"Of course. He's strange and affected and clearly trying to play us and we don't know why, but we have to stay close to him because he's our only lead. Huntsman didn't have any other friends and he's fresh out of immediate family."
They were driving back towards the cove, following Notaras' Subaru.
"Right," Dean said. "But that doesn't carry over into us not pluggin' him if he starts steering us wrong."
"Why wouldn't we? We only work with dangerous century-old supernatural beings with unknown agendas when it's practical and convenient."
"So you're not, like, projectin' your feelings all over this one then?"
He had to balance the slight whine of exasperation with the deeper current of sympathy in his voice. "Of course I feel for him, Dean, if what he's told us about losing his student to his student's own demons is true. But I can feel for people and still do the job. You know what? Sometimes feeling for people is what makes us good at the job. Being able to put ourselves in other people's shoes is not a bad thing."
"Thanks for the sermon, Atticus Finch," Dean said. Sam almost did a double-take at the reference, not so much that Dean had read the book as that he would glibly admit to it; it was an unsettling reminder that Dean could still surprise him.
The magic safe house Notaras had volunteered to show them turned out to be a cabin perched on the lip of a cliff, the front door leading straight into one big living area with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows offering a wide view of the harbor. A Pacific wind was driving long spears of thick fog up the cliff, sliding between the jutting rocks, like lances piercing battlements on a medieval wall. The wind whistled through unsealed windows, whining and whooshing and filling the house with a smell almost as briny as the deck of a fishing boat, that ocean smell laced with the herbal and faintly metallic scents of magic. Bookshelves lined every wall and more books were scattered, with cracked spines and drastically dog-eared pages, across nearly every piece of furniture. A teak roll-top desk with a laptop and a printer half-buried under piles of loose printed pages, annotated with red-ink scribbling. Photographs framed on the walls and scattered loose among the books, some with tightly curling corners and barely discernible sepia impressions, dating to the days of heliography. Notaras himself was only visible (wearing his current face, at least) in a few recent Polaroids, shaking hands with graduating seminary students, Thomas Huntsman taking pride of place among them, a broad sunny grin on his face. He looked so different from the photo of him that Sam had first seen among his sister's effects. That had been in the morgue and the boy's eyes had still been the deadest things around, big as headlamps in his lean and hungry face. The only other furnishings were a keyboard and a record collection and a turntable. Spider webs festooned the corners of the ceiling and connected the gaps between bookshelves, silken threads sleek and shiny, no dusty cobwebs but elegantly constructed insect funnel-traps, the big brown house spiders clearly living their best lives.
"Please take care not to crush the spiders," Notaras said. "They're here as my guests, taking care of the pests."
There was a short hallway leading off this living area to a kitchen and a bathroom. He showed them into the kitchen, not really big enough for three men, with cookbooks piled up on every counter, a '60s fridge and chipped enamel oven. He offered to make them coffee in his tin percolater. They declined.
He showed them his spice cabinet where he kept his spell ingredients and Sam made note of which jars were running lowest: adders tongue, boneset, liverwort, hyssop, dog wood.
His kitchen's small fold-out breakfast table was doing double-time as a magical work table, with a grinding bowl and pestle and a set of bronze scales and a bronze knife of a modest and innocuous appearance. You could kill somebody with that knife, but you'd have to put some solid effort into it. A stack of spine-cracked and dog-eared spell books on the table, all of which Sam was familiar with and knew to be as benign in applications as magic ever got: housework, healing, home security. It was all a little too clean for a being that had lived as long as he had and knew as much as he wanted them to think he did. Sam didn't doubt that there was a secret cupboard or a cellar withholding the good stuff: virgin's kidneys, baby's last breath, puppy's skulls, or whatever.
He did have a rack of wine bottles, all of impressive vintage, many imported from the Aegean islands.
Notaras showed them a large empty cigar box with a Cuban label sitting on the kitchen counter. "This is what used to contain that knife I know you took from where he...from the house. Thomas took it from me the day before the killings started. It was the most heavily warded object in my possession. A very versatile tool. It derives its power from the goddess Psyche, as I'm sure you've deduced. The soul knife. You're taking a big risk, keeping it in your custody."
"You're not getting it back," Sam said.
"No. But I suppose the best way to keep an eye on it for now is to keep an eye on you." He looked back and forth between them with heavy-lidded eyes. He was clasping his hands together at his waist, one of his thumbs picking at the crease of his palm.
