A/N: There is some dialogue from “The Clergyman’s Daughter” used here, but I’ve tried to keep the direct quotes to a minimum. I’ve been trying to finish this story for a couple of years now, so there’s some grumbling by Dean that predates “Time after Time,” but there is also at least one allusion to that ep in here.
By San Antonio Rose
The occupants of the nearly-new black Chevy stared up at the imposing façade of the Red House in confusion, then looked at each other, then at their car. The winter silence was finally broken by an American baritone:
“... the hell?!”
“Dean.”“Do you have any idea where we are, College Boy?”
“No, but I can make a good guess as to when.”
Dean Winchester pondered the dashboard in front of him. If there was one thing their father and surrogate father had taught the boys other than hunting, it was automotive history. “I’d say 1925,” he finally stated.
“Or soon after,” agreed his brother Sam. “And I guess since we’re stopped in front of this house, we’re supposed to go in.”
Dean shot the house a glare and muttered something uncomplimentary about the Trickster before Sam’s wardrobe registered. “Dude.”
“You’re wearing a fedora. And a pinstriped suit and a trench coat.”
Sam blinked at him. “So are you.”
“This better not be some stupid film noir thing,” Dean grumbled. “I hate Humphrey Bogart.”
“C’mon. Sooner we get inside, sooner we play our roles and get outta here.”
Dean sighed, and they both got out of the car.
By this time, a sour-faced middle-aged woman had come to the door and was regarding the brothers with obvious disdain. “May I help you gentlemen?” she asked with a crisp English accent that would have told the Winchesters, had they been English themselves, that she was trying a bit too hard to sound middle-class.
A swift exchange of glances between Sam and Dean determined that it would not be a good idea to fake a British accent to hide their Midwestern American drawl and that it would be a good idea for Sam to do the talking. He fixed his most charming smile on the woman. “Uh, yes, ma’am. We’re kinda lost, y’see, and I’m not sure how much gas we’ve got left—still haven’t got the hang of the whole liters-to-gallons thing.”
One eyebrow rose imperiously. “American tourists?”
“And you would like a room?”
Another swift silent conversation. “If it’s not too much trouble,” Sam replied when he turned back to her. “We’d be willing to pay.”
“Naturally,” said the woman, her other eyebrow rising. “Miss Deane is in no position to accept guests who could not pay.”
Bed and breakfast, said the look the brothers shot at each other this time.
Sam cleared his throat. “Oh, of course. Sorry—like I said, we’re lost.”
“Crockett?” called a younger woman’s voice from inside. “What is it?”
The woman who’d been speaking to them, whose name was apparently Crockett, turned slightly. “Two American gentlemen, ma’am. They’d like a room.”
The younger woman, who was evidently Miss Deane, came to the door. “Oh! Well, as it happens, we do have a room free. We’d be delighted to have you, Mr. ...”
“Winchester,” Sam supplied. “My name’s Sam; this is my brother Dean.”
Dean touched his hat to her as he gave her a once-over. She was blonde and blue-eyed, not beautiful but not ugly, but her curly hair was cut in a very plain style, and her clothes looked... well, frumpy, to be honest. Not his type, then. But she had a nice smile, which the hat-touch elicited.
“Monica Deane,” she said, shaking hands. “Please, do come in; Crockett can bring your things in from the car.”
“Actually,” Dean replied, “we’ve got some classified equipment in the car. Nothing dangerous, just not the kind of thing civilians should see. So if you could tell me where to park, we can bring in our own bags.”
She frowned. “Classified equipment?”
“Uh, yeah. We’re with the Bureau of Investigation. We’re actually over here working on a case with Scotland Yard—or we were. We caught the guy. Then the Director gave us a few days off, so we figured we’d drive around, see some sights. Leave it to Sammy here to get us lost,” he teased.
Sam rolled his eyes.
Monica looked significantly happier about having Feds in the house than Crockett did. “Oh! Well, then, of course we shan’t disturb your car. We haven’t a garage, but the carriage house is still in good repair; if you follow the drive around back of the house, you should see it. Crockett can meet you at the back door to take your bags.”
