Here is part nine
When faced with six infected children, the mission to capture Rowena is once again put on hold. Sam and Dean reacquaint themselves with their true mission, saving people, even when those people are shooting holes in Baby.
Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It’s the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here’s a happy one for you…
After all that, it turned out that Rowena was not in Denver. The demon proprietress of the Celtic Pub gave them the bad news when they visited her by the trash bins outside the bar. They were trying to stay out of sight of anyone who might report their whereabouts to the wrong people – which meant just about everyone.
“She left this morning,” they were told.
“How?” Dean asked.
“On a broom. How should I know? Sources say she’ll be in Albuquerque. At the Hotel Andaluz. You better hurry. The dark ones are after her too.” The demon reached into her apron, making Sam reach back for the knife that would end her if she pulled anything. He got a nasty glare for that and she tossed a pair of hex bags at them. “These should help protect you from a dozen or so spells she might try to throw at you. The King sends his regards.”
They took the hex bags with the news, and headed back for the car, parked three blocks away in the conveniently empty garage of a home up for sale, debating about a 6 1/2 hour drive that would take twice that long staying off the major highways.
“Maybe we lost them,” Sam said hopefully.
“Maybe we didn’t.”
“I don’t know, Dean. It doesn’t look like the roads are blocked.” He held out his phone with the traffic app open. “How about back roads south for an hour? Our choices are a little limited here.”
“Fine. All right. Which way, Kemosabe?”
Sam almost groaned, knowing he’d be putting up with Dean referencing every western he knew for the next six hours. He pointed them down the road, settling into navigation mode, and took them on the most circuitous path out of Denver’s suburbs he could imagine. They weren’t followed.
There wasn’t much traffic. Periodically, once they got on the interstate, Dean took a random off-ramp, checking for a tail. They even managed to stop for gas without a war breaking out or having to steal it. They paid in cash and kept going. The further southwest they went, it seemed the fewer infected there were. The only way to tell was getting in and out of a place without incident. It was pretty damn nerve-wracking.
By the time they reached the outskirts of Albuquerque, a few hours before sunset, they had the hotel layout in mind, the manager’s name along with the clerk who’d be on duty. They decided to go Fed, pulled into a rest stop, entered the bathroom in t-shirts, flannel, and jeans, and left in suits, without any of the same people seeing them. It all felt pretty normal but at the same time too easy.
“Seem like this is going too well?” Dean asked, apparently feeling the same unease as Sam, who agreed. Just to be sure, he circled the hotel twice before parking. “All right. Let’s do this.”
The desk clerk freaked a little when they displayed their FBI badges simultaneously, but then she was all eyes for Dean. She was an attractive brunette, maybe in her early 30s. Dean didn’t miss a beat, smiling at the appraising look, but got right to business.
“I’m Agent Gramm. This is Agent Jones. We’re looking for a woman, red head. About so tall.” He demonstrated how short Rowena was by setting his hand just beneath Sam’s shoulder. “She checked in earlier today and is probably under an assumed name.”
“She wears long gowns,” Sam added. “Scottish accent.”
That did the trick. “Oh yes. I remember her. She only just checked in. Is there a problem?”
“We’re just here to ask her a few questions. What’s the room number?” Dean asked.
“She’s in the penthouse suite, room 818. Here, you’ll need the elevator key to reach that floor.” She handed it over with a coquettish smile that Dean reciprocated as he took the card.
“My pleasure, Agent Gramm. You let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you.”
“I’ll be sure to do that,” Dean said, smiling while Sam turned from the display and headed for the elevators that would take them to the penthouse suites.
The hotel, the usual 5-star joint Rowena liked to frequent, was decorated as one would expect in the heart of the southwest, in a Spanish motif. Multicolored tiled insets lined up on the walls. Deep brown and cream accents set off the rainbow of color. The courtyard style lobby sat surrounded by arched entries and a large fountain bubbled at its center. No doubt, it was a beautiful, authentic hotel. Sam knew from his research that it was the 4th Hilton Hotel ever built and opened in 1939. If walls could tell stories, there were probably a significant number to be had. He wondered if it was haunted. Probably, he answered himself, but today’s problem was all witch. In the elevator on the way up, he checked the layout of the room, noting the number of doors Rowena could escape through. There were two. They’d have to be fast getting to her.
At her door, Sam opened up the black FBI style duffle and pulled out the electronic lock-pick he’d acquired somewhere along the way while Dean waited impatiently beside him. He seemed more like he wanted to kick the door in, except he couldn’t because it was reinforced and he was still limping from the gunshot wound. A second or so later, the light flashed green, and in silence, they opened the door.
Dean went in first, gun drawn and cocked, Sam noticed, wondering if Dean was more inclined to shoot her, rather than go through with the plan. He followed closely behind, hoping that this wasn’t going to be one of those times when his brother went off on his own. He had a special dislike for witches, with a few exceptions, and the thought of working with one was about as far down on his list of things he’d do to get a job done as it could get.
The room was a long, nicely appointed suite opening into various rooms to either side of the entry hall they were now in. A sitting room on the right led to a dining room and they could see a kitchen through another arch. The first closed door on their left was a washroom. Two wide arches down the hall, styled much like the lobby, opened into the main living area. Dean motioned Sam to the second arch while he went in the first.
They found Rowena standing in a full length, dark blue gown with a plunging neckline at an open balcony glass doorway, a slight breeze ruffling the curtains, and startled her from her reverie. She flicked her hand at them, her face pinched in annoyance as she spoke some enchantment that because of the hex bags, didn’t have any effect on them. Her eyes widened and fury rose in her face.
“We just want to talk,” Sam said, moving more fully into the room. He too had his gun drawn, but he took one hand off and held it up. “That’s all.”
