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Title: Primary Sources
Characters: Sam Winchester, Dean Winchester, John Winchester, OCs
Rating: PG-13
Length: 14,850 words
Spoilers/Warnings: None
Fandom/Genre: SPN gen pre-series case-fic
Author's Notes: Thanks to my beta, counteragent. The Wedderburn House in Narragansett really is rumored to be haunted - you might want to read about the actual legend after you've finished the fictional version, so you aren't spoiled.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW.
Challenge: Written as a Rhode Island entry for the 50states_spn challenge.
Summary: Their latest hunt involves a haunted house in Narragansett with a reputation for killing women and children. Dad won't let Sam and Dean anywhere near the mansion, but that doesn't mean they can't help.

Part I | Part II | AO3

They were driving down highway 1A, a scenic Rhode Island beach road. Sam was curled up in the backseat with all their worldly belongings, reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a warm ocean breeze from Dad’s open window ruffling his hair. Dean was quietly singing along with a CCR song in the passenger seat.

Dad slowed down and took a sharp left turn. Gravel crackled under the tires. Dad pulled over and shifted into park.

“I’ll be right back,” he said, getting out of the car and turning off the engine.

Sam craned his neck to watch as Dad approached the parking barrier blocking their way into a small private road. Dad quickly unlocked the padlock with a key he’d gotten in the mail last week. Then he moved the arm of the barrier up out of the way.

A grizzled old man with a potbelly wandered by with a big yellow lab and stopped to watch Dad wrestle with the barrier.

“You visiting someone here?” the guy asked warily, his dog whining and straining at its leash to greet Dad.

Dad smiled at the man and ignored the dog. “In a way. I’m John Bousquet. Dick’s brother, from Colorado?”

The man’s face cleared. “Oh, Dick. Dick called and mentioned he had some family coming in. I’m glad you’re here for him. Damn shame about his wife and little girl. My grand-daughter used to play with her every summer, you know. In fact, I remember – ”

Dad interrupted. “Dick said we could stay at his cottage here while he was up in Boston. Is that gonna be a problem?”

“Down, Tigger!” the man ordered his dog. It lay down with a pathetic whine, tail thumping against the ground. “No, of course not, family’s always allowed,” he said, holding out his hand for Dad to shake. “Name’s Andy. Andy Hamilton.”

Dad reached out and shook his hand once, firmly. “In that case, we should be heading in. It’s been a long few days in the car.”

Andy nodded sagely. “Right, of course.” He peered into the car. “Will the missus be flying out to join you?”

From the car, Sam watched the set of Dad’s shoulders stiffen.

“I’m a widower,” Dad said curtly, his left hand curling into a fist around his wedding band.

The dog cringed away from Dad, ears down. Andy must’ve had the survival instincts of a fruit fly, ‘cause he didn’t even notice. “Oh, you and Dick, both of you lost a wife? What a terrible tragedy. And you raising two boys on your own, too –”

Dean leaned out his window. “Hey, Andy, is it OK if I take a leak over in those bushes? Haven’t had a bathroom break since Connecticut.”

Andy blanched. “Maidie’s sweetbells? No no, you’d better get over to Dick’s.”

Dad turned around, got into the car, started the engine, and revved it.

“- in number 15,” Andy was saying when the engine noise quieted to its usual growl. “If you or your boys need anything, you drop by, anytime!”

“Thank you for the warm welcome,” Dad said as the Impala slid past the parking barrier. Andy locked the gate down behind them.

“Jesus,” Dean swore under his breath as they drove by a hand-painted sign exclaiming ‘Kids at Play! 5 mph speed limit!

“Yeah,” Dad agreed, stretching his neck. “That’s got to be a new record for getting made by the neighborhood busybody,” he growled. “Anyone asks, I’m a contractor back in Denver, and Dick asked me out here to make some renovations to the Wedderburn House after the ‘accident’. It’s the first time we’ve visited since Sam was born. Got it?”

Dean nodded. “Got it,” he confirmed.

