Alternate Universe "Highlander"
Characters: From SPN: Dean and Sam Winchester. From Mag7: Vin Tanner, Ezra Standish, Buck Wilmington, JD Dunne, Nathan Jackson, Josiah Sanchez, Inez Recillos
Summary: What if Sam and Dean were hunters in the Old West? The Winchesters are chasing something evil which is leaving a trail of bodies across the southwest. The hunt leads them to Four Corners and a meeting with the seven lawmen who protect the town.
Author's Note: I figured if authors could transplant the Mag7 boys into the present why not create an AU where the Winchesters lived in the Old West.
Eagle Bend - Madame Louisa's Hotel
Sitting at her dressing table, Maggie finished pinning up her hair. She was running late and Madame Louisa would not be happy if she wasn't in the parlor by the time the evening clients began arriving.
She patted a last wayward strand of her chestnut hair into place before reaching for a small box. Smiling, she opened it to stare down at the cameo necklace that she had purchased from Mr. Rider's emporium that afternoon. She'd had her eye on it for weeks and had finally saved enough money to treat herself to the beautiful trinket.
Lifting it by the black ribbon, she studied the figure carved on the locket's face. Mr. Rider had claimed it was Aphrodite, goddess of love. It was mostly likely a story he'd concocted to entice her to purchase the necklace. He hadn't needed to as she'd been entranced by the perfection of the carving the moment she'd laid eyes on it. She ran a finger along the surface of the locket, admiring the beauty of the woman portrayed and wondered again who she might have been. The goddess of love was as good an explanation as any, Maggie thought. It's not as if a working girl like her would have a chance at real love, but you never knew. Maybe this goddess would appreciate the attention the locket would bring.
Maggie tied the ribbon at the back of her neck, allowing the cameo to settle just above the valley between her breasts. As she fingered her new acquisition, she couldn't help but feel that tonight was going to be something special.
+ + + + + + +
Maggie felt as if she were awakening from a deep sleep. She blinked open her eyes and the vertigo hit when she realized that she was standing, not lying down as she'd first thought. Instinctively her hands reached for purchase to steady her rebelling body and she found herself staring out the open window of her room. Grasping the sill, she took a deep breath and felt the disorientation pass.
Her panic rose as she tried to remember how she had crossed the room. Madame Louisa would be furious if she'd missed the evening roll call. Smoothing down her dress she then reached up to touch her necklace. Her fingers settled on nothing. Her precious trinket was gone. Had she been knocked out by a client so that he might rob her? Frantic, she turned back toward her dressing table and froze.
A scream escaped her as she took in the bloody mess on her bed that used to be a man. She continued to scream as she found herself fainting into the bliss of unconsciousness.
New Mexico Territory
Sam Winchester exited the Rock Ridge telegraph office clutching the message from Bobby Singer, who ran the hunter's network in this part of the country. The telegram had been waiting for them upon their arrival in town. He headed toward the saloon where he knew his brother, Dean, was already ensconced in a poker game to replenish their dwindling funds.
The invention of the telegraph had been a boon to hunters tracking the supernatural. In the past, even with the network of hunters and informants that Samuel Colt had set up across the west, it used to take weeks or months for a case to come to their attention. And while Sam was grateful for the modern convenience that allowed them such immediate communication with Bobby, they were still two days ride from the job their friend had identified in his missive.
Sam entered the saloon and paused as his eyes adjusted to the gloomy interior. He spotted his brother at the corner table. He had to chuckle when he realized that Dean hadn't bothered to remove his dark brown duster or wide brimmed slouch hat in his desire to get into a game. He still had two inches of trail dust clinging to his faded green shirt.
Sam looked down at his apparel and realized he didn't looked much better. There had been a brief time in his life when he'd worn the tailored suits of a student. That had been before the search for their father had demanded his attention, and he'd traded that scholarly life in for the dully colored cotton shirts and faded britches of a hunter.
Today Rock Ridge was just a stopping point; a place to receive instructions from Bobby. Though this town was as close to a regular home as they'd had over the past year; its centralized location in the territory made it a good place to return to after hunts. Once hed shared the information in Bobby's telegram, the brothers would be moving on again.
Dean looked up and met Sam's eyes as he raked in the pot in front of him. Sam tilted his head in a silent signal for his brother to join him.
Gathering his winnings, Dean excused himself. He plopped down at the table, across from Sam, sending up a small cloud of dust. "So?" He propped his booted feet on the next empty chair and waited for Sam to fill him in.
"Bobby's sending us to Eagle Bend. A courier is already on his way to meet us there with the case details." As convenient as the telegraph was, it was expensive and it wasn't always prudent to send too much detail over the open wire.
"Guess we're heading to Eagle Bend." Dean kicked back the chair and stood. He sent a longing glance toward the poker table. "I don't suppose " He gestured toward the game still in progress.
Sam shook his head. He rounded the table and pushed his brother toward the door. "Focus, Dean. There'll be plenty of time to play after the case is over."
Eagle Bend New Mexico territory
The courier was waiting for them when Sam and Dean arrived in town. The packet of information he'd delivered was now spread out on the bed of their hotel room. Sam sat on the bed trying to sort out all the details while Dean paced the room waiting for his brother's evaluation.
"We've got seven previous incidents," Sam said, gesturing to the neat stacks of papers he'd collated.
Dean moved to read over Sam's shoulder. "Damn! These murders take place over several years. How'd Bobby piece this together?"
Sam shook his head in admiration. "Women committing murder do tend to stick out, but even so they happened all over the territory," Sam handed Dean one of the pages, "That murder took place in Arizona almost two years ago and appears to be our starting point."
"So we've got seven women who violently kill a man, and then claim they didn't remember how it happened."
"These guys were gutted before their necks were snapped." Sam shook his head in disbelief as he continued to read through the files.
"Sounds like possession."
"I agree. I doubt there are many women strong enough to commit that brutal a crime without supernatural assistance."
"And that gallows we saw riding into town?"
"For murderess number eight," Sam handed the last page of the portfolio to Dean, "Maggie Courtland. She killed one of her regular clients and then, just like the others, claims she didn't remember doing it."
Dean looked at the page from the first case. "Says this woman committed suicide before they could hang her for killing her husband. Any of the others do that?"
Sam perused the information making a silent count. "Three were hung, Two more committed suicide and it appears this one," he pointed to the pile for the second case, "was murdered by the brother of her husband; the victim."
"Ok so no pattern after the kills," Dean mused as he tried to piece together the motive of their mysterious evil bastard. "All male victims and female killers," Dean moved some of the pages around, "two killed their brothers and one killed a friend's husband. Our current killer sliced and diced a John. That eliminates it being a relative."
"But does seem it's someone they know well," Sam confirmed. "These women have very little in common; one was married to a preacher, one was a spinster school teacher, while Maggie was a working girl."
"Apparently the virtue of the woman was not a factor either." Dean sighed. "We got nothing."
If there was a pattern that might lead them to the next victim, Sam wasn't seeing it either. "All we really know is that after the murder the demon, spirit - whatever it is - moves on, leaving the woman to face the consequences."
"We need to talk to Maggie Courtland and confirm possession," Dean said. "They may have all been suicidal just not had the means or opportunity. Also we need to find out about the dead guy, maybe something about him that will explain why he was chosen."
"Good point. There's very little in these files about the men," Sam said. "I think I can get into see her if I pose as clergy. What are you going to do?"
Dean smiled. "I'm going to visit the brothel."
"How do you propose to get access to the murder scene which, by the way, has probably already been scrubbed clean?"
"It's a brothel, Sammy," Dean quipped as if his method of entry should be obvious. "Beside they may not have cleaned everything and maybe some of the ladies saw something helpful," he leered suggestively, "and will be willing to share."
Sam chuckled. "Why do I ever doubt you where women are concerned? I guess it's worth checking out."
"Of course it is," Dean said. "Not often I get to do research in a whorehouse; kinda looking forward to it." He grabbed his slouch hat off the dresser and with a knowing smirk exited the hotel room.
Sam shook his head. For all Dean's bravado, he knew his brother wouldn't let the location of his investigation disrupt his ability to get the information they needed. Standing, he grabbed his saddle bags and began looking for clothing more worthy of a traveling clergyman.
+ + + + + + +
Sam had convinced the sheriff that his prisoner deserved a chance to make peace with God, in private. Sheriff Hughes agreed to wait outside while Sam entered the jail to question her.
Maggie Courtland sat stock still, hands clasped on her knees, head down, her long dark hair creating a veil hiding her face. She didn't even twitch as Sam grabbed a chair and pulled it in front of the cell.
"Ma'am," he began tentatively as he sat. "I'd like to ask you a few questions, if you're willing."
The woman didn't move. Her stillness was disconcerting and Sam realized that there were silent tears dripping onto her lap as she continued to ignore him.
He cleared his throat and began again. "I'm Father O'Rielly and I'd like to hear your version of what happened. Maybe offer some comfort."
Maggie shook her head, still refusing to look up at Sam. "There is no comfort for me now."
"Please, Miss Courtland; tell me your side of the story."
She sucked in a gasping breath and looked up as she let it out. "I don't remember anything, but they don't believe me," she cried, tears continuing to cascade down her cheeks. "They say I killed Henry, but I don't remember even seeing him until - Oh God, Henry." She dropped her head back into her hands sobbing as the memory of the dead man came rushing back to her.
Sam studied the woman; she didn't seem possessed or infected by the supernatural in any way. Her remorse and fear at what had happened had been plain on her face. "I know this is hard," Sam said sympathetically. "But I only want to help."
She met his gaze again. Sniffling and swiping at her eyes she shook her head. "I'm beyond help, preacher."
"No one is ever beyond help," Sam said. "Please, tell me, what's the last thing you do remember from before " he hesitated to say murder. "Maybe there is some clue; some proof of who really did this."
"You believe me?" When Sam nodded, she almost smiled. Taking a calming breath Maggie began, "I was getting ready for the evening - " she hesitated; embarrassed to speak of her occupation.
Sam didn't say anything silently encouraging her to continue.
Her eyes took on a faraway sheen as she tried to remember the events that had destroyed two lives. "I was sitting at my dressing table, putting my hair up." Her hand reached up to smooth down her wayward tresses as if reliving the moment. "I used the silver combs. They were my favorite." Her hand drifted down to her bare neck. "I'd bought a new locket and decided to wear it that night, but it's gone now." Her eyes narrowed as she searched for more details. "I was late but I wanted to look nice." She gave him a rueful smile. "And that's all. I don't remember anything else before I found myself standing at the window and Henry was "
She lapsed into silence as the tears began to slip down her cheeks again. "Help me preacher. Tell them I didnt do this. Please don't let them hang me!"
"I will do what I can," he lied. Sam felt awful that he truly had no way to help her. Even if they discovered the truth behind her blackout, it was unlikely it would be anything a judge would believe, nor concrete enough to overturn her conviction. Most folks didn't put stock in the supernatural. Poor Maggie Courtland would be gone by this time tomorrow. Her story only confirmed what he and Dean had suspected; she was not responsible for what had happened, but he knew there would be no way to save her.
+ + + + + + +
Sam was seated in a chair using the bed as a desk when Dean came in. He was surprised to see his brother frowning considering where he'd spent the afternoon. "No luck?"
"Not a damn thing," he groused as he flung himself on the bed.
"Hey watch it," Sam snapped as he grabbed at his papers before they spilled onto the floor.
Dean leaned against the headboard. "I got to see the murder scene, but there was no smell of sulfur, no hex bags, or any sign of a supernatural event. Nothing. Just a room."
"Anybody notice anything unusual about Maggie's behavior?"
"Nope. That Henry guy was apparently one of her regulars and not real threatening if you know what I mean. Just a loser looking for a good time." Dean ran a hand over his face and sighed in frustration before asking, "Any luck with the girl?"
Sam shook his head. "Nothing much. She was definitely possessed by something, but I don't think it was a demon."
"Oh?" Dean quirked an eyebrow at him.
"Bobby said that people usually remember being possessed. They describe being aware of what's happening to them, but being unable to stop it. Maggie swears she passed out. Doesn't remember a thing about the missing time."
"So, not a demon?"
"Not necessarily, just unlikely. We've never seen a demon and we only have Bobby's anecdotes about how it behaves."
"What about a restless spirit? They have been known to possess people."
Sam shook his head. "I've never heard of one being able to travel so far from its initial haunting."
"They tend to control men not women."
Dean snapped his fingers and pointed at Sam. "Witch?"
"You said there was no hex bag. I think if someone found those kinds of objects at any of the previous murder scenes, we would have heard about it."
Frowning, Dean stood and began pacing the room. "We've got no idea what this thing is or where it's going, and these murders are getting closer together." He slammed a hand on the dresser. "Damn it, Sammy. This thing is destroying lives I just can't give up on it."
"I dont think we have to."
Dean looked over at what Sam was working on. "You find something in the files?"
"Not really sure, but you're right there's nothing left to do here and the murders are occurring more frequently." Sam smoothed out the map showing Dean the notations he'd made. "Chances are it won't be long before it strikes again and I think I've figured out where it might go next."
