Title: Another Nice Trip to the Woods
Summary: Mulder and Scully travel to the Czech Republic to help the Prague Constabulary catch a serial killer with a penchant for little girls. What they find is not at all what they expected?
Notes: Archive, as long as the story is unchanged and my name appears as
Anna raced through the underbrush, leaping gullies, dodging saplings, rushing pell-mell to evade her pursuer. She'd once thought no one could catch her in a foot race, here in her native woods where she knew each fern frond, each rivulet intimately. Her wood craft had even amazed her father, himself an excellent woodsman, and yet, inexplicably, the person on her trail gained minutely each moment. She was gasping for breath by now, and her side ached with a sharp throb with every heartbeat. Her legs were trembling, and the sweat ran down her skin, igniting the myriad of tiny scratches left behind by whipping branches and clinging, thorny vines. And yet the tracker gained. An unseen bramble snagged her shoe, wrapped around her ankle, and pulled her heavily to the ground. She struggled back up, turned to continue her flight, and fell to her knees as pain lanced through the twisted ankle and sent jolts of agony wracking the joint. She tried, vainly, to regain her feet, but the ankle, the bramble, and the pain conspired against her, and her attacker crashed through the brush, coming into view. She choked in terror, horrified by the sight. Within moments, the Carpathian forest echoed with her screams.
Mulder sauntered into the office, whistling a jaunty tune and swinging his briefcase in rhythm. "Nice of you to join us," Scully smirked, tapping her watch. "I take it your evening went well?"
"Yup, Scully. Fabulously."
"Mulder, I know where you were. That date story seemed just too perfect, so I called around."
"Jealous, Scully?" he leered mockingly. "Sure, Mulder. I'm jealous of a lanky blond, an over-dressed narc, and a balding troll. So what do four paranoid-schizophrenic-ticking-time- bombs-of-insanity do for a night out on the town?"
"Actually, Scully, we stayed in and played Doom over the 'net. I finally beat the game. Then we celebrated with pizza and beer. A perfect evening, all told."
"Lovely. I've got a surprise for you. Close your eyes and hold out your hands."
"Ooh, Scully, how exciting?.."
"Shut up, Mulder. Here. Open your eyes." In Mulder's hands lay a manila folder marked "acquisitions". He opened it cautiously, flipping through the contents and grinning. Inside the folder were funds acquisitions forms for a trip to Europe. "God, Scully, where are we going?"
"Well, do you want the good part or the bad part?"
"Tell me the bad part first."
"Okay. Well, Mulder, the Czech government contacted the VCU requesting a profiler. They think they have a serial killer on their hands, but their investigation has gone cold. They have no leads, no witnesses, and no suspect. If it weren't for the similarity between all the victims, they wouldn't even link the crimes. I told the VCU we'd volunteer for the duty. It'll be a nice trip to the woods."
"Ooookay. There is a good part, right?"
"You bet. The Czech government offered an incentive to get a few agents to volunteer. One of those incentives includes some sight-seeing time around Prague. However, I have it from sources close to me that there is a convention scheduled for next week, to be held in Prague?.."
"The WorldCon! Scully, you're a great guy. Really."
"Well, Mulder, this counts as your birthday *and* your Christmas present combined. I really stuck my neck out on this one. We leave tomorrow at eight sharp. Oh, and Mulder? Try not to be late tomorrow. I've saved your sorry butt three times this week already."
Scully paced the length of the tiny bench she'd staked out at the terminal. Mulder was late. Again. She glanced anxiously at the departure board. If he didn't make it in time for boarding, she just might go without him. Leave him behind. Make him suffer. Her reverie was interrupted by an abrupt and painful object making firm connection with her heel. "Ouch!" she yelled, whirling about angrily, only to bump directly into her partner's chest.
"Hey, sorry, geez," he replied, backing up with an innocent "Who, me?" expression. "Touchy today, Scully?"
"Not until you slammed your bag into me. Watch what you're doing. And you're late. And it's time to board. So let's go." She scowled as she collected her luggage and stalked off to bag check.
Captain Ales Jezek stretched his neck, rubbing the kinks with the heels of his hands. Spread before him on his desk were nearly one hundred pictures of five different victims, each one covered with tiny, crescent shaped bites. The victims were all female, aged eleven years old, with blond hair and green eyes. The similarities were so exact he'd requested the US government for a profiler. He was expecting the agents from the United States to arrive at any time. He reviewed the facts one more time, to be prepared for their arrival. His police force had investigated every possible angle to the case, but nothing, not so much as a footprint had surfaced, and the murders were looking less and less possible to solve. He was reflecting on the puzzle when a knock appeared at his office door. Jan leaned his head in and said, "The Americans are here."
"Send them in," he acknowledged. A moment later, the two agents entered the office. He looked them over, quickly, head to foot as he introduced himself. The man was tall, *almost as tall as me* he thought, and dark haired. He was a fine-looking man, with nice bone structure and a firm handshake. The woman was petite, red-headed, and decidedly beautiful. *And I thought that the belief that all Americans are beautiful was just a stereotype.*
"Captain Jezek," the woman, Agent Scully, began, "we were wondering if you could lend us a translator for our investigation. Would that be possible?"
"I think so. And my name is pronounced 'Yezhek'. That is quite all right. In fact, if you need a translator and one is not available, I could accompany you. I have served as translator many times."
"That'd be fine, Captain Jezek. You speak English very well. We'd love to have your assistance."
"All right then, let me show you the evidence we have compiled so far. I am afraid it is not much."
Scully continued unpacking her bags as Mulder stretched himself out on her bed. "Mulder, this is my room. Don't you have your own bags to unpack?"
