Title: Child's Play: Demons
Summary: Mysterious deaths in Key West are somehow related to an ancient curse that involves a toy exhibited at a historic museum.
(I started this before CHINGA, I swear.)
Key West 1952
The sun burned down brightly on the large white house as its ascent into the sky signaled midday. It radiated with such intensity that its glare nearly enveloped the entire right side of the wooden structure and caused tiny pieces of white paint to crumble and fall uselessly atop the naked ground. The unkempt yard was flat but still somewhat uneven as small sand piles marked the ground making it look almost pock like in appearance.
Although the house was sheltered by no shrubbery or greenery immediately nearby, a number of lazy looking palm trees decorated the area to the distant left of the house and streaks of palmetto grass blew tiredly with the breeze carried from the ocean nearby. The sun's rays reflected back unto the house by the water so that it appeared as if it were cradled in silver.
The breeze from the east caressed the house in a loving embrace leaving only the sway of a metal sign that hung from ceremoniously from the wooden porch. It read simply, GOD BLESS THIS HOME.
The boy looked wistfully up to the large elderly black lady and smiled, before glancing back towards the sign as it moved with the wind. His large, dark eyes followed the metal sign as it moved back and forth until a smile formed on his deeply tanned and freckled face.
"Nanna," he asked, "Is there time for a swim before lunch?"
The large Haitian woman wiped a fat hand across her forehead, looking up to the sky as the boy spoke. The ragged gold turban she had tied around her head loosened and allowed gray strands of hair to fall stubbornly into her eyes.
She pushed the hair back into the band of the turban and twisted her neck to get a better look at the sky above. "You swim no more than an hour?"
The young boy was nodding his head enthusiastically and wiping the sand off his hands as he rose from his knees to stand close against her as she continued talking, "And you come out with no argument?"
Once again he nodded in agreement. His attention was focused on a large stuffed doll sitting up where he had been playing. Eugene pulled the doll up from the ground and embraced it lovingly as he made his way towards the beach.
The old woman brushed at her skirt before looking up after Eugene, "And leave that doll up here away from the water."
Eugene stopped walking and glanced back to her, "But Nanna, Robert wants to go swimming, too"
"Eugene, do as I tell you, boy. Last time you got him wet the smell 'bout ran us out the house."
Eugene shrugged his shoulders and hugged the doll tighter, "He told me so Nanna, please?"
The woman made her way clumsily towards the boy and pulled the doll from his thin arms with little protest. She sat it down on the sand, propped up against a number of old discarded worn and wooden crates. Robert's pear shaped face watched Eugene as he made his way slowly towards the beach's water. Their eyes were synchronized as they watched each other until the distance between them became great and Eugene ran quickly into the surf as it crashed against the beach Robert's black button eyes seemed almost sad as Eugene's image in the water became smaller and smaller until he was barley visible against the silver water. Robert's red penciled lips curved into a half smile at one end, while the opposite end slanted downward almost as if he were in anguish.
The old woman wiped her hands against the dirty apron that clung tightly to her plump hips. She tugged affectionately at Robert's pointed left ear and smiled to him before straightening the blue overalls and white shirt that covered his cloth body. With a final squeeze of his black socked foot, she smiled to him and instructed, "You play nice, too, Robert."
She made her away back into the house before giving one last look in Eugene's direction. Her brow creased with worry as she saw him swimming to where a small group of boys of similar age were playing. She slammed the door whispering one final warning, "Boys, behave."
Eugene's skinny body was really no match against the waves of the ocean. He struggled to maintain his balance, his toes just barely touching the bottom. Finally he managed to get his momentum and paddled furiously to keep his chin above the water level. Once this was accomplished his attention was directed about 20 feet away where the boys were splashing and playing about.
Their laughter was enticing to Eugene. As he watched them he longed for an invitation to join them in play. However, as he drew nearer, the boys ceased their play and began to gaze at him as he stilled not far away.
The one that spoke may have been a little older than Eugene or the others. He had bright blonde hair that was cropped close against his face. The pale skin of his face was so marked with freckles, it looked as if he wore a mask over his eyes.
The boy looked quickly to his playmates and announced, "Hey fellows, look! It's doll boy." A low roar of laughter was barely audible from the boys as a huge wave rushed noisily by and crashed against the rocks close by.
Eugene looked anxiously toward the shore where had come and could barely make out Robert's cloth form propped up on the beach as if he were watching them. Eugene pleaded, "Quiet Stevie, he'll hear you."
The boy, Stevie, laughed deliberately, swimming closer to where Eugene was treading water. "Why didn't you bring that stupid doll?" He glanced back to his friends and added, "The sissy boy didn't want to get his doll wet."
He swam closer to Eugene so that they were nearly shoulder to shoulder, "Ain't that right, Sissy boy?"
Eugene's reply was lost amidst the laughter that bellowed from the boys. Stevie continued, "My brother says that only girls play with dolls. Are you a sissy boy, Eugene?"
Eugene's eye's paled as the tears began to fall down his cheeks. He turned his back and began swimming back towards the shore to where Robert was waiting. As his feet touched bottom and he waded back to the sand, he ran with all his might towards the house.
He ran past where Robert sat and towards the house. As he reached the house he burst through the door and into the loving arms of his Nanna.
She embraced him lovingly and led him inside, slamming the screen door so that the metal sign began to sway impatiently again back and forth. Once Eugene had made the escape to the sanctuary of his home, the boys went back to playing almost as if they had never been interrupted.
They splashed furiously at each other, throwing large arm full of water against each other. Stevie became so absorbed in the water game that he didn't realize how far away from the others he was venturing. Robert's smile widened as Stevie pulled further and further from the shore.
A sudden gust of wind enveloped the youngsters causing waves to push quickly against them. Almost instantly Stevie disappeared from sight. It happened so quickly that the boys would later report they didn't even hear him scream. He just disappeared under the water almost as if he were playing hide and seek from the others.
Back on shore, the sun's ray caught Robert in silhouette causing a shadow to play across his pale linen face. His red bottom lip seemed almost to drop down into a sly smile as he watched the sea envelope Stevie. It wasn't until the waves subsided that the boys noticed Stevie's absence. Frantically, they began pleading for help to come to their aid.
Along the shore, back doors to homes were thrust open, as adults spilled out onto the beach and towards the water. Robert watched them avidly as they trudged into the waves, fighting against the sea to where the small figures of the boys were barely visible.
The sun took refuge behind a number of clouds, so that the sky became nearly dark. Robert's smile grew wider as he took in the scene. Satisfied he seemed almost to exhale a sigh and sink closer against the wooden crate behind his back. His head appeared to incline as if in thought, all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put Stevie together again.
Dana Scully parked her Ford explorer into the long term parking lot at Dulles airport. After slamming the truck door and grabbing her carry on case from the passenger seat, she arrived at the bus stop just as airport transportation arrived at the curb.
She pushed away the loose red strands of hair that fell into her eyes and fell into the closest empty seat. After releasing the breath she didn't realize she was holding, she checked her watch and relaxed back against the seat's back. I can't believe I made it, she thought. Only 3 hours ago, I was sleeping calmly in my bed, unaware of the "Mulder" call that was to come. She shook her head in silent contemplation carefully evaluating her own sanity for once again following him on another of his wild goose chases.
"Mulder, tell me again why we are going to Key West?" she asked as she adjusted her skirt over her knees and buckled the seat belt securely around her waist. Mulder produced a file folder from his carry on bag under his seat and handed it to her. She waited until the plane had leveled off before opening it and reviewing its contents. Once the popping of her ears had subsided, she opened it unto her lap to find a black and white picture of a young boy.
The child looked to be about 8 years old. He had dark hair combed tight around his thin freckled face. There was a cluster of strawberry freckles kissing each of cheeks in a thick pseudo rash. His smile nearly swallowed most of his face so that a nearly toothless grin was evident. It was, however, his eyes that caught Scully's attention. They were dark but with an intensity of someone much older.
She flipped through the contents of the file and sat back against the seat as she read the report. As she read the last page and closed the cover, she sighed, "He died?"
Mulder nodded, "Two weeks ago." He reopened the folder back to the photo Scully had initially seen and went on, "Russell Baker died as a result of injuries he sustained after he was accidentally hit by his school bus."
"This is your X file, Mulder?" She paused momentarily as if waiting for him to answer. Then added, "The child was hit by a school bus. It's unfortunate but there's nothing insolent or high tech about it."
"There's more, Scully."
She smiled and sipped at her coffee, "I knew you were going to say that."
"Witnesses report that Russell Baker appeared as if he were being accosted by an animal."
A copper eyebrow arched as she repeated, "An animal?"
"Actually, a bird or other winged creature."
"Winged creature? What did animal control identify it as?" She paused then added a second thought, "Please don't tell me another vampire case."
"No Scully, no vampires. But animal control didn't identify it because no one else saw the creature."
"But Mulder, you just said..."
"No, I said Russell Baker reacted as if he were being attacked by a bird. However, none of the witnesses collaborates there to have been any attacker at all."
"What are you are classifying as 'reacting'?"
Mulder pointed to the report in her lap and read aloud to her, "Russell kept slapping his head and swiping at the air, screaming it was going to peck his eyes out."
"Peck his eyes out?"
Mulder smiled, "In true Hitchcock tradition."
"What about the coroner's report?"
Mulder held up a school photograph of young Russell Baker taken not 6 months earlier. "The coroner reports that he died as a result of severe head trauma presumably as a result of contact with the bus. Nothing else significant was noted."
Scully took the photograph, "He was a cute kid." She smiled sadly at the toothless smile that looked back to her. "Mulder, you must have something else. This is an unfortunate story but it's no X file."
He handed her another paper, "Scully, read the list of possessions the coroner logged in for Russell Baker."
Scully read, "Two size 4 white sneakers, 1 pair blue jeans, 1 white T shirt, 1 lunch bag with."
Mulder interrupted her and pulled a folded advertisement from his jacket, "This is the same shirt that Russell Baker was wearing."
She nodded, "He was a basketball fan, most little boys are. So what?" Mulder looked at her incredulously, "Scully, he's was wearing an Atlanta Hawks T shirt and witnesses reported that he acted as if he were being attacked by a bird."
She handed him the folder, "Mulder, that's quite a jump. Even for you"
Mulder leaned in closer to her and smiled, "There's more."
He opened another folder to indicate another picture of a man in his late 30's to early 40's. The man had a round face, so round in fact he resembled a snow man, his neck non existent behind multiple chins. His brown hair was long and unkempt with a slick, oily appearance. From the photograph, Scully could tell he was a large man, taller than Mulder. The man in the picture wore dark blue uniform pants and a light blue short sleeved denim shirt with a small white patch over his left breast that read Daniel. He stood along side a gray van with big black lettered printing that read, "Pinkwater's Plumbing".
"Daniel Pinkwater died about 3 months ago when his plumbing van crashed into a tree. He died instantly."
She pushed her tray table up in anticipation of landing, "Please don't tell me you drug me all this way to investigate 2 very unfortunate accidents."
"No, actually, I drug you all this way to investigate a number of mysterious deaths that span some 140 years back."
She made as if to speak, but he interrupted, "Ever hear of the artist's house in Key West, Scully?"
"No, should I?"
"The artist's house was built in the early 1800's by a salvager named Maurice Level Otto."
"A salvager, Mulder?"
"Yeah, since his house was so close to the shore. He would monitor the ships as they came into the harbor. When the ships collided with one of the many rocks, the salvager and his crew would proceed to the wreck and salvage it's cargo. Usually the ship's captain or owner would pay the salvager with a percentage of whatever was salvaged."
"That's very intriguing."
"Well Scully, Maurice Level Otto was a very intriguing man. There were lots of reports of salvagers actually setting traps for the ships almost to ensure that they wrecked. But none of that was substantiated."
"So what does this have to do with these accidents? And why are we here?" The innkeeper at the Artist's House reported that Pinkwater left the inn in a hurry. Apparently Pinkwater was anxious about something that happened while he was working in the second floor bathroom."
Mulder smiled his most mischievous grin, "Maybe Pinkwater saw the devil in the drain."
Mulder shift uncomfortably, "Pinkwater fled the house in terror. He left a number of his own tools in the bathroom and side swiped a half dozen trash cans with his van as he pulled away."
"I don't understand the connection, Mulder."
"The townspeople of Key West believe that the Artist's House is haunted. Witnesses have reported seeing a woman in a blue gown walk the halls of the second floor. There are also reports of an odorous stench for which no cause can be identified. We're talking hundreds of reports about the house, Scully Reported over some 100 years."
"You think it is the ghost of Maurice Level Otto?" she asked with just a hint of humor.
"Maurice Otto was also an artist, he painted hundreds of pictures before he died, mostly of birds. Otto was a rich, cantankerous old man who was disliked even by his own family. In fact, Scully, he died a sad, lonely old man.
"Mulder, is there a point to any of this story?"
