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21 May 2012 @ 06:30 am
Dust Devils: Worried Man Blues (Chapter 9)  

March 16, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma



Dust Devils

Chapter 9

Worried Man Blues

**O**


March 16, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

His hand slithered under his pillow, groping for something that wasn't there. Cracking a bleary, crusty eyelid, he searched the empty space, wondering what it was his sleepy subconscious expected to find. He coughed and worked the crunchy dust from his eyes and nose, giving both the pillow and the nothing under it another once-over. Concentrating as hard as he could, he willed the memory to resurface, but it stubbornly eluded him.

"C'mon, c'mon!" The more he roused the quicker the moment receded. When it had evaporated altogether, he slammed the pillow down. He pivoted and leaned against the headboard, stewing. He didn't know what he'd been hunting for under there. Something. Something important. He heaved a discouraged sigh and drew his legs up, hugging them with one hand while worrying a tuft of his growing bangs with the other. He rocked back and forth, but the motion served only to remind him of the constant push and pull between his unreachable past and his confusing present. Clenching his jaw, he ground away at the gritty dust, a constant nuisance between his teeth.

Slaid. The presence of Slaid in his vision made no sense to him. He'd not seen anyone from the present in one of his wonky memories until now. Emma had said she'd never seen Dean before he showed up in the barn. But Slaid obviously had. Or had he? The farmhand had frightened Florabel, and he annoyed the hell out of Dean. Had Dean simply plunked him into the past, ascribing to him the role of villain in order to fill in some gap or apparent blank in his past? Or, despite Slaid's improbable presence, had he actually been lurking in some shell of a building, somewhere, and attacked Dean and Sam? Were his visions meaningless, nothing more than a symptom of a brain broken by wound and fever, or were his past and present bound together by Slaid? And was Slaid, therefore, a danger to people in both worlds?

"Fuck." Dean fidgeted with his hair and ran his laced fingers over his head, trying to sort through everything.

Leaning against the headboard, he stretched, his spine cracking and popping like twisted bubble-wrap. He wondered if dust had somehow wormed its way into his joints, chafing him from within. Dean pressed the palm of his hand to his jaw and popped it, then his fingers. Like his joints, his past and present ground past each other like tectonic plates with only dust as lubricant.

He found no answers sitting there, trapped between mortar and pestle, so he kicked the covers off and bolted out of bed. As he buttoned his union suit, Dean inspected the gunshot wound, now no more than a purplish-red divot. He had to wonder if Slaid had anything to do with that as well. Dean wouldn't put it past him. He needed to investigate.

Passing through the empty kitchen, Dean heard Emma singing to herself in the parlor. He'd come to recognize this as one of her morning rituals while she dusted, and the longer he stayed in the house, the more comfort he took from it. Emma's soft, lilting voice brought a soothing clarity to him.

Ida! Sweet as apple cider.

Sweeter than all I know,

Come out! In the silv'ry moonlight…

It was another tether, albeit a pleasant one, tugging at him. The desire to go to her and help fill the morning dust-buckets, to enjoy her company and share her space as they worked to control the dust for another day tempted him. The more pressing issue won out, however. Without saying a word, he ducked out the backdoor and into some of the worst winds he'd experienced yet.

Wild gusts hissed and spat brown dust everywhere and he spun this way and that, unable to avoid getting a face-full of stinging grit. Squinting, he tucked his head into his bullet wound, trying to take a clean breath. Once recovered, he peered through his balled hands, binocular style, in order to keep the dust away from his lids. Three separate dust devils weaved themselves into knots between the house and the barn. With less than a few hundred feet of visibility, the landscape melted into a blank canvas of brown haze not far beyond the barn. He coughed up some dirty phlegm and jogged to the bunkhouse.

When knocking brought no answer, he rubbed the film of dust off the window and peered into the room. He saw two rows of cots against the walls but no sign of Slaid or Jeb. Furtively glancing around, he opened the door and entered, dust swirling around him like blowing snow in a blizzard. He coughed again and rubbed the dust from his watery eyes before he ventured further into the room.

Two inhabited bunks sat at the far end. A framed picture of a much younger Jeb and a dowdy woman, both dressed in wedding attire, sat atop the nightstand of one of the bunks. Dean picked up another frame on the stand, a portrait of a young man in a WWI soldier's uniform. The boy shared Jeb's quirked eyebrow. Jeb never mentioned having a son, and Dean doubted he still did.

