luck. 

 

I sit down next to her on the floor and pull out my flask, taking a generous sip before slipping it back into my coat pocket.

 

“--again, uh, it’s Nancy. Please call me back on this number. I could really, really use your help. Bye.” Nancy clicks a button on her phone and looks up at me. She bites her lip thoughtfully. 

 

“He still hasn’t answered?” I ask. This isn’t a good sign. 

 

She shakes her head. 

 

The silence settles uncomfortably in between us. 

 

The stairs creak, and Sam walks back over. “Any word from Edward?” he asks Nancy. 

 

“No,” she replies, her tone is strained with worry. 

 

Sam sighs. “I thought you’d say that, so I asked Sheriff Reeves where he’s staying. Lakeside Hotel & Suites. Maybe we should check it out,” Sam suggests. 

 

Nancy quickly gets to her feet. “Let’s go.” 

Chapter Text

Chapter 26 - Nancy


 

Lakeside Hotel & Suites

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Tuesday 11 March 2008

 

We walk up the steps, our footsteps echoing through the stairwell. If I were to say that it isn’t super convenient to use Sam and Dean’s FBI badges to get us past security in Edward’s hotel, I would be lying. I didn’t even feel guilty when they blatantly lied to the receptionist. The only thing that worried me was perhaps getting caught… which we didn’t. Justifying actions like this is getting too easy. My dad would have an aneurysm if he knew how many laws I’ve broken in the past three days. 

 

We reach the third floor, and I follow the brothers to Edward’s room: 311. 

 

Dean knocks on the door. “Edward? My name is Dean. I’m with Nancy Drew.” He waits a moment. “Edward?” He looks back at us. 

 

Sam steps up with his lockpick and kneels by the doorknob. It’s an older style of hotel, so no electrical keycard lock. He easily moves his hands to adjust to the pins, and it swings open. I do a double-take at the speed, having been prepared to wait at least a full minute. He’s much better at that than I am. I need to practice more. Maybe one day I’ll be able to beat him at it. 

 

The fact that this is my only reaction to breaking and entering concerns me.

 

We all step into the room, and Dean flicks on the light. 

 

Edward’s room looks untouched, except for the small desk against the wall by the window and HVAC. Take-out boxes and empty coffee cups clutter every inch of the desk that isn’t covered by a stack of paper. A typewriter sits in the center of the desk, a half-filled page resting in the machine. Sam walks over to it, and noisily takes the paper out. “He was working on his book,” he comments, “something about building materials in the 1700’s in this region.” 

 

“How does the ‘e’ look?” I ask him, recalling the notes Sheriff Reeves had shown me back at the station. 

 

“What?” Sam turns to me in confusion, still holding onto the paper. 

 

“The lowercase ‘e.’ Is it crooked?” I ask. 

 

Sam looks back down at the paper. “...No. Why?”

 

I sigh. It was worth a try. I pull out one of the notes and show him. “Someone left the victims notes typed out on a typewriter leading them to Lockwood Estates. The ‘e’ was crooked on those notes. Sheriff Reeves cleared Edward’s typewriter, but I just want to make sure.”

 

“Guys,” Dean says. I turn and see him crouched by the mini fridge. He holds up a tiny bottle of whiskey and grins. “Edward has good taste.” 

 

I roll my eyes and hear Sam sigh. I look around the room and see a small pad of paper on the nightstand next to the bed. It has scrawled writing on it. I frown and walk over to pick it up.

 

“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stop your research. Don’t want to end up like the rest of those who looked too closely at the Lockwood Estates, do you? Your head looks too good attached to your body.”

 

Well, this is creepy as hell. I frown and check the heading of the notepad. It has the hotel’s name on it, implying that it is the one usually left on each nightstand. Did the killer break into Edward’s room? My heart rate picks up. 

 

Where is Edward? Please don’t be dead , I silently plead. Too many people have died on this case already. 

 

The image of Edward lying on the cold mansion floor, a pool of blood trailing to his head several feet away from his body, pops into my mind. I blink and shove that thought away. I can’t get emotional. I have to stay focused. We don’t yet know for sure if Edward is dead. I mean, maybe he’s out getting food. 

 

  Yeah, that’s why he hasn’t answered your calls.

 

I take a deep breath to reset my brain before it spirals down into an endless stream of what-ifs.

 

“Hey, guys,” I say and hold up the piece of paper. 

 

Sam frowns and walks to me. “What is that?” 

 

I hand it to him. “I think the killer left this for Edward.”

 

He raises his eyebrows, quickly scanning the words. “This isn’t creepy at all,” he says sarcastically. 

 

Dean joins us, the tiny bottle of whiskey already half gone. He holds out his hand for the paper, and Sam gives it to him to examine. 

 

“Yeah, this doesn’t scream serial killer at all ,” Dean comments with an eye roll. He pockets the note. 

 

I scan the room and walk over to the desk. It’s such a mess. How did Edward focus with this chaos surrounding him? Having everything organized is something that always helps me solve a case. I drag the chair out and sit down. I tuck a few loose strands of hair back into my bun. I start sifting through his papers and throw away what refuse fits in the small bin. The trashcan is literally right next to the desk. C’mon, Edward. 

 

I flip through the pages on Edward’s desk. I’m not seeing anything new. So far, all Edward’s research has told me about is the very detailed process of the architecture of the mansion. Not the most intriguing topic, I’ll admit. 

 

“Are you going to read all of that?” Dean asks. 

 

I look over my shoulder to see him looking down at the desk in disdain. He takes a drink from the small bottle, finishes it, and tosses it at the trashcan. He misses. I know he and Sam don’t live the easiest lives, but the amount of alcohol Dean has been consuming today alone is a bit alarming. And that’s just what I’ve seen. Who knows how much he’s had when I haven’t been around. I’ll have to bring it up with Sam later. ...Wait, when did I start to worry about Dean Winchester

 

I sigh and answer, “We need to be thorough. I’m sure Edward has dug something up that we haven’t been able to find. I mean, he’s been doing research on this place for weeks.” 

 

Dean sighs and holds out a hand. “Give me some wordy paper to glare at.” 

 

I raise my eyebrows in surprise. “Really?” 

 

“Hurry, before I change my mind.”

 

I grab part of a stack and hand it to him. Sam has appeared behind me, too. 

 

“I can read some,” the younger brother offers. I hand him the other half of the pile I gave to Dean. 

 

I turn my attention back to the desk and resume reading. I’m on my third sheaf of paper when I notice something. The colored edge of a picture is poking out from underneath the stack. I pull it out. 

 

It’s a picture of a slender silver sword with an elaborate white hilt set in a glass case. I frown. Why did Edward have a picture of this? I quickly flick through the pages that were on top of the picture. I scan each paragraph, but there’s no mention of a sword anywhere. I scan through them again. Nothing. I pick the picture back up. It’s only now that I notice a small plaque under the sword. I squint at it, but I can’t make out the words. I need to find this sword. I need to know its significance.

 

I pull a small magnifying glass out of my bag, causing Dean to scoff in surprise, but I ignore him. Unfortunately, the picture is too blurry to make anything out, but it looks like the sword is displayed somewhere. A museum perhaps? 

 

“I think I found something,” I say. I turn to look at the brothers, and rest my hand on the top of the chair. 

 

They’re both sitting on the bed. Sam at the foot of the bed, both feet planted on the ground while Dean sits with his back against the headboard. 

 

“What is it?” Sam asks, standing up. I show him the picture, and he takes it with a quizzical expression. “What did Edward say about it?” 

 

“Nothing, unfortunately,” I answer. “But it looks like it’s in a museum.”

 

Sam frowns as he stares at the picture. 

 

“What?” I ask. 

 

“Well, ghosts don’t usually use weapons but…” he trails off. 

 

I remember what Edward said about the death of Caroline: “Sword swing to the neck.” Is this the sword? Then it hits me. “The decapitations!” 

 

“Yeah…” Sam says, but he sounds uncertain. “There’s just something...off about all of this.”

 

Yeah, there is. There is a ghost killing people. But I think I know what he means. This is strange for ghost behavior. ...Another phrase I thought I’d never think. We are missing something. 

 

Sam continues, “This sword somehow seems...familiar.” 

 

I look up at him questioningly. “Do you know where it’s from?”

 

“No,” he says with a sigh of frustration. 

 

“I’m sure it will come back to you,” I encourage, but I can’t help but feel disappointed.

 

Someone is obviously luring people to the Lockwood Estates, but why? What do they have to gain? What’s the motive ? Sherman Lockwood, Abitha Woodbury, Caroline Walker. Why did Sherman kill Caroline? Was the reason worth killing for even two hundred years later? 

 

What if Edward found the reason? He told me himself the facts surrounding Sherman and Caroline’s death could have been easily manipulated. What if there’s something everyone is missing? Something the person who keeps luring people to the Lockwood Estates doesn’t want people to know. 

 

What secret is worth the lives of innocent people?

