Sequel to Removed
Author: Mink & Jink
Rating: R - Gen
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
The dark was quiet and cold.
The musty smell of the old wood walls around him and the planks underneath brought him back like some fucked up dream. Dean blinked awake in confusion. Looked like he'd stayed long enough for lights out and lock down.
Propped against the bed, the wood frame was hard in the middle of his back. Straightening his head from where it rested awkwardly against his shoulder, his muscles complained when he moved. He didn’t remember even being sleepy let alone tired enough to fall asleep sitting up. Dean stretched with a slight groan, turning his head around to check on Sam. He couldn’t see a thing so he reached over and felt around in the dark until he found Sam’s face. Touching his brother’s cheek, he found it was warm and slightly damp with sweat. Whatever he'd had in his system was probably on its way out. Dean sighed and hit the glow on his watch.
It was just breaking dawn.
His heart jumped at the sharp click of the lock. Muscles stiff and tense, he got to his feet, hoping that whatever came through that door had business with him, and not his sleeping brother.
It was Yueller. He was carrying a duffel with a military insignia. A red cross.
Dean did not move.
"What's going on?"
In reply, Yueller took his pistol from its holster. Dean swallowed, reluctantly stepping aside to allow the man to place the bag on the bed.
“You go take a seat out there and wait.”
Yueller had a few inches on him, and he used them to look down at Dean square in the eye.
“There’s some rations for you out there.” He told him. “I want to see it all gone by the time I’m done here.”
Dean looked down at Sam who was still sleeping despite the light washing in from the open door and their voices. His gaze fell back onto the canvas bag.
“Step to it, breakfast is gettin’ cold.” Yueller turned his back on him and unzipped the duffel.
Dean saw the bag’s contents and felt none of his anxiety ease. Yueller was giving his brother more of that milky white stuff that had stopped him from being ill yesterday. It had stopped him from being sick but it also drugged him up so bad that the kid could barely complete full sentences. Dean took another look at Yueller’s pistol and sighed. Maybe if they kept giving it to him it would keep him asleep for however long all this lasted. The thought was strangely comforting.
"I said, get goin’.”
He hesitantly stepped backwards towards the door.
Dean slowly chewed his food.
The tray with a heap of cold powdered eggs, gritty lengths of sausage and a large plastic bottle of water left much to be desired. His stomach however, had fewer misgivings than he did as he started to put it down and realized just how long it had been since he’d last had anything solid. Just being able to chew again whet his appetite. It tasted better than it should have, his hunger commandeering the reality of freeze dried military rations.
He finished it sooner than he expected and he thought he could even stand to have a little more. Uncapping the water, he sniffed it before he drank. He knew it was a poor test to judge if it had been tampered with, but his thirst won over his exhausting caution.
Besides, they weren't stupid. If today promised any antics, they would need him more than alert.
He sat back in the cracked leather chair and sighed. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could do this. He felt drained and not entirely himself. But then that was partially the whole point of this. His senses were hovering on overload, his body trembling with a steady constant flow of adrenaline.
Dean rubbed his face, feeling the days of beard that had grown in and wondering in the blur of time just how long it had been since he’d had a shave.
“I found tracks.”
Yueller took a look at the empty tray as he took a seat opposite Dean. His small nod of approval made Dean's stomach roil as he pushed the tray away uncomfortably.
"What did you do to my brother?" Dean asked, feeling his jaw tighten. Yueller ignored him.
“Set of two. They're all over the damn place. All last night. More Skin Walkers. Keens almost got a clean shot on one of the bastards.”
Dean listened carefully, his thoughts shifting to the tracks he had neglected to mention the day before. The Walkers had this place mapped and surrounded by now. But for some reason, just as when Dean had found the mark of their passage, he didn’t feel the fear that he saw flash in Yueller’s eyes.
These men turned beasts weren’t here for Dean even though he had killed one of their own. They were here for something else.
“Some of those tracks,” Yueller went on in a voice slightly strained with disbelief. “They came right up to the goddamn front door.”
Looking around, Dean didn’t know why he hadn’t thought of it earlier. There was something in or around the house keeping these Walkers from crossing the threshold. Old Johnson must have placed a seal on it before he died, something to protect his property from any variation of unwelcome phenomenon. Wards under the welcome mats, engravings hidden in the wooden beams. Whatever his opinion of him, the man had been an academic of the flip side and he knew better than most hunters how to guard his keep.