"Nope, Scully. I brought just a few work suits. The rest of my bag is filled with my NICAP t-shirts, MUFON t-shirts, IWANTTOBELIEVE t-shirts?."
"I get the idea. I hope you brought some jeans to go with all those t-shirts."
"Why, Scully? One pair of jeans can last four or five days, if you don't spill food on it."
Scully zipped the now-empty suitcase and stowed it in the bottom of the large wardrobe. Since the Czech government was footing the bill for their lodgings and meals, they'd been assigned a nice suite in a converted castle outside Prague. The change from their normal venue had thrilled Scully: the rooms were spacious enough, the decor charming with an old-world feel, and the service exquisite. The floors were tiled with smooth stonework. Fur rugs were thrown in front of chairs, by the fireplace, and by the bed. The walls were stone, with lighted candle sconces placed every few feet. But the best feature, by far, was the bed. It was an ancient mahogany canopy bed, nearly four feet off the floor, draped with sheer white curtains on three sides. The mattress was goose down and incredibly soft, and the white silk sheets were sure to be absolutely delicious. She could hardly wait until bedtime. As she approached the bed, though, she realized getting into the monstrously sized thing might be just a bit difficult. She stepped back a few steps, gave a little run, and launched herself off the floor and into the bed. Unfortunately, in her excitement, she'd forgotten her partner, who had just managed to doze off. Her crash landing startled him, and he rolled off the other side onto the stone floor below. "Oh, Mulder, I'm so sorry?."
That evening Mulder and Scully had their supper downstairs in a giant banquet hall. The hall was nearly empty while they ate, giving their voices a cathedral-like echo. Mulder sat across a small, round table from his partner. She was wearing a gray suit with a lavender silk shell underneath. While they waited for their dinner, she sipped daintily at a slender goblet of water. With Scully's atypical feminine behavior, the romantic decor of the room, and (he was willing to admit) a bad case of jet-lag clouding his thoughts, he was quickly becoming entranced. He shook himself out of his reverie and started conversation: "So, Scully," Mulder began, "where should we start tomorrow?"
"Well, given the odd marks on the victims, I think I'd like to take a look at the autopsy report. I've got to autopsy the fifth victim myself; they heard we were coming and saved her for me."
*Sweet heavens, she's enchanting even when she's discussing cutting corpses.* "Yummy, Scully. I think I'll go visit the victims' families and see if I can uncover any more similarities that might help. Maybe start piecing together a profile. We'll need to see the crime scenes, but Captain Jezek mentioned the possibility of storms. We may need to wait until afternoon for that trip to the woods."
"Sure, Mulder. Whatever," Scully said between bites. "What is this stuff we're eating? It's wonderful."
*You're wonderful.* "Knedleky. It's supposed to be some sort of dumpling, but it's not like any dumpling I've seen before. It's delicious, isn't it?" *Just like you.*
"Ummm. Yes. I've heard the dessert's even better. 'Kolaches'," she began reading from her traveler's guide, "'The Kolach is a fruit-filled pastry eaten for breakfast or dessert. Traditional fillings may include raisins, prunes, and poppyseed.' I think ours are poppyseed and apricot."
*I love it when she quotes literature.* "Sounds good, Scully. But the beer's the best."
Scully responded with her patented eyebrow and nothing more.
The next morning, Scully walked down the stairs to meet her partner at breakfast. If there was one thing Mulder was prompt about, it was mealtime. He sat waiting with two mugs of coffee and several of the kolaches they'd had for dessert the night before. His hair was still damp from the morning's shower, and the fresh-scrubbed look to his skin made him look years younger. Scully found herself smiling. She eagerly snatched an apricot kolach and devoured it. "Umm, what a way to start the morning," she murmured through a bite. Mulder looked at her sidelong, an intriguing expression on his face. What was different? He looked, somehow, softer. Scully couldn't quite place the change, so she stuck with the old stand-by:
"Unfortunately, I've got a corpse to cut up and you've got families to talk to. Let's go." Mulder gave her another odd look before sneaking two more pastries and following her out the door.
The drive to the hospital was just as strange. Scully sat silently, staring out the window at the passing scenes. The architecture of the city was eclectic as she'd ever seen. One corner would sport a shiny new 7-11, while on the next corner settled in a centuries-old church. Most of the buildings in the city were fairly old, some positively ancient. Scully wondered absently if the town itself had restrictions on new construction. She new several outlying areas, as well as the more historic districts, did.
Mulder dropped Scully off at the hospital morgue where the last body was being stored, and then drove away to interview the victims' families. The hospital was a rather nondescript sort of building, not unlike most government buildings. It was a small hospital, occupying far less than a city block, and only five stories tall. Scully entered through the glass doors and walked to the receptionist's desk. "Good afternoon," she began, "I'm Special Agent Dana Scully." The admitting nurse behind the desk gave her an utterly confused expression. She showed her badge, hoping to help the situation, but the receptionist merely shook her head. Scully tried French: "Je suis Dana Scully?.", Spanish: "Soy la Dra. Dana Scully de los EEUU," and finally, German. The nurse's face brightened, and she began responding in quick and heavily accent German, answering Scully's questions and directing her to the morgue. Scully sighed with relief and made her way to the elevator to descend to the morgue.
The body had been kept in cold storage for Scully's arrival. She was glad to see that report forms in English had been provided for her. The orderly working the lab didn't speak English, but his German was respectable, and he had been expecting her. She arranged the instruments to her preferences and then began with observation of the exterior of the corpse.
"Corpse is 102 centimeters in length and 38 kilograms in extremis. There are small marks on skin over entire body consistent with scavengers feeding off body tissue, most likely small fish, turtles, and other aquatic creatures. Bites are post-mortem. Hair and body are clean. Cause of death is not apparent based on exterior examination."