"Jeb…dude." Dean sighed with both respect and sadness. It astounded him how the people he'd met still laughed and smiled the way they did, day after day, in the face of such stupefying, environmental catastrophe and immiseration. He set the photo down, whispering his fingertips across the image and turned to Slaid's bunk.

Slaid's plain cot sat opposite Jeb's. Only a small oil lamp, a deck of cards, and an old newspaper dressed his nightstand. Dean opened the top drawer, finding equally sparse contents—a comb, an old, flattened toothbrush, and a small shaving kit. He snorted at that. Why keep those items? It's not like Slaid ever used them.

He noticed a few marbles rolling around the drawer. Dean gathered and held them against his palm, wondering if they belonged to Florabel. The idea that Slaid had perhaps taken something from her infuriated him. With no more proof other than his gut feeling, though, he put the items back. No sense in jumping into the deep-end over three marbles. Not yet, anyway. He opened the second drawer to find a few articles of clothing, an extra union suit, some socks and two shirts.

"Crap."

He moved down the rows of cots and nightstands, opening drawers to make sure they were empty. The only thing out of the ordinary was a window-box with some plants growing in it.

Dean stood, considering it, trying to figure out why two bachelors would be tending houseplants. He inspected the various herbs and pinched their leaves without knowing why. Smelling the rub on his fingers, he named each of the plants, Wolfsbane and Lobelia, with Bindweed crawling up the window-frame, entangling itself in the empty curtain rod. He doubted Emma had planted the box; no need for a woman's touch in a bunkhouse.

He studied the rest of the room. It was simple and unadorned. Perhaps he had it all wrong. What types of items would a monster keep? Would it plant flowers in a window-box?

Deep in thought, Dean jumped when he heard Florabel's distressed cries coming from outside. In an instant he found himself running through the barnyard, leaving plumes of rising dust in his wake.

The little girl's braids sailed behind her as she fought the wind. Another dust devil whirled through the yard, but she scarcely noticed. She continued to call for something, heedless and frantic as she ran here and there, searching.

"Florabel! What is it?" Dean used his hand to shield his eyes from the blowing earth, making it hard to see her expression.

"I cain't find Molly! She ain't in her yard, Pally," Florabel wailed. "She ain't with the rest of her sisters. I gotta find her! I don't know where she could'a run off to. The gate was closed." The child ran off, calling the bird's name. Dean caught up with her in a few steps.

"Hang on, Bel." He scooped her up and ran to the barn. Once inside he set her down. "Stay here. Let me go check. I don't want you in that wind. Stay with Penny."

"But Pally…!"

"No buts…you mind me, now," he said, taking a page from Emma's book. It worked. The little girl stopped cold and slumped in shame. "Hey," Dean bent down, mussing her hair and tugging on a braid, "I just want you safe, Bel. I'll be right back. I promise."

He ran from the barn and toward the chicken-coop. His first attempt to open the gate gave him a powerful shock. Examining the fence, he watched blue sparks spider-crawling through the thin chicken-wire.

"Jesus." He pulled his shirt over his hand and opened the gate.

The birds huddled together in their pen, using each other to stay upright in the wind. He walked through the clutch, picking up each chicken, one by one. Molly wasn't there. He'd last seen her yesterday as he closed and locked the gate, heading to the barn with Jeb and Florabel. Slaid had remained behind. Suspicion percolated, his brain making the obvious leaps to arrive at the most likely explanation. Bile churned in his stomach. He ran behind the barn, checking to see if, perhaps, the bird had somehow wandered back there. He found nothing, and at this point he expected no different. Running back inside the barn, he found Florabel snuffling as she stroked Penny's nose. The cow's huge, liquid eyes watched the girl as it munched its hay in sympathy.

"Did you find her, Pally?" she asked, her tear-streaked face alive with hope. He shook his head and bent down to the girl as her wet, broken sobs filled the barn.

"Come on, Bel, we have to go back to the house. It's too windy out here. I'll keep looking, but you need to get inside. The weather's not right."

She fell into his arms. "I don't know how she could'a gotten loose, Pally. It don't make no sense. She would never leave me for no reason. We was best friends."