The brothers thanked her, touched their hats again, and went back to the car to drive around to the carriage house. The main house, they discovered, was huge—easily the biggest house they’d ever encountered, except maybe that one time they’d driven past Biltmore. (That had been Dad’s consolation prize to Sammy for having to leave Asheville for a hunt in Wyoming two days before Sam’s class had been scheduled to go to Biltmore on a field trip. Sam had pressed his nose to the window glass as they drove by the mansion and then sulked for a week, until he had to be the one to save Dean and Dad from the ghoul they were after.) But the incidental music that accompanied their drive was sort of sad and sort of spooky, and Dean wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.
“Noir, you think?” he asked Sam.
Sam stared up at the house and shook his head. “No, my guess is ’80s British drama. I think I’ve seen that actress before—Monica. Can’t think where, though.”
“British drama?! What the hell are we doing in a British drama?”“How should I know, Dean?”
“Is this supposed to be funny somehow? Because I’m not seein’ it.”
“Maybe the Trickster just wants to see how many Untouchables references you can work in.”
“Well, then, he coulda stuck us in The Untouchables instead.”
“Maybe he doesn’t like Sean Connery.”
“How do you not like Sean Connery, dude? The man is awesome.”
“Even in Darby O’Gill?”
“Shut up, Sam.”
Sam snickered but shut up.
The duffles in the trunk had been replaced by full-sized suitcases for some reason. But the trunk arsenal was indeed intact, Dean saw as he pulled the suitcases out, and its lid had a lock on it that couldn’t easily be jimmied. That made him glad, but it also made him wonder what kind of humans they needed to be wary of in this show. Why would someone potentially try to break into their car—into that part of their car?
It took a minute to find the “back door” as they walked back toward the house. Practically every room on the first floor had at least one set of French doors. But there was one big wooden door that Crockett was holding open, so the Winchesters made for that one. Crockett took their suitcases without a word and led them back to the front hall, where Monica showed them upstairs to the room they’d be sharing. The room at the top of the stairs on the second floor was already taken, she explained as they passed it, but there was another room free in the wing she’d set aside for guests.
“There’s only the one bed in this room, I’m afraid,” she said apologetically as she opened the bedroom door. “But there is a bed in the dressing room if this one is too small to fit both of you.”
Dean wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but it wasn’t a room that was easily as big as any of the motel rooms they’d ever stayed in. The room was furnished with antiques and what was probably a queen-sized four-poster, a writing desk, and a good-sized fireplace that already had a fire going in it. “Wow,” he said. “This is awesome.”
Monica looked confused until Sam said, “The room’s perfect, Miss Deane. Thanks.”
She smiled then. “Oh, please, call me Monica.”
“We’ll leave you to get settled, then. Tea will be ready in about half an hour; I do hope you’ll join me. Mr. and Mrs. Hove have gone into town and shan’t be back until dinner.”
“Sure, we can do tea. Right, Dean?”
Dean didn’t dare come back with Tea parties are for girls, Sam or anything of the kind. Instead, he forced a smile. “Sure. Be glad to.”
Monica smiled back and left.
Crockett finally set their suitcases down with a thunk. “Mind you dress for dinner,” she said severely. “And beware of the ghost.” Then she turned with her nose in the air and left.
Dean looked at Sam once the door was closed. “Did she just....”
Sam nodded. “Sounds like a hunt.”
“No, I mean—‘dress for dinner’? What the hell does that mean?”
Cautiously, Sam picked up one of the suitcases, set it on the bench at the end of the bed, and opened it. Sure enough, right on top was a tux.
Dean groaned. “Oh, for....”
Dinner was an awkwardly quiet affair to begin with. Despite the monkey suits, neither the Hoves, the middle-aged couple who were already staying at the Red House, nor Norman Partridge, the smarmy-looking accountant who came for the meal and kept dropping hints that Monica ought to marry him, seemed at all interested in conversing with the Winchesters after being introduced. Once they were seated, Mrs. Hove kept glancing suspiciously up at the gas chandelier over the table. Crockett looked as sour as ever as she served the soup, and Monica kept shooting Sam and Dean apologetic smiles.
Finally, the last plate of soup was served, and Monica took courage from a dual American smile-and-wink and asked Mrs. Hove, “Did you and Mr. Hove enjoy your walk into town this afternoon?”
Mrs. Hove ignored the question but took it as a cue to start talking. “Have you noticed how the light drops and then returns?”
