|Title: Dark Meat
Author: Martin Ross
Category: Casefile; humor
Rating: PG-13 -- adult language
Disclaimer: Mr. Carter and the gang own it; I just visit.
Summary: Witches and ghosts and marauding turkeys. Yes, it's Thanksgiving.
Note: Written for Virtual Season 12 with exclusive rights for two weeks.
Morton County, Illinois
Mulder stared with a tinge of horror as the corpse was dissected. He'd seen this scene countless times before, but this time, somehow, it was different, more disturbing.
"Note the exaggerated breast size," the Morton County medical examiner murmured, slicing through the tissue with an artful diagonal incision. He dispassionately removed sections. "Industry breeding and genetics efforts in recent years have been focused on increasing breast size and overall bird weight. This, of course, has resulted in reduced reproductive capabilities and certain orthopedic concerns..."
"Jack, I swear to God this is absolutely the last time you will be allowed to carve a turkey in this house," Sandi Yerkes snapped, thumping her grandmother's lace tablecloth with a plump but well-manicured hand. "Bad enough last year, when I caught you trying to weigh the gizzard."
Jack Eisner snorted, granted his hostess a withering look. "The liver. I was weighing the liver. Weighing the gizzard would be a pointless exercise. Besides, you heard me offer Dr. Scully the honors. Professional courtesy."
Sheriff Ron Yerkes sighed. "How's about we just rule this a homicide and dig in, huh, folks?"
"Hey," Bill Yerkes protested, adjusting his considerable girth as Sandi's grandma's dining chair creaked in agony. "What kind of crack was that, Ronnie?"
The sheriff held up his palms. "C'mon, Uncle Bill. Getting a little sensitive here, aren't we?" He turned to the federal agents who were sharing his Thanksgiving table. "A gang of PETA people came over from Peoria last week and had a sit-in at Bill's farm. They're still put up at the Days Inn, waiting for the next slow TV news day."
"Yeah, have a good yuck, Sandi," Uncle Bill bristled. "Damned animal rightists -- care more about some dumb bird than an honest man trying to feed his family."
"Actually," Mulder interjected in a familiar manner that elicited a silent groan from his partner across the table, "turkeys exhibit a very complex group intelligence, including fairly sophisticated communicational capabilities."
"This is lovely flatware," Scully chimed in.
"Sorry, Ronnie, Sandi," Uncle Bill rumbled, chin inclined toward the table. "This Atkins horseshit has me kinda tense, I guess. And those PETA assholes."
"Bill," the slight woman at his side gasped. Charlene Yerkes was elegantly put together, with apricot hair and rings on every finger. "Watch your mouth. And this diet is for your own good." Charlene turned from her husband. "Bill's lost 23 pounds so far, just by cutting carbs."
"Like to lose about 132 more pounds, but my nephew's the sheriff," Uncle Bill grumbled petulantly.
"Maybe if you'd eat something besides turkey all the time," Aunt Charlene chided. "Roast turkey, fried turkey, BBQ turkey, turkey hash, turkey Jello if I didn't draw the line. All washed down with homemade wine. No wonder you have to drink a gallon of warm milk every night just to get to sleep."
"It's the only way I can get through this carb crap and your bitching," he countered, righteously.
"Can I leave now?" All eyes moved toward the magenta-haired girl in the corner. Alecia Yerkes had been silently studying the adults around the table, like some Bergmannesque goth- girl specter of Death.
"How about we eat first?" Sheriff Yerkes suggested dryly, clearly accustomed to his daughter's monotoned complaints.
"Looka that," M.E. Eisner exclaimed. All eyes again turned to see the beaming pathologist displaying a plate of thick tissue sections and artfully dismembered appendages.
"Agent," Sandi inquired. "As you're our guests, I wonder if you wouldn't mind saying grace to begin the meal."
Scully turned a snort into a cough. Mulder glared across the side dishes.
"I'd be honored," he said, beaming beatifically. Scully's amused expression morphed into abject terror. "Now, if we could all assume the position of prayer..."
"Whatever," Alecia sighed.
