From Such A Duty
Halloween tale, just because. Useless trivia: partially written on a plane to LA using a pen that refused to work. >6000 words, PG for language.
Summary: Don’t vandalize cemeteries, dumbass.
Yes I have done wrong
But what I did I thought needed be done, I swear.
– Dave Matthews Band, The Stone
The whole place had been rezoned, and that meant the old cemetery was moving.
On the eastern side of the town of Enfield, out Hazard Ave, was a very small, very old cemetery dating from the 1700's. The last burial had taken place in 1837.
They parked the car on the opposite side of the road and walked steadily up the incline. Dew-soaked grass swiped at the legs of their jeans; damp leaves whispered and slid from their boots. Their breath was visible in the dying October light. A haze of woodsmoke and cooler air was beginning to settle on the ridge below them on the other side of the road.
There was warning tape strung between thin, flat wooden stakes along the outskirts of the churchyard and three sides of the St. Matthews cemetery. Trailing ends flipped a little every now and then, caught in a mild breeze. A yellow backhoe sat with a hulking, grimy demeanor in its own ruts just off the gravel pathway that wound around the church and through the cemetery.
Most of the headstones in the first twenty or so rows were missing; the earth was torn and already muddy with dew, recently turned by heavy machinery and the countless treads of workboots. The graves had already been moved. Further on were another two dozen rows waiting to go, with the stones left in place in the meantime. The first stones had been removed and stored, then set in place at the new location once the graves were fully moved and the new sod had been laid. There were no statues or mausoleums visible; either they’d already been moved, or no one had seen fit to add them in the first place. Most of those interred there were from the town when it had first been founded; chances were no one had been able to afford statuary. They’d been buried in the yard of the church they had attended, coming to rest where they had come so often to pray.
They walked the full perimeter, staying outside the fluttering warning tape. Neither of them had any desire to walk over ground that had been emptied of bodies or still contained them. It had nothing to do with getting mud on their boots. It had to do with what had been happening to people who set foot inside the lines.
The final two rows of stones, mostly upright granite and limestone or sandstone, were shoved from pedestals or purposely shattered.
Dean stared down at one shattered stone, looking at two hundred and fifty year-old granite in a tumbled tableau left exactly where it had fallen. Parts of the one next to it had been kicked several yards to his right. The names and dates were no longer visible for the occupants of either grave; the stones were beyond repair. Even if the churchyard’s records were intact, who was going to donate enough to place new stones? Especially if there was no one left who came to visit? Moved away or died off, whole families gone, the buried forgotten behind them.
It was like they’d never been there at all.
Sam came to stand just behind his right shoulder, peering slightly over it when he could have seen things just as easily standing beside. There was something in the way Dean stood that had prompted Sam to stand guard over him rather than just with him.
“They hit the place pretty hard, huh.” Sam’s tone said he felt it was senseless.
Dean snorted. “Somebody’s hitting them pretty hard right back.” He didn’t move away from Sam. It was a little warmer in Sam’s shadow for once.
Sam shifted his weight from his left to his right foot, and there was a touch of humor in his voice. “Sounds like you already know there’s a connection. See this before?”
“Yeah,” Dean said. “I have.” He turned his face toward the church again, watching the shadows among the ivy climbing the brick facing. “How old you think the church is?”
He didn’t look, but he knew Sam was squinting at it, examining it the same way he pored over anything that looked like evidence.
“Seventeen hundreds,” Sam said. “No later than the 1750s. See the steep roof, side gables, and narrow eaves? And the second story protrudes out over the first, a little. Total New England Colonial.”
Dean took a step to his right and twisted to look at him with a raised eyebrow. He didn’t have to say anything.
Dean turned his back on the ruined stones and walked toward the church. It seemed to sit sullenly on its foundation. There was nothing welcoming about the crumbling steps or the boarded door, even though the stained glass was still in place near the gabled roof line. The board sign nailed to the doors warned everyone to stay out, but it also promised that it was scheduled for renovation in the spring of 2008.
“Museum,” Dean said. “I’ll bet.”
“Maybe they want to start services again,” Sam said. “Let’s see what denomination it was before it was abandoned. It’s still hallowed ground.”
