Dean had kept a low profile while waiting outside and he was itching to go in to check on Sam when he saw a sight that baffled him. There was Sam, walking of his own volition, followed closely by Lucy. Sam didn't look happy and he kept his right arm pretty close to his body, supporting it with his left hand, but he was walking and Dean hadn't thought he would be able to do that for at least a week.

"What the hell?" he asked, unable not to voice his surprise over this turn of events.

Lucy reached out to touch Sam's shoulder, to perhaps support him, but he instantly shifted away from her and gave her a dark glare to match.

"How the hell are you walking with a bullet wound in your thigh?" Dean demanded.

Sam's expression was tense and he kept glancing at Lucy as if he expected her to start spitting venom or something. "Looks like I don't have bullet wounds," he said. His voice was a bit hoarse and sounded twice as tense as his expression looked. "Only superficial stab wounds that I apparently got during a convenient store robbery," he added and again glanced at Lucy.

"What?!" Somewhere between then and now, the world had stopped making sense. Even though Dean clearly understood the words, he didn't understand the meaning, because it made no sense. "Come again?"

Sam sneered, yanked the passenger side door open and eased himself into the car without another word.

Dean focused on Lucy. "What did you do?" he asked.

Lucy settled for arching an eyebrow at him and shrugged lightly. "I don't know what you're talking about," she said and her tone sounded dismissive enough for him to drop it for now. Instead he opened the back door for her and closed it again once she was seated before walking around the car and getting in himself. All he could think right then was that he had definitely missed something and he was now itching to find out what that was.

He drove them back to the motel and all the way, none of them spoke. Dean didn't know what to say, Sam scowled and kept fiddling with his right shoulder and Lucy just sat in the back and looked out the window as if nothing had happened. However much Dean felt inclined to agree with Sam's assessment of her, she had just helped them out of a bad pinch and had done so without asking for anything in return. How she had done it was beyond him. He wasn't even going to start speculating about that right now.

The Impala pulled in next to the cabin and they all got out at once. Sam walked with a limp, but the fact alone that he was walking on his own was unsettling. Dean had seen the wounds and they had been no laughing matter.

Lucy stopped once she was out of the car and watched Sam make his way up onto the porch. "Well, I'll leave you to it, then. You might want to keep an eye out for the shooter," she said.

Dean eyed her closely for a moment, searching for any signs of abnormality, anything that might disclose what was hiding behind her pleasant-looking facade, but she looked as painfully normal as she always had. "I intend to find that bitch and kill her," he countered. "Nobody shoots my brother and gets away with it."

She met his eyes, her expression serious. "You may want to hold off on that, Dean. I think Sam needs you around right now," she said. "Do you know what happened?"

"Yeah, I know what happened. Bela Talbot happened," he countered. There was a very subtle shift in Lucy's expression when he said that name.

"Dean, do you have the key?" Sam asked. He sounded as grumpy as Dean expected him to sound.

Dean dug into his pocket, pulled the key out and tossed it to Sam, who caught it, fumbled and dropped it on the floor of the porch. He muttered something under his breath, stooped over and picked it up.

"Bela Talbot?" Lucy asked, her tone thoughtful. "Where have I heard that name before?"

"She's a mercenary. She steals stuff and sells it to the highest bidder," Dean countered, unable to keep the anger out of his voice. "The next time I see her, she's dead," he added.

Lucy just eyed him for a second, then closed the back door and walked around the car. "As I said, I'll leave you to it. Stay with your brother, Dean. He needs you right now," she said.

"You can't walk back to town," Dean countered, a little disconcerted by the mere idea.

Lucy smiled. "Oh, I won't have to. The owner of the motel will give me a ride," she said, glanced briefly up at the door of the cabin, then briefly brushed a finger along Dean's arm. "Call me before you leave town, okay?"

"Sure," Dean said and watched her as she turned and strode away toward the office. He couldn't really make sense of her, had no idea why she had done what she had done, and he wondered if maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to get the hell out of Dodge before she changed her mind and called the cops on him. On the other hand ... why would she?


Sam stopped just inside the door and stared at his bed. When they had left here, his pillowcase had been soaked in his blood and the bedspread had too. There had been at least one bullet hole in the bed, too. Now it looked like nothing had ever happened here. Both beds were made, there was no indication of anything violent having happened here and it baffled him.

"Why are you standing around in the doorway? Go sit down or something," Dean said from behind him.