Around the table, heads bowed, and Mulder's eyes closed. "On this hallowed and, uh, revered Thanksgiving Day, we the people thank God or whatever cosmic force may rule the universe for providing this bounty which with thine own blessing we intend to partake, er, upon.
"As we sup upon this bounty that thou has provided for our nourishment, we shall not forget the sacrifices made by our forefathers -- and foremothers, of course -- who came to this sweet land of liberty only to endure harsh winter weather and face new bacterial and viral strains to which they had built no immunity, as well, I'm sure, as a host of food allergies and sensitivities owing to the bounty of native but foreign vegetation thou provided for their sustenance."
Sandi Yerkes opened one eye, curiously, then reassumed the position of prayer. Alecia leaned back in her chair, fascinated.
"And we thank thou, thee, for this magnificent bird, ritually slaughtered so that we may give thanks for the amber waves of grain which thou hast endowed upon us. May we appreciate the sacrifice this noble creature has made each time we see a flock of gobblers against the autumn sky..."
"Turkeys don't fly--" Uncle Bill protested before giving up.
"And so shall we enjoy this feast, with malice toward none and charity at home. Amen."
The table was silent for a moment. "Amen," Ron blurted hastily, and his family and friends chimed in.
"Just lovely, this flatware," Scully murmured.
"How's your mom, Scully?" Mulder asked as his partner folded her cell phone.
Scully sighed, leaning against the newel post of the Yerkes' carpeted stairway. "Thank God Cousin Grace invited her to come up for the holiday. It would've been a lot tougher on her, first with Bill, and then with us being held up here."
Mulder and Scully had hoped to return to D.C. two days earlier, but complications had arisen in the Heartland Thresher case even after the Bible-spouting serial killer had been apprehended on the banks of the Illinois River.
"Well, Uncle Bill is comatose on the couch. Coroner's taking up the recliner. Ron's trying to hear the Lions game over Bill and Jack's snoring and gastric rumblings. Sandi and Charlene are in the kitchen, scraping cranberry-and-dressing caulk off that love-ly flatware you were so enamored with. Little Alecia's up in her room, no doubt preparing a Black Mass. And I think there's still a recliner with my name on it..."
"Oh, no," she said, grabbing his forearm. "You are not leaving me alone with the 'gals.' You were the one who jumped at the sheriff's invitation."
"Dana, Fox?" Aunt Charlene sang from the living room. "Who wants to be my euchre partner? Or are you canasta people?"
"Oh, yeah," Scully muttered, petite fingers stretching Mulder's sweater. "You aren't going anywhere."
In the main room, Charlene was attempting unsuccessfully to rouse her husband. "It's euchre time, Bill. You're going to sleep through all the fun!"
Uncle Bill's rasping snore only increased in volume. Dr. Eisner affected a theatrical snore of his own, and the sheriff cranked up the game. Ron jumped as his walkie-talkie erupted on the lamp/table next to his avocado recliner.
"What you got?" he snapped into the radio.
"It's me, Ted," the voice was nasal and apprehensive. "We got a disturbance out at Paul Cremone's place. Might say kind of a hostage situation."
Ron's footrest slammed into place as his socked feet hit the carpet. "Family thing? Paul get shit-faced again?"
"No," the deputy drawled.
"Well, what the hell is it like?" Ron roared. "Oh, crap; just hang tight and I'll be right over." Aunt Charlene appeared distraught as the sheriff slipped on his uniform parka. "So you're out this hand?"
"Sheriff?" Mulder inquired, hopefully, avoiding Scully's gaze. "Ron? You want some backup? It sounds like a potentially risky situation."
"Saddle up," Ron invited, admitting a blast of late fall air into the overheated house.
"Mulder," Scully said through her teeth.
"I know, be safe," he nodded briskly. Mulder grinned at the sheriff. "Women, huh?"
The first thing Mulder noted was the crowd packed about the Cremone farmstead, stretching from the wide, railed front porch to the navy blue Harvestore bin towering over the poultry houses.
"Looks like Woodstock by way of George Orwell."
