The cool beer went down smooth, quenching his thirst. Dean Winchester savored the taste as he studied the frolicking collegians. The long drive to Columbia, Missouri was turning out to be a waste of time – unless Sam had discovered something upstairs.
While Dean searched the basement of the sorority house, his brother was checking out the second floor. A pledge party was in full swing, making it easy for them to look without drawing undue attention. Dean had even been able to use his infrared thermal scanner without fear of discovery. The only person he had encountered was so drunk Dean hadn’t even had to make up a lie to explain his presence. A simple “official business” had sufficed.
When Sam appeared beside him, Dean offered his partially empty glass.
Sam waved it off and leaned wearily against the wall beside his brother.
“Find anything?” Dean asked, forced to nearly shout to be heard above the music and raucous laughter.
Sam shook his head. “You?”
“Just a drunk football player.”
“Nothing supernatural about that.”
“Either we have the wrong house, or the ghost has moved on.” A couple locked in each other’s arms, danced into their space, stepping on Dean’s foot. Oblivious to their transgression, they swayed to the music as they drifted off. Shaking his sore limb, Dean said, “If it left, it’s a smart ghost.”
“Or,” Sam offered another theory, “you read the coordinates wrong.”
“You saw the numbers in Dad’s journal.”
“But I’m not as familiar with Dad’s handwriting.”
“So you think that one was a seven?”
“I think that’s obvious.”
Taking a sip of his beer, Dean decided, “It’s too late now to get back on the road. We might as well stay the night like we planned.”
“Let’s get back to the motel,” agreed Sam, “and get an early start in the morning.”
“What’s your hurry? Why don’t we stay and enjoy the party?”
“I’m not in a party mood.”
Dean could sympathize with Sam’s discomfort at finding himself back in a collegiate atmosphere so soon after leaving Stanford – and losing Jess. Contrarily, Dean needed a break from worrying about his father. Taking the car keys from his pocket, he handed them to Sam. “You go ahead; I’ll be along in a while.”
“How will you get to the motel?” Sam fingered the keychain.
The hopefulness in the look Sam gave him told Dean he had made the right decision. A few hours apart would do them both a bit of good. “I can walk, it’s not far.” Dean lifted his beer glass. “It’s probably a good idea to take away the temptation, since I plan to have a few more of these. It’s not often we get free drinks.”
“All right,” Sam glanced around the room. “Call me if you change your mind and I’ll come and get you.”
Dean readily agreed, even though he knew he wouldn’t take his brother up on the offer. Sam needed sleep more than Dean would need transportation.
Lightly punching his brother on the shoulder, Sam said, “I’ll see you later. Try to stay out of trouble.”
“Who me?” Dean’s lips parted to show clenched teeth, a smirk he hoped would hide his relief as Sam reciprocated. It would take time, but Dean was confident Sam would be his old self again.
Dean’s eyes followed his brother out the door before resting on a buxom blonde. The signals she was sending weren’t hard to read. A few minutes ago, he would have said that was why he had stayed. But for some reason, he was turned off by her advances rather than attracted. He didn’t mind aggressive women, in fact, he usually liked them. They answered his needs before he revealed them. But he enjoyed the company of women for more than one attribute. One requirement was that her IQ be higher than her bust size. Without even exchanging a word with her, Dean knew the blonde would fail this prerequisite.
“If you need an interpreter, I’ll be happy to provide my services.”
Finding himself interested in the laughing voice in his ear, Dean turned to confront her wondering how the temperature could drop in the crowded room. Hunching his shoulders against the chill, he assessed the young girl beside him. Light brown hair, swept up into a pony tail emphasized startling green eyes. A small scar on her left cheekbone was the only imperfection Dean could find on the pleasant features. She didn’t have the beauty queen looks of the blonde, but Dean found himself instantly fascinated by her.
“Thanks,” Dean finally expressed his gratitude for her tongue-in-cheek offer. “But you’d have to be blind not to understand what she’s offering.”
