Summary: While Scully's out with a cold, Mulder follows up on a haunted castle case.
Stirling Castle, Scotland
Charles Holkovic's old, green eyes skimmed the surface of the ancient novel clutched tightly in his arthritis-riddled knuckles. He squinted through the little light the small candle in the corner let off and blew the thick dust off the leather coverings of the book that had obviously not been touched in decades. A musty smell that smelled of wet grass in the Spring invaded his nose. He sneezed and held the book further away from himself. The title had long been worn away by the invinsible fingertips of time badly spent on a bookshelf, collecting more dust than a long dead corpse. The leather binding was decrepit and falling to shreads in the old man's hands. He sighed and returned the book to the shelf.
The aged library of the famous Scotish Stirling Castle surrounded him like the stiff walls of a coffin six feet under. Charles had inherited the wondrously decorated piece of memorobilia as a young man. He had moved his beautiful wife to the castle with him, hoping that the romantic settings might just spice up his love life. Besides that, the house had been decorated by the rich, the famous, and the beautiful. Who would turn down such an offer? After discovering that his wife, Mae, was unable to have any offspring, they had both been downhearted about the entire situation. Eventually, though, they had just given up completely on bearing themselves a child.
They were getting too old to even think of such a thing now, anyway. Holkovic ran his shaking fingers back through his thick, white mane of hair and down through his long, beard. Holkovic was a tall and thin man that resembled the futuristic version of Rip Van Winkle after awakening from his slumber. His wife always laughed at him for it, too. She was such a jolly woman! After all the emotional strifes they had shared together, she still could keep such a radiant smile on her circular face. She lit up a room at times.
He sighed to no one but himself and glanced around him. The library was too old to read the books from. Who knew how long these books had been gaining dust on the shelves? The castle had been inhabited by such a long line of people that they could very well be from the French Revolution! He smiled and walked through the door of the effete bookcases. There was nothing more he could do. He would just have to go back to his good, old newspaper for the time being.
Holkovic's study would make any philosopher's head spin. He was a true man of the world, knowing information about everyplace, everyone, and everything. He had not truly worked a day in his life. He had simply spent his time learning more and more like a sponge after being thrown in the ocean. He had, at one point, taught philosophy, but that quickly lost his interest. Besides, he did not need the money. His only reason to work would be to enjoy himself and keep himself busy. Other than that, he had no reason to do anything at all. He was set for the rest of his life, and he didn't need to worry about leaving any children behind. He had no remaining family, either. He was a man without cause. He was more than capable of simply floating through the world, nameless, faceless, souless. He was a mere entity amongst the human race.
He sat down in his favorite, leather seat and laid his arms gently on the sides. The seat sunk slightly beneathe his weight. It was so used to his figure inhabiting it that no other form would fit comfortably into it. The smoldering wood in the fireplace cracked loudly, sending a shiver through Holkovic's back. He smiled at his own jumpiness. The warmth of the fire sauntered to his face, massaging it with its unseen fingers as ghosts would reach out from the grave. He sucked in the warm air, heating his interiors immediatly. The soft smell of the scented wood danced in the air, being the smoke's nameless dance partner. He closed his eyes and listened to the sizzling and writhing of the tortured wood beneath his feet.
She stepped out from the shadows, almost appearing to materialize from a pure nothingness. She was a beautiful woman, and this, any man would see. She was a tall and graceful being of perfection as if crafted from God's flesh after the crucifiction. The fact that she was sickly slim did not matter. Her bones stuck roughly through her skin, but the rest of her made this sickening imperfection almost disappear. Her shapely hips were hidden perfectly beneath a airy, white gown that moved with a breeze that was unfelt by any human beings present. Her long, blonde, curls cascaded down her shoulders and back like a silken blanket upon a naked Godess as she lay in the sun. The curls perfectly framed her thin, pale face. With vibrant, pink lips and deep, purple irises, she was irresistable. The only hand that deserved to touch the soft skin was the hand of God. This woman was perfect, except for one small abnormality: she was dead.
Holkovic recrossed his legs and reached toward his sidetable where he had left his newspaper earlier that evening and found nothing. He frowned and furrowed his brow. It had been there before! He had left it there, hadn't he? Perhaps, his old mind was slowly fading out on him. He stood up and glanced around the room. Had he taken it with him to the library? He turned toward the door but suddenly stopped. The room's temperature had changed. There had to be a window open because a chill ran down his spine as he was met with the cool air of death. He fell back into his chair and grimaced in agony.
"Oh, God!" he screamed and grabbed onto his stomach. He felt as if a battle was being fought on his insides. He thought to call to his wife, but that was hopeless. She would never hear him in the study. He was practically on the opposite side of the house from her. He shook uncontrollably and shoved himself back against the chair trying to stop the pain. "God help me!" His body convulsed violently as he began coughing uncontrollably. He felt himself slipping away slowly, painfully, full of terror. A tear rolled down his cheek while blood ran down his chin in a terrible gush of crimson. He coughed and coughed, unable to stop until he felt as if he had coughed up all of his blood. He felt his hands beginning to dampen. His entire shirtfront was covered with red! He yelled out but no sound came. There was nothing. There was nothing but blackness. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Nothing....but death.
FBI Building, Washington, D.C.
Fox Mulder sighed loudly into the phone at his partner. "How long do you think you'll be out?"
She sniffed and coughed dramatically, striving to make Mulder believe that she really was just as sick as she sad she was. "I don't know, Mulder. I'm really sorry about this."
He tapped his pen nervously across the desk and rolled his eyes. "Sure."
"Mulder, I'm serious." She sneezed loudly, exageratting the noise into the phone. She could tell that he still did not believe her. "Do you think I'm happy about having pnemonia? Do you think I'm glad I get to sit in a hospital bed all day? You know how much I hate being laid up."
"Oh, sure, I just hate it when I have to sit around eating bon-bons."
She was highly annoyed, but she tried to hold onto her composure. "Stop being so stubborn. You can even visit the hospital. I'm sick, Mulder! It's not easy to fake pnemonia, you know. I didn't even want to be here. The doctor made me come. You know how much I hate hospitals."
He sighed. It was time to take the nice guy approach so that he could get off the phone without getting an earfull of someone who frighteningly was beginning to remind him of his mother. "Have a good time, Scully. I'm up to my nose in cases." He glanced around the desk. He had absolutely nothing to do. "This is going to be one hell of a day."
"If you want to send me some of the paperwork, I don't mind."
He jumped to attention. "No, I'll handle it." He hoped that he didn't sound too desperate to make himself sound busy. "Thanks, anyway, though."
She shook her head. She knew Mulder too well to not see through his nice guy act, but she went along with it anway. She could hear in his voice that he was unhappy with her. "Sure, Mulder. I'd better go. I see them wheeling in my bon-bons right now."
He smiled. "Don't gain any weight. I'll know you've had chocolate if you do."
"I hope you feel better. I'll send you flowers."
"Thanks, Mulder." She hung up the phone before he could say anything else. She frowned and glanced around the crowded hallway of the hospital she had been admitted to. She was going to have one boring week.
Mulder stared at the phone and glanced toward Scully's desk. He knew that he had nothing to do today. He had hoped that she would be there so that they could go out to lunch and just have a Mulder and Scully day. He needed the time to relax anyway. He put his feet on his desk and glanced around, thinking of what he would do with the rest of the afternoon. Nothing came to mind as he looked through the papers that had amounted to absolutely nada. He sighed and leaned back in his chair. Maybe he would go visit his mother.
The ringing of the phone on the desk made him jump suddenly. He was not sure why a mere phone call would make him so nervous, but there must be some reason. He felt the electricity of a bad energy radiating through his system as he picked up the receiver and shoved it to his ear. "Mulder."
"Agent Mulder, this is Assistant Director Skinner. I know you must be incredibly busy with other cases, but I'm afraid I've got something for you." There was a slight pause. "If you're too busy, I could always give it to someone else, but as soon as I heard about it, I thought about you."
Mulder sat up straight. "I'd love to take it." He swallowed hard. A big lie was coming, and he had to make it sound great. "All this paperwork is making my fingers brittle. I'd be glad to get out of this office for a change. I'm up to my ears in this junk."
"I thought you'd say that." Skinner smiled. He could smell Mulder's lie a mile a way.
"So, where am I off to?"
"Well, you're going to meet with another agent-"
"Excuse me, sir, did you say another agent?"
"Yes. You'll be working with Ruth Sage. You'll meet her at the Cafe across the street at noon. Then, you're both off to Scotland for a little ghost hunting."
Mulder swallowed hard. He had heard of Ruth Sage a time or two. She was a Duke-educated Parapsychologist that had made quite a name for herself over the years. She was fearless in every respect of the word. She had written two books about her paranormal experiances. Mulder had read both of them, as did every single person interested in ghosts in the entire United States. She was a real life ghost catcher that never lost a spirit. She had revealed more hoaxes than Houdini, and she was not ever going to be one-uped by any person. She always seemed to pass by her own amazing stories with each new investigation. Besides all that, she was known as "Ms. Spooky." Mulder had always wanted to meet her. Her methods and beliefs were even more unorthodox than his own, and this interested him more than any poltergeist ever would. "That sounds perfest, sir. I'll take the case."
"Good luck, Agent Mulder." The phone went dead.
Mulder sat back in his chair and smiled. Maybe this week wouldn't be as boring without Scully as he thought it would be after all.
"Right here, driver." Mulder pointed toward the immense crowds of people congregated around the area. He pulled out five dollars and tossed it into the front seat before climbing out and glancing around the scene.
Mulder glanced at his watch. It was already one o'clock. He had waited and waited for Sage's arrival at the cafe, but he had given up after an hour. Guessing that she was not a person to be late very often, he had called her office only to find that she had caught the elusive Henry Roche: a serial killer that had already killed seven people. He was known to be an evil soul that no one had ever even gotten close to catching and lived to see another sunrise.
The area was a madhouse. People were trying to see over the police officers shoulders, trying to get a glimpse of this madman first hand. Many of them were reporters, some were families of the victims, and other were just there to see the zoo arrive. Mulder shoved through without any gentleness. He was annoyed with Sage. Why hadn't she even called to tell him that she was not going to be able to make it?
He sighed and showed his badge to the police officer before ripping through the crowd and walking into the true storm system. A fat police officer rushed past him holding his greasy donut close to his chest as if protecting a valuable secret from those near to him. A tall and slim officer with a pointy mustach itched his chin as he spoke with another officer that was obviously drunk. He was about to make a scene when his pointed mustach friend began to talk about something else. A short, female officer scrawled writing all over a small pad of paper. If anyone had looked further into her "notes" they would have seen that she was simply doodling, because she was so riddled with bordom that she had to do something or else she would go insane. <High school students feel the same way.> Everyone was in uniform pretending to be busy. Some actually were, though.
A few truly had somewhere to go, something to do. They were the only ones who were actually awake and aware of what was happening around them. These were the people whose lives were full of excitment because they made the excitment happen wherever they were, whenever they were anywhere. Excitment seemed to follow these lucky, energetic people. One of these people were Ruth Sage, but Mulder had never seen her before in his life. He had no idea what she looked like!
Mulder turned toward his name, surprised that someone actually recognized him. Who would know him at a murder scene?
"Oh, man, I thought that was you." A rather short and jolly looking fellow sucking down a steaming cup of coffee hurried toward him. He had short, red hair and a nose that was a little too small for his round face.
"Yep, yep. Wow, you sure do look like an FBI agent! Not just good old Spooky anymore, huh?" He elbowed Mulder in the side, sending him stepping back from the sudden attack.
"I guess not." Mulder's mind went back to his time at the Academy. He had met Stewart there, not expecting to become a friend. They were two people from two different sides of the world, two men living in parallel universes. Surprisingly, Stewart had taken to Mulder's "spookiness," and they had become fast friends. They were split up after graduating from the Academy, but now, it seemed not a day had passed. "You're working this case?"
"Well, kind of." He paused and glanced around the area. He was planning on exageratting his amazing story, so he had to make sure no one was close enough to hear him telling a stretch of the truth. "You see, they thought I could really help them on this case. So, I came on and caught the guy. It's been a hell of a day."
His voice shook slightly revealing to Mulder that this man was telling a small adaptation of the truth. He just nodded and smiled, pretending to believe his story. He needed to find Sage before their flight was all the way to Scotland without them. "Hey, Stew, you wouldn't happen to know Ruth Sage, would you?"
"Sage? Oh, hell, everyone knows her."
"Really? We're going to be working on a case together, and I have no idea what she looks like. Our flight leaves in," he said and glanced at his watch, "two hours. I kind of have to find her, fast."
"Let me see." He glanced around the crowd and smiled at Mulder. "Just look for the crowd. You'll find Sage." He squinted slightly and pointed toward a crowd of doctors. "There she is. Little black-headed, Ms. Spooky. She's a cute one, isn't she?"
Mulder looked toward where he was pointing and could hardly believe his eyes! He saw a woman, but she could not possibly be an FBI agent. She looked to be about twenty, if even that old. She had shoulder-length, black hair that did not appear to have been styled for months. She was definatly a low maintenance woman, not that Mulder minded. He did not wish to work with someone who had to carry pounds and pounds of make up and hair products onto the plane. Her eyes were almost glowing with their deep grey-blue vibrance. Her irises almost appeared to be daisy petals in a strange design that gave her an almost odd look if he looked her straight in the eye. She appeared to have run into a pole! Her nose was perfectly flat in the center. Mulder smiled. She probably hated that, he was sure. Her face was small and round, making her look younger than she really was. She was probably only five foot, six. She was short, but she made Scully look like a dwarf. She was very thin with a touch of baby fat around her cheeks. Mulder had to smile. She was not gorgeous, but she was cute.
He turned to Stewart. "That's Ruth Sage?"
"Yeah. I know, she don't look like much. But she's one of our best. This case really bothered the hell out of her. She was almost obssessed to catch this psycho. You familiar with the case, Mulder?"
He nodded, watching her. She seemed to be in control of everyone around her, barking orders, her eyes staring deep into them, making them do what she said. He noticed why the doctors were around her, now. Her fingers were tightly wrapped in clean, white bandages, resembling those of a mummy in a tomb. "What happened to her fingers?"
"As I was saying, this case really got to her. She wasn't even supposed to be working on this case. She was supposed to be off with you, but when the news that someone had spotted Roche in this area. Of course, Sage was the first one here. She chased him to this garage." He waved his hand at the background. There were rows and rows of storage garages all along the avenue.
"Anyway, he was ahead of her a bit. She's a little thing, after all. She's no Olympic runner. So, he runs inside one of these open garages and shuts it. Well, you know how these automatic jobbies work, don't ya? If anything is under them when they close, they pop back up. Sage was running after him, and about this much was left before she lost him again." Stewart showed with his fingers about an inch of space and glanced back toward Sage. "So, the girl sticks her fingers under the door. It pops back up. Of course, her fingers are totally crushed. I mean every bone was just smashed." He put extra emphasis on the word "smashed" causing Mulder to wince slightly at the thought. "She caught the bastard. Even with her fingers lookin' like jell-o, the girl pointed her gun at the son of a bitch until the cops got here. She's one amazing gal." He shook his head in appreciation.
"Wow. I thought stuff like that only happened in movies." He scratched the back of his head and remembered why he was there. He had to get Sage and get them both to the plane before it left. "It was nice talking to you, Stew. I hope to see you again."
"Good luck with her. She can be a bitch." He pointed toward Sage with his thumb and turned to talk with the drunk officer on the back of the car. His mustached friend had given up on him by then.
Mulder hurried through the crowds, fighting to get to Sage. She really was the center of the crowd, just as Stewart had said. She grabbed a small, cell phone from one of the officers below her. "I'm fine! It doesn't matter, anyway. We caught the bastard." A flustered woman handed Sage a piece of paper, which she read quickly while keeping up the conversation with whoever was on the phone. "No. There's no way he's getting out." She turned away from the phone. "Stewart!"
Steward jumped suddenly. "Yes, Ms. Sage?"
"Get off your ass and get Conway on the phone!"
"Yes, ma'am." He almost dropped his coffee and rushed to her aid.
She rapidly returned to the phone call. "Yes, sir. Everything is under control." She glanced at her watch and gasped. "Shit," she muttered under her breath so that whoever on the phone could not hear her. "Um, sir, I've got to get things under control. I'll call you with a report later." She turned to one of the people running around her. "I need you to call Agent Fox Mulder."
"Agent Sage! I'm already here." Mulder stepped forward, careful not to get run over by one of the unfortunate people under Sage's commands.
"Oh, God, I'm so sorry. I forgot completely." Steward handed her a phone and smiled and Mulder as if saying he was only doing this to be helpful. He really was not below Sage. Mulder knew he was, though. It was obvious in the way she spoke to him. "Excuse me for a minute." She held up a black-painted fingernail and held the phone to her ear. "Conway?" Pause. "Yes, I am aware that my fingers are broken." Pause. "Look, I don't care. Did you get that freaking police car here yet to take Roche to the court house?" Her brow furrowed. "Well, get it here." She glanced at her watch just as she had only moments earlier. "I won't be here when he leaves. I'm putting Wainwright and Jaxon in charge of watching him, and don't let him get out. You know I'll hunt you down and kill you like an animal, don't you?" Pause. "All right."
She hung up the phone and turned to Mulder. "I am so sorry about all of this. I didn't plan any of it. I feel so bad about it."
He shook his head. "That's all right."
"Agent Sage!" A nervous woman rushed to her side and handed her a paper. "You have to sign this, now."
Sage skimmed over the paper and signed it with her one good hand and threw the woman the paper. She turned to another nervous man. "Emerson, you're in charge until Conway gets here with the car. I'm trusting you."
"I know, Agent Sage." His voice shook slightly. "I'll take care of everything."
"Great." She turned back to Mulder and brushed her hair off of her forehead. It was obvious she was feeling a lot of stress, but Mulder could see she handled it better than most. "Let's get out of here."
The plane was a little too crowded for Mulder's liking. A rather fat looking female had decided to sit directly in front of him. Her seat was so far back that it smashed into his knees, and they were in first class! It was just his luck that a woman of such gargantuin size would choose to sit in front of him. He glanced up at her flaming, red hair and frowned. It was going to be a long flight, and he could tell already. The only positive thing he could think of was that there were no young, screaming, children.
