Dean was not about to admit that he was lost. Never once, on any of the thousand hunts he and his brother, Sam had driven to, had he ever been lost. He took pride in his driving and sense of direction, but for some reason the directions Sam had given him were wrong. Or it could be that he hadn’t been paying much attention. It was at this time that Dean missed the old Thomas guide his dad stored in the car.
In all honesty, John Winchester had never actually used the Thomas Guide. Dean had bought one after the one and only time they had gotten lost on their way to a hunt. Back then, Dean did not like the feeling of not knowing where he was going, and his dad had refused to ask for directions. Dean had talked his dad into buying one. It was one of a handful of times, John Winchester had given into his eldest son’s request.
Over the years, Dean had used the Thomas guide enough times to practically have it memorized, and they had never failed. Unlike Google maps, which failed him tonight. Stupid technology. He glanced over at the passenger seat, and thank Chuck, Sam was asleep, because if he were awake, Dean would have punched him for giving him shitty directions. Instead, he turned the radio up just as the good part of AC/DC’s Thunderstuck came on. The change in volume didn’t faze Sam as he just moved his head and continued to snore.
Dean wondered if his old Thomas guide was still under the driver’s seat. He reached his hand under the seat trying to feel around to see if it was still stashed under there. His eyes barely left the road for a second, when he suddenly looked up...
Dean instinctively turned the wheel and slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting the individual staggering along his lane. Luckily, there was a shoulder big enough to pull the car over.
“What the hell, Dean!” Sam said, groggily. He looked up in time to see the reason for the car’s abrupt stop.
Dean put the car in park, turned the engine off, but kept the headlights on in the direction of the newcomer. He slowly opened the car door not keeping his eyes off the person on the road.
“Dean, what are you doing?”
“Hand me the sawed off from the duffel. I’m going to see what this is.”
Sam quickly reached for the green duffle in the backseat, fishing for the sawed off shotgun already preemptively filled with rock salt shells. He promptly handed it to Dean. Weapon securely in hand, Dean got out of the car, and slowly walked toward the stranger. There was already a chill to the late night air, and Dean could start to feel a mist of rain on his face.
Sam hurriedly grabbed another shotgun and got out of the car, staying put by the passenger side, but within clear shooting range of his target.
This wasn’t the first time the brothers had encountered a weird occurrence on the highway. Five years ago they had purposely been driving down a particular road to catch a Highway ghost, Molly McNamara. Hopefully, whatever they were dealing with right now was not a Highway ghost.
Dean slowly approached the stranger, one palm out in a placating manner, and the other behind his back holding the sawed off. As he got closer he could see that it was a kid around 15 or 16 with pleading eyes and lips moving as if in a silent prayer.
“Kid, are you alright? Where are you headed?”
Upon closer inspection of the young man, Dean noticed the teen was dressed in a raggedy suit and tie and covered head to toe in soil and grass. His hands were bloody, and he looked and moved like he had recently been on the losing end of a fight or possibly a car accident.
“Kid, what’s your name? Can you tell me your name? Were you in an accident?”
Closing his distance to the teen, Dean could now hear what he had been muttering. Bruce.
“Who is Bruce?”
“Bruce, please help me,” the kid muttered as he his legs slowly started to give out.
Dean dropped the shotgun and rushed to catch him, slowly lowering him to the ground.
“Who’s Bruce? Kid, who’s Bruce?” Dean pleaded urgently, lightly shaking the kid to keep him awake.
“My dad,” the injured teen answered, before succumbing to unconsciousness.
“DEAN!” Sam shouted, running toward the teen and his brother. “What did he say?”
“He said, ‘Bruce, please help me,’”
“Who’s Bruce?” Sam asked, picking up the discarded sawed off.
Dean carried the unconscious teen to the car and gingerly placed him the backseat. Sam followed close behind his brother. The limited light they had in the car was enough to show what little color the boy had was now rapidly draining from his face. Dean and Sam could now see the full extent of the kid’s injuries and overall appearance.
Besides the suit being covered in soil, it was also ripped and damp. There was dirt in his hair and face as it caked along the tearstains on his cheeks. His right eye was nearly swollen shut as well as a sunken cheekbone, possibly broken. His hands were bloody all over, most of the damage was at the fingertips. He was having trouble breathing, likely due to broken ribs or a punctured lung. His brow was furrowed indicating that he was in pain. Dean also noticed flash burns along the left side of his face and neck. This was bad.
“Dean, what the hell happened to this kid?”
“I don’t know, but I hope he got a few good licks in.”
“We need to take him to a hospital.”
“There’s no time. CAS! WE NEED YOU! IT’S URGENT!”