Dean leaned over to get a closer look at the pattern Sam had discovered. "Really?"
"I've highlighted the towns where the murders took place." Sam moved the map so Dean could get a better look. "It's not much, but I did notice that they were all on the stage lines."
Dean snorted. "Really Sammy, you think our big bad enjoys riding the stage? That's gotta be a fun trip for the other passengers."
Sam smiled at the ridiculous idea of a Werewolf or Vampire sitting in a stagecoach making small talk with the other passengers. "Yeah, I guess that sounds a little silly," Sam acknowledged.
The brothers fell into silence as they tried to understand what the map was telling them.
Sam sat up straighter as the answer came to him. "What if it's not a creature at all, but some kind of cursed object using someone to transport it to another town?"
"That actually makes sense. Cursed objects can take control of people, encourage them to do their bidding." Dean was warming to this idea. "Any idea what this object might be?"
"Not a clue. Like you said a supernatural creature isn't going to take the stage, but if it is a cursed object then it's likely that someone has already transported it out of town." Sam checked his notes. "Since the murder, only two stages have rolled through Eagle Bend. One was heading to Rock Ridge, where we just came from, and the other to Four Corners." Sam pointed to the two towns which lay in opposite directions on the map. "I think it's highly possible that the thing moved on to one of those two places."
"So it's a coin flip." Dean said as he studied the map. "Four Corners; why do I know that town?"
Sam smiled. "Remember Josiah Sanchez? We met him a couple times at Bobby's."
"Sure." Dean nodded. "Good hunter, been a few years since we last ran into him." He smiled as the information came to him. "That's why I've heard of that town, Bobby must have mentioned he was down this way."
"Yeah, that's why I figure we should send a telegram to Josiah; see if he's noticed anything unusual since the last stage passed through. If not, then we head back to Rock Ridge."
Dean nodded his approval of the plan. "I'll contact Josiah. Hopefully we'll hear from him in time to know which way to head out in the morning."
Four Corners - New Mexico Territory
It had been a good evening at the poker tables for Ezra Standish. The local cow hands had lost just enough to keep them coming back for more. As for the stranger, Mr. Dansing, who had gotten off the stage - well, it wasn't his fault if the man didn't know when to fold.
Ezra tossed several chips into the pot for a raise and as the others folded, he turned his attention to Dansing. If the man had any sense he'd fold too, but he had yet to show that he had that kind of intelligence. "It's your bet, sir," Ezra said.
Dansing ran a hand across his face before reaching into his pocket. "I don't suppose you'd take this instead of money?" He held up a delicately carved cameo necklace.
Ezra was about to state that it was not his policy to deal in trade when Inez stepped up to the table to deliver the latest round of drinks. "Oh, Señor Standish, that is beautiful," she exclaimed.
He smiled at the barmaid. "Do you like it?"
"Very much," she said. She set the drinks down before retreating back to the bar.
Inez had helped him turn the Standish Tavern into a most successful business venture. If she liked the necklace than he would win it for her. After all, she deserved a bonus for all the hard work she'd put in as the saloon's manager. He looked back at Dansing. "It seems that under the circumstances, I am willing to forgo my normal inclination and accept your trinket in lieu of cash."
The man smiled and placed the jewelry into the pot. "Beat that, fancy man!" Dansing said as he laid his cards down with a flourish; a flush.
Ezra sighed at the poor deluded fool. "I shall," he said as he turned over a full house.
The man sputtered his indignation and it was clear that Dansing intended to do something stupid, such as accuse him of cheating. "That's impossible!" he shouted as he stood pointing an accusing finger at Ezra. "I had that hand won!"
Suddenly, Vin was at the irate mans shoulder. "Everythin' ok here, Ezra?" he drawled.
Ezra chuckled when Dansing practically leapt out of his skin as he turned to face the man behind him.
"I believe that Mr. Dansing was just leaving."
Dansing looked from the tracker, who had casually placed a hand on his gun, to Ezra, who was now standing his coat open to reveal his own side arm, and nodded. "Don't want no trouble," he said. "I'll be going."
The man bolted through the batwing doors and into the night.
Vin chuckled. "You have quite an effect on people, doncha."
"I believe it was you more than me who encouraged his flight," Ezra said. Then turning to the others at the table he continued, "Gentleman, on that note I think that I will call it a night."
As other men vacated the table, Vin plopped himself down at one of the now empty chairs watching Ezra gather up his winnings. "Thank you for your assistance, Vin."
"Anytime, Ez." He glanced toward the entrance. "They never learn do they?"
Ezra smiled. "My future solvency is dependent on the fact that they never learn to quit while they are ahead."
Vin laughed. "Since when do you take barter at the table?" he asked, eyeing the cameo that Ezra held.
"I don't usually," he admitted. "One can never be sure of the value of such objects, nor if they might be sold for a profit, but it seems that the lovely Senorita has expressed an interest in the trinket and I could not refuse her."
Vin quirked an eyebrow at him. "Thinking of moving in on Buck's territory?"
"I assure you that I have no interest in Senorita Inez in that way, and as for Buck - well, she has no interest in him."
"Too bad Bucklin ain't figured that out yet." Vin laughed and stood. "Guess I'll be going," he tipped his hat, "see ya in the mornin'"
"Not too early," Ezra called and heard the tracker's chuckle drift back to him as he passed through the batwing doors
It was well past midnight by the time the tavern emptied out. Sighing, Ezra began collecting the dirty glassware to aid Inez in the closing of the establishment. Being the owner did not save him from some of the more mundane tasks associated with the business.
He left the glassware on the bar and went to find Inez. He wanted to gift her with the necklace and was looking forward to her reaction.
"A good night, Señor ?" she asked, not bothering to look up from her sweeping.
Ezra leaned against the counter. "I would say a rather excellent night at that." He held up the necklace. "In fact, it has been a rather good year, and I believe that the manager of this establishment has earned a bonus."
Inez stopped as she caught the glint of gold in the lamp light. "For me?" She sent him a quizzical look as she set the broom aside to step forward.
Ezra smiled. "I assure you this is no more than a monetary transaction. A bonus to your salary for all the hard work you have done."
"It's beautiful." She studied the object as Ezra held it up for her to see. Inez smiled. "I accept this lovely bonus." Turning she held up her hair. "Would you mind, Señor Standish?"
"I would be honored." Ezra carefully tied the cameo around Inez's neck.
She turned around, a huge smile on her face as she leaned in to plant a chaste kiss on his cheek. "Thank you," she said, her hand straying to stroke the delicate carving. "I love it."
"I am glad." Ezra was pleased that such a small gesture meant so much to the beautiful barmaid.
As he watched, her hand continued to caress the cameo, the smile fading from her face.
"You men are all the same," she said softly.
"I'm sorry?" he said, sure he hadn't heard her correctly. "Is something wrong, Senorita?" Ezra was puzzled by the blank look on her face.
Inez didn't answer; instead she turned mechanically and retreated to the counter, her back to him. "You think a gift entitles you to more that you deserve," she hissed.
Ezra was shocked by her accusation. "Senorita, the necklace carries no obligations. It is simply a gesture of gratitude for all you have done "
"Liar!" she screeched and came at him. Too late, Ezra saw the butcher knife in her hand as she plunged it into his stomach.
Shocked by the suddenness of the attack, he was unable to prevent her from twisting the knife in his gut. Clamping down on the pain, he used all his strength to push her away, sending her to the floor. His mind was in turmoil as to what had precipitated such a vicious attack. She had a wild look in her eye as she gained her feet.
"Inez! Why are you doing this?" he asked, backing away from the furious woman
Inez screamed in frustration. "You must be taught a lesson!"
As she moved toward him again, blade raised to strike, Ezra triggered his derringer. The sight of the gun did nothing to slow her advance. Not wanting to hurt her, he fired over her head as he continued to stagger away, but still, she moved toward him.
Ezra could feel his life draining away, but hoped that even at this late hour, one of his friends would hear the shot and come running. He willed himself not to die in front of Inez. While he knew that his Immortality would revive him, his death at her hands would trigger an unwanted series of events which might lead to her execution if he had to maintain the illusion of his demise. Still, Ezra could not bring himself to wound her even if it meant his survival.
She did not even flinch as he sent the second bullet into the ceiling. And then she was on him again, knife plunging into his shoulder. He collapsed to the floor under the onslaught, no longer having the energy to push her away.
Inez continued to scream nonsensical accusations at him as she stabbed the knife again into his gut. "Now you see how it feels!"
"Inez," he gasped, "please stop!" He coughed, bringing up blood as she pulled out the blade preparing to strike at his heart. Ezra closed his eyes, bracing for the fatal blow, when he felt her weight disappear from his body.
Peering through blurry eyes, he saw Vin and Josiah struggling with the crazed women. It was getting harder to stay conscious and he knew the end was closing in.
"Ez, you still with me?" Relief flooded through him at the sound of Vin's voice.
"Not...for long "
"Shush, pard. Do what ya need to, you're safe." Ezra was comforted that Vin was giving him permission to die.
"Inez?" he whispered.
"Had to knock her out. We'll figure this out when ya get back."
Ezra tried to nod his understanding, but his head wouldn't cooperate. Grateful that his friend was watching out for him, Ezra closed his eyes and let death take him.
+ + + + + + +
Vin surveyed the scene around him trying, to understand why Inez had killed Ezra and then attacked him and Josiah as they'd pulled her away from the gambler.
Buck, Nathan and JD came barreling in, guns drawn. "It's all over boys," Vin said. With Chris and Charlotte off on their honeymoon, Vin was in charge. His first duty was to protect Ezra's secret and then he'd worry about what had set Inez off. "Nathan, we need to get Ezra up to the clinic before anyone finds out he's dead."
Nathan immediately knelt beside Ezra. "He's really dead," he said, feeling for the non existent pulse.
Josiah came up behind. "He'll be back."
Vin sensed that neither man was entirely comfortable with that thought. Even though he'd seen Ezra resurrect twice, there was the niggling doubt that maybe it wouldn't work this time.
"Someone think Ezra cheated him?" Buck asked, his tone grim. "Do we need to ride out?"
Vin realized that the new arrivals hadn't noticed Inez unconscious in the corner, so intent had they been on Ezra's beaten and bloodied body.
Vin shook his head as he stepped up to Buck, prepared to share news he knew the bigger man was not going to like. "Don't rightly know yet, but Inez is the one that killed Ezra. Josiah and I had to pull her off of him."
Buck looked at him like he was crazy before his gaze wandered to where Inez lay. Without a word Buck rushed to the barmaid's side and gently folded her into his arms.
"Buck, we need to put her in a cell," Vin explained, "until we know the truth of what happened."
"NO! Ain't no way she did that to Ezra." He gestured at his friend's ravaged body.
"She did, brother. Vin and I pulled her off Ezra and took the knife from her hand."
Buck stood and glared at the preacher. "Well you musta seen wrong."
"Back off, Buck." Vin stepped between the two men, "You weren't there; you didnt see her try to stab Josiah before he got the knife away from her." Vin's tone was harsh and he did his best imitation of the Larabee glare.
Buck backed away, but the anger in his eyes did not abate. "I ain't gonna let you lock her up."
"Ain't got no more time to argue. This is how it's gonna be." He pointed to Josiah and JD. "You two get her in a cell. Buck, if you ain't helping, then stay outta the way. Nathan and I need ta get Ezra outta here now!"
The men nodded their acceptance of his authority, even Buck, though he didn't look happy about it.
"What do we tell people about why Inez is in jail?" JD asked. "'Cause I'm with Buck, don't see why she would have done it without a reason."
Vin hadn't considered what the town's people might assume if they locked up the barmaid, but given Inez's crazed behavior he didn't want her running around loose until they knew why she'd stabbed Ezra. "Tell'em Inez attacked Ezra and until he wakes up we don't know the whole story." It was the truth and that was the best he had for now.
"I'll see it's done," Josiah told Vin as he moved to help a reluctant and angry Buck with Inez.
Nathan had thrown Ezra's arm over his shoulder and hoisted the dead man upright. Vin moved to the other side and they made their way out of the back of the saloon trying to maintain the illusion that their friend was merely injured and not deceased.
"How long you figure we got?" Nathan asked.
Vin hoped Ezra would wake up soon. He really wanted an explanation. It had been over an hour when the Immortal had been shot, but the damage to Ezra's gut made him think it would be a much longer recovery this time.
"Don't know." Vin shook his head. "Let's just move before anyone sees us."
He damn well wasn't going let Ezra's secret be discovered and have the gambler forced to leave town. Vin knew he'd be going too, because there was no way he was gonna face Chris and Charlotte if he failed in his duty as Ezra's friend and watcher.
+ + + + + + +
Buck pushed past Josiah, and kneeling, he lifted the unconscious woman into his arms. "I don't like this. No sir, don't like it at all."
"I know, brother," Josiah said as he walked beside Buck through the saloon. "But Vin's right. Until we know what happened, it's safer for everyone if she's in a cell."
JD was trailing along behind them. "What could have possessed her to do such a thing?" he asked. "I mean it just don't make sense."
Josiah stopped and looked back at their youngest member. "What did you say,JD?"