He glanced toward Sage. She appeared to be deep in thought as she read over the only paperwork they had received about the case so far. It was a thin folder that held simple information that truly did not need to be said. She pushed her small, round reading glasses up further on her flat nose and smiled suddenly through the clouds. "Have you read this yet?"
He nodded. "I skimmed over it at the restaurant earlier."
"This is so amazing. I haven't heard of anything like this since Amityville." She went back to her reading.
Mulder smiled and shook his head. She was so excited about this case. He had noticed that on the car trip to the airport. She was just bursting to get to the house, and he really couldn't blame her. Stirling Castle was a notably haunted living space, and they both knew it. The only thing they could think of was that a poltergeist was involved.
She flipped the folder closed and took off her glasses.
"Well, what do you think?" He was interested in what she had to say.
"This has happened before." She turned toward him and met him straight in the eye.
He was surprised at this. He was not aware anything like this had ever happened, anywhere. "What?"
She nodded. "1974 at our good, old Stirling Castle." She folded her hands across her knees. "She was one of the cleaning crew that stumbled into the older corners of the house. They found her the next morning with her pocket knife inside of her." She glanced out of the window at the ground far below. "That's got to leave a lasting impression on a person."
"I wasn't aware of this." Now, he understood what Scully felt like whenever he found information behind her back and told her, making himself sound smart and knowledgable. Hearing this from someone else really put him in his place.
"Most people aren't. Actually, it wasn't even thought to be a homicide. They ruled it suicide after three days of investigation. One thing I'd like to know, how in the hell can a twenty year old woman shove a knife down her throat without cutting herself?"
"Well, this death is the same way, isn't it?"
She nodded, glad to see that he understood what she was saying. She had heard so many mixed things about Fox Mulder, and at the moment she was simply attempting to figure out which things were lies and which things were true. So far, she was happy with her part-time partner. "Exactly what I was getting at."
"So, what? You think ghosts are killing people?"
"Well, to be perfectly honest, I've never truly believed the stories radiating around Stirling Castle. I would love to prove it as being a hoax, actually. I'm just thinking that maybe a murderer is trying to bring more attention to the Castle by commiting horrid murders, and the son of a bitch is getting away with it because everyone thinks the place is haunted."
"How would you explain the swallowing of the implements? I mean, in the recent death, an antique sword was pulled out of the guy's stomach. People don't normally swallow swords without even scraping their throats."
"That's what has got me puzzled. I really have no idea how that happened. That is the only reason this haunting has any credibility. Are you familiar with Stirling Castle, Mulder?"
"I know enough to know that no parapsychologists have ever tested the place."
"That's all you need to know, too. It's better if you don't know what things have been seen here. That makes you a better source."
"Oh, oh, do I get to be in your next book?" he pretended to be excited.
"So, you've read my books, have you?"
He nodded. "They were very well written. The second one really made me a believer in life after death."
"So, I'm guessing you've never seen a ghost, Mulder?"
He shook his head. "Not yet."
"Well, if this place is for real, I'm sure you'll be seeing plenty of them." She reached into her bookbag and pulled out a thick book of poems by Allen Ginsberg and put her glasses back on her small face. She curled up into a little ball in her seat and indulged herself in the beautiful and sometimes disturbing words of someone who had truly changed the world.
Mulder looked out the window next to her as she read. The landscape was truly gorgeous. Perhaps, he should get some sleep. He was guessing that he wouldn't be sleeping very well at the Castle. He closed his eyes and was quickly asleep, snoring softly.
The area flew by them with such a free victory that it resembled an Olympic runner subsequent to winning a gold metal. It was happy to show off its beauty to all that dared to look into the lands dead eyes. It smiled and waved goodbye as they disappeared onto the next plot of land, the land that was cursed.
An immense pool of dark, green waters shifted motionlessly at the base of the precipitous ravine that the small, taxi sped next to. The beaches were covered with thick, damp, seaweed pulled from the underwater garden by winds that only the fish were familiar with. The only human beings that knew this underwater wind were dead, and well they should be. Being sucked into the depths of the mighty lochs would easily kill the frail body of a human, tearing at the soft flesh and bones that had never been made to fight with such pressures.
Mulder looked out his window at the high sky above them as they drove toward their final resting place...for the night. The sky had been overtaken by indistinct cloud cover that had seemed to appear from the very depths of a deep, dark hell, burning the blue as it went. He swallowed hard, the smell of the rain reaching his nose in a wave of humid air. He pulled in the soft scent and smiled. It had not rained in Washington for months, and he had missed the gentle aroma of the coming storm.
Sage stared out at the deep waters and thought of what dark beings could be found in its depths. Sage's one and only fear was dark waters. She hated not being able to see what may be lingering only inches from her toes, waiting to pounce and pull her beneath the surface to a watery grave. Drowning was a horrid thought to her. Her lungs choked off from oxygen as a fishes gills would be cut off from the water. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Perhaps, she had an overactive imagination. It had been said before, and she would never for get it.
Mulder touched her arm, making her jump slightly. She had practically forgotten that he was there at all. "They said you would be bringing a lot of your," he hunted for the correct word, but thought of nothing, "ghost hunting stuff."
She nodded. She was glad he hadn't noticed her jump. "Yeah. I'm really interested in revealing this place as a hoax. I'm going to need something to back my ideas up."
"How does all that stuff work, anyway? I'm not all that knowledgable with parapsychology or ghosts." He smiled. "I'll probably seem like an idiot."
She shook her head, not even cracking a smile as he had hoped she would. "I understand. Most people don't even know the profession exists, and those that do usually don't believe a word of it." She stared out the window and watched the scenery. She hoped he wouldn't talk to her again. She really didn't feel like talking at a time like this. She was trying to formulate her thoughts into more than just a cloud of emotions and beliefs.
The car pulled to an abrupt stop as the driver groaned. "Oh, God help you. I go no further, ma'am." He looked back over the seat at her and frowned. His accent was thick, making it obvious that he was a native.
"What?" She looked out the window at the castle at least a mile up the road. "Do you see how far we are from the castle. You can't possibly expect us to walk when you have a car right here!"
"No further, ma'am." He shook his head. "Now, get out of my car." He gave her a look that proved his utter seriousness with the entire situation. He was going no closer to the house even if she held a gun to his head.
She stared into his eyes, searching for an answer. She found such deep fear in his dark eyes that a shiver rolled down her spine like the waves rolling onto the cold shores. She glanced at Mulder. "Let's go." She shrugged, hoping that Mulder had not noticed how fearful the driver appeared. "I could use the excersise."
He nodded. He had noticed the look on the driver's face, and it gave him no comfort in a situation that he already felt gravely nervous about.
She opened the car door without thanking the driver for the ride and slammed the door tightly. If it was one thing she could not stand, it was cowardice. She had seen a fear in his eyes, but it you're not willing to face your fears, Sage felt no compassion. She always stood before her fears, summoning them to scoop her up and challenge her.
Mulder gave the driver a polite nod as he exited the vehicle even though he felt no thanks. All he knew was that he was in no mood to walk a mile lugging his luggage with him.
As soon as they had their luggage and stepped away from the vehicle, the driver pulled away with a screech of tires and a wave of dust that covered them both. Sage coughed as the dirty air entered her lungs. "Nice guy."
"Yeah, about as nice as an evil ghost."
She smiled. "You have no idea." She actually enjoyed Mulder's comic approach to everything. She was so used to working with stiff men that would never smile, never laugh, and certainly never joke. It was a pleasant awakening for her to find a man with a sense of humor. "You in the mood for a walk, Mulder?"
He nodded sarcastically and lifted his single suitcase that he had decided to bring with him. He glanced at Sage's hands. She certainly was a light packer. She had something that appeared to be a tightly packed overnight bag with her clothing in it. The bag in her other hand was considerably more immense. It had to be her equipment to hunt their ghostly counterparts.
"Do you need me to carry that?"
She gave him a look that revealed a thought of utter contempt. "I can handle it just fine. Thanks." She began to pick up her walking pace after he had said this. She hated when men tried to help her. It was something she never let them do. This simple fact was what had kept her on top of most of the men at her office on the economic scales. They were almost afraid to help her unless she asked specifically for their help.
Mulder shook his head and frowned. She certainly was headstrong. He had simply been trying to be a gentleman, and she had shoved him off as an asshole. Scully would have let him help her. He shook off this thought. Sage was nothing like Scully. He had to stop comparing the two women. He knew that by the end of the week, he would be glad to see Scully.
They both remained silent until they reached the house. There was enough uncomfortableness between them to cover the entire country. The house was immense. Sage let out a tiny gasp at its tremendous size. When she took a breath, she felt a thick foreboding flowing through her lungs. The windows were completely dark except for a few scattered lamps allowing a trickle of light to wallow through the air. Dense ivy covered the entire side of the house, hiding the ancient stones that formulated the structure. The rest of the castle was a deep, dark, grey that was sturdy enough to hold out an army. It was perfectly obvious that this gorgeous place was ancient, probably used by the town to gaurd off enemies on the coastal front in the times of war that the country had had to suffer through all those decades ago. From where they stood, they could only see a few disseminated towers poking through the sky so tall that they appeared to be from heaven's gates.
Sage walked carefully up the steep staircase that led to the doors and glanced around her. The door was immense and made of robust wood that must have stood there for centuries, awakening visitors to the amazing prescense that was obvious. A tiny window glowed next to the door, inviting them into the castle. She grasped the hefty knocker in her hands and threw it upon the door with force. The sound echoed through the front hallway and up the stairs like a thunderclap covering the Earth.
"Nice and homey, huh?"
Mulder nodded and glanced around the area. The grass was completely dead all around the house, which surprised him. They were right next to a loch, weren't they? What reason would the grass have for being dead on such rich soil?
The slight sound of tiny footsteps lingered in the darkness, signifying that someone was coming to answer the door for them. "Who is it?" A small, Scottish voice came toward them in the darkness like a murderer coming after a victim.
"It's Agent Sage and Agent Mulder. We're here from the FBI to investigate the house." She paused, awaiting an answer. When she heard none, she pushed onward. "Is that you Mrs. Holkovic?"
The door opened slowly. "Yes." A woman dressed entirly in black stepped back. Her eyes were red, and she was clinging tightly to a tiny hankercheif. "Come in, please."
Sage smiled kindly as they stepped inside, trying to make the woman feel good about them being there. "How are you doing, Mrs. Holkovic?"
"Oh, call me Mae, dear. Everyone else around town does." She nodded and sniffed.
Mulder stepped in behind Sage and place his luggage on the floor quietly. He did not want to disturb her. He could see how emotional she was. After all, she had just found her husband dead days before. "I'm Agent Mulder, Mrs. Holkovic." He extended his hand to her.
She smiled weakly and shook his hand. "Hello." She turned back to Sage. "That must make you Agent Sage."
Sage nodded and glanced around the house. She was sick of pretending to feel sorry for this woman she barely knew. She was just excited to be there at the place where so many creepy things had supposedly happened.
"What kind of a hostess am I?" She grinned gently. "Would you like a little tour?"
"I'd love one." Sage stepped forward. She was in the mood to be scared, and she had a feeling that tonight would be one hell of a night....
The woman wiped her nose and nodded. "Follow me."
Mulder followed close behind Sage who followed close behind Mrs. Holkovic. His thoughts were interupted by a worry for Mae. What if they had been lying to her when they said they were agents from the FBI? She would have no idea. They could easily kill her and steal everything out of her house full of riches. A trusting, old woman like her should not be left to live alone.
His mind was so far off that he almost didn't notice the quick movement to his left. He froze and spun toward the painting on the wall. He could have sworn that the eyes had moved. The painting was a gorgeous portrayal of a woman that appeared to be no older than twenty with long, blonde hair and frail, thin bones. It was true, her eyes did appear to follow you wherever you went. But, Mulder had been so sure that her eyes had actually moved.
When Sage noticed that he was no longer behind her, she stopped and walked back to his side. "Mulder?" Mae had stopped and commenced to wipe tears off of her cheeks. "What is it?"
His brow furrowed as he smiled. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
She crossed her arms in front of her and stared at the painting. "Try me."
He threw her a look that showed something had just thoroughly surprised him. "Her eyes, they moved."
"They moved?" She almost appeared to have true interest in what he was saying, but it didn't last. "I'm thinking you've got yourself psyched out, Mulder."
"That's what I was thinking, too. Thanks for agreeing." He turned toward Mae. "Who is this a painting of?"
She walked toward them and stopped inches away from the painting, squinting to see who it was. "Oh, that's Adeline."
"Adeline?" Mulder heard in Sage's tone that she was interested in who this woman was.
"Yes." She took a deep breath, as if readying herself to tell a good story. "The main heir of the Stirling fortune, Joseph Stirling, had married an older woman as a young man. It had been an arranged marriage because people did those sorts of things way back when this house belonged to Joseph. He lived happily with his wife until he saw Adeline in the town square while he was out buying food. She was such a beautiful woman, and all the men loved her even though it was rumored that she was totally insane. People said she was everything from a witch to a ghoul reaking havoc on the towns people. Of course, Joseph didn't believe a word of what they said.
"He began seeing Adeline more and more often until their relationship became an affair. There were rumors that Adeline was pregnant with his child, but no child was ever given birth to. Some say that she sacrificed it to Satan." She smiled and shook her head. "People will do anything for a good story these days. Anyway, Adeline formulated a plan. Joseph and she would run away and get married. It was fullproof from her perspective. Of course, Joseph didn't want to leave his presious castle. He thought and thought of how they could get rid of his wife, but there was no way. So, he stayed with her.
"One night, he and his wife disappeared mysteriously and Adeline began living in the castle. Of course, everyone thought that she had killed them both, but there was no evidence to support this. She became to practice witchcraft more often, then. People began to notice. She would have secret blood sacrifices in the woods and channel evil spirits into her soul. Everyone was frightened of her because she was such a powerful woman.
"She went too far eventually, though. She was found draining a cat of all his blood with her own teeth. She was hung for witchcraft a day later. A new family moved into the castle. The house was truly cursed from then on, people say. There are rumors that Adeline's tortured spirit still walks the halls, full of anger, full of evil." She smiled. "I think that's a bunch of hogwash, but you know people."
"What happened to Joseph and his wife?" Mulder pressed on.
"Oh, well, I'm not finished yet." She swallowed hard. "A year later, the smell in the cellar was getting so strong that no one could go down there without becoming sick. They uncovered those poor people in the walls of the cellar. Their heads had been cut off, and there was no blood in their bodies. They found at least ten people down there that had come up missing at some time or another. They were all in the same condition as the couple. Now, in one of Joseph's diaries, he reveals that he had bought Adeline and himself wedding rings already, but no one ever found them."
Sage looked up at Mulder. "Maybe that's what this," she cleared her throat, "ghost is after."
He looked down into her face. The expression on her face made him feel like laughing. He had to force himself to bite his lip to stop from bursting out laughing. He simply nodded and turned away from her before he lost control.
Suddenly, a door slammed directly behind them, causing the small group to jump in surprise.
Sage let out a harsh breath of air. "Jesus."
Mulder stepped toward the door and opened it slowly. "My thoughts exactly," he muttered to her over his shoulder. "Has that ever happened before?" He turned toward Mae.
She nodded and wiped her running nose. "All the time. You know these old places are awfully drafty. You just need to get used to it."
Sage nodded and touched Mulder's shoulder. "I hope you're not expecting to sleep very much in a haunted house."
He laughed sarcastically. "Thanks for the tip. Would you mind showing us the murder scene?"
Mae sobbed loudly at the word and fell into his arms, shaking violently. She cried loudly into his shoulder. Sage smiled at Mulder from behind Mae's back. "Good job," she mouthed and shook her head. She was making him feel like an idiot on purpose, and he hated her for it. She seemed to be happy making other people feel bad, and especially, Mulder.
After Mae's bought with sadness had ended, she had pointed the pair toward the room. She would not dare to go toward it herself. She gave them confusing directions and sent them on their way.
Once she was out of their hearing range, Sage turned to Mulder. "Nice choice of words, Spooky."
"Don't call me Spooky."
"All right. Nice choice of words, Mulder." She brushed a lock of her deep, black hair out of her eyes and quickened her pace up the hallway.
"Well, what was I supposed to say? I wanted to see the murder scene. Don't treat me like an idiot, Sage. I'm just as good of an agent as you are."
"I never said you weren't."
"You were implying it."
"I said nothing." They came upon a closed door with police tape holding it shut. The hallway appeared well traveled by many criminal investigators and police officers that had most likely cleaned the crime scene with soap and sponges. "This must be the place." She tried the doorknob, but the door was closed too tightly. It was probably locked, which told them they would have to break into the room. "Great. It's locked."
Mulder stepped toward the door and tried the knob, too. "I think I skimmed over this part of the FBI handbook."
"I don't think I knew the handbook existed." She snapped her fingers, pretending to be disappointed. "That's probably where my criminal side comes in." She pulled out her wallet from the back of her jeans and took out a small bobby pin.
"You've got to be kidding me. You don't expect that to really work."
"You're right. I don't expect it to work. I know it will work." She put her wallet back into her back pocket and leaned toward the door.
He smiled and shook his head as she successfully picked the lock as if she had much experiance in this field. "Dare I ask how you know how to do that?"
"It's easy. You just stick the end of the bobby pin into the whole until it bumps into the lock throw and push." She shrugged her shoulders. "They always make it seem so hard in movies." She opened the door slowly and tried the switch. The lamp in the corner came on, throwing a beam of light into the darkness of the room. The crime scene had been carefully cleaned. It almost appeared normal except for the small chalk outline above the fireplace and in the chair. The room smelled like a fire long extinguished, making Sage think of her aunt's house back in Virginia. She frowned and stepped into the room so that Mulder could get a look.
He pointed toward the fireplace where the outline of a long, implement laid against the wall. "The sword?"
"Back to the main question here, how did the old man get something that big down his throat without cutting himself up?"
"Back to the main guess here, is the house haunted or not?" She raised an eyebrow in his direction. "Could it have been a setup?"
"I spoke with some of the local law enforcement agents in the area over the phone, and they sure as hell sounded sincere about finding the knife in his stomach. The pointed end was in the base of his stomach, leading us to the conclusion that he swallowed it."
