One Hour Earlier
Robin lived on a neat block of rowhouses. As much as he resisted using the thing, Sam was grateful tonight for his handicapped tag that allowed him to park close enough to her place to not set his leg off before the evening even began.
Her apartment was on the second floor. Sam rang the bell and after a moment Robin opened the door. She was shoeless, a comb in her hand and her dress half unzipped.
"Come on in, and please, make yourself at home," she offered, her face flushing. "I am so sorry I'm late. It's like this place is conspiring against me tonight. The plumbing's acting up, the closet door jammed till I thought I was going to have to use an ax to ever see my clothes again—and now this darn zipper's stuck. I can't get it up and I can't get it down enough to get out of the darn thing. I'm ready to grab scissors and cut myself out!"
Sam tried to look more sympathetic than amused. "That'd be a shame. It's pretty on you. Want me to give it a try?"
"Please," she sighed. "If it's truly stuck, maybe you can cut along the zipper? I can replace that, no kidding." She turned her back to him and lifted her hair out of the way.
Sam drew in a breath at the sight of creamy skin framed by the dark blue dress and a glimpse of lacy bra strap. He wasn't a testosterone-riddled teenager anymore, but damn—how long had it been? Shoving that line of thought back down into a deep dark mental box, Sam tugged on the jeweled pull, fingertips behind it to protect Robin from an accidental pinch.
The zipper moved up one smooth inch and then stuck again. He tugged until he was afraid he was going to rip something. Sam frowned. "I don't see why it's hanging up. There's nothing stuck in it and the teeth look fine."
"Blast—and it's a new dress, too." Robin peered over her shoulder at him. "If you can get it down, I'll change. We're not going to miss a reservation or anything, are we?"
"No, we've still got some time," Sam assured her. It was quickly evident that the zipper was more stubborn about going down than it had been about going up.
"Time for the scissors," Robin sighed.
"One sec—" Sam tried pulling the tab up again, thinking that maybe if it would go up a bit, it might free the thing to go down.
The pull slid all the way to the top with no resistance at all.
"It worked?" Robin blurted.
"Yeah, no trouble at all. Must just be a bad spot in it," Sam answered as he closed the tiny hook and eye at the top of the placket.
Robin turned to him with pink cheeks and an impish smile. "Thank goodness. I was a little uncomfortable with the thought of you getting me out of my clothes on the first date."
"Undressing a woman with scissors isn't my style regardless," Sam answered with his own flush and a laugh.
"Yeah, unless you're Edward Scissorhands, that's kinda a creepy scenario—Shoes!" Robin blurted, and darted off towards the back of the apartment.
"Even more creepy if I was!" Sam called after her with a chuckle, and glanced around the living room. It was small, but airy and somehow feminine without being frilly. Sam was drawn to the bookcase, curious about what Robin liked to read.
Most of it was nonfiction, medical texts relating to her work, mixed in with a random selection of other subjects. There were a row of familiar paperbacks taking up part of one shelf. He pulled one part way out and his nose wrinkled in disgust at the cover image of the blond, shirtless Thor wannabe who bore his name.
"Awkward," he muttered under his breath and slid the odious thing back into its space. He heard the click of heels behind him, but before he turned, Robin let out a stifled squeal.
Sam spun. She was pale, her eyes wide over the hand clamped over her mouth.
"What is it? What's wrong?" He stepped closer and she took a step back.
"Your jacket!" she gasped. "The back of your jacket!"
Sam frowned in confusion, and reached behind him. He felt torn cloth and wetness. His fingertips came back stained with red. "What the hell?"
Sam shucked his suit jacket like it was on fire and turned it around. 'GET OUT' was slashed across the back, edged in what looked and smelled like blood. His shirt underneath was unmarked, so it wasn't his.
"Uh, Robin—is there something you ought to tell me?" He held the ruined jacket out at arm's length.
Robin's lips trembled. "I… I thought it was over!"
Sam tossed the ruined jacket over the back of a chair and led Robin to the couch. He kept her hand in his as they sat down. "It's ok. Trust me, whatever you tell me, I'll believe you."
"I told myself it wasn't real. I made myself believe I was a little crazy," she whispered, casting a fearful, quick glance over at Sam's jacket, as if it were a tiger crouched across the room. "But that… there's no way I could have done that in some kind of delusional break. I couldn't have, could I?"
"No," Sam told her, his voice soft but firm. "No. There is no way you did this yourself."
He squeezed her hands gently. "Robin, have you ever heard of—?"
Sam's phone buzzed in his pocket with the staccato rhythm that meant 'Pick up RIGHT NOW!'
He flinched. "I'm sorry, I have to answer this. It's an emergency."
Robin nodded. Sam stood as he drew his phone out.