And from what Johnson hadn’t done, Keens surely knew a trick or two that had kept them alive thus far.
He ground the heel of his hand into his eyes, trying to sort his thoughts. He had to keep a cool head. Edwards was gone and that had Yueller backed into a corner. The man could not realistically afford another casualty. Stakes being what they were, they were both in a position to lose.
Not the best odds but they were good enough.
"Permission to speak?" Dean sat forward. “Sir?”
"Sure?" Yueller lit a smoke. “Why not?”
Dean looked down into his folded hands.
"I think we both know the games need to end if we're gonna make it outta here alive. You have some kinda price on your head and you need my help." He managed a brief weak smile. "Don't see why ya couldn't've just asked. But I'm letting you know that every man under this roof has his own priorities and right now mine is my brother."
Yueller's brow knotted darkly.
"Just what are you getting at?"
"Just..." Dean swallowed. "...tell me what the hell you’re doing to him."
"I don’t have to tell you a damn thing. Like I said before, his life all depends on—"
To his own amazement, Dean cut him off rapidly and furiously.
"You've made it crystal clear you don't give a rat's ass whether or not Sam lives or dies but it means a hell of a lot to me. You're gonna want me keepin’ my head if we're talkin’ plural Skin Walkers out there!"
Truth was, they were gonna want him even more than sharp if he had to come face to face with whatever it was that had plowed through that forest like a battering ram. Besides, Yueller was doing a piss poor job of pretending that getting rid of a couple of witches was what this was all about.
"There’s something out there that wants you dead Yueller.” Dean pointed towards the door. “I don’t know what the hell you and your men were doing out in that desert but you called down something big on your ass and I’m not sure anything I can do will save you.”
Dean realized his chest was heaving. He wasn't entirely sure whether or not what he'd just said would save him a concussion from the Captain’s large fist. However, he did know with some certainty that it would not earn him a bullet to the head.
“You shut your damn mouth.” Yueller hissed, standing up slowly. “Don't think I can't or won't break every bone in your body before all this is said and done."
“Did you find the other tracks Yueller? They aren’t from any Walker I’ve ever seen.” Dean said in a low voice. It was a challenge to see if the man would admit that there was something else, something more dangerous than man made witchcraft, lurking out there just beyond the trees.
Yueller paled and stepped back away from him.
“Breaking my arm again isn’t going to make that son of a bitch go anywhere.” Dean assured him. “And I think you know exactly what the hell that thing is.”
The man's fury was a quiet thing, a frail cover of patience and calm rationale that could explode at any moment. He watched Yueller take his seat again and regain his composure.
"What's it that you want Dean?"
"First. My brother. What did you give him?"
Yueller was completely frustrated by the shift in focus but he managed to shrug and feign a sigh.
"A number of things. But at the moment, Thorazine. And a lot of it.”
Dean’s felt his eyebrows raise.
“Can’t cut him off cold turkey or you’ll see the withdrawal do some tricks on his system that he might not come out of. So if you want to keep him nice and level, you'll think twice before you get it in your head to start trying to call the shots."
Fucking Christ. Thorazine? That was a major antipsychotic tranquilizer. Hell, Dean’d heard they’d give the stuff to addicts overloading on LSD in emergency rooms. It was so strong he’d also heard about the drug being used as a preanesthetic for freaking cattle.
“You’ll cut his dosage.” Dean said tightly. “And you’ll feed him.”
"You really surprise me Dean." Yueller ground out his cigarette in the palm of his gloved hand. "But you shouldn’t worry so much. Dehydration and malnourishment are nothing he won’t live through. We let him rot for days before his metabolic rate finally took a nose dive. That boy's got enough meat on 'im to last."
Dean fought the urge to reach over and try to remove the casual look that played across the man’s face as he discussed his brother’s decline as some idle happenstance. It was like some incidental byproduct of the situation at hand that Dean was somehow blowing completely out of proportion.
Yueller sat back and simply smiled at him.
“Dean, let me ask you a question?”
Dean watched the man closely.
“You a betting man?”
He shrugged. “Depends on the odds.”
“What would you say the odds are right now?”
Dean wondered what he meant exactly. The odds of them all arriving at the end of this alive seemed pretty slim. The chances of anything at the moment were as unknown as a pair of dice tossed up high into the air. But at least the man had finally gotten down to what Dean had been suspecting ever since Sam had managed to clue him in on what Noqoìlpi might be. It had everything to do with the odds and, as Keen had mentioned, a whole lot of luck.