After the exterior exam, she began the internal exam. The organs appeared to be intact, with the exception of the lungs. The lungs were filled with water. Scully considered the possibility that the body could have been dumped into an aquatic locale after death?the bite marks certainly pointed to that conclusion?but other signs within the lungs suggested that the girl had drowned.
She walked over to the lab table to check the police report again. She'd thought the body had been found in the woods, but perhaps she'd been mistaken. A look at the report confirmed what she'd thought: the body *had* been found in the woods. "So how could she have drowned?" Scully asked aloud to no one at all. She searched through the report and found that the girl's hair and clothes had been dry, and that there were no water sources in the area. Even stranger, her clothes had no bite marks in them. Scully furrowed her brow.
"Could she have been drowned, taken from the water, washed and dried, and dressed in new clothing? But why go to the trouble?" Scully returned to the body. One thing didn't fit with a drowning victim: the girl's hair was still styled. Her blond hair hung in ringlets that were obviously artificial. Someone had curled her hair. But if she'd been drowned, wouldn't the curls have been mussed? She couldn't reconcile the differences in a way that made sense. "The girl had to have been moved and cleaned up. It's the only logical way to make the pieces fit." She shook her head again as she began putting the instruments away.
Mulder walked away from the fifth house even more discouraged than before. Captain Jezek was with him, acting as interpreter. "Well," he said to the Captain, "I've got all I'm going to get from them, I think. The families didn't tell me anything that wasn't already on your report; the girls had all been playing outside when they suddenly disappeared. They were all good children, did well in school, got along with their peers, yada, yada, yada. If you don't have anything more I think I'll go pick up Scully and see what she has to say."
"That seems fine to me, Agent Mulder. I think we should delay visiting the crime scenes until tomorrow; it looks as if it will storm soon." Mulder nodded and said good-bye to the Captain before walking the other direction to his rental car.
As he approached it, he glanced across the street. A little girl was playing on a merry-go-round. She looked to be about the same age as the victims, and her blonde hair and pixie-like appearance were strikingly similar to the murdered girls. As he watched her spinning round and round, he noticed an elderly man watching the girl with an expression on his face. It wasn't an entirely benevolent expression, although Mulder couldn't quite place exactly *how* it didn't look benevolent. He hesitated a moment, and then proceeded to approach the little girl. Before he could reach her, the older man called to her, beckoning her to come. She left the merry-go-round, walked to the man, and took his hand. Together, they walked away. Mulder followed closely behind. He trailed them several blocks to a tiny cottage and hid behind a hedge. They entered the cottage and lights appeared in the windows.
A woman was in the yard next-door. On a hunch, he trotted over to her fence and called out, "Excuse me, do you know if that little girl lives there?" To his extreme surprise, the woman answered in strongly accented English,
"Little Johanna? Yes, she live dere. Old Mlynek her great uncle. She an orphan." The woman was rather aged herself, with bony hands and prominent features. She held a basket full of herbs she'd picked from her yard.
"Oh. Okay. Well, thanks." Mulder shrugged, but he couldn't shake the feeling that something was odd about Johanna and her great uncle. Something just *felt* wrong. Suddenly, he remembered Scully. She'd be steamed if he was late picking her up from the hospital. Pushing his suspicions to the back of his mind, he scooted back to the car.
That evening, Mulder and Scully had an early supper at the hotel before doing some sight-seeing. Their lodgings were located on a hill outside Prague called Petrin. Wars, cathedrals, even kingdoms had risen and fallen on Petrin over the last several centuries. As they toured the ancient structures littered over the forest-covered hill, Mulder noticed a tiny building glinting in the sunlight near the summit. "Look, Scully. What do you think it is?" Scully squinted, straining to see the object in the soft light of evening. "I'm not sure. Where's the guidebook? It should be listed there. I'm quite sure everything built on this hill is historical. New construction here is prohibited." Mulder dug through his pack and produced the guidebook. With an uncharacteristic grin, Scully snatched it from him to flip through the pages herself.
"Here it is. 'The shrine to Libussa is located at the summit of Petrin. Libussa, a warrior princess of the early Dark Ages, is the legendary founder of Prague. She fought for women's rights in a time when women were little more than possessions of their fathers and husbands. Her crusade led to an uprising throughout the countryside, in which women by the hundreds beat, and in some instances, murdered their husbands. She later became Queen of Prague, conquering neighboring kingdoms and consolidating the first Czech Empire. She came to power while quite young (most likely still in her teens), united the neighboring kingdoms in her early twenties, and was drowned as a witch before her 25th birthday. The legend maintains that the ghosts of drowned children haunt her shrine to this day.' What an interesting tale, Mulder. Let's go see the shrine."
"Sure, Scully, as long as you promise not to beat or murder me."
"Forget it. I shot you once and it didn't work. No use trying again."
Mulder smiled back at his partner as they continued up the path to the hill's summit.
The hill was steeper than it had appeared below. After nearly an hour of steady climbing, the agents reached the summit. Winded, Scully leaned over and breathed hard for a few moments, resting her hands on her knees. She felt the warmth of Mulder's hand as he lay it on her back.
"Hey, Scully, are you all right?"
"Sure, Mulder, I'm fine. Just a little out of breath." His hand patted her back gently, sending odd tingles down her spine, which only served to quicken her breath even more.
*God, Dana, what's wrong with you? He puts his hand on your back all the time. It doesn't mean anything.* Still, his hand felt warmer, moister than usual. *It's just the climb. You're sweaty, too.* She silently willed her mind to calm and shrugged his hand off. Mulder looked at her strangely, before stalking off to investigate the shrine.