The car rolled past a row of tiny beach houses. Some had fire pits out in front. Other yards were cluttered with toys and bikes. Sam wondered about the kiddie pool. Why bother with one of those when the ocean was a five-minute walk away?

“Sam,” Dad barked.

Sam gave a deep, heart-felt sigh. “You’re a contractor here to renovate your poor grieving brother’s mansion, and I’ve never even met Uncle Dick,” he parroted back.

“That’ll do,” Dad said. “We shouldn’t be here long enough to need anything more elaborate.”

Dad lied; it wasn’t a ‘cottage.’ The place they pulled up to, in lot #29, was a trailer. An aluminum trailer up on blocks. Sam appreciated the irony of a guy who owned a mansion and used a trailer as his vacation home, but he’d really been hoping for more privacy. He grabbed his duffel bag and feather pillow and ran in as soon as Dad unlocked the door.

The double bed at the far end of the trailer must be Dad’s. There was a pair of bunk beds stuffed into the space across from the stove. Sam shoved his pillow onto the bottom bunk, took off his shoes, and rolled around on it. There was one pokey spring near the wall, easy enough to avoid. The blankets smelled a little stale, but not too funky. He’d slept in worse.

Sam sat up, prepared to defend his claim against Dean. They both hated sleeping in the top bunk. Sam because he sometimes rolled around in his sleep at night – he’d never actually fallen out of bed, but he worried it might happen someday. Dean’s wierdo obsession with always taking the bed near the door somehow translated into the one near the floor, when they were stacked up on top of each other.

Dean and Dad still hadn’t come in. Sam got up and looked out the screen door. The two of them were standing by the open trunk of the Impala.

“ – targets women and children,” Dad was saying.

“But, Dad -” Dad held up one finger, and Dean shut his mouth.

“I know you’re a man now,” Dad told him. “You’ve really stepped up, these past few months. You handled yourself like a professional on that Redcap hunt, and there is no one I’d rather have at my back.”

Dean shuffled, uncomfortable with the praise.

“But this spirit, she doesn’t know you like I do. If you step in that house, and she sees you as a boy …” Dad slammed the trunk shut. “It’s an unnecessary risk. This hunt might take a while. So I'll be relying on you to earn some legit cash and take care of Sammy.”

Dean nodded crisply. “Yes sir.”

“Sir, yes sir,” Sam muttered, retreating to his bed. He didn’t need a baby-sitter. And it’s not like either of them really cared. They’d left him alone for three weeks in Denver when they went on that stupid Redcap hunt. Sam had lived off school breakfasts, and school lunches, and cans of soup he heated up on the hot plate in a scuzzy one-room efficiency apartment over a tattoo parlor. There was a four day stretch when Dean didn’t call, and Sam had thrown himself into studying Trigonometry to keep his mind off the fear that Dean and his dad were both dead.

Sam sat in the town library the next day, reading microfiche of the Providence Journal from the nineteenth century, searching for any mention of the Wedderburn family and their house. The microfiche box had been covered in dust when the librarian delivered them to him with a pained smile that said she wished she could think of a reason to forbid him to mess with her microfiche scanner.

The problem was, they didn’t know when the haunting had started. An article published in the National Enquirer in 1982 claimed that, since the end of World War II, any woman or child that lived in Wedderburn House died within six months. Not the most reliable of sources, but Sam had checked, and it seemed to be true. But this ghost, if it even was a ghost, was subtler than most.

“Means it’s a woman,” Dad had announced as they drove down an empty stretch of I-80.

Sam had offered up contrary examples. Women in White, the Headless Bride, the Clearview ghost – plenty of women’s spirits liked their vengeance quick and bloody.

Dad shook his head. “You’ll learn,” he said.

It pissed Sam off when Dad did that. Declared himself the victor whenever Sam disagreed with him, without even trying to counter his arguments.