“You have a point.” The girl held out her hand. “I’m Laurie.”
The small hand felt insubstantial in his larger one, almost as if there was nothing there. “Dean.”
“Are you a senior?” Laurie asked.
“No.” Dean shook his head. “I don’t go here.”
“Then what brings you to a sorority pledge party? Besides the free beer and the girls.”
Hoping she wouldn’t probe deeper, Dean admitted, “Business.”
“I’m glad it did.”
“So am I.”
His original reason for staying sending him dirty looks from her place beside the drunken football player he had encountered in the basement, Dean studiously ignored her as he spent the next several hours talking and dancing with Laurie. It was the first time in several years that he had felt comfortable enough with a woman to put the relationship on a more individual level. It wasn’t so long ago his heart had been broken, making him steer clear of personal entanglements, content to keep his affairs purely physical. He hadn’t wanted to be hurt again.
However, Laurie was having an affect on him he had neither sought, nor wanted. He knew he should make his excuses and leave, but found it impossible to do so. It was a surprise to discover his interest wasn’t purely sexual. He honestly took pleasure from her company. She was different from most of the women he picked up in bars. But she wasn’t the type to be a one-night-stand. He had no right to encourage her. For a moment, he almost wished he had succumbed to the blonde’s wiles.
“I should be going,” said Laurie, throwing her empty cup in an overflowing trash can.
Checking his watch to protest her decision, Dean was dismayed to see it was after three. If Sam woke up and saw Dean’s bed was still empty, he would start to wonder. “I’m about to turn into a pumpkin myself.” Dean’s cup joined hers. “Let me escort you to your car.”
A smile curling her lips, Laurie tilted her head. “I walked. I only live a few blocks away.”
“Then let me walk you home,” Dean insisted, looking for an excuse to remain in her company. “It isn’t safe alone at this time of the morning.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“I have to walk to my motel anyway. What’s a few more blocks?”
“All right,” Laurie finally conceded.
Leaving the noise of the party behind, they strolled the tree-lined street in a silence broken only by the sound of crickets and cicadas. Knowing he might only have minutes left in her company, Dean desperately sought a subject that would get her talking again. He knew her pleasant, lilting voice would stay with him for months to come. At the moment, it seemed like a good thing. He would worry about the future later. “So, are you going to pledge the Deltas?”
“It’s been my dream ever since I was twelve.”
“What happened when you were twelve that pushed you into such a monumental decision?” Dean jokingly asked.
“My mother died.”
Silently cursing himself, Dean said, “Whoa, awkward.”
“She was a Delta,” Laurie explained her indulgent smile turning wistful. “She met my father at her pledge party.”
Hating himself, Dean realized Laurie had hoped to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Instead, she had hooked up with Dean who not only couldn’t make a commitment; he was spending less than twenty-four hours in the same town. Knowing there were no words that could express his regret, he didn’t even try. He couldn’t be the man she had dreamed of meeting since she was twelve. There was nothing he could do to make things right.
Though he could do nothing to make her fantasy come true, this was something Dean could rectify. He had known he would be searching a cold basement, so despite the unseasonably warm fall weather, he had chosen to wear his leather coat. He had intended to put it in the car before Sam left but had gotten distracted by the blonde. Shrugging his jacket off, he slipped it around her shoulders. “Better?”
Holding it in place with her hands, Laurie nodded. “Yes, thank you.”
This time when silence fell between them, Dean didn’t try to break it. He felt he had done enough damage. Still, he was surprised at how comfortable he felt in her presence. She had a calming effect on him he had never felt from another woman.
“This is where I live.” Laurie stopped in front of a tri-level house. In the dim glow of the street light, Dean thought the color was white with blue trim. It made him uneasy when he noticed the porch light wasn’t on.