"You done now?" Dean said. "We get it: you've humanized yourself. You have hobbies, or whatever, and you're not brewin' a baby in the cauldron right this second so we don't have to feel too conflicted about not pluggin' you. You think we've never run into monsters who can keep a clean house?"
"Dean," Sam said, half on an admonishing sigh. He was pretty certain he ought to object to the use of the epithet in regards to a man whose behavior had so far been technically unobjectionable.
"I've shown you in because if I hadn't you would have wasted time nosing about my paltry little business here, and now we can proceed with the next act of this mystery. Where to next? It's your call, gentleman."
Sam looked sidelong at Dean's face, saw his suspicious scowl thawing incrementally and a complicated tussle of annoyance and curiosity rubbing through.
"Morgue," Dean said. "Huntsman should be on the slab by now."
Sam noted a flash of pain on Notaras' face, banked embers in his eyes before he dropped his lids over them again and swallowed, with a painfully tight constriction of throat muscles. He could be faking the emotion. If so, Sam could only hope to emulate his subtle technique.
Notaras followed them out into the driveway where he wrapped his arms tightly around himself, the sharp salty wind tugging at his cassock, showing the stark outline of a frail old body that was probably nothing but an illusion. He had driven his Subaru here but now he invited himself into the backseat of the Impala. Sam looked at Dean to see if he would allow it. Dean unlocked the doors, his face blank, a mask of indifference. Sam didn't like it, any of it.
On the highway, Sam's phone buzzed. He looked at the screen, saw Dean take his eyes off the road and look at the screen too, completely conspicuous. Shit. It was Jack. He had to answer, with Dean watching.
"Jack," he said. "What is it, kiddo?" He could hear voices buzzing and a faint mechanical humming in the background. The kid had left the bunker.
"I'm at the grocery store," Jack said. "In Lebanon."
"We left food in the bunker. Enough for you to get by 'till we get back."
"I didn't like the cereal," Jack said. "I wanted eggs. Should I get the brown or the white eggs? I'm buying them from the farm where the chickens aren't kept in cages. The farm's local so the eggs will be fresh. I checked them all over for cracks. I watched a Netflix documentary on factory farming and a YouTube tutorial on how to buy eggs before I went to the store and I think I--"
"Where'd you get the money?"
"I took the emergency money. I think you should keep more of it, considering how often we have emergencies."
"How'd you even get to the store?"
"I walked to the bus station. But I didn't have money with the right numbers on it so I had to keep walking until I got to the gas station. I gave the cashier money for a single nougat bar and I got the money with the smaller numbers on it back in return. I understand how money works now. It's like a metaphor, a story about the world that everyone tells themselves. If we stopped telling the story then money wouldn't exist anymore and instead people would have to share their possessions freely with each other and people don't want to do that. The eggs from the nicest chicken farm cost $6.99. That's more than double what it costs to get eggs from the bad factory where the chickens are kept in wire cages."
"So?" It took a great act of will to keep the boredom and disdain out of that little word and off his face.
A pause. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see one of Dean's brows arch slightly.
"You shouldn't have to ask me that. You don't sound like yourself anymore. It's not just the things that you say, it's something else..."
"We're all good here, Jack."
"I knew you'd say that. That's why I guess I...I mean--I'm not listening to you anymore. Not until you're yourself again." His voice was small and wound tight and very young; he was clearly scared of not having an authority figure to follow, a surrogate conscience. It was pathetic.
"Good boy," Sam said and hung up. Dean didn't comment on Jack and Sam supposed he had Notaras' presence in the backseat to thank for that.
He pushed Jack from his mind. Jack's suspicions were not an immediate threat. The only threats he needed to be pressingly concerned with right now were the unknowns: what had become of his soul and would it ever be forced on him again, obliterating the better part of his consciousness and his second shot at an unfettered life; and Dean, who if anything was forced on him against his will was one of the two people most likely to do it, next to Lucifer.
They played cops-and-identifying-acquaintance-of-the-v
Sam found being in the morgue again almost soothing: The morgue's grey world: the steel of the benches, the refrigerators, the sterilized equipment resting in the polished sink. The grey of the mortuary attendant’s clothing, dull and grim. The grey of Thomas Huntsman's skin, tacky and dead. Sam looked at his shriveled blue-grey lips and could almost think he saw the razor-fine curve of a smirk upon them. He'd gotten away with it, whatever he'd done.