Anyway, this ghost was sneaky. Sam had looked up everything he could on the computer and microfiche before they left Denver. He couldn’t be sure which of the deaths that had taken place in Wedderburn House were supernatural, and which were just bad luck. Women died in childbirth. Infants stopped breathing in their cradles. A boy fell out of a tree in the garden and broke his neck. A little girl choked to death on fish bones. A wife fell down the stairs. Swine flu swept through a family of seven in September of 1918. Only the husband, a captain leading his troops against the Hindenburg Line in Europe, survived.

The ghost never hurt the man of the house. Dad might be right, Sam decided grudgingly. That did sound like a woman who was taking out the competition.

The house had sat unoccupied since the last grief-stricken husband and father, Nelson Wedderburn, moved out in 1978 and bequeathed it to the Providence Diocese. Dick had a thriving landscaping business, with branches all over New England. He’d picked up Wedderburn House for a song.

Sam had to wonder, what kind of asshole moves his family into a haunted house known for killing women and children? Dick Bousquet had heard the stories. He’d even read the article in the Enquirer. But he didn’t believe in ghosts.

Dick’s wife and little girl died peacefully in their sleep of carbon monoxide poisoning a month after they’d moved in, on a night when Dick was out of town on business.

The trailer Dick had offered to let them stay in while Dad worked the case was tiny, but it was walking distance from the library, which had a great collection of local historical documents. If they were going to figure out whose bones to burn, Sam would need to pin-point when the haunting began. And that meant starting at the beginning.

There were a few notes jotted down in his notebook already. Captain Japheth Wedderburn built the house in 1830. There were a few references to his ship docking after successful cross-Atlantic trips, and one disastrous trading voyage in 1832. He threw a big party in 1835. There was a detailed account of it in the paper, including a meticulous description of the food, and a mention of Mrs. Wedderburn, their ‘petite and gracious hostess.’ A few brief birth and death notices from less notorious branches of the family, and then an article following Japheth Wedderburn’s death from a heart attack at sea in 1837. Nothing jumped out as useful yet, but you could never tell what scrap of information might be the one to save Dad’s life.

Someone plopped into the chair next to him with a deep sigh. Sam would have assumed it was Dean, if not for the cloud of too-sweet perfume. He finished copying down the details from Japheth’s obituary, closed his notebook, and took a good, hard look at the girl who had interrupted him.

She was his age, pretty, with long hair bleached white-blonde from the sun and a tight Green Day t-shirt that showed off her tits. She popped her gum, sending a waft of mint his way. In his head, Sam could just hear his brother urging him to, ‘Get a slice of that action.

“Whatcha doin’?” she asked in a voice thick with the local accent.

“Research,” he answered curtly.

“Huh.” Her eyes roved over the microfiche scanner and his notebook. “You in summer school, or something?”

“No, it’s just for fun,” he said, and then almost bit his tongue. Now she’d think he was a total freak.

Her dark purple-red lips curved into a skeptical pout. “Didn’t think anybody used those things anymore,” she said dismissively. “Isn’t it all on the computer?”

Sam decided she must be the kind of girl that never made it past the magazine rack by the door. “Not the historical documents,” he told her.

She shrugged and made a move to stand up, probably so she could go spread the word about what a total dweeb he was, guaranteeing he’d be stuck with no one except his brother to talk to in this town.

“My mother,” Sam said quickly. Dad had already mentioned he was a widower, and what harm could it do? “She was a historian.”

“Really?” she asked, settling back down into her chair.

“Yeah,” he said. And then, because the bigger the lie, the more people believed it, he added, “She was really famous. She won the Locke Award.”

Locke was the name of Sam’s history teacher in Mississippi last spring who assigned them to do some original research for a National History Day project. Sam tried to kill two birds with one stone by writing up the research he was doing for Dad, on a string of brutal slave deaths on a local plantation in 1811 and their striking similarities to some recent murders. Mr. Locke gave him a zero for the project. Said that the topic was ‘sensationalistic and completely inappropriate’, and then accused him of plagiarizing it. Asshole.