“I can’t say that I have,” Monica confessed with a laugh.
“Not yet. But last night in our room, just before the mirror shattered, it suddenly got icy cold, and then the lights almost went out.”
Sam and Dean exchanged a look. Temperature drop meant ghost; lights flickering usually meant some kind of supernatural activity—but weren’t these gas lights?
Monica confirmed the latter when she said, “I expect, Mrs. Hove, it is because you are unused to gas. It does tend to go up and down.”
“Among the first, we were, in Manchester to be electrified,” Mr. Hove bragged.
As Mrs. Hove cooed nostalgically about Manchester and Monica and Mr. Hove argued about the merits of gas vs. electricity, Dean and Sam carried on a nonverbal conversation of their own. They weren’t familiar with how ghosts would affect gas lights, but something didn’t quite add up here. Whatever was going on, though, it sounded like Monica needed them.
Suddenly the French doors flew open, and Monica jumped up to close them again with an apology about the gardener not having fixed the catch. Dean frowned; there could be a supernatural explanation, but then again, there weren’t any cold spots in the room. Before he could react further, though, a loud crash from upstairs startled everyone.
“Heavens!” cried Monica. “I mean, uh, something must have fallen over.”
But Sam and Dean had grabbed the salt and a poker and were already halfway out the dining room door before Partridge could tell Monica to let him go first, and they barely heard her reply that it was nothing that couldn’t be explained. The front hall was so dark, Dean couldn’t be sure whether he actually saw someone running away from the Hoves’ room or not. By the time they’d bounded up the stairs, the upstairs hall was empty, and he couldn’t see where the person would have gone if he hadn’t been seeing things. But Sam got the door to the Hoves’ room open as the others started up the staircase, and the brothers burst in to find the window open, the curtains blowing outward, and the room freezing and trashed. Something sounded like wind blowing, too, and the cold air Dean could feel moving felt more like it was coming from an air conditioner than a ghost-related cold spot.
Sam got the curtains pulled in and the window closed just as Monica came in behind Dean and gasped. Then she turned up the lights as Partridge and the Hoves ran in. Shedding light on the subject revealed that the huge oak wardrobe had been overturned; it looked like the mirror in its door was broken, and it was empty.
“My things!” cried Mrs. Hove. “All my beautiful clothes!”
Dean looked around and spied a pile of clothes on the bed, still on the hangers—way, way too neat for a ghost’s work, never mind a poltergeist. “Over here.”
The Hoves hurried over to the bed to inspect the clothes, but Mrs. Hove picked up one dress and cried out in alarm. The dress had been slashed to bits. So had the suit Mr. Hove picked up, and so, evidently, had all the rest of their clothes.
Sam and Dean shared a frown. This was looking less like a hunt and more like a psycho.
“It’s a sign,” said Mrs. Hove. “They mean to murder us. Well, that’s it. That’s it. I’m leaving. I’m not going to stay in this house another night. It is haunted!”
Sam cleared his throat as Mrs. Hove turned to run. “Mrs. Hove, there are steps we can take to keep you safe, at least until morning.”
“I don’t care!” And Mrs. Hove bustled out.
“But Bella,” Mr. Hove objected, following slowly, “we paid for the fortnight.”
Dean glanced over at Partridge and caught him smiling to himself. It wasn’t a full-on villainous smile, the kind that would go with twirling a Snidely Whiplash mustache, but Partridge was very clearly not displeased that this kind of thing was happening to Monica. And Dean’s already low opinion of the man fell even further. No way in hell was he going to let Monica be railroaded into being a trophy wife for anyone, never mind a slimeball like this one.
And speaking of Monica, she was standing by the dressing table trying valiantly not to cry. “But who?” she asked no one in particular over a plaintive woodwind theme. “Why?”
“Why?” Partridge repeated, picking up one of the shredded dresses. “I think you may safely assume that someone wishes you to leave the Red House, my dear.” He smiled at her patronizingly, and she turned away from him.
Sam walked over to her, puppy eyes on full blast. “Listen, Monica, my brother and I, we deal with this kind of thing all the time. If there’s really a ghost here, we can take care of it for you.”
She looked up at him. “And what if it isn’t?”
Dean shrugged. “Twelve-gauge works on humans, too.”
