Title: Ghostly Reminders
Summary: A series of strange deaths bring Mulder face-to-face with some very painful memories, and forces him to lay some very personal ghosts to rest.
Dr. Ralph Cobb sighed and leaned back in his chair.
The old grandfather clock in the corner chimed once, twice, then fell silent. He knew he should try to sleep, but even the thought of another nightmare like the ones that had been plaguing him recently...he shivered despite the warmth of the fire burning brightly in the fireplace. He wondered why this was bothering him so much now, it had been nearly 18 years.
He stood up quickly, banishing those memories, fiercely. He hadn't known, it wasn't his fault, it was over.
Maybe he was just overworked, he mused, as he poured himself a gin and tonic. Maybe his wife was right. They should take a vacation. Their daughter could spend a week with her grandmother, while Sarah and he went somewhere warm and tropical. Maybe just escaping from the wintry cold of New England in January would clear his mind and ease his sleep.
Just as he determined to broach the subject with his wife in the morning, a window flew open with a bang, sending a gust of cold air into the room. Shocked he stared at it for a moment, he hadn't seen anyone at the window and it had been security locked. Backing away, he tried to place his glass onto a side table, but his hand was shaking. The glass came down at an angle, fell over, and crashed onto the rug, spilling clear fluid on the rich brown carpet. Ralph continued to edge backward towards the fireplace, reaching behind him for the iron poker.
He picked it up, then screamed, letting it fall from his hand. It was burning hot.
Sudden movement to his left, he spun around, nursing his hand. Nothing there. Again, shadows flitting off to his side, he spun again, but tripped on the edge of a small throw rug, and fell backwards. His head struck the edge of the small metal stand that held the fireplace instruments and everything went blank for a moment.
He came to with his head cradled in his right arm, pain shooting through his head. Then he jerked up, a movement that sent lances of fire racing behind his eyes, in response to the sound of laughter. He held his hands to his forehead and squinted his eyes. There were...figures, faint shadows, dancing around the room. Five, no six, racing in a circle. Mocking laughter echoing, they seemed to float up off the floor then settle down to it. He could see through them. "I must be hallucinating," he thought wildly, and shut his eyes.
"Look at us, Doctor, look at us Doctor," they started to chant. He closed his eyes tightly. "You're not real," he repeated over and over in his head, his mantra mixing with theirs. But it was no use. They surrounded him. Then they were poking, pinching at him. He pulled to his feet, crying, "stop it, don't touch me, leave me alone!"
"You never left us alone," they cried back at him, dancing in and out at him, "Here," "no here," , "no, here I am," they taunted as he tried to swipe out at them. But he never seemed to touch anything solid, although they felt solid when they struck at him. "Why!!!" he cried.
"You know why," they responded.
"No, I don't!" He tried to deny them, but he did know.
Those faces, those voices, had haunted his dreams for so many years. "This can't be," he yelled...yet his voice seemed to come out as a whisper, "you...you're dead!"
"Yes, we are," responded the chorus, "and so are you."
"No!" He tried to scream for help, but cold small hands reached inside of him, through him, to close upon his heart. He tried again to scream, but only a wimper escaped as he collapsed to the floor, his heart crushed to a pulp.
The fire burst, then extinguished like a bunsen burner robbed of gas. The window slammed shut. The room was silent, except for a slight echo, like bells chiming, of children laughing.
"Mulder...." Special Agent Dana Scully reached out to shake her slumbering partner's shoulder, "Wake up."
"Scully...?" he murmered, slowly looking up at her with drowzy eyes, "What?"
"You fell asleep," she told him, looking down at him with concern in her deep blue eyes. She resisted the temptation to brush the dark strands of hair of his brow, and leaned back against the cluttered desk. This was more than simply catching a nap to make up for his tendancy towards insomnia, there was something seriously bothering him. She could feel it, see it in the tension lines deepening on his brow, the darkness in his eyes, the strain in the normally rich velvet of his voice. She wished he would open up and talk to her. But he'd always kept his feelings bound deep inside. To some extent he'd begun to open up with her as their partnership deepened, and trust grew between them, but he still had a tendancy to keep a wall up between them.
He brushed the hair back out of his eyes, and stretched with cat-like grace, yawning.
"Sorry," he said ruefully. "Where were we?" he added reaching around her for the open file on his desk.
"Mulder..." she said, hesitating,then firming her resolve, "what is it?"
"The Burroughs case," he replied, reading off the top of the file in his hand, his eyes avoiding hers. He knew very well what was coming, but it so hard for him. God knows he'd wanted to confide in her, talk to her. It wasn't that he didn't trust her, he did. More than he'd thought it was possible for him to ever trust anyone. It was just that he'd learned the hard way not to let people see what he was feeling. And this was too painful.
"Mulder!" she chided softly, reaching over to lightly touch his arm. "Please talk to me."
He sighed and sat back down in his chair, leaving the file half-scattered on the desktop. He rested his chin in his hand briefly, then met her worried blue gaze with his tired hazel one.
"Do you remember reading about the death of Doctor Ralph Cobb?"
Relieved he was finally talking to her, she perched herself on the edge of the desk, crossing slim ankles, supporting herself with one hand behind her.
"Yes, the child-psychologist who was found dead in his living room a couple weeks ago. He was famous for his work with gifted children. I though he died of a heart attack."
That last statement brought a sudden, fleeting smile to Mulder's face.
"You could say that," he said leaping up from his chair to prowl the room. "I managed to get hold of the coroner's report. His heart was literally crushed inside him..."
He turned and gave her a look that was very familiar...the one that he always got when he was about to land something weird on her. Often it really irritated her, this time it was a relief.
"Go on," she waved at him.
He reached over beside her and handed her a manilla envelope. (How he always managed to know where everything was in this mess, never ceased to amaze her.) While she pulled out and examined the papers inside it, he continued. "his heart was crushed with no evidence of external injuries, only a small bruise of the back of his head. His body temperature remained high hours after his death."
She looked up at him, startled, "like the Istfahan case?"
She nodded, still perusing the file. It was definitely an X-File type case, and she could understand why he was interested, but this still didn't explain why she'd had to push him to even mention it.
"You don't think this is connected to Lauren Kite?"
Scully asked, refering to the young woman who had been at the center of extraordinary phenomona close to a year previously.
"No," Mulder replied, "no connection. This is different." The stress in his voice increased.
Scully looked up at him from her perch on the desk, her quizzical look suddenly resolving.
"You knew the victim?"
To her surprise, that got another laugh, but a very caustic one. "Yes," he said, "I knew the 'victim.'" His voice deepened in irony over that last word, and his face hardened into finely-etched stone.
Not knowing quite what to say to that, she just kept looking at him.
He shook his head briefly, then leaned back against a file cabinet and quipped, "Lets just say that the most extraordinary phenomena in this case is that Cobb had a heart to crush."
"I take it you didn't like the man very much," she said softly.
"You could say that," replied Mulder, rewarding her with a lightening-quick grin.
Then he added seriously, "The police are treating this as a "natural" death. There was no sign of any toxic compound in his body..."
"No evidence of break-in, the house alarms were never triggered, no sign of a struggle. Looks like he collapsed, hitting his head on the poker stand, and then suddenly died. Nothing unusual in his drink. No explanation for how his internal injuries were caused." Scully finished reading.
"I'm sure he was killed, and he's not the only one."
"There's been others?!" she asked.
"Two others," he replied," Jane Wilson in Knoxville, Tennessee and Evan Ames in Seattle, Washington. All the same: the 'victims' were found in closed secure rooms, no sign of forced entry, no signs of external injury, but with their hearts crushed."
"Any connection between the victims?" she asked, tipping her head back to look up at him, auburn curls slipping over her shoulder.
Mulder down at her anxious face, even at this moment aware of how lovely she was. but he shut that thought away fiercely.
"Yes, there is. But its one that the local police forces would never be aware of even if they were treating these cases as murders."
He hesitated again. Scully felt the tension building in her. It was scary to see her unflappable partner, her friend, so obviously upset and hurting. He was usually always so cool, so completely in control. Nothing seemed to get to him, except the loss of his sister, Samantha, but she couldn't see how this connected to that. She wanted to reach out to him; tell him that he could tell her anything, that she was here for him no matter what.
She didn't, but he still saw some of it in her face. And it warmed him, helped to make this easier.
"All three victims," he said quietly," had been on the staff of an institute called the Brandenville School."
Scully shook her head slightly, she'd never heard of it.
He inclined his head towards her at that, expecting it, and continued.
"It was advertised as a school for gifted children, expecially younger teens. It was supposed to provide them with an atmosphere that would enhance their talents, challange their abilities, and help them adjust better to society, by surrounding them with others of their own age with similar abilities."
"Sounds like a good idea." Scully prodded.
"It was a great idea. On the surface. For many of the children, living at home and going to regular schools was a nightmare. So getting the chance to go to Brandenville seemed a dream come true, and Cobb was very good at convincing the parents of how important the school's environment would be for their child. Most of the parents were relieved to have the burden lifted, of not having to deal with a child who was beyond their understanding, while still feeling that they'd done well by him....or her. Of course, the final bait was that it was free. The government paid the bills."
Typical Mulder sarcasm there, Scully thought. He had a deep mistrust of the government he worked for. Scully had always found it a little ironic, but she had come to share some of his feelings. Especially since she still had no memory of what had happened to her after Duane Barry...even the thought of it made her head hurt. While part of her furiously wanted the truth, another part just wanted to forget; to pretend it had never happened. She had a bad feeling that Mulder was somehow facing the same dilemna. She concentrated on what he was saying.
Mulder hadn't missed the gamut of emotions that ran swiftly across his partner's mobile features. He still worried about her. And he felt badly about dumping his own problems on her after all she'd suffered so recently. But she was a strong person, and wouldn't want him trying to protect her from the truth. Besides, she was too stubborn to give up on this now.
Then he mentally chided himself for that thought. She wouldn't let go because she cared about him.
Mulder took a couple deep beaths and continued. "The whole thing was paid for by the government because it was being used to conduct experiments into the biophysical properties of human intelligence. The children were being used as guinea pigs."
"Biophysical..." Scully repeated, horrified, with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. She had an idea of what was coming.
"Oh, the effect of various factors such as diet, amount of sleep, drugs, sensory stimulation and deprivation, electric shock..." his voice trailed off. He was staring at the wall over Scully's head, avoiding her eyes.
Scully shook her head, grimacing.
"But how did they get away with this. Surely the children told their parents?"
"Some tried, but Dr. Cobb was very good at convincing the parents that the horror stories they were hearing from their kids were make-believe. He told the parents it was the result of psychological disorders. That the children were rebelling against being truly challenged for the first time. Cobb could be VERY believable, and the parents wanted to believe him. Most of the Brandenville students had been in trouble before, ranging from suicide attempts, to fights in school, to running away from home."
"Cobb was in charge of the school?" Scully interupted.
""Yes," Mulder nodded. "But finally something happened that even Cobb couldn't explain away. Six of the 'students' committed mass suicide. They blew-up Cobb's office with themselves inside."
"Dear God," Scully exclaimed."And after that, the school was shut down."
"Yes, the deaths caused an investigation by local authorities, which broke the school wide open. But since Brandenville had been funded by government agencies, and supported by a powerful senator who had an election coming up, it was covered up pretty quickly. The surviving kids were hurried back to their parents with large scholarship funds. Good old fashioned bribes."
"Blood money," Scully said caustically. Mulder nodded agreement.
"What happened to Cobb and the rest of the staff?"
"Cobb insisted that he had not known what was happening, that if any of the staff had been conducting these experiments, it had been without his authorization or knowledge.
"And if you believe that, Scully, I've got a really nice bridge to sell you."