Sam glanced at him over one shoulder, then cleared the doorway and sank down on a chair. "Guess Lucy and the owner here are really tight, huh?" he asked.

Dean had noticed the tidiness of the room as well and just stood there and stared for a moment. "This has got to be the most bizarre day I've ever had," he commented and closed the door, then frowned when he realized that there was a deadbolt on the inside of the door now.

"Bizarre?" Sam asked and looked up at him. "Man, this isn't bizarre, it's scary like hell. I have no idea what she did to me, but it wasn't normal, Dean."

Dean frowned, then turned and eyed Sam closely. "What are you talking about?"

"She did all the talking ... because I couldn't. The second she touched me, my voice disappeared. You call that normal?"

Sam could tell that Dean was struggling with the tainted image of his favorite teacher. Whatever the hell it was that held him back from letting go and jumping to conclusions like he always had before, Sam attributed it to some kind of hold Lucy had on him more than anything else. "Maybe it was ..." he tried, but trailed off and grimaced.

"What? Shock?" Sam countered a little aggressively and flinched when that sent a ripple of pain through his shoulder. "I've been stabbed and shot before, Dean. And I never lost my voice on account of it," he added and sneered while pressing the palm of his hand against his sore shoulder. "Bela shot me. She grabbed your pillow, slammed it down on my thigh and put a damned hole in me. And then she did the same to my shoulder, but from a distance. Don't you tell me that I imagined that."

"I'm not telling you that," Dean countered and he sounded a little miffed now. "I saw the wounds. I know you got shot, dude."

"Then explain this to me. How can she heal me? Why the hell didn't she just heal me completely? What's her agenda?" Sam snapped. The angrier he got, the more his wounds hurt. Now the wound on his thigh was beginning to throb again and he began to wonder if what the doctor had seen hadn't just been an illusion.

"Calm down, man," Dean said, his expression shifting from annoyed to worried. "I can't explain it, okay? Just like I can't explain why the hell you get sick from going into Whitefish."

"It's not Whitefish that's making me sick," Sam growled. "It's her."

"Sam," Dean tried, obviously intent on debunking his theory without even hearing him out. "That's ridiculous. She just helped you. How can you think she's the one making you sick? I grant you that there's something off about her, but ... come on, man. She just helped us both out here. She didn't have to and she didn't ask for anything in return."

Sam just stared at Dean for a moment. Then he drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. He knew that to Dean it looked like he was giving in and that was what he wanted him to think. At least for now. He needed proof, needed to find out what it was about Lucy St. Clair that felt so wrong to him. If he could prove it, he might be able to sway Dean to his way of thinking.

"Whatever," he muttered. "I'm beat. I'm going to bed," he said and gingerly regained his feet. Every step he took hurt now, but he wasn't going to let Dean see that. Although he desperately wanted a shower right now, he couldn't really face having to go through the routine, so he decided on going to bed right away and followed through on that plan without another word to Dean.


Dean spent about an hour just sitting around. He had made good use of the deadbolt and had at the same time realized that the door, which had previously been of fairly heavy wood, was no longer a wooden door. It looked like it, but on closer inspection, it was metal shaped like wood. He hadn't mentioned it to Sam, who didn't seem interested in anything other than what Lucy may or may not be, and it made Dean wonder. Sam could be stubborn in his opinions, but usually he was more than happy to discuss issues and could be swayed if Dean made a reasonable point.

The more time passed, the more his question to Bobby after they'd been up against the seven deadly sins rang true. He was really beginning to feel it in his bones. Something wasn't right with Sam and no amount of apologizing would change that. Sure, he could follow Sam's reasoning, that he had to become tougher if he was to make it on his own, but Dean didn't like what that entailed and already now Sam was so far removed from his former, rational, sweet dorky self that Dean hardly recognized him. He was quick to anger and even quicker to pull the trigger and yet he gave in to the most unlikely of opponents, like Ruby.

On the spur of a moment, he grabbed his phone and dialed Bobby's number. There was something he needed an answer for and he figured if anyone knew, Bobby would. To not wake Sam, he stepped outside and closed the door behind him.


"Bobby. Quick question here," Dean countered. "Have you ever heard of someone getting sick after coming to Whitefish?"

"Montana?" Bobby asked and Dean confirmed that. "Uh ... no, I can't say that I have. Why?"

"Because Sam generally is trying to upchuck his guts every time he gets within spitting distance of this damned town," Dean said and sighed. "I'm just wondering why it doesn't affect me."