The attendant's phone rang and he said he had to leave immediately.
"He won't be back anytime soon," Notaras said. Sam had been watching him nearly this whole time and hadn't seen so much as a murmur from him.
Notaras' eyes had clouded with murky emotion on seeing the body. The refrigerators hummed through their long futile labors, battling off the decay and rot for the bodies within.
Dean just made a sound that was half-grunt, half-sigh and didn't protest further about strange magic being used for their convenience.
The coroner's report said that Huntsman had not put up any struggle as he was being killed. It also claimed that the killer might've been standing behind him and was likely someone he trusted. The only weapon that had been committed into evidence was the pliers, strong enough to crack breast bone and ribs and completely coated in the victim's blood. The report on cause of death surmised that after the careful incisions had been made with the blade, the pliers had peeled apart bone and meat until the heart had been extracted. The blood had poured down and puddled thickly around his feet in a tight circle, as if he'd somehow stayed standing while bleeding out.
"He did it to himself," Notaras said quietly. "He took his own life."
"How in the hell?" Dean said. "He couldn't have stayed conscious through all that pain, let alone the bleeding out."
"Of course, not without help," Notaras said. He got a ziplock bag out of his pocket and slid open the seal and plucked out a pinch of some ashy white powder that he sprinkled over Thomas' corpse. Thomas' veins glowed a cold electric blue through his grey skin and then that glowing network of veins seemed to peel out of his skin and rise into the air, floating over his corpse while leaving it intact beneath. It was like a holographic scan of some sort, showing the entire circulatory system--absent, of course, the heart. The muscles in Dean's cheek and jaw slackened and his eyes were widening with grudging amazement and curiosity. Sam was experiencing something approximating the same sentiment. There were little electric flares of light spaced out across the network, gold and silver and red. Notaras pointed to a bright silver cluster in the region of what Sam thought was the parietal lobe, the lobe that received the input of the five senses and discerned between the physical self and the outside world.
"A spell to numb all physical feeling," Notaras said.
"Would be useful," Sam said. "As a painkiller, I mean, when we have to perform field surgery and...stuff."
"I wouldn't recommend it. It destroys all your senses over a period of torturous hours, until you're locked inside a living corpse." He waved his hand and the image dissipated.
Dean was turning the corpse on its side, tilting a lamp to shine down its spine.
"You know what you're looking for," Notaras said.
"Yeah, this," Sam said, and showed him the picture he'd taken on his phone.
"Oh," Notaras said.
"Nothin' on him," Dean said.
"Do you know what it is?" Sam asked.
"You should've shown it to me sooner."
"That a yes?"
"It's an old curse, very primitive, very strong if somewhat imprecise: it's a target, painting a bullseye on the back of someone you want to attract the attention of a monster or monsters. The form the mark takes depends on the monster in question. This one looks like a thing with wings."
"Yeah, we got that," Dean said. "Really narrows it down to just about a thousand possible perps."
"We found nothing in the house," Sam said. "Where else could he have cast his curse?"
"You found nothing visible to your eyes. I should like to have a look myself."
Within an hour they were on a ferry. The lines were short; it was not a high-traffic time of the afternoon and the dense fog and number of deaths that had occurred at sea lately were probably putting people off the idea of a recreational trip. He left Dean in the car below deck, keeping an eye on Notaras, so that he could 'stretch his legs' again. He went up to the top deck and he stood behind the glass shelter and then he sat on the cold steel bench. Hardly anyone else up there. It was as cold and lonely as the morgue. The fog blanketing the water was thin enough that he could see patches of dull blue in the sky, the only eyes on him the seagull's with their greedy scavenger's glint. On his way back down, he got sandwiches from the kitchen galley and vending machine coffee for Dean and for Notaras because Dean had asked him to and he had to act like he still cared what Dean wanted. It was a small thing but it was tiring, not even in the physical sense which he was no longer liable to, but in the weight it put on that hollow space inside himself that lurked just behind his consciousness.