Partridge looked distinctly shocked, but Monica couldn’t help smiling.
Sam rubbed her shoulder gently. “We’ll run down to the car and get some stuff. We’ll be right back, okay?”
Monica nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Winchester.”
“Please, call me Sam.”
Dean gave her a reassuring smile, and the brothers left the room together.
Once they were outside, having totally ignored the Hoves’ incredulous stares, Sam shook his head. “Dude, there is no way this thing’s a poltergeist. It’s throwing the heavy things when nobody’s in the room; a poltergeist attacks people when they are in the room.”
“That cold spot?”
“Try cold breeze. It was coming through a vent in the wall, and it cut off as soon as I stood in front of it. I’m guessing a fan of some kind.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think that felt right. Human?”
“That’s my guess. But if the Trickster’s stuck us here....”
“We gotta go through the motions, make it look good.”
“What do you think of ol’ Norman?”
“One thing’s for sure. He is trying way too hard to sell Monica on marriage.”
“Can’t tell if he’s behind this or if he’s just happy to take advantage of the chaos.”
“Either way, she needs our help.”
They stopped suddenly and looked at each other.
“We are talking about fictional characters, right?” Dean asked.
Sam looked at him for a moment. “Does it matter, really?”
Dean thought about it. “Guess not.”
The EMF meter had made it through in the trunk arsenal, much to Dean’s relief. The brothers took that, a couple of shotguns, a box of chalk, and a bag of rock salt back into the house, completely freaking out Partridge and the Hoves, who were waiting for a cab, and startling Crockett. Then they made a big production of checking the guest room for EMF (not finding any, of course) and of warding their room, Monica’s, and her mother’s. Crockett turned them down when they offered to set salt lines in her room.
Sam raised an eyebrow at Dean, who nodded, and drew a devil’s trap over the stove just in case. It didn’t do anything. And although both brothers had double-checked the salt line at the window and stepped carefully over the line at the door when leaving their room for breakfast, their mirror broke in the middle of the meal—and the salt line at the door had been scuffed by foot traffic.
Monica was beside herself. “I’m so sorry....”
Dean held up a hand. “You got nothin’ to be sorry for here, Monica. And we ain’t leavin’ until we get this thing put to rest.”
Sam shot a narrow look at the vent under the window. “Hey, Monica? Would you come see where we parked? I’m a little nervous about leaving the car where it is—y’know, don’t want it to be in anyone’s way.”
Monica blinked and looked from Sam to Dean, who shot her a Play along look. “Er... I... suppose I could take a moment.”
Sam smiled. “Thanks.”
The brothers flanked Monica on the way out of the room. Once they were outside and headed toward the carriage house, Dean looked over at Sam. “You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?”
“Somebody’s got it in for Monica,” Sam replied with a nod. “Somebody who’s as human as we are.”
Monica blinked. “Dr. O’Neill. Or Mr. Smart... or whatever his name is.”
“Who?” both brothers asked at the same time.
“The... the man who’s been trying to buy the house. He’s used two different identities that I know of, and he was disguised when I saw him the second time, but he has a gold filling and oddly-shaped ear lobes. But I don’t understand how he could have gotten into the house to do all these things.”
Sam sighed. “Well, look, I don’t think we can take charge of the investigation for real. I mean, the people who know the house best already think we believe in the poltergeist. We need to play this like it’s just another hunt. But we’re gonna need backup.”
“Scotland Yard, you mean?”
“No, I saw this ad in the paper for the International Detective Agency. They’re in London. Don’t know why it jumped out at me, but... I don’t believe in coincidences.”
Especially, Dean noted, when the agency’s name prompted a lilting flute theme that he very, very vaguely remembered from when he was a little kid—might have been before the fire, might have been the year after. Something about a flapper and her husband who solve crime? Anyway, Dad had been asleep on the couch, and that show had been the only thing on. Dean hadn’t watched it again that he could recall, and he didn’t really remember anything about the episode, but the music had been kind of fun. Not that he’d admit to liking a Charleston in front of Sammy....
Monica nodded. “I’ll see if Gerald can drive me up to town in his car tomorrow. He made it himself,” she confided to Dean with a proud smile.
Dean raised his eyebrows as if to say Oh, really! and nodded. “Gerald is... your boyfriend?”