The shrine didn't tell them much, other than the fact that Libussa was red-headed. A portrait of her hanging on the wall drew Mulder's attention immediately. "Hey, Scully, look here. It's you, gone medieval."
Scully had to admit, "There is a slight resemblance. Just slight, though. Really, Mulder, I don't exactly have a unique face. It's pretty normal."
"No, Scully, you don't. Your face is?well, it's exquisite. There aren't many women around who are as beautiful as you are. And the similarity between you and the painting?it's uncanny. Maybe you're her reincarnation. You are strong and independent; I could see you leading a feminist rebellion in the middle of the Dark Ages." He grinned at her mischievously.
"Mulder, come on. Reincarnation? Besides, where would you be? Haven't we always been together?" She smirked at him, disappointed when he responded:
"Maybe I was your lesbian lover." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively at her, enjoying seeing a fierce blush claim her cheeks.
"We don't know she was a lesbian, Mulder. A woman can be strong without being homosexual."
"I certainly hope so." Scully's heart stopped as his face took on a serious expression. He whispered then, almost to himself, "I pray everyday so."
*God, what does he mean? What's he trying to say?* "We'd better go, Mulder. We have a lot of work to do tomorrow." She turned and left the shrine without another word.
Title: Another Nice Trip to the Woods, Part Two Author: Almustafa
Mulder dropped onto the feather-soft bed in his room. He lay with his hands clasped behind his head, staring at the billowing curtains of his canopy bed. It was rather like Scully, soft, white, wispy. *Wispy? Are we stretching it there a bit, Mulder? So desperate for a metaphor?* He closed his eyes and tried valiantly to clear his mind enough to enable sleep. Eventually, he dosed off.
Some time later, he became aware of a sound, like wind blowing leaves, or someone shuffling papers. The curtains of his bed moved slightly with some unfelt breeze, and the room felt, suddenly, colder. Sitting upright, he blinked his eyes blearily, and focused on something moving within his room. He pushed back one of the curtains and saw Scully, sitting quietly, in a chair by his fire. Sighing with relief, he slid out of the bed, gasping when his bare feet hit the cold floor. He'd missed the rug. He looked down absently, and looked again when he realized the rug was gone. Looking up, it dawned on him that the room was different. It looked?rougher, somehow. The neat, slim tapered candles were replaced with brass lamps, burning pungent oil. The chairs by the fire were not the red velvet chairs of earlier that evening, but rough-hewn wooden chairs. And, finally, looking down, he was not himself. His feet were small, and so, he saw, was he. He was short, with slender arms and hands?a woman's hands! He reached back, and felt long tendrils tangle in his fingers. He was wearing a white gown that fell just to his knees, and a small bonnet on his head. He turned, found a looking glass on the wall, and stared at his reflection. He was Samantha?or what he imagined she'd look like as an adult. What her clones had looked like. Long, brown curls, hazel eyes, delicate freckles. He startled as he felt hands on his waist.
"Hello, Renca. I thought I'd never see you again. It's been so long?."
He turned to face the woman who, he realized, was not Scully, but someone else, someone wearing her face and speaking with her voice.
"Libussa?" he asked, as the woman reached up (even now he towered over her) to tuck a stray hand behind his/her ear.
"Yes. You came back. I thought you were dead. When Driana brought me the news of the attack, and that you were missing, I feared the worst. Our campaign is advancing, but at such a cost. If I lost you?."
"You didn't lose me," Mulder felt himself saying. *You're who you were, back then. This is incredible.*
"Were you followed? The church has been looking for me. Here, I am safe. But outside these walls, everything changes. We've been charged, Renca. They want to kill us. They're calling us witches."
"No! No, they can't do it. They *won't*! We've done nothing wrong."
"Oh, Renca, sweet Renca, will you ever understand? We've turned the world upside down. We hold the entirety of this side of the Carpathians. We've changed the way society functions, and we're spreading it everyday. We're dangerous. We're wicked. We're everything they've ever feared and reviled. They won't let us be, not for long. Soon, even here we'll be in mortal danger. We must escape. Vasila has been working on a plan."
"No, Libussa, we have to fight. We've come so far?." Mulder's words were cut short by Libussa, as her finger came to rest on his lower lip, to trace it lightly, tickling the sensitive skin.
"Shhh?." she whispered, as red lips approached his own. Her breath came hot against his mouth, smelling slightly of food, slightly of wine. Her lips claimed his, softly, and then with more demand. Her tongue traced his full lower lip, wetting it, and then she clamped her teeth, biting his lip enough to make him wince. He opened his mouth, whether in protest or arousal, he wasn't sure. Her tongue darted in, licking the roof of his mouth, his cheeks, the backs of his teeth. "Uuhhh?." he groaned deep in his throat, urging her on. He felt so strange?parts of him were responding differently that he expected. He began to feel a wetness creeping into his crotch, a heat hotter than he'd ever felt before. He realized it a second later; he was a woman. He was experiencing arousal as a woman felt it. The thought of this, something so new, something he never expected, nearly overwhelmed him with desire. Clutching Libussa to him, he kissed her neck, biting the soft skin, breathing her scent. "Sculllyy?." he groaned. "Oh, Scully, I never knew?.." Instantly she drew back.
"Scully?" she asked, eyes wide. "Who's Scully?"
"I..I mean?" he stammered, wanting, needing to restore contact with her, to finish what had started?
Libussa looked at him, eyes tearing, as she cried through clenched teeth, "Is that where you've been? With Scully? Is it a man or a woman?"
"A woman?I mean, you don't understand!"
"Yes, dammit, I do. Fuck you, Renca. Fuck you." She slapped him, hard. His face stung from the strike. His eyes watered as she stalked out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
"Libussa!" He cried after her. "Libussa! Scully! Oh, God, I need you. I need you?.."