The wind was rising, climbing up from the cove through the hills and whistling between the thick tree trunks. The sky was solid grey and the clouds had heavy pewter bellies and the sun was sinking low behind them. The hills were half a mass of dark green shadow and the Huntsman house's grey walls with their drapery of ivy and mossy shingled roof were melting into the sky and the woods. A large flock of darkly silhouetted sparrows or finches took off from their perches on the sharp-peaked gables just as they were pulling up. The house was an active crime scene now. There was one cop on security and a forensics team who were packing up their van. Flash of a fake badge and an authoritative frown and Dean told the cop that Notaras was here because he had a close friendship with the victim and he was the last known visitor to the house and he was going to have a look around and see if he noticed if anything had been moved or gone missing. The cop on duty looked at Notaras kindly and told him to take as long as he needed even though he'd just been named as one of the last people to see the victim alive. Notaras was either well known and liked in the community or he had some mesmeric ability or he just wore the priest's frock so well. Perhaps all of the above.
Notaras led them straight up the stairs to the attic and led them expertly through the maze of moldy, moth-eaten furniture, loose rolls of ragged carpet, broken electronics, piles of clothing and cheap antique knick-knacks, around the L-shaped hall to the door through which Sam had found the mirror and the body. The room still smelled like blood, the heavy metallic scent mingling with the musty attic odor. Notaras paused and looked down at the tape which outlined where the body had been found and the shape of the dark brown stain it had left behind. His eyes swooped straight up to the mirror and Sam thought he saw them widen a fraction, perhaps in surprised recognition. Then he turned on his heel and walked to the corner of the room parallel to the mirror. There had to have been a servant's quarters, Sam realized suddenly. A house of this size and stature would have at least employed a maid-of-all-work when the timber business was flourishing, but they hadn't seen a single bed or washbasin or modest wardrobe that could have belonged to one even though none of the other old furnishing seemed to have been thrown out in the last hundred years. "It's here. A secret door leading to a secret escape. The only reason, I think, that he ever would have returned to this house and its memories. I believe I was the only one he ever told about it." He held both hands out, palms flat, eyes shut, feeling the air a few inches from the peeling floral wallpaper.
"Dammit, no," he said with a shaky sigh. "I can't force my way through. He didn't erect a wall so much as a web, a funnel trap which constricts and sticks to me the more I push in. I can't break it down. I have to unravel it. And my powers are not currently up to snuff."
"Currently?" Sam said, unease like a rat gnawing at his wires.
"Yes," Notaras said. He turned from the wall to them, hands falling to his sides, his face ash-white and his veins pulsing blue in his throat and his eyes burning like blue embers. "You see, like Psyche's knife, I derive my power from the soul. My own, others. Yours."
Dean had his gun aimed at Notaras as soon as he said the word. "You ain't touchin' our souls," he said.
"Well, no," Notaras said. "Only one of you currently has one."
Dean pulled the trigger. The bullet got stuck half-way through its trajectory and so did Sam's hands as they reached for his own gun and so did the air in his lungs and his tongue in his mouth and his legs as he tried to shift his stance. Only Notaras was moving. "I apologize," he said. "I do try to avoid this sort of thing. But given the stakes, I think it's necessary."
He stretched out his hand and Sam watched the familiar procedure with keen interest. He did not plunge his fist into Dean's chest but only submerged the tips of his fingers as if testing the waters. The pulse of light was dimmer than the blinding glare Sam remembered. Sam looked at Notaras' face which had the pinched frown of someone doing something distasteful, and another face growing visible beneath the superimposed image of the old man, like an x-ray of a re-painted canvas: long dark eyes and olive skin and good cheekbones and an age that could've been anything between twenty-two and fourty-five, but other than that an unremarkable face. He looked at the killer's concentration frozen on Dean's face and he found no recollection in himself of what Dean must be feeling even when curiosity made him look for it. He could recall many examples of violations mental and physical but this one was entirely rooted in the soul and had been ripped out of him with it. This made him realize that there were other unsettling memories rooted inside of him still, physical as bullets, no exit wounds, inoperable because of their proximity to vital organs.
Notaras lifted his hand off Dean's chest and with a snap of his fingers Dean disappeared.
Sam could breathe again and he could swallow and he did so with a click of his dry throat. He decided not to go for his gun after all.
"Stand back," Notaras said to Sam.
He stared at the attic wall. He traced the shape of a door with his index finger. A door appeared. He walked through it. Without a second thought, Sam followed him.
"Where did you send Dean?" Sam asked. He became conscious of a faint tremor in his hands and he curled his fingers tight into his palms until it stopped. Maybe he needed to eat more. His blood sugar might be completely out of control.