Dean's voice burst through the speaker the instant Sam hit the answer-key. "Are you ok?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. What's wrong?" Sam scowled at the edge of urgent anxiety in Dean's voice. It was a sound he'd never wanted to hear again.
"George is freaking out. He says you're in danger." Dean's voice lowered, muffled, as if he'd turned away from the phone. "Hear that? He's fine, you psycho hairball. I oughta--"
A short scream from Robin interrupted the conversation on both sides.
"Uh, Dean?" Sam eyed his jacket as it slithered across the floor as if trying to slink away unnoticed. "He may be onto something. Grab the stash and head over here. I think Robin's got a vengeful."
"You gotta be kiddin' me. Really?"
"Dude, I am watching my suit jacket crawl up under an armoire."
"That is no kind of right," Dean agreed. "I'm on my way."
Sam dropped his phone back into his pocket and knelt beside Robin. She'd drawn her legs up under her and was staring at the dark space under the armoire as if Sam was no longer in the room.
"Robin?" When she didn't respond, Sam tapped her cheek. "Robin!"
She squeaked and flinched, but her eyes focused on his then. "Sam, I swear I don't know why this is happening!"
"That's ok. I do, I think. Do you have any good salt, like kosher or sea salt?"
"Yeah, in the kitchen beside the range. A couple of bottles."
"Come with me." Sam rose and held out his hand. Robin took it, and as she hurried beside his lame rush, she glanced around as if the walls had eyes.
It was a hyper-alertness that was all too familiar. "Why are you staying here with this thing harassing you?" he asked.
"Running is pointless. It's already followed me twice."
"Are you sure it's the same entity?" Sam grabbed a couple of bottles off the shelf by the stove. One held sea salt, the other was full of some weird pink salt that claimed to be from the Himalayas. Whatever, so long as it was as natural as the label declared it to be, it would work.
"Very sure," she whispered, clinging to his hand as if they were in raging surf
Sam led her back into the living room. He stopped at the couch and flung a handful of salt under it, just to be on the safe side. "Here, get comfortable. I'm going to make a circle around us. Nothing can get past it as long as the salt line isn't broken, so stay put no matter what you see or hear."
She tucked her legs back up onto the couch, but now she was looking at him in much the same way she'd stared at his wandering suit jacket. "I don't know whether to be relieved that you don't think I'm crazy, or to be scared that you're as crazy as I am."
Her shaky smile shattered into terror. "Look out!"
Sam turned just in time to block a flying book with his forearm. The heavy text fluttered on the floor like a dying bird as Sam closed the salt line and stepped inside its protection. "How long has this been going on?"
"Two years," she stammered, shrinking into a tight ball in the corner of the sofa. "But it's never been this bad before!"
"Well, I seem to bring out the best in everyone I meet," Sam said as he made himself comfortable beside her. "It's the family curse."
She scooted to his side and Sam put a comforting arm around her shoulders. "It's going to be ok, Robin, I promise." Sam gave her a hug. "Tell me about how this all started."
"I never had any weird stuff happen to me before two years ago," she began, her voice shaky. "I didn't even believe in ghosts or the monster under the bed when I was a kid. Never afraid of the dark…" She broke off with a little squeak as something smashed in the kitchen.
"Ignore it," Sam advised her, his voice calm and even. "It uses fear like a battery."
Her eyes widened again, but not with fear he was relieved to see. "How do you know this stuff?"
"Your story first," he smiled. "We'll save mine for the second date."
"So the first one's making you want to come back for more? You are crazy," she teased and then winced again as something invisible scraped across the floor just beyond their salt line.
"Nah, you've made a better first impression than you could ever imagine," Sam chuckled.
Something fell in her bedroom that shook the whole apartment. "Now that made an impression," Robin muttered under her breath. "Can a ghost cough up a damage deposit, you think?"
"Sadly, most of them no longer have access to their bank accounts," he answered with a smile. She really was making one hell of an impression, able to calm down and even joke while something unseen and vicious threw a tantrum all around her. "Since I'm not hearing approaching sirens, I take it your neighbors aren't home?"
She shook her head. "The top apartment's empty and the neighbors below are on vacation."
Sam tracked the trajectory of a potpourri bowl as it sailed past and smashed behind them against the wall. "Surely you haven't put up with stunts like this for two years?"
She shook her head. "Oh no, nothing like this. In fact, at first it was friendly... almost comforting, I guess, in a weird way. Like having a roommate I couldn't see. I never felt like I was alone, and I wasn't afraid. Not for a long time, not once during the first year."
"How did it start?"
"It was at my first apartment," she answered. "I never had a single thought about ghosts or anything like that, even though as I was moving in, one of the neighbors stopped by and told me the building was supposedly haunted. I just thought she was senile, or playing a joke on me. Like I said, never believed in anything scary even as a kid, never played with an Ouija board or anything that's supposed to open you up to 'the other side,' whatever that is. Nothing unexplainable at all ever happened to me, until after the home invasion."