 

“Nancy?” Sam asks me tentatively. 

 

I blink back to the present and look up at him. “I think…” I begin thoughtfully, “I think someone is killing people, er, leading people to the mansion to hide something about Sherman and Caroline’s deaths.” 

 

Sam cocks his head to the side thoughtfully. “I think you’re onto something. Every victim had something to do with Edward and his research, whether he was directly involved or not. Specifically going to the effort to frame him.” 

 

He’s right. Everyone who died was interested in the Lockwood Estates. They all thought they were helping Edward in his research. 

 

Oh, Edward, what did you find?

 

“Wait, what?” Dean pipes up from his spot on the bed. 

 

“We think someone is leading people to the mansion to be killed by the ghost,” Sam explains. “Edward must’ve stumbled onto something someone wants to keep quiet.”

 

“I’m still confused. Who are we going after?” Dean asks. 

 

I sigh. “I don’t know yet.” I take the picture from Sam and hold it up for Dean to see. “We need to find out more about this sword. I think it’s in a museum. There’s one on Front Street we can check out.” 

 

Dean frowns. “So we do all this reading, and now we’re going to a museum ?” 

 

“Yeah,” I say. 

 

“You guys are turning me into a nerd,” he says bitterly, smacking the papers down on the mattress with a distressed frown.

Chapter Text

Chapter 27 - Sam


 

Blackridge Historical Museum

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Tuesday 11 March 2008

 

I park the Impala in the almost-empty museum parking lot. I get out of the car, and the afternoon sun makes a momentary appearance before ducking once again behind dark clouds. The chill hits me as I make my way through the slushy parking lot to the sidewalk, Nancy and Dean trailing behind me. 

 

“So, we find the sword, read the plaque thingy, and then we can leave?” Dean asks hopefully. 

 

I roll my eyes in exasperation. “Yes, Dean. That’s it.” I pull open the door to the museum and step inside. It’s much warmer inside, and our wet footsteps echo and squeak on the tile floor. 

 

“Here we go,” Nancy says, leading us to the left side of the entryway, where there is a large map standing to the side. 

 

Dean steps up next to her. “So where’s the sword section?” he asks with a clap of his hands. 

 

“I doubt there’s a ‘sword section,’” Nancy says. “It’s probably somewhere in the local history section if it does have a connection with the Lockwood Estates.” 

 

Dean points to the map. “Here. ‘Blackridge Town History.’”

 

I stare at the area he’s pointing at. It’s nearby. Just to the right of us. I turn and lead us down the hallway, ignoring all the displays explaining the town’s origin. I scan the hallway for any sign of the sword. The hallway eventually opens up to a small room cluttered with glass cases just like the one in the picture. I can’t help but think this would kind of be a fun trip if it weren’t for all the death. 

 

We all split up as we each try to find the sword. I go towards the middle of the room and read about the first buildings constructed in Blackridge. One of them mentions the Lockwood Estates, and I know I’m on the right track. I follow where the signs lead me and stumble upon an empty glass case. The plaque reads,

 

“European rapier owned by Sherman Lockwood.”

 

So this is where the sword should be. Then where is it?

 

I need to find a docent to talk to. I look up and see an older man in a purple vest with a blue button pinned to his chest labeled “Docent.” Convenient. For once. 

 

I walk over to him. “Excuse me,” I say. 

 

“How may I help you?” he asks kindly. 

 

“The display over there,” I say while pointing to the empty case. “Where is the sword?”

 

He looks over at the display. “Oh, Lockwood’s rapier? That was stolen about a month ago.”

 

A month ago. Right before the murders began.

 

“Seems quite the popular exhibit,” he continues, “We had just gotten the thing back too.”

 

“What do you mean?” I cock my head.

 

“It was stolen a couple years after we obtained it from the Lockwood Estates estate sale. It was missing for a good eight years before it was found.”

 

“When was it missing?” I ask.

 

“I’d have to say ‘97 to ‘05.” 

 

I wonder if there were a lot of deaths at the manor during that time.

 

He pauses. “Why are you so interested?” he asks suspiciously.

 

I pull out my FBI badge. “Official investigation into the Lockwood murders. We are wondering if someone is using the rapier as the murder weapon.”

 

The docent’s eyes widen. “Why would anyone--?”

 

“Sick minds,” I explain. “Do you have any more information regarding the theft?”

 

“No, I’m sorry to say. The cameras were offline that night, and there were never any clues to who the thief was last time.”

 

“Where was the sword found last time?” I press.

 

“The Estates, actually.” He pales. “You don’t think the murderer killed all those people back then too?” 

 

“We’re looking into it,” I tell him, pushing the truth.

 

“I have a picture if you’d like to see what it looked like,” he offers. 

 

“Uh, yeah, sure,” I say, not wanting to be impolite. 

 

He pulls a picture out of his vest pocket and hands it to me. “I’ve had it on my person a lot since it was stolen again,” he explains, “Insurance has been a beast.”

 

I take it from him. It’s a bit more detailed than the image Nancy showed me back at Edward’s hotel. And then that’s when I recognize the sword. The nursing home. It’s the painting! This was the painting the art instructor was teaching Nora Woodbury and the other residents to paint. I excitedly hand the picture back to the docent. 

 

He raises his eyebrows at my sudden energy. “Is there some sort of evidence on there?”

 

“No,” I quickly say, forcing my expression to be calm.

 

“Big sword fan, then?” 

 

“Uh, yeah, you could say that,” I reply awkwardly, wincing at my own words. “Thanks,” I add hoping it would make things less weird. It does not. So I give him a small smile before turning back to find Dean and Nancy. 

 

Nancy is bent over a small glass case, and as I get closer, I see a pair of old gloves within the casing. Apparently they belonged to the builder of town hall.

 

“Hey,” I greet her. 

 

She looks up. 

 

“I found the sword, well, I found where the sword was .” 

 

She frowns. “What do you mean?” 

 

“It was stolen,” I start, “get this, about a month ago .”

 

Nancy raises her eyebrows in understanding. 

 

“But wait,” I say. “There’s more.” I can’t help but grin. She’s going to find this super interesting.

 

“Do tell,” she says eagerly. 

 

“I’ve seen the sword before.” 

 

“What! Where?” Her eyes light up in intrigue.

 

“Dean and I went to interview this woman, Nora Woodbury, at the local nursing home. Dean and I walked in on her during an art class, and they were painting the sword.” The last phrase comes out quickly as my excitement grows. Things are piecing together. 

 

“You’re kidding!” Nancy exclaims, her excitement matching mine. 

 

“What’s got you two so excited?” Dean asks as he walks up to us. 

 

“Dude, it’s the sword!” I tell him. 

 

Dean frowns and furrows his brow. “Yeah, Sam, thanks. That really clears things up.” 

 

“From the nursing home!” I explain. 

 

He stares at me blankly. “Uh, yeah, still not getting it.” 

 

I take a deep breath, trying not to get ahead of myself. “Remember the sword Nora Woodbury was painting?”

 

“Yeah? ...Wait, the painting sword is the museum sword?” he asks. 

 

I nod. “Yeah! And guess who owned the sword?” I ask them both. 

 

“Who?” Nancy asks. 

 

“Sherman Lockwood.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 28 - Nancy


 

Blackridge Senior Living Center

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Tuesday 11 March 2008

 

The nursing home is the most modern building on the block, compared to the brick houses and shops lining the streets. I wouldn’t call it “new,” but it does seem to be kept up well. There are three snow-coated transport busses on the far side of the parking lot, next to a large wheel-chair entrance.

 

I trail after the boys toward the door, looking worriedly up at the dark skies. While growing up, my mom and dad would take me to the River Heights nursing home on the weekends to volunteer. I got to know a lot of the patrons by name, and they would break into a grin every time they saw me. They called me “the greatest bundle of energy” they had ever seen.

 

After my mom died, we stopped going.

 

I swallow, stepping inside. The strong scent of cleaner and Febreze hits my sinuses, and I have to shake my head to be rid of the memories tied to it.

 

Thankfully, neither Dean nor Sam seem to notice my reaction.

 

“Hey Hayden ,” Dean says smartly, leaning his elbows on the reception desk and showing the nurse his badge. “We’re here to see the art instructor.”

 

“Wha--” Hayden starts. “I know you?” I can’t tell if it’s a question or a statement.

 

Just in case, I give him a tight smile, and nod at the name on his shirt. “Name tag,” I say in explanation.

 

“No, no. I know you guys. You came in here yesterday.” His eyes latch on me. “I don’t know you, though.”

 

“Yeah,” Dean says impatiently. “Agents Wood and McKellen, remember? This is our associate, Nancy Drew. And we are here to see the art instructor .”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” he points down the hallway to our left, “I think she’s still here.”

 

I follow Dean and Sam through the double doors at the end. The room looks to be both a cafeteria and a rec room, and is empty except for a woman organizing art supplies on rolling carts to be put away. She spots us as soon as we enter the room. She wears a paint-stained apron, and her auburn hair is pulled up into a smooth ponytail. She has a smudge on her cheek.