Immediately the fluttering sound of wings filled Dean’s ears and relief washed over him at the sight of his friend.
“We found this kid. He needs help. We think he’s been attacked or something. Please, Cas.”
Without further explanation, Cas stretched out his hand and touched the teen’s forehead. A white glowing light illuminated upon contact. Instantly the fractures, bruises, and flash burns were healed. The boy’s furrowed brow relaxed, and the horrible wheezing sound was replaced by calm even breaths of deep sleep.
Dean let out a breath he didn’t even realize he had been holding.
“Thanks, Cas,” he said, putting a hand on the angel’s shoulder.
“The boy is asleep. I’ve healed all of his injuries, including the brain bleed that was slowing occurring a few minutes ago due to the multiple blows to his skull. Adequate rest should suffice for his further recovery.”
“We should get him to the Bunker so he can rest,” Sam suggested.
“Great idea, Cas can you take Sam and the kid right now. I’m going to drive ahead and see if I can figure out where this kid came from. It can’t be that far. He couldn’t have walked for very long in the condition he was in.”
Sam’s brow furrowed at Dean request. While investigating places this late was part of their job description, it didn’t sit well with Sam that Dean would be doing this alone with whatever unknown creature was still out there.
“Go, I’ll be fine,” Dean said confidently, making his way to the driver’s seat before Sam could argue with him. There was no denying the worry in his brother’s face. “I’m just going to backtrack the kid’s steps. I’ll call if there’s any trouble.”
Dean watched as Cas, Sam and the teen disappeared at the sound of wings. He started the car and pulled out onto the deserted highway. He wasn’t sure what he would find, but for the kid’s sake he had hoped it would be something to bring the kid resolution. A monster he could deal with swiftly and efficiently. It needed to be found and put down for the damage it had done to that kid.
He drove for miles, slowly scoping out the passenger side of the highway. There wasn’t much to go by, no city lights, no residential property, nothing. It did not yield anything but some thick forest. Up a little further Dean passed a city sign:
Now Entering Gotham City
He glanced at the odometer and discovered he had driven 12 miles.
Twelve miles! There is no way that kid could have walked 12 miles.
The next sign is what made his stomach drop and reflexively slam on the brakes.
GOTHAM CITY CEMETERY
“Son of a bitch.”
Dean parked the Impala on the shoulder of the highway near a fenced part of the property. There was a gap in the fence and he would bet his five favorite cassette tapes that is where the kid got out of the cemetery and onto the highway. He reached for the duffle with his sawed off inside and slung it over his shoulder. Flashlight in hand, Dean entered the property through the gap. Sure enough, he could see fresh tracks, so he followed them.
He wasn’t a stranger to walking into a cemetery at night. He and Sam did it all the time when they had to find a ghost’s remains to salt and burn. While he didn’t like to do this sort of thing by himself, most cases called for it.
With the flashlight lighting his path and a trained ear for any movement, Dean hoped he would find his destination soon. He continued to follow the tracks until they lead him to an elaborate statue of a praying angel. Below it was a headstone that read: JASON PETER TODD. In front of the headstone was freshly disturbed earth not done by any shovel or backhoe, and certainly not done with any care. There was simply a small haphazard hole as if someone desperately dug themselves out of their own grave. A bloody, dirty belt with a broken buckle lay discarded in the pile of earth. Dean’s stomach dropped a second time.
“SON OF BITCH!!”
Dean immediately pulled out his phone and called Sam.
“We have a problem.” Dean said urgently, making his way back to the Impala.
“What happened, what did you find?”
“I traced the kid’s steps to Gotham City Cemetery. His name is Jason Todd, he’s 16 and he died six months ago. The kid freakin’ dug himself out of his own grave with nothing but his hands and his belt!”
“That makes better sense,” Sam replied, more to himself than to Dean.
“What? So not the response I was expecting,” Dean replied.
“Sorry, everything you’re saying makes sense now. I’ve been checking the National Missing and Unidentified Persons database since we got here, and I couldn’t find anything. Now that we know he was dead, that gives us something to go on.”
“Dean? Are you still there?”
“Yeah, Hey Sam, remember what happened in Sioux Falls?” Dean asked.
“Zombies. Do you think it’s the same thing?”
“It could be. Where is the kid now?” Dean asked, as he made it to the car, shoving his duffle, shotgun and flashlight in the trunk.
“In one of the private rooms asleep.”
“Do you remember how many days passed until they turned?”
“A week, I think,” Sam speculated.
“Don’t let the kid out of your sight. Keep him in that room. I’m on my way back.” Dean said, as he started the car. Things just got whole lot more complicated.