"Mulder! Mulder, wake up!"
"Wha..what?" Mulder sat bolt upright in his bed. He was shaking uncontrollably, sweating despite the chill in his room.
"Mulder, it's just a dream. I'm right here." Mulder blinked, and his eyes came into focus on her face. She was kneeling on the bed beside him, brushing hair from his forehead. "God, Mulder, that was a bad one. I could hear you from across the hall."
"Yeah. It was bad." A memory came back from the dream?Scully, but not her. Libussa. She left. She left him alone and he needed her so badly?. Mulder put his face in his hands as another shudder came over him. "God, Scully, what did you hear?"
"You were crying. You were calling my name, and Libussa, and saying that?that you needed me. You wanted me to come back. You know I wouldn't leave you, Mulder. Not after this summer. Not after Antarctica." She put her arms around him, kneeling at his side, his head cradled against her breast.
"Do you love me, Scully?" he asked it on an impulse, a terrible need to know, to find if his feelings were returned.
She stiffened instantly. Started to back away. He tightened his arms around her waist, gripping her firmly with one hand on the backs of her thighs, the other on the small of her back. "Answer me, Scully. I need to know. Do you love me?"
"You know I love you, Mulder. You're my best friend." He could feel her heart pounding in her chest, although barely, so loud was his own.
"No, Scully. You know what I mean. Do you *love* me?"
She paused for a long time, weighing the words in her mind. He could guess what those words were, and knew what she'd say even before she said them.
"Yes, Mulder. I love you." She shook as she said it, relief and fear an odd cocktail brewing in her mind, in her heart. "But that doesn't matter. We're partners, nothing more."
"Do we have to be?" he prodded, inclining his head back so he could see her face. He was surprised to find tears streaming down both cheeks.
"It's too hard," she said, eyes downcast. Mulder paused. Then, sitting up higher, he pulled her off her knees and onto his lap. He tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear, and replaying his dream, he kissed her. First, tiny strokes of his tongue, then bites, then his tongue darting into her mouth, meeting her soft cheeks from the inside, lapping at her teeth, sucking on her lips. Her hands moved up into his hair, circling silky strands around her fingers, brushing at the tips of his ears. She moaned deep in his throat as his hands moved to her sides, her stomach, her breasts. He leaned her back onto the bed, and ever so slowly, began untying the series of ribbons that held her night-gown closed. He pushed the folds of cloth away, revealing her breasts mounded soft and white on her chest. Her nipples, already hard from arousal, became even stiffer from contact with the cool night air. His lips descended on one nipple, sucking gently, rolling it between his lips, until her tiny whimpers made his own need nearly unbearable.
"Scully? You're all right with this, aren't you?" he asked by way of permission, realizing he hadn't yet. A low groan in her throat and her fingers clutching suddenly at the band of his boxers answered his question.
Gently, ever so slowly, they made love in his high canopy bed, drifting off to sleep as dawn crept on the horizon.
The next day, the agents were up bright and early to visit the crime scenes. Captain Jezek met them for breakfast and inquired about their sight-seeing the night before.
"Well, we wandered around Petrin for a while, and then we went up to see the Shrine of Libussa." The Captain went slightly pale and crossed himself. "Is there something wrong, Captain?" Scully inquired.
"No?.er?not anything wrong. Just?um?we need to get going now."
"Okay. Are we taking your car?" Mulder asked. The Captain merely nodded, gathering himself to his feet and heading toward the door. Scully raised an eyebrow at Mulder, who shrugged and said, "Maybe he doesn't like ghosts."
The first crime scene looked not at all like a crime scene. There were no footprints except the victim's. There were broken branches and scuffed dirt marking her path through the woods, and from the depth and distortion of the prints, one could see she'd been running very quickly. But, oddly, there were no prints to indicate a pursuer. A root had twisted slightly, as if the victim had tripped. The ground showed a slight impression where the victim had fallen down, confirming that she'd stumbled. There was, however, no water source, and no evidence of an attacker. Mulder was baffled.
"Do you smell that," Scully said, tugging at his arm to get his attention. "Do you smell it?"
"A damp smell. Like mildew."
"No, Scully, I don't smell anything. But women tend to have a better sense of smell. Can you tell where it's coming from?"
"No. It seems to be localized right here. It's almost as if we were standing at the edge of a small pond, or a stream. I smell plant growth?and?and? mud. You can't smell it? It's really strong."
"No, I don't smell anything but woods." Mulder's thought slipped away as he saw something flit across the corner of his eye. He turned, quickly, and saw a white object dash behind a tree. He leapt toward it, sprinting around a thicket to catch what he hoped was a witness. Across a small hollow, smiling as innocently as a cherub, stood little Johanna.
"Come here," he beckoned gently, waving his hand and trying to look non-threatening. She simply turned and ran, laughing impishly, hopping over fallen logs, dodging brush. Mulder cornered around a tree into an opening. She was gone. He hunted some minutes more, but Johanna was no where to be found. Perplexed, he headed back to his assuredly perplexed partner.
The second crime scene could have been a carbon-copy of the first. Woods. One set of prints (the victim's). A root where she'd tripped. No water source, but a damp smell (smelled only by Scully). On a hunch, Mulder looked over his shoulder. There stood Johanna. He gave chase, as before, and just as before, she proved uncatchable. Mulder was becoming seriously suspicious.
The third crime scene looked similar once again. This time, however, Johanna wasn't present. Neither was she present at the fourth or fifth crime scene. Mulder began to wonder if perhaps, just perhaps, her presence at the first two was coincidence. Or she could have been following them, curious about the presence of Americans in her neighborhood. Mulder sighed and said to Scully, "Let's go back. I'm beat, and these scenes are telling us nothing."