Sam gave the girl a thin smile. “Mom said that every town has its dark secrets, festering away, that everyone knows but no one talks about.” Like the lynching up in Duluth where hundreds of people had been part of the mob that murdered three black circus performers, yet no one was ever charged. That little town in Colorado that lost a couple hikers a year to ‘bears’, when the locals all knew which part of the woods to avoid at night. A respected factory owner in Albany had sacrificed a dozen young women in his basement to keep his terminally –ill daughter alive; the police chief tried to run Dad out of town when he started investigating the deaths. “Those secrets - that’s what my mother’s research was about,” Sam told the girl.

The girl leaned closer to look at his notebook, her breast brushing against Sam’s bare arm. He shivered.

“And that’s what you’re doing?” she asked. “Trying to find the town’s dark secrets?”

Sam shrugged. “I guess you could put it that way.”

“And how about you?” she teased. She was flirting. Sam was sure of it. “Have you got a dark secret?”

Sam almost laughed in her face. He was holding secrets that would make her run screaming. “Of course.”

The girl scooted her chair over until it knocked into Sam’s. She whispered in his ear. “Gonna tell me?”

Sam sat back a little and checked the girl out. She bit her lip and smiled invitingly. ‘You’re in there, Sammy,’ whispered his inner Dean.

“My mom,” Sam said quietly. “She didn’t just die. She was murdered.”

The girl gasped and sat back in her chair, searching his eyes. “Seriously?”

Sam nodded.

“That’s ... that’s terrible. I’m so sorry,” said her mouth. Her eyes said, ‘That’s exciting.’ Her lean towards him said, ‘Tell me more.

“It was a long time ago,” Sam said, scrambling for details he could feed this girl to keep her on the line.

She nodded and then glanced at her watch. “Oh crap. I gotta go. My Mom’s gonna have a cow. But, uh, some of us are getting together for a bonfire tonight. You want to come?”

Sam never got invited to those things, unless he was getting dragged along as Dean’s little brother. “Yeah, sure,” he said like it was no big deal.

She grinned and stood up. “Cool. Ten o’clock at the south end of Scarborough beach.”

“I’ll be there,” Sam promised as she walked away. He nearly got caught checking out her ass in those perfectly torn jeans when she spun back around.

“Oh, I’m such a ditz,” she exclaimed. “I’m Christy, by the way.”

“Sam,” Sam introduced himself. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Oh, you’re, like, a total gentleman,” Christy said. “My friends’ll love you. See you tonight, Sam!”

Sam waved good-bye, took a deep breath, and wiped his hands down his jeans before digging back into 1840’s newspapers.

When Sam got back from the library, he found Dean sprawled out topless at the picnic table in front of their trailer. Dean’s back and shoulder had already gone pink on one side from sitting in the sun, he noticed. Pretty soon Dean’s sunburn would flare to a deep lobster-red. Then he’d be cranky for a few days until it peeled away, leaving him with a decent tan and a million freckles.

It happened every summer. Sam had tried getting Dean to wear sunblock, but he thought it was just for girls. Given how many girls had asked Dean to put lotion on their backs yesterday at the beach, Dean might have a point. One girl in a red bikini made these little moans when Dean got his hands on her. Sam had to go stand in the freezing cold, seaweedy ocean for a couple of minutes so he didn’t embarrass himself.

“Hey man,” Dean greeted him. “Got a job at a video store in town. I get free rentals on everything but new releases, and there’s a VCR in the trailer. What do you wanna watch tonight,” he asked, holding up two video boxes. “‘Psycho’ or ‘A Fistful of Dollars’?”

“How about something we haven’t seen a dozen times,” Sam suggested, tossing his notebook onto the table so Dean could read through the history he’d found on the Wedderburn family and heading inside to get a drink of water.

He stood on tip-toe in the breathless heat of the trailer to grab a plastic cup from the cupboard over the sink, filled it up, and joined Dean outside. They’d probably end up spending a lot of their time out here. It was cramped inside the trailer, and the breeze outside made the heat bearable.

“Then how do we know it’s any good?” Dean countered.

Sam shrugged, squinting against the bright sunlight. He took a gulp of his cold water, sat on the sparse, dry grass in the shade of the table, settled his cup on the ground next to him, and then flopped backwards to lay down.

