In which Dean gets to explore the problem he volunteered to help solve.
And the streetlights? They were /fantastic/. Dean squinted at the one that flickered epileptically just to their left. Well, that’s what happened when a tourist city tried to pretend it didn’t have a top-level murder rate. Of course, it also made it a royal bitch and a half to B&E your way into anywhere. Especially this close to Jackson Square.
He leaned idly against the wall and watched as Becca cursed under her breath, taking a hand from the lock she was working at to suck briefly on her thumb. “Break a nail?” he asked lightly, lowly.
“Mm, I’ll break yours.” She frowned in concentration at the window. “I’d like to see you bypass an electronic system like this and then face a goddamn Fort Knox lock.”
“Nobody trusts anybody anymore, huh?” That earned him an absent half-smile and he relaxed back against the cooling brick a happier man. “Sure you don’t want help?” Focused again, she only offered a faint grunt to the negative. He watched her for another few moments and then slipped down the wall to crouch at her bag. He hesitated for an instant in the timeless manner of a man faced with a purse before shaking his head and shoving his hand deep inside to feel around for the EMF meter. It wasn’t like it was a real purse, anyway. Becca didn’t strike him as the type to keep tampons next to her rock salt. At least he hoped she didn’t.
“It’s in the front pocket,” she said under her breath. Then, with a soft gasp, she heard the click and tugged the picks from the lock. “And we’re in.”
“Excellent.” Dean glanced over with a bright smile before returning to his search again. His fingers brushed cool metal and he tugged out the meter. Approvingly, he noted that hers was solid, a good make and model. Of course, it lacked the fun and sense of accomplishment of his but not everyone could be a homegrown MacGyver. His automatic check for batteries within did not go unnoticed, however, and Becca made a soft sound that just might have been laughter. When he looked up, though, her face only held attentive wariness as she set her hand to the door and pushed gently. “By the way,” he began lowly, “what kind of place in New Orleans has burglar alarms that can be knocked out with some alligator clips?”
“Sounds like a joke.” Becca blindly held out her hand for her bag and he immediately obliged by looping the strap over her outstretched fingers after returning the meter to its home. “The punchline is idiots.” She raised her arm and the bag slid smoothly down her arm and a rough shrug brought it up over her shoulder. “C’mon. Time to be all larcenous and stuff.”
He allowed her to go first, mostly because he was busily indulging in a moment of shock that someone other than his brother used a word like ‘larcenous’ in normal, everyday conversation. Maybe Becca really was a college girl. He smirked to himself before following her through the door and pulling it shut again behind them, easing it with the expertise of a seasoned house-breaker. Sam would so want to take Becca out for coffee and a poetry reading. The wimp.
Pausing at the bottom of the steps, Becca motioned upwards in silent question. He nodded firmly. There was no way a sensible spook was hanging on the first floor, home of kitschy tourist goodness and a curtained area for a psychic. Dean only paused long enough to peer through the archway in order to double-check his notion. The sight of a paisley curtain and a little display rack of “voodoo dolls” wrinkled his nose and he stepped back into the hallway. Reaching out, he touched light fingers to the small of Becca’s back and pushed. “That stuff’s insane,” he muttered, barely audible. “If any of it’s good stuff…”
“Yeah.” Becca looked over her shoulder as she moved to stand on the first step. “And I’m going, I’m going.” Her mouth twitched in a would-be smile. “You don’t have to shove.” Dean returned the look with the utmost innocence and, reaching forward, pressed his hand against her back again. She snorted and quickly climbed the stairs, keeping to the outer edges where they were less likely to creak. He watched for a moment in approval before he joined her.
A small light flickered about six inches from the floor on his right and he crouched a bit in the hallway to study it. “Something’s interfering with the electricity,” he offered. He tapped at the night-light with his index finger – once, twice, but on the third time, it shut down completely and he glanced up sheepishly. “Whoops.” Even through the dark, he could feel her staring at him in disbelief and he turned to give the light another flick. It obligingly turned back on. “The wiring can’t be that old or it wouldn’t pass code.”
“Yeah and I’m betting that, if anyone noticed it, they’re not talking. Codes mean a lot when you’re looking for tax breaks.” Absently, she lowered her bag to the floor beside him and kept her brown eyes ahead. Then she stretched out a hand to one side to press her palm against the wall. Her head tilted and she held still.