"I said it don't make sense."
"No before that. You asked what could have possessed her " Josiah's voice trailed off and his hand went to his pocket where the telegram from the Winchester brothers lay. He'd received the simple inquiry at the end of the day, too late to send a reply that all was well. Now watching Buck carrying Inez into the jail, he wondered if the Winchesters might be on the trail of the very thing that was affecting Inez. Her behavior when he'd found her kneeling over Ezra, knife in hand, had been so crazed that Josiah knew in his gut that it wasn't the barmaid controlling actions of her body.
As soon as the telegraph office opened in the morning, he'd send for the brothers hoping that they could get here in time before what ever it was destroyed Inez.
"Something wrong, Josiah?" JD asked.
"No maybe," he replied, distracted by thoughts he couldn't share with his friends. "Lets just get this done."
Josiah entered the jail to see Buck laying Inez gently down on the tattered mattress. Locking the door, Buck stood watching her, hands gripping the bars.
"Maybe I should get Nathan to look at her," JD suggested. "Not like Ezra really needs him and she's been out for a while."
"Actually JD, might be a good idea for you to ride out to the Black place and let Miss Cecily know what's happened to Ezra. Folk will be wondering if she doesn't come in to see how he is," Josiah said. "I'll stay with Buck."
"We gotta pretend like Ezra's hurt bad, don't we?"
Josiah nodded. "Cant be sure who heard the shots or might have seen Nathan and Vin carrying him. And JD," he called as the kid headed for the door. "Don't tell anyone about Ezra unless they ask and don't embellish."
JD nodded his understanding as he left.
Josiah turned his attention back to Buck, who hadnt moved from his vigilant stance in front of Inez's prison.
"Buck, can I trust you stay here alone with Inez and not let her out?" Josiah had some books back at the church he wanted to review. He thought there were a few things he could try; incantations he could recite that might make all this go away. That is if she were truly possessed, but he couldn't leave if he couldn't trust Buck to do his duty.
Buck turned to look at him "Sure I'll take care of her. Don't you worry none." He smiled and Josiah knew the man was lying.
"Uh huh." Josiah grunted and stepped toward Buck. In one swift motion, he snagged the keys from Buck's hand and pushed him into the vacant cell.
"Josiah!" Buck tried to fight back but the former preacher wrapped him up in a fierce bear hug. "Let me go!"
With a final shove, Josiah sent Buck tumbling onto the bed and then locked the cell shut. "I'll be right back, so why don't you get some rest. I'm sure Nathan will be here any minute to check on Inez."
"Josiah! Don't do this. You know Inez didn't do nothing wrong. Ezra must a made her mad."
"Mad enough that if it had been anyone of us, we'd be dead?" Josiah stared at Buck, who finally looked away and collapsed onto the cot at the back of the cell.
"It don't make sense."
Josiah grimaced. "No it doesn't." But then the supernatural rarely did in his experience. Josiah had been a young man when the things that prowl the darkness invaded his world and destroyed his family.
His sister had gone wild, some thought crazy. Hannah had changed overnight from a loving sister into a wanton woman who disobeyed her family and shamed them with her behavior.
Then Bobby Singer had ridden into town and explained that she was possessed. Josiah had watched as the hunter had pulled the demon from his sister, a sight which he hoped he'd never see again. When it was all over, his father was dead, his sister's mind was gone, and after sequestering Hannah with the holy sisters, he'd left town with Bobby to learn about the real evils in the world.
"Josiah, you ok?" Buck called pulling Josiah from his unpleasant memories.
"No, Buck, I don't reckon that I'm ok at all," he said as he left.
Vin had settled himself in the hard chair by the bed, his legs stretched out in front of him as he waited for Ezra to revive. He'd had to stop Nathan from fussing over the gaping wound in Ezra's stomach.
"Won't do no good, Nathan," Vin had tried to explain. They'd cleaned up the blood and Vin had even retrieved a change of clothes for the gambler to wear once he woke up.
Now, Nathan was fretting and pacing around the small clinic. "Is it supposed to take this long?"
"Sit down, will ya?" Vin commanded. "I done told you it could be awhile, but he's coming back. Don't you worry."
Ezra chose that moment to gasp for breath and bolt upright in the bed.
"Welcome back, pard," Vin said cheekily.
"And once again I arise to find you grinning over me, Mr. Tanner." Ezra groaned and rubbed his temples. "Surely you must have better things to do with your time than watching over my dead body."
"Don't seem that I do," he chuckled before turning serious. "You remember what happened?"
Nathan had moved to take Ezra's pulse; confirming what his eyes were telling him. He stopped and stared at the tracker. "You've seen him come back before?"
Vin shifted in the uncomfortable chair and ignored Nathan's question, waiting for Ezra to answer his.
The gambler's eyes went wide. "Inez! Where is she?" He flung back the blankets and swung his feet to the floor.
"Where the hell do you think you're going?" Nathan reached out to push Ezra back onto the bed.
Ezra shrugged off the contact and stood. "Don't be ridiculous, Nathan. I'm fully healed." He spread the tatters of his white shirt to show smooth skin underneath.
"Don't matter, Ez. Several of the town folk, including Mary, saw us carrying you up here. They know you were hurt bad," Vin explained
Ezra stilled. They don't think I'm "
"No, but they do know a man don't get stabbed and then hours later go running through the town like it weren't nothing."
Ezra collapsed back on the bed. "Are you suggesting that I must feign serious injuries?"
"For at least a week," Nathan confirmed and held up some bandages. "Now let me wrap up your wounds."
Ezra glared at him. "Surely you jest, Mr. Jackson. I have no intention of letting you truss me up like a Thanksgiving turkey."
Nathan grinned. "Vin, hold him down while's I take care of the nasty shoulder wound. Wouldn't want it to get infected."
"I must protest!"
"Protest all ya want, Ez. Nathan's still gonna wrap you up."
"Don't ya 'Mr. Tanner' me, Immortal." Vin filled the word with a wealth of meaning. He was Ezra's watcher and he aimed to make sure he was still watching him in Four Corners for years to come.
Ezra collapsed back onto the bed with an exaggerated sigh. "I had hoped never to be the victim of your bedside manner again, Nathan, but it seems even as an Immortal I must suffer your ministrations."
"Better than suffering that gut wound," Nathan reminded him.
The room sobered as they realized how lucky it was that Inez had attacked him and not one of the others.
"You know why she done it?" Vin asked.
"I am at a loss." At their skeptical looks he added, "You can not believe that I could say anything to Inez that would have warranted such an attack."
Vin patted the gambler's leg. "Know that, Ez. Just wondered if she was upset or sumpthin'. Maybe -" he hesitated, "drunk."
"Never! Inez may imbibe a beer every now and again, but she was not drunk."
"Take your shirt off and raise your arms," Nathan instructed.
Groaning Ezra obeyed and the healer proceeded to wrap the bandages around his midsection.
"Ya really didn't notice anything that could have upset her enough ta want ta stab ya."
Ezra went silent as he replayed the evening in his mind. Shaking his head he replied, "There was nothing in her behavior to indicate that she was distressed in any way. We were speaking in the kitchen and I had given her the cameo as you and I had discussed. She was delighted with the gift, but moments later she attacked. I truly have no idea what came over her."
"'So'kay. When Inez wakes up maybe she can tell us why."
Ezra knew that given his need to revive in private they had not brought the unconscious woman to Nathan's clinic. "Where is the Senorita now?"
"With Josiah and Buck at the jail, locked in a cell."
"Jail! Good Lord, why is she in prison?"
"She attacked you. We had to," Vin explained.
Nathan finished with his task. "I better go check on Inez and let everyone know you're gonna live." Pausing at the door, he pointed a finger at Vin. "Don't let him leave."
"I do not require a nursemaid!" Ezra huffed.
"Come on, Ez. Here's a chance to put yur con man skills to work." Vin chuckled knowing that he wouldn't like spending a week in bed especially when he was feeling fine. "Make 'em think yur at death's door."
Ezra glared at him. "I despise that door."
+ + + + + + +
Dawn was still an hour away when Josiah returned to the jail having found the book required to perform the exorcism, assuming there was a demon inside the senorita, along with several other things he might need in his pockets. He entered to see Inez standing on the cot staring out the small window in her cell.
He looked over at Buck who was watching Inez with a deep sadness on his face.
"Did she tell you what happened?"
Buck shook his head. "When she woke up and saw me she screamed terrible things. When I tried to calm her down, she went for my gun." Buck swallowed; the words reluctant to be spoken. "Iffen she'd got it, I swear she would have shot me. The things she said, Josiah," he shook his head, "I didn't think Inez even knew some of them words."
Josiah grabbed the key to let Buck out. "Sorry I had to lock you up."
Buck exited the cell. "You were right. I was gonna let her out. Thought y'all were wrong to lock her up, but " he gestured to Inez who hadn't moved a muscle since Josiah had arrived, "something ain't right."
"You don't think " Buck hesitated as he refused to meet Josiah's questioning look. "You don't think she's gone crazy?" He whispered the last word as if speaking it aloud might make it true.
Josiah didn't know what to tell him and until he'd had a chance to examine Inez he wasn't going to pin that label on her. "Maybe Vin just hit her too hard and she's confused," he offered.
Before Buck could reply, the door opened and Nathan came in.
"How's Ezra?" Josiah asked, grateful to change the subject.
Nathan shook his head. "Damndest thing I've ever seen." He stopped when he caught sight of Inez. "He'll be fine in a couple of days. Hurt bad, but nothing fatal." He spun the lie for Inez's sake, but Josiah doubted she was in a position to care or even understand.
"How are you doing, Inez?" Nathan walked toward the cell, but Buck grabbed his arm.
"Don't get to close. Inez ain't 'xactly herself."
The barmaid stepped to the floor and seated herself stiffly on the bed. She stared at them and Josiah was sure it wasn't Inez looking out from behind those brown eyes.
Nathan nodded. "Still, I should have a look at her head." Buck stepped aside and Josiah moved behind Nathan, ready to pull him away if Inez went after him like she had Buck.
The healer called to her, "Inez, how're you feeling? If you come closer, I'd like to check your head; make sure Vin didn't hit ya too hard." When she didn't acknowledge him, Nathan added, "Ezra's just fine, Inez. No need to worry 'bout him, but "
Suddenly Inez rushed to the bars spitting out curses the men were sure they'd never heard from the barmaid's lips. The three took a step back as the rage poured off of her. "I killed him! I know I did. Bastard deserved to die!" She rattled the bars like a feral animal screaming for Ezra's death.
Quickly Josiah ushered his friends out of the jail.
"What the hell was that?" Nathan asked as he collapsed into one of the wooden chairs on the boardwalk.
Buck was in shock; staring at the jail door. The transformation in Inez had shaken him badly.
Josiah needed to get word to the Winchesters immediately, but he needed to be alone with Inez to have any chance of discovering what was controlling her.
"Buck, I need you to do me a favor and send a telegram to Eagle Bend to a friend of mine, Dean Winchester."
Buck shook off his malaise to glare angrily at Josiah. "Don't think now's the time to be wiring your friends."
"Trust me, Buck. Just tell him to come immediately."
Nathan stood. "You think this friend might know what's ailin' Inez?"
There'd be time later to explain what the Winchesters did and who Josiah had been in another life, but for now he just needed Buck to send that telegram.
"I do, and we need to get him and his brother here as fast as possible."
Buck breathed a sigh of relief, happy that they might have found a way to help Inez. "Well then, I think I can do that."
"Good. Nathan, you should be with Ezra, maintain the illusion of his injury," Josiah said. "I'll stay and watch over Inez."
The two men tipped their hats as they walked away leaving Josiah alone. Hesitantly he reentered the jail house. Inez was once again seated on the narrow cot watching him with dead eyes.
Josiah wasn't sure that Inez was possessed by a demon. He shuddered at the memory of his sister staring at him with the soulless black eyes of a demon right before the thing was ripped from her body. Inez wasn't looking at him that way, but he knew there were a few things he could do to be sure.
"Christo," he barked at her. Inez didn't flinch; didn't even move.
He waited another beat before moving to the pitcher of water on the small counter in the office area. He poured some water in a cup and quietly said the Latin which would purify it; turning it into Holy water. He knew he would never get Inez to drink it so he simply walked close enough to toss it on her.
She tilted her head as if asking why he'd done such a thing. It was the only reaction he got. Josiah was now convinced there wasn't a demon in Inez. He stepped closer willing her to come at him. He needed to touch her for the next test.
The creature did not disappoint. It charged, reaching through the bars for Josiah. He captured her arm and pressed a silver cross onto her forearm before pushing her away from him and stepped back to determine if the silver had had any effect.
She rubbed her wrist where Josiah has gripped it. She looked a little lost different than before. Had the silver worked?
"Inez?" He asked cautiously.
"What's going on?" She stepped closer, hands gripping the bars. "Why am I in here?"
Josiah studied her. "It's a long story, Inez, but I can't let you out just yet. You haven't been yourself. Do you remember what happened with Ezra?"
Inez stared at him; ignoring his question. "Can I have a drink of water?"