Sheriff Yerkes crunched to a stop on the berm beyond the Cremone driveway, surveying the white sea of turkeys. "Much as I'd love to show off my University of Illinois education, I'm more of a Hitchcock kind of guy, Agent."
Mulder shoved open the passenger's door and strode around the unit. Hundreds of wattled, beady-eyed heads turned simultaneously toward him, and a tidal wave of feathers rippled toward him, accompanied by an eerie, almost ritualistic group warble. "Whoa," the agent exclaimed, slamming himself back inside the sheriff's car.
Yerkes grinned. "Spooky, huh? They're like that -- like ants or termites. Like they're all operating with the same mind."
"I read where groups of eight or ten birds will participate in a kind of chase during where they'll run at each other, then dodge suddenly," Mulder said.
"You done profiling these birds?" Sheriff Yerkes asked.
"Just saying, they're not as stupid as they look," Mulder explained weakly.
As the flock turned as one toward the lawmen, Yerkes shoved his door open and strolled to his deputy's unit, on the other side of the drive. Deputy Ted was huddled in the front seat, nursing a hand wrapped in what appeared to be a bloodied muffler. Yerkes sighed and motioned for him to roll his window down. Ted vigorously shook his head.
"Dammit, Ted," Ron shouted. He depressed the button on walkie-talkie, and the deputy jumped as the radio on his passenger seat beeped. Ted pressed it to his face. "What the hell happened to you, Ted? Paul drunk? He take after you?"
"It was them." Even though the walkie-talkie static, Ted's voice was filled with terror. "They did this to me when I tried to go up to the house. We need back-up, Ron."
"I brought the damned FBI with me." Ron chewed his lip, then reluctantly unsnapped his holster. "Crap, Agent. I guess we're going in."
Official play had been suspended early on when Charlene and Sandi fell into heated debate over "freezing the deck" - an issue that apparently bore the global significance of the Kyoto Agreement on Climatic Change. Uncle Bill had settled into a low rumble of somnambulistic white noise.
"I know you had those rules with the cards," Charlene fretted, rooting through a side board near the now-silent TV. "You need a system, like index cards..."
"Hell, I went to a convention in Vegas, and they didn't have anywhere near the kind of gear you see on the show," Dr. Eisner ranted. "And let me assure you, none of the CSIs there looked like that Helgenberger chick."
"Charlene, just sit down," Sandi breathed. "Let's just play it your way."
Aunt Charlene froze, her angular jaw dropping. "It's no fun if you don't follow the rules."
"What they oughtta do," Eisner thumped the table, "what they oughtta do is CSI:Peoria. Sure, we don't have serial killers - well, 'sides the Thresher, but those network guys are missing a bet. Bunch of puffed-up Hollywood..." Eisner again thumped the table.
Scully's iced tea, dosed to near-saturation with Equal, had edged closer to the table's edge with each thump, and as the coroner drove home his point about CBS and its staff, the plastic tumbler toppled into her lap. The combination of Sandi's shriek and a lapful of ice yanked Scully back to the land of the living.
"Jack!" Sandi yelled, running for paper towels. Dr.Eisner stared dumbly at the brown liquid dyeing Scully's jeans and the beige carpet, then pulled a monogrammed handkerchief from his polyester sports coat.
"No!" Scully gasped and shrank back as he loomed toward her. "Thanks, Doctor, but I'm fine, really. Mrs. Yerkes, where's your restroom?"
"Upstairs, Hon, second door," Sandi cooed. "I am just sooo sorry, Agent!"
"Not at all," the sodden Scully assured her, escaping to the hallway. She took the stairs two at a time, and closed the bathroom door firmly. She sat on the pink plush toilet lid and set to work on the tea stain.
In the end, Scully looked like the stylishly casual victim of extreme incontinence, but her jeans were again uniformly blue. The special agent took a deep, cleansing breath, grasped the wobbly doorknob, and re-entered the Yerkiverse.
"No, no. Aces are 20 points," Charlene insisted downstairs. Scully steeled herself and started down the hall.
Only to come face to face with the girl. Or at least half a girl, for the smiling Jesus painting at the end of the upstairs hall was visible through her red-checkered blouse.