Laurie rose on her toes and kissed Dean on the cheek. “Thank you, Dean. Thank you for making this night as special as I thought it would be.”
Surprised at how cool her lips were, Dean covered his chilled flesh with a warm hand. Before he could say a word, she disappeared into the shadows. He waited for the front door to open. When it didn’t, he decided she must have slipped around back. It was something he had often done when he didn’t want his father to know what time he was getting home.
Suddenly feeling very tired, he got his bearings to see what would be the quickest route to the motel. His father had taught him to fight, but a good sense of direction had come naturally to Dean.
Continuing on to the end of the block, he turned left. Another right and a left brought him back to the main thoroughfare within a quarter-mile of the motel. When his eyes rested on the garish neon sign the energy seemed to leak from his body, leaving him with barely enough strength to reach his destination.
When he finally stood in front of the door to their room, he leaned his head against the frame in exasperation. He had left his key in his coat pocket – which he had loaned to Laurie and forgotten to get back. Annoyed with himself as much as he knew Sam would be annoyed with him, Dean knocked on the door. Gaining no response, he curled his hand into a fist and pounded on the flimsy barrier. The sad thing was he knew he could easily shoulder it open. “Come on, Sam. It’s me, Dean.”
Light appeared around the edges of the curtained windows. The grumbling he heard was enough to tell Dean his brother was awake.
Flinging the door open, Sam demanded, “Do you know what time it is?”
“I learned all about the big hand and the little hand when I was five.” Dean pushed into the room, allowing that Sam had every reason to be pissed – but too tired to deal with it now.
“Why didn’t you use your key?”
“Because it’s in my coat.”
“Where’s your coat?”
“I loaned it to a girl.”
“Of course you did. Why did I ask such a stupid question?”
Kicking off his shoes, Dean flopped onto his bed, fully clothed. “Look, could we play twenty questions later? I’m beat.”
“Fine, but I’m going to want answers.”
“And you shall have them, Grasshopper, at a more decent hour.” Dean closed his eyes, hoping it would deter his brother from pressing his advantage. As far as he knew, the ploy worked. Either that or he was asleep before Sam had time to speak another word.
The sun too bright for his bloodshot eyes, Dean quickly slipped on a pair of sunglasses to protect them. Though there had been many nights when he had gotten less than four hours of sleep, this time he wished he had left the party sooner, or had a few less beers.
Grabbing the car keys from Dean’s hand, Sam said, “I think someone whose eyes are actually open should drive.”
Dean didn’t even try to argue. All he wanted to do was curl up in the passenger seat and sleep. But even that would have to wait; he had to direct Sam to Laurie’s house so he could retrieve his jacket. He had been tempted to just leave it, three things stopped him. First and foremost, he really liked the coat, it was like the one his father wore when Dean and Sam were kids. Second, even though they bought most of their clothes at yard and garage sales, they still didn’t have the money to just give a coat away. With their job, they went through clothes too quickly, unless they were willing to wear shirts and pants with holes or bloodstains. Third, Dean admitted to himself, he wanted to see Laurie again. He didn’t know why, nothing could come of it. But he wanted her to know how much he had enjoyed their time together.
“That’s it.” Dean pointed to a white house with blue trim.
Sam pulled up to the curb. Shifting into park, he let the engine idle.
The action was telling Dean without words that he was to retrieve his coat and return immediately. “I’ll be right back,” he said, letting Sam know he had gotten the message.
Exiting the car, Dean walked up the sidewalk to the front porch. Pressing the buzzer, he waited, hoping it wasn’t too early in the morning for the inhabitants. He was disappointed when an older man answered the summons. Realizing he didn’t know Laurie’s last name, Dean stuttered, “S-sir, is Laurie home?”
The pleasant expression on the man’s face turned dark. “Who are you?”
“Dean Winchester,” Dean replied, more than a little puzzled by the anger directed toward him. “I met Laurie at the Delta pledge party last night.” When the man continued to stare at him in obvious fury, Dean wondered if he had said something he shouldn’t have. “I loaned Laurie my coat when I walked her home. I was hoping I could get it back.”