"But there's no evidence of his swallowing it." She finished his thoughts and nodded. "I knew all of that already. I read the report." She poked around near the chair and took a deep breath. "Look, Mulder."
He walked toward her and looked at what had caught her attention. A small pool of blood had formulated on the nearby table.
"What's that from?"
He shook his head. "I have no clue. They would have cleaned that up if it had been here when they investigated the scene, wouldn't they?"
She nodded. "I'm sure of it. They don't just leave blood samples at the scene. It could belong to the murderer."
"You still think this place is a hoax, don't you?"
"I'm not so sure anymore, Mulder." She pointed toward the ceiling. There was a small circular area dyed red with blood. Another drip from the ceiling fell and hit the tabletop, making Sage step back before it got onto her clothing.
Mulder backed toward the door. "I say we go upstairs."
"Lead the way." She followed close behind him as they hurried up another flight of stairs. Sage kept glancing over her shoulder, trying to remember where they had come from so that they wouldn't get lost. She was in no mood to wander the hallways of this immense castle all night.
Mulder turned the corner. The upstairs was almost identical as the second floor area. The rooms were situated in the exact same places, making it easy to find the area that was directly above the library. He shoved inside and turned on the light. The room was small and simple with nothing inside of it except for a rather large bed in the corner and a lamp and nightstand next to the bed. A beautiful carpet covered the area as they entered, but nothing was strange about the room in any way. There was no place where blood would be soaking through the floor and into the second floor rooms. There was nothing.
"Oh, there you are." Mae's voice made them both jump at the sudden sound invading the silence. "You'd been gone so long, I was afraid you'd got lost in this old place. You never know what could happen to a person lost in such a place." She glanced around the room and stepped back into the hallway. She seemed almost fearful of the room, not wanting to enter.
"Is something wrong?" Mulder was always one to notice a woman's pain. He touched her elbow reassuringly.
"It's just that room. I get such a terrible feeling when I'm in there."
Sage stepped forward, not caring about the woman's strife. "Why?"
"That poor old Adeline killed Joseph and his wife in that room. It used to be the couple's bedroom until their death."
"They obviously wouldn't be needing it for much of anything once they're dead," Mulder whispered to Sage without Mae hearing her.
Sage had to smile. Mulder was beginning to grow on her. "So you're saying that it's a really haunted place?"
Mae nodded. "It gives me the creeps to just come up here by myself. I just get a chill when I walk toward the room. Don't you feel that?"
They both had to nod. There was a strange feeling in the entire hallway. Sage stepped forward. "I want to sleep in there." She pointed toward the room and went toward the staircase without waiting for Mulder's or Mae's response. She didn't want to hear their warnings. She was going to prove the house as a hoax if it killed her.
Mulder sighed as he put everything down on the floor of the small room that he and Sage had to sleep in. He would not allow her to sleep there alone. A person never knew what might happen. Besides that, he wanted to see a ghost, and he had a feeling that if he was with Sage the ghosts would find them before they could find the ghosts. He sat on the foot of the bed and glanced around the room. He did feel a slight chill as he sat there, but he thought that they could always just pump cold air into the room to make whoever was unfortunate enought to sleep there think that it was haunted.
He had just ran into the caretaker, Halbert Bostdorf, moments before entering the room. He had come to welcome the pair to the castle. He had been so happy that someone had come to try to solve the murder before anything else could happen. He was obviously a strong believer in the haunted tails everyone passed around in town. Mulder had an odd suspicion toward the man. Why was the caretaker living in a castle that he had to clean and care for?
She watched the man from the shadows. When the two strangers had entered, she had heard their names. He was Fox and the woman was Ruth. That much she knew. She was oddly attracted to the man. He was tall and seemed quite charming. She had taken notice to his beautiful hands. A man should always have beautiful and soft hands to hold a woman with. He also had attractive lips that she would not mind kissing before the time came when he was to die. She smiled and disappeared into the plaster when she heard the woman coming down the hall.
He smiled weakly as she entered. He had been trying his best all night to be kind to her, but she never wanted to accept his help of his charm. "Where have you been?"
"I was just setting up some equipment around the house to catch either our ghosts or our hoaxers." She opened one of her suitcases and pulled out a small laptop that Mulder hadn't even noticed her having before now. "I hooked everything up to my baby here so that if anything goes off, we'll know it. I just have to hook up stuff for this room and I'll be finished for now." She set the computer on the bed and reached into another bag that had been bulging with equipment only an hour earlier. Now, it looked like a balloon that had had its air let loose.
From the bag, she pulled out a few long pieces of red paper that had long strings attached to the top of them. She pulled them out and touched her finger against the side of one of them. Her computer beaped immediatly, letting her know that the temperature strips actually worked. There was no room for mistake that night.
Mulder leaned forward as he took off his jacket. "What are those for?" He felt terribly ignorant, but he knew in his heart that he shouldn't know what any of her equipment was anyway.
She turned toward him with no disgust on her face. She understood that he was curious about what she was doing, so she might as well explain it to him the best that she could. "These are called temperature strips. You hand them from the ceiling and if there's a change in temperature in the room they're in, my computer lets me know." She turned her entire torso toward him and went on. She really didn't mind explaining it to him. "You see, with most ghost phenomenon, the temperature in a room either goes up or down rapidly and violently. That's the most tell tale evidence of a ghost encounter. If the temperature changes without any evidence that it should, you've probably been in the prescense of a ghost."She stood up and hung the stips in different places in the room.
He nodded, actually interested in what she was saying. He was just glad that she understood his curiousity instead of treating him like an idiot. He watched as she pulled out the next piece of equipment. It appeared to be some sort of camera, but it was different. The lens was black, which surprised him. What could a person see with a black lens?
She saw his question before he had to say it. "It's an infrared motion sensor." When she saw the blank expression on his face, she elaborated. "Well, you can't catch a ghost with a regular camera unless they want you to. With this, you can surprise them. The camera picks up heat or movement of heat in a human pattern. If something moves, it shoots a picture before it knows what hit it. I put these babies all over the house because it's these cameras that usually pick up ghosts or pick up fakes." She set the camera down and turned toward her bag. "Speaking of fakes, I set these around, too." She held up the instand camera and smiled. "I strung wires across the hallway and cameras in the direct path. If someone hits the wire, the camera snaps and sends a direct picture to my IBM. That way, the hoaxer can't steal the picture before I get to it."
He clapped his hands, jokingly. "I'm impressed. You're obviously very experianced with this sort of thing."
"What did you expect? That I wouldn't be?" She turned toward the camera and placed it in an area so that it covered the entire room except for the area they were going to sleep in. She didn't want one of them to set off the sensors. She then proceeded to place a wire across the door frame and the instant camera against the wall so that it was almost out of view for anyone entering the room. "There." She stood up and stretched like a cat before turning toward Mulder. "I don't know about you, but I'm awfully tired."
He nodded. "I'll sleep on the floor." He grabbed one of the pillows from the top of the bed and held it midair.
She shook her head. "In all seriousness, you're sleeping in the bed."
He was confused. "Then, where will you sleep?"
"In the bed. Look Mulder, it's strictly against the rules to sleep on the floor in a haunted house. If you had really read my books, you would know that. The ghosts, if they're here, can get to a person so much easier if they're on the floor. You never know what could happen."
He went back in his memory to the time when he had read Sage's books. She wasn't joking around. He remembered the section, now. It had stuck out in his mind. In the book, Sage had explained how one of her clients had passed away when sleeping on the floor. The poltergeist had levitated the child and lifted it directly into the ceiling fan. Of course, Sage had thought of it more descriptivly that he had. When he looked up at her, he saw in her eyes that she was in no mood to lose someone else to the curse of sleeping on the floor. He nodded. "I remember. Ceiling fan, right?"
She nodded and shivered slightly at the thought. That had been messy. "I'm glad you remember. I don't want to sound as if I was coming onto you or something."
"Exactly." He was glad that he had remembered, too. He didn't want her to be coming onto him. She was not someone that he could ever get close to in that way, and he knew that. She had way too much attitude for him.
She went behind him and pulled the covers down on the one side of the bed. "I'll take the right side, if you don't mind. I can reach the computer better."
He nodded, knowing that they both would not be sleeping very well. He could feel the anxiousness in his stomach. He could not wait to find something, and he knew that Sage's traps would catch something.
She laid down underneath the covers, fully clothed. She knew that she would probably be jumping to her feet at any given moment after her computer began to scream its alarm into the darkness of the room. She pointed toward the light switch. "Mulder? Would you mind getting the lights before you turn in?"
He nodded and walked toward the door.
She yelled out to him, "Watch the wire!"
He stopped inches from it and sighed. "Thanks for reminding me. That probably would have set off everything in here." He reached out and flipped off the switch and made his way slowly toward the bed, careful not to make too much noise. Sage hid her face in her pillow and closed her eyes. She felt the bed shift slightly as he laid down next to her, but that was all. She wasn't worried about anything happening between them. She wasn't attracted to him, and she was pretty sure that he saw nothing but annoyance in her, not that she cared. Besides that, she had an odd trust in him that she hadn't ever felt with anyone else. She had a feeling that if she needed help, he would be there. He was just such a solid person who seemed to not feel anything emotions wise, which could be good in the long run. She didn't want him breaking down on her. She wasn't one for sympathy, anyway. After saying a quick prayer while clutching tightly to the cross that hung around her neck, she closed her eyes and tried to get some rest.
Sage's system was too groggy to realize what had happened when the hollow flashing appeared. She simply closed her eyes tighter and tighter until the light melted away into the darkness.
Mulder grabbed her arm and shook her gently. He had been wide awake when the camera had falshed its warning. Her computer was going wild with alarms and warnings, but Sage seemed far away from all this. "Sage? Wake up."
She sat up suddenly, finally registering what all the noise was about and jumped to her feet in a mad rush to get to her computer. She shut off the annoying buzzing sound it was making as an alarm and clicked into the program. The infrared camera was the source of the light. It had gone off when it had sensed a sudden movement in the darkness. The temperature strips had also changed. Instread of their normal red, they had changed to a deep blue.
Mulder appeared next to her with an interested look on his face. "What is it?"
She sighed loudly and typed wildly. "The infrared camera and the temperature strips. The instant didn't go off at all." She stood up and walked toward the light. The room was filled with the hollow light from the lamp in an instant as they both made their way quickly toward the infrared camera.
Sage reached it first as a shiver went down her spine. It was considerably colder in the room, meaning that the ghost might still be present. She scooped the picture into her hands and stared at it with wide eyes. Her jaw dropped slightly as she stared into the empty eyeholes of the woman in the picture.
She felt Mulder's hand on her elbow as he tried to get a good look at the photograph. He gasped softly at her side and stared at the picture in wonder. The person in the photo looked frighteningly similar to the woman in the painting downstairs. She had her long fingers gripping her cheeks so tightly that small rivers of blood rolled down her cheeks. Her watchful eyes were torn out, violently by the look of it. In their place, hollow eye sockets stared back at them, spurting blood all over the woman's long, blonde hair. In the photo the area around her appeared to be brightly lit, but they both knew that the room had been completely darkened when the picture had been taken.
Mulder looked down at Sage. "Now what?"
She handed him the picture and hurried back to her computer. "I'm just going to check the other sensors real quick to see if my guess is correct."
He stared at the dead eyes in the picture with white knuckles. It was almost impossible to look away from the photo. It almost hypnotized him even though it sickened him more than anyone could know. He glanced back to Sage. "What exactly is it that you're looking for?"
"Ha!" She smiled at her victory. "I knew it!"
"Knew what?" He glanced back at the picture.
"None of the other sensors went off. Only the ones in here changed at all." She turned away from the computer. "That could give this all away as a hoax."
"I see. You're saying that since the only activity was in here, it was planned. They only wanted to scare us instead of going to the trouble of having activity where there are no people."
"Exactly!" She was glad he understood, because she really didn't want to explain it to him further than she had to. "I think we should move somewhere else."
"And if the activity follows us, it's a hoax, right?"
She nodded. "You're catching on, Mulder. Maybe you should have been a parapsychologist, after all."
He grinned. A drip hit his hand, sending a chill through his entire body. He glanced at the hand holding the picture and gasped out loud. A drop of blood stood out like black on white on his hand. He dropped the photograph suddenly. The blood could not possibly have from from there, could it?
"Are you okay, Mulder?" She stood up and hurried to his side. She had evidentally noticed him jump. She touched his shoulder gently, reading the worry on his face as if it was written there.
He nodded and stared at the picture on the floor. Should he tell her? "I'm fine. I just..." He looked down at his hand. The blood was gone! Had he just imagined the entire thing because of the energized surroundings? He shook it off. "It's nothing."
She nodded slowly and threw him a look. She knew he was hiding something. Why else would he jump like he had? She knew he probably was not the sort of man that was scared easily, but she could see by the look on his face that something had really made him panic. She could also see that he didn't want to talk about it, so she let it slide. She shrugged her shoulders and turned toward the doors. "Look, I'm hungry. I say our next camp out sight should be in the kitchen."
He turned toward her and nodded in agreement. He had practically wiped the worry from his face. She was sure that he was used to having to hide his feelings in situations. He did not seem very open, but she didn't mind. She had been around agents that never shut up, and by the end of her time with them, she thought they were true idiots no matter what their histories happened to be.
After grabbing her computer, she walked out into the hallway without waiting for Mulder.
"Yeah?" She turned back toward him.
"I'm going to change. I don't exactly love wearing dress pants and dress shirts."
She nodded. She hadn't even thought about how uncomfortable he probably was. She shut the door and waited in the hallway for him. Glancing down at her own clothing, she could see why he would want to change. She had changed before the flight into her black bellbottoms and black buttondown. She was perfectly comfortable in her combat boots and home clothes. She had even let her hair down for this case. Mulder was the only other agent there. Why should she worry about what she was wearing around him? He really didn't seem to care one bit about what she was wearing.
The door opened slowly as Mulder stepped out. She gave him a quick look over. He had changed into jeans and a navy blue pullover with a grey teeshirt underneath. He had even changed into some fashionable running shoes.
He smiled weakly. "Much better."
"Let's go searching for the food."
After searching unsucssessfully for a painstaking fourty-five minutes, they had literally stumbled upon the kitchen area. It was an immense room that was almost impossible to miss-especially for FBI agents. They had to walk through the immense dining hall before reaching the door to the kitchen.
The dining hall appeared to have been decorated in mid-eighteenth century designs. The floor was rough, redwood beneath their feet. The walls, the same brick that was found around the rest of the castle on the outside. A colossal, crystal, chandelier hung from the ceiling like a dead man hanging on a rope. It shined and glowed in the little light in the dining area, throwing shards of rainbows around the walls. The fireplace was large and antique with no marks that a fire ever was burnt inside of it's marble walls. It was as clean as an immaculate white swan gliding across a crystal-clear lake with the mood rising on the horizon. Paintings of attractive and rich people watched them from every corner of the room, their eyes appearing to move as the two occupants walked through the area.
Mulder held the door open for Sage as they reached the kitchen area. It was as if they had walked through a time-warp! The kitchen was completely twentieth century down to the black and white tiled floors and electric oven and microwaves. Sage glanced toward Mulder, seeing that he understood what she was thinking. This was a strange castle, and they both knew it.
Sage switched on the light switch and walked into the area as it was illuminated. Mulder jumped slightly at the sudden light. He evidentally hadn't seen her reaching out to turn on the light. "A little jumpy, Mulder?"
He sighed. "A little bit. Aren't you?"
She shook her head. "It hasn't even gotten good yet. You just wait until we see a real ghost. Not something on film." She threw extra emphasis on the word "something."
She made her way toward the refridgerator after putting her computer down on the countertop. She opened it and smiled. They both hadn't eaten anything on the flight over because they both had been known to get sick on flights, so she was starving. She was so glad that something had awakened them. That gave them a reason to make their way down to the kitchen. She felt his presence behind her.
"You like leftovers?"
"I'm a single guy, Sage. I live on leftovers for God's sake."
She nodded. "I understand. I'm a single female, after all."
"Don't like to cook?" He reached into the refridgerater and pulled out a small carton of Chinese food with a smile on his face.
"Actually, I love to cook. I just never have time to. I guess it kind of comes with the job, huh?" She reached in and pulled out a stalk of brocolli. She held it to her nose and breathed it the thick smell of vegetables.
He nodded and turned toward the microwave. He knew his way around the kitchen, which surprised her. He probably never cooked anything but leftovers.
She glanced around the kitchen, and spotting a small table in the corner, she walked toward it. She sat down with the brocolli and put her feet up on the edge of the table. She kicked off her shoes and laid back in the chair. She groaned and took a bite of the brocolli. Her back ached after the day she had had. She glanced at her fingers and frowned. The only good thing she could think of was that they had thankfully caught the son of a bitch before he could kill someone else.
Mulder glanced toward her and noticed she was studying her fingers. "Thank God for automatic garages, huh?"
She looked up at him, surprised. "You heard about that?"
"Yeah." He took the food out of the microwave and grabbed a fork out of the dishwasher in the corner before sitting down at the table. "One of your little slaves told me about it."
"One of my little slaves?" She was confused.
"At the crime scene, you sure seemed to be in charge, bossing everyone else around." He took a small bite of the food to make sure it wasn't too old before he dug in. "No offense."
"Oh, none taken. You're right, I'm bossy. It's just that people really sit on their asses if someone doesn't yell at them to get to work. I like keeping people on their toes. I like surprising people. It's fun being unpredictable." She took another stalk of brocolli and crunched on it. "I'm thinking you understand what I'm saying."
"I'm Spooky Mulder. Of course I know."
She frowned, reading the annoyance in his face. "You don't like the nickname?"
He shook his head and took another bite of his food.
"Oh, I think it's fun."
"It just gives people a picture into your head before they even know you, though. They judge too soon."
She leaned forward, letting her feet fall to the floor. "Yeah, but in my case, they'll find out I'm spooky after they meet me, anyway. It just gives them a chance to prepare."
He laughed out loud, surprising her slightly. She hadn't heard him laugh in the time they had been together. "It's nice to see you have a sense of humor behind all that spookiness."
She had to smile. "Oh, be quiet," she said jokingly.
