Once they were parked, they shrugged out of their coats--yes, it was chilly at two-thirty in the morning in November in the Bronx, but they needed the freedom of movement--and tossed them into the back seat. Dean opened the trunk and pulled out two shotguns, one each for Sam and Dean. Sam took his from Dean's hand and immediately opened it up to make sure both barrels were filled.
Walking down the driveway, Manfred looked at the two weapons with more than a little apprehension. "Uh, fellas?"
"It's okay," Sam said quickly. "These have rock-salt rounds."
"Rock salt? What, you wanna make sure the ghost don't slip on the ice?"
Sam closed his shotgun with a snap. "Spirits are vulnerable to rock salt. It dissipates them."
Manfred frowned. "What's that mean, dissipates?"
"Means they go away for a while."
"I don't want it goin' away for a while, I want it gone."
Dean closed the trunk. "Only way to do that is to find the body the spirit belonged to and salt it and burn it."
"Again with the salt." Manfred shook his head. "All right, whatever, man, just get that damn thing outta my house."
"That's what we do. We see the ghost tonight, we blast it with the rock salt, we figure out who it is, and we salt and burn the body it belonged to. Nothin' to it."
Manfred stared at them a second. "You fellas do this every day?"
"Not every day," Dean said.
Sam added, "Just most of them."
They started walking toward the front porch. Sam put a hand on Manfred's shoulder. "Maybe you better stay out here."
Manfred hesitated, then said, "Yeah, prob'ly." He chuckled. "Hell, I ain't been stayin' in the house when I see this broad anyhow."
Leaving Manfred to lean against the Impala, Dean and Sam slowly worked their way toward the front door, shotguns in a low ready position. As soon as they moved, Sam's body went on autopilot, the drills Dad had worked with them so many times when they were kids coming as easily as breathing. Dean hung back while Sam moved to the porch, Dean keeping an eye on the door while he did so, then Dean moved to the door.
Of course, the front door was locked. They'd been standing next to Manfred when he locked it.
Dean turned to Manfred and mouthed the word Keys!
Manfred frowned, and mouthed the word What?
"Keys," Dean said in an intense whisper.
The light bulb went off over Manfred's head. "Oh, right!" He dug into his jeans pocket, pulled out a huge keychain, and tossed it toward the porch.
It landed about a foot in front of the porch, skidding on the concrete path.
Dean let out a breath through his teeth and jumped down off the porch to get the keys.
Looking at the keys in Dean's hand, he saw that they were all labelled: HOUSE, CAR, GARAGE, LOCKER, etc. Given the various substances Manfred had drunk, ingested, and smoked in his time, labelling the keys made sense.
Dean tried one of the ones labelled HOUSE, which didn't fit, but the second one did. It unlocked the bottom lock. The first one he tried got the top lock that was right next to the small stained-glass window.
The door opened inward, and Dean just let it go. It creaked, sounding distressingly like the front door in every haunted-house movie ever made.
John Winchester had been a well-trained Marine, and he taught his sons well. They moved in proper formation, Dean going in low first with Sam covering him, then Sam going in ahead of him with Dean covering him, and so on through the front hall.
The house looked pretty much the same as it had when they left.
Then the rattling started.
Looking around, Sam saw that the framed posters on the hallway walls were vibrating, the metal of the frames banging against the sheetrock. Several of the items on the small table in the hall fell off.
Stealing a glance to his left, Sam saw that the record albums that Dean had left lying on the floor were now dancing across the floor, and the stuff on the coffee table was also falling off. Some of the CDs fell out of their racks, the jewel cases splitting open.
Slowly, Sam moved forward toward the kitchen, shotgun still in the low ready position, Dean covering him with shotgun raised.
It occurred to Sam that they never found out from Manfred what room he had to enter before the spirit manifested itself. Now, however, wasn't the time to go out and ask.
As they moved into the kitchen, Dean cradled the shotgun with one arm and pulled out the EMF with the other. It was lit up like a Christmas tree.
Not that they needed the confirmation, since the house was behaving like it was on a fault line. That was pretty much impossible, though--the house was built on solid rock. There was no basement, even--the laundry room, which Manfred had given them free use of, to both brothers' relief, was located in a nook off the kitchen.
Speaking of which, they checked that after they were done with the kitchen, but still nothing. The washer and dryer were rattling as if they were on, but both machines' dials were in the "off" position.
After that, they went back through the hallway into the living room, where more items had crashed to the floor. Dean winced as he stepped on the broken glass from the frame of the Isle of Wight poster.
Still no phyiscal manifestation of the spirit, just the house shaking and--
No matter how many times Sam encountered sudden noises in his life--and he figured he encountered more in the average month than most people did in their entire lives--his heart still skipped a beat when it happened.
Only one beat, though. As soon as he heard the cackle, he got down on one knee, shotgun raised.