Scully froze, and the girl walked toward her, an oblivious grin on her pretty blonde face. She wore white Capri pants, like the kind Laura Petrie made famous, and her hair was in a ponytail. A mole was anchored at the corner of bee-stung lips. Late teens, early twenties, the agent ventured, her heart pounding
Then the girl walked through Scully, and after a split- second, the petrified redhead spun to see the apparition stroll through the plaster and lath at the other end of the corridor.
"Don't worry." Scully jumped, then spotted Alecia leaning against her bedroom door jamb. "She won't hurt you."
"I'm not into the satanic shit or anything," the teen told Scully. Alecia's room was a study in bipolar eclecticism, as if Jan Brady and Marilyn Manson had jointly supervised the decorating. "It's just, you know, this stuff, it makes people leave me alone."
"The woman," Scully prodded gently.
Alecia flopped back on her black pom-pommed pillows. "Well, I guess that's my fault, kinda."
The girl pursed her black lips and inhaled. "Yeah. See, I summoned her."
Mulder sucked at his palm, then wiped his mouth vigorously with his sleeve as he contemplated where the turkey that had bit him had been. He glumly examined his slashed and shredded pants legs, and stared out the cruiser window. Thousands of beady, impassive eyes stared back.
The sheriff sighed. "I'm thinking. I guess it's time to call the state boys, 'cept those animal rights folks are still in town, and we'd have every Peoria TV crew shooting every bird we shoot."
Ron peered out to see a large ripple in the sea of poultry. The birds were shifting position. The wave then began to move, away from the farmhouse and its terrified inhabitants, around the sheriff's and deputy's cruisers, out toward County Road 1250W.
"The hell...?" Ron muttered, craning backward in his seat.
"They're heading west, Sheriff," Mulder advised.
"Jesus. Toward town?"
The flock now well down the gravel road, Mulder cranked his window down to peer in the opposite direction. "Sheriff, you better alert the Econolodge, the Best Western, and the Motel 6 downtown. There's a second wave coming."
"I got to reading about wicca, you know, witchcraft?" Alecia told Scully.
"I know," the agent sighed.
"It can get pretty deadly out here in Hooterville, you know? So me and my friends, we started playing with the Ouija board, learning a few incantations and trying out a few spells. It was supposed to be bullshit - you know, like to wish for better grades or for one of the guys to notice us. And, well..."
"Well, I always liked Uncle Bill - he didn't treat me like some little dumbass kid, and he'd let me help out on the farm sometimes. So I wanted to do something for him."
"You saw how Aunt Charlene treats him. What a bitch - always on his ass about his weight or what a failure he is. The bank downtown turned him down for a loan last year - he wanted to start his own turkey sausage business instead of growing on contract for the mega-turkey company. Well, Aunt Charlene like ripped him a new one, said the doctors all might think he's a big dreamer, but you couldn't eat on dreams. Whatever that means. So I wanted to do something to help Uncle Bill feel better about his life, about himself. So I cast a spell, with the help of some runes."
Scully's head was pounding. "To do what?"
Alecia looked apprehensive. "Nothing really horrible. Just for Aunt Charlene to maybe just, you know, disappear, and for Uncle Bill to find his true love."
Scully's eyes tracked to the hallway.
"I did want him to find somebody maybe just a little bit older," Alecia explained. "And alive. Duh."
"So, you think Sabrina the Teenage Witch pulled one out of her pointy hat?" Mulder posed, moving his cell phone to his left ear and watching the hundreds of birds about 50 yards ahead of Sheriff Yerkes' creeping unit.
"Get real, Mulder," Scully breathed. "Though Alecia swears she's never seen this apparition before she cast her 'spell.' God forbid I should ask, Mulder, but if this were a 'true' haunting, wouldn't Patti Duke's ghost have made her presence known before now?"
"Unless some event has occurred that may have manifested her. Maybe Alecia's spell merely tore the tissue between our plane and the ghost's. You talked to the grownups about this, yet?"