Sam felt his eyes narrow. "You were attacked?"
Robin shuddered, then shook her head. "No, thank God. I woke up as the creep was coming in my bedroom window. I screamed, he got tangled up in the curtains or something, and fell backwards out the window. Broke his leg in three places."
"Good!" Sam interjected. Too bad it wasn't his neck, was the rest of the thought he kept to himself.
"Yeah, well, obviously the police had no problem picking him up. I got an alarm system and was a lot more careful about locking my windows after that." She sighed. "That's when… stuff… started happening. Little things at first, like I'd be looking for something I misplaced and then it would show up in plain sight in the middle of the coffee table or on the kitchen counter."
"Not coincidence or absent-mindedness?" Sam spread his hands. "Sorry, I have to ask."
"I thought so, at first. I even thought stuff moving around was only vibration from traffic or the trains or the neighbors, y'know? Always a rational explanation. Until the violets."
"Violets? Ok, that's a new one on me."
"Not so new as you'd think," she said with a lifted eyebrow. "That's what really rattled me and made me realize I wasn't just brain-fogging from stress. It started when I caught the bouquet at a friend's wedding. It was made of purple hothouse violets. When I got home, I was putting them into a vase and I said—out loud, just talking to myself, you know—that it was a shame that such beautiful flowers had no scent."
She looked towards the kitchen again as something pattered across the tile like a swath of hailstones. "There goes the garbanzos… anyway, the next morning when I woke up, there was the most lovely fragrance in the house. I tracked it down to the living room."
Robin's hand tightened on Sam's and her voice took on an edge of strain again. "The wedding flowers were wilted on the floor, and the vase was stuffed full of these double violets with an incredibly sweet perfume. I'd never seen anything like them, and my Dad ran a florist shop all my life. I looked them up. They were Parma violets. Sam, nobody in the US—almost nobody in the world—grows Parma violets anymore. Not since the 1800's. The doors and windows were locked, I swear, and the alarm was set! Nobody could have walked through the living room without setting off the motion detector. I had the alarm company come out and check it. I did!"
"It's ok. I believe you, trust me. I've seen a lot weirder," Sam said. "The entity escalated after that?" he prompted softly when she didn't go on.
She nodded. "Nothing like this. Nothing ever like this. But yeah, it escalated, slowly. The day I was hugged, though, I grabbed my purse and ran out. I didn't go back in, I paid for movers to pack everything up. Everything was quiet and calm for a little while in the new place, but as soon as I had all the boxes unpacked, it started up again. It was playful again at first, but it started acting more and more like a bully after Gregor moved in."
GET OUT! ROBIN GET OUT! GET OOUUUT!
"SHUT UP!" Robin shrieked at the top of her own voice. "I'm not running from you anymore, you hateful--!"
A pounding on the door drowned out whatever insult Robin hurled. This time, the noise came from outside. The knob rattled. "SAM!"
"We're ok!" Sam yelled back. "Stay here," he admonished Robin and stepped over the salt line. It was only about three limping strides to the front door, but he still had to duck a book and dodge an ottoman on the way.
The disembodied shout right in front of him made his ears ring as his jacket landed against the back of his head. Sam twisted the knob, tried to turn the deadbolt, but it was as if the door had been welded shut. "We can't get out while you're blocking the door, you stupid sonuvabitch!"
"SAM!" Dean kicked the door.
The door slammed inward with far more force than Dean's kick supplied.
Sam landed flat on his back with his brother crashing down on top of him.
George barreled right over the top of them both to viciously attack nothing at all, chasing that nothingness into the bedroom.
The bedroom door slammed, only slightly muffling the sound of ferocious canine combat.
"Gas!" Dean blurted.
"What?" Sam wheezed, almost soundless as he shoved at Dean.
"Hallway's full of gas!" Dean rolled to his feet, hauling Sam onto his with frantic strength. "Get out! Get the hell out!"
The bedroom door burst open again, halting abruptly just before the iron doorknob struck the brick wall. George rolled out like a furry bowling ball, then grabbed Sam's trouser leg and tugged maniacally towards the front door.
"Yeah—going!" Sam told him.
"There's supposed to be alarms!" Robin slapped his cane into Sam's hand.
"Obviously on the fritz!" Dean coughed and the four of them ran as fast as they could down the outer stairs, holding their breaths till they were on the street.
Dean had left the Impala double-parked. Sam all but threw Robin inside. George made a personal best leap straight in through the window. Sam and Dean hit the front seat in the same synchronized second and they peeled off.
Before they were a block away, Robin was dialing 911.