Dean watched her for a moment and strained his ears in an attempt to hear what she was apparently listening for. Not picking up anything, however, he tugged her bag towards him and went searching again for the EMF meter. Under the dim gleam of the nightlight, he dug a bit deeper. The bag was shapeless canvas, riddled with pockets flush against the inside and bulging with the tools of their obscure trade. He felt his fingers brush against plant life and small bottles and cold metal. He paused and ran his touch over the metal again tentatively – a small gun and, yes, a second clip. Well, he reflected, if you could get away with openly carrying a gun in a city, it might as well be New Orleans. He glanced up at Becca as his hand closed on the meter and he frowned to see her still holding position. He had never seen anything like it; she did not seem to be using anything other than her normal senses and deep thinking. Weird chick. He shook his head slightly and drew out the instrument, turning it on with a quick flick of a finger. The display came on in immediate obedience.
“There’s something wrong here.”
Dean looked up from the EMF’s flickering lights. “Feeling a disturbance in the Force?” he asked mildly.
“Don’t be an asshole.” Becca frowned but didn’t even glance down at him. “There’s no such thing.”
He almost laughed at that, tempted to point out the inherent stupidity in the statement when they had just broken into a house to check out a ghost which, everyone knew, didn’t really exist. Instead, though, he paused and squinted at her for another moment before looking back down at the EMF in his hands. The display numbers held static and then, abruptly, scrolled up the spectrum and back. “Shit,” he whispered. Then he raised his eyes to follow Becca’s gaze down the hallway. Everything had the obligatory charm of days long gone, adjusted with enough dust and time that you might forget about the slaves that used to perform the upkeep. Becca held her hand out to him, palm upwards. Without another word, Dean placed a flashlight in it and her fingers curled around the cylinder automatically. Switching it on, she aimed it down the long hallway. The light bounced crazily off the silver candlesticks, platters, ornaments. With a twist of her wrist, she angled it towards one wall and squinted. “What’s up?” he asked quietly. He tugged her gun out without asking permission and stood. Her bag got kicked to the side silently by a booted foot as he took up position behind her.
She glanced over her shoulder at him, lifting an eyebrow at his neat and careless appropriation of her tools. Then she turned back and squared her shoulders. “You’d think she’d be right on us,” she murmured. “We’re right here in her house and, hey, I’m a chick.”
“Not to mention the meter just went wonky.” The fact that he let a chance to comment on her particular indications of womanhood only served to underscore the unease of the situation. He nodded, indicating she should move forward with a faint jerk of his chin. “More than one?” he asked under his breath. “That’d be just /swell/.”
Despite her back being towards him, Dean swore he could feel the force of the eye-roll and a faint smile flickered over his face. It was like working with Sammy again… But only if Sammy had a hot ass. When she edged forward, though, he refocused his attention higher and shadowed her. He pressed his back firmly against the wall and brought the small gun up to point it towards the ceiling. Then he stepped closer to follow her own movements. One step, two steps… She crested the first doorway in the long hallway and angled her body to better peer through it. The sudden pause that ran through her whole body was enough to set off all the warning signals and Dean neatly stepped around her to face the room within head-on.
At first, he could not see what had made his companion tense up so badly - like a nun in a brothel, really. The lighting was indistinct and the moon hovered at exactly the wrong angle outside the window to be of any use. He squinted for a moment before deciding it was useless. Taking one hand from the gun, he reached forward to grab her wrist and swing the flashlight in an arcing movement through the room. Dust particles glimmered in the light and dark velvets and rich woods flickered in and out of view. Something towards the bed moved, though, and he quickly forced her hand in the direction. “What the fuck?”
“More than one,” Becca echoed his earlier words softly. “And he’s sure as hell not Julie.”
At the mention of the dead woman’s name, the ghost shifted uneasily on the bed. It lifted a transparent hand as if to motion them closer and its head turned in their direction as well. Dean had the impression of dark eyes and a solemn mouth. Narrowing his eyes a bit more, he could make out the faint outlines of a patrician face – male – with thin cheeks and a high-bridged, narrow nose. He released Becca’s wrist and sank into a crouch to better reach for the bag. Her foot against his hip stopped him and he looked up at her with confusion. She shook her head. He frowned. “You don’t have salt?” he asked in clear disbelief. “You’ve got every other thing and the kitchen sink in here.”