 

“Can I help you?” the woman asks with a warm smile, setting down a canvas and clapping her hands together. She bounces on the balls of her feet. Her name tag reads “ Elicia Hill. ” Her eyebrows quirk for a brief moment. “I have met you two before, haven’t I?” she asks, pointing at Sam and Dean, “You’re the FBI agents, right?”

 

“And you’re the art instructor, right?” Sam asks.

 

“That’d be me.” She stuffs her hands in her apron pockets, settling into a casual pose, and then looks over to where I am standing, “Elicia Hill, at your service.” She bows her head for a moment, grinning.

 

“This is Nancy Drew,” Sam introduces, “She’s with us.”

 

“Good to meet you,” Elicia says.

 

Dean pulls out the picture of the sword. “We’re here about this.”

 

Her eyes widen slightly. “The reference photo Nora gave me? What about it?”

 

“Reference photo?” I ask.

 

“Yes.” She takes the paper from Dean, examining the printed picture. “Normally, I do tutorials of sunsets and flowers and stuff like that. But, Nora came in last week and asked if I could show her how to paint this . I found it intriguing enough that I used it for my next class. That’s the one you saw yesterday.”

 

Sam straightens. “Do you know what made her gain interest in that particular sword?”

 

“No idea,” Elicia says, handing the paper back, “I just assumed it was an interesting thing she’d found online. Why? What is it?”

 

“It’s nothing,” Dean lies. He looks back at Sam and I. “I suppose we need to have another visit with Nora Woodbury.” Turning his attention back to Elicia, he says, “Do you know if she’s around?”

 

Her smile fades slightly, before she forces it back. “She didn’t show up for class today.” She shakes her head, and bites her lip. “...Nora’s seemed off recently. To be honest, I’m worried about her.”

 

“Let me guess. Because of the deaths at Lockwood?”

 

Elicia nods, looking down at the ground. “Yes. She keeps rambling on about being sad about the deaths. Almost like she’s… guilty.” She shakes her head with a nervous laugh. “I mean, it’s ridiculous.”

 

“Would she have any reason to feel guilty?” Sam says smoothly.

 

Elicia’s eyes widen slightly. “Of course not! Why should she? She’s a poor old woman.”

 

I smile humorlessly. “We have reason to believe she may somehow be involved. Do you know anything about her that could be at all relevant?”

 

Elicia blinks several times, almost rolling her eyes at our questions. “Nora is the sweetest thing. To suggest that she could be going around killing people is ludicrous . She’s in a goddamn wheelchair for crying out loud.”

 

Sam nods. “Well, thanks anyway. We’ll let you get back to what you were doing.” He catches my eye and gestures his head towards the door.

 

Once in the hallway, Dean just sighs and shakes his head. “Nothing about this makes sense. Elicia back there is right. Nora is in a wheelchair. How could she possibly be killing people?”

 

“Isn’t Caroline doing the killing?” I point out. “All that needs done is luring people to the mansion.”

 

“Then who sliced the tires of that ghost hunting van?” Dean asks pointedly, “Who took the tape recording from Donovan’s camera? Someone is tromping around Lockwood, and I sincerely doubt it’s Nora.”

 

“She could be faking,” Sam says with a shrug, “Wouldn’t be the first time.”

 

Dean rolls his eyes.

 

“Well,” I say, “We might as well talk to her while we’re here. She’s got to be involved some how. Did you hear Elicia? Nora feels guilty. She might know something .”

 

“Fine,” Dean grumps. “I hate nursing homes.”

 

----

 

Upstairs, I smile and nod along as the boys talk kindly to the woman. I kind of lost track of the conversation when the two of them started asking if Nora has anything of her ancestors that could bind their ghosts to Earth. Well, in not so blunt words, but as soon as they started asking about remains of DNA I stopped listening. Force of habit. I think they asked about the sword, too, but there are only so many places you can hide an entire sword without it being noticed.

 

My eyes catch on the closet. There are a couple of old boxes, a pair of slippers, and... a typewriter. Nervously, I glance back at Nora. She is completely absorbed in the conversation.

 

Slowly, I sidestep over to the closet. Sam catches my eye, looking confused, but immediately throws himself back into the chat with Nora, distracting her long enough for me to jump up on my tiptoes and grab the typewriter.

 

It’s heavier than I anticipated, and I fall sideways, knocking into the wall with a loud thunk. The old woman starts to turn around, but Dean, having caught on, urgently shouts, “ Nora!

 

“...Yes?” she croaks, giving me time to regain my balance and sort myself out.

 

He smiles awkwardly and chuckles. “I just--wanted to make sure that you know you still look… uh, foxy.” He winks at her.

 

“Why thank you, dear,” she says, settling back into her wheelchair. “That does help the old ego. You know, when I was younger, I knew a handsome gentleman that looked rather much like you...”

 

Grimacing, I carefully set the typewriter on the small nightstand, pull one of the copies of “Edward’s” notes from my knapsack for comparison, and write out “ Mr. Hughes. Your skillset has come to my attention.” Everything, including the wonky ‘e,’ matches exactly.

 

This is the typewriter used to lure those people to Lockwood.

 

I look up at the brothers, who immediately get the message.

 

“Well, Nora ,” Sam says with a forced smile as I yank the test page free and shove the typewriter back in the closet, “This has been a lovely chat.”

 

“Indeed it has,” she responds with a toothy smile, “Do come again, you hear?” she reaches out to caress Dean’s wrist. He yanks it away and laughs nervously.

 

“You got it, Nora.”

 

----

 

“No way is that lady sneaking up on people and decapitating them,” Dean hisses, his expression harsh under the hallway’s fluorescent lights, “She’s in a wheelchair for God’s sake. She could barely hear our conversation.”

 

“It wouldn’t be the first time someone feigned weakness as an alibi,” Sam reminds him, “We already talked about this.”

 

“But wouldn’t she have noticed Nancy going through her room if she was ‘faking?’” Dean points out, gesturing at me.

 

Sam sets his jaw.

 

I shrug. “If it isn’t her, then it’s someone who has access to her stuff. Does she have any family?”

 

“She’s the last Woodbury,” Sam says with a sigh.

 

“So it’s gotta be one of the staff,” Dean says. “A doctor? Nurse?”

 

“Or another patient,” I suggest.

 

We all give each other a defeated look.

 

Sam runs a hand through his hair, and then freezes in realization. “Security cams. All we have to do is see who has access to her room.”

 

----

 

“The security cams are ‘ offline for a security inspection ,’” Dean mocks, making finger quotes as we walk back to the car. Well, Sam and I walk. He’s doing more of a “Jack Sparrow” saunter. “Do they realize how stupid that sounds? Honestly.” He goes around to the passenger’s side, and holds himself up with the roof of the Impala. “ Honestly .”

 

“It could be anyone,” I agree, “Nurses, doctors, visitors, staff…”

 

“Now what do we do?” Sam asks, setting his elbows on the car and staring off at the sky.

 

Dean sighs. “I don’t know.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 29 - Sam


 

Blackridge Senior Living

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Tuesday 11 March 2008

 

“Well,” I suggest, “It stands to reason that the sword is on the property somewhere. Otherwise, Caroline wouldn’t be haunting the place.”

 

“We’ve searched the place like three times in the last day alone ,” Dean reminds me irritably. He hates the Estates, and every time we have to go back, I can tell he wants to throw a fit about it.

 

“But now we know what we’re looking for,” I remind him.

 

“You said that the last time we went there.”

 

“Guys.” Nancy crosses her arms. “There were a bunch of collectibles in the main room, right? Seems like the sword could have been there somewhere.”

 

“Did you see this?” Dean says, pointing to the sword picture in my hand.

 

“I can’t remember,” she says, her tone bordering on snarky, “I was focusing more on finding hair and toenails last time we were there.”

 

I snort.

 

Nancy turns her attention to me. “I’m also wondering if there’s a secret passage or room somewhere on the property, allowing the human killer to be roaming around without being detected. And if the sword isn’t in the main room, it’s probably hidden there too.”

 

“What makes you so sure?” I ask. Nancy today is slowly turning more and more bossy to us. It didn’t bother me as much when she was doing her own thing, but now that we are working together it’s annoying. Like a tinier, female Dean.

 

“It’s a classic. The amount of times I have seen that exact thing happen is impressive, actually.”

 

“Ah,” is my only response.

 

“And since it’s getting later in the day, and we have no idea if Edward is actually on the property or not, we should probably get my car as well and park it down the road from Lockwood, and if the killer goes all ‘tire-slasher’ again, we can get away.”

 

That is actually kind of smart.

 

“Alright,” I say, taking a seat behind the wheel, “We’ll stop by the motel first and drop you off, and then troop on over to Lockwood.”