“Not everybody cares about that,” Dean said.
Sam looked at him. “Whatever’s killing kids one town over will, if it’s killing ‘em because they trashed the cemetery. Which is kind of a leap, by the way.”
Dean turned to face him with shoulders squared, hands in jacket pockets, and Sam knew by that alone that a challenge was coming even before he saw the set of his jaw. “You think so?”
“Why don’t you just tell me what you think this is?” Sam said. “‘Cause you being all mysterious is fun, it really is, but if it was some spirit getting revenge for a little desecration, I have to tell you, it could have done it while they were right in the act.”
“Not everything makes your kind of sense, Sam,” Dean said.
“Fine,” Sam sighed, gathering his patience a little closer. “We’ve desecrated all kinds of – “
“That’s not the same and you goddamn well know it. We don’t dig folks up for fun, we don’t tip their stones over or sell their skulls on Ebay. When somebody’s up and raising hell, the whole place gets restless, and it’s a service to dig ‘em up and burn the bones.”
Sam kept staring at Dean until Dean looked away. Then he looked over the tipped and broken stones again. There was no pattern; it was the obvious work of someone engaging in destruction for the hell of it, haphazard and random, row to row. “Wanna go in?”
“Nobody wants us in,” Dean said, voice lower and no longer holding the annoyance he’d displayed a moment earlier. He turned away and began to head down the path that led them back to the road. “Fuck it, let ‘em get what they deserve.”
Sam stood and stared after him for a stunned moment, mouth slightly open in an attempt to find something to say. He settled on, “Hey!”
Dean kept walking.
“Dean – “
“You wanna get a view of this after dark, feel free,” Dean called over his shoulder. “I’d get outside the cemetery, though.”
Sam waited another moment with arms spread out in interrogative disbelief, then dropped them and looked up at the church. Dean kept walking, shoulders hunched against the gathering chill, stride determined. Sam jogged to catch up, clapping a hand on Dean’s shoulder and getting a purposeful handful of jacket. “What the hell is this?”
Dean shook him off. “You trespass, you get what you get. This isn’t evil, Sam, it’s justice.”
“What the hell’s gotten into you?” Sam said. “People are dying. That’s okay with you, that’s a fair sentence for being an asshole and trashing a cemetery?”
Dean pointed back at the stones that were now above them. “They’ve been gone for so long, there’s no one left to remember ‘em,” he said gruffly. “That’s all there was left. They couldn’t even have that, they didn’t get to keep their names on a stone for another hundred years. Somebody once cared enough to bury ‘em, really cared, and some punkass thinks it’s funny to come through and act like the people here never mattered? Kids like that never learn, Sam, they go through life treating everything like that. A little Darwinism does the herd good sometimes.”
Sam’s jaw had dropped again. “I can’t believe this is coming out of you.”
“What if it was mom’s stone, Sam?” Dean said. “Would that be okay with you?”
“Okay, look. One, mom isn’t even there,” Sam said.
“Then what the fuck is the stone for?” Dean shouted.
“Whoa, whoa,” Sam said, holding his hands up.
“It’s not for her. It’s to honor her. It’s for us, it’s so there’s something that lasts a little while and says someone actually cared. Dad doesn’t even have one, he doesn’t even get that much, he’s got us trying to take up where he left off and it never fucking ends!”
Sam didn’t step back. He kept his gaze steady, waiting for Dean to look away first, to look predictably self conscious.
“Okay. I get it. I do. You still can’t tell me that dishonoring the dead is punishable by death. It deserves an asskicking, yeah, but this is a little harsh, even for you. And you know it. You want me to go this one alone, I’m okay with that.”
Dean stood and breathed for a moment, glancing back at the church again. “You can’t do this by yourself,” he said finally, falling back to gruffness.
Sam nodded a little and waited. “Not a likely place for a curse, though, is it?”
“Likely place for a grim,” Dean said, calmer. “Church grims take their job pretty seriously. You don’t trap them or try and run them off. They’re bound to the church grounds. It’s just doing its job.”
“Seen one of these before?”
