PART I: An Eastern Wind
"Got something," Sam said, not looking up from the laptop. Dean harumphed encouragingly as he cleaned the second shotgun. "Six women. All decapitated in Kentucky."
"MO's the same, though it's all over the state. Decapitation with additional carvings on the bodies. We'll need the police pictures to find out what they say."
"Can you hack them?"
"Maybe. We might have to break in."
"We'll leave in the morning." Dean cleaned the guns. As he was getting ready to sharpen the knives, Sam closed up the laptop and reached for the whet-stone. They worked in comfortable quiet. Sam ran his finger along one of the blades, eyes distant, mind obviously elsewhere. Dean held his tongue though he wanted to say something to ease the loss he saw there.
The wind picked up, tossing Sam's hair to the side as he crossed the parking lot toward the mini-mart. Dean leaned against his baby as the gallons of gas dripped into her belly. He raised his hand to catch the piece of paper that blew across the lot. He looked down at it, not surprised in the least to see his name on the top of it. He frowned. That hadn't happened in at least a year. Not since Sam had stopped writing and tearing up letters to him when he met Jess.
"Lisa said that if something bad happened to her, we should write to you the same way we wrote to her.
"Something killed her last night. It tore her head off. She sent us into our room and we hid in the closet, but it's coming back.
"Please help us, Mr. Dean."
The kids signed it with their names in clumsy letters and a sticker of their address that they'd taken from their father's desk. Well, he didn't have a choice now. Kentucky it was. Mel and Alice Freeman had asked for him specifically. He tucked the letter into his pocket. Poor kids. They didn't even have a gun to fight back with. Lisa wouldn't have taught them that. She was much more into knives.
The motel was a low and dark, with peeling paint and a sagging upper floor walk. There were water-stains on the ceiling and a layer of dust on everything. It had been abandoned for at least a year. "Seriously, Dean?" Sam looked at his brother with a frown.
"Don't worry. I saw a generator out back and we can splice into the cable."
"Just for tonight. There's not even water here, let alone hot water."
"Relax, Princess." Dean rolled his eyes. "I'll take care of it. I always do."
"I could drive and get us the rest of the way there." Sam's smile was hopeful.
Dean simply threw one of the duffles at him. "Go set up the wards."
"Right." Sam sighed. He muttered something under his breath which his brother ignored. Dean took his toolbox and headed for the generator.
Mr. Freeman was an imposing man who stood at Dean's height with twice his width. "What?" he snapped through the screen door.
"Lisa asked me to look after the kids if anything happened to her. I'm Dean Campbell." He gave the man an innocent smile.
Freeman's eyes narrowed. "Fine. Kids are in the back. I work from home. Don't let them disturb me."
"Wouldn't dream of it." Dean stepped into the dimly lit house. Freeman went into his office and shut the door. Dean narrowed his eyes at the door. It locked behind Freeman. He smirked. Good house at least. It was a small place. The front room had been turned into the father's office was to the right of the door. A dimly lit living room with a layer of fine dust on the mantel was to the left. A quick turn through the house showed a shared kid's bedroom, a master bedroom, a small bathroom in 1950's pink and black, and a kitchen in sunny yellow and blond wood that led to the sunroom. He knocked lightly on the painted, white doorframe of the sunroom. "Mel, Alice, I'm Dean. You wrote to me."
Alice's face was soft and round, but there were dark circles under her eyes. A halo of bead-ended braids surrounded her face. He brother, slightly smaller, with thin pinched looks had the same circles. They were huddled together inside the hollow of a sofa cushion fort. A battered teddy bear and a well-loved rabbit leaned against the rose chintz back wall. The crossed twigs at the front of it made him raise his eyebrows. Alice's lips pulled down. Her eyes flashed with a protectiveness he recognized from his own face. Looked like Lisa had left an heir. She tipped her chin up.
"Nice job on the fort. The binding twigs are a nice touch. Salt works better."
Her shoulders loosened a little bit. Mel eased away from her side and looked at him with big eyes. "She won't talk to you." His voice was high and thin.
Dean nodded. "I didn't talk for a year after. I don't need her to talk. Your dad's going to be cooped up all day. I'm going to grab a chair." Dean snapped his fingers and an easy chair from the front room appeared in the sun-room. He settled on it. "When did Lisa show up?"
"Seems like forever. My last birthday."
"Alice, how many months. Just use your fingers." She held up 8 fingers. Damn. That was a long time for a Poppins to stick to one place. He winced internally. "8 Months. I'll teach you as much as I can. My brother and me are going to hunt whatever's doing this. Think you can draw me some pictures of what you saw?"
Mel frowned. "We were in the closet."
Dean sighed. He hadn't thought it was going to be that easy. "I left my brother at the library. You two want to go hit the park or something?"