Dean didn't doubt it. Even if he'd left the gate open, Molly wouldn't have been the only chicken to wander out. No, this was no accident. He clenched his jaw, fury rising.

"I know you were." He kissed her hair. "Let's go to the house and see if Old Jeb is there. Maybe he saw her, and if not, me and him can go look." He took off his over-shirt and covered her nose and mouth with it. Picking her up, he jogged toward the house. By the time they arrived in the kitchen, they were both choking, coated in a thick coat of gray-brown dust. Dean set Florabel down and noticed Slaid and Jeb eating a breakfast of eggs and corn mush.

"My God!" Emma gasped, seeing Florabel's face smeared with muddy tears. "What happened? Are you two all right?"

Dean barely heard her. He strode over to Slaid and grabbed fistfuls of shirt and overalls, whirling him around and slamming him against the wall.

"Did you do it?" Dean searched the farmhands face with lethal eyes and slammed him a second time. Surprised, Emma and Jeb sprung forward, working to separate them. Dean shrugged them off. "Did you do it?"

A blasting gust of wind shook the house. Slaid's clammy hands gripped Dean's forearms, struggling to break free. Dean smelled the sharp, pungent tang of Slaid's sweat and slammed him a third time.

"Whoa there, son!" Jeb held his palm out, talking to Dean like he would a spooked thoroughbred, his voice steady and calm. "What's all this fuss, now?"

"Dean, let him go." Emma wedged her body between the two men.

His attention remained wholly fixed on Slaid, white knuckles wrenched in the farmhand's shirt. "Molly's gone. You were right there yesterday when we left. I know I shut the gate. What did you do with her?"

Slaid's lip curled with feigned amusement. "I don't know what you're talking about." He shifted, trying to buy more wiggle-room. "Git your hands off me, Ördög Fighter." Dean shoved him again. Slaid grunted and looked at Emma. "Git him off me. You see how dangerous he is, now, ya?"

"Dean, let him go." Emma pushed against Dean's chest, forcing distance between the two.

"Come on, Dean." Jeb turned his back on Slaid and whispered in Dean's ear, laying a hand on his shoulder. "It ain't so smart to corner something meaner'n you, son. Y'don't want to git Slaid riled, now. Safest to just keep your distance until you know for sure he done something you can prove to Emma." Jeb addressed the room. "Let's just all calm down. Life is short ‘n full-o-blisters. Ain't no call to make it worse. C'mon son, let this ol' boy go, now." He gave Dean's shoulder a casual pat. "C'mon Dean."

Hearing Florabel whimper from across the room, Dean heaved a guttural growl, releasing Slaid with a final shove as he pushed himself away from the grinning farmhand.

Slaid coughed in a ragged breath. "I don't know what happened to the pretty bird." He smoothed his overalls and shirt. "But instead of blaming people who done nothing wrong, I'll go look." He turned to Florabel. "I'll help the little one find the pretty bird. Florabel, come." He snapped his fingers, a triumphant gleam in his eye.

"No." Florabel backed away, frightened and uncertain.

Slaid snapped his fingers again, as though he'd expected a much different outcome the first time. "Come to me now, little one."

"No." Florabel ran to Dean and hid behind him. "I ain't goin' outside. Pally says it's too windy."

Incensed, Slaid's mouth worked soundlessly for a minute. He stood there, gaping, his hands balling into fists. Instinctively, Dean pounced again, growling, but Jeb held him back. Slaid moved away, his shoulders dropping.

He recovered his bravado, making his way to the door. "Slaid will go alone, then. You can thank me when I bring the pretty bird home." The screen door slammed behind him.

Those remaining stood, rooted in place. Only the swish of dust grains spraying the windows and Florabel's hitching snuffles broke the stunned silence.

Emma shifted, pulling Florabel out from behind Dean. "Florabel, you and Jeb eat your breakfast." Her voice sounded quiet and hollow in the tense room. "Dean, can I have a word with you in private?"

"Mama, don't you tell Pally to go." Florabel clung to her mother.

"Ain't no one goin' nowhere, child. Stop being dramatic. I just want to have a word. Now, you sit there and mind me. I mean it, Florabel." Emma guided her to the table.

"But Mama…" A hitching sob cut short Florabel's high-pitched, emphatic protest.