Dean shrugged, but there was a wealth of the unsaid in that moment of casual disregard. “The really old ones, you can’t do much about...they’re not human anymore. But some of ‘em, they’ll talk.”
Sam kept looking at him. “Dean.”
Dean waved him off and moved for the car.
Sam stayed where he was, surprised. It wasn’t like Dean to back away from a story, especially if it involved some odd adventure he’d been in. It wasn’t like him to shout in a cemetery with a note of near-hysteria in his voice, either, so he was genuinely upset. He watched Dean make it to the car and lean against it, waiting for Sam without looking at him.
Sam looked around the cemetery again, at the gathering shadows and mist, the rough edges of stone and torn sod. Then he put it aside and headed for the car.
When they returned to the motel, Dean didn’t make any motions to wrap things up and take off. There was still a problem to solve, and Dean had voiced his opinions on the matter but wasn’t about to abandon the place to whatever was killing the area’s teenagers. They’d come all the way to Connecticut to figure this one out, and there was no point leaving until they had.
First it had been a seventeen year old boy in Enfield. Two others in Thompsonville a few miles to the south, a sixteen year old and another seventeen year old. All without marks anywhere on their bodies; eyes open, mouths screaming in silence, systems empty of drugs. Everybody had begun to fear some kind of strange toxin in the water or a new kind of bird flu. They’d died in their own beds within days of one another.
“‘It has been surmised that the Church Grim is a folk memory of a sacrifice’,” Sam read aloud from a site he’d found. “‘It was believed in the past that the first burial in a churchyard would have to watch over the rest of the dead. A dog may have been buried first in place of a human’.”
Dean didn’t comment. He was watching Dancing With The Stars.
Sam stared at him for a moment, then went back to poking around online.
When a new churchyard was opened it was believed that the first man buried there had to guard it against the Devil. To save a human soul from such a duty a pure black dog was buried in the north part of the churchyard as a substitute. In the Highlands...a similar belief was held. It was the duty of the last-buried corpse to guard the graveyard till the next funeral.
Dean seemed convinced that it was a grim, and that the kids had been dying because of the destruction.
“You said they’re usually bound to the grounds they protect,” Sam said without looking at him. “So, how come these kids are dying?”
“The ones who’re getting killed are probably buying it because they took souvenirs. Chunks of the headstones, maybe.”
Sam looked over at Dean and waited to see if there was anything else. That bit of info had come too quickly to simply be a guess. “Worth it to check their houses, see if the pieces are still there?”
“More worth it to ask their friends if they have anything they might want to give over,” Dean said, eyes still fixed on the TV.
“You are gonna tell me about the time you talked to a grim, right?” Sam said.
Dean didn’t reply.
Sam sighed and went back to looking. “Cemeteries get moved all the time, for a lot of reasons, and people don’t get killed every time. Coffins get misplaced or ruined, the bones get mixed in with others, stones get lost or placed over the wrong graves, new construction goes in over the old location – and nothing happens. Why this one?”
“You’re a hell of a lot of help,” Sam said.
Sam had been part of many one-sided conversations with his brother in his life, but this one was beginning to test his patience. He fiddled with the curling edge of a sticker on the laptop. Dean had wasted no time in finding stickers that were similar to those that had been on the old laptop, rest its little electronic soul. “Not every cemetery is going to have a grim.”
Dean hmmed his assent. “Not every cemetery is close to a church. Especially not the newer ones. Most of the newer ones are non-denominational. The thing to remember about most old cemeteries, Sammy, is that they were a natural part of any small town or farming area, and everybody knew everybody else.”
“From cradle to grave,” Sam said. “A group of people would decide where to settle, and the first person to die...”
“Watched out for everybody else that followed,” Dean said. “Unless the town decided to cut the first person some slack. Who usually dies first?”
Sam offered him a one-shoulder shrug even though Dean still wasn’t looking at him. “Infant mortality rates in the 1700's and 1800's was pretty high. So...maybe it was better to use a black dog or a lamb.”
“Lots of kids got killed out in the fields,” Dean said. “Farm equipment, pissed off cows, fall from the hay loft. Check the records and find out who was buried there first. A teenager could have been first. They make the best grims.”
