Rating: PG-13 (mature themes)
Characters/Pairing: Sam/Ruby (don't mistake sex for love); memories of Dean
Words: ~12,000 (total story)
Disclaimers: These characters belong to Eric Kripke, Wonderland Sound and Vision, and Warner Brothers Television. No infringement is intended.
Warnings/Summary: As the days add up after Dean's death, Sam does his best to keep fighting -- and that means hunting with Ruby and his mind.
Copyright 2008, Bardicvoice
One hundred and twenty-four days.
Through a bit of telephone magic promptly at ten o’clock Tuesday morning, they scored an appointment with Dr. Harkness, the maritime expert, for two o’clock.
The non-forecast thunderstorm started at eleven thirty.
With the rain drumming in the background when they were admitted to Harkness’s office promptly at two, he wasn’t surprised to see the open box, the goblet, and the ring sitting on the credenza behind the scholar’s desk, surrounded by papers and with both latex and white cotton gloves lying nearby. He wasn’t prepared for Ruby’s gasp behind him, and glanced back to see her shocked eyes wide and fixed on the cup and the ring. He jostled her with an elbow to break her gaze before Harkness would notice, and then stepped forward and captured the scholar’s hand and his attention.
“Thanks for seeing us, sir. We appreciate your time.”
Harkness looked the image of a scholar, a man in his early sixties carrying a bit of extra weight, with gray frosting his wiry black hair. His warm brown eyes danced with intelligence and a hint of skepticism behind gold-rimmed glasses.
“I was surprised at the request, Mr. Collins,” he said. “I wouldn’t have thought your magazine would be interested in us.”
“To be honest, we don’t know whether our editor will buy into it, either,” he answered with his best disarming smile. “We freelance stories, and the more connections there are to the city, the better the chance the magazine will buy them. We thought of trying one on the Denis Sullivan, since she stops by every year, and when we learned that she’d brought artifacts to the museum for authentication, we thought we’d check with you for another link to Savannah.”
Harkness waved them to chairs. Ruby seemed to have recovered her composure, although her eyes kept drifting back to the cup and ring with an odd mix of dread and wonder even as she flipped open her notebook and at least pretended to take notes.
“I don’t know how much help I can be,” the scholar said. “Investigating these things will take time, and I’ve only just begun. About all I can tell you now is exactly what you can see.” He spread a hand toward the things displayed on the credenza. “The goblet and ring are silver, engraved with ravens with garnet eyes. The box is iron lined with lead. If I were a gambling man, I’d say that the cup and the ring were both the work of the same artist, and that – based on their design – they’re a lot older than the eighteen-hundreds, but it’s going to take work to actually date them.”
“How can you do that?” he asked, genuinely interested. “Carbon dating only works on material that was once living, right? So you couldn’t use that on silver.”
“You’ve done your homework,” Harkness said approvingly. “Dating metal artifacts is still a developing science. There’s been a lot of work done on dating smelting using carbon introduced during the smelting process, and also on dating metals by analyzing their corrosion, determining the corrosion rate, and calculating how much of the original artifact has corroded. Those techniques work for iron and lead – they would work on the box – but I can’t speak for whether they would work on the silver. It’s outside my area of expertise, and we’ll be consulting with other experts from around the world to figure that out. But we’ll also be sending photos, samples, and measurements to other museums to compare these pieces with other known artifacts, to see whether similarities could give us a clue to their origins. It’s going to take a long time; probably more months than I’ll be here as resident scholar. Whoever follows me will inherit the project.” He chuckled. “I don’t know whether this will work to the advantage of your story or not, but these artifacts are likely to stay right here in Savannah for a good, long time.”
He smiled with amiable humor he didn’t feel, looking at the cold ravens and hearing the storm outside the glass. He waved toward the artifacts.
“Don’t they need to be protected from the local elements to prevent any contamination? I’m surprised to see them just sitting there, rather than being in some sealed display case or even locked away.”
“That’s not a big concern with non-reactive metals. Most of our major conservation efforts involve not touching them with skin, since the oils on our hands can cause problems. That’s why the gloves are there; metal artifacts are always handled only with gloves on. But after what these things have been through across the centuries, a little indirect light and modern air aren’t likely to do any damage. I expect we’ll be displaying these in a special exhibit once we finish with all the documenting photos and samples. And that work – well, most of it, anyway – can be done right here.”