But first things first.
“You’re gonna feed Sam.” Dean said again. “None of that freeze dried crap either. Johnson must have left something decent around here.”
Yueller stared at him, the muscles in his arms twitching.
“And then we get to talking about the real odds.”
“I thought we already went and tried that.” Yueller breathed out tiredly.
“You tell me more about the Gambler.” Dean suggested strongly. “The one that you tried to trick out there in the desert.”
Yueller’s eyes narrowed and his jaw worked tightly.
Dean sat back and cracked his knuckles.
“Then we can talk about smoking us some Navajo mojo."
The bathroom’s dim light revealed a towel with a bar of soap and a plastic disposable razor on it.
It seemed he wasn’t the only one getting tired of his scratchy beard. Dean’s smile faded as he saw what had also been left for him. He'd been instructed to shower and shave, an order he was more than willing to obey. But before he did, he'd watched real food go into Sam. Johnson it seemed had fallen into the category of well prepared isolationists. Keens had been reluctant but he was eventually granted access to their limited stock. Real eggs. Old butter. Even a side of salted pork in a barrel.
That would have to be enough for now.
A green army shirt and camouflage trousers had been set aside for him. Some wool socks and a pair of combat boots that looked just about his size. Dean hit the shower’s faucet, relieved at the loud hiss it made and the sudden rise of steam from what seemed like honest to God hot boiling water from the tap.
He shook his head.
Every single time he thought that maybe he was wrong about how wise his keepers were, they went and proved him right again. Dean picked up one of the boots and thoughtfully looked at the carefully buffed black leather. You never sent a man out on a hunt in boots he hasn’t broken in himself.
Shrugging off his jacket and shirt, he watched the mirror over the sink cloud with the thick steam. Stepping under the scalding hot spray of water, he thought about just how many other details in their carefully ordered world that they also completely neglected. With a shake of his head, he started to rub the bar of soap briskly between his hands.
Yueller’s story had been something all right.
Dean waited to hear the strange native word Noqoìlpi. He waited for the confession about skipping the deal with the devil and going right ahead to casting bets with one. But the halting edited version he got was something a bit more simple.
Seemed like, from what little Dean could gather from the Captain’s brief and curt description, was that Yueller and his crew had gone out there to that Anasazi burial cave with just about enough knowledge to summon something. Yueller ignored Dean’s question of why and how. He didn’t even look Dean in the eyes as he continued speaking, his audience incidental and insignificant. But what they had summoned was a far cry from any of the things on the pages of Keens' books.
They had tried to fix it, tried to send it back to its resting place. Insulted and enraged, it had cursed them and their profanity. These strange pale men who had no right to stand in one of the holiest places of a people with whom they shared no blood.
Yueller had seen three wars in his lifetime. But the rage of a god was no comparison.
Because of their middling efforts everything had gone wrong. The cave, sacred and untouched for centuries, had been burnt to a blackened pit. They'd fled choking on ash, spitting blood.
One of their men was left dead.
That had been over a year ago.
That was his story. Very neat and clean and utterly incomplete. Yueller’s version had been colored into almost an ideal picture of his faultless cause but Dean could see right through it. He was a man that was pretty good at filling in some of those blanks himself. If all what Yueller had told him was true, then they were all in a lot of trouble. Because Dean was pretty sure that the thing they had summoned had made a wager.
Now the time had come for it to collect.
He almost felt like himself again.
Just himself in someone else’s clothes.
Yueller had nodded in satisfaction when Dean finally emerged from the small bathroom in his new uniform. He handed him a nylon zip up jacket that was the same army green of his T-shirt. Dean didn’t thank him when it slid over his cooled skin and immediately started to warm him up. He didn’t like the thought of how he must look now. Just like them. Just another member of the team.
“I want you to find the Walkers, and I want you to take care of ‘em.”
Dean felt his hands working on the thighs of his fatigues. “I’ll need a few things…”
“You’ll have access to some of the materials we took from your car.”
There wasn’t much left there to work with. He’d used up just about everything he had on that one Walker alone. How was he supposed to kill off two of the things with no—
“In here.” Yueller was unlocking a door. “You have 5 minutes to get whatever it is you need together.”
Dean peered over Yueller’s shoulder before he stepped in. It was a small room, a cluttered desk and some bookshelves were all it had in it besides a dusty window. It must have been Johnson’s office.