Jeb patted her back. "It's okay, Miss Flibbertigibbet." He nodded at Emma, indicating that he had the child. "You'n me is gonna sit and eat our breakfast." When the girl made to object, he pressed a finger to her lips. "Now, Florabel you know just as plain as me that kickin' up your heels ain't gonna git you nowheres unless you's a mule. Now let's eat, doll. Let the grownups talk." He winked at Emma giving her the all-clear to proceed.

The young woman nodded her thanks and then beckoned Dean to follow her. She led him through the front room and onto the veranda. Intense wind worked Emma's dress, wrapping it around her thin body like a wind-torn flag around a pole. Seeing her reach out a hand to protect her eyes, Dean moved over, placing himself between her and the wind, shielding her as best he could.

"You want to explain to me what just happened, Mr. Hetfield?"

Dean sighed. "Molly's gone. Slaid was the last one at the chicken-coop yesterday." As he spoke, he realized the accusation sounded flimsy at best. "I know I shut the gate, Em. And even if I didn't—even if I had left the gate open—more'n just Molly would've gotten out. Slaid took her."

"Why would Slaid take Molly? It don't make no sense, Dean. You cain't be accusin' him of things just because you don't like him."

"Slaid ain't what you think." Dean ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "I know it all sounds crazy, but I think I know more about Slaid than you do."

"What?" Emma rubbed her hands together, worrying them. "What do you know about Slaid?"

"Well, for one that he's a raging asshat." Dean tugged the hair at the back of his head and dropped his arms with a defeated sigh.

Emma faltered a moment, went to say something, then stopped—gave Dean a baffled look and then faltered again, unsure what she'd heard maybe or trying to figure out if ‘asshat' was a cuss word or not.

"Language, Mr. Hetfield." The reprimand lacked her usual confidence.

Dean's shoulders dropped and he sighed. "Emma, I owe my life to both you and Florabel. I'd never do anything to hurt either of you, you know that, right?"

"Of course I do."

"You're gonna think I'm sillier than Florabel with ideas about fairies in the chicken-coop, but sometimes I see what I think are memories during those spells I get. And I saw Slaid in one of them." He watched Emma's face, expecting the worst.

Her demeanor softened, though, and she guided him to the porch swing and sat down with him. "What did you see, Dean?"

He shook his head. "It was all jumbled. I don't know for certain. I was in a large, unfinished building, and he was there."

Emma paused. "We ain't had any new buildings put up around here in a long time. Ain't no money to build with. Are you sure it was Slaid you seen?"

He shrunk into himself. Dean knew if he told her everything she'd never believe him. He wasn't sure he believed it himself. "I don't know," he said. "I just don't know." He rubbed his temples. "I saw him do things that don't make sense."

"Dean," she said the name tenderly, "you was so bad off when we found you. There ain't no tellin' what happened that night, but Slaid—he's been with us the whole while. Every day. Eatin' breakfast and just bein' his ungrateful, cantankerous self." She grinned at him. "He ain't been to another town where they's building things. The most he done is go to town to play cards. He ain't been gone for more'n a few hours at a time. I ain't tryin' to shut you off. I'm just tryin' to be realistic. What did you see him do?"

The young man shook his head and shrugged. "It don't matter." He scuffed his boot along the dusty porch, swinging absently. "You're probably right. It was probably just dreams I saw." His back twitched as he leaned his elbows on his knees, studying the dust on the floor. "Nothin' is making any sense. I don't know who I am. I don't know how I came here. I don't know shit."

Emma flinched but didn't chide him. She placed a gentle hand on his back. "It's okay, Dean. I cain't imagine how hard this is for you. I'm sorry we couldn't git your fever under control quicker. Maybe none of this'd be happenin' to you now if'n you hadn't suffered so much. Your brain got too hot. I'm sorry. I cain't tell you how sorry, because just like you'd never do me no harm, I'd never do you none, neither. And I feel bad that we couldn't help you better when you needed it."

"Ain't your fault," he said. "I'd be dead if you hadn't helped me in the first place." He gave her a rueful smile. "Maybe what I saw was just a dream. I don't know. It could be that whoever hurt me or tried to kill me looked like Slaid, or maybe I just imagined the whole thing and saw him because I don't like him. I don't trust him, Em. Maybe…" he slumped and closed his eyes, "maybe Sam isn't even a real person."