“Well, thank you for your time, Doctor – it’s been fascinating. I don’t know whether it will help sell the story or not, but I learned something, and I appreciate it.” He stood up and offered his hand again, and Harkness shook it.
“Glad to be of service. I’ll admit, I’ll be following what happens to these things even after I leave. If it turns out they were on the Mette Margrethe, anything more we learn about them could teach us more about the ship, and that’s where my particular interest lies. Good luck with the story.”
A few more pleasantries saw them out of the museum. The rainy weather was keeping tourists to a minimum, and with no one around in the garden, Ruby wasted no time grabbing his arm.
“A demon, Sam!”
Ruby was shivering, and the rain wasn’t cold enough to explain that. Her eyes looked almost haunted.
“The cup and the ring: there’s a demon bound to them, somehow. I’ve never seen anything like it.” At his look of mute incomprehension, she shook his arm to demand his focus. “Look, when I look at a possessed human, I see the demon inside, right? Like Dean did, before he died. When I looked at those things, I saw a demon inside them, but it wasn’t like a possession; more like it was – trapped inside somehow. In pieces, split between the cup and the ring. Like someone ripped it apart and stuck one half in the ring, and the other half in the goblet. One demon, two pieces, but still connected.”
“So – what? Someone puts on the ring, picks up the cup, and – completes a possession connection?”
She gave his arm one last yank and then released it, irritation overcoming the lingering fear in her eyes.
“What part of ‘never seen anything like this’ did you not understand? I don’t know.” She chewed her lip. “It sounds reasonable, though,” she admitted hesitantly, gradually calming down as she tried to work the problem through. “But the way it’s connected ... I think the demon would still be attached to the things, even with a human host in the circuit. I don’t think it could leave.”
“And so the question becomes, could I make it leave?”
They stared at each other through the grey curtain of rain, hearing thunder rumbling almost steadily at the very edges of perception. Ruby looked away first.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “It’s – different – from the way a demon links into a host. You can break those bonds, but this? I don’t know. It’s ...”
A sudden image flared in his brain.
“Like a binding link?” She looked at him without understanding, and he fought the urge to scratch the old scar on his right forearm. “Something we ran into before: magic that a demon could use to lock itself inside a host to keep from being exorcised.”
“That one’s not in the usual demon handbook,” she observed wryly, and her mouth quirked. “You’d have to be real fond of a host body to take a chance on being trapped in it forever, if you misplaced the key.”
“Breaking the integrity of the sealing symbol worked to break the link,” he said. In his head, he remembered Bobby dressing the throbbing, angry burn on his arm – the brand over a brand that he still couldn’t remember getting – while quietly telling him a little of what he’d missed, his voice deliberately pitched not to carry to where Dean sat, silent and drained, curled around an icepack. “Maybe that would work here.”
“So – did you see anything in the designs that looked like a binding link?”
“No, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not there. I wasn’t looking for it before.” Having a purpose and a plan sent an adrenaline rush through his system, a surge of vigor that launched him into motion and lengthened his stride until Ruby was practically trotting to keep up with his rush back to the car. “We need to get back to the motel and look through those detail photos.”
Two hours later, the energy had drained away like water.
The goblet and the ring bore nothing remotely resembling the scar on his arm. The photos from the Denis Sullivan covered every facet and every inch of both artifacts, so he couldn’t persuade himself that there was any hope he’d missed something. And if he’d thought that marring the overall raven designs themselves might work, the photographic evidence of old damage to the silver already provided mute contradiction: a dent in one side of the heavy cup broke the harsh lines of one raven, and a deep scratch like a knife-score sliced across one wing on the ring. The only circular elements anywhere in the designs were the ravens’ garnet eyes, and even those were dulled and scarred by time, their facets worn down.
“We’ll just have to steal the things and the curse box,” Ruby said finally. “Put them back inside and bury it somewhere it will never be found. Dump it back into the sea.”
“Not exactly equipped with a boat,” he muttered distractedly, and then shook himself. Wouldn’t be the first time he was wanted for a crime; wouldn’t be the last. Not having a secure place to secrete the curse box bothered him, though. He couldn’t very well keep it in the Impala’s trunk, and simply burying it somewhere was just asking for trouble; there were never any guarantees that something buried wouldn’t be found. After all, it was the whole nature of curses to spread, and even lead-lined iron might not be enough to contain this one, not after the seal had been broken and the box already opened once.
But he didn’t see much choice.