After the laughter had subsided, an uncomfortable silence settled over them. They were strangers still, after all. Sage had been on enough blind dates to know how to keep a conversation going, but Mulder was different. He was very closed off, she could see. She would have to pry to get anything out of him. "So where are you origionally from, Mulder?" She had to try to get something out of him.
He stared at the table for a moment without moving. Sage could tell he was thinking about whether or not he wanted to share anything with her. She could see a strange pain behind his eyes that she didn't like. "Martha's Vineyard."
She nodded. "It's gorgeous there." She was sick of him beating around the bush with her. He was hiding his history from her, and she didn't like it one bit. There was a deep secret hidden behind his eyes, and she wanted to know what it was. "What about family?" She picked at another piece of brocolli as she watched him think over what to say next.
"I lived with my mom and dad and my sister, Samantha up until I was twelve." He sighed loudly and set the small carton of food on the table in front of him. He had an immense weight on his shoulders, and it appeared he might just be about to hand it over to her. "My sister was eight." He scratched his nose, trying to hide the emotion that was behind what he was about to say. "She disappeared one night out of our bedroom. We never found her, and there was no contact with whoever took her. She had just disappeared into thin air. We never found her."
She frowned, seeing that he had just poured out his heart to someone he barely knew. "I'm sorry."
He broke out of his trance of sadness and looked up at her. "You're really easy to talk to. A little too easy actually." He leaned back in his seat. "I don't usually tell people about that. You got that out of me in about five minutes."
"I like talking with people." She pulled back from the table and returned to her comfortable position. "I can get almost anything out of a person if I really want to."
"Oh, wonderful. I'll be watching myself around you. You should really think about going into psychiatry."
She laughed. "I've got too many of my own demons to try to help other people. I'd probably really crack up!" Seeing the smile on his face, she pryed further. "After your sister disappeared, what happened?"
"Well, my parents divorced later on. That was messy as hell. I was too young to really understand all that was going on. Anyway, we had one of those weekends with dad, weekdays with mom deals. I was so glad to get to college where I was finally on my own where my parents couldn't get to me quite as much." He seemed to become much more comfortable talking about his college years, and Sage was glad. She was really opening him up. "I got a scholorship to Oxford in psychology."
"You really wanted to get away from your parents, didn't you?"
This brought a smile to his face. "Exactly. It was a plot to get away from my parents." He nodded. Sage was a witty person, and she wasn't as bad as he had origionally thought she was. "College really got my mind off of everything happening at home, so I liked it there."
"Break any hearts, Mulder?"
"Oh, a few. I really had my nose too far into my books to notice."
"I'm sure there were some."
He smiled and went on with his tale. "As soon as I graduated, the bureau came looking for me. I joined up with the FBI later that year working in the VCS. I just wrote profiles, and I didn't really enjoy that."
"Really? God, I love writing profiles."
"You write profiles, too?"
"Oh, hell yes. That's one of my best features in the bureau! That's how I got onto my last case. I wrote a profile on the psychopath."
"I had no idea you wrote profiles. Of course, I knew you wrote, but not profiles."
"We'll have to compare notes sometime." She laid her chin on her hands. "What about the X-Files? It must be great to work on those."
"Well, great isn't exactly the phrase. It can be hard work. Things can happen that don't always come out on the positive end. But, you're right. It's better than working for the VCS."
"Oh, I'll bet." She became sad suddenly, but tried he best to hide it from him. "It kind of takes the realism out of the agony and suffering that everyday murders can bring."
"Exactly." He pretended that he hadn't noticed the sadness in her face. "Now, it's your turn."
"I told my story. What about yours?"
She sighed and looked up at him. He seemed trustworthy to tell the real story of her childhood to, but she wasn't sure. "You promise not to tell anyone about what I'm going to tell you?"
He looked surprised at what she was asking, but he nodded. "I won't tell anyone if you don't tell anyone what I told you."
"It's a deal." She sat back in her seat. "I guess I should start at the beginning. I grew up in New York City with my parents. I'm luckily an only child, because I have a feeling that if I had a sibling I would have killed it by now. We were all so happy together."
Mulder saw her slipping away into the past by the look in her eyes.
"My dad would always take me outside and toss the football like I was a little boy or something. My mother would always watch us from the kitchen and laugh whenever I came in with a black eye from catching the ball with my face. She would always say, `Here comes my little girl with the head that catches more than her hands.' She always taunted me about that, but I didn't care one bit. My dad really had wanted a son, so he was always saying how his little Ruthie was going to become a quarterback for some pro football team.
"On New Year's Eve when I was seven, though, my dad stopped dreaming about the future. He and my mother were driving home from a late party. Of course, they hadn't had anything to drink. They never did, no matter what the occasion. It was something they lived by, but it couldn't protect them as they had thought that it could. Other people drink, and other people drive." She sighed gently. "A drunk driver smashed into my mom's side of the car and killed her. There was nothing left of her when the police came by. She was just a big mass of mush.
"After that, everything was different. My dad didn't play football with me anymore. He even started drinking more and more. He was just so mean, and he didn't care about anything but his drinks. He didn't even go to my mom's funeral. I had to get a taxi to go there since we didn't have any other family.
"Years went on like this. He didn't care about anything. He didn't work, and he didn't even talk to me. When I was twelve, he killed himself. He hung himself in the attic without even saying goodbye to me. He was drunk when he died, they told me. I had grown up before I had a chance to even be a kid by then.
"I had gone to this great collegette prep school surrounded by rich kids that had paid their way there. I was there on a scholorship because the only money I had was the money I had made writing for the newspaper every week. That school let me graduate early because they said I was ready for college my junior year. So, off to Duke I went with an English scholorship. Duke got me interested in parapsychology. I also went there to study criminology."
She threw Mulder a smile. "Close to psychology, but not so close that I have to counsel people. So, I was recruited by the bureau at the age of twenty-two. I did every sort of case I could find before I discovered that the bureau handled ghostly phenomenon. I handled all of those cases with great success. Soon I became known as someone who could spot a hoax a mile away. I wrote my two books later on. I still loved writing, and it was really something that I could just fade into. Working with the bureau has been fun.
"By the time my books came out, you were already bringing contreversy to the bureau's underground. So, people began to call me Ms. Spooky because of my similar interests. Since then, I've been having fun chasing after ghosts and insane murderers."
"Lots of fun, Ms. Spooky." He smiled weakly. He could see that telling the story of her childhood had brought some lines to her face. "I'm sorry about your parents. That must have been awful for you."
She nodded and clutched her cross tightly in her hands. It was something she always did when she was nervous or uncomfortable with something.
He reached across the table, taking the necklace out of her hands. "Scully has almost the exact same necklace." It was a small, gold cross with a thin, gold chain that shined in the light. "You're religious, too, huh?" He let the necklace drop back to her neck and leaned back in his chair. He folded his arms in front of him defensivly.
He shook his head.
She laughed bluntly. "Mulder, you believe in so many things that are out there. Why don't you believe in God? I don't understand that."
He frowned. "God hasn't ever shown himself to me. To be honest, he has done a lot to make me not believe in him." He paused, thinking over how to phrase his next sentence without hurting her feelings or making her mad at him. "God just seems a little too out there for me. The thought that there is someone up there watching us and planning our lives is just insane. I think I'll stick to Darwin's theory."
She nodded, not wanting to defend her religion. She knew it was useless. "I've just seen so many things that make me believe in God and Jesus Christ. Nothing could change my mind. It's my faith that has kept me alive for so long."
"You like danger, don't you, Sage?"
She nodded. "Very much so. It gets my mind off of everything else going on. It energizes me. Besides, I know God will watch over me."
He didn't want to go further with her. Mulder had read enough accounts of danger loving people who are seriously depressed. They jump into danger because they do not fear their own deaths. They put themselves in dangers way to fill the hole of sadness that terrorizes them. Mulder knew this tactic. Hell, he even lived by it himself.
"Look at us." She laid her chin in her hands and frowned. "We're quite the sob story. We could write a book with the lives we've laid out for ourselves."
He nodded in agreement. "I know what you mean." He yawned and laid his head on the table.
Sage blinked her eyes, awakening her system to their surroundings. She groaned and sat up slowly. Her neck was in knots! They had both fallen asleep in the kitchen. They must have been really tired after their late evening. She stretched her arms over her head and yawned in a hope to awaken herself from the sleepy cloak that was over her eyes.
Mulder sat with his head lying on the tabletop. He didn't appear to have moved since last night when he had laid his head there.
"Mulder?" She shook his arm softly, trying to wake him gently. He really was cute, but Sage wasn't attracted to him. He reminded her of an annoying brother or cousin, but he was cute. He had such young and boyish features. His short, brown hair was falling across his brow gently hiding his forehead completely. It was a stylish cut that looked good on him even when it hadn't been brushed.
She really liked his eyes. They were so deep and hazel. They sometimes even appeared blue if you looked at them the right way. She had noticed that about his yesterday when they had first met. Her first impression said that he had blue eyes, but upon closer inspection she had noticed the specks of green and brown that lined the edges. They were pools that she often found herself drowning in when she spoke with him. There was so much pain behind his eyes, and she wasn't sure why. He obviously held so much in just as she did. Eyes say so much about a person, she thought to herself. His drew you in and knocked you out with their intensity, their depth. She loved his lips, too. They just were begging to be touched, kissed. They were perfect, just like the rest of him.
But Sage wasn't one to get into a relationship. Besides, she didn't see Mulder that way. He was cute, but he was certainly not dating material. He hid too much. Besides, he had to be at least ten years her senior! She wasn't sure if she liked his personality. She didn't mind his jokes, because she made so many similar to his. They had the same sense of humor, dark and demented. He was just too closed off for her, and at times, she wanted to just strangle him.
"Mulder, wake up!" By the deepness of his slumber, she could tell that he probably hadn't slept for a long amount of time. She shook his shoulder, gently and stood up.
His eyes opened slowly, not wanting to arise to reality. He sighed.
"You sound incredibly exasperated, Mulder. Something wrong?"
He shook his head and rubbed his forehead. "Nothing. I just didn't want to wake up yet."
She grabbed his wrist and pulled it to her view, forcing him to stand up violently. She glanced at his watch. She had taken hers off before coming down to the kitchen. "It's eight o'clock. You got plenty of sleep."
"I see you're a morning person." He yawned.
"Not exactly. But I am an insomniac. You're lucky I went to sleep at all. I'm not usually tired at all."
He seemed surprised. "Really? I don't usually sleep very well either, but last night I felt like a zombie."
"You looked kind of like one, too." She couldn't stand to miss such an obvious and easy dig at this time in the morning. She made her way toward the laptop computer on the counter and switched it on. No alarms had awakened them. She stared at the screen, waiting for it to fog to life. It usually took a moment before the screen really kicked into gear, and she waited patiently for that moment to arrive.
"I hope we didn't miss any of the alarms. We were both out like lights."
She shook her head. "The alarms would still be going off if any of them were set off at all." She typed madly at the keys as she searched through all her materials, finding nothing. "Damn. I was hoping that my suspicions about this place being a hoax were incorrect. I was in the mood to be seriously haunted this week."
He smiled. "Actually, that makes two of us. I really thought that I might see something this time."
"I assume by your use of the phrase `this time' that you've searched for ghosts before unsuccessfully?"
"Well, unsuccessfully isn't really the word. It's just that I've never seen anything that could be substantiated as ghostly phenomenon. I was just hoping that I would see something that wasn't just my eyes or my imagination tricking me." He sighed, unhappily and returned to the table.
Sage turned off her computer and frowned. "That's too bad."
A thought struck his mind. "Did you put the food away?"
She turned toward the table and glanced around the area. Their food was no longer where it had been that night. "No. I just thought you had."
He shook his head.
"I put your food away." They both jumped at the sound of Mae's voice from the doorway. She laughed. "Oh, I'm sorry, dear. I didn't mean to scare you to death." She walked toward them, still clutching tightly to the hankercheif from the night before. "I just came down to have some breakfast and you were both asleep. You found something, I'm guessing?"
Sage jumped to attention. "Oh, yeah. Maybe you should look at this." Sage had stuffed the picture into the back pocket of her jeans after Mulder had dropped it on the floor. She wanted to see Mae's reaction to it before they did anything. Sage had been known to spot a liar a mile away simply from the looks on their faces. She pulled out the photo and glanced at it before handing it over to Mae. "Mulder, come look at this."
He jumped to his feet, the panicked look on her face, making him feel a wave of dread. Something was wrong. He walked over to her quickly and grabbed the picture out of her hands. "What the-"
"Exactly what I was thinking." She sighed and looked at the photograph again. It was completely white! There was no woman, there was no blood. It was as if they had imagined the entire thing, but they both knew they hadn't. Mulder still felt the chill of the icy blood touching his skin! She returned the picture to her pocket and frowned.
"What is it, dear?"
"Nothing." She wanted to change the subject immediatly. "So, what's for breakfast?"
Mulder glanced around at the beautifully set kitchen table and smiled at Sage. "This is much better than eating leftovers."
She had to smile. He was thinking the exact same thing as she was. The table was covered with food that only kings and queens were used to eating. At one end, scrambled eggs in a golden platter with warm steam rising from their bright yellow surface, touching the sky. At the other, carefully cut cantaloupes in the shapes of garden flowers opening in the early morning sunlight. Even the cream for their coffee was calling a pure silver ladel it's home. They were eating like the rich, and she was more than sure that the FBI didn't approve of such things. But, Mae had almost forced them to sit and eat even though she didn't need to. "I must say this is a little better than refridgerated brocolli and tap water."
He nodded and took another sip of his coffee. Mulder wasn't a morning person, but once he had his caffeine, he could go on forever and a day.
Mae imerged from the kitchen with a smile on her face. "How is everything?"
"Wonderful, thank you. I've never had such delicious food." Sage could see that Mulder was kissing up to gain the old woman's trust, but Sage had a feeling that they already had it after the way she was treating them. They both knew it was easier to get the truth out of someone that liked the questioner, after all.
"That's good." She blushed slightly at the praise from such a young man. Sage almost burst out laughing. Mae obviously was under the impression that Mulder had a crush on her, but he wasn't aware of this. He just went on painting a smile on his handsome face, trying to be kind to this old woman that reminded him of his mother in more ways than he could ever accept.
The older woman took a seat at the head of the table and grabbed a few of the sausages. Sage winced in disgust. She was a strict vegetarian, and the small rolls of young, animal fat were making her sick beyond belief. Mulder glanced up at her and looked concerned for a moment. She mouthed the word `vegetarian,' and he nodded in understanding. She noticed that he reached out and grabbed a sausage suddenly, and she smiled. He was just like an older brother, making her sick purposly.
When Mae had turned toward the kitchen for a moment, Sage tossed a small circular piece of cantaloupe at Mulder's head. It hit him directly in the forehead and fell to the floor before Mae could notice. They both burst out laughing suddenly, catching Mae by surprise. She politely pretended to not notice how out of control they both were and continued to eat her food.
Once they were more under control, Sage turned toward Mae. "So, if you don't mind me asking, have you ever seen a ghost, Mae?"
"Me? Oh, no. At least, I don't think I have."
"Then why do you believe the house is haunted?"
"Well, you can just feel the energy in here. Actually, it's everywhere. It's just this strong feeling that makes you almost dizzy at times. You can't tell me that you don't feel it."
Sage shook her head. Mulder watched her carefully. She was manipulating Mae in her hands like a piece of puddy. "I haven't felt a thing. Have you Agent Mulder?"
He shook his head in agreement even though he had to admit that he had felt something. He kept that to himself, though. He still wasn't sure if Sage was lying or not, and he didn't want her to think he was completely insane. Not yet, anyway.
"Well, Mae, I'm hoping to find some evidence of the energy you've been feeling. I'm not certain, but I think that you might be energized about your husband's death. How long have you sensed this energy?" She was switching from conversational to scientific in a matter of seconds.
"Oh, I've sensed it since we first moved into this old place. I really love it here, but at times, I have to leave. I can just feel the evil here."
"Where do you sense the most evil?"
"The room where the two of you slept last night, actually. That place is always full of evil."
Sage nodded. She knew in her heart that she had felt that evil. She just didn't want to give this old woman the triumph of fooling them both. Sage put much confidence on her instincts, but she usually needed more proof than just her feelings in cases like this. Feelings weren't enough. If she was energized enough, she could make herself feel anything. "I see." Her scientific side switched back to conversational faster than Mulder could comprehend. "Could you pass me the eggs, Mulder?"
"Sure." He reached toward the eggs and handed them gently to Sage.
"Thanks." She served herself a fairly small portion. She never could eat a lot while on a case. There was just too much on her mind for her to feel hungry very often. She smiled kindly toward Mae even though she felt not a touch of kindness toward the woman. "Would you like some, Mae?"
She smiled. "I'll take those, thank you."
Suddenly, Sage gasped as she felt the pressure pulling on the platter. It floated out of her hands and toward Mae. Sage threw another cantaloupe piece at Mulder, who wasn't looking. He looked up in annoyance but soon his jaw dropped as he watched the heavy platter fly softly toward Mae's awaiting fingertips. Sage threw him a glance of utter surprise and noticed she was holding her breath. She exhaled suddenly and blinked twice as the platter arrived at its destination.
"You have telekenisis!" Sage almost yelled at the old woman.
Mae nodded slowly.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Well, I really didn't think it meant anything. I've had it since I was a little kid, so I'm just used to it. Does it make a differance?"
Sage wanted to elaborate, but she sat silently. "Um, no." She picked up her empty glass that was obviously worth a great amount of money and threw it up high in the air.
Mae shrieked. "Oh, no!" The glass stopped in the air and came to a gentle rest on the tabletop. "That's a family heirloom!"
"Sorry." Sage rose to her feet suddenly. "Excuse me. Mulder, could I have a word with you in the corridor?"
He nodded and rose hurridly but stiffly from his seat. He was still in shock over what had just occured. He hadn't been prepared to see first a platter flying through the air, or second, Sage tossing a priceless piece of glass into the air. She opened the door for him, and he stepped out into the cool air of the hallway.
He ran a nervous hand through his hair. "What the hell were you doing?"
"Shh, I was just making sure she wasn't a hoax. When that platter went flying across the room, I had to be sure."
He sighed. "That was quite the scene in there."
She smiled. "Before you go totally insane, just listen to me. Telekanisis has been known to cause things that appear to be ghostly happen in supposedly haunted places. She could be doing the whole thing purposly."