He could hear the heat of Scully's sigh in his ear. "I guess I was hoping to just stay up here in Alecia's room until you got back. What's your course of action?"
"The suspects don't seem to have spotted their tail yet. Me and the sheriff's gonna foller 'em into town, make sure there's no fowl play. Scully? Scully?"
Mulder shrugged, and pocketed the phone. "So, Ron, whatcha think? What are they up to?"
"Damned if I know. The grain elevator's downtown - you think maybe they're, I dunno, hungry? Yeah, I know. But you got any better ideas, Agent?"
"We're too far from Capistrano," Mulder mulled. "By the way, you don't happen to remember any recent visitations at your house, do you?"
The sheriff's brow wrinkled as he eased ahead. "Just you folks, and the doc."
"No. I mean otherworldly visitations. My partner and your daughter saw something strange upstairs. What appeared to be the spirit of a young woman. Blonde, pretty, dressed like she came out of an episode of Happy Days."
"Doesn't sound like any ghosts we've seen lately," Ron drawled.
"OK, OK. Let me put it to you this way: How long you been policing around here?"
"Oh, since 1978 or so."
"How about your predecessor, any of the older guys on the force? Anybody ever mentioned any mysterious deaths back in the early to mid-'60s? Any local girls go missing?"
Ron kept his eyes on the turkeys, pursing his lips in concentration. "Boy disappeared in '85, along with about $10,000 in fast food receipts. A vanful of kids from Peoria went into the lake back in '71. But wait a minute, J. Edgar. If there's a ghost haunting my house, wouldn't it have had to have, well, bought the farm there?"
"Relax, Ron," Mulder smiled. "I'm just trying to consider all the possibilities. You don't have any memory of a cute little blonde Anne Francis clone..."
"What do you mean, Anne Francis?" The sheriff was suddenly alert.
"My partner said she had a little mole in the corner of her mouth, kinda like Anne Francis. You know, Forbidden Planet, Honey West?"
It was Sheriff Yerkes' turn for silence. "Nah," he finally murmured. "Too homely."
"Well, it's just that Uncle Bill used to have the hots for some gal back when I was a kid, before he married Charlene. But she was a far sight from Anne Francis. Closer to Francis the Talking Mule. Couldn'ta been her."
"Why didn't he marry her?" Mulder asked, leaning forward. "Did she die mysteriously? Tragic accident on Dead Man's Curve? Blind date with some budding Norman Bates?"
"Afraid your theory just went south on you, Sherlock," Ron chuckled. "Saw her last weekend at the Peoria mall. Amy Ogleson's alive and well, and still looks like she needs a bridle and a bag of oats."
"Well, it was a-" Mulder perked and stared out his side window. His finger waggled. "Sheriff, Ron. I think we just hit the cross-town traffic."
Yerkes' head turned slowly to County Road 500N, a blacktop which now was white with waddling, wattled birds...
"Agent Scully, why don't you sit down?" Sandi cooed solicitously. "I think we still have some of Charlene's tomato wine left."
"I'm fine," Scully hastily assured the group above Uncle Bill's low sawing. "I'm not saying I believe I saw a ghost, but I did see something up there. Does the description I gave you sound at all familiar?"
Scully looked to Aunt Charlene and Dr. Eisner, who likely would have been the "ghost's" contemporaries. Eisner fingered his mustache, deep in memories. Charlene's sharp jaw was tight, and she looked pointedly away from Scully.
Aunt Charlene looked challengingly at the younger woman.
"You know, it sounds a little like, oh, you know, Amy Ogleson," Sandi said, snapping her fingers. "You went to school with her, didn't you, Charlene?"
Scully could hear Charlene's jaw constrict.
"Yeah, yeah. In fact, didn't Bill take Amy Ogleson to the junior prom?" Sandi prattled on, oblivious to her husband's aunt's tension.
The older woman rose stiffly from the couch. "Are we going to play Canasta or not?"
"OK, so what, exactly?" Mulder absorbed Scully's latest intelligence as the Dumont city limits beckoned. "This is like a makeover ghost? Sheriff Yerkes said this Ogleson suffered a severe congenital beating with the ugly stick."