“They’re not gonna come out.” Dean said as he walked in and carefully looked around. He spotted a small assortment of what he knew was his on the floor along the wall. “They’re smart, they know I’m after them. Tracking them could take days.”
The cedar ash was there, so that was good news, but the other components Dean needed had been used up. All that was left was of no use to him. He crouched down and examined a bottle of holy water with a sigh. There were other things in the room that also seemed new and out of place. Dean guessed that Yueller and Keens had made this room storage for their own arsenal as well.
His old man would have had a good laugh.
A sheathed crucifix of plain wood and pewter lay up against the wall. It was unadorned and perfunctionary, nothing that couldn't be bought during a south of the border saint revival. Surely it was nothing quickly taken off the hands of a true holy man or stolen away off a used altar. Their knives were sharp but had no small engravings of the many wards that would make them stronger, poisonous or more potent to a particular beast. The firearms were modern and expensive.
Their collection was as average as their knowledge, mediocre and unimpressive.
Dean’s gaze fell on Johnson’s desk and the items laid out on it. An odd assortment of rings of all sizes collected and bound up on a twist of wire. A piece of petrified wood. A conch shell with its insides rubbed a deep blood red instead of the natural pale pink. But what Dean saw sitting alongside the rest of it made him pause.
It was a stone. A smooth polished piece of turquoise.
He moved over to the desk and distracted Yueller from his interest in it by pulling open the top drawer.
“Gonna be a tough hunt.” He said, almost conversationally. "Not like I have a Skin Walker mating call on me."
“The employ of bait worked in our previous operation.” Yueller said. “We'll try that again."
He was surprised that the Captain, who had done pretty much everything he could to keep himself and Keens out of harm’s way, was now willing to volunteer to call out a couple of Walkers. Walkers, that Dean was fairly certain, were only here because of these men and what they had done.
The top drawer had nothing but a scattering of random papers. Dean moved down to the side drawers, studying the pale blue palm sized rock from the corner of his eye. It seemed as ordinary as anything else they owned, but Dean wasn’t fooled by ordinary most of the time. And Sam had said something about a stone—
To his surprise, he found the second and largest drawer of the desk to be compartmentalized, with sections divided into even smaller sections. It was an apothecary, the musty scent of dried leaves and waxy berries hit him in a rush. His smile returned with silent thanks to the late old hunter as he dug through the new find. Unfortunately, the stash was relatively small and offered none of the ingredients specific to offing a Walker. However, he did find one thing.
Something stopped him before he could slip the small packet into his pocket.
Dean found himself pressed hard against the wall, his arm twisted up behind him, the grip on his wrist tightened just to the edge of breaking it. At least it wasn’t his bad arm, the one that had been broken. That would have really hurt—
His other arm joined his right, his wrists crisscrossing each other and painfully pressed into the middle of his back. With one small nudge, Dean was forced up onto the balls of his feet in the shiny new and uncomfortable combat boots. He squeezed his eyes shut, his instinct to drop to the ground out from under Yueller and floor the man was overwhelming his own force fed compliance. He had to play it like they wanted. He couldn’t make any more stupid fucking mistakes.
“What’s that?” Yueller asked from behind him.
Dean’s hands twitched, unable to move. He tried to look down at the floor. It was lying in plain sight, the old yellowed plastic bag filled with small dried berries. The grip on his wrists shoved him up further, forcing him all the way up onto his toes. With a groan, he wondered if getting out of Yueller’s grasp would have been as easy as he had maybe imagined it would.
“M--Might help?” Was all he got out.
Yueller looked down at it for a moment before he released him.
Dean caught his breath and worked his arms a few times to make sure they were still functioning like they should. Cracking one of his throbbing wrists he regarded Yueller warily.
"Now, about bait--" He began.
“Bait’s already been set." Yueller said.
Dean stared at him.
“I suggest you hurry along and find it before they do.”
Dean crouched outside the corner of the house in the dim daylight that fell down gray through a low layer of roiling clouds.
The trees made a black lattice work of their branches overhead, the tree line thick with pines and able to hide just about anything. Rolling the plastic bag between his fingertips, he pulled it out of his pocket and shook the faded blue seeds out into his palm. As he’d thought it had been fashioned into some kind of ornament, long and big enough for a necklace. Most people knew them as juniper berries but the natives out west called them something else. Ghost beads.