“I made some lemonade,” Dean offered. “There’s a pitcher in the fridge, if you want some.”

“Real lemonade?” Sam asked with a yawn. Maybe he’d take a nap so he’d be wide awake for the bonfire tonight.

“Nah, better. It’s Country Time Pink Lemonade.”

Sam snorted. “No thanks, I’m good.”

Sam lay there and let his sweaty t-shirt dry in the breeze as Dean paged through his notebook.

“Christ,” Dean muttered when he was done. “Not much to go on, huh?”

“The Wedderburns weren’t rich or crazy enough to be newsworthy,” Sam agreed.

“We’ll have to ask around,” Dean said. “Sometimes the juiciest stuff doesn’t make it into the papers, right? Just the ghost stories told round the campfire.”

Sam felt a guilty lurch. “Oh, yeah, uh, that reminds me. I got invited to a bonfire party down on the beach tonight.”

There was a creak of wood, and Sam could feel his brother looking at him.

“Invited by who?” Dean asked. “The librarian?”

“No,” Sam answered. “Just some girl I ran into at the library. Christy.”

“Cha-ris-ti-e,” Dean said, somehow turning it into a four-syllable word. “She hot?”

Sam sat up on his elbows. “Pretty hot,” he agreed. “Nice …” Sam waved at his own chest.

Dean broke into a wide grin. “You sly dog! Two days in town, and you’re picking up chicks at the library? You may be worthy of the Winchester name after all.”

Sam held up his hand, bracing for the high-five he knew was coming. Dean’s palm met his in a solid slap that left his hand stinging.

The Impala’s deep rumble warned them that Dad was on the way.

Dean pulled Sam up off the ground. Sam dusted the bits of dirt and grass off his clothes and legs.

Dad pulled the car in close to the trailer. When he got out, he opened the back and pulled out a bag of groceries.

“Grab the charcoal out of the back seat,” he told Dean. He put the groceries away and then cooked them up some hamburgers on the grill, just like a real dad, chattering about his day while they sat at the picnic table to eat dinner. Of course, on TV their dad’s work-day stories would involve annoying bosses and project deadlines, not a four-story house so lousy with EMF that he couldn’t figure out where to start.

Dad seemed pretty mellow about it, though. When Sam brought up the bonfire party, he agreed right away that Sam could go.

Dean leaned forward, super-serious considering the ketchup smeared across his mouth. “No swimming in the ocean at night,” he told Sam. “There’s riptide currents, jellyfish, maybe sharks – remember Jaws? And mermaids, too. They look like chicks with big tits, but what they’ve actually got are big, razor-sharp teeth, ready to eat your face off. And salt doesn’t work on any monsters from the sea, so –”

“Dad,” Sam complained flatly. “Dean’s been possessed by the ghost of somebody’s Mom again.”

Dad grinned. He got up, ruffled Sam’s hair, and started picking up the dirty dishes. He shoved a paper towel into Dean’s hand on his way back into the trailer.

Dean took it without looking and wiped his face. Once Dad was safely in the trailer, he leaned forward and said quietly, “This girl who invited you. Chastity?”

“Christy,” Sam muttered.

“Whatever. If she’s willing to put out, go for it, but wrap it up, man.” Dean said, reaching into his back pocket and pulling out his wallet. He tugged two flat golden packets out and slid them across the table.

Trojans. Ribbed and lubricated for her pleasure. “Oh my God,” Sam protested.

Dean pointed uncompromisingly at the condoms.

“I cannot believe this is my life,” Sam said, picking up the condoms and sticking them in his front pocket. “She’s not that kind of girl, Dean.”

Dean shook his head. “Rookie mistake. The girls with the bad rep, that let it all hang out, they always use a rubber. It’s these ‘nice girls’,” Dean said, making finger quotes in the air, “That get all carried away by their emotions, or romance, or moonlight on the beach or some shit, and end up catching something.”

“Like that girl Alice, who gave you the clap back in San Antonio?” Sam challenged him.