 

----

 

As we follow Nancy’s car, a mixture between rain and snow starts pelting the windshield, and thunder rumbles in the sky. The aesthetic is unnerving, between half-melted piles of snow on the road, early darkness, and the prospect of a murderous ghost.

 

“You know,” Dean starts, slurring his words slightly as he fumbles to uncap his flask. I didn’t even think he could get tipsy anymore. “Nancy kinda reminds me of a little you. Smart, stubborn, a lot annoying sometimes.”

 

“I am not like Nancy,” I gripe, swiping the flask from his hands before he can drink anymore. I need Sober Dean, not Drunk-As-A-Skunk Dean.

 

“Hey, man,” he protests, too out of it to try and grab it back. 

 

I stuff it in my interior coat pocket. “You’re cut off,” I tell him sternly. “No more booze until the job is done.”

 

He gives a dramatic shrug and sigh. “Fine.” He takes a long moment to reposition himself. I roll my eyes. “You know,” he continues, “I can kind of see why you wanted to become a lawyer. Do stuff like Nancy does?”

 

“I wouldn’t be doing what Nancy does,” I remind him, “I would be working in court cases, like her dad.”

 

“Yeah… but still. It’s kind of similar. Something ‘un-supernatural.’ ‘Super-unnatural?’ No. The first one. Or just ‘natural’…?” He trails off. “Eh, anyways. You get it. I shouldn’t have dragged you back into this, Sammy. That’s my one regret.”

 

I blink. “Shut up,” I tell him softly. What’s done is done, and this is an important job. If we don’t do it, who will?

 

Not to say that I don’t wish I could go back to school sometimes, forget about the monsters lurking in the shadows.

 

“Bitch,” Dean slurs, nodding off.

 

I smile a little.

 

“Jerk.”

 

----

 

By the time I pull into the driveway of Lockwood Estates, Dean is out cold, even drooling a little. When was the last time he got a good night’s sleep? Sure, this is inconvenient timing, but I figure I can let him sleep while Nancy and I do what needs doing. 

 

Speaking of, she walks through the gates from wherever she did end up parking, holding her hood over her face for protection from the blowing sleet.

 

“What’s with Dean?” she asks, nodding to the Impala.

 

“Fell asleep,” I explain, shielding my eyes with my hand.

 

“Should we leave him out here or wake him up?”

 

“I’d say let him rest. It’s been a long year for him.”

 

She contemplates for a moment before finally saying, “Okay, sounds good.” She brushes past me to run inside and out of the weather. After a moment to clear my head, I trail after her. She continues talking as soon as I reach her, “Is he okay? Dean, I mean.” 

 

“What?” I ask. 

 

Her gaze wanders before settling on me. “I know what you guys do isn’t easy, but… He drinks a lot.” 

 

Of course she’s noticed that, and I can hear the original question underneath: Is he okay? I grimace. “He’s, uh, he’s going through a hard time.” 

 

So am I. 

 

I’m about to lose my big brother. Forever. And he’s not going somewhere nice. 

 

“Sam?” she asks. She bites her lip, and her eyes are lit in concern. 

 

“It’s nothing,” I lie. I don’t want to think about it. I think she realizes that, and an uncomfortable silence stretches between us. “Let’s just go look inside.” To my relief, Nancy raises no objections.

 

Without another word, I lead the way into the main room. We have been here so many times by now that the place almost feels familiar.

 

A quick but hopeful scan of the objects in the room shows that there is indeed no sword. I feel my shoulders slump. This job is ridiculous.

 

“Quick sweep of the house, just in case we missed something?” Nancy suggests, but I can tell we both know full-well that the sword isn’t going to be in plain sight. It was silly to think otherwise for even a second.

 

But, even so, Nancy and I wordlessly saunter through the house, scanning each room for the glint of a sword handle. As suspected, there is nothing, and we end back up in the main room about twenty minutes later, having taken our own sweet time.

 

We face each other, and I let out a long sigh. Nancy stares off into the distance. We are both at a loss.

 

“Savannah was here, once,” she muses aloud after a couple minutes of nothingness, “She refused to ever talk about it, but I wonder if she’d be willing to now, if she knew Edward’s life is at risk.”

 

“Why didn’t she ever talk about it?” I ask suspiciously. In my experience, if people don’t share the whole truth, there is probably something sinister going on.

 

Like my encounters with Ruby, which spent too long hidden from Dean.

 

I shove away the guilt.

 

“Trauma,” Nancy answers grimly, “Whatever happened to her here made her quit her ghost-hunting career for good.”

 

“Oh,” I say.

 

“I think I’ll call her,” Nancy says, pulling out her phone, “Even if she doesn’t remember most of what happened, maybe she has something helpful for where Edward or the sword could be.”

 

She goes to the other room to talk, and I stuff my hands in my pockets and let out a long puff of air. Who knew, when we took this job, how annoying it would be to finish it? We have been all over town multiple times, as well as in and out of this house more times than I can remember off the top of my head.

 

What is wrong with me today? I ask myself, crossing my arms. I definitely feel more irritable than I did yesterday.

 

I ponder the question for a bit.

 

Nancy. I’m worried about Nancy . I hate, hate, hate it when our lifestyle drags in innocent civilians. And she seems the type to take what she has learned here and do something stupid, like what we do.

 

I can barely hear her voice from the other room, where she is on the phone with Savannah. Suddenly, I wish that I had the ability to make her forget everything she has seen in the past three days, to give her back the chance at a normal life. My jaw hurts from how hard I am gritting my teeth. She doesn’t deserve this.

 

While I am brooding, Dean stumbles through the door, yawning. His hair is sticking up on one side. He catches sight of me. “Jeez, dude. You alright? You look like you just got turned down for the winter prom.” He chuckles a little at his quip. Bad joke aside, he thankfully seems mostly sober.

 

“I’m fine,” I lie.

 

He raises his eyebrows. As far as I know, every single time one of us has used the phrase, “I’m fine,” we are anything but fine. We both know it, and yet we both still use it.

 

“Like hell,” he says, ruffling his hair back into “order.” “What is it? Did Nancy find the sword before you did?”

 

“No, it’s not here. We don’t know where it is.”

 

“Great.”

 

There is a pause.

 

“Sammy.”

 

I slowly look up. “What, Dean.”

 

“What’s wrong.”

 

I swallow. “I just hate that we drag people into this life,” I tell him, nodding towards the room Nancy is in.

 

“Nancy’s strong. She can handle it.”

 

“That’s not the point. She can , but should she have to?”

 

He nods thoughtfully. I wish he would give reassurances, but what could he possibly say? Instead, he reluctantly changes the subject. “...Who is she talking to, anyway?”

 

“Savannah. Apparently, she was here at Lockwood once. Nancy’s hoping she’ll have some insight about where Edward or the sword is.”

 

“Good.” He crosses his arms. “We need all the help we can get.”

 

I shake my head, feeling the wrongness of the case. Since when does Dean advocate getting all the help we can?

 

I’m looking forward to wrapping this one up and being done with it.

Chapter Text

Chapter 30 - Nancy


 

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Tuesday 11 March 2008

 

“I think I’ll call her,” I tell him, now desperate, “Even if she doesn’t remember most of what happened, maybe she has something helpful for where Edward or the sword could be.”

 

He gives a curt nod as I pull out my phone and go to the dining room. I scroll through my contacts, hesitating on Savannah’s. I take a deep breath, and spin slowly around to make sure there are no ghosts around. The sleet morphs into hail, and slams into the walls of the house in a cacophony of unsettling noise. Whether or not we have the cars, it sounds like we’re stuck inside. I lean to the side so I can check on Sam, noting that Dean is now thankfully indoors.

 

I look back down at the phone, and press dial.

 

She picks up on the fourth ring, giving me just enough time to worry that the cell phone towers are down.

 

“Nancy, is that you? Are you alright?”

 

“Hi Savannah. Yes, it’s me.”

 

“...What can I do for you?”

 

A wave of heavy hail distracts me for a moment, and I decide that there is no good way to ask my question. “Savannah, what do you remember about being at Lockwood Estates?” I say hesitantly.

 

“What?”

 

“Tell me what you saw,” I say, clamping my eyes shut and hating myself for even asking her, “What made you quit ghost-hunting?”

 

“Nancy…”

 

“Savannah,” I say, voice cracking, “Edward is missing, the object tying Caroline to Earth is missing, and we’re running out of time.” I wish so badly to tell her that she doesn’t need to say anything, that we can figure this out without her reliving her experiences, but we can’t. Not in time.

 

“...First, tell me where you are.”

 

“Lockwood Estates. We have reason to believe Edward’s being kept here somewhere.”

 

“Nancy...” she says again.

 

“Tell me what you saw. Please. I am begging you.”

 

She takes a deep breath. “Nancy, it wasn’t what I saw. It was what I experienced.”

 

“What do you mean?” I ask, feeling a chill run down my spine. Another wave of heavy hail causes the walls to creak enough for me to take a step back, towards the interior of the house. I hope the cars are okay.