They were thought to be able to ward off a great many things. One of them being Skin Walkers. Dean looped the strand twice around his wrist and ventured into the open muddy ground of the ranch’s main yard. The barn was a good dozen yards ahead. The rest of the smaller sheds and whatnot were scattered farther out beyond that. The only thing between him and the house was an old water pump that the place might have used in its former days before it had dug in a well water system.
The pump was rusted and frozen in the down position.
Dean trained his eyes on the ground.
"Son of a bitch..." He breathed.
He’d found the bait.
His brother was sprawled in the icy mud, one wrist encircled in a steel cuff that wound and locked around the water pump’s solid base. Dean walked closer in huge strides, looking in every direction, waiting to see the shadow and shape of the warped human forms appear among the trees. But he saw nothing. For for some reason, as he did the day before, he felt removed from their presence. As if he already knew that their need and reason for being here had nothing to do with him. Unless he stepped into their path he felt no threat. Unfortunately that was all about to change.
He knelt down beside Sam and rolled his head towards him.
"Sammy?" Dean grabbed his shoulders and gave him a small shake.
Sam was not home. Dean lifted his eyelids and saw only the whites of his eyes.
“Damnit. They gave you the good stuff."
Sam tossed his head and moaned deliriously.
"Will do Sammy." Dean assured him.
He clutched a loose loop of the ghost beads in his hand like a rosary and looked around frantically. Just a few feet from them and out of Sam’s reach was a large bowie knife stuck down into the ground. Beside that lay a pistol.
Dean pulled the blade free and wiped it clean on his jacket sleeve. He slipped the cold metal of the gun into the front of his fatigues. Yueller had left them for him. Both completely useless, but he appreciated the thought. His bait, however, was effective. Walkers were like the animals they took shape and form of. Cautious and wary. Careful and bold. And opportunistic of the wounded and weak.
There was no telling how much dope Sam had been given but it had to be a hell of a lot to get him into a state like this. Sam was only wearing a shirt and his jeans, his boots missing the laces. Dean pulled off his warm jacket with a small amount of regret. Pulling Sam’s free muddy hand through one sleeve, Dean wrapped the rest of the nylon coat around his body. Bracing himself as the cold air settled on the bare skin of his arms he quickly unlaced the necklace from his wrist and tucked it deep into the front pocket of Sam’s jeans. He looked up at the sky.
He had more than a few hours before sun down.
Dean looked around and let his gaze fall on the barn. The building had an upper loft that had a wide opening overlooking the house. It had an old pulley system hanging over it to lower and raise bales of hay. He would be able to see in almost every direction from up there, not to mention the ranch’s entire yard that reached around the front of the cabin. Including Sam. Noting the patch work of tracks under his boots as he made his way to the barn, he was glad the Captain had made him eat.
It was going to be a long day.
Parting cobwebs like curtains, Dean thought hard about anything he had ever heard about the witches of the Navajo.
The tricky thing was that the only people that knew anything about them were the Navajo themselves and they tended to treat the subject like some kind of pornography. It was uncomfortable. Taboo. Unspoken of. But dad always knew people who knew people and some of those were natives of like mind. However, even the sum of their considerable knowledge only lead down two roads of useful lethal options.
A Skin Walkers’ name or a Skin Walkers’ magic.
Dean had neither. And truth be told, the Walkers were really the least of his worries.
He resettled himself in the shadows of the rectangular window that made up half the loft’s wall. Sam hadn’t moved since he’d left him there hours ago, and the air was getting colder. Flexing all his muscles to keep his circulation going, Dean watched the cloudy sky grow darker and darker. What he was really on the watch for was that other thing. The thing that had left its trail like a wrecking ball. That unseen threat concerned him more than some pissed off magic users in cursed animal skins. That thing was what was really keeping his captors up at night.
He Who Wins Men.
Dean had to hand it to them, not every mortal was stupid or bold enough to piss off what sounded like the makings of a demigod. Hell, they should be handed a medal of bravery for thinking to summon it in the first place. Nothing good ever befell mortals who defied the immortal. He'd love to stay and watch, but owed demigod or not, this battle ultimately did not belong to anyone but the men who started it.
And the men that got dragged into it whether they liked it or not. He shifted his weight quietly to his other knee and shook the feeling of dread off. He still had a few tricks left up his sleeve. Even for the likes of something like Noqoìlpi.
His eyes flickered on something in the shadows.