"No thanks," Scully flashed a smile at him. He matched it, then frowned.
"A couple of the worst offenders, including a woman psychologist who was exploring the effect of sexual stimulation on I.Q. scores, did get quietly imprisoned. A few lost their licenses, but most were just let go. Probably told to keep their mouths shut. Maybe even paid off. The school itself was razed to the ground. There's a shopping mall there now."
"How do you know about all this?" Scully asked. She didn't doubt the truth of what he'd said. Things like that had ceased to surprise her, even if they still shocked and angered her. Her stomach felt like it was tied up in knots. Dana was a trained forensic pathologist and had gotten as used to violent death as anyone can and still retain their humanity. It still bothered her, but she could cope professionally. But things like this, people who victimized children, made her want to scream.
Mulder turned away from her, ran a hand through his hair, then steeling his nerves, turned to look straight into her eyes. "I was one of the Brandenville children."
Fox Mulder skillfully guided the small blue car through the heavy early morning Washington traffic. He loved to drive. It gave a sense of being in control, as well as a sense of freedom. He liked feeling the car's engine roar under touch, watching the world rush by outside, and the sense of motion itself. It was the same as when he ran. Sometimes, when he couldn't sleep at night, he'd get in his car and drive for hours, circling the silent deserted Washington streets, watching the play of light and shadow across the road in front of him.
Sudden movement to his left caught his attention, and he hit the brake, allowing the car to pass, then, veering sharply into the lane it had abondoned, he accelerated the car smoothly.
Anticipation wound sharply through his mind. Now that the decision had been made to pursue this case, he was beginning to feel the welcome growth of excitement. There were few things he loved more than digging his teeth into a new puzzle. He was fascinated by the circumstances of these deaths, and the possibilities that they indicated. A poltergeist, perhaps, or a powerful telekinetic, or...something even more sinister. As long as he could make himself think of this as just another X-File, he could relax and enjoy the warm tingle of wonder in his heart, let his vivid imagination have full reign to explore. How he loved the intellectual challenge of each new case, pitting his mind against the great unknown. For a brief moment, he was unguardedly happy.
But this was not just another X-file, another set of weird occurances for him to explain, it cut too close to the bone. Combined with his sense of anticipation was a deep anxious tension. And he could feel long buried hatred and rage curling in the pit of his abdomen, burning in his veins. His knuckles whitened as he gripped the steering wheel tighter and tighter.
This was the same kind of rage he'd felt when confronting and so very nearly killing the mysterious "cancer man" while Scully had been in a coma. The intensity of it frightened him. It was part of himself that he did not want to acknowledge, did not want to release. He'd already come too close to getting lost in that darkness once before. Only Scully's sister, Melissa, and the depth of his own feelings for Dana had saved him. He clamped down on himself, mentally, trying to bury the fear and anger. He was NOT going to let it control him. He wanted to be better than that, better than THEM.
But it was so hard. When he'd first heard about Wilson's death, his first reaction had actually been joy. A kind of release. For years after Brandenville, he'd dreamed of exacting revenge, of turning the tables on the scientists who'd tortured him and his friends. But as the second murder had followed, then a third, the sense of relief had given way to intense worry. Only someone familiar with Brandenville would see the connection, and only someone hurt by Brandenville would have a reason to cause these strange deaths. And then there was the unusual nature of the deaths themselves. Yes, he'd seen very similar cases before in the X-Files. But it didn't quite make sense as to why this was happening now, to the people it was happening to. Why now, after so many years, and why like this?
He felt conflicted, uncertain. His deep desire to know the truth was at war with his growing dread that the responsible party had to be another victim of Brandenville, someone who'd finally decided to seek revenge. Mulder wasn't certain that he could hunt that person down, for he understood what was driving him..or her...all too well.
"Mulder!" Scully's voice broke into his reverie. He glanced over at her, then back quickly to the road.
"You're going to miss our exit!" she exclaimed.
'Oh no, they weren't,' he thought, hitting the accelerator and squeezing in between a semi-truck and a bus.
Scully gasped and turned white, "Mulder!!!!!"
But he guided them safely, albeit at reckless speed, onto the exit ramp.
Once he had slowed the car down, he turned and sheepishly said "Sorry, Scully."
She just looked at him, then sighed. "One of these days, Mulder, you're going to get us both killed."
"Sorry," he said again, but this time with a toothy grin.
"I don't suppose you want to let me drive," she asked, arching an eyebrow at him quizzically.
"No," he said, "Really I'm fine. I was just thinking."
"Want to talk about it?" she asked softly.
"Not really...but Scully..." he gave her another sidelong glance, noting the now seemingly permament look of concern in her eyes, and the shadows underlining her usually clear bright eyes. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," she replied. She opened her mouth to say more, but thought better of it. Instead she sat back and watched him negotiate the car through the twist and turns of the highway interchange.
He was dressed as usual in a dark conservative suit, enlivened by a brightly patterned tie. She'd teased him occassionally about that particular predilection of his, but it was so much a part of him, like the endearing grin, the wideeyed sense of wonder, the brilliant, intuitive mind, even the way his brow crinkled in concentration. She could still hear his words from the other day, when he'd finally confided in her about his experiences at Brandenville. The anguish of it still tore at her. She closed her eyes and again saw him sitting slowly down into his chair, leaning back and stretching out his long legs to rest his feet on the desk. He'd folded his hands under his chin, looking down, then looked up at her, straight into her eyes. His eyes could be so penetrating. There had been times when she felt that he could see right through her soul.
But this time, his gaze had been turned inwards, into the depths of his own soul.
"After my sister disappeared, things got worse and worse at home. No-one would believe me about what I'd seen, so after a while I began to doubt myself. My mother withdrew completely. Terrified to even step out of the house. My father was alternatively silent and furious. He drank a lot, and got violent sometimes. I learned very quickly when to hide. The worst was the knowledge that things had never been good between us, but the difficulties had been muted by Samantha's presence. She was so...sweet , so loving, so down-to-earth.
Even when very young, she held us together. She'd come to me sometimes after I'd gotten in trouble and..." His voice had broken here. Scully had reached and taken his hand. He'd grasped it hard, briefly, then let it go and continued.
"You see, Scully, my parents were really young when I was born, barely out of high school, and I guess they just weren't prepared to have a child, much less one like me. I'm afraid I had a tendency to be somewhat hyperactive. I've always wanted to know how things work, why things are the way they are...so instead of just going through a question phase, I was permanently in one as soon as I could speak." A hint of a smile crossed his face, so fleeting, Dana still wasn't sure if she hadn't imagined it. But she had smiled at him, and said "Now that surprises me!"
That had gotten a definite smile from him, albeit brief.
"I did tend to get into things, and I went through a phase of taking everything apart. But the thing that annoyed my parents the most was my memory. They hated it when I quoted them back to themselves, and when I figured out how much it irritated them, well...."
"I can imagine," Scully had said drily.
"Yes, well...things were ok when Samantha was
around, even though I was constantly in trouble for one thing or another."
"'Dennis the Menace' with a genius I.Q. Your poor parents." Scully had interrupted, hoping again to stimulate his latent, but ever-present sense of humor. This effort only earned her a quick, caustic laugh.
"Yeah, I guess so." He had then stood up swiftly, in one fluid motion. Sometimes, it amazed her just how graceful he could be.
He had continued to talk, while he circled the room like a caged panther.
"They were doing widespread I.Q. testing in the schools when I was fourteen, and I actually enjoyed the test. It was a new challenge. There's nothing like an photographic memory to make school dull. Well, a week or so after the test, Cobb showed up at my home to invite me to attend Brandenville. My mother wouldn't even come out of the kitchen to talk to him, and my father was more than a little drunk. But I was fascinated. It was a way out. I'd contemplated running away many times, but I hadn't because I really wanted to go to college, and needed to finish high school first.
"Cobb was very smooth. He made it sound like a dream come true. Private classes with tutors, who would allow me to learn at my own pace. Full access to a college-level library. I wanted to go so badly I could taste it."
"My father refused at first. My mother had
hysterics...but I insisted. God, if only I'd known."
"There was no way you could have, Mulder," Scully had responded.
"I know, but I should have realized this was far too good to be true. Anyway, I did get my way, and off I went.
Actually the first couple of weeks were great, everything Cobb had promised. But there were constant hints that things weren't quite right, and by my third week, I'd found out just how wrong things were."
He had stopped there, pausing in mid-stride by he door, then had leaned wearily against it.
"Mulder," she'd said. "I really do want to hear everything, but you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to..."
"No, no... its ok. You'd better know, and besides, it was 18 years ago. I can handle it. I have to.
"They were interested in my memory. They'd have me read or see something, then repeat it back later. Always under different conditions. Altered or starvation diet. Drugged to sleep, or sleep-deprived, drugs of all kinds...I tried sometimes to not drink or eat. But they'd tie me down and I.V. feed me.
So I gave up on the hunger strikes. Electric shock was bad, but the sensory deprivation tank was the worst. I hated it. A couple of times they had to drag me into it kicking and screaming, then use shackles on me to keep me there." His eyes had closed in pain, his hands balled up into fists, his jaw clenched tight. He sank against the wall to the floor.
Scully hadn't known what to say or do. She'd wanted to cry herself. She had settled for walking over to him, sitting down beside him, placing an arm around his stiff, unyielding shoulders and resting her head against his upper arm. They'd remained in that position for what seemed like an eternity.
Then he'd moved to wrap his arms around her and rested his cheek against her hair. She'd hugged him back, let him hold her. The physical contact seemed to communicate better than any words she could have said.
After a while he'd stirred, lifted her head up to look into her eyes. She'd looked up at him, then cupped his cheek in her hand, much as he had done after her father had died, and whispered, "I'm sorry, Mulder."
"Me, too," he 'd replied. And for one moment she'd felt in total communion with this man who'd come to mean so much to her. But it was brief, and he pulled away all too soon.
She could have almost visualized the shutters coming down around him as he stood up and moved away from her.
"I did try to contact my parents, to tell them I wanted to come home. I don't think my letters made it out. And the couple of times I got to a telephone, my father was drunk when he answered the phone. Once he threatened me with a beating if I didn't stop embarrassing them and behave in school. I did try running away, and almost succeeded. I got as far as New York City before I was caught and brought back. But things ended pretty soon after that. Lynn and her group's suicide pact brought the walls crashing down."
Mulder had stretched his head back and smiled, then frowned, "a friend. She was was twelve, and one of the brightest people I'd ever met. Beat me handily at almost every game we played. I really liked her. However, once they started on her...she never did tell me what they were doing, but she faded. Grew thin and weak, shadows under her eyes. It was like seeing a rose wilt. And then she died. I can still see that building exploding with her standing at Cobb's window, engulfed in flames...laughing..."
"Dear God..."Scully had half-prayed. Though she hadn't really seen it, the image was branded into her mind.
Mulder had simply nodded at her, in his quiet way appreciating her understanding.
"After that, it was first the police, then social services, then a battery of child psychologists. I just wanted to get away, as far and as fast as I could. I pushed hard to get them to give me the equivalent of a high school degree. I just couldn't face going back to Chilmark High. Actually, they seemed relieved to hand it to me, along with the promise of a college scholarship. So I took what I could get and off to Oxford I went."
"You were fourteen? Fifteen?"
"Fifteen by then, and as much a misfit as ever. But it actually worked out. God, I loved Oxford. Those ten years were among the happiest of my life...I guess that's another story." He had paused. "I don't know about you Scully, but I desperately need a drink."
"Me too," she'd replied.
They'd headed off for his favorite neighborhood bar, and gotten quite drunk. They'd avoided the subject still on both their minds by unspoken agreement, and while the small-talk and laughter had been brittle and forced at times, at least they'd been together.