“Okay: we’ll go in after midnight. Take out the power, get in, get the stuff, get out, and get far away from here.” He ran a hand through his hair, trying unsuccessfully to scrub away the exhaustion of depression. “I’m going to grab some sleep.”
When he got up at eleven o’clock, he wasn’t sure how much rest he’d actually gotten. The incessant storm had grumbled through his fragmentary dreams, heavy with vague threats, and he felt weighted down as he packed the car, stashing the small duffel with his selection of break-in tools in the back seat. They drove the few miles into town in silence, parking the car several blocks away from their goal, safely out of sight. The storm had given him an idea, though, so instead of going straight to the museum, he arranged a little accident for the neighborhood transformer. The resulting power arc exploded in a dramatic shower of searing golden sparks, a reasonably good imitation of a lightning strike that plunged the entire neighborhood into the dark.
And he’d guessed right: there was no backup generator at the museum to run the security measures. Battery-operated emergency lights were shining when they arrived at the doors, but the cameras and electric eyes were dead. He cross-wired the internal security panel just in case the power came back up sooner than he expected, and then they moved soft-footed to Harkness’s office, following their flashlight beams.
And that’s where everything fell apart. The cup and the ring still sat on the credenza, but the curse box was gone.
A frenzied search turned up nothing, and with no power in the building, he couldn’t access the computer on Harkness’s desk to search its records. Aware of every minute ticking past, counting down the expected time for the local utility to repair the blown transformer, he slammed his hand down on the desk in frustration.
“Damn! He said they could do most of the work here, not all of it; they must have sent the box away for testing, since that was the one thing they could actually date.”
“So what do we do now? Moving those things without protection would be insane. And if they stay outside the box too much longer, this storm is going to become a whole lot worse than it is.” Ruby rolled her shoulders and twitched uncomfortably. “I can feel the power building; can’t you?”
He wasn’t sure what he felt. The artifacts’ garnet eyes glittered coldly, catching his flashlight beam, and their malice curled in the pit of his stomach. Whether it was his imagination or a real sense, his hand shook.
He never actually saw demons, not the way that Ruby could – not the way that Dean had, there at the end – but he’d learned to feel them, when he reached out with his mind to unhook them from their hosts. Closing his eyes, he extended a hand toward the artifacts, not coming close enough to touch, but trying to feel with his mind for the demon inside. He sensed – something – but there was nothing he could get a grip on, just the cold smoothness of metal. He opened his eyes.
“I can’t get a grip. It’s not – in a human, a demon doesn’t fit. There are – gaps – I can push through, between the demon and the body. Like sliding a hand under a shirt. There aren’t any gaps in the metal.”
“What if there were a body?”
He turned sharply, but she wasn’t looking at him; her eyes were on the artifacts, and she licked her lips.
“What if a human body completed the circuit, and pulled the demon into three things at once? If you got a grip on one part of it, maybe you could pull it all.”
“And maybe not!” The revulsion nearly made him sick. “And I’m not going to let some innocent get possessed just to try!”
“It was just an idea,” she said, breaking her gaze, but not meeting his eyes either. He felt something niggling at his brain as he looked at her, and time seemed to slow down.
“Maybe – maybe there is a way. Without hurting anyone else.”
He saw the moment when she understood. Her eyes widened and she backed away.
“No. No way. I’m not going to get caught in this thing. You’re insane.”
“Am I? You’re the one who thought of it first.” His lip curled. “You keep reminding me there’s no one in that body but you. So if you got out, nobody else would get hurt. If I can pull the demon, fine; it goes, you come back. If I can’t, I use the knife. I’m guessing that if a third of a demon dies, the whole demon dies.”
“And what about me?”
“How many hosts have you had, Ruby? How many people? Find another body the way you found this one.” His eyes hardened, and his grip on the flashlight turned his knuckles white. “But no innocents get hurt. Not on my watch. Not when I can help it.” The thunder rumbled in dangerous counterpoint, and lightning flashed across the windows. He heard sirens in the distance and knew that time was running out. Utility trucks would be on the scene by now, and cops would be directing traffic where the lights were out. And he could sense that the storm outside was getting worse. He pinned her with his eyes and the force of his will, and he waited. And after a long count, he saw her deflate.
“All right. All right.” She walked reluctantly to the credenza and stood for a moment looking down, swallowing hard. When she reached to pick up the ring, her hand was trembling. Before she put it on, she finally met his eyes, and her own were demon-black.
