Sated by a Bobby-special roast chicken dinner, the three men sat in contented conviviality. Sam and Bobby talked, nursing their beers and casting occasional amused glances toward the soft snores rising from the third armchair.
"So, what have you found out about the spirit?" Sam asked quietly, so as not to disturb his sleeping brother.
"Lots and nothing," Bobby replied cryptically with a shrug, "one thing I am sure of though," he added "is that the thing is not evil; it's tortured."
Sam cocked his head; "tortured?"
"Yeah; usually a tortured spirit doesn't mean to be evil or dangerous, but it's controlled by some kind of spell or enchantment - usually a damned dark and evil one."
Squinting at the label on his beer bottle as the letters began to blur, Sam hiccupped. "The binding spell the hunter put on it?" he asked.
"No," Bobby shook his head. "That was only done about a hundred years ago;" he took a sip of beer, "that all seems pretty shady, I can't find any history on it at all."
Sam frowned, "weird."
"I've got a few London contacts doing some groundwork for me, but there's more than one enchantment at work here." He scratched his head, "I mean, have you ever heard of thousands of spirits coalesced into one entity?"
Sam puffed out his cheeks and drained his bottle. "No, new one on me." he mumbled quietly.
They both turned as a particularly long snore stuttered into a snort when Dean shifted in the seat and scratched his nose.
"Why didn't it happen around any of the other plague pits in London?” Bobby asked rhetorically.
Sam shook his head in response.
"Speaking to people in the know back in London, it seems the most likely explanation is a witch."
"Damn witches," grunted Sam, "they're a pain in our asses wherever they are…"
Both men turned as Dean sighed, "figgin' wishes …" he murmured into his shoulder.
Bobby rolled his eyes and smiled, shaking his head. "We’re talkin’ about a witch who lived around the time of the Black Death," He continued; "It seems she had a major grudge against the parish elders because they had hung her husband."
Sam nodded slowly, "understandable," he muttered; "what'd he do?"
"Damned if I know," replied Bobby with a shrug; "in those days you could get ya neck stretched for any stupid damn thing." Passing Sam another beer, he continued; "but, whatever it was, she wanted to take her revenge on the parish."
"She cast a really evil spell which bound all the plague dead of the parish in to one terrible tortured entity." Bobby took a long drag on his bottle; "thousands of souls, condemned to dying a terrible lingering death day after day, century after century."
Sam shuddered at the thought; "what a bitch."
"Their suffering and misery is so intense,” Bobby muttered sourly; “so indescribable that anyone who witnesses it is scared to death."
Sam shook his head; "I heard that awful wail; I'll never forget that terrible sound as long as I live."
"Neither will I," Bobby replied thoughtfully.
"Don't know what spell she used but I'm guessing it's real old dark magic, possibly druidic;" Bobby stifled a yawn, "it would also explain why the hunter used a druidic binding spell; because he didn't want to cause any clash with the witch's spell."
Sipping his beer, Sam’s eyes flicked across to Dean, whose mouth was hanging open limply; amplifying his snores.
"Jeez Sam," grinned Bobby; "can't we put a muzzle on him?"
"The thing is," Bobby continued, "I told ya I can't destroy the ring; that would release the spirit and tortured or not, it's too friggin' dangerous to do that."
"I can't burn the remains because they're all buried fifty feet under one of the busiest districts of London…"
He shrugged, "so what do I do?"
"I don't know," Sam sighed.
"I can secrete the ring somewhere safe; bury it deep down somewhere remote maybe," Bobby began, "but do I have the right to condemn those poor bastards to an eternity of agony?"
"What else can we do?" Sam asked quietly.
"There's also another thing I have to bear in mind."
Sam stared at Bobby over his beer bottle, "what?"
"Most enchantments, even the real old ones fade with time," Bobby replied solemnly; "the efficacy of any spell erodes eventually. Even if I hide this ring miles underground this thing is gonna get loose. Probably not in our lifetime, maybe not for centuries; but mark me - it will get out."
"What's the answer?"
Bobby put his bottle on the floor beside his chair, "Tortured spirits can be healed."
"How?" asked Sam.
"It depends on the circumstances; on what spell was cast." Bobby took his cap off and yawned lavishly; "but that's a job for tomorrow. I'm calling it a night – I'm beat."
They both turned to look at the sleeping figure slumped in the armchair beside Sam; his head flopped to one side, mouth hanging open, a small wet patch forming on his shoulder.
Sam knelt down beside him and gently squeezed his arm, "hey dude;" he coaxed quietly.
Dean jerked awake; "gnnuh! coffee please ..."
Sam grinned, "oh, no coffee for you, bro. You're ready for bed!"
