Dean began to leaf furiously through the book. Without a doubt, it was, as Sam had originally speculated, a childrens' book. A simplistically told tale of a beautiful princess languishing in the evil clutches of an unseen monster.
It was a tale of rollicking adventure; the kind of book that could well have entertained Dean in his formative reading years long before he discovered the delights of Musclecar Weekly and Busty Asian Beauties. The heavily illustrated story revolved around a nameless hero; a bold and handsome knight with glittering armour and the sort of lantern-jawed smile that Dean longed to punch, and his faithful squire wending their way through a strange fairtytale landscape, selflessly facing mortal danger and terrifing hardship at every turn in their quest to rescue the damsel in distress.
Dean's mind whirled as he flicked through the brightly coloured pages, but it ground to a stuttering halt as he turned over the last few pages to see that they were blank, effectively leaving the story incomplete.
He whipped the pages over, scanning the blank sheets as if he were willing words to pop out of them, then whipped them back again, before slamming the book shut in exasperation.
"Well, that's freakin' weird," he huffed, rubbing his brow and passing the book back to Sam; "we need to find out where this book's come from."
"And how the story ends," Sam added, not even trying to hide the tone of alarm in his voice.
Now it was Sam's turn to leaf through the book; "this is ... just ... well, weird," Sam observed helplessly, examining the blank pages.
"I already said that," Dean snorted.
Sam looked up over the book at his brother under an ironically raised brow; "well if you can think of a better word dude, you go right ahead!"
"I mean, apart from the fact that this random book turned up in my shopping," Sam continued; "and appears to be about a girl in terrible danger who's been haunting your dreams for the last month, it doesn't even have any information to prove that it even exists – there's no publishing date, or details of a publishing house or even an ISBN number."
Dean looked up at him with his classic, 'Sammy you've switched into 'geek' mode – what the hell are you talking about?' face.
"A what number?"
"An ISBN number," Sam explained; "International standard book number, it's a number that's assigned to every book before publication, to record details like the book's author, it's language, and publishing date. This book hasn't got one which technically means it's never been published."
Dean stared at him for moment, then turned back to the table, hoicking his towel up again; "dude, I don't even wanna know how you remember crap like that," he snorted.
Unconcerned by Dean's apparent lack of enthusiasm for his well of knowledge, Sam carried on examining the book trying to shed a glimmer of light on its origins. He was on the verge of giving up and heading back to the old bookstore when his perseverence finally paid off.
Pointing to one of the blank pages at the back of the book, Sam handed it back to Dean. It was hard to see, but there was definitely a faint watermark pressed into the page. Flicking through the book, Dean could see that it was on all the pages, but not necessarily visible under the print.
Holding it up to the light, it read; 1,001, Gwendoline Oak ...
Dean looked up to see that Sam was already on his laptop.
"1,001, Gwendoline Oak? it sounds like part of an address," Sam muttered, scanning his search engine; "there's a Gwendoline Street in a town called Oakswood, about 100 miles east of here," he added; "it's the most likely one I can find."
Dean snatched up the book.
"'Kay, let's go," he marched over to the door, forcefully yanking it open.
"What?" Dean snapped: "this poor woman's in trouble; c'mon dude, shake a leg!"
Sam sighed. "Are you gonna put some clothes on first?"
Looking down, Dean realised that he was standing in the wide open doorway of their motel room, with nothing but a towel to spare his blushes, and giving a busload of senior citizens parked up on the kerbside behind the parking lot a view that was probably not good for their blood pressure.
"Ahem," he spluttered, flushing puce as he manhandled the door closed behind him; "gimme a sec."
Sam watched his brother dash into the bathroom and shook his head in exasperation.
Gwendoline Street, Oakswood was a long, smart road on a steep hill. By the time the Winchesters had made it to the 900's they were both hot, cranky and exhausted.
The early afternoon sun bore down on them as they trudged up the handsome, well appointed street. It occasionally disappeared behind fat, white clouds that rode the summer breezes across the sky, and then reappeared in all its eye-wateringly bright glory as if it were playing hide and seek.
But neither Winchester was paying any attention to the sun; their attention was fixed entirely on the highly desirable residences that lined Gwendoline Street. "983 … 985 … 987 …" Dean chanted under his laboured breath as he stomped past the buildings.
They both stumbled to a halt at the end of the street, and stood, looking around themselves in confusion. The end of the street where they stood gave way to a well maintained grass verge, then beyond that, there was nothing but an expanse of dense, wild woodland.
Dean looked at the large, ivy-bedecked house on his left; "999," he muttered; "what the hell?"
Glancing down at the crumpled piece of paper in his hand, Sam read the address that he'd hastily scribbled on it while Dean was getting dressed. He looked up at the forest before them.