“Just – don’t miss. This thing? It’s been imprisoned for centuries, in pieces. I’m guessing insane will be a mild word for it.” He nodded and took several steps back, carefully out of physical reach, setting the flashlight down on the desk and drawing the dagger with his left hand while he extended his right hand, fingers spread, like a representation of the outreach of his mind.
With her left hand, Ruby slid the heavy ring onto her right forefinger. Three bolts of lightning flared in quick succession across the black sky, and she drew in a deep breath and reached out for the cup with the hand wearing the ring. Just as her finger touched the rim, she screamed and instantly flung her head back, black smoke boiling from her wide-stretched mouth and streaming up toward the ceiling. Her body began to sag, hand clenched around the goblet, and then slammed painfully erect, her eyes flying open to reveal black irises rimmed in red. The garnet eyes on the ring and the cup blazed with red fire, bathing the room in a dream of Hell, and he closed his eyes and reached.
This time, there was something to grip, a roiling force swirling under the skin, something oily and slick and putrid and hot, something that burned like acid where he touched it. He clenched his jaw against a scream and fought to get his mental hand around it all despite the pain, despite the impression of skin dissolving off his bones and leaving only a grasping skeleton behind. There was more of it than he could close in his shredding fist, no matter how he reached, and those edges slipped aside with gibbering laughter, mocking him. He planted his feet, exerted his will, and pulled, feeling unreal muscles tearing away from bone with the strain, hauling with all his might against an immovable force, against a weight too great to budge. He pulled harder ...
And suddenly a real weight crashed into his body, shocking his eyes open as he fell, toppled to the floor by Ruby’s body slamming into his as the battle became physical as well as psychic. She swung the cup like a weapon, the heavy silver cracking against his skull even as he desperately tried to roll with the blow and flip her with his own weight. The blow didn’t stun him, and he managed to land on top, using his weight to pin her while he tried mentally to grab the thing inside her again. She squirmed and bucked like a wildcat beneath him, fragmenting his concentration, demonic strength making her slight body more than a match for his human muscles. In desperation, he dropped the knife that he had no angle to use and grabbed her right wrist with his left hand, slamming her arm and hand repeatedly against the floor and the side of the desk and prying at her fingers clenched around the cup with his right hand. She butted his head and clawed at his eyes with her free left hand, and then he finally felt her fingers peeling away from the silver. With a last supreme effort, he yanked the cup away from her and flung it aside, then slammed his own head down on hers and reached again with that internal sense of self, wrapping himself around the inferno and screaming as it burned through him, black fire surging up out of the body and pooling on the floor.
Somewhere deep inside, he felt something shift, the same way he’d felt it the first time he ever managed to pull a demon, and he closed his mental fist around all the tatters and strained to his limits, and he saw them pull free, saw the way they frayed around the spot where the cup had been. He pushed them away and down, the wild rage surging up like molten gold, and the blackness burned down and away and was gone. The body went limp beneath him, and he sobbed for breath and fell to the floor beside it in a tangle of nerveless limbs.
And then he passed out.
The rest of the night was a blur. He foggily remembered Ruby’s voice calling his name, waking him up, but he wasn’t really sure how conscious he was when she hauled him to his feet and braced his ass against the desk. His vision kept tunneling and everything he saw was edged in red and black; a clinical little voice in his mind catalogued broken capillaries in his eyes and oxygen starvation from the fight. He breathed like a broken bellows, but after an eternity of a few minutes of doing nothing but gasping, he finally stopped graying out.
Ruby told him that she saw nothing but metal when she looked at the artifacts, so he had to believe they’d succeeded. He remembered having her put the things back where they’d been – why steal them if the curse was broken? – and then expended great concentration putting one foot in front of the other as they made their way out of the museum, stopping only to erase the most obvious signs of their visit by removing the circuit bypass from the security panel and locking the museum doors behind them. He couldn’t do anything about the blood he’d doubtless left in the dark brown office carpet – he’d had a nosebleed again, and the skin on his temple was split where the goblet had connected – and was left to hope that it would dry fast enough to be overlooked. Or maybe the museum would advertise having a mysterious haunting, like a double-dozen other tourist attractions in town.
Weaving their way to the car, with more of his weight on Ruby than on his own feet, they felt the wind shift as the rain stopped. He was steadier by the time they got to the car, although a jackhammer pounded industriously in his head and every muscle in his body groaned. She tried to argue him into letting her drive, but that was an argument she lost despite how badly he ached.