Dean opened and closed his eyes slowly, trying to hone in on what he'd glimpsed. The dark was only cut by faint shards of far off lamplight peeking in through the slats in the wall. Dean felt his eyes closing again, heavy and strange.
A pale movement, like a cat's eye opened and closed flashed from the other side of the barn. Dean tensed, his heart racing. He was sure he'd seen it. Dean did not breathe or blink in the pitch darkness until he spotted a faint blip like the gossamer of an opal began to pulse softly. Colors danced against the dark, like the remains of a flash bulb. Dean shut his eyes tightly and stared again. The shape of two eyes like strobe lights thrummed noiselessly, growing brighter and larger as he watched.
A rapid flutter of wings stirred the air around him. Dean cocked his gun and fired, hitting the high beam on his flashlight.
It was there, its unnatural form splayed against the wall. A man taken on the form of an owl. Its eyes too big, like burning discs in its scrawny head and thin claw like hands. It gave a high pitched shriek, pale bony fingers knotted like hooks as it scuttled like an insect up the walls and over the roof, headed for the window above the hay silo.
Dean raised his gun to aim again but the thing had vanished.
He looked grimly at the smoking muzzle of his weapon. He wasn’t doing anything but making a lot of noise with the damn thing. The reflex to use it had been automatic but it wasn’t as if they didn’t already know he was there. So much for the cedar ash.
Movement, from far below him quickly caught his attention.
He sat forward at the loft’s edge, watching anxiously. Shapes crept out of the shadows as if they were made from the dark themselves. One crawled with the awkward jerking movements of what he had seen fly right over his head, its giant luminous eyes flashing in every direction, inhuman and cold. It was alien to land, loping bizarrely across the mud with its strange limbs. The other Walker was much more at home with the earth, its skull elongated and close down to the ground as it followed Sam’s scent. It stopped, rearing up on thick haunches to stand like a man, a sound of a dog like growl rising from its long shaggy throat.
They both approached Sam carefully, slowly like he was some kind of trap ready to be sprung. But his brother was unaware of them, shifting slightly, lost behind his closed eyes. The black snout of the thing nudged Sam under his hip, rolling him over onto his face. Dean could hear the clang of the metal chain lose its slack and go taut.
"Sam!" He shouted down.
Dean swallowed back the cold hard lump in his throat, hoping against hope that everything that was ever said about the ward he’d placed in his brother’s clothing was true. They would just move on, maybe towards the house, try to find and sniff out their real prey—
The quiet night suddenly shifted into a frenzy of noise.
The Skin Walkers were shrieking.
A sudden wind poured strongly from down around the trees. Creaking their branches and hissing loudly through their leaves, Dean fell backwards onto the wooden planks as it blustered up the side of the barn and swirled inside. Dust and hay flew everywhere practically blinding him. Holding up his arm over his eyes he struggled to lean forward over the edge to see what the Walkers were doing.
They were both gone, scattered back into the trees as soon as the wind hit.
Dean’s eyes widened as he watched the gale sweep down across the muddy yard, stir up the bedraggled flag Johnson had by his front door and start ripping the weathered wood shingles off the top of the roof. Everything was growing darker, like ink poured into a clear glass of water, diffusing the air and making it too heavy to breathe.
He scrambled for the loft’s rickety ladder, relieved that it was still upright, he half slid down the lower section hitting the barn floor with a roll when it finally tipped and crashed to the floor. Racing for the entrance he stopped in confusion when he hit the outside. It was darker. He raised his hand and experimentally waved it through the air. It was like running his hand through a pool of thick tepid water. He started walking, the sensation of it all over his body as he cut through it. Dean involuntarily shuddered as it coldy seeped down the back of his neck and down his spine.
Traveling blindly in a direction based on instinct alone, Dean was relieved when the water pump wavered into view through the clouds and eddies made by the wind. It was either his imagination or it seemed warmer down here. The smell of the farm and mud replaced with something dry and acrid. It was the unmistakable clean smooth scent of the desert. The sun baked red rocks that cooled to cold with night fall and the rushing hiss of sand falling in a scatter against a scoured cave wall...
Dean picked up his pace, fighting with the bursts of wind that pushed him backwards. He lowered his arms that were up protectively over his face. Blinking into the ebbing gusts, he stared down at where he’d left his brother.
The steel length of chain lay just as he’d last seen it. The circle of the cuff not pried open or damaged in any way. It lay closed and locked in the mud.
But there was nothing in it.
Sam was gone.