But there was still no physical manifestation.
The cackling faded and the same voice started chanting the words "Love me!" over and over again.
Sam looked at Dean. Without any sign or facial indication, Sam knew that his brother agreed that they should check upstairs next.
Dean went up first, Sam standing at the base of the stairs, shotgun raised. Once he made it up top, Sam followed. Taking advantage of his long legs, he took two steps at a time.
The house was still shaking, and the cackling was now being intermixed with the exhortations to be loved. Manfred had hung pictures of people Sam assumed to be family on the walls, and some of them had fallen down to the floor. Others rattled on the nails that held them to the wallpaper-covered wall.
Sam whirled around and saw the face of a woman with bottle blond hair that was flying out in all directions--and Sam couldn't help but think it was a little ridiculous that the woman's spirit had a dye job--as well as a body, but no discernible arms and legs. Her shoulders and hips kind of just faded off. She floated down the hallway toward Sam and Dean, her mouth wide with her cackling, her eyes looking somewhat demented. Her entire form was also transparent--which wasn't true of all spirits, but this one barely had any substance. Plenty of spirits--especially angry ones--could manifest physically, but this woman seemed to focus most of her ectoplasmic energy on laughing and wanting to be loved.
Just before he fired his shotgun, Sam noticed that her t-shirt had some kind of funky design on it.
The rock-salt rounds did their job. As soon as the salt hit her form, it started to dissipate, features dispersing across the hallway until there was nothing left.
Though the echoes of her last cry of "Love me!" sounded throughout the old house, the interior had stopped shaking, and once the echoes faded, there was silence.
Dean looked at Sam. "What the hell's a spirit doing wearing a 'rÿch shirt?"
Sam frowned. "What's a rike shirt?"
He immediately regretted asking, as Dean gave him his most disgusted look, which meant that Sam had made the mistake of professing ignorance about music that Dean worshipped.
"Dude! Queensrÿche. They did Operation: Mindcrime, which is only the best concept album ever created."
Unable to help himself, Sam said, "They're the ones with the umlaut on the Y, right? How do you pronounce that, exactly?"
"Bite me, Sam."
"And I didn't realize that there were any good concept albums."
"Excuse me?" Dean cocked his head, his mouth hanging slightly open. "Tommy, Thick as a Brick, hell, Dark Side of the Moon, for Christ's sake, they're--"
Realizing he'd teased his brother enough, Sam said, "Shouldn't we tell Manfred it's safe to come into his own house?"
Dean blinked. "Right." Without another word, he moved back to the stairs.
Sam followed after pausing to chuckle at how easy taunting Dean could be sometimes, so Dean was already out the door by the time Sam got to the bottom.
Manfred and Dean came in together a few seconds later. "You sure it's safe?" Manfred asked, not sounding in the least bit convinced.
Dean looked around the house. "You hear any cackling? Anybody asking you to love her?"
After looking all around, and actually putting a hand to his ear, Manfred finally said, "No."
"She'll probably be back tomorrow night, but for tonight, it's safe."
Manfred looked at Dean. "So you dislocated her?"
Shaking his head, Manfred said, "Man, I need a toke." He went into the living room, walking over to the sideboard. While dusty bottles of booze were piled haphazardly on top of it, the side had two doors with keyholes, a skeleton key sticking out of one of them. Manfred turned the key, opened the door, and reached into it, pulling out a ziplock bag full of green leaves and a yellow box.
The brothers exchanged a glance, shrugged, and set their shotguns carefully against the hallway wall before joining Manfred in the living room.
Manfred was sitting on the easy chair, leaning forward while he put some of the stuff on the coffee table onto the floor, next to the stuff that the spirit had already knocked off, thus clearing space for him to construct his joint.
Sam and Dean both sat on the couch perpendicular to him. In a gentle voice, Sam said, "I'm sorry, Manfred, but we need to ask you a few questions."
"What, now?" Manfred didn't look up.
"We actually saw it," Sam said.
At that, Manfred looked up. "Really? Whoa."
"It was a girl," Dean said, "blond hair--"
"Dyed," Sam added.
"Right, dyed, kind of a hook nose, and wearing a Queensrÿche shirt. Ring any bells?"
Manfred shrugged. "You know how many women in 'rÿch shirts I see all'a time?" He gingerly finished rolling his joint.
Dean asked, "You ever take any of 'em home?"
"Maybe." Manfred shrugged again, then dug into the pocket of his leather jacket, which he had yet to take off after coming in from outside, and pulled out a lighter. "Honestly, I took lotsa women home, from the Park in Rear, from other places--Christ, I can't even remember last week, y'expect me t'remember that?" And then, to accentuate the point, he took a drag on his joint.
Dean looked at Sam.
Sam just shrugged back.
"You guys want a drag?" Manfred said in a much more mellow voice, smoke blowing out his mouth.