When Mulder and Scully returned to their hotel, Mulder remarked, "You go on up Scully. I'll be there soon. I'd like to sit on the lawn a while and work on my profile," Scully agreed, and Mulder settled himself against a birch tree in the garden. He was there only a few minutes when an elderly woman approached him.
"Rusalka, friend. Rusalka." Mulder squinted up at his visitor. It was the woman from yesterday, the next-door neighbor of Johanna. "She rusalka. Careful, friend. Deceptive. Innocence, anger, deceptive. Rusalka." She spun on her heel and trotted off. Mulder called after her, demanding more answers:
"What's a rusalka? Who are you talking about?" But the mysterious woman only continued on her way.
That night, Mulder slipped into Scully's room after dinner and asked, "May I borrow your laptop? I'd like to go online and look up some information about I word I heard today."
"What word, Mulder?"
"Rusalka." Scully steepled her fingers pensively."You don't need to go online, Mulder. I can tell you what a rusalka is."
"You can?" He seated himself in one of the cushy chairs facing the fireplace and said, "Okay, what is it?"
"Well, Mulder, it's essentially a parasite. It's a type of wasp that lays its eggs inside the body of a caterpillar. The eggs hatch into larvae which feed on the caterpillar, getting nutrients directly from its intestinal tract. The larvae release a hormone which prevents the caterpillar from going through chrysalis, so instead of turning into a butterfly or moth, it just keeps feeding and growing until it becomes a sort of super-caterpillar. Eventually, the larvae pupate and bite their way out through the caterpillar's skin, killing it in the process. It's really quite fascinating. Huxley believed that the rusalka is proof that God doesn't exist. He said that if a good God truly exists, how could he create an insect that could cause so much pain to another?"
"Did anyone ever tell you you're sexy when you're being brainy?" he smirked suggestively. "Actually, Mulder, yes. And did I answer your question?"
"Hmm. I don't think that was the rusalka the lady was talking about. Do you know anything else about it?"
"Well, I know that the rusalka wasp was named after a mythological being of some sort, but I don't know which. Still want my laptop?"
"Yeah, I think I'll look up this mythological being. It might be what I'm looking for."
"Fine. Just don't get sunflower seed shells down in the keys. I had to take it to maintenance last time to get them all out."
"Okay, Scully, I won't."
Title: Another Nice Trip to the Woods, Part Three Author: Almustafa
Mulder took the laptop to his room where he could work the way he preferred: in bed, partially naked, with something naughty on the television. He logged online and started visiting his favorite paranormal sites. He found nothing of interest, so he tried some of the legends sites he'd heard about. He found one that featured Slavic legends and typed "rusalka" into its search engine. The search engine paged for a few moments, and then brought up one site that mentioned rusalkas briefly: Rusalka: the rusalka is the ghost of a murdered child, usually female, that has been drowned. Rusalkas are the most dangerous type of ghost, because they often do not realize that they are dead. A rusalka seeks to re-establish itself in the world by feeding off the life energy of the living, usually a child similar in aspect to itself. Rusalkas have occasionally been known to succeed; with enough stolen energy a rusalka may resurrect itself, living from then on in the body of one of its victims. The rusalka legend originates in the trackless forests of Russia, but may be found throughout the Slavic world.
Mulder stared, transfixed to the screen, as the profile emerged in his head. No tracks left at the crime scene. All the victims similar in age and appearance. Johanna. Johanna. Surely, surely she couldn't be the killer. She wasn't a ghost. She was a child. But had she always been a child? He sat straight up, and determined what he had to do. Putting the laptop aside, he rushed into Scully's room, half-clothed as he was, and said, "Get dressed, Scully, we've got to go somewhere."
"Mulder, it's nearly midnight. I'm tired. Do we have to go now?"
"Just get dressed. I know who the killer is, but I need to talk to someone first. We have to go. We have to."
"Mulder?." she conceded reluctantly. "Okay, I'll meet you downstairs in a minute. Just let me get dressed, okay?" He flashed her a grin and dashed to his own room to get dressed.
Mulder parked the car opposite the old lady's house and said to Scully, "Just let me do the talking, okay? I've spoken to this lady before." His partner only harumphed her assent, clearly unhappy to be prowling the streets after midnight.
They approached the door. Just as Scully was about to knock, the door opened before them, and the elderly woman stood in a white nightgown, holding a candle. "Come in, come in. I am so happy you are here. Bad night is zis. Bad night."
"What's wrong?" Mulder asked, ushering his partner in before him. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, yes, I am fine. Bad night, zough. No moon tonight, only stars. Tonight she need life. Zere vill be anotter victim tonight. She must be stopped."
"She? you mean Johanna? Is she the rusalka?" Mulder eyes gleamed in the darkness. The woman was confirming what he'd feared.
"Yess. Johanna, only a child. Vhat is *in* Johanna, not a child. It is Eveshka. Ze first. Ze first Mlynek, ze great-great-great grandmozer of Johanna. She poverful. More poverful zan old Mlynek. More poverful, even, zan I."
"Johanna is Eveshka? The rusalka reconstituted in human form? Then, why is she still feeding?" Mulder was entranced by the elderly woman's speech, elated to find his suspicions confirmed. He glancing noted Scully's increasing displeasure and prayed silently that she'd be patient just a while longer.
"Johanna is Eveshka. She continue feeding to maintain her control over ze child. Eveshka vas ze vorst kind of rusalka: ze rusalka of a vizard-child. Alive, she vas very poverful. Dead, even more so. She is getting stronger. Soon, she vill be unstoppable."
Mulder chewed his lip absently, considering the old woman's words. He turned to Scully and began, "Scully, if she really is?." His words trailed off as shouting from next door interrupted his train of thought.