Sam’s eyes lit up. “For the same reasons they stir up poltergeist activity. Natural buildup of psychokinetic energy. So chances are, we’ve got a teenager who’s trying to protect the place, and he’s facing the first disturbance the place has ever been through. And he’s overreacting.”
Dean’s eyebrows shot up, and Sam knew he finally had his brother’s attention. Dean’s focus was often a palpable thing.
“Having all his people dug up and taken away might seem like the devil’s work,” Dean said. “Been dead so long, he might not be able to understand what’s going on the same way a dog doesn’t know or care that that’s just a meter reader that came in the backyard. The other stones have been moved, and anybody coming in after dark and fucking up the remaining stones gets attacked. The other stones are either in the new place or stored in some warehouse, so there’s nobody to get after for ‘stealing’. Kids with chunks of the stones, though, right in their possession, that’s letting him leave the confines of the cemetery.”
Sam waited a beat, then said, “What’s he gonna do when all the bodies have been moved, then?”
“He should go to the new place,” Dean said. “He should be able to find it on his own.”
“If it’s not good enough, that’ll piss him off, too,” Sam said. “Might be a good idea to check out the new place.”
Dean didn’t say anything else, but he didn’t have to.
It was cool and foggy the next morning, but the fog didn’t keep them from finding the new cemetery in Suffield, across the Connecticut River. Sam tucked away his thoughts on whether grims could or would cross running water. It wasn’t evil. Dean had made it clear that the grim was only doing its job, and getting rid of it was not an option even if it was doling out some severe punishments for being disturbed. If it came to it, if they had to find a way to help it cross the water, they would.
They left the car in the parking lot of a nearby library and walked down the road to a muddy incline that bore more heavy machinery tracks and the beginnings of a staked out pathway that would likely be paved when things were a little drier. The smell of turned earth and torn sod mixed with freshly fallen leaves clung to them, mixed in with and carried by the fog. There was a low stone wall around three quarters of the yard and signage detailing the rezoning.
Dean paced around the new graves with their low metal identification stakes, eyes to the ground, taking in the newly laid sod and the lack of stones in silence. Sam knew better than to ask him what he was looking for; he wasn’t going to get an answer. A new row of open graves had been dug and then tarped to keep the weather out.
“How much you wanna bet they didn’t think to consecrate the ground before they started moving the graves?” Sam said.
Dean continued pacing, row to row, keeping off the graves themselves.
“Might not be hallowed,” Sam said. “You ever bless a whole area before? Might be necessary to keep the grim happy. Because the fact that he or she’s not the first buried in the new place doesn’t seem to make any difference.”
Dean didn’t answer, but he looked like he was considering it. He looked around a little more, then headed back for the car. They drove back to Enfield.
Sam left Dean at the motel and checked the library for histories of the area, finally digging up the birth and death records of the rest of the area and then narrowing it down to the rolls for the church in Enfield. Its faithful had been Catholic and it had been built in 1746.
Tobias Sidower, b. 1753, d. 1770 in the year of our Lord, aged seventeen years, three months and twenty-four days. The first internment had been a teenager, like they’d suspected.
A single call to the home of the first kid who’d died revealed the names of several of his closest friends, the ones he’d been hanging out with most in the weeks prior to his death. Nobody questioned whether Sam really was with the high school or whether he really was trying to put together a memorial at the school with the help of the kid’s classmates.
That afternoon found them knocking on the door of one of the kid’s teammates from the football team.
They weren’t even in suits, and it was easy. A tall kid with shoulder-length brown hair and an acned complexion answered the door.
“You Christopher Goodwin?” Dean said.
“We’re with the CDC,” Dean said, flashing a generic badge quickly enough to make it impossible to see anything beyond the fact that it was a badge. “We’re investigating the deaths of Emily Holt, Scott Pearsall and Greg Adkins.”
“I thought the autopsies were...I mean, nobody found anything,” the kid said, looking nervous.
“There’s one thing they had in common,” Sam said. “They were all at St. Matthew’s cemetery the same night a lot of the stones were kicked over. Do you know anything about that?”