Something didn't seem right. He wanted to believe that Inez was back, but the barmaid would have asked about Ezra. He poured a cup and held it out to her, his other hand rested lightly on the knife on his belt. He was no fool.
She reached out and by-passing the cup she clasped her fingers around his wrist to pull him in close. Josiah was ready and unsheathing his knife dragged it across her exposed forearm. The cut was shallow, but effective allowing him to break free from her grasp.
"You bastard!" She shrieked as she clutched her arm to her chest.
Josiah had to stop himself from chuckling at the absurdity of her hurt expression. "I believe you are the one who attacked Ezra." He tossed a cloth into the cell so that she could take care of the arm. He wasn't going to get close again.
She ignored the bandage as she continued to stare at him, her eyes cold. "You're all the same. You only know how to hurt and abuse the women you claim to care about."
"No, we're not." It was clear that none of his tests had worked and, while ghostly possession was rare, he wondered if it was the sprit of a murdered woman who'd taken up residence in Inez. "Let me help you."
"Help me!" She laughed, the sound hollow and without mirth. "No man has ever helped me."
"Tell me who you are and I'll see that you're laid to rest properly."
"Someday all you men will be gone and we will be free," she sneered.
"Please let me help you," he repeated, but the thing inside Inez had gone back to staring out the window and he suspected he would learn no more from her.
Dean exited the telegraph office waving the slip of paper in Sam's direction. "Looks like we're heading to Four Corners."
Dean took the reigns of Impala from Sam and handed him the brief message as he mounted his horse.
"Come now. You're needed." Sam read the telegram. "And who's Buck Wilmington?"
Dean shook his head "I'm guessing Josiah had a friend send the telegram. Maybe he's another hunter."
"If we hurry, we can be there by lunchtime." Sam encouraged Poe to set a fast pace as the two brothers headed out of town.
Josiah had decided he could no longer tolerate the silent standoff in the jail and was happy to relinquish babysitting duties to Vin when the tracker had appeared to see Inez for himself. With a stern warning not to get too close, he had headed up to the church tower to watch for the brothers.
As he peered out onto the desert landscape, Josiah rolled his neck. The kinks of age and immobility were making his vigil uncomfortable, but he remained in the tower. He wanted to greet the brothers before they had a chance to hear what had happened from anyone else.
He'd been on watch for almost an hour when he was finally rewarded with the sight of two riders coming in fast.
Josiah headed downstairs and was waiting on the church steps when the Winchesters rode into town.
"Sam. Dean. Am I glad to see you boys." Josiah walked over to greet them as they dismounted.
"Wish it were under better circumstances," Sam said as he shook the older man's hand.
"Josiah," Dean acknowledged. "You got trouble too?"
Josiah nodded. "Just hope it's the same trouble you boys are chasing."
Handing their horses off to the boys at the livery, Josiah led the Winchesters back into the church. Conversations such as they needed to have shouldn't be done on the main street.
"So, what's going on here?" Sam asked as he settled into a pew beside his brother.
Josiah sat on the pew in front and turned to face them. "The bartender at the Saloon, Inez, is locked in our jail right now for attacking one of my friends, Ezra Standish, with a butcher knife."
"Sounds like our big nasty," Dean interrupted. "Let me guess. She filleted your friend before snapping his neck and now doesn't remember a thing."
Sam elbowed his brother who mouthed What back at him. "A little sensitivity, Dean. It's his friend."
"It's alright," Josiah said. "While Inez did stab him a couple a times, we were able to subdue her and Ezra's gonna make it."
"Really? He's very lucky," Sam said. "None of the other eight men have survived."
"Ezra may not think so right now; hurt like he is, but it's a damn sight better than dead." Josiah knew that if any of his other friends had been present when this thing had taken control of Inez, they'd be having a funeral today instead of a fake bedside vigil. "Eight other murders?" Josiah shook his head. "Do you have any idea what it is?"
"Unfortunately, while we were able to talk to the last woman it took over, we haven't figured out the identity off the thing that controlled her."
Sam quickly filled Josiah in on the details of the other cases. "We'll need to talk to Ezra; maybe he can help us find this thing."
"No need to talk to him, I know exactly where it is," Josiah said. "Whatever this evil is, it's still inside Inez ."
Dean stood, excited by the possibility that they might be able to end the killing. "Why are we sitting here yakking? Let's go waste this evil son of a bitch."
"Wait a minute, Dean," Sam said, pulling his brother back down. "We still don't know what it is. We didn't think it was a demon, but have you tried to exorcise it?"
He nodded. "You're right, it's not a demon and it's not bothered by silver or iron," Josiah said, remembering how Inez had held onto the iron bars of her cell.
"That eliminates a lot of things," Sam agreed. "You think the Sherriff will let us see her."
Josiah laughed. "Now that isn't a problem since I'm part of the law in this town."
"You're the Sheriff? Dean asked, incredulous.
"Actually, I'm one of seven who protect the town. Ezra's another."
"Well that makes one aspect of our job easier." Dean smiled.
"Right now, Vin's watching Inez; he's another of our group. But it shouldn't be a problem sending him off or keeping the others away."
"Even if we free her of what's controlling her, I suppose she'll go to prison for nearly killing a lawman," Sam said sadly. "We couldn't stop them from hanging the last woman."
"You let me worry about saving Inez from the law; you just save her from this evil." Josiah was certain Ezra wouldn't want to punish Inez even if he couldn't come up with a plausible explanation for her behavior.
"Sammy thinks that it might be a cursed object. This Inez have any unusual jewelry or wearing anything new that might be the source?"
"I can't say that I would notice something like that, but it's as good a theory as any."
"Then I say we strip her down and burn everything she's wearing," Dean suggested.
"That's gonna be tough to do," Josiah said. "She's a hellcat; attacking anyone who comes near. Plus, I'm not sure I'm comfortable striping Inez naked. Don't seem decent."
Dean shook his head. "I got no problem doing it. If the evil isn't in her, than it's on her."
Sam was also uncomfortable with the idea of humiliating Inez this way without knowing exactly what they were looking for. "We should talk to Ezra first before we go stripping Inez. He might have seen something during the attack that will help us."
"I already said that there's no reason to talk to Ezra!" Josiah realized he'd spoken a little too forcefully, but he wasn't about to let the brothers anywhere near Ezra. He knew that many in the hunter community would view the Immortal as an evil to be dispatched and wouldn't see that Ezra and Charlotte were good decent people with a quirk of biology. He didn't know which side of that line the Winchesters would fall, nor was he going to risk finding out. "I mean Ezra's hurt bad," he clarified. "He's really not up for strangers pestering him with questions."
The brothers exchanged a worrisome glance, but didn't challenge Josiah on his story. "So we're back to strip searching Inez," Dean said.
"Suppose I should get something for her to put on after we're done," Josiah said as he stood. "I've got a robe she can wear." He headed toward the back of the church.
+ + + + + + +
"He sure got all twitchy whenever we asked to see Ezra," Dean said after waiting for Josiah to disappear into the back room.
"It's only natural that he's worried for his friend. Why? You think he's hiding something?"
Dean shrugged. "Not sure, but this may be more complicated than we thought." He didn't really know Josiah all that well, but something just didn't sit right and Dean wasn't one to ignore those feelings.
"Ya think?" Sam snorted and Dean had to chuckle his agreement. This hunt was already too complicated.
Josiah had come back into the sanctuary, and Dean silently indicated to his brother that they'd talk about it later as they rose to follow the big man out of the church.
+ + + + + + +
As they approached, the door to the jail was flung open and an irate woman stormed out followed by a long haired man in a buckskin jacket.
Dean eyed the attractive young woman with appreciation. Her green eyes were startling set against her light mocha-colored skin; she was dressed in a yellow silk skirt with matching jacket over a white blouse, which all seemed just a little too fancy for such a backwater town.
"Cecily, I done told you not to get too close," the man said as he grabbed her arm trying to stop her escape.
"I have been manhandled enough for one day, Vin Tanner," she snapped pulling her arm free from his grasp. "I don't care what Ezra says; that woman is a menace and I will see she pays for what she's done." She turned and headed across the street
"Everything alright, Miss Cecily?" Josiah asked as she passed them by.
Cecily pivoted gracefully, sending her skirts swirling in a delicate wave. "Ask him." She indicated Vin. "I'm going back to sit with my brother," she said, before completing her circular motion and continuing on her way.
Dean watched with amusement; that woman was a real spitfire. He might just have to introduce himself when this was over.
Vin huffed in exasperation and made to follow Cecily, but Josiah blocked his path.
"Cecily happened," Vin snapped, as if that explained everything. At Josiah's raised eyebrow, he continued, "She came storming into the jail, determined to give Inez a piece of her mind for hurting Ez. JD tried to stop her and so did I, but "
Josiah chuckled. "No one stops Cecily when she's got her mind set on something."
"'Xactly," Vin agreed. "She marches right up to the cell and before I knew it, Inez had her arm around Cecily's waist trapping her against the bars. Got her loose right quick, but now she's all mad at me like I let it happen."
Josiah clapped the younger man on the shoulder. "She'll forgive you eventually," he teased.
Vin smiled. "Well, they say makin' up's the best part."
He gestured toward where Cecily was climbing the stairs to what Dean assumed was the sick room where Ezra was resting. "Left JD inside. I best stop her from pesterin' Ezra about Inez." Vin glanced at Dean and Sam as he continued to address Josiah. "He don't need the upset in his - condition."
Dean was watching Vin carefully and he heard it again; the same hesitation that Josiah had had when he'd talked about Ezra.
"She's damn lucky," Dean said. "Understand Inez did a real number on your friend. Cut him up pretty good."
"He's gonna be fine." Vin eyed Dean with suspicion. "These your friends that Buck sent for?"
Sam extended his hand. "Sam Winchester, and this is my brother Dean."
"Vin Tanner." He shook both brothers' hands. "How ya gonna help Inez?"
"We've actually been hired by the family of another victim to find their brother's killer and our search has led us here."
"Inez ain't your killer!"
Sam held his hands up in a placating gesture. "You misunderstand. We think there is a killer out there that's using woman to commit these crimes. I suspect when we talk to Inez, we will find that she's been drugged or in some way manipulated to kill for him."
Dean had to smile. Sammy sure knew how to spin what they did into a story that the civilians accepted. He hadn't actually lied, but his brother's version of the truth was a lot more palatable then 'Inez is under the influence of an evil entity'.
"Why would some guy want ta make Inez kill Ezra?"
"Well that's the big question, isn't it?" Sam acknowledged. "We think he enjoys watching the women suffer for crimes they had no control over and don't remember committing."
Vin shook his head. "That's That's . "
"I know," Sam said sympathetically. "It's hard to imagine there's evil like that in the world."
"We need to talk to Inez," Dean interrupted. They'd spent enough time pacifying the civilian and needed to get to work. "See if we can find out what happened and maybe even who our killer is."
"Vin, why don't you go rescue Ezra from Cecily," Josiah said. "We've got work to do."
Vin nodded and tipped his hat in farewell.
Josiah chuckled as he watched Vin walk away. "Helluva story there, Sam."
Sam shrugged. "Think he bought it?"
"Yeah, and soon everyone will. I think you may have found a way to save Inez from prison and maybe even Cecily's wrath."
+ + + + + + +
JD spun around when they entered the jail. "Am I glad to see you, Josiah. I think something's wrong with Inez."
"We know, JD." He looked past the kid to see Inez sitting on the cot, head bowed.
Josiah quickly introduced Sam and Dean to the young lawman and then repeated the tall tale that Sam had spun for Vin.
"JD, it's best you take off. We need to talk with Inez."
"I got afternoon patrol anyway and I'll keep an eye out for any strangers. Nice meetin' ya," JD chirped as he exited the jail.
Once JD was gone, Dean wandered over to stand in front of the cell. "Hey, bitch, you wanna tell us who you really are?"
Sam rolled his eyes as he came to stand by his brother. "Subtle, Dean."
Inez looked up at them, tears streaming down her face, a terrified look in her eyes. "I don't understand. Who are you?" She looked past the brothers to lock eyes with Josiah. "Por favor, padre. What is this cruel joke?"
Josiah exchanged a concerned glance with Sam and Dean. "She tried to fool me before, but somehow this feels different."
Inez slowly approached the bars. "Por favor," she begged again. "JD said I attacked Senor Standish; stabbed him. Why would he say I did this terrible thing?"
"You don't remember?" Sam asked.
The barmaid shook her head, long back tresses falling over her face. "I was talking with Senor Standish as we closed the bar and now I am here," she swiped at her eyes as she snuffled back tears. "I do not remember how I got here."
Sam took a tentative step forward.
"Careful, Sam," Dean warned.
"It's ok, Inez." He reached out to touch the hand that was clasped around the iron bar. "My name is Sam Winchester and I'm here to find out what happened."
Josiah and Dean went on alert, waiting for Inez to act out. Instead she leaned her head dejectedly against the bars. "Gracias, Senor. You must believe me. I did not hurt Senor Ezra."
Dean looked at Josiah. "I gather she wasn't like this before?"