"Is he okay?" Bobby asked and there was a note of caution in his voice that could mean a lot of things.

"Yeah, kinda. Bela got to him earlier today. The damned bitch shot him twice, but ..." Dean sighed, not sure how to relay what had happened. "Have you ever heard of a Lucy St. Clair?"

Nothing but silence answered him.

"Bobby?" Dean asked, then pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it. For some reason, the reception had hit rock bottom and started to dig. There wasn't even one bar showing on the display. "What the hell?" he muttered. He switched the phone off, then turned it on again. The reception bars climbed to the top. He re-dialed Bobby's number and the second it started to ring, the bars dropped back down into nothingness. "Dammit," he growled and sent a furtive glance up toward the porch light. It wasn't flickering and in general he didn't get the feeling like there was anything odd going on. But his phone was obviously set on quitting on him. "Just gotta borrow Sam's phone, then," he muttered under his breath, pushed the door open and stepped back inside.

A quick glance at his watch made him frown. Then he sent a brief look out the door and wondered when it had gotten this dark. "Where the hell did this day go?" he muttered and ran a hand through his hair. Things had been weird before, but never like this. Sam's response to Whitefish still baffled Dean a little and his own unwillingness to even consider the idea that there was something off about Lucy did give him cause for concern. He just couldn't seem to bring up the energy to really care. Lucy was nice enough. She had helped them out when she didn't have to. She had even partially healed Sam. Sure, that made her way different than your average person, but Dean had never considered Lucy St. Clair to be average anyway. He wouldn't be surprised to learn that she had abilities like that.

He blinked a little at his own thoughts, frowned briefly and decided to hold off on calling Bobby until the following day. "It's too late anyway," he muttered and decided to get to bed himself. It briefly crossed his mind that the job in this town had totally gone south, but again he just couldn't bring up the energy to care.


Sam woke up with the distinct urge to get to the bathroom as fast as he could. But not because he was nauseous. He just realized he hadn't been to the bathroom in a bit and even though he hadn't really had that much to drink, whatever he had been drinking wanted desperately to get out again.

Since he was in the bathroom already, he figured he might as well get that shower he had denied himself the night before and didn't really consider anything until he was done and wrapped a towel around his waist before stepping up to the mirror above the sink to wipe the condensation off it so he could inspect himself for a moment. It was then that his gaze fixed on the stitches in his right shoulder and the previous day's events came crashing down over him like a tidal wave. He sucked in a breath as his eyes widened, because he had stitches in what looked like perfectly unmarred skin. There was a slight white line under the black threads, but that was it.

The bullet wounds Bela Talbot had administered the day before had decreased from gaping, ragged holes to slits and were now gone. He propped his left foot up on the lid of the toilet to inspect the wound on his thigh and that too had healed up overnight. It rattled him to within an inch of his sanity and he knew without the shadow of a doubt that Lucy St. Clair had to be responsible. But why? If she was what he thought she was, why would she heal him? It didn't make sense. If she had aggravated his injuries, then it would have made more sense. But she had helped them out, had taken him to the hospital and filled the doctor with nonsense while keeping him quite so he couldn't step in it. Bullet wounds had to be reported to the police. Stab wounds not so much. Especially not if they were superficial.

Carefully, he picked at the threads in his thigh and pulled the first one out. It pulled a little, but it didn't hurt.

"Are you just about done in there?" he heard Dean call from the other side of the door.

He put his left foot back on the floor, grabbed the doorknob and opened the door.

Dean eyed him for a moment in that way he had when he was caught off guard. He didn't exactly look surprised, but it was something akin to it. Then Dean's gaze shifted to his shoulder and he stopped. "What the hell?" he asked.

"That's what I was thinking," Sam agreed and glanced down at the black threads still embedded in his skin. "I'm completely healed. This is freakish."

Dean wasn't the type of guy who touched others unless it was a girl he wanted to get it on with, but even he couldn't keep his hands to himself and prodded the non-injury with one finger as if to assure himself that he wasn't just seeing things. "Freakish? Yeah, I guess that's a good word for it," he agreed thoughtfully and looked up to meet Sam's eyes. "What the hell, Sam?"

Sam shrugged. "I don't know. It must have been something Lucy did. I mean, we heal well in our family, but this is ridiculous," he said, pushed past Dean and grabbed his knife to get rid of the last threads. He did note the look that Dean gave him, but he didn't know what to do with it right then.