"Or, she might not know." He finished her thought.
"Exactly." She thought over things for a moment. "The photo, though. How did she do that?"
Mulder crossed his arms in front of him. "Well, people with telekenisis has been known to have the ability to superimpose images on film. All they have to do is think about an image and it appears on the film. She could have been in our room. We never did check it for passages in the walls. These old places have plenty of those."
"You really are just as smart as they say you are, aren't you, Agent Mulder?" She smiled slightly, happy that he had given her so much help with something that she had not been aware of prior to that morning. "It looks like we have psychic phenomenon instead of ghost phenomenon."
"Let's hope so." He crossed his arms in front of him. He had a cold shiver for a moment, and he was glad Sage had noticed nothing. If they had had a thermometer, they would have seen that the temperature in the hallway had just dropped six degrees.........
Mae had been feeling nauseous all afternoon since her early breakfast with her guests. She was enjoying the company of other people in the normally empty house, but there was something about them that made her feel so strange around them. Perhaps it was the curious, young woman that had almost broken a priceless glass. Or perhaps it was the handsome gentlemen that was always worrying about her well-being.
Maybe it was just the pair themselves. It seemed as if they were not well aquainted, and that they were uncomfortable around each other. Their nervousness made her feel nervous and unsure of herself, which was something that she never felt.
She stared into the warm fire that the caretaker, Mr. Bostdorf, had put together for her before he had left to return to his own small cottage in the woods. It was funny, but she thought that she had never heard the front door slam, signifying that he had left. She shurugged off this thought and leafed through one of her new novels. In a life as boring as the one she led, it was normal for her to wish to disappear to other places, dreaming of their exotic scents and sights. Books were her only way of escaping the reality that was.
Her husband had had the same defense mechanism. She was sure she had picked it up from him.
She sniffed gently at the thought of her dead husband. He had died in room above her head. Mae knew in her heart that she would never be able to return to that room as long as she lived. She readjusted her glasses and skimmed down the page like a champion speed reader.
The silver knight in the corner shined in the fire light as if he was emminating the light of the sun.
It picked up the light and threw it back in rays of bright warmth. He was an antique that had only ever been used for show since every piece of him was worth countless amounts of money. Especially the finely pointed ax that he clutched between his metal fingers was worth than more than some people's lives. Not even the dust had the joy of lying on this knight because he was under glass. And, since no one was in the room to see, no one would notice if the ax suddenly disappeared like a bird flying through a thick rain cloud.
Mae coughed violently, covering her mouth politely even though there was no one there to be polite to. She gasped for breath suddenly and clutched tightly to her stomach. The book fell from her lap and fell hollowly to the floor.
"Look, I just don't think that bringing an old woman in for murder is going to stick."
"She's as good as dead anyway. She might as well learn where murder gets you." Sage sighed.
"Oh, you are so sensitive."
"Why should I be?"
"Well-" a blood curdling scream racked their minds like an earthquake. Their eyes met for a single moment before they both took off toward the sound of Mae's panicked screams.
Mulder reached the door first. He shoved it open and hurried inside. "Mae?" The old woman was sitting in her chair, clutching tightly to her stomach with a violent grimace on her face. She was gasping for air as if her lungs had been slit by an unseen knife edge.
Sage shoved past him and kneeled next to the old woman's chair and touched her arm. "Mae?
Mae, talk to me for God's sake. What's happening?" With the woman's silence, she turned toward Mulder for help.
"Mae, are you having a heart attack?" Mulder kneeled on the opposite side of the chair and threw Sage a nervous look.
Suddenly, the woman fell back into the chair, motionless. Her hands were clutched to her stomach as if they were frozen there. She would never move again. Sage reached to her neck and felt nothing.
"She's dead, Mulder."
He touched her neck to make sure Sage was right as if she couldn't figure out if a person was dead or alive. "What the hell happened?" He pulled away from her and felt another shiver. He glanced over his shoulder, feeling a presence, but there was nothing behind him. There was no one else human and alive in the entire house.
"I don't know, Mulder." She shook her head and stared at the dead body in the chair that moments before had been alive.
Mulder stood up slowly and glanced around the room. Sage watched him carefully, unsure of what he was looking for. He appeared to be deep in thought about something. He scratched his chin nervously and made eye contact with the empty knight in the corner. He shivered again taking care to hide it from Sage. There was something very wrong happening here.
He pointed at the knight. "Didn't that thing have an ax?" He turned toward Sage. She sat silently. "Sage?"
To his own surprise, she stood up and went to the back of the chair with a perfectly straight face.
She seemed to think over what she was about to do before she did it. She reached out and with her small pinkie finger on her right hand she pushed Mae's shoulder forward with a gentle tap. The dead woman's stomach pinched and fell forward slightly as the ax ripped through her skin from the inside with a sickening tearing sound. It fell on the floor ripping the woman's insides out with it.
Sage closed her eyes for a moment to get herself under control. She had seen worse than this, but at the moment she had not planned to see this. Mulder turned away quickly, his face green. He might get sick if he looked toward the corpse again. He had only met her wide, dead eyes for a moment to understand the agony she had gone through before they had come into the room. It had only taken a moment for her to die, it had only taken Mulder a moment to understand.
"They should be here any minute. I called them last night after they took Mae to the morgue."
"Is it really necessary?" Mulder frowned.
"Yes, it is, Mulder. I'm not feeling very good about this case. We could use a few other specialists. Besides, they're my friends from Duke. We studied parapsychology together. They're not strangers."
"All right." He rose to his feet and walked toward the door. "I'm going to go change." Mulder felt dirty even though his clothes wouldn't show it. He had helped them get Mae out of the chair, which had sickened him considerably. He had felt nauseous all night and had not slept a wink because of it. He just didn't feel tired. He felt worried and nervous for an obvious good reason.
"Yeah, I should too." She followed him to the hallway. They split into separate rooms. After Mae's death, they had moved to different rooms for more privacy.
They both changed quickly and rejoined in the hallway. Neither of them wanted to miss a moment of hauntings, and in their rooms things usually didn't happen in the light. Mulder had changed back into a pair of dress pants and a dress shirt. Of course, he wasn't wearing a tie or a dress coat. Why should he be uncomfortable? By the smoothness of his face, Sage guessed that he had shaved hurridly with an electric razor to get rid of the whiskers he had grown over the period of night. Sage was glad. She always thought men looked more handsome with a clean shave.
She had just thrown on a pair of jeans and a black sweatshirt, not wanting or needing to look desirable for Mulder. She had brushed her short, black hair and pulled it back in a little, green rubberband since she hadn't thought about bringing anything to put her hair up in. She had washed all of her makeup off because it had begun to make her skin feel itchy. As they walked back down the steps to await the arrival of a few of Sage's friends, Mulder turned toward her. "You know, I don't think you've worn any color since we got here."
She smiled slightly. "I don't usually wear colors. I don't like them."
"I see." He nodded, not wishing to pry any further. Once they reached the front hallway, Mulder fell down into the chair and sighed. He was losing his energy quickly. He would probably run to the kitchen to make more coffee after the other parapsychologists arrived to measure up the scene. He was not happy that Sage had called more people in. He felt that they could handle the case with no trouble.
"Do you want some coffee?"
He nodded. "That is exactly what I was thinking."
"I'll make some after they get here. I'm sure they'll want some, too." With that said, their guests arrived with a quiet knock on the front door. "Finally." Sage glanced at her watch as she rose to her feet.
Mulder stayed seated. He found no point in coming to meet them. Sage would introduce them once they were inside, anyway. Besides, he wasn't feeling all too mannerly at that moment. In fact, he was in a particularly bad mood after the night they had had.
Sage smiled as she opened the door. "Hey, guys."
A rather tall and lanky fellow stepped inside and threw his arms around Sage. "God, how long has it been?" His name was Tyler James. He had dated Sage for a long time in college, and she had broken it off at graduation. She had no longing to have a boyfriend out of school. It was almost immature and childish to her. He was the perfect stereotype of a scientist. James was a young man balding early with a brown beard and mustache that made him resemble a hippie from the sixties. He had large, green eyes that were magnified considerably by the thick glasses that sat on his nose. He had an almost goofy, little voice that reminded Mulder of a small child pretending to be an adult.
Directly behind him a short, pudgy female came striding in. She had such short and stubby legs! Her name was Opal Harbauer, and she was infamous for having a big mouth about her eccentric beliefes. Her one distinguishing feature was her lengthy, blonde hair that fell all the way down her back and covered up her considerably large backside. She had tiny, blue eyes that sunk into her skin like beads sewn too tight against a piece of material. She had a violently circular face and a large smile, revealing her egotism.
And last, a rather beautiful woman with long legs came in, taking tiny steps as she went. Her name was Isabella Britten. Mulder had heard of her before simply because she was a psychic that could talk to the
other side if the other side was willing to cooperate with her. She reminded Mulder of Scully except for the fact she was six feet tall. She had short, red hair that curled under her chin and blue eyes that shined in the light. She was ringing her hands nervously. It was obvious that she was shy and not used to meeting new people.
Once all three of them had given Sage a fond embrace, they finally noticed the other occupant in the room. Sage pulled him to his feet. "Guys, this is Agent Mulder. He's working with us on the case."
Tyler stepped forward first. He loved meeting new people. He smiled widely and extended his
hand. "Hello, Agent Mulder. I'm Tyler James. It's a pleasure to meet you."
Mulder nodded, confused at this mans kindness toward him. He just wasn't used to people being happy to make his aquaintance. "Nice to meet you, too."
The short, fat woman threw him a wave and winked. "Opal Harbauer. How ya' doing?"
She nodded. "Just fine."
He waited for Isabella to introduce herself, but she just stared at him blankly with a look of pure love on her face. He tried to ignore it and extended his hand to her. "Fox Mulder."
She smiled weakly, noticing that he had seen her staring at him. Now, she believed in love at first sight. She thought he was just gorgeous! "Hi." She didn't take his hand. She just stared at her shoes coldly.
He let his hand drop to his side without a thought and glanced toward Sage. She just smiled and turned toward Opal, who was watching Isabella carefully. It was obvious she had a crush on Mulder already. Opal smiled at Sage as their eyes met. They both knew how shy their friend was, so they would have to help her through this one.
Sage bit her lip and frowned. Once they had all been aquainted, she had given everyone assigned posts to keep watch from. The scientific side of her wanted to get this ghost, bad. She had a pretty strong feeling that the Stirling Castle was truly a haunted area. All she need now was proof.
She glanced around her area and yawned. She tapped her pencil nervously upon her pad of paper in her lap. She had been recounting the experiances they had gone through so far so that she wouldn't forget anything. She knew this would make a great book. Her imagination had always been so vivid. She could think of stories to entertain her friends in less time than a person could remember the words to Happy Birthday. As a kid, she had always written stories to keep her mind out of reality. Without her stories, she never would have been able to survive. It was something she knew was true.
She set the pencil down on the nearby desk and sighed in boredom. She wondered how the others were doing. She stared at the walky-talky next to her with longing. She hoped that it would click to life and a panicked voice would break through telling her they had found something. Her mind went back to Isabella. She had thought that she might throw up when Mulder had said a word to her. She surely had a crush on him, and who could blame her? Sage knew Mulder was cute, but that was all she really saw in him. That was what she had been telling herself all night, and she would go one telling herself that she was not attracted to him as long as she could.
She closed her eyes tightly for a moment to organize her thoughts and reached toward the desk for her pencil. "What the-" It wasn't there. She opened her eyes suddenly and looked around. "Jesus Christ," she screamed and stood up abruptly. The pencil was floating in front of her! She reached out and grabbed it out of the air.
A book rose off the shelf behind her, making her spin around. She gasped as a few other books followed its example and danced through the air. A painting rose off the wall and floated up to the ceiling.
Vases and statuets did a dance in front of the window like ballerinas on the stage of a great theatre.
Sage grabbed the walky-talky. "SOS! Tyler! Answer me, Tyler!" She felt her hands shaking as she waved her hands above one of the books. She extended her foot and waved her leg around below it. "Tyler!"
"I'm here, Sage. What is it?"
"I have got some serious activity here! She glanced toward the sensors Opal had set up in the corner. "Are you reading the energy levels? They've got to be off the charts, for God's sake!" She waved her hand above another book. "Damn it, Tyler, this is one hell of a hoax!"
He came back with true panic in his voice. "Jesus, Sage! I've never seen readings like this."
"No shit! Everything is floating, Tyler. Everything but me!"
"Get the hell out of there, Sage!" His voice shook as he said this. Tyler had seen a lot, but never anything even close to the energy his computer was throwing at him now.
"Yes, sir." She switched off the walky-talky and took a step. Suddenly, everything in the room fell to the floor. She shielded her head from a falling book and pounced out of the room. She glanced over her shoulder slowly, seeing that everything was back to normal. The books were not on the floor. The vases had not shattered as she had thought they would. Everything was back where it had been before it had floated into the air, lifted by unseen hands of those long dead.
As she turned around, she smacked into Mulder. She let out a tiny gasp and swallowed her surprise. He looked into the room, and his brow furrowed notably. "I thought you said everything was floating."
"How did you hear that?"
He held up the walky-talky in his hand and looked carefully around the room. "Damn, I must have missed something."
She let out a dry laugh. "Oh, you sure did. I felt like I was in space. Everything was floating but me." She scratched the back of her head. "Come on, Mulder. Let's get the hell out of here before we both start to levitate."
"Tyler's probably waiting for us."
She nodded in agreement. "Let's go."
They walked down the hallway in silence, searching for the staircase that led to Tyler's station.
Sage was sure he had called the others into the room with him to see the activity he had measured in Sage's post. She wanted to see it herself. It would surely be amazing!
She was lost in thought when she felt her feet sliding out from underneath her. She grabbed Mulder's hand to support herself and dug her nails into his hand. She regained her balance quickly and glanced down to her feet. Her dark shoes appeared wet in the little light in the area. She stepped out of the wet spot and kneeled down to investigate the situation further. Mulder bent down with her and stuck his fingers into the crimson liquid.
"Mulder, it's blood." She glanced at him.
He stared at his fingers for a moment. She was right. It was undoubtedly blood judging by the thick composition and the crimson color. "But whose?" He raised his eyebrow and stared at the door that the blood was seaping out from under.
They stood up at the exact same time, both wondering who was behind the door, both not wanting to look into the question.
Mulder stepped forward first and waited until Sage was behind him so that she could see who it was with him. He swallowed hard and put his hand on the doorknob. Sage held her breath, awaiting the moment when they would see who the next victim would be.
Mulder turned the knob, but there was no need for him to open it. The door opened itself. The dead weight of the corpse of Halbert Bostdorf fell onto the floor with a sickening splat. A small but lethal kitchen knife stuck out of his side, spilling his crimson insides all over the narrow hallway floor. Sage simply frowned and stared at the body. She was no longer sickened. She felt so helpless. Mulder, on the other hand, had to look away quickly before losing his breakfast.
Mulder frowned. "The phones don't work either." He slammed the phone onto the receiver and fell into the chair.
Tyler pulled violently on the front door. "We're totally locked in. What the hell could have
happened?" He itched his head and glanced toward Sage. She simply shrugged her shoulders and sighed loudly in answer.
Opal crossed her arms in front of her. "Wonderful. The goddamn electricity is gone, too. This really is the trip from hell." She sat down in the seat next to Mulder and covered her face with her hands.
She wouldn't mind some of this handsome man's sympathy, but he gave none. He was off in another world thinking of what their next move should be.
Tyler walked toward the hallway. This sudden movement caught Mulder's attention and ripped him out of his little world that he went to whenever he needed to think about something important. "Where are you off to?"
Tyler pushed his glasses up higher on his nose. "My equipment is still in the study. I want to go check everything out."
Sage stood straight up suddenly, seeming to awaken from a trance that she had momentarily fallen into. "The study's a good area for us to stay in. Maybe we should all just stay there for now. Besides, it's comfortable, and I'd like to be near the equipment."
Mulder nodded and shoved himself up from the chair.
"Hey, help me up." Opal gave him her hand. He pulled her up quickly. She was almost complimented by how easily he had just picked her off of the chair. It made her feel slim. "Thanks, babe."
She thought about smacking his backside, but that was just a little too much. Besides, Isabella would kill her if she did any such thing.
They moved like a pack of wolves toward the study, being careful to avoid the area where they had found Halbert in the closet. Mulder and Sage knew that if wouldn't help their situation or the amount of nervousness in the house. The atmosphere was already hanging heavily with death.
Mulder made certain to leave the door open just in case they had to made a quick exit. Of course, he tried not to think about why they might have to make a quick exit, and he certainly didn't share his thoughts with the rest of the room. He took a seat in a comfortably puffy, red velvet chair and closed his eyes. The sleeplessess was finally beginning to get to him.
"This is insane. It can't be happening." Tyler was staring at his computer.
Sage rose to her feet and hurried to his side. "Honey, I'm sure that whatever is happening could happen. After everything else that's happened here, I'd say anything was damn possible." She took a seat behind him and put her hand on his shoulder. He was shaking slightly, but she tried her best to not show that she had noticed. "Now, what are you bitching about?"
"Look at this." He pointed toward the screen with an open mouth. "The energy levels in here are raging. It's just not possible. The pressure is so high that only astronauts could survive, but we're not reacting to it in any way."
She frowned and studied the graphs herself. She never did trust other scientists interpretations.
She swallowed hard as she stared at the lines on the screen. He was more right that she had hoped. "My God, you're right. I've never seen anything like this. You guys, look at these readings." She glanced over her shoulder. Isabella came to look, but Opal remained in her place in the corner, staring off into oblivion.
The situation was getting to even Mulder. He was fast asleep in the corner chair.
She smiled as Isabella gasped. "Amazing."
Sage glanced at her watch. It was already nearing midnight. "The energy in here could have some bad consequences. Maybe we should switch rooms." She threw a pencil at Mulder. "Hey, Mulder! Wake up. I think we should switch rooms."
He yawned, exaggerating the entire thing as he stood up. "You had to wake me, huh?" He smiled weakly, reassuring her that he was only joking. "You guys know best. Maybe we should."