Of course, there had still been the problem of the three deaths waiting for them the next morning. Mulder had balked at investigating it. His desire to know, to find the truth, was at odds with the pain of his memories and his hatred for the so-called victims. And Scully understood. It would be hard for him to arrest another victim of Brandenville for doing something he had often thought of doing, thought of...but had never done, and never would. He wasn't capable of premeditated murder, and the fact that the perpetrator in these cases (if there really was one, and Scully's skeptism reared its head here) was capable of it had settled the matter, along with the worry about what would happen if an innocent person got in the way.
Scully's reverie broke as Mulder pulled the car into a parking spot.
She stretched, and yawned, then got out of the car.
Silently, together, they took their bags from the trunk and entered the teeming airport.
Part Three of "Ghostly Reminders" by Jennifer Lyon (Chapters 3 and 4)
Amy Cobb felt a shiver race up her spine as she passed the door to the living room. Once it had been the heart of this house, a place where she and her parents had spent many happy hours together. Now she was afraid to even enter the room. She kept seeing her father's prone body lying there in the middle of the room, hands clenched against his chest, his blue eyes staring, open, stamped with look of pure terror. She stumbled and leaned against the wall, catching her breath, blinking away tears. She couldn't, wouldn't, let her mother see her this way.
Sarah Cobb was in the kitchen, cooking again. After the first storm of grief, she'd closed up. Went on with the tasks of living like a robot. Amy was really worried about her, but every attempt made to reach her failed. The worst of it all was not being able to understand how or why this could have happened. Even a normal heart attack or car accident, even an ordinary robbery/murder would have been better than. What had happened to her father was so inexplicable--impossible to understand. The look on the doctor's face when he'd tried to explain was bad enough, but the police had been even worse.
They'd kept asking questions, poking around the house, going in circles, but ending up nowhere. How could someone's heart could be destroyed inside them without warning or other injury. It had been difficult to drag the exact cause of death out of the doctor, and now that she had, she wished she hadn't.
Her reverie was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell. "Oh God," she thought. Please, no more. If it was another reporter, she was going to scream. It rang again, insistently. So she brushed the long strands of yellow hair out of her eyes, and moved reluctantly to the door.
Opening the front door and peering into the out into the cold, she found herself face-to face with a strikingly lovely woman. She was not much taller than Amy, with bright auburn hair, cool blue eyes, a perfect peaches and cream complexion, and an air of complete self-confidence. Behind the red-haired woman, Amy noticed belatedly, stood a tall, lean man who was impeccably, professionally dressed., He had straight black hair that swept back off his forehead, except for a few stray bangs that stubbornly fell across his temples. His face was stong, with a firm jaw and high, sculptured cheekbones, his eyes alert and penetrating. Too penetrating. The intensity of his gaze made her nervous. She glanced away quickly.
"Yes?" Amy asked, only slightly aware of how
grudging and unwelcoming she made it sound.
The woman held up an identification folder, exposing a bright gold badge, "Miss Cobb? I'm Special Agent Dana Scully, Federal Bureau of Investigation. This is my partner, Special Agent Fox Mulder," she said, glancing briefly up at the man by her side. He simply nodded.
"We're investigating your father's death. If you don't mind, we'd like to talk to your mother. Is she in?"
"Yes, she's in the kitchen, but, FBI?" Amy said, confused. "I don't understand."
"May we come in," Agent Mulder spoke for the first time, moving forward, crowding Scully closer into the doorway. Amy didn't want to let them in, didn't want to go over the pain of her father's death yet again, but she also couldn't help some curiosity. Why on earth had the FBI gotten involved? So she nodded in acquiescence, and backed up, letting them squeeze by her into the hallway.
The two agents followed Amy down the hall until she paused, hesitating, in front of the living room doorway. They stood behind her, quietly expectant. So she silently braced herself and led them into the room.
It was a large square room with an old brick fireplace against the far wall. One wall held several large bookcases and a cluttered desk filled one corner. The center of the room was dominated by a large sofa and loveseat, decorated in a bright blue/green pattern. The entire room was done in similar earth tones, mostly shades of brown, blue and green.. The over-all effect was one of warmth and comfort yet Scully shivered slightly as she walked through the doorway. It felt as though there was a gust of wind from an open window, but the room's two windows were closed and locked, and embers glowed brightly in the fireplace.
Amy perched on the edge of the love seat and
wrapped her arms around herself, squeezing tight. Scully seated herself on the sofa, then realized that Mulder was not beside her. She looked back over her shoulder to find him still standing in the doorway, paused in mid-stride, chin angled up, eyes darting around the room. He met her eyes, her blue gaze mingling with the penetrating green-brown of his. He gave her a barely perceptible nod, then moved swiftly to join her on the couch. She angled her head up at him (even sitting he was significantly taller than she), but he shook his head ever so slightly at her, indicating that they should talk about it later.
Scully accepted this and looked over at Amy who was still sitting on the edge of the love seat, hugging herself, anxiously.
"Shouldn't you let your mother know we're here," Scully prodded gently, as she drew a pen and notepad from her pocket.
"Couldn't you just talk to me," Amy pleaded. "She hasn't really recovered from losing Dad. I'm really worried about her."
"I'm sorry, Amy," Scully said gently, "But I'm afraid we can't legally interview you without your mother present.
You are, what...sixteen?"
Amy noddded, then reluctantly accepted the
inevitable, "Guess I 'd better go get Mom." She stood up, walked by Scully and Mulder, avoiding his eyes as she excited the room.
"Did you feel that Scully," Mulder asked in a tense almost whisper.
"Feel what?" Scully responded.
"When we entered the room. It was like an electric shock. You know, the way the air feels during a lightning storm--all tingly."
"Sorry, Mulder, nothing, except a cold draft. It is chilly in here."
"Yes, yes..." he responded to that with some
excitement. "Both sensations are often experienced in places subject to poltergeist manifestations. Witnesses have often reported similar feelings."
"Mulder, poltergeists?!" she chided lightly.
Scully couldn't help sparring with him a little, it had become something of a habit with them. A routine that they both enjoyed, even if they never came out and admitted it.
Besides, Mulder's ability to speak of the weird and extraordinary the same way other people might talk of football scores was too much of a temptation for the pragmatic Scully.
She just couldn't help wanting wanting to poke holes in his wild theories. He grinned at her, then leapt up from the couch to pace the room, looking avidly around him. She could see the excitement in him. For the moment he was caught up in the puzzle of the case itself, his anguish over the old painful memeories it had stirred up falling second to his delight in his work. To see him like this warmed her heart.
Mulder wandered over to the window, and crouched down to trace his finger along the sill, peering intently out into the early evening shadows.
"What is it Mulder?" Scully asked, but his reply was was interrupted by Amy and Sarah Cobb as they entered the room. The resemblance between them was striking. Both were fair, blond-haired, blue eyed, short and just slightly plump, with the same delicate features. They looked like a pair of porcelain dolls.
Both agent stood up quickly. Scully stepping forward to greet Mrs. Cobb while Mulder faded back towards the fireplace, allowing his partner to take the lead. He was content to watch and listen, absorbing every nuance of the conversation into his computer-like memory.
Mulder was also relieved to leave Scully with the job of offering words of condolance. He couldn't bring himself to pretend sorrow over the death of a man he still hated and feared, even when dead. It was ironic, he thought to himself as Scully eased Mrs. Cobb into conversation, that the very same ability that had brought him to Brandenville's attention was the same one that would never allow him to forget: his eidetic memory. Everything that had happened 18 years ago was just as clear in his mind as the three women sitting in front of him.
It was like turning on a VCR and hitting the "PLAY" button.
The tall agent rested back against the edge of the fireplace, and stilled his features into an expressionless calm.
He knew Scully was deeply concerned for him, not surprisingly, and he had been waiting for the "you're too close to this" lecture during the entire trip from Washington. It hadn't come yet, a fact he greatly appreciated, but he was afraid it was coming soon, given the expression in Scully's eyes when she glanced in his direction. He wondered how he was going to make her understand that he HAD to work on this case. Hesitant as he'd been originally, he needed desperately to know what happening, simply because it WAS too close. It grazed raw wounds in his soul, and he couldn't walk away from it, anymore than he could ever stop searching for his sister.
Giving up just wasn't in his nature. He'd prefer to go around obstacles, but he'd go straight through them if he had to. He didn't want Scully to become an obstacle. She meant too much to him.
Even while he was mulling all of this over in one part of his mind, another part was alert to the interview. Scully was trying hard to encourage Mrs. Cobb, with little success. The widow tended to give one word answers, and had a slightly glassy stare that Mulder recognized as shock. Bottom line, he thought, she's an innocent in all this. He knew Cobb had not been married at Brandenville, and Mulder doubted that her husband had ever confided in her about it. But a small angry part of him couldn't help wanting to strike out, to make someone suffer for his pain.
Scully had brought Amy and her mother through the days prior to Cobb's death. Except for a slight bout of insomnia, he was fine. "Working too hard," was how Sarah put it. There had been the recent audit by the IRS, but that had been cleared weeks ago.
"They actually ended up owing us a few dollars," Sarah added.
"That must have been a relief," Scully replied with a smile.
"Yes, it was," Sarah said, smiling softly in return. The smile made her glow, giving a glimpse of beauty which was quickly masked again by the shadow of grief.
But she could report no other sources of distress, no arguments with anyone, nothing suspicious seen or heard. No strange phone calls or odd behavior. No disturbances in the house. Everything had apparently been quiet that night, for neither Amy or Sarah had heard a thing. Finding his body in the morning had been a complete shock. They'd called for an ambulance, then for the police. But, as the police report had indicated, there were no signs of anything out of the ordinary.
No break-in--nothing--except that Ralph Cobb was suddenly dead.
At this point, Mulder broke him, with deadpan
composure, "Mrs. Cobb, did your husband ever mention the Brandenville School?"
All three women started slightly, at the sudden sound of his voice. Both Sarah and Amy had almost forgotten he was there. Scully was more prepared. Though he'd startled her a little, this was not unusual for him. It was the knife-edged calm in his voice that disturbed her; while he was usually extremely cool, this was a tone she'd only heard once or twice before, and it scared her as much now as it had then.
"Brandenville?" responded Mrs. Cobb, "I...I don't think I've heard of it," she shook her pretty head, blond whisps swirling around her neck and shoulders. "'Why, what has it got to do with..."she swallowed, "with what happened to Ralph.?"
"He never mentioned it once? Even when you first met him?" Mulder pressed insistantly, coldly, but quietly.
"No!" Sarah said again, shaking her head slightly..
"What is this about?" Amy finally asked. "Why is the FBI interested in my father's death? Why should we have heard of this place? I think we have a right to know what's going on," she continued defiantly.
"Amy..." her mother chided timidly, but her voice trailed off. Scully was getting concerned. She could see the signs of shock and grief in Sarah and was beginning to feel that continuing with this was not a good idea. But Mulder was determined.
"That's what we're trying to find out," he said to Amy, and then turned back to Sarah, "Brandenville was a 'school'
that your husband was in charge of about 18-20 years ago. It was shut down after six of the students committed suicide.
Several of the staff were imprisoned for child abuse.
"Your husband would have lost his license to practice, if he hadn't had certain highly-placed friends," he added, voice dripping with sarcasm.
"What...how dare you say that about my father," Amy yelled, "Its just not true!" She jumped to her feet.
"He'd never..." she stopped when she took in the looks on both Scully and Mulder's faces, hers sorrowed, saddened, but honest, his cold and certain. "No, it's not true," she repeated more quietly, but with slightly shaken hope.