"The Otto family's legacy remained consistent through the years, Scully." Maurice's daughter, Cassandra, killed herself at the tender age of 22. His only son, Alexander, married and buried 3 women before finally producing an heir to the Otto fortune. The heir, Richard, married very young and also produced an heir Eugene Otto, Maurice's great grandson, was infamous in Key west, but not for painting or sailing. Eugene's claim to fame was Robert."
Scully arched a copper eyebrow at him, "Is Robert Eugene's son?"
"No, not exactly."
"No, Scully, not a brother or a son. Robert is the doll that Eugene carried up until the day he died at the ripe old age of 69."
"Did you say doll?"
Mulder handed her another photograph. This one appeared to have been taken in a bedroom with long white curtains that nearly touched the floor at every window.
The room seemed to be well lighted, but uncommonly dark as shadows silhouetted every piece of furniture. The edge of the bed was barely visible at the bottom right corner in the picture. A think, folded wool afghan at the foot was noticeably out of place against the whiteness of the linen bedspread.
A fireplace was central to the wall in the photograph. Its impressive darken oak mantle stood proudly against the wall and housed an assortment of play things. The most obvious was an assortment of stuffed birds, the largest being about 2 feet tall. It was however, the figure of the hawk that drew Mulder's attention.
"This was Eugene Robert Otto's room when he was growing up, Scully."
"Look's just like my god son's room, Mulder. So?"
"This is how the room looks today, too."
"Why did he keep it like that if he was a grown man?"
"For Robert." "Robert, the doll? Mulder, this is crazy." "It's true Scully, Eugene Otto carried that doll around up until his death. It cost him dearly, but he maintained that Robert was alive."
"Cost him what, Mulder?"
"Eugene was married at the age of 18 to Amanda Blythe, also 18 years old. Less than a year later they had a son, Adam. According to the courthouse records, Amanda filed for divorce a year later."
"Were any reasons given?
"Amanda Blythe accused Eugene of being mentally unstable and simply disappeared from the house one night before the divorce was final."
"She left the boy with the father?"
"Yes, she just left one night from the house without any explanation." Mulder slipped the folders back into his case under the seat. He buckled his seatbelt in anticipation for landing and added, "We're in luck, Scully. There just hapen to be 2 vacancies at the Artist's house."
She nodded a faint smile and settled back against the seat for landing. She wiped at her head and pinched the bridge of her nose. Looking at her watch once again, she thought, Five hours ago I was sleeping peacefully.
The Artist's House Key West, Florida
The old gardener was oblivious to the agents as they made their way up the long winding driveway and to the entrance of the Artist's House. His body bent unwittingly toward the ground as if he were in search od somenthing. He seemed characteristically overdressed against the backdrop of swaying palm trees as the sun caught them in direct light. He was dressed in black trousers and vest with his long sleeved white shirt rolled up to his elbows. He paid them no notice as they passed, but merely continued to shovel small mounds of dirt atop the grass. Once he had accumulated a number of piles, he dropped to his bony knees and shifted through the dirt as if he were inspecting it. Pile by pile the dirt was returned to the hole and the old man started the process anew in a different area near the house.
The house was massive as level atop level stood proudly dominant. It smelled as if it had been freshly painted and the intense color of the trim around the windows indicated that this was indded the case. Apparently when the old black gardner was not digging up the yard, he trimmed and planted the landscape to it fullest capacity. The front of the house was barely visible behind a forest of blue and pink flowered trees. In addition, yellow rose bushes lined the asphalt driveway nearly all the way to the front door of the house. To the far right a number of large white begonia trees formed a line that ran parallel to the water, so that it almost looked like a fence.
The old man continued with his task, paying the agents no mind as they walked past him and into the house. They were met at the door by a young man of about 18 years old. The boy pushed a hand thorugh his sandy red hair and took the bag from Scully's hand before she had even gotten completely into the foyer.
He smiled to each of them in turn and spoke before Mulder could even get his badge out of his jacket pocket. "You must be the FBI agents? You're rooms are all ready."
His eyes were bright, his smile eager as he disappeared behind the counter with Scully's bag still securely in his grasp. He handed 2 keys to Mulder, "Here you go, sir. Only 1 of the rooms in facing the water. Sorry."
Mulder nodded and took the keys, passing the young man a five dollar bill as he did so. The young bellhop disappeared through the double doors that led into the manager's office waving a hand over his shoulder as he did so, "I'll bring your luggage up right away."
Mulder's hand found its way to Scully's lower back and led her towards the steps, "Let's get settled in, Scully."
She nodded and followed the way he indicated.
The rooms at the Artist's House were cozy inspite of the breeze that seem to blow through them. Scully's room faced the water, its picturesque windows allowing a soothing view of the ocean. Sheer cutains that arched over the window and down to the floor framed every one. The rose colored bedspread was pulled back away from the pillows as if guests were expected.
She dropped her coat on the bed, sat atop the bench at the window, and thought about her father. Even now, she missed him just as much as the day he passed away. She ran her hand through the auburn strands and smiled, "Ahab would have loved this case."
A knock at the door interruputed the thoughts of her father. She opened the door and allowed the bellboy inside the room with her bag. She had just started unpacking when the tapping at the connecting door started. She unlocked the metal latch and opened it before even looking at the knocker, "Come on in, Mulder."
Mulder entered quickly, surveying the room as he made his way to the bay window. "Nice view, Scully."
She smiled to him, 'Thanks Mulder, I really like this room."
He nodded, "I thought you might. I, on the other hand, have a beautiful view of the garden."
She hung up her suits and leaned against the closet door as she closed it, "What's on the agenda?"
His reluctance to answer made her move closer towards the window where he stood. She surveyed the area below to discover what held his attention. She was not surprisd to discover the old gardener had moved around to the back of the house and was intentedly digging the same small holes they witnessed him create in the front.
"Mulder," she repeated, "What's on the agenda?" He let the curtain fall closed and continued to observe the old man, "What'd he doing?"
She shook her head, "He looks like he's centuries old, maybe he's not all there. You shouldn't stare."
"We can see the manager here around 3. He's willing to let us inspect the house, including Robert's room."
The manager was younger than either Mulder or Scully expected. He was a nice looking man with blonde hair cut tight against his neck and ears which was a sharp contrast to his dark eyes and olive complexion. Instead of an expensive suit, he wore khaki pants and a blue deniumm shirt unbuttoned just enough to reveal a spray of darkened chest hair across his torso. He rose from the wicker chair as the agents approached and shook each of their hands. He indicated to the patio table, "Please, join me. What can I get you from the bar?"
Scully answered for them both, "An ice water would be great for me and an ice tea for Agent Mulder."
He smiled inquisitevly, "Agent Scully, you're in Key West, the margarita capital of the U.S."
Mulder intervened, "Were on duty, Mister?"
The manager flashed a perfect set of teeth at them, "Forbes, Stuart Forbes."
Scully took a seat, "thanks for seeing us on such short notice, Mr. Forbes."
"Stuart," he corrected her.
Mulder waited for the server to deposit the drinks on the table. Then spoke, "We're interested in the Eugene Otto legend."
Stuart was already nodding before Mulder finished speaking, "You mean more specifically, Robert."
"Yeah," came their simultaneous replies. They looked at each other surprisingly.
Stuart sipped at his margarita, pausing to wipe the perspiration that collect around his eyes and nose. "This house was built in the mid 1800's by a salvager named Maurice Level Otto."
Mulder nodded, "We're familiar with some of the history. We're aware Otto salvaged ships that wrecked off the coast. We know it made him a wealthy man."
"Agent Mulder, it made him a very hated man."
Scully swallowed a mouthful of water, "Hated? Why?"
Stuart pulled a small grey hankerchief from his hip pocket and wiped his face again, "There was a fine line, even back then, between piracy and salvaging. Maurice was a madman who waited for castrophies to strike and then profited on them when they did." He sipped again at his margarita, "Infact, Maurice Level Otto probably caused more of those wrecks than mother nature did by chance." He looked towards the water and went on in a somber voice, "Some say this house is haunted by the souls of those lives he ruined."
"What do you think, Mr Forbes?"
"Agent Scully, I don't believe in ghosts, but I can't explain everything that happens here, either." Mulder looked behind him towards the house, "Can we see the room?"
Stuart rose, "Sure, let me grab the key."
As they made their way back inside, they caught sight of the old gardner shoveling dirt back into a newly created hole. Mulder caught Stuart's arm. "What's he doing?"
Stuart's face became even more flushed, "Pay him no attention, Agent Mulder. He's harmless."
Scully smiled and continued to observe the old man, "We don't fear him, Mr Forbes. We watched him dig those small holes earlier this afternoon. We were just wondering what he's doing?"
Stuart pointed toward the old man, "That's Mallet Ramsey. He's born here in this house. His mother was a servant here for many years. Mallet has been gardening here for over 70 years. He started as a boy and I guess his mind is a little weak now."
Stuart led them up the stairs and towards the 2nd floor, "Mallet's harmless. He spends his entire day, digging those holes and replacing the dirt." Stuart continued along the darkened corridor and to the last room in the hallway. He opened the door ceremoniously and motioned for the agents to enter, "This was Robert's room."
Robert's room looked erily similar to the picture Mulder had exhibited earlier. The most noticeable difference was the wooden rocking chair that sat empty to the right of the fireplace. The floor under the chair seemed well worn as if the rockers made frequent contact with it. Some of the marks weren't as deep as than others but this area of the floor was the most scarred of the entire room.
In addition a number of large puppets hung ceremoniously from the fireplace. The puppets varied in size and color. The largest one was about 3 feet tall and dressed in the bright colors of a clown. It wore a yellow jumper with a black ruffle color. Its face was painted white with dark blue circles around the eyes. The mouth was trimmed in dark red to match the nose. It wore a thin flimsey yellow pointed hat, whose tip fell well below its shoulder.
Scully looked curiously around the room, "Where is the doll?"
Stuart looked confused, "What doll?"
He smiled, "He isn't kept here. He's been on display at the museum for about 5 years now."
"Why isn't he here?"
Stuart swatted at an insect flying intrudingly between himself and his guests, "Robert was willed to the museum, actually to the son of the man man who owns the museum, after Eugene's death. "
Both agents looked confused, "Eugene and the caretaker's son, Charles, were best friends. When Eugene died, Charles took care of Robert."
Mulder's attention was distracted as he looked curiously around the room. Scully followed his line of vision and saw nothing, "What is it, Mulder?"
He looked to Stuart, "Mr Forbes, I can't help but notice you have 7 motion detectors in this room."
Stuart nodded and glanced anxiously around at each of the sensors, "We get lots of tourist, now. I had them installed once the crowd picked up."
Mulder approached the sensor closest to them, "Can I see the alarm company reports?"
Stuart nodded and disappeared, only to return minutes later. He handed Mulder a stack of computer paper about a foot tall. Before Mulder could ask, Stuart added, "The motion detectors are triggered at least twice a week, sometimes more."
Scully closed the gap between them and looked at the reports in Mulder's arms, "And the camera's never turns up anything?"
"No, nothing is ever disturbed or missing."
Mulder peeked around the doorway into the hall, "What about the lady in blue that appears?"
Stuart moved to the door and examined the hall as well, "No, she never appears in here." He pointed into the hallway, "only in the hallway and in the rooms on the 3rd floor."
Scully's eyes grew wide, "Our rooms?"
Stuart smiled again, grinned actually, and nodded, "Yes, Agent Scully, she has been seen there." He moved closer towards Scully and leaned into her personal space, "But you needn't worry. I hear that she is terribly jealous and seldom appears when a beautiful woman is in the house. She appears spontaneously amid a shower of lights that can be seen for blocks away."
A crimson glow evaded Scully's face as she leaned back away from him and smiled. Once Stuart had returned to his own space, she leaned in to Mulder, "Did you plan this?"
He gave her no reply. She repeated, "Mulder?"
She turned to find him studying the array of toys scattered about the room. They looked erily as if the owner was simply napping and would return at any moment to enjoy them. Mulder knelt down his knee scraping against a minature burgundy garbage truck, selected a grey metal van, and held it up for Scully's inspection.
She looked at him curiously, "What?"
He pushed it closer towards her so that it was nearly under her nose. "Sort of looks like Pinkwater's plumbing van, Uh?"
"Mulder, it's a grey van. There are hundreds of them."
"Yeah Scully, but it looks like Pinkwater's."
"No buts, Mulder, it's a grey van."
He turned to Stuart, "How far is it to the museum?"
Stuart pointed out of the window, "Just about 5 blocks up the street on the right. You can't miss it."
The agents nodded and followed him out the bedroom door.
Audubon Museum Key West, Florida
Mulder watched the old man make his way down the dark wooden corridor that enclosed the steps from the second floor. The caretaker's black pattened shoes tapped loudly on the ancient, newly polished floor. His white gloved hand clung securely to the brass railing as he made his way down to the landing where the agents stood waiting patiently. The old man tipped his grey conducter's like hat to Scully as he shook her hand and then Mulder's.