Tears pricked behind his eyes at that. He couldn't bear the thought that Sam might be nothing more than a trick of his mind. The dimpled boy was the one person beyond Florabel, Emma and Jeb who truly meant something to him. Sam's presence haunted him, frustrating him like the itch of a phantom-limb. But if he could slip Slaid into his visions, fabricating memories that couldn't have happened, what's to say he wasn't doing the same with Sam? Maybe none of his dreams meant anything beyond his fractured mind playing tricks on him. Dean bent forward and pinched some dust from the ground and rubbed it between his fingers.

The young woman put her arm around him. "Well, me'n Florabel is real. We's here, and we care about you, Dean. Even Old Jeb thinks the world a'you. I know it don't mean much when your whole life has been stolen away, but we ain't gonna turn our backs on you. You hear me?"

Dean looked upon the wind-raped land before him. He could only see to the end of the yard before the landscape melted into a jaundiced-colored haze. He sighed and nodded. "Molly's still missing, though. That ain't my imagination, Em. Something or someone took her from a closed pen."

"I hear you, Dean." Her eyes followed Dean's, surveying the farm. "I don't know how Molly got out. It ain't even the first chicken we lost without no seeming reason. I think we lost one right about the time you come here. Though, at the time, they was a whole lot more to worry about than one lost chicken, and it certainly hadn't been one Florabel was fond of. But that don't mean Slaid done it."

"Don't mean he didn't."

"True enough, but we'll make good an' sure there ain't no breaks or gaps in the chicken-wire before we go accusin' anyone." She smiled at him. "I know you's a good man, Dean. I'm grateful that you care enough about Florabel ‘n me to try protect us like that. I do. But until I know for sure Slaid done it, I cain't just toss him out nor even scold him. It wouldn't be right. I cain't imagine what Slaid would want with poor Molly. It ain't like he can cook a lick, no how." She giggled and nudged Dean, trying to lighten the mood.

Dean digested everything. He'd found nothing incriminating in Slaid's bunk. He'd nothing to go on other than his strange visions, and their reliability was suspect. He knew precious little for certain. His gut told him that something wasn't right, but that wasn't going to convince anyone else.

"I'm sorry I lost my temper with Slaid." He paused. "I still think he's an asshat, though." Returning her playful nudge, he gave her a cheeky smile. Emma chuckled. He sighed and traced the name ‘Sam' in the dust with his finger then brushed it away. "And I don't think Slaid has your or Florabel's best interest in mind." He stopped playing in the dust and leaned back, meeting Emma's eye. "You need to watch out for him, Em. No matter what I saw in my dream that is or ain't real, you have to promise me you'll stay clear of him."

The woman nodded in gentle agreement. "You too, Dean. Just keep your distance from him and things is gonna be fine. You'll see." She rose and offered her hand to him. "Come on, Dean. Let's go on in and have some breakfast. This land is whittling you down too far. We's gonna have to fatten you up a little."

Dean took her hand and rose. "Okay."

"Then once we's done eatin' I'm gonna douse both you and Florabel with skunk oil and turpentine so's neither one of yuhs catch pneumonia." She wiggled her eyebrows at him.

"Ugh!" He hated the treatment as much as Florabel did. "That's just plain mean spirited." Emma snickered as she opened the door and went inside.

She turned when Dean hesitated. "You coming, Dean?"

"Yeah," he said. "I'll be along in a minute."

"All right. Don't stay out too long. Florabel will never forgive me if'n I let you run off now." She shut the screen door and left him alone.

Dean rested his hands on the railing of the porch and watched two separate dust devils war with each other in the distance. A similar war raged inside of him as his past and present collided and intertwined, playing a game of tug-of-war for his loyalty. Emma, Jeb and Florabel, especially Florabel, twisted their hands around his heartstrings on one side, while Sam solely anchored the other, pulling equally as hard.

No matter how improbable Slaid's appearance in his vision had been, be it transference or outright fantasy, Dean knew Sam was real. In his core, he knew it. Perhaps Sam was out there somewhere right now, trying to find him, feeling as lost and as halved as Dean. Maybe. It was a hopeful thought.

As he stood there, palms straining against the railing of the porch, he watched one dust devil devour the other and serpentine out of sight, taking the Livingston's farm and livelihood with it.