She smiled shyly and nodded. “I expect we’d be married by now if he weren’t so desperately poor.”
Dean suddenly felt all the more determined to shove Norman Partridge through a plate glass window. “Well, listen. Anything we can do to help, you let us know.”
Her smile broadened as she looked from one brother to the other. “Thank you both so much. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to have guests who aren’t afraid of ghosts.”
Sam frowned. “Monica... how long has this been going on?”
“Some months now. It started the night our first guests arrived.”
“And have they all run off like the Hoves?”
She nodded. “Most have stayed no more than one night; the Hoves got closest to making it through the second night. You two are the first who’ve determined to stay even after the second attack.”
“Well, then, the hell with Gerald,” Dean said. “We’re taking you to London now.”
“But...” said Monica at the same time Sam objected, “Dean....”
“Sam, if this were just some poltergeist, we’d take it out now, right?”
“But it’s not. This is some human who we can’t stop with salt lines and gris-gris bags. The longer we stay, the more this thing is gonna escalate. You wanna let this creep have even one more day of breaking things?”
“No, but what about our cover? We haven’t even gone into town yet to do interviews. If whoever it is is watching the house—hell, if he’s in the house—”
Dean sighed and ran a hand over his nose and mouth. Sam had a point, but he didn’t want Monica losing any more valuables on their account... or losing anything else, for that matter.
“I’ll ’phone Gerald straight away,” said Monica. “Since it’s an emergency, he should be able to get free. And I’ll ring the agency for an appointment from a phone box in the village.”
Sam pulled out a notebook and pen. “We may as well start our interview now, make this look good. Then Crockett, I guess.”
Dean nodded. “If she’ll talk to us, yeah. And then... how long do you figure you’ll be gone, Monica?”
“Most of the day,” she replied. “London’s a little over two hours from here by car.”
“Going how fast?”
“I... I don’t know... 55, perhaps?”
“Tell Gerald to go 80, and we’ll pay for the ticket if he gets one. We’ll stay with your mom for as much of that time as we can.”
So did Sam before focusing on Monica again. “Okay, so. We saw what happened last night; you said it’s been happening for a few months. How long have you lived here?”
“Not much longer than that.” As they walked slowly back to the house, Monica explained how she’d inherited the house from her late aunt, discovered said aunt was apparently broke despite having been very rich before World War I, and decided to run the house as a B&B. Because her late father had been a poor country preacher and her mother was seriously ill, they had to have some kind of income—and someone was clearly determined not to let them have it.
At the end of the story, and after Monica had called Gerald about an “urgent errand,” Dean sighed. “Look, Monica, poltergeists don’t just show up for no reason. If they show up on their own, it’s usually because some major evil went down in that place. One psychic we’ve talked to compared it to an infection. What do you know about the history of this house?”
She shrugged. “Not much. You can hear all kinds of stories in the village, but I’m never sure which ones are trustworthy.”
“We’ll check that out, thanks. The... alternative is that this thing was summoned.”
“Summoned? You mean, by a witch or something?”
“Yeah. That’s exactly what I mean. And witches, they don’t always look like they do in the comic books. Is there anyone, and I mean anyone, who might have a grudge against you?”
“Oh! I... I don’t know—not—not that sort of grudge, anyway. The idea’s absurd!”
Sam held up a hand. “We have to check out all the angles. Thank you.”
Gerald arrived at that point and turned out to be tall enough and strong enough that the Winchesters felt safe entrusting Monica to his care. They promised to be back in time for tea, if not lunch, so Sam and Dean bade them farewell, decided to set up a camera in their room with a tripwire buried in the salt line at the door, and then went to interview Crockett.
“I’ve no time for such nonsense,” Crockett snapped and threw them out of the laundry room.
“Think she’s in on it?” Sam asked as they went back upstairs to try to find the staircase that went up to the third floor, which was where Monica and her mother lived. The house looked different enough in daylight that they weren’t entirely sure where it was.
“Could be,” Dean replied. “Dunno if she’d be up for tossin’ furniture around. And she’s probably got an alibi for some stuff.”
“It would explain how the man Monica suspects would be able to get into the house, though.”
“Yeah. And explains why she hates us. Question is, does she hate Monica enough to pull something like this?”