“Exactly,” Dean said without an ounce of embarrassment. “Learn from my mistakes, grasshopper. You do not wanna be pissing fire for a week, trust me.”

“You caught an STD in San Antonio?” said Dad from the door of the trailer, his face like thunderclouds. “And this is the first I’m hearing of it?”

Dean glared at Sam for a second before turning around to face their father. “Yeah. It wasn’t a big deal. I took some penicillin from the med kit, cleared it right up.”

Dad shook his head. “That’s not the point, and you know it. I got those antibiotics for line of duty injuries, not so you can screw around like some stupid GI in Bangkok.” Dad was getting worked up, red in the face and voice raw.

“Dad, I’m sorry,” Dean said, standing up and hurrying over to Dad. Dean could sometimes get through to Dad when he started to spin out. “It was just the one time. It was stupid, really fucking stupid, but I learned my lesson, okay? I’m always careful now, one hundred percent.”

Dad took a deep breath, staring down at him. Then he stepped back. “You’d better be,” he mumbled. He took another breath. “I’m going out,” he announced. “And you,” he said, pointing at Dean. “You are staying in.”

Dean nodded, shoulders low.

“I brought the bag of shotguns in earlier,” Dad said in a quieter voice. “When I get back tonight I expect to find every one of them as clean as the day they came out of the factory.”

Yeah, right. When Dad got back tonight, he’d be too drunk to take his shoes off without Dean’s help.

“Yes sir,” Dean agreed.

“And you,” Dad said, looking at Sam.

Sam sat up straighter.

“You go to that party tonight. Drink one beer, but act like you’ve had more. Make sure they all know that you weren’t close to Dick’s family, and see if you can get a round of ghost stories started.”

“Yes sir,” Sam echoed, and hated himself for it.

The Impala fish-tailed a little on the gravel when Dad pealed out. They both watched him drive away.

“I’m sorry,” Sam told his brother, and meant it. They’d been having a good night, until he screwed things up. “I thought he was still inside.”

Dean shrugged. “My own fault for catching something in the first place,” he said, subdued.

A few minutes before ten o’clock, Sam stepped out of the trailer into the warm, damp, salt-tinged night. He walked towards Scarborough beach in the dark, wearing his only pair of jeans that went all the way down to his ankles and didn’t have any holes, paired with a clean white t-shirt. He stepped sure-footed down crumbling sidewalks and the soft, grassy verges of tiny beach houses, automatically ducking his head as he passed under streetlights to keep his eyes adjusted to the dark. Something slipped between the shadows ahead of him. Sam froze, his hand moving towards the butterfly knife in his pocket. A car cruised by; its headlights revealed a cat’s green eyes shining from under a bush. Sam stretched his neck to release the tension, pissed at himself for getting keyed up over nothing.

This felt more like a hunt than a party, thanks to Dad’s last-minute instructions. Sam had tried to get Dean to watch a movie with him after dinner, but Dean had just grunted and taken up every square inch of open floor space with shotguns and cleaning supplies. Sam sniffed at his shirt, hoping that he didn’t reek of the Break-Free CLP Dean used to clean the weapons.

Sam forced himself to stand under the next streetlight. He stared up at the bugs swarming around the bulb, humming under his breath, until even his peripheral vision was shot. Then he stumbled down the sidewalk, just a normal kid on his way to a party.

Sam followed the sound of the waves across the flat black expanse of an enormous parking lot. He passed a big wooden building with public restrooms, cold outdoor showers, and windows for selling food. There was an angry caw, and Sam paused to watch two white blobs - seagulls scrapping over something in the sand. Nowhere near big enough to be a body, he determined as his night vision came back. Not unless it was in pieces. Of course, it was probably just a dead fish, or a sandwich left over from someone’s picnic.

Up ahead there was the light of a bonfire and the sound of people’s voices, laughing and singing along to Madonna on someone’s boom-box.

A figure came running towards Sam, silhouetted by the bonfire. Sam braced himself and caught an armful of beer and honey-suckle scented girl.