"I"m sorry," Scully said softly, regretfully, giving Mulder an unhappy look, this really had not been necessary.
She knew these women were innocent, and she also knew that Mulder knew that too. Scully sighed and tried to explain.
"He was in charge of the Brandenville school for the two years it was in operation, and it was shut down amid allegations of serious child abuse. Four staff members were jailed, three others lost their licenses to teach. The investigations began following the mass suicide of six students.
Dr. Cobb did swear at the time that he had no knowledge of what was happening. He swore that he'd been too busy with fundraising activities and interviewing prospective students to watchdog daily activities within the school." She shot a warning look at Mulder as she felt him stir at her words, a caustic comment from him would not be good right now. Sarah Cobb was turning deathly pale. "I'm sure your husband never would have deliberately hurt anyone," she soothed, looking to Amy for help.
Amy quickly responded, "She's right Mom, Dad never would have been willingly involved. He must have been terribly shocked and upset to find out what was going on under his nose. And you know how responsible he always feels. He probably took the blame, even though it really wasn't his fault."
"Yes," her mother managed a wan smile at this, "that would be just like my Ralph. He was a very good man," she said, at this point rousing herself to shoot a daggered look at Mulder. He started to speak, but subsided after another fierce look from Scully. He closed up, his mouth grim and tight, his jaw jutted slightly forward, his eyes glittering like diamonds.
He wanted to scream, but he was damned if he was going to give anyone the satisfaction. A small part of him chided, 'its not their fault, you shouldn't be taking this out on these poor women,' but he fiercely ignored it. He was NOT going to whitewash Cobb for anyone or any reason.
Scully knew him well enough to know some of what was going on his head. And she knew just how dangerous he could be in this kind of mood. She did not look forward to the conversation facing her after they left. But it couldn't be helped. The important thing now was to leave Sarah Cobb in one piece.
"Even if all you say is true," Amy looked over at Scully, trying desparately to ignore the intense, silent man to her left. "What on earth does it have to do with my father's death? That was a long time ago."
"I know," Scully responded, "But your father is not the only one of the Brandenville staff who has died recently.
Two other staff members have died, in exactly the same way as you father, within the last couple of weeks." This caused both Amy and Sarah to gasp simultaneously, their mirror-image faces supporting the same shocked look.
"Two others? Who were they?" This was from Sarah.
"A man named Evan Ames and a woman named Jane
Wilson," answered Scully. "Do you know either of them?"
"No...no" both Sarah and Amy replied.
"Dr. Cobb never mentioned their names, even in passing?
There was silence for a moment, Sarah and Amy still trying to find a foothold, Scully thinking furiously, Mulder still grimly silent.
"You think that someone is trying to get revenge for something that happened at this school?" Amy finally asked.
"Its certainly a possibility, although how or exactly why," we still don't know.
"After all these years...?" Sarah said disjointedly.
"I know, but sometimes these things fester, especially child abuse. And who knows, maybe something happened to trigger the memories," Scully couldn't help looking up at Mulder on that. He met her concern with fire in his eyes, but he still remained quiet. Scully looked back at Sarah, "There's also the possibilty that it is someone just released from an institution, or perhaps a surviving family member of one of the kids who died." Scully shook her head sadly, "right now we just have lots of questions and very few answers. That's why we had hoped you could help."
Amy looked from Scully to the grim Mulder, realizing that there was something this warm, intelligent woman and her hard, determined partner were leaving out. Then sudddenly she just knew, "Its not one of the surviving students or a family member, its the six who died, isn't it. That's what you're not telling us, that they've come back to get revenge because they blamed my Dad and the other people for what happened to them."
"Amy, don't be ridiculous," Sarah protested.
But this had gotten a reaction from Mulder. He leant forward, exchanging the intense cold look for an intent, interested one. "Why do you think that, Amy," he said, again surprising her, this time with what almost felt like a tinge of warmth. She suddenly found herself wondering what this man would be like with someone he cared about, what his laughter would sound like--his smile look like. He frightened her and attracted her at once. Her boyfriend was a big high-school football player, built like a rock, but somehow, even though he looked much less strong, she felt Mulder could probably knock Brian sideways, without ruffling a feather.
"I...how else could he have died the way he did. The doctor told me what killed him, how is heart was crushed inside of him, without anything else. Not a broken rib, not even a bruise on the outside. No human could do that, it must be a ghost. I've read about such things," Amy stammered to a halt, looking both scared and determined.
"Amy, please," said Sarah Cobb. "I'm sorry," she turned towards Scully (still ignoring Mulder, despite the slight softening of his demeanor), "she reads too much Stephen King." She laughed nervously, "Nothing like that is possible.
I'm sure its just all a big mistake. Ralph just had a heart attack."
Amy was about to protest, but she caught Scully's eyes and read the signal there. "Mom... Well, maybe you're right." Scully nodded slightly to the teenager. Better not to push Sarah at this point. She had enough pain to deal with at this point.
Mulder caught the exchange, and again felt a fierce urge to push it further, especially regarding this subject. He did enjoy pressing people's bottons regarding extraordinay phenomena, and a part of him still wanted to strike out at Mrs.
Scully thanked them for their time, and again
expressed sorrow over Cobb's death. "We appreciate your willingness to talk to us at such a difficult time."
She offered her hand to both Sarah and Amy, who both shook her hand with some bewilderment. This had been just too much to absorb. Scully took advantage of their response and moved quickly out of the room. Mulder was immediately behind her, though he did pause in the doorway to the hall to take one final scan of the room. Amy's eyes intercepted his, and he stared fiercely into them for a moment, then nodded just perceptibly and then followed Scully out of the house. The dusk threw streams of light and shadow across the room. And as the shadows slowly lengthened, the two fair women remained seated there together, in silence.
Emily Woods punched the <return> key with pure satisfaction. Numbers were wonderful, they always came out right in the end. They were her best friends. While she worked with them, she could put...everything...out of her mind. At least for a while. She pulled her long, brown braid back over her shoulder, and stretched in her chair. Through the glass pane of her office wall she watched the busy activity of the IRS work room. People were milling around, some hunched over computers or the endless paperwork, others chatting or drinking soda or coffee. She used to enjoy being out on the floor, but now the privacy of her office had become more and more necessary. Especially since she could still sense them, hovering just outside the reaches of her senses, waiting and watching, for her to acknowledge them.
She wasn't sure if they'd only started to come to her after her child's death, or if they'd always been there, and she had just become more aware of them. A tear found its way down her cheek, and she swiped at it absentmindedly. She cried so much now that she'd almost stopped noticing it. Just a fact of life like breathing and eating.
She'd finally thought that she could be happy. That the horrible things that had happened to her as a child were gone.
She had good job working with the mathematics she loved, a wonderful loving husband, and a child on the way. A child. Just the thought her so dearly-desired child, lying there deformed and breathless on the hospital tray, made her want to start screaming again. Just as she had that day in the hospital, a day that had been supposed to be one of the happiest of her life.
Her husband had been upset too, but he had soon talked about having another child. 'There were doctors who might be able to help,' he'd urged, 'lets get a second opinion.' But she had already accepted that it would be a waste of time. Her doctor had only confirmed what she already knew. She'd never carry a normal child to term, thanks to those monsters at Brandenville.
The internal scarring due to multiple rapes at the age of 13, combined with the experimental drugs they'd loaded into her system, had terminated that possibility. She'd had to admit it all to her doctor, and he still pushed her to tell her husband and to seek counseling every time she saw him. So, of course, she'd just stopped going to him. She just coudn't bring herself to tell her husband, just the thought of the way he'd look at her, horrified...it was too much to bear.
So she had gone on, crunching the numbers, and growing more and more alone. Her husband was slipping away from her day-by-day. She almost couldn't bear the sad, confused way he looked at her. But just as she'd begun to become totally numb, they had appeared. First shapes and shadows spinning just at the edge of her vision. Tauntalizing glimpes of faces and the faint echo of familiar voices and then the dreams had started. Dreams of Brandenville, especially of that horrible day when the admininstration building had gone up in a raging inferno. Fire blazing into the sunrise with Lyn and Petey and Jamie and Katrina and Sarah and Oliver all trapped inside of it. She remembered seeing Lynn standing like an human torch at the window. She could again hear her own voice screaming, and the thin, but strong arms that had held her up, cradling her, just off the ground as she collapsed, and the pair of piercing hazel eyes whose tears had mingled with her own. For a brief moment, she wondered what had happened to the gangly dark-haired boy who had supported her so briefly, so firmly, that terrible morning. She didn't even remember his name, if she'd ever known it. But his eyes, she'd never forget, with their mix of horror and pain. An echo of her own.
She'd always wake up at that point, shivering and sweating. The dreams continued night after night, until she couldn't sleep anymore. And her visitors became clearer and clearer. Lynn she recognized first, then the others one by one.
And they became her constant companions, sharing her grief, warming her soul with their understanding. She'd been so grateful. And they'd showed her the way to make those responsible for all of their suffering suffer in return. Emily wasn't completely certain how they did it, but all she had to do was find the monsters. Lynn and the others took care of the rest.
Emily clicked on the mouse and smiled grimly at the computer screen. This one was for her, for her stillborn child.
She would never forget a second of the pain Cal Watkins had inflicted on her. She'd screamed and screamed as he pushed her down on the cot, with the 'instructor' watching. He was going to be the one screaming this time. She instructed the computer to print, then picked up the telephone. One ticket to San Francisco was all that was needed.
Part Four of "Ghostly Reminders"
(Chapter 5) by Jennifer Lyon
The long dark hallway was silent and and musty. Dana Scully brushed loose strands of hair out of her eyes and sighed.
Squinting at her watch in the gloom she sighed again, 3 am. As she expected, there were the tendrils of light streaming out from under their office door. She paused, hesitating. The last ten hours had been one frustration after another. Mulder had talked incessantly the entire drive from the Cobb residence to the Boston airport, but about nothing of any importance. She thought with exasperation that he must have read all that had been written on the subject of poltergeists. And of course, he could recite every word, of every paragraph, of every page, of every chapter, of every book... from memory. And he had proceeded to do so during that long drive. Every attempt she'd made to change the subject had been completely ignored. And to make matters worse, when they got the airport he completely clammed-up. Grim silence in the terminal and then he'd slept the entire flight.
Honestly, she hadn't begrudged that sleep. Goodness knows he needed it desperately. It was funny, the one place he could sleep easily and instantly was on airplanes. They were like a sleeping pill to him. Maybe she ought to get him a tape of airplane sounds to help with his insomnia.
Shaking her head slightly, she moved closer to the door. Reaching for the doorknob she hesitated again. This was not going to be easy. He had continued the uncomfortable silence all the way home. The way he'd looked at her each time she'd tried to get him to open up still wounded her. It was such a combination of steely resistance and frightened vulnerability, that she hadn't found the courage to push him. So she'd promised herself firmly that they would talk in the morning-no matter what, and had tried to get some sleep herself. Wishful thinking.
So here she was, back at the office at 3 am. She'd just known instinctively that this would be where Mulder was. She hadn't even bothered to try his apartment. Well, better get this over with, she thought and opened the door.
Fox Mulder didn't bother looking up as the office door swung open.
There was only one person it could be. "Mornin' Scully," he said softly. He was actually relieved to see her. He'd felt the strain of the trip back from Boston just as acutely as she had. It was probably the first time in his life he hadn't slept at all on a plane trip: he'd pretended well, but his mind had been in such a turmoil. And the way she'd looked at him the entire time had cut deeply into him. He wanted to run to her, to bury his head against her beautiful hair, and let her hold him. But he couldn't.
So he sat there, not even meeting her eyes, while she dropped her coat over her chair and moved to stand looking down at him.