 

“...I had blocked out most of those memories. That’s why I haven’t been able to help you. But… this afternoon, I purposefully looked into my old files. It brought back that night. I could have kept the door closed, Nancy, but I knew that I shouldn’t. For your sake, Nancy, I grabbed that door and yanked it open.”

 

There is a long, shaky pause.

 

“I don’t want to talk about it. But I will. For you, Edward, and those two new friends of yours.”

 

I wait with bated breath, not wanting to discount the sacrifice she has made for my sake.

 

“Nancy, I was kidnapped by the ghosts.”

 

I straighten. “What.”

 

“I am still half-convinced that I was drugged, or hallucinating, or dreaming, or what-have-you. I made myself believe that.”

 

I swallow. “What happened?”

 

She sighs. “Please don’t tell anyone this. I don’t like talking about it, and I’ve come so far to hide from that life.” She sounds so weak, broken. My heart aches.

 

I shift my weight. “Okay…”

 

“I was at the house that night...”

 

----

 

Savannah

 

5 years previously...

 

The moon and stars light my surroundings quite well as I put the car in park, grabbing my gear from the passenger’s seat. My job is simply to go and get as much information as I can for my second book. The story holds enough emotion and tragedy that it could very well put Ryokan Hiei’s yūrei story to shame, and my publisher is itching for drama. I said what I always do: that they need to respect the dead, especially in this line of work.

 

Nevertheless, I am here.

 

Mr. Sherman Lockwood was a merchant in life, held in high regard in the town of Blackridge. He practically owned the entire place, but was oh so kind to those around him. He had servants, yes, but they were paid and treated well. Sherman was a revolutionary of his time, which made his demise that much more unfortunate.

 

On the evening of July 18th, 1846, he was found strung up in his bedroom. Downstairs, one of his maids, Caroline Walker, was found nearly-decapitated by Sherman’s own sword. No one knows for sure what, exactly, occurred, but the rumors abound. Some say Caroline and Sherman were having an affair, and when Caroline threatened to go public, Sherman killed her. And then when he realized what he had done, he took his own life.

 

I do not believe that story.

 

What I believe is far more tragic.

 

I have heard obscure stories from the grapevine, stories told once and then forgotten. It is said that Sherman Lockwood had an affair with the priest’s daughter, Abitha Woodbury. She became pregnant, out of wedlock no less, and was forced into hiding for nearly a year so she could bear the child.

 

Sherman had no idea.

 

Abitha’s father, Zephaniah, was a religious fanatic, and was not pleased with this turn of events. He nearly killed the child once born, but Abitha convinced him to let her give up the child for adoption. 

 

And so, Caroline Walker was born, eventually destined to find a job at her own father’s house.

 

Twenty years passed, and Abitha remained racked with guilt about both the affair and the secret child. Eventually, she wrote a letter intended for Sherman’s wife, Edith, outlining the affair and the child’s existence. She never sent it.

 

Instead, Zephaniah found the letter, and realized that his family’s so-called “purity” was at stake. He went over on the night of July 18th, 1846, and confronted Sherman about the child. Sherman was insistent that his newfound daughter be recognized for who she was, instead of some mere servant under her father’s own roof.

 

Caroline overheard. Zephaniah called her into the room, claiming that all was well. Then, he grabbed Sherman’s sword off the mantle and swung it at Caroline’s neck, killing her.

 

Zephaniah threatened Sherman to keep quiet, and left.

 

Sherman took his own life the same night.

 

A tragic story, to be sure, and only a known one because it was passed down through one of the other maid’s descendants.

 

Tonight, I intend to make contact with one, or both their spirits if possible, and learn their story through their eyes.

 

Clicking on a flashlight, I shoulder my bag and push open the gate. It creaks heavily with rust and disuse. There is a deep chill in the air, which seems to be a common theme at all the hauntings I have been to. There is also a weight on my chest as soon as I enter the property. Something is most certainly here.

 

Turning on my handheld video recorder to infrared, I scan the exterior of the house. Everything seems normal from here. How long that will last, I don’t know. Rumor says that those who stay past midnight will see Sherman and Caroline, and perhaps be able to communicate with them. No one has tried in quite some time, as the place also has a reputation for odd deaths, ones that mimic Caroline’s fate.

 

However, I have not been able to find any actual records of decapitations on the property. At least, not since Caroline herself.

 

The paneled double doors are cracked and deteriorating after several years of no upkeep. Carefully, I reach out, grabbing one of the rusted handles and giving a good yank. The door squeals open. My stomach drops at the noise.

 

I poke my head inside. Nothing seems amiss. Simply an old, dilapidated home aged out of its prime. 

 

“Hello?” I say, my voice having an odd echo.

 

No answer. I would be concerned if there was. Ghosts do not generally speak aloud. At least, not to me. It is more about impressions and feelings.

 

Stepping inside, I close the door behind me, waving my flashlight about to get a good sense of the space. It is certainly a home fit for a powerful man. Or, at least, it was. But no matter.

 

I check my watch. It’s 11:12 p.m. Certainly enough time to set up the few cameras I have. Just in case I do indeed make contact.

 

A wave of grief crashes over me at the thought of Sherman and Caroline’s fates. No one should have to go through what they went through. And to be living through those moments for eternity… I cannot even imagine. 

 

I spend a while setting up my own little camp in the main living room, wiring all the cameras to my laptop. The minutes tick by, getting closer and closer to midnight. I wait, breathless, ready to listen to whatever the spirits may have to say.

 

The clock hits 11:45.

 

Everything goes black.

 

----

 

Blurred lights, noises, shapes. I am vaguely aware of it all. The main set of stairs, the hallway… perhaps? Frigid hands are dragging me, but I can’t seem to work up any sort of energy to fight it. Everything seems cold, far too cold.

 

It is definitely the second floor hallway, I am sure of it.

 

My head lolls, and I lose a few moments in time, maybe more. There is a grinding noise, and I am suddenly aware of another set of stairs. Wooden, creaking, stairs.

 

Everything is coming more into focus now. There is another hallway, another set of rooms, but the ceiling is pitched. I stare up at it for a long time, trying to comprehend where exactly I am. Is this the third floor? The attic? I don’t recall ever having heard of an attic. Although it should have been obvious, in retrospect. 

 

I close my eyes for a moment, and when I open them, I am in one of the drafty rooms, propped up against the wall. I slowly pull my head up, willing my brain to click back into gear.

 

There are two people looking down at me, but in the shadows, I can’t quite make out their faces. If I were to guess, the shorter one on the left, with long hair, is a girl, and the taller one on the right, is a man.

 

“Help me… please…” the girl begs.

 

I blink slowly, once, twice, three times, to clear my vision. My eyes are finally starting to adjust to the low light. 

 

“Please… she’s coming…” the man says.

 

Their voices echo oddly, like whispers in a cave.

 

Pushing myself upright, and putting a hand to my head, I glance down at my watch. It is still a few minutes before midnight. I look up at them again, and do a double-take.

 

Neither of these figures looks quite… human.

 

Their skins are grayish, and their clothes dirty and tattered. Their eyes are empty and haunted. The girl’s neck looks to be severed.

 

Panic floods into my bloodstream, and I shove myself to my feet, back firmly against the wall.

 

“Who are you,” I demand, even though I already know.

 

They don’t react at all to my sudden burst of movement, they simply turn their gazes so they can continue to look me in the eye.

 

“Help… please,” Caroline says again, clasping her hands together, “Please… I don’t want this…”

 

“Help my daughter…” Sherman says, “Please…”

 

My breathing becomes shallow, and I feel I may pass out again.

 

Caroline straightens, staring blankly into the wall. Her form flickers.

 

“...It’s too late…” Sherman mutters, watching his daughter. He looks back to me. “Go. GET OUT.” He points forcefully to the entrance of the room we are in, and the door bangs open. “GO!”

 

Without needing told again, I take my chance and run.

 

Caroline screams in inhuman rage, spurring me to move faster than I have moved in my entire life. I practically fall down the attic stairs, skidding on rugs and yanking myself forward with walls and door jambs. Down the hallway, down the front stairs. I slam into the front doors, but they won’t budge. I am suddenly aware that I am hysterically sobbing, letting out noises I didn’t even know were possible.

 

Sherman suddenly appears, opening the door for me.

 

“GO!” he shouts.

 

Without another thought, I sprint outside, not even taking a second to breathe. I just need to get to my car, get to my car and drive to the other side of the planet. To run. To get away.

 

I hear Caroline screaming and raging. Can she leave the house? Go on the property? I don’t know, and I don’t want to find out.

 

Screw ghost hunting. Screw this. Screw every ghost ever. Screw my publishers. Screw my book deal. Screw the book itself. Never again. 

 

I finally reach the gates and trip over the edge of the property, tumbling into the street. I feel gravel bite into my palms, but I don’t care. I shove myself upright and yank my keys out of my pocket. I left all of my equipment inside but I don’t care. I don’t care.