Mulder took a step toward the door. The reflections on the wood from the dancing candles they had lit since the electricity had gone off moved over the door. It was as if the door was moving, being pushed by an unseen hand. Before any one them knew what was happening, the hollow noise of the slamming door rang in their ears.
Mulder had seen it coming, but the others jumped considerably.
Isabella even let out a little scream as she spun toward the door. Sage stood up. Her heart rate had just sped up by at least a ten measure. She put her hands on her hips. "Mulder? What the hell are you doing? We're all jumpy enough as it is. That was really inappropriate." She furrowed her brow.
"Sage, I didn't do that."
Opal stood up slowly. "He's telling the truth. It just closed as if there was wind, or something."
There was a look of true panic on her round face as she took a step toward Mulder. "Try the door."
The four of them held their breath as Mulder turned toward the door. He tried the handle, but it was impossible to turn. "Uh, it seems we may not be leaving the room anytime soon after all. We seem to be locked in." He hadn't lost it yet. He was still relativly calm and collected, but by the look on the faces of the people around him told him that he was alone in feeling so. Only Sage appeared as relaxed as he was.
Even she had worry written all over her face. The truth was, the only reason Mulder was calm was because he had never encountered a truly evil ghost that would kill just because. He had never even seen a real ghost or real ghost activity. Why would he be worried?
Suddenly, the room was enveloped in darkness. Every single candle in the room was blown out at the same exact moment. How was that even possible? It was out of the realms of scientific knowledge as far as most people thought. Even Tyler's computer had turned off abruptly. Mulder could just hear Scully telling him that he had only been seeing things. He could just hear her denials of everything that he said.
She would not be able to understand the amazing fear raging through is system as he tried to see through the darkness. A chilly breeze ran through all of them even though there was no wind in the room. Every window was closed, and every door locked.
Sage ran a nervous hand through her hair as she searched for any sign of light. Her eyes ran through the darkness like a runner on a path to the burning gates of hell. All her eyes could find was the terribly blackness, reminding her of the inside of a coffin, making her shake slightly. For that reason she was glad of the darkness. She didn't want any of the others seeing how afraid she really was. She was truly petrified.
Tyler and Isabella clutched tightly to each other in the dark, not wanting to move, unsure of what they might run into. They weren't in love or attracted to each other even though they were clutching to each other tight enough for them to be. They were simply full of worry and fear. Isabella even pondered on whether she should search for Mulder in the darkness, but she felt that was in appropriate. How could she even think of such things in this situation? Besides, she knew she didn't have the bravery to walk through the darkness even if it was in search of his embrace.
Sage's lip quivered slightly. "Um, is everyone all right?" She had to do something. They could not easily just stand there awaiting their demises. They had to take some sort of action.
Mulder nodded but quickly answering after he thought about the fact that she couldn't see him nodding his head in the darkness. "Safe over here."
"Issy and I are fine." They were still clutching to each other like a pair of frightened children hiding from an unseen adult coming for them in the night.
"Opal, are you all right?"
Almost in answer to her question, the fire raged to life, sending a cloud of smoke into the air. The room was suddenly almost blindingly bright. The four of them covered their eyes as the light penetrated the darkness, stinging their eyes after being closed in the dark long enough for their eyes to adjust.
Sage felt her heart bursting in her chest with a sudden panic. Opal hadn't answered her calls.
Maybe she had just been too frightened to speak. Sage was the one to look up first. Her eyes adjusted quickly, seeing the fuzy figure of a person directly in front of her face. She screamed loudly, making the others look in her direction. Opal was found, at least.
The creaking of the chandelier was the only noise as they all gaped at the dead, hanging body of someone who had been alive moment before. Her face was hardly recognizable, because blood poured like a river out of her eye sockets, threatening to shove the small, beady things out of their place and onto the floor. Her mouth was hanging wide open in a last effort to scream out before her own death. Her throat was already swollen as if she had been hanging for months or years, purple around the harsh rope that held her suspended there. Her arms hung loosly at her sides, swinging gently to the breeze that didn't exist. Her feet were a mere inch from the floor: an inch too much. Sage backed away as the body fell to the floor with a loud thump.
All of their hearts were pounding so fast it seemed as if they might burst. The sudden shattering of a vase on the bookcase didn't help them any. The water splashed out and went all over the perfect wood floors, followed by the beautiful flowers. The glass sounded almost like music as it fell to the ground in small shards. The only thing was, there was no way the glass could have broken. There was no one near to it, and nothing had knocked it over. It was as if it had been squeezed by someone...or something.
Another vase followed suit soon after, this one flying against the wall as if it had been thrown. A glass exploded, shooting shards in all directions, but none of them were near enough to get touched by it. Soon, there was almost no glass left in the room that was unshattered and lying on the floor like the dead carcass of an animal.
It was then that Sage was struck with a terrible idea. Tyler's glasses! She spun toward him and darted in his direction. She couldn't be too late. If his glasses shattered, the only thing that would be left of him would be a bloody pulp, and she was in no mood to clean that up. Her hand flew out to him and tossed the small round-rimmed spectacles off of his face. They shattered as they fell, making them all jump and back away as the glass flew in all directions.
Sage sighed a loud sigh of relief and turned back to Mulder. He was leaning against the wall for support. It was a safe place to be in a situation like this. His eyes were watching something through the brightness, and by the look on his face, it was not something good. He had a look of pure hysteria on his face, frozen with fear. She had never seen him reacting to anything this way. She almost didn't want to look, but she knew she had to.
As she turned, she touched Opal's body, sending a shiver down her spine as she backed away from it quickly. Her eyes rose until they were met with the horrid sight of the floating swords dancing in the air.
They had once been above the fireplace, but the force had ripped them from their places on the wall.
Now,they were taunting them with their sharpness, beckoning them to implant themselves on their silver tips, coloring their cold metal forever red with their thick crimson blood.
Sage shivered and ran toward Mulder. "We've got to get out of here." She pulled on the door, but found that it truly was impossible to open. "Shit!" She felt the presence of Tyler and Isabella behind her. Their backs were to her, though. They were watching the scene as the swords came closer and closer.
Mulder shoved her out of the way, seeing she was near hysterics. He pulled with all his might on the small knob, knowing that this meant life or death for every person in the room...except, of course, Opal. "Damnit, open!" He yelled at the door in annoyance as if yelling at them would help them to open. As if his command they would obey.
"Oh, my God!" A horrid cry ripped out of Isabella's usual quietness.
Mulder didn't even have to turn around to know the swords were on their way toward the small crowd trying to escape inevitable death. Everybody dies sometime, right? But Mulder wouldn't fall for that line. He wasn't going to die. Not yet. He took a deep breath as the screaming behind him increased, and he pulled with all his might. The door, surprisingly gave, opening suddenly without warning.
"Go," he screamed. They were all too hypnotized by the sight of the flying swords to notice the door was open. Sage spun around first and ran out the door like a flash of light. Tyler and Isabella followed directly behind her, still clutching onto each other like little, frightened children. Mulder pounced outside the door, seeing the light glint off the blades that were too near for comfort.
He slammed the door violently behind him and jumped away from the door as the loud noise of the knives colliding with the door echoed through their ears. It was a truly terrible sound that was unpleasant for anyone to hear. It was the sound that their flesh would have made had the knives implanted themselves there. It was the sound of their own deaths yelling a foreshadowing of what was to come. The sound laughed at them, at their escape, knowing that the knives would get them one way or another in the end, knowing that no one would ever get out alive.
Mulder glanced down the crowded hallway at the other inhabitants of the small area. He sighed loudly, but not loud enough to bother any one elses rest. He was restless. He had never felt so tired in his life, but he just seemed unable to sleep. He was unable to even get a wink of rest after the scene in the study. His heart pace speedened just thinking about it. He had never been so afraid in his life. Of course, he was not going to tell Sage that. She would probably only laugh at his amateur behavior. She had most likely seen all of this before. He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. He needed to calm down and sleep. But, he knew that he couldn't sleep when there was something worth thinking about. He rubbed his brow. Funny, but he had a headache.
The young girl emerged from the shadows as if she had just come out of the wallpaper. She was young, perhaps seven or eight. She had lengthy, brown hair that curled slightly, although no one would notice since all of her thick locks were pulled back in tight braids. She was uncommonly pale for her age except for her small, red cheeks. She was wearing a long, white nighgown that dragged on the floor as she walked. She was young and beautiful and meant a lot to someone in that hallway that was vulnerable of following after her. She laughed in the shadows, knowing her plan would work.
At the sudden sound of laughter, Mulder's senses sprung to life. He sat up quickly and glanced around the hallway to see where the sound had come from. It had sounded remotley like a little child, but there were no children here. Even in his nervous state, he knew that.
He almost jumped out of his skin at the sight of her. It was Samantha! She was standing at the end of the hallway smiling at him. Her dark eyes were twinkling, picking up light from somewhere where there was no light at all. She suddenly ran away. Mulder gasped for breath in his surprise. He knew he wasn't dreaming. This was all to real. He ran after her after throwing a short glanced toward Sage, who was fast asleep. It had amazed him that she could sleep at a time like this, but now all that mattered was Samantha.
Where on earth had she come from?
He followed the sound of her laughter until it had ceased to exist. By that time, it was too late for him to get out of the danger he had put himself in. He stepped into the room he had seen her enter and glanced around the area. The room was empty, but how could that be? She had gone in here, and he knew it. He wasn't seeing things. He wasn't that delusional, although he might as well be after all he had experianced that night. He sighed. Where was she?
Unexpectedly, the door slammed behind him, sending a shock though his system. He spun toward the door, the hollow noise of it's slamming still echoing through his mind. He laid his hand on the knob, knowing well enough that it was going to be locked. He tried turning it. His guess had been right. He cursed himself silently, negative thoughts invading his mind. Thoughts of flying knives and exploding glass.
The small dagger sitting under glass on the small table near the far wall didn't make him feel any better. He stared at it for a moment before pulling his eyes off it, filled with nervousness that he didn't like feeling. He knew he was in for it, now. How could he have been so stupid?
"You shouldn't have left."
He jumped notably at the sound of the musty, sensual voice behind him. He spun around, ready to defend himself from anything that came flying in his direction. He squinted through the small amount of light in the room, trying to see who it was that had caputered him here, outsmarting him, knowing his weaknesses.
"It was not a good idea, Fox." She floated out of the shadows slowly, softly, her white gown flowing out of the shadows behind her. Her blonde hair was still perfectly styled behind her back as she floated further into the light. Her skin was sickly pale, making her look like the ghost she was.
He could not believe his eyes. It was the woman from the painting! The woman that they had caught in the picture. She was real and standing right in front of him. He was silent, not knowing what he should say. He couldn't run from her, there was nowhere to go. He was trapped.
"It's just not safe to stray from the group." She smiled. "Not that you're safe with the group, either." She froze where she stood, watching him carefully. "You're really not safe anywhere. You're here to die."
He shook his head, trying to appear sure of himself. Was he, though? "We're not going to die here."
She laughed a laugh that frightened him more than anything. It was a laugh of pure evil. "I've killed so many. Do you think I would spare you?" She floated slowly closer to him, close enough to reach out and touch his face. "No, you will die just like the others. I'll make sure of that." She touched his cheek with her hand.
Mulder backed away from her touch. She felt like ice! With her mere touch, he had felt such an intense shiver, it was as if he had just stepped into the winter cold without a coat on.
She smiled at his reaction. She had known how she would feel to him. His warmth had almost burnt her chill, but she was used to it by now. Her chilly touched had taken the lives of more than she could count. "Are you ready to die now, Fox? You might as well get it over with. Besides, I can't wait to see Sage's face when she finds your cold, dead body. That will give me almost as much pleasure as killing you."
He glanced around him, searching for a way out. There was none. It was a hopeless situation. He only wondered if she was telling the truth. How could she kill him? He was more than sure he was more powerful than she was. He could easily overtake her. But, then a thought struck him. She wasn't human.
She was dead. He was talking to a dead woman. He almost felt as if he was going to faint at this thought.
How would Scully explain this?
"You can search for an escape, Fox, but it's no use." She laughed with the same evil she had shown moments before, this time, sinking back into the shadows and disappearing into the woodwork.
Mulder sighed in relief. She was gone! He was alive, too. That was his main goal: to live through this. And, so far he was doing all right. He almost felt like laughing with joy as he walked slowly toward the door.
He reached out to grab the knob, when a striking pain overloaded his stomach. He backed away quickly from the door, but the pain didn't stop. The pain only increased, causing him to gasp for air that his lungs could not get. He longed for the sweet air as he tried to suck in air, but it was no use. He fell back against the wall, struggling to stay on his feet. What was happening to him? What was going wrong? What had she done? He held his stomach tightly and glanced around the room for an answer.
Before he was ready, his answer came. His eyes widened as he looked searchingly at the table against the far wall. The daggar had been there a moment ago. It had been sitting under the glass, looking beautiful, looking deadly. Now, it was gone. He closed his eyes tightly. He knew where the pain was coming from, now. He knew why he was slowly dying. He knew why she was somewhere laughing at him.
She had beat him.
He clutched his stomach, full of panic as he slowly slid down the wall and took a seat on the floor.
He couldn't let this beat him. He had to yell out. He had to get help. But even if someone found him, what would they do? They were locked in the house! Was this what had been going through Mae Holkovic's mind as she died? Was this what death felt like? He felt himself becoming dizzy as an awful taste invaded his mouth: blood. He coughed violently, struggling against the great pain he was feeling. He struggled to yell, struggled to call out, but his throat refused to make a noise.
He could almost feel his stomach ripping. He couldn't move. If he moved, the knife might come
through the skin. Then, there would be no hope. He had no hope, anyway. He was dying, and he knew it.
His mind fell back on Scully. Well, he wouldn't hear her voice, after all. What would they tell her? That her partner had been murdered by a ghost? She wouldn't believe a word of it, and his death would go on as a mystery until the end of time. He felt a tear rolling down his cheek as he thought of her.
He coughed softly, this time, tasting the thick blood in the back of his mouth. It tasted awful and bitter...like death. The pain slowly began to fade as he lost consiousness, falling onto the floor with his head back, hands still ripping at his stomach. He was still fighting to live as he faded into the blackness.
Sage shook awake suddenly, finding herself gasping for breath. There was a thick panic in her, but she couldn't figure out why. Something just wasn't right. Something had gone terribly wrong. She sat up instantly turning around in the hallway, searching for the form of panic that had awakened her so violently.
Tyler was sleeping peacefully at the end of the hallway, dreaming of nothing in particular. She had guessed that the only dreams possible in this situation would be nightmares, but here he was dreaming softly.
Isabella was lying down a few feet, her own thin arms wrapped around herself. It was almost as if she was trying to comfort herself, protecting herself from something that only she could see.
Mulder was, wait. Where was Mulder? She spun around in the small hallway and jumped to her feet. He wasn't there! She had remembered him lying down further toward the opposite end of the hallway, but he wasn't there. It was as if he had simply disappeared into thin air. She took one last glanced around the hallway before taking off in a mad run toward the open end of the hall, the end Mulder had been closest to.
She went through the are, searching room after room that she came upon. Where could he have gone? She didn't even want to think about what could have happened to him. She wouldn't let herself think of such things. She knew that every arrow she saw pointed toward the one frightening conclusion: he had joined Opal in grisly death. Her vivid imaginatin even had begun picturing how it had happened, but she quickly closed these doors of her subconcious and opened another door.
This door took a bit of work to open, but it opened after a moment. It was almost as if it had been locked one moment and unlocked another. Of course, she didn't think of this. She was searching for a friend, and that was the only thing her mind was zeroing in on at that moment. She had to find Mulder.
Her heart stopped when she saw him, almost leaving her dead on the floor. She pulled herself together quickly and ran to Mulder's side. He was dead, she knew it. He had to be. He appeared to be almost in slumber, but she knew better then that. Her hand shook as she reached out and touched his neck, searching for a pulse that she wouldn't find. She screamed in agony and defeat as her finger picked up nothing but his smooth skin. He had no pulse, but she wouldn't let it go that easily. "Mulder, no!" She
turned him onto his back quickly and she laid her head on his chest, trying to find some sort of heartbeat.
She wasn't going to let this beat her, and she was not going to let Mulder die.
She struggled to remember those classes when she had learned CPR. She had thought at the time that it would never come in handy, but as she stared down at Mulder's peaceful face, she knew it was important. She thought quickly, entertwining her fingers in the telltale CPR stance. She searched for the bottom of his rid cage, feeling herself losing it. Not now, Sage. This isn't the time to fall apart. She counted out as she shoved her fists into his stomach, trying to jump start his heart. She put her ear near his mouth, praying that he would start breathing.
She pulled his chin up, trying to open the windpipe as best she could. She remembered this now. They had had to practice on little, plastic dummies all those years ago. Of course, this was different. Much different. A life depended on this, and she was the only person who could save it. She closed her mouth over his and pinched his nose shut before blowing a woosh of air down his throat, expanding his lungs momentarily. She pulled away, still tasting him in her mouth. He tasted sweet to her panic, almost like fresh, summer fruit. Her mind spun. Her luck that he would be dead when she finally god to "kiss" those lips of his. Only a dead guy would find her attractive anyway, she thought bitterly. She listened for a heart beat again.
How long had he been gone? She had no idea. For all she knew, he could have been dead for hours, but judging by the warmth radiating from him, he had probably just taken his last breath moments before she had broken through the door. What had happened? she wondered. Had some psycho ghost done him in or had it been a murderer? Was this all a great bit setup? She shook this off as her mind returned to the task at hand. She drove her palms into his stomach, again and again, still receiving nothing from him.
Her heart was really pounding now, and she could just feel the tears lying beneath the surface of her mind.
She listened for air.
He was dead. She shivered as this thought registered. "No!" She yelled to no one in particular and held his chin up again. Pinching his nose, she blew into his throat. She waited a moment before inflating his lungs a second time with her breath. As she blew in, she felt a sudden pressure as if he was expelling a breath of air. She ripped backwards and stared down into his face. He was alive! His eyes fluttered softly but remained closed. It didn't matter if his eyes were still closed. He was alive!
She let out a huge breath of air in relief and pulled him into her arms. She cradled him in her lap like a mother with a child. She kissed his forehead affectionatly and brushed the hair off his forehead. She felt her own skin was wet with nervous sweat, but she didn't care. She felt almost faint with pure and utter joy as his eyes opened, staring up at her.