"What the?." Scully and Mulder dashed out the door and over to Johanna's house, to check on the noise. Advancing to the window, they peered inside to see the old man shaking Johanna violently by the shoulders. Her nose was bleeding and the man was yelling incoherently in Czech. He stopped shaking her and struck her, hard, on the side of the head. He picked up a pot off the stove and shook it menacingly at the girl, threatening to strike her with it. Scully dashed to the door and bolted inside, drawing her gun on the man and yelling,
"Stop! Put the pan down! Put it down!" The man, shocked to see an intruder in his home wielding a firearm, dropped the pan instantly and raised both hands in surrender. Scully pocketed her gun and proceeded to arrest him.
"Put him in the car," she ordered, shoving the man toward Mulder, who stood stunned in the doorway.
"But he's not the perp, Scully. The girl is."
Scully incredulously cocked a brow at her partner and said, "Mulder, I don't know what you're talking about, and furthermore, I don't want to know. I want you to arrest this man for child abuse. I'm sure beating children senseless is illegal here. The girl will go with us."
Mulder opened his mouth to argue, but Scully cut him off, "No, Mulder. Just arrest him." He hesitated and she urged, "DO IT!" Shrugging, Mulder guided old Mlynek to their car.
On the way to the police station, Mulder called Captain Jezek on his cell phone, informing him that the two agents had arrested a man for beating a child. Captain Jezek agreed to meet them at the station.
When they arrived, Jezek spoke briefly to the man, questioning him and filling out the forms. The man began yelling something, repeating several words over and over. Jezek listened to the man quizzically before turning to translate for Mulder. "He says the girl is evil. He keeps repeating, 'Only I can stop her; you don't know what you're doing.' Do you know what you're doing, Agent Mulder?"
"Yes, unfortunately, I do."
Scully arrived at that moment, saying to Captain Jezek, "Do you have a child services center where Johanna can stay? She's exhausted. I've checked her out and her injuries don't seem serious, but she's pretty shaken. She needs some rest."
Captain Jezek looked decidedly uncomfortable, shifting from foot to foot, avoiding Scully's eyes.
"Captain? What's wrong?" she asked suspiciously.
"Well, um?er?.we cannot send her there. That is, no one will take her. The people around here, they are very superstitious. Many believe the child is?.um?.a?uh?witch?or?something." Scully fumed at the man, "That's preposterous! She's just a little girl. No one will take her?"
"No," Jezek answered sadly, shaking his head. "Not even my wife would allow her under our roof. There's no place for her to go."
"Yes, Captain, there is. She will stay with Mulder and me until a foster home can be found." Scully snapped shortly, jaw clenched in anger.
"Umm, Scully, that's not a good idea?" Mulder interjected rather sheepishly. "I mean, I think she's?"
"Mulder, shut up. The last thing this little girl needs is your paranoia. She'll stay in my room with me. The hotel can send up a cot for her to sleep in, and she'll be safe with us. As far as you theory that Johanna is the murderer goes, well, I'm inclined to believe that her uncle is the killer. I've looked in his file, Mulder. His own daughter died under mysterious circumstances over twenty years ago. Examining Johanna, I found several bruises and cuts, most of which are weeks, even months old. We're seeing an established pattern of abuse. I'm highly suspicious that he, not the child, is the killer we seek. Now let's get this poor little girl back to the hotel and into bed where she belongs."
"Scully?" Mulder began, but an icy stare silenced him.
Scully led Johanna up the stairs toward her room, trying to ignore the servants' nervous glances. Several crossed themselves as Johanna passed by, and Scully's angry glares helped the situation very little. Mulder was clearly uncomfortable, repeatedly clearing his throat and rocking from foot to foot as Scully unlocked her door. Finally, frustrated with his paranoia and the locals' superstitions, she said, "Mulder, surely there's something you need to be doing. Why don't you go visit the crime scenes again?" Without a word, he turned tail and positively *fled*.
Scully ushered Johanna into her room, flipping on lights as she went. The candles in the wall sconces lit the room well, but at the moment she wanted the sterile feel of electric lights. She seated herself with a sigh on one of the cushy chairs facing the fireplace, gesturing for Johanna to take the other. The girl seemed more composed now that Scully had cleaned her bloody nose and administered some basic care to the child. Scully, on a long shot, tried a bit of German, not really expecting Johanna to understand.
//I'm Dana. What's your name?// She asked in lilting German, trying to look inviting.
//I'm Johanna.// The girl replied, shyly ducking her head as she spoke. Golden ringlets fell against her cheeks, obscuring her slightly from view. She wrung tiny hands in her lap nervously, like a little girl at her first recital. Her eyes were cast down, but even so they gleamed green and blue. "She's rather like Emily," Scully thought quietly.
//Well, Johanna, it's nice to meet you. Don't be afraid; we're going to take good care of you.// The little girl didn't respond, but a hint of a smile began to creep at the corners of her mouth. //My friend, Mulder, thinks some rather strange things are going on at your house. Can you tell me who the man was who hit you?//
Johanna hesitated, clearly unsure about this turn in the conversation. Whispering, almost so that Scully couldn't hear her, she replied, //My uncle. He takes care of me. My mommy died. It was?..// Her last words trailed off inaudibly.
Intrigued, Scully prompted her, //It was what?//
Without warning, Johanna's head shot up, staring straight into Scully's eyes. Her eyes flashed and glittered like green jewels, or fire, and her face took on an expression so radically different than before that she almost seemed another person. "Split personality disorder?" Scully thought, switching into doctor-mode and diagnosing on the spot. "It has to be?such a change. Brought on by questioning that made her uncomfortable, the second personality protecting the first?it has to be?."