Carefully, he sliced through the remaining threads and pulled them out, then grabbed some clean clothes and got dressed. It took him a moment to realize that his brother hadn't stopped staring at him. "What?" he asked and turned around to face Dean while pulling a t-shirt over his head.

"Nothing," Dean countered and sounded anything but sincere. He raised his phone to his ear, then hesitated and eyed it for a moment, then shrugged lightly to himself before he dialed a number.

"Who are you calling?" Sam asked and sat down on the bed to pull his socks on.

"Lucy," Dean countered and grimaced. "Who's not home," he added and flipped the phone shut again. "I need some breakfast. I can't think on an empty stomach."

An idea wormed its way into Sam's head, but he pushed it away for now. He was concerned about Lucy's abilities to influence others and was really beginning to believe that she had to be the demon that was wrecking havoc on this town. Granted, there hadn't been anything for the past month, but prior to that five people had died under mysterious circumstances and Sam felt that warranted a closer inspection. But the way Dean was behaving at the moment, he doubted his brother was likely to participate in pointing fingers at his precious teacher.

Sam made a face. "Why don't you go out and get us some breakfast while I finish up here?" he suggested, hoping to get some time to himself so he could plan what to do next.

Dean arched an eyebrow. "Why don't I," he agreed, shrugged lightly, grabbed his jacket and headed out the door.

The second the door had closed behind him, Sam spotted the keys to the Impala on the table and wondered why Dean would decide to do this on foot. To Sam's knowledge there wasn't anything in the immediate area where they could get breakfast. With a light shake of the head, he dropped down on one chair, booted up the laptop and opened a file. He scrolled down to the bottom of it and eyed the last entry for a moment. His journal was more extensive that his father's had been, but he still felt like it needed some work, like he needed to add more to it. With a sigh, he closed that document, then opened another, scrolled down to the bottom of it and started typing.

But it wasn't long before he saved the document and switched off the laptop again. His gaze settled on the keys to the Impala, then shifted to the door, then back to the keys. Lucy wasn't home. And Sam was desperately eager to find out what it was about her that had spellbound his brother and made him sick every time he set foot in town. At this point, he was completely convinced that it was her doing it and he wondered if she had been the one causing that month-long illness in the nineteen-forties too. It would make sense if she was a demon. What he didn't understand was why she was here, why she had decided to stay in town.

There were just too many questions crowding in on him right now, questions he figured he could find the answer for by either confronting her – a dangerous idea at best – or checking out her house while she wasn't home. He pursed his lips in contemplation, then grabbed his boots and pulled them on before grabbing his jacket and the keys to the Impala. He knew Dean would throw a fit if he took his car without asking, but right now there were more important issues at stake. And finding out the truth about Lucy St. Clair was at the top of his to-do list right now.

The morning air was pretty fresh, a bit nippy, but nothing out of the ordinary. Sam sent a long look up the road which ran past the office and ended up in the main road and saw no sign of his brother. If Dean turned up now, he would have to rethink his strategy. But if he didn't ...

Sam glanced at the Impala, then down at the keys in his hand. This was going to be tricky. Dean was pretty unreasonable when it came to his car. To a certain extent Sam understood his attachment to the Impala – it had been dad's after all and dad had at one point decided to give the Impala to Dean – but it still seemed a bit unhealthy to Sam.

With a shrug, he strode over to the car and unlocked the door, then sent another look up the road. There was still no sign of his brother. With a sigh, he slid behind the wheel, pulled the door shut and started the engine. He backed the car out onto the road and paused briefly to send another look up the road. Still no sign of Dean. "Sorry, dude," he muttered and stepped on the gas. The Impala tore up the road and raced past the office, still with no sign of Dean anywhere, which made Sam draw a sigh of relief. The last thing he wanted right now was to end up in a shouting match with his brother. He would have to deal with that when he got back, of course, but by then he would probably have the proof he needed and that would give Dean something else to focus on.


Dean had gone up to the office of the motel to ask for directions to where the closest breakfast place would be and the owner had directed him along a forest path leading in the opposite direction of the main road. The man had said that this place further into the woods had the best damned coffee in the State and that their bagels were to die for.

Dean had taken him on his word and had made his way into the forest only to emerge at what looked like an old castle-like structure with a parking lot in front that was filled to the breaking point. "Looks like the dude was right," he muttered under his breath and made his way across the lot to the entrance.