“You weren’t with my Laurie,” the man snapped.
“But, I -- “
“You couldn’t have been. I can’t believe anyone could be so cruel. Is this your idea of a joke?”
Taken aback by the verbal attack, and the pain clearly visible on the haggard face, Dean shook his head. “No, sir.”
“My Laurie died eight months ago. Now get out of here before I call the police.”
The door slammed shut in Dean’s face. He wanted to request forgiveness, but he wasn’t sure for what, or to whom. Backing down the sidewalk, he looked at the other houses, certain he must have made a horrible mistake. None of them even vaguely resembled this one. Noticing the last name on the mailbox was Harris, Dean returned to the car.
“Where’s your coat?” asked Sam.
“You got me.” Dean shrugged his shoulders. “Her father told me Laurie died eight months ago.”
“How can that be? You said you spent the night talking to her.” Sam’s eyes crinkled in puzzlement as he suspiciously regarded his brother.
“Apparently I spent the night talking to a ghost, who is now wearing my coat.”
“Maybe those coordinates weren’t so far off after all?”
Dean regarded Sam in revulsion. “Do you think I could shoot Laurie with rock salt?”
“Isn’t that why we’re here?”
“It’s not why I’m here.”
Shifting into gear, Sam suggested, “Let’s go get some breakfast. I’ll check the internet and see what it has to say about Laurie …”
“Harris,” Dean reluctantly supplied.
Staring at his untouched muffin, Dean waited for Sam to find information concerning Laurie Harris. Neither of the names was unusual enough to make the search an easy one. He wasn’t sure he wanted his brother to find anything. Without confirmation, he could still believe it had all been a horrible mistake.
“I found it.”
Sam’s compassionate voice caught Dean’s attention. He could tell by the tone his false hopes were about to be dashed.
“It says here,” Sam continued, without encouragement, “that Laurie Harris died from bone cancer on the tenth of May.”
“That can’t be,” insisted Dean.
Sam didn’t even try to argue. He turned the laptop so Dean could see the picture on the screen. “Is that her?”
Dean kept his eyes on the muffin, refusing to look.
Taking a deep breath, Dean finally shifted his gaze. He had to clear his throat to allow words to escape it. “Yeah, that’s her.”
“Damn,” Dean buried his head in his hands. “What I did to her father, telling him I was with her last night. No wonder he looked at me like I was crazy.”
“Dean, you didn’t know.”
“But I should’ve. It’s my job. I spend the night with a ghost and I don’t have a clue? Some professional I am.”
“You know what we have to do.”
“Yeah.” Dean pushed the muffin away. He knew if he tried to swallow a single bite it wouldn’t stay down.
Dean followed Sam mindlessly though the graveyard. He couldn’t remember how many corpses he had salted and burned in his twenty-six years. This was the first time it bothered him. The Laurie he had met and talked to deserved better. Why would their father put the coordinates in his journal if not to put her spirit to rest?
His gaze tracking Sam’s pointing finger, Dean saw his coat folded neatly on top of a fresh grave. Dazed, he crossed until he could read the headstone and see the picture in the frame under the name.
“Let’s get to work,” Sam suggested, handing Dean a shovel.
Ignoring the tool, Dean stooped to pick up his coat. “We don’t need to.”
“This is what we were sent here to do,” argued Sam.
“No, we came here to put her spirit at rest. It’s done, though probably not the way Dad would approve.”
Smiling sadly, Dean said, “By making her dream come true. She won’t be back.”
“How can you be so sure?”
His fingers running lightly across the top of the gravestone, Dean shrugged, “I just am.” Squaring his shoulders, he managed to keep his voice steady as he said, “Let’s go, we have work to do.”
This story was inspired by a song from the 60’s called "Laurie."