His eyes were fuzzy for a moment. He blinked, forcing the fog away and stared up into her face.
She had saved him! He still felt her lips on his vaguely, still tasting her soft, feminine, sweetness. He felt her strong arms clutching him close. It must have been awfully close. He glanced around the room quickly as everything came back to him in a bright and frightening chain of events.
She expelled another breath of air loudly, trying to force herself to calm down. She still felt as if her heart was just going to burst. He sat up slowly as she loosened her hold around his shoulders so that he could actually move. His head was aching, and he was still having trouble breathing. What had happened to the knife? He glanced toward the far wall, and to his own disbelief, the knife was back in its place, perfectly clean and shining in the light. Adeline was doing quite a number on him.
Finally registering everything around him, Mulder leaned on Sage for support on the cold, wooden floor. He wrapped his arms around her gently, not quite having the energy to hold her any tighter. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and laid her chin on his shoulder. She was feeling faint, and if she tried to stand up, she was sure she would fall over.
They sat together there for minutes before Sage willed herself to break the silence. "Are you all right, Mulder?" She pulled away so that she could look into his face. She didn't care that her eyes were damp and red with tears. She still wasn't sure if he was all right.
He nodded and swallowed hard. He was still feeling awfully woozy. After staring at the floor for a long minute, he found the energy to look her in the eye. He was sure his eyes were watering, but he didn't care. It wasn't a time to care about such inconsequential things. He smiled slightly as he saw a tear run down her cheek and fall onto the floor silently. She smiled, too upon seeing that he was sharing similar emotions with her. He reached up and laid his hand on her cheek, wiping her tears away with his fingers.
She acted similarly, laying her hand on his cheek. His skin was so soft. She tenderly wiped his tears away, too. They didn't even notice the figure standing in the corner, smiling with victory.
Sage tried her best to walk slowly so that Mulder could keep up. He was looking awfully pale, but she was just happy that he was alive. She knew that they needed to get him to a doctor, which was completely out of the question. The electricity was still out, and the doors were still locked. It was a hopless situation. She held his hand tightly as they returned to the others. Mulder had thought it would be best if the other two people didn't know of what had happened. They didn't need to be frightened any further than they already were.
She kicked Tyler gently as they moved by them. "Tyler."
He moved slowly, not wanting to wake up the the nightmare that was reality. By the look on his tired face, she could see that he really had not wanted to be bothered. "What is it, Sage?" His voice was shallow and pointed with annoyance.
"I think we should move. We aren't safe here."
He sat up, rubbing the back of his head. "Why do you say that? It seems pretty safe to me."
"We saw a ghost, Tyler. I think we should go somewhere else." She lied. If she needed to exaggerate, it didn't bother her. She glanced at Mulder, and was happy to see that he showed no knowledge that she had lied. The fact that he was such a good liar worried Sage. Had he lied to her without her knowing it? She sighed. "Let's get out of here."
He nodded. "Whatever you say." He thought she was a psycho, but he didn't care. He did feel like getting up and moving around, after all. He had been sleeping for at least an hour. He toeed Isabella's extended arm. "Issy, get up. We're moving."
She groaned as he sat up, but she didn't say a word of disagreement or ask a question. She just stood up and stretched. She had had a very restful sleep, to her own surprise.
They moved in a small congregation toward the library, hoping to discover some way out.
Truthfully, though, their hope was practically nonexistant. All of them just felt fear in the bottom of their stomachs, knowing that the moment of death would come at any moment.
Mulder looked toward Sage as they walked toward the room. She was still clutching tightly to his hand as she had been since they had left the hallway, but she appeared to be off somewhere in her mind, trying to fit a puzzle piece into the game of life and death. He could almost see her thinking of a way of escaping. He just kept remembering the look on her face when he pulled out of their hug. She had looked so happy and so afraid at the same time. He still wasn't sure how he felt about her, but he knew that she was special, and that she had to live through this no matter what. She was a strong girl that could take more than most people, and Mulder knew it.
Tyler closed the door behind the group as he came in last. He was glad to see that there were no sharp implements in this room. Of course, after losing his glasses everything looked fairly fuzzy, but to the best of his guesses, this room was as close to safe as they were going to get. He sat in a chair near the darkened fireplace and covered his face with his hands. He had a burning headache all of a sudden.
Mulder sat down in the chair by the door and rubbed his forehead. He wished the terrible pounding would stop. His mouth still tasted remotely of blood, but he swallowed this out of his mind. He was alive, and he was all right.
Isabella sat down next to him, shivering slightly as she sat down. She reached out and took Mulder's hand, much to the surprise of everyone else in the room. She was finally coming out of her shell, was she. Mulder squeezed her hand, but didn't smile. He didn't feel he had the energy to perform such a feat. Isabella smiled at him and leaned her head against his shoulder. She was comfortable with him as she had never been with anyone before. She closed her eyes and tried to get some more sleep.
Sage scratched her chin as she paced around the room. She resembled a caged lion, searching for its dinner. She looked deep in though over how to handle their situation. If anyone would think of something, she would. She mumbled something for no one to hear but herself and stopped suddenly. A light had glowed in her eyes for a moment, but it was quickly gone. An idea had come, but she had debunked her own thoughts.
Tyler pulled his hands off of his face. "Would you sit still!"
"I can't Tyler. I've got to think. There has to be something we can do. We can't just sit here and die." She ran a nervous hand through her short hair.
"Yes we can, Sage! There's nothing else we can do."
"How can you say that! You're just going to give up and not care anymore? At least I'm going to get out of here alive!" She turned her back to him. "We'll just leave your rotting corpse here to be eaten by the bugs, then."
He rose to his feet. "What are you saying? You're going to kill me because I've lost hope?"
"I didn't say that."
"God, you really are just as psycho as they all said you were."
Her mouth widened for a moment along with her eyes. "What did you say?"
"You heard me." He stuck out his chin, representing a challenge. "You're a psycho. I've thought that since the very first time I met you."
She looked like she was just going to rip his face off, but she stopped. "You asshole! How dare you say that to me?"
"How dare I? I dare because it's the truth." He spun on his heels. "Your whole family was insane, Sage. A whole freaking bunch of loonies!"
"Oh, there's wit! Attacking my dead parents!"
"Did you kill your father, Sage? Did you string him up?" He stared her down, backing down as she stepped forward almost crushing his toes.
"I'll string you up, you little prick! At least my parents were happy together. Instead of hating each other like your parents. They have the combined IQ of a pair of toads!"
Mulder rubbed his forehead and rose from his seat. He couldn't handle this. Even with Isabella clinging gently to him to give him comfort, he still felt like his head was about to explode.
He pulled out of Isabella's grasp and walked toward the rows of bookshelves lining the room's high walls. Of all the rooms in the house, this was easily his favorite. The loud and angry voices of his two co-workers were almost unhearable. The millions of books lining the walls absorbed their shrillness.
Mulder strode through the area, watching every corner. His stomach was still twisted in knots with undeniable worries. What else could possibly go wrong? Who would be the next to die? Perhaps, she would come back after him later. Had she spared him? He still didn't understand what had exactly happened. He only knew he was alive. He almost thought that he saw a shadow following him, but he couldn't be sure.
The room had such a heavy air to it. It was almost as if he was walking through a cloud of misty worry and fear.
The books around him surrounded him, covering them in their protective bindings. Their eyes of paper watched him walk by, screaming to him to choose them. He frowned as he glanced at a few of the titles. None of them were even remotley familiar. They were all most likely from the late nineteenth century, printed in Scotland. Most of them probably had never even touched American soil. Mulder sighed and picked through a few of the thinned volumes of books. Maybe reading would take his mind off of everything else that was happening. As he opened the cover of one of the books carefully, he listened for Sage and Tyler. Their voices had ceased to exist. They had probably gotten sick of arguing with each other.
Everyone was tired,and everyone had a short temper. Mulder was in no mood to argue, so he made a silent promise to not say anything offensive to any of his commrades. Hatred would only make the air heavier.
A tap on his shoulder didn't even phase him. He knew who it was. "What are you looking for?" It was Sage. She smiled weakly.
"Hope." His face remained the same. He was indifferent to everyone and everything around him, but he hadn't given up hope. He wasn't going to die in this house, and he had strong faith in that statement.
"You mind if I help you look?"
He shrugged. "It's a good thing to have someone help you look for." This time he smiled. He
didn't want to make her feel shoved away, after all, she had saved his life. "That was a rather messy scene out there."
She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. "I know. It happens sometimes. I do love my arguements." She touched his shoulder. "Are you feeling all right? You look a little green around the gills."
"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks." He reached out to pull at another thick book, but stopped suddenly after he had given it one good strong pull. "Jesus Christ." He gave it another pull. A group of five or six books pulled out in a small row. They weren't real! They were hiding something beneath them. Something important.
Sage jumped slightly. "What the-"
"It's a safe!" He glanced behind the books. "God, it looks old!"
She stuck her head next to his and glanced into the darkness. He was right. It did appear to be antique. She doubted that the Holkovics had even known of its existance, because by the look of it, it hadn't been opened in a century. "We've got to get this thing open."
He sighed. "How? I don't suppose you have another bobby-pin with you?"
She smiled. "Always, Mulder." She reached to the underside of her thick mane of hair and extracted a small hair pin that shined in the light. "How's that for being on task, ay?"
He grinned. "You're amazing, you know that?"
"I know, I know." She shoved past him and inspected the lock. "It's old, and it should be easy to break."
"What are you guys up to?" Isabella poked her head into their conversation.
"Look." Mulder pulled her into their little circle to see what they had found. "Sage, the amazing lock-picker, is going to break into it."
She smiled, suddenly. She really had a beautiful smile, but she never really showed it to anyone. It was a rare ocassion that she was caught with a smile on her small, pale face.
"Is Tyler all right?" Sage asked as she poked and prodded at the tiny lock that would have kept even the best robber out in the nineteenth century. "I feel kind of bad about out little arguement."
Isabella pointed over her shoulder, eyes not leaving Mulder. "He's back there. I think he's all right. He acted kind of sorry, himself. Then again, you always argue."
Mulder was amazed. That was the most he had heard this shy little girl say since he had first met her. She was too quiet! He shoved his hands in his pockets and tried to wait patiently for Sage to finish, but his nerves were flowing heavily. "Almost done?"
She smiled. "Yes. How old are you anyway? Five?"
"Something like that."
With a tiny click, the small safe popped open. A rather musty smell invaded their noses. It reminded them of the inside of a tomb. They all agreed on this based on the looks they threw around.
Death was on all of their minds, as it was.
Mulder moved first and shoved past Sage to see what was inside this little treasure cove. He squinted through the darkness, not really wanting to stick his hand into the darkness and pull out what he found. He remembered the stories Mae had told them about Adeline and her little "ceremonies," and he really didn't want to find the remains of someone else.
Sage pushed him away. "What are you waiting for? An invitation?" She reached into the darkness, fearless of what they might find inside. Her hand slipped back into the light, clutching tightly to a tiny and dusty bag. "Hmm, very mysterious." The three of them had forgotten about their fears as she opened the bag slowly.
Mulder opened his hand for her to pour the inards of the bag into. He wasn't worried about what was inside anymore. His curiousity had covered his nervousness. Two shining pieces of gold tumbled out onto his hand, tied together with a beautiful piece of red ribbon. The ribbon reminded him of blood, but he shook that off and looked closer at the small pieces of gold.
"They're rings!" Sage took his hand in hers so that she could get a better look at them. "How beautiful!" One of them had an immense and shining diamond that send small shards of light flying around the area. The other was a simple, golden, ring, but it was surely worth a large amount of money.
"Wedding rings." Mulder looked up at Sage with wide eyes.
She met his gaze and struggled to remember the significance of wedding rings. What was he thinking? The thought stuck her directly in the forehead. The wedding rings Joseph had bought for himself and Adeline! The story was true, and she wouldn't be happy at all once she learned that they had her rings that she had been searching for since the beginning of time.
A rather loud clattering broke their gazes away from the rings that sat in Mulder's hand. Sage threw him a worried glance. What else was going to go wrong, now? Mulder hastily stuffed the rings into his pants pocket and took a step toward the unpleasant sound. With each step, his fear hightened, throwing a rememberance of his own death back to his mind. How awful that had been! He took a deep breath, holding in all the horrid thoughts and images floating around in his mind. He couldn't think of these things now. He needed to try to handle the situation with calmness instead of intense fear.
He was glad that he had stuffed the rings into his pocket. If he had still been holding them in his hands, he would have dropped them. Tyler swung from the ceiling, a shocked expression on his face as if he hadn't known his own death was coming. Or maybe, the sight of the grim reaper coming to take him away had done it. His eyes were halfway out of the sockets, just enough for a person to make out the inside of his skull. Whoever that had tried to carve them out of his head had, had to hurry away into the darkness before their task had been finished.
The slight gasp coming out of Isabella was enough to let Mulder know she had just stepped out from behind the stacks of books. Her hands flew to her cheeks as she let out a terrifying, scream. She shook and fell to her knees on the floor. Sage stepped next to her and pulled he to her feet, glancing up at Mulder. He looked and felt indifferent. All this situation proved was that they were dying, one by one, and the dying wouldn't stop until there was no one left to die.
"Let's get out of here, Mulder, fast." Sage tugged on his shoulder as she shoved Isabella toward the doors. "We can't stay here, now."
"We can't just keep moving from room to room to wait to die." His eyes were still on the slightly swinging corpse as he said this.
She frowned. "Mulder, you're right, but there's nothing else we can do. We've got to go somewhere to think, and here really isn't the place for me to do so."
"Sage, you've got to listen to me. I think-" the loud wooshing exploded in their ears as Tyler's swinging body was engulfed in flames. Isabella began screaming again as the body burnt and burnt like a dry piece of wood. The fire was hot and it threw red and orange waves across the walls that taunted them.
Mulder felt the sweat running down his back as he backed away from the hanging corpse, holding his breath without even realizing it.
The fireplace, roared to life, sending a wave of flames into the air that reached across the room and almost touched their feet. "Let's get the hell out of here," Sage yelled, pulling Isabella behind her like a lost puppy in the night.
The flames flew out of their prison in a distressing wave. "Shit!" Mulder shoved them both outside before he followed behind them. "That's no regular fire in there, Sage! I think it's following us!" As the door crackled behind them, they noticed that it wasn't only following them. It was trying it's best to kill them.
"Run!" Sage screamed. She shoved Isabella down the hall as the three of them took off down the hallway, looking for some way to escape where there was none.
The heat pursued them rampantly, letting them know of it's presence as it almost bit at their heals. The heat only spurred them on, but they all knew that they couldn't run forever. The only thoughts running through their minds was that they were about to die, that they were about to be burnt alive.
Out of the corner of his eye, Mulder spotted something that gave him hope, something that made him almost stop running in happiness. The stairs to the cellar! He smiled to no one but himself. "Issy, down there!" He pointed the best he could with his shaking finger. They had to reach it in order to survive. It was their only hope.
She glanced over her shoulder at him, fear in her eyes. Would she be able to jump in the door before the fire reached them all, burning them alive. She wished the door had been open, but it wasn't. She would have to rip it open before the flames utterly consumed their flesh. She met Mulder's eyes only for a moment to know that all she had to do was jump inside, and they would all be perfeclty safe.
The moment came, she held her breath. She was sweating considerably with the heat on her heels.
She stopped momentarily and flew toward the door. With a single movement, she tore it open and jumped inside. Mulder began to follow after her, then he noticed that Sage hadn't heard their plans. She was still running! He lunged for her and grabbed her arm, tearing her inside the safety of the door that would lead to another floor. She gasped in surprise as she fell into his arms at the foot of the staircase leading to the basement. She reacted quickly, though, pulling the door shut tightly behind her and sighing in releif as she helped Mulder to his feet.
"Come on out, you little bitch! Stop playing games with us," she screamed at the door with all her might. Her fists were clenched tightly at her sides, completely white knuckeled and shaking. "You may have killed my friends, but you won't ever kill anyone again! Not if I have anything to say about it!" The sound of the raging fire outside the door invaded their ears as Sage swiftly descended the staircase, rage written on her beautiful face. She frowned. "Issy, get your ass down here!"
Mulder followed slowly behind the small, shy girl he had known with concern for Sage written all over his face. He had never seen her so angry, and he was almost afraid of what she was capable of doing.
"Sage, are you all right?"
She nodded, not really paying any attention to him as she paced back and forth. "Look, I didn't want to do this, but I have no other choice. We've got to perform a spirit rescue, and we've got to do it, now." She took off her watch and all of her jewelry, laying them on the floor at her feet. She kept on the small cross around her neck and clutched it tightly in her hands.
Issy stepped forward quickly, laying a hand on Sage's arm. "Sage, we can't do that. I won't let you do it. It's just too dangerous."
"I'm doing it, Issy, no matter what you say."
Mulder stepped forward, annoyed and confused. "Hey, what's spirit rescue, anyway?"
Issy turned to him, her face still calm and collected. "It's a term we use when we talk about possession." She sighed. "You see, a person goes into a trance like state so that the spirit may enter their body for a small amount of time. Then, another person has to talk the ghost through to another dimension."
She glanced over her shoulder at Sage. "But, the thing is, it's very dangerous. Sometimes, a spirit crosses into another dimension and takes the person they possessed with them. It's just unsafe." She turned back to
Sage. "I won't let you do it, Sage. I'm not good at talking to the spirit. I'll lose you, and you know it as well as I do."
"We have got to do this Issy. It doesn't matter the consequences. One life for three is better than losing all three. You've got to see that."
Mulder stepped forward. "Wait, Sage. There has to be another way."
She shook her head. "There's no other way, and every one of us knows it. I've got to be put in the trance, and it has to happen now." She turned away from them, quickly.
"Sage, wait." Issy grabbed her arm and threw Mulder a hopeful look. She knew that Sage liked him, and that he liked her. She couldn't just stand back and let this happen. She had to intercede. "I'm doing it, Sage. You can talk to the spirit better than I can. You know that."
"No, Issy. I'm doing it. I got you into this mess as it is."
"I won't do anything to help you unless you let me be the one." She stared at Sage with an intense annoyance that Mulder had never seen in this quite girl. She was willing to give her own life for theirs, and she was more than serious about it. She was almost blackmailing Sage by putting her in this position, but she had good intentions. "Besides, it's easier for spirits to enter me. It always has been, Sage." She met her eyes easily.