Mulder smiled to him, biting back the urge to comment on the old man's resemblence to Samuel Clemens. "Thanks for seeing us, Mr Breckinridge."
The old man smiled and sucked on his bottom lip so hard it seemed to have disappeared. His thick grey mustache curled tight against his nose, "Call me Samuel, please. Anything to help the FBI." He motioned for them to follow him inside the exhibition area as Mulder fought back his look of surprise.
He led them to an area that was roped off from public inspection, "Sorry about the mess. We had a fire about 3 weeks ago. We're still cleaning it up."
Mulder looked quickly to where the old man was indicating, "The fire was when?"
"Two - three weeks ago?"
Scully questioned, "Anyone hurt?"
"No maam, just some exhibits destroyed."
"What about Robert?"
The old man's face grew serious, almost frightened, "Robert was not hurt. The fire was contained in the west wing. Robert lives in the east wing."
Both agents grimaced noticing that he used the words 'hurt' and 'lives' to describe an inanimate object. Scully pulled her jacket tighter around her body, "This is a terribly drafty hallway."
Mulder slid his hands into is pockets in agreement, "Can we see Robert?"
"Sure, Mr Mulder, follow me." He made his way back up the stairs, straightening the crisp blue jacket as he went.
Samuel led them towards the east wing to where a room behind a glass wall was exhibited. The room was organized exactly as the one in Mulder's picture. However, in the wooden rocking chair sat the infamous cloth doll.
Robert sat snuggly in the chair, his black socked feet hanging tediously off the seat. He was dressed in dark blue pants and a matching jacket with a white collar that was barley visible under the jacket. He had white ruffled cuffs hanging from each sleeve of the jacket. Although the pale face was made of white linen, it was stained and tarnished from years of use. There were black buttons for eyes, but someone had painted white irises on the buttons to make him more life like. His nose was nothing more than gathered linen stiched into a knot. A pair of folded linen flaps constituted his ears. Even though they were somewhat pointed at the tops, they looked real enough.
Scully leaned inn closer to the glass window and asked the caretaker, "You knew Eugene Otto?"
The old man nodded, "He and my son, Charles, were best friends most of their lives."
"Charles?" Mulder repeated.
"Charles and Eugene grew up together. Charlie was Eugene's only friend except for Robert, of course. Robert didn't like sharing very much. He could be possessively jealous. Most people couldn't tolerate his behavior."
Scully asked, "Are we talking about Charles or Eugene?" The old man swallowed loudly pausing before he answered. "I was talking about Robert."
"Mr Breckingridge, how is that possible?" "Mr Mulder, I'm 84 years old. I've seen a lot of weird things in my time. I don't know how nor why, Sir. But I tell you true enough, Robert can do things. He knows things."
He pulled Scully away from the glass and whispered, "Some folks say he's the devil."
She repeated, "A devil doll?"
He walked farther from the glass and nodded, "Yes maam, that doll is evil."
Mulder made a puckering gesture with his bottom lip and shook his head, "Mr Breckinridge, where is Charles? Would it be possible to speak with him?"
The old man's eyes teared up, "Charles died ."
"He died over labor day weekend in a boating accident. The medical examiner reported he was drinking when the boat crashed into the dock."
Scully added, "But you don't believe that?"
"No maam. Charles didn't like liquor much. He almost always got this rash when he drank. His body didn't look like it was hurt that much. And I didn't see no rash, either."
"Where did this accident happen, Mr Breckinridge?"
"On the water behind Otto's house. It was their dock he crashed into."
The conversation was interrupted by the appearance of a professional looking woman. She was probably in her early 40's with brown hair pulled back in a barette. Her tan suit stood out sharply against the darkness of the corridor.
She smiled to the caretaker as she made her way to where they stood, "Mr Breckinridge, I'm sorry to come unannounced but I need to speak with you sir."
The old man nodded and waved her closer to them but she added, "Alone sir?"
He shook his head as if they shared a secret. "Agents Mulder, Scully, This is Mrs Barbara Roberts. I have some business I need to attend to." He tugged at the white cuffs that hung out of his sleeve and then pulled off the white glove to produce a wrinkled, fragile old hand to Scully. "If I can be of any further assistance, please let me know."
He motioned for the woman to follow him and they disappeared into a small office to the left of the hallway.
Mulder tugged at Scully's elbow and after glancing at his watch, led her towards the stair steps. "It's nearly 5pm, Scully. What do you say we head back to the Inn, get some dinner, and call it an evening."
He stoped at the top for her to go first and looked one last time back at the glass to Robert. It may have been the evening sun glaring unfiltered into the room and casting shadows across the room. Mulder could have sworn Robert's smile seemd to be more pronounced than it had been only minutes before. He reached out for Scully'' shoulder so that she could inspect the doll as well. However, once his hand made contact with her shoulder, the doll was as he had been previously.
Scully paused on the step and looked to what held Mulder's attention so intently, "What is it, Mulder?"
He shook his head and walked ahead of her on the landing, then waited patiently for her at the museum's entrance.
She continued to observe him curiously, "Is there a fire, Mulder?"
He opened the door and waited for her to exit, "No, I just want to get back to the Inn. The hockey game starts at 8:30. The flyers are playing the capitals tonight. I want to see if the caps can hold off number 29. He's possessed."
She eyed him cautiosuly, muttered something he couldn't make out, and proceeded onto the street.
The walk back to Inn was quiet, unervingly so for Scully. She knew he was thinking, she could almost smell the smoke. It was times like these she simultaneously loved and hated. She admired the passion and intensity of his beliefs. Sometimes it was so easy to get caught up in Mulder's quest. However, it was this same intensity that usually got them in trouble. She knew the look, she recognized the silence. Now she needed but to wait to hear the theory.
She glanced to her right to monitor his actions. He seemed to really be caught up in his thoughts. She checked her watch and nodded in wonder. An entire 8 minutes had passed and he hadn't unleashed the demonic doll story on her yet. Maybe he needed a vacation. Maybe, she thought, he was tired.
She watched him observe the area ahead of them where a number of boys were playing baseball in a makeshift grassy field. There must have been 18 or so boys, all about 10 or 11 years of age. Some were gathered by a delapidated wooden bench awaiting their turn at hitting the ball. The others were scattered about the field in a semi circle that might have been mistaken for a baseball diamond. They had wore the grass down to be designated bases with only a crooked rundown metal fence seperating the diamond from the street. She couldn't decide if he was truly interested in the children at play, or if he was just working up the courage to tell her his theory.
After a few more minutes of silence, she couldn't take it anymore."Okay, Mulder, spill it."
He gave her his puppy dog look and batted those lashes, "What Scully?"
"Why are you so quiet?"
"You're not saying anything either, Scully."
"Mulder, I never say anything first. We have a rhythm. You give me some ridiculous theory and I shoot it down."
She smiled and latched her arm through his as she continued, "That's the way it is. We've always done it this way."
"Scully, if we'd have done it. I'm sure I'd remember."
She raised her brow in warning and pushed him ahead of her.
He smiled back to her, but continued at the same pace. "I want to talk to Forbes again. There has to be someone still around that knew Eugene Otto besides Breckinridge. We need to interview someone who hasn't lost a loved one to what he believes is a possessed doll."
Scully flashed him a rare smile, "Why Mulder, I am very proud of you." He hesitated, allowing her to catch up to him and took her hand, "Thanks Scully, but....."
He didn't get to finish his sentence as the crack of a baseball being hit broke his concentration. He barely had time to look to his right before the said baseball projected its way into his peripheral vision. It was his intent to push her away and use his arms to protect his face. However, it all happened so quickly.
One minute she was standing at his left. Moments laters after the ball impacted with her head, she was on the ground.
The bed under her felt different than the one she recognized as her own. It was bigger, deeper, softer than the one counted sheep in every night. The clouds that were hanging onto her brain were just beginning to clear as the room slowly came into focus. Next she hear the low rumble of a television. It sounded like cheering, some one was applauding.
She sat slowly up, leaning on her arms for support and shook her head cautiously. As the black spots evaded, she could make out his figure sitting in her chair close up against the television screen. Her hand went curiously to her temple, where she encountered a large knot.
It was this movement that caught his attention. He rose quickly from his chair and joined her at the bed, "Scully," he began as he rubbed her shoulder, "How are you feeling?"
She sat up and straigthened her loosened blouse closed comfortably around her chest. She reached for the water that sat on the nightstand, "What happened? My head feels like I was hit by a truck."
He smiled, "Close, a baseball."
"Yeah, you been out about 2 hours. The doctor checked you out. He said you seemed to be okay but that I should watch you."
He leaned in close against her and waggled his eyebrows as he added, "Which I intend to do to my fullest capacity. " He paused for affect, "Ready to shower now or wanna wait till later."
She pushed him away, "Later Mulder, like the year 2035."
He stood up and steadied her as she joined him, "I'm gonna hold you to that, Scully."
She pulled away and disappeared into the bathroom, returning minutes later with a cold rag over her forehead. "I'm hungry, Mulder. Did you eat already."
"Yeah, about an hour ago." He went towards the small refrigerator and produced a a brown paper bag, "I ordered you a sandwiche."
She took the bag from him and smiled. After replacing the bag back in the refrigerator, she replied, "I think I'll take a shower first."
Mulder was out of the chair and at her side instantly, "Finally," he announced, "let's go."
She slid her arm out of his hand and pointed to the connecting door, "You can go now, Mulder. I'm fine, really."
His lip dropped in disappointment, 'But Scully, the doctor said.." "I'm the doctor, Mulder. You should go." Before he could respond, her door was politely closed against his smiling face.
Nearly 2 hours had passed when her door opened cautiously and a shadow peeked inside towards her bed. The light from the small lamp across the room afforded him only a vague impression of her outline as she lay unmoving in bed.
He entered quietly, the quest aided by his socked feet against the hard wood of the floor. He sighed as he approached her sleeping form and kneeled closed beside where she slept. The white cuff of his sleeve stuck out in sharp contrast to the darkened room as his hand found her face. He brushed aside the red hair that had falled over her eye in sleep and tucked it behind her ear. She made only a slight movement, but did not threatened to awaken.
He scutinized her sleeping form for any sign of distress and was relieved to discover none. Soundlessly he stood, pulling her blankets closer around her body. He made his way back to the door and exited with no further ago, pausing only to switch the lamplight to the off position.
The Artist's House 8 A.M.
"How are you feeling this morning, Scully?" Mulder asked as she joined him at the table the manager had made ready for their breakfast.
"A little sore, but I'm fine." She paused, "Thanks for checking up on me lastnight, Mulder."
He seemed confused, "Scully..."
His reply was interrupted as a stranger approached the table where the agents were sitting, "Agent Mulder? Agent Scully? I received a message that you wanted to talk to me. My name is Adam Christobe. Eugene Otto was my father."
Eugene Otto's son was a surprisingly handsome man. He was, Scully surmized, smaller than Mulder, probably close to 6 feet tall. His shoulders were broad and the tanned lean muscle of his arms seemed even darker against the short sleeved shirt he wore. The light colored shirt was unbuttoned about 6 inches below the neck, yet tight against his chest. The dark hair visible through the shirt matched the long locks of hair that hung nearly to his shoulders. His sea blue eyes seemed to penetrate both both agents. But it was Scully who looked away first.
He made his way closer to the agents and extended his hand to them. Her face turned crimson as he brought her hand to his lips, bowed slightly at the hip, and smile up to her, "A pleasure, Miss Scully."
She pulled her hand anxiously away, surprised that she was aware of the softness of his unshaven cheek as his face brushed against her hand.
The man nodded in Mulder's direction, "Agent Mulder. I hope this is not an inconveinent time?" Once again he extended his hand.
Mulder shook his hand and pointed towards the patio table they'd occupied earlier. "No, no inconveience at all. Please Mr. Christobe have a seat."
The man hesitated and waved his arm in front of him so that Scully would proceed first. She paused momentarily, but then reluctantly returned to her seat.
Mulder waited for the man to sit before reclaiming his seat, "Thanks for seeing us so soon, Mr Christobe. I understand you're a very busy man." Mulder glanced at his notebook, "I see you are a photographer?"
Christobe nodded, "Yes, that is correct sir." He looked at his left where Scully sat, "I love the arts."
She pulled her coffee cup and saucer closer towards her, "I'm curious, Mr Christobe.."
He interrupted her, "Please call me Adam. I detest the use of formal names. They are so impersonal."
He patted her hand, "Please forgive my manners. What is it you are curious about?"
After pulling her hand away, "I'm curious as to why you don't use Otto as your name."
His white teeth were revealed for dazzling review as he smiled, "Ah, a woman who gets right to the chase. I have always admired the direct approach, especially in a woman."
Under normal conditions, Scully should have been offended or angered. However, for some reason, unknown to her. She wasn't.
Maybe it was the intensity of his deep blue eyes, or the dimbles that formed when he smiled at her. Regardless of the why, she returned his smile. "Mr Christobe, we have to ask you some rather personal questions. Please forgive our intrusion."
He leaned in closer to her, "Ask me anything. I can deny nothing to one so lovely."
Mulder cleared his throar loudly, "Thanks, that's nice of you to say."
Scully cast a warning glance in his direction, but Mulder went on, "Why do you call yourself, Christobe, instead of Otto?"
Momentarily Christobe's face grew serious, almost angry. Then his expression returned as it had been before. "My father was a disturbed man. He believed in things, impossible things."
"Things?" she repeated.
Christobe's demeanor changed so that his once relaxed posture was now rigid, almost regimented, "Miss Scully."
"Agent Scully." Mulder corrected.
Christobe ran his hand through the dark strands of his hair and stifled a laugh, "Agent Scully, I know that you are familiar with my father as well as the bizarre belief he subscribed to."
Mulder pushed his chair closer to the table so that his elbows actually relaxed atop the table, "We want to hear your version. Indulge us."
Christobe shrugged his shoulders and swallowed, "My father's best friend up until the day he died was a stuffed doll." He paused for a minute then went on, " No one mattered more to my father, than Robert. No one."
Scully confirmed, "Are we talking about Robert, the doll?"
Christobe nodded and sipped cautiously from the cup Mulder had placed in front of him. "I don't remember my mother at all. She left when I was very young." He rose from the chair and looked towards the water. "Historians believe this house and its descendants are cursed by the blood of the souls who died out there." He waved his hand along the horizon nearly eye level, "My great great grandfather's fortune built this house, some say from the misfortune of many others."
He turned slowly around to face the agents, "My family has been cursed for centuries. My father was no exception."
"How was he cursed?"
"By insanity, Agent Scully, just like my grandfather and his father before him."
"We don't understand, Mr Christobe."
"Adam," he pleaded to her once again, "Please call me Adam. That name, especially, is a bitter reminder of his insanity."
He returned back to his chair and adjusted his seat to ward off the intensity of the morning sun. "Eugene Otto never admitted to being my father. In fact, he proclaimed he was not."
Scully shook her head, "I don't understand. Did he believe your mother was unfaithful to him?"
"No, not in the way that you are implying."
"Is there another way that were not aware of?"
Christibe turned to face Mulder and smiled, "No Agent Mulder, that's not what I meant. Eugene Otto declared admently that Robert was my father."
Both asked simultaneously, "Robert, the doll?"
Christobe shook his head, "Yes, Eugene Otto reported that he had no recollection of the event of my consumation."
He caught the compassion in her eyes, "No don't misunderstand me. Eugene Otto was a good father. He loved me like a son, just not his."
Mulder bit his lip so that the bottom one nearly disappeared, "You do realize that what you're implying is not possible."
Christobe rose and tucked his shirt tighter into his pants, "I didn't say I believed that story. I happen to subscribe to the theory that my father was indeed, insane."
He smiled to the agents again, "Robert has been in the Otto family for many years." He pulled his chair closer to the agents as if they were getting ready for a campfire story. "Supposedly, Maurice Level Otto salvaged Robert along with thousands of dollars of cargo from a ship that crashed just off the coast."
His eyes danced as if he were entertaining a larger audience. "However, it was no ordinary ship that wrecked this particular day. This vessel was carrying among other things, hundreds of Haittian immigrants who came to America in search of richer lives."
Christobe leaned against the back of his chair, "My great great grandfather opted to salvage the cargo from the sinking ship instead of the passengers who'd been on board. By the time another ship could get to the site of the wreck, many of the passengers drowned. Most of those who drowned were children." Mulder paused, "So what happened then?"
"Grandfather Maurice presented the doll to his youngest child, Alexander It wasn't long after that when his oldest child, Cassandra, died."
"How did she die?"
"She jumped off those rocks to her death, Agent Scully. No one knew why for sure, but it was rumored that she was with child."
"She killed herself because she was pregnant?"
"No Agent Scully, she killed herself because she was pregnant and unmarried." Christobe motioned to the waitor and instructed, "Mario, the usual, please."
The waitor noddd and disappeared into the kitchen as Mulder and Scully exchanged glances.
Christobe went on, "One by one, everyone in the Otto family was fated with unexpected demise. All except for grandfather, Maurice. He lived to be a very old man." Christobe picked up the glass of scotch and drank greedily as the waitor sat it down on the table.
"Grandfather Maurice was a recluse. He hardly ever left the house. He refused to bathe or even utilize the expensive outhouse he'd built. Vistitors were few, they couldn't stand the stench. Grandfather Maurice lived in this house alone with his paintings and Robert."
"Over the years, Robert was passed down from Otto to Otto. And everytime in each generation, tragedy struck, many, many times."
"Christobe, how is it the family named has survived if everyone dies?"
Christobe smiled, "That's a very good observation, Agent Mulder. In every generation, there is always one child that manages to survive. For example, Maurices's youngest son, Alexander fathered a son before his untimely death. That son, Richard, was my grandfather."
"So was your father an only child or was he the only child to survive?"
"My father's brother and sister were killed during a fishing accident. Apparently they were caught in a net that was set too close to shore."
Christobe looked at his watch, "I'm sorry but I have an appointment at the bank that I really can't be late for."
He touched Scully lightly on the wrist, "Perhaps I could answer any other questions you have over dinner tonight?"
Mulder suddenly felt very uncomfortable. He stepped back a little to afford Scully some resemblance of privacy before excusing himself into the lobby.
Scully gave Christobe her consolatory smile, "Thank you for the offer, but I don't think so. My partner and I are interviewing witnesses relevant to our case."
He pushed closer to her, but not threateningly close, "Come now, Agent Scully. You have to eat. I will eat, could we not eat together?"
She extended her hand professionally, "I don't think so, but thanks anyway."
She excused herself and followed after her partner.
Mulder leaned curiously against the white washed banister the lined the front porch and surveyed the old gardner as he moved from one mound of dirt to another. The old man was dressed in an identical fashion as when they'd first encountered him.
Mulder tossed the sunflower seed shell unto the ground and made his way down the steps towards the old man. The gardner rose from his knees as Mulder approached and smiled so that two rows of white teeth enroached across nearly his entire face.
Mulder offered his hand, "I'm Agent Mulder, Mr Ramsey. Can I ask what you're doing with all this dirt?"
The old man wiped his thin face with a large bony hand enabling the perspiration that had collected at his grey hairline to fall in rivets down his cheeks. Before replying he gave a look towards the house, "I am looking for the root bag. I know it's here someplace."
Mulder leaned in closer, "Root bag?"
The man nooded as if Mulder had asked a stupid question, "Yes, boy, the root bag, put here by the demon."
Once again Mulder echoed the old man's words, "Demon?"
Ramsey nodded, "Yes boy, the curse lives strong still."
Without another word the old man collected his shovel and made his way towards the back of the house, whistling something that sounded to Mulder like amazing grace.
The Pinkwater house was actually little more than a shack. It was terribly small and looked more as if someone had stacked white concrete blocks neatly and strategically where appropriate. The metal windows were extended out into the open air as far as possible to allow some movement of air through the house. Hardly anything about the house was visible from the driveway except for the gray wooden door peeking through the trees that carpeted the front of the house.
The agents tapped lightly on the door and waited as the approaching foorfalls grew closer. The door was opened by a heavy set woman about 30 years of age. Her thick brown hair was tied hurriedly atop her head by a blue kerchief.
It was fairly obvious that she not the owner of the shirt she wore. It hung defeatedly around her knees. She wiped her hands on the already faded, baggy blue jeans and inquired, "Can I help you?"
Scully flashed her badge close to the woman's face. "Agents Scully and Mulder of the FBI. Could we ask you some questions about Daniel Pinkwater?"
The woman's pudge face saddened, her eyes teared, "Daniel's dead. He was killed in an automobile accident."
Mulder nodded and motioned inside the door, "Yes, we know. We'd like to ask you some questions about his death."
She stepped to the side to allow the agents entry inside. "It was that doll, you know."
Scully hesitated before going any farther into the room, "We've heard the stories, too, Miss?"
The woman offered her hand, "Sarah Pinkwater. Daniel was my husband."
Scully held onto her hand, "We're sorry for your loss. Why do believe that Robert is responsible fro your husband's death?"
"Daniel hated going anywhere near that place, everyone does. It's haunted by the ghosts of all those kids that died."
The woman motioned for Scully to take a seat. It was at this time that Scully noticed Mulder had wandered down the hall and into one of the small bedrooms. Scully made an apologetic gesture to the woman. "Sarah, have you ever seen any of these ghosts you say haunts the artist's house?"
"Of course, " she answered. "Everyone has seen the lady in blue. She appears in the house a lot and alwsy with those weird flashing lights."
"Have you every seen ghosts of the children?"
"No Agent Scully, but that's because Robert does all the evil work for the children. He does all their bidding and some of his own sometimes, too."
"Sarah, we're talking about a doll..."
"Scully, could you come here, please?" Mulder's voice was heard from the bedroom.
Scully looked to Mrs Pinkwater, "Do you mind?"
Both women rose and joined Mulder in the bedroom. Scully was startled at first but attempted to control her surprise. Even though the room was small, it was filled wall to wall with shelves. The shelves, in turn, were filled with Matchbox cars and trucks. Scully quickly estimated there to be thousands of tiny minature vehicles in every make and color.
Scully looked to Sarah for an explanation and one was forth coming. "Daniel collected matchbox vehicles. He'd been collecting for over 20 years."
Before she could add anything else, the ringing of the phone caused her to scamper out the door to answer it. Scully turned back into the room to find Mulder knelt down on one knee surveying the contents of one of the lower shelves.
She knew that look, that look he always got when his mind was in Xfile overdrive. She watched him momentarily then inquired, "Okay Mulder, what is it?"
He held up another minature of Daniel Pinkwater's gray plumbing van. "Don't you think this is more than a coincidence?"
"Russell Baker's accident may implicate a basketball mascot. Daniel Pinkwater collected toy cars and he died in a automobile wreck. A jealous doll with supernatural abilities. The old gardner said the house wwas cursed by a demon."
"Mulder, that's still quite a leap, even for you!"
He rose to his feet and eliminated the distance bewteen them. "It's almost like it's a game, Scully. A child at play."
She pulled her cellphone from her pocket and started dialing.
He whispered, "Who are you calling?"
"Local bureau. We need the case files on these deaths. We're both getting caught up in the local folkolore. We have to concentrate on the facts, Mulder."
He shook his head, "Right Scully, the facts."
Martin County Sheriff's Office
Scully sat awardly in the large wooden chair. To her left, Mulder shifted his weight from foot to foot as he waited impatiently by the door at the in the sheriff's office. They exchange cursatory glances for about the eighth time since they'd been deposited inside the office nearly 30 miutes ago.
Finally she stood and reached for the door, "I'm going to find the ladies room, Mulder."
To her surprise the door knob was pushed into her hand as the door opened and a distinguished looking older man walked into the office.
Mulder estimated him to be about 55 years old with thin gray hair that barely covered his balding head. The sheriff nodded to her as he approached, "Maam." Was it Mulder's imagination or did the sheriff just suck in his stomach as he intoduced himself to Scully."
Mulder examined him again. It was obvious that the man was holding his breath. The buttons on the dark brown shirt were not nearly as stressed as they had been when he'd first entered the room.
Mulder smiled and extended his hand, "Sheriff Erikson, I'm Agent Mulder. This is Agent Scully."
The sheriff nodded and shook their hands, "My deputy said you were here. What can I do for you?" Mulder made as if to speak but Scully interrupted him, "Excuse me, Sheriff, could you point me towards your ladies room, please?"
The sheriff looked quickly towards the floor, "Sorry Maam, all my officers are men. We don't have a ladies room here."
She nodded, "I see. I'll just step next door..."
He was at her side before she could finish, pulling her out the door, and leading her down the hallway by the elbow.
She was protesting, "That's okay, sheriff. I'll just go next door."
"No Agent Scully. I'll have the boys clear out of the dressing room. You can use the facilities in the men's room."
To her dismay, he bolted into the officers dressing room with her still in tow. The officers, in various states of undress, looked anxiously at the intruders. He announced, "Alright boys, clear out and give the lady some privacy."
The officers hesitated momentarily before collecting their clothes and vacating the room. As the last officer left, the sheriff pointed towards the showers. "The facilities are on the other side of the wall." He pointed to the door behind him, "Agent Mulder and I will wait for you out here."
She nodded and disappeared behind the wall.
Just as the door closed the sheriff replied, "Nice looking partner you got there, Agent Mulder."
Mulder smiled and leaned in close to the sherriff, "Careful Sheriff Erikson. Can you say sexual misconduct?"
The sherriff stuttered and moved restlessly back to the closed door. "Shucks boy, I was only kidding." He started to add something else but noticed Mulder wasn't listening.
He repeated, "Agent Mulder?"
Mulder walked closer to the window for a better view to where Samuel Breckinridge and Adam Christobe sat in the restaurant across the street.
At first it appeared as though they were arguing. But as they stood to leave, the younger man embraced the older man before making his way out of the restaurant and down the street.
Mulder watched the old man head in the direction of the museum. Mulder glanced anxiously to the dressing room door. "Tell Agent Scully to meet me at the museum. Thanks Sherriff."
The sherrif nodded to Mulder and moved closer to the window to watch the agent make his way closer to Samuel Breckinridge. It was impossible not to notice the way his brows furrowed together in worry.
"Samuel," Mulder called.
Samuel Breckinridge hesitated briefly before continuing his slow gait back to the museum. He looked to the sky before continuing. It was nearly dinner time and Robert didn't like being alone.
He wiped the perspiration from his gray bushy brow and continued along his journey. He checked his pocketwatch once more and increased his pace. There was, after all, no sense in antagonizing Robert.
He heard someone calling his name and studied the area. It was then that Mulder caught up to him. "Samuel, " Mulder greeted, "I was hoping I could ask you some more questions."
"I'm sort of in a hurry, Agent Mulder. It's late. I have to get back to the museum."
Mulder touched the older man's arm, "Please Samuel, it's about Robert."
Samuel paused, "What about Robert?"
"Is he responsible for those deaths?"
The old man seemed nervous, "Agent Mulder, I can't talk now. The museum closes at 5 and Robert doesn't like to be alone." He paused then added, "He misbehaves when he's alone."
Mulder fell into step with the old man, "Tell me about Robert and Eugene."
"Robert belonged to that boy all his life. They were always together. Eugene's parents both died when he was a boy."
"How did they die?"
"Killed in a car wreck when Eugene was about 14."
"Robert and the servants took care of Eugene most of his life." The old man paused then added, "It hurt Robert when Eugene married that girl, Amanda."
"Robert was unhappy when Eugene and Amanda were married."
"Yeah, Robert can be terribly jealous sometimes. He didn't like sharing Eugene with Amanda."
The old man started continued walking towards the museum. Mulder followed close at his side. "Samuel, what about Adam?"
Samuel smiled, "Robert loves Adam. He would never hurt him."
"Adam told Agent Scully and I that Eugene believed Robert was Adam's father."
"Amanda loved Eugene very much. I think Eugene loved her, too, in his own way. I think he was afraid for her. He knew Robert could be unreasonable sometimes."
Samuel paused as if choosing his words carefully. "They seemed happy enough in the beginning. Soon after the wedding Eugene put Robert away in the attic."
"Eugene became very restless. He pleaded with Amanda to let him bring Robert down from the attic and put him in the extra bedroom. She refused for a long time. Finally, she conceded and Robert was given a new home in the extra bedroom."
"Over time, Eugene continued to insist that Robert was lonely and wanted to be with them. Amanda didn't like the idea but I think she got tired of fighting with him."
By now they were nearly to the museum and Samuel checked his pocket watch again. "After a while, Eugene spent less and less time with Amanda and more time with Robert. She wasn't pleased at all with the news of her pregnancy."
"What happened to her, Samuel?"
"No one knows. After Adam was born she just disappeared one rainy night."
"What about Adam?"
"Adam was a happy baby. He's a charming young man. Don't you agree?"
"Yes, Samuel. He seems like a nice guy." Samuel leaned in conspiratorily, "He seems to have taken a fancy to your little red haired partner."
Mulder questioned, "Why do you say thay?"
Samuel nodded and disappeared up the steps and through the museum doors, "Robert told me."
Scully closed the door to the officers dressing room and surveyed the outer office. She checked her watch and nodded. Six minutes. She's been in there less than 6 minutes. Where had he managed to disappear to?
She turned back to the sherriff's office to find him him busily at his desk. He smiled as he entered, "Agent Mulder instructed you to meet him at the museum."
Scully approached him and pointed towards the empty wooden chair that was facing his desk. The sherriff indicated for her to sit down.
He pushed the papers he was signing to his right, "What can I do for the FBI, Agent Scully?"
She folded her hands in her lap, "We were called in to investigate the death that occured outside the museum."
The sheriff looked bemused, "You're gonna have to give me a few more hints, Agent Scully. A lot of weird stuff happens at that museum."
She pushed a strand of red hair out of her face, "A child, Russell Baker, died as a result of trauma wound he received awaiting his school bus."
The sherriff nodded, "Oh yeah. It's that doll legend thing again, Every time some unfortunate accident occurs anywhere near that place. I get dozens of "Robert" calls.
She repeated, "Robert calls?"
He took a number of successive drink form a big black mug, "Yeah, that doll has been blamed for every type crime you can imagine at least once."
She sat back confidnetly in her seat, 'Do I detect a hint of skepticism, sherriff?"
"Miss Scully, that dammed doll story has been floating around for hundreds of years. Husbands who cheat on their wifes have blamed that doll, school kids caught skipping class. You name it and the doll has taken the heat."
"So, how do you explain the things that happens, Sherriff?"
"I don't Miss Scully. They are accidents, unfortunate, but still merely accidents."
He pulled the papers back towards him, "That legend brings in a lot of money for folks around here. It keeps hotels and the shops filled, Agent Scully."
He pointed out the window, "Otto's kid is one of the richest men in the southern United States. He keeps those old men reciting those old tales like an expert. He's a smart one, that young un."
Scully stood and straigthened her suit, "Old men?"
"The sherriff rose as she did and nodded, "Yeah, he's got the old gardner ranting & raving about some silly root bag that will break the curse and save the day. And if that doesn't excite the tourists, the old caretaker will display the demon doll, itself."
She smiled, thanked him, and left to join her partner.
Key West Savings and Trust Office 4:58 P.M.
The lobby doors to the Key West Savings and Trust were locked at exactly 5 P.M. every day. Routinely one by one the tellers balanced their stations and left for the evening.
Mattie Edwards, senior supervisor, noticed the light from under the loan director's office door. She tapped soundly on the door labeled Barbara M. Roberts and entered.
The woman behind the desk greeted her sincerely, "Hi Mattie, are you going home for the evening?"
"Yeah, Barbara, you should call it a night, as well. You were here really early this morning."
The woman made as if to join her friend at the door, "No Mattie, go ahead. I need to process a few of these foreclosures tonight. I need to have some closure on this particular one." She held up a document for her friend to inspect. "I have to have this one served tomorrow."
Mattie walked to the desk and methodically began shutting down the computer while Barbara sat idle. "Come on Barb, your doing that old man a favor. He isn't healthy enough to run that museum anymore. It's killing him."
The woman nodded and followed her friend out the door and to her car. The drive to her house was not far, but it seemed like it took less time than usual. She parked her infinity in the garage and made her way inside the house.
She slipped off her shoes and out of her jacket before entering the din. She flipped through her mail and hit the play button on the answering machine before falling into the nearest chair.
The second message made her wince. She hated when the patrons got her personal number. No matter home many times she had her number changed and was given a new unlisted telephone number, they always seemed to find a way to get the new one. As the message played, she noticed a brown corregated box stacked on the floor near her mail stand.
Instantly her eyes lit up as she made her way towards the box. She carefully opned the box and revealed to her tired eyes its contents. She removed the item from the box, patiently removing the plastic tie strips that the company had tied it down with for protection. Once it was free of its armour, she made her way into the den.
As she entered, she flipped the light switch on and watched in awe as display cases throughout the room were illuminated. She exhaled a sigh of pleasure as she watched the room come alive. No matter how many times she flipped the lights on, she never got used to the tingle of excitement that penetrated her soul every time she entered the room.
She walked from case to case, surveying every doll in every case. She selected one of the few empty cases and sat the doll down inside of it. The doll was about 11 1/2 inches tall and was dressed in an antique rose gown covered with hundreds of minature roses. The dolls' long brown hair was braided and piled high atop its head so that it looked nearly regal in stature. Its makeup was appropriate but simple, with dark eyeliner outlining each eye producing an almost dramatic effect.
She adjusted its dress before she placed it on the doll stand and with one last manuver of its skirt, walked hesitantly away. As she was about to leave, she approached a case that stood nearly in the center of the large room and selected one of about 8 dolls displayed inside.
She held her treasure up to the light and smiled to herself. This one was her prize. She ran her finger over the doll's ponytail and adjusted its yellow and black clown suit. She released a sigh and praised herself in silence, "A number 1 ponytail dressed in a mint masquerade ball. What a find indeed!"
After replacing the fashion doll back to its case and returning back to the living room, she replayed the old man's pleading message. "Mrs Roberts," it began, "I need to talk to you as soon as you have the time. I've made arrangements to get the money. If you could call me back here at the museum, I'd appreciate it. I'll be home anytime tonight."
She poured herself a glass of wine and fell into the big cozy chair as she dialed the number he'd left. She spoke into the receiver, "Mr Breckinridge, it's Barbara Roberts from Key West Savings & Trust, returning your call."
She listened intently, sipping coincidentally between sentences into the phone. Reluctantly, she concluded the call, "I'm sorry, Mr Breckinridge, really I am. The deadline passed many weeks ago and the decision has already been made."
She concentrated on the clock that hung on the wall above the fireplace and observed the pendulum as it swung back & forth. "Mr Breckinridge, you have 21 days to remove any personal items. Anything not removed after this time, becomes the property of the bank. I'm sorry." She slid the phone into it cradle and hesitated before disappearing into the bathroom.
The sound of running water broke the silence as she reappeared and made her way back and forth collecting the items she required for her bath. Once her task was completed, she sank down into the water just as the bubbles protruded over the top of the tub and onto the floor.
She sipped at the wine and relaxed back against the coldness of the porcelain. A soft melody hummed from the radio behind the tub, but otherwise the house was quiet and still.
The headlights from a passing car caught the shadow in silhouette as it manuvered its way through the doll room and out into the semi lighted hallway. The shadow was tall, very tall and distinguishable only by the black and yellow colors of the clown like suit that hung loosely around its body. It pulled impatiently at the black leather gloves fitted tight against it hands.
Moving soundlessly into the bathroom, it entered and approached the recumberent figure of Barbara Roberts as she lay reclining in the bathtub unaware of the intrusion . To her it was like a dream, the leathered hands pushing her head under the water and enclosing themselves around her neck. She struggled against it but quickly surcumbed to the hypnotic effect of the water as it enveloped her.
She coughed and chocked on the water as it filled her lungs and stole way her breath. She pushed frantically at the hands still tight around her throat. Her thrust became less and less intense until finally they slumped uselessly against the leathered ones still grasping her neck.
The intruder backed away from the lifeless form of Barbara Roberts and made its way out of the bathroom and into the hallway only to disappear into the shadows of the doll room.
The figure rocked silently in the old worn rocking chair, moving back and forth with such force that the window curtains to the left blew up and down in succession. The image of the lifeless form of Barbara Roberts as it floated undisturbed at the water's edge was still vivid in his mind.
He clenched his hands so tight that the gloves on his hands were nearly painful. The Roberts woman had not been a challenge. He'd known that long before he felt the life drain out of her as his hands tigtened around her neck. She meant nothing to the overall picture. She was only someone interfering with his objective. He dealt with her just as he had dealt with all the other obstacles beginning with the freckled face boy. Like Roberts, the boy had been easy.
At least the plumber had been somewhat of a challenge. Albeit, not much more. Once Daniel Pinkwater discovered the skeleton behind the bathroom wall, he'd nearly scared himself to death. Pinkwater's destiny had been easy to manipulate. Death had been near, many, many times for him
The rocking became more intense , his movements wilder, almost angry. Her death had been unavoidable. She had constantly manipulated Eugene's life, forcing Eugene to chose between his friends and her. She was, after all, only the wife, a vehicle to produce the child. After the birth of the son, her duties were completed and she was no longer necessary.
The sky darkened in response to the clouds that gathered to the west. He looked out the window and recollected how much like that night it seemed. The rain clouds were intense and threatened to explode at any moment, without warning.
Like a photograph he could see her standing in the hallway on the second floor. Her hair was swept up piled high on her head. The blue gown was cut low, sloped over her forearms. It hung enticingly low on her slender arms so that just enough of her feminine curves were revealed.
Killing her had been easy, too. Like Roberts and Pinkwater, she was insignificant. However, elimination of the parents, years earlier, had been harder. After all, Eugene had loved his parents. His outburst to them on that fateful night had been out of anger. Like most teenagers, he hated authority. Once his anger was in check, Eugene regretted that wish he'd made. He had mourned for his parents with tremendous remorse. But that was all in the past. Adam was the focus now. Nothing else mattered, only the boy. Even the old man was expendable, now.
Artist's House 5:58 P.M.
Scully made her way back to the Inn. It was, after all, nearly 6 pm and the museum had closed at 5pm. She smiled to Ramsey as she climbed the stairs, but halted and retreated back down them and near to where he was digging.
"Mr Ramsey, what is this root bag you are searching for?"
He rose and Scully was surprised to see how tall he was. Mulder probably came to the old man's chest. He smiled to her and collected her small hand in his big one, "Back in the old country, my ancestors were known as devil dancers".
She repeated, "Devil dancer?"