//It was nothing.// Johanna hissed, each word separated and enunciated with horrible precision. //Leave me alone. I don't want to talk to you.//
"My God," Scully thought, "even her German accent is different. It's really like another person in there." On a hunch, she asked, //What's your name?//
Smiling in a way that was not at all pleasant, //Eveshka. My name is Eveshka.//
After Scully's dismissal, Mulder had gone immediately to the old woman's house to ask her help. As he parked at the curb near her cottage, he spied her coming down the walk, basket in hand. She opened the car door and seated herself expectantly.
"What's in the basket?" Mulder asked, curiosity outweighing even this serious matter.
"Supplies. Ve vill need all ve can get to fight her. Go. It may be already too late." Mulder, not in the least inclined to argue, sped off.
//Eveshka? Can you tell me about yourself, Eveshka?//
//Oh, but you already know about me, yes? Eveshka. *The* Eveshka. Murdered by filthy Chernevog, beast that he was. The only man I ever loved betrayed me for a spell. Old Uulamets, he wouldn't give it to Chernevog if I was around, because he knew I could actually do something with it. Chernevog, slimy worm, could never have beat me by sorcery, but by trickery, yes. 'Come with me, Eveshka, let us sit on the dock, Eveshka, I'll catch you a fish, Eveshka.' Nasty maggot. Pushed me in the river, held me down! Can't utter a spell underwater, no, need air, need to breathe to speak. Ill-bred fungus, that man was. Killed me like a brute would, like the knave he was. But, vengeance is mine. Death only made me stronger, and Uulamets' precious spell is only one of thousands at my fingertips now. Dead, you live longer. Years, now. Years. I saw Chernevog grow old and die. I saw worms eat his flesh and birds pluck his eyes. I saw the roots of the weeds entwine around his ribs, and the maggots and filth of the world feed on his nasty body, fit audience, that was!// Eveshka threw back her head, laughing a silvery, little girl laugh that was incongruous with the beastly tirade she'd just delivered. Scully watched the girl, doubt beginning to creep into her mind, unwelcome, as always, when BHAM! the door to the room flew open, and Mulder and the old woman from earlier sauntered in.
"Vyoytok aleskivok prisini nact dobry ten!" The woman shouted, eyes blazing and hair flying wildly around her head.
"Aaahhhhhh!!!!!!!!" Screamed Eveshka, clutching her ears, rocking back and forth violently where she sat.
"Vyoytok aleskivok prisini nact dobry ten!" The woman continued. Eveshka now stood, screaming incoherently back, clawing at her face and eyes.
"VYOYTOK ALESKIVOK PRISINI NACT DOBRY TEN!!!!!!!" She howled, while Eveshka shrieked and railed back. "VYOYTOK ALESKIVOK PRISINI NACT DOBRY TEN! VYOYTOK ALESKIVOK PRISINI NACT DOBRY TEN! VYOYTOK ALESKIVOK PRISINI NACT DOBRY TEN!" The woman continued, over and over, until the chant seemed to reverberate off the stone walls, echoing thunderously in the ears of the other three. Eveshka was on the floor, now, foaming at the mouth and uttering obscenities in several tongues, scratching bloodied nails at the floor and herself. This continued for what seemed an eternity, before Eveshka and the old lady simultaneously fell unconscious. Scully immediately ran to Eveshka/Johanna's side and checked her carotid for a pulse. It was there, though thready and faint. She then moved to the old lady's side. Unfortunately, there was no pulse to be found on her neck. She'd died at the instant Johanna lost consciousness.
Scully leaned back, sitting on her heels, aghast at the spectacle she'd just witnesses. "How, Mulder? And who is Eveshka? What is her link to the case we're investigating? What just happened here?"
Mulder's shoulders sagged. "I don't know, Scully. I think Eveshka is a ghost. She possessed Johanna's body and used her to commit the murders. She killed them for their life energy, so she could continue living inside Johanna. I think this old lady knew how to stop it, how to make Eveshka leave Johanna. I think it worked."
"But Mulder, what about the bodies? They manifested signs of drowning, of being submerged for long hours after death, of having?.." Scully's words trailed off as she recalled Eveshka's earlier ranting. The ghost had described being drowned?. Could it be that Eveshka's victims displayed how she herself had looked after her murder? Could that by why she picked young, blond-haired, green-eyed girls specifically? Had Eveshka been blond-haired, green-eyed? The facts were almost overwhelming. This case just didn't want to reconcile itself with reason.
Captain Jezek escorted Scully and Mulder to their car the next day after breakfast. "I'm so glad you've solved the case, Agents Mulder and Scully. While the report may look strange to your superior back in Washington, I assure you it will be accepted here. We're an old culture, and we haven't forgotten our legends. As odd as it may sound, we suspected Johanna all along. We are overjoyed that you have confirmed our guess."
"Yes, well, it remains to be seen if our conjecture is correct. After all, if there is another victim, the investigation will need to be reopened," Scully pointed out.
"There won't be another victim, Scully," Mulder retorted gently. "We stopped the killer. It's all over."
Captain Jezek chuckled lightly under his breath before saying, "Well, thank you for everything. I hope you enjoy the conference you will be attending. I would love to accompany you, but I have much work to do. Please feel free to call me anytime if you should ever need my help. I would love to visit America again."
Scully smiled warmly and replied, "I'm sure we can find a case within the next few months that would warrant your expertise. June is a nice month; don't you think?" Captain Jezek winked at her and said,
"I think June sounds lovely."
"Scully, come on. If we don't get there soon we'll miss the door prize drawing. They're going to be giving away autopsy videos from Patagonia this year. Come *on*."
"Good-bye," Scully wished Captain Jezek. "All *right* Mulder, I'm coming. Stop honking the horn."