“No,” the kid said automatically, watching them both with open wariness.
Dean loved it when he blatantly guessed and was right anyway. Those kids had been in the damn cemetery.
“Because if you were there, chances are you’ll be keeling over dead pretty soon,” Dean said. “Disturbing those stones has released a long-dormant strain of a virus that wiped out half the planet when those people were buried.”
The kid’s eyes widened perceptibly and he opened the door enough to let them in.
Sam kept his gaze averted to avoid the urge to roll his own eyes.
It was dim inside, and a TV was on somewhere behind the kid, loud and set to some sitcom.
“Anyone who’s been in contact with any of the headstones from that cemetery is in danger,” Dean said, closing the door behind him with one foot. “Symptoms include being warm or cold, thirsty, bored, any tickle in the throat, any itching of the feet, and an inability to focus in class. “
The kid immediately coughed and felt gingerly at his throat. “It was just a stupid way to waste time,” he said. “I didn’t even really do anything, I just tagged along, a lot of the stones were falling apart anyway, okay?”
“Okay, smartass,” Dean said with a growl creeping in under his tone. “Why don’t you go get the goddamn fragments you kept before we leave your sorry ass here to rot?”
The kid jumped up and took off for the back of the house, limbs stiff with mortification and stress.
Sam leaned in to Dean a little and kept his voice low. “You might want to rein it in a little, there, hopalong.”
“You might wanna keep it zipped,” Dean said. “We’re saving this idiot’s life, and I don’t even know why.”
There was a thump and some shuffling from the back of the house; something fell over. After a minute or so, the kid came back with something wrapped in a torn out page from a magazine, holding it out at arm’s length. “There’s just one, I only have one. Am I safe now?”
Dean took it and glanced inside at a ragged fragment of sandstone. “Any idea which headstone this is from?”
The kid shook his head. “It was dark.”
“Should I...do I need to go see a doctor?” the kid said.
“You should be halfway there now,” Dean said. “Get yourself to the ER as fast as you can. When you get there, tell them you need to be quarantined and that the CDC is investigating. Warn them that you’ve been exposed to an 1800's strain of the E392 virus, subcategory A13, with significant presentation of symptoms. And make sure you tell them what school you go to so they can be notified. Anyone who lives here with you will need to be checked out, too.”
The kid was running around the livingroom, looking for his shoes. There was visible sweat on his forehead.
“And hey,” Dean said. “Are you sure there was no one else there that night?”
The kid nodded.
They sat in the car in silence for awhile after watching the kid go tearing out of the house. Sam wanted to give Dean grief about his bullshit virus scenario, but he had to wait until he could do it without laughing. Sometimes Dean was over the top, but he could still get anyone to believe him because he’d adopted that patented voice of authority their father had been a natural at. Sam was happy to stick to persuasion, and leave the diatribes and verbal assaults to Dean.
Everybody was afraid of new strains of old viruses. So much for modern education.
He wasn’t surprised when Dean started the car and drove straight for St. Matthew’s. He was surprised when Dean opened his door and tossed Sam the keys, though.
“Get out of here,” Dean said. “I’m gonna have a little discussion with our unfriendly neighborhood grim, see where we are.”
Sam stared at him for a moment. “You have to be kidding. Alone, out here in the dark, with something that’s been killing people. All it knows is that you have pieces of headstone that it wants back.”
“Don’t pull your protective bullshit, Sam,” Dean said. “This is nothing. I’ve done this before. Just go find something else to do.”
“What’s the problem with me staying here?” Sam said. “I trust you on most things, you know that. It’s not about whether you know what you’re doing or whether you can handle this. There’s just no goddamn reason for me to clear out altogether. I can hang out down by the road.”
“It won’t come if there’s anyone else around,” Dean said gruffly. “It might not come at all. I don’t wanna do this night after night.”
“If it can’t talk, how are you gonna get it to understand that it’s gotta go to the new cemetery?” Sam said. “C’mon, what the hell is this?”
Dean tilted his head in impatience, but he seemed to relent a little. “We can talk about this after,” he said. “I’ll tell you all about it. Just get out of here before dark, okay? Just go.”