The preacher shook his head. "You couldn't get close without her attacking. Whatever was controlling her I think it may be gone now."
Inez's head shot up. "Controlling me? Madre Dios. Was I possesed?"
Sam nodded. "Something like that." He suspected that the senorita was a Catholic and therefore open to the possibility of possession. If it got them some answers, he was willing to fan that belief until they found the real culprit.
Shocked, Inez backed toward the cot and sat down hard. "Madre Dios," she repeated and crossed herself.
"Inez, do you feel its presence?" Josiah asked.
She shook her head, but the tears were flowing freely again. "What did it make me do?" She jumped back up looked at Josiah. "Ezra! He will be well? He won't " she left the thought hanging.
"Ezra's fine. A few days bed rest and he'll be back playing poker and taking folks money."
Inez breathed a sigh of relief before a new fear arose. "Am I safe from this evil? Will it come back?"
"We don't know," Sam replied.
Dean pulled Josiah and Sam away from the cell. "You really believe she's herself again?" he whispered.
Josiah nodded. "The hard look is gone from her eyes."
"And her demeanor is exactly like Maggie Courtland, the woman I interviewed in Eagle Bend," Sam confirmed. "Whatever was controlling her is definitely gone."
"Then where'd it go?" Dean growled. "What happened between the attack on that girl " He gestured to Josiah for a name.
"Cecily," Josiah supplied.
"And now? What made this thing decide it was time to move on?"
Sam stared at him and Dean could almost see the wheels turning in his little brother's brain. Sam walked back to the cell. "Inez, what's the first thing you remember from when you came back to yourself?"
The barmaid got a thoughtful look on her face. "Senor Tanner was yelling at me to leave the senorita alone, but I don't remember touching her."
The three hunters exchanged concerned looks. "Sam you don't think " Dean saw the same thought forming in the others' faces.
"Cecily!" Josiah barked. "It had to have jumped to her. We have to stop her before it takes hold and she hurts someone."
Josiah rushed to the door. "She's probably still visiting with Ezra. You boys stay here; watch Inez."
Dean was about to protest when Sam grabbed his arm cutting him off. "Go on, Josiah."
The older hunter tipped his hat and was out the door.
"Sam?" Dean was curious why they'd let Josiah go off to face the threat alone.
"He did it again."
Dean nodded as he realized what Sam meant. It was another attempt by Josiah to keep them away from Ezra.
Sam turned back to Inez. "We have to leave you locked up; just to be safe. Will you be alright alone?"
"Si! Si! Go find Senorita Cecily," she said, waving them away.
Sam and Dean exited the jail in time to see Josiah climbing the stairs to the room above the livery. Dean was tired of being in the dark. If Cecily was the new host, he didn't understand why Josiah would be foolish enough to face it alone; unless he had something to hide.
"Dean, we can't just go busting in there."
"Don't plan too. Figure we listen outside. Maybe find out what's gong on with this Ezra guy. And if Cecily's 'infected' well then ." He shrugged.
"We have a reason to go barreling in." Sam smiled.
Hurrying up the stairs, they paused on the balcony. Dean leaned back to his brother and pointed. "Left the ajar," he whispered and positioned himself to peer inside.
He could see Josiah holding Cecily by both shoulders as their voices drifted from the room. An auburn haired man was sitting on the edge of the bed. His shirt was hanging partially open and Dean could see bandages wrapping his torso as well as a discarded sling in his lap. That had to be Ezra.
"Josiah, let go of me," Cecily shouted.
The big man held onto her, and Dean could tell he was searching for signs of the entity's existence.
"Unhand my sister, Josiah," said a southern accented voice as the auburn haired man pushed his way between Josiah and Cecily.
"I'm sorry, Miss Cecily, but I had to be sure Inez didn't he paused as he searched for the right word, "-infect you."
"Infect me?" Cecily snapped. "The woman mauled me!"
"Josiah, what are ya sayin'?" Vin asked. "That Inez is ill? She got some kinda disease?"
"She may have and I was worried for Miss Cecily, but she appears to be unharmed."
"Hardly unharmed," Cecily protested.
"A little shaken maybe, but not infected," Josiah continued, "and the good news is that Inez is herself again."
"Well, that is a relief." Ezra smiled. "I was worried for her. I assume you've freed her from her cell?"
"Freed her? Ezra, she attacked you!" Cecily crossed her arms as she glared at her brother. "She should be punished."
"Don't be ridiculous, Cecily." Ezra dismissed her concerns with a wave of his hand. "I have no intention of punishing Inez."
Cecily huffed her displeasure. "She could have killed you." When Ezra chuckled, it only fueled her ire. "You know what I mean."
Dean was relieved that Cecily appeared to be unaffected by her contact with Inez, but he did wonder at the odd exchange between the siblings. He indicated to Sam that Ezra Standish sure didn't look like a man who'd been brutally stabbed not twelve hours ago and Sam nodded his agreement.
"You two need to stop this bickering, and you," a tall black man interrupted and pointed at Ezra, "need to be back in bed - now! You want someone to see you up and around?"
"Nathan " Ezra began to protest
"Now, Ezra!" Nathan repeated.
Another man with a mustache was leaning against the far wall laughing. "Don't envy ya, having to stay in bed when ya ain't hurt."
"Your sympathies are duly noted, Buck," Ezra groused, but made no move to get back in bed.
Dean frowned as heard Buck confirm everything he'd suspected. They were protecting Ezra; pretending that he'd been injured by Inez.
He stepped away from his eavesdropping post and pulled Sam with him. "Ezra's not hurt. Why do you think Josiah is protecting that guy? You think he could be the real killer?" he whispered.
Sam nodded. "It's a possibility. There's definitely something not right about Ezra. Maybe he's got a form of mind control."
Dean pulled his gun. "Then we best make this quick."
Sam put a hand on the weapon. "You're not gonna shoot him. What if we're wrong? Plus, we don't even know if bullets'll hurt him."
"I'm not gonna shoot him," Dean hissed. "But I'm not going to knock all polite and wait to be admitted, so they can lie to us. I want to catch him off guard."
"Just a show of force to demand some answers?" When Dean nodded, Sam continued, drawing his weapon, "Alright then, but if we get shot it's your fault."
Dean chuckled as he moved back to the door and signaling to Sam he kicked it the rest of the way open. As it slammed against the inner wall, he cocked his gun and pointed it at Ezra's heart; beside him Sam did the same.
+ + + + + + +
Vin spun around at the sound of the door impacting the wall followed by the click of a hammer being cocked. He had his mare's leg drawn and pointed at the intruders before he'd fully registered that it was the Winchester brothers standing in the doorway, their guns pointed at Ezra. Vin saw that Nathan and Buck had also drawn weapons. He was amused to see that even Cecily had pulled a little derringer out of her pocket and relieved that Ezra had moved to protect her from the possibility of a shoot out in the small room.
He was just about to question why these men, who were supposed to be helping Inez, were instead threatening to attack when Josiah beat him to it.
"Dean, Sam, what the hell are you doing?" the preacher demanded as he stepped between his friends and the Winchesters.
"I could ask you the same question." Dean gestured to Ezra with his gun. "He sure don't look like a man who's been stabbed."
Ezra looked down and placed a hand on his stomach as if suddenly remembering his injury. He staggered back. "Buck, a little assistance please." He reached out to his friend.
"I gotcha, Ez." Buck grabbed the offered hand and helped ease the gambler back into the bed.
Dean snorted. "If he's injured, then I'm the president."
"Well, Mr. President," Vin drawled, while silently cursing their carelessness. "You're out gunned, so it'd be best if you just holstered your weapon and get gone; you and your brother."
"That ain't likely to happen until you tell us the truth about Mr. Standish there."
"Dean, whatever it is you think you know," Josiah said, "youre wrong."
"Am I?" Dean took a step closer to the older man, his gun still at the ready.
Sam placed a hand on his brother's shoulder and eased him back from the escalating confrontation. "We made a mistake. This isn't the way," he whispered. Making a show of uncocking his gun, Sam placed it back into its holster and glared at Dean until he did the same.
In response to Sam's gesture of good faith, Vin tilted his gun down and slowly rehosltered it. Around the room, the others did the same.
Nathan immediately moved to Ezra's side and began fussing quietly over the 'injured' man.
Vin wished that he could get Cecily out of here, this was no place for a lady, but she would not meet his gaze and seemed preoccupied as she moved back into the corner of the room away from them all.
Sam finally broke the silence. "Josiah, you know the killer we're chasing won't stop. Why are you protecting him?" He gestured toward Ezra.
Vin was stunned. "Killer? You think Ezra - " The idea was so ridiculous that he couldn't finish the sentence.
"Ezra ain't no killer," Buck growled.
Josiah waved his friends into silence. "I swear to you boys that the thing you're chasing ain't Ezra."
Sam tilted his head as he stared at the preacher trying to discern the truth of his words. "It's obvious you're hiding something."
"Believe what you want," Josiah shook his head, "but we need to be focusing on finding out what happened to Inez. Ezra is the victim here."
"That's it!" Dean snapped and stalked toward the bed. "Let's see that wound. You show it to me and I'll make with the apology."
Buck blocked the older Winchester's progress. "You ain't touching him."
"Just show me the damn stab wound!" Dean tried to get around Buck, but the taller man was immovable and his gun was out again.
"Try that again, and I'll shoot ya."
Dean backed off. "Why won't you people just admit that Ezra was never stabbed; that you're protecting a killer."
"I assure you gentlemen," Ezra spoke quietly, his voice raspy. "Inez did stab me, but I have no intention of showing you ruffians anything. Now if you don't mind," he waved a hand weakly at the door, "I do need my rest."
The gambler was doing his best to look pale and sickly, but any closer examination would reveal the truth. While Vin was impressed by Ezra's performance, he knew that it was too little too late. The Winchester brothers had heard too much and Ezra had allowed his own stubbornness to put his secret at risk. There was only one solution in Vin's mind.
The tracker put a hand on Dean's shoulder and whirled him around to face him, but spoke to Josiah as he favored Dean with his best imitation of the Larabee glare. "Josiah, think we've been more that friendly, but your friends drew on the law in this town, so unless they want me ta put them in jail for attempted murder, I think you best help them saddle their horses and escort them outta town."
"Vin, is that really necess "
"Now, Josiah," Vin repeated. "Buck, Nathan, y'all best help Dean find his horse."
"Happy to," Buck said as he grabbed Dean by the upper arm and began to usher him out of the room.
"Now wait a minute!" Dean said a he struggled against Buck's grip. "Josiah, you know it will kill again. Josiah!" Nathan grabbed Dean's other arm and together he and Buck escorted him out of the room. "Sam!" he cried over his shoulder. "Do something!"
Sam just stood by and Vin knew that he was debating between helping his brother and preventing this from escalating into an all out brawl. "Josiah," Sam implored. "You need us. There's a killer on the loose and maybe some kind of mind control going on. You may not even realize it."
Josiah just pointed toward the door. "I think Vin's right. It's best if you both leave," he said, then added cryptically, "I can finish the job alone."
Reluctantly, Sam headed out the door with Josiah right behind. Vin could still hear Dean's protests drifting up the stairs before they were cut off with the closing of the clinic door.
+ + + + + + +
Vin sagged as the adrenaline from the confrontation waned.
"Vin, I'm "
The tracker held up a hand. "Save it, Ezra. I dont want to hear it."
Ezra nodded his head and sank down into the bed; finally accepting his role as an injured man.
Across the room Cecily had her back to them. Vin noticed the tension in her slight frame and was worried that the excitement had upset her. Walking over to her, he laid a comforting hand on her arm.
She whirled on him with hatred in her green eyes. "Don't touch me!" she shouted.
"Cecily, I meant no disres "
"You heathenish backwoods savage. Dont you ever touch me!"
Vin stepped back as if he'd been slapped. Every concern he'd had about him not being good enough for a woman like Cecily came crashing down on him. "I'm sorry if I did something wrong."
"Wrong?" She laughed coldly. "Bastard! You think that you can share a few romantic poems with me and I'll spread my legs for you. You're nothing but an illiterate wretch!"
Vin was stunned by the venom in her words. He looked away unable to handle the hatred in her gaze. Something wasn't right; on one level he knew that and yet the emotional part of his brain couldn't get past the idea that she was right; he wasn't worthy of her.
Cecily!" Ezra snapped. "What is wrong with you " he stopped. "Oh no!"
Vin looked over to see the color draining from Ezra's face as he scrambled out of bed. When he turned toward Cecily again, she'd drawn her derringer. He furrowed his brow in confusion, "Cecily, what are you doing?"
"I hate you!" she screamed as she cocked the weapon.
It all happened in the blink of an eye, but to Vin it seemed to take hours. This woman that he cared for was aiming a pistol at his heart. He just stood there unable to completely register what was happening. As she pulled the trigger, Ezra jumped between them taking the bullet full in the chest.
The Immortal grunted as the impact pushed him backwards into Vin. The tracker lost his balance as the full weight of his friend crashed into him sending them both to the floor. Ezra was a dead weight, literally, and Vin struggled to push his friend aside as Cecily loomed over him.
"One dead and so many more to go." She sneered as she pointed the derringer at him again and pulled the trigger.