"Mulder, we have to talk," Scully said firmly.
"I know," he replied, lifting his red-lined eyes to her face. The pained exhaustion in them was the last straw for Dana. Before she even knew she'd done it, she had wrapped her arms around his shoulders, burying him in a tight hug. She pressed his head aganst the hollow of her shoulder, and her hair cascaded over his. With a sob, he finally gave in, and reached out to clutch her against him, and the tears finally came.
He cried with great wracking sobs that shudderd through him like earthquakes. All Dana could do was hold him as tightly as she could and let him release the pent-up emotion.
So she stood there, cradling him her arms, rocking him gently, deeply grateful that the wall he'd kept up between them had finally cracked.
After what seemed like hours, he stopped crying and just rested against her. She tried to adjust her position, and nearly cried out herself. Her arms were numb, her shoulders ached, and her legs were about to give up..."Mulder," she said softly, hesitantly trying to move around him. He released her and looked up at her, his eyes red and liquid-full, his cheeks tear-strained, but still managing to look more peaceful than she'd seen in days. She stretched widely and grinned down at him..."Next time, you can stand up and I'll sit," she joked. He almost laughed, "Sorry...." he sniffled, stood up, and waved her into his chair. She took it gratefully, while he turned away and reached for a box of tissues.
"Mulder..." she said again.
He interrupted her with a loud blowing of his nose.
When he was finished, he turned back to her and just stood still watching her. She looked much different from the usually perfectly-groomed agent he was used to. Not that he hadn't seen her under some trying and dirty situations, but she'd never looked this messy before. Her hair was nearly standing on end, she had dust spread across one cheek, her eyes were red and puffy, and she was wearing an old sweatshirt that looked like she'd been painting something in it. In fact she looked so awful that he couldn't help himself, despite everything, he started grinning.
"What?" she asked.
"Nothing," he said.
"Well.," he walked over to her and tried to smooth down her hair just a little.
"Oh no," she said, automatically reaching up herself to touch her hair. "Do I look that bad."
"Just like a minor tornado hit you, nothing serious," he chuckled.
"Good heavens," she pushed past him for her purse and a mirror. She frowned vividly at her reflection and started to try and clean up. He just leaned on the desk and indulged himself in a good laugh. She threw him a furious look, which just made him laugh louder. After a moment of struggling with the intransigent dirt on her cheek, she gave up. Looking over at him, she was caught by the warmth in his face as he looked at her, and found herself laughing too. It was such a relief.
They enjoyed the moment, but sobered up quickly.
She sat down in her own chair, while he seated himself on the edge of the desk.
"Are you ok, Mulder," Dana asked anxiously.
"Yeah, just a little tired," he replied. "I...Scully..." he hesitated, buried his face in his hands very briefly, then looked back at her. "Thank you," he said with deep sincerity.
"You're welcome," she said, tapping his thigh gently.
"You should get some sleep."
"I know," he agreed, and yawned.
"I'll drive you home," Dana offered. He looked at his watch and sighed.
"It might be better if I just grabbed a nap here, its almost 4 am. By the time I got home, it'd be almost time to get up and come back."
"Take the day off. Let me handle things."
"No," he replied. "I can't..." he waved a hand at her when she started to interrupt him, "Please Scully, I need to do this. Besides, I'm the one who knows about Brandenville.
That's the connection, and we need to find out what's happening soon. There will be more deaths, I'm sure of it.
Besides, you look like you didn't get much more sleep than I did."
That was true, she thought with exhaustion. "All right," she suggested. "How about we both go home, sleep until noon and meet for lunch. We can talk more thoroughly then." She yawned, but looked at him with firm emphasis.
"Deal!" he replied. He knew she meant it, and besides, he needed both the sleep and the promised conversation. That thought almost surprised him, but it was true. He both needed and wanted to talk this all though with her. He'd gotten very used to being able to run everything by her, and he relied deeply on her down-to-earth common sense to help him keep on an even balance. He'd missed that since he'd gotten wound up with these deaths.
Scully saw the relief and acceptance in his face and nearly shouted for joy. It was about time. But they needed sleep first. She was even considering calling a cab. Neither of them was in any shape to drive safely. She smiled at him, sealing the agreement.
Lunch was good. Mulder was feeling much more
relaxed than he had in days, and much more focused. He felt like a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders, even though the anguish he felt was still intense. Somehow, though, sharing it with his partner had made it so much more bearable.
He'd finally gotten a few good hours of sleep, and looked very professional in his dark suit and relatively-tame patterned tie.
Scully looked just about perfect again, every strand of bright auburn hair in place, her dark suit neat and wrinkle-free.
Mulder looked at her with appreciation when she sat down, though he couldn't help wishing he had a picture of her from the night before (or morning actually). Good blackmail material, especially when it came time to deal the Bureau's endless paperwork.
Scully had chosen one of her favorite places, a bright, sunny deli with outside seating and the city's best pastrami.
Their waitress was a lovely Israeli woman, with long black hair, large black eyes, and a distinct accent. Mulder couldn't help watching her as she gracefully weeded her way through the crowded tables, until he noticed that Scully was eyeing him.
He ginned unabashedly at her, and shrugged his shoulders. She bit off the comment on the tip of her tongue, and grinned back, shaking her head slightly.
"Hey," he protested lightly, "just..."
"Don't get yourself in any deeper, Mulder," she warned, but with laughter in her voice.
"O.K," he agreed with a smile, picking up the menu.
The first part of the meal had continued in the same vein, light, goodnatured conversation. He'd teased her, as he always did when they ate there, about 'what was a good Irish, Catholic girl doing eating pastrami on rye bagels in a Jewish deli.' And as always, she'd laughed and told him to shut up and eat. Which he did with great delight.
After their stomachs were full, they settled back in their chairs, sipping at the old-fashioned rootbeer, and focused back on the case.
They got through the question of his continued involvement on the case relatively quickly. Scully had known that protesting it was a waste of time, but she wanted it on the table, so to speak. But the bottom line was that he knew more about Brandenville than anyone else in the Bureau, and besides, no-one else would take the case seriously. Mulder was fiercely convinced that there would be more deaths, and while Scully wasn't quite so convinced, she didn't want to chance it. Three deaths in as many weeks were too much to ignore.
"Are you sure you're ok with this?" she asked finally.
Mulder opened his mouth to give an immediate 'Yes,' then paused. He rubbed his chin briefly, then looked straight at Scully, "No, but I'll manage. I need to do this Scully. I have to know what's happening. And I can't run away from my own memories. They're a part of me, I just have to continue living with it." He held up his hand when he saw her about to speak, "I'll be fine," he insisted. Scully wasn't completely convinced, but she let it go. At least he wasn't shutting her out as much anymore. It was a start.
They went over the case in detail. The conclusions were obvious. The only connection between the victims was Brandenville. Dr. Cobb had been living and practicing as a child psychologist near Hanover, New Hampshire. Jane Wilson had been employed as a social worker in Memphis. She was divorced and living alone. No children. Evan Ames, who had been working for a life-insurance company in Seattle, was an established bachelor with no known attachments.
"I think he's gay," Mulder had commented. At Scully's unspoken question, Mulder's face hardened and he said tensely, "A preference for teenage boys."
"Oh," was all Scully said, letting him decide how much more he wanted to say. He didn't say anything, just shook his head slightly and signalled the waitress for their check. He remained pensive while driving them over to FBI headquarters.
Scully's seemingly perpetual concern for him was clear in her face as they walked through the busy hallway.
Mulder took her arm, obstensively to guide her past a group of agents coming the other way, but also to communicate silently that he really was ok. Still, he would have enjoyed punching a couple of the agents who looked at them, then looked at each other, and giggled. Mulder had long since given-up caring about the way the rest of the Bureau saw him, but he didn't like to see Scully on the receiving end of snide comments. He suddenly felt fiercely protective of her. The irony of that hit him as the clambered down the dusty stairwell to their basement office. Scully caught his grin and angled her head up at him, auburn curls slipping over her shoulders.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Nothing...well, guess it just occured to me that we've both been spending a lot of time lately being really worried about each other."
She nodded agreement to that, then smiled up at him, "Guess we've both been through a lot lately."
"Yeah," he replied, unlocking the office door.
"Well, when this is all over, maybe we should both take a break. Have a real vacation for a change."
"Vacation? What's that?" he quipped. They both laughed.
"O.K., why not," he sighed," but we've still got our mysterious poltergeist to deal with first.
"Poltergeist? Mulder..." she responded.
"Got a better idea for how these people died," " he shot back.
"Well..." she hesitated, "All right, something unusual is happening, but I'd be more willing to accept that this is a person with unusual abilities than to believe that a group of child-ghosts is going around killing people," she paused, "maybe its some kind of drug."
"A drug that causes the heart to implode without any other damage, and which is untraceable in the lab tests?" he questioned skeptically.
"Okay," she admitted," it's not a likely possiblity. How about someone with special martial-arts training. Maybe a blow delivered in just a certain manner could cause the heart to reverberate against the ribs, or..." he shook his head, and she paused before continuing, "alright, so its unlikely, but not more unlikely than a poltergeist or psychotic psychic."
"Psychotic psychic, can you say that 10 times fast, Scully?" Mulder demanded, amused.
She picked up a copy of one of the autopsy reports and threw it at him. He deftly caught it and grinned.
"Seriously, though," he continued. "I'm certain someone living is involved. Someone had to find the 'victims.'
When I joined the FBI, I tried to track down as much information as I could. I wanted to see if it would be possible to restart the investigation, maybe levy charges. Apply some overdue justice. But I got nowhere. The records conveniently disappeared, some supposedly destroyed in the fire in Cobb's office. The local police force apparently doesn't keep much over ten years and the state and federal records were just plain 'lost'." So I'm afraid all we have to go on is my memory and the Bureau's resources. I wonder how our friend is managing to locate them?" He frowned.
"Maybe he or she has been keeping track of them all along. Cobb wouldn't have been hard to find, he was pretty well known." Scully suggested.
"Possibly," he replied doubtfully, "but then why wait until now to start killing?" Mulder shifted restlessly in his chair.
"We're missing something obvious, Scully, I can feel it."
"Don't push it, it'll come to you. Meanwhile, make a list of everyone you do remember and see if we can get them located."
He picked up a sheet of paper from his desk and silently handed it to her. She looked at the double column of names written out in Mulder's elegant, distinctive cursive. The right hand column was obviously the staff: Cobb, Ames and Wilson all had big black "X"'s by them. The left-hand list...Scully's jaw dropped in shock. Some of the names were very familiar: two Nobel laureate's, a famous concert pianist, a reclusive artist whose work sold for thousands of dollars... that name had small marks beside it, as did a few of the others.
"What do these mean," she asked pointing to the small notations.
"The checkmarks mean that I'm still in touch, at least somewhat, with that person. We all went our own way, and communication tended to die out, since we remind each other of things we'd rather forget." He sighed slightly, the tension in his eyes increasing, and pushed the stray dark bangs off his forehead. "But we had been really close for a while, and sometimes you just need to talk to someone who really understands..." She gave him a reassuring smile and brushed his cheek with her fingertips. He didn't smile, but met her blue eyes with gratitude.
"Anyway, the ones with two marks are the ones I've managed to reach."
"You talked to them?" she responded, startled.
"Just three or four," he said, leaning over her shoulder to point out the double-marked names, "Laurette, Stefan, Chris, and Tory."
"Tory....Victoria Lane-Carter? the nobel laureate in Physics? You know her?"
Mulder chuckled slightly, "Since she was a 12 yearold with pony-tails and lots of freckles." He looked down at his red-haired partner with open affection, "Actually you remind me of her a lot. Same freckles..." he jabbed at her nose.