Dean squirmed in the armchair, rubbing his eyes, "Don' wanna go to bed, "m'not tired"
"Why are your eyes closed then?" Sam smiled with a shake of the head.
"M'eyelashes are heavy."
Bobby rose stiffly; "idjit" he muttered fondly.
Sam wrapped strong arms round his protesting brother's body, and helped him up out of the chair. "C'mon, dude, bed." Guided by Sam, Dean stumbled blearily across the room, kicking over Bobby's half emptied bottle. "sorr' Bobby … getya paws off S'my, no' tired …"
Sam looked back at Bobby with a roll of the eyes, "Yeah, yeah, whatever Dean; get your ass up the stairs."
"I c'n get up the stairs … ooof!"
Sam held on tight as his brother stumbled, almost faceplanting up the stairs.
"Dean, d'you want me to carry you?"
Dean turned and glared, as much as his heavy lidded eyes would allow, but it was all the incentive he needed to make it up the stairs without further incident.
Helping Dean out of his clothes, and into a fresh T-shirt, Sam supported him as he laid back, asleep almost before he touched the pillow.
"G'night, dude;" Sam smiled, rearranging the bedclothes.
Once he was content that Dean was settled, he took a seat beside the bed and sat back, watching his sleeping brother, waiting for nightmares.
Half an hour passed, and Sam shifted in the seat. Skirting the edge of sleep, he stifled a long yawn and watched as Dean fidgeted briefly, giving a short sigh before settling.
"Sam?" Dean suddenly whispered.
Jerking into wakefulness, Sam leaned towards the bed; "what's up, dude?"
Dean sighed, "go to bed, bitch."
Sam woke, blinking into the bright daylight streaming through the window. It had been an undisturbed night, no pain, no nightmares; one more step on the path to full recovery.
He rose and pulled on his jeans, glancing at the sprawled figure in the other bed, before making his way downstairs.
He was somewhat surprised to find the kitchen deserted. It was warm, and smelled of coffee, so he knew that Bobby was definitely up and about, but for the moment, the older man was absent.
He turned as the kitchen door opened behind him, and Bobby strolled through it with a folio of dog-eared papers under his arm. Bobby looked up and smiled; "hey Sam!"
"Jeez Bobby, do you ever sleep?" Replied Sam.
Bobby shrugged, "When I've nothin' better to do."
Bobby pointed to the counter; "coffee's just brewed, want anything for Sleepin' Beauty?"
Sam shook his head with a smile, "nah, he's dead to the world upstairs." He poured a mug of coffee and sat down opposite Bobby.
“What’cha doing?” he asked.
“I was workin’ in the panic room,” Bobby replied, pointing at the sheaf of papers he was carrying; “just getting all the crap I can find about tortured spirits together, ready to open up that curse box and see if I can find anything to deal with the ring.”
"Any ideas?" Sam prompted
"nothin' yet,” Bobby sighed; “I'm gonna go back an’ take another look at the ring to see if I can find out more about the hunters enchantment."
Sam took a sip of coffee, shuddering as the caffeine assaulted his system; "how?"
"There might be some kind of mark or sigil that I never noticed before to indicate what type of enchantment he used to bind the spirit,” he pointed to the papers he was carrying; "some of this stuff might give me more of an idea about the original enchantment."
Draining his coffee mug, he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. "Until I know what I'm working with I won't know if or how we can heal the spirit and get this case wrapped up."
Sam sighed, shaking his head; "those poor pathetic bastards."
They both turned sharply on hearing the kitchen door swing open with a creak.
Bobby smiled; "speaking of pathetic bastards…"
Dean wandered stiff-legged into the room. Sleep-muzzed, he stood in the doorway, blinking vacantly and scratching his head.
It took Sam a moment to realise his brother was bare-legged in his boxers, his sweatpants folded over his arm.
"Couldn't bend down far enough to put my sweatpants on, Sammy."
Bobby shook his head, "Sam, for God's sake cover him up; then go an' make some breakfast." He smiled, "I’m going back to the panic room; bring me an egg an’ bacon sandwich, will ya?"
Sam worked Dean into his sweats; "better get you dressed, dude; you're gonna put Bobby off his breakfast."
Bobby turned his attention back to his papers; "I'll have my eggs over easy," he called over his shoulder as he walked away.
"He'll have his eggs over easy," repeated Dean, peering over Sam's shoulder.
"Yeah, I heard him, dude;" sighed Sam, cracking an egg into the pan, "why don't you go an' …"
He was cut off by a hoarse cry from the panic room, moments before a terrible and familiar stench of rot and putrefaction filled the house.
Chapter 14 here