Dean shrugged off Buck and Nathan's hold as he headed down the steps. He was angry and confused about what had just occurred. Maybe Sam had been right and going in there guns blazing hadn't been the best idea. While he was still positive that Ezra was hiding something, he was less convinced that it had anything to do with the evil they were hunting.
They had no idea where this thing had gone, but it had to be here in town; Dean was sure of it. If it hadn't infected Cecily, and if it could have left at anytime, why had it stayed for hours in Inez? What had changed that allowed it to move on?
Buck prodded him. "Horses are that way." He pointed to the livery. "Get going."
Dean whirled, getting in Buck's face. "You poke me again, and so help me "
Buck pushed Dean away. "You'll what?"
Dean clenched his fist, but was stopped from acting when Sam grabbed his wrist. "Let it go!" he hissed in his brother's ear.
He grunted in frustration as he allowed Sam pulled him away from Buck. "We're not leaving," he growled.
"Just," Sam stared his brother down, "just let me handle it."
"Boys, I think it's best if you go," Josiah said. It was clear that he didn't really want them too.
"I understand you're protecting Ezra." Sam held up a hand to stop Josiah's protest. "I believe you when you say he's not involved, and we'll respect your wishes to stay away from him, but you have to let us help you find this thing."
"Thing?" Nathan interjected. "Whatcha mean thing? That's the second time you've used that word. Thought Inez was drugged or sick. That's what ya told Vin."
The three hunters exchanged a look and Dean gestured for Josiah to take the lead. They were his friends after all, and it was probably time to tell them the truth. It might even give him and Sam the leverage they needed to not only stay in town, but find out about Ezra. And regardless of what Sam had promised, he was going to get to the bottom of that situation too.
Josiah nodded. "I think "
His words were cut off as the sound of a small caliber gunshot pierced the air.
For a split second no one breathed, and then as one they raced toward the steps to the clinic, Buck leading the way. Before they reached the top another gunshot rang out.
"Shit!" Dean said as he followed Buck into the room.
Cecily was straddling Vin, hands clasped around his neck as she choked the life out of him. Vin was trying in vain to bat her arms away, but a bullet wound in his right shoulder had rendered that arm useless.
Buck raced over and grabbing her from behind, pinning her arms to her side as he yanked her away from Vin while Dean reached for her legs.
Dean grunted as one of her high heeled boots impacted his shin. "Rope!" he yelled as he struggled to maintain his hold on the violent woman. "We need to tie her up!"
"NO!" she screeched. "He has to die! All men have to die! You're all bastards!"
The two men were losing their hold on Cecily as she fought to break free.
"A little help here!" Buck yelled.
"Don't touch me! Don't touch me!"
"We need to knock her out!" Sam raised his gun and brought it down on Cecily's head.
She slumped against Buck, out cold. Dean loosened his grip and helped Buck maneuver Cecily into a chair. Josiah, having found some rope, began tying her up.
The task finished, Dean took a deep breath and let it out as he surveyed the room. Nathan was already at Vin's side, and with Sam's help had moved the injured man onto the bed.
"Buck, get some tea going. Vin's throat's gonna be awful sore."
"Sure thing, Nathan." Buck busied himself preparing the brew.
Help me get his coat and shirt off," the healer said to Sam. "Need to see how bad he's hurt."
Vin was groggy, but conscious, and hissed as his clothing was removed.
"Looks like it went through the fleshy part of your upper arm. You were lucky it was a small bullet, still gonna need stitched though."
Josiah had moved to kneel by Ezra's body. It was then that Dean realized that one of the shots had ended the man's life. Dean walked over and laid a hand on Josiah's shoulder.
"I'm sorry for your loss, Josiah," he said softly. "I guess I was wrong about him."
"Get them out of here, Buck," Vin gasped out, his voice weak from his ordeal.
"You can't be serious?" Sam said. "After this, you need our help."
"He's right, Vin," Josiah said. "I thought Cecily was fine, but she's possessed by evil and I need their help to figure out how to purge it from her."
"What do you mean possessed; like a demon?" Nathan asked.
"Actually, Josiah performed the exorcism rites on Inez and it didn't work; so we're pretty sure it's not a demon," Sam explained. "But something is controlling her and we need to figure out what it is before it has a chance to jump to someone else."
"That's crazy!" Buck said. "Josiah, you don't actually believe this?"
"I do, brother." The preacher nodded solemnly as he stood. "There's a world of evil out there; demons, ghosts, the stuff of nightmares, and I spent much of my youth fighting it." He turned his attention to Vin. "But I ain't never seen anything like what's got control of Cecily. I need their help."
Buck looked over at the unconscious woman. "To hear Inez and Cecily speak and act like they done well - I guess I'm willing to believe something evil is at work."
Vin shook his head and glared at Josiah before shifting his eyes to Ezra. "Whatever it is we'll handle it, but they need to go," he rasped and swallowed roughly.
"I know you think so, Vin, but maybe it's time to stop worrying about our secrets and just let these boys save Cecily."
Dean could see that Vin was conflicted, the girl obviously meant a lot to him. He nodded at Sam to play the diplomat; it was what his brother did best.
"I know you've lost one of your own," Sam said sympathetically. "And we respect that, but if we don't figure out what's controlling Cecily, you may be burying more people. And she may not survive the ordeal."
Vin's eye went wide at the idea that Cecily might die and looked to Josiah. Dean saw a silent understanding pass between them.
"I'll take full responsibility," Josiah said.
"Damn right you will, Josiah." Vin tilted his head toward Cecily as he addressed the Winchesters. "Help her, please."
+ + + + + + +
Vin couldn't bring himself to really look at Cecily. If the Winchesters were to be believed, she wasn't responsible for the things shed said, but that didn't stop them from hurting.
He and Cecily had been courting a few weeks; yet, he had worried daily that she would change her mind and realize that he wasn't the kind of man for her.
"You sure its a good idea to let them stay?" Nathan whispered, bringing Vin out of his misery.
There was more at stake here than his relationship with Cecily and he needed to stay focused on that.
"Let's just hope they get it figured out quick." He looked at his shoulder as Nathan finished up the stitches. "Can't believe she shot me," he said sadly.
Nathan patted his arm and handed Vin his shirt. "She wasn't herself, Vin."
Vin wanted to believe that Nathan was right, but he couldn't shake the feeling that the words had come from somewhere inside Cecily, and only in her crazed state had she told the truth.
They fell into silence as the voices across the room garnered their attention.
Dean, Sam and Josiah were standing in front of Cecily, debating their next move.
"I'm at a loss, boys," Josiah said. "We've checked iron, silver and demonic possession. Even though I cut Inez, Cecily isn't wounded, so it can't be blood transfer."
"So we're back to cursed object," Dean insisted. "I say we strip her down and burn everything she's wearing; clothes, jewelry, all of it."
Vin jumped to his feet and pushed his way between the brothers. "You ain't stripping her nekked."
"We have to get rid of the thing that's cursed," Dean shot back.
"You don't know for sure what this object is, and until you do you ain't touching her!"
"Fine." Dean stepped back, hands up. "You tell us what to burn and we'll burn it."
Vin glared at Dean before turning his attention to Cecily. It pained him to see her this way; unconscious and tied up. He furrowed his brow in confusion as he noticed that she was wearing the cameo that Ezra had shown him last night.
"What?" Sam asked having noticed the look on Vin's face
"Don't know if it matters, but Ezra told me he gave that necklace to Inez." He pointed to the cameo around Cecily's neck. "And I saw she was wearing it when I was on jail duty this morning. I don't understand how Cecily got it."
"Where'd Ezra get the necklace?" Sam asked.
Vin noticed a look pass between the brothers, and Vin knew they were back to thinking that Ezra was responsible for everything.
"Ezra ain't at fault," he growled. "He won it off a fella that was passing through, and gave it ta Inez 'cause she thought it was pretty."
"Was the man from Eagle Bend?" When Vin nodded, Sam smiled. "It has to be the cameo then."
"Why?" Buck asked.
Sam quickly explained to Vin, Nathan and Buck about the pattern of deaths they'd been following. "The real reason we came to town was because we suspected that there was a cursed object being unwittingly transferred from town to town."
"You make it sound like this object is conscious; knows what it's doing," Nathan said.
"They kinda do." Sam shrugged and at their quizzical looks continued, "Cursed objects often have compulsions placed on them. In this case, the cameo made women attack men they cared about."
Dean picked up the thread of exposition. "Once Inez attacked Ezra, she was locked up and had fulfilled her usefulness. The curse must have seen Cecily as a way out, and Inez was compelled to pass the necklace along."
Sam nodded. "It's the only explanation for why Cecily now has the cameo."
Vin knew he should be more skeptical about the story that the Winchesters were telling. On the other hand, he worked every day with a man who couldnt die; so was it really that much of a stretch to believe that curses existed? He looked at Buck and Nathan, and he knew that they were having the same thought.
Josiah shook his head. "But I'm sure Cecily wasn't wearing the cameo when I first examined her."
Sam hesitated as he thought the situation through. "Then it was in her pocket or in the folds of her dress. I'm sure Inez planted it on her, and eventually she felt compelled to put it on, allowing the entity to take over to attack Vin and Ezra."
"Is it really that easy after everything that's happened?" Josiah asked. "We simply have to burn the necklace?"
"Only one way to find out." Dean reached for the necklace.
"Wait, Dean," Sam said, grabbing his wrist. "We need to wake her up and make sure she's still in its thrall before we remove it. Just to be sure."
"On the floor!" came a disgruntled voice from the other side of the bed. "Couldn't one of you gentlemen at least put me back in the bed?"
Damn! Vin thought. He knew, that having seen Ezra's dead body, they'd be unable to keep the Immortal's secret from the Winchesters, but Vin had hoped they'd have more time to figure out how to explain the situation to Dean and Sam.
"What the hell?" Dean barked as he whirled around to see a very much alive Ezra Standish stand up and begin straightening his bloody shirt. Dean pulled his gun and found it immediately covered by Josiah's hand.
"Let's not be too hasty," Josiah said. "You were right we were protecting Ezra, but it's not what you think."
Dean holstered his weapon and indicated to Josiah that he was willing to wait for an explanation. Vin was grateful that the hotheaded Winchester brother seemed to be ready to trust them.
Ezra froze as he registered Dean and Sam's presence in the room. He flicked his gaze to Vin. "Why are they still here?" he asked as he massaged his temples, and Vin knew Ezra was trying to overcome the lethargy that always seemed to accompany his resurrection.
"Sorry about them being here, Ezra." He tilted his head towards the Winchesters. "But with Cecily shooting you and me, we kind of needed their help to figure out what was happening."
Ezra's eyes went wide as the memories from before his death came into focus. "Cecily! She shot you?"
"She was out of control, Ez," Vin said as his hand touched his throat. It was still sore, but the memory of the hatred in Cecily's eyes as she tried to kill him was so much more painful. "Tried ta choke me. We had to tie her up."
It was then that Ezra noticed Cecily tied to the chair and stepped quickly to be by her side, but Dean and Sam blocked his way.
"I suggest you gentlemen move and allow me access to my sister." The gambler's eyes were dark and his tone threatening.
"Why don't you tell us what you are first?" Sam said calmly, trying to head off another confrontation. "You all say it's not connected to what's affecting her, but I'm not willing to let you near her without understanding exactly how it is you're still alive."
"No!" Vin said, getting tired of the conflict. All that mattered was Cecily: not Ezra's feelings and certainly not what the Winchesters wanted. "First you help Cecily, and then I promise we'll explain why Ez ain't dead."
Ezra turned and raised an eyebrow at his watcher. "Are we sharing my secrets with everyone these days?"
"Got no choice," Josiah said. "Now boys," he gestured at the Winchesters, "let's finish this."
Sam figured that in a room full of trigger-happy gunslingers, and he included his brother in that description, it would be up to him to make sure things went as smoothly as possible. Dean and Josiah had apparently come to the same conclusion and both had silently encouraged Sam to take charge.
He turned to face Cecily and silently planned what needed to be done. Behind him he could hear Vin talking with Ezra; calming the man down and filling him in on what had occurred while he'd been unconscious.
No, Sam thought. The man had been dead. He shook his head trying to wrap his mind around the idea that Ezra had come back to life, and apparently, his friends did not find that fact to be all that unusual. He didn't know Josiah very well, but Bobby had trained the man, trusted him, and that went a long way toward Sam trusting Josiah too. While Sam still wasn't comfortable with the whole situation, he had to believe that if the older hunter had seen the gambler as a threat, Josiah would have taken Ezra out himself.
Sam knew that before he and Dean got an explanation of the mystery surrounding Ezra, they had to confirm what was controlling Cecily and deal with it. In order to do that, they needed to wake her up and confirm that the cameo was indeed a cursed object.
He looked over at Nathan. "Do you have any smelling salts; something we can use to bring her around?"
The healer nodded and began rummaging around on his shelves. "Found them," he announced and handed a small vial to Sam.
A fire was already going in Nathan's small stove and that would be used for the final step of burning, really melting, the cameo. "Dean, we'll need salt."