"I do not have freckles," she said instinctively, pushing his hand away.
"Do too..," he said.
"Sorry, he laughed.
She gave him a slightly irritated look, but then returned his smile. It was such a relief to see him relaxed enough to tease her. She could still see the grimness in his eyes, the tension in the way he held himself, like a panther prepared to strike. But she was grateful for the warmth in his smile.
"What did she have to say?" Scully asked.
"Just that she hadn't known what was happening, and that I was really making her scared. The same from the others," he answered, perching himself precariously on the edge of the desk and stretching his long legs out into the room.
"Do you believe them?"
"Yes," he turned his head and looked straight into her eyes. "Its not Tory or Chris or one of my closer friends, I know them too well."
"Mulder, people say that all the time about killers."
"I know that, Scully, but we were together under rather 'unusual circumstances.' And we've known each other for a long time. Laurette rarely leaves her ranch. Tory and Chris work nonstop, and Stephan...he's not the type. I just can't believe this of him. He's too gentle." He shook his head, "No, its one of the others...and unfortunately it could be someone I don't know very well. They tried to segregated us into groups of similar abilities; and with about 35 students, well there a few I can barely remember first names for."
"Lack of last names is going to make them difficult to find." Scully observed with a sigh.
"I know," he said, "but we'd better get started trying to find as many as possible."
"O.K, perhaps it would be best if you take the rest of your classmates, and I'll take the staff."
He nodded, then groaned softly, "Got any
Part Five of "Ghostly Reminders"
(Chapters 6 and 7) by Jennifer Lyon
Emily got out of the cab and stood on the corner, watching it pull away. Even in bright sunshine, this neighborhood seemed dark. Trash littered the streets and the builldings were shabby and unkempt. She guessed that she should be afraid to be here alone, but she wasn't. No-one could hurt her worse than had already been done, and she was not afraid of death anymore. Not since her six friends had come back to her. She brushed long strands of soft brown hair out of her face and smiled grimly. It was no big surprise that Cal Watkins had ended up in a place like this. but it still wasn't enough. He should be burning in agony in the depths of hell, and that was exactly where she was going to send him.
She peered up at the nearest building. Number 17, that was right. She closed her eyes and reached out. Lynn and Katrina responded eagerly, wrapping soft, warm arms around her. Petey and Oliver came next, dancing in circles around her.
If she squinted just right, she could make out their outlines as they floated a few inches off the ground. Jamie and Sarah didn't bother coming close the ground, instead they flew, waving transparent arms and somersaulting just over Emily's head. She laughed out loud and threw her hands up in the air to reach for them as they out-poured waves of love and reassurance.
"Emily....Emily," they whispered brightly in her ears.
"There," she pointed dramatically at the decaying brick building in front of her, "Cal Watkins," she told them, and felt their mood change. Their laughter turned mocking, their dance grew wilder, as she visualized Watkins and everything he'd done to her. They wooshed by her, placing faint, tinkling kisses on her brow, then flew in a line into the building, right through the wall. Emily stood alone outside, trembling with rage and fear, wishing that she could be inside to watch them, to see the expression on his face when he died. Instead she waited, standing in the shadow of the big building, wisps of brown hair still stirring around her, fingers laced tightly together, delicate features hardened and cold. Waited, until she heard the echoes of triumph drifting in the slight breeze, echoes of children laughing, like soft distant bells chiming in the wind.
And she smiled.
Dana Scully rubbed the back of her neck and
grimaced in pain. This was like looking for needles in a haystack. She'd managed to track down about one-third of the names on Mulder's list of Brandenville staff, and even that had taken hours. She glanced at her watch, 9 p.m. Good time for a break, she decided, rising to her feet and looking over at her partner who was typing away vigorously on his computer.
She stretched and moved to look over his shoulder.
"Got something?" she asked.
"Hmm..," he murmured, "maybe." He stabbed at the keyboard, causing the computer to emit a loud, angry <BEEP>.
"Damn," he muttered, reaching for the mouse. She giggled slightly, and he looked back over her shoulder at her with an exaggerated scowl.
"Sorry, Mulder," she said with a smile, "What are you trying to do?"
"I'm trying to access the IRS personnel files. Scully, I think I've finally figured out how he's finding them. Its really quite simple. What is the one thing that every person in the U.S. must do every year?"
"I don't know," Scully replied with amusement, "go to the dentist?"
"You think our perp is finding them through their tax records?" Scully stated. Mulder nodded.
"But Mulder, how could he get access to something like that. Its hard for us to get the IRS to cooperate, even when we've got a court order."
"But easy enough if our 'perp' is working for the IRS," he replied.
"You found that one of the students is working for the "IRS?" she asked.
"Not yet, but I bet we will," he said with certainty.
"Mulder," she chided, "you're reaching. There are a number of other possibilities. Maybe he hired a private detective, or is some kind of expert hacker. These days computers can access almost anything. If you know how to use them, that is," she teased.
"Very funny. Scully. Look, I'm sure I'm right about this. Don't forget that Cobb was audited a few weeks before his death and so was Wilson."
"But Ames wasn't," she pointed out.
"I know, but I think that it was the audits on Cobb and Wilson that gave him (or her) the idea, and then it was just a matter of tracing records to find Ames."
"Maybe," Scully said doubtfully, "but not just anyone at the IRS would have be able to do that kind of search. It would have to be someone pretty high-up."
"True," Mulder replied, "and that should give us a head-start. We can look at the IRS for someone from Brandenville with high-level access, instead of trying to track down everyone on the list."
Scully protested that it was a longshot, but Mulder was adamant.
"I'm sure of this Scully," he insisted, then added in response to her still doubtful expression, "It just feels right."
He gave her an anxious, determined look.
Scully thought for a moment. Tracing all the names was slow and tedious work, and she knew only too well that his instincts tended to be uncannily correct. It was this ability that had originally earned her brilliant, eccentric partner his bureau nickname of "Spooky." But if he was wrong, they could end up wasting precious time. Then again, they were pursuing this case primarily for Mulder's sake anyway, so why not let him run with it?
"O.K," she said, "But it's not going to be easy getting access to the IRS personnel records. We have no real proof. In fact we probably don't have a prosecutable crime at all."
Mulder stretched his arms up over his head, sighed and lowered them, then bit at his lower lip in concentration.
Suddenly, he looked over at Scully, with a blinding smile, "We may not be able to access the information, but I know who can." He reached around for the phone as Scully asked, "Who?"
"The Lone Gunmen have a new member, an expert
hacker. If anyone can get into the IRS, it'd be him," Mulder said, pushing a pile of papers off the phone. But just as he was about to pick up the receiver, it rang.
Mulder picked it up, said his name, and listened intently.
"When?...Where?....Who?...O.K., Yes, please...We'll be on the next plane out. O.K....unh, huh...thank you Detective, I appreciate the call...Yes, We'll let you know when we arrive...O.K...Bye" He hung up slowly and turned to the increasingly worried Scully. But before he could speak, she stated with certainty, "We've got another one."
Emily wasn't quite sure why she'd remained here in San Francisco, there was nothing left to do. She'd watched with pleasure as the police carted Watkin's body out in a black plastic bag. But something compelled her to remain. Maybe it was the sense that the police were waiting for something.
They'd posted guards both outside and inside the apartment building. Why? Surely, they could prove nothing, but something in their attitude said they were treating this as more than a freak accident. She had to know. So she melted into the shadows across the street, a small, painfully thin, brown-haired mouse: patient, silent and unnoticed.
Fox Mulder drove the government issue blue car up to the edge of the street and parked carelessly against the curb.
"Mulder," Scully protested, as she tried to squeeze out next to an over-flowing trash can.
"Sorry," he responded, moving swiftly around the car to help her.
Once they were both on the sidewalk they paused to look around. Dana Scully's bright red hair was bound up in neat knot on the back of her head, she looked cool and confident in her blue skirt and jacket. From across the street Emily looked at her with envy. Emily knew she'd never come close to the kind of elegant poise exhibited by the red-haired woman. Then, suddenly, her attention was seized by the tall dark man next to the striking woman. She was hit by a wave of deja vu. There was something very familiar about him, about the way the breeze tossed short black locks across his forehead, the way he held his head, peering intently up at the building in front of him as though it could tell him things, even the way he moved. She desperately tried to nail down the memory, but it escaped from her as quickly as it had come.
She'd never been good with people, prefering to bury her head in her numbers and calculations. But she knew this man, somehow...and the thought worried her. Where?
The two agents hurried up the steps, waving badges at the uniformed officers in the doorway. Emily watched anxiously as one of the officers obsequiously opened the door for the handsome couple and ushered them inside.
Mulder and Scully exchanged glances as they walked into Watkins' apartment. It was filthy. Dirty clothes and dishes were splattered around the room. The entire place smelled like a garbage dump. Several magazine shots of naked girls, mostly teenagers, were tacked up unevenly on the dirt-stained walls.
Scully stepped gingerly over a decaying, half-eaten pizza and grimaced.
"Fine, upstanding citizen, our Mr. Watkins," Mulder said sarcastically from across the room.
"Just the type to bring home to Mom," Scully
Mulder let out a short bark of a laugh, then sighed and rub the back of his neck. "Not much here, I'm afraid. He'd only been out of prison for a few months."
"He was in prison for the entire 18 years?"
"Not exactly," Mulder told her frowning, "He served 8 years after Brandenville, then was out for about 2 years, then got himself arrested again. He kidnapped and raped a couple of teenage girls in San Diego."
"That explains why the local police were perfectly willing to hand over the case. I guess I can understand why they wouldn't feel compelled to put much time into it."
Mulder nodded agreement. "I remember him, Scully.
He gave me the creeps. There was something 'off-kilter' about him, and the way he looked at some of the girls." He shuddered," 'Luckily,' the only contact I had with him was when they gave me electric shock. He seemed to get a big kick out of strapping me down on the table. The harder I fought, the happier he looked." Mulder's fists clenched tightly at his sides, and his voice was icy, "If anyone deserved to be killed, it was Watkins. I almost wish I'd had the pleasure myself."
"Mulder, I'm really sorry." Scully reached out to him with concern. He shook himself slightly, "Its ok, Scully, really.
Anyway, we're probably wasting our time here. I'm sure whoever or whatever killed Watkins is long gone by now. I'd like you to take a look at the body, see if you can find anything the coroner might have missed. And I want to give the LoneGunmen a call to see if they have come up with anything yet."
"Fine," Scully agreed, stll worried, but willing to let him handle this his own way for the moment. She took one last disgusted look around, the picked her way gingerly out of the room. As she was closing the door, Mulder let the cop stationed in the hallway know that they were finished. He seemed relieved to hear it, and followed them out of the building. The agents talked briefly with the three officers, obtaining directions to the morgue where Watkins' body was being held. But as they walked to their car, Mulder suddenly paused, and stood alert and tensed.
"What is it, Mulder?," Scully asked, angling her head up at him.
"I...I thought I saw something move across the street." He looked intensely, fiercely, into the shadows, while stepping off the curb into the street. He could feel somethingsomeone here. A familiar presence. He felt a shiver crawling its way up his spine, an electric tingle brushing the back of his neck.
Emily shrank back into the shadows of the doorway she was standing under. 'Please, please don't let him see me,' she prayed. Then she gasped with shock. What was Lynn doing? Emily watched, wide-eyed with shock as the faint ghostly image of the blond child rubbed up against the back of the tall man, hugging him. Emily didn't understand: he couldn't be one of the Brandenville staff, Lynn would never show so much affection to one of those monsters. Emily felt a rolling, sick feeling in the pit of stomach as a series of nervous shakes shook her small frame. Startled, a small rodent scampered out under her feet with a squeal, and she stumbled, screaming, to her kees.