She had wards and symbols painted on her skin from the neck down, and Sam realized she was afraid. Not of them, but perhaps of the Darkness she had helped to unleash.
“Talk?” she said in a voice dripping in acid. “Don’t lie to me. I know full well what you’re here for, and whose help you had to find me, much less resist the spell I just cast.”
“We need your help, Rowena,” Sam said while Dean kept his gun trained on her. She stayed by the balcony door as if contemplating an escape that way. “With a spell in the Book of the Damned to put a stop to all this.”
“I think you’ll agree,” Dean said, moving closer in increments, “that’s a good thing – for everyone.”
“You Winchesters,” she said. “Always with saving the world. Unless you take the Mark back…” She looked at Dean, her eyes narrowing. “…and it doesn’t look like you can … you won’t save anything.”
“There’s another spell,” Sam said, and in a show of trust, he put his gun away, “from the Book of the Damned.”
“Another … Have you lost your mind? After what happened the first time? You want to use another spell?”
She shook her head and pulled off the doorframe, moving at apparent ease a step or two closer to Sam. Dean hadn’t yet put his gun down, keeping her trained and watching every move. He countered those few steps, moving so that she was more between them, which is exactly what they wanted.
“Even if I agreed to do something as insane as that, which I’m not, it’s impossible. I don’t have the Book.”
“Then who does?” Dean demanded and she turned to him.
“They do,” she hissed. “The codex too.”
As she spoke, Sam moved at her, a pair of iron handcuffs in hand. Before she could turn back to him, he had a firm grip on one slender wrist, cuffed her, spun her around and got the other wrist bound. Dean had the iron chains they brought out and wrapped around her for good measure, smiling while she stood fuming. The duct tape came out next and a strip secured over her mouth just as she started spewing threats.
They packed her to go, a black hood drawn down over her head, grabbing her two witch bags on their way out. It was always a good feeling when a plan worked out the way they wanted, but to Sam, again, it felt too easy. Maybe it was just second-guessing their skills against so powerful a witch. He’d expected capturing her would be a lot harder. Something didn’t feel right, but there wasn’t anything to do for it now.
Sam hoisted her over his shoulder and they made their way from her room to the service elevator, down a hall behind a locked door at the other end of the building. Then it was a quick trip down and out an employees only door that put them into a tight ally between the hotel and a high-end, expensive shop next door, and into the waiting Impala. Sam slid into the backseat next to Rowena. They both agreed she’d need to be watched the whole time. Just that fast, Dean pulled out of the ally and turned the car for the road home.
It was a long, mostly silent 13-hour drive where neither of them could risk sleep. They took mostly back-roads again that added an extra three hours to the trip, finally pulling up to the Bunker garage a little before noon the next day. Jody, Donna, and the girls were waiting.
Sherriff Jody Mills was the longest living female presence in their lives. It was the ‘longest living’ part of that equation that sent a blast of fear down Sam’s spine. Pretty much his entire life, he’d been the direct or indirect cause of a lot of women dying. It was a very deep-seated, often buried emotionally devastating reality that his mother had died because of him, something that his demonized brother had seized on and exploited. In the back of his mind, Sam couldn’t help but wonder if Dean really meant those things he’d said as a demon. And then there was Charlie. Those words would never completely leave him either, and here he was faced with the possibility that Jody and Donna and two young girls might get added to that list of people they shouldn’t have put in danger. Their horrific deaths flashed through his mind.
He tried to internalize the gasp that escaped him, but Dean turned to him. “Sam?” he asked, but he shook his head. “What is it?”
“Nothing. It’s nothing.”
“Let’s get this circus inside then.” Dean knocked the trunk of the Impala, nodding him to the garage door that opened with the same key as the entry door.
Circus was something of an understatement, but at the end of a lengthy list of precautions, they had Rowena ensconced securely in the dungeon. She remained surprisingly docile throughout, which left Sam with another layer of foreboding. It was too easy. Way too easy. All of it.
“Hey. What gives?” Dean asked after they’d locked the witch down and were on their way back to the library where everyone else waited for them.
Sam should have known that Dean would pick up on his unease, but he couldn’t articulate what was worrying him, only that he was worried. “I mean, it was all hell to get out of here, but getting back was a piece of cake. Like, suddenly the Darkness doesn’t care where we are?”
“Like it’s been called off?” Dean said. “Yeah, I hear you. All we can do is go with what we know, Sam. You consecrated the dungeon. Rowena isn’t infected. You’re going to figure out what’s in these hex bags Crowley gave us and you’re going to make more so the ladies are covered. I’m making up witch killing bullets. We’re going to show them everything we can to keep them safe, and if all else fails, they get out and leave the Bunker to Rowena. While that’s bad, it’s be worse if they stay and get themselves killed.”
Sam nodded to all that, and it made sense, it did, but didn’t do anything to ease the instinct that told him not to leave Rowena here. “Maybe we should turn her over to Crowley.”
Dean seemed surprised at the suggestion, but shook his head. “I don’t trust him,” he said, surprising Sam in turn. “Not where she’s concerned. He might be the King of Hell, but she’s his mother. Buried way down deep, there’s a spark of family bonding there. We don’t want those two going in on anything together.”
“I thought he wanted her dead.”
“That’s what he says.” Dean paused at the library entrance. “That’d be a lie.” He nodded to the women. “Let’s get them settled and then you and I need to hit it for a few hours, get some sleep. The next couple of days are going to suck.”
Thinking about a possible trip to hell and facing Lucifer sent another shiver of fear through Sam. Dean saw that too. “Any word from Cas?”
“Not a peep.”
“He’s been gone too long.”
“That he has.”