"He's safe as houses," Notaras said and he said it with perfect sincerity, as if Dean's welfare were actually of importance to either of them.
"Are you an angel?"
"No. I'm a witch and I'm a priest. I don't lie about things like that. I might omit certain background details for good reason, but I don't lie."
Sam decided he liked him less for this than if he'd been an honest liar.
They were in a room of roughly five-by-ten feet with a sloping roof and one narrow window with a heavy shade drawn. A cot bed and a small chest of drawers and a camp stove on the floor and the rest was taken up by spiral notebooks and comics and books, many of them old children's books. His favorites, judging by their dilapidated condition, seemed to have been the Narnia books and Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur and D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths and the Bible. Another favorite was one of the few books Sam dimly remembered having a visceral hatred of because a dog died at the end.
"Oh, Thomas," Notaras said, a catch in the name, a held breath and then a long tremulous sigh. He was picking at the crease of his left palm again. He could still be acting but if so it could not be to win over Sam's sympathy. Perhaps he was fooling himself that he had cared about this student whose potential he had so obviously intended to exploit. It couldn't be genuine. After what he had so easily done to Dean, he was obviously a predator by nature.
Notaras made a circular gesture with his right hand and shut his eyes, lips compressed in intense concentration. The one battery-operated emergency light flickered on and off and the shade over the window dimmed and brightened and the shadows changed. When they settled the shade had been pulled back and the window had been cracked and there was Thomas Huntsman, sitting cross-legged on the floor in a holy old t-shirt and jeans, with hair flopping into his eyes and concealing the expression on his bent head. He had a photograph and a pair of scissors in his hands. Sam bent over to get a closer look. He was cutting out the faces of his mother and father and brothers and feeding them into a fire he'd lit on the stove. The smoke was dimming the room. He left his sister's face intact in the photo. So she had been an unintended victim. One of his notebooks was open and his doodling would've barely been discernible even without the shadows and smoke, but the uncoordinated, jagged lines and the violence with which he'd ground the graphite tip of his pencil into the page were legible enough.
He cut his palm with a carelessly deep swipe of Psyche's knife. He squeezed his hand into a fist and his blood dripped over the burning faces. Smoke rose from the fire, long slender tongues that twined together like cultivated branches and formed solid figures, the legs and torsos and flat faces of women and the wings and talons of a bird of prey with wide-jawed mouths full of sharp teeth and long flickering tongues.
"The kindly ones," Sam said. The Erinyes, the Furies, the three sisters, the cthonic goddesses of vengeance, outraged by broken oaths and spilled family blood.
"Yes," Notaras said. "I suspected as much. He summoned them back from the pocket of hell they were cast into. The last refuge of those who will never see justice done in this world."
"Looks like it worked out great for him," Sam said. "So what is it to you? Did you suspect all along? You got blood in the water and you're worried you might be next on the menu now they're done with the main course?"
Notaras turned to look at him and though his old man's mask was firmly back in place Sam could still see the embers in his eyes. "I'm the one who assembled the gun even if I'm not the one who pulled the trigger. My stake in this drama is clear. What's yours?"
"I want to know what this boy of yours did to my soul. I need to know if it's permanent."
"Do you want it back?"
Sam deigned to answer that only with a derisive snort. Notaras arched his brows a fraction. Sam felt compelled to speak. "Of course not."
"Why ever not? To have a soul is to know the difference between good and evil. It's only by knowing the difference that you can make a free choice."
"I remember what the difference is, I just don't give a damn. Souls blind you with fear and shame and doubt. Maybe you can't see what they're doing to you when you have one, but I know what it's like to live both ways and I know which way is better."
"It seems to me that you're living your life in just the same way you did before."
"If I was, I'd be trying to kill you right now for what you did to my brother."
"No, you wouldn't. You'd still be driven by your need for answers that only I can give, just like you are now."
Sam thought about himself critically. He knew too well how to avoid seeing the whole of what he faced, how to see only out of the corner of his eye and not confront what it meant. He didn’t even realize, most of the time, that he lived that way, saw that way. He had forgotten how to lift his head and see what had engulfed him.
It wasn't like that now, he told himself.
"And what about you?" he said. "What are you really after? What did you want with this boy? Have you got any soul left in you or did you burn it all away for power?"