**O**

February 9, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

A shocking blast tossed him through the air. As he crashed into Sam, their combined momentum propelled them into a wall with the crack of broken wood. Hitting the ground with an unrestrained grunt, Dean folded into a protective fetal position. Pain stole his breath and his thoughts, and he lay there undone until hands gripped him.

Sam's voice fell all around him, shouting words Dean couldn't understand. He only had the wits to blink and breathe.

"Wake up, Dean!"—some words that made sense, though Dean'd no idea why Sam said them.

"M'awake, dude…quiddit…"

"I got you!" Hands gripped him, raising him to his feet, but his legs buckled and he crumpled to the earth again.

"Up, Dean! Move!" Sam's voice commanded him. "Hold onto this." He dragged Dean to his feet again and pushed him into the studding. Dean threaded a clumsy arm through the beams and held on with what remained of his strength.

"Stay on your feet, Dean!" Sam made a wild dash for the salt gun he'd dropped when Dean crashed into him.

The flickering specter continued to approach, bending his head this way and that, considering Dean.

"Still the same, ya, Devil Fighter?" The thing raised its hand toward Dean. "Same. Like the day you first come here. And you still faint like a woman." The spirit laughed and began to chant.

"Én itt beidéz, Hala. A szél az Ördög!"

The moment it completed the incantation, the ghost lurched to the side and disintegrated into smoky dust. Sam stood behind it, slamming another salt-shell into the chamber.

"Who the hell is this guy?" Sam yelled. "You two know each other?"

"Fuck, f'I know, Sammy. Never saw his fugly ass b'fore." Dean struggled to hold his balance as a powerful gust of wind hit him. "Th'fuck?" He worked to get a firmer grip on the studding.

Sam grabbed his brother by his collar. "Come on, man. We have to get you out of here."

"Dropped m'gun. Sammy. Can't leave it behind." Dean held onto his brother while shifting debris with his foot, trying to locate his gun.

Sam propelled him forward. "We'll get it in the morning. Not now. Move, Dean, I mean it or I'll carry your ass out."

"Awright, geez, y'don' have t'be such a bitch, Bitch." Dean wobbled and snorted in Sam's grip, chuckling. "Bitch, bitch, bitch."

"Focus, Dean. You gotta stay with me, man. We're almost there."

Dean's grin fell and he cradled his arm, hissing. "Don' pull m'arm so much, Sammy. It hur's." He took a quivering breath, his voice sloppy with fever and pain. "Don' feel s'good. I'mma be sick."

"Not here. You can puke your brains out as soon as we get to the Impala." Sam pushed Dean toward the doorway.

"Pfft, th'hell dude, n'gonna soil m'baby. N'fuckin' way!"

"Jesus." Sam stopped and yanked Dean back.

He lost his balance and bumped into Sam with a hiss. "Make up yer mind, S'mmy." Dean gave his brother his own bitchface, but Sam's attention was riveted elsewhere.

Turning, Dean saw a black, spinning whirlwind gathering between them and the door. Jagged blue sparks of energy fingered outward as it rotated, moving in their direction. Wind howled and wood splintered as it bore down upon them.

"We have to draw it away from the door." Sam shouted to be heard above the roar.

More wood tore away from the side of the building as Sam shifted, hugging the wall, giving the thing a wide berth so that they could eventually work their way around to the door. A blast of frigid wind from behind stopped the attempt, however. The ghost had returned, and it blasted the brothers into another wall. Sam's gun flew from his hand, landing at the feet of the apparition.

As Dean lay on the ground, fighting to say conscious, Sam grabbed his right arm and dragged him close enough to hook an arm around Dean's waist. The spirit turned a splayed hand toward the dark, writhing storm, stopping its advance. Turning back, it bent down, eyeing a half-conscious Dean.

"They belonged to me, Ördög Fighter." Its eyes flamed. "You stole them."

Dean kicked out with his foot, the only weapon he had. "Fuck you." He spit the words at the ghost then hissed in pain. "I dunno wha' you're talkin' ‘bout, douchebag. You got me confused w'someone else."

The specter laughed. "No. Same face, same big man. Big circus man. Strong again, ya? Devil Fighter."

"Well, you're jus' all sorts a'fuckin' nuts, then. Nuunghhh." He moaned as Sam eased himself out from behind him. Sam gripped his good shoulder, his eyes signaling for Dean to keep the spirit busy while he tried to retrieve the gun.