"There!" Mulder shouted, swiftly racing across the street towards the small figure struggling to its feet on the opposing sidewalk.
"Mulder!!!" Scully cried out, "Wait!" But he already reaching out to pull Emily to her feet. Terrified, she kicked him in the shin and raced off down the street. Mulder swore violently, then swiftly took off after her. Scully ran after him, but he already had a head start, his legs were much longer than hers, and he was an experienced runner. Still Scully tried to keep him in sight as he pursued his quarry.
Emily ran blindly, knocking into people, desperate to elude the determined, athletic man chasing her. But he was much faster, and he gained steadily. She dipped sideways into a dark alley, and then tripped violently over a spilled garbage can. She cried out as she fell, but he was there in time to catch her. She found herself cradled against his shoulder, her back supported by his thighs. Tearfully, fearfully, she looked up into his face, and gasped as memories flooded her. A building going up in flames, the horrible spectacle of her best friend burning to death, the sensation of sinking into the ground only to be caught and held as she was being held now, then finally a pair of horrified, tear-stained, deep-hazel eyes staring down at her.
Exactly the same pair of eyes as were staring at her now.
"Hello Emily," Fox Mulder whispered sadly.
Part Six of "Ghostly Reminders"
(Chapter Eight and Epilogue)by Jennifer Lyon
Emily rested wearily back against the pillows. Her left ankle had been iced, X-rayed, and bandaged. At least it wasn't broken, but it was still sore. She looked up at Mulder who was sitting on the edge of the hotel-room bed, his back to her, resting his face in his hands, his elbows on his knees. This was not going to be easy for either of them. She just didn't know what to say to him. Surely if anyone would understand, he would. But he'd been so silent, so grim, throughout the trip to the hospital and from the hospital to the hotel. His partner, the woman she now knew as Dana Scully, had kept looking at him with deep concern, but he'd ignored it. She was still with them, sitting on a chair on the other side of the bed, tense and silent, trying to project as much reassurance to Mulder as she could.
"Emily," his voice startled her. He had lifted his head and was looking at her. His eyes were dark and cold, his face so composed, she couldn't interpret the expression.
"Fox..." she started, but he interrupted her with a shake of his head.
"Mulder, people call me Mulder."
"Mulder..," she replied, then paused and looked at him, brown eyes filled with tears, "I....I just wanted," her voice broke off.
"I know, I know, Emily, don't you think I've thought the same thing, but it's not right."
"Not right!" she flared, indignant. "What's not right is what they did to me. They raped me! They pumped me so full of drugs that I poisoned my own child. My baby died because of what they did to me. They deserve to suffer! They deserve to rot in hell!" Emily screamed, her body shaking with rage.
"I'm sorry," he said softly, adding when she just glared at him, "I am, believe me, I do understand." He paused and stared at the wall over her head, "I still dream I'm back there sometimes. I wake up shaking, soaked in my own sweat. I can still feel the shackles holding me down..." he clenched and unclenched his fists. "Often I just don't sleep at all." He reached out and touched the side of face, gently. "I hurt too."
"Then you understand," she replied, searching his face, "you do understand."
He nodded, then shook his head briefly, "I
understand. There were times when I imagined killing some of them with my bare hands. But I can't live like that, and neither can you. It doesn't make things better. God, I wish I knew what would."
She visibly pulled away from him, "If I stop, then who delivers justice for us, for my baby? Are you going to do it?" she asked bitterly, "Besides I'm not killing them, Lynn, Petey, Katrina, Oliver, Jamie, and Sarah are. I just find the monsters, they make them pay."
"Lynn? They're dead, Emily, we watched them die 18 years ago."
"I know, but they came back. I can see them, hear them...I'm not crazy," she insisted.
Silently, intently, he stared deep into her eyes. She surprised herself by meeting his gaze straight on. They just sat there and looked at each other for a while. Then he nodded ever so slightly, then looked over at the still silent Scully.
"Tell me," he said. So she did. All about the horrible birth of her child, the problems it had created in her marriage, about the dreams and the slowly increasing awareness of the presences that surrounded her. How they'd given her the strength to go on living, until she'd seen the papers on the Wilson audit. How much rage she'd felt when she realized that it was the same woman from Brandenville. How Katrina and Oliver had responded to that rage with anguish of their own.
How Lynn had led them all to the decision.
"It was so simple, all I had to do was find her present address and go there. They wouldn't let me come inside, they took it as their responsibility. So I waited in the car until they were finished, then we waited there together until she was found and carted away. It was so easy and I knew it was right that she would die at the hands of the very children she'd helped to destroy. It was justice."
"Where are they now, Lynn and the others," he asked.
"Near," she responded, half-closing her eyes, "Lynn wants to be close to you. She is trying to reach out to you. She hugged you on the street before."
"What?" he exclaimed.
Emily nodded. "They'll come to you if you let them.
You just have to want it."
He shook his head, a multitude of thoughts and emotions demanding his attention at once. First and most insistant was the white-hot rage that burned in his stomach like battery-acid. He'd known that some of the other students had been badly hurt, even more so than he had, but Emily's story horrified him. And he did understand her desire for justice deeply, right now he was about ready to kill someone himself.
From across the room Scully could see that tension in him. Unlike Emily, she knew Mulder well enough to read him, and what she saw scared her. He was so tightly wound, she was afraid he was going to do something...she didn't know what, but she was terrified for him. However, she also knew better than to interfere. He had to work his own way through this, she'd already done everything she could to make him realize that she was here for him, the rest was up to him.
Mulder clamped down on his emotions tightly. He'd been through feelings like this before, and he didn't like it anymore now than he had then. He heard Melissa Scully's voice in his head again, "I don't have to be psychic to see that you're in a very dark place, much darker than where my sister is, willingly walking deeper into darkness..." He almost hadn't listened to her then, only his need to be with Dana, even if just for one last time, had changed his mind. It would be so easy to surrender again to that darkness, to the desire to hit back at those who had hurt him and people he cared about. He glanced over at Dana, and she met his gaze with deep blue eyes full of concern. Concern for him. He felt a sudden wave of love and gratitude sweep over him. Suddenly he knew that he could handle this, just as long as she was with him.
He turned back to Emily.
"So you can actually talk with them. Could they understand me?"
"Yes," Emily replied. "Sometimes they're just like shadows, but other times they are very real, very physical. But it tires them to do that for too long." Mulder rubbed his chin, thoughtfully. The possibilities this raised: communication with the dead, proof of life after death. A part of him was delighted by it. Then he mentally shook his head. Not this case, not this time. This one was too painful for him, for all concerned.
Exploration of the unknown could wait for the next X-File, well...it couldn't hurt to store away as much information as he could in the process, could it? He turned his attention back to the situation at hand.
"Emily, I can't let you, or them, keep on killing people, even if we both feel they deserve it." He waved a hand at her and shook his head when she started to protest. "I'm sorry Emily, but no more deaths." He reached out and took her hand. "I'm here for you, and I always will be. But what you are doing now is wrong. Do you want to become like them?"
"I won't," she protested, "there's a difference." He shook his head.
"Why should they get away with what they did to us?"
she cried out.
"I don't know, Emily, and if I could make them pay legally I would, God knows I've tried to reopen the case. But letting yourself become the one causing pain doesn't stop you from hurting. It only makes things worse, please believe me."
Yet there was a significant part of him that didn't believe his own words. He was saying the supposed 'right' things, but he wasn't sure he fully meant them. He was uncomfortably aware that he might be quite capable of killing someone like Cal Watkins if he encountered him again.
"I'm sorry," she sobbed, "I'm sorry, it just hurts so much. My baby, my poor baby." Tears streamed down her face. Mulder reached out and gathered her up into her arms.
Rocking her gently, he rested his cheek against the top of her head. She clutched at him, and he tightened his arms around her. For a long while, she sobbed against his chest, while his silent tears fell against her hair.
Dana Scully smoothed a few loose strands of hair off Emily's sleeping face, then sat quietly for a few moments. She wished there had been something more she could do than simply dull the pain for a while, but it would probably take a long period of treatment to really help Emily. Actually, the thing that might help her the most was the support and understanding of the other survivors. Mulder was presently puttering around in the other room, setting up video recording equipment. Ever since they'd gotten Emily asleep, he'd been rushing around. First he'd gotten on the telephone to confer with with Laurette Harris and Tory Lane.
Scully had quickly gotten the sense that Mulder's group of old classmates was much closer knit than he'd originally led her to believe. Typical of him to downplay how much they meant to him, Scully thought, but right now she was just grateful that they were there for Emily now, as they had been for Mulder in the past.
Then, as soon as he was off the phone, Mulder had raced off to the local Bureau office to appropriate the equipment he was presently fussing over. She wasn't completely certain what he had in mind, but she definitely had a bad feeling about it. She quietly stood up and left the bedroom, closing the door carefully behind her. Mulder was bent over a video camera, adjusting the settings. She walked over to him, tucking her hair behind her ears absentmindedly.
"She's still asleep," Scully said, trying to peer around his shoulder.
Mulder just nodded, finished pressing buttons, then turned to look at her. "Laurette wants Emily to come stay with her on her ranch in Montana. Its pretty isolated, but I think Laury will be good for Emily. I know she's got a reputation for being a recluse, but it's not that she doesn't like or care for people, its just that she likes privacy when she's working," he paused, "Well..."
"I understand," Scully interjected, "it must feel safer for her. Sometimes its easier not to let people get close than to take the chance of being hurt again." She tried not to look too pointedly at her partner, but he caught her thought anyway, and smiled ruefully at her. She smiled back, and they enjoyed a brief moment of shared understanding. Then Mulder moved swiftly away and began to pace the room. Scully curled up on the couch and watched him wander. He was tense and upset, but there was a recognizable element of excitement there too.
He reminded her of a caged tiger, tensed and expectant. Finally he turned towards her and, eyes glittering, he gave her a very familiar look. 'Oh no,' she thought, her stomach sinking, 'here it comes.'
"Emily said that I should be able to reach Lynn and Katrina. If I can talk to them, get them to materialize, we ought be able to get it on tape."
"Mulder, you don't really believe Emily about the ghosts doing the killing? She needed someone who understood how she was feeling, so she imagined seeing the spirits of her dead friends."
"Come on, Scully. It all makes perfect sense. The way the deaths occured, the lack of physical evidence or external injuries, even the tingles I felt both here and in Hanover. Emily is the focus, her anguish and need pulled their spirits back to this world, then directed them to kill. But if I can reach them, communicate with them, then maybe..."
"Maybe what? Mulder, if...IF you're right, then these sprits have already killed four people. I know," she continued urgently, ignoring his attempt to interrupt her, "I know that these children were your friends, but how do you know that these really are their spirits, and even if they are, its been a long time and they suffered a lot. They've got to be filled with rage and fear. They're dangerous."
"Only to the people who hurt them, not to me. They never harmed Emily, Scully, and they won't harm me either. I'm sure of it."
"How can you be so sure, Mulder, please. They've been using Emily to help them commit these murders, they're not going to want to stop now." Dana couldn't believe she was sitting here, calmly talking as though this could be real. O.K., she'd seen some pretty weird stuff during her time with the XFiles, and she'd begun to accept that there things out there that she didn't understand. Things she wasn't sure she wanted to understand. Even so, the natural skeptic in her, shaky, but stubborn, continued to protest against her partner's easy acceptance of the supernatural.
"That's one of the reasons I need to talk to them, Scully," Mulder insisted.
"I may be able to convince to stop the killing. and I have to try to help them move on. They don't belong in this world anymore, and they have to be in so much pain. I need to try to help them." He sat down on the edge of the table facing her, his knees bent up almost to his chin, and looked squarely, honestly, into her eyes. "Please understand, Dana, I have to do this."