“Sam,” Christy gasped. “I knew you’d come. Claudia said I was making you up. Come on,” she said, tugging him unsteadily towards the fire.

“Guys, this is Sam,” she called out to them. “He’s wicked smart.”

Sam winced and tried to keep the smile on his face.

“Sam, that’s Jack, my brother Al, his girlfriend Nancy, and that’s Claudia,” she said pointedly. “The rest of these assholes will just have to introduce themselves. Danny – get Sam here a bee-ah,” Christy demanded as she dragged him into the circle of firelight cast by the bonfire.

‘Bee-ah? ’wondered Sam. What was … oh. Duh. ‘Beer’ sounded funny in Rhode Island-ese.

“Yes ma’am,” Danny answered crisply from his position by the keg, before breaking into giggles.

“Military?” Sam asked Christy quietly, squinting through the flickering firelight to get a good look at everybody. He attached a name tag to each person in his head, so he wouldn’t forget. When you’re always the new kid, you need to be good with names.

“His dad’s navy, stationed up in Newport,” she whispered back loudly.

Danny walked over to them with the utter concentration of the very drunk and shoved an overly full plastic cup of beer into Sam’s hand. The beer splashed onto him. So much for having a clean shirt. Sam managed a smile and a hopefully convincing, “Thanks!”

Christy collapsed down to sit on a piece of driftwood by the fire, dragging Sam with her. Sam barely avoided spilling the beer all over his jeans. Well, at least Dad would be too drunk when he got home to notice if Sam smelled like a brewery. Sam took a hesitant sip of the beer and made a face. It tasted like horse-piss. Not that Sam knew what horse piss tasted like. Unlike human piss, which he knew all too well because his brother was a jerk who believed the saying ‘who pissed in your Cheerios’ could and should be answered literally.

He kept an arm around Christy, mostly to keep her upright, and hoped she wouldn’t barf on him. As the night went on the music was turned down low, then off. People huddled around the fire in little cliques, drinking beer and talking quietly, watching the fire burn down to embers. No one said anything to Sam. He wasn’t sure if that was because he was new, if it had something to do with Christy being draped all over him, or if he’d screwed up somehow already.

Sam figured it was time to get to work. He waited for a lull in the conversation around him. “So, is the Wedderburn House really haunted?” Sam asked loudly.

There was an uncomfortable silence.

“You mean your uncle’s place?” Al asked.

“Yeah, I guess.” Sam shrugged. “I mean, it’s not like I ever met the guy. Him and my dad aren’t close. We never even visited Rhode Island before.” Sam sipped beer from his plastic cup, hoping he looked enough like a shallow douchebag to pull this off. “It sounded like a cool story, but if it’s not real...” He trailed off, dangling that like fresh bait in the water.

“Oh, it’s real,” Al jumped in to defend the local legend. “The old Wedderburn place is as haunted as they come, by the ghost of Japheth Wedderburn. He was a sea-captain. They say he murdered his wife, then hung himself up in the attic, and he’s haunted the place ever since.”

They were wrong. Japheth died of a heart attack at sea, not from hanging himself in a murder-suicide. That was the problem with trying to get information from ghost stories. It was like playing a game of Chinese whispers. Only, in Sam’s version, if you didn’t find the truth, people died.

Christy lifted her head off of Sam’s shoulder, leaving a damp patch behind. “I heard it was a slave,” she said. She sniffed, wiped her mouth, then continued. “She was Japheth’s mistress. When the wife found out, she poisoned the slave. It was all covered up, of course, and they buried her out back. Ever since then, she takes her revenge on any woman who dares live in the house.”

“No suh!” said a girl scornfully from the far side of the bonfire. “Rhode Island didn’t have slaves, not even back then.”

Which was a good point, although Christy’s story sounded promising.

“She was an escaped slave,” Christy insisted in a voice way too loud to be that close to Sam’s ear. He leaned away. “Wedderburn was part of the Underground Railroad. There’s a secret room under the eaves where the slaves would hide out on their way to Canada.”