The spirit stopped laughing, emotions turning on a dime as he screamed, "Hala promised! Pretty woman and little one belong to me—love me!"

"Y'think I stole your girl, Farmer Bob?" Dean snorted, eyeing the specter's red shirt and overalls. "S'that what this is about? Ah hell, dude, woul'n be th'first time. Take a number, pal. M'jus' that fuckin' good." Dean baited the thing, a smirk on his face until a grimace of pain replaced it. He adjusted himself against the wall and held his shoulder, stealing a glance at Sam to see how close he was to the gun. The ghost noticed the gesture and turned toward Sam. With a flick of the spirit's wrist, the gun flew through the air and smashed against a large support beam.

"Enough." More blue light flew from the apparition's fingertips and the cyclone resumed its advance. "Time to pay, Dean."

**O**

March 16, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

A puff of dust followed Slaid's angry footsteps into the root cellar. He paced the floor several times, running his hands through his hair as he spat and gurgled in frustration and anger.

"A windy day? This is my reward, ya?" Punching the wall, he wheeled around, slamming into the altar. He laid his hands on the corners, shaking and rattling it until red chicken-down floated in the air, the table nearly tipping over.

"Hala promised power! Slaid gave his gift. Hala must obey." Another bellowing roar of fury flew from his mouth and blue arcs of electricity ran up and down his fingers.

All of his work and still neither whore had bowed to him. The little one refused to touch him, let alone do his bidding or satisfy his needs. The Hala had responded to the sacrifice, had given him some power, but not enough. Looking at his fingers, he watched the crackling blue threads of energy fizzle and subside. Molly had been too small, too meager—a big tease. Just like the women. He'd have to find a bigger offering.

Dirty tears streaked down his face, making him look like a twisted harlequin in the pus-colored lamplight. He unhitched his overalls, the straps spilling down his back. Buttons scattered as he ripped his shirt from his chest. He yanked his pants down and began pumping his engorged cock, grunting in bitter outrage, gasping his unrestrained loathing. He despised the Devil Fighter and promised to bring pain and torment to him for taking what belonged to him.

His dick spasmed and twitched through his climax. Prostrating himself before the altar, he promised the Hala a better offering, a worthy offering. A perfect offering.


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deangirl1deangirl1 on May 21st, 2012 12:03 pm (UTC)
omg- Slaid is just that creepy! Another great chapter! I really am obsessively checking my email now for each update... I have a bad, bad feeling that Slaid's "big" sacrifice is going about to be Dean... and in a little less than a month??? I love how Dean is being pulled between the two worlds - but he's going to be devastated to lose Emma and Florabel now...
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 21st, 2012 10:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you SO much for your comment! I'm so damned happy that you're enjoying it! Next update will be Thursday...bright and early! And there is a nifty little time-jump at the beginning which takes us into...oh...around mid-April 1935. Should be some good fun coming up! ;)
jpgr: SPN Family Businessjpgr on May 21st, 2012 12:52 pm (UTC)
I really look forward to the scheduled posting days. This was the first place I came once I turned on the laptop. I think it'll be the same come Thursday.

Did I tell you I love this fic?
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 21st, 2012 10:40 pm (UTC)
Whee! I'm so glad you're loving it. It honestly was such a labor of love, and I didn't know if ANYONE would enjoy it. I mean...DustBowl!Dean is just a little freakin' "out there". LOL. So I'm so glad the story resonates. I am very surprised by the level of sophistication of the readers. Many are as well-read on the Dust Bowl as I've become, so I'm really even more excited to share this story with the comm. Thanks again SO dadgum much! I really appreciate it!
jpgr: SPN Deanjpgr on May 21st, 2012 11:02 pm (UTC)
I'm not really all that well-read up on it, but I do know of it. My sister made me watch "Grapes of Wrath" when I was around 12. That special on History the other day really helped put a picture to it.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 21st, 2012 11:15 pm (UTC)
Yep, yep! I have read The Grapes of Wrath a couple of times. Adore that novel. And I really enjoyed the documentaries. There is another one out there that you can watch in its entirety on youtube called "Surviving The Dust Bowl". It was fascinating and had some heartbreaking first-hand accounts that I borrowed heavily from! You might enjoy watching that sometime.
jpgr: SPN Dean rock on anijpgr on May 22nd, 2012 01:03 am (UTC)
Thanks. I tried reading GoW and couldn't swing it, Way way too much description for me. I don't know why, but the majority of American lit I've read has bored me. I'll try tracking down that documentary.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 22nd, 2012 03:55 am (UTC)
I hear ya. I've had my own struggles with certain authors (Falkner does absolutely nothing for me), so I can sympathize. But Steinbeck is a great fit with SPN for me. His heroes are working class or sub-working class people, and I find that so compelling.