 

The car takes several seconds to start, in which time adrenaline causes me to nearly jump out of my skin. Without even taking the time to buckle, I slam on the gas, driving as fast as I can, ignoring the speed limit entirely.

 

“Never again,” I whisper to myself as I squeal into town, barely able to see the road through my tears of panic. I am going to pack up all my things and leave tonight. I’ll burn the second book and all my notes if I have to.

 

“Never again,” I tell myself, wiping my eyes with my sleeve as I throw all my bags in the trunk of my car, garnering the attention of a few late-night wanderers. I can sleep once I am a long way out of town, but I doubt I will ever sleep again.

 

“Never again,” I promise myself, gripping the wheel with all my might, soaring down the highway. My expression is hardened. I want to forget it all, pretend it never happened.

 

Never again.

 

----

 

Nancy

 

Present day...

 

“...And I did forget,” she finishes. “I compartmentalized it all. Locked it away.”

 

I feel like I am reeling from a caffeine high, jittery and filled with anxiety. Caroline is being controlled. That was her voice last night, asking me to help her before she was forced to do something she didn’t want to do.

 

It almost is like my mind is completely disconnected from my body. If Savannah had told me this story, even yesterday, I wouldn’t have believed her. I would have thought she was crazy, or had actually dreamed the whole thing.

 

How many witness accounts have I falsely discounted over the years? All because I refused to believe in something?

 

“Do you know where the entrance to the attic is , by any chance?” I ask, forcing my mind back to the task at hand.

 

“I don’t, I’m sorry Dear. I was in quite the daze. But it was not a hatch in the ceiling, I can tell you that much. There were actual stairs. And it wasn’t an actual door either, I want to say it was a wall panel? On the second floor somewhere. It might have been in one of the bedrooms, but I don’t remember.”

 

“Thank you for sharing this with me, Savannah,” I tell her.

 

“You’re welcome,” she says, “You know, I don’t know what it is, but I almost feel a bit better about the whole thing, being able to share it without someone telling me I’m crazy.”

 

“I know the feeling,” I tell her, remembering our conversation from this morning.

 

“Please let me know when you find Edward, and when you are out of that house. You hear me?”

 

“I do,” I tell her.

 

We hang up.

 

I stare at my phone for a long time, before closing it and stuffing it back in my pocket. The hail and sleet still pounds against the walls, but I have gone beyond worrying about it. It almost is as if I have gone beyond feeling anything.

 

Clearing my throat, I go back out to the living room, where Sam and Dean wait expectantly.

 

“Guys,” I tell them, “There’s an attic here. That’s where Edward will be.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 31 - Dean


 

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Tuesday 11 March 2008

 

“There’s no door to the attic,” Sam says jogging back to me, “I’ve searched the entire floor twice.”

 

“Same here,” I say, eyes catching on Nancy again. She keeps knocking, and then pressing her ear against the wall, pressing her palms flat into the wallpaper, and then repeating the whole thing a foot down the line. I watch her interestedly.

 

“What’s she doing?” Sam asks.

 

“Checking for secret passages,” I explain, having asked her the same thing, “I guess she does this sort of thing a lot.”

 

“I looked for secret passages as well. No obvious signs. I’m thinking Nancy’s friend might not have remembered correctly.”

 

I shrug. “I was just going to let her knock herself out. Who knows, right?”

 

“Yeah, but we could just be wasting our ti--”

 

“You guys know I can hear you, right?” Nancy calls back to us, still absorbed in what she is doing.

 

Sam reddens.

 

I smirk at Sam, shrug, and saunter over to Nancy, hands in pockets. Sam follows close behind.

 

“What makes you so sure you can trust what she said?” Sam asks her. I give him a look. Why is he so cynical all of the sudden? Is this still about Nancy believing in the supernatural now?

 

“Because,” Nancy says with another knock, another pause to listen, “She has proven herself trustworthy.”

 

Sam just watches her, not saying anything.

 

Nancy senses his doubt, sighs, and turns to him. “When I first met Savannah, I was staying at a ryokan in Japan. It was passed down mother to oldest daughter, for centuries. The mother had died mysteriously, and supposedly her yūrei was haunting the place, causing trouble for the two daughters who remained.”

 

Sam and I glance at each other. “What kind of yūrei?” I ask.

 

“Vengeful.”

 

Onryō then? I think? We haven’t spent much time fighting those, but the way they are described in Japanese lore makes me happy of that.

 

“So what happened?” Sam asks.

 

“Savannah helped me. She didn’t want to at first--wanted me to leave. But she ended up helping remotely, telling me what she had seen while at the ryokan during her own visit. She remembered a secret passage, and I found it.” She pats the wall, as if to solidify her point.

 

“So you just believe her now?” Sam asks skeptically.

 

Damn, dude.

 

Nancy stops again, and adjusts her stance so she can look Sam squarely in the eye. “Look, you may not trust every person who enters your life, but I do trust Savannah. She has proven to be my friend more times than I can count over the years. If there’s something ‘ghost’-related, I call her. So unless you have a particular reason not to trust her, shut the hell up.”

 

I try so hard not to smirk. She reminds me of Bobby--not at all afraid to smack the truth into your face.

 

Sam works his jaw for several seconds, during which Nancy glares straight into his soul.

 

“I’m sorry,” he admits finally, “We’ve just had a hard time with people recently.”

 

“You’re forgiven,” she says lightly, turning back to her work.

 

Sam and I spend the next hour following Nancy around the second floor. A couple of times I try to help, knocking and listening, but it gets boring quickly. I also find myself in the way, and Nancy has to double-check me anyway so what’s the point.

 

So instead, while she is checking Sherman’s room, I take a seat at the desk, pull my shotgun from my duffel, and work on making sure it is fully loaded. I do the same with the rest of the guns.

 

“Got it.”

 

I perk up. “What?” I ask, looking over to where Nancy is standing, next to a bookcase on the interior wall.

 

Sam stands up from where he was sitting on the bed. “You got it?”

 

“Yep,” she says proudly, pushing in a piece of the bookshelf’s ornate decorations.

 

There is a loud, mechanical grinding sound, and a panel of the wall indents itself with a large cloud of dust, and then moves to the right, out of sight. What is revealed is an old, wooden, cobwebby staircase that leads up into the shadows.

 

The three of us share a glance. Surely Sam and I are thinking the same thing: “son of a bitch.”

 

Nancy looks understandably proud of herself, wearing a large grin on her tired features. What time is it anyway? I check my phone to see that it is almost midnight. We’ve been here for hours now.

 

“It’s 11:43,” I mutter in warning. If it was just our lives at risk, I would drag Sam and Nancy outside by the ear and get the hell out of dodge, but we have an innocent civilian being held here. We need to find him first.

 

Shouldering my duffel, I lead the way up the stairs, wincing at every creak. Sam and Nancy follow closely behind.

 

The top of the stairs leads us to a drafty hallway that runs lengthwise down the center of the house, with doors on either side. There are speckles of moonlight coming through holes in the roof, and small drifts of snow. Frosted cobwebs are everywhere, setting an eerie mood.

 

I swallow, looking around with my flashlight. This house is fucking creepy, and I absolutely hate it.

 

“Edward!” Nancy exclaims, smacking my arm. She points through a wide crack in the door of one of the small rooms. Edward is tied to a chair and gagged. He looks to be unconscious. “Edward, wake up,” she pleads in a whisper.

 

The room looks to be empty besides Edward, but Sam and I know better than to believe it is for a second.

 

“Okay, stay out here,” I instruct, cocking my pistol, “Sam and I will investigate.”

 

She nods and takes a step back.

 

Sam and I share a meaningful look, and I reach for the doorknob. We burst in at the same time, each sweeping our own half of the room. I yank back damp curtains from where snow blew in the broken windows, and check behind rotting furniture, hearing Sam do the same on his side.

 

I set down my duffle in defeat, and scratch the back of my head in thought. Ah well. At least we found Edward.

 

“Looking for me?”

 

I straighten, and slowly turn around, adjusting my grip on the gun’s handle.

 

It’s the art instructor from the nursing home, and she is holding a sword to Nancy’s throat.

 

What?!

 

“Elicia Hill?” Sam says blankly.

 

My eyes widen as I latch gazes with Nancy. She looks understandably terrified.

 

“I would put down those guns if I were you,” Elicia says coldly, pulling Nancy tighter against her chest.

 

My mind races through all the possibilities here. With the angle I am at, and the way Nancy is positioned, I have no clear shot.

 

“I don’t have all night, gentlemen,” she bites out, pressing the blade against Nancy’s throat. Nancy winces, and I see a drop of red.

 

“Okay, okay,” I say, putting my hands up. “Look.” I carefully set the gun down on the wet and icy floor. Sam follows my lead.

 

“Kick them to me,” Elicia instructs.

 

“Fine, okay,” I say irritably, doing as she says. “Look, just let Nancy go.”

