Two days later, they were still stuck in the damn car. There was always someone awake in the house, 'round the clock. Sam wondered if that meant Abby was a physical or mental wreck and needed constant care, or if her parents were taking her story seriously. Regardless, it was putting serious brakes on their burglary plan.
Sam was beginning to think they might be reduced to calling in a fake gas-leak report again, just to get a chance at that house. He shot a glance at Dean's peaceful sleeping face and then grimaced and stuck his head out the open window. Vegas money was on him dying from methane poisoning before they got that break. Damned onions. He was so gonna eat a couple of big, greasy burritos right before Dean's watch rolled around.
Sam picked up the night-vision binoculars and trained them on the house again. He frowned, focused in. Then dropped the binocs, slapped Dean and bailed out the door almost all at once. There was no time to clue Dean in. The horse ran across the big backyard, Abby hunched down small on its back.
Sam vaulted the hedge and tore across the yard, trying to close the distance. There was no way to catch up, so he made his best guess as Smoky gathered himself and leaped the far hedge. Behind him, Sam heard the roar of the Impala so he knew Dean had the same idea. If you can't catch something running from you, try to herd it into an ambush.
The kelpie might have been vicious and preternatural, but apparently it wasn't much brighter than any other pony. It veered away from Sam as Sam waved his arms and made an impossible lunge towards it, then it reared and wheeled away from the Impala coming up close on its heels from the other direction.
Their pursuit required some fancy maneuvering and the destruction of a couple of manicured yards, but they got the thing cornered finally between the back of a garage, the car and a high board fence. Abby didn't move through the whole chase, but Sam got a glimpse of her face. Wide-eyed and terrified, she was aware but somehow unable to escape. He wasn't sure how she even held her seat, considering some of the evasive moves the kelpie made during the chase.
Dean bailed out of the Impala with a yell and threw the thermos at the horse as it tried to leap over the hood of the car.
The horse gave a horrific shriek and almost flung itself over backwards as it reared and pivoted away from the big scary man throwing things. Sam tried a flying tackle to sweep Abby off the saddle. He slammed into the horse's side.
They all almost went down as Smoky staggered. But the damned horse managed to stay on its hooves and Sam learned two unwelcome new facts. First, wooden teeth hurt just as badly as the real things when they clamp onto your thigh and second, he suddenly couldn't let go of the evil little bastard. He was stuck to the dappled hide like it was a duct-tape wall at a frat party. "DON'T TOUCH IT!" he bellowed. "I can't let go!"
"The hell?!" Dean blurted, and made a grab through the rear window, coming out with a tire iron.
"I'm stuck to it!" Sam might be joined at the hip to the thing now, but he was far from giving up the fight. He grabbed for a rein and jerked the horse's head around so hard it was snapping at its own shoulder. Sam shoved his full weight against its rump. He'd remembered reading about this once, an equine pit-maneuver. Hell, physics alone told him the thing should fall over.
Instead, the old leather snapped.
Then everything happened at once, but there was so much adrenaline flooding Sam's brain that for him, it all was a series of freeze-frames. The rein going slack in his hand. Dean, the tire iron over his head, in that split-second before it whistled downwards. The horse's hindquarters swinging around as it bucked, pivoting on its forelegs, dragging Sam along with it.
Sam twisted till he felt his skin and muscle begin to rip, trying to keep Dean in sight. The kelpie lashed out with its hind legs, both small hooves catching Dean under the chin in a powerful uppercut that sent Dean's head snapping back and the tire iron twirling away into the darkness.
Dean hit the ground hard. The kelpie made a run for it, swinging wide around Dean's unmoving body. Sam snarled and did everything he could to slow the damn thing down, leaning back against the horse's pull until he was almost ripped in half. For all the good it did, he might as well have laid down across the horse's ass and saved his strength.
He heard birds tweeting. Not the cartoon variety that whirled around with little stars, or the high-pitched noise in the ears and retinal sparks that were the real deal when you got your bell rung hard. Nope, this was actual birdsong, from actual feathery little crap factories. Dean slowly opened his eyes to find himself staring up at a deep blue pre-dawn sky. He had no idea where he was, or why he'd lain outside long enough to be damp with dew right along with the grass.