Yeah, watch that Documentary. It's really good. I've watched at least 5 times. Heh.
tifachingtifaching on May 21st, 2012 01:42 pm (UTC)
Okay, I'm all caught up now. Poor Dean. Caught between his Florabel and Emma and Sam. Sammy's always going to win out, though...

I really love how you've structured this. Bits of past and present together in the same chapter. The scenes of Dean and Sam before Dean was taken are way more effective interspersed in the middle of things than they would be all by themselves at the beginning, IMO.

And note to Jeb. You don't know Dean very well, but nothing's meaner than he is when he's protecting people he cares about. I'm sure he'll find that out, though. If he's not a sacrifice before then. :D
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 21st, 2012 11:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's quite the triangle. But we know in what direction Dean will eventually be pulled. But it's kind of fun to see him without his memories and waffling a little.

Aw, thank you so much for your kind words on those Sam/Dean scenes. I really wanted to have a bit of the brothers TOGETHER in this story (that has them so desperately separated), so I wanted to kind of tell how it was that Dean fell back in time. I always seem to separate the boys in my stories. LOL. I don't know why, because I adore them together and enjoy writing their dynamic. It's hard to write Dean all alone...especially without his memories. He's definitely DEAN, but at the same time...there is a difference or a huge chunk of Dean missing. It was hard to write around, so constructing those brother-scenes gave me a respite from that.

Ha! Yeah, Jeb has not seen Hunter!Dean yet. Not to worry. He will. ;) He definitely will.
twisted_slinky: slinky!deantwisted_slinky on May 21st, 2012 04:47 pm (UTC)
Fantastic update! Slaid just gives me the super wiggins'--which I suppose means you've done your job really well ;) I love how you've broken up this story between the time periods, by the way. Very easy to follow, but it keeps the story moving. Poor Florabel losing her pet--the more I think about it, the sadder it is. Would have been lonely enough for a kid in her circumstances without that asshat taking Molly, too. I look forward to your next update! :D
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 21st, 2012 11:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I was saying to someone else about Slaid that he creeps me the hell right out, too. And then I think..."Wow...I wrote that!...what does that say about ME?!" Haha...hopefully it means nothing beyond my own sicko imagination! :P

Thanks for your kind words about the pacing/scene construction. As I was saying in the post to tifaching that I really, really wanted to include some brotherly-scenes in this story that has them separated for the bulk of it. I love the boys' relationship just like everyone else and miss its presence when it's not featured. At the same time, I really wanted to explore other dynamics of Dean's psyche as well. This was a happy compromise...and a nice way to get in the back story as to how Dean wound up where he is. So win/win!

Oh yeah...poor Molly. That kind of broke my heart, too! It's so chilling to think that Molly is the least of her "loves". Yikes.

Thanks again for the comment! I so appreciate it!
beckydaspazbeckydaspaz on May 21st, 2012 06:40 pm (UTC)
So ANOTHER great chapter? You're ridiculous you know that, but most definately the good way. Fracking fantastic! I have NO IDEA how you can manage to make each chapter better than the last and also how you can have every single significant character in a chapter without it getting crowded. I guess you are just THAT good huh? :) Can't wait for Thursday!

*hugs*

-Puddin'
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 21st, 2012 11:12 pm (UTC)
No YOU'RE ridiculous...because you're so ridiculously awesome! LOL. Thanks so much, Puddin'! I appreciate it more than I ca say. Personally, I think the story came out as well as it did because I had the best beta's in the world. :P So that's my secret! Fwah!

/hugs

Thanks sweets!
Rince1windrince1wind on May 22nd, 2012 12:20 pm (UTC)
Good chapter! I like the way Dean is beginning to pick up the southern speech patterns the longer he's with Florabel and Emma.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 22nd, 2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
Yes! He is picking it up. A little more vague, perhaps, but it is definitely beginning to show!

Thanks so much for the comment!