He nodded, and without a word, left the room to retrieve their supply from his saddle bags.
"Whatcha need salt for?" Buck asked.
"We have to salt and burn the cameo," Sam explained. "The purity of the salt and fire should cleanse the object and destroy the source of its evil."
"And if it doesn't? Ezra asked. "What if you are wrong about the cameo? What if Cecily - "
Sam turned to look at Ezra, who was staring fixedly at Cecily. Sam could sense the fear for her safety and sanity that the man was trying very hard to conceal. As he looked around the room, Sam saw similar fears on all their faces.
"We will save her," Sam said simply. "It's what we do and we won't stop until we figure out how to release her from its hold."
Josiah came to stand between Vin and Ezra, laying a hand on each man's shoulder in a show of support. "I know you are worried, but I trust them. They are very good at what they do."
The older hunter's eyes met Sam's in unspoken confirmation that he truly did believe the Winchesters could do as they promised. Sam was flattered that Josiah believed in their abilities and was determined not to let them down. He hoped once Cecily was free, and the evil excised, that these men would be able to reciprocate that trust. As much as his brother thought they might be able to intimidate the answers from the peacekeepers, they were still out numbered and ultimately could be sent forcibly on their way without the explanation of Ezra's ability.
Dean returned a moment later with the salt and they completed their preparations.
Sam unstoppered the bottle and nodded to Dean, who had moved behind Cecily, knife held at the ready. Once she was awake, and the evil possession confirmed, Dean would cut the cursed object from around her neck and toss it into the stove.
Sam could feel everyone holding their collective breathes as he passed the noxious chemical beneath Cecily's nose. The effect was instantaneous. Her head bobbed from side to side as if trying to get away from the smell, before her eyes blinked open and her cold gaze settled on Sam.
"Cecily?" Sam asked tentatively, already knowing that the young woman they'd met in front of the jail was not the one staring at him.
She remained silent; her upper lip curled in disgust as she glared at Sam. She attempted to pull her arms up and struggled fiercely against the bonds holding her in place. Small grunts of anger escaped as she tried to free herself. Twisting her wrists against the bonds, the rope began cutting into her skin.
"Stop this," Ezra shouted and kneeling in front Cecily grabbed her wrists to prevent her doing any more damage to her tender flesh.
Cecily's eyes went wide at the sight of him. "I killed you I know I did!" She screeched. "Filthy cockroach. Why won't you die?"
Ezra ignored the insults and held his hands tightly over his sister's wrists refusing to be cowed by the harridan inside her. "Gentlemen, isn't about time you freed my sister," he said, glaring up at Dean.
Sam was impressed by Ezra's cool headedness in the face of his sister's transformation. "Do it," he commanded his brother
Nodding, Dean reached for the necklace. Cecily twisted her neck trying to get away from his touch. "No! Don't "
Her protests ended abruptly as Dean cut the ribbon and pulled the cameo from around her neck. He held the necklace up as they all waited, wondering if Cecily was truly free.
She blinked, opening and closing her mouth as she gazed at Ezra, who was still holding her wrists as he knelt in front of her. An attempt to move her arms brought a frown to her face
"Ezra?" she demanded. "What in the world is going on? Untie me this instant!"
"Cecily, is it really you?"
She rolled her eyes. "Of course it's me. What is wrong with you? Untie me, now!"
He hesitated, looking past Cecily to Dean. "Is it safe?"
Before Dean could reply Cecily shouted, "Safe! This is ridiculous." She bucked against her restraints, fear and confusion warring across her visage
"Calm down, Cecily!" He moved his hand from her wrist to stroke her arm, as if gentling a frightened animal. "You must understand, you haven't been yourself and - " Ezra trailed off.
"What exactly do you mean?" She stilled, finally, as she took in her brother's disheveled appearance. "Ezra, is that blood on your shirt?"
Sam could tell Ezra was struggling with exactly what to tell his sister about her murderous rampage. It wasn't her fault, but Sam suspected that no one, especially Vin, wanted to revisit what had occurred.
Dean, showing his usual lack of tact and patience, jumped into the silence. "You were possessed. You tried to kill your beau and your brother, but it's all over now."
"Dean!" Sam hissed. His brother was never one to choose his words wisely, but there was no reason to deliberately antagonize these men.
Ezra sprung to his feet to confront the older Winchester. "That was uncalled for." His anger was obvious, but controlled.
"It's the truth." Dean shrugged. "Don't have time for all the emotional bullcrap right now." He held up the cameo in Ezra's face to emphasize his point. "Got an evil necklace to destroy."
When Ezra stepped closer, the possibility of violence in his movement, Josiah pushed his way between them. "Ezra, why don't you release Cecily from her bonds. I'm sure we all agree she's herself again."
Ezra glared once more at Dean before nodding and moving back to his sister's side. Cecily, for her part, had fallen silent and seemed to decide, after looking into her brother's eyes, that maybe she could wait to know the details of what had happened
"And you," Josiah pointed at Dean, "shut up and finish this before I decide it might be more fun to just shoot you."
Dean's smirk turned to a frown when he registered that maybe Josiah wasn't kidding. "Fine!" he snapped. "Lets chaw up this evil knick knack and then," Dean looked pointedly at Ezra who was assisting his sister to her feet, "I'll be ready to hear all about Mr. Standish's magical return from the dead."
Cecily's eyes went wide. "How does he -"
Ezra placed a hand on her arm to silence her. "One thing at a time, Cecily." Then he gestured to the necklace Dean was holding. "Of course, Mr. Winchester. You simply need to complete your end of the bargain and then I shall hold to mine."
Dean grinned, believing he'd come out on top. Opening the small metal door in the belly of the stove, he flung the cameo inside. Sam grabbed the salt and saturated the fire with it. As the cameo dissolved, the flames sparked and crackled while the smoke billowing up the stovepipe turned a blood red. Dean slammed the door shut, but an odd glow was still visible through the grated opening.
Everyone watched in silence as the flames inside seemed to grow and swell before the supernatural aspects of the fire burned itself out.
"I'm gonna say that we've found our evil source." Dean chuckled.
"But I still don't understand," Nathan said. "How was the necklace the reason for everything that happened?"
"We may never know exactly how the necklace came to be cursed," Sam admitted.
"Probably belonged to some bitch who had it in for men," Dean quipped and then seeing Cecily frown, he added, "Sorry ma'am. I just meant - uh - "
"What Dean is trying to say," Sam interrupted as he threw a frown in his brother's direction, "is that someone with the right ability or under the right circumstances can curse an object."
"You mean some woman did this on purpose?" Nathan pushed.
"Maybe on purpose or maybe simply by accident." Sam hesitated. He truly had no idea how the cameo might have come into its power, but he sensed that Nathan and the others needed some kind of closure. Sam wasn't above a little speculation if it meant this whole hunt could be put to rest. "It might have been a woman who was murdered while wearing the cameo; most likely by a man she trusted or cared about. The violence would have left the cameo imprinted with her desire for revenge."
"And that desire gave the object purpose," Josiah picked up the thread of exposition. "Made it seek out women to do what the original owner couldn't; avenge her death. Sam, that's just down right brilliant."
Dean smirked and winked at Sam. "My big brained brother gets it right sometimes."
Sam tried not to laugh at Dean's backhanded compliment for the story he'd woven. He was relieved to see that they all seemed to accept his explanation. Whether it was the truth or not he'd never know, as the cameo was gone and could no longer enthrall women to murder in some long forgotten vendetta.
Nathan had turned to stare at the dying embers in the stove. "Helpless people can generate a powerful hate, but to make an object do their bidding after death -" he shivered at the thought. "It's hard to wrap my mind around that."
"But Sam's story makes sense when ya consider all the things Cecily and Inez done under its influence," Buck agreed.
Cecily frowned at Buck, and Sam knew she was about to start demanding answers, but he wanted to know about Ezra first. If they got caught up in Cecily's emotions Ezra might use her as an excuse to focus on her and ignore his promise to explain his true nature.
"I think " Sam began, but was interrupted but a sharp knock on the door followed immediately by the twisting of the knob that brought them all up short.
Josiah immediately moved to block the door, but was too late as it was thrown open.
"Hey guys," JD said as he bounded into the room. "Ya know Inez is all alone in the jail?" He stopped as he took in the sight in front of him. Frowning he looked to Buck. "What's everyone doing up here?"
Sam almost laughed at JD's confusion. So much had happened since the young lawman had left on patrol that it was had to believe it was still the same day.
Dean met Sam's eyes and tilted his head toward Ezra, indicating that he was running out of patience for everyone else's questions and wanted an explanation about the gambler's resurrection and he wanted it now.
As if sensing the need to move things along, Buck twirled JD around and pointed him out the door. "Why don't I explain it all to ya while we go get Inez." The big man stopped and looked back at Josiah. "It is alright ta release her, ain't it?"
"Sure, Buck," he replied. "But we'll need to come up with a story to explain why we're letting her go."
"One, I might add," Ezra interjected, "that does not in any way insinuate that I provoked the senorita."
Buck laughed. "Oh, I think I can handle tellin' a real good story."
"That, Mr. Wilmington, is exactly what I am afraid of."
"I'll go with 'em," Nathan said. "I should check on Inez anyway; make sure she's ok. She did take a nasty blow to the head." Nathan was still a bit unsettled by what had transpired and was happy to find an excuse to leave the stifling confines of the infirmary. "And Ezra - " He turned back to the gambler
The healer merely pointed at the bed. Ezra sighed knowing that while he might have to explain his recovery to the Winchester's, the rest of the town still believed him to be injured. With an exasperated flourish, he fell back onto the cot. "Happy?" he snapped.
"Yeah, now stay there," Nathan commanded before pulling the door closed behind him.
"And now it's your turn," Dean stated as he flopped into the chair that had so recently been Cecily's prison. He spread his hands toward Ezra encouraging him to get started.
"Now wait just a minute," Cecily said. "I think I have been very patient, but you gentlemen have ignored me long enough."
"And we're gonna keep ignoring you, sweetheart," Dean said. "Because your brother owes us a doosey of an explanation."
Anger flickered across Cecily's face. "Sweetheart!" she hissed. "How dare you talk to me in such a manner. Ezra! Do something."
It was clear that she expected her brother to come to her defense. Ezra, for his part, did want to wipe that smug look off Dean's face, but given the Winchesters' knowledge of his resurrection, he felt he could not risk antagonizing them further at this point. Still, he did scowl at Dean, who had the good sense to look appropriately chastised.
"I didn't mean any disrespect, Ma'am." Cecily snorted her disbelief as Dean attempted to backpedal in the face of her displeasure. "It's just that - " he trailed off with a silent appeal his brother.
Sam jumped in before Dean could dig himself further into a hole. "Ma'am, please just ignore my brother and his poor manners," Sam said. His sincerity seemed genuine compared to Dean's fumbling attempts to get back in their good graces. "He simply means that we wish to hear from Mr. Standish before we revisit the other events of today. Besides, I'm sure you would wish to discuss those events with your brother in private."
Cecily would not be so easily placated. "Ezra! These men," she sneered the word as she cast a glare in Dean's direction, "are prying into your life and I want an explanation."
Ezra leaned back on the bed and thought about banging his skull against the headboard until he blacked out. The only problem with that plan was that the Winchesters would still be there when he woke up, and Cecily would still want to know about the traumatic events that occurred while she was enthralled by the cameo.
"Unfortunately, dear sister," Ezra said, "your curiosity will have to wait."
Not receiving the support she expected from her brother, Cecily directed her appeal to Vin. Ezra had almost forgotten the man was still in the room as Vin had gone silent, barely participating; quite the change from the forceful leader who'd evicted the Winchesters hours earlier in an attempt to keep Ezra's secret. In truth, Ezra was surprised his friend hadn't acted when Dean had insulted Cecily.
"Vin, say something!" Cecily demanded. "Is it true what that man," she waved a hand at Dean, "said earlier? Did I really shoot you and Ezra?"
After witnessing the burning of the cameo it was obvious that Cecily accepted that she'd been under the influence of the necklace's curse, but it was her actions during that time, which no one was anxious to share, that she wanted explained to her.
Vin, his head down, hat covering his face, refused to meet her eyes. "Don't matter. 'Sover. I'm fine."
"But I don't remember," her voice had taken on a plaintive tone. "Please, Vin, look at me. Tell me what I did?"
"Weren't your fault." Vin shook his head and glanced over at Ezra. It was clear he did not want to talk about it, but could see no way to escape Cecily's questions.
"Oh!" She gasped. When Vin had looked up she caught sight of the blossoming purple bruises which were livid even against Vin's tanned skin. "Did I ?" She tried to touch the injury, but Vin jerked away.
"Told you I'm fine," he snapped.
Cecily's hand hovered in midair before dropping back to her side. Crestfallen, she did not push for more from the obviously distressed man. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I didn't " she trailed off into silence, uncertain what to say in the face of the wall that Vin had thrown up between them.