The first thing that hit him when he opened the door was the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. The second thing was the little number behind the counter. He spent almost half an hour flirting shamelessly with her and enjoyed every renewed blush rushing into her cheeks. She was obviously totally innocent and cute as a button.

Eventually, he got his order and took his leave of her with some reluctance. She was exceedingly cute, but way too young and innocent for him to do more than flirt with her. She was obviously very taken with his interest in her and he figured he would have had a hard time getting rid of her if he had been living in town, but as always things worked out the way they should and he could disappear out of her life without leaving any scars or scary scenes behind.

He felt good, better than he had in a while, and it took the entire walk back to the office for that feeling to wear off again. He mourned its departure, but was too much of a realist to let it get him down. Instead he lengthened his stride and made it all the way to the cabin's front door before it struck him that something was off. He stopped and stared at the door for a second, then shifted his gaze sideways without moving.

The bag with the bagels and the coffee cups hit the floor at his feet and he took a step backward, hoping that he had somehow forgotten how far up along the cabin he had parked the Impala. But the car was gone.

"Sam?" he said and narrowed his eyes at the patch where his beloved car had been no more than half an hour ago. "SAM!" he yelled, ripped the door open and stepped inside.

A quick glance around spoke its own clear language. Sam's jacket was gone along with the keys to the car. "Son of a bitch," he snarled, ripped the phone out of his pocket and speed-dialed Sam's cell phone. It rang twice, then switched to voice-mail. "Sam, where the hell are you?" he snapped after the beep. "And who the hell told you that you could take my car?" Then he hung up, a wave of frustration and anger rippling through him, closely followed by an already deep-rooted concern. Sam didn't take off without telling him unless he was pissed or possessed. Since he had been neither when Dean had left half an hour ago, he found it hard to imagine that either had happened in the interim.

"Dammit," he snarled, pulled the phone from his pocket again and redialed Sam's number. It switched to voicemail at once, indicating that Sam had probably switched his phone off. Dean flipped the phone shut again without leaving a message. "You are so getting your ass kicked when you get back, Sammy," he growled and started pacing around the cabin.

Half an hour later, after a repetitive pattern of pacing that was threatening to wear grooves in the floor, Dean dropped down on the chair in front of the laptop and started drumming his fingers against the tabletop.

He sneered, flipped his phone open again and redialed Sam's number once more. Again it switched to voice-mail immediately. "Dammit, Sam! Where are you?" he growled. His anger was transforming into fear now. He hated not knowing where Sam was, hated the dark ideas crawling out of the furthest corners of his mind. Too much could go wrong when Sam went out on his own. Especially after having been shot and magically healed overnight.

His gaze settled on the laptop and the mental image of Sam working on his idea of a journal snapped into his mind. Maybe the kid had left some clue to his whereabouts? Dean booted the laptop up and scanned through the latest files. The top one was the journal, which he opened and skimmed through to the last entry, which was a few days old and said nothing interesting.

He ran through the latest files again and noted that one of them had been edited this very morning. The file name was a date and it was from the time when Sam had left for Stanford. "Diary?" Dean muttered and clicked on it.

It immediately asked for a password. Dean shifted on the chair and eyed the screen darkly for a moment while trying to figure out what Sam would use as a password. If it was that old, Dean had a pretty good idea of what it might be, so he typed it in and the file opened. "You're too transparent, dude," he grumbled and skimmed over the first entry. It was full of anger and resentment towards dad, a good portion of it also aimed at Dean himself, but it tapered off into sadness and fear just as quickly. It occurred to Dean that it would give him a much deeper insight into Sam's state of mind after he had left back then, but he didn't really feel he had the time to read the whole damned book right now.

Instead, he saved the document under his own files, renaming it and giving it a different password, before he scrolled down to the last entry and started to read.

"I think I know what Lucy is. If it's true, that puts things in a whole new perspective. And I can't tell Dean about it. Not yet. First and foremost, he won't believe it. Hell, I'm not even sure I believe it. I need to find out first. I just hope she doesn't catch on. But if she is what I think she might be ... it'll be difficult to slip anything past her. Man, I really wish dad had told us more about what's out there. This whole cloak and dagger routine is really not helping at all. If we'd known what we were up against, maybe we would have been better at handling it. Then again, if she is what I think she is ... maybe she can end this damned deal. I mean, she's got to have the power to do that. And I think she's connected to that box. Or rather the other way around. LL? It really says it all when you think about it, doesn't it? I should have seen it sooner. I need to find out more before I tell Dean about this."