"I loved him," he said and his voice for the first time dropped its velvety glove, guttural and sharp. "And no insinuations, please, I'm not that kind of priest."
"If you loved him, you might've stopped him from going back to his childhood house of horrors. Gotten him some actual fucking therapy. Taught him not to play with hand grenades."
"You couldn't understand my regrets even if you still had your soul, " Notaras said. He turned his back and he walked back into the room with the mirror and the stain where Thomas had died and Sam saw him swivel his head looking back and forth between the two. He made the same circular gesture with his hand and the dim grey light flickered and blurred and the shadows whirled around them in a staticy blur then solidified, showing Thomas, now and then, standing before the mirror, the look of calm on his face almost blissful. He had felt the need to dress himself as a priest for this last unholy rite. Sam wondered why. He had already unnbuttoned and opened his cassock, exposing his chest. He was cutting his own heart out, three incisions of Psyche's knife and then the pliers snapping bones apart, his blood gushing out as if from a hose pipe, splattering across the mirror and draining into a puddle around his feet. The pliers dropped and his hands vanished from sight, the act of tearing out his own heart obscured by the bright light of his soul streaming into the glass, his spine curving like a plucked bow string before snapping back into place and his whole body crumpling in the usual dying manner of a marionette with strings cut. The blood continued seeping into the glass while the images--illusions or rewound time--dissolved from sight.
There was a long silence and Sam studied Notaras' face sideways and thought the horror it was dressed in continued to be well done. But then no reality warper should have too much trouble forcing the blood to drain from his face.
"So my Thomas sent his soul to a world we can only hope is a better one," Notaras said. His voice was arch and affected, as if struggling to put up a cover for his emotions. "And he must have pulled yours along in his wake."
"A better world?" Sam said.
"Perhaps. I doubt he was able to pick exactly which universe happened to be next door at the time."
"My soul could still return then if it's still living over there and he--it could find its way back to me."
Sam picked up a sturdy footstool by the leg and swung it at the mirror, one big crack bisecting it down the middle and the glass shards crashing down in two directions. He stepped back, brushed himself off.
"It was just a mirror," Notaras said. "You have greater worries in any case, with the kindly ones on the loose."
Notaras continued retracing their steps through the house and Sam dogged his heels.
"Then they'll kill again," Sam said. "Soon?"
"Their appetite is insatiable, but how long they prefer to hound and terrorize their prey before closing in for the kill does vary from victim to victim."
"Since you seem to know so much about me, what do you think about my chances? Do you think they'll come for me?"
"You did just stand idly by while I leached off your brother's soul, but the bar for fratricidal behavior is rather high. You have to spill blood yourself."
Sam gave it some thought while they descended another staircase. "I sort of did," he admitted. "But there were extenuating circumstances. I shot my grandfather in the head, but he was a real son of a bitch."
"If there was no oath--no familial bond--broken along with the act, you might not be at the top of their list yet."
They were in the entrance hall and Notaras turned his back and looked up at the wall where hung a painting depicting logging on the Huntsman's estate, layer after layer of oils and heavy gloss bringing richly textured life to the dark green shadow of the valley and the glistening white of an ice-capped river and a herd of rust red oxen straining to haul a desolated grove's worth of timbers. A proud depiction of former glory.
"What are you hiding from?" Sam said. "You've been trying to bury yourself in the humble life of the good priest and teacher for years and I doubt that it's just for kicks. What's got you so scared?"
"I like the quiet," Notaras said and the tension in his voice spread and thickened the air into a solid barrier between them. They went out the front door in silence.
Sam looked around for the cop and found that she'd gotten into her car and was looking at her phone.
He returned to the Impala and found Dean in the drivers' seat which surprised him and didn't at the same time. His subconscious mind had known all along that it couldn't be that easy to rid himself of his brother. He met Notaras' eyes and Notaras had his head tilted slightly and a quizzical almost-smile on his lips. He was looking to see what Sam would do like Sam was a gerbil in a maze of plastic tubing.
"What took you so long?" Dean said. "This was a bust. There's nothin' here. Another big fucking waste of our time." The sun was now half buried behind the hills but peeking out just far enough to cast strange streaks of red-gold light. It painted the Impala in stripes of light and shadow. It grazed Dean's cheek and jaw like blood spatter.
Sam got back in the passenger seat, adding memory modification to his mental list of Notaras' abilities and Notaras to his list of things he should rationally fear.