“I’d say she hates everyone. She’s just smart enough to know that it’s better in the long run to scare people off than it is to kill them.”
“Good point. Monica dies, the list of suspects is pretty small.”
Having finally found the right staircase, the brothers went up to the third floor and found Mrs. Deane’s room. The old lady was delighted to have visitors but didn’t really have any information they could use, so they sat politely for as long as they could stand to and just let her ramble at them. The main thing they learned was that neither Monica nor her mother had ever been immediate victims of the poltergeist’s pranks; they just got stuck having to pay to clean up the mess and losing all of the potential income from the guests who ran off.
“So maybe this isn’t a personal grudge,” Sam remarked as they finally left. “I mean, yeah, the attacks are hurting Monica and her mom, but if it was personal, they’d be directed at Monica. The goal’s not to scare her; it’s to bankrupt her.”
Dean frowned. “Does that point us to Norman, who wants Monica broke enough to marry him instead of Gerald, or this other guy, who wants the house?”
“I dunno. I think they’re both decent suspects.”
“But why the hell would the house be that important?”
“Maybe there’s something in the house that he can’t just take.”
Dean sighed. “Okay, so we search the house. If we can’t find what he’s looking for, maybe we can at least find evidence of how he’s doing this.”
“Okay. Now or after lunch?”
Dean’s stomach answered for him.
But lunch, Crockett informed them archly, was not until 1. So, still not comfortable with the idea of leaving Mrs. Deane alone in the house, Sam started on the study while Dean drove into town and got some food and a pint at the pub. Doing so also allowed him to make plans with a few of the locals for interviews the next day. Once he got back to the house, he and Sam went over the rest of the first floor until Crockett served a minimal lunch of hot roast beef sandwiches that were more bread than beef, then tackled the rest of the house, saving their own room for last. Nothing turned up aside from the back staircase, which was dust-free enough that they couldn’t tell whether it was getting more use than usual.
When they did at last get back to their room, they found the salt line disturbed again—and the ‘poltergeist’ had smashed the camera and stolen the slide.
Monica whispered over tea that the detectives she’d met were very anxious to help and should be arriving any time in the next few days. They had deliberately not told her when to expect them, though, which made sense if they were coming undercover but was frustrating from the standpoint of trying to plan anything. So the Winchesters had her give them a tour of the grounds before dark, suffered through cabbage soup and fish pie (which Dean privately denounced to Sam as a crime against pastry), and went to bed as early as they could manage. Then the next day, they went into Stourton in the Marsh and interviewed a wild variety of characters whose accent was so thick, they were almost impossible to understand.
Partridge’s car was parked out front when they got back shortly after teatime. They parked in the back again and made their way inside cautiously, pausing when they heard voices in the dining room.
“You’re staying for Christmas?” came Partridge’s smarmy voice.
“That is written in the æther, Mr. Partridge,” replied a haughty woman’s voice.
“Lady Grassmere is a student of psychic phenomena, Norman,” Monica explained.
Sam nodded toward the open dining room door, and he and Dean casually blocked it.
“Gracious me!” Partridge was saying with a laugh. “Another one! You’ll soon be charging admission, Monica!”
“She already does that,” Dean said flatly and felt very satisfied when Partridge jumped before turning around to face the brothers. “It’s called rent.”
“Only someone doesn’t want her to collect it,” Sam added.
Monica looked very upset by something else but seemed grateful to have backup.
Partridge, on the other hand, looked somewhere between disgusted and scared stiff. “Oh! You’re... still here, are you?”
But Dean ignored him in favor of the well-dressed couple on the other side of Monica. The man was wearing a three-piece suit with a silk square and a monocle, and the woman was wrapped up in furs and had a ridiculous jeweled headband on. That had to be the aforementioned Lady Grassmere.
Monica shot the Winchesters an apologetic look. “Forgive me; I don’t think you’ve met. Mr. Beresford, Lady Grassmere, Mr. Dean and Sam Winchester. They’re federal investigators from America, here on holiday. Mr. Beresford and Lady Grassmere just arrived,” she told Sam and Dean. “They plan to stay for Christmas as well.”
Lady Grassmere sniffed. “Am I to understand that we shall be sharing this house with unbelievers?”
“No, ma’am, not exactly,” Dean replied. “We’re in the X-Files Division. We investigate this sort of thing.”