Sam’s finger’s twitched for his notebook. A secret room, and the possibility that Wedderburn House had been a stop on the Underground Railroad? Definitely worth checking out.

“You’re both wrong,” Claudia announced. She was a tiny girl huddled into the depths of a white hoody as if it were 50 degrees out, instead of a muggy 80. “It was Wedderburn’s wife that died. She was young – really young, like fourteen. He kept getting her pregnant, but by the time he got back to shore she’d lost the baby, every time. They say there’s a whole row of unmarked graves in the family graveyard full of little dead babies. After the sixth time it happened, she disappeared. Japheth said she’d gone back to Spain, but everybody knows he killed her.”

“I heard it was the housekeeper,” Jack interrupted.

“Whatever. They were probably in it together, because he married the housekeeper, like, a month after his wife disappeared. Then he gets her pregnant.” Claudia stood up and moved closer to the fire, warming her hands over it. Sam was impressed with her showmanship.

When she spoke again, her voice was deeper. “The day Japheth’s new wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy is the day his old wife came back, all rotted and wearing a black veil. She smothered the new-born baby in its cradle, choked the new mommy to death with the umbilical cord, and gave Japheth a big, bloody kiss before disappearing back to Hell.”

“Ewwww!” Christy shrieked. “Claudia, that is so gross!”

Sam had to agree. The bit with the umbilical cord was pretty nasty, even by his standards.

Claudia beamed a smile and sauntered back to her own piece of driftwood. Claudia’s story would match the motives of the ghost they were working with, although the bloody violence of it didn’t fit.

Danny was noisily sick in the sand behind them. The conversation turned to other times and places they’d all thrown up. Sam thought about making up something spectacular, but being declared ‘The Pukiest of Them All’ didn’t really seem worth the effort.

A light fog crept up the beach, and then gradually thickened. A mournful fog horn sounded out at sea. As if that were a signal, the party broke up. Sam helped Christy’s brother drag her to his beat-up Subaru wagon.

“Thanks, man,” Al said, fastening the seat belt across Christy’s (still impressive) chest. “Want a ride?”

Sam thought about it. He usually avoided letting people know where he lived – motels and sleazy apartments never won him any cool points. But it seemed like the entire town was already all up in his business, so he might as well save himself the walk. “Yeah, that’d be great.”

Al unlocked the back door. Sam climbed in, pushed a month’s worth of fast food wrappers out of his way, and settled gingerly on the vinyl seat.

“Sorry about the mess,” Al said over his shoulder. “Oh, and the buckle on the seat belt back there’s busted.”

Sam nodded and rolled down the window. Al’s car smelled about like you’d expect, with all those bits of food baking in the summer sun all day long. “I’m staying at Dick’s place,” Sam said, trying to avoid saying the word ‘trailer’, “up on Burnside –”

“Yeah, I know,” Al said.

Of course, Sam thought sourly.

“Christy wouldn’t stop blabbing about you over dinner.”

Sam sat back in the seat and smiled until Al dropped him off. Dad might not appreciate him attracting that much attention, but a girl had been interested enough to ask around about him. Sam opened the creaky screen door of the trailer and heard Dad’s deep half-snores. He padded in, got undressed, and slipped between the covers of his bunk.

“Did she put out?” Dean whispered.

“She passed out,” Sam confessed.

Dean laughed quietly. “Better luck next time, man.”

Sam heard Dean plump up his pillow and lie back down, a sure sign the conversation was over. They fell asleep to the sound of the fog horn and Dad's snores.

Read Part II.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 19th, 2011 10:09 pm (UTC)
Oooh, this one sounds faboo! *downloads to slap into Kindle* Hopefully, I'll get to this before the holidays...
Dec. 20th, 2011 08:57 pm (UTC)
I hope you enjoy the story, quickreaver! If you get a chance, drop by and let me know what you thought of it.
Dec. 20th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, absolutely! I'm HUGE on supplying feedback. :D (And I dig your writing so I'm anxious to get to readin'!)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )