Title: Exorcismus: Imperium
Author's page: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/1058715/
Distribution: Two weeks exclusive with VS15.
Spoilers: Seasons 1-7, VS15 episode "A Reason To Believe"
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Many of the characters in this fanfiction are based on real people. This fanfiction is loosely based on a true story.
Summary: The agents investigate a triple homicide that turns into an encounter with a demon.
"So if anyone has any questions on the reading, please email me. It's a long one and I don't expect you to have it and the questions done by Monday. But we have a quiz on Wednesday so it would be in your best interests to finish the reading this weekend, to give yourselves time to do the questions by Wednesday. Have a good weekend."
As the students got up and started to leave, having started packing their backpacks when the digital atomic clock reached 1459, one girl still had her laptop on her desk as she stood and approached the teacher.
Skip Greenwood turned his attention to her.
"I have a question. When we went over the legend of King Arthur you told us he was most likely a fifteen-year-old boy, who managed to convince the local English to fight off the Romans."
"Yep, that's about right," Skip told her. "Where's the question?"
"Well, what would you expect us to write on an exam? It seems a little short for the whole thing, if you know what I mean."
"Well, Ashley, sometimes legends come down to a very simple explanation. Arthur likely won a few battles and the largely oral culture of the natives he recruited honored him as their king. He was more than likely killed in battle after a few months, but oral cultures can be very powerful. The root of a legend can be nothing more than an extraordinary kid about your age."
They were alone in the classroom now, and Ashley started to pack up her backpack. "All right, I guess. I just didn't want to lose points for such a short answer."
Skip smiled. "You're doing fine in the class, Ashley. I don't see any reason to be worried."
"Good to know. See you Monday, Mr. Greenwood."
"See you Monday," Skip said. He disconnected his laptop from the interactive SmartBoard in the front of the classroom, and then packed it into his bag. The classroom was an interesting contrast of 70-year-old architecture and top-of-the-line technology. He went to his desk for a moment to collect a few things and put them into his briefcase, and then grabbed his raincoat and headed outside. Hopefully the buses wouldn't be gone by now.
Kingsburry Academy was separated into two campuses: the North and the South. The North campus was largely devoted to science, math, language, and the museums the school had on the grounds. The Kingsburry Science Museum and the Kingsburry Art Museum were region-wide hotspots for parents to bring their children for afternoon amusement, and for young people to come to gaze at the stars during the evening Observatory stargazing hours, or look at art and make out by the romantically set backyard of the Art Museum.
Kingsburry's South Campus was largely devoted to crafts, books, English, History, and the Research Center. The South Campus housed the girl's dorms, and the girl's middle school. The North Campus housed the boy's dorms. Because the school did not admit girls until the late 1930's, the North and South campuses had very different architecture. The North campus was largely early 1900's architecture, with a heavy English influence. The South campus was much closer to Frank Lloyd Wright's style, emphasizing on what was modern when it was built. In the 1980's, the school decided that girls and boys could be taught together, and integrated the classrooms.
Along the two-mile-long road that linked the two campuses were the boy's middle school, the lower school, and several sports fields. Also about halfway along Kingsburry Road was teachers' housing. Condos, apartments, and small houses lined the side-streets and formed a unique suburban community housed inside of a PreK-12 school the size of an average college campus.
Skip Greenwood, a history teacher, father of two, and devoted Star Trek fan, lived in one of the houses with his family. And usually, because his work was right on campus, he let his wife have the car for the day. Which meant he had to catch the bus going to North Campus, and have it drop him off at the side-street that would take him directly to his house.
He wasn't worried about the slight delay today, however. Most of the students had after school activities that kept the buses running well after 1600. There was a short delay between 1520 and 1540 when there were no buses running, because most kids had gotten to practice or to the opposite campus. Day students old enough to drive had been bused to their cars, and boarders had been bused to their campus of residence. But when the 30 minute club meetings ended, buses started rolling again. If Skip could catch the bus before 15.20, he could be home before his 8-year-old son walked back from the lower school.
The bus driver, Jerry, was pleased to see him, as always. "Hey, Skip, how ya doing?"
"Fine, Jerry, and yourself?"
"Doing just fine. Home?"
"Yep," he answered, and settled into a front seat on the half-full yellow school bus.
"How's Arthur and little Cory?"
"Arthur's doing great. He entered the science fair last weekend and won second place."
"The Science Museum science fair?" Jerry asked.
"That's the one. He did his project on the solar system and was sure to include the major and minor planets. It seemed to have caught the judge's attention."
"I guess so, if he won second. Good for him. And Cory?"
Jerry laughed. "They tend to get that way at that age."
"Arthur wasn't into everything like Cory is, but you know, different kids, different personalities." Cory, Skip's one-year-old son, was far more willful than Arthur was seven years ago. But Skip was a patient man, and a loving father, who would spend as much time with both of his sons as he could. He may have neared the end of his rope a few times more with Cory than with Arthur, but that didn't mean he avoided spending time with his baby.
"Yep. Well, here you go," Jerry said, and stopped the bus at the corner. He opened the door. "See ya later, Skip."
"Have a nice weekend, Jerry. Tell Susan I said hi."
"Will do." The doors slid shut behind him and he walked down the street toward his house. He happened to arrive at the same time as Arthur.
The boy's shoes were wet and caked with mud and he smiled sheepishly at his dad.
"You took the shortcut again, didn't you?" Skip asked, walking up the path that led to their modest home.
"Yeah...it's a lot quicker than taking the road, Dad. I'm sorry..."
"Well, take off your shoes before you come in the house. You'll be cleaning them tonight after your homework."
Arthur sighed. "Okay," he resigned. "Can I have time on the computer tonight?"
"If you finish your homework and clean your shoes before bedtime. Absolutely. What do you plan to do? Play Starfleet Command?"
"Maybe, but I was thinking about researching planetary orbits on the Internet. Mr. Banning said today that we've been tracking a planet circling a nearby star, and I want to see if I can find a mapping program."
"Have fun," Skip said with a small smile. His son was brilliant, and had taken an interest in something Skip had unlimited interest for, but limited ability: science. After scraping by with very low mathematics scores in college, he had decided his interest wasn't his calling. And his son was rapidly approaching the point at which Skip's interest greatly exceeded his knowledge.
They entered the house, knowing it was unlocked. No one locked their doors at Kingsburry. The second they stepped through the threshold, they both froze in place, as the blood drained from their faces. Arthur's eyes began to well up in tears, and Skip pulled his son close to him, but was unable to move.
There before them, hung from the ceiling, was the bloody body of an unfamiliar woman. Her hair was long, blonde, and curly. She looked to be in her mid-forties, draped in a white cloth marred with blood stains. Her throat was slit, and her dead eyes were open. The corneas were solid red. The second Skip was able to peel his eyes away and look down at Arthur, Arthur looked back up. He still cried as he said, "Its happening again, isn't it?"
Skip glanced up at the now bare, perfectly clean ceiling. He nodded slowly. "I think it is," he managed to say.
MULDER & SCULLY TOWNHOUSE
"So that was the last straw?"
"That was when I got out of my car."
"And when did you pop him one?"
"Mulder, I did not 'pop him one'."
Mulder and Scully were sitting on their couch, Scully nursing a sore but otherwise unharmed hand, and finally submitting to Mulder's requests that she tell him what had happened to the car last night.
"Then explain to me why—"
"Okay, fine, I did hit the bastard, but it was in self defense."
"I'm seeing mounds of paperwork in your future."
Scully groaned, and leaned back into the couch.
Mulder smirked slightly. "Did you knock him unconscious?"
"No. I just pissed him off," Scully said.
"But he was smart enough not to keep fighting a redhead."
"He was smart enough not to keep fighting a federal agent, who he rear-ended."
"Why'd you hit him?"
Scully looked up at the ceiling and closed her eyes. "After he tailed me for twenty minutes, tried to get around me and nearly caused three accidents, failed to pass me when the other lane was clear, and kept flipping me the bird every damn time I looked back at him, he finally rear-ended me at a stoplight, got out of his car, and started tapping the window."
"So you drew your gun..."
"You didn't draw your gun?" Mulder asked, surprised.
"No," Scully admitted.
"What did you do?"
"I got out of the car at the intersection and started screaming at him."
Mulder raised his eyebrow in a truly Scully-like manner. "Why?"
"How can you ask me that question?!" She demanded.
"No, I'm not saying he didn't deserve it, Scully. But why didn't you just draw your gun, tell him you were a Federal Agent, and end it right there?"
She didn't answer for a moment, but finally she said, clearly ashamed, "Because he really pissed me off."
"When did you hit him?"
"When he reached into his pocket. He pulled out a pocketknife."
"Why didn't you draw your gun?" Mulder asked, puzzled and alarmed.
"I don't know, Mulder. I did after I hit him..."
It was Mulder's turn to sit back. He folded his arms. "Yeah, I have no idea how you're going to justify this one."
"He has a black eye. That's it."
Mulder just gave her a 'look'. Then he stood. "All right, this little role reversal is getting too weird for me, if you know what I mean. I'm going upstairs, gonna get dressed."
He was a little concerned about how she was still rubbing her hand but he had brought up the issue last night, and gotten worse treatment, in his opinion, than the asshole who had rear-ended her. The damage to the car was minimal. The jerkwad's car actually looked worse. But Scully had even admitted to him last night that she had lost her temper and handled the situation wrong, which was unlike her. That bothered him more than her sore hand.
As he reached the top step, the phone rang. Scully groaned. "Probably the insurance."
"Or the Bureau, firing your ass," Mulder joked. "I'll get it."
"No, I'll get it," Scully said reluctantly, and got up from the couch. She walked the few steps she needed to get to the phone, looked at the CID, and answered. "Hello, Sir."
Mulder leaned over the railing, an interested look on his face.
"No, Sir. We planned on submitting our final report on Monday. Yes, Sir. Completely finished." There was a pause, and Scully rolled her eyes. "Well, Sir, that may be a problem. There was an incident last night..." She sighed. He was going to hear about it eventually. "I was rear-ended last night, and I'm fine, but...it's a little complicated, Sir."
Mulder smirked, knowing what was coming next. Skinner's demand that she tell him exactly what happened. And as she recounted the story, he reflected that this really did sound like something he would get himself into.
"So it might be difficult for us to leave on Monday, if things need to be sorted out," Scully said. "All right, Sir. I'll tell him. Have a good weekend."
When she hung up the phone, Mulder still stared at her expectantly.
"Skinner has a case for us out in Wisconsin. A triple homicide. He's sending us the casefiles now...you're expected to go without me if I have to stay here."
Mulder looked visibly disappointed. "Do we have any details about the case?"
"He didn't specify any. Just said he was sending the casefiles. Your flight leaves Monday morning at 7 am."
"I'll catch the first one out, as soon as this is cleared up. I'm sorry, Mulder."
"No, no..." Mulder started, and then shook his head. "It's fine. You might even get this straightened out by Monday. I'm gonna grab a shower," he said, still sweaty from this morning's run.
Scully didn't respond. Instead, she headed for the copy/scanner/fax/printer, where the case files were coming in. As the photos printed, she looked at them closely, and then her eyes grew wide. She quickly turned on the desk lamp and leaned in closer, fumbling for her glasses in the top drawer. She looked closer, but it was gone. She stared for a moment, flipping through the crime scene pictures again, looking for any trace of what she knew she saw.
She lost track of time, and didn't even hear Mulder come into the study. "Scully, you looking at the case files?"
She started at his voice, and then nodded.
"What's wrong?" he asked, walking over to her.
"Look at these photos, Mulder, and tell me what you see," she ordered, her voice betraying her confusion and fear.
Mulder flipped through them. "Stabbed, stabbed...and stabbed. What's the problem?"
"You didn't see anything?"
"I see three women stabbed post mortem, with their throats slit. What am I supposed to be seeing?"
Scully sighed, took the pictures out of his hands, and sat down.
"Talk to me, Scully," he said gently, and knelt in front of her. "What do you see in these?"
"I don't see it any more..."
"Okay, what did you see?" He was still speaking very gently, and wore a look of concern. It only magnified when she pulled away, determined to find what it was she had seen before. She kept studying the photos, moving them at different angles to see if she could spot a trick of the light. Mulder didn't move from his position, and waited for her to finish.
"I thought...for just a second...Mulder, it looked like Melissa. Every one of them. Then I looked away and..."
Mulder didn't speak.
"It's stupid, I must not have gotten enough sleep..."
"It's not stupid. Let me look at these. Let me look at the case. We'll figure out what's happened."
She nodded slightly, and handed him the photos. He took them and the rest of the papers in the printer, and pounded them into a stack on the desk. He placed them in a file folder from the drawer, and then paper-clipped the photos to the front. As he did so, his peripheral vision caught something. He looked again, and it was gone. But he could have sworn he saw bright orange eyes in the picture.
HOME OF BRIDGET SMITH
"Happy birthday to me," Mulder sang sarcastically as he popped a sunflower seed into his mouth and put the car in park. "Happy birthday to me," he continued, opening the door. "Happy birthday to Spooky, happy birthday to me."
The triple homicide was now a quadruple. Bridget Smith, a 40-year-old single mother of two, had died in the same manner as the other three: a single slit to the throat. Each body had significant post mortem stabbing, all in the same pattern. Two by the torso, one on the right leg, and three on the forearm, to make it look like defensive wounds.
The reason why it was clearly and undoubtedly an X-file, Mulder and Scully had found after reading the casefile, was because in every case, the single mother was killed in her bedroom with the doors and windows locked, and security alarms armed. The children, in every single case, were at sleepovers. And the security companies that serviced the houses not only were all different companies, but all showed the FBI the records that revealed the security alarm had not been turned off and then on again.
Thoughts of Eugene Victor Tooms fluttered through his mind as he approached the crime scene, and wished Scully was there. But unfortunately she was straightening out her little misadventure, and would arrive tomorrow at the earliest. Meanwhile Mulder was left to profile the Invisible Man by himself.
"Agent Mulder?" A balding man in jeans and a light parka asked, walking out of the front door of the house. "Detective Giles, Birmingham PD," he said, flashing his badge. "I thought you had a partner?"
"She's coming tomorrow," Mulder said, and extended his hand. "So this is the same story as the others?"
"Exact same story. You know, you probably don't hear this a lot but I'm relieved to have you guys here. Whoever this guy is, he's not your average killer."
"Can I see the bedroom?"
"You can see the whole damn house. You can have anything you want. Like I said, we're very happy to have you here."
Mulder couldn't hide the look of surprise on his face, but Detective Giles didn't seem to notice. He led the way into the small suburban home, and Mulder looked around at the incredibly tidy little house. He was led directly upstairs to the bedroom, where the tidiness stopped. The body on the bed hadn't been packed up yet and Mulder approached the ME, who was taking something from the woman's fingernails.
"Gina, Agent Mulder with the FBI. Agent Mulder, Gina Yong, Birmingham PD's ME," Giles introduced.
"Nice to meet you," Mulder said. He elected not to stick out his ungloved hand and shake the ME's. The state of her latex gloves told Mulder that she had been working for a while now and was about ready to pack up the body.
"Nice to meet you too," she said, and got back to work.
"What was the time of death?" Mulder asked.
"Early this morning, probably at about 5 or 6 am," the ME answered, but was clearly concentrating on something other than Mulder.
"May I ask if you found anything unusual in the other three autopsies, Dr. Yong?" Mulder asked.
The woman shrugged, and looked up. She looked slightly annoyed. "Not really, no. It would've been on my report if so. They all died from a single but deep slit to their throats, severing the jugular artery and blocking the airway. The stab wounds were the same in all three victims—four, now. Same pattern. If I was taking a wild guess, I'd say a serial killer. But what serial killer can get into a house with an alarm system, motion detector, and locked door?"
"I can think of at least one," Mulder muttered, and glanced around the room.
"Hm?" She inquired, not quite catching his last statement as she turned back to the examination.
"Nothing, just speculation. I'm gonna look around, if no one minds."
"Have a field day, Agent Mulder. I hope you find something," Giles said.
Mulder gave him a small smile and then walked over to a CSI kit on the floor, and extracted a pair of latex gloves and an evidence bag. He then began looking around the bedroom. The windows were shut and locked, and Mulder saw from the little boxes along the edges that they were also alarmed.
"Has suicide been considered?" Mulder asked.
"I ruled that out," Yong answered. "The cut to the throat is too long and too deep for someone to do it to themselves. They'd go into shock before being able to finish."
"Is it possible they could have used something to do it for them? Some kind of unique tool?"
"If they did, we haven't found anything at the crime scenes," Giles stated.
Mulder nodded, and continued walking through the room. He noticed a crucifix on the wall, a Catholic symbol, and stored the information away for further use.
"Where are the kids?"
"Social services, for now. They have a grandma coming to pick them up soon."
"Did they see anything?"
"The oldest one did. He was the one that opened the bedroom door when they got back from the sleepover. He was in shock when we got here. His younger sister called 911."
"Twelve and ten. They slept over at the house down the street. Some kind of party for a soccer league or something."
Mulder nodded as he paced the room. "What about the other kids?"
"All different ages. Some with siblings, some without. We couldn't find a pattern there."
"They didn't go to the same school, play on the same teams, anything like that?"
Giles shook his head. "No. The only pattern we've found is single suburban working moms. And two, including this one, were Christian—had some kind of religious symbols on the walls or statues on the dressers."
Mulder nodded, dissatisfied. He paced around the small bedroom for a little while longer, not noticing any kind of ritualistic items, anything to suggest a conjuring or otherwise. The dresser drawers had only clothes in them. The closet wasn't harboring any interesting boxes. It looked as if this lady had nothing to hide.
"I want to see the kids' rooms."
"This way," Giles said, and walked out of the room and down the hallway.
Mulder looked through both rooms before noticing something in the girl's room that he had also noticed in the boy's. Glancing at the Bible on her bed, he paged through it and realized it was a gift, but not from the mother. Someone named Greenwood...
He walked into the boy's room and found the same dedication. He looked through the kids' things once again, and found his answer. Amidst the boy's pile of messy papers that resembled Mulder's own desk, he found a six-month-old flyer for a non-denominational Christian Bible study for children. He looked at the start date on the flyer, and then looked at the dedication date on the Bible. They were exactly six months apart.
He checked with the girl's Bible, and it matched as well. "The kids attended a Christian Bible study for children and received these Bibles about two weeks ago," he told Giles. "You should check that out—see if the other kids attended it too. It could be where the killer found his victims."
Giles nodded, and took the flyer from Mulder. "I'll run a check on the teacher, find out where he lives. And I'll see if the other kids attended it too. Do you think this is a religious crime?"
"Possibly," Mulder said, glancing at the alarmed windows in the girl's room. "But it'd be some magic trick to slip in this house without someone being notified. If our killer was just interested in a hate crime, they probably would have attacked the women in their cars, or coming out of their houses. Something easier than breaking in here."
"So you think our killer wasn't looking just to kill them, but to make a statement."
"Could be," Mulder said, his tone non-committal. "It could also be that making statements isn't what our killer is into," he added, and left the room. "Can I get a look at the downstairs?"
"Absolutely," Giles said, and followed Mulder down the front steps. About a half hour later, Mulder asked to see the basement. The downstairs hadn't been very helpful. Surprisingly enough, the basement door was locked from the outside. "That's interesting," Mulder commented, and Giles took a snapshot of it before they opened the door, and climbed down the stairs. The minute he looked around at the basement, he whistled. "Wow. A single working mom and a hobbyist..."
"She was the only one with a woodshop," Giles said, glancing appreciatively at the equipment before them. "But the other mothers had hobbies as well. Rooms in their houses dedicated to their hobbies."
Mulder walked up to some of the machines, remembering his very light training at the hands of Tim "the Tool Man" Taylor, when he and Scully appeared on the show Tool Time not too long ago.
"This is a miter saw, isn't it?" Mulder asked.
Giles shrugged. "I don't know. I don't know anything about this stuff. It's some kinda saw."
Mulder checked that it was unplugged, and then ran his fingers over the base. He held up his index finger to Giles. "Dust," he commented. "For someone so into shop tools, she didn't clean them very well."
"Not true, Agent Mulder," Giles said, surveying the table saw, drill press, scroll saw, and bandsaw. "These are all clean."
Mulder looked at the garbage, where he found a single piece of wood and some dust dumped inside. Then he looked at the workbench. "She was down here...when it happened, she was down here. She was working." He pointed to the piece of wood, the chisel, and the hammer, all out on the bench. An iPod sat in its stereo cradle, and though the lights were turned off and the miter saw was unplugged, it was clear someone had left here in a hurry.
"How can you tell?"
"Someone who has a workshop like this doesn't leave their tools on the bench when they're done. And they don't leave their work sitting here, either. Or leave their iPod here to collect sawdust from the air." He pointed to the mask and safety glasses on the bench, and said, "Something scared her. She did what she felt was necessary to leave it safely, and then left. Locked the door behind her."
He turned to Giles. "She was up there in her working clothes but the ME estimated the time of death to be early this morning. She was working here late at night and then she locked herself in her bedroom. Something spooked her down here."
Giles nodded. "You could have something there. We found all the other hobby rooms locked at the crime scenes. Whatever scared the victims might have occurred while they were working. Then they get spooked and leave."
Mulder walked around the basement, past the workshop and over to a stack of boxes. It looked like an average basement, with randomly stored, no longer used items. Children's toys that she didn't have the heart to throw out, even though her kids were no longer interested. Boxes of clothes that either were too large or too small, or out of style. Camping equipment and...what was this? A box marked 'Church'.
Mulder inched his hand toward the tape to pull it open, when an incredibly cold wind bristled through the air, and then was gone. He turned, and looked at Giles. "Did you touch the air conditioning?"
"Huh?" Giles asked, looking up from the workbench.
"You feel that?"
"That...never mind," he said. He looked at the box again, and tore open the tape. Inside were children's catechism books. From kindergarten through about sixth grade, probably recent for the twelve-year-old. CCD class folders, notebooks and even a few primary-colored rosaries, with smiley faces on each bead. A children's novel aimed at about first or second-grade readers, entitled, "Jesus Loves Me."
"Why would you pack up religious stuff if you're still religious?" Giles asked, and Mulder nearly jumped. The man had snuck up on him, and was now standing right behind him.
Mulder shook his head. "Maybe it's old stuff. Maybe they've outgrown this stage," he said. But even as he said it, he knew it wasn't true. Some of the Catholic books had titles like Catholicism for Teens, and Mulder knew if the boy was twelve, this would have been bought recently. He needed to talk to Scully. She might see a connection here that he couldn't understand. For about the hundredth time since he stepped on the crime scene, he wished his other half was here.
Glancing around the basement, he realized he had just about looked through everything there, other than the Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Easter decorations. It wasn't a very large basement and most of it was taken up by the woodshop.
Walking back to the woodshop, Mulder looked at what the woman was making. Some kind of little toy train. He wondered if a sister or brother of hers had a child who would enjoy a toy like that.
Then he noticed the blueprints, hand-drawn probably by Bridget, for the little toy. They were pages long, and were concluded by a cute little drawing of a toddler with a bow in her hair, playing with the toy train. It was clear that this woman didn't do this for money, but because she enjoyed it.
"You said the other women were hobbyists. What did they do?"
"One woman collected stamps. Another did patterns for doll clothes, for her kid. The third woman was into books—she had an entire library in her house. Every kind of book you can imagine."
"You said two were Christian. Were they all religious?" Mulder asked.
Giles shrugged. "I don't know. We'd have to go back over the houses again and find out."
Mulder nodded. "Good idea. And find out who Greenwood is and get me an address. I need to call my partner and give her an update on this. I'll meet you back at the station," he said, thoughts already floating around his head about what could have done this.
Aliens were improbable. A ghost generally didn't have this kind of MO, but wasn't outside the realm of possibility. Another mutant like Tooms was still possible, and in fact made sense. Someone who could sneak down into the basement, make some noises loud enough to scare the woman into her bedroom, where he could crawl through the vent and kill her behind a locked door...
"Scully." Her voice surprised him. When had he dialed her? "Hello? Mulder?"
"Hey, yeah, it's me. Just wanted to give you an update. How are you doing?"
"Fine, almost done with meetings. I should be out there tonight."
"That's good. That's an improvement over tomorrow." Mulder exited the crime scene and walked toward his car.
"I'm sorry you're all alone on your birthday," she said, sounding genuinely apologetic. "I'll make it up to you."
As Mulder got into his car, he couldn't help but say, "Ooooh, Scully, you know what I like." He heard Scully chuckle and he said, "When you get to the motel room, I'll have a bubble-bath waiting for you."
"You're only saying that because you know what you get after the bubble-bath," Scully teased.
"Hey, it's my birthday!" Mulder protested with a grin. He started the car, and put his seatbelt on with one hand. Checking his mirrors briefly, he prepared to pull the car away. But his grin dropped suddenly and he did a double-take, staring at the rear view mirror.
"Mulder? Is everything okay?" Scully asked, confused by the silence.
"I thought I saw something," Mulder said absently, turning around to look at the back seat. He was beginning to get a very uncomfortable feeling about this case. With what Scully had seen in their townhouse, and what he had thought he had seen and felt from the crime scene photos, in the basement of Bridget Smith's house, and now in the car, he definitely wasn't enthusiastic about spending the next few hours without Scully.
"What did you see?" Scully demanded. "Are you in the car?"
"Yeah, just leaving the crime scene. It was in the rear view mirror, Scully. I don't know what it was..." But in truth, he did. It was the same orange-eyed figure he thought he had seen in the crime scene photos. Only this time, it had a body to go along with it.
"It might have been a trick of the light."
"Maybe," Mulder said, but they both knew he wasn't considering that possibility.
"I'll be there tonight. Then we can talk," Scully assured him.
"I could really use you on this one, Scully. It has to do with religion, I think."
"Specifically Catholicism, but I need your opinion on that."
"All right...well, I'll do my best. I still expect that bubble-bath."
"Oh yeah, definitely," Mulder promised her, trying to get back into the original light-hearted mood.
"Be careful, Mulder. I'll see you soon."
"See you soon."
Giles had gone over the crime scene photos from the other three cases, and come up with nothing that suggested any religious preference for the other two victims. So Mulder had ended up visiting the respective crime scenes and gathering himself that only two of them were the same religion.
One woman was Jewish. Another was Muslim. The third was Christian. And, of course, Bridge Smith was also Christian. However, Mulder had found one piece of information that he intended to pursue, as soon as Scully got there. Every single woman, with the exception of Bridget Smith, had recently changed religions. Their children had recently changed with them, and had been sent to classes in the new religion.
The other Christian woman's children had attended the Bible study with Greenwood, and Mulder wondered if the other teachers of religious classes had any connection to each other. He told Giles to figure that out.
Mulder had spent about an hour going over the case with Scully, who was finally finished with her meetings and had told him she would be packed and ready to get on the plane within an hour. She would definitely be in Wisconsin tonight.
He really wished Scully could be with him for this interview with Greenwood. He hated doing interviews by himself; he always felt as though he'd miss something, or not ask a crucial question that could lead to proof later. Scully was his other half—his better half, if his opinion counted for anything—and without her he didn't have nearly as much confidence in his own abilities.
As he turned the car into Kingsburry Academy, he stopped at the security gate settled next to the turn off of Woodward Avenue highway. He rolled down his window and flashed his badge, and the security guard smiled, and lifted the barrier remotely.
The drive into Kingsburry Academy was longer than he expected. The school grounds were huge, and it was almost a quarter mile of grass and trees before he got to the actual school. He saw signs for the South Campus parking lot, and recognized what had to be teacher's housing off of some side-streets. He passed by tennis courts, a football field, and more side-streets. He knew from the map he had looked at that the Kingsburry campus included two museums open to the public as well as several courtyards, lakes, sports fields, and playgrounds.
He found the Greenwood's side-street and turned into it, off the hill that would have taken him directly to the Observatory had he kept going. The small houses were situated in a row, overlooking one of Kingsburry's lakes. A man in rubber pants was down by the lake, putting some kind of water treatment solution into it. Mulder parked the car and walked up the stairs that took him to the Greenwood's front door.
He rang the bell, and looked around. A few middle-school-aged kids dressed in khaki pants and fairly nice shoes, carrying backpacks and holding gym bags, trudged through some mud, and then said goodbye to each other as they headed to their houses. In the distance, Mulder could see a soccer field near the boy's middle school filled with kids in uniform, practicing.
Finally, the door opened, and a middle-aged man with dark hair and a neatly trimmed beard looked quizzically at him. "Can I help you?"
"Mr. Greenwood, my name is Fox Mulder, I'm an agent with the FBI," Mulder said, pulling his ID just as a baby with curly red hair ran into his father's legs and demanded attention.
Skip bent down and picked up his son Cory, and then turned to Mulder again. "Do you want to come in?"
"If you don't mind, Sir."
Skip opened the screen door, and Mulder stepped in. The house was very small, but very cozy. It was immediately obvious that this was an active family with children. Small shoes lay at the foot of the stairs, and a child's laughter could be heard from the family room. In the kitchen, a woman sat at one of the two stools at the counter, talking on the phone.
Mulder also immediately noticed the music playing throughout the small house. He didn't know where it was coming from, but there were multiple sources and the nearest one was playing Christian music.
It was a contrast to the chilly, overcast Wisconsin weather outside to see a house so bright and full of life.
The baby didn't say anything but he did grasp at his father's chin, studying its features as if it were the most interesting thing in the world.
"Would you like to have a seat?" Skip asked.
"That'd be fine," Mulder answered.
He led Mulder around the corner, and straight into the family room. It had two couches, one smaller than the other, up against the wall to make a large space available in the middle of the room. Legos lay everywhere, clearly the efforts of a child to construct something massive.
A machine resembling one of Rube Goldberg's lay in the center of the carpet, constructed from a combination of Lego's, K'nex, string, duct tape, and the broken pieces from an old Mouse Trap game. Across the carpet, among more Legos, was a slingshot with a piece of paper. A closer look revealed to Mulder that the slingshot was adjustable, and the paper marked the angles not by numbers but by names. 'Wall', 'window', 'ceiling', and 'Lego Blaster' were scrawled in child's writing. Mulder realized that whoever had done this was quite the remarkable child-engineer. And that child sat before Mulder, immersed in a school book and smirking as if it was the funniest thing in the world.
"Arthur, would you please go to your room to do your homework?"
Arthur looked up, glanced at Mulder curiously, and then nodded. "Okay," he said, and gathered his school things in his arms as he left the room obediently.
"I'm sorry about the mess," Skip said.
"It's fine. I'm here to talk about an investigation that's currently going on."
"Would you like to speak to my wife too?" The man offered.
"If she's busy we could discuss this alone for a few minutes," Mulder said. "It's no problem."
Skip indicated with his hand that Mulder should sit, and sat down himself on the other couch. He put Cory in his lap and let the baby play with a Lego piece from the floor. It promptly went into his mouth—luckily, it was large enough that it didn't much matter.
"There have been four murders in the area in the past week," Mulder said. "The FBI is investigating the situation and my partner and I were called in because of some unusual circumstances surrounding this case. Today, while I was at one of the crime scenes, I found a flyer for a children's non-denominational Bible study with your name as the instructor. It ended two weeks ago. Three of the children of the murdered women attended the class."
Skip looked shocked. "Who?" He asked, his voice nearly a whisper.
"Margaret Denfield and Bridget Smith, the two most recent murders. Mr. Greenwood, are you all right?"
The man looked ready to pass out. But he managed to nod, and called in a frightened tone, "Melissa? Melissa, get off the phone, come in here..."
A moment later, the blonde woman, apparently Skip's wife, entered the room with a troubled expression.
"Bridget and Margaret are dead," he said to her, and she instantly cupped her hand over her mouth. "How?" she asked, approaching the two men.
"They were murdered, Mrs. Greenwood," Mulder said sympathetically, watching their reactions carefully. "I'm Agent Mulder with the FBI." He stood respectfully until she sat down next to her husband, a numb expression on her face. "I've been assigned to this case."
She nodded slowly, and then looked at Skip. Mulder could recognize near-telepathic communication when he saw it—he and Scully did it all the time. The fact that the two of them were doing it now told him that they knew more about this than was obvious. "Mr. Greenwood, Mrs. Greenwood, how well did you know these two women?"
"They were the mothers of some of the children in my Bible study class. We would occasionally talk," Skip said, sounding quite baffled.
"They were both new Christians," Melissa offered. "They wanted their children to understand Christianity, so they enrolled them in Skip's non-denominational class at our church."
"And that would be The Ascension of Christ Lutheran Church?" Mulder asked, already knowing the answer.
"What can you tell me about these women?"
"Bridget was raised Catholic," Melissa offered. "She had recently accepted Christ into her life when we met her, and she joined our church not far after that."
Mulder's expression betrayed his confusion. "I'm sorry...you said she had been raised Catholic."
Skip and Melissa both nodded.
"But...then you said she was a new Christian."
Skip took Melissa's hand, and seemed to debate how he should best answer that unasked question. In the end, he simply said, "We suspect she didn't truly believe in the Catholic faith she was raised in. She became a protestant Christian and for the first time, recognized herself as a true Christian, about a month before I met her."
"How did you meet her?"
"We were at the Science Museum with Arthur, at a science fair exhibit. It was a while ago, during the summer. Her twelve-year-old took first place, her ten-year-old took second, and Arthur took third."
Mulder nodded. "Bridget Smith was divorced, and so were the other four women. Do you know if they attended any kind of support group?"
Skip shook his head. "If they did, I wasn't aware of that. Margaret and Bridget were both very independent people. They didn't want to discuss the past."
"What's going to happen to their children?" Melissa asked.
Mulder tried to give her a gentle smile. "They're in Social Services custody right now. Family members are going to pick them up, and they'll end up with a good home," he assured. He felt guilty saying it, though. Too many times he had seen children taken from their homes after incidents like this and placed in a much worse situation. Foster care, or a family member not fit to raise a child, were often the only alternatives.
"Were there ever any other adults in the class, Mr. Greenwood?"
"For safety purposes, the church requires two adults in a Bible study with young children. This Bible study was geared towards kids 10 to 14, so our pastor, Pastor Steve Mitchell, was present."
Mulder took out his notebook. "Can I get a phone number for Pastor Mitchell?"
"He's not under any suspicion, is he?" Skip asked, concerned.
"We have no reason to suspect him but we should interview all people involved, Mr. Greenwood."
Skip conceded reluctantly, and gave Mulder his pastor's number. Then he seemed to summon up all his courage before he asked, "Agent Mulder, how did Bridget and Margaret die?"
Mulder glanced at him curiously. "As I said, Mr. Greenwood, they were murdered."
"Were the circumstances unusual?" Melissa asked.
"Unusual how?" Mulder inquired, his interest piqued.
Skip sighed, giving his wife a 'look' that she returned right back to him. He started to answer the question, when a chill identical to the one in Bridget's basement passed through the room. Mulder looked up, trying to find any open windows. All he found was a closed fireplace.
But this time, Mulder's company seemed to have noticed it, too. They shivered, and Melissa got up and turned the stereo up. The Christian music was now much louder.
"I'm sorry, Agent Mulder, we were just curious about the situation. It's very...unusual, to have two friends murdered," Skip said, and stood. "Is there anything else we can do for you?"
Mulder looked at them, clearly puzzled. "No, for now, I--" He stopped, as the orange eyes caught his peripheral vision again. He directed his line of sight toward the window where he saw them, and quickly walked over to it. He looked down, where the front yard remained clear, and then looked around to see where it could have fled. "Do you have a cat?" he asked, well aware that cats did not usually have bright orange eyes.
The Greenwoods glanced at each other, and then Melissa answered, "Yes, we do." It was clear she wasn't saying what she wanted to say, and Mulder didn't like it at all.
He had to find a way to get them to give up whatever it was they were hiding, but they seemed to have a routine down, and they were definitely treating him politely, but as an 'outsider' at this point.
"May I ask why you play Christian music all around the house?"
"It's good for inspiration," Skip said simply.
"Do you play it in every room?" Mulder asked.
"Yes," Melissa answered, but didn't look like she was about to offer any more information.
"Why play it when no one's in the room?" he asked, trying not to sound insistent, but interested.
"So it's on when we walk in. Agent Mulder, really, is there any purpose to these questions?" Skip asked.
Mulder tried his hardest to think of one, but honestly couldn't. Again, he wished Scully was here. "No, Mr. Greenwood. I'm sorry if I insulted you. I'll call you if I have any more questions."
"We're glad we could help, Agent Mulder," Melissa said.
Mulder handed a business card to Skip. "If you think of anything that might help this investigation, please let me know."
"We'll do that, thank you," Skip said. He handed a squirming Cory to Melissa, and walked Mulder to the door.
"I'm sorry about your friends. Thanks again for your help."
"It's no problem. Have a nice day." Mulder felt like he was being pushed out the door. He heard the lock engage behind him, and sighed. That would've gone better had Scully been there, he thought.
Meanwhile, inside the Greenwood's home, Skip called Arthur down from his studies. The 8-year-old stormed down the creaky stairs, making it sound like the house would collapse in on itself. But Skip didn't call him on it. Instead, he walked into the family room, and the little boy followed.
The four of them sat on the couches amongst the Legos, Christian music, and cuckoo clock that chimed 4 pm. Then Melissa bowed her head, and folded her hands.
Everyone but Cory followed. The baby sat on the couch, slobbering on a toy duck he had picked up off the floor.
Melissa began. "Dear Lord, protect our family from the demon that torments our friends. We don't know how it managed to get to two true Christians, but we pray for their souls..."
Melissa's voice caught, and so Skip continued. "We pray for their souls in heaven, Lord, and for future victims of whatever or whoever has been unleashed on the innocent. We know we're safe because we have no fear of what Satan unleashes on us. We have only respect for you, and belief that you will protect us."
"God, please continue to keep the demons out of our house," Arthur said. "I don't want them to come back, and now that what's his name from the FBI was here, they might follow him around, and hurt him."
"Yes, God, please bless Agent Mulder and his partner," Melissa said. "For they may not be true believers, but they're trying, however foolishly, to stop what Satan has unleashed. We sense they're good people, God. Please give them the chance to see your way."
"Amen," Skip said.
"Amen," Melissa and Arthur echoed.
"Agent Mulder did seem like a good person," Arthur commented. He headed for the stairs. "But not a Christian."
"Arthur, please don't listen in on conversations from the top of the stairs," Skip said, exasperated.
"I wasn't," Arthur stated simply. "I used my discernment."
Melissa gave him a gentle smile. "It's not yours, Arthur."
"Sorry," Arthur corrected as he mounted the stairs. "I used my gift of discernment."
"Much better," Melissa said, and gave him a small pat on the hand before heading into the kitchen, to see about dinner.
Mulder lay on his hotel bed with the TV playing the Red Wings game, but he paid it no mind. He was intently focused on the yellow pad of paper in front of him, where he was scribbling down notes viciously. Scully would arrive any moment, he knew in the back of his mind, but until there was a knock at the door to the adjoining room, he wasn't moving. He was on a roll.
He had consulted the Internet for a while, and then escaped to the recesses of his mind. Something about this case rang a bell, and he wasn't quite sure what. But he did know it was indeed a very disturbing bell.
He recognized that something was horribly wrong when he had left the Greenwood's house. They not only didn't act normal, but something about how this was fitting together—or not—made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
After he explored the grounds of Kingsburry a bit more, he badged his way into their North Campus's library archives, and did a bit of ghost research on a hunch. It seemed like the kind of place that would have a very strong affinity for ghost stories, being so old and harboring so many kids. Maybe some of them would be true, and maybe that was the connection he was looking for.
It turned out that there were over two hundred ghost stories surrounding the Kingsburry school. Lucky for him, the librarian, a very old woman who couldn't have reached five feet tall or weighed any more than a hundred pounds, guided him to the ones that were most likely true.
And that's when he found what he was looking for. Several of the dorms were reputed to be haunted. Some teachers had resided in the apartments built into the dorms, for supervision purposes. And some of those apartments had been haunted. In an article from just five years ago, an 'anonymous' family was apparently tormented by a ghost. The article came from the school paper, but with a little digging and a little badge waving, Mulder had been able to find real records of the family's testimony to whatever authorities were called in.
It was originally thought to be a prankster kid living in the dorms, breaking into the apartment to move objects around, open baby gates, and break toys. Then it escalated to a new level when the family was vacated from their home one night for an undocumented reason, and a priest was called in from out of town. The records seemed to smooth over the event, and only a few months later, the family moved out of the apartment and into one of the teachers' houses. With a little more digging and some sweet talk, Mulder had found out from one of the secretaries that the tormented family was the Greenwoods.
At that point, it began to make sense to Mulder. The Christian music wasn't inspiration, it was protection. And they knew everyone in this heavily Jewish and atheist community would think they were crazy for believing in one of Satan's demons. And so they elected not to discuss the matter with him.
The papers scattered around the bed profiled the 'suspect', whose picture was becoming clearer in Mulder's mind as he worked. All women were independent. All had started a new life, both after the divorce and in a new religion. All were devoted to their children, and wanted them to explore the same religious path they had themselves. And all had hobbies that led to alone time.
Two knew a very Christian family that had been tormented by a ghost on the grounds of a very rich and not-so-Christian school campus.
Powerful. The suspect was powerful, and wanted more power. It elicited fear in its victims. Forced them into further seclusion, behind locked doors. It attacked alone, in what some might call a cowardly manner, in places where the victim couldn't easily find a weapon to fight back.
Angry. The suspect was angry, as indicated by the post mortem stabbing.
Meticulous. It didn't waver from a formula, so it either only wanted single, independent, working mothers who had recently changed religions, or it only knew how to attack them. Or only was ordered to attack them?
A knock at the door interrupted Mulder's profile, and he got up and opened the door to the adjoining bedroom with a broad smile. Scully stood in front of him, grin on her face. "Bubble-bath?" she asked.
"Aww, shit," Mulder said, rolling his eyes. "I'm sorry. I got busy—"
"You what?!" She said with mock horror, and then pulled him close to her, and gave him a kiss. "Working on a profile?"
"Yeah, and I think I'm starting to pull a few things together. But I need your input."
"After dinner. I'm starving. Do you have pizza?"
Mulder looked back at the empty pizza box guiltily, and said, "We can order another one..."
"You ate the entire pizza? My God, Mulder, we're too old for that!"
"Speak for yourself, Scully. I'm still in the trim and burly shape of my youth."
Scully poked his belly, which was virtually non-existent, and he said, "If you want me to giggle like the Pillsbury Doughboy, it's not happening."
She laughed, and picked up the phone book from under the nightstand. Mulder glanced at his yellow tablet, and sighed. Back to profiling, at least until Scully's pizza arrived. He had to get this done soon, before his suspect picked another victim.
A few moments later, a veggie and sausage pizza was on its way, and Mulder watched as Scully sat down on the bed amongst the papers.
"Scully, I have a question for you."
"I mentioned to you that Bridget Smith was the only one who hadn't changed religions recently."
"Well, when I interviewed the Greenwoods, they made it sound like Catholicism wasn't really considered Christianity. That by joining a Lutheran church and becoming a Lutheran, she had changed religions. That's not true, is it? Or is there something I'm unaware of here?"
"Well, you understand the difference between Protestants and Catholics?" Scully asked, more of a statement than a question.
"Basically, it rests in that fundamental difference. Catholics believe that accepting Jesus as your Savior and leading a good life will earn your way to heaven. Protestants believe that all you need to do is to accept Jesus as your Savior, and then you automatically are in heaven regardless of what your life is like. But they do believe that doing good is seen as better than doing bad, so no one's running around with the notion that life is a free-for-all."
"So some Protestants still believe that the Catholics aren't getting in heaven, and some Catholics believe the Protestants aren't getting in, and hence we have Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland?" Mulder asked with a small smile.
Scully rolled her eyes. "Basically, yes, and don't make fun of that."
"There are some Protestants left that don't believe Catholics are Christians. That's what the Greenwoods are talking about—according to them, Bridget had just become a Christian."
"Maybe. But I wouldn't put the Greenwoods in a very exclusive religious group without having some proof."
"It doesn't matter—I'm not trying to prove they're one religion or another. It's just that, according to the Greenwoods, Bridget Smith, Margaret Denfield, and the other two women by definition have changed religions."
"Wait...you're considering the Greenwoods suspects?"
"They acted very oddly, Scully, and I know they're hiding something without a doubt. But they're not guilty of murder. They're involved in this somehow, but not as criminals."
"What's your profile say?"
"I think we're dealing with something or someone who either has a very specific grudge, obsessive compulsive tendencies, or instructions from someone higher up. And given the manner in which these women died, locked in their houses with the alarms on, I think we're dealing with something with a certain paranormal bouquet, if you get my drift."
"Are you thinking ghost, some kind of spirit, demon, or a mutant?" Scully asked. "Eugene Victor Tooms' Wisconsin-bred cousin?"
Mulder smirked. "You've got to stop with this role reversal, Scully, before I start painting my nails and wearing high heels."
"I think that could be sexy for one night..." Scully said thoughtfully.
"Keep dreamin' G-woman," Mulder said with a grin, and turned back to his tablet. He thought so much better when she was around. This thing was starting to fit together, and his research from the Internet was falling into place as well. "What do you know about the Christian idea of demons, Scully?"
Scully's grin dropped, as she recalled the manners in which they had encountered what one might call a 'Christian demon' before. A school in Milford Haven, New Hampshire, where a substitute teacher's status as human was still up in the air. A boy named Charlie, who hailed from Virginia and had his dead evil twin brother exorcised in Mulder's presence. A CEO of a major company hunting down a little boy in Ohio whose hands bled like Christ's. A pastor of a church able to control snakes—many of which ended up biting Mulder. And many encounters after that, not the least of which was a very recent one: a man going by the name Billy Ward, who tried to convince innocent townspeople in Nebraska and other states to accept his healing abilities, only to later enslave them to his will.
She nodded to Mulder's question, and asked slowly, "You think we're dealing with that again?"
Mulder sighed, and put his tablet down. "Scully, twice today I've felt something very cold brush up against me. I've seen a vision of orange eyes multiple times. And while those things could all be strange coincidences or ghosts trying to get my attention, I do have a feeling about this case. That we're both not going to enjoy it much."
"What about the Greenwoods? How did they strike you?"
"I feel like I would have gotten a better opinion of where they stand had you been there. But from what I can tell, they're very hard-core Christians. They play Christian music throughout their household, in what I'm guessing is an effort to keep out demons."
"Demons can only go where they're welcome," Scully said quietly. "That's according to Christian faith. Only where they can rule by fear or through the open arms of the naïve, can they go. Otherwise they're banished easily."
"Not so easily in four single mothers' cases," Mulder commented, and rose from the bed. He stretched, and then dropped his arms. "Scully, I think first thing in the morning, we need to go see the Greenwood's pastor. Steve Mitchell."
Scully nodded. "I would've thought you'd have already gone to see him."
"I tried, but he was busy. Some kind of retreat's going on for elementary school kids. He was unreachable all of today."
"A retreat on a school day? That's unusual."
"It's elementary school. They can learn to tie their shoes tomorrow."
Scully smiled for just a moment, before falling serious again. "Mulder, I want you to be careful. It wasn't too long ago that you were tied to a table while a building collapsed on top of you, courtesy of one of these...I guess demons, for lack of a better term."
"Don't worry, Scully. I won't do anything crazy."
She just gave him the 'look', and he couldn't help but laugh. "Really, I promise."
"Yeah, I haven't heard that before," she said, rolling her eyes. She walked toward the bathroom. "I'm gonna get a shower. If the pizza comes, don't eat it all, or I'll kick your ass."
"Yes, Ma'am. I'll leave you a slice."
"You better not eat any, Mulder. I'll have your ass in a sling," she called from the bathroom, and he chuckled.
"Wield that sling, Scully!" he called back, and elicited a small laugh.
He picked up his notes and organized them, or rather threw them into a pile. It was his version of organization. He placed them on the desk and sat in front of the computer again, where he began doing further research. Tomorrow, they would go visit the pastor and try to figure out where this thing had come from, and what it wanted.
KINGSBURRY LOWER SCHOOL
Arthur sat in his seat and tapped on the tablet PC screen, writing in his answer to the word the voice in his headphones had asked him to spell. He sighed. So boring. Who didn't know how to spell 'extremely' at this point? Really, where did Kingsburry find these rich kids who didn't know anything?
In math, Arthur reminded himself, he wasn't so fast either, so it was a trade-off. Spelling and science were his thing. Reading and math, not so much.
The teacher waved her hand in front of the classroom, and said with a smiling face, "Okay, spelling lesson's over. If you didn't finish, you're welcome to go online tonight and type in the answers instead of write them. If you don't own a Tablet, that is. Please log out of your programs and get ready for Social Studies."
Social Studies. It was more like current events turned on their heads, Arthur reflected. His parents had told him what was really going on in the nation. He didn't need these CNN-addict teachers to feed him lies he knew weren't true...
He wished it wasn't time for Social Studies. He wished it was time for science. In science, he learned about planets and things he liked. And when he went home, he discussed it with his parents and they would explain to him how cool God was, to make evolution happen, and make science happen, and make planets go around in orbits like they did. In Social Studies, he was just confused as to who was right and who was wrong...
Once everyone had put their Tablet PC's back in the rack in the corner of the classroom, and put their headphones back in their desks to ensure that they weren't listening to their iPods secretly, the teacher began the lesson. Today's lesson was going to be about the Iraq war. Oh, joy, Arthur thought. Here we go again.
He doodled on his notebook through most of it, half-listening to what the teacher said. But his ears perked up when one particularly annoying statement caught his attention. "And so we should take away from this that war is not a good thing, ever, and that non-engagement is always better than engagement. Who can explain why we should immediately leave the war in Iraq?"
Arthur couldn't stand it anymore. He had overheard his dad tell his mother than this teacher was on the 'edge of too liberal, even for Kingsburry', whatever that meant, and that 'people are asking her to tone it down, and let the kids decide for themselves.' That surprised Arthur. From what he could gather, if people were going to tell her to let his peers decide for themselves instead of shove things down their throats, he was completely justified in what he was about to do. He raised his hand.
"Yes, Arthur? I didn't expect to hear from you in this discussion."
The other kids snickered. She said things like that in Social Studies. She knew who his father was, and what he stood for. But Arthur had been told to stand tall in situations like this. So he did. He stood from his desk. "Ms. Allison, may I please make a statement?"
"Of course. We encourage open thought in this classroom."
"I think that war is never a good thing. I think we all know that, 'cause people get hurt in war. But sometimes we have to go to war. Like way back in World War Two, Hitler was gonna try to conquer the whole world, and he killed six million people just 'cause he didn't like their religion. Our country was real important in that war. So sometimes it's necessary."
"Thank you, Arthur, but we're not talking about that important conflict, we're talking about this current one."
"I know, Ms. Allison. May I please continue?" Manners were of the utmost importance at Kingsburry.
"Yes, of course."
"I think that once we make a choice, even if it's a bad one, we have to try to make a good one in the end. It makes more sense to not just pull out, Ms. Allison. It makes more sense to make sure everyone's safe. The people in Iraq and our soldiers." He had heard this, of course, from his parents. But it made sense to him. He thought it would make sense to other kids, too.
"Arthur, the purpose of this discussion is not to force our beliefs on our fellow students."
Now Arthur was confused. Had he done that?
"Please sit down, and let the other kids decide for themselves."
Arthur sat, but he didn't like it. He hated Social Studies. This was all they ever talked about. The current President and how many mistakes he had made. How a new candidate needed to be younger, more in tune with current generations, and more democratic to balance out the 'party imbalance'.
But his dad had told him that even though the current President had made lots of mistakes, he had also done lots of good things that didn't get on the news. He told Arthur that it was important for him and his classmates to decide what presidential candidate they supported in the school's Kids Pick The President Election by doing their own research. That the school should just tell them what sites to go to, to get kids' political information. And that they should be learning more history, and less opinion. Arthur wasn't sure what was opinion and what was fact, at this point.
As one of his classmates recited what they had heard their own parents say, and was applauded for their equally opinionated view, Arthur rolled his eyes and went back to doodling. He was smart enough to know when there was a bias in the classroom. He just hadn't quite figured out the entire 'party politics' thing yet. He wasn't sure whether it was a party split or it was another kind of split. But it was clear there was a split.
Suddenly, he saw on his notebook page a picture of himself drawn before his eyes. He removed his pencil from the page and stared, wide-eyed, as the drawing became clearer and clearer. Finally, it was finished with a rope tied around his neck, and he found himself looking very dead on the page. He jumped back, and pushed the notebook off his desk.
"Excuse me? Arthur? What's going on over there?" Ms. Allison demanded.
Arthur gaped at his notebook, and pointed at it. "It just...it just..."
The kids giggled. "What's wrong with him?" "Is he gonna explode?" "Why's he turning that color?" "Ewww, he's gonna barf!" "Cool, look at it!"
Ms. Allison picked up the notebook and glanced at it. "These don't look like notes, Arthur. These look like drawings of Star Wars."
Arthur would normally have corrected her. It wasn't Star Wars. It was Star Trek, and the two things were eternally different. But Arthur could barely breathe.
"You look sick, Arthur. Why don't you go to the Infirmary? Come back when you're feeling better, and we'll discuss your note-taking skills." She placed the notebook back on his desk, and Arthur saw that the drawing was gone. There was no picture of him, in excellent detail, dead before his eyes.
He rose slowly, and walked out of the classroom as if in a daze. But he didn't go to the Infirmary. He went to his locker instead, where he pulled out his cell phone and turned it on. It was only for emergency use, and the bill was very expensive, so he had been told to keep it off unless it was a very important matter. But he couldn't think of anything more important. He called his mom.
"What's wrong, Arthur?" Melissa answered immediately. He could hear her grabbing the car keys and going to the front hall for Cory's shoes.
"Mom...it's here. It drew on my notebook, it's in my school, it's here—you have to get here!"
"Calm down," Melissa said firmly. "If you show it you're scared, that's how it can get to you. Remember—it can't hurt you if you believe. Okay? I'll be right down to get you and take you home. If I take too long for some reason, you can go ahead and download a Christian song on your cell phone. You have permission. Okay?"
Arthur nodded, and then realized his mother couldn't see him. "Okay," he said, shaking slightly.
"Stay by your locker if you feel safe there. Otherwise go to the Infirmary and wait for me there."
"Talk to Nurse Thompson. She's a Christian—she can help you."
"Okay," Arthur said.
"It can't read your mind, Arthur. It can't know you're scared unless you show it you're scared. You have to act brave, even if you don't feel brave. And pray to Jesus. He'll protect you."
"Okay. I'm praying now."
"Good job. I'll see you in a few minutes."
Arthur hung up the phone and turned his back to his locker, looking up and down the hallway. Its 1900's English architecture accented some of its pointy features and the dim lighting in the ceiling created shadows that scared Arthur. He knew It could be hidden in any of them. It hated the light, according to his parents. It loved the dark. And since Christians were a source of light, he had been taught, it could find him in the dark in a couple of seconds. So he had to keep nightlights on at night, and carry a flashlight in his pocket, just in case.
Last night, Arthur had done an Internet search, and then deleted his history. He wanted to know more about Agent Mulder. He had gotten a reading on him from his Discernment, the ability to distinguish Christians from non-Christians and spot demons in a group of non-possessed people, according to his mother. The reading had said that Mulder was not a Christian. But he got the sense that he was a good man. So he searched the Internet before he went to bed last night and found that Mulder believed in all sorts of things that Arthur did too. Aliens, and mutants, and cool things Arthur saw on the Internet. The Greenwoods didn't have cable, but Arthur saw things at his friends' houses too. And on Star Trek.
The reason why this came to mind now was because Arthur realized that Agent Mulder might be able to help. Agent Mulder could definitely help out. If only he had the Agent's business card...his dad had put it in his wallet. His wallet was across campus, in his back pocket probably in one of the Upper School classrooms. He couldn't get that far in such a short amount of time. But maybe his dad would be nice enough to read off the number to him...
He called his dad, still scanning up and down the hallway nervously. He really hoped he'd answer.
BIRMINGHAM POLICE STATION
"So I'll go down to that church, talk to Mitchell, and then check out the crime scenes again," Mulder said.
Scully agreed with a nod. "If you find anything that looks like the harboring of a 130-or-so-year-old fugitive, call me."
Mulder smirked. "You're the first one I'll notify."
They had just discovered, courtesy of Giles and his team, that similar murders had occurred about a hundred years ago, with victims that practically matched the MO of the current victims, except they were widows. All had children, and hobbies. And one was a Kingsburry school teacher, in the days when the school was only one campus, and only for boys aged 14 through 18.
"I'll go over the autopsy results and let you know if I find anything the ME might have missed."
"Thanks," Mulder told her, as he headed toward the door. Just then, his phone rang. "Mulder," he answered.
"Agent Mulder, you met me yesterday, sorta, my name's Arthur Greenwood."
Mulder, surprised, turned to Scully as he answered, "Yes, what can I do for you, Arthur?"
"Agent Mulder, it's real important you get down to Kingsburry. I know you like ghosts and aliens and stuff, and well, I got proof for you. I read about you on Google, and..."
Arthur's voice cut off suddenly, and Mulder frowned. "Arthur?"
No one answered.
KINGSBURRY LOWER SCHOOL
"Arthur? You okay, buddy? Arthur, are you there?"
Arthur stared at the phone screen, which had got his attention by getting extremely hot. He had nearly dropped the phone, but that was all the demon wanted—it just wanted his attention. Now that it had it, it could show him what it wanted to. And on the screen, as if a music video were playing, was a video of Agent Mulder in his car. Suddenly, a black shape with red eyes moved in front of the car and Mulder swerved. He hit a car in the other lane...they were close to Kingsburry! Arthur saw the sign! Mulder's car tail-spun into the other lane and was smushed by a dozen other cars in the oncoming Woodward Avenue traffic. This was bad!
"Agent Mulder!" Arthur said, having seen enough. "Agent Mulder, please, don't come! Don't come, Agent Mulder, you can't come!"
"Arthur? You okay? What's going on?"
"You can't come. Don't get in your car, Agent Mulder, please."
"What's happening, Arthur? Calm down."
"It's gonna find you. It's gonna hurt you in your car. Just stay out of your car!"
Arthur hung up the phone, and put it in his pocket. What could he do? He had to save Agent Mulder from what was about to happen. What if he distracted the demon? But then the demon would come for him...but it couldn't come for him; he was a Christian, and he was protected. Agent Mulder wasn't protected.
He shut his locker and began to walk purposefully down the hallway, toward the Infirmary. If he was going to do this, he was going to need backup. And he had been taught that the only suitable backup for something like this was a fellow Christian.
"Arthur's a very intelligent boy, Mulder," Scully said, staring at her computer screen back at the station. "He's won multiple science fairs, and has been admitted to MENSA's junior division. His father and mother both said they were on their way down to the lower school, but they couldn't get a hold of him on his cell phone. Mulder, he's probably planning something, and that something is probably going to get him hurt."
"I understand," Mulder said into his phone, while speeding down Woodward Avenue towards Kingsburry Academy. "I also think his parents are at least partially reasonable people. We can probably convince them to calm him down before he starts a public panic."
Mulder's actions, going after Arthur, were not just out of concern for public relations. He was genuinely concerned about the child. This very intelligent and imaginative boy was convinced that it was his Christian duty to protect others from demons. That was what Scully had got from Mr. Greenwood after a few moments of conversation. The Greenwoods were both concerned that Arthur would do something unfortunate for both himself and for the other children in the school, but most of all, they were very worried about whatever Arthur had seen. If there was indeed a demon in the school, Mrs. Greenwood had said, it would take a Christian presence to get it out. And Arthur was just too young in his beliefs to remain unafraid.
Mulder knew where the kid got it from, now. He didn't buy into this crap about Christians being the only ones able to cast out demons, but after what he had seen, he couldn't discount a demon as the source of these murders. What chiefly concerned Mulder was that four civilians, a baby included, would get wrapped up in the demon's agenda because they were too naïve to see their own vulnerability.
Scully was spending a few moments compiling all the data she could on Arthur and his family, in case a hostage situation ensued and Mulder needed to negotiate. He didn't know what this brilliant boy would concoct.
"Mulder, please be careful in there. If we're dealing with what we've dealt with before, you know how it can rope you in. Just keep your head. I'll join you if you need me to, but I think you may need GPS directions to navigate this school, and you'll need the information I'm gathering now."
"Yeah, stay put, Scully. This doesn't have to get out of control. I'm just going to go in, calm the kid down, and get the family out of there before Kingsburry calls CNN."
Mulder was concentrated on changing lanes to the left, when suddenly a black shape swam before his vision. Orange eyes peered at him and a black arm went back as if to punch through the windshield. Mulder turned sharply, and was partially broadsided by the car behind him. The bump was enough to make the car fishtail over the grassy divider and into the oncoming traffic. Mulder tried to right the skid desperately, but the black shape clouded his vision. He had long since dropped the phone.
The oncoming traffic on the highway couldn't stop fast enough. Cars plowed into his, creating a partial pile-up, and propelling his car directly into a light post. Although Mulder lost track of what was happening back at the first impact, it was the light post that did it. As the airbag engaged, Mulder's world disappeared into a velvety black.
TO BE CONTINUED... in Exorcismus: Expedio
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