No demon was driving the Impala. Not ever.
Still, they stopped after less than two hours because he wasn’t stupid or careless enough to risk wrapping the Impala around a tree. He didn’t know or care where they were; small town motels were all interchangeable anyway. Ruby looked more presentable than he did despite her bruised forehead – long hair was useful for hiding a lot of things – so she got their room. He made a beeline for a bed and fell onto it, and that was all he knew for twenty-four hours.
The pungent, sour reek of his own dried sweat wrinkled his nose even before he opened his eyes at dawn on what the bedside clock said was Thursday morning. He flopped over onto his back with one arm flung over his eyes and took stock. No headache, which was both surprising and good. Dried blood flaked from his temple and upper lip, and there was a lump on his forehead where he expected he’d see one mother of a bruise, but the tenderness of his skin didn’t translate into pain below it. He felt other aches and twinges where the demon had pummeled him, but all things considered, it wasn’t bad on the Winchester scale. Inside, he felt – different. Eyes closed, he explored that internal landscape. He didn’t really have words for it; the closest analogy he could come up with was that there was – more of him up there, as if straining so hard against the raven-bound demon had built up his mental muscle mass.
It felt – good. It felt right.
It felt calm.
He looked around, not surprised that Ruby wasn’t there. He’d learned early on that demons didn’t sleep. After the first few times he’d woken to her eyes watching him, he’d gotten creeped out and yelled at her to stop staring. Since then, she’d made it a point either to be doing something when he woke or simply not to be there at all. He had a vague half-memory of hearing the door close before he woke fully, and placed a mental bet that she’d be back with coffee by the time he got out of the shower.
He rolled to his feet and headed for the bathroom, peeling off his stiff and stinking clothes and dropping them in a pile on the floor on his way. The hot water pounding on his shoulders was bliss, and he leaned against the cold tile and just breathed steam for long minutes. Then he got down to business with the soap, his fingers tangling briefly in the cord of the amulet around his neck as he soaped his chest, and he gripped the amulet and closed his eyes.
One hundred and twenty-six days.
I’m sorry for missing yesterday, Dean. I was a little unconscious at the time, though, so I think you’ll forgive me. Sent another demon down to Hell, anyway.
And I’m going to get you out. I swear.
When he got out of the shower, he toweled himself off and stood in front of the sink, hesitating before he started to shave. His face looked the same – well, a couple of new bruises and a bit of a cut over one eye, but the same – but his eyes were quieter, somehow. He put both hands on the sink and leaned forward, searching, but didn’t find any answers; his eyes were just his eyes, and he couldn’t read any messages in them. The amulet’s water-swollen cord was cold around his neck, but the metal itself was warm, and he put his hand over it for a moment, just breathing.
Then he finished up and went out to meet Ruby, who true to form, had brought coffee. Fatigue was already starting to creep up on him again even before he’d finished the cup, though, and they didn’t have another likely target on the radar, so he decreed they’d spend the day at rest, checking sources and rebuilding lost stamina.
It was starting to feel like a routine.
They caught three squares at the little diner down the street, which even had decent pie, and he finally learned that they were in someplace called Nahunta. On their third visit the waitress, who’d gotten progressively more chatty throughout the day, helpfully said the name came from a Tuscarora word for “tall trees.” Not that he’d asked.
The web imitated the waitress: nothing interesting turned up until the end of the day. Ruby, bored with television, saw the moment when his surfing suddenly acquired purpose.
“Yeah – yeah. Three people from Clearwater Beach, Florida just turned up dead in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee: no signs of trauma, no apparent cause of death. But get this: all three were reported missing in Florida four months ago, and none of them knew each other there.”
“So – demonic possession. They found themselves new hosts.”
“Yep.” He closed the laptop, suddenly both exhausted and energized. “We’ll head for Tennessee in the morning. It should only be about an eight hour run.” Then he laughed, overtaken by memories.
“Gotta be one of the cheesiest places on the planet, Pigeon Forge. There are at least six classic car events there every year, two of them in September. Dean hung around once after a job to show off the Impala; Dad would’ve been pissed, if he knew. We came through the Tail of the Dragon on the way in from Asheville, and I think that’s the only time I was ever scared in the car. Three hundred and eighteen curves in eleven miles. He wasn’t even speeding much, but he didn’t have to; the road is scary enough on its own.” For all Dean’s considerable skill, the Impala emphatically did not handle like a sports car, and the way he remembered it, he could swear that some of those hairpin curves had been shorter than the car’s wheelbase.