Dean stared at the entry for a moment. "What really says it all? LL?" he muttered darkly. "Dammit, Sam, why the hell can't you be a little clearer?" he added and let out of hissed breath. "If I have to frigging sit on him until he tells me, he's not getting out of here again until I know what's going on," he added and ran all ten fingers through his hair.

He glanced at his watch and sneered. Sam had been gone for an hour now. Frustrated, he grabbed his phone and dialed Lucy's number. It started ringing and he let it ring out before he cut the connection. "Why the hell is nobody picking up their damned phones right now?" he snapped, shut the laptop off and got up to pace around the cabin again for a moment. Then he came to a stop, his gaze fixed on the door. "He's gone to Lucy's to try and figure out if he's right about her," he muttered while a frown spread over his brow. "Son of a bitch. He thinks she's the demon killing people here," he added. "Dammit, Sam. How many times do I have to tell you not to go out there alone?" he snarled, grabbed his jacket which he had tossed onto his own bed, and stalked out the door. He figured he could either get a ride into town or ask to borrow the owners car. The stretch to Lucy's place, which by car took a little over half an hour, would take him an hour or more to walk and he had no patience for that. He needed to get there fast. And if the owner was away, then he would damned well have to borrow a car somewhere. But that would have to be a last resort.


Sam arrived at Lucy's house with bile in his throat and the distinct urge to upchuck what he hadn't eaten yet. He felt sick as a dog, his head hurting, his skin clammy cold, but he forced himself onwards. The closer he got to her house, the worse it got, but he was not going to back down. He needed to know, needed to find out.

On rubbery legs, he made his way up the garden path of the very normal looking front yard and stopped at the first step up to the porch. He grabbed a hold of the white banister and leaned heavily on it for a moment. A second of respite did nothing for him, though, and he took the two steps up to the porch like he was over eighty. "Dammit," he rasped and clapped a hand over his mouth when he reached the front door. If she was home, he could always claim that he needed to use the bathroom, and it wasn't a lie either.

He rang the bell and closed his eyes while trying to focus on anything other than his roiling stomach or his aching head. Even his shoulder and thigh had started to hurt again, which did nothing for his general condition. "Shit," he muttered and rang the bell again. There was no answer and the house beyond was completely silent.

He sent a quick look around to assure himself that he was alone, then made his way around the house to the back, where he found the backdoor he had counted on. With the lock pick kit, he made short work of the lock and opened the door carefully. He drew in a couple of deep breathes to hopefully steady his stomach enough so he wouldn't throw up on the floor inside, then stepped into a rustic-looking kitchen. Either Lucy St. Clair was a neat freak from hell or she didn't use her kitchen, because it looked like it had just been put in.

With one hand over his mouth, Sam slowly made his way through the ground floor of the house, searching for any indication of that Lucy St. Clair was a demon and had been one for at least twenty-odd years. But there was nothing that would even point in that direction. Except of course for the fact that the house was bland on a good day. There were no personal touches anywhere. No photos, no personal nicknacks, no letters lying around, no books that would indicate a particular taste. But there were candles everywhere. Every flat surface had at least one candle on it, and the majority of them were black. But in this day and age, that didn't mean much. Many people liked candles and black was in at the moment.

He made his way upstairs and when he reached the bathroom, his stomach would no longer be denied. Although he had nothing to throw up from, he did it anyway and felt lousier afterwards than he had before. He flushed the toilet, made sure not to leave any trace of his presence, and then splashed some water on his icy face. When he met his eyes in the mirror, he almost flinched. He looked like he was about ready to keel over and die, he was that pale. "Man, I gotta get out of here," he muttered, turned around unsteadily and left the bathroom to go back downstairs.

The only place he hadn't checked was the basement. He made his way back toward the kitchen and opened a door which led into a guest bathroom. He closed it again and opened the door across from it, which opened up to a staircase going down. And opening that door was like being hit in the face by the deepest, darkest pit of Hell. He couldn't describe the feeling in any plausible way, but his headache escalated to such a degree that he feared his head would explode. With his left hand clawed around the doorknob, he dropped to his knees with an poorly retained whimper.

The pain became a throbbing inferno behind his eyes and he squeezed his lids shut, released his hold on the doorknob and clawed all ten fingers into his skull in a vain attempt to counteract the incredible agony before darkness descended on him.