Sam kept looking at him, but he sighed and got out of the car with the keys in one pocket. Dean got out of the car and walked into the cemetery without looking at Sam, hands in pockets, head bowed.
Sam watched him head into the back part of the cemetery, the oldest part, before moving around to the driver’s side and getting back in.
He parked about three blocks away in the parking lot of a Methodist church and began walking back. He had put up just enough of a fight to keep Dean from getting too suspicious. Maybe. Sometimes he could pull that on Dean, when his brother had his head so focused elsewhere that he didn’t pay much attention to anything else. Sometimes Dean only pretended to be focused elsewhere.
He cut across a vacant lot and someone’s yard, pausing long enough first to make sure there wasn’t a dog in the gathering dark. The land sloped up into a grove of trees bordering the cemetery, grassy enough to muffle his steps. He paused several times to listen and watch, looking for movement and trying to gauge how close he was to the older part of the cemetery. He didn’t want Dean to sense him, but more than that, didn’t want whatever would be coming to guard its post to sense him and possibly put Dean in danger. He didn’t even really know what the hell to expect, except the damn thing had been killing kids in their sleep and that made it at least somewhat dangerous.
He finally settled inside the trees far enough to see Dean circling several of the older stones, the broken and toppled ones. He came back to Sam’s side, to the end of the very back row of stones, and scuffed a line into the grass and dirt with one boot, scoring deep enough that the result became visible to Sam. It was a line, roughly two feet across, with shorter perpendicular lines at each end. Dean withdrew something from a pocket – Sam assumed it was the chunk of tombstone they’d taken from the last living kid – and placed it on the opposite side of the line. Then he crouched down and examined the line.
Sam kneeled down on one knee and leaned against a tree, gun out, waiting.
Twenty minutes passed, and dark descended fully. The only light came from what stretched from the single streetlight below, and a safety light from the house down and to Sam’s right. It wasn’t enough to make out more than outlines. Dean finally sat down crosslegged in the grass, hands folded. He hadn’t taken his gun out, and it made Sam wonder whether that was a sign of confidence from having dealt with a grim before. Dean was not careless.
He nearly laughed when he heard Dean begin to whistle. Whistling in a dark graveyard was so, so Dean. He couldn’t make out the tune, but he had his money on Metallica.
He drew a careful bead on the movement he saw just yards in front of Dean, in the shadows at the yard’s boundary. Something dark and small shuffled, bent low, moving cautiously in his brother’s direction. Dean kept on whistling, but Sam knew Dean had to realize it was there. He didn’t move, but there was something in the set of his barely-visible form that spoke of readiness.
When the dark, shuffling form came within several feet of the line, Sam heard Dean’s voice, low and firm, but couldn’t make out the words. Dean gestured to the stone he’d placed on the other side of the line and repeated himself. The figure came closer, barely humanoid, patting at the ground near the line. It snatched the piece of headstone away and leaned back, rising to its full height, maybe 5' 6". Dean stayed where he was and spoke again, several slow sentences. There was a silence that lasted several seconds, and Dean repeated himself.
After a moment, the figure simply walked away.
Dean sat there and waited for nearly a full minute. Then he flopped backwards into the grass and lay there in what could only be relief. Sam grinned.
Dean got up without brushing himself off and patted the grass back into place. He began walking down toward the empty part of the cemetery, passing Sam’s hiding spot.
“I know you’re there, Sam,” Dean said softly without breaking step. “So cut out the lame attempt at stealth.”
Sam got up and trotted to him, falling into step. “What was that all about?”
“He’s got his stone back,” Dean said. “Dunno if I got through to him, but I told him the graves were being moved to make them safer. He didn’t act like he recognized his name. He probably doesn’t remember it.”
They walked back to the car in companionable silence, hands in jacket pockets, breath visible in the cool October air.
Sam tossed Dean the keys when they were in sight of the car. “Let’s find a Catholic priest tomorrow,” Dean said. “In Suffield. Maybe just let someone know it would be a good opportunity to have some sort of come to Jesus meeting at the new cemetery or something.”