 

“I don’t think so,” she says, slowly moving over to Edward. Sam and I slide clockwise to stay across from her.

 

She laughs lightly.

 

“Once Caroline takes care of the lot of you…” she smirks, “well, then my work is done.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 32 - Nancy


 

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Tuesday 11 March 2008

 

Elicia yanks me backwards, over to where Edward is bound.

 

“Who are you,” Sam asks, narrowing his eyes, “Really.”

 

“Elicia Hill,” she says smoothly, “But, you knew that already. What you probably didn’t know is I am a direct descendent of Zephaniah Woodbury.”

 

“But Nora is the last living Woodbury,” Dean says slowly.

 

“Dean, there is a difference between the last of a family name and the last of a family line.” Elicia gives a wicked smirk, adjusting her grip on the knife, “Nora Woodbury is the last descendent of Zephaniah to carry his name. Meanwhile, I am still his blood. The last one who is worthy of the name. You think Nora could do this? Even when she was still able-bodied?”

 

“And why are you doing this?” I ask, with a nervous swallow, careful not to lean into the blade. Elicia’s nails dig into my arm, even through my jacket.

 

Edward stirs. Thank God he’s alive.

 

“My family line is very special, Nancy Drew,” she hisses into my ear, “Blessed by God to do great things.”

 

“Is that right,” I pant, trying to keep my footing on the wet floor. She keeps pulling me backwards, forcing me to stay on the balls of my feet.

 

“It is,” she says cheerfully. “And when that bitch daughter of Zephaniah slept with Sherman Lockwood? Well.”

 

“‘That bitch daughter?’” Sam repeats in confusion, hands out placatingly, “You mean Agitha? Isn’t she your blood too?”

 

“She betrayed the line,” Elicia spits out, “She sullied the water. It had to be taken care of. Zephaniah should have just killed Caroline the moment she was born, but no, he had a lapse in judgement. A mistake he did not make again once he found out she was working for Sherman. And when Zephaniah found out that Sherman was going to publicly say Caroline was his daughter...”

 

“He killed him,” I finish, gulping. I feel the blade cut into my skin. I grimace.

 

Elicia clicks her tongue. “I thought you were a better detective, Nancy Drew. No. Zephaniah killed Caroline in front of Sherman, with Sherman’s own blade.” She shakes me. “This blade in fact. Sherman felt so guilty, he hung himself.”

 

“You guys are just one family of wackjobs,” Dean says with a glare. His hands are clenched in anger.

 

“Call it what you want. The real wackjobs are the family members who decided to ignore Zephaniah’s teachings. Such as that weak lump, Nora. I should have killed her too, but it would have been too suspicious.”

 

“Ah,” Dean says in mock understanding, clapping his hands together. “Makes perfect sense.”

 

I glance over at Sam. He is slowly edging over to where Dean dropped his duffel. I see the silent request in his eyes.

 

Stall.

 

I chew on my cheek. “So why go after Edward? Why did you kill those people, huh?”

 

“I didn’t kill anybody,” Elicia says innocently, “Caroline did. HEY! Sam, stop moving please?” She tightens her grip on me.

 

He grits his teeth and freezes, and then takes a deep breath through his nose. “...But you lured them here.”

 

“I did.”

 

“Why?”

 

Elicia cocks her head, and I feel her hair on the side of my neck.

 

“Dear boy. It’s all about Caroline. I couldn’t figure out how to shut up Sherman’s spirit, and then you three jokers found out she was the daughter. It was only a matter of time before Edward did the same. I had to get him out of the way. But he was just superstitious enough to keep away from the property at night, so I had to do something. Framing him for murder was a good go-to.”

 

I glance over at Edward, who is fully conscious now. He looks confused and terrified.

 

“So now what?” I say, working my jaw and splaying my hands out. “Are you going to kill us all?”

 

Elicia gives a content sigh, rolling her head to the side. Sam takes the opportunity to slide over a couple more feet. “The Lord will decide your fate. All those who stay the night here do not survive.”

 

“That includes you, ya know,” Dean says, taking a step into a defensive stance, grabbing Elicia’s attention.

 

“Maybe,” she says lightly, “But I have offered myself in servitude to Heaven.”

 

“You have an awful funny way of showing it,” Dean counters.

 

“Whatever comes to pass shall pass.”

 

A shot rings out. Elicia screams, drops the blade, and loosens her hold on me long enough for me to yank myself free. I spin around, seeing that Elicia is now on the floor, gripping the bullet wound in her right shoulder. I grab the sword and stumble out of the way, rubbing the small cut on my neck. Meanwhile, Sam is holding an old Colt revolver, whose barrel is smoking. He has a glare of death. Dean dives to the side and grabs his own weapon, holding it at the ready.

 

“You HEATHEN,” she screams at Sam, shoving herself up.

 

“Don’t move, unless you want the next bullet to be in your skull,” Sam says evenly.

 

The lights flicker.

 

Elicia hesitates, eyes darting around. Then, her face breaks into a terrifying grin. “She’s here,” she says in a sing-song voice, “None of you will survive.” She cackles.

 

“Shut up,” Dean snaps, eyes scanning the walls and ceiling.

 

I am breathing heavily, and see plumes of steam. I drop to the ground, digging through my stuff for the salt. Elicia’s laughing echoes through my skull. I clench my eyes shut to block it out.

 

Skittering, creaking. Every single sign that Caroline is coming.

 

I yank off the seal of the salt, ready to poor unGodly amounts onto the floor.

 

The lights all go out. I grab the sword with my free hand.

 

“Shit,” Dean mutters.  “Everyone QUIET.”

 

“It’s too late, Dean,” Elicia wheezes, “It’s too late…”

 

All I hear is mine and Edward’s breathing, and Elicia’s cackling. My grip tightens on the salt can.

 

Suddenly, a scream. I jump, spilling unseen salt. The scream cuts out, followed by an unsettling gurgle.

 

I swallow hard. The hair on the back of my neck prickles. As silently as I can, I carefully make a ring of salt around myself, praying that it is unbroken.

 

There is a tinny sound, a click, and then a small flame appears in Dean’s hand. A lighter. He raises his hand to give the light a bigger radius. My eyes latch on the source of the scream.

 

Elicia’s body lies on the floor, head nearly decapitated.

 

I grimace.

 

“NANCY, BEHIND YOU,” Dean shouts, lurching forward.

 

I whip around, coming face-to-face with Caroline herself. She locks gazes with me, and raises her eyebrows. She cannot cross the shoddy salt circle I made in the dark, but it is almost as if she doesn’t want to.

 

My breath catches. Something seems different.

 

“Nancy, stay still,” Dean says quietly, the glow of his lighter bobbing around. He must be grabbing something. “Don’t cross the salt.”

 

I cock my head, staring into Caroline’s eyes. She mirrors my movement. “Guys, wait,” I breathe. Caroline smiles sadly, and extends a questioning hand.

 

I look down at what I am holding. The salt, and the sword.

 

“Is this what you wanted?” I breathe, setting down the salt at my feet and balancing the blade in both my hands. I stare down at the blood, both mine and hers. “Resolution? Justice?”

 

I look up at her. She smiles a little and gives an almost imperceptible nod.

 

“Please don’t kill me, Caroline,” I chuckle, kicking a break in the salt. Behind me I hear a loud whine of protest from Dean.

 

But Caroline doesn’t try to decapitate me. Instead, she gently reaches out to caress the cut on my neck. She cocks her head, giving me an almost pitying look. Then, she turns her attention to the blade in my hands, and carefully takes it from my grasp. Something akin to a tear rolls down her cheek, before she flickers away.

 

The sword clatters to the ground as the lights turn back on. I jump away in surprise and shock. The room suddenly becomes much warmer.

 

I turn around to find that Dean is now holding his salt shotgun at the ready. He slowly lowers it now that Caroline is gone. I look over at Sam, who smiles and gives me a nod. Edward’s eyes are wide.

 

I glance back to where Caroline disappeared. My heart aches for her. Nothing but a pawn in life, and nothing but a weapon after death. I pray she is in a better place now.

Chapter Text

Chapter 33 - Dean


 

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

 

I could give Sam shit about using the Colt on a human, but I decide not to. I probably would have done the same if I was any closer to the duffel. He sticks the gun in his waistband and runs to untie Edward while I walk over to Nancy, shaking my head at her. “You are a brave idiot,” I say half-jokingly, gesturing at the wall with the shotgun, “You could practically pass as a Winchester.”

 

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” she tells me with a toothy grin, cocking her head slightly.

 

God, she looks like Sam when she does that. She even has the puppy dog eyes.

 

Chuckling, I raise my eyebrows. “How did you know that letting her have the sword would make her disappear?”

 

She shrugs. “Call it a hunch. Ghosts stick around so they can resolve what happened to them in life, right? The sword was the last thing that needed resolving, after, well...” she gestures at Elicia’s body. “It was a risk, but I figured it might work.”