"Sensitive, Mulder," Scully said. "Aunt Charlene and Dr. Eisner described Ogleson as some kind of femme fatale. But 'Sandi' managed to dig out an old family album - which, by the way, we are only halfway through - and I have to concur that, at best, Amy Ogleson's charm must have rested in her personality."
"Or maybe she put out... Scully?"
"I'm here. For the moment." Scully's voice was glacial. "Clearly, this isn't our woman. Unless..."
"I hear the cogs turning."
"Unless Amy Ogleson had a sister. The mole could be a hereditary trait."
Mulder turned to the sheriff. "Amy Ogleson have a sister?"
"Only child," Ron replied absently, watching worriedly as the combined birds of eight local farms moved in one white wave down the holiday-deserted Main Street. Deputy Ted had surveyed the county to discover a mass poultryhouse-break.
"Only child," Mulder informed Scully.
"Agent," Ron said urgently.
"Gotta go," Mulder said, ending the call. He squinted out the front window. "It's quiet."
"Too quiet. They've stopped."
That's when Mulder heard the sound of breaking glass. Another crash followed, and an alarm began to echo through the metro business district.
"The bank! Aw shit!" Ron unholstered his weapon and threw open the door.
"Sheriff!" Mulder yelled. "Wait up! Let's get backup!" But Yerkes already was approaching the mob of birds. Mulder pulled his sidearm and pursued him.
But before he could reach the sheriff, Mulder's shoe hit a puddle of turkey guano, and the fed met the road. He stumbled to his feet and craned for a peek of Sheriff Yerkes.
"Ron!" he shouted. "Ron!"
A few thousand small, emotionless eyes suddenly turned in Mulder's direction. He leveled his gun toward the birds. A few dozen peeled off and began to advance. Mulder aimed for the nearest bird, heart pounding. There was a feral intelligence in the alpha tom's beady little eyes that he suspected would chill him toward Butterball products for the foreseeable future.
And then the wave turned. Mulder kept the gun at shoulder height as the advancing force flowed back into the sea of turkeys and the sea ebbed toward the other end of town. A trio of monolithic grain elevators towered over the Town Hall, a minimart, and a Days Inn at the western edge of Dumont.
"Hey!" a weak voice echoed. "You wanna pull your jaw back in, get your thumb out of your ass, and get over here?"
Sheriff Yerkes was sitting against a lamppost before the First National Illinois Community Union Bank, nursing a bleeding ankle. His clothes looked like something from the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue for homeless-wannabe teens -- the gangsta gobblers had pecked and tore the fabric from calf to midsection. Mulder knelt beside the lawman.
"Like the man said, it's just my pride," Ron groaned.
"What was that all about?" Mulder asked.
Ron grunted to his feet. "Look in the front window of the bank."
Mulder crunched through broken glass, turkey shit, and feathers to the now shattered plate glass window. A half- dozen corpses littered the carpeted lobby floor, and every surface -- every counter, desk, chair, and promotional sign -- was festooned with turkey leavings.
"They attacked the bank," the agent murmured, swiping his disheveled hair back. "What are they? Socialist poultry?" "I don't know," Ron said, low and apprehensive. "But they've located a new target."
"The elevator? You think they want to feed?"
"I look like the Lord of the Flock? Jeez, all I wanted this afternoon was my game and a snooze in front of the tube. Usually, turkey helps put me to sleep, not flat on my ass."
Mulder started to formulate a witty comeback, then clamped his mouth shut and studied the carnage about him, formulating a theory...
"She's pissed off," Sandi fretted. "Whenever she's in a snit, she makes sandwiches."
Dr. Dana Scully, forensic pathologist, University of Maryland physics major, special agent, considered the query. "I dunno," she finally shrugged. "Why's your aunt so piss--, er, miffed, anyway? This woman is clearly no threat in her present state. Whatever that is."
Sandi pulled Scully away from the kitchen doorway and the sounds of furious sandwich-making. "See, Amy Ogleson was Uncle Bill's dream girl, you might say. She was funny, smart, and pretty. Him and Aunt Charlene have had a rough patch these last 40 years or so, and when Bill gets a snootful, he tends to talk about what might've been. So, you think that ghost is her? Amy Ogleson back to haunt him? Or Charlene?"
"I dunno." The ringing of her cell phone saved Scully further academic embarrassment. "Scully. Yeah, how goes the flock?"
"We been slimed, and I'm afraid this could get ugly real quick. The rogue turkeys may be heading for the motel at the end of town, and it looks like the lot's pretty full. They just trashed the bank."
Scully frowned. "Well, that oughtta make at least one person here happy. If he ever rises from the dead."
The line went silent for a moment. "What do you mean, Scully?"
Scully took a breath, and related Uncle Bill's problems with the lending community. More silence.
"Scully," Mulder finally said, "what do you know about tryptophan?"
His partner slipped into professional mode. "Tryptophan. It's an essential amino acid and a precursor of serotonin. Tryptophan supplements can help suppress the appetite for carbohydrates and raise blood sugar.
"Tryptophan's also beneficial in treating some forms of schizophrenia. And, yes, as I'm guessing you're really wanting to know, it's the compound in turkey and other foods that promotes drowsiness."
"It's not the only thing," Mulder retorted. "What about the side effects? What happens if you OD on tryptophan?"
"OD on trytophan?"
"Headaches, sinus congestion," a drowsy voice drifted from the armchair. Dr. Eisner opened one eye. "It can jam you up something awful, too. Oh, and too much tryptophan can screw with sleep patterns something awful. Give you some hellacious nightmares."
"Constipation and hellacious nightmares," Scully translated. "Mulder, just what are you--?"
"Agent Scully!" Sandi Yerkes suddenly screamed.
"Agent Mulder!" Scully heard Ron Yerkes shout.
Sandi, braced in the kitchen doorway, was white-faced. "Agent Scully, I think she's choking!"
The phone fell to the carpet, and Scully rushed into the kitchen. Aunt Charlene was sitting against the dishwasher, gasping like a grounded carp and roughly five shades more blue than she normally would be.
"She was only eating my Cranberry Jello Dream," Sandi whispered ineffectually as Scully began performing the Heimlich.
"It's not working," Scully panted after about three minutes of the procedure. "Dr. Eisner!! Get in here!" She was answered by an abrupt snort from the living room. A rumpled coroner appeared in the doorway.
"Kee-rist," he yelped. "You tried the Heimlich?" The agent nodded vigorously. "Airway must be completely blocked and constricted. Sandi, you call 911! Agent, find that turkey thermometer and some isopropyl."
He looked up bleakly, a bead of sweat rolling down his broad pink forehead. "You have done a tracheotomy before, haven't you, Doctor?"
"Once," Scully stammered.
"Well, that's one up on me. Let's move!"
"Scully!" Mulder yelled, growing frantic. "Scully!!"
"What happened?" Ron demanded, ignoring the flock now swarming across the Days Inn lot. "What's going on, damn it?"
"Your Aunt Charlene," Mulder breathed. "I think she's choking."
"God!" The sheriff sprinted for his unit, for the radio.
"Ron!" the agent shouted. "Sheriff! The bank - the ones the turkeys trashed. Was it the one that turned your uncle down for his turkey processing loan?"
"Yeah!" Yerkes snapped from the passenger side of the cruiser. "So what?"
"Those animal rights activists? Are they still at the motel here?"
"Sure, yeah!" Ron keyed his radio.
"Wait, wait," Mulder implored. "One last thing. How's your Uncle Bill feel about Dumont?"
"What? You are nuts..."
"No. What's his feeling about this town?"
Ron gaped at the FBI agent. "With the yuppies moving in from Peoria, the town's been trying to annex more of the outlying farms, close 'em down. The county's trying to regulate the turkey guys outta business. Of course, he hates this town. Bill told me last week he felt like the community has crapped on him--."
The sheriff halted, staring first at Mulder, then at the turkey-soiled streets of Dumont...
"You have to be very careful here," Dr. Eisner murmured, his fingers twitching. "You don't want to nick an artery or break the hyoid."