"No thanks." Sam got to his feet. "We actually have some stuff we gotta take care of tonight."
Manfred grinned. "Thought you was just sayin' that to blow off Janine."
Dean actually looked embarrassed. "Yeah, about that--"
Holding up a hand, Manfred said, "Don't sweat it, Dean. She flirts with anything that moves. You show up tomorrow night, she'll hit on y'all over again. You don't show up, she'll forget all 'bout you."
Sam looked down at Dean, who was still seated on the couch. "Gee, we don't know anybody like that, do we, Dean?"
Looking up, Dean glared, then also rose from the couch. "Yeah, we really do have something we gotta take care of."
"You takin' the car?" Manfred asked after taking another toke.
"Groovy, man. Jus' park it b'hind'a truck when y'get back."
Dean smiled. "Thanks." He tapped Sam on the chest with the back of his hand. "Let's motor, Sammy."
They went out to the Impala and retrieved their coats from the back seat. Sam still had the keys, and Dean had shown no interest in doing any more driving in this city--nor did Sam have any interest in listening to Dean while he did--so Sam folded himself into the driver's side.
Driving to Webb and 195th took almost no time at all this late hour. There were other cars on the road, especially once they got out of Riverdale and drove on Broadway to W. 225th Street, which turned into Kingsbridge Road once they went over I-87.
Unfortunately, Sam's belief that parking would be easier at night proved a foolish one. "I don't believe it," Sam muttered.
"Look around, Sammy," Dean said. "Most of these are apartment buildings, and I ain't seen too many parking lots. This time'a night, everyone's at home asleep, which means their cars are parked. Screw it, just double park."
Sam frowned. "Isn't that illegal?"
"So's breaking and entering, and that's kinda what we're here for."
"Yeah, but we're good at B&E, and we probably won't get caught. But the car's just out there being illegally parked. I mean, I saw tons of double-parked cars during the day, when I was driving around, but I haven't seen a single one since we left Manfred's. We'll stand out, is all I'm saying, and if some bored night-shift cop decides to--"
"You got a better idea, Sam?"
Sam steered the car down Webb back toward Kingsbridge. "Wasn't there a parking lot on Kingsbridge?"
"Is that the big street we came up?" Dean asked.
Nodding, Sam said, "We'll try there."
Making a right onto Kingsbridge, Sam saw the parking lot--then he saw the rates they were charging, not to mention the sign that said, SORRY, FULL.
His head in his hands, fingers rubbing his forehead, Dean said, "Sam, just double park."
Letting out a long breath, Sam said, "Yeah, okay." He drove down another block, turned right, made a broken U-turn using someone's driveway, turned left back onto Kingsbridge, then did the one-way-street shuffle once again to get to the house where the first of their Poe-inspired murders took place.
"I got an idea," Sam said. The house had a driveway next to it that was gated and locked. The driveway was just wide enough to accommodate the Impala. Sam pulled up as if to parallel park.
The first time, he aimed a bit off, and so had to start again. The second time, he came in at too wide an angle, so he had to start again. By the time he succeeded in parking the car more-or-less evenly, Dean looked like he was ready to chew off his own arm.
Glaring at Sam as he turned off the ignition, Dean reached over and yanked the keys out. "I'm driving back."
Sam shook his head and chuckled--it wasn't as if Dean was any better at parallel parking--and followed his brother to the wrought-iron gate that blocked the driveway they'd parked in front of.
Dean looked up at the house. "Nice place. Surprised they haven't sold it."
"Yeah, well, murder plays hell with real estate, y'know?"
Reaching into his coat pocket for his lockpick, Dean said, "Yeah." He knelt down and started working on the gate's padlock. After about thirty seconds' work--which seemed like an eternity to Sam, feeling very exposed on the city street, even this late at night with no sign of anyone--it clicked open. Sam looked around nervously, unable to help noticing that several people in the surrounding apartment buildings had their lights on. Hope none of them are looking down at the street outside their windows.
Dean pushed the gate open quickly--something Dad had taught them, metal gates made more noise if you opened them slowly. Sam jumped forward and caught the gate before it collided against the house.
They both went into the driveway, Dean shutting the gate behind him so it would look normal. However, he didn't re-lock the padlock, as they might well need to make a hasty exit.
Dean knelt down next to the side door and started to work on picking that lock.
Several minutes passed, and Dean made no progress whatsoever.
Whispering urgently, Sam said, "Dude, will you hurry up?"
"It's a tough lock, Sammy," Dean whispered right back. "And it's dark. 'Sides, artistry takes time."
"So does incompetence. C'mon, Dean, I've seen you get through doors faster than this."
"Those doors had freakin' porch lights, okay? Just give me a sec, I think I--"
Suddenly, a light shone right in Sam's face. Looking down the driveway at the source of the light, he saw a dark figure who appeared to be holding a gun in addition to a flash light.
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