The first church they made inquiries of was willing to help. Father Bennett of St. Joseph’s said he’d go out there just after late services the next Sunday, and make certain the grounds were blessed. He thanked Sam for thinking of it.
“Wanna hang out and make sure nobody else messes with the old place?” Sam said after he’d hung up.
“Nah,” Dean said, lying crosswise on his bed, feet on the floor. “After the rumors that’ve been spread, nobody’s going back out there before everything’s been moved. If they do, well, Darwin awards all around.”
Sam stared at him.
Dean continued to look at the ceiling. He yawned, then stuck a finger in one ear to get at an itch.
Sam kept staring.
“I know I’m the hottest thing for miles – hell, states – but I’m not your type, Sam, so quit ogling.”
Sam didn’t rise to the bait. He just kept staring.
Dean sighed and sat up without looking at Sam. “You’re not gonna leave it alone, are you. Nosy bitch.”
“Me and dad were in Indiana in the summer of ‘03, looking for a Bodach,” Dean said. “Dad was going to see if he could get the thing to run down the road in my direction, and I was gonna plug it. Problem was, I was waiting right inside the old churchyard without knowing it. It was about one a.m. when something sat down beside me on the log and said, boy, you’re trespassing. He put a hand right on my arm – it was all bony, but it was still a hand, and it was pretty solid. It didn’t walk out of the bushes, it just appeared. I thought it was some homeless guy and I was screwing up his place to crash. I just about put a hole through him. I asked him what the hell he wanted, and he said ‘you’re troubling my rest’. Nobody says ‘troubling’, and there was a lot of cold just radiating off him, and I couldn’t make out even his full outline, and I got it. There were no teeth or claws or craziness, so I played it cool and kept sitting there. I told him what we were there for, and he said, ‘finally.’ I swear, he said ‘finally’. He told me the ‘slinker’ had been ‘vexing his parish’.
“There’d been a church there that burned down, but it didn’t matter to him,” Dean said. “It had been there, so it still needed guarding. The place had been overgrown so badly that no one even knew it was there anymore. It was so old that there were trees, like, fifty feet high. There was just nothing left you could see from the road that would have told you it had ever been a church with a cemetery. He was still acting like everything was the same, and maybe he saw it that way. So I promised him I’d take care of it.
“Dad killed the damn Bodach before it even got to me. It wouldn’t burn, so we chopped it up and scattered it. I never told dad about the guy in the bushes. He’d have ripped me a new one for letting anything sneak up on me.”
Sam smirked. “Pretty much, yeah.”
Dean stuck his finger back in his ear, scratching. “I checked with Bobby, and he’s the one that said it was probably a grim. He said I was damn lucky it didn’t just take my head off right there. I went back in the fall when all the leaves had dropped and the bushes had died back enough, and I found a couple of stones. I put up a wire fence from the road to about fifty yards back and then covered the fence so people wouldn’t walk around in there by accident. I didn’t tell anybody about it, because they probably would have been out there moving the bodies and shit, and that wouldn’t have made the grim happy. At all. Can you imagine hanging around forever, making sure no one screws up your family’s graves?”
Sam could. But he didn’t say so. The question was rhetorical anyway.
Dean flopped back down on his bed and went back to looking at the ceiling. “Go find pancakes. Now. I need pancakes, or I can’t go on.”
“That story wasn’t really worth pancakes,” Sam said. “Scones, maybe.”
“Just get food,” Dean said.
Sam had to nudge it a little further. “What about the really religious settlers that died while trying to find somewhere to put down roots?” Sam said. “The ones a group had to leave behind in the mountains when they froze, or something? Think anybody ever got confused?”
Dean lifted his head enough to look at Sam. “About whether they should protect the area?” he said. “They probably got dug up and eaten by bears, Sam. Think about it while you get pancakes.” He put his head back down. “The only reason they were dug up and eaten is because the bears didn’t have pancakes.”
Sam sighed, got the keys, and left Dean to ponder the ceiling.
Before they left Enfield later that day, Sam went back to St. Matthews with a couple of small holly branches. He left them in the last row of stones, at the end of the row, at Tobias Sidower’s shattered stone.
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