Ezra watched as Vin withdrew from Cecily, though he hadn't moved a muscle. Surely he didn't believe the hateful words the evil entity had forced Cecily to spout? But as Ezra studied Vin, he could sense that something truly unpleasant was going on inside the man's mind. Cecily loved Vin and Ezra wondered why his usually hyper-observant friend had such a massive blind spot when it came to women in general, and Cecily in particular.
"I'm quite tired after all this excitement," Cecily said softly as she turned to face Ezra. "I think I think I shall retire to my hotel room and rest."
She seemed to sag as the enormity of the day settled onto her shoulders; sadness and confusion permeated her being. Ezra wanted shake some sense into Vin, remind him of how good he and Cecily were together, but now was not the time. The Winchesters had been more than patient, and Ezra had to handle that situation before he could fix the unpleasantness that was growing between his sister and his friend.
Ezra rose to take her hands before pulling her into a hug. "Of course. It's been a dreadful day. Perhaps - " He was going to suggest Vin walk her back to the hotel, but a glance in the tracker's direction told him that it was a bad idea. Instead he suggested, "Josiah could you escort, Cecily?"
She shook her head. "No, that is not necessary. You have things to discuss. And besides," she gave him a weak smile, "I'm perfectly capable of walking down the street on my own." Her eyes tracked over to Vin, secretly hoping, Ezra was sure, that he would insist on escorting her. On any other day that would have been the case, but Vin was still a wall of silence.
"That you are, my dear." Ezra squeezed her hands gently before allowing her escape.
"You know she's gonna be ok," Dean said after Cecily had shut the door. "You can tell her whatever version of events ya want, 'cause she won't remember anything."
He shifted his gaze to the older Winchester. Ezra was sure he didn't like the man, Dean had been an uncouth ass, but there was real concern in his voice for Cecily's mental state. He wondered what game the hunter was playing.
"I appreciate your concern," Ezra said stiffly as he settled once again on the bed. "But I don't plan on lying to my sister." It would be a difficult story to tell, but if Vin continued to pull away from Cecily, she at least deserved to know why, so she'd have all the tools to hammer some sense into the stubborn tracker. That's if he didn't have the chance knock Vin sideways for his behavior first.
"Suit yourself." Dean's tone implied that the truth was a bad idea. He leaned back in his chair and simply stared at Ezra, waiting for the story he'd been promised.
"Mr.Standish," Sam said. "I think you know that anything she did was out of her control. It would be wrong to blame her for her actions or take anything she said to heart." Sam may have acted like he was addressing Ezra, but his gaze was locked on Vin.
Ezra had issues with Dean, but Sam had been nothing but respectful, and it seemed, remarkably perceptive. "I will do my best to emphasize that point to all the parties involved," Ezra replied, as his gaze too traveled toward Vin. His friend was leaning against the wall, head down, studying the floor like it had become the most interesting thing in the room.
The silence stretched as Ezra studied Vin, wondering how he could dispel his friends despondent mood before it spiraled out of control. Across the room Sam cleared his throat, drawing Ezra from his musings.
He shifted to sit sideways on the bed so that he didn't feel like the invalid he was supposed to be portraying as he debated exactly what to say to the Winchesters. Of course he had no intention of telling them the whole truth, in fact he was trying to determine how little he could actually tell them and still satisfy their curiosity.
He was grateful when Josiah broke the silence sensing that Ezra needed a little more time to collect his thoughts. "I know we had a bit of a rough going there for a while boys, but I want ta thank you for what ya done for Cecily and Inez. Don't know that I would have figured it out by myself."
"You would have," Sam said sincerely.
Josiah laughed. "Maybe, but that don't mean I'm not grateful I didn't have ta."
Inwardly Ezra groaned. Where were his manners? Charlotte would be appalled that he'd shown no gratitude and, as much as it pained him to admit it, he did owe the Winchesters for what they'd risked on Cecily's behalf. "I too am thankful that Josiah was acquainted with you gentlemen. You saved Cecily's life and maybe even her sanity, of that I have no doubt."
"You don't have to thank us," Dean said. "Saving people, hunting things; its the family business. Fact is, folks rarely know we've been around; only that their problems are gone. Hell, most times they didn't even know they had a problem."
"Ah yes, a business." Ezra nodded. "I assume you expect some compensation for your efforts here today." He found that he had no problem paying these gentlemen anything they asked. He certainly couldn't put a price on Cecily's well-being.
The brothers shared a look and Ezra could see that Dean was all for asking for some form of monetary compensation before Sam cut him off.
"We don't charge " Sam began.
"But if you want to make a contribution, we won't say no," Dean finished.
Ezra was confused. "You don't charge for your services? Are you independently wealthy?" They certainly didn't look like men who had money to spare, and for them to risk their lives for strangers without compensation seemed the height of idiocy to Ezra; even he got a dollar day for his dangerous activities and he was protecting friends.
Sam laughed. "No, this is just what we do. Dean's a pretty good poker player "
"Pretty good?" Dean protested. "I'm damn good!"
Ezra smiled, always on the lookout for a challenge. Maybe Dean didn't have to leave town right away; at least not until Ezra had a change to see if he was as good as he proclaimed. "Well, if you are amenable later, we should put your boast to the test."
"Not so quick to get rid of us now." Leaning back in the chair, Dean returned Ezra's lazy smile. "I think I can take ya, fancy pants."
Ezra dipped his head, accepting the challenge. He certainly didnt have to like the man to take his money. "But surely you can not survive on playing poker alone. Even the best of us have our off days."
"Well " Sam looked sideways at his brother as if seeking the right way to express his thoughts. "There are certain marginally legal situations we find that allow us to earn money.'"
"You're conmen!" he chortled, finding he had more in common with the brothers then he would have thought possible. Ezra glanced over at Josiah, wondering if the former preacher had earned his living in this manner when he had been a hunter in his youth. But that was a conversation for another day.
"Yes! Fine! We admit it," Dean said tersely. "But this ain't about us." He crossed his arms defiantly, challenging Ezra to fulfill his promise.
Knowing that the time for stalling had passed, Ezra plunged straight to the heart of the matter. My condition is one of well lets just say I can not die, at least not permanently, and I am able to heal rather quickly from any wound.
How long have you been like this? Sam asked. And Im guessing youve died before today.
This was where the truth and Ezras version of his Immortality parted company. After being shot several months back, the ability manifested itself, he explained. It was confirmed after I was again fatally shot, and as you may have guessed, Inezs attack also resulted in my death. It appears now that the condition is permanent.
Ezra glanced back at Vin, and while his friend still looked a little distressed by the day's events, Ezra was heartened to see that Vin was paying attention to the conversation and couldnt resist the opportunity to make small hand gesture which alluded to Ezras death by bull.
So you werent born this way? Leaning forward in his chair, Sam seemed to be hanging on Ezras every word. Both Winchesters, he imagined, were looking for the lie; that moment when they might declare Ezra evil and feel the need to dispatch him.
Ezra had no intention of revealing the existence of an Immortal race and he hoped that Josiah wouldnt contradict him. I remember having the requisite childhood scraps and mishaps, but since that first death everything changed. I no longer require the aid of a physician.
So nothing significant happened, like an animal attack, Sam pushed. Maybe something unusual in the weather or the location of your death that might have caused your - Sam waved a hand at Ezra, unusual circumstance.
Ezra had to bite back a laugh. Most people would consider being shot by ones own mother a highly significant and unusual event, but that was not the answer Sam was looking for. I dont believe my unusual circumstance', as you so eloquently call it, was caused by external sources, Ezra said. Ive come to the conclusion that it is simply possible that this ability is unique to me.
I believe that Ezras healing ability is simply a fluke of biology and not due to something supernatural, Josiah said. Ezra was dead nd then he wasnt. Hes no different than when I first met him before his ability manifested. Josiah threw a cheeky grin in Ezras direction before he continued, Cept maybe hes a sight more tolerable since he died.
Ezra frowned as the others chuckled, even Vin, who seemed to be recovering somewhat from his emotional turmoil.
Josiahs right. We do like ya better now that ya cant die.
That is only because I can happily take a bullet for you, Ezra groused good-naturedly. I will remind you that it still hurts.
" 'Preciate that, Ez, Vin said softly, his momentary good humor vanishing as he faded back into his wall of silence.
Ezra realized too late that thats exactly what hed done when Cecily had aimed her gun at Vin. He really was going to have to find some time to be alone with Vin and discuss the events of the day
Im guessin while your buddies know, the rest of the town aint up to speed on your true nature, Dean said.
You are correct, and such is the reason for my enforced incarceration here in Nathans infirmary and for Josiahs ill-fated attempts to keep us from meeting. Ezra shifted his gaze between the brothers. And I would appreciate your discretion in this matter.
Sam nodded immediately. "Of course, we have no intention of telling anyone in town once were sure of your situation."
Dean stood up and handed Ezra a flask. "Drink this and Christo."
"What did you say?" Ezra demanded as Josiah burst out with a huge belly laugh.
"I'm guessing they want to make sure your really aren't evil, Ezra," Josiah chucked. "Demons always flinch at the name of Christ and I'll bet that flask is full of holy water."
"You think I'm a demon?"
Dean shrugged. "Best not to take any chances." He held out the flask. "You drink this and we'll say we're done with the questions."
Ezra eye the flask suspiciously as he took it from Dean. "I suppose this is a better then you asking for a demonstration of my healing power," he said before taking a swig from the flask. It was just water and Dean looked almost disappointed when Ezra handed it back without any ill effects.
"Would you I mean could you demonstrate how you heal?" Sam asked.
"No!" Vin snapped. "You ain't cutting him."
Ezra was surprised that Vin had spoken up, but then he wasn't sure what to expect from Vin today. "I have to second that. I believe that kind of demonstration is unnecessary."
Vin pushed himself off the wall and came to stand at Ezra's shoulder. "Now if you boys are satisfied, I think it's time to end this discussion."
"You're right, of course," Sam said, seeming a little embarrassed that he'd even suggested it. "As Dean said, you passed those tests, so we're satisfied and Josiah - " He glanced toward the former hunter.
"If he suddenly starts acting evil, I'll take care of it." Josiah smirked.
"That's very comforting." Ezra laughed. He looked at the brothers. "Will that satisfy you, gentlemen?"
They nodded. "We don't have to leave town now do we?" Sam asked, looking toward Vin for his answer.
"Nope," Vin said, having returned to his position as the authority in the room. "Reckon you're not gonna be any more trouble."
Dean looked expectantly at Ezra. "About that poker game?"
"Tomorrow," Ezra said. "I believe I've had enough excitement for one day and," he glanced sideways at Vin, "there are some things I need to address."
"Tomorrow sounds good." Dean smiled as he gestured to his brother. "Guess we'll be going."
"Thank you for sharing your story. I wish we had some answers about why this happened to you," Sam said as he joined his brother at the door.
"Not to worry." Ezra waved his concerns away. "As Josiah often says; the Lord works in mysterious ways. If not for my ability, Inez would be facing murder charges."
Sam nodded and placed two fingers to his hat in a gesture of farewell. Dean did the same and then the brothers were out the door.
"Now that's something I thought I'd never hear you say." Josiah grinned.
Ezra looked confused.
"That the Lord had anything to do with your Immortality," he explained.
"It seemed a fitting coda to the story."
"Think they bought Ezra's tale?" Vin asked.
"'Spect so. Them boys ain't likely to bother ya any more, Ez, but I imagine they will be talking to Bobby Singer." At Ezra's raised eyebrow, Josiah continued, "Guess you could say he's the archivist for all things supernatural in this part of the country."
"Should I be worried?"
Josiah shook his head. "Bobby an' me go way back. Trained me into the hunting circles. I'm sure he won't be questioning things with me looking after ya."
Ezra smiled. "And I do appreciate your diligence in that matter."
"Guess I should be heading over to the jail," Josiah said. "Best make sure Buck is handling the situation and weaving a plausible tale for the townsfolk.
"A prudent idea," Ezra agreed.
Once Josiah had departed Ezra turned his attention to Vin. "And now, Mr. Tanner, I believe we need to discuss your appalling behavior toward my sister."
+ + + + + + +
Sam followed Dean down the steps and into the nearby alleyway. "So?" Sam didn't think there was a case surrounding Ezra, but he wanted to confirm that with Dean.
"We let it go for now," Dean confirmed. "Josiah, no matter how friendly he is with Ezra, isn't gonna let him run amok if something changes."
Sam nodded; that had been his feeling on the situation too. "Weird biological mutations are not unheard of."
"But this one's pretty weird."
"Maybe we should head to Bobby's. He'll wanna document this for his archives anyway."
"Sure, but not for a few days."
"So what now?" Sam asked, already knowing the answer. Dean had that look in his eyes that meant Sam would be finding his own entertainment while his brother acquainted himself with the local whorehouses and gambling establishments. While Sam often indulged in some of those activities, he found it didn't appeal at the moment and wondered if Josiah played chess. It would also be an opportunity to talk with the man without the pressure of the day's events.
"Now, baby brother, we take that break we didn't get back in Rock Ridge. I really want a drink, and tomorrow, I have a date to relieve Ezra of some of his cash."
Sam smiled. Finding Josiah could wait. He figured he could use a drink too. "Saloon?"
Dean returned the smile. "Saloon."