Scully wiped sweat from her forehead as she positioned the pointed end of the turkey thermometer over Charlene's cyanotic throat. The woman's eyes were bulging, and she gurgled in dry, rasping terror.
"Scully!!" It was a small, tinny, fuzzy voice. Mulder's voice. "Take the pill! TAKE THE PILL!!"
She then remembered dropping the phone. Scully tried to tune out her partner's voice as she prepared to incise Aunt Charlene's throat.
"TAKE THE PILL!! SCULLY, TAKE THE PILL!!!"
Scully held up a quieting palm, then, thermometer in hand, crawled on her knees toward the phone nestled in the thick living room carpet.
"...THE PILL, SCULLY. TAKE THE PILL!!"
"What pill, Mulder?" Scully yelled, reaching for the instrument. She clapped the phone to her ear.
"WAKE UP BILL, SCULLY!" Mulder repeated, clearly now. "For God's sake, wake up Uncle Bill!!"
"So that's why we're feasting on General Tso's chicken instead of Butterball's finest," Arthur Dales exclaimed, slapping the red-and-gold tablecloth before him.
"You can understand why we might feel like a little less traditional Thanksgiving celebration this year." Mulder smiled at the father of the X-Files as he poured him some more plum wine. Scully had suggested a less celebratory beverage choice for the elderly ex-agent, but Dales had cheerfully changed the topic and, well, it was the holiday.
"But the birds," Dales murmured.
"Within a minute or so of Scully shaking Uncle Bill back to consciousness, the flock started dispersing. We had to get about three dozen turkey wranglers to help round them up and sort them out by farm, and I hear the town paid a whopping bill to clean the place up, but the PETA people were spared a merciless pecking.
Mulder sipped his tea. "That's what made me realize what was going on. The same force, the same consciousness, dispatched a flock of turkeys to dispatch a coven of vegans while blitzkrieging the local bank and soiling the town that was trying to sh--"
"Mulder," Scully warned.
"Yeah, anyway. And unless we were to embrace a ludicrous twist of coincidence, we had to believe that same consciousness, that same force, had manifested not only a woman with whom the Yerkes had experienced some checkered past history, but indeed an idealized version of that woman. The way Bill had seen Amy Ogleson, remembered her. That's when it clicked. She was a dream. A very vivid dream."
Dales thumped the table. "No!"
"Alecia'd told Scully Aunt Charlene had remarked that 'the doctors' had called Bill a 'big dreamer.' Actually, Bill was a vivid dreamer. One of those rare cases where an individual's dreams seem startlingly real. Now, if tryptophan tends to disrupt or alter sleep patterns and dreaming, then imagine if the dreamer had ingested mass quantities of tryptophan over an extended period. After Charlene cracked the whip on him, Bill forsook all carbs and boosted his turkey intake to extreme levels. This ill-advised diet, supplemented by cheap homemade wine, contributed to his gastric distress and, combined with Charlene's nagging, to a raging case of insomnia. So he gulped gallons of warm milk each night."
"More tryptophan," Dales said. "His bloodstream must have been saturated with the stuff. Er, I assume the unfortunate Uncle Bill was responsible for Aunt Charlene's, um, Predicament?"
"Not that we could ever prove," Scully muttered. "We couldn't even bring him into court."
"Give it a rest, Scully," Mulder sighed. "He agreed to quit turkey cold turkey, so to speak. And Bill and Charlene finally reached an accommodation."
"Bill hooked up with the equine but affable girl of his youthful dreams at a New Year's Eve party a month later. And Charlene is now the wife of the town coroner."
Dales beamed. "Marvelous. And look - here comes our Thanksgiving feast!
"Happy Thanksgiving! God Bless America!" Luan Yee, proprietor of Happy Paradise Garden, yelled as he delivered three platters of hot orange-glazed chicken and dressing festooned with bamboo shoots and water chestnuts.
Mulder grabbed his sticks, but Dales coughed with dignity. "Why don't we honor the Great Benefactor responsible for this evening of fellowship and food? Agent Mulder--?"
"Our father..." Scully began loudly.