Dana sighed loudly, and surrendered. Once he set his mind on something, arguing with him tended to be a waste of time. He'd go around her if necessary, and the last thing she wanted was him going off and doing this alone. She remembered the way she'd felt when she had realized that he'd gone after the man who'd killed Deep Throat without her...no way was she going to let him do something like that again. Not if she could help it. At least if she was with him, maybe she could get him out of it unharmed.
She still told him that this was crazy. He just smiled, and leapt to his feet again.
"Hopefully, Emily will sleep through this. The camera and voice recorder should work on automatic, but you can handle it manually if necessary."
"Mulder, just how do you expect to do this. This is hardly a typical set-up for a seance," she asked uneasily.
"None of that should be necessary. A seance is just atmosphere to put people in a receptive mood. I just have to want them here strongly enough," he replied. He checked the camera one more time, then pulled a chair into the center of the room, facing the couch. Scully sat quietly, watching him anxiously. She was definitely not happy about this.
Mulder sat down and closed his eyes, trying
desperately to calm himself down. He needed to relax for this to work, but it was hard. He was frightened and excited.
Anticipation warred with apprehension. Scully was right, he really had very little idea what he was getting himself into. Not that he doubted one word Emily had told him. Once she'd told him about Lynn being there this morning on the sidewalk with him, he'd known for certain. That was why the presence he'd felt had been so achingly familiar. Lynn...it would be so good to see her again. He'd always felt some guilt over her death, and the death of the other five. He'd known how terrified and desperate they were, he'd been the same way. But there had been a difference that night. Something he'd barely registered then, but had gone over and over again afterwards. A kind of determination, a resolution, in her manner. If only he'd said something, done something, he might have stopped them. Or would he have joined them? He just didn't know.
'Calm youself, Fox Mulder, concentrate,' he told himself fiercely. He leaned back into the chair, eyes still closed tight, and tried to reach out mentally. "Lynn, Lynn, please come to me. Can you hear me, Lynn?" he murmered softly.
Scully shifted uncomfortably on the couch, watching him intently.
His voice rose, "Lynn...Lynn...Katrina, Oliver...come to me...Sarah, Peter, Jamie, can you hear me. Please, let me know if you are here...Lynn..." he chanted their names over and over. Scully shivered slightly. The temperature in the room seemed to drop ten degrees. Then suddenly, the lights flickered, off, on, off, on, off, on, off...
"Mulder," she said, Mulder!"
His eyes jerked open suddenly, but he wasn't looking at her, he was looking behind her. Sensing motion there, she jumped to her feet and spun around, but there was nothing there. Gasping slightly, she turned back around to Mulder. He was on his feet laughing, stretching his hands out to his sides.
"Lynn, Trina, he said joyfully.
"Fox..." came a soft gentle whisper, "Fox..."
Terrified Scully tried to reach out to him, but something got in her way, something that made her skin tingle with a series of static shocks. Startled she leaped back, then froze at the sound of laughter. Circling Mulder, shapes appeared and disappeared, in the still flickering light, like flash photographs.
<FLASH> a small, fine-boned child with long blond hair.
<FLASH> a slender dark-haired boy.
<FLASH> A girl with flying dark braids and bright eyes.
<FLASH> a tall youth with white-blond hair and a toothy grin.
Scully's eyes widened in shock and she edged
backwards, feeling behind her for the couch.
But Mulder was ecstatic. He reached out for the hands of the ghostly figures nearest him, and nearly cried for joy when he felt his hands close around the warm, small flesh of theirs. "Dance with us, Fox!" they cried, "Play with us!"
And he went with them, dancing around the room, spinning, spinning, round and round, tears falling from his eyes even as he laughed. He stumbled to his knees, gasping for breath, then reached out to hug the child who ran into his arms.
"Lynn, my God, Lynn," he sobbed, trying to hold her tight. But she was only partly substance, more energy than matter, it was like trying to hug a lightening bolt. One second she was there, warm flesh in his arms, the next second his arms went straight through her. He stayed there on his knees, shaking while electric shocks raced through him.
"Mulder!" Dana screamed from across the room.
"Stop it! You'll hurt him. Stop it!" she cried, stumbling across the room to fall to her knees in front of him. He looked at her with unfocused eyes, "Dana?"
"Yes, it's Dana," she reached out to grasp his shoulders. But he was already looking behind her, above her, at the flitting shapes of the ghostly children.
"Mulder," Dana said urgently, "concentrate. Please, look at me," she shook him roughly, "Look at me," she demanded.
This time his eyes did focus on hers, "Scully," his voice was ragged, "Can you see them?" he whispered.
"Yes," she replied, "Yes, I can."
"Thery're real, Scully, Lynn and Katrina and
"I know Mulder, but they're not alive."
"No, no Scully, look," he pointed over her left shoulder at Sarah and Jamie who were bouncing up and down on the couch. "I never thought I'd see them again, but they're here." He closed his eyes, and leaned back as pretty, blond Lynn hugged him form behind. "Come play some more, Fox, Come play with me," the faint bell-like voice chanted in his ear.
He tried to get to his feet, but Scully held him down.
He tried to push her away, but she grabbed onto his arms and held on for dear life. "Listen to me Mulder, please, listen to me."
He shook his head, as though trying to shake cobwebs from his eyes, "Scully?" he questioned, confused, sinking again to his knees.
Voices, voices, chiming in his head. He tried to focus on the face in front of him. He knew it was familiar. Anxious, wide blue eyes swam into focus, "Scully.."
"Yes, Mulder, its me, concentrate on my voice," she urged. But there were other voices, familiar warm voices calling to him to join them. "I have to go Scully, I have to..."
"No," she cried, "No! Tell them to go Mulder, you have to tell them."
"No," he replied, "no, I don't want them to go.
Lynn..." he cried out.
"No Mulder, they don't belong here anymore. They're dead.
"No, please Scully, please..." he sobbed, still hearing his long-lost friends' voices in his head, their tones changing from laughter to sorrow. "Fox, don't make us go. We love you Fox, please let us stay with you."
He wanted to reach out to them to gather them into his arms and hold them forever, but Scully's eyes were boring into his, her hands gripping tightly on his shoulders, holding him, pulling back to a sense of reality. He reached out and grasped her arms, gripping so tightly she winced in pain. But it was worth it, if it meant he was comiong back to her. "You have to let them go, Mulder, please, you have to let them go."
Silent, he searched her face. She just looked straight at him, cheeks flushed, eyes wide and wet with unshed tears, full mouth trembling just slightly, jaw set hard and determined.
It was only a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity to both of them. He felt himself shaking, but instead of speaking, he just nodded, tears still streaming down his cheeks. As much as it hurt, he knew she was right. He let go of her and pulled himself to his feet, and walked towards the center of the room. "Lynn," he called. She rushed to him, pressing her head against his knees, sending a series of tingles up and down his legs. "Fox, please let us stay."
"I can't Lynnie, you don't belong here. He went back down on his knees and tried to look into her eyes. He reached out and caught a tear. "I'm sorry, love" he whispered, "but you need to leave."
"I'm scared," she said. "Its so dark, and there are things there that hurt us. Please don't make us go back into the darkness."
"What about the light, Lynn? Is there a light?"
"Yes, but it will burn us up, like the fire," she shuddered in terror, "I can't bear the heat, its so bright, it burns, it burns..."
"No, Lynnie," he said, "the light is not like the fire, it won't hurt you. It'll take all your pain away." She shook and trembled. "I can't, I'm scared."
"Yes, you can, Lynnie. You're the bravest person I've ever met. You can lead the others into the light. Its there to guide you home, like a bright flashlight. Follow it and you'll never be hurt again, you'll be safe. Go into the light Lynnielove, go," he implored, over and over. She argued desperately with him, as did the others, and he nearly gave in several times.
He didn't want to send any of them away. He didn't want to lose them again. But Scully was right, too. He prayed passionately that he was sending them to the correct place. He only had guesses to go on, stories told by near-death survivors, but somehow, he felt that it was right.
And finally Lynn began to listen.
"Promise me, Fox, promise me it won't hurt," she begged.
"I promise, Lynnie, I promise," he replied, praying that this time, if only just this time, his nearly-psychic intuition would be correct. 'Please God, let this be the right thing to do.'
he begged silently.
"I love you Fox," Lynn sobbed.
"I love you too," Mulder replied, leaning forward to kiss the top of her head.
Lynn wiped her tears away, then squared her
shoulders and stood up. She reached out to the others. They hesitated briefly, then moved forward to form a ring around Mulder, joining hands. Mulder and Scully watched with astonishment as they appeared to become fully solid, then began to fade slowly away. When they finally disappeared, Mulder leaned his head back and stared up at the ceiling.
"Goodbye," he whispered, "Goodbye."
Dana Scully walked leisurely over to join her partner by the corral fence. He was leaning against the top rail, bent slightly to rest his chin on his arms which were crossed over the top rail. She felt more at peace with the world than she had for a very long time. The sun was shining, the grass was green, and there were bright fluffy white clouds drifting in a deep blue sky. The air was fresh and clean, well...actually , she had to admit, it smelled like horses and cattle, but that wasn't too bad.
In fact she was getting used to it.
Mulder turned in response to the sounds of her footsteps and held out his hand. She smiled and took it, threading her fingers through his. As she came up beside him, she rested her cheek against his upper arm. He smiled down at her.
"How's Emily?" he asked.
"Fine," Dana replied, laughing. "She's busily, and happily, pouring over Laury's taxes. Maybe I should ask her to do mine."
"I"m sure she would be glad to," Mulder replied lazily, turning his attention back to Laurette and the young pony she was training. Dana rested against him, her mind wandering.
She'd been a bit uncomfortable at first about accepting Mulder's invitation to spend their vacation together on his friend's ranch. But she had wanted some time with him outside of work, to allow them to talk without stress or interruption.
So she'd finally agreed to join Mulder and Emily on the trip up here.
Laurette had welcomed them with open arms, fussing over Emily like a mother hen, but at first Scully had felt intimidated by the dark, dynamic woman and her wild, sprawling ranch. The house was filled with an amazing collection of artwork, mostly a mixture of Laurette's parent's ancestry: a unique combination of African-American and American-Indian cultures. Scully had been a little shocked when Mulder teased Laury about it, calling her "an American Blend," but had relaxed quickly when Laury responded by sticking her tongue out at him and laughing. Before long, the two women were giggling and joking, unmercifully teasing poor Mulder, who took it with remarkable composure. Not that he didn't get in a few good licks of his own. One thing you could count on from Mulder, he had quite a sense of humor.
Scully was relieved that he hadn't bothered to tease her too much about what they'd seen in the hotel room. He was probabably saving it to hold over her head the next time she scoffed at his pet theory of the moment. Still, she felt sorry that the electrical storm created by the spirits' presence had not only completely exposed the film, but had even damaged the video recorder itself. She was really grateful that Mulder hadn't insisted that she go with him when he returned the fried equipment to the San Francisco Bureau office. From the expression on his face afterwards, she guessed that this was going to be another gem in the FBI's collection of "Spooky" Mulder stories.
But they could put off dealing with those repercussions for a few more days.
And the time would be good for them. Mulder still wasn't sleeping as well as Scully would have liked, but he had begun to relax measurably. And so had she. They'd spent wonderful hours curled up in front of the fireplace, sometimes talking, sometimes just sitting in comfortable silence. This vacation had been long overdue.
Oh, Scully knew well that there were a very large number of problems waiting for them when they got back to Washington. But she felt confident of their ability to handle it.
As long as they worked together, there was nothing they couldn't accomplish.
They were partners.