Sage saw herself trapped. There was nothing else she could say. Two people who knew what they were doing were needed to perform a spirit rescue, and if Issy didn't help, there was no way to exorcise the house. It was as easy as that. "All right, Issy." She glanced around the basement. "We can't do it here.
We've got to get somewhere else in the house where we can get candles."
Mulder crossed his arms in front of himself. "How are we going to do that? We can't exactly just go upstairs." He glanced over his shoulder and almost fell over. The door was wide open!
Sage stepped next to him, her eyes widening. "What the hell?" She climbed the stairs quickly and glanced around the hallway. There had been no fire there. There was no sign of any such accident. It looked as if nothing had happened at all. "That's very creative!" She yelled to no one at all. "Come on," she yelled harshly at Mulder and Issy. She was so full of anger, Mulder knew they would win this battle.
How could they lose with Sage in this condition? She was almost bursting with rage.
As they joined her in the hallway, she turned to both of them. "Let's go back to the library."
Issy looked sick. "Tyler."
"It's all right. We should go to where she has killed. She'll probably still be lingering there if she isn't following us right now." Sage's statement sent a shiver up Mulder's spine as he glanced over his shoulder. He was cold all of a sudden, and he wanted to get out of the hallway. He shoved them both forward, and they walked slowly back to the room that they had just scrambled from moments before.
Mulder stuck his head in first to make sure that all was safe for them to enter. To his own surprise, Tyler's body was no longer hanging from the ceiling. He wondered silently where it had gone, but he kept these thoughts to himself. He didn't want to scare Issy further than she already was. She had to be ready to do the spirit rescue before they could start. She was much more brave than Mulder had first thought. She was willing to risk her own life, which made her earn his respect fully.
He gave them the okay nod and let them enter ahead of him before shutting the door tightly and locking it even though he knew it was a pointless gesture. Perhaps, he just wanted to feel a strange sort of confidence in knowing that he had tried everything he could to prolong their lives. He frowned. He had a terrible feeling in his stomach that they were going to die. But all he had to do was look towards Sage, and her confidence would make him feel better.
She glanced around the room impatiently. "All right, guys, spread out and find candles. As many as you possibly can." She paused. "Just be careful."
After scattering across the entire library, they had reformulated with handfulls of small candles and large candles. All of them would work, so Sage smiled for a moment before becoming bossy again. "All right, who's got the matches?" She glanced around hopefully.
Issy's face brightened. "I've got a lighter."
"Great." She set all of the candles in a small circle in front of the fireplace, telling Issy that it was time, and that she had to lay down in the middle before she began to light the candles. It would help her to formulate the trance more efficiatnly, and they all knew that they didn't have a lot of time before Adeline would decide to come back and visit.
"All right." She smiled at both of them and took her place inside the ring of candles.
Sage smiled, hopefully even though she really didn't feel like smiling at all. She felt sad and almost perfectly sure that she was about to lose another of her friends. "You know what to do, right?"
"Of course I do, Sage. I've done it before you know. It'll be all right. I'm sure. Don't worry about a thing." She sat down slowly and tried her best to look perfectly calm, but she wasn't sure she was. She felt her heart pumping in her chest, but she tried to not show it to either of the other two people in the room.
She didn't want to make them as worried as she was. "Ready?"
"Ready." Sage took a deep breath. "Ready, Mulder?"
"Ready as I'm ever going to be." He glanced around the room nervously, making sure that no beautiful woman emerged from the shadows to kill them all. Sage clutched the lighter in her hand as she watched Issy concentrate. She crossed her arms over her chest and took deep breaths as Sage lit each candle with the tiny, blue flame. The candles let off a tiny, frightening light that made their faces glow ghoulishly and unpleasantly. She tried to not notice her own raging pulse as she handed the lighter to Mulder, who took it and began to slowly light his half of the circle.
They had both crouched down on opposite sides of the circle so that they could share their energies with Issy, who would undoubtedly need their help through the ordeal.
He handed Sage the lighter and sighed loudly. She put a finger to her mouth, telling him that they had to perfectly silent for the time being. It would only take a moment for Issy to be ready, but if Sage was to start too early, it could ruin the entire rescue mission. "Are you ready, Issy," she asked quietly.
Issy only nodded her head. The rest of her was motionless, and Mulder thought that she looked almost dead. He bit his lip until he could taste his own blood in nervousness. He stopped quickly so that he could pay better attention to the scene unfolding in front of him. He was almost sure he'd never see anything like this again.
Sage reached out slowly, not making a sound and laid both of her hands on the side of Issy's head careful not to touch any of the candles. As soon as her fingers reached and touched Issy's temples, her fingers moved in small circles. Issy's voice came out quiet and controlled as she began to slowly recite the entire alphabet in a haunting rhythym that sent a shiver down Mulder's spine. She sounded supernatural as she went on to recite the alphabet a full four times, all the time, Sage's fingers working magic across Issy's temples. Mulder still wasn't sure he understood what was happening in front of him, but he pretended to be an expert as he stared at them both. He was really shaking, but he didn't show it with great effort.
Suddenly, Issy's voice faded away as if she had just lost consiousness. Sage leaned back and nodded to Mulder. This was going the right way. It was supposed to be happening this way, and he was glad she had informed him of this. Otherwise, he might have begun screaming in fright. "Close your eyes, Mulder," she whispered, careful not to wake Issy from her trance. He did as he was told and relaxed slightly. The silence along with the dancing candlelight was a perfect place to fall asleep. But, his senses were picking up everything, not letting him truly relax.
Sage took deep and counted breaths, holding herself calm so that she would be more than able to do whatever had to be done once the spirit had entered Issy's prone form. She bit her bottom lip as she concentrated upon calling out to the ghost, telling it to enter the body so that they could communicate with her. She tried her best to be kind to the ghost so that she would be able to earn it's trust.
Sage opened her eyes slightly and gasped loudly. "Mulder," she whispered as she stared at the levitating form of her friend.
Mulder's jaw dropped as he registered what was happening right in front of him. He felt a pang of worry in his stomach, but all he could do was stare. His eyes were as wide as saucers as the body slowly returned to it's place on the floor.
"Is the spirit present?" Her voice was slow and steady as she stared at her friend's figure on the floor. There was not one pang of movement, which caused her slight worry.
"He wouldn't marry me! I told him I loved him, but he wouldn't listen!" Issy's eyes and mouth jumped to life as the screaming words flew through the room. "He would never listen! He didn't even give me my ring!" She was shaking slightly, but her eyes had closed again.
Sage was worried that they would miss their chance. The spirit didn't seem to be very strong inside Issy. She laid her hand on Issy's hand and took a deep breath. The time had come. "You might never get another chance. This is your chance." She closed her eyes as she concentrated on the body on the floor.
"This is your chance to be free once and for all. This is when you take a step through the door and a bigger door beyond that. A much bigger door filled with light." She paused. "Walk through that door."
Mulder kept his eyes prone to the unmoving body in front of him. He had a terrifying fear in his stomach as he listened to Sage's calm words echoing through the large room where so many deaths had occured. He thought he could almost smell the death, but he couldn't be sure. He just felt sickened to be sitting on the floor underneath the place where someone had been hanging. He felt unsafe with this spirit in Issy's body directly at his knees. He took a deep breath to calm himself.
"Do you see the door, Adeline?"
Issy's eyes opened again, and a piercing laughter emerged from her lips, but this wasn't Issy's laughter. This laughter sent a chill down Mulder's spine. He had heard it once before, and twice was two times too much. "You can't get rid of me!" She screamed. "I'll be here forever! I'll be here as long as my rings are here!"
Sage sprung back as Issy began to levitate once again, rising higher than before and smiling all the time. Her laughter covered their ears like a dark, black cloak, causing them immense fear and dread all the time.
Sage ducked quickly to the floor as the fireplace sprung to life, throwing a fireball over the entire area. "Shit!" She glanced at the fire after it had been pulled back into the fireplace. Issy just laughed and laughed as if she was perfectly insane, but Adeline was insane. She was sick, and she wouldn't leave without a battle.
"You're leaving no matter what you little bitch!" To Mulder's surprise, she shoved the body back to the floor and ripped the cross from her neck. Holding it above Issy's stretched out body she screamed with all her might, "I saw and heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, `Come!' And I saw, and behold, the pale horse," the fire raged as she paused to suck in another breath of oxygen. Sage cluthed the cross tightly on her palm. Mulder looked up from the body to see why Sage had paused. The cross was glowing! It was burning hot, and she was fighting to hold onto it. "And, it's rider's name was death, and hell followed with him!" She screamed the last words as the cross fell from her hand, revealing her pink and burning flesh. She clutched onto her own wrist in agony.
Issy's body twisted slightly in a pain that Mulder and Sage both could not see.
Sage's mind worked overtime as she thought over all she knew, and suddenly, she was struck with an amazing revelation. "Mulder! Give me the rings! Give them to me, now!" She extended her hand above the body and yelled at him with all her might.
He rapidly reached into his pocket and drew out the two, small rings, still tied tightly together with the ribbon. He threw them to her quickly, not wanting to know what she was thinking. She was really worrying him now, after she had clutched to the cross even as it burned her flesh. She was truly frightening in the twinkling candlelight and raging fire. He wanted to reach out and calm her, but he knew her psychotic actions were only leading them toward the end of the tunnel. He trusted her to get them both throught this, so he sat back nervously.
She jumped to her feet and brought the rings back. She was going to throw them into the fire! She screamed out as she let go of the rings as if some force was trying to hold her back. The rings tumbled into the raging flames as Issy began screaming out in agony and defeat. Her mouth was twisted in a terrible scowl as the fire suddenly turned bright blue and flashed all around the room. Sage fell to her knees on the floor as the fire seemed to be blown out by some amazing force. Issy's screams filled the entire room as her body rose off the floor and twisted in agony.
Mulder's hair becamse dishelved as an impetuous wind took over the room. He glanced around him, but no windows were open. No doors were letting in the breeze. It was almost as if the area had just opened up to the outside on a stormy night. Sage felt the same strong wind, and she threw Mulder a glance.
She was still clutching tightly to her wrist, showing that she was in a great amount of pain as they sat there.
Her face was still read with her anger toward this spirit as she stared at her flying friend in a panic. She was sure that Issy was dead by now. She bit her lip and laid her head on the floor as the wind picked up. She was afraid that if she sat up high enough, the wind might just pick her up with it. She glanced at Mulder again, and he was doing the same. The wind was steadily picking up.
"Never! Never ! My rings! My rings!" Issy's voice raved wildly in the darkness as she flew above the floor in circles. "No! Not yet! Stop this! Help!" She seemed to almost be talking to someone. She was arguing over something, something that meant a lot to her.
Sage sat up slowly as the wind passed over her. She gasped. It appeared that they were inside a column of wind! They were sitting in a middle of a some sort of tornado. But how could that be? She stared up at the body, now. Her mind was filled with the odd image that was floating above them. She was petrified as she had never been before. She stared up at her friend and cursed herself silently for letting her do such a thing.
To his own disbelief, Mulder began to see clouds forming above the floating body. He bit his tongue in surprise, making himself jump at the sudden pain. He just couldn't believe his eyes. How could this all be happening? It was as if there was a storm occuring inside the walls of the house, and this caused him great worry. He stared at the forming clouds with wide eyes.
"No! No! No!" Issy kept on screaming. It still wasn't Issy, though. Her voice was different, more fearsome and more Scottish. "Not yet! Leave me! My rings!" She spun faster and faster above their heads.
"Mulder!" Sage screamed. There was a man behind her friend. He was a young man with a wife at his side, but the fact that they had simply appeared out of nowhere frightened her.
"Sage!" Mulder stared at the form of the three tall men behind Sage's back with wide eyes. He glanced around the room, then, and saw that these three men weren't alone. There were people everywhere in the room. They were only staring, motionlessly, up at Issy's spinning form with frowns on their faces.
They were dressed in clothes that appeared antique even though when they had been alive, the clothes had been the latest fashion trend. There were children there, too. All of them were unearthly pale and sick looking. They were all standing outside of the whirlwind that had formed around Sage, Mulder, and Issy.
"Not now! You can't make me leave!" She kicked and screamed as she rose toward the clouds, afraid of something. Terrified at something. "No!"
The room was suddenly brightened as the lightning struck, sending a convulsion through Issy's body. The lightning from the cloud near the ceiling was uncanny and blue. It almost appeared to be a hand as it ripped and pulled at the body floating to the ceiling. It toar at something until that something came free.
Issy screamed fearfully as her the clouds slowly deminished. The wind stopped altogether as fast as it had begun. Sage closed her eyes and laid her head on the floor, afraid of what was to happen next. Where the people outside the whirlwind coming to get them now? Was Adeline standing over them, waiting to kill them? She didn't want to see any more.
Mulder closed his eyes tightly and laid his head on the floor. Even though he knew it was childish, he felt too overpowered with fear to do anything else. As a few drops fell onto his back, he sat up suddenly.
Where had that come from? He gasped loudly in surprise. The house was gone! He could see all the way across the fields and to the waterfront as his eyes coasted across the countryside. He stood up slowly, woozy from all that had just happened and brushed the ashes off of his pants. The place was ashes. All that remained of the castle were immense piles of black dust, the only remains of a fire that to Mulder, had never happened. He held his forehead for an instant. He felt so dizzy that he was almost tempted to sit down again and fall asleep, but he had to find the others.
"Sage?" His voice rose above the sound of the light rain like a rainbow when the sun parts through the clouds. "Sage?"
She sat up suddenly at the sound of his voice. Had she fallen asleep? She certainly felt as if she had. Everything seemed so far away from her. A great deal of black ashes poured off of her head as she rose to her feet. She had to stop from the immense dizziness taking over her system.
He ran to her side and held her steady. "Are you okay?"
She nodded slowly. "Are you?"
"I'm fine." He glanced back over the debris. "What happened here, Sage? I don't remember it burning down."
She glanced around her, finally noticing that there were no walls around her. "I don't know.
I...oh, god, Issy!" She rushed to where her friend had been lying and pulled a large piece of debris away.
Issy smiled weakly up at her as she sat up. "Are you all right?"
Sage fell to her knees next to her. "I'm fine. Are you all right?"
"God, I was so worried about you."
Mulder nodded down next to Sage. "That was the most amazing and the most terrifying thing I've ever seen." He scratched the back of his head. "It almost didn't seem real."
Issy smiled widely. "That was amazing, but I was so scared."
"Oh, don't worry about all that now." Sage wrapped her arms gently around her friend and gave her a squeeze. She had been so sure that she was dead after all that had happened. "I'm just glad you're all right." She turned to Mulder with one of her arms still around Issy. "I'm glad you're all right, too." She wrapped her other arm around Mulder, and Issy pulled him into their little hug. They sat there in the rain simply holding each other for most of the morning.
Mulder smiled up at his partner as she walked into their office early that morning. "Hey, you." He
stood up and gave her a quick hug.
"Hi." She glanced around their office. "I missed this place, as hard as that is to believe."
"This place missed you, too." He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "You're feeling better, I see."
"Very much so, thank you. I loved the flowers, but you really didn't have to do that for me." She set down her bag on his desk and stretched.
"Of course I did. I was being a jerk when you called."
"I understand why, though. It is annoying when you've got to work alone." She sat down beind her desk and looked over at him. "Anything exciting happen while I was away?"
He thought this over for a moment before answering. Was he going to tell her or not? "Oh, nothing much." He lied. She would only call him insane, anyway. "You probably had a hell of a lot more fun than I did this week."
"Oh, yes, you know how much I love being in the hospital."
He smiled as a quiet knock on the door echoed through the room.
"Mulder, open up. We've got to get going." A silky, feminine voice entered their office. Scully glanced at Mulder, suspiciously. He just rose to his feet without meeting her gaze. He knew exactly what she was thinking, and he didn't need to test his theory by throwing her a glance.
He opened the door slowly. "Hi, Sage." He glanced at his watch. "I was expecting you about ten minutes earlier."
She smiled, flirtatiously. "Oh, you know me with all my skeletons in the closet."
"I thought it was ghosts, Sage."
She put her hands on her hips. "Don't start that with me, boy." She finally noticed Scully as she stepped into their office. "Oh, and this must be Scully. Feeling better, I hope? I'm Ruth Sage." She extended her one good hand.
"Dana Scully." She took this woman's hand and smiled, noticing the thick bandage on her other hand. She really felt a burning annoyance with this woman. She was everything that Scully wasn't, tall, dark, and mysterious. Besides that, she was flirting with Mulder, and they were going somewhere together?
This was a big change for him, she thought.
"I'd love to get to know you better after all Mulder's told me about you, but we've got to be off to the church."
Scully threw Mulder a questioning look. "You're going to church, Mulder?"
He nodded. "Yes, Scully. Sage has been taking me lately."
Scully was shocked. Mulder had always had zero faith in such things. He had never gone to church
when Scully asked him to. Why was he going now? she wondered. What had made him change his mind?
"Well, I hope you enjoy yourself, Mulder. Maybe you'll learn something."
He nodded and glanced at his watch. "We'd better be going if we're going to get there on time."
"Yeah, we should. Nice meeting you Agent Scully. I hope to see you again sometime."
"That would be nice." Scully watched them both leave and smiled weakly to herself. At least Mulder was going to church. And, he did seem awfully happy around this Sage person. Maybe he had more of a life than she was aware of.
Mulder listened intently as the pastor spoke of faith. That was something Mulder could easily relate to. He was believing in things that he couldn't prove or really see everyday, and this was a warm welcome. He had lost his faith in God, though. Maybe it would return to him as time went on. He glanced down at Sage, who smiled at him warmly as she noticed he had turned to look at her. She understood what the pastor was saying as well as Mulder did, and she was enjoying to hear about something she had a lot of.
Faith had never given her a problem when it came to God or ghosts, but when it came to men, she had absolutly no faith in her heart. She searched Mulder's eyes for a moment, searching for a faith she could trust in. He put his arm around her shoulder softly and looked back up at the pastor. He wanted to hear every word the man had to say. Sage smiled and laid her head gently onto his shoulder. Perhaps, she could find a faith in this man.