Alice studied him for a long moment. Her fingers fluttered as if stroking a pet only she could see. There was a shimmer of iridescence in front of her like a bubble. Her eyes flicked to Mel and back. Dean gave her a soft smile. He nodded once. He wished to whatever the hell was out there that his mother had had the chance to tell him what he was going to face. He'd give Alice that much.
"No magic in front of your father. And don't tell anyone about it. They won't believe you. Kids are okay. They still believe. And it's only for protecting. If you try to hurt someone because you're mad, it won't answer." He crossed his ankles. "Your fort's not bad and being surrounded by daylight's always a good thing, but I'll teach you some new tricks. And when all else fails, run and believe in the magic." He looked at Alice seriously. "It will protect your charge."
Mel frowned. It was obvious he knew there was a catch in that. Alice nodded once. Her eyes were bright and clear. She got it. She wouldn't survive, but Mel would and that was the only thing that mattered as his big sister.
Dean grinned. "Let's go have an adventure." He missed Sammy being this age. It had been so much fun looking out for him back then.
Sam flopped onto one of the cheap hotel beds. "So?"
"The Freeman kids found her dead."
"Jesus." Sam closed his eyes. "I hate kid cases."
"I'm taking care of them during the day right now. Their father's a prick, but," Dean frowned. "I think his wife's death did it. Like with Dad. You don't remember Dad from before, but he wasn't always a hard-ass. The kids know something is up. I'm giving them a primer. Salt lines tonight to start."
"This thing never seems to go back for the kids. It's all about the women."
"There are more kids involved?"
Sam sat up. He rubbed his face. "Every one of the women was working as a nanny of some sort. The kids weren't always witnesses."
"What happened to them?"
"One set was taken by CPS. The rest are still with their families and from what I could find, unhurt."
"You get the morgue pictures yet, or do we have to go get them tonight?"
"Copies are on the table. The language doesn't make any sense yet. Bobby's helping me try to track it."
Dean picked up the pictures. The crime scene was splattered with dark, dried blood. The woman's body, Lisa he realized as his eyes caught on the tattoo on her hip, was sprawled on her back. She had a knife clutched in her hand that was liberally coated with blood. She must have gotten at least one blow in. Since she was the only corpse in the room, her magic hadn't killed the bastard. The markings were carved into the soft rise of her stomach. They weren't the large, awkward figures he was expecting. They were as neat as handwriting. A shiver ran down his back. He didn't recognize the language either, but it meant something that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. It was bad and he couldn't let it take another one of his kind. He'd have to write a letter.
Dean crumpled up the piece of paper and dumped it into the closest trashcan on the street. Sam frowned at him. "Something about this one is freaking you out."
His older brother rolled his eyes. "I don't like the kids being near it."
"That's not it. Did you know her or something?"
Dean grimaced. "Lisa and I crossed paths once or twice. It was a long time ago though. Alice tells me she'd been here eight months. Long time for her to be in one place. She must have gotten attached to the kids. Or she knew this thing was out there."
"Lisa was a hunter? You didn't think that was necessary information to share?" Sam's lips drew down of their own accord. He made the angry expression leave. Dean would just clam up on him and he needed this information."
"She wasn't a hunter. She took care of kids." Dean ran a hand through his hair. "She made up that protective pouch I sent you your freshman year."
Sam blinked. "Pouch. That leather thing? I thought it was from dad. Kept it in the nightstand though."
Dean frowned. "I taught you better'n that."
"I didn't know what it was, but I," Sam stopped. No one in California really would have said anything about him wearing it. It just wasn't *normal* and that's what he'd left hunting to find. "Would it have saved Jess?"
Dean studied the window they were in front of. It was full of women's underwear, so whether or not it was a stalling tactic was up for debate. "No, only you. I didn't know you had a serious girl or I would have gotten one for her too."
"And why wasn't she wearing one then?"
"Because the magic only works when she's protecting someone else. She was protecting the kids when she died. Kept whatever it was from touching them."
Sam was quiet for a long moment. "And why aren't you wearing one?"
Dean started walking again, heading toward the diner. "She couldn't make one for me."
"Why the Hell not?" Sam grabbed Dean's arm. "You were alone without Dad watching your back."
"I'm not an innocent, Sam."
"Neither am I!"
"Not like that." Dean grimaced. "I don't understand all the mechanics of it okay? I just know that she could make those pouches for kids. The eldest isn't eligible."
Sam's fingers spasmed. "She wouldn't make one because you're my older brother? Seriously?"
Dean shrugged. "Mojo's delicate, Sammy. Maybe she didn't like me enough. Or maybe it only works for citizens. I don't know. I didn't ask. I just knew they were effective. I'd seen one in action."
Sam looked down the street, counting cars absently. The Impala was parked in front of the grocery store that was across from the diner. And there was nothing near her as though the other cars were afraid to get too close to it. "And it wouldn't work now because I'm a hunter."