He nodded and leaned in close to her as if he had a secret, "Yes, back in Srilanka, near Ratnapura. My ancestors were devil dancers. They entice the demon from one is possessed."
She nodded, "You mean Voo Doo?" He shook his head, "The demon has cursed this house and its descendants. I must find his evil bag and remove it from this house. Once the root bag has been removed I can trick the demon and capture him so that all who live here can be free."
"How do you plan to do that, Mr Ramsey."
The old man looked cautiously around, "The demon will come and I will be waiting. I know this demon, I know him well. He will come."
Scully padded his arm and looked up towards the sky, "It's awfully hot here,Mr Ramsey. Perhaps you should change into something cooler while you search for this bag?"
He brushed a thin finger across her cheek, "You are very kind, young one. I will watch over you as well."
She smiled to him and made her way back towards the house and up the steps, casting a final glamce in his direction. She smiled to herself as he was already back to his digging, almost as if he'd never been interrupted in the first place.
She tapped lightly at Mulder's door before entering. He was on the phone as she approached him. He motioned toward the door as she began to remove her trenchcoat. She nodded to him and pulled the garment back up on her shoulders.
He disconnected the call and informed her, "That was the sherriff. The loan director from the bank was just discovered floating in her bathtub at home. It looks like she died sometime last night."
Scully nodded and followed him out the door.
"What do you think. Scully?" he asked as he surveyed the doll room in the Roberts house.
She wandered from display case to dispaly case, curiously peering inside. "She was a doll collector, Mulder." I'll agree it is a strange coincidence, but it doesn't necessarily mean anything else."
"Scully, our first victim was a fan of a basketball team whose mascot is a hawk. Witnesses reported that he appeared to be running from some sort of bird."
"There are hundreds of different kinds of birds, Mulder."
"Daniel Pinkwater, a known toy car collector, was killed in his own plumbing van. The fact that he owned a miniature versionof that very same van in his collection is..."
"Another coincidence, Mulder. Nothing more."
"Scully, Roberts was a doll collector." He pointed to the bagged body on the gurney as it was carried past them. He added, "That is, of course, before she decided to nap in the tub."
"Mulder, accidents happen all the time. The detective reports that she may have been drinking." She glanced around the room, "There is nothing that connects any of these accidents to the doll."
Mulder held up an official looking document to her, "Barbara Roberts had just executed foreclosure on the museum, the doll's present home"
Scully started to speak, "And..."
Mulder interrupted, "Pinkwater left the inn in terror from something at the Artist's House, the doll's former home." He rubbed his hand over his face against the beginning of a five o clock shadow. "Russell Baker was killed right outside the museum. His class went on a field trip. It all goes back to that doll, Scully."
"Mulder, I'll admit that this old ghost story is exciting, but its a tale, just like big foot or the loch ness monster. They don't exist."
Mulder grabbed his chest as if he were having a heart attack, "Scully, you're breaking my heart."
She smiled, "There is nothing to substantiate that these accidents are related." She headed for the door, "Come on Mulder. It's getting late and I'm getting hungry."
The Artist's House 8:10 P.M.
He tapped at the door connecting their rooms, "Dinner will be up in 20 minutes."
She appeared at the door, "I'm gonna take a shower first and then I'll be back over to eat."
He nodded and flipped the remote control to change the television channel.
Scully stripped out of the suit quickly, taking the time as she did to hang up the individual pieces. Still dressed in her undergarments, she approached the closet and collected her gray satin pyjamas.
A sudden chill made her shiver, she looked around curiously, trying to shake the unnerving feeling that she was not alone.
She surveyed the room anxiously, clutching the pyjamas tight against her chest. After a final check of all the windows and both the doors, she laughed aloud. Chiding herself for letting Mulder's ghost stories get the best of her, she disappeared into the bathroom.
She started the shower, closed the door, and removed the rest of her clothes. The warm water felt good on her sensitive skin. She submerged her head under the nozzle and let the water rush over her neck, relieving the tension as it traveled down her shoulders and back.
It was so soothing she didn't feel the panic until it overwhelmed her. She slammed the shower nozzle to the off position and peered through the smoked glass of the shower. "Mulder, " she called out, "is that you?" She grabbed a towel from the towel bar on the wall and wrapped it around her wet body as she exited the bathroom. "And if it is you. You better have a good reason for being in here."
To her dismay, the room was completely empty, exactly as she had let it only minutes before. Intently she studied the room, nothing was moved, everything was as it should be.
She clutched the towel and folded her arms tightly around her chest. Mulder's knock at the door startled her out of her thoughts and made her jump.
He opened it and announced, "Scully, dinner's.." He froze as he saw her, embarrassed that he's intruded while she was dressing. "Sorry, Scully."
He stepped back into his own roon as she disappeared back into the bathroom, returning minutes later dressed in the gray pyjamas.
Her face was flush as she sat down across from him. Her attention focused soley on dinner. "You okay?" he asked sheepily as he took her hand.
She laughed it off, "I'm fine. I've got a headache, Mulder. That's all."
Her hand contacted between her eyebrows and began to caress the throbbing area. It was starting as a dull throb but was quickly excalating to a full fledged migraine.
He sympathetically dished a couple of spoonfuls of rice unto her plate and added 2 pieces of baked chicken. "You don't eat enough, Scully. You're too thin still."
She shrugged her shoulders, "Mulder, don't baby me. I hear this all the time from my Mom."
He made as if to speak but she held up her hand, "Don't say you aren't. Because you are. Even Skinner is mothering me these days, I'm fine."
Mulder replied betweem bites of chicken, "We just don't want you to get sick again." He pushed another biteful into his mouth and added lovingly, "I want to be able to see those curves more clearly next time you do the towel dance thing."
"I thought someone was in the room, Mulder. I came out to investigate."
He drank 2 gulps of ice tea, "What exactly did you plan to do? You were wearing a towel."
She rubbed her head again and pushed the partially full plate away, "I don't know. I didn't think."
He pushed the plate back towards her, " Well, give me advance notice for the encore. I want to order some popcorn." He indicated to her plate, "Scully, you hardly ate anything."
She bowed her head and rubbed her temple again, "I'm sorry, Mulder. My head is killing me. I can't eat when it's like this."
Mulder nodded and rose from his chair, "Listen Scully, I want to talk to Breckinridge again. There's still somethings I don't understand."
She added, "There's a lot of things about this case I don't understand."
Mulder sipped at his tea, "Demons are mentioned through history in nearly every culture and religion. Need I mention the infamous serent who tempted Adam & Eve in the garden." "Mulder, you really believe. These deaths are a result of a demon ?"
"I think, Scully, that old man's Otto's sins are somehow linked to his heirs. The evil has transcended time and continues to this day to payback the Otto's."
"Through the children?"
"No Scully, remember only 1 child seems to survive. And this one is protected and nurtured by this evil."
He collected his coat, she followed behind him. "Okay, let me get dressed."
He turned her to face him, "No Scully, you just stay here and sleep. I won't be gone too long."
She began to protest, but he picked up the phone by the night stand and spoke into it, "Hi, can you send up a cup of decaffinated coffee to Agent Scully's room? Thanks."
He pushed her back into her own room, "Scully, sometimes the coffee helps your headaches."
She nodded, "Thanks Mulder. Call me when you leave the museum."
He nodded to her and left the room.
Scully had just gotten comfortable on the couch when the knock at her door made her jump.
She walked casually to the door and opened it, expecting to greet room service. Instead she was surprized to find Adam Christobe, standing in the doorway holding a tray with a single cup of coffee atop it.
Uncomfortably, Scully's arms crossed in from of her chest. He smiled to her, "Agent Scully, I hope you don't mind. I intercepted this for you."
He presented the tray to her and entered the room without waiting for an invitation. She watched him as he made his way inside, "Mr Christobe, it's sort of late. I wasn't expecting visitors."
He held up his hands as if he were surrendering, "I confess. I was very dismayed that you couldn't join me for dinner. I sensed you still entertained unanswered questions. Perhaps I can give you those answers."
She pointed towards the bathroom, "If you'll excuse me for a minute."
He nodded, "Of course."
She reappeared a few minutes later dressed in blue jeans and a tan button up sweater.
The coffee tasted good as she drank it down. She was quite surprised that her headache actually seemed to be dissipitating. "So Mr Christobe, what is it you wanted to tell me?"
He pulled his chair closer to her, "The death of that banker. He did it, you know."
She shook her head, "Who did it?"
"Robert, of course."
"Mr Christobe, you're accusing a doll of murder. Even if the doll could, why would he want to?" She looked anxiously around the room, it seemed suddenly very warm and humid. Her skin seemed to itch.
She rubbed her head and was surprised to find it was saturated with sweat when she pulled it away.
"Robert, "he was saying, "knew she was going to shut down the museum, you know. He couldn't allow her to do that."
The room seemed to be spinning now. She blinked her eyes rapidly in the hope its movement would cease. To her dismay, it did not.
"Robert," she began in a hoarse voice, "is a toy. He has no ability to do any of the things you suggest."
Her head lulled forward as she finished the sentence and her body collapsed into his chest. He collected her fully in his arms and carried her out the door, failing to notice the shadow that trailed behind him in the distance.
Mulder tapped impatiently at the back of the entrance to the museum. It was about 5 minutes before a downstairs light appeared.
Another few minutes passed before Samuel Breckinridge appeared at the door. He was dressed in an dingy white dressing gown that had probably been white once, long ago. In addition he wore a matching cap that hung down nearly into his eyes. He looked as though he'd been sleeping for many hours.
"Agent Mulder, "he said through a sleep ridden voice, "We're closed. Come back tomorrow."
Mulder pushed his way past the old man, "No, I have to talk to you tonight."
The old man pushed the door closed with a forceful thud, "Agent Mulder, it is very late.."
Mulder raised his voice and pressed his body intinidatingly close into the old man's personal space. "How many more people are going to die before you stop him?"
The old man pushed his lips together tight so that his chin stuck out even more than was normal. "I don't know what you are talking about."
Mulder headed for the stairs, "I'm talking about Robert." Mulder began flipping on lights until he came to the one that illuminated Robert's exhibit room, "How can I stop him?'
Resided the old man answered, "You can't. He has prevailed through many generations, Agent Mulder.From child to child he lives. I don't think you can kill him, Agent Mulder."
"Why does he use the children? Why not manipulate me or you?"
"He takes advantage of their innocence, Agent Mulder. They are young and uncorrupted as of yet."
"Does Adam have any children, Samuel?"
The old man grew nervous, "No not yet. But Adam is still young. There is plenty of time. He will choose someone appropriate and the line will continue."
"What if he doesn't?"
Samuel jaw tightened again, "He must."
Finally Mulder arrived at the glass and looked inside. His heart stoppped as he pointed toward the display, "Where is the doll, Samuel?"
Samuel backed away from Mulder so that his face was not directly in the light, "He's not in the museum, Agent Mulder. He'll be back when his business is finshed. He always comes back."
Mulder pounded the glass, "You realize that there is a good chance that he killed your son. I mean you said yourself that Eugene & Charles were best friends. Robert doesn't like sharing. I'm sure sharing Eugene with Charles was no exception."
"Charles died in a boating accident after Eugene's death."
Mulder shook his head, "That's true, but I read Charles medical report before his death. Charles had been hurt several times, sometime seriously before his death. I know he had a number of concussions before the age of 14. Infact he was taken away from you for awhile until you could prove you weren't abusing him."
Samuel nodded, "That's true, but it wasn't me and they brought him back."
"Yeah, I know. So maybe Robert wasn't always as accuarate as he is now." The old man seemed deflated, beaten, "Agent Mulder, I'm afraid not to do as he says. I have 2 grandchildren, Charles' sons." He looked to the empty chair, "I have my grandsons to think about."
Mulder shook his head, "How many other people will suffer?"
Samuel looked to the floor, "I was real sorry about the Baker child. He was being a boy, that's all."
"Why did Robert hurt him?"
Samuel wiped at his eyes and yawned, "I told them boys to stop banging on the glass. Robert doesn't like to be taunted." He looked anxiously behind him, "That Baker kid was the ring leader. I knew there was gonna be trouble."
Mulder took the old man by the shoulders, "How can I stop him, Samuel."
Samuel leaned against the glass, " You can't, Agent Mulder. Amanda thought she could stop him. She was a smart girl, that one. And feisty too. She didn't want to give him any children. But in the end he didn't give her any choice." He paused as if remembering. Then added, "Adam didn't know his mother. She didn't want to know anything about the boy. She knew he was the devil's child. She wanted nothing to do with him."
"Is that why she left?"
"I don't believe she left, Agent Mulder. I think he killed her."
"Probably by Eugene's hand, but it was Robert's will." He moved uncomfortably, "Same as for the consumation. The act may have been completed by Eugene, but it was Robert's will."
"That's why Eugene claimed he wasn't the father."
The old man nodded. "Amanda was never the same after that. She tried a number of times to terminate the pregnancy but Robert would never permit it. He or Eugene always prohibited her from harming the baby."
Samuel turned the light out and pointed towards the hallway that led back down the steps, "You should go Agent Mulder, Robert's plans involve your partner."
At the mention of her name, Mulder was already moving towards the door. "How does Scully fit into this?"
"Agent Mulder, there has to be a descendant. Robert's survival is bound to the Otto lineage." He spoke lowly, " Adam has taken a fancy to your Agent Scully."
He followed Mulder down the steps as best he could, "She isn't safe here. You should get her away from this place as soon as possible."
Mulder threw open the door and paused before stepping out into the alley, "Will you be okay?"
Samuel nodded, "I am an old man, Agent Mulder. I am no threat to him."
Mulder nodded and proceeded out into the alley. Samuel followed behind him, stopping to collect a green garbage bag someone has discarded by the door.
Mulder walked ahead of him as the old man turned to his left to toss the bag into the dumpster. Mulder waved to him and increased his pace back towards the motel.
He hadn't gone very far when he heard the grinding of the engine. From the sound of it it was a rather large engine, possible belonging to a bus or truck. Mulder had taken only about 2 steps when he recognized the incessant beeping of the garbage truck as it was shifted into backup mode. Instantly he remembered the toy garbage truck he'd seen in Robert's room at the Artist's House.
Mulder turned and started running back towards the alley where he's last seen Samuel. He could hear the beacon of the garbage truck getting closer and closer as he neared it. Gradually, the sound of his heels on the pavement was drowned out by the persisent beeping of the truck and grinding of the engines.
He rounded the corner just in time to see the huge truck lifting the metal dumpster towards the sky until it flipped upside down and its contents disappeared into the garbage truck. The old man was already making his way back to the back door of the of the museum.
Mulder yelled to the old man, "Samuel?"
At first the old man was startled by Mulder's greeting. However, his old wrinkled face moved into a smile and he waved in his direction. Suddenly the creaking of the trucks metal jaws as it held onto the dunpster became so loud it resonated over the beeping and grind of the engine.
Mulder's smile turned into a frown as the metal arms holding the dumpster gave way and it crashed upside down onto the frail form of Samuel Breckinridge as his arm was still extended in the form of a wave.
Mulder covered his eyes with his arm and when he pulled his hand away, the old man was no longer there. He seemed to be buried under tons of burgundy metal. Mulder pulled his cell phone out and alerted the police and ambulance. Without any other delay, he turned and ran towards the inn, back to Scully.
She came to rather slowly, not truly aware of her surroundings. It took only a few minutes before it registered that she was lieing on an unfamiliar bed.
Through the drug induced haze, she could make out a figure in the chair across from where she lay. Even with unclear vision, she knew he was watching her.
She stirred cautiously, sitting up against the headboard and surveying the room at the same time. The view from the bedroom window informed her that she wasn't at a familiar place. However, the room she was is was identical to both Robert's original room in the artsist's house as well as the room on exhibit at the museum.
He smiled to her as she continued evaluating her surroundings, "I was getting worried that I'd given you too much."
She rubbed her head, "What did you give me?"
He rose and approached her, selecting a rather large camera from the dresser. "Just something to help you relax."
He pointed the camera at her and snapped it quickly a number of times in succession. The flash iluminated the room in slow strobes of light that caught her face in half shadows. She pushed away from the headboard and put her bare feet on the hardwood floor, "I wish you wouldn't do that."
"But I want to preserve this moment in time, Dana. Photographs are but windows to the soul."
She pulled away from his hand as he moved to brush the hair that had fallen over her eyes, "Easy Dana, I'm not going to hurt you."
He dropped down to his knees, placed his hands on either side of her legs, and pulled her closer against him, "I could never hurt you."
She pushed at his chest, "Get away from me!"
Obediently he released her and retreated a few feet away. His head bowed like a reprimanded child, "I'm sorry. I don't want to frighten you."
She made her way shakily to her feet, "Then let me go."
He layed the camera back onto the table and closed the gap between them , then embraced her, "I can't do that. I'm sorry."
She struggled against him in an attempt to free her arms so that she could defend herself better. Her efforts became more futile as she felt the back of her knees collide with the mattress of the bed.
She panicked as his weight came down hard atop her, temporarily knocking the wind out of her. By this time he was made aware that she had freed her arms as he caught a tremendous blow to his left jaw.
The impact of her fist to his face, left him uncharacteristically angry. He grabbed her wrists and pinned her arms above her head. His breath came in great gasps and he threatened, "Don't ever do that again!" He emphasized this demand by shaking her in tempo with the warning.
His attention became focused on the rise and fall of her chest as she struggled to take in air, "Get off me!" His face drew nearer to her so that she could feel his breath on her neck. She turned her face away from him and attempted to buck his weight off her.
His kiss started at her neck but quickly worked around to her face and lips. She made her mouth tight and again turned her face away from him.
His free hand traveled down and around her waist, unfastening the button of her jeans and unzipping the zipper. "It doesn't have to be like this, Dana. I want our first time together to be pleasurable for you, too."
She stopped fighting him and settled down, "Adam, please don't do this."
He loosened his grip on her somewhat and shifted his weight so that she could lie comfortably under him.
His expression softened as he smiled down to her, "You're right. It isn't right, not like this."
Instantly, he was on his feet and pulling her by her wrists up to join him. He drug her towards the doors that were closed to house the dressing closet.
With her wrists still in his grasp, he opened the door and rummaged through the closet. Within minutes his fingers touched the item he sought. It was a royal blue sleeveless gown trimmed with tiny silver teardrops. The skirt was full and fell all the way to the floor.
He pushed the dress towards Scully, "Put it on."
She looked at him with a surprised expression, "What?"
He released her arms and thrust the gown into her arms, "I said put it on."
She was silent at first and exhaled in frustration, "Adam..."
He stepped towards her causing her to retreat, "If you don't put it on. I'll put it on you."
Resignatedly she looked around the room, "I'm supposed to change here, with you?"
He folded his arms across his chest, "You needn't be modest, Dana. The night is very young."
She bit her bottom lip and looked silently around the room. There was no place to run.
He interrupted her thoughts, "You're stalling, Dana. Get undressed."
She walked to the other side of the room, turned her back to him, and began undressing. Adam slid interestedly down into the nearest chair and observed her watching hungrily as she quickly unbuttoned the sweater, slid it off her shoulders, stepped out of the blue jeans, and into the gown.
Just as she finished, he approached her from behind and placed his hands on her shoulders, gently rubbing his fingers across the silkiness of the material. He leaned in close and whispered into her ear, biting the tender flesh of her earlobe and nipping a bite at her neck as he spoke "This isn't quite right."
She winced as he pushed the gown off her shoulders so that a vast expanse of fair skin in addition to the black strap of her bra were visible.
He placed a single finger on the bra strap atop her shoulder, "Take it off."
She quickly turned to face him, her eyes blazing with anger. Just as she began to speak, he reached for the clasp on her back, "Don't test me, Dana."
She caught his hand, "I'll do it."
Once again, she turned her back to him, removed the bra, and redressed herself, allowing the sleeves of the dress to remain off the shoulders. He turned her towards him, but remained at arms length, "You are beautiful, Dana. Just like my mother."
To her dismay, the room was subjected to another series of flashes as he took several more pictures.
She froze at the meaning of his words and winced as he kissed her on the forehead. He pushed himself away and walked to the other side of the room depositing the camera in a nearby bureau drawer.
Somewhere in the room, a soothing melody began to play. He closed the distance between them and offered his hand, "Dance with me, Dana."
She made as if to protest but held her tongue as he moved towards her. As he pulled her into his embrace, she caught sight of the stuffed doll watching patiently from the rocking chair.
Her body tensed and he spun around with her in his arms to investigate to what she had reacted. He eyed the now empty chair, "What is it, Dana?"
She pulled away and focused on the empty chair. The next words stumbled aimlessly out, "I thought.. I mean I saw.."
She hesitated, "It was nothing."
Much to her dismay, he wrapped her even more tightly in his arms and led her rhythmically around the room. As her pulled her closer against him, she experienced the panic almost as completely as she had before. Someone was watching them, she could feel it. She looked anxiously around the room as if it would give her the answer. Disappointedly, she surcumbed to the fact that no one could be visibly seen.
Mulder burst into her hotel room with his gun drawn, wincing as the door slammed open against the wall. The echo was tremendously loud in the quiet room. He put his weapon away and quickly searched the room. He looked with great relief to the gray pyjamas clutched nervously in his hand. Apparently she changed before she left, maybe she went out to get a bite to eat. After all she hadn't eaten very much for dinner.
His relief changed to regret as he noticed her gun and badge on the nightstand. He shook his head as he collected the items and made his way back out the door. No way would Scully have left voluntarily without her gun and identification.
He took the flight of stairs two at a time and found himself banging at the door of the innkeeper, Stuart Forbes. It took a few minutes before Mulder could hear movement inside the room. He waited patiently as the chain was removed and the door was cracked partially open.
Forbes squinted throught the slint at Mulder and asked in a groggy voice, "What can I do for you? Agent Mulder."
Mulder pushed his way into the room, "I need some answers Mr Forbes about Adam Christobe."
Forbes tied his ragged robe around his body and switched the lamp on that sat on a tabletop near the door, "What about Adam?"
Mulder looked quickly around at the immaculately kept room, "Where can I reach him at this time of night?"
Forbes fell frustratedly into a nearby sofa chair, "You bust in here in the middle of the night for this?"
Mulder took a few steps towards him, "I think he's with my partner. Where does he live?"
Forbes shook his head, "Agent Mulder, your partner is a consenting adult. I should think..."
Mulder grabbed him by the collar of his blue nightshirt and pulled him close to his face. "I don't think its consentual. I don't have time for this. Where can I find him?"
Forbes shook his head, "Adam's family owns most of the land on the coast for hundreds of miles. Nearly all of these business lease the land from the Otto estate. Adam could be anywhere."
Mulder pulled the man so that his feet hung uncomfortably off the floor, "Where am I most likely to find him."
Forbes pointed down the hall. "There's a hidden entrance from the first floor that leads though the alley to the Aubrey house about 6 blocks up. Adam spends a lot of nights there, especially if he's entertaining."
Mulder repeated, "Hidden entrance?"
Forbes nodded and pulled himself away from Mulder's reach. He exited his room with Mulder close on his heels and pointed to a barely visible outline of a door in the main hallway. "Adam comes and goes all hours of the night."
"He has access to the rooms throughout the inn?"
Forbes nodded, "Yes, he grew up here. he knows this place well."
Mulder thanked Forbes and disappeared through the hidden doorway in search of his partner.
As time went by she grew more and more restless. By now Adam was crooning words of love softly in her ear and swaying her gently from side to side in time with the music. He covered her neck with gentle kisses unaware of how she tried to move away as his lips contacted her skin.
"Dana," he whispered between hot, heavy breaths, "would you like some wine?"
"No," she answered, choosing not to elaborate any further.
"It might help you relax, dear."
"I doubt it."
He guided her back towards the bed, noticing the uneasiness to which she acquiescenced. "Dana, "he soothed as he pushed her to a sitting position, "I know it is only normal for you to be nervous, but you needn't be."
She pushed him away, "Adam, this isn't real. None of this is real."
He began shaking his head, before she had even finished, "No Dana, you.."
She forced her way to her feet, "This isn't our honeymoon night, Adam. I'm here against my will."
His eyes grew wide, his face flushed as his panic coursed throughout his entire body, "Why are you saying these things?"
She thrust herself close to his face, "I've been with a man before."
The slap knocked her solidly unto her back, she slid nearly to the floor before his arms caught her and threw her back into the middle of the bed. She tried to focus her vision on him, but he seemed somehow different than before.
His anger quickly overtook him and he quickly became something else. Someone she didn't recognize. He hit her again but this time it was less forceful, almost taunting. "No more playing games, Dana."
Once again she felt the breath rush from her lungs as he collapsed on top of her. Her knees went instinctively to her chest almost in fetal form. He effortlessly forced them back down against the mattress. "We tried being gentle with you. You wouldn't let us."
Whatever he was going to say was interuppted as her knee made contact with his groin. He fell at her side, doubled up with his hands cupping himself. She had gotten nearly off the bed when he caught her again by the arms. He pushed her face down into feather mattress and pushed his knee into her back. Reaching over to the table he acquired a roll of twine and began winding it around her wrists. "We thought you were different. But you're not."
He grabbed the nearest pillow and pushed it down atop her face successfuly eliminating her supply of oxygen. Only a few seconds had passed when her kicking ceased. He removed the pillow allowing her some air, "You're no better than the other harlots I introduced into my home."
Gratiously she sunked in large amounts of air, "Adam, please don't do this."
He yanked the zipper on the back of her dress and caressed the soft skin of her back. He replaced the pillow over her face, "I don't want you to talk." Her struggling decreased, her grunts silenced.
He flipped her back over onto her stomach and fell close against her. The pressure on her shoulders was tremendous since her arms were still pinned behind her. As he touched her neck and shoulders, the warm sensation informed her that he had something on his hands. She opened her eyes to discover he was wearing black leather gloves. They were so tight they looked almost like a second skin.
He had tied his hair back into a small ponytail that barely touched the back of his neck. She squinted against the harshness of the light as she looked up to him. Against the light, his face seemed thicker, his ears larger. He looked almost inanimate as leaned down against her.
He bit down on his lip as he pushed his forearm up under her neck, "We tried to do this the easy way, but you wouldn't let us."
With his free hand he manipulated the bodice of her gown that lay loosely over her chest so that she was fully exposed from the waist up. He ran his gloved hand up along her sides, nearly up under her arm, until he fell into a gently caress of her upper torso. "You're a very beautiful woman, Dana."
He continued his assault unaffected by the tears that were welling in her eyes.
Mulder followed the darkened path with the aid of the small lanterns that were mounted on the walls. Since there was nothing along the way to indicate that any direction was more appropriate than another, he opted to followed the most worn pathway. He covered his nose in response to the odor that permeated from the tunnel. At some points, the stench was nearly intolerable.
He estimated he'd gone about 6 blocks when he noticed a worn wooden stairwell that disappeared into the side of the tunnel. Although it wasn't lighted very well, it stood noticably out of place against the darkness of the cavern walls. He was relieved that the odor seemed to be limited to the tunnels.
He took the steps soundlessly, cautiously looking behind him into the shadows. He wasn't sure why, but he had a feeling this place would give him the answers he sought. Hopefully, he'd find Scully, as well.
He was surprised when the door opened with little effort. It took a few minutes for his eyes to adjust to the brightness of the room. He found himself in the hall way of a very expensive looking house. There was an antique table with a china wash basin close to the door he'd entered. He looked down as the sound of his heels on the hard wood floor became muffled to discover an expensive looking rug covering the hallway.
He inspected the rooms off the hallway, quickly finding each one empty. As he approached the living room, the sound of a struggle upstairs brought his body movement to a standstill. He recognized the sounds of distress as those belonging to Scully.
His grasp on his weapon became tighter as he took the stairs up to the second floor two at a time. He approached the room cautiously yet, determinedly. He had nearly made it to the door when someone grabbed him from behind and pushed something foul smelling aginst his mouth and nose.
Mulder had inhaled choloform before and although this scent was uniquely familiar, it was at the same time, specifically unfamiliar. He fell hard unto the hard floor and slumped against the wall.
Mulder wasn't sure he'd lost complete consciousness. In fact as his mind cleared and the haze lifted he realized that he hadn't. He could still hear Scully struggling in the room next door. He assessed his surroundings quickly and discovered his arms were bound behind his back and a stiff rag of some sort had been stuffed in his mouth.
He blinked with heavy lids at the figure kneeled nearby and realized he'd been pulled into a secret room next to the one Scully was in. He could barley make out her cries and winced as the twine tore into his wrists.
The figure approached closer into the light and Mulder found himself staring into the glazed eyes of Mallet Ramsey. However, the old gardner had removed most of his clothes and wore only a thin white cloth tied around his waist and hanging across his midsection. Undressed the old man seemed even larger and more intimidating than Mulder could recall. Mulder pulled impatiently at his bonds and indicated his head towards the room next door.
Ramsey ignored Mulder's pleas, opting instead to smear red and blue colored paints across his skinny chest. After tieing a yellow piece of ragged cloth around his head he began to chant. The fire that was burning low seemed to ignite with a fury just as the old man's chanting grew.
Mulder kicked at the floor where the old man was kneeling in an almost obscene fashion so that both knees were nearly to his chin. The old man began to bob up and down in rhythm with the chant, moving his arms and head in nearly opposite directions.
After a few minutes of chanting, he approached a large rotten crate and selected a thin string of silver thread and an old small liquor bottle. He continued his dance with the thread in one hand and the bottle in the other, dancing wilding throughout the room.
The fire grew in intensity so that the flames actually lept up and nipped at the old man's legs and arms, cinging the hair. Mulder pulled his legs tight against his chest, away fron the flames. The old man made his way close to the wall that seperated the rooms and peekd through a small hold into the room where Christobe and Scully were still battling.
He stopped chanting and looked down to Mulder, "I knew he would come for her."
Without another word the old man's body went limp just as the thread vibrated nearly out of his hand. With trembling hands the old man stuffed the thread into the bottle and quickly capped the bottle. The old man fell to the floor in exhaustion and tossed and a thick knife nearly into Mulder's lap as his uncounscious body fell to the floor.
Mulder slit his bonds efficiently and made his way clumsily to the door. He took the door in 3 large steps as his body crashed agianst it, splintering wood about 2 feet in both directions.
The bursting open of the door as he entered caused the figures on the bed to halt. He thought he heard her mutter in a tired voice, "Mulder, Thank God."
His worry turned to anger when he observed her bound and nearly undressed forceably held in Christobe's arms. His weapon never ventured far away from Christobe's form as he said through clenched teeth, "Get up and away from her. Keep your hands up where I can see them."
Christobe hesitated as if debating, then slowly raised his body off hers. However, he remained closely near her side. "Agent Mulder, this is a private matter. You were not invited."
Mulder repeated, "I said get away from her. I want your hands up and off her. Now!"
Christobe complied, raising his hands slowly in the air and slidding off the bed. Scully shuffled to the other side away from him, but was still unable to get completely to her feet. Mulder noticing her attempt, intently made his way to her.
Christobe chose the distraction to lunge forward at them and Mulder was forced to discharge his weapon in reponse. Christobe's body fell loudly against the table before it made its way to the floor. Flames lept up from the corner as the lamp ignited the sheer curtains that blew lazily against the wall.
Mulder reached Scully and pulled her to her feet, watching intently as the fire spread throughout the room. He worked anxiously on the rope that bound her wrists. "Are you hurt?"
She swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat, closed her eyes as she answered, "No. I'm fine."
She pulled her hands out of the rope and stretched them out in front, holding the bodice of the gown in place at the same time. "We have to get out of here." Mulder nodded his agreement and led her towards the room.
It was almost unordinary how quickly the room went up in flames. Mulder and Scully were barely able to get to the door and out into the hallway before the whole room burst into flames. She turned back towards where Christobe's body lay, "Mulder, what about him?"
Mulder took her arm and led her away from the flames, "We have to get out Scully, now."
He pulled her down the hallway towards the entrance back to the tunnel. They disappeared back into the darkness with his arm wrapped protectively around her waist.
As Mulder led her from the flames he couldn't help but notice the nearly naked figure of Mellet Ramsey as he stood high atop the rocks over looking the ocean. Neither Scully nor Mulder could make out his words as he heaved what apeared to be a bottle into the water.
Mulder pulled her tighter against his chest and made his way back towards the Inn, just as the Audubon house fell to the ground in complete ruins.
J Edgar Hoover Building A.D. Skinner's Office
They sat quietly watching as the Assistant Director finished reading the report from the Artist's House in Key West.
Skinner rubbed his brow, "They recovered Adam Christobe's remains at his residence?"
Skinner noticed the way Scully shifted from side to side in her seat, "Yes, it was recovered."
Mulder glanced anxiously towards her, "The museum was also destroyed the same night. Although no indentifiable cause can be identified, arson is suspected."
"Who do you suspect?"
It was Scully that answered, "We're not sure, Sir. We think Samuel may have rigged the place to burn in the event of his death. We also believe he was responsible for the earlier fire, weeks before. He may have been trying to destroy the doll have the Baker child was killed."
She rubbed the sore spot on her wrist, "Presently the Inn is closed as police continue to search for more bodies. So far they have uncovered the remains of 6 different bodies. One of them discovered in the upstairs bathroom is believed to that of Amanda Otto."
Skinner closed the file and removed his wire glasses, "Is that why Christobe killed the plumber?"
Mulder nodded, "We think so. And the banker as well. But we found nothing at the woman's house that implicates him as her murderer."
Mulder cleared his throat, "The police also found several dozen photographs of young women, all dressed in a long blue evening gown."
Skinner glanced nervously to Scully for a reaction, "Similiar to the one Agent Scully was wearing?"
She nodded that it was.
Mulder paused then added, "We were not able to locate the doll, sir."
Scully breathed impatiently to him but he continued in spite of her displeasure. "I know it wasn't at the museum when it burned. I'd been there not hours before and was told by the caretaker that the doll was 'out' for the evening."
Skinner repeated, "Out?"
Scully cleared her throat and crossed her legs uncomfortably, 'I thought I saw the doll in the room when I was acosted by Christobe. However, I couldn't confirm that." She added reluctantly, "It could have been destroyed in the fire at Christobe's house, Sir." Mulder swallowed, "There's also the chance the curse could have been broken by the gardner, sir."
Skinner shook his head, "Yes Agent Mulder, I read your interview with the 'witchdoctor'. You say he believed he exorcised the demon by catching him on a thread and trapping him in a bottle?"
Mulder nodded, "Actually sir, this practise is mentioned in several sociology references and is prominently mentioned several times during World War II."
Mulder ignored Scully's restless shuffling from one side of the chair to the other. "The recipient of an evil curse is done in by a root bag of herbs planted somewhere near the person's home. It can contain, among other things, the cursed ones hair and fingernails, as well as a number of secret herbs."
Mulder glanced in her direction to gauge her reaction. It appeared neutral so he continued, "Once this root bag was discovered and removed. The demon could be exorcised from a possessed individual."
"Sir," Scully interrupted, "It's more feasible that Adam Christobe suffered frm the same type of pyschological problemas as many of his ancestors. This insanity corresponded nicely with the possessed devil doll legend." "But Scully," Mulder began.
"In addition," she continued, "The legend was very profitable to the local residents. I can't see them negating the very tool of their existence."
Skinner nodded, "Maybe." He looked anxiously to Scully and then back to Mulder. "I read the report Agent Scully. Maybe you should take a few days off before jumping into another X file."
She was already shaking her head, "No sir. I'm fine. I wasn't hurt."
He looked anxiously to Mulder, "Alright, but take it easy for a few days. Agent Mulder, see that she does."
The Audubon ruins Key West, Florida
The fire marshall hammered the sign deep into the earth. He looked hesitantly from side to side. He was not unhappy about condeming this old place. In fact the whole lot of that Otto kid's places should be condemned. Nothing but unhappiness had ever resulted from any of the Otto line. Thank god the kid never managed to father any children.
He continued to hammer the stake it, grincing as it turned sideways and flipped nearly around. He tossed the hammer to the ground and dropped to his knees so that he could get a good grip on the sign. Once he returned the sign so that it could be read from the street, he made his way to where his hammer had struck with it's claw end deep in the ground.
He pulled hard on it a number of times but was unsuccessful in pulling it loose. He knelt closer to the ground so that he could get a better grip on it. Thinking it was probably hung on a root or something he yanked it hard. So hard that his backside crashed to the ground as the hammer broke neatly in two pieces. The largest piece colliding nicely with the thick skin of his forehead.
He caressed his head and wiped inefficiently at the wound as blood seeped down his forehead and into his eyes. Without givign the wound any further attention, ee brushed the dirt off his pants and leaned in for a closer look at what had ruined his brand new hammer. The wind grew fierce and he wiped at his eyes and mouth as dirt was blown in both orifices. Instantly the head wound ceased to bleed as it dried in coagulated streaks across his forehead.
Once he'd cleared the dirt from his eyes, he blinked a number of times at the ragged little bag that lay buried under the large root of a nearby begonia tree. The bag was small and ragged , composed of what looked to be linen. His large fat fingers collected the bag and opened it inquisitively, holding it very close to his face.
His senses were assaulted by the intoxicating aroma of herbs so much so that his eyes watered and he licked his lips as if he could taste them. His head began to swim and at the same time grew quite heavy. He rose uncognitively on shaky feet and made his way back towards the firetruck.
A younger fireman stood as he approached, "Karl, you hurt?"
The man replied as he fell into the seat of the truck, "No, just a knick. I'm fine.
The younger man followed close behind him, "I don't know. You seem kinda different."
"What are you talking about?" The marshall barked. "Your face is white as a ghost and your eyes are black, black as coal."
The fireman pushed the younger man away and closed the door, "Stop your hovering. I'm fine."
The younger man shrugged his shoulders and motioned to the other firemen who had gathered around, "He's okay. He just got winded, that's all."
The man pointed to the driver, "Let's head back."
Once the truck was moving the young leaned in closer towards the marshall, "Chief, you sure you're okay. You hit your head pretty could. You seem kinda dazed."
The marshall remained silent, prompting the young firefighter to nudge him slightly, "Chief, do you know where we are?"
The Marshal leaned his head against the window, enjoying the coolness of it against his head, "Yeah, I'm the fire chief. I live in Key West. I 'm married with 3 kids."
Satisfied with the marshall's answers, the young firefighter's attention was soon focused on the road and he inquired no further of the marshal.
As the firetruck pulled away farther from the Audubon house, the older fireman smiled to himself and thought in an almost childlike manner, "I always wanted to be a fireman when I grew up."