 

Risking her life for something that “might” work? Jesus, she certainly does seem like a Winchester.

 

“Well, I’m glad it worked.” I pull her in for a half hug and a pat on the back, and then duck down to grab the sword off the ground. “Still want to salt and burn this sucker though. Just in case.”

 

Edward shakily gets to his feet with Sam’s help. He looks down at the body, then at me, and then Nancy. “This is…” he waggles his finger in a circle. “This is…”

 

“Crazy,” Sam finishes. “We know.”

 

“Can I retire?” Edward says with a nervous laugh. “I’d rather not be kidnapped by a psycho and almost killed by a ghost again.” His voice is cracking and high-pitched. Poor bastard.

 

Nancy smiles. “Life is short, Mr. Velasquez. Do what you need to do.”

 

He raises his eyebrows and nods, looking like he’s going to faint.

 

Sam puts Edward’s arm over his shoulders, bending down to his height. “Let’s get you out of here, okay?”

 

----

 

Two hours later finds us all in the front yard, crowded around by emergency vehicles, flashing lights, and people. It is a disconcerting feeling. Usually, Sam and I would be long gone by this point, but we felt we needed to stay for Nancy’s sake. We couldn’t just leave her behind with a dead body and poor Edward.

 

So I told her that it was our job to stick around and explain everything to the police. Meaning that we were going to tell them that what exactly happened is classified, but that Elicia was the culprit. Both Edward and Nancy agreed that they did not talk about the ghost of Caroline Walker. They seemed relieved to just ignore it, actually.

 

I look over at Nancy. She drove her car onto the property before the cops showed up, and is now leaning against it, looking at the ground. Her face is occasionally illuminated by blue or red light. A wave of… something... washes over me. Something has changed in the past few days. It’s almost like I have gained another sibling to look after.

 

No.

 

Another sibling for Sam to look after.

 

It’s probably too late for me. But this girl… She and Sammy can watch out for each other after I am gone. If I can’t break the deal.

 

If Sam and I can’t kill Lilith in time.

Chapter Text

Chapter 34 - Nancy


 

Lockwood Estates

Blackridge, New Hampshire

Wednesday 12 March 2008

 

“Dear Ned,”

 

I zip up my jacket and put my hood up, feeling so tired but at the same time, so alive. The lights of the police cruisers, ambulance, and fire trucks dance on the side of Lockwood Manor. The place looks a lot different now. It will take a lot of effort to clean up and maintain, but it is no longer the place for lost souls that it was a few hours ago. And even though it is frigid out, it feels warmer than it once did. I absentmindedly rub the bandage on my neck, eerily calm about the whole ordeal.

 

Thankfully, I remembered to shoot off a text to Savannah, telling her that we are all okay. I plan on calling her later with more details once I feel more like myself. Everything in my small bubble of understanding has been forcibly uprooted. How could I possibly feel normal anytime soon? But I will. I know I will, because I have to.

 

“A lot has changed over the past few days. I made some new friends (you know me, I always have to make either friends or enemies during each case, or both hahaha), and we worked together to wrap up the case. But… things are different now.”

 

Sam and Dean are talking to the sheriff, presumably giving their explanation for the events of the night. Sheriff Reeves is nodding along intently, jotting down notes. The brothers are likely spinning the story as classified, like they had mentioned before. I can’t believe that I am glad that they are taking the lead on relaying the story. I catch their gaze, and they finish up talking to the sheriff and walk over to me.

 

“I wish I could say that I am still a hardcore skeptic. But then, I would be ignoring the truth. I guess what I’m saying is, I am more cautious now of the world around me, seen and unseen. Savannah once told me to never open the door to the spirit world, because it can’t be closed. Well, for me, the door was more kicked down than opened. I just had to make the choice of whether to acknowledge it.”

 

I lean back against my car and cross my arms as they approach, trying to look casual, and not at all like my entire worldview has changed in the span of three days. We stare at each other for a few long seconds. “You’re a brave person, Nancy,” Sam finally says.

 

I smile a little and lower my head. “How am I supposed to go about my daily life, now?” I ask, genuinely curious, “Knowing that there is truth to the, well, the supernatural?”

 

“If you want my advice,” Dean says, pausing a moment. I nod at him to continue. “Do the same thing as you used to. Just be cautious and aware of what could be out there. It’s hard, but I know of all people you can do it.”

 

“And since you seem to get yourself in haunted places more often than the average person,” Sam adds, “...it wouldn’t hurt to carry salt with you.”

 

“Thanks,” I say with a large nod, trying to memorize the words he said. We all smile at each other, but I can see that we are all still processing.

 

“Here,” Dean says gruffly, handing me a piece of scrap paper with four phone numbers, “You already have our regular numbers, but that’s Sam’s back-up number, that’s mine, that’s my other back-up number, and then that’s our friend Bobby’s. If… if something goes wrong and we don’t answer, call him. He can help.”

 

I smile at him and carefully fold the paper and put it in my wallet, and then hand them one of my business cards. “And here’s how to get in touch with me, if you ever need it.”

 

Dean gives a short nod. I suddenly notice the rings under his eyes, but maybe it’s a trick of the harsh lighting and shadows of two a.m.

 

“Anyway. The new friends I made are FBI agents, and because of that, most of the case is confidential. But what I can say is this: Sam McKellen and Dean Wood are good men. They, like me, just want to make the world a little bit better by taking down every bad guy they can. Maybe we will meet again someday. Maybe you can meet them too.”

 

“I guess I had better get going then,” I tell them, stuffing my hands in my pockets. “Get some sleep before heading home.”

 

In all honesty, I’ll probably get back to my hotel, take a long shower, and then just leave. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep at all.

 

I know how Savannah felt back then, leaving Lockwood.

 

“Yeah,” Sam responds with a slight nod.

 

I hesitate, and then lurch forward to encase them both in a bear hug. They both seem very shocked, but then reciprocate.

 

We let go.

 

“Thanks for keeping me alive,” I tell them, a joking tone in my voice. But I am being serious.

 

“Same to you,” they respond.

 

“I hope to see you around again soon,” I say, “It might be fun. Work another case together?”

 

Dean pauses, and then gives me another tight hug. “I really hope I--I mean, we--can. I’ll miss having you around. Like having a… like having a little  sister.”

 

He releases me, and pulls his jacket straight. He clears his throat embarrassedly.

 

I smirk at him. “Don’t worry. We’ll meet again. Promise.”

 

Dean just smiles sadly. “I really hope so.”

 

Sam turns as another cop car enters the property. Dean takes the opportunity to lean forward to whisper in my ear. “Watch out for Sammy, okay?”

 

I straighten a little in confusion. “Okay…”

 

Sam smiles at me, not having heard the odd request from his brother.

 

I pat them both on the shoulder before getting in my car.

 

“Elicia Hill was a piece of work. Killed by her own weapon, in the place where she led who-knows-how-many people to their deaths. She got what was long coming to her. I wish we could have found her before she killed again, and before she kidnapped Edward, but we did the best we could. All three of us.”

 

“Guys, wait.” I roll down the window. They turn back to look at me questioningly. I grab my knapsack from the passenger seat and root through to find my voice recorder. I hold it in my lap, looking intently. Then, I pop out the cassette, the one that holds proof that they are frauds, and hand it to them. “Here. I thought you might want this to go with the rest of your evidence.” I wink.

 

Dean takes the cassette like it is a treasure.

 

“You two behave yourselves,” I warn with a smile, buckling my seatbelt. “And I wish you all the best in the future, Agents Wood and McKellen.”

 

I roll up the window while they stand there looking speechless.

 

“Edward has decided to take a sabbatical from his historical writing in lieu of some world traveling and soul searching. I can’t say I blame him. He seems to be doing alright though, based on the travel updates he sent me. Right now he’s en route to Egypt to study the pyramids. He told me if I ever needed his assistance again, he would be happy to help.”

 

I pull out of the driveway, waving to the Winchesters, and then get back on the open road. I can’t say that I’m sad to be leaving that place, but I can’t exactly say that I am glad either. I wish I had all the time in the world to ask the brothers about their lives, to fill in the blanks, to discover just how many ghosts I have encountered in my career.

 

But, maybe I am okay with not knowing.

 

“I, meanwhile, am headed straight home to River Heights! After the week I have had, it will be nice to have my own bed in a non-haunted house, with friends and family nearby. Speaking of, be expecting me to surprise you in your classes! Hahaha just kidding. But do save some time to hang out. I would love to hear how classes are going and school overall. Plus, since that letter I wrote last week got cut off, I have a lot to catch you up on about my case in Hartford, Connecticut!

 

See you soon!

 

Ever yours,

Nancy”

 

I hit the highway back to the hotel, eager to get home and eager to get back some sense of normalcy. I am sure I will meet the Winchesters again. And I hope that if they ever need me, they won’t be afraid to give me a call.

 

Because that’s what friends are for, right?

 

THE END