“Does he look like he’s doing anything other than sitting there pathetically?” Becca cracked a weak smile. “I mean, look at him. Really look at him.” She lifted the flashlight again to shine directly on the apparition and Dean watched as it cringed away, hands thrown up to cover its face. She lowered the light again and the ghost relaxed. “That has got to be the most pointless ghost I’ve ever seen.” The dimness returned, the ghost took on a bit more substance, the edges thickening into definition. In the filtered moonlight, they could now see that he was dark-haired and wearing decidedly old-fashioned clothing. He lifted his hand again and they could see the wall behind him through it easily.
Dean couldn’t help it. He started to snicker. “Dude, Casper could take that guy!”
“Probably.” Becca barely cracked a smile at his joke but he could see laughter in her brown eyes. “Still you’ve got to wonder what he’s doing here.” Casting another glance back out into the hallway to see if their true target had materialized, she moved further into the room.
He stepped forward to stand in the doorway and managed to keep an eye both on the hall outside and the slim blonde pacing the perimeter of the darkened bedroom. When she paused with her knuckles against a heavy, silver-backed brush, he craned his neck. “What’s up?”
“Has he moved?”
“Not an inch. Think he’s, well, dead for a spirit?” Dean’s nose crinkled and he squinted back at the stationary apparition. “I’ve heard about lingering echoes but I’ve never bought into them.”
“If he’s stuck on the bed, he might be.” Becca shrugged and moved on to drag the back of her hand along the edge of the cherry wood dresser. “I mean, spirits tied to objects aren’t strange but he’s not even trying to come at me.”
“Maybe he’s checking out your butt.” Absently slipping the gun into the waistband of his jeans, apparently forgetting that it was not at all his gun, Dean took another step forward and slid his hand along the wall in search of a switch. “Don’t look at me. Like I said, maybe he’s an echo or…” He paused as something caught at his attention. Resisting the urge to spin, he very slowly turned his head back towards the bed. “Becca, what’s he doing now? Evil undead mime show?”
“I’m not sure.” There was a long pause and he saw her approach the massive, sprawling bed daintily. “The outfit’s from about the same time frame as Julie, though…” Before she could say another word, though, the clatter of metal against wood echoed down the hall and she jerked back, swinging her wide-eyed gaze to Dean.
He lifted his hands, palm outwards. “I didn’t do it.”
As the sound of shattering porcelain came hard on the heels of his words, Becca hissed and bolted towards the door, her hand grabbing at his shoulder as she passed. “No kidding,” she said. “I think our girl’s at it again.” He turned to follow her, only to bounce off her back as she pulled to a halt and ducked. “Goddammit.”
Neatly, Dean set his hand at the back of her neck and pushed down hard to force her into a full crouch before shoving her sideways towards her bag. He hadn’t noticed any flowerpots in the hallway but it was always better to be safe than sorry and keep Becca down low. Julie had already made one attempt on the blonde’s life. No point in offering another shot at it. “Shit, she’s better than an alarm when she’s pitching a bitch-fit,” he muttered.
“Which is our cue to get out of here before some civic-minded neighbor calls the cops.” Scrambling in a most ungraceful manner, she snatched up her bag and began creeping down the hall, back towards the steps. Dean followed in a slightly less urgent manner, glancing over his shoulder to see the indistinct outline of Julie emerging from the end of the hall, straight through the wall. She lifted a hand, mouth opening, and a vase teetered atop a table. As it finally toppled and shattered, he decided that looking was secondary to avoiding both flying shrapnel and the police.
The two hunters hustled down the steps and out the door just as the night erupted in the telltale sirens and Becca cursed under her breath, hot enough to turn the air blue, before grabbing Dean’s hand and pulling him down an alley. “C’mon, c’mon,” she muttered. The blue and red lights flashed threateningly to their right and she tugged him harder.
Reaching forward, he snatched the bag from her shoulder and pulled it onto his. “Gotta love how prompt those guys are,” he said with a laugh. Then he pushed her towards another alley and they swerved around the corner into the narrow confines, slowing their jog as Royal Street disappeared further and further behind them. As they reached the bright lights of Decatur finally, Becca stumbled to a halt and leaned back against a lamppost. She panted slightly, eyes closing. “Well…”
“Yeah, that was fun.” Dean grinned and moved to share the spot with her, hip against the bodywarm metal. “So do you put out on first dates or what?”
She looked at him in disbelief and he merely grinned back harder. Then, quite suddenly, she began laughing until she doubled over, arms wrapped tight around her midsection. “/Asshole/.”
Stretching out a hand to flip a piece of her hair out of her downturned face, he laughed with her. “Back at the hotel, Becca. I think we’ve got some books to look at first.”