“Just our luck we ran out of gas in front of a haunted house,” Sam added. “We weren’t expecting it to be a working vacation.”
Lady Grassmere sniffed again but looked marginally happier. “Then it must be the work of some will greater than our own. Perhaps we shall be able to aid each other, and in so doing aid the spirits.” That last word came out sounding a little more like spiwits, and Dean had to stifle a laugh.
Mr. Beresford looked at them appraisingly. “I’m rather surprised that the Bureau should be interested in this sort of thing.”
Dean shrugged. “Hell, Hoover says we’re not chasin’ the Mafia. We gotta have something to do besides runnin’ down bootleggers.”
Mr. Beresford’s eyes suddenly sparkled with amusement, though the rest of his expression didn’t change. And Dean suddenly realized that these newcomers must in fact be the detectives the Winchesters had sent Monica to see.
Partridge drew himself up to his full height, which didn’t do much in the way of making him look more impressive. “I shall be in touch with you shortly for your decision,” he told Monica, then bid everyone else good afternoon.
Sam and Dean took their time getting out of his way, just to be annoying.
As soon as the dining room door shut, the other detectives dropped their act. “What is it?” Beresford asked Monica quietly, sounding genuinely concerned. “What’s happened?”
Monica was clearly fighting tears. “Norman tells me that the bank intends to foreclose on our loan. Within two weeks, our remaining funds will have disappeared.”
Lady Grassmere, or whatever her real name was, was sending a slight glare toward the front door. “And that, I take it, was the financially-secure alternative to Gerald,” she said, sounding a lot less snooty.
“He’s awfully clever with figures,” Monica said, as if that justified having him around.
“But awfully swift to tell a girl when she’s none left to be clever with.”
Dean looked at Sam and pointed at Lady Grassmere. “I like her.”
Sam leaned against the doorpost again. “What are the odds that this foreclosure is Norman’s decision, not the bank’s? I mean, he’s been leaning on Monica hard the whole time we’ve been here. I’m sure it goes back a lot further than that.”
Monica considered. “He... has taken an interest in me ever since we moved here... but he is kind and considerate....”
“Trust me, sister,” Dean interrupted. “That dude is the opposite of kind and considerate. If he were really as nice as he wants you to think he is, he would back off and actually help you get out of this mess. He would not try to blackmail you into marrying him.”
There was an allegory in there, he suddenly realized, and maybe not the one the Trickster was expecting....
Monica wrung her hands. “But what am I to do? There’s Mother to think of, and it’s Christmas.”
Lady Grassmere squeezed Monica’s shoulder. “Get a grip on it, girl. You’re not alone anymore.”
“No,” said Beresford, squeezing Monica’s other shoulder. “And we mean to get to the bottom of this case. With some help from the American Bureau of Investigation,” he added with a smile at the Winchesters.
“Hell, yeah,” Dean replied with a grin.
Just then, there was a crash like a plate breaking from the bedroom at the top of the stairs. Dean and Beresford charged up the stairs together while Sam stayed back to keep the women safe. When they got into the room, they found the wash basin and water pitcher smashed next to the desk, as if they’d been dropped straight down—not hurled from the washstand, as would be typical of a real poltergeist.
Beresford smirked. “The poltergeist up to its tricks again.” Then he clapped Dean on the arm and turned to rush back downstairs.
“Throws like a girl,” Dean grumbled and followed.
The women and Sam were waiting at the bottom of the stairs by the dining room door, looking up at them. Dean shot Sam a thumbs-up to show that it wasn’t anything major.
Beresford looked at Monica and hissed, “Crockett! Monica, fetch her quickly, please!”
Monica nodded and ran off.
Lady Grassmere had her hands clasped under her chin as Beresford ran past her. “Not my clothes, Tommy. Not my clothes. They’re all hired, and we’d never recover!”
Beresford turned back. “Not unless you’ve taken to wearing a jug and basin, my sweet. Your things are quite safe.”
Sam and Dean looked at each other in surprise. Evidently these two really were married.
“Come, ‘Lady Grassmere,’” Beresford continued, pulling his wife toward the dining room. “Come in here and await the vibrations.”