“Sounds thrilling,” Ruby said dryly, her words cutting across the memories, and he couldn’t help it; he immediately resolved to take that stretch of US 129, even though it wasn’t the fastest way to Pigeon Forge. But he privately promised to stick to the speed limit, even if it meant he wouldn’t make Ruby blanch. Keeping the Impala intact was more important.
One hundred and twenty-seven days, and he got to see Ruby turn pale as they played road tag in the afternoon with motorcycles on the Dragon. He swore he heard Dean laugh. What’s the matter, bitch? No guts? Beyond the far end, up in the Smokies, Pigeon Forge was predictably crammed to the gills with car nuts, but he managed to find a room. The chintzy motel had a hot-rod scheme; Dean would have approved.
He wouldn’t have approved of the next week, though, except for the cars. Days one hundred twenty-eight through one hundred and thirty-two were a bust. There were simply too many people and too many cars. Trying to find just three demons in the crowds that thronged the main strip and all the joints on the side was impossible, even assuming they were still there. His increasing frustration and bottled-up rage fueled nightmares, and every night, they got worse, right along with his short temper. That last night, Ruby kicked his legs out from under him and taunted him into fury until he threw her up against the wall. Things progressed from there the way they usually did, and he finally slept the exhausted sleep of the sated dead, without dreams.
Day one hundred thirty-three, he was getting eyestrain on the computer in mid-morning when Ruby stalked straight into the room and slapped the laptop closed. She radiated anger and fear and something like consternation, emotions just sparking off her, and she crossed her arms protectively over her chest and backed away from him.
“They just left,” she said, her voice clipped and tense. “Smoked out of their latest hosts and booked.”
He scrambled up, already shoving the laptop into its case and then reaching immediately to stuff his loose kit into the duffel.
Only when she didn’t answer did he stop moving and look at her again. He couldn’t read what was in her eyes.
“Where did they go, Ruby?”
She looked at him and he wondered what she was seeing in his face, because most of what she looked was afraid. And considering. She cleared her throat before she finally spoke.
A grave dug in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. Dirt on his hands and nothing in his heart. Whiskey and tears and a throat hoarse from screaming.
He didn’t know how long he stood frozen, his open eyes blind to everything but the past, but it couldn’t have been long before reflex forced him to blink and the watery vision of Ruby and the room swam back into focus. His voice was gravel, ground out against a crushing weight.
“I don’t know, Sam. I swear: I don’t know. But I think we should find out, don’t you?”
He couldn’t tell if she was lying or telling the truth.
It didn’t really matter.
There’s nothing else in Pontiac worth having.
I’ll kill them. If they go near him, I’ll kill them.
They’re demons. I’ll kill them anyway. Rip them out and burn them back to Hell, every single one.
He didn’t answer. Briefly still, he inventoried the room with his eyes, then erupted into motion, packing with vicious speed and precision. After a moment’s hesitation, Ruby started hastily collecting her own things, always watching him and staying cautiously out of his way. She prudently kept her mouth shut even after they were in the car and Pigeon Forge was a memory, but he felt her eyes always on him, watching. Waiting.
The part of him that calculated considered how much time he could shave off another nine hour drive, and he pushed the accelerator closer to the floor. It would be night.
It wouldn’t matter.
One hundred thirty-three days.
I’m still fighting, Dean. I’m going to get you out.
Whatever it takes.
Author Note: For the purpose of the timeline in this story, since the episode itself didn't give us a date, I assumed that Dean died on May 15, 2008, the night that No Rest For the Wicked aired. Day 133 was thus September 18, 2008, the morning Dean was raised from perdition in Lazarus Rising.
Also, in keeping with the rubric of the series that everything be as real as possible, everything about this story except the characters and the cup and the ring are absolutely real. You can Google any of it. I took some liberties with the Denis Sullivan in having her leave Milwaukee earlier than she would have (earlier than she did, back in 2008), and I frankly don't know anything about the security systems at the museum, but everything else is straight up, from the description of the ship to the museum to the wreck of the Mette Margrethe to the car shows in Pigeon Forge, TN and the Tail of the Dragon. I've ridden the Tail of the Dragon, by the way, and you can check out my motorcycle diaries for that tale.
I hope you enjoy the reality in the midst of the fiction!