On the other side of the road along with all the other even numbers, they could see the wide manicured lawn of number 1,000, but there the road clearly ended.
"It's definitely 1,001; it's got to be in the forest or out on the other side of it," Sam groaned, scratching his head.
Dean grunted in response, and stepped up onto the grass verge. "The hell kinda weirdo lives in a forest?" he grumbled, pausing as his stomach gurgled loudly. "I tell you Sam, if we come across a gingerbread cottage, I'm so friggin' eating it!"
Two hours passed, and the Winchesters had nothing show for their interminable trek through the forest except a multitude of bug bites.
Sam was on the verge of giving up and suggesting to Dean they head back to the motel and try to research this address a little more, when something in his peripheral vision captured his dwindling attention.
It was a building; definitely a building.
He could hear Dean behind him kicking his way through the deadfall littering the forest floor chuntering sourly about being famished, being hot, being sweaty and having a bitch of a bug bite in his armpit.
"Hey Dean," Sam called, waiting patiently for Dean to glance up from his grumpy internal monologue.
"What?" he grunted ingraciously.
Sam beckoned him over, and Dean duly obliged after treating Sam to an exaggerated eye-roll.
"So what you've found," Dean snorted, hands thrust in his pockets as he glared at Sam's discovery with thinly-disguised contempt, "is a shed."
"Yep," Sam replied, Dean's ingratitude drifting over him like mist over a lake as he glanced through the window of said 'shed' which sat in a small clearing admist a dense copse of oaks;.
The shed was clearly abandoned, and had been for some time. Forlorn and practically derelict, its listing wooden walls and sagging roof were warped and ragged with decades of exposure.
The brothers both agreed it must have been some kind of woodsmans' cottage, and as Sam stood back examining the whole structure, Dean peered intently through the window, his nose pressed hard against the cracked, grime-coated glass. He could see wooden shelves, and a bench with tools scattered about it, discarded exactly where their former owner had left them the last time this place was used. A film of dust and cobwebs coated everything inside the shed, adding a grey patina to the feeling of lifelessness and desolation that pervaded the small building.
"I'm tellin' you man," Dean huffed, tearing his face away from the glass and turning to Sam; "I don't know squat about carpentry or forestry or whatever the hell it was this dude used to do, but I do know good tools when I see them. An' these are good tools."
Sam nodded in agreement as he walked back toward Dean, trying to stifle the smirk that threatened to break out at the sight of the black smudge of window grime adorning the tip of his brother's nose.
"I mean they're neglected an' rusty an' crap, but man, these are the real deal," Dean continued, clearly genuinely impressed; "an' old too. D'you know, I'd bet that some of this stuff is over a hundred years old."
Sam took a cursory glance through the window and saw instantly what Dean was talking about. The tools were heavy and solid, roughly hewn, so probably hand-made. They were the sort of tools used by craftsmen, not workmen.
"They must be worth a fortune," Sam observed.
"Yeah," Dean agreed enthusiastically; "which begs the questions, why'd someone just leave 'em lying around out here, and secondly, why has no-one else seen them and helped themselves?"
The Winchesters stood side-by-side and scanned the shed's shadowy interior. There was a rail running the length of the ceiling with various items of equipment hanging from it, clearly visible through the window; a scarily long hacksaw blade , a loop of leather harnessing that looked like it might have belonged on a horse, a massive rust-scarred gearing disc from a lathe or some other sort of turning mechanism and a long-handled axe.
As they stood peering through the window, both brothers felt the warmth of the sun on their backs as it appeared from one of its brief interludes behind the tumbling clouds again.
Its sudden light flooded through the shed's little window, illuminating the dusty interior and casting the shadow of the four hanging items.
"Holy … crap!" The Winchesters turned to each other, their eyes widened in awe.
The shadows of one long upright, two circles and another long upright projected '1001' neatly onto the back wall of the shed.
It took less than a minute for the brothers to decide that they needed to be inside this shed.
They scurried round the front of the building, and Sam dropped to his knees at the door, rummaging in his pocket for his picklock. He had just begun the painstaking process of picking the door's rust-clogged lock when Hurricane Dean, tired of waiting, decided to take matters into his own hands simply kicked the door down, almost taking Sam's head with it.
Sam leapt to his feet, bristling with shock and indignation, and all but ready to tear his asshole brother a new one, when the words died in his throat, his picklock dropping from limp fingers.
The two stunned figures stared in silent amazement through the shattered door.
"D'y remember this morning when we both said this thing was weird," Dean mumbled, without tearing his eyes away from the shed's interior.
Sam nodded mutely.
"Dude, we DEFINITELY need a better word …"