“Wait,” Dean said as the brothers followed. “So you—”
“Tommy Beresford. My wife Tuppence.” Tommy helped Tuppence out of her coat, revealing a black-and-blue silk dress that was even more ridiculous than the headband but did give her an air of being a Serious Spiritualist, before looking back at Dean. “Would you—”
The Winchesters nodded and took seats on either side of Tuppence, who sat down at the head of the table and braced her arms on the sides of the table. Then she let her head fall forward as if she was in a trance. Tommy got her a glass of water; Sam and Dean put on looks of great concern, and Sam even put one hand over Tuppence’s. Barely was the scene set when Monica came in with Crockett.
“Sh-sh-sh!” said Tommy. “My wife is just returning.”
Tuppence took her cue to inhale deeply and raise her head. But her eyes were still unfocused as she declared hoarsely, “I must have it. Tommy, we must purchase this property!”
“You see? Confirmation!” And Tommy launched into a snobbish assertion that the house was definitely sold and that Monica could tell the other bidder as much. He also made a show of asking Crockett to stay on with them.
As Sam handed the water to Tuppence, who was doing a great job of gasping for breath as if she really had been hammered by a vision, Dean looked up to watch Crockett and Monica. Monica was flustered, naturally, but Crockett was both out of breath and taken aback. A run from the servants’ quarters wouldn’t have caused that degree of breathlessness—but a run up the stairs, down the stairs, and to the dining room would.
Dean just managed to keep from smirking. They had their ‘poltergeist’ dead to rights.
Of course, as Tommy later explained, it turned out to be more complicated than that. Crockett’s nephew was in on it, too, as the man who wanted to buy the house, and the motive was Monica’s aunt’s missing fortune, which was hidden on the grounds somewhere. So while Tommy and Tuppence tried to work out from Monica’s aunt’s papers where the treasure was, Sam and Dean patrolled outside on the pretense of having heard that there was a ghost that stalked people outside after dark. But it was freezing, and supper had been a severe disappointment—mutton of all things, and not very much of that. Dean found himself in the middle of the potato patch contemplating doing the Scarlett O’Hara “I’ll never be hungry again!” routine when he suddenly heard a noise. He leveled his shotgun and spun just as the gate to the kitchen garden opened and a man with a lantern and a shovel stepped through.
“HEY!” Dean yelled.
The man turned and ran. Dean fired, and the man got a back full of rock salt. He went down but struggled to his feet just in time to run smack into Sam, who knocked him down again and then hauled him up by the front of his coat. Between them, the brothers got the man into the house and tied up while Monica called the police. The cops were about to charge him with only trespassing and attempted criminal mischief until Monica identified him as the man who’d tried to buy the house and Tommy explained why Smart or whatever his name was had been planning to dig up the potato patch. Evidently Monica’s aunt had hidden her money in a tin of new potatoes that she had the gardener, Mulberry, bury to keep the potatoes fresh, and Crockett and Smart had overheard the Beresfords discovering this fact through the central heating vent. That made the crime attempted burglary, and Crockett was also arrested as Smart’s accomplice.
That left the problem of digging up Monica’s aunt’s money without destroying the entire garden.
“Wait,” said Sam. “Why would you bury the tins of new potatoes in the potato patch? Wouldn’t that take up space you could use for planting more potatoes?”
Dean scratched his head. “Man. Wish we had a metal detector.”
Monica shrugged. “Mulberry’s coming back tomorrow morning for his Christmas box. We can ask him, now that the coast is clear.”
So they asked, and Mulberry pointed them toward a spot next to the wall outside the kitchen garden. Between Sam, Dean, Tommy, and Tommy’s valet Albert, they dug up more than enough potatoes to serve both boiled and mashed with Christmas dinner as well as the tin that held the big green velvet bag of loot Monica’s aunt had hidden. And Monica hadn’t been kidding about it being a fortune! Between the gold coins, bale of cash, and string of huge pearls, Monica was an overnight millionaire (at least in Dean’s estimation).
The first thing she did was to call Gerald and propose, without telling him how much money they’d found. And he accepted. She looked a little embarrassed when she hung up, but Tuppence assured her it wasn’t terrible of her.
“Hell,” said Dean, “I wish some rich chick would propose to me.”
“Dean,” said Sam.
But Monica only laughed and invited them to stay for Christmas dinner the next day. And for some reason, the Trickster let them.