Dean's nod was sharp. "I see pie," he stated. He grabbed the shiny silver handle of the door. "If you want to go back..."
"Shut up. And order me a slice too." It was as close to an apology that Sam could get and probably the only one that Dean would accept.
Dean sat up straight in the bed and stared at the jiggling door-handle. Most spooks couldn't cross salt-lines, but that didn't mean they didn't try. Sam slid his knife out from under his pillow and reached for his gun. Dean didn't lift his weapon. He wasn't ready to aim yet. The wind howled against the windows. Dean cocked his head to the side. The winds were changing.
"Yo, Deano," a booming voice said right outside the door. "I'm in 213. Come see me in the morning."
"Right," Dean called back. The door stopped rattling, but the wind continued to blow.
Sam raised his brows. "Need backup?"
"Not for this one. He doesn't know you and he won't talk to you."
"Another person with mojo I'll mess up?"
Dean suppressed his wince. He didn't want to keep secrets from Sam, but he had to. He wasn't a kid anymore. He shrugged. "I'll talk to him tomorrow. See if he's got any ideas on the words." His brother looked at him for a long moment, but Dean didn't fall for it. "Go back to sleep, Sammy." Sam's eyes started to drift down. Some of the magic still worked. It would for as long as he had a little brother to protect. He laid back down. Dean lay still, watching the clock. When it turned to 2:13AM he snapped his fingers softly.
He threw off the covers and holstered his gun in the small of his back. He pulled on his boots and opened the door. He grabbed the morgue pictures. As he expected Malcolm was there. He was Dean's height, but with broader shoulders. He blended into the shadows he was standing in. He'd shaved off his beard, but his hair was still twisted into dreadlocks that were decorated with shimmering spots that looked like captured stars in the indirect light. "Hey, Deano." His voice was Morgan Freeman deep.
"Your letter seemed urgent."
"You know I've picked this stuff up as I've been going along. I don't know what this says, but it can't be anything good." He offered the picture. Malcolm looked down at it, tilting it so that the he could catch the moonlight on the surface. He frowned.
"This is Lisa."
He looked up. "Sorry, kiddo. I know you were sweet on each other for awhile."
Dean looked away. "Yeah. Would never have worked out."
"You need to work with kids who aren't your brother. You know that. You'll lose the magic if you don't."
"I'm taking care of Lisa's wards. I think I can get through to their father. He's a widower."
"And you're letting your brother hunt down whatever killed her alone?" Com's sarcasm could have cut glass.
Dean snorted. "Course not. Do you know what it says. Oh, and can you meet me at the park. Lisa left an heir."
The older man nodded. He offered the pictures. "Twisters. He wants control of the winds. This is a spell and you will not learn it."
"I need to be able to identify the language. Something."
"No." Com's voice was flat.
Dean tipped his chin up. "You know I won't use it."
"This is one of our own gone bad, Deano. I want you out of it. Take care of the kids. Keep your brother distracted until I tell you it's over."
"So not happening. I'm a hunter, Com. I won't just sit back and let someone else take this one. Not when I'm on the scent now."
Malcolm closed his eyes. "Your mother was never this stubborn. I'll meet with Lisa's heir at the park." He pushed off of the wall and turned to leave. "Look at the ancestry of the victims. I'll consider showing you how to read the language." He offered the picture, then stepped off of the curb and held his hand up. He was swept away by the wind. Dean watched him soar and shuddered. Flying was just freaky. He stepped back into the room, took off his boots, and settled back onto his bed. He snapped his fingers and the clock turned to 2:14.
"Malcolm, this is Alice and this is Mel." The kids looked up at Malcolm with solemn faces.
"Are you like Miss Lisa?" Mel asked.
Malcolm nodded. "I am. I looked after Dean for awhile." He smirked. "Though his father won't remember that."
The little boy nodded. "My daddy won't remember Dean either. Just Lisa. He still talks about her even though she's gone."
"Let's take a little trip to the pond."
Dean swung Mel up on his hip and offered his hand to Lisa. She took it with a shy smile. Malcolm led the way to the duck pond in the center of the park. The park was abandoned at this time of the day. A few pieces of trash were caught by the slight breeze swirling around the walkway. A plastic bag was tangled in the cattails by the edge of the pond. Alice frowned at it. She looked around, then snapped her fingers. The bag sailed into the trash.
Malcolm grinned. "Very nice use. Littering isn't good." Dean set Mel down and took his hand. The little boy stared, wide-eyed at his sister. Then, he started to smile.
"Alice is like Miss Lisa!"
"Yes, she is," Dean confirmed. He crouched down to touch the water, scouting for anything that was wrong. He frowned at the level of junk at the bottom. He concentrated on bringing up an old boot. It bobbed on the top. He snapped his fingers and it grew. "Let's take a little trip."