Dean started to sit up. Ohhh, bad idea. His neck felt like it was going to snap like a rotten twig. Dean eased back down, then held his throbbing head steady with one hand and used the other to push himself up again. Still hurt like a son of, but he made it this time. "Sam?"
Nobody answered but the birds. That’s when Dean realized the rumbling he heard wasn't loose marbles rolling around in his head. The Impala sat parked at a crazy angle nearby, lights on, driver's door wide open, engine idling.
He staggered to it, the ground seeming to tilt one way under his feet while his gut lurched the other way. "Sam?" Dean grabbed onto the door and spat bile, then looked inside.
Nothing seemed to be disturbed. Which was really damned disturbing, considering he still wasn't quite sure where he was and, more importantly, where Sam was. Dean dropped into the driver's seat and tilted the rearview mirror down.
Well, that explained the scrambled brains. His jaw was blue and swollen, the ugly color spreading down his neck. There was dried blood at the corner of his mouth, which explained why his tongue was swollen and painful, too. He'd somehow bitten right through it. Dean gingerly touched the puffy skin under his chin and felt some big raw patches. That's when it all started coming back.
Dean dug his phone out of his pocket, relieved to find it in one piece and holding its charge. He'd been out almost an hour. He hit Sam's key. The call went straight to voicemail, which was never a good sign.
Friggin' Arc Mobile's live customer service wouldn't be available for another three hours. He called Sam's phone again, and this time waited for the beep. "Sammy, hang in there. I'm figuring this out. I'll find you, just hold on."
Dean stuck his phone back in his pocket and pulled Sam's laptop over. The battery was low, but the charge held out long enough for him to get a fix on the old Hart mansion. He studied the map, then closed the computer and pulled out, heading for the river.
To say the Hart estate was in Goldwood was to stretch semantics farther than the city limits. Dean found himself on a narrowing road through the beginning of farmland. Even though he knew from the satellite map where the place was, he still almost missed the turn-off. The stone gatepost pillars were buried in the middle of unruly bushes and briars. They looked just like all the other miles of overgrown fencerow he'd passed, the narrow gap marking the old drive easy to miss if you blinked at the wrong time.
Dean stopped, got a set of bolt cutters out of the trunk and cut the rusted-stiff chain securing the vine-tangled, corroded, ornate iron gates. There was no way he could take the car up what was once the drive. Briars and brush and even small trees had encroached on the wide brick path until it was almost obliterated. Dean tossed the bolt cutters back in, loaded up a duffel, locked the trunk and steeled himself for at least a quarter-mile stumble across broken terrain.
There was still some open land right around the house, and for that Dean was grateful as he broke through the undergrowth onto the overgrown lawn that surrounded the circle drive in front of the old house. A fountain sat in the center of the drive, spewing only weeds now. It had been one heck of a showplace back in the day, but Dean was in no mood for architectural appreciation. He hurried around the side of the house and down through the vast back yard, towards the river.
About half the way down, the ground was torn up some. Dean squatted to get a closer look. Hoof prints, really small ones, were marked in the torn-up turf and the damp earth beneath. Small, but pressed deep, as if the pony carried a heavy load.
Dean lurched to his feet. The tracks went across the slope, not down it. Not that he could see. He ran the rest of the way down, pushed his way through the thick brush on the river bank. The water slid past, opaque and calm and deep. "SAM?"
There was no answer. Dean searched the bank as best he could. There was nothing, not so much as a broken twig. "SAM!"
Dean tripped over a root and almost wound up in the water himself. He lay there, breathing hard for a few seconds, getting a grip. The kelpie hadn't made it to the river. Sam wasn't in the river. There was no other option involving the damn river that Dean was willing to consider.
He looked back up the slope. If they weren't in the river, and that thing had come back to home base, there was only one place Sam could be. Dean shoved his way out of the brush and ran back up the slope to the old decaying mansion.